Saturday, May 3 was an average sort of Saturday on the Central Coast.
About 6:20am, police and emergency services were called to a house fire in Wyoming. The building was unoccupied and well alight by the time they arrived. Inside, the cops discovered a hydroponic cannabis plantation and seized 175 plants with an estimated street value of $350,000.
About 1:30pm, police attended an incident at a licensed club at Budgewoi, which they believe began with a conversation between a 44-year-old man and 31-year-old man. According to police, when the older man attempted to walk away, the younger man followed and, they allege, the younger man struck him on left side of his face whilst holding a schooner glass. The older man was treated at the scene and conveyed to Gosford Hospital with a severed left ear. The younger man was later arrested and charged with reckless wounding.
About 8pm at The Entrance, a 60 year-old woman was abducted from her home after a man in his mid-twenties, of Caucasian appearance, wearing gloves and a black hoodie pulled tightly around his face, forced entry through a window and demanded money. He forced the woman to drive him to an ATM at Bateau Bay. When they arrived, the woman made a run for it and alerted members of the public who rang police. The man fled, leaving the woman’s car behind. A police dog tracked the suspect’s scent to a nearby street where they recovered items of the woman’s property.
It had been a long day, and, privately, police expressed relief that, thanks to the ongoing ICAC inquiry, there had been no incidents involving local politicians, lobbyists, developers, or members of the Young Liberals.
“They’re all lying low at the moment,” a local detective I knew told me, when I rang him at home to pick his brains about a very cold missing persons case I was working on. “What is it about the Central Coast, Nick? It’s worse than fucking south-west Sydney. More dumb rustics than A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing put together”, he said.
I hadn’t realised Dave was a Shakespeare fan.
“No script writer could make up a cast of characters as louche as the mob they’ve dragged before ICAC,” Dave said. “It’s a veritable catalogue of the political demimonde: dodgy politicians and their seedy flacks, sly lobbyists, privatisers, developers, rent-seekers, adventurers, con-men, lawyers.”
“They joke about ‘the great Australian novel’, but we’ve never had the great Australian musical,” I replied. “How about ICAC – The Musical.”
“Love it! It’s gotta be a musical. Amnesia Blues. Black Ops Boogie.”
“Major characters: Eddie and Moses Obeid, Arthur Sinodinos, Joe Tripodi, Eric Roozendal, Chris Hartcher, Nick de Girolamo, Mick Costa, Nathan Tinkler, Harry Triguboff.”
“And featuring Barry O’Farrell as the tragic character who falls on his sword – exculpating himself so he can rise again like Lazarus.”
“Hmmm … interesting angle there. But how about a hint of this: the most dangerous man is the honest man who fronts for a corrupt system?”
“I like it. The Bard would have gone with that. Gives it some political depth and timeless universality.”
“Barry’s replaced by the Murdoch-backed plotter in the background: callow young Mike Baird, a right-wing ‘muscular Christian’ market fundamentalist and scion of powerful establishment father.”
“Hey, and there’s the dark filly – Gladys Berejiklian, the ‘Magic Armenian’. Although she’s Barry O’Farrell’s heir apparent, she doesn’t challenge for the premiership against Mike Baird because she wants to leave the position open for her old boss if he does indeed rise from the grave.”
“And look at the thieves’ kitchen chorus line: Tim Koelma, Aaron Henry, Chris Spencer, Darren Webber, Marie Ficarra, Ray Carter, John Caputo, Paul Nicolaou, Mike Gallacher. For comic relief there’s the Irish backpackers they used to launder the donation money.
“And hey, check out the ‘entities’ looming darkly over the landscape: EightbyFive, Micky Tech, Patinack Farm, Buildev, The Free Enterprise Foundation, The Millennium Forum, the IKEA Faction. You couldn’t make up names like that.”
“Mate, you’re too talented to spend your life chasing dickhead losers on the Central Coast,” I said. “You don’t happen to be musical do you? Me, I only play the radio.”
“Come up on the weekend and we’ll get started. I’ll get my old guitar out of garage. We can use GarageBand on the Mac and I’ll get in a few cases of cider. ”
“One thing bothers me though. What if next week the cast starts to expand too much? I mean, what if, say, Joe Hockey or Tony Abbott gets implicated, or Mike Baird resigns?”
“No problem, we’ll just move some of the major characters to the chorus. And if the plot looks like getting too complex and unbelievable, we’ll make it into a full-blown opera.”
And that’s how Dave and I got into writing The Great Australian Musical.