Joe spoke directly to almost 2,000 workers and shop stewards during his brief tour, plus four Socialist Party public meetings in three States, did media, met with union executives, and had an official welcome by Melbourne City Council. The Celtic Club in Melbourne organised two separate functions for him.
The highlights for Joe were the Socialist Party National Conference (see separate report), the 350-strong delegates meeting of the NSW National Union of Workers, the site meetings in Melbourne at the massive Eureka job of 500 workers, and the Southern Cross job of 350 workers.
SP National Conference
This was our best ever Conference – in terms of its political analysis, attendance, recruitment, money raised and morale…
The Conference was held at Melbourne’s Trades Hall and was opened by John Gowland from the Perth branch. International messages of support from Belgium, Sri Lanka, Canada, Austria, Germany and Belgium were read out by our Nigerian comrade Wale.
The first discussion was on Australian perspectives. Stephen Jolly lead-off the discussion with an overview of the effects of the neo-liberal offensive on health, education and job security. He showed how the policies of Federal Labor and the experience of State Labor governments illustrated that the ALP was a capitalist party now and in no way an avenue for workers to solve their problems. He outlined the upturn in the economy had left millions behind and millions of others worked longer hours and were heavily in debt.
The crisis in the union movement leadership was discussed, including the need for a political alternative. The defeat of Craig Johnston’s Workers First faction in the AMWU was analysed. Conference discussed the perspectives if Howard was re-elected: which would include a new assault on the working class, big defensive battles, and a deep radicalisation amongst youth. If Labor wins, we predicted a very brief honeymoon, followed by disappointment and the perspective of growing support for the call for a new workers’ party.
After lunch, Irish Socialist Party MP Joe Higgins spoke to over 100 people and outlined the struggles of the Irish working class, the socialist alternative to capitalism, and the inspiring work of the Socialist Party in Ireland. He also showed footage from Ireland’s national TV station RTE on the bin tax dispute that led to 22 people, including Joe, being jailed last year.
The last session on Saturday was a political report on New Zealand from Tim Bowen, who also commented on the work of the new CWI group in that country. On Saturday night, Conference attendees and supporters had a great night at the Celtic Club.
On Sunday, Joe gave a report on the work of our comrades in the different sections of our international, the CWI. Then we discussed ideas and strategy for building our party in the next 12 months.
We elected a new National Committee, the National Secretary and the National Treasurer respectively.
Joe paying to get into prison!