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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 episodes4
Production
Executive producer(s)Miranda Dear
Scott Meek
Producer(s)Brett Popplewell
Ray Quint
Running time55 minutes
Production company(s)Flying Cabbage Productions Pty Ltd
Release
Original networkAustralian Broadcasting Corporation
Original release13 May –
14 May 2007

Contents

PlotEdit

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.

CastEdit

EpisodesEdit

No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
1"Greg's War"Ray QuintSue Smith13 May 2007 (2007-05-13)

In November 1997, the National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), John Coombs, receives a mysterious phone call warning him of a top secret plan to remove union members from the waterfront. John calls upon Greg Combet , Assistant Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) for support. Suspecting the government is somehow involved, they devise a three-pronged strategy to fight back. The union wins round one!

Then, out of the blue, the wharfies are locked out of Patrick Stevedores' berths at Melbourne's Webb Dock. With John in Sydney, Greg must try to salvage the situation. It will be a long, hard fight ahead.
2"Josh's War"Ray QuintSue Smith13 May 2007 (2007-05-13)

Young up-and-coming lawyer Josh Bornstein is outraged by the events taking place on the docks in Melbourne and offers his services pro-bono to Greg Combet and the union movement. Amazed to discover Greg hasn't finalised any sort of legal strategy yet, Josh urges a radical new approach - don't wait to be attacked. Attack first. Take the company and possibly even the government to court for conspiracy. It's visionary and scary!

Josh and the team engage in a race against time to try to forestall what they know is now imminent - the mass sacking of Patrick's entire unionised workforce. But literally hours before they're due in court, the event they've all been dreading takes place. In the dead of night, three days before Easter, security guards with batons and dogs march MUA members off the Patrick docks around the country. Before it is over, the entire country will be divided.
3"Sean's War"Ray QuintSue Smith14 May 2007 (2007-05-14)

Dock worker Sean McSwain is elected as the State Representative for the MUA, just as scab labour begins working on Berth 5 at Patrick's Webb Dock in Melbourne. It becomes his responsibility to run the protest at the Melbourne docks. It is a mission that will test everything he has as an organiser, a mate, and a man.

This forces Sean directly up against Tony Tully, a second-generation wharfie, who is used to the Union's old ways of fighting. Angry at the no-violence rule, he and his son Brendan are not the only ones who believe the Union's gone soft. But secretly, Tony is scared of the changes looming. Fear makes him lash out with dire consequences.
4"Chris's War"Ray QuintSue Smith14 May 2007 (2007-05-14)

Chris Corrigan is the Managing Director of Patrick Stevedores. He pits his will, strength and determination against the full resources of the labour movement, the media, the banks and, increasingly, the public, as Australian sentiment swings in behind the Union.

The Federal Court brings down its finding in favour of the Union: Patrick Stevedores must reinstate its sacked workers as soon as possible. Corrigan finds himself cornered - his wife Valerie and family are receiving obscene and threatening phone calls; he is forced to stay under constant security surveillance; to travel only in the security of a laundry van. He appeals against the decision.

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]

ResponseEdit

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

ReferencesEdit

  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