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March 15th 2017 print

Tati Sofaris

The Sun King Mourns

News that the Prime Minister will find his way to the lectern at Bill Leak's official memorial service surprised many, given that he did nothing to call off, nor even mildly cricitise, the dogs of the Human Rights Commission. Hot from a well-connected leaker, the text and more of his remarks

leak turnbull tears IIBy some curious quirk, internal correspondence from the Prime Minister’s office landed this morning on the doorstep of Quadrant Online’s editorial HQ in Melbourne. We’re not sure who left it, but it makes interesting reading. A hoax? Perhaps, but we can’t help noticing that many things about the dossier ring true.

From: The PM
To advisers: Vinnie, Niki, Larry, Curly, Mo et al

I’ll be speaking at Bill Leak’s memorial service on Friday. Have roughed out some themes (below) that reflect, I think, the great honour being paid to a dead scribbler by the Prime Ministerial presence. Have a look. Develop the themes a little and get it back to me ASAP.

We were great mates, Bill and I, understood each other perfectly. Believe me, he grasped what it means to be the most important person in an entire country. He captured this aura of inevitability when, all those years ago, I agreed to sit for a then-little known portraitist after my remarkable triumph against all odds in the Spycatcher case. Bill captured with deft strokes – dare I say it — the nobility of destiny.

“I could well be Prime Minister one day,” I recall telling him as he cleaned his brushes.

“God help us all,” he quipped, that cheeky sense of humour, as always, to the fore.

And the understanding was mutual, the respect never diminishing as the years passed and I ascended the ladder of public life.

He knew that he had to depict me as the Sun King, and it never bothered me. Indeed, I was flattered. Louis XIV bequeathed to the people of France that magnificent edifice, Versailles. Likewise did I come across the Liberal Party’s weed-strewn plot and re-erect on that barren soil the party as we know it today.

Actually, I’d have made a better Henry VIII, who knew how to dis-possess a troublesome Abbott, but sadly fate robbed Bill of the chance to fully explore my character and the achievement of the government I lead.

I know our encounter back then – the laughs we shared, the insights he gleaned from my off-the-cuff observations – helped shape his career, that he was a better man for the experience of our close contact.

He understood as a consequence what it means to be PM, that one is constrained sometimes by the realpolitik of dealing with real people.

Take Gillian Triggs, for example. Now she sooled her HRC onto Bill and I would have liked to have said something in his defence. But how could I? I mean, he drew two out of three Aborigines in a less than flattering light!

To have spoken up would have been to alienate the very people who are the future of this government and the Liberal Party itself – ABC staffers, Fairfax columnists, residents of Newtown and Fitzroy.

Bill would have been aware of that when another person, a most unhelpful person, was leading this party and the government, none of them would have voted for us. But now they are our natural constituency, and there are plenty of newly vacant seats for them at branch meetings. Louis XIV had to remove the cow pats before turning the first sod at the site that what would become Versailles. Anyone seen Cory Bernardi lately?

Pardon my little joke, which Bill would have enjoyed.

And of course there was nothing I could do to bring the ABC to heel. Nothing! And he understood that. Indeed, had Bill still been with us, he would have been grateful, loved Monday night’s Q&A — as we all do, of course. He’d have had so much material for his cartoons – starting with that just-off-the-plane Canadian singer who lectured us about our racism. And what about the theatrical chap, or the protesters the producers must have planted in the audience.

Good heavens but Bill would have thanked me for not cleaning out the ABC the same way I’m cleaning out the party branches. So much material for him to work with, thanks to me.

Vale Bill Leak whose wisdom was such that he knew, as Thucydides put it in his History of the Peloponnesian War , “Of all manifestations of power, restraint impresses men the most.” 

Oh, if only he were till here to make hay with that one!

________________________________________

To: The Prime Minister
From: Vinnie, Niki, Larry, Curly, Mo et al

We’ve made some alterations to your text. It’s much shorter now

We were great mates, Bill and I, understood each other perfectly. Believe me, he grasped what it means to be the most important person in an entire country. He captured this aura of inevitability when, all those years ago, I agreed to sit for a then-little known portraiturist after my remarkable triumph against all odds in the Spycatcher case. Bill captured with deft strokes – dare I say it — the nobility of destiny.

“I could well be Prime Minister one day,” I recall telling him as he cleaned his brushes.

“God help us all,” he quipped, that cheeky sense of humour, as always, to the fore.

And the understanding was mutual, the respect never diminishing as the years passed and I ascended the ladder of public life.

He knew that he had to depict me as the Sun King, and it never bothered me. Indeed, I was flattered. Louis XIV bequeathed to the people of France that magnificent edifice, Versailles. Likewise did I come across the Liberal Party’s weed-strewn plot and re-erect on that barren soil the party as we know it today.

Actually, I’d have made a better Henry VIII, who knew how to dis-possess a troublesome Abbott, but sadly fate robbed Bill of the chance to fully explore my character and the achievement of the government I lead.

I know our encounter back then – the laughs we shared, the insights he gleaned from my off-the-cuff observations – helped shape his career, that he was a better man for the experience of our close contact.

He understood as a consequence what it means to be PM, that one is constrained sometimes by the realpolitik of dealing with real people.

Take Gillian Triggs, for example. Now she sooled her HRC onto Bill and I would have liked to have said something in his defence. But how could I? I mean, he drew an Aborigine in a less than flattering light!

To have spoken up would have been to alienate the very people who are the future of this government and the Liberal Party itself – ABC staffers, Fairfax columnists, residents of Newtown and Fitzroy.

Bill would have been aware of that when another person, a most unhelpful person, was leading this party and the government, none of them would have voted for us. But now they are our natural constituency, and there are plenty of newly vacant seats for them at branch meetings. Louis XIV had to remove the cow pats before turning the first sod at the site that what would become Versailles. Anyone seen Cory Bernardi lately?

Pardon my little joke, which Bill would have enjoyed.

And of course there was nothing I could do to bring the ABC to heel. Nothing! And he understood that. Indeed, had Bill still been with us, he would have been grateful, loved Monday night’s Q&A — as we all do, of course. He’d have had so much material for his cartoons – starting with that just-off-the-plane Canadian singer who lectured us about our racism. And what about the theatrical chap, or the protesters the producers must have planted in the audience.

Good heavens but Bill would have thanked me for not cleaning out the ABC the same way I’m cleaning out the party branches. So much material or him to work with, thanks to me.

Vale Bill Leak whose wisdom was such that he knew, as Thucydides put it in his History of the Peloponnesian War , “Of all manifestations of power, restraint impresses men the most.”

________________________________________

From: The PM
To advisers: Vinnie, Niki, Larry, Curly, Mo et al

I think people will want to see me at the lectern for much longer than it takes to say that. What about Thucydides?

________________________________________

To: The Prime Minister
From: Vinnie, Niki, Larry, Curly, Mo et al

We’re contacting the boys from the Betoota Advocate to see if they can join you in the tribute. That worked really well on Saturday when you lounged in a Sydney pub while our party was getting creamed in Western Australia. Demonstrated how far above the hurly-burly of shallow political life you are

Just let the Betootas do talking — and it might not be a bad idea to hold off on any more jokes about kissing lifesavers on the lips. I know it goes down well with the GHGs (Gays Hating Coopers), but we should be trying for a broader appeal than that. If the Betootas say anything politically incorrect, we’ll let them know in advance how Gillian & Co will be delighted to harass them into a pair of bespoke heart attacks.

And don’t worry about the reviews. Niki has a piece ready and waiting that blames Abbott should anyone get up and walk out as you speak.

________________________________________

Contributor Tati Sofaris wonders how an erudite, sophisticated man could have risen to become Prime Minister without mastering even a little French, the words “Je suis Bill Leak” most of all