Thursday, September 26, 2013

HOUSE GUEST SHOCKS KIWIS - Continuing biog of NT Crusading Editor,"Big Jim" Bowditch.

Montage of   old  Pine Creek cemetery site  where  Jack Gardner , back to camera , pointed  out  to  this writer  where   two   close   prospectors  he  knew  were  buried  in  the  same  plot .

Disappointed at not becoming filthy rich  like Jack Gardner through his   uranium find, funds low, reporter Ross Annabell  decided  to  quit Darwin. He borrowed  50 pounds ($100) from  Bowditch  and once  more headed  by motorbike  to  Sydney,  collecting  feature  articles  along the  way , steering clear of  Woomera .  On arrival in Sydney he picked up his mail  forwarded from  Darwin and  there was a “fortune” in cheques for feature articles he had  written for various publications  about the uranium rush and  other  exotic Territory subjects.  There was so much money that he need not have left Darwin . However, there was no turning back,and he promptly returned the money he had borrowed from  Bowditch.

In Sydney he did  casual work  for the ABC and then  joined the Sydney Morning Herald , eventually returning  to New Zealand  where he became a  highly regarded feature writer  at the Rotorua Post , was chief reporter on  a newspaper for  five years.  He  also  taught   journalism at the Wellington Polytechnic  College; one of  his students , Ali Cromie , went  on to make a name for herself  in  financial journalism in  Australia.
Over the years ,the “ hot ” uranium yellowcake he brought from Rum Jungle  was  stored in several barns and  sheds along with  mineral  specimens  he  had brought back from the NT.  He  gave the yellowcake to the Wellington Polytechnic for a lecture on radioactivity. It  got  lost  when he  sold a  farm and he  suspected it could  be buried in the Carteton dump. Annabell  subsequently  wrote his book  The Uranium Hunters   about his time in the Territory , describing  his time at the  News  and  the  hilarious dealings with Jack  Gardner.

After leaving  the Territory to go opal mining, Gardner  moved  on to  Radium Hill in South Australia .  Then  he  travelled the world, drinking  with  and  entertaining an extraordinary number of women ,many of whom he described  as  wives “, one unfortunately run  over by a bus at  the  foot of Mount  Fiji,  playing  the  stockmarket  and  dabbling in gemstones , which he bought in one country and sold in another .  Nearly 20  years  after  he  had last  seen  Gardner,  Annabell  arrived   home to  find an elderly gentleman  sitting at the  table – it  was  Jack  Gardner. Gasp. He had  read  Annabell’s book , rang   the  publishers and  asked  for the author’s address.  He then flew to NZ  and  arrived  unannounced , seemingly intent on  staying  for a  long, long time.
His  presence  at the  Annabell residence  caused  chaos  at a nearby inebriates home  because  he led inmates  astray, throwing his money about and shouting  drinks  all  round .  Ross’s  wife, Meg, was less than happy  with  the  unexpected guest.  Gardner , who  regarded  married  men as  poor, pathetic, donkey-like  creatures  whose  role in  life  it is  to carry the groceries  at  supermarkets , rewarded  with an  occasional cuddle, did not respond  to  hints to move  on . He spent most  of  the days and  a large part of the nights boozing  at the local pub . He  brought  home  a  few  bottles of  beer so that he did not  go thirsty  during  the  night.

As a special treat for the  Annabell family, Jack came home  with  a  bundle  of tripe  and, to  their horror, insisted on cooking it up for them. As  Ross  was  having his  ears “belted ”each night by his wife , saying  Jack must go, Ross resorted to  a  desperate  and most unusual stratagem ,indicative of lateral thinking. He caught a hedgehog in the garden, and  one  night  slipped  it into  Jack’s bed,  hoping  that  the  unwelcome  guest would come home , worse  for the wear, slip  between the sheets and get a nasty, prickly shock. 

However, during  his  life, Gardner had undoubtedly  slept with many  strange things ,including a  Geiger counter, and one of his numerous wives had been taken by a crocodile,so he had lived close to nature. He just kicked the unfortunate  hedgehog  out of  bed.  For some strange reason, possibly  Gardner’s animal  magnetism , the beastie  kept on climbing  back in with him , only to be booted out time and time again. 

Exasperated , Jack   picked  up  the hedgehog , threw it into the sitting room , and  shut the  door .  In the morning he told the Annabells about his  strange nocturnal  encounter with a furry  critter.  Thankfully, Gardner left soon   after , never to be seen again .  Some days later , there was a  nasty smell in the Annabell household - it  was the  cuddly hedgehog which had died under the  couch  in  the sitting room .

Ross’s wife  met a woman  several months later who told of  another painful encounter  with  Jack Gardner.   Seems the  woman  had been honeymooning in Tahiti or some other exotic location   years  previously  and  met this  man called Jack Gardner  who was staying in  the same resort.  He  had been the life  of the party , regaling people  with amazing  stories about his exploits in the Northern Territory , and told  them he had a Kiwi journalist  mate  called Ross  Annabell.

Gardner  had  taken down the NZ address of the unsuspecting  newlyweds , and  had  arrived, once more  without  prior notice,  and  made a thorough nuisance of himself at their farm.  He  rode the farm motorbike  to the Ekatahuna  Pub,but eventually crashed it and  hurt himself   coming home from  the  hostelry at night.  Without transport to the  nearest pub , he left , much to the  delight of  the exhausted couple . NEXT : Bowditch makes  his  mark  in  Darwin  as a fighter for the underdog .


 As  part of  his grand plan to  extend  the  railway   to   the  Yarra Valley  and turn it into another  tourist  attraction  like South Australia’s  Barossa  Valley , Steedman , left , is shown  with  Federal Finance Minister  ,  John Dawkins ,  mounted  on  a  motorised  rail   trolley . 

With  typical  drive  and  enthusiasm ,   Pete  Steedman ,  ALP , MHR , threw  himself  into  working for   the   former  conservative  Casey  electorate , often   putting   in  100 hours  a  week .  He   relentlessly   rode    shotgun , sometimes    astride  a  1949  Vincent   Rapide motorbike, on   projects   and   submissions.   A    newspaper   report  spoke  of   Steedman ,  the  retired   student  activist   turned   politician,  "ruffling    bureaucratic  feathers"  to  make  an   election  promise  come  true
Ruffling   the   feathers   of   governments,  bureaucrats,  powerful  vested  interests , security organisations  of  several  countries  and   extremist   right wing   organisations  seemed   a  way  of   life   for   Steedman . It   took   a   lot  of   guts ,   drive  and   nervous energy    to keep   up   this   determined   approach to  life and  politics .

 During   his   university  days  as  editor  of   two  newspapers  in Melbourne  he  had  taken on   the  Australian   government   over  the   Vietnam War , especially  the  conscription  of   youths .   As a  result , he   was   attacked  in   Federal parliament ;  it was  revealed  that  the government   had  considered   bringing in  special legislation to charge  him with  subversion ; on campus he  was  verbally  and   physically  assailed  by persons  revealed as  ASIO  and National  Civic Council  operatives.  

During  his  early writing  and  publishing  career he  was  involved in  the  launching of such  revolutionary  publications as  Go Set,   Rolling Stone (Australian version )  , High Times and  Nation Review . In addition, it has  been  acknowledged that  he  influenced  the  content and layout  of   numerous  Australian   university  newspapers.

After   editing    the   controversial political  magazine , Broadside , which  contained   an outrageous comic  strip , Fabula, that   sent   up   Australian politics,  twice  pulped  by  the  nervous  proprietors, The Age  newspaper  group ,   Steedman  went   to  London    where , in  just  nine frenetic  months , he  played  a   major part  in  campaigns   which  took  on  the  British  Government ,    developers,  television  moguls ,  even  the   Greek  military  junta .  To  save  famous   Piccadilly  Circus   being   knocked  down    by   a   group of developers   which  stood  to   make a  fortune,   he   organised   large scale protests  which included  Rupert  Street  and   Soho brothel  owners  who   formed  action groups.   The   awarding  of   a   new  TV channel   licence   was  set  aside  when  there  were  widespread protests,  in  which  he   was prominent ,  to  prevent it going  to  existing  television  interests.   Another major  event he  organised was  the  Freedom and   Responsibility  in the Media   Campaign , held  in the Roundhouse, attended  by  politicians , unionists, journalists and  BBC governors  to protest about  the  censorship  in Britain  of  the war  in  Ireland  and other issues, including     the  restrictions  on  Peter Watkins, maker  of  the controversial   film,War Games .

Reflecting  on  that   dramatic  period  of  his  life,  Steedman   said he  had  achieved more in that  short  space of  time  in London  than   he  had  in  Australia  the   previous years when  he   seemed  to  have  been   smashing  his  head  against  a  brick  wall .  Returning   to    Melbourne  from  swinging  London   with   partner , Julie ,    in   l972 ,  he became   publishing  manager  of   Stockland   Press ;  within three months ,  it  was printing  all   the   student  newspapers ,  radical journals , ethnic newspapers , Nation  Review , Living Daylights,  Farrago, Digger , and other  titles.


 Clearly ,  he   was   no  naive    wood duck   backbencher  when   he   strode  into   parliament  in   l983,  a  prominent member of   the  Socialist Left , in  the  first   Hawke  Government .The  now  well  known  veteran   political   reporter,  Michelle  Grattan , who  had  written  her  first  political story  for   Steedman’s  Broadside  and   then  been   picked up by  the Age , writing  in  the Age of  April 9 ,1983,  said  it  was   reassuring to  see   Pete  Steedman  in  parliament  house  during  the   new   Labor boys’ and  girls’ tour,continued ...Thank  God ,  I thought,  there are still  some constants  in  politics .  Steedman  seemed   little  changed   from  Steedman ,  student  radical  of  the ’60s ... There he  was , swearing a  bit , complaining of   warm beer –and  reminding  a  few  Ministers  about  Labor   principles. He wondered  idly   how  long  it  would  take  to  adjust  to  the   place. I  hope  he  doesn’t . So many people in  the ALP  are doing so much adjusting to  the “ realities ” of  government that  a few eccentric cries  of   permanent  dissent  will  be  refreshing . At  present ,  the  government  is  a  blancmange  of commonsense  , moderation , and  above  all , flexibility
 Steedman    had    big   ideas  about   social  justice ,  was deeply    concerned   about    youth   unemployment , opposed   uranium mining and nuclear proliferation  ,  could  express   himself  forthrightly ,  loved   the   English  language  ( recently  a  quick  check  of   his  reference  library  found   13   dictionaries , more   than   you  would  expect  in   that  of  your   average etymologist  ), was  well  read ,   even   full  bottle  on  the  Bible ,  could  deliver  a  withering   blast,   often   larded  with   that   grand  Anglo-Saxon  expression  for  sexual  intercourse.
An  example of  his  intemperate , colourful   language  was exhibited  in  an   interview  he had  with   the  Melbourne University  newspaper , Farrago-  that  he  had edited  in earlier days- in  which  he   frequently  used  fuck,  shit   and   wank .   He  told  the   students   in  no  uncertain fashion   that  if  they  thought  there  was  something  wrong  with   the  world , that  they  were   being  educated and  not  able  to  get a  job ,  then  they  should get  up ,  go  out  into  the  streets  and  do  something about  it , otherwise  they  could  not  complain .  One   paragraph  in  Farrago  quoted  him  as   saying -
It is all right  saying  society  is  fucked  and  all  of  that,  while  your  sitting  there contemplating  your   navel  and   having   academic   arguments  about  whether  Marx  was   gay,  but  it’s  not  going  to  change  anything .
His   enemies  in  the  media  and   politics  gleefully used  this  unusual interview  against  him.  Sanitised  extracts   were   run  in  newspapers  using  just  the  letters  f…,  s  and  w   Copies  were   run  off   and   circulated  throughout  the  electorate  and  could  have  helped  stuff    him  at  the  next  election  in   what   would  have   been  seen  by  nasty   adversaries  as   f-ing  poetic  justice.  

 The   Canberra  press  gallery seemed   fascinated  by  Steedman , early  in  the piece  one newspaper   describing  him as  " labor’s wild  young  man", sporting  a beard and  even longer  hair , moleskins and  leather  jacket.  A  reporter recalled  that  a  few  minutes before  the  pre-selection vote  in  the  Trades Hall  for   Bob Hawke  in  the  seat of  Wills ,  some two  years   previously, Steedman  had  walked  in  wearing his "uniform"-cowboy  hat, very  dark  glasses ,  purple  shirt  and  denim  gear .  Hawke  had  turned  to  the  reporter  and  said : "What in  hell’s that?"

Apart  from the  Canberra   media   giving him much coverage  ,Steedman    wrote a  regular report  for   the   Victorian   Labor  newspaper, The  Star . In   these pieces he  did  not  pull  punches ,  criticised  the  government  where  he   felt  it  was   justified  and  took on   the NSW   right  wing  of the  party .   He  also  wrote  regularly  for  the  Melbourne  Herald on  controversial  topics  such  as   clashes  with  Liberal  Leader Andrew   Peacock  and  the  role of  the  Left.The  Canberra  Times dubbed   him  Parliamentarian of  the Year , an incredible accolade  for  a first term politician,
Yet another  example   that   Steedman   was  no  ordinary  politician was  that  he  took  food  from   powerful   committee meetings   he  attended  in  parliament  house   to  protestors camped outside  .  His  sympathy  for  the  cause  was   challenged when   two   people  complained  that  the   tucker   he  was   running  out  to  them  was  not  completely   vegetarian .  He   may or   may  not   have  forthrightly   told   them  what  they  could  do  with  a  carrot.

A  first  term backbencher , he was  making  regular appearances  on  TV, usually  debating long  standing   members  and  shadow  ministers.  Steedman  appeared  on  all  the  programs from  Mike Walsh  to  Clive James.    His   name  and   photograph   frequently  appeared in  the  many  newspapers   in  his  electorate  in  connection   with   government   announcements ,  policies   and   taking  on  various   political  opponents   attacking   Hawke   initiatives . Cluttered   with  files and  papers, Steedman’s  office , on the Senate  side of  parliament , oddly  next  to  the  barber  shop,  was  near  ones  occupied  by  National Party members,  the  area  known as  Possum  Paddock  because  of  the  country  pollies. 


* ONE  LINERS –Described as a fast  man with  his tongue , Steedman  rankled Liberal leader ,  Andrew Peacock ,  with   jibes such as  :" Oh  Andrew , you’re  so  butch  when  your  angry ."  and  Now  he  has  lifted  his face , he can  lift  his  game ." Steedman  and the  Leader of the   Nationals,  Ian Sinclair, were   seen exchanging  ribald remarks  outside   parliament. In the  House ,  Steedman   had   described   Sinclair  as  the  albatross  about   Peacock’s neck , which received a lot of  mileage  in  the   press .

* SOCIALISM-    While  the  Liberals  were   warning   that   Socialism  meant   Communism, Totalitarianism  and  the  Gulag ,   Steedman   said   it  was basically  the   fair  and  just  redistribution  of  the resources of society  so that everybody could  live  in   reasonable  comfort. It was  not , as suggested in the media,  everybody  being  cut down  to  the  same level .  He   jokingly added that   Socialism  meant  everybody   could   have  a  Jaguar (car)... he   having  owned  such   a  secondhand  vehicle . He   also owned an   old   Chev  he  bought in    bits   and  pieces on  which  ,  he  laments , he  spent  a   fortune   restoring  over  many  years  until  it   recently  rolled  out   of   a  workshop ,  the   swish   limousine  below .

*   POLITICIANS – They  were  all  being  programmed to  be   acceptable , to be cloned .

*  PARLIAMENTARY   PROCESS - Antiquated, outdated,   based on   Westminster  system  at  the  time of   the  civil war .  Black  rod  in  gaiters  and   the   sergeant  at  arms  carrying   the    mace  were   anachronistic , time  wasting


Even  though   he  was  destined   to  only serve one term  in parliament , it  was  acknowledged  that    his  strong   representations   were    responsible  for   more than  $30  million  being  injected  into  the   electorate  plus  $10 million in government  contracts .

   Steedman,  a  member of  the federal Government’s  sub-committe on  defence support , announced  a  $4.7 million contract  for    Rockwell International, at Lilydale, to manufacture   identification  radar equipment for  the  RAAF’s 75  F-18 fighters on order from the  US.  Steedman  had  made  representations on behalf of  the company to  several senior ministers.

·          Active  in the  field of  youth  unemployment,  he  expressed concern about  exploitation  of  young  unemployed ,  held  a conference  to  discuss   the   subject and  a youth  community  centre  was  built  in  the electorate . He  received "praise " for securing  a  grant to  enable  work  for  disadvantaged  children  to  be  expanded

·         When   Australia’s  only  manufacturer  of  ceramic  tableware  was  hit by imports dumped on   the  Australian market  , Steedman  helped  in  two  submissions  to  the  Minister for  industry  and  Commerce, Senator  John  Button.

·         Councils  in  the  electorate  received  a   major boost  to  road  funds  and  were  urged  by  him  to  upgrade  bicycle paths as  part of a policy to expand the  status of bike transport  throughout  Australia. 

·         One  of   his proposed  big   projects  was   to  turn  the  Yarra Valley  into another  Barossa Valley   with  wineries and  restaurants   by   re-opening  the  Lilydale  to  Healesville  railway line , connecting  it to  the Melbourne metro network.

·         On  the  ethnic  community  side  of  the electorate , he was successful in obtaining  a grant for    activities  in the   Dutch community ; he  managed  to  have  a  Lebanese  family  reunited  in  Australia  .

·         Due to   his   drive , youth  unemployment  dropped substantially  as  did overall   unemployment in  the  electorate . Apart  from  putting  much effort  into   generating work for   young unemployed, he also campaign   for   the  aged ,and  took on   Jeff  Kennett  over  the  state’s long   neglect  of  pensioners. 

By the   time of   the December   l984   election , not  one but  two  redistribution of  boundaries  had made  Casey   into Australia’s  most marginal seat. A parliamentary  background paper  on  the  effect  of  these  changes  found   Steedman  could  win  by  about  35  votes , if  people  voted  the same  as  in  l983.  After  the   first  redistribution , he   had a chance to  regain  the seat . After   the  second, Steedman succinctly  said : " I was  stuffed ."   The  party offered  him  the  safer  seat of  Streeton, but  he declined and  decided  to  go  down  fighting  with  the  ship.

The  Liberal  Party, which  had   regarded  Casey  as  its  turf  for  nearly  two  decades , selected   financial  analyst   and  former RAAF  group captain , Bob Halvorsen , as its  candidate . Halvorsen  was  pro- uranium mining, said  uranium  was  sold  for  peaceful purposes and that Australia should  have nuclear weapons ... “ the bomb could be  seen as a great deterrent.”  There were  six   candidates   in  the  contest ,  including a last minute representative of  the  Pensioners’  Party.  The  wild card  in the  fight for  the seat, it was  stated , would  be  the  preferences of  the  minor parties .

The   big guns  on  both  sides were  thrown  into  the Casey  election campaign . At one major  event,  the  opening  at  Ringwood  of  a  new  outlet for  Max Mason’s $50 million Barbecues  Galore chain,  Liberal   Leader , Andrew  Peacock,  a  wearer of Gucci suits,  accompanied by   daughter  Ann, attended;    Steedman ,  supposed to compere the event , dressed  as  usual , au  natural,  arrived  late   because of  a  flat tyre ; Mount   Everest  climber ,Tim  McCartney-Snape  and  two  shapely  Playboy bunny girls  took  part  in the    large  Celebrity  Barbecue  Cooking  Contest . Unaware  that  Steedman  was  going  to  be at  the event , Peacock  took  umbrage  and  departed .    Brandishing   a   sausage ,  Steedman   declared   Labor  was   going  to  do    Peacock   like  an  overcooked  snag .

 A  report  in  the Truth  newspaper gave a  Hollywood slant to the Ringwood  Roast  with a photograph of   Steedman , one arm  about a  Playboy  bunny  , a  can of  beer in  the other,leering at  the  camera.  The   article said  Hollywood actress Shirley MacLaine  was wrong  when it came  to  the  spunky politician stakes  as  her former buddy Andrew  Peacock  was no  longer No. 1.  According to  Playboy  bunny , Maxine Fensom ,  it was   the federal member for  Casey, Pete Steedman ,  even  thought  she conceded  he was  the  world’s oldest  bodgie.  The bunny  had  compared   Steedman  with   Peacock  at  the  sausage  cooking .   A female  politician  who  attended  the  same  event,  Kay Setches, MLA,  was quoted as  saying  Steedman  was  a hard  working politician  with a   better  dress  sense  than  Peacock. She   described  Steedman’s  unbuttoned shirt , showing  hairy chest ,  as   definitely   not Gucci-more like Target.   Steedman   described his  campaigning  attire  as  post-Albion, " after  the wild  and  woolly Carlton pub  he  once favoured ."
 Deputy   Opposition  Leader  ,  John  Howard,  retaliated  at the  opening of   Halvorsen’s  electorate  office   by   urging   the  voters  to “flush  out”  Steedman . And   that  is  what  happened . There  were   numerous  reasons why  he  lost the  seat There were many informal votes  and  there  had  been  an  influx of  well heeled , Volvo station  wagon owners  who  had bought  homes  on   rural blocks in  the  electorate . In effect, the electorate went  nuclear.   

 A well written  article in Playboy  , headed  THE CRUSHING OF  A  REBEL ,by Phil Ackman,   put  it  this way ... "An MP with one  of  the  best  records  in Australia  for  servicing  his electorate   dumped  because  his  constituency  turned  under  him .  One day a man who  could  change  people’s lives, the  next  just  another loser ."

Ackman   described  how , after  the  election , he  was  a  passenger  in   Steedman’s  Galaxie   convertible  when   Pete   drove  into a   gas station  in  the heart of  what  used  to  be  his electorate.  Somebody  yelled  out , “Hey, Steedman, when are  you going to  get ‘em to improve the road ?” After  a  pause,  Ackman   said  Steedman ,"the  bodgie [ with brains] ” ,  forgot  he  was  The   Man .  “ No,  no mate, ” he chided . “ I’m federal.  All   I  can get  you  is   a   nuclear  sub.”  NEXT :  The    little  known  stunning  fact   that   Steedman   became  Premier  of   Victoria .  True .  All   will   be   revealed