Imagine for a moment that you’ve been elected Prime Minister. During your tour of Parliament House you notice that the Paul Keating Memorial BBQ is looking a little rundown, the two bricks propping up the rusted hot plate are cracked, and most of the plastic chairs are missing. So, your first Prime Ministerial deed is to order a new BBQ. Your photo is taken.
One week later you are handed a bill totalling seventeen million dollars for a BBQ that hasn’t been built yet! Your entire cabinet is rushed at gunpoint into your office where you demand an explanation. Instead, you receive an education.
The Resources Minister informs you that to satisfy the many interest groups camped on his doorstep, the new BBQ must have wood, gas, coal, electric and oil burners. The nuclear powered wok was vetoed by the Greens.
The Environment Minister has included a solar oven, plus a wind generator for the lights. To offset carbon emissions, three thousand and fifty eight trees will be planted nearby, and fertilised with chicken poo, ferried by bicycles, from an organic farm in Victoria. They’ll be watered with treated effluent from a new sewerage pumping station named after you.
The Minister for Works hands you the quotes he obtained to build the BBQ. The first figure has more zeroes in it than a Japanese aircraft carrier, while the second quote, from a company which made billions erecting school bike sheds, isn’t much better. The third quote, scrawled on the back of a beer coaster, is from a mate of the Minister, who will slap up the barbie for a mere two million; he can start as soon as his extension lead is returned.
The Foreign Minister is missing. He has taken a large committee, and his family, on a taxpayer funded world tour to see what other nations think of your new BBQ. His jolly postcards hint that they’ll be gone for some time.
And the Arts Minister has organised a ‘BBQ Launch Extravaganza’ that will cost more than the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games.
Afterwards, you reel outside to the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and they cook you a snag on the old Paul Keating Memorial BBQ. For fuel, they’re using paper from broken treaties. The sausage tastes good, but the certain knowledge that you’re the unwitting chief engineer of the latest Government Gravy Train fills your mouth with a very bitter aftertaste indeed.