Monday, September 26, 2016


An unusual  survey is currently underway asking  the normally  very relaxed Magnetic Island  residents  for  information about  the spread of  Death  Adders  on   the entrancing  island.
One well known  islander who had  an encounter of the   very  close kind-to wit with one of his  succulent  toes - is  the  former editor of  the Magnetic Island  Times   newspaper , George Hirst , seen here , his right foot bandaged like one of grandma's steamed   Christmas puddings gone wrong   , being  transported   on  a  ferry to the mainland , then taken  by  ambulance to Townsville  Hospital  after a  cranky Death Adder  sank  its  fangs  into him .

Heavy footed Hirst had annoyed  the sluggish  snake by  walking  backwards  and  forwards  to  a  shed , so  it fanged him .

The attack took place at beautiful  Bolger Bay where he once  had  a rustic residence , during  which  time  he almost became a  Death Adder  Whisperer . He gave up counting  adders  after removing  about 40 of them  from  the leafy  surrounds.  
On notice boards  across the island are sheets  headed Death Adder Project , asking   for information  about  dispersal of the   critters , the names of  walking tracks  where  they  have been seen  lurking , the time of the day , and  what  additional  information contributors  would like  to  know , such  as  the  potency   of    the   venom .

Community minded   Hirst, now a filmmaker  with Penelope Sheridan  , Cranky Curlew Productions ,  intends  to contribute   to  the  survey . After once  climbing  to  the  highest peak  on Magnetic Island , Mount Cook,  he flopped down , rested an   arm  on a  rock... and there , enjoying  the  panoramic  view, was  a  Death Adder!

(This   post  not  proudly sponsored  by the  Queensland  Government  Tourist  Bureau ) 


TOP : Michelin Tyres display in  Castletown, Townsville . ABOVE : Hubcaps converted into works of  art  to grace a  wall  by multi- skilled  Sara Boo of  Taneatua , one of  which  was  picked up  from  the side of the road  on a  trip to  Cairns .

Sunday, September 25, 2016


CANBERRA : The  official  receiver  of  political  vessels which  have come to grief  in Australian  waters  during  recent elections   is  to  be housed in a  massive, new  $10million warehouse   on  the shore  of  Lake  Burley  Griffin .  In Darwin , the  artistic, bug-eyed  ABC  breakfast  staff   made  the above  boat out  of  political corflutes used  during  the  landslide  election which saw  the  Country Liberal  Party go  down like the tragic  wreck of  the  Gothenburg , in  Queensland waters, on a voyage from  Darwin  to Adelaide .
The  ABC officially named the corflute  boat  SS Opposition  as  it only has two seats and that is how many seats the CLP  won . The insolent government  funded   public broadcaster  is urging  the Canberra   ABC   office to make a  similar  corflute vessel  after the October  15 election in the Australian Capital Territory.
After the Liberal National Party  Campbell   Newman  Government   went  down  like  the Titanic  at  the  last state election in Queensland  soon after the  conservatives  lost  Victoria , the Receiver of  Wreck  has been busier than  the  proverbial one armed paperhanger  and the  AFP  taking  delivery of  buckled ,  barnacle  encrusted  hulks , formerly  shiny  ships of  state  (say  this last part  six times fast  after downing six  bottles  of   Grange ).
The Turnbull Cayman Islands  cruise  ship is currently  listing  badly  and  could end up in  Davy Jones's locker   in  the near  future , causing more problems for the already  stressed  out  receiver.  Another  maritime  disaster is  looming in Western Australia  where  the  embattled  premier  survived  an attack by the  crew of the Emden  while  he was reviewing  troops ,  wearing a made in China lifejacket .

And who can  forget  the threat by  the Queensland  "maverick member for Dawson " ,  George  Christensen  , made to the  accompaniment  of unhappy   Tasmanian discordant hornpipe players, to   jump ship  and  possibly join the Pauline Hanson torpedo boat  crew , according  to  media reports. If  he  had dived overboard , the  political  tsunami   would  have  caused  mayhem   in   true  blue  back  rooms  and  alarmed Lloyds  of  London . 
While the Japanese did not  get Australia's submarine  contract , they can expect to  get  a  mountain  of maritime  scrapmetal  in  the near   future   due  to all  those right wingers in sailor suits  trying to grab the  helm   and   the  growing  number of  muttering   mutineers in  the ranks who just   want  to  take over  the  ship  and sail off  to the Pacific,  to nibble endless  peanut butter sandwiches made  from  breadfruit, swill  kava  , and  press noses with the  friendly island  girls  in  grass  skirts .   

Friday, September 23, 2016


During the  Second World War , the January 1943 issue of the American National Geographic Magazine ,urging readers to buy U.S. war bonds and stamps ,  carried  the  above  full  page advertisement  for SPAM- said  to  be  perfect   for  luncheons , supper  or  STAG  PARTIES ! It must be said  that stag parties where  SPAM  is served up seems pretty tame by Australian standards .  Napoleon Bonaparte  famously said an army marches on  its  stomach .  It  is a sure bet that the  Marines were not  marching  on  this  tinned  tucker  when they stormed ashore in various parts of  the Pacific .  Apart    from   recipes for  SPAM , it was pointed out that  the  metal key  to open a  tin of SPAM   should be saved  , as  there would  be  no more keys  for  a" duration ",  presumably  of  the  war ,   or  use  a  can  opener . Were  the  keys  made  into  bullets?
In an article in the magazine  about American servicemen  in Australia there is an interesting insight  into the food  on offer , both in the community  and   at  American bomber  bases.  In a  town near  a base , American   reporter-photographer  Howell  Walker  wrote  that   streets  seethed with  soldiers, sailors  and airmen  of  both Australian and American forces . Hotels and restaurants  had  to turn  hungry servicemen  away  at  mealtime .
He and some airmen had  tried vainly  to get  a square meal  and had to be satisfied with  a round  of  milkshakes  and  sandwiches  ( SPAM ?), the bill 16 shillings  for a few  sips  and  nibbles.
At another base,  they had a choice of cold salmon and salad or braised chops with  vegetables , tea , bread and  butter  and  oranges.


When the controversial prime minister of Papua New Guinea , Peter O'Neill, came to Townsville  for  the   funeral of  local  businessman   Sir Mick   Curtain  you would  think  that  the  media  would  have  a big  list of  questions on many  subjects  to  ask  him . Like :

*Why  have  you failed to comply , for  two years ,  with a  warrant  for your  arrest  on  allegations  of  corruption ? Is  it  a  political conspiracy ?
* Having  survived  a  no confidence  vote in  July , in which it has  been  reported that   votes   were   "bought "   with   cheques  diverted    from    various   funds   , how do  you  think  you  will  go  in  the  next  year's election ? 
*What is  your  response   to the recent ABC television documentary which   showed  that  in the Highlands  the  local schoolteacher had not been  paid for months  and   children were  sitting on the  school floor because  no  furniture had been provided ?
*Why  have  there  been protests  against you  by  students , doctors, pilots  and port workers ?
* What  is being done to improve the PNG   health system , reports having highlighted  gross   inadequacies and  concern  about  drug resistant TB spreading   into   Queensland  via  Cape York?
*What is your reaction to the Singapore court  case , resulting  in the jailing  of two people, in which it  was alleged this  month that    one million   dollars ,  meant  for  PNG   community colleges , had been laundered through the  account of the founding  PNG prime minister, Sir Michael Somare ,  which  he has  denied ?  
* Why were  the funds of the  PNG anti corruption squad, Task Force Sweep , cut  by your  government ?  
There are other questions that  could have been asked in Townsville , including the claims  that  money diverted from  PNG   has  been used to  buy  real estate in  North  Queensland. Manus detention  and settlement of refugees in PNG ?So  did the Townsville  media raise any of these obvious questions  with the PM? Apparently ,  not one . 
However, the Murdoch Townsville Bulletin  ran a  piece  which  read like another North  Queensland  media   cargo  cult story   about  the possibility of a direct  Air  Nuigini (sic,three times ) service between  Townsville and  PNG providing    employment and investment opportunities .  Beaming  O'Neill  was  quoted  as  saying he wanted the  link  yesterday .

The report  did not mention  the fact that  Qantas  is  dropping   its   Cairns-Port Moresby direct flights   from  the  middle of  next  month , Air  Niugini   , correct spelling  , increasing  the  service , the Cairns office pictured above  . It would have been interesting  to know what  PM  O'Neill  felt  about Qantas  pulling  out of PNG. A few days later , the Townsville Bulletin had another  go at the story in which  it  managed to  correctly spell  Air Niugini   seven  times and excitedly said the  "buzz" is  growing  about  possible  flights  to  Port Moresby .  

Air  Niugini  inflight magazine Paradise ,September - October  1990 , illustrates Great  White Bwana   introducing  snooker  to   PNG  ;  the wartime  cargo  cult  in  which all manner of  goodies  could be  expected  to  drop out of  the sky   continues  right  up  to  today in  isolated  media   tribes   on   nearby   mainland  Australia .

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


 Mary Penton ,  seen here  playing  drums   with wooden  coathangers, died  recently  in  Darwin , aged  94. Known as the Op Shop Queen  because of her many  years  with the Nightcliff Uniting Church Op Shop ,  her  unknown  prowess as a drummer  was revealed  when the drum kit  was  set up in the church  in  readiness  for a  service , without drumsticks . 
On December  10, 2011,   Mary  turned  90 and  op shop staff held  a  special party in the church  at which  the   lighthearted ditty  about  her , below , composed by  artist Shirley Downing, widow  of  Reverend  Jim Downing , of Alice Springs , was  sung to  the tune of Sydney's  Hornsby Girls' High  School  song ,  Mary and  Shirley  both pupils  there . 
During WWll, Mary, initially employed inspecting materials  bought  for the armed forces , became a member of the Women's Australian Air Force, the WAAFS, and  made  a  helicopter flight in the early 1950s.  Her funeral service will  be at the Nightcliff  Uniting Church  on  September  29 . 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


During  the  federal  election campaign  for  the  Queensland  seat of  Herbert,   won by the ALP  , an economist  standing  as  a  Katter  Party  candidate  said  Magnetic Island,  going  on  the  average age  of  an  island  resident, more than 50, was   an oldies   hotpot area  with lots  of  business  opportunities  to   cater  for  this  demographic .

 Cyclops, more  than  two decades  older  than  the  average islander, did not want to  rain  on  the  economist's  bottom  line  by  pointing out   that  attempts to  cash  in  on  these  spritely  islanders who take part in  power walking, yoga , Tai Chi , boot  camp , attend University of the Third Age  , snorkel and just love  needlework   , to use a Wall Street Journal  term , had  come   a   gutsa.

Take  the  proposal  to  turn  jungle country, left  to  the Catholic Church  and  known  as   the Pope's Land  , into  a  retirement  village, which  raised  strong opposition  and did not eventuate . It was pointed out  that  part  of  the  bush  flooded   during   monsoonal rain  and  water ran for months . Other reasons  why the islanders did not want the  bush  chopped down  included  the fact that it is occupied by Curlews, Coucals , visiting  Torres Strait Pigeons , grunting Koalas , Spangled Drongos,  snakes , lizards.  
Another   well  set up  tourist  facility  announced  it  intended  converting  its   beaut waterfront  resort into  a retirement  village , but   abandoned  plans because  of   the  lack  of   interest .   

Imagine  the shock when  that  famous   old  girl, New York's   Statue of  Liberty ,  has just taken up  residence on Magnetic Island  and  is offering to help overcome  the obesity problem  in  Queensland . A bit tottery on  her gams  after all those  years  out  there in  the open on Ellis Island  , she was  snapped, right ,  outside the Magnetic Island Pharmacy, Nelly  Bay, holding  in  her  free left  hand  what  looked  like  a  Manhattan cocktail .  

In an exclusive interview with  little Darwin , the statue, about  to slip into a   mini skirt to  expose her  knobbly  knees to  glorious  Aussie sun ,  said  she was  sick and tired of  wearing  that unfashionable  robe  ; she had also  found it  painful   holding up  that  heavy liberty  torch  in  the extreme   Big  Apple  weather , which had resulted in  arthritis .  "I'm a bit rusty in  the knee  joints and hips , as well , love , " she   told  this  blogger, himself  on  new  medication  .
To prove her point ,  from her private  album ,  the statue   provided  this 1876  photograph, below, of the massive   torch  component  and  her right  hand  before the   statue was   completely assembled .


Julia Clark, third woman to receive a pilot's licence from the Aero Club of America , in her  plane, 1911. British born , she emigrated to America  and  settled in  Denver , enrolling with the Curtiss Flying School in San Diego .  A member of an exhibition team ,  she struck a  tree   while taking off  in poor visibility  and became the  first female pilot to  die in an air  crash  in  the  United States  the  following  year

Sunday, September 18, 2016


A  1943 map showing the range of  bombing  operations  from bases  in  Australia...Darwin,  Cairns, Townsville, Mackay clearly  visible . The  map  surprisingly supplied  information  that  stationed  at  Darwin, long range bombers  could strike Japs as far north as Davao,Philippines. From a base on Cape York , enemy  warships at Truk, the  Carolines  could  be  reached  in  five  hours. If  fully  developed and supplied, the American air  base  at  Guadalcanal  could  guard  sea  lanes  for  a  radius  of  1500 miles .  
Interesting books and magazines  with details of  American  and  Australian soldiers  and  airmen  based  in  North Australia  during  the  Second World War  have come our  way . Of  particular  note  is the  January   1943  issue of  the  American  National Geographic  Magazine with a  well illustrated  article by  roving  photographer-writer   Howell Walker -American  Bombers Attacking from  Australia .
While the text does not specifically mention places by  name  in Australia , the accompanying  above  map  is  full  of  place  names .  One  photograph , below  ,  shows  500lb bombs camouflaged by  the  distinctive magnetic  anthills typical  of  the NT ; another  photograph  showing  men digging  a   trench says it has to be in Queensland  as  it  is  in  a cotton field , the only place where cotton is grown in that country .
After  reaching Australia, Americans,  Howell wrote ,  acquired the Aussie habit of drinking lots of  tea  , and liking it . "Their regular tea parties helped pass  time while they were waiting  for word  to get  going on the next mission," he continued  .  A local welfare room, run by  friendly ladies supplied  tea for a small charge , because it was hard to get during the war, but  they donated  all the bread  for toast and sandwiches , and made  cakes  with  their  own  hands .
The tearoom only admitted men in uniform at any time between 10 in the morning  and 10 at  night and  American airmen   could  be  found  at  the  tables .
The  superb pictorial coverage includes the  above shot of a  co-pilot who liked  painting bombers, his  art adorning an American officers' recreation  room in Australia .
The  Flying  Fortress  Tojo's  Physic  gets a  special mention . Howell went on a  six bomber  raid  on the Japanese base at  Lae , New  Guinea, during which they were attacked  by  Zeros . The caption on a  photograph says  it is of  men in "the bush " lined up at a tent for a physical examination,  far removed from  a comfortable Australian town , in the wilderness  camped in tents  among gum trees, anthills and  indelible red dust.  

NOTE : Howell  Walker  came to the Northern  Territory  after the  war  , in 1948,  on  assignment for  the National  Geographic Society covering the American -Australian  Scientific  Expedition   into  Arnhem  Land .

Lockwood logs in : Upon reading the above post ,  Melbourne  journalist  Kim  Lockwood responded  by saying he  has the autograph of Howell Walker, obtained in the early  1950s, who was  a  regular  visitor  to  the Top  End . Kim also pointed  out that the anthills in the wartime article were not of the so called magnetic  kind . They  were, he said , common-or-garden anthills .The magnetic variety  have flat sides, with their sharp edges pointing  to magnetic north and south,which no one had adequately explained, going  on about the flat sides with east and  west faces, soaking up the sun . These  anthills occur mainly in the latitude of  Adelaide  River.


Darwin  fireman  Peter Simon , holding   Johnathan Thurston  mask , poses with Cowboys cheer  squad  and  his  Super  son , Kurt , in Townsville . When Peter played  rugby  in  Scotland,   he  was  erroneously called "that  Kiwi sheep shagger " and   singled  out  for  attention  by  the  wild  highlanders during matches . 

Saturday, September 17, 2016


Despite the Cowboys beating the Brisbane Broncos  , North  Queenslanders are less  starry eyed  than  you would expect  , no doubt due to the fact that , without  any explanation or warning that the sky is about to fall in  ,   the  regular , syndicated zodiac  column  by  Shelley von Strunckel ,70,  was  dropped  on September  13 ( a number regarded as unlucky)   from   the weekly  give away  Townsville Sun , inserted  in  the Townsville  Bulletin  each  Tuesday .
Up until  that day, the newspaper readers  got not one but two servings of the stars  each Tuesday, the regular Bulletin   daily  horoscope hombre , Oscar Cainer , nephew  of the  syndicated  former star gazer , Jonathan Cainer , who  died  in May this year  , but  his  columns  miraculously  appeared  for some time after  his  departure  from  the   planet , and  von  Strunckel's  frothy  words. 

Strunckel's "positive forecasts" also   got a  run  in  the Cairns Post and  other  Murdoch papers.  Born in California ,   in the rag trade before  becoming a tabloid  astrologer,  von Strunckel   probably consoled  herself  at  being sucked into  a  Murdoch media  black  hole   by downing  a glass  or  two of  bubbly as she is also a  noted  "champagne mystic". Watch  this  space for comets  and  wayward   asterisks . 


Corflutes  left  over from  the  recent  federal election campaign have been used to overcome  a  tense  situation on Magnetic Island. A visiting  lolloping puppy in the property  at  the  back of  Little Darwin's residence   upset  our  nesting  Curlews. Shrieking ,  wings outstretched , the Curlews  ran up and down the fence  in a vain   attempt   to  frighten the  dog  away , two  eggs left unattended   in the  noisy confrontation.    The  placid  scene  above shows  Curlew  sitting on the  eggs ,   a variety of  corflutes , including one for  Cathy O'Toole , who won the seat of Herbert , forming  a  barrier  along  the  fence line so  that the combatants  cannot see  each  other . 

Friday, September 16, 2016


CANBERRA : The  Australian Federal Police  has  ordered an immediate  ban on the  sale  of  custard tarts  in   parliamentary  dining rooms   following  BBC  celebrity Stephen  Fry  demonstrating , above, how to turn   harmless  custard powder   into  an  explosive . 
With parliament abuzz with  rumours of  a gunpowder plot against Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull,  the  overworked  AFP  is  deeply concerned  about  the  possibility of  a lone wolf  custard  powder  attack . A suspicious development in recent months has  been the astronomical  sale of  custard tarts to  a  certain group  of  malcontents  in  the  Coalition . Persons under surveillance include a number of  known  grumpy custard  tart  gluttons   who   look and sound  as  if  they should  have  their  stomachs,   livers   and  tongues  stapled .

Thursday, September 15, 2016


Before putting  his French canal cruising  boat into mothballs and heading to Thailand on a study tour , our roaming  correspondent Peter Burleigh  sent  this unusual  snap , without caption .  Later , he  added to his weird  animalia  collection with  the  odd   photograph , below , of  the  monkey mascot  at  a  Thai  massage  parlour , which  he implied  had been named after  a  former   Australian   politician , first name sounding like "Peet" when pronounced by  massage  parlour staff . When  we  referred  this  peculiar  photograph of  the  well endowed  chimp  to  political  pundit Argus Tuft  in  the non members' bar  in parliament house   Canberra, he laughed  and  said it  could  be the  founder of the Monkey Nut  Club , a bunch of  swingers  who  like  to  rumble  in  the  jungle . 
Naturally , we  have alerted  Border Security  to  the  fact  that  Burleigh  is returning to Australia  via  Singapore in the near  future .  

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Author,  historian , anthropologist  and academic , Inga Clendinnen , on  the beach at Alma  Bay, Magnetic Island , Queensland ,  with  her  late  husband  , John , a philosopher ,  soaking up  the sun  ,  watching scuba divers entering the  water .  For years the couple escaped the Melbourne  cold  by  living in  their  island home  in Henry Lawson Drive, Horseshoe Bay , the residence   now occupied  by  artists  Sharon  and  Steve  Crowe  .  Inga died  September  8 , aged  82.  On leaving the island  due to John's illness, Inga said she missed the cry of  the  Curlews. As a result, Linda Wootten , secretary of the  ALP Magnetic Island   branch  and a wildlife carer, sent  Inga , then in a retirement home ,  a  special card  which emitted   the cry of  a Curlew  when opened . When a nurse  opened  the card for Inga  she got  a  fright on hearing the  distinctive  Curlew  wail.  Photo  from  book  Magnetic Island - A Sense of  Place , by photographer and conservationist , Vandhana . More later.


The  Liberal  National  Party will not  lodge an  appeal in the Court of  Disputed Returns   over  the  37 vote  win  by  Cathy O'Toole (ALP ) over  Ewen  Jones in the  Queensland  House of Representatives  seat of  Herbert. Jones, captured   cavorting in Canberra  early one morning  by  Fairfax Media , was  reported  lamenting  the  fact   that  One Nation  preferences had assisted  O'Toole , instead of  himself , and added that he  regretted  leaving  Malcolm Turnbull in the lurch  by not  being re-elected . He  would , he added, be knocking on  many doors  , looking for a  job , perhaps  getting involved in   the  government's " cities  deal " or  the  proposed  $1.2 billion  Singapore  defence spend in the region .  Being one of "the beneficiaries" of  these  projects  would be  "fantastic ".  After  the  Dastyari  affair, Jones  wants to  be careful that  this is not interpreted   as   a   request for  a  Singapore  Sling , warns  Canberra  political  pundit Argus Tuft , who recently fell  asleep  in a dark corner of  the parliament house non members' bar  and  was  locked  in  (again)  at  closing  time, found curled up in the fetal position , snoring  stentoriously  on  the  carpet  by  a  nervous  security  guard , stun gun at the ready,  checking  the   premises just  before  the  heart-starter  stampede  by  thirsty , glassy-eyed  scribes on the never ending  24 hour news cycle , just   before   dawn .  

Sunday, September 11, 2016


Midst  the stack  of  purchases from  the latest  annual  bookfest  on  Magnetic Island   was The Victorian  Drama League 1952-2002  by Robert E. Glass , foreword by  Charles Tingwell ,  a  presentation  copy  by  the  author   to  some   island   friends.

Thinking  this  book may  have  indicated  these  friends  had a secret  involvement   with  dramatic  productions  when  they  lived  in  Melbourne , I called  at  their  leafy  residence , a koala bear heard grunting  nearby from  time  to time, a  Curlew sitting  on  eggs .

In answer to  a  question , the  husband denied he and his  wife had trod the amateur  theatrical  boards in earlier  days . However ,  he admitted  that  while he was  studying  German in Melbourne  , he  once  stood  up  and  was  instructed  to  say  he  was  God .

Standing at  the front door of his  island  home , with a flowing beard which made him  appear God-like,  a bit scruffy , he firmly repeated  his line  from  yesteryear : Ich bin Gott ! Then  he  brought the house down by saying that on another occasion he  had   told   two  risqué  jokes  in  German .
Other items of interest  bought at the bookfest , held at  the kindergarten , included two worn,  silverfished editions of  the   Deakin University  magazine , Mattoid , 1979 and 1981 ,  dealing  with  poetry, prose and graphics ; Speaking of  Home , Poetic  Relections  on  the  Pacific Islands   by  Professor  William  C. Clarke , University of Otago , New Zealand , which contains a  number of impressive colour  plates  by Pacific artists  , poems dealing with a wide range of subjects , including corruption , tourism , cruise  ships , impact on the environment , logging , American and  French nuclear   testing in the Pacific, a conclusion which  says more detail could be provided about the troubles of the South Pacific today , ending with  a  poem about the   Fiji  tensions.

Saturday, September 10, 2016


Soon to leave  Townsville  in search  of  objects buried  in 1861  during the  tragic south-north crossing of Australia   is  an expedition in which  a  former  Darwin  resident , George Koulakis , founder of an adventurous  group of  former  and  serving  military  personnel  known  as  the Royal Cameleers , has  played  a  large part . 

In 2014 , Koulakis, who served with the RAAF in Darwin ,  produced an eight part  documentary   retracing  the  footsteps  of  the Burke and  Wills  expedition. In  this  latest  venture , the  aim  is to search  for  navigation   and scientific   equipment  buried by  the explorers  shortly before they  died  at a place designated  return  plant  camp 32 in western  Queensland  . This  includes  a  sextant , telescopes , compasses .

On August 20,1860, the Burke and Wills Expedition left Royal Park , Melbourne, to  a cheering  crowd  estimated  at  15,000  to   cross the  continent , a  distance of  2000 miles , 3250 kilometres. 

The leader, Robert O'Hara Burke , Irish born, a former Austrian army officer  and   a  Queensland police superintendent, had   no bush experience  ; William  John  Wills , surveyor and navigator ,  third in  charge , had  bushcraft  skills  .  The  19-man party included six Irishmen , five Englishmen ,  four Afghan  camel drivers , three Germans  and  an  American . Their supplies,  to last two years , weighed  20 tonnes and  even included  a table and chairs , flares,  a  Chinese gong .  

There were  23 horses , six wagons   and  26  camels . Imported from India , the camels were  first kept in stables at  parliament house, Melbourne .  One of the  wagons broke down  after  a short distance and  proved not  to be suitable for the trying  venture .
Becoming  concerned  about the slowness of  progress and the possibility of  John McDouall  Stuart   making the crossing before  his  party to collect  a  2000 pound  South Australian  Government reward , Burke broke the party into  two  groups and left one   at a  depot on  Coopers Creek , while he proceeded   north   with  Wills ; while they did  see the northern  coast from the  Flinders River , the mangrove  swamps  blocked  their  way.

Thus began their terrible  ordeal back to Coopers  Creek, hindered by monsoonal rain . On arrival , exhausted ,  they discovered the rest of the party had departed  only hours before .  Both Burke  and  Wills   died  an agonising death on  June 30, 1861. In all , seven members of the expedition perished and the only one who  had actually  viewed   the northern  coast  and survived  was  Irish soldier, John King. 

The modern, well planned  search party  for  the  Return to the  Plant  Camp   for buried  objects from that  great Australian tragedy  has  ground penetrating radar and the latest metal  detectors. Above  graphic   from informative  Koulakis  video about Burke and  Wills  and  the  looming search .  Outback  rain  has  delayed  departure   plans .  

Dramatic illustration  at  head of  this  post , Burke and Wills at Mount Hopeless, by George Lambert, 1907,  Bendigo Art Gallery .   

Friday, September 9, 2016


During Show Day in the sugar town of  Giru , south east  of  Townsville , leading pumice and  hubcap artist ,  Sara Boo , from Taneatua , photographed  this modern  day version of  Foo ,  made  from  corrugated iron  , once  seen drawn on  buildings and  fences  all over Australia , one  version  below .
Foo is described as  an Australian graffiti signature  which may have first surfaced  during  WWl , widely used  during  WWll  and  by schoolchildren  in  post-war years . 


At  long last , the sign  for  MHR  Cathy O'Toole (ALP)  went up over  the  premises  of ousted  Ewen Jones (LNP)   in  Townsville  at  a  busy  intersection , apparently unnoticed by the  local  media . One  would think the fact that  the  increasingly  vital  seat   won  by   Labor  by  37   votes  for  the  first  time  in 20 years  and  by a  woman  makes  it  a  thoroughly newsworthy event.  Nope

 And just last week  she  was  present  in the  House of Representatives in  Canberra   during  which the Turnbull Government  twice lost  a  vote in the biggest  upset  for  a  government  in  half  a century .

One would think  the local  media might have  done an in depth report   about  Ms O'Toole's impressions  of   Canberra, finding  her   way  round  the  maze ,  the  voting event which rattled the government , other  colourful snippets . Nope .

Here is  a  news   tip  for  the  Townsville media ...your representative , when in Canberra ,  has an  office  diagonally  across  from   ousted  PM  Tony  Abbott , aka  the Mad  Monk ,  now a  vocal  back bencher.    She  could  be  near  the frontline  of   a  Guy  Fawkes like  plot   by  unhappy , babbling  delcons  and  extreme  right wingers , hosed off , to put it mildly, about   Turnbull's  leadership  and  the  narrow  election  win , especially  O'Toole's victory. 

 After Abbott today  criticised  PM  Turnbull  for  calling  the  Royal Commission into the  Don  Dale Juvenile  Detention Centre in Darwin , the gunpowder  plot  has   thickened , there is an alarming smell  of  burning  Cordy-ite in the  air in the  Coalition   corridors  of   power.    
Should Ms  O"Toole  see  the  above bunch of desperadoes heading towards Abbott's grotto, she should  immediately press the alarm  button and  dive  under  the desk .
With talk of  Turnbull not likely to last much longer and even  Abbott   coming back as leader !!! , the Member for Herbert , in  more ways  than one , is in a strategically  important  office  in  Canberra. She should keep a close watch on those   going   to  and  from  Abbott's office.

Another tip  for the media : the deadline for an appeal  to the Court of  Disputed Returns in the seat of Herbert  is  September 16 ,  so  get  in  and ask Senator  Macdonald  and   Ewen Jones what  is  happening ...this is called being on the ball, following up  the obvious  angles  and  not  waiting   for  a  media  release.  Could  even lend  itself  to  a  count down series.  It might also  pay to check  to see if the betting shops are holding  any  money on the likelihood of a challenge, the outcome .  Surprising  what  you  learn  when  you  ask  obvious  questions . 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


IT TOOK a lot of guts –albeit some of it self destructive - for an attractive young girl to be a punk rocker in the North Queensland city of  Townsville in the early 1980s . Her Mohawk haircut, tattered clothes , a splash of tartan , and safety pin accessories caused many eyebrows to be raised , as did her pet rat , Woof, which she carried about with her . Known as Ruth Rebel , she drank heavily , lived rough and became the Queen of Punk in the north. She wrote poetry , strutted her stuff on stage, singing in a wild band , Noise. Other members of the group were Ned Kelly, Stew Spew, Dennis T. Menace and Andy Anarchy . The band put out a cassette - Like A Stain On Your Toilet. Ned Kelly hanged himself , police blamed Ruth for his death and she went through an emotional, despairing time.
There was a dramatic change in her chaotic life when she became involved with Townsville’s new community radio station , 4TTT-FM . Prior to that radio connection she had been a loner , lacked confidence and knew little because she had been “ naughty ” at school . The first time she took part in a radio show she froze and became speechless. 
From time to time she helped present the late night rock show at the radio station . With the passage of time she became a regular presenter. To some, Ruth Rebel, also known as Rebel Ruth, was the punk scene in Townsville. She presented a Saturday night show called Slash Slamming and Safety Pins , a name she disliked, so renamed it Punk and Disorderly . On air comments and swearing sparked complaints to the Australian Broadcasting Authority .  

 She freely admitted having been anti-war , anti religion and anti - cops and ran shows on these themes , slipping in some of her poetry on those topics. A zealous man connected with a religious program , Freedom Zone , refused to play rock , saying it was the music of the devil . He frequently complained about and clashed with Ruth . She responded by imitating his voice on air and called his segment the Bondage Zone . In turn, he declared her the devil. Ruth also mimicked and mocked sponsors and  the Queen .

Her on air antics inflamed many , one listener phoning in to say he had recently been released from jail and was going to rush in and bash her. Conversely , many people were protective towards Ruth and said she was a beautiful teenager with a troubled background.

Some of Ruth’s poems appeared in newspapers and magazines . She regularly contributed poems to an American punk magazine and became known in international punk circles. Photocopies of her poems, stapled at the corner, were put on sale for a $1.50 in a Townsville music shop and whenever there was a sale she was elated to think somebody wanted to read her work. The poems , with associated text , gave an insight into Ruth’s past , her lifestyle and her attitude to modern society .

Her first collections of poems bore the title As Seen Through the Eyes of a Rebel;her second, Oi!the Cause is Lost !,dedicated to people  who show their tits , have fun and are a general nuisance , carried the message not to give in ,be yourself and watch out for McDonalds, even if their chips and burgers are nice

In an explanatory note she said most of the poems were an outlet for “ my frustrations on wot I see goin on around me ”. She hoped the poems would broaden peoples’ minds- “not as in preaching and shit ” -but to learn about the other side of the coin . Giving brief and bizarre biographical details, she said she had been born in Brisbane in l968 where she had lived in “ a biscuit tin ” until 12. Now she was in Townsville, which she called Clownsville, a “ vast black hole ”, but better than Mareeba . In addition, she wrote that she been unemployed for about six years because her only experience had been with biscuit tins . The unusual biography continued : Ruth hopes to be a novelist and a beauty consultant one day . I also like crocheting ...
The poems dealt with the Clone Employment Service ( Commonwealth Employment Service ), divisions caused by religion, the isolation of the individual, trying to survive on the dole, greedy big business and inner thoughts of despondency in a flea- infested, rented house with a leaky roof.

 In the cover poem, Oi! The Cause Is Lost!, Ruth took skinheads to task for bashing people, saying they were neo- Nazis , cowards without balls , who went about in gangs . She wrote that the skinheads would probably “kick me to my knees ” for speaking out against them . There was no copyright claim on her poetry, just a request to acknowledge that she was the author and not to just rip her off .

When Ruth left Townsville for “ the south ”, she surmised that some of the “old crones” at the radio station , who strongly objected to her , threw wild parties to celebrate her departure. After two years in Sydney she returned to Townsville . When she went along to 4TTT , under new management , hoping to once more contribute to the air waves , she found the welcome mat had been well and truly withdrawn as far as she was concerned . Furthermore , she was shocked to learn the station broadcasted greyhound racing .

Once more , she departed the Townsville scene , and nothing more was heard of her ; people speculated she had come to a tragic end . However, her name appeared from time to time in contributions to several punk “ zines ” , this being the name for cheap cut and paste magazines . The October 1993 issue of the punk zine APITO , produced in Rockhampton, Queensland listed a Ruth Rebel poem dealing with sexism on the cover. That issue also covered the plight of East Timor , whaling and called for independence for Tibet

I became interested in Ruth Rebel about ten years ago when researching the history of 4TTT-FM, an extraordinary community radio station which would make a great TV series or a film . Through its portals passed individuals who became influential in law , politics, music , broadcasting , Aboriginal and Islander advancement , environmental protection , nuclear protests , union activities and other fields of endeavour.

A woman doctor connected with the radio station was even blamed by some northern religious fanatics for Darwin’s Cyclone Tracy because she had promoted birth control and abortion and God had punished the nation as a result . 4TTT-FM , operating with limited funds, knocked the socks off many radio stations , parts of  networks owned by conglomerates whose content is compiled  and  dictated  from  afar.
Extensive inquiries eventually led me to Ruth , with two sons, struggling along in Queensland , still writing poetry and full of fond and unusual memories of her time at the radio station. When I recounted some of the colourful anecdotes I had gathered about her and her rodent at the radio station she branded me Big Ears , addressing me as such in emails. Did I know , she asked , that a manager at the radio station had a coffin and slept in it . My large ears had picked up that titbit. Ruth told me that during her travels she had teamed up with her birth mother , but this reunion had not worked out . Her adoptive mother , a Christian , had died in her sleep before Ruth had a chance to thank her for having persevered with her .

A person from the University of Central Queensland, hearing I had been researching Ruth, contacted me and asked if I knew where she was as somebody was interested in doing a documentary about the punk rock scene and dearly wanted to speak to her. That film , called A Piss In the Ocean , included a male punk rocker,Bollocks, Ruth Rebel  listed in the credits.

Darwin activist  Stuart  Highway  admired  Ruth  Rebel.  

An email Ruth sent me dealt with the plight of women in Papua New Guinea where sexual assault and the spread of aids is rampant . Much to my surprise, Darwin activist , Stuart Highway , who had a stall at the Nightcliff Sunday market , had been in contact with Ruth Rebel in connection with several campaigns over the years. He first became aware of her in punk magazines in the 1980s and said  her poems help her cope with the boredom and stresses in her life. More than that, she was able to draw attention to injustices in the world.-(By Peter Simon ).