Just as no one remembers who Oscar actually was, few people remember the original Ernie. However, women in the trade union movement in the 1980s and 1990s recall him well.
Ernie Ecob was the secretary of the AWU, the old Shearers’ Union, and was famous for his comment that women only wanted to be shearers for the sex. Those of us involved in the trade union movement in NSW had battled with him on many occasions. So in May 1993 when he announced his resignation, Vicki Telfer from the CPSU suggested that we have a lunch to celebrate. And that’s how it all began.
At that first lunch a trophy was awarded for “the most bestial remark of the year”. The trophy featured a miniature portrait of Ernie Ecob and a sheep rampant atop a brass plinth, a reference to Ernie’s origins in the Shearers’ Union. Guests were advised to wear a “good frock – something Ernie would approve of” and forty women came, suitably attired.
We all had a wonderful time and promised to repeat the exercise the next year.
From there the Ernies grew and grew. There are now six categories, plus the ‘Good’ Ernie, The ‘Elaine’, for the woman who makes the remark least helpful to the sisterhood and the ‘Clinton’ for a repeat offender.
The Ernies come of age
To celebrate the Ernies coming of age, women dressed as they did for their own 21st.
Our Parliamentary host, Linda Burney wore a onesie Sandra Dee would be proud of. One guest came as 8 months pregnant. There were perms a-plenty, the occasional kaftan and fishnets, as always, made an appearance.
Many categories featured dramatic boo-offs in one of the worst years ever for misogyny in Australia. The sheer vitriol of comments directed towards Julie Gillard shocked guests and Mal Brough was a worthy winner for his offensive fundraiser menu. Anna Bligh, assisted by Marty Belch (aka Yvette Andrews), presented the Gold Ernie to Wesley College students for distributing stubby holders bearing the words “It’s not rape if it’s my birthday.” Unsurprisingly, Tony Abbott won the Clinton for Repeat Offenders.
Not only has the Ernies come of age, out-surviving many serious awards, it is now broadly acknowledged in the top ten weirdest awards world-wide. And with a whole new following online, the Ernies look likely to continue for many years to come.
distributing stubby holders bearing the words
"“It’s not rape if it’s my birthday.”"
for the Liberal Party dinner menu featuring ”Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail – Small Breasts, Huge Thighs and a Big Red Box”
“The mask fell away” and Gillard came out “snarling, accusing Abbott of having a hatred of women, a man” he said – before his paper deleted it – “who unlike the Prime Minister, has raised three daughters.”
Professor Paul Wilson
“My findings were remarkably similar to studies in California and Scandinavia which suggest child victims of adult sex offenders are generally willing or active participants, and that they not infrequently initiate the sexual relationship.”
team mate Stephen Milne who was charged with 4 counts of rape, should be allowed to continue playing because “Milney is the absolute heart and soul of the football club.”
“Every person in the caucus of the Labor Party knows that Julia Gillard is a liar… The old man recently died a few weeks ago of shame, To think that he has a daughter who told lies every time she stood for Parliament."
Wesley College students
for distributing stubby holders bearing the words “It’s not rape if it’s my birthday.”
“While lack of humour infects both sides of politics, the Labor girls in particular need to loosen their pigtails. In Canberra today, there are far too few Fred Dalys and far too many Tanya Pliberseks.”
Lt General David Morrison
“On all operations, female soldiers and officers have proven themselves worthy of the best traditions of the Australian Army. They are vital to us maintaining our capability now and into the future. If that does not suit you, then get out.”
Tony Abbott PM
Come as your favourite Ernies winner
Celebrating 20 years of the Ernies
The ‘Twenty years of Ernies Awards’ dinner was a huge milestone. Most serious awards don’t last that long but the ‘Ernies’ just keeps getting stronger. The dress code was ‘Come as your favourite Ernies winner’ which proved a bit of a hit. There were plenty of Shane Warnes, Tony Abbotts (yes in budgie smugglers), Bob Ellises, Bill Heffernans and generic rugby league players. For those women who could not control their urge to get into fishnet tights once again, they came as Liz Hurley (to go with Shane Warne) or Miranda Devine.
Lobbying for favoured sexists was intense. Three tables of gals from ‘Destroy the Joint’ created such an uproar when they thought Alan (women are destroying the joint) Jones would be pipped at the post by Barry O’Farrell (called our host Linda Burney a hooker…mmm bit of a pattern emerging there), that the boo-monitors felt intimidated and we almost had to call for a recount.
"Women are destroying the joint, Christine Nixon in Melbourne, Clover Moore here. Honestly. There’s no chaff bag big enough for these people"
David Farley, CEO Australian Agricultural Company
when demonstrating a machine in the abattoir said - ’So it’s designed for non-productive old cows. Julia Gillard’s got to watch out.'
said about Linda Burney - ’I am not sure which other member could be the hooker, perhaps the Member for Canterbury.’
Family Voice Australia
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 sexual act with another man… these circumstances have traditionally been held to warrant a reduction in the seriousness of the offence from murder to manslaughter.’
Senior Constable Cary Coolican
‘Many sexual 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.’
for flying the women’s Olympic basketball team to London economy class, and the male team business class.
‘Women are destroying the joint, Christine Nixon in Melbourne, Clover Moore here. Honestly. There’s no chaff bag big enough for these people.’
Kelly O’Dywer MP
for calling Tanya Plibersek, Nicola Roxon and Deborah O’Neil – ’the handbag hit squad.’
MInister Stephen Smith
said in reference to ongoing issues in the Defence Force – ‘inappropriate conduct will not be tolerated.’
Archbishop Peter Jensen
from Little Patti to Lady Gaga
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Female Eunuch
The Nineteenth Annual Ernies dinner was a visual feast with Lady Gagas mixing it with Dolly Partons, Janis Joplins, Nancy Sinatras and a few Spice Girls. A solitary Nana Mouskouri was a standout. The frock-off was judged by Little Patti herself who awarded it to our own diva Joan Sutherland (aka Patricia O’Brien).
At the business end, the Gold Ernie was won by Andrew Bolt after an enthusiastic “boo-off”against Tony Abbott for his famous photo shoot in front of “Ditch the Witch” and “Bob Brown’s Bitch” signs.
We won the ultimate stamp of extreme gravitas when the winner of the Gold Ernie was announced on the 7pm ABC Television News. It was a pity that the MC was pictured wearing a turquoise wig and two chops around her neck during the winning announcement.
"Can the ADF afford this social engineering, in which gender becomes a qualification - and a fault line? What will this do to the tight mateship so critical to a fighting unit? Does a woman turn her male colleagues from warriors to escort? "
for standing in front of the placards describing the Prime Minister as 'Bob Brown's Bitch' and 'Ditch the Witch.'
The Australian Defence Force Academy
for charging on an unrelated matter, the woman who was filmed without her knowledge in the Skype sex scandal.
Clayton Utz partner, Darryl McDonough
on why there were only 20% women partners, 'Certainly they are all females but each of them are extremely competent lawyers.'
'Girls! When will you learn! At 3am when you are blind drunk & you decide to go home with a guy, it's not for a cup of Milo!
Dr Barry Walters
'older mothers are selfish, self-centred and burden their children later in life with geriatric parents.'
for attacking the community workers equal pay case, saying they 'failed to make their case' and referred to the 'so-called' wage gap'.
Public Sector Association / Simon Benson (a tie)
The PSA for their campaign for domestic violence leave / Simon Benson for standing up for Julia Gillard's style sense.
50 years of the pill - Dress Liberated
Celebrating 50 years of the pill
The theme of the night chose itself and women turned up in “love-child hippie mode” and once again in the inevitable fishnets.
As it was an election year it was fitting that Tony Abbott received eight separate nominations for such shockers as “…what the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing…” However he was pipped for the Gold Ernie by St Paul’s College students who set up a ‘Define Statutory’ Facebook page which described itself as ‘pro-rape, anti-consent’.
As it was forty years since The Female Eunuch was published Louis Nowra received extra loud boos for his description of Germaine Greer as “a befuddled and exhausted old woman. She reminded me of my demented grandmother”.
who set up the 'Define Statutory' Facebook page which described itself as
Hairy Legged Hippie
Celebrating 40 years since the 1969 Equal Pay decision and Woodstock
Somehow fishnet tights still happened for the hippie theme.
Kyle Sandilands was the most despised nominee of the night but he was pipped at the post for the Gold by Pastor Danny Nalliah who proclaimed that Victoria’s bushfires were punishment for the State’s lenient abortion laws.
The Good Ernie went to NRL chief David Gallop for saying the league was embarrassed to be linked with sexual assault, violence and alcoholism.
Claimed Victoria's bush fires were caused by its abortion laws
"God's conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia, in particular Victoria, for approving the slaughter of innocent children in the womb."
Danny Lim, Strathfield Councillor
who recommended that Council buy a vibrator for (Minister) Virginia Judge so that she would “stop screwing with the people of Strathfield and screw herself instead”.
for his response to the teenage rape victim “right...is that the only experience you’ve had?” and his comment that Magda Szubanski “was not skinny enough” and “she could lose more weight in a concentration camp
for making an employee work overtime for every minute she spent expressing breastmilk for her child.
Judge David Smith
“I suggest that this is a technical rape...I would put this offence at the lower end of the scale. To mark this man with the grave offence of rape for the rest of his days will stop him travelling to some countries and prevent him getting jobs”.
Simon Williams, Newcastle Knights player
on the Matthew Johns affair - “It’s not during the act, it’s the way you treat them afterwards. It could have been avoided if the players had put her in a cab and said ‘thanks for that’.”
“Decades of androgynous feminism have stamped on chivalry, deriding men who opened doors or stood back for women, as being sexist and patronising. It would have been better for women if feminism had appealed to men’s better natures”.
David Gallop, NRL CEO
for saying that the league was embarrassed to be linked with sexual assault, violence and alcoholism; for pleading with Manly not to play Brett Stewart after his sexual assault allegations; for ordering Cronulla to sack CEO Tony Zappia after his ‘Spank Me’ incident.
Bad maternity fashions from the past
Celebrating 20 years of the National Pay Equity Coalition and PAID MATERNITY LEAVE!
Puffed sleeves and giant floppy bows proliferated as bad maternity frocks hit the Strangers Dining Room at Parliament. The dinner also commemorated 20 years of the National Pay Equity Coalition who were the original sponsors of the Ernies.
The Mayor of Mt Isa, Councillor John Molony won the Gold for his extraordinary invitation to “ugly women” to come to Mt Isa where men were so desperate they would be able to find a husband although there was strong support for Bob Ellis who wrote of Hilary Clinton “She is a stranger to consistency, sincerity and (at a guess) oral sex”.
Invited ugly women to come to Mt Isa to find a husband
"Beauty disadvantaged women should proceed to Mt Isa where... an ugly duckling can transfer themselves with love and devotion in marriage to a beautiful swan."
1000 Terrible Things Australian Men Have Said About Women
Celebrating the launch of the Ernies Book
2007 was different to other years as the dinner took a break and was replaced by the launch of the Ernies Book. This was a shorter but equally raucous affair and men were invited for the first time. They tended to stand at the back of the room and clap nervously as the winners were proclaimed.
Senator Bill Heffernan with his “deliberately barren” remarks about Julia Gillard won the Gold but he was pushed hard by Sheikh Taj el-Dene Elhilaly with his “uncovered meat” comment.
Senator Heffernan phoned us the next morning demanding to know what was wrong with his statement. “I’m a farmer” he told us “I know about bulls and cows and rams and ewes”.
Repeated his statement that Julia Gillard was not qualified to lead the country because she was -
It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings - dress opera diva
Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
And also thirty years since early Ernie contender and baseball writer Dan Cook coined the phrase, “The opera ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings.” Dress theme was ‘Opera Diva’ so the place was alive with Valkyrie horns and flaxen plaits.
Our nomination of honorary Australian Tom Cruise for his “I’ve got Katie tucked away” comment was reported around the world including on Fox News America which trumpeted,“Four hundred of Australia’s most powerful women have just voted Tom Cruise not the sexiest but the most sexist celebrity in the world”.
When Gough Whitlam got awarded the Good Ernie for his comments about the RU486 debate, guest presenter Little Patti burst into an impromptu rendition of “It’s Time”. It was marvellous.
Advertised cruises with the slogans
"More Girls. More Sun. More Fun. There's nothing else a guy needs to know!... Seamen Wanted!"
P & O Cruises
Advertised cruises with the slogans: "More Girls. More Sun. More Fun. There's nothing else a guy needs to know!... Seamen Wanted!"
Senator Bill Heffernan
On Labor MP Julia Gillard: "Anyone who chooses to deliberately remain barren... they've got no idea what life's about. We've got a few on our side as well."
On the space shuttle Discovery, which was commanded by a a woman: "The other woman among the crew of seven was an engineer, but NASA ensured there was a male engineer on board in case things went wrong."
Said ABC TV commentator Anne Sargeant was: "old and detrimental to the game."
I've got Katie tucked away so no one will get to us until my child is born... her life from now on is going to be about being a mother - I'm not giving her the chance to turn into another Nicole.
Tony Abbott MP
Danna Vale MP
We are at risk of being overwhelmed by Muslins bearing large families while we are aborting ourselves almost out of existence.
Rt Hon. Gough Whitlam
One of the great things about the federal parliament now is that I think there is about a third of them women. You saw the benefit of that in the vote on the RU486.
Bling...we know you’ve got it so we expect you to wear it!
Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of International Women’s Year and the 30th Anniversary of No-fault divorce
As bling was the theme, fishnets were inevitable and ubiquitous.
Sheikh Feiz Mohammad won the Gold Ernie for saying that victims of rape had no-one to blame but themselves and on a similar theme Colleen McCullough won the Elaine for her extraordinary defence of the Pitcairn Island rapists.
Once again we had to eliminate a ripper international quote with Jude (it’s Sienna’s fault I cheated) Law continuing the wonderful tradition of blaming everything on women.
"A victim of rape every minute somewhere in the world. Why? No one to blame but herself. She displayed her beauty to the entire world... strapless, backless, sleeveless, nothing but satanic skirts, slit skirts, translucent blouses, miniskirts, tight jeans... to tease man and appeal to his carnal nature."
Tara Anglican Girls School
Team Bonding...dress inappropriate
Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Federal Sex Discrimination Act and 100 years (& 13 days) since women first cast their vote in a NSW State Election
The theme of ‘team bonding’ arose out of the outrageous events surrounding the NRL team bonding sessions. When league players attended the police station to be questioned they wore thongs and stubbies, hence the the “dress inappropriate” theme. We expected Willie Mason wigs (we got them) and one disgusting Reg Reagan.
The Gold winner was a League chief who said “Let’s believe nothing happened in Coffs Harbour”. In contrast, the Good Ernie was won by Adam Goodes for saying his mother was his inspiration and taking her to the Brownlow Medal dinner. We love men who are nice to their mums.
For an advertisement showing yobbo football fans with a sign saying
"Boys, if you win you can have our sisters."
Told female staff at the Bondi Junction office to lose weight if they wanted to attend the opening of the new post office.
John Howard PM
Vetoed the $20 million campaign against domestic violence because it was too "anti-male".
The crude abuse coming from many of the ageing feminists and their ideological children who have for years repeated the tired old stuff about women having the sole rights over their own bodies...merely show that they have devoted no serious thought to the issues since the 1970s.
Barrister Paul Reynolds
To a client's breasts: "Just let me feel those puppies then, they're beautiful."
On allegations that Bulldogs players raped a women in Coffs Harbour. "Let's believe nothing happened in Coffs Harbour."
Boys, if you win you can have our sisters.
Tony Abbott MP
Abortion in Australia has been reduced to a question of the mother's convenience.
Jackie Kelly MP
No one in my electorate is interested in a university education. Penrith is pram city.
Said his mum was his inspiration and took her to the Brownlow dinner.
Wimbledon Best (or something Damir Dokic would disapprove of)
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Australia ratifying the UN Convention on all forms of discrimination against women
This year we had heaps to celebrate. It was 20 years since the First NSW woman was elected to Federal Parliament (and she was there in the audience), 20 years since Australia ratified the UN Convention on all forms of Discrimination Against Women and of course the historic victory of feminist icon Billie-Jean King over misogynist Bobby Riggs on the tennis court…hence “Give them a serve”.
The ‘frock-off’ was judged by Jeannette McHugh, the woman whose election 20 years before we were celebrating. Ernie try-hard Jeff Corbett from the Newcastle Herald wrote “there will be 400 pairs of hairy legs and tufty armpits booing over dinner, not to mention some very blubbery midriffs…”
Docked the pay of a pregnant woman because she took too many toilet breaks.
Green, White and Violet, the secret code of the Suffragettes
Celebrating 100 years since the first time women voted in NSW
The dress code of green, white and violet, the secret code for ‘give women the vote’ predominated.
A new trophy was added for the burgeoning ‘Clerical’ category and this was called “The Fred”. The inaugural award went to Archbishop Pell, who also took out the Gold Ernie for “Abortion is a worse moral scandal than priests sexually abusing young people”.
We were reported extensively in the ‘Malaysian Star’ and once again the BBC wanted to know “What is it that makes Australian men say these things”.
Mark Latham rang from Germany to find out what he had been nominated for. We were certainly keeping them nervous.
"Abortion is a worse moral scandal than priests sexually abusing young people."
Damned Whores and God’s Police
Celebrating thirty years since the publication of ‘Damned Whores and
With a theme like that, nun’s habits and feather boas proliferated at the frock-off which was judged by the author herself, Anne Summers. The eventual winners were the ‘Marrickville Methodist Ladies’ Club’ in suitably temperance garb.
Style Consultant Mark Patrick streaked the field in the Media Category with (one of our all time favourites) …”sleeveless is a bad look, especially for women over thirty”. The guest presenter Judy Nunn stripped to her black bra and posed, Charles Atlas style, saying “I’m 56 and I think the man’s a dickhead”.
John Howard won the Gold in a rare boo-back (change from the original winner who denied the quote) with the prophetic words that “there was no appropriate woman to be Governor General”. Quentin Bryce was amongst the guests at the dinner.
"There is no appropriate woman for the position of Governor-General."
Feathers and Fur (faux for the faint-hearted)
Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of International Women’s Day
The 8th Ernie Awards took place amid much media speculation about how we would deal with the fact that the original Ernie had just died. David Penberthy pointed the finger at us: “Mr Ecob may well have had the last laugh. He has left Sydney’s feminists in the tasteless position of holding an event poking fun at him just twenty-four hours after his funeral.”
In the Olympic year it was totally appropriate that the Gold Ernie was won by Cathy Freeman’s manager Nick Bideau for saying, “I never turned away from Cathy, no matter how fat she was…” It was also the year that a new trophy ‘The Warney’ (a gold plated mobile phone) was added to accommodate the huge number of appalling comments by sporting stars.
On 2 October we made it as a clue in the Sydney Morning Herald Crossword. ..‘Dingo could get an award’. The answer of course was ‘Ernie’.
"I never turned away from Cathy... no matter how fat she was in 1997, or even in 1998."
Pearls before Swine
Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the 1969 Equal Pay Decision
Because 30th anniversaries are celebrated with pearls the theme for the night chose itself. The dress code was ‘posh frock and pearls’ which revealed a previously unknown fetish among Australia’s feminists. The best display was from Eva Cox and Virginia Spate who looked like old fashioned burlesque queens in ropes and ropes of pearls. They easily won the frock-off judged by fashion icon Maggie Alderson.
Popular nominations were David Oldfield, Piers Akerman and Alan Jones but a little known and anonymous magistrate won the gold for yet another put down of a rape victim.
In a case reviewed by the Judicial Commission
"Women cause a lot of problems by nagging, bitching and emotionally hurting men. Men cannot bitch back for hormonal reasons, and often have no recourse but violence."
We should be armed
Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the founding of the National Pay Equity Coalition, the official host of the Ernies
The occasion was again packed. The style police allowed anything, except for some reason, yellow jumpers or platform sneakers. The quote for the night was from British feminist Edna O’Brien who said, “The vote means nothing to women. We should be armed.”
A new award for repeat offenders was added. It was called “The Clinton” for obvious reasons, and John Howard won for failing to appoint a Sex Discrimination Commissioner for 12 months and refusing to recognise the term “Chairperson”.
One of the waiters introduced himself to us as Pauline Hanson’s boyfriend and behaved in a most disgustingly sexist manner. He was, of course, comic Godfrey Bigot. But some women didn’t get the joke and kept complaining about the drunk waiter with his shirt sticking out his fly.
1998 was the year that lobbying began in earnest. Conversations were overheard out on the smoking balcony – “Well, we’ll vote for Bettina in the Elaines if you support Piers in the other.” The voting (or rather booing) was particularly heated.
Ernie Page MP won the Good Ernie for sacking sexist Maitland Council. He said he had “greater motivation” because he wanted to show that “even Ernies can be SNAGs.”
Gave a two year suspended sentence to a man for sexually abusing his twelve-year-old stepdaughter and said
"Indulgence is a pleasurable, curiosity-satisfying activity by an intelligent precocious girl."
The birth of the Frock-off
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Anti Discrimination Act
1997 was the first time we held the awards ceremony as a dinner. It was a jolly night, enjoyed by many newcomers including an entire table from Beecroft Rotary Club. Although we now had space for 400, we still had problems fitting everyone in.
The invitation declared that “the judges’ decision is obviously not final as much disputation occurs” and this was certainly the case in 1997. It was also the year that heralded the first of the “frock-offs”. A high standard was set with Justice Lee Drake taking out the poshest frock award.
There were a record eighty nominations and once again those nominated displayed some anxiety. Nick Whitlam wrote to us, “I see from today’s SMH that I am a candidate for an Ernie tonight. Although I realise it will not disqualify me and will only marginally diminish the likelihood of me receiving an award, you should know that the correct quote is…….”
The ‘Gold Ernie’ win by Olympics Minister Michael Knight made it clear that any statement which implies that the reason women don’t get positions is because they’re decided on “merit, not sex” is particularly galling to women.
On why there were no women on the SOCOG board said
"Appointments are made on merit not sex."
The Maltese Falcon
Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the abolition of the Federal Government’s bar on employment for married women
The 1996 Ernies was so overcrowded hundreds of women had to be knocked back. Some women were instructed not to eat, but at least they would “look good in their nice frocks.” The “boo-offs” came into their own and many categories were hotly contested.
The Lucky Door Prize was the Labor Council tape of its 110th anniversary function where there were 9 male speakers and no women.
Peter Costello’s nomination in the political category for saying “If you don’t like my tie, blame my mother” began the important Ernie tradition of blaming your mum.
Engagement from the media had moved from treating us as a quaint curio to all out attack. Journalist Jeff Wells whose main claim to fame is winning Ernie awards made some particularly harsh comments about the Telegraph photograph of Yvette Andrews and Ann Summers at the ceremony. “Yvette is the one on the left looking suitably rubicund in a nifty burlap Muu Muu by Kristoff of Kogarah. Ann is the blonde on the right in the “Guys and Dolls” powersuit by Harry of Hurstville.” Once again, Jeff, you can’t get an Ernie for trying.
He went on “It is typical of the cheapskates of the women’s movement that they refuse to give me my hard earned silver Ernie trophy which I won last week… I mean it’s not like it’s the Maltese Falcon.”
Found a man not guilty of stalking a woman for seven years
"I don't think he was intimidating her, he was just being persistent. He was being like a little puppy dog wagging its tail. "