18741Fightback and Socialist Alliance conferences
- Jun 13, 2005These are a few notes about two conferences held in Melbourne over
the last weekend.
1. The first on Saturday June 11 was the National Trade Union
Fightback Conference, initiated and organised by the Socialist
Alliance but with a much broader sponsorship and participation by a
range of militant trade union leaderships. in Australia. It was held
in the historic Victorian Trades Hall (which now sports a huge
banner building the June 30 strike and rally against Howard's antio-
union laws) and was attended by 350 people and a couple of the
mainstream media reports on the conference are below.
There were some very strong contributions from militant trade union
Joan Doyle (Victorian postal workers union secretary), Chris Cain
(WA secretary Maritime Union of Australia), Martin Kingham
(Victorian CFMEU secretary), Scott Wilson (a Queensland ETU
organiser), Tim Gooden (Geelong Trades and Labour Council secretary)
and Craig Johnston (recently freed-from-jail former Victorian AMWU
There were contingents of rank and file militants from many of these
There was an excellent briefing on the proposed new anti-union laws
by industrial lawyer Marcus Clayton and also a presentation by
Greens Senator Kerry Nettle.
"The whole history of the trade union is one of breaking the law",
said Clayton in his presentation. He soon prompted media attention
grabbing calls from several union leaders for bad laws to be broken.
One such call, by Chris Cain, was promptly splashed in Murdoch
tabloids (see Herald Sun report below) and this provoked an
interesting response from Cain's union ranks. The phone calls, text
messages and emails began to flood in the next day. I heard one of
these voicemails from an MUA delegate at sea (the Herald Sun article
had been emailed to him on ship) and it was a colourful declaration
of support for Chris's militant stand. That was the character of the
response from his ranks.
The conference showed that a broad united front against Howard's
anti-union laws that reached deep into the unon movement was already
coming into being. It included militant trade unionists inside and
out of the Labor party. This so far informal but
expanding "fightback alliance" took credit for initiating and
successfully securing the beginning of a miltant mass campaign of
industrial and community action against the anti-union laws, one
that was beginning to pull the ACTU and other trade union
leaderships into supporting greater mass action. For example, the
ACTU has now endorsed the Victorian June 30 general strike and
demonstration. Socialist Alliance's central role in this initiative
was warmly acknowldeged by several trade union leaders at the
The conference resolved to mobilise to get a maximum effort in the
various late June and early July actions against Howard's antiunion
laws, to establish a national union fightback network with a
national newsletter and website, push for nationally coordinated
action in August and mass delegate meetings in the lead up.
2. Over the next two days the Socialist Alliance national conference
was held in the same venue. There were 113 delegates and a further
80 or so people attending, including quite a few of the militant
trade unionists who attended the previous Fightback conference.
Mike Treen from the Unite union in New Zealand and Grat Morgan from
NZ Socialist Worker attended both conferences as guest speakers.
Special greetings from Craig Johnston and Chris Cain ensured that
the Fightback mood swept through the SA conference. Craig was
elected to a new national executive as was Geelong TLC seceraty Tim
Gooden and prominent indigenous activist and film-maker Sam Watson.
There was pretty vigorous debate in the SA conference but once again
at delegates showed overwhelming support (70% or more) for pursuing
greater unity, for democratic (rather than factionally-based)
leadership structures. There was also a strong endorsement of
continuiing SA involvement in the Green Left Weekly project. The
sectarian minority in SA did a great job exposing themselves and
were totally politically isolated by the second day.
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