Australian Events

Posted in 1954

  • Royal Tour - the Queen and Prince Philip in AustraliaFebruary 3: Royal fever grips Australia during Queen Elizabeth's first visit to Australia. More than a million Australians welcome her in Sydney and people congregate in huge crowds for a glimpse of her. It is the first time a reigning monarch has visited Australia.

Queen Elizabeth II in Alice Springs

  • April 3: Vladimir Petrov, Third Secretary at the Russian Embassy in Canberra, requests political asylum in Australia.
  • April 13: Prime Minister Menzies informs Parliament of Vladimir Petrov's defection and Cabinet's decision to institute a Royal Commission into Soviet espionage in Australia.
  • April 20: Petrov's wife Evdokia defects after she is freed from Soviet couriers by Australian police at Darwin airport.
    Debriefings by ASIO later reveal that Petrov was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Soviet intelligence service and his wife an intelligence officer at the embassy. The defections led to the withdrawal of the Soviet Embassy from Australia and the expulsion of the Australian Embassy from Moscow.
    The Commission's principal findings included that the Soviet Embassy in Canberra had been used for espionage in Australia and that the only Australians who knowingly assisted Soviet espionage were Communists.
  • For Sir Robert Menzies' view see "The Petrov Spy Case" in his book "The Measure of the Years" (1970).
  • Australia joins the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO), formed to prevent the spread of Communism in SE Asia. Member countries are France, Great Britain, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and the United States.
  • The ALP formally splits over the Communist issue.
  • Australia's Mawson base is established in Antarctica.
  • John Landy, at the British Empire Games in Vancouver, is the first Australian runner to break the four-minute mile.