House of Clinton
27 October 2016
Kirribilli House, Sydney
The wind carried the sweet scent of spring to the doors of the Prime Minister’s residence in Sydney. It was a place full of history and tradition, though not oft used by Prime Ministers. Malcolm Turnbull used his own residence in Sydney, seeing Kirribilli as a place where he would be “slumming it”.
‘He had such contempt,’ said Bill Clinton, the husband of the Prime Minister, while opening a cigar box. He took one out and found a lighter. The slow burn at the end, ignited by each breath, glowed a brighter orange with flickers of red before he let out a sigh. ‘This place isn’t bad at all. It just needs a bit of redecorating.’
“Hillary!” he called out. Mrs. Clinton walked in, holding a whisky glass with the amber liquid swirling a bit once she stopped.
“Bill, if you’re going to do that when we’re here, I’m going back to Canberra. I get enough of that when I’m there,” Mrs. Clinton responded. Bill laughed, but it soon contorted back when it became clear Hillary was rather drawing up which part of her husband’s body would be chopped off once they returned to the Parliament.
“Honey, I was just wondering what time we were going to go to the Opera House,” he responded in between puffs. Hillary looked on at him with the cigar in his hand.
“Seven. Bill, if you can’t quit the habit, at least do it on the porch,” Hillary responded. “I’ve been on the phone with Tony since we drove, not flew, to Sydney and I’d like to just relax before then. God knows they will be wondering what on earth I’m wearing to this thing. It’s just a fucking concert.”
“Darling, I know. But there’s one good thing about it,” Bill responded.
“What?” asked Hillary in an apprehensive tone.
“You’re gonna be escorted by the most handsome man in the joint,” he joked. Hillary couldn’t help but smile. Bill stood up and was about to give her a kiss but…
“Please, not after you’ve been smoking one of those,” Hillary said, settling for a peck on the cheek. “I have to go into the office in Parramatta for a small moment this afternoon. I won’t be very long. Is Keating coming over?”
“Yeah, Paul is,” Bill said about his guest, the famed Labour Treasurer and Prime Minister. “He owes me after he stole my ideas on the economy. I told him: liberalise your economic views, and you and Hawke will be in Government for a generation.”
“Yes, honey, it was your big idea,” Hillary said with a chuckle. “We know.”
“That’s why I started the Progressive movement and took over that Labour Right, and even some of the Labour Left,” Bill continued.
5 February 1983 – Canberra
‘Kookaburras always made the same call every single morning, like clockwork,’ thought a somewhat pudgy, tall lad said as he walked through the halls of the Old Parliament House. It was much smaller than the proposed new building, which could efficiently house all the MPs and Senators, including the influx of 25 new MPs due to come in the proposed boundary changes in 1986. This guy was a little-known aide at the time, Bill Clinton.
He walked into the Parliament House, the day after the double dissolution election was called, which would normally be a time when political aides would be flying out to different parts of the country with the MP that they were helping. This one was different though. He was helping the Leader of the Opposition, Labour’s Bob Hawke. The other aides wandering around and the odd Parliamentarian that was still in Canberra seemed to at least know who he was enough to not be bothered by his presence. He walked into the Opposition’s party room and found the Opposition leader sitting. He held a glass in his hand.
“Bill!” Hawke said to the young aide. “How’s it going?”
“I was going to ask you the same thing, but clearly you’ve done me one better Bob,” said Bill. He was in his 30s, and was clearly the oldest of the aides to the Labour Party, but he enjoyed his job nonetheless. It was steady work, consistent work in a field he loved for a party he enjoyed.
“I was going to tell you; you’ve worked your guts out for Labour here in Canberra for almost 5 years and you’ve done well with the job. Do you have any other ambitions?” asked Mr. Hawke, continuing to relax while thumbing through some files.
Bill couldn’t really form enough words in his head. Hawke waited patiently until stepping in again, chuckling at the silence from the stunned aide.
“We were thinking; you’ve earned your stripes as my aide for many years…come with me. Work on the campaign with me; we need more people like you on the trail, helping us gut out the victory in this double dissolution election. We’ve got a chance to unseat Fraser. But only if we are in touch with the Australian people. You grew up in South Australia, had a hard-scraggly life at home, got involved in the grassroots of Labour. You’re the perfect kind of person to be a part of the campaign team with me and Paul and the rest of the team. I’ve gotta ask though…are you ready to work for me as Prime Minister?”
There was no hesitation this time.
“Of course!” Bill smiled from ear to ear. He was ready to campaign for four years, but settled for the frenetic four-week campaign to the election. March 5th couldn’t come soon enough.
27 October 2016 - Sydney
Mrs. Clinton enjoyed quiet times to herself, which seemed to happen fewer and farther between lately. She managed to pick out her dress for the evening, something that she was sure the Australian media had never seen her wear (forgetting when Bill was Leader of the Progressive Party in the 1990’s she wore many dresses, skirt suits, and other ensembles). It was a shirtwaist, fuchsia, silk, floor-length gown. She put it on and began combing her hair once more before selecting an understated necklace to go with it.
‘Yes…I’m sure they’d like it if I ditched the pants today and wore a gown,’ she thought. ‘This fuchsia one should do the trick. Can’t do too much bling though. God only knows they think I’m already the corruption queen. The media would overblow my choice in necklace.’
“Honey; the Commonwealth car is here to take us to the Opera House,” Bill said, knocking on the door. Hillary turned around and stood in front of her husband in the gown.
“Well; how do I look?” Hillary asked, feeling about as insecure as she felt before the two were married. She hadn’t worn a dress like this in so many years.
“Just as beautiful as the day I first met you,” Bill sighed. He was wearing a standard tuxedo. “I thought I’d try and look presentable, but you’ve got me beat again. I’ll settle for second best dressed.”
Hillary couldn’t help but smile again. She walked over to him and the two wandered downstairs and out the front door, Hillary locking it behind her, before heading into the Commonwealth car. The special car was waiting and the two got in.
“Oh, did I tell you that Paul, Malcolm, and Tanya are all going to be at this thing?”
Hillary groaned before closing her eyes.
“Please, Bill…I wanted at least a tiny break from seeing Malcolm and Tanya,” she said to her husband. The driver said nothing but struggled to conceal a cheeky grin from the front seat. He was used to Mrs. Clinton complaining about Tanya Plibersek. “Just one fucking day away from Canberra politics, please. We’re supposed to be enjoying the concert!”
“We will, but you know Tanya. She always has to say hello even if you don’t want her to,” Bill responded. “I think I’d rather take Malcolm to be honest.”
“No; at least Tanya’s a friend. Did you ever get her that job at the ABC?” Hillary asked.
“Tried to; she did ghastly in her interview and trial down at Broadcasting House. Terrible; worse than anything they’d ever seen before,” Bill chuckled. “I asked Donald McDonald if he could do anything to save the poor girl because she’s at least earnest and he said in his Western Australia bogan accent: ‘Bill, I can’t help the sheila. She’s deader than the Green Party in Queensland.”
“You never told me that,” Hillary said.
“You never asked,” grinned Bill.
October 5, 2016
Government House, Sydney
Mrs. Clinton hated her meetings with Julia. Not because she and Julia couldn't or wouldn't get along. They did very well, but it was more or less a large distraction from what her agenda was going to achieve with or without her help. The Presidency simply replaced what would be the Sovereign in Australia, the Governor-General, and had not been tremendously influential in politics yet. The President could, in theory, veto a law and send it back to the Senate for review before it went back to the House of Representatives. Julia never did. She seemed to be guided by some principle that she would not be appropriate in doing so because she did not have a mandate from the people. Hillary clutched her Commonwealth bag, the bag issued by the Australian Civil Service for all members of the Government and the President, and got out of the car and walked into the beautiful Government House in Sydney. The President was waiting for her just inside the door before peaking out. The two women in pantsuits greeted each other.
'God, Julia...get your jackets refitted, dear. They're too drawn in still,' Mrs. Clinton thought to herself while shaking the hand of President Gillard.
"Julia!" Hillary grinned.
"Hillary, how's it going? So glad you could make it on the way through," Ms. Gillard said in her inimitable South Victorian accent. "Could I interest you in tea and an iced vovo?"
"Oh, that sounds really nice," Mrs. Clinton said. She did like Julia, she once again thought to herself, but there's only so much courteous conversation she could handle.
"So, what's going on in the Government? How's Tanya and the like?" President Gillard said to Hillary once the doors were closed and all press (the few of the political press corps who showed up) were left at the door.
"Tanya's fine; we're still working out our policy on the Native Title Court and the carbon trading scheme. We're trying to get it done Julia," Hillary said to Julia, following behind the President. The air shifted slightly as the mention of the emissions trading scheme was brought up. Labour ran on that under Kevin Rudd, and it haunted Julia Gillard for the rest of her tenure as Prime Minister. "It was the first thing I wanted to get back from the Conservatives."
"I'm glad to see you still trying to work on that. I read that the Government is looking at some decent economic growth numbers as well, and that the Australian Citizen's Income programme is going alright. There was one concern that I had," the President began. "What are you going to do to fund the Defence Force. As a neutral country, we may not be a belligerent, but you can still defend Australia and of course we have to look at the funding for the Border Police as well. I know that the Budget Update is coming in December from Wayne."
The women began to discuss the finer points of policy, and Hillary found herself at home with Julia. What she appreciated about the President was the fact that she was a good wall to bounce ideas off of, much more than the Cabinet at times. She never seemed unprepared, she always seemed to be ready to push Hillary beyond her own comfort zone. Getting lost in one of the finer policy points in the native title discussion, there was a knock on the door.
"Excuse me, Prime Minister," said an aide to the President. "Your husband has made his way inside, and he was wondering if he could be privy to both of you after your meeting was finished." Hillary said nothing but her eyes told of the deep sense of having to take care of children, while Julia could only laugh.
"That's why I never married, Hillary," President Gillard giggled. "Sure, we can all have dinner here then. That is, of course, unless you have somewhere to go Hillary."
Mrs. Clinton stood and grinned. She knew that Julia had stuck her in a most impossible spot of difficulty, and rather than talk herself out of it, she resigned herself to the fate of having dinner with Julia and Bill.
"Sure; will anyone else be here?"
"Just Tim....oh, take a wild guess who happened to show up and wanted to come to dinner?" Julia began.
"If you tell me it's Paul Keating or Rob Oakeschott, I may kill you..." responded.
"In my defence, I didn't know Rob was coming!" the President said quickly before Hillary let out a loud groan. That was the last person she wanted to see was Rob Oakeschott. "I owed him one from when he helped us out in Government, Hillary!"
"You're lucky I consider you a close friend!" Hillary said to Julia in an exasperated manner before flinging her bag across the drawing room, somehow managing not to knock something over.
August 27, 1984 - Canberra
Bill walked into the Prime Minister's Office at the federal Parliament building to the sound, or at least he was going to, when he stopped himself a bit around the corner, listening to the conversation that was unfolding in the PMO.
"...I understand that you like him, but I don't trust his judgement," said a familiar voice. The matter of fact speaking, the directness. "He helped us win two elections, I know. He's got a grasp on the Australian people and he's obscenely smart, but I don't trust his judgement on policy. He doesn't receive the briefings, he doesn't know everything ministers know."
Bill knew that voice anywhere: Paul Keating. He opposed everything that Bob wanted to do for him. Paul was against Bill getting selected for Port Adelaide (which he did, in fact, win his seat). He was against putting Bill as a Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. Bob had talked after this second election, which secured a Labour majority government. A Cabinet job. A proper Cabinet minister job so that he could continue to rise in the ranks as a Labour politician and one day be one of the bright young hopes to lead the federal Labour Party.
"If you marginalise him, we've got no one on the side to promote the party!" said Bob's voice in a brusque tone, obviously getting more and more upset that there was strong opposition from the ambitious Treasurer. "Who are the up and coming stars of Labour?"
"Look at Queensland's Labour candidates in the past....that bloke they sent to diplomatic post in London...Kevin Rudd. He's got a good mind on him," Paul began.
"He won't amount to a thing. Mark my words, Bill Clinton is the future of Australia one way or another. A mind this sharp on politics and willing to outflank his opponents needs to be kept close to the cards or else..."
"Or else what, Bob?" asked Paul. "Don't you get the feeling that Bill is going to usurp the throne once he gets the chance?"
"The same feeling I get from you?" Bob quipped. "Anyway, I'm going to offer him a job in Cabinet and you would be keen to not get in his way." Paul stormed out of the room, seemingly unaware that Bill was standing in almost plain sight but then he stopped and turned back around. He looked at Bill and got very close and personal, threatening in a manner. Bill stood, having the advantage of being taller than Paul, unflinching.
"Clinton...I run the Cabinet. You may have worked well with us to win the election, but I will remind you that I've been in Parliament and I've been in politics before you even had the idea," Paul said through gritted teeth. "Cross me, and you will be on the backbench again faster than you can say 'vegemite'."
"Good thing I don't take vegemite on my toast," Bill answered back. "We'll see whose ideas become the ones that we follow." Paul stormed off and Bill walked into Bob's office.
"G'day, Mr. Hawke," Bill replied in his folksy manner.
"Bill! Oh, call me Bob...you've known me long enough now," Bob said to the new MP for Port Adelaide. "Listen, I'm glad you could come up before we go to the Party Room. I wanted to ask you...you've done so much for Labour so far in your short career; your guidance has won us two back to back elections, one after a couple of referendum results that swung against us. You've become an MP..."
"Well, thanks to selection giving me a safe seat," Bill chimed in.
"I can't thank you enough, and I think so highly of your opinion and your star. You're one of the hopes of the side...a real talent for Labour in the future. That kind of talent needs a suitable job, and I want to peg you as Minister for Workplace Relations," Bob said, handing Bill a Government bag.
"Thank you so much, Bob..." Bill replied.
"My absolute pleasure, Bill," Bob answered, getting up and patting Bill on the back. "Watch out for Paul though; he's ambitious and one of the sneakiest sons of bitches I've known."
"Noted," Bill grinned. "I did take to him pretty well on the campaign trail though back in '83."
"Friends aren't really what you want in politics, anyway. Allies, yes. But friendships last as long as you can do something for them....remember that."
3 July 2017
The Clinton Household, Sherwin St.
Henley, Sydney, New South Wales
"When is Chelsea coming in?" Hillary asked. She was holding a tray of finger foods, arranged playfully while the Prime Minister and her husband stayed at their constituency home. The weather was beautiful, a gorgeous 20C with barely a cloud in the sky. The two were on the private, master bedroom balcony, looking out at the sunrise. Hillary watched as Bill shuffled over in a bathrobe and slippers, both a shade of green.
"I don't know; but it's good to be home. Not at the Lodge, not at Kirribilli House," Bill responded.
"You mean around the corner at Kirribilli," Hillary giggled. "There were many a time that people of power could come visit us if they really wanted to, and they did!" Hillary turned and Bill turned to embrace her closely. "No, not yet; we both have morning breath. Let me at least brush my teeth first." Bill frowned.
"Awww, come on Hillary. It's a beautiful sunrise....it's just the kind of romance that we keep missing out on at the Lodge," Bill groaned. Hillary said nothing but pecked her husband on the cheek rather than on the lips.
"Trust me, you'll thank me for the suggestion later; besides, I think we've got Tanya coming by again by breakfast, too," Hillary smiled. She walked into the living area; she and Bill preferred the larger bedroom space of the bed on the second floor. She simply stood; the phone didn't ring, nothing happened. The country had been running smoothly now that she's at home. She largely became Caretaker Minister, keeping in check with permanent secretaries and colleagues as she was on winter recess until August. The fast pace of Canberra and the slowness of suburban Sydney life couldn't have been more in contrast of each other.
The kitchen was the place that Hillary felt the most at ease. She opened the refrigerator and pilled out various fruits, vegetables, a rasher of bacon, eggs, and orange juice. Reaching into the pantry above her, she decided on pancakes. Lost in her own thoughts, she got cooking away, and the fanciful smells of breakfast attracted Bill into the kitchen and dining area.
"Smells good," Bill said, now having put on normal clothes. "Isn't it nice to be away from all the politics?"
"You didn't say that when we moved into this house back in 1991," Hillary grumbled.
"Well...I wasn't a big fan of what happened in 1991, if I recall correctly," Bill replied.
Canberra - June 1991
"Why did you do that, for fuck's sake, Paul!?" bellowed Bill. It wasn't the first time that the Cabinet Room was where Bill started yelling, but he had been more than pissed off after what happened that day.
"Because I had no other choice; I think he's gone off it now!" Paul yelled back, starting to turn redder than the apples in the basket off to the side. "Bob is gonna take this government off a cliff edge and we'll lose to the Nats if we don't get it under control!"
"So you're the one to do it; not warn Cabinet, not tell anyone. Just GO AND DO IT ALL BY YOUR SELF!" Bill shouted back. "I mean, shit, people used to call me the ambitious one but you really take the fucking cake, Paul."
The two stood in angry silence, aides walking past the Cabinet Room hurriedly.
"What did you expect me to do; watch as we go into the next election and lose?" Paul asked. "I know that this recession that Australia is..."
"Your bloody fault; I was with you on the deregulation, floating the dollar, capital gains tax, but the ideas you're putting forward aren't going to work for the country," growled Bill. "Let's not even get to the fact that you stole all of those from me back in 1984 to give Bob the support from the Right."
"Christ, that's what this is about, isn't it?" Paul grumbled. "You're upset that it says Treasurer, Paul Keating on the government sheet while you're just Foreign Minister; I get it. You wanted to stay at home with Hillary and Chelsea."
"It's not about them!" It was very apparent that Bill was going to round on Paul. "It's about you and your arrogance. You always assumed that you would be the next one to be Prime Minister and Labor leader after Hawke. After he met me, your position was changed and the Kirribilli Agreement made it even worse. You thought I wasn't going to honour that agreement between the two of you, insert myself and become Prime Minister. I NEVER wanted it. I wanted to support both of you and do what I could to help change Australia."
Another long pause kept the two men from coming to blows. Paul didn't say anything.
"Bill, I'm sorry...but I had to follow my belief. Hewson is gaining on us and we could lose. Back me, though, and I'll make you my Treasurer," Paul asked. Bill stopped in his tracks. He thought for a long time, not saying anything. Could he do that? Could he betray the trust of Bob Hawke, who still was Prime Minister and still one of his political heroes? Or could he back Paul and ride a smooth trip to the Treasury?
"...Paul....I can't," Bill sighed.
"Then you're out of the Ministry when I become Prime Minister, and I suggest..." Paul began.
"Don't worry; I'll have started my own party before you get that far..."
Paul looked at Bill with intense silence. He said nothing; he simply exited the Cabinet Room, feeling betrayed by Bill and his statement.