To: Brian Boyd & Kevin Bracken
Cc: Trades Hall Executive members
Dear Brian and Kevin,
Following the International Women’s Day event and the protest against Jenny Macklin at Trades Hall on Tuesday night, I have been made aware that allegations have been made to you regarding myself and other members of the Socialist Party. From the outset I would like to state that we dispute these slanders and that we can present independent witnesses from the labour movement to verify our account of events.
I understand that in particular the Trades Hall Women’s Officer Jennifer O’Donnell-Pirisi has alleged that I made derogatory or abusive comments to her as she was leaving the building. These allegations are totally false and we deny them in their entirety. I would like to take this opportunity to state our version of events for the record.
I had an interaction with Jennifer at approximately 9.30pm as she was leaving the building via the Lygon Street driveway. She and a group of about seven other people approached the end of the driveway. One asked which was the best way to leave. I suggested that it may be easier to leave via the Victoria Street doors. A women on a walking frame appeared from around the corner stating that she was unable to walk that far. I agreed and suggested they all to come down the driveway and leave from where I was standing with others at the Lygon Street boom gate.
I opened the gates for them and they walked out onto Lygon Street where they hailed a taxi. Jennifer however stopped in the driveway and demanded to know who I was. I asked who she was and she stated that she was the Trades Hall Women’s Officer. I responded by asking if she was responsible for organising this farce of an event where Jenny Macklin was invited to hypocritically speak about women’s rights while overseeing the NT Intervention?
I explained to her that having Macklin in the building was an affront to genuine trade unionism. “How could you listen to a lecture from Macklin about women’s rights while she is overseeing a pay regime that pays Aboriginal women in the NT as little as $5 an hour?”
Jennifer said that she was sick of this protest to which I said that “we are sick of the NT Intervention and if Macklin is to speak at Trades Hall again anytime soon she could expect perhaps a hundred more people here protesting”. Jennifer then asked if I was threatening her. I responded that I was not threatening her and repeated what I had said again very clearly.
Jennifer replied by saying that she was going to call the police. I told her not to bother as there was already dozens of police in and around the building. I pointed her in the direction of where the police were stationed but she proceeded to call 000.
She complained to the operator that she was being blocked from exiting the premises and that she was being abused. At this stage she was standing on the footpath while the rest of her party was waiting in a taxi. I told Jennifer to stop carrying on and leave as she was further embarrassing herself. I also told her that this was a disgraceful end to perhaps what was one of the worst International Women’s Day events ever organised.
My version of events can be verified by all three of the women who were standing near the gate. Incidentally none of them are members of the Socialist Party. Apart from the seven or so people who were with Jennifer these were the only people within earshot and even Jennifer’s companions only heard part of the interaction as they had walked down the street to hail a taxi.
Once again I unequivocally state that at no time did I abuse Jennifer or make any derogatory remarks towards her or anybody else. Also no complaints were made to me about the conduct of the other protesters in attendance on the night, of which the majority were women.
I definitely did make clear my political opposition to Macklin and the NT Intervention and my disappointment at her being invited to speak at the Hall on International Women’s Day. For this I make no apologies.
For Jennifer to make false allegations of abuse against a woman, on International Women’s Day no less, certainly puts into question how seriously she takes her role and the issues women face in society.
It is obvious that we have a fundamental disagreement with Jennifer and the event organisers about the political issues at hand. Jennifer however should not be making up lies to divert attention away from the fact that the overseer of the anti-worker NT Invention was invited to speak at the home of trade unionism in this state.
Rather than offering support and a progressive cover to these politicians the trade union movement should be organising political opposition to the NT Intervention. When we have a situation where Aboriginal workers in the NT are subject to Income Management and have 50% of their payments ‘quarantined’ it affects all workers. Government Ministers have already suggested that these policies could be extended beyond the NT and to all workers.
The fact that Aboriginal workers in the NT are legally being paid less than Award rates should be of great concern to the union movement. Lowering the wages of the most oppressed in society only helps to create a race to the bottom which will negatively affect us all. This is a basic trade union principle.
We defend our right to hold these views and we defend our right to natural justice. I would ask that you provide us with the specific details of the allegations being made so that we can respond in more detail. If we are not given the right to defend ourselves and the slanderous allegations continue we will be forced to step up our defence within the broader union movement and within the public sphere.
I am more than happy to discuss this matter with you further and I look forward to your reply.
Socialist Party National Organiser