Bob Collins (politician)

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Bob Collins
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Senator for the Northern Territory
In office
11 July 1987 – 30 March 1998
Preceded by Ted Robertson
Succeeded by Trish Crossin
Leader of the Opposition of the Northern Territory
In office
2 November 1981 – 19 August 1986
Preceded by Jon Isaacs
Succeeded by Terry Smith
Personal details
Born Robert Lindsay Collins
(1946-02-08)8 February 1946
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
Died 21 September 2007(2007-09-21) (aged 61)
Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
Political party Australian Labor Party
Spouse(s) Rosemary
Children Robbie, Elizabeth, Daniel

Robert Lindsay (Bob) Collins AO (8 February 1946 – 21 September 2007) was an Australian Labor Party member of the Australian Senate from July 1987 to March 1998, representing the Northern Territory. Prior to entering the Senate, Collins was a member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly from 1977 to 1987, and Leader of the Territory Opposition from 1981 to 1986. He was the first Northern Territorian to become a federal minister.[1] He died by suicide aged 61 with multiple charges of child sex abuse pending in both the Northern Territory and ACT.[2]

Early life[edit]

Born into a working-class family in Newcastle in 1946, Collins left school at the age of 15 and worked briefly on a cotton farm. In 1967 he moved to the Northern Territory, where he found work at the Department of Agriculture in the town of Katherine. By 1974 he was working for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and St. John Ambulance when Cyclone Tracy struck the city of Darwin.[3]

Territory politics[edit]

Collins first became politically active in the late 1970s, while employed as a market gardener and wildlife officer in the indigenous community of Maningrida in Arnhem Land. In 1977, he was asked to run for the Australian Labor Party in the seat of Arnhem, which he did, successfully gaining a seat in the second parliament of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. He was Leader of the Opposition from 1981 to 1986 while the Country Liberal Party held power, switching to the newly created seat of Arafura in December 1983. At the territorial election of 1983, his party was defeated; and incumbent Chief Minister Paul Everingham was the victor.

Federal politics and the Senate[edit]

At the 1987 federal election, Collins was elected to the Australian Senate representing the Northern Territory. The Prime Minister Bob Hawke chose Collins as Minister for Shipping on 4 April 1990, and a month later Aviation Support was added to his portfolio. He also served as Minister assisting the Prime Minister for Northern Australia. In May 1992, Prime Minister Paul Keating elevated Collins to the Cabinet as Minister for Transport and Communications. In December 1993, he was made Minister for Primary Industries and Energy.

After the Coalition led by John Howard won the 1996 election, Collins continued to serve in the Senate until he resigned on 30 March 1998. Trish Crossin was appointed to fill his previous Senate seat.

Co-ordinator of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands[edit]

In March 2004, the South Australian Premier, Mike Rann, appointed Collins as the service delivery co-ordinator of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands in the South Australia's north. He was tasked with rectifying some of the vast social problems in the region.[4] Collins resigned from the position in August 2004.[5]

Honours[edit]

In the Australia Day Honours of 2004, Collins was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for services to the Northern Territory and indigenous rights.[6]

Child sex allegations[edit]

In June 2004, Collins was involved in a serious single-car accident when his car rolled over near the town of Jabiru.[7] He was taken to Royal Darwin Hospital, then flown to Adelaide on 22 June for specialised surgery.[8]

Robert Lindsay Collins
Born (1946-02-08)8 February 1946
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
Died 21 September 2007(2007-09-21) (aged 61)
Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
Cause of death
Suicide
Occupation Former politician
Criminal charge
child sexual abuse, indecent assault, carnal knowledge, sexual intercourse with a child and possession of child pornography
Criminal status
Deceased

As Collins recovered in hospital in Adelaide, officers of the Northern Territory Police[9] flew to his hospital bedside to inform him that his home had been raided and that he was charged with child-sex offences. His home computer had been seized, and prosecutors said that this computer contained 54 child pornography images.[10] Additionally, four men had made allegations that Collins had sexually assaulted them as children, more than 30 years previously.[11] One of the alleged victims was Tom E. Lewis, a young actor who had played the title role in the 1978 Australian film The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith.[12] The Northern Territory Director of Public Prosecutions supported a move by Collins's defence lawyers to suppress all details of the court case,[13] including media reporting of the case.

Another allegation was made in 2006 of the sexual assault of a 12-year-old boy in Canberra in September 1989. Collins was charged with two counts of committing an act of indecency and one count of sexual intercourse with a child.[14]

Collins's continuing medical problems, including surgery for bowel cancer and injuries from his car accident, meant that he was unfit to attend the ACT Magistrates' Court for four scheduled hearings of the case in September and December 2006 and March and May 2007.[15][16]

An additional charge of possession of child pornography was set down against Collins in the Darwin Magistrates' Court in November 2006. Collins faced 21 child sex charges in the Northern Territory which were due for a committal hearing in April 2007. The child pornography charge was due for a hearing in the same court on 1 May.[17] Collins died by suicide before facing court.

Five of Collins' alleged victims were paid compensation under the Victims of Crime (Assistance) Act, after claims for compensation were accepted by the Northern Territory government.[18]

Suicide[edit]

Collins died in Darwin on 21 September 2007, three days before he was scheduled to face court of charges of possessing child pornography, indecent assault, carnal knowledge and sexual intercourse without consent. Given the circumstances of unexplained death, a detailed coronial investigation was carried out into the death,[19] reporting in February 2009. The Northern Territory Coroner concluded Collins death was suicide,[2] stating:

"The cause of death was intentional overdose of prescription drugs with alcohol following upon a background of three years of significant medical difficulties and in the face of upcoming court cases. I find that the deceased took the drugs with the purpose of ending his life."

Noteworthy were the initial erroneous obituaries that the reported cause of death was secondary to bowel cancer.[20]

A planned state memorial service for the former Labor senator was cancelled, after the Federal Government withdrew its offer of a tribute. The family instead held a private funeral. Flag marshals had been notified to half-mast their flags in honour of Collins on the day of the funeral, but that advice was later withdrawn by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.[21]

Posthumous controversy[edit]

A portrait of Bob Collins is hung in the Parliament House of the Northern Territory along with all former Leaders of the Opposition. Country Liberal MLA John Elferink drew attention to this in June 2009, as he felt the portrait's presence was inappropriate due to the child abuse allegations against Bob Collins.[22] In response to the request Speaker Jane Aagaard announced in October 2009 that after review the House Committee had decided the portrait was an historical record and would remain.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Senator Trish Crossin: First Speech, 24 June 1998.
  2. ^ a b 14 February 2008 Collins' death was suicide: coroner ABC Online
  3. ^ Oral Histories: Interviews with Bob Collins, Northern Territory Library
  4. ^ Debelle, Penelope (21 April 2004). "Black leaders to target traffickers". The Age. Retrieved 2010-03-27. 
  5. ^ "Collins quits roles with SA, NT governments". AAP General News (Australia). 25 August 2004. Retrieved 2010-03-27. 
  6. ^ Mark Metherell: It's time, for Labor family, The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 January 2004.
  7. ^ Bob Collins: the ugly truth, The Bulletin, 25 September 2007; Website closed January 2008
  8. ^ Former senator flown to Adelaide for specialised surgery, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 23 June 2004
  9. ^ Police confirm Collins investigation, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 1 July 2004
  10. ^ Bob Collins: the ugly truth, The Bulletin, 25 September 2007
  11. ^ Anne Barker: Bob Collins under investigation over allegations of sexual assault, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 1 July 2004
  12. ^ Anne Barker: Police confirm Collins investigation, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 1 July 2004.
  13. ^ "Alleged Paedophile Activity - Delay of Court Proceedings". Northern Territory - Parliamentary Record No: 25. 2005-03-22. 
  14. ^ I'll fight sex charges: Bob Collins, National Nine News, 18 September 2006.
  15. ^ Collins still too sick to appear in court on sex assault charges, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 8 March 2007.
  16. ^ Collins' health holds up court hearing, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 28 May 2007.
  17. ^ Child porn court date for ex-Labor minister, The Age, 24 November 2006.
  18. ^ The Adelaide Advertiser: Sex abuse victims paid compo
  19. ^ Murphy, Damien: Collins raped me when I was 12: accuser, The Age, 26 September 2007
  20. ^ Collins' obituary, The Australian, 22 September 2007
  21. ^ Hannon, Kate (2007-09-27). "Collins memorial cancelled Feds withdraw funeral offer after fresh claims of child sex offences". The Canberra Times. Retrieved 2007-09-27. [dead link]
  22. ^ Calacouras, Nick (17 June 2009). "Portrait of Collins 'offensive'". The Northern Territory News. Retrieved 5 January 2013. 
  23. ^ "Portrait of accused pedophile to remain in Parliament". The Northern Territory News. 14 October 2009. Retrieved 5 January 2013. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Jon Isaacs
Opposition Leader of the Northern Territory
1981–1986
Succeeded by
Terry Smith
Preceded by
Bob Brown
Minister for Shipping (and Aviation Support)
1990–1992
Succeeded by
Peter Cook
New title Minister assisting the Prime Minister
for Northern Australia

1990–1992
Succeeded by
Ben Humphreys
Preceded by
Graham Richardson
Minister for Transport and Communications
1992–1993
Succeeded by
Laurie Brereton
as Minister for Transport
Succeeded by
Michael Lee
as Minister for Communications and the Arts
Preceded by
Simon Crean
Minister for Primary Industries and Energy
1993–1996
Succeeded by
John Anderson
Northern Territory Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
Rupert Kentish
Member for Arnhem
1977–1983
Succeeded by
Wes Lanhupuy
New division Member for Arafura
1983–1987
Succeeded by
Stan Tipiloura
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Ted Robertson
Senator for the Northern Territory
1987–1998
Served alongside: Grant Tambling
Succeeded by
Trish Crossin