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Memento : Issue 20
18 Behind closed doors, senior public servants have been recording the discussions of Cabinet since 1950. Earlier this year we released seven handwritten notebooks recording the Federal Cabinet discussions of 1951. The notebooks are particularly sensitive as they capture the views expressed by individual Ministers rather than just the final Cabinet decisions. For this reason, they are released after 50 years unlike other Commonwealth records which are eligible for release after 30 years. At a media briefing in February, John Knott, Australian National University historian and historical consultant to the Archives, spoke about issues concerning the Menzies government of 1951 and what the notebooks revealed to him. 'The Korean War, the government's attempt to outlaw communism and an overheated economy dominated federal politics in Australia in 1951. 'In Canberra, the belief that Korea was a prelude to world war influenced most federal government policy making and planning. A secret plan to preserve law and order, and maintain essential services in the event of a communist uprising was drawn up. 'The government's attempts to ban the Communist Party of Australia were thwarted, however, and only succeeded in exacerbating political divisions, and spreading fear and alarm in the community. Key members of the Menzies Cabinet outside Government House after being sworn in, 11 May 1951. From left to right: Mr W Kent Hughes, Prime Minister R G Menzies, Mr P Hasluck, Mr A Townley. In April we again hosted our popular Family History Fair in our Canberra building, East Block. Visitors were invited to explore their family history, listen to talks on family and local history records in our collection, chat to local history and genealogy groups, learn how to care for their keepsakes and personal papers, or just sit down for a nice cup of tea. Many visitors shared their stories of the East Block building, which this year had its 75th birthday. Since the 1920s the building has been a significant place for countless public servants and other local workers. Before the Archives moved in, it was occupied by departments such as the Prime Minister's, Trade and Customs, and the Postmaster-General's. In the 1930s, documents written here were still sealed with sealing wax, and clerks working here could earn extra money by delivering letters on their own bicycles. Many East Block telegraphists, typists and clerks boarded at Canberra hostels such as the Acton Guest House, cycling home for lunch every day. For those who lunched within cooee of the building, the owner of Wilkie's pie cart is still remembered with great affection many years later --- they must have been some pies! In East Block, marriage proposals have been made (and accepted), journalists have been fed and watered many times, including while divers searched in Victoria for Prime Minister Harold Holt, and in fine Australian tradition, at least one snake has been evicted from the building. That's our home. memento may 2002 Emoh ruo A1200, L48049 Emoh ruo The popular Family History Fair was a special one this year because it was held in our Canberra building, which is 75 years old this year. NAA: A1811, CU1407/3 from the past OUT OF THE CABINET whispers 'It was also a year when Menzies went to the polls early, 'Doc' Evatt became leader of the federal parliamentary Labor party following the sudden death of Ben Chifley, ANZUS and the Japanese Peace Treaty were signed, and the government unveiled its solution to rampant inflation -- a horror budget with a 10 per cent tax hike.' To see digitised versions and transcriptions of the original hand- written notebook pages or to read Dr Knott's paper in full, look under 'Cabinet' in 'The Collection' section on our website at www.naa.gov.au. whispers