From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours…
Stale, male and pale. As attendants stepped into the Great Hall of Parliament House in Canberra, they were handed leis by smiling (mostly non-white) event workers before stepping into the hall which was decked out with fake tropical green plants. The theme of the night was “Pacific Step-Up”. It seemed to be a not-so-subtle nudge from the press gallery committee to politicians failing act on the climate threat to our Pacific Islander neighbours. A well meaning, if tone-deaf start to a night of powerbroker partying.
For the first time in its history, the Midwinter Ball was on the record, following a leak of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s speech in 2017. Perhaps because of this, or perhaps because politicians are not very funny, the speeches lacked anything resembling humour. Morrison joked about being pleased that all the journalists were in the same room so the government could easily access their metadata. Too soon, mate. He also said there should be a real estate reality TV show about Canberra politicians focusing on “location, location, location”… first starting off with Jerusalem.
Perhaps the only highlight of Morrison’s speech was his acknowledgment of the urban legend/alleged incident at Engadine McDonald’s in 1997. He also beat the dead horse about him being a Cronulla Sharks fan. “Go Sharkies!” guests heard time and time again. Note to future PMs: being into sport isn’t a substitute for a personality.
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Despite the theme, the guests were (unsurprisingly) mostly white and well-off — very much showcasing who runs media and politics in this country. Towards the end, Daryl Braithwaite performed his hit song “The Horses” to a crowd of mostly inebriated fans. A stale end to a strange night.
Ram-say what? Regular Crikey readers know how closely we’ve been watching the
PVO vs PMO. Back to Canberra, we bring you the tale of woe of one Peter van Onselen. He of the fetching beard and Mark Latham feuds is hardly what one would call left-wing. But in the surroundings of his fellow commentators at The Australian, PVO’s generally relatively nuanced and consistent centre-right views might as well be the ravings of a Green-Left candidate running for student guild. Certainly that’s how the Prime Minister’s Office seems to feel. After PVO’s piece on Gladys Liu, he received a series of texts from the PM’s press secretary Andrew Carswell .
You may remember Carswell — we last saw him threatening Waleed Aly with defamation proceedings. PVO shared the texts from Carswell on Twitter. The PM’s man promises that Morrison will “never forget” the package (referring to the Gladys Liu piece). Carswell then suggests PVO not bother accompanying the PM on his trip to the US (“It’s not like you’re going to get any access”), before, strangest of all, accusing Channel Ten of an “ideological bias” against the PM.
PVO subsequently tweeted his hope that Morrison’s flight to Washington has wifi, because “I need to finish my column on Scott Morrison being loose with the truth and file it while in the air”. This beef is far from squashed.