Jack Sweeney’s life between 1911 and 1981 may have lacked colour; nonetheless he was an effective and widely respected trade union lawyer. Although he was involved in politics and civil liberties, including a pivotal technical role in assisting E.G. Whitlam’s reconstruction of the Australian Labor Party in the late 1960s, it was an an advocate for the trade unions that he made his substantial contribution to Australian industrial relations. He played valuable roles as a commissioner enquiring into some vexed issues: the state/federal union divide (the Moore v Doyle dilemma) and waterfront corruption. As a judge, Sweeney was a liberal democrat, balancing the rights of rank-and-file trade union memberships against the importance of a leadership capable of playing a significant role in reaching equitable collective bargains about wages and conditions.