Crikey is proud of his 1999 Walkley, but we’ll still run a piece dumping on them. Afterall, it is a union-run awards night and about 80 per cent of journalists vote Labor so this correspondent is right to say they’re very PC.

This year’s Walkley Awards was shown on television, and I determined to watch the entire godless hour of it. Within five minutes of the show beginning, a certain scribbler was lunging for the tequila. These weren’t awards for journalism – they were awards for political correctness.

A few columnists this year have declared PC dead, or at least dying. Not at the Walkleys it isn’t. There, PC is horribly, creepily alive. Host Mary Kostakidis set the tone early, decrying the “degraded human rights” of Aborigines and lamenting “one man’s refusal to say sorry.”

(Notice how nobody ever hits on Gough Whitlam to apologise. Yet he was PM when this stolen generation scam was allegedly occurring. Come on, Gough, say sorry, damn you!)

Grim treatment of Aborigines was the evening’s dominant theme. Even the cartooning prize went to Alan Moir for his slam on John Howard, who was tried and found guilty of delaying reconciliation, supporting mandatory sentencing, and refusing to say sorry. “The judges said it reflected the political animal in one fell swoop,” gushed Mary.

That’s Howard – “the political animal.” I guess it’s a little more flattering than “Little Johnnie”, another epithet directed the PM’s way on Walkley night.

There was one moment during the evening which defined the curious nature of Australia journalism’s brand of political correctness. That was when a photograph was shown depicting a gun seemingly pointed at the head of Amanda Vanstone as one of Grant Turner’s portfolio of entries for best snapper.

Now, violence against women is bad, right? And guns are bad too, right? So how do you think the crowd of PC press reacted?

With cheers and laughter, of course. Because being PC means violence and guns are only ever good when directed at a Liberal. Imagine if the gun was pointed at Cathy Freeman. Or one of the stolen generation. Or (please) Mary Delahunty.

A similar tone was evident in SBS’s win for a documentary which libelled Noel Pearson. Previously admired, Pearson has lately fallen from grace in media circles because he is no longer convinced that welfare is the answer to Aboriginal problems. Thus, a Walkley for a doco which described Pearson as “a person who … has worked to make non-Aboriginal people feel safe about their racism.”

It may have been the tequila, but the awards were apparently presented this year by a Cabbage Patch doll. Someone said it was the Governor General, but when I got my daughter’s old Cabbage Patch kid out of storage and made it give me a few Walkleys (“The award for total brilliance goes to a Certain Scribbler!”) the resemblance proved uncanny.

Some of the awards in the non-PC categories were puzzling. Hugh Rimington won a prize for interviewing cannonball-headed revolutionary George Speight. “Everyone wanted the Speight interview, and Hugh got it,” raved Mary. But I recall dozens of people getting interviews with Speight, and many of them were better than Hugh’s; all Speight told him was that hostages might die and that he himself was prepared to die. Neither of these things happened. Why the prize?

The same goes for Dateline’s Matthew Carney, who parachuted into Sierra Leone to interview a bunch of war-maddened kids. “I’ve killed eight revolutionaries,” a teenager told him. That was enough for Carney, who didn’t provide any evidence apart from the kid’s word that such killings had occurred. Two Walkleys for him. Who’s doing the judging here? John Pilger? After about 45 minutes of this crap, a Certain Scribbler was mapping out his own plans to win a Walkley next year.

Step One: work for the ALP, like Kate Hannon, who won a Walkley this year because some old people were briefly dunked in a mass of water containing traces of kerosene. Her old boss Laurie Brereton would have been proud.

Step Two: moan and gripe and complain about something which turns out to be a glittering success, like Matthew Moore, who won for his carping coverage of the Olympics.

Step Three: make simple-minded attacks on complex social issues like mandatory sentencing, like Alan Moir.

Step Four: Get a gig at SBS, which allows you to go to any colourful trouble spot regardless of local interest and tell whatever damn story you like, because nobody is watching.

You know, you’d have to worry if you won one of these awards. It means Australian journalists think you’re good. Kind of like the republic. And we know how much the public embraced the republic. About as much as they embrace Kerry O’Brien, another winner on the night.

Media organisations pay big money for focus groups and market research to work out why circulation and viewership is declining. The Walkleys are your answer. Who on earth would anyone want to read or listen to the opinions of this narrow, smug, isolated, arrogant, elitist rabble? Not me. And not my friend the Cabbage Patch kid, either. Hey, Patchy … your turn to go to the bottle shop! Make it vodka this time.

Peter Fray

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