The stories of drunkenness and debauchery have just poured in from the big political ball held in Canberra last week and Hillary has got every last angle in a wonderful Crikey exclusive.

You may have already read just how much the Press Gallery Mid-winter Ball raised for charity. What you haven’t read is just how pissed everyone was.

There’s been a terrible cover up. When members of the Government, the Opposition and the Press Gallery get legless, an unearthly silence descends. Thank God for brave, honest, independent media like Crikey!

The only problem is that to keep his/her cover intact, Hillary had to get legless too – but that can’t get in the way of the story.

So here is a national exclusive – Hillary’s partial recollections of the Mid-winter Ball

Party Leader

Just how relaxed and comfortable was the Prime Minister on Wednesday night? It’s scarcely far from Parliament House to the Lodge – but let’s just say it’s lucky the little fella has a driver.

The consensus from the night is that the Hon John Winston Howard, MP, Prime Minister, was extremely comfortable and relaxed. Hillary, of course, can’t possibly comment on that – but

When he took to the stage, the PM greeted Gallery president Malcolm Farr with a high five. He then told the assembled hacks that they looked beautiful, before launching into the shortest Prime Ministerial speech in living memory.

If these allegations are actually true, then Hillary welcomes the return of a drinking Prime Minister. It’s been a long, long time since John Gorton was caught climbing the fence of the American Embassy late at night with a bottle under one arm and a bimbo under the other. Way to go, Johnny H!

PS The Dragon Lady was cold stone sober – and not particularly impressed at the video presentation that seemed to spend a little too long covering the 89 “Lazarus with a triple bypass” leadership spill and contained very few flattering shots of her dear hubby.

PPS Interestingly, another prominent parliamentary shorty, Glenn “The Black Dwarf” Milne, seemed to attach himself to the PM for most of the night. What gives?

Public Eye

Hosts for the evening, HG Nelson and “Rampaging” Roy Slaven, turned poor Veterans’ Affairs Minister Bruce Scott into a constant point of reference for the evening – although he wasn’t complaining. Hillary understands that he got more mentions from the pair than he has got from everyone else in the media in four years as a minister.

A less happy point of reference for HG and Roy was the Mad Monk and his staff. Hillary believes that if Bob Brown had seen the amount of steam rising from the Monk’s equally zealous press sec, Simone Holzapfel, he would have declared it an alternative energy source and used it to run a turbine.

Black Mark

The Man in Black, Ian Kortlang, was furious with HG and Roy – the one thing they had nothing to say about all night was gold sponsor Gavin Anderson.

Glass Slip-Ups

Princess Natasha got to wear glass slippers to the Ball – although they were a little different from the originals.

Enjoying the pre-ball drinks in Parliament House’s Marble Hall, Adelaide Advertiser hack Phil Coorey became so relaxed and comfortable that, during a particularly energetic indicative point, his wine glass flew out of his hand and smashed to pieces on the floor.

The remains were promptly stepped on by poor Natty, and so her dance card remained unmarked for the entire night – other than by the odd blood stain.

Ugly Sisters

Poor Cinderella Beazley couldn’t go to the Ball. He was kept at home by the Ugly Sisters – or, anyway, stuck at Centenary House with ALP National Executive.

Happy Snaps

The Mid-winter Ball, alas, was spoilt for many by the obtrusive behaviour of a certain paparazzo.

Joe “Hindenburg” Hockey was in a merry mood – again – and commandeered a Fairfax photographer’s camera and went round taking his own shots.

PS Hillary hears that Sydney Morning Herald Canberra Chief of Staff Margo Kingston is keen to publish the Hindenburg’s efforts on her website. Keep an eye on http://www.smh.com.au/news/webdiary/.

Belle Of The BALL

Margo herself cannot go without mention. In fact, Hillary votes her Belle of the Ball. No, Margo wasn’t wearing a Balenciaga classic. In fact, she turned up in a man’s dinner suit and proceeded to terrorise most of the ministry – but that is where her beauty truly lies.

Not content with a long spell dancing with Attorney General Dazzling Darryl Williams (what DOES she see in these Sandgroper ministers – it used to be Judi Moylan before), Margo went bounding up to Peter and Tanya Costello and asked for the next dance.

When Cossie pointed out he was dancing with his wife, Margo declared that that didn’t matter and suggested they could turn it into a threesome.

We’re not going to get another Bob Ellis case, are we?

Probity Audit

The Sydney Morning Herald’s no freebies spirit is spreading. Journos at the Ball were all very careful, paying for their own tickets.

Olympic Warm Up

Various corporates, however, had a different attitude towards ethics. The Ball was a great night for ambush marketing, with non-sponsoring companies putting on drinks beforehand – much to the chagrin of the actual sponsors.

Baby Loves To Boogie

Twinkle toed terror Bronwyn Bishop spent the evening working the room maniacally and asking everyone to dance – with few takers.

Getting The Exclusive

As far as Hillary can recall, only one person got so drunk that they were asked to leave – Age journo Jason Koutsoukis. (Editor’s note: JK is an ex of the soon-to-be Mrs Crikey but this is no cheap shot as we have no say over Hillary and his/her drunken recollections).

Grand Entrance

MPs Marise Payne, Christine Gallus and the Teenage Toecutter made a grand entrance, swanning down the steps of the Marble Hall fashionably late – prompting Malcolm Farr to remark “Oh look. There are still three moderates in the Liberal Party”.

Musical Interludes

Ball guests were entertained by the Press Gallery Choir performing a cute little number about Labor’s current woes to the tune of “Yesterday”.

Cuter still was their paean to the PM – a quick re-write of “When I’m 64”.

Lesse Majeste

The night wasn’t filled with continuous drinking. Indeed, waiters were told off if they were still served drinks once the PM had got up to speak.

Reality Bites

Republicans are dancing in the street at the news that Malcolm Turnbull – the man who with David Elliott, Kerry Jones, the Monk, Ho and the Rodent himself has won so much support for the great cause – is not running for the presidency of the ARM.

Now, though, the question still remains – can the ARM find a president who won’t actually turn people off.

Baptist bleeding heart Tim Costello is tipped for the job, but Hillary understands that he is a very reluctant candidate – and that his candidacy might have more to do with good old Sydney-Melbourne rivalry than actually winning any votes.

There is also the danger that the Reverend Tim will send a signal to prominent Liberal republicans such as his brother and John Fahey that direct election will be the way of the future and scare them away.

The republican cause already has support from people who think Michael Leunig is a great humanitarian and thinker. Can the ARM show they have the brains to elect a doer, someone who will work long and hard – rather than a latte belt superstar.

The Evils of Economic Rationalism

Thirty-three dollar interstate airfares. Cheaper milk. What privations will deregulation and competition inflict on the poor Aussie battler next?

From The Bearpit To The Sandpit

Apres Jeff, les pygmies! Yes, the Victorian Parliament has managed to become even more pathetic.

Last week, Liberal backbencher Andrea McCall rose in parliament to complain someone in a dark blue Falcon had reversed into her prized “little red rocket” in the parliamentary carpark – leaving the government-issue Corolla with a scratched rear bumper. Gasp!

But that wasn’t all to the scandal: “They had not stopped, they did not get out of the car, put a business card or a love note on the back window of my car to say: ‘Terribly sorry I’ve damaged your car’,” McCall continued. “They hit and they ran.”

The mortified member even showed reporters the damage – a small graze in the paintwork but no dent.

McCall estimates the massive sum of $600 will be needed to right the tragic consequences of this outrage. The cost will be met by taxpayers.

No Ticket, No Education

To further reinforce this decline, the Bracks Government is about to revisit one of the least significant issues of this or any other time – student unionism and the closed shop on campus.

Steps are underway to roll back the Liberal legislation preventing idiot zealots from forcing other students to fund their pet obsessions.

Oh, puh-leaze!

Ming Gets Merciless

Melbourne media have finally woken up to the fact that DLP Member for Menzies Kevin Andrews is facing a challenge.

The Hun reports – as Crikey readers would know – former party official Louise Staley is running for the seat, along with former aide to Lex Looser Greg Hunt, famed throughout Canberra for only ever wearing frayed or torn shirts – and jogging through the corridors in lycra bike shorts during the cooler months. Hillary understands that the pair have actually both nominated.

Some Victorian Liberals have been surprised by the Hun’s description of Staley as a “businesswoman”. They claim she has been largely twiddling her thumbs since being restructured out of Axa several months ago.

These uncharitable souls query her role as a telecommunications consultant, and suspect the only consulting she has done has been around 104 and the coffee shop at Parliament House – on the subject of how to knock Andrews off.

Luckily, it appears that Richard Alston has been taking pity on poor little Louise, appointing her to a number of boards to keep her off the streets.

And young Mr Hunt? Well, Greg works as a consultant at McKinsey’s – and their most prominent political alumni is currently one William Hague. Nuff said?

On the late breaking reports that the Jeffster himself will run for Menzies, Hillary hears than JGK may well be a starter.

There has been no love lost between Kennett and Andrews since the Christ-like Kev introduced the legislation overturning state and territory based euthanasia law.

Jeff has got more involved in Liberal affairs of late, taking a senior position with his old mate John Elliott at the fundraising body the 500 Club. Flikka – who strayed away from party involvement – is also getting involved, too, joining the Ad Lib club.

Kennett believes his election loss was an aberration, the result of a protest vote that got out of hand – and that the Burwood and Benalla results were just further manifestations of this mood. It will be fascinating to know if Menzies Liberals feel the same way.

Jeff’s old ethnic affairs adviser, Nick Kotsiras, the member for the local state seat of Bulleen, had signalled recently that his block vote would fall in behind Andrews, to the surprise of many observers. What happens with these votes now is anyone’s guess.

Melbourne moles say Kennett’s calls started Thursday night. Since then, Louise Staley has been panic stricken. As a loyal Kennett number for so long, the news has been terrifying – but Hillary hears she intends to stand and fight.

There Are Questions That Have To Be Answered

First – why is Jeff taking a punt on a preselection for a not all that safe seat now? The answer is simple. He’s bored. The job offers haven’t come through in the way that he expected, and Jeff has learned just how ex an ex-premier really is.

If Jeff is indeed making a bid for Canberra, there will be many people asking why. He obviously wouldn’t settle for a minor role. Hillary understands that the PM’s recent musings left Jeffrey inspired. But what will his pal Cozza have to say – let alone his putative colleagues?

What, too, is Shane Stone’s role in all of this? He and Kennett go back a long, long way in the Surrey Hills branch – but the PM doesn’t even want a challenge, and isn’t Stone supposed to be the PM’s loyal follower?

Helping Hand

All political observers know what a shy and private person Brendan Nelson is – and it seems his staff share these attributes and never, ever read the nasty stuff that horrible Hillary Bray person writes.

That seems to be the only justification for the recent behaviour of staffer Yaron Finkelstein. A few weeks ago, Hillary reported how Nelson’s constant self-promotion is doing his chances of that other promotion no good at all.

Still, young Yaron continues to walk the corridors telling everyone he meets to expect his boss’ elevation to the Aboriginal Affairs portfolio at any moment. It must be great to have loyal and helpful staff.

Bearded

As South Australia slips further into stagnation, it’s good to know that the Premier’s staff had they eye on the ball game while he was recently off overseas.

With John “Buffy” Olsen away for a fortnight, the lads held a “beard off” – a competition to see who could grow the best beard in that time, judged by the office sheilas.

The South Australian government is plagued by leaking – and Hillary understands that the guys were left feeling a little worried when details of the competition and the winner were announced some 30 minutes later on the ABC.

Home Is Not Home For Ho

Ho Chi Minchin, leader of the dreaded National Right, suffered an embarrassing blow when his candidate for the presidency of his home division of the Liberal Party in South Australia failed to get up on Friday night.

The vote was yet another failure for the perpetually embattled Buffy too, who had put aside his differences with Ho to back the same candidate.

Running In Ryan

The fallout continues from last weekend’s Ryan electorate committee AGM and the disputed ballot for the chairman’s spot between Penny Behan and Bob Tucker.

Throughout the week, lawyers’ letters have been flying around and party state director Graham Jaeschke has finally decided if the suspect ballot papers have been destroyed or not – and some fairly interesting theories have been developed.

Some Queensland Libs are alleging that the ballots were changed by the wannabe MP, Michael Johnson. Its subscribers claim that Johnson thought Behan’s margin was larger than it was, and tried to deal himself a little bit of kudos by telling Tucker that some of his followers had voted for him.

What there can be no doubt over is that the Ryan election was a complete shambles. Hillary hears that there are at least 13 suspect votes from the election for chairman. Oddly, state president Con Galtos has declined calls to convene a state executive meeting.

Sources say, however, that when executive finally meets its is likely to declare Behan the winner. Tucker only won by one vote, so if all the suspect votes are declared informal, a win for Behan will follow – although there have been murmurings that the Tucker crowd will take the matter to court.

More funny stories continue to trickle out about Johnson. Locals claim that in the lead up to the meeting, Tucker actually wrote to Johnson’s Chinese friends telling them that Behan was the candidate of the people who backed One Nation in the ’98 state election. This tactic is said to worked so well that young Michael realised he would not be able to control his numbers.

The story goes on to claim that, in a magnificent exercise in spin, Johnson rang Tucker and told him that he’d been taking some soundings around the community and thought that he could deliver him a solid bag of votes – despite the fact that he was running on Behan’ ticket. It’s even been alleged by some that he spoke to Tucker in the lead up to the ballot.

All the ballot papers are under lock and key, but it has been indicated they will be destroyed at close of business on Tuesday. However, if Jaeschke or anyone else acts to get rid of the papers before all the constitutional process have been followed, things will get even hotter.

Hillary, of course, cannot comment on the veracity of any of these yarns – but it’s all pretty hilarious stuff.

Salvage Operation

Legal aid beneficiary and flower girl Carmen Lawrence attempted yet another relaunch last week with a caring, sharing – but little noticed – speech calling for a new approach to political donations, advertising and community involvement in policy-making.

An apology over Penny Easton might carry more weight, Carmen.

Hillary can be contacted at [email protected]