The Incumbent: Chapter 34

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

ZDNet Australia is proud to bring you a serialised version of Phil Dobbie's novel The Incumbent. A new chapter will be published here as part of his blog each week on Tuesday. You can also buy the entire book by clicking here.

It was a surprisingly good turnout at the Hodbrook Hotel for Jones' direct reports meeting. More than 150 people showed up. Perhaps because it was such a cold, wet day. Some of the attendees could have been homeless people masquerading as VastTel executives; it was difficult to tell. Many of them smelled like they hadn't showered for a week or two.

There was a ripple of applause as Jones walked confidently through the crowd to the stage. It had the air of a political campaign launch. The theme from Rocky played through the loudspeakers. It hadn't been asked for, but a sound and light person came with the room booking, and he felt he had to do something. Spotlights flittered through the somewhat bemused crowd. Despite these distractions, Jones walked confidently up to the lectern, as if he had been a chief executive all his life. He was certainly more self-assured than his predecessor, who would stand, shoulders hunched, his diminutive stature hidden behind the lectern, from where he mumbled to the crowd, too far from the microphone for anyone to decipher anything.

Now, though, at VastTel, Jimi Jones was in charge, and a silence fell over the ballroom at the Hodbrook as the crowd waited for him to speak.

Some of the attendees could have been homeless people masquerading as VastTel executives; it was difficult to tell.

'Ladies and gentlemen,' said Jones, noting that there were actually no women present, apart from Natalie, who was struggling to open her 13th packet of Custard Creams.

'I am here to talk about change.'

There were murmurs around the room. Jones could hear some of the whispers: 'I knew it', and 'I told you so', and, several times, 'that's it, we're f***** now'.

'I want to make this company reach its full potential,' he continued, undaunted.

'Why?' cried someone from the back of the room.

Jones chose to ignore the question. He believed, naively, that he could turn these people around. He had motivated the workforce through his speech to the board, and he could do it again.

'Success doesn't come without sacrifice,' he continued.

'Why not?'

'There will be cutbacks. There will be a new way of working.'


'A more rewarding way of working that will mean we achieve greatness.'

'What for?'

'That's it, we're f***** now...'

The intrusions, all from one man at the back of the room, were starting to get annoying, and Jones could feel himself losing his cool.

'Admittedly, some people will have to go...'

'Who?' came the voice again for the fifth, possibly sixth, time.

'These are difficult times. But by creating a leaner, tighter structure for the organisation, we will...'


Jones stopped. Enough was enough.

'Who is that? Who keeps yelling out?' he asked.

The crowd towards the back of the room cleared, leaving a short man standing alone, dressed in a dusty, grey coat and a navy blue cap embroidered with the VastTel logo.

'You, sir, are not part of the new VastTel,' said Jones, pointing determinedly at the man. 'You are part of the problem. Consider yourself sacked.' He waved him away dismissively.

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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