Monash journalism graduate Annika Smethurst has won the 2015 Walkley Award for All Media Scoop of the Year for her investigation of the Chopper scandal.
Smethurst’s forensic trawl of MP’s expense claims led her to Speaker of the House of Representatives Bronwyn Bishop’s charter flight to Geelong for a Liberal Party charity fundraiser.
Ms Bishop denied any wrongdoing but further examination revealed the former speaker’s preference for luxury travel on public money, which infuriated taxpayers.
The Choppergate reaction went viral on social media websites and many Australians urged that Ms Bishop should be sacked.
Smethurst studied journalism and international studies at Monash University and completed an Honours research thesis in 2010.
Soon after, she won a traineeship with News Corp after graduating with honours.
Smethurst was nominated for a Walkley award for their work on the Baillieu Government’s secret tapes bombshell in 2013.
Smethurst joined the Herald Sun team in Canberra in 2015. This is her first Walkley Award.
“I’m so thrilled to win a Walkley,” Smethurst said.
“I first attended the Walkleys when I was in my final year of journalism at Monash. Eight years later, I didn’t expect to get one.
“I couldn’t have done it without my colleague Rob Harris and the support of the whole team at the Herald Sun.”
The Walkley judges said Smethurst’s forensic work had contributed to the demise of Ms Bishop and undermined former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
“Ready for take-off … Choppergate was a story that had wings, from the rock star arrival at a Geelong fundraiser, to the “Oops, I did it again” headlines as Annika Smethurst’s determined trawling of parliamentary expenses led to one juicy revelation after another,” the judges wrote.
“The result was a rough landing for the Speaker, and ultimately helped undermine PM Abbott’s leadership.”
Walkley Advisory Board Chair Kate McClymont said judging process was what gave the Walkley Awards its credibility.
“The judges are senior journalists – people who know the skill, quick wit, depth of research and analysis, resourcefulness and even physical courage that it takes to create the best journalism,” Ms McClymont said.
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