Court Battle for the 40 Hour Working week

Eli James Harrison (1903-1976) was the husband of my 3rd Cousin, 3 times removed, Una Grace Maude Brown (1904-1990). He was prominent in the Union movement and Labour Party. A senate member for NSW and the founding Member for Blaxland. I think that the members of our family should from here on forth call the Labour Day holiday Eli Day.

PROMISE, IF GIVEN, OF 40-HOUR WEEK SHOULD WEIGH WITH COURT. (1946, June 4). Advocate (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved September 23, 2011, from

… Judge Kelly was commenting on the evidence of Mr. Eli James Harrison, N.S. Wales divisional secretary of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Engine-men, that the promise was made by the late Mr. Curtin.

To acting-Chief Judge Drake-Brock-man, Mr. Harrison said he could, produce the relevant minute showing the promise. When he was Leader of the Opposition and Mr. Menzies was Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin called a conference of the trade union movement in Sydney. He told those present that if they wanted such things as a 40-hour week the first thing for them to do was to help win the war.…

COURT STAND ON 40 HOURS. (1946, June 5). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved September 23, 2011, from

Mr. Lewis was objecting to a question to Mr. Eli James Harrison (New South Wales secretary of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Engineers) by Mr. S. C. G. Wright (for certain employers), who asked: “You feel aggrieved that the Government is adopting a passive attitude to wards these proceedings?”

The court disallowed the question.

Mr. R. M. Eggleston (represent- ing the A.C.T.U.) said that Mr. Harrison had been in error the previous day in saying that Mr. Curtin had promised unions a 40 hour week within six months of the cessation of hostilities. Mr. Curtin had been present, but had not seconded the motion. He had been aware of the purport of the motion before its submission, said Mr. Eggleston.

In evidence, Mr. Harrison said that Mr. Curtin had told delegates from 230 unions in camera in 1941 that unions could not get a 40 hour week until the war had been won. Mr. Curtin had said at the 1941 conference, “I am telling this meeting that Australia will have to carry the responsibility of the conflict with other nations because there are £60 million worth of guns pointing the wrong way which will never fire a shot. It is like closing the front door and leaving the back door open.”

Mr. Curtin had said that an Eastern nation would come into the war at a time suitable to itself, said Mr. Harrison. He had also forecast the fall of Singapore.

CLAIMS CURTIN PROMISED 40-HOUR WEEK. (1946, June 4). The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved September 23, 2011, from

The witness who gave this evidence was Mr. Eli James Harrison, New South Wales provisional secretary of the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Engine-men.

Mr. Harrison said the promise was made by Mr. Curtin when he was West Australian delegate to the Federal conference of the Australian Labour Party.

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