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Thread: Guy Rundle on CIA involvement in the Whitlam dismissal - THE COUP D’ETAT THAT UNMADE AUSTRALIA

  1. Default Guy Rundle on CIA involvement in the Whitlam dismissal - THE COUP D’ETAT THAT UNMADE AUSTRALIA

    Guy Rundle’s four part series on CIA involvement in the Whitlam dismissal is pay-walled within the Australian political news, satire and investigation site Crikey – I’ve reprinted it here for research purposes.



    (Crikey, Nov 11th, 2015)

    The dismissal was where the Australia we know today was born and the hope of another one died.

    The gods chose a hell of a day for a political crisis to come to a head and result in an executive coup d’etat in Australia, 40 years ago today. It was the day that the country might have erupted into political violence and open conflict had things gone differently, occurring half a century after the day that the guns had gone quiet at the end of the Great War in Europe, and a century after Ned Kelly had been hanged in Old Melbourne Gaol, outlaw or rebel or both, but a man who came to understand that, in Australia, the old imperial powers will get you in the end. It’s striking when you put it with those two dates, how much a part of modernity it is, and of our high history, our national formation. To remember it all, you have to be pushing 50. To have witnessed it as an adult, you’re on your way to your concession movie pass.

    We are separated from the Dismissal by great intervening events: the abandonment of any form of democratic socialism by Labor, in the Hawke-Keating years, the collapse of old forms of class affiliation — a unionised working class, a coherent entity of “Catholic” Australia — and the rise of new ones; but above all by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the market turn of Asian Communist nations, and the rise of a world with no “other” to global capitalism. That extraordinary turn of events — which no one would have predicted in 1975 — is the missing context of the Dismissal. Looking at the old footage of the event, the solid colours and dense textures of news footage done on film, Gough on the Parliament House steps, Sir John stumbling drunkenly around Flemington, is not enough to understand what happened then, and what didn’t happen here, later, as a result.

    So, for those whose parents were yet to meet in 1975, a quick recap. The ALP, led by Gough Whitlam, was elected in 1972, the first Labor government for 23 years. While waiting for a few seats to be determined (and thus to give him a caucus that would elect a ministry) Whitlam had himself and deputy Lance Barnard sworn into all 23 ministerial positions and enacted a raft of decisions and regulations, from ending conscription and recalling what was left of the army from Vietnam to eliminating sales tax on contraceptive pills. This audacious move left the right in no doubt that this was not going to be a government promising much to its base and then moving to the centre.

    From the start, the Liberal-National (National Country as it was then) Party never regarded the government as legitimate — and soon came to be see it as terrifying, a government likely to implement an irreversible democratic socialist wave of reform. Determined to destroy it, they were aided by the fact that the Senate remained in control of the right (including four DLP senators), its elections having fallen out of sync with the House of Reps in the 1960s. Continued obstruction by the Senate of the reform program persuaded Whitlam to call a double-dissolution election in 1974, which he won in the house with a slim, five-seat majority. Senate control remained elusive. A cunning plan to spill an extra Senate seat had been frustrated by hard-right Queensland premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, who then broke the convention of appointing replacement senators from the same party as a departing one, and filled an ALP vacancy with a man who said he would never vote Whitlam’s way.

    With the Senate still in hand, new opposition leader Malcolm Fraser blocked the process of supply, which would guarantee funds for daily government, beginning a process of brinkmanship and the beginnings of a crisis. By mid-1975, with a global recession having plunged the West into stagflation (recession plus inflation), the Whitlam government began an ambitious plan to buy up Australia’s entire resources sector, much of it yet untapped. To do this, large loans were sought on the global market — from private capital, petrostates, the USSR’s Narodny Bank, and finally via a carpetbagging chancer, Tirath Khemlani, who had won the confidence of resources minister Rex Connor.

    This hair-raising fundraising scheme became public at the same time as the supply block raised the possibility of the government running out of money. Whitlam was convinced that the Liberal-NCP opposition would be seen as the villain, and that party room pressure would convince Fraser to back down, or even topple him as leader. However, the loans affair tarnished the government so badly that Fraser’s resolve was stiffened, and by October, a real crisis of governance was looming. By then, unbeknownst to Whitlam, John Kerr, the new governor-general he had appointed, had been consulting chief justice of the High Court (and staunch Liberal) Garfield Barwick, as to what the “reserve powers” of the governor-general, as Australian head of state, actually were. Both Kerr and Barwick were getting advice on this from Anthony Mason, a future chief justice — all of which was against the Westminster convention that the head of state should seek advice only from the ministry (i.e. the PM, and the attorney- and solictor-general in this case).

    By November, Kerr was also dealing directly with Malcolm Fraser. Fraser was demanding a commitment to a full election by 1976 as a condition of releasing supply; by early November, Whitlam determined on a strategy of getting a half-Senate election from the G-G, which would allow Labor to campaign on the issue of legitimacy. Kerr, increasingly fearful that Whitlam would sack him (Kerr had demanded two full terms, or 10 years as G-G, as a condition of accepting the job), kept all private discussions from him, and several days before November 11, had decided to dismiss Whitlam. Fraser was worded up on this — and was already at Yarralumla (the G-G’s residence) in an anteroom on November 11 when Whitlam arrived to advise Kerr to call a half-Senate-only election. Kerr then dismissed him and appointed Fraser caretaker PM. The Senate passed the supply bills in the afternoon, and the house passed a vote of no-confidence in Fraser as PM. However, Kerr refused to take any communication from the house, dissolved Parliament and issued the writs for an election in both houses. In the ensuing December election — to the surprise of most, on both sides — Labor was devastated, reduced to 36 seats in the 127-seat House of Representatives.

    Much of this has been known and chewed over for decades; it’s only in the last five to 10 years that a crucial aspect of it has come to light, largely through the researches of Jenny Hocking, and, following in her wake, Paul Kelly and Troy Bramston. That aspect is the degree of plotting, conspiracy, deception (of Whitlam) and determination practised by John Kerr in his obsessive drive to have a situation in which Whitlam could be sacked. That Fraser had been tipped off, Barwick consulted, and Mason tangentially involved had always been “known”. In fact we knew wrong. As Kerr’s private notes, correspondence with the palace and other newly available documents discussed in The Dismissal Dossier and The Dismissal make clear, Fraser and Kerr had multiple discussions directed towards timing and conduct of the coup, and Mason was a key player, “tutoring” Kerr in a highly convenient version of the reserve powers. Barwick, we now know, was something of a cover (though he supported the dismissal) for Mason’s involvement. Indeed, Barwick and Kerr called Mason “the third man” in their communications on the matter.

    These researches have been vital for our understanding of the event — Hocking deserves the lion’s share of the credit, though Kelly and Bramston have been pretty assiduous and comprehensive too — and make the description of it as an executive coup unarguable, in my opinion. That’s because this documentation of the Kerr-Barwick-Fraser-Mason collusion adds the other side to what was the crucial coup event — not the dismissal itself, but what Hocking calls the second dismissal, which was Kerr’s refusal to take the call, phone and personal, of house speaker Gordon Scholes mid-afternoon of the 11th. For obvious reasons: as soon as the Senate had passed supply, the house, having a Labor majority, voted no confidence in Fraser as PM, and made a recommendation to the head of state that Gough Whitlam be appointed prime minister.

    This, as former PM William McMahon, an opponent of Fraser’s actions, had pointed out, would always be the next stage in any dismissal, a simple product of the fact that a Westminster parliament is not simply a legislative body; it is de facto quasi-executive and the place where the people believe executive power to lie. To prorogue a parliament by avoiding the communication that the appointed prime minister does not have the confidence of the house is clearly dictatorial. One can see that from a circumstance where it would not have been — if Kerr had simultaneously appointed Fraser (and a new ministry) and prorogued parliament, the sort of thing one might do in a national emergency. But Kerr needed parliament to stay in session to pass supply. Had they not, the government would have run out of money during the election campaign, and the whole point of dismissing Whitlam would have been moot.

    Thus, the key anti-democratic moment of the dismissal/coup has always seemed to be that later event, with opinion divided as to whether the G-G had the authority to dismiss Whitlam in the first place — even given the communication of Fraser and Barwick with Kerr. But the revelations over the past years and now summarised in these two books blows that out of the water absolutely. The conspiracy is multiple, concerted, and complex — with Kerr, via Prince Charles, drawing the palace in — and predicated on keeping Whitlam in the dark about a vast movement of power. The pre-dismissal conspiracy and the post-dismissal proroguing together form the coup. The dismissal itself, the one element of arguable constitutionality, was essentially the front for what occurred.

    That’s where Hocking and Kelly/Bramston divide, and they do so along the obvious lines, between Hocking’s critical scrupulousness and the cynicism of Kelly and Bramston. The latter aren’t in any doubt that Kerr was conspiratorial, paranoid, vengeful, lying and destructive — and so their only possible course of action to avoid an actual moral judgement on the right is to paint Whitlam as a hopeless boobie, a man so out of touch as to be criminally negligent — and thus to almost deserve the coup against him. Hocking demolishes most of the feints at this — the idea that Whitlam had switched to a half-Senate election strategy too late, that he was a pompous and self-flattering orator with no political nous, etc, etc. In the end, after 300 pages documenting how the right trashed the institutions they purported to uphold in the pursuit of power, Kelly/Bramston say this:

    Yet Whitlam’s ineptitude in his conduct of the crisis is almost beyond belief. He bears a serious share of responsibility for the dismissal.”

    Whitlam’s assessment of Kerr’s (and others’) genuine commitment to the Australian Westminster system was unquestionably in error, as was his assessment of the man that John Kerr had become in the decades since he had been part of the Sydney Labor establishment. But much of what Kelly and Bramston identify as ineptitude with 20/20 hindsight was simply a series of white-knuckle strategic decisions.

    Many of them are ones Kelly and Bramston don’t explore — the fact, for example, that the Liberal party room was, by the first week of November, starting to crack up, and that, at that time, the Liberal Party still had a genuinely liberal faction who were increasingly disturbed by the damage Fraser’s strategy was doing to the country. Since this faction — led at the time by Senator Alan Missen and three or four other senators, enough to undermine Fraser’s strategy — has now vanished from the Liberal makeup, Kelly/Bramston can present 1975 as if it were 2005, and Fraser’s Liberal Party was simply Howard/Abbott’s Liberal Party in cheaper suits. It wasn’t, and Whitlam was clearly relying on that in playing a little brinkmanship of his own. The idea that a combination of incorrect interpretation and unsuccessful feints make one “responsible” for someone else’s illegal state action is a true measure of those authors’ desperate desire to have an each-way bet. Pathetic.

    Yet in their assessment of Whitlam’s mis-assessment of John Kerr the man, Kelly and Bramston are spot on — yet not for reasons they would admit to. Whitlam clearly saw in Kerr something of a fellow traveller on the long road through the 20th century of war, socialism, the titanic struggles of modernity. Both were Syndey barristers from the Labor establishment that Evatt had anchored, and one suspects that Whitlam — a centrist social democrat, for all his later canonisation — saw in Kerr a man who had come to the same conclusions about the importance of the liberal state to social reform. The party Whitlam joined contained men of a style and life experience rather alien to Whitlam’s, and the Don’s Party generation that he brought in were equally alien, in a way.

    Whitlam missed the degree to which Kerr, a working-class boy risen to great heights, had, by the ’70s, lost all connection or empathy with the Labor tradition. What they don’t note of course is that long before that, Kerr’s “anti-Stalinism” had led him down a path familiar in the last century, into the shadowy world of official anti-communism. It is here that Kelly and Bramston simultaneously decry any notion that Kerr might have been influenced by global Cold War considerations or contact, in his actions, while noting earlier that he was a member of “the Australian Association of Cultural Freedom, a group of anti-communist intellectuals associated with the publication Quadrant”.

    Anti-communist intellectuals, you don’t say. Come off it, gentlemen. The AACF was the Australian branch of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, the global front established by the CIA to funnel money to publications and activities, all of them designed to look hands-off, and to monitor and steer intellectual activity in the West. That is a matter of public record, and no one believes that James McAuley and other AACF luminaries in the ’50s didn’t know where the money was coming from. Kerr was present at the creation of shadowy intelligence in Australia, as a member of Alf Conlon’s intelligence directorate in World War II, and through being caught up in the brutal late ’40s Sydney Communist/anti-communist labour conflicts from which US involvement in Australian labour affairs was born.

    Kelly and Bramston don’t want to acknowledge this because they are desperate to obscure any notion of US involvement in the Dismissal — and their way of doing that is to discount any soft or informal forms of influence; look for a 10/11/75 telex to Yarralumla saying “The balloon goes up tomorrow, white squirrel”, find none, and thus decry any influence. In that they follow Whitlam to a degree, who could not see that Kerr was not merely no longer a Labor man, but now saw himself as part of a global power structure guarding against an insurgent global populace — people who wanted to do things like own their own resources. That was not a failure of Whitlam’s personal assessment, but of his political worldview.

    Like Allende, who also appointed his (actual) executioner, Whitlam’s political error was in not being left enough in assessing how power was flowing. Kelly and Bramston do themselves and their readers a disservice with that omission. The full story is far more interesting. As we shall see. Lest we forget, as they would wish us to, how our past, and present, were made.


    It takes some pretty dedicated blinders to ignore the evidence that external factors were involved in the Dismissal.

    There’s a curious disjuncture at work in the world. In their everyday lives, people accept that collusions, conspiracies, plots exist — in families, workplaces, tennis clubs, you name it. Yet when any suggestion is made of such in politics, where the stakes are huge, people dismiss the thing they do as a matter of course as “conspiracy theory”. Indeed people will even accept conspiracies at work in relatively minor politics, while rejecting it for global stakes stuff.

    That appears to have reached its height with the 40th anniversary of the Whitlam dismissal — a week in which a compliant press simultaneously turned their attention to Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop’s possibly more active involvement in the Abbott dethroning, while repeating the lapdog-like the mantra that there was no external involvement in the Dismissal. It’s a line they’ve taken from the Paul Kelly/Troy Bramston book, The Dismissal, and repeated, ’70s mantra-like, without the slightest examination. What’s extraordinary about that is not that the evidence that the Dismissal was about much more than the Dismissal is not simply there, but is ample, voluminous, a matter of public record. In order to disregard it, you have to make a strenuous attempt to avoid it. And that is what Kelly and Bramston have done. A reminder of some things we’ve always known — and they would like us to forget — is in order.

    By mid-1975, the Whitlam government appeared to be in one big crisis, the loans affair. It was actually about to be enveloped in a triple crisis, with a collapse in national security/government relations, and the denial of supply. All three were interconnected. Whitlam had agreed to a policy from the left, to raise loans from petro-states and beyond, to buy back Australia’s whole resource sector for $4 billion. Deputy prime minister Jim Cairns had already come to grief due to this scheme; carriage of it passed entirely to minister for resources and energy Rex Connor, who hired a global carpetbagger, Tirath Khemlani, to try and find the money. Connor ran Khemlani long after Whitlam had withdrawn the commission to do so. Around September, the Liberal-National Country Party opposition acquired transcripts of telexes between Khemlani and Connor. Khemlani then turned and became a Liberal-NCP informant. On the basis of this scandal, the Fraser-led opposition blocked supply, and demanded a full election.

    Liberal-NCP access to the telexes increased suspicions already afoot in Labor — that the opposition was being supplied with information by US security agencies operating the Pine Gap and other surveillance bases, which scooped up all communications (including telexes). The suspicion occurred at the same time as Whitlam had finally lost patience with the free-agency operations of ASIO and ASIS. In the wake of their failure to avert right-wing dissident Croatian violence in Australia, the government had formed the Hope Royal Commission into the intelligence agencies. In the wake of it, he had removed ASIO head Richard Barbour, replacing him with an interim head, Frank Mahony, who was outside the spooks’ community. In October it had become clear that ASIS — our overseas spy agency — had been involved in backing an anti-Marxist political group in newly independent East Timor, contrary to instructions to stay out of other countries’ politics. The head of ASIS was sacked.

    From the perspective of the US agencies it looked like Act III of Whitlam’s dismantling of the Australia-US security nexus had begun when, on November 2, in Parliament, he named Richard Stallings, a US “diplomat” and the first director of Pine Gap, as a CIA agent. Stallings was a friend of NCP leader Doug Anthony, rented a house from him, and Whitlam posed the question as to whether the CIA was funnelling money to the opposition. Stallings’ name had been obtained by comparing the Foreign Affairs Department and Defence Department lists of CIA agents, and finding that Stallings only appeared on the latter — the department in which intelligence agencies were based, and headed by Arthur Tange, a close friend of governor-general John Kerr’s. Anthony challenged Whitlam to produce evidence of Stallings’ CIA membership, not knowing Whitlam had Tange’s list. Whitlam said he would in Parliament, the next week, on November 11.

    The tying of the loans affair to Pine Gap, and Pine Gap to the CIA was disastrous for the latter. The base was due for renewal on December 9. Whitlam, the one-time US enthusiast, had seemed likely to do so a year earlier. That could no longer be assumed. It was at this point that his attack on ASIO paid off, when, on November 10, the interim head Mahony passed on a cable sent by Ted Shackley, the CIA’s east Asia head, to ASIO’s DC liaison. The cable was “agency-to-agency” — never meant to be seen by Whitlam — and said that the CIA wanted ASIO to continue to lie to the government about Pine Gap (about its mass intelligence-gathering role) and that the Whitlam government represented a crisis for Western security.
    As Whitlam himself noted in parliament in 1977 of the cable:

    “Implicit in the CIA’s approach to ASIO for information on events in Australia was the understanding that the organisation had obligations of loyalty to the CIA itself before its obligations to the Australian government … Here was a foreign intelligence service telling Australia’s domestic security service to keep information from the Australian government.”

    It was amidst all of this that John Kerr had to think and act. The security issue , CIA funds, loans, etc, were the dominant matters of the week. Few thought the constitutional issue uppermost. You can only sideline these matters — as Kelly and Bramston do — by utterly obscuring Kerr’s intelligence background and political trajectory.

    Kerr had been entwined with the shadow world for decades. A left-wing Sydney labour lawyer, he had been inducted into the mysterious Directorate — a unit of poets, anthropologists, etc, ostensibly assembled to develop alternative war strategies. Kerr’s first job in the Directorate was to draft a plan for extra-constitutional regulations that could be used for regions of the country under Australian military control, but cut off from government authority, following a Japanese invasion. In 1942, the Directorate was moved into the command of the wider Directorate of Military Intelligence, giving the lie to Kerr’s claim that he was never involved in that world (and which Kelly/Bramston accepted whole). Kerr then became part of a sub-unit BBCAU (British Borneo Command Authority), whose purpose was to have Borneo transferred to Australian control after World War II, with the US and Australia doing an “end-run” around British resistance to the idea. In that capacity, Kerr travelled to Washington and met with political and military figures on the matter, including with the OSS, the CIA predecessor (also unmentioned by Kelly/Bramston).

    After being an adviser to Doc Evatt during the establishment of the UN in San Francisco, Kerr returned to legal practice, becoming a lawyer for the anti-communist “Industrial Groups” during a bitter dispute in the Ironworkers Union. Kerr represented Laurie Short, someone he has known in the late 1930s, when both had flirted with Trotskyism. Short was now an anti-communist, and accused the communists of stealing the result in the Ironworkers election, through ballot-stuffing. The two-year legal battle prompted the entry of US intelligence into the Australian labour movement, sponsoring a whole series of scholarships and grants for members of the industrial groups to travel to the US and then organise within unions.
    It provided a segue by which Kerr abandoned his left affiliations, and joined the Australian Congress for Cultural Freedom, our branch of the CIA front the CCF. The CIA’s creation/adoption of the CCF was made public in the 1960s; as Cassandra Pybus’ biography of James McAuley (an ACCF pioneer, and a fellow alumni of the Directorate) makes clear, many of its principals pretty much knew the source of the funds long before the revelation. Kerr was part of the inner group — he stood for the the ACCF presidency and was defeated. He was also involved in the political front group, the Asia Foundation.

    After that, unwilling to seek Labor preselection (he found the party too left-wing, the DLP nuts, and had no base within the Liberals), Kerr’s career went on the slide. Trapped as a judge in the Industrial Courts during the 1960s he was rescued by NSW Liberal grandee John Atwill, who persuaded NSW premier Robert Askin to make Kerr chief justice of NSW. Bob Hawke had seen this new Kerr, and considered him a bastard who would sell them out. Whitlam maintained an image of him from the ’50s, when both were part of a Sydney social-democratic elite, liberal and constitutional in their attitudes to power.

    None of this, none of it, appears in the Kelly/Bramston book — save for Kerr’s membership of the ACCF, whose CIA connections are not mentioned. Yet all of this is simply a matter of public record. As we now know, Kerr was conspiring with Fraser, Garfield Barwick and Anthony Mason on a case for dismissal, for weeks, not months — all through the loans and security crises. As we know from Whitlam biographer Jenny Hocking, Kerr was embarrassed to have signed off on the bill allowing for raising the loans, which made it impossible to present them as maverick activity by Connor. And as we know from former senator Reg Withers’ 1978 interviews, on the morning of November 11, Withers told Fraser that three left-Liberal senators were liable to cross the floor and grant supply by the end of the week (Whitlam needed one). November 11 was getting to be the last point at which an election could be held before Christmas — in time for it to be possible to renew the Pine Gap agreement.

    The idea that Kerr was not considering any of this in his deliberations is foolish, ridiculous. The crucial questions come down to four alternatives:

    1. Kerr was mindful of these issues, but there was no external involvement;
    2. Kerr actively discussed the interconnection of security issues with other players;
    3. Kerr actively consulted with security figures regarding the dismissal; and
    4. Kerr was “instructed” to dismiss Whitlam.

    It is 4) that is always presented as the necessary form of external involvement, which is absurd, and deliberately so.

    What’s more likely is a scenario between 2) and 3). Kerr, a lifelong conspirator, conspiring with Fraser, et al, conspired also with Tange and others, and that security issues and pro-/anti-US foreign policy became a crucial factor in his decision to sack an elected PM and then prorogue parliament when his own choice was sacked by parliament. The strongest evidence for shifting it from 2) to 3) comes from a report by Brian Toohey in The Australian Financial Review, April 1977, that government defence scientist John Farrands told him that he had briefed Kerr on Tange’s behalf, and communicated the fact that the US-Australia relationship lived or died on the demise of the Whitlam government. Farrands disputed Toohey’s version of that conversation.

    However, the crucial point is that this version above is the minimal version. It relies entirely on facts on the public record, and points to an obvious consideration of the US alliance — and hence a sacking of Whitlam for his foreign policy — to make the case. The Kelly/Bramston version seeks to separate one part of the story from the other, and make the US alliance/loans aspect marginal. It does so only by whitewashing Kerr’s history.

    And the more expansive version, taking in reasonable background testimony is more damning still — and a clue to current events. But that will have to wait till next week.

    There is no doubt that there was a conspiracy to dismiss Gough Whitlam. The only question is how far it extended.

    A missing part of the puzzle concerning the dismissal of the Whitlam government might have been hiding in plain sight for some time — buried in the memoirs of senior public servant Sir Arthur Tange, permanent head of the Defence Department during the Whitlam years. In Defence Policy-Making: A close-up view (2008), Tange explicitly refers to a meeting in November 1975 between Sir John Kerr and chief Defence scientist John Farrands — something that those opposed to an “external” interpretation of the Dismissal have always sought to deny.

    It’s long been argued that the sacking of Whitlam was prompted partly or substantially by his threat to “out” CIA agents working in Australia, and to not renew the lease for US spy base Pine Gap, which fell due on December 10, 1975. Farrands was in charge of the scientific aspects of Pine Gap and knew it better than anyone in Australia. He was both a colleague and friend of Tange’s. It has long been supposed that he acted as go-between between Tange and Kerr — Tange being convinced that Australian defence was on a precipice in November 1975, due to Whitlam’s threats.

    Farrands and Kerr met on October 28, 1975, for a general discussion of defence matters — a “cup of tea”, as Farrands called it. That is a matter of public record. But in 1977 Farrands told journalist Brian Toohey (at a Canberra garden party) that he had phoned Kerr on Tange’s behalf on November 8, to let him know of a cable sent by the CIA to ASIO, threatening the suspension of US-Australia intelligence sharing if Whitlam named the first director of the Pine Gap base, Richard Stallings, as a CIA agent —  which Whitlam had threatened to do when Parliament resumed on November 11.

    Farrands, who died in 1996, later denied that he had said such to Toohey (even though Toohey repeated Farrands’ conversation, immediately after it occurred, to Whitlam, who was arriving at the party as Toohey was leaving). He also denied that he had any meeting with Kerr, other than the October 28 briefing. However, it has long been supposed that he met with Farrands a second time, on November 3, 1975, Melbourne Cup Day, at the Watsonia army base — a listening post for the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), the Australian equivalent of the NSA (now called the Australian Signals Directorate).

    In his memoirs (posthumously published in 2008), Tange notes:

    “Farrands had had a discussion with Kerr in November that had been arranged pursuant to Kerr’s practice … of asking public servants to talk to him generally about their work — in this case the kind of work conducted in the Defence science laboratories.”

    Yet this is the meeting that occurred on the October 28. Possibly, Tange misremembered the date of that meeting. But it is also possible that he has confirmed a Kerr-Farrands meeting in November, and misattributed the purpose of it. It certainly lends weight to it, and to the suggestion — which need not be seriously doubted — that Farrands and Kerr spoke on either November 8 or 9, regarding the CIA threat to end intelligence-sharing.

    Why this matters is because the events around the Dismissal weren’t first and foremost a constitutional or supply crisis — they were a security crisis, as John Menadue was the first to say. Indeed they were more than that. They were part of a war between a permanent security establishment and an elected government — itself part of a wider war of this type, across the Anglosphere. The Dismissal was a supply crisis that was used to “solve” the security crisis — i.e. for a permanent security establishment to inflict a blow on elected governments.

    From the start, the Whitlam government was seen as semi-legitimate at best by the Nixon administration as well as the CIA, ASIO and ASIS and the trans-Pacific permanent security establishment (PSE hereafter). Whitlam’s pro-US stance cut no ice: the ALP was seen as socialist, anti-US-alliance, pushing for links with communists, etc. As then-CIA head James Jesus Angleton told Ray Martin in an ABC interview:

    “You don’t see the jewels of counter-intelligence being placed in jeopardy by a party that has extensive historical contacts in Eastern Europe, that was seeking a new way for Australia … seeking roads to Peking …”

    The CIA had inflitrated the union movement and set up numerous front groups such as the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom (of which John Kerr was a founding member). The PSE was concerned by the ALP’s promise to investigate and disclose the function of US spy bases in Australia and to remove Australian troops stationed in Singapore (a DSD listening post was hidden among them).

    Whatever chance of good relations there might have been quickly went sour from early 1973 onwards. The Whitlam government denounced the US 1972 “Christmas” bombings of Hanoi, getting them on Nixon’s “shit list”. Whitlam told US ambassador Walter Rice that there was no advantage to the spy bases for Australia. The US used one base to put its forces on nuclear war footing during the Israel/Egypt Yom Kippur War without informing Australia; in Parliament Whitlam reaffirmed ALP policy, that the base leases, due in December 1975 (for Pine Gap, the largest), would not be renewed. Co-operation between the CIA and ASIS in subversion was ended after Whitlam found ASIS was running agents in the CIA’s project of toppling the left-wing, elected Allende government in Chile and then found ASIS had disobeyed his orders. And attorney-general Lionel Murphy raided the ASIO offices after it became clear that the agency was letting fascist Croation terrorist groups run free, in an effort to stop the government from making fraternal links with non-aligned socialist Yugoslavia.

    The raid on ASIO was the last straw, as Angleton made clear:

    “[Whitlam’s election] did not affect our relationship until his attorney-general Murphy barged in and tried to destroy the delicate mechanism of internal security, which had been built on patiently since the end of WW II.”

    By 1974, both the beleagured Nixon administration and the CIA regarded Australia as antagonistic. They also saw Pine Gap as their most essential base in the world, geared not merely to missile detection but to total surveillance of electronic communications. The base was a “twofer” — it allowed global surveillance and also domestic Australian surveillance, thus allowing it to monitor anti-US-alliance political activity, all revealed at the trial of “falcon/snowman” spy Christopher Boyce in 1977. ASIO was also politicking against the government, planting leaks in the news on Australian foreign policy, left-wing unions, etc. ASIO’s pre-1972 surveillance of Labor figures was also revealed. All this prompted Whitlam to start a royal commission into intelligence agencies, to be headed by Justice Robert Hope in 1974. In the US, the Watergate scandal and hearings had shown CIA involvement in domestic politics, and a further investigatory committee was established (the Church Committee). For the security agencies, it was clearly war with elected governments. The CIA extended its domestic subversive activities, including the establishment of the Sydney-based Nugan Hand Bank, as a focus for channelling money for subversion around the world.

    In Australia, the agencies got a chance for an “in”, when in December 1974, the newly re-elected Whitlam government determined to borrow US$4 billion to buy back and develop the country’s mineral resources. Treasury refused to actively help, so the money was to be got from Arab wealth funds, via licensed intermediaries. A dozen or so major shonks and carpetbaggers turned up to try and get such authorisations, several of whom were connected back to a CIA-associated group called Commerce International — including broker Tirath Khemlani, who won the confidence of resources minister Rex Connor, who, with deputy PM (and leader of the Labor Left) Jim Cairns, was sourcing the loans.

    The process destroyed Cairns’ career and the Labor Left’s chance of leading the party. Cairns appeared to mislead Parliament by denying he had signed a letter of authorisation, which the opposition then produced. Cairns had allowed Khemlani to keep spruiking for loans, after his authorisation had been withdrawn. The Liberal-NCP opposition had information on the detail of the telexes between Connor and Khemlani, which may have been supplied to them from Pine Gap intercepts. In any case, by October, they had Khemlani, who returned to Australia, and provided thousands of documents to the Liberal Party.

    By October 1975, there was both a security crisis and a loans crisis. The Hope Commission had revealed that ASIO head Peter Barbour was multiply compromised; he had been moved out of the job, but instead of his ASIO deputy taking over, Whitlam had appointed a Labor man from the attorney-general’s department, Frank Mahony, to run it. The significance of this has been overlooked. Lionel Murphy had merely raided ASIO; civilians were now running it, privy to its secrets. It was clear to many that Whitlam’s pro-US sympathies were no longer shielding him from a more accurate assessment of our relations.

    This was confirmed in late October when he sacked the head of ASIS, William Robertson, after he found that ASIS was running a political agent in newly independent East Timor. The bollocking he gave Robertson, in front of senior mandarins Alan Renouf, Tange and newly appointed head of PM&C John Menadue, could be heard all the way down the hall, through a closed door. It was a clear and deliberate humiliation of one of the founders of the Australian security establishment. By now, the supply crisis had begun.

    On October 16, former defence minister now opposition leader Malcolm Fraser had declared Connor’s misdeeds to be “reprehensible” circumstances, and blocked supply in the Senate, demanding a new election. Blocking supply put the government on the clock to run out of money around December 10, if nothing intervened. When Robertson was sacked, Fraser added this event to the reasons for blocking supply, saying that Whitlam couldn’t be trusted on national security.

    The suspicions of ASIO leaks to the press and the Liberal-NCP opposition had caused Whitlam’s staff to start investigating security links in Australia, and in October they got a beauty, with information that freelance contractor Richard Stallings was in fact a CIA agent, and had been when he was resident in Australia in the mid-1960s and in charge of establishing Pine Gap (Stallings had had Labor friends in Adelaide in the ’60s, to whom he had bragged of his CIA connections). Better still, he was a friend of National Country Party leader Doug Anthony, had rented a house from him, and there were accusations that money was being funnelled to the Liberal-NCP opposition.

    On November 2 at a speech in Port Augusta, Whitlam struck, mentioning but not naming Stallings, Anthony et al. The next day Brian Toohey named Stallings in the AFR. In the ensuing week, a story in the National Review Weekly named three more CIA agents, including the current station chief James Walker and two men who had been directors of Pine Gap after Stallings (Stallings had left Australia, and returned in the ’70s — after leaving the CIA’s tech division he had offered his services as a covert operative). Anthony, outraged (he wasn’t aware his friend Stallings was CIA) challenged Whitlam to back up his allegations. Whitlam said he would, when Parliament resumed, on November 11.

    The security crisis and the supply crisis were now fused, and the security establishment was in a flat panic, Arthur Tange especially. For there were two lists of CIA agents operating in Australia. One was held by Foreign Affairs, and a more secret one was held by the Defence Department (DoD). Stallings’ name was on the Defence list, not the Foreign Affairs list. Whitlam had obtained the Defence list only after great resistance from Tange. The prospect of Stallings being named in Parliament made Sir Arthur Tange white as a sheet — which is just as he had emerged from the sacking of William Roberston.

    The US State Department put out a statement saying that Stallings was not employed by the CIA. Tange now did everything he could to head off Stallings’ naming in Parliament. First, he tried to get Anthony to withdraw his request and Whitlam to withdraw his threat, through the intermediary of new defence minister Bill Morrison (who had once been Tange’s junior in the External/Foreign Affairs department, and had his career blocked by him). Anthony refused, and Tange would not reveal the existence of the DoD CIA list to him. Tange then did something extraordinary for a senior public servant: he suggested to John Mant, Whitlam’s personal private secretary, that Whitlam lie to Parliament — or lie by omission — and confirm the US statement that Stallings had only ever been an employee of the US Department of Defence, or simply “not contradict” the US statement.

    We now know, thanks to Jenny Hocking’s research, and a little added by Paul Kelly and Troy Bramston, that in the lead-up to this week, and within it, Kerr was consulting incessantly with Malcolm Fraser, High Court chief justice Garfield Barwick and judge Anthony Mason — to a degree far beyond anything we knew before, which constitutes on its own a conspiracy against his prime minister. We know that he had all but decided to sack Whitlam in early November, that he had rejected a half-Senate election. We know that he had met with Farrands, the Department of Defence chief scientist on October 28, and possibly again on November 3. We know that following ASIS head Robertson’s sacking, Kerr questioned Whitlam closely about the matter (more closely than on any other political matter, Whitlam told Toohey).

    We also know, have always known, who John Kerr was. He was a conspirator, his whole adult life. He started in the shadowy Directorate in WW II, negotiating with groups including OSS (the CIA precursor) to try and snatch British Borneo as an Australian colony post-WW II. He was on Doc Evatt’s staff with Alfred Brookes, ASIS founder, in 1946. As he moved rightwards in the late ’40s, he joined the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, a CIA front. He took money from another CIA front, the Asia Foundation, even after its front status was unmasked. He was tied up with the trade union right, who were funnelled money by US agencies including the CIA, in the ’50s and ’60s. He got out of a career doldrum in the ’60s through a favour from John Atwill, a Liberal mentor and associate of Malcolm Fraser’s. He cited as influences the writers Pareto and James Burnham — anti-democratic “elite” theorists, the latter believing that democracy must be guided due to the communist global threat (and the influence is clear in the articles he wrote for Quadrant, the CIA-funded magazine of Australia’s right, during that period). He loathed the Labour Left, who at the time contained a tranche of communist sympathisers, and possibly covert members.

    From the moment Kerr had become governor-general he had built a separate network of advice and power, with Barwick and Mason fulfilling the legal role — defining an expanded notion of reserve powers to the executive (his first job for the Directorate, in 1942, had been to draft rules for the extra-constitutional exercise of authority, should Japan invade Australia). His program of “chatting” with senior public servants about their work was clearly part of this. Throughout October and November he was operating out of that base, an autonomous non-elected executive Cold Warrior.

    This man ruled us as the combined security/supply crisis came to a head on the weekend of November 8-9, 1975, when CIA East Asia head Ted Shackley sent a cable to the ASIO liaison officer in DC, demanding to know what the hell was going on Down Under with naming of CIA agents etc, and threatening to end intelligence-sharing if Stallings was officially named in Parliament. The cable was supplied to Tange immediately (but only reached Whitlam’s office on Monday, November 10). Tange then had Farrands — both his officer and a personal friend and confidant — contact Kerr to communicate the details of the Shackley cable, with the emphasis on the withdrawal of intelligence sharing.

    The resumption of Parliament was now looming. Whitlam would officially name Stallings as a CIA agent and identify the entire spy base “joint” arrangement as a CIA operation. He would also accuse the NCP of taking money from the CIA. In the Liberal party room, solidarity was beginning to crumble. Three to five senators had serious doubts. Reg Withers — Fraser’s Senate enforcer — said he couldn’t hold the line past Thursday. On Monday, according to a Whitlam aide, Michael Delaney, the cable from Ted Shackley was supplied to the PM’s office — 48 hours after Tange had received it, and too late to do much about it, given everything else going on. Whitlam, in any case, believed he had won. So did many others — including the CIA.

    November 11 loomed as a momentous day, but the one thing that it wasn’t significant for was supply. The government had four weeks worth of money left, and the obvious and democratic thing would have been to let parliament run, and see what happened. That of course was the one thing Kerr and Fraser did not want. The parliamentary day would only start proper in the afternoon, due to Remembrance Day activities. When it did, Gough Whitlam would name Stallings officially, accuse the opposition of taking US funding, and possibly produce other scandals that the opposition knew he might have. The US-Australian alliance would be damaged, but the Liberal-NCP Senate bloc vote would come under enormous pressure, and Fraser might well have lost his majority right away. The one thing that could not happen was that any of this be allowed to go through before a supply vote was brought. And so it went, and so it goes.

    It was part of a much wider war, and will be told in those terms.


    Kelly and Bramston ignore evidence that the CIA undid Gough. It is not a conspiracy theory to posit that the American and Australian intelligence forces had something to do with the Dismissal.

    The idea of CIA and general US covert involvement in the Dismissal is something “easy for people in the arts to believe”, Paul Kelly and Troy Bramston argue in their recent tome on the event, The Dismissal. The suggestion of such involvement occupies little of the book, but it’s fair to say that one of the principal purposes of the work is to dispel such suggestions. In this, the authors are assisted by a process of forgetting in Australia, which has complex roots. They’re also assisted by a process of “considering the evidence” that leaves out most of the evidence that would contradict their case.

    The case is easily enough stated: the Dismissal occurred because a governor-general with a history of right-wing affiliations used a parliamentary stand-off on supply to terminate a government that had, over the course of 1975, become far more critical and distancing from the US alliance than most observers would have thought possible (given Whitlam’s pro-US stance). This distancing included the possible termination of US spy bases in Australia and the taming of spy agencies ASIO and ASIS, with outside heads not beholden to the trans-Pacific brotherhood.

    Together with those motives, Kerr had become far closer to the Liberal Party than Whitlam perceived when he appointed him; Kerr genuinely believed the loans crisis to show a government incapable of governing; Kerr was also worried that it would come out that he had signed off, in Executive Council in December 1974, on the initial $4 billion loans search, even though it might have been unconstitutional; Kerr was beholden to John Atwill, a Fraser ally, for reviving his (Kerr’s) career; and Kerr was worried that Whitlam would sack him first, depriving him of what was, quite literally, a princely lifestyle (Jenny Hocking’s exposition of this, in her two-volume Whitlam biography, is the most comprehensive of such accounts).

    Kelly and Bramston emphasise Kerr as an unconstitutional actor, and they follow Hocking, and add a little, in documenting just how much Kerr was meeting with Fraser, High Court chief justice Garfield Barwick and judge Anthony Mason in the lead-up to the Dismissal — and in a flagrantly undemocratic fashion. No one can deny that the Dismissal was driven by conspiracy, on the basis of this evidence — the question is simply whether security issues were involved.

    Kelly and Bramston try to silo this clear conspiracy from wider events involving security and the US alliance. They do so simply by separating out the security crisis from wider events, even though, at the time, it was clearly not separated. On November 2, two weeks into the supply crisis, Whitlam had announced, outside of Parliament, that leader of the National Country Party (NCP) Doug Anthony was friends with a CIA agent and the NCP was receiving US covert funding for future election campaigns. From then until Parliament sat — on November 11 — the media was filled with exposure of that agent (Richard Stallings, who established the Pine Gap spy base in Australia) and others. The corridors of power echoed with panic, as Arthur Tange, head of defence, tried to head off Whitlam’s threat to name Stallings officially in Parliament.

    On November 8 the CIA east-Asia chief sent a cable to his ASIO liaison threatening the discontinuation of intelligence-sharing; Tange (a former department head to Barwick at Foreign Affairs [then External Affairs], and an admirer of Fraser as a defence minister) had Defence chief scientist John Farrands call Kerr and tell him the contents of the cable. Farrands, the Australian with the greatest knowledge of Pine Gap’s precise functions (total surveillance and missile warning capabilities the Soviets didn’t possess) had met with Kerr twice since the supply crisis commenced.

    All this, except the November 8 Farrands call, is a matter of recorded history. Whitlam had moved the ASIO head and sacked the ASIS head within the previous two months; the accusation against Stallings and Doug Anthony was primarily political in intent — to make the opposition look as sleazy as the loans affair was making the government look, and to thus neutralise the idea of legitimacy to the blocking of supply. It was working, too. A CIA agent, marvellously named Dunning Idle IV, had been planted by the CIA in the Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO), yet another of our spy agencies. His communique, sent as part of CIA director William Colby’s daily intelligence briefing, stated that Whitlam was widely seen as having prevailed by the first part of November, that Fraser was losing support publicly, and that some Coalition senators might defect and vote for supply.

    So even if you deny a “strong” interpretation to US involvement, it’s simply history that Whitlam had thrown the CIA into the centre of the mix. To hive it off into a separate chapter is pure distortion of events. Kelly and Bramston need to do this to give the impression that the government and public service were occupied only by the supply crisis, when it is clear from the memoirs of Tange and John Menadue that the security crisis was occupying time, energy and angst.

    To sideline the security crisis is a distortion of history. To omit John Kerr’s security background, as Kelly and Bramston do, is worse. Kerr, a leftist, anti-Stalinist lawyer in the ’30s, had, in WWII, joined the Directorate, a group of the Sydney Uni in-crowd assembled to do intelligence and propaganda work. On its behalf, he negotiated with the US Office of Strategic Services (the CIA forerunner) and other groups to enact a complex plan to transfer British Borneo to Australian control at the end of the war. In 1946 he was on Doc Evatt’s staff, basically running the UN in its initial weeks. By 1949 his anti-Stalinism had become anti-communism. He joined CIA front group the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom (AACF) that year, the same time he ran the case for Laurie Short, an ironworkers’ union leadership candidate who had challenged a union election victory in court. Short’s challenge marked the beginning of an influx of US money into the right wing of Australian unions.

    Short toured the US to acclaim as part of one of the many “study” programs by which such money was supplied. Kerr himself, now a leading Sydney barrister, got money from the Asia Foundation, another CIA front, taking some of it even after the CIA’s involvement had been revealed in the 1960s. He ran unsuccessfully for head of the AACF in the early ’60s, after which his career fell into the doldrums and was rescued by John Atwill, a mentor of Malcolm Fraser’s, who got him made chief justice of NSW — in which role he was the last judge to jail a trade unionist (the Maoist Communist Clarrie O’Shea) for defying the arbitration courts.

    None of this appears in Kelly and Bramston’s book. None of it. Kerr’s membership of the AACF alone is mentioned — but not that it was a CIA front, and that Kerr ran for the leadership of it (and thus knew its CIA connections years before they were made public in the late 1960s). Indeed, Kelly has even censored himself — in his 1976 book The Unmaking of Gough he noted Kerr’s involvement in the bizarre British Borneo venture (the purpose of transferring British Borneo to Australian control was to build a forward defence empire for Australia; in 1972, Whitlam would disconcert Tange and others by withdrawing 800 Australian troops from Singapore — thus discovering yet another spy agency that had been concealed from politicians, the Defence Signals Directorate, which had a listening post there).

    Omitting Kerr’s background is absurd, and its effect is obvious — it doesn’t allow the reader of the book to put together the two halves of the story: Kerr’s anti-communism, his acceptance of the idea of a permanent clandestine security establishment and his willingness to work with US front groups, combined with the actual security crisis that raged through late October and November 1975. Any reasonable reader would see the strong likelihood that Kerr sacked a PM and dissolved Parliament to ensure a certain foreign policy result, in whole or in part. That cannot be allowed, because that represents the event as a political coup determined by Cold War politics — and without the skullduggerous ideas of Kerr getting a phone call from Langley on November 10 with full instructions or any such nonsense straw men.

    In pursuit of this Kelly and Bramston’s chapter on the events is filled with errors. Let’s go through a few such:

    “In his memoirs, Kerr repudiated one of the pivotal claims of the conspiracy theorists — that he had been associated with the intelligence community. He said of the World War Two organisation the Directorate that ‘it never did intelligence work, nor did I’.” (p.258)

    Truth: Factually incorrect. Kerr may have made such claim, but the Directorate was transferred to the Division of Military Intelligence in 1942, a fact recorded in the official Commonwealth History of WWII, and easily checkable. Kerr’s membership of a sub-group of the Directorate, the British Borneo Control Authority, is equally a matter of record — in which capacity he travelled to London and the US on behalf of the Directorate. According to Richard Hall’s The Real John Kerr, based in part on interviews with Kerr’s Directorate colleagues, he met with the OSS and with British authorities, while at the same time giving a false account of his negotiations to the Australian high commissioner in the UK, former PM Stanley Bruce.

    “The central problem with the conspiracy theory has been the absence of any link between the 1975 security/intelligence crisis and the 1975 political/constitutional crisis. They exist as parallel yet unrelated events.” (p.258-9)

    Truth: Factually incorrect. Supply was denied on October 16, 1975, with Fraser citing as “reprehensible acts” the misleading of Parliament by Rex Connor concerning his knowledge of the continued activities of loans agent Tirath Khemlani “on behalf of” the Australian government. A week later, Whitlam sacked William Robertson, head of ASIS, because the organisation had been running a political agent in newly independent East Timor, contrary to Whitlam’s instructions. Fraser then cited the sacking of Robertson as an additional reprehensible circumstance justifying removal of the government. Whitlam then used the CIA accusations against Anthony on November 2 to create a new political front. Publicly, therefore the crises were linked from the start. Behind the scenes they were, too.

    Tange worked to try and get Doug Anthony to withdraw his challenge to Whitlam to declare Stallings a CIA agent (Stallings was a CIA agent, but Anthony didn’t know that), and to get Whitlam to withdraw his threat. He failed. When the US State Department declared that Stallings was a Defence Department employee, Tange urged Whitlam to “not contradict” the story — in other words, to mislead Parliament for security purposes. Defence scientist Farrands’ direct communication with Kerr on October 28, November 3 and November 8 (the latter two disputed by some) also makes a clear connection. Kelly and Bramston include much of the detail of the security crisis, but they omit the citing of Robertson’s sacking — a clear link — and they also omit a statement from Brian Toohey (in a 1977 article that they cite for other purposes) that Whitlam had told him that Kerr had questioned him more closely about the sacking of William Robertson than on any other matter.

    “Farrands issued a comprehensive denial, in particular saying he had never discussed with Kerr any American activities in Australia. Farrands and Tange … launched legal action against Fairfax over the article [by Toohey] … The newspaper backtracked in part on the allegations.” (p.267)

    Truth: Toohey reported that Farrands had told him, at a parliamentary garden party (at which, he says, Kelly saw Farrands talking to him) that he had phoned Kerr on November 8 on Tange’s behalf to alert him to the contents of the CIA cable. But neither Toohey nor The Australian Financial Review ever backtracked on the claims. They simply issued a statement of clarification, making clear that they were not accusing Farrands of acting disloyally. Farrands discontinued the action, and never legally challenged the assertion he had met with Kerr. One reason why? Toohey. Leaving, he ran into Gough Whitlam arriving at the garden party. He reported the conversation to Whitlam, and such a time-proximate report would have undermined a libel action. The Toohey-Whitlam conversation goes unmentioned by Bramston and Kelly.

    “Tange’s biographer, the historian Peter Edwards, had unfettered access to Tange’s papers and concludes he is ‘innocent’ of any impropriety. ‘It was utterly foreign to his character and credo as a public servant to be involved in a conspiracy against his elected government,’ Edwards writes.” (p.267)

    Truth: This is demonstrably untrue about Tange. It’s a matter of recorded fact that he advised Whitlam to not contradict the US State Department’s assertion that Stallings was a Defence employee, rather than the CIA agent he was. Tange wanted to protect the Australian Defence Department’s list of CIA agents working in Australia, which had names on it that were not on the Foreign Affairs Department’s list of same — the most prominent of which was Stallings. How much propriety and public service credo did Tange show there?

    ”Kerr disputed reports he was briefed by security officials on Pine Gap or other intelligence installations by any Australian intelligence agency in the weeks prior to the dismissal. ‘I was getting ready to deal with the biggest constitutional crisis Australia had ever faced,’ Kerr told Henderson.” (p.268-9)

    Truth: Untruth and legal hairsplitting. The Vice-Regal record of the time shows that Kerr was engaged in multiple activities over the period. The idea that he was working on the supply crisis is absurd.

    One of those activities was his meeting with John Farrands on October 28, also in the Vice-Regal record. This was allegedly part of Kerr’s program of meeting senior public servants to “find out what they did”. Farrands wasn’t an “intelligence officer” per se, but he was head of the all Defence research and communications, and of Australia’s access to knowledge about the workings of Pine Gap and the other bases. He knew more about what Pine Gap did than any other Australian.

    Another activity that Kerr managed to find time for was the Melbourne Cup, which he attended on November 4. Andrew Clark reported that on that day, Kerr had met with Farrands at the Watsonia spy base in the north of Melbourne — a spy base run by the Defence Signals Directorate, the Australian equivalent of the NSA (and in a distant way, the distant ancestor of the Directorate Kerr worked for, housed in the same place, Victoria Barracks). Tange, in his memoirs, Defence Policy-Making (which Kelly and Bramston don’t cite  —  the memoirs were published posthumously in 2008) possibly gave the game away about the meeting when he notes that Farrands met with Kerr in November.

    ”[Christopher] Boyce acknowledged he could not ‘prove’ the CIA had any direct involvement in the dismissal.” (p.267)

    Truth: Boyce was a junior worker for TRW, a subcontractor for the CIA, processing communications from Pine Gap, among other places. Working in an underground vault, the young staff had no supervision, and read their way through cables. Boyce and a friend then tried to sell some to the Soviets, were caught and jailed for decades (Boyce denied the Soviet sale was his idea). At his trial, Boyce testified that cables from Pine Gap made clear that information about it and from it wasn’t being passed on to Australians, and that it contained extensive reports of US infiltration and corruption of the right wing of the Australian union movement and the designation of John Kerr as “our man”. Boyce gained nothing but extra jail time from such testimony; had he kept quiet, he would have spent fewer years in prison.

    Boyce used the phrase “our man Kerr” in his testimony. The phrase was used by both CIA whistleblower Victor Marchetti and former agent Joseph Trento in their interviews with John Pilger. Put together with the fact that, as a matter of record, Kerr took money from CIA fronts after they were exposed as such, the evidence all points in the same direction, and strengthens each other (unless Bramston and Kelly are alleging — gasp — a conspiracy!). The idea that Boyce or others couldn’t “prove” involvement means they have no signed confession from Kerr, James Jesus Angleton and Gerald Ford saying “We did it! We toppled the Whitlam government!”. They deny all evidence, even when it corroborates, by accepting nothing less than that. It’s an absurd standard, and it’s the opposite of what they apply in the rest of the book, to the conspiracy they do want to highlight — between Kerr, Fraser, Barwick and Mason.

    ”Even Margaret Whitlam thought the CIA was involved in the dismissal. She told journalist Candace Sutton in April 1991: ‘I do. He [Gough] doesn’t. As an old thriller reader I’m prepared to believe it’.” (p.270)

    Truth: Misconstruction by omission. This is Whitlam rejecting the “call from Langley” scenario. But it’s a matter of record that, in 1975, Gough Whitlam accused the CIA of funding opposition parties on a systemic basis. (Both parties were cash-depleted by two elections; both were gearing up for another epic struggle. Cash was crucial.) It’s a matter of record that in 1976 and 1977, he read into Hansard the November 8, 1975, cable from the CIA to ASIO (the so-called “Shackleygram”), and called for a royal commission into CIA activities in Australian politics. To leave this out is just bad history, and a traducement of Whitlam.

    ”[Historian, James] Curran shows, from the documents, that Australia came close to losing the alliance due to a dramatic shift in foreign policy initiated in the early days of the Whitlam government that upset the Nixon administration.” (p.269-70)

    Truth: Misleading omission and misconstruction of the facts, and, to a degree, of Curran’s rendering of them. Whatever relation there was between Nixon and Whitlam soured when he and Labor criticised the US bombings of Hanoi over Christmas 1972. But it was not attitude that nearly lost the alliance. It was a combination of foreign policy shifts together with intelligence shifts that put the US on emergency footing. Here’s then-CIA counter-intelligence head James Jesus Angleton, interviewed by Ray Martin in 1978 (the interview was arranged by the ABC in response to criticism from the Fraser government that two ABC radio programs had given a biased view of the US involvement in the Dismissal. Angleton’s remarks were perhaps not what they had in mind):

    “[Whitlam’s election] did not affect our relationship until his attorney-general Murphy barged in and tried to destroy the delicate mechanism of internal security, which had been built on patiently since the end of WW II … You don’t see the jewels of counter-intelligence being placed in jeopardy by a party that has extensive historical contacts in Eastern Europe, that was seeking a new way for Australia … seeking roads to Peking …”

    This concern clearly matches those expressed in the Shackley cable, and they would have been amplified by Whitlam’s appointment of a non-spy interim head of ASIO. At some point, for would-be historians to leave out stuff like this is just tiresome, absurd, a disservice to us all. Do they think in the era of WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden that anyone is now innocent of the power structures of the post-war Western world? Do they think no one will notice?

    Were Kelly and Bramston confident of the lack of evidence for external involvement in the Dismissal, they’d put it all in, and debunk it. Readers will have to make up their own minds as to why they’ve got so much wrong, misconstructed or omitted. People in the arts? Kelly and Bramston appear to have enrolled in a creative writing degree.

    This article draws on research and writing by: Andrew Clark, Phil Frazer, Jenny Hocking, John Pilger, Brian Toohey, Marian Wilkinson and others.


    Rundle is preparing a final supplementary part to the series. As a postscript, below are some comments posted by Australian journalist David McLean on the JFK Education Forum in January 2007. David is the chap I met at the recent Reopen the Kennedy Case conference in Melbourne last month, who I described elsewhere on this forum as writing me some notes over lunch about various corporate misdeeds within Australia during the 60’s and 70’s. His Simkin forum comments expand on those, so I’ve reprinted them here. David wrote for NATION REVIEW during the 70’s and covered many of the events surrounding the Whitlam dismissal as they occurred.


    David McLean – In light of the incredible posts about LBJ and his circle, I have reviewed Barr McClellan's Blood, Money and Power and my own notes from the 1970's. The Murchison-Ed Clark- LBJ- King Ranch connection stands out most clearly, but an often unexplored link is also to Exxon and all that entails. In the 1960's then-Esso via Humble had many oil-gas wells on King Ranch land and paid to King Ranch many millions in royalties yearly. By l970 oil was depleted and Esso needed new approvals for gas production and royalty rates.

    The Kleberg-LBJ connection from the 1930s was strong and long-lasting according to all available evidence. And Big Oil-Murchison, Richardson, D.H. Byrd, H.L.Hunt, et al-were via import quotas and production controls in a symbiotic but subordinate relationship with the US Majors led by Esso. McClellan implies that Esso-Exxon was "quietly" complicit in Clark's claims for a bonus payment for his role in the Kennedy assassination, while also getting a favorable outcome for themselves and King Ranch. Big Oil, LBJ and lawyers like Clark were only powerful while their tenure or oil were current.

    These parties had connections in Australia as well. King Ranch came in the early l950s linking up with Establishment families Baillieu, Hordern and Rupert Clarke, and were secretive yet politically prominent. By 1970 it was Australia's largest private landower. In mid-1975, with the Whitlam Labor government in crisis, John Connally attended the 1st ever Santa Gertrudis Breeders Conference in Surfers Paradise, and stayed about a week, visiting Canberra. He had then just begun his run for the US presidency supporting a stronger CIA and was on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Tell me he did not have a powerful message for the anti-Labor forces! After the November 11 coup against Whitlam, Agricultural Minister Ken Wreidt said King Ranch had distributed US government funds via the NSW Grazier's Association.

    Earlier, in 1974, Esso paid Exoil $A450,000 to change its name to Oilmin, as Esso became Exxon. Exoil was the exploration company of Queensland's rightist premier Joh Bjelke-Peterson, who in 1975 broke precedent and appointed an anti-Whitlam senator to change the balance of power after a Labor senator died. This was instrumental in the events that followed.

    Meanwhile by July 1965, Murchison's Delhi had a gas field east of Adelaide, when Ed Clark was appointed US Ambassador. (I actually interviewed him as a junior reporter on his return from viewing what I recall he described as US interests in Australia. These included we later discovered the Pine Gap satellite ground station.) According to his wife's book Australian Adventure they hosted John Murchison at least twice. Another visitor was Benno Schmidt "of Abilene and New York" who was partner with David Rockefeller in the large Orleans Farm near Esperance, WA. Also visiting Clark was Mike Wright "who is moving from New York to Houston to be vice president of Esso in charge of Humble", and Gus Wortham of the 8F group and the Austin Round Table.

    Clark returned to Texas in Jan 1968 where Barr McClellan takes up the story of the bonus payment from Big Oil with unspecified help from Exxon and King Ranch.

    By November 8 1975, the Opposition was blocking government funding in the Senate and over the weekend Ted Shackley pulled the trigger. Described as head of Asia Pacific operations, but I believe Deputy Head of Ops, he dictated a cable damning Whitlam and threatening an official CIA demarche. This and other leverage was enough to compel the Governor General to sack the Government, bringing a dissolution of Parliament, electoral chaos, letter bombs and the destruction of hope for an honest independent Labor Party for at least my generation.

    These connections were effective in outcome in Australia and to a degree mirror earlier events in Texas. While the evidence is circumstantial, it is not merely coincidental in my humble opinion. While there were other actors especially underworld and CIA types, the main players were identical.

    Possible conclusions-

    LBJ and Edward Clark, and Big Oil, considered themselves above the law but were not beyond the power of money, begotten of vast wealth and influence far greater than that of Texas or the White House;

    The same applies to the CIA and Mafia. In fact the improbability of such independence of action as the Kennedy assassination or the overthrow of a stable democratic government by subordinate groups in US society is only reinforced by the strained reasoning in, for example, Ultimate Sacrifice.

  2. #2


    Thanks for that. Whitlam was a 'marked' man. Had the political coup not worked, he'd have had an 'accident' or 'suicide' for sure. It had been decided in Langley and GCHQ concurring that he had to go. I believe those in ASIO at the time were also involved. Nugan-Hand likely funneled the money for this operation. Everyone accepts that the USA through the CIA has overthrown 'third-World' nations, but few are really aware that we also overthrew Australia and made sure we were in control of the limits of 'debate' and 'politics' in a 'friendly' nation of the First World [so-called].
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  3. #3


    Yes, important historical facts shouldn't be locked behind a paywall, thus restricting access. Bravo!
    The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.
    Carl Jung - Aion (1951). CW 9, Part II: P.14

  4. #4


    Quote Originally Posted by David Guyatt View Post
    Yes, important historical facts shouldn't be locked behind a paywall, thus restricting access. Bravo!
    Agree. Thanks so much for posting this Anthony.
    "I think it would be a good idea." Mahatma Gandhi, when asked what he thought of Western civilization.

    The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.
    Karl Marx.

    "Well, he would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies, 1963, replied Ms Rice Davies when the prosecuting counsel pointed out that Lord Astor denied an affair or having even met her.

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