On Tuesday I was in Canberra at Parliament House for the Federal Budget.

Even though you probably think Crikey is a one-horse operation run out of some guy’s garage on money we steal from wishing fountains and sheer rat cunning (and you’d mostly be right), we in fact have a real office here in the beating democratic heart of our nation — one with computers, telephones, an electric kettle and four clocks (Canberra, Tokyo, New York and London, though why anyone here needs to know the latter three times eludes me slightly. Perhaps it’s to give the office a slightly more cosmopolitan edge) — and that is where I was located for the day.

The only Crikey-specific parts of the office appeared to be a Mayne-era mug and baseball cap, which is a bit grim. I will send up a First Dog calendar.

See how power works in this country.

News done fearlessly. Join us for just $99.


If you ever come to visit, you can look out for our sign:  img_0069Mmmm. Compare and contrast:

img_0073Your tax dollars at work

At about midday, Bernard Keane and our friend John Quiggin went into the Budget lock-up, while Guy Rundle headed off into the wilds of Canberra to buy some adult clothes so they’d let him in to the press conferences (he later returned with a $29 Target jacket with the security tag still attached and a hip flask of vodka), and I had a good five hours to kill between edition. Here is what I did:

Ate. The APH cafeteria does a decent (and well-priced) coffee and, more importantly, is a great place to people-watch. There’s nothing quite like watching senators discuss Serious Government Business while licking the ice-cream drips off a white chocolate Magnum, or getting to fully appreciate the leathery fake tans of TV journos in the flesh when standing next to pallid public servants.

Snooped around the building. The pass they gave me pretty much allowed me to go everywhere, much to the annoyance of the security guards who offered increasingly suss looks (except one, who offered a sleazy wink). I think it’s because I was wearing one of our Deficit ’09 tshirts and they were jealous.

Did you know Parliament House has a gym, medical centre, travel agent and a bank? It does. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures or footage of pollies lifting weights, getting STD shots, booking cruise trips or swimming in piles of money, which is a huge failure on my part as a Crikey journalist and I am sorry. In fairness, Budget Day is busy for all concerned and I’m sure they do that stuff on quieter days.

Sat in the House of Reps. Some general observations: Julia Gillard really cakes on the makeup; Simon Crean has shocking posture; the front bench seats are really too low for Peter Garrett, and he looked very uncomfortable trying to position his long gangly legs; Greg Combet is a very attentive listener.

The highlight came when the Libs’ Jamie Briggs said: “I am firmly against illicit drugs, unlike the minister for health and those on the other side.” Anthony Albanese asked for him to withdraw the statement, which saw Harry Jenkins switch into prime Parliamentary-etiquette-expertise mode and start rattling off the precedents for parliamentary protocol. Dick Adams was yelling “You’re an idiot!” at Briggs, who remained steadfast that he wouldn’t withdraw the statement. Then a little fuzzy marsupial popped up, and it was Bronwyn Bishop raising a point of order, which sent the entire government into cataclysms of laughter and ALP backbenchers started mocking Briggs: “You have to get Bronwyn to defend you!!” and we all laughed, because that is embarrassing. Briggs withdrew the statement, and the entire government front bench stood up and left. You can read it all on page 36 of Hansard here, but they skipped all the good bits. Maybe you had to be there.

Watched Sky News being filmed LIVE. They’re smaller in real life.

Five hours and six trips to the vending machine later, Bernard and John were released from the lock-up, and Guy and I descended onto the press conferences to hang out with Bill Heffernan. Next year, I will bring a book.

Here’s a bit of extra footage from our late-night Parliament House shenanigans:


See how power works in this country.

Independence, to us, means everyone’s right to tell the truth beyond just ourselves. If you value independent journalism now is the time to join us. Save $100 when you join us now.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
SAVE 50%