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
Unions and anti-Chinese agitation on the Victorian goldfields
The Clunes riot of 1873
by Jerome Small
Small, Jerome – Clunes riot 1873
This paper (access via the above link) was presented at the seventh national Labour History Conference held in Canberra in April 2001. It never appeared in the published proceedings. At a time of heightened anti-Chinese racism in Australia, its publication now in 2020 is a timely reminder of how little has changed. The paper was condensed from the author’s 1997 Honours thesis which can be found in full at the following website: https://sa.org.au/interventions/interventions.htm
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.
Author Michael Williss has put together an excellent tribute to the legendary union leader Clarrie O’Shea and the historic industrial struggle he led in 1969.
Clarrie was the Victorian Secretary of the Tramways union who was gaoled for an indefinite period by the notorious Sir John Kerr for refusing to hand over the union’s financial records. This sparked a massive strike wave which effectively neutralised the punitive ‘penal powers’ which had been used to suppress union activity.
Michael’s article was first published on the website of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist –Leninist) and is republished with the kind permission of the author.
Click below to link to the article.
Williss, Michael – Clarrie O’Shea
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
by Ross Mainwaring
Extract from the book Riches beneath the flat: A history of the Lake George mine at Captain’s Flat
Published by the Light Railway Research Society of Australia 2011
Captain’s Flat – Riches
You can purchase a copy from lightrailwayresearchsocietyofaustralia.cart.net.au
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.
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
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
(The Queensland Journal of Labour History, 11 September 2010, pp. 24-31.)
The Queensland branch the Australian Builders’ Labourers’ Federation (ABLF) is unique in keeping the BLF name alive for the Federation’s centenary on 9 September 2010. Continue reading
Navvies rocked this city
Canberra Historical Journal, New Series, 67, December 2011, pp. 17-24.
For the Federal Area to become a Federal Capital on the ground as well as in law, hundreds of navvies had to construct before tradesmen and other labourers could build. Continue reading
Humphrey McQueen (2012)
Media coverage of the ALP’s deal with Rinehart to import 1,715 skilled and semi-skilled construction workers for Roy Hill has been as intense as it has been shallow. These notes place the 457 visas and Enterprise Migration Agreements (EMAs) in larger contexts – industrial, economic, political and social-cultural. Continue reading
3CR, ‘Solidarity Breakfast’, 14 December 2013
Seventy-five yeas ago, the wharfies at Port Kembla were in the middle of a two-month strike. They were not out over wages or working conditions, crook though both were. They were in a political strike to stop the export of pig iron to Japan. Continue reading
Extract from Framework of Flesh, Builders Labourers Battle for Health and Safety, Ginninderra Press, Port Adelaide, 2009, pp. 134-40
Between 1945 and 1955, Australian production of fibro sheeting from asbestos cement trebled from 8 to 23 million square metres. By 1961, one house in six was fibro. The self-builder favoured this material because it was cheap, easy to apply and available. The advertising said nothing about harms. Continue reading