The Spectator Australia Diplomatic Research Unit has laboured away in secret for years on projects too sensitive to mention in public, but which have been pivotal to the survival of Western democracy. Due to our personal contacts with some of its bravest operatives and aided by means of back channels and the dark web, we are now able to reveal one of the most delicate exercises in international diplomacy ever undertaken in Australia since Governor Phillip came ashore at Sydney Cove and was greeted with the cry of the local inhabitants: ‘Welcome to Country’. We refer, of course, to the campaign now underway to have Senator Mathias Corman elected as secretary-general of that monumental repository of human wisdom and economic knowledge, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, better known to those on the international gravy train as the OECD, which has been responsible for the economic progress of the last 60 years and where its performance has been, well, interesting. The campaign has been rightly assisted by the Australian government that has put at Senator Cormann’s disposal a functioning RAAF aircraft and attendant crew and staff to whisk him from one belle époque capital to another and one luxury hotel to the next, to enable him to advance his cause in something approximating the dignity befitting an unemployable ex-politician in search of tax-free employment, particularly one who has no known qualification other than to speak advanced Walloon. But I hope we can discuss the rights and wrongs of this campaign without echoing the mean-spirited critics who have said it is highly improper that taxpayers’ money should be used to shoehorn a private citizen into a job where there is no sign that he might relinquish any of his tax-free salary or refund even some small part of the vast cost of getting him elected. It was originally suggested that the good senator should travel by train and in economy class and book his accommodation through Airbnb to make reservations at those charming one-star European B-and-Bs with evocative names like La Grande Hotel Monte Carlo du lac. But, fortunately, this proposal was rejected on the ground that, although the OECD was theoretically concerned with the economic well-being of the man in the street and that its employees could benefit from experiencing what the man in the street experienced himself, it was little more than showy eccentricity that anyone should believe in such a populist fantasy or, worse, try to put it into practice. Thus, all things considered, it was decided by several public service grandees having lunch at the Commonwealth Club, that it was better to take the VIP aircraft and luxury hotel option, even if it would inevitably give rise to ill-informed criticism and abuse.
After all, they reasoned, the OECD might be a junior member of the club of useless parasites that inflict themselves on the world at taxpayers’ expense, but if this were the standard to be applied to applicants for jobs at the OECD, the same might be imposed when the next man was up for appointment as head of a body far more important than the OECD, like the UN Human Rights Council or the World Health Organisation. For instance, how could you expect a candidate for head of the UN Refugee Agency to travel like a refugee?
No, the real debate that raged in the public service was not whether Senator Cormann was being given too extravagant a regal procession through the mirrored halls of Europe’s chancelleries to ingratiate himself with their pretentious occupants, but, rather, whether he had access to all of the accoutrements of travel needed to prepare himself for this tax-free office. Thus, we can reveal that this thorny issue went as high as the secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs who, after an exhaustive round of working lunches with multiple task forces, issued an edict to ensure that Senator Cormann was properly equipped for his journey. Such was the top-level security clearance given to this document that it remained secret for half an hour and was found in a filing cabinet at a Fyshwick auction house. But one of our alert operatives found it and we summarise it here, in the public interest.
The first reform instituted by the secretary relates to the staff appointed to support the senator, which, until then, was a miserable team described by DFAT as follows: The task force consists of 8.5 dedicated staff, made up of a task force manager and campaign strategist, strategy and policy advisers, a visits manager, two graduates and a communications specialist. (The .5 of a staff member, who is only 120cm tall, represented small business).
This is woefully inadequate and includes none of the specialists that the aspiring head of the world’s most pre-eminent economics institute requires. Thus, the secretary has issued an immediate order that the task force be augmented by the following, whose skills are clearly essential at the OECD, or any other economics think-tank: a clairvoyant, two fortune tellers, three witches (who come as a package), a retired puppet master, a card sharp, a two-up consultant from Kalgoorlie, an aboriginal elder who specialises in smoke with an optional extra in mirrors, three former executives of the Health Services Union whose unparalleled experience in lying and deception is a prerequisite for anyone working in economics and, finally, the head croupier at Crown Casino as an ethics consultant.
But the final touch has been added to the inner cabin of the VIP aircraft with a series of international best sellers on economics and government that the senator will find invaluable: I learned my economics at Hogwarts, Machiavelli was a Wimp, Card Tricks for Beginners, Statistics for Dummies and Start your own Investment Company by Charles Ponzi. With his new team and this intellectual fire power, the question being asked from Wall Street to Wuhan is: how could the senator possibly lose?
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