From racehorse ring-ins to Warnie's drug bust and Rolf Harris's fall from grace, there has been no shortage of controversies and outrages over the past 30 years.
The sport of nongs (sorry, kings) was all of a lather in 1984 when a horse called Bold Personality was found to have been tricked up with white paint, peroxide and hair dye to vaguely resemble the much slower Fine Cotton at Eagle Farm in Brisbane. The painted pony scam was discovered within 40 minutes of the race ending. Six of the ring-in perpetrators were banned from racing for life; trainer Hayden Haitana and "mastermind" John Gillespie were jailed.
The Fitzgerald Inquiry
A spectacular rout of several decades of police and public corruption in Queensland. Conducted by Tony Fitzgerald, QC, from 1987 to 89, this judicial inquiry exposed what was really happening in the "Moonlight State" behind the God-fearing façade of premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen's ultra-conservative government. It led to the jailing of a number of politicians and police (including police commissioner Terry Lewis),
Joh's demise as leader, and the election of Queensland's first Labor government in 32 years.
Sir Billy Snedden
"Snedden died on the Job" trumpeted Melbourne's The Truth newspaper after the veteran politician, 60, suffered a fatal heart attack at the Travelodge at Rushcutter's Bay, Sydney, in June 1987. Speculation over who was with the former Liberal Party federal leader when he expired "at the peak of physical congress" (as a policeman memorably told Truth) continued until 2006, when all was revealed by Snedden's son, Drew. "It was an ex-girlfriend of mine, actually," he casually told a reporter. "[That's] something to tell your mates at the rugby club, isn't it?"
As the Indulgent Eighties drew to a close, Skase, sniffing disaster, began channelling huge sums from investors in his overextended Qintex Group into foreign bank accounts. Most of it was never recovered. Qintex collapsed in late 1989, and the Melbourne-born Skase - who made his fortune through lavish resorts and the Seven Network - was charged with improperly using his position to obtain management fees. The flashy entrepreneur fled to the island of Majorca, frustrating attempts by successive Australian governments to have him extradited. The "chase for Skase" continued until he died of stomach cancer in Majorca in 2001, aged 52.
The Lizard of Oz
Royal commentators weren't amused when First Lady Annita Keating failed to curtsy during the Queen's visit to Australia in 1992. When PM Paul Keating notoriously breached protocol by placing a guiding hand on HRH's back during the same tour one enraged pommy tabloid branded him "The Lizard of Oz".
Described by his former best friend Greg Kennedy as a "master manipulator and a fraud", Bond, 76, began his working life as a Perth signwriter and went on to become one of our worst corporate swindlers. Along the way the son of British migrants enjoyed a brief period as national "hero" after his Australia II syndicate won the 1983 America's Cup. In 1992 Bond declared bankruptcy, with personal debts of $1.8 billion. In 1997 he pleaded guilty to defrauding Bell Resources by siphoning $1.2 billion into Bond Corporation, and served four years in jail.
Rose vs Gina
The claws-out saga began when Gina Rinehart hired twice-divorced, Filipino-born Rose Kuan as a housekeeper for her father, mining magnate Lang Hancock. To her horror, Hancock married Rose and built her a $7 million love nest, Prix D'Amour, in Perth's ritzy Mosman Park. Only months after Hancock's death in 1992, his widow married real estate magnate Willie Porteous. Rinehart and Rose Porteous then engaged in a ten-year legal stoush over the division of Hancock's estate. In 2012, Rose filed for divorce from Porteous for the second time, but it was never finalised. She now works as a beauty therapist.
Just 20 when she wrote The Hand that Signed the Paper (a novel about the ordeals of a Ukrainian family during WW2), Helen Darville generated one of Australia's biggest literary hoaxes by assuming a Ukrainian identity (Helen Demidenko) when in fact she was the Brisbane-born daughter of British migrants. As "Demidenko", she claimed the book was "faction" informed by her family's oral history - a deception she maintained even after it won the prestigious Miles Franklin Award in 1995. Her hoax was exposed in the same year by journalist David Bentley. Now called Helen Dale, the ex-author works as a corporate lawyer in Glasgow.
Known by former Labor colleagues as the "quisling Quasimodo from Queensland", senator Colston notoriously resigned from the ALP via fax at 11.30 am on August 26, 1996, taking his seat as an independent on the afternoon of the same day. By that evening (in a deal hatched in advance with the Howard government), he was elected deputy president of the senate, a position for which Labor had refused him nomination. He later supported the partial sale of Telstra and other key government initiatives. Colston was a legendary junketer, taking 46 overseas trips in 18 years and becoming one of the most prolific claimants of travel allowance in parliament.
In 1997 he was hit with 28 charges relating to travel rorts. The charges were dropped in 1999 after medical opinion suggested Colston was likely to die of cancer before facing trial. He retired from politics the same year, but survived until 2003.
Cash for comment
Back in 1999 we were all shocked and outraged when the two biggies of Australian broadcasting - 2UE's John Laws and Alan Jones - were outed for taking millions of dollars in hidden sponsorships in return for promoting major client companies on-air, without telling listeners. An official inquiry found the pair's lucrative deals had led to the public being misled on a range of matters. Disclosure rules have since been beefed up, but changes to the media landscape brought by the world-wide web have made policing such rules harder than ever.
During the 2001 federal election campaign, PM John Howard publicly repeated dubious claims from within his own party that children had been thrown overboard from a boatload of 223 mostly Iraqi asylum seekers near Christmas Island, supposedly as a ploy to be rescued by HMAS Adelaide and admitted to Australia. Howard said he didn't want people who would do such a thing in this country, and polls suggested his "strong" stance on border protection helped the coalition get re-elected with an increased majority.
A senate inquiry later found the claims were false, and that images of children in the sea were taken after the refugee vessel sank. "They [asylum seekers] irresponsibly sank the damn boat, which put their children in the water," Howard responded in his 2007 recent book, The Howard Factor, although the cause of the sinking was never established. More recently, sustained populist opposition to "queue jumpers" has made finding ever harsher deterents for seafaring asylum seekers (and their children) a grim obsession within both major parties.
Couch potatoes across the nation almost choked on their beers in 2002 when recently married AFL great Wayne "Duck" Carey was found to have had a fling with Kelli Stevens, the wife of his then-best friend and North Melbourne teammate, Anthony Stevens. Not your best mate's missus! howled sports tragics from Darwin to the Derwent. Or, as Stevens himself later put it: "If you wanted [it] that bad you would go to a knock shop, wouldn't you?" Some people just have no regard for tradition.
In May 2003 Hollingworth resigned as Governor-General of Australia after sustained criticism of his handling of child sexual abuse during his time as Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane. Appointed by then-PM John Howard in 2001, he was the first Christian cleric to hold the post and the third governor-general since federation (after Lord Hopetoun in 1903, and Sir John Kerr in 1977) to resign.
His public demise was linked to allegations against a priest/ teacher at the Toowoomba Anglican College and Preparatory School in 1993. Weeks before the 1991 Australian of the Year resigned as GG, an Anglican church inquiry found Hollingworth had allowed a known paedophile to remain a priest (in the Toowoomba Prep case), and described his action as untenable. Hollingworth had earlier apologised to the priest's victim (found by a court to have been sexually abused), but called the allegations against him "misplaced and unwarranted".
Shane Warne's drug bust
The Aussie bowling legend's fans were aghast when he failed a drugs test on the eve of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa and was unceremoniously sent home. Warnie's spin on things was that his mum gave him a diuretics pill to ward off his double-chin. But while the pill did contain hydrochlorothiazide and amiloride (used to aid weight loss), the substances can also mask performance enhancing drugs. And while Warne had just made a speedy recovery from shoulder surgery, he insisted he took the pill purely for vanity reasons. He was banned from all cricket for a year.
Tony Abbott's secret 'son'
Early in 2005 the nation was still digesting Tony Abbott's confessions of having found the "son" he fathered in 1977 when another man stole his parental thunder. In a twist worthy of Days of our Lives, the then-federal health minister was stunned when DNA tests revealed it wasn't him to whom his one-time girlfriend Kathy Donnelly fell pregnant during their uni days in Sydney, but another student she knew at the time. Donnelly's son (Daniel O'Connor, relinquished for adoption days after his birth) contacted her in 2004. She told him Abbott was his father, and Abbott later phoned O'Connor before declaring their relationship to the world. Only weeks later, the still-unidentified man who turned out to be O'Connor's real father emerged, leaving Abbott "a bit numb".
Australian Wheat Board
In 2005 the AWB was found to have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq in exchange for lucrative wheat contracts. This breached United Nations Sanctions, and Australian law, yet despite a Royal Commission recommending criminal proceedings against 12 people, an Australian Federal Police investigation ended in 2009 without a charge being laid. The commission cleared then-PM John Howard and his ministers and bureaucrats of wrongdoing, but the still-simmering scandal remains a serious stain on Australia's reputation as an honest trader.
In a now-infamous "anti-Semitic rant" in 2006, the liquored-up, NIDA-trained superstar told the Los Angeles cop who arrested him on suspicion of drink-driving, "F…ing Jews…the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world. Are you a Jew?" The ugly outburst, at a time when his film The Passion of Christ was also under fire as anti-Semitic, led to predictions (incorrect, as it turned out) that Gibson would "never work again" in the Jewish-dominated Hollywood film industry. Still best known in Australia for his Mad Max movies, Gibson pleaded guilty to drink-driving, apologised profusely for his "despicable…moment of insanity", and threw himself into a court-ordered self-help program.
Not everyone likes salary caps, but no one likes cheats. Which is why the NRL came down so hard on the Melbourne Storm in 2010 when the club (then owned by Rupert Murdoch) was found to have rorted its salary cap by up to $3.17 million over the previous five seasons. Stripped of two premierships, fined $500,000 and ordered to pay back $1.1 million in prize money, the Storm also had to play out the rest of the year without gaining points for wins.
Former New South Wales premier Barry O'Farrell was born in 1959 - the same year as the $3000 bottle of Grange Hermitage that ended his political life in April this year. It was if the thing had lain in wait for him all that time. Its kiss of death came during an ICAC probe into Australian Water Holdings, where O'Farrell (appearing as a witness) denied receiving the lavish red as a gift from AWH boss Nick Di Girolamo, who'd been lobbying for a billion dollar government water contract. The next day, Di Girolamo gave ICAC a handwritten note in which O'Farrell had thanked him for the "wonderful wine". Oops! Claiming "a massive memory fail" over the gift he failed to declare, O'Farrell formally resigned as Liberal Party leader on April 17.
The much-loved and multi-talented Aussie icon (who spent most of his life in the UK) suffered a Shakespearian fall from grace in May this year when found guilty in a London court on 12 charges of indecent assault between 1969 and 1986, against four girls aged from eight to 19 at the time. The victims included the childhood best friend of his daughter Bindi, named after the town of Bindi Bindi in Harris' home state of Western Australia. The 84-year-old entertainer, who pleaded not guilty to all charges, was stripped of his many honours and is now serving five years and nine months in an Oxfordshire prison.