Last Wednesday I received an invitation from the Prime Minister's chief spinner John McTernan to attend Christmas drinks at Kirribilli House.
The invitation was a little vague, not requesting my attendance as a "woman" or as a "blogger" or even as a "mummy", but simply requesting the "pleasure of my company". I had eight hours to RSVP and did so immediately before asking around to see which other media colleagues had been invited. It wasn't long before I realised the group invited was a similar one to those who attended the PM's morning tea with "mummy bloggers" back in June, with the exception of a few additions like me.
I'd become part of the PM's strategy to get close to a number of women who collectively have a powerful voice online. Women-focused websites such as Women's Agenda
, The Hoopla
, iVillage, Essential Baby
and Daily Life
attract a combined audience of more than 3.5 million people according to market researcher Nielsen (and including room for cross-over). Add to this the individual bloggers in the room such as Eden Riley
, who can pull in thousands of women a month, and you have plenty of reason to bring in the caterers, order the champagne and schedule a little get-together on the lawns (and then in the lounge room, given the terrible weather in Sydney yesterday) of Kirribilli House.
Although when I asked the Prime Minister what the point of the exercise was, she didn't concede as much. She told me it was a "nice thing to do" and that, having met many of the women earlier on in the year, she thought it'd be a good way to celebrate the Christmas period over a drink. She nodded when I discussed how social media's become a powerful protesting tool for women and briefly mentioned the women's vote
in the President Obama's successful campaign in the US, but didn't appear willing to be drawn into how significant the so-called "gender card" will be in 2013.
The Prime Minister and her advisers mingled with the group of 25 or so that included as many experienced journalists and editors -- like Anne Summers, Alex Brooks and Sarah Oakes -- as it did experienced bloggers. Gillard moved from one person to another with glass of Champagne, deliberately ensuring she spoke to everybody in the room.
There were no questions off limits. We were not asked to leave phones, notepads or recording devices at the door. Most of the crowd stood, drink in one hand, smartphone in the other, using the opportunity to pose with the Prime Minister and take Instagram snaps of interiors of the historic house.
I didn't hear anybody bring up the Prime Minister's resignation from Slater & Gordon, nor the Craig Thomson or Peter Slipper affairs -- although that could have occurred while I was out of earshot. However, I heard women use the opportunity to talk about other issues that matter to them: s-xism at work, getting ahead in their career, childcare and how having a female prime minister has changed the perspective among some young girls about what opportunities and careers they can pursue.
Image: Prime Minister's Office