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Coalition holds onto 75-year old grudge over “pig iron bob” campaign, fail to congratulate Illawarra wharfies

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 14 Nov 2013

14 November 2013

Coalition holds onto 75-year old grudge over “pig iron bob” campaign.

Greens NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon said that the mean spirited approach of the Liberals and Nationals towards workers was again on display when they voted against a Senate motion congratulating wharfies, their families and supporters involved in the 1938 strike action against the export of pig iron to assist Japan’s military in the lead up to the Second World War.

“75 years after the famous ‘pig iron Bob’ campaign kicked off in the Illawarra the Liberals and Nationals have shown they still bear a deep grudge over this successful campaign,” Senator Rhiannon said.

“The decision of the Coalition parties to vote against this motion demonstrates a meanness of spirit and bias against working people.

“These Liberal and National Senators still refuse to acknowledge that former attorney general and prime minister Bob Menzies made an appalling mistake when his government agreed to Australian resources being shipped to Japan.

“I was very pleased that the Senate voted to pass the Greens motion to mark the 75th anniversary of the start of industrial action to stop pig iron being loaded on the British ship the “Dalfram” for export to Japan. Labor supported the Greens motion.

“The pig iron dispute is an important part of Australian history. 

“The courageous workers sacrificed their own income when they went on strike to stop Australian resources aiding what was then an enemy country aiding the expansion of fascism. 

“The members of the Waterside Workers Federation, the forerunner of the MUA, involved in this historic action made a massive contribution to the people’s movement against the 1903s military build-up in Japan and Germany.

“I moved this motion out of respect for the wharfies. Their sacrifices and achievements should be acknowledged,” Senator Rhiannon said.

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Motion passed by Senate 14 November 2013

1. 15 November is the 75th anniversary of the start of industrial action taken by waterside workers to stop pig iron being loaded on the “Dalfram” and shipped to Japan.

2. The strike was called in support of growing community opposition to Australia shipping resources that could be used as war materials.  

3. The shipment was part of a contract for 300,000 tons of pig iron to be supplied to Japan Steel Works, which was producing military materials.

4. The federal government accused the Waterside Workers Federation of dictating foreign policy, arguing that, as the elected government, it had the sole right to decide what relationships were to be established with foreign powers.

5. On 24 January 1939 WWF General Secretary Jim Healy met with government representatives and was informed that no more pig-iron would be shipped to Japan.

The Senate

1. Congratulates the workers involved in the dispute in taking a stand for peace and acknowledges the sacrifices they and their families made during the nine week dispute when they were not paid.  

Passed by the Australian Senate

14 November 2013

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