Melbourne’s Right came out in force last night to hear neo-con court jester Mark Steyn provide plenty of entertainment, but not a huge amount of insight, at the IPA’s CJ Kemp lecture at the Park Hyatt. All the Kemps were there, including CJ’s three children Rod, David and Rosemary and four of his grandchildren. I sat next to David’s son, a student who works part-time at the IPA, which CJ established in 1943.

Whilst Steyn cracked gags about Halliburton’s push to corner the Persian rug market, mad Muslims and diving European birth rates during his “end of the world” tour Down Under, the more interesting aspect of the night was the table arrangements and networking.

News Ltd’s Terry McCrann hosted ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel and his partner, Jill Davies, who was listed as being from the Herald Sun. On the very next table was Tabcorp chairman Michael Robinson, a former IPA chairman, who has just seen the regulator block his takeover bid for Unitab. We had a brief chat about tactics to be deployed at the big Unitab-Tattersall’s merger vote in Brisbane on Monday.

Michael Kroger was seated next to Steyn and gave a glowing vote of thanks. Others on the head table included IPA chairman Alan Stockdale, Sam Lipski and Dame Margaret Guildfoyle. Kroger even came over to say hello while I was studiously taking notes of the table arrangements and in our brief conversation we talked about what he could do to lift Peter Costello’s ban on Crikey from attending the Budget lock-up.

The Herald Sun table wouldn’t have enjoyed hearing Steyn describe the tabloid as “Melbourne’s least worst paper” and it was odd to see Transurban CEO Kim Edwards and his wife as the only outsiders amongst the Murdoch heavies, who included Andrew Bolt, just back from the management love-in with Tony Blair and friends in California.

Don Morley, chairman of the $7 billion post-box company Alumina, came over for a polite chat and we did a secret grubby deal – he’ll vote for me in the Victorian election and I won’t hassle him at next year’s AGM. Could this be the first step towards an Alan Jones-style protection racket – forget cash for comment, this is “political votes for shareholder silence”.

Other big names attending included Federal Liberal Party director Brian Loughnane, who was also up for a friendly chat, Woodside and ANZ chairman Charles Goode, and Rupert’s brother-in-law and retiring Liberal Party treasurer, John Calvert-Jones.

Some of the Steyn commentary bordered on racism but the audience lapped it up. Only three questions were asked. Former Federal Liberal MP Louise Staley wanted to know about Australia’s ability to cope with south-east Asian immigration, right wing Svengali Ray Evans unloaded on Greens for not having kids and wanted commentary on the extraordinary correlation between Republican states and birth rates in the US, and a third questioner wanted Steyn’s three minutes of advice to George Bush on Iran.

On the green question, Steyn decried the approach of “we are so polluting that we owe it to ourselves not to be born” and with Iran he wanted “major destabilisation” such as creating a Sunni triangle so the mad mullahs would have “less time to monkey around with other businesses”.

All up, it was an entertaining and wide-ranging spray – but Steyn offered nothing on the major issues of the day, such as peace in the Middle East, the emergence of China and America’s troubled foreign policy. At its core, Steyn’s message was to be upbeat about Western liberal democracies and to keep procreating to avoid being swamped by Muslims.

The Singapore Government-owned Park Hyatt certainly wasn’t swamped by Muslims last night, but then the audience wasn’t dominated by old white males either.

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off