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Memento : Issue 29
up Kisch’s case. Joan Rosanove, a barrister with Communist Party connections, lodged a habeas corpus action on behalf of Kisch, and must have impressed on him that it was vital to stay in Melbourne to await the outcome of the case. Kisch decided to jump overboard in order to be arrested. This was courageous in a man nearly 50, a chain smoker and somewhat overweight. But instead of being hospitalised or jailed in Melbourne, Kisch was picked up from the dock, the Strathaird was recalled and he was bundled off to Sydney without medical attention. As it turned out, the court in Melbourne decided against him anyway. Joan Rosanove arranged for the Kisch papers to be driven to Sydney. The case was heard before the High Court and Judge Herbert Vere ‘Doc’ Evatt decided that there was no case against Kisch. He made the crucial point that it had not been established that the information against Kisch came ‘through diplomatic channels’ in the British Empire, as the Immigration Act required. The ensuing Kisch legal saga revolved around the fact that the Australian government could not and would not reveal that their knowledge on Kisch all came from ‘Snuffbox’, who did not qualify for diplomatic status. Kisch was finally allowed to land in Sydney, but his freedom was short-lived. On the dock, police were waiting to whisk the injured man off to undergo the ‘living language’ dictation test – part of the Immigration Act aimed at keeping those regarded as undesirable out of Australia. Kisch, like most central Europeans, spoke half a dozen languages, but a fail-safe way was found to exclude him: he was administered the test in Scots Gaelic. Kisch’s Sydney legal team, headed by AB Piddington, also known as the Red KC, challenged the validity of the language test and showed that even the administering officer himself did not understand it. When asked to translate the dictation, the officer stuttered: ‘As well as could benefit and if we let her scatter to the bad’. To the amusement of the court, Piddington then read the correct translation: ‘Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil’. The language test never quite recovered from this ridicule. In the face of such embarrassment, and in order to make a solid case against Kisch, the Lyons government knew they (below) The writing on the wall. Private collection of Dr Marcus Patka, Vienna (right) Kisch (left) and fellow-delegate to the Melbourne peace congress Gerald Griffin (right). Under investigation like Kisch, Griffin missed his speaking engagement at the congress; he was given the language test in Dutch and sent back to New Zealand. Private collection of Dr Marcus Patka, Vienna 12 MEMENTO News from the National Archives