[Andy, John and Ian, Paradigm Shift (4zzz fm 102.1 fridays at Noon) – 8 April 2016]
Andy: Three years before the Fitzgerald Inquiry, in the years of fear caused by the Rat Pack’s rule, Pig City dared to raise the questions: Who was the bagman? Who was the hit man in the National scam? In this Pig City edition of Paradigm Shift, 4ZZZ’s unofficial crime reporter, Dr John Jiggens, examines this period of Queensland’s history and the new interpretation of those years given in Matt Condon’s trilogy of books about Terry Lewis, the legendary corrupt police commissioner who began as the bagman in the National scam.
[Plays ‘Pig City’ by The Parameters, the song that exemplifies the horror felt by many older 4ZZZ listeners and announcers about the police in Queensland during the first decades of this station’s life.]
John Jiggens: Matt Condon’s True Crime trilogy, Three Crooked Kings, Jacks and Jokers, and All Fall Down, cover the police career of Commissioner Terrence Murray Lewis. These books are best described as Brisbane noir, a chronicle of that dark period in Brisbane’s past, evoked by the song Pig City, when a group of corrupt detectives, known as the Rat Pack – whose leader were Terry Lewis, Tony Murphy and Glen Hallahan – were given control of the police by Premier Bjelke-Petersen, with an unspoken understanding that the police force would be used as a private army against Bjelke-Petersen’s political enemies. In return, Lewis and co. were given carte blanche to run organised crime in Queensland – prostitution, drugs, gambling – as well as covering-up a score of murders, including the Whiskey au Go-Go fire- bombing, in which fifteen people died.
Listen to Pig City here or listen to Matt Condon at the 17 Group here:
The trilogy has been a phenomenal best-seller in Queensland, with tens of thousands of copies sold: for many older Queenslanders, the traumatic Bjelke-Petersen/Rat Pack era represents a collective scar in their memories, a time when power was blatantly abused, and when they were lied to on an industrial scale by a complicit media. For many, Condon’s work serves as a correction for those years of cover-ups by the mainstream media, and as an antidote for the poison they spread thru their hero-worship of Commissioner Lewis and Premier Bjelke-Petersen, an idolatry that 4ZZZ never succumbed too.
JJ: We join Dan O’Neil’s Group 17 soiree in West End, as author Matt Condon explains how he was gifted the job as Terry Lewis’ biographer, and the moral dilemmas posed for him as a biographer by Terry Lewis’s seemingly permanent estrangement from the truth.
JJ: Three crooked Kings begins with the young Terence Murray Lewis joining the police force in 1949 and follows his career as he becomes a detective, teaming up with Glen Hallahan and Tony Murphy. He graduated to become the bagman for ‘the big Fella’, Police Commissioner Frank Bischof. Under honest Commissioner Whitrod, Lewis was exiled to Cunnamulla; and Three Crooked Kings ends on the day in June 1976 when Lewis first met Premier Bjelke-Petersen at the Cunnamulla airport. What happened that day has been a subject of frequent speculation: Was a plan to remove Whitrod discussed? Was Lewis promised a promotion to Brisbane? We rejoin author Matt Condon at his West End talk.
JJ: Jacks and Jokers, the second part of Matt Condon’s history begins in 1976 after the fraudulent Terry Lewis replaces the honest Ray Whitrod as Police Commissioner. It chronicles the destruction of the honest police who were tasked under Whitrod with keeping the Rat Pack out of influence and power. Once Lewis became Commissioner, the Rat Pack’s opponents found themselves the hunted. The honest cops were destroyed relentlessly and ruthlessly. Like the corrupt everywhere, Murphy and Lewis feared the power of a good example.
JJ: By this purge of the honest, by the promotion of the corrupt, by removing those who criticised the misuse of police for a political agenda, the police force was transformed into a private army that supported Bjelke-Petersen, spying on and hounding his political opponents. Lewis’s support for Bjelke-Petersen was reciprocated by Bjelke-Petersen, who defended Lewis’s corruption. The result was a police force always on the lookout for an ‘earner’, devoted to monitoring and monstering student demonstrators, trade unionists, environmentalist, communists, aboriginals, punks, hippies, druggies, etc. These were the pigs who ruled Pig City.
JJ: The most dangerous verse of Pig City asks: Who was the bagman? Who was the Hitman? Who were the front men? Who were the big men in the national scam? The National scam refers to the National Hotel, which was the subject of a royal commission into police corruption and prostitution in 1964, headed up by Sir Harry Gibbs, after whom the Commonwealth Law Court in North Quay is named. Gibbs cleared the National Hotel, Commissioner Bischof and the Rat pack of involvement in prostitution, earning enduring fame as the only man in Brisbane who couldn’t find a prostitute at the National Hotel.
JJ: In the next grab, author Matt Condon backgrounds the causes of the National Hotel inquiry and explains how Bischof and the Rat Pack managed their escape.
JJ: So when did the Queensland police force go wrong? Matt Condon believes the basis for the Lewis years was the decade when Frank Bischoff was Police Commissioner when Lewis became Bischof’s bagman.
JJ: I’d recorded Matt Condon talking at Reading Brisbane’s dark past at Brisbane Square Library in February 2014. At that reading, Condon spoke about Frank Bischof, Queensland police commissioner from 1959 to 1969, with abhorrence and disgust. He promised that in the opening 50 pages of his second book, Jacks and Jokers, there would be revelations about Bischof that would shock us all.
JJ: The shocking revelation turned out to be that Bischof was a paedophile. Considering Bischof established the Juvenile Aid Bureau and appointed his bagman Terry Lewis as its head, this disclosure seems to have contributed to the collapse in trust between Condon and Lewis.
JJ: After six years and three large volumes, Condon vows to continue his research. He does not believe he will ever learn the truth from Lewis from the man himself, but he believes the truth is out there. He anticipates the McCulkin murder trials for the light they might shed about the Whiskey fire-bombing and the Rat Pack’s cover-up of that crime.
JJ: Despite the years spend interviewing Lewis and poring thru his archive, Condon’s portrait of Lewis remains puzzlingly unfinished because an honest portrait was not what Terry Lewis wanted. Condon’s sense of mission has changed. His desire now is to seek retribution for Commissioner Whitrod and the honest police crushed by Lewis through the Faustian bargain he made with Bjelke-Petersen in Cunnamulla forty years ago. It is, he believes, an important story for Queenslanders to know.
8 April 2014
|The Parameters – Pig city|
|Razar – Task force|
|Mystery Of Sixes – Black banned|
|Xero – Crazy Eddie|