[Note to visiting media – this piece is unashamedly subjective. Feel free make corrections or add your own perceptions in the comments below]
[Correction: Malcolm Farr has denied any part in Mary Coustas’ material]
Wednesday night saw in the sixth Press Gallery mid-winter Ball in the Great Hall of Parliament House. I decided I really should make an effort and pop along. So last week Iâ€™d been in the John Hanna and booked a dinner jacket (and the bits that go with it)
The theme was rural, so on arrival in the marble hall of Parliament House I was greeted by service staff with a twist, men in flannel shirts and women in some sort of gingham dresses.
Inside the Great Hall each table looked liked nothing as much as manhattan with place settings giving way to a ring of large, high, brochures for the event, which in turn gave way to a towering centrepiece A large ice filled bowl of assorted beer bottles (with beer in them!) was hidden in amongst the monumental frippery.
Men in dinner jackets alternated with glittering women in plunging slinky dresses. Much chat, laughter, champagne and â€œHullo daahlingâ€.
Significantly the room was filled with Hillâ€™s Hoists. Someone equates suburban with rural.
Bizarrely the washing lines were sporting racy underwear. (I swear Iâ€™m not making this up)
A whoâ€™s who of politics and business were there. Howard, Beazley, Costello. In turn a horde of people who wanted to see, or be seen with, the luminaries had fought hard to fill the room.
Apparently in keeping with the rural theme the MC for the night was â€œEffieâ€ (aka Mary Koustas). No really, Iâ€™m not making this up.
Effie was actually quite insightful in her routine. I was surprised and impressed. It all made more sense when I heard the rumour that former gallery president Malcolm Farr had written her speech. Effieâ€™s contribution was a lisp, some timing, and a hair piece.
The speakers were blowing monumental amounts of smoke up the arses of the audience. Time and again we were congratulated for our generosity.
We could have given the ticket price to charity. Instead we chose to go to a black tie ball, drink a lot of complimentary booze, have a great dinner, be entertained by the likes of the Tap Dogs, and network to the benefit of our careers.
For this we were constantly congratulated?
The Tap Dogs were up next in a kind of homage to Howardâ€™s Australia. Blokes in blue singlets tapping in unison in their Blundstone boots.
John Howard and Kim Beazley both gave speeches. Kim, as always gave the better speech but, as always, you knew the Short Man had come out ahead.
Peter Garrett then convened the â€œParliamentary Poetsâ€ with Shadow Minister for Regional Development and Roads, Housing and Urban Development, Kelvin Thomson [Actually it might have been Warren Snowdon I was up the back and there were clotheslines covered in underpants in the way], playing guitar. They were interminable and yet weirdly forgettable.
The Press Galleryâ€™s choral society the â€œHouse Howlersâ€ followed. They adapted Queenâ€™s Bohemian Rhapsody into one of those oh-so-jolly musical numbers where we all laugh because theyâ€™ve fitted names we know and slightly naughty words into a song we know. The audience seemed to like it.
There was a bit more telling us all what totally wonderful human beings we were for having come to the ball.
Then the Tall Pop Syndrome took the stage. A very tight and talented group of performers but playing the same tired old bogan rock beloved of King Oâ€™Malleys on a Friday night.
I guess the audience had given up Wednesday night Karaoke at the Holy Grail so this was their fix of stale predictable music.
The besuited men and sequined women took to the dance floor with gusto.
Word started to get around (at least to me) that Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson was going to resign.
Iâ€™m a godawful networker. Partly because my patience for small talk is extremely limited, and partly because I intensely dislike the feeling of schmoozing people I donâ€™t much like. But a friend did introduce me to some bright young things of the Parliament which was interesting.
A bit after midnight I decided that it was time to head home. An interesting night. Iâ€™d recommend it if you get the opportunity.
A source has sent in some photos, here we have the women of the Parliamentary Poets:
And here the men:
And there the House Howlers: