Saturday, November 30, 2013


Clutching  the  rail  for  support  after  shuffling  along  the  winding, sweat-inducing  track to  the  WW11 forts  on  Magnetic  Island , Darwin  agronomist , Rob Wesley-Smith , above , gulps  in oxygen  and  admires  the  view . With   him  was  older  comrade , Cyclops , who  had  done  the  forts  walk  about  a decade ago  but , because of senile decay, had  forgotten  how long  and  steep it is . The  odd  couple, both over  70,   nearly  fell  into  drainage  ditches  cut  across  the  path  to  the forts   as  they    looked   up   trees   for  elusive koala bears .  During  the  trek, they  reminisced  about  many events   and  people . Wes , a  longtime activist  , who  obtained  his  ASIO file  last year,  recalled  how  decades ago  he  had “spied  on  the  Pine Gap  space  base , from  a ridge  near Alice Springs ,  and  a   photo  he  took of  its five  radomes  had  raised  much  comment in Australia  and overseas.

Wes  caused concern when he  announced   he  had  not  taken  his pills  first  thing  that   morning on the island,   especially  the   magnesium  tablet  to  combat  cramp. Cyclops  wondered  if  there  could be  a  sudden  medical  emergency requiring  him  to throw  Wes  on his back, apply  the  kiss of  life  and  massage his  legs  at the same time ,   causing  shocked  koalas  to   plummet  to  earth  and startled   Japanese  tourists   to  bow respectfully  and   run  like  hell.   Because  of   poor  eyesight,  only   one  koala  was   spotted , but  a  young  Canadian  couple  said  they  had seen  four, one  with  a   baby , right alongside  the  track . How did  we  miss this cute  sight ?  Wes dropped in on the island making his way back  to Darwin after spending  time in southern states  .  While away ,   Wes   worked   on   the  manuscript  of  his  epic 117 Days  in  East  Timor  and  was also updated  in  Sydney  on  the  progress of  a  book about Australian journalist  Roger East  , murdered  by  the invading Indonesians  and  thrown  into the sea  at  Dili . On  an  anniversary of the  murder,  Wesley-Smith  played  the   part of   East  in  the  dramatic  re-enactment  below.

Wes insists  he has to live  to be 100  to  finish all the  things he wants to write and  the projects  he is involved  with  in  Timor and  elsewhere .In the case  of decaying Cyclops, he ventured  he would have to survive to  125! to complete all  his tasks , by  which time he would look  like  something  out of  The Curse of the Mummies .  A quick shower  and a  handful of  pills  after the  forts walk  and  Wes  got  into his Honda, bearing only one  protest  sticker-NO DAM FOR BROWNHILL CREEK, South Australia -  and    set  out  on  the  drive back  to  Darwin, hoping not  to be abducted  by one of  those  squadrons   of  UFOs  along  the lonely  Barkly  Highway  and  permanently  hovering   above  the   NT   News  water cooler .

Friday, November 29, 2013


Spy  phone taps  organised  in a   joint  operation  by   Little Darwin  and  the  CWA  have discovered  that  the Abbott  Government  is  secretly  arranging  an international conference of  the  Flat Earth  Society   in  Kirribilli  House,  official Sydney residence of  our esteemed  Prime Minister. A  prominent  person , whose identity is  TOP SECRET,   has been approached to  organise the  major event .  However,  Little Darwin  has been  steaming open  the  abusive snail mail  of  Monarchists  , shock  jocks and  other  pests   and  found  that  the mystery  person  is  somebody who  regards  himself  as  God’s  gift  to  lonely and  dateless  belly  dancers  suffering  from  rampant  prickly   heat  and  Dutch  elm disease .  President  Obama   has  no time for the  Flat Earth Society, which  denies global warming,  and  has  told  Little  Darwin  he  will arrange    a  drone  to  bomb   Kirribilli  House  when  the  buggers  are  in  session.  The  US  president  starts  each day  with  a  read of  the  latest , well - balanced  Little Darwin  blog in  the White  House  little house ,  near  the   rose   and   prickle  garden .

Sunday, November 24, 2013

DARWIN'S DYNAMIC MYSTERY MAN -Continuing biog of Crusading Editor,"Big Jim" Bowditch.

 Under Bowditch Northern Territory News circulation rose to 4000 but was  plagued  by  trouble with the  clapped out plant.  A local  diver, marine salvage  expert  and larger than life  character, Carl Atkinson ,right, holding a deadly box jellyfish, in Keith Willey's book, Eaters of the Lotus, was called in to do urgent  repairs on the  press and other equipment. A powerful  man, he could lift large pieces of  machinery which  normally  took  several men to handle .  Once he had been  called  to the Northern Standard  office  to help get a tipsy man  trapped by the arm  in  a printing press. On that occasion  he used  a crowbar  with  such  dexterity  the machine  was  not damaged.  The  injured man was taken to hospital, but was  reluctant to be treated  by a bearded  doctor, saying  there might be nits in his whiskers.

Atkinson , who lived on the waterfront  in a collection of  huts at  Doctor’s Gully,  was said to have  beaten up Australian  film star  Errol Flynn in  New Guinea.  In many ways  Atkinson was a mystery man and he helped the legend  along. Bowditch  said  Atkinson had  been “dirty ” about having been arrested as an enemy alien  during WW11, but had soon been released.   It was suggested that he had been born in Melbourne  in l913, son of  Enoch  Atkinson.  However it was also said  he was  known  as  Carl von  Mueller , the name  later changed to  Atkinson.  Whatever the  true  story, he  led an adventurous  life.  In Sydney he  was  said to have lived in bohemian Kings Cross , been a private eye, introduced waterskiing to Australia , was employed by the  marine  firm of Messengers  and  did diving  work in Sydney Harbour.

Other claims to fame were that he was the arm wrestling champion of Alice Springs , that he destroyed mines  which were  still floating about Darwin when he  first went  there in l945 and  he  took  Sir Charles  Lloyd Jones   crocodile shooting, the businessman returning to Sydney in a Rolls-Royce.

When Atkinson drove to the Darwin  Post Office  with a  female passenger, in a distinctive work  vehicle, he was  surrounded by some drunken sailors.  They told him to get out of the car and leered at the girl . Two sat on the bonnet.  In no uncertain fashion, Carl told them to desist but they  foolishly  ignored his  directive ; one  even tried to tweak  his  nose.   In a graceful action , Atkinson  flung open  the  heavy door  of  the car  with so much force  that it was claimed it broke the  kneecap  of one  sailor , who  collapsed  in a  groaning heap . Carl then  grabbed the two  on the bonnet  and dealt  with them in quick time. The others wisely ran off .

Known as the Baron of Doctor's Gully, he  had his own  recompression chamber  and saved the lives of many  pearl divers  who  suffered  the  bends . Pets he had  were  a  snake, Sammy, and a croc, Cuthbert ,with whom he went swimming, and who was  given a  spell in  the  chamber after becoming crook. Carl also owned  Darwin's wartime wrecks. 

Some standover men  came up  from south, believed Melbourne, intent on taking  control of  the wrecks, rumoured to have  valuables in safes,  from  Atkinson.  When they arrived  in town they made inquiries  about  where to find  Atkinson, and he was tipped off , one account has it that  the  they  went to the News  and Bowditch raised the  alarm.   When the toughs  arrived  at  Doctor’s Gully they  were bailed up at  the end of a shotgun  by  a man  who worked for  Atkinson.   Atkinson then proceeded to  bash the  daylights  out of  the hoods.  They tottered away and left their car, which was flooded by the incoming tide.  

Photos by Peter Simon
A Japanese  company, Fujita Salvage , with l20 men  , came to Darwin  towing  a large floating  crane  and began to  remove  the  wartime  wrecks.  One  hulk , the  tanker British Motorist, was raised , righted and  used as a  mother  ship  for the salvage operations.  The Japanese  would raise  large portions of vessels , transport them to the shallows  and then  an army of workers, all squatting, would chip the rust away.  The Japanese  cook ,  Tsutomu  Watanabe ,bought a  pedigree Collie dog,  named it Fuji  , and  won a prize in  the  North Australian Canine Association’s Championships. The Japanese liked the animal so much they  had   documents prepared to enable them to  take it back to Japan with them when they   finished  salvage work .

A dispute  arose  over  the ownership of   the  USS  Peary  and  the   government  put the ship up for sale.   This infuriated  Atkinson  who  issued a  writ to stop the  salvage operations . The head  of the company  , Mr   Fujita , and his  young  interpreter went to court.  Lawyer  John “Tiger” Lyons , appeared for  the  company  and  during  a  recess  in  the  hearing  draped Fujita in his gown and wig . The  beaming salvage  chief had his photograph taken by the interpreter . 

Bowditch was present in the Hotel Darwin when  Atkinson  discussed  payment  for the wrecks  with  Fujita  and  his increasingly   nervous  interpreter.   While admitting he  was a “ little racist when it came to  Japanese  because of his war experiences, Bowditch said  he liked  Fujita.  Fujita  foolishly said  he would not pay Carl for the  Peary as he would get it for nothing from the government.  Suspecting he was being  diddled ”, Atkinson  jumped up in a rage  and  roared .  Fujita  took  to his  heels  , ran  down the corridor  and out into the  street, with Atkinson in  pursuit.  Later on, Atkinson  came back , laughing. 

Fujita  also  cautiously  re-entered the hotel  and negotiations  resumed.  Bowditch  borrowed a typewriter from the  hotel reception office  and in a cubicle designed for  taking telephone calls  typed  up an agreement for an amount said to have been 12,000 pound ($24,000).  The carriage on the typewriter  kept  hitting  the  partition and  the end result did not look like a slick legal document.   Nevertheless , Atkinson gave  Bowditch a “sling” for his  services. Bowditch felt not all the wrecks should have been  removed. One  at least  should have been  left as a reminder, a memorial like at Pearl Harbour , to remind Australia what had happened  during the  war.     

Some  of  the salvage  workers  came ashore  on leave  , sampled Australian  beer for  the  first time   and got into trouble. A number just collapsed in various places about town  , including a milk  bar  and  outside the police station ; another  did a dance outside  the Victoria Hotel.  A diver was killed  during the  salvage operations  and as his body lay  in  the morgue a guard of  Japanese slept  around the corpse at night .  The  body was taken to   Channel Island   where it was cremated before the  entire  salvage team.


When an alleged Russian oceanographic research  ship called at Darwin  , Atkinson , as  was  usual with new arrivals , went aboard  to  offer  his  professional  services .  As he  boarded  the ship ,  this  writer , who  had just interviewed the Russians  for the   News, said to Atkinson... Watch out Commander Crabb-you could go  missing.” This was a reference  to the mystery  disappearance  of the  wartime  hero  Lieutenant-Commander  Lionel “Buster ”Crabb  while diving near Russian warships  which brought  Marshal Bulganin and  Khrushchev  to Britain in  l956.   Wild stories   circulated  that Crabb  had been captured by the Russians  and taken back to Russia, and that   he had been  working for US Intelligence and not the British .   Authorities claimed a headless  and handless body  in a diving  suit  had not been that  of Commander Crabb.

Atkinson responded to the  Crabb  warning  with a laugh  and  saluted in naval fashion- although he was  wearing a white boiler suit , the sleeves cut short for ventilation . When Archbishop Makarios  survived an assassination attempt in Cyprus  during which  some of his bodyguards were killed, Atkinson deplored the Press coverage of the event, which he said  paid little attention to  the  bravery  of the  men  who gave  their lives  protecting a hairy, old , religious  leader. 

The hut in which  Atkinson lived had a mango tree  growing through the bedroom . It  was claimed that  whenever  Atkinson made love to a woman he swung from the tree  and beat his chest  like Tarzan . In  any case, many  people were envious of Atkinson, his  speedboat and  the “harem” of  nurses  he  used to entertain  and  take skiing.

Bowditch was informed  about a  puzzling  event  involving  Atkinson who was seen in protective gear , including work gloves, up  a  power pole near Doctor’s  Gully late at night.  He asked Atkinson  for an explanation. According to Atkinson,  he  had  climbed  the pole  when  a  sensitive girl he was  parked with  in a car  became worried about the fate of a cat  chased up there  by  a  dog.  Bowditch  said  it was  a dubious  explanation ; he proffered the  theory  that  it was  more likely  that  Atkinson had  been  running an illegal power supply  down to  his workshop. NEXT : Drunken  Duncan  and Punchy Ted add to the  editor’s  many  crosses.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Stern Speaker conducts  lusty singing of  Advance Australia  Fair  to  drown out bellowing  monarchists  in  parliament

The   present constant   uproar   in  the  Victorian  parliament  is  but a storm  in a  teacup   compared  with  the   wild  time  when   Pete  Steedman   ruled  the  state   and   took  part  in  an  explosive   debate  over  a   proposal  to   redevelop   the   Melbourne  Botanic  Gardens   and  build  an   inconspicuous   88- storey  tower -  designed  by  Ken  Done-  for  the underprivileged  and  homeless   on  the   prime  site.

 A  rare   DVD  record  of  that  shameless   Tammany  Hall  period   shows  Steedman   and  the   dodgy  Victorian  Treasurer   drinking   from   tinnies  in   parliament .  Somehow ,  American    raucous    stand  up   comedian  , the late   Phyllis   Diller ,  dressed   like  one   of   Cinderella’s  ugly  sisters,   appears  early  in   the  footage , which  explains  that  Comedy  Festivals  in  the  past  have  included  overseas artists ;    her   autobiography ,  entitled  Like   a  Lampshade in  a Whorehouse ,   could  well   inspire  book on  current   politics...Financial  Review  artist , David Rowe , having  just  used this  angle  in  another brilliant  cartoon   depicting  a scene in a  Mark  Textor  porn  production  in which there is a familiar  woman  with  a  lampshade  over her  head .

The   introduction goes on to   say   that  the  legal  profession  had  received attention  in  the past, now  it is the turn of   politics   in  the  form of  live coverage   of   parliament  sabotaged by  the   Comedy  Company .   In   the  production  ,   Steedman,   billed  as  an ex- politician ,  quick - witted   rebel  and  aggressive  cynic ,   plays  the   part  of  the  Premier ,Vic  Southland,  of  the  Socially Acceptable  Left   Party (SALP) ,   swept  into power  after   Premier  Cain  had  been unceremoniously dumped  after  a  snap election.

An excited  ABC  reporter , outside  parliament ,  says  it is  hard to believe that  Southland , the  former  university  rebel   now  the  truly   enfant  terrible    is   the   head  of   state .   Leader   of   the   Opposition  in  the    ruckus  is   former  Federal  Liberal  president , Tony   Staley , going under the name , Winsom  Sharpe .

Parliament    is   actually    the  St.  Kilda  City   Council  Chamber   and  the  real  Premier , John  Cain , is  a  member  of   the   large   public  gallery  ,  which   joins   in  the  uproar and  fun  .  Outside ,   members  of  the   public  are   demonstrating and  waving  placards   against  the   grandiose   proposal , the  first  Bill  put  before  the  house .   The  Honourable Speaker , none  other  than   seasoned  actor ,  Terry  Norris ( Bellbird,  Cop  Shop ), an  ALP Victorian   politician  for 10 years ,    kicks  off   play  by  singing   Advance  Australia Fair   , while  Staley’s  Liberal  side  counters   with   God  Save  the  Queen.   The  Speaker  then  says  a  prayer , starting  with “As I  lay  me down to sleep ...” he continues  by   fervently  asking   that ,  should  he   die  before  the  morn , all  his  parliamentary superannuation  go  to  his wife.  Steedman is seen   giving   Staley  a   two-fingered  salute .

In  introducing  the    Bill  for  the  development  of  the  Royal  Botanic  Gardens ,Treasurer  Peter   Beating ,  Member   for   Vintage  Ports , actor   Michael  Bishop ,  says   homeless   young   people  wanting  to  crack  a   flat  in  the   tower    will  receive   an  application  form  sent to  the last  known address  and  they  will   be  entered  in   a ballot .(It is interesting to note  that when   Steedman  was editor  of   Broadside , he  took on  the   Housing  Commission  for  failing   to  carry out  its  job.)  

 Development of the  gardens  will  be  a   joint  project  between  the  government , the  Bi-Centennial Authority  and  Sushi of   Japan   (Australia )  Pty  Limited ...there  is  a loud   cry  of  "Don’t come the  raw prawn !” from  Peter   Massey  Ferguson, of  the  Beef  Short  Cuts  Party .

In  a  fine  imitation  of  Prime Minister  Bob  Hawke , the Treasurer  rolls  his eyes, tugs at his  ear  lobes and  shirt cuffs, and announces  that  by  the year  2000  , no  child will  be  living in poverty.  Violently  and   emotionally   opposing   the   wholesale  destruction  of  the Royal Botanic  Gardens     by   SALP    is  the  theatrical  environmentalist ,  Lawn  Green , alias  comedian   Brian  Nankervis ,  popular  in  the  1980s –l990s  as the  eccentric beat  poet, Raymond J.  Bartholomeus ,  a  regular on  Hey  Hey   It’s Saturday  !   Lawn  Green , Member  for  Queensland  Heads  , rises and presents the Speaker with a flower.   His  Environ -Mentals  Party  , he says,  wants  the  whole  of  Australia  placed  on  the  world  wild  life heritage  list.

He  paints   an entrancing  picture of the  nearby untamed  waters of  the  Yarra Yarra  and  the gardens  with  exotic palms ,  exotic  hydrangeas  and grass as far as the eye can see .  Describing  himself   as  homeless ,  he has  an  alternative  plan  for part of  the  gardens ,  which   involves   clearing     the   Cactus  Garden  section  and   replacing  it  with   a  government run   marijuana   plantation .  The  National  Crime Authority   inquiry into the Painters and “Decorators ”  Union ,  he  points out,   had revealed  that  the   illegal  drug  trade  was  worth $600million  annually  , which  equated  to  $40  for  every man, woman and   offspring , clearly indicating  he  was being  overcharged  for  his  supply. 

There   is   uproar  when  he  calls    Premier  Southland  Adolf  Hitler  and refuses to withdraw  the  statement.   At one  stage  in   his   speech, he  leads   a  large group  in  the  singing  of   We  Shall Overcome ;  he  is  dragged  out ,  protesting  ,  by   parliament  security;  the Speaker  declares  the  myth  that   marijuana  is  not  bad  for  you  is obviously   wrong.

In   the  skit , Staley   is  seen  in  a  suit,  down on  his  knees,  praying  .   Steedman also sports  a suit and tie  , as does   the  Treasurer.   The   Opposition Treasurer,  Winsome  Lucky, played by  actor  Val Lefkowsky,  produces leaked  documents   in  which  she   reveals  the  proposed   Act  would  extend  development  beyond   the  Botanic  Gardens  and include  the National Tennis Centre.
This  sensational   information  causes   Premier  Cain, sitting in the gallery, to  jump  to his  feet and  express dismay at encroachment on  his beloved  tennis   arena .  Brandishing  her  roll of  leaked  plans, Lucky  goes on to  say that   Sushi  of   Japan (Australia) Pty.  Limited  is  the front   for  a  scam linked with companies with   names like  Cold, Getting Warmer,  Hot , Very Hot, the  latter controlled  by  three  nominees, including Peter Beating !  By this stage the Treasurer, right , protesting  strongly, rushes  over  and  tries to  grab the  plans   from Lucky ; he  receives   a  knee  in the groin ,  totters  back  to  his  seat  next  to  the  Premier who, smiling,  asks  if  he wants  a  massage.

Parliament is  thrown  into total  uproar , a paper aeroplane is launched,   Staley holds up a  placard : RESIGN. There is  a  vote  of  no  confidence in the  government  and it is  toppled. Looking like two  Queensland   bikies in  leather  jackets  and  wearing dark glasses, the ousted  Premier and his Treasurer, below ,  re-enter parliament  and   monster  Lawn  Green , ordering him  out  of  his seat.   

The   triumphant   new  Premier  says  the  Royal Botanical  Gardens  have  been  run  down by  all the  folk  festivals  held  there . He  announces  a  plan  to  convert  part  of  the  area  into a  36- hole  golf  course  to  attract  American  dollars  to  the state . A  subsequent  vote, however,  results  in a  win  for  the  homeless . A  little boy  is seen throwing   a  paper  aeroplane as part of the celebrations on the winning side of  the  House,which includes the ousted Premier and Treasurer  
The    DVD  includes  interviews  with the  scriptwriter and  producer and  Steedman and Staley . In one  part ,   Steedman   and   Staley  , above , both  agree  that   all  actors  want    to  play  the  part  of  politicians.   Steedman     makes   the  point  that   this   became evident  after   the   two  bit  actor,  Ronald  Reagan , with  a  desire  to  bomb  the  world,  became the  US  President  . This   was   particularly  attractive to  those  on  Staley’s side of  politics.  Steedman  says  he   wants   to   demean   politics  in   a  bid  to  get  some fresh air  into  the establishment  and  do something  about  the  factions  on  both  sides  which   bedevil   politics.   He caused   Staley to   laugh  when  he  said  he ( Staley ) had  retired from politics  because of  his embarrassment  over   getting   Malcolm  Fraser  into  power  and  would   never   live   down   the  shame .

NUT  NOTE :   When  Tony  Staley   was  Federal  Minister  for  Telecommunications  a group lobbying   for  a   community radio  licence  in Townsville-4TTT-  sent  him  reminders  written  on  coconuts  . He  took those coconuts with him as a souvenir  when he quit  Canberra  and  they  disappeared  .  Anybody   finding  a  few stray  nuts , with   pleading  messages  to  Canberra   on them,  please  contact  us   ASAP . NEXT:  Steedman  gets  Julia  Gillard to  draw up  a contract  for  him  as  he  prepares  to  launch   an  innovative  scheme to  spread  the  sound  of  music  throughout the  nation.