The Ernie Awards highlight sexist comments, Eric Abetz is the winner

The annual Ernie Awards highlight sexist comments made by people in the public realm, this year’s winner of the Golden Ernie is Liberal senator Eric Abetz.

First launched in 1993, the annual event usually sees several hundred women meeting for a Gala dinner at the NSW parliament, but this year due to the Covid-19 restrictions it was a more scaled back affair.

As the overall winner, Senator Abetz joins former union leader Joe de Bruyn, Prime Minister John Howard, Andrew Bolt, pastor Daniel Naliah, Alan Jones and many others on the awards dis-honour board.

Senator Eric Abetz won the award for comments he made in relation to accusations Attorney General Christian Porter had sexually assaulted a woman in his youth. Porter has strenuously denied the accusation. At the same time Senator Abetz also commented on the case of political staffer Britney Higgins who was allegeldy sexually assaulted at Parliament House.

When asked if Christian Porter was the unidentified minister who was accused of rape, Abetz allegedly told Speaker of the Tasmanian Parliament Sue Hickey, “Yes … but not to worry, the woman is dead and the law will protect him … as for that Higgins girl, anybody so disgustingly drunk who would sleep with anybody … she could have slept with one of our spies and put the security of the nation at risk.”

Ernies founder Dr Meredith Burgmann commented that “Senator Abetz is an outstanding winner, having ‘podiumed’ on previous occasions. He is almost certainly on his last lap as he has been relegated to an almost unwinnable spot on the Tassie senate ticket. In excellent form though, the Senator has blamed his relegation on sexism and ageism”.

Senator Abetz has denied ever making the comments, saying “to suggest that I would make light of a rape allegation is horrendous [and] categorically denied by myself”. Back in March Senator Abetz suggested Hickey’s accusation was politically motivated.

Other winners at the awards include General Angus Campbell, Chief of Defence, he picked up the Industrial Silver Ernie.

Campbell told incoming female ADFA cadets, they should avoid making themselves prey to sexual predators by being aware of the “‘four As’: alcohol, out after midnight, alone and attractive”.

Radio presenter Jeremy Cordeaux won the award for the media category.  The South Australian radio host commented on Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations saying, “I just ask myself why the Prime Minister doesn’t call it out for what it is – a silly little girl who got drunk.”

Radio station 5AAA sacked Cordeaux over the comments, but he remained unapologetic. During his broadcast Cordeauz also said, “Why are we going through these machinations about this young woman? She should have her bottom smacked.”

The Judicial category was taken our by Judge Robert Sutherland from the NSW District Court, regarding Nicholas Drummond who hit a young woman after telling her to “put her tits away”.

Twenty-year-old Drummond, who went to exclusive private school Knox Grammar, hit the woman and knocked her to the ground. His conviction was quashed, and comments from the judge were widely criticised.

Judge Sutherland wished Drummond ‘good luck’ and concluded, [He made] “a lewd and completely inappropriate remark towards someone he didn’t know but whose dress might have been perceived by a former student of Knox to be provocative”.


Ricky Stuart, coach of Canberra Raiders was awarded The Warnie, the Ernie for the sports sector.

“If I can’t have tough conversations with my better players, I might as well coach netball.” is the comment attributed to Stuart that got him into hot water.

Senator Eric Abetz, with his previously mentioned alleged comments, was one of the politicians winning the award for the political sphere, he was a tie with his boss, Prime Minister Scott Morrison for the Political Silver Ernie.

The judges had no time for his time-out with wife Jenny, that appeared to enable his empathy for the serious sexual assault allegations raised by Brittany Higgins.

“Jenny and I spoke last night and she said to me you have to think about this as a father first. What would you want if it were our girls?…Jenny has a way of clarifying things”.

In the education sphere, Professor Magnus Nyden, Dean of Science and Engineering, Macquarie University doesn’t think there should be more women in sciences because, “a woman is biologically wired to be more concerned about people, and men about things”.

While St Luke’s Grammar School picked up a gong for asking their male students to choose the qualities they would look for in a girl which allocated more points for virginity, looks and strong Christian values than for generosity and adventurousness. The girl students were given articles on the importance of virginity and how Satan provided opportunities for fleeting sexual encounters.

It’s not just men who get highlighted in the awards, there’s also The Elaine, an award for women who make the remark least helpful to the sisterhood.  This year it was another dead heat with Senator Linda Reynolds, Minister for Defence and Teena McQueen, Federal Liberal Party Vice President (pictured), sharing the dishonour.

Minister Reynolds was put in the spotlight for referring to Brittany Higgins as “She’s a lying cow”, while McQueen reportedly commented in a meeting, “I would kill to be sexually harassed at the moment.”

The awards also hand out The Good Ernie, an award for boys behaving better. Liberal MP Russell Broadbent asked the PM to convene a national gathering of women and that all cabinet submissions, new policies and legislation have a gender impact statement and that politicians “need to be quiet, listen and learn”.

Richard Hinds, ABC Sports reporter, was also praised for comments he made about outgoing Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle.

“I’ve no idea whether Raelene Castle was a good CEO or a disaster. I’m 100% certain women in power are still held to a much higher account than men.” Hinds said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was also the winner of The Trump, an Ernie Award for people who make more than one perceived sexist comment within the year.

The PM was pinged for talking about the Women’s March4Justice in parliament where he said, “This is a vibrant liberal democracy Mr Speaker. Not far from here, such marches, even now, are being met with bullets, but not here in this country.”

Alongside his comment about gaining empathy after chatting with wife Jenny, the PM also delivered a cringeworthy comment to sexual assault survivor Grace Tame just after she was named Australia of the Year.

“Well, gee, I bet it felt good to get that out.” the PM allegedly told Tame after she spoke of her sexual abuse.

Reflecting on this years winner Dr Burgmann commented that “time for contemplation during lockdown has not made Australia a kinder, gentler place – for women”.

OIP Staff

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