When a typographical error causes Australia to buy 150 submarines instead of 15, the country becomes a superpower. However, an angry nation sweeps the Australian Greens Party into power, and the new Australian President finds himself President of the World.
Mr. Bob Brown, the President of Australia, sat behind his desk gazing at his laptop.
The surface of his desk was a shiny solar panel he cleaned religiously. It was the first solar panel he had installed on the roof of his house many years earlier. When he updated to better ones, he decided to keep the first one and use it as the top of his desk.
The afternoon sunlight shone onto it and powered all the utilities in his office including the ceiling fan above his head rotating like helicopter rotors. He quietly buffed his solar panel with his elbow.
His office was large and staff members hovered around in shorts and T-shirts. It was another very hot day in Hobart.
“Ah, I see, the link has come up now,” Bob said calmly, as his screen was filled with the crystal-clear images of a reception being held somewhere in Moscow by various oligarchs.
One was addressing a party as waitresses moved around the luxurious room handing out shots of classic Russian vodka and caviar.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have much pleasure in showing off my most recent desk, filing cabinet and, indeed, the floor,” he said proudly as he grabbed the corner of a table cloth and swept it off, revealing a wooden desk, “made from a three-hundred-year-old tree trunk from the Tarkine rainforest, Tasmania, myrtle in fact!”
The crowded reception gasped and broke into spontaneous applause. “What is its value?” someone called out.
“Over seventy-five million rubles!” he replied proudly, “or fifteen million Australian dollars!”
The glittering chandeliers vibrated as the guests stamped their feet and applauded.
Old growth wood from Tasmania had become one of the most valuable commodities in the world. And like elephant tusks and various ivories from Africa, there was a thriving black market in this wood.
“Well they’re not getting this lot,” Bob said angrily, “not even a toothpick.”
He was referring to the current stand-off in the waters of the Indian Ocean, off the Tarkine National Park, in North West Tasmania.
It had become the focus of world media attention for several weeks now. Three large battleships were anchored in a triangle. They were from the USA, Russia and China.
In the middle was an old merchant ship, of non-descript persuasion, and on its deck sat half a dozen tree trunks, ripped out of the Tarkine rainforest and destined for the black markets of the world.
No one was prepared to claim ownership of the rusted merchant ship carrying the contraband, but there was a suspicion. At any rate, it was surrounded by battleships from the three most powerful superpowers on earth.
The heat was on, and that included another weather extreme, with temperatures well over forty degrees Celsius for three weeks in a row.
Bob glanced over to the corner of his office where the Storyteller was seated tapping away on her laptop.
Her hair was slightly ruffled. She had a tall frame and rimless spectacles and was aged in her fifties. Her name was Marjory, and when her glance met with Bobs, they both nodded in agreement.
“Send in the Collins subs,” Bob announced firmly.
Simultaneously there was a gasp and a “Oh my god,” in three different languages from each of the Commanders of the three battleships.
Anchors immediately began to rise and propellers started to turn. Within minutes, all three battleships were steaming away.
The rusty old merchant ship was alone, drifting aimlessly. But not for long.
Dramatically, six Collins submarines surfaced surrounding the ship. It was an impressive show of naval strength.
“Point your torpedoes at it,” Lieutenant Captain Collins commanded. He then clicked a switch and spoke into a microphone, this time projecting his voice through large speakers.
“Attention! You are to surrender immediately,” he demanded with deafening sound from all six submarines.
There was a momentary pause then sailors strolled out onto the deck of the merchant ship with their hands raised and one of them waving a white handkerchief.
“That’s him again, Vitaliy,” Bob acknowledged, as he recognized the man holding the white flag.
They stood defeated in front of the huge tree trunks lying on the deck.
“Yes! Done,” Bob Brown announced to the staff around him.
They all gazed at the large television screen showing the entire drama unfold live before them.
“And tell Erica to prepare a statement and I will address the media.”
Erica was Bob’s speechwriter. She was a young woman in her thirties, determined, gifted and had a mind of her own.
She was soon tapping in pearls of wisdom on her laptop that were instantly transferred onto the two teleprompters either side of the dais outside.
Shuffling around impatiently were two hundred of the world’s media suffering in the stifling heat. The current heat wave had gone on for three long weeks; however, a severe cool change was on its way.
It was all history now, but an unfortunate confusion in the French translation for the building of fifteen Collins submarines had regrettably resulted in the Australian government signing up for one hundred and fifty submarines.
No amount of groveling or endless High Court appeals and angry exchanges in the International Court of Justice could undo it.
Every legal avenue was exhausted.
It simply crippled the economy. The country nearly went broke. On the positive side, Australia found itself to be the top naval superpower in the world, eclipsing the United States, China and Russia.
No one would ever forget the ‘Four Corners’ story splashed out by the ABC into the living rooms of nearly every television in Australia.
Monsieur Adelard Voclain was the translator working for the Ministry of Defense. He was a smartly dressed, softly-spoken, middle-aged gentleman with thick glasses.
“At the signing of the contract for the fifteen Collins submarines, why didn’t you notice the extra zero?” the Four Corners reporter inquired.
Voclain shuffled around uncomfortably and averted his eyes.
“Well?” The reporter persisted.
“I forgot my glasses,” Voclain finally replied in a crisp French accent, “I’m sorry.”
With that statement, Adelard Voclain became the most famous public servant in Australian history.
The public was furious.
The power shift in Canberra, the nation’s Capital, was seismic. Most of the politicians of various persuasions were fired, voted out of office, or left the country in disgrace, many living in exile in New Zealand.
Along with the Collins debacle and the ongoing climate mayhem throughout Australia, the resulting snap election was a complete rout.
Antony Green, the psephologist, commentator and election analyst, came out of retirement to make one more election call after seeing the election polls indicating the biggest landslide in Australian political, and indeed world, history.
Within ten seconds of the Saturday evening election count beginning on television, Antony Green made his call.
“The Greens have formed the Australian government,” Antony announced, as a graph appeared showing all the seats in green, “With virtually no opposition, except for maybe one or two Labor and Liberal politicians, who will sit together, alone, on one side of Parliament,” he concluded.
Adam Bandt was the Prime Minister and a Republic was hurriedly voted in. Bob Brown was elected President, unopposed.
Of the two hundred and twenty-six members of the Australian Parliament, only two were not from the Greens’ party.
Decision-making became simple and swift.
And then another strange phenomenon occurred that transformed the balance of power in Australian politics.
Within a couple of years, the rainforests of Tasmania became a tourist mecca of such magnitude that Tasmania’s economy outgrew the rest of the country.
As many as a million tourists a week flooded into Tasmania, mainly from China, but also from all around the world.
A suburb of Hobart was transformed into a small city of high-rise hotels to accommodate them.
These hotels were something of an architectural gem. Abstract and covered in glass, mirrors and solar panels, glittering like piles of diamonds integrated throughout with green vegetation for ecological sustainability.
Beneath them was an underground railway station where the tourists were whisked along in a very fast train across Tasmania to the Tarkine Rainforest.
Here the tourists could wander through the lush and tranquil rainforests.
There was no logical reason why this tourist boom had taken off. It eclipsed the mining boom that had long ago receded into history. This tourist boom saved the Australian economy.
The mainland states of Australia were desperate for some of the spoils and would do anything to get the second visitorial preferences of the tourists.
If Tasmania recommended they visit Sydney or Uluru, for example, on their way home, this state would have an influx of tourists creating major revenue.
The Honorable Adam Bandt, PM, sat in his Canberra office with his staff waiting to see the press conference on the large television.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, the Australian President, Bob Brown,” was the announcement to the two hundred assembled media.
There followed applause, flash bulbs flickering like a fireworks display, and then hushed reverence. The elderly Bob Brown strolled up to the microphone with a help of his trusty walking stick.
“Thank you for your patience,” he said with a smile. He then began reading the speech from the teleprompter.
“As you know, with the help of our fleet of Collins submarines, we have been able to easily resolve the standoff that occurred between Russia, China and the USA in our Tasmanian waters,” he announced calmly, “as l speak, their battleships are on their way home.”
The press conference was beamed to every country in the world and dominated the evening news in most places.
“As the Australian President, I am pleased to say that the crew of the merchant ship, made up of mercenaries from various countries, including, I’m sorry to say, some from mainland Australia, have surrendered.” He looked up at the media.
“This has not saved the three-hundred-year-old Tarkine myrtles that were so cruelly cut down by these loggers and thieves. I have a good mind to tell my submarine fleet to torpedo the daylights out of merchant ship at the center of this dispute and blow …”
Bob paused for a moment. He quickly sped-read the next few sentences from the teleprompter to himself, ‘and blow to pieces anyone who doesn’t share my views?’ I can’t say that, he thought to himself.
After a pause, he left his teleprompter and made up the rest of his speech by himself.
Within a minute, the temperature dropped thirty degrees and a cold wind swept over the press conference.
“Sorry, and blow me down with a feather, um, this crisis has been resolved. The Australian Greens Party, who are the government of this great nation, will continue to use all naval and military options to neutralize people from anywhere from stealing any old growth trees for the overseas black market,” he resolved firmly.
“As President, I continue to welcome the many tourists we host in Tasmania and, in turn, mainland Australia. Any questions?” he asked.
The assembled world media in front of him tried to protect themselves from the hail storm that suddenly began pelting down on them.
“Australian Associated Press, Mr. President, my Hugo Boss white cloth suit, how do you like it?” a reporter asked.
“Very cool,” Bob assured.
By a quirk of social media, the highest rating reality television show was one playing off the fashions of media reporters against each other in press conferences. Sometimes the reporter didn’t even bother to ask a proper question.
“Sky News, Australia,” a female reporter jumped in, “Do you like my Amani floral dress, Mr. President?”
Bob squinted through the hailstorm and nodded in approval, “Yes, I like that one a lot.”
“And has there been any reaction from the leaders of the US, Russia or China about your use of the Collins submarines to resolve this dispute?” the reporter inquired.
Bob paused for a while. “Not so far. But I’m sure they now understand our way of thinking.”
As the hailstorm intensified from the dark cumulonimbus clouds above, he fended off several more questions about exactly which rainforest his wooden walking stick originated from.
“And in response to your particular line of questioning, I think your non-descript suit is drab,” Bob said as he strolled out of the press conference leaving the reporter looking ashamed.
Hailstones the size of golf balls smashed TV cameras, dented cars, and sent the assembled media scurrying for safety.
Once inside his office, Bob angrily demanded an audience with Erica Collins, his speechwriter of many years.
“What the hell are you writing, Erica?” Bob cursed as Erica sat down opposite him, ‘Blow to pieces anyone who doesn’t share my views?’ Are you mad? Who checked your speech?”
“My father did … and he liked it,” Erica replied.
Of course he did, Bob thought to himself as his eyes glazed over. A possible naval coup d’état was forever on the table.
Erica’s father was none other than Lieutenant David Collins, the man in charge of the Collins fleet of one hundred and fifty Australian submarines.
The lineage was pure Australian history. Erica’s great, great, great, great, grandfather was David Collins, the founding Lieutenant Governor of the Colony of New South Wales and in 1804 became the founding Lieutenant Governor of the Colony of Van Diemans Land, later to become the state of Tasmania.
Seafaring was in the family blood. They were an extraction of no mere presence.
Even though the Australian President had scrapped the Defense White Paper and replaced it with a Green one, the country was still stuck with the Oberon-Class Future Submarine Program of one hundred and fifty state-of-the-art submarines.
“You know I like your father,” Bob said to Erica sympathetically, “and I admire your work as my speechwriter,” he continued, as he glanced at the Storyteller seated in the corner of his office, “but The Australian Greens are the government, not the Collins submarine fleet, Erica, do you understand me?”
“Of course I do, Bob. I’ll let you check the next speech before l put it directly onto the teleprompter,” she responded politely.