Monday, February 29, 2016


One of the joys of  book addiction  is that you never know what you are going to  discover  hidden  in  the  text in  volumes  you  lug  home from a  trawl  . For example, this  scuffed and  dog-eared  proof  copy  spoke  to  me at  a  Townsville church  fete. It told me , doctor,  to  buy  it  and  I  would  get  a big surprise .

Sure enough  , it contained information  about  Darwin , the  crusading editor of the  Northern Territory  News , ASIO .  Author  Gillian Nicholson began her career as a  cadet reporter on  the  NT News ,  edited  by  "Big  Jim" Bowditch.

She was  18 years of age  when she  and a  sister  lobbed in Darwin in 1966 from  Brisbane . This  blogger  was   20  when  he  landed  there  from  The Sun newspaper  , Sydney, in 1958 , to work  at the News , with a letter saying  accommodation   would  be provided  within  the old tin bank building , described  as   primitive.

Nicholson  succinctly describes  Darwin ;  Bowditch is tiny, wiry, pugilistic, grizzle-haired, hard drinking , ex-Z Force , defender of  the underdog , the downtrodden , the Aborigines . Author Frank Hardy and  Tall Tale  Tex Tyrell are mentioned along with pubs, fights, Greek and Chinese  families, the  Gurindji  and  the  Wave Hill strike .

Then  she runs her own secret ASIO  file  which said she  was  about to leave  Darwin and  take up a new job on  the The Australian  newspaper  in Canberra. The report states that while she was in Queensland she  had been connected with the Queensland Youth Peace Committee , Eureka Youth League ,Youth Campaign  Against  Conscription  and  Society for Democratic Action.

In  Darwin , however, she had been " relatively quiet politically ", identified with anti-Vietnam and  peace  demonstrations. ASIO  said her  father had been  president of the  Queensland branch of the  Australia-China  Friendship Society, her mother secretary of the Queensland  Peace Committee  for International  Cooperation    and  Disarmament .

Commenting on the ASIO report , Gillian flippantly said it was a good thing  ASIO kept a watch on her from unmarked cars and tapped her telephone   because all  that  demonstrating against  war  and singing   about  the brotherhood of  man   could  have  turned her   into  a (gasp-our expression ) Greenie .

Naturally, Bowditch  had  a large ASIO file , outlined in the extensive Little Darwin biography. Recently, Melbourne  journalist and author  Kim  Lockwood , who knew Bowditch so well  that he provided  him  with  a pair of his own shorts when Big Jim arrived  at  his residence in  his underpants , having  lost  his  trews  in Cyclone Tracy on Christmas day 1974 ,  suggested  the  Bowditch saga should be turned  into  an  e-book. We shall see.

While  this  blogger  was again  making his  body available for the advancement of medical science  in  the  mature aged (decaying)  male  sphere  , at  Townsville General Hospital, another book for sale   spoke  to  him  from one of  two trolleys there  laden   with  reading material , mostly wretched  novels . Entitled , The  Lighthouse Keepers , by Stuart Buchanan , it shows  Bowditch   enlisted in  the lighthouse service  ( at  Cape Moreton, off  Brisbane) in  1948 , with his first wife.

And  then the name E. Janes , 1968 , jumped out. None other  than another Darwin journalist of note , Eugene  ( Gene ) Janes , closely associated with  Bowditch, who  had also worked on a lighthouse , in  the Torres Strait, starting in  1968. See WINE AND WATERMELON AT NEWSPAPER STRIKE HEADQUARTERS in Little Darwin blog.

In London ,  Janes, a young aspiring  writer, employed as an office boy  at  the BBC , applied to join the Talks Department , headed by  the  Russian spy  Guy Burgess, who defected  to Russia  with Donald Maclean , followed  soon after by  Kim  Philby.

Burgess told  Janes he might be  another  Shakespeare , but he was too young for  Talks Department  and  had a long way to go. Janes  informed  this writer  that British Intelligence should have  been suspicious of  Burgess because  he wore  a Russian  hammer and  sickle   badge  on  his  lapel.

After serving in the war, Janes came to Australia , aged  22, and wrote short stories and  radio scripts ; he  was also commissioned   to write  many  pulp fiction novels  dealing  with the army, navy and airforce, detective stories , romance  and mystery , one,  about the Z Force, made  into a film . He, like Bowditch, is buried in  Darwin.

Nicholson and her husband , on impulse, bought a banana farm on the NSW  north coast.

Sunday, February 28, 2016


The Murdoch owned Townsville Bulletin , in a military  garrison  city  in North Queensland ,  recently shot  itself  in the foot   by running  a  photo  said to show  a   downed  Japanese   plane guarded  in  Townsville   during WWll . In fact it was  not  Japanese and  in  the Middle  East. This clanger resulted in the paper  receiving  another  broadside from the low flying Townsville  Magpie, a devilish, dashing  bird , a  mix  of  Biggles and  the  Red  Baron, who strafes city mugwumps  online . 

During  the  war  Tokyo Rose   , thought to have been as many as 12 English speaking  women ,    taunted troops in the Pacific  with  Japanese  propaganda radio reports,  often  exaggerated .

For example ,  in dealing with  the small number of attacks on Townsville , the official RAAF LOG  , published for the RAAF by the Australian War Memorial , Canberra, in 1943 , said  the Townsville   mainland  base had  received three raids, the first on July  25, by three four-engine Kawanisi flying boats.  All their bombs fell harmlessly into the sea.
Two more  equally ineffective raids followed  within a  week, and some days later an announcer on shortwave in Tokyo, with a flair for fiction  that provided amusement  for the supposed  victims  broadcast this "news":

" On July 25-26 a large formation of Japanese bombers  raided the port of Townsville on the north-east coast of Queensland. Bombs were  dropped on the docks , airfields and oil dumps . On July 28 and 29 Townsville was again raided  and bombs were dropped on  military objectives  and the city .  When large fires were witnessed  the raiders returned  to their base.  These are the largest  Japanese  raids  since the  fall of  Singapore."

Saturday, February 27, 2016


Thanks to the Special Collections department of  the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library at James Cook University , Townsville , this 1930s advertisement  for the  Day Dawn Hotel , Ingham , managed by  Syd  Ramage , was  found in the cellar .  Little Darwin  recently told  how  the pub ran out of beer  during WWll and caused Irish  cane farmer  Dan Sheahan  to  write   the poem The Pub Without Beer , later to  inspire the  famous  song The  Pub With No Beer, sung by Slim Dusty .

In the advertisement  friendly Syd Ramage  invites   visitors to North Queensland to inspect  his  collection of mineral specimens, curios , shells and coral at  Tattersall's Hotel, Townsville, now Molly Malone's Irish  Pub , above,  opposite  the former  Burns  Philp  building . Rum and milk were popular at  Tattersall's where characters included Mickey The Goose and  Annie Bags.  

The  Ramage family ran Tattersall's  from  1921 to 1951, Syd senior having earlier run the nearby  Criterion  Hotel, above , which closed  last  year .

Friday, February 26, 2016


Treasurer  Scott  Morrison told the Australian media  at the National Press  Club  in Canberra it will have to be patient as the Budget  will  develop like a Test Match .

Much  to  the  consternation of  Channel 9 Wide World of Sport , SkySport ,  Fox Sport, Wally World and  Disneyland,  Little Darwin has  secured the exclusive rights  to  the  looming   sensational  Australian  Test  Cricket  Budget which promises to be nastier than the infamous 1932-33 bodyline series in which the  Pommie bounder  Douglas  Jardine ordered his  bowlers to aim for the Aussie gizonkas .
From a secret location somewhere in the big end of  town , the  tyro Australian Test  team captain  , Malcolm Turnbull , discusses   Budget  spin and  voter  catching  techniques  with  Little  Johnny  Howard , also known  as  the  cat  in  an Akubra hat. A well known cricket tragic, Howard stunned  Pakistan  with his bowling  prowess - able to make the  ball   perform  like  a  cat  on  a  hot tin roof  just after  having been  desexed by the  vet  .  It also  caused  Warnie to  tear out his hair and head for the jungle  . After  the  instructive  chat , Turnbull  has already  started   sledging  the  opposition .
There is growing speculation that Turnbull will pad up quickly,  block  supply  and then quick as a flash  reintroduce  worthless   Malcolm  Fraser three  dollar  bills with which to  pay workers. Our team of  freeloading  cricket writers , firm  believers in payola , have  compiled  an  amazing  series  for  our  massive readership.
From left  field , Bronwyn Bishop has been lined up to be the Test  drinks  boy, hovering on the boundary  with  gin  and  tonic ,  Grange, hemlock   and  smelling salts , heckled   by  the  prominent    Hillite  journalist  and  cad , Bob Ellis .

Top  subjects  to   be  covered  in  the  future  include Tony Abbott's  most  painful   cricket moment , with   photo ; Labor's  nasty  negative  sneering  policy ;  confessions of a  maiden over ; ball and  vote  tampering  and  the  Conservative  pollie  most suited  for  silly  point , selected from  a  large  field, including a  number of  Bananalanders.

Thursday, February 25, 2016


HMAS Adelaide in  port  with  cruise ship  terminal  in  foreground...hula girls and wombats busy .

Australia's  newest  and  largest  warship , HMAS Adelaide , docked in Townsville  and the  Murdoch  Townsville Bulletin marked the occasion with a special wrap around  visitors guide  which treated  the pride of the fleet  like  a cruise ship - with an illustrated list of  10  things for the  sailors  to  do  during their  time  in  port. 

With Townsville  already  involved  flying  supplies to  cyclone  shattered   Fiji ,    the  last  thing  you  expect sailors to be doing is snorkelling  at Magnetic Island , driving to  Billabong  Sanctuary to   cuddle a  pissy Koala  or a  waddling  Wombat ... surely the average Aussie matelot has  had a close previous  encounter with  the aforesaid critters?  A  tour of  CBD  boutiques and  the  imitation  Melbourne  lane  is  also  highly recommended .

As a matter  of  fact  , early on  the day of the  ship's arrival ,  Little Darwin  was  in   the Townsville  Bunnings   and  Army personnel  seemed to be amassing a large  amount of  materials  which  one presumes  was  intended for Fiji .  (A large RAAF   Globemaster  transport  was  seen  coming  into land  soon after.) 

The grey ship will return to Sydney so the crew, which consumes about 1000 cans of Coke a week and 100 chocolate bars a day, will be able to regularly visit Taronga Zoo and Kings Cross to  see the assorted animals  .   On  the ABC this morning   it  said  Australia's flagship  HMAS  Canberra was on  its  way  to  Fiji  from  Brisbane .


With  increasing  evidence of the Americanisation of   Australia's  way of  life-especially in the workplace,  health and education- the  American impact on  pronunciation  of  expressive  French/Anglo  words  is  becoming  irksome.

Take the  old , important  position in  local government,Town  Clerk, the Clerk  expressed  under  Queen's English  as  CLARK. But , on several occasions , on commercial  TV and  the ABC,  which  should  know better , it  has  been  heard  pronounced  the   infuriating  Yankee way,   CLERK .  

And , gnash, gnash, there is the  oft heard  offensive  mouthing of  ROUTE and ROUTED , which  should be  ROOT  and  ROOTED, but is  increasingly  heard  as  ROWT  and  ROWTED ! Australian politicians, academics and  reporters  are  among the offenders  who  ought  be boiled in oil or guillotined  a la  French  for  committing  this  verbal   offence .

A minister in  the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly was  repeatedly  heard    say  vital  equipment   from  interstate  bound  for  Darwin after a power station blew up   was   being  ROWTED  via a  long way  because  of  flooding.   For this gross sin against  the  use of  English,  he was attacked by an angry  Plover  when  he  went  outside onto  the lawn  . Three cheers  for  the  patriotic Plover which  was  protecting   its  patch  and  the  Mother Tongue .

 In  the current sitting of  the  House of Representatives , Immigration  and Border Protection  Minister, Peter Dutton, during a censure motion  against him,  was  heard  say  he would  not  let  refugees on Nauru  use  self   harm  as  a ROWT   to  Australia .
A puzzling  account of the heated censure debate , moved by the Greens and  Tasmanian  Independent  Andrew Wilkie,   failed  because the ALP and  Coalition voted against it , Labor's  immigration  spokesman  Richard Marles  quoted as saying  Labor  opposed the  motion, due  to  its " over-egged language."  What?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


The  Little  Darwin  resident  Curlews have produced another two chicks .TOP : Mother with  two day olds. CENTRE : First chick spotted peeping out at world from under wing. ABOVE : More adventurous  chick  exploring  surrounds .

 The birth  process was  stressful - to this  blogger and  partner . One night , lolling off to sleep during a television documentary on polar bears  invading a community in the Arctic , this  moulting  twitcher was  informed that there was something upsetting the Curlew sitting on the eggs up  the backyard.
It could not possibly be a polar bear , because we are going through a  prolonged  hot, humid  and dry spell. It could be a feral cat , none of which have been caught in the trap , except possums.

A snake  could not be ruled out because  ace  builder Terry Gaffney  had three  episodes with a  persistent python which  kept  trying to get at his  caged  Cockateils , one called Lucky , who , unluckily,  escaped and has not been seen  since. There are  at least  two  Cockatiels missing locally, according to the community  notice  board . 

Terry , a drummer in  a popular  Townsville band  called  Midlife Crisis , caught the snake  after  the third  raid  and released it in a wildlife reserve  not far from a backpackers resort where , with  any luck, it will devour an  Irishman sprawled out  on a nearby  beach  in  a  comatose   state   after   a  Full Moon Party .

Lurching out  the backdoor to investigate  the uproar  ,  the  Curlew  was  heard   screeching  loudly and  on running, more like stumbling ,  up to the nesting spot  a large Possum, a baby on its back ,was seen standing right next to  the bird, flat on  the  ground in protective mode, wings  outstretched, screaming Blue Murder.

Banging throngs together  caused the Possum and passenger to disappear up  a  palm tree ; the  shrieking  ceased . Now that the  chicks have arrived  they will have to be guarded , especially at night , against  cats, snakes and the murderous Barking  Owls. Daytime  has   other  dangers .
Five of the six  chicks born previously did not survive . The one that did  live was firmly told to  leave home when the parents  again became broody . And just now it has been noticed that the male bird , who injured  a leg previously , is again  walking with  a slight limp. He also screamed Blue Murder when he was captured and  had his  leg expertly attended to by the wildlife carers from  the  bespoke Man Friday Mexican  restaurant  on  Magnetic Island .

Monday, February 22, 2016


Strange, concerning situation  has  developed  at  the important , interesting   Adelaide River Railway Museum Precinct  in the Northern Territory . A legal type letter of demand  was  sent to the  railway  by  AARC , the consortium which runs the main North South   rail  link , alleging  illegal structures  and  rolling stock  have been placed on the corridor, and  the  public invited  to come in  and view .

Furthermore  , AARC wants to build a 1.8metre  security fence through the railway museum area, creating access problems and interfering  with the museum's future  plans.
The museum's January newsletter, All Aboard ,  outlines the  extraordinary  situation in full , including approaches to the Chief  Minister , Adam Giles, and  local member , Gary Higgins, to no avail, independent  Gerry Wood   the only one trying to  help .
There are claims that the government's own Heritage Branch , supposed to protect  the  heritage, has disappeared down a  tunnel like a  ghost train .

The Genealogical  Society of  the Northern Territory , soon to place a well researched  Adelaide River  Pioneer Cemetery plaque  near the railway  museum site , is concerned about  the  situation. 
Adelaide River is also the site of the  war cemetery. In the early days of settlement  in Darwin the railway held an annual picnic  at the  river    and  author Xavier Herbert actually worked as a fettler  in the railway camp there  gaining  material  for his  1938    award winning novel about the Territory, Capricornia. 


The  1945 official book, Victory Roll, The RAAF  at War, carried an  article  about the end of  WWll and the Catalinas  which  flew  in  medical  supplies   for  the thousands of  prisoners of war  in Singapore . One of them , Sergeant Adair Macalister  " Chill "  Blain , in  the Changi hospital, was  the Independent  Member  for the Northern Territory in the House of Representatives , reelected  during his captivity . 

Sergeant  Blain, a surveyor  who  had worked in  Queensland and  the Northern    Territory  had  twice   been     wounded    in  WWl,  heard of  his  reelection  on  a  secret  radio  set  constructed by  his  fellow prisoners.
On returning to parliament  soon after his release ,wearing a crumpled uniform and  two rows of medals , he  received a standing ovation  , then went off and rested for two months  to get over his wartime ordeal   in which he had  sold his  gold  fillings to get medicine for sick comrades.  He lost  the Territory seat in 1949  to Jock Nelson, ALP,  whose  campaign  was  assisted  from Alice Springs by  Jim  Bowditch, later editor of the Northern Territory News in  Darwin .
In  the same volume  there  is  mention of  Group Captain Dixie Chapman ,of Adelaide , who had served in the Middle East and England during earlier years, commanded  RAAF squadrons in the Western Desert, took over control on Bougainville,where he represented the RAAF  at the  surrender of Japanese  forces.
In  later years , following involvement in the Korean war , and a spell as Air Attaché Washington ,  Chapman was put  in charge of the RAAF base in Darwin  and had dealings  with  Bowditch at  the   News over the low level bombing of   nearby Quail Island .The island  featured in Aboriginal  Dreamtime  and   was  a turtle breeding  ground.

As part of  the long campaign  to stop  the bombing ,  Bowditch  ran  an  editorial , saying  turtles were in the soup  and mentioned  the pitter patter of little children's feet, headed : CLOMP, SLITHER  CLOMP. The  theme being  that  mother  turtles would never hear the sound of baby turtle  flippers on  Quail Island   because  of   RAAF  bombing.

On reading  this amazing editorial, Dixie Chapman , short in stature, was driven to   the News  office in his staff car, and  firmly  told Bowditch  he  had read  a lot of bullshit in his life, but  this editorial  took the prize for the  worst ever . Bowditch  rolled about in his chair, laughing , the air chief joining in .The RAAF   eventually   stopped   bombing  the  island .

Sunday, February 21, 2016


Machans Beach, north of Cairns , North Queensland , is an area where journalist, editor , historian  and  publisher  Glenville Pike, his  mother and her cousin , referred  by  him as  aunty Dorothy  ,  lived  on  and  off   over the years, at times unexpectedly  visited by  author Xavier Herbert out for a jog . They  returned  there   after Cyclone Tracy flattened  Darwin  on  Christmas  Day  1974, his mother dying  soon after  in Cairns , aunty  in Mareeba .  Photographic  study  by  Abra .


When the luxury cruise ship Amsterdam , above, left,  diverted to Townsville instead of calling at Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast to avoid rough seas  caused by Cyclone Tatiara , it   did not tie up at  the   $85million  wharf 10 cruise ship  terminal ,  the Singapore registered   stock carrier  Diamantina,  a fine Aussie outback  name , right, was  berthed   there  instead, loading  up for Vietnam .

An American  freelance  travel writer   aboard  the  Amsterdam  was  reported as saying it was  great to  make the unexpected visit  to  Townsville because Mooloolaba was  a  place no one could  pronounce.

 As expected , the local media gushed over the Amsterdam 's visit ,  treating it in the usual   cargo  cult style ( multiply the number of  passengers - 1400 - by an  average  expenditure of  $370 each , lucrative,  yippee! ) .

Few  cruise ships have called  in since the opening of the terminal  in 2013   at which  the  then  Defence Minister Senator  David Johnson , later torpedoed , said the Quayside upgrade  was designed to  expand the  cruise ship  market  and  the professional  capabilities  of Defence. No mention  made  of  cattleboats  and  canoes .   Furthermore ,  it  was revealed  soon after  that  Townsville  cannot handle  bigger P. & O.  cruise ships.

On the other hand, 15 live  export boats  have passed through the Port of Townsville  this year  up  to  February  17, close to 300,000 head exported  through  the  port   last  year, up there with Darwin  which  shipped  487,000 -140,000 of them trucked across from Queensland -  and talk of  a record  600,000  this year  in the Top End .

As most people know,  live export of livestock is a contentious  issue across the nation .   In  Townsville, with 580 unemployed  meatworkers,  much  of   the  coverage in the Townsville Bulletin  tends to  be in the  form  of  lengthy  letters  from  people   for  and  against .

 Soon after the Amsterdam  arrived  , another  stock carrier ,  the Philippines registered  Sahiwali  Express  , above ,  tied up at  berth 10 .  It  used to be named  Lis E , listed on the anti live  export  website  with  the  following   masthead ...

It shows a surprising number of  vessels involved in the  livestock trade have  changed names  and  lists  companies and people  involved in the business , including   sheep  exports  from a Holmes a Court  property in Western Australia.
Incidentally,  Townsville's   Quayside  Terminal   is promoted as  a new and exciting  venue   for weddings , conventions , exhibitions , conferences  and  dinners.   A website  for making  Quayside bookings  answers   questions any person intent on using the  building  may ask, such as :"Will any cruise ship  be using  the Quayside terminal  during  my  event ?"
The reassuring answer  says  that occasion  cannot arise because the terminal is only available  for hire  when "cruise ships  and Defence  are not using the   venue."  Defence ?  The last thing  you want  at a  wedding reception ,one would think , is a  bunch of  thirsty  , jolly  Jack Tars , Australian and American , tying up   and  coming  aboard  to  kiss the bride  and dance the  bridesmaids offa their feet.
However, a signal just  received indicates Townsville is to become  a busy naval port, the RAN's newest and largest warship, HMAS Adelaide, to make its first visit to the  port any day soon, part of  an  $83million   cargo  cult plan  spread over  30  years !

With increasing numbers of livestock  being exported from  Townsville and Darwin there are  complaints  that   jobs are  being lost ,  abattoirs  are finding it hard to   find enough  stock to  operate , the new  Darwin meatworks placed under pressure . There  is talk of a   possible new  Chinese  abattoir   opening  at  Hughenden  sending  direct to China through Townsville. Meat processed in Townsville is trucked to  Brisbane and   also  shipped to Asian markets through Townsville . 

The Australian Meat Industry Employees Union has expressed concern about the live export  trade , saying the Townsville  abattoir  at Stuart  had not yet been able to open in 2016. The union   discussed the situation  in Brisbane  with  the  Employment Minister  Grace Grace and the  three   Townsville state Labor  members of  parliament;  there has been a call  for a  cap on  live exports  from  North Australia .

Due to so much livestock being exported overseas , the price of  meat has  jumped  in  shops  and today on an  ABC  rural report Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture    Barnaby   Joyce  came in for criticism  over the situation . There is a  growing  feeling  that  Australia's food security and  jobs  are  being jeopardised  as overseas  countries rush to  shore up their  supplies with   live  imports  from  Australia , while also buying up  pastoral and agricultural    properties .

Friday, February 19, 2016


After  a  lengthy period  cruising  the  Great  Barrier  Reef seeking  ships carrying   barrels  of ready  mixed    Margaritas to  raid   ,  Larry the  cussing   Lorikeet  and   freelance  pirate  has  come ashore   at  Magnetic Island and  is once  more  receiving R and R  at the residence of  the  Queen of  the Jungle .
To  show his appreciation for  looking after  his  assorted  teddy bears while he was  away on  the bounding  main ,   he   presented  the  Queen  with  the above  bottle of  his  own  Captain  Larry special  rum , soon to be released on the unsuspecting,  thirsty Queensland   market ,  and a painted  coconut  portrait of  himself   leading   the  life  of  Captain Jack  Sparrow and  Jimmy Buffett .

Both the rum  label, showing him in a  pirate  pose,  and   portrait were  painted  by artist  Jenn  Payne,  dubbed Australia's Number One Parrot Head by Buffett  , who is taught the  finer  points of  sailing    and   navigation  by Captain Larry  aboard the 43ft  catamaran Nyeki  in  hostile  waters, dodging  Customs and Border Security vessels .   Since  his arrival back on  the island,  he has received  numerous offers  to  endorse products, including low-cal  mayonnaise,  and   leading pirate  roles in  Hollywood  and  Bollywood movies.
Bollywood is out  because of  an injury he suffered in Cyclone Larry  which  makes him  walk  like  Caribbean   pirate   Captain   Morgan  with  a touch of gout  and would limit his involvement in all  those  energetic  Indian  dance routines.  Captain Larry rum  is expected to  scuttle  Captain Morgan's  spiced  rum  which  contains vanilla , cinnamon and  cardamom .

Captain Larry  refuses to reveal the ingredients in his  potent  drop ; he does, however, like yoghurt  with a splash of  coffee and a  side serving of Vita Brits . He  also  finds   German  toffee  tasty and , with an eye for a  well turned ankle,  whistles madly  every  time  he sees  Chancellor  Angela  Merkel  on  television.


Closely knit , hair freshly  brushed,  eyebrows  plucked , latest Coalition team, hanging on for dear life, pose  for  media at  Government House  after  swearing  in  ceremony.
This being an election  year, it is desirable the Federal government present a united, nimble, agile , mature , can-do image. However , it has been noticed that PM Malcolm Turnbull's  thin locks  have  become  grandfatherly  white  since scalping  Tony  Abbott.

Some attribute this to  Malcolm's concern over   ministers  falling like autumn leaves, the outbreak of bedwetting  over   GST, Treasurer Scott Morrison becoming  a liability  like Joe Hockey, Christopher  Pyne's  frequent  TV appearances , the  end  of  the passionate  honeymoon during which he was bitten by  mosquitoes  while  touring  the  outback  and Townsville in an open topped jalopy .
Bazza  McKenzie  or Barnaby Joyce ? Age Photo .
And having Barbaby Joyce as Deputy PM , he of noticeably receding hairline,   could  be justification for  Malcolm to tear out his thatch  and  ask for a hair of the dog  instead  of a healthy Continental breakfast  with Lucy in  The  Lodge. It is even whispered in the corridors of power that the PM will adopt the Andrew Peacock  remedy for grey hair  by becoming, according to dark bearded  veteran  political reporter , Mungo MacCallum, prematurely black .

While on the subject of  hair, the  Australian Financial Review  scribe  Joe Aston   has described  dumped   Defence Minister  Kevin Andrews , as  " the blue-black man- dyed Member for  Menzies ". You  don't get  well  shampooed  lines like this out of  a  bottle .

Aston said Andrews had squealed like  a labouring heifer bogged in a swamp  trying to keep  the defence  portfolio. ( On the other hand , this could have been  due to the  castration ring the   feisty female Speaker  of the  Northern Territory Legislative Assembly  threatened  to  use  on  Andrews.)

Continuing with  the   coiffure line,  Aston wrote the  cutting remark : Now Abbott and Andrews both fly around addressing American think tanks on how to keep  the grey out of your hair...

Just the other day, a  North  Queensland   Tory pollie who  makes his Liberal   colleagues  in Canberra  wince because of his antics  , was   seen   browsing around  the   hair accessories  stand  in a  chemist  shop.  Is this an  indication that he will sport  a beaded headband  or a fascinator  the next time he is in Canberra ?

Thursday, February 18, 2016


An  intriguing  story going about  Darwin  is that  the new 1Territory Party , lining up potential candidates  for  all  Territory seats  and  the House of Representatives, could have an overseas  person  interested  in  throwing his hat into the ring . An overseas person-who could that be ? Surely not  the  former  CLP Leader , Terry  Mills , who led the party to victory,  was  voted out  a short time  later  by  his colleagues while in Japan  on  a trade drive in February  2014?

Mills eventually resigned from parliament  saying he did not want to start a  blood feud like Rudd and Gillard.  A fine sentiment ,  but the CLP has been  marked by    seemingly   constant blood letting  ever since, with a  farcical failed attempt to topple  Chief Minister  Adam Giles , a failed attempt to remove the Speaker ,  a  bagful of  other shenanigans , the latest engulfing the Deputy Chief Minister, Willem Westra van Holthe , involving  a Vietnamese   company, a Top End dragon fruit  farm , shares , travel , a  saga  strangely  headed  AMISS SAIGON? (  sounds like a  familiar  musical, wonder why ? )  in the Northern Territory News  of  February 10.  Incidentally , it was Willem who broke  the  news  to Mills  over  the  phone  that  he had been  sacked as Chief  Minister .

Off  to Indonesia  went Mills  as   the  Territory's  Trade  Commissioner . However , the NT Government  sacked  him in February 2015 , the   Darwin based  Indonesian Consul  commenting that  his removal would  damage the Territory's image  in  his country.
Mills is still deeply involved in Indonesia  through the  Australian Indonesian Institute Board , its main project  the Australian Indonesian Youth Exchange  and recently posted  photos from  the front of  Starbucks  in Jakarta, bombed by  terrorists.  So, is  Mills the overseas mystery man ?  Only time will tell .

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


A great find  at  a   Townsville church  fete was  this  unusual  book  of  poetry   with an insert  marking  the 1977  death  of  Dan  Sheahan , 95 , an Irishman   responsible for  penning  a poem  which  was   converted into one of   Australia's best known songs , The Pub With  No Beer,  sung  by  the  late  Slim Dusty.

Called  Songs  from the  Canefields , the  worn  1973 reprint , signed  by Sheahan , contains  a  religious , fold  out  thank you  card  from his family  for condolences  expressed  on  Dan's death  and  includes  the  poem  entitled  The Pub  Without   Beer .

It is said County Cork born cane farmer  Sheahan  went to the Day Dawn Hotel , Ingham, North Queensland, in 1943, but  the pub had run out of beer  because  American servicemen had  drunk it  dry  the night  before. The story goes that Dan sat down with a glass of wine  and  penned A Pub Without Beer , run in the North Queensland Register in early 1944. It had six line verses , unlike the subsequent popular song of four line verses.
As part of the  1988 Australian Bicentennial , this  plaque was unveiled by Sheahan's eldest son, Shaun,   to commemorate his father , "the poet from the pocket"  and   the long  gone Day Dawn Hotel , now  Lee's Hotel Motel, were  the  poem was written. 
The poems in the collection  form a kind of autobiography spanning 95 years, tracing his time in Ireland before  coming to Australia , serving in World War l, the fall of Singapore, the death of a Digger, cane cutting , a beer strike in Tully,  Bulimba beer  and  Bundy Rum  , politicians , even  baking a bun. A great , refreshing  read .  
Also bought at the blessed  fete, possibly from the collection of the person who owned the  Sheahan book,   was the Slim Dusty and Joy McKean book , Another Day, Another Town  SLIM DUSTY , in which  Dan Sheahan  and  the story  behind   the eventual  1957  recording of  The Pub  With No  Beer , which became  a  big seller overseas  as  well  as Australia , is  covered.
Knock  about country music  performer Gordon Parsons first picked up  a few verses about a pub with no beer when he was a sleeper cutter in the NSW north coast.  It appealed to his sense of  humour  and occasionally  he  sang  bits and  pieces about  a dry pub while touring in Queensland, without making much impression on  the audiences.
After   an evening on   whisky  with   toothy singer   Chad Morgan   in 1956,  he  told Slim he  had  finished that  sung ,  the words of which Chad , who is still performing today, had  written down . What song ? The one about the pub with no beer.    Slim  heard it for the first time  and  asked  if he could  record it . The rest is history.
Later , while touring  North Queensland , Slim Dusty  arrived in Ingham and was surprised when  he was told that the family of the man  who wrote  the pub with no foaming fluid -not Gordon Parsons - was outside...

The book covers that meeting with the  family; Slim  wrote  the North Queensland Register was read widely in rural Queensland and down as far as the NSW border. At the time , many   bush workers  learned poetry by heart and recited it at gatherings.

Gordon could have seen  the first two verses of Sheahan's poem , or heard them recited  like  folklore. There was little or no similarity after the  first  two verses of each version . It made Slim " mad "  for anyone to insinuate  that Gordon  had pinched  the  pub  from  Dan  Sheahan .

Dan , who spoke in a rich Irish brogue, did not want money, but said he would like the credit for the song. Slim  set to music  and recorded other verses  of Dan's  such as  When You're Short of a Smoke  and The Last of the Valley Mail .
* The cover illustration  on the book of poems shows Dan  relaxed, sinking a cold one  , holding the North Queensland Register  in which his pub poem had been run. It is the same paper in which journalist, historian  and  publisher Glenville Pike wrote a  column for  many  years .  With financial backing from Darwin journalist and author Jessie Litchfield,  Pike also launched and edited the North Australian Monthly in the l950s  , printed in Townsville , which included poetry, some by  his  mother .

Monday, February 15, 2016


Gutsy   Chinese  artist,  Ai Weiwei,  a soul brother of  Julian Assange ,  included  a special  tribute  to  Australian   activists , above , in  his joint   Melbourne  exhibition  with  works  of  the  late  Andy Warhol .

It  is   a  room in  which  portraits  of  the activists  are   made out of Lego pieces which  the  chicken- hearted / buck   hungry  company   at    first   did   not want to  supply  for  fear of  offending  China .    

Those  featured  included  Assange , visited by Weiwei  in  the  Ecuadorian Embassy in London last year , the  two  photographed  giving the  finger to  world  tyrants  and suppressors  of   vital  information, freedom of  speech .  Weiwei specifically praised  Wikileaks founder Assange   , saying he was an Australian  human rights activist  speaking out  for openness and transparency.Watching authorities was  more important  than ever in  the information age .

 " We have the right to know all those powers, the structure, how they function, why they don't want to let people know, that's really very important. He (Assange )does play a very important role and he's still paying, or sacrifices  his life  because he  made that  choice,"the artist  is reported as saying .

Visible in the top photograph is the portrait  of journalist/author Jill Jolliffe , well known  in Darwin , for her involvement in  covering the East Timor  conflict , helping  the  populace after the  conflict . Her 2001 book covered the Indonesian murder of  the  Australian TV   team  known as  the Balibo  5.
She  selflessly exposed the  massacre  right  nextdoor to  Australia  which  went on for  almost   a quarter of  a century while we, the US included , and  Oz  willingly, eagerly  signed  up with Indonesia  to  plunder   the  invaded  country's  oil  reserves .

It is  probably fair  to say , Jolliffe   suffered    financially and emotionally for  her  long  involvement  in  the  struggle . Another   shown  here  is  the  president   of  the  Australian Human  Rights  Commission,  Professor  Gillian Triggs , monstered  and vilified  by   the   Abbott   Government  for  doing  her  job , still  snubbed   by  the  Turnbull  crew .

 Longtime  Northern  Territory campaigner , Rosemary Kunoth-Monks , is there  along with   Geoffrey Robertson QC,  journalist Peter Greste, Rosie Batty,  Michael Kirby AC CMG, Archie Roach, Julian Burnside AO QC ,Gary Foley. 
Others are from the fields of international law and academia, social welfare, media, community activism in support of indigenous people, asylum seekers, sex workers and the gender non-specific.
In a  short  TV interview  with Weiwei , he said that if Australia wanted to have a close association with  China, presumably through  a trade agreement, it should also  tell  it  what  it  was  doing wrong , like  a  friend .
In other words , speak out about the obvious human rights  oppression  in China , the latest example of  thuggery being the  bashing of  people connected with a Hong Kong  bookshop  and  the  disappearance of relatives  on  the mainland .
During his time in  China  Ai  underwent  an operation   in Germany after having   been   bashed  about the head while exposing corruption   in his homeland involving  jerry built  school  buildings which collapsed in Sichuan  province during an earthquake claiming the lives of many children  ; was  arrested  and held without charge for 81  days in   a secret  prison;  kept  in a tiny room with bright lights , watched by guards ; accused of economic crimes; had his studio  destroyed ; people connected with him disappeared ; his passport was  taken away . A massive global protest  resulted in him being allowed to  leave the country .