Moore’s book examines the murky politics of the ALP in Bankstown, and how divisions and feuds at the local level spilled over into national politics when, in 1955, Ray Fitzpatrick and Frank Browne were brought to face the Commonwealth’s Parliamentary Bar. Fitzpatrick was a small-time Bankstown businessman, owner of the Bankstown Observer, and was connected with local ALP politics. Browne was a freelance journalist with a particular political axe to grind. The trigger for calling the two men before the bar was an allegation in the Observer that the local Labor MHR, Charles Morgan, was involved in an immigration racket. Morgan claimed in the House that such allegations, if left unchecked, opened the door for anyone to intimidate members of Parliament by making unsubstantiated claims in the press, and the matter was referred to the Committee of Privileges. Fitzpatrick and Browne may not have been the first to be called, but they were the first, and to date, the last, Australian citizens who were convicted of a breach of parliamentary privilege.
Although Moore sees the Fitzpatrick and Browne affair as raising questions about parliamentary privilege, civil liberties and the freedom of the press, the book also provides an insightful view of a community and the fractured nature of Labor politics in NSW during the 1940s and 1950s. Moore shows that regions and communities, as points of intersection and mediation between national issues and local views and attitudes, can also acquire national significance.