It’s still right to rebel
Only struggle availeth.
‘What’s the good news from Canberra?’ Jack Mundey always wanted to know when we visited him and Judy in their two-up and two-down brick unit in Croyden Park. We welcomed Jack’s unintended reprimand as a reminder to look further than the headlines, to see through the parliamentary circus. We could report how retired unionists combined in Vintage Reds to picket worksites and courthouses; and how the AEU’s latest EBA required school principals negotiate teaching loads with the Union sub-branches. Jack did not need us to be reminded of the crimes he had spent his life opposing.
Killing is not murder when done for profit.
The Commonwealth government expects 4,000 deaths this year from asbestos-related conditions, a figure to continue for some years. www.asbestossafety.gov.au
Silicosis is likely to match that total each year and to extend well beyond the era of when most of the sufferers from asbestos will have died. Continue reading
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.
referendum – 20 years on
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.
(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
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
The V. Gordon Childe Memorial Lecture
Blackheath History Forum
Saturday, 9 September 2017
Dr Marx, Professor Childe and manure: some rather crude materialism
by Humphrey McQueen
Our text at this Evensong is taken from Deuteronomy, chapter 23, verses 13-14: 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
SIX THINGS WE LEARNT FROM JIM SHARP
Yorkshire-born, Brisbane Communist Jim Sharp died on 6 November aged 85. 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
The forgotten fascists – Menzies’ chosen people
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
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
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
Conscription for war and profit: classes, nation-market-states and empires
Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Canberra Branch,
Seminar, Saturday, 29 October 2016: ‘The defeat of conscription: a centennial retrospective’.
‘Here and today, a new epoch in the history of the world has begun.’ So said Johann Wolfgang Goethe to the Prussian commanders on the night after their defeat at Valmy on 20 September 1792. French volunteers had charged the invaders’ guns shouting ‘Vive la Nation!’ and singing ‘Ca ira’ – ‘It goes well, It goes well, It goes well.’ ‘A new epoch’ indeed, for, on the following day, the Convention abolished the monarchy. Within two years, the lyrics of ‘Ca ira’ had been rewritten to include ‘Les aristocrates a la lanterne!’
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
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
Although we are more than half way through our May Day dinner, it is never too late to say grace: ‘For the food and drinks that we are enjoying, we thank the working classes’. We have already expressed our thanks to the catering staff who know that the good things have come from further afield than their kitchen. Hence, we thank farmers and fruit-pickers; the factory hands who built the tractors and trucks; the navvies who laid the expressways and rail tracks; the building workers who constructed the processing plants and warehouses; the packers and delivery drivers; the clerks in offices and supermarkets. It is to them, and many more, that we owe the food we put on our tables three times a day. Hence, we owe all our meals to the entirety of the working people, to a social continuum of human creativity around the globe. We should have the grace to thank them.
Article headed Down Under Brunuel by Humphrey McQueen
Published by Meanjin Quarterly Vol 35/2 June 1976
Describes chaotic scenes at an ANU event attended by then Governor-General Sir John Kerr.
Kerr at Bruce Hall 1976
18 May 2015
I think poetry should be treated, not as a lofty art separated from life, but as a way of seeing and expressing not just the personal view, but the whole context of the writer’s times. For me, it has been a way of searching for understanding of my own life and of what was happening to me and around me.
Judith Wright, ‘Foreword’, A Human Pattern (1989)
‘… with love and fury’ is how the environmentalist, feminist, historian, literary critic, poet and secretary of the Treaty Committee, Judith Wright, often signed off her letters to friends. Continue reading
Speech by Humphrey McQueen at launch of Paul Robert Adams’s ‘The best hated man in Australia’, The Life and Death of Percy Brookfield 1875-1921 (Puncher & Wattmann), held at the Noel Butlin Archives Centre, Australian National University on 25 August 2010. Continue reading