Tug­ging tales of bush life

Townsville Bulletin - - Inside Today - John An­der­sen john. an­der­sen@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

YOU might have missed it but one of Aus­tralia’s great­est bush char­ac­ters was in court in Cairns last week af­ter be­ing charged with pulling a croc­o­dile’s tail.

The ap­pear­ance in court of Roy ‘‘ Gouger’’ Turner from Hag­ger­stone Is­land off east­ern Cape York Penin­sula tells us some­thing about the wishy­washy, po­lit­i­cally cor­rect sooks we have be­come. Turner is no choir­boy, but nor is he Billy the Kid. He’s a bloke in the mould of the late North­ern Ter­ri­tory bush­man Rod Ansell. Ansell be­came a le­gend in 1977 af­ter his boat cap­sized off the ter­ri­tory coast, forc­ing him to live off the land for 56 days be­fore be­ing found.

Ansell wrote a rip-roar­ing read about his ad­ven­ture called To Fight The Wild. Paul Ho­gan mod­elled his larrikin Croc­o­dile Dundee char­ac­ter on Ansell.

But, this is where the sim­i­lar­ity with Roy Turner ends.

Ansell’s life se­ri­ously un­rav­elled and in 1999, aged 44, he killed a po­lice of­fi­cer in an am­bush south of Dar­win. Ansell was killed in the en­su­ing gun battle with other po­lice.

I only men­tion Ansell in the con­text that up to the point where his life im­ploded, he was the quin­tes­sen­tial bush char­ac­ter. It was as though he be­longed to the wild and free days of the early to mid 20th cen­tury.

Roy Turner is the same. He is a man trapped in the jaws of 21st cen­tury laws and po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness.

His only ‘‘ crime’’ was that he went and put the tail-pulling in­ci­dent on YouTube as part of a pro­mo­tional video for his Hag­ger­stone Is­land re­sort. The authorities were tipped off and be­fore you knew it Roy was on the greasy pole all the way down to the Cairns Mag­is­trates Court and a $ 3000 fine.

Roy was also charged with pos­ses­sion of un­li­censed firearms.

He ar­gued he needed the shoot­ing irons to pro­tect his guests from wild an­i­mals. OK, so maybe he should have had a li­cence for the weapons. He can fight that one on his own.

Roy came by his ‘‘ Gouger’’ nick­name in 2004 af­ter he saved the life of 11-year-old Han­nah Ros­siter when she was at­tacked by a 3m croc­o­dile while swim­ming in Mar­garet Bay near Hag­ger­stone Is­land.

Roy was on a boat at the time and dived into the wa­ter. He climbed on to the croc’s back and gouged its eyes un­til it let Han­nah go. All in a day’s work for Roy.

Steve Ir­win could make crocs sit up and beg for food and put them through all sorts of psy­cho­log­i­cal hu­mil­i­a­tions and the authorities would turn a blind eye.

Roy gives the tail of one ‘‘ saltie’’ a tug and he’s treated like a crim­i­nal.

Blokes like Roy give us a glimpse into a buried part of our Aus­tralian soul. We should cel­e­brate blokes like Roy, not flog them with a bri­dle.

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