'Is Murphy a KGB agent?'
From : Australia's Spies and their Secrets (David McKnight, Allen & Unwin, 1994)
On Saturday 17 March 1973, the day after Murphy's raid on St Kilda Rd, the revolt in ASIO against the Whitlam Government began in earnest. A group of senior ASIO officers clandestinely visited the Opposition leader, Billy Snedden, and appealed for help. They told him that 'Barbour had gone to pieces and would not be reliable' . Instead of accommodating Murphy he should have defied the Attorney and the Commonwealth Police.
Snedden agreed. '[Barbour] could have refused Murphy entrance and he could have refused to open locks [on safes], but he did not. He had acquiesced in it all.' Barbour 'did not have the guts to stand up and fight.'
This surreptitious and improper meeting between the Opposition leader and senior ASIO officers was not the first such contact. An earlier meeting occurred soon after the MacMahon Government lost the December election when ASIO officers informed Snedden that Murphy had demanded that ASIO no longer target student groups and peace organisations. Snedden took the complaints seriously. In 1963-66 as a young Attorney General hehad been impressed by Spry and his officers and since that time maintained 'innocent' social relationships with some ASIO officers as well as having more formal contact as Minister for Immigration (1966- 69).
Snedden was not the only Opposition politician contacted by Labor's enemies in the security agency. The leader of the Country Party, Doug Anthony, also met with an ASIO officer shortly after the raid, thinking he might get 'some ammunition' from him. The officer bitterly complained about the raid and confided that 'Murphy went there to get his own file. He believed [ASIO] had a file on him but he couldnt find it'. Anthony also recalled that he had heard around the same time that 'Murphy' was not Lionel Murphy's real name. These two assertions, about the 'real' reason for the raid and the change of name, became part of the most bizarre aspect of the ASIO's encounter with Labor: an investigation of Lionel Murphy instigated by the hardline officers which included checking the suspicion that Murphy might have been working for the KGB.
Quite apart from this investigation the officers' extraordinary actions in approaching Snedden and Anthony confirmed that they and their Organization had become so entrenched in Cold War anti-communism that they could not deal with a democratically elected government propelled into office by deep social changes which had been signalled for years. Just as it had been for the previous 20 years and since the First World War under ASIO's antique ancestors, Labor had become a security threat.
FOR HIS part Snedden must also have had anxious anticipations that Murphy's March 15-16 raids were just a foretaste. Having demanded and got ASIO files once, he feared Murphy could go on looking for 'dirt on politicians' files', according to a staffer . Snedden and others stood to lose much if there was a fullscale Labor exposure of ASIO's links with Liberal politicians, senior public servants and businessmen. These fears became even more pronounced that same weekend after a National Times article. . Without naming names, the article described a planned 'spoiling operation' involving ASIO's Special Projects section and a network whihjc included conservative politicians, anti-communist intellectuals and journalists. The article's author, journalist Robert Mayne, stated 'from personal knowledge' that ASIO had provided information for a magazine to be called The Analyisis' to 'expose' leftwingers. Although the magazine had ultimately never been published, those involved were 'a leading NSW Liberal parliamentarian' and a 'Sydney businessman'. A Country Party MP planned to print the magazine. The article was the first to confirm what many had suspected for years. One of the unidentified politicians was soon known. Company records showed that a compnay owned by Peter Coleman, the Liberal member for Fuller, had registered the business name The Analysis. Mayne's article said he had admitted he had 'used [ASIO information] in Parliament and in articles he occasionally wrote.' The magazine was to be published by another politician, Henry Sullivan, a Country Party member of the Upper House who owned the Moree Champion newspaper.
Fearing similar exposures Snedden and his deputy Phillip Lynch had reason to take care. When DLP Senators later demanded a judicial inquiry into the affair, Snedden and Lynch opposed the idea because they were 'not sure what further documents designed to reflect on them might be produced by Murphy,' according to a DLP staffer.
That same weekend at a council of war in the Murphy camp, it was reasoned, offence was the best form of defence. Murphy's colleague and friend, Senator Jim McClelland, and press secretary, George Negus, both urged him to go to cabinet the following Tuesday and seek permission to sack Barbour. If this was not done, both warned, it would be his own head on the block. Murpjhy agreed. Murphy's staff briefed journalists and Monday papers predicted that Whitlam would join the attack, that Murphy would 'drastically curtail' ASIO and that Barbour would be sacked. Murphy then changed his mind. Barbour stayed.
Barbour responded to the raid with more sophistication and care than his indignant and angry colleagues. On the same day that, unknown to him his officers met Snedden, Barbour met Whitlam at the Lodge and protested vigorously about the raid. The meeting confirmed to him that the raid might be only the beginning and that the very existence of the Organisation might be at stake if he did not tread carefully. In the succeeding weeks and months as Opposition pressure stepped up Barbour began to realise that the raid was as much the result of 23 years pent up frustration and suspicion. Later under pressure he refused to condemn the Government, to the mounting dismay of his staff.
A few days later the Bejedic visit went off without incident amid unprecedented security. Ten days later on March 27 Murphy finally answered his critics with a ministerial statement on Croatian terrorism. The speech was a blistering indictment of indifference to terrorism. Its target however was not, as expected, ASIO, but previous Liberal Attorneys General such as Tom Hughes and Ivor Greenwood. It quoted an unnamed ASIO officer that the attitude of the previous government to Croatian terrorism was one of 'indifference' and that ASIO 'was not given proper Ministerial directives'. The speech showed that Greenwood had twice simply lied to parliament by stating that police had no credible evidence of organised Croatian terrorism. The police had advised Greenwood that a Yugoslav aide memoire protesting the 1972 Bosnian incursion had 'a core of irrebutable fact'. Yet in parliament Greenwood had claimed the allegation had no basis. Greenwood had rejected police and ASIO advice to deport or deny passports to men of whom there were strong indications of terrorism. To prove his points Murphy dramatically tabled over 60 documents drawn from police, ASIO and departmental files. Among many other things they showed that financial support and training for the Bosnian incursion in mid-1972 was organised in Australia by a number of Croats. This information was in Greenwood's hands yet he told parliament that no evidence of organised terrorism existed.
While Murphy masterfully exposed the Liberals' role in turning a blind eye to terrorism, he found it hard to convince Whitlam of the justness of his precipitate raid on ASIO. As Liberal pressure mounted over the raid, the two fell out. After a quick inquiry by his own department Whitlam told parliament that the March 2 minute which caused the raid had wrongly reported the views of the top bureaucrats. The incorrect minutes were written by an ASIO officer. The raid, he explained, was consequenoy based on a misunderstanding. Whitlam's implication was that Murphy could have found out the actual situation but instead chose a more dramatic path. The raid, he explained, was consequently based on a misunderstanding. Whitlam's acceptance that senior bureaucrats had been 'misinterpreted' flew in the face of the facts. The March 2 meeting was clearly an attempt by security bureaucrats to play down the terrorist threat and thereby justify the previous government's complacent stance. Whitlam's view that the ASIO minute-taker had misinterpreted the meeting did Murphy no good at all. But Whitlam's point that the raid was unnecessary was absolutely correct. Two weeks later, just before leaving for overseas in April another row broke out between the two rivals. Whitlam learned abruptly of the execution in Yugoslavia of three Croats who had been captured during the incursion. All were Australian citizens. Whitlam fired off an official protest to the Yugoslavs that his government had not been notified in advance of the official announcement. The protest grabbed front page headlines and angered the Yugoslav Ambassador who replied that he had told Murphy of the executions several days before the official announcement. Murphy had not passed on the information and caused Whitlam to make a fool of himself, possibly the worst sin in the calendar. AT any rate such blunders kept the 'raid' alive. A few months later Whitlam stated that the raid was 'unquestionably' the point of maxiumum political embarrassment in its first six months.
WHILE MURPHY was beating back his detractors both within his own camp and within the Opposition another, more secret campaign was underway against him. Shortly after Murphy's ministerial statement and the tabling of the 60 documents, an incident occurred which convinced the hardliners that they were dealing with a possible KGB agent, not just a hostile politican with a penchant for drama.
When Murphy released the documents he expected that the revelations to blow the Opposition out of the water. The bulky documents included large quantities of material seized in raids. These showed that ministerial letters from the previous Liberal regimes which argued that the bombings were the work of isolated individuals were demonstrably untrue at the time they were made. Murphy reckoned without the Canberra Press Gallery. The documents were dense and then, as now, it is the sensation of the moment which journalists follow and editors demand. The documents were given a perfunctory skim and were soon yesterday's news. Murphy confided this frustration to his long time colleague Senator Arthur Gietzelt and asked him to get the ALP Left Steering Committee to write and publish a substantial pamphlet using the documents. Gietzelt told him that the committee had neither the skills to research such a pamphlet nor the apparatus to distribute it. The only sympathetic body which did, he said, was the Communist Party, which employed journalists on its weekly Tribune and had a national network of supporters who would help distribute such a pamphlet.
Fine, said Murphy, get a set of the documents to them and ask them to publish post haste. Gietzelt and another Labor left figure then arranged to meet two leading CPA figures, national secretary, Laurie Aarons and national industrial organiser, Joe Palmada. Such a meeting was also an opportunity to discuss the the first months of the Labor Government and the position of the left. The arrangement for the meeting was discreet, as such contacts had always been. They met in Sydney then travelled down the South Coast towards Wollongong and then picked a motel at random for the discussion. All went according to plan. The box of documents was not passed over at the meeting but an arrangement was made for them to be picked up from Gietzelt's daughter at the University of New South Wales.
A few days later, as Palamada was driving toward the university to pick them up, he casually noticed a van which pulled up alongside him. He thought nothing of it until, after collecting the documents, he again saw it behind him in the traffic. Intrigued, he drove a circuitous route and found it followed him at a distance through several twists and turns. He drove home to Waverley where the van finally left him. Such an incident could, of course, be the result of a fertile imagination, though Palmada was not normally given to such things. In fact two senior ASIO officers confirmed to the writer that this surveillance took place . Not only that but the private meeting between leading figures from the Gietzelt, Aarons and Palmada was watched by ASIO and that the meeting came at Murphy 's instigation.
Barbour then faced the question of whether to inform Whitlam of the meeting. After several days thought, he decided against it, believing it would only aggravate the delicate situation. A little later Murphy was told that Palmada believed he had been tailed. Murphy became angry with Barbour for not informing him immediately. After a heated discussion Barbour explained that the plan to cover the clandestine meeting arose through surveillance of the CPA members, not of Gietzelt.
Barbour's deputy, Jack Behm disagreed with Barbour's initial decision and believed Whitlam should have been told immediately. Twenty years later he recalled the meeting between Gietzelt, 'a member of the Government' and members of the CPA. Such a meeting, he commented '[was] a matter which should create some interest -- both to ASIO and the Labor Party.' He assumed that Gietzelt 'was discussing things which he should not have been discussing -- that's why it was clandestine.' He also defended the approach to Snedden arguing that the ASIO Act authorised the Director General to speak to anyone. When I pointed out that the DG was not among those nominated by Snedden as present, he said he was 'pretty certain' the DG would have been informed. Barbour however says he was unaware of this contact. And although Behm would be one of the 'top four officers' mentioned by Snedden he denies attending the meeting with Snedden.
Behm had risen to the position of deputy DG from the bottom. Before joining ASIO in 1949 Behm had been income tax assessor in Queensland and during the war in an artillery company of the Seventh Division. He soon became one of ASIO's big guns, taking over as Controller of the Special Services Section in 1959. After a stint in B2 he had become deputy in 1970, appointed by the also newly installed Barbour.
The fact that Murphy was implicated in this confidential Labor Left -CPA meeting 'fitted' with a theory which seized the minds of hardline officers from an incident during the 'visit' to the Canberra office. To their collective mind Murphy's claim that he acted because he was denied information was transparently false. As well, they believed the raids were premeditated which was also partly true, contrary to Murphy's later claims. The hardliners leaped several steps further and concluded that he had therefore totally contrived a reason for entering the Canberra office in the middle of the night. Once inside, accompanied by an uncleared secretary and in company with an ASIO enemy, former police officer Kerry Milte, he had rummaged through the file registry and made threats to Brown and Hunt. As ASIO's regional director in Canberra, Colin Brown, was to later describe, Murphy made a particular point of searching the index cards under 'M' and reportedly made a remark to the effect 'Heaven help you if my name is here'. Not finding what he wanted (his own file, they presumed), he then flew to Melbourne at dawn in the process breaching security again by helping himself to an ASIO courier's mail. At St Kilda Rd he had broken the law by ordering in the police, humilated the staff and irreparably damaged the Organization in the eyes of great and powerful friendly intelligence agencies. He had done enormous damage. In fact, if he had been a KGB agent, he could not have done more damage.
The theory that his real purpose was 'looking for his own file' became an incontrovertible fact within 24 hours of the Canberra 'visit'. Later that year he made an unannounced visit to the Adelaide office, then run by Ernie Redford. Redford recalled that Murphy soon began checking the card index to files, and suspects he was looking for his own file . The case of 'Murphy's file' was one of the the most bizarre sidelights to the clash between the Whitlam Government and ASIO. It posed the question, why ws Murphy so concerned about hisfile.What mnight it contain? The conclusion became obvious: Murphy was a KGB agent. Such theories were not confined to Australia. Similar suspicions that prominent social democrat or Labour politicians were also KGB agents pervaded the darker corners of British and US intelligence. Murphy's actions took place at a time when MI5 believed Harold Wilson was a possible Russian agent a view shared by the CIA's head of counter-intelligence, James Jesus Angleton who threw in Sweden's Olaf Palme and Willy Brandt for good measure. Gievn this it was not surprising that ASIO began to investigate Lionel Keith Murphy's background and true identity.
To investigate such a possibility the first task normally is to assemble all the documented facts about a person and to scrutinise them carefully. Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages are combed for certificates showing the person's full name, precise date and place of birth, their parents names, nurses and doctors who attended at the birth. Similarly the marriage certificate is checked for the names of witnesses and the presiding cleric. In a thorough check the identities of these people are checked. All of this and much more was done to investigate Lionel Keith Murphy.
ASIO'S INVESTIGATION of Murphy was homed in on a number of other facts. Lionel Murphy was a man of the Left, who owed his Senate seat to his connection with the Gietzelt brothers. As a Labor lawyer in 1952-54 he fought to assist a union activist, Ray Gietzelt, to wrest control of the Miscellaneous Workers' Union from officers associated with the Industrial Groups. By 1960 Arthur's astute use of the numbers from Left unions and branches saw Lionel pre-selected to the Senate ticket. ASIO files from 1960 show that at that time the Organization believed that Ray Gietzelt and his brother Arthur were both members of the Communist Party, though both also held tickets in the Labor Party. ( Both brothers in fact broke with the CPA).
The investigating officers also discovered facts about his personal life and disturbing connections to the East. By 1973 Lionel Murphy had been married to Ingrid Gee for three and a half years. A stunning catch, Ingrid Gee was a fashion model and a minor TV celebrity hosting a daytime quiz show on Channel Ten in Sydney. Little interested in parliamentary politics until she met Lionel, she nevertheless had progressive views supporting abortion rights and child care at a time when such radical ideas were part of the new wave of feminism. After a short study ASIO officers found that Ingrid Gee was not her real name. As a young woman her family name was Grzonkowski and she had been born in Poland. As a young woman she had changed her name to Gee for convenience sake -- or so she said.
The field inquiries of the C branch which conducted the Murphy inquiry then peeled back another layer. Ingrid Gee was Murphy's second wife. Details of his first wife were obscure. When a new Senator took his or her place they qualified for entry in Who's Who. Routinely a man in Who's Who listed his wife's first name, her parents' name and details of children would be given. Murphy omitted all this. Only to Murphy's intimate circle was his first wife known. Born in the town of Chita in the far flung Siberian East of the USSR , Nina Murphy was the child of White Russian parents who emigrated from Vladivostock to Australia in 1925. She had met Lionel while he was at Sydney University and married him around 1950 The marriage which lasted for about 15 years ended in divorce.
A second line of investigation concerned one of Ingrid Murphy's friends -- Junie Morosi. Morosi was introduced by Murphy to Jim Cairns who by mid 74 was deputy Prime Minister.
The fact that both Murphy's wives were born in the East fascinated the hardline ASIO officers By this time Western intelligence discovered that a new kind of Soviet agent was being placed in the West. These agents were not recruited from highly placed individuals in the host country but were Soviet or East Europeans intelligence officers who inserted themselves in the West with a false identity. Over years of preparation they established this false identity (their 'legend'), as well as their language and cultural skills. These 'sleepers' carried out no intelligence activity but merely established their documentation and reputation. As well, they looked for opportunities to work or live close to an intelligence target, be it a defence laboratory -- or an individual. Another possibility was that Nina Murphy might be blackmailed by the KGB to carry out intelligence activities. Such were the theories bandied about to explain Murphy and his wives.
The whole investigation of Murphy was a close secret within the small group of ASIO hardliners. Barbour himself denies knowledge of it. His deputy Jack Behm knew of the inquiries and recalled them when I spoke to him. He was also aware that both Murphy's wives were born in the East and that he married Ingrid Gee in Hong Kong. When I asked him the significance of these inquiries he brushed my question aside stating that 'it was no significant enough for you to worry about'.
Another senior officer however verified that the investigation was done and recalled that he felt 'intrigued' by the marriage to Ingrid Gee. One of the checks initiated by C Branch involved asking MI6 or MI5 in Hong Kong to report on Murphy's and Ingrid's connections in the colony. Yet the marriage in November 1969 was not secret in any way although it was sudden. Ingrid Murphy freely told the Australian press about it and the fact that the British High Commissioner was present along with an 'old lawyer friend who is now a magistrate'.
The use of British intelligence was hinted at in a press interview by former deputy head of MI5, Peter Wright, who said that Murphy had 'something Russian in his pedigree'. Other more detailed but garbled accounts of the ASIO investigations appear in two privately published books. One is Lynched! by a former staffer of Liberal MP Phillip Lynch, Brian Buckley, the other Anatomy of a Coup by journalists Stephen Foley and Marshall Wilson. Both are peppered with intelligence scuttlebut from ASIO source(s) (possibly the same ones). Buckley claims that 'In Hong Kong [Murphy] was followed by a special branch of the local police and his contacts with criminals and people suspected of working for the Russians was monitored. Murphy also formed an association with expatriate journalist Wilfred Burchett. Their contact point was Hong Kong.....' The investigation into Murphy's identity also surfaced here: 'One intelligence source claims that no-one knows for sure who Murphy was, that his stated antecedents and place of origin were investigated and found to be dubious. It is even claimed that he had his birth certificate changed....' Buckley also claims that 'Murphy had for many years been in close contact with agents of the KGB, his first wife being from the USSR and blackmailed.' [!]
The Foley-Wilson book states much of this at great length and repeats the fantastic allegations that 'many observed in Murphy the signs of 'tradecraft' and that he 'consistently refused to authorise taps on any of the Soviet bloc embassies' [A rather attention-grabbing and ill-advised behaviour by a Soviet agent, one would have thought! It is also totally false.] The authors repeat that the view that the real purpose of the raid was to recover his own ASIO file which showed, among other things, his 'close association' with the Soviet spy Ivan Skripov, expelled in 1963. That both books are full of unsubstantiated assertions presented as facts is of no relevance. Rather their significance lies in giving an insight into the authors' ASIO sources who believed and promoted bizarre suggestions of Murphy's 'KGB connection'.
The notion that there was something strange or inexplicable in Murphy's origins also surfaced in the press at the time. The Bulletin's Peter Samuel, a recipient of ASIO material, stated as early as May 1973 that 'Murphy's origins are somewhat obscure' and recounted a rumour that he had changed his original 'Jewish' name to Murphy. While discounting the 'Jewish name' theory, Samuel states that 'It is said on his behalf that he is of Irish background with one repeated report being that his father was an Irishman from Tipperary...' and 'Born in 1922, his primary schooling and childhood cannot be established...' Such remarks are odd since in both the 1962 and 1968 editions of Who's Who he stated that he was born in Sydney and educated at Kensington Public School. The mysterious 'repeated report' of his father's origins was also stated perfectly clearly in the same directory.
The investigation into Murphy's birth, ancestry, marriages and associations was an extraordinarily far fetched rogue action. It arose not from any well based suspicion but because of the trauma of the raid and the counter espionage mentality which saw a potential KGB plot behind legitimate political dissidence and the blunders of politicians. It represented the full flowering of a mentality which had grown in the closed hot house of 'security' for 20 years.
THE MURPHY probe was ultimately a sidelight. The main game in the revenge sought by some ASIO officers concerned a well laid plan to ambush first, their own boss Peter Barbour and second, Gough Whitlam. The ambush was in two parts. In the first instance it was intended to force Barbour to tell the 'truth' of the raid and the 'truth' of his protests to Whitlam. The second part was to prove the Prime Minister was liar and, with any luck, force his resignation. It almost succeeded. But Whitlam, with Barbour's help, slipped out of the ambush. Barbour's role in this would not be forgotten.
On the afternoon of March 16, a hour or so after Murphy departed, the branch heads and senior officers of ASIO met in acouncil of war. The atmosphere was explosive and the men were 'furious' and felt 'bloody awful' . 'To have this idiot enter with armed police in a punitive expedition and direct me to stay in my office and not open my safe! To the day I die, Murphy is a scoundrel and a crook, ' said one.
What to do? As the meeting proceeded it became clear that while the hardliners wanted dramatic action, the Director General, Peter Barbour counselled caution. He wanted to protest vigorously but in the back of his mind feared the Government may then dismember or abolish ASIO. In any case it was agreed he would see Whitlam the next day and protest. This he did, but when he reported back it was 'unsatisfactory'. The hardliners (and the bulk of ASIO staff) expected far more. 'If necessary he should have led the Organisation into the wilderness,' recalled a senior officer. The effect of this, they all knew, would have been a domestic political crisis and a crisis in defence and intelligence links with the British and Americans.
Barbour refused to go down this path. In the months following his initial protest, he co-operated with the government and refused to throw fuel on the fire which the Opposition (with hardliners' help) was stoking. The hardliners' attitude spread throughout the Organization and only a small group of younger officers supported Barbour's policy of careful negotiation with the new Government. In Parliament Barbour's refusal to publicly complain was Whitlam's top card thrown onto the parliamentary table to trump his critics.
On the morning of March 28, the day after Murphy's ministerial statement and the second day parliament had sat since the raid, Snedden rose to his feet and asked:
'Has a complaint or have complaints been made to him directly, to him through any member of his staff or to hisGovernment by any member of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation about the 'raids' ... on 16th March by the Attorney General with Commonwealth Police on the Melbourne and Canberra offices of ASIO?
Whitlam gave a fateful reply:
The only member of ASIO, or the only person whom I know to be a member of ASIO, with whom I have had any communication since the Attorney General's visit to the headquarters of the Organization in Melbourne on 16th March has been the Director General himself. He made no complaint at all.
The statement brought anger and disbelief at all levels with ASIO. The rank and file officers had been told that Barbour had protested strongly to Whitlam. Since the raid hundreds of agents, ex-agent and ASIO contacts had panicked and sought assurances of their anonymity. A few hours after Whitlam's statement Barbour drafted a long telex to all ASIO regional offices to set the record straight both on his meeting with Whitlam and to quell some of the wild rumours which had the Organisation in a state of 'internal turmoil'. The telex set out factually what happened; that Murphy had seen a report in Canberra which 'alarmed him'; that he decided to come to Melbourne 'to find out ...whether this meant that relevant information was being suppressed by ASIO'; that 'the Attorney General now regards that report as inaccurate'.
But the telex went on to direct contradicted Whitlam. Under a subheading 'Complaint' it read:
[The Director General] saw the Prime Minister personally, gave him full details of the actions of the police and told the Prime Minister that he regarded them as unprecedented, extraordinary and gravely damaging to the national security interest.' [emphasis added]
The telex enjoined officers to 'close ranks at this time and to maintain strict discipline'. They were reminded to 'maintain complete discretion and to make no comment to the Press or other public sources'. Discretion was less than complete. Shortly after he sent the telex Barbour began to realise that the Opposition was being fed material by some ASIO officers. By that time it was too late. His telex which implied Whitlam misled parliament had already clattered out over the wires to regional offices.
In May the Senators of the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) succeeded in establishing a Senate committee to inquire into the 'civil rights of migrant Australians', i.e. the Croatian community which had been subject to various police raids on its members around the visit of Bejedic. Senator Frank McManus had particulalry close relations with the Melbourne Croatian community. Senate committees have the power to call witnesses and examine them and with this lever the DLP hoped to force the truth about the raid from witnesses such as Kerry Milte and Peter Barbour. While the parliament was in winter recess the DLP Senators and other committee members such as Peter Durack prepared.
The first major witness was to be Peter Barbour scheduled to appear on Wednesday 8 August. Three days before on Channel Nine the program Federal File had a scoop. The two journalists who ran it, the veteran Alan Reid and the younger Michael Shildberger reported that 'a prominent politician had seen a photostat of the telex message and was prepared to produce it if necessary. On that same Sunday, committee member Senator Jack Kane (DLP) announced he would urge the committee to compel the journalists to give evidence. On the Monday Snedden joined in. 'Either the Prime Minister is not telling the truth or the Director General has concocted a story.' Leaking of the telex to Federal File was designed to stampede him into revealing the content of the meeting with Whitlam. This in turn would gravely damage Whitlam. It was a well laid ambush. The fact that it did not come off was in no way due to any dilatoriness by rebellious ASIO officers.
What was little appreciated at the time was how isolated Barbour was from his troops and generals. Many months before an ASIO officer had shown journalist Michael Shildberger a number of documents 'in the back seat of a car in the back block of Canberra' . The officers were frustrated by what they saw as continual lies about the ASIO raid being promoted in the public arena. Shildberger was pretty confident of his sources -- he had dealt with ASIO officers for seveal years -- but not absolutely sure. So he and Reid sat on the story. A weeks before the story went to air Bill Snedden grabbed him in the corridor told him he had seen a copy of the telex which had the word 'complaint' as a heading. This confirmed the authenticity for Schildberger and Reid. The story was aired at a time when it placed maximum pressure on Barbour. The unspoken message of the leak was clearly that if he did not reveal that he had complained, the actual telex would be leaked and he would be shown to have misled the committee.
When asked if he had complained to Whitlam, Barbour's answer was simple. He refused to discuss meeting with Whitlam. 'It is not for me to say what the nature of the discussion was.' Senator Jim McClelland then asked two questions. Was the Attorney General within his authority in visiting ASIO? Was he within his authority in authorising the presence of Commonwealth Police and the sealing of safes? To both Barbour answered with a single word: yes. Enormously frustrated, the DLP and coalition Senators, tried a different tack. Senator Peter Durack asked a series of probing questions then choosing his words carefully asked:
Durack: But did you not regard that as rather an extraordinary situation, that you, as Director General of Security under an independent Act of Parliament, were recieving instructions ....from an Inspector of Police with a bit of paper in his hand...?
Barbour Yes I did.
Durack You regarded it as quite extraordinary?
Durack And totally unprecedented?
These were, of course, words from Barbour's own telex and he could hardly disavow them. Nevertheless it was not enough to hang Whitlam. The day after Barbour's evidence Liberal and DLP Senators proposed that other ASIO officers give evidence. McClelland retorted that the committee wanted to 'degrade Senator Murphy. They are disappointed that Mr Barbour evidence failed to do so.' One of the few journalists who hinted about what was actually going on was Alan Ramsey who described 'A senior member of ASIO [who is] waiting in the shadows ofther political controversy that now threatens to swallow ASIO's Director General, Peter Barbour. If give the chance he was to have been the star witrness in the political inquisition ofthe Government that has been loosley masquerading as a Senate inquiry intothecivil rights of migrants.'
During these early committee hearings Whitlam was overseas. On the evening of August 15 his plane touched down. That morning the Australian ran front page lead story. The headline was 'Murphy raid damaging, ASIO chief told the PM' It is not unusual for someone to leak a document at a strategic time however the story also had two unusual features. Stories in the Australian often did not have by-lines but stories from its Canberra bureau and on its front page nearly always did. This front page story did not have a by-line. The only hint given by the curiously reserved journalist was that the story 'leaked out in Canberra'. Its second curious feature was that the story simply consisted of only of quotes from the telex with a number of paragraphs which pointed out how strongly it appeared to contradict Whitlam's denial of a 'complaint' from ASIO. Whoever wrote it had not bothered to seek a comment from the Opposition or from the Government. This latter fact could have arisen if the telex was only received virtually as the paper is going to press but even so it is unusual for such a story to have no 'comment paras'. Yet we know the telex was circulating surreptitiously among the Opposition in Canberra long before. Though first mentioned on 'Federal File', Lynch said an 'executive member of the Liberal Party' was aware of the telex's existence 'some months ago'. This makes the absence of 'comment quotes' less explicable in terms of a last minute, breaking story. We now know there was a calculated conspiracy between the ASIO hardliners, Snedden and Lynch. The Australian story suggests to my mind that a senior executive of News Ltd also played a role.
Whitlam was angry at the turn of events. Deputy Opposition leader Phillip Lynch charged that Whitlam appeared to be lying, adding that he knew that newspaper stories quoting the telex were accurate. The DLP Senator Jack Kane called for Whitlam to appear before the inquiry. This was just grandstanding but his other call, that other ASIO officers give evidence was designed to get Barbour's deputy Jack Behm and the Canberra chief, Colin Brown, to appear. They would tell a different story to Barbour. Murphy's key person on the Senate inquiry, Jim McClelland, hit back with what sounded like a classic conspiracy theory. He accused Senators from the DLP of being party to the leakage to the Australian. Whitlam also believed that the affair sprang from an DLP-ASIO nexus, stating that he had 'some misgivings about a security organizations which lets out telexes to one's political opponents.' The following Tuesday when parliament next sat, the Opposition hammered Whitlam over the obvious and glaring inconsistency of his March 28 answer stating that Barbour had not complained and the telex complaining about the 'unprecedented, extraordinary and gravely damaging' raid by Murphy. Whitlam's trump card was a letter from Barbour which stated that while the telex contained the word 'complaint', he had not in fact 'complained' to Whitlam on the day after the raid. He had simply said, as shown in the telex that the raid was 'unprecedented, extraordinary and gravely damaging'. It was a distinction without a difference. But when Whitlam produced Barbour's letter, the trap, so carefully laid, snapped shut without its prey.
There would now be no mercy shown to Barbour by the hardliners.
THE RAID changed Murphy's relationship with ASIO 180 degrees. Soon after Murphy's relations with Barbour became quite reasonable. Barbour knew that the raid was in fact a damaging over-reaction based on a mistake rather than the wilder conspiracies theories which gripped some of his fellow officers. Having purged his mind of the suspicions which he had brought with him from Opposition, Murphy gave little detailed attention to ASIO from then on. His mind turned to other items on his radical agenda for legal reform. He arranged more regular and temperate meetings with Barbour. A legacy of the raid was the seconding of the young ASIO courier, Don Marshall to his staff as a liaison man. After the tumult and shouting, it seemed that things would settle down. A few weeks after the Opposition squeezed the last drops from the affair, Whitlam revealed that he was actively considering the appointment of a judge to inquire into ASIO, due to the leaking of the telex. Nothing was to be heard of this for nine months until June 1974 when the next ASIO crisis broke out.
B.M.Snedden and M. Bernie Shedvin Bill Snedden, An Unlikely Liberal Macmillan 1990 p161
Interview with a member of Snedden's staff, 21 July 1993. This interviewee was quite positive that a meeting had taken place before the raid andthat it stemmedfrom Snedden's 'innocent social relationship' with ASIO officers he had known since he was AG.
Interview J D Anthony, 21 July 1993
Interview, Snedden staff member.
Robert Mayne 'How ASIO exceeds its charter', National Times March 19-24, 1973
Denis Strangman 'The ASIO-Croatian Affair of 1973' in Les Shaw (ed) The Shape of the Labor Regime Harp Books Canberra 1974, p 84.
See The Australian 'Appeals Court likely' and SMH 'PM's aid to Murphy on ASIO expected' 19 March 1973
Ministerial Statement on Croatian Terrorism by the Attorney General, 27 March 1973.
Interview between Age editor Graham Perkin and Whitlam, SMH 5 June 1973
Interview Jack Behm 3 August 1993
Interview Ernest Redford July 1993
Stephen Dorril and Robin Ramsay Smear! Wilson and the Secret Service (Fourth Estate London 1991) shows MI5's penetration and surveillance of the Labour PArty on a scale that far exceeded ASIO's work in the ALP. Angleton had 'no doubt whatsoever' that Wilson (British PM (1964-76) was a Soviet agent, accordingto Tom Mangold's excellentCold Warrior.
ASIO file on Ray Gietzelt CRS A6119/79 item 832. Pages from this file around 1960 refer to Arthur Gietzelt as an 'undercover member of the CPA'. A 1959 report states 'that Ray Gietzelt was to be issued with a current CP of A card but he was not to be attaached to any branch.' It also noted that 'He was at that time president of Sylvania Branch ofthe ALP.'
Detials of the marriage which something of a celebrity news story appeared in the Australian , Mirror and Sun newspapers on 24 November 1969.
Quoted in Sunday Herald (Melbourne) 11 March 1990
BrianBuckely Lynched! The Life of Sir Phillip Lynch p.36-37
The view that Murphy was born in Tasmania(rather than in Sydney as Murphy maintained) was told to the writer by a senior ASIO officer in mid 1993. The confusion may have arisen from an article by Gavin Souter in SMH 22 December 1972 which stated that his father emigrated to 'Launceston where Lionel was born 50 years ago'.
Interview, Michael Shildberger 26 July 1993
Australian 10 August 1973
Australian 28 August 1973
SMH 18 August 1973
Aust. 20 August 1993