It’s morning tea time in the offices of the Society for the Propagation of Privatisation in the Homeland (trading as the North East Sydney Institute™©®). It’s my turn on our Family Contract AWA to be at work, and I am in the tea room cleaning up a mess of stuff created by a group of work experience kids making up gold ribbon pins. The snippets of ribbon and the dropped pins are pricking my fingers, but I don’t complain. I’m thankful for the job. At least it has gotten me off the disability pension. After all, Hansen's Disease isn’t that bad.
Jerry and Annie, who run the Foundation, are sitting at one of the tables, idly stirring their coffee in shiny new mugs with “A mate for head of state” emblazoned across them.
“I know which mate I’d like for head of state”, I heard Annie say.
“Who would that be?” said Jerry
“Why you of course, silly!” laughed Annie.
“Gee, that could be a lot of fun” cackled Jerry “I could make the Institute a ‘by appointment’ company. Imagine that, on our letterhead, ‘Purveyors to His Excellency of Fine Advice’”. They both laughed.
“And perhaps you could then be my mate for head of state” he said to Annie.
“We could take it in turns” she cried, clapping her hands “but Jerry, what if someone else wants a turn?”
Jerry thought about this for a few moments as he stared at his reflection in the surface of the coffee. ‘A cloak, yes that’s it, a long, flowing presidential cloak, I think I’d need one of those - for the dignity of the office, of course’ he mused ‘the people would want it for me’.
Annie’s insistent voice broke into his dreaming. “What about someone else trying to get their mates together and taking it from us?”
“Don’t worry, we’ll work out a little arrangement with some of our other mates, so that only the right mates get a turn at the gig in our Reprivate of Australia”.
“Are you sure Jerry?” she demanded “we’ll need a roster - perhaps we could run it as a fundraiser for the Institute? A spot on the roster could cost, say, five hundred grand, or perhaps we could auction roster times?” Fund-raising had always been one of Annie’s strong points, and she began to plan a new campaign. One thing was clear straight away: a lot of gold ribbons would be needed.
“Yes, something like that” said Jerry, “we need to ensure that only true mates can have a turn, the sort of mates who stick by and support each other, no questions asked.”
Fund-raising ideas were welling up in Annie as her excitement grew, and she started announcing ideas “‘Date our head of state’, or what about ‘Head of state on a plate’ - that would be a celebrity cooking show of some sort” she explained, or, ...or ‘Bed the head, hate the state’, which would be a ball for those lovely kids in their little VSU clubs”.
“There’s no doubt about it”, said Jerry, “you’re full of it today Annie. Anyway, I think we should be getting back to work, we’ve got to finish that report by lunchtime and have it up on the website”.
“Which report’s that”
“The new discussion paper, you know, the one about what makes a man a mate - or even a woman a mate” he added as they stood up, leaving their coffee-dregged mugs for me to wash up.
I got out the vacuum cleaner again. Those sharp-edged bits of shiny ribbon were still stuck in the carpet, like white ants, difficult to remove. But, I have to get on with it. Our Family AWA allows for my instant dismissal at any time, and even allows Jerry to overstate my family income to Centrelink so that we’d be hit with several years of a pay-back plan and threats of criminal charges. It’s the same for most of my mates. But I’m thankful for the job.