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Positive Intervention

A procession of figures in full academic dress -- black gown, black hood, black balaclava -- filed into the glass box that was the Great Hall of the local campus of the University of Eastern Australia, marching to the syncopated strains of Guadeamus Igitur.

"They're the latest graduates of the Collateral Degree in Positive Intervention," Robbie said. "Our latest and greatest export opportunity. The course teaches them the ideology and all the skills needed for fomenting and participating in civil disturbance."

"Why are their faces covered?" Kathy asked.

"They don't want people to know who they are. It might make it hard for them to get into the places where they're going."

"Which are?"

"All over the world. Any place where there's a bit of a barney and they want to take part. Middle East is obvious, but there's millions of places where there's simmering resentments that can do with a bit of stirring. The Basques, Brittany, Burma, Burundi, Catalonia, Chechnya, you name it. The course includes a survey of potential and actual hot spots, so they can choose where to go. There's one guy wants to go to the US and take out the annual conference of the National Rifle Association."

"Aren't there laws against this kind of travel?"

"Not that matter. The Government realised that they couldn't stop people going, and recognised that there are plusses. Less people on the dole. Much less if you organise it." Robbie jerked a thumb at the queue of graduands. "Saves them a packet. Particularly since none of them come back."

"Because they're dead?"

"Most of them. But they couldn't anyway. The degree gives them Ruritanian citizenship, which means they lose their Australian citizenship. They get a week to leave the country." Robbie pointed to a portly figure in a dazzling white uniform, loaded with medals and epaulettes. "That's the Ruritanian Ambassador."

"So why do they do the course?"

"They don't have much option. If they can't prove that they have a job and are paying tax on it or are doing an approved course, they are deemed to be earning millions in the black economy and owe tax on that. This happens to be the only course most of them are eligible for that they haven't already done."

"How many of them finish?"

"All of them. It's a short course. Residential. They're only allowed out under escort."

Kathy frowned. "If we're getting rid of all the young people, how do we manage the ageing population?"

"Easy. The students have a final week project. Most of them choose the recommended option of knocking off a retirement village or an old peoples' home. That's why there's been so many fires and so much food poisoning. One group even infected a carer with ebola."

"How do we stop them?" Kathy asked.

"No need," Robbie said. "I think this is going to be the last ever graduating class."

"Why?"

"Bright idea from the Minister for Educational Economies. Decided to bring in fee-paying overseas students to help cover the cost of the courses. One group whose relatives died when their refugee boat was turned back borrowed the idea from the guy who wanted to take out the National Rifle Association and used it for their final week project. Flooded Parliament House with carbon dioxide while it was in session, using the airconditioning system. Their Facebook post described it as a double dissolution."

"What makes you think that the new mob of MPs will think or behave any differently?"

"They won't. That's why they'll need to shut the course down -- for their own safety."

Copyright D.W. Walker, 2016


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