Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

Listening for Subversion: The Bugging of the Communist Party, 1958–59

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2018), 115, (1), 167–173.


Because of its conviction that the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) was a subversive organisation whose members, meetings and policies needed close monitoring, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) intercepted telephone conversations, installed listening devices in offices, filmed and photographed Party members, and employed agents to penetrate state committees, branches and front organisations. This research note reveals for the first time the details of a bugging operation targeting the CPA in the late 1950s. Today, of course, the targets of state surveillance are different, counter-terrorism has replaced counter-subversion, and the bugging operations are far more sophisticated. But the underlying principles remain the same: to monitor the target, evaluate intelligence and pre-empt attacks, direct or indirect, on national security, however defined.

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Author details

Deery, Phillip