Sunday, December 31, 2017


Darwin, its residents and myriad , swarming ants in need of  soothing monsoonal rain, by  Peter Mandalay.


Nomadic  correspondent Peter Burleigh  both  wets  and  drops  a  Nordic  line from  the  lost  world  of  Koh  Lanta, Thailand. 
Monkeys chitter under our mountaintop terrace, making it doubly difficult to concentrate on writing because of the spectacular view of Kantiang Bay spread out below us. We are staying at a resort owned by Ken and Metta, a Norwegian couple who have lived here for around 10 years and who have forever escaped the snow and ice of their homeland. Surely this is as bizarre as eskimos choosing to migrate to Coober Pedy. 
People who are prepared to swap one extreme for another have interesting stories to tell. We met in a beachside bar here on the Thai island of Koh Lanta. Surprisingly they introduced themselves as “Ken and Barbie”. Metta is a platinum blonde with big blue eyes and a stunning smile, and Ken’s not too bad either.
This year, ‘our year of the round-the-world-air- ticket’, we hesitated to add Thailand to our itinerary. We had become disillusioned with the speed and insensitivity that the ‘real’ Thailand was being lost. After several disappointing visits to Chaweng  Beach on Koh Samui, it seemed that the ‘old Thailand’- at least the Thailand we fell in love with – had gone forever. International brands, 5-star  hotels and  up-market stores had wiped it out.
But the Thailand we remember so vividly is worth a last exploratory effort, so we researched the hell out of it. We found the island of Koh Lanta in the Andaman Sea of western Thailand, its development retarded because access remains difficult. There are no bridges to make an easy connection from Krabi and its (international) airport – you have to navigate a three-hour drive on a beat-up track to a car ferry between the mainland and Saladan, the northernmost town of Lanta. The ferry looks and acts like a Victorian-era clockwork barge made from stamped tin (think of a large Noddy and Bigears toy but very rusty). It slips and slides over the water like a cartoon cat on ice. Each trip sees it packed tight with both vehicles and packs of backpackers who, squeezed into the remaining spaces, teeter on the brink of submersion for the entire trip.
Hordes of much tattooed and otherwise brain-addled passengers are using the ferry the day of our crossing. Most are loaded into vans and trucks cattle-style. They drink cheap Thai beer and laugh happily. They smoke roll-your-owns with a familiar grassy perfume. They stand grinning in front of our van and piss off the ramp into the water. 
Lanta’s roadside villages are not exactly primitive, and there are dozens of frayed and outdated resorts, but that suits us. I’m hooked on tropical romanticism, so show me a palm tree, a thatch-roof hut, a coconut and a chili and I’m yours.
The first place we stay is Relax Bay, where the beach is nice but the service somnambulant. The further south we go, the more basic Lanta becomes and the more excited we get. Internet research can only take you so far. You still need your own questions to be answered. The more we could say ‘yes’ to a few basic essentials the better it was. Is our accommodation on a beach? Do we have aircon? Are there restaurants on the beach? Is an egg and bacon breakfast part of our package? Is the beer teeth-achingly cold? Will the local shop really negotiate on price?

For our two-week visit to Lanta we agreed to spend three or four days in one place then move on incrementally to the southernmost point of the island. We weren’t looking for 5-star treatment. If you are, Koh Lanta isn’t for you. If you want quirky, smiling hospitality and genuine Thai food, give it a try. We applied our simple ‘so much and no less’ standards of comfort and that worked fine, except for the occasional mattress made of broken glass or bricks, or not-cold-enough beer and poor cooking.
There’s always a local market nearby where you can buy vegetables and fruit, especially the superb Thai pineapples – not too sweet, not too sour.  Tiny 7-11 stores are ubiquitous and very, very welcome; they sell wine, beer, vodka, frozen chickens, Muslim-approved bacon made from turkey, UHT milk, coffee and unidentifiable Asian drugs and dangerous-looking Chinese hair products.

At Kantiang Bay in the southwest of the island we stayed in a palm-surrounded bungalow at the Baan Laanta Resort and met Ken and Mette. They showed us their resort development,  high on the mountainside overlooking the rubber plantation sloping down to the beach. Up there, whisps of cloud drift by the terraces. Monkeys shuffle in the leaves and study us with sly opportunistic eyes (don’t leave a window or door open or you’ll have unwanted guests).Waves of orchid and Bougainvillea perfume wash over us. Hmmm. Maybe 5-star accommodation isn’t so unsuitable after all…but on our budget, we’d soon be out of Bhat and be begging  Buddhist  monks for  a handout.

Baan Phu Lae is the southernmost resort on Koh Lanta and was planned as our last stop. It hadn’t responded to our emails, so Ken and Mette drove us there for lunch to check it out. Wonderful rocky headland location, almost inaccessible, a small beach, crashing surf, privacy, thickets of palms and rubber trees, uncrowded…but with unliveable conditions in the only two bungalows. Damn.

Metta asks “perhaps will you stay at our place?” We hesitate. If this means paying the entire annual budget of Costa Rica for each night, then…. but Metta will have none if it and gives us a suite at cost. We must have done something to please the Norse gods. We say ‘yes’, drive back to Baan Kan Tiang See Villa Resort, open a bottle of Champagne and settle in as if born to it.
Ken and I went fishing yesterday while Judi and our friend Jo lay back and absorbed several vodkas. This was no puttering around in a tinny, this is a full-throated assault on the senses aboard a Thai long-tail fishing boat. ‘Long-tail’ is a descriptor. Picture an unprotected propeller at the end of a long metal shaft with a 6-cylinder engine mounted on the other end, all finely balanced on a single metal pin at the stern. The engine doesn’t have a muffler and is louder than a jet taking off from an aircraft carrier.
These traditional wooden boats are still built in their hundreds in Thailand. High bows mean you can’t see where you’re going unless you lean outward, and they’re heavy to steer. When moving from point A to B, the helmsperson (this is gender correctness gone crazy; I’ve never seen a Thai woman at the tiller) ties off the engine pole to the roof to ensure the boat goes frontwards, then uses a steering wheel attached to a vertical steel rod with rope wound around it and which is in turn attached though pulleys to a wooden rudder. This is engineering technology for 12-year olds but it works perfectly – and why not? Result: the boat wavers charmingly all over the joint. A straight wake is a perfectionist’s dream.

The deckhand is a dark-skinned salt, a little simple but hard-working and thoughtful. The skipper of the boat is a Thai friend of Ken’s. When his motor was lost in a storm last year Ken helped pay for its replacement; there was no way the skipper could raise the money. He was a fisherman then, his family surviving on the thinnest of incomes, and in Thailand the poverty line is always ready to trip you up. Now he takes tourists for rides. Ken speaks pidgin Thai, the skipper pidgin English; nevertheless communications are simple and clear.
It takes two-and-a-half hours to reach Koh Ha (Ha Island).  ‘Ha’ means five, and local Thais describe five stone fingers sticking upward from the sea, impossibly thin gnarled things  pointing at the heavens. Thais had noticed how Europeans laugh - Ha Ha Ha! There was an idea: why not rename it Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Island, or Happy Five-finger Island, for the tourists.  In fact Ha Ha Island has seven fingers. “Thais are not good with numbers,” Ken says.
We sit happily with our bait on the seabottom, but nothing happens for a long time. Doesn’t matter much to me, but the Skipper is nervous. He badly wants Ken and me to catch some fish. I put this down to a matter of ‘face’. During the lengthy no-fish period, Ken tells me of the marlin which swim between the fingers of Ha Ha.
“I see them all the time,” he smiles cruelly. The Skipper moves the boat to another spot. Clouds are gathering above the fingers. Ken points them out to the Skipper.“Ha Ha Ha,” says the Skipper.

A line is caught in the propeller. If anyone is to be sacrificed it’s the deckhand. He jumps in unbidden, cuts it away and clambers aboard with all his fingers, arms and legs intact. Ken makes a Norwegian joke in English at my expense: “I see you are a…a-fish-on-ardo.”

“You Norwenglish is impeccable”, I tell him. He looks puzzled. The boat moves and stops again, then fish begin hitting. They are only bait fish, but I’m happy there’s action. They’re not big but they fight hard. Ken is laughing. The Skipper relaxes; if Ken and I are happy, he is happy. The Skipper hands the boat over to the deckhand, washes his face and hands from a plastic water bottle, kneels on a scrap of carpet and prays. After a while he climbs into the bow, curls up and goes to sleep. 
The fish have decided to attack. They prefer lures to bait. Ken reels in a silver torpedo.“A Monk fish,” he says, “the best eating fish.” We pull in around ten of these and a few Mackerel. It’s enough. The deckhand exchanges glances with the Skipper, the Skipper with Ken. The stone fingers rise and fall in the growing swell, the air turns grey and smells of electricity. Rain is coming and soon. The Skipper moves to the wheel. Ken says “OK, we go home,” without being asked the question.
The engine roars, the bow wave rises, Rain sheets down on our boat in a long, trailing cloak connecting the clouds and the sea. We are drenched by tropically-warm salty water from the bow and soft-tasting rain from the sky. Lightning sews the clouds together, thunder shakes the world. For some reason this is gloriously silly. We all laugh.

Back on Kantiang Bay beach, we give some fish to the Skipper and the deckhand. On the way back to his resort, a drenched Ken hands over the Monk Fish to a restaurant he knows, makes an order for later that night. “They’ll deliver it cooked to our door,” he says. “How do you want it done?’ He gives the remaining fish to the staff of his resort, who are genuinely happy to receive it. 

In the time it takes the cooked fish to arrive in all its Thai magnificence, we all reunite over another bottle of Champagne. Our Thailand is back. In fact, it never left.
Surely not a Viking longboat ?
( Followers of Burleigh's adventures in this blog  will recall his epic , illustrated , Bulldust Diaries about  his safari across North Australia in search of  elusive  barramundi and his expeditions along the French canals  with  Judi in the relentless  search for the perfect croissant and something  from  another  winery with which to wash it  down .)  

Saturday, December 30, 2017


Abra photographs .


Being the   third ripping yarn in our  (Inter)National
Lampoon Christmas/Chinese New Year Holiday Vacation  series. 
The Northern Territory of Australia used to have a reputation as being a place where men  who ran away from their wives  and others with criminal backgrounds  went  and  started  a  new  life , often  changing  their names .
You are surprisingly  reminded   of  this    dodgy  past  when you go to pick up luggage  from the carousel  at the  Darwin Airport  and are confronted by a large advertisement  for the WardKeller  legal firm , featuring  a  drawing  by  Northern Territory  News  cartoonist  Wicking . 
Ward derives from the late Mr Justice Dick Ward , an ALP politician , regarded as  the Territory's equivalent of the  famous American lawyer  Clarence Darrow , who with his  first  wife to be dived into  a  trench   during   the   Japanese   bombing  of   Darwin  in  1942 . Because of his enlightened views , when he lived in Alice Springs  and attended a  Peace Council meeting , conservatives dubbed  him "Red  Richard" or "Richard  the Red ."  
Driving about the  Darwin waterfront  over the Christmas period this scribbler , with a number of aliases, including Cyclops,  came across a large rock  in a  fenced off  block of  land bearing the message never to trust  a lawyer .  Similar  advice was scrawled  across a boarded up  shopfront.

Friday, December 29, 2017


The second ripping yarn in our (Inter)National  Lampoon Christmas / Chinese  New
Year Holiday Vacation  special

Ignoring  the threat  of a major   Mount  Agung  eruption   , one of our intrepid  correspondents flew  to   Bali   for  the  Christmas -New  Year festivities  and blew his mind  reading  the quirky   and unusual   stories  in  local  publications- the  Kuta, Denpasar and Sanur weeklies and the Bali Advertiser- produced   for visiting  tourists  and   expatriate members of  the  community. Here  is just one  offbeat  report which caught his eye .  
 TURDS : The heading on this  item was  just that-TURDS . This is the collective   name  given  to  groups  of  people  who  go into   eateries and gradually sneak out  , one by one, without paying  the  bill . Amused by  this  report, our  man  asked  locals   for   further details.
He was regailed by a  slight Balinese  woman with an amazing  account of a notorious Turd , a huge , muscular European , a Belgian ?, who paid the ultimate price for not paying for his  food...his life. Seems he participated  in those barbaric ultimate UFC  fight nights , provided  as  entertainment  at  Kuta ,  where anything  goes .  He  brazenly  ate  up big  in restaurants  and walked out  without  paying , nobody challenging   the  hulk.
Complaints, however,  were made to police, and they eventually called  at  his residence . Out  he  came - roaring , wielding  a   knife  , saying  they  would  have to kill  him .  Our  man was  given  a  graphic verbal  description, with violent  associated  hand stabbing  gestures,  telling  how the man  slashed  at a police  officer and was shot dead , the dramatic event  filmed , which went  viral.  So  eat , joy and  be merry in Bali, but make sure  you  pay  the  bill . 


HAPPY NEW YEAR  from  the  Magnetic  Island  Curlews  whose forebears serenaded  Captain Cook  when  he  dropped  anchor and named the place. The  Curlews have inspired artists , wowed  overseas backpackers, featured on T-shirts  and  tea towels  and  largely been overlooked by  the tourism  pushers  of  Townsville  who go in for Koalas,  imitation Melbourne  lanes  and  possible  copies of  Kiwi , Darwin  and   Cairns  attractions .   
Curlew tea towel  designed by Magnetic Island artist  Steve Crowe in 1995 .

New Year's Eve celebrations  on the island  are  a  major annual  event , attracting many backpackers, visitors  from the mainland  and overseas. It includes a large fireworks display which scares the daylights out of  birds and animals on  the  mainly  national  park  island. 
As the ferries  pulled into the terminal on Friday disgorging  a  colourful , happy throng  they were  still  greeted by  tattered , torn and   collapsed  remnants  of the   huge Welcome  to Magnetic Island  banners , covered previously in this blog ,   which  originally hid from public gaze  the  unsightly   hole which  has  existed for more than a decade . The powers  that  be in Townsville , who  refer to the island as the city's Jewel in the Crown ,  still  had not been able to  sort out the long running  banner  snafu . 
Short back and sides  mystery  island.
And near  the Townsville ferry terminal , still being displayed , was  the large billboard  boasting  that the   world's  best  rugby players are  coming to the city . Only trouble  is  that  they  came  and  went  about  two  months  ago. 


Being the first in  a miscellany of  ripping  yarns   from  Bali , Darwin, Magnetic Island  and  beyond.
As  Darwin is in the midst of the pulsating  Mango Madness Season , we begin with a spooky story from its Botanic Gardens,  popular with honking Magpie Geese  who fly in  from the outback  this time of the year to feast on mangoes   and  other  festive season  tucker.
A  wandering Little Darwin staffer was  strolling  about  the Botanic Gardens a few days ago taking snaps  when he came across a puzzling  situation, above , on a sheltered  walkway  that  meanders through the  popular   spot.  There on an  ornately carved  wooden   seat  was  a woman's   black dress , ringing wet ,  draped  at  one  end ... and  down the  other  was a piece of sliced fruitcake , still in its unopened  package. Please  explain ??? 
Apart  from being obsessed with stories about crocodiles, the Murdoch Northern Territory News is also partial to  UFO  visitations. Indeed,  the  newspaper's resident  cartoonist ,Wicking , whom one suspects is from  another planet  similar to the  NT   , in a recent  effort   depicted a  one-eyed   alien  from another planet offering  Uber  flights  in  its UFO.  So,  was  the  owner of the    dress forced  to change into a  space suit  before being   whisked  away to another cosmos  before   she  could  pocket  and  unwrap   the  inflight  fruitcake ???

If you think this yarn is weird , try the next one  for  size , also from a nice  part of Darwin , not far from the Botanic Gardens .


Stray  Peacocks, it seems ,  have a  fascination with  powerful cars  and  like fluttering up onto the bonnet and  roof  of  parked  vehicles, often being told to  hit  the road  in no uncertain terms. This  blog took  a series of  photos  showing the  feathered  roadrunners  in   action .
 One vehicle much  loved  by a  leadfoot  male  Peacock  is  the one with the desirable numberplate , above .  Soon after  being shooed away , the car  was  covered up to protect it from any further stomping about on the  duco . Another car , below , belonging to  a  police  officer  ,  received  attention from  the marauding bird  which found  it  most comfortable .
It seems it is only the gaudy males that like hopping  on hotrods , the plain looking  females  content  to be earthbound in  driveways  and  on  the  road .
What do the raucous sounding Darwin  roadrunners do at night? Our writer's attention  was  drawn  to  two  pair   grouped  on  overhead  power lines next  to a  street light , the long tails of the  males  hanging down in eerie green  strands . Other photos were  taken  through a  screen door   of  a  Peacock   standing  on  top  of  a   car  peering   inside  the  dwelling .

NEXT: The killer Turd.  

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Sporting some barefooted scholars ,   the Darwin Public School , from the Northern Territory Archives Service .


PM and Louie the Fly
CANBERRA : Caught brushing a fly away in the House of Representatives , this classic  photograph epitomises how the former high  flyer  Malcolm  Turnbull now  resembles a   blowfly  stuck on the Coalition's  never ending  roll of   sticky flycatcher paper . Along  with  mince pies  at   Christmas  time   , these sticky  fly traps used   to  be all the  go in Australia . Now   Malcolm's inner  buzz feeders   seem to    get  caught up  daily in  some sticky issue    from  which  there  is no escape , just like those repulsive  hanging  cemeteries  in  kitchens  throughout the nation .

In  his bid to evade   a sticky political end ,  the  PM rushed up to consult  imported   bluebottle and Bill  basher ,  Barnaby Joyce ,  at the  New England by-election .   He and the glassy eyed  Barnaby, who looked as if he had been bitten by an  African  tsetse fly ,wore similar made in   China  shirts,  the smelly   armpits  of  which were thoroughly   checked by ASIO   for  bugs.    
  The two men on top of  the steaming  true blue  dung heap...until Bennelong  result.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Residents  in   part of  Nelly Bay have  received notices  in their letterboxes claiming  that  local  Curlews  are  being  poisoned . The person responsible for the claim  is a  longtime   island  resident . In  southern  parts of  Australia  these  birds are  regarded  as  a  rarity . Media  needs to follow this  up  as  it is a  hard news story .
Geoffrey Bay  , promoted as an almost pristine stretch   on Magnetic Island , has been the subject  of    deliberate  attacks  on  vegetation  planted to  protect the  foreshore and  minimise erosion  . In the  process , plants  worth  at  least $5000  have  either been sprayed   with   poison or  ripped out .  After  each  act  of  deliberate  vandalism , the Townsville City  Council  erected  a   sign  warning that  there has been illegal damage  and  that  penalties apply. A telephone number is  supplied on which to report suspicious activity. The TCC should be asked for   full details  and  if  it has questioned anybody / referred the matter to the  police ; anybody  reported  suspicious  activity ?  

 Despite two attacks, two signs  being erected , the  Townsville City Council did not  issue a media statement  about  this  unsatisfactory situation , the island  described by the  council  as  the  Jewel in the Crown .    Even so , you would  think that an alert , in touch,  Townsville  media   and  the island's local community sheet  would have  picked  up  these  attacks through hearsay ,  contacts , regular rounds (what?) ...even asking  questions of TCC and police  like : Anything of  interest  on  Magnetic  Island  today ?

The  signs  declaring  the  attacks  are near  a  track  used  by  a   large  number  of  visitors.  Initial  authorised  plantings were  carried out   by people with extensive  experience  in   environmental  work .  Early  in  the process , they were  approached by an  aggressive  man   who  demanded  to  know what they were  doing  ; later  on  he  was   joined  by  an  abusive  woman .  The  pair seemed  concerned  the  vegetation  would  impair  the  view  of  the beach and across  Cleveland   Bay .
View  from Geoffrey Bay at  low tide .
The plants  were subsequently  attacked, stakes  pulled out  over  a  period .  That  Geoffrey Bay   needs  foreshore protective  work  is self  evident  by  the   following  photograph .

Alma Bay , not  far  from  Geoffrey Bay , recently  got a mention because it has been  listed  in  top 10  beaches . However, a  visit  to  Alma  a few days ago  revealed many  cuttlefish   bones  washed up  on  the  beach  with  weed, a small section  below .
The white  bones  are  the  remains  of  small  cuttlefish  which have been attacked and eaten .  Wonder  why   so  many  have  washed up on  the  beach ?  Could  be a story  here . Are  the cuttlefish  deaths  linked in any way with the bleaching of the reef, finding it  hard  to  hide  from  predators ?

Monday, December 11, 2017


The powerful message against   cats , showing one about to pounce on a Bower Bird ,  is  strikingly  represented  in  this  T-shirt  , one  of  several  sold in  North Queensland   in past years , a collection of which  has  just surfaced . The  campaign   against  cats  is further   highlighted  by the  image  of   cats   in   gunsights   on  two   following  T-shirts . 
A feature of the T-shirts  is that  they were   designed and made in Australia, some in Cairns . They were sold  at markets  and  in  shops . A conservative estimate of some years ago put the number of feral cats  at 15 million in Australia , killing  about 75million birds  and other  wildlife DAILY .

Sunday, December 10, 2017


Of  the  many lessons from the Queensland state election  for the Turnbull Coalition  and the LNP  , just two are  that  the proposed  Adani  coalmine - still strongly supported by  the  hysterical   Feds - has been soundly rejected  by  Australian voters  and  the  vast  Murdoch  media  machine  is  becoming increasingly  impotent , evident  since the snap  election  in  England  where  it  rubbished   the  Labour  leader Jeremy  Corbyn  mercilessly and  the  Tories  just scraped home . 

The  mere  fact  that  the  three incumbent ALP members in the vital Townsville  region were  reelected  in  the state  election despite the massive  pro Adani  attack of the Murdoch owned  Townsville  Bulletin , the strange decision by the Townsville City Council to give  $18.5million   to  Adani   for a FIFO  airport   and   activists  and  anyone else  against  Adani , including concerned   grannies ,  were   ridiculed   speaks  volumes.The paper and  the Murdoch Brisbane  Courier Mail ,  accused  Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk of  being off  the  rails, in  harness  with  the  Greens, etc, etc, etc. 

The  erroneous   belief that  Adani  is  a sure  election  winner  for the desperate  Turnbull Government  and  the  LNP   is  clear  in  this advertisement  run in the Townsville  Bulletin  before  the state election .
It is topped  by the beaming   senior  senator  Ian Macdonald , given to wearing  Hi-Vis clobber in parliament,  presumably   so  that  he will  stand out on foggy Canberra mornings . In  the  mug shots of  those  avid  supporters  of  Adani   ,  only one of  the five  bottom row was  elected in the Queensland  state  vote  ,  Dale Last ,  sitting  MP  for  Burdekin .   
The incumbent Member for Hinchinbrook, Andrew Cripps  , who  clashed with  anti  Adani  activists , including  veteran   Wendy Tubman,  lost his  seat. Matthew  Derlagen ,  coal lumper  from  Senator Macdonald's own office , failed  to be elected in the seat of Mundingburra .  In the seat of Townsville,  Casie Scott, a  former  Darwin journalist  , gave  the sitting ALP  member , Scott Stewart  , a run for his money , the slow count of votes would have made an  interesting running   story for Townsville and   Darwin  if  there was any linkage (doubtful)   between   the  Murdoch  papers in   both  cities, probably  not . 

In  the  top  row of  pix in the advertisement  is  the federal  Member  for  Dawson , George " Holy Moly "  Christensen , without his whip , who is likely to be  cast into the  fires of  Hell and  Adani   over  his   exposed  desire to bring  down  Mr  Jello-Malcolm Turnbull- and  his   inner  circle of  suet  puddings .  

A whole Italian expensive penny  opera  could be written about the  stance of   Rocky  Senator Matt  Canavan, Minister for Resources and Northern Australia , over   his  support  for  Adani   and  his  attitude  to NAIF possibly   handing  out a billion bucks   to   the project .   Umpteen banks  won't  touch Adani with a barge pole ,  the Chinese  have also  said  they would  not handle   it  with  asbestos lined  chopsticks . 
 In its lampooning of   the ALP   and anybody against  Adani, the Townsville Bulletin ran  a front page story referring to activists as  MUNGBEAN MILITIA who , shocked  readers were informed , included   southerners  who  were known to chain themselves to gates in  the nude . Gasp !     
Another  indication that  Adani  is  electoral  dynamite  for the conservatives  was  the  television coverage of a public  gathering  in  south east Queensland where  nobody put up their hand when  asked  if  any  government  money should   be  given  Adani .  In the interests of being fair and balanced ,  at a meeting of businessmen in Townsville , everyone put up their hand when asked if  they support Adani , which  you  would   expect , the way the Queen city  of  the  North  lurches  along , with its claques  who are not subjected to much in depth questioning and  probing .  
 STOP PRESS : As late as  December 8, the Townsville  Bulletin was  running a  front page story  attacking   Labor  , saying it  could   cancel  federal Adani approvals   and   "  the  world's largest coal mine  could be imperilled. "  Surprise, by  P5   the   paper  reported a sudden development under  a heading  ADANI JOB MEETINGS IN LIMBO Mystery on community sessions. It said  Adani  jobseeker   information  sessions in Townsville and  on Palm Island   had suddenly  been rescheduled , the  Adani  spokesman had not responded  to  inquiries, and even ran the info that some of China's biggest banks had announced  that they do not intend financing  Adani ...  "Sources suggest this is not make or break  for the project  and that Adani is investigating  other  avenues  for finance." The editorial  declared Townsville business   and community leaders  were concerned  "our  political  leaders' games " might  "scare  Adani  off  once and  for  all. "

RAY OF SUNSHINE : By December 11 , no mention of  the Adani  mystery ,  the Bulletin had a  front page story about work  starting  on a $160million wind   turbine and   solar  farm at Hughenden  , just one  of   several  similar  projects in the north.  Still , the  Bulletin  gave the impression  the election was still running, pointing  out   LNP leader  Tim Nicholls ( now on his way down the coal chute )  had pledged  to  commission   a  coal fired  plant   for the north within 100 days  of   taking office.

The Bulletin trumpeted  Labor's win should not be  taken  to mean North Queenslanders  suddenly don't want  coal-fired  power...The  Queensland government should consider  building a  "cutting -edge"  ( every  proposal  in  Townsville  seems  to  be  so  described  of   late ) coal   fired  plant  in  the  north .

Saturday, December 9, 2017


Abra photographs.

Thursday, December 7, 2017


December  17 being the 50th anniversary  of  the  disappearance  of Prime Minister Harold Holt  while swimming at  Cheviot  Beach , Victoria, in  l967 ,  here  is a flashback  to  a lighthearted moment in Townsville when  Holt, third from the right, laughing ,  visited  the  university , and  was  confronted  by a student  in  underwater gear .
 He  and  Mrs  Holt, Zara , pictured ,  spent   time relaxing  and spearfishing in  North Queensland . The   PM  had a friend  from  early university days in Melbourne  ,  artist and  environmentalist  John Horatio  Busst,  involved in  early moves  to  save  the Great Barrier Reef   from  mining  and  oil  drilling .
 Recently  a  special  ceremony was held  at  Ellison Reef   to mark the   50th  anniversary  of  the  successful campaign  led by  Busst to  prevent   its   mining . As a  result , it set the  legal precedent for  protecting the Great Barrier  Reef, a large part of it now in a sorry state due to coral bleaching , crown of thorns , runoff,  undeniable climate change .   According to those who inspected Ellison Reef  last October  it  was  not  in very good shape.  Part of  the anniversary  took part  at   Busst's  distinctive  residence  , Ninney Rise, at Bingil Bay, from whence he  led to the fight  to save the  reef and  rainforest  in  the  l960s  and l970s.
In the   Special Collections, Eddie  Koiki  Mabo Library , James Cook University, Townsville , are the important  personal   papers of  Busst ,  which includes three boxes of letters ,  one  to  American president  Lyndon  Baines  Johnson (LBJ), calling on him to back a move to  set up adjoining  marine and wildlife  parks throughout   Australia in  honour of   Harold  Holt. There are  also interesting  letters  from  poet  Judith  Wright , strongly involved in the  campaign  to  protect the  Great Barrier  Reef . Mrs  Alison Busst was  with  Zara  Holt  the  day the PM  disappeared . 
Made a Dame, Zara  married  a Liberal  dairy farmer  politician , Jeff  Bate, in 1969 and  lived with him in a 100 year old  stone house at  Tilba Tilba  on the NSW  south coast ; he  died in 1984. Upon her death in 1989, she  was  buried  at Sorrento Cemetery , the  closest   graveyard  to  Cheviot  Beach  where  Harold Holt  got  caught  in  a  rip  and  disappeared. 
At the  special  House of Representatives Harold Holt  commemoration this week were  members of  the  family, Holt's press secretary  Tony Eggleston , in the middle, former treasurer and friend of  the family, Peter  Costello, far left .
Former   Northern Territory  News   Walkley  Award  winning  reporter  and author  Keith Willey  covered  the  dramatic   Holt  disappearance  for  the   Sydney  Sun .  


A former Australian  Prime Minister,  the  late  Malcolm Fraser , aka the  Crazy Grazier, famously made  the statement  that  life could  be  nasty  at when  he was  elected  PM after the  sacking of  Gough Whitlam  by  the sozzled   Governor-General ,  Sir  John Kerr .

From time to time , Little Darwin , in its  fight against the forces of darkness , receives  bundles  which have fallen from the back of  trucks late at night , old  newspaper cuttings, strange   letters   and  revealing  files .

 While attending a  political  Christmas  party  in a  French restaurant  a  day or so  ago , a  seasoned  political  apparatchik  , with   Belgian  chocolate  cake and sauce   to  follow,   surreptitiously   slipped  a  document    into  the  sweaty   hand  of   a  rump  and   garlic  prawns   subversive  connected   with   this   blog .   

Later ,  on  close examination ,  in  a  cone of  silence ,  the  intriguing foreign  item was  unwrapped   and found  to contain  the  following  advertisement   for   the  sale  of  a  classic 1961  Lancia  Flaminia  Sport Zagato SI RHD , described  as   very  rare , formerly owned  by  Malcolm Fraser  .  Price : 650,000 Euros .  
PIT  STOP :  After  posting  this revelation, Little Darwin received a coded message  from  a  modest pollie , voted Politician   of  the Year  by the Canberra  press  gang ,   (admittedly  a long time ago ) , the  former  Honourable  ALP Member for  Casey , leather jacket , dark  glasses   and   occasional  fruity oaths , the  one and only  Pete  Steedman .  It  revealed that  Steedman  once   owned   a  Lancia, but it was  just  a  working man's model .  He explained the situation thus :"  I was always pissed off  because Malcolm had this rare and special Lancia. I had a 1969 Zagato, rare enough itself, but Malcolm had the one I coveted. "
Steedman has  had  some great  wheels over  the  years, including   a rare Vincent  motorbike. Right  now he  can  put you  onto a bargain  buy, a Bentley ,previously  owned  by a LOL  , who  only used  it to go back and forth to church on Sundays and  the odd  Bingo  outing ...until it came into the  possession  of   leadfoot  Pete .