Green Bans Forever
The Public and the Press in the 1970s Sydney Green Ban Movement
The green ban movement of 1971-75 prevented an estimated $3 billion worth of development on over forty Sydney building projects. The New South Wales Builders Labourers’ Federation (BLF) fought alongside local communities to preserve Sydney’s historic buildings, bush and parkland, and the rapidly disappearing working-class housing in inner-Sydney. Although dubbed heroes in retrospect, Jack Mundey (BLF secretary), Bob Pringle (president), and Joe Owens (treasurer) faced consistent and powerful opposition to green bans from the press. Whereas other historians have afforded the press a positive or ambivalent role in the success of green bans, this paper challenges prior historiography with press and archival material that demonstrates the opposition green bans faced in the media. It can be surmised that because the extension of union power into political and social issues was typically conflated with a growth or abuse of that power, politically-conscious bans – whether black, green, or red – were met with mistrust and apprehension.