PM Robert Menzies' Strategy to Fuel Fears of Communism

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18th May 2020 Politics Reference this

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Hypothesis:  Prime Minster Robert Menzies fuelled the fear within Australia of communism during the 1950s. Despite the reality that there was no immediate threat of communist invasion he promoted polices that contributed to the overall fear whilst seeking political gain.  

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Recognised as a global war, the Second World War, which ranged from 1939 to 1945 shaped and affected the future of numerous countries. Most notably the breakdown of the allies in the period immediately after the war began a cold war between the superpowers, America and Russia, which subsequently created fear and paranoia in capitalist nations. Australia was caught up in this fear which was fuelled by Prime Minister Robert Menzies in the 1950s, despite the reality that there was no immediate threat of communist invasion he promoted polices that contributed to the overall fear whilst seeking political gain. The attempted Communist Dissolution Bill of 1951 and his managing of the Petrov Affair are evidence of him taking advantage of the fear of communism for his own gain. His defence alliances were necessary however to ensure Australia remained tied to stronger nations for support.

Following the drastic Second World War an agreement between the leaders known as the “Big Three” – Stalin, Truman and Churchill was held near Berlin from July 17 to August 2nd 1945 to “discuss and finalize a Council of Foreign Ministers and a central Allied Control Council for administration of the conquered nations”. The possibility of a communist invasion in either Australia or United States wasn’t an immediate threat which can be greatly evident.  The key components of the agreement centred on dividing Germany into four occupation zones and controlled by the Soviet Union, Britain, the United States and France.  After the initial shocked placed on Germany from the war and order was restored during 1949 the release of control was order with the French, British and American zones merged. When Germany broke the terms of the agreement and refused to hand over their occupied zone the ideological war between capitalism and communism began. The seriousness of this was made clear by a leader within the “Big Three” known as Winston Churchill who stated within his speech “A shadow has fallen upon the scenes recently lighted but the allied victory. Nobody knows what Soviet Russia… intends to do in the immediate future, or what are the limits, if any, to their expansive tendencies.” Throughout his speech Churchill restates the threat that the Soviet Union believed to upheld. In a reliable secondary account states that, “Churchill had difficulty getting the U.S. government to look ahead to the potential political difficulties with the Soviet Union after the war.”  (Rank, 2017) The Truman Doctrine created by Harry Truman was made and used during the Cold War as a financial and military aid to multiple countries whom where threaten by the Soviet Union.

Robert Menzies continues to hold the longest running Prime Minster of Australia, the relaunch of the Liberal Party in the 1944 wasn’t surrounded by the idea of ideological zeal but to discusses freedom rather than liberty. Published through the Forgotten People in 1942, Menzies was pictured as a man interested in the family as in the individual. Secondary source states “Menzies understood that it was far more effective for a Liberal leader to place emphasis on his anti-socialist credential than to give expositions on the fine point of liberalism.”(Melleusih, 2019) During Menzies time in office liberalism had its roots in a practical approach to politics after a long period of time Menzies had reported to identify liberalism as a ‘good government’. Throughout the Cold War period the threat of communism within Australia was non apparent. As Australia’s involvement during the Cold War minor the influence of perception of communism was at large with Australia involved within two major battles of the Cold War- The Korean War and The Vietnam War. The fear within Australia was heighten when China began a communist nation in 1949 this fear was penetrated through the Menzies government which was carefully planned to his advantage. Throughout the 50’s the Menzies government created a legislation in which would ban the Communist Party from Australian politics but was founded to be unconstitutional. Following the attempt of the legislation a referendum was ordered to constitutionally ban the Communist Party for the protection of the commonwealth. During the referendum period two perspective of propaganda (Source 6 a) and b)) of the seen source material were made and shared throughout Australia of Robert Menzies. Both sources of propaganda show a clear for and against communist view, this fear that surrounded Australia during the Cold War period was indeed for a political advantage of then Prime Minster Robert Menzies.

The Communist Party of Australia in 1945 after the event of the second world war the CPA was leading force in the Australian trade union movement. During this movement the Party made a considerable effort into educating both old and new members to ensure they could fulfil roles. Throughout this time the communist union activist believed that a new social order was about to emerge. During Menzies period of office, the flourishment of economy increases with a great progress in industry, manufacturing output, primary industry production and mineral development.  The communist dissolution bill was and act to provide for the dissolution of the Australian Communist Party and of other Communist Organizations, to disqualify Communists from holding certain Offices, and for purpose connected therewith. During the period where the legislation is passing through the parliament Menzies stated that “…. Something ought to be done about communism, but I think that they suffer from a great illusion…. History has taught us what will happen. I do not. Believe that pernicious movements can be fought by any means other than those that have been suggested by the Prime Minster of Canada, the Prime Minster of the United Kingdom, General MacArthur, the Supreme Commander Allied Powers in Japan, and also President Truman of the United States if America…notable people hold the same views on this subject, and I am not ashamed to sand in their company.” This reinforced the fact the Robert Menzies truly wanted Australia and the people within Australia to live within a safe and controlled country. Even though Menzies used political events to gain remain in office, using events such as the Petrov’s affair to his political gain. 

Robert Menzies introduced many foreign policies to Australia the main policies including Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and ANZUS. The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization is a policy that involves the United States, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand and Pakistan. This organization was to prevent communism from gaining ground in the region, South China expressed concern about the potential for Chinese communist subversion on its own soil. The other regions weren’t concerned about the threat of communism wit0hin there regions. Within the organization several weaknesses were apparent to address the problems attached to the guerrilla movements and local insurrections that plagued the region in the post-colonial years. The SEATO organization has no independent mechanism for obtaining intelligence or deploying military forces, so the potential for collective action was necessarily limited. From the early 1970s members began to withdraw from the organization, with SEATO formally disbanded in 1977. The Australia, New Zealand and United States Security Treaty (ANZUS Treaty) was signed in 1951 to protect the security of the Pacific. During the Second World War both Australia and New Zealand once geographically, isolated nations faced the threat of direct attack for the first time in their histories. As the Japanese expanded south into the Pacific Ocean the mainland Australia suffered frequent air raids in 1942 and 1943. Australia’s involvement in the Korean War was cause for concern of the security of the region, ANZUS provided protection against a possible threat of the Soviet or Chinese aggression. With the US joining the treaty this provided Australia an alliance that has continued to be a foundation of its defence policy. Overall these external polices that were made during Robert Menzies period in office provide a secure Australia.

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The Petrov Affair named after husband and wife Vladimir and Evdokia Petrov who original arrived in Australia during the year of 1951, both classified as diplomats for the Soviet embassy in Canberra. Vladimir was a Lieutenant Colonel while Evdokia was a captain with the KGB (the Soviet secret service), during their time within Australia Vladimir role in the Soviet embassy was decoding instruction from Moscow and setting up a network of Soviet spies within Australia. On the other hand, his wife role was to perform code and cypher work for the Soviet Union. After the death of the Soviet Leader Joseph Stain in March of 1953 and the execution of the Petrov’s Russian superior. Due to these death Vladimir feared that in return to his country that he would share a similar fate to those who once control the country. Aware of the Petrov’s activities The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) assigned the Polish émigré Dr Michael Bialoguski to convince Vladimir to defect to Australia. Offering evidence of Soviet espionage to Australia for political asylum. Vladimir defect happened on the 3rd April 1945 which only include him and not his wife as he evidently planned to defect without her. Once the Russians where made aware of this defect Evdokia was placed under house arrest where she was taken by two couriers who planned to take her back to Russia. The ASIO agents allowed Evdokia to decide if she wanted immunity which was granted on April 20th, 1954.

The Petrov Affair named after husband and wife Vladimir and Evdokia Petrov who original arrived in Australia during the year of 1951, both classified as diplomats for the Soviet embassy in Canberra. Vladimir was a Lieutenant Colonel while Evdokia was a captain with the KGB (the Soviet secret service), during their time within Australia Vladimir role in the Soviet embassy was decoding instruction from Moscow and setting up a network of Soviet spies within Australia. On the other hand, his wife role was to perform code and cypher work for the Soviet Union.

After the death of the Soviet Leader Joseph Stain in March of 1953 and the execution of the Petrov’s Russian superior. Due to these death Vladimir feared that in return to his country that he would share a similar fate to those who once control the country. Aware of the Petrov’s activities The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) assigned the Polish émigré Dr Michael Bialoguski to convince Vladimir to defect to Australia. Offering evidence of Soviet espionage to Australia for political asylum. Vladimir defect happened on the 3rd April 1945 which only include him and not his wife as he evidently planned to defect without her. Once the Russians where made aware of this defect Evdokia was placed under house arrest where she was taken by two couriers who planned to take her back to Russia. The ASIO agents allowed Evdokia to decide if she wanted immunity which was granted on April 20th, 1954. Prime Minster Robert Gordon Menzies was initial made aware of the Petrov’s affair yet didn’t inform the parliament until April 13th of 1954. Where leader of the Labor opposition Dr Herbert ‘Doc’ Evatt believed that Prime Minster Robert Menzies staged the defections to improve his political status. Before the knowledge of the Petrov’s Affair the election wasn’t in Menzies favour using this political manner would enhance the fear of communism. This event was just one of the events which made Robert Menzies an unfit Prime Minster and reinforces that he used political events as an advantage to his political gain.

Overall what was recognised as a global war, the Second World War shaped and affected the future of numerous countries. Australia was caught up in the fear which was fuelled by Prime Minster Robert Menzies in the 1950s, despite the reality that there was no immediate threat of communist invasion he promoted polices that contributed to the overall fear whilst seeking political gain. 

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