[Editor: This article, by Ian D. Dickins, about Australia after the end of the Second World War (1939-1945), was published in The Gateway (University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, USA), 29 October 1948.]
Strife, internal friction beset post-war Australia
By Ian D. Dickins
When war was declared on Germany, Australia, after a momentary hesitation, decided to cast her lot with the British Empire. I say this because a national feeling had been growing rapidly since the first World War, and the decision was that of a nation and not a colony.
As in World War I, Australia sent two divisions to the middle east, where they distinguished themselves like their fathers before them. For Australia had a tradition to maintain which is embodied in the one word “Anzac”. The derivation of this word came from “Australian and New Zealand Army Corps,” and was permanently attributed to those Australians who stormed the Dardanelles against the Turks.
Perhaps the most outstanding memory of the past war is embodied in the word “Tobruk rats”, which was the name given to the Australians defending that city against Rommel’s panther-like thrusts.
With the Nipponese lighting-move southward, Australia’s divisions in the middle east were recalled to the defence of their homeland. These veterans formed the nucleus of those armies sent into the jungles of New Guinea, which at that time was practically uninhabited by the white man. This jungle fighting took toll of many a veteran in the first stages of this conflict, for the techniques of fighting done there were altogether different from those of desert warfare. It was not long before the Australians learned not to trust the Japanese under any circumstances, mainly because the latter taught this the hard way. From that time on the process was a winning, but slow and laborious one.
Darwin was bombed quite often, and the civilian population almost entirely evacuated. Sydney awoke one morning to read in the newspapers that two Japanese midget submarines had been discovered and arrested in the harbour. It was not a ridiculous, but an extremely serious and critical situation, for if the Nipponese had continued their swift move southward from New Guinea they could have overrun a country poorly defended at that time.
Australia has imposing problems of defence. Practically all the western and northern coasts are devoid of population save for Perth in the south-west, Broome on the middle-western coast, and Darwin in the north-west. The mention of Broome brings two things to mind. This is the centre of the pearl fishing industry in Australia, and was, before the war, operated almost exclusively by the Japanese. After the outbreak of hostilities the Japanese were forced to leave the country, and it was only at that time we discovered the amazing fact that they had complete and detailed maps of the whole coastline of Australia! The apprehension of these maps saved the Australian people a lot of money, for the government had never gone to the bother of having this done, despite the fact that it was nationally known to be imperative as a measure of defence!
In the post-war period Australia has much internal friction and strife. Industry has suffered severe losses in time and money. Since the industries of Victoria and South Australia depend almost entirely on the coal produced in New South Wales, strikes on the coal fields there have had crippling effects on the industries in these two southern states.
This is not the whole problem, however, for the coal is not transported by rail but by sea. Thus when the coal miners finish striking after a month or two, the dock laborers in Sydney strike for a similar period, and the net result of this is that only a small trickle of coal moves into the southern industrial areas. This has further repercussions, because the coal is not only necessary for industry and the railways, but also for the manufacture of gas. Thus the coal that does come south has to be split between these principal consumers.
I don’t think there is any organization of labor which has not been out on strike at least once. There is a continuous and seemingly never-ending series of strikes.
It is a fact that there is a communist menace in Australia, and it is equally true that this probably lies at the root of all current industrial strife. Canada has been fortunate to discover and bring this threat out into the open. Exposed, it cannot live. Australia has had no such good fortune. Consequently, the activities continue underground, brilliantly organized, and have not clashed as yet with their arch-enemy, national alertness. The apathy of the nation is appalling, but it is interesting to note that some small moves in this matter have been essayed recently.
The Gateway (University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, USA), 29 October 1948, p. 4
Dardanelles = (also known as the Strait of Gallipoli) the strait which connects the Sea of Marmara (north-west end of the strait) with the Aegean Sea (south-east end of the strait), the latter of which connects to the Mediterranean sea; it is bounded on its northern side by the Gallipoli peninsula and on its southern side by the mainland of Turkey; it is considered to be part of the continental boundary between Asia and Europe (thus separating Asian Turkey from European Turkey); it was the site of a military campaign during the First World War, when the Allied powers attacked the Gallipoli peninsula (part of Turkey) in 1915
essayed = attempted, endeavoured, tried, made an effort to do something
Nipponese = Japanese (Nippon, meaning “the sun’s origin”, is the Japanese name for Japan)
[Editor: Changed “where the distinguished themselves” to “where they distinguished themselves”; “middle western” to “middle-western” (in line with “south-west” and “north-west”); “before the war” to “before the war,” (added a comma).]