We Spent a Dull Evening at the Liberal Party Election Night Function

A fairly low-key election culminated with a very low-key night the Sydney Sofitel. All the Liberal big shots were there, somewhere, except Turnbull.

by Lee Zachariah
03 July 2016, 12:00am

All photos by Nic Bezzina

"The problem is they don't have enough seats," says my photographer Nic. I nod in agreement. The Coalition doesn't have enough seats for a mandate. Their best case scenario is limping over the line.

"Everyone's just standing around," he continues, and I realise he's talking about the party.

We're standing in the Sofitel Hotel in Sydney, and we've been standing there for hours watching nothing happen. Some people are gathered around the televisions in the corner. Most people are on their phones.

The first few hours, it's just the press in an empty ballroom. All the networks and media outlets are represented, both in terms of staff on the ground and the streams coming through the television.

On one TV, the ABC's election wizard Antony Green has about a dozen seats called already. The major networks still sit at zero.

The Liberal Party becomes the Liberal party as the faithful begin filing in, dressed in a mix of conservative chic and hoodies. It's surprising how many people are wearing hoodies.

What's weird is that no one seems happy about the likely win for the government, and nobody seems nervous about the swing against the Coalition. There are no recognisable human emotions on display, which is something they double down on when LNP mechanoid Matthias Cormann enters the party.

The ballroom never fills up. Half the guests are out in the foyer where all the food and televisions are, and the ballroom is really just set up so everyone can watch a speech that may not happen for five hours, if at all. The night is stolen by men who look like who'd plot the disappearance of a mate from a cigar smoke-filled back room. Why they then choose to sit in darkened corners where the strange lighting casts sharp shadows over their faces is beyond me.

I hear some of the members of the press murmuring about being told off whenever they try to get their hands on a drink, so I resist as long as I can but the evening is so fucking dull I just can't resist the champagne

As the evening goes on, it starts to look like there might be a hung parliament, but you absolutely wouldn't know it from the temperature of the room. I was expecting them to be buoyant in success, or distraught in defeat, or stressed at a draw, and that any of these outcomes would result in a some messy, messy drinking. If there is anything messy going on, it's off behind closed doors in rooms that we aren't allowed anywhere near.

There's a pressroom downstairs with desks and a television and free coffee. And unlike upstairs, that one has seats. ABC cuts to Greg Jennett upstairs and the shot widens to show the ballroom. Sometimes the camera doesn't always capture the mood of a place, but this one nails it: limply half-empty, a handful of people standing around as nothing happens around them. The pressroom erupts in laughter.

By the far, the most popular people in the room are the waiters, whose eyes betray a palpable fear whenever we descend on them and their trays of glorious savory pastries. Press registration was at 5:30 PM, so many of us haven't had dinner and are relying on the wait staff for sustenance. The more daring media sneak past the demarcation lines towards the tables of fancy food reserved for the LNP guests.

For most of the evening, everyone's hanging around the lobby waiting for guests to arrive, and then move upstairs to wait for guests to arrive in a place where the food and booze is. I'm not familiar with NSW politics, so I don't recognise most of the faces. I probably wouldn't have noticed Cormann if I hadn't heard the word "job" when his left foot hit the ground and then "growth" with his right. The post-electoral deprogramming is going to take a lot of effort.

John Howard arrives, and like a pack of seagulls to a hot chip the journalists all flock his was. He pays tribute to Malcolm Turnbull, and pours out a little liquor for his fallen homies who have lost their seats. Then he disappears into that back room.

By 11:30 PM we're jack of it. I got to the Sofitel at 8:30 AM to go watch Turnbull vote, and 15 hours is more than enough. People keep saying Turnbull's going to show up any minute, but with the election results unclear, what can he really say? Half the guests seem to have left anyway.

On Election Day, Australians stood up and, with one voice, gave a resounding "meh". And the LNP threw a party that reflected this. So we did the only thing we could and fucked off.

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All photos by Nic Bezzina.