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Issue #1924      July 20, 2020

Australians act for peace

Powerful movement in South Australia

Adelaide has a strong history of the peace movement in Australia. (Photo: Avante Media)

The most powerful mass movement demanding peace South Australia has known has developed in protest against American aggression in the Middle East.

This included a mass demonstration on the steps of the State Parliament. A 50-strong deputation to Liberal members of Federal Parliament, factory petitions, and a unanimous decision by the Trades and Labor Council opposing aggression and calling on the ACTU and ALP to meet immediately to formulate a national fighting policy for the whole labour movement.

Thursday afternoon fifty workers crowded into the rooms of Federal Members asking to see Liberal MHR’s. In the contingent were twelve Islington Railway workers, including five members of the shop committee; a group of eight wharfies hurriedly organised from amongst unemployed men at the pay office; meatworkers, women and others.

Senator Hannaford agreed to see one spokesman and later received five.

This delegation was led by Mr Les Purkis, member of the Islington shop committee, Boilermakers’ shop steward and delegate from the shop committee to the SA Peace Committee.

Mr Purkis reported that .the delegation expressed the view that intervention in the Middle East endangers peace and that the Menzies government must use its influence for withdrawal of US forces.

The wharfies sought out Minister for Defence Sir Phillip McBride, and the group of eight put their views to him for an hour.

Another group gained access to Mr Downer, Minister for Immigration, for over forty minutes.

The deputations were concluded at the editorial office of the Advertiser newspaper, to protest against a vicious editorial which appeared in that morning’s paper.

All reported a courteous reception, and the general opinion was that the Liberals, while supporting Casey’s statement, were gravely concerned at events.

Crowd at Parliament House

At 6 o’clock on Friday night a body of workers, both industrial and professional, women, students, members of the Quaker organisation, and others gathered at Parliament House steps to protest against the US threat to peace. The pillars of Parliament supported slogans calling for peace and against intervention.

Five speakers briefly called on citizens to take urgent measures to see that peaceful policies prevailed. The five included a professional man, a prominent figure in women’s movement circles in Adelaide, two wharfies, and a young meat-worker.

Police were present but did not attempt to break the meeting up until the fifth speaker had begun. They then ordered the speaker on, but in the face of cries of “free speech” from the crowd, which had swelled to about 250, the police agreed to the speaker continuing for two minutes. The crowd then moved on in an orderly fashion.

Islington men’s lead

Islington workshops committee, at a meeting on Friday at lunch time, endorsed the action of Peace Committee representative Purkis in protesting to Liberal Members; called for an end to intervention, endorsed messages to Menzies and Dr Evatt, and decided to organise a works-wide petition.

Among dozens of other protests were the following:

  • A petition to the American Embassy signed by ninety meat-workers within a few hours of the American invasion of Lebanon on Wednesday.
  • Telegrams to the Menzies Government and the American Embassy by the SA Peace Committee and a decision to organise a mass demonstration next Tuesday night at 5 o’clock on the steps of Parliament House.
  • Telegrams from the Boiler Shop at Islington Railway Workshops.
  • Telegrams to Dr. Evatt and the Prime Minister from Ships Painters and Dockers at Port Adelaide.
  • Every ship in Port Adelaide had sent a telegram to the Menzies Government by last Friday.
  • Telegrams from a number of union executives included the Boiler makers, AEU and others.
  • Telegrams from women’s organisations, including the peace department of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, International League for Peace and Freedom, arid Union of Australian Women.
  • Hundreds of posters and slogans, including a “Stop War” slogan on Government House wall.

This article was originally publish in Tribune July, 1958.

Next article – Australian Greeks protest against right-wing coup

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