Shortlist year: 2014

Shortlist category: Australian history

Published by: Quadrant Books

This book tells the shocking, true, but until now largely suppressed and hidden story of the war waged from 1939 to 1945 by a number of key Australian trade unions against their own society and against the men and women of their own country’s fighting forces at the time of its gravest peril.

The author’s conclusions are based on a broad range of sources, from letters and first-person interviews between the author and ex-servicemen to official and unofficial documents from the archives of World War II.

This secret war was a conflict that may have cost the lives of many Australian and allied servicemen and women, and eventually, the author argues, that of wartime prime minister John Curtin.

About the author


Hal G.P. Colebatch

Hal G.P. Colebatch has a PhD in Political Science and BA Honours and MA degrees in History and Politics from the University of Western Australia.

He is also a lawyer with BJuris and LLB degrees, and has lectured in international law at Edith Cowan and Notre Dame universities in Western Australia. For several years he acted as solicitor for a major trade union.

He has had a number of books published in areas from biography to political economy, including seven volumes of poetry and fifteen works of fiction. He has also written for many newspapers and journals, including The AustralianAmerican Spectator OnlineQuadrantAustralian Financial Review and Times Literary Supplement.

Judges’ comments

Hal. G. P. Colebatch's Australia's Secret War relates a neglected chapter in the history of Australia during World War Two.

Based on letters, diaries, memoirs and interviews rather than on official hand-outs, it shows in telling and often shocking detail how strikes by a minority of trade unionists in essential industries sabotaged the war effort both during and after the Hitler-Stalin pact.