Democracy’s Watchdogs with Bob Bottom


BOB BOTTOM  interview

When I was on The Age’s news desk in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a thick-set, dishevelled man regularly wandered through the office in the company of investigative journalists, David Wilson and Lindsay Murdoch. He wasn’t on staff yet met and lunched regularly with the newspaper’s most senior editors. It turns out, he was one of the most extraordinary journalists in the country and that there were good reasons for his not being introduced more widely.
Bob Bottom was a journalist but also a source, providing journalists across several media organisations with details of organised crime and police corruption. He received his information from honest cops – federal and state police intelligence units and other senior police contacts. He played a unique role in Australian journalism as a link between senior reporters and police who knew more than they could safely say either internally or publicly.
At The Age, Bottom provided Wilson and Lindsay Murdoch with transcripts of telephone conversations that NSW police had bugged illegally. The Age reporters did their own checks, but those taps and transcripts became the basis of the Age Tapes that embroiled High Court Justice Lionel Murphy in years of corruption allegations and court cases, among other exposés. You can find out more about the Age Tapes from this Four Corners episode.
Bottom was more than a journalist and a source – he was an expert on organised crime and the activities of the Mr Bigs of the criminal underworld. He was involved, often as an expert witness, in 18 Royal Commissions and commissions of inquiry. As a result, he spent many years with armed police living in his home due to serious threats from underworld figures and corrupt police. He worried about the safety of his young family.
In the interview, he recounts his early days in Broken Hill where he upset the dominant union which basically controlled everything, through to his experiences with some of Australia’s most notorious criminals.
Bill Birnbauer, CEO, Democracy’s Watchdogs
  • Democracy’s Watchdogs will be running an investigative reporting award for student journalists again this year. Deadline details coming, but for now see this.