Brickbats and Bouquets: Norm Gallagher

Ross Edmonds

Dear Editor,

“The Hummer” states in its editorial policy that it “welcomes contributions from a diversity of viewpoints …”. While this is commendable, it begs the question of where the editors should draw the line. Should it, for example, have included the tribute to Norm Gallagher, by Steve Black in the Summer 2000/01 issue? The way in which Gallagher abused his position of power in the BWIU, by accepting “favors” from developers, did enormous damage to the credibility of the Labour Movement. It was particularly unfortunate that Gallagher’s trial and conviction came at a time when the conservative forces in Australia had mounted a concerted campaign to denigrate trade union leaders in particular, and unionists in general. This case played right into the hands of those trying to destroy the union movement. Currently we are trying to reverse the decline in union membership at a time when many people are suspicious of unions or simply see them as irrelevant. Making excuses for Gallagher only compounds the problem. Of course we need heroes, men and women that whose example we wish to follow and of which we can be proud. There are plenty of people who fall into this category but Norm Gallagher certainly isn’t one of them.

Ross Edmonds (President, Hunter Labour History Society)

Editors’ Comment:
Whatever might be thought of Norm Gallagher’s particular approach, his role as a significant player in the history of Australian trade unionism during the 1970s and 1980s is beyond dispute – a fact attested by the very passions aroused by the mention of his name. In our view, these facts alone make him a subject worthy of our attention. What is open to dispute is how his influence should be interpreted – and most of us will hold fairly robust opinions one way or the other on that. The Hummer exists, in large part, to provide a forum for such debates, not to impose any particular view of what is palatable and what is not.