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1951

Written By: - Date published: 11:45 am, January 19th, 2011 - 74 comments
Categories: democracy under attack, film, law and "order", Media, Politics, Unions, video - Tags:

With the good services of NZ On Screen, director John Bates with his ‘1951’ documentary.

In 1951, New Zealand temporarily became a police state. Civil liberties were curtailed, freedom of speech denied, and the Government used force against its own citizens. This film tells the story of the infamous lockout of waterside workers and the nationwide strike which followed. The film won Best Documentary and John Bates was named Best Director, Documentary, at the 2002 New Zealand Television Awards.















74 comments on “1951 ”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    Might want to double check this…getting an “Invalid player embed code”?

    • lprent 1.1

      Works fine on both systems I have here windows/firefox & ubuntu/chrome.

      Try the Link at the top where is says 1951 documentary and try it out on the NZ On Screen site

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1

        Getting same error on this site, the NZOnscreen link works.

        Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 6.1; en-GB; rv:1.9.2.13) Gecko/20101203 Firefox/3.6.13

        • lprent 1.1.1.1

          Interesting. I used their embedding because they have a custom swf player for it (presumably for branding).

          I’ll have a look late tonight (out for dinner with some people tonight) since they can be played from the original site.

      • Colonial Viper 1.1.2

        Thanks lprent.

        PS am using Firefox 3.6.13 on XP Pro-32 SP3.

      • Daveosaurus 1.1.3

        I get the same errors both on Firefox 4.0 Beta 9 and IE8 version 8.0.6001.18702. Running on Windows XP Professional Version 2002 Service Pack 3.

  2. Jono 2

    I remember watching this when it aired. It made me so mad, and spurred a discussion with my parents, who had personal connections with the events described but who had never revisited them in terms of the wider context presented in the doco (My maternal grandfather was a wharfie who never went back to the wharves and my dad was part of the Auckland Baptist Tabernacle under Doctor Hodge, who encouraged his congregation to scab). I think the thing that affected me most was the criminalisation of those who supported the strikers and their families with e.g. food parcels and other donations.

    • Jum 2.1

      I hope you will write down that story as part of your family history. We must not lose these valuable facts from a New Zealand history that rightwing media is always seeking to rewrite.

  3. I think I remember seeing that on TV. Given the strong public support for the Government’s actions, I’m surprised they were unable to find a single person (or even disembodied narrator) to put the other side (if it’s the one I remember, it was incredibly one-sided, which I think detracted from what it was trying to achieve).

    • There was also strong support for Hitler in Germany in the 1930s.

      Perhaps with the passage of time and with reflection those who supported the Government’s actions at the time realised that they had been duped.

      Oops just broke Goodwin’s law!

      • orange whip? 3.1.1

        I think you mean you *proved* Godwin’s Law 😉

      • Swampy 3.1.2

        who are you comparing with Hitler then?

        after all it seems to me to be a pretty open and shut case. isnt it?

        it was clear that if the waterfront union remained on strike for any length of time they would be able to force the hands of various parties by the power of economic blockade if I set up my private army and said “wee are going down to the wharf to stop ships from loading then i would expect the police to be sent in to remove me at some point

        now whattever you may believe i don”t agree anyone has the right to block the economic activity of the country for a long period of time. this was a 151 day strike which is long enough
        a big deal after a coiple of weeks it would be doing something

        so i thinkk this extremist union faction had the idea they would try to bring Goverment to its knees a direct challenge to the democracy of our country and our way of life and I could go on but if you think this is not the case fell free to say why

    • orange whip? 3.2

      Graeme that probably says more about the social strata you inhabit than it does about any objective reading of history.

      Among working people of a certain age there has always been a huge amount of disdain for the govts actions in the dispute and an equally huge amount of respect for those who resisted.

      • mickysavage 3.2.1

        Graeme also probably thinks that National have the right to rule even if they get 41% of the popular vote, Labour gets 40% and the Greens get 15% …

      • I meant “Given the strong public support for the Government’s actions AT THE TIME”. I should have been clearer.

      • Swampy 3.2.3

        the strike lasts 151 days

        what was the point of striking for 151 days

        Do you agree if the act party or the brt set up their army to stop the ports loading for 151 days that would be justified

        if not why would it be justifed by a union but not anyone else.

        • Marty G 3.2.3.1

          It was a lockout. The 1951 lockout.

          The workers were not allowed to work because the bosses had locked them out.

          There were pay negotiations. The waterfronters refused the offer that was put to them and went on work to rule -as is their right. In response, the bosses locked them out.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1951_New_Zealand_waterfront_dispute

          • Swampy 3.2.3.1.1

            the waterfront workers could have continued negotiating etc.

            The fact the strike lasted so long and was drawn in other unions plus bitter factions in union movement suggested some hard lines wanted to make political points

    • Jum 3.3

      Graeme Edgeler,

      Think of it this way – it was balanced . The rightwing government – owned media of 1951 only gave one side of the story too. Just like the rightwing government-owned media of 2011 and the rightwing-owned media at any time in history. That very fact was being discussed on BBC radio recently. Worldwide the rightwing factions are in control of printed communications to the populace, and much of the radio waves. They’re now near to controlling the world-wide blogging web, purely for the security of the citizens, you understand…

      • Swampy 3.3.1

        really…not!

        or perhaps you could explain what appears your mindset that the unions could hold the whole country to ranso, with a 151 days strike.

        • Marty G 3.3.1.1

          151 days lockout.

          the workers were blocked from going to work by the bosses and only allowed back when they accepted the bosses’ terms.

          • Swampy 3.3.1.1.1

            we dont have 151 days strikes please try answering why union thought they could strike for 151 days without causing any ripples

    • Graeme,

      Surely even a younger version of yourself could have made a BSA complaint on the basis of a lack of balance, if it really was a terrible as you remember?

      • I actually considered that. However, even a younger version of myself was aware of then Guideline 4c of the Free-to-Air Television Code of Broadcasting Practice which gave a far broader scope to “Authorial Documentaries”.

        My younger self was also aware that the Broadcasting Standard requirement for balance doesn’t really apply to historical matters. For example, a few years later, the BSA held that article on Sunday about how Bill Sutch was a spy didn’t need to be balanced, because it was merely of historical interest.

    • Swampy 3.5

      biased which way?

  4. Sanctuary 4

    My parents ran small businesses all their working lives, they had a mental list of people who needn’t bother waiting to be served – they were all scabs from 1951 strike, and they NEVER got served.

    • Jum 4.1

      We need to think about dealing with election campaign scabs in New Zealand, now, with the corporates controlling JKeyll, and huge funding pouring into New Zealand from interested stateless richos now living outside NZ, not paying taxes, hiding their money which they either stole (by moneytrading and other creative ventures – Blue Chip) from New Zealanders or overpriced goods and services and underpaid workers, but still able to vote here and influence our politics – disgraceful.

      Or large corporates operating here and funding, again creatively by holding major fundraising functions but paying the bills and ‘charging’ them on paper to reduce the campaign funding received.

      Talley’s fishing industry brothers, Peter and Michael Talley were ‘willing to provide $1million to help get National elected’ in 2005. ‘A million dollars is a huge donation in New Zealand politics – enough potentially to determine the outcome of a closely fought election.’ ‘They are saying that they can find a million dollars to encourage us to do certain things’ pg 244 of The Hollow Men by Nicky Hager.

      That million dollars donation cost was probably spread over our frozen peas, a few cents increase here and there. We as buyers of the Talley brand frozen foods were helping National win the election. Yes us, the ones who have to buy in the same supermarkets that stock the wines that are produced by JKeyll’s winery mates, once his own, before he got sprung. I do not buy anything Talley produces anymore.

      There is nothing fair or honest about the rightwing way of election campaigning. I do not intend to help fund it.

      Any other rorts NAct is running that I am paying for?

      PS 1951 was a lockout not a strike.

      • mickysavage 4.1.1

        PS 1951 was a lockout not a strike.

        Amen to that. It shows what lengths the right will go to bastardise the English language just to clam a totally unjustified moral advantage.

      • Swampy 4.1.2

        if you look unbiased you would probably find similar tactics both sides

        last election labour for example for first time got lots of money channelled through under the names of their own mps that never happene before. it still not sure what the pont was

        • Marty G 4.1.2.1

          what are you talking about “money chanelled through under the names of their own mps”? Are you talking about how mps chose to donate some of their own money to their own party?

          Jesus. Nothing wrong with that. Should be standard practice. It is for the Greens.

          • Swampy 4.1.2.1.1

            never happened before see the previous returns and all the other donations “dried up” so the MPs must be channeling donations so they dont have to name the donors

      • Swampy 4.1.3

        when it turned into a nationwide strike by calling out all the other unions that was by choice wasnt it
        so that was a strike

  5. Pascal's bookie 5

    Chris Prowse put out a concept album in 09 about the lockout “Trouble on the Waterfront”, kind of a people’s history style, collection of recollections and incidents and stories, told in styles various, from blues to antipodean bush poet drinking folk song. Also, and nicely done that man, contains sound recordings of various speeches from various players.

    review here:

    http://www.amplifier.co.nz/review/52494/chris-prowse-trouble-on-the-waterfront.html

    have a wee listen, and pay the man some money, (but buy the physical album coz it comes with the well wicked liner notes with the graphics and the photos and the historical quotes.) here:

    http://www.amplifier.co.nz/release/52107/trouble-on-the-waterfront.html

    have a listen to Talkin’ The Huntly Bridge Blues , The Enemy Within (inspired by an ironic poem by Bill Sewell, in turn inspired by a Holland quote) if ya want to get some flavour.

  6. big bruv 6

    A disgraceful act by the unions, the government of the time were right to bring in the Army and Navy.
    Of course the people of NZ backed the government at the time, at least they could see what was really happening.

    The overwhelming defeat of the union scum is something that should be celebrated every year on Labour day.

    • Aw feck BB you do it just to annoy.

      Your thought processes seem to be

      Unions = bad
      National = good
      Anything a National government does to trade unionists = justified

      Your analysis does not get above this.

      As a starter for 10 was it a strike or a lockout?

      • Swampy 6.1.1

        Its pretty easy isnt it

        why is 151 days strike justified or somehow OK for the union to take

        • Marty G 6.1.1.1

          they didn’t take a 151 strike, they were locked out for 151 days until they broke and accepted the bosses’ terms because their families were starving.

          • Swampy 6.1.1.1.1

            your just arguing semantics like the others “it was not a strike it was a lockout”

            so tell me why the workers refused to work for 151 days what they trying to prove

  7. big bruv 7

    micky

    Where do you get the idea that I think everything the Nat’s do is good?

    Key is a nice guy, a much better PM than his predecessor but he is not taking the hard decisions such as ending working for families, cutting the DPB and slashing government spending.

    As for Unions = bad…well yes, that is true, but to be fair I have a truck load of evidence to support me on that one.

    As for what it was, well one mans strike is another mans lockout Micky, but to be pedantic one would have to say it was a lockout, a totally justifiable lockout.

    And no Micky….I do not just do it to annoy, most Kiwi’s feel the same way about unions, most see them as parasites sucking money from their hard working members, most choose not to belong to a union and most see no benefit from joining.

    • Ha BB we do agree on some things …

      Key, well no agreement. He is not a nice guy and he is way worse than Helen. I am happy that he is not taking the “hard” decisions such as ending working for families, cutting the DPB and slashing government spending although the razor gangs are at work as we speak.

      As for Unions = bad…well yes, that is true, but to be fair I have a truck load of evidence to support me on that one.

      How about the evidence that a society with a strong union movement has a better quality of life for its working people. If you need an example compare Australia with New Zealand.

      As for what it was, well one mans strike is another mans lockout Micky, but to be pedantic one would have to say it was a lockout, a totally justifiable lockout.

      I agree with you BB that it was a lockout. Do you agree that the continuous attempts to brand it as a strike are, well, dishonest?

    • orange whip? 7.2

      BB:

      most choose not to belong to a union and most see no benefit from joining.

      I think what you mean is they don’t realise that they’re claiming the benefits fought for and won by those who do join and form unions.

      • Swampy 7.2.1

        the outcome of the waterfront strike proves that goverments woudlnt allow them selvves to be dictated to by unions

        as such benefits are limited to either those of the industrlial relations variety from negotiations or
        those which a goverment decides to grant of its own free will.

        protest etc has played its part in that process but its not the exclusive preserve of unions

  8. big bruv 8

    “Do you agree that the continuous attempts to brand it as a strike are, well, dishonest?”

    When you agree that the EFA was a disgraceful attempt by Clark to muzzle free speech.

    And come on Micky, Key obviously does not share your politics but even you would have to admit he is a pleasant chap.
    I think Goff is a loser politically, but he does come across as a reasonably decent sort of bloke, a man who you could have a beer with.

  9. Do you agree that the continuous attempts to brand it as a strike are, well, dishonest?

    When you agree that the EFA was a disgraceful attempt by Clark to muzzle free speech.

    So your agreeing that something is true is dependent on my agreeing that something totally unrelated but which I believe is true is false??

    • big bruv 9.1

      No Micky, what I would like you to do (just once) is to take off the blinkers and admit that perhaps Labour and Clark got it wrong from time to time.

      Silencing free speech and stealing $850,000 of tax payers money being just two examples.

      That is the real problem with politics in NZ, so many take sides and then feel they have to support their ‘team’ irrespective of what they do or what they say, it is OK every once in a while to say that your ‘team’ got it wrong.

      For some reason the left find this a lot harder to do, politics should be about making NZ a better place, not the naked pursuit of power (as we have seen this week from Labour)

      • Colonial Viper 9.1.1

        A tad rich coming from you mate.

        For some reason the left find this a lot harder to do, politics should be about making NZ a better place, not the naked pursuit of power (as we have seen this week from Labour)

        I do find this pattern fascinating – Righties accusing the Left of stuff that they actually do themselves.

        • big bruv 9.1.1.1

          See Viper..that is exactly what I mean by ‘team’ politics.

          You are so blinded by your support for Labour (although I suspect in your case you come from the hard left of the party) that you see it as treasonous to ever admit that they got some things wrong during their disastrous nine years in power.

      • mickysavage 9.1.2

        BB

        I am happy to agree that Helen and Michael got it wrong from time to time.

        They should have been more agressive with climate change. They were not bad but could have been better.

        They did not silence free speech. They quietened some really expensive speech but this is not the same thing.

        They did not steal $850k of taxpayers money. They used parliamentary funds designated for constituent communication late in the campaign but the Nats had the same funds and used it for the Iwi Kiwi billboards but did not have to account for it.

        I do not support Labour “irrespective”, I just find they get it right most of the time. The Greens do as well. The rest are a rabble although Hone is growing on me.

        Politics should be about making NZ a better place. In the last two years it has become way worse …

        • big bruv 9.1.2.1

          Micky

          You know the real difference between us politically?

          I love freedom, you believe that you (the left) can run my life far better than I can, you want to tell me what to do, how I should think, tell me what I can say, and force me to believe in a the biggest con to ever face this earth (after the con that is religion) in climate change.

          Hell, you buggers on the left cannot even be honest about the real reasons behind your zealotry for the climate change con.
          The left have embraced climate change for the simple reason that it affords them the chance to be part of the most massive transfer of wealth the world has ever seen.

          Oh…and as for the Greens, they NEVER get it right.

          P.S…..I happened to laugh out loud at the way you attempted to rewrite history re the 850k, even the AG said it was stolen money, if not then why the hell did Clark pay it back?
          She legalised her theft Micky, even you have to admit that much.

          • Pascal's bookie 9.1.2.1.1

            Well seeing you love freedom you oughtta hate the holland government. I mean fuck.

            And you must be pretty distraught about this govt too, which has banned clothing it finds scary, and taken votes away from people, and there’s whole forcible DNA sampling business. And their electoral finance act won’t have all that many differences to the EFA that had y’all marching in the street with your ridiculous nazi gears on.

            Did the AG have any legal reason to decide on a three month period, or did he just import that idea from a completely different Act to the one he was looking at?

          • Marty G 9.1.2.1.2

            you love freedom? The Holland government imposed wartime regulations during peacetime taking away the freedom of association and speech. It was illegal to give food to the starving families of the locked out workers. All this in an effort to break the workers and force them to accept the bosses’ terms.

            Many thousands of New Zealanders defied these attacked on their freedoms and secretly aided the waterfronter families, refused scab jobs, and refused to stock goods handled by scab labour.

            • Swampy 9.1.2.1.2.1

              no. in order to stop the country from being held to ransom by a 151 day strike on the waterfront.

              most unions do not strike for such a long time. what was the union trying to prove by striking 151 days.

              • Bunji

                It was a lock-out.

                • Swampy

                  I take it then your unable to address the 151 day lenght of the dispute and calling out all the other unions in sympathy was a general strike designed to get at the goverment and bring the country to its knees

                  at any time there was opportunity to go back to work on the same or better terms than before and theres never been another strike like it in the history of this country

                  except when those handful struck over the introduction of the ECA and we just ignored by the majority.

              • Marty G

                It was a lock out. There were pay talks. The two sides didn’t agree. The water fronters chose to work to rule, that is to the terms of their contacts and not more. The bosses locked them out and the government called in the military to do the job. The workers were only allowed back when they accepted the bosses’ offer

                • big bruv

                  “The workers were only allowed back when they accepted the bosses’ offer”

                  Which is the way it should always be.

                  The workers have the right to find another job if they do not like their terms and conditions.

                • Swampy

                  I know all that but you havent answered the question of why the waterfront union thought it was ok to strike when there actions were intended to stranglehold the country

                  obviously the union was seen as extremist militants and they wre seeking political confrontation with goverment and you have those people in the doco who have pointed out how they were split and people were divided against each other even in the union movement

                  The waterfronts unions have been te most militant in the country and wouldnt even join the CTU when it was first formed they had a TUF or TUC with some other militants instead

        • Graeme Edgeler 9.1.2.2

          The National Party did not use parliamentary funds for the Iwi/Kiwi billboards.

          • mickysavage 9.1.2.2.1

            How do you know Graeme?

            Do you have proof of what they used their funds on?

            • big bruv 9.1.2.2.1.1

              Micky

              Got proof that Clark paid back the stolen 850K?

            • Graeme Edgeler 9.1.2.2.1.2

              The Iwi/Kiwi billboards (or at least billboards in the series) stayed up during the three-month pre-election window that the Auditor-General went through with a fine tooth-comb. The billboard rental will have been paid during that time, if it was paid by the Parliamentary Service, we’d know.

              We also have Nicky Hager’s book “The Hollow Men”, which showed pretty well where National was getting its money from to fund things like that.

              Do I know what they used their Parliamentary funds on? No. At least not completely. But I am sure it wasn’t the billboards. I suspect it was mostly staff and polling/focus groups/market research. Which was probably dodgy, but still wasn’t Iwi/Kiwi billboards. Not least because the Iwi/Kiwi billboards didn’t include the Parliamentary crest, so the Parliamentary Service just would not have paid the bill.

              Bill English certainly had taxpayer-funded billboard during the 2002 campaign, but Don Brash didn’t and didn’t need to, because when he leader the Party was awash with cash from other sources.

  10. M 10

    Thought I’d lost this book which speaks of the reality of ’51, a book on labour relations in NZ that was a required text book for a business paper I was studying titled ‘Labour and Employment Relations in New Zealand’ by John Deeks, Jane Parker and Rose Ryan – anyway on page 54 there is this interesting passage:

    ‘The other significant factor that must be considered in the run-up to 1951 is expressed in a single word – conditions. Working conditions on the wharves were frequently foul. Labour was hired on a casual basis. Physically exhausting work such as throwing frozen carcasses into refrigerated holds, stacking double dumps of wool, working in coal, lime or cement dust, handling steel tubes and telegraph poles and unloading ‘lampblack’ (a noxious form of carbon used in tyre manufacture which rapidly penetrated clothing and skin) were all examples of the distasteful tasks which the vast majority of New Zealanders were glad somebody else performed. Nearly all watersiders knew someone killed on the wharves…’

    and people were willing to allow themselves to be cynically manipulated by the government into becoming a police state?

    • Jum 10.1

      M,

      And weren’t they seeking a miserly 3-pence rise to do those nasty jobs?

    • Swampy 10.2

      explain why the waterfront union broke away from the FOL which must have been to “moderate” but it makes the waterfront union look extremeist or militant

      • Jum 10.2.1

        Swampy,
        What did you mean? ‘to moderate’ as in verb or ‘too moderate’.

        • Swampy 10.2.1.1

          the FOL wasnt militant enough for the waterfront uniin

          this doco has lots of slurs agains the FOL man and there links with the Labour party

          • Jum 10.2.1.1.1

            Swampy,

            Ah, No.

            Walsh was a rich, conservative turncoat, siding with the employers, not being loyal to his men who were handling the shit of industry on some pittance, daring to say they wanted some recompense for ruining their health.

    • Jum 10.3

      M
      “and people were willing to allow themselves to be cynically manipulated by the government into becoming a police state?”

      deja vu with this government. Using the same weapons of closing down media objectivity, foreigners controlling our communications and the government – ashcroft, cameron, moneytraders…, in 1951 it was the foreign shipowners and government.

  11. DS 11

    I must say I love it how the stalwart defenders of freedom are defending the most anti-democratic measures ever imposed on peacetime New Zealand. Confiscation of printing presses? Police with sweeping powers of arrest? Strike meetings banned? Giving food to the wharfies’ children banned? Holland’s streak of urban fascism would make Muldoon green with envy, but since he was restricting the freedoms of “other” people, the Right doesn’t give a shit.

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