Henderson NUW
Type
Fiction
Category
Fair Australia Prize

100 days

Fiction co-winner, Fair Australia Prize

 

23.47

It appears we’ve had a coup. Lulz. But not a joke, apparently.

WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR

Around 1000 people dressed in blue and yellow skivvies have occupied federal parliament. No-one has been allowed in or out. The *revolutionaries* (terrorists?) have said we’ll be held hostage until ‘real democracy’ has been established. Great.

They’ve set up a 2 km exclusion zone around Parliament House and released a somewhat rambling YouTube statement that warns of ‘bad shit happening’ if that zone is breached.

It’s all been a bit of a blur but here’s my take on events as they unfolded earlier tonight.

 

19.30

Treasurer Hodgkins rises to read Fiscal Statement 2024–2025.

HODGKINS: ‘Since we took the initiative and introduced the Independent Fiscal Commission federal government taxation has fallen – has fallen – from 24.2% to 19.8% of GDP. And government spending has fallen – has fallen – from 25.6% to 20.2% of GDP. This government, the Peeling government, accepts the independent advice – the independent ad-vice – of the Commission, and this means lower taxes, less government waste, and the budget returning to surplus in 2025-2026!’

Cheers from the government benches. Guffaws from the Opposition. Hodgkins looks pleased with himself. He takes a deep breath and goes to continue.

 

19.37

Fifty people file quickly and quietly in through the main doors and fan out around the chamber. They also appear in the public and press galleries. There’s a hush. Then a sudden exhalation as members register that the guys in blue skivvies are armed. Guns look like old army-issue F88 Austeyrs.

MADAM SPEAKER: ‘I would ask those who have recently entered the chamber to respect this House and leave immediately!’

No dice.

A woman and a man in yellow skivvies (no guns) approach the despatch boxes on either side of the central table. She’s about 5’2. Asian. Maybe late twenties. Bright, smiley face. He’s 6’4. Caucasian. Looks like a teenage skater but probably thirty-five. Not smiley.

SHE SPEAKS: ‘Hey guys, I’m Y, and this is X.’

Oh god, they have silly names.

Y: ‘And this is a revolution, I guess, but we just need everyone to chill.’

Unchilled murmur ripples through chamber.

Y: ‘So we just want to tell you guys why we’re doing this, what our plans are, and yeah. So basically, as you all know, our democracy has become a bit of a joke. Right, X?’

X: ‘Yeah. Since the introduction of voluntary voting we’ve seen participation at the federal level go from 64% to 43% to 36%. At the last NSW election, only 17% of people could be fucked voting.’

Y: ‘Right. It’s pretty clear most people think voting is a waste of time. The system’s rigged. We all know that. And that’s what we want to change. For most people things are just getting worse.’

X: ‘Unemployment is 14%, 60% of people have no job security and only 10% of citizens belong to a union. 20% live below the poverty line and our Gini coefficient has increased to 0.45. Only rich dudes can afford good houses, healthcare, education. It’s all fucked brah.’

Y: ‘It sux dick. Anyway, we’re not like other revolutionaries who want to stay in power forever and fuck everything up; we just want you guys, everyone, to give us 100 days. That’s all. 100 days to set up real democracy in Australia and then we’re gone.’

MEMBER FOR HIGGINS interjects: ‘Shame! Shame! How dare you!’

Y: ‘Shut up dude. Okay, we’re done here. You’ll be escorted back to your offices now. Don’t try to escape or we’ll shoot you. Ha! Just kidding. But don’t try it, hey.’

These guys look like the Wiggles. Remember them? But with guns.

 

20.17

We have each been assigned a *Helper* (yellow skivvy) to escort us back to our offices. Every 10 metres or so there is a pair of *Peacekeepers* (blue skivvy, guns).

 

21.01

Back in office. Internet keeps dropping out.

 

22.07

My Helper (twenty-something gal) delivers care package: blow-up mattress, sleeping bag, water, and some sort of date and nut ball.

 

23.24

Internet is back. Time to work.

 

UPDATE: 01.14

Helper swings by to see if I need anything. I request ‘liberty’ but she doesn’t see funny side. She says I have ‘free speech’ because they are still letting me post. I ask about ‘freedom of movement’. She gives me fake smile.

Buggered after blowing up bed. Goodnight from Canberra: the world’s most boring city.

 

DAY 2

13.07

Good morning Canberra. Well, good afternoon. Interwebz was down again.

We had a sort of press conference around 11 am. Y called it a ‘chat’. We now have a bit more detail for you.

Key points:

  • Revolutionaries have seized major government buildings in all capital cities (except Darwin).
  • Power stations, ports, airports, railway hubs and key communications infrastructure have also been secured.
  • Politicians are being held hostage but (most) public servants are free to come and go and ‘carry on their jobs as normal’.
  • A Professor Poffertje has been placed in charge of the Reserve Bank and Treasury. The professor will make a statement tomorrow ‘around 11am’.
  • Y stated that ‘real democratic elections’ will be held in 90 days based on a ‘new model’. She said that Helpers were speaking to people ‘all around the country’ about this ‘new model’ and she would have more to say about it soon. She added that ‘no-one should panic’ and ‘everything’s sweet’.

No questions. Not much of a ‘chat’.

Meanwhile, Twitter says no trade on ASX today.

Market Mate @madmarkets: ASX closed. #marketjitters #auscoup

 

UPDATE: 20.33

We’ve been given a cooking and cleaning roster. I was on dinner prep tonight: vegan chickpea and eggplant curry with saffron rice. We ate in Great Hall at long trestle tables. Very wholesome and communal. Plenty of tea and coffee but no milk. This really riled up the Nationals. In general, people seem more irritable than scared.

 

UPDATE: 23.27

Have noticed a few differences between Helpers and Peacekeepers. Helpers are much younger, very helpful but a bit humourless. Peacekeepers (70% men, 30% woman) are older, smile easily and look nothing like your standard designer-thin lefty student.

 

DAY 3

9.47

We’ve been *treated* to a livelink talk by Prof Poffertje: the new RBA and Treasury head. Small, excitable, fit-looking man. Late fifties. Spoke for about an hour. Again, no questions.

He said trade on the ASX had been suspended ‘indefinitely’ and that ‘necessary capital controls’ had been introduced. The dollar has been fixed at AUD$0.72 against the greenback for 12 months and is no longer convertible on the capital account. All existing bank deposits have been guaranteed and a $50,000 deposit has been made into the ATO accounts of anyone who has previously filed a tax return. This money can be used in ‘any way you choose’. Poffertje called it ‘democratic quantitative easing’. The RBA has established a new Prices Review Board charged with keeping ‘all price movements for capital goods and consumer goods and services within reasonable bounds’. Commercial and private rents have been frozen for twelve months. Public servants will all be paid ‘as normal’ and Australians should continue their ‘everyday lives’.

 

12.32

Our second Y & X ‘chat’ focused on creating ‘real democracy’ in Australia.

Here’s the lowdown. State and federal parliaments and the superior courts have been ‘suspended’ for 100 days. Peacekeepers and Helpers are travelling the country to explain a new political system based on ‘circles’. Each circle has max. 10,000 ‘participants’ based on the number of residents in a given area. Anyone over fifteen (citizen or non-citizen) can join a circle and be eligible to vote for their local delegate, as well as being able to run for election. Any Indigenous people can send a delegate. Current members of political parties are ineligible to stand for election. Idea is that each circle will elect/choose their delegate using normal e-voting procedures or by consensus. Delegates will gather in Canberra in 100 days for a ‘People’s Chat’. (Oh dear.) The chat will last for a month and delegates will be tasked with agreeing to a ‘People’s Budget’ for the next twelve months, as well as coming up with a list of questions to be put to national e-referenda. At the chat’s conclusion the delegates will return home and leave the implementation of their budget to the public service. New delegates will be elected the following year.

The Buzzfeed guy asked for more detail on the registration and delegate selection process. X said everyone had received a touch-card explaining how to register online and that Helpers were also setting up info booths at train stations and shopping centres. X said everyone should register within thirty days but that it was up to each circle to decide how they wanted to handle the ‘campaign side’ of the delegate election process.

Lunchtime: Vegan enchiladas. LLL

 

UPDATE: 21.32

REUTERS reporting ‘major riots’ in Sydney’s CBD. Have posted photos of smashed windows and two buses set on fire.

 

21.53

Junkee reports ‘several hundred finance sector workers have gone on a rampage through Barangaroo, Darling Harbour, the Rocks and Northern CBD’.

 

22.14

More reports on Sydney riots. Video here.

Revgurl @communard24: These finance boyz have torched 60 small bars! At least. #toofunny #ausrev #sydneyriots

 

UPDATE: 22.44

Things seem to have quietened down in Sydney. Peacekeepers on the streets and as far as I can tell all fires have been put out.

 

DAY 7

10.00

There’s a clear division of labour emerging. The young revolutionaries provide daily updates on progress related to the circles while Poffertje outlines various economic and social policies.

After the tax changes on Tuesday, the hyperactive professor today announced the following measures as part of ‘Free Day’:

  1. Free childcare.
  2. Free public transport.
  3. Free water and electricity.
  4. Free medical care (reintroduction of old Medicare scheme).
  5. Abolition of tertiary education fees.
  6. Free accommodation for homeless in government buildings.

Poffertje also gave lengthy digression on why Australia did not need a bond market as RBA can create its own fiat money and influence the rate of private credit creation. This was probably in response to the fresh riots in financial districts of Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.

 

UPDATE:22.14

I’m hearing that a lot of Peacekeepers are ex-military. Mostly Yemen and Nigeria vets. Don’t look like amateurs.

 

UPDATE: 02.49

Rumour mill meltdown. Dozens of reports that US Marines have occupied Darwin. Most saying no local resistance.

 

UPDATE: 04.03

My sources confirm Darwin occupied by US Marines. No official response from Y and X.

 

DAY 15

BREAKING NEWS: 07.07

#excitement Last night a cross-party group of MPs calling themselves the ‘Young Patriots’ attacked several Peacekeepers with knives and homemade clubs. Two Peacekeepers were injured (one seriously) but the Young Patriots were disarmed. Member for Gellibrand suffered a minor heart attack and is recovering in the infirmary. No further action taken against Young Patriots group.

 

UPDATE: 14.24

Poffertje’s presser delayed today thanks to Young Patriots affair. But he dropped another clusterbomb with ‘Jubilee Day’.

SHORTER: all mortgage, higher education and public (state and federal) debt had been ‘written off’. WRITTEN OFF.

Poffertje explained that ‘expert personnel’ had been placed in all banks and other lending institutions as part of the ‘implementation process’. He assured us that banks would continue their ‘normal functions’ in relation to business and other household loans.

Checked my accounts and can verify that both my home loan and HELP debt now showing a zero balance.

 

DAY 21

11.02

Bad news for the revolution. Now confirmed that Far North Queensland has declared itself the ‘Independent Constitutional Monarchy of Capricornia’ with King William as head of state. Unconfirmed reports of ‘at least twenty’ Helpers massacred by local militias and Peacekeepers forced into retreat under heavy fire.

This, just days after most WA oil and gas fields fell to ‘counter-revolutionary elements’, plus the mounting reports of shortages of fuel and basic consumer goods. Ships still leaving ports but no arrivals since last Thursday.

Brunswick and St Kilda communes have said they will not participate in delegate election process as do not recognise ‘any authority higher than ourselves’.

But look: snow on the Brindabellas.

 

DAY 30

08.48

Early chat with Y and X today re circle process. They claim over 40% of eligible people have signed up with their local circle. Registration has been extended for two weeks but most circles have already started some campaign process. First round voting takes place in forty days with all circle members able to nominate their ‘Top Three’ choices. The two candidates receiving the highest votes will then go head to head in second round on 6 July. Newtown, Brunswick, St Kilda and Byron communes are all choosing delegates by consensus.

 

11.07

Poffertje looked tired today. Announced that all major consumer goods chains (Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi etc.) have been occupied by more ‘expert personnel’ and will now operate as ‘lease and repair’ cooperatives. You lease your fridge, tablet, washing machine etc. and take it back to the in-store workshops for repairs if needed.

He said there were ‘absolutely no food shortages’ but acknowledged some farmers were ‘upset’ re ‘difficulties’ accessing regular export markets. He called for ‘patience’ and ‘goodwill’.

In other news, I have my period. And they’re out of tampons.

 

BREAKING NEWS: 15.28

The octogenarian Gerry Harvey has taken to Twitter in a rage re Harvey Norman occupations. He vowed to ‘crush these Communist bastards’ and is reported to be gathering support among horse breeders in the Hunter Valley.

 

UPDATE: 16.15

Gerry Harvey has been taken to Gosford hospital after experiencing ‘chest pains’.

 

17.07

Harvey in ‘stable’ but ‘irascible’ condition.

 

20.00

Good news: my Helper brought tampons. She’s usually all business but tonight we had an interesting chat. She’s twenty-two and her name is ‘Tay’. I asked her if she understood that this would all end in tears and suggested she might have pursued her goals by more peaceful and democratic means. She laughed and gave me short but pointed lecture. She said ‘Most revolutionaries and leftists are do-nothing pussies’ who ‘hold conferences, sign petitions, attend tiny rallies, piss around on Facebook and achieve shitfuck all.’ She said her group had done ‘more in a month than politicians and lefty fucktards achieve in their whole fucktard lives.’ She said ‘you can’t be all nice and polite if you want to change shit’ and that you have to ‘risk something’ but most lefties are ‘too comfortable, lazy or scared.’

I told her everything they’d *achieved* would be undone because they hadn’t built a social consensus. She said they were doing ‘shit people want’ but ‘don’t know how to get’ and that you have to ‘surprise the ruling class’.

She also told me a bit more about the organisational side things. It was all done through ‘peer to peer’ networks, online and IRL. Her ‘best guess’ was that there were around 150,000 Helpers and 50,000 Peacekeepers.

 

DAY 57

12.02

Circle update: around 70% of people have registered. First round of voting will be held on Tuesday week.

Poffertje announced strict fuel rationing and outlined a new voluntary system of carpooling using existing stock of electric cars. Old canneries in Shepparton and Goulburn Valley have also been reopened.

 

23.19

Atmosphere has certainly changed this week. Everyone looks drawn and tense. A few seem close to breaking.

Couldn’t sleep last night so I took a walk in the Senate wing. I ran across a Greens Senator and a Nationals MP engaged in what can only be called fierce fucking on the carpet in the middle of the corridor. Senator scowled at me. But they carried on.

 

DAY 90

06.01

ELECTION DAY.

Seems strange not to be heading off to local public school for a ballot and a barbie.

There are at least 28,000 livestreams covering every campaign in the country. But I’m a traditionalist so will be watching Antony Green.

Y and X have warned of ‘grave motherfucking consequences’ if there is any disruption to communications systems during the election. I’ve heard they also have contingency plans in place should such a disruption occur.

 

BREAKING NEWS: 08.07

Reports of two explosions in Canberra. I felt them. We’re hearing one government building and one embassy. MORE TO COME

UPDATE: Confirmed that Venezuelan embassy is on fire.

MORE: Confirmed that Treasury building has been bombed. No claims of responsibility. Confusion. Panic.

 

UPDATE: 08.52

This is everywhere online.

Twee? Effective?

Y and X have released another YouTube statement telling people ‘not to panic’ and to ‘make democracy real’.

 

14.01

Internet back. Still no claim of responsibility re bombings but have seen footage of the injured being treated at Canberra Hospital. No hard numbers on casualties.

 

17.30

Polls close in thirty mins but we can see from livetracker that 87% of eligible circle members have already cast their vote. Green shouldn’t have much to do. Just a call of the board once the polls are closed.

 

18.08

Haven’t seen Green this agitated since Queensland 2015.

 

18.58

We have results for 1000 circles now.

 

20.03

WA polls have closed. This should be over soon.

 

21.07

2017 delegates have been elected. Darwin, Capricornia and parts of Northern WA did not participate. But Brunswick, St Kilda and Alice Springs did.

Something big has happened here today. But it’s hard to say what.

 

DAY 100

10.02

It’s cold and clear in Canberra and we’re free.

Helpers came by at 9 am and told us we could leave. Felt nervous. Strange. We exited the front doors as the delegates entered and streamed into the Great Hall. Outside there were people. A calm pointillist mass smeared all the way from the front lawns up to the War Memorial.

They’ve erected livescreens everywhere. People are watching the delegates shake hands and drink tea. Not sure how it’s all going to work.

Y and X are sitting on the lawn chatting with others. They’ve taken off their yellow skivvies. Wearing jeans and black T-shirts. They look relaxed. I fear for their safety.

 

This story is from Overland’s new print issue. Copies are available for individual purchase or by subscription.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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Troy Henderson is a PhD candidate in political economy at the University of Sydney. His research topic examines the case for a universal basic income in Australia. His masters focused on the four-day work week. His writing has appeared in the Australian, Arena, Left Flank and New Matilda. He blogs at radicalblues.com.

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