The trials of Brian Leonard Cooper
How the bilum reached Rangiora

Brian Cooper’s conviction was a fit-up

Cooper at Sydney Airport after release from prison
Brian Cooper at Mascor after his release from prison


"[Brian] Cooper wasn't the only one espousing such messages in Papua New Guinea before independence, especially after the UPNG was established. In most cases the local kiap or the district commissioner would have a quiet word with them and tell them to tone it down and that would be the end of the matter" – Phil Fitzpatrick

ADELAIDE - I think that Phil is right. At worst, Mr Cooper was guilty of tokim mauswara tasol or, as my children would have said, ‘dribbling shit’.

Why then Australian prime minister Robert Menzies decided to single him out as an 'enemy of the people' is hard to fathom.

He was a junior grade officer unwisely shooting his mouth off, not a master spy or Soviet agent provocateur.

Why did all this come to Menzies' attention anyway?

I assume that the local Madang ASIO [Australian Security Intelligence Organisation] agent was desperate to report something and it took off from there.

As for the evidence, I find it incredible that any competent judicial authority would accept it as a fair representation of what Cooper or anyone else might have said.

Personal recollections of conversations are notoriously unreliable because, apart from anything else, the way we remember things means that, at best, we recall the general tenor of a conversation rather than specific details.

This is why we have parliamentary Hansard, take minutes of meetings, write letters confirming what was agreed at meetings and so forth.

Throw in the fact that Cooper’s conversations were of a casual nature and apparently took place in another language and it verges on wishful thinking to believe that a credible detailed record of what was said could be produced.

Then we can attack the whole notion of sedition being an offence.

If it is sedition to criticise the established government of the day then most of us on PNG Attitude would already have been banged up.

Charges of sedition or treason are the basic tool of trade for dictators and other authoritarians but are vanishingly rare in a democratic society.

There is a good reason for this: only a tiny handful of nutters even contemplate overthrowing the state, let alone act upon that idea.

It is ASIO's job (or in PNG, the National Intelligence Organisation) to discover and monitor these clowns who, in truth, rarely act upon their pathetic ravings.

The very few who do or actively plan to do so are usually arrested, tried and banged up fairly promptly under the provisions of our terrorism laws. Less than a handful succeed like that fascist swine mass killer (an Australian) did in his attack of Muslims in New Zealand in 2019.

It therefore beggars belief that someone like Mr Cooper, rabbiting on under a tree to a handful of people living in a country far away from Australia while scoffing his lunch, could be regarded as a serious threat to the state.

The whole thing stinks of fabrication and smells like a fit-up to me.


Further reading

‘Australia’s new sedition laws and the case of Brian Cooper’ by Dr Michael Head, International Committee of the Fourth International, 27 October 2006

A voice in the wilderness: Revisiting the trial of Brian Cooper’ by Simon Pickering, University of Queensland Law Journal, Vol 35(2), 2016

‘In good faith: Sedition law in Australia’ by Roy Jordan, E-Brief, Parliamentary Library of Australia, April 2006

‘Free Speech and Free Press Around the World – Papua New Guinea’ by Randi Berkovsky, Free Speech, Free Speech, April 2014


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