Gallery

One Crowded Hour

Offenders were punished / By being set in the cart / And driven up and down / The town. Their reputations / were lost, and the right to be present / At court; they lost all honor / And joy. Everyone knew / What carts were for, and feared them….” – Chrétien, Lancelot: the Knight of the Cart

Recently I was asked by author Nadia Wheatley to explain the source of this photo (above). I will try. It is difficult to get facts right, especially during these days where both past and present are so murky. There is confusion among participants about the date of the photo and the event that it depicts [Anyone who can accurately source details of the photo, please do so in the comments section down below.]

But here is my take on it, for what it is worth. The US military were authorised by President (LBJ) Johnson commenced a merciless bombing of the capital of North Vietnam, Hanoi. The US had been using napalm and agent orange against the civilian population. The Australian government supported the US government’s bombing and deployed troops to assist. Vietnam and conscription were the main issues and the ALP took a principled stand against both. The Liberal/Country Party coalition won the federal election in a landslide on 26 November 1966 using the slogan “Keep Australia secure and prosperous – play it safe”.

Apparently Wheatley’s latest work (co-author is Meredith Burgmann) to be published next year is about how event ‘transform conservative people into radicals‘.

Nadia found this photo of the Lavers’ on Workers BushTelegraph and her publisher wants to use it in a chapter about Brian Laver, a ‘radical’ who comes from a middle-class Rockhampton family that includes some pretty good tennis players e.g. Rod Laver.

Now look at the photo from another perspective.

Janita and Brian Laver outside US consulate 1 July 1966


The photograph in question was taken outside the US Consulate on the corner of Queen and Albert Street in Brisbane on Friday the 1st of July 1966.

The photograph depicts the arrest of Brian Lennard Laver (21 years) for displaying a placard in a public protest against the Vietnam War and against conscription of 19 year olds to serve in Vietnam.

Laver is accompanied by his wife Janita and his two-year-old daughter Sidonie. On the 15th July 1966, only fourteen days later, Janita gave birth to their second daughter, Tempe.

Laver subsequently served two weeks in Boggo Road jail for non-payment of a fine related to a later arrest.

Laver was arrested in an anti-conscription march and city rally on 5th October 1966 along with 26 others (which was a majority of the demonstrators). Four of those arrested elected to go jail rather than pay their fines. They were:

1. Gail Salmon
2. Barbara Jane Gaines
3. Mitch Thompson
4. Brian Laver


On the day of the earlier protest in July 1966 the US increased it’s heavy bombardment of civilian areas in the capital of North Vietnam, Hanoi. This was the greatest and most horrific bombing since the US dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and its fire-bombing of Tokyo. 

Unlike Japan, the Vietnamese government and it’s people refused to submit to the US terror and, nine years later, drove the US military out of Saigon and away from their country.

Sadly the photographer is unknown. The photograph was not published in any of the Brisbane daily newspapers (The Courier or The Telegraph). Nor was it published in the weekly communist paper, Tribune. The photo may have been taken by a freelancer or by a member of the Communist Party, Ted Reithmuller, who has now passed away. The photo also may have been taken by Grahame Garner. There is a slim possibility that the photo was taken by Queensland Police Force photographer, or ASIO.

All eyes appear to be on this photogenic couple. Brian with his chic Che Guevara beard and Janita with her Guinevere good looks. The police officer was more respectful than we came to expect in later marches in the 1970s. Dressed in his drab olive green uniform and cap he lived up to the motto on his badge which read Constantia ac Comitate (Firmness with Courtesy). There was speculation by one of the participants that the police officer who arrested Laver was Terry Lewis, now a disgraced former Commissioner on-the-take. But there is no evidence for that.

What did the local daily Brisbane masthead Courier Mail have to say about this demonstration or this arrest? Nothing. The headlines on the following Monday were about the French detonation of an Atomic Bomb in the Pacific and the United States bombing of Hanoi, the capital of North Vietnam. The Courier Mail social pages had pictures of cocktail celebrations of American Independence Day in the nearby Lennons hotel. But nothing about the commotion on the street on Friday afternoon. Two days later the Sunday Truth had a photo of another policeman roughing up Barbara Gaines, a Vet student at the University of Queensland. The policeman has confiscated a placard that appears to read “Stop Bombing Hanoi” [See loupe of the shot above].

Barbara Gaines arrested on 1 July 1966 for opposing
US bombing of the civilian population of Hanoi, North Vietnam

Laver appears to be arrested for carrying a placard. Note the policeman in khaki uniform is holding a placard in his hand.

So what is the fuss all about?

According to an op ed piece (pictured below) about Janita Cunnington by Amanda Horswell, after Laver’s arrest and subsequent time in Boggo Road jail, he was sent to Bulgaria by his employer, the Qld Trades & Labour Council,  to attend a youth conference about opposition to the Vietnam war. The Communist Secretary Trades & Labour Council, Alec MacDonald, had indeed employed Laver as an assistant. Despite this during a speech on May Day 1978, Laver declared that left-wing trade unionists in Queensland are “some of the most ruthless Marxist-Leninists in the world.”

The Labor Party had contested the 1966 Federal election and fought it on conscription of 19-year-olds being send to the Vietnam War [Laver was 21 at the time]. They lost in a landslide.

So I asked a number of Laver’s associates back in 1966 what was the photo all about. One reply stated that the photo depicts -“A demo outside the US Consulate against the Vietnam war. Brian was arrested. Janita not, she gave birth to Tempe less than a week after the event. From the caption in the photo below and from the placards being carried it seems the protest was against US bombing of Hanoi. The following Tuesday the ABC showed a film about a US attack on Dong Tre.

Sunday Truth 3 July 1966 p3

Earlier reports by the Courier Mail say that Laver had met with the US consul on 28 March 1966 but there was no mention of his arrest on this day the 1st of July.

These impulses come over me all of a sudden, and I just can’t resist them.” – Hedda Gabler by Ibsen
In more recent years Laver was involved in setting up a community centre in West End. He used a retired meatworker’s money to buy a property in Horan Street next to the Primary School where he teaches tennis. Laver stole money from the community centre and renovated his home in a fashionable part of West End.

The fraud committed by Laver at AHIMSA house was reported to the authorities including the Public Trustee, local MPs, Anna Bligh and Jackie Trad and the Premier Campbell Newman. The Courier Mail refused to print the story despite extensive research by one of its journalists.
Nothing was ever done to bring Laver to account.

Laver looking like Hemingway at Zappatas Bookshop next to AHIMSA house circa 2011

Beware the Knight of the Cart!
Rather than Laver’s transformation to a radical, a far more interesting topic for a book would be how he managed to align his radical politics to gain the maximum advantage for himself. Why is it that Laver lacked the capacity of will to remedy the situation at the community centre (AHIMSA house) when it was on the slide financially?

Afterword
I was still at school in 1966 and appeared in a high school debate on ‘Should Australia be in Vietnam?’ My team argued the Vietnamese were engaged in a civil war and therefore interference by Australia was wrong.

We lost both the argument and the debate to young women from a Loreto Convent. They argued for the domino theory, a Cold War policy that suggested a communist government in one nation would quickly lead to communist takeovers in neighboring states, each falling like a perfectly aligned row of dominos. With the exception of Cambodia and Laos the latter argument proved false.

So why did we lose the debate? On our side we had Michael Treloar (who topped the state matriculation exams in a number of subjects) and Matt Foley (who was later a barrister and attorney-general of Qld, certainly no slouch in a political argument. And myself.

I think, on this occasion at least, I carried my weight in the argument. The reason being that I had consulted with Hector Ferguson, a family friend and local bank manager, what argument he would employ to win the debate. He advised me to stay away from ideological considerations and argue that it was a civil war and Australia had no right to interfere.

In 1972, as a Medical student, I was taken by a friend to a garden party in Ascot and met one of the debaters on the intervention side, Jane Cottee. I was struck by the affluence of my former opponent’s family with their magnificent old Queenslander, tennis courts and gardens. How it contrasted with the crowded house in Taringa where I lived during those years. When I told her that we had debated at school she had little or no recollection and did not seem particularly interested in the subject of Vietnam. Both my friend and I had recently participated in a Vietnam moratorium march but it certainly was not a topic of conversation that day in this company.

Nuns welcoming the LBJ cavalcade in Brisbane in October 1966

Not to say Jane was any slouch in the academic area. She went on to become Head of Department Horticulture & Floristry at Canberra Institute of Technology. Despite Vatican II the nuns in those days were pretty conservative, some even came out to welcome LBJ with a giant American Flag when his entourage made a blitz of the country in October 1966.

US attack on Dong Tre, South Vietnam, in June 1966.
An American medic attends a crying Vietnamese woman as he examines her badly scarred face.
(Photo by Rolls Press/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Ian Curr
October 2020

References
Brisbane News Magazine March 7 – 13, 2018. ISSUE 1167

10 responses to “One Crowded Hour

  1. Failure of the Public Trustee

    Over the years there have been a lot of derogatory things said about Laver of a quite personal nature … however my beef with him and people like him is political not personal. There are some issues that can not be canvassed here because they are of a private nature.

    I have heard and read bizaare allegations against Laver (the latest one is that he is an author of several sexist and pornographic novels) … I think these rumours are often silly, worthless, lack evidence and are devoid of any meaningful political perspective. They are scurrilous.

    What I asked (in writing and in person) the Public Trustee (Peter Carne) and his officers to do was to audit Laver, as Power of Attorney for Carl Ross Taylor and CEO of AHIMSA house to discover if his conduct was fraudulent and unethical. I provided the Public Trustee’s office with all of the financial documents available from AHIMSA house. Brian Laver (who claimed to be Carl Ross Taylor’s power of attorney) refused to provide cheque books for AHIMSA house. Laver paid AHIMSA house creditors by using pre-signed blank cheques. There is reason to believe one (if not all) of those cheques was fraudulent. Under the signature it had Laver’s full name (which was crossed out) and Ross Taylor’s signature substituted. The cheque was for $168,032 and was made out to a company whose sole proprietor was Will Marcus, an architect who had his offices in the building and had not paid rent to Mr Taylor for six years. Will Marcus then used that $168,032 cheque to pay the mortgage on his apartment in Mollison Street, West End. The public trustee allowed Challenger Bank to sell AHIMSA house for half its value.

    The Public Trustee who controlled Taylor’s business affairs (because of alleged incapacity) failed to fulfill his primary duty to his client Carl Ross Taylor. As a result of the Public Trustee’s failure, Taylor lost is family home, his retirement savings and finally his liberty (Ross was locked up in a high secure facility 100 kilometres away by the Public Guardian). Mr Taylor passed away on Sunday, 28th July 2019 at 1 am. The cause of death remains unclear. Some say it resulted from a fall inside the facility, others say it was kidney failure. No results of autopsy has been published (as far as I am aware). The Attorney – General did stand down Peter Carne but did so for reasons based on Carne’s personal conduct not for his failure of his fiduciary duty to look after the financial interests of his client, Mr Taylor. No proper audit of the business affairs of Mr Taylor (the owner of AHIMSA house) was ever conducted by the Public Trustee.

    As a result of these failings, a man has lost his life and the local community had lost a resource that had operated from 2004 – 2011. Sadly AHIMSA (Peace) house failed to engender a feeling of trust and solidarity, something that its self appointed CEO (Laver) must take some responsibility for.

    Ian Curr
    Editor WBT
    21 October 2020

    NB I am closing the comments section to this article.

    People can write to workersbushtelegraph@gmail.com

    Like

  2. Meredith Burgmann -'cutting cane for the revolution'

    Meredith Burgmann was involved in the movement against the Vietnam war and apartheid in South Africa, she was on the first Austrlain brigade to Cuba to ‘cut can for the revolution’. Discussion of the New Left and 60s radicals with Meredith Burgmann.

    Like

  3. It’s interesting that you make assumptions about my father and present them as fact. I believe you have next to know knowledge of his early life, or of him in general, and refuse to acknowledge all that both my parents did during this time in Qld. and this was evident when you stated that he came from a wealthy family. Far from it, let me assure you. There is much that I read about my Dad, and always have through the years, that I know is hogwash or distorted truths. I’m under no illusion that he is a faultless but I don’t like vendettas. As I said, he had scholarships so he would never have attended Churchie or UQ if he hadn’t. If you insist on calling that privilege then so be it.

    I am very aware of the clashes within the Left and the many factions and hatred that has run rife. I keep my distance from it and want no part in it. Of course it has been distressing at times. And I know very well how much my father and my mother and us kids sacrificed for their political beliefs and that includes financial gain.

    A little known fact is my parents generously let people from the Left live in our home while we were overseas only to return to it having been trashed and their car a wreak. So there were lots of generous people. And yes Ross was one of those people and my father never, ever said otherwise. He always told us how Ross would help us by giving us parcels of meat during difficult times. So if our life was so luxurious and privileged why would we need hand outs? I have nothing further to say regarding Ross. People turn against each other all the time, especially in political circles and as I said, I have no interest in engaging in something I know nothing about.

    Lastly, I don’t subscribe to the whole white, privileged, middle class nonsense making the rounds at universities. I’m a humanist. I don’t believe in identity politics.

    Like

    • Towards Peace - vendetta no, justice yes

      Hello Tempe,

      There needs to be some acknowledgement of the wrong doing at AHIMSA house from Brian. He needs to take some responsibility for what happened to Ross. Ross lost his retirement savings, his house, and finally his freedom. Brian is partly responsible for this mismanagement of the business affairs of his friend. Brian also took advantage of Ross to further his own dreams, many of which were unrealistic.

      You say I do not know anything about how much your parents did and what they went through back in the 1960s. That they helped a lot of people often with little in return. Maybe you are right.

      What I do know is that others did help them too. Take this account by my friends Joyce and Phil O’Brien who supported Brian, Mitch, Barbara and Gail when they were jailed as a result of their opposition to the Vietnam war.

      Four of those arrested in October 1966 elected to go jail rather than pay their fines. They were:

      1. Gail Salmon – $6 fine (incarcerated 3 days in Boggo Road Jail, 1-3 February 1967)
      2. Barbara Jane Gaines – $16 fine (incarcerated 3 days in Boggo Road Jail, 1-3 February 1967)
      3. Mitch Thompson (incarcerated 3 days in Boggo Road Jail in solitary confinement, 1-3 February 1967)
      4. Brian Laver – $10 fine (incarcerated 6 days Boggo Road Jail, 10-16 January 1967)

      Here is Phil’s account of the support Brian and his co-accused received from others:

      “The period of great activity by students for civil liberties and opposition to the Vietnam war had been during 1966 and 1967. Many arrests of students resulted in their refusal to pay fines. Brain Laver and Mitch Thompson were in Boggo Road jail. Supporters were picketing outside the jail. Headquarters for picketers and friends was the home, opposite the jail, of a waterside worker, the late Jim Gill and family.

      Joyce and I arrived one Saturday morning to take part in the picket. We parked our Holden station sedan about 30 feet from the bus stop outside Jim’s home. State special branch and uniformed police were there all day in large numbers. About three in the afternoon one of the police cars suddenly came out of the jail and stopped in front of our car. Out the uniformed police got with their booking pad at the ready. Several of us went to my car.

      Constables Hutton and Beswich said I was parked illegally as you could be no less than 40 feet after the bus stop and 60 feet away from the approach to the bus stop. I attempted to explain the traffic act which in fact cited the distances of 40 feet before and 20 feet after a bus stop. The police were both very arrogant and said that they were not prepared to talk with me but would fight me in court. They handed me the traffic ticket. In the meantime, Jim Gill had got a tape measure and measured 32 feet from the bus stop to my parked car.

      I asked Constable Hutton to mark on the traffic ticket the distance, which he did. I had the traffic rule book in my hand at the page of parking near bus stops. I tried to reason with the two constables who were more arrogant and insulting than army provosts were during the war. I told them I would appeal against any fine imposed and would not be paying it. Time moved on and I received an order to pay for my alleged offence.

      I wrote to the traffic branch explaining my objection. Lo and behold, after some considerable time, I received a letter from the traffic branch signed by Inspector Hughes. It said that a technicality had been observed in the traffic ticket and no further action would be taken to enforce payment of the fine.

      On the day I was given the ticket, a student, Jim Beatson had parked his motor bike in front of our car. Beatson also was given a traffic ticket. I feel sure young Jim would have refused to pay the fine. Perhaps a further technicality was discovered by the police department.” – Towards Peace – a workers journey by Phil O’Brien and Bernie Dowling

      You are probably right about identity politics.

      Here is a light-hearted look at straight white males by another friend of mine …

      Ian
      16 Oct 2020

      Like

      • So racist and sexist and stupid and why is my father’s picture here? He has never played guitar. A political vendetta? I rest my case. Please refrain from using his pictures anywhere on this site in future. Tempe Laver

        Like

      • ' ... good to have friends'

        Tempe,

        Upon your request, I have taken the photo of Brian & the policeman down from the satirical song “Straight White Males”.

        The following article from the Communist Party newspaper [TRIBUNE: 25 January 1967 page 12] demonstrates the level of support the jailed protestors (including your father) received.

        Ian

        Like

  4. We’re all alive. I love this photograph & was so glad to see it come to light. For the record, my father was not from a wealthy family in Rockhampton. They were lower middle class and had a small sports store. My father managed to secure a scholarship to both Chruchie and UQ. As for the accusation against him regarding Ross (who we did all consider a lovely, dear friend) I can not comment as I have no knowledge of what transpired. However I would say that the accusations here are pure speculation bordering on slander. I also know that the home you speak of (re: money invested) is not owned by my father. Some of what you say here is not accurate and should be amended. Thanks. Tempe Laver

    Like

    • Ross's generosity

      Thanks Tempe for your comments.

      It is good that both you and your mother have acknowledged contributions made to your family by Ross Taylor during difficult times. For example Ross provided your family with meat when he was working at Cannon Hill Abattoir. [I worked there for only a week in 1967 and it was not pretty. Conditions were terrible and OH&S accidents frequent].

      Ross and many of his friends in the anti-war movement were working class not middle class, hence a significant disparity in privilege existed between them and Brian. None of the women and very few of the men could have aspired to the wealthiest and most expensive all-boys school in the State (Churchie). By these standards the Laver family were and still are both wealthy and middle class. Regardless of whether he had a scholarship or legally owns the house he lives in or not, to deny Brian’s position of white male middle class privilege is untenable.

      As to his actions as self-styled ‘CEO’ of AHIMSA House in West End, Brian aligned his ‘radical’ politics with own self-interest. His conduct was unethical, unconscionable and fraudulent. He took advantage of an old man. If you do not believe me look to what Ross Taylor himself had to say as the bank sold his retirement savings from under him. Ross trusted your father and Brian took on the responsibility of running the community centre. That failure was his and he should be held accountable for it. Look closely at Ross (now deceased) in this video and listen to what he says and tell me this is not so …

      Ian Curr
      Editor WBT
      15 October 2020

      Like

  5. I met Janita (now Cunnington) while bushwalking on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) in 2018. See https://issuu.com/brisbanenews/docs/20180307/12

    I don’t know about the daughters.

    Like

  6. Carol O'Donnell

    You state: Rather than Laver’s transformation to a radical, a far more interesting topic for a book would be how he managed to align his radical politics to gain the maximum advantage for himself.

    The answer is that he appeared to be in the right time in the right place and had few other financial options.

    What happened to Janita and the kids? Are they still alive?

    Read my autobiography of the same vintage Power Loving, Everything you didn’t want to know about sex and lawyers. This is coming out for Xmas as a new vocational text available from http://www.carolodonnell.com.au

    Like