August 29th 2015

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Same-sex marriage and the SOGI ideological agenda

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Canada: basic freedoms lost since same-sex marriage came to town

CANBERRA OBSERVED Abbott, Shorten fixin' for some feudin' next year

OBITUARY RIP Frank Scully, last survivor of the Labor Split

EDITORIAL Colleagues digging holes Tony Abbott has to fill in

EDUCATION There must be a better plan than Naplan

HISTORY OF INDONESIA Sukarno makes way for Suharto's "New Order"

HISTORY Fateful indecision: the tragedy of Rabaul

FAMILY LIFE A father's presence in the home: part I

SCOTUS: JUDICIAL ACTIVISM On the having of the cake and the eating of it too

LIFE ISSUES When an abomination becomes good business

CINEMA Spy sequel vies with a spy history repeat Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

BOOK REVIEW An important biography of B.A.

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Frank Scully, last survivor of the Labor Split

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, August 29, 2015

Frank Scully, the last surviving MP from the Labor “Split” in the 1950s, died peacefully in Melbourne on August 12, having been a part of the most tumultuous events in the history of Victoria. He is survived by his devoted wife Moira, two children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Frank Scully, 1920–2015

It is always difficult to guess what might have been: but if the Split had not caused the collapse of the Victorian Labor government in 1955, Frank would have been a member of the Victorian cabinet and in time could well have become premier of Victoria.

Frank Scully was born in Bendigo in 1920, the son of a railway worker.

The family moved to Melbourne and lived in the working-class suburb of Richmond. Frank attended the local Catholic school, St Ignatius’, and the family saw the full tragedy of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Frank’s father, who worked for the railways, died in 1935, at the height of the Depression, and it was in this scene of widespread poverty and suffering that Frank left school and began working in the Victorian Railways at the age of 15. He worked with the transportation branch, and became leading shunter.

Active unionist

He was an active member of his trade union, the Australian Railways Union, whose Victorian branch had been taken over by its Communist Party Australia (CPA) cell, led by J.J. Brown.

The Communist Party ran a tight operation inside the Railways Union, with a network of activists in the railway workshops at Newport, and others in both the suburban and country sections of the union.

The late 1930s was a time of rapid growth of communist union power in Australia as the Communist Party capitalised on the widespread loss of faith in the economic system arising from the Depression, and propaganda about the “socialist utopia” being constructed by Stalin in the Soviet Union.

At that time, the CPA captured control of many of the largest unions in the country, including the Amalgamated Engineering Union, the Ironworkers Union, the Sheetmetal Workers Union, the Boilermakers and Blacksmiths Society, the Building Workers Industrial Union, the Federated Clerks Union, and the Waterside Workers Federation, as well as the Railways Union and others.

Patriotic and democratically minded unionists tried to resist the growth of communist power, but were largely ineffective until Bob Santamaria, working in conjunction with Victorian Labor leaders and officials of the Victorian Trades Hall Council, began to mobilise Catholics to build a democratic opposition to the Communist Party.

Frank Scully joined the Movement at this time, and quickly became the leader of the anti-communist force within the Victorian branch of the Railways Union. From humble beginnings in the Newport Railway Workshops, aided by Santamaria and with the backing of Archbishop of Melbourne Daniel Mannix, Frank Scully built an effective counter-organisation within the union that was able to contest meetings and elections in the union.

However, the Communist Party was assisted by the favourable atmosphere generated by the wartime alliance with the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany, and by its willingness to use any methods, including standover tactics and ballot-rigging, to keep control of its industrial bastions.

At the 1945 ACTU Congress, the communist-aligned left controlled the floor of the Congress by 90 votes. The communists moved rapidly to exploit their advantage. Then followed a major strike wave designed to bring down federal and state Labor governments. The Labor Party responded by establishing “ALP Industrial Groups”, effectively branches of the party within the unions, to fight the Communist Party.

Frank Scully became leader of the ALP Industrial Group within the Railways Union, and with other unionists, was instrumental in having “clean ballot” legislation enacted by the Chifley Labor government, against the bitter opposition of the left. This was further strengthened by the Menzies government, elected in 1949.

At this time, a vacancy occurred for the state seat of Richmond. Frank won ALP preselection, and was elected in 1949. He became assistant minister of lands and assistant minister of electrical undertakings (December 1952–March 1955). He was also secretary to cabinet.

He played a  pivotal role in getting the passage of the Co-operation Act 1953, which paved the way for the huge growth of credit, housing and agricultural cooperatives in Victoria, which then spread to other states.

Late in 1954, Labor leader Dr H.V. Evatt, who had months before lost the 1954 election, launched an attack on the Movement and the Industrial Groups, falsely blaming them for Labor’s election defeat.

This triggered the Labor Split, in which Frank Scully was one of the many casualties. Those who had led the fight against communism in the unions were driven out of the ALP and, with Evatt’s backing, the Communist Party staged a resurgence in the union movement.

Frank Scully, Bob Santamaria and thousands of others continued the fight, through the Democratic Labor Party and the National Civic Council. Frank held his seat in Parliament in the 1955 election, but was defeated in 1958.

He remained active in both the DLP and the National Civic Council, as well as the St Vincent de Paul Society.

His courage helped save the labour movement in Australia from falling into communist hands, and for that he will never be forgotten. He also played a key role in forming the DLP, which was pivotal in Australian politics during the 1960s and 1970s.

May he rest in peace.

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