From the Archives, 1973: Police raid ASIO headquarters in Melbourne

First published in The Age on March 17, 1973

Flurry of police in St. Kilda Road

A white Holden sedan pulled up outside the three-storey ASIO building in St. Kilda Road shortly after 9 a.m. yesterday.

Five men, all dressed in grey suits and carrying manilla folders, got out of the car and disappeared through the front door of the building after a short conference outside the entrance.

ASIO headquarters on St Kilda Road.Credit:Paul Matthews

The white building had neither number nor sign on it.

A short time later three fawn Holdens drove into the under-ground garage at the side of the building. Inside each car sat six Commonwealth policemen.

Outside the building curious office workers milled around the TV cameras that had been set up to capture the “raid” by Commonwealth police.

The building is surrounded by barbed wire and each window is equipped with a camera to film any possible attempt at breaking into the offices.

In the reception area, behind a window protected by bars, a middle-aged man refused to talk about the Commonwealth police visit.

A receptionist in a nearby office had seen a black Commonwealth car with Senator Murphy inside drive into the garage of the building at 10.30.

But the man in the reception area said: “I know nothing about Commonwealth police or the Attorney-General being here. I don’t know what sort of work is done in these offices,” he said.

At 11.15 the three fawn Holdens, one of them carrying four uniformed Commonwealth police, drove out of the garage and headed down St. Kilda Road towards the city.

Then, at 1.30 p.m., a black Commonwealth car carrying Senator Murphy and four Commonwealth policemen left the garage followed by the white Holden sedan.

Senator Murphy refused to stop for the reporters waiting outside and the two cars headed down St. Kilda Road.

First published in The Age on March 17, 1973

Murphy disciplines ASIO

Director accepts Minister’s authority

CANBERRA. — Senator Murphy, the Federal Attorney – General, yesterday ordered the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to hand over copies of ASIO files on Croatian extremists in Australia.

Mr Peter Barbour, Director-General, handed over the copies after Senator Murphy made a surprise visit to ASIO headquarters in Melbourne and asserted his Ministerial authority over the organisation.

Commonwealth Police who went with Senator Murphy are expected to use information contained in the files in the preparation of stringent security precautions for the visit to Australia next week of the Yugoslav Prime Minister (Mr Dzemal Bijedic).

They claim some of the information previously had been withheld by ASIO.

The police are believed to have received threats that Croatian extremists could attempt violence against Mr Bijedic.

Senator Murphy Is understood to have decided to fly to Melbourne to confront Mr Barbour because he was dissatisfied with information ASIO had provided him about the activities of the Croatian extremist here.

The former Liberal Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) last night branded Senator Murphy’s visit to the ASIO headquarters as a “raid.”

He claimed Senator Murphy had exceeded his authority in taking copies of files from ASIO headquarters.


“Surely a political head, a Minister, ought not be allowed to roam at large through the files of a security service for political purposes,” Senator Greenwood said.

The Leader of the Federal Opposition (Mr Snedden) claimed that Senator Murphy’s actions would damage ASIO’s standing with allied security services and lead to these organisations refusing to provide information to Australia in future.

Mr Snedden said that if the Government believed it was unable to assure the safety of the Yugoslav Prime Minister, it should suggest the postponement of the visit.

Mr Snedden called on the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to explain the “incredible events” surrounding Senator Murphy’s visit to the ASIO headquarters.

Government sources said last night that Mr Whitlam was fully informed of Senator Murphy’s intentions.

He had approved the Attorney-General’s actions.

Senator Murphy first made a surprise visit to the ASIO office in Canberra in the early hours of yesterday morning.

He inspected some files in the presence of the local director (Mr C. Brown).

Information which Senator Murphy found in the Canberra files is believed to have led to his decision to fly to Melbourne.

Senator Murphy went to ASIO headquarters in St. Kilda Road in the company of senior Commonwealth police, who have been engaged in inquiries into terrorist activities directed against Yugoslav people and property in Australia.

It is understood that Senator Murphy told Mr Barbour that the terms of Mr Barbour’s appointment placed him under the ministerial authority of the Commonwealth Attorney-General.

Senator Murphy and Mr Barbour are believed to have had a brief, terse discussion.

Senator Murphy is understood to have expressed dissatisfaction at the information he had received from ASIO on the activities of Croatian extremists in Australia.

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