December 2005 - January 2006


The 2005 Chutzpah Awards

By Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz


Wendi Deng: Role Model

The Tower of Murdoch is no place for the faint-hearted. Potentates quail before its might and the tribute of nations flows into its coffers. From its lofty battlements, Emperor Rupert the Ruthless casts his shadow upon a far-flung empire. Deep within its maze-like structure, locked up with a golden key, lies the Instrument of Succession, a most marvellous contrivance through which the old emperor will transmit his patrimony to his heirs, foremost of whom is his first-born son, Lachlan the Likely.

But Lachlan is wearied of dwelling in his father’s shadow and would fain go adventuring. And look, who is this? It is Wendi, an itinerant girl from beyond the seas. She is slipping past the emperor’s defences and offering him the Elixir of Immortality. He drinks deep and his grip upon the key to the Instrument of Succession begins to weaken.

Will it soon lie within Wendi’s grasp?

What’s Chinese for chutzpah?


Sol Trujillo: Your Call Is Important to Us

He’s only been with the firm six months and already the new trainee at Telstra has accused the owner of being a hindrance, dropped the share price out the window, given the investors a nervous rash and told the other employees to take a hike.

In short, he’s a textbook example of the sort of workplace troublemaker that the new industrial legislation is supposed to eliminate.

Way to go, Solly Boy.


Gunns: Tasmania, Inc.

It’s not a lot for a billion-dollar company to ask – just to be left alone to get on with a harmless bit of herbicidespraying, possum-poisoning, clear-felling, wood-chipping and democracy-suborning without having to put up with non-stop carping and finger-pointing from the Bob Brown brigade. What these people need is a lesson. Round up 20 of the usual suspects, tape their gobs shut and make them pay you $6.3 million. Any right-minded judge would surely agree. But not Justice Bernard Bongiorno of the Victorian Supreme Court, who struck out Gunns Limited’s 216-page statement of claim for no better reason than it was “unintelligible, ambiguous, vague and too general”.

Confronted with such pettifogging pusillanimity, anybody else would be tempted to give up. But not the big boys from Burnie, where going mad with an axe is a way of life.

Go get ’em, Gunns. The whole country is behind you. Well behind.


Elle Macpherson: Wardrobe Refurbisher

She used to be hot in the 1990s, so hot she’d rather go naked than wear the skin of anything that had been clubbed, gassed, strangled or electrocuted. But that was then – and now is now. And right now it’s a bit chilly in New York, so a Model of Compassion would be wise to bundle up. With a sable coat, say, and a $1.8 million endorsement fee from Mink Skinners, Inc.

You’ve got a hide, Elle Macpherson. Or a pelt, as they call it, as they rip it from the living body of a small purpose-bred creature.


Shane Connor: Recovering Paranoiac

It was victimisation, pure and simple, and Shane Connor (aka Joe Scully) isn’t going to take it lying down. So now that the drugs have worn off, the soapie star is taking a stand. He’s sued Grundy Television for unfair dismissal. Since when were uncontrollable facial twitches and incoherent behaviour grounds for being sacked from the cast of Neighbours? Shit, man, they’re more like essential requirements for the job. And as for turning up late with an amphetamine hangover, didn’t they know he was an actor when they hired him?

Go get ’em, Shane. Just don’t make a habit of it.


Russell Crowe: The Anti-Chutzpah Award for Chickening Out

It was his big chance and he blew it. Instead of taking well deserved pride in his actions, Russell Crowe kissed arse and paid six-figure compensation for having done no more than any reasonable person would have done in his place. What any tired, homesick, emotionally vulnerable guest in a $1,500-a-night hotel would have done if he’d been given lip by some bored flunky at 3 a.m. when he was just trying to call home to let the missus know how much he was missing her.

Jesus, Russ, the guy whatevered you. You could’ve beaten the jerk to a pulp with the handset and no jury in the world would’ve convicted you of anything more serious than aggravated consumer advocacy. But what did you do? You slithered away on a trail of self-admonishment and hush money. Shame, Russell, shame.


Amanda Vanstone: Fit for the Task

Holding back the floodgates of illegal immigration would wear most of us to a frazzle. Look what it did to poor Phil Ruddock. But despite its many vicissitudes, Amanda Vanstone has a keen appetite for the job – and for almost anything else, for that matter. So when she managed to combine an inspection tour of Villawood Detention Centre with a spot of double-handed snacking, she proved once again that she’s a politician in a class of her own.

Is that a TPV in your hand, minister, or are you just pleased to eat me?


Morry Schwartz: Feminist Publisher

Yes, it’s a periodical, it’s a bit messy and it can make you irritable sometimes. But calling it The Monthly? Honestly, Morry – what were you thinking?

Oh well, at least it’s not The Curse. Or is it?


David Penberthy: Paragon of the Press

It’s important for a newspaper editor to maintain the highest professional standards, particularly if his newspaper is as well-respected as Sydney’s Daily Telegraph. So when a reporter with a history of mischievous rumourmongering filed an innuendo-laden farrago of inaccuracies and misrepresentations, David Penberthy knew exactly how to respond. He ran the story on the front page. And when the next thing that happened was the resignation and attempted suicide of the leader of the state opposition, he knew just what to do – describe the journalist as “a fine reporter” and the discredited beat-up as “legitimate and accurate”.

Onya, Penbo. You’re an inspiration to the trade.


Anthony Prince and Luke Carroll: Australian Intellectuals

It was a plan of brilliant simplicity. Enter bank, the usual

one, say “G’day”, flash ID badge, brandish fake pistol and demand money. Take cash into dunny and photograph selves holding it, then straight to the airport, buy tickets with stolen bills and take off for Mexico. The Yanks won’t know what hit them. It should’ve worked like a charm. Instead it’s five years in a federal penitentiary. It’s David Hicks all over again. Which just goes to prove that you can’t help bad luck.


Brian Martin: Marriage Guidance Counsellor

In an era when old-style family values are buffeted by the winds of change, it’s a rare man indeed who is prepared to uphold the sanctity of traditional marriage. Such a man is Brian Martin, Chief Justice of the Northern Territory. When hearing a case against a 55-year-old man charged with the aggravated assault and anal rape of a 14-year-old girl, Brian was told that the defendant believed he was simply asserting his rights as a husband. After all, the girl had been promised to him since she was four, his other wife hadn’t objected, and he thought “no” meant “yes”. Fair enough, decreed His Honour. Charges reduced and a month in jail.

Bravo, Brian.


Michelle Leslie: Model Defendant

Maybe it was drugs, maybe it was Attention Deficit Disorder, or maybe it just seemed like a good idea at the time. Hell, when you’re looking at 15 years in an Indonesian slammer, anything’s worth a shot. So you admit that you’re a lingerie model, right. And that you went to this party, right. And that there were these tablets in your handbag, right. But it was all a terrible mix-up, right. Because you’re a Muslim, right. Otherwise why would you be wearing this big white scarf thingy over your head?

OK, so it’s a long shot. But, hey, anybody with a better idea should go tell Schapelle. And as for the lingerie, what do you think we’re wearing under our chadors anyway?

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Shane Maloney is a writer and the author of the award-winning Murray Whelan series of crime novels. His 'Encounters', illustrated by Chris Grosz, have been published in a collection, Australian Encounters.

Chris Grosz is a book illustrator, painter and political cartoonist. He has illustrated newspapers and magazines such as the Age, the Bulletin and Time.

From the front page

Image of Australian Bicentenary protest, Sydney, NSW, 1988

The stunted country

There can be no republic without constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians

Image of former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian in September. Image © Dan Himbrechts / AAP Images

Gladys for Warringah?

In attempting to take down an independent MP, Morrison is helping pro-integrity candidates across the country

Image of Oscar Isaac as William Tell in The Card Counter. Photograph © Focus Features

Debt burden: Paul Schrader’s ‘The Card Counter’

The acclaimed writer-director indulges his experimental streak in a thriller that inverts the popular conception of the gambling man

Still from ‘No Time To Die’

The Bond market: ‘Dune’ and ‘No Time To Die’

Blockbuster season begins with a middling 007 and a must-see sci-fi epic

In This Issue

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Fumigation in London & Amsterdam

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Why drug dealers vote Liberal

Lilypad of the Arafura

Australia's last frontier society is long gone. So what's next for the city of Darwin?
Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Wide open road

More in The Monthly Essays

Image of Kim Philby (left) and Phillip Knightley

On Her Majesty’s secret disservice

The reporter who uncovered the truth about Kim Philby, the 20th century’s most infamous spy, and his warnings for democratic society

Image of sculpture by Jane Bamford

The artist making sculpture for penguins

How creating sculpture for animals is transforming wildlife conservation and the art world

Image of coal for export, Newcastle, NSW

The fossil-fuel industry’s grip on Australian hearts and minds

Is there hope that public misconceptions of the importance of coal and gas can be overcome?

Image of Noel Pearson addresses the Queensland Media Club in Brisbane, 2017

The unhinged pursuit of profit is destroying us

To undo the worst of neoliberalism we need to target need, rather than race or identity

Online exclusives

Image of Oscar Isaac as William Tell in The Card Counter. Photograph © Focus Features

Debt burden: Paul Schrader’s ‘The Card Counter’

The acclaimed writer-director indulges his experimental streak in a thriller that inverts the popular conception of the gambling man

Image of The Beatles and Yoko Ono during the ‘Let It Be’ sessions. Image © Apple Records / Disney+

‘Get Back’ is ‘slow TV’ for Beatles nuts

Despite plenty of magical moments, Peter Jackson’s eight-hour epic is the work of a fanatic, and will likely only be watched in full by other fanatics

Image of John Wilson in How To with John Wilson. Image courtesy of HBO / Binge

Candid camera: ‘How To with John Wilson’

Both delightfully droll and genuinely moving, John Wilson’s idiosyncratic documentary series is this month’s streaming standout

Image of Clint Eastwood in Cry Macho. Image © Claire Folger / Warner Bros.

Slow motions: Clint Eastwood’s ‘Cry Macho’

Despite patient filmmaking, the 91-year-old director’s elegiac feature is unable to escape the legend of the man