Last night politicians, bureaucrats and journalists converged on Parliament House for the annual mid-winter ball. And it’s a very different occasion than last year’s knees-up, which Malcolm Turnbull used as an opportunity to attack Kevin Rudd’s economics advisor Andrew Charlton over the so-called ‘Utegate affair’.

It turned out to be Turnbull’s undoing. But this year, Rudd is legitimately on the back foot … and he’s done it to himself. Julia Gillard’s was the hottest table in town: a bidder in an eBay charity auction paid $10,100 to be her date. Tony Abbott had to content himself with teaching refugees to surf (oh, the ironies!) after activist group GetUp! stooged his eBay auction.

As Tony Wright opined in the Sydney Morning Herald, time is a bandit. We always thought it was a traveller — Tenterfield Saddler and all that.

But speaking of musical theatre… Although we hear News Limited’s John Hartigan served the dance floor a shit sandwich it’ll never forget, this year’s event was decidedly lacking in razzle-dazzle.

Rudd’s self-deprecating speech, designed to dispel the idea that he was a rage-filled micro-manager, instead telegraphed that very idea to everyone in the room, especially the mining industry reps down the front. It was left to Roy and HG to break the tension by pondering the finer points of rats having s-x.

Now to the fashions on the hill: have they done better than last year? After last year’s colourful train wrecks, it seems black, ruffles and old-fashioned glamour were the order of the evening.

Latika Bourke:

Leaving her famous fedora at home, 2UE’s correspondent was Canberra’s Jessica Rabbit in a strapless silver number with black satin evening gloves. Unfortunately, she matched her lipstick to the gloves.

Kevin and Jessica Rudd:

Rudd fille was the belle of the ball in her frothy, spangled black Spanish-influenced dress, with matching flower in her hair. Love the shoes; love the clutch; love the red nails. Her dad looks as proud as punch.

Moulin Rouge lady behind Kevin Rudd:

Who is this flame-haired vixen who incongruously paired her Capital Hill glasses with her cancan outfit? Not Nicole Kidman.

Tony and Margie Abbott:

Margie, too, went for ruffles, and we like her diamante-studded wrap. The only problem was hubby Tony’s grin. He scrubbed up like a bad photocopy of Frank Sinatra.

Tony Abbott’s Chantoozies:

With chunky jewellery, corset dresses and shiny jackets, Claire Kimball, Nicole Chant and Peta Credlin from Abbott’s office clearly took their inspiration from a certain Australian girl band. Makes Crikey feel that Wanna Be Up is the perfect anthem for political staffers. “Wanna be up, don’t wanna be down/don’t wanna see life go round this way/I’m going as fast as I can”.

David Epstein and Sandra Eccles:

Rudd’s former chief of staff looked debonair. But much as his wife copped a conflict-of-interest hammering over her Canberra lobbyist job, she’s trying to have it both ways here. The gold-trimmed ruffle on her dress is most glamorous, and so is her black velvet bolero, but together they, well, conflict.

Julia Gillard and Tim Mathieson:

Taking a hint from Angela Merkel, Julia flaunted her cleavage in an ornately decorated frock with black band. The sleeves and the general silhouette looked fab, but for the awkward, mumsy split right down the middle. Tim went for a Mad Men-style skinny tie, with debonair white pocket square. The suit wasn’t as slim-cut as a real ’60s look, but we appreciate his attempt to lift the men’s game.

Sussan Ley and Sharman Stone:

Wow. Sharman’s power jacket has me mesmerised. While Sussan’s satin shirt would be the envy of any newscaster, it really pales into insignificance here.

Andrew Robb:

I say, I say, I say; what’s a ministerial song-and-dance man to do when he’s left his boater and cane at home?

Julie Bishop:

Wow, I did not know Julie Bishop would be appearing on the next season of Dancing With The Stars! But seriously, it’s a pretty fab dress. And she can generate her own laser light show with her death stare.

Wayne and Kim Swan:

As his party’s standing in the polls slumps like a karate-chopped henchman, at least the James Bond of federal parliament can take a quantum of solace from the fact his wife is a stone fox who can rock a skin-tight strapless satin sheath dress like someone half her age (despite wearing last year’s Roman gladiator sandals).

Stephen Smith:

Cummerbunds are one of the most traditional evening-dress accoutrements. So it’s a shame that they’ve been co-opted by year 12 formals and that episode of The Simpsons in which Barney’s cummerbund fell in the toilet.

Joe Hockey:

Amazing! In this zoot suit, Joe was set to rockey out with his Hockey out. He has the calm, confident look of someone who plans to sit on the government side of the benches come November. But where was your hat with the giant feather, Joe? And your dangling fob chain?

Philip Ruddock:

Take my coat will you, Jeeves… Oh, it’s you, Phil.

The original version of this report reproduced photographers from Fairfax Media and News Limited without obtaining consent and without acknowledging the source of the photographs. We acknowledge our wrongdoing, and sincerely apologise to Fairfax Media and photographer Andrew Meares, along with News Limited and its (uncredited) photographer, for reproducing those photographs without consent. The photos were removed from the website immediately after publication.

Peter Fray

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