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, . •· ,·, j.' { '> - I ' ,, .' t . · 1 I ~ , I ::·· .' I 1 1 •' ·•. -1 I .. AUSTRALIAN LABOUR TODAY LLovp· Ross '• I IN April, 1934, the QuARTERLY published an article by m~ entitled "The· .Depression in Australia." The depression was ending. A~stralian L~bour ·· had failed either to achieve a democratic and socialist alternative to de- . \· .flatiqn or to.;hold the support of th~ electorate. The Scullin Labour Government , elected in 1929, was defeated in 1931, after a series of party splits I . ..' .I \..·' , I .th~t left Labour out of office in New South Wales unti(May, 1941, and in the Commonwealth until October, 1941. .Today, having faced another crisis, the test of war, J\ustralian Labour is more successful politically and more united structurally than ever before·- in its history. Four of the six states have Labour Governments. The. Common~ealth Labou~ Government was endorsed by the electorate in 1943 and 1946~ Ne.ver before had a Commonwealth Labour Government been returned by the. electorate after having held a term of office. The present position of parties in the Austra'!ian Parliament i? as follows: Senate Labour.................. 33 . Non-Labour............. 3 House of Representatives Labour..................43 Anti-Labour ...•..... .'... 29 Independent Labour ...... 2 Labour had a past to outlive. N~t merely had the experi~nces during the First World. War and depression created a view that the party could . not be trusted to govern in difficult times, but they had left behind divisions a~d bitterne~s in New South Wales, the largest state, that prevented a Lab~ur victory in the Commonwealth. It was not until .W. J. McKell (now Governor-General) was elected Premier of New South Wales -in May, 1941, that the public was convinced ·Labour should he· given another opportunity to govern. Labour's greatest political triumph paradoxically occurred in a war durjng which Labour reversed its previous policies and ignored its stro'ngest traditions. In the First World War the.Labour movement opposed conscription for service overseas, expelled political leaders, i~cluding Prime Minister Hughes, who supported conscription, and made anti-conscriptionism the first principle of its platform even though that led to overwh!=lming de(eats in elections·. One of the prominent leaders in· ~ - the. anti-conscription campaign was John Curtin, who as Prime Minister · in the Second ·World War force.d through his party and Parliament an a~t which extended compulsio'n for home defence to conscription for seryices fighting in a limited overseas ~rea. Man-power controls were introduced, wages pegged, ~triking unions threatened with discipline by a Labour Government. But Labour·was John Curtin. While Curtin's policy could 68 I . ' I "J ..... , -. ' "~I . . I ' ,' .-. .. ,· • • j ' AUSTRALIAN 'LABOUR jODAY '·. I .,.' ', '69· , I t _ be reconciled with some factors in the gener 1 al story of Labour, Curtin hi.t,nself was indispensable in evolving the triumph of qualities and develop~ ing policies that ·led Labour not merely to victory, but t'o ·victory as a united party. . . ' ' . In the circumstances of Aust;alia, at the time, the unity of Labour was ' as ,vitali. to the successful prosecution of the war as the formation of' a ·· National Government elsewhere, but there were factors which made this so· difficult .as to be almost a ·miracle in ·Labo.ur history. The Labour party, formed in' 1891 from miscellaneous groups and in'dividuals,1 had been held together by the trade unions, numerically and politically as powerful as unionism in any part of the world. There de- · veloped slowly in each of the six states and in the ·Commonwealth central union councils and central Labour parties. Only in West Australia are unions and political leagues combined in the same organi-' zation, so that elsewhere the differences which develop inevitably between \ the trade unions and politicians, were accentuated by the existence o{ sepanite organizations. Communists are not permitted to join the Labour 1 party, but they are not excluded from any union and they are officials of key unions.· Through their membership in unions, affiliated with ·the', they are' able to exercise an influence over the policy of the · I . . Labour party. These sources of division inside the Labour party and · of...


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