Almanac (Cricket) Life: Jack Mundey and the Right Line




I first met Jack Mundey AO in 1975 when he, together with Darrel Dawson and Pat O’Shane AM, visited Armidale on the Communist Party of Australia campaign trail to put a Red (or two) in the Senate. Jack died on the May 10. He will always be an inspiration to those who care about the products of their labour and the quality of the environment and the communities in which they live. Jack always presented the right line. He had the unerring skill of galvanising the believers and welcoming those on the sidelines into thinking about the issues. Jack could slot the right line in any situation using analogies, comparative what-ifs, boiled down issues, candour and humour. He was precise in every situation – think Daicos converting from the pocket. Here I remember some of my times with Jack and his capacity to present the right line.


The Armidale visit made an impression in Country Party heartland. Jack and company first wowed the faithful at the Mandarin restaurant on the Saturday night – no surprise there. He saved his best work for Sunday night when he stood on a table and addressed the bar/bistro of the Armidale Bowling Club. The audience was a mix of tradeblokes, couples, rurals and the like. They could hardly be relied on to put a Red in the Senate especially in the poisonous atmosphere of the 1975 election. Didn’t faze Jack. He tied the rise of the NSW BLF to the need for people to focus on the products of their labour which should be a central tenet of any progressive society. He worked the line around, used local examples of Country Party perfidy and, with artful use of Dorothy Dixers, had the assembled nodding, engaged and appreciating his candour and the way he never shied from questions.


Jack had many watering holes in Sydney. His office was the now demolished Criterion in Sussex Street. On Friday nights Jack met colleagues and confreres and indulged hangers-on under the bemused eye of Stella the publican. His colleagues always thought the press were hangers-on as they were seen by some to be having a bit of rough trade on the Friday night. Jack always had the right line with them. He’d dare them not to take the developers’ line. It worked a treat. He wrote their scripts. His handling of now venerated ex-ABC journalists of Irish heritage was priceless.


I met Jack in Sydney at a large demonstration against coal and coal seam gas on prime farmland in NSW around 2014. Jack spoke and he again produced the right line. He had a detailed understanding of the history of ALP and LNP corruption and deal-making as well proposed developments in the affected regions. He parlayed this knowledge into a withering critique of government processes that allowed science to be by-passed in favour of miners. Again a precise line that addressed the core problem. I was talking to a fellow-protester, the Hon Tom Hughes AC QC, former Liberal Attorney General and titan of the legal profession. Jack joined us and he and Tom chatted cordially. Jack promised to visit the Liverpool Plains to meet the community affected by coal mines and coal seam gas. He left and then Tom told me that one of his great regrets was that many years ago he had instituted and won libel proceedings against Jack. Tom expressed his enormous respect for Jack as a builder of coalitions and for his capacity to define and deliver the right line – enormous praise indeed from one whose success was built on the same skills.


Let’s jump back to 1979-80. It was the Sydney Test against the West Indies. I ran into Jack, Mick Tubbs and I think it was Joe Owens on the steps below the Hill on Day 1. They had a large esky but the level never seemed to go down much. Admirers kept the steadiers up to Jack. We agreed to meet at the Olympic Hotel in the Regent Street side bar at 10.45 am the next day. We were a bit slow in moving off when, at about 11.10 a flustered Keith Miller burst into the bar: “Mundey you bastard how the devil are you. What’s the score, my tranny’s rooted. McGilvray won’t be pleased. I’m on the air in five minutes.”


Quick as a flash Jack intoned gravely: “We’re in a bit of strife Keith: 3/20.”


Miller rushed out without another word.


We waited for him to appear on the broadcast. Miller fronted with: “Well we’re in a bit of strife at 3/20.”


“You’ve been misinformed I fear Keith, it’s 0/8,” McGilvray replied.


Jack always had the right line.




  1. Rod Gillett says

    Great story Nankers!
    You were always pushing the left lane in Armidale…
    Good times.

  2. Ripper yarn Nank. Would have been an entertaining school at the Olympic.

    By the way, I’ve always wondered what the preferred pre and post-Test-footy pub is around the SCG. Thoughts?

  3. I’ve just been thinking about when did we last have a radical in parliament, Federal or State?

    The reason for this was some reading on Graeme Berry a fairly radical reformer in late 19th century Victoria. He rose to being the premier of the Colony for a while. The squattocracy, their media, mouthpieces in the media were aghast at him.

    So when you mention the CPA popping into Armidale, it further makes me think: when did we last have a radical in parliament ? There’s been Fred Patterson, Percy Brookfield, but we’ve not had one for what seems like eons.

    Maybe, “It’s Time?”


  4. Wonderful memories of a great man and great times. More than anything I yearn for anyone in public life who can “argue a line” in all its nuance and complexity. Figures on all sides now just “assert a position” and howl down anyone who questions it. I have heroes on right and left who can consistently argue a logical case.
    Dr Peter Arnold was a “right wing” GP who vehemently opposed Medicare but got up in the middle of the night to visit sick patients. He hated socialism and market exploitation. Had a hand in the original “sponge” ads dramatising tobacco harm. He was a white South African jew who treated everyone equally. He said “in South Africa they called me a communist; in Australia they call be a nazi”.

  5. Rod Oaten says

    Jack Mundey, one of my true heroes. I could listen to him for hours, he made his points with precision and humour.

  6. Greg Mallory says

    Great story

  7. Peter Crossing says

    Well done Nank.
    A great man who made a difference.
    Some terrific anecdotes.

  8. Rulebook says

    Great stuff,Nanks great to read a article from you !

  9. Gregory Harris says

    great story. very much enjoyed.
    Greg Harris

  10. Rod Gillett says

    Big rap for your piece Nankers from big Huey in above comment.

    Yes Darky the Olympic has been a major gathering point prior to the cricket and footy. Meet Nankers a few times back in the day. Still is.

    But as Greg Harris reminded me today the Dunbar in side street near by was the place to meet before Rugby Tests when games were played on Saturday afternoon at the SCG and there was a general bye for all club rugby.

  11. Thanks peter b, spot on. The line used to a be a thought out and consistent position with logic and minimal hyperbole. Now the dominant mode is, as you say, the confected position. The people can recognise this and shrug accordingly to the detriment of the fruitful discussion of ideas

  12. Book, thanks for the support. Got the biro out. Go sanfl. In the words of the immortal John harms why is the AFL such a weird organisation.

  13. Rocket and Rod Oaten thanks for the comments. Jack never engaged in hype or was drawn into slanging matches, he used the right line to develop people’s thinking.
    I knew a Roger Oaten in Adelaide once. Any relation? Rocket our preparations for last years grand final were immaculate but our new team didn’t turn up

  14. Glen
    Good history that. The clean conformist lines of the tmps ( two major parties don’t allow for deviations from the party (as opposed to the right) line.The tank and file get sanitised and captured. Phil Cleary should get a mention as a radical in parliament.
    Red red Theodore, another. I’m out of my depth here. Where’s Greg Mallory on this one-a labour historian. He’ll kJ is.

  15. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    More please Nank. You must have some additional Julian Swinstead tales.

  16. Just saw Compass program before the 7 pm abc news. The cwa have had and continue to prosecute the right line.

  17. Swisher I’d have to make Up Julian swinstead stories. Not a problem.

  18. Excellent stuff, Nank.
    It is a shame that more Australians do not know enough about Jack Mundey.
    Looking forward to a few more yarns from you.

  19. Ta Nank.

    Phil Cleary; how quick we (i) forget ?!

    ‘Red Ted’ Theodore is a long way back. Premier of Queensland, part of the Scullin federal government when the ‘Great Depression’ hit. It’s a while since i’ve read anything about him.

    I think PB’s post of 29/5 sums up the current state of Australian parliamentary politics very well. Is there any one in Australian political/public who has a ‘line’? There would be some in the LNP who have a ‘line’, a line they will stick to. The line they push is the antithesis of all i believe, but they at least have a line.The other Tweedle Dum-Tweedle Dee party seems to believe in nothing beyond Richo’s old grab about doing ‘what it takes’ to obtain power.

    The paucity of Australian political debate,understanding, reflects this.

    Vale Jack Mundey


  20. Peter Hulthen says

    I was very honoured to meet Jack Munday quite a few years ago. His friend, Greg Mallory organised us to have a beer with Jack. Of course, Jack was a proud Mountain Man from the Atherton Tablelands. They love their rugby league up there. It is also a great place to visit. SYdney siders owe Jack a great debt of gratitude for saving their heritage.

  21. greg harris

    rocket says you played for easts in the 70s. i played for balmain. i liked playing at trumper as, irrespective of the easts 25 goals plus balmain used to get at least double figures.

  22. smokie,

    thanks for the comments. you are a legend of the almanacery. if i can impart feeling they way you do i will be satisfied. jack was the everyday man who just engaged. he didn’t seek adulation he sought understanding of the logic and humanity of position.

  23. glen q and A the other night reflected the ALPs decline.

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