Federal Politics

When Malcolm Turnbull tried to give Ashraf Ghani a pen...

Presentation is of huge importance when it comes to gift-giving, as anyone who has survived the festive season will know. 

A staff member of the Presidential Palace holds the pen that Malcolm Turnbull presented to the President of Afghanistan, ...
A staff member of the Presidential Palace holds the pen that Malcolm Turnbull presented to the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani during their meeting. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

But as Rowan Atkinson showed us in that notorious gift-wrapping scene in Love Actually, sometimes exquisite presentation becomes an exquisite pain in the neck. 

Australian officials discovered this first hand on Sunday when they arrived at Kabul's Presidential Palace, bearing a present for Malcolm Turnbull to give his counterpart Ashraf​ Ghani​ as part of the ceremonial welcome​. 

Mr Turnbull and Dr Ghani during a ceremonial welcome at the Presidential Palace in Kabul.
Mr Turnbull and Dr Ghani during a ceremonial welcome at the Presidential Palace in Kabul. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

They had brought a pen, which is about as innocuous as you can get (the diplomatic equivalent of getting socks and undies for Dad). 

But even after giving it an X-ray, security at the Presidential Palace remained suspicious.

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(You never know what could be lurking in a pen.) 

So, the DFAT officer charged with carrying the pen was duly made to unwrap the parcel, trying not to tear the pristine paper or muck up the sticky tape as he went. 

Mr Turnbull is welcomed Dr Ghani.
Mr Turnbull is welcomed Dr Ghani. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

It was an excavation of pass-the-parcel proportions.

First came the bubble wrap layer, then the green ribbon, then the gold paper, then another layer of green tissue and only then, the velvet-lined box that contained the actual pen. 

Mr Turnbull and Dr Ghani outside the palace.
Mr Turnbull and Dr Ghani outside the palace. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

But still the palace was not content. 

Security officials proceeded to take the pen apart, which meant the ink started to leak, which meant the ink needed to be drained. 

It was an excavation of pass-the-parcel proportions.

Finally happy that the pen wasn't a bomb, a bug or a James Bond prop, the pen was handed back to Australia. 

The quill no longer wore its finery. And had been robbed of the juice to make it work.

But hey, it's the thought that counts.

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