Subject: Shirley Shackleton on Death In Balibo

From Hidden Agendas: The Films and Writings of John Pilger

Published by Allen and Unwin, DEATH IN BALIBO, LIES IN CANBERRA is a new book written by Desmond Ball and Hamish McDonald.

The former is Australia's leading intelligence expert and a special professor at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU, Canberra, while the latter is Foreign Editor for the Sydney Morning Herald and one of Australia's leading foreign correspondents.

Below are a selection of notes made by Shirley Shackleton after reading the book, listening to interviews and speaking with the authors:

Professor Ball: 'The Australian government's foundation lie was that the Indonesians were not involved in an invasion of East Timor and therefore could not be held responsible for the five Australian based journalist's deaths.'

All the other lies became necessary to shore up that original lie.

Australian government officials spin-doctored the facts by suggesting the Indonesian government's covert action in ET should become even more covert in order to keep the full extent of Indonesia's involvement from the Australian public.

The Australian government had time to warn the journalists of their danger and chose not to; they did not ask Indonesia to afford them protection. Key diplomats and bureaucrats knew that Operation Flamboyant was about to be launched. Whitlam was probably not told that they (the journalists) were in the firing line and would be targeted because certain bureaucrats rationed information going into Canberra at that critical time.

Canberra started its cover up (Des Ball calls it 'studied ignorance') immediately upon learning of the killings and Whitlam ordered top bureaucrats not to disclose their knowledge.

Whitlam saw only two options: Go to war against Indonesia. Shut up.

Relevant documents were placed in top security in what is known as the Blue Book. Intercepts of the night before the killings (15th Oct) have been extracted and are no longer available.

Prof. Ball claims there has been severe weeding of all Balibo documents

Alan Taylor did the first bogus investigation admitting only to what he didn't find out on the trip and omitting what he already knew - so the Indonesian orchestrated 'evidence' was not really necessary.

Hamish McDonald reminds us of the deeply ironic speech made by Woolcott at the bogus funeral in Jakarta in which he said 'they died in the pursuit of truth' when he was part of the cabal dedicated to concealing the truth about their murders.

One legal officer (Ian Cunliffe) who saw the vital Balibo intercept was led to believe the Indonesian military knew that the newsmen were in Balibo before Operation Flamboyant was launched.

Murdani claimed: 'They had a radio,' as an excuse for killing them.

In fact they had no radio and according to a former Australian intelligence analyst who saw the intercept some years later, Murdani was heard to say: 'We can't have any witnesses.'

Dading said: 'Don't worry we already have them (the Balibo Five) under control.'

Balibo intercerpts were placed in the 'burn-bag' as part of the cover up started before the shots were fired in Balibo.

Australian reps were covertly aiding and abetting one country to invade and conquer another.

Malcolm Fraser acknowledged 'merger [of East Timor into Indonesia], for purely humanitarian reasons.' Radio message on the same day: 'Indonesian troops burnt alive six people in a camp near Ermera.'

Oh heavens, there is so much more. This book is vital reading because it sheds new light on a shocking quarter of a century of lies and corruption, it details previously unpublished information and keeps other information that was all over the place (as it would be over 25 years) between two covers. It makes the chronology easy. People like me think everyone knows this stuff, but of course they don't.

As for the Sherman preliminary investigations there are more shocking disclosures. For example, he claims to have spoken to certain officials in DSD Directorate, but he couldn't have because at the time he claims to have spoken to them, they were dead.

The authors are calling for a Royal Commission.

For more information on the Balibo Incident or to get involved with the campaign for justice for Greg Shackleton, please email

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