It's been one of those weeks for Malcolm Turnbull. Stumbling into a royal commission into the banks and copping flak for feeble leadership, he wasn't even able to enjoy temporary sanctuary at the announcement of his own literary awards in Parliament House.
The job of dishing out the prizes, the richest in Australian literary world, was left to Arts Minister Mitch Fifield and there was not a flip-flop in sight - unlike three years ago when then PM Tony Abbott indulged his prerogative to overrule the judges and split the fiction prize between Steven Carroll and winner Richard Flanagan.
Each of the categories - fiction; non-fiction; young-adult fiction; children's fiction; poetry, and Australian history - is worth $80,000 to the winner, with each shortlisted author getting $5000 as consolation.
Ryan O'Neill's playful Their Brilliant Careers, shortlisted for this year's Miles Franklin award, won the fiction prize. The book is a suite of linked stories about fictitious Australian writers.
O'Neill said his satire grew out of one story about a writer considered to be Australia's greatest but none of whose work had ever been published and had now disappeared. "I suppose he's emblematic of what a lot of writers fear."
The fictions continue to the introduction, index, the author photo credit and a dedication to a dead wife, something that his real wife wasn't entirely happy about. "I'm assuming this award will help her to come to terms with it," O'Neill said. "I haven't had time to ring her about it, but I did dedicate the award to her."
With the threat of nuclear conflagration raising its head again, it was timely that Elizabeth Tynan won the history prize for Atomic Thunder, her scrupulous examination of the Menzies' government decision to allow the British to test atomic weapons at Maralinga, the effects on the Indigenous population and the secrecy surrounding the whole business. She said she was staggered at the ease with which then PM Robert Menzies allowed the British to test their weapons.
So was there an irony that she should get the current PM's award? "I'm pleasantly surprised because my book doesn't hold back in criticising the Menzies government. It's quite a mature decision to select a book that is critical of the founder of the Liberal party. But as I said in my acceptance speech, we need to be unflinching when we look at our history."
On a day when south-east Australia was lashed by torrential rain, it seemed appropriate for Bob Graham's Home in the Rain to win the children's award, which it shared with Wendy Orr's Dragonfly Song. When Graham won the award in 2014 he donated $10,000 to Melbourne's Asylum Resource Centre in Melbourne; this year, he donated $10,000 to Save the Children's appeal for Rohingya children.
Graham, who both wrote and illustrated the book, said the day's weather was like one of its pages. It tells the story of a pregnant mother and her daughter's long drive home through a downpour during which young Francie tries to come up with a name for the new baby.
The poetry award went to Anthony Lawrence for Headwaters, Nicolas Rothwell won non-fiction for Quicksilver, and Cath Crowley won the young-adult award for Words in Deep Blue.