Some events and updates and things

Dear The Internet,

Look, it’s been a busy few weeks.

First up, The Curious Story of Malcolm Turnbull: the Incredible Shrinking Man in the Top Hat is out through Allen & Unwin, on shelves and being bought by people. It was launched last week at Better Read Than Dead in Newtown and it went very well, thank you.

Every home should have this wall.

My columns are still columning away at the Sydney Morning Herald, trying to make sense os what the hell is going on in politics and the nation.

The Guardian very kindly included The Curious Story of Malcolm Turnbull in their round up of the best books of the month, along with excellent pals and colleagues including Holly Throsby (whose novel Goodwood is magnificently quirky and fascinating), Clementine Ford (whose Fight Like A Girl is deservedly already a bestseller) and Lee Zachariah – who, as it happens, appears on the new episode of the Double Disillusionists podcast, which is up at Soundcloud and iTunes!

Dom and I talk to Zachariah about his simultaneous coverage of the election campaign and the collapse of his marriage, as illustrated in his very entertaining book Double Dissolution. Which you should read. Also, he’s very funny (so you should listen to it right now, frankly).

On a completely different note, I also fulfilled a lifetime dream of writing a cover story for Rolling Stone – an extensive interview with Jimmy Barnes. It’s in the current issue, andI can’t tell you what a thrill that was. He was a fascinating gent.

Anyway, there are some events coming up this week!

First up, on Friday 14 October I’m speaking at Stanton Library at 1pm: you can book a spot here, and it’s actually filling up remarkably swiftly.

Then on Saturday 15 October I’m speaking at Littérateur: A Festival for Word Nerds at the Old Fitz, talking about the art of politics writing with the Guardian’s Gareth Hutchens. It’s the very first session of the day at 10am, so I’ll understand if you’re hungover.

And there are more events to come. Updates will follow.

Hope to see you at them, if you’re about.

Yours ever,


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Dear The Internet,

In late February 2016 I finally convinced my editors at Allen & Unwin that I should absolutely write a follow up to The Short and Excruciatingly Embarrassing Reign of Captain Abbott, on the grounds that a) things were clearly getting very interesting and weird in federal Australian politics, and b) this seemed like a lot more fun than the book I was actually working on.

There ain't no feeling like here's-that-book-you-wrote feeling.

There ain’t no feeling like here’s-that-book-you-wrote feeling.

“More fun” is, of course, a relative term because – at the risk of ruining the tantalising romance of writing – trying to research and write a book on politics, as it’s happening, while also holding down a five day a week column is whatever the opposite of “fun” is.

Still, five months of frantic, occasionally painful effort later, I’m now gazing at my new 90-something-thousand word baby and thinking “OK, when do we start on the next one?”

Yes, it was a close run thing since The Curious Story of Malcolm Turnbull: the Incredible Shrinking Man in the Top Hat goes onto shelves on Monday, but now I have my own copy and feel genuinely relieved that I don’t have to photocopy a bunch of them for the launch.

Which, incidentally, is WEDNESDAY 28 SEPTEMBER at Newtown’s Better Read Than Dead – it’s free, but you’ll need to register here and I’ll be signing whatever anyone wants me to sign: my books, other people’s books, small animals, slow moving vehicles, whatever. Please note that there will also be wine.

Said launch will be hosted by my friend and fellow Double Disillusionist Dom Knight – and, speaking of the podcast, we did a new one just the other day with the amazing, entertaining and wonderfully gossipy Alice Workman, BuzzFeed’s Canberra-based politics wrangler.

I really hope you enjoy the book. I’m genuinely proud of it.

Hopefully see you at some book-related thing soon, friends.

Yours ever,


PS: Why not read a little excerpt from the book all about the plebiscite?

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The Curious Story of Malcolm Turnbull is ALMOST HERE!

Dear the Internet,

If you have been looking at the current nightmare of bad policy, internal discord in the Coalition, Liberal backbenchers openly contradicting their leader amid upper- and lower-house embarrassments and thinking “how the actual hell did Malcolm Turnbull manage to go from record high popularity to… well, this… all in twelve short months?” then I have some good news!

9781760294885-1The Curious Story of Malcolm Turnbull: the Incredible Shrinking Man in the Top Hat is mere days away from release, once again through the good people of Allen & Unwin!

It lands on shelves on Monday 26 September, which is… good god, that’s soon. Very soon.

And you can order it from Booktopia RIGHT NOW if you fancy it: here’s a link! Also, how beautiful is that cover? Robert Polmear, you’re a staggeringly talented human being. I think we should run off some posters and/or beach towels.

And if you’re thinking “heavens, APS, how did you write 85k words in the space of a few months while also holding down your regular column and that other writing you seem to do?” then know it’s because I love democracy, this nation and, most of all, you. And also because I’m a bloodyminded bastard with easy access to caffeine and a playful disregard for living a balanced life.

ALSO! There will be an In Conversation event happening in October at Gleebooks on Tuesday 11 October, where I shall be chatting away with the charming and erudite Rebecca Huntley, she of Radio National and the ABC and book-writin’ and generally being an exceptional brainbox. I shall put details up as we get ’em.

I’m really proud of this book (and the last one, I should add). I hope you enjoy it too – or whatever the equivalent of “enjoy” is when you’re getting more and more frustrated about parliamentary inaction and find yourself yelling “seriously? What say you just do your damn job, you muppets!” at a book.

There’ll be more events, hopefully in non-Sydney locations, that I’ll rattle off as we lock ’em down.

Please pop along and say hi. I’ll write something illegible in your book, if you like. It needn’t even be one of mine, I’m not fussy.

Yours ever,


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Books and columns and updates-a-go-go!

Dear The Internet,

I had every intention of getting this up on Friday, but I got sidetracked doing a lot of the writing and frantically attempting to get life in some sort of order that humans so often do these days – including some last minute legals to prevent certain members of the government from flexing their litigation muscles. But I am happy – not to say incredibly relieved – to report that The Curious Story of Malcolm Turnbull: the Incredible Shrinking Man in the Top Hat is at least 70 per cent funnier than I remembered it. It was, after all, written in something of a panicked fugue state.

Suffice to say that said book is still on track to be in your hands – and in your hearts – in October via the good, good people of Allen & Unwin, and that there should be launches and things to announce. Honest.

And there’s some other bits and pieces coming out shortly, refreshingly not of a political nature, but in the meantime the new episode of the Double Disillusionists is up now (with Chaser co-founder Charles Firth), and here’s last week’s Views from the Street columns at the Sydney Morning Herald, listed below.

And there’ll be a new column up today… shortly… I should probably start writing it, actually…




He also got very sad about this photo, so definitely don't circulate it around.

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New book in October! More writing! It’s all happening!

Dear the Internet,

So, last year I wrote a book, and now for some reason I’ve written a second one! It’s actually finished and everything.

Coming out almost a year to to the day after The Short and Excruciatingly Embarrassing Reign of Captain Abbott, the world will get a second volume about Australian politics with an even more unnecessarily long and ridiculous name: The Curious Story of Malcolm Turnbull: the Incredible Shrinking Man in the Top Hat. (Please note – and I mean PLEASE note – the bit where it refers to the first book as “bestselling”. I’m going to be dropping that into conversation as often as possible).

Friday afternoon still life, with cat.

Friday afternoon still life, with cat.

I’m frantically proofing the final layouts at the moment, and it’ll be on shelves in October via the fine people of Allen & Unwin. I’ll put some excerpts up here between now and then, because dammit, it’s been a labour of impossibly panicked love. And it’s got some very funny bits, honest. And even more footnotes.

There’ll be a launch of some sort and an actual publication date, the details of which I will… um, advise. Soon. Honest. Once this headache subsides.

Also, the Double Disillusionists podcast took a couple of weeks off to go “…the HELL?” about the election, but now we’re back!

Also, I thoroughly recommend The Hansard Monologues at the Guardian, and here’s this week’s worth of writin’ at the Sydney Morning Herald, where m’column pops up every Mon-Wed-Fri. Think of it as a View from the Street rant-digest.

I’ll put some tantalising bits of the book up soon, once everything’s proofed and I can… well, probably start #3, if the last week has been any indication. Hooooh boy, this is going to be a colourful parliament…

Yours ever,


A boom microphone picks up the private conversation of Scott Morrison, Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton in September last ...

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Marriage Equality Plebiscite: or, how to decide to have the free vote we apparently can’t have

Presumably that's where the mouth controls are located.

Presumably that’s where the mouth controls are located.

So, the Prime Minister has just confirmed that Coalition MPs will not be bound by the result of the $160 million national plebiscite on whether or not Australia should recognise same sex marriage, and that they will enjoy a “free vote” (ie: not bound by the party’s position) on the matter.

As Malcolm Turnbull explained on Friday 24 June, once the plebiscite is done and if a majority of Australians vote yes, then… um, parliament will vote on legislation to pass marriage equality, which then may or may not happen depending on whether there’s enough support for it among the individual MPs and senators.

“The tradition in the Liberal Party is that on matters of this kind it is a free vote,” Turnbull announced, adding “I have no doubt that if the plebiscite is carried, as I believe it will be, that you will see an overwhelming majority of MPs and senators voting for it.”

In other words, rather than have the federal parliament legislate over marriage (which, as we discovered when the high court overturned the ACT’s brief attempt at legalising same sex marriage in December 2013, is the sole and exclusive preserve of the federal parliament), we’ll have a plebiscite to… um, determine whether or not marriage equality should be debated in parliament.

And that’s an interesting – some might say “nonsensical” – sort of an argument, since the entire justification of the plebiscite was that the Liberal Party could not settle the issue this via a free vote. The very existence of the plebiscite, in other words, undermines the justification for the existence of the plebiscite.

Or, to put it another way, if we can apparently have a free vote, why not just have a goddamn free vote? 

The argument is that we can’t, obviously, since legislating about the legal definition of marriage is far too important a change for the parliament to do. You know, despite having done exactly that in 2004.

When marriage equality bills were introduced into the 44th Parliament by senator David Leyonhjelm, the Greens and Labor, then-PM Tony Abbott refused to even table them on the grounds that “If our parliament were to make a big decision on a matter such as this, it ought to be owned by the parliament and not by any particular party.”

Weirdly enough, when a bill which was owned “not by any particular party” was subsequently introduced by Liberal backbencher Warren Entsch and Labor MP Terri Butler and seconded by a multi-party coalition of Liberal MP Teresa Gambaro, Labor MP Laurie Ferguson, independents Cathy McGowan and Andrew Wilkie, and the Greens’ Adam Bandt, the song abruptly changed.

No longer was it enough for the matter to be owned by the parliament: “The disposition,” the PM Tony Abbott proudly explained in August 2015, “is that it should happen through a people’s vote rather than simply through a Parliament’s vote.”

Turnbull maintained this line after taking power, partially because it was a condition that the National Party set in order to maintain the Coalition.

“When the Australian people make their decision, that decision will stick. It will be decisive. It will be respected by this government and by this parliament and this nation,” he insisted. “Let me tell you this. If you imagine that any government… would spend over $150 million consulting every Australian on an issue of this kind and then ignore their decision, then they really are not living in the real world.”

However, the problem was that many members of the government were perfectly happy to ignore the decision: Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz made clear that “Every member of parliament will make up his or her mind after the plebiscite is held,” and questions were asked about how a non-binding public vote was going to somehow oblige MPs and senators to vote in a law.

And it turns out the answer is simple: it can’t! And it won’t!

As we just learned, in the event that the majority of Australians (calculated in a way yet to be determined) vote yes on a question (which is also yet to be determined) to recognise same sex marriage, that will not actually result in a law, which will evidently be passed or defeated in the usual way – almost as though this is just like every other law, and maybe doesn’t need some huge song and dance around it.

And of course, this wildly contradictory series of obvious rule-changing and evasions would all makes sense if the plebiscite was just an expensive, time-wasting method of placating the special terror-feelings of social conservatives in the Liberal and National Parties, but that would be cynical.

No, clearly the plebiscite was a great way to settle a controversial issue by spending $160 million in order to decide… er, whether or not to have a free vote.

You know, identical to the one which is apparently not an option.

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Interview with the Double Disillusionists

So, the good folks at Telum interviewed Dom and I for their media email blast thing, and I thought it entertaining enough to reprint here in not-email form. Enjoy!

Telum Talks To… Andrew P Street and Dominic Knight, Presenters, The Double Disillusionists
What inspired you two to make this election podcast?
APS: I naturally realised that writing a daily column and two books was insufficient for me to say all I had to say on the endlessly-fascinating subject of Australian politics, and that another time-consuming regular commitment would really hit the spot. And I was genuinely excited about Dom no longer being constrained by being employed by our public broadcaster and therefore being free to express political opinions, not least since he’s erudite, articulate and hilarious.
DOM: Aw, shucks! The obvious thing to do after four years of getting paid to talk into microphones is to find a way to keep doing that for free. Mostly I’m just trying to ride APS’ coattails now that he’s the nation’s greatest political commentator (by volume).

How do you know each other and what are your roles within the podcast?
APS: Dom and I met via a mutual friend with whom I worked when I was Music Editor at Time Out Sydney, and we just kinda hit it off when he started inviting me onto 702 ABC to talk about music-related stuff on a semi-regular basis. And Dom’s very much taken on the “Producer” role because he’s got actual broadcasting experience. I’m just some jerk who rambles on about whatever’s at the front of my brain at that moment and is far, FAR better on the page than on mic.
DOM: What he said, only I didn’t really know the mutual friend either, and was basically gatecrashing a party. We’re recording it via Skype because none of us are in the same place, so I try to play the role of traffic cop and interjector with various off-topic witticisms. Also, I generally haven’t been following the campaign as closely as APS and the guest because I’m travelling, so I tend to spend most of my time listening agog.

Most memorable campaign moments either from this campaign, or campaigns gone by?
APS: Has there been a memorable moment yet? It’s the most soporific election campaign in Australian political history, it seems to me. A few mid-debate knife fights would perk things up rapidly, though.
DOM: Nothing willl ever beat Mal Meninga’s political career – but it’s a pity nobody watched the first debate, because it was a true contest of ideas, on topics that mostly mattered, between two leaders who genuinely knew their stuff and engaged with voters. So of course a cable channel during the week’s top-rating football clashes was the ideal place for it.

Dom, you’re in Europe at the moment, so how do you ‘sync’ up for Andrew to tape the podcast?
APS: I am entirely at his mercy.
DOM: Lots of emails, the first seventeen of which say “Nah, let’s do it tomorrow”. Recording across timezones like this with two busy people and one bludging holidaymaker is unnecessarily hard, but APS and I really wanted to do this, and weren’t likely to be constrained by the sheer impracticality.

What are you working on apart from this podcast?
APS: I’m writing a sequel to my book about the Abbott government [The Short and Excruciatingly Embarrassing Reign of Captain Abbott] at the moment – like, literally should be doing that right now instead of this – and writing my “View from the Street” column for Fairfax five days a week, while also doing the odd bit of other writing in all that spare time I have. And occasionally getting abdominal surgery, although hopefully that was more of a one-off.
DOM: I’m trying not to work as much as possible, and editing a podcast feels like a massive failure. I’m also writing a bit for The Drum, Daily Lifeand whoever else will pay me to sling a few words about. I’m also currently pitching a book called The Long and Excruciatingly Prolific Writing Of Admiral P Street, but as yet have no takers.

The ability to download radio programmes is nothing new, so why do you think podcasting is seeing such a surge in popularity?
APS: Is it actually popular? I just figure that podcasts are sort of like official websites were in the early 00s: they’re not especially valuable within themselves, but if you’re any sort of public figure you need to have one in order to appear that you take your career the least bit seriously.
DOM: They are a bit like what the Fauves said about three-pieces – everyone’s getting one together. But coming from broadcast radio, I really like the ability to make audio that people can listen to when it suits them, rather than the other way around. And the freedom involved is really delightful – both in terms of content and the invigorating freedom from getting paid.

Most memorable story / media moment you’ve been involved with?
APS: Zia McCabe of the Dandy Warhols once stripped me down to my underwear and put me in a cow costume. It was backstage at the Big Day Out and it was in order that I might therefore dance on stage with the dozens of other similarly-costumed folks during the Flaming Lips’ set, but I feel that the first bit of the story sounds slightly more exciting without the second bit.
DOM: Probably gatecrashing the stage of John Howard’s election victory in 2004. Instead of pulling a Chaser prank, I definitely should have given him a heartfelt thanks for saving us from Prime Minister Mark Latham.

Coffee, lunch or drinks?
APS: That sounds like the correct order to me.
DOM: Espresso martinis for lunch?

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
APS: I don’t care for the implication that I don’t already possess superpowers. I’m not necessarily wearing underpants outside my trousers simply because I don’t get how pants work, you know.
DOM: I would like to be able to be able to devour an entire primary school’s worth of sausages and lamingtons without getting a heart attack, because nothing tastes as sweet as democracy.

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