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Grand Vision


3
"Yes, Christine. Our Attorney General, I'm pleased to say, has worked very hard to bring this matter to a
speedy and equitable conclusion and my Government is very happy to be generously compensating those fine men
who suffered so grievously."
"I'm sure you are, Prime Minister," said Christine, green eyes flashing, "because these claims seem to have
been in the Too Hard Basket for ages. As I understand it, on the tenth of February 1964, THIRTY YEARS AGO, our
Australian aircraft carrier, HMAS Melbourne, accidentally rammed and sank our destroyer, HMAS Voyager, during
nighttime training manoeuvres off Jervis Bay. Eighty-two young crewmen died and over a hundred others were
injured, some very seriously. Is that right?"
"Yes, Christine. I'm not sure of the exact numbers but those were the circumstances."
"But THIRTY YEARS to settle these claims, Prime Minister? That's an awfully long time, isn't it?"
There it was. The first of the knives. He'd sensed all along that this bitch would try to stab him. He squirmed a
little in his chair and patted the perspiration from his forehead with his handkerchief. He could feel it forming all over
his big bloated body.
"Christine, our Australian Labor Party was not in government when the sinking occurred," said Marlow. "Our
opponents, the Liberal/National coalition, were in power at the time and for most of the next twenty years. They
blundered around for ages, holding two Royal Commissions to find out who was to blame. Then all the legal eagles
came into the picture and the Libs thought it was too messy and they shelved it. They didn't care about those poor
devils."
"Well, what happened when Labor came back into power? You were a Cabinet Minister then, weren't you?
Why did it take another eleven years? Thirty years after the sinking occurred."
He could almost see the knife in her hand. He could almost feel its cold, sharp point pricking the skin between
his ribs. Perspiration was soaking his clothing. He reached again for his handkerchief. He knew there was no valid
excuse. Thirty years was a national disgrace. He'd just have to keep talking around and around the subject without ever
answering the question.
"Christine," he said, trying to sound as composed as possible, "the only thing that matters is that my
Government has compensated those fine men very generously. These claims average more than half a million dollars
each. That's a very satisfying result for those fine men and I'm sure they're all very grateful."
"But THIRTY YEARS, Prime Minister?"
"Over half a million dollars each, Christine. That's what we've given them."
"But they should have been paid much sooner, shouldn't they?"
"Christine, when we took over from the Libs, the country was in a mess. We settled these claims very
generously and as quickly as possible. We really looked after those fine deserving men. Over half a million dollars
each."
Christine looked piercingly at him. A vision of her dead father, huddled in his wheelchair, flashed before her
eyes. "I find that a very remarkable statement, Prime Minister," she said, "when I have here a note from you to the
Attorney General dated two years ago, and authenticated by a handwriting expert as being in your own handwriting,
which says, and I quote, Jim, put off these Voyager claims as long as possible. They're just a mob of whinging
bludgers anyway, and signed, Rex. Would you like to comment on this, Prime Minister?" she added, holding up the
note while Channel Five flashed a transcript on the screen.
For a moment or two Marlow was speechless. Hell! How had she got hold of that? Why hadn't Jim destroyed
it? His body felt paralysed, his mind almost a blank. Then twenty-five years of parliamentary experience and training
came to his aid.
"Christine, that's obviously a forgery," he lied, straightening up in his chair and striving to sound believable. "I
know absolutely nothing about it."
"Well, Prime Minister, we might leave it to our viewers to decide on that," said Christine. "Thank you for
speaking with me this evening."
Mark Radford, tall, fair-haired, walked out of the National Australia Bank premises in East Street and headed for
where his Jaguar XJS Coupe was parked. He had just deposited to his current account the largest cheque he had ever
personally seen, after he and his partner, Trevor Johnson, had sold their software company to one of the southern
giants.
He knew he would miss Trevor and their daily and nightly involvement in the business but the deal had been
too good to even consider refusing. It was nine years now since he'd said to Trevor over a beer one day in Yeppoon,
well, if there's that much money in it why don't we start up our own company. Nine years of hard, grinding, persistent
effort. Longer than he'd stayed in any job and in any town since Tracey had died.
And on that cue, Channel Five went to a commercials break.
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