Diary of a Labour Man 1917 - 1945

Full Text On the Backbenches



WESTRALIAN WORKER, 25 December 1931, page 5.



The polling booths in the Fremantle district were besieged by a continuous steam of voters directly the doors were open. The ominous directness of electors was disquieting to Labor enthusiasts. Enthusiasm was lacking. People seemed anxious to do their job, vote, and go home. Early in the day the strange silence of the people as contrasted with the busy and inspiring scenes of elections gone by portended disaster for Labor aspirations.

In usual times it is the custom at the Port at the closing of the poll for a large crowd to foregather at the Town Hall anxious to receive the first news of the progress of the count. On Saturday night when the first figures were returned from the electoral office and posted on a blackboard opposite the Town Hall less than a hundred people were present. This was a bad sign. Mr Curtin’s defeat was apparent right from the start. Fremantle division, which should have returned the Labor candidate with a thumping majority gave 110 absolute majority only. North Fremantle, which is essentially a working class area where there are very few middle-class residents, only gave an absolute majority of slightly over 50. South Fremantle gave an absolute majority for Mr Curtin of 354. These two strongholds of Labor should have given a lead of at least four to one. When Labor failed to carry its candidate in these areas it was vain to expect the other more conservative sub-divisions to score heavy enough to defeat the two anti-Labor candidates.

Mr W. Watson will be returned when the final count is made, by a substantial majority. His victory is a triumph for his personal regard by Fremantle people. A contributing factor was the Federal Labor Government’s part in supporting the Premiers Plan. Another big phase in the business was the prohibitive tariff. Empty ships’ bottoms, which meant empty pay envelopes, must have had a very adverse effect upon the waterside workers’ vote. North Fremantle and Fremantle polling booths were an emphatic indication that the men on the waterfront had to a large extent forsaken Labor. The unemployed, returned soldiers, and old-age pensioners also played their part in contributing to the debacle of Labor.

Avery serious aspect of the election was the introduction of the sectarian bogey. The tactics of the official National candidate raised the ire of the supporters of both the Labor and the Independent candidate. How long organised Labor can allow its members, delegates and officials to continue their allegiance and membership of a sectarian anti-Labor organisation, which can be whipped up into a state of anti-labor frenzy at election times, is a question which must receive the serious attention of Labor at the earliest possible moment.

Labor was stampeded on Saturday by this hideous anti-social element. This, combined with other tactics already mentioned completed the annihilation of Mr Curtin, whose defeat is not only lamentable for Fremantle but is a distinct loss to the Commonwealth.