Archive for the ‘Spies’ Category

The Australian Government was forced to lift their ban on Wilfred Burchett
March 24, 2008

Having forced the Australian Government to lift its ban on Wilfred Burchett I flew into the country with him in 1970. As News Editor of The Sunday Observer I had convinced proprietor Gordon BartonĀ  that such an action would lift the circulation of the paper, and that a valid argument for such a course was that an individual born in Australia should always be allowed to return. Once we were in the air to New Caledonia to pick him up the government caved in.

We were surprised that it was so easy to turn the government around because we had envisioned much opposition. In the event there was only a bomb threat to our light plane phoned in by a French journalist (who warned me it was to happen) paid to do so by a correspondent from a Melbourne paper. However the real reason for being allowed to bring Burchett in from the cold was possibly his appointment, a few weeks later, with Nixon and Kissinger and his being quizzed by them on North Vietnam.

Myself and photographer Bill Veitch spent an evening with Burchett some days before the flight and we discussed his communist party membership. He denied official membership but admitted that his Paris news agency that supplied, at different times, news to official Russian and Chinese publications and slanted that news in such a way that it adhered to the propaganda policies of those countries. I argued that to do that could only be interpreted as being employed and trusted by communist countries, and therefore he was to all intents and purposes acting as a communist cipher.

I wrote the story for the Sunday Observer but the then editor, David Robie and management, decided it was inappropriate for The Sunday Observer to aid an individual who admitted to such collaboration and it was omitted from my story.


Australia has always kept an eye on China for America
March 18, 2008

The first time I was aware that we were spying on China for America was a trip to the Peking Trade Exhibition on an RAAF VIP jet with Deputy Prime Minister Dr JimĀ  Cairns in 1974.

Approaching Hong Kong – then still under British rule – I was in formed by a technical sergeant on the plane that we were carrying electronic equipment to detect and examine the Chinese Defence systems. “It’s the same stuff that Nixon took in on his visit. The CIA installed it.”

“Great,” I replied. “I’ll be leaving the plane in Hong Kong.”

“Don’t worry about,” he said. “It’s installed in the other electrical systems.”

“You mean the toaster, stove stuff.” In those days – I was a considerable wit. He thought it such a wet comment he didn’t respond. A moment later he said, “Listen they’ll never find it, they can’t even make crystal sets.”

I didn’t mention it to Jim because it had too much of a set-up feeling attached to it. Two other people, including the office manager mentioned it to me, and I realised I was supposed to do something with the information. I did indeed think I should tell Nation Review’s correspondent, Mungo McCallum, but didn’t want to embroil him in a hoax. The Australian’s Greg Clarke also deserved a break on a good story.

We were an extra day in Hong Kong so I had plenty of opportunity to begin a diplomatic break with America (little did I really know). I didn’t tell anyone. I kept it from Jim because he may have pursued a bureaucratic pathway that would have revealed him as vulnerable.

It wasn’t until we were in China that I realised that the story was a real one. The bureaucrats were running around in a state close to hysteria in case the Chinese discovered the electronic probing system. They may have all gone to jail and/ or faced execution.
The Chinese had suspected something because they had wanted the crew to fly in without their uniforms. Australia (Gough and Jim) held fast. If the crew had been in civvies and the gear discovered, they would have been prosecuted as spies .