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06 May 2010

Aussie Crime TV: Underbelly VS The Inquisition, by Greg Tingle - 6th May 2010

There's little doubt that Australia's Underbelly TV series was the trigger for the resurgence in Aussie crime TV et al, with gambling, mobsters and vice "showcased" on a weekly, sometimes a daily basis. Even Australian current affairs programs like A Current Affair, Tonight Tonight and the ABC's Stateline and 7.30 Report are buying into the excitement. The crime genre has been a favorite with audiences since the advent of television. History shows crime TV, news broadcasts and pro wrestling have been some of the long enduring staples of the global television landscape.

Now a new Australian crime TV challenges... enter The Inquisition, broadcast on Australia's national broadcaster... the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Inquisition claims they have a more legit story to tell. Readers you be the judge. Media Man and Gambling911 investigate...

The Wood Royal Commission unleashed an extraordinary probe that swept through the NSW Police Force like a tsunami. For many, the ultimate stakes were life or death.

The Inquisition by award-winning filmmakers Rachel Landers and Dylan Blowen brings together many of the actual key players in the Commission for the first time in twelve years.

Much of Australia's criminal history was founded when the First Fleet arrived, countless Aboriginals were murdered, and the land was settled by convicts. It wasn't long before corruption thrived and was a given until very recent times, depending on what historians and informers you choose to believe.

The NSW Police force was understood to be one of the most dirty up to the 1970's. Allegations come forward fast and furious... gambling and betting rings, police protecting drug dealers and trafficking drugs, assault, verballing, murder... there were no boundaries.

In 1994 a team of corruption fighters was formed to take on the underworld.

The players included Independent MP John Hatton, Justice James Wood, Counsels Gary Crooke and John Agius, and Investigator Nigel Hadgkiss.

The NSW Police Service is the prime geo covered in the latest Aussie crime TV hit, however NSW was just part of the puzzle.

Coppers and criminals enjoyed quite the love - hate relationship, often dictated by how much money and power was up for grabs. Serious threats and bikie gangs were significant parts of the human chess game, and Kings Cross aka 'The Golden Mile' was usually centre stage.

Landers breaks it down into a tale of good VS evil and shares his candid thoughts in fashion only a suitably qualified insider can can..."I found the baddies in this very dull" (players in Underbelly). "They weren’t exactly the evil empire-building genius [types]. They were just a bunch of drunks and crooks who collected money and got pissed." Speaking on Kim Hollingsworth (pro, later agent)... "a subatomic particle"

Royal Commission Basics 101

The commission had extraordinary intellectual muscle and judicial power. Police were compelled to answer questions or face charges of contempt!

Detective Sergeant Trevor Haken was a weak link the commission probed which lead to significant breakthroughs via the flow on effect.

The installed a camera ("crotch cam") in Haken’s car. It filed senior officers such as Graham "Chook" Fowler pocketing bribe money, black money and ill gotten gains.

Underbelly and Inquisition Different Approaches

Underbelly uses actors while The Inquisition depicts the story by returning key players to the scenes of where the actual events unfolded.

The Commission Warns The Cops And The Crim Packs

Late 1994: Crooke, senior counsel for the commission: "The message of this commission is a merry Christmas to all honest police. Any others can make their own arrangements."

5th June 1995: The resistance crumbled. 380 police officers were forced out of the force.

The timing for The Inquisition - Underbelly "war" is interesting. Inquisition hit the screens mid way through the current Network Nine hit.

"We were in Parliament the day after they were in Parliament. We’d be up in the Cross, then they’d be up in the Cross", says Landers.

She sees Underbelly: the Golden Mile as "a missed opportunity".

Hadgkiss, executive director at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, is of the belief the truth can be entertaining and more constructively enlightening than fiction.

"As a father of three, I deplore any crime shows that glamorise crime and criminals. Are TV viewers really expected to admire these characters? There’s nothing honourable about them."

Punters, we're leave it up to you as to what preference of poison satisfies your appetite. Underbelly generally showcases more gambling themes while The Inquisition is less hyped and sees itself as more accurate.


ABC website: The Inquisition

Media Man YouTube: Sin City - Crime And Corruption In 20th Century Sydney (Justice & Crime Museum)

*Greg Tingle is a special contributor for Gambling911

*Media Man is primarily a media, publicity and internet portal development company

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