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17 December 2015


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I'd say a fair number of us went into the files - or more likely - had our existing files expanded upon in late 1975.

This was after the great man Gough had been illegally dismissed against the best intentions of our Constitution by the weasel Kerr.

This aided and abetted by Big Mal Fraser who was lurking by the back door at Yarralumla while machinations were proceeding inside.

And why would we have 'gone into the book' to use a phrase used by umpires officiating in AFL ranks?
Because we'd protested for 48 hours outside the Aussie High Commission where 'Tiny' Tom Critchley and his minions were holed up.

I only did a 24-hour shift. The stalwarts lasted the full 48. Mind you, keeping the thing going through the balmy Moresby nights wasn't a huge ask. The needle probably didn't drop below 20-22 degrees.

So, Phil, what we did back then, as you've discovered, has been assiduously written down and correlated by a range of PNG ASIO hacks. And has probably been filed away or keyed onto disks or computer files by their 21st century affiliates.

Like those outed by KJ in the outer reaches of PNG.

It could be confusing. There were three groups of spooks - ASIO, Police Special Branch and the Kiap outfit. All competing for secrets. The only 'secrets' I knowingly provided had been broadcast on the previous night's Radio Bougainville news. Required by my head office in Konedobu to cooperate with the Special Branch functionary, I provided last night's news. I think he thought it was confidential to him. I didn't care then and I care less now. His Tok Pisin wasn't the best so, by the time the news that had been broadcast throughout Bougainville reached Moresby, a good couple of days had elapsed. I felt I had honoured my obligations all round. Especially to keeping faith with my confidantes - KJ

It's remarkable what they put on file Chris.

I was involved in an anti-Vietnam War march while on leave in 1969 and got hauled off to the city watch house in Adelaide where we all milled around and finally wandered away.

I'd also refused to register for National Service just prior to the general amnesty for kiaps.

All pretty innocent stuff I thought.

Then in the late 1990s when my son applied for officer training at Duntroon the bloke interviewing him dropped a file on the desk and asked him what he thought.

It was a record of my nefarious anti-war activities.

My son had the good sense to say it was a different time and different place.

He retired from the army as a captain with service in Timor and Iraq a couple of years ago.

I seem to recall that all liklik kiaps had to get an ASIO clearance so that we could complete the so-called intelligence reports that each outstation had to submit each month.

I assume therefore that, somewhere, I have an ASIO file. I'd be amazed if it contained anything even faintly exciting although I once donated $20.00 to the ALP as a contribution to Bob Hawke's election in 1983. Does that make me a crazed commie?

My hazy recollection is that the Baimuru reports used to focus on the doings of the Jehovah's Witness missionaries and any foreigners who landed in the place.

We once had two German dentists doing research in the area, but they didn't seem very sinister at all. We had a few beers with them and they seemed rather pleasant, so we didn't bother to report their presence.

Peter Harrison, as the OIC, was always scratching around for something even vaguely sinister to report but, alas, there were no nefarious doings around Baimuru, at least of the intelligence variety.

In the bigger stations, there was plenty of covert horizontal folk dancing to report. Would that have counted as intelligence?

I would think that if the late Peter Ryan was indeed a spook in PNG, he must have found the task rather tedious and, perhaps, sordid at times. Agents of that era probably deserve more sympathy than condemnation.

Personally, if the accusation is true I don't and wouldn't hold it against him: it was another time, when political paranoia was rampant and anyone who expressed an even vaguely communistic idea could be deemed a security risk.

As it turned out, most Australian communists were well intentioned but naïve idealists, but some still had the capacity to do something dumb that might just compromise national security. Hence the need for spooks I guess.

Now, of course, ASIO and ASIS really do have something to be concerned about, as recent events have graphically demonstrated, so perhaps spooking has become a more honoured and honourable profession.

It seems that this epitaph has gone off the rails somewhat. It surely behooves us all to resist talking ill of the dead. They do have family and friends after all.

Richard, to make the claims you have made without the person being alive and able to defend themselves is reprehensible at best. It is definitely in poor taste irrespective of whether you have any proof. Implicating a person based on the hearsay of information about another must surely be merely grasping at a vacuous credibility.

I think the discussion consequent to the obituary is a fair one to have and within the bounds of PNG Attitude's editorial policy - KJ

Oh, and did we mention, Phil and Chris -- Ryan was also a spook. Behind Japanese lines so living dangerously, granted, but still a spook.

I've had some spirited exchanges in recent years with folks who were servants of the PNG arm of ASIO.

KJ and I know full well of one such individual who filed unsupervised and unsubstantiated reports on many of us, right back to our ASOPA days of the early sixties.

One fellow even had the hide to write back to me and say: "Well, someone had to do it."

Maybe. But you always could have turned down the offer.

The pay wasn't great --- non existent to some, as one regaled me with his details in the seventies. Spying on your compadres ... writing reports on 'mates' hours after having drinks together in the Boroko RSL, the Kone or Aviat clubs or similar.

But still they battled on, going on to report on West Irian (Papua) insurgents crossing the borders in PNG's extreme south-west and extreme north-west.

There's plenty in the ex-kiap ranks, of course. KJ even ran into one such fellow in BP supermarket in Bougainville. The fellow begged Keith not to 'out' him.

If Ryan was an extreme right-winger, let's not beat about the bush. We journos (even semi-retired ones such as I) owe it to our constituents to reveal the truth.

The spook picking up his smallgoods in Burns Philp implored me not to greet him with a familiar roar of 'monin tru 007' - KJ

Like Phil, I agree that ex-kiaps tend to be conservative by nature and, in some instances, down right reactionary.

Perhaps paradoxically, in their youth, many of them also manifested a rather lively anti-authoritarian streak. Slavishly following the rules was not necessarily a good quality in a successful kiap.

With regard to Peter Ryan, not being an habitual Quadrant reader, I do not recall reading his work.

As a budding historian in the 1970's I certainly did read Manning Clark's magisterial but not flawless history of Australia, which reflected his tendency to cast an austere and somewhat bleak eye over events.

At the time, I judged it to be an important contribution to the study of Australian history, but not by any means the definitive work of scholarship in the area.

Keith Windschuttle and those of like mind have, in my judgement at least, been a useful antidote to the sometimes excessive deference to Clark.

History is a tricky subject sometimes, because events are capable of being interpreted differently according to both the conscious and unconscious perspectives and prejudices of the person trying to understand what those events mean.

It is therefore important that people like Peter Ryan, Bob Santamaria (and even lesser figures like Tony Abbott) are around to put forward their views, even if they are not well received by others.

The clash of ideas is an important and necessary part of a vibrant democracy and the resolution of such clashes often is a necessary prerequisite to human progress.

So, I say vale Peter Ryan.

We have all been careful not to mention Peter Ryan's fascist tendencies Richard, especially on his passing.

I also acknowledge that by and large the ex-kiaps are rednecks. I dispute that they are not politically astute, just in a right wing way.

But not all of them are that way.

I also agree that 'Quadrant' is a nasty piece of work. But we probably need it for balance. It's also a good place to check up on what the Tories are thinking.

Can't wait for Tony Abbott to start writing for them. Howard sung their praises so why not Tones.

I tried to read Peter Ryan's 'Fear Drives My Feet' as a student but struggled to understand details because comprehending English was a problem in those days.

Wish I could read it today. Nobody in this country is dealing with PNG books written by Papua New Guineans or those books about PNG written by ex kiaps, war veterans, anthropologists etc..

May his soul rest in eternal peace.

Of course he didn't like Clarke. Ryan was an arch-Tory. Consider his 'friendship' with Hasluck.

The two of them were so far out on the Right they would have made Genghis Khan look like a revolutionary.

Look at that picture of him halfway down the article. A prime conservative, no doubt a bastion of the Melbourne Club.

The 'Bohemia' of Melbourne, you say good ol' Quadrant.
I'd say the Tory bastions of Melbourne, fortunately being overrun by more free-thinking denizens of the 2000s.

He was always thus was Ryan! And clearly the ex-kiap clique of PNG, not noted for any advanced thinking of a political nature, would have clasped Ryan to their collective bosom.

Peter Ryan also wrote 'Black Bonanza: A landslide of Gold' about the Mount Kare gold rush - the world's first 'helicopter gold rush'. It was one of the first books I worked on as a young book publicist.

There were some articles written by Peter Ryan in 'Spectator' too I think?

Good grief! You weren't submitting stuff to 'Quadrant' were you Paul?

I first read 'Fear drive my feet' as a young Kiap posted near where the exploits in the book are described.

Unfailingly helpful, only a couple of years ago, Peter Ryan kindly perused some small written offerings of mine and made helpful suggestions on how and where to get them published.

When I last spoke to him by phone he said he was 'wrestling' with his latest article.

His articles are literary masterpieces in exactitude and dry, humorous wit. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.

One of Peter's most enduring legacies was the 'Encyclopaedia of Papua New Guinea' published by Melbourne University Press in 1972, for which he was general editor. Two hefty volumes and a separate index and gazette.

There has been nothing like it since.

It is dated but I still dip into it quite regularly.

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