Obituaries by Murray Horton
Peace Researcher 28 – December 2003
These two octogenarian former Labour Ministers (in separate governments – Connelly’s Parliamentary career finished just as O’Flynn became a Minister) are relevant to the Anti-Bases Campaign (ABC) for quite distinct reasons.
Mick Connelly, who died in August 2003, aged 87, was a long serving Labour MP in Christchurch (1956-84) and held five portfolios in the 1972-75 Labour government, headed by Norman Kirk and then Bill Rowling. He was on the Right of the Labour Party (at a time when those Left/Right divisions actually meant something in the context of that Party). O’Flynn, who died in October 2003, aged 84, was a high profile lawyer who went into politics late in life, serving as a Wellington MP from 1972-87 (with one term in the wilderness) and held several portfolios in the 1984-87 Government headed by David Lange. That was the Government that gave us both Rogernomics and the nuclear free law. O’Flynn was probably somewhat to the Left in the Party of that era (certainly compared to the Rogernauts, who went on to found today’s ACT Party). His career was cut short by a serious stroke, which forced his retirement and afflicted him for the rest of his life.
Since the commencement of the “War On Terror” and particularly during the 2003 Iraq War, there has been an upsurge in protests at the US military base at Christchurch Airport (commonly known as Harewood). Elsewhere in this issue there is an article dealing with the court case arising from the arrest of Christchurch activist, Dan Rae, at one of those Iraq War demos at Harewood. It is important that we know our history and understand that Harewood demos have a very long history and that the response of the State today is positively tame (even with all the security hysteria resulting from the September 11, 2001 atrocities in the US). That is the relevance of the late Mick Connelly.
1970s: Harewood Demo
I quote from my obituary of Chief Superintendent Gideon Tait, the notorious Christchurch District Police Commander in the 1970s (Foreign Control Watchdog 51, December 1985). “It may well be forgotten that the much vaunted Kirk Labour government was elected on a law and order platform, including the solemn promise to ‘take the bikes off the bikies’. As second cousin to Mick Connelly, Minister of Police, and a fellow ideological dinosaur, Tait was just the man for the job.
“He (Tait) later wrote a book splendidly entitled ‘Never Back Down’, in which he said his two greatest achievements were the mass arrest of bikies in late 1973, under the new unlawful assembly law, and the tactics he adopted in dealing with the 1973 Harewood demo …
“That demo saw a number of new Police tactics. People were arrested at Weedons (a Royal New Zealand Air Force [RNZAF] base south of Christchurch, part of the US military communications operation) under 100 year old unlawful assembly laws. The whole operation was massive (over 400 police) and heavily militarised. Police were flown into Christchurch on RNZAF planes and practised their tactics at King Edward Barracks (since demolished). RNZAF personnel were used in large numbers to guard Weedons. The Police stampeded the Labour City Council into declaring all the airport environs off limits to everyone except passengers. Public roads were blocked off, RNZAF helicopters were used to transport police and actively harass demonstrators (e.g. by deliberately drowning out speakers, hovering overhead). Those arrested were handcuffed for long periods of time and ‘processed’ on the spot. They were kept all weekend without bail. Tait whipped up media hysteria about a bomb being found, ‘an extremely dangerous weapon’. When finally viewed the next year, it turned out to be a homemade smoke bomb.
“The systematic, coordinated use of Police violence was a feature that marked this demonstration off from those that went before (where Police violence was uncoordinated). Demonstrators were cleared from the road by police marching into them – the front row rhythmically kneed people in the balls, the next one punched them in their faces. All of them chanting ‘Move, move’. Tait’s own words, from his book ‘…100 police, all marching in close formation and chanting in rhythm. They were a formidable sight. Some of the demonstrators turned and fled. Those who did not move – voluntarily – were pushed back or fell over, trampled on if they did not move fast enough…I could see real terror on many of their faces”. Owen Wilkes, the world renowned peace researcher and ABC founder, was left with a gashed face, personally inflicted by Tait.
It was Mick Connelly, the Minister of Police, who authorised the massive Police overkill at Harewood. This Police thuggery set the benchmark for what was to follow, during the 1981 Springbok Tour protests. The 1973 Harewood demo was a seminal event in the creation of, firstly the Campaign Against Foreign Control In New Zealand (CAFCINZ, now CAFCA) a year or two later, and eventually the ABC, in the 1980s. Both groups arose out of the anti-Vietnam War and anti-bases movement of the early 1970s.
1980s: Nuclear Free Policy
Frank O’Flynn was a different kettle of fish. I hasten to add that neither he personally, nor that much overrated Lange government, were in any way supportive of the ABC. It was that Government that inflicted the Waihopai spybase on us, and O’Flynn himself referred disparagingly to “disaffected Americans”, which we took as a dig at ABC founder and my longtime colleague, Bob Leonard. By continuing to point out the glaring loophole that Harewood constitutes in the nuclear free law, and by opposing Labour’s “independent” spy base at Waihopai, ABC was seen as not being grateful to the Government that graciously bestowed the nuclear free policy on us (Lange is still dining out on it, nearly 20 years later) and not being on the team. We received one particularly blistering letter from Lange on the subject of Harewood.
O’Flynn was Minister of Defence during those turbulent first three years of the Lange government (he retired, on health grounds, before the second term, which saw Labour tear itself to bits. It took until 1999 before it was back in power). He was one of Lange’s Ministers who took the most heat from the American and Australian bullies. They took great umbrage at little old New Zealand standing up for itself. When sheep jokes didn’t work, completely unsubtle armtwisting and threatening were resorted to, followed by dire warnings that the sky would fall in (it was still up there last time I looked), and, finally, expulsion from ANZUS (the 1951 Australia, New Zealand, and US military treaty. That expulsion remains the status quo today).
In 1985, O’Flynn met George Shultz, the US Secretary of State, in Kuala Lumpur. “I quite liked Shultz but after a photo opportunity at the beginning of our talks, he proceeded to deliver an oration in a monotone, lambasting New Zealand. After some thought, I decided to reply in kind. There was no meeting of minds at all. We got absolutely nowhere” (Press, Obituary, 25/10/03; “Wise but disenchanted Cabinet Minister”; Derek Round). O’Flynn was very proud of his role in developing the nuclear free policy, once describing it “as by far the brightest thing (the Government) had done” (Press, 18/10/03; “Former star of law and politics dies, aged 84”; Leah Haines).
O’Flynn paid a price within that Government. He was not trusted with Intelligence material. To quote from Nicky Hager’s definitive 1996 book “Secret Power” (for which David Lange wrote the Foreword): “Some ministers are arbitrarily branded as unreliable. An example of this was the 1984-87 Minister of Defence, Frank O’Flynn, one of the few Ministers of Defence in New Zealand history who actively questioned the advice he was getting from his officials. He was indoctrinated (meaning that he received the initial secret briefing from Intelligence bosses. Ed.) by Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) Director, Colin Hanson, and then wondered why he never saw any secret Intelligence reports. GCSB staff say they were specifically instructed from above that he should not be given any signals intelligence. Later O’Flynn asked his Chief of Defence staff, Ewan Jamieson, ‘Where’s all this secret intelligence I’m supposed to see?’. Jamieson replied politely, ‘It’s in the briefings we give you’”. No wonder O’Flynn concluded, in retirement: “I became a totally disenchanted member of Cabinet. The only position that gave me any satisfaction was as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs” (Press, Obituary, 25/10/03; “Wise but disenchanted Cabinet Minister”; Derek Round).
Two former Labour Ministers, both reflecting aspects of Labour’s, and New Zealand’s, torturous relationship with the US military and the American Empire. One authorised massive force by the State to protect an American military base in New Zealand; the other played an honourable role in implementing the nuclear free policy that enables New Zealanders to hold their heads a little higher in a world of cowards queuing up to lick the cowboy boots of the Emperor. For his troubles, O’Flynn was regarded as unreliable, a Minister not to be trusted by the spy agencies that exist solely to do the dirty work for their imperial masters. We’re still waiting for a Labour government to break us free of the military and Intelligence ties that continue to bind us to Uncle Sam. I dare say that as long as Labour is headed by the likes of Helen Clark we’ll be waiting a long time yet.
ABC expresses our condolences to Geoff Morris for the sudden death of his wife, Jill, in Christchurch, in September 2003. She was 52.
Although Geoff has never been an Anti-Bases Campaign member he has been an active ABC supporter since the 1980s, regularly turning out on protests in Christchurch and at the US base at the airport. He has travelled to Marlborough to take part in ABC protests at the Waihopai spybase in the 80s, 90s and 00s. For a decade before I knew him as a fellow anti-bases activist, Geoff and I were Railways workmates (although never in the same actual workplace) and we were also involved in the Canterbury branch of the then National Union of Railwaymen. We finished up within three years of each other – he took voluntary severance, I was made redundant.
I knew Jill through Geoff and regularly met her at social occasions (such as parties at our place). She wasn’t involved in his political activities during their 22 years of marriage. She was a lovely woman. Her death is a tragedy for him, her twins from her previous marriage, her grandchildren and the rest of her family and friends.