A draft dodging memoir: RIP Bob Hall

Below, with the permission of my good friend Andy Alcock, I post his wonderful short memoir of the draft dodging exploits of Adelaide anti-war activist Bob Hall and his comrades. Bob’s recent death is the occasion and Andy’s brief memoir is in the form of a letter to Bob’s family.

Members of the MUA will read about the old Seamen’s Union unique contribution to Bob’s successful activities.

Hi Chris & Luciana
Thank you very much for your email concerning Bob’s death.
I am very saddened to hear this news as I was hoping to see him again and because he was a good friend
He was a wonderful comrade whose draft resistance in the late 1960s was an inspiration to many in the peace movement And it led to him having many adventures and to him becoming a sailor in the British merchant navy.
One of the highlights of my activities in the peace movement was having an “underground” meeting in 1969 with Bob and several peace supporting VIPs – former senator Jim Cavanagh, Adelaide and Flinders academic Neal Blewett (later to become the MHR for Bonython and health minister in the Australian federal parliament), Ally Fricker and John Healy etc. Former Adelaide Uni economics professor Geoff Harcourt may well have been there as well. The meeting was actually held upstairs in one of those 2 level houses in Queen St Norwood with the lower level 1/2 underground which was rented by Ally Fricker and John Healey – 2 prominent peace activists of the day. Ally is still involved in the anti-uranium movement today. Ironically, I was living next door and our student household was sheltering another draft dodger – Danny Nicholas.
Before this Bob’s partner before his court hearing was Anne McMenamin who is currently still active in the peace and anti-uranium movements. She chained herself to the steps of the SA Parliament House in protest when Bob was arrested. The Adelaide elite was outraged because of these actions.
After a court hearing, Bob, who thought he would receive a prison term of 1 month for failing to attend a medical examination as required for conscripts, discovered he was going to prison for 2 years and a month for total non-compliance. As he reached the door of the courtroom, he told me that he thought to himself “Bugger me! I am not going to accept this!”. He broke free from the Commonwealth Police personnel who were escorting him and managed to escape after a sprint through Adelaide’s streets. 
There was an underground that supported Bob for some months until, with the help of the Seamen’s Union of Australia (SUA), he was able to get out of SA and indeed Australia for 10 years.
Bob called the meeting because he wanted to know if supporters thought he should surrender to the Commonwealth Police or continue to live “underground”. The overwhelming decision was that if Bob felt up to it, he should continue to live on the run to help tie up Commonwealth Police and government resources. He was lucky that he had dual citizenship – British and Australian – and was thus able to spend almost a decade at sea with the British merchant service.
In 1979, about a decade later, after I had worked in Sydney and Malaysia, Cathy Heptinstall (now my wife) and I were shopping in the Adelaide Central Market and bumped into Bob. It was a great reunion and we invited him to visit for a meal. He told us that when he arrived back in Adelaide, he was accosted by ASIO officers at the Adelaide Airport. When they told him that they wanted to speak with him regarding his violation of the National Service Act. His response was to tell them that that particular act had been abolished by Gough Witlam and he advised them to consult a taxidermist (or words to that effect!)
 I knew him first at uni because we both studied Organic Chemistry and I have to admit that he was a much more brilliant student than me.
It was interesting that we both had careers in OH&S – he as an OH&S inspector in Victoria and I was an OH&S coordinator for the SA Education Dept and IH&S officer for 2 unions.
I felt it was a great pity that we did not meet up more often after he returned to Australia, but I always  considered him a hero of the anti war movement in this country and a great supporter for the OH&S of Australian workers.
Goodbye Bob – you were a champion and you will never be forgotten.
My condolences to you Chris and Luciana in your time of grief.
Paz, Amor y Solidaridad

Global Union Federation calls for international union soidarity for SYRIZA and the Greek majority

“The Greek elections offer a potential breakthrough, but to carry out their program a government of the Left will need massive understanding and support abroad. Unions should be in the forefront of building that support.”(Excerpt from IUF statement.)

The IUF is maybe the first Global Union Federation (GUF) to both argue the case and call for international union solidarity for SYRIZA and its programme to challenge the horrendous austerity capitalism imposed on the majority of Greek citizens.

SYRIZA have not yet won the election, but they are expected to do so.

The IUF article explains the failed history of previous efforts to defeat externally imposed austerity in other European countries. SYRIZA is different and provides working people around the world as well as the Greek majority, with a real alternative foundation against austerity capitalism.

Of course, the global ruling class, will be planning how to bring SYRIZA down.

The Greek ruling class itself has the bloody hands of repression of the people in its own history to stop socialist and democratic momentums.

We are all in the Greek majority.

– See more at: http://portside.org/2015-01-14/breakthrough-greece-austerity-and-solidarity#sthash.TO9PuXky.dpuf

From “Pig Iron Bob” to “The Mad Monk”

Once upon a time it was “Pig Iron Bob”, and justly deserved it was. I am talking about Robert Menzies former Liberal Prime Minister and devoted anti-unionist, among other craven things. He who begat in a political sense Malcolm Fraser (who happily wanted to jail union leaders in 1978 and thereabouts for being strong and intelligent), John Howard, and now Tony Abbott.
But what will we call Abbott? “The Mad Monk” does not quite fit in this new situation, especially in the light of his Royal Commission into unionism, as it truly is, and his swing last week through Japan, South Korea, and China.
Today’s Sydney Morning Herald carries commentary by John Garnaut about all of this. Garnaut refers to the Menzies backdrop to the Abbott free trade expeditIon and like most others, including Labor’s own free trade champion Craig Emerson, finds in favour of the Abbott effort although with some fault lines.
It’s not a surprise but Garnaut neglects why Menzies’ was called “Pig Iron Bob.” Because, as Deputy Prime Minister and Attorney General (Brandis and Abetz know it well) he launched a war against waterside workers who followed their consciences in 1937 to refuse to load pig iron that Menzies said should go to Japan. The when wharfie sand their leaders KNEW that it would be coming back from fascist Japan as weapons of war. And they were dead right. Millions were slaughtered by Japan in Korea and China, and other parts of East Asia as well. And tens of thousands of Australians, mainly workers, did also, defending our peoples from something that a Liberal icon had complied with. (Note that in the discussions with Japan Abbott suggests that Japan can re-arm. )
Abbott’s ruling class Royal Commission aims to destroy such union activity and its underpinning – a profound collective intelligence about fairness, justice, social progress and peace.
So far, there is no sign of ANY FAIRNESS, for Working Australians or their counterparts in Japan, Korea, and China, in these so-called free trade deals. There are no ILO core labour standards let alone arrangements to ensure they are complied with. Labour standards will be left in the hands of those workers determined enough to struggle for them against their so-called masters, their employers.
Each of these free trade deals rest upon the extra exploitation of workers across all 4 countries, and seek the continual handover of democratic sovereignty to the enhanced power of transnational corporations.
Against this, we must struggle and in doing so discover anew the possibilities of a society not based upon the exploitation of humans and of nature.