The Poisoned Chalice

 

Chapter 6: Of sanctity, saints and sinners

 

He’s not bad that Death’s Head, eh? You know, for a bloke who rather stands out in a crowd he has a capacity to fly under the radar that would do credit to a stealth fighter aircraft. So low was his profile this past wee while that some were wondering if Senator Faceless had slipped-in a stiletto so that the next day’s media might report: “Death’s Head done like a dinner”. But all 14’ 6” of him was scrunched into a little ball somewhere (though who knows where?) as the Auditor-General released the report into the incredible insulation imbroglio. It was hard to tell whether canonisation, cauterisation or merely obfuscation was the go.

The A-G swears it was the department’s fault concluding, sympatico with the harsh lens of media coverage, that those dimwits whose role in life is simply to shuffle papers could never master the nuances of ceiling spaces and had not a hope in hell of pulling-off a challenge more difficult than a Fabian victory in the Failed State next time around. The First Rudd Imperium was given a sideswipe by the A-G for forcing the department to do it in half the time it needed to take but has not recommended prosecution. Pity! There are sinners in the Cabinet who should do penance. The A-G concludes – does he wish to keep his job perhaps? – that no blame should attach to Death’s Head. It’s a miracle! His own government ensured this would be a multi-billion dollar farce because of incompetence and the public servants get it in the neck while the Minister remains unscathed. Is there a catechism that teaches responsibility? Please forward multiple copies to the Cabinet Secretary.

No prissy platitudes, though, from Shades of Gray from WA. That lad may not need anger management any more for he surely excoriated any excrementatious sentiments lurking deep within his heart (that black thing in his chest) by unburdening himself to Bazza The Insider in his new tome. Boy, if Rudd the Rover thought Arbie and Shorty didn’t take to him too well, he now knows just how deep a level of contempt can be. Not since the time of Spanish galleons has a broadside carried so much shot and lead. It was all Our Kevvie’s fault, cried Gray, and that lovely lanky one was entirely innocent, he proclaimed, absolving him of all sin. Some strange nuances in that little contretemps but they do say politics makes for strange bedfellows. Hmmm . . .

The Poisoned Chalice caught a few sippers this week as those two fabulous Fabian bedfellows, Queen Julia and Krispy Kornflakes, fell out of love over the evergreen party game of who’s up who and who’s paying the rent. An unholy row erupted over our de facto Boadicea’s boast that uniform national workplace safety laws were one of her famous achievements. But in a style lacking all sanctity, Krispy crowed: “Naff off, knave! My rent is paid by those vandalous Visigoths who threaten to tear my little house down if I don’t enshrine them above the law. You might call them Luddites but I call them luminaries.” What she didn’t say out loud was all the more telling and went like this: “God help me, there are only two groups left in the community who suggest they might vote Labor next time: Life Members of the ALP (damned shame Gough’s not well coz I was hoping he’d bolster the numbers) and a bunch of unionists who reckon they ought to be above the law because we live in a capitalist system that conspires against them. Aaagh! Why don’t I just take my accent back where it belongs?” Poor Krispy. Truly she has her very own poisoned chalice from which all others refuse to drink but which, for her, miraculously remains brimful.

Now the Queen, who used to sidle up to those red-ragging rascals with blue collars, now finds none of them have washed in months and they are all a bit odoriferous. And whereas she used to find the greens somewhat on the nose she now regards them as pals. Truly, supping from the chalice does change one’s entire outlook. The monarch has, however, reaffirmed her commitment to a basic system of justice which allows a presumption of innocence, even for capitalist employers! For a Fabian this is quite a leap of faith (note how Krispy baulked at the barrier) and it will be fascinating to watch this saints versus sinners scenario unravel.

Sanctity, of course, is where one finds it. A rare few find it nowhere and, rather than pity, we should be very wary of them. A disturbing number find it everywhere (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) and while the more cynical among the flock might allow pity for them to spring to mind, we should at least be grateful some have such a positive outlook. The rest of us stumble around catching glimpses hither and yon of blessedness and are grateful as and when it shines upon us. Which makes the extraordinary explosion of sanctity bathing the great southern land recently somewhat of a mystery – which appears to be pretty much stock-in-trade for churches. The good maiden MacKillop was by all accounts a very decent human being. Subsequent efforts to elevate her to immortal status, however, appear to speak more of the attitudes of the beatificators than the blessed herself. The desperate quest for miracles has yielded results which appear miraculous in themselves. No doubt faith unshrouds such mystery and good luck to those who have it. The rest of us can only look on bemused. The one truly disturbing aspect of the week of celebrations was the attempt to draw a comparison between maiden MacKillop and Queen Julia. The basis apparently is their shared enthusiasm for education. Now, truly, is there any mere mortal among us who could draw such a long bow as to make that particular arrow fly? Methinks not.

Chapter 5: Of hubris, humility and honour

 

Verily, Queen Julia must have supped from her poisoned chalice for how else to explain her vexatious vixen-like harassment of Monsignor Antony over who would fly in the pointy end and when. And the vituperous response it elicited! Unseemly for a man of the cloth and what does he not yet understand about the playing code for politics at the highest level? Mons, if thou truly seekest peace, harmony and true love, get yourself off to Nimbin, my son, for thy search is bound to be redolent of unrequited remorse otherwise. Elsewise, you are just playing the same game as she, so don’t pretend to be all messed-up. We’re a funny lot, we great south landers. Much of the time we actually like it when our heroes play the man and not the ball but, perversely, we are offended by playing the woman. No votes there, old chum. A little humility and honour would enhance both our leaders.

What revelations, too, in that august journal of record, The Curious Snail, up there in BrisVegas. The once and former Emperor of the First Rudd Imperium poured out his heart to his faithful yeomen in a cameo role that might well be entitled: Old dog learns new trick! “I have renounced hubris. Humility will be my byword from here in,” he proclaimed. “That sneering, snarling, snide guttersnipe who used to usurp my better nature has been put out to pasture. The people shall once again be able to bask in the brightness that used shine 24/7.” For his finale, he huzzahed: “Countrymen, Kevin is back!” Funnily enough the news fell upon deaf ears. There was no fanfare nor was there frolicking in the fields. The yeomen appear a little gun-shy yet and in a mood to reserve their opinion. But it was lovely to see this cute canine roll over to have his tummy tickled. So endearing.

If Rudd the Rover was religiously resurrecting as a fine and decent human being by renouncing hubris for humility, his old mate King Henry the Kenth was having no such renaissance. Here is a man who truly knows his place and it is difficult to discern he believes anything other than “none shall come before me”. It is doubtful if even Old King Keating could win a battle of the egos with this lad. Okay, perhaps that’s stretching things just a shade too far but the point is made. Haughty Henry has recently received critical acclaim as the author of two fine works: the Red Book and the Blue Book. The rouge version was so named apparently because it was written for a bunch of red-ragging socialists who slipped under the guard of those who were born to rule and stole the keys to the kingdom. This caused more queasiness for Her Majesty’s Loyal Curmudgeons than a Delhi Games swimming pool. The blue version was apparently so salacious it was not allowed to see light of day.

But it was the Red tome that caused consternation for Emperor Murdoch’s Chief Financial Officer, Terry the Cranium, and that once and former fiscal fiend, The Smirk. These bovver boys put the boot in to Henry, good and proper. But there was validity to their viciousness for Henry had usurped his rightful place and used his book to tell the Queen what policies she should implement. It is one thing, when asked one’s opinion, to offer a response. It is altogether another to vent vainglory by suppressing one’s role as a servant of the people and abrogating the authority of the plenary.

And, in a desperate search for honour, should we cast a jaundiced eye over the curious case of Grech the Wretch who so remarkably started to dismantle the guillotine scaffolding of Patrician the Tumbrel quite some time ago? The Oz deserves favourable mention for poking a candle into the labyrinthine manoeuvrings of the Big Bad Coppers of Canberra and the Commonwealth’s Chief Persecutor. The poor Wretch – quite literally so – has suffered sadly through this sordid and sorry affair. There is not one soul across the entire cast of characters in this misanthropic malaise who could dare claim the moral high ground. As for the Wretch himself – regardless of any interpretation of guilt or innocence – could any decent human being suggest he has not paid a very full price for his misadventure? There is no greater truth in our (however flawed) system of governance than that justice delayed is justice denied. Some should hang their heads in shame for they threaten the very fabric of that which we should all uphold dear.

And amid ruminations of hubris, humility and honour should we spare a brief thought for higher standards? In which case the Longshot from Lyne springs instantly to mind. “I’m just an ordinary local Member”, he declaims, of claims that he inappropriately intervened for a company that could be registered as a shareholder in Longshot Enterprises MP through its tangible support of his furtherment. Reciprocation was all the Longshot’s go and he valiantly waged his utterly selfless campaign all the way to the nation’s Chief Flying Officer and a man whose Field Marshal’s baton is in no way ensconced in a duffel bag. Presumptions of innocence must assuredly prevail but the Longshot would do well to remember that, when trying to persuade a nation you deserve elevation to Queenmaker, you ensure your behaviour is commensurately beyond reproach.

Assuredly, if honour is the holy grail, then the quest is an unending one.

 

Chapter 4: All the boundless bravery of Boadicea

 

“Fear not, my good people. If you are seeing this video then I have departed our shores. I wanted to bring you into my confidence but the world outside our borders is a dark and dangerous place and my courtiers said I must just slip quietly away. I feel your pain that I am not in your midst but this I promise you: I shall return!” So it was that the warrior queen gird her loins and roared off to rally the troops, all the better to bring a quick victory in the Land of the Lair of Bin Laden.

Surprisingly, somnolence reigned supreme across the land down under and nary a vassal resorted to breast-beating or purgatives to quell a rising tremulousness that the Queen had vacated the throne. We held true to our stoicism, replete in the knowledge that we were in good hands for the Queen had left the Duck With An Abacus in charge. This long-necked lad knew instinctively that we would want reassurance so he struck up his now traditional ballad: “The banks are bastards, the banks are bastards.” For their part, the burghers with all the bounty refused to play the game and stayed their hand from fleecing our wallets. Even the Motherdollar Bank was in a garrulous mood of generosity and let the commoners get on with their lives without undue intrusion. The Abacus was left looking like a Kyle Sandilands’ cut-out, all sound and fury but dubious substance.

The palace courtiers moved quickly to fill the gap and released footage of Queen Julia being bodaciously Boadicean. Not for her the flak jacket so favoured of the Rudd the Rover. No, our new monarch strode staunchly through the swirling dust in the sheerest of gossamer gauze. Her only concession to personal safety was a massive helmet doffed to protect her tresses from any gormless Afghani gunfire. Or, perhaps, some stray rounds of friendly fire? Oh, hush my mouth for uttering such treasonous, seditious thoughts. I withdraw them utterly, feckless creature that I am. A thousand, nay a million apologies, my regal ruler.

And still the palace plied us with platitudes as we were subjected to an endless stream of shorts on screen: “Julia does NATO”; “Julia mixes it with the other monarchs” and the crowd’s current favourite, “Julia messes with the Monsignor”. This vigorous vignette caught tired Tony napping when he could have been schlepping. Such a shame, Tony! Tongue-tied and twisted, you twirled slowly in the breeze.

There was a to-do, too, on the topic of tanks. The Curmudgeons came across as cowardly for daring to suggest our troops could benefit from these lethal leviathans to help ply their trade. The cobbers in khaki (well those up the chain who have arguably a somewhat loftier and more detached perspective) were sneeringly dismissive of the suggestion. “No Aussie needs to be wrapped in metal to taunt terrorists. No, we dance barefoot among the mines, all the best to be focussed on the task at foot.”

Some might suggest that not since the galvanic gallantry of The Somme have we been so robustly rudimentary in our death-or-glory approach to dying if need be to demonstrate our determination. As always, the politics are played while the daring die. Diggers, we salute you!

Back home reports seeped out that platoons of praetorian guards had been despatched to round-up groups of business leaders who may or may not have complained that the Queen’s Privy Councillors were intimidating them. The Palace Mouthpiece was quick to say no-one would be chastised. “We just want to talk to them to make sure they fully understand how friendly we are. It is a nonsense to suggest we intend to discipline them. Once they have listened to the full series of seven one-hour lectures entitled ‘Falling in Love with a Fabian’ they will be free to return to their businesses as if they were not even under suspicion.” Queen Julia herself, in a regal proclamation, reminded business leaders that she would disagree with them if she felt like it and their only responsibility was to ensure their conversations with her were respectful. Later questioning of protocol officials revealed that the height of discourtesy to a reigning monarch is to disagree. Hmmm. Friends are still searching for the scribe who, when advised by the Queen that she stood by her record as proof that she relies on respect in her dealings with others, asked how Kevin Rudd might feel. The scribe’s family have appealed for anyone with knowledge of his possible whereabouts to contact them urgently. Amnesty International has raised its warning alert on The Great South Land to flashing amber status.

Perhaps search parties should be despatched, too, for the feckless fruitcakes who thought they had a chance to whisper in the Queen’s engaging earlobe on the topic of wild and woolly weather. In an Oprah-style splash, Queen Julia had let slip during her campaign that she would invite one hundred and fifty lucky citizens to travel to the palace for a bacchanalian revel that would put paid to the misery of the modern condition. Oh, sorry, that’s an advisory panel on another issue altogether. No, this century and a half of citizens were to hold court on climate change but amid fears that all the hot air to be so generated might impinge on our already disastrous accumulation of toxic gases, the Queen has decreed she will empanel a few close friends to formulate the fabric of a policy. This’ll be worth waiting for.

And thus it was that we, the common folk, were left to wonder why we had paid so much for tickets to the people’s plenary. Having fought themselves to exhaustion over who should get the best seats, the actors had barely got to hurl a few epithets across the chamber before they all exited stage left and right (as was their personal prerogative) to ensure, so they said, that their home fires were still burning. We who had hoped for a truly epic spectacle of no-holds-barred brawling in the idealised contest of ideas were left bereft. Maybe the Members will find their way back so that democracy can be served once again? We should be so lucky.

 

 

Chapter 3: Clash of the Titans

 

It has been many moons since the masses have been privy to the epic spectacle of the people’s plenary. The ritual of the ballot boxes offers some tedium relief but it’s basically banal and boring and assuredly there’s nothing like the hand-to-hand combat of the Steel Cage to let the people decide who is really their favourite. And so it was that Queen Julia carried her new chalice, with her lips nary touching its lip, to the Big House where she commanded her cohort to win favour by being nice and polite. “This is the new democracy and we shall rule with refinement quite unlike those callow knaves, the Curmudgeons,” she intoned in her latterly-adopted placid regal manner. Well, Antonius Maximus just fell about laughing. “Bugger me dead,” he chortled to his conservative caucus, “this lot think they’re in fairy land. We’ll cut them down one by one until our numbers overpower theirs. And then the spoils shall be ours to share. Never forget that god is on my side and we shall be victorious!” he exulted. The whooping and hollering drowned out the few quiet folk who were pensive in the face of their colleagues’ unabashed ambition to preside over the plenary, if possible, in perpetuity.

Yet outside in the real world a growing murmur could be heard. It grew louder until the Curmudgeons sent a lackey to investigate. He came back quite ashen and reported: “It is the vox populi and it says that whatever you think of the umpire’s decision, you lost the last bout so dust yourselves off and show us why you were nearly good enough.” This caused a hush as the assembled egotists had pause to ponder. “Was there anything else?” one eventually asked. “Yes, it says if you don’t get over yourselves real quick, we’ll shaft you like a suckling pig ready for roasting.” This prompted a further brief period of reflection but those who had already imbibed the heady potion of power cast aside concern and continued carousing. Sore heads seem certain.

Even though the masses were eagerly baying for blood on the floor of the Steel Cage, there was a major distraction to be dealt with first: the Speakership Stakes, maiden event on the Spring calendar. The plump prizemoney purse proved a powerful incentive for quite a few of the nags. Longshot was fancied early but ran out of puff. Somlyay the Serpent set off at a gallop surprising all but his closest connections since no-one was aware he had even been entered. Yet he slipped somehow and the Sleeper Agent slithered through on the inside and stole second place. Trackside touts spruiked that Sleeper had promised to halve his plenary travel and expenses tab and offer the savings to charity so that all the world’s hungry could then be fed four meals a day for ever as long as they should live. The Fabians, ever mindful of cost-cutting and a return to surplus, reckoned Sleeper was worth a plunge and the fix went in, backed heavily for a quinella with Jockey Jenkins allowed to coast home as the clear favourite. The Fabians had fun sniggering at their foes’ discomfiture and poor old Beam Me Up, Scottie had to content himself with third place.

The Fabian frolic rather quickly became a sombre affair, however, as The Usher of The Black Rod positioned the Poisoned Chalice at the Despatch Box for all to be mindful of new paradigms. And, verily, the Queen was smote with furious force on the very first day of real business as the capricious capitalist pigs got their own way. The Monarch of the Molonglo did well to maintain composure under heavy fire but one suspects she will practise stoicism almost more often as not as this regal saga develops.

Still, she did permit herself some girlish giggles as she returned home for the evening. Her bags and other belongings had finally been retrieved from the banks of the Maribyrnong and been unpacked for her. She and Timmy the Tomboy were still checking out the digs at The Motel where she has been – tentatively – booked-in for the next three years. Management has taken her assurances of a long-term stay at face value and negotiated a discount rate. Still under discussion is a substantial upgrade of security amid revelations that the neighbouring precinct has been pervaded by none other than Rudd the Rover. Just home from his latest jaunt, he couldn’t resist a real estate plunge that said, more than anything else: “Yes, The Motel enjoys a good reputation but if you are just a casual guest on a rental agreement while I can afford my own mansion without even a mortgage, then who’s the real man?” Snide mutterings about trumped-up tarts were thought to be heard wafting across the lake district.

Not all attention was focussed on the Steel Cage, though, as another player grabbed the microphone. The Reigning Ranga’s favourite ranga, Kezza the Messiah, prepares to muzzle the beast within and depart the Half Past Seven Sermon. This caused loonie lefties to weep inconsolably while the normally reserved rightists roared with exuberant joy as the news seeped out. Speculation suggested that the promise of a kinder, gentler polity (subsequently amended and completely revised, it must be said) was simply too much and the old warhorse sniffed the breeze but could detect no bountiful bouquet of belligerence. Saddened by the notion that pleasantness could prevail across the political landscape, he felt the waves of almost religious niceness emanating from the closet of Greens over in the corner. The mixture of their Mormon-like zeal and Valium-like calmness set the hairs on his neck aquiver. It used to be fun prodding their proclivities but now they are proliferating exponentially and he could sense that soon there would simply be too many of them to overcome.

Does a similar enervation pervade the Queen’s bones as she confronts the serried ranks of the barbarian hordes across the Despatch Box? With fascination we shall watch this frolic unfold.

 

Chapter 2: Great expectations

 

A mood of freshness and renewal swept the land as sunshine and rainbow coalitions dawned anew each morn. There was joy aplenty as the bears of government got their hands in their allotted honeypots and tasted the sweet stickiness of power. That curmudgeonly lot who were cursed to spend their days in abject envy consigned to the harsh unpadded bench seats of ne’er-do-well land in the people’s plenary were naturally not so enamoured. Amid the harsh and guttural mutterings emerging from their corner could be heard strident exhortations to “Be ferocious!” and “Take no prisoners”. A little fellah by the name of Christopher Coffin (yes, that’d be a Pyne box) was so frothy at the mouth and flecked with phlegm as he vomited vitriol on the new government that even fire hoses of ice water could not douse his demented deprecations. It ain’t an attractive look, Sunshine! As busy pedestrians will shy away from homeless urchins, onlookers retreated from the curmudgeons’ continual spray of sour grapes. Could this motley crew not understand that sympathy never accrues to those with chips on their shoulders? Opposition is not enhanced by nastiness.

But reality does not constrain those with dreams of greatness from harbouring expectations of the same order. And so it was that the fresh-faced Lad from Lyne who so selflessly offered to save the nation from itself by serving as Speaker was astonished that his generosity generated some garrulousness. Unnerved by the nit-picking nambies who sought constitutional counsel on the propriety of his proposal he sought refuge in bluster, berating the blackguards who bemoaned his bequest. The curmudgeons copped a fulsome fusilade: “I cannot conceive that you would not support me! Did I not tear out your heart and present it to the Queen so that she might breakfast in her customary fashion? Oh, you feel you needed that heart? Well, sorry, but I thought I had a duty to the realm. Still, I cannot comprehend that you would turn on me so brutally. Does loyalty count for nothing with you people?” Ah, he’s a funny lad, that one. Laugh a minute.

A revelation, too, this past week as an ephemeral entity emerged from the murky mists of a nefarious existence to broadcast breathlessly to a stunned nation: “I am NOT a faceless man!” Those who squinted long and hard at the pixellated image on our screens thought they could discern a resemblance to a denizen of that dastardly domain, the Senate. But it was when the creature croaked the immortal line: “It was Tony Abbott who thieved the term faceless men from one of his own focus groups,” that his identity was apparent for all to see. Yes, it was none other than What’s His Name, the secretive slayer. No photos by request.

And then we had the priceless primping of the purse-lipped prissy one who promenaded through Pakistan to perceive the penance of the populace pursuant to pestilential precipitation. Brimming with brio, Rudd the Rover hastened to the pastures of the Potomac to bring his briefing to the Blackfella. But first he had to pass through Checkpoint Hilary who was agog at Our Kevvie’s insights. And here we must suspend disbelief as we acknowledge, verbatim, his despatch from the front line: “The people have no food, no clean water and no housing,” he breathlessly imparted. Did he really think the greatest surveillance agency the universe has ever witnessed was really unaware of the dimensions of the Pakistan problem? And this one wants to lead the UN! Heaven help humanity.

And sitting over in the corner is everybody’s old Uncle Scrooge, Timmy Tightwad, boss of the Motherdollar Bank, scowling and muttering dark imprecations about the need for restraint. Timmy’s been miffed lately at all the attention being paid to politicians. Insiders say he’s just about ready to put the spotlight back where he thinks it belongs. “I told you people that too much stimulus was not good for your glands. Take your hands out of your pockets or I will impose five rate rises over the next fifteen months,” he sermonised. “And if more of you don’t stop it and keep going blind, I will bring forward a full-blown recession. That will be the one that we have to have.” The general consensus is that Timmy truly is a scary old man and everyone keeps looking over their shoulders in case he should get up and start following them.

Yet, for a moment of quite splendid light relief we turn to The Bad Penny and her role as Head of Household Finance for the monarchy. With her trademark inscrutable visage she let forth the immortal line: “Bringing the budget back to surplus is our absolute, number one, take no prisoners, top of the pile, major priority. Nothing shall stand between us and a surplus.” Well, guffaws of raucous laughter nearly raised the roof of The Big House as courtiers in even the most far-flung corridors rolled about, helpless with mirth, as they recalled the Fabian flock’s addiction to stimulus and the purchase of independents. And she kept a straight face!

But surely all of this is as nothing as the very fate of the great southern land hangs in the balance. By the tiniest thread, Queen Julia now battles for control of the people’s plenary. Auditions for the role of Speaker in the new production of “One is the Loneliest Number” have been cast into confusion as none of the players can get their lines right. The Queen thunders that Little Tony has told lies and that he is determined to wreck the plenary. Tony responds that he may have been confused about an agreement but is more worried that the Queen is determined to wreck the whole country. Who should we believe? Ah, you see their lips moving and are sceptical. How cynical of you! One has to admit, though, that the mock indignation portrayed by the Queen was truly a regal tour de force given the recent reneging of her agreement with Rudd the Rover. Shameless!

And we are left to ponder the thanks we should give for living in a land that boasts a strong and thriving democracy. Beware. Sometimes you get what you wish for.

 

Chapter 1: Loaves and fishes

Emissaries aplenty breathlessly returned to the national capital from their exploration to every corner of the realm this past week. Their quest? To find a throne of such ample girth that Queen Julia the First’s bodacious backside could be ensconced comfortably through the long sessions envisaged for the people’s plenary. The nation’s new democracy is shortly to get a willing workout and all will be watching breathlessly to see what new tricks the players have learned.

It was a time for rejoicing in the Fabian flock this past week as Queen Julia pontificated on the appointment of her palace courtiers. This is when the Sultry Siren fully encountered the new and rather encompassing constraint on her regal power: coalition crafting. With floodwaters continually threatening the bund, the requisite skill to be mastered is actually to not let anyone pull their finger out. This promises many moments of hearty hilarity for those of less than pure heart who do not wish well upon this nascent monarchy. None is more fervidly aware than the Queen herself that from here on fractious is not desirable, but can be tolerated within limits, while fractured spells imminent political death. Her siren song of soothing serenity is surely to be held ferociously to account in some quarters.

And so it was that she pondered parables of loaves and fishes for portents of how to reward all her loyal troops. Her prayers, in part, were answered by the Longshot from Lyne who settled for 17 minutes of fame and four minutes of Question Time. Those who heralded his principled rejection of a $100,000 bonus and a big ministerial office appeared to have overlooked his filching of the public purse to the tune of billions as his initial dowry. But, wait, there’s more to this larrikin’s love of lurks. The Longshot is already lamenting his withdrawal from the seductive surge of adrenalin that accompanies the brilliant radiance of being bathed in the glare of flashbulbs and arc lights. It’s so lonely in the shadows of those who broke power all day every day and not just in fitful independent bursts.

Thus it was that, late in the day and after having assiduously asserted himself to be a paragon of propriety, Longshot’s snout got a whiff of the trough. The aphrodisiacal aroma of ambition nestled in his nostrils and led to his “Aw, shucks, folks, perhaps I should be Speaker of the people’s plenary” scenario. Who could dare suspect that even for a scintilla of a second he was distracted by the prestige, power, pomp and a plentiful payload of the folding stuff that accompanies this third-ranking office of the state? Besotted by these base baubles, Longshot clearly forgot that it would likely preclude him from playing a role in the direction of the government of the day which was the very cause he had, until then, so triumphantly trumpeted. Oh, Judas! Even pretending the constitutional kerfuffles could be overcome, you have revealed another facet of your character that does not actually shine brighter in the harsh light of considered reflection. We are left to ponder just how few characters actually survive their fifteen minutes of fame with their reputation enhanced.

But there were other gongs to be allocated and the Queen offered us only a few surprises as she attempts to steady her ship of state.

One appointment in particular caused some onlookers to mimic a gargle gone wrong. It was the presentation of an open-ended first class air fare to anywhere in the world for that most foreign of gentlemen, Rudd the Rover. It was not this prized posting that caused such spluttering but the Queen’s apparently serious suggestion that former leaders of the flock should be treated with utmost respect and granted their every wish. Those who could recall the Emperor’s rather recent demise wondered why deposed luminaries should be treated so much more decorously than incumbents. Truly a mystery for the ages that one.

And who else but Short Pockets could be put in charge of financial services and superannuation? Lend us a Tenner will be sorely missed but the one now dubbed Thrifty is being hailed as the man most likely to bolster super savings by getting his hand into our pockets and boosting the super levy from 9 to 12 cent. Was it not ever thus with the Fabians?

A puzzle of profound perplexity was the failure to return Death’s Head to the silence and comparative safety of a soundproofed recording booth. He who had to be told to go hide in the corner after setting fire to more houses than the Victorian bushfires was actually promoted by the Queen. Too many midnight viewings of ancient Oils’ DVDs has obfuscated the fact that this near sextagenarian is now supposed to relate to schools, early childhood and youth! Just what terrified teenagers will make of this scary old man is anybody’s guess.

Perhaps the strangest sight at the Yarralumla Estate was the new Queen’s rejection of tradition at the customary triennial foul-mouthed swearing fest. Eschewing notions of surefooted sagacity in the selection of her supremos, the Monarch of the Molonglo felt compelled to annotate her gifted titles almost while on bended knee to the Clothes Horse whose imprimatur of legitimacy she most eagerly sought. Thus it was that Education finally got a guernsey though the thinking behind splitting responsibility for undergraduate from postgraduate studies might spark a rash of doctoral theses over the next decade. The wisdom – if it could be thus described – of a four-pronged approach to the subject that could not be named (psst . . . it was education!) has academics and others agog. What was she thinking?

There was some consternation, too, as loyal subjects were forced to confront the sticky wicket of transgender issues when Queen Julia threw caution to the wind and opted to emulate King Canute. Her first regal decree scolded Ministers that under the new regime they could comment only on matters directly related to their portfolio. And, in a further admonition, the haughty harlot harrumphed: “There shall be NO leaks, ever again. None!”  We wish her well with that but are sure several moist patches were evident under chairs in the party room. Perhaps it was pure excitement?

 

Prologue: The first sip

 

Once upon a time in the early twenty-first century, there was a great southern land renowned for its abundance of milk and honey. This land was the envy of all the world for it alone – as some soothsayers would have it – had been able to defeat the dreaded dragon known as the new depression.

Myth had it that the dragonslayer was none other than the Mighty Kevin, Emperor of the First Rudd Imperium, who bestrode the nation like a colossus dispensing stimulus to mendicants far and wide. His policies were benign, insofar as anyone could understand them, for every time he announced a new decree he appeared to talk in tongues.

The people were forgiving, though, for the Emperor invoked the symbols of the church and settled into a weekly sermon accompanied by his handmaiden Mother Theresa in the portico of whatever parish he found himself in. Yet disquiet settled on the people as the Emperor babbled without the power of the babel fish to translate for him. Soon there were slings, arrows, barbs and taunts hurled at him wherever he went with fractious Fabians leading the charge. It was not long before even the common people thought there must be something wrong with the Emperor. And when Newspoll spoke, their worst fears were confirmed. All was not well.

It was a vexing time for those whose livelihoods depended on the Emperor’s largesse: they could feel the love of the people being withdrawn from their champion and feared they, too, might suffer sanction. The Capital was nightly rent by weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth as the rats rushed to see if the ship was simply listing or actually sinking. Who knew just when to jump? Everyone was watching everyone else for a decisive move and tensions clouded brows like storm clouds heralding summer thunder.

There came at last the long night of the focus groups wherein the Emperor’s death was foretold to him by the Backbitar and the Arbiter of Bad Taste who conducted a private concert in which the fat lady sang her own aria. With chilling punctiliousness the curtain call was ruthlessly enforced. There were no stage hands to assist the Emperor from the set and he was forced to walk back to the Green Room with just Faulkner the Eulogist to remove his make-up and costume. The Emperor’s laurel wreath was already adorning the head of the new vox populi: that sweet lady-in-waiting, the ever-loyal deputy, the Sultry Siren herself.

As the masses’ heads swirled with disbelief and indecision, an early adopter was heard to cry: “Long may she reign!” Well, this got the Sultry Siren thinking and she racked her memories for historical precedent which took her right back to her Welsh roots (no, her genealogy not her neighbours, you silly boys and girls!). As the mobs milled like sheep across the countryside, the Siren realised what she wanted more than anything else: the top job for ever as long as she could humanly hold it. And that decided things – her role model would be England’s Queen Elizabeth the First.

That Grande Dame sat on an often uncomfortable throne for more than four decades. The fact that she did so as an unmarried woman was a bonus for the Siren who liked to hold men in her thrall but was not overly keen to commit to a formalised relationship. The additional fact that her namesake successor has hogged the British throne for damn near six decades now and shows every indication of remaining ensconced for eternity just made the choice irresistible. Thus was Queen Julia the First introduced to her still somewhat nonplussed subjects.

Foregoing pomp and circumstance until there could be a formal coronation, Julia opted to remain in her one-room bedsit on the banks of the Maribyrnong, eschewing the luxuries of the Lodge. Yet the rigours of rogering in a space the size of a shed made her realise that things should change. “Bring on the Coronation!” she cried and her subjects suddenly had sweaty palms as they realised the new Queen regnant’s fate was theirs to decide.

But there was turmoil aplenty as Banquo’s ghost disturbed the feasting amid a chorus of leaks. Courtiers and counsellors seethed with suspicion as the search for the surreptitious seepage progressed. Bickering, backbiting and a generally unseemly melee ensued until the new Queen could bear the hubbub no more.  Declaring that she would start out as she meant to go along, Julia followed another queenly precedent and clutched the asp to her breast. “Ride with me, Robin Rudd, and we shall see what we shall see,” she urged while proffering forgiveness.

The masses were agog yet again. Had not this new ruler just slain the emperor to steal his domain? Now she was instating him as a friend and confidant! None of this made sense to anyone but the Siren just kept her winsome smirk in place and hardened the glint in her eyes.

Before Queen Julia’s coronation could be confirmed by the parliament of the people there had to be a national plenary and the franchise was extended to all of sound mind and a majority of years. ‘Twas such fun. The populace indulged themselves with scant regard for consequences and found that, verily, chooks do come home to roost. The country rump held sway and insisted on a Dutch auction to raise funds for the regions. Unquestionably these were the two most expensive votes ever bought in the history of the Great Southern Land. Economic rationalists far and wide had to concede that sleight of hand would be a far more fiscally-sound alternative.

Then it was off to see The Clothes Horse at the Yarralumla Estate to secure the familial endorsement of an utterly impartial and unbiased, yet adoring, mother-in-law. Mind you, with a miraculous majority of one, impartiality was hardly required. This was a rubber stamp, open-and-close case. The coronation duly proceeded. To the haunting refrain of One Is The Loneliest Number

Thus it was that the Poisoned Chalice was fashioned from an amalgam of lust, avarice and greed and duly delivered unto Queen Julia the First. Campaigning for the kingdom had been such hard work she quaffed thirstily from the chalice and all wait with bated breath to see how the potion affects her person. The stakes are high and the audience is spellbound. Twists and turns are sure to be in plentiful supply.