This thought looms because of the lead letter in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. The letter, that I cut and paste below, laments the steady destruction of Sydney’s parks and green spaces and associated amenities. As we all should. The writer wonders who should control decisions about these in the face of the profit hungry developers.
In Sydney’s own history we find the perfect answer: the builders labourers’ greens bans that saved so much of Sydney against the ancestors of these profit hungry developers in the 60 s and 70s and occasionally since.
In brief, a green ban is workers taking industrial action that puts a ban on a project that might or actually is destroying the environment and the human enjoyment of that environment, either as residents in it or as passers-by or visitors to it. The workers combine through their union to say, “We will not supply labour to the site and we will act with the community to prevent rich property developers and / or their governments from trying to do so.”
For more on these and the democratic processes that the New South Wales builders labourers, through their union, insisted on, read Green Bans, Red Union by Meredith and Verity Burgmann and Jack Mundey’s autobiography. Or click here. Or here.
Green bans required 2 things: a democratic decision of the community that wants them that is then presented to the union, and a democratic decision of the construction workers to agree to carry out the ban.
The capacity to organize can deliver the first.
But, IN THESE TIMES, the second, requires, as well as the capacity to organize, a determination to disobey repressive anti strike laws in Labor’s Fair Work Act, and to stand with construction workers against the Turnbull- Abbott government’s laws to set up a special Commission (the Australian Building and Construction Commission – ABCC) to repress and police construction workers and their friends and associates.
The ABCC laws are now before the Australian parliament and, because they are strongly opposed, they are potentially the trigger for the right-wing government to dissolve the parliament and run a new election.
These laws intend to, among other things, stop, detain, interrogate and imprison construction workers and their friends in the community for doing things like standing up against profit hungry developers. (For a plain language summary of the laws and links to more information: click here.)
Yet, many in eastern Sydney, the scene of civil protests against the destruction of Anzac Parade, and the northern suburbs (not all I stress, but I mention these because that is where the author of the SMH letter comes from) who lament the loss of green spaces and want more democratic control over the decision-making, either like or couldn’t care less about Turnbull’s lies about construction workers and their unions.
Such irony. These lies and the associated media propaganda are the means to persuade a majority of Australians and parliamentarians that special repressive powers against construction are necessary.
The powerful property developer 1%érs are the direct beneficiaries of these proposed laws. Metaphorically, who knows maybe “for real”, the government is in their pocket.
To all lovers of Australia’s natural habitat and historical buildings: if you don’t want the property developers to have the power to do what they are doing then you must stand up with construction workers – today’s builders labourers – to stop Turnbull’s ABCC laws and ABCC election. Green bans are socially useful democratic actions.
Here is today’s Sydney Morning Herald letter:
“Who is really looking after our urban public space?
“Elizabeth Farrelly’s article (“Parks and Trees make way for profit”, April 14), in highlighting the loss, degradation to Sydney’s public space amenity poses the obvious question: who is really looking after our urban public space?
“Growing cities like Sydney are under constant pressure from the demands of development.
“Loss of public amenity adjacent to redeveloped harbour front land (for example, Barangaroo), adjoining parks such as the Botanic Gardens or along historic majestic major boulevards like Anzac Parade form the unfortunate casualties of an absence of both custodianship and advocacy by an appropriate public body.
“Since the early 1990s, this publicly staffed office working within the-then Department of Planning has been outsourced largely to private consultants.
Hence developers and their consultants, “push the envelope”, including incursions into the public space.
It doesn’t take that much imagination to conceive of the potential conflict of interest that design consultants risk in having both public and private clients.
Possibly it’s high time to reconsider resurrecting in a contemporary guise, the role of civic authority of “city designers” to ensure both the quantity and quality of open public space commensurate to a dynamic, sustainable “global city” like Sydney.
Cleveland Rose Dee Why