Abbott goes drinking with his fave journos … Left / Right divide over pub choice … Joe Hockey on the dance floor …
From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …
Abbott’s drinking buddies. Canberra can be rather a dull place, but that changes on budget night. With the budget delivered, Tony Abbott jumped in his prime ministerial BMW with his COS (and svengali) Peta Credlin, who was dressed in fire-engine red, and his media chief and ex-Australia Post exec Jane McMillan. The trio whirled through Canberra’s pubs so the PM could sink a red with his media mates. It won’t come as a surprise that he prioritised …
Yes, that’s the Daily Telegraph crew having their post-budget dinner at popular Manuka restaurant Portia’s (most news organisations shout their journos a nice dinner in Canberra after the budget). Chief reporter Simon Benson is on the left and Tele ed Paul “Boris” Whittaker on the right. It’s a bit unusual for a PM to do a post-budget media tour, but he might have been bored.
The pic, unwisely tweeted by Sunday Tele chief reporter Linda Silmalis, created a storm. Silmalis quickly deleted it (who asked you to do that, Linda?), but it was captured for posterity. Anti-Coalition types seized on the “let them eat cake” aspect of Abbott whooping it up with his Murdoch mates after a budget that puts the unemployed out on the street. So News Corp hit back …
That’s Abbott chatting with Fairfax types at the same venue (columnist Peter Hartcher is in the centre and Michael Gordon on the right, while reporter James Massola had a chat). Fairfax was holed up at one end of Portia’s while the Tele was at the other. It looks like no one at Fairfax could afford to shout the PM a wine; what a poor showing.
Abbott also cruised by the fancy Ottoman restaurant to say hello to The Australian’s crew. Meanwhile, the Australian Financial Review crowd, who usually go to the Ottoman, had to make do with a Thai place at Manuka — there were grumbles about Fairfax budget cuts re: the restaurant (yes, really). Meanwhile, the Crikey contingent had cheap and cheerful Malaysian. We paid for it ourselves, and there was no sign of Abbott. No fear or favour from us, then!
Getting drunk on budget night. It’s also tradition for journalists, staffers and a few pollies to hit the tiles. Ten years ago everyone converged on Green Square, but the crowds are smaller these days. Coalition staffers were everywhere, while Labor staffers were mostly holed up reading the budget. Insofar as there was anyone left-wing in Canberra, they were in the Public Bar in Manuka. Coalition wets (aka staffers for Malcolm Turnbull and George Brandis) were there, and Ms Tips was intrigued by the lengthy heart-to-heart between AFR page 2 girl Jennifer Hewitt and Turnbull staffer Steven Ellis. What were they talking about?
In the other corner, the biggest lefties of all — The Guardian mob — was feting Greens Senator Scott Ludlam. Ms Tips’ fave moment of the night was when a Crikey colleague asked a man sitting in the corner to mind her budget books. Turns out that man was AFR gossip king Joe Aston.
Most of last night’s action was at the Kennedy Room in Kingston, where the Coalition’s cashed-up dries (i.e. almost everyone) sank their boutique beers and scotches at a rapid rate. The Australian’s unfailingly charming deputy ed Clive Mathieson, the only person at the Oz whom the Left can stand, was there, and Ms Tips thinks she glimpsed Age ed Andrew Holden. Fairfax reporter and Crikey graduate Matthew Knott had his shouting shoes on, buying scotches for everyone within reach.
One notable absence was the pollies. There were only a few out and about — there used to be heaps. Have they been instructed by their party killjoys not to go out, embarrass themselves and end up in the media? That’s a great pity if so.
Meanwhile, back at Parliament … whoever’s in government throws a big post-budget dinner in Parliament’s Great Hall, and last night’s was huge, with a who’s who of business chiefs and lobbyists spilling out of the room as Hockey and Abbott held court. There was loads of applause and slapping of backs. The vibe among staffers present was that the budget was not too ferocious, and would be survivable for the government.
In another corner of APH Labor and the unions held their post-budget wake. We hear the mood was actually pretty good; while those present were in shellshock at the harsher budget measures, they felt it would be a budget ripe for attack from the Left. Bill Shorten gave a well-received speech.
Dancing Hockey. Tongues were wagging at Laurie Oakes’ claim that Joe Hockey was dancing to the song Best Day of My Life in his office before giving his big budget speech. “Dancing? I think it was more about our little boy was there, I hadn’t seen him for three weeks,” Hockey responded when asked about it by Oakes.
It certainly wasn’t the best day of their lives for the unemployed (what with Hockey cancelling the dole and all). Maybe Hockey should have been singing Don’t Go Breaking My Heart or Isn’t it Ironic (that we’re breaking our pre-election promises after all). If you can think of a more appropriate tune that Hockey should dance to, add it in our Tips comment thread below.