Labour History

The Apostasy of Allan Fraser: The ALP and Civil Liberties in 1955

Labour History (2012), 103, (1), 187–202.

Abstract

A landmark event in Australian political, legal and constitutional history, the parliamentary privilege case of 1955, whereby two men, Raymond Fitzpatrick and Frank Browne, were sent to gaol on a vote of the Commonwealth House of Representatives is normally understood to have been driven more by the vindictive machinations of Prime Minister R.G. Menzies than by their ‘crime’ of contempt of Parliament. This article examines the extent to which Dr Evatt and ALP members were also responsible for the fate of Fitzpatrick and Browne and highlights the principled stand of one ALP parliamentarian, Allan Fraser MHR, in opposing the gaolings and seeking to have a travesty of justice set right.

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Endnotes

2.SeeBrowne‘s hagiographical, They Called Him Billy: A Biography of the Rt. Hon. W.M. Hughes, P.C., M.P,Peter Huston,, 1946. Google Scholar

3. Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates(CPD), vol.H or R 6, 10June1955, p.1626. Google Scholar

4.Frank Browne,Canberra Justice, ch. 6, pp.9-10. Browne would not have been impressed by the way in which at least one contemporary historian lets Whitlam off the hook. SeeJenny Hocking, Gough Whitlam: A Moment in History,Miegunyah Press,, 2008, pp.174-76. Google Scholar

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7.SeeAndrew Moore, Mr Big of Bankstown: The Scandalous Fitzpatrick and Browne affair,University of Western Australia Publishing,, 2011, ch. 10; andAndrew Moore, ‘A Mace to Swat Two Blow-Flies: Interpreting the Fitzpatrick and Browne Privilege Case’, Australian Journal of Politics and History, vol.55, no. 1, 2009, pp.32-45. Google Scholar

8.An exception isHelen K. Fraser,Allan Fraser and the Australian Labor Party: A Dissenting Member and His Party, MA thesis,Auckland University, 1980. Google Scholar

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13.See, for instance, Sydney Morning Herald, 16September1981and24February1994, including a letter written by Kevin Barry Morgan, son of Charles Morgan, arguing that the ‘crocodile tears’ that were often shed about the gaolings were unwarranted because of the character of the two men. Fitzpatrick, Kevin Morgan claimed, had hired Browne ‘for the sole purpose of preventing Morgan from speaking out in Parliament about corruption and bribery in his electorate’. Browne had been prepared to prostitute his profession. Google Scholar

14.Peter Golding’s biography ofJ.J. Cahill, They Called Him Old Smoothie,Australian Scholarly Press,, 2009, pp.268-69, contains an intriguing anecdote of Fitzpatrick’s less than subtle methods in soliciting the support of senior politicians. Having invited Cahill, the Labor Premier of New South Wales and other members of State Cabinet to a day’s boating at Gymea Bay, Fitzpatrick presented each of the politicians’ wives with a fur coat. See alsoMoore, Mr Big of Bankstown, chs 2, 3, 4. Google Scholar

15.According to ASIO, in 1952 one American businessman paid Browne £3,000 to suppress an adverse story pertaining to his business and private affairs, justifying that payment as‘Public Relations in Reverse’. SeeNational Archives of Australia (NAA), A6119/1, 83. Google Scholar

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29. CPD, vol.H or R 6, 10June1955, pp.1625-27. Google Scholar

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34.Ibid., p.1645. Google Scholar

35.Ibid., pp.1635-37. Google Scholar

37. CPD, vol.H or R 6, 9June1955, pp.1662-63. There were two tellers on both sides of the divisions for both votes that have not been included here. Google Scholar

38. Sun, 14May1976. Google Scholar

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41.For a summary of relevant cases see Fraser, Allan Fraser and the Australian Labor Party, ch. 3, andG.S. Reid andMartyn Forrest, Australia’s Commonwealth Parliament 1901-1988: Ten Perspectives,Melbourne University Press,, pp.249-65. Google Scholar

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46.Fraser,Allan Fraser and the Australian Labor Party, pp.89-90. Helen Fraser’s account of the manoeuvring of ALP Caucus is usefully informed by the oral testimony of Fred Daly. Mr Gough Whitlam declined an opportunity to be interviewed for the present study on the grounds of his advanced age and many commitments. Google Scholar

47. Truth, 28August1955. Google Scholar

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51. CPD, vol.H of R 7, 31August1955, pp.207-211. Google Scholar

52.Ibid., pp.211-214. Google Scholar

54. CPD, vol.H of R 7, 31August1955, p.225. Google Scholar

55. Moruya Examiner, 2September1955andArgus, 1September1955. Google Scholar

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58.Fraser,Allan Fraser and the Australian Labor Party, p.104. See alsoFraser‘sreminiscences of these events in Interview with Allan Fraser25May1965, 26July1967, NLA, Oral DeB 255, 256. Google Scholar

59.Browne, Canberra Justice, ch. 6, pp.9-10. Google Scholar

60. CPD, vol.H or R 6, 10June1955, p.1646. Google Scholar

61.Browne, Canberra Justice, ch. 2, pp.9-10. Google Scholar

62.James Waghorne andStuart Macintyre, Liberty: A History of Civil Liberties in Australia,New South Books,, 2011, p.129. Google Scholar

63.SeeL.J. Louis, ‘Pig Iron Bob Finds a Further Use for Scrap Iron’, The Hummer, no.35, January-June1993. Google Scholar

64.Waghorne andMacintyre, Liberty, pp.106-107. Google Scholar

65.Les Haylen, Twenty Years Hard Labor,Macmillan,, 1969, p.160. Google Scholar

66.Fraser,Allan Fraser and the Australian Labor Party, p.75. Google Scholar

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Moore, Andrew