Thursday, 2 September 2021
Statements by Members
Coombs, Mr John
I rise to pay tribute to my friend the late John Coombs. As National Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia, John Coombs was one of the faces of the wharf dispute of 1997-98. Australia got to know what so many already did, that he was a man of courage, of tenacity and of unbending principle. He was also a man of great empathy. He felt all too keenly the emotional toll on so many of his members, more than he felt the personal vilification levelled at him by Howard government ministers. I will never forget the sight of John leading 2,000 sacked wharfies back through the gates. It was one of his many triumphs.
With his passing, we pay respect to a life of dedication and devotion to his family and to his broader family on the wharves and the open sea. It was a devotion that knew no boundaries. He was committed to international trade unionism, principally through the International Transport Workers Federation. While his focus was always on others, we hope he always drew strength and comfort from the great respect in which he was held across the labour movement. John was also a loyal member of the Australian Labor Party, and I personally benefited from his support and his mentoring.
John made a difference. Importantly, he made a lasting difference. May he rest in peace.