Murray Whelan Series

Stiff | The Brush Off

The Brush Off

September 05, 2004 (Seven)
Written by John Clarke
Directed by Sam Neill

It's 3.08am on a hot summer night in Melbourne. Murray Whelan, true believer and policy adviser to a State Government Labor Minister is attempting to seduce arts magazine editor Salina Fleet in the Botanic Gardens. They've been at a big arts-industry function and have each had a few. Murray has forgotten the condoms, so Salina insists that they walk back to her loft apartment in the city to get some.

This takes them past the National Gallery where the body of Marcus is being fished out of the ornamental moat by police. Salina is distraught and gives Murray the brush-off, revealing that she is Marcus' lover. Murray goes home exhausted, drunk and frustrated, and begins his narration of the events that have brought him to this ignominious point.

It all began with a Cabinet reshuffle in which Murray's boss, Angelo Agnelli, is moved (read demoted) from the Ethnic Affairs portfolio to Arts and Water. Worried about his future, Agnelli decides to earn brownie points by helping to raise much needed funds for the next Labor election campaign 'war chest'.

Murray's next job is to meet with wealthy philanthropists and arts connoisseurs. This is where the trouble begins. One meeting is particularly interesting. Murray is in the Minister's toilet having a surreptitious cigarette (too lazy to go downstairs) and he overhears talk of investing Party funds in financial institutions that offer big interest rates. Sounds very dodgy.

And so it is. The intrigue continues at the art gallery meetings during the evening. Here Murray witnesses Marcus and Salina Fleet having an argument in the courtyard. Marcus, dressed and behaving like a struggling artist, is clearly drunk as he lurches into the main gathering and makes a garbled, passionate speech about art to the assembled guests from atop a bar.

When Marcus is found dead the next morning, the headaches begin for Murray, and the money, power, and politics of the art world throw his personal and political life into turmoil once again. Who died for art? Who killed for art? And what about Selina Fleet? Murray has a lot of work to do.


  • David Wenham as Murray Whelan
  • Mick Molloy as Angelo Agnelli
  • Deborah Kennedy as Trish
  • Steve Bisley as Eastlake
  • Julian O'Donnell as Red Whelan
  • Justine Clarke as Salina
  • Leah Vandenberg as Claire Sutton
  • Andrew S. Gilbert as Duncan Keogh
  • Heather Mitchell as Fiona Lambert
  • Bruce Spence as Philip Veale
  • John Clarke as Ken Sproule
  • Robyn Butler as Wendy Whelan
  • Alex Menglet as Max Katyn
  • Joel Tobeck as Spider
  • Ronald Falk as Giles Aubrey
  • Tracy Mann as Faye Curnow
  • Matthew Spencer as Tark Curnow
  • Julie Forsyth as Bernice Kaufman
  • Robert Grubb as Det. Sen Con Micaelis
  • Gerard Kennedy as Bob
  • Nicholas Crawford-Smith as Leo Curnow
  • Nick Farnell as Marcus
  • Tony Nikolakopoulos as Mavramoustakides
  • David Gauci as Jimmy Papas
  • Nicole Nabout as Sophie Mavramoustakides
  • Anthea Davis as Officer Landscape
  • Margaret Ricketts as Old Woman
  • Tammy Fitzgerald as Trish's Assistant
  • Shane Maloney as Dignitary