Compiled by Ken Mansell*
In 1970 and 1971, mass demonstrations against the war in Vietnam, dubbed Moratoriums after earlier U.S. rallies, were held in cities and towns across Australia. This chronology of protest, compiled by Ken Mansell and incorporating the work of Malcolm J. Saunders, explains the pressures, context, and constraints of the organisation of the first Moratorium in Australia.
15 October – An estimated fifteen million (perhaps twenty million) people demonstrate in ‘Moratorium Day’ demonstrations in U.S. As many as 1000 towns and cities hold rallies. The nation-wide Moratorium is led by the young, and students in their teens and early twenties. Further ‘M-Days’ are planned for 15/16 November, December (three days), January (four days).
15 October – The cast and audience inside the Metro Theatre in Kings Cross stand for a minute in silence during the musical Hair to support the anti- Vietnam war Moratorium in the United States. Outside the theatre sixty marchers led by Rev. Ted Noffs move from Wayside Chapel to Cenotaph with candles and flowers to similarly support the U.S Moratorium.
Norman Rothfield, John Lloyd, and Bevan Ramsden, all of whom are associated with CICD in Victoria, hold informal discussion on the possibility of a Moratorium campaign in Australia. At executive meeting of CICD, Rothfield and Lloyd convince their more cautious colleagues the Australian peace movement has the resources to stage a Moratorium campaign similar to that held in U.S.
The main mass theme in the U.S Moratorium is ‘end the casualties – stop the useless fighting’ (rather than ‘bring all the troops home now’) which leaves the movement vulnerable to Nixon’s ploy of partial withdrawal (and reduction of casualties).
A GI movement against the war was gaining momentum.
29 October – CPA newspaper Tribune hints at need for an Australian Moratorium – ‘The widespread revulsion in the USA against the war, as revealed in the tremendous Moratorium protest, also exists in Australia. All anti-war movements should now unite in a vigorous mass campaign for an end to the war’.
Late October/early November – CICD Secretary John Lloyd, on behalf of CICD, sends letter to contacts in all states suggesting a national consultation in Canberra November 25 (first day of new Parliament) to discuss possibility of Moratorium
9 November – New York Times carries full-page advertisement calling for immediate withdrawal of U.S troops from Vietnam. It has been signed by 1365 active duty U.S servicemen.
14 November – Hobart demonstration in support of U.S Moratorium to stop the war in Vietnam. The demonstration is sponsored by Vietnam Action Group and WILPF and involves distribution of leaflets and procession of cars bearing ‘End the war’ slogans. Two lunch hour gatherings are addressed by Senator Justin O’Byrne and University of Tasmania Law lecturer Norman Reaburn. Wider action next month will include a meeting in Launceston.
15 November – Second round of Vietnam Moratorium in U.S. 150,000 march against the Vietnam war in San Francisco; 250,000 march in Washington.
15 November – Saturday demonstrations in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide in solidarity with second round of Moratorium movement in U.S (November 13-15). In each demonstration names of Australians killed in Vietnam are read out and cards bearing the names of the dead are carried by demonstrators.
15 November – CICD-sponsored demonstration in Melbourne to coincide with second round of Moratorium Day demonstrations in U.S. The marchers leave Treasury Gardens 10 am and proceed through city (CBD) streets headed by a single file of 320 people each of whom wears a placard with the name of an Australian killed in Vietnam. The march concludes with a mass meeting at City Square. Four Labor MP’s including Dr Jim Cairns burn draft cards.
15 November – AICD in Sydney (in association with panel of citizens) sponsors a program of action in solidarity with the Vietnam Moratorium movement in the U.S. The program includes memorial service at Cenotaph Martin Place for Australians who have died in Vietnam (6.30 am), gathering at War Memorial in Hyde Park for ceremony in remembrance of all who have died in Vietnam war (10.00 am), march to Sydney Town Hall for mass meeting 11.00 am (‘End the war now!). The Town Hall rally (chaired by AICD President Guy Morrison) is addressed by R.J. Hawke (President-elect ACTU), Gordon Barton (convenor Australia Party), Senator McClelland (ALP), author Kylie Tennant, Fr Edmund Campion (St Mary’s Cathedral), Murray Sime, Peter Hornby (non-complier). The main theme is the immediate withdrawal of Australian troops from Vietnam. Hawke refers favourably to ACTU’s official policy of complete opposition to Australian participation in the Vietnam war, and to conscription for that war.
The world reacts with horror to allegations of massacre by U.S forces of hundreds of unarmed villagers in South Vietnam (Song My village, Quang Ngai province). The massacre occurred twenty months previous (March 16, 1968) but has been hushed up. The Song My massacre was perpetrated by Eleventh Infantry Brigade led by platoon under Lt. William L. Calley junior, 26, of Miami. Calley now faces Court Martial proceedings. The massacre (alternatively called ‘My Lai’ massacre) confirms genocidal character of U.S war in Vietnam
Representatives of National Liberation Front (NLF) claim 1200 civilians of coastal village (Ba Lang An, Quang Ngai province) were deliberately drowned by U.S and Saigon ‘puppet’ forces in March 1969. The head of NLF delegation in Paris Mrs Nguyen Thi Binh claims that since Nixon took office ten months ago U.S forces have poisoned over 285,000 Vietnamese civilians with chemical warfare and destroyed more than 220,000 acres of fields and orchards.
25-26 November – Representatives of 35 peace organisations from throughout Australia meet in Canberra. The ‘national consultation’ is held in hall of Canberra’s National Memorial Methodist Church. It is attended by 36 individuals from anti-war groups in four states (NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, ACT). (Eleven ALP Senators are present during the opening session of the consultation). Almost all those at the consultation from NSW are officials or members of AICD or its adjunct ‘Committee in Defiance of the National Service Act’ (CDNSA). The only other group represented is Save Our Sons (SOS). Of the eight Victorians at the Consultation, five represent the CICD, two the SOS, and another is an objector to National Service. The ‘national consultation’ establishes a small National Co-ordinating Committee made up of three of the NSW representatives – Ken McLeod, Dr Alex Carey, P. Sayers. The three are all officials or members of AICD. The role of this committee is purely one of coordination. It is also decided that there should be a Vietnam Moratorium Committee in each state. Provisional convenors appointed for this purpose are Guy Anderson (NSW), John Lloyd (Victoria), Norma Chalmers (Queensland), Professor Brian Medlin (South Australia)
26 November – Press conference at conclusion of two-day ‘national consultation’ reveals plans for a nation-wide Vietnam Moratorium campaign to culminate in an Australia-wide demonstration on weekend of 18 April 1970. 75 Federal Labor MP’s head the list of public sponsors of the project. It is hoped the Moratorium will coincide with an Australian tour by Dr Benjamin Spock. Provisional convenors return to their states and take steps towards the establishment of VMC groups in the capital cities.
4 December – The Australian newspaper demands immediate recall of all Australian troops from Vietnam.
“The choice we must make to save Vietnam is total withdrawal – as fast as the troops can be brought home. Morality demands it.” (Editorial, The Australian, 4 December 1969).
8 December – U.S President Richard Nixon outlines his policy of ‘Vietnamisation’. The U.S negotiators at Paris talks on Vietnam only appear to be pursuing a negotiated settlement. The real objective of the U.S remains a military victory on the ground in Vietnam and Nixon now openly admits this. Some 200,000 to 300,000 U.S support and logistic troops will be stationed in South Vietnam after the withdrawal of U.S ground combat forces and the present Saigon ‘puppet’ regime will be maintained in power.
Nixon’s ‘Silent Majority’ Speech, 3 November 1969.
‘In Victoria, as in NSW, the student groups were resentful because few if any students had been invited to Canberra. In fact, of the eight Victorians at the Consultation, five had represented the CICD, two the SOS, and another was an objector to National Service. The students suspected that the CICD would try to dominate the moratorium in Melbourne. At least three events reinforced this belief. Firstly, Lloyd had approached Cairns and asked him to chair the initial meeting. Secondly, the students believed that the CICD had selectively advertised this meeting. Thirdly, in early December, a meeting of the CICD committee agreed to offer to underwrite the expenses of and carry out the administrative work associated with the moratorium in Victoria. The students prepared to resist.’ (Malcolm J. Saunders, The Vietnam Moratorium Campaign in Australia 1969-73 (Flinders University PhD thesis, 1977), 31.
9 December – First meeting of supporters of the Moratorium in Melbourne is held in the Caprice Restaurant in Collins Street and is attended by some 120 interested individuals. The meeting decides CICD’s offices in Elizabeth Street will became the VMC’s headquarters in Victoria. The meeting also elects a temporary committee upon which the CICD and its supporters have a small majority over the students.
‘At the meeting two motion sheets were presented, one prepared by the CICD, the other by a group of students and other radicals acting collectively. There was little disagreement over the aims. Both were accepted, both were interpreted as immediate. The trouble came when the CICD made its offer. The students objected. They proposed instead, among other things, that a provisional committee be elected, an open public meeting be held in late January, and an office independent of any existing group be obtained in or near the city. The CICD had the support of the ALP and CPA members at the meeting and most of those from other groups such as SOS. Between them they outnumbered the students who were drawn mainly from Melbourne University SDS and to a lesser extent from such groups as the Monash Labor Club, the Worker-Student Alliance, and the near-defunct Vietnam Coordinating Committee (VCC). As a result, the CICD’s motion passed, the students’ motion lapsed. The CICD’s offices in Elizabeth Street thus became the VMC’sheadquarters in Victoria. The meeting also elected a temporary committee upon which the CICD and its supporters had a small majority over the students. Round One had clearly been won by the CICD’ (Saunders, The Vietnam Moratorium, 32).
Mid-December – First meeting of supporters of the Moratorium in Sydney passes motion deploring unrepresentative nature of Canberra consultation.
16 December – The first meeting of the Moratorium ‘temporary committee’ in Melbourne. The demands of the students are largely met. The meeting decides to arrange a public meeting of sponsors for 1 February 1970.
‘This time the students were ready. They had spent the previous week consolidating their position by convincing several other members of the committee of the need to weaken the hold of the CICD. At the meeting their demands were largely met – a separate post office box, an independent treasurer, a secretariat of five to handle any correspondence, and an open and well-advertised meeting which would decide official policy for the movement. A public meeting of sponsors was arranged for February 1.’ (Saunders, The Vietnam Moratorium, 32.)
13 January – U.S Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew visits Australia. He is welcomed at Fairbairn Air Base by Prime Minister Gorton. Only a small hand-picked crowd of dignitaries are allowed into the base. Agnew presses for a vastly stepped-up Australian military role in South-East Asia. Anti-war protestors prepare a ‘welcome’ for him in Canberra.
‘Over the interim period the opponents of the CICD held a series of meetings, both formal and informal, open and secret, in an effort to reach agreement on proposals to be put to the public meeting. Among the principal demands of those who attended these meetings were the use of more militant anti-imperialist slogans such as those indicating support for the NLF of South Vietnam and the need to recognise the Provisional Revolutionary Government, and an acceptance that the central feature of the week-end protest be a march on the Friday including a “token occupation of some city streets for a considerable period of time”.’ (Saunders, The Vietnam Moratorium, 32.)
Activity is underway in support of proposed nation-wide Vietnam Moratorium. Several meetings of a broad planning committee have been held in Sydney. Twenty-six organisations in Adelaide are represented at a planning meeting on 19 January. A similar meeting is to be held in Melbourne’s Richmond Town Hall on 1 February under chairmanship of Dr Jim Cairns. The ALP and TLC in Perth are committed to struggle against the Vietnam war. Julie Ingleby, an active campaigner against the Vietnam war, is sacked by Victorian Education Department. This follows the jail sentence imposed on her husband Earl Ingleby for displaying an anti-Vietnam war placard with the famous four-letter word. Julie Ingleby held up in court a placard using the same word and was jailed for contempt of court. Her point was: what is the real obscenity? – use of The Word or the Vietnam war? She has lost her job and the right to practice her profession.
1 February – A Sunday meeting in the Richmond Town Hall of nearly 500 sponsors of the Vietnam Moratorium lays down guidelines for the conduct of the campaign in Victoria. The campaign will be held over three days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) on dates to be fixed after interstate consultation. The meeting passes a motion for a three-hour occupation of Melbourne CBD streets on the Friday. This ‘token occupation of the city’ will follow a march through the city during lunch hour. ‘Any measures of support for the struggle of the Vietnamese people led by the NLF against imperialist aggression’ are welcomed as part of the Moratorium. The meeting decides that the Vietnam Moratorium committee should consist of the Secretariat of five which called the meeting plus one representative of each organisation expressing support for the Campaign and paying a $10 fee. Dr Jim Cairns MHR is elected Committee Chairman.
‘Both sides made significant gains. The moderates were first. Carmichael senior moved that the campaign in Victoria be organised by an executive committee consisting of the secretariat of five that convened the meeting and one representative from each organisation which expressed support for the VMC and paid an affiliation fee. The Maoists proposed two amendments, one by Mrs J. Cassidy of the WSA, the other by Mr A. Langer, a leading figure in the Monash Labor Club.
Both sought to have the executive elected by the meeting. Both were defeated. Carmichael’s motion was passed. Goldbloom moved that Cairns be chairman of the VMC in Victoria. This too was passed. As the afternoon wore on and people drifted away from the meeting the radicals seemed to gain the upper hand. Probably the most important proposal was carried first. It was moved by Mrs Cassidy and read:
That the central feature of the campaign be a march through the city, commencing between 12 noon and 2 pm on the Friday of the three Moratorium days, and that the aims of the march be –
- The participation in the march of those involved in any worker and student strikes
- A token occupation of some city streets for a reasonable period of time, being a minimum of three hours, during which speeches, mass leafletting, folk singing, teach-ins, street theatre, and other agreed to activities may take place
- That for the token occupation of the city, the following streets be included – Bourke, Collins, Elizabeth, Swanston streets
The motion was carried. Langer also succeeded with a motion “that we encourage and welcome as part of the Moratorium any measures of support for the struggle of the Vietnamese people led by the NLF against imperialist aggression.” By this time the radicals were well in front.
But the decision that was to have possibly the most far-reaching consequences for the VMC had already been made. Mr R. Quinn of the VCC proposed a motion in two parts. The first, that each aim be interpreted as immediate, was carried. The second, in effect, called for the deletion of the non-violence clause from the aims. The motion was put forward at about 5 pm by which time a considerable number of people had left the meeting. Quinn argued that plans to occupy the streets of Melbourne were in themselves a form of violence. Another speaker, while not actually advocating a violent demonstration, claimed that it could be an effective form of protest. However, the strongest arguments were, firstly, that the peace movement was non- violent by definition and therefore that the statement was unnecessary, and, secondly, that its inclusion implied that protestors had been guilty of violence in the past.
On the other side retention of the statement was urged by Mr J. Ryan, the editor of the liberal lay Catholic journal, the Catholic Worker, and Mr J. Newell, a member of the Society of Friends and president of the Federal Pacifist Council. Ryan maintained that it would be a warning to the lunatic fringe to stay away from the protest. This argument was reinforced by Newell who pointed out that some people had gone into demonstrations with the clear intention of provoking violence. But though they had a considerable amount of support their efforts were in vain. Quinn’s proposal was passed by a relatively narrow margin, 102 votes to 86. The chief significance of the decision was that it provided the predictable opponents of the moratorium with their most potent weapon. The following morning the Melbourne Sun came out with the headline: “VIOLENCE ‘IN’ FOR PROTEST ON VIET”. After receiving a complaint from Ryan the paper printed a retraction. But the story had already taken effect. Over the next three months virtually all of the moratorium’s opponents on the right, from the National Civic Council to the Liberal Party, took up the cue. As a result, accusations that the Moratorium demonstrations on May 8, especially the one in Melbourne, would be violent probably outnumbered claims that the VMC was being manipulated by communists.’ (Saunders, The Vietnam Moratorium, 33-34.)
Early February – Vietnam Moratorium Campaign groups in each state finally agree to hold the culminating Moratorium action over the second weekend in May.
9 February – 400 people attend Vietnam Moratorium sponsors’ meeting at Teachers Auditorium in Sydney. The meeting unanimously adopts a ‘Call to Action.’ The ‘Call to Action’ begins with the following declaration:
‘Ending the Vietnam war is the most urgent task facing the Australian nation. The Coalition Government has abandoned any attempt to justify its war policies. The original reasons for our involvement have been systematically discredited and the true nature of the war exposed. Public morality has been affronted by war crimes officially acknowledged, yet the Gorton Government remains intransigent in the face of local and world opinion’
14 February – 383 Australians have been killed on active service in Vietnam. 2387 have been wounded.
15 February – Memorial service in Rosebud (Victoria) For Clive Burchett, brother of Wilfred Burchett. This is the latest episode in the fifteen-year-long campaign of victimisation of Wilfred Burchett. Burchett wishes to attend his brother’s funeral but is again barred from entering Australia. Secretary of Melbourne-based ‘Burchett Passport Committee’ John Lloyd cites the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
16 February – The first meeting of organisational representatives (executive) in Melbourne. It is held at the Victorian Railway Institute (Room 56) 7.30 pm. The radicals suspect attempts to rescind motions passed on 1 February. One of the principal decisions of the 1 February sponsors meeting is rendered superfluous by the apparent unwillingness of the executive to put it into practice.
The week ending May 9 has been chosen as (national) Moratorium week. Dick Gregory and Norman Mailer are among overseas personalities invited to take part in the Moratorium. Sydney Moratorium organisers open permanent office (First Floor 107 Liverpool Street). In Brisbane, Hugh Hamilton of BWIU says his union is having 2000 posters printed calling on trade unions to support the Moratorium. Queensland Trades and Labour Council decides to support a proposition (initiated by BWIU Townsville branch) suggesting ACTU and Queensland TLC should take part in the Moratorium.
‘Meanwhile the movement in Victoria was still plagued with internal problems. At the first meeting of organisational representatives (executive) on February 16 the radicals quickly moved to prevent the CICD reasserting itself. Mr D. Cassidy, of the WSA, said he believed attempts would be made at the meeting to rescind motions passed on February 1. He demanded to know whether the meeting could do this. Goldbloom replied that it could not and proposed a motion to this effect which was passed. Thus, an effort by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom to reinstate the non-violence clause was doomed to failure. However, the CICD soon found other ways to moderate the campaign. The first indication of this came from Carmichael senior who proposed, among other things, the election of two sub-committees to organise moratorium activities on the Saturday and Sunday afternoons (9-10 May). An amendment by Mr P. Butcher of the Monash Labor Club, seconded by Mr T.Poulton, that a third sub-committee be set up to organise for the Friday was opposed and defeated. Another amendment by Cassidy that the VCC organise the Friday demonstration was also defeated. Thus, one of the principal decisions of the sponsors meeting of February 1 was being rendered superfluous by the apparent unwillingness of the executive to put it into practice.’ (Saunders, The Vietnam Moratorium, 34-35.)
25 February – 700 of the 800 students at Altona North Technical School in Melbourne have signed a petition calling for the reinstatement of sacked teacher (Mrs) Julie Ingleby. Ingleby was dismissed by the Education Department after serving a short jail term for ‘contempt of court’ when her husband was convicted on charges of displaying an ‘obscene’ placard opposing conscription for Vietnam. In addition to the pupils’ petition, all staff members at the school with only two exceptions have endorsed a letter to the Director of Education asking for Ingleby’s reinstatement. Three weeks have elapsed since a deputation from the Technical Teachers Association of Victoria met the Director.
2 March – The second meeting of organisational representatives (executive) in Melbourne. It is held at the Victorian Railway Institute (Room 56) 7.30 pm.
6 March – CICD sponsors ‘welcome home’ to Wilfred Burchett at Melbourne Town Hall Friday 8 pm (50 cents donation for appeal for financial aid in his passport battle). CICD suggests Burchett will address developments in Vietnam and Laos, and analyse Paris ‘peace’ talks.
A massive U.S intervention is underway in Laos where air power is being used in effort to arrest the rise of rebel Pathet Lao forces who are receiving assistance from the Vietnamese. In eight days in February, American B-52 bombers dropped 15,000 tons of bombs in an effort to prevent the loss of the Plain of Jars. U.S planes used in bombing South Vietnam have been diverted to bombing Laos. As in the ‘French war’ of 1946-54, the whole Indo-China region has been treated as one war–theatre.
Six people are fined in Melbourne City Court on charges of assaults (on police) arising out of 19 September (1969) Williamstown Court demonstration in support of draft resister Laurie Carmichael junior. Their fines range from $50 to $200. Those convicted are Mrs Valerie Carmichael, Laurie Carmichael senior (fined $200 for trying to restrain police from punching his wife), Max Lorkin, Alan Ritter, Don Gunn, Les Smith. Police allege diminutive Mrs Carmichael assaulted police.
Right-wing organisation ‘Citizens for Freedom’ announces that several thousand copies of a leaflet Unmasking the Moratorium are being sent to politicians, religious leaders, and community leaders throughout Australia. The organisation believes the sponsors of Moratorium are deceived and manipulated by forces of communism.
A decision of Federal executive of the ALP binds the party to conduct an Australia-wide campaign of opposition to the Vietnam war but carries the implication that ALP members should not take part in any anti-Vietnam war moves which are not under the party’s control. This is in spite of the fact seventy-five Federal Labor parliamentarians have consented to act as sponsors of the Moratorium.
13 March – Sydney press conference of NSW Moratorium campaign. Sixty-five organisations are sponsoring the Moratorium in NSW and thirty Moratorium locality groups now exist in Sydney metropolitan area. All three Sydney universities have staff-student Moratorium committees. 76 Federal Labor MP’s and 19 NSW Labor MP’s have agreed to act as Moratorium sponsors.
14 March – 400 Australians have been killed on active service in Vietnam. 2473 have been wounded.
Right-wing forces have stymied the ACTU executive’s resolution on the Vietnam Moratorium. The resolution required endorsement by majority of six state TLC’s. The TLC’s of Queensland, SA and WA approve the resolution but NSW Labour Council votes 143-73 against adopting it. NSW Labour Council Assistant Secretary John Ducker supports idea of having ACTU-ALP rallies in the capitals and emphasises that ALP has not declared for immediate withdrawal of troops from Vietnam (a key element of Moratorium objectives).
18 March – Seven unions with members on Melbourne waterfront decide to initiate strike action in support of Moratorium on Friday 8 May. The unions are WWF, Shipwright’s Union, Ships’ Painters’ and Dockers, Boilermakers and Blacksmiths, AEU, Miscellaneous Workers, Seamen’s Union.
18 March – Sydney watersiders at stop work meeting declare their support for Moratorium.
18 March – Meeting in Brisbane of representatives of twenty-three unions decides on program of action for Moratorium including cessation of work on 8 May.
18 March – Washington-backed right-wing coup in Cambodia threatens to spread the U.S war outwards from South Vietnam. A militarist group seizes power during the absence of neutralist head of state Prince Sihanouk. This follows eight years of aggressive raids over the Cambodian border by U.S and Saigon forces. The U.S immediately recognises the new regime. It is alleged the coup has been engineered by secret U.S agents (CIA) in Phnom Penh. The coup has installed General Lon Nol as Premier of post-Sihanouk Cambodia.
Wellington Committee on Vietnam announces plan to coordinate its activities with Australian Vietnam Moratorium campaign (8-10 May). Committees in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch are mobilising and will hold activities on weekend of 1-3 May and the following week. The Wellington Committee plans vigils at U.S and Saigon embassies, large public meetings and rallies, and a street procession 2-3 May.
Right-wing and ‘right-centre’ forces in the Australian trade union and Labor movement (ALP) are acting with hostility to the mass movement for withdrawal of Australian troops from Vietnam – as expressed in the growing Moratorium movement – and are attempting to restrict the ALP’s Moratorium activity to one undefined public meeting in each state. Despite this, many rank-and-file Labor Party members and trade unionists are already involved in Moratorium preparations.
Wilfred Burchett cables from Paris a story to (Melbourne) Sunday Observer predicting the extension of armed conflict throughout South-east Asia as a result of the Rightist coup in Cambodia. Fighting has been reported between Cambodian armed forces and elements of the Vietnamese liberation forces. Thai armed forces have become involved in stiffening resistance as Pathet Lao rebels advance on Laotian capital Vientiane.
UNSW students hold meeting to discuss their contribution to the Moratorium. As a gesture of protest against the massive use of chemical warfare in South Vietnam they use defoliant 245T on the UNSW lawn to spell out message ‘Get Out of Vietnam’.
Early April – In Melbourne the Victorian executive of the Tramways Union has decided to withdraw from participation in the Vietnam Moratorium campaign on the grounds that the activities planned are ‘not militant enough’ and that due to the influence of the CPA the campaign has been ‘reduced to the lowest common denominator’.
NSW Vietnam Moratorium Campaign executive committee member Bill Leslie returns from Fifth Stockholm Conference on Vietnam (attended by 350 representatives from 59 countries) and reports on interest being shown in Australian Moratorium. Personalities considering invitations to attend the Australian Moratorium include Mrs Coretta King, Dick Gregory, Laurence Daly (National Secretary UK Miners Union), Mrs Nancy Rubin, Pastor Martin Niemoller.
Opposition leader Gough Whitlam delivers a foreign affairs speech in Federal Parliament which skewers the Government’s Vietnam policy. Nevertheless, Whitlam seems unable to wash the U.S out of his hair. He is at one with the Government on the preservation of the American Alliance, praises the U.S as ‘the mightiest democracy the world has known or will ever know’, and dishes up his own version of anti-communism – the Saigon regime is more democratic than ‘tawdry, totalitarian’ North Vietnam.
13 April – Meeting of Vietnam Moratorium organisational representatives (executive) in Melbourne. It is held at the Victorian Railway Institute (Room 56). 7.30 pm. Dr Cairns opens proceedings with a long speech followed by a request for a motion limiting the occupation of the city to fifteen minutes. The radicals are defeated. In Melbourne, as in other cities, the moderates win control of the Moratorium.
‘The decision to occupy a busy city intersection for a minimum of three hours was clearly an embarrassment to the CICD and its allies in the ALP and the trade unions. These people were concerned at what could happen over so long a period of time. Toward the middle of April, by which time the VMC in Victoria had already won considerable publicity by its proposal to occupy the streets of Melbourne on May 8, the struggle was brought into the open once more. At an executive meeting on April 13 Cairns opened proceedings with a long speech followed by a request for a motion limiting the occupation to 15 minutes. Poulton raised the inevitable point of order that this went against the decision of the sponsors and moved dissent from the chair. Cairns then left the chair and Goldbloom took it up. Poulton’s motion of dissent was put and lost. Similarly, an amendment to the new motion reasserting the VMC’s intention to occupy the streets for a minimum of three hours was put and lost. Thus, the problem was solved, the radicals defeated. In Melbourne, as in other cities, the moderates had won control of the VMC.’ (Saunders, The Vietnam Moratorium, 35.)
16 April – Members of House of Representatives in Canberra devote seventy minutes of their time in debating whether or not it is appropriate for the House to sit on Friday 8 May, first day of Moratorium. Government numbers ensure 54-50 vote against Parliament holding its own ‘moratorium on business as usual.’ Dr Jim Cairns declares Moratorium activities in Melbourne will ‘involve an act of civil disobedience, an act of obstruction’. Cairns is backed up by Tom Uren and Gordon Bryant.
I would not ask the House to close down for the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign but when certain arrangements have been made by certain members of the House, like myself and others who have considerable responsibilities in respect of the Campaign, and having in mind that these new arrangements are being proposed by a Government that is doing its best to discourage, reduce and break down this Campaign and keep 75 members of the Labor Party who have sponsored it here in Canberra rather than allow them to take part in it, I think there is some significance in the coincidence of those events. I do not want to see this Campaign fail in the sense that I do not want it to be an unrepresentative expression of the views of those who want to take action in it. I want it to be a democratic process; I want it to be a peaceful process; I want it to be an inoffensive process; and I want to be in Melbourne on 8th May to do everything I can to make it into these things. If I am here in Canberra I cannot do that. (Dr J. Cairns)
20 April – Meeting of organisational representatives (executive) in Melbourne. It is held at the Victorian Railway Institute (Room 52) 7.30 pm.
22 April – Support for the Vietnam Moratorium movement is snowballing with tens of thousands of people taking hold of the idea that ‘business as usual’ cannot continue while Vietnam is being destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of leaflets have been distributed by mushrooming local committees, high school and university students, trade unionists and others. Scores of local public meetings and film shows have been held. Workers, university students, university staff plan strike action. Unions planning action include watersiders in Brisbane and Sydney; seamen in Sydney, Newcastle and Adelaide; some Sydney building jobs. Students and staff at Flinders University and Adelaide University plan strikes and ‘teach-ins’; Latrobe University students plan to strike. In a number of universities, lecturers and students will suspend normal lectures and conduct special discussions on Vietnam. Occupation of public places is planned in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide.
22 April – Nineteen students at Telopea Park High School in Canberra walk out of school assembly rather than take off their Moratorium badges as demanded by the Principal.
27 April – High school students in Sydney defy NSW Education Department attempts to stop them wearing Moratorium badges. The headmaster at Ibrox Park Boys High School sends home Sixth Form boy who insists on his right to wear badge.
27 April – Meeting of organisational representatives (executive) in Melbourne.
It is held at the Victorian Railway Institute.
‘The face that the VMC in NSW presents to the public over the period of months prior to May 8 is largely that shaped by AICD’ (Saunders, p. 31).
Over one and a half million copies of broadsheet produced by National Coordinating Committee which carries lengthy articles on Vietnam and conscription is distributed in the two to three weeks before 8 May. Towards end of April there are 150 affiliated Moratorium groups in NSW, 130 in Victoria.
End of April – Nixon sends troops into Cambodia in an effort to destroy the supply lines of the North Vietnamese.
The Moratorium is meeting with Establishment resistance and suppression. The Federal Government trots out the twin bogeys of ‘violence’ and ‘communist conspiracy.’ Victorian Premier Bolte hoists the ‘law and order’ banner. Three sixth form students at Manly Boys High School have been suspended by NSW Government’s Education Department for wearing Vietnam Moratorium badges and distributing Moratorium literature. Pupils at other schools have been threatened with suspension or expulsion. The ‘children’ to be prevented from discussing the Vietnam war will be liable for conscription in a year or two. Sydney University students have not been deterred by government hypocrisy. They have taken thousands of Moratorium leaflets to metropolitan high schools.
The Nixon administration has deliberately created other ‘Vietnams’ in Laos and Cambodia. It has escalated the war in Laos, staged a coup in Cambodia and is attempting to extend the war to the whole of Indo-China.
ALP members of Parliament wear Moratorium badges in Federal Parliament.
Victorian Trades Hall Council leaders announce their intention to put out a leaflet instructing unionists not to take part in the Moratorium.
1 May – U.S President Nixon extends the Vietnam war with an aggressive invasion of Cambodia and the resumption of bombing in North Vietnam. Nixon claims the U.S forces are attacking ‘the headquarters for the entire Communist military operation in South Vietnam’ but the real purpose of the invasion is to prevent the imminent success of Cambodian revolutionary forces advancing on Phnom Penh to overthrow pro-imperialist Lon Nol regime. The invasion is condemned internationally (China, USSR, France, Indonesia) and in U.S.
3 May – May Day rally in Melbourne. Melbourne’s May Day has been criticised for being orthodox and dreary. The smallness of industrial worker participation is cause for concern. A divisive rival platform is set up at Yarra Bank by Albert Langer, Ted Hill and BLF leaders. Afterwards, 400 militant students march on U.S Consulate to protest the U.S invasion of Cambodia and stage a 15-minute sit-down in the street. On the way they pelt stones at ASIO headquarters and smash several windows of U.S company Honeywell.
4 May – Four protesting students are murdered by National Guardsmen at Kent State University Ohio. The murdered students were protesting, along with thousands of others around the U.S, against the invasion of Cambodia. Eleven other students are wounded. A nation-wide university strike is planned in the wake of Ohio killings. Nixon bends to outrage with promise to pull U.S troops from Cambodia by 30 June.
4 May – NSW Moratorium Secretary Ken McLeod informs press conference in Sydney that Vietnam Moratorium Campaign has distributed about 100,000 Moratorium badges throughout NSW.
4 May – Working bee for Melbourne Moratorium at Unity Hall Bourke Street.
Victorian Trades Hall Council produces anti-Moratorium leaflet – it is printed in three languages.
Principal of Melbourne High School bans badges of Vietnam Moratorium Campaign on the grounds that school rules do not allow wearing of jewellery.
The Moratorium is supported by three state Labour Councils (Queensland, SA, WA); the Labour Councils of Newcastle, NSW South Coast, and Queensland centres; the Federal Labor (parliamentary) Opposition. Whereas the Queensland TLC calls on unionists to attend the 8 May rally, the Victorian THC Secretary Ken Stone berates Dr Jim Cairns for his calls to unionists to stop work. Due to right-wing machinations in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, the ACTU is left with no policy at all on the Moratorium.
Federal Minister of Labour and National Service Bill Snedden warns the public about ‘bikies pack-raping democracy’ at the Moratorium.
Sydney Builders’ Labourers official Jack Mundey initiates move to have NSW Labour Council condemn Nixon’s extension of war into Cambodia. The move is rejected on a majority vote on the voices. Opposition to the move is led by TLC Secretary R.B. Marsh and TLC Assistant secretary John Ducker, both of whom are hostile to the Moratorium.
Students at the University of Queensland are mobilising autonomously for the Moratorium under the leadership of the University Co-ordinating Committee (UCC) and a ‘Campus Mobilisation Committee’ which has established a ‘Tent City’ on campus in an area now known as ‘The Peoples Park’. Vice-Chancellor Zelman Cowan invites universal derision and mockery when he responds to the ‘Tent City’ with the directive ‘No Erections on Campus.’ The students defy Cowan and the ‘Tent City’ is maintained throughout the week preceding 8 May.
6 May – Gough Whitlam and Dr Cairns address crowd of about 2000 people outside Parliament House in Canberra and urge Moratorium supporters to avoid the use of violence.
Historian Dr Ian Turner warns 400 students at Monash ‘teach-in’ to ‘watch out’ for provocateurs on 8 May.
8 May – The (Melbourne) Age headline is ‘Helmeted police get ready for sit-down’
8 May – The Victorian Bolte government has 1,000 police in Melbourne for the march. All police leave is cancelled. Hundreds of reinforcements are brought in from country towns.
Melbourne moratorium against Vietnam War (This Day Tonight, ABC, 1970).
8 May – Stores in Bourke Street lock their doors. VMC secretariat in Melbourne appoints 400 marshals to control the march – all of whom are to be in constant communication by way of two-way radios with the head of the procession.
8 May – Many supporters of the moratorium expect, and are prepared for, the outbreak of violence. But there is no violence. 70,000 (perhaps 100,000) people peacefully take over the city for two hours. Entire sections of Bourke Street are occupied for thirty minutes before the march moves on and overwhelms the intersection of Collins Street and Swanston Street.
Supporters of the moratorium are delighted, opponents of the moratorium are dumbfounded. Jim Cairns tells the marchers ‘I have never seen a more convincing sight than this to prove that we shall overcome. Nobody thought that this could be done. But it has been done’
8 May Sydney: An estimated 25,000 people rally in Sydney and block off the city’s main traffic intersection (George and Park Streets) for two hours. 1500 march in Newcastle, 1500 in Wollongong. Marches occur in Goulburn, Armidale, Bathurst and other centres.
Four Vietnamese-dressed women trade unionists (Mrs Esther Aarons, Mrs Pat Aarons, Mrs Joyce Ellery, Mrs Stella Nord) chain themselves to ANZ Bank in Martin Place. Seven American servicemen on ‘R and R’ leave are arrested by U.S military police for taking part in Sydney’s Moratorium demonstration.
8 May Adelaide: Adelaide’s ‘anti-imperialist’ march of 2000 on Friday afternoon starts 4.30 pm at Adelaide University and moves along North Terrace and other main streets before returning to campus. Forty-eight Adelaide University academics and forty Flinders University academics cancel their schedules to attend. Along the way the demonstrators are violently attacked by an organised group of fifteen soldiers (Third Battalion RAR).
8 May Brisbane: Thousands of workers stop work and rally 12-2 pm at Roma Street Gardens. Starting at 1 pm, 4,000 staff and students march from the University at St. Lucia to the city. 6,000 (workers and students combined) march through the city and back to 3 pm rally at Roma Street Gardens. The second rally is twice the size of the first. (The police estimate is 7,500 – others estimate 10,000). There is drama on the speakers’ platform as Brian Laver is ‘gagged’ (physically restrained from speaking) by ALP and CPA ‘heavies.’ The ties of the ‘new left’ to the CPA are finally irretrievably broken.
8 May Perth: 3,000 people fill Perth’s streets on march from Esplanade to Town Hall.
8 May Tasmania: The crowd march to Hobart’s City Hall grows to an estimated 3,500 people. 1,400 Hobart University students (out of 2,200 full-time) march. Traffic in city is held up for one hour. Thousands visit City Hall exhibition on Vietnam war. 300 march in Launceston.
8-10 May – An unprecedented number of ordinary Australians – well over 100,000 people – march and engage in variety of actions in nation-wide Moratorium to stop ‘business as usual’ and force Australia’s withdrawal from Vietnam war. Organisers of the Moratorium in all states are ecstatic. The nation-wide protest includes a significantly large amount of political strike action and mass individual absenteeism (in industry, universities and high schools). Moratorium activities start on Friday and continue over the weekend.
9 May – The Diamond Valley Moratorium Group organise the Line of Conscience outside Doncaster Shopping Centre. 100 carloads display placards and distribute leaflets in Ferntree Gully to Ringwood car tour. 200 people march in Footscray.
9 May Sydney: In morning activity, 100 high school students in Sutherland march along Princes Highway to Gunnamatta Park and 100 demonstrators in thirty cars tour the eastern suburbs. 10,000 people participate in a two-mile march to Rushcutters Bay Stadium in the evening where they are addressed by Senator Lionel Murphy, Dr Markos Dragoumis, Mahendra Sen, Hall Greenland, Laurie Carmichael, Mike Jones, Mrs Bridget Gilling, Julie Rigg, Rev. Ted Noffs, Paul Coe.
9 May Adelaide: 10,000 march in Adelaide’s Saturday morning demonstration. The marchers assemble at Elder Park 10 am and are addressed by Don Dunstan and student leader Rob Durbridge. After the meeting, the marchers return to Elder Park.
10 May – Several thousand attend Treasury Gardens public festival (anti-war songs and speeches).
*** Scheduled Events for 8-10 May 1970***
Melbourne Moratorium events (as scheduled)
- 2 pm mass rally Treasury Gardens. March starts 3 pm down full width of Bourke Street to Elizabeth Street for fifteen-minute sit-down. Marchers then move up Swanston Street to mass assembly City Square (leaflet distribution, street theatre, kerbside forums).
- Heidelberg-Northcote committee all-night vigil outside Watsonia Army Barracks (and laying of wreath in memory of the dead in Vietnam).
- Activity of local Moratorium committees. Diamond Valley committee to hold ‘line for peace’ around Doncaster shopping centre. Motorcades planned for Prahran, Dandenong, Ringwood, Ferntree Gully. Street meetings Richmond, Collingwood, Oakleigh, Preston.
- Treasury Gardens public festival (anti-war songs and speeches) 2 pm.
Sydney Moratorium events (as scheduled)
- Trade union rally Hyde Park (Archibald Fountain) 1 pm. Lunch time rallies of students in the three universities.
- March leaving front lawn Sydney University 2.30 pm including Darlinghurst Technical College students. UNSW march from Kensington.
- Workers and students to meet for combined rally 3.30 pm outside Sydney Town Hall. Token occupation of section of George Street (speeches, singing, poetry, street theatre) to be addressed by Tom Uren, Denis Freney, Helen Voysey (HSSAWV), Alec Robertson, Les Waddington, Pat Clancy, Bruce McFarlane, Mrs Bridget Gilling, Hall Greenland, Bob Gould, Kenneth Cook, Charlie Bowers, Malcolm Salmon, Percy Allan, Mike Jones, Ken McLeod (chair).
- All-night vigil Hyde Park Pool of Remembrance.
- Morning locality activity in suburbs (picketing, leafleting, street meetings/theatre, petition signing, motorcades).
- 6.30 pm candlelight ‘March of the Dead’ carrying names of Australian servicemen killed in Vietnam from Hyde Park to rally at Rushcutters Bay Stadium (7.30 pm) – speakers from overseas and Australia.
- Morning church services.
- Vietnam Moratorium Forum (‘Vietnam and Conscience’) Lyceum Theatre Pitt Street 3.30 pm.
Adelaide Moratorium events (as scheduled)
Week-long occupation of Parliament House steps – volunteers to carry out an occupation of the city on two-hour shifts for each of the five days 4-8 May.
- ‘Anti-imperialist’ demonstration in city 4.30 pm.
- Morning march and rally – assemble Elder Park 10 am – after meeting, march back to Elder Park.
- Motorcade from Adelaide to Whyalla and Port Augusta; motorcade around Adelaide Oval prior to Anzac Day SANFL match.
Brisbane Moratorium events (as scheduled)
- 12-2 pm rally of trade unionists and others at Roma Street Gardens – joining up 2 pm with march organised by University Campus Mobilisation Committee. March through city and back to 3 pm rally at Roma Street Gardens.
- 7:30 pm ‘Peace folk concert’ Roma Street Gardens.
- Assemble City Square 10.15 am.
Perth Moratorium events (as scheduled)
- City motorcade 12-2 pm.
- 7 pm march from Esplanade to rally at Perth Town Hall.
- Badge sales and leaflet distribution in city.
Hobart Moratorium events (as scheduled)
- Morning teach-in at University.
- March leaves University Union building 12.30 pm and proceeds to Commonwealth Bank corner before arrival at City Hall.
*Ken Mansell: This timeline was compiled from two sources. The main source is the Flinders University PhD thesis of 1977 completed by Malcolm J. Saunders, The Vietnam Moratorium Campaign in Australia 1969-73. I have also used my own collection of primary source material relating to the May 1970 Moratorium. To my knowledge the Saunders history thesis is the most thorough analysis of the Moratorium.It is scholarly and objective. Broadly-speaking, Saunders postulates two competing forces in the Moratorium – ‘moderates’ and ‘radicals’ (alternatively ‘students’). I have not attempted to interfere with this descriptive model.
Compiled by Ken Mansell.
Based on research conducted by Ken Mansell and Malcolm J. Saunders. See Saunders, The Vietnam Moratorium Campaign in Australia 1969-73 (Flinders University PhD thesis, 1977).
Curated by Julie Kimber and Ken Mansell.