BENDIGO'S union movement is mourning the death of one of its best-loved sons.
John Halfpenny, left-wing unionist and former Communist Party stalwart, died on Saturday, aged 68, after a long battle with heart disease and diabetes. Born in 1935 in Bendigo, he moved with his parents to Donald, before following his father into the railways, where he worked at Flinders Street station. He then became an apprentice fitter and turner with Malcolm Moore Industries in Port Melbourne. Halfpenny served as secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council from 1987 to 1995, and was an executive member of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
Former colleague and Bendigo Trades Hall secretary Karen Kyle described Mr Halfpenny as an "amazing" man.
"During the Kennett years, he was a symbol of strength when the trade union movement most needed it," she said.
"He said the main reason for existence was to leave this world a little better than when you found it, and I believe he did that.
Federal Member for Bendigo Steve Gibbons, who worked with Mr Halfpenny during the bitter Mayfair dispute in the 1980s, expressed his sympathies to Mr Halfpenny's family.
"He was dedicated to the cause of workers," Mr Gibbons said. "He made a major contribution to the wellbeing of hundreds and thousands of Victorian families."
Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union national secretary Doug Cameron mourned the death of his mentor.
"He was so young, had so much potential, and had contributed to much to Australia," he said.
"John Halfpenny made a magnificent contribution to the trade union movement and to the Australian way of life, and was responsible for ensuring the preservation of much of Australia's manufacturing industry.
"He was a role model for many current trade union leaders, including myself." Awarded the AM in 1998, Halfpenny's name was synonymous with workers' rights and hard-nosed industrial negotiations for more than 20 years.
He dominated the Victorian union movement as state secretary of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union in 1972, secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering Union in 1970 and as an organiser for the Amalgamated Engineering Union during 1969.