A regular January feature of Mining Monthly magazine has been Olde Pascoe’s Almanacke. In light of the resignations of Kelly O’Dwyer and Senator David Bushby in recent days, we reprint Michael Pascoe’s fevered 2019 visions.
Olde Pascoe’s Almanacke
I knew something was wrong as soon as I opened the attic door. There was no stench. The usual howls of eternally tormented souls were absent. No giant spiders. No serpents. Not a single Pauline Hanson apparition. What unfathomably fiendish plot was the old sea chest planning?
I had come to accept my fate, inheriting a Cornish pirate curse lest it befall another. Every New Year’s Eve it was my duty to do the ancient sea chest’s bidding, to brave the demons and slime in order to bring forth the viperous tome and record the horrors of the year ahead – the ghostly writing that would mysteriously appear and disappear before me, writing the colour and consistency of blood.
Some say it was the work of a betrayed pirate king, forever voyaging the seas in search of the numbers for a counter-coup. Some say it evolved from a time/space warp caused by Australia’s compulsory phone hacking laws opening a back door to the universe. Others reckon it is the future of journalism, all outlets collapsed into a single passing Twitter stream.
But I have only ever known it as Olde Pascoe’s Almanacke – and this time was like no other.
Where the foul sea chest would normally be rumbling with the sound of voodoo drums, there stood a shiny Louis Vuitton briefcase, the gold locks gleaming.
Instead of the usual smell of death and decay, there was only the rich perfume of particularly expensive leather. The old chest had hired consultants.
As I warily approached, the locks snapped, the briefcase opened with a slight pneumatic hiss and projected a frighteningly realistic hologram of Peter Dutton in front of a series of touch screens, spreadsheets flashing, lightning-fast successions of pie and flow charts. And above all, a large red digital counter spinning down to, to – something.
And there was something stranger than usual about the Dutton figure – he was immaculately dressed and generously adorned with gold chains. As he parted his lips in the familiar sneer to speak, the glint of gold teeth played like lasers off a disco ball around the attic.
“Hurry up!” he snarled. “Time’s money and there’s a lot of it to be dealt with. You want to be held in indefinite detention? Move it!”
This was an apparition not to be trifled with. So it began – the Ghost of Dutton Future dictating.
“That useless clown of a Prime Minister, Scott Morrison – it should have been me, you know. If bloody Cormann knew how to count, it would have been me. ‘Prime Minister Morrison’ – you know how much it hurts me to say that? Anyway, the jester PM cancels all ministerial holidays, calls everyone back to Canberra for a crisis meeting.
Stands there in a bloody baseball cap and tells us what we already know: “The communists are coming on May 18 so we have to get moving immediately to clear the decks, double the consultants, stack whatever’s left of the public service we can’t privatise and hide the silverware.”
“As if we weren’t already doing that, while he’s been eating pies and threading sausages through onion rings.”
“After the Australia Day kerfuffle – did I mention that? Made Mad Bob Katter Australian of the Year for services to crocodile studies. We needed to secure his vote.
“Anyway, after the Australia Day kerfuffle, we figure we’re finally hitting our stride in the red herring game. I seize the Indian cricket team’s passports and nationalise the lot of ‘em. Give Australian cricket fans something to be proud of again. Got my eye on some All Blacks too.
“And we sell Kirribilli House to Meriton for redevelopment – no way we’re letting that Bill Shorten move in.”
“Money’s pouring in from the new mining boom almost faster than we can think up ways to hide or spend it. There’s some agitation for pay rises but I put a stop to that on national security grounds – I feel more secure if profits are maximised before May 18.
“Judith Sloan buys the Reserve Bank governorship with her redundancy payment from The Australian.
“Malcolm Turnbull announces he’ll stand as an independent against Tony Abbott in Warringah. Owes it to the nation blah blah.
“Parliament House doing well on Airbnb, seeing we don’t use it.”
“The budget we had to have – Little Joshy Frydenberg delivers. I mean that, he literally delivers gold bullion to government members under the Make Australia Gold Again policy for them to invest in their communities as they see fit for the greater glory of good governance. It’s our way of celebrating the budget surplus that existed for a moment. Stuart Robert reckons he has real good ideas about how to use that gold.
“With all the money we’re making from selling off government instrumentalities and saving by giving that loss-making abomination of an ABC to the IPA for dismemberment and turning social security over to Macquarie Bank, we announce the immediate refund of last year’s taxes for all those who paid the ATO more than $50,000 – who said there’s no point looking after the base?
“And by scrapping the federal health and education departments, telling those Communist state governments to find their own lolly, we set a maximum individual tax cap of $10,000 going forward because everyone knows taxing the rich prevents them investing or paying workers more. Or something like that.
“And leaving the Communists with an ever-bigger deficit will fix their little red wagon good and proper.”
“For reasons of national security, I rule we can’t risk maintaining the convention of a caretaker government during the election campaign.
“History will record it as the Fast and Furious 18 – never before has the pork barrel been rolled so far and hard as in those 18 days. If you didn’t get a dam or a bridge or a pot of money, you didn’t have your hand up.
“We even give Mad Bob Katter the national crocodile hunting franchise.
“And the crowning glory – my idea of course – on May 17, all members in seats likely to fall to the Communists are appointed ambassadors with immediate effect. I take Washington. Me and Trump and Bolton will get on just fine. Discipline, that’s what nations need.”
I realise the big red counter was a fast spinning calendar. It hits “May 18” and stops as a siren sounds and the Dutton figure and screens disappear in a flash of static lightning.
Then the balloons start appearing, floating, bumping around the rafters, each with a wildly grinning Bill Shorten face.
The sound of a blackboard being slapped with a ruler brings my gaze to a Tanya Plibersek figure.
“Get this down,” she says and starts scrapping chalk across the blackboard.
Julie Bishop elected Opposition Leader. Asks for her red shoes back from the Museum of Australian Democracy.
The Museum informs Ms Bishop the shoes were sold off with everything else by the previous administration.
Royal Commissions are announced into the Iraq War, private health insurance, Julie Bishop’s shoes, mining companies’ political donations, whatever happened to Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce’s water usage (yes, Barnaby goes on forever), Stuart Robert’s internet service and the Make Australia Gold Again spending in general.
Chris Bowen explains the Budget will be repaired through a lawyer-led recovery.
PM Bill Shorten can’t stop grinning and therefore can’t speak. He seeks medical treatment. It fails.
Tanya Plibersek takes over as Prime Minister.
For the first time, two female leaders face off across the floor of the Australian Parliament. Debate rises to the level of, “Well, the Museum of Australian Democracy wouldn’t want your smelly old shoes anyway”.
The lawyer-led Budget Repair Plan is not an immediate success. PM Plibersek announces the crisis means implementation of Labor’s election policies will need to be delayed, but still nationalises all the banks.
Julie Bishop stares down an attempted Liberal leadership coup.
The shortage of lawyers means the court system grinds even more slowly than usual. As far as most observers can tell, it stops. The judges who bought jurisdiction franchises from the previous government are not amused.
PM Plibersek solves the legal crisis by bringing the remaining asylum seekers from Nauru and Manus to Australia and appointing them all as barristers and solicitors.
“They’ve spent so long dealing with convoluted Australian laws and class actions, they’re as well qualified as any.”
All attempts to recoup Make Australia Gold Again funds fail. With few public servants – most don’t want to return their redundancy payments and are thus prevented from re-deployment for 12 months – federal government is barely functioning.
Macquarie Bank does a deal to put its indentured pensioners at the government’s disposal in exchange for the defence forces.
Julie Bishop stares down an attempted Liberal leadership coup.
Only the mining industry is effectively functioning. Western Australia and Queensland reignite secession plans. Victoria puts itself up for rent.
New South Wales collapses under the weight of uncompleted tram tracks and the cost of new stadia. Tasmania asks New Zealand if it wants a third island.
South Australia stays much the same and nobody notices. Mad Bob Katter annexes the Northern Territory. Sundry consultants take possession of the ACT in lieu of wages.
Australia’s ambassador to the US brokers a deal for Macquarie Bank to provide the Australian Defence Force as Donald Trump’s private army.
And Julie Bishop stares down an attempted Liberal leadership coup.