Australia’s unions v. Frank Sinatra

UNITED KINGDOM – SEPTEMBER 01: ROYAL ALBERT HALL Photo of Frank SINATRA, performing live onstage, waving, with audience behind. (Photo by David Redfern/Redferns)

Did you ever hear about the time that Frank Sinatra, one of the most famous performers in the world, took on Bob Hawke and the Australian union movement?

It was July of 1974, and Sinatra was touring Australia for the first time in 15 years.

Sinatra was already a legend. As a crooner he had massive appeal.

This tour of Australia was hotly anticipated. But Sinatra very quickly ruffled feathers.

On the first performance of his tour at Melbourne’s Festival Hall, ‘Ol Blue Eyes’ unleashed a series of sexist insults toward women journalists.

The journalists’ union demanded an apology, but Sinatra refused.

He wasn’t used to being told what to do.

Bob Hawke, the President of the ACTU, condemned Sinatra and backed the journalists.

A union boycott of Sinatra’s tour was announced.

Unionists refused to work to help Sinatra, leading to his second Melbourne show being cancelled.

Hawke issued a statement to Sinatra, saying “If you don’t apologise your stay in this country could be indefinite. You won’t be allowed to leave Australia unless you can walk on water.”

Transport workers wouldn’t fuel his plane, forcing him to sneak from Melbourne to Sydney.

He was then stuck at his exclusive hotel for three days – refused service everywhere else.

Eventually, Hawke turned up at the hotel, leading to a compromise where Sinatra issued a public statement of regret.

Not quite an apology – but enough of a backdown that the unions involved felt that their point about how women workers should be treated had been made.

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