The Incumbent: Chapter 29

Summary:It's an intricate web of murder plots, government conspiracies and rampant tanning. Oh, and the future of the entire nation.

This one turned out to be a longer pause than usual. Woodburner was delaying more than most who had found themselves in this situation. He'd been put in an awkward position. They were asking for a million dollars, which was a lot to spend in a week, and there was the slight question of authority — he was on the board, but he didn't have any executive powers. His role was to turn up for meetings every couple of months, and complain about how badly the company was run, not to make unilateral decisions on how the money is spent or how the performance of the business could be improved. He liked it that way — no accountability.

'Well, whatever they think, let me tell you what I think,' said Willis, buying a few more seconds. There was another pause. The pressure on Woodburner was intense, but he didn't particularly want to ruin his morning with a humiliating grilling from Willis, so he signed the contract.

'They're inspiring,' said Willis, without missing a beat. 'That's what I think. If only more Australian businesses operated this way. And I'll tell you why in just a moment. It's 22 past eight on 2IQ.' And then, another advertising break.

The audience didn't even care that Willis had spoken for less than 30 seconds since the last batch of commercials. His words were like gold to them. They didn't notice that the next thing they heard was a carefully scripted advertisement for VastTel, written and produced without any consultation with the client. In true 2IQ fashion, they knew what their audience wanted to hear, and what the advertiser wanted to convey was of little consequence.

His words were like gold to them.

The Australian national anthem burst across the airwaves; 'Advance Australia Fair', that musical dirge with virtually no recognition outside the country, or even within the country outside the leagues clubs. After a few bars came the voice of a laconic ageing Australian actor, somehow famous, even though no one could ever quite remember what he'd ever been in. Now he had stooped to voice-overs for Radio 2IQ, whose listeners couldn't get enough of a stereotypical larrikin Aussie bloke prattling on about how great their country was.

'We love our VastTel as much as we love our country,' he said, turning the twang up to maximum tilt. 'Those beaut blokes and sheilas who keep us connected in this vast, sunburnt land.'

It was bringing a tear to Willis' eye. He loved this stuff.

'You know they're the best, 'cos they're fair dinkum Aussies doing an honest day's work for their crust. So buy from the proud Australian that keeps us talking. Do that, and you'll make your old dad very proud.'

The script had been quickly pulled together using an Aussie cliché generator — a piece of software that scripted most of the advertisements on the station.

The national anthem reached a crescendo, of sorts, and the red light flicked back on in the studio.

'Good on 'em, indeed,' said Willis, pleased with how well his show was perpetuating Australia's pre-occupation with outdated vernacular.

'So, what's wrong with our VastTel? Not a lot, from where I'm sitting,' he said, looking over at the million-dollar contract Woodburner had just signed, part of his mind now thinking about what he'd order for lunch.

'But let's be balanced. Let's get another view. Let's ask the cop killer what he thinks.'

Musson was a little on the back foot. It's hard to win an argument when you're introduced as a cop killer. He felt he needed to defend his position.

It's hard to win an argument when you're introduced as a cop killer.

'I wasn't responsible for killing anyone. I had a mental condition,' he interjected, his anger festering beneath the surface. Willis laughed dismissively, but said nothing. He knew if he taunted Musson enough, he would reach a tipping point.

'Secondly,' said Musson, surprised he was still allowed to talk, 'anyone who has dealt with this company knows they're incompetent and they are out to rip off the customer.'

'I object,' interrupted Woodburner, standing up quickly and ripping his headphones from the socket. He sat down a little sheepishly before continuing. 'We are not out to rip off the customer.' The first point, about being incompetent, was more difficult to defend.

'Well, we'll take your calls on this,' said Willis, before throwing to a traffic report from a girl who was pretending to be in a traffic helicopter but was actually calling from the office next door. 'Traffic's backed up all down the M2,' she said, with the sound of the helicopter faintly in the background and the less-convincing noise of a photocopier, which had been put to work duplicating the signed VastTel contract for immediate dispatch to the lawyers.

As for the traffic, it was always backed up on the M2, and most other routes into the city in the morning rush. The government could have done something about it, but they were promised slightly more favourable coverage from Willis if they did very little to ease the problem. Congestion kept people in their cars longer in the mornings, and that was good for ratings. In return, he would give them an easy time on more contentious subjects, and agreed not to remind people who the prime minister was.

Topics: Telcos


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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