By Jennifer Thompson
SYDNEY — Reports in the July 29-30 Australian, which indicate that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has admitted that it had more than one spy in Ananda Marga at the time of the February 1978 Hilton bombing, will give extra impetus to NSW Premier Bob Carr's call for a joint federal-state inquiry into the explosion.
Tim Anderson, who, as a result of the Hilton bombing, has twice been wrongly convicted and jailed for a total of 11 years, has responded cautiously to Carr's proposal.
Pressure, especially from a former police officer injured in the blast, Terry Griffiths, has been building for an inquiry for some time. Anderson, who has given qualified support to Griffiths' calls, has cautioned Carr on the terms of the inquiry. He has requested that it focus on new or unresolved issues so as not to allow it to resurrect failed police theories, or to vindicate discredited witnesses.
Anderson also suggested that Justice James Wood, currently heading a NSW royal commission into police corruption, should not be involved because of his relationship with police involved in the two frame-ups against Anderson.
The explosives inside a garbage bin killed three people outside the Hilton, where a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting was being held under high security. The Ananda Marga group, of which Anderson was a member, was linked to the explosion by NSW Special Branch informer Richard Seary.
In 1978, Seary claimed that Anderson, Ross Dunn and Paul Alister had conspired to murder former right-wing National Front leader Robert Cameron, and that Dunn and Alister had admitted to bombing the Hilton. The second accusation was used to terminate the 1982 Hilton bombing inquest, but no charges were laid against Dunn or Alister, the latter in Adelaide at the time of the explosion.
In 1985, the convictions of the three in the Cameron case were overturned by unconditional pardons, and they were later compensated. Justice James Wood, in recommending their pardon, found that Seary had lied on at least 50 occasions.
In 1989, Detective Aarne Tees, an associate of the Special Branch agents responsible for the first frame-up, arrested Anderson for bombing the Hilton. Tees used prison informer Ray Denning's word that Anderson had admitted to the bombing at least four times.
After Anderson's arrest, Evan Pederick gave himself up to Brisbane police, saying that he had bombed the Hilton on Anderson's instructions. Anderson's conviction for murder was overturned in the Court of Criminal Appeal in 1991.
Chief Justice Murray Gleeson cited Pederick's unreliable evidence and the doubtful accuracy of Denning's evidence. Pederick, still in prison, now disbelieves his own confession and is petitioning for an inquiry into his conviction.
Gleeson also said in 1991, "I do not consider that ... the Crown should be given a further opportunity to patch up its case against the appellant. It has already made one attempt too many to do that." The NSW parliamentary debate in 1991 acknowledged that the focus of the inquiry should be on unresolved issues involving state and federal agencies.
Anderson has suggested that in order to respect previous court findings and the rights of those involved, the terms of the new inquiry would have to take into account:
- whether there is credible evidence that any member of the security forces was in any way responsible for the Hilton bombing;
- whether there was negligence or irresponsibility in the security precautions for the conference;
- whether any member of the security forces had advance knowledge of the bombing;
- why sniffer dogs weren't used;
- why the fatal bin was neither checked nor emptied;
- what happened to the forensic evidence from the bomb site;
- why the nature of the explosives could not be determined;
- when the warning call to police was received and whether it was acted on promptly;
- why material found at the University of NSW and suspected of a connection to the bombing was not raised at the 1982 inquest, and why parts of it were later destroyed;
- whether police knew at the time that evidence by Richard Seary at the 1982 inquest was false.
Anderson's reservations about the independence of Justice Wood, whom Carr is consulting on the inquiry options, stem from Wood's previous involvement in the 1985 overturning of Anderson, Dunn and Alister's first conviction. In that case Wood avoided criticising the police despite nine instances of criminal or improper behaviour by Special Branch officers. In 1991, Wood also gave informer Denning a favourable resentencing on the basis of Denning's evidence against Anderson.