Chris Calcino
Chris Calcino Dave Noonan

Inside the Budget lock up: 'The pungent smell of humanity'

WHILE Tony Abbott's favourite budget smuggler (presumably) choofed down a stinkin' Cuban, we lowly journos were inhaling the pungent humanity of the Budget Lock-In.

And after six hours, it did get a smidgen on the nose.

This was my first time trawling through the paper trail at Parliament House, and I admit certain concealed parts of my physique puckered slightly when I saw the big names of journalism roaming the halls.

I think I hid it well. Cool. Calm. A really suave cat.

Annabel Crabb you make me giddy.

The process goes like this.

Armed with a sack full of barley sugars and other diabetic nightmares, we trundle past the Palmers and the Xenophons of the world to meet security and sign away our lives and mobile phones.

Don't even think of calling your brother on his birthday (hope it was a good one by the way, Andrew) unless you can hack two years in the slammer.

I'm far too pretty.

We're allowed notes and old emails, but any internet access or contact to the outside world is payable by death or hand-amputation, depending on severity.

A few hundred reporters do their best sardine impressions in the lobby and it feels like we're about to run the quarter mile.

Eventually the starter's gun cracks and it's off and racing - to pick up about 40kg worth of press releases and less-riddled-with-self-back-patting budget books.

My neck kinks slightly on the way down the stairs.

More heavy lugging ensues until we're in our allocated section, ready to spend the next six hours on picnic chairs sifting through miles of documents to see how buggered our finances really are.

From then it's a blur of post-it notes, column-scribbles and the occasional paper cut as we push our blood-sugar to dangerous levels and scrawl away with clock-watching ferocity.

Heads huddled, we decide what goes where - "has this already been leaked?" is quite often met with a "yeah" and a "dang".

But pretty soon we have our angles sorted and a rough plan of what each of our focuses will be.
And we write, sweat and gnaw on 99%-sugar fare.

We're not alone - some of these veterans have special "happy budget day" patty cakes and even brought cheese platters and haemorrhoid cushions, which I will remember for next time.

Only a couple of minutes remain until our six-hour incarceration is over.

I'll be coming for you, Mr Hockey. I am fanging for a cigar.


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