Australian Sex Party was inspired by a Communist who loved Joe Stalin

The founder and lead Senate candidate of the Australian Sex Party, Fiona Patten, was inspired into politics by an infamous Australian communist, who was also her great aunt.

Jessie Street, or "Red Jessie" as she was often known, is repeatedly cited by Patten as her major influence and political mentor going as far back as 2000.

On the Sex Party website, Patten even refers to Street as "that great worker's and women's champ of yesteryear".

Street, who was a member of the Labor Party, has also been praised by Labor figures, including former MP Maxine McKew, Governor-General Quentin Bryce and Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, who is trustee of an organisation dedicated to Street.

So who is Jessie Street?

Jessie Street (née Lillingston) was born in British India in 1889, where her father was an imperial civil servant. In 1896 the family moved to Australia after inheriting a lucrative northern NSW property from Jessie's wealthy grandfather.

Jessie was sent to a "progressive" elite private school in England, and later enrolled in arts at the University of Sydney, graduating in 1912. She married barrister (Sir) Kenneth Street in 1916, who later became chief justice of New South Wales.


Prominent among Sydney's "elite", Street became heavily involved in several feminist organisations. She was an executive-member and president of the Feminist Club of NSW; Secretary of the National Council of Women; a councillor of Sydney University's Women's College; vice-president of the Australian Federation of Women Voters; founder and president of the ultra-radical United Associations of Women; and more.

She was an "internationalist", and a foundation member of the Sydney Branch of the League of Nations Union in 1918. She attended League of Nations Assemblies in Geneva in 1930 and 1938, as well as other international conferences throughout the 1930s.

The League of Nations was the first attempt at global governance following WW1.

Street was also involved in eugenics and "sex education", co-founding the NSW Social Hygiene Association, and, through her involvement with the NSW Racial Hygiene Association, helping to set up Sydney's first birth control clinic in 1933.

So maniacal was she in her feminism, that she forced her sons to knit and sew, as is recounted by her granddaughter in the following video:

Communist Conversion

She first visited the USSR in 1938, and became an advocate for the Soviet system of government. She believed the system squared perfectly with her other causes, and said the Soviet Union was a beacon of feminism and social justice.

Upon returning to Australia with her new-found love of the Soviet system, naturally, she joined the Australian Labor Party. She also joined the Society for Cultural Relations with the USSR and gave a series of pro-Soviet lectures at book clubs, union meetings and various other events. For this she was heavily criticised.

Recalling, in her autobiography, a man asking her about a rumour that she had met, and had discussions with, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, she said: "I just laughed and told him I would have given anything just to see Stalin, much less talk with him."

In August 1939 the USSR signed a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany, and key office-bearers of the Society for Cultural Relations with the USSR resigned. Jessie Street, though, was undeterred. As World War II broke out, she took over the organisation, and became its new president.

When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Street formed the Russian Medical Aid and Comforts Committee (RMACC), and became its chairman. She raised money, sometimes via shady practices, and organised the 'Sheepskins for Russia' campaign, which saw about 500,000 dressed sheepskins shipped to Russia to aid their war effort. Street's direct contact with Soviet officials helped facilitate her activities.

Street says so many people wanted to learn about the USSR that she started yet another organisation, called the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, dedicated purely to providing information about life and conditions in the USSR. There were screenings of films, lectures, fetes and other fundraising activities, with all proceeds going to the Russian Medical Aid and Comforts Committee.

Increasingly under fire for her pro-Soviet activism, Street lashed out at her opponents in speeches around the country, saying the real traitors were those opposing aid for the Soviets. She said it was time for Australia to "awaken from the grip of the prejudices" against communist Russia, and that "The real fifth columnists today are those people who are against help for Russia. They are the subversive element, and should be dealt with accordingly."

Her communist affiliations widely-known, the Labor government still found it fit to appoint Street to several government posts during the 1940s.

In 1943, Street won Labor pre-selection for the blue ribbon Liberal seat of Wentworth, which covered her own neighbourhood. The Australian Communist Party was so impressed with the pre-selection of Mrs Street, that they withdrew their own candidate for Wentworth, Phyllis Johnson. A Communist Party spokesperson was quoted saying "The Communist Party has withdrawn Mrs Phyllis Johnson because she might spoil the chances of Mrs Street." [Daily Telegraph, 3rd August, 1943]

The Communist Party then started campaigning for Street, and she only narrowly lost.

In 1945 the Curtin Labor Government selected Street to be an Australian delegate to the critical post-war San Francisco "Peace" conference. Protests erupted from both inside and outside the ALP, with Curtin forced to defend the appointment in Parliament under questioning from the Country Party's Larry Anthony. The March 2nd exchange was as follows:

Larry Anthony (Country): "Why was she given priority in selection over women members of Parliament, Dame Enid Lyons and Senator Dorothy Tangney, who might well be expected to better represent Australia?"

PM Curtin (Labor): "I regard Mrs. Street as a very competent and cultured woman, with a broad point of view,"

Larry Anthony (Country): "A Communist point of view."

PM Curtin (Labor): "Mrs. Street's point of view is shared by a great section of the people of Australia, as shown by the fact that she was chosen by a great organisation to stand for Parliament, and polled very well."

Street again visited the Soviet Union in 1945, staying for three weeks during October and November. While there, she was provided a tour of Moscow by Australian ambassador James Maloney. As Maloney (himself a Labor man and former trade union leader) pointed to practical examples of the dire economic consequences of communism, Street resisted him, claiming in her autobiography that he was brainwashed.

When Maloney showed her the black-markets and high prices for basic goods, like butter and milk, Street countered scornfully, claiming the scenario looked more like a "free market". It is quite amazing that, even in the heart of Moscow, the capital city of the archetypal communist regime, a socialist still manages to blame the problems on free-markets and capitalism.

While there she also received official recognition as the driving force behind the sheepskins campaign, and was presented with a Young Pioneers' neckerchief at a Soviet holiday camp.

Expulsion from the Labor Party

As the Cold War heated up, the Labor Party were coming under intense scrutiny over their links to communism and communist auxiliaries. They needed a circuit-breaker, and so, in 1948, Street, along with other ALP members, were given an ultimatum to jettison their affiliation with "communistic" organisations such as the Australian-Russian Society, the New Housewives' Association and the People's Council of Culture. Street refused, and in January 1949 she was forced to resign from the ALP.

Whilst admitting her organisations had communist members, Street protested, saying the policies of the organisations were consistent with the ALP platform.

When Labor's Clive Evatt, the NSW Minister for Housing, was forced to resign as President of the Australia-Russia Society in February 1949, Jessie Street replaced him.

Street's two-year term on the UN Status of Women Commission expired early in 1949 and she was not reappointed for a second term. In the December 1949 federal election, Labor lost office and Jessie Street wasn't offered any further government appointments.

World Peace Council - Another Communist Front

In 1950 Street co-founded the New South Wales branch of the Australian Peace Council, and organised a visit to Australia by the communist Dean of Canterbury, Hewlett Johnson. Known colloquially as the "Red Dean", Johnson was infamous for his praise of the Soviet Union, his glorification of Stalin, and his chairmanship of the British Daily Worker, a communist newspaper.

The British Telegraph newspaper recently said of him "No Communist outrage could put Johnson off his stride", and he even advised Australia to allow the Chinese to expand into our north.

Unsurprisingly, none of that soured Mrs Street, who literally described him as Jesus-like.

In June of 1950 she left Australia, and would not return for six years. During this time she became a leading figure in the World Peace Council, yet another communist-front organisation. She attended international conferences, and was a regular speaker at World Peace Council rallies.

Jessie Street addresses the crowds at the Budapest "peace rally", June 1953Jessie Street addresses the crowds at the Budapest "peace rally", June 1953

In June of 1951 Street, now based in London, tried to obtain a US visa, in order to meet Jacob Mailk, Soviet Ambassador to the UN, who had invited her to meet him at the UN Security Council in New York. Street was denied the visa by the US embassy based on her communist affiliations. She was also later denied entry to France, with French authorities saying she was listed as an "undesirable".

Street's weak attempts to deny she was a communist were laughable amidst her vigorous defences of the Soviet Union, her open advocacy of the Soviet system, her immersion in communist circles, and the flaunting of her membership of the Federated Ironworkers Association, a communist-controlled union. Indeed, in January 1952, when anti-communist forces wrestled control of the union, Street was booted out.

Her Love for 'Uncle Joe'

In March 1953, Street attended the funeral of Joseph Stalin in Moscow. She was the only Australian specially taken by the Russians, and in a 2004 ABC program called "Dynasties", former NSW Supreme Court Justice, Roddy Meagher, said of Jessie Street:

"She was infused with the message. And she wanted, urgently, to tell everybody in Australia that Uncle Joe Stalin was the greatest man on the earth." (video below)


Her autobiography, published in 1966, is devoid of criticism for Stalin, despite what was, by then, well and truly known about his atrocities. Even post-Stalin Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had denounced Stalin as a despot and mass murderer in 1956. But not Jessie Street.

In December 1956 Street finally returned to Australia, having travelled to Communist China, Russia, and all over Europe. Now based back in Australia, she continued to travel to international conferences and, according to Peter Sekuless in his biography of Street, "She unconsciously revealed her own philosophy in a speech to a disarmament congress in Stockholm in 1958" saying:

"Perhaps communism may be a new revelation of principles Christ expounded. 'From each according to their ability, to each according to their need' is surely a principle more in conformity with Christ's teaching, than a society which accepts the principle of 'each man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost'."

Report in The Argus newspaper (Melbourne) 13th December, 1956

Street passed away in 1970, and in 1988 the Jessie Street Trust was formed. The organisation's website says they raise money and award grants to "assist activities Jessie championed".

There are 12 trustees in the organisation, one of which is none other than the current Federal Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek, who says "Jessie Street will always be a heroine of mine” and that she "promoted values that are important today".

Others who have praised this Stalin-loving communist include: