O Tempora, O
The September Revolt 60 Years Later
By Chris Oakley
based on the "Red Dusk" trilogy by the same author
Summary: In Part 1 of this series we began printing one-on-one interviews with Australians on their views about the September Revolt of sixty years ago; in this chapter we’ll continue with those interviews.
GROUP CAPTAIN DANIEL SHEARS, 49/RAAF flight instructor, Perth
Like one of our previous interview subjects, Colonel Edward Staples, Group Capt. Shears is a card-carrying member of the first generation of Australians to be born after the September Revolt. In his capacity as a Royal Australian Air Force flight instructor, he often uses what-if September Revolt scenarios to motivate his cadets to sharpen their tactical thinking skills; he’s also a technical consultant on the popular CD-ROM computer game series Battlefield Australia, a combat simulation game based on the premise of Soviet troops invading Australia in the early 1950s to aid the CPA’s struggle to overthrow the Australian government.
Group Captain Shears was home on leave when we interviewed him; his house is a sort of unofficial museum of the September Revolt era, adorned with artifacts from those years and news clippings from the Menzies assassination. There’s a running joke among his family and his RAAF comrades-in-arms that the house has almost as many exhibits as the actual September Revolt Museum on the outskirts of Canberra and is much less expensive to get into.
IVOR "VORAYSHUS" COLLINSWORTH, 19/Hip-hop musician and left-wing activist, Sydney
Although he’s too young to have personally experienced the rigid security measures enacted by the Menzies government in the wake of the September Revolt, Collinsworth denounces them just as vehemently as any of the Fremantle Eight ever did. Preferring to be addressed by his stage handle ‘Vorayshus’, Collinsworth is descended from a former labor organizer and was raised on stories of the ASIO’s more notorious abuses of power; he uses his music to promote a leftist interpretation of the events of the September Revolt era and the left-wing causes he supports with a passion despite the risk to his entertainment career prospects.1
We interviewed ‘Vorayshus’ at his uncle’s home in one of Sydney’s older residential neighborhoods; when we spoke with the rising hip-hop performer, he’d just finished a mixing session at the recording studio he operates inside what was once his uncle’s storage shed. ‘Vorayshus’ was, as you might expect, eager to give voice to his socialist views. Nor was he particularly shy about venting his displeasure over what he regards as the lamentable state of socialism in modern-day Australia.
JOSEF VAREZEWSKI, 78/Scholar and ex-Warsaw Pact defector, Darwin
Josef Varezewski was born in Poland but has spent most of his adult life on Australian soil, having defected to Australia at the age of 25 when he became disillusioned with the Soviet-imposed Communist regime that took over Poland after the end of World War II. Before the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939 Varezewski’s family had been part of Warsaw’s upper class; his father in particular had been a respected member of the Polish capital’s academic community as a professor of political science. Upon his arrival in Australia Varezewski pledged to continue his father’s legacy and become a political science professor in his own right. He made good on that pledge in his mid-thirties, taking a job as an instructor at Melbourne University in European political affairs and holding that position for over a quarter of a century; even in retirement, Varezewski continues to be a respected member of Australia’s academic community, being regularly invited to political science seminars and guest lecturing engagements at all of the country’s major universities and colleges.
Varezewski moved to Darwin ten years ago to be closer to his grandson Kristof, an aspiring oceanographer. He was just returning from a beach trip with Kristof when we spoke to him about his views on the September Revolt and its aftermath; not surprisingly, he takes a dim view of the notion of Australia under Communist rule-- and an even dimmer view of Lance Sharkey.
JAMES CHESTER, 65/TV newsreader, Melbourne
With the possible exception of Janine Parker2, few faces on Australian TV screens are more familiar to viewers than that of James Chester, who The Age once admiringly dubbed "the archetype of what a television journalist should be". Chester got into the television news business fresh out of college; in fact, when he reported for his first day of work as a news research intern he was immediately assigned to look up the biography of slain former Australian prime minister Robert Menzies, who’d been assassinated the previous day. Since then he’s had a front-row seat to just about every major news event to happen in Australia since the Menzies assassination. For that matter, Chester has covered plenty of important events outside Australia too; when we spoke to him, in fact, he had just returned from a six-week stint in New York covering the US presidential campaign.
Chester has hosted three TV specials related to the September Revolt, the most recent of which was a 2005 documentary remembering the fortieth anniversary of the Menzies assassination. Naturally, talking about the documentary brought back memories for him of his introduction to television journalism and of growing up during the security-obsessed Menzies era.
The first time that I consciously noticed the strict security measures that Mr. Menzies had instituted in this country was when I was about seven years old. I saw a story about ASIO in the newspaper-- I think it might have been The Age, but I can’t be sure --and I asked my mother why Mr. Menzies had Japanese people working for him. I thought ASIO was a Japanese surname...(laughs) It wasn’t until she told me what those initials stood for that I realized something out of the ordinary was going on.
The ASIO had the potential to become another Gestapo or KGB; it was certainly a very intrusive presence in the lives of ordinary Australians. No one would deny the need to safeguard this country against subversion, but from our vantage point today it’s becoming ever more clear that Mr. Menzies was more interested in settling personal scores than in rooting out threats to national security. The best example of this, of course, is the unfortunate case of Stephen Burke...Burke was guilty of nothing more than disagreeing with the Menzies government’s policies, yet to hear Menzies tell it one would have thought Burke was a latter-day Guy Fawkes. I quite honestly believe that if Menzies had gotten half a chance he would have shot Burke himself.
The level of paranoia that existed in the Menzies administration during the era after the September Revolt is absolutely astonishing even by the standards of the Cold War. He saw spies and traitors around every street corner. At times he was even more suspicious of dissenters than the Communists he despised, and in the end that mistrust had devastating consequences for him personally and for Australia as a whole...
WILLIAM O’BRIEN, 80/Retired news photographer, Woomera
William O’Brien took thousands of memorable photographs in a photojournalism career spanning more than five decades, but perhaps the picture for which he is best known is a close-up of William G. McMahon preparing to address his fellow countrymen by radio when he first assumed the prime minister’s office shortly after Robert Menzies was assassinated. That black-and-white portrait, symbolizing McMahon’s coolness under pressure, made the front page of every major newspaper in Australia(and plenty of newspapers outside Australia) the next day; it later garnered O’Brien two of Australia’s most prestigious awards for photojournalism. By the time O’Brien retired in 1999, his portrait of McMahon had been reprinted 10 million times.3
Not surprisingly, that particular picture occupies a prominent spot on the walls of the apartment he’s called home for the past ten years. By his own personal estimate, at least half of the pictures he took in his early years as a news photographer are connected one way or another with the September Revolt and the Menzies government’s long campaign to crush perceived subversives in the post-Revolt era.
To Be Continued
 And his personal safety; at least twice during his first nationwide tour of Australia, he was attacked by right-wing extremists.
 Readers may be interested to know that when Parker was cast as a newsreader on the ‘90s Australian TV sitcom This Just In, she researched for the part by spending several weeks working alongside Chester while he was preparing for his newscasts.
 As of the time this is being published, the figure has grown to 40 million.
 In a portion of the Charlie Hudson interview which we were forced to omit due to lack of space, Hudson mentions one of these incidents; he adds that he himself tried five times to persuade Fremantle Prison’s chief warden to allow photographers to see the hunger strikers and was coldly rebuffed every time.