MONDAY 26 MAY 2014
Back in Canberra for post-budget sitting week – morale is very low. We are really struggling to sell budget. I have not been able to sell it to my own mother. She is very concerned about co-payment, particularly for seriously ill cousin Billy.
Party room meeting: Abbott emphasises discipline and staying on message.
Bernardi yells “Why does the ABC still exist”. Abbott thanks Bernardi for excellent example of what not to do.
Hockey demands we all be across the detail.
Abbott approaches me, wants me to come to budget emergency strategy meeting in Parliamentary basement.
Arrive at meeting room. As I enter am hit by wave of smoke. Cormann and Hockey are puffing away on cigars. Abbott is there wearing oxygen mask. Cormann tells me to close the door or I’ll set off the sprinklers.
Hockey explains they cannot be seen smoking Cubans outside. Abbott explains he cannot afford to inhale smoke. Will not allow being PM to compromise his cycling times.
Hockey and Abbott want me to lead negotiations with Senate. Say I have two advantages: (a) Cross-bench Senators do not hate me; (b) Palmer does not know who I am.
As I leave I set off the fire-alarm. Cormann and Hockey leg it. I’m left to take responsibility for all the Cubans. Security Guard’s eyes widen when I explain I had smoked 28 Cubans. Says he hasn’t seen someone this hardcore since Hawkie.
Open budget papers; study time.
Mum calls; asks if I have an answer for cousin Billy.
Finish studying. Don’t want to disappoint Hockey.
TUESDAY 27 MAY 2014
Call Hockey, give details of Cousin Billy’s chronic illnesses. Hockey assures me once cousin Billy is on a healthcare plan he will be fine.
Call Mum, assure her cousin Billy has nothing to worry about.
Abbott Press Secretary (APS) suggests I start with Motoring Enthusiast/Palmer United’s Ricky Muir.
Call Ricky. Strange conversation. He answered as Ricky, then, when I said I was calling on behalf of government, he claimed he was in fact Mickey Muir, Ricky’ cousin. Then he said Ricky was working at the sawmill. When I asked why, Mickey got irate and told me “Look mate, I’ve got a family to feed, and so does Mickey - we’ve both got families to feed and only one job between us” before hanging up.
Told APS Ricky Muir could not speak because of work. APS smiled, looking forward to leaking to media!
Call Sawmill. Sawmill bloke laughs, says Ricky is not rostered on. His father Micky called in earlier today to say he was sick.
Mum calls. Has been working on figures with Knitting Circle. Knitting Circle is unanimous - Treasurer’s information was inaccurate. They have called the AMA to confirm. The Knitting Circle would like clarification from Hockey or may be forced to put out a press release.
Call Hockey’s office. Explain Knitting Circle’s findings. Hockey’s Chief of Staff laughs, says he’s pretty sure Treasury is across something so important but he’ll check.
Hockey’s Chief of Staff calls. Has identified a gaping hole in policy. Needs to know cousin Billy’s age, income, relationship status, his assets, whether he is the beneficiary of any private trusts, and Medicare Number.
Hockey calls back. They are going to need faxed copy of Medicare card.
Receive four page memorandum from Hockey’s Chief of Staff. Includes bar graph. He is happy to take cousin Billy’s call.
Executive summary: “the visits are free for any conditions directly or partially related to your chronic health conditions as detailed in your healthcare plan. For conditions unrelated to your chronic conditions they will not be exempt. For further clarification please seek legal advice”
E-mail memo to APS. APS shares my concerns about lack of clarity. APS says “this is our birthday cake moment.” Agree with APS but say this is worse. You can live without birthday cake, not Doctor.
WEDNESDAY 28 MAY 2014
APS has sent out strongly worded e-mail prohibiting any MPs from answering any questions regarding co-payment. APS has told MPs “We need to give voters time to digest policy before we start explaining it”.
Mum calls, wants answers. Explain to mum that due to media’s misinformation campaign I am not allowed to discuss policy. Mum explains the only reason media has been spreading misinformation is because they have been quoting the Treasurer.
Try to call Muir again. Muir’s phone re-directs to Palmer. Ask Palmer if I can arrange meeting.
Palmer says he cannot meet until we apologise to Ricky Muir for leaking that
he told the PM he was at work. Palmer explains Muir had told sawmill he was meeting
with PM. Palmer says all negotiations off until apology. Informs me he already raised his concerns with Malcolm Turnbull at dinner that night.
Point out that Turnbull is part of Abbott government. Palmer laughs and says “No he’s not!”
Meet with Greens. Sarah Hanson-Young in attendance unexpectedly. Hate it when that happens. SMS staffer to send earplugs.
Sarah Hansen-Young is wearing a “Fuck Tony Abbott” T-shirt. Ask her whether that’s productive. Hansen-Young asks me whether torturing refugees on Manus Island is productive.
Explain that I am not here to discuss migration policy, but budget proposals the Greens are willing to support.
Greens will support fuel excise. Will not support anything else until Coalition promises to keep carbon tax.
Milne and Bandt apologise. Hanson-Young just follows them around. They’ll support fuel excise, and while they have nothing against me personally, pretty sure that’s it.
Mum calls. Cousin Billy is very concerned that his university debt will start incurring interest retrospectively. Explain to Mum that is absurd. Mum suggests I check website.
Website does appear to say something that is different to policy.
Call Pyne, Pyne says website is wrong. Ask Pyne if cousin Billy will pay interest. Pyne says he will need to know where cousin Billy studied, when he graduated, his current address, and then be given a week to calculate answer.
Decide to order Billy a cake to make up for all the fuss. Call Mum. Reminds me that Billy’s chronic condition is diabetes. Really need to keep across the detail.