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Issue #1916      May 25, 2020


The General Secretary of the [Communist Party of Australia] Mr L L Sharkey, will appear at the Special Federal Court Commonwealth Bank Building (corner of Martin Place and Castlereagh Street entrance in Martin Place) at 10 am on Monday to answer charges of having uttered and published seditious words.

In view of the widespread interest the case has aroused, a large audience is expected to attend the hearing.


The Combined Mining Unions’ Council, representing all unions with members on the coalfields, has carried a resolution condemning the prosecution of Mr Sharkey.

The Council resolved:

“That this Council emphatically protests to the Federal government for its issue of a summons against a leader of a working-class political party.

“We view this action, as leaders of the coal mining industry, with grave concern, and we reaffirm our resolve to maintain our democratic rights and freedom of expression.

“Further, we pledge our membership to support any movement for world peace and economic security.

“We call on the Federal government to withdraw the contemplated action against Mr Sharkey and we call for a repeal of the Crimes Act.”

The same resolution was unanimously endorsed by a meeting of more than fifty delegates from Southern District lodges.


The Executive of the Illawarra Trades and Labor Council called a special meeting on Saturday morning and carried a resolution describing the Labor Government’s action against Mr Sharkey as “an attack on free speech and against the interests of world peace.”

The resolution further “demanded that the Government remove the political and anti-working class clauses of the Crimes Act; that the government give full support to the Soviet Government’s peace policy as repeatedly enunciated through the United Nations, thereby defeating the aims of the international warmongers who are attempting to organise a third world war, which would bring untold suffering to the Australian and world’s peoples who are opposed to war and fascism.”

Several miners’ lodges on the south coast called pit-top meetings the day after the government’s radio announcement of proceedings against Mr Sharkey.

A pit-top meeting at Old Bulli mine decided by 100 votes to one to protest against what was considered to be “a serious attack on the right of free speech of a working class organisation.”

Similar resolutions were passed by substantial majorities at South Burn and Mount Kembla official pit-top meetings.

Workers of Corrimal coke works at a meeting unanimously decided to send an official letter to the government protesting at its action.

At a stop-work meeting of the Port Kembla branch of the Waterside Workers’ Federation a unanimous decision was reached demanding withdrawal of the summonses.


Scarborough Lodge of the Miners’ Federation carried a resolution, with two dissentients, demanding that the government “immediately withdraw the summons against Mr Sharkey and in its place indict the warmongers.”

It is considered significant that although nearly all the western Communist leaders, including M Thorez (France), Togliatti (Italy), Pollitt (Britain), Foster (USA) and the leaders of the Cuban, Mexican, Argentinian and other Communist Parties have recently made statements condemning the imperialists’ intended war with Russia, the Australian Labor Government alone has taken legal action as the result of a similar statement by Australian Communist leaders.

In a statement to the Press, on Monday the President of the [Communist Party of Australia], Mr Dixon, said that the Labor Government’s decision to prosecute Mr Sharkey had caused great resentment.

“We understand that workers in many industries are preparing to launch protest strikes on the day the case begins.”

The Government is prosecuting Mr Sharkey under an Act which was introduced by its anti-Labor opponents and which this same Labor Government promised, at the last elections, that it would repeal.

Year by year, at conference after conference, the ALP has pledged itself to abrogate the repressive and political sections of the Act, which a Labor Government is now using against the Communist Party.

Only last October the highest policy-making organisation of the ALP, the Triennial Conference, condemned the Crimes Act and directed the Labor Government to repeal its repressive sections.


The Australian Council of Trades Unions, highest trade union body in the Commonwealth, has repeatedly denounced the Crimes Act and demanded its repeal.

The Queensland Trades Union Congress last year called on the Federal Government to “repeal immediately the political and industrial sections of the Commonwealth Crimes Act, in accordance with the recent decision of the ALP Triennial Conference.”

Mackay ARU [Australian Railway Union] sub-branch sent a similar request to the Prime Minister.

A unanimous resolution of protest against the Crimes Act was carried last September by the Newport (Melbourne) rail workshops combined unions shop committee.

The Crimes Act, a slightly modified version of W M Hughes’ War Precautions Act passed during the first world war, violates the most important features of what has often been called “British justice.”

The Crimes Act provides for summary trial before a magistrate (unless the accused chooses to appeal to a higher court); it says that the simple averment of a prosecutor may be considered prima facie evidence of guilt which the accused person has to disprove without the right to cross-examine his accuser, and under certain circumstances it compels the accused to answer questions even if they implicate him.

As Mr E W Campbell says in his pamphlet The Crimes Act, murderers and common criminals have privileges under the law which are denied to alleged political offenders under the Crimes Act.

All this has been admitted by ALP members of Parliament in debates on the Crimes Act and its amendments ever since the Act’s first introduction.

In 1932 Mr A Blakeley, Labor MHR, said of the Crimes Act Amendment of that year: “The bill reverses the principle that an accused person shall be given the benefit of the doubt. It throws on the accused the onus of proving he is not a member of an unlawful association.

“It is a deliberate attack on the working class organisations of this country.”

Mr G W Martens: “I denounce it as a cowardly and dastardly piece of legislation.”

Mr F M Baker: “This bill is fundamentally opposed to many sections of principles of British law. It sets aside trial by jury.”

Leading the attack on the Crimes Act on February 10, 1926, the ALP leader, Mr Matthew Charlton, said: “This legislation strikes a blow at the trade union movement in Australia.”


Despite all this denunciation, ALP leaders of today are threatening to invoke the same “dastardly piece of legislation,” the same “coercive and repressive measure” to attack the Chairman of the Communist Party in Western Australia, Mr Kevin Healy, who had made an anti-war speech.

Working class organisations view with contempt and disgust the Chifley government’s capitulation to the “Liberal” government of WA, Menzies and the Langites.

The announcement of a police inquisition into Mr Healy as part of the Labor and “Liberal” governments’ drive to suppress Communist Party opposition to the criminal anti-Soviet war which the imperialists are preparing.

This repressive activity by the Labor government is bound to have serious political consequences.

It is therefore in the interests of the ALP as well as of the Communist Party and workers generally to demand that the government hold its hand and call its bloodhounds off Mr Healy.

Carry resolutions – defending freedom of speech!

Demonstrate against war!

Defend the Communist Party!

This article originally appeared in Tribune March, 1949.

Next article – WHAT SHARKEY SAID

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