I appreciate that there are Crikey readers who have principled objections to reading Gerard Henderson’s blog on the Sydney Institute website and/or the musings of Malcolm Farr on the much lower brow news.com.au website of which he is political editor. Hence I feel duty bound to reprint in full the following exchanges from today’s Henderson and Farr postings so you can enjoy this interchange without betraying those principles.
First Gerard Henderson:
2012 MID-WINTER BALL NEWS FLASH – JULIAN MORROW BREAKS ROB OAKESHOTT RECORD FOR LONGEST PARLIAMENT HOUSE MONOLOGUE IN A CALENDAR YEAR
Members of the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery are invariably telling politicians what to do. Many journalists, who report national politics out of Parliament House in Canberra, have never worked in government or in opposition or in the public service or, indeed, in business. Nevertheless they are tops at telling politicians how they should perform and how they should go about their business.
It’s a rare event where journalists run anything. That’s why Nancy’s co-owner is always willing to accept an invitation to the Mid-Winter Ball to see journos running something. This year’s event was held on Wednesday 27 June in the Great Hall Parliament House. The 2012 occasion had a strange Italian – or rather Roman – theme (see MWD 139). Here are some random highlights from the (poorly organised) evening.
7.15 pm. Sponsors get early entry to the Great Hall where Malcolm Farr, who is a member of the Federal Parliamentary Gallery committee – or, rather, Comitato – thanks sponsors for their support. Apparently this was the BEST speech of the night – with emphasis on “apparently”. You see, someone forgot to turn on the microphone and it was difficult to hear what the national political editor of news.com was on about.
Soon word followed to the back of the audience that Mr Farr had said that, due to the long running debate on asylum seekers in the House of Representatives, both politicians and journalists would find it impossible to get to the Mid-Winter Ball on time. Or something like that. Alas, we will never know.
7.30 pm. The doors of the Great Hall are opened to all guests. Guests mingle, network, shake hands and plant kisses. But no one knows what is going on. Gradually the room fills up. But no one says anything. No one welcomes guests or tells them what is going on or the reason for the delay. It’s like no one is in charge. It’s a kids’ party and the adults have left the building. The organising committee [Don’t you mean the Operandi Di Comitato? – Ed] do not appear to be organising much at all – except for the unexplained delay.
In time, the room gets dark and a DVD is shown. According to the elaborate – and expensive – program this is a Ho Una Sensazione moment. Wow. Various politicians, journos, TV/Radio crew and photographers ham it up to the music and words of I’ve Got A Feeling. The video was produced and directed by Mark Jessop.
It’s all good fun. At the conclusion of I’ve Got A Feeling, antipasto is served followed by secondo. Still no one says anything. During the fine dining the Prime Minister and Opposition leader arrive. But no one welcomes them. Tragedy strikes. The sassy Liberty Sanger, MWD’s favourite Maurice Blackburn lawyer, visits Nancy’s co-owner’s table. But, alas, he is temporarily absent. [Perhaps next year – Ed].
It’s now 10.20 pm, no less. The lights go off – again. I’ve Got A Feeling is played – again. The lights come on – again. And, lo and behold, someone speaks. It’s Phillip Hudson – president of the Gallery- who is referred to in the program as the Presidente. Mr Hudson welcomes guests – around three hours after they arrived – and advises the names of the charities which will benefit from the Mid-Winter Ball.
During Phillip Hudson’s performance, it is announced that the Sydney Morning Herald’s Phil Coorey has won this year’s Paul Lyneham Award. In a moving but somewhat long speech, Mr Coorey declares that he has accepted the award for journalists – particularly “everyone who is there and who will not be there soon”. The award is $5000. If the moolah happens to be divided up between journalists at Fairfax Media and News Limited who – (sadly) are destined to lose their jobs – each will get about $2.
It’s 10.35 pm and Julian Morrow takes the stage. He is the MC – or Ospiti Speciali – for the evening. Mr Morrow is one of The Chaser Boys (average age 36 years – or it is 38? Or perhaps 37?) and the presenter of the Friday edition of the ABC Radio National Drive program. The Chaser Boy declares that guests include “some of the most powerful people in the country and the prime minister”. Funny, apparently. Nancy’s co-owner LOLed so long that he spilt holy water down his dress shirt.
Julian Morrow’s oration contains some good jokes along with lotsa undergraduate humour and hits at predictable targets. For example, Gina Rinehart is called “the elephant not in the room”. When there is some objection to this put-down, Morrow says that the comment is “not sexist but fatist”. So that’s okay then. Julian Morrow mentions the quantum of Mark Scott’s annual salary. Re which see the Correspondence and On the Couch sections. Phew.
It’s 10.55 pm and Mr Morrow concludes his introductory comments. Believe it or not, Julian Morrow’s monologue – at 20 minutes – is longer than that of Independent MP Rob Oakeshott who went on in Parliament House for a mere 17 minutes before declaring that he would support Julia Gillard to form a minority government. The Prime Minister had to wait for a full 20 minutes before Julian Morrow allowed her to give the keynote address. Julian Morrow’s address to the Mid-Winter Ball takes more time than all the other speakers combined. It’s called narcissism.
10.55 pm. Finally Julia Gillard gets a guernsey after Julian Morrow gives up his intention of speaking longer than Fidel Castro. Part of the Prime Minister’s speech is devoted to bagging Tony Abbott but part is witty. All in all, a good performance before a cynical and increasingly thirsty audience.
11.08 pm. Julia Gillard concludes. But, wait a second. Who’s this? Yes – it’s Julian Morrow, back again. This time The Chaser Boy comments on the Prime Minister’s speech and refers to her “backbone”. LOL – it’s a reference to Ms Gillard’s backless dress. Morrow then introduces Tony Abbott.
11.10 pm. Tony Abbott praises Julia Gillard’s speech, make a serious point about the charities benefiting from the function, empathises with journalists who might lose their jobs and concludes with a light-hearted jibe at Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. It’s suitably short – considering the function has been running for nearly four hours.
11.13 pm. Can you believe it? Julian Morrow is at it again – this time commenting on Tony Abbott’s speech. He complains that Abbott’s policy is to “stop the jokes” [Get it? Not “stop the boats”. How funny can you get – at 11.13 pm, that is.]
11.15 pm. Finally Julian Morrow shuts up. This co-incides with a surge in orders for celebratory drinks. Then it’s time for the Press Gallery Choir – otherwise known as “The House Howlers”. In the program, this talent is described as “Laugh Out Loud Political Satire”. Alas, it’s university revue humour and there is not much laugh-out-loud or otherwise.
11.25 pm. It’s all over. The party and dancing commences – or Divertimento. Until Arrivederci at 2 pm.
11.35 pm. Nancy’s co-owner goes home after hearing a rumour that Julian Morrow will give another narcissistic 20 minute speech (possibly the Dopo-cena discorso) and that Rob Oakeshott will deliver a vote of thanks. The good news is that The Hyatt’s bar is still open. Nancy’s (male) co-owner spills some altar-wine on his dress shirt while reflecting that it’s just as well that Parliamentary Press Gallery types don’t run the world – or even Australia.
Second, the Malcolm Farr response:
MIDWINTER BRAWL: ‘Why I called him a complete f…wit’
On his blog today, commentator Gerard Henderson published a scathing view of the Canberra Midwinter Ball, calling the event “poorly organised” and a “kids party.” Here, News.com.au’s political editor Malcolm Farr shapes up.
A-grade banality merchant Gerard Henderson today reviewed the Press Gallery Mid-Winter Ball with the tone of a jealous man straining for vindication.
Gerard attended the ball, although someone else paid for his ticket.
He perhaps should have sent his researcher, who provides some of the deep thoughts Henderson parades as his own in columns.
Mal Farr on twitterMalcolm Farr attacked Gerard Henderson on Twitter.Source: Supplied
A competent researcher, as opposed to Gerard, would not have named me as a member of the Press Gallery Committee. I haven’t been for more than 10 years.
There were other factual errors and omissions, but that isn’t a major issue.
I and others have been involved in the ball for all its 13 years and we are proud of it and what it achieves. Henderson has had the occasional shot at me for my journalism or opinions and I have not lost a second’s sleep as a consequence.
But he is not going to misrepresent and deprecate the Mid-Winter Ball as some sort of aimless rabble without me replying.
Last year I had a barny with then Greens leader Bob Brown who described the ball as “insidious” because he nearly comes into contact with business people, who are among our valued sponsors.
This year it’s Gerard. Like Bob Brown, Henderson didn’t mention the ball raises a lot of money for charity, more than $2 million over 13 years.
But he did note that a lawyer mate of his had stopped by his table. But – get this – Gerard wasn’t there at the time. They’ll be talking about that for a long time to come.
Henderson did not think it significant that this week’s ball gathered $300,000 for autism sufferers, lifesavers, cerebral palsy victims, and a group which cares for young people with cancer.
One of our colleagues, Peter Veness, this year died of cancer at an excruciatingly young age. His strong, equally young widow Bec was a special guest at the ball.
Others in the Great Hall included the US ambassador, the British High Commissioner, and Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the Moon, who charmed people stopping by his table.
Gerard, of course, reported none of this in his Friday column for the Sydney Institute for Greyness. He was more interested in the fact that the MC for the night was Julian Morrow, of the Chaser group.
If there’s one group which makes Gerard grind his dentures more than the Press Gallery it’s the Chaser chaps. Others had a good time but Gerard – noted for the magnitude of his sense of humour – had only complaints about Morrow’s jokes.
Breezed over were the generous contributions of Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott who with big spirit took part in the night.
There is a simpering dullness about Henderson on most writing occasions, but he is free to question the integrity and thoroughness of all journalists.
However, he is not free to misrepresent an event which not just helps great causes but brings together people normally on opposing sides in a rare night of non-partisan fun.
His comments could harm efforts to raise money for those charities. He and Bob Brown should get a life.