STRANGE POLITICS: Locked in without an oyster in sight

THEY promised a hack-the-fat budget to throttle that scheming little deficit fiend shrieking onto his thorny back foot.

The catering confirmed they meant business.

Budget Lock-up 2016: another year with the country's top journalists forced to share a building without a beer tap in sight for six agonising hours.

We splutter into Canberra in a cigar tin with wings, make a remarkably incident-free touchdown for such a wonky little aircraft and taxi-hop to Parliament House.

Security checks done and we are in the door.

Phones and internet are switched off under threat of a stint in Long Bay and we waddle to our designated desks, burdened with half an elephant worth of budget documents in the world's worst attempt at a paperless office.

Then it's noses down, valiantly risking bleeding out with every razor-edged turn of the page, sniffing like congested bloodhounds for budgetary nuggets that have not already been leaked.

Hopefully those French submarines are better built than whatever system the government uses to keep its unreleased budget under wraps.

We will dream in binary code tonight.

The team looks super nonchalant as the Leigh Sales and Laurie Oakes-type heavy hitters pass, cool as cucumbers lobbed into the guts of a volcano.

The only other interruptions are occasional trips to graze and stain our formerly pearl-white shirts.

Having covered a boom-years New South Wales budget, I knew how good things could be.

Smoked salmon and cream cheese canapes, slow-roasted miniature beef sandwiches and tropical fruit assortments from here to horizon.

But stewing here now in this starved and paper-cut state, a Pavlov's Dog memory-dribble has drenched me from sternum to kneecap.

For the Federal Budget: instant coffee and a handful of biscuits.

Not even a hint of fresh oyster or chocolate truffles. In the country's engine room, no less.

I cannot in good conscience lie and claim to be pleased but as Treasurer Scott Morrison made clear, we all have to do our bit in these tough economic times.

But honestly, not even a panko crumbed prawn with a triple selection of dipping sauces?



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