How to enjoy the Midwinter Ball

So you’re heading to Parliament’s Night of Nights, the Midwinter Ball! Or maybe you’re just curious about what our politicians get up to when ordinary Australians are distracted by State of Origin? Here’s an exclusive guide to enjoying the only social occasion within the Parliamentary Triangle that’s more entertaining than Senate Estimates.

The dress code

Any of the following options is acceptable:

  • Tuxedos (for men)
  • Ballgowns (for women)
  • Hi-vis (for Tony Abbott)
  • Leather jacket (for Malcolm Turnbull)
  • Kaftans (for Greens)
  • White International Youth Year ’85 t-shirt (for Hot Albo)

How to get there

Most attendees arrive via ComCar, while Clive Palmer generally likes to arrive on the back of an animatronic dinosaur. To really get people talking, make a dramatic water arrival, crossing Lake Burley Griffin in an unseaworthy fishing vessel for just $US5,000 cash.

Where to sit

Seating is strictly partisan – not so much for the various political parties, who don’t mind socialising on a rare night off, but for Fairfax, News and the ABC. If unsure where to sit, you are likely to find a vacant spot at Clive Palmer’s table, and more spaces may well open up as the night goes on. Be warned that guests sitting at Sarah Ferguson’s table are liable to find themselves being artily questioned about their behaviour between 2010 and 2013.


  • If anybody brings up an uncomfortable topic, all attendees are permitted to cite “operational matters” and refuse to answer.
  • Leaders are generally required to attempt uncharacteristically humorous speeches like Julia Gillard’s in 2013.
  • However, in the interest of an enjoyable evening for all guests, Bill Shorten will not permitted to make any jokes into a microphone.
  • Smoking is not permitted within the Parliament House precinct, except cigars for which Joe or Matthias can 100 per cent hook you up.
  • Expect 90 per cent of conversation tonight to be restricted to The Killing Season. No, seriously, did you see that scene where…

Charity auctions

There are always multiple auction items that allow successful bidders to hobnob with our political leaders for a good cause. It’s worth having a bid, even though every single one is always won by GetUp. Here are some of the options this year:

  • An “on-water natter” with Minister Peter Dutton! Take a pleasant cruise into international waters with the Immigration Minister. Be advised, though, that the boat will turn around at a time of his choosing, and you won’t necessarily have a passport upon return.
  • A Labor dinner experience! After bidding on an affable night in the company of Anthony Albanese, you’ll discover that Bill Shorten has done the numbers and you’ll be dining with him instead.
  • Brunch with Bill Shorten! Alternatively, you can join the Opposition Leader for his favourite meal, which can constitute breakfast or lunch or anything between the two depending on the latest polling.
  • A coffee at Aussie’s with any government MP! This is your chance to catch up and shoot the breeze with any Coalition MP you like, and also Peta Credlin whose attendance is non-negotiable.
  • An exclusive afternoon tea with Senator Dio Wang! Who is the elusive PUP Senator, really? Win this prize, and you’ll be the one person who knows.
  • A North Queensland camping experience with Bob Katter! It’ll be just you and Bob, camping overnight under the shelter of his enormous hat as he regales you with facts about the North Queensland banana industry.
  • A powerbroker’s lunch with Don Farrell and Senator David Feeney! You’ll feel like a king when you dine with the Killing Season kingmakers. Enjoy a series of rolls as you toy with colleagues’ leadership aspirations.
  • A good meal at a good price with Joe Hockey! Enjoy fine dining with the Treasurer as you discuss just how affordable housing can be with a parliamentary living allowance.
  • A dinner with Clive Palmer and Malcolm Turnbull! As well as a pleasant lakeside meal featuring Canberra’s most renowned banana split, this is your chance to feature in yet another round of intense leadership speculation.
  • An internet chat session with Senator Scott Ludlum! You’ll have a no-holds-barred, guaranteed-hacking-free tête-à-tête with the Parliament’s nerdiest senator after your Skype call to WA is routed through VPNs located in all 193 UN member states.

(Note: You can bid on the real charity items.)

A final cautionary note

Whatever happens at the Midwinter Ball stays at the Midwinter Ball, by prior agreement of politicians and press gallery members in the interests of all. However, be advised that whatever happens in late-night Kingston bars will definitely be in Crikey tomorrow.

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