|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 (...it'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!