Parliament's journos, pollies and lobbyists donned their finest for last night's annual Mid-Winter Ball in Canberra -- and who knew Bill Shorten had a comic streak? The PM and opposition leader always give a speech, and despite being, well, quite drunk, all the journos listen closely to see what they're made of. The verdict on last night? Shorten was funnier.
Before hundreds in Parliament's cavernous Great Hall, Shorten noted that the ball was usually a relaxing occasion for ALP leaders -- what with Kevin Rudd and then Julia Gillard being knifed soon after the 2010 and 2013 balls. Shorten joked that much had changed since the year before: a government behind in the polls, a PM being hammered over unpopular taxes and broken promises, unruly backbenchers, a leadership contender saying he’s not interested in the leadership, etc, etc.
Shorten mentioned that he'd had a pie before the speech -- he has form
in that department -- and revealed he was glad he wasn't being overruled by the former GG (aka mother-in-law Dame Quentin Bryce) with the grandchildren.
Abbott's speech was rated second-best. He made fun of his schoolboy French, saying since he'd got back from France there was something he wanted to say. He then rolled out a foreign phrase, translated on the screen as "good evening, my name is Anthony, I've come to stop the boats". Hilarious. Although if Abbott thinks he went to Normandy to stop
the boats, he's really got his history wrong ...
Abbott also made fun about his famous/creepy winking inclination, pointing to pics of Obama winking and saying it's really catching on.
The sombre case of detained Aussie journo Peter Greste, on trial in Egypt, was in people's minds, with several speakers referring to his plight.
But the ball is not just about pollies' speeches. Our spies tell us Fairfax stalwart Tony Wright turned heads with his patterned black tie (apparently you're supposed to wear a bowtie, although a few senior pollies went with a black tie). Wright had a few cheeky red wines and told some good yarns. Paul "Bonge" Bongiorno from Channel Ten was holding court at his table (he's not leaving the network, which is cutting back drastically, but will stay on part time). The ABC's Latika Bourke was spotted deep in conversation with Tory MP George Christensen, while a certain Liberal MP generated whispers as he chatted with various "women in quiet corners of the room". Well, that's Mid-Winter Ball tradition.
Here's a few of the tweets from last night ...