Former Port Stephens Mayor Bruce MacKenzie wins Golden Ernie for domestic violence refuge comments

FORMER Mayor of Port Stephens Bruce MacKenzie has blitzed the field to take top dishonours at this year’s Ernie Awards.

The awards, in their 25th year, call out public figures for sexist comments made in the previous 12 months. They were announced at a sold-out gala dinner at Parliament House in Sydney on Thursday.

Mr MacKenzie was named winner in the politics category and received the Golden Ernie, which goes to the overall winner, after he pleaded guilty to assaulting his partner and then wanted to have a women’s domestic violence refuge named in his honour.

The trophies were accepted on his behalf by Member for Port Stephens, Kate Washington.

When contacted by Fairfax Media on Friday, Mr MacKenzie returned fire, saying “the women who get together to get drunk at Parliament House can get stuffed.”

He launched a stinging attack on Ms Washington.

"Kate Washington? I don't know that one," he said.

"Is that the one that gets kicked out of parliament all the time? Can I ask the person who accepted it on my behalf what she's achieved for women? Because it wouldn't be more than a sheet of tin against a tree.” 

The shelter was a joint project between Port Stephens Council, police and Port Stephens Family and Neighbourhood Services.

Mr MacKenzie admitted that the original name proposed for the women’s shelter had been a “stuff up” but said he was proud of the project.

“If it wasn’t for me, that shelter wouldn’t be there now,” he said. 

Ms Washington said she did not nominate Mr MacKenzie for the award and only realised he was a finalist on the night. 

When asked about his comments regarding the women who attended the event, Ms Washington said she "wouldn't expect anything less". 

"Before the campaign, he said that I was a second-rate candidate and would still be standing in elections for the next 20 years ... I don't think he really ever got over the fact he couldn't control that outcome,” Ms Washington said. 

"I've been expressing my concerns with the lack of respect he's shown to your community for years.

“It was heartening to see that, without any involvement from me, a community of women also showed their disgust at the language he uses." 

Ernies organiser Meredith Burgmann said this year was hotly contested, but Mr MacKenzie’s comments made him stand out from the pack. 

“The voting is done via a boo-off and often issues to do with domestic violence do win,” she said. 

“But I think it was the absolute arrogance of knowing that everyone knew he had a domestic violence charge that he’d pleaded guilty to and then expecting the refuge to be named after him. 

“It was extraordinary.” 

Mr MacKenzie joins the ranks of former Golden Ernie winners Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones and the students of St Paul’s College. 

Ms Burgmann has been running the awards since their inception and said she never expected them to gain such a cult following. 

“I’ve tried to kill it off a few times because it’s really hard work,” she joked.

The full list: 

GOLD ERNIE AND SILVER ERNIE (POLITICAL)

Port Stephens Mayor Bruce McKenzie who pleaded guilty to assaulting his partner but wanted a domestic violence shelter to be named after himself. 

SILVER ERNIE (MEDIA)

Andrew Bolt remarking on a Human Rights Commission Report which found that 51% of students were sexually harassed last year: “Yes, we should be shocked and visibly upset...that the Commission perpetrated such a hoax. We should be shocked and upset that not one university boss had the guts to call out this fraud of a study.” 

SILVER ERNIE (JUDICIAL)

Victorian Judge Christopher Ryan for referring to a 14-year-old sexual assault victim as: “nubile” and “worldy”.  

SILVER ERNIE (INDUSTRIAL)

Ford Dealers who when women complained that their Ford Focus repeatedly lost power without warning, dismissed their complaints as being an issue with “their driving style”. 

THE WARNEY (SPORT)

Dale Simmons, President of the Cervantes Tiger Sharks Football Club in WA called AFL umpire Eleni Gloutfsis “a dopey mole” and “a stupid bitch” and that she would change her mind on umpiring decisions because she was a woman. 

THE FRED (CLERICAL/CELEBRITY)

Keysar Trad, Muslim community leader: “using violence against women is a last resort for men, step three after counselling, buying her chocolates or taking her out to dinner.” 

THE ELAINE (For remarks least helpful to the Sisterhood)

Louise Roberts, columnist: “If I’m getting paid less than a man for doing the same job, its not his fault. It is mine, through life choices I have made for myself.” 

THE GOOD ERNIE (For boys behaving better)

The Australian Cricketers’ Association for holding out to win the women cricketers a massive pay increase.

THE TRUMP (For Habitual Offender)

Mark Latham