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Masterclass for Activists

Jul 21, 2021

In the face of unprecedented global economic and political crisis in the 1980s, Australia was the only country on earth that radically built its social safety net. At a time when the world was gripped by the hitherto unknown phenomenon of rampant and simultaneously high unemployment, high inflation and high-interest rates, the very idea of the welfare state was under attack globally with the emergence of a new sinister ideology known as ‘neoliberalism’. Against the tide and despite the odds, Australian unions forged once-in-a-lifetime reforms to capitalism. How was this possible and how was it done? In this compelling episode, labour movement legends Bill Kelty, Anna Booth and Tom McDonald join Emeritus Professor Ed Davis to share this remarkable story – a story that is rich in lessons for activists today as they continue the fight to win the future for working people.

Australia’s social safety net is the envy of the world: the highest minimum wage rates in the world, the most efficient healthcare system in the world that delivers standards of care few countries can match, and the only compulsory employer-funded universal superannuation system in the world. These towering pillars of our safety net were won through an Accord between the ACTU and the ALP; the most comprehensive agreement ever negotiated anywhere in the world between trade unions and a political party. In this episode, the discussants explain the Accord’s strategy and reflect its great achievements and disappointments, its enduring legacy and its lessons for activists today. A copy of the Accord can be found here.

Listeners are in for another treat from Chloe and Jason Roweth, whose songs of struggle have inspired activists across the generations. In this episode, they perform ‘Which Side Are You On’ (Words by Florence Reece to a traditional tune). Find out more about the Roweths’ music here.

This podcast series has been produced by Deliberately Engaging in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals to build the capabilities of civil society and give people a greater voice. Learn more about the UN Goals and our podcasts here.

The series has been made possible by the support of the Committee to Defend Trade Unions Rights, Tony and Nina Bleasdale, and our discussants and musicians.