John Faulkner: Vale Arthur Gietzelt

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A constant and enduring influence... 

For more than 60 years, Arthur was a constant for those of us in the Labor Party in NSW: 

  • constant in his commitment to his community in the Sutherland Shire,
  • constant in his determination to stand up for what he believed in and believed to be the best traditions of Labor,
  • constant in his opposition to the sharp practices and underhand tactics of the Right,
  • constant in his presence, whether as a councillor, Senator, mentor, or stalwart of the Left. 

Arthur was a councillor on the Sutherland Shire Council from 1956 until 1971 including nine years as its President. And those were crucial years in making Sutherland Shire what it is today. Arthur stopped high-rise development around Cronulla Beach and Caringbah, refusing to allow developers free rein. 

Arthur fought to make the Party accountable and electable. He believed that the best hope for Labor’s electoral victory, and thus of serving the people who needed that victory, lay in challenging and defeating the ugly elements of the NSW machine. 

Arthur was one of the dissident branch members who started holding meetings in the northern pylon of the Sydney Harbor Bridge in 1953. By 1956, he and John Garland had been approached to support the ALP Trade Unions Steering Committee, a meeting of anti-grouper unions. Thus was born the Combined Unions and Branches Steering Committee. 

In small meetings of a dozen or so around a table Arthur was at his most effective. Persuasive. Compelling. A real force, with years of experience, a prodigious memory and a command of detail. If you disagreed with him, be prepared for a piercing and steely glare. 

I was on the receiving end of that steely glare on more than a few occasions. He was loyal to those he’d decided to support – not all of whom deserved that loyalty. 

However, despite our occasional disagreements, I could always rely on Arthur’s support when I was working in ALP Head Office. A telephone call from him in those years was an experience. Arthur was convinced my office telephones were tapped, so he’d speak in riddles incomprehensible to anyone listening in. Unfortunately, they were often also incomprehensible to me!

His concerns were not entirely unfounded. ASIO’s files reveal that they suspected him of links to the Communist Party. Arthur consistently and categorically denied the allegation of CPA membership to me, and I have scant regard for information provided by paid informants. I reject absolutely the notion that Arthur was an agent of the Soviet Union, or less than loyal to Australia. He fought for his nation in war, he served his nation in its parliament.

Arthur had an enduring influence on the Left, and on all of us who value the same principles of democratic decision-making and representation, and of service to the community, on which Arthur expended so much of his efforts, and to which he devoted his life. 

And we know that during all the struggles Dawn stood beside Arthur, a committed political activist in her own right. We all know that the support of family makes it all possible; and we know too the sacrifice families make. 

We thank and acknowledge Dawn, Lee, Dale, Adam and their families today. Their loss is keener than ours – but we will all miss him. 

 


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  • commented 2014-07-27 19:21:35 +1000
    Remember if you are effective you will have enemies working behind the scenes to move you out.