Traitors and Spies: Espionage and corruption in high places in Australia, 1901-50


Traitors and Spies

Espionage and corruption in high places in Australia, 1901-50

By John Fahey

Published by Allen and Unwin | RRP $34.99 in paperback
ISBN 9781760877705

John Fahey’s first book on this subject – Australia’s First Spies (Allen and Unwin, 2018) – looked at the practical steps Australia took to exercise control over its national interests immediately following federation in 1901.

In this latest book, the former intelligence officer charts the ‘long and difficult struggle to create an ethical, professional and well-managed counterespionage organisation in Australia’, culminating with the establishment of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) in 1949.

The necessity of being able to police the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 (the White Australia policy) was the initial motivation to establish a security service.

Fahey reveals the dark underside of Australian politics, including the persecution of innocent civilians and procedural corruption, as Australia’s fledgling security intelligence system struggled with poor leadership, under resourcing, bureaucratic incompetence and worse, all played out against the inevitable brawl over who would control the internal security intelligence system in Australia.

Fahey has delved deep into national and international archives to produce this devastating indictment of Australia’s security services in those early decades before the formation of ASIO.


Author John Fahey was interviewed on Phillip Adams’ Late Night Live program on Radio National (5 August 2020). You can listen to this interview at the link below.

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