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Northern Territory: Prime Minister asks members of Bob Collins' family to reconsider state funeral following criticism from Opposition.



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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Parliamentary Library.

 

It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in an y other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

 

For the purposes of quoting verbatim from a transcript, it is advisable to verify the transcript against the broadcast.

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PM

 

Wedne sday 26 September 2007

Northern Territory: Prime Minister asks members of Bob Collins' family to reconsider state funeral following criticism from Opposition

 

MARK COLVIN: There's now a lmost certain not to be a state funeral for the former Federal Government minister and Labor senator from the Northern Territory, Bob Collins. 

 

A newspaper notice this morning, from the Australian Government, advertised a state memorial for Collins, who died last week. This evening PM understands that that service will no longer be going ahead. 

 

This morning's media carried graphic claims from two alleged victims who told their stories of being sexually abused by the former senator when they were boys. 

 

That led the Prime Minister to urge the Collins family to reconsider the Government's offer. 

 

From Canberra Peta Donald reports. 

 

PETA DONALD: When Bob Collins died in Darwin last week, it was days before he was due to appear in court for a committal hearing into charges of child sexual abuse. With those charges now withdrawn and defamation laws no longer applying, the alleged victims are free to tell their stories. 

 

PAUL TOOHEY: I've just got off the phone to Tom E. Lewis. He is down in Katherine. I'm in Darwin. His view is that a great weight has been lifted. 

 

PETA DONALD: Paul Toohey has written one of the stories in today's Bulletin magazine.  

 

The actor, Tom E. Lewis, tells of being sexually assaulted when he was about 13 by Bob Collins in the 1970s. 

 

PAUL TOOHEY: It's not just Tom E. Lewis, it's, it's and it wasn't just the two other boys who are now men who were going to testify against Collins in the committal hearing in Darwin, there were others that I knew of who declined to give statements to police or assist police. Collins has left a trail of damage. Some of these people have been in jail for sex crimes themselves or crimes of violence.  

 

I'm absolutely convinced that Collins, over the years, has caused untold damage. 

 

PETA DONALD: Do you feel at all uncomfortable about saying that when Bob Collins isn't alive to defend himself? 

 

PAUL TOOHEY: Look, it's a difficult thing but I come back to the point again, if I had just not written anything, not said anything and just, I mean, I would have probably felt more uncomfortable. 

 

PETA DONALD: Another alleged victim has gone public in today's Fairfax newspapers saying he was 12 when he was raped by Bob Collins in his Parliament House office in Canberra while watching pornographic videos.  

 

It was enough for the CLP (Country Liberal Party) Opposition in the Northern Territory to call for a state memorial service planned for Bob Collins in Darwin this Saturday to be called off, putting the Labor Chief Minister in the Territory, Clare Martin, in a quandary.  

 

These were her comments this morning. 

 

CLARE MARTIN: It is difficult. I recognise the difficult time as well for those who brought the charges, the difficult issues that we are facing, but the bottom line is that I will recognise on Saturday at that funeral Bob Collins' contribution to the Territory and I will also be there strongly supporting his family. 

 

PETA DONALD: When pressed, the federal Labor leader, Kevin Rudd, said he thought a state memorial service was not appropriate. 

 

KEVIN RUDD: Well, as I said, these are deeply concerning reports and I am distressed by the content of the reports. In my view, it would be appropriate for these funeral arrangements to be handled on a private basis. 

 

PETA DONALD: By afternoon, the state memorial service for Bob Collins was effectively off. The Prime Minister announced protocol officers would approach the Collins family and urge them to reconsider the Federal Government's offer. 

 

JOHN HOWARD: It is normal, if somebody has been a minister, for a state funeral to be offered, that's the normal practice and normal protocol and of course, there has been no conviction recorded against him and, but I have formed the view today, given that the detail of allegations has become public and that it's become a matter of great public controversy and debate, that the family should be approached and invited to reach the conclusion that it would be better if it were a private funeral. 

 

PETA DONALD: A federal Labor MP from the Northern Territory, Warren Snowdon, is one old friend and colleague of Bob Collins who is still prepared to speak in his defence. 

 

WARREN SNOWDON: And I appreciate the concerns of those people who have made the allegations but he is not here to defend himself. But I do know that I have known Bob for over three decades. At various times, as I have pointed out last week, we had significant differences of opinion but without trying to make any judgement about the allegations, I do know that his contribution to the public life of the Northern Territory in Australia was very significant. 

 

MARK COLVIN: Northern Territory Labor MP Warren Snowdon ending that report by Peta Donald.