If you want to get a behind-the-scenes look at the corridors of power, talk to an old ex-government furniture hand. They've been inside most of them over the years, collecting and carting away desks, chairs, sofas, tables, lockers, you name it, bureaucratic flotsam and jetsam. All worn down by a thousand shiny bums and elbows and offloaded when judged no longer up to scratch -- or simply because a department had an end-of-year underspend and decided to blow it on another refit rather than hand the money back to the government.

An industry veteran once explained to me in detail his trip inside one of Australia's security agencies and the bizarre precautions taken while he was there to ensure he didn't see anything he shouldn't. Another showed off his most expensive offering: an ancient House of Representatives desk from days of yore when radio ruled, and politicians -- and the journalists who covered them -- consisted exclusively of old white men in hats.