Thursday, February 22, 2018


An extraordinary man , Adair Macalister Blain , will be the subject of a talk  by Earl   James at the  Northern Territory  Archives Centre , Darwin , on March  6 . With  a surname of  Blain, it was  only natural that he was  nicknamed "Chill".
He played a large part in opening up  the Territory , surveying the Granites goldfield,  leading  a 1933  expedition  into   western Arnhem Land to the head of  the Liverpool  River  to report on  agricultural and  pastoral  possibilities , becoming   the independent member for the Northern Territory in the  House of Representatives  in  1934 , beating  the incumbent,  union chief  Harold Nelson .
A veteran of  two world wars, he spent three and half years  as  a Japanese  POW after the  fall of Singapore  in a number of notorious prison camps ,  reelected  to parliament during  his incarceration .  On returning  to  politics after the  war , the Labor Party  claimed he had  used his  parliamentary  gold pass to gain special privileges in the Japanese  camps. This attack rebounded  as it was  revealed   Blain had  knocked out  gold fillings  from  his teeth to bribe guards  to get special concessions  and  treatment  for  sick  and   injured  comrades . 
His  record   run of five consecutive terms as  an  independent   politician came to an end in the  1949 election  when Jock Nelson , Harold's son, with the  strong  help of Jim Bowditch ,  the then  president of the  Alice Springs ALP branch, later  the crusading editor of the Northern Territory News, in Darwin . Bowditch, now a  neglected  mere  footnote in  the Territory story , said   Nelson  , sincere  and  likeable,  was   not  a  great  public speaker . 
To overcome this , during  the election campaign , Bowditch, big on oratory , would write  a powerful  speech  and deliver it  on Jock's behalf , saying the  hard working candidate  was  out  bush  on  the  campaign  trail .  
In one of his last speeches in  parliament, Blain charged that young  Jock Nelson , the ALP candidate,  was backed by the Northern Standard  in Darwin, which he  said was  run  by communists, " a treasonous paper".  
He called for  a Secret Service Branch to be opened in Darwin  and said "agents of Russia "  could do a lot of  harm  to  Port Darwin . (An  interesting comment , all those years  ago , when you consider the recent  bizarre act of handing  over   the  port   to  Chinese interests .)
 Parliament was told he had drawn up a list of 83 known communists in Darwin , some on the government payroll . There were another 23 people whose names had "not  been  listed  publicly".
 When  this writer  went through  the Blain papers in  Darwin it  was interesting to see he had  used his position as a politician to promote   Territory produce , a dinner  down  south   resulted in  cartoon like  sketches of Aborigines and  Top  End   tucker , which might now be regarded as  politically incorrect .