On August 14 1989, Western Australian Police arrested Peter Joseph van Tongeren and several other persons associated with a political group known as the Australian Nationalists Movement (ANM). Two other men were arrested in Sydney in co-ordinated raids in which New South Wales Police Special Branch officers were involved.
The generalities of the charges at issue had some notoriety and need not be canvassed with the Commission. The force of the affair encouraged the passage through the Western Australian Parliament and the Federal Parliament of 'anti-racial vilification legislation'.
A trial was held before Judge Hammond in the District Court at Perth, in August-September 1990, and verdicts of guilty were returned against several persons. Lengthy prison terms were given to the substantive offenders. There is no doubt that the convicted persons were guilty of serious offences. These offences were paraded by the prosecution and in the media as elements of a terrorist campaign directed at Asian migrants in Perth. The matter of whether the offences summed to 'terrorism' or the lesser 'politically motivated violence' may have some bearing on the quality of the allegation here.
This Submission argues an integrated allegation against named, and other, Western Australian police. Reasonably too, police were not the only persons who may have committed a special set of conspiracy offences in relation to the ANM arrests.
The General Allegation
The general allegation is:
That Western Australian police became aware at a certain point of time that the ANM group had committed a number of arson and other offences - and then failed to act to bring the on-going criminal conduct to a rapid end. The primary information indicating the ANM's culpability came from the New South Wales Police Special Branch (with the probable and necessary involvement of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation -ASIO) which had obtained their own informer in the ANM's Sydney section.
That Western Australian police thence contrived the arrest of two members of the group (July 5 1989) who were present at a house used as a storage depot for stolen property; this allowed the 'turning' of one of the men (Russell Dean Willey); thereafter, this informer-witness collected admissible but also appropriate evidence. This device kept the original informer out of the case.
That Western Australian police permitted the criminal conduct of the ANM to continue after the receipt of the intelligence of the first informer conveyed via ASIO and the NSW Special Branch.. This act was negligent and contrary to law.
That Western Australian police acted with a false political agenda which permitted the deepening of the ANM's criminal conduct - especially a bombing offence on May 24 1989; the police sought to organise a 'terrorism' trial and required the particular accoutrements thereof: a protected witness offering damning oral evidence, tape-recorded confessions, dramatic police raids and so forth. It was these requirements that demanded the first informant be kept out of the case. This informant had other duties which would have been compromised by involvement in the ANM prosecution.
That Western Australian police, by keeping the knowledge of an ANM primary informer out of the case, denied the accused evidence that could have been used, at the very least, in a plea for the mitigation of sentence. However, it could have been used to politicise the case in certain ways in front of the jury. Hence some of the charges in the indictment might not have brought verdicts of 'guilty'.
Taken in summation, a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice was entered into for a political purpose. This purpose included, but was not limited to: the operation of a 'terrorism' trial to serve a domestic 'anti-racist' legislative agenda; the use of an informant to gather information on other 'Right-extremist' groups unmolested by testifying in a trial; the obscuring of actual police methods. These were its higher goals. At the base, the goals can be different and as simple as nobbling serious offenders in a dramatic way.
The General Facts Of The Allegation: The First Informer.
The ANM had a Sydney branch of some half-dozen persons, directed by one Peter John Anthony Coleman (date of birth 5/6/59).
In December 1988, Coleman had an altercation with members of the Australian National Action (NA) organization. This matter resulted in contacts with the Special Branch; this body was investigating NA ('Operation Odessa' August-September 1988 and subsequently) with a view to obtaining prosecutions.
Coleman had a poor relationship with NA. He had joined it in August 1983 and had simultaneously been expelled and resigned in April 1985. He had supported the attempt of van Tongeren to acquire its leadership and change it into a neo-nazi organization. Thereafter, Coleman was a member of the ANM. It was Coleman who published a pirate edition of the work, The Turner Diaries, the script for van Tongeren's subsequent violence campaign. According to evidence given by John van Blitterswyk, a co-accused of van Tongeren, a mysterious "circle" in the "eastern states" had encouraged van Tongeren into the violence campaign. Of necessity, Coleman would have been one of the "circle". It is possible too, that one of the people met by van Tongeren in this connection, was David John Palmer (as below). In 1988, Coleman became the 'Deputy Leader' of the ANM.
Coleman had a poor relationship with the present writer, although it had gone through various stages and could be at some times in the period 1985-89, arms-length-cool-but-cordial. After the December 1988, the relationship deteriorated. There is substantial evidence I could detail to the Commission on this issue if called upon to do so.
It is likely that by March 1989, Coleman was receiving phone calls on a regular basis from Detective Sergeant (and later Superintendent) Neville George Ireland,then an officer in Special Branch, and later, its last Commander. These calls reasonably involved the activities of the NA.
There was substantial evidence given by Ireland to the Royal Commission Into The New South Wales Police Service on March 12-13 1997. Ireland referred to two informants who were the subjects of false claims for payment to himself and other Special Branch officers courtesy of the Informants' Fund. Ireland gave some confusing evidence about the date at which the male was recruited as an informer (or rather registered as one). He set out the time as around the time that another with three Commission codes (CC17, CC17a and CC20) was recruited. He detailed that this informer operated from May 1989 until October 1990. The male was given the Commission code CC18. This person may have been called 'Cabbie' as a reference appeared under that name in Ireland's Duty Book for June 3 1989.
If 'Cabbie' and CC18 are the same person, and there is every reason to assume it, then he was already on board 'officially' by June 3 1989.
Ireland only worked on two cases in the years 1989-90: NA and the ANM.
The Royal Commission evidence referred to a male person with a car and a phone who usually spoke with Ireland by telephone and who had his home telephone number. This description matched Coleman. Further, in evidence given by both of them at Parramatta Local Court, Coleman admitted talking to Ireland by phone and answering some questions about the ANM; Ireland when pressed as to Coleman's status, declined by omission to confirm or deny anything, but instead referred to Coleman not as an "informant", but rather "a contact" - 'contact' being the very Special Branch term for informant. This was therefore a subtle perjury that effectively disguised their relationship. Unless one was then aware that 'contact' meant 'informer', it would be possible to give the former word its dictionary meaning only. That Ireland would perjure is suggestive of Coleman's status.
It would be a simple matter to formally confirm Coleman's identity as CC18 and therefore as a Special Branch informer. In 1999, Coleman, after being challenged over his relationship to Special Branch said his challenger (whose name I can provide to the Commission): "so what if I gave information to the Special Branch, so what?"
Coleman's passage into informer status should not be regarded as a matter of a book-entry into the register. It was a matter in the quality of his relationship with Ireland that developed to the May 1989 period when he was formally recruited and registered.
It is the allegation here that - for whatever reason - Coleman opted to provide information against the ANM.
It is likely that the ANM's violence campaign had become threatening to Coleman's personal lifestyle. He was certainly aware of the campaign. He has told me he was "never interviewed" about it, an absolute impossibility if he was the Deputy Leader of the group. He told me he had known "Jack was out of control" (December 23 1989 when he visited my premises ostensibly to provide me with further information about the arrests of the ANM men). He had already told me (December 12 1989) that he did not intend to provide any financial assistance to his former comrades.It was understood from information conveyed to me around September 1989 that the ANM planned a national night of Asian restaurant burnings on a date set in June 1989. Reasonably too, Coleman had baulked at this.
Shortly after his December 1989 conversations with me, Coleman directed a letter to Special Branch which said that he felt under threat from me, and relocated his address.
It is the allegation that in May 1989, Coleman informed Ireland that the ANM was involved in the arsons of various premises in Perth, those restaurants owned by Asian proprietors that were burned after September 1988. He could reasonably have told Ireland that the ANM was responsible for the campaign of robberies. He had knowledge that an associate (not member) of ANM, Mark J. Ferguson, was in possession of stolen property from the robberies, for sale in Sydney. Lastly, Coleman was the logical source who revealed the address occupied by Ferguson and another man such that they could be arrested on August 14 1989.
Van Tongeren admits in his book The ANM: The Pre-Revolutionary Years, that the arson campaign was decided upon during a visit to the eastern states in mid-1988. Coleman was necessarily one of the conspirators.
Coleman probably did not have the address where the proceeds of the robberies were stored. But as Deputy Leader he would have known there was such a depot. There was a story circulated in 1989 to my associates that Coleman had received cash from Russell Willey when he was 'treasurer' of the ANM. From the moment Coleman provided that information - 'dedicated detective work' could locate it.
Three External Indications Of A First Informer.
There are three external indications that a primary informer against the ANM was available.
First: on July 3 1989, police raided a house used as a storage depot for property stolen in the ANM's campaign of burglary.
It was the trial evidence of John van Blitterswyk (denied by police) that extreme violence was used to arrest him, something excessive if the police were dealing with break and enter men whose offences had not involved violence, rather than 'terrorists'. It follows that police were aware of the 'identity' of those they would arrest.
One media report by Roy Gibson, "Operation Jackhammer", The West Australian, September 22 1990, referred to "good police work and a tip off" as the circumstances leading police to the storage depot.
The identity of the 'tip-off' is the issue here.
There is no reason to doubt the Gibson report. Similar reports were persistent. Police have said this to journalists, obviously to explain how they came to lie in wait for Willey and van Blitterswyk and also to dissimulate on the matter of the first informer.
Second: David Bradbury, a film producer, made a film Nazi Supergrass about the activities of Willey who was recruited by police after his arrest at the depot. In the Weekend Australian for June 19-20 1993, Bradbury said he had reliable inside information from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation that they were aware of the ANM's culpability in the violence campaign, prior to the arrest of Willey.
The matter of Bradbury's credibility and then the nature of the information itself is the issue here.
Bradbury worked at length with Willey. He is a liberal and could have no sympathy with the ANM. There is no reason to suppose someone in ASIO did not tell Bradbury this detail. He may have been remiss in repeating it, but he did.
The only question is: when did the Western Australian police receive information?
Third: The Communist Party of Australia published a newspaper under the editorship of one, Denis Freney. Freney was a vociferous anti-racist and on March 13 1989, directed a confidential submission to the Human Rights And Equal Opportunity Commission's 'National Inquiry Into Racist Violence'. He made mention of a new group "forming around" the ANM in Sydney, a group that was to be provocative and under Special Branch control.
This was a remarkable allegation. Such a group did indeed form - under the direction of Coleman and a David John Palmer. The latter has appeared periodically in the Australian media since 1990 as a caricature of neo-nazism, complete with brown uniform and swastikas. On other occasions, he has claimed to represent the local Ku Klux Klan and has regularly threatened violence and mayhem. The targets of Palmer's activities however were/are invariably other right-wing groups. What was remarkable about Freney's allegation was that van Tongeren had no knowledge about the group which continued to use his nomenclature. And further, the group had not yet started to play the role it did in harassing other right-wing groups.
Reasonably, Freney was told something by Special Branch police. This plan, which subsequently unfolded, was at all points disruptive (I can provide further detail to the Commission) and was a task which demanded Coleman not be exposed in the ANM trial.
If Freney could write the words he did in March 1989, the new group was already a reality. This would suggest a change in Coleman's organisational loyalties.
The three external indications cited imply that a primary informer was present in the ANM case.
Naming Some Of The Police.
The police who carried out the arrests of van Tongeren and the other ANM members in Perth were grouped together in 'Operation Jackhammer'.
Some of the officers who played a role in the ANM case were: Greg Massey, Max Kiernan and Gary Higgins.
The allegation here is likely to embrace only senior officers. I cannot name further officers.
Other Agencies And The Conspiracy.
Other agencies were necessarily connected to the suppression of evidence about the first informer. Mr. Graeme Scott Q.C. was the Crown Prosecutor in the case. He is now a Justice of the Supreme Court. Possibly he was told and possibly not. Given the ASIO interest in the case, it beggars belief that he was not told. Of course, he may have been given a sanitised version of the information such that he could form a view it was unnecessary to turn it over to the accused.
It should be noted that in its Report To Parliament 1990-91, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation asserted it had achieved "considerable operational success against racist right groups". Yet ASIO did not appear in the van Tongeren case; its Report of the previous year made references to the arrests of members of two racist right groups (necessarily NA and ANM) which indicated its interest in the process. It can only be speculated here what "considerable operational success" could therefore actually mean.
Van Tongeren is due for release from prison on September 20 2002. This submission is not made via any reference to him. It is the province of the complainant alone.
It would be the likely case that van Tongeren would reveal Coleman's role in the ANM affair only under compulsion and with indemnity. Even so, it is apprehended that he has private reservations as to the matter of Coleman's status as an informer. The identity of the "inner circle" is probative to the question of assessing the weight of Coleman's information, his motive to inform on van Tongeren and the value of his information.
Western Australian police were confronted with a dilemma in the investigation of the ANM's violence and robbery campaign. Once informed of the ANM's certain guilt, they had responsibilities to the public and the administration of justice. They had to decide on a proper course of action to protect the first informer, but obtain evidence. They had no absolute right to protect that informer if his evidence proved necessary. They had no absolute obligation to follow whatever agenda was advanced by ASIO if it conflicted with their other statutory functions.
The proper course of events should have been characterised by an urgent electronic and physical surveillance operation to detect any further offences in their nascent stage such as to prevent their commission. The location of physical evidence could have followed (as in one way, it did) with the recovery of stolen property. There seems to have been some inaction and lack of certainty in the police approach, taking until early July to get any arrests - for anything.
The course taken was illegal. If Coleman informed prior to the bombing offence of May 24 1989, then it is open to say that Western Australian police permitted a violence offence. They permitted by omission an opportunity for the ANM to upgrade its campaign further if it chose.
The Royal Commission alone can determine the truth. It is my submission that this final secret of the ANM affair is a public scandal, no less than other cases which have the touch of the intelligence services upon them. It would be my reasoned view that substantial resistance to the investigation of this allegation will be registered in all government agencies affected by it. If the Commission is independent and seeks to uncover police corruption, it will not shrink from this matter.
In 1998, I corresponded with the Attorney-General of Western Australia, Hon. Mr. Peter Foss. In his reply to me of May 15 1998, he did not reply to my allegation (substantially the same as the present one). Rather, he said that the issues I had raised were not part of the case at the trial. Of course. The adversary system cannot accommodate this material. The matter has stayed there.
I am prepared to be interviewed by Commission officers and provide voluntarily anydocument or thing as may assist the investigation of any matter raised here. I am prepared to give evidence about any matter referred to here.
Material Provided To The Commission.
Folio One: a page from Neville Ireland's Duty Book, June 3 1989. "Cabbie"
Folio Two: two pages of transcript Parramatta Local Court November 22 1990, Coleman and Ireland. Coleman and Ireland define their relationship.
Folio Three: pages from the transcript of the Royal Commission Into The New South Wales Police Service, March 12 1997. CC18 explained.
Folio Four: a Special Branch report where Coleman is recorded as providing information.
Folio Five: page from a book written by van Tongeren.
Folio Six: page from a submission written by Denis Freney to the National Inquiry Into Racist Violence.