The Scion, the Wheat and the Cabinet – Chapters III and IV

As Australia careers back into the 19th century, and as Mr Downer is about to be translated to London, I think it’s high time for some more historical satire from Malcolm B Duncan. As a special treat, here are Chapters 3 and 4 of The Scion, the Wheat and the Cabinet.

(Image Credit: Phil Bray)

The Chronicles of Nadir
As told from the grave by Tom Lewis

Tale the First

The Scion, the Wheat and the Cabinet

Chapters III & IV

“Wheat?” asked little Lucy, “Why ever do you want to know what I know about wheat?”

The Cabinet Secretary looked at her gravely and said, “There is no wheat in the land of Nadir anymore and the Inner Cabinet and the White Witch are sorely troubled.”

“I heard she’d got over that” said little Lucy.

“Hold your tongue, child, and answer my question.”

“Well, if you don’t mind me saying so, I think that presents a certain logical difficulty, unless you mean it literally in which case you might not understand the answer because a lot of the syllables might get lost and…”

“You’ve been in local government, haven’t you?” said the Cabinet Secretary.

“Well, yes, I have. I was Lord Mayor between Frank Sartor and Clover Moore.”

The Cabinet Secretary turned an interesting shade of puce. “There are some things we don’t want to contemplate, even in the land of Nadir,” he sputtered.

“I meant in between, temporally.”

“That’s a relief,” said the Cabinet Secretary.

His colour changed again, this time to the shade that old parchment has after it has been scraped back by obliging novices in a convent. He shuddered and a moment later, his face changed back again to the normal colour of Cabinet Secretaries, finely lined by thin red veins pumping port and other spirituous liquors.

“What’s the matter?” asked little Lucy.

“Something has happened,” said the Cabinet Secretary.

“What?” asked little Lucy.

“I don’t quite know,” said the Cabinet Secretary slyly as a piece of paper emerged from a strange machine just by his left elbow. “No one told me.”

“What’s that?” asked little Lucy as the Cabinet Secretary took a piece of paper from the machine. “Nothing,” he said, “I haven’t read it.” He glanced at the paper on both sides and fed it into a box on the other side of his armchair. There was a whirring noise as the piece of paper was shredded into thin ribbons.

“What was that piece of paper?” asked little Lucy.

“What piece of paper?” asked the Cabinet Secretary.

“That piece of paper you just put into that machine.”

“Machine? What machine? There are no machines in the land of Nadir ever since the great Emperor Keating, may his name always be revered, dismantled all manufacturing industry and we moved to a modern economy without bananas.”

“Bananas?” asked Little Lucy. “You mean there are no bananas here?” (Bananas were a particular favourite of all the children and Lucy was distressed to learn that they were not available in the land of Nadir.)

“Yes we have no bananas,” said the Cabinet Secretary. “But, more to the point, my mistress, the White Witch, will want to know what you know about wheat.”

“Well, really, all I know is that, like bananas, we grow it. Apart from that, no-one tells me anything. You’d be better off asking Alexander. He’s in charge of wheat. He was telling us only the other day how hard it is to export in competition with the Canadians and the Americans and what a sophisticated commercial network filled with the very best brains one needs to ensure one is paying the best price on offer but still within limits. Or was that getting the best price? And even if he doesn’t know because someone hasn’t told him something or something like that, his friend, the Boy Dweeb, is sure to know.” (Little Lucy didn’t know exactly why the Boy Dweeb was called the Boy Dweeb. There was a rumour that the name had been given to him by Doug Anthony but since no-one knows who Doug Anthony is any more, it needn’t detain us long.) “Do you get Yes, Minister here?”

“We get a lot of Ministers here,” said the Cabinet Secretary “but they are mostly the double-negative type rather than the Yes type. Do you think I might be able to have a chat to Alexander?”

“Well, I don’t know whether he’s made it through the Cabinet yet,” little Lucy replied. “I could take you to see him.”

“Oh no,” said the Cabinet Secretary, “that would never do. My place is here. There is much to do in the Land of Nadir: press leaks to plug, rumours to set running, scandals to paper over, the Dwarf to be kept happy, and the White Witch appeased all with no-one being told or knowing anything.”

“Sounds like Alexander is your man,” said little Lucy. “Perhaps I should get him for you.”

Unknown to little Lucy, as she had been warming herself by the fire, two terribly important things had happened. As we shall learn, the Cabinet was not the only way into the land of Nadir. There were many and varied entrances and incantations which could transport people (even bi or trans-sexuals) into the land of Nadir.

The first important thing which had happened was that Alexander had found the Cabinet and made his way through it. Just as he did, Little Johnnie and Jeanette arrived at Nadir airport after lunch with the Victorian backbenchers. As soon as they entered Nadir airspace, a miraculous transformation overcame them. The aeroplane they had been traveling in miraculously transformed itself into a sleigh, Little Johnnie sprouted the most enormous beard and Jeanette was transmogrified into a very, very tall, beautiful, white-faced, radiant red-lipped creature covered from head to toe in various furs of various animals who had been sacrificed to serve her whims (one of them was said to be Barry Jones). Were it not for all the fur of all the different creatures covering her hands, it would have been apparent that the White Witch, Queen of Nadir, aka Jadis, was red both in mouth and claw. The sleigh crunched into the hard-packed snow and turned into a curving path just as Alexander reached the smart pole. Being an art lover, Alexander’s attention was captured by the kaleidoscope of colour and did not at first notice the sleigh bearing down on him until it came to an abrupt swishing halt.

The Queen said to Alexander, “What manner of creature are you?”

“I’m a Downer,” said Alexander proudly.

“No doubt of that,” piped up the Dwarf.

“Hold your tongue, Dwarf,” said the Queen.

“Yes Dear, er, Your Majesty,” replied the Dwarf.

“That’s better,” said the Queen, turning again to Alexander. “Are you a son of Adam?”

“Er, no, Papa was another Alexander, Sir Alexander, actually.”

“Where are you from?” asked the Queen.

“Well, actually, I’ve just sort of come out of a sort of closet really. It’s very cold here and I didn’t bring anything to eat.”

“Perhaps …” said the Dwarf looking slyly at the Queen.

“Yes,” she said. “Bring forth the Fruits of Office. Would you like to eat of the Fruits of Office, Alexander son of Sir Alexander Actually?”

“Wot you got?” said Alexander in a sort of Billy Bunter pose.

The Dwarf brought out a box of delightful-looking Darrell-Lea confectionary, each piece topped with a little fez labeled variously: overseas trips accompanied (wife); overseas trips unaccompanied; overseas trips accompanied (not wife); Com Car; Drinkie Poohs; State Dinners; postage allowance; office equipment; ministerial loading; backbencher (female); backbencher (male); backbencher (surprise assortment). That was just the top layer. It looked as though the box was almost bottomless.

Alexander’s eyes went wide as he reached greedily for a backbencher (surprise assortment), defezzed it and popped it into his mouth. He groaned with delight and eagerly reached for another of the top layer almost before the backbencher had fully passed his gullet. “It is still rather cold,” said Alexander around yet another of the Fruits of Office.

“Come and sit by me and I shall warm you under the Dwarf’s beard. Bring the Fruits of Office with you.”

Alexander slid up into the sleigh with a sense of considerable (and unbeknown to him, justifiable) foreboding. The Dwarf immediately whipped it into action. “Giddy up, Corder” sad the Dwarf. As Corder had a tendency to dress to the right, the sleigh would only go in circles which, after all, was the only way anything in the Land of Nadir went and after a while, they met themselves coming the other way.

Neither the Queen nor the Dwarf had told Alexander that eating of the Fruits of Office sometimes came at a very heavy price. There was a very nasty inquiry about and Alexander was about to be summonsed to appear before it and would have to swear on the Beard of the Dwarf to tell the truth on pain of never being in the Cabinet again.

As they whizzed along, Alexander finished the second of the layers of the Fruits of Office with a large intern and eagerly attacked the third. Here he met his first defeat in the Land of Nadir: there was nothing in any of them, it was simply a layer of fezzes labelled “Wheat.”

* * * * * * *

(Image Credit: Rocco)

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Cabinet, Peter and Amanda had found an illegal immigrant and were torturing it. Peter was taking money out of its pockets while Amanda wrapped it tightly in razor wire so that it could not move without cutting itself.

The disheveled CLERK came along and said, “Are you colour-blind? Put that immigrant down at once – it’s Papuan. There may be an inquiry.”

“What immigrant?” asked Amanda.

“What would there be to inquire into?” asked Peter “We don’t know anything.”

“Nonsense,” said the disheveled CLERK. “We may even have to send you to the Coleface.”

Peter and Amanda went white. “But it’s only Alexander and the Boy Dweeb that have to go there.”

“I wouldn’t be too sure, if I were you. These things have a habit of taking on a life of their own, you know. The Dwarf was there only yesterday,” replied the disheveled CLERK.

Just then, Lucy and Alexander walked up. “Where have you two been?” asked the disheveled CLERK.

“Tuck shop,” lied Alexander without blinking, then he belched.

“We’ve been in the Land of Nadir,” said Lucy proudly.

“Don’t listen to her – she’s naf,” said Alexander.

“Ooh, fibber,” said Lucy. “We really have been in the land of Nadir – it’s been winter there for 10 years and there’s no wheat and it’s full of strange creatures and a nasty White Witch and they’ve got no bananas and…”

“What’s that around your mouth?” the disheveled CLERK asked Alexander.

“Nothing,” said Alexander sheepishly.

“That’s the remains of a first-class domestic air flight, isn’t it? You’ve been eating of the Fruits of Office, haven’t you, boy?”

“Might have had one,” said Alexander pulling out a dirty pink handkerchief and wiping his mouth.

“You children have been inside the Cabinet haven’t you? The SPEAKER must hear of this at once. I must send a message to the CLERK OF THE ASSEMBLY. Now, where did I put that black rod?”

“Are you going to beat us?” asked Alexander just a touch too eagerly.

“I’ll beat him if you like Mr CLERK. I just have to get rid of this immigrant,” said Amanda.

“Yes, well there’s that too. But as I say, it’s Papuan, it’s got a visa,” said the disheveled CLERK.

“Well, I didn’t give it a visa,” snapped Amanda. “No-one told me.”

“Can I go now?” asked the immigrant.

“Yes,” said the disheveled CLERK. “Have you applied for your newstart allowance? The rest of you come with me.” He handed the immigrant a mobile phone and after dialing a 1800 number, left him on hold.

“But it’s stateless,” grumbled Amanda.

“No it’s not, it’s Indonesian. Give it to Brendan then, and he can push it out to sea and the Navy can deal with it. How old is it?”

“About 5,” answered Amanda.

“Problem solved,” said the disheveled CLERK. “Brendan will have it overboard in a trice. Now hurry up and don’t tampa with it.”

“But how’s it going to pay?” asked Peter.

“Don’t worry about that now,” said the disheveled CLERK. “Brendan can extract some body parts or something – he is a doctor after all.”

“Well, just so people know that I’ve got a budget to balance,” said Peter.

They all trooped off to see the SPEAKER.

By this time, the Papuan, who was a really nice fellow called Bruce but very short for his age, had run up a mobile bill of about $283. Finally, he got jack of the whole thing, flashed his visa at reception at the Hyatt, booked a suite and settled in with Foxtel and the room-service menu. As he was ordering, he asked the concierge, “Where’s Fyshwick from here?” Bruce had been around but he didn’t really think of himself as an Indonesian.

As the children trailed behind the disheveled CLERK, little Lucy said, “It’s so sad. I really don’t know how they manage for breakfast in Nadir. They don’t have any wheat.”

The disheveled CLERK rounded on her and said sternly, “You mustn’t mention the wheat.”

Peter said, “That’s export dollars that is – wheat.”

Amanda, going against the grain, said, “It’s imports I worry about.”

Alexander drew himself to his full height and walked into a lintel. “I’m supposed to be in charge of wheat.”

To be continued. Sometime.


632 thoughts on “The Scion, the Wheat and the Cabinet – Chapters III and IV

  1. What? No weddings?

    How can he possibly call himself a true Liberal parliamentarian?

  2. Adrian Picccoli is making all the right noises about his portfolio, but don’t be fooled into thinking that makes him a good bloke. He’s just like every other Coalition politician – in it for what he can get. Like taking a $20,000 trip to Vietnam, with his wife, to witness the signing of an agreement that had already been signed six months earlier. The trip included a stop-over in Singapore although Picccoli says he and his wife never left the terminal.

  3. There she goes again. Michelle Grattan writing at The Conversation, pushes the myth of Abbott Loyalty:

    Tony Abbott told The Conversation a week ago that “Arthur is a fundamentally decent man and I will be amazed if any significant adverse finding is made against him.”

    Abbott is very loyal to Sinodinos and Liberal sources say that at the higher reaches of the government people are supportive. Other Liberals, however, doubt that Sinodinos can survive even if he comes through ICAC without an adverse finding.

    Abbott is “very loyal” to everyone, until he pushes them under a bus.

    I really don’t know where this myth comes from. Could it be the way he “loyally” treated his leader, Malcom Turnbull in 2009? Or (in the same leadership boilover) the way he “loyally” swindled Joe Hockey? Or Peter Reith? Or the entire population of Western Sydney? When they didn’t vote for him in the numbers Ray Hadley had promised, he cut off their health funding, and is about to cut off many other aspects of their government support.

    Start getting worried when Abbott tells you that you have no greater friend than he. Put on your running shoes when he uses weasel words, easily parsed later on to mean the opposite of their original context, like, “if there is no significant adverse finding against Arthur”. Panic if he starts not taking your calls. And run like hell when he says, “this matter is currently before the courts”, and then refuses to comment further.

    Arthur Sinodinos had a role to play in Liberal politics. A Newcastle-born working class boy made good, he was only ever a gofer. A good gofer, even a great one. Arthur could be trusted to carry out his instructions to the letter.

    But he needs someone to lead him, to give him the authority that covers his back. He needs to follow someone. Without a strong man in charge protecting him, Arthur is a babe in the woods, a naif playing with the faeries at the bottom of the garden.

    I first twigged to this when, on Lateline, he kept on answering Emma Aberici’s curly questions with phrases like, “When my betters have decided…”, and “I serve at the pleasure of my superiors”. I realized than that Arthur is insecure, and – although all these references to “Serving at the pleasure” and so on were cringeworthy coming from the mouth of a supposedly “strong man” of the Liberal Party – that he goes to jelly when he has to stand on his own two feet.

    He exhibits the fundamental insecurity that haunts people who are mixing with those above their station. Like Brogden who went to my old alma mater, St. Pat’s at Strathfield (source of most of the cockroaches now before the ICAC), Arthur didn’t go to the right schools. Not Riverview, or St. Ignatius, or St. Aloyisus. Arthur’s not even a Catholic! It’s like not being Sicilian and trying to join The Mob.

    They – the Catholic right, with Abbott playing a big part in it – got rid of John Brogden, rather unceremoniously. He wasn’t really “one of us”.

    Abbott will get rid of Arthur Sinodinos just as readily.

    Arthur is a follower, not a leader. It’s in his personality to be one, and in his origins. He works to instruction. He doesn’t give the orders or plan the strategies. Or order the big hits.

    In relying on Abbott’s “loyalty”, promoted as if it was something that really existed, by shills (or fools, take your pick) like Grattan, Kenny, Hartcher and their ilk, Arthur Sinodinos is basing his future on very sandy foundations.

    Abbott’s problem is that Arthur knows where the bodies are buried, because Arthur buried them! He’s still got the shovels.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if, when they cast their eyes around for someone to take the fall for the whole rotten mess that is AWH, Arthur is picked to be the patsy. He may find that everything is heaped on him, even stuff he didn’t do, or genuinely didn’t know about. The Liberal elders may decide that Arthur needs to be politically wacked, so discredited that anything he says against the ruling establishment can be dismissed with a casual, “He would say that, wouldn’t he?”

  4. Bushfire Bill,

    It wouldn’t surprise me if, when they cast their eyes around for someone to take the fall for the whole rotten mess that is AWH, Arthur is picked to be the patsy.

    It wouldn’t surprise me in the least, either, and since the action would have been taken by his “betters” Sinodinos might just shut up and take his medicine.



    LNP would lose an election held this week: survey
    April 4, 2014 – 12:01AM
    Amy Remeikis
    State political reporter
    If an election had been held this week the LNP state government would have been voted out, a new poll has found.

    ReachTEL surveyed nearly 3000 residents across Queensland on Wednesday night, asking them who they would vote for if an election was held that day and what they thought of Campbell Newman as Premier.

    Commissioned by Working for Queenslanders, an organisation set up by the Together Union, the poll found that based on the preference flow from the last election, the LNP would lose 35 seats, reducing their numbers to 39.

    Labor would gain 37 seats, according to the poll, giving them a parliamentary majority with 45 MPs.

    Good to see General Morrison will remain as head of Army for another year. Earlier report was he may get the chop.

  8. I don’t usually bother with Lateline, but last night I was told to watch, ‘right now’. Clive Palmer and Ross Garnaut were debating climate change. Or Garnaut was trying to and Palmer was being a bully. It was very enlightening. Anyone who stil believes Palmer is just a jolly yellow giant should have seen his ignorant, bullying, rude performance. The pity is those who are going to vote for his senate candidates tomorrow would not have been watching. If they had they might have changed their minds.

    First a bit of background –
    Palmer will instruct his senators to vote for repeal of the carbon price simply because he has a huge tax bill he doesn’t want to pay. He has beeen forced to pay a bit of it, but he wants the repeal to be retrospective to the very first day the carbon price came into force so he doesn’t have to pay a cent.

    Palmer is in politics for one reason only – self interest. He doesn’t give a rat’s arse about the country or about any of us. All he wants is to save a few million. Odd, when you think about the money he has poured into the WA campaign, and the money he threw around in Tasmania for no result at all. Palmer takes his political ambitions so seriously that he forgot to hand in his paperwork for next year’s NSW election. There will be no PUP candiates, although Palmer says they will run as independents but will really be PUP. I hope that is made clear in the campaign.

    Last night Palmer showed he has no idea about carbon emissions, how they are caused or what should be done about them. At one point Garnaut mentioned natural emmissions and Palmer grabbed that word ‘nature’ in the way a drowning man might grab a rope. He clung to it, coming back again and again to mention ‘nature’.

    Tony Jones mentioned the scientists – 309 of them from 70 countries who had contributed to the latest IPCC report which said climate change would have a serious effect on Australia.
    After a lot of huffing and pufffing, a mention of camels being designed by a committee and calls for Tony to shut up Palmer dismissed the report –

    TONY JONES: … with the consensus of scientists who are supposedly experts in this field, who would you take advice from on such a matter?

    CLIVE PALMER: Well, I can get a group of scientists together, Tony, and pay them whatever I want to and come up with any solution.

    Here’s hoping the voters of WA have had more than enough Of Palmer and his over-kill advertising campaign.

  9. Palmer is in politics for one reason only – self interest. He doesn’t give a rat’s arse about the country or about any of us

    I’ve long suspected that Palmer ran for parliament because he’s losing money and needs a steady income. Unfortunately I’ve come across people who think he’s the best person in parliament because “he’s a businessman” and I probably wouldn’t be surprised if is Senate candidate gets elected.

  10. If I didn’t know Palmer’s true colours before, I certainly do now. The man is a bully and an ignorant. Tried to intimidate T Jones and belittle Garnaut’s views. He is indeed only interested in himself, exactly like Abbott is.

  11. roy orbison

    Actually, T Jones handled the situation quite well. Clearly, TJ was much more impressed by Garnaut. In fact, Palmer felt reduced to a joke and was not happy at all. Caught in a pincer movement between an articulate Garnaut and a host who, for once, was playing it dead-pan, the fat man quickly felt out of his depth.

  12. Tony Jones was good. Palmer didn’t like being questioned, the more Jones persisted the ruder and more aggressive Palmer became. It was not a good look for somneone hoping to do well in an election.

  13. Actually Clive Palmer shouted Ross Garnaut down when he pointed out that the Queensland refineries have higher emmissions that the WA refineries, I think Ross was stopped from saying that Queensland owners hadn’t upgraded their plant so were running dirtier operations

  14. A really unusual event – I’ve been to Sydney Airport. $140 of premium later and Missy doesn’t seem to notice that two bikes are gone from the garage.

    In she walks, chucks down a suitcase and handbag (it looks new and expensive) on the lounge floor.

    Looks at my running shoes and says you’re still left footed.

    Life lesson – don’t sleep with any one you’ve known since they were eleven.

  15. Those Norwegians certainly do adventure sport well.Jump out of an aeroplane and then nearly get cleaned up by a meteorite.

    Time lapse pic from video

  16. Hi,
    Just have time now to check comments from last night. Read all. Thanks for the replies.
    I agree that the Chinese are somehow involved and their activities close to Australia are worrying.
    I have long been of the opinion that China is Australia’s greatest threat and West Australia is the likely target.

    To Bushfirebill
    I read somewhere that smart phones and maybe GPS devices that use a SIM card can also use mobile phone towers to help positioning information. This means that although the accuracy is less it allows GPS to work when the satellite connection is poor.

  17. Just come across something that might help those who wish to vote Below the Line.
    Select your own preferences, then print it out to take with you. This avoiding that horrible moment when you can’t remember who you were going to put next …

    I do enjoy the cleverness of people who can turn open access data into useful tools!

  18. I got a C- in my latest assignment, something about designing a pamphlet. As you can probably tell, I didn’t put much effort into it

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