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Libs take some image advice from Mad Men's Don Draper

Jim McDermott |  01 March 2015

The inner sanctum of the Prime Minister’s office, filled with smoke. DON DRAPER sits in a chair, cigarette in one hand, tumbler of Scotch in the other.

Across, Prime Minister TONY ABBOTT. Around them, members of his cabinet.

GREG HUNT (coughing weakly): We really don't allow smoking in here.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Plus, how do you still look so good? It’s 2015.

Draper turns Pyne's way. His eyes glitter like steel.

DON: Really, that's what you want to talk about right now, my looks?

TONY: Now listen, Don, I did it all just like you said. Pushed up the spill motion to keep the momentum from building, said I would be more consultative, got on with the business of governing. And yet two weeks later —

DON: Two weeks later you've fired your whip without consulting anyone. You've threatened to cut off future humanitarian aid to Indonesia, without consulting Julie. You've attacked not only Gillian Triggs, but her study —

GEORGE BRANDIS: Ah, but Don, she was just using those kids for political gain.

DON: The way your party used sinking boats for theirs, you mean? Or the way you and Labor have been using asylum seekers for the last 15 years? Oh, but I forget, everyone has the right to be a bigot, don't they?

JOE HOCKEY: Ohhh snap. George, you just got Drapered.

DON: Hey Joe, how was the drive to work today? You manage to afford the petrol all right?

HOCKEY: Ripper.

DON: So that's your problem, Prime Minister. You said all the right words, but then once again you made it look like you didn't mean them.

TONY: So, what do I do?

DON: I don't know, accept the inevitable?

He sips his drink. A KNOCK at the door. Someone tries to get in. It's locked.

MALCOLM TURNBULL (outside): I'm sorry, but are you guys nearly done in there? I have a reservation for this space.

TONY: Please, Don. I'll do anything.

DON: Getting people to support you is about selling them on a story. An emotion. Something that speaks to who you are, but at the same time calls out something deep inside of them. Even when it's forward thinking, voting is always nostalgic. It's about reconnecting with the child we once were. The home we always wished we had.

HOCKEY: Seriously, I know he's ficitional, but I love this guy.

DON: At the election, your story was simple: We've all been through a bad time. Let us take care of it. 'She'll be right.'

TONY: Also, Paid Parental Leave.

The ministers roll their eyes.

TONY: Okay, and we stopped the boats. And we eliminated the mining tax, the carbon tax.

DON: Yeah you did. But then your budget attacked pensioners, students, the unemployed, public television, lower incomes, universities, the unwell and their doctors. And as it turns out, the things you delivered — the tax breaks, the boats — haven't actually had much positive effect. Companies aren't passing along the carbon tax cuts; the mining tax wasn't yielding any money anyway. And while some people might be happy to hear the boats have stopped, it hasn't fundamentally changed their lives.

HUNT: This is making me feel sad.  

TONY (stroking his head): Everything's going to be okay, matie. Again I ask you, Don, what do we do?

DON: You tell the right story — one that speaks both to your current situation and to our aspirations. And then you stick to it. Let me ask you this, what is it you want to accomplish as a government?

PYNE: Multiple terms in office.

DON: No, something for the Australian people.  

PYNE: To destroy the Labor Party.

DON: Again, that's not for the Australian people.

HUNT: To become Prime Minister.

DON: Something realistic.

HOCKEY: What about fiscal responsibility?

DON: Saying you want to give the country fiscal responsbility is like saying you're going to give your father a wallet for Christmas. He might use it, but nobody wants it. Also, fiscal responsibility for what?

PYNE: So we don't go broke.

DON: No. It's so you can be leaner. More innovative. The world is changing, especially here in the Pacific. And that's exciting. New ventures to be made, new opportunities. You don't want to be the fat guy sitting on the sidelines watching it happen. You want to be right there in it, reaping the rewards.

HOCKEY (whispering): Hey, what do you guys think of Don for PM?

DON: Think bigger. What's your dream?

TONY: National security. I excel at security.  

DON: Well, that's not exactly a dream, Tony. Prisons are secure.

HOCKEY: Not in your country.

DON: Touché. But your people are generally safe.

TONY: We've had some recent incidents.

DON: You've also had so many national security press conferences people around the world think Australia is about to invade Iraq. You cannot build a brand around national security in times of peace. C'mon, guys, think. In 20 years, what do you want Australia to be?

PYNE: Liberal.

HOCKEY: Nicer to me.

HUNT: Safe from the effects of climate change, but without having had to make any sacrifices whatsoever.

TONY: A great team.

BRANDIS: As bigoted as it wants to be, but under constant surveillance.

DON: Seriously, how are you the Attorney General?

HOCKEY: I know, right?

DON: Tony, this is your country’s problem. You and Labor, you'll fight for decades over what amounts to an inch of turf, but neither one of you has any real vision.  

TONY: Well tell me this: if we could put together a vision, could I win another spill?


TURNBULL (outside): I'm sorry, guys, but it is my turn.

MANY OTHER VOICES: Mate, we need the room. Now.

DON: Yeah, sure. If anyone could do it, it would be you. Now, if you could just pay my fee?

Tony goes to his desk.

PYNE: By the way, has anyone seen Scott or Julie?

HOCKEY: Pretty sure Scott's on television somewhere.

HUNT: Julie told me she couldn't make it. She's busy working.

Jim McDermott is an American Jesuit and screenwriter.

AMC's Mad Men returns for its final season on 5 April. Watch the 'real' Don Draper, aka actor John Hamm, in action in this clip from season one. 'It's toasted!'



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