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Labor Party opposition to the war

Page history last edited by PBworks 17 years ago


Thomas Liang, Joseph Feng in collaboration with Neil Beedie and Laura Molesworth



Arthur Calwell and H.V.Evatt  - Labor Leaders of the vietnam war period




Anti-war protests had been taking place in Australia since 1962 when the first military advisors had been sent in to Vietnam. Since then, protests had taken place at various times for a number of reasons, but it was not until the announcement in April 1965 that they really began to take shape.





Old Parliment House, Canberra. The parliment in use at that time.




The Australian Labor Party (ALP)

The ALP was against the commitment of troops to Vietnam, but it was difficult to form a coherent policy for a party that was very widely split over many issues. The Labor leader Arthur Calwell had the unenviable job of responding to the government in parliament. While being against the War, he could not be seen to be anti-American or worse, unpatriotic. He supported the ideas of the British and Canadian governments who had wanted the United States to enter negotiations with North Vietnam. Labor saw the war as essentially a civil one in which Australia should not get involved. Calwell did say that they would back the Australian troops and not deny them the support they would need. As time went on, Calwell's' party was pushed into a firmer anti-war stance by the Liberal Party who knew that it would not be a vote winner for Labor. Calwell maintained that they supported the troops, but Labor's anti-war leanings were unpopular with many people. In 1966 Calwell was shot, but not killed, after attending an anti-Vietnam rally in Sydney.



E.V Evatt at a Senate meeting





The Trade Unions

Many of the trade unions called the government support of America's foreign policy in Vietnam 'blood for dollars', or 'diggers for dollars'. They believed the Australian government was sacrificing the lives of Australian troops to ensure that America would boost the economy by spending more money in Australia.

In response to this belief and the announcement of troops being sent to Vietnam, unions like the Waterside Workers Federation, wanted to hold work stoppages in protest. The Australian Council of Trade Unions (the ACTU), which followed the Labor Party policy of not supporting the war but not denying the soldiers support, said no action would be taken. Some of the more militant unions took independent action to protest the announcement and held some work stoppages which the ACTU did not support.

Meanwhile within the union's membership there were differing opinions over the war. The leadership of the major unions wanted to avoid the possibility of internal conflict by staying out of the politics of the war as much as possible. The ACTU openly opposed the government's decision, but did not call for any direct action to be taken by its members.



A ACTU Rally at Victoria during the vietnam war



The Protestant churches

Unlike the Catholic Church, the Protestant churches were divided over the issue of Vietnam. Even before Menzies had committed the troops, a group of Anglican bishops had asked him in a series of open letters to the newspapers, not to increase the Australian commitment in Vietnam. After the announcement, the Anglican Church hierarchy supported the decision and opinion was divided - some Anglican clergy believed that Christians should always be the peace makers, while others condemned the idea of peace at any price. The Methodist Church came out as strongly anti-war. They supported the idea of a group of churches coming together to oppose the government as had happened in America. The Protestant churches formed the committee for Canberra Vigil, a prayer vigil outside parliament house to condemn both the communists in Vietnam and the government for sending troops.




The Universities

In later years, no other group would be more associated with anti-war activities, but reaction in the universities immediately after the announcement was quite mixed, with some support as well as opposition. Division down party political lines was present and the ALP and DLP both had their adherents in the universities. The first student opposition was cautious in its approach. It was mainly made up of open letters to newspapers, putting the conflict in its historical and political perspective and predicting a long and drawn out affair. The letters encouraged the government to engage in negotiations with the Viet Cong and North Vietnam. It was really only after the start of conscription the next year that students began to come out in force against the War.




Wider Community Opposition

Although there was support for the government and also an ethos of 'it doesn't concern us' among the wider population, there was also a large and angry anti-war movement growing. In the month between the announcement and the deployment of troops in Vietnam, anti-war demonstrations had begun. Wives of soldiers who were deployed received angry phone calls and letters and anti-war literature was handed out. The departure date and time of the 1st Royal Australian Regiment was kept secret in order to avoid angry scenes or protests at the dock side.




The Split of Labor Party (1954)

The Communist issue was a main cause of the spilt of Labor in 1954. A small group in Victoria named the movement want to stop or reduce communist influence. This group split and formed the DLC (Democratictic Labor Party). This was siginficant as Labor continued on to lose the next six federal election before Gouth Whitlam came into power in 1972.









Comments (3)

Anonymous said

at 1:43 pm on Jun 13, 2007

Feng + Riang,

Lots of good information in your Wiki here, a lot can be learned from reading it. The formatting could have been a little bit better, with a huge block of text in between two pictures can be a little uneasy to the eye, and the two coat of arms at the bottom is a bit weird. You should perhaps consider adding more links and references to your page before submission to the teacher as well.
The information you represent is very good however, and at least the separate bits of information each has titles. It is reasonably to the point, although there is quite a bit to digest. But you haven’t left much out, which is a great thing as something I believe our Wiki lacked was detail.

Take my constructive criticism into account when editing it for submission, and you should be prepared for a great mark.

Taylor (Sayaazzz is on leave at the moment)

Anonymous said

at 2:56 pm on Jun 15, 2007

Great page so far :) All that we are going to change is the wording of some phrases, blank spaces created my pictures and adding more pictures relevant to the information given. Overall information is very relevant and is very useful. Set up is good with sub-headings. Good work! Neil and Laura xx

Anonymous said

at 8:40 am on Jun 19, 2007

Really good page structure. There is heaps of relevant information but could i suggest adding links to other relevant wiki pages. Great work though =)

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