Publication Details

Cahill, Rowan (2014). The looming war on trade unions. Overland, 14 January 1-2.

Link to publisher version (URL)

Overland Literary Journal


In October 2013, the right-wing journal Quadrant published the book Australia’s Secret War, an account by Hal Colebatch of homefront industrial disruptions by Australian trade unions during the Second World War. Described as a secret history rescued from ‘folk memory’ – and one previously suppressed by leftists – it detailed ‘treacherous’ industrial actions by unionists that denied/delayed vital war materials to the frontlines between 1939 and 1945, resulting in the deaths of service personnel. These actions, the argument went, pointed to a deliberate and coordinated attempt at sabotaging the war effort courtesy of the communist leaderships of the unions involved. Maritime unions, in particular the Waterside Workers’ Federation (WWF), were the focus of the book.