How to Combat the Political Police

Section One

Who They Are

In this booklet, there is not enough space to recount the development of political police agencies in Australia, since their beginnings during the First World War. Instead, you should refer to Frank Cain's The Origins of Political Surveillance in Australia for an account of SOME of the dirty tricks and campaigns undertaken by them over the decades. Here, we shall refer only to the present, and to the very recent past.

We should understand firstly - WHO they are, or rather what they call themselves:

(1) A.S.I.O. (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation).

This body was set up in 1949 to combat "subversion", which was then equated with "communists". ASIO does not spy outside of Australia; that function is reserved for ASIS (Australian Security Intelligence Service). ASIO combats two things: so-called foreign "spies" within Australia, and DOMESTIC POLITICAL SUBVERSION (as ASIO defines it). ASIO is said to hold between 2 and 3 million files on individuals and groups.

Unlike the Special Branches (now disbanded) and the Federal Police, ASIO does not have executive or police powers (that is, they have no right to make arrests, detain people, or prosecute). However, ASIO does sometimes operate "arm in arm" with other police bodies.

Indeed; in the 1980s, ASIO turned to the state police forces for use as intelligence operatives, after the Hope Royal Commission resulted in the limiting of ASIO's activities in relation to lawful protest - as the then Labor government deleted subversion from ASIO's charter. ASIO monitors all national security and surveillance operations via the Protective Security Coordinating Committee(1). Via the PSCC, and other units, ASIO maintains formal links with the Attorney General's Department, the federal police, and the various state police forces; ASIO also utilises "informal" links with various government officials and organisations. The PSCC has direct linkages with politicians, and this suggests direct interference by political leaders (i.e. political leaders being able to direct, or "suggest", targets for political police surveillance and harassment).

ASIO, in tandem with other government bodies, maintains a "watching brief" on Nationalist activists and organisations.

(2) Federal Police.

The Federal Police (formerly the Commonwealth Police) were the original political police, but are now (largely) a legitimate arm of ordinary law enforcement. However, there are political officers attached to the Federal Police, and they do perform functions of intelligence-gathering on political organisations of various complexions.

(3) Special Branches.

The state-controlled Special Branches have now been disbanded in all states of Australia (the notorious Special Branch of New South Wales being disbanded only in March 1997). They were part of the normal police set-up, but in fact operated as "a breed apart" and collected intelligence for ASIO. However, as "normal" detectives recruited out of the police, they were usually less intelligent than ASIO officers and were more likely to resort to "ordinary" methods of "frame up" (police verbals) and intimidation.

Note: Now that the states no longer have Special Branches, ASIO will work through the Crime Intelligence units of the state police C.I.B. (Criminal Investigation Branch).

Note: The above list does not include all of the government intelligence-gathering agencies; there are others, such as:

Attorney-General's Department; certain sections thereof.
Australian Protective Service.
Australian Security Intelligence Service.
Defence Intelligence Organisation.
Defence Signals Directorate.
Department of Foreign Affairs; certain sections thereof.
Directorate of Air Force Intelligence.
Directorate of Military Intelligence.
Division of Naval Intelligence.
Joint Intelligence Organisation.
National Crime Authority.
Protective Security Coordination Centre.
Office of National Assessments.
Standing Advisory Committee on Commonwealth-State Cooperation for Protection Against Violence.
Strategy and Intelligence Program.

Some organisations may not seem to be properly included within a list of government intelligence agencies, but upon closer inspection can be found to be involved in such activities (e.g. the Australian Protective Service).

It is also of interest to note that Australian intelligence organisations co-operate and exchange information, tactics and strategies (and even agents/operatives) with other countries with regard to "handling", disrupting, and destroying Nationalist organisations.

Some notes regarding the Special Branch exposť in Victoria.

Despite the official disbanding of the state-run Special Branches, Nationalists have always suspected that the duties of the Special Branches were simply transferred to another section of the "ordinary" police.

Revelations regarding the Special Branch in Victoria have confirmed this, via the expose of the Operations Intelligence Unit in October 1997, which revealed various matters:(2)

In July 1983 John Cain's Labor government announced that Victoria's Special Branch was to be disbanded and that most of its 10,000 files were to be destroyed. Special Branch activities were to be continued only as related to terrorist activity, and the police force was instructed by the Labor government not to carry out surveillance of community groups. The role of the Special Branch in Victoria was taken over by the Operation Intelligence Unit (working with the counter terrorist and explosives information section.).

Following allegations made to the Victorian Ombudsman in 1989 that the old Special Branch records were not destroyed, the Operations Intelligence Unit took steps to hide former Special Branch files from investigators from the Ombudsman's office. The new Special Branch, the OIU, was basically the Special Branch by another name (the OIU was a Clayton's Special Branch; that is, "the Special Branch you have when you're not having a Special Branch). The OIU continued the role of the Special Branch in continuing to "investigate" (spy upon, infiltrate, perform searches without warrants, etc.) political activists (including patriots and Nationalists), and continued to share their information with ASIO and Army Intelligence (and other intelligence bodies, including US Naval Intelligence). (3)

It is interesting - but not surprising to note several matters arising from the OIU expose:

-- How undercover operatives were often recruited straight from the Police Academy so that they would look and talk like police as little as possible. The recruits were encouraged to study the politics and philosophies of the target movements, presumably so that they could fit in; and perhaps also to understand the psychology of their targets (in this regard; it is known that there is inter-country co-operation between intelligence agencies not only in exchanging "hard" information, but also in compiling psychological profiles of particular types of political targets, nowadays especially in regard to Nationalist activists).

-- How elaborate covert identities were established, using driving licences, credit cards, cheque books, vehicles with fake number plates, post office boxes, "hello" phones (phones answered with a discreet "hello"), etc. (in this regard; it is interesting to note that there is a particular area in Melbourne - Berwick and Narre Warren - where several dozen houses have been purchased by the government for use as "safe houses").

-- Not only did the operatives subscribe to and join target organisations, but they even became trusted members, helping to staff offices, organise campaigns, assist with illegal postering, write policies, produce newsletters, and update membership lists (in this regard; it is of interest to note how, after the Second World War, many military men were recruited to infiltrate organisations, particularly communist groups and communist-led trade unions, and to "go in deep" whereby even their own wives and families were unaware of their intelligence role and how they became very close to targeted political figures, not only organisationally but also socially; that they were in so "deep" and so "tight" with their targets that it has been boasted that "we knew everything").

-- That such "trusted members" were able to deliberately misuse or misdirect funds of target groups, so as to financially disable such a group. In one instance, an operative convinced a anti-nuclear group that it needed to stage a large demonstration against a visiting US warship, persuading them to spend most of their money on rubber boats and canoes to enable them to carry out this protest. The operative then reported that the group was subsequently so short of funds, that it was unable to mount an effective protest for several years.(4)

These political police still operate within the Victorian police force; the OIU having amalgamated in 1992 with the former police counter-terrorist group to form the Protective Security Intelligence Group.

Presumably; the situation is similar in all states of Australia, and that each state has own "new" Special Branch operating under another name; or, at least, as a special section of the "normal" police - perhaps as part of the Crime Intelligence units of the state police C.I.B. (Criminal Investigation Branch).


1. See: Herald Sun, 25 October 1997, pp. 1, 4.

2. See: The Age, 6 October 1997, pp. 1, 6; 7 October 1997, pp. 1, 6, 7; 8 October 1997, pp. 1, 9, 14; 9 October 1997, p. 1; 11 October 1997, p.11.

3. Various articles have mentioned the OIU's sharing with other intelligence bodies (e.g. The Age, 6 October 1997, pp. 1, 6) and their hiding of the old Special Branch records (e.g. The Age, 9 October 1997, p. 1).

4. See: The Age, 7 October 1997, p. 7.

How to Combat the Political Police

Australian Nationalism Information Database -