Thursday, May 31, 2012
Today Amy Goodman is a powerful voice in alterative media. She hosts DEMOCRACY NOW!, a daily international TV/radio news hour on more than 900 stations in North America . She has received many awards, including the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and the George Polk Award. In 2001, she declined to accept the Overseas Press Club Award, in protest of the group's pledge not to ask questions of keynote speaker Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and because the OPC was honoring Indonesia for their improved treatment of journalists despite the fact that its forces had recently beaten and killed reporters in occupied East Timor. In 2008 Goodman received the Swedish Government Right Livelihood Award,often called the "Alternative Nobel Prize". The award foundation cited her work in "developing an innovative model of truly independent grassroots political journalism that brings to millions of people the alternative voices that are often excluded by the mainstream media."
Goodman and Nairn returned to East Timor to witness the freedom celebrations and Darwin agronomist , Rob Wesley-Smith, helped them get their reports out via Darwin. Goodman has just written a piece for Nation of Change , Progressive Journalism for Positive Change , making the point that whistleblowers like Julian Assange suffer and war criminals walk. See http://www.nation/ofchange.org for WIKILEAKS, WAR CRIMES AND THE PINOCHET PRINCIPLE.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
The UN is discussing what to do right now. If there were a large international presence across Syria with a mandate to protect civilians, we could prevent the worst massacres while leaders engage in political efforts to resolve the conflict.” I cannot see more images like these without shouting from the rooftops. But to stop the violence, it is going to take all of us, with one voice, demanding protection for these kids and their families.” Jay urges viewers of the Avaaz site to sign a petition for UN action . See Avaaz.org (World in Action) and sign petition to UN .
Monday, May 28, 2012
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Friday, May 25, 2012
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
At the midway point between the Bungles and Broome is the Fitzroy River, a legendary stream I’ve wanted to see since I was a kid. It is barely flowing now, but you can see that it has recently smashed its way through the landscape. The water is a slate grey colour; the scrubby desert runs right up to the banks. No green undergrowth leaks out from under the trees. Apparently nothing is watered by the riverflow except the magnificent trees that tightly delineate the banks. High up in their branches you see dry debris marking the upper level of the flood. The proportions are definitely Biblical.
We are talking to a stranger about his experiences when his satellite phone rings. He is alarmed, thinking there must be an emergency back home in Perth or wherever he is from. But no, it is his wife calling from the showers a hundred metres away, and would he bring over her hairdryer.
Adventist washing machines are 5 bucks a go but are on a kind of religious self-control system. Worse, you’re not allowed to use the machines from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. Saturday is their Sabbath, when we’re treated to hymns, chanting and the clunking of teacups for four hours. Displays of Christian honour are a challenge for people like us (eg: atheists), who must be assumed to have no redeeming features.
Broome’s Cable Beach is spectacular. At sunset dozens of cars assemble right on the beach in ordered rows. Clothed and unclothed people stare into the slanting orange sunset from the edge of the manicured lawn in front of the Cable Beach Resort and Zander’s Restaurant. Digital cameras click in a storm of virtual shutter sounds. Below us, groups of camels are silhouetted against the water. They wade through the shallows carrying dorky tourists at $80 a go. For a sunset evening in mid-winter it’s warm, tropical, not humid, delightful.
Back in town, Matso’s Restaurant is the best we found in Broome. It has its own brewery. The success of our night was the “Smokey Bishop” dark ale named after some transgressionary cleric or other; we bought a case for the road. Our approval of Matso’s food was unanimous – impressive given that the collective wisdom of our group is as elusive as jelly nailed to a wall.
Monday, May 21, 2012
*Bowditch, second from left, performing in the 1951 Alice Springs Theatre Group's performance of J.B. Priestley's play, They Came to a City. He also performed in the thriller, The Shop at Sly Corner, with his wife in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest , he in the part of Algernon ; Agatha Christie's much praised , now politically incorrect , Ten Little Niggers, saw him again strut the boards .
Because of his involvement in political and union activities in Alice Springs , Bowditch soon became president of the ALP and at an early date was urged to stand for the NT seat in the House of Representatives. He declined to nominate,saying that he was just a recent “ blow in ” and that he felt John “ Jock ” Nelson , son of Harold Nelson, the Territory’s first MHR, was the right person for the job.
Jock had been educated at Pine Creek and Darwin. In Darwin he had worked as a newspaper boy and , perched in a tree , had witnessed the demonstration against Dr Gilruth at Government House . After a period working as a “jackeroo ” , Nelson became a boring contractor and agent in Alice Springs . During WW 11 he carried out drilling in New Guinea and rose to the rank of sergeant. Following in his father’s political footsteps, he was elected to the NT Legislative Council in 1947.
With Bowditch playing a large part in his election campaign in the Centre , Nelson in 1949 stood for the NT seat in the House of Representatives against the incumbent , Adair “Chill” Blain . In October 1949 ,Blain ,in one of his last parliamentary speeches , took the opportunity to appeal to the electorate, belittle Nelson and settle a few scores with the “treacherous ” communists of Darwin. Showing that he was concerned about conditions for NT government employees, he said he had spoken to “ Mr Bowditch” about a justifiable increase to clerks’ pay because of a 25 per cent increase in rail freight and ticket charges.
The paper, he continued, had been communist controlled ever since the former editor , Don McKinnon , had been “ kicked out” of the union executive, which was “ 95 per cent communists ”. He hastened to add that this percentage did not apply to the rank and file. Blain demanded to know how the Standard obtained printing machinery from the Army “for a song” after the war . ( The answer was simple : during the war, the Army had taken over the newspaper building and its plant was used to print the Army News. )
In calling for a Security Service Branch to be opened in Darwin , he told parliament that “ agents of Russia” could do a great deal of harm to Port Darwin , stopping the flow of fuel to military bases. “What is going to be done about these communists astride our road to Singapore?, ” he asked . Communists in Darwin- men and women - were able to “ flit back and forth ” by air to Singapore , Timor and Jakarta . These people were trying to win the “multitudes in Indonesia into the communist camp.”
During his speech Blain was reminded that the subject of debate was estimates. Nevertheless , Blain continued his attack on communists in Darwin. He admitted to having taken part in drawing up a list of known communists in Darwin . The list , he stated, contained 83 names , many of them on the government payroll. There were another 23 people whose names had “ not been listed publicly .” He claimed the government would be surprised if he named those whom he “suspected to be communists .”
A sincere, likeable and honest person, Nelson did not rate well as a public speaker. To overcome this shortcoming , Bowditch , big on oratory , would write a speech and deliver it on Jock’s behalf at a public meeting , saying the worthy candidate was out bush campaigning, unable to get back in time. Admitting that his speeches got a bit flowery - one running for about two hours - Bowditch enjoyed the experience and utilised some of his debating and theatrical skills .
In his capacity as ALP president , Bowditch derided the claim . He said both Dr Webster and Blain had consistently attacked the ALP with a tirade of abuse and destructive criticism . “ I regard Dr Webster as a political opportunist, whose aim for a long time has been primarily to hear his own bellowings reverberate through an astonished House in Canberra, ” Bowditch stated . Years later , Bowditch said it had been a great shame that Dr Webster did not not make it into federal politics because of his determined approach and strong oratory . Dr Webster had also made scathing comments about the running of Darwin Hospital which caused an uproar.
When Nelson won the election Iris Bowditch became his electorate secretary . In Nelson’s words, Jim “held the fort” in Alice Springs in the early days of his parliamentary life. At his first ALP meeting in Alice as a MHR, with Bowditch in the chair , Nelson gave an acccount of parliamentary proceedings , spoke about the Korean War situation and the government’s Communist Party Dissolution Bill . Right from the very beginning of his time in Alice , Nelson said anyone with a hard luck story had a willing listener in Jim .
On the conservative side of local politics was Edward “ Eddie” John Connellan , pilot founder and chairman of the outback airline , Connellan Airways Ltd , later Connair Pty Ltd. Connellan was also founder and president of the Northern Territory Development League and president of the Pastoralists’ Association. He also became a member of the Legislative Council. Connellan was a close friend of the strong - minded , ruthless and influential John “ Black Jack” McEwen , leader of the Federal Country Party, later the National Party.The previous post in this series mentioned that Alice Springs identity,Colonel Rose, headed the North Australia Party, known as the Nappy Party. NEXT: Bowditch crusades on many fronts .
Sunday, May 20, 2012
Friday, May 18, 2012
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Like so many Centralians, Smith, at times described as a tough James Cagney - type, had strong views and a vision for the development of the Northern Territory. A member of the NT Development League , Smith in 1944 wrote a lengthy document outlining how he thought the Northern Territory could and should be developed. At the outset , he said it had taken a war to alert the nation to the importance of the Northern Territory , Australia’s front door. His blue print for the advancement of the Territory included an extensive network of railway lines, arterial roads, re-afforestation , mining, fishing and pearling. On the subject of tourism, he foresaw a bright future and pointed out that in Canada it was a huge moneymaker. For the NT to develop the way he outlined , he said it would require a man with the courage of Cecil Rhodes, the entrepreneur who was said to have done more than any other man of his time to expand the British Empire. A man whose initials were taken to mean Dashing and Daring could well have been the Cecil Rhodes of the NT if given his way . Smith had the grand vision, the practical Territory experience and the eagerness to do great things. Apart from those qualifications, he wore the head attire of great adventurers and pioneers, a pith helmet. Smith became a member of the Legislative Council and strongly put his views for Territory development.
The person occupying The Residency , regarded locally as Government House, was veterinary scientist , Colonel Alfred Lionel Rose . He headed the Animal Industry Department and represented the Administrator in the Centre. Bowditch had only been in town a short time when he nearly collided with Rose in the street one evening . At the time, the colonel was wearing a turned up hat like that worn by the Light Horse Brigade ; a khaki shirt on which there were some “ gongs” (medals) , Bombay bloomers ; long sox on which there were boy scout like tabs , something to do with a Scottish regiment with which he was associated. And from the top of his nose there was a big hair , about six inches long , which curved back towards his forehead.
Over the years Jim got to know Rose well describing him as a legendary figure-eccentric, haughty, irrepressible , studious , tough, at times cold and a veterinary scientist of great renown. Entirely his own person , a devoted father and a man who could not tolerate , and quickly detected “ bullshit , ” he was admired and loved by many people in the town.
The son of a minister of religion, he had served in World War 1 , was a veterinary officer at Cootamundra in NSW from 1928-40 ; served in Light Horse regiments and Militia 1930-40; during World War 11 he served in armour and as a staff officer for Combined Operations in the Middle East, New Guinea and the Netherlands East Indies . His wife, Helen , died early during his time in Alice ; he had a son and two daughters.
Bowditch recalled a major social event , a fancy dress ball in the Commonwealth Bank staff quarters , where Rose caused an uproar. Like so many isolated centres , women were fashion conscious and dressed up for special social events. In the case of the fancy dress ball the women had gone to much trouble and expense making elaborate gowns and paying a lot of attention to their hairstyles and make up. It was attended by leading citizens -public servants, businessmen , cattlemen and their wives . Rose turned up during the evening dressed as a sheik draped in a sheet and wearing a turban. There was a loud cheer as he joined the happy throng. Much to their surprise and horror , he pulled out a fire extinguisher from under his sheet and sprayed the revellers. Women shrieked as the foam ruined both gown and coiffure . Some men grabbed him and took him back to The Residency. Once again clad in a bedsheet, Rose appeared at another party and , in missionary mode , cried out , “ Oil, oil for the lamps of China !”
Driving under the influence of liquor cost him 20 pounds ($40) in a case in which Rose represented himself in court . Charged with negligent driving after an accident with his car, he said a fly had flown into his face and distracted him . His fine was paid by “ admirers ”.
On one occasion some important people were entertained at The Residency and Rose climbed onto the roof and dropped bottles down the chimney. After a day at the races it was reported that the good colonel had again clambered onto the roof of The Residency and fired random shots from a . 303 rifle. Swinging from a chandelier was also claimed. A pair of panties was seen fluttering from the flagpole at The Residency during a vice-regal visit by Lord and Lady Slim .
The Slims loved the Centre and when they came to town for a debutantes’ ball Lady Slim had a sore back. At the function a heater was placed nearby to ease the pain. The piece de resistance at the major social event was a swan made from ice on a bed of red roses , representing the Red Centre, with an electric light underneath which Lady Slim was required to switch on. When Lady Slim turned the light on the hall blacked out because a fuse blew. There were no spares in the building and people sat in the dark waiting for the lights to come back on . In the gloom, a Mrs East offered Lord Slim some sartees which were nearby. He replied that he used to be given sartees for breakfast in India. While the embarrasing situation continued , Reg Harris , an electrician, who contributed much to community life in the town, rushed around and got the lights back on again. In readiness for a visit by the Governor -General , the Duke of Gloucester , the hot water service at The Residency was improved. However, when the Duke turned on the hot water the whole town blacked out. For some strange reason several residents threw stones on the roof of The Residency during that visit.
While some VIPs were settling in for the evening at The Residency , Rose knocked on the door and presented them with a jerry saying they would probably need it during the night. He also livened up proceedings when he was a member of the NT Legislative Council. On one occasion , he was half sitting in the chamber with a glass of rum in hand when he said, “All I can say is that the Director of Lands is a plain bastard.” The Director rose and said, “ I object to being called plain.” Rose headed a political group akin to the County Party , the North Australia Party , nicknamed the Nappy Party.
During a Royal visit , Rose received international notoriety when he silenced the hubbub of the assembled loyal throng by heartily telling them to , “Shut up!”NEXT: Growing involvement in politics and the media .
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
The only reason we shovel cash into the coffers of Big Oil is their lobbyists have a stranglehold on our governments. But if we demand that our leaders green our tax-money, we’ll increase total global green investment by 400% making solar and wind energy cheaper than oil and coal -- in the process saving the planet by putting Big Oil out of business! We’re rapidly reaching a point of no return on climate change and a treaty to prevent catastrophe is years off. Fortunately, momentum behind this new planet saving plan is building. New Zealand, Mexico and Switzerland are calling for an agreement now, and policy makers from 20 countries including the US, Brazil, and China have just voiced their support. All G8 leaders have publicly committed to ending these dirty subsidies, and right now President Obama is pushing for US legislation to stop them. Our planet is being destroyed at a terrifying rate and this is our best chance to stop it. Now is the time for action, but without massive public support, the powerful polluters could stall the proposal. It's up to us to counter the lobbyists with extraordinary people power. We have three days left to get Obama to lead. Sign the petition.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Monday, May 14, 2012
Further information about the Westpac office at Casuarina and the overall state of the banking precinct has surfaced.Commenting on the well worn Westpac office, a customer told Little Darwin that there used to be a time when the branch seemed to be undergoing perpetual change with new carpets, new furniture and new layouts . Now it was just plainly rundown , almost as if it was going to be closed down , moved to a new location . Another customer told of a strange event in which a bank Johnny armed with a broom once rushed out and broke up a noisy row on the footpat . Perhaps a new broom is about to be wielded at Casuarina. Bank on Little Darwin to let you know what transpires.
Sunday, May 13, 2012
Saturday, May 12, 2012
Friday, May 11, 2012
Judi flies in to Kununurra to join me for a week’s travel to Broome. In Canberra the night before she left it was two degrees below zero. She arrives wearing polar knickers. Other ladies arrive,too, until our party numbers 17 souls, including: two ex-magistrates; two current aldermen; a gynaecologist ; a dental nurse; a retired mining engineer; an executive information technology placement consultant ; a veterinarian nurse ; someone’s daughter and her boyfriend; a retired interior designer ; a demolition contractor ; a Canadian undertaker ; an American real estate manipulator and your finger- licking Bulldust Diarist.
But we ignore all that as we are in the Coles Supermarket, provisioning for our trip to the Bungle Bungles. Those who are reading this series of travelogues may already be using the term “Bunglers” to describe me and my fellow travellers, but I assure you the Bungle Bungles is the name of a pile of rocks in the desert.
On our way to the Bungle Bungles turnoff we pass through Turkey Creek, another of the glum little refuelling outposts along the never-ending highway. You have to leave your driving licence or credit card at the cash register before they’ll switch on the fuel pumps. People have been filling up and running away without paying. Fuel in both forms is expensive: diesel is $2.00 per litre; a steak sandwich $9.50, which brings me to chicken.
What a debt we owe to the humble chicken. How many of them have died and will die to keep us sandwiched, roasted, saladed and breakfasted? Yet we make jokes about them, call them cowardly, burn, boil and roast them. If we ever need another religion based on an example of sacrifice, my vote is for the chicken. I hope a talented poet will write a “Chicken Odyssey” some day.
The prehistoric quality of the road out to the bunch of Bungles is legendary, but in fact proves to be the easy part. Once we reach Broome we plan to leave the surfaced highway and return northeast to Kununurra along the Gibb River Road, as infamous a track as ever forded the River Styx.“The life expectancy of your car (being a non-Toyota) will be about 40 minutes,” gleefully sneers one local.Another advises: “Lookin’ at that country is as exciting as watching yer verandah warp.”
Meanwhile, they’re right about the track to the Bungles. It takes 2.5 hours to travel 52km. You turn off a perfectly good sealed highway onto a dirt track which soon becomes a Big Dipper with added potholes, rocks, corrugations and multiple river crossings. To get to the National Park you must pass through private property and only a few weeks ago, before the State Government stopped him, the landowner was levying a $20 “transit fee” on every car which went through.
If you want to see what the Bungles look like, find them on the internet. I can’t describe them as well as a photo can. They’re spectacularly old; they say 300 million years, although why it isn’t a more specific 305 million or 417 million isn’t clear. They are domes of black-and-red striped rock, formed by millennia of floodwaters and before that the tides of the fabled inland sea covering Central Australia. Look, it’s easier if you simply come over to my place and check out my photos. Why the legendary”‘slide evening” has fallen out of fashion I don’t know.
We walk for kilometres around these colourful knobs. The walks seem much longer than Chairman Mao’s. All of us now have legs more muscular than Superman’s. Time moves incredibly slowly here, and in summer the superheated air and sunlight are heavy enough to cause their own erosion. It’s mid-winter now yet the days are around 33 degrees. The rains have receded, leaving a few small pools crowded with doomed fish. The silence is deep. You feel privileged to be here.
We find a kind of weird “crop circle” in the grass which may be the landing place of an alien spacecraft. It’s dominated by the black-and-pink cliffs of the Bungles. We decide to camp on it, confident we can out-weird any alien who comes along. We circle the wagons around a campfire and cook our modest eye fillet steaks. Wine appears from hiding places and by morning there is a large pile of empty cans and bottles. The volume of alcohol consumed each night proves just how hard and tough life is out here.
[Astute Little Darwin readers will notice that Burleigh's rendition of the swashbuckling dingo is obviously influenced by the tapes he plays in his car about scurvy seadogs roaming the bounding main. Heavy consumption of his ship's daily ration of Mad Dog Morgan's Blood could explain the incorrect spelling of muesli . ]
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Monday, May 7, 2012
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Friday, May 4, 2012
Thursday, May 3, 2012
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
My Camp-O-Matic opens up like an accordion on a grassy slope at the bottom of which is a large pool of primordial soup. Sure enough there are freshwater crocodiles in there, grunting and splashing and generally exciting the curiosity of the Nomads who do their best to die prematurely by sticking their cameras in the crocs’ faces.
Across the WA border the state’s riches are suddenly evident. Kununurra is a well-tended town. Jets fly in and out. The Speedway features on Saturday nights. Parks flaunt crisply mown green grass. The liquor laws are tight. No full-strength beer available before 12 noon. You can buy low-alcohol bellywash until 5pm and then you can buy full-strength beer but only until 8pm. Individuals can buy a maximum of two bottles of wine per head and then only after 5pm. You should see the queues! For us this is akin to Armageddon but the bar staff tell us “Buy your two bottles, go outside and put on a hat and sunglasses and come back. We guarantee we won’t recognise you.”
Lake Argyle (Ord Dam) and Lake Kununurra feed the lawn town’s sprinklers 24 hours a day. Hordes of Nomads crowd the van parks – we’re staying in the one named ‘Kimberleyland’, which fits with the Disneyesque world view preferred by the superannuated. Van parks are unreal oases in dramatic isolation from life on the road, where the eagles wheel and dive above dead roadkill and blacker-than-black crows simply cock one eyebrow and step aside for you to pass. They don’t bother to lift off, the cunning buggers. Whether you’re in a town or not, there’s always the paler blue sky, vast, never-ending, cloudless, exhilarating.
The eye and the mind are attracted by visions of creatures and men struggling for life against the elements and so it’s a surprise when you realise it’s starting to absorb you, too; a transition so subtle and deep that words fail you. If you try to talk about it people look at you as if you’re a big girl’s blouse.