Australian Labour Party leader worked for Soviets, claims historian
April 11, 2011 1 Comment
By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
One of Australia’s leading intelligence historians has said that Herbert V. Evatt, who led the Australian Labour Party in the 1950s, operated as a secret agent for the Soviet Union. Dr Desmond Ball, professor at the Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, made the claim following last week’s release in London of previously classified documents relating to Australian intelligence. The documents, which came from the archives of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, reveal that Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies was convinced that Evatt was a Soviet agent. His fear appears to have culminated two days before the national election of November 22, 1958, when he privately expressed the fear that Evatt would destroy Australian counterintelligence documents on the Soviet Union if the Labour Party was elected to power. With this in mind, he ordered the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) to share top-secret documents on the Soviet Union with London and Washington. Following Menzies’ directive, the ASIO provided Britain’s MI5 and MI6, as well as America’s CIA with two sets each of a number of intelligence reports acquired through KGB defector Vladimir Petrov. When he defected to Australia in 1954, Petrov became the senior-most Soviet intelligence official to have gone over to the West. ASIO’s British and American counterparts received copies of KGB documents provided by Petrov, as well as ASIO’s own assessment of his defection and the information he had provided. Speaking to journalists last Friday, Professor Ball, who is himself a Labour Party supporter, said he had suspected for years that Evatt had been a Soviet agent, but that the latest document declassifications gave him the impetus to make his views public. The intelligence historian claimed that the MI5 documents demonstrate “the amazing extent to which Menzies and the people running the intelligence services were utterly convinced that Evatt could not be trusted”, adding that his own research had led him “to believe now that they were right”. But other intelligence historians reacted to Dr Ball’s comments by the declassified documents point not to Evatt’s alleged espionage, but rather to the suspicions of his anticommunist opponents, which may have been exaggerated by the climate of suspicion that permeated the Cold War.