Transport Worker (Rail and Maritime Workers Union), March 2009
Our esteemed ex-industrial officer, Paul Corliss, has just been “gifted” most of his SIS files. They make interesting and revealing reading – most of which comes as a surprise to Paul.
Apparently the SIS have not just taken a cloak-and-dagger, and boring, interest in my activity within the wider trade union movement (e. g. the FOL and the NZCTU) and in my political protest activity (e. g. opposition to foreign ownership in NZ or the 1981 anti-apartheid arrests) but have closely followed my alleged ‘career’ with the constituent unions of the later RMTU – over some two decades from 1974 to the 1990s.
It appears bizarre but clear that among earlier railway workmates there was at least one SIS ‘informant’ (possibly called “LAWRENCE” - whether Christian name or surname is unknown to me) reporting me as a “troublemaker to railways management” when working as a shunter and an official of the National Union of Railwaymen. That explains why I never got promoted to Station Agent at Opua!
It additionally alleges then National President of the NUR, George Finlayson, had claimed SUP influence in the Canterbury NUR.
Whacko, I say.
Among a wide range of material, the files note our most excellent protest when, in 1983, we (some 250 rail workers) physically prevented Minister of Railways George Gair’s attempts to enter the Christchurch railway station and demanded his ministerial resignation.
Much of the declassified material (most stamped ‘Secret’) relates to union activities, all of which were publically discoverable to anyone with a subscription to the daily papers or an ear on the radio.
They then followed me onto the wharves at Lyttelton when I took up my job as secretary of the Harbour Workers Union, but don’t appear to have pursued my industrial officer activity with the Rail & Maritime Union from 1995 onward. Perhaps I had become ‘too establishment’, not making enough trouble?
Dr Tucker advises, in his pleasant and personalised 4 page covering-letter, that the SIS are with-holding a further six reports on me, on the basis that their release could “enable the identification of secret sources of information”.
Access to my file occurred as a result of a ‘user-friendly’ PR campaign, (including declassification of historical files) entered into by recent appointee to the SIS directorship, Dr Warren Tucker. To become a “subject of interest” to our spy agency, the Security Intelligence Service, I believe one of the pre-requisites is to “pose a demonstrable risk to the security of New Zealand”. The debate about Big Brother and freedoms in a democracy require more space than the Transport Worker provides.
As far as I am aware, I have never been a member of any organisation that has plotted to overthrow or terrorise New Zealand … though I must admit to having been occasionally tempted! I have been a member of several legal organisations that have attempted, sometimes successfully, to dissent with and change many aspects of the way New Zealand operates politically and industrially.
Perhaps surprisingly, I am not, and have never been, a member of any political party. While there are surely one or two people who don’t particularly like me, I am not an ‘enemy of the state’. I can only just manage to spell ‘Afghanistan’ and ‘Osama’. Are these sufficient reasons to make me subject to covert surveillance and monitoring as a “suspect” individual?