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May 28, 2012

Howes' historical revision on life as a 'young teenage Trot'

Union kingpin Paul Howes has made no secret of his heroic past organising for Trotskyite youth agitators Resistance during the 1990s. But one incident in particular might require a bit of historical revision.


Union kingpin Paul Howes has made no secret of his heroic past organising for Trotskyite youth agitators Resistance during the 1990s. But, according to new pictorial evidence obtained by Crikey, one incident in particular might require a bit of historical revision.

Crikey readers may recall that last year in the middle of a Tory scare campaign over Lee Rhiannon’s socialism before her ascension to the Senate, The Australian and The Daily Telegraph quoted Howes rubbishing Rhiannon’s claim that he had occupied the NSW Treasury during a 1997 protest over a Bob Carr law-and-order crackdown.

The campaign was a reprisal of a tete-a-tete waged 12 months earlier in the lead-up to the 2010 election, when Howes accused the Senator in waiting of being a Stalinist “watermelon” in his regular Sunday Telegraph column.

Rhiannon responded that Howes himself was far from a shrinking violet:

“He was part of a protest that occupied the NSW Treasury concerning increased police powers brought in by the Carr government … when members of various groups in 1997 set up the Youth Tent Embassy in the Domain for one week Howes to his credit was an active member.”

But the AWU sound-bite master was furious at the implication, telling the Tele he had unequivocally “never occupied Treasury. I was involved in occupations (as a protester) and I’m not ashamed of that. But not Treasury. I don’t even know where Treasury is.”

In a letter sent by Howes to Rhiannon, obtained by The Australian and posted on Andrew Bolt’s blog, he was even blunter. “I’m not quite sure where Treasury is and maybe I protested outside it, but I’m certain I never occupied it,” he railed, calling the allegation “plain wrong”.

So it was amusing to stumble across this 1997 photo of the then-15-year-old firebrand this morning holding court at the protest in question …

The rabid defender of Aussie jobs confirmed the photo this morning, but told Crikey he had “no memory of that …when you’re a young teenage Trot you do end up going to a lot of protests”.

“The difference is I’m not a Communist now, but she still is,” he spat at Rhiannon.

The Greens MP was busy in Senate estimates this morning and did not return calls. But some Googling reveals the 1997 occupation in question was an outgrowth of the Youth Tent Embassy erected to condemn the ratcheting up of curfews to deal with feral youngsters.  As the redoubtable Green Left Weekly reported at the time:

“On April 24, an attempt to give about 500 letters and 1000 signatures to Premier Bob Carr ended in an occupation of the Treasury Department.”

Howes then, as now, was right in the thick of it.


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24 thoughts on “Howes’ historical revision on life as a ‘young teenage Trot’

  1. bluepoppy

    Was Paul Howes only 15 years old in 1997. Wow. Just a pup.

    LOL at claims he did not remember the sit-in. Even if you were involved in numerous sit-ins or protests you would remember wouldn’t you – unless perhaps illegal substances were involved.

    However, this is such a beat-up. Visualising kindergartens and sandpits.

    Do any adults still identify with their teenage self. People do change and develop their worldviews. Does it matter if Howes was a Trotskyist or Lee was a Communist, or even if their views still lean to those dogmas.

  2. Edward James

    Visualising kindergartens and sandpits, I think they have just upscaled to local councils and parliaments!

  3. PK93

    ““The difference is I’m not a Communist now, but she still is,” he spat at Rhiannon.”

    Jounalistic ethics 101 : class 34: describing speech

    Journalists are free to use any “describing speech word” when quoting in an article, particularly if the aim of the article is to skew perceptions towards the party or parties you favour, and most particularly when covering some enmity between public figures.

    When the describing speech word selected is of a metaphoric nature, say, a vulgar action like spitting, feel free to further imply that the action was directed at the favoured party e.g. “{quote unfavoured party}” he spat at {insert favoured party}

  4. JamesK

    Thanks, PK93, I cringed when I read that.

  5. Frank Campbell

    Trots are notable for their high degree of churn…young and rabid, they almost always morph into their opposites by their early/mid 20s. From then on it all depends on career: they’re just as rabid defending the interests of their new masters, whether corporate or political. The Hitchens brothers (Christopher and Peter) are two examples. Both ended up as apologists for the far Right (though God was optional).

    The distinguishing feature is fierce absolutism, utter certainty and constant harangue. The Messianic fervour is simply redirected like a fire-hose at each career change.

    Expect Howes, when the conveyor belt arrives in Canberra, to transform into a Lib-banging militant apologist for corporatist Labour. Later still, he’ll be a plump Minister in a pin-stripe suit. Finally, he’ll be a plump Prime Minister with an avuncular manner and an iron grip on the numbers. Don’t get in the way.

  6. Edward James

    I doubt Paul Howes will live long enough to be friendly or helpful to anyone as Labor Prime Minister of Australia. After all Labor nationally is just no dam good for Australians paying our tax in pursuit of elusive good governance. Edward James

  7. Michael de Angelos

    what’s wrong with being a communist?

  8. Janet A

    Howes’s finger must be getting very weathered from the amount of times he uses it to see which way the wind is blowing.

  9. Edward James

    Yes his finger like the fingers of so many dodgy politicians on both sides of our government must be getting weathered from trying to read which way the wind is blowing. Edawrd James

  10. goldsztajn

    I ran into Paul Howes a couple of times in the 1990s, I remember him as very keen and interested in politics, if naive (but were any of us who still involved in politics any different at that age?)…I imagine he actually probably has good memories of his time as an activist, but due to the myopia of contempory politics he’s forced to be self-depricating about the period. I always thought he’d grow out of the DSP (as most of the people I respected did). I may disagree with his public statements about the non-Labor left, but then, again, I imagine this is more for dealing with the Australian press dominated as it is by the Tories and coporate interests.

  11. Kevin Herbert

    Vacuous self promoter then…..and now….anything for a headline.

    Howes is Julia Gillard lite….

    Note to Paul Howes : have you released your latest updated list as to whom may be assasinated (i.e. murdered) by overseas governments when the circumstances permit…..you remember that don’t you PH???..you mouthed off in the Sunday Telegraph last year…..you’ll never escape that amazing statement.

  12. littlemaths

    At least I wasn’t the only 15 year old with a crap middle parted haircut in 1997.

  13. Patriot

    What is it with the left and lyіng?

  14. Syd Walker

    Paul Howes is one of those opportunists who gives the establishment what it wants so he can ride the gravy train it provides. I assume that wasn’t the case when he was 15 – which may be why his memory of the period is so hazy. Recollection of the days when he was genuinely idealistic must seem like a memory of a past life.

    For me, the most nauseating example of Paul Howes rank opportunism is his grovelling support for Israel. In 2009, with considerable hype and fanfare, he helped launch a group called ‘Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine’ (TULIP). Google it and you’ll see it appears to have done precious little since its noisy beginning – but that gave the Zionists the good-news headline they craved following Israel’s slaughter in Gaza.

    Paul Howes regularly touts his opinions and boosts his image, courtesy of the Murdoch media. Like a good unionist, he’s paid his dues. Howes is a fully paid-up member of the Go Along to Get Along (GAGA) Union.

  15. Andrew McIntosh

    Are you now or have you ever been…

  16. AR

    What a pity he was never a communist, just a trot – which means he is now just another apparatchik, a man without a navel, climbing the greasy pole.

  17. GocomSys

    As expected, great tabloid topic again. Another useless distraction from the real issues we are faced with. Source the “Australian”, “Daily Telegraph”, “Sunday Telegraph”. forget it!

  18. Liamj

    I always thought Resistance was a front designed to discredit real progressive protests – Mr ‘i spy for yanks’ Howes involvement confirms it for me.

  19. Frank Campbell

    Liamj: thanks for reminding me about Paul Howes’ role as a US embassy “protected source”.

    Here’s a Wikileaks US embassy cable extract:

    “When we reminded Paul Howes (protect), head
    of the right-wing Australian Workers Union, that ALP
    politicians from the Left, no matter how capable, do not
    become party leader, he said immediately: “but she (Gillard) votes with
    the Right.”

    The Yanks knew that Gillard was jockeying for the leadership years before, noting that:

    “Much internal hostility towards
    Gillard can be traced back to her support of Mark Latham and
    her undermining of Kim Beazley’s leadership.”

    The cable analyses Gillard’s own phony Leftism…(but no mention of her permanent anti-Palestinian politics)

    “Gillard now
    downplays her involvement in Socialist Forum and describes
    the group as a “sort of a debating society.” Indeed she
    good-humoredly waves away press attempts to raise the subject
    of her early political leanings. ”

    Both Gillard and Howes are ruthless, shameless opportunists…

  20. michael crook

    Resistance is where young people can express their views through active militancy. It is a great organisation, and one where the cream of intellectual debate merges with a practical and honest world view. It is nothing like the commercial media. Resistance is part of the solution, Paul Howes and his ilk are part of the problem.

  21. Laime Jeff

    Maybe your investigators should check out a certain person’s participation in the August 1996 storming of Parliament House. Maybe you can check the security footage of the gift shop. Could be revealing!

  22. Kevin Herbert

    FRANK CAMPBELL: here here to your last para….I wouldn’t cross the street to put out their fire, as it were.

  23. c d

    He even looked like a pigman at 15.

  24. klewso

    “Howes : To Win Friends & Influence People.”


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