CBD

Gina digs deep at celebratory nosh

Gina digs deep at celebratory nosh

The 70th anniversary dinner for right-wing think tank the Institute of Public Affairs on Thursday in Melbourne may have suffered from a bad case of the trots - Trotskyite protesters invaded the venue and mobbed lord mayor Robert Doyle's car - but that didn't stop Australia's richest person, Gina Rinehart, emerging winner on the night.

Rinehart, who owns 15 per cent of BusinessDay publisher Fairfax Media but was seated between Rupert Murdoch and his print lieutenant, Robert Thomson, dug deeper than one of her iron ore mines during the fund-raising auction. Her Roy Hill Highness paid $25,000 to send four people to Rancho del Cielo, the Californian ranch formerly owned by late US president Ronald Reagan.

The Reagan Ranch is now preserved by the Young America's Foundation, which uses the property as a "campus to teach young people about individual freedom, a strong national defence, free enterprise, and traditional values".

Rinehart paid another $25,000 to send six people to a filming of News Corp fulminator Andrew Bolt's Ten Network show and have a cup of tea with the great man (Bolt, not Reagan) afterwards.

To top off the evening Rinehart, who has taken legal action that could see West Australian journalist Steve Pennells and BusinessDay scribe Adele Ferguson jailed, was given an IPA Leadership in Free Enterprise Award. IPA executive director John Roskam confirmed the award but declined to comment on the auction results.

The night also saw Opposition Leader Tony Abbott kneel by Murdoch for a word in his ear (pictured) - although whether the publisher was paying any attention is another question.

Jolly jumbucks

Perhaps because she was busy in Melbourne, Rinehart has so far been a no-show at China's answer to Davos, the Boao Forum - although right-hand man Tad Watroba was spotted on Saturday night hobnobbing with rivals Fortescue at a cocktail party put on by Andrew Forrest.

Star of the shindig was former prime minister Bob Hawke, who led the crowd in a rousing rendition of Waltzing Matilda. Those joining in the chorus included NAB chairman Michael Chaney, Dubai-fresh Qantas boss Alan Joyce, former foreign minister Alexander Downer, ANZ's Mike Smith, Westpac's Gail Kelly, Fortescue CEO Nev Power, Forrest and Watroba.

Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop was there, but Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Trade Minister Craig Emerson didn't make an appearance.

Charm on high

Back in Australia and Crown Casino's charm offensive continued unabated on Friday at its inaugural Sydney women's lunch on Friday.

In keeping with the ladies first theme, chairman James Packer, who is lobbying to build a new casino on prime waterfront land at Barangaroo, delegated schmooze duties to wife Erica and sister Gretel. Crown director Helen Coonan built a bridge with rival group Echo, which runs its gambling den just across the bay from Barangaroo at Pyrmont, by hosting Echo director Katie Lahey at her table. The casino groups are best frenemies: while they're in fierce competition for high rollers, Crown is also a 10 per cent shareholder in Echo.

Hidden message

CBD was unable to make it to the launch of The Trusted, the new thriller by QBE non-executive director John Green, on Thursday night. And the multi-talented Green wasn't spotted at the SCG on Saturday to see the QBE-sponsored Sydney Swans smash the Gold Coast Suns.

However, former QBE boss Frank O'Halloran was there, sitting at the table of insurance broker group Steadfast, just metres from QBE chairman Belinda Hutchinson. O'Halloran is chairman of Steadfast, which is a big QBE customer.

At the club lunch Swans chairman Richard Colless took a swipe at the SCG Trust, complaining it was taking ages to rebuild stands at the ground.

Green may not have been sighted but CBD is reading his book and has detected what may be a hidden message for Hutchinson in a passage where heroine Tori Swyft takes a job as a director at mysterious company SIS.

"Directors direct at SIS, Tori, they're not directed," Swyft is told by her new boss. "Not by me, not by anyone."

Got a tip?

bbutler@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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