BLF - PADDY MALONE
Malone learnt to struggle during the war for Irish independence. In
1917, his father sent the thirteen-year old to work on a farm in his
native county of Tyrone. Immigrating to Melbourne in 1927, he laboured
for the State Rivers Commission where the AWU enriched his education.
Out of a job by 1929, he tramped the countryside, making his way to
Cairns. The cane-cutters and small growers there were at the mercy of
the monopoly Colonial Sugar Refinery, with its allies in the AWU and the
State Labor government.
drifted back to Melbourne in 1934 to find work on a building site, and
married in 1938. He linked up with BLF militants, though his name was
not prominent. From the start, he was a quiet achiever, his manner
matching his lilt. He topped the ballot for the committee to investigate
the branch in July 1939, and came onto the executive later that year
after the defeat of the old gang. However, he lost a ballot early in
1940. Next April, he attended his first ACTU Congress. From there, his
rise was rapid. After a branch meeting chose him as acting organiser, he
learnt to ride a motor cycle. He became State secretary early in 1941,
about the time he joined the then illegal Communist Party.
afterwards, he pointed out that his Italian members ‘were in some
instances better unionists than Britishers’. After the war, union
policy was a blanket objection to immigrants as labourers,
‘irrespective of what he might think himself’. Again, his Communism
kept him apart from ethnic prejudices against the Displaced Persons (‘Balts’).
However, he had to convince his rank-and-file. He could lead, but not
played a key role in defeating the 1948 Essential Services Act which had
aimed at the right to strike. Next year, before the Royal Commission
into Communism, he protected his comrades by claiming that his union
duties had stopped his attending any Communist gatherings. If he had
ever been to one, he could not remember who else was there.
Minister Menzies named Malone in 1950 as one of the ‘traitorous
minority’ determined to damage ‘this great and beloved country’.
Labourers did not share this view since Malone was re-elected with ever
larger majorities. In 1952, he won by 819 to 165. In 1958, he was ahead
by 816 to sixty-one.
kept the branch safe from the Industrial Groupers and the gangsters who
grabbed control in all the other States. Those Federal officials were
after any excuse to intervene in Victoria. When they told him to pull
out of one strike, he did as told. But his comrades in the Plumbers
stopped the job until the employer settled with the BLF. Without
Malone’s steadying hand, the Federation might have ceased to exist.
Keeping Victoria on the Left was an anchor for the defeat of the Right
served as secretary of Eureka Day Committee in 1948, Malone was keen to
mark its centenary in1954. When the BLF joined the commemorations, he
called on members to recapture Eureka’s fighting spirit in their
current struggles. To that end, he had spelt out ‘a course of
action’ to steer the union through a period when capital had the upper
hand. The union, he advised, had to ‘impose the minimum hardship on
our members and of such a nature as to condition the Master Builders’.
guided all Victorian building workers in their struggle for the Building
Industry Agreements from 1956, which broke out of the arbitration
system. He knew ‘from experience, our members would require all of
their allies possible, therefore maximum unity amongst all building
workers on the jobs must be worked for’.
fighting the boss kept him safe from the fantasies of a peaceful
transition to socialism or peaceful coexistence with the imperialists.
He, therefore, accepted the position of vice-chairman of the CPA (M-L)
from its formation in 1964.
saw every penny of union dues as a trust for his members and his class.
After the 1960 Federal Conference elected him as treasurer, he worried
about spending £40 on a Conference dinner for the delegates. He also
suggested that Conferences be held every two or three years to cut
costs. In 1965, he convinced the officials that the Federation could not
afford a dinner. Norm Gallagher had owed his start as an organiser in
1952 to Malone, just as his success as Federal secretary from 1961 drew
on Paddy’s guidance.
needed time off in the 1950s and again in the 1960s because of a cancer.
Although his energies were failing, he retained office until a few days
before his death on 14 October 1970, aged 66.
chairman E F Hill opened his funeral oration by pointing out that Malone
had bequeathed ‘a monument of man of the greatest single-minded
integrity. That integrity came from his devotion and adherence to the
cause of the liberation of the workers and all oppressed people’. The
service spilt onto the steps of the Trades Hall from the BLF office
which was a nerve centre of the campaign to expose the murder for profit
behind the collapse of the Westgate bridge on the day after Malone’s
death. His farewell was one more action for a life-long militant.