My husband Andrew, who began this blog in October 2007, died peacefully on September 3rd 2012, at the age of 83, after long and well-controlled illness culminating in a sudden, brief decline. He worked on his autobiography for years but never completed it. Instead he left behind various pieces of life writing which would have formed part of it. I will gradually include this material here, giving the dates on which the pieces were written. I'll also add some of my own reminiscences and items of information I have about him. At some point this blog will become an archive, without further additions. — Rosemary Nissen-Wade

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Heart Trouble Begins

The pain stabbed across my chest as I walked up Toorak Road toward my car.

It was like a belt being pulled tight around my heart which was pumping harder to keep up the flow of blood.

I stopped and held onto the iron fence rail next to me, waiting for the throbbing to subside.

It was November ’93 and over the previous month or so the pain had worsened.

I was under a lot of stress. My job, as Coordinator of the Watchdog Association, had brought me in contact with corruption at many levels of society, and my sense of frustration and anger had, I thought, brought about  a metaphysical, not a physical result.

‘Go to the doctor, Sweetheart,’ my wife Rosemary had urged.

At first I resisted. I couldn’t see the point. I wasn’t dying. It would go away, I thought. I just needed to slow down.

But it didn’t. I said nothing to my work mates. I didn’t want to promote any feeling of ill-health.

Then there were other messages.

Andrew was obviously planning to write the whole story of his heart problems but got no further at this time. He had a very successful triple bypass and valve replacement in 1995, by which time we were living near Murwillumbah, NSW — Rosemary

Saturday, November 8, 2014

At what point do you blow the whistle on wrongdoing?

How many of you can say that you have never turned a blind eye to wrongdoing?

One of my personal passions is honesty. It’s got me into a lot of trouble and brought me a lot of ridicule. 

[On the following occasion, though, Andrew was wise enough to stay out of trouble while still blowing the whistle. — Rosemary.]

On May 27th 1976 I was taken down to the Melbourne docks by an import/export agent. I was producing corporate newsletters and was talking to the agent about the possibility of publishing a newsletter for his Company.

The dock visit was a kind of familiarisation process, and as we walked toward the gates of the container terminal I had no idea that my visit would produce an investigation by a Melbourne newspaper and eventually initiate discussions in the Victorian Parliament.

The agent told me he would introduce me as a businessman  interested in setting up an import/export business. What I saw and learned that day stunned me, and without drawing too much attention t myself I took notes. I watched as a union delegate, hidden among boxes, pilfered some goods, men sitting around drinking coffee while trucks turned up outside waiting to be loaded. We hunted for four consignments but couldn’t find them. I observed a system in chaos and workers who took advantage of it.

At the time I was also Melbourne correspondent for a nationally circulated management newsletter called ‘Interprobe’ and my first reaction was to write an article for it exposing what was going on.

But then I realised I couldn’t do that for two reasons —  1, such a story could jeopardise the business of the agent who to the depot and 2,  my own safety could be at risk.

I sat on the story for two months. Then a newspaper article announced that the Prices Justification Tribunal was to investigate container terminal handling charges.

I rang Phillip Luker, the editor of Interprobe, and told him about the story. I suggested he report it as if a Melbourne businessman had rung in the details. I faxed the story to Sydney on July 14. It was to be published two days later.

I had just finished reading Bernstein and Woodward’s report of Watergate, ‘All the President’s Men’, the most amazing piece of investigative journalism of the century, and as the movie was on in Melbourne I decided to see it on the Thursday.

On the way to the theatre I bought an early edition of the Melbourne Herald and there, on the front page, was ‘DOCK MEN BRIBED — CLAIM’, the full story picked up from Interprobe.

As a result The Herald mounted its own investigation, running stories on waterside corruption for over a month, during which time the union put a black ban on newsprint being delivered to The Herald, and the journalist involved, Lawrence Money, had a phone call to his silent number at 2am one morning, threatening his life.

It was an incredibly exciting experience for me as a freelance journalist.

[In 1976 Andrew would have been 47 years old. I believe he was always a Labour voter until late in life when he voted Green, and he understood the importance of trade unions, so this whole experience must have been very shocking and confronting for him. — Rosemary.]