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My Union Right or Wrong.
A history of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union 1900-1932
By Issy Wyner


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Chapter Sixteen: The Labor Party

The Painters and Dockers Union, while playing a major part in the formation of the Labor Party (under its original name, Labor Electoral League) did not affiliate with the Party for some years, although many members of the Union were also members of the party including, of course, Bob Mahony, who was a foundation member of the L.E.L.

While other issues occupied the minds and attention of the Union at its regular fortnightly meetings (strikes by members, strikes by other unionists, problems with non-members, demarcation disputes, etc.), the Labor Party still came in for a great deal of consideration, and speakers from the Political Labor League (as the L.E.L. was still referred to for a number of years) were welcomed at the Union meetings as, for example,

A letter was received from the Dalley Labour League stating that the Deputation would visit us tonight. Time having arrived for to receive Deputation it was moved & seconded that Mr Buchanan and Mr.Mahony be appointed to receive them. carried.

The Deputation was then introduced & they explained the advisability of Labour representation in the Federal Parliament. They apologised for the unavoidable absence of Mr. Laws (M.L.A. for Balmain)

Moved and seconded that a vote of thanks be accorded Deputation for the information they had given the members which was carried by acclamation. The Deputation then thanked the Members for the vote of thanks & for the kind manner in which the Union had received them that evening and then withdrew. (Minutes, 14/1/1901.)

Up to the beginning of the First World War, the Union remained unaffiliated with the Party but supportive of it. Although, on 18th March, 1907, a call by the Labor Council for the Union to urge members to join the A.L.P. in the district where they resided, was agreed to.

Hostility towards the P.L.L. appeared at a meeting when a motion to affiliate with it was put forward. The President ruled the motion out of order and a motion of dissent from his ruling was defeated by 20 votes to 19, indicating support for, but no desire for affiliation with, the P.L.L. (Minutes, 9/2/1914.) But this attitude did not stand in the way of the Union hearing speakers from the P.L.L. in March 1917, shortly before John Storey opened his campaign for the seat of Balmain. And in the following year, it was decided to support P.L.L. candidates for the City Council.

In 1918, when the Labor Council sent out an appeal for funds in support of the twelve I.W.W. men arrested, the appeal was accompanied by a supporting call from the P.L.L. and the Union was unhesitating in giving its financial support.

At the Half-Yearly meeting in July, 1919, when the Union’s delegates to the Labor Council reported on a Council decision to protest against "the A.L.P. using the funds of affiliated unions for the purpose of slandering the workers", the Union supported it. Later in the meeting, a letter was received from J.J.Graves, the Secretary of the Industrial Section of the A.L.P. asking for delegates to be sent to a conference. This was met with a ruling from the President, which passed unchallenged, that

The letter from Mr.Graves dealt with political matters and this Union was not affiliated with any political body therefore no action could be taken on this matter.

While still maintaining this position, some two years later, the Union was pleased to congratulate Bob Mahony on his appointment as a Labor member of the Legislative Council (the Upper House). And a fortnight later, there was support for a Labor Council call to send delegates to a special conference to consider

forming an industrial group to exercise decisive influence over political parties claiming to represent the working class. (Minutes, 12/9/1921.)

While there were good and cogent reasons for the unions to consider that the A.L.P. was not carrying out what they considered was the A.L.P’ s primary task, catering for the workers’ needs and aspirations, this move was undoubtedly pressed by a Labor Council leadership which by this time was essentially a group of members and sympathisers of the fledgling Communist Party. Nevertheless the Union’s delegates to the Labor Council supported the move and the Union’s meeting endorsed the action. The Union’s leadership, being mainly A.L.P. oriented with a militant outlook, had serious concerns about the A.L.P. and was prepared to go along with the critical approach by the Labor Council.

In 1923, a Union meeting received a notice of motion from member C.Thomas

That a resolution standing on the books that we affiliate with no political party be rescinded and that we affiliate with the Australian Labor party New South Wales Branch under Rule 16. (Minutes, 21/5/1923.)

This motion was debated at a Special Meeting a week later when the debate was opened with a letter from the retiring President, T.Sloan, expressing support for the motion and

Mr. Warnes opposed on the ground of Politics and Religion clashing and could see no good objects in joining up with the Labor Party as they could become bona fide members by paying one shilling per year.

Mr.Shaw also opposed on the ground that we had gone on for the last 20 years & carried on to advantage.

Mr.Bates spoke strongly in favour of the motion.

Mr. Lannen opposed on the ground that members were forced to become members whether they liked it or not.

The Assistant Secretary said that he had no intention of speaking on the question but that certain statements had been made which he wanted to clear & that he had been against Political Action but that recent happenings had altered his opinion & that he favoured the motion.

Mr. Swadling also spoke in favour on the grounds that the Industrial Organisations should have a say in the Labor Party.

The first portion down to the word rescinded was put as a motion and carried.

The second portion That we affiliate under Rule 16 with the Australian Labor Party New South Wales Branch was put as a motion and carried by 35 votes to 12.

Immediately following this decision, nominations were called for a delegate to the A.L.P. conference. Thomas declined nomination and the Secretary, Jack McDonald, defeated Bates by 26 votes to 12, following which McDonald thanked the members and promised "that he would do his best in the interests of the workers". He continued to be elected as the delegate for some years.

Later, a Special Meeting agreed to hear Conroy, an A.L.P. Executive member, on an appeal launched by the Party for a penny per member towards its funds. Conroy then explained that

The A.L.P. Executive was in debt to about the extent of £1000 and that instead of relying on outside assistance they were appealing to members of the movement and were trying to build up a fund for future use....after answering several questions the President Mr. C.Weston, thanked Mr.Conroy on behalf of the Branch and stated whatever the decision was, it would be conveyed to the A.L.P. Executive.

Moved Mr.Swadling, seconded Mr. Hindman, That the amount asked for 1d. per member be paid.

Amendment by Mr. Murphy, seconded by Mr. Fielberg That a Special Meeting be called to discuss the levy. (Minutes, 13/8/1923.)

The amendment was defeated and the motion declared carried on the voices.

One of the Labor Party scandals of the 1920s surfaced some months later, at a union meeting, together with the issue of the expulsion of the Communist Party from the A.L.P., when Swadling, seconded by Thomas successfully moved

That this Branch ask the Labor Council for the co-operation of other affiliated unions to call a conference in January re faked ballot boxes and expulsion of the Communist Party. (Minutes, 19/11/1923.)

Taking a stand against the expulsion of the Communist Party and any of its members from the A.L.P. was not an indication of full support for the C.P.A. policies, but rather showed the strong sentiment in the union for the Labor Party being open to all viewpoints.

In the matter of the ballot boxes and ballot papers, V.G.Childe, in his How Labor Governs, discusses some of the matters involved in ballot-rigging in the A.L.P., in earlier cases:

To understand the procedure it must be explained that slips are attached to the tickets taken out by members of that union each year, entitling the holder to a vote in the selection ballot for the constituency in which he resides at the time. The member has to detach this slip, pin it to his ballot paper, when that has been filled in, and post the two to the returning officer. Very often that officer is an official of the union who, owing to the undemocratic system by which the organisation is governed, is entirely under the thumb of a small junta of high officials in Sydney. It is, therefore, an easy matter, if the bosses are willing to issue forged voting slips, for any number of "votes" to be manufactured. This is what happened at Namoi. The committee in its report, dated February 24th, 1920, (found) that 250 postal votes were sent in, every one of which was attached to a forged voting slip. The names signed on the envelopes with the slips in no case corresponded to the names of the real holder of the ticket with the same number, as shown by the roll of members…. The Goulburn ballot was equally fishy…

In the 1923 case, "a sensation" was caused by Jack Power, President of the A.L.P., when he announced to the Annual Conference of the Party in that year

That he had examined two of the boxes and found that they were crook. He described to Conference how they were made. Each sliding panel had been camouflaged with dummy nail heads. There was a daub of` glue at each end…. (from I Remember, by J.T.Lang)

The fakes and forgeries investigated in 1920 brought no satisfactory safeguards as can be seen by Swadling’s motion in 1923.

The Labor Council called a Special Conference concerning A.L.P. matters. The Union’s delegates to this Conference were Murphy, McDonald and Swadling; and the meeting debated a motion instructing them to support a proposal concerning pre-selection ballots. Two of the delegates, Murphy and McDonald, opposed the motion which, when put to a vote was defeated. (Minutes, 16/6/1924.) This was still a period when leftists, members of the Communist Party, the Australian Socialist Party and other leftward-looking groups held sway in the Labor Council and the unionists retained a vote in ALP pre-selection ballots. The Painters and Dockers stood with the Labor Council in these times when strong efforts were being made to reduce union influence in the Party.

The disputation over the status of the C.P.A. continued to take up the time of Union meetings. At one meeting, a request was received from the Labor Council to adopt and send to the Labor Council a resolution sent from the Boilermakers Society which the Council had adopted:

That this union views with disgust the EXCUSES put forward by the Executive of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labor Party as to why they changed their minds re the holding of a Special Conference which they agreed should be held on 30th August 1924.

Further, we publicly charge them with corruptly using their positions as custodians of the A.L.P. Rules, in the interests of a few self-seekers to the detriment of the whole working class movement.

We are further of the opinion that the statement issued by them doubting the validity of the petitions forwarded from the various leagues and unions is an insult to every affiliated unionist and fully bears out the contention that the cleansing of the movement attempted at the last conference has been a dismal failure. (Minutes, 22/9/1924.)

A motion to comply with request was moved by Swadling and Thomas and carried by the meeting.

(Jack Lang, who was elected leader of the Labor Party in New South Wales, in July, 1923, was prominent among the parliamentarians pushing for rejection of the "dual membership" which allowed the Communist Party to be accepted as part of the Labor Party.)

Ray Markey, explains in his book, In Case of Oppression,

The State Executive declared against dual membership of the A.L.P. and C.P.A., and by a narrow majority expelled Garden and Howie as communists. A number of ALP branches and unions, of which the FIA was the most important, protested. The Labor Council mounted a campaign to reverse the expulsion, gaining considerable sympathy from many unionists who had "communist"-style views without being members of the CPA. The Council endorsed a proposal from the communist-led FIA for a special conference to deal with the issue. According to ALP rules, twenty unions or branches were required to call such a conference, and the Labor Council succeeded in gaining support from fifty-two. However, after weeks of delays, the ALP executive decided to cancel a conference it had sanctioned for August 1924, on the grounds

That among the appellants there were not twenty of the bodies competent under the rules to demand a conference. The requests came from branches of the ALP that were not ALP branches and from sections of unions.

The 1924 ordinary State ALP conference confirmed the executive’s action against the communists, as did the federal ALP conference in October 1924.

Running parallel with the anti-communist dispute and to some extent, because of it, was the issue of union rights in pre-selection ballots. Further attempts to alter the Party’s rules in this regard were signalled by correspondence from the Tramway Employees Union read to the same meeting in September, 1925, from which Swadling and Thomas successfully moved

That we endorse the resolution carried at the conference of Rule Six unions held on 13th inst. at the Trades Hall:

That this conference of Industrial Unions realising the serious deprivation of rights suffered by the great majority of Rule Six voters by the recent regulation issued by the ALP Executive relating to the qualification of such voters and the differential treatment accorded to certain other union voters, believe that it is in the best interests of the movement as a whole that facilities be afforded to Rule Six voters where more than 20 are employed, to vote at their place of employment, or immediately adjacent thereto. And further that the qualification required by the ALP executive shall be made such as that it already finds acceptable in the case of AMA voters voting at the pit where a list furnished of such members is signed by the Secretary of the Miners’ lodge. (Minutes, 22/9/1924.)

The unions until that time had maintained certain important rights with regard to the Labor Party, rights which, tacitly, at least, indicated that the unions regarded the Party as their creation and possession. But, with the fight against the Communist Party and its adherents, the Labor Party began to take on a different aspect, indicating that it was not under the thumb of the unions and, according to the parliamentary representatives, was a party for all the people, not simply unionists.

The Union’s meeting in February, 1925, received advice from the ALP that the Annual Conference had been postponed until June. Without comment at that stage, the meeting voted £1.1.0 (one guinea) towards the Party’s campaign funds for the impending State elections and passed for payment capitation fees of £10.

A meeting of the Union in 1925 received a letter of thanks from J.T.Lang for the Union having sent congratulations on Labor’s victory at the elections and carried a motion "emphatically protesting" against the postponement of the already-deferred Annual Conference, until 1926. (Minutes, 24/6/1925.) Nevertheless, the October meeting sent a donation of £3 to the ALP for the forthcoming Federal Elections.

At a Special Summons meeting in November, the President, Charles Weston, reported, as delegate to the Labor Council, on the Council’s discussion "at great length" the matter of union representation to ALP conferences, etc . and had decided

That any union affiliated to the Australian Labor Party should have the right of sending whom they think should represent them at any conference no matter what school of` thought they belonged to as long as that school was in the interest of the workingclass.

The Council’s decision was adopted by the Union. (Minutes, 2/11/1925.)

In the New Year, a request was received from the ALP to supply a membership list together with affiliation and delegates’ fees, which O’Keeffe sought to have the Union "not comply" with. The meeting defeated this view by 52 votes to 25 and the Secretary was instructed to comply. This did not prevent the Union, at a later meeting, from adopting a Labor Council motion declaring

That we the members of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union enter our emphatic protest against the action of the ALP Executive…. in the persons of Messrs. J.Beasley, J.Kilburn, C.K.Tannock and A.E.Bennett to show cause why they should not be penalised, whose only offence is in participating in a Trade Union Congress representative of all working class organisations in the State, the object of which was to eliminate the existing gulf between the Industrial and Political Movements. The cablegram referred to was not of a political nature but greetings from one representative body of workers to another for the improvement of material conditions. (Minutes, 22/3/1926.)

(It is interesting to note that a somewhat similar move to deal with the "existing gulf between the "Industrial and Political Movements" occurred in 1946 and, on that occasion, a worthwhile effort quickly degenerated into what became known as the infamous right wing "Industrial Groups".)

The issue was once more ventilated when a meeting received a circular from representatives of the Country section of the Labor Party from the Murrumbidgee Electorate Council, the Trades Hall, the Railway Workers, the AWU Central Branch, and the North Shore Electorate Council, all of which stated that they were delegates to the ALP Conference and now demanded that a Special Conference be convened not later than 1st July, 1926, "to deal with the action of the President and transact business on the Agenda Paper". The meeting agreed to support the call. (Minutes, 3/5/1926.) But, in June, the Union rejected a call from the St. George Electorate for another Special Conference "to remodel the constitution of the Australian Labor Party".

The never-ending dispute between the industrial and political wings of the Party, translated into an attack on Jack Lang and his Cabinet, flared up when, in 1926, the Union decided to support a group of unions in the Trades Hall, for whom J.Flanagan had been appointed as Secretary, by adopting the following motion

In view of the base treachery of some of our Parliamentary Representatives in Caucus, and the present crisis caused by same, as well as other beneficial legislation passed by the Lang Government, this Union demand that a Special ALP Conference of leagues and unions be held as soon as possible. Further this Organisation places on record its emphatic protest against those so-called Labourites who deliberately attempted to depose the Premier, and also who are opposed to the splendid legislative enactments he has placed upon the Statute Books. Further this Union pledges itself to support the Premier, and his Cabinet, in their endeavours to carry out the platform and policy of the Labor movement. (Minutes, 20/9/1926.)

Among agenda items sent by the Union for the ALP’s Annual Conference in April 1927, were the following:

1. That no member of the employing class be eligible for selection .

2. That on all voting at Conference a straight out majority be adopted instead of a two-thirds as at present.

3. That no conference be finished until the whole agenda be dealt with.

4. That any member who is not eligible to vote at election time shall not be allowed to vote at a Selection Ballot. (Minutes, 24/1/1927.)

It was also decided to adopt the proposed new rules for the Party, including provision for members of the Central Executive to be elected by union and ALP Branch groups. In I Remember, Jack Lang wrote of the issues confronting the Party:

Meanwhile there had been trouble in Room 32 as well. The president was W.H.Seale, of the Waterside Workers Federation, a strong industrialist. The Bailey Group had been trying to white-ant him, and set up what was known as the Conroy-McGarry Executive.

Seale had the support both of the ALP Branches and the trade unions. The Conroy Executive decided that the Annual Conference should be postponed until June. Seale ruled that because the branches had asked for conference, it had to be held at Easter. I decided that I would support Easter.

Meanwhile the Trades Hall had set up a committee to alter the ALP rules. The moving spirit was Emil Voigt, research officer of the Labor Council. He drafted with the committee an entirely new set of rules. The newspapers immediately called them the Red rules, because at one stage Voigt had been a militant. Actually they were intended to prevent the Executive being captured by ballot-box stuffing, or packing the conference with phony delegates.

Under the new rules, members of the Executive had to be elected in trade union and ALP Groups. The electorate councils in the country were to elect six members. The miners were to have two, the metal trades two, land transport three. Public utilities one, etc. Still they persisted in calling them the Red rules. Most of those eventually elected under them were not even pale pinks.

The next move came from the ALP Executive which advised unions and branches that the conference set down for 4th June, 1927, had been postponed and the Union decided to adopt a motion from W.O’Keeffe and W.Swadling

That we reaffirm our previous decision and congratulate Mr. Seal, the President, on the stand that he had taken in calling the conference for Good Friday morning. (Minutes, 21/2/1927.)

A month later, the Union was advised by the Central Executive that the Conference was still set down for 4th June and

That any other notification or advertisement not signed by F.Conroy, Acting President and W.Carey, General Secretary, would be bogus. (Minutes, 22/3/1927.)

and the meeting decided "that the letter lay on the table". There was further correspondence acknowledging receipt of the Union’s motion reaffirming support for the decision on the Easter Conference. As well, W.H.Seale wrote to thank the Union for its support and advising that the Annual Conference would be held at Easter. It was decided that the election of delegates to the Conference would be dealt with at a Special Summons Meeting called to also deal with a log of claims for a new award.

A letter from W.Carey, over the title of ex-General Secretary of the ALP in April, met the fate "same be placed in the waste paper basket", and later in the same meeting, it was decided

That this organisation views with disgust the spineless attitude of the Labor Conference in excluding from the Party bona fide members of the workingclass. (Minutes, 26/4/1927.)

S.Bird, writing as Secretary of the ALP, stated that all members of the Conroy Executive had been suspended, the Carey-Conroy faction declared bogus, Messrs. Loughlin, Goodin and Gillies expelled and the rules adopted by the "Bogus Conference" rejected. The meeting endorsed these decisions, as well as the "Solidarity Pledge" adopted by the "Australian Labor Party Easter Conference", which the President and Secretary were authorised to sign on behalf of the Union.

While the "spineless" motion was carried, indicating support for Communist Party members remaining within the ALP, it invited later disputation at a meeting when Bill Swadling, with Bill Fielberg seconding, moved that the motion be rescinded. The rescission motion was carried by 22 votes to 12, but the minutes did not record any arguments for or against it. In view of Swadling’s earlier condemnation of moves to exclude the CPA, his motion seemed to indicate a serious change of views. And once more giving evidence of the Union’s support for Jack Lang, in the face of the raging dispute within the ALP, this meeting also carried, apparently without opposition.

That we the members of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union congratulate the Premier Mr. J.T.Lang upon his action in reforming his Cabinet and so completely thwarting the efforts of those who were bent on repudiating the Easter Conference and displacing him as leader. (Minutes, 30/5/1927.)

A fortnight later, the Easter Conference Executive wrote on the subject of selection of candidates and sought contributions to the ALP’s campaign fund and it was decided to donate £3 as well as running collection lists around the jobs and to place the services of the Union’s officials at the disposal of the Party.

And the next meeting, on 27th June, advised W.O’Keeffe, an active member of the Union, in his capacity as deputy returning officer for the Balmain Branch of the ALP, that his request for use of the union hall on 16th July, "to count votes in the Balmain Selection Ballot was granted".

But the fight continued for control of the Party and the meeting received without comment advice from S.Bird, as General Secretary of the ALP, warning affiliated unions against misleading propaganda being circulated by the Conroy Bogus Executive". A second letter from Bird called for delegates and alternates to attend a Special Conference on 9th July, and this caused some dissension. Dodds and Fielberg proposed that the delegate and alternate delegate who attended the Easter Conference should attend the Special Conference. O’Keeffe and Spencer proposed that Swadling be the delegate and the Secretary, McDonald, the alternate (this was ruled out of order by the President); and Murphy proposed that nominations be called which was also ruled out on the grounds that defeat of the motion would achieve the same end.

The motion was then put and defeated and nominations were called, with four members being nominated: Swadling, McDonald, Spencer and Terry. It was also decided that the member receiving the highest vote would be the delegate and the second highest vote would be the alternate. A show of hands resulted in McDonald being elected delegate and Swadling the alternate. The meeting then carried a motion from Mahony and Murphy

That the delegate be instructed to vote for the Industrial Section.

Thus the Union declared its position as supportive of the union and Labor Council delegations at the Conference. (Minutes, 27/6/1927.)

A further letter received by the meeting from the ALP Provisional Executive sought an expression of views

from the rank and file of the Labor movement in connection with its position in view of the fact that the Easter Conference limited its term of office for three months from the date of election, and that owing to the amount of work of putting machinery into operation for the appointment of an Executive, to continue in office for the remainder of the term in accordance with the Rules, this work having been superseded by the work in connection with Selection Ballots, and a State Election in two months. Under the circumstances, which are indeed exceptional the Executive feels that these matters should go on without interruption and desires that your Organisation should intimate whether it agrees that it should continue to function until the end of one month after the Elections.

And it was decided to agree with the request.

In September, 1927, the Union agreed to the call by the Eight Hour Committee for "a monster demonstration….that the workers are solidly behind Mr. Lang Premier and the legislation of his Government". Later in the same month, it was decided to comply with the call from the Labor Party to attend "in numbers" to the Parliamentary Election Campaign and in the City Procession (Domain Rally) on the following Sunday.

In keeping with its position in the Labor Party, the Union was advised, in October, 1927, that it would be part of the Transport (Water) Group, as had been decided by the unity conference on 23rd June. As well, the Union was advised of a call for nominations from eligible persons in accordance with the Rules, for members of the Central Executive. On this matter, however, closing nominations at the same time as the notice was being read out to the meeting, brought a motion from W.O’Keeffe and Feilberg

That we protest against the nominations closing on November 14th at 5 p.m. as it has not given sufficient time for members to consider same and that we ask the Executive to hold this matter over for three weeks.

For the ALP’s Provincial Conference due to be held early in the following year, the Union decided to submit two agenda items

That any person who is not eligible to vote at an election shall not be allowed to vote at a Selection Ballot AND

That in the event of a vacancy of the position of Secretary or Assistant Secretary that a plebiscite be taken of the whole of the membership of the ALP. (Minutes, 27/11/1927.)

The ALP committee appointed "to repay debts contracted by H.Doran in the recent State Elections", sent 50 tickets for a raffle to raise funds and the Union decided to purchase them. (Minutes, 19/12/1927.)

In the following year, the Union dealt with a number of ALP matters, including the election of six delegates to represent the group in which the Union had been placed, for the Annual Conference, in accordance with Rule 57. Those elected were O’Keeffe, Shepherd, Feilberg, Swadling, Spencer and McDonald. Also received was advice from the ALP’s pre-selection committee of the ballot to be taken amongst members of the Union, at the Union rooms on Friday, 30th March and Saturday, 31st March. (Minutes, 5/3/1928.) On 25th June, the Union was advised that a fresh ballot would be held for the Senate pre-selections, but it was decided to take no action, having in mind a notice of motion by O’Keeffe to disaffiliate from the ALP. (This was dealt with on 9th July, opposed by Swadling and McDonald, and defeated by 18 votes to 15 and on a division by 23 votes to 16.)

Still with ALP matters, the meeting considered a letter from the Balmain ALP sub-committee for E.G.Theodore, MHR, advising of the necessity for members attending the Labor League to sign the Rule 18 Roll Book. It was decided that the Union advertise in the Labor Daily to remind financial members to sign the Rule Book in their respective leagues.

Later in the year, a request by the ALP for funds and assistance from officials for the federal elections campaign and for members to join the procession from Eddy Avenue to the Sydney Domain, brought a decision to call on members to join the procession and no action on the other requests. (Minutes, 29/10/1928.)

Advice was received from the ALP that the Union was entitled to six delegates to its Water Transport Group for the purpose of electing a delegate from the group to sit on the Central Executive of the Party. McDonald reported that he had received nominations signed by six members for W.Swadling and E.A.Hill, for the position of delegate to represent the Group. However, Hill had withdrawn his nomination to allow Swadling a better chance of being elected to the Executive. The six delegates to the Group were then elected, viz.,W.Swadling, J.Terry, E.Hill, F.McDOnald, J.McDonald and E.Murphy. (Minutes, 10/12/1928.)

The final meeting of the year on 19th December, decided not to pay its affiliation fees to the ALP, but no reasons were recorded.

In September, 1929, the ALP called a meeting of the Executives of all unions "to consider ways and means to assist the Labor Party at the Federal Elections" and the meeting on 16th September decided to participate. On 30th September, Ted Dodds, one of the Union’s delegates to the ALP meeting, reported that it was "the largest ever held in the Social Hall" and it carried a number of resolutions:

  1. In view of the fact that the Bruce Government, first by injecting vicious penal clauses into the Industrial laws of the Commonwealth which were imposed upon the workers and not applied to John Brown, and secondly by attempting to destroy Federal jurisdiction in industrial matters, is paving the way for a Commonwealth-wide attack on hours and wages, coupled with a determined attempt to break up the organisation of the Trade Unions, this Conference of Trade Union Executives determines that each member, individually, collectively and through his organisation, will accord the fullest co-operation to the ALP in its struggle to overthrow the Bruce Government in the present general elections.
  2. As an earnest of its desire and determination to secure the defeat of the most reactionary and dangerous Nationalist Government the Commonwealth of Australia has ever known, and to assure in its place the election of a Labor Government, this conference of Trade Union Executives resolves to recommend to its constituent Trade Unions donations to the fighting fund of the ALP on the minimum basis of five pounds per hundred members, all executive officers pledging themselves to use their utmost endeavours to secure this urgent financial assistance at the earliest possible moment.
  3. This Conference of Trade Union Executives agrees to recommend to its constituent organisations that the Trade Union officers and union motor cars shall be placed at the disposal of the Campaign Committee of the ALP for service in the present election campaign.

Arising from the report, it was decided that the requests be complied with and that £30 be paid to the ALP Fighting Fund.

McDonald reported to a meeting having attended a "victory meeting" of union officials on 16th October, where a report was given by the Campaign Director that the ALP was in debt for about £4000. A request had been sent out for unions to each pay a quota towards defraying this debt. No action was taken and, at the following meeting, when a letter was received stating that the Union’s quota was £3 per 100 members, there was still no action taken on it. At the same time, the meeting elected six delegates to the ALP’s Water Transport Group. (Minutes, 28/10/1929.)

When the Union was advised of a number of applicants for reinstatement in the Labor Party, which would be dealt with at the Annual Conference. It was decided

That the delegate be instructed to vote against any of the ten applicants who stood for conscription. (Minutes, 3/2/1930.)

Having given this clear indication that pro-conscriptionists were regarded as the equivalent of 1917 scabs and equally hated, the meeting then carried a further motion instructing McDonald to also "vote against anyone implicated in ballot box scandal".

The ballot box issue was dealt with by the Court and the Party was in debt over it and the Annual Conference had decided to seek financial support from the unions to cover the costs involved, thus

The Conference decided to strike a levy of 1/- per member of the ALP Branches and recommend that all unions contribute on the basis of 1/- per member proportionate reduction to be made in the case of unions who have already contributed. The ALP is compelled to find over £4000 to satisfy the judgment given against it. This amount must be met before financial preparation can be made for the next State Elections.

The union meeting made no decision on the matter. (Minutes, 12/5/1930.)

C.Westrup, Secretary of a Committee appointed by the Labor Leagues within the Balmain Electorate, for the purpose of assisting the Northern Miners, both financially and morally advised that public meetings would be held on 7th March at the Balmain Post Office and at National Street, Rozelle. J. ("Yargo") Terry was elected to attend the committee’s meetings. (Minutes, 3/3/1930.)

By June 1930, the victory felt in electing the Scullin Federal Labor Government had begun to turn sour and produced the following reaction from the Union

That this Branch condemns the action of the Scullin Government in altering their intention of preference to unionists by giving preference to Returned Soldiers and then unionists second. (Minutes, 23/6/1930.)

In August 1930, the Union made a donation to the ALP’s Socialisation Committee.

In November, a meeting received a report on the outcome of a meeting of 45 federal unions, convened by the ACTU. Amongst decisions taken was one critical of the Scullin Federal Labor Government, a decision which, although watered down somewhat, was still indicative of a general dissatisfaction with that Labor Government. Some delegates to the conference sought to move

That this conference condemns the Federal Government for its refusal to remove the Federal Judges who set aside the Federal Award and are endeavouring in every way possible to lower the conditions of the workers.

The Waterside Workers Federation delegates sought to declare that the unions considered that the Federal Government by its actions "had proved that it was a capitalist government". The motion was moved by W.J.Miller of the WWF who was also a member of the Communist Party, but this motion and the original were defeated in favour of

This industrial conference affirms that the Federal Labor Government has not given effect to its platform on the question of arbitration and request the ACTU to demand through the Federal ALP Executive that the policy of the ALP be given effect to.

This decision was adopted by the Painters and Dockers Union meeting on 24th November and on 8th December, 1930, a similar, though perhaps less hostile stance was taken on the Lang State Labor Government. A motion to seek a deputation to the Premier led by Bob Mahony (MLC) or John Storey (MLA) on the matter of the 1/- in the £ tax on wages, was moved by Bill Swadling and Harry Simon. However, an amendment moved by Ted Hill and Murphy was carried instead

That this Organisation oppose wholeheartedly the 1/- in the £ tax bill and seek the cooperation of other Organisations to carry similar resolutions and same to be brought before the Labor Council.

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