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Bastard Boys is an Australian television miniseries broadcast on the ABC in 2007. It tells the story of the 1998 Australian waterfront dispute. The script, published by Currency Press,[1] won the 2007 Queensland Premier's Literary Award for Best Television Script.

Bastard Boys
Written bySue Smith
Directed byRaymond Quint
StarringJack Thompson
Colin Friels
Dan Wyllie
Geoff Morrell
Rhys Muldoon
Anthony Hayes
Daniel Frederiksen
Justin Smith
Country of originAustralia
Original language(s)English
No. of episodes2
Running time225 mins (110 min + 115 min)
Original networkAustralian Broadcasting Corporation
Original release13 May –
14 May 2007



The series tells the story of the waterfront dispute from four points of view: Greg's War from the point of view of union leader Greg Combet, Josh's War from the point of view of lawyer Josh Bornstein, Sean's War from the point of view of dock worker Sean McSwain and Chris' War from the point of view of Patrick Stevedores Managing Director Chris Corrigan.


Degree of fictionalisationEdit

A retrospective from the ABC on the real dispute.

Most of the characters portrayed are real individuals, many of whom were interviewed in the process of writing the drama. However, a number of characters were invented and events were considerably compressed for dramatic purposes. Notably, the waterside workers portrayed in the drama were composites, based on interviews with many waterside workers.[2]

Another example of invention was the placing of lawyer Josh Bornstein at a key protest, which would have been illegal because of a court injunction [3]


Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells said in 2006, while the series was still in production, that it "smacks of another example of wasteful spending by the ABC, being used to drive an anti-government, pro-left agenda, conveniently timed to appear during an election year".[4] Journalist Michael Duffy described the series as "the most blatant union propaganda" and was critical that "80 per cent of the story is told from the union point of view".[5] The Age's Debi Enker, however, described it as a "thoughtful, illuminating and superbly cast account of a seminal event in our recent history [which] represents exactly the kind of drama that one would want the national broadcaster to nurture."[6]

Chris Corrigan was heavily critical of the series, stating after its screening that "[t]he program portrays a series of predictable stereotypes and silly caricatures and gives them real names then cleverly claims to be a drama and hence does not explore any inconvenient truths such as the impact of the waterfront rorts on ordinary Australians."[3]

Then-Prime Minister John Howard declared the series "[o]ne of the most lopsided pieces of political propaganda I've seen on the national broadcaster in years" and argued that it completely ignored the notorious inefficiency of the Australian waterfront and years of collaborative failures to change this.[7]

Criticism has also emerged from some members of the union movement. According to Phillip Adams, Bill Kelty was concerned that "no researcher, writer or producer - spoke to him about the dispute or his role in it. Yet they haven't hesitated to put words into their Kelty's mouth that the original Kelty never said".[8] Chris Corrigan's brother Derek Corrigan has disputed claims that the broadcasting of Bastard Boys was timed to support Greg Combet's run for politics".[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Smith, Sue. "Bastard Boys". Currency Press. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  2. ^ "The Reality of Television". The Age. 16 May 2007. Retrieved 16 May 2007.
  3. ^ a b "Reloading history". The Age. 16 May 2007. Retrieved 16 May 2007.
  4. ^ Rachel Browne (13 May 2007). "ABC did not influence Boys". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 14 May 2007.
  5. ^ Michael Duffy (12 May 2007). "ABC unloads a shipload of bias". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 14 May 2007.
  6. ^ Debi Enker (10 May 2007). "Reliving the waterfront war". The Age. Retrieved 15 May 2007.
  7. ^ "Howard hits out at 'lopsided' 'Bastard Boys'". ABC. 17 May 2007. Retrieved 17 May 2007.
  8. ^ Phillip Adams (15 May 2007). "Don't lose plot over 'true' stories". The Australian. Retrieved 16 May 2007.
  9. ^ ABC News Online (15 May 2007). "Suggestions 'Bastard Boys' timed to Combet election run 'bizarre'". ABC. Retrieved 16 May 2007.

External linksEdit