A Candid Report on the Australian-Canadian Labour History Conference

Thanks to many months of hard work by Il Supremo, G.D. Patmore, Barbara Dale and many others associated with the Sydney branch of the ASSLH, the joint conference of labour historians from Canada, Australia (and one or two from the United States) held at Sydney Uni* in December was widely regarded as a success. Many stimulating papers were read. No doubt Hummer is biased but the papers by Dyster, Patmore, Taksa and Love seemed especially interesting and the conference provided a great number of occasions for useful exchanges. It was grand to see so many familiar, friendly faces and no doubt the petty bourgeoisie of publicans and restaurateurs of Newtown, Glebe and Redfern thought so too.

As with most conferences the best bits often occurred outside the formal timetable. Highlight of the conference dinner was Bob Gollan’s whimsical rendition of a folk ballad pertaining to Bob Menzie’s testicles though a Melbourne labour historian who shall remain nameless competed with Professor Gollan in both the areas of volume and repertoire. (As Tom Sheridan said: ‘Thank Christ he … (the Melbourne historian) did not bring his guitar!)

The ferry cruise on Friday afternoon was another spectacular occasion and while Hummer is no scandal sheet and of course is totally opposed to dobbing on principle, the same Melbourne labour historian who again shall remain nameless, was once more to the fore entertaining the water Police with biting social commentary, attempting to emulate a marine Boadicia on the boat’s bow, losing his sunglasses under curious circumstances and accusing Hummer‘s correspondent of class treachery. (For which this report constitutes part pay-back.)

The conference’s best dressed person was undoubtedly Mr L.J. Louis of Aranda, A.C.T., whose black Akubra and dry-as-a-bone rivalled Mr Arthur Daley of London for sartorial elegance. And who will ever forget that question.

* Word unknown to Canadians – ADVERSO