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Sorry, not today

From: The Australian Prime Minister

My Dear Dr Alatas,

May I thank you, on behalf of the Australian people, for your country's most kind declaration of war, received in my office at 8pm last night. With sincere regret, I must decline your invitation to fight. If you could delay your invasion of our northern coastline until, say, 2015, I'm sure we'd be able to give you a terrific scrap. But at the moment I doubt we could even field a team.

Our F-111s are grounded again, and, because of their age (ours have the gearshift on the steering column, and those indicators that flip out of the door pillars), spare parts are available only at wrecking yards and swap meets. Also, we just can't seem to get them to run properly on unleaded. The Chinooks in Townsville are grounded, too. Losing the choppers is bad news as our fixed-wing capacity in the north is presently in tatters. Why? A slight kerfuffle over my good friend Warren Entsch's concreting business has left our RAAF base at Weipa short of a number of desirable features - like a runway.

Our Defence Minister, Mr Moore, sends his apologies, but insists that a war is presently out of the question as we don't have a Defence Secretary. Well we have one, but he's currently trying to wrestle Mr Moore to death in the Federal Court, for wrongful dismissal. It would be a little unfair on Mr Moore to begin a war while nobody in the Defence Department will speak to him.

You will probably know that the Chief of Navy isn't getting a new contract either but, even if he was, I could not possibly commit our senior service to any conflict. Our two Collins submarines, Drowning and Waving, have just returned from sea trials off Fiji to assess their design targets of silence and stealth. Every time they went into reverse, normal conversation became impossible across most of Chile and Peru. It is also disheartening that Drowning ran aground, especially as this mishap somehow snapped off her periscope. Think about it!

Not that we have enough submariners to man the boats anyway. Attracting career sailors to our modern professional navy has not been helped by recent revelations on prime time television that recruits are routinely stripped naked, smeared with food scraps and excrement, and flogged on the buttocks. I take no comfort from the flood of applications this publicity drew from Tasmania.

The army is still the bulwark of Australia's security, but even there things are difficult. Changes following the Women In Combat report, and same-sex relationship rulings, have, in my opinion compromised our flexibility. For example, both the First Heavy Armoured (Dykes With Pykes) and the Gay Fusiliers (The Queens Light Foot) refuse to fight for a fortnight either side of the Sydney Mardi Gras.

Other soldiers are insisting, these days, on owning the conflict and have begun to enrol in regular workshops to manage their aggression. High Court rulings may also mean, with no offence Dr Alatas, that we cannot engage in a battle against a racially-selected enemy force. Can you recruit a sprinkling of Europeans next time? By all means take as many of ours as you want.

It is a good indication of the quality of our Defence Intelligence Organisation that I am unable to send this transmission in code. The code books were stolen by an unstable, steroid abuser, Jean-Phillippe Wispelaere, shrewdly recruited by the DIO, and entrusted with most of our defence secrets. So now we don't have any. Mr Wispelaere sold them all in Bangkok. If you have any secrets you don't need any more, we would be most grateful for them. I should have the code books back soon. Christies are auctioning them in Havana next week. In the meantime, DIO suggests we do the old a=b, b=c, c=d code. They swear by it.

I know our refusal will be a considerable disappointment to you, but can I suggest that you consider invading New Zealand instead? Their only significant defence capability lies with their two Anzac-class frigates, Mulk and Lemb. I have no doubt you'll cream them, and I should know. They were both built in Australia.

Best wishes,

John Howard

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