An Australian Arrival At An Angleteric Airport
Sam Courtenay hadn't had a regional summit in a while. The last few months on the home front had been good for him - with the opposition in disarray and the economy on the up, he'd pulled well ahead in the polls - and now his attentions turned to foreign policy.
A visit from Australia had long been in order. The two countries were close in many ways. Both are English-speaking desert nations in southern Europe, and in terms of political alignment, Courtenay and Australia's PM Hillary Clinton were natural allies. Both Prime Ministers were pragmatic, centre-left leaders negotiating the difficulties of minority government.
Closer co-operation between the two countries was, Courtenay thought, a no-brainer. Greater trading and economic ties would work to the benefit of both countries' economies, and Courtenay was keen to follow up on the success of the tripartite agreement with the UK and the Duxburian Union. There was also a small matter of enlisting help for Courtenay's rapidly expiring promise that 2017 would be the last year of the Dromund Kaas War.
An aide's head popped around the door.
"The Australians are on their way. They've landed and their motorcade is currently at the Noyan Roundabout."
"Ah good. Get Watson and Franklin to get the tea and cakes ready. Oh, and get a jug of water and some glasses too."
"I really hope that they have some wine there; the horrifying aspect of having your Deputy Prime Minister also be Foreign Minister is a nightmare," Hillary Clinton said, flying in a private jet over to Angleter. The Dromund Kaas conflict and subsequent refugee crisis had put Australia and Angleter on differing sides of what was a very close to home conflict. As the neutral nation both in that part of the world and the European Union, the Prime Minister felt it was her duty to take in refugees. The terrorist attacks in London that rocked the United Kingdom had now put her policy of accepting refugees into sharper focus, and opened her to attack on the right.
'Minority government is a mess,' the Prime Minister thought to herself. She looked over to see Tony Burke and Chris Bowen with her, the Cabinet Secretary/Energy Minister and the Industry Minister with her. She rather had thought it'd be better for the Labor ministers to stay at home.
"Hillary, we're about ready to land," Tony said to her. The PM smiled before preparing herself for the inevitable landing. She had not been on quite a high profile visit to another nation before outside of the United Kingdom, which of course was like going to see extended family.
"Great; let's see who greets us on the tarmac in New Birmingham," Hillary said, looking at her glass of wine. She might as well have another sip.
The Australian delegation were whisked to Oldknow House, the Prime Minister's residence. Courtenay, joined by Foreign Minister Mary d'Ivry, was outside to meet them.
"Mrs Clinton, a pleasure!" said Courtenay, as he shook her hand. The delegations exchanged pleasantries and posed briefly for a group photo before heading inside, where they took their seats around the table.
Pouring the tea into a cup, Courtenay was the first to speak:
"Well, welcome to Angleter. I trust you all had a nice flight, and that the drive here from the airport wasn't too bad. Everyone used to get stuck at the Noyan Roundabout, but Apache Indian insists he's fixed that now."
"Anyway, to business. If we perhaps start with Dromund Kaas?"
"Thank you very much, Mr. Courtenay. It is a pleasure to be here in Oldknow House. The roundabout wasn't troublesome today, so your fixes may have debugged the whole thing," Mrs. Clinton said to the Angleteric prime minister. She looked at her team of Bowen and Burke before moving on to Dromund Kaas.
"Yes, I would like to talk about Dromund Kaas today. This is a long standing war, and Australia has taken in many refugees. I know you have a strong interest in ending the conflict there, and I've talked to British Prime Minister May and she also wants to end the conflict. Australia does want to aid Angleter and the Coalition to bringing the conflict to an end. I wonder what the plan is for the territory in the future. I think it is also important to increase secure acceptance of refugees in our nations. The terrorist attack in London showed that these refugees are feeling alienated in their new countries and isolated, and they may also be dangerous."
"We're definitely very eager to bring the conflict to an end. We'd benefit very much from fresh impetus towards that end, and if Australia can provide anything in that regard, it'd be very much appreciated. It's become quite clear that 2017 won't be the last year of this war, but I'd very much like it to be over in early 2018."
"DK is a very unusual society, and its people have suffered from years of a totalitarian regime forcing down their throats an extreme, murderous ideology that lends itself, sadly, to international terrorism. The regime is not popular, but the picture is complicated, and unfortunately some Kaasians have swallowed the regime line to such an extent that they are prepared to kill innocent civilians in its name. Hence London, and, we're almost certain, also the 9/9 attacks in Angleter in 2014."
"This, I think, lends itself to the issues that some of the countries that have taken in Kaasian refugees have had. There's quite a big cultural chasm to overcome there. Our approach, of course, has been to host refugees in the safe zone that we control between the frontline and the border, and we've found that works for us. By keeping the Kaasians in Dromund Kaas, I think we've kept Angleter safer, and sidestepped some quite difficult questions about, for instance, how you distinguish between a Kaasian who should be resettled in Angleter and one who shouldn't."
"I'm a firm believer, however, in the view that the best way to deliver safety, justice, and prosperity for Kaasian refugees is to end the war and build a DK where they can be free to pursue their dreams, and I'm very excited to hear that Australia is willing to work with us to make that a reality."
"Your government has done a fine job in keeping Angleter safe, and the safe zone that you have established has made it so much easier. Australia has instituted a policy of housing refugees first in processing on Christmas Island, Norfolk Island, and Nauru. As they become more or less acclimated to their surroundings, we are able to bring them further into Australian society. I know the Australian budget could support financial reconstruction and our Defence Forces could aid in the rebuilding process of Dromund Kaas. It is in the interest of national security of every nation in Europe, but especially us nations in the southern reaches of the region to step up and do our part. Minister Bowen will get on with the Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister but our coalition partners will, no doubt, support this venture," Mrs. Clinton said to Mr. Courtenay. She paused as she sipped the tea.
'They better....we will crush the ALP if they don't and call an early general election,' Hillary thought in her head. The political calculations went a mile a minute like the notes flying off of a virtuoso violinists' instrument.
"I would like to propose directly training between Angleteric and Australian armed forces. The ADF, even though used in defensive capabilities, is very capable. I would also like to offer cooperation between the Australian and Angleteric intelligence community at a deeper level. As of now, we simply pass on any threat that directly comes up against Angleter and that's it. With deeper level cooperation, we can see threats that come across to either country and be able to deliver intelligence faster to help protect our citizens further," Minister Burke said, finally reaching an area in which is portfolio was involved as part of the Office of the Prime Minister.
"Certainly your support for rebuilding and reconstruction in DK would be welcome," Courtenay responded. "That would be valuable to the coalition and, as you say, southern Europe as a whole."
Courtenay leaned forward in his seat, and was careful to face each member of the Australian delegation more or less equally as he spoke.
"Likewise, Angleter would be more than happy to commence joint military training exercises and intelligence sharing between our two nations. The extent of the former would depend essentially on yourselves and to what extent you'd be prepared to bend, or even abandon, your official neutrality. As for the latter, I think that could be very expansive indeed, covering aspects of signal and geospatial intelligence as well as, if you're prepared to go this far, even human and defence intelligence."
"Intelligence sharing between friendly nations I think could be a great boon to the current struggle against terrorism and to efforts to stabilise the region in general. We would, therefore, favour an intelligence treaty that would be open to the possibility of new nation, acceptable to both of us, joining in at a later date."
Hillary smiled...the idea of an intelligence treaty, at the forefront of the intelligence community in Australia, Angleter and Europe was enticing and frankly necessary to protect the Federal Republic.
"The Federal Republic of Australia would be willing and ready at this time to abandon neutrality at this point in time. The intelligence and defence community has recognised that the threats to our region are too great for us to remain neutral, and for us to be a contributing partner to any sort of intelligence deal we would need to do so," Minister Bowen said to the Mr. Courtenay. "We would be more than happy to, while we're here, begin to draw up the agreement while the Deputy Prime Minister sets forward our procedure for the termination of neutral status."
Mrs. Clinton rolled her eyes at the mention of the Deputy Prime Minister. Damn it, Kevin, she thought.
"Just to pause a bit on the diplomacy, I just want to ask you in earnest...how has your Government experience been going so far? Nothing super official, just a personal question between someone else who shares the...interesting constraints...that is a lack of an outright majority in a Westminster parliamentary system. I know I've personally enjoyed many aspects of being in coalition with Labor, but there are also some challenges. I wanted to know your experience so far."
"Ah! Welcome to the non-neutral world!" Courtenay joked.
"In all seriousness, this is excellent news. I'm certain that Australia will be a valuable partner in military and intelligence affairs in the future. Obviously you'll have our support in repealing your neutrality in the Council."
Courtenay laid back in his chair
"As for governing, it's been... a balancing act. Obviously the situations are different to some extent, but I've found it frustrating at times when you want to do something, especially something in your manifesto and that would appeal to your most loyal supporters, and then the Citizen Alliance - or in your case Labor - stops it. I mean, we've been trying to keep the Citizen Alliance on side, and in some way that's a good thing because that means the SDP can appeal more to centrist and centre-right voters, which we have to do as a centre-left party in a country like Angleter, but at the same time we've got to do some firefighting on our left flank. There's this new party called the CSL, which is basically an enlarged Communist Party with a lot of people, especially students, who've left us because they've found our record in government too centrist, especially on social issues; and we've got to stop them eating into our core vote."
"So it's like walking a tightrope. You can't lean too far to the left to keep the CSL in check, and you can't lean too far to the right to keep the Citizen Alliance happy. But I suppose that's politics; and you know what?"
Courtenay leaned in again
"One thing I and my MPs have found is that when you go and talk to ordinary people, they respect what you've done. If you're open and upfront about the circumstances you're in, and keep reminding them of those circumstances, then people see that you're making the best of a difficult situation. I hope, anyway! Not long now before we find out over here."
Prime Minister Clinton nodded.
"That is wonderful advice. As someone who came from a third party to majority in a coalition government, I find that point of people trying to frustrate the manifesto very true. We've made some huge strides in making Australia fairer with a Native Title Court that handles disputes between rural Australia, mining companies, and Aboriginal Australians. It's been successful and so far, we've seen very even-handed rulings. Each one is in a regional part of a state or territory, since that's where the dispute takes place," she began.
"A key reform that pleased both Labor and the Progressive Alliance was the two public investment banks, the Australian Public Infrastructure Bank and the First Republic Private-Public Bank. The first has partnered with state and territory governments to provide key investment for projects, as well as the federal government. It's allowed the quickening of a Trans-Australia passenger train service from Perth to Melbourne, a remarkable achievement, connecting all of our major cities via the coast. The second has allowed for a start-up boom in Australia, and that has become very popular. Australia runs on a 4 year schedule but...."
Hillary, at that point, leaned in to Mr. Courtenay as well.
"We're thinking about surprising this totally confused National Party opposition and calling an early general election either at the end of this year or the beginning of 2019. A summer election benefits my Progressive Alliance and getting the vote out while winter helps the Nationals," said the Prime Minister with a cheeky grin.
Minister Bowen cut in, realising that Hillary wasn't going to talk about the neutrality ending.
"Yes, we're happy to end it. Australia has a role to play in the region and with Angleter, the United Kingdom, and the Duxburian Union and we were limited with what we could do. The Australian Defence Forces will definitely enjoy the boost in spending they will receive with the end of neutrality as well," Minister Bowen responded. "I do believe, Hillary, we ought to get these agreements written down and beat them into some kind of treaty. We also should touch more on details of perhaps, if not totally free, then fair trade, seeing as our currencies are on pretty even standing. I think some of Australia's products, both finished and raw, would be of interest of Angleter."
"Yes, I agree. I think there's certainly scope for a general reduction of tariffs and for their elimination on many, perhaps even most, products. We'd also be interested in reducing some non-tariff barriers to trade - mutual recognition of certain standards and some professional qualifications, for example."
"Free trade has always benefited Angleter in the past, and I have every confidence that liberalising trade between our nations can only be good for all involved."
"I'm glad that the Australian Government was able to come up with an arrangement that suits both of our nations..." Hillary began. She heard a cellphone ring and Minister Burke took the call outside of the room. "I apologise, but you know how it is in a coalition government...gotta keep everyone onside. I imagine it's something to do with Labor." Minister Bowen also left the room and both returned fairly quickly.
"Kevin wants to know if the deal has been done, because Labor want to have a meeting on some key policy issues tonight and he's saying it can't wait," Minister Bowen replied.
"Jesus, I cannot wait until we get a majority of our own," Mrs. Clinton sighed. She couldn't believe that Kevin had the audacity to interrupt such an important meeting. "I'm afraid my meeting will be cut short. The duties of Government call me back. I'm so sorry, but I would love to have you in Canberra. Good luck in your election as well, Prime Minister Courtenay."
Hillary outstretched her hand for a handshake.
"Hopefully we can continue to stay in power and work together for a positive, pragmatic centre-left future for our countries."
"Thank you, and good luck to yourself. I'd be delighted to come to Canberra after the elections, assuming all goes well. But in the meantime, yes, let's keep making Europe a better, more progressive place. It's been an absolute pleasure."