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Issue No. 214 26 March 2004  

The Security Shift
As the War on Terror spirals out of control, the political dynamics of security are starting to shift – and those banging thee drums of war may become the unlikely casualties.


Interview: Baby Bust
Labor's Wayne Swan argues that the plight of our aging workforce is only one side of our demographic dilemma.

Safety: Dust To Dust
Failure by authorities to police safety in the asbestos removal industry is threatening the lives of members of the public, writes Phil Doyle.

Bad Boss: Shaming in Print
Delegates from print shops around Sydney will publicly shame this month’s Bad Boss nominee with a rally outside his new Alexandria operation next Thursday.

National Focus: Work's Cripplin' Us
Noel Hester reports on a spin doctors' talkfest, workplace pain, stroppy teachers and IWD party time in the national wrap.

International: Bulk Bullies
An extraordinary five month struggle over affordable health care, by nearly 70,000 Californian supermarket workers, has just come to an end, writes Andrew Casey.

History: The Battle for Kelly's Bush
Green Bans saved a piece of bush before they saved much of the Sydney’s built environment, writes Neale Towart

Economics: Aid, Trade And Oil
Tim Anderson reveals Australia’s second betrayal Of East Timor is playing out before our eyes.

Review: The Art Of Work
Workers and westies are being celebrated as the cultural icons they are thanks to two Sydney exhibitions reminding us there is a world of art in the everyday, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Sew His Lips Together
Wondering where the next porkie is going to come from? Resident bard David Peetz knows.


 Terrorism: Workers In Front Line

 ‘Racist Throwback’ on Rail Project

 Green Light for Council Code

 Underground Mines a Time Bomb

 Teachers Delete Email

 Bush Uses Burma Sweatshops

 Family Mourns Dead Worker

 Call Centre Shocker

 Bosses Touched Up With Wet Lettuce

 Andrews Throws Last Dice at CFMEU

 Smelter Contractors Clear Air

 Activists What’s On!


The Soapbox
Iraq and Your Mortgage
How high interest rates go will be a key issue in 2004 and if you are looking for a clue, there's no better place to look than the war in Iraq, writes Michael Rafferty.

Hang Onto the Day Job
Show someone else the money, says Phil Doyle.

Westie Wing
Ian West shows why Eveleigh Street’s not so far away from Macquarie Street

Don’t Give Up the Fight
Get Up, Stand Up is the logo of choice on a popular range of subversive condoms. Ken Davis from Union Aid Abroad reports from Zimbabwe’s second city

 More On Green Bans
 But Will He Get the Trains To Run On Time?
 Uniting For Peace
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Letters to the Editor

More On Green Bans

The Battle for Kellys Bush by Neale Towart

Neale Towart has written a fine account of the battle to save Kellys Bush especially given the limits of space. I write not to contest his factual presentation. My concern is the absence from the story of the more general credit owed the Labor Movement for their efforts to save the Bush. Extending the credit more widely does not discount the perceived wisdom of the centrality of the Builders' Labourers Federation in the wider struggle for a better Sydney, it does challenge their relative importance to the saving of the Bush.

In early 1971, following the re-election of the Askin Government, the bulldozers were fair poised to knock over a bushland that predated European settlement. The Battlers, the housewives of Hunters Hill and Woolwich depicted by Mr Towart, had learned no end of a lesson about the perfidy of their elected leaders. Most of them would not have questioned voting Liberal before the struggle for Kellys Busg. Bob Askin had played them off the breaks before the election with a succession of sweet-nothings, wanting them neutralised in the marginal seat of Fuller. The election over, his Government made it clear the Bush was going to be developed.

Only then did the Hunters Hill Branch of the ALP enter the picture. We had a change of leadership immediately after the NSW Election. Working with community groups was what we hoped we stood for. I contacted Betty James and soon after met with her and Kath Lehany. These details have been recorded many times. Short of a black ban by the unions, I explained, you're gone for all money. I offered to make that contact. At or about the same time Bob Pringle, President of the BLF, was making his own important contacts directly with the Battlers.

At this time the BLF was expelled from the Labor Council of NSW. They could not send a delegation to its meetings. To me the immediate, practical problem was stopping bulldozers from clearing the bush, stopping houses being built on a cleared site was a qualitatively different debate to one about preserving a pristine stand of trees and scrub. Here is where the credit deserves to be shared more widely.

The union which represented bulldozer drivers (and all the other heavy equipment employed in clearing a site) was the FEDFA (Federated Engine Drivers' and Firemens' Association). Its Secretary was Jack Cambourn. Jack Cambourn listened to the case I presented, he took his time, he offered the support of the Union. At the time Australian benefited from not one Communist Party, not two, but three - and many of the finest trade union officials, proud to call themselves communists, belonged to none of them. Jack Cambourn was such an independent.

Keith Blackwell, State Secretary of the Miscellaneous Workers' Union, wrote the letter to Labor Council which placed the matter of a black ban formally on the Council agenda. Jack Cambourn spoke to the members of the Building Trades Group which was, at the time, minus the expelled BLF. He enlisted their support.

When the letter formally came before the Labor Council at its Thursday night meeting, John Ducker moved endorsement of a black ban and spoke to the motion. He was the only speaker in a motion which passed unanimously.

At or about the same time Ralph Marsh led a Labor Council deputation to the Minister for Planning, Harry Jago. The others in the delegation were Keith Blackwell and myself. "You're going to have to do the talking at this thing," Mr Marsh told me before we went in. "You got us into this." To say I was terrified does not begin to touch my feelings. After the pleasantries, I did all the talking.

Beyond the formality of meetings, in the way of politics, the leadership of Ralph Marsh and John Ducker made it clear by back-channels to the Government this ban was the real thing and the union movement expected it to be respected. Jack Cambourn made it clear to A.V.Jennings, the development company which owned the freehold of Kellys Bush, that all worksite relations depended on respecting the ban on Kellys Bush.

The communications one suspected were every bit as important as the formal resolutions and the correspondence. They certainly were as important as the pyrotechnics which were written up in the newspapers of the time and are now the accepted version for History.

In any fair assessment of the credit for saving Kellys Bush, every possible due is owed Ralph Marsh, John Ducker and Jack Cambourn - especially Jack Cambourn. Without Jack and the FEDFA the BLF would have been fighting to stop houses on acres of red earth.

The phrase "green ban" came into the language at this time. Its etymology was a spontaneous evolution from the stock speech of one at the time who was always stating that "in order to keep the bush green we had to declare it black".



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