Australia

Greens turn heads with protest against gas and coal at Canberra’s Midwinter Ball

It was a glitzy Wednesday night in the country’s capital where Australia’s politicians, press and community leaders trade policy discussions for a glamorous party at the annual Midwinter Ball.
The ball returned to Canberra’s Parliament House Great Hall after being paused for two years due to COVID-19 restrictions. And the Greens Party took advantage of the spotlight, using their appearance – or absence – to make a political statement.
Greens leader Adam Bandt turned up with his wife Claudia Perkins, whose dress was used to protest against one of the event’s major sponsors, gas corporation Woodside Energy.
Donning a white gown and black leather gloves, her dress had sprawled across the words “coal kills” and “gas kills”. On her face was marked the logo of the environmental advocacy organisation Extinction Rebellion.

Ms Perkins said she and Mr Bandt were “pretty pissed off” so she wanted to make her “feelings loud and clear”.

The ball was sponsored by almost 30 organisations and companies, including gas companies Shell, Woodside, and various news outlets including ABC, Nine, Sky News, Newscorp Australia and SBS.

The event is aimed to raise funds for charity through online auction bids on eBay. Since the event’s inception in 2000, almost $4.5 million has been raised for various charities, such as St Vincent de Paul Society, Guide Dogs, OzHarvest, Lifeline and more.

And in a similar fashion to Ms Perkins, South Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young wore a white gown with subtle trimming that had printed on it: “end coal and gas”.

While it was business at the front, it was a political party statement at the back. In large, black bolded text again repeated the message: “end gas and coal”.

South Australia’s Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young delivering a political statement at Canberra’s Midwinter Ball. Source: AAP

Her number was a recycled nod to United States Democrat politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who stunned the world when she attended the prestigious 2021 Met Gata in a white gown that had written on the back in red: “tax the rich”.

Woman turns around in white dress with red text on it: "tax the rich".

US politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wore a controversial gown to the 2021 Met Gala. Source: Getty / Jamie McCarthy

Other politicians from the party boycotted the event altogether to express their disapproval of Shell and Woodside.

“Tonight’s Midwinter Ball is yet another reminder of the perverse hold coal and gas have over our government, no matter who leads it. I will not be attending,” WA Senator Jordon Steele-John wrote on Twitter.

“Watching MPs swan about in suits and sparkles at an event openly sponsored by coal and gas is frankly sickening,” he said.
“When contrasted with the reality of the climate crisis in places like Pakistan, in places like Lismore, we see where the political class’ priorities lie.”

His Queensland colleague, Senator Larissa Waters also didn’t attend but said event organisers would reconsider who would sponsor the ball next year.

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