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February 01st 2018 print

Roger Franklin

Midnight in the Mansion

When a news organisation comes into possession of deep national secrets, studies them, divides them across two cities and offers only the most incredible account of their acquisition, one might expect a police raid followed by public hearings. This government just sent over a couple of safes

old phoneIt was late at night when the phone rang in a Harbourside mansion and the Great Man heard a frantic voice.

“Yes, Fleecespigot, what do you want? It’s after midnight.”

“It’s about those Cabinet papers,” blubbered his caller, “the ones the ABC has got hold of…”

“Yes, I know all about it. Don’t worry, everything is fine.”

“So we’ve sent over the Commonwealth Police to seize the documents and get them back. Golly, but that’s a relief.

“Next, we can have a commission, maybe a royal one. That will get the Abbottophiles and partyroom haters on your side…”

The Great Man cut him off. “No, we haven’t done that, nor would we.”

Fleecespigot was getting on in years and sometimes struck the Great Man as a bit slow. This was one of those moments. Still, the office oddbody had his uses, an intimate association with an invaluable media contact being one of them. Whenever it became useful to float a rumour on the opinion page or in a much publicized best-seller, Fleecespigot could get it done.

Geoffrey Luck: The ABC is the Real Story

The last such plant been a beaut. No one would ever have imagined his predecessor was having it off with his chief of staff until Hellenic Hokum hit the bookstores.  Then Bazza obligingly aired the un-sourced scuttlebutt on his Sunday morning TV show and — wink wink, nudge nudge – it had legs and ran from Wollongong to Wyndham.

The Great Man took a deep breath. He had done many photo ops in nursing homes and understood how some folk need a gentle walking toward the desired conclusion.

“I can’t afford to get the ABC offside, so I’ve sent over two new safes to keep the Cabinet papers secure.”

“What!” gasped Fleecespigot, who couldn’t believe his ears.

“These files breach national security, their unauthorized possession is a crime and, worst of all, they could hurt us very badly. We don’t know how many copies they’ve made and who has seen them.

“And you’ve sent them two new safes!”

The Great Man sighed before explaining how the ABC had split the cache in two and sent half to Brisbane.

“Sydney and Brisbane – two cities, therefore two safes. Simple if you’d bothered to think about it, Fleecespigot.” The obligation to always be the smartest man in the room, or on a telephone, could be a pain at times. The Great Man accepted it as his burden and due.

Fleecespigot was about to note that possession of the cache raised the spectre of blackmail, that should it ever be expedient to take the ABC to task for nepotism, bias, vulgarity, cronyism and a crushing ambition to bankrupt profit-oriented rivals, the broadcaster had an arsenal of inside dope to cause embarrassment anytime it perceived a threat. Indeed, any time it felt like making mischief. J. Edgar Hoover with his files but on a bicycle and with a man-bun.

He didn’t get the chance, the Great Man ever keen to air his acumen.

“The ABC love their Mr Leather Jacket. Hip, cool – the conservative you have when you don’t feel like having a conservative.

“And why shouldn’t they love me? I’ve made Flutepasture the minister in charge, and we all know he wouldn’t say boo to a goose.

“Believe me, Fleecespigot, the boss over there, Ms Hanna-Barbera, isn’t worried in the least about budget cuts or hard questions or having to explain why Wednesday night comedy shows aren’t funny and why outside contracts aren’t subject to open bidding.”

“I know what I’m talking about, my dear Fleecespigot. Now back to bed with you and worry no more about it. I know my onions.”

Down in Canberra, Fleecespigot did as he was bid, welcomed back to the boudoir by a voice half-muffled by the pillow that adjoined his own.

“Does he want me to float a rumour about the Treasurer’s sixteen-somes with his church choir?” croaked Fleecespigot’s soulmate.

“No, dear, not today. He said not to worry, that he knows his onions.”

The lovers’ eyes met in the light of the bedside lamp and for a moment there was silence, stunned silence.

“Him and his onions …” Fleecespigot began before his paramour continued the sentence

“…it’s what he said…

and he finished it

“…before the double dissolution.”

They turned out the lights.