The Linc Stink

The Linc Stink

Queensland’s biggest environmental disaster.

In April, following a 10-week trial, Linc Energy Limited was found guilty by a jury of five counts of wilfully and unlawfully causing serious environmental harm at its underground coal gasification plant at Chinchilla in the western Darling Downs.

Linc’s mine at Hopeland was described by Environment Minister Stephen Miles as potentially the biggest environmental disaster in Qld history. Appropriately, Judge Shanahan handed down a $4.5million fine, the largest environmental penalty in Qld history, but still well short of the enormous clean-up costs needed.

The mining technique, which Linc practiced at Hopeland, was an extreme form of fracking known as Underground Coal Gasification. Judge Shanahan explained it thus:

“Underground Coal Gasification is an aspect of the fracturing of coal seams colloquially known as fracking. The term fracking also covers a number of other processes. This actual process involves the setting fire to a coal seam underground and production of various gases that are used in particular processes, particularly the generation of power or, in relation to the Linc system, the conversion of the gas to liquid products, including fuel.”

Linc Energy was aware of the danger of contamination from fracturing both the coal and the adjacent overburden and allowing contaminants to escape. They said they knew the principles to be applied to ensure the safe operation of the project, but their frequent failures demonstrate otherwise.

The result was the Linc Stink, clouds of methane, hydrogen, hydrogen sulphide and carbon monoxide generated by the burn that escaped from the gasifiers and afflicted the animals, the workers and the farming families of this beautiful agriculture area for six years between 2007 and 2013.

The company, which was already in liquidation, did not defend the action and it is unknown whether any part of the record fine will be paid. Does a company escape from its requirements to repair environmental damage by declaring itself insolvent?  Over the next several years, the lawyers can anticipate a lavish picnic as they feast upon this question and the intricacies of the Corporations Act.



The five counts of causing serious environmental harm related to various gasifiers operated by Linc Energy on its site at Hopeland near Chinchilla.

In Underground Coal Gasification, the chambers that are dug in the coal seam, then set alight are known as gasifiers. The first two counts of the indictment involved the operation of a site known as Gasifier 2 or G2 between March, 2007, to June, 2008.

Linc said they knew of the need for appropriate site selection, including assessing the nature of the overburden, and the presence of any pre-existing fractures in the landform, yet the operation of G2, which resulted in damage to the landform that spanned up to two kilometres, loss of containment and escape of contaminants, including gasses bubbling to the surface.

The manager of operations reported to the CEO of the disastrous operation of G2, and the company replaced this failure with another gasifier, G3, which was sited only some 100 metres from the G2 site.

The G3 seam was ignited in August 2008. Once again, there were widespread well failures, gas bubbling at wellheads and a significant concentration of contaminants in monitoring bores. Decommissioning of G3 was recommended In March 2009, but it went on operating until the end of May.

Linc’s technical team advised in April 2009  that the Chinchilla site was not a feasible site to operate a fourth gasifier due to damage to landform of the previous gasifiers. Nonetheless, management directed the technical team to find another site there.

Gasifier 4 operated between 2 February 2010 and 20 February 2012 with the same faults: monitoring bores detected high concentrations of contaminants; gas was escaping in puddles from one of the water bores, so it was nicknamed Mr Bubbles. When a regulator visited the site, Mr Bubbles was covered by some sort of crusher dust so that the bubbling could not be seen.

The last gasifier, G5, operated between two years from October 2011 to December 2013,  in spite of a report from senior staff  that the site was unsuitable because of significant fracturing. Before the operation of G5, the company applied to the regulator to extend the limits of possible contamination to a much larger area than had been previously acknowledged. Judge Shanahan said:

“Also, a decision was made to stop the voluntary testing of groundwater samples for an extended period of time. It seems to me that that was a clear indication that Linc was well aware of the damage that was being done and was attempting to hide it from the regulator. It seems to me that that is a particular aggravating feature.

“ …during the operation of G5, the defendant was made aware of significant concentration of contaminants being detected in monitoring bores and shallow wells during its operation. It was advised of a detection of benzene, a product of the UCG process, being found in a shallow well …  G5 continued in operation to December 2013.  In my view, the defendant was plainly ignoring the information it was receiving and continued with its operations.”

Judge Shanahan concluded that Linc frequently ignored the advice it was getting from its own team of scientists. The offences were serious and extensive and proceeded over seven years. Judge Shanahan said:

“Each gasifier was operated in a manner that resulted in explosive and toxic gases, tars and oils escaping into parts of the landform.

“The offences have resulted in a contamination of the groundwater system that will require monitoring and remediation for many years to come. The land also faced ongoing explosive and toxicity risks in relation to the escape of contaminants.”

Tens of millions of dollars have been spent, dealing with the impact of the contamination offences. Judge Shanahan concluded that the company put its commercial interests well above its duty to conduct its processes in a way to safeguard the environment. His judgement was:

“In the operation of earlier gasifiers, my view is that Linc ignored the obvious risks and continued on. But in relation to the two later offences, my view is that Linc acted with clear knowledge of the environmental damage and made commercial decisions to proceed. …  My view is the purpose of this ecological vandalism was purely commercial.”

It remains to be seen if the company will pay any of the $4.5 million fine as it is in liquidation. CEO Peter Bond is selling off his assets, including the Dunk Island resort, and his Fig Tree Pocket mansion, snapped up for only $7.5 million by Clive Palmer. In the coming months, Peter Bond and other Linc Directors are due to face criminal charges under new legislation. Affected farmers are organising a class action against the government for approving the technology.

The Linc Stink is spreading.

The response of the Environment Defenders Office Queensland  is here.

Judge Shanahan’s judgement can be found here (pdf).

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The future of cannabis medicine in Australia

canadicannabmedCannabis legalisation is inevitable. Canada is about to legislate for recreational cannabis and so is California. Colorado has already legalised, and the sky has not fallen down. Crime rates have not gone up, people are not driving cars into trees, nor did anyone expect this, apart from a few die-hard fanatics. We have reached the tipping point.

Meanwhile, Australian governments have made no preparations for a legalised market and have developed no infrastructure for it. Instead, they are striving to give the industry to their discredited backers in Big Pharma and preparing to crack down on the illicit compassionate movement.

For the neo-Liberal ascendancy, regulation means privatisation, which means restricting the market via over-regulation and more reefer madness.

Both Queensland and Victoria have announced they will increase penalties for cannabis and Victoria plans to join Queensland in banning all information about growing cannabis and making cannabis medicines. They admit they can not arrest their way out of the problem, but they keep on trying.

The spread of cannabis medicine will be driven by the internet, which reports the developments in countries that have legalised medical cannabis, and by demographics. The Baby-Boomers were the first cannabis adaptors, and as  they age and face the diseases of mortality, they are more prepared to take up cannabis medicines.

Cannabis medicine will remain an illicit industry for a short while. There will be other Tony Bowers, but they will not be able arrest their way out of their predicament.

The Age of cannabis medicine is dawning.


A friend, who is a law lecturer, wrote to me asking where he could obtain medical cannabis. His partner’s lung cancer was getting worse: “She starts chemo today after six weeks on a drug called Getfitinib. Not very optimistic… “

As a journalist who has followed the medical cannabis story over many years, I have reported on lives transformed using simple herbal extracts from a plant vilified by police and politicians as a dangerous drug. So although it was breaking the law, I made inquiries. Cannabis has a well-known record in treating nausea and maintaining appetite during chemotherapy. Recently the US National Cancer Institute rated cannabis as the best treatment available for nausea suppression and appetite stimulation in chemotherapy.

A few weeks later my friend sent me a photo of a jar containing a green herbal substance in a similar coloured liquid.

Recently I checked to see how his partner’s illness was progressing. He reported the cannabis was helping greatly, allowing his partner to deal with the chemo-induced nausea far better and her tumour was reducing. Their crisis was far from over and she was due to start a second cycle of chemotherapy shortly. He informed me he had started making his own tincture.

Although the Queensland government claims to have legalised medical cannabis, only one person in Queensland has legal access to cannabis! However, the black market in medical cannabis is thriving. My friend informed me that he received contacts for over a dozen illegal medical cannabis providers.

When he spoke in West End, Dana Larsen rthat the triumph of cannabis regulation in Canada was a testament to the civil liberty campaign the Canadians engaged in. He praised Marc Emery, who opened a shop called HEMP BC, which sold bongs and seeds. Although Marc Emery eventually served four-and-a-half years in a US prison, his example was emulated by others, creating a movement that combined business, civil disobedience and activism together into a very effective and powerful combination.

Much the same has happened in Australia with the medicinal cannabis movement. A decade ago, an unassuming Aboriginal man named Tony Bower started making a cannabis tincture, called Mullaways medicinal cannabis tincture for sufferers of childhood epilepsy. The New South Wales police arrested him, stole his patients’ medicine, and put him in prison.

His patients made his case a nation-wide cause. The parents of profoundly suffering children told of their gratitude to him and defended the miraculous relief afforded by his medicine. Many individuals were inspired to emulate him.

The recreational cannabis black market is Australia’s most valuable agricultural crop with tens-of-thousands of growers, with a street-value of several billion dollars. This large pre-existing underground industry provided the expertise and entrepreneurial drive that an agile, innovative and illicit industry needed.

Thanks to their efforts, knowledge of the benefit of medical cannabis is so wide-spread that even law lecturers are turning to black market cannabis and are learning to make their own cannabis medicines! Very few people would be shocked by my friend’s actions: Would any compassionate person watch their partner die and not do everything in their power to help?

Yet this is precisely what Australian politicians, police and health authorities demand. These compassion-devoid monsters have threatened mothers with having their children removed from their care for using a medicine that has had a miraculous and transformative effect on their sick children! But even lecturers in law will not follow such unjust and immoral laws.

The privatisation of medical cannabis

Lester Grinspoon predicted that cannabis would be the wonder drug of the 21st century. As our knowledge of the endocannabionoid system grows, the accuracy of his  prediction  underlies the politics of cannabis.

While the corporate media give the impression that cannabis medicine is being legalised, the truth is that cannabis medicine is being privatised.

The clinical trials announced by the New South Wales Minister for Medical Research, Prue Goward, will be run jointly with the British pharmaceutical company GW Pharmaceuticals and will test the company’s genetically-modified cannabis. They are funded by a $3.5 million dollar grant from the New South Wales government. The spin put on this large gift of money to GW  Pharmaceuticals by Minister Goward was that ‘street marijuana’ had ‘too many poisons in it.’ Politicians like Ms Goward are helping pharmaceutical companies, while sprouting reefer madness. Their rhetoric can not change the testimony of tens-of-thousands of Australians that simple home-made cannabis medications are more effective than anything the pharmaceutical companies can provide. On the medical battlefield, cannabis medicines are slaying the monsters of Big Parma like a mutant tumour.

While Governments are sending us down the corporatized Big Pharma/Big Green ‘clinical trial’ road of medical cannabis, we need to learn from Australia’s medical cannabis consumers what medicines they are taking and how successful these are. The best science in the area is being conducted by the Australian Medical Cannabis Observatory Initiative, who are  working on a survey of the medicines that Australia’s medical cannabis community are currently using.

Spokesperson Dr. David Caldicott says they are seeking open science, not private science. As part of documenting Australian cannabis medicines, they offer to chemically analyse the underground medical cannabis products, assisted by a team of chemists from the ANU.

In contrast to the clinical trials that Australian governments are considering, which will involve genetically-modified corporate cannabis and will have little benefit for the overwhelming majority of medical cannabis consumers, the citizen-science  approach of the Australian Medical Cannabis Observatory will examine the actual products Australia’s underground medical cannabis community and record their treatments and their efficacy.




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Marihuana Weirdo Remembrance Day

Marihuana Weirdo Remembrance Day

The 10th August 2013 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of Brisbane’s first marijuana arrest, the marihuana weirdo raid, which was announced in a lurid story, “Marihuana seized by police in swoop on weirdos”, which was the front page story on 11th August 1963 for Brisbane’s Sunday Truth.

The marihuana weirdo raid marked the beginning of fifty years of marihuana persecutions, police corruption and the misuse of the drug laws. It is something to condemn but also to acknowledge and commemorate.

The back story to the Marihuana weirdo raid is examined by Steven Bishop in his book The most dangerous detective. What follows is largely excerpted from this book, which I recommend as a fascinating history of Queensland’s Rat Pack, and Queensland very own killer cop.

– Dr John Jiggens.


A lie called the Truth

In August 1963, the corrupt practices of Queensland detective and future Rat Pack leader, Glen Patrick Hallahan, had drawn the attention of the Appeal Court. An appeal by Garry Campbell, one of Hallahan’s victims, was due to come before three of the state’s most senior judges. Hallahan’s method in obtaining convictions was to threaten those he arrested that he would load them up with far more serious offences unless they pleaded guilty. If they pleaded guilty, he promised to go easy, and tell the judge they helped him in his investigations. Hallahan invariably promised he would put in a good word for them with the judge and they would pay only a small fine. Campbell’s appeal was based on the claim that Hallahan had blackmailed and bullied him into pleading guilty.

Hallahan wanted a major advertisement for himself before the appeal court sat in judgement on him, and he contrived with the Sunday Truth’s crime reporter, Ron Richards for a story of a raid on a gay party where it was expected that one of Brisbane’s top television personalities would be attending: this would become the marihuana weirdo raid.
The raid took place at midnight on a Friday night, which meant that no one else would be able to beat Truth to the story. As Saturday August 10 approached, Ron Richards and a photographer waited outside a Herston address.

Veteran journalist Steve Bishop described the resulting marihuana weirdo raid story as “a Hallahan extravaganza across the whole of the front page and page 3… the front page carried a photo of a besuited Hallahan, wearing a thick sweater under his jacket to keep out the cold, with “a firm grip on a male strip tease dancer being bundled from a weirdos’ party at Herston. The dancer appeared to be naked apart from a tiny towel that might have been the final part of his act. The headlines were: Brisbane rocked by vice exposure; marijuana seized in swoop by police on weirdos; television personality questioned.”

The Truth version of the marihuana weirdo raid was, “Right on midnight police rushed in to a unit at Herston where they found a near naked man entertaining the “potted” guests with a male strip-tease.” What was left unsaid in the Truth report was that the raid was a set-up from the start, staged by Hallahan and his friends in the CIB for the benefit of beat-up expert Ron Richards to whip into Truth’s fantastic marihuana weirdo concoction. Hallahan’s friend Billy Phillips organised the party; Hallahan organised the raid and probably the marihuana. Ron Richards did the rest.

There is a quote famously attributed to Rupert Murdoch by WA Premier Charles Court. Reputedly, Murdoch told Court, “You can have a headline a day, or a bucket of shit!” The marihuana weirdo story was Hallahan’s headline. By pulling some poor soul from a Herston party, Ron Richards contrived to transform Glen Patrick Hallahan into a detective hero, saving Brisbane from the scourge of drugs and vice.

The whole of page 3 was dedicated to the story, with four more photos of police leading “weirdos” away. According to the Truth, “Some of the men called each other by women’s names like Rosa, Gypsy, Molly and Roma… Police say the seizure of the marihuana at the Herston party is the first breakthrough in proving their belief that sex drugs are being used on a wide scale at Brisbane vice parties.”

The biggest photo featured another close friend of Hallahan and Richards, Detective Don ‘Shady’ Lane, future corrupt Bjelke-Petersen minister and jailbird. Hallahan also brought along in his raiding party his accomplice in the Sundown Murders frame-up, Norm Bauer, head of the CIB, who would succeed Bischof as police commissioner. The photos of the marihuana weirdo raiders portray a glittering parade of future stars; a cabinet minister, a police commissioner, and a chief investigator for Suncorp Insurance.

Next Friday, Hallahan was in court as the three senior judges heard the appeal from Gary Campbell. Campbell’s lawyer argued that Hallahan had blackmailed Campbell into pleading guilty. The judges reserved their verdicts to a later date, which meant there was time for one more pro-Hallahan beat-up in the Sunday Truth before the verdict was delivered in a page 5 story called: Dramatic sequel to city sex raid: Drug ring forced into “smoke”.

As Ron Richards furiously whipped the ingredients together, ace detective, Glen Hallahan, was now “smashing the dope-running gangs” through his undercover investigations into the drug trade. The story began: “Australia’s top gangland drug traffickers have gone into hiding following weeks of undercover investigation by Brisbane and Sydney detectives. The first breakthrough in smashing the dope-running gangs follows directly on the dramatic police raids on a marihuana party in the Brisbane suburb of Herston on August 10… Last week one of the guests at the Herston party was dramatically arrested at Eagle Farm airport by Detectives G P Hallahan and R Price as he was about to leave for Melbourne. He was fined 100 pounds after he told stipendiary magistrate Mr Baker that he had given Detective Hallahan valuable information on the source of the sex drug in Sydney.”

Like most of the Truth’s marihuana weirdo make-believe, this was thousands of light-years from the truth. Hallahan, the great anti-marihuana crusader, was one of Brisbane’s few potheads in 1963. His then confidente and lover, Shirley Brifman, recalled how Glen ‘hit the pot’ in this period. Far from smashing dope-running gangs, Hallahan would move on to direct them. In the 1970s, John Milligan, a major heroin trafficker, would tell the Narcotics Bureau he was terrified of Hallahan, who was bankrolling his heroin importations. Milligan told the bureau that if he talked his life would be in danger. He informed them that Hallahan had claimed that he had already murdered a prostitute named Shirley Brifman.

Uninfluenced by Ron Richards and the Truth’s promotion of Hallahan, the Full Court delivered a damning verdict on Hallahan. Justice Stanley, who had already studied Hallahan’s behaviour in at least two cases, took the lead in reporting:
“Campbell alleges he was induced to plead guilty to vagrancy in these circumstances: Detectives took him away from the place where he was employed and searched his flat for blankets, sheets and pillow slips alleged by them to be missing from premises formerly occupied by him. Not finding any such articles, Hallahan said to him: “If you haven’t got them, you know who has got them and we will charge you with having house-breaking instruments. We’ll load you right up and make sure you get put away.” Campbell replied: “I don’t know where the blankets and other things are.” Hallahan said: “How much money have you got?” Campbell replied: “About four or five shillings.” Hallahan said: “We will charge you with vagrancy.” Campbell alleges he then told Hallahan about his employment history. “He had, in fact, obtained part-time employment at the Top Cat Sound Lounge, 74 Elizabeth Street, Brisbane. He was required to work each Friday and Saturday evening, being paid three pounds per night. He worked on Saturday, June 22, and he was at work at that address on Friday June 28 when taken away by Hallahan. “Campbell alleges that having told Hallahan this, Hallahan said: “If you don’t plead guilty we will go to your flat with house-breaking house-breaking instruments and then charge you with having possession of them. You’ll get at least 12 months’ imprisonment. But if you plead guilty, you will get out of the vagrancy charge.” He alleges Hallahan also told him what to say in court and said: “If you say what I tell you, I will not rubbish you in court. If I get you out of this charge I want you out of town by Tuesday. In truth, Campbell was in work and taken away by the police while on duty at his place of employment.”

The misnamed Sunday Truth was the megaphone for the Rat Pack, glamorising crooks like Hallahan.



Colin Bennett, born on 10 May 1919 in Townsville, died in 2002, was a lawyer and parliamentarian who was one of the Rat Pack’s few foes, and their most powerful adversary.

Speaking in the Queensland Parliament shortly after the weirdo raid and the court’s verdict on Hallahan, Bennett told how the Full Court of Queensland had found “that the top glamour detective of Queensland was guilty of perpetrating a fraud on one of the courts”, yet Commissioner Bischof was supporting Hallahan.  Bennett said:

“That is perhaps one of the most serious offences that anybody in Queensland could commit, and it is even more serious when it is committed by an allegedly trusted police officer. But, lo and behold, the Commissioner of Police does not accept the unanimous decision of the Full Court and will have the decision investigated departmentally. What a shocking impertinence from any public servant or any other person in the community. There have been many occasions when this Commissioner has suspended policemen and dismissed them. On this occasion… he does not even suspend the police officer concerned. What is more this particular officer glamourises himself by dragging some poor individual, draped only in a little towel, not arrested – he still has not been charged – yet this officer assaults him by dragging him from private premises. No action has been taken and I know none will be taken. He drags him out from private premises and either arranges or had pre-arranged for a weekend newspaper to make an incursion into this individual’s privacy and dignity by having a photograph taken.”

On October 29, 1963,  Bennett rose again to condemn Commissioner Bischof and the Rat Pack of corrupt detectives, who were his bagmen: “I propose to concentrate my attention on the police department and the police force of Queensland,”  he said, before imparting some advice to the Commissioner and his friends: “I do not wish to dally too long on this subject, but I should say that the Commissioner and his colleagues who frequent the National Hotel, encouraging and condoning the callgirl service that operates there, would be better occupied in preventing such activities rather than tolerating them.”

Sunday Truth commented on its front page: “The campaign Mr Colin Bennett MLA is waging against the police commissioner Mr Bischof is now completely out of control and in the public interest the State Government can move only one way. It must order an immediate Royal Commission.” The reason it gave for needing an inquiry was:

“The facts are that the honour and integrity of the Queensland police commissioner have been attacked. His name has got to be cleared.”

Thanks to the urgings of the Truth for the government to counter the statements in Parliament by Bennet, the National Hotel Inquiry would be announced shortly thereafter, with its terms of reference limited to enable Justice Harry Gibbs to clear  the reputations of the crooked Commissioner Bischof and his ratty friends.

Most of this (with a bit of editing and rewriting) from:
Bishop, Steve . The Most Dangerous Detective: The Outrageous Glen Patrick Hallahan  Kindle Edition. $12.95

More info on the finding against Hallahan

The three judges constituting the appeal court, Stanley, Mack and Wanstall, did not believe Hallahan’s denial that he was blackmailing those he arrested into pleading guilty. The allegations were he would threaten to load them up for a far more serious crime if they didn’t plead guilty; or he would threaten to detain them over the weekend and not notify their families. The judges were so concerned by his behaviour that they laid down a course of action that all magistrates should follow if a defendant appeared before them without a legal representative and pleaded guilty. They said: “The magistrate should not only inquire whether anyone connected with the police has made any suggestion that he should plead guilty and advise the accused to plead not guilty unless he receives from the accused a prompt and convincing disclaimer.
The case went into the legal lexicon as ‘Hallahan v Kryloff, ex-parte Kryloff’ and has been frequently quoted in Queensland judgements ever since.

Another example of Hallahan’s technique in gaining guilty pleas concerned a man who pleaded guilty to a crime which was never even committed. Writes Bishop:
“So why had Cavanagh confessed to a crime that not only did he not commit, but which had never occurred in the first place? He told his solicitor that on the Saturday morning he had been threatened by Hallahan: You can either plead guilty, go before the court today and be home with your wife this afternoon or we’ll throw you in jail until you come clean and your wife will be worried sick at home. “I know I pleaded guilty but I challenge anyone else placed in similar circumstances to do anything different,” said Cavanagh. “I’d been taken away by the police and faced with a weekend in the watchhouse if I pleaded not guilty.”

Bishop, Steve (2012-11-06). The Most Dangerous Detective: The Outrageous Glen Patrick Hallahan (p. 63).  Kindle Edition.

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How many cones? How many pills? How many lines of coke?

A s a researcher into the illicit drug trade, I am intrigued by the question of the size of Australia’s market in illicit drugs. Cannabis, it is said, is the biggest cash crop in Australia, but how can we know how many tonnes of cannabis Australians inhale each year?
What is the size of Australia’s market for illicit drugs?
How much is our illicit drug trade worth?
What is the potential for taxing and regulating this industry?
We can gain some idea of how big Australia’s illicit drug trade is from the many re-ports of drug seizures that regularly feature in our news broadcasts. In the seven month period between October 2012 and April 2013, the ABC alone ran about 500 stories related to drugs and drug seizures. Reading these stories gives an indication of the market’s size. For the sake of analysis, I categorised the biggest seizures as mon-ster (value greater than $250 million street value); massive (seizures in the $50 million to $250 million street value range); enormous ($10million to $50 million); and big ($1 million to $10 million).
In the past nine months there were two monster seizure above the $250 million range. On 30 July 2012, Customs and police found 558kg of illicit drugs valued at around $500 million street value in a shipment of terracotta pots bound for Sydney: 306 kilo-grams of crystal methamphetamine (ice) and 252 kilograms of heroin. This was our third largest seizure of heroin and the largest seizure of ice in Australian history at that time. This Australian record for ice did not last long. On 28 February, 2013, the Australian black market achieved a new personal best, 585 kilos of ice, worth an esti-mated $440 million dollars.
Commenting on this first monster seizure, Australian Federal Police (AFP) Deputy Commissioner Andrew Colvin talked up the success of the AFP, “This operation fol-lows the AFP’s most successful year in terms of drug seizures. In the 2011/12 finan-cial year, the AFP and its partner agencies seized almost 14 tonnes of illicit sub-stances bound for drug distribution networks across Australia.” With drug seizures approaching the two billion dollar mark, 2012/13 is shaping up to be another bumper year for the AFP. But is the big picture really one of continuing police success, as Deputy Commissioner Colvin spun the story, or one of a country swimming in illicit drugs?
Below these two monster busts were reports of five massive seizures valued in the $50 million to $250 million range:$77m cocaine ring smashed: AFP, Foreign nation-als arrested over $237m drug seizure, Trio charged over 50kg heroin drug bust, Joint policing operation nets 200kg cocaine in shipwreck, along with the related story , Body on Tonga drugs yacht identified. As well as these, there was another massive cocaine haul, 300 kilograms seized in Bundaberg in November 2012.
Dr John Jiggens is a writer who has published several books including Marijuana Australiana, The killer cop and the murder of Donald Mackay and Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp. His academic works on Australian drug markets include The Economics of Drug Prohibition in Australia, Estimating the Size of the Australian Heroin Market: A New Method, and Australian Heroin Seizures and the causes of the 2001 Australian Heroin Shortage.
How many cones? How many pills?
page 3
Australia’s biggest anti-cannabis operation was the annual police helicopter raids on the NSW North Coast, a lengthy eradication program that began in the New England district in November and wrapped up in the Coffs Harbour district in April, having swept over the entire NSW north coast. According to Drug Squad Commander, Superinten-dent Nick Bingham, it yielded almost 14,000 can-nabis plants, valued at $25 million. With more than a hint of wishful thinking Bingham declared: “Our aim is to disrupt the supply chain, to go and find and pull as many plants as we can and get that can-nabis off the street and hopefully either drive prices up or keep prices stable and that will discourage people, we hope, (from using) cannabis.” As Bingham conceded, massive police operations are needed simply to keep the price of drugs at their present price. As cannabis activists have often joked, the Drug Squad are the Price Maintenance Squad for organised crime! But this is more than a joke: this is the essence of Prohibition. Prohibition acts as a multiplier for the black market. Every dollar we spend on drug law enforcement is worth $10 to the black market. Currently, Australia spends about $1.5 billion on drug law enforcement: this generates a black market worth approximately $15 billion dollars for organised and disorganised crime. It is the weight of police, courts and prisons pushing down that drives up the price of illicit drugs and makes them more valuable than gold.
Following the current record ice seizure in March 2013 about 350 heavily-armed police officers raided 30 properties across Sydney, the Illawarra and Port Stephens and 18 people were arrested. New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione declared. “Today you have seen evidence of the police at their very best. The one thing you can take away clearly is, in terms of organised crime, New South Wales police and the Crime Commission have you people firmly in our sights. We’re not going away.”
But neither are the drugs. Despite seizing close to two billion dollars worth of illicit drugs so far this year, all these massive police operations have had no significant impact on the availability of illicit drugs.
Four decades ago, when President Richard Nixon launched the War on Drugs, free market econo-mist, Milton Friedman, declared that the failure of prohibition was inevitable because of corruption as officials succumbed to the lure of easy money: Said Friedman: “So long as large sums of money are involved—and they are bound to be if drugs are illegal—it is literally hopeless to expect to end the traffic or even to reduce seriously its scope.” Sto-ries like, Customs officers suspected in airport smuggling ring, Customs corruption extends to waterfront, SAS officer not fit to plead, Police Commissioner’s son breaches parole, Police officer facing drug charges, demonstrated the accuracy of his prediction. For those who enjoy irony there was, Police take heart in more reported drug offences, where Senior Sergeant Marty Haime from Geraldton police ex-plained a 30.6 per cent increase in drug offences in the Gascoyne area as positive because it was show-ing results that would yield a ‘generational change’ in ‘five to 10 years’. Said Sergeant Haime, “We’d like to think we’re changing behaviours as time goes by.” However, the big drug story of the past year was not about Australia. It was the success of the vote for legalising cannabis in the US states of Colorado and Washington. In 1976 The Australian inter-viewed a group of Sydney 16-year-olds about how they saw the future. To these 16-year olds, the le-galisation of drugs was inevitable. A schoolboy predicted, “The use of drugs will be so common it will be legalised. This will be a great advantage because it will no longer be a big business issue with dealers becoming millionaires overnight.” Another said, “I also think it should be legalised because the more you say ‘don’t do this it’s bad’ the more the person’s going to do it.” Watching the results of the legalisation vote in Washington and Colorado in November 2012, were these former teenagers (now in their fifties) about to see their prediction vindicated?

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How come you’re so bloody accurate about the Mackay murder? (DM2)

How come you’re so bloody accurate about the Mackay murder?

On the Monday after The Area News article was published, on 20 August 2012, I received an email from John Higgins, a journalist I had previously tried to contact. The title of his email was: “How come you’re so bloody accurate about the Mackay murder”. It read:

In my old age, I have decided to write a book about my life.
A large part of it described my time as editor of the Leeton newspaper and my work with Don Mackay.
Many times, I’ve found your stuff on the internet and compared what you write, to what I know.
You’ve reported stuff which was only known to Don and I.
I can’t work out where you get your stuff from, and can’t believe that you could be so bloody accurate.
So much of your stuff is exactly 100% accurate.
I find that astounding.
John Higgins

For  a “controversial author”, it was wonderful to receive such a ringing endorsement, especially because I immediately recognised the name. I had tried to contact John Higgins unsuccessfully over some years because I knew he was a local journalist who had been in contact with Don Mackay on the day of his disappearance. In 2007 Kevin Meade wrote a story in The Australian about my research on the Mackay murder and he ended it with a quote from a reporter called John Higgins about how he had told Don about Fred Krahe arriving in Griffith the day of the murder and Don saying “I wonder what his job is this time?”

I had not heard this quote before so I googled “John Higgins” but John Higgins is a much more difficult name to google than John Jiggens. I got too many hits. I waded through them, but I couldn’t find the quote Kevin Meade had used. Later, I tried to contact Kevin Meade to find his source, but found he had died. Kevin and I had gone to Banyo High School together. He was a year younger than me so the news of his death was unsettling. I gave up trying to contact John Higgins then, assuming I had hit a dead end, so it was wonderful to be in contact with John Higgins finally. I rang him up and we talked about matters, including our rather similar sounding names. He told me that at one stage his friends had given him the nickname “Jiggins” (from J. Higgins, I suppose), and when my articles started appearing on the internet, people assumed it was him, using a pseudonym!

But how to answer his question: Why am I so bloody accurate about the Mackay murder?

From what I have observed the major methodology of crime reporters is to cultivate influential detectives, generally by sharing a few beers together at some ‘watering hole’, and getting tips and even the occasional police file left (accidently, of course) on the hotel table. In the social sciences this methodology is dignified by some researchers who call it interrogating Key Informants (KI); the use of the acronym, KI, making it sound a lot more scientific than it is. Critics, like me, describe this method somewhat more accurately as listening to pub gossip.

By contrast, I call my style of history doing ‘history by numbers’ and regard it is being far more scientific. My technique relies on numerical analysis, rather than pub gossip; consequently, it is more difficult to understand. I numerically analyse trade figures: in this case Australia’s marijuana trade. Evan Whitton told me that my great insight into the Mackay murder was to know that the size of the plantation at Coleambally meant there was an international drug smuggling conspiracy involved in the Mackay murder, which is correct. I know this because I can do the maths. I am world-class in estimating the size of illicit drug markets: I have written award-winning academic papers and major encyclopaedia articles on the subject and have been published in leading academic magazines. I can read the drug seizure figures the way financial analysts read the stock market. It is a weird power and you have to read my academic papers and be numerate as well as literate to fully understand my method.

In short, the size of the Coleambally crop told me that Don Mackay was killed by an international drug smuggling syndicate. The Coleambally plantation was 375,000 marijuana plants, approximately 60 tonnes of cannabis. The only people who could move such a large quantity of pot, I reasoned, had to be an international drug smuggling ring who were major players in the US drug market, because there is no other market that can absorb that quantity of cannabis. So my starting hypothesis was that Don Mackay was murdered because he had uncovered an international drug smuggling conspiracy that operated in the US market, and I worked backwards from this Because it was an era of massive seizures, there were other seizures that also seemed signs of an international drug smugglers operating out of Australia in the 1970s. So I was led to Murray Riley, Bela Csidei and that led me to Frank Nugan, the Nugan packing shed and Fred Krahe. I started from the hypothesis that Mackay was killed by an international drug smuggling conspiracy and found links along the way that confirmed this hypothesis, which showed me I was on the right track. I knew the secret that Don Mackay was murdered to hide, not because someone in a pub told me, but because I employed the traditional instrument of economic history.

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Neil Pike reviews Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp

Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp
Reviewed by Neil Pike

As Australians we’re all taught at a very early age that this country was “settled” by the British as a convict colony. The Yanks threw the Poms out and they had nowhere else to send their criminal classes, so they sailed halfway round the world and formed a bloody big prison farm here in the Antipodes.
This is the popular history of how Australia was formed and it’s always been enshrined in our history books right next to another familiar old tale. You know the one. The classic imperialist fairy story that has the indigenous inhabitants of this huge continent happily greeting the Great White Father, handing over the lease and shuffling contentedly off to die of smallpox. Upon such myths are national identities built.
Sometime in the last 30 years or so, people started questioning the second myth but until recently no-one ever queried the first. Dr. John Jiggens in his new book Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp finally does this. Jiggens is an author who has been kicking round the Australian literary scene (and Nimbin) for quite a few decades now. In that time he’s written a number of very readable and often controversial tomes. His first published book was a gonzo telling of the Aquarius Festival (Rehearsals For The Apocalypse published 1983). Since then he’s covered a lot of ground – the Hilton bombing (The Incredible Exploding Man published 1991), an Australian version of The Emperor Wears № Clothes with Jack Herer and an examination of the Don Mackay murder in Griffith and the role of the Nugan Hand bank in the whole sordid business (The Killer Cop and the Murder of Donald MacKay published 2009) among other writings.
He’s also managed to become the leading expert on the history of cannabis in Australia. His research always seems to turn up new angles on the subjects that he covers, so it’s no surprise that when he turned his attention to the British settlement of Australia he uncovered some unusual facts.
In his research, Dr Jiggens discovered that Sir Joseph Banks was the leading British expert in Hemp cultivation. He points out that hemp was the backbone of the empire in Banksy’s time, the only known source of the fibre from which the sails and rope that powered the English fleets came, the equivalent of what oil is today. Unfortunately for the Poms, most of their hemp came from Russia and had to be transported through areas controlled by their mortal enemies, the French. This lack of control of a primary resource played hell with the British ruling class’ sense of security. They desperately wanted their OWN stash of hemp. Attempts to achieve this in America and Canada were unsuccessful and the price of hemp kept rising. Sir Joseph Banks (in his role as court genius and all-round Renaissance man) spent considerable time and effort studying Hemp and researching ways and locations for Britain to cultivate a large quantity of high quality cannabis. Australia seemed perfect for this task but because of the political nature of the mission (hemp being such a vital part of the war effort) it acquired a “top secret” category and was buried beneath an official cover story of the need for a penal colony.
But before we raise our bongs in salute to yet another historic stoner, it’d be worth pointing out that Banks (like many a modern pothead) didn’t know the difference between psychotropic cannabis and the industrial kind. In fact Banks didn’t even realise there was a psychotropic kind until quite late in life and after several unsuccessful attempts to turn Indian dope into maritime rope. The Australian hemp farm experiments also seemed to have suffered from the same botanical mix-up.
The bottom line seems to be that cannabis requires very different strains and methods of cultivation to achieve useable hemp than it does to grow smokeable pot. The Brits, it seems, just didn’t get this. Eventually, Banks was astounded to discover that you could get very high off the stuff the Indians were growing and sent a stash of it to his good mate Coleridge the poet. What effect this had on Coleridge’s already bountiful appreciation of opium remains unrecorded. You can imagine him commenting that the dreams weren’t as good though…
Fascinating as these speculations may be, the main thesis of Dr Jiggens’ book is that Australia was founded as a hemp colony and that ignorance of the difference between dope and rope resulted in failure in these attempts. Although this thesis becomes very believable and almost self-evident with unbiased close appraisal, no-one it seems has ever done so before. Jiggens (in doing this) has come up with a fresh and radical reappraisal of the strategies behind the colonisation of Australia. A well-researched, informative and interesting read.


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In A Time Of Murder: The Murder Of Don Mackay

About 6.30 pm on a Friday night, July 15 1977, a local anti-marijuana crusader named Donald Mackay left the Griffith Hotel and walked outside to the car park where his mini-van — with its conspicuous Mackay’s Furniture logo — was parked. An assassin was waiting. As Donald Mackay went to open the front door of his van, the assassin emptied his .22 revolver into Donald Mackay’s body. In an office nearby, an accountant heard a sound ‘like someone being sick’, and three sharp cracks ‘like a whip’.

Mackay’s blood-spattered vehicle was found in the early hours of the next morning. There were blood spots and stains extending from the front mudguard back to the bottom of the driver’s door. The keys had fallen under the car, and two drag marks extended from where the keys lay to a large blood stain on the ground. Three spent .22 cartridge cases were found near the large blood stain. It looked like murder and a very professional hit too. For the body of Donald Mackay would never be found.

In 1977 there had been high hopes that cannabis use might be decriminalised in New South Wales. In the previous years, nine US states had decriminalised cannabis use, and many Australians were eager that we should follow suit. In March that year, the Joint Committee upon Drugs of the NSW parliament recommended the removal of jail sentences for personal use of marijuana, and in April, NSW Premier Neville Wran outlined a plan to remove jail sentences as penalties for people convicted of having marijuana for personal use. Mr Wran said that marijuana was widespread and that “tens of thousands of parents whose sons and daughters smoke marijuana” would not want their children to carry “the stigma of being a jailed, convicted criminal.”

But the murder of Donald Mackay would change all that. Mackay’s face became a newspaper icon: he was the man the “Mr Bigs” murdered because he knew too much. He was the martyr of Griffith, whose blood cried out for revenge.


The Pot Capital of Australia

The town of Griffith, situated 600 km south-west of Sydney, is the regional centre of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, whose irrigated fields make ‘the Area’ one of the largest producers of wine, rice, citrus, stone fruit and vegetables in Australia.

In the early 1970s, a group of Australian-Italian farmers began using their irrigated fields for the production of a new, illicit vegetable. In February 1974, members of the Sergi and Barbaro families were caught with two cannabis plantations, but they escaped with very light fines — excusing themselves in court by claiming that they were unaware it was marijuana they were growing; they thought the crop was ‘American tomatoes’. The sympathetic testimony of Det Sgt John Ellis, a Griffith detective who would later be convicted of corruption, was also helpful in reducing their sentences.

The Mackay family first became involved when Don Mackay’s wife, Barbara, wrote a letter to theGriffith Area News in February 1975 about this case. Barbara Mackay noted that this crop of marijuana was worth a quarter of a million dollars but that the fines imposed on the two growers were $250 and $500 respectively. In contrast several Leeton youth had receiving gaol sentences and fines of $900 for smoking the end product of the growers: “The contrast between these two judgements is alarming.” Her husband, Donald Mackay, let it be known that he was interested in finding out where these rumoured marijuana plantations were. His inquiries were to lead to the largest cannabis seizure in Australian history.

Warned against trusting the local police, Don Mackay met with selected members of the Drug Squad in Sydney; using information and vehicles supplied by Mackay, the Sydney Drug Squad raided a property at Coleambally 60 km south of Griffith on November 10 1975. The four police officers were amazed by the size of the crop they discovered. Screened from the road by a line of trees was a huge marijuana plantation spread over 31 acres. The operation was very sophisticated and each row of pot plants had its own water supply. The police estimated that there were 375,000 marijuana plants in total, and that, when mature, this one plantation would produce 60 tonnes of pot. At a time when the total value of agricultural production of the entire Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area was estimated at $60 million, the police estimated this huge crop had a street value of $60 million. To this day, Coleambally remains the biggest plantation ever discovered in Australia.

In March 1977, the Sydney Drug Squad raided another property at Euston 300 km due west of Griffith and discovered five acres of cannabis, some 5000 drying marijuana plants, along with evidence that another nine acres had been recently harvested. Although Mackay was not responsible for this raid, it seems that he was the man who was blamed.


The Criminal Takeover

In the 1960s and early 1970s, the cannabis dealing scene in Australia was run by an amateur network of young people who were drug enthusiasts themselves and who were known as ‘the old hippie dealers’, a group described by David Hirst as “one of the remaining aspects of an otherwise disembowelled counterculture”. However, in the winter of 1976 a criminal gang launched a takeover of pot dealing in Australia. Reports of the attack on the old hippie dealing network were carried in the Australian underground press, and they were remarkably similar. Marijuana only dealers would be visited by ‘heavies’ who offered a simple choice: either deal heroin or get out of the business. Along with US style prohibition, US style organised crime came to Australia.

In May 1977 an underground paper ‘with all the dope on dope’ called The Australasian Weed was published from Melbourne with the aim of becoming the voice of Australia’s marijuana smokers. Banned in Queensland and Victoria, restricted in NSW and other states, The Australasian Weed was forced to change its name rather than go out of business, becoming next The Australasian Seed, which was similarly banned, and then, in a long cat-and-mouse chase with the censor, The Australasian Need, The Australasian Greed, the Australasian Pleed and finally The Australasian ?eed.

In the fourth issue, The Australasian Greed, editor J.J. McRoach reflected on the changing nature of the Australian marijuana scene and the recent criminal takeover.

“Back in the ‘good old days of the counter-culture’, marijuana dealers were regarded by most smokers as Robin Hood types , romantic urban outlaws bringing the good stuff to the people. Some money was made by these dealers but we assumed the prime motivating force was the spirit of a new consciousness, not merely the carrot of fiscal reward. Now these Robin Hood dealers have, in the main, fallen by the wayside. The marijuana scene has been infiltrated by the barbarians – stand over merchants, organised crime, informers and corrupt police. They all combine to form what can be called an Ocker Nostra – merely isolating the bad boys of marijuana as Italian Mafia members operating out of NSW is a dangerous simplification, a red herring fostered by the media which draws our attention away from the fact that the tentacles of organised crime in marijuana permeates our society. Certainly there is evidence of an organised group of Italians growing marijuana, but they are only part of a system that reaches right into the Australian power structure.

Robbery, violence and murder are now part and parcel of what the Bulletin once described as an industry bigger than BHP. If Don Mackay was murdered because of his knowledge of a marijuana conspiracy, his death was by no means the first. Many drug murders have already occurred but, because the victims didn’t have the squeaky clean image of Don Mackay, not too many questions have been asked. The newspaper headlines, if at all existent, have been small.

The generation before us learnt the problems associated with the prohibition of a popular drug. The Alcohol Prohibition proved to be the spawning ground for America’s organised crime syndicates. Today the marijuana Prohibition is creating the same syndrome, and it is this syndrome that we dedicate this publication – GREED.

As McRoach predicted, it was the Italian-Australians who would be blamed for Mackay’s murder; the “Ocker Nostra” of corrupt police and standover men behind the criminal takeover and the Mackay murder would escape the investigating officers of the NSW police.

To be continued…


Dr John Jiggens.

“In a Time of Murder – The Murder of Don Mackay” (part 1 of 3),
StickyPoint Magazine Issue 02 (2007)
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Does Cannabis Use Cause Schizophrenia?

Over the past few years, the Australian media have promoted a new version of  “Reefer Madness”. According to this myth, cannabis use causes schizophrenia. The “proof” for this is to exhibit a few schizophrenics who use cannabis. The fact that there are millions of Australians who use cannabis and who are not schizophrenics is ignored.

Because schizophrenics tend to have extremely high rates of illicit drug use, it is relatively easy to find schizophrenics who use cannabis. Table 1 (below) shows the relative amount of psychoactive drug use among Australian schizophrenics versus the Australian population in general.


Psychoactive drug Use Australian Pop. Aust Schizo.
Tobacco (M) 27.3% 73.2%
(F) 20.3% 56.3%
Cannabis 18% 35%
Tranquillisers 4% 13.5%
Amphetamines 4% 12%
LSD 3% 10%
Heroin 1% 8%
Table 1: Recent Use of Psychoactive Drugs in the Australian Population (over 14) Versus Australian Schizophrenics (1998). (The schizophrenia data is from People Living with Psychotic Illness: An Australian Study 1997-98; while the figures for the population in general are from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey for 1998).

You could argue that the table supports the Reefer Madness hypothesis: Schizophrenics use cannabis at a significantly higher rate than the population in general, therefore cannabis must cause schizophrenia.

However, the totality of the evidence shows a different story. Although there are high rates of cannabis use among schizophrenics, the bigger picture shows that the level of drug taking by schizophrenics is significantly higher across the whole range of illicit and licit substances.

Unlike the population in general, schizophrenics are sick people who suffer from a mysterious and life-threatening disease. They are mad, and are treated as such; locked up, restrained, forcibly medicated. Taking drugs is the way they learn to treat their illness; and when their disease makes them depressed and suicidal, they seek out drugs to alleviate these moods. When their prescribed drugs don’t work, they use drugs from the street that are euphoriant and mood-altering. No doubt there are many occasions when these feel-good drugs work, and help those suffering from schizophrenia feel better. Likewise, there are no doubt occasions when the effects of illicit drugs compound the problems of schizophrenia and contribute to a breakdown.

You can regard the drugs in the list above either, as drugs that may cause schizophrenia (in which case, tobacco clearly causes schizophrenia) or alternatively, as drugs that schizophrenics find useful in alleviating the symptoms of their disease.

My suspicion is that the drugs in the table above are the ones that schizophrenics choose to self-medicate with. They are supplementary medication for a group of ill people who lack an effective therapeutic agent. Indeed, before they were banned, LSD, ecstasy, cannabis and amphetamines were all used at various times in the treatment of mental illness. In a post-prohibition world, the psychiatric use of these drugs (under medical supervision) might well reemerge.

Imposing the puritan ideal of a drug-free lifestyle on the schizophrenic population is itself rather crazy.


Australia’s Cannabis Plague

An important feature of the table above is the high level of cannabis use across the entire Australian population. Australians smoke more pot than nearly any other nationality on the planet.

Although Australia has many puritans who support drug prohibition and see drug-taking as evil, a great proportion of the Australian population is hedonistic and pleasure-seeking and has a long tradition of disregarding puritans, whom they contemptuously refer to as “wowsers”. Manning Clark saw Australian history as a struggle between “the enlargers of life” and “the straighteners” and tribal conflicts between “wowsers” and “larrikins”, “bodgies”, “surfies” and “hippies”—as young Australians have been variously known—are a recurring feature of life “down-under”.

Both pot smoking and the twenty-something lifestyle began in Australia with the Baby-Boomer generation of the 1960s. Since then, smoking pot became a rite-of-passage for Australian teenagers into the desired twenty-something world.

By 1998, recent use of marijuana among Australians aged 20-29 stood at 36%. Thirty years previous it stood at 0%. Decades of tougher and tougher drug laws, culminating in a US-style “War on Drugs”, caused the rate of cannabis use among twenty-somethings to fall by minus 36%!

By forbidding cannabis use, Australian puritans made it almost compulsory among Australia’s twenty-somethings. Partly this can be explained as “larrikin” rebellion, and partly as the “forbidden fruit” syndrome.

Table 2 (below) distributes Australia’s recent cannabis users into cohorts based on sex and age to demonstrate the high levels of cannabis use in the twenty-something age group. The 1998 group of twenty-somethings are the children of the Baby Boomers who make up the 40-49 cohort. The low level of use in the 60+ age group reflects the low cannabis use in the pre-Baby-Boomer generation.


Age Group M F Total
14-19 35% 34.2% 34.6%
20-29 43.7% 29.3% 36.5%
30-39 24.1% 16.3% 20.2%
40-49 16.6% 6.3% 11.3%
50-59 5.6% 7.6% 6.6%
60+ 1.1% 1.2% 1.1%
All ages 21.3% 14.7% 17.9%
Table 2: Recent Use of Cannabis in Australia by Sex and Age (1998


The Reefer Madness hypothesis

The extent of Australia’s cannabis plague and its relatively recent history make Australia an ideal country to study the relationship between cannabis and schizophrenia.

Let us accept the Reefer Madness hypothesis and assume that cannabis use causes schizophrenia. What this means is that if we can find a population where cannabis use is recent and has increased enormously over the last decades, we should be able to trace a corresponding “Madness” plague in that country, accompanying the “Reefer” plague.  Because “Reefer” causes “Madness”, we would predict a schizophrenic epidemic as many new cases of schizophrenia caused by the cannabis plague increased the natural, background level of schizophrenia in the population.

Australia is ideal for this purpose.

Because of our recent high levels of cannabis use, Australia should, over the last decades, have developed rates of schizophrenia higher than anywhere in the world.

If we were to chart Australia’s “Reefer” plague and compare it to our schizophrenia levels, the Reefer Madness hypothesis should be proven by the discovery of a corresponding “Madness” plague.

Table 3 (below) gives the dimension of Australia’s Reefer plague and the polls on which these estimates are based.


Year No. Cannabis Users Survey
1973 500,000 McNair
1977 675,000 McNair
1979 750,000 Morgan
1982 975,000 Morgan
1984 1,175,000 Morgan / NCADA
1988 1,500,000 Morgan / NCADA
1991 1,625,000 NCADA
1993 1,666,000 NDS
1995 1,850,000 NDS
1998 2,700,000 NDS
Table 3: The Australian Reefer Plague: Recent Users of cannabis in Australia, 1973-1998

As the table shows, the potential army of recruits for schizophrenia among Australia’s cannabis users is enormous. Even a prevalence rate of 1 in 100 (barely twice the background level) would add tens of thousands to the schizophrenic population.

If cannabis caused schizophrenia, the past two generations of Australians would have seen an unrivalled schizophrenia plague, matching our cannabis plague.

The popular press would be full of news of this extraordinary increase in madness in Australia, and some suitably “dumbed-down” name like “Mad Aussie Syndrome” would be given to the phenomena. The investigation of this disease —Mad Aussie Probe—and the determination of its cause —Mad Aussie Shock—would be front page news.

Eventually some researcher would correlate the extraordinary increase in schizophrenia and match it with the extraordinary increase in cannabis use. This would constitute credible scientific proof of the proposition that cannabis caused schizophrenia.

The fact that nothing like this happened is compelling proof that cannabis does NOT cause schizophrenia.

The evidence that schizophrenia levels have remained constant is overwhelming, not just in Australia, but right throughout the world.

People Living with Psychotic Illness: An Australian Study 1997-98, published as part of the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, found that the prevalence for schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorders in urban Australia was about 3 per 1000 in 1998. This was in the middle range of a world-wide prevalence of 2 to 5 per 1000.

The report commented:

“Epidemiological studies estimating the prevalence of schizophrenic and related psychotic disorders have been conducted since the early decade of this century [i.e.Twentieth Century]. The results of studies carried out at different times and different parts of the world … suggest that, notwithstanding cultural and biological differences between populations, and the different methods used to ascertain morbidity, the prevalence of schizophrenia is remarkably similar around the world (in the range between 2 and 5 per 1000 according to the majority of studies) and stable over time.”

This conclusion—that schizophrenia levels have been stable over place and time for as long as they have been measured—was based on an examination of 28 surveys into the incidence of schizophrenia conducted throughout the world over several decades. One of these surveys was a 1993 World Health Organisation study on the incidence of schizophrenia in which standardised methods of case detection, interviewing and diagnosis were applied simultaneously in 7 countries. Like the other surveys, this found little variation in the incidence rates of schizophrenia across the different populations and cultures.

Countries which had extremely high cannabis use (Jamaica in 1995] had the same schizophrenia rates per 1000 as countries with zero cannabis use (Norway in 1926-1935).

Q: Does cannabis use cause schizophrenia?

A: No. Over the past four decades most countries in the Western world have experienced rapidly increasing cannabis use. None of these countries has experienced any accompanying “Madness” plague. Countries like Australia and Jamaica which have the highest levels of cannabis use have levels of schizophrenia similar to the rest of the world.

We’ve smoked the “Reefer” for four decades, and “Madness” levels have remained steady, not just in Australia, but all over the world.

Where does that leave the “Reefer Madness” theory??

Dr John Jiggens.

“Does Cannabis Use Cause Schizophrenia”, StickyPoint Magazine Issue 01 (2006)
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The Mystery of Nugan Hand Bank and the Murder of Donald Mackay

The murder of Donald Mackay and the mystery of the Nugan Hand bank are two of the enduring riddles of Australian history. But were these two mysteries related? While I was researching the history of the Australian drug trade, I discovered the two mysteries were closely intertwined. Although they both have a Griffith connection what linked them was a ‘Sydney Connection’.

The Sydney Connection was a drug smuggling route that connected the US market for heroin and marijuana to Asia via Australia. It was a transshipment route, organized by US special agents, the US mafia, and Sydney criminals, that came into existence during the Vietnam years, routing the US/Asia drug trade through Australia.

The pioneer of the SE Asia/Sydney/US drug route was a tall, handsome NSW Special Branch detective named John Wesley Egan who was twice recommended for bravery awards for his part in rescues at the Gap. His baby face graced the Sydney afternoon papers. They called him a hero.

Egan’s involvement in heroin smuggling began in 1966 after he joined the political police, the Special Branch, and came via a CIA contact who recruited Egan as a drug courier for an Asian drug army, the Hmong army of warlord Vang Pao, who were fighting a secret war in Laos as a proxy for the CIA against the communist Pathet Lao. Egan made the first trans-Pacific heroin run from Southeast Asia to New York via Sydney in 1966, carrying two kilos of heroin hidden in a specially made corset. Over the next months, Egan made regular flights to New York, taking periodic leave from his police job. Within four months he had exhausted all leave, and he resigned from the NSW police force and moved to New York.

From then on Egan hired other couriers to complete the chain — ‘clear skins’ like himself – usually NSW police officers on leave for the seven-day run. Egan used the ‘shotgun technique’, booking three or more couriers on the same flight, with a ‘supervisor’ riding along to make sure no one absconded. He kept 20 couriers in motion between Sydney and New York. Over a six-month period in 1966-1967, Egan and his gang smuggled $22 million worth of heroin into the USA, before a mistake by a courier led to Egan’s arrest.

Egan’s operation was huge, worth hundreds of million of dollars in today’s terms. This remarkable narcotics ring, composed of NSW police officers led by a Special Branch detective, became known as the ‘Corset Gang’. They were the first major group ever arrested in the United States for smuggling Asian heroin into the US, the pioneers of the Southeast Asia/Sydney/US route. Egan’s operation would leave the NSW police well infected with the germs of the Sydney Connection.

In 1975, a U.S. mobster named Danny Stein visited Sydney to organise the importation of drugs for the U.S. market. The idea, recycled from the Corset Gang, was to use Sydney as a transhipment point for drugs between the Golden Triangle and the U.S. west coast. Amongst the organised crime figures Danny Stein visited in Sydney was another ex-NSW detective called Murray Riley.

Murray Stewart Riley was an ex- detective who became one of the major
criminal entrepreneurs of Sydney. Like John Wesley Egan, Riley was another of the brightest stars of the NSW police, a sporting hero who won two gold rowing medals at consecutive Commonwealth Games at Auckland in 1950 and Vancouver in 1954, partnering future NSW Police Commissioner, Merv Wood. The pair won bronze in sculls at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. Incredibly, Murray Riley became the ‘Mr Big’ of the Australian drug trade in 1976 and, in the same year, Merv Wood became NSW Police Commissioner!

In 1975, Murray Riley met Frank Nugan. In the years that followed, Murray Riley emerged as a major trans-Pacific drug smuggler, while Frank Nugan set up the Nugan Hand Bank, which financed Riley’s drug activities via his Nugan Hand account. The financial arm of this second Sydney Connection was the Nugan Hand Bank and the man at its centre was Frank Nugan.

Frank Nugan was born in Griffith and he and his elder brother Ken went to school with Donald Mackay. By 1977, Frank Nugan was the banker for the Australian drug trade. He lived in Vaucluse in a mansion with its own private beach and he was one of the richest men in Sydney.

It was said about Donald Mackay that he was murdered by the Mr Bigs of the Australian drug trade because he “knew too much” about their activities. Frank Nugan was one of these Mr Bigs.

Did Donald Mackay die because he discovered something that linked Frank Nugan to the drug trade?

What I uncovered was evidence that indicated that this was what happened.

It seems that in these years Australia was growing marijuana for the US market, and acres of cannabis were being farmed in the Riverina region and trucked to Sydney and shipped across the Pacific, entering the US through docks controlled by the San Francisco mafia.

Crime reporter Tony Reeves interviewed a TNT truck driver who told him that in the 1970s he regularly drove shipments down from the Nugan packing shed to the Flemington markets in Sydney. When he turned up at the Nugan packing shed, he would be given money and told to have a meal, and that his truck would be packed for him. He would come back to find the truck packed and the contents locked away behind a new padlock. The same scenario would play itself out at the Sydney markets; he would be given money, told to have a meal, and would come back to find the truck unloaded. Intrigued by this, he checked out the truck and found minute traces of marijuana. The truck driver estimated that his truck fully loaded would hold ten tones of cannabis.

In early 1977, as the newspapers began calling Griffith the ‘pot capital of Australia’, persistent rumours began circulating that the Nugan Group’s packing plant in Griffith was somehow involved. That year, an independent audit turned up secret accounts in the Nugan Group’s books in the names of local pot growers with cheques for hundreds of thousands of dollars made out to members of the Trimboli and Sergi families. Members of these families were heavily involved in Griffith’s marijuana trade, and family members were involved with a one acre plot of pot at Hanwood near Griffith in February 1974, with a thirty-one acre pot plantation at Coleambally in 1975. The secret accounts in their names suggest that some of the pot was being grown for Frank Nugan.

The gangster tactics that Frank Nugan used to hush up the affair provide further corroboration. When the auditors and independent directors of the Nugan Group tried to find out more, Frank Nugan responded by seeking to remove the auditors, and by ‘intimidating’ the opposition directors.

The intimidation was impressive.

The man Frank Nugan hired as his private investigator was Fred Krahe, an ex- NSW detective whose reputation as an underworld enforcer and hit man earned him the nickname of the ‘Killer Cop’. InThe Prince and The Premier, David Hickie called Krahe the “King of crooked police during the Askin era, he organised the abortion rackets, armed hold-ups, the framing of criminals and bribery payments among prostitutes and the police, and he maintained a reputation feared in the Sydney underworld”.

In July 1977, Frank Nugan possessed both the motive for the murder of Donald Mackay and the likely murder weapon, Fred Krahe. Although he was not the grower for Euston or Coleambally, Frank Nugan was the man who paid the growers. The second Sydney Connection, which he fronted, had access to the U.S. market; they were the only network in Australia which could move such a large quantity of pot. Together the two crops, Euston and Coleambally, would have produced about 90 tones of pot according to NSW police estimation, worth approximately $90 million in 1977 dollars or about $1,000,000,000  in 1998 terms.

In July 1977, two weeks before the murder, the crisis over the secret accounts
came to a head when the auditors refused to complete the Nugan Group accounts for the financial year. Donald Mackay became aware of this scandal in the last week of his life. According to Mackay’s solicitor and friend, Ian Salmon, Mackay talked about the affair with him. However, because Ken Nugan, the manager of the Nugan packing shed was an associate and fellow member of the Liberal Party, Mackay was reluctant to become involved.

Griffith locals believed that Donald Mackay was killed because he ‘knew too much’.

The affair of the Nugan Group’s secret accounts suggests that shortly after the secret accounts at the Nugan Group became a public scandal (when the auditors refused to complete the company’s books in the first weeks of July 1977), someone like the truck driver who contacted Tony Reeves, suspected that marijuana growing might be the explanation behind the secret accounts went to Donald Mackay with this information. But Fred Krahe or Frank Nugan learned of this.

Frank Nugan had many reasons to kill to prevent exposure, and in Fred Krahe he had the perfect assassin. Up until this point, Donald Mackay knew only the growers in their grass castles. Now he had a clue that led to the man with the mansion in Vaucluse. As many suspected, Mackay was murdered to protect the financiers and distributors, those higher up the chain of this enormous drug smuggling network. Frank Nugan was that man.

Dr John Jiggens.

“The Mystery of Nugan Hand Bank: The Murder of Don Mackay” (part 3 of 3),
StickyPoint Magazine Issue 04 (2008)
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