Saturday, 20 July 2013

Short story: The Pact and the Boat People

Julia sat alone in the office of the Deputy Prime Minister. She swivelled gently in the chair, phone in hand, and dialled.

'Hello, Office for Graham Malter,' said a young man.

'Can I speak with Mr. Malter?' She heard a gasp; he recognised her voice immediately.

'Sorry Miss Gillard, he's left for the day. It's late. Can I help?'

'Well. Maybe I'll talk with you then. Is that Stephen, Stephen Bletchley? Famous advisor to the Greens?'

'Not sure about famous, Miss Gillard. But yes.'

'Call me Julia please.'

'I'd rather call you Miss Gillard, Miss Gillard.' His tone was cold.

'Fine. Stephen...' She paused, breathed out. 'Stephen, I'm very tired, so I'm going to talk frankly with you. In confidence, I hope you can understand that.'

'Of course Miss.'

'Well then. In two days' time, there will be a vote on who will be the leader of the Australian Labor Party, and therefore the Prime Minister of Australia. And I'm going to lose.'

'Sorry Miss, I don't quite ... Is that your, your choice, Miss?'

'It is what it is, Stephen. The writing's on the wall and I'm not a bitch who can't read.'

'I don't doubt that, Miss—'

'What I want to know is, what is your man, Mr. Malter, doing sniffing round our people? Both Rudd's crew and mine?'

It was his turn to sigh. 'Well, Miss, as long as we're ... in confidence,' Bletchley said uneasily. She heard the sound of breathing, which meant thinking. 'It's the boat people, Miss Gillard.'

'I beg your pardon? What's this got to do with the bloody boat people?'

'Kevin's done a deal, Miss. A week or two after he becomes - well, if, he becomes, obviously, Labor leader, if - he's going to make an announcement. He'll make it impossible for any migrants arriving by boat to be settled in Australia. They'll go to PNG instead.'

'Well why the fuck would he say that?' Her skin prickled angrily. 'We're three months from the election. He's splitting the party as it is, taking back his precious crown.'

'It's a pact, Miss. That's his part. A week after his announcement, we're going to say the Greens oppose the policy, and will reverse the policy. It'll be high-publicity material.'

Julia was tired, but slowly, the picture formed. 'Oh right. I see where this is going.'

'Abbott's campaigning on the boat people and nothing else. No-one knows his other policies. Labor take the anti-boat people voters from the Coalition - and Greens pick up all the ex-Labor voters who don't agree.'

'And a minority Labor rules with the Greens.'

She heard him exhale down the phone. 'There's a lot of factors Miss. Everything's in play. But Labor's polls, forgive my French, are in the shitter, Miss Gillard - and getting Rudd back won't be enough to swing it. Lots of people hate Abbott, but everyone's sick of Labor. It's the best shot at keeping the Liberals out.'

'Well really.'

'I'm sorry Miss. It's all very cut-throat.'

She thought for a moment, then stopped caring, and put the phone down. 'I think, Stephen, you forgot who you're talking to.'

This was a short story thought up in about 5mins off the top of my head, regarding Kevin Rudd's announcement on 19/07/2013 about boat people as described above. Names other than Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd are made up.

"Boat people" are immigrants who sail to Australia by boat. Many capsize and die in overloaded boats before even arriving.
Currently Australia processes them offshore, in often poor conditions.
Despite other more important issues facing Australia, the boat people and immigration are emotional issues engaging both the public and the political parties.

The Australian Federal Election will take place on 14th September 2013. Labor have been tipped to lose.
Rudd's announcement, 2 months away from an election, is - in my view - quite clearly an election policy aimed at stealing Liberal/National Coalition voters.,_2013

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