Introduction – Don Sutherland
Val Carmichael arrested and carried dragged along the street
Laurie Carmichael is recognised as a champion of peaceful relations between nations and directly involved in many anti struggles. Especially, he is remembered as one of the prime leaders of the anti-Vietnam War movement in Victoria in the sixties and 70’s.
Here is an extract from a history of this struggle by Tony Duras:
“The links between draft resisters and unions in Melbourne were strengthened by the case of Laurie Carmichael Jr, the son of the State Secretary of the AEU. When the younger Carmichael appeared at Williamstown Court to answer charges relating to his refusal to report for a medical examination, he was whisked away by supporters. Angry scenes erupted and Laurie Carmichael and his wife Val as well as twelve other people were arrested. In protest against the "brutal treatment" the police meted out to demonstrator, especially Val Carmichael, who was knocked over and dragged along the ground by her feet, the Rebel Unions issued a statement that:
we recommend to Unions that a campaign of lunchtime and stopwork meetings be held and that contact be made with sister organisations in other states, finally aimed at National action on the part of the worker.
A week later, when the Carmichaels appeared at Williamstown Court, unionists held meetings and demonstrated outside the court.
According to Ken Carr, "...at the Williamstown Naval Dockyard the blokes just dropped their tools and marched towards the court." Approximately five hundred workers from the dockyard and seven hundred meatworkers from Newport stopped work to attend the demonstration.
Moreover: after the Carmichael case, Union leaders like George Crawford (Plumbers Union), Ray Hogan (Miscellaneous Workers Union) and Roger Wilson (Seamen's Union) were readily available to meet with draft resisters and student activists at short notice. Unions continued to assist in organising factory meetings and addressing shop steward seminars.
It is difficult to gauge the effect of the Carmichael trial on individual unionists but it almost certainly influenced the declaration of two to three hundred union officials from the Rebel Unions in Victoria:
We encourage those young men already conscripted to refuse to accept orders against their conscience and those in Vietnam to lay down their arms in mutiny against the heinous barbarism perpetuated in our name upon the innocent, aged, men, women and children.
In August 1971, ten union officials were charged with violating the National Service Act because they were handing out leaflets which encouraged young men to refuse to register for National Service. They were among a group of thirty union organisers and officials from a variety of unions who were handing out anti-registration leaflets outside the offices of the Department of Labor and National Service in Melbourne. In their court statement the unionists, who were found guilty and fined between $20 and $50 each, declared that:
As Trade Union Officials, representing many thousands of organized workers, we firmly believe that the continued conscription of young Australians to be sent to Vietnam to kill or be killed is a criminal act. We therefore, as a matter of conscience with 30 other like-minded Trade Union Officials deliberately handed out leaflets in Flinders Street outside the Department of Labor and National Service.
To read the whole story CLICK HERE.
Also, Laurie Carmichael Jr reflects on this: CLICK HERE.
For more from Laurie Carmichael on union building at the Williamstown Naval Dockyard: CLICK HERE.