Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Diary of a press gallery hack

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The election campaign has been hard on all of us, but spare a thought for the press gallery, who have it far tougher than you know…

Tuesday, August 13

An exhausting day on the campaign trail with Tony, who cycled into my hotel room at 5am ringing his bell and then made the entire press corps gather in the breakfast room to do star-jumps. Which wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t stand behind me the whole time sniffing my hair.

After that the first photo op for the day, Tony visiting a wig factory in Cunnamulla that has had to lay off fourteen wig artisans due to the carbon tax. “This government is crippling the once-great wig industry!” he bellowed, tossing his long green locks in the wind. Actually quite impressive, but he floundered under questioning – wasn’t across the figures on the government’s Wig Equalisation Scheme. He finished his press conference by screaming and clutching his thighs. Starting to wonder if the campaign might be taking its toll.

Lunch with the local Liberal candidate. He generously paid for my meal but refused to tell me his name. “For me to know and you to find out,” he winked slyly. When I asked him what the Coalition’s plan to stop the boats entailed, he became deadly serious and whispered in my ear, “I have a small hatchet in my sock.” He then sat back and tapped his nose for several minutes. I changed the subject and asked him about fringe benefits tax. He found this hilarious and eventually passed out from laughing. Later on discovered this was not the local Liberal candidate, but an escaped mental patient.

At 3pm it was announced that the local Liberal candidate had resigned after it was discovered that in 1998 he had called his mother fat. The new Liberal candidate will be the escaped mental patient.

Long bus ride to Charleville for another photo op at 6pm. Tony put on a suit of armour and spoke out about the effect of the mining tax on the mock jousting industry. The Charleville Medieval Castle Wonderland has laid off three jousters in the last four years. When Tony was asked whether he would increase subsidies to armour manufacturers, he tore his shirt off and roared like a bear before jumping on his bike and riding into the night.

Wednesday, August 14

Up early for plane trip to Sydney, where Bill Shorten making special announcement. Arrive at press conference in time to hear Bill inform the assembled media that he is considering buying a new oven. A flurry of shouted questions followed, but Shorten is a master of deflection, and by the end of the press conference we still didn’t know which brand.

Flew back to Brisbane in the afternoon, Wayne Swan waiting at gate for me. Offered to carry my bags to taxi. Told him I only had one bag. He offered to carry someone else’s bags to my taxi. Think he is operating a bag-stealing ring. Noticed Craig Emerson skulking about suspiciously in the background too.

Thursday, August 15

Joined Rudd on the campaign trail today. Becoming unnerved by his habit of pointing at me and mouthing obscenities when he thinks nobody is watching. Therese has started doing it too. She also sends me explicit texts. Beginning to fear for my life.

Rudd committed a gaffe at official breakfast function when he hit Jessica Watson in the face with a grapefruit. Claims it was a Jimmy Cagney homage, but many of us have our doubts: Watson had just told him she prefers the Kirstie Alley years of Cheers to the Shelley Long era, and this is known to be a real hot-button for Rudd.

PM tried to make amends for grapefruit gaffe at lunch by naming Watson Governor-General. Unfortunately Quentin Bryce was sitting next to him at the time. She raised an objection, and Rudd hit her with a Sprite bottle. In the end the entourage moved on and left Bryce and Watson brawling with each other.

Afternoon photo op at Indooroopilly McDonald’s. Rudd promised to buy all McDonald’s employees a new car. Adviser took PM aside and gave him some pills. Rudd returned to say he had misspoken. Latika asked him what he had meant to say. Rudd called her a racist. Photo op then ended.

Friday August 16

Woke up with splitting headache. Huge night out with Albo. He took the entire press gallery out for drinks. Wouldn’t stop calling me “vagina-man” until I joined him in a bottle of absinthe. By the end of the night found myself playing a disgusting game called “Find My Underpants” with Laurie Oakes and Laura Tingle. The game was Penny Wong’s idea, but once we started playing she disappeared. She popped up again at the end of the night to throw eggs at the media bus. Told her to stop. She called me a racist.

Anyway, despite my headache dragged myself along to the airport for flight to Melbourne to cover Abbott’s Friday night poetry slam. Saw Swan at airport again. He offered me cheap cigarettes. Told him I didn’t smoke. He offered me teenage boys. Told him I didn’t believe he really had any. He broke down and cried. Offered him a tissue. He took it, shouted, “YES!” and ran off. Brisbane airport starting to take on an oppressive air. Boarded plane. Swan dressed as air hostess. Winked at me, held finger to lips, gave me free lemonade the whole flight.

Poetry slam ended up being cancelled due to carbon tax. Abbott’s speech on criminal government very impressive though. Instead of taking questions at the end, just lifted an anvil with his nipples.

Saturday, August 17

Had to interview Joe Hockey today. Never a pleasant experience. He stares so unsettlingly at me while I’m talking. Tried to ask him about surpluses but he kept interrupting to ask me where I bought my shirt. At one point he goaded me into daring him to fill his nose with walnuts. Finally pinned him down on economics: he claims that the Coalition plan will make everyone millionaires by Christmas. Asked him which year. He didn’t understand the question. Showed him a calendar. He accused me of being a witch. Changed the subject to ask him about trade, which caused a grand mal seizure. Gave up.

Had some rest and relaxation in the afternoon, interrupted only by the usual knock knock jokes texted to me by Annabel Crabb. It’s getting rather tiresome. Especially as she only knows three knock-knock jokes and just keeps rotating them.

Had dinner with Paul Bongiorno. As usual he didn’t say a word during the meal, but spelt out threats with his vegetables. No idea why I keep going out with him.

Sunday, August 18

Doorstop with Rudd outside church. Claims that while in church Jesus told him he approves of Labor’s latest campaign ad, the one where Abbott bites off Bindi Irwin’s head. Grattan asked whether she could have five minutes with Jesus. Rudd flew into rage and hurled a spear at a nearby cat. No idea why his staff allows him to keep carrying spears. Many have died needlessly.

Had a private moment with Rudd later on when he admitted to me that he hadn’t even met Jesus, but Kate Ellis had and she passed on his thoughts. Told him I didn’t believe in Jesus. He admitted he doesn’t believe in Kate Ellis, but that Therese does, so he just goes through the motions. Rudd then asked me to look at a pimple on his hip, but I made an excuse and left. Received a text later: “MEET ME BEHIND TOILETS AT MIDNIGHT. WILL SHOW YOU PIMPLE THERE.” Chose to ignore this.

Monday, August 19

Have rejoined Abbott. He seems to have mellowed a little in the last few days: he is pulling clumps of his own hair out less frequently. Still forcing journos to engage in exercise though: this morning we had to perform beep tests. The bottom three had their eyes poked by Sophie Mirabella in the traditional way. Luckily I avoided this fate: Mirabella still bears a grudge over the time I stepped on her pet monkey, and would’ve poked me really hard. After the beep tests had a photo op at a struggling custard apple farm. The farm has laid off fifteen workers in the last month due to the luxury car tax. Abbott pledged a billion dollars for a feasibility study into building a new highway out of custard apples. Peta later clarified that what he meant was that he’s proud of his daughters.

Just about to head out to dinner with some other journos.

Tuesday, August 20

Woke up in hotel bed next to Barnaby Joyce. Considering new career.


Ben  Pobjie

Ben has not one but TWO hilarious books out now. Surveying the Wreckage and Superchef.

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