1940 • Archaic illusions

inky p r stephensen
Percival Reginald “Inky” Stephensen, 1920s

On the twenty-fourth of May [1940] nine newspapers are suppressed by the Menzies Government. They’re all Communist, and include the Tribune and the Communist Review. … Meanwhile, a different magazine rejoices in this news. In the Publicist for July (a “Pro-Government Number”), P. R. “Inky” Stephensen offers his support for Menzies—and for Hitler. … The party that the Publicist speaks for is called Australia First. [RED, page 121]

In the Publicist for June 1940 Inky tells his readers what his party stands for:

“for National Socialism, against international Communism; … for White Australia, against heterogeneity; for Aryanism, against Semitism; … for legitimate speech, against free speech; for responsible journalism, against freedom of the press; … for women in the home, against women in industry; for babies, against birth-restriction”. [RED, pages 123, 529]

While Communist papers were banned, the Communists were surprised to find that this Fascist magazine was left untouched by Menzies’ Attorney-General, Billy Hughes. In 1940 Australia was at war with Nazi Germany but not at war with the Soviet Union.

The following year Inky was able to publish a booklet that elaborated these views:

50 points by inky BW

From P. R. Stephensen, Fifty Points for Australia. An Exposition of a Policy for an Australia-First Party After the War, Publicist Publishing Company, August 1941, pp. 4–5

Security had a spy at Stephensen’s party meetings, and recorded his view that the Federal Treasurer, Percy Sender, was a Nazi sympathiser:

ASIO 1 on AUST FIRST 1940-06-10

Security’s spy goes on to report that Menzies shared Spender’s views:

ASIO 2 inky on ming

The Menzies government could not decide what to do with this party and avoided making a decision for four months.

At last, on 30 October, the Solicitor General, Sir George Shaw Knowles, takes up his fountain pen and slaps Security down. “I see no good reason why the paper should be banned.” A handwritten note protesting Knowles’ decision, dated 24 May 1941, but not signed, is the last item in the file. [RED, page 123]

inky photo truth 1944 SMALL

A newspaper photograph of P. R. Stephensen in 1944 (Truth, 25 June 1944, p. 23) on the first day of a public inquiry into the Australia First movement.

The ASIO file from which these extracts are taken is called “Australia First Publicist”, A6335 / 3 (use this link and click on p. 90); the report was drafted on 10 June 1940. “Mr MILES” in these extracts is the Fascist sympathiser W. J. Miles, who funded the Publicist, not to be confused with J. B. Miles, leader of the Communist Party at this time. The similar names caused some trouble to Security, as shown in the same file (A6335 / 3), p. 94. One officer wondered whether there was a “possible connection”. They were not connected.


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