(Image: Private Media)

There’s an awful lack of colour at this budget lockup. Instead, everything’s power suit black or blue, the default uniform up on the Hill, broken up by specs of tan and the odd smattering of Gorman.

This year, of course, what little colour might normally exist at the most overhyped night in Australian politics is even more drained. Instead of gathering together in the main committee room, journalists are atomised in offices around the gallery. Some, like my Crikey colleagues, are locked-up remotely in Sydney.

That subdued vibe pervades the whole affair. The flame-red budget tree in the Senate courtyard, normally flourishing this time of year, has shed its leaves. Many of the restaurants scattered around Canberra’s inner south, usually open late for the boozy, schmoozy afterparty aren’t even extending their trading hours. Nobody even seems to be sneaking durries in the loos.