The female future of the Canberra press gallery committee was hanging by a chad this morning as a bitter man-heavy battle for four general committee positions shifted into overdrive.

A recent email alert sent from the desk of gallery secretary James Massola revealed the major office bearers were re-elected unopposed with Herald Sun scribbler Phillip Hudson (president), Sky News host David Speers (vice-president), ABC cameraman Nicholas Haggarty (treasurer) and Massola securing another 12 months in power in the style of Joe de Bruyn’s dissent-free shop assistants’ union.

But the sole woman on the previous committee, Misha Schubert, announced her departure, with Massola reporting that “he would like to thank her, on behalf of the press gallery, for her years of voluntary service and wise counsel”.

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Schubert’s exit has caused a gender row on who to elect to general committee as seven hopefuls — but only one woman — refine their bids for the four prized sinecures, raising the very real prospect of an all-male testosterone festival.

Incumbents, Seven’s Mark Riley, News Limited snapper Gary Ramage and Fairfax’s Andrew Meares have re-nominated while Inside Canberra upstart Michael Keating, Channel Ten camo Achim Bormann and AAP’s Paul Osborne have thrown their hats in the ring alongside 2GB’s impressive Lauren Gianoli.

Now the student-politics style dirty tricks have already begun. This morning a rebel Taliban-style how-to-vote card led by Bormann emerged with Osborne and Gianoli listed as running mates alongside Riley. Ramage has also kicked his campaign into the stratosphere, posting an Obama-style “Hope” poster to buttress his bid for power, while Gianoli emphasised the female angle.

A noticeboard in the Parliament House press gallery this morning

In fact, Ramage appears to be running a joint ticket with Riley. A flier obtained by Crikey offers their 13-point salvo to voters, including an Aesop handwash-led pitch for the woman vote.

  • We will liaise with Parliament House catering to improve the quality of the coffee bean.
  • We will liaise with the Senate committee to improve the parking availability for the Press Gallery members.
  • We will speak to the Sergeants office ref dress codes, i.e. ties.
  • We want speaker Peter Slipper’s travel expenses and allowances to be extended to journalists of the gallery.
  • We seek to improve the public standing of press gallery journalists by ceasing reporting on nasty politics in Canberra.
  • We will organise lucky door prizes for the scoop of the week — prizes to be determined — watch this space.
  • The first person to vote for Gary and Mearsy on today will receive a free “Freddo” frog. This has now ended — Thanks Probes.
  • In conjunction with the gallery and senate committee We will liaise to have the hallways painted — you will note I have delivered on this promise!
  • We will negotiate for extra toilet rolls and hand towel in the men’s toilets — this has also already been accomplished.
  • We will liaise with senate committee to have a hair dryer allocated to the ladies toilet in the hallway outside the News LTD office (We will also push for hair straightener).
  • We will attempt to have Aesop mandarin hand wash (and cream) in the Female toilets, instead of the soap in the bathroom in the near future.
  • We will inquire into providing vitamin water options to the vending machine.We intend to introduce a Press Gallery “Social Chair” to organise wine tours, trips to the snow etc.

Riley denied directly dealing with either faction when contacted by Crikey this morning.

“Gary and Mearesy are active and current members and they deserve re-election. But then again, Achim also deserves to be elected because you need to cover all sections of interest. Come to think of it, Lauren [Gianoli] would also be good because she’s a woman in radio,” he said. “It’s really healthy that there are so many people getting involved.”

Riley, who was heading to the ballot box when we called, declined to reveal his voting intentions, but said we could quote sources “close to Riley” speculating that he was likely to vote for himself.

In his missive, Massola revealed the ballot will be finalised late this week to finger the favoured four. Stay tuned for updates from the front line as they come to hand.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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