Senate debates

Thursday, 14 November 2013


Workplace Relations

10:45 am

Photo of Lee RhiannonLee Rhiannon (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I, and on behalf of Senator Moore, move:

That the Senate—

(a) notes that:

(i) 15 November 2013 is the 75th anniversary of the start of industrial action taken by waterside workers to stop pig iron being loaded on the Dalfram and shipped to Japan,

(ii) the strike was called in support of growing community opposition to Australia shipping resources that could be used as war materials,

(iii) the shipment was part of a contract for 300 000 tons of pig iron to be supplied to Japan Steel Works, which was producing military materials,

(iv) the Federal Government accused the Waterside Workers Federation (WWF) of dictating foreign policy, arguing that, as the elected government, it had the sole right to decide what relationships were to be established with foreign powers, and

(v) on 24 January 1939, WWF General Secretary, Mr Jim Healy, met with government representatives and was informed that no more pig iron would be shipped to Japan; and

(b) congratulates the workers involved in the dispute in taking a stand for peace and acknowledges the sacrifices they and their families made during the nine week dispute when they were not paid.

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to make a short statement.

Photo of Alan FergusonAlan Ferguson (SA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

Leave is granted for one minute.

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Rhiannon and Senator Moore wish to congratulate waterside workers for taking a stand for peace by refusing to load pig iron destined for Japan in 1938. But why stop at 1938? Let us remember the supposed stand for peace that waterside workers took between 1939 and 1945 when Australia was at war and fighting for its very survival. As historian Hal GP Colebatch recently reminded us, during the course of the war virtually every major Australian warship, including at different times Australia's entire force of cruisers, was targeted by strikes, go-slows or sabotage. While Australian troops and their allies were fighting and dying to keep the Japanese army at bay throughout the Pacific, in Papua and in South-East Asia, waterside workers refused to load arms, ammunition, food and supplies, and they looted stores and destroyed equipment. I think it may well be appropriate that this not be— (Time expired)

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the motion moved by Senator Rhiannon be agreed to.