Among the Unions: ALP affiliation – an affliction?

The wiles of Labour politicians – the futility of fearful and reactionary Labour leaders have been revealed in this record, and the lessons I and others so bitterly learned should preclude any further waste of time and enthusiasm in vainly endeavouring to make figs blossom and fruit on barren trees.
Ernie Lane in Dawn to Dusk

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Crisis over public assets sale

Recent events – the sale of Queensland Rail and the Port of Brisbane — have brought on a crisis in the Labour movement. Dedicated unionists who have worked inside the ALP for years are talking about choosing to remain in the tent or ‘burning it down’. The ETU state secretary, Peter Simpson,  has questioned his union’s affiliation with the Labor party and has considered ‘putting forward working class people as standalone candidates in selected seats at the next state election’.

The ALP leadership thumbed its nose at Peter Simpson by threatening to expel him from the party that he joined in 1993 when Keating set about locking unions into enterprise bargaining. Keating played the old game of bailing Australia out of recession by eroding wages and conditions for workers. In the national interest, of course.

As one worker put it – ‘there is no point in pissing in the tent if you are going to burn it down.’

Ian Curr
Nov 2010

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Queensland Journal of Labour History

I recommend this Labour History Journal to union members, organisers and delegates. It is published by the Brisbane Labour History Association. The latest edition No 11 has some excellent articles, film and book reviews and eulogy.

Jeff Rickertt has written about the early socialist movement here in Queensland. His short history could well be about our current troubles with capital. Jeff is a working class historian with detailed knowledge of our socialist beginnings in Queensland.

Humphrey McQueen has an excellent article about the history of the Builders Labourers Federation. Humphrey points out that during the Vietnam moratorium years in the early 1970s, unions excluded students from the Labour Day march partly because engineering students worked as scab labour in Mt Isa.

However it was building workers who allowed workers and students of the Democratic Rights movement into the Labour Day marches of the late 1970s. Trades Labour Council (TLC) Labour Day committee had refused us entry. At its peak in 1978, the Democratic Rights movement, made up mainly of ‘right to march’ and ‘anti-uranium’ activists, outnumbered the union contingent. Red flags flew in Queen Street!

In the mid 1970s there were solidarity groups such as the Chilean, Palestinian and Central American contingents in the Labour Day march. Many of the Chileans were metal workers employed by Queensland Rail. This solidarity was shown initially to the Palestinians and then it became practice for solidarity groups to be allowed at the end of the march. In 1978 the TLC refused to allow a union delegate from Chile to speak on the main platform. The platform was later stormed by women when the then National President of the ALP, Tom Burns, said that the problem with Labor women was that ‘they would not come forward’. The federal leader of the parliamentary Labor party, Bill Hayden, said that the democratic rights contingent was a bunch of ‘johnny-come-lately’s’.

We had enough long-time friends in the Labor Party to prove that was a lie. But slowly they were hounded and betrayed till there were few left when the Goss led ALP won government on the back of our movement. Now they sell off what workers have built over two centuries – ports, roads, rail have now gone to private corporate capitalists.

Janis Bailey reviews a number of books including Radical Sydney. This book completes the trifecta of Radical City books following on Radical Melbourne and our own Radical Brisbane which was produce some years ago and edited by Carole Ferrier and Ray Evans.

In the journal there is a beautiful tribute to Bob Walker by his son, Graeme. Vale Bob.

Details of the BLHA are shown below.
They have an AGM coming up at 3pm Saturday 4 December 2010 at the LHMU building 27 Peel Street South Brisbane.

In solidarity
Ian Curr

Then, like a swollen river that has broken bank and wall,
The human flood came pouring with the red flags over all,
And kindled eyes all blazing bright with revolution’s heat,
And flashing swords reflecting rigid faces in the street.

Faces in the Street — Henry Lawson

One response to “Among the Unions: ALP affiliation – an affliction?

  1. Hi Ian
    Many thanks for this wonderful wrap on the BLHA journal. As co-editor, I really appreciate it.

    Just one point, our AGM is Saturday 4 December (you have sat 2nd).

    Thanks again. I sent an email to you saying I have now signed a contract to have my book, Union Jack, published. Should be out next March.
    cheers Dale

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