Also among the relieved in the room: Cormack director Richard Alston, Senator James Paterson and high-spirited state MPs including David Davis and Tim Smith, swapping stories with former Olympic rower and ‘Oarsome Foursome’ member Mike McKay.
At Malvern Bowls Club in the neighbouring electorate of Higgins, an elated Katie Allen was joined by predecessor Kelly O’Dwyer and Victorian state leader Michael O’Brien, frontbencher Mary Wooldridge and former shadow attorney general John Pesutto.
Frosty in the party with no beer
Amid the revelry, there was one man who went home thirsty: the Liberals’ acting state director and former staffer to Malcolm Turnbull, Simon Frost.
He spent Saturday night crunching numbers in Liberals’ Victorian war room at the party’s 104 Exhibition Street headquarters. By the time he made it to Grace Park, the bar had well and truly closed.
It’s no secret the affable Frost is keen to move on from his current job quickly.
He’s been keen to emphasise the word «acting» in his job title and has pointedly refused to remove the qualifier from his email letterhead and other correspondence.
Rumoured next moves include a gig working for Frydenberg, regardless of whether ex-BT executive Martin Codina elects to stay in his current chief-of-staff role.
But Frost’s contract doesn’t end for another four weeks, which means he’ll still be in the seat to administer the party’s upcoming State Council in June. Whispers are already circulating that some forces are already planning a tilt against sitting president Robert Clark.
Meanwhile at the wake…
Across town at Labor’s official post-election wake at the Hotel Hyatt Essendon, billionaire Anthony Pratt, the country’s richest man, was the centre of attention.
But the real firepower was in the VIP room where former governor-general Quentin Bryce joined son-in-law and Chloe Shorten’s husband Bill Shorten for the inner-circle bash.
Outside the room, Pratt’s attendance at the Labor event was initially interpreted as a sign of confidence in Labor’s chances of winning before he revealed he’d been left off the invite list for the event hosted by Treasurer Frydenberg, his local MP.
Don’t forget, Pratt donated almost $800,000 to Turnbull’s campaign in 2016.
His mother, arts patron and philanthropist Jeanne Pratt, hosted a $12,000-a-seat Liberal fundraiser at the family estate Raheen in March, which sadly son Anthony missed.
“I think Labor will win,» the packaging magnate told CBD just after 9pm when many had started to despair.
«My read of Bill is that he’s a great leader, he’s a middle of the road kind of guy — that’s my read of him — he’s like Bob Hawke, he’s good at bringing people together.»
His optimism wasn’t matched elsewhere in the room, where the guest list included Labor’s shadow attorney-general, Mark Dreyfus, senator Kimberley Kitching, employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor, and his brother, the CFMMEU’s national secretary Michael O’Connor.
By 9.30pm as results started to filter in, former state secretary Nicholas Reece’s face had drained of colour and Labor operatives Andrew Landeryou and former Shorten staffer Steve Michelson were speaking in hushed tones into their mobile phones.
As the mood slid south, those gathered tried to make a go of it.
We saw Australian Super boss Ian Silk, Gordon Legal head and Bulldogs chair Peter Gordon, former Melbourne University Publishing boss Louise Adler and even former Rio Tinto executive Ken Macpherson, who went on to become Shorten’s first chief-of-staff as leader.
Also in the room: state MPs including Shorten’s Xavier College schoolmate Luke Donnellan, Adem Somyurek, Ben Carroll and Marlene Kairouz, and union heads Ben Davis, Earl Setches and Allen Hicks.
Meanwhile, Trades Hall boss Luke Hilakari and ACTU chief comrade Sally McManus spent the evening captaining events at Trades Hall.
Seeing a different kind of red
Recriminations over Labor’s unexpected disaster began even as Shorten was speaking late on Saturday night and continued into Sunday morning.
Many NSW Labor operatives are already blaming the party’s national secretary Noah Carroll, with complaints that too many resources were poured into Victorian seats that were always going to be very difficult to win, specifically Kooyong and Higgins.
As one Labor figure put it: “Yesterday there was a man named Noah but not any more.”
Samantha is the The Age’s CBD columnist. She recently covered Victorian and NSW politics and business for News Corp, and previously worked for the Australian Financial Review.
Kylar Loussikian is The Sydney Morning Herald’s CBD columnist.