Amid the panic, a sense of purpose

21 September 2011

Sixty years ago, H.V. Evatt successfully resisted strong public support for draconian anti-communist legislation, writes Frank Bongiorno in Inside Story. Is there a lesson for Labor in 2011?

THE six-to-one High Court verdict was devastating to the government. At a time of global economic and political instability, a relatively new but unpopular prime minister – one widely criticised for breaking election promises – had taken yet another blow. How could the government fulfil its responsibility to protect national security if the country’s leading judges wouldn’t allow it to do so?

If this scenario seems familiar, it should – and doubly so. It is a fair summary of the Australian scene in March 1951, when Robert Menzies’s Coalition government learned that the High Court of Australia had struck down its Communist Party Dissolution Act. And of course it also bears more than a passing resemblance to the problems of Julia Gillard’s government, right down to its recent High Court reverse over the Malaysian solution…

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Photo: National Archives of Australia

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Frank Bongiorno, 2011, Amid the panic, a sense of purpose, Inside Story, viewed 24 April 2017, <>.

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