From the very
first day, 1951 looked as if it would be a good year. All the early signs were positive. The economy was in great shape, with
boom prices being paid for many of our primary products, especially record-breaking wool. Everyone who wanted a job had one,
and working conditions, which had suffered during the War, were improving, granted at a slow pace. The population was booming
both from natural increase, and from the huge numbers of European migrants who were being offered very good deals to settle
here for three years. Steak was on the menu in most houses whenever they wanted it, beer was often available, and Christmas
last year had been the best it had been for twelve years at least. All the hated rationing from the past had now gone, and
the black markets had gone with it. Even the dreaded rabbits were on the decline, thanks to the new virus disease, myxomatosis,
which was being successfully spread by mosquitos down on the Murray.
Of course, there
were a few flies threatening the ointment. Wages were fairly good, and so inflation was on the increase. Many people said
that inflation was taking away all benefits, but, in truth, real standards of living were gradually increasing. The population
boom was putting a great strain on housing, which had never recovered from the War, but bank loans were available with a big
enough deposit, so that young couples were slowly getting their own place to live. Then again, there were more than enough
strikes for everyone. It seemed that the whole population was always going on strike, and even worse, such strikes were never
justified, except of course for one’s own.
But these complaints
were by-the-by. In all, things were pretty good for most people, so that I suggest
the scene is set for you to have a very good and prosperous year. Let’s see what happens.
matters from 1950. Reds in Australia. Bob Menzies had come to power
just over a year ago, and he lived up to his election promise that he would try to curb the power of the local Communist Party.
This Party had gained control of most of the major Trade Unions in the nation, and was constantly calling on its members to
strike. Menzies thought he could put an end to this, and he introduced a Bill that would have outlawed the Communist Party,
and would also have taken all of their property. Further, he would have had the power to “declare” a person or
organisation who was a Communist and who presented some sort of menace to the nation. It was clear that persons who advocated
a strike would be seen as such menaces, so this Bill was seen in many quarters as denying the worker the right to strike.
The Labor Party had not wanted to oppose the Bill outright, because, in the grubby world of politics, they would have been
seen as fellow-travellers, so they stalled it for six months. But Menzies had got it through Parliament at the end of 1950.
Party and nine Unions promptly challenged the Act in the High Court, and the hearing had lasted till the Court’s Christmas
break. As yet, of course, there had been no prosecutions under the Act.
At the end of
January, the nation was waiting for the High Court’s decision. If the decision went against the Government, that is
if the Court found the Act invalid, there was no expectation in anyone’s mind that Menzies would back off. He knew his
anti-Red strategy was a political winner, and he would undoubtedly join the attack again. The only unknown was how he would
re-enter the fray.
Reds in Korea.
For the last six months, the two great ideologies of the worlds, Capitalism and Communism, had been locked in a war in Korea.
No one cares about how it started, because it was in all respects just a battle, between these two ideologies, that happened
to be fought in a convenient foreign land. Each side wanted to say to the world, at last, that it was the most powerful, and
that it was also the greatest champion of justice. And, the corollary was, that all other nations should adopt the political
and economic system of the good guy.
So, by January
the North Koreans, now supported by the Chinese, had pushed past the border at the 38th Parallel, and were half
way down the Korean peninsular. Then the South Koreans, now supported by America, and Australia, and by a few countries of
the UN, had moved the front line right up to the Korean border with China. After that, they had all moved back South again,
and were fighting just south of the border.
month of January, and also through the month of February, the front lines did not move far. This might have been because there
were various levels of talks going on in the UN to stop the war, but it was also because of the extremely cold weather the
country suffered in winter. In any case, after all those months, both sides were back where they started from. America has
lost about 4,000 sons killed, and 6,000 missing on the battle fields. Australia had lost over 100 dead, and 200 missing. The
number of Reds killed would be about 2 billion, if you believed the propaganda machine. No one ever counts how many civilians
This issue, though,
had not gone away. Unfortunately it will surface again and again, and we will catch up with it in later months.