Waiting To Exhale


Scene: A top-secret, last-minute Liberal Party policy meeting. NICK MINCHIN, TONY ABBOTT, and JULIE BISHOP. 

ABBOTT: As we are just about to walk into Parliament, this would be a good time to give you a complete list of all our policies for the next five years. They’ve already been decided: I just thought them up! (Hands out an overflowing ring-binder to everyone present.) Questions? No? Good.

MINCHIN: But … how are we supposed to have time to — what is all this?

ABBOTT: Oh, just some stuff that I thought of when I was eating a snack yesterday. It was a Le Snack, if I remember correctly. Oh wait — ah — yes, definitely a Le Snack. There are two little compartments, see, and you mix —

MINCHIN: So you thought it would be a good idea to launch a surprise attack on your own party?

ABBOTT: Yeah, I thought, um, it would be pretty funny, actually.

MINCHIN: (Seething as he flicks through.) This will look very bad for us.

ABBOTT: I know, I know! (Laughs hysterically.) I’ve changed my mind about absolutely everything! It’s uncanny! Fun though.

MINCHIN: (Sniffing the air.) Have you been … smoking dope, Tony?

ABBOTT: (Distracted.) So hungry. (To BISHOP.) Can I have a Dorito? (Receives death stare.) Sorry. (To MINCHIN.) No, I haven’t, I swear. (Weeps.) We’ve been so, so cruel to everyone. We are beasts. Mere beasts!

MINCHIN: Do you realise how easy this "plan" makes life for single mothers?

ABBOTT: Well, some of them are —

MINCHIN: — undeserving hussies. You always said that, always. Let me refresh your memory. Leviticus 10:19: If thou saucy, irresistible minxes doth chose to spawn a filthy devil-child out of their pit of appalling (yet yummily tempting) lusty bits, thou art a lazy, worthless filthy swine-like shadow of a woman — remember? Tony? Tone?

ABBOTT: But I love mums.


ABBOTT: They’re not virgins, usually. But … I love them anyway.

MINCHIN: (Changing topic.) Where will all this money come from, anyway? It’ll cost billions and billions! We weren’t going to do anything that costs millions or billions, for Barnaby’s sake. Remember?

BISHOP: Where will the money come from, Tony? From taxing the destitute right down to their last precious, stringy, emaciated chicken? (Thinks about this.) Actually, that sounds quite fun.

ABBOTT: I thought of that. We’ll get the money off … big business. (Laughs.) 

MINCHIN: (Astounded.) What? But it’s no fun taking money off people if they don’t actually need it! You love big business. I love big business. We hate people, remember? We’re the Liberal party!

BISHOP: Wait: there’s more stuff down the back of this folder. When were you planning on sharing these … suggestions?

ABBOTT: (Casually.) Oh, just some other policies I thought up. Totally by myself.

BISHOP: (Reading aloud.) "The so-called ‘nuclear family’ is merely a patriarchal, quasi-medieval torture device. Abolish immediately."

ABBOTT: Important point, that. I read it in the Naomi Wolf book Julia gave me.

BISHOP: (Frantically flicking pages.) "The spotted hopping pigmy desert mouse needs to be protected far more vigilantly from heat stress than it currently is."

ABBOTT: The fact is, we can’t account for the decline in numbers of the pygmy mouse and it’s a travesty that we can’t. I love all of Australia’s miniature fauna equally, Julie. There are only approximately 25 million of those little hopping mice left in some smaller Australian states. They’re becoming highly agitated. Something must be done.

MINCHIN: (Weeping angrily.) The man I once knew would have thought nothing of grinding desert-mice beneath his steel-plated boot-heels, listening to the snap of their tiny, perfectly-formed vertebrae as he —

BISHOP: "May 26: propose National Pat-A-Whale-Lovingly Day." WTF?

ABBOTT: They truly are the gentle giants of the sea, Julia.

MINCHIN: (In disbelief.) But … are we not the party to put the fear of God into the unbelieving? Deep, deep down into their shrivelled, hollowed-out, damned little blasted souls, like you told us at the Friday morning pep talk? Tony?

ABBOTT: But of which God are you speaking, my friend? There are many gods, remember. Hmm?

BISHOP: Um … many?

ABBOTT: Yes, many. Each with her own beautiful, unique message.

There is a horrified pause. The door suddenly flings open violently, slamming against the opposite wall and dislodging several pieces of the Liberal Party Royal Doulton Tea Set, which smash spectacularly against the tessellated British racing green marble floor. BARNABY JOYCE enters.

JOYCE: You lookin’ for a blunderbuss in the hooter, drongo?

MINCHIN: Oh, God. Oh, God. We are all done for.

JOYCE: (Brandishing folder.) This is undoubtedly the most blundering, literally utterly confabricating spifflication that me peepers have majiggered in yonks!

ABBOTT: Barnaby, we can settle this peacefully. Just as the Buddha would have us do.

BISHOP: (Shuddering.) There’s only one thing for it, then.

BISHOP exits, then returns soon after in flowing black robe, holding gigantic silver crucifix. She looms over ABBOTT, who has now dropped to his knees in abject terror.

Hear this, Lord: Help us to cast out this pernicious spirit of compassionate conservatism entwined within this poor sinner’s soul!

JOYCE and MINCHIN: Amen! Amen!

BISHOP: Make this wretch’s spirit of compassion more barren than Julia Gillard’s fruit bowl!

ABBOTT lapses into unconsciousness, then begins to convulse wildly. His yellowed, cat-like eyes open maliciously. His breath emerges in a thick mist.


BISHOP: Out, out, thy devilish affection for social democracy! Return, return to him, thy utterly discredited ghost of Friedmanite supply-side economics!

ABBOTT convulses again, projectile-vomiting green soup all over the marble.

BISHOP: Awake! Awake!

ABBOTT opens his eyes slowly, looking up at his colleagues.

ABBOTT: What — uh — what happened?

MINCHIN: (Sweating with relief.) We thought we’d lost you, Tone.

JOYCE: That was more balls-up than a B&S Ball at a knacker’s yard, mate!

ABBOTT: I swear to you all: that will never happen again. Never.

MINCHIN: Ah, you’re the best, Tone! (Shyly hugs ABBOTT.)

ABBOTT: (To MINCHIN.) Fag. (To everyone.) Now. Let’s go and bust some welfare queens!

All laugh uproariously.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.