The Brisbane Times has an article by Frank Robson, titled ‘Spy or Nazi?’ (April 1, 2012), all about some bloke called Dan Van Blarcom. As a young man in the late 1960s, Dan joined the Australian Nazi Party (National Socialist Party of Australia), apparently on behalf of the Queensland Special Branch, and principally as a means by which the state could harass the left. Later, Dan joined the WA Anarchist Federation and also mucked about with anarchists in Brisbane in the 1970s.
To be precise:
In 1975, our restless mystery man joined something called the Libertine Socialist Organisation, a Brisbane anarchist group led by Brian Laver (Rod Laver’s cousin). Still a political activist, Laver tells me Van Blarcom claimed at the time to have been a ”committed fascist” who had experienced a change of heart.
”I still believe Dan was telling the truth about that,” Laver says. ”He gave us an amazing amount of information and files about the fascist movement in Australia which was very useful to us. Of course, he didn’t tell us back then that he had been a Special Branch agent. We only found out about that in 2004, when he was disendorsed, and it was quite a shock.”
Cool story, bro.
Apart from recalling the lulzy work of Hal Turner for the FBI (and provoking the question which of the current crop of loud-mouthed nazis are drawing a government wage) / recalling the heady days when Dr James Saleam was running about with a swastika armband / causing me to wonder whether Brian sees the funny side of having been a Libertine Socialist, the reference to the WA Anarchist Federation got me to thinking, and sure enough Takver can has moar.
Apparently there was a WA Anarchist Federation (oh and a Libertarian Socialist Organisation too, btw). Thus the FAAB, No.1 (1973) contains the following statement: “In the last couple of months the few anarchist activists in West Australia have landed together in a loose federation [sic]. We have obtained premises for living and printing etc and we are now in the process of running off edition no 2 of King Mob, our duplicated paper.” The only (other) trace online I can find of King Mob comes courtesy of the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, which apparently holds a copy of #5 somewhere in its voluminous archives.
In addition, “One of the people involved in Perth, Julian Ripley, was framed in 1972 of the planting of a bomb in the Department of Labour and National Service.”
Takver writes more about Julian here. In brief, in September 1972 two men, 21yo Ripley and 19yo Rupert Gerritsen, were arrested and charged with conspiring to blow up the Department of Labour and National Service building in Perth on August 23. In April 1973, Ripley was found guilty and sentenced to five years jail; Gerritsen was sentenced to six years jail in September.
At the time, anarchists maintained that Ripley was verballed. Note that Ripley and Gerritsen were arrested by police following a raid upon the Collingwood Free Store at 42 Smith Street (now home to a hairdressing salon).
On September 11, 2002, the Liberal MP for Nedlands, Sue Walker, made the following remarks in the WA State Parliament (PDF):
I refer to the facts of a highly sensational case which involved the making of a homemade bomb by a young man called Rupert Gerritsen. He placed the bomb on the third floor of the Victoria Centre in St Georges Terrace on 23 August 1972. The building was occupied at the time by the then Department of Labour and National Service. The bomb was set to go off at 2.40 am and was placed there by Gerritsen earlier in the evening when he thought everyone had gone home. When the bomb did not go off, a phone call was made to police stating that a bomb had been planted. That caller was not Rupert Gerritsen. I was told by an Albany man who has just come forward, Mike Payne, that he made that phone call and that he was involved in that offence. He said that he did not know that the bomb had been found by a caretaker in the building and had been dismantled. That case was viewed seriously then, as it should have been, and as it would be now. The intention was to blow up the files of the department to hinder the drafting of young men into service in Vietnam. Two men have done time on this matter – Rupert Gerritsen, who was 19 at the time, and Julian Ripley. Rupert Gerritsen pleaded guilty to that offence. Julian Ripley went to trial and has always declared his innocence, as far as I know. Rupert Gerritsen, who has been in contact with me, was on the run from bail when Ripley was undergoing trial on 29 March 1973. Gerritsen was extradited from New Zealand on 23 July 1973 and pleaded guilty. He was not around when Julian Ripley was the subject of a trial. Both men had been picked up in Melbourne by detectives from WA a few weeks after the incident. One of those detectives was the Minister for Health, who was then Detective Sergeant Kucera. At the time Gerritsen and Ripley were members of the Australian Labor Party branch of the University of Western Australia, as were the Attorney General, Kim Beazley, and the Treasurer Eric Ripper. Those men provided character references for Mr Rupert Gerritsen, who has asked me to raise this in the Parliament because he cannot get the Government to act. Ripley maintained that he was innocent. Newspaper reports tell of a campaign that included posters on the wall of the Swan Brewery proclaiming, “Ripley innocent, Kucera lied” or words to that effect. In 1973, Ripley was sentenced in the District Court after his trial. It was a sensational case for Western Australia. He was sentenced by Judge Jackson to a term of imprisonment of five years, with no parole for 12 months. He was charged by then Detective Robert Charles Kucera, originally with a conspiracy offence but ultimately with an offence of wilfully and unlawfully putting an explosive substance, namely a mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, in a certain place – Victoria Centre – with intent to damage property. He was also charged at Leederville on 23 August with wilfully and unlawfully doing a certain act – constructing an explosive device by the mixing of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil – with intent to cause an explosion in Western Australia of a nature likely to cause serious injury. He pleaded not guilty. The circumstances in which he was convicted would not apply today, mainly because processes have moved on. We now have video recordings of interviews. Video records of interviews were introduced because of the isolation in which people in police stations found themselves. Ripley was convicted on admissions alleged to have been made by him to then Detective Kucera. Hugh McLernon was the counsel for the Crown, and he had this to say before the trial –
It is obvious at once that the major part of the Crown case against Ripley is the statement alleged to have been made by him and the Crown therefore has the task of establishing the credibility of that statement before the jury . . .
That statement was taken by Detective Kucera in the Russell Street headquarters. Prior to Ripley giving evidence-in-chief during his trial, Detective Kucera read to the court an unsigned record of interview with Ripley, said to have been made, and taken by him, at the Russell Street headquarters on 15 September 1972. After the alleged record of interview was finished, then Detective Kucera left the room for coffee, and a Detective Markham stepped in for 10 minutes. Detective Kucera then returned to the room and handed Ripley the record of interview. Ripley wrote at the bottom of that record of interview words to the effect that it was a true and correct record, but he refused to sign it. In his evidence, Ripley told how that record of interview came about. The Crown accepted during the trial that Ripley did not place the bomb in the building. None of the fingerprints on the bomb belonged to Ripley. The Crown accepted that there was never any intention to harm anyone. In his evidence-in-chief, Ripley talked about the making of the record of interview, the phone call that was alleged to have been made, and who he believed had made it. I refer to page 179 of the transcript –
Who accompanied you to the headquarters?—Kucera and a Victorian police officer.
Were you in the car together?—Yes.
. . .
Before we get to the record of interview, first of all what did he –
That is, Detective Sergeant Kucera –
do when you first got in about these notes?—Well, he just sat down and got a typewriter. He had to get a second one because the first one didn’t work and said “We are going to have an interview and I am going to keep a record of that interview.” He then proceeded to type out a record of interview.
Peter Dowding was representing Ripley, and he asked –
How did the interview proceed?—He would ask a question typing it while he asked it, wait for a response and if I did not make an answer, he would write in one himself.
Dowding asked Ripley to look at the record of interview and asked –
Have you seen that record of interview before?—Yes, this is what he typed out at that time.
Just looking at it first of all, perhaps we can go through it. First of all he has typed down there a question: “You know your, rights, Julian. You don’t have to say anything unless you want to but anything I do say will be taken down in writing.” Did he say that to you?—Yes, he typed that out saying it while he typed it.
How did you know he was typing that out?—Well, he said whatever he was typing as he was typing.
Did you respond?—No, I did not.
What did he type down?—“Yes.”
And did he tell you what he was typing down for the answers?—Yes.
What about the next question: “Who made the bomb?”—He asked the question.
What was the response from you?—I didn’t make a response.
What did he put down?—“Rupert and myself.[“]
I have received fresh evidence that I believe the Premier should consider. It relates to what was said in that interview between Detective Kucera and Ripley. It was alleged that someone other than Ripley made the phone call. Gerritsen and Mike Payne say that Ripley could never have known who made the phone call because he was asleep and not involved.
I have a statement from Michael John Payne of Albany. He rang my office about a month or so ago and told me that he thought I should be given evidence about this matter that had been troubling him for a while. I asked him to see a lawyer. He said that he would speak to his family about it and get back to me. He has sent me a signed statement, which I am happy to tender. Rupert Gerritsen tells me that he has been trying to raise this. I have asked the Premier in this House to look into this matter and refer it to the appropriate authorities. Part of the statement by Michael Payne states –
On Wednesday 23 August 1972 Rupert Gerritsen planted his bomb in the Department of Labour and National Service. That night there was a party. I think it was held somewhere in Leederville. I was told that we would definitely be able to hear the explosion . . . from this location.
During the party I believe that I remember that Julian said he had to go to bed early as he had to get up for work the next morning. The time fixed for the explosion passed and it became apparent that the bomb had not gone off. I remember saying that someone would have to ring the authorities to give warning in case the device was in an unstable condition and therefore liable to go off when the office was open for business. I had to walk home so I offered to ring the police and my offer was accepted.
This is the statement of a grown man living in Albany. He says that he made that phone call. The statement continues –
I suggested that I claim the action for Unit C 10 of the Peoples Liberation Army or some such name. There was of course no group but Unit C 10 had been claimed for actions in the past.
. . .
I remember making the telephone call. I made it from a public telephone box. There was a certain amount of adrenalin involved as I thought that telephone calls could be traced quite easily. Although I cannot remember the exact words I did mention Unit C 10. Briefly I told them of the situation.
This man has come forward.
I raise another issue. I have received correspondence from Rupert Gerritsen, which I am happy to table so that the Premier can send it to the appropriate authorities. He used to be the Premier’s neighbour. I put on record that Mr Gerritsen has told me that the members on the other side of the House are his friends and that he has tried to tell them that an innocent man was convicted, but they have done nothing about it. That is why I raise this, and why I think that matters relating to the responsibility of the Attorney General for certain actions should be given to the Solicitor General or another such person. I will not go into Rupert Gerritsen’s comments because I do not have time; however, the statement he gave me states that Ripley was not involved in the incident and did not leave any fingerprints. Gerritsen was the only person who left fingerprints on the bomb, and he said that was because he believed that the bomb would go off.
A compelling document landed on my desk. It is a matter of public record. It is an oral history from the Battye Library of Western Australia. In 1992 Rupert Gerritsen sat down with people from the library, not knowing who would be the Minister for Health today. They wanted to find out how a person reacted when he went to Fremantle Prison. This powerful document was created in January 1992 and I want to read some of what was said. The question was asked –
What was it then that led you into the actions that finally led to you going to gaol?
Gerritsen replied –
It was a bit more complicated than that because the other guy who’d been arrested with me (a Canadian guy named Julian Ripley) in actual fact had nothing to do with the whole bombing thing, and they contrived to basically frame him up. When they were in Russell Street they threatened to throw him out of the fourth storey window unless he signed a statement which they prepared for him and that sort of stuff, and told him to do certain things on it.