Bob Collins (politician)
|Senator for the Northern Territory|
11 July 1987 – 30 March 1998
|Preceded by||Ted Robertson|
|Succeeded by||Trish Crossin|
|Leader of the Opposition of the Northern Territory|
2 November 1981 – 19 August 1986
|Preceded by||Jon Isaacs|
|Succeeded by||Terry Smith|
|Born||Robert Lindsay Collins
8 February 1946
Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
|Died||21 September 2007
Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
|Political party||Australian Labor Party|
Robert Lindsay 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. He committed suicide after being charged with child sex offences.
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.
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. He was leader of the opposition in the NT for four years, championing the then unpopular cause of overturning the verdict against Lindy Chamberlain over the disappearance of her daughter Azaria at Uluru, and backing the handing back of Uluru to its traditional owners.
Federal politics and the Senate
At the 1987 federal election, Collins was elected to the Australian Senate representing the Northern Territory. He served as a senator for almost eleven years. 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
After he left federal politics in 1998, Mr Collins took on all manner of projects on boosting Aboriginal education, tackling petrol sniffing and landscape conservation. 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. Collins resigned from the position in August 2004.
Child sex allegations
In June 2004, Collins was involved in a serious single-car accident when his car rolled over near the town of Jabiru. He was taken to Royal Darwin Hospital, then flown to Adelaide on 22 June for specialised surgery. As Collins recovered in hospital in Adelaide, officers of the Northern Territory Police 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. Additionally, four men had made allegations that Collins had sexually assaulted them as children, more than 30 years previously. 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. The Northern Territory Director of Public Prosecutions supported a move by Collins's defence lawyers to suppress all details of the court case, 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.
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.
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. 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.
Collins died in Darwin on 21 September 2007, three days before he was scheduled to face court. Given the circumstances of unexplained death, a detailed coronial investigation was carried out into the death, reporting in February 2009. The Northern Territory Coroner stated: "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." The Coroner stated that, although it was not his usual practice to release findings relating to intentional self-harm:
I have decided to release the following information from the coronial findings into the death of Robert Lindsay Collins, because of the intense public and media speculation. I have discussed this with Mr Collins' family who, whilst saddened that this release is necessary, understand that there is a need to clarify the circumstances of his death.
The family held a private funeral.
- Senator Trish Crossin: First Speech, 24 June 1998.
- Oral Histories: Interviews with Bob Collins Archived 23 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine., Northern Territory Library
- Debelle, Penelope (21 April 2004). "Black leaders to target traffickers". The Age. Retrieved 2010-03-27.
- "Collins quits roles with SA, NT governments". AAP General News (Australia). 25 August 2004. Retrieved 2010-03-27.
- Mark Metherell: It's time, for Labor family, The Sydney Morning Herald, 26 January 2004.
- Bob Collins: the ugly truth, The Bulletin, 25 September 2007; Website closed January 2008
- Former senator flown to Adelaide for specialised surgery, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 23 June 2004
- Police confirm Collins investigation, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 1 July 2004
- Bob Collins: the ugly truth, The Bulletin, 25 September 2007
- Anne Barker: Bob Collins under investigation over allegations of sexual assault, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 1 July 2004
- Anne Barker: Police confirm Collins investigation, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 1 July 2004.
- "Alleged Paedophile Activity - Delay of Court Proceedings". Northern Territory - Parliamentary Record No: 25. 2005-03-22.
- I'll fight sex charges: Bob Collins Archived 5 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine., National Nine News, 18 September 2006.
- Collins still too sick to appear in court on sex assault charges, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 8 March 2007.
- Collins' health holds up court hearing, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 28 May 2007.
- Child porn court date for ex-Labor minister, The Age, 24 November 2006.
- The Adelaide Advertiser: Sex abuse victims paid compo
- Murphy, Damien: Collins raped me when I was 12: accuser, The Age, 26 September 2007
|Opposition Leader of the Northern Territory
|Minister for Shipping (and Aviation Support)
|New title||Minister assisting the Prime Minister
for Northern Australia
|Minister for Transport and Communications
as Minister for Transport
as Minister for Communications and the Arts
|Minister for Primary Industries and Energy
|Northern Territory Legislative Assembly|
|Member for Arnhem
|New division||Member for Arafura
|Parliament of Australia|
|Senator for the Northern Territory
Served alongside: Grant Tambling