By jingo, Canberra is a small town.

I finally got to meet the revelation that is Bernard Keane outside the Manuka cinemas last night and no sooner had we started walking down the street than we bumped into political journeyman Tom Dusevic who suggested we pop into the local bookstore for a George Megalogenis book signing.

George had held court with Maxine McKew for 30 minutes earlier.

We bought a couple of copies of The Longest Decade, got them signed and then headed to our restaurant of choice, Verve, but bumped into the always voluble FOI guru Michael McKinnon who mumbled a complaint about Bernard’s description of his “holding court on the minutiae of the FOI laws” at the 2020 summit.

After dinner, just walking back to the car yielded Michael McKinnon, Mark Reilly and Michael Millett having dinner in one restaurant, and then The Australian’s John Durie in the next catching up with an old DFAT mate and the spinner for the European Commission.

We’ve brought our cameraman Shane Marden up here and he found Canberra to be an even smaller place, bumping into a lonely Glenn Milne picking up some take away from Manuka’s Ginseng restaurant at about 9pm.

Shane bowled up to Milne declaring his employment relationship with me and the poison dwarf couldn’t get out of there quickly enough, muttering something about his Walkleys assault being “in the past”.

Ginseng was voted Australia’s best Chinese restaurant in 2007 so it was a natural haven for the ALP factional heavies. The Left were dining downstairs and the right upstairs, hence the fleet of Comcars out the front.

Whilst I spent the night talking shop and bumping into journalists, cameraman Shane didn’t miss an opportunity to take up his passion for Tibet and scored almost 10 minutes chatting to foreign minister Stephen Smith during a visit downstairs to the Left gathering.

This morning Christian Kerr popped in to say hello, so we did the ubiquitous trip to Aussies Cafe and stood in a very long queue hoping the lingering Natasha Stott Despoja wouldn’t spot us together.

Mad dog McKinnon joined us for a chat prompting The Daily Telegraph’s Malcolm Farr to declare it would be a very big “wanted” poster for the three of us.

This morning has been a crazy procession of St George takeover interviews in the ABC Parliament House booth, over in the Sky News studio and then with SBS in the “Channel Nine courtyard”, if that makes any sense.

It will be a relief to finally get locked up with 400 other hacks and have a chance to get stuck into one of the most spun and leaked budgets in history.

Finally, a last minute Budget tip: there are rumours of a change to the duty-free status of alcohol and cigarettes for international travelers entering and leaving Australia, as part of the Rudd Government’s war on sin.

We may yet enjoy the legendary Budget headline: “Beer, cigs up!”.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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