Hal Colebatch's book claiming that Australian unions sabotaged their nation's war effort is deeply unsatisfactory. How did it win the PM's Prize. Australia's Secret War, which won the PM's literary award for history, In his introduction, Colebatch claims that a strike by wharf labourers in. Australia's Secret War has 10 ratings and 4 reviews. Start by marking “Australia's Secret War: How unionists sabotaged our troops in Hal G.P. Colebatch.


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Bobbie Oliver on Australia’s Secret War by Hal Colebatch – LABOUR HISTORY MELBOURNE

I could go on, but you get the picture. Page after page, chapter after chapter, the book is an egregious exercise in union-bashing with little or no display of original research or historical scholarship.

Colebatch, a Perth lawyer and self-styled poet, has long been a spear carrier for the hard Right. His publisher, Quadrant magazine, is holy writ for that ever-diminishing band of geriatric self-styled culture warriors still bewailing the departure of the late B.

Naturally, when the book came out, it was ballyhooed to the australias secret war colebatch by Quadrant's editor, the australias secret war colebatch Keith Windschuttle, and the usual Tory gaggle of Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt and Miranda Devine et al.

Writing as if she actually knew what she was talking about, Devine banged on in the Sydney Daily Telegraph about "union bastardry", branding the non-existent HMS Speaker strike as an "obscene act".

Australia's Secret War: How unionists sabotaged our troops in World War II

Indeed you might, but only because it is so downright awful. Which might lead you, gentle reader, to ask how on earth it got the gong.


No surprises there either. The chief judge of the non-fiction and history awards for this year was none other than our old friend Gerard "Gollum" Henderson, ringmaster of the right-wing Sydney Institute, long-time culture impresario and an Abbott confidante.

Australia's secret war by Hal Colebatch | Boffins Books

For example, he claims that the pilfering possibly by wharf labourers of australias secret war colebatch rendered a radar station inoperative and led to the loss of American bombers australias secret war colebatch from a raid on Rabaul.

On investigation, Colebatch got wrong at least the identity of the supposed radar unit, the type of aircraft involved, the air force to which they belonged and, indeed, whether the incident actually happened.

One commentator on a specialist website concluded that "hyperbole like 'sabotaging the war effort' in the Australian case suggests Colebatch is pushing his usual right-wing agenda". The book is, indeed, published by Quadrant, the journal that has become increasingly right-wing as its cadre of writers age and sink into a furious, fulminating dotage.

Who are the liars? Response to Colebatch

Colebatch australias secret war colebatch well be "pushing his usual right-wing agenda", though that does not necessarily mean it is bad history. There is no reason why writers should not be clear about their political orientation and intention: But writers also have an obligation to australias secret war colebatch the practice of history as it is pursued in the western liberal empirical tradition, and that means above all that they should seek out diverse sources and consider and criticise them in the light of evidence that does not necessarily endorse or accord with a writer's starting assumptions.

Colebatch has left his starting assumptions and his conclusions untested. He is on uncertain ground.

His book seems to be based on australias secret war colebatch but secondary sources, and the only arguably 'primary' evidence he draws upon are the memories of veterans of the Second World War: It makes for striking and shocking stories but it does not necessarily produce reliable, verifiable, justifiable australias secret war colebatch.

Sadly, Colebatch appears not to have attempted to check any of the stories he was told, but has simply replicated them and on that basis constructed a narrative of Australia in the Second World War in which 'the unions' 'sabotaged' 'the war effort'.

He fails to test any of his examples against available primary sources, either public - such as newspapers which are available thanks to the National Library's 'Trove' data base - or government or union archives.

This does not prevent him from condemning 'unions' as australias secret war colebatch whole: In May Sydney wharfies went on strike because they were required to work with 6-man rather than 8-man crews in the hold. Sydney wharfies disobeyed their executive and went on strike in because they objected to working on Anzac Day.

Australia's Secret (And Unhistorical) War - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Fremantle wharfies struck for 3 weeks in May — by which time the war was almost over. Inevitably, these strikes disrupted shipping and may well australias secret war colebatch delayed the repatriation of soldiers from the islands — but that was not their aim.

There was, indeed, industrial trouble in Sydney, australias secret war colebatch brought forth the censure of Secretary Jim Healy who warned the wharfies that they could lose preference and their exemption from war service if disputes continued But it also succeeded because the government placed responsibility for disputes on both management and workers and fined owners and managers who closed mines because of disputes.