Review: We Built this Country
We Built This Country – Builders’ Labourers and their Unions,
by Humphrey McQueen, Ginninderra Press, Port Adelaide, 2011, 364pp, $30.00
Review by Howard Guille
This is the second book of Humphrey McQueen’s research into builders’ labourers and their unions.
Read it, as the author says, with the earlier volume ‘Framework of Flesh: Builders’ labourers battle for health and safety.
This book is a history of builders’ labourers and their work from colonialisation onwards.
More especially, it is an account of the formation and operation of the Australian Building Labourers’ Federation from 1910 to the amalgamation of its residual bits into the CFMEU in 1991.
The book cannot be summarised in a review that is two words for each of the years McQueen covers.
One impressive aspect is the weight given to the outlying states as well as to Victoria and New South Wales. Another is the section on the ‘money flow’ within unions; put plainly, a union will fold if it fails to collect and bank members’ dues.McQueen also looks past ‘a cult of individuals in the Jack and Norm show’ (p12). Even so, his account of the genesis of green bans and his analysis of the conflicts between Norm Gallagher and Jack Mundey will raise controversy.
McQueen tells how workers tried to control what was happening to them – in practice, what bosses were trying to do to them – in the face of economic and social forces and changing technology.
There are fascinating insights.
Read the review here http://chriswhiteonline.org/2012/01/review-we-built-this-country/