Chapter two

1900 - 1950: A HARD HALF-CENTURY
9,017 words

From 1926, the Sydney-based Labor Monthly published company profits alongside the deaths and injuries inflicted on workers. This catalogue of harms was headed “The Month in Capitalism – the Monthly Slaughter”. Typical incidents were a half-ton concrete shute crushing the life out of an Adelaide labourer, or labourers’ falling to their deaths from Sydney hotels and theatres.[1] Could it be an accident that to “make a real killing” meant to pocket a pile of money?

By 1910, three States had at least the appearance of scaffolding regulation by departmental officers. New South Wales got a Lifts and Scaffolding Act, with an inspectorate, from 1903.[2] South Australia had done so by 1907, followed by the Commonwealth in 1912 for the Capital Territory and on its public works elsewhere. Best of all, from 1916, Queensland’s Labor administration required scaffolders to be licensed.  In States with Scaffolding Acts, the Australian Builders’ Labourers’ Federation (ABLF) paid out far less in benefits to injured members. The NSW Branch had spent £46 in the first half of 1915 whereas Victoria distributed £764.

Employers had impeded the passage of the scaffolding laws. The NSW MBA drew support from the Victorian Employers Federation (VEF) “to prevent undue legislative interference with trade, to preserve the rights of every man to the fruits of his individual labour … [and] to stem the tide of socialistically inclined legislation.” The VEF busied itself with “the education of the people to a proper understanding of the liberty of the subject.”[3] Victoria became the last mainland State to enact central direction over scaffolding. Its Legislative Council scorned all such “interference with the right of the poor to earn their bread in their own way.”[4]

Bourgeois Democracy
Eureka had terrified the propertied classes in 1854. Victorian conservatives had the foresight to protect the rights of capital behind an upper house elected from among the rich and by the well-to-do. To stand for election as a Councillor, a candidate had to possess freehold property worth ₤5,000. Electors needed either ₤1,000 in property, or to belong to a learned profession. By contrast, almost all adult males could vote for the Legislative Assembly. The colony’s 1856 constitution installed a plutocracy, while the Legislative Council Chamber, with its gold-leaf ceiling, became the capitalists’ stockade. The moneyed men were rarely challenged in their electorates. The Baillieus, Clarkes, Grimwades and Manifolds inherited their places along with their estates, making the Council hereditary in effect. It heard no worker’s voice until the election of two Labor members from 1904. Because the constitution could be changed only by a majority in both houses, the removal of property qualifications had to be won by stages over 100 years. The fight for adult suffrage in the Council was not complete until 1950.[5]

After the success of Melbourne’s building unions in the protracted wage dispute over the summer of 1906-7, they pressed the government to keep its election promise to introduce an inspectorate of scaffolding.[6] Between 1900 and 1920, the State Parliament failed to pass twenty-two Bills to require some central inspection of scaffolding.[7] Only the debates to allow marriage between a widower and his deceased wife’s sister dragged on longer.

Into Victoria’s House of Landlords, yet another Bill to regulate scaffolding made its way from the Assembly in 1915. One Labor Councillor asked the majority to open their eyes as they walked around the city: “When coming along to the House to-day, I saw some scaffolding which a cat should not be asked to walk on, let alone men laden with building material.”[8] Although the financier Arthur Robinson resisted central control, he could not

get away from the fact that there were a number of builders operating in the suburbs of Melbourne who erected buildings in a way which made the passer-by shudder. This scaffolding was in ramshackle order, and the risks which were taken by men engaged on these buildings were such as no man should be called upon to face. Many men were willing to take risks, but in some instances they were asked to take unnecessary risks.[9]

Robinson suggested no way of protecting the workers from the rapacity of the Masters. Still less did he probe the necessities that drove the workers to chance their arms.

Other Councillors condescended to be alternatively facile and vicious. Their common denominator was a want of regard for the options open to those not born to the purple. On hearing that several men had been injured by falling off planks, one of the Clarke brothers thought it amusing to interject: “Does that indicate that it was the fault of the planks?”[10] Tory Councillors opposed inspection by officials from the Department of Industry. Municipal authorities, they said, had a lot of under-employed staff who could become scaffolding inspectors. The Masters blamed workers for their harms by calling them “incompetent”. To the extent that “there is any truth in that assertion”, organiser Loughnan shot back, “how would an incompetent inspector improve matters?”[11] In the Assembly, a Labor member spelt out what every worker knew: “Our factory legislation is very good, but the administration is bad, and has always been bad”.[12]

The union wanted permanent inspectors in the Department of Labour to be drawn from the ranks of labourers who had at least four years experience at scaffolding. This prospect incensed the Bill’s opponents. The prize for pettiness went to R. B. Rees who reported on his visits to the office of the South Australian labourers anointed as scaffolding inspectors, where he found conditions even grimier than at the Melbourne Trades Hall. In Adelaide, he had seen “lots of working men hanging about” who “spent most of their time smoking and spitting on the floor.” Should it come to pass that comparable appointments were made in Melbourne, he “hoped the room would not be carpeted” so that it could “be a place where men would foregather to smoke and spit.”[13]

Council amendments to the 1915 Scaffolding Inspection Bill rendered it useless, causing Loughnan to proclaim:

The amendments put in by this fossilised lot made the Bill an abortion. Just fancy 3x3 inch putlogs on a nine-plank scaffold. Not one building in Melbourne, and very few in the suburbs, use these splinters.[14]       

One of the Bill’s champions linked its de-gutting to the antagonism rising among workers against recruitment campaigns, and accused the Tories of having “the impudence to ask the men to go to Gallipoli to fight for them.” Another Labor man praised the Councillors for punishing the workers who would therefore become more determined to toss out the lot of them. On those grounds, he regretted that the Councillors did not punish the workers more: “I know they would do so if they could.” Noting that the Bill had been sunk two weeks before Christmas, he wished peace and goodwill to everyone “except the Germans, the Austrians, the Turks, and the members of the Legislative Council.”[15]

In September 1916, one-time Federal ABLF Secretary Henry Hannah walked off a job in Melbourne’s northern suburbs where he had been employed by a sub-contractor. The site had “not a pole, plank, putlog or rope.” Instead, the employer intended

to build blockings 9ft high for the last scaffold, and use the floor joists for putlogs and planks. These joists are cut to fit the rooms, the shortest being 8ft.; the ceiling joists will be used where possible. These are 25ft. of 11x2 Oregon – nice planks for one man to handle.

Hannah had seen “some awful mantraps in the suburbs, mostly because the employer will not provide sufficient material.” He called on his comrades to take the matter into their own hands by refusing to work on any site where the boss failed to supply the necessary timbers; union organisers with scaffolding know-how ought to inspect all jobs and close down those that the men knew were not safe.[16] By 1916, Hannah had been battling for a Scaffolding Act for 20 years.

As harms continued to mount, the Victorians backed its calls for central inspection with activism around the sites. In March 1916, the Victorian Branch adjusted the masthead on its journal to include a photograph of the Mail Exchange being erected on the corner of Spencer and Bourke Streets. Not one serious accident had happened on that multi-storey building in two years because the Commonwealth Labor government protected the workers it employed as day labourers. The Branch made scaffolding the theme for its 400-strong contingent in the 1916 Eight-Hour Day procession.[17]

During 1914, 197 Victorian members had been injured at work. The Coroner investigating the death of the 35-year old Robert Tempest while whitewashing the Swallow and Ariel biscuit factory in Port Melbourne in 1913 found that the scaffolding had been erected by bakers using “[l]adders and cross beams … in lieu of the proper material.” The Coroner again recommended “supervision of some sort.”[18] On 9 June 1916, the collapse of a scaffold on City Road meant that four hod-carriers “stopped falling when they hit the ground.”  They survived.[19] A plasterer, William Bruce, was less fortunate late in August when he fell 16m. off an outrigger scaffold in Little Collins street.

Suspended scaffolds were recognised as more dangerous than those built from the ground up:

The leverage from the outside caused by the weight is very great, and requires extra precaution. A live weight requires more care than an eccentric or dead weight requires on ordinary scaffolds. On the latter, the outside leverage is absent, and a worker has some chance if an accident takes place; but, if an outrigger gives away, he had absolutely no chance of stopping before he strikes the ground.[20]   

Because even the best constructed outrigger scaffolding posed maximum danger, Victoria’s 1922 Scaffolding Act stipulated that they required special approval and had to meet higher ratios of support. However, the maximum fine for breaching those regulations was ₤10.[21]


Victoria – 1922
Wartime betrayals by Labor leaders shook whatever faith that ABLF activists had ever had in parliament as the road to socialism. The Victorian Branch appointed organiser Loughnan as its own inspector. As he knew: “The only way I can get the contractors to remedy these things is to stop the job until things are altered.”[22] The upsurge of militancy throughout the labour movement kept him active to retain his post. The One Big Union Herald voiced support for workers’ councils (soviets) to challenge the power of the managers: “Workers! Your Safety lies in Shop Control Boards. Get Busy on the Job.”[23] This determination also cornered the Masters into another round of conferences to propose a schedule for safer scaffolding. A spectre of world revolution spooked some Legislative Councillors into agreeing to nominal regulation. 

Legislation to inspect scaffolding limped through both houses in 1922 only after its advocates surrendered on the key question of enforcement. The regulations did not come under Inspectors from the Department of Labour. Instead, control passed to whichever municipality had issued the building permit. A Labor Councillor exclaimed: “Municipal control means no control.”[24] In addition, the Act operated only in the metropolitan zone, with a possible extension to larger centres such as Geelong. The provisions excluded engineering works, mines and bridges. Furthermore, the Act applied only to structures over 4.5m. high, and only if they were no more than a single-storey. That limit kept St Paul’s cathedral safe from inspectors, though, not from fatal falls. Country Party Councilors feared that inspectors would range from Melbourne condemning haystacks.

In support of the original Bill, the ABLF supplied case studies of the dangers and damage. At Dunlop’s Rubber Factory, in September, a labourer named Patterson had been killed:

This man was wheeling a barrow on the ground floor, the basement being 15 feet below. On the floor he was wheeling on were a number of holes, 4ft 6in. in diameter, left totally unprotected. The planks that were used for wheeling on were cracked and unsuitable. The whole job was short of scaffolding, and the ladders used had been patched to make them longer, and had rungs replaced with pieces of packing case.[25]

The union had complained, though Loughnan had failed to stop that job. Another case recorded how the contractor on a Swanston-street site had tried to strengthen perished poles and ledgers with “a lining board 6 inches by ½ inch perpendicularly between the too long a span of upright poles.”[26]

Opponents of inspection never ceased to proclaim that the worker had no greater friend than themselves. Typical of these hypocrites was Councillor H. H. Smith who admitted that his amendments had been handed to him by the Master Builders’ Association. He was adamant that the Council “will never accept” government inspectors. Indeed, he thought the whole Bill unnecessary: “All the accidents … are due to the fact that risks are taken.”[27] Another Councillor had deplored the habit of being “hard on the small man. Our legislation seemed to try to keep down men who were endeavouring to advance.” He swerved from his concern for the self-employed into a denunciation of working people who resisted speed-ups:

A man must not go beyond a certain rate, and no man was to be allowed to try to get on. The policies that seemed to appeal to people were that they must not do more than the slow man beside them.[28]

The Go-Slow was a self-defence against the absence of a Scaffolding Inspection Act.

Experiences after the enactment of Victoria’s 1922 Scaffolding Inspection Schedule gave the lie to those who had declared any law unnecessary. Injuries persisted. Local councils did not enforce standards. The Act never extended to the whole State. Many of the worst injuries still happened on sites managed by the bigger firms, not by sub-contractors in the suburbs. Urban fringes such as Heidelberg were beyond its scope. Labourers found, in Loughnan’s words, the “greatest difficulty in getting the Act administered.”[29] Municipal inspectors within its sphere took a hand only if pressured by union officials. Early in 1926, the Melbourne City Council Inspector sought permission to attend a Branch meeting to explain the difficulties under which he performed his duties; for instance, the city engineer could intervene only when a pedestrian was in danger.[30]

In May 1924, an organiser found scaffolding at Camberwell that had been erected without a permit. The culprit was an incompetent who attacked the foreman with a shovel. The union rectified several weak spots there, ordering “transoms to be erected in place of blockings.”[31] Next month, an organiser corrected the scaffolding on two jobs at Richmond. At the close of the year, the union reported more cases of “very bad” scaffolding to municipal authorities, an organiser branding one city job “the worst of its kind he had come across.”[32] He informed the Executive in January 1926 of a job where “the poles were not butted – one pole was raised on braces with 3x3 and 4x2 putlogs.” Despite these defects, a Council inspector had passed it as safe. The union reported him and the dangerous work to the Town Hall.[33] Organisers condemned a job in March 1926, but did not order the removal of its “faulty” structure until April when Bro. Murphy had both legs broken and Bro. Roxborough had one fractured. More vigilant in July, Loughnan ordered that scaffolding in Little Bourke Street be “demolished at once”.[34] In February 1927, the union resolved that scaffolding in South Yarra be taken down and the labourers who put it up fined:

The putlogs were 3¾ inch Oregon of very bad quality, some of them being spaced about 8 feet apart, no transoms or anything of the kind being used: there was no street over the joists for the men to walk upon.[35]

By then, one labourer had been injured. The contractor was not insured.

The big builders were no more attentive to the safety of their labourers than was the smallest operator. The scaffolds at Foy and Gibson had to be rectified in December 1924 while those at Victoria Brewery were very “dangerous”. In March 1926, the prominent building firm, Cockram and Cooper, was in charge of the Town Hall Hotel in Fitzroy where Bro. O’Neill reported “the most disgraceful scaffolding – the poles were butted on putlogs – the blockings on bricks were stuck on the lintels to carry the putlogs.”[36] Cockram and Cooper sacked Bro. Osborne in June for refusing to do “dangerous” work on the Vacuum Oil plant.[37] After months of complaining about the Myers site in Lonsdale street, organisers began photographing its faults in July 1926.

Although Australians were not erecting skyscrapers, the State Electricity Commission (SEC) in the LaTrobe Valley started work in 1923 on a 99m. concrete chimney, which was twice as high as Melbourne’s tallest building. Making that structure conform to regulations conceived for office blocks a tenth of its height presented difficulties to the engineers and the unions. By mid-January 1924, the dispute had held up work for six weeks while the Yallourn workers went after 10s a day as danger money.[38] Late in 1930, organisers reported that the SEC scaffolding was in a “deplorable state”. Bro. J. Reid had suffered a broken pelvis and leg there.[39]

Melbournians became wary of reinforced concrete following the collapse of a six-storied office block on Swanston Street in April 1925. Union officials were at the site within ten minutes, and stayed until 9.30 pm, taking away concrete samples to be analysed by the School of Mines. An organiser accused the contractors, Cochram and Cooper, of the “damnednest scamping”.[40] To save money, the firm had used higher proportions of sand to cement. It had also added extra water because a sloppier mix was quicker and easier to work, though it did not set so well. A man had measured the proportion of water from a tap by counting to 20. Three secondary beams had been run into the 12cm lift-well wall without reinforcement. When the beams broke away, the fifth-floor wall collapsed. That failure brought down most of the building. The Coroner identified impure sand, misplaced steel rods and very little ramming as contributing factors.[41]

Major contractors and prominent architects had failed in their duties on one of the largest projects in a metropolis. Because the Coroner concluded that the collapse had resulted from criminal negligence by the architect, the contractor and the clerk of works, he committed them to trial for manslaughter. Each was released on his own surety of ₤50. When the Crown Law Office withdrew the prosecution late in September, the union spoke of “strings pulled”. Branch Secretary Percy Smith feared that Cochram and Cooper would prove to be another “house of straw” to escape financial liability to the families of the men it had murdered or maimed. The union secured ₤250 for one of the injured and some money for a widow.[42]

Within months, the Victorian government set up a Concrete Building Board. This flurry contrasted with its tardiness in legislating for the inspection of scaffolds. The impetus was not the four deaths, which the trade journal Civil Engineering considered no worse than “a regrettable feature”.[43] The urgency arose because the future of reinforced concrete was in jeopardy. The Herald declared: “If concrete buildings are liable to collapse in this manner through no human fault, then there must be no concrete buildings.”[44] Moreover, such incidents increased the costs of contractors, and threatened damages or prison terms against professionals, while their clients lost money from the delays.

Civil Engineering complained that not all architects were registered, and it called for building inspectors and clerks of works to be trained: “Ordinary workmen cannot be expected to take more than a passing interest in the mixing and placing of concrete and consequently the supervision must be exacting.”[45] Four years later, another trade publication put the blame where most of it belonged, alleging that “shoddy” and “sinister” behaviour was commonplace because firms under-estimated their costs to secure contracts.[46] Builders continued to skimp. ‘Pop’ Shillabeer was “renowned for waving a cement bag in front of a concrete mixer.” When Whelans demolished his additions to Scott’s Hotel they found that the “concrete was so light-on that the building practically knocked itself down.”[47]

Each injury struck a blow at family and friends. Fatalities and fractures spread foreboding as well as fury. The Victorian Branch kept a book to record serious incidents, which averaged 41 each year between 1915 and 1921.[48] The union’s scaffolding inspector reported the case of a man repairing a 20m. steel chimney stack on the first day of Spring, 1921. He pulled himself to the top on the boatswain’s chair that had been rigged. After about three minutes, “the hook that supported the chair straightened out and let him down”. He fractured his spine. Both his legs had to be amputated.[49]

Three men, including two labourers, were killed at Brooklyn in April 1924. When Loughnan gathered evidence from the survivors, he found that “quite a number had signified their willingness to join” the union. The Coroner recorded an “accident” and refused to hear evidence of “defects”, though he, too, supported extending the regulations to the Shires.[50] In September that year, Bro Sweeney lost a leg after a cage fell on him at the YMCA building; he had a wife and two kids. After the Branch discussed safeguards such as a wooden block to act as a brake when a winch was out of gear, the meeting voted to mail out a summary of the case with notices to renew membership.[51]

The union sought payment according to the Compensation Act after Bro, McMonagle was killed at Concrete Construction Co. in February 1926. Next month, Secretary Smith reported the death of Bro. Kennedy to the plain clothes police.[52] God must have been watching the sparrows fall in May 1926 when Bro. Wiltshire tumbled at St Paul’s Cathedral where the stair case had no handrail. Two weeks later at that place of worship, Brother Torgenson was working the jib-crane when he put out his hand to steady one of the skips, overbalanced, and fell 20m. to his death. Because the Cathedral was only one storey high, it was exempt from certain provisions of the Act.[53]

Bro. T. Berry was in “bad way” after a wall fell on him in Elizabeth Street; Bro. Crockett plunged from a chimney at Geelong in May 1926, and Bro. W. Worley died when he stumbled into an uncovered well at Mordialloc in July. In February 1927, Bro. Larkin fell to his death at a Hansen & Yuncken site, leaving five children and a sick wife. That month, a man suffered injuries as a result of “disgraceful scaffolding” at South Yarra: “It was a miracle that, at least, two of the men were not killed as one had been catapulted right over the wall.” Their employer was not insured, as was “common practice.”[54] Bro. Ryan died after falling from the T&G Building in July 1928, Bro. Cozen was killed in February 1929 at the Flemington Rd tramsheds, and Bro O’Connor lost his life in July. When Bro. Fletcher fell 20m. from the Myer’s site in November, Secretary Smith reported that Hansen & Yuncken had not met their legal requirements for scaffolding. Another labourer on that job was badly hurt in July 1931 by the collapse of a wall which had not been shored up.[55]

Because the social composition of building labourers was so mixed, their organisers had difficulty in getting workers to stick to the rules for a safe workplace. Some men had joined only because they had been badgered into the union. These conscripts had little commitment to the principles of solidarity. Worse still, the industry had at least as many non-unionists as members.

The extensions to the Melbourne Trades Hall highlighted the difficulty in enforcing safety. In January 1926, the ABLF Executive dealt with the leading hand who had failed to “judiciously make use of his position and erect the scaffold according to the Regulations, Customs and Usages of the trade.” His breaches had occurred within half-a-brick’s throw of the union office. The member admitted guilt but pleaded that his scaffolder had been away sick; the Executive let him off a ₤1 fine.[56]

Men on a 1926 job in Flinders Lane acknowledged that they had “deliberately put up the faulty scaffolding contrary to instructions from the employer.”[57] The Branch had decided to fine any members “working not in conformity with the Act.”[58] Loughnan noted that “in nine out of ten cases good material was crucified by incompetent men, and as a rule the contractor left it in the hands of a scaffolder to put it up in a safe manner.”[59] A job in South Yarra in February 1927 illustrated the problem. The day after the inspector from the Prahran council had called to enforce the regulations, the site was as bad as ever. None of the labourers had any experience at scaffolding. The Executive fined them.[60]

From 1928 on, the trade slump increased the dangers from blow-ins. Late in 1929, the Branch meeting heard that

the whole trouble was caused by persons undertaking to do the scaffold who were not competent, and they would then find that they were unable to carry on and then left the job and made all sorts of statements and remarks about all and sundry on the job.[61]

Another danger came from drifters who belonged to no union, and had nothing to sell but physical strength. Contractors big and small welcomed such men because they could be set a cracking pace for a few extra pence. The employers relied on them to knock down anyone who hinted that they join the union, or abide by Award conditions and safety regulations.

The ABLF debated whether to punish members who did bad work. Resorting to fines pointed to a failure of leadership. The union had gone some way towards civilising the workplace. Those improvements curtailed the every-man-for-himself attitude fuelled by the ethos of capitalism. Yet, the labourers required a political outlook if they were to create “a school for the working-class, wherein they learn self-reliance” and “instill thoughtfulness”.[62] That advance could come only if workers educated each other by putting their mutual responsibilities into practice.

Northcote Town Hall - 1929
Union policy and its implementation intersect with the law and the level of economic activity at the point of production. Disputes over safety reveal the intricacies of that interaction. Take, for instance, a case from late in 1929 about the use of iron-shod put-logs on the Northcote Town Hall. A put-log is the horizontal support for planking. The union’s response displayed the hourly life of the labourers and their organisation. Comparable cross-currents of personal conflict and high policy were played out every day across the country so that their presence should be read into every page of labour’s story.

The ABLF pointed out that the Scaffolding Act forbade iron-shod put-logs as too heavy and for masking bad timber. A Branch meeting determined to stop the job until the matter was fixed. When organiser Marriner visited the site, he got into a brawl with Bro. Moore who had erected the scaffold. The Executive therefore had to deal with the misbehaviour both of its official and of a member, as well as with the scaffolding. Marriner alleged that Moore had refused to show his ticket, became abusive, even going so far as to use bad language, before lunging at him with a shovel. Moore said the boot had been on the other foot. Marriner had started the slanging match. After considering the evidence, the Executive decided to take no action against Moore on the charge of “insulting or unbecoming behaviour” since there had been “faults on both sides”.

Out of this investigation came the question of whether either Moore or his witness, Bro. Greenwood, was financial. Moore admitted that he was not, but would become so again “when his daughter got paid”. We cannot know why Moore depended on her earnings, however, his situation underscored the miseries in the household of many a labourer. Greenwood also admitted to being behind in his payments but he blamed Marriner, whom he had not seen around the job for a month. Pressed on this defence, Greenwood thought it improbable that Marriner had called without their noticing each other. Greenwood said he always kept his dues wrapped up in his pocket and had asked his “mates” to tell him when an organiser appeared. Greenwood’s testimony is a reminder of the measures that labourers had to take to keep themselves financial and the effort that the organisers devoted to collecting the dues.

Bro. Greenwood also shed light on the put-logs. He said that he, and not Bro. Moore, had been responsible for using them on a small scaffold. They had done the work under instructions from their employer, a Mr Titchiner. Moore reported that Titchiner had responded to the union’s instruction by telling Moore that if he did its bidding, he would have to “go off the job”. Given the trade depression, Moore’s reluctance to join the jobless by following the union directive was understandable. Nonetheless, he and Greenwood pledged that they would stick to the Executive ruling if the Federation “supported them”. Halfway through the meeting, Secretary Smith telephoned Titchener at home. At first, the builder continued threatening to dismiss Moore if he did not do as instructed. Smith asked Titchener whether he was prepared “to throw down the gauntlet”. Their conversation ended with an agreement to meet on the site in the morning.[63]

This incident reveals several strands of working-class organisation. Yet again, enforcement of the Scaffolding Act had been left to the union. Where was the municipal dog-catcher? Secondly, the right of a union to summon, judge and fine its members was accepted. Smith’s assumption that he could contact the boss directly at home is a reminder of to how personal the relations of production remained. The telephone gave that closeness a new dimension. It also heralded changes in the pace of dealing with conflicts. Officials could use telephones to distance themselves from clashes, or to keep in touch.

South Australia
Under the premiership of, Tom Price, a Labor-Liberal Coalition from July 1905 to July 1909 resumed the struggle for reform against the Legislative Council elected on a property franchise until 1975. In 1906, the Bricklayer and Mason, Henry Chesson, introduced a Scaffolding Inspection Bill, which lapsed with the early dissolution of the parliament. Next year, the same Bill passed after being “knocked about somewhat” by the Councillors, by exempting scaffolds under 5m. [64] An amending Bill in October 1908, extended the definition of “scaffold” to any structure, irrespective of height.  Price told the House of Assembly that, in his days as a stonemason, he

had on more than one occasion risked breaking his own neck as a result of the insecure construction of these low scaffolds. Bricks were piled up on end to the height of 5 and 6 ft. sometimes to support them, with resultant instability, because such a method was cheap and expeditious.

At the same time, his government extended inspection to gantries and other “gear”, the omission of which “had been purely an oversight”.[65] While the debate dragged on, the beams holding a swing scaffold on the Salvation Army Citadel cracked, allowing the ropes to slip, thereby causing two painters to fall 9m. onto the Pirie Street footpath, killing the contractor’s son and breaking the brush-hand’s bones.[66]

Western Australia
Workers in Western Australia also suffered under a Legislative Council elected on a property franchise and biased in favour of rural districts. In 1923, the reactionaries rejected a private member’s bill designed to pass control of scaffolds to government building inspectors. Death altered the terms of the debate, as outrage flared following a fatality at Forrest Place in the heart of Perth where a large firm had erected a crane without a permit. Its collapse killed the driver. Nonetheless, several Councillors and employers still argued that the industry needed no regulation because builders were honourable men.[67]   

The Labor administration elected in March 1924 linked a tightening of workplace safety to improvements in workers’ compensation. The Legislative Councillors threatened a “last ditch” stance against “monstrous” departmental inspection. They too raised the spectre of bureaucrats condemning hay stacks. To get any Bill through the Council, the government had to compromise. Hence, the provisions of the Act applied only within the metropolitan area and only to scaffolds over 2.4m.

The Department of Labour appointed its first inspector on 9 June. He motor-cycled up to 1,400 miles in his first three months. Seven officers from the Public Works Department assisted his efforts. In the first quarter of 1928, two inspectors issued 33 written notices to correct scaffolding before it could be used to support workmen, and they enforced adjustments. These officials were pains-taking but their authority was limited, as they explained in 1928:

Many instances have come under notice where scaffolding less than eight feet in height from the horizontal base, and of a distinctly unsafe character, has been erected and used. But owing to the definition of the term “scaffolding” limiting the authority of inspectors to the supervision of scaffolding exceeding eight feet in height, the Department has been unable to take action to secure safe working conditions for the workers who are required to use such scaffolding … it is often due more to good luck than good management that accidents do not occur more frequently on scaffolding which is not subject to the provisions of the Act.

Perth’s City Council and the Master Builders’ & Contractors’ Association lobbied the Minister early in 1928 to allow hoardings to be used as scaffolding.[68]

As Southern Europeans swelled the city’s building trade, the Inspectors faced fresh difficulties:

In almost every instance scaffolding erected by these foreigners has been found to be far from in conformity with the Regulations and in most cases positively dangerous. Inspectors have experienced considerable difficulty in making these people understand their requirements, and in preventing them from risking life and limb, by using unsafe scaffolding.

The immigrants worked in parties where only one or two admitted to understanding any English:

On one occasion, a Scaffolding Inspector, after having exhausted his vocabulary and expended much energy in making signs and gesticulating, was quite unable to convince the man in charge of the job that he was as inspector and not a workman in search of employment.[69]

Most Italian labourers worked for their countrymen. Few joined a union.

Perth’s building unions claimed monetary compensation for working at heights, and on ladders. The Industrial Court declined to put a price tag on a life wherever the risk could be removed. The authorities allowed the boat type of scaffold to survive only because no alternative existed in that case, the worker received an extra 1s 3d per day. The Court preferred precautions so that, where men were working 4.5m. up, and in a thoroughfare, “there must be an attendant in charge at the foot of the ladder.”[70]

After 1915, a Labor government in Queensland improved workplace safety. Under the Inspection of Scaffolding Act, a labourer had to hold a licence to erect a scaffold, for which he earned a shilling a day extra. Not even the best laws guaranteed expert scaffolders or efficient inspectors. When the collapse of a ceiling scaffold injured a carpenter in 1928, no explanation was forthcoming because an Inspector had praised its quality as the best in the city. A few months later, a carpenter was killed after a 12m. fall.[71]

The lurch to the Right inside the Labor Party machine and Caucus affected the way that Departments administered the government’s own projects. By the mid-1930s, safety had become part of a conflict between the AWU-dominated cabinet and the Communists who strove for one big building industry union. As the voice of the militants, the Queensland Building Trades Worker championed safety. In June 1936, its editor attacked the Labor Government’s record at the Women’s Hospital:

a single-tier counter-balanced structure is used; on this are placed (we estimate) 8-feet trestles upon which rest two boards; should dizziness or any other unforeseen circumstances arise, our members would be cast to certain death.

Our members are forced to risk their lives 80 feet in the air with nothing but a sure footing to protect them from a sheer drop.

The editor saw beyond the faults to a policy of cost-cutting:

Scientific urging and interference is practised daily by Paniky Bosses. Stock phrases such as “There is not much allowed for that”, “We must get it out, they are waiting for it”, “We must not exceed the price allowed”, “Don’t do too much of it”, are ringing in the ears of the artisans every moment of their existence, resulting in Sweating, Scamping and Individualism to an extent almost unbearable by those in its employ; yet they dare not speak in protest because the sack coupled with unemployment and semi-starvation lurks before them. But when no thought is given to protection of life and limb by this Department then someone THEY CANNOT SACK MUST SPEAK. THIS JOURNAL EXISTS TO PROTECT ITS MEMBERS and in so doing we point out that the Scaffolding now on view at the Women’s Hospital, Brisbane IS DAMNABLE! (Emphases in original)[72]

A later article declared that the trestle scaffolds at the Hospital were the worst seen in ages: “skeleton scaffold 80ft from the ground; on the trestles were laid scaffold boards”, while a rope had been stretched instead of a guard rail.[73]

The editor contrasted the shoddiness under Queensland Labor with that in a photograph of Soviet scaffolding. His faith that the Soviet Union was well on its way to becoming the new workingman’s paradise marked the gulf between militants and successive Labor governments. His belief that he could lash out with immunity underestimated his enemy who sacked him from the Railways and expelled from the ALP. The State government banned marches in support of the ACTU’s campaign for a 40-hour week and arrested an unemployed lad for distributing leaflets. By 1940, the Queensland ABLF referred to Labor’s inner cabinet as the Grand Fascist Council.[74]

During the 1920s, the redevelopment of Sydney’s CBD brought a rush of fatalities. In August 1927, men died on the Bank of New South Wales at Macquarie Place, on Farmers’s department store and Dymocks. The thirty-seven-year-old labourer, Arthur Petterson, fell 35m. to his death from the David Jones building in Market street after a ladder slipped.[75] Employers regretted that men took so little care of their own safety. Indeed, the Master Builders hinted that their workers courted accidents to get compensation payments under the 1926 Act. No one did more to promote that slander than George A. Taylor and his architect wife, Florence, who published a string of trade journals, including the official organ of the New South Wales Master Builders. They alleged that Petterson’s death

illustrates how men need to be protected against their own recklessness and flirtation with death … the incident calls attention to the need for workmen shouldering some of the onus for their own safety.

The Taylors complained that Masters not only had to pay extra to men working at “height”, but were

also stung for accident insurance; a system which, if it does not encourage carelessness, certainly does not prevent, or guard against it. Unions would be better occupied in promotion of ‘safety-first’ propaganda amongst their members, than in most of the propaganda for abolition of, or high remuneration for dangerous occupations.[76]

The Taylors gave no thought to the pressures that the Masters put on workers to go faster, and to make do with inadequate materials. It was beyond the Taylors’ ken that a militant who stood up to his foreman’s demands to take a risk was less likely to keep his place than one who bowed before such instructions.

George Taylor’s death early in 1928 allowed his widow free rein for her anti-working-class spleen. After the deaths of three building workers in a few weeks, she again blamed the workers, especially the young ones, sympathising with the employers “whose worrying function it has become to make things foolproof against the thoughtlessness of the modern worker.”[77] Even she had difficulty maintaining her tough stance after six building workers lost their lives in and around Sydney between June and August 1928. Her editorials did not forget that the workers were wont to throw their lives away, and she reinforced this allegation by pointing to the carelessness of motorists and pedestrians. However, the increase in fatalities on sites required a new target if the employers were to be shielded. She now pointed the finger at the State government for employing only two inspectors to do the work of twelve.[78]

Not every Master Builder was as walnut-hearted as Florence Taylor. Nonetheless, many shared her enthusiasm for fascism. Late in 1925, the Taylors advocated criminalising union membership and praised Mussolini because he had “prohibited three or more persons being assembled together. It left no loopholes for evil plotters as we leave for strikers to assemble for intriguing and scheming, for the wrecking of industry.”[79] The Royal Australian Institute of Architects today offers a Prize Medal in honour of Florence Taylor.

The Bridge
Despite costing sixteen lives in nine years, the Sydney Harbour Bridge was not the city’s largest slayer of construction workers. Metropolitan buildings cost as many lives in a single year. A plaque on the southern approaches to the Harbour Bridge recorded the sixteen names but their families were excluded from the opening ceremony for fear of introducing “an altogether inharmonious note.”[80] The comparatively small number of deaths around the Bridge was because it suffered no structural collapse, (as happened at Westgate in 1970.) The six men taking down Melbourne’s Punt Road bridge in 1939 got away with a ducking when a 50m. steel section, weighing 20 tons, tumbled into the Yarra.[81]

The Bridge presented unheard-of challenges for Australian labourers as its arch reached three times the height allowed for a building. Most the workers rose with it and so adjusted themselves to the fury of the winds. The Director of Construction acknowledged the emotional strain: “Every day those men went on to the Bridge, they went in the same way as a soldier goes into battle, not knowing whether they would come down alive.”[82] The men asked for a 22-hour week and for 17s 6d a hour when working the creeper crane, 160m. above the water. They also wanted to halve their working week because their nerves could not bear 44 hours under those conditions.[83] After peering over the edge, Industrial Court Judge Swindell is supposed to have gasped: “Give ‘em what they want.”[84] To reach their workplaces, men either scrambled up the slippery metal, or packed into an open-sided box-cage which was latched, not tied, with a pair of cables over a hook.[85] The principal contractor, Dorman Long, installed few if any safety rails or arrest devices. The firm found it cheaper to gamble with its workers’ lives than to take safety precautions such as nets, as on the Golden Gate in San Franscico. Instead of bearing those extra costs, the contractor paid the men a little more in danger money which its contract allowed it to pass back to the government.[86]


No relief
Although the depression slashed the volume of building work, the financial pressures on Masters and men allowed no let-up in the rate of injuries. The Victorian Branch deplored the “great increase of accidents” and the “loose wording of the Scaffolding Act.”[87] In Melbourne, the first half of 1933 saw the deaths of Bros. Les Moore, E. Bromley and W. Burr. After a young carpenter, Douglas MacDonald, fell to his death, the ABLF reported that a “guard rail would have given the lad 90% chance of recovery from an assumed stumble.”[88] Late in 1934, the Executive summoned the dogman on the State Savings Bank site where a loosely lashed bag of cement had slipped off the skip, killing Brother E. J. Fitzpatrick.[89]

Safety regulations had to catch up with technology. In Victoria, a crane driver needed a licence for a steam-winch but not for an electrically-powered one; in addition, steam cranes had to be inspected, though not the newer kind. After a dogman was killed early in 1931 when a steel component on an electric crane snapped, the Coroner recommended bringing the Act into line with current practices. Victoria’s minority Labor administration tried to strengthen the law in 1931 when the ABLF joined the Melbourne City Council in seeking

provision for Inspection of winches, cranes, elevators etc to be under Government Inspection, and provision to be made for protection of lifts and stairways, also as to the proper butting of poles etc and what was very important, proper and efficient scaffolding for concrete buildings.[90]

The MBA and the government attended to none of these essentials until the Building Trades Federation (BTF) increased the pressure around the sites.

The ABLF threatened to stop the General Motors-Holden job in July 1936 if Monier Concrete and the Port Melbourne Council did not fix the scaffolding. Nearly two years later, a contractor sacked three men from the Myers site in Coburg for refusing to work on a “black” scaffold.[91] By then, the Building Trades had met with the Master Builders to tighten controls. At the top of the ABLF’s demands was that union officials be appointed inspectors. In addition, the union insisted that scaffolding be done only by its members who wanted the Act to cover demolitions, derricks, sheer legs, cranes and winches, and for winch-drivers to be certified and paid at a higher rate.[92] The MBA took months to consider the proposals, adopting every trick to weaken the draft legislation by evading clarity. One point in dispute was whether the Act would apply to structures over 4.5m., or to anything above one storey. Cathedrals were again quoted as a case in point. The MBA, at last, agreed that the Act should operate on one-storey buildings if they went above 4.5m.

The BTF prepared a model Act but the Tory Minister in charge of Public Works opposed any reform. Three injuries in the first three weeks of the year sent the BTF and the THC Disputes Committee to inspect sites. The unions pressured authorities to use such powers as the Act allowed. Before Easter 1938, a contractor on a Coburg church made only minor changes after the local inspector had ordered that all the scaffolding be replaced; the BTF pulled the 20 workers off the job.[93] The conflict over scaffolding controls took a new turn in April 1938 when the BTF withdrew from the Trades Hall Scaffolding Committee, accusing the THC of treating the building unions “with contempt”. The difficulties in gaining Trades Hall support revived talk of a single union to cover the industry.[94]

A dispute about concrete during the second half of 1939 showed that the mentality of the reactionaries in the Legislative Council was alive among the Melbourne City Councillors. The deputy Building Surveyor had identified several jobs where the contractors had skimped on the portion of cement in the mix; instead of one part to six of sand and gravel, they had used one to nine. The Surveyor recommended passing the control of concrete from architects to engineers. Moreover, he contended, engineers needed to be paid independently, and not out of the architects’ fees, an arrangement which encouraged architects to limit the engineers’ involvement to reduce expenses. The chair of the Council’s Building Regulations Committee had ignored the Surveyor’s warnings because his report “had not been submitted in the correct manner through the town clerk.” That chairman could not remember what he had done with the document, though he “might have torn up his copy.” He assured the public that there was no need for concern. Anyway, he knew that any weaknesses in the concrete were the fault of the navvies who had failed to stir the mix sufficiently.[95]

Rotten elements
The effort to police the Act and to strengthen its provisions became part of moves to clean up the Victorian Branch. In July 1936, the officers defeated a motion from the militant, Jack Smith, who called for the licensing of scaffolders. Instead, the meeting instructed the Executive to fine members for breaches. Next May, 1937, Smith complained about a job in Richmond where the council inspector was not doing his job. Poles were 6m. apart, planks 60cm. apart, and put-logs used as outriggers. Smith returned to the attack four weeks later when he secured a motion of no confidence in an Executive Member who had used his influence to block a prosecution for unsafe scaffolding. Smith was elected to a Scaffolding Conference early in 1938.[96]

Richmond was the bailiwick of the Loughnan clan, with two sons of Branch Secretary R.I.P. Loughnan serving as its mayor. Con took office in 1932, and Jimmy for five terms after 1937. The Richmond Council had appointed Loughnan Snr as its inspector of scaffolding in 1925. Ten years later, his clique made Con the Permits Clerk, where he drank his way through his salary and kick-backs until dismissed in the 1940s. The unionists’ call for its officials to be appointed inspectors was useless if those organisers were corrupt.[97]

The drift into preparing for another war provided jobs for labourers. Some of those who were taken on had never been in regular employment. Many had never had the chance to learn “their rights, privileges, opportunities” from being members of a union. A Victorian activist alleged that the new members included the “dregs of the working class”.[98] Early in 1941, South Australian militants observed that speed-ups combined with the arrival of such labourers had “[i]ncreased the carelessness of men engaged.”[99]

Much defence work took place on the frontier and under pressure to finish ahead of schedule. In May 1941, Attorney-General and Labor rat W. M. Hughes abused the Reds as the firebugs of industry.[100] Relations improved after the labour movement swung behind the war effort following the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in July 1941. From October, the new Federal Labor government included a Left-wing Minister for Labour, Eddie Ward, who made concessions to the unions.[101]

Union membership became compulsory, which was not the best way to instill solidarity. However, that enforcement took place within a spread of ideas critical of capitalism for its production of two world wars, two depressions and fascism during the fifty years to 1940. Hence, the labour movement entered the post-war years better organised than at any time in its history. This strength was partly ideological as many returned soldiers lent to the Left. The population at large was determined to prevent a return to the depression. “Post-War Reconstruction” had to lift living conditions far more than to repair war damage. The ABLF had an interest in ending the chronic underemployment among casuals. Labourers were anxious to improve their opportunities at the personal level as well as collectively. With victory in sight, the Queensland Branch approached the Minister for Public Works “for Builders’ Labourers to be given every opportunity to assist in the erection of scaffolds so as to qualify them to procure a Scaffolder’s Licence.”[102]

The necessities of war had diluted the qualifications needed to carry out work reserved for tradesmen. The labourers who picked up those skills continued doing them in peacetime. Employers took advantage of these overlaps to set labourers to skilled tasks. Nowhere was the realignment of skills greater than on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric scheme, with its thousands of immigrant workers.

The Snowy
Between 1948 and 1973, the Snowy cost 121 lives. In its first year, 1948-49, everything was rushed to get so much work underway that it would be too embarrassing for Liberal Leader Menzies to keep his promise to scrap the scheme. The speed-up between 1956 and 1964 drove death rates to 8.5 a year against 3.5 per annum in the years before or after. One death occurred for every mile of tunnel in those nine years. A later investigation noted: “Period Two coincided with the most frenetic time of construction where the speed-up in production was intense and the resources were stretched to the limit.”[103] One labourer recalled:

They’d be after you – “Come on Joe! Hurry up!” The words “Hurry up” were heard every second. If you moved – “You’re late”. If you were going to the toilet – “Where’ve you been? How much time do you need to do your business?” You feel like a slave, the way they’d push you, push you, push you.[104]

A quarter of all the fatalities occurred during the three years from 1957 to 1959. The peak of 13 during 1959 at last forced the Snowy Mountains Authority to establish a Joint Safety Committee. By then, 48 workers had lost their lives. At every stage, traffic injuries were high, a consequence of the steep inclines, unmade roads and ice. In 1960, the SMA made the wearing of seat belts compulsory; a second offence brought dismissal on-the-spot.[105] On that issue, the Authority was more than ten years in advance of the law. Similarly, helmets came in during the 1950s, which was also ahead of most construction projects.[106]

Coroners repeated warnings without taking action against the Authority or its contractors.[107] The managers had an equally soft cop with the AWU through its NSW Secretary, Charlie Oliver, who boasted that he had blocked rank-and-file activists by instructing his organiser to “Just knock ‘em over, So he did!”[108]

Applying similar tactics, by 1952, the Industrial Groupers and their allies had defeated the Left in every ABLF Branch except Victoria. The Cold War warriors aimed to bust the strength of unionised workers rather than to repel a Red-Yellow Peril from without. The attempts to ban the Communist Party in 1950-51 had more to do with driving down labour costs than catching spies.[109] One reason for building the Snowy Hydro had been to supply the electricity needed to produce nuclear weapons.[110] From 1957, tests at Maralinga exposed labourers to radiation.[111] With the gravest threat to health being posed by Mutually Assured Destruction, ABLF militants battled to make peace their union’s business.[112]

[1] Labor Monthly, December 1926, p. 12, May 1927, p. 15, and November 1928, p. 18.

[2] United Labourers’ Protective Society (UPLS) Minutes, 30 November, 7 December 1903 , 21 March 1904 , Mitchell Library (ML) MSS 262/7 (1).

[3] NSW Master Builders’ Association, Annual Report, MBA, Sydney, 1903, unpaginated.

[4] Victoria, Parliamentary Debates, 18 December 1895, volume 79, p. 4341, quoted Geoffrey Serle, “The Victorian Legislative Council, 1856-1950”, L. J. Eastwood and F. B. Smith (eds), Historical Studies, Selected Articles, First Series, MUP, Carton, 1964, p. 141.

[5] Serle, “The Victorian Legislative Council”, pp. 127-51.

[6] Age, 14 June 1906 , p. 7g.

[7] Sir Alexander Peacock, Victoria , Parliamentary Debates (PD), volume 161, 15 December 1922 , p. 4195.

[8] Victoria, PD, v. 139, 9 June 1915 , p. 757.

[9] Victoria, PD, v. 140, 24 August 1915 , p. 2011.

[10] Victoria, PD, v. 140, 24 August 1915 , p. 2002.

[11] Victoria, PD, v. 142, 7 December 1915 , p. 3715; BLN, 24 December 1915 , p. 3.

[12] Victoria, PD, v. 139, 9 June 1915 , p. 760

[13] Victoria, PD, v. 140, 24 August 1915 , p. 2006.

[14] Builders’ Labourers’ News (BLN), 24 December 1915 , p. 3.

[15] Victoria, PD, v. 142, 16 December 1915 , pp. 4143-4.

[16] BLN, 15 September 1916 , p. 4.

[17] BLN, 3 March 1916 , p. 1, and 14 April 1916 , p. 1.

[18] Argus 11 July 1913 , p. 8e.

[19] BLN, 23 June 1916 , p. 5; for more on the swing-scaffold, PD, South Australia, 19th Parliament, 2nd Session, 11 September 1907, p. 456, and Advertiser, 30 October 1908, p. 7g,

[20] BLN, 1 September 1916 , pp. 1-2.

[21] Argus, 3 February 1926 , p. 10f.

[22] Victoria, PD, v. 161, 20 September 1922 , p. 1421.

[23] One Big Union Herald, February 1919, p. 1.

[24] Victoria, PD, v. 161, 4 October 1922 , p. 1677.

[25] Victoria, PD, v. 161, 20 September 1922 , p. 1421.

[26] Victoria, PD, v. 161, 20 September 1922 , p. 1421.

[27] Victoria, PD, v. 161, 4 October 1922 , p. 1661.

[28] Victoria, PD, v. 140, 24 August 1915 , p. 2013.

[29] Australian Builders’ Labourers’ Federation (ABLF), Victorian Branch Records, Minutes, 16 June 1924 ; Executive, 7 April and 29 March 1926 , Noel Butlin Archives Centre (NBAC), ANU, Z398/27.

[30] Victorian Minutes, 22 February 1926 .

[31] Victorian Minutes, 19 May 1924 .

[32] Victorian Minutes, 8 December 1924 .

[33] Victorian Executive, 27 January 1926 .

[34] Victorian Minutes, 12 July 1926 .

[35] Victorian Minutes, 21 February 1927 .

[36] Victorian Minutes, 8 March 1926 .

[37] Victorian Minutes, 21 June 1926 .

[38] Argus, 18 January 1924 , p. 11a.

[39] Victorian Executive, 29 October 1930 .

[40] Victorian Minutes, 27 April 1925; Mary Turner Shaw, Builders of Melbourne, The Cochrams and their Contemporaries 1853-1972, Cypress Press, Melbourne, 1972, pp. 52-53.

[41] Newcastle Construction, 25 June 1925 , p. 5 and 2 July 1925, p. 2; NBAC Z398/2.

[42] Victorian Minutes, 14 September, and Special, 7 December 1925 ; Civil Engineering, July 1925, pp. 18-19.

[43] Civil Engineering, May 1925, p. 18.

[44] Herald, 14 September 1925 , p. 4.

[45] Civil Engineering, November 1925, p. 152.

[46] Building and Construction, 7 October 1929 , p. 3.

[47] Robyn Annear, A City Lost and Found, Whelan the Wrecker’s Melbourne, Black Inc, Melbourne , 2005, p. 197; Victorian Minutes, 8 March 1926 .

[48] Victorian Records, “Accidental Report Book”, Z398/19.

[49] Victoria, PD, v. 161, 20 September 1922 , p. 1421.

[50] Victorian Minutes, 28 April and 12 May 1924 .

[51] Victorian Minutes, 15 and 29 September 1924.

[52] Victorian Executive, 10 March 1926 .

[53] Victorian Minutes, 3, 12 and 17 May 1926.

[54] Victorian Minutes, 17 May 1926 , and 21 February 1927 .

[55] Victorian Minutes, 13 February, 17 July and 20 November 1929 ; 13 July 1931 .

[56] Victorian Minutes, Special, 11 January 1926 , Executive, 13 January 1926 .

[57] Victorian Executive, 16 June 1926 .

[58] Victorian Minutes, Executive, 17 December 1924 , Minutes, 4 February 1924 .

[59] Victorian Minutes, 7 March 1927 .

[60] Victorian Minutes, 21 February 1927 .

[61] Victorian Executive, 27 November 1929 .

[62] BLN, 24 December 1915 , p. 3.

[63] Victorian Executive, 9 December 1929 .

[64] Parliamentary Debates, South Australia, 18th Parliament, 2nd Session, 12 September 1906, pp. 459-61; 19th Parliament, 2nd Session, 14 August 1907, pp. 338-42, and 14 September 1907, pp. 455-61.

[65] PD, SA, 19th Parliament, 3rd Session, 6 October 1908 , p. 468.

[66] Advertiser, 30 October 1908 , p. 7g; the dead man was the son of the contractor engaged to repaint the Salvation Army Citadel; cf. the discussion of swing-stages in PD, SA, 11 September 1907, p. 456.

[67] PD, West Australia, New Series , v. 70, 21 August, pp. 489-90, 26 August p. 502, 2 September p. 573, and 9 September 1924, p. 668.

[68] Western Australian Industrial Gazette (WAIG), v. 8, 1928-29, p. 6.

[69] WAIG, v. 8, 1928-29, p. 6.

[70] WAIG, v. 18, 1938-39, p. 529.

[71] ABLF Records, Queensland Branch, Minutes, 10 July 1928 and 12 February 1929 , Fryer Library, University of Queensland , QUFL 166.

[72] Queensland Building Trades Worker (QBTW), June 1936, p. 2.

[73] QBTW, September 1936, p. 10.

[74] Queensland Minutes, 26 October 1940 and 21 January 1941 .

[75] Newcastle Construction (NC), 15 September 1927 , pp. 8-9.

[76] NC, 15 September 1927 , p. 9.

[77] NC, 10 May 1928 , p. 16.

[78] NC, 27 September 1928 , p. 13.

[79] NC, 12 November 1925 , p. 7; Roslyn Pesman Cooper, “ ‘We Want a Mussolini’: Views of Fascist Italy in Australia ”, Australian Journal of Politics and History, 39 (3), 1993, pp. 103-25.

[80] Caroline Mackeness (ed.) Bridging Sydney, Historical Houses Trust, Sydney , 2006, p. 221.

[81] Argus, 1 March 1939 , p. 1a.

[82] Mackeness, Bridging Sydney , p. 222.

[83] Mackeness, p. 218.

[84] Quoted Helen Borger, “Give ‘Em What They Want”, National Safety, September 2007, pp. 24-32.

[85] Peter Lalor, The Bridge, Allen & Unwin, Sydney , 2005, pp. 193-4.

[86] Peter Spearritt, Sydney Harbour Bridge : a life, University of NSW Press , Kensington, 2007, pp. 100-1.

[87] Victorian Minutes, 12 November 1934 .

[88] Victorian Minutes, 10 July 1933 and 12 November 1934 .

[89] Victorian Minutes, 12 November 1934 .

[90] Victoria, PD, 9 June 1931 , p. 511, 7 October 1931 , p. 3519.

[91] Victorian Minutes, 4 April 1938 .

[92] Victorian Minutes, 8 February 1937 .

[93] Argus, 1 March 1938 , p. 10h, and 31 March 1938 , p. 12h.

[94] Victorian Minutes, 24 April 1939 .

[95] Argus, 21 January 1938 , p. 4g; 21 July 1939 , p. 11h; 22 July 1939 , p. 5h; 24 July 1939 , p. 2c; 15 September 1939 , p. 4e; 18 October 1939 , p. 5d; 25 October 1939 , p. 9h; 27 October 1939 , p. 7f.

[96] Victorian Minutes, 6 July 1936 ; 7 June 1937 ; 4 April 1938 .

[97] Victorian Minutes, 5 April 1937; Janet McCalman, Struggletown, Public and Private Life in Richmond 1900-1965, MUP, Carlton, 1985, pp. 222ff.; Australian Municipal Journal, December 1977 – January 1978, pp. 162-4.

[98] Victorian Minutes, 4 November 1940 .

[99] ABLF Records, South Australian Branch, Minutes, 22 January 1941 , NBAC, Z492/1.

[100] Sydney Morning Herald, 14 May, p. 15d, and 16 May 1941 , p. 11c – after Operation Barbarossa, Hughes called on the Reds to defend the Soviet Union , 23 June, p. 9h, and 25 June 1941 . p. 12f; National Library of Australia MS1538/43/1/10; Inspector Browne to Attorney-General, 15 July 1941 , Australian Archives (AA), A6122/193.

[101] AA 419/3/32 MP574/1.

[102] Queensland Minutes, 10 April 1945 .

[103] Fergus Robinson, Study of occupational health and safety practice in the construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, NOH&S Commission, Sydney, 2000, pp. 78 and 64-68; Noel Gough, Mud, sweat & snow: memories of Snowy workers, 1949-1959, p.p., Moonee Ponds, 1999 ed.; Elizabeth T. Mattner, Construction camp capers: living in camps on the Snowy scheme, privately published, Cooma, 1999.

[104] Quoted Siobhan McHugh, The Snowy: the people behind the power, A&R, Sydney , 1995, p. 157.

[105] McHugh, pp. 239-41 and 245. 

[106] McHugh, pp. 66, 125 and 134.

[107] Robinson, Study of occupational health and safety, pp. 26-27.

[108] Quoted McHugh, The Snowy, pp. 151-2.

[109] L. J. Louis, Menzies’ Cold War, a reinterpretation, Red Rag Publications, Carlton North, 2001.

[110] Wayne Reynolds, Australia ’s bid for the atomic bomb, MUP, Carlton , 2000, pp. 54, 68-9 and 127.

[111] Adrian Tame and F. P. J. Robotham, Maralinga: a British A-bomb, Australian legacy, Fontana , Melbourne , 1982.

[112] For examples of such policies among even a Right-wing Labor Branch, see Queensland Minutes, 28 March 1950 and 19 April 1955, Executive, 5 August 1958; Peace Congress, 1 September and 24 November 1959; support for a nuclear-free southern hemisphere, 7 May and 27 August 1963; opposition to Vietnam involvement, 4 May and 8 March 1966, 7 February 1967, and 2 February 1968.

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