2010 may well be regarded by future generations as the Australian Labor Party’s annus horribilis. From a position of near invincibility at year’s beginning, at the August election the federal Labor party came within a whisper of losing office after only one term. In the states of course Labor lost office in Victoria and barely managed to hang on in Tasmania and South Australia. Not even the most committed true believer holds out much hope for NSW Labor at next year’s state ballot.
For the more historically minded 2010 was a year to remember in other ways. The ALP celebrated two significant milestones. April marked the one hundredth anniversary of the election of the former miner Andrew Fisher’s federal Labor party at the 1910 election, where it became the first party of its type to govern in its own right anywhere in the world. And in October the NSW branch of the ALP celebrated the election of the party’s first government, headed by one-time boilermaker,James ‘Honest Jim’ .McGowen.
Three pieces in this edition of Hummer commemorate these events. Federal Labor Senator John Faulkner ruminates on the significance of the Fisher Labor government’s world leading success and impressive legislative achievements during the period 1910-13. Lucy Taksa provides a sensitive examination of the life and times of Jim McGowen, a man who did so much to build up NSW Labor but nonetheless parted ways with the party over the issue of military conscription during World War One. Michael Hogan takes a different but no less importance approach to the advent of the McGowen government. He argues that the experience of this administration sowed the seeds for the development of Labor factions.
In other feature pieces, Harry Knowles’ article explores the battle for the control of the powerful Australian Workers Union during the 1940s between Clarrie Fallon and his erstwhile deputy Tom Dougherty. He argues that the relationship between the two deteriorated as. the ambitious Dougherty came to be seen by Fallon as a threat to his status as the enforcer and ring-leader of the AWU. Terry Irving’s essay on ‘Rediscovcring Radical History’ makes a passionate case for rediscovering labour history’s innate political purpose. He charts the development of the discipline during the 1950s amidst the hostile Cold War environment of the period, in the process re-reading the work of significant labour historians.
Elsewhere in this edition, Desmond Moore reviews Terry Irving’s well received new book Radical Sydney (co-edited with Rowan Cahill}. We also reprint also reprint NSW Premier Kristina Keneally’s eulogy at the funeral of well-respected former Labor Attorney General, Jeff Shaw.
Hummer readers are reminded that the Twelfth Biennial National Labour History Conference is to be staged in Canberra in September next year: a call for papers is appended to this issue. The conference coincides with the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History’s 50th anniversary. Please check out http://asslh.org.au/for updates and news on events marking this milestone. .
Finally, my thanks to Sue Tracey and Marg Walters for helping put together Hummer over 2010. Merry Christmas to all Hummer readers and enjoy a happy and safe New Year.
Editor of The Hummer
Desmond Moore’s article in the previous issue of Hummer (‘Thurina Park and the East Villawood Progress Association’, vol. 6, no. 2) contained an error introduced during the editorial process. Mrs Jones belonged to the Amalgamated Engineering Union not the Australian Education Union.