From the outside few observers would have guessed that this is where so many of their taxpayers’ dollars had been funnelled. There, in prime downtown Sydney, stood the headquarters of HECTOR. Its goal was UN world domination. Its leader was one Blowhard, also known as Triggsy-galore.
The sworn enemy of HECTOR and of Blowhard was Leak, Bill Leak. Some saw him as something of a cartoonish figure, but others saw real steel in this agent-provocateur as well as observing a ruthless desire to stand up to taxpayer-funded bullies. At one point Leak had been called ‘007’, but in fact no one yet really had his number.
On this particular day, no observer standing outside the Pitt Street headquarters of HECTOR would have noticed anything at all unusual. Various members of the inner circle stepped lightly as they entered the building, reading the latest missive against free speech from the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Saudi Arabian expert entitled ‘For Your Ears Only’. All of Blowhard’s inner circle received yearly cash payments in excess of $350,000 for their efforts on behalf of UN world domination and this morning, as they crossed the building’s threshold, they were eagerly anticipating the next month’s grandiose and lavish Christmas party. Say what you will about Triggsy-galore, she knew how to throw a party at taxpayers’ expense.
Yet once inside HECTOR’s not so secret headquarters, things were strangely unsettled and eery. Blowhard had been seen sullenly pacing outside her office and all of the inner circle had been summoned to an emergency meeting in room 17C. (HECTOR never used room 18C for these important meetings because in that room it was impossible to speak freely.)
Once this upper echelon of highly paid HECTOR Commissioners had found their assigned seats in the elliptically-shaped boardroom, a silence enveloped the room. Blowhard had taken her usual elevated place at one end, underneath the large sign that read ‘Australian Law is Not Enough’. Everyone was tight-lipped and this was as it should be because those in HECTOR believed in silence. No talking meant no offending, insulting or humiliating.
But then Blowhard herself broke the silence. ‘Number Two, I’m very disappointed in you.’ All eyes turned to Tim Thaiphingger. He was indeed Number Two, Blowhard’s right-hand man (though HECTOR was certainly open to left-hand men, or women, or non-gender specific types, anyone as long as he/she/they/it were committed to a world where no speech ever offended anyone).
‘Do you expect me to talk?’, asked Thaiphingger, knowing perfectly well that Triggsy-galore was not a whole-hearted exponent of free-ranging speech. ‘Mr Tim, I expect you to explain your failings to HECTOR, and how it is that these QUT students escaped our clutches.’ As Blowhard said this, her right hand drifted dangerously over the button on her chair’s armrest, the one that if pushed might see Thaiphingger facing a fate worse than death – the prospect of losing his taxpayer-funded, speech-stifling sinecure. Then the head of HECTOR uttered words never before heard at this headquarters. ‘Speak Mr Tim, and do not worry about offending me.’
Hearing this, Thaiphingger knew his position was precarious and that everything depended on what he said next, and whether he could convince Number One to focus elsewhere. So he thought back to when he had so often solicited for 18C customers, and in his most ingratiating voice soothingly replied: ‘They were nothing Blowhard. A favourable ruling from a low level Federal Court Magistrate, who by the way did not overturn any of the key points from the Bolt judgment. We can forget the QUT students. What matters is Leak. We have to get Leak.’
No one dared speak till Triggsy-galore asked her Number Two, ‘But what about M? Won’t Leak have the full backing of his boss M?’ No one struck fear into the multilateralist, UN Treaty-loving bureaucrats at HECTOR more than M. To them, M was evil incarnate; a man who had the audacity to believe in wide-open free speech and (gasp!) majoritarian democracy. It was simply all too difficult to comprehend for those working at HECTOR, and so – as in the Harry Potter stories about Voldemort – no one at headquarters ever dared speak the name ‘Murdoch’ out loud. They simply called him M.
Mr Tim had not seen this question coming. All that time working for Kevin Rudd must have dulled his finely tuned brain. But he had not been the author of the ‘Ask a Philosopher’ newspaper column for nothing. With the agility of a UN employee preaching to others about human rights while himself (or herself, itself, themselves) exempt from paying any income tax anywhere in the world, Thaiphingger laid out to the assembled Commissioners his idea.
‘Number One, you need to go over and spend another day having tea with the Prime Minister. Call up his secretary, Miss Moneyplenty, and arrange a time to meet. Tell him you’ve got an innovative idea. Tell him you now remember what you actually said last week. Find out if any of those Gliberal MPs of his, any at all, really do care about free speech – sorry, about being able to offend and insult and humiliate people in a way that undermines multiculturalism. And then do what you can to keep him on board. We’re finished if the Gliberal Party ever decides to stand up for free speech.’
‘Very good Number Two’, purred Triggsy-galore. ‘And I’ve been thinking about the timing of another Inquiry.’ (Blowhard always thought very, very carefully about the timing of all her Inquiries.) ‘I’m going to call it You Can Only Speak Nice.’
Outside it was getting dark.
But somewhere Leak, Bill Leak, was practising his quick draw. He wasn’t going to justify any cartoon of his to some puffed-up 18C HECTOR Star Chamber, however useless the current Gliberal Party might be.