Monday, May 16, 2011

Neither consumerism nor carbon taxes: Bob Pringle's vision for a new society and a new city

I'm just back from a couple of days spent in the Noel Butlin Archives in Canberra, looking at papers relating to the 'green bans' that took place in Sydney during the 1970s.

Inside the Noel Butlin Archives, ANU, Canberra...

For those who don't know about them, the green bans were actions in which extraordinary alliances of resident action groups and workers from the NSW Branch of the Builders Labourers' Federation worked together to block a number of major developments across the city. The developments which were banned threatened open space, affordable housing, and architectural heritage (among other things). The green bans involved a range of practices - strike action and industrial sabotage, secondary boycotts and bans, squatting, the construction of barricades, the formation of alternative plans, protest meetings and marches, and much more. Before the bans were finally broken ('s a long story!!), it was estimated that around $3 billion of development in Sydney was being held up by this kind of action.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the first green ban at Kelly's Bush, Nicole Cook and I have organised a session called 'Remembering the Green Bans' at the June conference of the Institute of Australian Geographers. Our agenda is to try to remind folks about these extraordinary events, and to think about their on-going relevance for urban policy and politics in Australian cities beyond the usual 'heritage' angle that has come to be celebrated as the years have passed. In my paper, I'm trying to think on the lessons of the green bans for current efforts to re-imagine the possibilities of urban politics (there's some initial reflections along these lines in recent and forthcoming pieces for City). And so, I've hit the archives in order to get more of a sense of how the bans were conducted and justified at the time by the participants.

Anyways, among the many great finds on this trip, I came across an article called "Consumerism: it’s no way to a new society" by Bob Pringle (b. 1941, d. 1996), published in the National Times on 18 October 1976. Pringle was President of the NSW Branch of the Builders Labourers' Federation during the green ban period. By the time he wrote this piece, he'd been expelled from the Union by rivals in the Federal Executive (along with Jack Mundey and several others who were prominent in the NSW BLF leadership during the green ban period).

I've reproduced the article in full below because I think it's an extraordinary piece of writing. There's a little bit of analysis after the piece if you make it that far. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Keep Australia Colourful this Sunday...!

[this one's a bit Sydney-centric ... apologies to non-Sydney readers]

This coming Sunday is the second installment of Keep Australia Colourful, a pro-graffiti event that I'm involved in organising in Sydney. It's timed to coincide with Graffiti Action Day, an anti-graffiti event organised jointly by Keep Australia Beautiful and the NSW State Government. We painted some nice walls, a truck, and got some good media coverage for our efforts last year, so we figured it was worth trying this on again ... especially with the new NSW Government proposing to confiscate driver's licenses of those convicted of graffiti offences, and to introduce mandatory jail sentences for repeat offenders. (Yes, they actually think putting graffiti writers on the trains and buses is going to stop graffiti ... brilliant!!)  The futile and expensive war on graffiti shows no sign of letting up...

For a short version of my take on what we ought to be doing instead, you could look here -- a longer version of this was published as "War is over (if you want it): rethinking the graffiti problem" in Australian Planner, 2009, vol 46 (3) ... with all apologies to John Lennon for the title.

So, here's the announcement for this year's event ...


On May 15, Keep Australia Beautiful is teaming up with the NSW State Government for their second 'Graffiti Action Day'. Their aim is to mobilise volunteers all over the state to paint over as much graffiti as they can.

On the same day, we urge you to join us and take a stand on behalf of Graffiti and Street Art as valuable forms of art and culture. The government wants to 'Keep Australia Beautiful' by painting our streets, lanes and public spaces various shades of beige - but we want to Keep Australia Colourful! Let's show people how great our cities could look if there were more places for artists to create pieces legally.

If you want to join us, here's what to do...

Graffiti/Street Artists: find a space, and make it look colouful on May 15.

Whatever you decide to paint, poster, stencil, knit, sticker ... be sure to include a reference to Keep Australia Colourful in your piece. Yes, people ... you can put aside your ego for one day and join the KAC crew, we know you can do it!! :-)  Of course, we are not encouraging you to do anything illegal! Then, upload your flicks on our website:

If you can tell us where you are going to be painting beforehand, even better - we can plug your session on the website/facebook too. And if you want to be available for media comment on the day, send us your details, and we will add them to our press release.

Graffit/Street Art Lovers: write a letter to your local council, and/or to the NSW Attorney General Greg Smith (, telling them why you love graffiti and street art and why you want to see more of it.


A community service announcement, brought to you by Kurt Iveson, Cameron McAuliffe, Spice, Pudl, Mini Graff, Mistery, Roach, Numskull, Saynt


Thursday, May 5, 2011

"I'm just trying to get to the shops...": inside and outside the gates

Check this great little video ... as my mate Adam Holden said when he sent me the link, you could spin a whole talk on public and private space out of this!

I love the juxtaposition between private and public, inside and outside, that this little staged encounter reveals...