Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Diary of the Budget Lockup

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12pm: They confiscated my sandwiches on the way in. The guard said they were “big enough to hide a phone in”. Now what am I supposed to eat?

12.30pm: Already starting to feel hungry. Michelle Grattan has a kebab. Slowly working myself around the perimeter of the room to blindside her.

1.06pm: Grattan ate the kebab. Resigned to hunger for the rest of the day. Trying to distract myself by drawing caricatures of famous soldiers on top of Laurie Oakes’s head. Seems dangerous, but all journalists know Laurie’s had no feeling in his head since 1984.

1.30pm: The lockup has officially begun. As occurs every year, Chris Kenny insists on marking the time by yelling, “Spin dem wheels, Sally!” at the top of his lungs. Literally nobody knows why he does this. Every time you ask him, he just looks at you and growls.

1.46pm: Bored now. Peter Hartcher keeps telling me about the time he woke up on a lobster trawler with Ros Kelly. He thinks that makes him a tough guy. It doesn’t make him a tough guy.

2.19pm: There’s a horrible smell in the lockup.

2.35pm: Decided to have a look through the Budget. Can’t understand any of it. Most of it just seems to be a plot to assassinate the French president.

2.40pm: Katharine Murphy just pointed out that I was reading The Day of the Jackal instead of the Budget.

2.48pm: Read the actual Budget. Still can’t understand any of it. There’s a lot of stuff about deficit reduction and co-payments and sterilising tradesmen. Also, there remains an unusual amount of material about the French president. Might have to study it in a bit more detail. It’s not the easiest read though – the whole thing is in 6-point Arial and every second page is a charcoal sketch of Joe Hockey in various period costumes.

3.14pm: Unrest growing amongst the journalists. All of the chips they left out for us are cheese and onion. Jacqueline Maley says we should go on a hunger strike till they provide pizza shapes. But Bernard Keane claims they have a massive store of barbecue and salt ‘n’ vinegar somewhere in the building, and is demanding we start a tunnel. The gallery has split into two factions over the matter. Just saw Paul Kelly whittling a gun out of lard. Slightly worrying.

3.47pm: Have identified the disturbing smell I noticed earlier. Laura Tingle brought a dead bandicoot into the lockup in her handbag. Some of my fellow journalists are growing impatient with Tingle’s continued flouting of the lockup’s no-marsupials rule.

4pm: A third faction has now formed around Sheehan’s claim that his pockets are full of pretzels. I doubt the claim myself.

4.37pm: Upon further perusal of the Budget, am slightly alarmed by the commitment of $18 billion to a research fund investigating the possibility of turning the entire continent into a spaceship. Even more alarmed by the plan to pay for the scheme by melting single mothers down and turning them into doubloons.

4.59pm: Hockey keeps poking his head around the doorway and giggling at us. Most annoying. I’m going to tell Andrew Robb on him.

5.28pm: Chris Pyne has just come into the lockup in tears. He’s sitting across from me now telling an extremely long story about how his dryer doesn’t work. Asked him if this is a metaphor for public education. He looked at me blankly.

5.56pm: Security just came in and dragged Wayne Swan out from under the fridge. All the way out of the room he was screaming, “NO! I’LL DIE OUT THERE! LET ME STAY!” Many of us predicted this.

6.02pm: If Phil Hudson does not stop cracking his knuckles I am going to belt him one.

6.04pm: The chip war has reached a head. Kelly running around the room pointing his lard gun at people and yelling, “pew pew!” Keane rolling around on the floor moaning that the tunnel has collapsed and trapped someone called “Danny”. Maley loudly announcing that she has died of malnutrition. Difficult to know what to make of all this. Is this a repeat of the 2005 Budget, when the government pumped hallucinogenic gas through the ventilation system?

6.10pm: First fatality of this year’s lockup recorded. Fortunately the guy was from The West Australian, so nobody knew him.

6.55pm: An eerie calm has descended over the lockup. Lenore Taylor has drawn dicks on every page of the Budget, leading to many smiles. Grattan in the corner painting Tony Wright’s toenails. Entire staff of the Australian now completely nude. Annabel Crabb has stuck four slices of bread to her face with jam and is crawling around on all fours whispering, “I’m a witch! Burn me!” It is nice that things are back to normal.

7.17pm: Hockey bursts in in a panic, saying he’s forgotten his speech. Oakes calms him down and points out that the speech is in his back pocket. On closer inspection, speech just contains the c-word repeated three hundred times in progressively larger letters. Still, Joe seemed satisfied.

7.24pm: Hearing reports Bill Shorten has rigged the House of Representatives with C4. Wouldn’t be the first time.

7.28pm: The ordeal is almost over. Everyone passing around mugs of Murphy’s bathtub gin. Wounds being bandaged, keys being grabbed from the bowl. Tonight will be a big night in Canberra.

7.35pm: What the hell is this?

Ben  Pobjie

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

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