Our guest right wing contributor Andrew Bolt-Akerman has upset a left-wing hornets nest with this piece attacking out PC Walkley awards. And if you want to know more gossip about the night, read on for Crikey’s blurred take on proceedings.

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.

ends

Crikey’s color from the Walkleys

It is hard to go past that effort by a guest contributor to Crikey. If you want to know more about what happened on the night, below is some color written by Stephen Mayne.

The Walkleys are always the biggest piss-up of the media year but no-one ever covers the gossip property because they’re all too drunk or hopelessly conflicted. But not Crikey, we don’t work for anyone and owe nobody any favours.

My date for the night was best man Ed because Paula was stuck in Melbourne being the highly successful family law barrister and family breadwinner that she is.

It is fair to say Ed and I stumbled into a cab equally drunk at about 3am but we’ve managed to piece together most of what happened and feel obliged to deliver the gossip in bite size chunks. We’re very open to further contributions to this so send in those emails.

19yo Dolly blonde steals the show

The highlight of the night for Ed was the 19yo blonde from Dolly Magazine who someone said was Geoff Parish’s daughter. Whoever she was, she was really flying and she wore a hot pink, tight-fitting dress. At one point Ed and I were chatting to Fin Review investment editor John Hurst when she dashed up to us and started being very friendly. We heard that later she positioned herself on the knee of happily married, small-drinking and socially conservative Age CEO Steve Harris. It seems literally dozens of men received this treatment for the night despite Ed thinking it was him who really stood out in the crowd.

Snap shots of Col Allan

The Telegraph’s legendary editor in chief Col “piss in sink” Allan had an awkward night sitting with a bunch of people he doesn’t like. On one side was PR Queen and former MEAA (the journos union, and Col hates unionists) president Jane Singleton and on the other was the GG, Billy Dean. Singleton told Crikey that she had to prod Col to make small talk with the GG, who did a much better job at the Walkleys than he did opening the Sydney Games. Allan gave Crikey the Col shoulder for most of the night but was intrigued when we used a throwaway camera to take a few snaps of him. The plan was to actually follow Col into the toilet and capture him using the normal facilities rather than the sink but Crikey’s stalking abilities left much to be desired. There was just too much gossip to be had.

Great legal letters from News Ltd

When Col finally decided to come up to Crikey and say hello, the conversation surrounded the legal threats that News’ lawyer Brian “Twitch” Gallagher has been sending us of late.

As best I can remember it went something like this.

SINK: “How are you my dear boy (as hand extends for shake)

CRIKEY: I’m well. Tell you what Col, Twitch sure does write a mean letter. He got one out to three pages last week.

SINK: Oooh yeah, I’ve seen some great ones over the years. He writes a fucken good letter.

CRIKEY: Alright mate, ‘ave a good one.

There was probably several more exchanges but that’s all I can remember.

Crikey had a similar conversation with Brian “do you know who I am” Gallagher and it was all very friendly. When we bailed at 3am, Twitch had just pulled up a seat near Crikey with another beer. He was later overhead telling Tom Dusevic from Time Mag and the editor of the mag that he knew who the author of the notorious Schindler’s List was but couldn’t say. We reckon the most likely suspect is OJ Simpson.

Ackers not to return to Media Watch

Former Media Watch host Richard “Ackers” Ackland, was chatting to the SMH’s David Marr (who Piers Akerman labelled a “homosexual” in this morning’s Telegraph) when we approached. Marr beat a hasty retreat and Ackers was quick to deny any planned return to Media Watch. Grizzly David Salter, a long-time EP of Media Watch, was earlier seen chatting to Ackers and The Oz ran a piece the next day predicting his return with that pompous git Stuart Littlemore. Ackers is still running Justinian and explained how he lost about 20 per cent of his subscribers when he converted the legal newsletter to an online format. Think I regaled him with the tale of how celebrity Sydney criminal lawyer and share market punter Chris Murphy sent a congratulatory email to Crikey after the Sunday program’s profile of Col Allan not realising that my by-line was on a Telegraph story that he is suing News over. Not sure whose side I’m on with this but it appears Murphy is winning so far. That sensitive soul Amanda Meade rudely interrupted Crikey’s chat with Ackland when she bounced up and gave him an almight hug. Clearly, there’s some history here. Meade was a bit stand-offish and defended her employment of Twitch Gallagher to get Crikey to change a spoof by-line last week.

“Four different people rang to ask why I’d written it,” Meade moaned.

Sadly Meade is still yet to mention the notorious Schindler’s List and we’ll keep on her case until she does. It’s not as if she’s got better material. Items on inhouse News Ltd football matches or her editor Campbell Reid trying to catch the train to the airport are hardly rivetting.

Telegraph Columnists Crash Drinks

The Daily Telegraph’s Miranda Devine, one of John Howard’s favourite columnists, crashed the Walkleys at the end of the night with her former fellow columnist Sandra Lee who is enjoying the freedom of life after News Ltd as a contributor to an international field of grateful recipients. Miranda had launched a pretty savage assault on sacked Media Watch presenter Paul Barry that morning so Crikey’s attempts to get them together proved fruitless. When we did catch up briefly with Barry he had his soon-to-be-ousted Media Watch EP Peter McElroy in tow. Both are multiple Walkey winners and both have been punted. It seems even Deb Richards, the Gold Walkley winning EP of Media Watch in 1999, is in dispute with ABC management. Maybe the Liberals really have appointed a madman to run the national broadcaster, which has for a long time been captured by its staff nonetheless.

Fin Review editor not going to Europe

Colleen Ryan, the editor of the AFR and someone we admire unreservedly as a great journalist, had a quick chat to Crikey and we were reassured when she expressed hope that the rumors of her impending dispatch to Europe was not going to happen.

Her ambitious deputy Glenn Burge, a brilliant journalist but a terrible people person, has been pedalling the rumor. Burge has his first chat with Crikey since I bailed out of the Fin in September last year and was reasonably friendly. We both agreed that Andrew Burrell’s Rear Window column is getting better, but Burgie failed to make the key disclosure that the best item contributed each day gets $100 cash. If that’s open to outsiders, Burrell will be getting daily emails from Crikey. Try [email protected] to find out. The Burge lad has never been much of a socialiser and headed home pathetically early after the awards when the AFR failed to pick up a single prize. Amusingly the paper still carried a half page house ad this week congratulating all the BRW, Age and SMH Walkley winners in the Fairfax stable.

Pam Williams stiff to miss out

The AFR’s Pam Williams was stiff to miss out on the business Walkley for her excellent reports on the various AMP board machinations. Some Fin Rev hacks complain that she’s got weeks to prepare her epic reports and they are a slow burn to read. That may be so but they are also hugely insightful and not just press release or PR stories without a public interest or social perspective that too many of the young Fin Review whipper snappers now churn out by the bag full.

Williams is headed to New York in January with her partner Paul McGeogh, the ousted editor of the SMH. Fairfax chairman Brian Powers was boasting at the AGM about how well the group had done to retain McGeogh’s services but the AFR’s coverage will suffer too from having a top-heavy New York reporting team.

The Tele’s reporting of its winners

Crikey only got invited to the gig after winning the 1999 Business Walkely for “AGM Season 1998” in The Daily Telegraph which Col Allan duly failed to report the morning after. Interestingly, two of the Telegraph’s Walkleys this year were deservedly won by photographer Grant Turner and reporter Adam Harvey, both of whom have subsequently fled the Murdoch empire.

This did not stop Col from dressing up page two gloating about these awards. It seems you can resign and still be remembered fondly, but you can’t resign, publicly criticise the Murdoch empire and be mentioned in the paper, even when you win the Telegraph’s first ever Walkley for something written.

Meeting the 2000 business Walkley winner

Nick Tabakoff deservedly picked up the Business category Walkley for his series on “The Secret Past of Solution 6 boss Chris Tyler” in BRW. The mag is too often overly praiseworthy of our business charlatans and this was a rare example of them turning something critical up after a big dig. Tabakoff is about as a lanky as Crikey and was pleased to explain that his story of Tyler’s corporate and drug conviction skeletons came after a night on the booze with him in which he made all sorts of claims about his past and how rich he was. The meeting was part of Nick’s preparations for the 2000 Rich List.

Tabakoff listened to Tyler sound off for hours and then proceeded to check all of the claims. He revealed that Tyler had a conviction for possessing two bags of grass but said the Texan lawmakers were not very helpful in his inquiries. This might explain how he missed the fact that two of Tyler’s brothers are currently in jail on drug charges. But the Canadian regulators were happy to co-operate and Tabakoff exposed the Lessonware diaster which was the fastest ever collapse on the Ontario exchange, one of the wildest in North America. All up it was a terrific dig and a much-deserved Walkley.

ASX buys journalistic complicity

How ironic was it to see the ASX pay for a bunch of business hacks to go to the Walkleys. The tickets were worth $110 and Crikey now wonders if any of these reporters will be entering next year’s awards after a series of stories exposing how the ASX, once a mutually-owned not-for-profit regulator, turned itself into a rapacious monopoly that systematically gouges its customers big and small. Yep the fact that this was allowed to happen is one of the biggest failures of the business press. Fat cat brokers who bought a membership for $25,000 now find themselves holding shares worth $1 million. That’s a 40-fold increase which anywhere else in the world would be called a monopoly rent and an outrageous abuse of market power. And it’s actually been perpetrated by the body that is meant to keep the bastards honest.

We’ve now worked out why the Howard government let it happen? You see ASX chairman Maurice Newman is a mate of the PM’s and has just been appointed to the ABC board. And after what happened to Paul Barry, don’t expect the ABC to delve into this scandal or any of the hacks who accepted the ASX largesse joining the monopolists’ spin doctors Phil Wilson-Browne and Gervase Greene at the industry’s night of nights.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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