A sneak peek at chapters from The House that Jack Built: Jack Mundey Green Bans Hero.

Jack Mundey, the BLF, and green bans

Without Jack Mundey Australia and the world would not have seen the first of the green bans – a term he placed in the mind of millions.

Green bans saw a militant left-wing trade union, the Builders Labourers Federation (BLF), withdrawing its labour from construction jobs, not to satisfy union self-interests, but to serve society at large, by protecting precious heritage buildings and the natural urban environment. Without that intervention and the movement it unleashed, many of the things we treasure today would have been lost.

Chapter 4 – Grass roots stirrings.

Builders Labourers Federation demonstration
▲ Photo: Builder's Labourers Federation members - green ban demonstration 1972.
Kelly's Bush protest poster
◀︎ Photo: Child's poster from 1970 in support of the local action to save Kelly's Bush.

The battle for Kelly's Bush - women at the environmental forefront

“This was the first time the enlightened working class teamed with the enlightened middle class to fight for the environment – anywhere in the world.” Jack Mundey

A local group of women from Hunters Hill had exhausted every avenue for formal protest against a development of luxury townhouses and home units on the last available open space and last remaining piece of unspoiled bushland fronting the Parramatta River. “They came to us and said that it was time to put our theory into practice… they gave us to understand that we (the union) were their last and only hope.”

Chapter 3 – The saga of Mr Kelly and his bush

The Rocks - heritage conservation comes of age.

A government-commissioned redevelopment proposal unleashed a chain of events that saw blood in the streets, building site lock outs, street arrests and the green ban of 1971-73.

An old building in Playfair St, The Rocks, Sydney tested the strength of the green ban placed by the BLF on the wider Rocks historic precinct slated for redevelopment in a massive government-sponsored real estate scheme involving towers, grand plazas and podiums. On the day it was to be finally demolished by non-union labour, the site was peaceably barricaded and occupied by a resolute group of locals and the two BLF leaders.

Fifty eight people were arrested that day by the police under the instructions of Premier Rob Askin who “wanted Mundey’s head”. As Mundey observes “that morning’s occupation was one of a large number of separate actions that, together, saved the Rocks.”

Chapter 5 – Big issues, big battles

▲ Photo: Jack Mundey, Meredith Bergman, BLF members and local residents at a green ban demonstration, 1973.
◀︎ Photo: Artist's impression of adopted 1970 scheme for redevelopment of The Rocks (image courtesy Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority).

Big business, big government, big money - Australia goes modern

In the ‘lucky country’ in the 60s, material growth and progress was what it was all about.

After the privations and shortages of World War II,  it was a matter of keeping the foot on the economic accelerator and getting the engines of economic expansion back into top gear. Progress meant more jobs, more investment and more development. Maintaining that progress was the unquestioned responsibility of government at all levels.

In the mid ’60s property boom, the streets were awash with risk capital and dozens of corporate developers were scrambling to enter the lists as competition for land and money (and government patronage) intensified. As Maurie Daly notes “the once-in-a-lifetime rebuilding of Sydney’s heart happened so rapidly and boisterously that only after it was over were the mistakes and missed opportunities reckoned”.

Chapter 2 – How green was my valley

Strange bedfellows - unusual supporters and opponents

Jack Mundey did not flinch from joining the debate with the high and mighty across the the negotiating table and found unexpected supporters and unexpectedly friendly opponents.

It would be hard to imagine two characters more diametrically opposed in background wealth, education and social standing than Jack Mundey and Patrick White. White’s admiration for Mundey found surprising expression in his play Big Toys.

Likewise, evidence suggests that from when Jack and Dick Dusseldorp first met at the Theatre Royal negotiations, a spirit of mutual respect developed between the union leader and the property magnate – a respect that survived over the following decades. 

Chapter 6 – Strange bedfellows

Jack Mundey hi res
▲ Photo: Dick Dusseldorp (left) and Jack Mundey (right) 1972.

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