My book, Australia’s Secret War: How Unions sabotaged our troops in World War II (Quadrant Books, Sydney) has been the subject of an enraged diatribe by one Bobbie Oliver, an academic at Curtin University, who claims that, apart from an ad hominem falsehood about my father (claiming he resigned the WA Premiership because he mishandled a wharf strike; actually it was because he could not get a lower house metropolitan seat in the state Parliament) falsely, and possibly libelously, claims one of my accounts is a fabrication.
This source is described by her as “an engineer named McEntee.” Actually, I introduce Mr McEntee fully as “later a well-known engineer in Western Australia and a principal of Sukliss McEntee & Associates, Consulting Engineers”. If Ms. Oliver wished to prove or disprove the reality of Mr McEntee’s existence, she need have done no more than consult the nearest telephone directory. She claims, “There is no list of interviews” In fact all interviews are referenced by end-notes, giving times and places. There is no point in listing them again separately. This little piece of rather desperate pedantry has nothing to do with the validity of the account.
She also claims the book is “anecdotal.” This may be another way of saying it is based on primary sources. These sources include men of the calibre of Sir Charles Court, Vice-Admiral Sir John Collins, Sir Bernard Callinan, MUP’s long-time director Peter Ryan, His Honour Judge Kenneth Gee, Air Commodore E. B. Courtney, Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, Lt.-Col. W. Braithwaite, former head of the SAS, and a large number of ordinary diggers and junior officers from World War II, as well as Commonwealth Year Books, Hansard, Jane’s Fighting Ships, etc. She appears blithely unaware that unofficial strikes, sabotage, pilfering petty and destructive demarcation disputes, etc., all of which I have documented in detail, would not have been entered up in union records. She concludes: “in my opinion, there is only one suitable place for it – the rubbish bin.”
It would, perhaps, have been candid of Ms. Oliver to have admitted that Australia’s Secret War contains an unfavourable comment on her own writing. This information might have helped the reader in judging the objectivity of her critique. In Australia’s Secret War, in the section dealing with pre-war efforts by the left to inhibit defence preparations, I said:
It is astonishing to see that there are still academic writers prepared to regard the MAWF [the pre-war Movement Against War and Fascism, a communist front] and similar organisations at their own evaluation and refuse to admit the objectively and obviously pro-Fascist and pro-Nazi as well as the intentionally pro-Soviet thrust of their effort. It is hard to know how much these fronts actually achieved in damaging and inhibiting defence preparations for the struggle against Fascism, but presumably they made some contribution — an Australia strongly united behind a defence effort in the 1930s would very obviously have been better equipped to meet World War II and it is possible it might of its own have strengthened Singapore enough for it to hold in 1942. One modern academic writer, Bobbie Oliver, in a book uncritically supportive of the MAWF, has written:
As foreseen by the MAWF in 1933, the stage was set in Australia, and overseas, for a return to the oppressive statutes of the war years. In April, 1938, the MAWF warned:
“The ugly spectre of compulsory military training and conscription has again raised its head. Mr Lyons pledged himself against the introduction of conscription. Today he reminds us that the Government has the power to introduce it, and adds that the government is watching developments of public demand for this – which is only another name for home conscription.”
Menzies, Lyon’s successor as Prime Minister and Leader of the UAP, did just as the MAWF had foretold.
This, it should be emphasised, is written not in a context of criticism of the MAWF’s objectively anti-anti-Nazi and anti-defence stance on … the eve of World War II, but in praise of it! It is hard to imagine the consequences if Australia had not initiated at least compulsory military training for home defence, thus having at least the militia forces which were rushed north to defend New Guinea in 1941 and 1942, and enough home forces to make any Japanese invasion a very costly business. (pp. 149-150).
I further pointed out that to have a “Movement Against War and Fascism” was rather like having a movement against surgery and cancer. If Ms Oliver can find any logical reason to disagree with the passage quoted above, I would be interested to see it.