Hugo Kelly reports:

“As we all know, the Greeks
discovered sex,” declared Kim Beazley at Wednesday night’s annual
parliamentary social highlight, the Press Gallery midwinter Ball. “Then
they discovered women.”

As an opening line it was brave,
relying for its punchline on the presence of the night’s MC, Greek
goddess Effie. And the jokes that followed alluding to the fragile
state of his party gave Beazley’s speech a fruity aroma. He was glad to
note “all the Queenslanders talking to each other, and Stephen Conroy
and Kim Carr are getting up to do a duet on stage. They’re singing
‘Side by Side’…”

good to see the senior press gallery people are leading by example
tonight. Michelle’s turned off her mobile phone for half an hour. Alan
Ramsey’s wearing his annual smile. Laurie Oakes is getting into the
spirit – by not turning up.”

“And it’s great to recognise the
efforts of the media since I’ve come back to the leadership. I’ve been
called short-sighted by Michelle Grattan’s paper. I’ve been called
superficial by Steve Lewis’s paper. And I’ve been called yesterday’s
man by TheCanberra Times.”

Beazley’s was the
merrier speech, while Howard delivered a tradesmanlike effort, gently
sledging the Press Gallery and critics like Senate clerk Harry Evans,
noting deadpan: “Democracy is dead in this country, according to some
learned people in this place.”

It was the kind of speech the
head prefect might have delivered at the end of semester to a
matriculation class, listening politely, if not avidly,
while thinking ahead to the muck-up party.

serious networking went on around the speeches, with the ball, now in
its sixth year, living up to its reputation as the “lurching lobbyists’
late lunch.” For a lively account of Wednesday’s events, check out this report by feisty ACT bloggers the RiotACT. While The Australian‘s Matt Price remained sober enough to file this report.