Category Archives: Article

Slavery in Australia – Convicts, Emigrants, Aborigines

Slavery in Australia – Convicts, Emigrants, Aborigines

KM Dallas

Kenneth McKenzie Dallas (1902- 1988) was a Tasmanian historian, teacher, writer and socialist. In September 1968, the Tasmanian Historical Research Association (THRA) published a collection of three articles by Dallas, each offering a different perspective on aspects of Australian history.
The third of the three: ‘Slavery in Australia – Convicts, Emigrants, Aborigines’ is perhaps the most controversial, some would say ahead of its time. He argues that the British colonial system was based on slavery. “That there are degrees of slavery does not alter the basic fact” (p 63).  The article is republished here with the kind permission of the THRA.

Dallas – Slavery in Australia – Convicts, Emigrants, Aborigines

 

 

The fallacy of remoteness

The fallacy of remoteness

KM Dallas

Kenneth McKenzie Dallas (1902- 1988) was a Tasmanian historian, teacher, writer and socialist. In September 1968, the Tasmanian Historical Research Association (THRA) published a collection of three articles by Dallas, each offering a different perspective on aspects of Australian history.
The second of the three: ‘The fallacy of remoteness’ is a critique of Geoffrey Blainey’s ‘Tyranny of Distance.’ Dallas argues that “The inland plains were a land of promise not a distance to be overcome” (p 55).  The article is republished here with the kind permission of the THRA.

Dallas – The fallacy of remoteness

Commercial Influences on the First Settlements of Australia

Commercial Influences on the First Settlements of Australia

KM Dallas

Kenneth McKenzie Dallas (1902- 1988) was a Tasmanian historian, teacher, writer and socialist. In September 1968, the Tasmanian Historical Research Association (THRA) published a collection of three articles by Dallas, each offering a different perspective on aspects of Australian history.

The first of the three: ‘Commercial Influences on the First Settlements of Australia’ challenges the belief that the British chose to colonise Australia because it needed a remote spot to dump its unwanted criminals. He argues instead that British colonial policy at the time was mainly driven by economic considerations arising from the rapidly expanding mercantile system.  The article is republished here with the kind permission of the THRA.

Dallas – Commercial influences on first settlement of Aust

Scullin and Curtin: Through a covid lens

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

The Harco ‘Stay-Put’: Workers’ Control In One Factory?

Drew Cottle and Angela Keys

Factory occupations are rare in Australian labour history. While ‘work-ins’ and other forms of workers’ control have occurred in coalmines, power stations, on building sites and on the waterfront, they are almost unknown in factories. Their importance has always been a crucial part of the Left’s political programme and strategy to establish socialism. This paper will examine the Harco ‘stay-put’ as an example of workers’ control in one factory. It is a study of democracy from below where rank-and-file workers attempted to run things at a small metal-shop on Sydney’s urban fringe.

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DISCOVERIES OF COOK

 

by Humphrey McQueen

And in a charge of bubbles we go about,
Veering in towards drama and Cape Howe;
Eyried in mist we feel the brush of doubt
As stars congeal, the air thickens. There are warnings now.

Francis Webb, Disaster Bay (c.1970).

Whoever it was who reached what we now call Australia some 50,000 or so years ago they were not ‘discovering’ this continent in the sense employed with the re-expansion of Europe when the word gains several of its current connotations. More is involved in deciding whether it is appropriate to speak of ‘discovery’ than a gap of 50,000 years. Incompatible ways of living fall between a primary communalism and an emerging capitalism, one local in its satisfactions, as Lt James Cook assumed, the other global in the appetites he served.

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The Brisbane Line: An episode in capital history


by Drew Cottle

The Brisbane Line was a hotly contested idea during World War 2 which envisioned that the northern half of Australia might be abandoned in the event of an invasion by the Japanese.

Historian Drew Cottle takes a fresh look behind the controversy in this interesting article, originally published in the Journal of Australian Studies, January 2001.

It is reposted here with the kind permission of the author.

Cottle, Drew – The Brisbane line _ An episode in capital history

With friends like these

Tetchy relations between business and the Liberal Party are far from new

by Norman Abjorensen

A non-Labor government in Canberra might ordinarily expect solid support from business — even if only because it is self-interestedly preferable to the alternative, with its presumed tilt towards the unions. But it’s not quite as simple as that. History tells us that the Liberals’ relationship with the big end of town can be far from cosy.

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A socialist’s republic

The republic referendum – 20 years on

‘A socialist’s republic’ by Humphrey McQueen

November 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the unsuccessful referendum on whether Australia should become a republic. Strange that such an important issue should have lain dormant for so long.

To mark the occasion we present Humphrey McQueen’s article ‘A socialist’s republic’ which originally appeared in ‘Republics of Ideas’ a collection of essays edited by Brad Buckley and John Conomos in 2001. The article is republished here with their kind permission.

The republic referendum was soundly defeated with the ACT the only jurisdiction voting in favour. Yet at the time, public opinion polls showed a majority of Australians supported a republic. So why did the referendum fail? Many would argue that the Yes campaign, headed by Malcolm Turnbull, foolishly split the Yes vote by insisting that Australia’s head of state should be chosen by Parliament rather than by direct election. This was a very divisive issue with memories of the Whitlam dismissal still fresh in the minds of many voters.

In his article Humphrey McQueen suggests that republicans would continue to vote No as long as the elected president retained the power to dismiss an elected government – which is precisely what the Turnbull-led Yes campaign wanted.

Link to the article here.

Clarrie O’Shea – The trade union leader who went to gaol

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.

Our Forgotten Prime Minister

Stephen Holt

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

The ‘Spanish’ Influenza Pandemic in Australia, 1912-19

 

Humphrey McQueen

 (Originally published in Social Policy in Australia – Some Perspectives 1901-1975. Edited by Jill Roe. Cassell Australia 1976)

SIX MONTHS BEFORE the Armistice ended the Great War a new and more deadly scourge was unleashed upon the world. Popularly known as ‘Spanish’ flu it killed twenty million people within twelve months. Continue reading

Ghost of bankers past may come to haunt Shorten

Bob Crawshaw

(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

What happened to Childe?

V. Gordon Childe (1892-1957) made himself the most influential Australian scholar in the humanities and social sciences. Forty years after his death, his ideas stimulate thinkers well beyond his own field of Prehistoric archaeology. Humphrey McQueen has returned to Childe’s writings to reflect on current disputes about facts, theorising and politics in the piecing together of our past. Continue reading

Strike Force

Strike Force

Humphrey McQueen

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

Chifley versus the banks

Chifley versus the banks

Nationalisation
The big banks won the last great war against government interference, 70 years ago.

Norman Abjorensen

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

The forgotten fascists – Menzies’ chosen people

The forgotten fascists  – Menzies’ chosen people

Humphrey McQueen

For the 75th anniversary of the start of the Menzies radio addresses, Howard and his gang are in the business of promoting ’the greatest speech ever made in this country’. The fact that ‘The Forgotten People’ was not a speech but one of a series of wireless broadcasts is the least of their lies. Their Big Lie will be to conceal what their hero had dared to say. Continue reading

Fresh Boer War atrocity

 

 

FRESH BOER WAR ATROCITY

The Boer War memorial along Canberra’s Anzac Parade includes statues of four horsemen to represent an Australian patrol on the Veldt. What truth demands is a Boer War memorial with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to recall the 25,000 Boer women and children and at least 15,000 black Africans who died in British concentration camps. Continue reading

26 January – or thereabouts

by Humphrey McQueen

26 January – or thereabouts

Vox Pop illustrates that the most enthusiastic celebrants of Australia Day do not always know what happened on 26 January 1788 in Sydney Cove. Continue reading