Friday, August 31, 2012


Ratting through garbage bins is not beyond Little Darwin when it comes to seeking ephemera of interest. Recently old Ansett Aviation luggage labels ( above ) were retrieved from a  bin.  Ansett , Australia’s second biggest airline, collapsed in September 2001 . In the late 1970s, Ansett became the target of hostile takeover bids. Rupert Murdoch of News Corp and transport giant TNT, headed by Peter Abeles, gained control in 1979 after waging a battle against Robert Holmes a Court’s Bell Group and Ampol. News Corp and TNT starved the airline of vital reinvestment needed to upgrade its fleet and operations. Murdoch’s primary interest was to gain control of television broadcaster Channel 10, owned by Ansett, and to use the airline as a cash cow to fund the growth of his media empire. In 1984, News Corp used a $78 million dividend from its half share in Ansett to finance its expansion into the US media market. The advertisement for the NT operator , Connair , was found inside a l973 Christmas time Alice Springs Tourist Guide. Seven times a week Connair flew from Alice to Mt Isa with links to Cairns, Townsville and Brisbane . With a population close to 13,500 at the time , it was projected that Alice could have between 41,000 and 53,000 by l990 ( latest figure posted is about 28,000, showing projections were highly optimistic ) . Evening fun in those days included the drive in theatre , dancing at the Stuart Arms Hotel, mini golf and folk music . The Battarbee Gallery offered a collection by Rex Battarbee, Albert Namatjira and other Aranda artists.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


There is an impediment to the reopening of the Victoria Hotel. Journos are free to follow up this news tip. Apart from that, at Little Darwin’s request , the new management cleaned the area around the memorial to aviation pioneers who stayed at the Vic Hotel. However, removing the spider webs and gecko droppings from within the showcase covering the scratched names and messages on the wall made by aviators is a real problem . It is a supposedly sealed showcase (nobody told the spiders and geckos ) and there seems to be no easy way to clean out the interior. Is this a job for the US Marines as it seems Darwin is not technically advanced enough to cope with this situation? Little Darwin’s repeated requests for action on this historical site fell on those obviously deaf government ears during the Henderson days . Perhaps the CLP could place it on the first 100 days action list?


Using a creatively  revamped  Queensland   ALP  postcard, this is  a strong  comment on the slash and burn  LNP  Government   headed by  Campbell Newman.  It  starts  with the  well known slogan ...Queensland, Beautiful one day, Newman the next...   Former Premier,  Anna Bligh, asks if the old  ALP  regime is missed yet.  Notes attached to the postcard  ask  who printed this  on colour (LNP seems obsessed  about restricting the  use of photocopiers by public servants ) and also  wants  to know who  said  a coloured sticky note  could be usedThis gross misuse  is  explained by a troublemaker penning  in :   I bought them  myself .   

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Reverend  Renton with part of his book collection .
Two stalwart supporters of the Magnetic Island branch of the ALP are Reverend Alan Renton and his wife, Shirley, both in their eighties . They can be aptly described as ALP True Believers . They were driven out of Queensland during the reign of Joh Bjelke –Petersen for protesting about the way indigenous people were treated over the Weipa bauxite deposits and the police state-like tactics which stifled freedom of speech and imposed restrictions on the right of public assembly and protest. Both are now lifetime members of the ALP. In the case of Alan , 85 in October , he has been a member for half a century .

 Born at Port Augusta , South Australia, Shirley spent the first three years of her life in the tiny settlement of Cook, on the transcontinental railway line , her loco driver father running trains across the Nullarbor. A brother , “Baby Jim,”  died from whooping cough, it being 500 miles to the nearest doctor. In 1935 the family were transferred to Quorn.

In l939, aged seven , Shirley, sitting at her mother’s feet, noticed that she reacted with concern about an item of news on the radio. Asking her mother what was wrong, she responded by saying , "I think there is going to be another war." And so there was . The outbreak of WW11 saw Shirley’s father , who had been a sergeant bugler in WW1 and served at Gallipoli ,  forced back to engine driving, running troops, munitions and supplies  from Adelaide to Alice Springs. Three teenage brothers were employed at Whyalla shipbuilding and were exempted from war duty . Shirley developed a strong interest in politics from the age of nine during WW11 when she was required to read newspapers to her mother who was then suffering from the eye disease glaucoma . Both parents were politically minded and her mother often spoke out , at times saying, “ I must get off my soapbox.”

Newspapers were full of politics and war news which Shirley read to her mother. Mother, she recalls, was not impressed with Robert Menzies ; Labor leaders Curtin and Chifley were admired, looked up to. Because her father had been a military bugler, all the children were taught music, the boys taking up brass instruments . In Shirley’s case , a chronic asthmatic, she was sent to the nuns at Quorn and taught the violin. After doing well, she was then taught the piano. While she could not run about and play sport because of asthma , she excelled at music .

After the war, her restless father, seeking a new life, moved the family to Tasmania , where he intended trying farming or anything that took his fancy. There was a time when they had a nice house with a shopfront, her father intending to be a shopkeeper. She was playing a difficult Chopin’s polonaise when a traveller called on her mother and asked who was playing the piano . When told it was her daughter, aged 15, he asked to see her in action. Unaware that he was in the room , she played on. The man said she had great talent and should be taken to Hobart and introduced to Madam Helen George, who played a large part in music education in the Apple Isle. She also came under the attention of Lionel Hickey who was forming the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. Aged 17, Shirley found herself in the Tasmanian Symphony Orchesta , positioned in the back row, when it was performing under a grumpy conductor.

Sent away from Tasmania to Springsure , Queensland, in a bid to ease her asthma , Shirley met Alan Renton. He had been working in a laboratory after qualifying as a chemical engineer until it was found that he was colour blind . Answering “ the call”, he had undertaken a four year course in Divinity at Brisbane University and the Theological Hall. He popped the question, she refused , and returned to Tasmania . In her words, he “chased me,”  they became engaged and married.

An ordained Presbyterian Minister, he served in several Queensland parishes. Because the wife of a minister was expected to work as support  for a minister  in those days , Shirley’s potential career in music came to an end. However, she used her talent to teach many children . When they were stationed at Proserpine during the reign of John Bjelke-Petersen –“a terrible time ”- Alan was appalled by the way the Aboriginal people were treated at Aurukun, Weipa, Mapoon and Mornington Island over the Weipa bauxite deposits.The people did not want mining to go ahead, but all their rights, their land,  the mineral deposits had been handed over to on overseas company . Alan expressed his feelings in the local paper and attracted the wrath of the Queensland government  His comments were attacked by various government spokesmen, including the Mines Minister, Ron Camm.  For many weeks letters went to  and fro in the local paper between Camm and Alan.

Half the congregation stopped coming to church ; the other half remained friends and loyal even though not agreeing with Alan. Some townsfolk crossed to the other side of the road when they saw Shirley coming. A local lawyer supported Alan in his views, but asked not to be named because it would be bad for his business. Alan and Shirley stuck it out for a year and then he accepted a position with the new Uniting Church in Tasmania. On the car trip to Tasmania, camped at a beach not far from Brisbane, Alan heard of a Christmas Protest Meeting to be held by churches in King George Square with a Theological Hall professor speaking. Before the meeting some of the organisers met in in the basement of a church, those present included a nun and an Anglican priest.

When Alan attended an ecumenical gathering in Brisbane somebody asked if he was one of “Joh’s men ,” a spy. Reassured, Alan was accepted ; they walked up to King George Square , no more than two side by side, so that they would not be picked up by the police for "an illegal march".The small crowd of church people sang Carols under the Christmas Tree. All around them in the square and in the street were armed police, plain clothes police in black trousers and white shirts, with Black Mariahs waiting for any opportunity to make arrests. The situation was likened to George Orwell’s l984 . Many other church ministers protested about the injustices and several others, because of the pressure, moved to other States.

When the Rentons moved to Tasmania Shirley was “afraid” of police at the time because of the police state experiences in Queensland. However,Shirley's strong political  sentiments  came through when they visited Canberra during the sacking of the Whitlam Government by Governor-General , Sir John Kerr. She went to what is now the old parliament house on a tour. There was a makeshift sign  near a portrait of Malcolm Fraser saying he was the interim Prime Minister.
Laughing ( above )  at the retelling of  the following  audacious act, Shirley said  she grabbed  the pole and placed it  before  “ Gough”. Fraser’s  Chief of Staff, Tony Eggleton, drove up to the building and Shirley had to be restrained by family members from placing a WE WANT GOUGH sticker on the vehicle.

Now living in Mandalay Avenue, Magnetic Island, a short ferry trip from Townsville , Shirley and Alan are avid book readers , and each has a computer . In Shirley’s case, she has a large collection of books on music and politics. Because of physical ailments Shirley requires a  motorised getabout, a walking frame and a home  chair lift  to get from the ground floor  upstairs . Mounted on  her battery driven  vehicle she is called " Speedy Gonzales."  Despite the frailty of her body, she points out, with a chuckle, that she has been evaluated as highly intelligent , with “ all my marbles .” Alan is a regular at garage sales on the island and has a large book collection, which at last count included about 437 Penguin Classics , ranging from translations of most European countries' classics, also English, USA, Chinese, Japanese, Indian  etc., collected over more than 50 years. “ By reading the classics I can get the distilled wisdom of human nature, its failings and successes over the last 3000 years,” he says. In the case of many modern books, perhaps one in a thousand would be good enough to be reprinted in 100 years, he opines.

He once tested his knowledge of French on some WW1 French postcards I bought in Townsville . He helps run the Uniting Church on the island which, like the ALP, is down on  numbers. The church  supports many appeals for help for overseas aid for the disadvantaged. Some years ago a lawn sale was held at the Renton residence   to help a West Timor church. Since then, because the church is run entirely by volunteers, many thousands  of dollars have been  donated to the needy in Australia and overseas .

Innumerable people in difficult situations have been helped by the Rentons over the years , their door open to anyone in trouble. Police and medicos have referred individuals and families to them for assistance. Their services now, of course, are in a voluntary capacity. When I lived on Magnetic Island Reverend Renton jostled me at garage sales as we went through books on offer and he once enlisted me to help him deliver a trailer load of  furniture, including a refrigerator ,  for a couple he and his wife helped for years .

The Rentons are not blind, unquestioning followers of the ALP , being prepared to voice their views about party shortcomings. The  way Kevin Rudd was replaced as PM was outrageous, according to Shirley. Why the Cabinet could not have resolved any issues it had with his leadership style was hard to understand . Rudd, she added, was good in Foreign Affairs , still Prime Minister material . Dealing with PM Julia Gillard , she said vicious attacks by the media and the Coalition wanting to grab power had reached a new low in Australia . Newspapers were now so slanted that you could not believe what was printed in them . Democracy, the country was being torn down by the toxic comments .

Former Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, she rated an intelligent person unable to get a good message across because of failures within the party system and modern media . In her lifetime, Shirley Renton , a keen observer of politics, has seen many ups and down - the long reign of Menzies, the Petrov Affair , formation of the break away Democratic Labor Party, the Bjelke –Petersen gerrymander , the drowning of Harold Holt and the end of the ALP’ s long time in the wilderness with the joyous election of the Whitlam Government, the surprising , sometimes infuriating , manifestations of  the political cycle juggernaut.

While restricted physically in her movements, in her home , surrounded by memories , her music, family photographs, seascape paintings  done by a son , a framed picture of daughter as camp draught champion of Tasmania , souvenirs , including fossils and artefacts , from places in which they lived, Shirley’s “marbles” are evident when she tells anecdotes, laughs at life’s many twists and turns.  Our conversation took place over a cuppa and  a banana sandwich specially prepared for her by Alan , before he caught the ferry into town to buy her some new medication and a pair of slippers . Before he went , Alan , a handyman , found time to fix the wing on my reading glasses , with the aid of a magnifying glass and a special tool , after a screw fell out. Politics, says Shirley, is a heady mixture, and she  issued an invitation for new members to come along to help re-invigorate the party on the island and elsewhere in the nation .

In his comments about the problems of the party , Alan ranged across two reports into proposed changes for the ALP nationally and in Queensland. Outside interference in the selection of candidates for the seat of Townsville had resulted in a large number of people leaving the party in disgust. He produces a photo of himself with PM Julia Gillard at a special function organised by the ALP in Townsville. There was something wrong with the organisation of the party, he said, when it could not  arrange more than 20 or 25 people to attend that function. -- (By Peter Simon ).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


The Seven Year Itch featured in the downfall of the Henderson Team .  On election day , near the Darwin Karama electorate voting booth-the seat held by Treasurer , Delia Lawrie , now Leader of the Opposition - was none other than the Hollywood film star , Marilyn Monroe , flaunting a CLP T-shirt . Actually it was the larger than life figure of Marilyn which used to be one of the unusual items on display in Finlay’s Sticky Beak Shop, depicting the scene from The Seven Year Itch , her skirt blown up by  gusts from subway ventsLittle Darwin understands that the figure , complete with a  wind blowing device, was bought from Finlay’s for a mere 50 bucks. In her slightly more demure attire, she supported young CLP candidate, Rohan Kelly, 23,  who polled well for a new chum . It is a shame that the real Marilyn was not available to sing happy birthday , Mr President , to Terry Mills . Is it true that some ALP helpers complained about Marilyn’s presence ? The above  photograph shows a  26ft  high sculpture of  Marilyn in the  itchy pose, which stopped  the  traffic  in Chicago. How come  Darwin's  dynamic media  did not  pick up the fact  that  Marilyn participated  in the election ?

Monday, August 27, 2012


In the wake of every election a major shake out takes place, post- mortems are held, old scores settled , odd stories run riot. Naturally, there is speculation about the likely new ministerial appointments and who will be given the shadow ministry responsibilities. Shock departures from the political fray are often announced . Among the most interesting scuttlebutt being put about town is that the former Chief Minister , Paul Henderson, and/or  former Treasurer, Delia Lawrie , will announce  retirement “within days.” Why ? we asked , reaching for a few grains of salt . The emphatic explanation given claimed that retiring in the top positions meant their superannuation entitlement would be much higher than staying on in Opposition in much lesser positions on lower pay. Whether fact, fiction or indication of a stressful build up period , this is not known. Nevertheless, it is an indication of the buzz about the town***Another fascinating P3 titbit is that when the CLP previously lost government and had to move from the Wedding Cake top floor there was a large amount  of choice vino in their bunker . Wonder how much  workers’ juice , saki , cognac, champers  and Scotch will have to be moved for  the ALP ? *** Speculation also concerns the future of former ALP spin doctors and a certain journalist in the media who is expected to depart the NT . *** Most fascinating is the suggestion that a special calendar is planned for the Christmas market which will focus on colourful aspects of Territory politics, a bit like those fabulous Pickering cartoons which showed many Australian politicians in all their glory .***Channel 9 is to be taught the correct pronunciation of NEW ERA...not NEW ERROR . Then again, some might  think it  was   another  Territory  technicolor  blue .

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Interesting to see that Little Darwin’s series on Darwin activist Rob Wesley-Smith under the heading  THE UNQUIET AUSTRALIAN ( a play on  Graham Green's book, The Quiet American ) carried over into the 2012 Portrait of a Senior Territorian. The oil painting of Wes done by NT News reporter Alison Bevege (above) was entitled THE UNQUIET ACHIEVER.  Another person mentioned from time to time in Little Darwin – veteran photographer Barry Ledwidge – is also an artist  and entered a portrait of scientist Roswyn Rennie. In his biographical details, Baz said he spent a lot of time sailing and going to parties. He also proudly pointed out his membership of the Darwin Ice Hockey team and  the fact that he eats lots of Vegemite .

Saturday, August 25, 2012

" NEVER TRUST NEWSPAPERS." Continuing biography of crusading Northern Territory editor,"Big Jim" Bowditch.

Boyish  and  diminutive-looking Bowditch (left) with close friend, Federated Clerks' Union official, Harry Krantz, both strong ALP supporters. Bowditch challenged   "pseudo Labor Party" members, later stood as  an  ALP candidate in Darwin .
IN 1950 Bowditch became involved in the bitter national union and political struggle during which ASIO kept a close watch on him. He went from being a clerk hailed as a war hero to a person openly branded a “ Commie” and spat at during a rowdy meeting in an Adelaide theatre.
(By Peter Simon )
The union drama was due to the right wing campaign to “ cleanse ’’ Australian unions of left wingers and Communists . Catholic Action took a key part in the battle and “Industrial Groupers” manoeuvred to seize control of unions . The ensuing brawl led to a split in the ALP and the formation of the Democratic Labour Party . One of the major targets was the Federated Clerks’ Union ; a scalp obtained by the right wingers was Jack Hughes of the NSW branch who had inspired Bowditch with his powerful oratory.

In the fiercely fought election for the SA branch of the FCU , which included Jim’s position as secretary of the Alice section , he supported Krantz as SA state secretary. Bowditch found himself in the strange position of being supported by both sides in the election. Without consulting him , the Groupers claimed him as one of theirs, probably because they felt a war hero was against anyone branded a Communist. Bowditch received a telephone call from an Adelaide journalist pointing out that he was being supported by both sides . Bowditch said he was in Harry Krantz’s group , which resulted in a newspaper story saying that he had refused to back the right wingers , implying that he was , in Jim’s words , “a red hot Commo”.

Bowditch went to Adelaide for meetings with Krantz and saw the journalist who had written the report to put him right. However, he said the reporter seemed to have swallowed the “Establishment’s bullshit ”. Bowditch commented that he should have sued the paper . In Adelaide a FCU how to vote pamphlet, containing A Message from Jim Bowditch D.C.M., M.I.D., was issued  repudiating  the “  insulting inference ” that he was in anyway associated with the anti-union body seeking to “ capture” the union ; under the sub heading Jim Bowditch says- it showed how to vote in the union election.

A copy went into the ASIO files along with a Tribune item in which Bowditch was quoted as having said that if what the clerks’ union executive was doing amounted to Communism , then he “would be in favour of Communism ”. An Advertiser report saying that Bowditch had denied membership of the Industrial Groupers was also included in the ASIO report.

Bowditch attended a noisy clerks’ meeting in the Tivoli Theatre, Adelaide , to consider a call by the Groupers to remove the entire executive of the SA union . It was said to be the biggest union meeting held in Adelaide, possibly Australia , with more than 600 people present. Both sides were in force , and very vocal . A report said about 350 people were lined up outside the theatre at 7.30 and each person’s name was checked to see if they were on the union membership roll. Some people shouted : “Krantz, why don’t you lift the iron curtain ? ” The last person was admitted at 8.30.

Up on the stage , Krantz introduced Bowditch as a war hero and Jim rose to speak. He hardly got a few words out before heckling and booing began . Despite the uproar , he carried on . During his speech he said he could not understand why the Catholic church was backing moves which were designed to split the ranks of the working class, a statement which caused an explosion of jeering from right wingers. Some people ran down the aisle shouting, one spitting at Bowditch across the orchestra pit . Fights and scuffles broke out . The bid to oust the executive failed 375 votes to 272 .

An oddly worded newspaper account of the meeting said it had been orderly , “with the exception of two bursts of uproar”, one lasting for five minutes before heckling of Krantz subsided.

Soon after the wild Tivoli meeting, Bowditch felt compelled to write a letter to the Adelaide Advertiser to answer various claims being made by the Groupers. However, the paper cut out 200 words , which angered him . After reading what the paper did to his letter, he wrote to the FCU : “ I have decided it is much better to leave the daily Press alone as one does not get very far with them , and I now hope that the matter fades out.

In the letter Bowditch said, among other things, that he had referred to the right wingers as pseudo-Labor because no genuine Labor follower would attempt to disrupt a union which had made the progress like the SA branch of the FCU had made in the last eight years. Furthermore, no genuine Labor follower would employ the tactic used by Groupers in state and branch elections of inferring anyone opposing them was either a “Red ” or dominated by a “Red” .

Bowditch said the SA branch executive followed the non-political, non-sectarian rules of the union and were not “ stooges ” to any political party . It wished to further the interests of all clerks -whether a large portion of its members voted Liberal, Labor, independent or informal.

He went on to say : “ It is my personal belief that a Labor government is preferable to a Liberal for wage earners, and I vote and work for the ALP accordingly . However, I am totally opposed to union affiliation with the ALP or any other political party for many reasons, some I have given, and certainly oppose the Industrial Group’s intrusion into our union and the resulting disruption . ”

Bowditch called at the offices of interstate newspapers trying to explain the FCU’s case to journalists. At the Sydney Telegraph , he stated that the editor, David McNicoll , called him a “ Red Ragger ” and ordered security staff to show him off the premises.

In a postscript to a letter he wrote Krantz, Bowditch made a Wodehousian remark : “Give those Groupers whato !”  Bowditch and Krantz went to Darwin for the first FCU conference in the NT where Jim mixed with unionists and visited the Northern Standard newspaper. In the bitterly fought FCU elections which followed Bowditch and Krantz survived the Groupers’ onslaught.

During the election campaign a Catholic priest speaking from the pulpit told clerks in his Alice flock not to to vote for Bowditch . On being informed of this, Jim went round and debated the issue with the man. It was a typical act for Bowditch - he liked to hear what the opposition had to say on every issue and would debate the matter . Even during the vicious meeting in Adelaide and the conference in Nowra , he had surprised many on “ his side” by wanting to engage the opposition in face to face debate , and let them have their say .

While this bitter battle raged , Bowditch continued his work as a clerk in Alice. Once he was sent to Tennant Creek to report on a strange situation where the key to a safe was supposedly  lost. When it was opened by an engineer the 700 pound ($1400) which should have been inside was missing. The man responsible for looking after the money admitted having spent it on drink and gambling.  During his travels in the Centre Bowditch met surveyor Len Beadell who built extensive access roads in the outback for  the  Woomera rocket range tests. NEXT: Aboriginal advancement moves in the  NT.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Grey Nomads chanting an AFL song send real estate values plunging in the outback as Bulldust Diary author Peter Burleigh and his disturbing  travelling companions blunder on through Western Australia before it is dug up and exported overseas and  to the new  lucrative market on Mars .

Two members of our group who must remain anonymous to prevent action for libel but whose names are Bob and Mickey, wake and rise at 5am. They slam car doors, rumble their voices, clatter their cups and barely stifle their laughter. They are louder than any six roosters. Everybody wakes up to share the grumpy joys of pre-dawn sleepus interruptus. The two instigators of this torture insist the tweeting of the birds is responsible for our early starts. No wonder we all drop off to sleep around 8pm each night.

Stimulating discussions are rare because the intellectuals among us are dozing or comatose. You might, for example, wish to debate why ice hockey isn’t played in Central Australia, but you can’t. Mr JW, who has asked me to describe him as "no more decent man ever stood up in a pair of shoes" (a  donation in a glass was made to the author for the inclusion of this accolade) , has the kind of enquiring mind which wants to ask such questions, but is frustrated by such early starts. Because I am bemused by anything that happens before 9.30am, I cannot describe the contributions to our national wellbeing made by those who sacrifice their mornings’ sleep. The NASA space program has been credited with several technological advances but none have yet flowed from the EMWUP (Early Morning Wakeup Program)

Another of our number has been re-named Bermuda because of his vagueness and habit of being late. He gets lost. Disorientation is no stranger to him. He is in fact the Southern Hemisphere representative of the Bermuda Triangle in Australia. It follows him around like a dark cloud. I watch him carefully and notice a striking likeness to Clark Gable: the hair, the nose, the moustache. He is a mayday call waiting for the Global Positioning System to break down.

At Windjana Gorge our tents are as hot as saunas, but in the magnificent Gorge the walls throw cool shadows around us. Vast limestone cliffs rise above us as we walk up the river. Crocs are everywhere, drowsing in the sun. They seem very passive, but I’m not about to annoy one to test the limits of its passivity. This Gorge and the nearby Tunnel Creek was the setting for a bloody struggle between local Aborigines and the Settlers. Jandamarra, the leader of the Aboriginal resistance, held out in the cliffs and tunnels for over three years until he was shot down in 1891 by a blacktracker.

At Tunnel Creek, a remote extension of Windjana Gorge, we wade through waist-deep water through almost a kilometre of limestone caves. The miner’s lights on our heads show the red dots of a crocodile’s eyes in one of the cave sections. Bats fly above us. They squeak. Do vampire bats squeak? At the far end the cave opens onto a sunlit pool surrounded by green trees full of birds and butterflies. Tiny fish swim around your feet. Magic. Even a Conga Line of Nomads wading towards us singing an AFL team’s theme song can’t break the spell.

Galvans Gorge is further up the Gibb River Road, which is deteriorating faster than a Grey Nomad’s libido. After a 1km walk you reach a sweeping rock pool fed by a lacey waterfall. The cliffs around the falls form a Cinerama scene (Baby Boomers probably will deny knowing about this widescreen technique). Quite a stunning oasis in miles and miles of arid bugger-all.

A further stretch of corrugations, sharp protruding rocks and loose stones mockingly referred to as a road brings us to the Mount Barnett Roadhouse. Its coat of arms should be a red circle with a slash through it and its motto is “NO”.
•NO tyre repairs.
•NO shop after 5pm.
•NO mechanical repairs.
•NO credit.
•NO Internet access.
•NO food (that isn’t previously crumbed, battered, re-heated or fried).
•NO beer or liquor at all, at any time.
•NO wet shoes in the shop.
Interpol has kindly supplied  the above  photograph of a person believed to be Peter Burleigh in a  secret  foreign hideaway. Hordes of  angry  Grey Nomads   keen to tar and feather  Burleigh for making   fun of them  should follow up this  lead with the help of Rex , the  wonder police  dog.

BREAKING NEWS : In a surprise  development , Peter Burleigh  has  sent Little Darwin a message while floating  about OS. In part , it says : While we were basking in the French sun we followed the weather  reports from Darwin. Ghastly. No doubt you are all as pale as parchment and as wrinkled as albino prunes...I will be working on a few pieces for Little Darwin which will reveal the truth about French culture, its icons and its future. Like all Little Darwin's correspondents , I have minimal knowledge of such subjects but do have passionate opinions. As George Orwell or Oscar Wilde insisted, "ignorance is bliss".

Sunday, August 19, 2012


The aftermath of the LNP Campbell Newman landslide victory in Queensland which decimated the ALP could influence-even decide - the Territory election. Already the ALP ( Henderson Team ) here has  repeatedly highlighted  the announced intention to slash more than 20,000 public service jobs in Queensland and stop funding in other areas as a  warning to Territory voters. . In a full page advertisement in the NT News , ACTU president Ged Kearney , in an open letter to NT public sector workers, has drawn attention to the slashing of jobs by Coalition governments in Queensland , Victoria and NSW. She asks if the CLP can be trusted to protect public services and those who run them. Public servants have also been brought to the Territory from Queensland and NSW to publicly  voice their concerns and  warnings.

During a recent trip to Queensland this writer twisted  radio dials, channel jumped and studied newspapers reports and letters to the editor to get a grip on the political pulse.  Front page stories throughout the state saying thousands of jobs to go , regional papers headlining the local numbers to be axed ,  generated a palpable feeling of unease, a sense of  betrayal , exactly like that noticed following  the election when the Bligh Government , without any prior warning, announced it was going to sell state assets .

The Newman Government cuts are to be made in many departments – agriculture, fisheries, works , roads,  nowhere seemed immune . There was even a newspaper report that the use of photocopiers would be severely curtailed in government departments-indicating incredible penny pinching or a desire to keep secret government information. Another report claimed a number of courts were to be closed.  What next ?   Funding for established literary and musical events got the axe. There have been large union protest rallies in Brisbane against the Newman Government .

The suggestion that the Queensland breast cancer screening organisation would be scrapped resulted in a massive anti –government response which clearly rattled some pollies . Newspaper letters to the editor and the airwaves were filled with angry comments from women and many men . The government hastily claimed there would be no change , it would just be handed over to local hospitals to do the work . Loading already overworked Queensland hospitals with more responsibilities did not wash with  many members of the public. What probably did not get a mention in the Darwin media is that a poll carried out in " Can Do" Premier Campbell Newman’s electorate of Ashgrove showed that his support had slumped nine percentage points since his election in March , indicating he would not win the seat if an election were held right now.

People in the electorate reportedly expressed anger and frustration with his new government . A commentator said people were shocked by the ham- fisted way an apparent arrogant government was going about cuts, seemingly  “ settling scores”, operating in a “ clubby way.” A political observer contact in Brisbane said Premier Newman , with his jutting jaw, reminded him increasingly of the strutting Italian wartime leader Mussolini, il Duce ( the Chief ), who came to a sticky end–hung upside down from a tree with his mistress by angry countrymen at the end of his reign .  While he says  Premier Newman  may get the Sunlander  train to run on time to Cairns , he may  derail the voters'  support in the process.  This analysis of   El Supremo  Newman  seems to accord with  the Green Left  magazine cover  at  the top of the post , a great collector's  item.   While it might be thought unthinkable that the ALP could win the next shoot out in Queensland , the way the Newman regime  is rattling the community there could be  a  massive swing against it. A recent  gaffe of his was to equate the Queensland financial position to that of  Spain, which upset  the business  community .

In the NT , the CLP has made confusing statements about public service employees and its election campaign is being run along similar lines  as that in Queensland  by the same person who ran the LNP campaign in the Sunshine State. There is to be a combined rally in Raintree Park at midday on Tuesday. An email from Thomas Mayor of the  NT Maritime Union of Australia urges members to attend , his message:  The Liberals have sacked thousands (QLD more than 20,000) of public servants effecting not only the families of those workers, but also reducing the services provided to everybody. The CLP are anti worker, opposing improvements to Workers Compensation and Definition of a Worker laws passed by the Labor government recently. Come to the rally to tell Tollner and Mills that we don’t want them in government and if they do win, they better not attack workers and their families.

It will be interesting to see   how big an influence " southerners", especially those in Queensland, will have on the Territory election outcome .

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Support  for  WikiLeaks  founder Julian Assange has been expressed  on Magnetic Island, North Queensland. The event  is covered  on  the  website and Facebook. At the rally, a message from  Assange's mother ,Christine,  who lived on the  island  with Julian when he was  a  young boy, was read out . In part , it said :

 Many thanks to all of you for coming here today. Like WikiLeaks, Magnetic Island is small but with a big spirit. Julian and I both have very fond memories of living here.  We are now facing our darkest hours. Powers, who do not want the people of the world to know the truth of their corruption, are massing against Julian and WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks took the mask off power and power is very,very angry. Embarrassing the US is life threatening and, along with the US lapdogs Sweden and the UK, now the Australian government has fallen into line to shoot the messenger.

Most of the mainstream media represents corporate interests smearing Julian and WikiLeaks to silence the truth. On the other hand, ordinary people around the world are rallying in their defence - recognising the importance of whistleblowers and a free and fearless media to hold government and corporations to account to preserve our democracies.

I encourage you to search for the truth about Julian and WikiLeaks. With the rapid surveillance state in Australia and US militarisation of our country, I encourage you to do as Julian has done - to search for the truth. The freedom of your children and grandchildren depends on it...She went on to say the Magnetic Times editor, George Hirst,  had  factual information for those present .

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Scaling Townsville’s craggy Castle Hill on which is painted a stick figure with a halo ( above ) representing the  gentleman crook, Simon Templar, alias The Saint, almost brought this sinner face to face with St Peter at the Pearly Gates. In the old Imperial measurement, the peak is nearly 1000 feet high and dominates the attractive  North Queensland city. The views from it out to the Coral Sea , Magnetic and Palm isles , The Strand are magnificent . Day and night it is climbed , driven and pedalled up by a horde of locals, interstate and overseas visitors , adventurers , camera enthusiasts, decaying individuals who should know better, the latter category one  in which I have membership.

One way to conquer the peak is via what is known locally as “the goat track,” which requires no explanation. My athletic daughter , Lizbeth, often climbs Castle Hill before she goes to work , setting out from home before sunrise for the base camp for the trek . I was induced one Saturday to join her , a friend , Barbara , also a regular climber , and a great granddaughter , Lacey, “nearly five and a half”,  a veteran mountain climber. Because it was exceptionally cold there as in Darwin, I wore jeans and a jumper , not only to keep warm but as protection against mossies and dengue. Barbara , in whose comfortable car we travelled, was similarly covered , and elected to walk up the easier sealed road because of a hip or knee condition , while the rest of us hit the goat track.

After admiring the views as the sun peeked through early in the ascent , I soon noticed that the thigh muscles were tightening up. Then it dawned on me that I was going to be physically tested. Daughter and the hopping, skipping and rock–wallaby like GGD left me for –not dead- but pretty close. My thoughtful daughter returned and said there was a rest station, a deck with a seat a short distance ahead where I could sit and drink from my water bottle.

Resting, I glanced down the track and could see an army of enthusiastic climbers , some solo, heading up my way. Spurred on, I resumed the upward grind, pausing frequently to sit on an uncomfortable rock, hug a tree , the sweat saturating my clothing. A woman clad only in shorts and a T-shirt , carrying a water bottle,  seeing my stressed state , thought she was being  kind and helpful when she said  I had passed the half way mark ( groan ) ; she soon disappeared as if snatched by a Yeti. I stepped aside for three men coming through at speed , the last one in the group, lightly clad, the eldest ,sweat pouring down his face, looked at me adorning a tree and commented , with some amazement, that I was heavily dressed. Was that the Angel of Death , an elephant , a snake , a turtle and a few political stickers  on  a watertank ( below) beside the  track  or was I beginning to hallucinate ?
Any moment I thought I was going to tear a hammy or have a groiny  like a player in an AFL match  . My water bottle seemed to weigh a tonne. Here I was,past three score and 10 years, having had a triple heart bypass, sporting a floating clavicle, and attempting to emulate Sir Edmund Hillary- without the aid of a Sherpa . Bob Hawke, with justification, would call me a silly old bugger. Eventually I tottered out of  the goat track onto the part of Castle Hill where  cars turn around . Eureka! Despite blurred vision , walking like a tin soldier , I took several  photos of  the panoramic views . Our walking companion who took the low road on foot arrived, the easier route taken 45 minutes . But wait, the summit had not yet been reached. My daughter and Lacey were beckoning from a flight of steps higher up .

Ringing wet with perspiration , I set out to follow them and on entering a ramp everything began to swim before my eyes, I became light headed and things went black. Clutching a  rail , I hung there like a clump of rainforest flora, green about the gills . This, I thought, could literally be the end of  life’s mysterious trail for me. After a while, I tottered back to the parking area , sat down and drank some more water. Waiting for me at the summit , my daughter and lively GGD wondered why I had not joined them. Lacey, incredibly smart  and agile for her age , suggested I may had died .

No. I recovered; we returned via the road, although we did take a side track at one stage. On the way down I took photos of the saint figure first said to have been painted as a prank by a James Cook University Arts/Law student,Shane Flynn, in the l960s . Subsequently erased, it was replaced and is now a well known piece of graffiti art, a tourist  attraction.

After the arduous climb, we headed to The Strand , on the waterfront, which was in a festive mood due to the annual walking competition, and had breakfast , Lacey going for pancakes. Unfortunately, oxygen was not on the menu , so I had settle for the big breakfast and a mug of latte with four sugars . When I went to the James Cook University Special Collections and told the librarian that I had scaled Castle Hill via the goat track , she said people had been known to drop dead there . I thank the patron saint of mountain climbers that I had not expired on that expedition .
The saints seemed to be watching over me in Townsville as there was a fete at St Matthew’s Anglican Church, Rising Sun, where I bought numerous books , including the biography THE SAINT AND LESLIE CHARTERIS ( above ), examined a display of Townsville serpents and succumbed to the temptation of a Devonshire tea .While munching on a tasty date scone, I read the  names of dear departed   parishioners on a memorial wall, one now  said to be  DANCING IN  HEAVEN. My sainted aunt would  not  have agreed to such carrying on  in Paradise.
Then Australia’s own Saint Mary MacKillop ( above ) beamed down on me and held a FUNDAY at which more secondhand books were for sale. I was blessed by  picking up the memoirs of a neglected living ALP saint , Barry Jones. While taking photographs  of  the interesting architecture in Townsville , I came across a  residence on The Strand  with  the surprising   name , ST. OLAVE'S .  Olaf  was once King of Norway and became  the patron saint of that country. What is more, he  helped Aethelred the Unready  beat back  the  Danes when they invaded  England . How  the saint's name  came  to  be  displayed  on  a prime piece of real estate  in Townsville  is a  clerical mystery. ---- (By Peter Simon).


Found recently in a Townsville antique shop called The Speckled Hen , run by a book loving French lady, is this piece of 1924 sheet music , a ballad which  explains the affaire de coeur responsible for the embarrassing cackle over the situation in the Darwin seat of Johnston . Another catchy tune, a love song , DEAR ONE , arranged for energetic strumming of the ukulele , is included . Yet another song applicable to the election campaign seems to be the popular melody performed with gusto in hunting, fishing and shooting circles - I DIDN’T KNOW THE GUN WAS LOADED .

Friday, August 10, 2012

BARCOO ROT AND SLINKY CATS -Continuing biography of crusading editor ,"Big Jim" Bowditch. By Peter Simon

Bowditch, with first wife, Iris, at Adelaide investiture where he received  the Distinguished  Conduct  Medal for wartime bravery .

With quick reflexes that had been honed during the war, Bowditch was dynamite on the cricket field , the Centralian Advocate reporting: “ Stonewall Bowditch did it again on Sunday last. What a man ...The elastic arm of Bowditch was responsible for the catch of the day...” Cricket had a large following and was of a high standard. The clerk of courts, Ken Bagshaw , who had played Sheffied Shield for South Australia , was such a good player it was said that he would have been the next Don Bradman but for the outbreak of war. Another highly regarded player had been Ginty Garrett, a superb wicket taker . During the war years cricket pitches had been built for the troops and the town was well supplied with playing fields.

Mine Host at the Alice Springs Hotel, where Bowditch often drank, was Ly “Uncle ” Underdown , with the unflattering nickname ,“The Pig ”. He boasted that he had once owned more biscuits than anybody else in the NT. This was due to the fact that he bought a mountain of tinned biscuits in the postwar auctions which were fed to his pigs .

Underdown loved cricket so much that he would , on occasions, close the pub and go and play a match. Underdown got carried away in a game and let out a loud Howzat! - then realised he was the umpire . He organised regular smoke concerts for cricketers and everybody attending had to get up and entertain the gathering in some way. Two clerics used to attend the evenings and tell jokes against each other. They were Father Dixon of Santa Theresa Catholic Mission and Reverend Fred Mackay . Father Dixon had a new car , a Ford ute, and took Mackay out to Santa Theresa Mission to see Aborigines making bricks. Mackay asked to drive the car , took a bend too fast, and damaged the vehicle. Dixon was upset, and said : “ If it hadn’t been Friday , Freddy, I would have eaten you.”

Later on , Underdown built a cricket pitch and nets on the roof of his pub and tried to get Don Bradman to open the facilities. When Bradman was not available,Territory MHR Jock Nelson officiated. The ceremony was performed at night and got under way when Ly’s mother switched on the fluorescent lights and the first ball was bowled by Jack Donnellan to Nelson who had a bat autographed by Bradman . The wicket keeper was Ly .

At chess, Bowditch, above , beat most players in town ; one of his regular opponents being a minister of religion. Due to his involvement on stage , Bowditch played a substantial part in the writing of the Alice Springs Theatre Group’s musical revue, Barcoo Rot, the title for which was his idea. His experience taking part in boy scout Gang Shows in England probably assisted him in this project. Other contributing scriptwriters were Jean Tainsh and the editor of the Advocate , Alan Wauchope. A sandwich board was used to advertise the forthcoming show.

The well received revue included a skit on the popular BBC radio show , Much Binding in the Marsh, which was called Much Finding in the Todd (the local river ) , and sent up Alice identities, including D. D. Smith, Jim’s boss, and Brigadier Loutit, the wartime Alice supremo. The show’s background was a radio station, and when a newscast announced that a house had been built in Alice Springs , the accommodation starved audience responded with “heartfelt and deafening applause ”. Part of the show included a farce about the early days of pedal radio in Central Australia. A newspaper review of the evening’s entertainment commented on an amusing sketch called Cats. Many years later, Bowditch said he and another clerk in Alice had written a “poem” called Cats which was about sexually desirable women in Alice ; people had thought it was just about felines roaming about various parts of the town.

Government Departments were also lampooned . The revue was so well received they set to and wrote another, but it folded after several rehearsals. Wauchope and Bowditch “ clicked” from the moment they first met in the RSL . It was due to Bowditch’s prompting that Wauchope came to write a regular column in the Australasian Post -Straight from the Heart- which ran for 10 years and attracted mail from all over Australia . Alice Springs businessman Reg Harris said Wauchope’s highly popular column did more to promote tourism and interest in Alice than the film A Town Like Alice . Wauchope admired Bowditch, a “ perpetual crusader ”. Wauchope , had served as a journalist on the Melbourne Herald , where he had an experience with Rupert Murdoch’s father , Sir Keith Murdoch , which resulted in him seeking a change in his career.

While working at the Melbourne Herald,Wauchope became concerned about some work related matter and sought an interview with Sir Keith . Ushered into his room , he was made stand while Sir Keith was busy with something on the desk in front of him ; eventually he looked up and asked what he wanted. Receiving what he regarded as an unsatisfactory response from Sir Keith, Wauchope had decided to seek another career.When he first arrived in Alice it was as a magistrate’s clerk.

In June 1949 Jim’s in-laws , Colonel and Mrs George Hargreaves , came to Alice . Colonel Hargreaves , who had investigated war surplus auction rackets, flew on to Darwin in connection with government business. ASIO ran a check on Hargreaves . Iris Bowditch hosted a function in the “ tastefully decorated ” Rendezvous Cafe for her mother and a delicious afternoon tea was provided for 25 people.

Like a bolt out of the blue, Bowditch was projected even more into the public eye when it was announced he would be awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his wartime exploits . The investiture was performed at Goverment House, Adelaide, by Sir Willoughby Norrie, on October 4, 1949. Bowditch wore an Army cap belonging to  his  friend Harry Krantz, secretary of the SA Federated Clerks' Union, and a uniform borrowed from the Creswick Army Barracks. Despite being called “Big Jim,” Krantz recalled it had been something of a problem finding items of  clothing small  enough to fit Bowditch.

The Distinguished Conduct Medal citation read: From 14 Apr 44 to the cessation of hostilities this NCO has performed outstanding services, calling for the highest degree of courage , leadership and initiative.

From 24 Apr to 3 May 45,Sgt Bowditch was a sub party commander of the Special Operational Party inserted into Tarakan Island for the purpose of collecting pre-invasion intelligence. With great daring and initiative,Sgt Bowditch carried out a special patrol to Tg Djoeata and located enemy dispositions and coastal artillery.

Between 24 May to 2 June 45 Sgt Bowditch took part in an enemy deception plan in support of 9 Aust Div operation OBOE V1 in British North Borneo. Again by his utter disregard for his personal safety,Sgt Bowditch was of great assistance to the party leader and his example was an inspiration to the other members of the party.

On 6 July 45, Sgt Bowditch was a member of a party inserted by parachute in the Mahakam River Lakes areas of Dutch Borneo to take part in Special Operations. The party remained in the field until 12 Aug 45 during the whole period Sgt Bowditch was in charge of a sub party of 2 white soldiers and 30 native guerillas. The sub party under the leadership of Sgt Bowditch carried out many successful patrols to contact native chiefs and destroyed enemy food dumps. On 10 Aug 45, Sgt Bowditch was sent to reinforce a small S.R.D. patrol at the mouth of the Kahala River , which was being heavily engaged by a Japanese patrol sent out from Moentai to liquidate the party. By his personal courage and leadership, Sgt Bowditch was mainly instrumental in killing 30 of the Japanese and pinning down the remainder at the mouth of the river where they were later destroyed.Throughout all the above operations, Sgt Bowditch has displayed great devotion to duty and courage of the highest order .

At Townsville's Heroes Walk honouring Victoria Cross recipients is this plaque for Corporal John Alexander French , killed fighting the Japanese with Jim Bowditch at Milne Bay, New Guinea . Bowditch's account of that fierce battle and the demise of French was covered in an earlier part of this biography.

The Federated Clerks’ Union held a special dinner in Adelaide for Bowditch , his wife, and in-laws who came across from Melbourne for the investiture . Bowditch subsequently wrote to Harry Krantz saying the experience of mixing with unionists had been a real education for his in-laws. They now had a different attitude to “ militant unionists”. Colonel and Mrs Hargreaves sent Krantz a specially printed Christmas card. NEXT: Bitter union struggles .

Thursday, August 9, 2012


WASHINGTON : The FBI is taking seriously a threat by a babbling , anonymous man to shove President Barak Obama in a chaff bag and throw him into the Gulf Stream. An FBI spokesman today told Little Darwin Weirdo Roundsman , Pete Scrofulous , that the chaff bag maniac is the latest dingbat to surface in the US. “Man,” the over-worked FBI man said, shaking his head, “ I’m seriously thinking of moving my family to Australia to escape ratfinks like this spaced-out  chaff bag dude .”

A criminal profiler was called in to give the FBI a clue to the identity of the chaff bag hit man to prevent him carrying out his attack. The photogenic profiler , who demanded cash in advance for his comments, said this strange person is probably the product of being brought up in a dysfunctional household where his mother wore a bag over her head every time she went out in public . Because he was an ugly baby, she may have even tried to drown him each time they caught the ferry for an outing at Coney Island . His father , almost certainly, ran a hotdog stall at sporting events and gambled all his money on hay burning slow horses.

CSI MIAMI is also assisting the urgent investigations . Its street wise team advanced the notion that the offender banged his head in collision between a Volkswagen and a convoy of Mack car transporters on Route 66 . He may also have been involved in a racket selling chaff bags full of Unicorn and Rocking Horse shit to simple minded Oakies who play pokies , watch replays of Oakie Doke , the strange cartoon creature  made   from soggy  pea soup ingredients and lives in a hollow house.

American authorities here are worried that there will be an outbreak of copycat chaff bag assaults on political leaders in other parts of the world. Media photo opportunities at  the Queensland G20 conference could become a disaster if all those attending suddenly  have a large chaff bag pulled over their heads.