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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 8 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 2500..


MR MULCAHY (continuing):

Once again I take this opportunity to welcome Archbishop Coleridge to Canberra and to wish him every success for his term as archbishop for the diocese of Canberra and Goulburn. I am sure he will bring experience, wisdom and compassion to the role and continue the excellent work of his predecessor.

Death of Mr Glenn Parry

Industrial relations

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (6.08): Tonight I received word of the passing of a well-known Canberra union activist, Glenn Parry. Glenn was a proud man who would not necessarily have wanted us to talk about him and his efforts; rather, he would have wanted us to celebrate unionism, so I will talk about the Hungry Mile. Darling Harbour wharves three to eight—or the Hungry Mile, as it has been known to the Australian labour movement since the Great Depression—are now set to become a massive parkland and commercial centre under current plans by the New South Wales government.

The Hungry Mile is where as many as 24,000 maritime workers were forced by their employers to work in appalling conditions, sweating below decks and moving goods in and out of the harbour prior to the advent of containerisation. The Hungry Mile is a labour icon and a part of Australian history that has been the inspiration behind many films, songs and literature. During the years of the Great Depression, the Hungry Mile was a casual labour source where fit men would desperately assemble and wait at the wharf gates while bosses selected the biggest and the strongest.

Prospective maritime workers would trek from wharf to wharf, through hunger, until they found a job where their earnings would be used to keep themselves alive. Many were unsuccessful. The lucky worker who found employment was then subject to the dog collar act, or the Transport Workers Act 1928, which, under the mask of freedom of contract, allowed bosses to subject workers to around the clock 24-hour shifts without rest and in hazardous conditions.

This Australian labour icon has been selected as the site for the construction of the new harbour headland precinct—22 hectares of wonderful gardens, public parklands, cafes, bars and restaurants all backing onto the harbour. Although this development, a piece of Australian history, may be lost, the Maritime Union of Australia is on a campaign to have the precinct named the Hungry Mile out of respect for all the workers during the Depression who struggled for a crust, and to acknowledge more than two centuries of maritime labour in the area.

The New South Wales government established a panel to recommend a new name for the precinct. Former Prime Minister Paul Keating and Museum for Contemporary Art director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor are two of the names present on the panel that is due to come to a decision by the end of this month. That will then be forwarded to New South Wales planning minister Frank Sartor. I wish the MUA the best of luck in its campaign. Mr Speaker, I leave you and Glenn with the powerful words penned by Ernest Anthony in his poem The Hungry Mile:


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