There was a touch of James Bond in there. A solemn-faced government official knocked on my office door. The large black briefcase wasn’t shackled to her wrist, but it did have a huge lock and protruding key.
She sat down and, after the doors were closed and I had deactivated my mobile phone (and iPad camera), she handed me two bulky folders.
The Interim and Final Confidential Reports Volume 6 of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. The redacted interim report was more than 300 pages. The final report, about 450.
I had given a written guarantee that I would take no notes, no photographs and would not pass on what I was about to read to any third person. A breach could send me to jail. Been there, done that — too often.
I must admit though (the journo in you never dies) that I felt a bit like Laurie Oakes when he had that budget dropped in his lap.
The difference was I had a scoop I could never use.
Jacqui Lambie, who had also read it, told us it would only take an hour. Maybe she skipped all the big words. It took me two and half hours, and the government minder did not leave my side.
In the interim report, about 20 consecutive pages were redacted and, from what preceded them and followed, they were obviously censored because of upcoming court cases.
Some names and addresses were also blacked out — presumably because there were fears for some witnesses’ safety and their families’ safety. And that’s all I am going to say about it.
I’ve now been a senator for seven weeks. As I pointed out on Sunrise on Monday, that morning was a year to the day since I launched my Don Quixote quest in the form of the Justice Party.
Judging by some Facebook and Twitter comments, I’ve been an abject failure because I haven’t already cured cancer, reformed the Family Court, cleaned up child welfare agencies nationwide and brought about peace in the Middle East.
Immodestly, I’ll quote seasoned advisers on my staff who claim I’ve achieved more in seven weeks than some party hacks achieve in seven years.
We overturned the photo ban in the Senate, an anachronistic, misguided, protection of senators’ privacy, that had been fought by the press gallery for 25 years. That ends next month.
McDonald’s is changing its employment policy to protect teenage employees from convicted sex offenders.
We are working to force states to tighten their Working With Children permits. As I said in the Senate the other night, you can start working with vulnerable kids the minute you produce your post office receipt for lodging an application, even though approval may take six to eight weeks. Noddyland.
And we are making huge progress to get the passports cancelled for convicted Australian paedophiles who still go on child rape holidays in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia and the Philippines. That will happen.
The Greens this week produced a social media report showing who voted against them. I figured high in the No column. I’ve told some of them we should make a political movie called A Bridge Too Far because I am realising that the Greens are classic over-reachers. Maybe that’s a minor-party trait.
I don’t hate the Greens. I love their push for transparency. That’s why I have voted several times with them to send issues to committee.
I am actually working on co-sponsoring a bill with Lee Rhiannon on banning live exports, and Rachel Siewert is a hard-working gem.
So why a bridge too far? Because of a ritual. I sit down with my advisers and start going through the Greens’ latest proposed bill. Looks good. “Just common sense,” as we campaigned on.
Clause 1, Clause 2, I can live with that. Clause 3 is a “maybe”, but then Clause 4 is really that over-reaching “pixies at the bottom of the garden” stuff that Paul Keating used to hang on the Australian Democrats.
It’s sad, because their hearts are in the right place.
And now to go back to a time that many Crikey readers won’t even remember. A time when news photos were transmitted from “picturegram trucks” and by “facsimile” before it became known as a “fax machine”.
The memory lane stroll was triggered by the death of the world’s longest-reigning monarch, King Bhumibol of Thailand.
The King and his exquisite regal consort, Queen Sirikit, visited Australia in 1962.
One photo that sputtered out of the facsimile machine at that time stayed on reporters’ smoke-stained walls for years. Not because of the picture but because of the savage political caption.
The photo showed the young Thai King Bhumibol on the left and the porcelain Sirikit on the right. In the middle was prime minister Robert Menzies.
The caption: “A c— between two Thais.”
I remember it vividly, more than 50 years later.
Next week: Senate Estimates Committee hearings. What went on behind the scenes.