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Matthew Abraham: How to host a murder


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This week, the SA Liberals went down south for their first ‘love-in’ following the election loss – Matthew Abraham channels the mood in one of the motel rooms. 

Wirr-in-a, Wirr-in-a holiday mood. For some reason, he could not get the advertising jingle out of his head.

The rain hammered on the roof of his room in the Wirrina Resort and Conference Centre. He pulled the doona over his ears to deaden the noise.

He had lost count of the number of “love-ins” he had been to at this joint. The team bonding exercises, the butcher’s paper, the jumbo red Textas, the yellow sticky notes, the bowls of Mentos and jelly babies.

And here they were again. Back at Wirrina. Back in Opposition.

Wirr-in-a, Wirr-in-a holiday mood. You’ve got to be kidding me. He punched the pillow and rolled over.

It had started raining the moment they arrived and had not stopped.

Not that this was anything unusual for bloody Wirrina. It was built on the coldest, wettest, windiest escarpment this side of Mawson’s Hut.

It is the resort that has promised so much and delivered so little, he thought. Maybe that is why we chose it for our post-election “love in”? It makes us feel right at home.

That was a cheap shot, and he knew it. It is more likely that state Liberal director Geoff Greene was one of the first 100 callers through on the “holiday, holiday, holiday” auction hot line and snapped up a bargain package for 30 MPs and sundry hangers on. Now that the corporate bucks had dried up like an apricot on a hot day in Renmark, they had to watch every penny.

It hadn’t been all bad. The food had improved since the last love-in, he’d squeezed in a brisk 9-holes and had even got to watch the final of My Kitchen Rules, in his jocks.

Maybe they could get Bree or Jessica interested in running for Ashford in 2018?

And fair’s fair. He had to admit Steve had copped it sweet on day one, confessing he had been freaked out by Jay in the last two weeks of the campaign but had learned his lesson and it wouldn’t happen again.

Steve had even held a presser and explained that they were all going to hold the minority Weatherill Government to account, especially Labor’s new best friend, Brockie.

The general consensus was that when it came to winning marginal seats, the party could not organise rumpy pumpy in a bordello.

He flipped over on his back and stared at the ceiling. Bloody Brockie. Yes, it will be open warfare on Jay and Brockie.

“Nobody can accuse us of rushing into that decision,” he mumbled into the darkness. “It’s been almost two months since the election and we’ve hardly said boo to a goose. We’ve put Weatherill under so much pressure he’s skipped the Royal visit and taken a nice European vacation. A holiday. In Europe. With the missus and the kids. No Wirr-in-a, Wirr-in-a holiday mood for the Weatherills. No sir-ee.”

He rolled out of bed and stumbled to the bathroom for a midnight tinkle. He stared at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. Under the single 15-watt fluoro, it was not a pretty sight. He scratched the stubble on his chin. What was it about Australian country motel mirrors? Why did they always make him look like Freddy Krueger?

It was hopeless trying to sleep. He’d volunteered to make sense of the dot points scrawled all over the sheets of butcher’s paper they had used to “brainstorm” the election loss.

Steve wanted them before breakfast so he could enter them into the Excel spreadsheet on his iPad and knock up a quick Powerpoint for the morning session. Steve said the Powerpoint presentation was one of his key KPIs for the love-in, and he wanted to tick it off the list early. Steve was big on KPIs. They had made him the leader he was today.

He spread the paper out on the carpet, and took a step back.

One sheet stood out – the one with “Polling – What Went Wrong?” in big red capitals. Everyone wanted to know the answer to that. “Why didn’t we use Tex?” one table had asked, a reference to the failure to use Liberal marginal seat magicians Crosby Textor. “Too expensive”. “Losing is expensive”. The sheet had these and many other angry scribbles, circles and arrows. How was he going to make sense of that?

Another sheet dealt with “Marginal Seats – A Brothel On Every Corner?” This was a reference to the letterbox campaign Steve had been too squeamish to run against Steph Key in Ashford. The general consensus was that when it came to winning marginal seats, the party could not organise rumpy pumpy in a bordello.

It was a similar theme on just about every sheet of paper. His personal favourite was the one on “Leadership – How Vickie Learned Her Lines”. Yes, everyone agreed, Vickie had learned how to not say she was not interested in the leadership without sounding like she was interested in the leadership. And that was progress.

Now if they could just get Steven to not tell people to vote for the ALP, they’d be laughing.

He spent about an hour collating all the dot points into something vaguely readable, screwing up each sheet of paper as he went, until just one remained.

“How Did We Lose The Unlosable Election?” was written across the top. The rest was blank.

Stuff this, he thought. He turned on the telly. A repeat of Midsomer Murders was just getting under way, the one where the vicar gets murdered with molten brass from the church bell. You beauty. He poured himself a rum and coke from the mini bar. “Wirr-in-a, Wirr-in-a …,” he hummed, as DCI Barnaby knelt down over the still warm corpse.

Matthew Abraham and David Bevan present the weekday breakfast program on 891 ABC Adelaide.

InDaily’s regular political columnist Tom Richardson is on leave.

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