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: The Australian building industry is historically characterised by conflict, co-operation and radicalism, and early building unionists were a driving force in the progressive labour movement. This is a history of carpenters, stonemasons and bricklayers in colonial N.S.W. organising against laissez-faire economics of the nineteenth century. It asks how building unionists maintained basic industry standards such as the eight-hour day and uniform pay rates in a competitive deregulated industry, before the advent of the Award system, when unfettered market forces drove many workers to long days and low wages. Drawing from the struggles of the British labour movement and focusing on the ideas of early radicals - from Payne, Cobbett and Owen, to Marx, Bellamy and George - this study provides a global and ideological context to the operative builders of Sydney, and explains the way they ran their unions and the hopes they held for a better world for the working classes. Those with an eye upon recent Australian government initiatives to destroy building industry unionism and enforce competitive dynamics in the workplace will find both interesting parallels and counterpoint in this work.