Tuesday 3 August 2021

The Victoria Street Green Ban and Juanita Nielsen.


Fifty years ago, Australian unions pioneered the modern conservation and environmental movement in Australia. The first half of the 1970s was the time of the green bans.



Leaders of the NSW Builders Labourers’ Federation, convinced that unionism went far beyond standard “bread-and-butter” issues – wages, working conditions, OH&S – mobilised their union’s power to oppose urban development projects requiring the eviction of low income households, the destruction of the environment or the loss of heritage buildings:

“It’s not much good winning a 35-hour week if we’re going to choke to death in planless and polluted cities, where rents are too high, where ordinary people can’t live” – NSW BLF secretary Jack Mundey
It was a popular move and sometimes even the well-heeled would join that kind of protest.
Enter Juanita Nielsen, who was murdered during the backlash against the green bans. It has received considerable attention from the ABC Radio National. A fascinating read: the unlikely but tragically true story of the fight between sexy and fashion-conscious Juanita Nielsen, journalist, publisher, and heiress to a wealthy and conservative Anglo family, her low-income neighbours, a bunch of activists/squatters of varying races, and their working class, Commie BLF and Water and Sewerage Employees Union allies against ruthless developer Frank Theeman and organised crime boss Abe Saffron (and here), their army of goons, and their many powerful and allegedly corrupt friends – including the president of the federal BLF, Maoist “Big” Norm Gallagher, the NSW Premier Sir Bob Askin, and the NSW Police Force.

History is a lot messier than historians and philosophers make it appear, isn’t it? To his credit, Michael Dulaney tells it well, from beginning to bittersweet aftermath.

Other accounts:
Caroline Graham writes about “The Life and Times of Juanita Nielsen”.  In “Vale Jack Mundey: The Builders Labourers’ leader who saved Glebe”, Meredith Burgmann focuses on Mundey. First row witnesses Ian Milliss and Teresa Brennan tell the story of the last days of the Victoria Street Green Ban.

Ah! McCain, you’ve done it again! If you live in Oz, you’ve heard that slogan. Sadly, it’s true!


For the second time in two weeks McCain Australia locked out 90 workers of their Smithton plant (north-western Tasmania). Why?

Because after taking a pay cut during last year’s lockdowns and recession, those workers are now asking their pay to match that of their mainland comrades (up to 15% higher). You see, those workers wanted to help McCain (Tassie comrades, seriously, there’s nothing more heartwarming than a naive kid who believes in Father Christmas; but you aren’t kids anymore: learn that lesson).

McCain workers in Smithton are willing to wait it out, but they can’t do it alone. Can you show your solidarity and support by making a donation?

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