Christoper Pyne wins Ernie Award 2014 for his comments on the impact of uni fees on women

Education minister Christopher Pyne Christopher said that increases in uni fees won't disproportionately affect women.

Education minister Christopher Pyne Christopher said that increases in uni fees won't disproportionately affect women.

The Minister for Education Christopher Pyne beat the Prime Minister Tony Abbott in a tight leadership contest at Parliament House last night.

The Prize? Australia’s Top Sexist; and the competition was fierce.

The Ernie Awards, now in its 22nd year, is held each September at NSW Parliament House. Hundreds of loud, proud women (this year, dressed as suffragettes) shout out as part of the judging for the most sexist remarks by public figures during the previous year. It honours the legacy of Ernie Ecob, the unionist who said in 1989, that women only wanted to be shearers for the shags.

Tony Abbott took out the Ernie for 'repeat offender.'

Tony Abbott took out the Ernie for 'repeat offender.' Photo: Andrew Meares

How do you get to be a nominee? Sexist remarks are nominated by women across Australia and the vote is clear, transparent and deafening. No social media campaigning here, the nomination with the loudest and longest boos on the night – as judged by veteran boos monitors - wins the category and the loathing by Australian women everywhere.

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When it came to the vote, that special loathing, long and loud, was reserved for Christopher Pyne, who won the silver Ernie in the political category for claiming that increases in uni fees won't disproportionately affect women because  "women are well represented amongst the teaching and nursing students. They will not be able to earn the high incomes that dentists and lawyers will earn."

Victory in that category catapulted him straight into the running for Gold – and after a battle at the level of silver (against fellow Cabinet Minister Eric Abetz) the Education Minister romped home in the top field. The boos and stomping shook the glasses and cutlery clear off the tables. Hundreds of women were having a lot of fun telling the Federal government exactly what they thought.

Kylie and Jackie O got a gong for their on-air questioning of Sports Journalist, Erin Molan.

Kylie and Jackie O got a gong for their on-air questioning of Sports Journalist, Erin Molan. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

But Pyne was lucky really, because in the year of the gender card, politics was the biggest category by far, revealed Meredith Burgmann, the eternal host of the Ernies and a former Legislative Council President. There were nearly 20 nominations – and astonishingly, not all were Federal Government ministers.  PUP’s Clive Palmer had three all on his own - for constantly calling women journalists ‘my dear’; for suggesting that paid parental leave was to keep the Prime Minister’s chief-of-staff Peta Credlin happy; and for saying: "I couldn't throttle her [Julia Gillard], so I had to get to Parliament to get rid of that woman."  He was joined by loose cannon and former member of the Victorian Liberal Party, MP Geoff Shaw, for rewriting the physiology textbooks by revealing the existence of ‘tummy eggs’; and Labor sexists past and present. Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called former Premier Kristina Keneally Bambi. Former wannabe Prime Minister Mark Latham, who can occasionally be funny, scored two nominations from two quotes: "There is no policy oomph from feminist dogma" and "So cheer up, ladies. Even if you're a two-bagger, or worse, the host of the Ernie Awards, you're not without hope in the meat market of life." Tony Burke’s offence was to compare Bronwyn Bishop to Dolores Umbridge.

It was the Federal government ministers which sent the crowd wild: Pyne of course; Eric Abetz for suggesting breast cancer was linked to abortion; and Matthias Cormann on the advancement of women in the Coalition: "We're not going to get distracted by these sorts of, what I would say are side issues."

Mr Pyne was in other very bad company. Other silver winners included Piers Akerman for his vile attacks on our beloved Peppa Pig with her “weird feminist line”; a tedious campervan hire company that paints attention-seeking slogans on its rust buckets; and Kyle and Jackie O for everything really but mainly for asking St Erin Molan whether she’d had a boob job, and whether she’d ever slept with a cricketer. Molan, a talented broadcaster, decided she’d never appear on their program again.

And yes, the Prime Minister was nominated for a record eighth time. What do they say? Always the groomsman, never the groom, although he did manage to score the Clinton for repeat offenders (which sadly does not provide access to the competition for gold, gold, gold). At least one category went to appeal (Industrial, where Wicked beat Libra) – and several went to boo-offs in what was the tightest contest in years, say longtime Ernies goers.

Burgmann said that they used to be able to squeeze 400 into the Strangers Dining Room at Parliament House but these days, it’s limited to 330. It sells out every time but for her, the real measure of success is the number of young women and first timers who come to the Ernies. This time, nearly half the room had never been to an Ernies award; and a team of 20 year olds raced to the stage to claim the status of youngest feminist there. The oldest, by her own claim, was the legendary Margaret Jones, 88, star of Seeing Margaret Jones, the Documentary. She took home half a dozen awards herself – the trophies go to the person who nominates the winners of each category.

So good news for Margaret and good news for Mark Lennon, the Secretary of Unions NSW, who won the sole positive acknowledgement last night, for giving female staff two per cent more superannuation than men, to acknowledge the structural issues that lead to women having one third of the super savings of men when they retire.

And there can never be too many nominations in that category.

Follow Jenna Price on Twitter: @jennaprice

 

THE COMPLETE LIST OF ERNIES 2014

GOLD ERNIE and Political Silver Ernie

Christopher Pyne

For claiming that increases in uni fees won't disproportionately affect women because - "women are well represented amongst the teaching and nursing students. They will not be able to earn the high incomes that dentists and lawyers will earn."

Media Silver Ernie

Piers Akerman

"The ABC has tried to foist its left-wing agenda on the nation. Even the cartoon character Peppa Pig pushes a weird feminist line that would be closer to the hearts of Labor's Handbag Hit Squad than the pre-school audience it is aimed at."

Judicial Silver Ernie

Philip Strickland SC 

For suggesting that former MP Jodie McKay's recall of a conversation might not be accurate because she was in "an emotional state".

Industrial Silver Ernie

Wicked Camper Vans

For slogans on their vans:

"Fat girls are harder to kidnap."

"In every princess, there's a little slut who wants to try it just once."

"Life sucks if your girlfriend doesn't."

Sport Silver Ernie (The Warney)

South Coast Winter Swimming Association

in response to women swimmers wanting to join the club moved the following motions:

"That the name of the South Coast Winter Swimming association should be changed to the South Coast Men's Winter Swimming Association."

"That member affiliation of the South Coast Winter Swimming Association is limited to males."

Clerical/Celebrity Ernie (The Fred)

Kyle and Jackie O

For their on-air questioning of Sports Journalist, Erin Molan on how many sportsmen she has had sex with, whether she has had a boob job, and whether she has ever slept with a cricketer.

The Elaine (for the remark least helpful to the sisterhood)

Dead heat between

Michaelia Cash, Minister assisting the PM on Women

"In terms of feminism, I've never been someone who really associates with that movement. That movement was a set of ideologies from many, many decades ago" 

Miranda Devine

"After rising to the top of her party through affirmative action, out first female prime minister cynically played the victim card. Her unscrupulous complaints about sexism and misogyny just empowered the worst kind of women to excuse their own failings, and justified every sexist stereotype."

The Good Ernie

Mark Lennon, Secretary of Unions NSW

For giving female staff 2% more superannuation than men, to acknowledge the structural issues that lead to women having one third of the super savings of men when they retire.

The Clinton (for repeat offenders)

Tony Abbott