News has come through that Tom Uren has died at the age of 93.
It may seem strange saying goodbye to a Labor politician on these pages, but Tom Uren was only one of two Labor politicians who was arrested with us regularly during the street marches in Brisbane in 1977-79.
The other was Senator George Georges.
The reason why Tom Uren marched was because he was implacably opposed to the mining and export of Uranium.
This came from his wartime experience in Japan in the 1940s. Tom was one of the first group of soldiers who went to help clean up after the US dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
Street marches were banned in Queensland by Joh Bjelke-Petersen to assist the export of uranium through the port of Brisbane. The anti-uranium movement had been using street marches to build support for pickets on the wharves at Hamilton to stop the uranium trains going through. Tom Uren was old style Labor who regarded Joh Bjelke-Petersen as the class enemy.
The Battle For Bowen Hills
From memory, it was Tom Uren, who as minister for local government, stopped the Northern freeway going through Bowen Hills, after working class residents, migrants and old-age pensioners battled the police and the Queensland government to stop the freeway and save affordable housing owned by the Qld Main Roads Department. Here is a video of that struggle from the Radical Times Historical Archive [The documentary can be viewed under 4A in the visual table of contents … The link to the film is http://radicaltimes.info
Tom was the local government minister in the reformist Whitlam government that helped rehabilitate the urban public transport system particularly the electrification of the rail system and the upgrading of railway lines. Tom would turn in his grave to hear that Labor governments along with the Tories have sold off public assets like the railway system.
I remember Tom Uren coming to the forum area at the University of Queensland and on the street marches that followed at a time when it was regarded as a time and place for radicals.
Straight Left by Tom Uren published by Random House Australia.