The Cold War

The Curious Case of Dr John Burton

Dr John Wear Burton (1915–2010) was the Secretary and Permanent Head of Australia’s Department of External Affairs from June 1947 until June 1950. He was, thus, Australia’s most powerful official in the field of foreign relations at the outbreak of the Cold War. A protégé and confidant of his Minister, Herbert Vere (“Doc”) Evatt, he was uniquely placed to propose, influence and formulate policy that, in effect, defined Australia’s relationships with the rest of the world at that time. It has long been a matter of intense speculation that Dr Burton was also a Soviet spy. He emerges from the…

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