Sweet Caroline wows Canberra as big names scramble for an audience

US ambassadorCaroline Kennedy’s arrival was always going to wow Canberra. The daughter of assassinated president John Fitzgerald Kennedy,and the inspiration behind Neil Diamond’s hitSweet Caroline,she’s the kind of American royalty far too illustrious to be living in the cold capital.

But Kennedy – by far the highest profile American ambassador we’ve ever had – is a big enough deal that people come to her,and at a meet and greet on Wednesday,business,political and cultural leaders flocked to the embassy for a chance to kiss the ring.

All hail the queen.

All hail the queen.Shakespeare

There was a bipartisan smorgasbord of domestic pollies – from the government there was Energy MinisterChris Bowen and assistant foreign affairs ministerTim Watts,and from the Coalition,Opposition LeaderPeter Dutton,shadow foreign affairs ministerSimon Birmingham,and shadow defence ministerAndrew Hastie.

A few formers too – notably ex-foreign ministerJulie Bishop(now chancellor of the Australian National University) and recently retired speakerTony Smith.

Cardboard box billionaireAnthony Pratt,who was Australia’s most generous political donor,made an appearance,although we imagine his very public friendship with former presidentDonald Trump can’t have gone down well with the lifelong Democrat.

So did a few from the tech world,with Meta’s director of policyMia Garlick and Google’s director of government affairsLucinda Longcroft making the trip.

Representing the cultural sector was theatre executiveMichael Cassel and Australian Museum chief executiveKim McKay.

A couple of media types even made it in – notably AAP chief executive and formerHeraldeditorLisa Davies andThe New York Times’man in Bondi,Damien Cave.

We hear it was a whirlwind affair – just an hour and a half all up. Hopefully 15 seconds with a Kennedy was worth the trip.

Head Hunted

You might think former health ministerGreg Hunt,who retired from politics at the last election,might be sick of talking about COVID. Not so. Hunt is set to address – via Zoom – a Boston-based conference for medical journalists called “the health coverage fellowship,” as the minister “who led Australia’s pandemic response”.

The fellowship,backed by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association of Massachusetts – a not-for-profit health insurance company – will put Hunt on a panel to provide lessons for the future from countries who “handled the pandemic right and those that demonstrably didn’t,” alongside two American epidemiologists.

In other words,Hunt is representing Australia’s COVID-19 success to the world,even if criticisms over his speed in procuring vaccines,and the Morrison government ceding most pandemic heavy-lifting to the states and their chief health officers hasn’t been forgotten over here.

In any case,at least one relic of that government seems to have stood the test of time.

Spun out

PremierDominic Perrottet’s government – rocked by weeks ofJohn Barilaro-related scandal,reeling from the loss of two ministers in four days and lurching toward an election next March which it could seriously lose to NSW Labor – probably needs all the spinning it can get.

Unfortunately,Perrottet has recently lost his head of media,Kathy Lipari,who leaves the Premier’s office despite only joining in March (when she came over fromThe Daily Telegraphlike most of his media team). Talk about bad timing.

Adios,Hunter

It was awkward timing,too,for one of the Property Council’s biggest events of the year.

The lobby group hosted its bi-annual luncheon at Melbourne’s Grand Hyatt on Thursday – two days after Victorian executive directorDanni Hunterresigned over racially insensitive comments.

To a room filled with 350 mostly white people,Property Council national chief executiveKen Morrison said it had been a difficult few weeks and praised the Victorian team for their “resilience” and “commitment”.

He wished Hunter “nothing but the best” after the “powerful advocate” had “sadly departed” and announcedAdina Cirson,a former communications director for Finance Minister Katy Gallagher,will replace her in the interim.

While the council no doubt wanted the conversation to focus on getting city workers back into the office,gossip was lively in the Savoy Ballroom.

Notables in attendance included deputy Melbourne lord mayorNicholas Reeceand Charter Hall office bossCarmel Hourigan.

Part-time Pauline

One Nation leaderPauline Hanson was spotted on a typically delayed flight from Canberra to Brisbane mid-morning Thursday. Except the Senate didn’t adjourn until 6pm last night,meaning Hanson,who was also spotted away from the chamber during question time last week,was jigging again.

Fitz the Jackpot

CBD has kept a keen eye on the movements at energy giant AGL,where a flurry of directors left the building after its planned de-merger was abandoned after much pressure from billionaire Atlassian co-founderMike Cannon-Brookes.

The latest departure isJohn Fitzgerald,who in July finished a 14-year stint as general counsel,seven of which he was also company secretary. Last week,Fitzgerald joined Tabcorp as chief legal and risk officer,following the betting outfit’s demerger of its lotteries and keno businesses.

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Kishor Napier-Raman is a CBD columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Previously he worked as a reporter for Crikey,covering federal politics from the Canberra Press Gallery.

Charlotte Grieve is a business reporter for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

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