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Category: Interviews »

Subject: Politics »

Moss Cass describes the ambivalent attitude of the ALP in Opposition to Vietnamese refugees

Moss Cass; Andrew Jakubowicz and Mara Moustafine.



Date Added:

07 April 2009


source not available


mov (Quicktime);

File size:

6.1 MB






In the beginning, charges against foreigners get a resonance in the Labor movement because workers always feel they’re going to lose their jobs. And in fact, that’s what happens, let’s be honest about it too. After all we were all passionately against Poms when the influx of new English migrants meant workers’ conditions were depressed, or they lost their jobs. That’s been the history of the country.


You know, opposition to the Kanakas because they took over all the jobs in the sugar cane. And it’s always like that. I’m well aware of the fact that there are plenty of Labor people who don’t like Jews, but when it comes to the crunch eventually, the party always votes the right way. That’s what Sam Cohen always found. And we knew bloody well there – because, you know the Jews take our jobs, well and then the Italians took our jobs and then the Greeks took our jobs and then the Turks took our jobs. It’s always like that.


I was shadow minister for immigration when the influx of Vietnamese really became full on. And we started intercepting their boats and stuff like that and I took along a suggestion that you know, we had to take them in. And Lionel Bowen said, “Moss you can’t do that!” Now Lionel’s a nice bloke and I love him, he was the one right winger I could talk to all the time, we could always agree and agree to disagree without disliking or feeling antagonistic to one another. But in this situation, you can’t because we saw – the trade union movement saw all this influx of Vietnamese as threat to their conditions, stuff like that. I said, “Well Lionel..” Well it wasn’t just Lionel because he was supported by the majority of the committee, I was on my own basically, or practically.


And I said, “Well, what are you going to do? What – turn them back to sea, they’re coming – they’ll drown, you can’t do that.” Then the bells rang and we had to go into parliament. In the next meeting, not a word about it. “Yeah, we’ve got to take them in.” They’d gone and they’d thought about it. I didn’t persuade him any more than that. Gut reaction: they’re going to take all our jobs. Think about it: well they’re human beings.


End transcript