Thursday, March 31, 2011


During Indonesia's Konfrontasi over the formation of Malaysia ,during President Soekarno’s reign, air raid sirens were installed in Darwin and police were issued with a small number of Al Capone like tommy guns to fight off the invaders. Most of those tommy guns are still in Darwin . The erstwhile head of the NT Museums and Art Galleries , Dr Colin Jack –Hinton, is said to have been given two of the guns. Are they still in the museum ? As the late Jack-Hinton enjoyed a joke and spent a lot of time in Indonesia, he may have entertained the generals there with hilarious tales about our lamentable armoury in Darwin. The RAF AVRO Vulcan strategic bombers , capable of carrying nuclear weapons , flew in and out of Darwin, and provided more of a threat to Indonesia than some Chicago popguns. By sniffing about , Little Darwin has also unearthed the fact that there were secret instructions in the ABC’s office to deny the invading Indonesians use of the broadcasting facilities. This involved smashing key equipment. The last thing we wanted was the invaders to brainwash Territorians with a cooking show - 101 WAYS TO MAKE NASI GORENG - played over and over, ending in a hearty cry, “ Merdeka!”

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


A milestone in the history of the Darwin ABC newsroom –it’s 60th anniversary -went unnoticed . On March 19 , 1951, the ABC started the NT radio news service . The South Australian ABC news editor, Mr R. Morrison, accompanied by the newly appointed regional journalist,Don Dyke, came to Darwin to supervise the event . It was officially opened by the Postmaster-General (Mr Anthony).News services were broadcast at 7.30 am daily, Monday to Saturday, and at 6.25 pm daily, Monday to Friday,over the Darwin station, 5DR. Morning news services were relayed to Alice Springs through 5AL.


An Adelaide correspondent informs us that one of the city's notable citizens, Kym Bonython, who died March 19 , aged 90, narrowly escaped death when the Japanese bombed Darwin in 1942. An RAAF pilot, who had served in the Dutch East Indies and New Guinea , he was suffering from dengue fever when admitted to Darwin Hospital . He had just been evacuated to cover when his ward took a direct hit. A promoter , he brought many great musicians to Australia through Aztec Services and played a part in getting the Beatles to tour in 1964, ran art galleries in Adelaide and Sydney and , a lover of motor sports, encouraged Formula 1 racing in Adelaide. Against Australia becoming a republic,he favoured euthanasia. Little Darwin once had a book about 8mm photography which had been the property of Bonython in much younger days .

Sunday, March 27, 2011


The global consumption of VEGEMITE is expected to rocket to astronomical heights due to a zany commercial shot in Darwin at the weekend . A 15 -strong film unit from Melbourne captured the internationally famous Darwin Rock Sitters’ Ice Hockey team in ferocious action at Mindil Beach, in a three hour shoot, watched by a puzzled group of Aborigines .

Decked out in their dazzling uniforms , the squad, never beaten by any of the top Canadian or Russian teams , once more issued a challenge to the world’s ice hockey teams to come on down to Darwin for a hit and giggle, and all the vegemite sandwiches they can eat . The awesome Darwin side looked frightening as they posed for the cameras, some players wielding golf clubs, cricket bats and other unusal armoury.

Mother Nature provided a slice of good luck for the yeast extract film-the tide was out and the Mindil backdrop looked like real ice. For one of the hockey players , padded up to look like Bazza,the Conan-like Barbarian , terror of the international ice rinks, it was his fourth appearance as a film star, his last starring role with Nicole Kidman,in a passionate scene on a boat , bobbing about near Stoke's Hill Wharf, in the epic film, Australia , the title later changed to Gone With The Wind in a desperate bid to get bums on theatre seats . Unfortunately , that steamy scene was cut from the movie . Another international hunk in the Vegemite commercial is a famous paparazzi star and a real estate investor .

The world famous Darwin Ice Hockey team is the sporting arm of what used to be the Rock Sitters Club, a group of thoughtful and enlightened residents who regularly sat on a seaside rock and debated the meaning of life over a flagon of wholesome strawberry milk.

There was even a metal flagpole on the outcrop about which the merry throng sang patriotic ditties, some singing with such gusto that they plummeted off into the sea and were eaten by the Mandorah Monster , who found them tasty, almost as good as Vegemite . By a million to one chance, lightning hit the flagpole and the rock was split asunder. Stormy seas then washed away this unique venue for cultural gatherings . PS :Incidently, this explains our CRYPTIC ROCKWORDS.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Expect the unexpected when you open Little Darwin -in this case a 1907 Australian postcard sent to Mrs Julian Barclay, 2116 University Avenue,University Park,near Denver,Colorado,USA. It consists of an actual gumleaf sewn to a map of Australia when the NT was part of South Australia. Expressing best wishes for Xmas and the New Year, it was sent by Madge Magarey ( a surname well known in footie circles) who resided at Park Terrace, Wayville, Adelaide. From the Peter Simon Ephemera Collection


Jakarta Globe recently ran a report about concerns over the largest archive of Indonesia's literature. The budget has been cut to $28,000 for the H.B. Jassin Documentation Centre at the Taman Ismail Marzuki cultural complex , Cikini,central Jakarta, not enough to meet the administration costs of the free library and carry out conservation work against mould.

Jassin,who died in 2000,was a keen bibliophile and began collecting novels, poetry and plays in Indonesian , in 1932. Today the library houses more than 16,000 works of fiction, some 12,000 nonfiction, and thousands of documents and photos from some of the country’s leading literary figures. A fund has been launched to prevent a possible closure and there have been assurances that it would be unthinkable for such a decision.

In view of the NT’s long association with Indonesia and the fact that a former Chief Minister,Shane Stone,has/had business interests in that country, there could be an opportunity for the NT government ,organisations and individuals to help.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Darwin agronomist and veteran activist, Rob Wesley-Smith, is like St Peter at the Pearly Gates in that he has extensive tomes in which are the names of the good, the bad and the ugly. Inserted in his Gutenbergs with a sharpened Magpie Goose quill , the ink made from the blood of fruit bats trapped on his leafy rural retreat, is invaluable information about a wide range of subjects-the struggle for Wattie Creek, East Timor, civil rights campaigns, Vietnam War demonstrations, the Territory’s agricultural and pastoral industry , our blessed civic mothers and fathers , cranial trauma, the local media, etcetera.

As a result of the recent Little Darwin post about crusading editor Jim Bowditch’s WW11 experiences, with the associated Kerry Byrnes photograph taken in 1974, Wes hit the recall button in his archives and emailed us additional details about the photo, tension at Darwin’s independent newspaper, The Star, and other media related matters . *******

Wes found the photograph of Bowditch was used in The Star by a columnist , Prudence,headed SHAPING THE NEWS ,October 18,1979. The caption read : Jim Bowditch...they don’t have editors like him anymore, the text critical of the Northern Territory News. Prudence said she did not quarrel with the quality of the journalists on the paper; it was quite clear from the blatant nature of the sub-editing and editing of the newspaper that the NT News had retreated a long way from the courageous and scrupulous journalism which characterised it under Jim Bowditch.

****** Then came a clipping about four journalists and a photographer resigning at The Star. Departing editor, Neil Dibbs stated the staff, Andy Bruyn (now of Channel 9,Darwin ), Rex Clark( Channel 7, Qld), Gary Dembon and ace photographer, Barry Ledwidge (Four 22 Images,Darwin ), had given notice as a matter of principle. Dibbs said The Star would continue to be published as the staff worked out their notice. He would not disclose the reason behind the resignations. A former Star employee said there had been a long-running dispute between journalists and the manager , Glen Rafael, a shareholder in the paper along with South Australian businessman Alan Scott, over direction of editorial content .

****** Then a “witch”- currently topical in caustic Canberra Coalition, shock jock and assorted dingbat circles-got into the act at The Star . Dawn's Cauldron, by politician Dawn Lawrie ( called a broomstick rider by drawling Chief Minister Paul Everingham ) , of 30/1/82 , announced she would no longer be contributing to The Star , for which she had been writing since its first issue . In that time the paper had survived three changes of ownership and at least six editors. Despite gloomy predictions from rivals, the paper had continued to prosper and presented stories which often enraged the establishment, she wrote. The Star had been lucky to have as its first editor, Peter Blake, a big man with a big heart, a sense of humour to match, and an international reputation as a first class journalist. Although the editors differed greatly in style and philosophy, successive editors, with the backing of management, had resisted the urgings and protestations of those who objected to people being kept informed of what was really happening in the Territory, because of some real or imagined embarrassment to the power brokers. The Star continued its independent line, with the editor taking responsibility for the paper's content and with a healthy respect between management and editorial for each other's responsibilities. How times had changed!

The new management had now decided what should and should not be printed, what the people should and should not know about what goes on in their town, and had decided to direct the editorial staff accordingly. Under these circumstances, it was no wonder that the entire editorial staff had resigned. Freedom of the press, she continued ,was not yet so lost that professional journalists were prepared to accept in toto the dictates of management when it came to the public interest and their right to know what is going on. The story which management decided /insisted must not be run appeared on the front page of a rival mid-week publication anyway,and people must now be wondering what prompted the management ban on a legitimate piece of Darwin news. “I admire the editorial staff for the stand they have taken. They are not on strike, they've resigned, but the underlying philosophy is the same.And under the circumstances there is no way I can continue to write for this paper.”Her stirring piece carried the farewell message: THANK YOU ....AND GOOD NIGHT. ( The new editor, John Loizou, guaranteed editorial independence of journalists .)

******Wes's musty parchments also turned up some personal information about the fact that his own column in the The Star -WESVIEW-came to an end , his golden prose no longer gracing its pages. Instead, businessman and politician ,Tom Harris , was given regular space and under the heading WHO'LL RID US OF THIS PEST, wrote about troublesome Coffee Bush ,or Leucaena, in the Darwin region.

Thirty years after the article, it still irks Wes that the accompanying photograph was of Mimosa. An alert agronomist would not have committed such and egregious error. Rest assured this botanical crime was entered in the Humpty Doo Doomsday Book.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Another clue to Darwin's mysterious dark and yeasty event which will shake,rattle and roll at the weekend: A snap happy rollerblade champion, supported by a Jewish witch,sporting a beehive and several hundredweight of bling, make the Walls of Jericho tumble when they combine to sing Rock Around the Clock .


Little Darwin has been made aware of an event which will take place in Darwin this Saturday at East Point which will radically change the wholesome image of a national product. Further clues will be posted.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


From a New Zealand friend comes a warning about plug in air fresheners which are thought to have caused some house fires over there . The problem seems to be due to the thin plastic used in the fresheners which eventually bursts into flames .


Unusual items can be found in Darwin if you hunt around. During recent ferreting we came across a T-shirt which appears to have been worn in a Russian street demonstration for freedom of the Press in a country where brave reporters are murdered , maimed , beaten up and threatened.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


If ever a dictatorship should be toppled it is the ruthless Burmese junta , guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity, massive corruption and denial of democracy for the masses.

One of our roving reporters in Asia tells us that the rigged recent “election” in Burma is a sham as revealed by the order that all questions for QUESTION TIME under the “ new constitutional advance " have to be submitted 10 days in advance for SECURITY VETTING.

Just imagine , for instance, if some brave person asked for details about the deal between the French energy company, Total, partner in Darwin’s INPEX project, and the Burmese generals. Like how much has Total paid to the generals and where has the money gone?

Here in Darwin
, a throbbing, vibrant democracy , where politicians and the dynamic media can ask any question, nobody it seems has dared say boo about the connection between a proposed major Territory project and the oppressed Burmese. This despite the fact that there are Burmese refugees held in Darwin right now , some of them recently holding a rooftop demonstration at the detention centre . Action man , President Sarkozy is on record as saying he does not like Total dealing with the Burmese junta. Is there a Little Corporal in the Darwin media or politics ?

Saturday, March 19, 2011


It has taken the nifty French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, to ACT in Libya, French planes attacking Gaddafi’s positions. It is easy to see why Sarkozy has some grand nicknames- Tsarkozy , Le Roi Sarkozy 1 and L’Omnipresident . He strongly advocated taking military action against Gaddafi while the rest of the world’s leaders dithered. As usual, the Australian media and the despicable Coalition , full of armchair generals and freshwater admirals,went into hysterics over Kevin Rudd making the reasonable suggestion there be a no fly zone to prevent Libyans from being bombed – that means being killed, maimed - by Gaddafi’s planes.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Darwin's crusading editor, Jim Bowditch , in action on the phone compiling North News ,a subscription business newsletter, in October 1974. Photo taken at Graphic Systems, Stuart Park, by Kerry Byrnes , proprietor of Darwin's independent newspaper, The Star, now of Arnhem Nursery, regularly heard on the ABC gardening program on Saturday mornings .

On the very first day in the army, Private James Bowditch , QX 13703, after having been put through the quartermaster’s store and shouted at from all sides, was lined up with the other raw recruits and inspected by a sergeant major. This man passed uncomplimentary remarks to his aides as he inspected the intake . When he came to Jim, who had a mop of hair as he had let it grow wild , he said , “ First thing, haircut for you.”

Jim responded by saying he had not joined the army to get a haircut. The SM pulled up with a jerk and delivered a fierce lecture . Jim ’s account of what followed went this way : “While I did not use words like get stuffed or up your arse , I used terms which amounted to that. ” This resulted in him being confined to barracks for seven days. Paraded before an officer, he was told that he had to do as he was told from then on. Disregarding the confinement order, he slipped out of the camp , and was caught. His clash with the Army brass began right at the beginning and continued throughout the hostilities.

was how Bowditch described early training . There was much guarding of flagpoles and marching, marching, marching. Because of his fitness he was made a bren gunner , a bren being a light machine gun . On leave , he and mates lived it up in Brisbane. He was introduced to beer which filled him up with gas and made him belch , so he bought creme de menthe and creme de cacao for one shilling a nip . He had an affair with a skinny young woman who had a young child . With the likelihood of him soon being sent overseas on active duty, she suggested they marry .

Jim agreed
and , because regulations required authority from his superiors for marriage, applied for approval. An officer said the woman had to come to the camp for an interview and discuss the marriage proposal. After the interview, the officer called Bowditch in and told him the marriage could not be approved because she was a camp follower. The officer said he had seen the woman before hanging around the camp and believed she had had affairs with other soldiers. She was just a good- time girl .

Furthermore, the officer said he would not be surprised to learn that she had been “ hitched ” to a number of troops. So shocked was Bowditch that he wanted to fight the officer and refused to accept what he had said about her.

Bowditch then went out and began asking questions about the woman and discovered that what he had been told by the officer had been true . After this disturbing disclosure he was keen to get away and fight . This was not to be because just when it appeared he was about to be sent overseas it was discovered he was suffering from non - specific urethritis . Many of the troops departed but he was left behind . What annoyed him was that the troopship he should have sailed on went via England and he was denied the opportunity to see his family.

Placed in a pool of troops, he was eventually assigned to the 2/9th Battalion of the AIF led by Major-General George “ Piggy ” Wootten . He was sent to Sydney and boarded the Queen Mary which had been stripped below decks except for a section allocated to officers. His deep antipathy to authority grew when he saw the special privileges and conditions that officers enjoyed . He reasoned that when “ the shit hit the fan ” and they faced death they were all equal , so why should any section be treated differently ? The troops were packed in hammock to hammock . As the big ship rolled the stench from vomiting was overpowering . Seasickness once more claimed him .

They were disembarked in the Middle East in 1941 and quickly went into action . He was in two companies diverted to the fort at Giarabub, Libya, which was held by about 1200 Italians. It was a bloody and unpleasant action. Contrary to popular myth, Bowditch said the Italians fought very bravely , but after a while realised they could not win and surrendered. Between 50 and 100 had been captured . When the troops were told to quickly move to another area where fierce fighting was going on they were told to shoot the Italians. This would be denied by authorities , Bowditch said , but it definitely took place “ We were instructed to mow down these prisoners and that, in fact, is what was done . It was contrary to conventions and all the rules governing war .’’

The troops then moved to Tobruk which was caught up in what was the longest siege in modern warfare up to that time. Tobruk had been held by Italians before it was seized by Australians in January 1941 . The Allies were keen to keep Tobruk at all costs to protect the important naval base at Alexandria in Egypt and , of course , the Suez Canal .

During the eight month siege in which the GermanDesert Fox”, Field Marshall Rommel, did his utmost to dislodge the Allies, more than 47,000 men including wounded and prisoners were taken out of Tobruk while 43,000 men and 34,000 tons of supplies were brought in. A total of 34 warships and merchant ships were sunk and another 33 damaged.

Ringed by wire and minefields, Tobruk was a sun baked hellhole raked by enemy fire . The desert was alive with scorpions , fleas, lice , flies and other insect pests. There were underground dugouts where men could shelter from the relentless sun and bullets to have a smoke . Soldiers regularly poured petrol around the dugouts as an insecticide . While Jim was resting in a shelter somebody lit a cigarette which ignited petrol fumes and the place exploded in a ball of flame. He remembered with horror that as he scrambled to get out he was kicking the man behind him who was also frantic to escape. Several men died in the explosion and although his clothing was set alight, Jim escaped with minor burns. One man suffered severe burns from his feet to his waist.

There was not enough water to be drunk , and that supplied was salty. Because of the constant dust , all clothing was covered. Temperatures rose to 130 degrees fahrenheit and there was stunted vegetation in the surrounding country which troops called camel bush. The soil was rocky and sandy and the digging of trenches was hard work . Sand permeated footwear and clothing.

Frequent dive bombing by the Germans added to the hell of Tobruk . The British traitor William Joyce, Lord Haw Haw, who made radio propaganda broadcasts for the Nazis , said the Australians were like rats in a trap . This led to the Australians proudly boasting to be the Rats of Tobruk .

Naval ships running the gauntlet to Tobruk came at night with supplies of food and ammunition , quickly unloaded, took on wounded, and zig-zagged out to try and dodge aerial bombardment. The harbour became littered with wrecks.

The Germans stepped up the bombardment of Tobruk and poured in tanks. Bowditch used “ sticky bombs” to knock out several tanks. These bombs looked like toffee apples and were a round ball about twice the size of a baseball, filled with nitroglycerin . When the outside wrapping was torn from the bomb there was a sticky substance which enabled them to be attached to tanks. Many men got shot down running up to tanks with sticky bombs. Jim used to lay down in a trench and let the tanks run over the top . In a quick movement , he would apply the bomb , with a five second fuse once activated , to the bottom of the tank and it would pass on and explode.

Because of his skill with the bren gun, he was placed near the perimeter in the thick of fighting. An enemy machine gun caused havoc because it opened up on the barbed wire perimeter at night when men were stretching their legs and standing about. Jim suggested he and Tom Clark, an older Queenslander, should try and pinpoint the gun and have it put out of action. On a dark night they advanced into no-man’s land and took up a position in a bomb crater and waited for daylight. Such night time listening posts were a regular feature of the warfare and small groups would venture out and try and pick up noises from the enemy .

With the help of a periscope , Bowditch and his comrade spied out the land , located the machine gun and made other observations. Bowditch and Clark quiety discussed many things out there in no man’s land. The Queenslander spoke about his family and life in the bush; Jim told him about London and the way of life there. Sex was another topic of discussion .

Their periscope was obviously detected because late in the day their crater was mortared . For two terrifying hours they cringed in the hole as shells rained down around them. Like the sound of machine gun fire, Bowditch said being subjected to a constant mortar barrage was a frightening experience.

They were eventually able to sneak back to their own lines under the cover of darkness and the company commander congratulated them. As a result of their observations the sector containing the machine gun was heavily bombarded. Clark later trod on a booby trap and barbed wire was driven into his leg . He was evacuated and Jim never heard of him again .
Bowditch further tempted fate by raiding the well guarded food dumps at Tobruk . The troops were annoyed by the fact that officers received tinned fruit and they did not . Baked beans and biscuits seemed adequate for the common soldiers.

Raiding food dumps was every bit as dangerous as attacking machine gun nests because guards were ordered to shoot first and ask questions later. A number of guards had also been seriously injured by night-time raiders. Bowditch was in a party of about 10 men who raided the food supply one night with the officers’ tins of fruit the target. Jim incurred much derision by bringing back tins of baked beans as well as fruit. “ I used to have simple tastes, ” he explained, “ and I liked baked beans .”

As each month passed at Tobruk, he increasingly began to wonder when his number would come up,Something in your brain tells you the numbers game is being played and it is only a matter of time before you get killed .”

For a month he was ill -vomiting and feeling poorly. He did not eat much . When he went to the Medical Orderly known as “ March OnMcGregor , he received no sympathy. McGregor seemed to have little feeling for soldiers and it appeared his duty was to get men back to their section almost on their hands and knees. He accused Bowditch of cowardice and told him he just wanted to be evacuated.

Still feeling terrible, he went back to fighting . Bowditch was delighted to hear they were going to be relieved by fresh Polish troops. The lst Carpathian Brigade duly arrived , all wearing Bombay bloomers –baggy shorts- like the British, and all looking “mad”. “I did not understand what the Germans had done to their country , ”said Bowditch. “They had lost their families, wives and kids, their land. They filed in before us and shook our hands . Very few could speak English . As we left , the Poles proceeded to shoot off every weapon they could at the enemy. Had their officers not stopped them they would have exhausted the entire ammunition supply of Tobruk. They just wanted to kill every German in the area to get revenge for what had been done to their homeland .”

Bowditch was so ill he really did not care and dragged himself aboard an RAN vessel. Stukkas flew overhead and at one stage he did not dive for cover because he felt so sick. When they disembarked they prepared to entrain for eventual action in Syria.

However , Bowditch collapsed and was taken to hospital . He woke to find an aristocratic doctor standing over him , his hand wrapped about his liver , who said : “ The poor bastard’s got jaundice.” Many troops at Tobruk fell victim to jaundice. Bowditch also had a desert sore on his leg which had eaten to the bone and refused to heal. Under treatment, he gradually came good and a skin graft was needed to overcome the desert sore. In the skin graft ward he saw a man who had been badly burned in the dugout explosion at Tobruk .

The drugged man was lowered into a regular saline bath by four orderlies . Despite sedation, the man would scream and sometimes pass out. The graft specialist , Dr Rank, called in four times a day and would never show any emotion on his face as he looked over the terrible victims of burns and appalling wounds . Bowditch told the doctor he felt ashamed occupying a bed while all he had was a desert sore . Dr Rank gave him a short lecture and told him not to be silly. Because of his spell in hospital he missed the Syrian campaign in which he said many of his comrades were killed.

A wild escapade in Palestine landed him in serious trouble . During a bout of drinking with mates they ran out of money. A large businessman wearing a fez was seen sitting in what looked like a garage. Jim went over and asked the man if he would like to make a donation to their drinking fund. He refused, so Jim took down a sword , one of two crossed on the wall, and chased the man. In the uproar, British Red Caps- military police - became involved and a brawl erupted. Bowditch was hit with the book and spent 48 days in a military prison awaiting trial and forfeited 49 days’ pay. Although soldiers were paid six shillings a day , Bowditch said he averaged about one shilling a day for the first three years because of his many fines. NEXT: Clobbering a Yank and fierce battles with the enemy .


A film is to be made of the Peter Grose book An Awkward Truth ,The Bombing of Darwin ,February 19 ,1942. The award winning film and television company, Artemis , makers of the television series ,Who Do You Think You Are?, is planning a documentary drama based on the book , which won the 2010 Chief Minister's History Book Award. Author Grose wants to contact anyone with firsthand memories of the day. He can be contacted or Artemis International Pty. Ltd.,suite 6,226 Carr Place,Leederville WA 6007.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Important Territory, Timor-Leste and national issues will be raised at an alternative Anzac Peace Festival in Sydney on April 26 in the Leichhardt Town Hall.

Forum themes will focus on the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown, and the now Japanese nuclear disaster ; the nuclear issue and the environment; Australia’s wastage on defence spending ; recognition of Aboriginal Diggers ; our involvement in the Afghan War; human rights in West Papua ; a photographer Penny Tweedie retrospective; Timor- Leste’s future; American military bases in Australia; challenging the proposed Muckety nuclear waste dump in the NT.

An indicated topic for discussion is : The Politics of “War” Memorials ! Where are the “Peace” Memorials? As part of the Festival there will be a fund raiser for the Leichhardt Council’s East Timor project, and films. Speakers will represent People for Nuclear Disarmament , the Anti-Bases Committee, Beyond Nuclear Initiatives and others .

Shirley Shackleton, wife of newsman Greg Shackleton , one of the Balibo Five murdered by the Indonesians ,will make a key address in the 7th Dr Andrew McNaughton Lecture , on March 23.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


How come Lady Gaga flew into Darwin and the media failed to report her presence and extraordinary performances? She sang some catchy protest songs about the BasicsCard composed by talented man- about- town , especially government offices, Rob Inder-Smith.

If it was not the eccentric pop star who recently appeared at the Grammy Awards being carried aloft in a giant egg by Nubian slaves , it could have been a local male troubadour in a large pink wig.

This pinko person, strumming a guitar, made an appearance at the office of MHR Warren Snowdon. She also asked his pleasant receptionist why there had been no reply to a long list of questions about the card submitted to Snowdon ages ago. The politician was not present at the time as he was busily packing his Harrison Ford hat for the trip to America with PM Julia Gillard.

By popular demand, our bulky Lady Gaga was carried on a litter by struggling, weedy supporters , there being no unemployed Nubians in the Territory, to Centrelink , where some staff reportedly dived under desks on seeing the apparition . One of the songs was delivered to the tune of Rock and Roll High School by The Ramones

Wednesday, March 9, 2011



In a remarkable feat, Pete Steedman both fathered and gave birth to the above brave new publication-Broadside-a fortnightly magazine with a strong political content which was originally intended to challenge the long established national journal, The Bulletin, now sadly defunct .

It came into being in 1969 with the approval of Cambridge graduate , Ranald Macdonald , managing director of David Syme and Co. Ltd., the Melbourne Age newspaper group . With a print run of 22,000,it had a cover price of 15 cents and sold about 14,000 copies. At one stage it boasted that it had 40,000 of the nation's most intelligent readers.

The very first issue of Broadside announced that an eye-popping comic strip about the adventures of a bossomy femme,Fabula, by Gerald Carr, prominent in the annals of Australia’s comic history, would grace future editions . She was similar to the sexy French science fiction comic , Barbarella , by Jean-Claude Forest , made into a film by Roger Vadim, Barbarella , Queen of the Galaxy. Steedman had been an avid reader of Barbarella comics, enjoying“its marvellous sexual fantasy.”

Readers were told Fabula,above , had been taken out of the typists’ pool and thrust into a position of power in the office of Sir John Grey in a Great Southern Continent . Unfortunately, Fabula did not make her grand entrance because the shocked proprietors became alarmed on seeing her in the flesh, as it were . Somehow, they came to the conclusion she could be identified as Ainslee Gotto , private secretary to the PM , John Grey Gorton, nicknamed Jolly John.

From behind his dark glasses, Steedman reluctantly agreed they could be right . Gasp ! Stop the press! A reported 30,000 copies of the second edition were pulped . Security guards surrounded the printery and less than a dozen copies survived. Little Darwin has a slightly expurgated copy and the rest of her stirring adventures, which we examine from time to time as part of our scholarly research.

Days after the pulping , there was a major development in Canberra - the sacking of Dudley Erwin from his ministerial post . Asked to explain his expulsion by PM Gorton, a former close friend, Erwin famously said : “ It’s shapely, it wiggles and its name is Ainslee Gotto.Gotto was highly efficient in her job ; miffed Conservatives complained that she had too much power and influence on the PM for a young person.

Thereafter , Fabula’s adventures were examined by an Age lawyer or two before being passed fit for publication. Edgy legal eagles insisted another plain looking female be included in the fictional office, perhaps a chaperone for Fabula ? Steedman , being fed inside scuttlebutt from the national capital and elsewhere , closely collaborated with Carr to develop the storyline in the Fabula strip.

It got to a stage where Steedman alone knew what Fabula’s exploits meant before they became common knowledge , even the lawyers who had been outfoxed. Fabula was described as a dynamic patriot , putting herself physically and mentally at the disposal of her country,fighting its foes and preserving its cultural way of life, beating off the Yellow Peril.

Her heaving bossom , her nipples, and other glimpses of the erogenous zone, not to mention her whip, drew the attention of the various keepers of the public's morals . A year’s subscription to Broadside ,only $3, came complete with a large poster of “ the unbelievable Fabula.”

Another key player in the stirring Fabula strip, Black Mack ,leader of the Peasant Party, who sported a circus ringmaster’s top hat, was involved in a mysterious situation which involved a hundred million sheep bought by some unknown foreign power which wanted another similar number .

Black Mack broke the frightening message to the PM that with all this stock going overseas, his country electors would not be distracted by “ lying about with their sheep”, the not so subtle message being that they were sheep shaggers and would begin to think . A person called Max was involved in what seemed a farcical , if somewhat rude scenario.

The key to this episode was the tough leader of the National Party ( formerly the Country Party ), John “Black Jack “ McEwen, who bitterly opposed Treasurer Billy “Big Ears” McMahon becoming the PM after the drowning of Harold Holt ; it was claimed that McMahon regularly visited the home of influential journalist, publisher, lobbyist , Maxwell Newton (mentioned last year in Little Darwin ) , whom McEwen claimed to be a spy for Japan ! Newton was the Max in the comic strip in another plot to sell all our kangas which would be flown out of the country in our new Fiascos, the F1-11s.

Another character , Santa , wrapped in a towel from Mick’s Alms Hotel, showering in readiness for the monthly full moon, was instantly recognised as B.A. Santamaria of the National Civic Council. Santa headed the Rightists’ Control Council.

As usual , Fabula came up with a solution to the PM’s problem , which sometimes involved a hooded person called FRY , his name rhyming with Colonel Spry of ASIO, always peeping through keyholes and getting wrong information, the head of FARCE , Fry’s Army Reportedly Combating Evil. Fry managed to discover what the Japanese Ambassador had on his sandwiches at lunchtime.

America was presented as the Great Power Detergent and Fabula wowed Tricky Dicky Duck when she and the PM paid a special visit in an attempt to get some favourable publicity and try and scrap the contract for the Fiascos . Tricky Dicky, sitting on a throne decorated with a cameo of a rampant eagle with a forlorn looking kangaroo in its talons, smiled (leered?) at Fabula. The fear of those in power in the Great Southern Continent was that Bedlam -Whitlam- would take over the country.

Fabula, like Barbarella , was a patriotic gal, prepared and willing to tackle any problem in the interest of the nation. She knew magical incantations, but instead of intoning a magic word like Shazam! to overcome national problems like a lousy press , Steedman explained the government regularly shouted , “PANIC!”

During a time of real panic and tension in the Australian government , this writer once chased Ms Gotto and Gorton about Sydney when the PM, his leadership under attack, flew in from Canberra to try and woo the support of the cabal at the NSW Liberal headquarters, not far from an aromatic coffee house frequented by young Bronwyn Bishop who firmly and frequently proclaimed she wanted to be a future PM .

Conversing with Ms Gotto while waiting for a lift , the PM, with his war - battered face, turned to me and waved me away, saying,“Would you mind, we are having a private conversation.”Outside the Commonwealth offices in Martin Place , a small crowd gathered when the PM and Ms Gotto arrived. One person called out , “Don’t let the buggers get you down, John .” Gorton responded with a wave and a smile.

Believers in conspiracy theories claim that while Gorton was eccentric in some ways and engaged in conduct unbecoming a PM ,including chundering into the swimming pool at The Lodge , he was done in because he expressed annoyance with the way America treated Australia in the Vietnam War, stopped the oil companies and Joh Bjelke-Petersen drilling the Barrier Reef and upset other vested interests .

In Melbourne at the time of the Broadside launch was a group , Revolutionary Socialists, who operated from The Bakery, 120 Greville Street, Prahran , that had a newsletter , HALF BAKED , authorised by Tony Brooks. It seems apparent that this collection of dough boys and girls did not regard Steedman as the greatest Lefty since the creation of sliced bread .

An example of their attitude towards him was revealed in the March 5 ,1969 edition of Half Baked,which contained whimsical commentary about the first edition of Broadside under the heading - FABULOUS FABULA, CHARLIE CHUCKLES AND THE EDUCATION OF YOUNG RANALD.

For six months, it said, “Melbourne whiz kid” , Pete Steedman, former editor of the student newspapers Lot’s Wife and Farrago, had been busy growing bushy Jeff Bate type mutton chop whiskers while getting ready to launch the magazine. Bate was the dairy farmer who swept Dame Zara Holt, widow of lost at sea PM, Harold Holt, off her feet in front of TV cameras and they later united in holy matrimony in 1969. The happy couple were the subject of a Tanner cartoon in Broadside showing a giggly and toothy Dame Zara on the back of a dairy cow , held there by her new spouse who was brandishing a grand display of facial fungus.

The Revolutionary Socialists’ roneod sheet said Broadside was published by the Age newspaper group, run by “one of the oldest whiz kids in the business , slick, blond, and baby-faced , Ranald Macdonald”, managing director of David Syme and Co. Ltd.It went on to say Steedman and Macdonald had met on the “ Carlton claret and corduroy circuit”. ( Responding to this clever jibe , Steedman, recently emphatically stated he never drank coffee with Ranald when they had creative tete- a- tetes.)

The yeasty socialists continued by declaring Steedman had talked himself into the job as editor of a “with it ” political journal at a later luncheon. (Steedman’s version is that he met Macdonald through a female they both knew soon after finishing up at Farrago . The story goes that Ranald was besotted by this lady , who had been associated with PM Holt , but his mother was against them skipping down the aisle at the kirk.)

Macdonald, great grandson of the 19th century legendary proprietor of the Age , said he wanted new publications for the publishing house , which had a new press . Steedman just happened to have rough dummy copies for no less than three possible publications- political, financial and even a women’s magazine .

According to Half Baked, Steedman operated out of a pantry-like office , had a shoestring budget and was paid the salary of a B grade journalist, about half that paid to the Herald’s social writer, Claudia, to move over to the Age.

When pressed to be more specific about Broadside’s editorial policy , Half Baked said Steedman described it as “ a sort of an adult Chucklers Weekly”. This was a typical , offbeat quip by Steedman , as it referred to the children’s Charlie Chuckles comic strip in Sir Frank Packer’s Sunday Telegraph. The Bakery brigade were, however, enthusiastic about the newest, wildest and most offbeat strip yet.......FABULA !”

Commenting further about the Half Baked write up, Steedman told Little Darwin , those Maoists had to find something bourgeois about me”- no doubt referring to the crack about him having moved in the Carlton claret and corduroy set.

There was a prescient observation about Broadside in Half Baked’s review of the magazine . It said having read the first edition , a question sprang to mind : Can Broadside continue in this form , or will Charlie eventually be forced to “chuckle under” to The Age management ?

Nextdoor to the bakery was Alice’s Restaurant, which displayed posters , like the one urging showering together to save water, that made local housewives gawk, sold revolutionary literature and local and interstate university magazines ; it had been bombed, daubed with paint and a tile had recently been thrown through its window.

The eatery/bookshop
was subject of an unusual cover article in Broadside written by Bruce Hanford , a talented American who came to Australia to evade being drafted into the Vietnam War ; he is credited in some quarters as having introducing the new journalism style of Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson to Australia, making a prodigious contribution to Australian writing. His Broadside article was in the form of an offbeat dining out tucker review, resulting in Alice's Restaurant being awarded one yellow star.
A "beaut " welded sign was no longer outside Alice’s, having been placed in the cellar after removal of hammers and sickles and “star of dave ” were painted on it by “vandal anti –semite goons”.

Steedman was with Hanford during the munch in and engaged in heated words with someone in the building . In no uncertain fashion , Steedman often told the Revolutionary Socialists and others he was not going to be led by any overseas person, be they a d*go Pope, a man who had written a little Red Book or some murderous Russians . In this single , typical, colourful utterance, he managed to upset the Maoists, the Trotskyites, assorted other revolutionaries , Catholics, Santamaria , Archibishop Mannix (if he was still alive at the time ), the Democratic Labor Party, Opus Dei, the Spanish Inquisition Fan Club etc, etc.

According to the write up , Steedman also spoke to another activist in the cafe- Jill Jolliffe- now well known in Darwin for her books about East Timor, one made into the film, Balibo, starring Anthony Lapaglia , and her ongoing support for the Timorese.

There was a sign over the entrance to the restaurant in four inch high letters stating Jolliffe was a secondhand dealer . A Monash student , with “a Cilla Black ante - nose job”, she wore a bandanna at her neck and a button on her jumper read SERVE THE PEOPLE. She also helped run the Labor bookshop at Monash. Alice’s booklist included -The Making of the English Working Class , E.P.Thompson; May Day Mainifesto 1968, edited Raymond Williams; Communist China ,edited Franz Schurmann & Orville Scholl; The Dialectics of Liberation, edited David Cooper; Revolution in the Revolution, Regis Debray; French Revolution 1968, Sealy and McConville ; Again Korea, Wilfred Burchett ; Miami & the Siege of Chicago,Norman Mailer; NLF Shopping Bags,50 cents each; Obsolete Communism-The left Wing Alternative ,Cohn-Bendit; One Dimensional Man,H. Marcuse;Episodes of the Revolutionary War, Che Guevara.

Jolliffe was pictured, above , looking at the smashed window through which the tile had been thrown. In his inimitable style, Hanford wrote the missile had presumably been thrown by a loutish fascist running dog (on a horse?) but what the hell! Those are the breaks !! When you’re making a revolution !!! Broadside wondered if a Molotov cocktail would next be thrown at the premises.

Readers were informed that Jolliffe had been prosecuted for blasphemy after the last Billy Graham Crusade . Her defence that Graham was big business so ‘‘unblasphemable”, the magistrate swayed by her argument. Jolliffe was quoted : “ The policeman who charged me hates my guts and he’s charging me again on another charge.”

Sitting on a rattan mat, a can of beer in hand , Hanford bummed a cigarette and was shown offensive letters- from “ cuckooland”- described by him as "foolshat sheets of rhetoric a la canned Mailer. " One, addressed to all revolutionary socialists, said it objected to their subversion of Australian society, warned that it knew who they were and may have to destroy their activities and them. It was signed C.E.N.T.I.P.E.D.E , a dead centipede stapled to the bottom of a red serviette .

The comment was made that somebody had gone to a lot of trouble to press the centipede, Jolliffee retorted: “Or oppress it.” In his distinctive way, Hanford responded: If you don’t mind making bad puns,” the reporter says sourly .

The subject of the nearby Prahran Police Station came up during the discourse , and Hanford wrote “my editor”- Steedman - editorialised a bit about the said police , whom he considered nasty, mean and cruel as they ( or several of them ) once hurt him body and soul. [Asked to explain this intriguing para , Steedman this year said police there were known to hang people out the second floor window by their feet over a fire hydrant , which sounded like a visit to South Africa in the bad old days . He had been taken there the night he and others were arrested outside the Fat Black Pussy Cat and charges were dismissed when it was revealed that there was an ice box in the back of the police car and beer fumes could be detected on the officers’ breath. ]

Hanford reported that the crockery was neatly stacked in Alice’s diner and there had been liberal use of disinfectant to comply with health requirements. Half filled bowls of cauliflower, tomatoes, parsnips ,carrots and oranges were spotted. And proof of a conspiracy : purple snap dragons and mandarins!

When the Melbourne based abortion law reformer, Dr Bertram Wainer , flew to Sydney in July 1969 to present the NSW Police Commissioner, Norman Allen, with evidence of police corruption , he was accompanied by Hanford and another well- known reporter, Evan Whitton. Dr Wainer refused to go to the police headquarters , fearing he could be assassinated , and instead went to the 2GB boardroom where he was interviewed by Superintendent Don Fergusson and the notorious Roger Rogerson.

The two reporters were asked to leave the room after it was noticed that Whitton had a tape recorder, but they remained . The police refused to take evidence from Wainer in front of witnesses . Corruption was rife in NSW at the time, premier Bob Askin regularly receiving a brown paper bag , and it did not contain a cut lunch.

Wainer may have been wise not to go to police headquarters because Superintendent Fergusson was found shot dead in the CIB toilets , the theory being that he had been murdered by a corrupt ex cop because he refused to take drug bribe money.

Hanford also played an important part in airing the circumstances under which Aboriginal Rupert Maxwell Stuart,from Central Australia , had been convicted and sentenced to hang for the rape murder of nine- year- old Mary Olive Hattam, near Ceduna, South Australia,on December 20,1958.

The first interview of Stuart by a reporter raised serious doubts about the way Stuart , an illiterate, had signed a fluent written confession . The report was offered to a Murdoch newspaper and declined , but Hanford arranged for it to be run in the underground newspaper ,The Digger , started by Phillip Frazer, mentioned earlier in this series, who had been involved with Steedman on Lot’s Wife and Farrago, and also contributed to Broadside.

Copies of The Digger article were distributed to the news editors of most major newspapers and set in train a massive legal and political controversy involving Rupert Murdoch , his Adelaide News editor ,Rohan Rivett , anthropologist Professor Strehlow , an attempted appeal to the Privy Council , a Royal Commission, eventually resulting in Stuart being freed. The News , Adelaide, campaigned strongly against Stuart's death sentence , with Murdoch playing a big part in the way the paper covered and wrote up its reports.

Editor Rivett and the News itself were charged with seditious and malicious libel, but acquitted. Murdoch dismissed Rivett a few weeks later.

There is an erroneous claim that The Digger title was inspired by the reference to the British press nicknaming Rupert Murdoch, the Dirty Digger . Phillip Frazer, now editor - publisher of the influential US political newsletter , Hightower Lowdown , recently set the record straight for Little Darwin . The name for his underground paper, he explained , suggested digging up the facts , or the dirt; it referenced the English egalitarian rebels of the 1600s, and the Aussie soldiers who used the term to distinguish themselves from their British overlords. While " RSL blokes "were likely to turn crimson at the sight of the magazine, he figured using Digger on the masthead reclaimed the term as one celebrating independence and Australianism, simultaneously decoupling it from the conservatisms of our fathers’ generation.

Hanford and Steedman combined to cover a large July 4 demontration in Melbourne . While the big end of town , especially at the Melbourne Club, was shocked by some of the radical content of the magazine , it is understood Fabula received close scrutiny by its members , she being such a stirring example of Australian femininity .

Apart from Carr’s Fabula, other artists and cartoonists included the already mentioned Les Tanner, the one and only Michael Leunig, and another inspired black and white artist , Peter Burleigh, an architecture student . Leunig drew some magnificent two pagers sending up the education system,ASIO and likened Australia’s defence to a clipped galah placed in a made in America cage covered with a dark hood .

At a time when police were frequently charging people with offensive behaviour and resisting arrest, especially at anti war and anti conscription demos, Leunig revealed how a solitary police officer playing around with his guitar composed a bestseller: OFFENSIVE BEHAVIOUR AND RESISTING ARREST. The tune became so popular in police circles officers were shown singing along in chorus, dancing to it,emerging from the grim Russell Street police headquarters with batons and even menacing a baby in a pram with the catchy words, alarmed citizenry fleeing in various directions .

Another of Leunig’s drawings illustrating an article which told how Aboriginal Marcia Langton ,a 17-year-old arts-law student , obtained a miner’s right, staked out a mining claim in Queen’s Park, Brisbane ,and held a vigil in support of land rights for Aborigines at Gove Peninsula, NT, where Nabalco had a lease to mine bauxite . Bulldozers had damaged a sacred site there and Mathaman Marika said he had cried when he saw what had been done. Ms Langton maintained her vigil , was picked up by the police and carried to another spot. Leunig’s associated cartoon showed a suited miner in a hard hat , saying : “ Sacred Ground...? Of course...! I can think of nothing more sacred than a valuable bauxite deposit ...”

Today Professor Langton is an influential ,outspoken, straight - talking champion for indigenous people. As a member of the NT Aboriginal Issues Unit she took part in the 1989 Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody. Professor Langton also said the proposed 2010 resources tax needed redesigning to support Indigenous rights and employment.

In the case of cartoonist Burleigh, a drawing highlighted anthrax tests at the UTAH CHEMICAL WARFARE RESEARCH premises and included a cage of laboratory mice bearing the familiar names of Leunig and Steedman .

Editorial conferences were unusual and bloodthirsty affairs at Broadside, a bit like a scene from Underbelly . Editor Steedman would announce that in the next edition they would “kill” somebody, a politician, an organisation, a right winger . The order to exterminate was often used when talking with cartoonists Carr, Burleigh and Leunig.

Broadside took several potshots at ASIO, not only through Fabula. It revealed the ASIO internal codename for itself, SCORPION. Steedman explained that ASIO had made his life difficult during the university days , so they deserved a serve .

A controversial article, BLACK POWER IN AUSTRALIA? , raised the possibility of Aborigines rising up and killing whites if they did not help , like rioting Negroes were at the time in America, and quoted Bob Mazra , president of the Aborigines Advancement League. He was critical of Aboriginal Affairs Minister Wentworth over the handling of NT land rights and said Bill Jeffery had been sacked from his NT job for doing what he thought was right.

Two powerful Burleigh cartoons illustrated the piece, one showing an Aboriginal shanty scene , with music playing Waltzing Jedda ( Jedda was the Charles Chevaul film which starred Robert Tudawali and Ngarla Kunoth ) , an Aboriginal man holding a newspaper, the Wilcannia Blot, highlighting the American riots, saying, “ Plurry American Negroes must be worse off than we are ...”Without a doubt, the dire threat in this article must have been the subject of deep discussion in corridors of power. There was uproar in official circles when Roosevelt Brown,chairman of the continuing committee of the Caribbean and Latin American Black Power Movement,flew into Melbourne to have talks with Aboriginal leaders to let them know they were not alone. Leader of the Opposition in the Bermuda parliament, Brown , 36, was a former science lecturer. His impending visit had only been known by Mazra of the Aborigines Advancement League , Bruce McGuiness , the League’s liaison officer , and Gerald Frape, who wrote a three page report for Broadside.

At a rowdy media conference attended by Aboriginal pastor , Reverend Doug Nichols, later the knighted South Australian Governor , Brown was asked what Black Power meant and simply said the answer was “the empowerment of black people to guide their own destinies.Broadside said “please explain " telegrams had been sent to those connected with the visit.

Nobody was sacrosanct- Billy Graham was presented as the Super Evangelist in a Superman -like outfit, playing the cash register, which accorded with Jill Jolliffe’s defence in the blasphemy case. Hanging premier Sir Henry Bolte also received critical attention,wearing a tie in the shape of a noose in a cartoon.

Burleigh excelled again in a full page send up of the Australian early warning system, Darwin Station, above, showing a puzzled Chinese soldier with a burp gun and hand grenades during an invasion, peering in at a soldier snoring at his desk in front of a radar screen, unaware of warning beeps, a panic button nearby, and a 1932 nude calendar , with the compliments of Alf Resco ,butcher and embalmer. There were instructions to insert a 5 cent piece in the radar . When making tea, the radar had to be turned off because it caused interference. Also seen through the window was a ground to air missile - like the Blood Hound ones now flanking the entrance to the RAAF base- with a wind up key, a Blood Nose .

A special cartoon to mark Burleigh’s departure for London depicted him in a slouch hat ,a bit like Barry Mackenzie, with a letter of introduction from Henry Bolte , intent on letting the Pommie Customs know that Barry Humphries is a twisted intellectual. He also intended telling the Mother Country we were a nation of thoughtful people, depicted in the drawing with empty thought bubbles , an RSL person carrying a banner reading BAN THE BUMS ( not the bombs) , another goofy marcher with BAN THE WHORS on his T –shirt. Just to show the Brits how strong were the ties with Australia, Burleigh was taking a food parcel for Prince Charles.

After Burleigh’s departure, a reader said a line which often appeared in his cartoons - BASIL SWEETLIPS WAS HERE- which had inspired many toilet artists , was sadly missed. Astute Little Darwin readers will notice that Basil Sweetlips also appeared to have been a person of authority in the Darwin early warning system .

Syndicated American satirists included Jules Feiffer and Ron Cobb. It is interesting to note that while a nuclear waste dump is likely to be established in the NT at Muckaty Station,one of Cobb’s well known drawings, many anti war , is of an American government nuclear waste dump, Luminous Flats , Nevada , a cigar smoking military guard , with three legs , sitting at the entrance reading a newspaper.

An article by G.R. Lansell which grabbed much attention in the art world included a “rogue’s gallery '' of Australian newspaper art critics. Broadside , for the first time , shone the searchlight on the operations of the Victorian Housing Commission which upset officialdom.

Regular columnists were ALP Leader Arthur “Cocky” Calwell who had a spot headed Stirring the Possum and Liberal Andrew Peacock. Steedman said Peacock failed to grab the opportunity to make an impression with young, thinking people, his column usually about some boring subject . Even though Steedman thought Calwell should step aside or resign, he at least had more to say.

Important articles run in the magazine included one about Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett and the Vietnam Paris Peace Talks , which had to be condensed by Phillip Frazer because of a Supreme Court writ issued by Burchett against the Herald and Weekly Times Ltd., as any discussion of certain aspects of his life could be considered contempt of court .

Other subjects were boxer Lionel Rose and Aboriginal rights , the role of ASIO, an interview with Cassius Clay , Australia’s new Left , Pensioner Power , Billy McMahon’s consolidation of power in the Liberal Party and the concept of Fortress Australia .

Barry Humphries featured in the hilarious cover story at the top of this post in which Broadside’s Moscow reporter, Beria Humphivitch , revealed a terrifying document smuggled into Russia, signed by dozens of oppressed Australian artists, writers and intellectuals who were being forcibly restricted from fleeing to the free world. In Australia the state forced artists to wear badges proclaiming they were overpaid poofters. It showed a shabby-looking, mad- eyed Aussie artist in dressing gown , slippers and monocle , going through the stages of self immolation with the help of a candle, a packet of briquettes and a container of kerosene.

Several people got their first run in Broadside . One was a tutor at Monash University, Michelle Grattan , now a respected Age political reporter and commentator . Gerard Henderson , head of today’s right wing Sydney Institute , featured. Steedman and Henderson had a verbal joust last year in Henderson’s online Media Watch Dog column, which features what seems to be an odd looking Aussie blue heeler , or Purple People Eater, that one suspects animal lover and humane Royal portrait painter, Rolf Harris , would order put down by a Pommie vet , following comments made about Steedman during the 1960s in Melbourne.

Eagle- eyed Henderson had pointed out that Steedman had been Peter in university days, now Pete. Pete responded by saying that Henderson was plain Gerry back in those days , before he became “ a forelock tugger” to the establishment and developed “ that plumy voice ". Steedman continued by saying Henderson and his mates in Melbourne at the time were not getting much sex and leading boring and frustrating lives , getting their vicarious kicks from watching him .

Admitting that he had mellowed nowadays, Pete signed off his billet doux : Peace man ( Does that fit the stereotype?) No doubt finding it hard to believe that Pete had gone soft about the edges , Henderson replied to Pete/Peter /Alan , kindly thanking him for the letter saying part of it had been a relief : “ Here was I planning a visit to a psychiatrist to find out where I was at -or was. And then along came your letter which referred to my alleged inferiority complex, massive guilt complex, jealousy, frustration-all manifested in my ( allegedly) sad life since no one loves me. Thanks for the analysis .”

Another journo published in Broadside was Greg Shackleton , one of the Balibo Five media team murdered by the Indonesians.

Among the many other writers for Broadside were John Larkin, Don Chipp, Alan Ashbolt, John Playford, Anthony Storr ,Cyril Connolly ,Maxwell Kent ( the alias of a well known scribe ) , Robert Hughes, John Flaherty, Dennis Altman, Craig McGregor, Claude Cockburn , Don Miller, Ross Terrill and Owen Webster . Phillip Adams also provided copy .

Steedman’s presence in the conservative Collins Street Age premises caused eyebrows to be raised . In the October 16, 2004 commemorative edition of The Age, marking 150 years of publication, reporter Roger Aldridge recalled the golden 1960s and covered the arrival of Steedman thus:

Then-shock,horror-on Macdonald’s initiative, Pete Steedman, the revolutionary from Central Casting , moved into the eighth floor to publish an instrument of insurrection called Broadside. He rode a motorbike and wore black jeans and a bikie jacket and T-shirt with writing on in the actual office! One day he put his boots on the desk.

Steedman-who later became a Federal Labor MP-entertained a steady stream of Marxists, Maoists, Trots, anarchists, conscientious objectors ,union leaders and troublemakers who eventually made their way downstairs to the reporters’ room to reform us lackeys of the capitalist press.

The article included a photo of Steedman, in black, seated,wearing dark glasses inside ,holding what we thought may have been a glass of Carlton claret , but were told it was beer. Expanding files were in the background. It could be said he has a fetish for keeping files.

Aldridge mentioned another radical change at the Age- appointment of a fashion editor–stylish, big–boned and leggy, who wrote captions in haikus and blank verse, given an office next to Steedman . [ All these startling changes were part of Ranald’s effort to rejuvenate the tired old business and fight off competition from the Melbourne Herald and another old family newspaper group , the Fairfaxes,in Sydney, who eventually took over .]

Little Darwin referred the evocative passages by Aldridge to Steedman for comment, knowing full well that his agile tongue would instantly provide a quotable quote. And indeed it did . Pete admitted he and some of the cavalcade of people who came into his office blew marijuana smoke into the office ducting hoping to make the Age lackeys and executives relaxed and glassy eyed.

Broadside even had a resident poet, Russell Deeble, appointed " after much imbibing of the nectar of the Gods" at the launch of his third book of poems, High on a Horse on Wax Wings . Described as a “pseudo-scruff with literary pretensions” , Deeble had been a journo, junior editor and delivered poetry readings at universities and on radio and television. Unfortunately , only three of his poems seem to have made it into the magazine, but not due to a poor response to his horsey couplets.

Broadside , like Icarus, folded and fell into a heap when Steedman resigned after a second edition was pulped in October 1969-not due to curvaceous Fabula , but because it backed the ALP in the 1969 federal election and the Age had not. There had also been an anti war cartoon in which a man was shown brandishing his penis as a cannon and this had upset the management .

Another cartoon which showed PM Gorton explaining we were in Vietnam to enable people to have a free vote, but we had to kill everyone who might vote communist before it was achieved may also have sealed the magazine’s fate . It is interesting to note the 1969 election night , which failed to see Whitlam win, provided the setting for Don’s Party , as we pointed out previously Steedman now lives in a house which once belonged to playwright David Williamson .

Broadside had run seven months and had an undoubted impact ,not only because of patriotic Fabula . Steedman maintained the magazine was hampered all along because of the small staff, poor promotion and the Age’s method of costing production . The Age also launched another newspaper, originally intended as a Sunday , but changed to a daily afternoon tabloid , Newsday ,on September 30, 1969, which promised to be cheeky, bright and lively . TV commercials for the paper included rapid glimpses of girls bouncing about in bathing suits, none as eye catching as Fabula.

Newsday flopped
, despite the last Fabula strip mentioning that the paper was coming and that Broadside readers had 33 1/3 less cavities . Newsday ceased publication after seven months with the loss of 67 journalists’ jobs and the expenditure of $3million. One of the problems faced by the paper had been the fact that its circulation was severely hampered by distribution companies .

Steedman had warned Macdonald about this problem, he and others in the university having encountering the same barrier . When the decision was made to close Broadside , highly regarded Age editor, Graham Perkin , offered Steedman a job assisting Alan Barnes in the Canberra bureau but he refused . For a number of reasons , Melbourne was becoming a “bit hot” for Steedman . He advised female students about their rights in an abortion inquiry resulting in police talking of charging him with "perverting the course of justice ". Police strongly threatened him over his involvement in the inquiry into police and the abortions rackets which eventually saw two senior officers gaoled.

Under these circumstances, it seemed not even Fabula could save him, so he decided to head off overseas, went freelancing in Asia , and eventually landed in London , where Peter Burleigh's food parcel had been received with thanks at Buckingham Palace, Chiller and the Corgis loving the Chiko Rolls. NEXT EDITION : End of the swinging 60s ...long live the dangerous 70s.


One of our roving correspondents spotted the Honourable Kon Vatskalis, MLA , at Casuarina Square energetically leafing through a pile of those dreaded remainder cookery books which have inundated Australia like a tsunami .

Vatskalis has a smorgasbord of ministerial responsibilities- health, children and families, child protection, mining, fisheries , primary industry , etc. On top of this, the ALP says he is a tireless doorknocker. With all these tasty responsibilities and moving about his electorate like Roadrunner, you would think he hardly has time to whip up a sunshine cake, mix an instant pudding , or open a packet of alphabet soup to help the Legislative Assembly and baffled TV viewers understand what he is saying on matters of Territory importance.

So why is he taking such a big interest in cookery books ? Surely he is not cooking for himself at night, inspired by one of those mind- numbing , crappy TV cooking shows? None of the books he was thumbing through, we are told, specialised in Greek tucker, but then he should know how to turn an octopus inside out , moider a squid and shower with a sponge to save water seeing he is of Grecian descent , his parents having come to Australia in search of the Golden Fleece.

One political cynic we know with a colourful and endearing turn of phrase , a bit of a fang man , on hearing Kon has been seen browsing through cook books like a seasoned Margaret Fulton , said it is because the Henderson government’s goose is cooking and the CLP is burnt to a crisp , there also being an outbreak of salmonella in its ranks.

Monday, March 7, 2011


To mark International Women's Day , Little Darwin runs this old real photograph from our ephemera collection of a patriotic girl called Phyllis dressed as Australia . Her attire is made to represent panels in the Australian flag, possibly for an an Australia Day Parade, about 70 or more years ago .