Present alms

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By Warwick McFadyen

Scene: A park bench. A grey sky. Two men are rugged up from the cold. One is reading the paper.

Guildenstern: At last Rosencrantz, some good news, a heartening development in these blighted times. Shall I read it to you? I must. You’ve been even more morose than usual lately.

Rosencrantz: I wouldn’t say morose Guildenstern, I’d call it more bitterly clear-eyed. But if you must, let’s hear it.

Guildenstern: Well, it appears minister Pyne has made a major announcement that I must say completely alters my view of him. He says he wants Australia to become a major alms exporter.

Rosencrantz: What? Nonsense. Isn’t he the minister for making tanks? Why on earth would he want to be exporting alms? That’s someone else’s job. Though it’s not much of a job these days. Hardly enough work to fill a day.

Guildenstern: Perhaps he’s branching out. He is an ambitious fellow, and the weather in Canberra is a bit unsettled at the moment.

I’ll quote you what the minister said: ‘‘My ambition is for us to enormously increase that capacity to send a lot more alms overseas to appropriate countries. I believe we can, over the course of the next few decades, create jobs and investment here in Australia by being a major alms exporter.’’

He must be serious Rosencrantz, he said it wasn’t going to happen ‘‘willy-nilly’’. That shows serious intent. He wants to put Australia on the map. He wants to show the world we are a major player in supplying alms.

Rosencrantz: But who’s going to be making these alms? We did a good job of destroying the manufacturing sector. We wouldn’t know how to make a table these days if we didn’t have Ikea instructions. And who is going to pay for the alms building? The government? The suits in Collins Street? The man and woman on the street?

Guildenstern: Cynicism maybe your chosen pose, but it does you a disservice. Minister Pyne says and I quote, “We can do it here.” Apparently we have the talent.

Rosencrantz: You’re sure he is talking about building and exporting alms?

Guildenstern: Absolutely.

Rosencrantz: Well, what else does he say?

Guildenstern: That their export would be strictly controlled. His office says we have controls that reflect our “obligations as a committed member of international alms control regimes and as a signatory to the alms trade treaty’’.

Rosencrantz:  Alms and the man. Who would have thought?

Guildenstern: Yes. It is encouraging when not so long ago we were reading of how the government couldn‘t possibly afford to keep increasing humanitarian aid to other countries. This is a good news story. Nothing fake about this gesture my friend.

Rosencrantz: You are right. After the billions of dollars we are spending to buy submarines and fighters that we will never use to hear that there is another side to the coin of our government’s character, is gladdening. It marks us from the pack doesn’t it Guildenstern? Other countries might profit from the military-industrial complex, indeed become servants to its pull, but we have shown we can do better. Indeed, are better. Our hands are clean. Look Guildenstern (he pulls his hands out from his coat pockets) they are clean of blood. Hooray. Thank you minister Pyne!

Guildenstern: It has a nice ring to it too. Australia, a major alms exporter. I like it. Should we make a list of which countries need our alms?

Rosencrantz: Yes, but first let’s eliminate those people to whom we wouldn’t want to ship them.

Guildenstern: OK. You go first.

(Pause)

Rosencrantz: I can’t think of anyone.

Guildenstern:  Nor me.

Rosencrantz: We’d want to present them to anyone who needs them wouldn’t we? Otherwise what’s the point? Alms don’t kill. We’re not going to be making enemies by this . . .

Guildenstern:  . . . Who would do us harm.

Rosencrantz: Exactly.

Guildenstern: It really is a master stroke.

Rosenccrantz: From minister Pyne. Why who would have thought?

 

Warwick McFadyen is a freelance writer and editor

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