Bob Collins (Australian politician)

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. [Senator Trish Crossin: [http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/senators/homepages/first_speech/sfs-7Y6.htm First Speech] , 24 June 1998.]

Early life

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. [Oral Histories: [http://www.ntlib.nt.gov.au/tracy/advanced/oral/bcollins/collins.html Interviews with Bob Collins] , Northern Territory Library]

Territory politics

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

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 on 7 May, Aviation Support was added to his portfolio. In addition, he served during that term 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 lead 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 his Senate seat.

Honours

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. [Mark Metherell: [http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/01/25/1074965439090.html It's time, for Labor family] , "The Sydney Morning Herald", 26 January 2004.]

Child sex allegations

On 19 June 2004, Collins was involved in a serious single-car accident when his car rolled over near the town of Jabiru. [ [http://bulletin.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=299532 Bob Collins: the ugly truth] , The Bulletin, September 25, 2007; Website closed January 2008] He was taken to Royal Darwin Hospital, then flown to Adelaide on 22 June for specialised surgery. [ [http://www.abc.net.au/nt/news/200406/s1138282.htm Former senator flown to Adelaide for specialised surgery] , Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 23 June 2004]

As Collins recovered in hospital in Adelaide, officers of the Northern Territory Police [ [http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2004/s1145033.htm Police confirm Collins investigation] , Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 1 July 2004] 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-porn images [ [http://bulletin.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=299532 Bob Collins: the ugly truth] , The Bulletin, September 25, 2007] . Additionally, four men had made allegations that Collins had sexually assaulted them as children, more than thirty years previously. [Anne Barker: [http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2004/s1144480.htm Bob Collins under investigation over allegations of sexual assault] , Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 1 July 2004] 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". [Anne Barker: [http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2004/s1145033.htm Police confirm Collins investigation] , Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 1 July 2004.] The Northern Territory Director of Public Prosecutions supported a move by Bob Collin's defence lawyers to suppress all details of the court case [cite web | title = Alleged Paedophile Activity - Delay of Court Proceedings | publisher = Northern Territory - Parliamentary Record No: 25 | date = 2005-03-22 | url = http://notes.nt.gov.au/lant/hansard/hansard9.nsf/webSearchView/3F16A7964A30C98069256FF2000D4770?opendocument] , 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. [ [http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=144990 I'll fight sex charges: Bob Collins] , "National Nine News", 18 September 2006.]

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. [ [http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200703/s1866865.htm Collins still too sick to appear in court on sex assault charges] , Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 8 March 2007.] [ [http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200705/s1935529.htm Collins' health holds up court hearing] , Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 28 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. [ [http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/child-porn-court-date-for-exlabor-minister/2006/11/24/1163871599509.html Child porn court date for ex-Labor minister] , "The Age", 24 November 2006.] He died before he could face court.

Death

Collins died in Darwin on 21 September 2007, aged 61. It was widely reported that the cause was bowel cancer [ [http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,22461047-5006790,00.html Collins' obituary] , The Australian, 22 September 2007.] ; however, on 26 September it was reported that the Northern Territory Coroner was planning to investigate whether Collins took his own life on the eve of his court appearance. [Murphy, Damien: [http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/collins-had-sex-with-me-boy-victim/2007/09/25/1190486309984.html Collins raped me when I was 12: accuser] , "The Age", 26 September 2007.] On 14 February 2008, although no formal public inquest had been held, Northern Territory coroner Greg Cavanagh said in a statement that Collins took his own life through an overdose of prescription drugs and alcohol. [http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23212434-29277,00.html "Bob Collins took own life - coroner"]

A planned state memorial service for the former Labor senator was cancelled, after the Federal Government withdrew its offer of a tribute. The family held, instead, 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 Prime Minister and Cabinet. [cite news |first= Kate |last= Hannon|authorlink= |coauthors= |title= Collins memorial cancelled Feds withdraw funeral offer after fresh claims of child sex offences |url= http://canberra.yourguide.com.au/detail.asp?story_id=1060325&src=topstories|work= |publisher=The Canberra Times |date= 2007-09-27|accessdate= 2007-09-27]

References

Persondata
NAME=Collins, Bob
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Collins, Robert Lindsay
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Australian politician
DATE OF BIRTH=8 February 1946
PLACE OF BIRTH=Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
DATE OF DEATH=20 September 2007
PLACE OF DEATH=Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia


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