"This is one of the rare books which you can judge by its cover", author Humphrey McQueen quipped to the 50 Builders Labourers Federation unionists attending the launch of Framework of Flesh on September 22.
"For one thing it has the Eureka flag on it — meaning you aren't allowed to take it on a building site under the rules of the construction stasi [the Australian Building and Construction Commission — ABCC] . And it's red: it gives the 'red armband' view of the history of struggle."
McQueen's book charts the builders' labourers' battle for health and safety conditions on the job.
The next day, the book was launched at Avid Reader where McQueen was introduced by Professor David Peetz. He asked the audience to compare two white powders — asbestos and cocaine. "The former kills every time, while cocaine rarely does. Yet trafficking in cocaine will get you life in prison, while trafficking in asbestos is barely penalised."
McQueen hammered the ABCC and slammed the Kevin Rudd and Julia "Killard" government for extending its life — albeit in a slightly altered form.
"We are in a situation where a union is likely to be fined more for protesting a death on site than an employee is fined for causing a death", he said.