The Law and the Labour Market
The History of the Black Ban applied to Farmers on Kangaroo Island 1972
To those involved in industrial relations, it may
appear irrelevant to spend time studying the history
of a confrontation between the Australian Workers'
Union in South Australia, and the farmers on Kangaroo
Island some twenty years ago. However, this case became
somewhat of a precedent because the plaintiff involved
took his case to a Civil Court rather than the Industrial
Court. He did this because there were no grounds to
go to the Industrial Court. There had been no breach
of the Pastoral Award. The dispute arose because a
black ban was placed on a property for no just reason.
If there had been no ban there would have been no argument.
It was therefore a matter of civil rights, and was
dealt with in the Supreme Court. The resulting success
of the action may have demonstrated one way to deal
with bullying union tactics.
Kangaroo Island, partly because of its isolation,
has a close knit community. In 1971 there were about
280 farmers of whom approximately 170 were soldier
settlers from World War II. There were no rich squatters,
and most, including all of the soldier settlers, were
very much in the pioneering stage of developing their
farms from virgin scrub land. Times were tough, as
wool, the main source of income was selling at low
prices. Nevertheless, there was an excellent community
spirit, and neighbours frequently assisted one another
during busy and difficult periods. There were a few
expert shearers on the Island, but the bulk of the
shearing was done by farmers or their sons, and learners.
The dispute actually began in the woolshed of Bronte
Pratt, a soldier settler neighbour of mine, in October
Jim Dunford, then an organiser with the AWU entered
the shed, and after speaking to the shearers and finding
that they were not members, decided to black ban the
wool, so that it could not be transported to Adelaide
or sold through the usual channels. Two of the shearers
owned neighbouring farms and only shore part time to
help keep the pot boiling, while the third was a learner
and a farmer's son. Farmers are generally tardy about
joining because under the Constitution of the AWU of
that time there was a clause "That members are bound
to strive for the collective ownership of all property",
and also to follow the dictum "That individually we
can agitate, united we can compel."
Against Pratt's wishes the dispute was referred to
the Arbitration Commission for a solution. Pratt had
no intention of forcing his shearers to join against
their will. After both sides refused to budge, a Commissioner
contacted the shearers and pleaded with them to join
in order that Pratt would be able to sell his wool.
The shearers, being good neighbours, complied, and
the ban was lifted. So ended 1970.
During the Spring of 1971, AWU organisers were busy
on the Island, adopting standover tactics. The first
ban was placed on Brian Woolley, a soldier settler.
Soon after five other properties suffered the same
fate. In some cases the boys had come along with money,
intending to join, in order to avoid trouble, but were
not given the opportunity. It was obvious that Dunford,
who was now secretary of the AWU, and who ordered the
bans to be applied, wished to repeat his victory of
the previous year, and be able to order us around.
Farmers were quite perturbed and within a few days,
under the chairmanship of George Hardy, a Committee
was formed to assist Woolley, or others, if a way could
be found to do so. Hardy thought some solicitors he
knew might be able to help. As a result I was deputised
to visit Adelaide to see two solicitors, Messrs. H.C.
Williams and S.G. Maidment, who came to the Island
to meet the committee and Woolley.
It so happened that at that time, Fricker Bros., the
owners of the "Failie" (now used as a training
ship) were drumming up business in competition with
"MV Troubridge", which shipped the bulk of cargo
to and from Kangaroo Island. They had reduced charges
and persuaded Woolley to sign a contract to ship his
wool with them that year.
Williams' attitude was definite. The only avenue worth
pursuing was through the Civil Court, to prove that
Dunford, by his actions in placing the ban had wrecked
Woolley's contract with Frickers. He believed there
was a just case that would win in a court of law.
It is no small commitment to contest in the Supreme
Court, and it was pointed out that a lot of money would
be required, and also it was essential that Brian Woolley
should understand the implications, and be willing
to undertake the court action, not only for himself,
but for all of us. Fortunately he is a man of great
courage and high convictions and willingly decided
to do so. We then called public meetings to test the
wisdom of proceeding. It immediately became obvious
that the overwhelming majority of the people were in
favour of action being taken, and proved it by donating
over $10,000 to proceed. There were also donations
from victimised farmers from all over the State, as
well as Liberal politicians.
At this point Williams insisted that all moneys subscribed
should be placed in a legally valid Trust Fund for
the specific purpose of the action. I mention this
because he says that the opposition will seek out any
mistake that can easily be made which may lead to action
on their part.
There were some months before the case was heard,
during which time we were subjected to much derision
from union circles for daring to take on the AWU. There
was one particularly vicious article which appeared
in "Truth", December 18, 1971. All this time
of course the five farmers that were banned were unable
to dispose of wool or livestock or purchase fertiliser
for the coming season.
The action began in the Supreme Court of South Australia
on February 8th, 1972, before Mr Justice Wells. Brian
Woolley was represented by H.C. Williams and S.G. Maidment,
while Dunford had Elliot Johnston QC, assisted by Miss
With several adjournments the trial was completed
on March 9th, after a total of 12 sitting days. It
should be noted that Woolley spent almost three days
under oath giving evidence and being cross-examined
by Johnston, QC, whereas Dunford did not enter the
witness box at all. This did not count in his favour.
Throughout the trial Woolley was superb. His evidence
was clear and concise and he showed great wisdom during
cross-examination. He was greatly assisted by Williams.
In his judgment handed down on May 11th, Justice Wells
found that Dunford had committed the tort alleged against
him. He also stated that the dispute was deeper rooted
than the formal issues arising from the pleadings and
suggested that the persons concerned meet in an endeavour
to compose their differences, and he did not make an
injunction to lift the ban, but adjourned the case
so that the parties could meet.
Here the Trades and Labour Council became involved
in the act and put great pressure on Woolley to agree
to a set of demands which would have greatly interfered
with his ability to procure suitable shearers, as and
when they were required. In this he was assisted by
Williams who was adamant that while we were, of necessity,
obliged to negotiate, we were under no obligation to
submit to any unreasonable demands. And so, due again
largely to Woolley's courage, there was no agreement,
and the case went back to Justice Wells for final judgment.
After further deliberation he ruled that "Dunford
refrain from doing anything that caused a breach
of contract between the plaintiff and other parties
for the carriage or marketing of wool or other produce
of the plaintiff." In other words, the ban on Woolley's
farm was to be lifted.
Court costs of almost $10,000 were also granted in
Woolley's favour. This was on June 13th.
The reaction was immediate and dramatic. On June 14th
the Trades and Labour Council placed a ban on the produce,
livestock and fertilisers of all farmers and graziers
on the Island, in view of their anti-union attitude.
When challenged as to how a whole community could be
classed "anti-union" a union official stated that only
15% of residents voted Labor.
Dunford flatly refused to pay costs and should therefore
have gone to gaol, but prison wardens refused to process
him and he roamed at large.
As a result of all this the media had a great time
and the writers were all on our side. Letters condemning
union action flooded in from all over the country.
Questions were asked in Federal and State Parliaments.
The ABC sent a team down from "This Day Tonight".
Even the 'Modest Member' happened to hear about
it, and wrote a good column on the dispute.
This was all very well, but at the same time the ban
was hurting. Farmers could not ship wool and livestock.
Superphosphate was urgently needed for crops and pasture.
It was natural that the two Kangaroo Island Councils
should make every effort to have the ban removed, and
they appealed to the Premier to use his offices to
do so. The Premier ordered Commissioner Lean to try
to settle the dispute. He invited the TLC Disputes
Committee and the Councils on the Island to a voluntary
conference. The Island was represented by George Hardy
and the Chairman of the Kingscote Council and the secretaries
of the Stockowners Association and the UF&G.
A ten point plan for negotiation was made and this
was submitted to Kangaroo Island farmers. The TLC made
it quite clear that if we agreed with the submission,
then the ban would be lifted forthwith. We felt obliged
to put the matter to a public meeting.
About this time George Hardy left the Island and left
me to chair the meeting, which was held in the Kingscote
Hall. The hall was packed to capacity with an estimated
600 being present.
A printed copy of the proposal was given to all those
present. The Chairman of the Kingscote Council, as
requested by Commissioner Lean, presented the Union
case as fairly as possible. The meeting was then
open for discussion and it was soon obvious that the
proposition was not only unpopular but also considered
unworkable. A copy of the proposition may be seen
in Appendix I. Several motions were proposed but
the one that was put to the meeting was "That the
TLC basis for negotiation be rejected."
A secret ballot was taken, only Islanders being allowed
to vote. The result was 420 for the motion, 15 against,
and 5 informal.
The KI Committee refused to negotiate further while
the ban still applied. There was renewed sympathy
for our cause, as expressed in the papers and on talk
back radio. "The Advertiser" rang me on June
29th to ask how long we could hold out under this
ban. I replied that, "we still had almost a million
sheep, about 45,000 cattle, and fortunately just
lately the fish were biting very well."
I was right about the fish biting, because next morning
Premier Dunstan rang me, and said that he felt that
it was about time he came down and talked to us, to
which I agreed. He could only spare a couple of hours,
and suggested that some of our committee meet with
him over lunch at the Ozone Hotel. No sooner had
he hung up than our solicitor, Williams, rang to say
that the Premier was coming down and that on return
he would probably lift the ban. He didn't say how
he gleaned that information, but said that we would
be asked to have a further conference to which we
should agree, but on no account were obliged to give
And so about a dozen of us met as suggested. The
Premier told us how the Unions have principles which
they hold dearly, and when these are rejected they
get very upset. We said that we had principles too,
and we were very upset, and we enlarged on the reasons
The Premier could see that he was getting nowhere,
but suggested that we get to know the TLC better, and
hoped that we would go to Adelaide to meet them.
We replied that we were sick of going to Adelaide
and if they wished to see us they should come down
to Kangaroo Island. The Premier left soon after that.
That evening the Premier lifted the ban on the condition
that there would be a further Conference between the
TLC and the Islanders on Kangaroo Island. There was
much relief and rejoicing as a result of this announcement.
The meeting took place in Kingscote under the chairmanship
of Commissioner Lean on July 7th. The TLC delegation
was led by their Chairman, Wells M.P. There were
six others including Dunford, and also a young man
called John Bannon, in his capacity as Industrial
Officer. He has had a few ups and downs since those
days. We had a fairly large delegation, with Williams
to advise us. Really the meeting was not a credit
to any of us. There had been too much ill feeling
for us to be constructive, especially after Dunford
caused friction by a speech he made early in the meeting.
Several propositions were put forward by both sides
and all were rejected. We kept at it all day but there
was no resolution.
Williams and the TLC delegation spent the night at
the Ozone. Next morning Williams rang me to say that
the TLC was most anxious for a settlement. So much
so that they would agree to almost anything. He
suggested that he would draw up a proposition that
would give nothing away, and at last get them off
our backs. He said they were like a dog with a bone
and wouldn't let it go.
The final proposition was that, "In the event of further
dispute between Island farmers and Unions, the farmers
would refer the issue to their organisations the Stockowners
and the U.F. & G., and the Unions would state its
position to the TLC."
"These bodies would then have talks and attempt to
negotiate a settlement.
No direct action would be taken by the Unions before
this process of conciliation took place."
I had difficulty persuading our Committee to agree,
but they did. The TLC and the U.F. & G. agreed.
The Stockowners Association said they had too many
committees already and rejected it. No more was said
on either side. So that was where the dispute ended.
It just died-Amen.
All this time Dunford, the A.W.U. secretary had been
wandering at large while no action had been taken to
pay the costs of just under $10,000. However, on July
10th the South Australian Labor Government decided
to pay those costs out of Government revenue. No doubt
they also paid the costs of employing Johnston QC to
handle the Union side of the case. This caused much
furore in political circles and another spate of cartoons
and letters to the paper.
However, it did not prevent Dunford from obtaining
Labour selection and finally election to the Legislative
After all our costs were taken out there was a small
amount from the Trust Fund to be disbursed to our donors.
We posted each a cheque and enclosed a note which read,
"They that under rate the Island men's mates, makes
During the Spring of 1972 a Union organiser walked
into a shed on Kangaroo Island at smoke-oh and asked
a shearer if he had a Union ticket. The latter, who
was over 6 feet, rose and wearing a silly grin, said,
"No, what are you going to do about it?" The organiser
turned and left. We have had no problems with organisers
since then, but we still have an excellent relationship
with our shearers.
The Premier tried to introduce legislation which would
place all actions resulting from industrial disputes
within the jurisdiction of the Industrial Court instead
of the possibility of using the Supreme Court. This
was passed in the Legislative Assembly but rejected
in the Legislative Council largely due to the strenuous
efforts of Ron DeGaris.
The Moral of the Story
It must be plain by now that there should be more
protection through the law to prevent unwarranted standover
tactics taken by militant Unions.
However, as the law stands it may be still possible
to seek redress through the Civil Court rather than
the Arbitration Court. But if you adopt this path be
sure that you have a very good case. You also need
a very good lawyer.
In our case we were most fortunate to obtain the services
of H.C. Williams, who guided us throughout.
But most of all we are indebted to Brian Woolley.
He was really put through the mangle on our behalf.
Throughout he showed wisdom and great courage. We are
very proud of our most excellent plaintiff.
Our other asset was a united community. As can be
seen by the voting result of the meeting taken in Kingscote,
they stood firm under extreme pressure, and as a result
have achieved a lack of interference in industrial
- 1. Judgement No. 1255 handed down by Justice Wells.
Woolley-Dunford Case, 11th May, 1972 (63 pages).
- 2. Case history of the Union Ban on Kangaroo Island
Grazier B.H. Woolley, August, 1972, by J.T. Woolley.
- 3. Melbourne "Truth", 1971.
- 4. "The Islander' November, 1971.
- 5. "Advertiser", July 11th, 1972.
- 6. "Modest Member" Stock Journal, July 27th,
- 7. "Unions in Crisis", Clyde Cameron, pp 325-343
"... for an inaccurate account of what occurred ...."
Herewith the suggested points of settlement to
the dispute to which we were asked to submit at the
Kingscote meeting on June 27th, 1972.
After reading same do you wonder why they were
rejected, or why we are not keen on the Arbitration
Commission? This is essential reading in order to
understand the true nature of pressures that were applied.
Please find enclosed a draft of the Procedures laid
down at the Conference held on Friday 23rd June, 1972.
I have drafted the list of Procedures to express the
agreement and wishes of the Conference. It is recognised
that the contents of the Draft are to be submitted
to the Farming Community on Kangaroo Island early next
week for ratification and if accepted, the Ban imposed
by the Disputes Committee of the United Trades and
Labour Council will be lifted within twenty-four hours.
"That a procedure be laid down to settle the current
dispute that has resulted from the Trades and Labour
Council placing a ban on the farming community at Kangaroo
Island and such procedures to apply only to Union activities
on Kangaroo Island."
- 1. In order that the Union may be in a position to
exercise its rights under the preference clause (No.
73) of the Federal Pastoral Award the following moves
shall be agreed to be undertaken by the parties:
- (a) Upon application by the Australian Workers' Union
the employer associations to supply to that Union the
date of the next shearing of a member concerned and
the member's labour requirements together with the
number and type of sheep to be shorn. This information
to be supplied no later than 21 days prior to the date
- (b) Farmers who are not members of either employer
organisation and have engaged or intend to engage non-union
labour, to notify the secretary of the Australian Workers'
Union of their labour requirements together with the
number and type of sheep to be shorn, no later than
21 days prior to the date of shearing.
- 2. The method of implementing the preference clause
in the Federal Award will be that the Australian Workers'
Union will make union labour available to the employer
who shall give any such labour preference of employment
as set out in clause 73 of the said Award in the event
of no alternative union labour offering their services
to the employer. In the event of a dispute as to the
persons to be employed the dispute shall be referred
to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission
in order that a Board of Reference may be convened
to determine the following dispute:
- "The employer has notified the Australian Workers'
Union that he will commence his shearing operation
on .. (the date to be inserted herein). The Australian
Workers' Union has offered the employer as labour Messrs.
"X" and "Y" etc. who are members of the Australian
Workers' Union. The employer has notified the Union
that he prefers to employ Messrs. "A" and "B" etc.
who are not members of the Australian Workers' Union.
As "X" and "Y" and "A" and "B" etc. are all offering
their services for employment is the employer obliged
by virtue of clause 73 of the Federal Pastoral Award
to engage Messrs. "X" and "Y" etc. in preference to
employing or continuing to employ Messrs. "A" and "B"
- 3. The employers to agree to act at all times to observe
the wage rates and conditions of the Federal Pastoral
Award irrespective of the type of labour they employ.
- 4. The employers to make available to the Australian
Workers' Union's organisers all reasonable facilities
and assistance as given previously to organise on their
property. The Australian Workers' Union organisers
shall have access initially prior to the start of shearing
or on the first day of the shearing run.
- 5. The Australian Workers' Union when called upon
will undertake to provide first class shearers.
- 6. The Australian Workers' Union will be available
at all times to undertake any reasonable negotiations
with farmers over the staffing of their sheds during
the shearing season.
- 7. If it is considered by the Kangaroo Island Graziers
that there are problems that are peculiar to their
activities as graziers located on the Island they can
seek to vary the Federal Pastoral Award to cater for
any such peculiar circumstances.
- 8. In the event of a dispute between the Australian
Workers' Union and the graziers the matter should be
referred by the graziers to their employer associations
who will discuss the dispute with executives of the
Trades and Labour Council Dispute Committee and the
Trades and Labour Council Dispute Committee will not
impose any bans or limitations on the Island until
all efforts to resolve any differences have been explored.
- 9. Should the above terms of settlement prove successful
for the 1972 shearing season they shall form the basis
for future arrangements between the Australian Workers'
Union and the farmers and graziers on Kangaroo Island.
- (Signed) W.C. Lean Commissioner 23/6/72
The above may sound a pretty dull tale after all
these years. But it was not dull at the time.
Below are two letters written in the heat of the
battle, one from Brian Woolley and one from myself,
Bill Kelly. They give some impression of our feelings
at the time. They were due to be printed in the "Advertiser"
on the day the ban was lifted. But when it was
lifted, we being peace loving boys, withdrew them in
order not to further stir the possum.
To Whom It May Concern: by Brian Woolley
Unions and employer organisations have a moral and
legal right to pursue their interests in a proper manner---if a man wants to join a union; if he feels
obliged to join; or if a union, using reasonable and
proper methods can persuade him to join, then I say
good luck to him and his union.
My wife and daughter both belong to the South Australian
Institute of Teachers, i.e. the Teachers' Union, an
organisation which to its everlasting credit, does
not recruit members by intimidation.
The only objection which I have, and which to my knowledge,
farmers on Kangaroo Island or anywhere else in the
State have to union activity, is to this particular
tactic of banning properties in order to compel membership.
Mr Dunford will deny that compulsory unionism is the
issue. I say that his actions belie such a statement
and there is surely food for thought in the A.W.U.
Constitution which states in part ... "individually
we can agitate, united we can compel" and that members
accept the principle of, and are bound to, "strive
for the collective ownership of all property".
I have now been on my property for over 11 years and
have employed both union and non-union shearers---last year for the first time, an A W.U. organiser came
to my shearing shed, arriving just before morning 'smoke-oh'---he was given permission to speak to the men,
was offered and accepted a cup of tea---he left
of his own free will about an hour later---at
no time did I ask him to leave and did not object when
he walked to the rear of the shed and noted down particulars
stencilled on a bale of wool.
Within two hours I received a phone call from Mr Dunford
(whom I have never met) and was told quite bluntly
that "these fellows have to join the union, this is
the only way we can get them ... the union would be
better off without them, we don't want them ... if
these fellows don't join I'll have to take action to
see that union labour doesn't handle your wool etc."
(All that and more before I had said anything---the phone conversations I had with Dunford are sworn
Court evidence and have never been denied in any way).
My reply to the above was "This is the first time
I have been involved in this sort of disturbance and
my attitude is that it is not my responsibility to
persuade my shearers to join a union"---it is
their decision and theirs alone.
Dunford went on, "Well you're involved whether you
like it or not, this is the only way we can get these
chaps, you have a democratic right to use non-union
labour and union members have a democratic right to
refuse to handle your wool," etc.
It was all very well for Dunford to tell me what my
democratic rights were---his statement made the
false assumption that I had, when employing labour,
made a choice between union and non-union. This I flatly
reject---when I have had a choice I have always
chosen the MAN---his status relevant to any union
is his business.
I find Dunford's attitude during the above conversation
hard to reconcile with his claim that he is not in
favour of compulsory unionism---he made no suggestion
of a conference---no suggestion of normal legal
channels---simply an ultimatum---either I
solve the union's problem or my farm produce will be
The Minister of Lands (SA) holds the mortgage over
my stock. I notified him by letter immediately (before
I had even contemplated obtaining legal advice) letting
him know of the threatened ban, and later of my failure
to deliver my wool to market---neither letter
It has been said that I should have gone to the Industrial
Court---on what grounds? I had no dispute with
any party other than that my civil rights had been
The simple fact of the matter was that if there was
no ban, there was no argument---if I had breached
the Pastoral Award, I could and should have been taken
to Court without a ban being implemented. I have never
at any time been accused of breaching the Award---if Mr Dunford considered that I had why did he not
take appropriate action?
He did get as far as sending myself and the other
Kangaroo Island banned farmers the following telegram:
- "You are informed that a dispute has arisen within
Section 28 Conciliation and Arbitration Act as to the
employment of non-union labour by yourself and others.
Letter follows. Dunford A.W.U. S.A. Branch."
No letter ever did follow referring to the telegram
and a written request for further explanation by one
of the banned farmers was ignored. In fact during the
Court proceedings my counsel tendered the above telegram
in evidence---Mr Dunford's counsel objected---on the grounds that it was irrelevant---this in spite of the fact that I had been questioned
at, to use the Judge's words, "interminable length"
on matters relating to the use of non-union labour.
I spent the better part of 3 days in court answering
personally for my own actions. Mr Dunford did not
enter the witness box although his organiser (who came
to my shed) did---to my way of thinking, the servant
was sent where the master should have gone.
Mr Dunford also claimed that I refused to negotiate
although he 'begged' me to. Dunford does not beg people,
he tells them.
Before the Court hearing, an offer of settlement was
made to me, requiring me to give 28 days notice of
my intention to commence shearing. I refused, because
I considered that an unlawful ban was in force and
I had done no wrong.
Dunford made the whole question of notice completely
academic anyway by calmly helping himself to 9 months
notice and about a week before the hearing commenced
I received a letter from him, advising me that he had
"been able to procure the services of two union
shearers" and offering them for my '72 shearing.
Both these men had been employed in 1971 by a Kangaroo
Island shearing contractor---one had been employed
for the past 4 years and was expected to return in
On the face of it Dunford was quite prepared to have
the contractor lose a reliable employee and me to dispense
with the services of a man who had proved himself reliable
to me for an even longer period.
When the first judgment was handed down I, and a lot
of other people, thought that the ban would be lifted
---not a bit of it---and eventually I found
myself at a voluntary conference still under the pressure
of an unlawful ban---in a desperate effort to
end the matter. I did in fact accept in principle a
proposal which would have meant my giving formal notice
of shearing to the AWU.
At that point Dunford had his 'negotiated settlement'
but because of his flat refusal to acknowledge any
responsibility to me for his action I had no option
but to continue with Court action.
An Injunction was issued and one of the Judge's findings
was: "3. I am of the view that the defendant has made
it abundantly clear that, so far from being ready to
give an undertaking to desist from continuing the ban,
he intends to continue the ban unless restrained."
Then an entire rural community was presented with
a 'fait accompli', and told in effect, "you don't like
us so you're banned and we expect a negotiated settlement.
Once again---negotiate what?
If there is a problem anywhere in the State, the machinery
already exists to discuss it without recourse to intimidation
What reception would I have received if the Court
finding had been against me and I had refused to comply,
on the ground that there was a 'general anti-KI feeling
in the T.L.C.? What would have been my negotiating
It has been stated (perhaps more I have been accused)
that I am a wealthy grazier---anyone with that
impression has my permission to ask the Minister of
Lands, whether he agrees.
I am sure many union members have read a document
recently circulated in SA industrial circles which
refers in part to the 'Tolpuddle Martyrs' of 1834-
suffice it to say I claim this much in common with
the men of Tolpuddle---I don't like intimidation
any more than they did.
Appendix II (Cont'd)
The Kangaroo Island Martyrs;
by W.B. Kelly
There is a document that has recently been circulating
in places that are dominated by the Trades and Labour
Council which purports to give the reasons for a black
ban on the produce of farmers on Kangaroo Island. In
it Mr Jim Dunford, Secretary of the Australian Workers
Union is portrayed as a martyr who is being prosecuted
for carrying out his duties. We suggest that it would
be fair for all to read the story as it is known by
the residents of Kangaroo Island, so that they may
judge who are the real victims in this case.
During the month of October, 1971, an AWU organiser
at the direction of the AWU and with the backing of
the TLC placed a black ban on the wool from five properties
on Kangaroo Island. The reason given was that the farmers
were not employing AWU shearers. In the Federal Pastoral
Award it is stated that "preference shall be given
to AWU shearers all other things being equal." In these
cases all other things were not equal. Either no union
shearers were readily available, or it was more convenient
to employ neighbours who could return home each night
because of unsuitable accommodation for visiting shearers.
The real reason for applying the ban was in order to
intimidate farmers to coerce shearers to join the AWU
who had no wish to do so. Be it noted that some of
these men only shear in two or three sheds a year in
order to keep the pot boiling. Also note that at no
time during this period were union shearers laid off
or victimised in any way. As the sale of wool is by
far the main source of income for these farmers, they
felt that they were being persecuted.
One of their number, B.H. Woolley, a man of great courage,
and high principles, and respected by all who know
him, decided to test the validity of the ban in the
Supreme Court of South Australia. Woolley had an excellent
relationship with union shearers whom he had often
employed. His wife and daughter were both members of
the Teachers' Union. As it was felt that this was a
test case for others, there was loyal support for him,
and the residents of KI (not only farmers) assisted
him in his action.
Because the process of law is slow, it was months
before judgment was delivered, all of which time bales
of wool rotted in the open and these five farmers were
unable to dispose of their produce. However, eventually
Justice Wells in the Supreme Court of South Australia
on June 14th, 1972 granted an injunction that the ban
on Woolley's wool be lifted and that Dunford as defendant
in the case, should pay court costs.
In the union document it is stated that Dunford was
dragged into the Supreme Court and may lose his house
and furniture, and even go to jail if he does not comply
with the Court Order. The facts are that he was not
dragged into the Court. He was merely asked to lift
an illegal ban. When he did not do so the case proceeded.
Indeed, Dunford suggested that court cases did not
worry him as he had $30,000 with which to fight it
(good union members' money, no doubt). As the costs
will be insignificant as far as that sum is concerned
we see no reason to shed tears on his behalf. Indeed,
we have been most lenient in not claiming damages to
those who have suffered losses as well as asking for
In the union document it is stated that this action
was taken by the ruling classes and the establishment.
In fact, it was taken at great sacrifice by a whole
community of decent freedom-loving South Australians
in order to seek justice. In view of subsequent actions,
we leave it to readers to judge who are the 'ruling
classes' in South Australia and who is 'the establishment'.
When the judgment was released, Dunford refused to
comply with the Court Order, and a ban was placed on
the produce of all farmers to and from Kangaroo Island.
The reason given for this action by Mr Shannon, Secretary
of the Trades and Labour Council, was that there was
an anti-union attitude on Kangaroo Island. We submit
that before these illegal acts took place there was
no anti-union feeling on the Island. We admit that
recent actions taken by the TLC have not been a good
public relations exercise, nor have they improved the
At all events, the farmers of KI are deprived of the
right to buy and sell produce that is necessary for
their survival. Stock, some of it already sold, remains
on the farms, being hand fed at great cost due to the
dry season. Contracts to deliver oil seed rape to the
mainland are being broken daily. Fertiliser that is
essential to crops for the coming season remains in
Adelaide. Members of the Transport Workers' Union wait
by semi-trailers that have no cargo. And so it goes
Telegrams have been forwarded to the Premier asking
him to intervene. In reply the Premier asked that we
negotiate with the TLC at a conference chaired by Commissioner
Lean on Friday, June 23rd. This has been done. Our
representatives have done their utmost to achieve a
just settlement. In return, the TLC have asked us to
agree to a set of proposals which besides being entirely
unworkable, are thoroughly unjust. They seek to impose
further restrictions upon us which would lead to further
friction and threats of victimisation to KI farmers.
Indeed, they are virtually a separate shearing award
for Kangaroo Island. At a public meeting on the night
of June 27th in Kingscote those proposals were rejected,
the voting being 420 to 15 in a secret ballot.
We submit that the great difference between conditions
on Kangaroo Island and the mainland is that because
of our geographical isolation, black bans can be effectively
imposed upon us which is not the case elsewhere. We
submit that there is no place in Australia where there
are better industrial relationships than there are
on Kangaroo Island. Shearers are valued members of
a united community and are welcome not only in our
sheds but in our homes.
We do not feel obliged to negotiate with Mr Dunford.
If the court case had gone in his favour we can vividly
picture further negotiations. Bash! Bash! Wham! Boots
and all! The actions that have been taken have caused
great hardship and have been proved to be unlawful.
But he still seeks further power with which to victimise
us. We only ask that the same conditions apply to shearing
on Kangaroo Island as apply on the mainland under the
Federal Pastoral Award. This is fair and just.
Members of the great Australian Trade Union Movement,
which came into being to help the workers get a fair
go, allow its bosses to bully and persecute an innocent
community of real workers. Workers, who strive against
crippling costs to keep their heads above water. If
they do go under, or maybe switch to cattle, then shearing
for all concerned is finished on Kangaroo Island. What
about the workers indeed! We have served with genuine
union members in another fight for freedom against
other tyrannies. We have left behind our mates on many
shores, who have not died in order that this country
should suffer in bondage but that Australians might
live in freedom. Some of us have suffered in Japanese
and Nazi working camps and know full well what persecution
is when we see it. Our wives have battled with us and
have often lived in sub-standard conditions in order
that we might succeed in getting a new start after
the ravages of war. Our union members stand shoulder
to shoulder with us in our quest for liberty. We only
ask the other workers of this State and nation to give
your comrades the same protection that applies elsewhere.
To you we say, "Put your house in order before it is
Meanwhile, Mr J. Dunford, the first Australian "Holy
Bull" to lose a civil action under Australian Common
Law for quite some time, rampages at large and hits
us from time to time below the belt. We are advised
to take no further action as the union bosses are all
stirred up. Mr Premier, we demand the protection of
the law as our just right against these irresponsible
acts of persecution.
We only wish to pursue our honourable occupations
in a peaceful, lawful manner. However, we feel that
this is more than a Kangaroo Island issue. It is an
issue of right and wrong, of justice and persecution,
of liberty and repression. That is why we now go to
some detail to explain to fellow South Australians
the real facts of the present ban on our means of livelihood.