By Brittany Chain, Political Correspondent In Canberra and Max Aitchison For Daily Mail Australia
09:50 21 Jun 2023, updated 12:40 21 Jun 2023
- Politicians attend Canberra’s glamorous Midwinter Ball
- The event for Australia’s leaders to let their hair down
Canberra’s glittering social event of the year has kicked off, with one Labor senator making it very clear which side she will be backing in the Voice to Parliament.
Labor’s Jana Stewart donned a flowing one-shouldered gown covered in passages from the Uluru Statement From the Heart to the annual Midwinter Ball on Wednesday evening.
The glamorous do, where MPs and senators try to disprove the theory that politics is showbusiness for ugly people, started in 2000 and is hosted by the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery.
Politicians, corporate chiefs and journalists from across the country have arrived in their finery for the sit-down three-course meal in the Great Hall of Parliament House.
Senator Stewart’s dress was complemented by a crimson velvet cape with ‘Yes’ emblazoned across it in huge white lettering.
‘Wearing this dress is an opportunity to wear my values and create conversations in circles that aren’t necessarily watching parliament,’ said Senator Stewart.
The dress’s designer said she wanted the statement piece to stop people in their tracks while scrolling on Instagram and prompt them to research the Yes campaign.
The dress, which was designed by Aboriginal social enterprise Clothing the Gaps, took a team of four people to help her put it on.
Clothing the Gaps co-founder Laura Thompson is Senator Steart’s plus one and will help carry the dress’s long train.
‘Jana and her dress will stop people on their Instagram scroll,’ Ms Thompson told Nine newspapers.
‘Hopefully, then people will decide to learn more (about the Voice).’
Anthony Albanese posed in his black tie before the event with his partner Jodie Haydon, who was wearing a frilly, long-sleeved black dress paired with a gold necklace and matching clasp.
‘A great night to raise funds for Bill Crews’ Exodus Foundation at the Midwinter Ball in Canberra,’ Mr Albanese tweeted.
His smile belied his earlier irritation that the social occasion clashes with the must-win State of Origin match for NSW.
‘I know that they say that politicians are out of touch. How out of touch are the National Press Gallery that they put on the Midwinter Ball when Parliament ends at 8:00, right at kickoff time?’, he complained earlier this week.
‘I don’t see why they didn’t hold it last week.’
The die-hard Rabbitohs supporter will not try to sneakily stream the game live from his phone, despite knowing it is do-or-die for the Blues.
‘The media have a lot to answer for as well, because I won’t even be watching it live on TV, because the Press Gallery, in all their wisdom, are having the Midwinter Ball that I have to speak at,’ he said.
‘This is an act of cruelty and it is most unfortunate in terms of timing.’
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton arrived with his wife Kirilly Dutton who wore a midnight blue dress with a glittery blazer.
Independent Tasmanian Senator and former army corporal Jacqui Lambie stunned in a black floor-length strapless dress paired with a large silver halter necklace.
Meanwhile, independent member for Kennedy Bob Katter looked dapper in his signature cowboy hat with a purple scarf draped over his shoulders.
Under-fire Minister for Finance Katy Gallagher flashed a smile in a black floor-length sheer dress when she arrived alongside Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt.
Her winning grin was a world away from last week when she was nearly brought to tears in parliament under theonslaught of Liberal criticism and questions about Brittany Higgins’ sexual assault allegations.
Senator Stewart clearly took inspiration from last year where Greens’ Senator Sarah Hanson-Young arrived wearing a long white dress with ‘End gas and coal’ written on the back of it – a direct criticism of 2022’s sponsors Shell and Woodside Energy.
Greens MP Adam Bandt, and his partner Claudia Perkins also caused a stir last year, the first to be held since 2019 because of Covid.
Ms Perkins had ‘coal kills and ‘gas kills’ written in black and red all over her otherwise white dress.
The messages were thought to be inspired by US Senator Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 2021, who wore a striking white dress with ‘Tax the Rich’ written on it.
This year, however, Senator Hanson-Young kept it uncontroversial in a shimmering brown and gold dress alongside her husband Ben Oquist who wore a navy suit and black bow tie.
The Midwinter ball raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for various charities each year, with $350,000 raised at last year’s event.
That was split between Rural Aid Australia, OzHarvest, Fearless Women, Roundabout Canberra, Pink Elephants and Ukraine, Ukrainian Crisis Appeal.