Infamous Victory – Ben Chifley’s Battle For Coal

Australian Workers Film Guide


A documentary film that frames the 1949 national coal strike as a battle led by Labor Prime Minister Ben Chifley to defeat an alleged communist revolution instigated by the communist leadership of the Miners Federation. Despite introducing draconian legislation outlawing community support for the strike, jailing union leaders and putting armed troops into the mines, Chifley is portrayed in heroic terms as single handedly saving post-war Australia from the perceived ravages of communism. The miners long held grievances are given scant regard and the strike action portrayed as nothing more than a communist plot. While the film was produced in 2008, it is imbued with a cold-war prejudice reminiscent of Australia in the 1950s.  

The film mixes well worn archive from the strike, mostly Movietone newsreel seen in numerous documentaries, with extensive dramatisations involving key political figures.  Ben Chifley is played by Tony Barry, Edgar Ross by Rhys Muldoon and Arthur Calwell by Frankie J Holden. The film was written by Bob Ellis and Geoff Burton. The dramatisations are well constructed but anchor the film as an event that revolves around key political figures at the expense of the ordinary worker.

Special Notes/Achievements

A single episode in a three part documentary series titled Infamous Victories. Produced by Film Australia in association with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

  • Broadcast on ABC TV in 2008.

Author: J Bird, 2023