Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 21 September 10, 1969
The Brigadier's Gilberties Now Exist!
The Brigadier's Gilberties Now Exist!
The Security Intelligence Organisation now officially exists, as the old-styled Secret Service, Gilbert's Goons or the Brigadier's Buffers never did. Yes, just as the Australians got their ASIO in 1956 and the Philippines got their Anti-Subversion laws in 1954, now we have our own NZS10. Part of New Zealand's price for the American alliance, for our involvement in ANZUS and SEATO.
Eager Beaver Gilbert, the Brigadier they nicknamed "Soapy" during the war, was dredged up in 1956 to re-organise the SS when the Americans insisted we tighten up our "security".
The 1969 re-organisation of the SS was prompted by four factors: first, suspicious moves by the Ombudsman Sir Guy Powles, which indicated that he might try to investigate the legality of some SS actions. Secondly, the disclosure in Cock magazine of a list of SS operatives. Thirdly, suggestions by the Labour Party that they might initiate moves to institutionalise the SS, the fourthly, the rumpus caused by Roger Boshier at the Labour Party conference early in the year.
So the Prime Minister made a nice little speech about the international subversion brewing here, how it had to be watched, something had to be done about it.
But surely a sinister and unnecessary piece of legislation. The work of sinister people, no matter how much we may laugh about their absurd antics. Take the scene in Parliament last Wednesday at the Third Reading of the Bill.
Kiwi Keith sits at the desk up front, writing zealously, not pausing to listen to Martyn Finlay. Behind Holyoake and to his right sits the Brigadier. He edges up his green chair so he's right behind Kiwi, in position to lick his right earlobe. The Brigadier's worried: dry lips, darting flicking licking tongue, lizard-like and nervous. A quirky mouth which turns up at the corners when he leans forward to talk in Kiwi's ear. Or rather whisper. Brown fat pudgy hands, immaculate shirt, suit, and regulation Wanganui Collegiate tie.
Behind the Brigadier his panel of three advisers. His secretary, dozens of files all over the place, numbered and indexed and ready to be flicked out at an instant's notice. A typical 40 year old secretary to security; black hair neatly combed over the balding patch on top, black-rimmed gilbert-type glasses (are they regulation SS?), five o'clock shadowed face, deep-set glimmering eyes, a slow, left-handed, crabbed, childish-lettered writer. Using a regulation HB softnosed red and black eight inch pencil. He is meant to hand Gilbert the right material from the other advisers. Gilbert peruses, nods when he agrees (the SS advisers smile like schoolboys) or grunts when he disagrees (the boys look despondent). The nods are passed to the Prime Minister.
But the secretary is a good secret police man too. He scans the room; as an afterthought, almost forgetfully, looks upwards. Right above him a row of press gallery journalists, looking right down upon him and the Brigadier. "My God, they're looking at those secret files!" thinks the secretary. A blur of action and he snatches the upturned green foolscap typescript from beside Gilbert's arm. He turns them face down, and then really doesn't know what to do, so he shows them triumphantly to the Deputy Director who smiles with grudging respect at the secretary's quick thinking.
Alongside the secretary the Deputy Director sits, sliding on his chair. The sinister one he's called: long-faced, long-nosed, so posed, no chin, balding head, darting eyes.
Next to him, the 'legal' adviser, making learned comments on the Bill. Is he lawyer or accountant? Anyway, he's elderly and paternal, white-haired, a grinning little man—but isn't he familiar? My memory clicks, yes, the former Treasurer of the New Zealand National Party who stood for the Presidency in 1965. Now isn't that a coincidence. I wonder who the Commissioner for the Security Intelligence Appeal Board will be, I just wonder ....
No debate on the SS would be complete without the Holyoake smear. Practised and perfumed over the years. It came alright. Labour's Lower Hutt MP Trevor Young brought up the case of a Russian refugee who'd been refused entry ot New Zealand. Unfortunately Mr Young hadn't been told about the secret meeting on Wednesday morning between the Prime Minister and Mr Kirk (and Brigadier Gilbert?) Oh no, Mr Young's letter just hadn't been answered. And why? "Well, there wasn't time." Just time enough for a secret meeting, the searching out of files, and the reading therefrom in the House by Kiwi Keith. One was a report from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (didn't know I'd read that did you He?) and it read in part "this person is a low-down despicable character who is a habitual criminal, crook and blackmailer—in other works a blackguard of the worst sort." The Prime Minister asserted that this man, a Russian, had reached high rank in the Red Army, then worked for the KMT, and finally for the Russian secret police, the KGB. There was an uproar in the House, the journalists wrote furiously, the , Labour members cackled, yelling "we don't want that sort here." The Prime Minister quoted another fantastic case, lashing the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches in New Zealand for their naivete in trying to bring these refugees to New Zealand.
This debate has been aired in the press, but it is interesting to make a few points for the record. The "security reports" on both Russian refugees were highly questionable documents, at least as they were presented to the House by the Prime Minister. The first — from the ASIO, was laughable, the second — from the USA's Central Intelligence Agency, was nearly as bad. The day after the Prime Minister's statements the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church stated categorically that the first security report was wrong in saying that the refugee had been a member of the Red Army; in actual fact he had from 1911 been a member of the Tsar's army. This went unchallenged by the Prime Minister and Brigadier Gilbert. Presumably other sections of the report may have been similarly incorrect, but we have little way of challenging the content immediately; and anyway how often are security reports revealed in this manner—and so open to challenge?
One of the most interesting things was that the first refugee received an entry permit to New Zealand. And this from conservative Tom Shand, Minister of Immigration—after he'd been advised of the nature of the security report by Brigadier Gilbert! The trouble arose in Hong Kong, through which the refugee had to pass before he could get to New Zealand. The authorities there wouldn't grant him a transit visa—so who was notified first? Not the sponsors, the NCC, nor the NZ Immigration Department! No. Brigadier Gilbert was notified; again he put his case to Tom Shand, and the New Zealand entry visa was revoked. So the poor 75 year old, permanently bed-ridden Russian refugee was denied a New Zealand bed in which to die. He went to Ireland instead. Another security risk foiled and ticked in the Brigadier's book. Stopped from spying.
But, at the time—and this is what counts—the Prime Minister won a political and moral victory in the House, and in the newspapers. The Labour Party doesn't want to appear soft on Communism. Kirk nodded sagely and agreed with Holyoake on everything; Mr Young, confused, went along with the fraud. Kirk didn't want to see the files, yes he trusted the Prime Minister, no he didn't want to speak, yes he believes what the Prime Minister said.
You may ask—well, why do we need to worry? Isn't Gilbert just playing? That's what I thought too, long ago. But over the years the blunders mount, the personal damage done to innocent people is recorded with increasing frequency. These men have power which is potentially dangerous. The men themselves must be educated, intelligent men with a sense of proportion. Yet while Trevor Young spoke briefly about freedom, and read parts of "God Defend New Zealand", Gilbert and his little men smiled, and began to snigger openly and finally burst out into open laughter, flashing knowing looks among themselves.
On the first occasion in this debate Labour MP Jonathan Hunt interjected that "the papers promised by the Security Service to the Public Expenditure Committee have still not been presented." Holyoake, who was speaking, turned to the Brigadier, who said "No reports promised." The Prime Minister repeated this statement; unfortunately Hunt persisted. The Prime Minister was perplexed, so turned to Gilbert again; Gilbert feigned ignorance, turned to his secretary. Gilbert was informed in no uncertain manner You're wrong, that was last year. We did promise papers this year, and they haven't been given. Gilbert told this to the Prime Minister, who muttered darkly and indistinctly to the House—"I'll look into it," and continued, uninterrupted, with his speech.
Later Dr Finlay brought up the issue of public servants' grading when they were transferred from the Security Service back to another department. He considered it an injustice that they didn't get credit for the time spent in the SS. "Oh no!" shouted Kiwi Keith, "They're just the same as any other civil servant and they'll keep the same grading they had in the Security Service." The Prime Minister you see had been talking to the Brigadier. But once again Gilbert was wrong and Finlay hauled them up. Startled, Holyoake creaked around and conferred urgently with Gilbert. One, Two, Three, Four minutes. Parliament waited; the shuffling of feet and tattered Evening Posts and Sir Leslie Munro's snoring echoed in the microphones. Finally Holyoake continued, but on an entirely different point—omitting all reference to the grading of state servants.
As the finale comes, like the Brigadier's sure orgasmic eruption in the press very few years, the excitement in the SS delegation mounts.
Finally the tapping fingers of the Deputy Director cease. The secretary bundles his files into his black bag. Jubilation, exultant smiles. They've won! A gleeful Gilbert glance and chuckle to the Ministers—his friends—nearby. The advisers dart swiftly out the door. Holyoake sits back, hands on his paunch, leans back to Gilbert. "Well, I done alright for you haven't I?" The Brigadier jerks forward, looking pleased. The House rises, Holyoake gets up and says again to the fawning but powerful head of the new Security Intelligence Organisation "Well, that's that, isn't it ...." The Prime Mniister expands, and drags out his fags.
Note: Alister Taylor is currently writing a book about the Gilbertian escapades of the last few years. Anyone who has any useful information, clues, or useful tales which may help with the jigsaw are asked to telephone him at 40306 or write to him care of Box 10096, Wellington.