tip off

Mal Turnbull so camera-shy at Rupert’s party

The Australian celebrated its 50th birthday with a gala dinner in Sydney — but why was Turnbull so shy, and where was Ken Cowley? Crikey stood outside to get the goss.

Fastest entrance of the event last night was awarded to Malcolm Turnbull, who sprinted into The Australian’s 50th birthday anniversary dinner so quickly he blurred my photo. Malcolm, our cleverest politician, knows that public displays of affection to Rupert Murdoch have a way of coming back to haunt you — who could possibly forget the photo of Tony Blair among the Murdoch godparents? And David Cameron palling it up with Andy Coulson? It’s one thing to be bathing in the gaze of the Sun King at election time (he really likes me!) and another to have your personal text messages to Rebekah Brooks — “LOL!” — read out in a court of law.

Fascinated by the gala dinner at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney last night, Crikey attended (uninvited) and milled around outside in the rain. Although Malcolm arrived in the same car as Julie Bishop, he rather unchivalrously left her in the dust, although she could have been hampered by towering heels and a really fabulous red lace sheath. A later photo of the two of them on the red carpet shows them standing about four feet apart. Joe Hockey also made a fast entrance, several minutes after NSW Premier Mike Baird, who snuck into the slipstream of another couple.

But the question on everyone’s lips was where was Ken Cowley? According to the gossip in the room, the former head honcho of News had been invited despite giving a rather indiscreet interview about The Australian and Lachlan Murdoch to the Australian Financial Review just a few weeks ago. Apparently he had accepted and then changed his mind — there was no sight of him on the red carpet.

Jeanne Pratt didn’t carry her own brolly (left) while Julie Bishop (right) made do with staffer Murray Hansen as Malcolm Turnbull had already bolted inside. Pics by Liam Mendes 

Other observers were amused by the antics of Paul Keating and John Howard, who were sitting opposite each other on the head table and had to keep turning their heads to avoid eye contact.

Rupert Murdoch gave an impassioned speech, saying that “we are a mere 50 years old. With a little luck and some great advances in medicine, on which we are the cusp, some of us will be here in another 50 years celebrating The Australian’s centenary. One thing is certain, The Australian will be here.” You can watch the video here.

Tony Abbott, that former Oz writer, was sitting on the right hand of Rupert but left very soon after delivering his speech, in which he said that “no newspaper has more profoundly or more consistently shaped the intellectual life of our country”. Twitter lit up last night when the PM described the Oz as the country’s only national paper (what’s the AFR?) and also when MC Peter Van Onselen had a crack about the AFR’s subscriptions, which would have to be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Abbott’s speech was followed by a tweet from Fairfax columnist Mike Carlton, who said that “when a PM lavishes praise on a newspaper and its editors, you can be rock solid sure that paper has betrayed journalism”.

It wasn’t a good paparazzi night, as among the 450 people who turned up, the gender ratio was about the same as the federal cabinet or an Ian Plimer book launch; 20 to 1. Poor Catherine Livingstone, the chair of the Business Council of Australia, drew the short straw and was the only woman on Rupert’s head table, along with Howard, Keating, Abbott, the Reserve Bank’s Glenn Stevens and Paul Kelly. The last seat was taken by Commonwealth Bank head Ian Narev, who must be thrilled that the Oz has been campaigning against a royal commission into the appalling practices of its “wealth management” division.

The other current and former politicians who came included George Brandis, Bill Shorten and surprise inclusions Jeff Kennett and Martin Ferguson — what have they ever done for the Murdochs? Scattered around the tables were a few billionaires — packaging king Anthony Pratt with his mother, Jeanne (in a fabulous silver sequinned frock), Kerry Stokes and his son Ryan, and James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch, accompanied by his wife, Sarah.

And Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver and cricketer Ricky Ponting have now learned the rule about never standing next to ex-Wallaby captain John Eales (everyone looks like a hobbit).

Other guests included Noel Pearson (who gave an excellent speech), Foxtel boss Richard Freudenstein, David Gonski, Fred Hilmer, Qantas boss Alan Joyce and University of Sydney Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson.

It was raining, and the security guards outside the Hordern Pavilion were carrying umbrellas that said “The Australian’s 50th” and then, in smaller letters underneath, an undecipherable line, followed by “wealthy and powerful”. Despite my best efforts I couldn’t read it clearly — did it say “written only for the wealthy and powerful?” I really hope so.

26
  • 1
    Jaybuoy
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Noel Pearson… I wonder if he drives a porch..should be ashamed of himself for attending..ditto for Bill Shorten..

  • 2
    Delerious
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Excellent coverage Margot. This is the type of information we need when these guys get together.

  • 3
    klewso
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    How high Mr Murdoch?”

  • 4
    klewso
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Paying Tribute by the Brooks - get down on your knees and kiss the ring”?

  • 5
    linda
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    oh god Rupert clearly believes medicine is going to give him another 50 years……

  • 6
    zut alors
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    MIke Carlton ever perceptive.

    Margot, I’m concerned about the company you’ve been (sort of) keeping lately.

  • 7
    MJPC
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Enjoyed the coverage and guest listings, Margot. Reminded be of a comment by Russel Brand in a Huffington Post UK interview.
    He mentioned a friend who attended a party of one of the idle rich in the UK (not Murdoch). He was surprised at how many of both sides of politics were there, both Conservative and Labour, partying with each other. Brand aptly summarised that, during the day they are this or that party (left or right) in parliament, but at night they are the same party; so be it in Australia. When Citizen Murdoch says beg it’s ony a matter of how straight the pollies sit that differs.

  • 8
    arctic winds
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Would love to see a photo of that head table.

    I’m surprised Keating was there, and he would share a table with Howard at that. He must still have some debts to pay off to Murdoch.

  • 9
    Dennis Bauer
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    I wonder who else in the Labour Party would have gone if invited. Was Clive there?

  • 10
    leon knight
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    No photos of Janet Albrechtson in s stunning used sheath?

  • 11
    Matthew Drayton
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Malcolm Turnbull our cleverest politician? Faint praise indeed.

  • 12
    Yclept
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    That’s why this two party system is useless, they both represent the same evil and are more than happy to dance to Rupert’s tune.

  • 13
    Nomad
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    It seems that all attendees were aware of the toxic potential of being connected with Murdoch (viz Abbott & Credlin sneaking into the NY residence last month), but they dare not knock back an invite.

  • 14
    Emoticom
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Attending is not endorsing. Shorten and Keating, ex-PM and PM-In-Waiting represent a major component of the political spectrum. It would be puerile and snitchy not to attend and why refuse a free feed provided by the chief patron, propagandist and publicist of your political rivals.

    Better to be there to get a feel for what they are cooking up next: perhaps the brutal dismemberment of the ABC.

  • 15
    Margot Saville
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Thanks everyone for your comments. And yes, Monsieur Zut Alors, the dogs and fleas analogy does spring to mind, doesn’t it? :)

  • 16
    Matt Hardin
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Après eux, le déluge.

  • 17
    Nomad
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Emoticom - good points. I guess I am both naive and cynical. I would have expected some show of principle by not attending.

  • 18
    christine gibson
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Was Mrs Abbott there?

  • 19
    Margot Saville
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    No, Mrs A didn’t go, but it wasn’t noticeable because most people received a solo invitation. Rupert was also there without a partner.

  • 20
    seriously?
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Why doesn’t Rupert just bugger off back to the US where all his money is which he got in return for renouncing his Australian citizenship? He’s a real patriot.
    Everything has a price, which coincidentally was obviously on show at the event in question.

  • 21
    CML
    Posted Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    It seems neither the politicians nor the journalists in this country have learned anything from the recent British experience with Murdoch and his papers.
    Can’t imagine Tom Watson (British Labour politician) attending ANY News Corp event, especially if Murdoch was to be there. When are our pollies going to grow a pair!!

  • 22
    AR
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    ..reads, heaqd drops and unfortunately believes how PJK et al debased themselves. currently sniffling in corner.

  • 23
    Liamj
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Malcolm Malfoy Turnbull may have qualms but gets no sympathy from me, if he really knows better then his crimes are worse than eg. the mad enthusiasm of Julie Bellatrix Bishop.

  • 24
    klewso
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Murdoch’s Vanity Fare Car Boot Sale”?

  • 25
    klewso
    Posted Thursday, 17 July 2014 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    That’s the trouble with mustering strange cattle, the Micky-bull is always looking to get away without being noticed?

    It’s nice to see Mal hasn’t changed when it comes to having the courage of his convictions?

  • 26
    Felix Lizard
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    I heard that Malcolm has painted the bottom of his shoes red so he can be found if his is up Ruperts rectum too far.

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