From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Inside the lockup. It’s a strange world inside the budget lockup, with the doyens of the Canberra press gallery, the best and brightest from every media organisation in the country and the extended teams that put together last night’s and this morning’s mountains of coverage. Treasurer Joe Hockey’s set-piece press conference in the middle of yesterday’s lockup was a revealing insight into how the microcosm that is Parliament house actually works. There was nowhere near enough chairs for the number of journalists present, and it was the most senior people in the gallery that were there early enough to snag a seat. Sky’s David Speers, wearing  navy and white polka dot socks, chatted quietly to Laurie Oakes. Michelle Grattan arrived not long before the Treasurer, to find that there was no seat left. Graciously, The Age editor-in-chief Andrew Holden gave up his spot in the back row for Gratts. The ABC’s Annabel Crabb also found no seats and sat herself on the floor, as only she could make look completely normal. The Project comedian Peter Helliar also rocked up late, taking the spot next to Speersy after a minion kept it warm for him. Helliar’s foray into political journalism has got off to a good start — he asked Hockey where the after-party would be held, and was duly ignored.

Yesterday, we reported that AAP’s Lisa Martin had made a budget-themed cake. She got in touch to give us the lowdown, as well as a picture. We were pretty impressed with our lockup catering until we saw this.

“This year’s effort was inspired by the PM’s effort to scrape off policy barnacles. The Lego pieces represent the PM, Hockey, Cormann and ScoMo. It was caramel mud cake underneath.”


Speaking of after-parties … Everyone who is anyone was out and about in Canberra last night. Abbott, Hockey and co were not seen by Ms Tips — and no staff members from News Corp or Fairfax were tweeting that the PM was having a drink with their boss. Many people started their night in Manuka at Public Bar, where journos from The Guardian, the Fin and BuzzFeed were settling in for a long night. Labor MP Tim Watts seemed to be having a great time with the BuzzFeed crew — perhaps they were swapping notes on the best memes and gifs to describe the budget. When your correspondent arrived, Wayne Swan was having a quiet drink with friends, wearing a bright red jumper in case we missed him. We’re sure it was just a coincidence that the ex-treasurer found himself in a bar full of journos on budget night …

While the bar was mostly full of lefties, there was a small crowd of young Liberals from the Australian Liberal Students Federation. They were the most positive about the budget, except that they think it should have gone further to reduce debt and deficit — oh, to be young and idealistic.

After Public Bar, Ms Tips headed to the Kennedy Room in Kingston, where journos from across the political spectrum partied on until the wee hours. One attendee told Ms Tips they spotted Sharri Markson, but we didn’t see her ourselves.

And the morning after … There were many weary heads at Parliament this morning, with the baristas working at top speed to keep the press and pollies going. An ongoing theme, apart from chatter about the budget, is how difficult budget week is for journalists visiting Parliament House from other bureaux. The tight security rules instated last year are still in place, meaning that senior journalists are only issued visitors passes and aren’t allowed to walk around freely without an escort. Jacqui Lambie didn’t seem to have a sore head, she replicated Joe Hockey’s encounter with “selfie girl” from yesterday:

SBS ads budgeted for. SBS has already lost funding it hopes to recoup through ad averaging, leaving it reliant on the measure’s passage through the Senate to avoid being further out-of-pocket. The prospect of job cuts in June this year was ominously flagged in yesterday’s budget papers. Labor caucus yesterday decided to vote against the changes, meaning it’s now up to the crossbenchers. Insiders say it’ll be close.

Joyce still joyful. People with memories longer than five minutes might recall the glorious period of the early Abbott leadership when Barnaby Joyce was his shadow finance minister (Helen Coonan had previously occupied the role, and she was mortified to see it handed to Joyce). On appointment, Barnaby Joyce set about giving us the benefit of his views on debt and deficits, the core theme of which was that Australia was on the verge of default because of Labor’s spending. “We’re going into hock to our eyeballs to people overseas,” Joyce said in February 2010 (the Coalition always liked to stress that Labor was borrowing “from overseas”, which was apparently even worse than just borrowing). “And you’ve got to ask the question, how far in debt do you want to go? We are getting to a point where we can’t repay it.”

Joyce had to be gently rebuked by then-shadow treasurer Joe Hockey, and within six weeks was sacked from the portfolio by Abbott; within nine months, Australia actually had its credit rating upgraded by Fitch, securing the coveted triple triple-A credit rating. And what was the level of net debt when Joyce made his comment? At that stage, it was heading toward 6% of GDP. According to last night’s budget papers, net debt is now scheduled to peak at 18% of GDP in 2016-17 under Joe Hockey. So, net debt of 6% of GDP under Labor, and Joyce insisted Australia was about to default. But net debt of 18% of GDP (allowed to “people overseas”, mind) under the Coalition leaves Joyce unconcerned. Just so long as the government keeps giving handouts to farmers, presumably Joyce is happy.

Be the fixer. Reading the budget papers yesterday, there was more than a few eyebrow raising moments but this graphic really had us scratching our heads. What does it mean? What is it actually trying to show? Is it just a random jumble of pictures? We’re sure the photoshop wizards out there can fix it — Christopher Pyne style.

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to [email protected] or use our guaranteed anonymous form

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.


Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey