Thursday, October 31, 2013

DARWIN PEOPLE SCARED TO SPEAK : Ongoing biog of Crusading Editor ,"Big Jim" Bowditch

IN quick succession, Bowditch made  known his  views  on   important issues .  In an editorial headed NEED  FOR  UNION  UNITY  he said for  the NT  to progress  there had to be  unity of  purpose and action  from  all sections of the community.  This being so, it was disconcerting to see that  North  Australian  Workers’ Union  was  in the  grip of a faction fight.  While one   group announced its intention to  declare black  all  pearlshell  won by  cheap  indentured labor , the executive  had issued statements  to the  contrary.  The NAWU, he wrote, owed it to its members and  to  the people  of the Territory , and to  the “great  Trade Union  movement  ” to  put its house in order.
Bowditch   made  the public  aware of his  stance on  what he  regarded as an important  community matter- freedom of speech .  In an editorial  headed FREEDOM  TO SPEAK   he raised the matter of Darwin people  being  reluctant to  air their views publicly.   He pointed out  that when the  paper  asked people if Japanese  divers should be  allowed  back to the Territory  to revive the pearling industry    they  had been  afraid  to  comment  and have  their  names published.  This was  an  unhealthy  situation . The  editorial  recalled that  one of the first  people  elected to the Legislative Council had been a public servant  who had been told that  he  had to resign  from his job  or  refrain from  standing  as  a  representative of  the  people.  A  copy of this editorial went into the ASIO  files. 
The editorial  drew  a letter  to the editor  from one Bob Steele  which  said  it was high time that all citizens  took hold of their liberties and  defended themselves against  the   insidious influences at work in  Australia,  the country  being run from Canberra  like a  police state.  ASIO headquarters  received  a copy of  the letter  from  its Darwin office with a  note  which  said  that since  Bowditch took over running the paper  he  had written or edited  articles “ which would appear to   support his  well-known leftish ideas”. It  pointed  out that   Steele, “  a  known communist”,   had  taken  the  opportunity  to  congratulate  the editor on  his editorial.  In   adding to  the  ASIO  file  on  Bowditch   , the   Victorian  regional office  of  the  service   in  March  composed  an  erroneous  entry  :     

I  understand  the  paper  at Darwin now  known as " Northern Territory News"  was  previously  known as  " Northern  Territory  Standard" , and was  edited by  one  Douglas Lockwood , brother of  Rupert Lockwood.  It amazes me  to think  why  the ( Melbourne ) Herald  would  send   Douglas Lockwood   to  act as  their representative  in London.  I  might  add that Bowditch  and Lockwood   were  on very  friendly  terms
The clangers  in this statement  are  :  the NT News and the  Standard were  two different  papers;  Doug Lockwood  edited  neither.  Rupert Lockwood ,  Doug’s    brother  , a  Communist,  figured  in the  Petrov Inquiry .  Rupert  Lockwood   was said to  have been  a  Liberal  until  experiences  as  a reporter in Europe , especially   in the  Spanish Civil  War , where he saw the mangled  bodies of  children killed by  aerial  bombing , turned  him  to  communism.  Doug Lockwood definitely  was not a  communist.  It is  said  the reason why   Doug Lockwood  went  to London  was   due to  a gross  error  made in the   Melbourne Herald’s coverage of the  controversial    Petrov Inquiry . In referring to the  communist   Rupert  Lockwood, a sub editor  supposedly  changed  the  name to  Douglas Lockwood.   As a  result ,  the Herald acknowledged  the   mistake  and asked  Doug Lockwood if there was  anything  they  could do to make amends. Send me to London , was the  supposed  reply.  (The  Lockwoods were  at the London screening of  the  Territory  movie  Jedda, and  emerged  from  the  theatre  to   find  snow   falling.)    

ASIO   also   reported  that  Bowditch  , in moving to Darwin ,  had taken  his coloured  “ de facto” and their child  north . ASIO  made  several mentions of   Betty , calling her  Beth in one report , and  variously described  her  as  coloured”,  half- caste” and  a “ quadroon”.  It is  difficult  to  understand  the relevance of the  fact  that  ASIO  recorded  that she had lost  a  baby  in Alice .  What  comes through  clearly  in the  files kept on Bowditch is that    he  and    many  others  in the  Northern  Territory  were  subjected to  Australia’s  brand  of  McCarthyism.  Just associating  with a  person  or expressing  a  democratic   view  against the   government    was  enough  to  have  you  entered in  a  file . NEXT : Police officer sent  to “Siberia” over  case involving  Bowditch .   

Monday, October 28, 2013

AUSTRALIA'S DAY OF SHAME : Continuing biog of Crusading Editor, "Big Jim" Bowditch

The  appointment  of  Bowditch as  the  Managing Editor  of the Northern Territory News was officially  announced in the paper  on  March 3,  l955.  With a population of about 8000, Darwin, like  Alice Springs , had a severe  shortage  of  accommodation . Signs of  the  war  could still be seen, including the wreck of the  Neptuna   which was  exposed  at  low tide  next to  Stokes Hill Wharf . The  bulk  of   the population  was  employed in  the  public service and  the armed  services .
Starting  work  at the News the  same week as Bowditch was  apprentice compositor  Bobby  Wills who had  been at the Northern  Standard .  Because  the union- run newspaper office  had  been  formal in dealings with  staff , they being addressed as Mr or Mrs , young Bobby , on   being  introduced  to the new editor , called him  Mr Bowditch.  Bowditch immediately responded by  saying that nobody called him mister , his name was Jim.
By  Peter  Simon
When   Bowditch first  took over at the News the  average circulation  was  2500 and  it struggled to survive. The reporting staff  on the paper consisted of  Jim Kelly , who had also  worked at the Standard,  and a cadet, Alan Ramsey,  who went  on to  become a  top  political  reporter in  Canberra.   Something  of a  terse  interview took place  between  Bowditch and Kelly .   Kelly,  who  walked with a kind of  shuffle , had  long  been known as “Flannel  Foot ”.  He  told  Jim   that  he ( Kelly ) would  look after  the editorial  side  of  the paper and  that Jim could concentrate on the  business  side .   Bowditch said   that  was not the way it  would be  as he intended  doing a lot of  writing for the  paper . Kelly  had  been secretary of the  Darwin branch of the  Federated Clerks’Union, knew Harry   Krantz , the SA branch’s  secretary , a close  Bowditch  friend .
ASIO  suspected  Kelly was a Communist . In those days  anybody  connected  with  unions  or  who  spoke out against the government automatically  seemed to be  branded  a Communist, a person of interest , by  security.  Kelly  covered  many sports,  including darts-the reports on which were  incredibly  long.  Bowditch said  a  good  story  to  Kelly  was  a  page  and a  half  of  darts  results . 

Kelly also  wrote   the regular  creative  astrology  feature, The Stars .  While  Kelly  was  drinking in  a pub  he  heard  a person   say  he had  put  off an outback  light plane  trip as the stars in the  News had  warned about  plane  travel .  It can be revealed that rotund   Kelly , under the  name  Jupiter, moonlighting for Glenville Pike's  North Australian Monthly  magazine , wrote  the  stars  and  received two guineas  a  pop  .
In  the steamy  reporters room  it  was not unusual for  Kelly , a large consumer of Temple Bar cigarettes, to  remove his  shirt and sit there typing away with sweat  running  down his  ample  body .  Kelly  gave   a    radio sports  report  on   the ABC and   was a  keen supporter of  the  Buffaloes  Club.   Plumpish , he  used to ride  a  tiny  motorbike with  a  sidecar  like  a  half opened  sardine can  in which his wife, Sheelagh , a renowned   cook ,  sat,  knees  up .
 The Kellys  lived in  an old  army hut , but when  Jim’s father died he inherited   a considerable sum of money  and  a  black  Hillman  sedan which he drove for years . With their  new wealth  ,  the  Kellys   moved into a  substantial house on piers  at Fannie Bay .   There   Kelly would walk  about in the nude listening  to  classical music  ; one night , after a  few drinks, he   fell from the  balcony , Jupiter   plummeting to  earth   resulting in  stars  flashing  before  his eyes.  Because  the  music was   being  played   fortissimo , perhaps the  l812 Overture  , it took  a long time  for   Sheelagh   to  hear  his  cries   for  help .   
In the  cavernous  factory at the News the team included  linotype operator  Arthur Wright, a walking  encyclopedia  of knowledge   about   Darwin, especially  its boisterious   early  union  days  and  the  many   characters  and pioneering   aviators    who  had  passed  through the  town .  He  had  been in   Queensland  boxing  troupe ,  was  working at  the  Northern Standard  at the  time of the first  Darwin bombing  and was the  brother  of  lawyer  Dick Ward’s  first wife.  Although a  staunch  unionist  , Arthur   was  aggrieved  by a  union dispute  which  resulted   in his   father  suiciding  after being  sent to  Coventry . The  tragic  event  involved a  union   ban placed on a  hotel  over   a  matter supposedly  involving  the use of Aborigines as  cheap  labour in hotels.  His father, a  winch operator on the wharf, was   seen   going into  the  Club Hotel during the ban  for an  afterwork drink, and was ostracized  by  fellow unionists. He  became  so distressed  by  his  treatment  that he placed  a stick of dynamite  in  his mouth  and  lit the fuse.

As previously mentioned , staff  morale  was low  at  the News  when  Bowditch  first arrived .  It  was  known  that  somebody  was  writing  highly critical reports  about the  running of  the  establishment  to  Eric  White in  Sydney   An intercepted   critical  letter  had  been  pinned  to  the  staff  notice  board   

There  was  no  gentle easing   into  the  editor’s   job.  Almost  immediately  Bowditch  took  Territories’   Minister ,  Paul Hasluck , to  task  for making a contentious  statement   that the  bombing of  Darwin had  been  Australia’s day  of  shame  because people  had run away .  The comment was  made  by Hasluck during a speech  at  the opening of new premises  for the  NT Legislative Council  by the  Governor - General, Sir William Slim .
The News criticised  Hasluck for making the day of shame claim ; people who had been in  Darwin during the  bombing  pointed out that there  had been many  heroic acts at the time . Bowditch  said  Hasluck’s speech at the opening had dwelt on the  past and showed the government had no vision for the Territory’s future.
One of those who congratulated  the  News over its  stand  on  Minister  Hasluck was a former NAWU secretary , Jack McDonald , who  had  been associated  with  author Xavier Herbert in the l930s. McDonald , whose  son, David,   was a  compositor at the News , said  the  Minister  had  come to  Darwin as a guest  of the people  and in his “splenetic speech had insulted his  hosts  by declaring  that  February 19, l942 had been a day of shame  because  the citizens of  Darwin had run away.  To  have said  everyone panicked  had been a “ lie ”, wittingly  or otherwise. 

McDonald  said he  and  police  officer Sergeant Sandy  McNab  had organised stretcher bearers  among  waterside  workers  and despite  there  being  two rows of  dead men lying on   the wharf  approach , these men had  carried out their  duties like  veterans.  He had  seen big men cry - not with fear , but with anger. They had no weapons, only their  fists.

Only four planes  got off  the  ground in the  first  raid,  he  wrote ,   and after  that  the RAAF  were told it was   every man  for himself.  Some RAAF men  were  later  sent back from Alice Springs . McDonald  wrote that  there  certainly had  been  an  exodus  from  Darwin , but it  was led  by  government department heads.  Most old Territorians   had  stayed  put.  The Administrator , the   Police  Superintendent  and the  Police Inspector  had  departed .

 An “ outstanding exception ” had been  Judge Wells who  had stayed on throughout the war to protect  the  people of  Darwin against  the  tyranny ” of  those who were in charge  of the town.  If  Mr Hasluck  wished to  find something “ shameful ” he should look at the Canberra records  to see how  much money had been  paid  out in compensation  to civilians whose houses had been looted, not by Japanese  but troops sent to defend  Darwin .   McDonald, who left Darwin after the 14th raid ,  said  a  pleasing  feature  of  this tough period in Darwin  was that  not  a  single politician  made a visit -not until the last shot  had  been fired. “ Strange that  they should come  along now, over 10 years later , to tell  us about  it.”   NEXT: Bowditch  explains his philosophy on  important  issues .


The  saying goes that old   soldiers never  die , just  fade  away  -   Australian  World  War  11  books  published  in  large  numbers  for  the  Australian  Military  Forces  by  the Australian War  Memorial ,  Canberra , to  inform    people  at  home ,  are  in a  similar  state .   In  the   period  1941  to  1944  there  were 11   volumes, entitled  :  Active Service , Soldiering On , Khaki  and  Green , Jungle Warfare  , On  Guard , H.M.A.S., H.M.A.S. Mk. 11,  H.M.A.S. Mk. 111,These  Eagles , RAAF  Log  and  RAAF  Saga .The  cessation of  hostilities resulted   in   further  volumes , including  Victory  Roll.

Back  in  the  l980s  ,  it   was   not   unusual  to  see  copies  of   these  well   illustrated  books , some  with  dustjackets ,  in  secondhand  bookshops , at   garage sales  and  in  op  shops . Now they are a  rarity .    A  group  of   four  worn  such  volumes  was   recently  sighted   in   a   Queensland  op shop ,  under  lock  and  key,  with   prices of    $30  to   $60 .

Battered   and    showing  signs   of   exposure  to   water , the  1944  copy  of   JUNGLE  WARFARE   at the top , includes  several   full plate   cartoons  about   New Guinea   by   artist,  war correspondent  , famous  caricaturist  Tony  Rafty,  now in  his  nineties.   Part  of  the  drawing shows  a  soldier  unable  to  carry  his  gear  because   he  is  lugging   Japanese souvenirs  and  an Australian  soldier  is  seen  manufacturing fake Japanese   flags  for  an  American   customer. Rafty  served in  Darwin  at  one  stage  ,   broke  out  in  a  blotchy  rash ,  was  hospitalised , and entertained  the   staff  and  patients  with  his  drawings .  Much  of  his  eventful  life,  including  his close  connection   with   President  Soekarno of Indonesia  ,  has   been  written  up  in .  He  is  responsible for  arranging  this  writer  to commence    work  in   newspapers  in   the   l950s   

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Vallis  Photo
Cunningly  camouflaged  as   either  a  giant  land  tortoise   or   a  rock cake  gone  wrong  in  a    TV  bake   off   competition  , this  flying  saucer  was  photographed  hovering   over   a   large boulder   in  the  bush.  The  UFO   blasted   off   and  headed  in  the  direction of  the Northern Territory  News  office  where  another   of  the  tiny  band  of  surviving   reporters,  one  not missing  a  limb  due  to  getting  too  close  to  a  crocodile  in  an  interview ,  will   almost  certainly  be  abducted   by   the   Martians  and  subjected  to   an  embarrassing  examination  in their  relentless  drive  to  find  signs  of   intelligence   on   the  planet.   

Friday, October 25, 2013


Closely involved   in    the  arts,   music , Aboriginal  and Islander  advancement  and  journalism  in  North Australia ,   Chips   Mackinolty , on  a  well  deserved  sabbatical from  Darwin  ,  is  now   apparently  ensconced  in   Italy .   Chips   was   a   prominent  player  in  the  Townsville  arts  and   theatre  scene  back  in  the  l980s ;  there  he  backed  the successful  application  for  a licence  for   community  radio  station , 4TTT.

In a submission to the  Australian  Broadcasting Tribunal, Mackinolty ,in his capacity as  co- community  arts  officer  at  Townsville  Cultural Association,    said   he  was  not  overstating  the case  by saying  it  was  imperative  for   Townsville , a  growing  and  changing city,  to  have  such  a  facility . He attached  a  strongly   worded ,  somewhat     whimsical , paper he  had   delivered to  an Australian  Institute of Political Science  conference  on   the   funding  and  administration  of  the  arts .

In  it  he  touched  on   Professor   Geoffrey  Blainey’s   theme  of  the  tyranny  of  distance  influencing  Australia’s  development,    World  War  11 “  Brisbane Line ” thinking ,  “ the  bloody  long  way  from  anywhere ” attitude  to  North Queensland   and  the  high  cost  of  bringing  cultural  shows  north .

He  took a  party of   Aboriginal and  Torres Strait Islander   performers   to  a  South  Pacific  Festival  in  Papua  New  Guinea  and  eventually  moved  to  the  Territory .  In  the  NT   he  became closely associated with Aboriginal communities,  the  early  land  rights  movement  and  the  vibrant   art  and  music   beat , churning   out  political  posters  and  prints .  Earlier  this  year  he   announced  that after  some 30 odd years in the  Territory  he  intended  to  take  a   break  from  all   his  hectic  activities .
 It  is  to  be  hoped  that  Chips  puts  pen  to  paper  and writes  his  autobiography  while  he  is  OS . He  has  a  great story to tell from his early days  at  Sydney University , where  for a short time he studied  history, political science and  psychology ,  resided  in the   Tin  Shed art centre  where  he  designed and  made  T-shirts and posters. In l969 he  produced  thousands   of  anti -Vietnam  War posters and  was   arrested  in  a  large  student  protest  march . The National Gallery has bought  hundreds of  his posters which  express  the  views of  a  generation. In 2010  Chips won the $15,000  Togart  Award  and  immediately donated  it  to struggling  music groups  in  the Territory. If  he is not  intending  to  write  his  life's story, then  some   author  or  literary agent  should   contact  him  ASAP.