Bob Ellis, Shane Warne, Tony Abbott and a group of footballers joined 400 rambunctious women at the fabulous Ernie Awards for s-xist remarks, held at NSW Parliament House last night. Sadly, it was only their look-a-likes, as attendees at the 20th anniversary of this institution had been asked to dress as their favourite recipient.
Ellis — shambolic, unkempt and covered in dandruff — won the “Frock-Off” first prize, but I particularly liked Abbott, who wore a surf lifesaving shirt and had a furry budgerigar stuffed down the front of his boardies.
Decisions on the winners were decided by a “boo-off” adjudicated by “boo monitors” directed by MC Dr Meredith Burgmann, a self-described “political agitator and international busybody”. Last night she wore fishnet stockings in homage to Alexander Downer, who in 1994 remarked that his speech on domestic violence could be called “the things that batter”.
The awards began in 1993 to celebrate the retirement of Australian Workers’ Union secretary Ernie Ecob, who was famous for his comment that women only wanted to be shearers for the s-x. To which Burgmann replied: “But that’s what we thought the sheep were for.”
The Ernies (motto: “keep them mervous”) has grown so popular that there are now several categories, with a Gold Ernie for the best overall winner. In the political category, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell picked up the award for saying: “I’m not sure which other member could be the hooker, perhaps the Member for Canterbury [Linda Burney].” O’Farrell just edged out Paul Keating, who left a planning meeting saying that “[Sydney Lord Mayor] Clover Moore couldn’t get a f-ck on a troop ship coming home”.
David Farley, CEO of Australian Agricultural Co, won the industrial category with his description of a piece of abattoir machinery: “It’s designed for non-productive old cows, so Julia Gillard had better watch out.” Second place went to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which said in a public statement that the result of the Australian Services Union equal pay case was “disturbing”.
The media category, a hotly contested division, was won decisively by serial offender Alan Jones, who famously said: “She [the Prime Minister] said that we know societies only reach their full potential if women are politically participating. Women are destroying the joint — Christine Nixon in Melbourne, Clover Moore here. Honestly. There’s no chaff bag big enough for these people.”
Given that three tables of women were wearing “Keep Calm and Destroy the Joint” t-shirts, that result was probably a foregone conclusion. Soon after Jones made the remark last month, #destroythejoint became a popular hashtag on Twitter and now has its own Facebook page, complete with accessories.
In the sport category, otherwise known as the “Warnie”, Basketball Australia was the clear winner after sending its womens Olympic team to London in economy seats while the men flew business class.
Sydney Anglicans absolutely dominated the clerical/celebrity section this year, thanks to the diocesan exhortation to women to “submit” to their husbands during the marriage ceremony. However, my favorite entry in this category was from fringe Christian group Family First, who complained about a television ad for sanitary pads that mentioned the unmentionable. NSW President of FF, Jason Cornelius, said the word ”v-gina” was not one that should be used in general conversation and it could cause embarrassment to parents who have to explain it to young children.
”I understand it can be used in medical discussions but it’s not appropriate in an ad when young ears are listening,” he said. (My general rule is anyone who doesn’t have a v-gina isn’t allowed to comment on them; doctors excepted. So Jason’s comments are irrelevant.)
In the end, though, the winner of the clerical Ernie, otherwise known as the Fred, was a group called Family Voice Australia. They argued against changes to the provocation defence saying: “The exclusion would effectively rule out the classic case of a husband unexpectedly arriving home to find his wife engaged in a s-xual act with another man … these circumstances have traditionally been held to warrant a reduction in the seriousness of the offence from murder to manslaughter.”
The judicial Ernie went to FNQ police officer Senior Constable Cary Coolican, who said: “Many s-xual assault victims were too drunk or stoned to remember the details of the attacks … we would be encouraging people to make responsible choices regarding who they drink with and the quantity that is consumed. Some decisions may result in risky behaviour and unsafe actions.”
One of the best awards is the “Elaine”, named after Elaine Nile, for services least helpful to the sisterhood. Although Germaine Greer’s comments about the PM’s “arse” were an early favourite, the eventual winner was Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer, who described Nicola Roxon, Tanya Plibersek and Deborah O’Neill as a “handbag hit squad”.
“There seems to be a campaign, a negative campaign that’s being run on Tony Abbott by female Labor politicians, who I’ve called the handbag hit squad because they get rolled out day in, day out to make these baseless attacks on Tony Abbott,” she said. This caps off a bad week for O’Dwyer, who put in a poor performance on Q&A on Monday night, appearing defensive and angry.
The Good Ernie, for men behaving well, was won by Defence Minister Stephen Smith, who said in reference to ongoing issues in the Defence Force that “inappropriate conduct will not be tolerated”. Honourable mentions went to News Limited journalists David Penberthy and Simon Benson for pointing out that much of the vitriol aimed at Julia Gillard is due to her gender.
In the end, in an avalanche of boos and table-thumping, Alan Jones was awarded the Gold Ernie, thus topping off a night once described as filling “a gaping hole for women to get pissed and make fun of men”. Superb.