The co-opting of history to suit people’s own ideas is not new … on the labour side as well as on the bosses side. I have fought against this all my life. For example Tom Zubryki made a film about the 1985 SEQEB dispute called ‘Friends & Enemies‘ but the reality was the strike committee led by Bernie Neville, in the end, only had enemies.

Workers at Swanbank Power Station voted to lift the ban (of turning off the power) on the recommendation of their union [Municipal Officers Association (MOA)] after leaders of that union met with Joh Bjelke-Petersen. They lifted the bans after being told by their union that, if they did, the SEQEB linesmen would get their jobs back with no recriminations. It was only after they lifted the ban that they realised that they had been mislead by their union.” – Neil Andrew Frost

Those enemies were the governments of Petersen and Hawke, the media, the bosses, the ACTU led by Simon Crean, the Electrical Trades Union in Queensland led by Neal Kane, and even sections of the Left kept telling the workers that they were defeated.

The Hope of the World
The play, Errol O’Neill wrote, called ‘The Hope of the World‘ had a final scene that depicted the officials and the strike committee standing arm-in-arm singing ‘Solidarity Forever‘ when, in reality, by their own admission, the Trades and Labour Council (TLC) and Electrical Trades Union (ETU) officials sold out their own union members in order to preserve the Hawke government’s ‘Prices and Income Accord‘.

Ian Curr
21 Oct 2022

Reference: ‘The Hope of the World‘ – a play about trade unions and the moral dilemmas of the left during the Bjelke-Petersen era: Produced by QTC, 1996; Newcastle Rep, 1999.

Friends and Enemies‘ by Tom Zubryki

Song: ‘Working Class Hero‘ by John Lennon


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