Bob Gleeson

Interviewed by
Sue Yarrow
Jun 06 2012
Bob Gleeson
Time Summary Keywords

Sue Yarrow reads a prepared biography of Bob Gleeson.


Bob Gleeson describes how in 1962 he joined the Longreach Branch of the ALP and continued through his life to be very interested in politics. He states that his first job was at age 14 as rouseabout. He speaks about working in the shearing sheds and the regular contact with Australian Workers Union Organisers. He describes working in a number of gang jobs: cane cutting, sugar mills, builders labourer, droving, driving trucks, and shearing sheep.

Alf Kain, AWU, Longreach, work experience

Bob Gleeson discusses participation in the union and compulsory union membership. He describes the unions' activities on behalf of their members, in particular AWU Organiser, Alf Kain and his style of industrial negotiation with employers.

Alf Kain, AWU, union positions

Bob Gleeson recalls that he knew about the ALP Split in 1957, and describes Jack Egerton taking over power from AWU Secretary and Party President, Joe Bukowski. He recalls that the AWU then left the ALP, but at the time Gleeson was quite young. He states that he knew of the Egerton/Bukowski working agreement around the Shearers Strike of 1956, but again, this was when Gleeson was still very young.

AWU, Jack Egerton, Joe Bukowski, Shearers dispute

Bob Gleeson lists the well-remembered Shearers' Strikes in Queensland and explains that the 1894 strike was remembered not just as an industrial dispute, but because of the connnection with Banjo Paterson's poem about Waltzing Matilda which was put to music and became an unofficial Australian anthem.

Banjo Paterson, Shearers dispute, Waltzing Matilda

Bob Gleeson explains that his name appeared on the 1980 ALP Senate ticket, following Jim Keeffe and Gerry Jones. He states that while the literature described him as 'a grazier from Longreach' his main profession was always as shearing contractor and he was always a union member.

Gerry Jones, Jim Keeffe

Bob Gleeson describes Jack Egerton as a good man and great leader, as tough as nails, who didn’t mince words and had a straightforward way of working. He explains that, when intervention occurred, the AWU, under Edgar William's control, re-affiliated with the ALP to support the Trades Hall Group (THG) bringing back into ALP coffers the support of 1/4 million AWU affiliated members. 

AWU, Edgar Williams, Jack Egerton, Trades Hall Group

Bob Gleeson discusses events at the 1963 ALP Convention, but underlines the enduring two-way respect between the Trades Hall Group and the AWU even though it was stretched at times of conflict. He recalls how his bush branch of the ALP heard about the 1977 Reform Group formation and outlines his views on the reformers. He states the view that the National Executive were behind the push for reform. 

AWU, Edgar Williams, Trades Hall Group

Bob Gleeson recalls the ALP events surrounding the 1964 Mount Isa strike, and a Newsletter issued by Egerton calling the AWU scabs. He discusses the ALP Disputes Tribunal when Egerton was seeking renewal of his ALP membership ticket after he had accepted a knighthood and his branch had refused him a new ticket. He relates that the Tribunal took no action and Egerton did not receive a new ticket.

AWU, Jack Egerton, Mount Isa Mines

Bob Gleeson outlines ALP activities in a small country town in western Queensland during the 1960s and 1970s and discusses branch activities and participation in elections.

Longreach, Ron McAuliffe

Bob Gleeson claims that the ALP in Gregory was functioning well at maintaining the ALP vote. He says they never lost their passion and enthusiasm, upholding the 40% primary vote from bush electors who always voted ALP. He expresses pride that the ALP was seen to fight on principled issues, not populist issues.

campaign strategy, Longreach

Bob Gleeson recounts that there were no particular changes he wished to see in the ALP in those years. He discusses the shift in party control from the administrative wing to the parliamentary wing. 


Bob Gleeson remembers the formation of groupers in the ALP and discusses how dissent is aired within the party and the nature of change.

factions, women

Bob Gleeson comments on the social ferment of the 1960s and 1970s that did not filter through to the bush, although they actively discussed and supported many of the issues within their branch. He reflects on the major social policy issues which became part of the ALP platform, including medicare, workers compensation and annual leave.

Longreach, social justice, Workers Compensation legislation

Bob Gleeson discusses unrest amongst ALP members at State Council meetings including how the Trades Hall Group supported Lionel Bowen not Queenslander Bill Hayden for the federal parliamentary leadership.

Bill Hayden, leadership, Lionel Bowen, Neal Kane, Trades Hall Group

Bob Gleeson describes the relationship between Neal Kane and Bill Hayden.

Bill Hayden, ETU, Neal Kane

Bob Gleeson discusses the motives of the Reform Group in 1977 including the place of factions in the ALP.

AWU, factions, media, Trades Hall Group

Bob Gleeson recalls dissatisfaction expressed at the 1979 ALP Rockhampton Conference.


Bob Gleeson discusses the reaction of the AWU to the High Court decision regarding intervention in 1980.

AWU, factions, Green, Independent

Bob Gleeson considers that while the Trades Hall Group and AWU stuck together with the support of the majority of members through this period, other unions were coerced into joining the reform push. He states that some of these reform people later became prominent in politics. He reflects on the results of the reform era and that all sides accepted it in the end. He considers that credit should be given to leaders of the Old Guard for not splitting the party.

AWU, Trades Hall Group

Bob Gleeson discusses the emergence of factional groups after intervention and the role of Bill Hayden.

Bill Hayden, factions, leadership

Bob Gleeson recalls the alliance of the AWU with the Socialist Left (SL) factions and the role of Errol Hodder.

AWU, Errol Hodder, factions, socialism

Bob Gleeson recounts his experiences with Senator George Georges.

Fred Whitby, George Georges, Neal Kane

Bob Gleeson reflects on why it took 9 years to win government after intervention, claiming that the Fitzgerald Inquiry conclusions precipitated changed attitudes and the media started to back the ALP.

Fitzgerald Inquiry

Bob Gleeson reflects on the legacy of the intervention.

Anna Bligh, Peter Beattie

Bob Gleeson reflects on the lessons for the party from intervention and expresses his views about the Labour movement and the ALP.

2012 election

Bob Gleeson sums up his membership of the ALP.


Interview ends