In a 1977 report into South Australia’s old Special Branch, Justice White noted the political police’s intense interest in Labor politicians. “All elected state Labor Leaders became,” he said, “the subject of index cards, and sometimes of subject sheets and files.”
How times change! Today, it’s the elected state Labor leaders in NSW drawing up, in preparation for APEC, the kind of list on which they once would have featured.
Explaining his extraordinary proposal to exclude people from parts of Sydney during the summit, a spokesman for Police Minister David Campbell said: “Those who have been involved in violent and disruptive protests in the past will most likely be on this list. They won’t need to be informed — they know who they are.”
Really? Certainly, those on the 1997 list leaked from Victoria’s political police to The Age might have appreciated a heads-up — the spooks in Melbourne were monitoring a giddy array of unsuspecting organisations, including such unusual suspects as the Gay Electoral Lobby, Pensioners for Peace and the Teddy Bears’ Picnic of the Victorian Child Care Action Group.
But secret lists are like student cookery — everything you’ve got goes into them.
As the Age’s informant explained at the time: “The pressure was always mounting to get more and more information and particular individuals, who the members of organisations were, their associates …The files were always growing …”
Naturally, such documents last forever. In Victoria, the then state government ordered Special Branch files destroyed — but the secret police simply refused to comply.
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What will happen with Campbell’s list? Who else will get access to it? To what other purposes will it be put? No one knows. No one can know. It’s secret, innit!
Protestor Daniel Jones’s story about a mysterious agent called ‘Ahmed’ offering to drop G20 demo charges in return for spying on his friends provides a further indication that the old Special Branch methods persist.
After the bombing during the 1979 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (the APEC of its day), the secret police centred their investigation on information extracted from this kind of blackmail. Desperate to please their masters, informers like Ray Denning and Evan Pederick dutifully fingered Tim Anderson — and an innocent man spent years in a maximum security jail.
Of course, as in 1977, the concern for ‘Laura Norder’ only goes one way. The secret police are concentrating entirely on monitoring those demonstrating at APEC. But it’s not the protesters who were responsible for a war that left hundreds of thousand of people dead, a war that even Richard Perle acknowledged as entirely illegal. A tip for whoever’s compiling Campbell’s list: the main guy calls himself Bush.