The cane toad's arrival in Australia is one of the many environmental calamities unleashed on this ancient and beautiful continent in the past two centuries.
Warty, squat and poisonous, the amphibians hail from South and Central America and since they were introduced to eradicate cane-destroying beetles in Queensland, the toads have hopped across the nation.
Why are we talking about cane toads? Utopia's newest episode, Levers of Power, takes us into the world of government pork barreling, and as it does so, for a moment it imagines the species' toxic march reaching Canberra.
The scenario appears remote and even improbable. Could the cane toad, which thrives in a tropical climate, survive the chill that blows across many a Canberra roundabout in winter?
A bizarre thing to imagine, to be sure, but such strange territory is par for the course in the world of election pork barreling. It's a phenomenon of politics that is absurd to the point of uncanny.
In short, election pork barreling leads to a political Bizarro World. The latest instalment of Utopia shows us how.
The Nation Building Authority has agreed to feature in an ABC TV program about national institutions, letting in a film crew after Duntroon and the Governor-General's office declined or pulled out of the show.
Tony Woodford (Rob Sitch) is telling the journalist about the agency's ability to think beyond election cycles when Jim Gibson (Anthony Lehmann) interrupts with a brewing panic about a by-election in far north Queensland. The government wants the NBA to give it some "announceables", anything really, and fast.
"You just need a few bullet points and a press launch," Jim says.
It's an awkward time to be talking to the media for the NBA, which has to cover up the government's obvious disregard for the agency's independence and pretend it's a self-standing steward of national infrastructure building.
It doesn't go so well. While Tony's with the journo, Jim and media liaison Rhonda (Kitty Flanagan) are on speakerphone to him from north Queensland, while they're meant to be in Canberra doing their jobs building the nation.
A cow moos within range of Jim's phone. He's on the western outskirts of Canberra, Jim lies. Why he'd be around Stromlo on government business, the ABC journalist can only guess.
Crashing waves and sea birds in the background of Rhonda's call are from the wide sandy coast of Lake Burley Griffin. Another lie, but it keeps Tony in control of the situation until Rhonda starts reeling off the big issues worrying Canberrans: "tourism, recreational fishing". She also mentions "the cane toad problem".
"Could be a problem, I guess they're not there yet," Tony says, covering.
Cane toads have made it to Canberra before. Two were found last year hopping about only a stone's throw from the Australian War Memorial, and were believed to have hitchhiked from somewhere north.
The ACT's environment directorate advises, for the record, that it's highly unlikely the species could establish itself in the national capital because of the cold climate. They could survive the warmer months, though.
The threat of cane toads to Canberra, apparently, is not that real. Pork barreling, on the other hand, is.
Both major parties have pork barreled, a Fairfax Media analysis found earlier this year, showing voters in marginal seats collected tens of millions of dollars more than those in safer electorates.
Jim struggles in his search for by-election sweeteners but feels he's getting close when he lands on a "fully integrated long-term regional" ... something. Hasn't figured out the last bit yet. Another idea is a solar power export scheme to cloudy countries.
Eventually, he and Rhonda settle on a coal-handling facility.
The rest of the NBA is caught up in a debate over the origins of tzatziki as it prepares for its celebration of multiculturalism, the Taste of Harmony lunch.
And Jim, while he's crashing through the NBA, asks Nat Russell (Celia Pacquola) to check in on the shipyard building project in South Australia, a task she can't finish without knowing the length of the new submarines.
She hits up against the secrecy of the Defence Department, which has classified the most basic and non-sensitive of information, even if it is all available online.
Nat finds herself applying for a higher security clearance and subjected to vetting that pries even into the $5 she gave to some charity donation collector in a koala suit several years ago.
The NBA resembling a real-life federal agency, Nat already has had some form of security vetting.
Twenty years ago, only about 15,000 Australian Public Service staff were vetted each year. The requirement - which involves expensive background checks - has appeared to be applied unthinkingly in more recent years, and governments have seemed to abandon the policy of giving clearances to as few people as possible.
The kind of intransigent stonewalling Nat encounters at the Defence Department - unable to confirm even the location of the submarine base - has fall-out for the government and the public.
The Australian Law Reform Commission's 2010 report on secrecy laws warned the government that over-classifying information "could prevent information sharing for the purpose of whole-of-government initiatives".
The national auditor has also found that public servants tend to classify documents that should be public or give them unnecessarily high classifications, which has "the effect of increasing the costs of protection and restricting the flow of information".
Government officials abuse the classification system in Utopia - even Tony, when he tries to steer the ABC journalist from the NBA's embarrassing by-election notes.
"Sorry, that's classified," he says, covering a whiteboard full of pork barrel ideas.
- Utopia season 4, episode 1 recap: The light rail Canberra shouldn't have built?
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- Utopia season 4, episode 3 recap: How the public service loses its connection
- Utopia season 4, episode 4 recap: A public service identity crisis
Up there with responses to senators' questions on notice that claim an "unreasonable diversion of department resources", or some of the reasons agencies find to knock back or slow down freedom of information requests.
In Nat's case, that flow of information is not even a trickle inside government. Outside is a different matter.
She learns the length of the attack class Shortfin Barracuda - 97 metres - from the ABC journo, who reported on the submarines for a kids news program.
"It's amazing what you can find out when you turn up with a camera," the journalist says.
NBA bureaucrat Ashan De Silva (Dilruk Jayasinha) later reveals he's found the classified, oh-so-secret facts too, from a History Channel documentary. He finds other "sensitive" information from a local council and the Defence minister's tweets.
We never find out how much the ABC TV program discovered about the NBA's by-election antics, and whether it shared these with the public.
A sunburnt Jim comes back to Melbourne from north Queensland to talk about the coal handling facility idea.
"We don't have to build the thing, just announce it. Show the locals we're serious," he tells Tony.
A drone flies up to the balcony where they're talking and breaks their privacy. They move the conversation into the basement.
For all the journalist's gusto about the power of the camera, there are some things about government it doesn't reveal.