John Curtin: A Prime Minister and his People
  Media Censorship in Wartime

 

In July 1940, the Menzies Government gazetted regulations under the National Security Act which virtually placed the whole of the Australian press, radio broadcasting and film industry under the control of the Director General of Information. The Director General was directly responsible to the Prime minister and the War Cabinet and had access to both, in the same way as any other chief of staff.

New regulations were introduced in January 1941 which gave the Government virtual control over what information the Australian community could receive and what people could say. According to the Government, these powers were meant to:

  • Prevent interference in the war effort
  • Deter industrial unrest or hold up war production
  • Prevent people from making disloyal statements in both private and public
  • Prevent the undermining of public morale by the spreading of false rumours

Both Commonwealth and State police were given wide powers of arrest on suspicion of any of the above.

Consider the following question before you begin your examination of the documents:

Can the exercise of wartime censorship powers, which take away people's freedoms, be justified in a democracy?

Two documents have been selected for you to examine how censorship during World War 2 was viewed from inside and outside the establishment.

Document 1 & Quiz

Document 2 & Quiz

Follow-up Questions

1. Can you think of recent examples where freedom of the press has aided our understanding of a national or international situation?

2. Can you think of an alternative situation, where the press has been muffled and unable to report an event adequately?

3. What options are available to citizens of a democracy to protect their civil liberties in times of both peace and war?

Return to the Home Page for 'A Prime Minister and His People'