The Outback Ordeal
Northern Territory, Australia
After only just briefly returning to Saint Dominico for the evening following his state visit to Montenbourg, Archbishop Craticus suddenly found himself in Alice Springs, Australia. Over the course of a day, Craticus has traversed from the far north of the European Union to its far south. Despite this, Craticus' traveling was not close to being done yet. After the Archbishop's plane landed in the quaint, two-runway Alice Springs airport, he was escorted into a jeep that was to take him to the centrepiece of the Australian Outback - Uluru.
"How far do we have to drive?" Craticus asked as he buckled into his seat.
The chauffeur glanced at Craticus, holding his gaze for a second before a smile crept across his face. "Just over 450 kilometers. Not to worry, the 6 hours will go by in no time."
Craticus could barely discern the chauffeur's immensely thick bushman accent, but he understood the depressing news nonetheless. Craticus didn't verbally respond, instead giving an acknowledging nod. Craticus then gave a look to the Inquistan secret service agent in the passenger seat, and then another look at a secret service agent sitting to his left in the back. "So what kind of music are you guys into?" Craticus asked after observing the crowd. "Actually, I don't care. We have 6 hours. We're listening to all of Mama Mia! the Soundtrack."
That's how it was for the next while, Mamma Mia, Honey, Honey, Super Truper, Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! and Does Your Mother Know - all the hits.
Craticus managed to catch a moment of shut-eye before being awoken by the bumpiness of the road. Craticus carefully observed the scenery outside of the jeep window. It was nothing but desert and bush as far as the eye could see. The sky was bleached blue and not a single cloud could be seen in the horizon. Even though the jeep was well air conditioned, Craticus could feel the strength of the sun's rays pierce through the vehicle's windows. Craticus' olive Inquistan skin didn't mind the scratching sensation of the sun's rays, but he had a general personal preference for more milder weather. "It was so easily bearable up North," Cratius muttered under his breath. But, then again, Craticus realised that the North has winters. Craticus hated the winter. Thus, this would suffice. Craticus glanced at his watch and read the time. It was 3:25, and they had at least another three hours to go before arriving at Uluru. Craticus figured it would be time to prep for his meeting with Prime Minister Hillary Clinton. Craticus couldn't have any less respect for the Australian Prime Minister, whom he considers a corrupt charlatan. Craticus has spent much of his tenure as Archbishop attempting to uproot corruption out of Inquistan society, and he viewed establishment politicians with as much suspicion as he did with large corporations and banks. Hence, Craticus had little appreciation for Clinton, her controversies, her infamous foundation, or her friendliness with the business community. Furthermore, as a staunch social conservative with deeply fundamentalist religious beliefs, Craticus scorned her progressive social policies which have transformed Australian society in recent years. Besides all else, Craticus absolutely despised Clinton for having friendly relations with Councillor Edward Firoux, his arch-nemesis.
Despite all these personal differences, Craticus finds Australia to be a natural ally to Inquista. Their economies complimented each other perfectly, and Cratcius was keen to get at least get a free-trade agreement out of the summit. Craticus and Clinton also have two surprising areas of commonality: a desire for a greater humanitarian effort in Dromund Kaas, and a greater push for preserving and protecting the environment in the face of global climate change.
Craticus made a thorough read-through of all the Inquistan reports on Australia. Craticus even made sure to browse the Australian news on his phone and to make sure he had all the details on the latest Australian election and Clinton's new cabinet. Craticus took joy in knowing that his electoral success in February was totally unmatched everywhere else.
After several hours, Craticus could see Uluru from the jeep.
Craticus was stunned. He never saw anything so beautiful. Craticus marveled in the beauty of Uluru as the jeep continued to drive on the dirt road. The destination was actually at a distance on the other side of the massive rock, which left Craticus unsure of what sort of meeting place he was being driven to. Just as SOS, Money, Money, Money, and Dancing Queen finished playing for the seventh time on repeat, the armoured jeep suddenly came to a halt. Craticus stepped out of the jeep and noticed that they were virtually in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nothing but the outback and the beautiful silhouette of Uluru in the foreground. One of the secret service agents pointed to a makeshift patio that was erected as an ad-hoc meeting place. The patio was surrounded by a couple of white tents that were being attended to by dining caterers and servers. "What's this, a romantic dinner at dusk?" Craticus joked.
"Well, you brought the wine," the secret service agent replied nonchalantly. The agent then proceeded to give Craticus the Soldera wine he brought as a gift.
"It's exactly 100 years old as of this day," Craticus noticed. "I hope she likes Sangiovese. There's no way I'll be able to listen to her shrill voice without being sufficiently intoxicated."
The secret service agent actually laughed, despite Craticus not even joking this time. "Oh - blessed be Thy Lord - you just reminded me of her awful, terrible laugh. Please don't!" Craticus commanded. After taking a deep breath and readying himself for some frank and plain-spoken conversation, Craticus made his way to the meeting table and sat himself down. Clinton and her entourage were nowhere in sight, and the waiting staff who were buzzing around the small tents seemed to have paid no attention to the Archbishop. "Let's just hope the wench doesn't show me up - I can't afford to be ghosted on the first date," Craticus grinned.
Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
"Bill, I swear to God if you're going to keep making jokes all the way there, I'm throwing you out here and you can find your own way back," Prime Minister Hillary Clinton said while reading through her government folder of information of Inquista. She knew plenty about the established European stalwart nation: it was a theocratic democracy where the Inquistan Orthodox Church held significant power, and that the head of government indeed an Archbishop.
No. It was much more information than that she already knew.
'Bloody Paul', as she referred to him on more than a few occasions in conversations with Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education, Treasurer Chris Bowen, Foreign Minister Richard Marles, and Special Minister of State Tony Burke...he was quite an opposition figure in Clinton world. If she was a bonafide social progressive and economic radical centrist (the latter being her own branding, though by some accounts many would consider her leaning towards centre-right on economic policy), Paul Cracitus was a reactionary nationalist stuck in an idealised past.
"You know, I find it really interesting that the Inquistans just wanted Cracitus to come by himself," Richard said to the Prime Minister. The five of them were being transported in a stretch sport utility limousine with Hillary's husband in the seated in the front.
"Don't be fooled by that; when we are making a deal with Inquista, better to think of it as a deal with the people directly. Cracitus and the Government clearly are a bit out of step with the public, but their aggressive stance towards Inquista First policy..." Bill cautioned. Hillary rolled her eyes and was just about to cut him off when he continued. "Hillary, I know you don't want to hear my advice but I've been doing this with Hawke and Keating since the 80's. When I was Foreign Minister in the Keating Government, Inquista was really powering a lot of the European recovery from the last decade's slump and we have them to thank for the prosperity that Australia and the rest of Europe is enjoying, right alongside Belarum, Nazione Italiana, Angleter, and the Soviet Union. Without them, we'd have nothing."
Tanya looked at Hillary who simply said nothing and opened the minibar, pulled out a bottle of water for herself and began to drink it.
"Thought you'd go for the red, Hills," Tanya joked. Hillary couldn't help but laugh.
"No, not yet. I'm sure the love of wine has reached even a conservative like Paul Cracitus. I thought I'd better come without my breath reeking of the sauce. It's barely even dinner time as we speak," Hillary laughed. Chris and Tony giggled. The Gang of 5 of Hillary, Tanya, Chris, Richard and Tony were the core of the Second Clinton Government, the first Progressive Alliance government in Australian history, the previous two years being a means to an end through coalition. She felt comfortable in this group and both like she could trust their advice and was still in charge.
The radio of the stretch limousine, flanked by two Jeeps, was playing the best hits of Kylie Minogue and just got to the last chorus of 'I Should Be So Lucky' when they arrived at their destination. Uluru, the literal and figurative heart of Australia that donned back to the aboriginal owners of the land. The crowning achievement of the Clinton Government had been the reform of dispute handling among the rural Australians and aboriginal Australians and the establishment of the Native Title Court. Through that reform and the recognition of aboriginal Australians as the first owners of the land...she felt a restoration of the nation's heart had been truly achieved. Black Australia and White Australia could finally be relegated to history and a new, progressive future could be forged together and SHE accomplished that by willing it through the Labor Party.
"It never gets exhausting to see this beautiful view, does it?" Bill said to his wife, getting out of the car.
"No it does not," Hillary smiled. She turned to her left to see her husband offering his arm to her. She took it and walked together. "It's quite romantic and intimate. Shit luck we've got four hangers on and Paul Cracitus to cramp our style."
"Prime Minister, the Archbishop is here and waiting," one of the secret service agents from the Jeeps said to her. "We will meet our counterparts here and set up a perimeter."
"You forgot about them too," chuckled Tony, holding the gift that the Government of Australia had for the Archbishop of Inquista: a traditional boomerang, hand-carved and restored by one of the leading aboriginal boomerang makers in Queensland that had done so in his family for nearly 4,000 years.
"Oh, who can forget about Secret Service," Tanya commented. They found the dinner table set up with six additional places with Paul Cracitus sitting there.
"Behave," whispered Bill.
"I'm as behaved as this Argent couture pantsuit will allow," the Prime Minister answered back. Paul stood up to shake the Prime Minister's hand.
"Archbishop Cracitus, it is indeed a great honour that you have bestowed upon the Federal Republic of Australia. Pleasure to meet you," Hillary said politely, outstretching her hand for the leader of Inquista, beginning the first real contact between the two countries at the leader level in Australian history.
"Prime Minister Clinton, the pleasure is all mine" Craticus said as she shook Hillary's hand. Craticus then took a second to survey the rest of her entourage, feeling pleased that the Clinton administration would take this meeting seriously enough to warrant the core of her administration. "Ah, of course, the great Bill Clinton," Craticus continued as he then shook Bill's hand. After shaking Bill's hand, Craticus quickly wiped his own hand on his sleeve jacket. "I can only begin to imagine where you've put those, Mr. Clinton."
Thankfully Craticus had been brushing up on the latest political development in Australia, so he instantly recognized Deputy Prime Minister Plibersek, Treasurer Bowen, Minister Marles and Minister Burke. "A pleasure..." Craticus started as he took a moment to shake each of their hands.
"I really must thank all of you for having me. I know your administration is quite busy at work, and so is my current government, so I appreciate the reception and the time you have all taken to allow for this to happen. Australia is a beautiful country, and I can't think of a single summit I've had with a better view than this. Uluru is truly something special."
After everyone seated themselves, Craticus presented his gift to the Australians. "Australia and Inquista are both wine-producing countries, and I know wine is a personal favourite drink of yours, Prime Minister - can I call you Hillary? I'm going to call you Hillary - so I brought a bottle of Soldera wine for you. It's a hundred years old as of today. It's not for tonight... I understand you have a cellar with a fine wine collection? Hopefully it can find a home there. With that said, it's been a long day of travelling, so I hope we'll all be treated with drinks of our own very shortly."
Hillary didn't know whether to be offended or cackle at the fact that Cracitus had, in fact, implied that Bill was a womaniser.
'Oh...Monica...I'm still pissed off at you for ending my husband's career, but not as pissed off as I am whenever I remember Bill decided to cheat on me with a mattress and a corpse,' thought Hillary.
"Glad you could make it here," Hillary said out loud instead. Tanya looked at Hillary with a look reminiscent of getting a Christmas gift that was a surprise but exactly what she wanted. The men chuckled. They understood the lore that was Bill Clinton at Parliament Christmas parties and the Winter Ball.
"Hey, I bet you didn't say that to John Howard when you met him before '96 and let me tell you...I've got stories that would make your skin crawl about John Howard," Bill laughed.
Mrs. Clinton saw Cracitus handing her the gift of the Soldera red and she instantly felt better.
"Of course you can call me Hillary. Paul, if that's alright with you, I'd rather thought you to be a little more pious and even someone like you wouldn't bring wine as present. Then again, it is the blood of Christ when we take it for services, right?" Hillary commented. She tried to temper her urge to crack the bottle open immediately, though when the hired sommelier entered and opened it for her, she couldn't resist a sip.
The hors d'oeuvres arrived and the meal began.
"Paul, I have to admit...I didn't think I'd be having a dinner like this with you, but here we are. Inquista and Australia beyond its governments have little in common but much to share. While Australia is a vast nation with not as many people, Inquista is a populous one with not that much space. Your economy is the top of the EU and we're a distant fifth. However, we can still find things in common to share," Hillary began. "Even if you probably think I'm a progressive anti-Christ, and I think you're a nationalist right-wing crazy man. We can still get things accomplished for our nations. Why don't we start with what you feel Australia and Inquista line up on the most?"
“It is the blood of Christ, indeed,” Craticus answered rather seriously. “In the Inqusitan Orthodox faith, we share communion with everybody. We don’t turn anybody away, as we are all the Lord’s children - we all share the original Sin of mankind, and indeed, Christ died for all of us - so I can’t think of a gift that is more pious. A bottle of wine is a staple of the Inquistan way of life and plays an important role in the Inquistan Church.”
Craticus took a second to taste the various hors d'oeuvres before addressing Hillary’s question. “I appreciate the frankness in which you speak. You’ll probably feel relieved to know that I don’t consider you the anti-Christ, since that’s a term I reserve solely for Councillor Edward Firoux, who, for some reason, seems really determined to establish a United States of Europe under the rule of Europolis. While you and I certainly don’t see many things eye to eye, I share your sentiment that we can get things accomplished for our nations.
As for your question, I really think Inquista and Australia line up the most on trade. In fact, I can’t think of better trade partners for either of our countries other than each other. To illustrate this fact, I could sing a rendition of Advance Australian Fair, but I think I’ll save that for once I’ve finished my fourth drink. Australia is a land abound in nature's gifts, and Inquista is quite simply the biggest importing market there is. Inquista is not only the biggest market, but it is specifically the biggest importer of raw materials and agricultural products. I can assure you that Australia’s mining and agricultural industries will find no bigger and better marketplace for their goods than in Saint Dominico. Likewise, the best thing Inquista has to offer Australia is our financial capital. As I understand, your government has made great strides in investing in infrastructure projects, which has even resulted in the creation of an investment bank. Whether it be expanding rail links, such as that between Perth and Melbourne, or investments in energy and cleaner mining technology, or even ways to making Australian agriculture more competitive, Inquistan investors have more than enough means, resources and expertise to take these ambitions to an even higher level.”
Craticus exchanged looks with both Treasurer Bowen and Minister Marles before continuing. “Eliminating tariffs between our countries could potentially produce once of the largest trade partnerships Europe has ever seen. Inquistan investors will happily invest in any market that can turn them a profit. The Australian markets certainly present a great opportunity, and they will only grow even larger should they have unfettered access to Inquista’s hungry need for resources. Which of course - and I won’t sugar coat this - will provide your producers with much more profit, while Inquistan investors will make some great dividends. It’s a win-win.”
Treasurer Bowen took time away from the prosciutto and mozzarella to address the economic discussion taking place between the Prime Minister and the Archbishop.
"Archbishop Cracitus, I will probably not be as frank as the Prime Minister but we do see the immense potential in both Australian raw materials, agricultural products, and even some finished manufactured products as well. Saint Dominico has always been a huge destination like London and Verington for finance and has blossomed into perhaps the premier destination. We would be delighted to open Australian financial markets to Inquistan firms," Minister Bowen said.
Hillary watched as Chris, in his usual polite manner, decided it would be best to get down to business before the salad had even been served. On cue, a Mediterranean kale salad with feta cheese made in South Australia and chickens from New South Wales made its way to the table. A Tasmanian riesling made its way to the table, a perfect pairing to the sharpness and zip of the kale salad.
"Yes, yes, Chris...it's all good but we've barely gotten to the salad course. Let's save business for later," Hillary replied. Tanya and Tony looked at each other.
"Of course, Prime Minister," Chris answered politely, looking on at Hillary.
"I do believe we do have something in common and that is, in fact, our style of government, Paul. I believe fully that you run a tight ship and expect your ministers to get onside with your vision that you have brought to the party and to the people. I can appreciate that and indeed govern that way. Of course, in a cabinet there are opinions and what not but ultimately it is us who must decide what is right for our people. So, tell me, since we're being frank, how has it been having such a vociferous opposition in Inquista? I know in Australia the other side of the isle likes to treat me like a political effigy. I was wondering if it was the same in Inquista?" Hillary asked.
"...Oh, Hillary, that's not necessarily the kind of conversation you want to have at dinner..." Tanya began, feeling the mortified looks of Richard, Chris, and Tony piercing through her as if to get her to say something else.
"I think it is, Tanya. We can't all be angels, right?" Hillary asked. "I didn't ask if he wanted to banish them to a labour camp. I simply want to know what his opinion is of the other side of politics in Inquista."
Craticus smiled and looked at both Hillary and Tanya. "It's really alright, Tanya. Not to worry at all."
Craticus enjoyed a bite from the Mediterranean kale salad and took a sip from the riesling.
"I actually think you're onto something, Hillary. Banishing political opponents to labour camps does have an appeal," Craticus joked, albeit with a stoic expression. "Would Tasmania be open to this? It could double nicely as an attempt to re-create Australia's colonial heritage as a penal colony while creating a new type of prison industry. Bill, surely you'd find a prison industry intriguing?"
Craticus took another sip from his riesling.
"In all seriousness, I thank you for respecting how I run my government. It's very important to run a tight ship, especially if you want to be an effective team. I have found that particularly important since Inquista's election in February, because my caucus has significantly increased in size. My Secretariat, which is basically an equivalent to a cabinet, is very diverse and is a broad tent in terms of ideology and beliefs. There are many different opinions, but we know when to advocate for them and when not to. The key is to not micromanage each secretary. Every cog has to be in its place in order for it to run properly. If all cogs are in place, then I won't intervene in their affairs. If one does begin to slow down or become rusty, then I'll manage it before it begins slowing another one down. But, for the most part, each one does their job perfectly fine.
In terms of the opposition, the situation is very similar to what you describe. As our government is indeed the Church of Inquista, I believe it should be a wholly united front, or at least it should seem totally united publicly. Of course, there always will be, and there should be, disagreement in the College of Bishops. But I find it utterly ludicrous whenever Bishops come out and openly criticize each other so indignantly, and I find even it more contemptuous when they feel they can attack me so brazenly. I do not suggest that the head of state, head of government - or even in this case, the head of a religion - is immune from scrutiny, but I mean to suggest that our Church shouldn't fall prey to looking publicly divided or showing open contempt for our own clergymen. I've dealt with a lot of serious verbal attacks throughout my tenure from many different people, even including other foreign leaders. I'm not sure if you are familiar with this Inquistan bishop named Karinn Lallana, but she's a particular nuisance. Imagine if Australia's Greens were led by an even more extreme but left-wing version of Bob Katter with the IQ of Pauline Hanson. Despite the many things I could say about her, I have an official policy of never responding to any condemnations that are thrown towards me. In fact, I make a point of never engaging in any spats or feuds whatsoever. I've made it known that I am willing to talk to anyone in my caucus, or anyone not part of my government, but I will do it behind closed doors and I will never rise to any sort of goading or agitation. I will only ever have proper discussions, like this one.
So, in that sense, I fully empathize with how you are treated. I can only imagine you have a much harder time though, since women seem to face almost double the amount of scrutiny men must face in public service. When I recently put-together my secretariat, it happened to turn out that half of my appointees were women. The number one thing they all have in common, or at least as they told me, is their daily ridicule on social media. This is something I don't really follow myself, but even some of my most senior male secretaries couldn't really attest to having to deal with this themselves, so it was remarkable to see all the women come forward on the subject. I imagine it must be the same for yourself and your cabinet?"
Hillary had to fight back a huge snort at the question Cracitus asked her.
"Yes, I know all too well that this is a lot to do with my gender. By going through the parliamentary party that is the Progressive Alliance and making this Cabinet, I did my best to look at the merits and work that each one of the candidates for jobs in the Cabinet worked on regardless of gender. The result was a near parity of females in Government, working with me. Indeed it's not just myself but Tanya and others as well. The only woman that I seem to notice is getting fair coverage throughout the region is Theresa May, which I envy quite a lot. It's a learning process and I'm so lucky to have many male allies who do understand this reality," Hillary explained.
The salad was taken away for the main course. Some of the plates were with chicken caprese, some were simple pasta with red sauce, and some were sous vide steak. Hillary found herself wanting the chicken caprese while Tanya, a noted vegetarian, went for the pasta with red sauce.
"I am quite excited to see that you two are getting on so well," Bill smiled. "I got worried we'd have to hold you two back while you clawed each other's eyes out."
"Turns out as long as people are decent and find the humanity between each other, we can relate," Tanya smiled. Hillary rolled her eyes.
"All that Zen meditation working out for you, Tanya?" Hillary joked. "Anyway, why don't we start getting into some business. Minister Bowen started to talk areas of trade where we want to do business. Why don't we start at the top and do a more general statement. I think the removal of additional tariffs on products to and from our nations is something we can all agree on. From there, whatever you do with GST or VAT you can do. From there, we can talk about any particular sector of the economy you want to get into. How does that sound for a start, Paul?"
Craticus, who has been a vegetarian since 2016, made due with the pasta and red sauce. As an Inquistan, his expectation for a decent pasta was quite high. Craticus silently sighed to himself as he dug into the pasta. In all honesty, Craticus was expecting the worst. Craticus’ eyes lit up as he took a bite. He was surprised. The pasta was cooked to a perfect degree and the red sauce was splendid. “Whose Inquistan Nana made this?” Craticus thought to himself. Craticus enjoyed the banter between Hillary and Tanya as he continued to dig into his meal. Once Mister Bowen and Hillary brought the discussion back to business, Craticus finished his glass of riesling and gestured for another one.
“It sounds great, I’m always happy to discuss trade. Although, considering I’m willing to propose something more grand and holistic, I’m not entirely sure if we need to discuss it bottom-up or sector by sector.”
Once another glass of riesling arrived, Craticus made sure to take a large sip before continuing. He wasn't sure if the Australian delegation was ready for what he had to offer.
“Frankly, I believe an area of complete free-trade between Inquista and Australia would be most beneficial. I should have made this clear from the start, instead of just highlighting the mining and agricultural sectors, but I was just merely using those as very specific examples to ignite discussion. In reality, all sectors stand to benefit greatly between our economic partnership. As I highlighted earlier, the Australian and Inquistan economies are practically made for each other.
With that said, do not take what I’m proposing lightly, because what I’m proposing could hopefully form the basis of something greater in the future. A proposed area of complete free-trade was once discussed at a summit between the so-called G6 of Inquista, the Duxburian Union, Angleter, the United Kingdom, Halsberg and Miraco. Ultimately, nothing came of that summit. However, I believe, at the very least, Australia and Inquista could make progress where those discussions failed. Should Australia and Inquista commit to complete free-trade, a foundational start for an eventual customs union could come down the road. The eventual, hypothetical customs union could then be expanded over time to include other efficient and trustworthy economies.”
Minister Bowen was shocked at the offer being so open. He nearly dropped his fork onto the ground. Hillary and Tony looked at each other and giggled.
"I think we know someone is on board now," Tony joked.
"Yes, it's quite an amazing offer, Paul, and I can't see how any Australian Government, Progressive Alliance, National or Labor, could say no to that," Hillary said to Cracitus. "We of course would be delighted to enjoy a free-trade zone between Australia and Inquista across all of our sectors of the economy. It will be the start of a huge boom in both of our economies both on the side of competitiveness and consumer choices."
The dinner continued and as Hillary continued to tuck in to her caprese, she remembered Cracitus' comment.
"Well, Australia is a huge country of immigrants, and our chef tonight came from Inquista. In fact, Inquistans make up a huge part of Australian immigrant community and greater society, as many came in earlier decades and have left a remarkable impact on our nation. I'm just glad that this, the Australian winter technically, has been warm enough for us to do this outside but not so hot as to make it unbearable," Hillary commented. Bill pat her on the shoulder, a twinkle in his eye. He was enjoying his wife's turn as Prime Minister, a job that he wanted for so many years and was beaten out of existence by Paul Keating when Prime Minister Hawke retired, giving way to the right of the Labor Party following Bill and making their own political party, the Progressive Alliance. Now, what started as a few rebels of the Labor Right in 1992 turning into a government in 2018.
"Paul, I don't know if you've had a chance to visit Australia like this before, but I hope you don't have to go back quickly. I recommend touring Queensland before you go home. It's the heart of Australia. Yes, New South Wales and Victoria are better known in the region thanks to the success of Sydney and Melbourne, but Queensland is really where you get a true sense of Australian life. Even Pauline's hometown of Ipswich has a charm to it, despite our difference in politics," Bill offered. Hillary brought the wine to her face and held it to her lips for an uncomfortably long time.
'Pauline...that bitch...' Hillary thought to herself. 'The one who is a menace to her own gender most of the time.'
Tanya stamped her foot lightly on Hillary's as if to get her to put the glass of wine down.
"Something we've found, Archbishop Cracitus...I hope it's alright if I call you Paul as well," Tanya began, "is that Australia and Inquista both are keen to work on environmental issues together, and I think an alliance on that front could show real progress. For example, our dinner tonight is being powered by solar panels and the produce and livestock were both organic and responsibly farmed. It is absolutely a key tenet of this government to grow international action to act on climate change. We only have one planet to live on, so we ought to take care of it."
“I would love to take time to explore a bit more of Australia before heading back to Inquista. I have only ever heard great things about your country, and from what I have seen thus far, I would say it has far surpassed my already high expectations. Queensland does sounds fantastic in particular. I was already planning on visiting the Gold Coast in the next Inquistan winter, but I could pay Ipswhich an early visit.”
It was at this point that Craticus finished his second glass of Riesling and asked for another. Once he received his next glass, he continued to sip between all the talking.
“I had no idea that this dinner was organized in such an environmentally friendly way. I really appreciate that. I totally agree to your proposal, and would like to see our countries form a coalition on environmental action. As an immense importer of food, finding and identifying organic, GMO-free and responsibly farmed products is very important to Inquista, not only in terms of our maintaining good public health, but also in terms of saving our planet. We would like to see action be taken in that regard, as well as in the production of greener energy. We would like to see targets placed for higher investments in green technology, and also targets set for a reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions.”
"At the European level, we will back proposals for climate change agreement that is stronger than what we've had," Mrs. Clinton said. "The federal government is committed to protecting the fragile ecosystems of Australia and all of Europe and our natural beauty is only a short moment away from vanishing. We must work to make sure we keep this blue marble as beautiful as we possibly can."
The dinner continued and while Tony held conversation with Bill and Chris, Tanya looked over at Hillary.
"Well, I think that's all of our policy proposals taken care of. How about another personal question. Paul, what do you think of the Australian political system at large. You saw us move from a true Commonwealth nation of the United Kingdom into a nation where we elect all positions in our government, including the head of state. You've also seen us move to a mixed member proportional system and the resulting election that had us in coalition and the next one which increased our vote share but still gave us a technically minority government. What do you think?"
"I definitely think there was wisdom in Australia transitioning from a Commonwealth nation to a nation of full independence. In terms of political philosophy, the transition has delivered democratic sovereignty into the hands of the Australian people. This is something that I appreciate. It's not just a symbolic gesture, though. This has provided some strategic boons. It has not only allowed for the government of Australia to have more room for strategic maneuvering, but it has also allowed for the government to further adapt. The creation of a presidency, for instance, wouldn't have happened without it. A strong executive office always produces the best and most efficient results, so I'm inclined to approve of this sort of change. Despite this, I can't say that I like the adoption of mixed-member proportional system. I don't find that is works particularly well with the changes in the executive structure of government. As is the current case, it tends to result in the need to form coalitions."
Craticus took a bite of food and then looked at his Australian colleagues with a smirk..
"Coalitions? Don't know her. Coalitions within a presidential system are too volatile for my tastes. First-past-the-post was fine as it was, in my personal opinion. I'm curious, though. Why did you decide to support a change to mixed-member proportional?"
Hillary felt highly conflicted. She supported the republic and the adoption of a president to replace the monarchy as head of state. Mixed member proportional, however....
"I think the choice while we were voting on whether not to be a republic was presented to the people. In Australia, we had some degree of third party representation through the two party preferred vote, which still carries on in the constituency races. This allowed preferences to flow from one party to another until two candidates remain, at which point, majority rules. I'm not as big of a fan of the MMP system, but the people wanted their voices and their parties heard more in a more strong choir. As a result, the lower house has gotten more volatile and prone to conflict, which has actually made governing a lot more focused. We are able to build our manifesto and then directly build consensus. Part of what drove that was the Labor and National duality and how it seemed over time that people never were listened to in that system.
"What we've got now is a system that accurately shows what the people want, and while it has given us quite the possibility to rise to prominence, it also has denied us majorities where first past the post probably would have delivered us a majority government on these numbers. It also would have been impossible for us to make our rise as people would have probably looked at Labor instead in that first past the post, two party preferred system.
"Our presidential system is a bit different, as it's largely filling the role of the monarch in a constitutional monarchy with some more power. The President has more of a say in appointments on his own to the court system, the President through the Cabinet can command the Australian Defence Forces in a more direct way than, say, the King of the UK. With his own electoral mandate as well, the President can suggest legislation to the Cabinet and of course, he is the top civil servant and runs the Australian Civil Service. It's a little more interesting and in my conversations with Theresa, she actually finds it quite fascinating."
"I'm not surprised at all that you'd find Theresa May receptive to talking about the inner workings of various political systems. The moment you discuss anything remotely normal with her - the weather, prices of petrol, the latest blockbuster movie - she sort of short circuits," Craticus said as he mimed robotic movements. "But politics? That gets her electrical wires running.
What you're saying is interesting. Now that you've experienced some time with some of Australia's political reforms, do you intend to keep them or do you plan on making any additional changes? I hear that the Senate is still causing you a headache."
Tony and Chris looked at each other before staring at Tanya. That was a sticking point with the Rudd-led Labor partners, and perhaps Hillary was thinking about it as well as certainly she was thinking about the next Senate election, which would see half the Senate elected next year.
"You know, I'd like to see the Senate be elected only by group ticket voting, so that the process is simpler. Essentially it's a preferential vote for the party and you have to number the choices. That would really help tremendously. The quota has helped a great deal as well, with it being 11% since 15 divides into classes of 8 and 7 for each of the states' Senators, and 33% for the territories' Senators," Hillary said to the Archbishop. "That will help streamline the electoral process and I will advocate for putting the independents together as a group as well. However, the reality of the minority is that we only have to get a small number of seats in both houses to swing along with us. The Centre Alliance and the Greens look willing to play, and if they're on board, it'll be likely that the independents and Katter will come with us. Bob is a tough biscuit though, and he'll be an interesting vote to get."
Dessert was brought onto the table, a refreshing fruit trifle or a decadent chocolate cake were the choices. Hillary went with the fruit trifle while Tanya tucked into the chocolate cake.
"I do believe we've managed to cover many details here, Paul. I know our politics are very, very different but it's nice to see us cooperate at least in the capacity as leaders of our two nations. I wish you all the best of luck in your endeavours in the future and hope that we will meet again as pragmatic, sensible leaders who can put aside differences and find the commonality between our nations."
Craticus took a bite from his fruit trifle while he nodded in agreement. Craticus then took a sip of water, cleared his throat, and addressed Hillary.
"Of course. I would like to thank you for generously hosting me. This meeting here, at the extraordinary Uluru, has indeed been extraordinary. While we don't always see eye-to-eye, it is assuring to know that the partnership between Inquista and Australia supersedes all political boundaries. As you say, there are many commonalities between our nations, and I believe that we have proven that steadfast cooperation can be forged as long as we look to unite those commonalities."
Then looking at the rest of the Australian delegation separately, Craticus thanked them.
"Thank you, Tanya, Chris, Richard and Tony for also hosting me. You have all been delightful and very welcoming this evening. Should any of you find yourselves in Saint Dominico, please let me know, and I will make sure you are taken care of."
Craticus then gave Bill his side-eye.
"Oh... and how could we forget Bill? You are certainly welcome in Inquista as well, Bill. Just remember, God is watching you in Inquista. Keep that ring on."