WESTRALIAN WORKER, 14 July 1933, page 1.
FEDERAL LABOR CONFERENCE CLEARS THE WAY TOWARDS UNITY OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT
As the Federal Conference of the A.L.P. was one of so momentous a nature to the whole of the Australian Labor Movement the following report will be closely read by all Labor supporters. The Conference was held at Sydney on June 26th, and following days, the following delegates being present:-Victoria – Hon. J.H. Scullin, M.H.R., M.M. Blackburn, M.L.A., A.S. Drakeford, A.A. Calwell, D. Cameron, P.J. Clarey, New South Wales – Messrs. W.R. Colborne, P.E. Coleman, J.H. Catts, J.A. McCallum, A. Tinning, Queensland – Hon. W. Forgan-Smith, Hon. M.P. Hynes, M’s.L.A., Messrs. C.G. Fallon, J. Lamont, W.H. Demaine, J.R. Carroll. South Australia – Senator A.A. Hoare, Hon. N. Makin, M.H.R. Senator M. O’Halloran, Mr G. Yates, Miss J. Daley, Mr C. Crofts, Western Australia – Messrs. J. Burgess, P. Mooney, J. Curtin, A.S. McClintock, E.K. Greville, A. Watts. Tasmania – Hon. A.G. Ogilvie, E. Ogilvie, M’s.H.A. J. Dwyer, V.C., M.H.A., J. McDonald, M.L.C. J. Madden, J. Dwyer-Gray.
Following the President’s address, of which the keynote was the need for greater unity in the Labor Movement if a majority in both Houses of Commonwealth Parliament was to be obtained at the next elections, the Conference immediately set about to seriously discuss the matter.
At the conclusion of the debate, it was decided to appoint a Unity Committee, consisting of Messrs. J. Curtin (W.A.), who was appointed chairman, W. Forgan-Smith (Q.), A.S. Drakeford, (Vic.) N. Makin (S.A.), G. Buckland (N.S.W.), J. Dwyer-Gray (Tas.). The duties of the Committee were to formulate proposals as the basis of negotiations for greater unity in the Movement and with the New South Wales State Executive (expelled by the Special Federal Conference, March, 1931), in particular.
The Committee submitted a draft proposal as follows, which, after consideration, was agreed to by Conference:-“That, subject to the full and unreserved acceptance of the Platform, Rules and Constitution of the Australian Labor Party by the body concerned, the resolution carried on 1931 by the Interstate Conference for the expulsion of the New South Wales Branch, as then existing, be rescinded, and the members of the said Branch be granted full continuity of membership.
“The Committee further recommends that, subject to the readiness of the group referred to in previous paragraph, to act loyally to the obligations set out above, the Committee be empowered, subject to approval by Conference, to negotiate provisions to ensure that the rights of the members of the New South Wales Branch, as constituted by the 1931 Interstate Conference, shall be preserved and maintained.
“In reference to other States, the Committee recommends that persons who have been excluded solely because of actions related to financial policy shall have the right to appeal to the State Authority within two months of the rising of the Conference for readmission, provided that, in such cases where readmission may be refused by the State Authority, a further right of appeal to the Federal Executive shall be allowed.”
The correspondence given herewith, passed between the Federal Secretary and the Secretary of the New South Wales branch of the party:
To Mr J.H. Graves, Secretary State Branch A.L.P., Trades Hall, Sydney,
June 28th, 1933.
At today’s meeting of our Federal Labor Conference the question of greater unity was considered. I was directed to advise your Executive of the following resolution:-“That subject to the full and unreserved acceptance of the platform, rules and constitution of the Australian Labor Party by the body concerned, the resolution carried in 1931 by the Interstate Conference for the expulsion of the New South Wales Branch, as then existing, be rescinded, and the members of the said branch be granted full continuity of membership.
“The committee further recommends that subject to the readiness of the group refereed to in the previous paragraph to act loyally to the obligations set out above, the committee be empowered, subject to approval by the Conference, to negotiate provisions to ensure that the rights of the members of the New South Wales Branch as constituted by the 1931 Interstate Conference shall be preserved and maintained.”
I may further mention that a committee of Conference has been appointed for the purpose of meeting representatives of your Executive to discuss the foregoing. Arrangements are being made for suitable accommodation at the Conference room for such deliberations as may be necessary, and I should be glad if representatives of your Executive could be in attendance at an early hour tomorrow.
Your sincerely, D.L. McNAMARA, Federal Secretary.
To D.L. McNamara, Federal Secretary Australian Labor Party,
June 29th, 1933
The letter you handed to me at our office last evening at 8 p.m. has been considered by our Executive officers. In reply, I am directed to state that the Federated Australian Labor Movement, with its roots strongly embedded in sound, well-disciplined democratic State Branches of Labor organisation has for many years been the objective of the Australian Labor Party in the State of New South Wales.
During the past six years we have viewed with alarm the tendency of the Federal organisation to pass from a democratic Federation to an oligarchic unification.
When first our State Movement resisted this trend in Federal affairs, we found ourselves to a certain extent, isolated from our colleagues in the sister States. Believing that our attitude was necessary to preserve a vehicle for the democratic expression of the rank and file opinion of the workers who made up our Movement, we persisted in that attitude, although it meant that, as an organisation, we were compelled to adopt a line of action independent of that followed by the remaining States in the Commonwealth.
The intervening years have demonstrated that the Labor Movement in New South Wales more correctly assessed the organisational requirements of the Australia-wide Labor Movement. This is demonstrated by the proceedings of your current Conference. On your agenda paper is a resolution from Western Australia demanding local autonomy for State branches. The Tasmanian delegation has threatened to withdraw from your organisation unless the branch of the Party in that State is given full powers and the control of its own affairs. The South Australian delegation represents one of the three parties claiming to represent the workers of that State. During a debate at your Conference that evening four of the Victorian representatives informed you that the Party in that State would not obey your instructions to readmit people who had been expelled by that organisation.
These facts show that your existing method of organisation, if persisted in, must lead to disintegration and the ultimate rout of the Labor Movement as a force in Federal politics.
The Australian Labor Party in the State of New South Wales yields to no one in its desire to see in operation a scheme of Federal organisation that will unite the Australian workers in a determined effort to place in the Federal Parliament a strong and united Labor Government, determined and able to implement an urgent and vigorous policy, vesting in the people sole and complete ownership of the credit and finance system of Australia.
The outstanding feature in such organisation must be a Constitution so flexible that, while it is of the utmost value in the Federal sphere, it gives to those smaller States full and complete powers of autonomy to frame their policy and mould their conduct along lines that will enable them to defeat the bugbear of secession that is threatening Australian unity.
For these reasons the Australian Labor Party in the State of New South Wales is eager and anxious to assist your Conference in achieving that Federal unity which all of us desire. We therefore address our reply to the following resolution set out in your letter:-“That subject to the full and unreserved acceptance of the platform, rules and constitution of the Australian Labor Party by the body concerned, the resolution carried in 1931 by the Interstate Conference for the expulsion of the New South Wales Branch, as then existing, be rescinded, and the members of the said branch be granted full continuity of membership.”
The Australian Labor Party, State of New South Wales, will accept the platform rules and constitution of the Australian Labor Party if the resolution of expulsion carried by the 1931 Interstate Conference is rescinded, provided that such rules and constitution do not conflict with the self-governing rights of the rank and file of the Labor Movement as assembled in its Annual General Conference, and in o way encroach upon the local autonomy of the Movement in this State.
To Hon. J. Graves, M.L.C. Secretary State Labor A.L.P.
June 29th, 1933.
“That the State Labor Party be requested, in the light of the foregoing interpretation, to give an answer in respect to the resolution conveyed in the terms of Mr McNamara’s letter of yesterday, which included a proposal for negotiations between representatives of this Conference and your Executive. For this purpose we invite you to meet six delegates from this Conference to discuss the position.”
Yours sincerely, D.L. McNAMARA, Federal Secretary.
To Mr D.L. McNamara, M.L.C
. I have to acknowledge your reply to our letter of the 29th instant. My colleagues and I feel that, in your reply, you have evaded our definite statement of our desire to join with you in co-ordinating the Labor Movement of the Australian States, because of a misapprehension of the principle of rank and file control which is embedded in the Constitution of the Australian Labor Party in the State of New South Wales. We are forced to this conclusion because of your statement that yours is a rank and file conference.
The delegates constituting your assembly arrive there through a process of indirect election, while our Annual General Conference is elected by a plebiscite vote of the rank and file of the whole Movement. To give to any delegated body the power to over-ride on any matter a decision of the Annual General Conference is a breech of the principle of rank and file control, which members of the Labor Movement in this State would not condone.
It is for this reason that we informed you in your letter of yesterday’s date that we were eager and anxious to join your Conference subject to your recognition of the supreme power of our Annual General Conference on all matters affecting the Movement in this State and its members.
We hope that the atmosphere of sincerity and earnestness which has surrounded this correspondence will not develop into one of the mere huckstering and bargaining. The solution of the problem we are discussing appears so simple that it is hard to believe that your Conference has been sitting for a week without achieving that unity which we both desire. All that is required is that your Conference rescind the 1931 resolution and admit our delegates in the terms of our letter of yesterday to your deliberations. We are at all times prepared to meet the committee referred to in your previous correspondence, and will do so at any time you appoint, but my colleagues and I feel that we should point out to you that the matters which your committee propose to discuss do not arise and cannot possibly do so until such time as the 1931 resolution has been rescinded and our delegates are sitting at your conference table as the accredited representatives of the Australian Labor Party in the State of New South Wales.
To Hon. J. Graves, M.L.C. Secretary, State labor A.L.P.
30th June 1933.
Your letter of even date handed to me at 3.30 p.m. today was considered by our Conference and I now confirm their decision, which was conveyed by phone message at 4.5 p.m. as follows: “That regardless of anything that has been done in the past and irrespective of why may be contained in the correspondence, the committee be authorised to meet the representatives of the State Labor Party and then prepare a report to Conference.” I would be pleased if you would arrange for your representatives to meet our committee at the Conference Hall, State Shopping Block, this evening, as early as possible.
To Mr D.L. McNamara, M.L.C.
30th June, 1933.
I have to acknowledge receipt of your communication of even date, wherein you state that your Conference determined-“That regardless of anything that has been done in the past, and irrespective of what may be contained in the correspondence, the committee be authorised to meet representatives of the State Labor party and to then prepare a report to Conference.” In reply I am directed to state that, as we informed you this afternoon, we are prepared to meet your committee immediately but would again draw attention to our letter of even date, in which we said: “... that the matters which your committee propose to discuss do not arise and cannot possibly do so until such time as the 1931 resolution has been rescinded and our delegates are sitting at your Conference table as the accredited representatives of the Australia Labor Party in the State of New South Wales.”
In a personal interview between the Secretaries of the Federal Executive (Hon. D. L. McNamara) and of the New South Wales State Executive (Mr J. Graves), it was arranged that the President, Vice-President and Secretary of the N.S.W. State Executive should meet the Unity Committee of Conference at 6 p.m. on Friday evening, 30th inst. The Conference was held, as arranged, and subsequently the Chairman of the Unity Committee (Mr J. Curtin) reported to the evening that the result of the meeting had been fruitless.
The Unity Committee then submitted the following recommendation which Conference adopted by 29 votes to 5:-“that this Conference regrets the refusal of the State Labor Party to reciprocate its endeavours to promote Labor unity in Australia, on the basis of the Platform, Rules and Constitution of the A.L.P. and declares that, as unity is indispensable to the securing of political power for the workers at the next Federal elections, the door to unity is, and will remain, open on this basis.”
NEGOTIATIONS FOR GREATER UNITY
THE STATEMENT ISSUED BY THE CONFERENCE
Meeting in the midst of the most grievous economic crisis in the history of the nation, the Australian Labor Party Federal Conference declares that the unity of the Labor Movement is an indispensible condition to the securing of the political power […?] by essential measures of reform may be carried out.
These steps involve the protection of the masses of the people against the policy of reaction and depression which has been applied by the anti-Labor Governments of the nation. It is apparent that as the crisis deepens, the position of the workers, the producers, and the unemployed becomes more and more precarious. Standards of living have fallen so low that they now become in themselves an obstacle to economic recovery; wages rates have been reduced so low that purchasing power is contracting all the time and deflation is accentuated. The Conference affirms that the one basis upon which Australia can cope with the depression is on the basis of the Australian Labor Party’s platform and policy. In particular is action required to implement its programme regarding the following subjects:-The organisation of employment. The nationalsation of banking and credit. The restoration of purchasing power. The reduction in the burden of debts, interest payments and the charges for the use of capital. The more equitable distribution of wealth. The relation of Australia as an economic unit to international trade and commerce. The Conference, therefore, decided that it would apply itself to the task of uniting Labor throughout the nation so that at the earliest opportunity a common and united front could be presented to the forces that frustrate welfare for the workers and producers and recovery for the economic life of the Commonwealth.
It had carried the following resolution: “The Committee recommends that subject to the full and unreserved acceptance of he platform rules and constitution of the Australian Labor Party, the resolution carried in 1931 by the Interstate Conference for the expulsion of the New South Wales Branch as then existing be rescinded, and the members of the said branch be granted full continuity of membership.” “The Committee further recommends that, subject to the readiness of the group concerned to act loyally to the obligations set out above that it be empowered to negotiate provisions to ensure that the rights of the members of the branch constituted by the Conference in 1931 shall be preserved and maintained.” To the invitation thus extended, the State Labor Party of New South Wales replied by an insistence upon its right to be the sole authority for the interpretation of the Federal Labor Party’s Platform and Constitution in N.S.W. This course would make the rank and file of the Labor Movement in every other State subordinate to the State authority of New South Wales. This Conference defined the position in this respect in the following resolutions which were conveyed to the State Labor Party:-“That the State Labor Party be informed that the platform rules and constitution of the Australian Labor Party provide for the self-governing rights of the rank and file of the Labor Movement in each State, as assembled in its General Conference, in respect to matters that are State in their nature and character, are reserved for the Federal Conference as representative of the rank and file of the Labor Movement in the Commonwealth.”
That the State Labor Party be required, in the light of the foregoing interpretation, to give an answer in respect to the resolution conveyed in the terms of Mr McNamara’s letter of yesterday, which included a proposal for negotiations between representatives of this conference and your executive. For this purpose we invite you to meet six delegates from this conference to discuss the position.”
Despite this clear and unmistakable declaration a rejoinder was received raising further contentions and in order to avoid any possibility of misunderstanding, the Federal Conference resolved as follows:-“That regardless of anything that has been done in the past, and irrespective of what may be contained in the correspondence, the Committee be authorised to meet representatives of the State Labor party and to then prepare a report to Conference.
To this open invitation the officers of the State Labor Party responded, and three of their representatives met the special committee appointed by the Conference. It was made plain that the demands of the former body were inflexible and involved a revocation of the unified structure of the Australian-wide Labor Party as prescribed in the rules and constitution. No negotiations were to be considered until the State Labor Party were readmitted to the Labor Movement on the basis of an authority which would make it the exclusive interpretative body of the Federal Platform in New South Wales. The effect of this condition would, in fact destroy unity and convert the Australian Labor Party into six separate and varying State Parties in matters involving Federal action.
The Conference thereupon carried the following resolution:-
“That this Conference regrets the refusal of the State Labor Party to reciprocate its endeavours to promote Labor unity in Australia on the basis of the platform rules and constitution of the A.L.P., and declares that as unity is indispensible to the securing of political power for the workers at the next Federal elections, the door to unity is, and will remain, open on this basis.”
The gravity of the situation does not allow of special interests being regarded as paramount to the interests of the masses. These latter demand action in accordance with the Platform of the Party. They demand that Labor Governments be substituted for anti-Labor Governments, and the considerations involved in the issues that confront the people call for the maximum of unity and loyalty to the common cause of Labor.
J.J. KENNEALLY President, D.L. McNAMARA, Secretary Sydney, 1/7/1933
Delegates and Officials, Fourteenth Interstate Conference of the Australian Labor Party, at Sydney, June, 1933. Back Row (reading from left to right): E. Dwyer Gray, M.H.A. (T.), Don Cameron (V.), j. Curtin (W.A.), C.G. Fallon (Q.), J.W. Burgess (W.A.), J.J. Dwyer, V.C., M.H.A. (T.), A.A. Calwell (V.), P.J. Mooney (W.A.) Third Back Row: C. Crofts (S.A.N. M (N.S.W.), E.K. Greville (W.A.), W. Colbourne (N.S.W.), G.E. Yates (S.A.), J. McDonald, M.L.C. (T.), J.H. Catts, (N.S.W.), A.J. Watts (W.A.), P. E. Coleman (N.S.W.), J. Madden (T.), Senator O’Halloran (S.A.), W.H. Demaine (Q.) Second Back Row: A.G. Ogilvie, K.C., M.H.A. (T.), M.M. Blackburn, M.L.A. (V.), P.J. Clearey (V.), S.H. Tinning (N.S.W.), A.S. Drakeford (V.), Hon. M.P. Hynes (Minister for Labor, Q.), Miss Jean Daley (S.A.), E.J. Ogilvie, M.H.A. (T.), J.A. McCallum (N.S.W.), Senator Hoare (S.A.), A.S. McClintock (W.A.), Hon. Forgan Smith (Premier of Queensland, Q.), R.J. Carroll (Q.). Front Row: Right Hon, J.H. Scullin, M.H.R. (V.), Hon. J.J. Kenneally (Minister for Employment, W.A.), President, and Hon. D. McNamara, M.L.C. (V.), Secretary.