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Reds under the bed!

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by

Mark Anderson

on 24 February 2014

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Transcript of Reds under the bed!

Reds under the bed!
Banning the Communist Party of Australia
The Australian Communist Party
The Labor Government of Ben Chifley
The national coal strike - 1949
However with the Soviet Unions participation as a member of the allied forces in WWII, it was legalised in 1942.
Fred Patterson:
Communist Party - Queensland Parliament Seat of Bowen Oct. 1944.
The Australian Communist Party was a keen supporter of the war and its membership reached 23,000 by 1945. In 1944 it had a member of parliament.
Was brought on by the Communist led Miners' Federation. Communists held several important positions in some of Australia's leading trade Unions.
True to his campaign promises, Menzies introduced a bill in parliament to ban the Communist Party in Australia.

The bill had three provisions:

(1) To outlaw the Communist Party
(2) Permit the government to take possession of all property belonging to the Communist Party.
(3) Prohibit anyone declared as a communist from holding a job in the trade union movement or any government organisation.
Guilty until proven innocent
Once accused a communist, it was up to the accused to prove his or her innocence.
The Communist party and ten trade unions challenged the decision in the High Court. Dr Evatt leader of the Labor opposition was no Communist sympathiser however he saw the bill as an attack on Australian democratic freedoms. The High court agreed with Dr Evatt and declared the law un-constitutional.
Willing to kick the commie can!
1949
1940
1948
1949
1950
1949
1951
Following the High Court decision, Prime Minister Menzies decided to hold a referendum on the issue of the Communist Party. If Menzies could persuade the people to vote 'yes' and amend the constitution to ban the Communist Party, there could be no High Court challenge.
The purpose of a referendum is to change the Australian Constitution.
For a referendum to succeed, the proposal needs both a majority of the popular vote in favour, and a majority of the states.
Dr Evatt who became the Labor opposition leader in June 1951 following Chifley's death, campaigned strongly for a 'no' vote. He believed that banning a political party would make Australia no different to a dictatorship like the Soviet Union.
Emotions ran high!
Class Referendum
1951
Federal Election
Referendum
It was passed by parliament in October 1950
This cartoon shows Prime Minster Chifley choosing to keep company with the Army rather than Australian workers.
Falling for the Uniform
Cartoon by John Firth
The Sydney Morning Herald, July 1949
Courtesy of the National Library of Australia.
Actions by the Chifley government led to accusations that it had communist sympathies.
These include -
* The introduction of welfare state measures.
* Attempt to control rents and prices.
* Attempt to nationalise the Banks
The Federal Election of 1949
Robert Menzies,
Liberal Party Prime Minister 1949
The 1949 campaign
The Bill to ban the Communist Party in Australia
A single issue campaign
The Labor Prime Minister John Curtin, using his war-time powers banned the Australian Communist Party in 1940.
Reds under the bed!
Robert Menzies Liberal Country Party won the election with a 5% swing against Labor.
Some in the Labor Party suggested this was because Menzies was willing to "kick the commie can".
Federal Election
Opposition Labor leader Dr Evatt.
Referendum
22nd September
The referendum took place on September 22nd 1951 the results were:

2 317 927 yes votes
2 370 009 no votes
Using the ideas from our mind-map discussion and those contained in the referendum posters prepare a two-minute speech, to be delivered to the class, in which you either 'support' the referendum or 'oppose' it. Remember this was an emotional issue at the time. After we hear two speeches from each side we will hold our own class referendum!
The bill to ban the Communist Party
Menzies believed that "Australia must be placed on a semi-war footing which will involve restrictions on many civil liberties."
The Question
A referendum is a question put to all Australian voters, they must answer either "yes" or "no"

The 1951 referendum question asked:

Do you approve of the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution entitled 'Constitution Alteration (Powers to deal with Communists and Communism) 1951'?
Lance Sharkey, Secretary General, Australian Communist Party, 1948-1965
Full transcript