Need some relief from the insanity on steroids of the current régime? Let’s return to the kinder, gentler world of John Howard’s Australia, with the next two chapters of Malcolm B Duncan’s historical satire.
(Image Credit: WikiNarnia))
The Chronicles of Nadir
As told from the grave by Tom Lewis
Tale the First
The Scion, the Wheat and the Cabinet
Chapters VI and VII
Alexander had wandered away from the other children in search of the Fruits of Office. He supposed that the most likely way of satisfying what had by now become an almost insatiable craving was to find where the Queen lived. He had a notion that he would find her house in the electorate of Bennelong and had walked and walked and walked.
Eventually, he came to a spacious bungalow which appeared to be the one. There was a real estate agent’s sign out the front: “Khemlani Realty ‘Leased’.” Alexander did not quite understand but he suspected he would not find the Queen in. What he did find was a small Pakistani-looking gentleman kneeling on what appeared to be some sort of a mat. The man leaned forward and touched his forehead to the mat mumbling something which seemed to be directions to Allawah. Alexander knew it required three changes of train.
The man stood.
“I say,” said Alexander, “you don’t happen to know where the White Lady is, do you?”
“I’m only renting,” the man replied. “We’ve just been released from Baxter but Mr Khemlani tells me the owners moved to Kirribilli House years ago.”
It was then that Alexander noticed the yard was full of statues most of which seemed reminiscent of former Liberal frontbenchers so lifelike that it was as if they had been turned to stone just to get them out of the way. There were a few scattered Nationals as well but, really, Stone didn’t do the medium justice.
Meanwhile, or, in the interim, as Mr Hunter was fond of saying at school (Alexander had had to look “interim” up), the Dwarf, the Lady Jadis and the phlegmatic Corder had returned from the Land of Nadir and resumed their normal appearance. Little Johnnie and Jeanette were taking tea on the terrace.
“Now, dear,” said Little Johnnie, “I don’t want you to think that anyone told me anything or that I know anything or that I’d be able to give evidence about it or anything like that but I had a dream last night about a bloke in Bognor. He told me, but only in the dream, you understand – so I don’t really know anything – but he said we had an enormous amount of surplus wheat and there’s this place called Nadir which is an incredibly wealthy magical land which has no wheat at all but is desperate for it – wheat, that is, ruled by a really nice lady, and if we were to make it worth her while, if you know what I mean, which you don’t really because I don’t know anything to mean anything anyway, we could fix the current account and have enough to live like kings and queens in the Land of Nadir.”
“We’ve got quite enough queens in Oxford Street,” Janette replied.
“Yes, but the point is, dear, that we could all be rich.”
“Let me get this straight: you have a dream about some geezer from Bognor,” Janette paused.
“Bugger Bognor,” said Little Johnnie. “It’d be an economic miracle – the Big End of Town would love us. The Party coffers would be full…”
“Then,” interrupted Jeanette, “You bribe some foreign potentate to buy our wheat.”
“Not bribe, dear. There would naturally be shipping and land transport costs, handling fees and the like. We could do it all using f.o.b. contracts through that $2 company in Fyshwick.”
“The one that sells the manacles?” asked Janette.
“That’s the one – very reliable, very discreet people, completely sound,” said Little Johnnie proudly.
“But what about the Wizengamot ban on exports to magical countries?” asked Jeanette.
“No one told me,” said Little Johnnie, “Never heard of it.”
Just then, Alexander appeared around the corner of the terrace, closely shadowed by Corder who had drawn his pistol – he hadn’t been pleased to see him.
“I caught this talking to a terrorist,” said Corder.
“Speak, Boy,” commanded Janette.
“It wasn’t a terrorist. It was a Mr Patel – he’s just been released from Baxter and he and his family have finally got Newstart and a rental allowance and family benefits and they’re living in a lovely house.” Here, Alexander gave an address which for privacy reasons, national security concerns and the fact that this is a children’s story we cannot mention.
Jeanette exploded. “That idiot Khemlani has rented the House to Pakis.”
“There, there, dear,” soothed Little Johnnie, “I’ll get Ruddock onto it right away.”
“You don’t know anything about Fruits of Office, do you?” asked Alexander greedily.
“I don’t know anything about anything,” said Little Johnnie. “No-one tells me anything at all. There’s this bloke in Bognor.”
“Bugger Bognor,” said Jeanette. “Corder, release the child. I have plans for it. Johnnie, is that Teak Table Keating bought still in the Lodge?” Turning to Alexander, she said, smiling sweetly, “Do you like teak, Boy?”
“I’ve heard about that table,” said Alexander. “It cost a fortune, didn’t it?”
Quickly Little Johnnie jumped in to demonstrate his complete mastery of the economy. “It was so expensive that the Reserve had to increase interest rates to 17% to take the heat out of the economy. But interest rates will always be higher under Labor [sic].”
“We all know that; we voted on it,” said Janette testily. “Now, young man, come with me and I’ll show you the lovely Teak Table.”
As they walked, hand-in-hand, Janette could be heard saying, “And do you know anything about shipping wheat?”
* * * * * * * * *
Nadir being a magical land, strange things were apt to happen on its periphery where it intersected the space-time continuum near the place we know as Canberra, the home of the House on the Hill or, rather, in it.
Almost on the edge of Nadir, in one such place, there was a public toilet block in Goulburn Memorial Park just by the rose garden. Known as the Four Thrones (obviously because of its configuration) it had been the undoing of more than one Bishop of Nadir and was often frequented by local police dressed in fishnet stockings – and there are few things more fearsome to behold than a lesbian in fishnets. (One of those things was Alexander in fishnets. Of course, he only ever dressed up as a joke or possibly because, through some misfortune, he had been born in Adelaide.)
While Jeanette was discussing with Alexander logistic arrangements for the shipping of the wheat surplus to the Land of Nadir completely unbeknownst to Little Johnnie, Little Johnnie, in turn, was consulting with Ruddock over what was to become known as the Khemlani gaffe,
After a brief discussion which neither Little Johnnie nor Ruddock clearly remembered because it was never minuted, Ruddock gathered together a crack team of ASIO agents, Federal Police, and Department of Immigration operatives and made it clear that, whatever happened, Amanda must never be told and the new NO EMAIL protocol developed quickly one afternoon at the Coalface was to be strictly implemented. Anything that was written down was to be swallowed immediately in accordance with the Government’s view that, the way things were going, Australian citizens wou ld swallow anything.
When this group reached the Former Matrimonial Home, Mr Patel was again out the front with his strange mat, an atlas and a compass. “Drop those,” said Ruddock. “You’re under arrest.”
“What precisely are you meaning?” asked a confused Mr Patel.
“Can’t tell you. Grab him, lads,” said Ruddock.
“Why?” uttered a now clearly frightened Mr Patel.
“Can’t tell you. Search him,” Ruddock said to a large ASIO man who was putting on a surgical glove.
“Strip!” ordered the ASIO man.
“But why?” asked Mr Patel. “What am I supposed to be doing to deserving this treatment from your esteemed selves?”
“Can’t tell you. Now, get the gear off, Paki.”
He then unceremoniously de-bagged Mr Patel and shoved his hand … Well, since this is a children’s story let it suffice that the search was very thorough. When Mr Patel regained consciousness, the crack team was bundling him into the boot of an unmarked Volkswagen Beetle.
“What about my prayer mat?” implored the quivering refugee.
“Probably a bomb,” said Ruddock.
“But I want a lawyer,” said Mr Patel.
“Know someone with a security clearance pursuant to s 39 of the National Security Information (Criminal & Civil Proceedings) Act 2004?” enquired Ruddock.
“No,” said Mr Patel.
“Tough. Take him away, lads.”
“But my wife and children …” said Mr Patel pathetically.
“Can’t talk to anyone,” said Ruddock
“But they will not be knowing what has happened to me.”
“This bastard’s read the Act,” said Ruddock to the crack team. “Clearly we’ve got the right bloke. Take him away.”
Strange things were also happening elsewhere on the edge of the Land of Nadir, this time where it intersected the otherworld. Sir Alfred Deakin, being dead, could drift in and out at will. Just now he was at the bar in the High Court Retirement Home for Deceased Knights of the Realm and Other Former Sitting Members of The Court. Since Sir Alfred had been the Attorney who introduced the Judiciary Act, he was a frequent guest. As usual he was holding forth in true barristerial fashion, telling the one about the Key to the Arch of the Federation. Sir Garfield Barwick, as bored by the speech as the first time he had read it, threw another stack of Income Tax Assessments on the fire. As each one caught, he muttered “Bastards!” to himself. Sir Owen Dixon was at the other end of the bar reading to anyone who would listen (although no-one did any more) from an article describing him as the greatest jurisprudential mind ever to grace a bench anywhere. It needs to be said though, that the article had been written by an academic. “Tell us about the separation of powers then, Owen,” said Sir Hayden Starke with thinly veiled contempt.
In a well-stuffed armchair by the fire, Sir Frank Kitto (who actually had been the finest jurisprudential mind ever to sit on the bench) was reading the latest edition of Meagher, Heydon and Leeming. It just wasn’t the same without John Lehane’s humanizing influence although the line about the soi-disant musicians had survived Heydon’s clinical treatment.
Eddie McTiernan was at the TAB window still trying to back I Agree With The Chief Justice (always a mouthful for the callers) in the third at Caulfield. As had happened so often before, The Chief (as the gelding was known) was odds-on. Meanwhile, Lionel Murphy was out on the lawn looking after a few little mates. Had he realized at the time of his appointment that because the House Rules had been drawn up exclusively by people with knighthoods, his refusal to be knighted in accordance with tradition would mean that he was perpetually required to use the tradesman’s’ entrance, he may have reconsidered and we might have been saved a lot of looney left-wing biographies by insane feminist fans. As it was, he was making the best of things and was keenly awaiting the arrival of Gaudron and McHugh. He had been stashing away a vast array of grog under the back stairs in anticipation of the celebration.
Sir Alfred finished the speech for the umpteenth time and decided to drift back to the Land of Nadir. He had a strange premonition that involved the use of the notorious Teak Table and he could feel an overwhelming sense of personal sacrifice coming on. Apart from that, there was one persistent thing he couldn’t get off his mind: wheat.