Helen Palmer, daughter of Vance and Nettie Palmer, was expelled from the Communist Party for announcing her intention to publish material to encourage discussion of socialist issues following the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. A member of the Australian Communist Party since the late 1930s, Palmer worked tirelessly for peace throughout the second world war and against the threat of nuclear conflict in the first years of the Cold War. But following the aggression of Soviet communists, the USSR could no longer be seen as a model society and alternatives had to be found.
Palmer's announced intention to encourage discussion of socialist issues was realised with the publication of the first issue of Outlook in mid-1957. During its thirteen year run Outlook mainly published articles on political issues, but it also published some theatrical reviews and reviews of cultural studies. In addition to Palmer, contributors included Russel Ward, Merv Lilley, Jack Lindsay, Len Fox and Ian Turner.
According to Ian Turner's retrospective in the last issue of Outlook, the thirteen year life of the magazine can be divided into three periods: the first period (1957-60) primarily examined the events in the Soviet Union and attempted to define a position in relation with the Labor Party; the second period (1960-64) concentrated on the articulation of a socialist policy for Australia; and the third period (1965-70) was dominated by discussion on the war in Vietnam. By 1970, Palmer and the editorial board agreed that the magazine was no longer fulfilling its purpose and ceased production. The last issue of Outlook appeared in 1970.