'The Defo Awards' for Services to Defamation Fuck-Ups — The Shovel

‘The Defo Awards’ for Services to Defamation Fuck-Ups

When you’ve been accused of doing something wrong in public life, the response usually is to go to ground and keep your mouth shut. 

In the Defo Awards we celebrate those brave men, and other men, who took a different route. The men who, against all advice, against all logic, against all public relations theory, boldly set out to sue their accusers and monumentally fuck it up. There have been some stunning performances. Here are our winners … 

Best Lead Actor in a Defamation Fuck-Up

Winner: Bruce Lehrmann

Judge’s Comments: When it comes to overestimating one’s own abilities, Bruce Lehrmann is very much in a class of his own.

In this masterful performance, Lehrmann fortuitously avoids a criminal rape conviction due to a mistrial, but then finds a way to be named as a rapist in an Australian court of law anyway.

He attempts to bring down one television network (Channel 10) but then accidentally manages to bring down another one (Channel 7) instead.

He sues to restore his reputation, and in the process admits to lying to police, lying to his boss and, worst of all, singing “I’ve Had The Time Of My Life” on a karaoke machine in a North Sydney apartment.

Incredibly, he does all of this while facing a separate criminal trial for rape in Toowoomba. And studying law.

It is hard to think of a more complete performance.


The Hague Award for Services to Future War Crimes Hearings

Winner: Ben Roberts-Smith

Judge’s Comments: Over the past two years Ben has worked tirelessly and selflessly to provide evidence, facilitate witness statements, and bring new material to light, which can now be used in support of a War Crimes trial against him. What a stunning performance!


The “Best Fuck Up by a Supporting Actor Trying to Impress His Daddy

Winner: Lachlan Murdoch

Judge’s Comments: In this heartwarming performance, we see a 52 year-old little boy try to impress his daddy by taking on the might of a small online Australian news website, only to fuck the whole thing up. What a wonderful performance.


Best Victory Speech During a Defamation Defeat

Winner: Christian Porter

Judge’s Comments: Most people who have been forced to withdraw a defamation suit against the national broadcaster, after weeks of claiming he had been defamed, would see it as a defeat. But not Porter. In a breath-taking performance, he subverts expectations, claims victory, and labels the ABC’s decision not to pay him damages or remove the articles about him, a ‘humiliating backdown’. Superb.


The ‘My Character Witness Once Wore a KKK Costume’ Award for Services to Satire

Winner: Ben Roberts-Smith

Judge’s Comments: In another spectacular performance, Roberts-Smith showed that he is not afraid to buck convention. While most litigants would put forward a respectable, upstanding citizen to be their character witness, BRS chose a guy who once went to a military fancy dress party dressed in a white hood. The line “I knew one other person was coming in blackface, so I thought it would be funny [to be in a KKK costume],” is one of the most memorable in all of defamation law.


The “Free Speech Is Sacred Until Someone Teases Me” Award

Winner: Peter Dutton

Runner Up: Lachlan Murdoch

Judge’s Comments: Dutton spent years perfecting his hard-man, free-speech warrior character – once noting that criticisms were like ‘water off a duck’s back’. But in an impressive display of his range, he was able to quickly pivot to a thin-skinned, hypersensitive litigant, when he was told someone wrote a five-word mean tweet about him.  Utterly convincing.


Lifetime Achievement Award for Services to Defamation Fuck-Ups

Winner: Kerry Stokes

Judge’s Comments: With so many great lead performances in recent years, it’s easy to forget the people behind the scenes making these monumental fuck-ups possible.

For years now, Kerry Stokes has worked tirelessly to uncover the very worst people in society and then fund their defamation disasters (or at the very least, put them on a TV show).

By backing first a war criminal and then a rapist, he has turned being a poor judge of character into something of an artform.


First published June 2, 2023. Updated April 16, 2024 

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