Budget night in Canberra is meant to be a rowdy festival of unhinged advisers and journos binge-drinking in glorious fashion at some of the ACT’s most clique-ridden gossip houses. Instead, the festivities seemed more like a science students society after-party than the promised forum of intrigue presided over by a tanked Bob Ellis.
Even Aunty’s Kerry O’Brien has been known to hold forth in previous years well into the morning on topics such as “my favourite cabinet line-up of all time”, but the ruddy-faced stalwart was nowhere to be seen last night. This was a barren, almost interest-neutral after party that sat snugly with Wayne Swan’s revenue-neutral triumph earlier in the afternoon.
Still, the signs looked promising as about 300 edgy hacks jostled at the gates to exit the lock-up right on 7:30pm, with Meet the Press card carrier Paul Bongiorno leading the stampede to collect one of the 400 Blackberries on the table outside.
The mood around Crikey’s cupboard in a corridor off the side of the Senate was tense as Swannie delivered up his pearls about Australia’s (quarries) being the “envy of the world”. After the House rose, it seems most of the gallery had “dinners” to attend, with Fairfax’s Tom Arup pausing first to file this story on Tony Abbott’s boasts inside the Liberal party room that most of the media, preoccupied with the Budget, missed.
Crikey had its own dinner, at a hotel restaurant in Civic, which was in danger of turning into a ideological turf war between John Quiggin and Robert Gottliebsen (“it’s like putting the Sunnis and Shiites together!”, complained Quiggin) before former Democrats Senator Natasha Stott Despoja intervened as a peace maker to resolve thorny divisions on the Resources Super Profits Tax. Business Spectator chief Alan Kohler, asked by a lubricated Firstdogonthemoon to sum up the day’s events “in five words or more”, responded with his naughty-sounding “big punt” line aired earlier on the ABC’s round-table gabfest.
By now, we were receiving multiple texts and tweets from revellers who had divided themselves into two Kingston-bound camps — the Kennedy Room where Tory MPs including Peter Dutton were holding court accompanied by senior News Limited journos Sam Maiden and Malcolm Farr — and the much lower-rent Holy Grail. We were told the Grail featured Sharan Burrow, Greens advisers Tim Hollo and Dan Cass (sporting a closely-cropped beard), a couple of ASIO-types and most of the federal executive of the National Union of Students.
A difficult decision, but in the end we got a lift from Bernard to the Grail and were immediately brutalised by the distinct tang of fresh vomit, the work, we were told, of a 20-something Labor hack who’d decided Swan’s triumphant utterances deserved a 17-schooner celebration.
The Australian crew, fresh from the Kennedy, huddled outside in the cold, with George Megalogenis, John Durie and Clive Mathieson all making fleeting appearances. Lady Gaga got about three runs on the venue’s classy karaoke screen, as the Firstdog celebrity train, book-ended by a mention this morning on the Jon Faine program, resulted in a bevy of free liquor.
But even that wasn’t enough to save the proceedings, as the Labor vomiters began simulated group sex on the bricks outside. A cab was quickly hailed.
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In a word, tragic.
*To continue this debauched meme, join Crikey tonight at All Bar Nun, O’Connor, kicks off at 6.30pm