Pollie Waffle awards, 2002
by Polly Bush
Jack Robertson rightly gave the ‘Most Memorable Person of the Year’ award to the ‘Ordinary Australian’ (webdiaryDec13). Lurking behind this “Most Memorable, Forgettable, Miserable Un-person of the Shithouse Year” is one of our esteemed representatives, someone out there, no doubt also like “The Man Who Wasn’t There”, who might just also deserve a gong.
The Pollie Waffle Awards celebrate the drone and the dribble, the babble and the drivel, and the pure porkies our nation’s finest have serenaded us ordinary, extraordinary and not-so-ordinary folk with during 2002.
The Most Visually Inspiring Award for 2002 goes to … Employment Minister Tony Abbott, for describing the pickle of being mates with both Bill “Woohoo” Heffernan and Justice Michael Kirby. Abbott left some of us praying for heavy rains and a mass mudslide, when he said:
“As a friend of both those gentlemen, I have to say that I find myself in the indelicate position of having a foot planted firmly on either side of a barbed wire fence.”
Tony Abbott also picked up the Workplace Exploitation and Wife-Basher Award for this one:
“If we’re honest, most of us would accept that a bad boss is a little bit like a bad father or a bad husband. Not withstanding all his or her faults, you find that he tends to do more good than harm. He might be a bad boss but at least he’s employing someone while he is in fact a boss.”
For these prizes, Tony Abbott wins copies of Natalie Imbruglia’s ‘Torn’ and Britney Spears ‘Hit me baby one more time’. Not exactly new releases, but at least moving beyond the 1950s.
Abbott’s not the only multi-award-winning Pollie Waffle recipient of 2002. His arch-nemesis Mark Latham is also the winner of two awards this year, although it could have easily been several more. For his comments on former Liberal Party president Tony Staley, who, after a car accident is subject to using crutches, Mark Latham wins the Disability Discrimination Award:
“That deformed character Tony Staley … He’s deformed in his views and actions because he’s in the garbage bin of Australian politics.”
Apart from Latham looking like a goose on national television by Chris Pyne of all people (who, during this debate on the ABC’s Lateline, said, “I don’t know how you can sit there and not laugh at yourself”), he wins a mystery tour cab ride around the streets of Sydney. If he fails to claim his mystery tour, Latham wins the prize of being publicly flogged.
Latham also wins the Bring Back the Battlers through Filthy Language Award for his comments describing John Howard after his visit to the United States. No doubt Latham charmed The Bulletin’s Maxine McKew over lunch when he said:
“Howard is an arse-licker. He went over there, kissed some bums, and got patted on the head.”
For this prize Latham wins some barbed wire, courtesy of Tony Abbott.
The 2002 Whoops! Wrong Party Award goes to … former Tasmanian Liberal leader Bob-turn-the-other-Cheek, who forgot which party he was leading during the 2002 Tasmanian Election campaign, when he declared at a business lunch at Wrest Point Casino: “On July 20, we aim to be the first state back in Labor hands.”
Cheek, who failed to win his seat in the election, wins a constipated look from John Howard, who managed to squeeze out such a painful expression from the audience when he made the comment.
Finance Minister Nick Minchin wins a gong for Gross Hypocrisy and Best Spin on Not Coughing Up the Dough for saying paid maternity “reeks” of “middle class welfare” and “means non-working mothers are being discriminated against”.
For this prize Minchin wins a lunch with Pru Goward, not to be confused with last year’s Wooldridge/Phelps lunch prize.
The prize for Mental Health Insensitivity goes to … Senator Helen Coonan, who, on encouraging the states to apply limits on psychiatric harm claims, said: “People who might be just malingering, if you like, or just have an anxiety condition or depression, that they really do need to get over it and get back to work.”
Coonan’s prize, which she can use at any residence of her choosing, is a week’s worth of Jerry Springer tapes, job application rejections, and a stint engaging in some mindless work for the dole style activity. As she’s the best drag queen lookalike in parliament since Pauline Hanson, she may also receive a float in next year’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
The prize for the Most Entertaining Moment During the Victorian Election Campaign (which in itself wins a gong for putting the whole of Victoria asleep) goes to … Labor candidate Janice Munt, who took on the Liberals’ Geoff Leigh. Munt came up with a very clever campaign badge which read: “I donated to Janice Munt because the other guy is a —-.”
Equally clever was Munt’s defence of the tactic, when she said, “Yes, I think Geoff Leigh is a runt”. Munt receives the prize of the seat of Mordialloc, effective immediately.
The Hearing Impaired Award for 2002 goes to … Victorian Opposition leader Robert Doyle, who clearly needs someone to pump up the volume. On knifing Denis Napthine to become leader in August (the Doyley replacing the Nappy), Doyle said, “From today, hold on to your hats” (but for chrissake, don’t pull them over your ears).
During the televised election debate in early November, the man who Jeff Kennett said “is not leadership material now and … certainly not leadership material in the future”, spoke of the pain and suffering of life since the messiah went to heaven:
“Opposition is a hard lesson. We’ve had to go out and listen to people and to learn from what they have said to us and we have done that, we have done the hard yards.”
Oh the agony. On election night, following a disastrous result for the Liberals, Doyle forgot the years of hard listening and three months of holding onto hats when he said: “My pledge is that we will start working from now, because that’s what we need to do … the job starts from tonight. I give you 100 per cent of me to start that work from now”.
Perhaps the hearing aid was just kicking into gear, when two days later, he told the ABC’s AM program: “It wasn’t long after the polls closed that we got a very, very clear message from the electorate and we will be listening to that message and we’ll be acting on it.”
Indeed. On announcing his depleted new look opposition team last week, and in the wake of an eight per cent swing to the Greens Party, Doyle’s decided to give Environment and Water the flick, removing the portfolios from shadow cabinet. Who needs ’em anyway. Naturally Robert Doyle’s prize is a new hearing aid.
The Speaking for Myself Again Award for 2002, goes to … former Victorian Shadow Treasurer Robert Dean. The bloke who was supposed to be saving us from economic chaos had varying reasons for why he failed to fill out a change of address card and enrol on the electoral roll … including unsuccessful IVF attempts and a bitter pre-selection battle. Crying foul, he had this parting shot at the media:
“I think the press have to look pretty closely at themselves – the way they have been knocking on my door, ringing – 6 o’clock in the morning, pounding on my front door. They’ve been leaving cigarette butts all around the front of my place (… Margo?). They’ve stolen one of my statues.”
For this prize, Robert Dean wins a garden gnome, who, by no coincidence slightly resembles Gareth Evans.
Still on the Victorian election, the prize for 2002 Fashion Victim goes to … Member for Melbourne (just!) Bronwyn Pike, who said of the Greens who almost picked up her seat:
“The Greens are a brand name and we live in a culture of branding. Kids, when they’re 12, like Nike, when it’s a bit older, it’s Mambo. Somehow to be young and with it is to be Green. “People have to remember that the Greens are a political party.” Crikey.
For the Fashion Victim Prize, the Member for Melbourne gets the easy-peasy portfolio of health, just in case she forgot there was a death wish out there for her.
Keeping with the theme of patronizing political comments, The Most Patronising Parental Comment Award this year goes to … Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock (resounding applause), remarking on his daughter Kirsty’s opposing stance on mandatory detention. Ruddock said: “I’m proud of the fact that she does care.”
For this, Philip wins an overnight stay on the tropical shithole Nauru. And he can take Julia Gillard along for the ride too.
Moving along, The Just Plain Funny Award for 2002 goes to … former Democrats leader Natasha Stott Despoja, who told The 7:30 Report, just a fortnight before resigning: “I think we’ve demonstrated, particularly in the last week, that we can be a functioning, workable unit. In fact, we can be a united group.”
The former Democrats leader wins a special prize from the Sydney Morning Herald’s Alan Ramsey, who blessed her with, “Kournikova and Stott Despoja are who they are … Each is a beguiling clothes horse with minimum talent in what they do for a living”.
Now to a serious matter – the war on terror. Australians have been warned to remain alert in these uncertain times, and thank christ for the members of the Howard Government, because without them, who knows how we would keep up our vigilant terrorist neighbourhood watches. The How to Detect a Bomb Award goes to … Justice Minister Chris Ellison, who provided these wise words of wisdom should anyone spot someone acting suspiciously:
“Well you can always make inquiries and say, ‘excuse me, are you doing something untoward there?’ or ‘you’ve left your bag, can you take that with you?’ I mean that’s the sort of thing that you can have with community awareness.”
For this, Chris wins a good slapping from his predecessor, Senator Amanda Vanstone.
Also on this serious note, is the potentially pending action of Australian troops in Iraq. The You’re Joking! Award for 2002 goes to … the one and only, Prime Minister John Howard, when he told ABC Melbourne’s Jon Faine:
“The other point I make is that in the end I have to take a decision that I think is in the best interests of Australia, and that is not a decision that can vary from day to day according to the volume of talkback callers.”
The Prize for this award is a second chance draw to keep the dream alive, during a good chat with another John.
Which leads to the Dog Whistle Award. And the winner is … John Howard (again!) for his initial reaction to Fred Nile’s call to ban the chador: “I don’t have a clear response to what Fred has put. I mean, I like Fred and I don’t always agree with him, but you know Fred speaks for the views of a lot of people.”
For this prize, all is forgiven.
And finally, the Most Honest Political Comment of 2002 Prize … [drums] … and the winner is:
Carmen Lawrence, who said, “John Howard, as I say, is the most deeply ordinary person that I’ve ever confronted in Australian politics”.
For this, Lawrence cements a cult following, a seat on the back bench, isolation from almost everybody in the Labor Party, and encouragement towards retirement.
The most deeply ordinary person Carmen Lawrence ever confronted in Australian politics also wins a special prize … representing Jack Robertson’s ‘Ordinary Australian’ as “The Most Memorable, Forgettable, Miserable Un-person of the Shithouse Year of 2002”.
This article was first published in ‘Webdiarist awards, 2002’, webdiary19Dec2002.