Norm Gallagher

Norm Gallagher (20 September 1931  26 August 1999[1]) was a controversial Australian trade unionist,[2] and Marxist-Leninist who led the militant Builders Labourers Federation as federal Secretary and as Victorian State Secretary.[3]

Early life and career

Gallagher was raised in Melbourne and joined the Builders Labourers Federation (BLF) in 1951. By 1970, he was elected as the BLF's Victorian State Secretary and radically improved pay and conditions on building sites. His militant leadership style initially united union factions but later alienated the union from employers as well as the Victorian Labor Government and other union leaders.

He was also a high-profile member of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist).

"Our union had a long history of concern for the environment. The Sydney union in the early seventies raised the question of the name 'green ban'. We were a bit old fashioned. We still call them 'black bans'. For instance, we were involved in the conservation issues as far back as 1940 when they were going to build a small goods factory opposite the Royal Melbourne Hospital. We put a black ban on it, said that it would destroy the environment of that area. It would have had an effect on the patients of the Royal Melbourne Hospital." said Norm Gallagher in an interview.[4]

As Secretary of the union, Gallagher also acted to preserve the distinct Melbourne boulevards such as Royal Parade from development[4] and many historic buildings from destruction including the Regent Theatre and the City Baths.[5] A BLF black ban also protected the historic Bakery Hill site in Ballarat, where huge mass meetings were held in 1854 during the Eureka rebellion, from development.[6]

Norm Gallager faced many protests when he directed the Federal union to intervene in the affairs of the New South Wales branch of the union in the mid-seventies. Many of the democratic measures installed by the NSW Branch leadership by Jack Mundey, Bob Pringle and Joe Owens and others were scrapped and many of the democratically imposed Green Bans were lifted. Officials of the NSW Branch eventually urged members to join the imposed branch, but were themselves blacklisted from the industry by Federal Union officials. The Federal takeover of the NSW Branch was instrumental in calling off many of the imposed Green Bans and the cancellation of the unions commitment to fighting for permanence in the building industry.[7]

Following a Royal Commission into the BLF's business affairs, it was deregistered. Gallagher was convicted of obtaining building materials from construction companies while he himself was building a house in Gippsland.[2] This was the first trial in Victorian history in which a jury was locked up for ten days until they delivered a verdict. Jurors later made statements that they had lost their freedom and were coerced to find Gallagher guilty. On appeal, the trial and verdict were declared "unsafe" and a retrial was ordered. [8] Gallagher was freed after four months in gaol.

Later life and death

By 1992-93 the officials, staff and members of the BLF were exhausted, with Gallagher himself in ill-health. Bereft of funds, the BLF was forcibly amalgamated into the CFMEU.

From 1988 up to his death in 1999, Gallagher played a vital role in the struggle to re-organise the Communist Party and was a member of the National Preparatory Committee of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Australia.[9]

Norm Gallagher died in Melbourne on 26 August 1999.[2]


  1. Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Australia
  2. 1 2 3 Union boss Norm Gallagher dies at 68 ABC Radio transcript PM Archive - Thursday, 26 August 1999. Accessed 25 August 2007
  3. Australian Trade Union Archives Biographical entry Accessed 25 August 2007
  4. 1 2 Interview with Norm Gallagher regarding Lee Street Carlton and the BLF acting for environmental reasons. Accessed 25 August 2007
  5. Rescuing the Regent Theatre by Louise Blake September 2005 Number 4, Public Record Office, Victoria. Accessed 25 August 2007
  6. A Eureka Diary: commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Eureka Rebellion by Takver. See also Interview with Julie New Accessed 25 August 2007
  7. John Tully Green Bans and the BLF: the labour movement and urban ecology IV Online magazine : IV357 - March 2004. Accessed 18 August 2008
  8. Austlii record of case Accessed 27 August 2013
  9. EUREKA - A Worker's Journal. Vol. 1 No 1 June 2000

External links

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