To help Beggs with the launch was Barry Jones a former Labor Party president, John Cain a former Victoria Premier, and Frank Vincent one of Australia’s most respected Supreme Court Judges.
An excerpt from Beggs’ speech:
I named the book Proud to be a Wharfie because I am. And because no other union in this country ever received more adverse publicity than our union has. I wrote the book to tell the real story about the wharfies here in the port of Melbourne over the past 62 years of my involvement and not what the media has written about us over that time.
I tell about the Bull system under the casual days, which was pitting the weak against the strong with its corrupt open pick-up system and the difficult and dangerous cargoes we worked. The unsocial hours of work, the barbed wire fence that ran through the compound that separated the scabs who took our union member’s jobs in the big 1928 strike.
The horses that pulled the cargo from under the hook, though to mechanisation, containerisation and permanency.
Wharfies are now on the endangered species list, we have gone from 2o different unions in the port to one. There were some 80,000 workers in the whole of the port in our day. Today there are just over 3000 discharging hundreds of thousands more tons of cargo than we ever did.
But more than that I wanted to write about our humour, our generosity, the many characters and their quirky nicknames, our loyalty to our union and above all our mateship.
In writing the book, I particularly had in mind the new generation of Labor and trade unionists. To say to them, that, we are a force for good in the world and I hope it will encourage them to look more seriously at their role to take our movement forward. If they want to fine the way ahead today, they will need to know where they have come from and get back to their roots, which grew out of inspired men of character, integrity and faith. They need to know that trade unions are agents for change. Wisely directed, this new generation will rise to guise men and women to a new sense of human values and the work and wealth of the world available to all and for the exploitation of none.
To see more pictures taken at the event click here.