John Garland

Jeff Shaw QC

This is the text of a speech delivered at a function held at Waverley library on 14 February 1998 to commemorate the contribution of John Garland to the union movement and the ALP. The John Garland Committee has organised a contribution to the Waverley Library of labour movement books and materials, dedicated to his memory.

John Garland’s contribution to the labour movement has been recognised by way of a contribution to the Waverley Library of books and materials relevant to the labour movement.

John Garland was a great defender of the rights of the working people of Australia. His causes and achievements, particularly in the Parliamentary arena, are worth reflecting on.

I had the honour of knowing John Garland as a member of the Australian Labor Party and a trade union leader since 1969. He served in the Legislative Council between 1981 and 1990. When, in 1990, he decided to retire from the Legislative Council, I was engaged with him in discussions about the prospect of succeeding him in this House, which I did in May 1990, filling a casual vacancy.

Much more than discussing the position in the Legislative Council, the discussions that we had about the trade union movement, industrial relations and general economic issues were ones that I found enlightening and valuable.

John Garland championed social justice and the protection of the rights of workers. I would like to draw on some of his words, which come from his first speech in the Legislative Council. He said:

The Australian Labor Party stands for … a set of moral, political and social values that include quality of life for all, not just a few, and human concern for others, especially those in need.

[It) stands for equality of opportunities and the removal of deep tensions caused by social injustice, gross economic inequality and discrimination. It believes in the development of a national pride in the nation’s citizens, promotion of the spirit of community service and particularly… giving full recognition to the’ culturally diversities of the various ethnic communities.

These are concerns as relevant today as when he spoke them. They have long underpinned Labor and industrial activism .John Garland played his role in preserving those values.

Jack Garland was very active in the eastern suburbs affairs of the Australian Labor Party and paid particular attention to his own branch, the Waverley Branch. He held many different positions in the Australian Labor Party at the branch level, the State electoral council level and the Federal electoral council level and was the State vice president ofthe party for nine years.

John’s trade union career, as a full-time elected officer, spanned the years 1957 to 1981. He was a long-time union shop steward, then a district official and later national secretary of his union, originally the Amalgamated Engineering Union, which through amalgamation became the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. His activism as an anti-Grouper while an AEU official contributed substantially to ensuring that the Split in NSW never reached Victorian proportions.

As the National Secretary of the Union, he was responsible not only for Ihe process of amalgamation (an enormously difficult task), as well as Ihe transformation of the union into an independent body, breaking its links to the British parent in 1968.

Jack Garland took an inclusive view of participation with respect to the Labor Party, its policies and its processes. In purlicular, I would like to pay tribute to the encouragement he providcd to women and youn people in the labour movement. He was not given to conflict based on personalities. He had a good word for everybody. He was a modest and quiet man.

Those personality traits to some extent may have disguised his real ability, tenacity and commitment. But those who knew him recognised and cherished those qualities.

It is appropriate that John Garland’s work for social justice and his commitment as a longstanding citizen of the Eastern suburbs is honoured by way of a substantial contribution of books relevant to the labour movement to the Waverley Library.