Abolish the penal powers: freedom’s fight of ’69
John Arrowsmith (1913-1997) was a legend of the Melbourne Branch of the ASSLH, a self-educated working class historian, former Branch President, union activist and communist campaigner. In 1969, he was approached by a number of prominent Victorian union officials to write a history of the momentous penal powers campaign which included the gaoling of Tramways union official Clarrie O’Shea by the notorious Sir John Kerr. The result was this pamphlet Abolish the penal powers: freedom’s fight of ’69 which we are proud to include in our collection of historic material. John later summed up the Clarrie’s achievements:
- he did not ‘purge’ his contempt
- he did not produce the books of the union or answer one question in court
- he did not pay one cent of the personal fines imposed on him
- the Tramways Union did not pay one cent of the fines owing on the day he went to gaol
- the penal powers have not been used against any union since the great upsurge.