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18741Fightback and Socialist Alliance conferences

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  • Peter Boyle
    Jun 13, 2005
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      These 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
      leaders like:

      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
      secretary).

      There were contingents of rank and file militants from many of these
      unions.

      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
      conference.

      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.

      <http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,15582399%
      255E1702,00.html>

      <http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2005/s1389982.htm>

      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.

      More later.

      Peter Boyle
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