Good Reading : September 2008
38 goodreading ı SEPTEMBER 2008 word of mouth up close Everything about books www.goodreadingmagazine.com ONLINE the man for his times Ken Buckley was a friend and neighbour, and a great supporter of gr. We have such fond memories of arriving at Ken and his wife Berenice’s door, being the recipients of a tough bear hug from Ken, then quickly having a glass put in each of our hands; the pulling of corks and clinking of glasses accompanied by much laughter. He was always ready to take on the establishment, bullies, inequality and persecution, with mental fists raised and ready to help anyone who needed it. Sadly, Ken died two years ago from cancer, not long after completing his autobiography. Following is an edited extract of The Hon. Justice Michael Kirby’s introduction to Ken’s autobiography. It sums up Ken for us. He was an incredible character, a man of enormous integrity, thoughtfulness and with a passion for life. Our only wish is that we had met him earlier. We all miss him. THE HON. JUSTICE MICHAEL KIRBY AC CMG Justice of the High Court of Australia Who was Ken Buckley? A boy of poor parents, growing up near the Cockney part of London before the Second World War, he was sent to the countryside at the outbreak of war to avoid the dangers that quickly became apparent in London. He won a scholarship to fund his higher secondary education and a bursary to take him to Queen Mary College in the University of London. But he joined up to fight the Germans and was posted to Greece in the latter stages of the War.There, he met his first wife with whom he returned to England, to his interrupted courses at London University. He surprised himself by taking a First Class Honours Degree. He turned to academic teaching of history, specifically economic history. After a sojourn at the University of Aberdeen, he was appointed to the teaching staff of the University of Sydney in 1952, staying there for the remaining years of his working life as an academic teacher and writer, rising to the post of Associate Professor. So what lifts Ken Buckley’s story out of the ordinary? In essence it was his difficult personality that could not abide the irrational and arbitrary exercise of power impinging on the lives of ordinary people like himself. He was instrumental in the establishment of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties. Many of the early companions in the CCL went on to become judges, magistrates, senior counsel, politicians, notable citizens – even in one case, the State Governor (Gordon Samuels). As Ken Buckley tells the story, the foundation of the CCL was the inadvertent work of Detective Sergeant Giles, head of the Vice Squad at the King’s Cross police station in Sydney. Giles had boasted of lifting arrests in his precinct from 6 000 to 16 000 a year. So it was Giles who burst into a private King’s Cross party and threw his weight around answering protests from the participants with the denunciation that they were all just a ‘bunch of filthy homosexuals’. Buckley had not fought against the Nazis in Europe to tolerate oppressive behaviour of this kind. He was furious. So he turned his anger into constructive action.Together with Dr Dick Klugman (later a member of Federal Parliament) and Mr Jack Sweeney QC (later a federal judge) he resolved to bring together like- minded Australians to establish the CCL. Buckley’s implacable pursuit of Detective Sergeant Giles ended (with a little help from that officer’s wife’s testimony in her divorce suit) with a few cardboard boxes full of cash and Giles’s dismissal from the Police Force a few years after his mistaken raid on the King’s Cross flat. The uneasy relationship between civil society and national security agencies became a constant theme that Buckley remorselessly pursued. He was very proud when he ultimately found that his ASIO file had reached more than a hundred pages by 1963. His State Police Special Branch file was said to be only nine pages. The fact that he never let up on this crusade doubtless contributed to the destruction of between 50 000 and 80 000 Special Branch files by the New South Wales government led by Neville Wran QC, who with Jack Sweeney QC and Lionel Murphy QC, had been amongst the founders of CCL. Ken Buckley’s ‘more in sorrow than in anger’ supplications to official enquiries into the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) (conducted by a past-President of the CCL, Justice Robert Hope) also led to changes including the creation of a judicial tribunal to review complaints of inadequate ASIO responses to citizen complaints. If the reader takes the author’s self- descriptions at face value, he or she will conclude that Ken Buckley was quite a handful – not an easy person to get along with.That conclusion would be correct. But it would not tell the whole story about Ken Buckley, the man.To obtain that full story, it is necessary to stay with the pages of this book. As befits the work of an intensely self-critical human being and professional historian, it reveals many of the deep qualities that came together in his life. Buckley’s! by Ken Buckley is published by A&A publishing, rrp $29.95.