Heavens to Betsy – it’s a whole three and a half months since we’ve visited the Land of Nadir. To revert to another cabinet from a gentler, kinder, less(???) flip-floppy politic, here is another chapter from the late Malcolm B Duncan . . .
(Image Credit: Shutterstock)
While things were going pear-shaped for the Dwarf and the Lady Jadis in the Land of Nadir, back on the other side of the Cabinet it was all beer and skittles. Little Johnnie’s brilliant sleeper strategy had come up trumps. Well, okay, Callinan had turned out to be a big mistake but with a whopping majority of five, who cared? It had been sheer genius appointing to the High Court people who seemed inherently conservative but were, really, like Little Johnnie himself, radical centralists. In one deft mistake, the evil Unions and their allied forces of darkness had allowed the Constitution to be completely re-written without changing a word – no referendum, no pesky consultation with the people, no selling it to voters, just a simple decision about what the Corporations power actually meant in the 21st Century. And it meant complete power: power over almost everything with the possible exception of State Banking and there were no State Banks any more.
Greiner’s devilish stratagem of introducing the Corporatisation of Government Departments had now delivered practically everything into the ambit of the Commonwealth’s power. Little Johnnie just had to pick and choose.
Alexander had been so delighted with the decision that he had gone back to Adelaide, sacked his personal butler and re-employed the poor bastard (and he was going to be poor from now on) on an AWA entitling him to food and lodging in return for an 80 hour week with no holidays and a half-day on Boxing Day (Alexander had learnt noblesse oblige at his father’s knee).
Elsewhere, plans were being hatched throughout the Ministry. Nick the Knife, who was the Minister for Administrative Affairs, and his sidekick, Andrews the Sleek [aka the Minister for Grecian 2000], were still puzzled by the reaction of the working party they had tried to form to design and implement an immediate move to AWA’s throughout the public service which would reduce all salaries and entitlements by two-thirds. The public servants said it couldn’t be done and the White Paper (which had been produced in record time – a true tribute to the efficiency, skill, and dedication of the public service) ran to 3,000 pages. Apparently, it hadn’t occurred to the Ministers that asking a group of people to design a system which reduced their take-home pay and accrued entitlements by 66.67% might not be a task they would embrace with enthusiasm. Rather like designing ovens, it depended on what you were going to put into them. The Minister’s office would just have to do it – no matter – for about $5,000 per hour plus expenses they could get a consultant to do it.
Brendan, on the other hand, had come up with an astonishing scheme. It suddenly occurred to him that the Profession of Arms, like medicine or snake oil, was a saleable quantity. If we were going to make doctors pay for their training, why couldn’t we get even more revenue out of the military? After all, it cost an absolute fortune to train one of these morons to kill people and, if we repealed the mercenary laws, the earning potential working for Al-Qaeda or the Russian Mafia was almost unlimited. In fact, Iraq was such good training, they could be made to pay a skills allowance for being there – a bit like specialists had to pay for their professional qualification which, as everyone knew, just made them able to charge higher fees. Supply-side economics applied across the board – and abroad. Brendan started thinking about a broad he had once known but, as this is a children’s story, we don’t need to talk about ex-es, or even excess. Once he got that through, Brendan thought, perhaps they’d let him go back to education. Someone, after all, would have to be responsible for the Commonwealth’s take-over of Government Schools around the country. Brendan knew that His Eminence Cardinal Pell had already been on the phone to the Mad Monk asking when Sydney Boys’ and Girls’ High would be up for sale.
The international scene had changed too. The drought was so bad that wheat might need to be imported. Following the mysterious disappearance of the Boy Dweeb into another children’s story, some bloke named Warren from Queensland (everyone in Queensland is either called Warren or Beatty or a combination of the two) had been given Trade. Because he was from Queensland, he knew all about bribes. He suggested to Little Johnnie that, if we were going to import wheat, the Canadians and the US would probably be prepared to pay a commission for the business.
Realising that he could use the secret commissions to finance the war in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and whatever else the Burning Bush had revealed as a terror war-zone, he had instructed Corder to find AW Board and make him an offer: all would be forgiven, the Coalface would be starved of funds so it could never report and it would be business as usual but this time with former competitors. Little Johnnie knew that AW Board drove the hardest bribe deal in town and Jeanette had approved the whole scheme, although Little Johnnie had been very careful to ensure that she knew nothing about it and hadn’t been told anything – it was occasionally a great advantage that she could lip-read.
Corder, being Corder, had managed to track Board down in a matter of hours. He was with Slaven in the tinnie, stranded at Echuca because the Murray had finally run out of water. They had sent Flannery to the shops for bread and milk.
When the proposition was put to him, Board, who had just finished reading the morning paper said, “This doesn’t mean I’ll be on an AWA. does it?”
“I’ll have to make a phone call about that.” said Corder.
“It’s consultant’s rates or nothing,” said Board, knowing a strong bargaining position when he saw one – after all that was what a free market was all about – the freedom to make it very expensive. “Oh, and I don’t want any more bloody Royal Commissions and I want a pre-negotiated exit fee if the whole thing goes arseup. About what Sol is on would do.”
Corder pulled out a mobile phone and dialled a number.
“Damn,” he said, “No reception.”
“You with Telstra?” asked Slaven.
“Yes, how did you know?” Corder replied.
Slaven adopted that laconic look he gets when he scents blood. “It just figures, that’s all,” he said. “Here, use mine, it’s a satellite job.”
“Thanks,” said Corder as he took the phone and dialled. It was uncharacteristic of Corder to be this sloppy, naturally being of a suspicious disposition, but he had just unwittingly programmed Little Johnnie’s mobile number into the phone of one of the most prolific, talented, well-connected and, let’s face it, wickedest comedians in the country.
Corder turned to Board and said, “The Boss says ‘done’. When can you start?”
Slaven quietly recovered possession of the phone and repressed a quiet smile.
Board handed Corder a slip of paper that he had been writing on. It contained a serial number, the name of a bank and an address in the Channel Islands. “As soon as the first mil goes into that.”
“I’ll have it arranged,” said Corder. “We can leave as soon as the chopper arrives. This conversation never happened, by the way.”
“What conversation?” queried Board.
Turning back to Slaven, Corder said, “Mind if I use your phone again?”
“Sorry,” said Slaven, not wanting to let that valuable bit of property away from his person for a minute until he had recorded the magic number in a safe place. “Battery seems dead. There’s a payphone at the deli.”
“I’ll be back shortly,” said Corder over his shoulder as he trudged towards the town.
“Well, it just goes to show,” Board said to Slaven as he watched Corder’s receding back, “You never know what’s going to happen when you’re in the business of wheat.”