On 3 April 1954 a Soviet diplomat in Australia, Vladimir Petrov, asked for political asylum, subsequently making allegations of widespread Communist activities in official Australian circles. Exploiting the incident for all it was worth, Menzies hinted at possible involvement by leaders of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and hastily set up a Royal Commission just before the general election. Accusations against Labor were fuelled by the action of ALP leader Evatt, who served as defence council for some of the accused members of his staff. Ultimately, none of the allegations were substantiated, and it was revealed that no information had been passed to the Soviet Union since 1949. The affair facilitated Menzies's win at the 1954 elections, split Labor through the creation of the Democratic Labor Party, and led to the cessation of diplomatic relations with the USSR (1954–9).
Subjects: Australasian and Pacific History.