The Prelude to Petrov

Menzies and the Petrov Affair (Neely 2010) examines whether Menzies benefited politically from the Petrov affair and provides an excellent analysis in answering that question. Its historical judgements are clear and balanced and amply justified by the evidence adduced.

However, it deals with only one segment of a connected piece of Australian history. This piece of history began with the introduction of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill by the Menzies Government in April 1950 and concluded with the formation of the Democratic Labor Party in 1955. The Petrov Affair which commenced in May 1954 was in effect the second chapter of this story.

 The first chapter, which will be described, began with the introduction of the Dissolution Bill in April 1950 and ended with the rejection by the people at a referendum, on the 22nd September 1951, of the government’s request for constitutional power to validate it.

As Neely observes the Cold War was the context for the Petrov Affair. But it was also critical to the entire period – or piece of history – we are discussing.

Before the War in Europe ended the unity of the allies commenced to fracture and the resulting ‘Cold War’ dominated international affairs for the next 45 years.

At Yalta in January 1945, the Allies agreed upon democratically elected governments in Poland and the other German occupied countries of Eastern Europe. Between January and April the German resistance on the eastern front collapsed with the result that these countries together with Eastern Germany were overrun by Soviet armies. From shortly after Yalta, the Soviet Union began to ‘install’ communist regimes throughout Eastern Europe.

The war against Germany ended in May 1945 but that against Japan was continuing and its cessation still uncertain when the Allies met again at Potsdam in July. They met under the shadow of the atomic bomb which was tested just before the Conference. It was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August and Japan surrendered shortly afterwards.

In March 1946, Churchill made a speech at Fulton, Missouri, at a time when it was feared that either directly or indirectly communist parties under the influence of the Soviet Union would take control of Europe. His speech declared that “from Stettin on the Baltic to Trieste on the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.”

The Soviet Union or its allies suppressed tentative steps towards national independence and freedom in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia and in much of the rest of Eastern Europe.

Communist Parties and communists in the non-communist world proclaimed their support for, and even loyalty to, the Soviet Union. Scientists in the West, of which Emil Fuchs and Nunn May were the most prominent, divulged the making of the bomb to the Soviet Union.

In October 1949 the Communists in China defeated Chiang Kai-shek, who fled the mainland to occupy Taiwan.

From these circumstances, so briefly summarised, it will be evident that from the advent of the Cold War, democracies faced a problem with domestic communism. It was vitally necessary to protect national security. This, of course, included outright treason but also extended to the prevention of subversion.

At the same time, to prohibit freedom of association or assembly and, above all, freedom to express dissent contradicted the very ideals and values that inspired antipathy towards communism. More than that – as the 1919 ‘Red Scare’ in the United States exemplified – prohibitions on speech generate fear throughout the society in expressing or being associated in any way with non-conforming opinion.

The situation facing democratic societies was made for fanatical extremists and unscrupulous demagogues.

The American Experience

On the 9th February 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy, until then a little-known Senator from Wisconsin, charged in a speech at Wheeling, West Virginia that he had in his hand a list of communists in the State Department ‘known to the Secretary of State’. Uproar followed and on the 20th February the Committee of Foreign Relations set up a Sub-Committee chaired by Senator Tydings to examine the allegations. Unwisely it allowed the hearings to be public, including allegations made against individuals. It was in the course of these hearings that Senator McCarthy almost stumbled upon the theme that he and other red-baiters were to constantly reiterate – that China was lost by Soviet sympathisers in the State Department.

The ‘loss’ of China was a traumatic experience for the American public; Chiang had been supported by the military and economic power of the United States. It was easier to explain this by treason in the State Department than that Mao led a genuinely popular movement against an increasingly corrupt government. Individuals were publicly accused of disloyalty, as for example Owen Lattimore, a distinguished expert on China, who was not in fact even an officer in the State Department.

Although the Sub-Committee rejected the allegations (the ‘list’ Senator McCarthy had held aloft in his original speech was never produced) they were taken up by the Republicans – Senator Taft denouncing a pro-communist group in the State Department “who surrendered to every demand from Russia at Yalta and Potsdam”. Senator McCarthy was welcomed as speaker and featured alongside Cardinal Spellman at Church gatherings. He even turned his attack on General Marshall, a revered figure, and perhaps the most distinguished American of his generation, saying that Marshall was part of “a conspiracy so immense and an infamy so black as to dwarf any previous venture in the history of man.” The public fear spread. It was a striking example of the fear he inspired that General Eisenhower not only failed to defend Marshall – to whom he owed a great deal – but modified the criticisms about him in a speech he made in Wisconsin.

“Under the Port Security Programme… employment tests were authorised for all maritime and dock workers… many dockers lost their jobs, principally union leaders and those who were active in the unions… A Grand Jury reported that ‘an overwhelmingly large group of Americans employed at the United Nations were ’disloyal ‘to their country. Within the State Department, diplomats had to appear before a Loyalty Board. The British-born actor and film-maker Charlie Chaplin was accused of having connection with ‘subversive’ causes. Leaving the United States, he vowed never to return. It was 21 years before he did so … to receive his second Academy award…” (Gilbert M 1997 – 99, 366)

On 7th July, J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI sent a plan to the White House recommending the suspension of habeas corpus and the arrest of 12,000 persons whose loyalty, he claimed, was suspect. The arrests he proposed  were fortunately never carried out.

For the next several years, the [House] Un-American Activities Committee conducted a kind of permanent fishing expedition into subversive activity in the country, at one time or another investigating such wide ranging subjects as Time Magazine, communism in the movie industry …Very often its hearings took on the flavour of criminal trials in which it subjected suspects to examination, heard other evidence and then issued a verdict as though in a court. (Kelly & Harbison, 905)

Arthur Miller, who wrote The Crucible about this time descibes in his autoiography Time Bends  the nature of the Committee hearings and the parallel with the 17th century trial at Salem:

” The main point of the hearings, precisely as in seventeenth century Salem, was that the accused make public confession, damn his confederates as well as his Devil master, and guarantee his new allegiance by breaking disgusting old vows ….In effect, it came down to a governmental decree of moral guilt that could easily be made to disappear by ritual speech: intoning names of fellow sinners and recanting former beliefs. This last was probably the saddest.. part of the charade, for by the early 1950s there were few, and even fewer in the arts, who had not left behind their illusions about the Soviets”[p.331].

The period became known as ‘the Great Fear’. It came to a head when McCarthy overreached and attacked the Army. At the same time the Supreme Court changed its position.

However distasteful the Court’s previous decisions on communists may have been… their impact was overtaken on June 17,1957. That day, the Court handed down four decisions. It reversed the dismissal of a high-ranking diplomat from the State Department whose loyalty was challenged; it reversed the convictions of fourteen communist leaders for violation of the Smith Act; and it reversed the conviction of witnesses held in contempt of the House Committee on Un-American activities in one instance, and of a state legislature investigating subversion in another. (Schwarz B, 1983, 116)

The consequences though continued.

Much more important was the effect of the great fear on American citizens themselves … even after the acute phase passed, in 1954-1955, there was a long aftermath of uncertainty, anxiety and occasional oppression. (Brogan H 1985, 619)

The United States experience is essential background for an analysis of what took place in Australia. The question faced by the Australian polity was what steps needed to be taken to protect Australia’s security and democratic processes from the internal threat of communism and whether that could be done whilst preserving the rule of law. The United States experience is essential because the question facing Australia was whether it too might undergo something similar to the McCarthy reaction in the United States. McCarthyism involves a breakdown in the rule of law but also repression of dissent which becomes so great that society comes to fear any expression of non-conformity. That was the broad political issue which overshadowed all others in Australia during 1950-1951.

The Communist Party Dissolution Bill – Timeline

It is useful at this point to set out key events before turning to detailed explanation and closer attention to the issues:

* The Menzies-led Coalition defeated Labor at the 1949 elections and was sworn into office on the 19th December;

*The Communist Party Dissolution Bill [the Dissolution Bill] was introduced into Parliament on the 27th April 1950. The introduction of the bill gave effect to an election promise made by Menzies during the 1949 election campaign;

*On the 25th June 1950, North Korea invaded the Republic of Korea. The United Nations Security Council authorised the use of force to repel the invasion and establish a United Nations Force for that purpose;

*On the 17th September 1950 an Australian contingent joined the United Nations Force in Korea;

* On the 25th October 1950 the Dissolution Bill received the Royal assent and became law;

* On the 14th September 1950, 10 unions brought action in the High Court for a declaration the Communist Party Dissolution Act lacked constitutional power and was therefore invalid. Dr Evatt was retained by the Waterside Workers Federation to lead the challenge to the Act in the High Court;

* On the 9th March 1951, the High Court declared the Act invalid;

* On the 19th March 1951, the Prime Minister was granted a double dissolution by the Governor General and called an election to both Houses;

*On the 25th April 1951 the Menzies Government was re-elected, gaining control of the Senate with 32 votes to Labor’s 28;

* Chifley died on the 13th June 1951 and Dr Evatt became Leader of the Labor Party;

* Parliament enacted an Act providing for a referendum under the Constitution seeking the powers necessary to validate the Dissolution Bill from the people.

* On the 5th September 1951 the referendum campaign commenced;

* On the 22nd September 1951 the referendum was defeated; the request for additional powers to validate the Dissolution Bill was rejected: 2,370,009 voted against; 2,317,927 voted for additional powers; 3 states only voted for the additional powers. As the Government did not obtain approval by a majority of the electors in the majority of states, the referendum was also lost on that ground.

The Communist Party Dissolution Bill – Background

There was never the slightest possibility of the Communist Party staging a coup in Australia. Even at the height of the Red Army’s popularity the national membership was probably less than the 25,000 it claimed. Its candidates never received more than 3% of the vote in any election.

But to say only that is to understate the power and influence of the Party. Communists had obtained leadership in certain key unions – Coal Miners, Wharf-Labourers, Seamen, among others. In 1945, the Communists secured a majority of 100 at the Congress of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Over the next four years unions, mostly communist led, initiated a wave of crippling industrial action (see Santamaria B A 1981, 104-106). This culminated in the 1949 Coal Miners’ strike. That strike by 23,000 coalminers lasted for seven weeks from the 27th June 1949.

The wave of strikes over these years, culminating in that of the Coal Miners’ did great damage to the national economy and caused much hardship. The Chifley Government took a number of actions. In 1947 when faced with a ban by the Building Unions of construction on the Woomera Rocket Range, it introduced legislation – the Approved Defence Protection Act 1947, which made any boycott or advocacy of boycott of the project a criminal offence. In the course of his address to the Parliament when introducing the Bill, Dr Evatt said:

Just as the endeavour to change decisions by open expression of opinion is of the essence of democracy, so attempted boycott to prevent the government carrying through a defence project by obstruction and sabotage, approved by Parliament, or by the government responsible to Parliament, would be the antithesis of democracy and no government could tolerate it. (Santamaria, op.cit. p.110)

The Coal Strike was called during the winter of 1949 inflicting maximum hardship and, in addition to the Union’s industrial demands, was probably intended, as Santamaria suggests, to demonstrate that a key Union could override an arbitration tribunal decision (op.cit. p.110). The government took immediate action. Evatt, as Attorney- General, introduced legislation within 2 days of the strike making it illegal to give the strikers financial support and on the 5th July the funds of the Union were frozen. Thereafter, seven Union officials were prosecuted and sent to gaol. On the 1st August 2500 troops were sent in to work the mines. The strike collapsed and the miners returned to work two weeks later.

In addition, the Chifley Government, in 1949, introduced the first ‘clean ballots’ legislation for union elections. This legislation was strengthened in 1951 by the Menzies Government so that a union election could be supervised by the Industrial Registrar upon a petition by a substantial portion of the Union membership.

Most importantly, at a non-governmental level, the Australian Labor Party had in the early 1940’s established ‘Industrial Groups’ to combat Communist Party influence in the Unions. The ‘Groupers’ as they were called were fiercely opposed to communism and communists. They became linked with and subject to a Catholic organization, the Catholic Social Studies Movement, known simply as ‘the Movement’, formed by B.A. Santamaria in 1941. The ‘Groupers’ opposed not just communists but other members of the Labor Party whom they considered insufficiently anti-communist.

The Groupers had great success in ousting communist leadership in the Unions. By 1949 the communist majority of 90 at the 1945 Australian Congress of Trade Unions Conference had been replaced by an anti-communist majority of 100. (Santamaria op. cit., 106) “The fact was that by the beginning of 1953, communist power was to all intents and purposes broken in the Australian trade union movement.” (op. cit., 115)

In 1950 Cecil Sharpley, in leaving the Victorian executive of the Communist Party, made a number of allegations about the political influence of the Party in the Unions and on consequent industrial action. A Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the allegations and into the activities of the Communist Party. It was presided over by Mr Justice Lowe. The Inquiry called 159 witnesses, their evidence covering 9791 pages. In the course of his thorough report, Mr Justice Lowe found that the Communist Party’s objectives were revolutionary and to that extent its observance of the law was a matter of expediency. But so far as the Unions were concerned he found that the election of communist officials was largely because of genuine support for their militant position and that there were relatively few cases of ballot-rigging. 

More relevantly, Mr Justice Lowe stated that;

…with regard to the Party’s international affiliations, he found no evidence of direction from abroad or overseas financial aid since 1943, although Party policy was generally in harmony with that of the Cominform. (Ricketson S, 1976, 101)

Turning from the domestic to the international dimension of the communist question in Australia, there was of course no question that the Cold War presented a continuing threat of actual world war during this period. It was also clear that communists were sympathetic to the Soviet Union and questions arose whether Party members constituted a security risk.

The Labor Government had established the Australian Security Intelligence Organization for which Evatt was responsible. The government also prosecuted to conviction two communist officials, Sharkey and Burns, for sedition when they expressed support for Soviet troops, should they invade Australia.

The Korean War began after the introduction of the Bill and, as indicated in the introductory outline Australian troops were involved. It was apparent that something less localised was always possible but at the time the Dissolution Bill was introduced a world war was not imminent, nor was Australia threatened with invasion.

These remarks briefly summarise the situation in Australia and internationally when the Dissolution Act was introduced.

  The Communist Party Dissolution Act 1950

The Bill was unusual in the extent of its Preambles. These usefully summarise the reasons for the measure and became critically important when the Act came before the High Court:

And whereas the Australian Communist Party, in accordance with the basic theory of communism, as expounded by Marx and Lenin, engages in activities or operations designed to assist the coming of a revolutionary situation, in which the Australian Communist Party, acting as a revolutionary minority, would be able to seize power and establish a dictatorship of the proletariat:

And whereas the Australian Communist Party also engages in activities or operations designed to bring about the overthrow or dislocation of the established system of government in Australia and the attainment of economic, industrial or political ends by force, violence or fraudulent practices:

And whereas the Australian Communist Party is an integral part of the world communist revolutionary movement…

And whereas it is necessary for the security and defence of Australia and for the  execution and maintenance of the Constitution and of the laws of the Commonwealth that the Australian Communist Party and bodies or persons affiliated with that Party should be dissolved and their property forfeited to the Commonwealth…

By section 4, the Communist Party was declared to be an unlawful association “and is, by force of this Act, dissolved”. Section 5 provided for declarations by the Governor General of organizations other than the Communist Party which did not espouse Communism but were substantially controlled by communists. Bodies like the communist-controlled Peace Council which had non-communist support would have been proscribed. Given the indeterminate character of political doctrine a large number of left-wing organizations might have been covered and thus declared. Section 9 provided for the Governor General to ‘declare’ that a person was a member of the Communist Party or was a communist, and once ‘declared’ such a person was to be incapable of being employed by the Commonwealth or any industrial organization: a person ‘declared’ could apply to a court to have the declaration set aside but in any such proceedings the onus was on that person to have the ‘declaration’ reversed. By section 25 it was provided that proof a person was a communist could be made by “showing that that person had attended meetings, distributed literature or addressed meetings advocating the objects of the Communist party. Proof that a person was a member of the Communist Party could be established by evidence that his/her name or initials appeared in documents found in the premises of the Party.”

Dr Evatt, who generally became the main opponent of the measure, later described it in these terms:

The chief vice of that legislation was that it gave to the Cabinet of the day final and conclusive power to say that the person to be ‘declared’ was disloyal or subversive or likely to be a danger to ‘security’… There was no appeal from this Cabinet decision, either to a court or a jury, or even a Judge. (‘Liberty in Australia’, 1955, 67)

 Under the legislation, a person was to be ‘declared’ upon the basis of belief, whether he or she was a communist, and not for any conduct they had done or failed to do.

Initially, the Labor Party opposed the Bill. Leaders such as Chifley and Evatt grounded their opposition upon the Bill’s invasion of individual rights and contradiction of the rule of law. But the Party was divided and a minority, mostly from Victoria and mostly ‘Groupers’, vehemently supported the measure. In addition, even those within the Party who opposed it were compelled to recognize that the Government had obtained a clear mandate at the recently held elections. At a more ‘political’ level, polls showed community support for the Bill and, within the Labor movement, it was feared opposition to the measure would weaken the traditional Catholic support for Labor.

 Labor’s position was important in the Parliament because it had a majority in the Senate. In the first instance, it decided not to oppose banning but only introduce major amendments to the ‘declaration’ and ‘onus of proof’ provisions. But on the 16th October 1950, swayed by the strength of the opposition within the Party and the fear of losing the Catholic vote, the Federal Executive of the Labor Party, by majority, instructed the Party to support the measure and desist from moving the amendments in the Senate. Chifley and Evatt were appalled but could only obey. The Dissolution Bill was enacted.

 On the 19th October 1950, immediately following enactment, ten Trade Unions brought action before the High Court for a declaration that the Act was invalid. Evatt was retained by the Waterside Workers Federation and led the challenge to the Act before the High Court (Evatt had previously sat on the Court for ten years and it is generally accepted he was a distinguished Justice).

The Act could only be justified constitutionally if it fell within one of the heads of legislative power conferred upon the Commonwealth Parliament by the Constitution. The principal power relied upon was the ‘defence’ power. The power to make laws ‘with respect to defence’ had been construed as a ‘purpose’ power and, in that respect, differed from other powers in the constitution. As a result, the power extends beyond strictly military subjects to matters ‘necessary’ for the defence of the nation. This obviously introduces an elastic criterion and so in war the subjects covered by the power will be far more extensive than in peace. During the Second World War, legislation held valid under the defence power provided for the control of supplies, the fixing of prices and entered many other fields necessary for the conduct of the war.

In peace time the defence power would only be attracted to these extended non-military subjects by a national emergency of sufficient gravity. But how, in the case of the Dissolution Act , was the existence and gravity of any emergency to be determined?

The Commonwealth sought to rely upon the Act’s Preambles  and the facts recited in them to ask the Court to accept the statements made in them and so justify the contention that communism constituted such a threat to the security of the nation that the ‘secondary’ aspects of the defence power could be invoked. Evatt began his argument on behalf of the Waterside Workers Federation in mid-afternoon. He immediately attacked reliance upon the Preambles which he described as a series of assertions by which the Commonwealth sought to recite itself into power. He argued that the Act was unconstitutional in the following way.

What has been done in this Act is to take the phraseology, which the court upheld in certain cases with respect to the exercise of the defence power, transfer the whole of that to the executive power, and give to the executive government of the day a discretion of the most extreme character … To deprive people of their property and of their civil rights… and to justify that – not upon any law laying down some rule of conduct or even thought which has been infringed, but upon the mere discretion of the executive government.

Sir Owen Dixon’s biographer, Phillip Ayers, records him as saying of Evatt’s argument that afternoon  he had never heard him ‘to more advantage’, although he thought thereafter  he addressed for too long. (Ayres P 2003, 223)

The Court was clearly concerned. The immediate concern was that the acceptance by the Court of the Commonwealth’s argument would involve a distinct inroad into the concept of judicial review. The doctrine of Marbury v Madison (1803) that it was for the Court to decide, and not for the legislature or the executive, whether or not a proposed law came within the power, was as axiomatic in Australia as it was in the United States. Further, the powers that the Commonwealth sought by preambular statements were of a fundamental kind. Mr Justice Dixon said in his judgement;

…moreover, it is a government under the constitution and that is an instrument framed in accordance with traditional conceptions… among these I think it may be fairly said that the rule of law forms an assumption. In such a system I think it would be impossible to say of a law of the character described, which depends upon its supposed connection with the power upon the conclusion of the legislature and affords no objective test of the applicability of the power is a law with respect to that power.

On the 9th March 1951 the Court, by majority (Latham C.J dissenting), held the Act invalid. The Prime Minister was “stunned” (Ayres op. cit., 223) and immediately approached the Governor-General for a double dissolution.

On the 19th March the Prime Minister was granted a double dissolution and at the ensuing election won a majority in both Houses.

With this majority Menzies secured passage of the Communist Referendum Bill which, if carried at the referendum, would have conferred power on the Parliament to enact the Dissolution Act.

The stage was thus set for a referendum seeking the powers necessary to pass the Dissolution Bill.

On the 5th July, the Federal Executive of the Labor Party decided by 8 votes to 4 to oppose the referendum proposals. The Victorian and Western Australian delegates dissented from this decision.

In July opinion Polls indicated 80% of the People would vote ‘Yes’ in favour of the proposals.

It was expected in any event, given the history of the matter and the result of the election, that Menzies would succeed in securing the powers sought by the referendum. Chifley had died in June and Evatt had become Leader. He led the ‘No’ campaign  with only qualified support from a divided Party. The media was almost united in support of the ‘Yes’ vote. At the outset he seemed almost alone.

But Evatt campaigned tirelessly, travelling enormous distances, and was increasingly successful in alerting the community to some of the fundamental issues. Although he suffered great calumny in Parliament, in the media and generally as supporting communism, he was aided by the comments of prominent Australians. The comment of famous essayist and writer, Walter Murdoch, was typical. “The government is asking for… the power to punish a man for his beliefs or for what some spy alleges him to believe. It will be a sad day for Australia if she allows this spiritual poison to get into her system.”

The referendum voting on the 22nd September 1951 rejected the proposals. It was a close result. The popular vote in favour was 2,317,927; the vote against was 2,370,009. The referendum was defeated on the popular vote with 50.48 % of the votes cast.

Dr Evatt said:

I regard the result as more important than half a dozen general elections. The consequences of a mistaken vote in an election verdict can be retrieved. But an error of judgement in this constitutional alteration would tend to destroy the whole democratic fabric of justice and liberty.


There were two broad concerns about the measure. The first, already mentioned, was that the Act contravened fundamentals of the ‘rule of law’. That is, a person could be ‘declared’, not by a court, but by the executive and not for conduct but because of his or her political beliefs. The onus of proof on these matters was not upon the State but upon the accused person to disprove any allegations.

The second, or what might be described as the ‘McCarthyist’ concern, was that the effect of the Act generally and the ‘fear’ of being ‘declared’, would ‘cripple’ the free expression of opinion. Any person holding and expressing left-wing views or dissenting from Australian Government foreign policy would become subject to public accusations of disloyalty. Accusation would replace debate. This ‘fear’, as in the United States, could be generated by accusations directed against named persons or extreme and general accusations against groups or bodies which were almost incapable of disproof.

The first kind of accusation was evidenced quite early and indeed before the Bill became law. During the Bill’s second reading debate, the Prime Minister announced to Parliament “a list of fifty three avowed and alleged Communist trade-union leaders.” Clearly the statement, made under parliamentary privilege, was not only highly defamatory of those named but highly prejudicial to them. If the Bill became law an issue of their ‘declaration’ could arise. The uncontrolled nature of allegations of this kind was confirmed when in answer to an interjection by Mr Ward, Mr Menzies responded, “I can think of one member of this House who might escape only by the skin of his teeth.” (Tennant K 1970, 259) The dangers in all this were revealed “a few days later (when) he had to admit that five of these named people were not Communists and one not even a trade unionist”. (Ward R 1977, 303)

The other kind of allegation is exemplified by the statement made on the 28th August 1951 by a prominent anti-communist politician, Stan Keon who said:

… the Australian National University has become deliberately, according to a planned scheme, a nest of communists who are busy building up their own organizations to subvert the institutions of this country.

Such a broad, general accusation, inherently incapable of rebuttal, is almost classic McCarthyism.

An area which lent itself to political misuse was the Security Service. Chifley had said of the Bill that “security files will be filled with lies or half-truths and the man attacked will never know’. In fact this happened without the Bill becoming law. Years later the poet Judith Wright at the age of 81 learnt that she had been on ASIO’S files from 1954-1961; Ric Throssell (diplomat and son of VC winner Hugo Throssell and communist author Katherine Susannah Pritchard), denied promotion and access to files, was still struggling years later to find out what the allegation against him was; Mr Justice Barry of the Victorian Supreme Court and his family was also on ASIO’S files. (Finnane M, 2007) ASIO also sought to enlist the support of University lecturers to report on their colleagues.

In the result, the Royal Commission into the Australian Security and Intelligence Organization conducted by Mr Justice Hope recommended (5th May 1977) that the ASIO Act expressly provide that “it is not the purpose of the Act that the rights of lawful advocacy, protest or dissent should be affected…” That recommendation and the further recommendation that an Inspector of Intelligence and Security be appointed, were adopted.

Menzies and the Petrov Affair accurately states that “Australia did not experience US style McCarthyism”. But it was a close run thing. The nation was spared ‘the great fear’ by the grace of the High Court and Dr Evatt.

This essay has also been published on Clio History Journal.


Ayres P 2003, Owen Dixon, Carlton: The Miegunyah Press

Brogan H 1985, The Penguin History of the United States of America,

Finnane M 2007, J. V .Barry, Sydney: UNSW

Gilbert M, A 1997 – 1999, A History of the 20th Century, London: Harper-Collins

Kelly & Harbison, American Constitutional Law

Santamaria B A 1981, Against the Tide, Melbourne: Oxford University Press

Schwarz B 1983, Inside the Warren Court, Garden City, NY: Doubleday

Tennant K 1970, Evatt – Politics and Justice, Sydney: Angus & Robertson

Ward R 1977, A Nation for a Continent, Richmond, Victoria: Heinemann Educational Australia

Journal Articles:

The Australian Institute of Political Science, Liberty in Australia, 1955, 67

Neely 2010, ‘Menzies and the Petrov Affair’, Clio History Journal

Ricketson S, ‘Liberalism in a repressive age; Communism and the Law’, Monash University Law Review, Vol 3, Nov 1976

Published in: Uncategorized on January 28, 2011 at 9:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

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