Saturday, March 31, 2012


One of the largest private collections of Aboriginal bark art in the world , not many Territorians would be aware of its existence. It was built up over 25 years by the late Dr Edward L. Ruhe, a professor of 18th century English literature at the University of Kansas. Dr Ruhe became interested in Aboriginal art when he came to Australia in 1965 on a Fullbright fellowship at the University of Adelaide, travelling to Cape York Peninsula, Alice Springs and Darwin, visiting Maningrida.

For a time he worked and lived at Milingimbi . Later he hosted Aboriginal artists Wandjuk Marika, Robert Yunupingu and Stan Roache during a trip to Kansas. He had extensive contact through correspondence with missionary Reverend Fred Wells of Milingimbi and Yirrkala ; Wells travelled to Kansas in 1985 and they conferred.

Dr Ruhe, also keen on politics, organised some 20 exhibitions of his collection at museums and galleries in the US. The guide lists letters from him to Ms Shirley Collins of Darwin’s Raintree Aboriginal Art Gallery (see posts below ) in the extensive correspondence , and she was sent a copy .

Dr Ruhe’s wide ranging archival collection contains a list of Aboriginal art exhibitions from 1841-1971; extensive information about NT Aboriginal arts and crafts ; scholarly articles and books ; popular media articles ,including reports about Aboriginal activist Charles Perkins . Among general books with a Territory connections were novels by Xavier Herbert; George Chaloupka’s monograph , From Paleoart to Casual Paintings ; Bill Harney’s memoirs; Sandra le Brun Holmes Yirawala: Artist and Man .

FOOTNOTE : The late John W. Kluge,jointly mentioned in the above collection guide title , was once billed as the richest man in America. He sold his TV stations to 20th Century Fox , now under the control of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, for about $4billion . He gave his Virginia estate, valued at $45 million, to the university.


First in an extensive series highlighting Aboriginal art and artists promoted by Shirley Collins of Darwin's Raintree Aboriginal Art Gallery , forced to close due to involvement in the Bank of America Down Under Tour in the lead up to the Sydney Olympic Games (see below). From the left-four paintings by Rex Granites Japanangka ,of Yuendumu/Mt. Allan; an exhibition pamphlet featuring Barney Ellaga, a senior law man of the Alawa community; Rainbow Dreaming by Marilyn Namatjira , niece of Albert Namatjira, of Alice Springs .

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Showing signs of wear , this is one of a mountain of documents accumulated in the long struggle for justice by Ms. Shirley Collins who ran Darwin’s internationally regarded Raintree Aboriginal Art Gallery and was ruined by her involvement in the Bank of America Down Under Tour in the lead up to the Sydney Olympic Games .

On the recommendation of the Australia Council , the Australian Tourist Commission invited Ms Collins to participate in and represent Australia’s indigenous art and craft in an extensive tour of America in a replica of the Sydney Opera House . Indigenous art and craft from Northern Territory communities would be exhibited and sold throughout .

Ms Collins, principal of the Jarraman Arts Aboriginal Corporation sought a financial grant to mount the large venture ( eventually a $160,00 loan ) from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner (ATSIC). ATSIC ‘s business agents, Deloitte Touch Tohmatsu , commissioned Auslink international marketing consultants , to prepare the project plan.

It painted a highly profitable venture for Jarraman in what was seen as one of Australia’s largest ever overseas promotions . Expected outcomes and spinoffs were :

*Jarraman would be established as the industry leader in marketing Australian indigenous art and crafts in North America.

*Greater understanding of Australian indigenous culture.

*Increased sales by NT Aboriginal communities.

*Launch of the Yothu Yindi brand Yidaki in North America.

*Increased awareness of the Northern Territory as an attractive place to visit.

*Introduction of two tertiary scholarships for young Aboriginal artists .

With all these expert projections, Ms. Collins threw herself into the massive task of arranging Aboriginal art and craft from all over the Territory in container loads to be delivered to America.

When she and her team arrived in America they were confronted by an impossible situation: the Bank of America had changed the conditions of its sponsorship so that all monies would go to the US Olympic Council. Nobody had bothered to notify Collins or realised the ramifications for her venture .

Frantic calls to the Australian Tourist Commission office in Los Angeles went unanswered. Bank staff were hostile and uncooperative . After three weeks, during which she hoped the distressing situation would change , in total despair, she was forced to pull out and return to Darwin.

Little Darwin has explained in great detail in past posts what transpired . Briefly, ATSIC seized her stock , she was forced to sell her house, other assets were seized , and she was engaged in fruitless , expensive legal action . A freedom of information document revealed that one party in a case was prepared to pay up to $100,000 in compensation. Not one cent was paid to her . Under duress , backed into a corner with several highly paid QCs representing government instrumentalities , Collins signed what amounted to a settlement which brought the legal struggle to an end.

One vital document which concisely explains the involved case , sighted by Little Darwin and passed onto members of the media , is a letter from John Morse , managing director of the Australian Tourist Commission in 2000, who, with the Bank of America , officially launched the promotion in New York. Describing it as an incredibly hectic period, he said he was advised by staff that a problem had arisen with the Aboriginal art exhibition . It should have been handled by ATC staff in the Los Angeles office.

Later, engaged by the federal government to review tourism in Kakadu National Park, Morse met Collins in the Raintree Gallery in Darwin. She had shared with him the "full story" with documentation. This had led him to the conclusion ..."that Shirley had been used as a scapegoat for the mistakes and misinformation of others ."

"I decided then to undertake my own informal investigation to seek out the truth , and my views were duly confirmed.

"There were many factors involved including an unrealistic commercial assessment by consultants , a naivety on behalf of the ATC office in the USA as to the commercial opportunity, change of policy by the Bank of America, and subsequently a hard line unsympathetic approach by ATSIC [ later sacked by the federal government ].

"Having seen Shirley’s gallery in operation , and recognising the importance of the fact that it was one of only two Aboriginal owned galleries operating successfully in the country , I felt strongly that a different approach was necessary , rather than confiscation of the unsold art, and recovery of all investment monies.

"I took it upon myself to visit Canberra and speak with the deputy CEO of ATSIC. He indicated that they were reviewing the situation , but was obviously non-commital.

"The meeting did not achieve anything positive. I subsequently visited Shirley on numerous occasions when I was in Darwin , and saw her go from a vibrant , successful Aboriginal businesswoman , running an Aboriginal art gallery to someone who lost everything , including her business, her health, her home and dignity. This can be summed up in two words-grossly unjust ."Morse went to say his comments came from a perspective of decency , fairness and moral justice .

On several occasions Little Darwin posted the long history of the case and urged an unresponsive media, both locally and nationally, to look at her case . If a respected person like Morse, who investigated here case , described her plight as grossly unjust, surely members of the Fourth Estate should have been interested.

Several top rating radio and TV personalities did not bother to acknowledge receipt of info . Somehow, the Darwin ABC and the NT News both reported that she was SUEING the Federal government when in fact she was pursuing her application under the Act of Grace legislation. This had been knocked back by a public servant in Canberra who failed to advise Ms Collins and her claim adviser that he (public servant ) was both case manager and decision maker . The decision maker is required at law to be independent of the case manager and any other public servant involved in the case review.

An application was made in the Federal Court to have that decision overturned on the ground that due process had not been followed . Court costs of about $2300 were awarded against her, a pensioner . There is no indication when that decision by Magistrate Toni Lucev will be delivered .

Ms . Collins recently had cause to personally ask Chief Minister Paul Henderson for help, without much satisfaction. This writer also spoke on several occasions to an NT government strategist about Collins. The government spokesman wrongly stated that it was a " commercial matter." Not so . Her last desperate bid, as explained above, is to the Federal government . Then the strategist said it was a Federal matter, not one for the Territory. Apparently the idea of making a personal submission to the Feds on behalf of a Territorian who contributed an enormous amount to the development of Aboriginal art and global appreciation thereof had not occurred to anyone in the Territory corridors of power.

Using the same odd NT government reasoning , it could be said that the closure of the Indonesian cattle export market for a short time was a commercial matter and one for the federal government to sort out . Yet Territory ministers went bellowing to Canberra.

Recently Ms Collins lamented that she had done nothing wrong, followed the advice and predictions of paid experts , entered into commitments in good faith , and had been let down by various people in high places, ending up crushed financially and in ill health .

FOOTNOTE: A three-day conference has just ended in Darwin where opportunities to promote indigenous art and business ventures to cash in on the Territory’s growing involvement with Asia and beyond were discussed. Nobody in government or anyone connected with organising the conference thought that Shirley Collins , with her vast experience and knowledge of mounting overseas exhibitions staging Aboriginal art and fashion shows throughout Australia, dealing with VIPs such as Lord McAlpine and Lady Susan Renouf, museums and private collectors should be invited to provide invaluable information .


The planned move south of the Commonwealth Archives office at Nightcliff is not going to happen. NT Archives , in Cavenagh Street, due to the expiration of a lease,will be moved to Nightcliff . It is not known where the busy Northern Territory Genealogical Society will be housed as there will be no space available at Nightcliff.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


There are warning signs that ingredients for Molotov Cocktails are being stored in Darwin in readiness for the forthcoming NT elections. This alarming statement is based on a strange exchange during the current sitting of the Legislative Assembly between the Member for Port Darwin , John Elferink, and the Leader of Government Business , Dr Chris Burns , who is retiring this year to become a Volga boatman . The Elf and Toothy Chris were firing verbal shots at each other over cognate Bills, introduced after 12 years , to protect Territorians when building companies collapse , which unexpectedly raised visions of the 1917 Russian Revolution .

Inclined to make unusual historical allusions and comparisons from time to time , Elferink raised the issue of the cost of the legislation on the price of building a house . Continuing , he made an unclear statement that he was not suggesting the Government is motivated by “ some villainous predisposition” oriented to the playing of The Internationale every time they pass legislation . What followed became confusing , but entertaining . Comrade Burns seemed to say he knew who the prominent Communists were on his side, the equivalent of Engels and Lenin . Elferink nominated himself as the Karl Marx of Port Darwin.

Elferink : I have a fridge at home called Engels ..... Wow ! What a story – and no political reporter in town picked it up , except the ever alert, subversive Little Darwin . There is a great photo story here .The Elf posing with his fridge and an inventory of its contents... German sausage , litres of vodka , schnapps ? How come a Darwin fridge came to be named after the German Socialist Friedrich Engels , a close drinking buddy and patron of Karl Marx ? Marx , it seems, upset his father when he was a teenage law student at Bonn University and joined the Trier Tavern Club , a drinking society . Philosopher Engels wrote CONDITIONS OF THE WORKING CLASS IN ENGLAND and gave the royalties to Karl , he also slipped him a quid or five when Marx was experiencing tough times . He also made many wise sayings , such as : An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory and Some laws of state aimed at curbing crime are even more criminal .

It became evident throughout the Legislative Assembly debate that the ALP and the CLP were manoeuvring for a bloody election similar to those that took place around the battleship Potemkin and in the Kremlin square. Dr Burns gave a Rasputin -like blessing to the recently announced ALP candidate who will stand against The Elf in Port Darwin - songwriter , lead singer and former Yothu Yindi manager , Alan James , whose election would make him the Territory equivalent of Federal minister Peter Garrett , but with much more hair.

The Member for Fong Lim, Dave Tollner , fired off a few rounds at members opposite from his CLP answer to the Katyusha rocket launcher , also known as a Stalin organ , at Dr Burns and others , some of which he withdrew on demand of Madam Speaker who joined in the dangerous game of Russian roulette , ordering two members into the Siberian sin bin . UPCOMING : Another Darwin election involving bomb throwing Russkies and a newspaper editor .

Monday, March 26, 2012


Death notice , NT News, March 14, 2012 , above , inserted by pollie ( wants a cracker), lays bare hidden plumage of famous local nudist.
The will of pioneering Darwin nudist, political journalist Dick Muddimer, contains a shock for the city’s high flying reporters. He has left a rare collection of stuffed birds to the Darwin Press Club, a croc infested waterhole frequented by squawking Plovers . While most alert reporters knew Muddimer was a naturist, not one knew he was a noted ornithologist , like Sir David Attenborough , and had written the official guide to Territory twits. However, the MLA for Fannie Bay, Michael Gunner, said he knew all along that Dick was an ardent naturalist . People should have twigged when they saw Dick running about the Free Beach with a Swearing Cockatoo on one shoulder and a Little Whimbrel on the other . Gunner revealed another side of Muddimer -he was also a registered bird carer and nursed sick Dodos back to life in his Philip Street , Fannie Bay, nature reserve.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

SCOOP REPORT FROM ISHMAELIA / BANANAVILLE. By award winning bird chaser John Boot of the " Daily Beast"

Nothing much happened here today in this friendly, sun-drenched dictatorship. Speaking from the turret of an American tank, victorious General Cantankerous announced he had changed the name of the country from Ishmaelia to Bananaville.

Bananaville, he explained , is a sexier moniker which will attract tourists back to the country after the recent bloody massacre which thrust him into power. Waving his fly whisk, he then ordered his chanting , jubilant followers , high on crushed coral dust , to invade Ethiopa .

General Cantankerous cut a dashing figure as he rode triumphantly down the main mall on a penny farthing bike to take up residence in the casino overlooking the fast flowing Upper Limpopo. His favourite wife, on roller skates, followed behind and received deafening cheers and wolf whistles as she skittled several city council donkey and camel parking ticket inspectors.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


WASHINGTON : Widespread use of the clumsy drug in Queensland beer, rum , pineapple juice , office water coolers and baby bottle formulae resulted in the crazy Queensland election result, according to an anonymous spook, known only as Deep Throat and Pockets. Little Darwin’s political correspondent took time out from participating in a noisy Occupy Wall Street demo to talk to Deep Throat and Pockets in a dark carpark.

Our man said the informant claimed to have the dirt on CIA activities in Australia , especially in the Queensland bible belt where Okies are easy to destabilise with dirty tricks and complimentary clumsy drug drinks.

Silhouetted against a distant street light, the shy spy looked like a sumo wrestler or the production manager at a Clive of India curry factory and appeared to be wearing a Lady Gaga wig. Furtively, he handed over a made in China J. Edgar Hoover imitation Gucci handbag - filled with the complete details of the plot to oust the champagne drinking ALP government in Queensland by using clumsy drug infusions throughout the voting public. The dreaded clumpsy drug, an invention of the dastardly Russians , makes people act stupidly, do just the opposite to what they intend. There are alarming growing signs of secret clumsy drug use in the NT .

CAN DO UPDATE : All Roma Street trains are reported to be running on time since the LNP swept into power.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


(Bulldust Diary keeper , Peter Burleigh, reflects on outback culinary arts during the Camooweal to Renner Springs, NT, leg .)

Waiters in the outback are often twenty-something English, Scottish or Irish kids working in the middle of nowhere to get their visas extended. The government gives them an extra year if they work out here for at least three months. Their employers seem to think waiters don’t need to know anything about food or the serving of it, and these kids certainly don’t. On the other hand, given the very limited choice of crap on the menus, what is there to know? Dinners finish early, around 7.15pm when the chef turns into a bar patron.

Haven’t got mash. Haven’t got vegies. Bread rolls are all gone. The Special – (tonight it was Crumbed Steak, for Christ’s sake) - is gone.”
So what have you got?”
“What about the Barramundi? Is it fresh?” He sighs with impatience. “I’ll ask.” A pause. He returns. “It’s fresh frozen in Yepoon (a town about 3000km away in Western Australia). It’s farmed, they freeze it and then we get it.”

When our orders, all steak, arrive the sauces and donenessess are all mixed up. But you don’t complain. They mean well in their bitter ‘I deserve better than this job’ style, but if you don’t smile all you get is a slamming kitchen door. You can’t eat your principles.

Soon after dawn the landscape cringes in the sun’s heat, even in winter. There are no features along the horizon and it’s easy to believe you can see the edge of the world. Luckily the road never reaches it. Between Winton and Cloncurry the land is dead flat, as if ruthlessly sandpapered by a vengeful god. The lines of trees in yesterday’s landscapes were signals of creekbeds. Now they’ve disappeared. The land’s veins have dried up.

By the time you get beyond Winton you’ve passed more signboards that claim “This is the Gateway to the Outback”. There are more gateways than there are in the Cloncurry saleyards. I wonder if Tim Winton, the novelist, adopted the name of the town. There’s precedent: John Denver, Denzil Washington, Billy Birmingham, Lord Melbourne....some of the lesser known are Dennis Manangatang, Alice Alice Springs, and Bruce Mount Isa.

The towns are fewer, now almost half a day apart. The price of fuel is rising according to some weird ratio between capitalistic opportunity and distance. There are more 4WDs and camping rigs. The Nomads are on the move, cocooned in their big air-conditioned cars, pulling their suburban living rooms behind them.

ROAD WARNING : As you read this dit , Burleigh is once more on the road making astute observations about the neurotic state of the luckiest nation in the expanded cosmos - heading to the leafy and sodden lair of old travelling companion, Peter Steedman , aka the Black Knight and a former MHR, who is down to his last Bentley and a pair of made in China perished gumboots .

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


The recent acquisition from a Darwin deceased estate of a number of books about cartoonists brought to life the work of the gifted New Zealander TRACE HODGSON . The above volume, suffering from Darwin’s harsh climate , unfortunately the way of all flesh and dead trees in the North , is an example of his inspired political cartooning . It shows NZ PM , David Lange, a vociferous , would-be- nice- guy , evolving into Roger Douglas who brought in Rogernomics , a form of hardline economics which hit the country like a seismic shock. Cartoons cover the 1984 breakdown of the ANZUS Treaty when the Kiwis told America to stick their nuclear weapons , gay rights, the proposed football tour of South Africa , the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior by the French and the Mururoa nuclear tests, whales and one marking Lange’s first year in office, the enigmatic Mona (Lisa) Lange , with a five o’clock shadow ?, nursing chubby baby Lange , the Wellington Beehive parliament building in the background.

Hodgson began cartooning in 1979 at The Christchurch Press where he was a commercial artist. He wrote that the newspaper’s mean, erratic, pitiful payment and constant rejections made him even more determined to crack their stony faces with a smile . “I never did and I don’t think anyone will ,” he said in the 1986 preface to the book, issued to mark an exhibition of political cartoons which toured NZ.

A political cartoonist for the NZ Listener magazine , he also drew a series with a very familiar title to viewers of a highly rated current (seemingly never ending ) Australian TV series - UNDERBELLY - for CITY VOICE , a Wellington based community newspaper . In it he took a satirical , offbeat look at the capital , at times mocking bogans, while also carrying attached messages to learn CPR to save lives and get HEP C injections . One explained why bogans have long arms , a subject of immense interest for Australia , seeing we have so many of the critters over this side of the Tasman . It seems their dangling limbs are ideal for carrying crates of beer and other bulk grog containers from liquor outlets. His drawing of aggressive HAPPY HOUR drinking sessions is familiar . One imagines deriding tattooed bogans in windy Wellington could be highly dangerous, but he survived somehow .

Against the 1990 Gulf War , he travelled to Iraq to join the Peace Camps, living between the armies in an attempt to prevent the American invasion .

Comic strip creations of his include the adventures of an environmentally friendly garden gnome who decides to drink his own toilet water to help the planet and attends a world sustainability conference where one of the delegates favours hemp underwear. Little Darwin strongly suggests readers Google TRACE HODGSON and look at his work as it could lift your spirits in these frustrating political times, although mining tycoons are supplying some unexpected laffs .

Monday, March 19, 2012


A mountain of animal fat photographed by one of Little Darwin's
roving correspondents who narrowly escaped being run down by crazed drivers in Casablanca and needed oxygen after being slugged nearly $40 for a cocktail.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Expect sea levels to rise after the 80th birthday party for journalist Peter Blake at the Bondi Icebergers ' Club. Apart from working as a scribe in Darwin , he was known as Bookie Blake at the Fannie Bay Racecourse ; he and wife ,Claire, reside in Manhattan . New York recently reverberated to the 50th birthday bash for Sharon Bowditch, members of the Darwin Bowditch clan in attendance. Well known former Darwin journalist Frank Alcorta ( see Chamberlain post below ) notched up his 76th.


Online timelines supposedly setting out main developments in the Azaria Chamberlain case include misleading and garbled claims about the late NT Senator, Bob Collins , a Darwin reporter and the NT Government’s response . One states that on February 7, 1986 : Local reporter Frank Alcorta is incensed when he discovers the ( baby’s) matinee jacket has been held in secret for days . He threatens to publish an article if NT government does not release Lindy from jail or call a royal commission . It complies .

A variation , same date , reads : Senator Bob Collins forced local reporter Frank Alcorta to check his sources. He does, and is so infuriated he writes an article for the local paper and shows it to the NT Government, threatening to print it if Lindy is not released from jail by 12 noon, or an inquiry is called. They do both .

Unaware of such a dramatic sequence of events , I contacted former NT News journalist and onetime government speechwriter Alcorta , a Vietnam veteran, now living in Queensland , who covered momentous parts of the case, and asked if the thrust of these surprising summaries were correct, and if he could supply information about the part played by Senator Collins in his campaign to have Lindy Chamberlain released from prison . He responded thus :

I think that the first thing I ought to put on the record is that I never became incensed by some new revelation about the Chamberlain case brought to my attention by Bob Collins and I definitely did not "threaten" the NT Government with publication unless Lindy Chamberlain was released from jail immediately. It was not in my power to do so and I would never do so anyway.

Bob Collins was of course tireless in his efforts on Lindy´s behalf. While he had canvassed the issue repeatedly in private with a number of people, including myself , for some years, he really came out in public with calls for an inquiry into the case after a front page story was published by the NT News on September 17, 1985 questioning some aspects of the forensic science used to convict Lindy. The calls were rejected by the Government.

On September 26 the NT News revealed that German scientists had cast grave doubts on crucial aspects of the forensic evidence against Lindy. The next day Collins visited Lindy in the Berrimah Jail for the first time.

"She's a remarkable woman with an incredible degree of inner strength. I went to meet her because it was time for me to meet her. It was the right thing to do," Collins told the newspaper after the meeting.

One month later, on October 27, the Sunday Territorian published an impassioned plea by Lindy for an inquiry. She had granted an interview to the newspaper (my editor Gary Shipway and myself) after being persuaded to do so by Collins.

On November 12 the Attorney- General, Marshall Perron, tabled a 107 page report by the Solicitor General, Brian Martin, dismissing the "new" evidence in the case.

But the NT News, on Nov 14, announced on its front page that Lindy would be released within a few days. The announcement was dismissed by Perron after talks in Canberra with former Federal Attorneys General, Senators Gareth Evans and Peter Durack.

There the case rested for the rest of 1985 despite efforts to keep the controversy going by Collins and by Lindy´s then husband, Michael Chamberlain, who also crusaded tenaciously for her release.

In January 1986, the NT News and Sunday Territorian carried several reports indicating rising speculation about Lindy´s fate. The NT News published that the South Australian chief forensic scientist, Dr Andrew Scott, was about to blow the findings of the Territory Solicitor General, Brian Martin, apart. The Sunday Territorian obtained evidence that Scott would say Martin had been "selective in the presentation of his evidence" and described Martin´s interpretation of a report by German manufacturers, Beringwerke, on the blood reagent used in the Chamberlain case as "preposterous."
It looked as if events were shaping up yet again as a battle between forensic scientists and their various conflicting interpretations of evidence. And, in all probability, that is how the continuing Chamberlain saga would have developed but for a bizarre incident which quickly unravelled the case.

On February 3, the NT News carried a brief report about an English tourist who had accidentally fallen to his death at Ayers Rock. His body was found at the foot of the great monolith. It had been partly devoured by dingos and one of his hands had been eaten away.

The find sparked a grisly search for the missing parts of the body and, on the same day, police recovered a tiny, dirty, sand impregnated matinee jacket near the tourist´s dead body. The jacket belonged to Azaria Chamberlain.

Lindy´s lawyer, Stuart Tipple, flew to Ayers Rock where he gave a press conference attended by more than 40 media representatives from all over Australia. Tipple anticipated Lindy´s early release on the basis of new evidence and this in fact happened next day.

The immediate events leading to her freedom were every bit as gripping as those which led to her imprisonment and they were described in detail by the Sunday Territorian on February 9 (the newspaper in fact had been preparing a careful report of Scott´s analysis of forensic evidence which now, of course, became irrelevant.)

I am not going to go into the detail of various meetings between Police Commissioner, Peter McCauley, with Brian Martin and with Chief Minister Ian Tuxworth on February 7 because it is probably unimportant for your task.

Enough to say that just after 11:00 am that day a letter was written explaining the Government´s intentions to Bob Collins. At 12:45pm the Chief Minister actually took the unprecedented step to phone the NT News to alert the managing editor that Lindy was likely to be released that very same afternoon.

At 1:00 pm Cabinet met with the Administrator, Commodore Eric Johnstone, for an emergency Executive Council meeting to formalise Lindy´s release.

At 4.20pm, her meagre belongings in a suitcase, she left jail for good and spent the night with friends and well wishers in suburban Nightcliff. Significantly and understandably, the only outsider she agreed to see was Collins.

FOOTNOTE : Alcorta wrote a book , above, about the dramatic chain of events which at the time were just as sensational as the Azaria Chamberlain affair , if not more so – THE DARWIN REBELLION of 1911-1919. In this uprising unionists stormed Government House and forced the Administrator, Dr Gilruth, to secretly slip out of town aboard a naval gunboat . Also forced to quit town aboard ship were three members of the organisation set up to run the Territory after Gilruth’s ignominious departure ; closure of Vesteys meatworks followed soon after , a huge economic blow to the tiny town . In the preface to the book , Alcorta wrote that it had started as a doctoral thesis and almost ended as a novel as he discovered so much fascinating material. It is easy to see why it would have made an epic novel . In his book THE FRONT DOOR- Darwin 1869-1969, Douglas Lockwood described the events during the eight years that Dr Gilruth was in office as ones involving demonstrations against authority not seen since the armed rebellion at the Eureka Stockade 60 years earlier. NEXT : The Chamberlain Case archives.

Friday, March 16, 2012


The late Margaret Whitlam, seen here at Wattie Creek when PM Whitlam handed over land to the Gurindji, symbolically pouring soil into the hand of Vincent Lingiari, the two men sharing a bottle of champers, an event previously covered by Little Darwin with exclusive photographs and details . A great person , she and Gough , both height enhanced , spotted each other across a crowded room at a gathering filled with lesser mortals in their younger days and , as they say in the movies , it is now history. Her death at 92 is a sad event. This scribe had a short chat with Mrs Whitlam outside the writers' tent at an Adelaide Festival of Arts . She was held in the same high regard as is brave Hazel Hawke .

Thursday, March 15, 2012


In his dramatic opening address at the 1982 Darwin trial , Ian Barker, QC , said :

A baby was killed at Ayers Rock on 17th of August 1980 during the evening between eight and nine o’clock. It was a Sunday. The child was just under ten weeks old, having been born on the eleventh of June. She was called Azaria Chamberlain, and was the daughter of the accused Michael Leigh Chamberlain and Alice Lynee Chamberlain. The body of the child was never found but, having evidence concerning the baby’s disappearance, you will have no difficulty determining that she is dead, and that she died on the night she disappeared.

As to the manner and the cause of death, one cannot be precise because the body was never found. However, what will be proved, largely upon scientific evidence of the baby’s clothes, is that the child lost a great deal of blood, in all probability from injury to the major vessels of her neck. She died very quickly because somebody had cut her throat.

The Crown does not venture to suggest any reason or motive for the killing. it is not part of our case that Mrs. Chamberlain had previously shown any ill will towards the child. Nor do we assert that the child was other than a normal baby. The Crown does not, therefore, attempt to prove motive, nor does it invite speculation as to motive. We simply say to you that the evidence to be put before you will prove reasonable doubt that, for whatever reason, the baby was murdered by her mother.

Shortly after the event, the mother asserted, and thereafter continued to assert, that the dead child had been taken from the tent by a dingo. The Crown says that the dingo story was a fanciful lie, calculated to conceal the truth, which is that the child Azaria died by her mother’s hand....

The Crown case against Michael Leigh Chamberlain is that he actively and knowingly assisted his wife to dispose of the child’s body, to mislead the police about the circumstances of the child’s disappearance, to attempt to have the police and the Coroner believe that the baby had been killed by a dingo, and in other ways in attempting to conceal the fact that murder had been committed. At the close of all the evidence I will invite you to find, beyond reasonable doubt, that Michael Leigh Chamberlain is guilty of the crime of being an accessory after the fact to murder, by his wife, of his child, Azaria.

The discovery of foetal blood in the car is a critical part of the Crown case. it would be preposterous to suggest that the dingo took the child from the tent and into the car, and we will submit that the discovery of Azaria’s blood in the car destroys the dingo attack explanation give by Mr. Chamberlain, whatever else there may be to support such explanation, and the Crown says there is almost nothing.

So, ladies and gentlemen, this is a case of simple alternatives. Either a dingo killed Azaria, or it was homicide, because the child could hardly have inflicted injuries upon herself. If she was killed in the car, one can at once forget the dingo....

As a result of the fourth coronial inquiry into the death of Azaria Chamberlain new information has come to light about the involvement of the late ALP Territory politician , Senator Bob Collins, and others in the ongoing saga , described as "The Trial of the Century." In her autobiography , Lindy Chamberlain wrote that she would still have been in Berrimah Gaol but for the intervention of Bob Collins.

Continually trying to put my files into order , three weeks ago, I reread correspondence from Collins to me in which he made forthright comments about aspects of the case - especially a key witness , and the NT government . The late NT crusading editor, Jim Bowditch, who also spoke out for the Chamberlains , discussed the controversial case with Collins . While doing research into the life of Bowditch, I had asked Collins for details of those discussion and why he ( Collins ) felt the NT Government had pursued Lindy Chamberlain so relentlessly. In fact I used the expression... "the Desert Storm approach to the poor bloody Chamberlain family, especially Lindy ."

Replying, Collins , in an email dated October 24 , 2000 , in part, wrote : ”For two years prior to the incident (the disappearance of Azaria), Derek Roff , head Ranger at Uluru, had been writing to his superiors in Darwin warning them of impending tragedy if the growing problems with aggressive dingoes attacking tourists and particularly young children was not addressed.

"This was happening because tourists were feeding the dingoes despite being warned not to do so . He (Roff) was ignored by the NT Parks and Wildlife Commission.

"All this was given in evidence in the trial, but was ignored by the jury who were blinded by science which the Morling Commission demonstrated was actually science fiction .

"Joy Kuhl , the (late) forensic scientist, who was the chief culprit , found a pool of baby blood that was sound deadener ( in the car ) applied by GMH (General Motors-Holden ).

"She was appointed immediately after the trial as the Chief Forensic Scientist in the NT.

"I was told by a senior forensic scientist at the time in Adelaide that no reputable lab would give her a job cleaning test tubes."

In his email , Collins continued by saying the NT Government had taken the view " from the jump" that if the Chamberlains weren’t guilty then they would be ( and they were right)."

The email I received from Collins included a response to little known details I had given him about Capricornia and Poor Fellow My Country author , Xavier Herbert , and Japanese collectors interest in old style fountain pens, with bladders, in some cases paying hundreds of dollars for one. [ Collins described the information about Herbert as "fascinating " and , in respect of fountain pens, said he used to have a drawer full of them , but his children had disposed of them , and it was hard to find a pencil he could call his own.]

Following the latest coronial inquiry hearing in Darwin at which the Chamberlains sought to obtain closure by having their daughter’s death attributed to a dingo, the decision reserved, I discussed the case and the Collins email with agronomist, Rob Wesley-Smith, who also campaigned for them over the years , firmly believing from the outset that a dingo had taken the child. From his experience dealing with animals , he said there was no doubt that a dingo would be able to extend its jaws to pick up a baby by the head -it being claimed in court by one witness that a dingo could not pick up an infant by the head . See above photograph from Little Darwin file of a dingo taken at Alice Springs in the 1970s .

There was, he continued, ample evidence presented at the latest inquest , that dingoes had taken and attacked children in the past. A key figure in the establishment of the NT Civil Liberties Council , Wesley –Smith , by nature relentless , pursued the matter , expressing himself in letters to newspapers and built up his own " Chamberlain file" over the years , to which he still adds clippings and other documents .

At one stage living in the Smith Street government flats , opposite the Seventh Day Adventist Church , Cavenagh Street , he received several visits from its pastor, who had read his newspaper comments at which the Chamberlain case was discussed .

Commenting on the plight of the Chamberlains , Wesley-Smith recently stated that , in some ways, the couple were their own worst enemies because of their lack of emotion and expression in public , confining themselves to the company of Adventists. The Chamberlains’ lawyer, Stuart Tipple, blamed the "crucifixion" by the Press for the couple’s social ostracism. An expert on communication,Alan Peafe, attributed the antipathy to Lindy to her body language , her stony faced reaction to TV cameras. Sir Alan Walker ,director of World Evangelism, a popular Australian commentator on social and religious matters for many years, said the Chamberlains had been the victims of religious prejudice and discrimination because they were members of a small and little understood Christian church.

Closely associated with the ALP, Wesley-Smith had stood for the seat of Koolpinyah, and approached Collins, then the NT Leader of the Opposition , to speak out for the Chamberlains . Collins listened to what he said and they discussed the case at length . Some months later , Collins did indeed come out in support of the Chamberlains and became regarded as the Chamberlains’ number one campaigner, a move which made him many enemies .

In May 1984 a petition containing 131,000 signatures calling for Lindy Chamberlain’s release and a judicial inquiry was presented to Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen. It was also reported that the so called blood pattern in the car was actually paint emulsion. In November 1985 , Melbourne barrister John Bryson published his book EVIL ANGELS , suggesting the Chamberlains might have been wrongly convicted.

Just before Christmas 1985 , tenacious Wesley-Smith , outraged that Lindy Chamberlain was still in prison , rang the home of NT Chief Minister Ian Tuxworth . Mrs Tuxworth answered , and he explained that he wanted to talk to her husband about Lindy Chamberlain. To this very day, he is surprised that he was able to talk to Tuxworth. He would not have been surprised if Ian Tuxworth had not taken the call. However, to his credit, the Chief Minister did take the call and heard him out .

As he recalls the conversation, he strongly urged Tuxworth to release her- "Just let her out !" An Innocence Committee had earlier in the year submitted new evidence to the NT Government and made an application for an inquiry. Tuxworth indicated that he was coming around to the idea that she could be released , Wesley-Smith claims , but no such action was taken .

Then lawyer Stuart Tipple was tipped off on February 3 ,1986 that Azaria’s missing matinee jacket had been found near dingo lairs during the search for the body parts of a fallen climber at Ayers Rock . The jacket had been held in the Alice Springs Court House since January 31 . Mrs Chamberlain positively identified the jacket on February 5 and she was released from prison two days later.

After three years in gaol , having been found guilty by a Darwin jury of having murdered her baby on the front seat of the family car by cutting her throat and sentenced to life imprisonment , Lindy Chamberlain was free .

After a 14 month inquiry , Royal Commissioner Justice Trevor Morling cleared the Chamberlains of any guilt or responsibility . The NT offered a pardon , turned down as it still indicated guilt in Australia . On September 15, 1988, the Supreme Court, Darwin, quashed all convictions and declared the Chamberlains totally innocent.

In 1994 ,Wesley-Smith attended part of the subsequent third inquest in Darwin and was disturbed to hear what he described as shortcomings in the presentation of information on behalf of the Chamberlains .He approached the QC representing them and expressed his concern , pointing out what he considered vital material , mentioned in previous media coverage , had not been presented . Had no instructing lawyer briefed him on this aspect? The QC indicated he had limited support. Wesley-Smith then went away, tracked down the articles ,obtained copies and gave them to the QC. The issue was subsequently raised . .. "I was doing research work on an important aspect of the case that the legal representative for the Chamberlains should have had at his fingertips."

On December 13, 1995 NT Coroner John Lowndes found that neither Lindy nor Michael Chamberlain were in anyway involved with the disappearance of their daughter. He did, however, leave the cause of Azaria’s death "open"-the reason for the latest coronial inquiry, the decision expected some time in the near future.

It is the firm opinion of Wesley-Smith , despite all that has been written about the Azaria Chamberlain case , that there is another book to be penned exploring aspects not so far touched upon, especially what went on within the NT Government, the spin , the leaks , the key players, the role of the media , the state of forensic science in the NT at the time , etc .

He particulary deplores the disregard of powerful evidence given by Aboriginal witnesses about the night Azaria disappeared at Uluru and their comments about dingo tracks and dingoes in the area . Aboriginal trackers , with full back up and support , he maintains , should have spearheaded the search in the vital early days instead of being brushed aside and disregarded. NEXT : More information about the sensational case .

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


One of Little Darwin's talented cartoonists depicts the scene when homeless Trevor Jenkins sweeps into power like London's Dick Whittington after the Darwin City Council election and carries out his promise to order civic fathers and mothers to get out and clean up the streets themselves. If he picks up a feral cat sniffing about the CBD it would help keep down rats in the ranks .

Monday, March 12, 2012


Following Cyclones Carlos and Grant , the NT government was firmly made aware of shortcomings in tri-service arrangements to cope with natural disasters and other emergencies. This vital information was provided in writing - and seems to have been swept under the carpet, there being no written response, no action . Clear verbal information about dangerous deficiencies was also given to a person close to government , again without response . Now another cyclone threat is looming .

Matters raised included dangers to emergency services personnel, poor pre- cyclone season preparation , unrealistic expectations of how things will function post-cyclone , shortage of fuel for rescue vehicles, no spare tyres to replace ones deflated and damaged by road debris , and other matters . There are allegations that middle level management has been sitting on vital safety issues for more than a year , and penny pinching . While the public is bombarded with messages to prepare for each cyclone season, it is abundantly clear that the government does not follow this advice , thus endangering its own employees and the public at large. Despite claims by government that the system is ready and able to cope with " a big one " there are obvious weaknesses - some easily rectified- that have been pointed out in a constructive fashion - and ignored . MORE TO COME .

Sunday, March 11, 2012


An irritating aspect of Jennifer Byrne's First Tuesday Book Club on TV is the obvious phoney backdrop of bookshelves with fake books , no title visible on the spine of any "volume". We all know the ABC is short of folding stuff, but surely it can arrange for Bob the Builder to knock up a real bookshelf in play school or romper room ? And all those REAL review copies that flood in to Aunty would soon fill the shelving. The set designer should be taken out and either pulped or burnt by men in brown shirts.

The ABC standards/ ethics / modesty department
should also provide the leg tossing Jennifer with a mother hubbard to cover up her distracting gams . This viewer recently saw, for the first time , the BLOCK BUSTERS AND BEST SELLERS show in which Byrne’s guests were Di Morrissey, Lee Child , Matthew Reilly and Bryce Courtenay. It was hard to concentrate on their profound advice about writing , publishing and marketing , especially on how to sell a million , when the host , in a short skirt, crossed and uncrossed her legs, revealing what seemed to this pop-eyed viewer, due to deteriorating eyesight and other enfeeblements, an embossed colophon or a tattooed frontispiece .

Friday, March 9, 2012


Most of the men in this group of East Timor freedom fighters are now dead, killed in the long struggle against the invading Indonesians, but the one second from the left , with the mop of hair , survived and is tipped to be elected the next president. He is Taur Matan Ruak who resigned last year as Timor-Leste's armed forces minister. The National Congress for Reconstruction of East Timor party (CNRT), headed by Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, has swung its support behind the highly respected Ruak , simply called TMR. CNRT supported Jose Ramos-Horta in the 2007 presidential election. One of the intending 13 candidates in the election to be held March 17, was Francisco Xavier do Amaral, 74, East Timor's first president , sworn in in 1975 , nine days before the Indonesians invaded. He fled to the mountains to fight , was captured in 1978 and placed under house arrest on Bali. Amaral died after a long battle with cancer in Dili in recent days . The above photograph was supplied by Darwin agronomist Rob Wesley-Smith who recently had talks with Ruak on a visit to the country,which has a population of 1.2 million . Parliamentary elections will be held mid-June, the outcome closely watched across the border and elsewhere . The fighter in the beret next to Ruak was Falintil commander , David Alex , another hero,whose final resting place is not known after he was wounded and last seen in the hands of the Indonesians . Alex cooperated with media people trying to get word out about the barbaric things being done to the populace by the invaders. The book A DIRTY LITTLE WAR by John Martinkus, foreword by Xanana Gusmao,Random House, Australia ,2001 , contains information about Alex and includes the removal of a bullet from his emaciated body .


Bossom buddies-- Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb- - have fleshed out some of the Coalition’s long awaited economic policies . Briefly , the message for Australian workers is that they will be stripped naked if the Tories become government, with ever growing , confusing plans to slash and burn . Hulking Joe Hockey outlined the policies at a packed Press Club luncheon in Canberra. Instead of using power points and graphs , he went for nude window display dummies, above, from David Jones to explain how we will be turned into a nation of strippers , pole dancers and streakers at cricket and football matches . NOTE: The green hat was placed on the J-curve (an expression much used by economists and heavy breathers on telephones ) model in a desperate bid to win the Irish vote for the Mad Monk - or MALCOLM -at the federal election .

Buddy Robb was not present because he was double checking Hockey’s figures , suspecting cosmetic surgery in two key areas had caused them to bulge uncontrollably,like Mae West. Robb wants to reduce the figures to more manageable sizes , attractive as Raquel Welch, but with a modest A cup. So as not to offend sensitive readers, Little Darwin air-brushed some of the naughty bits out of the Coalition nudes , including the hidden bottom lines, bottom of the harbour schemes so beloved by the Libs , and even tried filling in the distracting belly buttons with Greek putty , but ran out of sovereign debt and Euros.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Pioneering nudist and political journalist, Dick Muddimer , 82, seen above with his pet dog ,Nemo, in this 2003 painting by Albert Koomen, has died of a heart attack in Darwin Hospital . Dick was deeply involved in moves , including protest marches , which led to the establishment of the free beach. It was often emphatically stated that media proprietor Rupert Murdoch had to get permission from the Darwin Sun Club to use the name Darwin Sun in a free newspaper , launched to stifle competition . Muddimer denied this on several occasions, the latest a few months ago when talking to me - but we musn't let the facts spoil what sounds like a good yarn. Dick worked at the ABC and the NT News . Apart from the above painting , done as part of the distinguished NT Senior Citizens series , former ABC journalist Bill Fletcher has a photograph of Dick asleep at his typewriter. While covering parliament in the old Legislative Assembly building , Dick could often be seen up in the Press gallery, slumped forward , having a quick kip, revealing a Friar Tuck circlet of hair . A nextdoor neighbour of the Paulings, he liked strolling about the yard au natural , soaking up the sun , at times frightening people who go from door to door handing our religious tracts , meter readers and other intruders upon his castle. Richard Graham Muddimer 's birth was recorded at Hendon, Oxfordshire, in 1929. One of his prized possessions from his early days in Britain was his mother's large dinner gong. Well read, Dick recently showed me through his dusty book collection which included a considerable number about British politicians ... Peter Simon


From the Romano Cafe in mysterious Casablanca, a Little Darwin correspondent sends this tasty close up of ingredients for a kebab -naturally,with ubiquitous French fries .

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Salvage operations are underway to remove the Italian cruise ship Costa Bundle which ran aground in the Government House swimming pool. Our exclusive photo shows the large ship rammed up against the building . Our tip is that the ship will be placed in a new water park to be built at Tennant Creek before the elections. The Administrator has been given an inflatable executive swimming pool and a vice-regal rubber ducky so that she can maintain her cool while splashing about like Esther Williams on the front lawn watched by camera clicking tourists . The Costa Bundle was filled with 457 visa workers .( See earlier DARWIN SHIPWRECK .)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


RESIDENTS in the Masonic Homes villas at Tiwi have received yet another puzzling notice, dated March 6, about the large number of halogen down lights in each residence .

In part, it says that following" remedial work in the ceiling spaces" by Faith Constructions , an inspection by NT WorkSafe has found that there is still work to be undertaken " before the certificate of compliance can be issued" . This means, it continues , that electricians will need to enter the ceiling space again over the next few weeks. All kinds of people , some said to be electricians , have been clambering into the ceilings over many months, others said to be" French boys", probably backpackers, and another person who took photos .

The halogen lights , because they pump out a lot of heat, were going to be removed, then it was decided not to remove them, instead put hoods on them, directing heat downwards.A notice handed out at the time said that while the hoods were being put in place the "electricians " would be on the lookout out for " non compliant or unsafe cabling " which would also be rectified.

The latest bulletin states some down lights may need to be repositioned and some ceilings may need follow up repairs . Why this is so, is not explained . Little Darwin raised this issue , not followed up by the local media , with a post on January 29 headed PUZZLING MASONIC HOMES LIGHTS ISSUE .WorkSafe has been asked to state EXACTLY what is the situation in light (no pun intended) of conflicting previous notices and the obvious questions that need to be answered by this latest statement.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Longreach-Winton-Kynuna-Cloncurry with deodorised author/ artist / marriage guidance counsellor, Peter Burleigh , as he battles corporate bulldust and learns the growing art of sending urgent, reverse charge smoke signals .

Kangaroos in the yellow grass. Dew. Amber morning sun cutting low. Silence. The sounds of cars and trucks can be traced to individual vehicles and you can hear the silence in between them. In the city there’s no silence; it’s filled by background hum. These mornings are delicious. The sun releases smells of damp earth, wet grass and indefinable funky odours. It warms your bones. You can’t deny the feeling that it’s good to be alive.

People talk about the value of brands and how easily they can be compromised. Two examples come to mind, Qantas and Telstra. From an unassailable Australian brand Qantas has for years sown the seeds of its own destruction through its execrable service in the air and on the ground, and its increasingly poor mechanical performance. I don’t fly Qantas anymore. It’s an accident waiting to happen.

Second example: Telstra. I’m repelled by the brand, I loathe how Telstra has treated me in the past. If I must contact Telstra for any reason whatsoever I know the experience will be the pits. In Longreach I try to buy a pre-paid Telstra SIM card for my unlocked phone. After standing in a queue for 20 minutes, I am treated to:
"Is your phone unlocked?"
"Does it accept G3 services?"
"Don’t know. It’s a brand new phone. I need a Telstra SIM card so I can make calls. I want this deal here: Talk & Text, it..."
"Are you connected to Telstra?"
"No, but I’ve come to Telstra because your coverage is good out in the Kimberleys."
"Did you know you need G3?"
"I just want to make calls, and I‘m willing to pay."
"It’s not as easy as that."

A small voice in my mind says "oh, shit..." With the wannest of wan smiles, the man continues: "Telstra phones are locked on to the G3 network. I can sell you a SIM card but it won’t work properly, only in bigger towns - so it won’t be much better than what you have now. The only way to get some coverage in the Kimberley is if you’ll go two doors up the street and buy a $100 Telstra phone from Retravision. Then I can sell you a Telstra card that works in the area you want."

"But I have a brand-new phone, not contracted to anyone. That’s restrictive trade practice."
"What? Restrictive what?"
"Forget it."

Telstra is dumbfoundingly stupid. They could have had my business, and they just might have had a permanent customer. All they have done is confirm my extreme prejudice against them, which I am passing on to you and anyone else who’ll listen.

Winston Churchill
knew about the "shock of the new", so like me he must have been travelling with five guys in four-wheel-drives. It’s going to be this way until the women fly into Kununurra in WA. In a sense, we are sharing a single cabin. One of us is dedicated to technological gimmicks; one apparently dedicated to beer; one a newcomer to Australia, wide-eyed and unsure how to withstand the blokey rubbishing; and two others who’re wondering why they’re with the other three. Habits are exposed which irritate some but mean little to others. Only girly-men care about the wet towels on the floor, the milk left out to go off, the strewn cans, the bottles...travelling in the outback isn’t for the pedantic, yet most are infected with the belief that their own knowledge is far superior to anyone else’s.

But it’s only transitory. Everyone shows goodwill and pitches in. With a bit of psychotherapy the other four guys could begin to seem human.

Friday, March 2, 2012


The editor of the Magnetic Times online newspaper, George Hirst, has called for public and Australian Government action to protect WikiLeaks founder , Julian Assange, from "sinister forces. " Hirst , who has the confidence of Assange’s mother, writes :

Having reported on the Magnetic Island childhood of WikiLeaks’ Editor in Chief, Julian Assange, it is indeed distressing to learn of the new attempts to destroy this brave and world-changing Australian who has now spent over 450 days under house arrest. Revelations by hacktivist group Anonymous have shone the light on the activities of the American security organisation, Stratfor, and their secret (until now) work to "screw the terrorist "(Julian Assange). Among the 5 million hacked emails - of which 4000 refer to Assange - we learn just how threatening and creepy this organisation, with direct links to the US government, is, in its intentions towards Julian Assange, WikiLeaks, Julian’s family and, indeed, anybody linked to WikiLeaks. Following is a very informative but disturbing speech by West Australian Greens’ Senator, Scott Ludlam, who has highlighted just how far these sinister forces are prepared to go to destroy the whistle-blowing website’s creator.

Senator Ludlam also calls the Australian government to account and the particularly evasive responses from former PM and Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, on what the government either knows and won't tell or doesn’t know and absolutely should, about US efforts to bring down the Walkley award winner for most outstanding contribution to journalism in 2011.Senator Ludlam's recent speech to the Australian Senate follows:

I rise to make a few comments on the WikiLeaks publishing organisation and its editor-in-chief, Julian Assange. Although most people probably had not come across WikiLeaks until its stunning series of document releases in 2010, the organisation has been around since 2006. Its key innovation is a secret drop-box where whistleblowers can provide documents to journalists, and the journalists do not necessarily know who the sources are. That is, I think, the key innovation of this organisation - a journalist cannot be hauled into court and forced to disclose who their source is, because they do not know who it is. WikiLeaks, despite having existed and done valuable work for a number of years, did not really burst into public consciousness until 2010 with the release of a collateral murder video which shows US forces quite casually obliterating a city block, killing a Reuters journalist and his associates and then seriously wounding a number of children who happened to be in a van that drove up to try to clean up and take the bodies out of the combat zone.

Subsequently, the Afghanistan and Iraq war logs provided us with a glimpse into the conduct of these wars, one of which Australia is still engaged in. In the Afghan warlogs we discovered that there had been 114 incidents of coalition military attacks on civilians. Ninety-one thousand field reports were made public. Many of them are mundane, but many of them also give us an extraordinary insight into how war is fought in the 21st century.There are revelations in the Afghan war logs-and in the Iraq war logs, which were released a short time later-of war crimes on the part of our ally the United States. Iraq Body Count, the London-based group that monitored civilian casualties during the Iraq conflict says that it identified around 15,000 previously unknown and unreported civilian deaths from the data contained in the leaked war logs. Iraq Body Count discovered that US authorities were systematically failing to investigate hundreds of reports of torture and rape and of extrajudicial killing by Iraqi police and military forces. The conduct was systematic and completely unpunished, and the Australian public, who were taken into the disastrous and illegal war in Iraq, did notknow about it because the material had failed to make its way into the press and onto the public record.

Late in 2010 occurred probably the most important release to date-depending on how you see these things-when the publication of State Department cables put the WikiLeaks organisation and its editor-in-chief, Julian Assange, onto the front page of the world's newspapers. The State Department cables give us a different view: an insight into how global diplomacy is conducted.

They contain interesting things about Australian political personalities and about the conduct of ministers-foreign ministers in particular-and they give us a window into how the United States conducts its activities around the world.It should be said, of course, that WikiLeaks does not exist to undermine the United States government. Mr Assange is on the record-and I paraphrase here-as saying, 'The more you have to hide, the more you have to fear. Regimes such as China, which do not have the democratic protections that exist here in Australia and even in the United States, have more to fear: there are more secrets there, so there is more to be disclosed.'

Indeed, the first serious revelations which WikiLeaks was able to publish in partnership with other media organisations were about Kenya. There is nothing necessarily anti-American going on here, but leaks are emerging from within the United States military and diplomatic corps that shine a spotlight on how the US government works and just how far the spin is from reality.For its extraordinary and important work WikiLeaks has been correctly recognised as a publishing organisation and its editor-in-chief as a journalist. As recently as late last year the Walkley Foundation awarded Mr Assange the Walkley award for most outstanding contribution to journalism in 2011. The ruling of 2 November 2011 by the Queen's Bench division of the British High Court acknowledged that Mr Assange is a journalist and WikiLeaks a publishing organisation. Right around the world-in Italy and in Spain and in the form of the Amnesty International UK media award 2009-it has been acknowledged that WikiLeaks is a publishing outfit and that this organisation has nothing to do with terrorism.Senior US administration figures are on record as saying that no essential damage has been done to US interests as a result of the activities of WikiLeaks. On 11 August 2011, a spokesman for the Pentagon told the Washington Post: We have yet to see any harm come to anyone in Afghanistan that we can directly tie to exposure in the Wikileaks documents.Moreover, an Australian Department of Defence investigation concluded in October 2010 that the leaked documents had 'not had a direct significant adverse impact on Australia's national interests.' That assessment has been backed up by the US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, and the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who have been downplaying the impact of the releases and saying that they have not in fact affected US security interests.

Nonetheless, there is a fierce campaign afoot to destroy WikiLeaks: to discredit Mr Assange and his associates and colleagues and to set the organisation back-in fact, to simply destroy it. We discovered a great deal about this when five million emails from the private American security organisation Stratfor were released in the latest document drop by WikiLeaks. Stratfor's Vice President for Counterterrorism and Corporate Security is a gentleman named Fred Burton. He is a former deputy chief of the Department of State's counterterrorism division, so there has obviously been a revolving door in the United States-many of Stratfor's staff have come to it from the US intelligence and defence community. In early 2011, Burton revealed in an internal Stratfor correspondence that there had been an indictment made by the secret grand jury which, as we were aware, had been impanelled in the United States. This email, which is from Australia Day 2011, reads: “Not for Pub-we have a sealed indictment on Assange. Pls protect.”In a later email he says: “Assange is going to make a nice bride in prison. Screw the terrorist. He'll be eating cat forever.” Charming!

Further emails reveal that the strategies that were enabled by things like the US Patriot Act which were implemented by the Bush and Cheney administration after the attacks of 9-11 were being used not simply to track down and destroy terrorist networks but to track down and destroy media organisations. This further email says: “Take down the money. Go after his infrastructure. The tool we are using to nail and de-construct Wiki are the same tools used to dismantle and track aQ [Al Qaeda]. Thank Cheney & 43-” meaning the 43rd President of the United States. It continues: “Big Brother owns his liberal terrorist arse”. Burton states: “Ferreting out [Julian Assange's] confederates is also key. Find out what other disgruntled rogues inside the tent or outside [sic]. Pile on. Move him from country to country to face various charges for the next 25 years. But, seize everything he and his family own, to include every person linked to Wiki.”

You thought Team America was fiction, but that is how these people appear to behave behind the scenes in emails that they do not think will be read by the general public.There has been a targeted campaign of character assassination in the public realm that ties in with this secret process of a grand jury indictment. Now we know, from an email that was sent on Australia Day last year, that such an indictment exists. That means the United States can potentially move to extradite Mr Assange from Sweden if he ends up there, from the UK if he remains there or from Australia-in fact, from any country with which the United States has an extradition agreement.

The campaign to destroy the WikiLeaks organisation needs to stop. This is a publishing organisation and it is essential that we know that the Australian government has done, and intends to do, everything that it can to protect Mr Assange and the organisation.There is one further email from Stratfor for the Senate to consider. Burton says that he will: “... pursue [c]onspiracy and [p]olitical [t]errorism charges of declassified the death of a source someone which [he] could link to Wiki.” Burton's strategy is to: “... [b]ankrupt the arsehole ... ruin his life. Give him 7-12 years for conspiracy.” That is absolutely key. At the point where this indictment was meant to hit the table, all of a sudden by pure coincidence the world's newspapers would be carrying a story that a source named in one of the WikiLeaks documents, which were extensively redacted by the organisation, would be all over the front pages - that somebody had died as a result of the WikiLeaks drop.

It is unbelievably cynical to pursue a strategy like that in order to try and destroy this organisation.We need to know what the role of the Australian government in this has been. If a private security company in Texas has known for well over a year that this sealed indictment exists, did the United States government share that with its close ally Australia or not? The Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, whoever that currently is,and the Attorney-General have some very difficult questions to answer. I will be putting this question to the Prime Minister's representative in this chamber shortly after two o'clock this afternoon. So I am putting the Prime Minister on notice now. Is Australia ignorant in this matter or complicit? I do not see a great deal of room for splitting the difference. Did the United States government hide this information from the Australian Prime Minister and the Australian defence and intelligence community, keeping us ignorant about the fate of an Australian citizen and journalist, or did they disclose that information which makes Australia complicit in this unbelievable attack on a media organisation that has done nothing more than do what journalists are supposed to do: tell the truth about what is going on behind the scenes by people in power?

We have heard quite sensible comments from Senator Brandis. We have seen Mr Turnbull on the record. We have had Mr Rudd on the record saying, 'People tearing up passports is my responsibility.' We have no idea yet what the new foreign minister will say. We have not heard anything from our current Attorney-General.Late last year I initiated a series of freedom of information requests. They have been stonewalled, they have been blocked, they have been frustrated and there have been excuses every couple of weeks about why it is so difficult to disclose this kind of information; so we do not yet know whether the Australian government is incompetent and ignorant or complicit.

But if there is some other answer I would be very interested to find out what it is. We have put dozens of questions on notice to try to establish what the Australian government knew and it is time that the Australian government came clean. It is no longer acceptable for the Prime Minister to simply keep her head down and hope this will all go away, because push is about to come to shove, quite seriously. Mr Assange has now been under house arrest for 448 days, an extraordinary period of time, during which the organisation has continued to do extraordinarily valuable work in feeding the world's media news organisations with the primary source documentation for story after story after story.

So if Mr Assange is complicit and has committed crimes then so is the editor of the New York Times and the Guardian and the people who write for Australia's Fairfax press andthe ABC. We are all implicated in this.There is one final email that I want to quote from which I think really underlines the importance of the Australian government stepping up now, today, in defence of this Australian citizen: ... that they are going after the confederates, they are going after the network, they are after everybody who has ever had anything to do with WikiLeaks. I am one of those. I met Mr Assange late last year. He has met with many news editors, he has met with journalists from all over the world and he has helped them do their job. So we are all implicated in this.If you are hearing this from the press gallery, the people who signed on to the Walkley Foundation's sign-on letter last year, publishing organisations around the world and around the country, an attack on this organisation is an attack on all of us.

If the world is not safe for an organisation like WikiLeaks, then it is not safe for any of us.I am calling on the Australian government to come clean about what it knows and do what it quite rightly did in the instance of the boy in Bali who found himself in serious legal trouble when he was caught in possession of a small quantity of marijuana. The Australian government put people on planes, they sent assistance, phones rang and people got onto the Indonesian authorities to make sure that that boy had the best consular and legal assistance that could possibly be made available to him, and rightly so. What we have seen in the case of Mr Julian Assange, who is working as a journalist and has provided some of the most important revelations on the conduct of war and commerce and diplomacy in modern history, is silence. It is time that that silence was lifted...

Editor Hirst added : Magnetic Times believes that the treatment of Julian Assange by the Australian government is something readers can do something about. And with the just-announced arrival of former NSW Premier, Bob Carr, to become Foreign Affairs Minister, we can think of no issue for him which is more pressing than to act decisively to do everything at the government’s disposal to protect the rights of Magnetic Island’s most famous son. He hasn’t been sworn in yet but we urge readers to contact the Prime Minister seeking her re-assessment of the government’s tardy treatment of Julian Assange and to call on her new Foreign Minister to act swiftly and properly represent Julian Assange in his desperate struggle. The post ends with a direct link to the Prime Minister .(See )