Two points to note in Rob de Castella’s comments in …

Comment on Pay dispute with Robert de Castella: Alice runner John Bell raises new issues. by John Bell.

Two points to note in Rob de Castella’s comments in the Alice News.
The first is that his claim that I was a “volunteer” is incorrect. In late March 2009 I received a phone call from Deek offering me a job as Project Coach. He actively recruited me. Before that phone call I had no knowledge of the Project. He asked me to set up his Project in Central Australia for a documentary that was proposed to him by film maker Matt Long of Good Oil Films. The Project was Matt Long’s idea. But neither of the two white men had had anything to do with the Aboriginal community, and they were in desperate need of someone with the skills and experience to set it up for them.
Secondly, Deek is incorrect in claiming that “government funds became available afterwards” i.e. after I was sacked on 10 November 2010.
On 7 March 2010 Deek claimed in The Sun Herald that unless he received $500,000 “within the next few months, the Project would have to be abandoned.”
In the article he detailed what he wanted the $500,000 for; it included “salary to pay a full time Project Coach to train the athletes to run fast and far.” That was my job. It was the main reason why I was employed.
Information I have obtained under FOI from DoHA shows that Deek received $187,000 from DoHA on 28 April 2010 and a further $313,000 for the project on 18 October 2010. A total of $500,000.
I worked for the period 1 April 2009 to 10 November 2010. So he got the $500,000 before my employment finished.
I discovered the existence of the $500,000 DoHA grant after I was sacked, a few days after my return from New York on 9 November 2010.
A few weeks later, Deek was to return to the NT to thank the athletes and their communities in December 2010. I emailed him asking him to fund my airfares to accompany him … I dropped it in the email that I now knew about the $500,000. He emailed back to me on 26 November 2010 “JB you are welcome to accompany us at your own expense … by the way, there is no $500,000. More misinformmation? What games are you playing now?”
He cc’d the email to a dozen people in the Project in the NT and at Good Oil Films. Including NT Police.
I am presenting this email evidence at the Tribunal and I will point out his public claim in the Alice News on 18 June 2012 that the money did not become available until after my employment was terminated.
Deek knew I had no money, being on a Comcare fortnightly disability payment, and he knew I could not afford the airfare and accommodation.
I am waiting on an FOI request now with DoHA to obtain details of the Project budget for 2009,2010 and 2011. DoHA has been stalling me for many months. I will know tomorrow. Deek has stated in evidence to the Tribunal that no money was earmarked in the budget for a salary for me. It will be interesting to see if he did or not. If he didn’t I will ask how did he justify the Project to DoHA because grant guidelines state that applicants must have Aboriginal community agreement through consultation. I performed that role.
If he did provide a salary, then the obvious question to be asked is – what did he do with it?
I also have information from a reliable source that DoHA originally rejected his application but it was overridden by direct intervention by Mark Arbib, who went to New York with Deek in 2011 and ran the NY Marathon.
An interesting fact about the departmental funding guidelines for 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 is that they did not allow funding for overseas travel or accommodation under a specific guideline heading “What is NOT Funded” … overseas airfares and accommodation were a one line item under this heading.
Then in 2011/2012 this one line item was conspicuously missing … the year that Mark Arbib went to NY.
I will also give evidence to the Tribunal on Monday that Deek has publicly accused me of being “destructive” and “bringing the Project into disrepute” … all because I lodged a claim with Tribunal that he reneged on a handshake agreement. I am waiting to see now if he will try to get anyone in Alice to give evidence against me.
I have not asked any Aboriginal person in Alice Springs to give evidence on my behalf. I did not want to embroil Alice Springs people, who are dear to my heart, in these issues. Because of racial sensitivities and longtime friendships in a dispute that is essentially between two white men who live in Canberra.
However, four Alice Springs people from the wider community are giving written statements on my behalf. One Aboriginal person from FNQ, the uncle of Catherine Freeman, has also provided written statement of evidence on my behalf. Other Aboriginal people around Australia have offered.
Thank you for publishing this letter. It is very stressful and I have not been feeling well for a long time.
I will keep you informed of the Tribunal outcome.
Kind regards, John Bell
[ED – Mr Bell sent his letter before the tribunal hearing on Monday this week. He asked not to publish it before the tribunal hearing had taken place. We have offered Mr de Castella the right of reply.]

Recent Comments by John Bell

No gaol for Peace Pilgrims: sentence
@ Kieran Finnane. Cold War circumstances change with the times.
Once it was Russia. Now it is North Korea backed by China.
What’s the difference between a KGB-ruled Soviet Union and a despotic ally of the soulless atheistic materialistic Tiananmen China superpower that has vowed to take control of the Western democratic world by whatever means possible?
Australia is a bunny blinded by the China spotlight. Anti-American protestors a la the Peace Pilgrims are yesterday’s men (and women), way behind the times in their inability to see today’s reality.


No gaol for Peace Pilgrims: sentence
@ Horton: Agreed. A good and sensible outcome. From the outset, the right to public protest by the Peace Pilgrims has never been questioned. The real issue here is the concept of civil disobedience and its reasonable limits in a society that is ruled by a stable democratic government under the rule of law.
Justice Reeves got it right. The Pilgrims challenged the limits and received much public praise on their journey. Acquittal would have implied that civil disobedience has no limits, no matter what the cause and where and when the civil disobedience occurs. The sentences did not bring down the hammer of a jail term, but emphasised that the Pilgrims had exceeded the limit.

@ Fred the Phillistine: Your emphasis on the cost to the public purse is interesting. You say that the Pilgrims should have been allowed to do their thing, presumably whenever they feel like returning.
Down here in Mexico, the CBD at Flinders and Swanston has been seriously disrupted in peak hour every Friday arvo during the month of November by the Manus Island protest marchers. Ongoing and escalating loss of income, serious stress and inconvenience is being caused to countless city workers.
With increasing numbers of civil disobedience protest marches in this critical part of the CBD almost weekly for every cause under the sun, we are looking at untold loss of income for ordinary punters and their families going about their lawful daily business affairs.
My question to you is – where would you draw the line and set the limit, on the causes that justify civil disobedience and the number of times protesters of any given cause should be able to cause social disruption and financial damage?

[ED – It was up to the jury, as always in a jury trial, not the judge to find the defendants guilty or not guilty.]


Strange encounters: the Peace Pilgrim and the Police Sergeant
@Jackie Hu. You criticise Justice Reeves for instructing the ordinary punters of the jury on points of law.

However, in instructing the jury (and during the conduct of the hearing) in this symbolic, divisive and very public case, Justice Reeves would have been very conscious indeed of the standard of equality of treatment demanded of judges and opposing counsel towards unrepresented litigants, laid down in the decision in Tomasevic v Travaglini in the Victorian Supreme Court by Justice Virginia Bell.

No doubt he was mindful that appeal judges would jump on him like a ton of bricks if there was even the merest hint of apprehended bias, especially in instructing a jury of ordinary punters in this touchy Pine Gap case.

Judges have a long established habit of instructing juries in public interest cases, as in the Chamberlain case.

I always believed a dingo took Azaria and the jury got it horribly wrong; and I cheered when appeal judges without a jury gave Lindy justice.

Of course, the Green latte sippers in Lygon Street saw us as anti-dingo etc. We were most unpopular.

You no doubt will cheer if the jury sees it your preferred Pilgrim way. If not, there is always the avenue of appeal without jury.


No extraordinary emergency at Pine Gap: judge rules
Ms Finnane. Are you sure that Michael McHugh SC was raising the example of the Suffragettes to support his argument that the Pine Gap Peace Pilgrims exceeded the limit of civil disobedience?

Could it have been that he was saying the opposite when he said “the Suffragettes notwithstanding” ie saying that the Suffragette civil disobedience was a different situation to this Pine Gap prayerful singalong?

After all, Emily Pankhurst got skittled by a horse and died for her beliefs. No disrespect to Emily whatsoever. She was truly gutsy. Your take on McHugh SC’s argument perhaps needs a bit of clarification in the words you used in your article?


Did Peace Pilgrims answer an extraordinary emergency?
@Greg. 60% of the Aussie population is secular, not Christian, as the SSM survey showed. At least 60% of the entire Western world is now secular and becoming more secular by the day. So. Blaming Christians for modern day wars is the trendy self-loathing mantra of the Left. As the majority of warmongers are secular, your argument falls flat, and flatter, by the day.
@Rebecca. It is confected courage to do a symbolic trek to the Red Centre in a safe democratic jurisdiction where PSOs like Sergeant Gadsby are on a hiding to nothing and face disciplinary action if they put a toe out of line while trying to do their lawful job, dealing with the Peace Pilgrim crew. Soft courage, shouting the generic anti-war war cry of the Left in a soft environment, ignoring their Christian obligation to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. I suggest it is humbug to paint this as “courage”. It would take real courage to conduct this protest in say, North Korea. Unless of course they think that if the Western world lays down its arms, everyone else will too.


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