Friday, October 3, 2008

Power to the people: Legacies of 1968 and ASIO

On 2 October, I spoke at the conference "Power to the People: Legacies of 1968". It was held at the University of Wollongong and I was privileged to be able to drive down Jack Mundey and Mick Tubbs, who are elder statesmen of the Left of Australian politics.
Jack Mundey and I go back a long way. I proudly regard him as a mentor. Thanks to Jack and the Builders Labourers Federation, my expulsion from Robert Menzies College in 1973 became the first instance where a trade union acted industrially in defence of gay rights. Both Jack and I spoke about this matter, and, if you are interested in more details, there's a link to an article I wrote about it to the right of this item. There's also an article in Overland 191 (2008) by me called "Into the light". Jack has also spoken frequently on this matter and the Australian Biography project has published the transcript of one interview here although Jack states that I was 20 at the time, but in fact I was 18.
Mick Tubbs was a worker who studied to become a lawyer in the 1970s. He was admitted to the bar and acted for many clients against the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). His own ASIO file goes back to 1963. I have obtained my NSW Special Branch file, but have yet to apply to the National Archives of Australia for my ASIO file. I shall do do soon. I'll be very interested to see what is there. The Special Branch file is scary enough for the minute details it contains.
Mick Tubbs has put his expertise to good use and produced a n important book, ASIO: The enemy within (ISBN 978 0 9805399 0 5) which he launched at the Wollongong conference. In the book he draws on the knowledge he gained in his work as a barrister as well as information from his own ASIO files. The book is compelling reading. It documents the extent of ASIO's surveillance of Australian citizens and the use of its surveillance by various governments.
ASIO still operates. Mick Tubbs argues it should be put out of business. The book costs $35. Mick published it himself. It should be available at all good bookshops, but I know distribution is an issue. It can be obtained from Mick Tubbs, PO Box 445, Croydon Park NSW 2133.

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