Thursday, December 31, 2009


At this stage in its development, does the NT need the equivalent of an independent Crime and Misconduct Commission to fight corruption and uphold integrity in government and politics ? In the view of some business people , it does. They cite several instances , past and present, which they claim are similar to matters under close scrutiny in other parts of the country. Three states -Queensland, NSW and Western Australia -have independent crime, misconduct and corruption commissions.

One Darwin businessman with overseas experience said he is delighted to see that the Federal Government is now closely monitoring the way Commonwealth money is being spent and allocated in the Territory. He went so far as to allege that certain individuals and groups had “obviously” been “ ripping off” the system for years . (Little Darwin wishes to make it clear that it does not infer in any way or manner that any particular person , company , or group , past or present , has , or is now engaged in any illegality , or improper or corrupt actions. ) . He continued by saying he did not think the Ombudsman , Auditor –General and police had sufficient powers to handle any investigations into alleged corruption.

Over the Christmas break an excellent ABC Background Briefing report covered the concern about corruption which , in all its forms, has been blamed for the present global economic crisis. The World Bank has gone so far as to say corruption is at the heart of most of the planet’s economic and social troubles. Corrupt officials are said to pocket one trillion dollars – one million million - in bribes .

Presented by Ian Townsend , the Background Briefing report began by stating that recently 160 public servants and government contractors were called to a breakfast meeting in a plush Brisbane hotel to learn the meaning of ethics and integrity.

Townsend said the meeting was part of a flurry of activity , sparked by a string of scandals,especially the jailing in the past two years of two former Queensland Cabinet ministers. Former Tourism Minister Merri Rose was imprisoned for trying to blackmail the then Premier, Peter Beattie, and former Health Minister, Gordon Nuttall, was jailed on 36 counts of corruptly receiving secret commissions. Other matters of concern were 25 police implicated in exchanging cash and favours with prisoners and deep concern about former politicians being paid huge sums for helping businesses win government contracts.

Former special prosecutor , Doug Drummond QC, told the breakfast gathering that the Queensland government faced a crisis of public confidence. Despite the elaborate framework set up as a result of the Fitzgerald inquiry more than a decade ago, there was a perception that things had run off the rails . There was a feeling that ethical standards had slipped, not just in the Sunshine State, but everywhere. Brisbane based ethics consultant Howard Whitton who gives talks about corruption to the United Nations and others was quoted as saying middle level public servants were deeply ignorant of the proper role in relationship between public servants and ministers , and had no conception of how they should respond to improper requests from a minister or staffer, for example, for information or to do something .

At Brisbane's Griffith University two months ago, on the 20th anniversary of the Fitzgerald Report into Queensland corruption , Tony Fitzgerald QC launched a scathing attack on the Queensland government for letting things slide too far. Fitzgerald said secrecy was established by sham claims that voluminous documents were Cabinet-in-confidence. Access could now be purchased, patronage was dispensed, mates and supporters were appointed, and retired politicians exploited their connections to obtain success fees for deals between business and government. He went on to say neither side of politics was interested in these issues except the short-term political advantage as each enjoyed or plotted impatiently for its turn at the privileges and opportunities which accompany power >>>

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


VATICAN CITY : It has just been confirmed that Aussie film star , Russell Crowe, has signed up the woman who crash -tackled the Pope to play for his rugby league team -the Rabbitohs- this coming season.

In an exclusive interview with Little Darwin, Crowe said any woman who can dodge the 50 strong personal bodyguard of Pope Benedict
, the Vatican’s Swiss guards armed with pikes and the entire Italian Navy would be a star on the footy field . He equated the woman, Susanna Maoilo,25, as being equal to six Willie Masons and an Abrams tank .

Last season, he admitted, the Rabbitohs had been disappointing, playing as if stricken by myxomatosis , swine flu and the potent calisi virus. Several highly paid members of the side had also disgraced themselves in public by dribbling down their bibs onto their Armani suits. It is little known that during the footy season Crowe was so annoyed by his team that he frequently ripped telephones from the wall in the dressing room after losing matches . Telstra complained that it was costing more than Sol Trujillo’s golden handshake to repair phones in the Rabbitohs' warren.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


HOLLYWOOD : We can reveal that Australia’s first saint, Mother Mary MacKillop, has a great sense of humour and as a result she has graciously agreed to provide us with secret beauty tips picked up during her lengthy process of BEATIFICATION, wrongly called BEAUTIFICATION by bumbling Aussie TV reporters and newsreaders. See previous Little Darwin scoop - NIP & TUCK FOR OUR SAINTED AUNT.

Her wise and helpful words are designed not only to turn modern young women into stunning beauties like Venus de Milo and Vegemite, but how to grab 15 minutes of fame in a world still dominated by geriatric male clergy prancing about in gold lame vestments. Mother Mary broke off from her busy round of signing lucrative endorsement contracts with leading cosmetic firms and fashion houses to speak to Little Darwin.

“God be with you, my favourite , blessed bloggers ,” the kind lady said when she graced us with her miraculous presence , daintily dabbing behind her ears some of Saint Mary’s soon to be released parfum de cloisters .

She said girls wanting to cure teenage acne and prevent the attention of penniless Catholic boyfriends should apply soon to be launched , Saint Mary’s Miraculous Mud Packs , made from Adelaide’s smelly Torrens River sediment , Popeye Poop, and boiled down scraps from the City of Churches odorous pie floaters.
There are unconfirmed reports that the Gillette razor company is keen to sign up Mother Mary for a zillion bucks as their star salesman had a moving experience with a pet varmint called Monica in a caddy shack and now wears a false Santa beard and dark glasses while driving about in a damaged go-cart.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


While 2010 is the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese zodiac, further sovereign debt alarums like Dubai, the growing Afghanistan quagmire and any wilting of the green shoots of economic recovery in America could turn it into a real rat of a year . Therefore Little Darwin’s resident soothsayer has gazed into the entrails of a Palmerston Dump squashed rodent and come up with astonishing predictions for the NT.

On the political front, he sees further ructions, resignations and retirements, with one or two independents emerging from the raving ruck. Mysterious ,unsigned stickers stating I LOVE CHRIS will appear in Mindil Beach long grass dunnies. A minister will attend Alliance Francais classes so that his on camera and voice comments can be understood by the long suffering public who fear they are going deaf or,worse still, have to buy a new TV because the sound has gone on the blink.

At long last, several King Rats , incompetently running major community services, will take a bait and disappear from the scrumptious sewer scene. On the wink wink,nudge nudge front, some prominent participants will develop conjunctivitis and need police and lawyers to help them cross the road on the way to court.

There are surprising predictions for the media. A new dynamic online publication will hit cyberspace and rattle the media laboratory treadmill . Several prominent media people will either leave the Territory voluntarily or be chased by men in white coats and lodged in a padded cell . The Northern Territory’s most respected newspaper, the Cullen Bay Cock Up, edited by Walkley Award winning journo, Rank Distorter , currently undergoing treatment in the Betty Ford Clinic in the US of A , will be bought by Rupert Murdoch,resulting in a new conservative broadsheet, The Northern Territory Cock Up .

As a result of the popularity of the Xmas ice skating rink in Alice Springs, the annual Henley- On - Todd Regatta will be abandoned in favour of the exhilarating sport of Olympic snow sled racing . In a radical change to the other great Alice event, the Camel Cup, all participating animals will be shot once they cross the finish line and turned into freebie hamburgers, with French fries, to prevent them from reducing Uluru to cracker dust and spitting at tourists.

Somehow, our impressive soothsayer is able to predict that Little Darwin staff will be bombarded with el cheapo Viagra deals , which we presume are package offers for a holiday resort near romantic Niagra Falls.

SPOOKY FOOTNOTE: Since the above exclusive was posted we have received many amazingly cheap offers- up to 80 percent off - for holidays in beautiful Viagra , which makes us feel the other predictions will come to pass .

Friday, December 25, 2009


VATICAN : According to the Holy See Press Office , Mother Mary MacKillop will undergo cosmetic surgery before she is canonised as Australia’s first saint. This is because many jug-eared TV journalists and newsreaders have had difficulty understanding the process of BEATIFICATION of the feisty nun . As a result, they repeatedly wrongly referred to the BEAUTIFICATION of Mary MacKillop.

Celebrity obsessed members of the population therefore think Mother Mary is undergoing a nip and tuck and will wear a snazzy designer label wimple when paraded before the applauding nation . Already trashy celebrity and gossip magazines are running cover stories billing our saint as a thoroughly modern Millie . And a DVD will be released next month in which a person wearing a mini shirt , claiming to be Kylie MacKillop , will lip-synch the hottest 10 psalms in an absolutely heavenly national concert tour like that of Britney Spears, with a supporting cast of gyrating and genuflecting South Australian flying nuns.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Anger has been expressed over what at first seems to be a seemingly harmless email featuring views of Christmas trees around the world . There are magnificent views of Christmas trees in the White House , Tokyo, Italy, Moscow , Lisbon , Paris, Czechoslovakia , London, etc. The cause of the anger are two shots added to the sideshow of an Indigenous Christmas tree in Central Australia decorated with wine cask bladders and packaging, with empty beer cans and bottles scattered round about. It seems the email was posted by people in a government agency who should have been more sensitive

Monday, December 21, 2009


It used to be said that today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chips wrapper . This was an abject lesson to newspaper journalists who thought themselves bigshots. No longer is yesterday’s news used to wrap the fishmonger’s delightfully smelling goods that cause twitching of the nostrils and salivation . The sad , but inevitable, fact is that online publications and other platforms are reducing the need for newsprint, in the process threatening the very existence of traditional newspapers as the advertising lifeblood retreats.

Recently Little Darwin was told how the old “tin bank ” site of the Northern Territory News , in Smith Street, near Christ Church Cathedral, came crashing down. It took place the day Banratty Castle won the Caulfield Cup , according to a man who helped level the building . ( A quick Google search turned up the year , 1968 , the year after the NT News moved to a new one -storey building in Mitchell Street, handy to the Hot and Cold Bar of the Hotel Darwin .)

Interestingly, much of the roofing iron from the pre-fabricated building and other bits and pieces went to the horse stables of police horseman , Bill Jacobs, at the 13 mile. From a place producing crusading fish and chip wrappers to a venue turning out manure-good for the garden.

The large amount of lead in the roof found a ready scrapmetal market. Much interest was shown in the slate in the steps and along the front of the verandah . A large part of the building was constructed out of angle iron . Impurities in the iron caused much splattering when hit by the oxy-acetylene torch. Workman carrying out the demolition stopped to listen to the running of the Caulfield Cup . A usually happy gent listening to the story about the demise of the building, slapped his forehead and groaned on hearing mention of it having taken place the day Banratty Castle took out the Caulfield Cup.

It seems his wife had a dream in which a castle had figured, and she asked him if it was an omen for the Caulfield Cup. Scoffing at the suggestion, he looked at the field , elimated Banratty Castle, and saw a nag called something like Palatial Place , which he felt was the way to describe a castle. He lost his dough, and his wife repeatedly told him he should have followed her dream .

Darwin not only lost the tin bank ; for some unforgiveable reason, the old photographic files at Smith Street were taken to the tip. Photographer Joe Karlhuber , who set up and operated the first darkroom at the News , working under difficult and primitive conditions, lamented this tragic act,probably up until the day he died.

During the demolition , what was thought to have been the old bank vault, covered over by timber, was found in the floor of the building . It could have been, but when Rupert Murdoch bought the News in the 1960s a secondhand rotary press was sent up from south and installed. From memory, it had a large pit underneath for service and inspection, which could give the impression of a vault .


One of our many informants has told us about a nasty experience a powerful man had in a Darwin nightspot . The poor fellow was suddenly overcome by a feeling of weakness, making him totter about and cause people to stare . His diagnosis , the next day , was that he been slipped a mickey finn. For some strange reason, he did not inform the media or the police .

Sunday, December 20, 2009


In North Queensland this week people have been looking expectantly into the sky for welcome arrivals . Not Santa and his reindeers- flocks of Torres Pied Imperial Pigeons which have flown down from places as far away as Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and possibly the Territory. Longtime environment activist , natural history educator and benefactor, Ms Margaret Thorsborne , and her late husband, began counting the birds back in the 196os. The birds come in waves during the months of October to December to nest in the most southern colony , the Brook Islands , north east of Hinchinbrook Island.

In November the count was 21,500; the count for this month ,organised by Queensland wildlife rangers , had to be delayed until next month because rough weather prevented a barge from reaching North Brook Island.

There are believed to be about 95 colonies of the pigeons between Cooktown and the tip of Cape York . In earlier days the birds were in much larger numbers, over 100,00 in some colonies, but many were shot for food.

Little Darwin this year entertained a friend from Magnetic Island who has taken part in pigeon counts . Through her , a bird carer, we were introduced to a Wampoo Pigeon, probably from PNG , she nursed back to health . She got us involved in protecting fabulous Curlews and their vulnerable chicks and, of course, Torres Pigeons. At her request , we made contact with Ms Thorsborne , recipient of the Queensland Natural History Award for 2006. As this writer had a Pied Imperial Pigeon nest close to his front door until two weeks ago, there has been much bird watching . The nest is a bare platform of sticks ,usually for one egg. According to Ms Thorsborne, birds nesting on North Brook Island usually take turns to fly to the mainland to get food and bring it back .

The observation has been made that some of Darwin’s pigeons seem to spend all year here, rather than make long migration flights like the ones seen in Queensland.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Apres the dodgy Copenhagen part agreement comes the political deluge in Australia . Before Tony Abbott’s Liberal leadership election win by the mere thickness of a glutin - impregnated wafer in the photo finish, there was enormous pressure building for an early election to annihilate the Coalition while in a state of utter disarray . The urge to re-enact the massacre at Rorke’s Drift- about March at the earliest - was nigh on irresistable.

To not call on an early election and go full term , the Federal government will have to contend with its own substantial in-house problems which could worsen with the passage of time. As already mentioned , there is the deplorable NSW government where it was even suggested they might, astonishingly , seek an independent as its leader (shades of Gerry Wood ) . Since this insane idea was floated there has been another change of Premier .

A recent poll in Tasmania showed that an election there could result in a hung parliament or a loss by Labor. Who knows how the flirty Mike Rann episode will play out in South Australia where the government will go to the polls in about four months. Before this messy episode broke, the SA Treasurer admitted he had been suffering from depression for a long time. Needless to say , the ALP is beset with problems here in the NT, with another reshuffle taking place a short time ago. Premier Brumby seems to be safe in Victoria, but there is growing unrest there , as in other parts of the nation, over what goes under the generic term of law and order, but which is really more complex. In WA , a resurgence of the mining industry and the distribution of large amounts of money to the hinterland , will improve the standing of the conservative alliance ,so no joy for the ALP there.

While many political commentators and ALP staffers firmly stated a month ago things were looking good for the party federally in Queensland , especially with recent boundary changes, this writer was not so sure . The Anna Bligh government is exceptionally unpopular, especially over the proposal to sell off $15 billion of state possessions . To try and counter the uproar over the sell off, the government has just announced a scheme which sounds like a Lehmann Bros brainstorm and a bit like the Telstra sell off which went sour.

Already she has been nicknamed Captain Bligh after the seadog who caused the mutiny on the Bounty. Peter Garrett actually saved her from suffering the same fate as Joan of Arc by rejecting the proposed Traveston Crossing dam .

The departure of one of her personal staff to take up a federal government job for a king’s ransom raised the ire of many . On top of this the former corruption commissioner Tony Fitzgerald QC earlier expressed concern about conditions which could lead to crime and corruption . The extremely cosy relationship between government and developers has been the subject of much media coverage . Former Beattie minister, Gordon Nuttall, is currently in the slammer over corruption. Bligh has come out with plans to cap the level of donations by unions and business to political parties . She has also been challenged by the Liberal National Party to legislate to prevent telling fibs during election campaigns.

This far out from the next state election, many are conceding she will be lucky to survive, which would be a shame . There is unrest in the building and construction industry in Queensland where late last month builders , bearing SCROOGE -THE MAN WHO STOLE CHRISTMAS posters marched through Brisbane. They were from major State Government building sites in Brisbane’s CBD and the Gold Coast. They had walked off the job over a $2 million pay dispute. Wideform, contracted by Bovis Lend Lease to do work on the new $600 million Law Courts and a $287 million Gold Coast hospital ,was reported as being on the verge of financial collapse . Wideform has been active in the Wollongong area of NSW , a region which has and is again proving embarrassing for the ALP with possible intervention over preselection for Throsby , the seat held by former ACTU head ,Jennie George, which she is vacating at the next election. .

Wideform workers in Townsville have been left in the lurch, one said to be owed in excess of $40,000. Access the Wideform website and you are informed that it is under review. Earlier posts , however, boast about its award winning projects in such areas as the Illawarra (Wollongong) region .

When you see unions running adverts against Premier Bligh , people turning up with protest placards wherever she goes, the police association firmly telling the timid government it must reduce trading hours for clubs and pubs to reduce the violence and attacks on officers, unhappy teachers, irate railway staff , and a hospital system creaking and groaning under pressure , you get the strong feeling that government has the rough end of the pineapple. A bizarre aspect of the Queensland scene , hardly commented on by the Australian media , but not overseas, is the fact that the Sunshine State is merrily shipping vast amounts of coal off to China and other polluters , opening up a new mine or two , and planning new ways to expedite coal exports. It is a typical Queensland attitude : clear fell the land and chop down the native vegetation as soon as possible before those buggers in Brisbane, NGOs and the Greenies deny us the divine right to turn the state into an extension of the Sahara . Don’t think PM Rudd mentioned the Australian coal mining paradox while in Copenhagen.

A contact Little Darwin has , a close observer of Queensland political machinations for years , said some members of the Brisbane right wing union power broking circles are not a pretty sight up close. He went so far as to describe them as a fine bunch of rednecks with views like One Nation foundation members and a great capacity to manoeuvre themselves and mates into plum posts and or seats.

Any attempt to discuss improving the situation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with these self- interested fellows usually resulted in a scornful response, said he . Mate, they aren’t a political force or a major issue was the conventional wisdom of this mob. All round, Premier Bligh is beset by problems and - unlike Santa - does not have many bright helpers to package the “product”.

Throw into this mix the explosive asylum seekers-border protection issue which resonates strongly in Qld . Former Liberal PM , Malcolm Fraser, recently said on air he thought Rudd should let his ministers have more say , and opined that going hairy - chested over boat people would damage the PM . Each new arrival would add fuel to the fire, which has proven correct . Indeed longtime Canberra political reporter, Alan Ramsey, subject of a recent Little Darwin post in respect of his book, A Matter of Opinion , said the refugee issue, seized on with joy by the Federal Opposition, has the capacity to poison matters right up to an election.

It was Malcolm Fraser who made the statement life was not meant to be easy -even if you are grazier with a canteen of cutlery filled with sterling silver- and it sure will not be for PM Rudd , no matter when he decides to call an election because his side of politics is performing dismally in most states , even worse than Queenland Labor before the Goss government , in which Rudd was a key player , dubbed Dr No, fell .


Radiologists are puzzled by a sudden surge in requests for a combination lumbar and lower thorax x-ray of women. In one private company where usually only one of these scans is requested each year, there have been about 20 in the past two months.

In one case we know of , a woman was told to have an x-ray by a male doctor she had never met and thus had not been examined by him. Out of the blue, came a call from his surgery telling her to come and get her referral for an x-ray. Why, what’s wrong ? Back came the reply that the woman had filled in a questionnaire for a private company which concluded she was in an age group susceptible to osteoporosis , so “ the doctor”, had felt she should undergo an x-ray.

Is this the explanation for the other 19 or so women sent for x-rays ? There are other questions . Is this a drug company sponsored drive nation- wide or just here in the Territory? Should women be sent for x-rays without a prior examination ? What is the AMA policy in respect of members sending people off to be x-rayed without even seeing them ?

Little Darwin understands there has been an explosion in the number of x-rays in the Territory . So much so, that the storage of x-ray plates is a problem, some are lost or thrown out , only kept for one month. A legal friend has pointed out that turfing out plates so early could hide acts of medical negligence and hamper subsequent legal action. If there is anyone in Darwin called a health reporter / correspondent , like Norman Swan of the ABC , an in depth investigation into the growth of x-rays and other aspects of the public and private health service in the Territory would be beneficial for the community. So much of what passes for health reporting in the Territory is really following up Health Department / Ministerial media releases and coronial findings.

What happened to gynaecological oncologist Professor Margaret Davy who was treated so shabbily at the Royal Darwin Hospital ? The issue,like so many others in Darwin, has just disappeared off the radar. The Weekend Australian is carrying a large display advert for two heads of departments and a medical CO director in obstetrics and gynaecology at Royal Darwin Hospital . The duty statement includes areas in which Professor Davy was active, including Indigenous health in remote communities. She had pointed out that a situation existed at RDH where professionals trained in Australia eager to come to the Territory had been told there were no positions vacant , only to find out somebody had been appointed from overseas. Whether this was due to overseas trained doctors being paid less, she was unable to say.

The Weekend Australian states that applicants for the positions "would be expected " to be an experienced Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology . Is this due to Professor Davy highlighting the RDH situation ?

Friday, December 18, 2009


Be warned : 2010 will be the year of living in Bedlam. The Cowboy Coalition of front and back flippers , screaming like banshees about the Rudd government’s great , big, mega-sized , colossal , whopper (with fries) new tax , will scour the land like the Stern Gang , accompanied by noisy buskers whose trumpets caused the collapse of the Jericho real estate market.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


The NT Government’s handling of land releases comes under critical review in the latest edition of the NT Darwin Chamber of Commerce and Industry journal,The Voice. In his message ,the chamber’s chief executive officer, Chris Young , outlines the struggle to get the government to release more land.

In May 2006 the then Treasurer, Sid Stirling , had said the government " did not want to disrupt the market place" by releasing land at a rate above the current level which at that time was a “mere trickle”. Young had advised Stirling that a major impediment to business development in the Territory was the lack of available land and affordable housing.

Over the years , Young had taken every possible opportunity to "hammer the issue of land availability," only to again be told the government did not want to upset the market place. “This was in spite of evidence to the contrary that additional land release was likely to stimulate , rather than suppress, the market. ”

Chamber budget submissions for 2007/2008 and 2008/ 2009 regarding land release and affordable housing were ignored by the government, he wrote . The “double mantra ” made you wonder where these government people lived. At the 2008 budget lunch the response to land release remained the same and power of the market seemed to hold sway yet again.

Then in September 2008, the government invited organizations to a meeting and said it had “discovered ” that there was a shortage of land in the Territory and the cost of housing was proving to be a deterrent to first and new home buyers. The solution was to fast track the release of land into the market place . At that meeting the government said about 1700 blocks of land were needed to be released annually to keep up with demand , and that it would be better to release more , rather than less. By the end of the 2009 financial year , 750 blocks had been fast tracked, well short of the 1700 required . Young states that current indications are that it will not meet the target for the current financial year. His comment : “ WHY IN A TERRITORY WHICH HAS,1,346,200 SQUARE KILOMETRES OF LAND AND A POPULATION APPROACHING 250,000 DO LAND BUYERS HAVE TO ENTER A BALLOT TO PURCHASE A BLOCK OF LAND ?


The babbling bagman for the Dodge City bar-room brawlers, Bovril Bill , has borrowed the white 10 gallon cowboy hat of Queensland politician Bob Katter to prevent sunstroke while stomping the wide brown land scarring the daylights out of simple sodbusters.

From a distance , he looks strikingly similar to that naïve character, Hoss Cartwright, in the old Bonanza TV series . Hoss , it will be remembered , was Prairie raised, like Bovril Bill, wore a 10 gallon hat and believed in leprechauns .

Bow-legged Bovril , with pearl- handled six shooters strapped to his waist, wants a High Noon shootout with the meandering marshall , Kid Kevin . Marshall Kevin spends a lot of time in Miss Kitty’s Big Apple bar and clipjoint donating money to poor girls who cannot afford to buy Mother Hubbards.


From Queensland , an acting executive director of NT Families and Children -Ms Clare Gardiner-Barnes- has been appointed for the period January 4- July 30. During this time efforts will be made to make a permanent appointment to FACS.

The position was previously held by Ms Jenny Scott who stepped down and is expected to take up another position in the NT Public Service.

Ms Gardiner-Barnes has been involved in implementing the Smarter Schools National Partnership Agreements in the Queensland Department of Education and Training . Before that she was acting assistant director of general student services with responsibility for policy interpretation of disability services, child protection, health and well being, behavior management and students at risk.

In a typical piece of understatement, Health and Families said that in recent times NTFC has attracted significant public attention, and in the first few months of the New Year the division will be the subject of a review of child protection services, announced last month by the former Minister for Children and Families , Ms Malarndirri McCarthy

Monday, December 14, 2009


After a bizarre episode at a Cullen Bay eatery today , involving a female media member of a Henderson government minister and another person pretending to talk into his mobile phone , it is clear that MLA Alison Anderson should be near the top of the list of the most powerful in the NT News 120 movers and shakers . By simply sipping coffee , Ms Anderson causes strange things to happen in government and media circles. Readers will remember the recent Ducks Nuts affair when an NT News team on the hard news coffee beat descended on Alison , Australian reporter Nicolas Rothwell and North Queensland Register rural rep, Peter Murphy .

Ms Anderson was having lunch at the Boatshed with a Darwin couple when it became apparent that the media woman and companion were paying very close attention to them. Those two left, and soon after a bod arrived and made a bee-line towards Ms Anderson and her friends, holding out a mobile as if conducting a conversation . It is pure speculation , but it is thought the media woman alerted the annoying fellow about Ms Anderson’s presence in the nautical noshery.

The phone was held so far from his ear it became apparent he was trying to take a photo of the trio at the table . He was so obvious , like a would–be member of the paparazzi or a redundant member of the KGB , that they got up and began to move to a car. The bod , holding his camera at stomach height, moved in closer. Unbeknown to the annoying snapper , the male in the group has long been involved with martial arts and, despite wonky joints, could, if he so wished, have done something nasty to the phone and its owner. Instead, like a gentleman, he protectively blocked his view of Ms Anderson, and then drove the wrong way out of the car park to further confuse the peeping photographer.
Earlier in the day, Health /Children and Families/ Resources (etceteras) Minister , Kon Vatskalis , was seen ambling through the Smith Street Mall with a plastic bag ; he turned down an arcade , ordered a Chinese meal , and sat there, alone, waiting for his spring rolls, and was eventually joined by two women . Unless a nearby rubber plant was Agent 96 with a Box Brownie no annoying snaps were taken by a bumbling and annoying jerk to cause dyspepsia or indigestion .

Friday, December 11, 2009


There was a time when jockeys partaking in the sport of kings-horse racing- used batteries in whips and saddles to spur their mounts to victory. The recent death of Darwin sportsman , Bobby Wills,71, brought to light the time a device used to make greyhounds regain form was used on local footballers. His many sporting interests included owning and racing greyhounds. There was a gadget used on greyhounds to overcome muscle soreness. Bobby thought it so effective, he used it on some footballers , a recipient of the treatment telling Little Darwin it was like receiving a number of electric shocks. Some players reportedly outran rabbits after the treatment and developed a healthy looking, wet nose.

During the eulogy at the funeral service in the Holy Spirit Catholic Church for Robert Douglas Herbert Wills, alias ‘Young Bobby”, it was mentioned that apart from having been a newspaper compositor and firefighter , he had also been a bookie’s penciller for 20 years. Because of his involvement with punters and card players , Bobby was regarded as something of an authority on Darwin’s gambling scene.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s , journalist / author, Keith Willey , news editor at the NT News , often asked “Young Bobby” for information about the various gambling games played in Darwin , the people who ran betting shops and the floating and permanent gambling dens. Willey wrote articles for the now defunct Sydney Bulletin which evolved into the opening two chapters of the 1964 Jacaranda Press book, Eaters of the Lotus, in which he painted pre-WW11 Darwin as an Asiatic town where men of many nationalities gathered in mysterious iron and timber shacks to gamble on games such as pi-que, che-far and serang. Darwin , in the 1960s, he wrote, had a race club and 20 or 30 unofficial gambling dens .

Willey also covered the situation in Tennant Creek where various forms of gambling had been tolerated for years with the claimed knowledge of Administrator, " Cautious Clarrie" Archer, and Assistant Administrator , "Reckless Reg " Marsh . Regular weekly payments were made by bookies into the Tennant Creek Amenities Fund and were used to assist such organisations as the CWA , the Australian Inland Missions and provide various sporting facilities, often backed by a Commonwealth grant. The Member for Barkly in the Legislative Council, Len Purkiss, was a regular visitor to the betting shops. A Police Disciplinary Board in March 1960 recommended a reduction in rank and fined Sergeant Tony Kelly. The inquiry was closed to the press, but summaries of evidence were handed out. Kelly's own testimony was never officially revealed.

Willy wrote that many felt Sergeant Kelly , a very fair officer with a reputation for going by the book, had been given a raw deal in a town where police had allowed betting shops to operate for years.


Singing and providing music at the funeral service, with an honour guard of firefighters, was a longtime friend of Bobby’s, Benny Cubillo ; in postwar Darwin , Bobby and Benny took part in junior boxing matches in the Cavenagh Street Stadium, now the RSL site, for ten bob a round , plus the shower from fans. In one fight, which Bobby felt Benny had won, but which was declared a draw, the shower was so good, he was able to buy a pushbike.
Earlier this year Little Darwin was fortunate to tape part of Bobby's life story and during that session he provided anecdotes about Darwin's past gambling scene , including the incredibly lucky policeman who always backed the winner of a race each time he made a visit to a certain illegal betting shop run by a well- known businessman .

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


CANBERRA : It has just been confirmed that the supreme example of Australian womanhood , Auntie Jack, has been hired to help Liberal leader, Tony “One Punch” Abbott , to prepare for next year’s title fight with Kid Kevin from Coolangatta .

A demure damsel with a sexy moustache, Auntie Jack is a typical Liberal lady who wears a modest hooped skirt , lacy, pink budgie smugglers , a monocle and a boxing glove to beat off amorous milkmen and door to door encyclopedia salesmen.

In an exclusive interview with Little Darwin’s Canberra correspondent, Argus Tuft, Auntie Jack said she will teach the pontificating puncher with the cauliflower ears , brussels sprouts snout and Chinese gooseberry gizonkas how to rip the bloody arms off Kid Kevin .

With no limbs, Kevin would no longer be able to use his fingers to enumerate why he is the Mouth from the South . Auntie Jack advised Abbott and Costello to form a new team of shadow boxers to rattle Kid Kevin’s camp . Each day Abbott’s pug uglies will gather in the B.A. Santamaria Gynasium and Pol Pot Agrarian Reform Compound for work outs in readiness for their scorched earth attack in 2010 .

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Pugnacious Liberal leader,Tony“One Punch- One Vote” Abbott, today challenged Danny Green to a title fight. “ Bring it on!”Abbott yelled . Abbott’s so punchy at the present moment, he speaks in tongues and does roadwork from daylight to dusk in the double -breasted suit that once belonged to Sir Robert Menzies. He’s so confident he will win he also wants to take on Anthony Mundine and Kevin Rudd in the same week .

Danny Green , who recently hammered Roy Jones Junior , laughed hysterically when told of Abbott’s challenge. He called Abbott a “pissant, ”the same boxing jargon expression he used to describe Mundine. “I am a killer whale,” said Green. “ This dude Abbott is either a flathead or a puffer fish .”

Green said one quick punch to Abbott’s budgie smugglers - pulled up to his armpits -would cause Abbott to collapse like a deck chair , moaning Ave Maria while taking the maximum count and the last rites. In a cheeky comment , Green said 10 rounds with Bronwyn B****p would be a tougher brawl than a short barn dance with Abbott .

Friday, December 4, 2009


Another link with the colourful early newspaper days of Darwin was lost this week when Bobby Wills died after a long illness. He once delivered a hire car to Rupert Murdoch in Darwin who on shaking hands with him said he could now say he shook the hand of a man who shook the hand of John F. Kennedy . A statement which showed how highly Murdoch regarded his meeting with the US President . The New York representative of Mirror Newspapers Limited, Zell Rabin, arranged the meeting with Kennedy, which was seen as a great coup for the rising newspaper proprietor. A photograph of that meeting took pride of place in the Sydney boardroom.

With a distinctive laugh , an enthusiastic punter , top basketballer, and a member of Waratahs and Brothers footie teams , Bobby began his career at 13 doing the "
shitty" jobs in the run down , union owned Northern Standard .

A lino operator there wore his pants and shirt until they could almost stand up on their own. One of Bobby’s dirty jobs was to clean the metal type which involved starting a fire beneath a 44 gallon drum mounted on bricks and then stirring the contents with a big green stick. Shellite was used to start the fire ; one day the dish from which he poured the flammable fluid caught alight. Instinctively, Bobby threw the fiery dish away- torching the stinking clothes of the linotype operator, who was not only upset , but an hilarious , smouldering sight . A young lino operator living across from the Standard was shot in the hand by a mysterious gunman who was never traced.

The newspaper’s editor , a fiery unionist, convinced the NAWU secretary, Paddy Carroll , a stickler for abiding by rules and regulations, that they should arrange for Bobby to continue his apprenticeship as a compositor at the NT News as the Standard was on its last legs. Other former Standard staff had already gone to the News , including lino operator, Arthur Wright , who had been working at the Standard the day Darwin was bombed by the Japanese.

The week Bobby started at the News it had a new editor – James Frederick Bowditch, -who had come from Alice Springs . As the way of addressing people had been unusually formal at the Standard , Bobby called the new boss “Mr Bowditch ” when introduced to him . Bowditch immediately replied, “Nobody calls me mister-it’s Jim .”

He was there when the rising young media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, bought the NT News and shipped in additional plant and equipment for the old “ tin bank ” newspaper office . As an indentured worker , Bobby claimed to be the first printing apprentice under the Melbourne Technical Training scheme. Furthermore, he was a stickler for reading and understanding the terms and conditions of his apprenticeship. His grandfather, Bob Anthony, held the Number 1 ticket in the North Australian Workers’ Union , so he was no slouch when it came to sticking up for your rights . Upset about a work matter, he threatened to leave and was told that because he was an indentured apprentice, his mother would have to pay a large amount of money for that severance .

Young Bobby disputed this , got on the phone and spoke to Rupert Murdoch’s right hand man in Adelaide , Ken Cowley, arguing his case , pointing out the paper had not kept its part of the contract . Cowley reportedly said to put Bowditch on the phone, and told him Bobby was right. ( When Bobby later became a fireman , he showed a strong understanding of rules and regulations and fought for better conditions .)

Like all the staff at the newspaper, he toiled long and hard in torrid conditions , there being wartime bullet holes in the roof, Wet season leaks , thousands of ants , an occasional python or two , large numbers of protesting frogs in the shower and dunnies, with the occasional transitting frill necked lizard.

One day lino operator Arthur Wright,very fit and full of information about the interesting people of Darwin from the 1930s on , especially in relation to unions and politics, started making odd noises as he worked at his machine, which was not unusual for him . Factory staff wondered what "the old bugger " was doing , told him to shut up , then he fell out of his chair on to the floor. There had been an electrical fault in the machine and he had been experiencing a shock .

Other compositors Wills worked with included David McDonald , Brian McKnight and Peter Secrett . Other hands included Kevin Kelly, who worked for the NT News for nearly 50 years , Timmy "Tim the Toyman " Forday , Dawn Boffie , Arthur Wright's wife, Pat , Alan Rabjones and many others . He was popular with everyone and helped educate many of the journalists who passed through the News office .


Earlier this year , Little Darwin began taping Bobby’s life story . At about four years of age , he was evacuated from Darwin on December 21, 1941 aboard the Zealandia . His grandmother , May Anthony /Ramirez, was keen to return to the Territory as soon as possible ,so they made it back to Pine Creek in early 1944 and she ran a café.

A major event he recalled was the time , thought to be August 15, l945, when Pine Creek storekeeper , Jimmy Ah Toy , announced he was going to drive to Darwin to celebrate what seemed to be the end of the war. A large tool box on the back of the truck was emptied, and Bobby and other children clambered inside . That night a long line of bonfires was lit on Mindil Beach .

About three weeks later, the family was allowed back into Darwin and tried to get their house back , they having to share a house in Stuart Park for a time . His mother was informed that a set of buffalo horns she had mounted before the war was in a house with push out windows. She replied that there had to be hundreds of buffalo horns in town. Urged on , she did go and check, and when she asked to look at the horns saw the name of the man who had mounted them for her. The people offered to buy them , but his mother said she was happy for them to keep the horns.

Bobby had his tonsils and adenoids removed in an army hospital where Kormilda College now stands. While there he wolfed down ice cream and jelly but did not like the fish and white sauce , which he could not eat for a long time afterwards.

A lot of military stores were “ knocked off ” in Darwin in those days and he remembered having white bait and plum jam sandwiches at school

A character known as Ever- ready Ted , who lived at Mandorah, was bitten by a dog which ran out of its owner’s shop and attacked him. That night a stick of gelignite was thrown through the window of the shop.

Like many young Darwin boys, Bobby took part in boxing matches at the Stadium in Cavenagh Street . These were over three rounds and the boys received ten shillings ( $1 ) a round and the shower. In one fight , against Benny Cubillo, declared a draw , Bobby nearly made more than his stepfather got a week and bought himself a pushbike.

Collecting the ten bob for each of the three rounds was not easy. An old bloke who lived at K9 was supposed to pay the money out on Sunday morning. On Saturday night, fight night, he would get drunk, and in the morning, he hung over , would tell the boys to come back later, but they stood their ground and demanded payment . Bobby’s mother kept a collection of fight posters from those days , photos and cuttings which were , unfortunately, thrown out after Cyclone Tracy.

In what he called one of the most embarrassing moments in his life, he partnered a younger auntie in a debutantes ball in the old Town Hall . Told he had to wear something called a tuxedo, he was measured up for one and it was procured from Melbourne. The most stressful part was learning the steps of five dances which included the Pride of Erin and the Foxtrot. Trying to remember the steps and the ball was an ordeal he never wanted to do again.

While working at the News , Bobby went to gambling dens in town with reporters Peter Blake and the one and only Jim Ramsay , both of whom are legends in Australia and America . His colourful accounts of those evenings were normally accompanied by outbreaks of Bobby’s infectious laughter. One evening Ramsay was on a roll and cleaned out a crown and anchor school held underneath a house on piers. Against Blake’s advice, he went upstairs with a bundle of money to a card game and lost his shirt. As Ramsay often only wore a singlet with a tie to major social events , he probably did not worry too much about losing his Pelaco . An enterprising fellow, Ramsay used also to take home the end of newsprint rolls for rip and use bath towels. Ramsay got the idea for the notorious , huge selling Kings Cross Whisper from Darwin's Waratah Whisper, which he edited for a time, sending up the town ,especially politicians and even editor Bowditch .

May Bobby, cutting a dashing figure in his tuxedo, out dance Fred Astaire up there in printers’ Heaven .

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Plans by government to turn Darwin into another Garden of Eden are causing head shaking and anger in the nursery industry . Little Darwin’s horticultural roundsman, Cyril Thistlewaite , says people ordering plants for major new landscaping projects seem obsessed with “ natives” and other trees and shrubs which have proven to be failures over a long period in Darwin.

Projects coming up include the gardens and areas at the new oncology unit, Royal Darwin Hospital; stage 11 of the Bellamack housing sub-division street planting; tree planting and landscaping at the Coolalinga road intersection ; Sky City Casino landscaping , which includes protection for a sacred site; landscaping at Lyons. .

Thistlewaite says the trouble with the plant lists is that they contain plants which have been abject failures in local landscaping , especially acacias and most eucalypts , in more than 30 projects spanning 15 years.

Most of the specified plants are hard to source, unavailable or not suited to nursery production. The majority of quantities requested are in the hundreds and a few lines over a thousand. There are some plants which are simply not available and some that are known to only seed once in five years . The request for them comes at a time when there is nil stock and three years to go before they seed again.

There is a proposed mixture of woodland and riparian plants- drought tolerant and monsoonal forest plants- to be placed alongside each other. Past experience has shown that simply does not work. This juxtaposition has resulted in landscaping which is often bedraggled looking and sparse , with twisted and mean looking acacias likely to be blown down in a sudden storm.

Our man Thistlewaite says nurserymen have told him the proposed landscaping will not really enhance the appearance of Darwin and provide little beneficial shade for the populace. It is also the view of experienced nurserymen that planned watering systems for projects are inadequate. They say there is a preference to use domestic irrigation equipment which is easily vandalised or damaged

They brand this as “second rate “ watering, based on the belief that the plants will survive without water after establishment, only needing a “good Wet season to get going .” This sentiment , known as dryland grassing ,is rubbish, according to those in the know. Plants need watering from day one and increasingly so as they mature. Without proper irrigation the government’s plans are doomed to fail, say the horticulturists, and it would be better for the government not to go ahead and save taxpayers’ money.

It has been claimed that the Sky City Little Mindil project does not include irrigation and contractors have been advised to hire a water truck. For how long ? How often? Plants there have been specified as tubestock and will be tiny .Watering from a truck would probably wash the small plants out of the ground , with a high death rate. Top End nursery propagation experience dictates that juvenile stock needs to be in 50 percent shade for much of the plant’s early life , certainly after the tubestock phase.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Prince Charles and a host of NT high flyers, including Darwin’s Mayor , Dr Ella Stack, once came down with Bombay Belly in Alice Springs. During the recent Alice sittings of the Legislative Assembly guess who came down with food poisoning? *** The latest hot tip is that the weird singing guy in the Bottlemart Tv advertisement has applied for a position as a spin doctor in the Chief Minister’s Department. Of course, he will wear his bottle costume when dealing with the thirsty media pack.*** It is quite clear that the NT News has a well thumbed book of quotations , but does it have a dictionary on the premises ? Its understanding of charismatic does not seem to appear in Webster’s, Collins Pocket , the Oxford . *** Wonder who has commissioned Roy Morgan to ring round asking questions about police, safety and crime ?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


It was a great honour for a leading Northern Territory Aboriginal art dealer , Ms Shirley Collins , when she was asked to take part in the 1999 -2000 Bank of America Down Under Tour of the United States in an inflatable replica of the Sydney Opera House . Instead, it led to her financial ruin, a decade of stress , costly , inconclusive legal battles and poor health. An expert attested that Collins became “the scapegoat for a litany of bureaucratic failures” in both countries in a major event designed to promote Australia.

In what amounts to a last desperate bid to receive a modicum of justice , Ms Collins is seeking an act of grace payment from the federal government .

The sorry saga , neglected by the local and national media, goes back to April 1999. It was then that the Australia Council, offering a $20,000 seed grant , initially invited Collins to be one of 15 ambassadors for Australia in the Australian Tourist Commission /Bank of America Down Under Tour Roadshow . This was to be an extensive 12 month tour of America in the blow up Sydney Opera House as part of the build up to the Sydney Olympic Games.

Publicity put out by the Bank of America for the Down Under Tour said Americans would be able to experience Australia through displays from all states and territories, Aboriginal art and dancers and make an outback airline flight in a simulator . There would be a five storey Olympic flame tower in an exhibition space half the size of a football field . The bank also announced it would use the event as a fund raiser for the US Olympic Commission .

Collins, widely acknowledged as one of Australia’s leading promoters of Aboriginal art and craft , had a successful track record . In 1983 she had organised an Aboriginal art and craft display at Newport , Rhode Island, as part of the America’s Cup celebrations. In addition, she had arranged installations at the Caz Gallery ,Los Angeles, the Australia Gallery in New York, the Bond Fine Art Gallery, London , and in Japan had been involved with Professor Shozo Koyama’s Gallery, Osaka, and the Kobe Museum . In addition, she curated the l997 inaugural exhibition at the opening of the National Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Sydney

At the time of the invite to the American tour , Ms Collins owned Darwin’s successful Raintree Aboriginal Art Gallery and was the chairperson of the Jarraman Arts Aboriginal Corporation, an Aboriginal owned gallery designed to foster development and preservation of art, culture, tradition, mythology and craft.

A grant was sought from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) . Before any commitment , ATSIC engaged international marketing consultants , Deloitte , Touche Tomatsu , Brisbane , to produce a feasibility report , which it did, collaborating with Auslink (Marketing ) , Darwin .

Meetings took place in Darwin with Mr John Dwyer (ATSIC) , Mr Bob Tormey Auslink ( Marketing ) and Alan James , manager of the internationally renowned Yothu Yindi band , its merchandise to be to be sold along with the art and craft. Auslink and Deloitte both gave an enthusiastic thumbs up for the tour.

A financial model was prepared on projections of $1.4million sales revenue(worst case scenario) for the tour. On a margin of 50 percent it was expected the communities would sell about $700,000 of stock, about $70,000 each. First cut projections indicated a gross profit of $500,000. In addition , there would be a great boost for the NT and increased art and craft output on Aboriginal communities .( These figures would later be described in court by an expert witness as over blown and , in some respects , based on erroneous and incorrect assumptions.)

On the strength of the favourable report , ATSIC , rejecting a call for a grant, said it would make a loan of $160,000, $100,000 of which would be secured as a mortgage on Collins’s house. At the time Collins already had mortgages over Raintree Gallery and her home totalling $160,000.

While the feasibility report and other details were being worked out ,Collins was involved in hectic activity preparing for the major event . With time running out and so much time and effort having been put into organizing the stock from far flung communities , Ms Collins had no alternative to the ATSIC loan . ( The circumstances and alleged illegalities connected with this mortgage and subsequent actions of ATSIC would become part of the legal wrangle.)

NT Aboriginal organizations which agreed to provide works for the tour were Yothu Yindi , Buku Larrngay, Bula Bula Arts, Tiwi Islands Arts , Maruku Arts ,
Urapuntja Arts and Papunya Tula . Other communities -Utopia,Yuendumu,Arurlangu Art,Injalak and Maningrida
–were also approached but their stocks were too low at the time.

A bill of sale was obtained for the stock to be taken to America which would be sold along the way . From the loan and the cash flow Collins would pay suppliers, overheads including accommodation, wages , vehicle hire and make instalments on the ATSIC loan. It was anticipated that the tour would result in a big demand for refresher stock as the tour progressed across America. The NT Chamber of Commerce and Industry congratulated Ms Collins for her looming participation in the forthcoming major Down Under Tour.

Special uniforms with Aboriginal designs were made to wear in America.
Near the end of August 1999, Collins, her son ,Lloyd , Larrakia digeridoo player Daniel Lee and consultant Paul Kaethner set out on what was hailed as a major boost for Aboriginal art and craft in America. Meeting all the requirements for the loan, stock purchase contracts and other needs meant that the Territory party did not join the travelling Opera House show until three weeks after it started, in part due to uncertainty caused by a menacing hurricane, on the tour of 47 cities .

Their late arrival and the failure by Australian representatives in the US and Australia to realize that the Bank of America was going to solely use the event to raise money for the US Olympic team meant Collins faced an impossible situation almost from the moment of arrival in America.

Despite all the high powered backing and the rosy projections of financial success , it soon became apparent that there were fatal flaws in the tour which should have been picked up by highly- paid experts . After all , this was a major promotion of Australia in America with the powerful Bank of America.

In a nightmarish situation, Collins found herself faced with ever growing problems, uncooperative, obstructive Bank of America staff, a key Australian Tourist Commission official who could not be contacted and other stressful matters. For nearly two days they had to stand in line to secure green cards authorizing them to work in America. Then they were informed of a mountain of approvals and authorizations they needed to sell in America, there also being a plethora of state tax requirements with which they would have to comply.

A convoy of large trucks , decorated by John Moriarty ( who did the Qantas Aboriginal motifs ) covered in Aboriginal designs from the Borroloola region, Collins’s country , proclaimed the Bank of America Down Under Olympic Games Tour . Collins hired a car and a trailer to transport her party and stock . Two tonne of stock arrived at Kennedy Airport but it was held up because a transport company described the goods on the manifest as spears and fighting clubs. The containers ended up stranded at Kennedy Airport for five months before being shipped back to Darwin.

The very first event Jarrraman participated in on the tour , run over three days , appeared to be mainly organized for Bank of America officials and their guests in North Carolina Each of the l5 ambassadors had a “ pod ” inside the mock Opera House. The Tjapukai Dancers from North Queensland were present and added to the Aboriginal content.

However , the pod from which Collins operated had no counter on which to transact sales, no eftpos , no cash register , no wrapping facilities . While people were interested in the Aboriginal art and craft, many seemed to think it was an exhibition where brochures and pamphlets were handed out , but nothing sold, despite the fact that all the items in the Jarraman section carried price tags. Despite these problem, Collins felt the tour would be successful once the difficulties were overcome because of the large number of people who attended the function .

Collins approached Bank of America officials who did not seem helpful. She explained to them that she was there to sell Aboriginal art and craft from which proceeds she had to pay for the extensive tour. After North Carolina the convoy headed for Baltimore but officials did not notify Collins and her group that they were leaving. As a result, coming to breakfast at the hotel , she and her party suddenly discovered the entire road show had long gone . They were left to find their own way , a seven hour journey which became 11 hours because they did not know the way and had no convoy to follow. Bank of America officials reportedly told Collins and her party, : " We forgot about you Aboriginals."

In Baltimore , Collins set up a card table from which to do business in the pod but to carry out any transaction she had to push through the crowd to a place called “ the outpost” where there was an efpost facility, then fight her way back to the pod with the customer and item .

Larger, more expensive items could not be hauled through jossling crowds.
Then Collins heard a woman shout,” That Aboriginal pod over there , what do you think you are doing ?” It was a Bank of America official who declared she would not have any “hawking ” carried out at “ my festival.” Collins explained the situation , but the aggressive woman almost tipped over the card table and repeated there would be no “ hawking ”.

Furthermore, she demanded the prices be removed from the stock.
Stunned at this outburst , Collins several times phoned and emailed the key Australian Tourist Commission contact in the US, Bob Monfrini but he was never available. She called ATSIC back in Darwin and others who had been involved in preparing what was supposed to be a highly successful tour which had turned into a nightmare. Feeling ostracized by the Americans , unable to contact the ATC chief and sensing her fellow Australian ambassadors , for some unknown reason , did not want to get involved, she was worn out and stressed . With funds running out , Collins attempted to sell stock to local art galleries in Baltimore , without success.

She openly admitted to “ running about like a chook with its head cut off ”trying to raise money and keep the show on the road Another location for the travelling Opera House was in a national park in Washington DC where, she was informed , local laws prevented anything being sold for profit.

Everything came crashing down through no fault of Ms Collins . They decided to bail out after only three weeks. Even at this late stage , how the Bank of America, Tourism Australia and others in diplomatic posts allowed this situation to develop demands an explanation.

The depressed party returned the hire car and trailer to Raleigh ; then, after all bunking down in one room , eating as cheaply as possible, they made their way to Los Angeles airport and used their return tickets to fly back the long way to Darwin , an exhausting 42 hour journey .

Bob Monfrini ,of the Australian Tourism Commission ,Los Angeles , called in a member of the Australian Indigenous Art Trade Association , Maryanne Hollow , in the hope she might be able to help the organisers of the tour following the departure of Collins. After inspecting the travelling show in America, Hollow , in a document prepared for the Federal Court in Darwin , Adrian Newstead of Coo-ee Gallery , Sydney , was quoted as saying “the ATC staff were completely out of their depth and the entire road show brought little credit on Australia.”

There was no triumphant welcome home mat for Collins in Darwin . In the tragic wash up, ATSIC, acting on advice from the Australian Government Solicitor in Darwin, seized the stock returned from America and invited suppliers to retrieve their goods, most of which did .

The fact that Jarraman Corporation had a bill of sale over the goods , Collins felt she could sell the art works and pay off all or most of her debts. The stock was offered to organisers of the Aboriginal art exhibition at the Sydney Olympics, but they did not take up the offer. A welter of lawsuits resulted, claims and counter claims - ATSIC, Auslink, Deloitte , several Aboriginal art organisations ,Tourism Australia.

The seizure of that stock became a major legal issue . Collins ended up losing her home, her Raintree Gallery folded , and she was forced to sell other assets Her standing and reputation in the trade and with Aboriginal communities suffered as a result of the fiasco. Today she has outstanding legal debts of at least $300,000.

In legal actions which followed , the Australian Tourism Commission admitted liability of up to $100,000, but this fact was not revealed until years later through freedom of information . ATSIC steadfastly disavowed any liability, demanded return of the loan and repeatedly stonewalled when it came to handing over documents under freedom of information .

On several occasions the claim has been made in official documents that the affair could have been resolved early in the piece and for far less money but for the hardline attitude taken against Collins by ATSIC and its successor, Indigenous Business Australia .

In her battle for justice, Collins contacted scores of people in high office from Prime Minister Howard down , including the ATSIC head , Geoff Clark, his deputy, Sugar Ray Robinson , and the late Charles Perkins ,the latter reportedly stating that the ATSIC claim against her should be dropped.

Ms Collins, a daughter of a stolen generation woman , is a 70 year old pensioner , suffers from diabetes and lives in a small rented unit in Darwin

In the early 1950s she worked as a bookbinder in the old “ tin bank ” office of the Northern Territory News at the time of the crusading editor, Jim Bowditch . If Bowditch were alive today and running the News he would be giving this issue a major run .

( Part 11 of this case will be posted at a later date , further revealing the shabby treatment Ms Collins has experienced , weak politicians who seem unable to frame a question and further evidence that Collins was the scapegoat for a massive bungle. )


Warning ! Warning! Warning! Creatures from outer space , perhaps from Planet Nigela which has 15 moons made from tasty Moccha coffee, chicory and pasteurised yak milk , have secretly invaded and seized the NT News building. An alert Little Darwin reader ,Orson Welles , detected the takeover by aliens when he drove up to the newspaper office to lodge an expensive full page advert for his missing, house-trained , pet aardvark , Cyril.

His hair stood on end with fright when he spotted a pulsating giant white inflatable biological warfare exclusion facility attached to the building. Clearly, this was something out of the X-Files , so he screeched to a halt, slipped into reverse and fled the scene . What rot, we told our informant , but he insisted there was something spooky going on at the News .
Scoffing, we rang the paper and , acting stupid, easy for us, asked them if a white balloon had been inflated next to the building as part of an advertising gimmick . The person who took our call was not even aware that there was an evil , throbbing , white amoeba attached to the building. The newsroom would probably know, she said, and kindly switched us through to a robotic sounding person called Matt . Still playing dumb, we asked if a balloon had been blown up on the premises. No, said he, it was a tent for some work going on in the building related to pipes.

A pipe going into a newspaper office ? Sounds as if the aliens are creating a new atmosphere in which they can multiply like cane toads and guide in the invasion fleet . Make the most of this Christmas as next year we could all be enslaved by Martians and the banks.


An editorial in the national newspaper ,The Australian, (November 30,p17), said that if the federal government could sack state or territory governments like states are able to fire corrupt or non -performing local councils, the Rudd government would have a “watertight case” to dismiss the “ incompetent, meanminded ” NT Labor government. The editorial was headed CYNICAL POLITICS OF THE WORST KIND IN THE NT .

After listing all the shortcomings of the NT government , especially in relation to the expenditure to improve the lot of the indigenous community , the leader ended up by stating that if the NT could not do better, “the Rudd government has no choice but to move in.”

If this- the national newspaper branding the NT a failed state - is not a local news story, then what is ? Not a mention, not a follow up in the local media directly linking it to this scathing criticism of government . Of course, spin – denying the bleeding obvious – was issued . You frequently wonder if the local establishment, including the media, is aware that there is a world outside the Berrimah line where the media runs reports about political, financial, mining and global events which could/will impact on the Territory .


There is no doubt about it, women find men in positions of political power alluring. When Paul Keating rolled Bob Hawke for the Labor crown , Little Darwin was surprised by the way some female members of the party seemed to almost curtsey in his presence , as if it was the Sun King passing , when he perambulated along the corridors of parliament .
Indeed, several almost fell over each other trying to be near the newly anointed leader with the big picture . One , a highly educated femme who treated party functionaries and branch helpers with haughty disdain, stood out , beaming , almost swooning as he swept by on the way to the throne to tinker with his French clocks.

It was like a mute, female version of the time Sir Robert Menzies , smooging up to Queen Elizabeth, quoted that passionate clergyman, John Donne , as saying he did but see her passing by, and yet would never forget her until he died . In this case the ALP femmes were buckling at the knees at the sight of seeing Paul and being so close to the new mover of heaven and earth .

In the latest Liberal palace coup, the jug-eared juggernaut, “ Mad Monk ”, Tony Abbott, encountered the same admiring reception from many true blue political groupies. At his first media conference , Julie Bishop, no doubt delighted to still be the deputy leader of the party, positively beamed at Abbott as if he were Brad Pitt . It would have been harder to find a more dazzling smile in a digitally enhanced Colgate ring of confidence advertisement.

And sitting up admiringly in the audience was Bronwyn Bishop , she with the unrequited lust to be PM , a stated aim since much younger days when she slurped coffee with solicitors in Angel Place, Sydney. As Abbott has been described as the political love child of Bronwyn and John Howard, she had cause to be proud about her bouncing baby boy being voted king of the kindergarten.
Sitting beside Bronwyn was the monarchy –loving , Sophie Mirabella, whose baby featured in a heated exchange with Belinda Neal before it was born. As Sophie and Bronwyn were both opponents of Malcolm, Merry Christmas had come early for them.

Little Darwin was looking up a report about Bronwyn being annoyed with Malcolm and moves to challenge her –re endorsement in a bid to inject new blood into the party , when the Darwin power supply went out , again . The computer was cranky when the power came back . It does not pay to mess with Bronwyn who is now in Wiki and can apparently invoke divine intervention.

Attending the same media conference were other lady Libs flashing lots of toothy smiles at the new Roman candle . And like a defrocked male Vicar of Dibley, in black, sat author/journalist ,Bob Ellis , who once made inflammatory statements against Bronwyn Bishop , and even stood against her in an election. God punished him by burning down his house. God also smiled on Abbott in a court case over something Ellis wrote in one of his unGodly political books, which Little Darwin finds a delight to read. With such powerful connections , you wonder how the Libs are in such a devilish mess.

God and Opus Dei sure work in mysterious ways . How could Abbott possibly have been so appealing to the women voters in the Liberal party conference room after that weekend photo of him stripped down in his budgie smugglers at the surf carnival ?

With all that hair over his body, he looked like one of those Arnhem Land sea slugs getting over oil spill pollution or one of those offensive objects spewed out by the old North Bondi sewage treatment plant which figured in Frank Hardy’s great book, Outcasts of Foolgarah , a character being Billy Bigears . This was said to be a rude reference to a Liberal PM who led the party to electoral defeat.