by John Merritt
This month (May 2019) marks the 50th anniversary
of the gaoling of Victorian Tramways Union leader Clarrie O’Shea (1905-1988).
O’ Shea was gaoled in 1969 by the notorious Sir John Kerr
for refusing to hand over the union’s financial records.
His imprisonment sparked a massive strike wave across the
country and effectively neutralised the punitive ‘penal powers’ which were then
used to suppress union militancy.
This article, first published in Sept 2007 by the Canberra
Historical Journal, draws on the author’s personal interviews with Clarrie in
1981. It mainly deals with Clarrie’s life rather than the political
circumstances surrounding his imprisonment.
The events of 1969 are still relevant for today’s workers
whose unions are similarly hamstrung by a raft of anti-union laws.
Click here to read the article. It is reproduced with the kind permission of John Merritt and the Canberra & District Historical Society. John Merritt is a former ASSLH Branch President.
(First published in The Canberra Times 21 April 2016)
You can almost hear the ghost of prime minister Ben Chifley applauding Bill Shorten’s calls for a royal commission into Australian banking. Yet while Chifley might approve of Shorten’s efforts, he would probably think they do not go far enough. Continue reading
Originally published in Workers Online 2003: http://workers.labor.net.au/features/200313/c_historicalfeature_moore.html
Who were Australia’s fascists in the 1930s and was John Howard’s father in the New Guard? Labour historian, Andrew Moore, uncovers some surprising information about Australia’s fascist past. Continue reading
Oily Sam Griffith’s moment of truth
Broadcast on Melbourne community radio 3CR 30 September 2017
Samuel Walker Griffith is known today from a NSW country town, an inner Canberra suburb and a Queensland university. The more politically aware might recall that he drafted the Commonwealth Constitution in 1891 and became the first Chief Justice in 1903, having served as Premier of Queensland and its Chief Justice from 1893. Continue reading
Malcolm Ellis: Labour Historian? Spy?
First published in Labour and Community – Proceedings of the Sixth National Labour History Conference, Wollongong, October 1999
When, on New Year’s Day 1952, Sir John Ferguson, the eminent bibliographer and Industrial Commission judge, wrote to his friend and colleague, M.H. Ellis, the anticommunist historian, he evinced sentiments with which many labour historians would agree. Continue reading
James Normington Rawling Centenary Seminar – 17 Apr 1998
This seminar was co-hosted by the ASSLH and the Noel Butlin Archives Centre (NBAC) to celebrate the centenary of the birth of James Normington Rawling (1898-1966) returned serviceman, pacificist, rationalist turned CPA functionary, expelled from the CPA in 1939, flirted with Trotskyism, became chief informer at the Victorian Royal Commission on the Communist Party in 1949, was subsequently connected with Catholic Action and the Congress for Cultural Freedom. Rawling was a literary historian, a pioneer labour historian and unrivalled collector of Australian radical manuscripts, pamphlets and ephemera. Continue reading
A 20 page brochure reprinted from Historical Studies Vol 7, No 25, November 1955.
Published by University of Melbourne.
DEDICATION DOESN’T PAY THE RENT! THE STORY OF THE 1986 VICTORIAN NURSES STRIKE.
by Liz Ross
First published in Hecate as “Sisters are doing it for themselves…and us”, Vol 13, No 1 1987. Reprinted as a pamphlet by Socialist Action September 1987.
Nurses are often seen as the archetypal ‘hand-maidens’ of men. But if there was any one event that threw off this image once and for all, it was the Victorian nurses’ strike of 1986. Not only was the nurses’ dispute important for nurses, it is a valuable lesson for all women workers and those who write about them. All too often, the focus is on women workers’ passivity, their super-exploitation and the problems they face in breaking through their conditioning.
While it is obviously important not to dismiss these difficulties and problems, this approach focusses too much on women’s weaknesses. What it fails to take account of it is that, when they become involved in struggle, women can quickly break out of this passivity. Continue reading
Speech by Humphrey McQueen at the Port Adelaide Workers Memorial
May Day 2011
One does good, neither from fear of punishment nor promise of reward, but because good is good to do. They were the sentiments of the nineteenth-century American Rationalist, Colonel Robert Ingersoll, whose writings would have been popular with some the people whose names went on to the Workers’ memorial. Continue reading
First published in The Canberra Times’ Public Sector Informant December 2015
Troy Bramston and Paul Kelly’s new book, The dismissal: in the Queen’s name, refers to a private seminar arranged for then governor-general Sir John Kerr at the Australian National University in September 1975.
FIGHTING LABOR’S CUTS:
The NSW Social Security strike, May–June 1988
Eris Harrison and Dave Main, 1989
Since the mid-1970s, Australian workers have been on the defensive. There have been minor actions (for instance over wages in 1981), but they have been heavily outweighed by spectacular defeats, like the dismembering of the BLF and by the passivity and lack of confidence of workers in the face of major cuts to wages and conditions orchestrated by the Hawke government.
Dr Frank Cain
Paper presented at the conference ‘The Communist Party Dissolution Bill – 60 Years On’
Held at the Australian National University, Canberra 8 May 2010 Continue reading
Thin cats and socialism – Class struggle within the state
Convenor ACOA Reform Group
Introduction by Peter Ellett
Branch Executive member, ACOA, Victorian Branch
(Originally a 16 page brochure published in 1985 – Ed) Continue reading
A selection of articles from the publication Socialist Action on the 1986 Robe River dispute and its aftermath Continue reading
One of Graeme Haynes’ favourite songs, one that sums up his feelings about the 1986 Robe River dispute, is Utah Phillips’ “All Used Up”. Continue reading
Published by Public Servants Action Group
The dispute in the Department of Social Security which exploded in the last two months of 1981 was an important turning point for ACOA. Hundreds of members were stood down for up to 6 weeks, large chunks of the Department were paralysed and the industrial action peaked with a 3 day strike of the entire union in NSW. Continue reading
Abstract: John Dias was an active unionist from the 1890s to the 1920s. His experiences included the Queensland shearers’ dispute, with William Lane’s utopian Australian settlements in Paraguay, in Broken Hill during two major disputes, prominence in the Kalgoorlie goldfields’ unions, with the Melbourne Trades Hall and Victorian Labor Party, and in particular leaving a mark on the Carpenters’ Union. Today he is commemorated by a plaque bearing a very generous tribute at the main entrance to the Melbourne Trades Hall. But he is little remembered. This paper will document his peripatetic and varied career in the labour movement. Continue reading
by Victor Isaacs
George Elmslie, Victoria’s 25th Premier, never sat in Parliament during his period of office. He had the misfortune of not being a Member during his short thirteen-day government in 1913 and watching its defeat from the public gallery of the Legislative Assembly! Continue reading
by Victor Isaacs
THE AUSTRALIAN SETTLEMENT IN PARAGUAY
Following the failures of the maritime dispute in 1890, the shearers’ dispute in 1891 and the great economic depression of the early 1890s, many in the Australian working class came to the conclusion that Australia would not become a workingman’s paradise. Some sought other solutions, such as starting anew elsewhere. Continue reading