Infamous Victory: Ben Chifley's Battle for Coal

Last updated

Infamous Victory: Ben Chifley's Battle for Coal
Written by Bob Ellis
Geoff Burton
Directed byGeoff Burton
Starring Tony Barry
Country of originAustralia
Original language(s)English
Running time55 minutes
Original release
  • 6 November 2008 (2008-11-06)

Infamous Victory: Ben Chifley's Battle for Coal is a 2008 Australian documentary about the 1949 Australian coal strike. It combines documentary footage with dramatised re-enactments.




The script was written by Bob Ellis who had often written about Chifley. "All my youth and young manhood there was a legend around Labor circles of this perfectly good man, who was an engine driver, and brought up dirt poor, and turned Australia inside out and into something better after the war," he said. "And died too soon, too unjustly." [1]

The film hints that Chifley had an affair with his secretary, Phyllis Donnelly, even though Ellis does not believe it to be the case:

It's unbelievable to me that as dedicated a Catholic as Chifley would experiment with contraception and it's impossible for her not to have got pregnant if it had been on... [although] It's kind of written that way. "But it's written that way on the demand of the historians, who were riding the script like a man on four horses at once... They did not want to say or imply anything that could not be utterly proven before what they feared, I imagine, was a hanging judge. I don't know why they were so worried. [1]

Ellis claims he wrote the script quickly, because he was focusing on the 2007 Australian Federal Election, "For fear that the time lost would lose Labor the election, because I was contributing - as it turned out minimally, but energetically - throughout to the lines said by the politicians and so on. So I wound up with about nine days in a winery and a house rule of no alcohol before 9pm." [1]

Ellis says his main aim was to make the show "as close to the emotional reality of government" as possible and he wanted to depict:

That extraordinary generation of self-educated, working-class men who ran the country for a while. It was an unrepeatable era, really, when none of them had been to university, all of them had worked in a trade, and here they were in charge of armies and economies and so on. It was, as you might say, a noble experiment... It created the Australia we more or less know, which is the multicultural, well-educated, well-hospitalised, well-run, amiable democracy that it's been for a very long time. It created the Australia we had until about 1990, when they started to sell off Qantas and all these stupid things. It was an Australia people increasingly yearn for, I think. [1]

Related Research Articles

Australian Labor Party Federal political party in Australia

The Australian Labor Party (ALP), also simply known as Labor and historically spelt Labour, is the major centre-left political party in Australian politics, and is currently in Opposition in the federal parliament. The ALP is a federal party, which political branches in each state and territory. They are currently in government in Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory. The Labor Party is the oldest political party in Australia.

Ben Chifley

Joseph Benedict Chifley was an Australian politician who served as the 16th Prime Minister of Australia, in office from 1945 to 1949. He was leader of the Labor Party from 1945 until his death.

Frank Forde

Francis Michael Forde was an Australian politician who served as prime minister of Australia from 6 to 13 July 1945. He was the deputy leader of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) from 1932 to 1946. He served as prime minister in a caretaker capacity after the death of John Curtin, and is the shortest-serving prime minister in Australia's history.

Arthur Calwell

Arthur Augustus Calwell KCSG was an Australian politician who served as the leader of the Labor Party from 1960 to 1967. He led the party to three federal elections.

William McKell

Sir William John McKell, often known as Bill McKell, was an Australian politician who served as the 12th Governor-General of Australia, in office from 1947 to 1953. He had previously been Premier of New South Wales from 1941 to 1947, as leader of the Labor Party.

Robert James Ellis was an Australian writer, journalist, filmmaker, and political commentator. He was a student at the University of Sydney at the same time as other notable Australians including Clive James, Germaine Greer, Les Murray, John Bell, Ken Horler, Robert Hughes and Mungo McCallum. He lived in Sydney with the author and screenwriter Anne Brooksbank; they had three children.

Jack Holloway

Edward James "Jack" Holloway was an Australian politician who served in the House of Representatives from 1929 to 1951, representing the Labor Party. He served as a government minister under James Scullin, John Curtin, Frank Forde, and Ben Chifley.

The 1949 Australian coal strike was the first time that Australian military forces were used during peacetime to break a trade union strike. The strike by 23,000 coal miners lasted for seven weeks, from 27 June 1949 to 15 August 1949, with troops being sent in by the Ben Chifley Federal Labor government to the open cut coal mines in New South Wales on 28 July 1949, with the workers returning to work, defeated, two weeks later.

Jack Beasley

John Albert Beasley was an Australian politician who was a member of the House of Representatives from 1928 to 1946. He served in the Australian War Cabinet from 1941 to 1946, and was a government minister in the Curtin and Chifley Governments. Beasley was a member of the Australian Labor Party, although on two occasions he left the party to join the breakaway Lang Labor groups, leading the faction in federal parliament. He concluded his career as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom from 1946 until his death in 1949.

1949 Australian federal election

The 1949 Australian federal election was held in Australia on 10 December 1949. All 121 seats in the House of Representatives and 42 of the 60 seats in the Senate were up for election. The incumbent Labor Party, led by Prime Minister Ben Chifley, was defeated by the opposition Liberal–Country coalition under Robert Menzies. Menzies became prime minister for a second time, his first term having ended in 1941. This election marked the end of the 8-year Curtin-Chifley Labor Government that had been in power since 1941 and started the 23-year Liberal/Country Coalition Government. This was the first time the Liberal party won government at the federal level.

Rowley James

Rowland "Rowley" James was an Australian politician and coalminer. Born at Lambton, New South Wales, the son of a Welshman, he was educated at a government school and worked in the mines for twenty-five years. On 24 July 1912, he married Gladys Mary Davies. Having served the Collie River District Miners' Union of Workers, he returned to New South Wales to become part of the Australian Coal and Shale Employees' Federation.

Warm Nights on a Slow Moving Train is a 1988 Australian film directed by Bob Ellis and starring Wendy Hughes, Colin Friels, and Norman Kaye. Nominated at the AFI Awards in the Best Achievement in Cinematography category.

James Chalmers was an Australian politician. He was a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly from 1947 until 1956. He was a member of the Labor Party (ALP) until he resigned from the party in 1952 and then sat as an independent Labor member.

Chifley Government

The Chifley Government was the federal executive government of Australia led by Prime Minister Ben Chifley. It was made up of members of the Australian Labor Party in the Australian Parliament from 1945 to 1949.

A by-election for the seat of Geelong in the Victorian Legislative Assembly was held on Saturday 13 November 1948. The by-election was triggered by the death of Labor member Fanny Brownbill on 10 October 1948.

The True Believers is a 1988 Australian mini series which looks at the history of the Australian Labor Party from the end of World War Two up to the Australian Labor Party split of 1955.

Russell John Kiefel was an Australian stage, film and television actor. After graduating from the National Institute of Dramatic Art, Kiefel started his screen acting career with a role in the 1977 feature film The Singer and the Dancer. He followed this with roles in Breaker Morant (1980), Twelfth Night (1986), Call Me Mr. Brown (1990) and television film The Leaving of Liverpool (1992). Kiefel appeared in several television dramas, including Home and Away, Fireflies and Stingers. He starred in an episode of Twisted Tales in 1998. Among his various guest appearances were episodes of Wildside, Blue Heelers and Something in the Air. In 2008, Kiefel played Lloyd Ross in Infamous Victory: Ben Chifley's Battle for Coal. He joined the cast of Neighbours in the recurring role of Russell Brennan in 2015.

1945 Australian Labor Party leadership election

The Australian Labor Party held a leadership election on 12 July 1945, following the death of Prime Minister John Curtin. Treasurer Ben Chifley won an absolute majority on the first ballot, defeating three other candidates – deputy leader and interim prime minister Frank Forde, navy minister Norman Makin, and attorney-general H. V. Evatt.

Ross McMullin

Ross McMullin is an Australian historian who has written a number of books on political and social history, as well as several biographies.

A Local Man is a 2004 Australian play by Bob Ellis and Robin McLachlan about Ben Chifley. It is a one man show.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Keenan, Catherine (4 November 2008). "Miner crisis led to Labor pain". Sydney Morning Herald.