Saturday, August 31, 2013


Photograph by  Vallis 

Friday, August 30, 2013


Happy Feet dressed  like a  Tory.
CANBERRA:   In  a  stunning  announcement ,  Coalition Leader , Tony  Abbott ,  today  revealed  he  has  arranged    for   a  famous   penguin –Happy  Feet – to   play  a  major  part  in Operation  Sovereign   Borders.  Up  until  today , the entire world  thought  the   King  Penguin  , fitted with a  tracking  device,  had  come to  a  sticky end   while   swimming  back  to The Land  of the  Long  White  Cloud .

 However,  the  wayward  penguin decided  he  had had  enough of  the  frigid Southern Ocean ,  jettisoned  his tracker, turned around , and  swam  to sweaty  Darwin  . Since then he  has  been   whooping  it   up  in  the   Darwin  nightclub  district, showered  with  free   grog  and  sardines  by  rowdy  Irish  backpackers .        

 On   Abbott’s  recent  trip  to  Darwin  he   looked    exhausted   and   possibly  on  the verge  of a  heart attack  after  taking  part  in a  strenuous  military  PT  run.    Gawd   knows  who  would  head  the miserable Tory  ship  of state  if  Abbott  suddenly  went   to   Heaven. Consider  this , dear voter .     Abbott’s  nervous     minders  bumped   into   Happy  Feet  in  a   noisy  Darwin  pub  and   thought  it  would  be   great  for  the  Mad Monk to  be  photographed with  the  celebrity.  However,  Abbott  was    still on oxygen  at  the time  after all  the  exertion  and it  was decided  to secretly  involve Happy  Feet  in  Operation  Sovereign  Borders.  Today  it  was revealed  that   when refugee boats   start   to  sink, Happy Feet,  perched on the  shoulder of  a   three  star  Rear Admiral ,   will dive  into  the  waves  with  the never ending supply  of  corks   from  the  bottles of  champagne  consumed  by the  Coalition   after it  becomes   the government   ,  and  plug   holes  in  the  vessels .


Meet  daredevil  Allied  Rock Wallaby ,  Leaping  Lena ,  who   can  cover  four  meters” (sic)  in a  single  bound,  according   to  a   Google fact  sheet .   She  gets  a  lot  of   practice  at  long  distance  jumping  on   Magnetic  Island , North Queensland ,  because  so  many   of   the  glowing   real estate  blurbs   describe   properties   as   being  only “ meters from  a   desirable  beach.  In   some instances ,  it   can  be    100   meters  from   the   briney.   It  is  Lena’s  ambition   to  make  the  100  meter  leap with their  attendant horde  of  parking ticket inspectors so   that   she  can  represent  Australia   in   the   hop, step  and   jump  event    at  the   Rio   Olympic  Games .  There   seem   to   be   more   meters  on   the   island   than  in  gridlocked   capital   city   central   business  districts.

Part  of   the   information  in   the   interpretative  signs  on  the  spectacular   $5.5million   Gabul  Way  on   the   island  JUMPS  OUT  AT  YOU  when  it  talks   about  Lena and  her   cute  mates . It  states    Allied  Rock  Wallabies  have   the  ability  to  scale  rock  faces  in  leaps  that    appear  to  defy  gravity ,  due    to   their   broad   feet   and    CYLINDRICAL  TRAIL (sic ) .     However,   the    Google  Kangaroo   Trail   Fact  Sheet  also  mentions  the   same  gravity   defying   leaps  of   the  wallabies –which   it   attributes  to   adaptions    to    the   feet  and   TAIL, the latter acting  as  a  counterbalance  and rudder in  rapid hopping , allowing changes  of direction  in  mid-air.  The   island  signage  bears   the   logos   of  the  Australian Government and  the   Townsville City  Council   ,  members  of  which   should   know   the  difference   between  a   TRAIL  and   their   TAIL.

Naturally,  Lena   and  her  bouncing  buddies  are  hopping  mad  about   this   clanger .   The   walkway   links  Nelly   Bay  to  Arcadia   and   was  opened  in  March  by  Townsville  Mayor,  Jenny  Hill, and  the  then   Federal   Minister  for  Regional  Development , Simon   Crean , who   recently   decided  to  hop   out  of  politics   after   the election, following  an  overseas  study    trip    taking in    Roma .  It  took  15  years  of   hard  lobbying  by   islanders   for   the  powers  to  be  to  finally   build  the   walkway.   During  the   wait ,  slow  moving   island    pedestrians   and    hungover  backpackers   needed  to   be  as  alert   and   agile  as   Skippy  the  famous  bush   kangaroo  because  they   shared   the   narrow  winding   road   with   traffic, including  buses  and   trucks , and  often  needed  to  jump  road   railings   to    safety,  over – balance  and  they  could   plummet  to  rocks  below .

 HOLLYWOOD   HOT GOS : The  next  Superman   movie  will  be shot  in  North  Queensland  next  year   and    include   a    Magnetic  Island  rock   wallaby   able   to   clear  an  iconic    outback    red   brick  dunny  in  one   gravity   defying   leap  ,  while   the   terrified   occupant   is  adapting  one  of   News   Corporation’s    products   for   use   on   his   tail .



Photograph  by  Vallis 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

FROM TIN SHED TO PALACE - Continuing biog of Crusading Editor , "Big Jim" Bowditch

In late  l954  , Jim , Betty  and  baby , Peter,  went south  on  holidays  in  a  Ford Anglia  with  a  soft top .  ASIO in  Darwin noted their  departure  from  Alice Springs  and  alerted South Australia  and  headquarters  :
Bowditch  departed Alice Springs on 30th December, l954,for Adelaide. He is accompanied  by  his half-caste de facto wife and  infant   and is driving  a red coloured  Ford Anglia  roadster No.  N.T. 533. No information as to his  address  whilst in Adelaide  is  available.

In Port Augusta , South Australia , Betty left the baby with a  sister and  she and  Jim drove to  Sydney  where in  February l955 Jim met Don  Whitington, Eric White and Bob Freeden .  They took  him  to a pub and  put it to him that he   become  the managing editor  of the  Northern Territory  News.  Bowditch replied  he would not mind the  job as editor , but was not  sure about  handling the  money side of the paper as well.  They  told  him that  because he  had been  a paymaster  in  the Department of Works and Housing  he  should    have no  difficulty  handling the newspaper’s accounts. 
Bowditch .  Kerry Byrnes Photo 
Bowditch , concerned  about taking the  jobs of others,  wanted to  know  what  the situation  was  in respect of the  existing editor  and  manager .  Both men , he  was assured , wanted to leave .  As a result of the talks and assurances , Bowditch indicated he was willing to come  aboard. At the time he was paid l5 pounds (30 dollars)  a  week  at the Centralian  Advocate and  he  was being  offered  double that amount to move to  Darwin .

Before leaving  the  group,  according to Freeden , Bowditch “ boasted ” about his Distinguished Conduct Medal . This  was  unusual , because he  normally did not speak  much about his wartime experiences.   White  had  been “ horrified”,  said  Freeden.  However , it was thought  that Bowditch was  so keen to get the position in  Darwin, he tried to make a  big impression on  them  by  mentioning  his  medal.[ It is  also  possible  that  Bowditch  mentioned his  DCM  because he  had been branded a  Communist  due to his  involvement with the Federated Clerks’ Union  and pro-Labor  views ; Eric White was closely  associated  with the  Liberal party.] Whitington  did  a quick check and  confirmed that  Jim  had been decorated  for his  wartime  bravery .

 The fact that the  editorship  included  a  rent  free   house  in  Georges Crescent, Fannie Bay , close to the  sea ,  was  a  big attraction  for  Jim and Betty.  At the time  they were living in a  one-room  house in Alice   which  had  a tin roof, no  ceiling  and the  exterior wall was  half  fly wire;  water pipes  froze and burst in  winter .  The  Darwin house  which  went  with the  job  sounded  sumptuous  ”.     Both  Whitington  and  Freeden wanted  to  appoint Jim.  White, had  reservations, but eventually  said ,” Alright, if you  must . It’s on your heads. ”


Whitington  gave  Bowditch   general  instructions on how he wanted the  Darwin paper run.  Basically, he said    to play things by ear  and   not  to  get the paper  branded as political . Bowditch  rang  Ron  Morcom , by  then  part owner of the   Centralian Advocate , from Sydney  and informed  him of the position .   Morcom  offered a  little more  money  to  try and keep him on in Alice , but  Jim  really wanted  the  Darwin   job.  At the  time, Bowditch  said  he was running out of   patience  with  the way a number of things  were being  done on the  Advocate .  Betty  was also   browned  off” with  Alice  and disliked the rampant  racism .

 Looking back  on  his  years  as  editor of the Centralian Advocate, Bowditch said  he could have “fought  ” a  lot more  battles  as there were many things  crying out  for  change.  Had he  thrown himself  into  crusading  more in Alice  , the  town would  probably  have “ killed  him . The  Advocate  asked Ross Annabell  to  replace Bowditch , but he did not want the position

In  his  autobiography, Strive To Be  Fair , Don Whitington  covered the appointment of  Bowditch to  the editorship of the NT News . He told  of  having  urged   Mick Paspalis, then  the owner of the  Hotel Darwin ,  to  buy shares in  the NT News so that  a  house  could be bought for Bowditch .  However,  Bob  Freeden  said  this  account  was  incorrect .  The   News owned  the  house  before  Bowditch  had  even  been considered for the  position. Whitington  also  wrote  how  he  had  enthusiastically  supported  Paspalis’s  desire to buy a  Daimler , against the advice of  Norman Young, later  knighted, the millionaire’s  accountant .   In the  book  Whitington  also  included   the  early days of  the   Mt  Isa  Mail but did not mention  the  pioneering  part  played  by   Ross   Annabell . NEXT :  Darwin shock.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

MORE FILTHY FRENCH POSTCARDS : Burleigh Adrift With Cabin Girl

( The   following   literary   postcards   are   from  our   regular   roving  correspondent   and  Hornblower  fan   Captain   Peter   Burleigh , whose   cruiser  The   Butterfly ,  is  the  scourge  of   French  waterways ,  the vessel's   supplies  down   to   breadfruit   and  choice  champers .  His  last  chapter in  the   epic  Bulldust  Diary  series  appears to   have  taken  French  leave , will   be  flogged  on  its   return  to   the  computer ,  and   posted  overseas on  Middle East  camel  patrol . )


By one and a half coffees past eleven, we are wishing for an up-to-date chart of the canal to replace our scribbled 2001 mud map. In this sparsely populated region of France, the locals know the canals inside out and have no need for directions or warning signs for submerged walls, shallow water, spillways and nasty rapids over sharp stones.  The Captain must remain alert while the  cabin girl  downs  another Bordeaux Rose. So where are we again?


Lint on a canal boat can be fascinating – even threatening. A minute in the glorified shoebox we call a shower will fill the drain with belly-button lint and other organic waste substances which festoon the  body (not my body, but probably yours). Left to its own devices, this furry flotsam will choke the sump pump, cause an overflow and sink the boat. Tellingly, the French do not have words for ‘lint scum’.


Life is punctuated  by important events  but  I am lucky - mine has been punctuated by Champagne.  At our friend’s apartment in Angers, we drank the first of many bottles of Forget-Chemin NV Brut ‘Carte Blanche’ from Ludes on the Marne. Translated poorly, its name means ‘Forget the Way’. After a few more bottles, I remembered that  forgetfulness  is a memorable part of life.

The   Cathedral of  Notre Dame gleams in the sun after its recent shampoo and sandblast. The queue to enter is at least as  long as the queue to leave. Surely the  girl in the pink sweater was only a  minute ago far from the entry door…and moments later she is through and out  the  exit. But wait. The long, long line of tourists is a continuous loop, because there’s the pink girl again. Humankind  has  at  last discovered  perpetual   motion.

 From  our  files, a   genuine  World  War  1 (1917)   French  hand  embroidered  postcard   sent   by   disappointed   Harry  Draper   to  Linda,  whose  previous  letter  to  him   had  wandered  about  the   world  for  seven  months . These postcards  were  made  by  French  women   at   home  on   strips of   silk  up  to  25 at  a  time , sent   to  factories  for  mounting .   The  Australian War  Museum  has  a   large  collection  of   silks .  Little Darwin  attempted  to  find out  the identity of    Harry  Draper and what  happened to  him .  A  researcher  came across   Henry  George  Germein  Draper, of the AIF, killed  a  month after this  postcard   was  written , buried  in   the  Hooge Crater  Cemetery,  Belgium.  In  those days it was not uncommon for  a   Henry  to  be  called   Harry.  Of  course , he  could  have been  in  the   British  Army ,  perhaps  even  a  Scot. This postcard was bought in  Townsville  about 12  years ago .  Draper   is  a  name  found in parts of  North Queensland , including   Cairns, where  there  is  a  Draper Street.  


During  the  Rooty Hill  debate  , Opposition Leader  , Tony  Abbott,  briefly  mentioned  he  had  managed  a  concrete  batching  plant   at   Silverwater,  indicating  to  the  Western Suburbs  audience  that   he  had  hard  yakka  work  experience .   Indeed  .  After  working for a year as a  journalist  with  the   Bulletin  magazine ,  he   tired  and  looked  about  for  another   job.  According  to  author Michael  Duffy  who wrote  Latham  and   Abbott The lives and rivalry of the two finest politicians of their generation , Random House Australia, 2004,  pages 83-85,   Abbott  wrote  to  many   businessmen  he   knew asking them  for  work.

 Only one repliedSir  Tristan  Antico-  who made  him   manager of  the Sydney Concrete  plant, with  instructions  to  pull  the  drivers  into  line  .  He   asserted  his  authority  over  the 12  concrete  truck owners,  men  twice  his age, inspecting  their  vehicles  every  morning  and  criticised  them  for  any  sign  of  dirt.  Relations with   the   workforce  became  strained . Due to  Abbott’s action ,  operating  a conveyor belt  he  had  never worked  before , the  site was  declared  black after  two months .    Head  office  was  unhappy .  The   book says Abbott  thought  he  would be  sacked over the incident and was  forced to "grovel " to  a  union  official.

Abbott’s management style , Duffy  stated , changed : there was always  a case of beer  in the fridge  and  he   had  a   drink  and  a chat  after  work.  Abbott  asked   for  a  salary  increase , which  was refused ; he  left  after  nine months   and  went  to  work  at  the Australian newspaper  in  l989.