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.
Abolish the penal powers 1969
The case for bank nationalisation
This website seeks to bring to life some interesting and noteworthy publications from the past. This booklet is no exception. It dates from 1947 and was the first publication issued by the NSW Fabian Society. The author was the Hon Clarence Edward Martin, NSW Attorney-General from 1941 to 1953 and the first President of the NSW Fabian Society. In this booklet he argues the case for bank nationalisation which the Chifley Labor Government attempted to legislate but was eventually blocked by the courts.
bank nationalisation booklet
by Stephen Holt
(A review of Liam Byrne’s new book Becoming John Curtin and James Scullin: The making of the modern Labor Party. The article was published in The Canberra Times of 7 July 2020 and is posted here with the permission of the author.)
On 14 December 1918 an election took place in the federal seat of Corangamite. It was held to choose a successor to the previous member J. C Manifold who had fallen victim to the influenza pandemic that was then sweeping the world. Continue reading
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.
Australian Prime Ministers get to have a federal electorate named after them after they die.
There are 22 deceased Australian Prime Ministers and after the latest redistribution there are, seemingly in line with this practice, 22 federal seats bearing the name of a deceased Prime Minister.
There is an anomaly though and it bears directly on our very latest Prime Minister. Continue reading
(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
Our ‘right’ to strike has never been handed down from on high. Never will it be. Our right to strike is a precious gift which we win and hold for each other by putting it into practice. Continue reading
The Gluckman Affair: An article by Geoffrey Bolton
In 1960 the Australian National University invited the eminent British anthropologist Professor Max Gluckman to visit Canberra to participate in their anthropology program and also to make a short visit to Papua New Guinea to meet with ANU anthropologists undertaking field work in the territory. Prior to leaving Britain for the trip, Gluckman had applied for an entry permit for his three-week PNG trip. But once in Australia, the Department of Territories refused to grant the permit. Given Gluckman’s prominence and eminence as an anthropologist, the decision to refuse the application was met with incredulity and political uproar. 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
Chifley versus the banks
The big banks won the last great war against government interference, 70 years ago.
Originally published in The Canberra Times 6 June 2017
The predictable howls of outrage from the big banks about the $6.2 billion levy imposed on them in the federal budget are unlikely to arouse any sympathy from the electorate, nor will the move do the government any foreseeable harm. But resistance will continue regardless – and the banks have a long history of winning. Continue reading
A 20 page brochure reprinted from Historical Studies Vol 7, No 25, November 1955.
Published by University of Melbourne.
by Humphrey McQueen
A revival of interest in the dismissal of the Whitlam government on 11 November 1975 is focusing on who advised the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr. The role of the Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Garfield Barwick, has been known almost from the start. Knowledge of a second counselor has been there for many years, with the near certainty that he was also a member of the High Court, and later Chief Justice, Sir Anthony Mason. 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.
This article first appeared in ‘Recorder‘- official organ of the Melbourne branch of the ASSLH, July 2015
In the torrent of tributes for Gough Whitlam after his death in October 2014, it is easy to forget the rancour and bitterness surrounding his ascent to the leadership of the federal parliamentary Labor Party. Continue reading
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
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
This is not an article based on deep research – it is more in the nature of a survey of already published information, with a bit added by me. It surveys labour daily newspapers in Australia, that is, newspapers controlled by the labour movement, which attempted or claimed to provide a comprehensive daily news service. Continue reading
Originally published in Now & Then magazine of the National Museum of Labour – April 2011