Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Longtime Darwin activist, Rob Wesley–Smith, is  similar to  Julian Assange. For more than 40 years, Wesley-Smith has consistently exposed inconvenient truths about many important international, national and Territory issues . In doing so, he raised  the  ire of those in high places and, naturally, received  the  attention of the  security service . As a result, Wesley-Smith is currently reading his recently obtained bulky Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)  file.

Little Darwin has been given the privilege of a quick peek at the  documents, parts of which are  blanked out. There is mention of him in 1970 at an anti-Vietnam War Canberra demonstration against the visit of US Vice President , Spiro Agnew. Agnew, the only VP forced to resign because of criminal charges, had specially written for him by spin doctors disparaging labels for young Americans and liberals who opposed US involvement in the war , was  known as the “Hatchet Man .”

The file includes the names of many Territory people – unionists, NT News editor Jim Bowditch , Communist  Brian Manning, journalist John Loizou – for whom there will be a wake this weekend . There is even a copy of Wesley- Smith’s wedding certificate; an explanation for  ASIO head office that the Dry is an NT expression for the Dry season ;  a copy of his letter to the  Darwin  City  Council when he sought permission to run a Vietnam Moratorium information event in Raintree Park, his application at first rejected ( billed by Little Darwin as The Unquiet Australian , a play on Graham Greene’s novel, The Quiet American , about the Indo-China morass, Wesley –Smith and his wife went to Saigon during the war and stayed in the same hotel as Greene, the Continental ) ; various newspaper cuttings and a note that he subscribes to Tribune , the Communist newspaper ; his  full name  and physical  details, including the important fact that he wears glasses ; a report that he had  become disillusioned  with  politics .

He  exposed Gove mining pollution , supported Aboriginal land rights, and was a key player in the establishment of the NT civil liberties organisation. Along the way he coached  teams  in various football codes , wrote papers on  pastures, fencing, horse and cattle nutrition, domesticated  400 buffaloes , held field days, took part in motorbike racing , engaged  in  boat building,  jogged, played Super Rules and contributed  to  other community activities. 

In his many campaigns he challenged Australian governments , Labor and Coalition, received a letter from US president Jimmy Carter , confronted police , took on departmental heads , organised and participated in many demonstrations, some against Indonesia. An agronomist , he spoke out about  grandiose agricultural schemes which surface from time to time in the Territory, in doing so attracting the anger  of vested interests and politicians.

He and others were charged when they defied the Australian government and attempted to run medical supplies from Darwin to East Timor . For speaking up, his employers , the NT Public Service, fined him for breaching his terms of employment by commenting on matters political and governmental.  He had a regular newspaper column –Wes’s View –in which he voiced his opinions and campaigned to clear Lindy Chamberlain. Various Territory politicians from Dr Goff Letts to Paul Everingham criticised him . Dr Letts urged Wesley-Smith to leave the public service and become a politician if he insisted in criticising government ; later Wesley-Smith stood for the ALP in the unwinnable seat of Koolpinyah , an experience which he found disillusioning. Wesley-Smith was an outspoken champion for the East Timorese from the early days , when so many people here and overseas turned a blind eye to the slaughter.

In what could be regarded as qualified support for his views, Chief Minister Everingham raised some aspects during a March 3, l977 debate. Everingham said he had been worried for many months by what had been going on in  East Timor . He was surprised that the situation did not worry the people of Darwin a great deal more because of the atrocities going on there. Here in Darwin , people just seemed to get “ another pie” from the piecart, and not blink an eyelid.

We all go on as though this is not happening within 300 miles of us apparently . I am prepared to accept what I have heard and read of the almost daily rape , murder and torture by Indonesian troops -and perhaps the rape , murder and torture by Fretilin troops –of the population of East Timor .” Obvious cases of atrocities included the Australian reporters shot by Indonesian troops , one of those Roger East, who had bought Everingham a bottle of wine in the Olympic Restaurant , Darwin , one afternoon. He went on to say that Australian foreign policy on both sides appeared to be one that  just hushed up what was going on and swept it under the carpet. Former PM Gough Whitlam he likened to British Prime Minister Standley Baldwin and Foreign Minister Andrew Peacock to Neville Chamberlain, who signed the Munich Agreement to appease Hitler, in the East Timor affair . It would be good, said Everingham , to get at the records and find the truth of the matter .

If , like Julian Assange , you insist on revealing and speaking the truth , you can expect the wrath of those who regard themselves as masters of the universe. In the case of Wesley-Smith , the system eventually got revenge by making his government position redundant , and for a year he was reduced to driving a school bus. Having survived a near death situation when he fell on his head while helping a friend ,Wesley-Smith is still closely involved with Timor-Leste, speaking out on various other issues and occasionally writing letters to editors, alerting media members to stories . He is highly regarded in Timor-Leste and received the Grace Kelly Medal for his unfaltering support at a special ceremony in the Timor-Leste parliament. When he talks of the terrible ordeal of the Timorese, Wesley-Smith uses strong language to describe the supine stance taken by Australian governments during the slaughter  and our entering into a deal with Indonesia to jointly plunder its oil reserves. He continues to tell it like it really is.