The gallery has lost one of its most talented up and coming reporters as The Age’s Annabel Crabb packs her bags for London.

Crikey subscribers and devotees of the ABC’s cult show ‘Insiders’ will be devastated to learn that one of our toughest competitors is leaving Canberra for London next month.

Annabel Crabb, who pens ‘House on the Hill’ in The Age, was given a right royal send off at a corridor party in Canberra’s press gallery last night.

As befits the hacks of the gallery there were 5000 beers on hand and three bags of chips. Catering aside, it was a heady night, a close crush of journos, pollies and staffers (none of whom, as Ms Crabb pointed out, have ever been a source of her stories).

President of the gallery Malcolm Farr was MC for Matt Price, Chris Pyne, Simon Crean and Andrew Bartlett (looking tired, slender and not in the least bit emotional).

Farr introduced Bartlett thusly: “I give you the only person who’ll be able to drive home tonight.”

Bartlett, who sadly hasn’t given up the garish purple shirts, pondered reflectively on the culture that a tee-totaller encounters in Canberra, ie: no soft drinks at gallery farewells.

But line honours go to Matt Price and Chris Pyne. Pyne declared that:

1/ It was better to be feared than loved (although Annabel – his drinking buddy from uni days – was both);

2/ Mark Latham had stolen the line “politics is showbusiness for ugly people” from him. And Pyne shamelssly lifted it from Paul Begala;

3/ MPs loved to be humiliated by Annabel more than anything else (kinky!) and that Annabel was a loss to the gallery as she was on the way to being the next Laurie Oakes (ouch!).

Price informed his brethren that Annabel had two rooms at the ABC for being made up for Insiders – one for her and one for her hair. He also exposed what many have only guessed at – the UST between Piers Akerman and Annabel on Insiders.

Price’s parting shot was to presented La Bella Crabb with a largish pair of Y front white underpants with the words “All the best, love from Piers XXX” written in the groin. Nice.

Annabel thanked the crowd of admirers with the words: “I must apologise for my appalling timing, leaving Australian politics just as it gets violent and exciting.”

Annabel – known as much for her vivacious appearances on Sunday morning TV as for her capacity to pepper her columns with words like “chivvy” and “potentate” – thanked Matt Price and family and Jim and Alice Middleton for acting as her moral and intellectual guardians while she lived in Canberra, far far away from her native Adelaide.

She is flying to London to be with her loved one. Everyone thought that was frightfully romantic! But sources tell this reporter that Crabb is no pushover – she is on salary with Fairfax in London and has negotiated a contract *


with Fred Hilmer that allows her to rush back to Australia to cover the Federal Election when Prime Minister Costello calls it.

Crabb favourites made the farewell pilgrimage – Kevin Rudd, George Brandis, Bill Heffernan, Peter Dutton, Brett Mason, et al. Sadly, another Crabbe friend Danna Vale couldn’t make it. She was home removing shrapnel from her week at the dispatch box.

Her column today, sadly, is fairly crappy, as preparing one’s farwell drinks obviously takes energy. So we’ll encourage you to check out a better one, here: