An Interview With Tim Anderson

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After being convicted of ‘conspiracy’ charges and jailed along with Paul Alister and Ross Dunn, eventually pardoned in 1985, and compensated in 1987, political activist Tim Anderson is being dragged through the courts yet again! Evidence already discredited at the 1982 inquest into the Hilton bombing, along with that of prisoner Ray Denning who now claims Tim “confessed” to being the bomber, was what led to Anderson’s arrest in Sydney on 30 May, 1989. Subsequently another man, Evan Pederick, from Brisbane appeared, saying that he was the bomber, but that Tim was both the mastermind, and also his assistant. These two versions clearly contradict each other and the well publicised account of events by Special Branch informer, Richard Seary. 

Below is an interview with Tim conducted in November 1989 by Peter McGregor who is a lecturer in the School of Humanities and Applied Social Sciences at the Nepean campus of the University of Western Sydney. The text has been slightly edited for grammatical and stylistic reasons.

Peter: Tim, I’m interested in knowing what is the status of the evidence in the case against you at the moment? In the latest newsletter for instance from the Campaign to Expose the Frame Up of Tim Anderson (CEFTA) the heading is “Malcolm Fraser Exposes Fabrication”.

Tim: Well, that comment comes out of the fact that apparently the police didn’t investigate the central issue of Pederick’s story which was that he was meant to have been in George Street trying to detonate a bomb when the Indian Prime Minister arrived, and the person that first alerted them to the fact that the Indian Prime Minister did not arrive in George Street was [then Prime Minister] Malcolm Fraser, when he saw some press reports. He rang up the Prime Minister’s department saying this is completely wrong, it doesn’t accord with my recollection. The Prime Minister’s department checked up and found out that Malcolm was right. They wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Director of Public Prosecutions told the police, and only then the police went down to the Prime Minister’s department and checked up and found that Pederick’s story was wrong, and they invented a cover story for him. Now we have since discovered that Pederick’s cover story is wrong too, so the central part of Pederick’s evidence, and Pederick is now the main witness in this case, if not perhaps the only witness, has been proved to be wrong and it seems that Pederick was not there.

Peter: There has been two weeks of committal hearing so far. What do you see as the status in court of the evidence that has been presented so far?

Tim: To be polite about it, I suppose I don’t believe it’s established a case to go to trial, and yet virtually everything that they arrested me on, excepting Pederick, has been called so far, and that includes Denning. I don’t believe the Magistrate would commit to trial on Denning’s evidence. Some other witnesses have come forward of lesser significance, one whose evidence was discredited back in 1982 by Crown law officers and yet a new batch of Crown law officers are now putting her up as a credible witness…she was discredited further. Another witness who makes an identification at a fairly important time, that’s to say just before and just after the bomb went off, has retracted his evidence, although you wouldn’t know it because no one in the media reported it.

Peter: It looks to a lot of people as if this is a frame-up. I mean the CEFTA group is called the “Campaign to Expose the Frame-up of Tim Anderson”. Why are the authorities resorting to a frame-up, and why you?

Tim: [That] is something they have to answer ultimately, although undoubtedly they won’t. It is difficult for me to exactly say why they are doing it. I can only speculate the same as anyone else. I don’t know what their motives are. It came as a complete surprise to me to be arrested. I can only speculate that I am a continual embarrassment to some police officers, in particular police officers involved in the original frame-up who have never forgiven or forgotten the humiliation they have suffered through that frame-up being shoved back in their faces and the fact that I have remained active in areas which are some embarrassment to them, such as the issues of police verbals, and so I am an embarrassment and they decided one way or another in association with one or other, with whatever group of people, to run this whole thing through again.

Peter: I remember hearing there was an international conference earlier this year that you attended, where there was a policeman that you ‘named’. Could you say a little bit about that?

Tim: Yes, that was in the middle of March. Earlier this year a group of ex-prisoners decided to get going again with the anti-verbal campaign partly because nothing had happened on it, and partly because a number of legal seminars were coming up dealing with the issue of police fabrication of confessions, or police investigation techniques to put it in a nicer way, and the question of videotaping of interviews also arose in those conferences. We prepared some pamphlets for those conferences in February and March this year [1989], and at a conference in March this year I stood up and exposed one of the cops involved in the 1978 frame-up with myself, Ross Dunn and Paul Alister as a perjurer and basher, and the man stood up and exposed himself as a Superintendent of police and later on we found out that he was meant to be the police force’s representative on the committee to implement the safeguards against verballing, no less. So I have a pretty strong suspicion that this person is one of the characters behind the new attempt to frame me.

Peter: Again, to quite a few people its strange that, its you that’s being targeted, on your own. Paul Alister and Ross Dunn are no longer  in the picture. Is it that you are living in the city, very actively challenging various injustices when you see them?

Tim: Yes I think I would agree with that. It is a fairly stark contrast that Ross and Paul who were the ones targeted most heavily with Seary’s fabricated story of the Hilton bombing in 1978… for all those years. Now they are living relatively quiet lives in Queensland and are left alone and I am the one that is targeted.

Peter: I am interested in the capacities of the police to frame people. We have had one case here in Sydney just recently with Harry Blackburn, a policeman himself, seemed to be framed by other police. There is another matter going through the ICAC [Independent Commission Against Corruption], to do with a guy called Makim where again it looks as though police may have planted heroin on this bloke. What do you see as the capacities of the authorities to do frame-ups? What means do they have at their disposal?

Tim: Well firstly I suppose it is interesting to add to that incident with ICAC you have referred to, that not only are police alleged to have loaded up Frank Hakim with heroin, which seems quite likely, and it is a common thing of course for the police to do….the police that are being accused in that way have accused other police of a conspiracy frame-up of them, so the police themselves have raised the spectre of police framing police. And in both cases it is police framing police.

I mean the underlying reality is that there s a power struggle going on in the upper levels of the police force at the moment, [between] the old CIB [Criminal Investigation Bureau] and a number of officers that have had a bit of academic education, and perhaps what you might call the ‘left wing’ of the NSW Police Force, if in fact such a thing exists. There is definitely a power struggle [involving] officers of the old CIB who are now at the level of superintendent ….. some of [the old guard corrupt cops] have been drummed out of the force of course. Roger Rogerson, Bill Duff, Nelson Chad, some of these people have been booted out. 

The ones that weren’t booted out and who were the associate of the mob are now Chief Inspectors and Superintendents and so on, and they are the ones being referred to by the Police Minister and the Police Commissioner when he says the old CIB was a hotbed of corruption. 

As to the capacity of the police for frame-ups, it has always been there of course. If we are talking about corrupt cops and clean cops, really what we are talking about in terms of corruption is the taking of bribes and the trafficking in drugs, these sort of things, that is what’s considered as corruption by the police. It is important to note I think that certain corrupt practices that average people would consider corrupt such as perjury, the fabrication of evidence, loading up of suspects with drugs and weapons and so on, is not considered corruption generally speaking. Verballing [Putting words into a suspect’s statement that they did not say – Ed] for instance, is not considered a corrupt practice, it happens across the board. I think you would be hard pressed to find an experienced detective who hasn’t been involved in a quite a number of verbals. I suspect that as it is such a completely normal practice of police. It is not something that there is a distinction made amongst police whether they verbal or they don’t. Or if they don’t verbal, as has been the case of one uniformed cop I know of, they simply don’t get into the squads that investigate serious crime and inevitably end up verballing people….. 

The capacity to fabricate evidence has expanded in certain ways in the last ten years, I suppose, and one of the techniques has been a new level of inducements I suppose in that police can induce junkies, people using heroin, to sign confessions or to sign up their friends by providing them with drugs, and that has been going on for quite a while. I know the Chief Inspector for instance, I won’t name him, a Chief Inspector for instance I know has been involved in three cases where people in custody have been administered drugs, and in two cases they have died. That indicates some other more sinister aspects to police providing prisoners with drugs: apart from inducing them, they can also murder them. Very secretively if they choose to do so, and I have no doubt that this Chief Inspector has at least murdered one of those two people. But what I was saying was that the provision of prisoners or criminals with drugs is a way of getting statements against themselves or against other people. 

In more recent times we have got, particularly as a result of there being a large number of long term prisoners and lifers who are rather desperate to get out of jail, particularly in view of the sentencing policies of the current Government, they’re basically selling their souls, ending up being “supergrasses” [paid informers planted inside organisations – Ed] in a wide range of cases for police officers, and quite a pattern of that has built up in the last few years to the extent that I had information that there was something in the order of 40 or 50 people at least in protection units in NSW jails, who are giving statements against a wide range of people. Generally that they heard them confess to this murder, that rape, this armed robbery and so on, inside jail. It has always been there of course, there have always been prisoner informers prepared to do things to get themselves out of jail, but I think with the uncertainty in the sentencing regimes in the last year and a half, the use of informers in that sort of capacity has increased a lot.

Peter:  I was wondering if you could talk a bit of how you would fit your case into the broader law and order agenda here in Australia. Because it seems to me that there is an increasing level of repressive social control here in Sydney and probably in Australia in general….. I am wondering of there is a tendency in the authorities to want to turn resistance into either terrorism or crime as a way of dealing with it. It seems to me that like, in Italy they had Red Brigades, in England they had an Angry Brigade, in the United States they had the Weather Underground, and they are a level of opposition that the authorities can deal with in a sense because they are people they can say are terrorists. 

Tim: Well, it is a very wide question, but basically I agree with what you’re saying about the construction of terrorism from activist groups. That has been fairly well documented in Australia. You will find, I think, the autobiography of the former head of ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation), Barnett, identifies things such as the Animal Liberation Movement, the Anti-Nuclear Movement and so on as basically…the movements from which terrorists arise, which is an enormously slanderous thing to say about these movements. 

We have a lot of our initiatives, law and order initiatives here of course imported from Britain, which has targeted its own crisis of democracy in its occupation of Ireland, as a means, as a target of terrorism through which repressive laws can be introduced, not only in Northern Ireland, but in England, and then against groups in England. A lot of those things that flow through to Australia even though, I think as Jenny Hocking points out in her thesis, that more people have been killed by anti-terrorist squads in Australia than by terrorist actions, and certainly the Hilton bombing itself was a very typical sort of incident in terms of the creation of terrorism as a perceived threat in Australia, and as a means by which security forces could beef up their standing in Australia. 

As to my case, I think that there is a wider sort of context of law and order that doesn’t just deal with terrorism or political activism but deals with economic crisis. I think that law and order generally speaking, law and order regimes are bankrupt political responses to broader social, economic and political [issues]… In Australia we are looking at the drug crisis, which has not been dealt with at all; [I mean the] economic crisis of the 80’s where a lot of hardships have been forced on the underprivileged in society, and particular groups in society, and as a result …..of political parties’ failure to come up with policies to address those sorts of economic and social [issues], they resort to talking tough and talking law and order and talking about jailing more people. 

The public in general are generally ignorant of the fact that the people who are being jailed and locked up are not the real threat to themselves but….groups in working class suburbs, in Aboriginal communities and so on. So now when a government depends on this sort of thing, as the current state government in NSW does, depends on law and order regimes and starts giving more powers to police, more powers to magistrates, starts cutting back legal aid and so on, starts honing that cutting edge which goes deeper into those poorer communities, they’re basically giving a green light to the police to do what they damn well please, and so the police then go ahead and abuse their power and murder people in their beds and frame people up and so on. 

You have to see it is a logical consequence of the green light that the political party, the government in power, is giving to the police. I think my arrest comes into that context and shares with the murder of David Gundy the fact that the police are given a green light and told whatever they do they will be backed up, it doesn’t matter, they’re wearing the uniform therefore as long as they are carrying out the wishes of the government if people get hurt, if people get destroyed in the process that’s OK, the government is not going to say a word against it.

Peter: One group in our society that is seen as having a capacity to question things like that is the media, and it seems to me that in this situation the media are very conflicted with the Government and with the police. I wonder if you could talk a bit about the role of the media in your case.

Tim: Well, of course if you are talking about a bombing case, you’re talking about something which is just a delight to the tabloid media and when I say tabloid I include broad sheets and television. What I mean to say is that media that are used to giving their news in 20 second or 1 minute grabs, those sort of things, and basically have had most of the investigative guts of their reporting ripped out of them and thrown away in a morass of mass media takeovers. So they are basically feeding us crap. They have been feeding us crap for a long time, and when it comes to a bombing case of course, it is better news value in the terms of what [they decide to] run and….not run of course. It’s better news value to them to, say have a clear and unequivocal strong allegation. Here is a bombing, there’s the bomber, there’s the results, you know, The police allegations get wide coverage. 

When something happens, such as last week where a witness, an important witness, retracts all of his evidence completely, says no, no, that is not the man I was wrong — my identification can’t be right. No coverage of it at all you know. Presumably because, partly because there was hardly any journalists in court at the time, because they all go away because they think nothing exciting is happening, but also because they don’t have the dedication, they don’t have the essential principles to see something through — to wear the responsibility for their own actions in giving such wide publicity at first. They’re not prepared to sit through the rest of the day and report the cross-examination. There are numerous examples where a witnesses’ evidence in chief has been reported, what they are claimed to have said, but their cross examination, not one word of it has been reported. There are a lot of examples there.

Peter: Could you elaborate on that particular case of this person retracting the evidence?

The witness I refer to retracting his evidence was the man who was the night receptionist at the Hilton Hotel, who made a ridiculous identification of me as being outside the Hotel after the bombing. Almost five years after the event he made the identification, and at a time when I could not have been described as thin. I had a beard, glasses, dark brown hair. He had originally identified a thin, small person with shoulder length blond hair and no beard, no glasses. Five years later on he said this was me. This along with the verbal of Ray Denning was the evidence that led to my arrest this year, Pederick came later of course. So eventually this person was thoroughly discredited in cross-examination, eventually he was actually shown a photograph of me that was taken on the very day he was meant to have identified me on the 12th, and he said that cannot be the person that I saw, it cannot be because he saw how my appearance was so different to what he described. So, it seems unlikely that the prosecution would even call him again. I don’t know how they had the gall to call him in the first place.

Peter: I was suggesting that the media is one of the institutional structures which are meant to provide some kind of safeguard in this society. Another one is meant to be the court system itself. The court system itself is meant to allow people to have various rights and I am wondering what you think is the role of the courts in this particular case, given that there have been other cases that you have been involved in where evidence has been presented. How do you feel the court system itself is dealing with your case now, given there is a broader context of legal history that involves you?

Tim: Of course the way the British court system, which… the one which operates here, is an adversarial system, it is not an inquisitorial system. Its stated aim is not to ascertain the truth, its stated aim is to resolve the conflicts between two sides. Now the judge or magistrate sitting there is an umpire or arbiter, sometimes a tribunal of fact, usually it is the jury that is the tribunal of fact, ultimately in serious cases. Basically speaking the courts are not formally interested in discovering truth. So therefore they never enquire into the history of things, and when you get a case such as mine which has a long history, you find that they do everything that they can to avoid looking at the history. The Crown put up Seary as a witness of truth saying that Ross Dunn placed the Hilton bomb. For seven years they maintained that line. They have never withdrawn from that line and yet when you have a case where all history can be excised, you have a situation where two, three, four new stories can be added as to how things were meant to have happened and then the court says we are only looking at the evidence before us now. In other words they can frame a person repeatedly and the courts will not take any judicial notice of it at all, won’t take any notice of the previous frame-ups. 

Since my arrest of course there are three new stories apart from Seary’s which have been run — one os the Ray Denning story that I am meant to have placed the bomb. The second one is Pederick’s story that he was meant to have placed it and he was meant to have killed Desai. The third one is when they found out that was impossible that Pederick was meant to have tried to kill the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, so I mean theoretically there is no end to it. There is no formal end to how long this could go on for…there is perhaps one exception, that is a jury trial, a jury acquittal appears to be fairly final in this system. But for instance say Pederick’s story was tossed out in the magistrate’s court and they found that, no, its just incredible, its just ridiculous. There would be nothing theoretically to stop the police in another twelve years down the track pulling out some other idiot who said I did the bombing and Anderson made me do it. Anderson was there with me. Theoretically there is nothing to stop that because the law does look at things in a very artificial vacuum.

Peter: Specifically with evidence from ASIO and Special Branch police, or even the ordinary police, what has been the response of the courts to dealing with the evidence, to making it available, and how adequate do you think is the court response to that?

Tim: Well, ASIO is pursuing more or less that same line it has for over a decade in this case, and that is to claim public interest immunity, to say their operations are so important and crucial that nothing should be provided. Although in recent weeks they have provided I think, three pages, one which was completely blanked out, the other two which were heavily censored. That is some sort of token gesture to the fact they were going to provide something. But they haven’t made a full disclosure and there is a lot of relevant stuff they have. Particularly in a case which is very old and you might be able to imagine that surveillance records are quite important to ascertain if there was  surveillance on certain people and where they were at certain times, when that is the real issue. And when people’s memories after all, you cannot expect them to be very good at where people were at such and such a time on such and such a date twelve years ago. 

Interestingly enough five years ago, the….then Solicitor General, Mary Gaudron…..and a Crown Prosecutor said that in recommending against any Hilton bombing charges against me at that stage and my two friends, they said that if there were charges, “it would be essential to give consideration to all material including ASIO material, to ensure the fair conduct of the prosecution”, in other words they are saying, it is essential to have a fair hearing, a fair trial, where ASIO documents are made available. They are not being made available now, they are being opposed, and it remains to be seen how far we will get with that. But one overriding comment I can make, having seen some ASIO documents through different ways. ASIO, strangely enough at a time when the High Court was denying it, ASIO was selectively leaking documents to me through the Freedom of Information Act. The ones they wanted me to see, more or less to say “here you know we are not part of this Special Branch case against you”, and so they selectively leaked things at that time. 

Of course what we found out later one was there were other documents which were rather helpful to us in that Special Branch case which they were sitting on, which they were suppressing, and so my conclusion of this is, and looking at other cases, similar cases, the Kerry Browning case for instance, is that whenever something is harmful to someone’s interests, a person who has been targeted by Political police, for instance, there is no time lost in that information being made available to police and police will use it. Whereas if there is something that is helpful they will simply sit on it. So it is very much a one-sided operation. People who are targeted by police simply do not get the benefit of any of the sort of information that’s collected by these spy agencies, whereas the police and the state certainly do…..

Peter: If, for instance when Pederick has given his evidence at the committal hearing in December, if it then appears that there is not a prima facie case against you, and the case is then dropped, what do you see as the way the system should then deal with the frame-up back in ’78, the frame-up that has gone on now, and the Hilton bombing itself? Can you think of any way this area of matters can be dealt with?

Tim: Well, first of all it seems likely this matter will go to trial, because a prima facie case is not a very high standard of proof in anyone’s language, even if Pederick is severely discredited as I am sure he will be. Unless he retracts or admits he’s lying on some substantial matters, I think it is likely the matter will go to trial… 

To answer the second part of your question I don’t believe the system can cope with it at all, and I am not interested in positing additional court cases for myself to be dragged through when I have been dragged through bloody court cases in this for the last twelve years. If it is the court case that provides one more opportunity for the police, the malicious police who’ve been involved over these prosecutions in the last decade to have another kick at me, I’m not interested in going into any court case. And I will assert my rights as far as that as far as I can. There may be some court cases which involve the suing of people for malicious prosecution, I will see that when it comes to it when we see what evidence we have I will take legal advice on it. 

But you are talking about Royal Commissions and things like this. Really those sort of things I mean, politicians talk about Royal Commissions, that you never call a Royal Commission unless you know what results you are going to get out of it, and I mean that sounds very cynical but I think that every court case so far to do with the Hilton bombing or the fabricated charges against myself – and remember this is not simply the second time I’ve been framed, I have been to court six times – and on every occasion there has been fabrication of evidence. I have never had one fair experience before a court, of police telling the truth and of courts dealing with me fairly. Even in those occasions that I have been exonerated, I have got no criminal convictions despite all those cases even in those cases, on not one occasion did the magistrate or judge ever recommend prosecution or charges or disciplinary action against any of the witnesses who were proven to have lied. So I don’t have any particular faith in putting up new court cases for me to go through to see this matter resolved. 

As far as I’m concerned the matter gets resolved before the public. The matter gets resolved on the record and for people who are interested to see, as far as I’m concerned the 1978 case the definitive record of that was Tom Molomby’s book and my book, and the articles written by some of the more serious journalists, who eventually got into investigative journalism. I just hope, I suppose, that with this case that….. as the case goes on a bit some of the more serious journalists, some more investigative journalists rather than the superficial police reporters of the newspapers and TV, will actually do some decent analyses of what has gone on here, and that will be on the record. That will tell people what has actually happened in this case.

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