Out on the Town

Canberra royalty gather for lamb, jewfish and a US president


Canberra royalty descended on the Great Hall of Parliament House last night for a state dinner welcoming the arrival of US president Barack Obama. So who showed up?

Former prime minister (and Obama critic) John Howard was there, as was fellow ex-leader (and Obama confidant) Kevin Rudd.

Greens supremo Bob Brown also took the chance to welcome the president, possibly more warmly than the last one who came out, likewise union bosses Paul Howes and Ged Kearney.

Tony Abbott was given the chance to speak (his joke about being introduced in the US as an 'anti-republican liberal' went down well), while first bloke Tim Mathieson watched on as partner PM Julia Gillard revelled in the presidential aura.

But the night wasn't all about the pollies. Our spies also spotted AFL heavy hitter Andrew Demetriou (number one on our recent Sport list), newly-minted BCA boss Tony Shepherd and AIG chief Heather Ridout.

Also said to be enjoying the evening were Labor legend Tom Uren, local Microsoft CEO Pip Marlow and Boeing Australia president Ian Thomas. Even baritone-voiced crooner Kamahl was in attendance.

Diners were fed a series of Australiana dishes including macadamia-encrusted lamb, pan-fried jewfish and passionfruit pavlova for dessert. To drink they were given the choice of a Coonawarra cab sauv and a Margaret River semillion sauv blanc.

Tucking into the meal were High Court chief justice Robert French (number four on our recent list of powerful Law Enforcers); respective ambassadors Kim Beazley and Jeff Bleich; head of defence General David Hurley; and premiers Anna Bligh and Jay Weatherill.

It was all quite luvvy duvvy as Obama used his address to endear himself to the gathered audience, mainly by dropping the odd piece of local slang:

"When Julia and I meet, we listen to each other, we learn from each other. It's not just a lot of earbashing," he said.

"Through a century of progress and struggle we have stood together, in good times and in bad times. We've faced our share of sticky wickets."

Ministers and MPs (and their partners) were also given the chance to enjoy festivities with department secretaries, while House speaker Harry Jenkins and Senate president John Hogg had the opportunity to share notes.

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