Joe Hendren

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Howard comes second

Wonderful to see the defeat of John Howard last night. Not only will Howard no longer be the Prime Minister of Australia, it looks like he will lose his own electorate as well.

While the TV coverage last night claimed this will be the first time a sitting Prime Minister has lost his own seat, this is not the case. While Howard may not be the first, a comparison of the fortunes of John Howard and Stanley Bruce is far more poignant.

Like Howard, Bruce attempted to drum up fears of trade unions in order to protect the interests of his mates in big business. In 1929 Bruce prevented the prosecution of John Brown the 'coal baron' following a lockout of workers in his mines.

There were a number of high profile industrial disputes between 1927 and 1929, including strikes by sugar mill, waterside and transport workers. Most noteworthy was a nasty lockout of mining workers by employers in Rothbury NSW who sought to lower the miners wages. Police provided heavy protection for scabs, leading to a tragedy on December 16 1929, when two miners were shot dead by police.

Stanley Bruce then introduced controversial industrial relations legislation - The Maritime Industries Bill - which was designed to do away with the Conciliation and Arbitration Court and return arbitration powers to individual Australian states. The proposed legislation effectively dismantled the federal arbitration system, except in the maritime industries.
On 10 September 1929, Billy Hughes and five other Nationalist members joined Labor in voting against the Bill. The Bill was lost 34 votes to 35 when Littleton Groom, the Speaker, abstained, bringing down the Bruce–Page government and sending Australians to the polls in the 1929 election just one year after the Nationalists won the 1928 election. Labor won a landslide victory and Bruce lost his own seat to Labor's Ted Holloway.
Ted Holloway was a prominent trade unionist - making the 1929 victory even sweeter.

So assuming Howard loses his seat - he will be the second Australian Prime Minister to lose his electorate in response to unpopular right wing industrial law changes. Lets hope future Prime Ministers on both sides of the Tasman take heed of this lesson.

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