Mills, Stephen: Dick Casey’s Forgotten People

Stephen Mills

Dick Casey’s Forgotten People‘, Inside Story, 25 February 2018 updated

We missed this piece when it first came round but it is worth drawing attention to for its careful study of a notable piece of election year propaganda, the John Henry Austral series done by the Liberal Party in 1948-1949 under the management of party President, RG Casey, and for the link it provides to the restored (but very scratchy), downloadable from the University of Melbourne, recordings of the original broadcasts.

Just a list of some of the broadcast titles reminds us of how hard-hitting were the political battles of the immediate post-World War II era, perhaps second only to the conscription conflicts of World War I for their bitterness: Freedom isn’t free, The low down on Communism, The decline and fall of Mr Quid, Mission from Moscow, How to plan a revolution, Guilty men, The enemy within, Threat from the wilderness, Van Winkle wakes up, Creeping paralysis. Altogether, there were two hundred 15 minute broadcasts running twice a week over 80 stations from February 1948, though only 22 broadcasts have survived.

Like [RG Menzies’ 1942 broadcast] “The Forgotten People,” the John Henry Austral series [says Mills] embodies a mix of inclusive and exclusive values, extolling a society made up not of classes or organisations, but of families in their homes and consumers in their shops; a society in which ideology shrinks before individual moral character; a society of freedoms rather than rights. Big business is nothing more than the small shareholders who own it, while organised labour is a collection of conscientious working Australians under the sway of union officials or organisers who are ignorant rabble-rousers, many of them communists.

Mills’s article explains Casey’s role in masterminding the campaign, as well as the work of former Labor advertising man, Sim Rubensohn, in making the broadcasts. Stuart Macintyre in Australia’s Boldest Experiment (chapter 12), describes the Austral campaign as ‘the most lavishly funded electoral campaign ever seen in Australia’ (till that time). Casey spent £2300 a month on the Austral broadcasts, where Labor’s total election budget for newspaper and radio was just £10 000.

An earlier piece about the discovery of the Austral trove. More on the details. An academic study from 2002.

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