100 years of politicians using plebiscites to play with our human rights

Victorian Trades Hall Council has used the centenary of workers’ victory over conscription to take a swipe at the Federal Government’s plan for a plebiscite on Marriage Equality. 

To commemorate the 1916 victory over conscription, union members have recreated the banners that proudly hung on the hall’s exterior from 1916-1917, but with a new twist: a rainbow stripe along the bluestone edge reading “1916-2016: Celebrating 100 years of politicians using plebiscites to play with our human rights”.

Secretary of Trades Hall, Luke Hilakari, said the display signified the historic and continuing role of workers in union campaigning for human rights.

“In 1916, workers met here at Trades Hall and resolved to campaign for human rights and for peace. They resolved to defy their Government, and unfortunately they had to suffer through a nasty, divisive campaign in which they were called cowards and traitors.”

“We don’t want to have to fight another plebiscite. It’s outrageous that the Federal Government is even considering a popular vote on the equal rights of our fellow Australians.”

“The plebiscite looks unlikely now, but if for whatever reason we do have to campaign for equal marriage, our LGBTIQ+ brothers and sisters can count on us to stand with them. Union members have over 100 years of experience to offer.”


The plebiscite on conscription

100 years ago in October, Australia voted “No” in a plebiscite that would have conscripted men for service in WWI. The “No” campaign was spearheaded by Australia’s union movement from their base at Victorian Trades Hall. 

The victory is understood today as a working-class revolt against the military, political and business elite.


Centenary celebration

RSVP:  launch of "The Conscription Conflict and the Great War" at Trades Hall on 27 October. 


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