Everything’s in readiness for Gabfest ’08, and Canberra is buzzing … well, lightly humming, with excitement. Between the summiteers this weekend and the will-they-won’t-they Chinese flame attendants next week, Canberra hasn’t had this much attention since Bob Hawke walked across Lake Burley Griffin on the night of the ’83 election.

There have been teething problems for the Summit but, let’s be fair, fewer than might have been expected. Various people seem to have been nominated, selected, then subsequently invited without being any the wiser. Accordingly the likes of Nick Greiner and James Packer have had to regretfully decline at the last minute. There was also the unfortunate incident of the BCC invitation email that wasn’t quite so BCC as its sender intended. One can only imagine the sinking feeling the poor APS5 in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet felt when she realised her mistake. Ah well. There’s always the Department of Defence. And the recipients apparently had a nice Salon des Refusés discussion together.

As always, there’s a few malcontents. John Roskam whinged that he didn’t get an invite, blaming a vast left-wing conspiracy, instead of the fact that the Institute of Public Affairs is ideologically better placed to attend a 1920 summit rather than this. And yesterday Crikey regular David Flint paused from watching his DVD of 2004 election highlights to lament the absence of monarchists, despite the fact that most monarchists will have died of old age by 2020. Flint may have also forgotten the Summit product label “best and the brightest”, which tends to exclude people who seriously believe in the divine right of kings.

The Australian, too, has swung around from its initial support for the summit as a worthy successor to its own New Agenda for Self-Promotion to calling it a “gabfest” and muttering, in its usual mad-old-woman-on-the-bus manner, about chattering classes and Howard-haters.

And yesterday, in the surprise of the year, Mark Latham had a go in the AFR. Starting off with his by-now regular piece of irrelevant tittle-tattle from the days when he mattered, His Bitterness declared to his readership of plutocrats and rugged individualists that there weren’t enough suburban Australians at the summit, it was all the fault of the feminists, and that the whole thing should be online.

Given Latham, with his penchant for physical violence and verbal abuse, was about the most analog Labor politician since Paul Keating managed the Ramrods, this is ironic indeed, or at least faintly amusing, although he is slightly ahead of the ACTU, whose big summit idea is a tax on the internet to give more money to artists. Louise Adler, you’ve been trumped.

The Campbelltown Poltergeist is also perhaps unaware that there are already plenty of forums, chatrooms and debates in cyberspace, and that sadly any national conversation conducted online is unlikely to get far beyond “LOL”, “OMGWTF!!!!!!!!!!” and “any single ladies like 2 chat?”

Which, admittedly, may be where the discussion heads among participants late on Saturday night.

Crikey will be there. At the summit, that is, not checking who’s snogging whom in the taxi queue after hours. Having failed to gain admission on our merits, or more correctly lack thereof, we’re sneaking in the side door via the Press Gallery to watch 1000 of Australia’s finest talking heads do what they do best. Read all about it on Monday, if we’ve survived.

Read 200-word Summit submissions from Simon Mansfield, Robert Manne, Jon Altman, Marcus Westbury, Joshua Gans, Miriam Lyons, Clover Moore, Melissa Conley Tyler, Benedict Bartl, Louise Tarrant, Sarah Davies, Ann McGrath, Jason Glanville and Mary Crock … here

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