AUSTRALIAN NEWS AND INFORMATION BUREAU
The Australian News and Information Bureau (ANIB) was established in 1940 within the Department of Information (DOI).
The ANIB was a wartime initiative of Sir Keith Murdoch as the Director-General of Information, but was implemented after his resignation from that position by the Minister for Information, H.S. Foll. Initially based in New York, ANIB’s primary aim was to foster stronger links with the United States by informing it of Australia’s war effort. David W. Bailey was appointed to head the office. He was on the editorial staff of the Herald and Sun News-Pictorial and a senior staff member with Australian Associated Press in London and New York. Bailey also chaired the United Nations Information Board, the first multinational UN organisation with an international staff and budget, established by Allied nations in 1942 to disseminate war information throughout North America.
The ANIB remained primarily a US-based publicity arm for Australia’s war effort until 1944, when a London office was opened. In 1945, an office was opened in San Francisco. Under Foll and subsequent ministers, the DOI had begun to develop ‘overseas publicity’ alongside domestic censorship and war publicity. By 1944, the overseas publicity component, managed by the ANIB, had become the central rationale for the department’s work.
When the DOI was abolished in 1950, the ANIB was transferred to the Department of the Interior. The ANIB absorbed a large proportion the DOI’s function as well as many of its journalism and administrative staff. After the war, the ANIB consisted of a Home and an Overseas Organisation. The Home Organisation produced films, articles, photographs and radio scripts through an Editorial Division and a Film Division. This material was sometimes used in domestic information campaigns; often, however, it was sent overseas. The Overseas Organisation disseminated the material through overseas diplomatic posts, trade organisations and interested individuals.
As immigration policies developed after the war, the ANIB had a role in creating an image of Australia that could be deployed to inform and persuade new migrants of the benefits of moving ‘Down Under’. Various publications painted a picture of a vast, productive land barely touched by war—a land of opportunity. During the Cold War, ANIB overseas publicity took on a more political hue. The benefits of living in Australia could not only attract migrants, they also suggested that the ‘Australian way of life’ was superior to communist ideology.
The Colombo Plan, a multilateral aid scheme established in 1950, provided the ANIB with a rich source of images and information of Australia’s commitment to developing countries. While generally directed to overseas audiences, the Colombo Plan also provided the stage for the ANIB’s most extensive internal propaganda operation since the war. In 1957–58, the Colombo Plan had come under sustained criticism for waste and poorly managed and targeted aid. In 1959, the ANIB, with the support of the Minister for External Affairs, (Lord) R.G. Casey, deployed well-known journalist Osmar White and an experienced cameraman/photographer, James (Jim) Fitzpatrick, on a six-month tour of Colombo Plan projects. White and Fitzpatrick sent material to Australian newspapers and television stations, highlighting the Plan’s successes. Initially, some effort was made to ensure the reports were not linked to the ANIB, but a publication on the project, The Seed of Freedom (1961), noted that the Australian government had asked the journalist and photographer to survey the Plan.
In December 1972, the Whitlam Labor government subsumed ANIB into a new Department of the Media. In February 1973, it became the Australian Information Service, which concentrated on domestic dissemination of government information. By the end of its administrative career, the ANIB had dedicated state offices in Western Australia and Queensland, and overseas offices in London, Ottawa, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, San Francisco, The Hague, Paris, Bonn, Bad Godesburg (Germany), Stockholm, Karachi, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, New Delhi, Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Tokyo and Manila.
The ANIB has left a legacy of an extensive photographic collection maintained by the National Archives of Australia.
REFs: P. Clarke, ‘Bias for Good or Ill? Australian Government Overseas Propaganda in the 1950s’ (2014); J. Hilvert, Blue Pencil Warriors (1984).