The $5000 Crikey man was ejected from Melbourne Park recently as we tried to hand out flyers to guests leaving the $110 a head Labor True Believers dinner.

Victorian Premier Steve Bracks came tumbling down the exit ramp from the function, just as security guards, Paul & Sarah, ushered Mayne and Crikey columnist Hugo Kelly off the property, acting on behalf of the publicly owned Olympic and Melbourne Park Trust.

Undeterred by the security presence, Premier Steve and wife Terri grabbed a handful of our flyers with a smile – and we expect them to be plastered all over The Strand as the folk of Williamstown rise for breakfast in the coming weeks.

Last month, Bracks “media director” Sharon McCrohan had security guards stop Mayne from attending the Premier’s tax cuts press conference, sparking debate about media censorship. A few weeks earlier Mayne was told the New York-based Forbes Magazine could not take photos of the Crikey man on the steps of Parliament without written permission and that it was illegal to hand out flyers outside the Premier’s office.

Last night’s “confrontation” was low-key and taken in good humour. Stephen and his Crikey comrade Kelly moved to the nearby tennis centre tram stop to hand out flyers to passing well-lubricated Labor luminaries.

And there were many takers. The well-known lobbyist and former national secretary Stephen Loosley was an early departure. Loosely walked off speechless when the lanky man in the Crikey suit asked about his well-paid employment for bogus community group campaigner Frank Lowy. Many of the Labor powerbrokers were at the gala dinner hosted by Frank for Westfield’s 40th anniversary in Sydney last week, including the Windbag from the West and four Labor premiers.

Loosely is also a well-rewarded fixer for another true believer – Rupert Murdoch, sitting on the Rupert-owned NRL board. In his spare time he works for a Sydney law firm Middletons.

The rollcall was long and impressive: Bob McMullen, ex-Senate President and now Jackson Wells Morris lobbyist Kerry Sibraa, former Justice Minister Duncan Kerr, ex-Lord Mayor and Victorian minister-in-waiting Dick Wynn all rolled down the ramp to accept Crikey’s paraphernalia.

Former Kim Beazley advisor David Cox appeared a little tired and emotional as he headed for the free tram put on by Yarra Trams, the privatised company awarded its contract by Jeff Kennett and now chaired by Hawker Britten door-opener and former Kirner government industry minister David White.

But, let’s face it, who wasn’t tired & emotional after a long night of Labor celebrations? When the Crikey man boarded the free tram up to Exhibition Street, Coxy had just one complaint: he’d only been sledged by Crikey once this year – for living with Gary Gray and then spruiking his Woodside line to anyone who would listen.

But the star of the post-gig celebrations had to be Cheryl Kernot, who continued her habit of engaging physically with the media. She started by playfully chiding Crikey for giving her bad press – well, again, let’s be honest: who hasn’t given Cheryl bad press?

Pretty soon, though, she was playing good-Cheryl, bad-Cheryl, and was hugging Crikey Man with a passion normally reserved for others. But by the end of our tram ride, she had reverted to type, and was giving the foam man a few lazy uppercuts as we stumbled back down the hill to the Crikey bunker in East Melbourne.

There were plenty of journalists in attendance at the big $110 a head gig although the man in the Crikey suit was remiss not to identify the SMH’s resident contrarian Alan Ramsey as he stumbled into the night with the Fin Review’s Geoffrey Barker.

Crikey went to school with Bark’s boys at Ivanhoe Grammar but hears he was sledging Crikey at a journalist’s dinner party recently, only to be shouted down by other hacks saying we served a useful purpose in a democracy.

We spotted plenty of other hacks taking the free tram back to town including The Age’s bearded Phil Hudson and Hillary impersonator Annabell Crabb, who writes the entertaining House column.

We bumped into influential tabloid man Malcolm Farr from the Daily Telegraph many hours earlier at the bar in The Lindrum Hotel. Also staying at the Lindrum, at taxpayers’ expense, were a horde of Coalition staffers. We treated a few of John Howard’s foot soldiers to the full Crikey experience when the Monaro broke down on Punt Rd just over Chapel Street on the way to a St Kilda restaurant.

The Monaro, formally owned by Rupert’s New York-based spin doctor and Herald Sun hack Andrew Butcher, last broke down on the steps of Parliament House after the wedding photos with Paula last October. Great car, shame about the reliability.

With three staffers to Joe Hockey trapped in the back of the Monaro, we should have bound and gagged them and then called am HIH shareholders, creditors and policyholders meeting.

The Lindrum was full of taxpayer funded politicos – kind of appropriate, given it is Crikey’s local and until 1996 was the Melbourne office of The Australian, before Rupert sold his parcel of nine buildings in Flinders St to colorful developer David Marriner for $18 million.

Marriner quickly proceeded to break it up and almost double his money. A couple of years ago he explained to Crikey that while he didn’t understand newspapers, Lachlan Murdoch didn’t know much about property. Other hacks spotted leaving the big dinner included The Hun’s John Ferguson, The 7.30 Report’s Fran Kelly, The Age’s Louise Dodson and the Courier Mail’s Dennis Atkins who was once Wayne Goss’s personal press secretary, and professional flak to a host of federal and Queensland Labor pollies.

Labor Party national secretary Geoff Walsh, a former hack with Aunty, was very wise to ensure this was one of those Labor rarities where no funds were raised. The True Believers paid $110 for the evening and they even managed to avoid having it at Kerry Packer’s casino – the preferred venue for Bracks’ $1000 a head fundraisers ever since KP sent off that $100,000 donation to the ALP last year.

The decision to attend the dinner on a very brisk Melbourne evening was taken over dinner at Bar Corvina with a bunch of scheming coalition staffers. A quick cab from St Kilda got Hugo and I back to the Monaro which miraculously started again, so we quickly whipped together a rather provocative flyer that alleged all sorts of dark commercialism. Check it out, below.

Labor stalwarts leaving last night’s event gave Gough the vote for best speech, while poor old Hawkie got the gong for worst received speech. While Gough won the crowd over with snappy one-liners, and Keating delivered the Big Picture, Hawkie harangued the crowd with clumsy rhetoric. Gough and Paul received ovations; Bob got a smattering of embarrassed applause.

Only one true believer took the Crikey man in poor spirits and suggested we were gutless for handing out such a flyer whilst hiding in a $5000 green, foam suit.

“I was having a great time until we met you,” whinged Connie Comrade as she crossed the tracks after a few too many Chardonnays.

That’s our Labor Party – 100 years old and always receptive to criticism and open political debate.

Meantime, please don’t take this hastily prepared flyer too seriously.

WWW.CRIKEY.COM.AU

THE FUND RAISER THAT WASN’T?

The ALP tonight held fast to its traditions and continued a 100-year unblemished record of holding party political functions on the taxpayers’ purse.

Tonight’s True Believers ALP centenary celebrations also raised questions on Labor’s grand tradition of corporate sponsorship, Labor’s banned Internet journalist Stephen Mayne noted.

Some key questions that should be answered by ALP national secretary (and another former journalist) Geoff Walsh, include the status of the evening.

“Geoff Walsh was quoted on ABC-TV tonight claiming the $110 a head sponsored event would just cover costs, and was not a fund-raiser,” said Mayne. “In the interests of transparency, the books should be opened for public scrutiny to determine how much – if any – went into ALP coffers”.

How much – if anything – did the party pay for the use of the venue – built by John Cain’s former Labor Government for $93 million when they originally promised it would cost $58 million;

Did CUB or Lion Nathan chip in for the beer, after Labor’s successful campaign to reverse the beer excise;

Who scored the catering gig? Was it Spotless, long-time Labor caterer-of-choice, which sold all the soggy hot dogs at the Sydney Olympics courtesy of Cameron O’Reilly, ex-Spotless executive and Laurie Brereton’s former spinner?

The evening was long on boozy celebration, but short on sober reflection. Mayne called for a new ALP policy that former Prime Ministers not cash in on links with totalitarian regimes.

“Surely the sight of Bob Hawke making a beeline for Beijing and Paul Keating canoodling with Soeharto Inc should be banned in the next 100 years of Labor power lusting,” Mayne said.

Crikey also called for Labor to get tough on tax exiles, especially the Davis Cup team which are now virtually all resident overseas with the exception of Leighton (sic).

“Given that Labor chose to hold their function at the taxpayer built National Tennis Centre, surely the Davis Cup team in exile should be made to pay more tax by a Beazley Labor government,” Mayne said.

For further information: www.crikey.com.au

Stephen Mayne: [email protected]

ends

Do ya best, Stephen and Hugo