Bartholomew Augustus Michael (‘Bob’) Santamaria

SANTAMARIA, Bartholomew Augustus Michael (‘Bob’) (1915-1998)

B. 14 August 1915, Melbourne. M. 1. Helen Power, 1939. 8 s/d. 2. Dorothy Jensen, 1983. D. 25 Feb. 1998, Melbourne. Catholic.

Sicilian-born parents ran a licensed grocery store in Brunswick in Melbourne when he was growing up; Educated at St Kevin’s Christian Brothers College in East Melbourne; Graduated in arts with BA Hons in 1933 and Law in 1935 from Melbourne University; Admitted to the Bar in 1937; Joined Campion Society in Melbourne in 1931 to study Catholic ideas and culture and to give laymen a role in church affairs. Viewed themselves as a practical alternative to Communism and were anti-communist; First editor of the ‘Catholic Worker’ in 1936, the publication of the Campion Society, a position which he held until 1940; Assistant director of the new National Secretariat of Catholic Action in 1937 and director in 1947; Catholic Action became the Catholic Social Studies Movement from 1941 and was known informally as the Movement with much of its work being kept secret and operating behind-the-scenes. Rallied against communism in late 1940s, ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s; Best-known for his influence in the unions and ALP during the 1940s and 1950s; The Movement fed into an organisation which became known as the Industrial Groups (or Groupers) in the ALP, with the Movement becoming one of the industrial groups. The Groupers were a series of sub-groups which were held together with aim to defeat Communist Party influence, and leftist ideas, within the unions and thereby within the ALP. Santamaria was not a member of the ALP or especially a supporter. The Groupers consisted of an alliance of Catholics, Catholic bishops, ALP members, anti-communist union officials, Masons, Trotskyists and others. Santamaria had gained authority within the Catholic Church, particularly in Victoria where much of the church’s anti-communist sentiments centred. He also had the notion of settling Italian Catholic immigrants onto small rural farms in Victoria. The Movement solicited votes of Catholic unionists in each parish for anti-communist officials and sympathisers to stand for union office. It provided secretarial, transport and modest financial support. Santamaria persuaded many Catholic ALP members to join the Groupers. A dramatic success of the Groupers was gaining control of the Federated Ironworkers’ Assoc. in the 1951 elections over the well-entrenched Communist Party leadership; The Groupers alliance continued despite internal tensions but eventually fractured. Reasons included the dominance of the Catholic Movement and its increased power within the Groupers, unions and ALP. Also, the Labor leader Dr H.V. Evatt, former ally, rallied against Santamaria from 1954. The Masons and Catholic bishops left the Groupers. A split occurred in the ALP Caucus and in party in 1955 (or during 1953?-55?-57?), with some of the break-away group forming the Democratic Labor Party (DLP); With the demise of the Movement Santamaria became a foundation member and president, National Civic Council (NCC) in 1957, which represented a name-change for the Movement in the new period. NCC was closely associated with the DLP and in which he was very influential but not a member. Encouraged the DLP to direct election preferences to the Liberal Party rather than the ALP, which led to splitting the Labor vote and assisting the Liberal Party, which Santamaria claimed to be inadvertent. Helped DLP to wind-up in 1975. NCC continued anti-Left activities in the unions, particularly white-collar unions and in universities. In his later years Santamaria remained a Catholic traditionalist but also was opposed to free markets, privatisation and economic rationalism and supported protectionism and regulation by the State (many neo-Keynesian solutions?), which brought him closer in ideas to some of his previous opponents such as Tom Uren and Clyde Cameron, former Federal MPs, and which became acknowledged. Newspaper and TV commentator on public affairs; Contributed a column in the ‘Australian’ newspaper, c.1964-1997 and the NCC paper, ‘News Weekly’. Published books of essays and political comment, an autobiography and a biography of Mannix; Known as a skillful polemicist, orator and organiser.

Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Feb 1998 pp.1, 11, 15 & 4 March 1998 p.13; Australian, 26 Feb. 1998 pp.1, 12 & 28 Feb-1 Mar p.20-21, 4 March 1998

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