Sunday, April 6, 2008

Rogerson's Underbelly

Disgraced former NSW detective Roger Rogerson has been writing reviews about the hit show Underbelly, which remains banned in Victoria pending outcomes of legal hearings involving key characters in the series. The reviews have appeared in The Daily Telegraph and syndicated Australian media coverage.

“I never liked Melbourne or their crooks. And watching Underbelly last night reminded me why. It wouldn't have happened up here in Sydney like down there. We had more control over the crooks up here, and I reckon most of the crooks would agree. But as entertainment it was pretty good with more sex than violence.”

It seems very ironic for Rogerson to be writing about this program. Rogerson undoubtedly has excellent first hand knowledge of underworld dealings, but having been sent to prison for perverting the course of justice and for lying to the 1999 Police Integrity Commission it seems reasonable to wonder just how close that first hand knowledge is. Rogerson received his first criminal conviction in 1985 for involvement in drug dealing when he was charged with conspiring with notorious Melbourne drug dealer Dennis Allen to supply heroin. The conviction was overturned on appeal. Rogerson was responsible for the shooting death of Warren Lanfranchi. During the inquest the coroner found he was acting in the line of duty, but a jury declined to find he had acted in self-defence. Rogerson was later commended by the police force for his bravery. However, it was alleged by Lanfranchi's partner, Sallie-Anne Huckstepp, and later by the infamouse Neddy Smith, that Rogerson had murdered Lanfranchi as retribution for robbing another heroin dealer who was under police protection and for firing a gun at a police officer. Fellow police officer Michael Drury has alleged that Rogerson was involved in his attempted murder. Drury claims he refused to accept a bribe Rogerson offered to change his evidence in a heroin trafficking trial of convicted Melbourne drug dealer, Alan Williams. On June 6, 1984, Drury was shot twice through his kitchen window as he fed his three-year-old daughter, Belinda. Rogerson was charged with the shooting and Williams testified that Rogerson and Dale Flannery had agreed to murder Drury for $AU50,000 each. However, on November 20, 1989, Rogerson was acquitted.

If the NSW police force had more control over crooks than their counterparts in Victoria did, could it be because the crooks were on their payroll? If the events depicted in the Australian mini series Blue Murder are to be believed, you’d have to say yes. Blue Murder was similarly banned in NSW until legal proceedings involving Rogerson and other characters were completed. Rogerson compares Underbelly favourably with Blue Murder in his column, which again seems ironic as Blue Murder doesn’t exactly paint a flattering portrait of him. I find Underbelly to be more concerned with entertainment than Blue Murder was, and there is definitely much more emphasis on sex. While it seems necessary to the story up to a point; of course cashed up criminals drive fast cars and love fast women, the sex scenes tend to predominate at the expense of the plot at times. Roger has also drawn attention to this tendency. I doubt the sex scenes have damaged the ratings much, but that said; I never miss an episode, it’s absolutely riveting. Blue Murder remains for me a much more realistic and serious work. The violence was cold blooded and chilling and the implications of a state largely run by a corrupt police force in tandem with organised crime quite terrifying.

Interestingly, Roger Rogerson has been much more complimentary towards Underbelly in his most recent column: Daily Telegraph, Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I wonder who’s payroll he’s on now…


Jenny said...

Of course I haven't seen Underbelly, because I live in Victoria but I "hear" that Blue Murder is better. The thing about Underbelly, so I hear, is that it is gang warfare. Also, the code was broken when X murdered Jason Moran in front of his kids. It appears that there was a similar case in Sydney according to your post.
Having been a Melbourne resident for most of my life though it is interesting to hear about all these murders going on under my nose. Carlton is a popular suburb to which I go quite frequently. My impressions from what I hear are that it was a class war in a way too. Carl Williams came from a very working class suburb, unlike the suburbs that the Carlton crew lived in.
BTW the DVD "American Gangster" is excellent in the sense that it is about the first black man to get very rich by crime and it shows the enormity of police corruption in NY.

Liam said...

I really enjoyed Underbelly; it was the highlight of my TV week while it lasted. However, I can agree with Roger Rogerson's comments to some extent; it is more about entertainment than anything fatual and there is often more sex and nudity than the storyline really justifies.

To me, Blue Murder is a much more serious production; much more realistic and factual. I found the violence particularly chilling as it is so believable. Richard Roxborough did a great job as Roger Rogerson and looked so much like him. This stuff was going on in Sydney when I was younger, but you were aware of it to some extent by rumour. The full extent of the corruption exposed in the series is very shocking.

I hadn't thought of a class war angle in Underbelly but class does seem to be, at least partly a motivating factor in the gang war. I found it amazing that most of the crimes were perpetrated in braod daylight and that the criminals got away with it for so long.

Carl Williams seemed to view murder as he would any other transaction; remove this or that person for whatever advantage. Apparently Roberta Williams has started a face book page for Carl and he already has hundreds of friends.

It seems strange to me that our society clamours for harsher sentences for criminals and then happily supports them in profiting from their nefarious deeds.

Jenny said...

Yes I'm not sure of course how much is true in Underbelly. It portrays, I hear, Roberta Williams as the strong one of the couple, pushing Carl on to more and more crime.

I agree about those hypocritical people who want harsher sentences and then later profit from their crimes. But I don't watch those sort of TV programs which do that.

Liam said...

I'm sure you'll get to see Underbelly sooner or later in Victoria. There must be a fair few bootleg copies going around there; that's how I originally got to see Blue Murder in NSW. Channel 9 really cashed in the show's popularity by endlessly playing repeats.

From what I've read, Underbelly is mostly based in fact with quite a bit of poetic licence for dramatic effect.

A lot of people seem to manage to profit from their dirty deeds; I try to ignore them too. Chopper Reid is one example, another is of course Roger Rogerson.