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Salient. Victoria University Students Newspaper. Volume 38, No 1. March 4, 1975

The Games People Play

page 3

The Games People Play

On Friday February 22 at 9.05 p.m. Dr William Ball Sutch was acquitted of the charges of spying brought against him under the Official Secrets Act. He left court a free man. If he had been found guilty he would have faced up to 14 years' imprisonment.

Thousands of words have been written and will be written about the case in the next few months. Indeed this case will set a precedent in New Zealand law as it was the first time anyone had ever been indicted under this repressive act. The repercussions of this abortive attempt to convict Dr Sutch as a spy will be felt in New Zealand for a long time.

Many New Zealanders were unaware of the Official Secrets Act. When it was introduced in 1961 after the watersiders' lockout the Labour opposition did nothing to oppose it. It took a prosecution to expose just how dangerous a piece of legislation it is.

Dr Sutch is a man who has attracted great admiration from many New Zealanders. Even people who have never read one word of his books have identified him with social reform, a man who influenced successive Labour governments and a man who had a strong influence on the young liberal left. He is also a man who made enemies and who has been the subject of many personal attacks. In 1962 the Public Service Act was redrafted by the Crown Law Office, changing the employment conditions of top civil servants.

It was widely felt at the time that this piece of legislation was designed to remove Dr Sutch from his position as head of the Department of Industries and Commerce. Brigadier Gilbert may have been attempting to discredit Dr Sutch for years and therefore keeping files on him for as long as he has been a prominent public figure.

The events of the last five months must cause New Zealanders to re-examine the role that the NZSIS under Brigadier Gilbert, has played in attempting to generate a McCarthy-type witch hunt. If Gilbert and his secret police had succeeded who would have been the next target? The methods of the NZSIS have been exposed to public scrutiny and have been found to be devious and dishonest. For the first time agents from the NZSIS (or MI4½ as defence lawyer Mike Bungay calls them) have crawled out from under their stones and described the methods they employ to obtain their information. Five of the seven letters of the alphabet (as they were so designated) were ex-colonial-service Englishmen. Under cross-examination some of them changed their evidence not once but many times. They did not make a good impression on either the public or the jury.

The first agent 'S' was forced to admit that although he had originally claimed to be able to see 150 yards on a dark and cloudy night hiding by a lamp post he was in fact skulking in a security office with a pair of binoculars. The prosecution claimed that Dr Sutch's behaviour was clandestine and surreptitious, but only succeeded in demonstrating the furtive and sneaky methods of the NZSIS. Sutch was vindicated and it is doubtful if the NZSIS will ever be taken seriously again.

Security in the Supreme Court was carried to ridiculous lengths. Limited seating was available and members of the public who were unable to obtain a seat were barred from entering the court. The Deputy Registrar displayed excessive bureaucratic zeal and Police were constantly relaying orders from him to any member of the public who dared to lean on the balcony in order to get a better view of proceedings. The public was made to feel that their attendance at what must be one of the most important trials of the century, was a privilege and not a right as a citizen.

That this farce should be played out under a Labour Government should be a lesson to those people who still believe that the Labour government's allegiance is to the working people of New Zealand. The Attorney-General Dr Finlay and the Deputy Prime Minister Mr Tizard have both expressed their doubts about the Official Secrets Act and the NZSIS. However, when the crunch came and the NZSIS demanded its pound of flesh they were powerless to intercede. They were faced with an organisation that has contacts with foreign organisations like the CIA, and powerless to control a man who has been quoted as saying that he does not even have to show the Prime Minister what information he has on the 16,000 people his department is alleged to investigate each year.

Soon after Dr Sutch's arrest, an informal group of people set up a committee to campaign for the repeal of the Official Secrets Act. It distributed copies of the Act throughout New Zealand, along with a four page lift out printed in Salient of articles on the Act and the NZSIS. One of these articles was reprinted in several daily newspapers.

In November another committee was convened calling itself the Sutch Defence Committee. Although the establishment press refused to publicise its [unclear: activit] it raised over $1500 by public subscription. At a meeting with this committee Dr Sutch indicated that he would like the money to go towards work for the repeal of the Official Secrets Act and the disbandment of the NZSIS. The committee will meet in the next week to decide how best to attain these aims. In the meantime another group dedicated to the exposure of the NZSIS announced its intention to reveal the names and addresses of security agents and has already exposed agent 'S' in a talk-back programme over Radio Windy.

The repercussions have been swift. Four people have been interviewed by the police, and as a result Brian Edwards and Alister Taylor appeared in the Supreme Court on Friday, charged with contempt. These measures should demonstrate once and for all that whether a Labour or National government is in power, the real rulers of New Zealand are not the elected governments but a group of faceless men who represent interests alien to the principles of a free and democratic society.

The Brig

The Brig