Gillard defends 'Garrett gag' decision

Jul 30 2019

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard has defended a decision to have the treasurer and not the environment minister answer questions on climate change in the lower house.


Ms Gillard said climate change was an economic issue and the Treasurer Wayne Swan was in the best position to field questions on the issue in the House of Representatives.

A list of the Rudd ministry, issued by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet this week, allocates “other chamber” responsibilities for the climate change and water portfolio – held by Senator Penny Wong – to Mr Swan.

Being a member of the upper house, Senator Wong will be unable to answer questions on climate change in the lower house.

Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson said it was extraordinary Environment Minister Peter Garrett would not be answering questions about climate change and showed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd lacked confidence in him.

But Ms Gillard said climate change was a core government business requiring the attention of the Treasury.

“We know it's at the centre of decision-making and the important agencies like Treasury need to be engaged if our economy is going to make the transitions it needs to deal with the challenge of climate change,” she told ABC radio today.

I think it should give people faith that a Rudd Labor government is going to deal with climate change as a mainstream business that we are expecting Wayne Swan as treasurer to be across every detail of climate change.”

Mr Garrett would answer questions in other areas of his responsibility, she said.

“We understand that addressing the threat of climate change is core government business.

“We need the Treasury working on it, we need the prime minister working on it, it's across all of government and that is our approach.”

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Banton 'was a symbol of human decency'

Jul 30 2019

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has told the state funeral for Bernie Banton that the asbestos campaigner has become a symbol of basic human decency.


Mr Rudd, who singled Mr Banton out for praise during his election victory speech, said today he was an extraordinary man and Australia is poorer for his passing.

“Bernie Banton was a great Australian hero,” Mr Rudd told thousands of mourners at Sydney's Acer Arena.

“A hero in an age when we had all become so cynical that we didn't believe there could be heroes.

“He was an Australian hero with an extraordinary heart who lived an extraordinary life.”

Mr Rudd also spoke of his last meeting with Mr Banton, who requested that the Labor leader publicly recognise the role unions played in bringing justice to those who had suffered in the battle against building products company James Hardie.

“I salute the roles of these unions in bringing justice to working people,” Mr Rudd said.

A real hero: Nelson

“People throw the term hero all over the place, but Bernie was a real hero in every sense of the word,” Opposition leader Brendon Nelson said.

“He carried the hopes, aspirations and ideals of everyday Australians. He's made us believe that if you've got something you believe in, and you've got right on your side, you can have a win.

“We are a better people for having had Bernie Banton.”

Widow remberes her 'soulmate'

The widow of Bernie Banton has thanked mourners attending his state funeral in Sydney, saying she's lost her best friend and soul mate.

Karen Banton paid tribute to her 61-year-old husband in front of some 2,000 mourners at the Acer Arena, in Sydney's Olympic Park.

“Bernie Banton … my best friend and soul mate here on earth for the past 16 years,” she said.

“God brought Bernie into my life when I was newly widowed and my toddler son Dean, fatherless.

“After seven years of active family life together, Bernie's health steadily declined following his diagnosis of asbestos disease nine years ago.

“For the last three-and-a-half years, Dean and I have shared Bernie with you all, especially via our many friends in the electronic and print media.

“In return, you have blessed Bernie, Dean and I with your prayers, love and gifts of flowers, cards and support and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

“Thank you too for the many special tributes – they have been most humbling and heartening.”

Mr Banton, 61, died from the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma early last week after years of fighting for fellow sufferers.

He won a second battle for personal compensation from James Hardie Industries just days before his death, a settlement which will help his family financially.

During the federal election campaign, he also won a long battle for government subsidies for the palliative drug Alimta.

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'Australia remains strong ally'

Jul 30 2019

The United States has sent a strong message to Australia that “tactical” differences on Kyoto and Iraq won't harm the enduring alliance between the two countries.


In a firm rebuff of claims by the former Howard government, senior US government official Nicholas Burns told reporters relations between the allies remained “exceptionally strong”.

“The alliance with Australia and the United States is one of our greatest international priorities to maintain,” said Mr Burns, the US under-secretary of state for political affairs.

During the past year, the Howard government repeatedly claimed Labor would damage relations between Australia and the US because of its plan to withdraw combat troops from Iraq.

But just two days after being sworn in, several senior cabinet members met Mr Burns, one of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's most senior foreign affairs officers.

He was in Canberra for a sub-ministerial level meeting of the trilateral security dialogue between Australia, Japan and the United States, which had been organised months ago.

At US Ambassador Robert McCallum's residence, Mr Burns this morning met Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Agriculture Minister Tony Burke.

Yesterday's meeting followed discussions with Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon.

The ministers are understood to have impressed on Mr Burns the importance Labor places on the US alliance, which it has at the centre of its foreign policy agenda.

Labor plans to continue with the annual Ausmin meetings involving defence and foreign ministers from Australia and the US, which is expected to take place in Canberra next year.

Washington visits on agenda

And both Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Mr Smith have indicated they will visit Washington at the earliest possible opportunity next year.

The pair will make their first overseas visit next week, when they attend the United Nations climate change conference in Bali.

Mr Smith is due to hold his first bilateral meeting with Indonesian foreign minister Hassan Wirajuda, whom he spoke to by phone today.

Mr Burns, who leaves Australia tomorrow, indicated he would pass on his positive impressions of the new government to Washington.

“I am going to leave here tomorrow night with a very positive sense of this new government, an appreciation of the skill and professionalism of the new ministers,” he said.

Iraq was among a wide array of issues discussed during the meetings but Mr Burns said detailed talks on a withdrawal would wait for meetings between Mr Rudd and Mr McCallum, as well as discussions between defence officials in both countries.

Kyoto stance 'won't rock relationship'

And Mr Burns was at pains to stress that Australia's position on Iraq, as well as other differences like the signing of the Kyoto Protocol, would in no way damage the relationship.

“This alliance between Australia and the United States is exceptionally strong across the board,” he said.

“It will remain exceptionally strong. We may have tactical differences on a number of issues – Iraq, we certainly have tactical difference on the issue of Kyoto, but it doesn't mean we cannot work well together.

“It is absolutely normal that in a democratic relationship between allies that there should be differences on some issues.”

Even with the withdrawal of combat troops, Mr Burns was hopeful of Australia and the US continuing to work co-operatively to help the rebuilding process in Iraq.

“There's a lot going on in Iraq, to help the Iraqi's build a stable government to take back control of the streets, to train police, to train the military, governance issues, corruption issues, economic issues … all these issues are in play,” he said.

Australia and the US also discussed ongoing efforts in Afghanistan, which will get a further airing next week when Mr Fitzgibbon is expected to attend a meeting in Edinburgh of countries fighting in southern Afghanistan.

It will be an opportunity for him to meet US Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

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Chaser team take show on the road

Jul 30 2019

The Chaser's War On Everything will not return to the ABC in the first half of 2008 while the team take on a nation tour of a new live production, The Chaser's Age of Terror Variety Hour, from March to June.


“After heeding Today Tonight's complaints about the outrageous waste of taxpayers' money on their show The War On Everything, the Chaser team has decided to take some time off from TV in the first half of 2008,” they said in a statement.

“The Chaser will adopt a purely user-pays approach next year, mounting a national tour of a new live production.”

The show will combine sketches, songs, presentations, interactive audience segments and, the team promises, “up-to-the-minute insensitive gags about the latest celebrity deaths as they happen”.

Andrew Hansen, Chas Licciardello, Julian Morrow, Craig Reucassel and one of the Chaser's founding members, Dominic Knight, will appear in the show, while Chris Taylor takes time off to develop new television projects for the team.

“The Chaser team is still in negotiations with the ABC about future TV shows,” they said.

“Their negotiations with commercial networks of late have mainly been over Supreme Court injunctions.”

The War On Everything averaged 1.45 million viewers for the year, peaking at 2.24 million in September, after they infiltrated security at the APEC summit with a fake motorcade and one of their number dressed as Osama bin Laden.

Eleven people involved in the stunt were facing APEC security breach charges, but police today said they were considering whether the charges should be dropped.

The Chaser's live show will travel to Adelaide, Ballarat, Brisbane, Canberra, Cairns, Darwin, Geelong, Hobart, Launceston, Melbourne, Newcastle, Parramatta, Perth, Sydney and Townsville.

Tickets go on sale on December 10.


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Cabinet tackles Reserve Bank, education

Jun 30 2019

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says the government will move quickly to shore up the independence of the Reserve Bank.


Speaking in Brisbane after his first cabinet meeting since winning the election, Mr Rudd said he and Treasurer Wayne Swan would be introducing statutory requirements making the positions of governor and deputy governor of the Reserve Bank more independent.

“At present the governor and deputy governor operate effectively at the treasurer's whim,” Mr Rudd said.

Mr Rudd said the government would reduce inflationary pressures through cost-cutting and investment in skills and education.

“We believe that a hardline approach to fiscal policy will be necessary into the future,” Mr Rudd said.

“We are committed to budget surpluses, we are committed to robust budget surpluses, and part and parcel of that is to ensure we are implementing a regime of razor-gang type discipline against unnecessary outlays.”

Code of conduct

Mr Rudd said cabinet had today signed off on a new ministerial code of conduct.

The code sets four key rules: public registration of lobbyists; electoral fund-raising banned at the official residences Kirribilli

House and The Lodge; 18-month ban on ex-ministers working in areas in which they had official dealings; all ministers to divest themselves of their shareholdings.

Education focus

Cabinet also signed off on the government's promise to provide computers for all senior high school students.

Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Julia Gillard said visits by Labor MPs to schools in their electorates had shown many did not have enough computers for all students to access, and there was a shortage of technical equipment such as electronic whiteboards.

“Today cabinet has agreed that we will implement our proposed fund to give all year nine to year 12 students access to computers,” Ms Gillard said.

The government would work with the states and territories to identify the schools most in need of funds, and those would be able to apply for funding from March next year, she said.

Cabinet also agreed to commence an immediate audit of the provision of broadband access in all secondary schools.

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Drought, dollar curtail exports

Jun 30 2019

A strong dollar, drought and falling metal prices are expected to put a dent in Australia's exports although earnings will top $140 billion this financial year.


The federal government's commodity research agency, which had predicted annual growth of four per cent growth in September, says its latest earnings forecast represents a one per cent increase on 2006-07 exports.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE), in its December issue of Australian Commodities, says the benefit from huge investments by the mining industry is starting to come through.

But farm export-earnings have been adversely affected mainly by a drought-reduced winter grains crop.

“Farm export earnings are forecast to decline by more than three per cent to $26.8 billion in 2007-08 because of poor seasonal conditions in many parts of Australia,” ABARE executive director Phillip Glyde said.

Export earnings from grains are forecast to decline by 14 per cent, mainly because of substantially-reduced carry-over stocks from the previous year, meaning shipped volumes will be well down.

“While much of the commodity focus has recently been on the lack of rain and its effect on both irrigated and non-irrigated agriculture, mineral resources will continue to be far and away the mainstay of Australia's commodity export performance,” Mr Glyde said.

Mr Glyde said benefits from high levels of investment in the mining industry were apparent with the volume of mineral-resources production and exports increasing.

Mineral and energy exports are forecast to be about $110 billion in 2007-08, an increase of two per cent compared to 2006-07.

ABARE said its mineral-energy exports forecasts were slightly less that it predicted in September because of the negative effect on earnings of the Australian dollar and some weakening in metals prices.

But earnings from energy exports are forecast to jump by seven per cent to $42 billion, supported by an increase in the value of thermal coal, LNG, uranium, crude oil and related petroleum products exports.

Metals and other minerals are forecast to contribute nearly $68 billion in 2007-08, a decline of more than one per cent from the previous year.

“The fall reflects the effects of lower prices for a number of metals and an assumed higher Australian dollar,” he said.

In a separate article, ABARE says the booming Indian economy will provide further opportunities for local exporters.

India already is one of Australia's export countries, growing 37 per cent to $10.1 billion in 2006-07, having averaged 34 per cent growth in the previous five years.

India is Australia's fourth-largest export market behind the United States, Japan and China and takes about six per cent of Australia's total exports.

“India's large population, geographic proximity and potential for strong income growth make it an increasingly important maket for Australian exports,” ABARE said.

“Australia's commodity exports to India have increased rapidly in recent years, and there will be further opportunities as India's economic expansion continues.”

India's economy is one of the fastest-growing in the world, averaging 8.0 per cent growth since the early 2000s, up from 6.0 per cent in the 1990s.

Australian exports of minerals and energy commodities to India were about $8.8 billion in 2006-07, with gold now the major export, overtaking coal in recent years.

Agriculture exports are relatively low at about $0.8 billion.

“The actual pace of export expansion will, however, depend on the progress of India's economic policy reforms, including those relating to protective trade practices,” ABARE said.

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Wilfred scoops AFI Awards

Jun 30 2019

An SBS comedy series about a talking dog has won two of the top television gongs at the AFI Industry Awards in Melbourne.


Comedy series Wilfred took out the awards for best television comedy series, as well as best performance in a television comedy for its star Adam Zwar, at a gala ceremony at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre last night.

Wilfred, which was nominated for four awards, is about an arrogant and insecure dog which develops a grudge against his owner's new boyfriend Adam, played by Zwar.

Director Tony Rogers said he and Wilfred creators Zwar and Jason Gann thought they had struck upon a good idea but never dreamed it would be so successful.

“I thought we had a pretty good idea when we first started out and … you hope people will like what you find interesting,” Rogers told AAP recently.

“People in the industry, I think, really like it.

“The industry seems to be quite excited about the show.”

Home Song Stories takes trophies

The other big winner of the night was Tony Ayres' semi-autobiographic film The Home Song Stories, which picked up five awards for cinematography, editing, original music score, production design and costume design.

The ceremony was hosted by Academy Award-winning Australian actor Geoffrey Rush and awards were presented by actors Alan Dale, Gia Carides, Emma Booth, Brendan Cowell, Sibylla Budd, Emily Barclay and Sophie Monk.

Director Matt Saville was recognised for his work on The King, about the life of Graham Kennedy, receiving the gong for best direction in television.

Fittingly, Saville's debut feature film Noise scored the best sound award for Emma Bortignon, Doron Kipen and Philippe Decrausaz.

Acclaimed editor Jill Bilcock, whose films include Muriel's Wedding, Elizabeth and Moulin Rouge!, was presented with the international award for excellence in filmmaking for her superior contribution to the craft.

The AFI award for visual effects went to Andrew Hellen, Dave Morley, Jason Bath and John Cox for the killer crocodile horror flick Rogue.

SBS music quiz show RocKwiz picked up the award for best light entertainment television series.

ABC union drama Bastard Boys earned writer Sue Smith the award for best screenplay in television.

The ABC last month announced it would boycott the awards this year because it said the AFI had downgraded the role of television by splitting the ceremony over two nights.

However, Smith, who is not a direct employee of the national broadcaster, did attend to collect her award.

Twenty-three awards were handed out across a range of industry categories.

The rest of the awards will be handed out at the AFI Awards dinner tomorrow night at exhibition centre, when some of Australia's biggest stars, including Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana and Anthony LaPaglia are expected to help celebrate the Australian screen industry's night of nights.

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Nelson unveils his frontbench

Jun 30 2019

Federal Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson has nominated his frontbench, elevating little-known Victorian backbencher Tony Smith to the key education portfolio.


Deputy opposition leader Julie Bishop will become the new spokeswoman for industrial relations, pitting her and Mr Smith against Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Dr Nelson said it was unbelievable that Ms Gillard was looking after both IR and education and he would not follow the same path.

“We believe very strongly that education and workplace relations should be quite separate portfolios,” he told reporters.

“It beggars belief that education is an area that can be managed simultaneously with a major and important portfolio area such as industrial relations.

“It's also very important to us that education in helping to drive Australia's future, economically, culturally and socially demands and requires a spokesman and a shadow minister in its own regard.

“For that reason Julie Bishop, as the deputy leader of the opposition will be taking on employment, business and workplace relations.

“That will give a wide cross-section of portfolio responsibility to Julie Bishop.

“Tony Smith will be responsible for education, apprenticeships and training.”

Joe Hockey, the former workplace relations minister, will take on the job of opposition spokesman for health and ageing.

He will also lead opposition business in the House of Representatives.

“I have every confidence that Joe Hockey will certainly be taking it up to (health minister) Nicola Roxon,” Dr Nelson said.

Former parliamentary secretary Greg Hunt was named spokesman for climate change, environment and urban water.

“(He) has intellect, energy, ability and a deep knowledge when it comes to climate change and water issues and will be specifically taking up those issues on behalf of all Australians,” Dr Nelson said.

Ms Bishop said her new portfolio of employment, business and workplace relations reflected the fact that business would need a strong voice in the new parliament.

“Business and the private sector are the job creators and the wealth creators in this country and business needs a voice in this parliament” she said.

“Already we have seen worrying signs that the Labor party will cave-in to the unions.”

She said union bosses were already threatening businesses from going about their lawful business in employing people.

“I haven't heard from either Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard to rein in the union bosses as they make these threats to Australian businesses,” she said.

“Business, and particular small business, are the engine room of the Australian economy and we will be doing all we can to ensure the businesses of Australia continue to prosper, that unemployment continues to trend down, that there are more jobs available for Australians, particularly young Australians.

“That will be our focus.”

Dr Nelson said the shadow ministry with parliamentary secretaries totalled 45, including 10 women.

He said he had asked former immigration minister Kevin Andrews to form a team to advise him on issues of federation and possible constitutional reform.

“The most significant constitutional issue facing our country is how do we get the three tiers of government to work effectively?” Dr Nelson said.

“How do we make sure that for this century in particular that the responsibilities carried by the three tiers of government are appropriate to the challenges of the 21st century?”

Dr Nelson also confirmed the Liberal party and The Nationals would continue as a coalition in opposition.

“We are a coalition. (Nationals leader) Warren Truss and I on behalf of our respective parties have signed an agreement,” he said.

“We will be, as an alternative government, a coalition.

“We will present to Australians over the next three years the shape of government that we will present to them at the next federal election.”

Dr Nelson said the new front bench choices the coalition had made combined experience with youth and energy and vision.

“It's extremely important that we represent an alternative government which not only has ideas but draws on the experience of those who have served in government whilst at the same time promoting those who, whilst having served in the parliament are well and truly ready with ideas, vision and energy to present a viable, attractive alternative for Australia,” Dr Nelson said.

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Bishop praises Rudd's ministerial code of conduct

Jun 30 2019

Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop says she supports Kevin Rudd's ministerial code of conduct, but won't say if the coalition will adopt the same standards if it regains office.


The prime minister yesterday unveiled his new code of conduct which restricts ministers' shareholdings and their employment after leaving politics and establishes a register of lobbyists.

Ms Bishop last night said she supported higher standards, accountability and transparency in government.

“Mr Rudd has set the bar very high and we'll certainly be holding his ministry to account,” she told ABC television.

But asked if the Liberals would hold their own future ministers to Mr Rudd's code, Ms Bishop replied: “Let's see how the government performs according to this code of conduct”.

She appeared to dispute one element of Mr Rudd's code – his ban on ministers owning shares unless they are held in superannuation funds, publicly listed funds or in a trust where the minister has no influence over investment decisions.

Ms Bishop said most Australians accepted that at present ministers could own shares in companies that did not relate to their areas of portfolio responsibility.

“They … understand that people can hold shares in a company that is unrelated to their portfolio,” she said.

“We do have mechanisms in place, a register of interests, and people do disclose potential or perceived conflicts of interest, or actual conflicts of interest.

“It's not as if there isn't accountability there now – there is – but Mr Rudd has set a standard and we will be holding his ministers to that standard.”

Ms Bishop backed the proposed register of lobbyists, provided it did not interfere with lobbyists' commercial activities.

She said she did not believe any Howard government ministers had acted improperly, despite frequent criticism that former prime minister John Howard failed to enforce punishment for breaches of ministerial standards.

Ms Bishop also said Mr Rudd's reforms related to the independence of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), announced today, simply formalised the process that already existed.

Future appointments to the RBA board will be drawn from a register of candidates complied by the secretary to the Treasury and the RBA governor, from which the treasurer will make appointments.

Ms Bishop supported the change, noting she would not want to seethe field of potential appointees narrowed because of the new selection method.

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Romulus, My Father scoops five AFI awards

May 30 2019



Richard Roxburgh's film adaptation of Raimond Gaita's critically-acclaimed memoir, Romulus, My Father, was crowned the best film of 2007 at an awards dinner at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.

Bana took out the best lead actor award ahead of co-star Smit-McPhee, but the 11-year-old did not leave empty-handed, walking away with the young actor award.

When nominations were announced in late October, Smit-McPhee said he was looking forward to facing off against his famous co-star, but didn't think Bana would take it seriously.

“It's pretty exciting and … it is pretty funny,” Smit-McPhee said at the time.

“I think he'll say: 'real funny joke'.”

The film, which tells the story of new migrant Romulus and his wife Christina's struggle in the face of adversity to bring up their son, Raimond, in Australia, also won the award for best

support actor for Marton Csokas.

But the movie won only four awards from a total of 15 nominations after it failed to pick up any “craft” awards at the AFI Industry awards last night.

Home Song Stories wins gongs

The Home Song Stories tonight added another three awards to its impressive haul of five AFI Industry gongs.

Tony Ayres received the best direction award for his semi-autobiographical story about a Chinese nightclub singer who brings her two children to Australia in the 1970s, as well as best


Joan Chen picked up yet another award for her portrayal of Ayres' mother Rose, winning the best actress trophy less than a week after taking home the same award at the Turin International Film Festival in Italy.

Ms Chen says she was ready to retire from acting when she received the script for Australian film The Home Song Stories but was so inspired by the story she couldn't say no.

Hosted tonight by Academy Award-winning actor Geoffrey Rush, the Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards celebrate excellence in Australian film and television production.

The award for best supporting actress was presented to acting newcomer Emma Booth, for her role in the sexy and poignant coming of age flick, Clubland.

Love My Way received the award for best television drama series for the third year in a row, while Claudia Karvan won best lead actress in a television drama for her starring role in the show.

Damages star Rose Byrne collected the international award for best actress, and Dominic Purcell won the male equivalent for his role as Lincoln Burrows in Prison Break.

Stephen Curry's turn as Graham Kennedy in The King earned him the award for best lead actor in a television drama.

Sally Regan and Anna Broinowski were recognised in the best documentary category for their real-life thriller, Forbidden Lie$, about con artist Norma Khouri.

Happy Feet director George Miller received the global achievement award.

The full list of the award winners:

* International Award for Best Actor – Dominic Purcell for Prison Break (Seven Network)

* International Award for Best Actress – Rose Byrne for Damages (Nine Network)

* Young Actor Award – Kodi Smit-McPhee for Romulus, My Father

* Byron Kennedy Award – Curtis Levy

* Raymond Longford Award – David Hannay

* Global Achievement Award – George Miller for Happy Feet


* Best Television Drama Series – Love My Way (Showtime)

* Best Telefeature or Mini Series – The King (TV1)

* Best Lead Actor in a Television Drama – Stephen Curry for The King (TV1)

* Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama – Claudia Karvan for Love My Way (Showtime)


* Best Documentary – Forbidden Lie$

* Best Short Animation – The Girl Who Swallowed Bees

* Best Short Fiction Film – Spike Up


* Best Film – Romulus, My Father

* Best Direction – Tony Ayres for The Home Song Stories

* Best Screenplay (Original or Adapted) – Tony Ayres for The Home Song Stories

* Best Lead Actor – Eric Bana for Romulus, My Father

* Best Lead Actress – Joan Chen for The Home Song Stories

* Best Supporting Actor – Marton Csokas for Romulus, My Father

* Best Supporting Actress – Emma Booth for Clubland

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