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Between dependence and independence
Trevor Cook 2012
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Department of Government and International Relations, Faculty of Arts, University of Sydney

Statement of originality
This is to certify that to the best of my knowledge, the content of this thesis is my own work. This thesis has not been submitted for any degree or other purposes. I certify that the intellectual content of this thesis is the product of my own work and that all the assistance received in preparing this thesis and sources has been acknowledged. Trevor Cook

Table of Contents
Acknowledgements.............................................................................................................5 Abbreviations .......................................................................................................................6 List of Tables .........................................................................................................................9 Abstract................................................................................................................................ 11 CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................ 12 CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW............................................................................. 19 1. Introduction ............................................................................................................................19 2. Union decline and de-linking.............................................................................................20 3. Party type and individualism ............................................................................................27 4. Relationship type and political behaviour....................................................................35 5. Union revitalisation and strategic choice......................................................................46 6. Political independence and dependence.......................................................................50 7. Conclusion................................................................................................................................54 CHAPTER 3: APPROACH AND METHODS .................................................................. 55 1. Introduction ............................................................................................................................55 2. Research questions ...............................................................................................................58 3. Previous studies.....................................................................................................................59 4. Case study research ..............................................................................................................64 5. Qualitative interviews..........................................................................................................68 6. Other data sources ................................................................................................................77 7. Conclusion................................................................................................................................78 CHAPTER 4: FRAGMENTATION .................................................................................... 79 1. Introduction ............................................................................................................................79 2. Australian exceptionalism..................................................................................................81 3. Federalism ...............................................................................................................................85 4. Union movement structure ................................................................................................94 5. Sectarianism, ideological conflict and factionalism ..................................................98 6. Conclusion............................................................................................................................. 103 CHAPTER 5: TWO RELATIONSHIPS ..........................................................................104 1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................... 104 2. A question of balance ........................................................................................................ 105 3. Three perspectives............................................................................................................. 118 4. Current and former union officials............................................................................... 122 5. Social partner versus pressure group ......................................................................... 124 6. Union status and attitudes............................................................................................... 129 7. Conclusion............................................................................................................................. 130 CHAPTER 6: UNION REVITALISATION .....................................................................131 1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................... 131 2. Revitalisation ....................................................................................................................... 133 3. Generational change.......................................................................................................... 139 4. Re-thinking the Accord ..................................................................................................... 143 5. Unity........................................................................................................................................ 150 3

6. Scepticism ............................................................................................................................. 155 7. Conclusion............................................................................................................................. 163

CHAPTER 7: ALP AFFILIATION...................................................................................165 1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................... 165 2. Re-defining the relationship .......................................................................................... 167 3. Affiliation patterns............................................................................................................. 171 4. Affiliation exclusivity ........................................................................................................ 178 5. Connections .......................................................................................................................... 192 6. Non-affiliation...................................................................................................................... 200 7. Caucus attitudes .................................................................................................................. 203 8. Conclusion............................................................................................................................. 212 CHAPTER 8: BENEFIT EXCHANGES ...........................................................................213 1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................... 213 2. Benefit exchanges and relationship types ................................................................. 214 3. External symmetry............................................................................................................. 216 4. Internal symmetry ............................................................................................................. 226 5. Predictability ....................................................................................................................... 229 6. Conclusion............................................................................................................................. 234 CHAPTER 9: YOUR RIGHTS AT WORK AND BEYOND ..........................................235 1. Introduction ......................................................................................................................... 235 2. 2007 election........................................................................................................................ 236 3. Campaign elements............................................................................................................ 246 4. Policy benefits...................................................................................................................... 254 5. A moment in time ............................................................................................................... 257 6. A second act? ........................................................................................................................ 260 7. Conclusion............................................................................................................................. 264 CHAPTER 10: CONCLUSION .........................................................................................266 Appendices .......................................................................................................................272 Appendix 1: Interview questions .................................................................................................. 272 Appendix 2: ALP vote share (1901 - 2010): federal and major states.......................... 273 Appendix 3: ALP MPs, House of Representatives 2011: union backgrounds ............ 275 Appendix 4: Second Gillard Ministry: union backgrounds................................................. 280 Bibliography.....................................................................................................................283

On an afternoon walk at Kilcare some years ago, John Edwards told me that a PhD provided a rare opportunity to study a subject in a structured way. It was a tantalising prospect for someone who had spent the past few decades working on projects that rarely lasted more than a few hours or a few weeks. The past three and a half years have been an enjoyable taste of the scholastic life. The journey was all the better because I was able to share it with a supportive group of fellow research students. In particular, I was delighted to find two other Hawke Government staffers, Stephen Mills and Judy Betts, as well as another Canberra old hand, Stewart Jackson, in my student cohort. The company of political insiders (old hacks) was like a reassuring balm on many occasions. I would like to thank the staff of the Government and International Relations Department at the University of Sydney for their encouragement and guidance including Anika Gauja, Robert Howard, Michael Jackson, and Rodney Smith. Most of all, I owe a large debt of gratitude to my supervisor, Ariadne Vromen, who has provided generous, timely and extremely helpful advice throughout. I also thank the interviewees, who gave freely of their time and insights. I suspect many will not agree with my conclusions. I also thank the many colleagues, friends and acquaintances with whom I have discussed, debated and argued many of the ideas in this thesis over the past few decades. I wish to thank three other people; my old friend, Robert Hinds, without his encouragement and practical support I may never have completed a first degree all those years ago; my wife, Julie Flynn, whose generosity, encouragement and tolerance made it possible for me to undertake a doctorate; and, finally, my father, Ray Cook, who gave me an interest in labour politics, a life-long love of learning and an incurable attraction to the beauty of ideas.

ABCC Accord Australian Building and Construction Commission The Prices and Incomes Accord between the ACTU and the ALP ACSPA Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations ACTU AEU ANF AFL-CIO Australian Council of Trade Unions Australian Education Union Australian Nursing Federation American Federation of Labor Congress of Industrial Organisations AIRC AFPC ALAC ALP Australian Industrial Relations Commission Australian Fair Pay Commission Australian Labor Advisory Committee Australian Labor Party Australian Manufacturing Workers Union Australian Nursing Federation Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia ASU Australian Services Union Australian Workers Union




Business Council of Australia British Labour Party Council of Australian Government Employees Organisation



Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union Centre for Independent Studies Community and Public Sector Union Change to Win Group (USA) Democratic Labour Party Federal Parliamentary Labor Party (caucus) Financial Services Union House of Representatives Health Services Union Independent Education Union Institute of Public Affairs Labor Council of NSW (now UnionsNSW) Labor Electoral League Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union (now UnitedVoice)






Liberal National Party Coalition Member of Parliament


Maritime Union of Australia Non-government organisation New South Wales National Tertiary Education Union National Union of Workers New Zealand New Zealand Labour Party One Big Union Office of the Employment Advocate Shop, Distributive and Allied Industries Union Service Employees International Union (USA) Trades and Labour Council Trade Union Congress (UK) Transport Workers Union United Firefighters Union United Kingdom United States of America Victorian Trades Hall Council Western Australia Waterside Workers Federation Your Rights at Work campaign 8





List of Tables
Table 1: Relationship type and political activities................................................ 52 Table 2: Methodology: descriptions........................................................................... 62 Table 3: Methodology: scholarly usage..................................................................... 63 Table 4: Methodology: strengths and weaknesses................................................ 63 Table 5: Interviewee characteristics ......................................................................... 74 Table 6: Unions and interviewees............................................................................... 76 Table 7: Other data sources .......................................................................................... 77 Table 8: Relationship comparisons............................................................................ 83 Table 9: An international timeline comparison..................................................... 84 Table 10: Overall attitudes to relationship ...........................................................119 Table 11: Relationship outcomes for unions ........................................................123 Table 12: Union satisfaction: current officials .....................................................124 Table 13: Relationship status and union connection.........................................126 Table 14: Current officials: status and satisfaction ............................................130 Table 15: Attitudes to new union agenda...............................................................141 Table 16: Union attitudes to the Accord .................................................................145 Table 17: Limited applicability of the US model ..................................................162 Table 18: ALP national reviews; attitudes to unions, community .................169 Table 19: Relationship dimensions..........................................................................177 Table 20: Caucus: union officials, affiliated and not affiliated ........................185 Table 21: Senators: union backgrounds .................................................................186 Table 22: Caucus: unions represented ....................................................................188 Table 23: Union backgrounds: by gender ..............................................................189 Table 24: Ministry: union representation..............................................................190 Table 25: Federal caucus NGO experience.............................................................191 Table 26: Current union officials: Attitudes to ALP MPs ...................................193 Table 27: Class of 2007: after 2010 election .........................................................205 9

Table 28: Union role: comments of former officials ...........................................207 Table 29: New members: political class..................................................................211 Table 30: Benefits, dependency and relationship trends.................................216 Table 31: External symmetry who benefits most?...........................................218 Table 32: Predictability: access and overall satisfaction..................................231 Table 33: Predictability: Influence and lobbying ................................................232 Table 34: Attitudes: YR@W and 2007 election outcome ..................................240 Table 35: Impact of YR@W on election ...................................................................242 Table 36: Repertoires of contention ........................................................................248 Table 37: Attitudes: FWA outcomes .........................................................................254


Union movements in Western countries are using pressure group tactics, often borrowed from unions in the United States of America (USA) and premised on political independence, to augment the declining political resources they traditionally derived from high union densities and close associations with political parties. The Australian union movement was an early adopter of this approach and a study of its experience provides insights into the value and sustainability of this relatively new strategy. This thesis presents a case study of the impact of union revitalisation on weakening links between unions and social democratic (including labour) parties. It examines the national relationship between unions and the Australian Labor Party (ALP) over the period from 1983 to 2010. This period includes two remarkable episodes: the Prices and Incomes Accord between the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the ALP, which was a feature of the Hawke and Keating Governments from 1983 to 1996; and, the Your Rights at Work (YR@W) campaign conducted by the ACTU, from 2005 to 2007, against the Howard Governments WorkChoices legislation. This thesis argues that the national unions-ALP relationship has undergone a partial transformation towards greater independence, but has not been able to find a sustainable balance between the dependence of the social democratic type of unions-party relationships and the independence of the pressure group type. This thesis also contributes to theoretical understanding of the weakening of unions-party links as labour, and social democratic, parties transition from the mass party to the electoral professional type. It argues that union revitalisation is problematic in the context of a social democratic type unions-party relationship.


The case study developed in this thesis focuses on changes in the national relationship between unions and the ALP from the Accord period through to the 2010 election, a period shaped by the ACTUs adoption of revitalisation strategies and its pursuit of an independent political role, particularly through the YR@W campaign between 2005 and 2007. Union movements in Western Europe have also adopted strategies of union revitalisation and greater political independence in their efforts to augment significant declines in the power resources they have traditionally derived from high union densities and close associations with political parties. The ACTU was early, and quick, to pursue these strategies. The case study in this thesis provides some early insights into whether these augmentation strategies are sustainable and effective over the longer-term. Union movements in Western countries use various combinations of repertoires of contention (Gentile and Tarrow 2009, Hill 2007, Vandenberg 2006) based on labour and citizen rights. Gentile and Tarrow (2009) argue that repertoires based on labour rights are prevalent in corporatist capitalist economies, while repertoires based on citizen rights are more prevalent in neo-liberal regimes (Gentile and Tarrow 2009:467). The mix varies according to the capacity of unions to take industrial action and the nature of their relationships with political parties. Success in using repertoires of contention based on citizen rights requires union democratisation, grass roots activism and access to highly developed campaign skills. Union movements that have been traditionally reliant on the exercise of labour rights can find it difficult to make the switch to a greater reliance on citizen rights. Although a mix of strategies is always available to unions, different types of unions-party relationships are strongly associated with either internal or external lobbying. The social democratic type of unions-party relationship found in Australia, New Zealand (NZ) and the United Kingdom (UK) is associated with internal lobbying, where unions influence policy through direct participation in


party forums and through access to candidate selection processes for public office. The pressure group relationship type found in the USA is associated with external lobbying; typified by the efforts of unions to influence political decision- making through public campaigns around particular causes and in support of candidates that are favourably disposed towards union policy objectives. Internal lobbying requires a dependent relationship between unions and parties. The fortunes of unions and parties are closely intertwined in social democratic type relationships. There is greater organisational integration in these relationships and strong overlaps of leadership elites. External lobbying requires a more independent relationship. Public campaigning by unions is more effective if it is conducted independently of political parties. Affiliation is the major institutional feature of social democratic type unions-party relationships that distinguishes them from the pressure group type. Affiliation ensures that labour1 parties are a special type of the mass party. Affiliation strengthens the links between unions and political parties by facilitating union influence over party policy and public office candidate selection. Affiliation allows unions to formulate and enforce strategies and rules designed to constrain the autonomy of the partys Parliamentary representatives. Affiliation privileges unions over other social groupings seeking to influence political parties. Affiliation also ensures that the political exchange between unions and political parties is more certain for unions. Without affiliation unions must rely on the pressure group tactics of generating and focusing public support in favour of particular causes and candidates. In the pressure group type, the political exchange between unions and political parties is less certain. Union movements have generally achieved better policy outcomes through affiliation than without it; that is, other things being equal, internal lobbying is a superior political strategy for unions than external lobbying. The superior effectiveness of internal

1 I use the spelling labour to refer to labour parties in general and labour movements. I

use the spelling labor to refer to the ALP and in reference to American labor organisations.


lobbying has encouraged unions to augment it with external lobbying, rather than replace it, as that effectiveness has declined in a post-Keynesian era2. The effectiveness of internal lobbying has dissipated with declines in union density and the adoption of neo-liberal3 economic policies by union-aligned parties. Union density declines, together with neo-liberal approaches to labour market regulation, reduce the capacity for unions to take industrial action. Union density declines also reduce the benefits that aligned parties derive from unions- party relationships; encouraging parties to weaken links with affiliated unions and create space for engagement with a broader range of community-based organisations. In response, unions have sought to augment internal lobbying with external lobbying. Unions also view the independence of external lobbying as central to pursuing their key priority of union revitalisation through re-engaging and rebuilding membership bases. Augmentation offers unions improvements in both membership outcomes and political resources. The use of augmentation suggests the possibility that two forms of unions-party relationships can co-exist. It suggests that unions can use internal and external lobbying simultaneously, or switch between the two strategies as circumstances demand. Augmentation presents a contradiction between dependence and independence, which became more apparent when the ALP was returned to office. External lobbying, exemplified in Australia in the YR@W campaign, is a viable option for unions campaigning against non-Labor Governments. External lobbying is much more problematic for affiliated unions when the ALP holds office.

2 Post-Keynesian here means the period from the 1970s up to the onset of the Global

Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2007; whether there will be a significant retreat from neo- liberalism as a result of the GFC is yet to be seen. 3 These policies have generally been called economic rationalism in Australia; however, the term neo-liberalism is more accurate especially in linking todays policy frameworks to those that pre-dated Keynesianism. This thesis is mainly concerned with neo-liberal labour market policies, which are characterised by attempts to wind-back laws and practices that support collectivism in the workplace. The term economic rationalism emerged during the Whitlam Government and initially had positive connotations, its pejorative use was popularized in the 1990s (Quiggin 1998:78, 81).


There are historical and structural reasons for anticipating that the national unions-ALP relationship is better suited to the adoption of an augmentation strategy than most unions-party relationships in Western countries. Australian unions affiliate with the ALP at state level, the decision of the various colonial Labor Parties to federate and the absence of a national union organisation, created a unique distance between unions and the national ALP. Unlike other social democratic type unions-party relationships, there has never been a strong, affiliation-based relationship between a national union movement and a national party in Australia. This historical anomaly created the space for the development of a relatively independent ACTU in the early 1980s capable of bargaining with the ALP on behalf of all unions, as an organisation operating separately from the ALP. The ACTU demonstrated a remarkable capacity to switch, in the space of a decade or two, from pursuing a corporatist vision for its future along Scandinavian lines to embracing the pressure group type strategies and tactics of American unions. Yet, the capacity to make these switches is limited and the prospects for achieving a sustainable balance between external and internal lobbying are far from certain. This thesis is essentially a study of the pressures and choices facing unions and parties in a neo-liberal era. This thesis provides empirical insights, based largely on qualitative interviews, into the national unions-ALP relationship at a time of challenge and transformation. It also seeks to make a theoretical contribution to two related bodies of literature. First, it seeks to provide a more detailed understanding of some aspects of the internal processes by which a mass party becomes an electoral professional party (Panebianco 1988:262-267). Specifically, the processes by which institutionalised vertical links between unions and aligned parties might undergo the weakening that Panebianco identified as a key part of the overall process of becoming an electoral professional party. Second, the thesis seeks to make a contribution to a smaller body of literature that provides a theoretical understanding of the differences between unions-party relationships. This thesis addresses the theoretical question of whether a social democratic type relationship can be transformed into a pressure group type without ending union affiliation to the party. 15

This thesis is structured into ten chapters. Chapter One is the introduction. Chapter Two reviews the literature and identifies the concepts and arguments that are used in this thesis. Four areas of literature are discussed. First, literature is considered which discusses union density declines and the impact this has on unions-party relationships, including through de-linking. Second, political party literature dealing with changes from mass party to electoral professional is considered; particularly, the importance of weakening vertical links. Third, literature dealing with unions-party relationship types is reviewed. The key differences between social democratic and pressure group types are identified and the views of scholars on the possibility of transformations from the social democratic to the pressure group type are reviewed. Fourth, the key political content of revitalisation strategies is discussed, particularly the possibility of union movements choosing to replace, or supplement, labour rights with citizen rights to employ new repertoires of contention and the greater political independence this requires. Chapter Three outlines approach and methods. It explains the reasons for using a case study approach and undertaking qualitative interviews with senior participants in the national unions-ALP relationship. It explains how the data from these interviews has been used in conjunction with data from other sources, principally speeches, reports and biographical information. Chapter Four analyses the key historical differences between Australia and other countries with social democratic type unions-party relationships. It identifies three key differences: federalism, union movement structure, and, the intensity of sectarian and ideological conflict. This chapter demonstrates the ways in which these differences created more fragmentation in the national unions-ALP relationship than is usual in social democratic type relationships. It argues that this additional fragmentation created space in the relationship that facilitated the emergence of a more politically independent ACTU.


Chapter Five reports and analyses the views expressed in interviews conducted for this thesis on the general state of the contemporary unions-ALP relationship. It points to the paradox arising from the emergence of an ACTU-ALP relationship based on independence; and, the simultaneous retention of a dependent relationship based on affiliation with its attendant enforcement rules and strategies. Chapter Six outlines the emergence of a more politically active ACTU through the adoption of revitalisation strategies in response to the decline of union densities and in response to the perceived dependence of the ACTU-ALP relationship during the Accord period, which is blamed widely for disempowering union members and exacerbating declines in union density. It points to a generational change in union leadership and attitudes. It also notes that the union movement has become more united, but that considerable scepticism remains about the applicability and sustainability of US style union revitalisation strategies in Australia. Chapter Seven examines the impact of affiliation in the context of a changing balance between blue collar and professional unions in the Australian union movement. It finds that affiliation continues to provide exclusive access, among social groupings, to affiliated unions and the virtual exclusion of non-affiliated unions and other like-minded community organisations. It argues that this is a negation of the ALPs ambition to be a broadly based progressive party. It reflects on an apparent trend for senior union officials to enter Parliament mid-career. This chapter also examines the views of caucus members on the unions-ALP relationship by comparing the first speeches of new members after the ALPs 1983 and 2007 election wins. This chapter concludes that affiliation is losing its meaning as a mechanism capable of representing the broader union movement inside the party, much less the even broader base of community organisations that the ALP hopes to engage. Affiliation is a barrier to the emergence of a more modern progressive party, along the lines envisaged in the ALPs 2010 National Review.


Chapter Eight discusses the growing asymmetry in the political benefit exchange between unions and the ALP. Asymmetry is the product of the continuing reliance of unions on the ALP for legislative protections in an otherwise hostile environment and the concurrent declining reliance of the ALP on unions for funding and the shrinking blue-collar union voter base for its identity as it seeks to switch from being a workers party to becoming a more inclusive progressive party. Chapter Nine examines the meaning of the YR@W campaign and its aftermath for the unions-ALP relationship. It argues that the campaign and its aftermath highlight the contradiction between old and new relationship types based on dependence and independence. It suggests that the disappointing aftermath of the YR@W campaign underscores the difficulties unions face in pursuing an augmentation strategy based on adding cherry-picked pressure-group tactics to a declining social democratic relationship. Chapter Ten is the conclusion, which explores the findings in this study and their implications; and, opportunities for further research in the areas of party politics and the unions-ALP relationship.



1. Introduction
Throughout the Western world, deinstitutionalisation and weakening links between unions and social democratic, including labour, parties in the context of neo-liberalism, have prompted changes in the strategic choices made by union movements. These new strategic choices are usually framed in terms of union revitalisation strategies and are variously located in theories of coalition, community and social movement unionism (Vandenberg 2006). They have in common the use of tactics centred on citizen rights (principally political campaigning and legal action) to augment the declining efficacy of tactics centred on labour rights, and political party associations and alignments (Hyman and Gumbrell-McCormick 2010). These new strategic choices, in turn, have implications for relationships between unions and political parties; particularly, the sustainability of relationships based on maintaining a balance between the potentially contradictory strategies of external and internal lobbying. This chapter discusses four bodies of scholarly literature that are relevant to various aspects of the national unions-ALP relationship. The first is concerned with the question of union decline and its consequences for unions-party relationships. The second is concerned with party type change and its relationship to ideology. The third is concerned with types of unions-party relationships; the possibility of these relationships moving from the social democratic type to the pressure group type; and, the causal link between unions- party relationship type and political behaviour. In addition, particular attention is given to the importance of dependence and independence in these relationships. Finally, the political content of union revitalisation strategies is considered. These strategies are strongly associated with the pressure group type relationship and place a strong emphasis on the political independence of unions.


2. Union decline and de-linking

The starting point for any discussion of changes in unions-party relationships is the significant decline in membership and density experienced by unions in most Western countries in recent decades. The decline of unions is a well-documented and often told story (Bearfield 2003, Manning 1992, Peetz 1998, Peetz, Pocock and Houghton 2007, Peetz and Pocock 2009, Perry 2007, Tattersall 2007, Terry 2003, Waddington and Kerr 2009). In these discussions, union density has become a commonly used proxy for union power or strength (Dow and Lafferty 2007:564, Vernon 2006:191), with union density declines being accompanied by falls in union power and resources (Quinn 2010: 368, Peetz and Pocock 2009:623, 627, Upchurch, Taylor and Mathers 2009:520). Some scholars have argued that declines in union density do not necessarily lead to declines in union political power, although they do force changes in union political strategies (Dark 2001). Hyman and Gumbrell-McCormick (2010:327) have also argued that political influence is a function - as both cause and effect - of union vitality, opening the way to the possibility that more active unionism through the embrace of social movement, community and coalition unionism might offset some of the loss of power resources resulting from lower rates of unionisation. In the absence of new strategies, union density declines might bring into question the viability of unions as political actors (Hyman and Gumbrell-McCormick 2010:320). One notable indicator of this decline in political power caused by lower union densities is the incentive it is argued to have created for social democratic parties to seek additional support among business, expanding middle classes and other social groupings (Howell 2000:206, Leigh 2006), and for their parliamentary representatives to pursue greater policy flexibility (Quinn 2010:357). The weakening of links between unions and parties resulting from density declines has been argued to facilitate the autonomy of parliamentary leaderships, particularly in the adoption of neo-liberal policies (Schulman 2009:13) and to have hastened the decline of Keynesian era policy frameworks such as the US New Deal (Cowie and Salvatore 2008:5).


The causal connections between union density and political effectiveness are not necessarily linear. Looking at the relationship between American unions and Democrats at the federal level, Dark (2001: 1, 29) challenged the conventional view that declining union representation of the workforce has led to a commensurate decline in union political power. Dark contends that we need to look at union political bargaining to assess the extent of union political power, and not rely on proxies like union density. Based on an examination of the relationships and influence of unions during three Democrat presidential administrations (Johnson, Carter and Clinton), Dark argues that there is a remarkable degree of continuity in labors role in US national politics (2001: 2) and a demonstrated capacity by unions to adapt to changed circumstances (2001: 13). Dark argued that American unions successfully replaced labour rights with political campaigning; and, being highly effective political bargainers and the nations largest interest group, the political power of unions did not decline to the extent that would be expected if union political power was a simple product of union density. Scholars have also recognised that union decline has varied greatly in its size, nature and impact across countries (Frege and Kelly 2003:8, Hyman and Gumbrell-McCormick 2010:316), with the impact of globalisation on unions being less severe in many Western European countries than in the UK, USA, Australia and NZ. In fact, Australia may have experienced sharper falls in union densities than most other countries (Sadler and Fagan 2004: 32), though Dreher and Gaston (2007:167) suggest a stronger fall in the UK than in Australia. Union density is the proportion of union members in the overall workforce. It is usually considered a more reliable indicator of union power than raw membership numbers because union density is more suggestive of the relevance of unionism to the broader population. Density, however, is not necessarily a fully accurate indicator of public support for unions and unionism. Free riding and unsatisfied demand for union services can result in union density levels that under-report the level of support for unionism. Bearfield (2003), in a survey of employee attitudes to unionism conducted for UnionsNSW, the NSW peak union 21

organisation, found that about 50 per cent of employees would prefer to be in a union, and that the main reasons for not joining a union were inertia or indifference rather than ideological opposition. Some scholars in North America (Lipset and Meltz 2004) and Australia (Perry 2007) have pointed to an inverse relationship between union density levels and levels of industrial action, and public support for unionism. In this relationship low union density levels, and therefore a low incidence of industrial action, are associated with significantly higher levels of public support for unionism. This suggests that it is the disruption of industrial action that causes adverse public perceptions rather than unionism itself. For this reason perhaps, severe restrictions on strike action introduced by conservative governments tend to be wholly, or partially, retained by the labour governments that replace them (Piazza 2001:415). The sharp fall in industrial disputation levels in recent years (Bramble 2008, Perry 2007) may be a sign of union decline, but the withdrawal of labour rights through changes in industrial legislation does not necessarily mean a commensurate decline in public support for unionism. Sympathy for unions in Australia may have been increasing even as membership has dropped (Peetz and Bailey 2010:3). Peetz and Bailey (2010:5) have argued that during earlier periods of high union density levels the public legitimacy of Australian unions was amongst the lowest in Western countries, another pointer to the often paradoxical relationship between union membership and public support for unionism. Nevertheless, with these qualifications in mind, union density is the best available indicator of the level of workforce support for unionism. In the 1970s and 1980s, Australia had one of the highest union densities in the capitalist world, after Scandinavia, Belgium and Austria (Frankel 1997:9). Union membership and union density had been in steady decline in Australia since peaking in either 1948 (Bowden 2011:51) or 1954 (Markey 2008:80), before it fell far more sharply in the 1990s. Between 1986 and 2008, union density fell from 45.6 per cent to 18.9 per cent. Absolute membership fell from a peak of 2.7 million in 1990 to 1.7 million in 2008 (Bowden 2011:70). Australian unions lost 620,000 members, almost a quarter of their membership in an eight-year period in the 1990s (Muir


and Peetz 2010:215). Union density had not fallen below 40 per cent between 1913 and 1992, and typically had been much higher (Bowden 2011:51). In areas of blue collar employment the union density figure was closer to 75 per cent at its peak levels in the 1950s (Bramble and Kuhn 2009:284), and the blue collar working class consistently made up two-thirds of the workforce between the 1890s and the 1950s (Bowden 2011:52). Membership loss has largely plateaued since the 1990s, but density continues to fall (Peetz and Bailey 2010:9). Several reasons have been advanced for these marked declines in union density in the last decades of the twentieth century. Union density decline has been attributed to globalisation, economic restructuring, casualisation, government policy changes, more hostile employer attitudes and poor organising by unions themselves (Peetz 1998, Rachleff 2006:458, Teicher et. al., 2007:126, Frege and Kelly 2003:8). Density decline may also be a self-fulfilling process, with weaker, less activist, unions being less attractive to potential and existing members (Bramble 2008, Terry 2003). Muir (2008:9) argues that a contributing factor in union decline in the 1980s, and up until the mid 1990s, was the pre-occupation of Australias union leadership with the process of structural adjustment (union amalgamations) and strategic unionism, leading them to place a lower emphasis on recruiting and organising members. The most important reason for union density decline for the present discussion is the economic change processes that resulted in a sharp fall in industrial, or blue- collar, unionism (Bowden 2011). Blue-collar unions constitute the majority of the unions affiliated to the ALP. By some estimates, about 30 per cent of the decline in union membership in the 1990s was due to the changing nature and distribution of employment, including from the decline in the manufacturing sector where union membership had been traditionally high (Muir 2008:9). Bowden argues that mechanisation was the main reason for the decline in blue- collar unionism, but notes that policies of the Hawke and Keating Government also played a significant part (Bowden 2011:66). The most important policies in this connection were tariff reduction, enterprise bargaining and privatisation (Bowden 2011). Related to the fall in blue-collar unionism has been the relative 23

growth in importance of professional and public sector unions. Throughout Western Europe, public sector unions now represent majorities of unionised workers (Hyman and Gumbrell-McCormick 2010:317). This pattern has been repeated in Australia. By 1981 white-collar workers made up almost 40 per cent of the workforce compared to 28 per cent in 1969 (Bowden 2011:67). Bearfield (2003) found that more highly qualified employees (i.e. in terms of educational attainment) were more likely to hold positive views about unions, and that employees with lower or no formal qualifications were more likely to think Australia would be better off without unions. At the same time as blue-collar unionism was declining, the ALP branches were starting to attract white-collar members in the late 1940s (Markey 2008:79), and with his election to federal Deputy Leader in 1960, Whitlam set out to attract more white collar workers to the ranks of the ALP. During the 1960s, the ALP began to draw increasing numbers of teachers and other tertiary educated professionals. In a study of Victorian ALP local branches, Ward (1988) found that by 1981 blue- collar workers comprised just over one-quarter (27.3%) of employed branch members. The ALP now had a traditional blue-collar union base and a largely white-collar and professional branch membership. De-linking, or the separation, of unions and parties is commonly argued to be the ultimate consequence of declining union densities (Piazza 2001, Quinn 2010). De-linkage has occurred in Sweden, Norway and Denmark (Aylott 2003, Hyman and Gumbrell-McCormick 2010:323, Quinn 2010:357). Many social democratic parties with close union ties have undertaken internal organisational reforms to reduce or remove union influence. The ALP provided an example of this process by reducing direct union representation in its state conferences to a nationally consistent 50 per cent in 2003 (ALP 2009). According to some scholars, de- linking can include an intermediate stage where unions become externalised as interest groups. For instance, Lavelle (2010:55) has argued: unions remain important but are now expected to lobby their government just like any other interest group in a pluralist society.


Piazza (2001:413) described as conventional wisdom the idea that globalisation has prompted de-linking of social democratic parties and unions. Piazza (2001) surveyed 16 countries (including Australia) and found a causal relationship between globalisation, union decline and de-linking of social democratic party electoral success from movements in union densities. This research suggested that after globalisation, social democratic parties were no longer dependent on a highly unionised workforce to achieve electoral success. After 1980, Piazza argued, these parties could win elections without the support of strong unions. Many scholars have argued that the links between political parties and unions in Western Europe have been in decline over recent decades (Howell 2000:201, Moschonas 2002:319, Rueda 2007:2) and that unions-party relationships in Western Europe have without exception, weakened and soured (Howell 2000:201). Howell (2000:201) described the changed relationship between left parties and organised labour as the central element in the transformation of European social democracy since the end of the 1970s. In addition, scholars have identified weakening links in unions-party relationships as a feature of transitions from old to new Labour, or in the U.S. context, the transition to New Democrat (Pierson and Castles 2002). These transitions are said to involve less enthusiasm for providing support for trade union activity by their aligned parties (Dark 2001:13, Griffin, Nyland and ORourke 2004:90); a reduction in the electoral benefit of union membership (Goot and Watson 2007:270, Leigh 2006); and, a continuation of neo-liberalism with concessions to unionism (Smith and Morton 2006) leading to a new consensus between the main political parties around industrial relations (Howell, 2005:193) which is less favourable to trade unions and to workers. Terry (2003) argued that neo-liberalism is embedded within New Labours view of the labour market and that collectivism was re-legitimised under the Blair Government (1997-2007), but only on the basis that it was not in conflict with competitiveness. Howell (2000:201) also argued that the changed relationship


between parties and unions resulting from this hostility has involved an emasculation of the political role of the union wing of the labour movement. Some scholars have suggested that the weakening of links between unions and parties may be irreversible. Lavelle (2010:55), for instance, has argued that a degree of permanency about the situation has now set in around the current rift and distance between unions and the ALP. Despite declines in densities, unions can still mobilise significant community support (Dow and Lafferty 2007:552). Some scholars have pointed out that unions remain powerful interest groups, frequently the largest of any national interest groups, and that they can deploy substantial financial and organisational resources (Benyon 2003:73), including in Australia (Muir 2008:10). Dark (2002) pointed out that even at dramatically lower union density levels, the union movement is still by far the largest and best resourced social grouping in the USA (Dark 2002). Moreover, membership numbers are not the same as influence in politics. There are many examples of interest groups exercising political influence that is disproportionate to their membership size (Dark 2001). Murray and Peetz (2010) examine a dazzling array of business think tanks and interest groups in Australia that have been highly influential with very small memberships; including the Business Council of Australia (BCA), Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) and the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS). In addition, Vernon (2006:191) points out that not all union members are equal, much depends on whether the members are activists (as they mainly are in France) or motivated by access to welfare state benefits (as they are in many European countries). A smaller, highly motivated and well-resourced union movement might be more significant than a larger movement whose membership size relies on various forms of state encouragement (including closed shop arrangements). Peetz (1998:175) argued that a paradigm shift in the determinants of union membership was significant in sharply reduced densities, and the most important aspect of this paradigm shift was the collapse of compulsory unionism, caused by the actions of employers and governments. This analysis suggests that the Australian union movement may have retained more of its active membership than its total membership.


Union density declines have had profound effects on the relationships between unions and social democratic parties. They have resulted in declines in union power resources and influence, weakened the links between unions and parties, and prompted a search for alternate, or supplementary, strategies by unions to offset these effects. Nevertheless, the decline and de-linking story is not a simple one and unions retain significant political resources.

3. Party type and individualism

Weakening links and deinstitutionalisation in the social democratic type of unions-party relationship can be seen through a number of changing characteristics; these include greater autonomy of the parliamentary party and a move away from collectivist ideology. The contemporary ALP exhibits both these characteristics. In their original form, labour parties are a special example of mass parties (Miller 2010). Archer (2007) defined labour parties as parties that attribute a uniquely privileged position in their ideologies to workers and make the pursuit of workers interests their prime objective, as well as embracing the symbolism of the workers party as their self-identity. Similarly, the organisational structures of labour parties give a privileged position to trade unions (Archer 2007:4, Schulman 2009:3). These descriptions, however, are subject to important qualifications. The relationship between unions and parties can be weakly or strongly institutionalised, but there is always some element of separation in terms of organisational structure, personnel and policy objectives. During the twentieth century, Scandinavia provided examples of particularly close unions- party integration. In Denmark, for instance, the social democratic party and the peak union organisation provided representatives for each others executive bodies (Hyman and Gumbrell 2010:323). Nevertheless, the unions-party relationships were not comprehensive. Scandinavian social democratic parties had close links with federations representing blue-collar unions and not with smaller, but growing, peak organisations representing professional and white-


collar unions and the efforts of these parties to broaden their electoral support by appealing to the latter organisations that represent non-affiliated unions was a significant source of conflict in the relationships between affiliated union organisations and social democratic parties (Hyman and Gumbrell 2010:323). Labour parties are typically comprised of both branch members organised according to geographical location and electoral boundaries and direct union representation in governing bodies (e.g. state conferences and executives). This bifurcated organisational structure has been a source of internal conflict in the ALP since the 1890s (Cavalier 2010). In addition, unions rarely act as a bloc within labour parties and tend to divide along factional lines (Minkin 1992). Institutionalisation is always a relative and contingent concept in unions-party relationships and the potential for fraternal conflict is ever present. The ALP can also be considered to share aspects of Kirchheimers catch-all party type (1966). Catch-all parties moderate ideological commitments, avoid divisive issues and seek to add new constituencies to their base (Parkin and Warhurst 2000:3637, Smith 2009). The federal ALPs parliamentary party has exhibited these catch-all tendencies, in varying degrees, from its earliest days (Bowden 2011:59, Patmore and Coates 2005), including through the White Australia policy (Markey 2008:84). A catch-all approach was made all the more necessary because unions were unable to even deliver all their own members as votes for Labor (Patmore and Coates 2005). In addition, scholars have argued that the ALP moved even more decisively towards the catch-all model under Whitlams leadership (Manning 1992:14-15) and over recent decades more generally (Charnock 2007:596). Former federal ALP leader H. V. Evatt (1951 - 60) provided a classic account of how, from its earliest days, and ahead of other labour parties, the ALP placed a higher priority on electoral success, a classic concern of catch-all parties, than on the promotion of an ideology, a common feature of mass parties.


Following successful period as a minor party swapping votes in Parliament for policy concessions4, the ALPs ambitions grew: Its new resolve was to obtain a clear popular majority and to hold office as a Government, but this bolder policy sometimes involved the sacrifice of principle to expediency. Thus the doctrine of gradualism was embraced in Australia long before the name acquired a general currency in England. In this way socialist objectives were thrust into the background and emphasis was placed on the fighting platform, consisting mainly of liberal, radical or reformist proposals that appealed to ever-widening circles, including the Irish Catholic and Australian Nationalist groups. - Evatt (1954:2) The ALP, nevertheless, retains some key characteristics of mass parties. In particular, it has rules and strategies designed to limit the autonomy of the partys parliamentarians. These rules and strategies include the policy-making authority of state and national conferences, the parliamentary caucus system (which requires MPs to vote according to majority decisions), and the pledge that MPs take when accepting selection to run for public office as an ALP candidate (Childe 1923), sometimes referred to as the tyranny of the pledge (Macintyre 2001:29). The pledge essentially requires ALP parliamentarians to accept the policy-making authority of party conferences and the discipline of the caucus system. Failure to comply can, and has, resulted in the expulsion of ALP MPs and, during the conscription split of 1916, a prime minister, Hughes, and a NSW premier, Holman (Evatt 1954). Although the use of these rules and strategies has been less in evidence in recent decades, they can still have potency in disputes between Labors parliamentary parties and affiliated unions. The issue of the pledge surfaced recently during the NSW ALPs dispute over electricity privatisation when the policy-making authority of State Conference was enforced and led directly to the destruction of the premiership of Morris Iemma (Cavalier 2010).
4 The votes for concessions strategy according to Childe (1923) was borrowed following

the considerable success of Charles Stewart Parnell, the legendary Irish leader, in Westminster in the late nineteenth century.


Panebianco (1988: 265) argued that political parties adapt and evolve in response to external challenges. Panebianco argued that mass bureaucratic parties would transition to this new type under pressure from two external factors. The first challenge was a consequence of changes in social stratification, including reductions in the manual workforce and growth in the tertiary sector. Clear evidence of the existence of this challenge in Australia was presented above in the section on union decline. The second source of external pressure, according to Panebianco, came from changes in political communication (e.g. television). The electoral professional party type included a greater role for professionals, a focus on the partys parliamentary representatives (rather than its organisational wing), and a focus on issues like leadership rather than ideology. A transition from mass bureaucratic to electoral professional type requires a weakening of vertical ties between party and unions and deinstitutionalisation of the relationship. Panebianco (1988) argued that highly institutionalised parties find it more difficult to adapt or evolve than more weakly institutionalised parties. Panebianco essentially equates institutionalisation with bureaucracy, and with the processes, structures, and practices that make a party different to a movement and which become things of value in themselves. This point is of particular relevance to this thesis and in Chapter 4, I argue that the greater looseness in the structures of the national unions-ALP relationship facilitated the ACTUs decision to pursue union revitalisation strategies and, later, influenced the design and conduct of the YR@W campaign. Ideology distinguishes labour parties from other social democratic parties. Ideology is a feature of mass parties (Panebianco 1988:264), yet labour parties as trade union parties need have no ideological base beyond a belief in collective workplace action (unionism) and practical improvements in the lives of working people. Duverger (1964:xxx) observed that parties created by trade unions tend to be less ideological than socialist parties proper. In Europe, unions have been affiliated with parties with disparate ideological leanings: social democratic, socialist, communist and Christian. Contemporary European observers often commented on the absence of a strong socialist purpose in the early ALP (Frankel 30

1997). Scholars generally described the ALPs ideology as labourist, the idea that labour movement objectives could be achieved by a strong union movement backed by a robust ALP in parliament (Manning 1992:14, Markey 2008:82-83, Schulman 2009:11). A socialisation objective was finally adopted by the federal ALP in 1921, but had minimal impact on the policies pursued subsequently by successive leaderships of the FPLP (Catley 2005:99), and was mostly a symbolic rallying call (Markey 2008:85). Patmore and Coates (2005), for instance, have argued that Chifleys attempts at bank nationalisation were based more on a desire to retain tight control on the economy than a commitment to nationalisation. That is, a pragmatic response to an immediate problem, not unlike Whitlams 25 per cent across the board tariff cut made a quarter of a century later to address an inflation problem (Whitlam 1985). Many of the first speeches of ALP MPs after the 2007 election equated collectivism with the Australian value of the fair go (see Chapter 7). Despite this pragmatic endorsement of collectivism, the ALP has adopted an individualistic approach, and an aversion to making electoral appeals based on the ideologically more divisive notions of class or social grouping. A continuing move towards individualism5 allows the ALP to treat unions as pressure groups, advocating for the interests of their members, rather than as representatives of a broader working class. A move from a collectivist to an individualist focus is also consistent with the proposition that the ALP is affirming the electoral professional model, not by de-emphasising all ideology, but by de-emphasising ideologies that served to bind unions and the ALP together. The ALPs preference for individualism is electorally driven. When the ACTU undertook the initial focus groups for its YR@W campaign it found that the individualism of individual rights tested strongly. Peter Lewis (2009), a principal with the ACTUs marketing

5 Individualism is not entirely new in the rhetoric of federal ALP leaders particularly from

Whitlam onwards, the point here is that individualism is far more prominent and ubiquitous than in the past, and is also a reflection of voter attitudes, including among union members.


consultants EMC6, recounted that focus group participants immediately responded to the proposals that became WorkChoices with a concern that they are taking away our rights. Lewis (2009) notes that a campaign based around your rights was counter-intuitive for a movement long defined by its commitment to collectivism. This episode suggests the political salience of individualism in contemporary Australia and points to a deeper dilemma for unions opting for the use of citizen rights, which stress individualism rather than collectivism. It also highlights a key problem for union movements because flexible responses to neo-liberalism can undermine the collectivism on which union power resources are built (Briggs 2004:253). The ideology of individualism is strongly associated with neo-liberalism (Murray and Peetz 2010:230-235); it emphasises opportunities and personal choice rather than the more collectivist ideas associated with equality and the advancement of particular classes and social groupings. Following the end of the Cold War, ALP ideology has settled into support for some general, uncontroversial values centred on individualist ideals not dissimilar to the powerful allure of individual rights in American culture (Cowie and Salvatore 2008:21) that has limited the political role of the American union movement in recent decades especially during and following the Reagan presidency (198088) which heralded the arrival of the New Right (Cowie and Salvatore 2008:24). A review of first speeches by newly elected federal ALP MPs following the 2007 election, conducted for this thesis, revealed a preference for the language of opportunities and fairness for individuals rather than a more collectivist concern for reducing inequality of outcomes. A fuller discussion of the content of these speeches is included in Chapter 7. In two major speeches on ALP philosophy, ideology and culture given by Prime Minister Gillard in 2011 (Gillard 2011a, 2011b) equality was replaced by the pursuit of opportunities for all7 and Gillard has moved to

6 Essential Media Communications (EMC) see Ellem,

Oxenbridge and Gahan (2008 33:34) for a description of the role of EMC in the YR@W campaign. 7 This is a more individualist formulation than Whitlams earlier appeal to equality of opportunities.


explicitly temper the ALPs collectivist past with a more individualist present. The words equality and inequality are not mentioned in either speech and the word unions is mentioned once in the first speech and twice in the second speech. Gillards campaign speech in 2010 also made no mention of equality and inequality. By way of comparison, Whitlams famous policy speech delivered on 13 November 1972 (Whitlam 1972) mentioned equality 17 times, inequality 7 times and inequalities 5 times. In the second of Gillards 2011 speeches on the contemporary ALP, an address to the Chifley Research Centre in September 2011 (Gillard 2011b), Gillard sought to reconcile collectivism with individualism: Today our ethos of collective action must respond to individual needs and demands for choice and control. In the first of these speeches, an address to the Whitlam Institute (2011a) in April 2011, Gillard gave this fairly anemic account of the relationship between unions and the ALP. It reads more like a modern, corporate celebration of the merits of teamwork than a commitment to the collectivism of the past: Labor culture values the strength that comes from working as a team and supports the role of unions in ensuring working people succeed together and that their work is recognised, rewarded and appreciated. This is the best self to which Labor must always be true. Similarly, in 2009, then Prime Minister Rudd published a 7,700-word essay, The Global Financial Crisis, (Rudd 2009), on his interpretation of social democracy without discussing unions or unionism. Rudd did, however, mention equality (twice) and inequality (twice). Rudds essay also contains the relatively strong, by contemporary ALP standards, ideologically collectivist argument: The social- democratic pursuit of social justice is founded on a belief in the self-evident value of equality. This individualisation of ALP ideology is consistent with the emergence of a post- materialist culture that has resulted in a diminished concern with a class analysis of social and political concerns. Individualism is an ideological challenge to social


democracy (Cowie and Salvatore 2008, Gould 2010), but it may also be a major means by which unions are affected by globalisation, including through the unions-party de-linking processes discussed in the previous section. Scruggs and Lange (2002), using a nuanced multivariate analysis, argued that the impact of globalisation on unions and social policy outcomes is mediated through national institutions. Overall, they found that economic globalisation had insignificant effects on union membership trends. Dreher and Gaston (2007) reported that recent studies, including their own, confirmed this finding. Dreher and Gaston (2007), however, found that social globalisation, a concept that refers to the flow of culture and information, does have a significant impact on union membership levels. In this context, social globalisation can also mean americanisation or the tendency of labour market institutions in non-US countries to converge with the non-unionised deregulated US model (Dreher and Gaston 2007:74, Gould 2010). The trend in the ALP from collectivism to individualism is significant in this context. Although the Rudd-Gillard Fair Work Act provides for collective bargaining, a key ACTU objective, it embeds a far more individualist ideology than was present in Australias arbitration system in the past. This embedding of individualism in the industrial relations system is consistent with neo-liberalism rather than the granting of categorical power to labour that characterises social democratic types (Gentile and Tarrow 2009). This more recent focus on individual, rather than collective outcomes, is evidence of a widening gap, and weakening links, between the ALP and the union movement, as the former transitions further away from the mass party type. The move from collectivist ideology to the more inclusive, individualist rhetoric associated with pressure group type relationships is an important step for the ALP in its efforts to engage with a broader range of like-minded community organisations (ALP 2010).


4. Relationship type and political behaviour

Studies of labour movements that focus on political exchanges between unions and parties are rare (McIlroy 1998:537), yet such studies can offer important insights into the political behaviour of both unions and parties. The changes in the national unions-ALP relationship can be understood in the context of typologies that categorise unions-party relationships according to their degree and type of organisational integration. These typologies distinguish between social democratic and pressure group types. The definition of social democratic in this context includes labour parties. In social democratic type relationships, unions have direct representation in the internal forums of the party (i.e. they are affiliated). In the pressure group type, there is no direct representation in internal forums and the unions-party relationship is weaker and subject to continuous bargaining. Later in this chapter, two key relationship principles, covering both relationship types, are identified and discussed; they are organisational integration and policy confluence. The use of these typologies provides a connection between the concern with weakening links in the literature on party types discussed in the previous section and the strategic choices made by unions about repertoires of contention discussed in the next section. Unions in social democratic type relationships prefer internal lobbying; unions in pressure group type relationships rely on external lobbying. Unions-party relationship types vary significantly and these variances become important in transitions from the mass party model towards catch-all, electoral professional and cartel party models (Gunther and Diamond 2001, Katz and Mair 1995, Miller 2010). The key variances in unions-party relationship types relate to the degree of institutionalisation of the links between unions and parties. Institutionalisation in turn describes patterns of affiliation, and the internal party influence of unions more broadly, particularly through key functions like policy development and public office candidate selection. Weaker institutionalisation within the mass party type creates more scope for unions to adopt independent political action in the form of external lobbying. Following Panebianco (1988),


who argued that institutionalisation creates value, we would expect unions to place a higher value on their links with political parties where those links are more strongly institutionalised. Scholars have identified important commonalities and differences in unions-party relationships across different nations, particularly in relation to organisational arrangements and ideology. This literature is mostly concerned with the decline of social democracy and, commensurately, with the decline of union political influence inside unions-party relationships. Earlier scholars (1990s) responded to the questions of whether unions-party relationships change their character in response to changed circumstances (Valenzuela 1992), or can even be expected to come apart completely (Minkin 1992); and, whether unions-party relationships vary in meaningful, and predictable, ways between countries (Valenzuela 1992). Later scholars (Ludlam, Bodah and Coates 2002) have modified the Valenzuela (1992) typology to examine the impact of neo-liberalism and union decline on unions-party relationships. Relationship benefits Lewis Minkin (1992) argued in his comprehensive examination of the history of the relationship between trade unions and the British Labour Party (BLP): this is a relationship which, contrary to much mythology, is becoming more not less integrated (1992:658). Using a cost benefit approach to analyse the relationship, Minkin emphasised its resilience and argued that we shouldnt focus on current tensions, but rather look at how the inevitable stresses and strains have been managed successfully in the past, even at times when the disputes seemed much more disruptive than contemporary problems. Simply put, the benefits continue to outweigh the costs for both sides of the relationship. This is a useful way of thinking about these relationships; it highlights the historical reality that unions established labour parties to secure particular benefits, notably legislative protections for employee organisations and to establish a right to collective bargaining. In return, the BLP was heavily dependent on unions for funding and other support during election campaigns. Despite the controversies and fraternal


battles that seem endemic in unions-party relationships, this exchange of benefits creates an underlying rationale that was powerful enough to hold the relationship together. Writing before the electoral triumph of New Labour, Minkin gave little indication that he could conceive of a time when the costs might outweigh the benefits for either side. In addition, a cost benefit analysis that focuses on the outcomes for each side separately misses the impact on a unions-party relationship of a growing imbalance in the importance of those benefits and costs. That is where both sides still derive a net benefit from the relationship, but the net benefit becomes much less important for one side. In Chapter 8, I argue that growing asymmetry in the value of benefits from the relationship is the problem rather than a simple calculation of net benefit. Relationship structure Costs and benefits are important context and heavily influence the resilience and longevity of unions-party relationships, but it is the relationship structure that provides the crucial causal link between relationship type and union political behaviour. The structure of the relationship is similar to the institutionalisation described by Panebianco (1988), and covers the rules, processes and culture that govern the party, but in labour parties this institutionalisation develops from a relationship created by union affiliation. Understanding the structure of a unions- party relationship requires a fairly granular understanding of affiliation. It also requires some way of categorising the important components or dimensions unions-party relationships. Three notable contributions to this task are reviewed here: Ludlam, Bodah and Coates 2002, Minkin 1992, Valenzuela 1992. Minkin (1992) used four criteria to analyse the unions-party relationship: ideology, interests, social affinity and strategic convergence. Minkin interprets ideology broadly, pointing out that the labour movement has always been factionalised and has embraced a wide spectrum of ideological perspectives. At the outset, the minimum position was that labour should be represented independently of capital or employer interests in parliament (1992: 9) and that there would be a pursuit of trade union principles and ideals, which primarily


meant an equitable distribution of income, by Labours parliamentary representatives (1992:10). The interests criterion covers the unions basic interest in ensuring that legislation affords a degree of protection for union activity, particularly for the principle of collective bargaining (1992:11-13). By social affinity, Minkin means that union leaders and labour parliamentarians share similar social backgrounds and life experiences (1992:13-15), he notes that differences between blue collar union leaders and Oxbridge parliamentary representatives has often been a source of friction8. The last criterion, strategic convergence (1992:15), refers to the fact that unions and the Labour Party have different institutional roles to play and different strategic choices to make. Unions, according to Minkin, can use their industrial strength to press their claims or they can negotiate political outcomes; on the other hand, with electoral success in mind, the Party can emphasise its class character and its links with unions or it can distance itself and pursue a broader appeal (1992: 15, 16). Interestingly, in the context of the discussion about party type in the previous section, this suggests that the Labour Party can switch between mass and catch-all party types according to prevailing electoral circumstances. Minkins analysis suggests a robustness and flexibility in the relationship that has probably dissipated under the influence of union decline and neo-liberalism. For instance, no one today would argue that the ALP or the BLP represents the labour interest independently of the employer interest. As one ALP MP interviewee (Current federal MP 19) put it in a typical expression of the contemporary political approach of ALP politicians: you cant ignore the union movement. Same as you cant ignore business, see McIlroy (1998:544) for parallel comments by the BLP leadership. Working at the same time as Minkin, Valenzuela (1992) was concerned to understand why different unions-party relationships are associated with different national political cultures. Valenzuelas interest in the connection between
8 I tested the possibility of a similar divide in the Australian context with some

interviewees, but found no evidence of a contemporary parallel. One union interviewee pointed out that just about every senior Australian union official has a university degree, the main exception being Paul Howes (AWU). Hawke (1994) recalled how his university education was a mark against him in the ACTU in the 1970s. 9 An explanation of interviewees and these descriptors is included in the next chapter.


relationship type and political behaviour made his typology useful to later scholars seeking to understand transitions to New Labour and New Democrat (Ludlam, Bodah and Coates 2002, McIlroy 1998, 2008). Valenzuela (1992), a Chilean scholar working at the University of Notre Dame in the USA, was one of a group of scholars who were concerned with national transitions into and out of democracy (Fukuyama 2011). Their interest was sparked by transitions to democracy in South America and Europe (Greece, Portugal) in the 1980s and 1990s. Valenzuelas interest was the primary impact on national union movements of these transitions, and the impact those union movements might have on the character and stability of these new democracies. Duverger (1964) argued that the origins of parties were pervasive and explanatory. According to Duverger (1964:xxxv): the whole life of the party bears the mark of its origin; and, while differences between parties cannot be wholly explained by dissimilar origins nevertheless their influence is incontestable (1964xxxvi). Valenzuela (1992) argued that the circumstances of their creation have an enormous and lasting impact on the character of unions- party relationships. Valenzuela used a typology with five forms: social democratic, pressure group, contestatory, confrontationist, and state-sponsored. The contestatory category refers to countries where the labour movement is split along ideological, religious, or other, lines. The confrontationist and state- sponsored types are found in countries where there are authoritarian regimes. The first two of these types are, however, relevant to this discussion; the social democratic type in which unions link up to form basically one national organisation that in turn connects itself with a single, relatively strong party (1992:55) and the pressure group form in which unions link themselves with a pre-existing party or fragments of it (1992:55). Pressure group type links are much looser and less formal than they are in the social democratic type. Valenzuela (1992) argued that because unions in countries with social democratic type unions-party relationships were able to achieve a high-level of consolidation early in their histories, through direct employer negotiations, their leaders, and those of the parties they aligned with, adopted a moderate socialist viewpoint 39

with an incremental and reformist style of political action (1992: 69). Valenzuela also argued that the close links between unions and parties in the social democratic type, together with this moderate and reformist style, lends itself to the development of corporatism in democratic societies (1992:69), although these corporatist projects are unstable where unions are decentralised, as they are in Great Britain (1992: 70). Valenzuela (1992) didnt consider Australia or New Zealand. The importance of arbitration to unions and to unions-party relationships in these countries, up until the 1990s, has been used by scholars to distinguish Antipodean corporatism from its UK and Scandinavian counterparts (Gentile and Tarrow 2009:481). Arbitration was also important to the development of a labourist ideology in Australia (Bowden 2011:60), and in this context we can see labourism (Manning 1992:14, Markey 2008:82-83, Schulman 2009:11) as a form of the corporatism Valenzuela anticipated in social democratic type relationships. Valenzuelas focus on the political and other circumstances of the formation of unions and party relationships causes him to distinguish the weaker forms of corporatism in Australia, New Zealand and the UK where pre-existing unions created a labour party and the stronger forms found in Scandinavia where the party was involved in developing a union movement and Germany where the modern unions-party relationship was complicated by the re-creation of the West German state following the end of the Second World War. Valenzuelas pressure group type is based on the experience of the USA (1992: 77). Valenzuela argued that during the 1960s the relationship between American unions and the Democratic Party came to resemble the relationship between the BLP and unions during the same period. Nevertheless, he argues, the lack of a formal, organisational link remains an important and distinguishing difference. This link is formed by the affiliation of unions to the party, which results in the direct representation of unions inside key party forums dealing with policy development and the selection of candidates for parliamentary office. American unions must always exchange electoral support for individual candidates for their promises of support for union causes at the legislative and governmental 40

level (1992:78). In Britain, Valenzuela argues, unions can pretty much take it for granted that Labour members of parliament will vote for the option most favourable for unions amongst those options under consideration (1992:78). American unions are more involved in the election process through campaigning, while British unions are more reliant on their internal influence and more dependent on the BLP to deliver political outcomes. The organisational link, or its absence, therefore, is highly significant in shaping the political behaviour of unions. Scholars in Britain largely ignored the specific nature and internal dynamics of relationships between social democratic parties and unions until the rise of New Labour and its embrace of neo-liberalism (Ludlam, Bodah and Coates 2002). Up until the 1980s, these relationships, although often controversial and contentious (Minkin 1992), were nevertheless seen to be unremarkable, or natural, and requiring little theoretical explanation. Although useful, Valenzuelas typology and his insistence on the permanent influence of original relationship arrangements made his analysis problematic in the context of growing asymmetry in benefit exchanges between unions and parties as those parties increasingly adopted neo-liberal policy stances that undermined, or accompanied a decline in, union power in the workplace. Valenzuelas framework does not easily encompass a situation where unions stay in a social democratic relationship even though their influence inside the party has declined sharply and, there is little prospect of a reversal. McIlroy (1998) argued that Valenzuelas analysis (1992) pays little attention to the dynamics of contemporary economic re-structuring and its impact on unions-party relationships (1998:538). McIlroys argument is that Valenzuelas typological approach is not fully applicable in a neo-liberal era. Using Valenzuelas typology, McIlroy (1998:559) argued that the relationship between the BLP and British unions under Tony Blair and New Labour was pushed from social democratic to pressure group, from unique intimacy to arms-length organisational relationships (1998:559) although the essential structure of the relationship remained the same. McIlroy (1998:559) argued that unions-party relationships 41

can change type from social democratic to pressure group without actually severing the institutional link. In practice, this means that affiliation, or institutionalisation in Panebiancos usage, is no longer sufficient. Under neo- liberalism, unions can no longer rely on the partys parliamentary representatives to choose the most union-friendly of available options. Affiliation remains but has lost much of its capacity to deliver symmetrical political exchanges between unions and parties. Ludlam, Bodah and Coates (2002) built upon the work of Valenzuela (1992) and McIlroy (1998) to compare unions-party linkages in the UK and USA and provide an explanation of the transitions to New Labour and New Democrat in those countries. Ludlam, Bodah and Coates (2002) argued that New Labour is a relationship form characterised by retained formal organisational links with diminished policy influence. They sought to adapt the Valenzuela typology to make it more useful in understanding the longitudinal nature of unions-party relationships. Their typology is based around what they see as the two universal dimensions of the unions-party relationship: organisational integration and policy-making influence. Their typology has four forms: an external lobbying model, where unions and parties have no formal organisational integration of any kind, and unions have little or no policy-making influence; an internal lobbying model, where there is little or no formal organisational integration, but unions enjoy special status or bring special expertise into party policy-making; a union party bonding model, where the special status of unions results in important and guaranteed governmental positions within the partys organisational structure, but not in domination of party policy-making; and a union dominance model, where unions occupy governmental positions within party decision-making structures, and also are able to dominate the direction of party policy-making. Ludlam, Bodah and Coates (2002) used three categories (organisation, program and personal) to organise the data they used to compare unions-party relationships. Using their typology, Ludlam, Bodah and Coates (2002) provided accounts of how unions-party relationships in the UK and USA have moved though various forms 42

of this typology. Overall, they argued that New Labour is a form characterised by retained constitutional links with diminished policy influence, that is as an example of the unions-party bonding model. Moreover, they argued that unions- party linkages on both sides of the Atlantic are in decline. This Ludlam, Bodah and Coates (2002) model has been used in Australia (Griffin, Nyland and ORourke 2004:93) to argue that by the early 1990s, the ALP, while keeping the relationship intact, had pushed the unions from a unions-party bonding model to a lobbying model. Leigh (2006) points to a widely- held view that unions came to be treated as a pressure group by Labor during the Accord period (1983-96) rather than as an integral part of the organisation. This is said to have reduced the influence of unions within the ALP (Griffin, Nyland and ORourke. 2004: 90; Howell 2000). This is perhaps a surprising conclusion about a period that is often also seen as a high point of social democracy in the national unions-party relationship in Australia. It makes more sense when we understand the relationship between the ACTU and the ALP as more like the relationship between the AFL-CIO and the Democratic administrations of Roosevelt and Johnson than the social democratic relationships in the UK and Scandinavia, which were more firmly anchored in union affiliation at the national level. It is possible for unions and parties to appear closer than they really are when they share common ideologies and policy frameworks. As useful as these analyses are, they do not take full account of the impact of the decline of blue-collar unionism and the relative rise of white-collar and professional unionism. This changing pattern of unionism is in contrast with the stable pattern of affiliation between unions and the ALP. Nor do these analyses fully comprehend the impact of sharp declines in union densities. The results of these trends, discussed in an earlier section of this chapter, mean that affiliated unions are far less representative of the total population of employees or union members than they were twenty years ago. The implications of these trends for the typologies discussed above are a key concern of this thesis.


Organisational integration and fragmentation Following the analysis of Ludlam, Bodah and Coates (2002), this thesis uses two principles to describe changes in the unions-ALP relationship. I have retained their first principle, organisational integration, but changed the second principle from policy-making influence to policy confluence. Policy confluence emphasises the idea that unions-party relationships were more closely integrated, in both examples of social democratic and pressure group types, during the Keynesian period (particularly from the Great Depression of the early 1930s to the stagflation crisis of the mid 1970s). Policy confluence emphasises the importance of the external economic policy making environment at the expense of other factors that are internal, or intrinsic, to unions-party relationships. In short, the differences between social democratic and pressure group types were largely hidden during the Keynesian period because parties and union movements pursued similar policy agendas. Keynesianism is far more consistent with the collectivist spirit of unionism than the neo-liberalism that has replaced it. The common theme running through any consideration of both organisational integration and policy confluence is the idea of fragmentation. Fragmentation is used here as an expression of the degree to which integration is absent. Or put another way, fragmentation has an opposite effect to that of Panebiancos notion of institutionalisation (1988), it reduces rather than increases the value of the relationship to both sides. Fragmentation declines as a unions-party relationship becomes closer and conversely increases as the relationship becomes more distant. Integration means the extent to which unions and parties can work together to achieve common political objectives. As integration declines, and the relationship becomes more fragmented, we would expect to see union movements relying less on parties to deliver outcomes and, instead, pursuing those objectives through political strategies and tactics that are closer to the external lobbying that characterises pressure group type relationships. As the Keynesian era has receded to be replaced by neo-liberalism, the degree of fragmentation in unions-party relationships has increased, and become more meaningful, prompting union movements to re-consider their political strategies


and behaviours. Mass parties can be seen as attempts to minimise fragmentation through their focus on promoting a shared ideology and through rules and strategies designed to limit the autonomy of parliamentary representatives. In this sense, catch-all parties are more fragmented than mass parties because they provide parliamentary representatives with more autonomy and they de-emphasise ideology. The weaker vertical links that are a key feature of the electoral professional type increase the extent of fragmentation. Similarly, strong social democratic relationships are closer, more integrated, more homogenous than their weaker cousins. Weak social democratic relationships are fragmented through the more dispersed power structures of their union movements, which diminishes the capacity for national leadership elites in union movements and political parties to negotiate and enforce political deals. Social democratic relationships are more integrated than contestatory relationships, where the fragmentation takes place along sectarian and ideological lines. Social democratic parties are more integrated than pressure group parties, except where the force of policy confluence is strong, as it was in the Keynesian era. Policy confluence and Keynesianism Keynesianism encouraged greater organisational integration in unions-party relationships across the western world because the economic policies pursued under Keynesianism are more congruent with union policy objectives than the economic policies that prevailed before the Keynesian period and again now. The emphasis of Keynesianism on maintaining full employment to maintain consumption levels that are consistent with high levels of business investment and economic growth, also underpins the key union objective of achieving relatively high wage levels in comparison to levels that might be realized in labour markets without government stimulus. In order to achieve full employment without high inflation, Western governments during the Keynesian period often sought wages deals along the lines of the Accord in Australia (Patmore and Coates 2005). Keynesianism in these ways favours close policy co- operation between unions and labour, and social democratic, governments. 45

5. Union revitalisation and strategic choice

Faced with weakening vertical links unions can make strategic choices (Gentile and Tarrow 2009:473) about the extent to which they continue to rely on the internal lobbying of a social democratic type relationship or move towards a greater reliance on the external lobbying more typical of a pressure group type relationship, and which also features in union revitalisation strategies. External and internal lobbying strategies, however, are not always easily reconcilable and the long-term sustainability of a mixed internal and external approach is problematic. Some types, and national variations within types, of unions-party relationships are more conducive to new strategic directions by union movements than others. For instance, Hyman and Gumbrell-McCormick (2010:327) have argued: most union movements in Western Europe remain locked into old identities derived largely from their traditional political identities. Rainnie and Ellem (2006, quoted in Upchurch, Taylor and Mathers 2009:520) have argued that union movements have to face extreme crises before old rigidities in structures, processes and activities can be opened up to new ways of doing things. Upchurch, Taylor and Mathers (2009:521) argued that a weakening unions-party relationship could open up possibilities for reconfigurations of unions-party relationships outside the traditional social democratic model (Upchurch, Taylor and Mathers 2009:537). A central argument in this thesis is that distinctive features of the national unions-ALP relationship allowed more space for union movement adaptation in response to neo-liberalism and union density decline than in many other Western countries. In particular, the national unions-ALP relationship, because of the nature of its response to federalism and the consequent union affiliation patterns allowed, perhaps encouraged, the Australian union movement to adopt new revitalisation strategies with alacrity (Gentile and Tarrow 2009:480). Without formal ties, affiliation, directly between the ACTU and the ALP at the national level, the ACTU was always more politically separate than peak union organisations in other social democratic type


relationships. The inclusion of unions not affiliated to the ALP through mergers with professional and public service peak union organisations in the 1970s and early 1980s, and the relatively faster rates of decline in blue-collar unionism in the 1990s, accentuated this separate identity. The ACTU followed US unions, but was ahead of many Western European union movements, in changing political strategies to deal with the more hostile environment for unions under neo-liberalism. The Australian union movement has favoured strategies centred on political independence. These union revitalisation strategies drew upon the experience of some particularly successful unions in the USA where political independence, rather than dependence on a party, had long been consistent with the union movements embrace of voluntarism (Archer 2007, Greenstone 1969) and to which it reverted when the cosy insider bargaining between unions and Democrats declined rapidly with the advent of the Reagan era, that is, with the end of the policy confluence of the Keynesian era. Faced with plummeting union densities in the 1990s, Australian unions went looking for strategies and tactics that had proved successful in recruiting and retaining members in a hostile environment. Those strategies are not value-free, embedded in those strategies and tactics is a very different idea of unions-party relationships. Central to the US experience is that union movements can make a strategic choice (Gentile and Tarrow 2009:467). They can continue to use industrial action where possible, and rely on their traditional associations with political parties to provide some level of legislative and policy protection. Alternatively, they can adopt strategies and tactics that seek to influence political agendas independently of those political parties. Additionally, they can replace repertoires of contention that rely on labour rights (e.g. strikes) with a greater emphasis on repertoires that draw upon citizen rights (political campaigning techniques). American unions rely heavily on citizen rights because they are more deeply embedded, and therefore protected, than labour rights (Gentile and Tarrow 2009:467,8). Dark pointed out that declining union density, which reduces the capacity of unions to


conduct industrial action, could lead unions to invest more of their resources in political campaigning (Dark 2001). In recognition of this choice available to unions, Dark argued that there is no causal force requiring that declining union density should inevitably translate into declining union political power (Dark 2001:21). Making the switch from a labour rights (backed by political party association) to a citizen rights strategy is increasingly viewed by scholars, commentators and unionists as essential if unions are to survive and remain politically relevant in an era of neo-liberalism and low union densities (Simmons and Harding 2009). For instance, Gentile and Tarrow (2009:489) argued: those union movements that survive the transition from a corporatist to a neo-liberal regime will do so by adapting their strategies to the citizen rights domain; those that fail to shift to a citizen rights repertoire will fail and weaken. Hyman and Grumbell (2010:328) argued that: In a period of union weakness, seeking complementarities with radical social movements which unions traditionally viewed with suspicion has to be part of the search for enhanced power resources. The Australian union movement was not alone in learning from the USA in the 1990s (Bowden 2011:72, Muir 2008:1415, Peetz and Pocock 2009:628). The organising model was adopted by the ACTU in 1994 and by the mid-1990s it had become a cornerstone of union revival strategies throughout the Anglo-Saxon world. (Bowden 2011:72, Peetz and Pocock 2009:624). Strategies that sought to build coalitions (Tattersall 2010:2,9) with community organisations and social movements (Baines 2010), that shared similar policy goals and ideological perspectives with unions, supplemented the internal focus of the organising model, with its emphasis on member recruitment and engagement through union democratisation and workplace activism (Peetz and Pocock 2009:624). Partly, these new strategies were seen as a response to the perceived problem of member disengagement during the Accord (Muir 2008:38, Tattersall 2010:36) and partly they grew out of recognition that arbitration unionism was viable in


an era of higher union densities but had lost its efficacy (Tattersall 2010:6). The organising approach and coalition building were efforts to rebuild union power resources in the wake of density declines (Tattersall 2010:8). Coalitions and community campaigns became a default union solution for long-term political problems (Tattersall 2010:10). Gentile and Tarrow (2009:490) argued that domestic structures influence the strategic choices unions and union movements can and do make under threat from neo-liberalism. Gentile and Tarrow (2009:480-488) compared the Maritime Dispute in Australia with a similar dispute in Liverpool (UK) at the same time, finding that the ACTU adapted with alacrity but the British union leadership did not. Gentile and Tarrow (2009) do not offer a compelling reason for this difference in response. The prospect of augmenting declining power resources through greater member activism and coalitions with other groups is appealing to union movements under threat from density decline, withdrawal of labour rights and neo-liberal economic and social policies. Yet, social movement unionism, as understood in Western countries, emphasises a rejection of the failed labour movement practices of the past, particularly unionism that focuses narrowly on the employment relationship and involves a close relationship with a political party. These old strategies are often rejected as disempowering (of members), centralist, elitist and bureaucratic (Seidman 2011, Shantz 2009, Simmons and Harding 2009). Devinatz (2009:144) provided a typical statement of the transformative purpose of social movement unionism: unions of the present must be transformed into democratic, rank-and- le oriented unions that engage in alliances with a wide range of community organisations in order to thrive in a globalised economy. Another writer (Miller M. 2010:49) positioned the choice and transformation facing labor in adopting community campaigning in these terms: For labor, it implies a step back from the first name, insider, often-too-cozy relationship with Democratic Party politicians. Other writers have also argued that union revitalisation requires a rejection of the complacent, business unionism of the past with its narrow focus on wage agreements and the adoption in its stead of a broader involvement in coalitions to re-build communities through campaigns based on the use of citizenship rights 49

(Simmons and Harding 2009). The extent to which such transformations are possible within Australias existing unions-party relationships is deeply problematic. As we shall see later in this thesis, this conundrum is evident in the efforts by many interviewees to position the YR@W campaign as a one-off or a moment in time, rather than as a milestone in a broader transformation of the Australian union movement. Borrowing some effective tactics and strategies for an occasional campaign is a long way short of a more permanent transformation. In addition, social movement unionism comes with a promise of engagement and democratisation that cannot easily be delivered in the context of more traditional union structures and political relationships.

6. Political independence and dependence

The balance and interplay between independence and dependence in the relationship between unions and the ALP is the crucial idea in this thesis. As used in this thesis, the concepts of independence and dependence are embedded in the differences between social democratic and pressure group types of unions-party relationships. The key difference is that independence is associated with weakly institutionalised arrangements and dependence is associated with strongly institutionalised arrangements. In examining unions-party relationships over time we would expect to see a greater degree of independence associated with weaker institutionalisation. That is, where unions cannot depend upon their relationship with a political party to secure their political objectives they are more likely to pursue those objectives independently of those political parties, and use different repertoires of contention. Political independence has two major characteristics, which are important in the context of this thesis; they are predictability of union support for political parties and choice of political activities. Independence suggests a greater capacity to act as a separate political entity or actor, and, therefore, a lower level of predictability of support than in highly dependent relationships. Unions involved in strongly 50

institutionalised unions-party relationships will find it far more difficult, if not impossible, to act independently, and potentially in conflict with, the aligned political party. The idea that political independence and strongly institutionalised unions-party relationships are incompatible is central to the doctrine of voluntarism that led American unions to decide to neither create their own political party nor align themselves with an existing party (Archer 2008, Greenstone 1969). In addition, political independence is associated with short- term political benefit exchanges, and a willingness to campaign for or against more than one major political party depending on an assessment of each partys policies and performance. Although, from the 1930s onwards, American unions have been closely aligned with the Democratic Party their independence allows them to support those candidates that are most likely to support union objectives. Union support is always, in theory, contestable. The Democratic Party, particularly its more liberal candidates, is overwhelmingly the beneficiary of union political support (Masters and Delaney 1987), but American unions do provide support for both sides of politics: In the 2000 election the average Democratic incumbent received $130,646, while the average sum of labor donations that went to political opponents was $10,285.50; the average Republican incumbent received $16,144.08, while their rivals received an average of $52,702.64. Overall, the pattern indicates that labor is rewarding its friends and seeking to unseat its enemies. Yet the nontrivial donations to Republicans... also indicate political voluntarism. Clearly, some union leaders believe they gain by directing resources toward candidates that affiliate with the Republican Party. (Zullo 2007:227) The second important characteristic of political independence is the choice of political activities by unions to advance their political objectives. In both social democratic (Australia, NZ, UK) and pressure group (USA) type unions-party relationships, unions employ a mix of political activities that range from elite bargaining between union and party leaderships (Dark 2001), to fully


independent grass-roots political campaigns (Simmons and Harding 2009). Weak institutionalisation in the pressure group model is associated with a strong reliance on political campaigning, whereas the strong institutionalisation in the social democratic type produces a relatively greater reliance on elite bargaining. The table bellow illustrates the association of relationship types and repertoires of contention. The table indicates that the social democratic and pressure group types are opposed on key characteristics. The second and third columns show the inverse relationship between institutionalisation in the relationship type and independence; the more institutionalised the relationship the less independence will be displayed by unions and the party. The fourth and fifth columns show the trade-off between elite bargaining and political campaigning and their relationship to the degree of independence in the relationship. Independence is the key characteristic of the pressure group type relationship and it is strongly associated with political campaigning and weakly associated with elite bargaining. Dependence is the key characteristic of the social democratic type and it is strongly associated with elite bargaining and weakly associated with political campaigning. Table 1: Relationship type and political activities
Type Social democratic Pressure group Institution Strong Weak Independence Weak Strong Elite bargaining Strong Weak Political campaigning Weak Strong

Dependence is intrinsic to the nature of the political exchange bargaining involved in social democratic unions-party relationships. Dependence arises from a long-term relationship between unions and parties. Quinn (2010:360) argues that these institutionalised relationships provide a solution to the problems of non-simultaneous political exchanges. Dependence is two-way, with parties relying on unions for electoral support and general funding. In creating labour 52

and social democratic parties, union movements drastically reduced their reliance on independent activities as political actors, or social movements, relying instead on their political parties to pursue political objectives on their behalf. Dependent relationships have generally provided more benefits for unions in terms of policy influence and access to candidate selection processes (Ludlam, Bodah and Coates 2002). Scholars responding to the emergence of New Labour, and its equivalents in other Western countries, have generally seen a move from social democratic to pressure group as a step backwards, particularly for unions. Ludlam, Bodah and Coates (2002) argued that unions-party linkages on both sides of the Atlantic are moving towards the original impotence of the external lobbying model characteristic of early labour movements (2002). Indeed, a move towards independence, in the sense in which independence is used here, is a good indicator that unions can no longer rely on their aligned political parties to the same extent for assistance in achieving union political objectives. Therefore, independence can be seen as a sign of union weakness, not strength. While the strategies of independence (political campaigning) and dependence (elite bargaining) are present in all unions-party relationships, there is a tension and a trade-off between them. As Tattersall (2010:176) has noted, after her analysis of three case studies of coalition unionism in Australia and North America, a strategy of public agitation, as we might see in a political environment where unions exhibit a high degree of political independence, sits in stark contrast to the restraint and reliance on quiet influence associated with union relationships with political parties. McIlroy is less delicate, attributing union restraint in the face of the BLPs promise to be tough on strikes and public sector wage growth in the 1997 election, that saw New Labour under Blair come to power, to pressure on union leaders to remain silent (McIlroy 1998:553). In a detailed study of 32 case studies of union renewal in the US and UK, Hickey, Kuruvilla, and Lakhani (2010:21) found that the generally adversarial nature of member activism was at odds with efforts to build partnerships with employers. The same is likely to be true in the case of co-operative relationships with governments and political parties. Tattersall (2010:175) raised the issue: if and 53

how insider union relationships with political parties can affect coalition strategies and coalition success. Tattersall suggested that this emerging contradiction was an area that warranted further research (2010:176). It is this contradiction that makes the tendency of using independent campaigning to augment (declining) internal party influence problematic.

7. Conclusion
Union decline has been a persistent problem for union movements throughout the Western world over recent decades. De-linking of parties from unions, either decisively or by a weakening of union influence inside parties, has also been a common phenomenon. There has also been a weakening of the unions-ALP relationship at the level of ideology with the ALP shifting away from collectivism towards individualism. A shift from collectivism to individualism can be seen also as a shift from the language of social democratic ideology, focused on promoting the labour interest, to a broader and more inclusive pressure group type rhetoric. The use of individualist rhetoric opens the way for a broader engagement with social groupings, beyond a traditional blue-collar union base. Union decline, and the withdrawal of labour rights through legislative changes, has drawn Western union movements towards the strategies of social movement unionism, particularly as practiced in the USA, to augment union power resources. The ACTU was an early adopter of these strategies, at least partly because the national unions-ALP relationship is more fragmented, less institutionalised, than is typical of mass parties and social democratic unions-party relationships. Yet, a key feature of social movement unionism is independence from political parties, and the prospects for that independence to be reconciled with a continuing, although diminished, relationship of dependence on the ALP are uncertain.



This thesis adopts a post-positivist approach. I accept that the views, background, knowledge etc. of the researcher cannot be separated from the phenomena being researched. I also believe that research can be objective, but this requires an open, transparent and conscious acknowledgement of the relationship between the researcher and the researched. In addition, underlying the research in this thesis is the proposition that the nature of unions-party relationships has broadly predictable consequences for the political behaviour of both parties. However, this predictability does not suggest the existence of immutable laws, but rather conjectures that can, and must, be modified by further research (McNabb 2010:15-27, Robson 2002:624). This thesis employs a case study approach. The case study focuses on the unions- ALP relationship during a critical period in its long history, from the end of the Accord era to the 2010 election. Previous scholars in the general area of unions- party relationships, discussed later in this chapter, have made extensive use of the case study approach (Greenstone 1969, Minkin 1992, Tattersall 2010, Valenzuela 1992). I use data from two principal sources: a set of 24 interviews with senior participants in the contemporary unions-ALP relationship and previously- published documentary evidence; principally, ALP and ACTU reports, parliamentary and other political speeches, MP biographies and media reports. In developing this thesis, I have stuck as closely as I can to the requirements made of a researcher and a scholar. Nevertheless, it would be foolish to claim that I can easily separate these new roles from my previous involvement as a minor participant in various guises, and as a close observer and sometime critic. My father was a full-time official with a NSW union (later amalgamated with other state unions to form the Health Services Union, HSU), affiliated with the ALP (until


recently10) for nearly 30 years. In addition, many of my friends and family members have also been, some continue to be, active participants in unions and the ALP. Close proximity to the subject under study can be a major benefit for the social science researcher. This proximity can be advantageous in case study research, which is context-dependent (Flyvbjerg 2006:223). Minkin (1991), who wrote on the British unions-party relationship, said that he based much of his work on informal and confidential conversations with many participants over many years: a lot of information came from this private discussion (Minkin 1992:x). I have drawn on my own store of discussions over several decades to shape my interpretations of events and trends11. Any store of such informal information is useful but limited. I have sought to add considerably to this informal dimension, through a set of semi-structured interviews, and through verification from publicly available materials. During the Accord era, I worked in a tripartite Accord body, the Trade Development Council Secretariat (TDCS) from 1984 to 1987. During that time, I helped to organise seminars and forums for trade union officials and worked on the drafting of Australia Reconstructed, the report of an ACTU mission to Europe in 1987 (ACTU/TDC 1987) that sought to advance the cause of greater corporatism in the relationship between the ACTU and the ALP (Dow and Lafferty 2007:554, Frankel 1997:12, Manning 1992, Peetz and Bailey 2010:7-8). From 1987 to 1991, I worked in the office of the Hon. John Dawkins, the then federal Minister for Employment, Education and Training, where I had responsibility for training policy (including the introduction of the Training Guarantee), among other things, which again required close contact with senior union officials. I first

10 The HSU disaffiliated from the ALP in 2011 during a high-profile, internal brawl

involving claims of corruption and its former National Secretary Craig Thomson, who was elected ALP member for Dobell at the 2007 and 2010 elections. 11 For instance, I remember a friend in the late 1980s, at the time a senior official of an affiliated blue collar union, drawing to my attention that the Accord was a problem for union officials; to paraphrase members think their wage rises come from the Government now, and they say what are you blokes (union officials) doing?


joined the ALP in 1975, but I have not been a member since 2004, and my membership in the 1990s was episodic and non-active. From 1991 to 1996, I managed workplace reform and best practice programs for the federal Department of Industrial Relations. Again, this role brought me into close contact with many union officials, including organising and participating in a tripartite mission to look at best practices in management and union co-operation in selected workplaces in the USA. The mission was undertaken at the invitation of then House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt (D, Mo.) and many of the site visits were organised with assistance from his office. The itinerary included meetings with senior officials from the AFL-CIO12 and the United Mineworkers of America (UMWA). My experience of the YR@W campaign was very different. Between 1996 and 2007, I worked for a public relations company, Jackson Wells Morris, where, among other things, I helped to develop employee communication strategies for many organisations, including Telstra, Qantas, NSW Railcorp, National Rail, South Pacific Tyres, Lend Lease and MLC. These strategies were principally undertaken to support major corporate change programs including mergers, ownership changes and re-structuring. I also developed broader public communication strategies for key industrial relations institutions: the Office of the Employment Advocate (OEA), the Australian Fair Pay Commission (AFPC) and the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC). The preparation of these strategies involved interviews and discussions with many senior officials and statutory officeholders. In July 2005, after the ACTUs highly successful television advertisements featuring Tracy first went to air, Jackson Wells Morris was contracted by the Australian Government to provide public relations support for the introduction of WorkChoices. This project caused me to become interested in the possibility that YR@W was more than a brilliantly conducted political campaign. The success of the YR@W campaign prompted questions about the
12 Another anecdote on the way to this thesis; a senior AFL-CIO figure told the Australian

delegation that the AFL-CIO was still the most powerful interest group in America even though union membership was declining significantly. After the meeting one of the Australian union officials told me we dont want to be just another pressure group.


validity of a popular narrative that unions had become politically irrelevant since the Accord finally came to end with the defeat of the Keating ALP Government in 1996. How, for instance, could a politically irrelevant organisation conduct what was arguably the most successful non-party political campaign in Australian history, against a seasoned and politically clever Prime Minister recently returned to office with a rare majority in the Senate? Did it mean that the union movement had successfully re-invented itself? Was YR@W a turning point, or a one-off?

2. Research questions
A key purpose of this thesis is to locate the current debate about the ALPs continuing links to the trade union movement within a more robust theoretical framework. The thesis proceeds from the observation that the national unions- ALP relationship is complex, multi-dimensional and evolving. In particular, there is an apparent contradiction between the ALPs traditional relationship with the (mostly) blue-collar unions that created the party at a state level and a more recent relationship with the ACTU that includes non-affiliated unions and emphasises the union movements independence of the ALP. Two other preliminary observations were important for shaping the research questions for this thesis. First, the ACTU-ALP relationship during the Accord and YR@W episodes was more important in policy development for the union movement than the affiliated unions-ALP relationship. Dow and Lafferty (2007:554) have argued that the original Accord contained a form of political unionism wherein the ACTU claimed to speak on behalf of the collective interests of labour not just union members. In effect, there has been some form of political displacement caused by the growing importance of the ACTU as the peak organisation for Australian unions and a simultaneous decline in the importance of affiliated blue- collar unions, as the political voice of Australian employees. Second, the YR@W campaign was, at least partially, inspired by US-style union revitalisation strategies that reflect the relative weakness of American unions in their relationship with the Democratic Party and emphasise the political independence of unions.


With these preliminary observations in mind, this thesis seeks to answer three questions. The first question explores the possibility of a consequential contradiction between two types of unions-ALP relationships at the national level. The second question examines the impact this contradiction has had on the contemporary relationship. The third question examines the relationship contradiction (or paradox) in the context of theoretical work, which posits that vertical relationships with unions (and other party organisational components) are weakened as mass parties transition into the electoral professional type (Panebianco 1988). The research questions are: 1. Is there a politically important contradiction between the ALPs relationship with its affiliated unions and the partys relationship with the ACTU? 2. How does the contradiction affect the contemporary dynamic of the national unions-ALP relationship? 3. Has the independence of union revitalisation been reconciled with the dependence of affiliation?

3. Previous studies
There continues to be a paucity of detailed studies of unions-party relationships: we lack detailed studies of relations between social democratic parties and unions which articulate developments in both wings to understand change in the alliance (McIllroy 1998:538). In Australia, at least, this was not always the case. Many major studies in Australian politics have covered the unions-ALP relationship in some considerable depth. Australian scholars and commentators like Childe (1923), Denning (1982), Nairn (1989), Rawson (1954), and Turner (1979) all wrote from the premise that a detailed understanding of the unions- ALP relationship was critical to understanding Australian politics more broadly.


The decline of unions, and the consequent phenomenon of the separation, or weakening, of unions-party relationships in Western and Northern Europe and Australasia has lead to a variety of scholarly research (McIllroy 1998, Ludlam, Bodah and Coates 2002, Howell 2001, Dark 2001, Hyman and Gumbrell- McCormick 2010, Upchurch, Taylor and Mathers 2009) some of it building on, and re-interpreting, earlier work, including that of Minkin (1992) and Valenzuela (1992). Recently, scholars have also been incorporating considerations of union revitalisation strategies into analyses of the decline of unions and of unions-party relationships (Gentile and Tarrow 2009, Hyman and Gumbrell-McCormick 2010). In Australia, the Accord period and the Hawke and Keating era prompted considerable scholarly consideration of the unions-ALP relationship (Dow and Lafferty 2007, Griffin, Nyland and ORourke 2004, Lavelle 2010, Manning 1992, Manning 2000, Parkin and Warhurst 2000). Similarly, the YR@W campaign (Muir 2008, Muir and Peetz 2010) and the growth of union revitalisation strategies (Muir and Peetz 2010, Tattersall 2010) have also begun to draw scholarly attention. The research methodology in this thesis is similar to that used in past studies of unions-party relationships. Scholarly analyses of unions-party relationships usually have a strong historical dimension. They look at the dynamics of these relationships through time and in response to changing economic, social and political forces and environments. Valenzuela (1992) used a multi-country historical research approach to populate a typology. Minkin (1991) looked at the long history of the relationship between the BLP and trade unions based around themes that focus on what he argues are the key components of the unions-BLP relationship. Dark (2001) used a case study approach to look at the influence of American unions on successive Democrat presidential administrations from Johnson to Clinton. McIllroy (1998) augmented existing scholarly work with an examination of party and trade union policy documents (from the peak body and from individual unions), media reports and public opinion research.


I have identified six (6) research methodologies (see table next page) used in seven (7) previous studies focused specifically on the internal dynamics of unions-party relationships (Greenstone 1969, Minkin 1992, Valenzuela 1992, Dark 2001, McIllroy 1998, Ludlam, Bodah and Coates 2002, Piazza 2001). In the first of three following tables, I briefly describe the research methods used by previous scholars. In the next table, I set out the use made of these research methods in these studies. Usage is ranked against a five-point scale where 0 means the research method was not used at all and 5 means it was the sole method used in that particular study. A rating of 3 indicates that considerable weight was given to two or more of the research methods. A rating of 4 means that two or more methods were used but this method was the principal method; and 2 means it was the lesser of two or more methods. This table illustrates the heavy emphasis on re-interpreting historical material, and the prevalent tendency for researchers to rely on a combination of two research methods. In the third of this group of tables, I summarise the strengths and weaknesses of these research methods. These strengths and weaknesses are identified with a view to my own research project, and are also a reflection of my reading of the previous studies identified in this section.


Table 2: Methodology: descriptions

1. Historical data from previous studies Description Secondary research involving a re-interpretation of existing studies. Typically, this involves the use of previously established facts and interpretations to make a fresh argument, based on a theoretical model, to provide new understandings or insights. Historical research commonly focuses on four key areas of interest: formal relationships between unions and parties (including constitutions), leadership elite biographies and ideological leanings, funding of party and party activities by unions and policy outcomes. Primary research based on party and union documents, particularly policy documents and reports, as well as speeches, media releases. Often provides new insights into existing historical analysis. Primary and secondary research based on indicators like union density, electoral outcomes, economic results, biographies of leaders. Mostly secondary research. Two types. Piazza (2001, 2005) uses readily available indicators to draw comparisons across a large number of countries. Others use a mix of historical and case study evidence. The latter provides a richer understanding of relationship patterns and dynamics, but is difficult to undertake on a significant scale, in terms of range of countries, variables and time periods. Mostly secondary research. Provides a more manageable approach to historical research by providing some valid boundaries and a sharper focus. Primary research. Semi-structured interviews with key participants. Used to understand participant perceptions, which can then frame analytical work using other data sources.

2. Documents

3. Statistical analyses

4. International comparisons

5. Case studies

6. Qualitative interviews


Table 3: Methodology: scholarly usage

Greenstone (1969) Valenzuela (1992) Minkin (1991) Dark (2001) Coates et al (2002) McIllroy (1998) Piazza (2001) 1. Hist. 3 3 3 3 3 3 0 2. Docs 0 0 3 0 0 2 0 3. Stats 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 4. Intl 1 3 0 0 3 1 3 5. Cases 3 0 0 3 0 0 0 6. Intervs 3 0 0 0 0 0 0

Table 4: Methodology: strengths and weaknesses

1. Historical Strengths Data relatively accessible. Useful in comparing changes in various aspects of relationships over time. Provides fresh, first-hand evidence, particularly useful for supplementing other data. Weaknesses Data has already been selected and interpreted, resulting in limitations and methodological contradictions. Meaningful public information on unions-party relationship is rare.

2. Documents

3. Statistical analyses

Makes cross country and multi Available data can only ever be time period studies more quantitative and usually available manageable. as proxies for key relationship components. Provides a strong context for Cross-country comparisons are assessing relationship changes difficult to make given the in a particular country. complexity of relationships and political contexts. Provide a more structured Comparisons can be too approach to assessing changes contrived and de-contextualised. in relationships across time periods. Provide insights into how participants view relationship that are not easily discernible from other sources. Not statistically valid, cannot stand alone as conclusive evidence.

4. International comparisons

5. Case studies

6. Qualitative interviews


Given the strengths and weaknesses of each research method, it is not surprising that scholars mostly choose to combine at least two methods. There are some obvious combinations, and these can be readily identified from the second table above. Most studies combine use of existing historical research supplemented by one or more of documentary research, qualitative participant interviews, international comparisons and case studies.

4. Case study research

I think the ways industrial relations is played out within the world are very different and so you have to be able to use the contextual factors that are there in front of your eyes at the time. If you cant do that well youre not going to get the outcome you want. You have to be constantly flexible. Its hard to say. Youd have to have a case study approach to make sense of it all. - Current non-affiliated union official 1 The research questions for this thesis suggest the need for a case study approach. Addressing these research questions will give rise to hypotheses that can be tested again using studies of other cases, in Australia and elsewhere, which, depending on their validity, might give rise to a broadly applicable theory of weakening links between unions and parties in transition away from the mass party to the electoral professional, catch-all and cartel types (Gunther and Diamond 2001, Katz and Mair 1995, Panebianco 1988). In addition, it is possible to draw some general conclusions from a single case (Flyvbjerg 2006:225). The prospects for generalisation depend on the selection of the case study (Flyvbjerg 2006:225). In this thesis, the case to be studied is the only one available in Australia because the thesis focuses on a particular strategic choice (the adoption of union revitalisation strategies) by a key actor (the ACTU) and the impact of this decision on the unions-ALP relationship. As such, the prospect for generalisation in the sense of decontextualised knowledge (Flyvbjerg 2006:223) must be considered limited. Nevertheless, the contextualised knowledge provided by this


case study can make substantial contributions to the store of contextualised knowledge about contemporary unions-party relationships in Australia and internationally. I use the most common definition of case study research, which is the detailed study of a single unit over time (Flyvbjerg 2006:220, Gerring 2004). Following Gerring (2004), I take the national unions-ALP relationship to be a unit in a larger class of unions-party relationships. I have identified the case to be studied as the national unions-ALP relationship from the end of the Accord period (1996) until the 2010 election. The limits of generalisability inherent in case study methodology do, however, provide opportunities for exploratory research (generating rather than testing hypotheses) and to depth rather than breadth in the focus of research. The choice between depth and breadth in research design is well known: Research designs invariably face a choice between knowing more about less and knowing less about more. The case study method may be defended, as well as criticized, along these lines. (The) looseness of case study research is a boon to new conceptualizations just as it is a bane to falsification (Gerring 2004). There are long-standing unions-party relationships, of one type or another, in all Western democracies. Some of these are similar to the national unions-ALP relationship in one or more important characteristics. Some useful studies have been undertaken that focus on the relationship between key variables in these unions-party relationships across a wide range of countries. The studies by Piazza (2001, 2005) are a key example. Piazzas studies are highly suggestive in pointing to a strong correlation between globalisation and party dependence on unions for electoral success. Nevertheless, there are very few variables in unions- party relationships that lend themselves to this type of statistical analysis. There are also studies that compare two or more national relationships using case study methodology. Ludlam, Bodah and Coates (2002) compared the UK and USA. Ellem and Franks (2008) and Markey (2008) compared Australia and NZ. Other 65

studies, perhaps the most common, are focused on a single national relationship. Examples include a study of the British relationship (Minkin 1992) and the US relationship (Greenstone 1969, Dark 2001). The relationship between unions and the ALP is too large a subject for a single thesis. The principal areas in which choices had to be made about what to include in this study have to do with relationship level, time period and international comparisons. I have opted to look principally, but not exclusively, at the national level; and, to use international comparisons where they can illuminate points, but not to embark on a full country comparison study. Perhaps, the boundaries in this study will provide ample scope for further case study and comparative research. Even with these boundaries, the subject of this thesis is still large. The unions-ALP relationship takes place at national, state and local levels. These levels are, of course, interwoven and difficult to delineate without drawing artificial distinctions. Nevertheless, the differences between national and state unions-party relationships are sufficiently meaningful to permit a valid research choice. My focus is the relationship at the national level. My initial research interest was the differences between those two national episodes: the Accord and the YR@W campaign. I also wanted to focus on the distinctive nature of the national relationship to address a common tendency to treat the national relationship as a simple aggregation, or replication, of state-based unions-party relationships. Moreover, Australia is a federation and no study of the national unions-ALP relationship can completely ignore state-based relationships. For reasons of time and space, I have included state-based relationships to the extent they can shed light on the national relationship. International comparisons are another useful dimension. Indeed, my theoretical framework borrows heavily from Valenzuelas cross-country analysis (1992) and a later comparison of unions-party relationships in the USA and UK (Ludlam, Bodah and Coates 2002). Although I have drawn on international comparisons to illustrate particular points, a full international comparison of contemporary unions-party relationships proved to be beyond the scope of this thesis. The main


relevance of international comparisons is to establish a continuum along which we might locate unions-party relationships in different countries, and, perhaps more importantly in different time periods. Some understanding of these differences and similarities is important to a theoretical understanding of the unions-ALP relationship, but their complexity limits the value of a full-blown cross-country analysis. Yin (1994) identifies two general approaches to analysing evidence in case study research: theoretical and case descriptive. In the first of these approaches, theoretical propositions guide the design of the case study and also guide the analytical process by focusing attention on some data. In the second approach, a descriptive (or methodological), rather than theoretical, framework is used with analysis based on the description of key phenomena and the relationships between them. The analysis of the case study research in this thesis is focused around the conclusions drawn from the literature review in the previous chapter. These conclusions shaped the design of the main source of data, qualitative interviews. Chapter 4 examines the historical dimension concerned with the proposition that the greater degree of fragmentation present in the Australian relationship created the space for the emergence of a more independent ACTU. Chapter 5 looks at the possible co-existence of two relationship types in the national unions-ALP relationship. Chapters 6 and 7 look at the interplay of independence and dependence in each of the two wings of the relationship, the ACTU and the ALP. Chapter 8 considers the question of growing asymmetry in the political exchange between unions and the ALP. Chapter 9 seeks to bring together the various ideas in these chapters to consider the YR@W campaign and what followed during the ALPs first term of office after the campaign (2007 2010). The interviews were focused on eliciting participant perceptions about the contemporary nature of the relationships; union status within the relationships; the symmetry and predictability of the benefit exchange between unions and the ALP; and, the continuing relevance of the YR@W campaign. This design then flows through to the analytical process, and the structure of this thesis, and 67

inevitably the findings and conclusions. Conceivably, the selection of a different set of theoretical propositions would have resulted in significantly different insights and conclusions. Several strategies were adopted to mitigate this tendency, found in all case study research, towards the verification of existing biases (Flyvbjerg 2006:223). First, the interviewee selection was designed to ensure as wide as possible range of participant perspectives. Second, the interviews were semi-structured and conducted in a way that allowed interviewees to discuss the broad topics in their own terms. Third, other data sources were used to confirm or verify the analysis of interview data. Case study research is not without its problems, but in the context of this thesis it is the obvious research methodology, and one that provided a rich source of evidence not available elsewhere.

5. Qualitative interviews
The decision to use interviews to gather evidence for a case study of a contemporary phenomenon is far from unusual. Pierce (2002) notes that up to 90 per cent of investigations in the social sciences involve interviews. Ellem, Oxenbridge and Gahan (2008) used this approach in their evaluation report of the YR@W campaign for UnionsNSW (2008:7), as did Muir (2008) in her study of the YR@W campaign. Tattersall (2010) also used interviews in her case studies on coalition unionism. My interviews, of course, had a different focus, being concerned with the national-unions relationship rather than the YR@W campaign itself. The focus of this thesis is the strategic choice the union movement made to adopt union revitalisation strategies and the consequences of that choice for the national unions-ALP relationship. Consequently, I sought views from both sides of the relationship, and from people with experience of the relationship both before and after the adoption of union revitalisation strategies by the ACTU. The nature of the relationship means that many senior participants have had high-


level involvement in both the ALP and the union movement; this is particularly true of current officials from peak and affiliated unions, as well as current and former MPs. I conducted interviews with 24 senior participants in the unions-ALP relationship between November 2009 and February 2010. For time and cost reasons, I sought interviews in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. This is not a particularly important limitation because the national peak union organisation, the ACTU, is located in Melbourne, and the most important state peak union organisation, UnionsNSW, and still to some extent a rival power centre in the union movement, is located in Sydney. In addition, the national offices of Australias major unions are located in either Melbourne or Sydney, and many senior national officials travel frequently between Australias two largest cities. Three-quarters (18) of the interviews were conducted in Sydney. Two of these 18 were with Melbourne based union officials when they were visiting Sydney. Three interviews were conducted in each of Melbourne and Canberra. I also selected interviewees in a way that ensured representation in my sample of interviewees from the left and right factions of the labour movement; unions affiliated and not affiliated with the ALP; officials from blue collar, white collar and professional unions; senior state and national officials of unions; and, the parliamentary and organisational wings of the ALP. In addition, I sought participation from former union officials whose experience at a senior level predated the adoption of union revitalisation strategies. Despite the complexity involved in trying to create a sample capable of reflecting all these various permutations, the task was somewhat simplified because my main focus was on seeking the participation of senior current officials from Australias two most important peak union organisations (ACTU and UnionsNSW) and from the dozen or so unions that together represent well over half of Australias union members. In the event, 9 of the 24 participants interviewed fitted into this current peak and major union official category. Of these nine interviewees, three were from peak union organisations, four were from unions affiliated with the ALP and two were from unions not affiliated with the ALP. A further five interviewees were current 69

officials from smaller unions; two of these interviewees were from unions affiliated with the ALP. In addition, four other interviewees had previously held senior union roles; one with a peak union organisation, two with large, affiliated unions and one with a smaller affiliated union. Three of these interviewees were current members of the FPLP. In an effort to improve my chances of securing interviews, I also included in my target list people with whom I had had a pre-existing relationship. Nine of the twenty-four participants were people that were, or may have been, influenced to participate because of this prior relationship. This includes two of the participants in the core group of current senior officials of peak and major unions. Overall, these personal relationships were not significant in shaping the composition of the current union official component of the interviewee list. Only one union official refused, several others referred me to colleagues in their organisation and several did not respond. I did not follow-up these latter potential interviewees because the overall response rate was sufficient to provide a large, and representative, enough sample. Prior personal relationships were far more important in securing interviews with current MPs. Five of the seven current federal MPs that I interviewed were, or may have been, influenced in their decision to participate by the existing relationship. While participation by some of Australias most senior officials was readily forthcoming, securing the participation of senior MPs was much more difficult. Three of the four current cabinet ministers that were invited to participate declined, mostly citing time pressure. The fourth agreed, but repeated efforts to schedule an interview time were ultimately unproductive. Efforts to interview junior members of the ministry were more successful. Two of the interviewees were current members of the outer ministry, and three were former members of the outer ministry. A third current member of the outer ministry agreed to an interview, but again efforts to schedule an interview were unproductive. The two remaining interviewees were prominent members of caucus factions (and regularly described in the media as faction leaders), both with senior level backgrounds in the union movement.


The discrepancy between union and political response rates may simply be due to time pressures. My request was for an interview of sixty minutes duration, and this may have been just too a great a commitment of time for no, or very marginal, benefit for the interviewee. One adviser to a Cabinet Minister that I sought an interview with said that his employer only rarely had meetings of this duration with anyone. The workloads of Cabinet Ministers in the Rudd Government at the time were notoriously heavy. In fact, one interviewee (Current non-affiliated union official 1) remarked that: None of them, the Cabinet Ministers, are sleeping as much as they should, or the staff working for them, I know some of the people who are close to the prime minister and thats what they all say they cant keep like Julia cant keep staff, Kevin cant keep staff. Thats because theyve all got like 12 issues, and theyre trying to do so much, which is fantastic but. Its also a very Cabinet driven Labor Party now. Perhaps, the discrepancy in response rates also points to the greater importance of the relationship to unions than to the ALP. Gender is another potential weakness in the interview sample. Only 3 of the 24 interviewees were female. Tables 5 and 6 below provide as much detail about the interviewees as possible, consistent with the guarantees of anonymity and confidentiality given to all interviewees. Interviewees have been given generic descriptors (e.g. current federal MP 1, current peak union official 1) to provide some more context for the quotes used in this thesis. This replicates the approach used by Ellem, Oxenbridge and Gahan (2008) in their evaluation of the YR@W campaign for UnionsNSW. Table 5 gives information about current and former full-time union and party positions, as well as pointing to any other (i.e. part-time or honorary) senior ALP and ACTU positions held currently or in the past. Table 6 gives more information on the core interviewee group (current peak and major union official) sample in relation to the union movement overall. Given the nature of the unions-ALP relationship, many interviewees had held senior roles in both unions and the ALP. Nineteen interviewees were currently, 71

or had been, senior elected union officials. Of these, eleven held, or had held, positions with ALP-affiliated unions, four with unions not affiliated with the ALP, and four with peak organisations (three of which had previously held positions with individual unions). Twelve of the nineteen union interviewees held, or had held, national union positions, while seven, held or had held, state, but not national, positions. In addition, twelve of these nineteen union interviewees had served on the ACTU executive. Eight of the interviewees were, or had been, parliamentarians (seven national and one state). Two other interviewees had been unsuccessful parliamentary candidates. Ten of the interviewees had held a range of other relevant political roles. Four of the ten had held senior positions with the National ALP, three had held senior state ALP positions (but not national), two had been senior Ministerial advisers federally and one had worked for several unions over a long period in campaigning roles. The interviews were based on a set of questions that I asked of every interviewee (see appendix 1) and, as with the YR@W evaluation: the questions were also open-ended, this allowed as this technique is designed to do the interviewees to speak for themselves and to introduce new content or new aspects of the analysis (Ellem, Oxenbridge and Gahan 2008:7). Conducting semi-structured qualitative interviews can make it more difficult to draw simple, direct comparisons between responses by interviewees on particular points. On the other hand, it does allow the research to be shaped by the participants. I found that this approach created a framework for my analysis and a reference point for assessing other evidence. Qualitative interviews also gave a far greater sense of what the relationship feels like from the inside. For the participants I interviewed, the unions-ALP relationship is a daily-lived reality. I wanted to capture some of that sense of lived reality. Beyond the formal interviews, I have also had many private discussions with other participants in the relationship during the course of my research from which I have also derived much of interest and value.


The interviews were conducted with the prior approval of the Human Ethics Research Committee at the University of Sydney. All interviews were audio- recorded and subsequently transcribed. All interviews were conducted on the basis of confidentiality. Most interviews were conducted in the interviewees office or an adjacent room. In order, to meet the requirements of the interviewee, three interviews were conducted in a restaurant or caf. I believe that the guarantee of confidentiality increases the likelihood of frankness on what is, or can be, a highly contentious subject. Some form of confidentiality is common in this type of research, Tattersall (2010) used a mix of identified and unidentified interviewees, while Manning (2000) went further and neither recorded the interviews nor took notes during them. Perhaps, the maximum informality of Mannings approach leads to even more frankness in interviewee responses, but I have found the capacity to analyse transcripts repeatedly over a long period invaluable as my thesis took shape. The more I returned to the transcripts, the clearer the picture became. A further important qualification is that the interviews were conducted at a particular moment in time and may reflect those circumstances to an extent that can mask or distort underlying trends. For instance, none of the interviewees anticipated anything other than a second term for Kevin Rudd. Given recent political events, the tone and content of these interviews might be somewhat different if re-conducted now. On the other hand, the relationship trends discussed in this thesis are only partially driven by personalities; and, in fact, the relationship between unions and the Gillard government does not yet appear to be significantly different to the relationships between unions and the previous Rudd government.


Table 5: Interviewee characteristics

Key current / former position Current federal MP 1 Current federal MP 2 Current federal MP 3 Current federal MP 4 Current federal MP 5 Current federal MP 6 Current federal MP 7 Former State MP 1 Former federal political adviser 1 Current peak union official 1 Current peak union official 2 Current peak union official 3 Current peak union official 4 Current affiliated union official 1 Current affiliated union official 2 Previous / other full- time relevant positions Former affiliated union official Former affiliated union official Former peak union official Former party official Former affiliated union official - Former party official Former party official - Former non-affiliated union official Former affiliated union official - - - - Senior ALP organisational roles No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes No No No Yes Senior ACTU organisational roles Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No No No Yes Yes Yes No No Yes


Key current / former position Current affiliated union official 3 Current affiliated union official 4 Current affiliated union official 5 Former affiliated union official 1 Current affiliated union official 6 Current non-affiliated union official 1 Current non-affiliated union official 2 Current non-affiliated union official 3 Current non-affiliated union official 4 - - - - - - - - - Previous other / former full-time relevant positions Senior ALP organisational roles No No No No Yes No No No Yes Senior ACTU organisational roles No Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No No


Table 6: Unions and interviewees

Union Peak AWU LHMU AEU AMWU ANF TWU SDA NUW CFMEU Other Membership (000) 1,900 135 120 165 130 200 90 230 Unknown 120 - ALP Affiliated N/A Yes Yes No Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes (2) / No (3) Faction N/A Right Left Left Left Right Right Right Left Both Interviewed Yes (4) Yes Yes (3) Yes (2) Yes Yes Yes (2) Yes No13 Yes Yes (5) Past / current Current (3) & past (1) Current Current & past (2) Current & past Past Current Current & past Past N/A Current Current (3) & past (2)

Abbreviations and sources of membership statistics

Peak ACTU / TLC membership data is for ACTU accessed 6 December 2011 AWU Australian Workers Union - - accessed on 4 October 2011. LHMU Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union (name changed to United Voice in March 2011), accessed on 4 October 2011 AEU Australian Education Union - accessed on 4 October 2011. AMWU Australian Manufacturing Workers Union - union/1// - accessed on 4 October 2011.

13 No official from the NUW was interviewed because sufficient interviewees from similar (ie blue collar, ALP-affiliated) unions were included in the sample.


ANF - Australian Nursing Federation - - accessed on 4 October 2011. TWU Transport Workers Union - - accessed on 4 October 2011. SDA Shop, Distributive and Allied Industries - - accessed on 4 October 2011. NUW National Union of Workers information on membership not found. CFMEU Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union -,_Forestry,_Mining_and_Energy_Union -

6. Other data sources

The uses made of the main forms of primary research, other than qualitative interviews, are set out in the table below. Table 7: Other data sources
Source First speeches Description New MPs make a first (formerly maiden) speech usually they include material about their backgrounds, views, influencers, supporters etc. In Chapter 7, I compare the speeches of 1983 and 2007 to draw some conclusions about changes in federal caucus. Biographical data I have collected data from a range of sources (mainly parliamentary websites) to examine links between ALP MPs and unions. See chapter 7.


Source National ALP reviews Description The 2002 and 2010 National reviews are used especially in relation to ALP attitudes to union affiliation and links. See chapter 7.

ACTU reports, policy This material is used to explain the ACTUs strategic change in papers, executive Chapter 6 and 9. minutes Speeches Some speeches by senior ALP and ACTU figures are referred to in Chapters 6, 7 and 9.

7. Conclusion
The research questions for this thesis are exploratory; they seek to understand the consequences of the ACTUs adoption of union revitalisation strategies for the national unions-ALP relationship in some depth. The research questions lend themselves to a case study research methodology, centred in qualitative interviews and designed around a set of theoretical understandings drawn from previous work by other scholars. The design of the case study and the analysis of the data collected have been shaped by the theories reviewed in the previous chapter.



This chapter presents the historical context that forms the essential background for a case study of the contemporary national unions-ALP relationship. Path dependency, or historical trajectory, involving a balance between structure and agency is important in shaping national variations in unions-party relationships (Gentile and Tarrow 2009:470, Hyman and Gumbrell-McCormick 2010:321, Upchurch, Taylor and Mathers 2009:520). The import of this proposition can be found in two recent observations made by scholars examining the responses of union movements to the challenge of neo-liberalism. First, Hyman and Gumbrell- McCormick (2009:327) observed that some union movements are locked into their traditional political identities to a greater extent than others, and that being locked into a traditional political identity made it more difficult to adopt new political strategies, such as those inspired by social movement unionism. Second, Gentile and Tarrow (2009:480-488) in a case study comparison of the Australian Maritime dispute in 1998 and the Liverpool Dock dispute in 1995 noted that the ACTU had responded with alacrity in comparison to its British counterparts in replacing labor rights based repertoires of contention with those based on citizen rights. This suggests that something in the Australian historical trajectory has contributed to a different response to neo-liberalism. This chapter draws upon the literature concerned with unions-party relationship types reviewed in Chapter 2 to argue that a probable cause for the ACTUs capacity to change political strategies faster than many other union movements in social democratic relationships lies in the history of the national unions-ALP relationship. That history suggests that the national unions-ALP relationship has always been more fragmented than is typical of social democratic type relationships. Fragmentation is associated with independence in unions-party relationships. During the Accord period, the ACTU-ALP relationship was close, closer than other such relationships in the UK and NZ, but the point is that the 79

ACTU was acting in its negotiations with the ALP as if it was a separate entity to the ALP. Affiliation took a back seat, and today the ACTU treats affiliation as a matter of choice for individual unions and as a matter of little consequence to the union movement as a whole in terms of its political strategies (see media release at ACTU 2011 for a typical expression of the attitude to union affiliation with the ALP). There have been three key sources of fragmentation in the national unions-ALP relationship. They are federalism, a fragmented union structure and a high level of sectarian and ideological conflict. In Australia, unions created the ALP in the various states (then colonies), but the federal ALP was created by these state ALP organisations without direct union participation in the federal organisation. In addition, the national union movement was slow to develop. There was no national peak union organisation until the creation of the ACTU in 1927, and it remained a relatively weak body for the next 50 years (Briggs 2002). When the ACTU did emerge as an effective national body, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it was an organisation that covered unions that were affiliated with the ALP and those that were not. It remained independent of the ALP with no formal links, but a close interaction of leadership elites. Australias fragmented union structure was institutionalised with the establishment of state and federal arbitration systems and remained so until the amalgamation process of the 1990s (Buchanan 2003). A further source of fragmentation was intense sectarian and ideological conflict (Ellem and Franks 2008), which resulted in rigid factionalism across the labour movement. At times, this factionalism was so intense that the Australian labour movement more closely resembled the fracturing along catholic and communist (and socialist) lines that occurred in Western Europe after the Second World War (Judt 2005). Sectarian and ideological conflict has been receding since the 1960s (Rimmer 2004) and there are a growing number of instances of left- right co-operation by affiliated unions inside the ALP, as well as among unions more generally inside the ACTU, most notably the cross-factional unity that underpinned the YR@W campaign.


The consequence of these developments has been a reduction in the fragmentation in the national unions-ALP relationship resulting from union structure and from high levels of sectarian and ideological conflict, but a retention of the fragmentation resulting from the ALPs federal structure. It was the use of this structural fragmentation by the ACTU during the Accord and YR@W episodes that makes it significant.

2. Australian exceptionalism
A few interviewees expressed a strong sense of exceptionalism14 about the national unions-ALP relationship. They tended to see the Australian relationship as more successful or superior to similar relationships in the UK, NZ and the USA, without being too precise about the nature or source of this uniqueness, even in response to subsequent questioning. Nevertheless, the superiority of the Australian relationship for many interviewees seems to lie in its capacity to continue to deliver benefits to both unions and the ALP: I love our model; I hold onto it and cherish it deeply because it works for us (unions and the ALP) so well. Current affiliated union official 2 The appeal of the national unions-ALP relationship for this interviewee was that unions continued to have political influence through the relationship without harming the ALPs chances of electoral success. He argued that only Canadian unions had more influence inside a contemporary unions-party relationship, but that this was of little consequence because the New Democratic Party (NDP) has never held office nationally in Canada. One interviewee suggested that the difference lies in the way the Australian

14 In an interesting parallel, Briggs (2001) discusses Australian exceptionalism in relation to the ACTUs role in the introduction of enterprise bargaining.


relationship has evolved: There are no other labour movements that have evolved to our level of internal sophistication, at the same time there are no other labour movements that operate like ours does. Current MP 4 It seems likely that this sense of the capacity of the Australian relationship to evolve relates to its ability to move from the closeness and corporatism of the Accord to the greater distance of the contemporary relationship without coming apart or producing too much damaging internal conflict. The same interviewee saw the unions-ALP relationship as a legacy of a different time, but one that the ALP and unions had managed to adapt to contemporary circumstances, his description of the national unions-ALP as a successful dinosaur suggests that the Australian relationship is remarkable because it has retained its political salience when other national unions-party relationships have not: In global terms, in terms of labour parties around the world, our relationship with trade unions is unique. A dinosaur in many ways but it is a dinosaur that has worked effectively in Australia. Current MP 4 If these claims to Australian exceptionalism have validity we would expect to see evidence for them in the historical development of the national unions-ALP relationship. I suggest that there are two important indicators of difference in the historical development of the Australian relationship; they are, affiliation patterns and electoral performance. The table below compares the national unions-ALP relationship against those in the Australian states, the USA, NZ and UK against three criteria that are central to the distinction Valenzuela (1992), and others, draw between the pressure group and social democratic types. Canada and Ireland are not included because of the far lower levels of electoral success of union-aligned parties in those countries.


Table 8: Relationship comparisons

Australia Aust States USA New Zealand UK Political systems Federal Unitary Federal Unitary Unitary Affiliation No Yes No Yes Yes Peak union created After Before Before Before Before

The national unions-ALP relationship is similar to the USA on two criteria (political systems and affiliation) and unique on the third (whether a peak union body preceded the creation of the aligned political party). Both of these criteria favour independence (fragmentation) over dependence (close integration). On the other hand, the pre-existing state-based unions-ALP relationships that underpin the national relationship are similar to the relationships in the UK and NZ. In NSW, for instance, the largest state and arguably the most important in shaping the ALP nationally (Markey 1988, 2004), the Labor Council of NSW (LCNSW)15, as a peak union organisation, was instrumental in the creation of the ALP in that state. A second important indicator of a separate Australian model might be said to exist in the comparative electoral performances of the parties concerned. The electoral performance of the ALP at a national level reveals a different pattern to that of the USA, NZ and the UK. In Australia, remarkable early electoral success was followed by a long period of poor electoral outcomes, and then more recently a return to a success level more closely aligned with outcomes in similar countries. The table on the next page shows the ALPs electoral performance in comparison with comparable social democratic (NZ, UK) and pressure group (USA) examples.

15 The name was changed to UnionsNSW in 2003.


During the pre-Keynesian period (19001935), union-aligned parties secured majority national government in only Australia and the USA, although the US Democrats were scarcely union-aligned until the end of this period, when the AFL-CIO supported Roosevelts re-election (Greenstone 1969). The ALP was in office for 9 years and the US Democrats held the presidency for 10 years. Australia and the USA moved sharply apart in their electoral performance during the Keynesian period (19351975), with Australias performance (11 years) the worst of the four countries, which held majority national government during this period, and the USAs being the best (27 years). In the post-Keynesian period all four countries enjoyed similar levels of electoral success. If Australias performance during the Keynesian period had been closer to that of NZ or the USA as it has been since (and in the case of the USA before Keynesianism), the ALP would have been the best performing national union-aligned party in the Anglophone world in electoral terms in the period 1900-2011. Table 9: An international timeline comparison16
Formation of national union- aligned party 1900 (ALP) 1916 (NZLP) 1900 (BLP) 1828 (DEM) First Years in majority office govt 1900 - 1935 Years in office 1935 - 1975 Years in office 1975 - 2010 Years in office Total 1900 - 2010 36 (33%) 35 (32%) 31 (28%) 51 (46%)

Aust NZ UK USA21

1910 1935 1945 1913

9 (26%)17 0 020 10 (29%)

11 (28%)18 20 (50%) 14 (35%) 27(68%)22

16 (46%) 15 (43%)19 17 (49%) 14 (40%)

16 All parties, except US Democrats, have formal links with unions (though the linkage

patterns vary significantly) 17 Three majority governments, 1910-1913, 1914-1916 & 1929-1932, the last two ended with Labor splits 18 Includes 27 year period, 1949-72, out of office 19 Includes Labour led coalition government from 1999-2008, change in electoral system has made a majority government far less likely 20 Minority governments in 1924 and 1929-31, and wartime coalition 1940-45 not included 21 In this context, Office means the presidency


3. Federalism
Federalism is a crucial difference between Australia and NZ, which otherwise share so much in common (Markey 2008:71). Federalism inhibited the development of a social democratic unions-party relationship at the national level. Valenzuela (1992) argued that unions-party relationships are at their most integrated when a single national union movement, under the leadership of an effective peak organisation, is linked to a single national party. The decision made by the various colonial labor parties, at the time of federation, to create a national organisation along federal lines, and based on the structure of the new Senate23, with no direct links between the FPLP and the national union movement (virtually non-existent at the time) has effectively precluded the development of a more typical social democratic relationship between unions and the ALP at the national level. At the time of Federation, Australias state (then colonial) labour parties chose a federal rather than national structure; efforts to reverse this decision continue to this day with only modest success. There are three important points about federalism and the ALP that are relevant to this discussion. Together, they provided the ALPs federal politicians with a degree of autonomy far greater than that enjoyed by ALP politicians in the Australian states, or by BLP parliamentarians. First, the structure of party federalism excluded unions from an affiliated link at the national level. Second, the absence of a federal organisation weakened the capacity of the organisational party (and through it affiliated unions) from utilising typical mass party rules and strategies, although the caucus system and the pledge were adopted from the NSW party. There was effectively no federal organisation until 1915, and it slowly developed over the next 50 years. Cyril Wyndham was appointed as the ALPs first full-time federal secretary in 1963. Third, the federalist structure preserved the state branches as
22 Includes 12 years of FDR and 8 years of Kennedy / Johnson, the two periods when

Democrats most resembled the social democratic model 23 This included six representatives from each state, hence 36 faceless men. When the Chifley Government raised state representation from 6 to 10, the ALP did not follow suit.


centres of power in the national ALP (Markey 2008), adding a further dimension of fragmentation, and hindering the development of a formal relationship between unions and the ALP at a national level. Australian federalism is less fragmentary than in the USA, where Levi (2004) has argued it prevented the emergence of a genuine social democratic party. Australias political system however is more complex and fragmented than the unitary UK system and the unitary and unicameral NZ system, (Ellem and Franks 2008, James and Markey 2006:27). Earlier scholars often dwelt on the implications of these unique organisational arrangements. Crisp (1978), for instance, in his study of the ALP during the first half of the twentieth century, devoted a chapter to the lack of a direct relationship between the ALP and the union movement at a national level. Crisp24 argued that this situation gave political labour a degree of freedom without parallel in Great Britain (Crisp 1978:182, 188). In his 1954 doctoral thesis on the organisational development of the ALP between the conscription crisis and the Curtin government, Rawson also reflected on the relative freedom from control enjoyed by the federal (ALP) politicians (1954:380) and noted sardonically that it was obvious that though the Labor Party stood for unification in the field of government, its own organisation was a looser form of federation than that by which Australia was governed (1954:376). The federal ALP was established by a conference called by NSW Labor in January 1900, without representation from Western Australia (not part of the federation move at the time) and Tasmania (couldnt afford to send a representative), which agreed to establish a federal Labor Party but did not set up a distinct federal organisation (McMullin 2004: 59). Attempts to establish a federal executive were unsuccessful until 1915, and the original federal bodies within the Labor Party were triennial interstate conferences whose decisions needed ratification by the state bodies (Rydon 1988:164). Remarkably, the federal ALP had already produced two prime ministers, Watson and Fisher, before it had agreed to a
24 Crisp maintained an active interest in reforming the structure of the federal ALP. In the

1960s, Crisp helped Wyndham, then ALP federal secretary, develop proposals to have direct representation of local branches and unions at the federal conference (Botsman 2011). The National ALP Conference in 2011 failed again to make any real progress on this issue.


federal organisation. Even after the split of 1916, the remaining ALP MPs paid little attention to the federal organisation (Rawson 1954:39). In practice, the federal organisation played little role in shaping the nascent federal party. Macintyre (2001:17) has argued that the 24 members of the first FPLP were in fact creating the ALP as a national organisation, an unusual process for a mass party, 12 of the original 24 FPLP members ended up on the other side of politics, mainly because of the conscription split (Macintyre 2001:28). The state-based focus of the ALP has been slow to change. Six decades after its creation, Gough Whitlam described the national ALP as a coming together of State organisations thinking by States, speaking by States and voting by States. (quoted in Rydon 1988:160). Until 1967, and the reforms undertaken under Whitlams leadership, the Federal Conference comprised six delegates from each of the six states, the thirty-six faceless men that Menzies derided so effectively in 1963 (Fitzgerald and Holt 2010). Reforms since then have seen national replace federal in descriptors of the ALPs Conference and Executive, these bodies have been greatly expanded, the role of parliamentarians has been increased, and the national ALP now exerts greater influence over state bodies. Even today, however, when the National Conference has been expanded to its current size of 400 delegates, the national ALP still reflects its formation: delegations are elected by State Branches and there is no direct union representation at the national level. The reform process has tended to coincide with electoral disasters and changes in the national ALP leadership. Whitlam led a major reform process after he replaced Calwell as party leader in 1967 and there were inquiries and major changes after the disastrous elections of 1977 and 2001, and again after the disappointing 2010 election outcome (Lavelle 2010, ALP 2002, 2010). These reviews have frequently addressed the federal nature of the ALP, without significant change. Sometimes, these proposals have failed because a national structure would require some form of union affiliation at the national level. A NSW proposal in 1940 for a national conference, which included direct union representation, was not adopted. This proposal, however, envisaged representation by national unions rather than a peak organisation (Rydon


1988:164). The affiliation of national unions would have replicated the situation at state level where affiliation is by individual unions. Cyril Wyndam, the ALPs first full-time federal secretary (1963-69) famously proposed a national structure in the 1960s (Wyndham 2011), but it too was rejected25. Moreover, one interviewee, suggested that a move to national affiliation of unions would not necessarily change the national-state power balance: They could go to a national affiliation model which would be rational and consistent with the Rudd Governments preference for national rather than state arrangements and it is more logical given the real power of national offices compared to state offices in the union movement. They could do that but all it would mean would be that the state union warlords would be replaced by national union warlords and whoever else the national union warlords decided to include on their delegations. The major union state warlords would still end up on the delegations and it would be the warlords from the smaller states that would miss out. - Current non-affiliated union official 4 Protecting the warlords from the smaller states has always been the classic motivation for a federal structure, one that still seems to resonate. One reason why national affiliation might not change much is that many unions are still not genuine national organisations. One interviewee suggested that real power still lies in the state branches of many unions, and that the national union structures have less relevance than might be thought, given the union amalgamation process of the 1990s: What has happened in unions is that youve got 20 unions by and large, youve probably got 4 or 5 that are basically national structures where there are no state structures or there are vestigial state structures like the CPSU, FSU, APPESMA, MUA, even the CFMEU to a certain extent.

25 Thanks to Peter Botsman, Wyndams proposal is now available online at


The miners dont really (have state branches). NTEU is another example. Then you have unions, which are still federations of state unions. HSU, a federation of a lot of people who previously didnt talk to each other and often still dont. There are a couple of unions in the middle like the Miscos26 the metal workers. - Current affiliated union official 5 One former official of an affiliated union pointed to the difficulties that could arise for national officials in unions with state-based power centres, combined with rigid state-based factionalism: I wouldnt join a faction27. I didnt join the right or the left not because I was an incredibly clever independent who wanted to voice my own views it was because my NSW branch was right wing and my Victorian branch was left-wing and I knew I had to get on with both of them and if I joined either faction I was stuffed in terms of being able to run the bloody show so I chose to stay out - Former affiliated union official 1 Persistent differences between state labor movements reflect economics, history and culture. At the time of Federation, the political development and electoral success of the State Labor parties varied greatly (Archer 2007:86). In addition, Rawson (1954:40) has argued that there was no formal contact between the labour parties in the various colonies prior to Federation. Political labour leagues, forerunners of the ALP, were well established in some states. Although, Bongiorno (Bongiorno 2001:14) has argued that with the exception of NSW, party organisation was decidedly loose until late in the 1890s, and Markey (1988:2) has argued that only NSW and Queensland had produced independent labour parties prior to 1900. Party development could depend on specific economic factors. For instance, Bongiorno (2008:3) has argued that the

26 LHMU (the Miscos) is now called UnitedVoice 27 Interviewee is referring to the 1990s


development of a labour party in Victoria was hindered by the absence of a large shearing workforce during the 1890s. In Queensland, 16 endorsed Labor candidates were elected in 1893, a surprisingly good outcome but well short of a majority. Even more startling, the newly formed NSW ALP won 35 seats, and the balance of power, in the lower house in 1891. In Victoria, on the other hand, as in New Zealand, efforts to establish a durable Labor presence in politics had been less successful, partly because of the existence of a liberal alternative, which competed successfully for the working class vote (Ellem and Franks 2008). It was only in 1902 that the Victorian Labor Party established an identity completely separate from the liberal party (Rickard 1984:124). Differences in economic structures in the various states, and a tendency for federal ALP MPs to promote state, rather than national, economic interests in the federal caucus contributed to the ALPs major split over economic policy during the Great Depression in 1931 (Denning 1982). The table at Appendix 2 is an updated and extended version of a figure included in Warhurst and Parkin (2000:23 figure 2.1). It shows distinctive patterns, i.e. significant and sustained variations from the overall national vote, in the performance in different states in federal elections for the House of Representatives. While too much shouldnt be made of these variations, it does point to the persistence of state-based political cultures in Australia. For instance, the splits in the Victorian and Queensland branches of the ALP, compared to the situation in NSW, during the 1950s, had a lasting impact on the ALPs vote in those states in Federal elections. When the FPLP met for the first time (May 1901), there was no national union movement. The union movement lacked a national peak organisation until the creation of the ACTU in 1927. Markey (2008) has argued that the LCNSW was the single most important force in establishing the ACTU, and that the significance of the LCNSW owes much to the special relationship between it and the NSW ALP, Labors most electorally successful state branch. Even after the creation of the ACTU, most unions remained state-based with many national unions exhibiting


the same loose federal structures as the ALP itself (Ellem and Franks 2008). Originally established as a compromise alternative to the One Big Union (OBU) push by the AWU (Bowden 2011:62, 64) and the LCNSW (Markey 2004:64), the ACTU itself was narrowly based for the first four decades. The AWU, Australias most important union in political terms during the first quarter of the 20th century, didnt join the ACTU until 1967 (Bramble 2008:53). The AWU had its own relationship with the ALP. Even today, the AWU can be seen as a bit apart from the rest of the union movement, one interviewee described the AWU as being as much a faction as it is a union (Current affiliated union official 3)28. The AWUs early prominence outside the major cities was of great significance for the ALP (Ellem and Franks 2008). For instance, many of the seats won by Labor in 1891 in NSW were outside Sydney (Markey 1988). The AWU, however, was far more important in Queensland than in NSW (Markey 2008). In the ALPs early years, the AWU virtually controlled it in regional areas (Bowden 2011:61). When Curtin moved to WA in 1917, the AWU had virtual control of the WA ALP, due to a soaring regional population (Day 2006:309). In addition, the ACTU was focused on blue-collar workers until the Council of Australian Government Employees Organisation (CAGEO) and the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations (ACSPA) were brought into the fold during the ACTU presidency of Bob Hawke, 1969 81 (Bramble 2008:57, Markey 2004:68). Crisp (1978) discussed the repeated efforts by sections of the labour movement during the 1920s to find a way to create formal relationships between the national ALP and national union movement; first, by fusing ALP and union organisations at the national level (replicating an existing situation in WA) and second through a committee of federal MPs and union officials. All these efforts met with disinterest and opposition from the state parties, particularly NSW, which resolutely resisted any diminution in its power (Rawson 1954:53).

28 In 2010, Michael Borowick became the first AWU official elected to a full-time position at the ACTU, as Assistant Secretary (Lawrence 2011).


Eventually, in the 1930s a forerunner of the Australian Labor Advisory Committee (ALAC) was established29. It was largely ignored during the Curtin and Chifley Governments. ALAC was used extensively as a formal consultative body during the Accord period and included senior representation from the FPLP, ALP organisation and the ACTU. ALAC was in place during the Whitlam Government, but was no more effective than during the subsequent Rudd Government. Two recent ALP National Reviews (2002, 2010) have called for better use to be made of ALAC as a mechanism for communication and consultation between the ACTU and the ALP. To some extent, personal relationships between federal ALP MPs and unions filled the gap left by the absence of formal unions-party links at the national level. For instance, with the exception of Higgins, a non-ALP member, all but two members of Watsons ministry in 1904, Labors first at the national level, had been a trade union official (McMullin 2004:27). Most of the early leaders of the federal ALP (Watson, Fisher, Tudor, Charlton, Scullin, Chifley30) followed this traditional path of shop floor to elected trade union official to Labor parliamentarian. Hughes led the Waterside Workers Federation (WWF) while he was in parliament. In fact in 1914, Hughes was both president of the WWF and the Commonwealth Attorney- General. He was later expelled from the union for his support for conscription in 1916 (Rimmer 2004: 281 - 3). Chifley, like future NSW Premier J. J. Cahill, had been involved in the 1917 rail strike, one of the most bitter in Australias history. Some combined union and (small scale) business backgrounds, so it would be a mistake to suggest that their life experience was confined to manual (blue collar) labour and trade unionism. Fisher was a mining union official (in his native Ayshire, Scotland as later in Queensland) but had also been a mine owner, albeit on a small scale (Day 2008), and similarly Scullin was a small shopkeeper, and later a newspaper editor, as well as an organiser with the AWU (Robertson 1974).

29 ALAC was originally known as the Federal Labor Advisory Committee (FLAC). 30 Curtin was a proud member of the Australian Journalists Association (AJA) who worked on union newspapers, notably for the AWU in WA (Day 2008)


Nor did they all come to parliament after long first careers on the tools, Curtin spent his whole life in the labour movement, finding continuous employment in it from the age of 26 and repeatedly seeking entry into federal parliament (Edwards 2005:14). The role of personal relationships in filling the gap left by the absence of a more direct, institutional link at the national level reached its apotheosis during his career of R.J.L. Hawke, who built strong relations between the national union movement and the national ALP centred on himself. Hawke was both ACTU and national ALP president from 1973 to 1978, the first person to hold both positions simultaneously (or at all). During the Accord period, this personal basis for the ALP-ACTU relationship also rested heavily on the involvement of Ralph Willis, an ACTU researcher and later Industrial Relations minister and Treasurer during the Hawke-Keating period, Bill Kelty (ACTU secretary), Simon Crean (ACTU president and later a minister in the Hawke and Keating governments) and Paul Keating (Treasurer and then Prime Minister), among others (Manning 2000). The personal closeness of the ACTU-ALP relationship did not outlast Hawkes prime ministership for long. Although then ACTU Secretary Bill Kelty and new Prime Minister Paul Keating had a close relationship, the Keating Governments industrial relations reforms were greeted by the ACTU with great hostility. Keatings industrial relations Minister, Laurie Brereton was heckled at the 1993 ACTU Congress, despite Keltys efforts to mute the response (Bramble 2008: 172). When he became prime minister, Keating considered industrial relations reform as the weak link in his overall project of restructuring and modernising the Australian economy (Edwards 1996). Weakly institutionalised political parties find it difficult to constrain the autonomy of their parliamentary representation and the federal ALP was notable for the degree of autonomy of its federal parliamentarians. As Rawson (1954:383) argued, the most important group of Labor politicians in Australia continued to be the least subject to party control.


4. Union movement structure

Structure has been a lasting challenge for the Australian union movement. Federalism added to the complexity of this challenge. The ACTU was created in 1927 to give a national voice to the union movement and to help co-ordinate it. Although the ACTUs origins owed much to the One Big Union (OBU) movement, and its constitution favoured a move to industrial unionism, the union movements structure remained highly fragmented until recently. Like the ALP itself, its structure mirrored federalism, with state peak union councils becoming state branches of the ACTU with power of veto over ACTU congress decisions until 1947 and majority representation on the ACTU executive until 1957 (Markey 1995). At the same time, the union movement in Australia was characterised by a large number of small craft-based unions, frequently state- based, although power in the union movement has increasingly resided with a far smaller number of larger national unions (Briggs 2002). Unionism in Australia emerged quickly and consolidated early into a structure characterised by high numbers of craft and occupational unions (Briggs 2002:81), not unlike the British unions on which they were modeled, and often institutionally-linked as colonial branch offices. After federation, power tended to remain with pre-existing state unions (Ellem and Frank 2008), rather than in national unions. Markey (1995) notes that the NSW industrial arbitration system replicated the federal system in many ways (basic wage cases, test cases on working conditions) and covered more NSW workers up until the 1990s. A long period of gradual development of the national union body followed its belated formation in 1927. Some scholars have argued that the ACTU did not exercise significant authority over the national trade union movement until the Accord period (Briggs 2002:78, Muir and Peetz, 2010). Before the Accord, comparative studies of union centralisation usually ranked Australia in the bottom-third of advanced capitalist economies (Briggs 2002:79). Even during the Accord period, the ACTU still did not acquire mechanisms of internal authority such as control over strike funds and the advanced constitutional powers found in


a few West European movements. The LCNSW, on the other hand, had much greater control over industrial disputes (Markey 1995). As Briggs (2002:78) has argued, the internal weakness of the ACTU and the long periods of non-Labor Commonwealth governments translated into low levels of political influence for the peak union organisation. Markey (1995) also points out that the special nature of the relationship between the LCNSW and the NSW ALP was significant in shaping the importance of the LCNSW, including in comparison to the ACTU. The Australian constitution gave the federal government the power to undertake conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State (Section 51 xxxv.) This power underpinned the creation of the Conciliation and Arbitration system in 1904. In 1913, the Fisher ALP Government sought to extend that power to enable the federal government to make laws in respect of industrial matters (Day 2008, Patmore and Coates 2005). The referendum was defeated by a small margin nationally, and by larger margins in NSW and Victoria. Queensland was the state that most favoured the proposition (54 per cent in favour). More recently, these limited constitutional powers forced the Howard Government to use the corporations power as the basis for its WorkChoices legislation31. Both sides of national politics now favour a national system32 and have pursued it through the mechanism of states referring their industrial relations powers to the Commonwealth. In 1996, Victoria referred its power to the Commonwealth under the Kennett Liberal Government (1992 99), and it was not reversed during the subsequent Bracks and Brumby ALP Governments (1999 2011). Western Australia remains opposed to referral. All other states had referred their powers prior to the commencement of the Fair Work Act on 1 January 2010. The introduction of the Conciliation and Arbitration system in 1905, following passing of legislation by the Deakin Government with ALP support in the previous year, was followed by a strong growth in union membership. In 1901, by one
31 WorkChoices was the name given to legislation introduced by the Howard Government

in 2005, the corporations power allowed the legislation to cover workplaces and not just the resolution of industrial disputes over more than one state. 32 A national system has been called the lasting legacy of Workchoices (Wilkinson et. al. 2009:367).


account, there were just 100,000 trade union members in a workforce of 1.5 million, a density of less than 10 per cent (Turner 1979: 7). By another account, union density went from 6.1 per cent in 1901 to 51.6 per cent in 1921, due in no small part to the advantages that arbitration conferred on trade unions (Rimmer 2004: 278). The causes for this rapid growth in union membership are still a matter of dispute. In the past, arbitration itself was commonly seen as the cause (Rimmer 2004: 278). More recent research has pointed to the impact of a sharp upswing in employment opportunities and the organising efforts of revitalised peak union bodies as probable causes (Bowden 2011:59). One impact of the federal and state arbitration systems, along with the continuing power of state peak union bodies, may have been to discourage moves towards industrial unionism and to preserve the craft union structure. This fragmentation remained until the amalgamation (or union rationalisation) process of the 1990s (Buchanan 2003). The union amalgamation process was driven by the ACTU33 and encouraged by the federal Labor government, including through legislation and a funding program (Buchanan 2003:55-56). It changed union structures substantially. The number of national unions fell from 134 to 52 in the rst half of the 1990s. By the middle of that decade, 98 per cent of the members of ACTU affiliates were members of the largest twenty unions (Buchanan 2003, Ellem and Franks 2008: 47). More dramatically, power in the ACTU is now concentrated in an even smaller number of unions. One interviewee outlined the concentration of power in the contemporary ACTU, it is an account that emphasises the role of a small group of large unions, many the product of amalgamation, and downplays the role of smaller unions, omitting altogether any reference to state peak union organisations. It also points to a continuing awareness of factional allegiances and the preservation of a factional balance: Within the movement there are two layers. There is basically a leadership group, essentially nine people, the four big right wing unions, the four big left-wing unions and Jeff (Lawrence, ACTU
33 In key ACTU documents like Future Strategies and Australia Reconstructed

included the message that unions must amalgamate to survive and thrive (Buchanan 2003:55).


Secretary). The union movement today is highly centralised in about 8 unions back in the Accord days there was a plethora of unions who were all quite powerful and influential. The 8 key unions today are in the right: the AWU, the SDA, the TWU and the NUW. In the left it is the AEU, CFMEU, the AMWU and the Miscos. The other unions are mostly small and dont matter as much. Current affiliated union official 2 Over the period from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, the ACTU became more representative of the national trade union movement. The AWU joined the ACTU in 1967. New ACTU President, Bob Hawke, drove a process, which saw peak bodies representing professional and public sector unions merged with the ACTU in the 1970s and early 1980s (Ellem and Franks 2008: 57). The ACTU executive was restructured in the 1950s to create equal representation between officials elected from the state peak union bodies (TLCs) and the industry groupings dominated by the big national unions (Hagan 1981:244-50), in an effort to overcome long-standing tensions between craft (often focused on state peak bodies) and general unions (often with a national focus), and balance the power of state peak union bodies with the entry of representatives from large national general unions Nevertheless, the TLCs continued to exert influence, and the LCNSW (now UnionsNSW) in particular was at times an important source of resistance to ACTU authority (Markey 1994). UnionsNSW also ran a semi-separate YR@W campaign to the ACTU (Ellem, Oxenbridge and Gahan 2008). In the 1970s, the powerful metals unions also continued to resist the ACTUs expanding role. Even during the Accord period the state union organisations in NSW (1991, 1993) and Victoria (1988) made (failed) efforts to exert their authority against the ACTU (Briggs 2002: 83). One interviewee recalled these tensions: There was always this tension between Kelty and the (NSW) Labor Council, because they could see that the national focus would not be good for them. Mind you Ive always felt that the difference between NSW and Victoria is that in Victoria the extreme left Trotskyists and Greens have always been seen as a legitimate part of the trade union 97

movement whereas in NSW no one has ever considered them to be a legitimate part of the trade union movement. - Current affiliated union official 5 Notwithstanding some ongoing and episodic tensions, the ACTU by the early 1980s had become, given its far from propitious start, a far more cohesive and authorative organisation. Despite important changes in union structure, and the growing importance of the national peak union organisation, ALP affiliation remained a matter for state branches of unions. The growth of the ACTU provided a platform for a stronger relationship, though a weakly institutionalised one, between the national union movement and the FPLP, but it did little to disturb the traditional relationships between unions and the ALP inside the party organisation.

5. Sectarianism, ideological conflict and factionalism

Among social democratic unions-party relationships, Australia is notable for the intensity and regularity of its sectarian and ideological conflicts (Ellem and Franks 2008:46). Through the formation of a rigid factional system, intense sectarianism and ideological conflict gave a distinct shape and form to the internal organisation of the Australian labour movement. It can be seen as something close to an internalised version of the contestatory type identified by Valenzuela (1992) where unions and parties form relationships along sectarian and ideological lines. Sectarian and ideological conflict was fundamental in the Australian labour movement, and solidified as a contest for the very nature of the ALP: was it to be a socialist party or a catholic social justice party? The contest, especially in the 1950s, threatened the viability of the ALP and shaped the relationship of individual unions with the party. Several interviewees made the point that this rigid factionalism of the past, based on sharp sectarian and ideological differences, was important to understanding


the relationship between unions and the ALP: Sectarianism was a huge thing in the trade union movement but it gets completely written out of the histories. Current affiliated union official 5 When you talk to overseas parliamentary delegations about this country I talk about the importance of religion historically, which a lot of people in Europe dont understand, the Catholic, protestant element. Current federal MP 2 Australia never had a full-blown contestatory model, although in the immediate post war period with the creation of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) there were according to Bob Hawke (1994) some moves to establish a right-wing Catholic peak union organisation to rival the ACTU, Hawke also says that the long- term Secretary at the ACTU, Harold Souter34, fought off a number of attempts to split from right and left wing unions (Hawke 1994). Nevertheless, many of the battles fought out internally in the labour movement from the 1920s to the 1960s replicated the ideological and religious struggles that split labour movements in many European countries. Until recently, then, the ALP could be viewed as a federation of two parties. The Left was largely protestant and socialist in orientation. The right was largely catholic and conservative in economic and social policy orientation. According to one interviewee (Current affiliated union official 5): Even up until the 1980s the Left was more protestant than catholic, thats changed. The Left is now as likely to be catholic as protestant. The factions shared a belief in collective action in the workplace, but often little else. Moreover, the organisational structures of factions became formalised to an unusual extent. One interviewee outlined the well-known parties within a party structure produced by rigid factionalism: The Left and the Right of the ALP have identical structures. They are structures that people I have met from the Canadian New Democratic Party, and also the British Labour Party, when I describe our structures
34 Harold Souter was ACTU Secretary 1957-1977.


they say that is a party within a party in their terms. New Zealand Labour Party people have the same response when I describe it to them. So you have a left faction and a right faction with exactly the same structure they have a left executive and a right executive of their faction. The ratio of union nominated people to SEA (branch) people is the same and those unions are institutionally represented in not only the formal structures of the party but in the factional structures of the party. And that extends to the national left meeting and the national right meeting. Current non-affiliated union official 4 Sectarianism was a factor in the ALPs early splits. Some protestants, but by no means all (Smith 2010), were less likely to accept the collective discipline of caucus and the pledge favoured by unions as effective methods for controlling ALP MPs. While Presbyterian Andrew Fisher stayed to lead the ALP to one of its best ever electoral wins in 2010, Joseph Cook left the ALP in 1891, soon after his election to the NSW Parliament, because he viewed the amended pledge as too constricting. Cook went on to represent the Free Trade group in federal parliament, before leading it into the Fusion and becoming the Australian Liberal Partys Prime Minister in 1913. Australian Catholics were overwhelmingly of Irish descent and sectarianism became embroiled in the Irish Question (i.e. Home Rule and the 1916 Easter uprising). Sectarianism became a dispute between the Irish and the British in the ALP. Again, Protestants were more likely to leave. About half of the ALPs first FPLP ended up on the conservative side of politics, almost all of them protestants, including the legendary W. G. Spence founder of the Australian Shearers Union (ASU) and the AWU. ALP Prime Minister William Hughes, who left the FPLP and was subsequently expelled by the NSW ALP, apparently believed at the time that he could win the second referendum on conscription for overseas service if the English could resolve the Irish Question (OMalley 2002). These early splits changed the composition of the ALP. Labor became a disproportionately catholic party. In 1913, the number of catholics in the NSW Labor caucus, for instance, roughly corresponded to their numbers in the working classes, after the conscription split, half the NSW caucus was catholic, by 1921 it had risen to 61 per cent (Kingston 2006:133). 100

Ideological disputes inside the ALP intensified after the conscription split. They posed a challenge to the early autonomy of the FPLP and its policy moderation. A serious challenge to the position of the ALP, as the working class party, emerged, particularly in the union movement, with the greater radicalization inside unions after the first world war, which included the creation of the Communist Party of Australia in 1921 (Day 2006:299), and fostered the ALPs adoption of the socialisation objective (Day 2006:299-300). The first world war, the rail strike of 1917 and the departure of many of the ALPs best parliamentary leaders all helped to generate a more radical union movement, unimpressed by the achievements of early federal and state governments and eager to try and use the various parliaments to legislate for socialism (Hagan 1991 and Turner 1979). In NSW, the Labor Council was led by a prominent communist, Jock Garden, (Markey 2004:64-65) who hoped to convert NSW to the socialisation of industry with workers control (Kingston 2006:126-7). The NSW ALP, in the 1920s and 30s, was also left wing dominated, allegedly with communist influence. Until they were banned from doing so, communists were active in the ALP during the 1920s. Many CPA members and members of other militant groups believed they had a duty to get inside the ALP and expose the failings of its reactionary leadership (Fred Patterson in 1924 quoted by Fitzgerald 1997:37). Although of little electoral significance, the communists and their support grew to a point where they almost won control of the ACTU in the late 1940s (Bowden 2011:65, Bramble 2008). After the Second World War, the CPA, like communist parties elsewhere, saw social democratic parties like the ALP as bitter enemies (Bramble 2008:11). The New South Wales Labor Party was split from the ALP from 1931 to 1936 (Rydon 1988:163) because the state party attempted to control members of the federal parliament and force them to abide by state party policy (Rydon 1988:160). Left-wing control was ended by federal intervention in 1940 (Rydon 1988:164). The defeat of the left in NSW led to the moderation and pragmatism of the McKell leadership (1939 47), still held by many in the NSW party to be the template for electoral success (Cavalier 2010), and built on a close relationship between the LCNSW and the ALP organisation and its parliamentary party (Patmore and Coates 2005). The template involves a compromise between parliamentarians and the organisational party (Rawson 1954:393). 101

The rise of both Catholicism and communism, during the inter-war period, as sources of alternate ideological visions for the ALP, became combustible in the Cold War and resulted in the Great Split federally, as well as related splits in Victoria and Queensland, which led to the creation of a Democratic Labor Party (Rydon 1988:164), commonly believed to have kept the national ALP out of office for a generation (Maddox 2011), at a time when social democratic parties were enjoying unparalleled success across the Western world. A catholic organisation led by B. A. Santamaria, apparently, prompted by the anti-clericalism of the republican side in the Spanish Civil War (Costar and Strangio 2004:262) sought to rid the Australian labour movement of communist influence and promote ideas of catholic social justice (Costar, Love, Strangio 2005:5-6), by using the Stalinist tactics of their opponents. Meanwhile, the Left believed that Santamaria wanted to turn the ALP into a right-wing Christian farmer-worker party (Bowden 2011:65, Bramble 2008:13). The 1955 Split35 not only kept the ALP out of office federally for a long period, it also solidified a factional pattern that reflected the ongoing sectarian and ideological conflict inside the labour movement. The catholic right was in control of the NSW branch and in Victoria, as Hawke recalled (1994), the right departed leaving the left in control. In the 1980s, the NSW faction became the core of the ALPs national right faction and the Victorian branch became the core of the partys left faction (Jones 2011). The sectarian and ideological battles have moderated to a significant extent, but they are not without their contemporary relevance. One interviewee, who saw the contemporary unions-ALP relationship in highly positive terms, because of its ideological moderation and the capacity of unions and the party to pursue joint political objectives, argued that success in the ideological battles of the 1940s and 1950s was critical: I think it (the closeness of the unions-ALP relationship) is because we beat the comms. If the comms had won in the unions then it would be a
35 Warhurst (1979) pointed to evidence that suggests that catholic voters had started to leave the ALP before the Split, particularly at the 1949 election


very different thing. It would be just like the UK. I think the reality is those guys in the 40s and 50s that fought so hard against the comms are essentially the only reason that we have this relationship. If the comms had got the majority I think it would be a very different relationship today. I think thats the kind of key ingredient. - Current affiliated union official 2 A quirk of the decline of the blue-collar unions affiliated to the ALP was that the catholic conservative led SDA, mainly covering retail workers, quickly became the largest affiliated union (Catley 2005:103), although relatively large with 230,000 members (according to the SDA website36) its coverage of the retail workforce is low. Bowden (2011:70) said that the retailing workforce was one million employees, and the unionisation density is just 15 per cent, a large discrepancy but the point is the same; the SDA is large because its industry is large, not because it is doing a lot better at recruiting and retaining members. Its leadership has remained constant for over 30 years, and it has more former officials in the federal caucus than any other union, and twice as many as the ACTU.

6. Conclusion
Three critical factors shaped the development of the national unions-ALP relationship. These factors fragmented the relationship to an extent that was unusual in comparison to other social democratic type relationships and particularly in relation to Valenzuelas ideal social democratic type of a national relationship between a national party and a national union movement. In terms of Panebiancos party institutionalisation much of this can be said to have occurred at the factional level. Elements of the Australian relationship, particularly federalism, and affiliation patterns at the federal level, are more in keeping with Valenzuelas pressure group type. When it did emerge as an effective national body, the ACTU had an historic and institutional independence from the national ALP, which was also unusual in a social democratic relationship.
36 SDA Shop, Distributive and Allied Industries - - accessed on 4 October 2011



1. Introduction
Does a paradox between dependence and independence now shape the national unions-ALP relationship? Significant fragmentation in the relationship, in particular from federalism, created sufficient space for the simultaneous existence of two forms of the relationship. The next chapter examines union revitalisation, which is the major reason for the emergence of a second form of the national unions-ALP relationship. This chapter examines opinions found in the interviews that might point to the existence of two forms of the relationship. The first form of the relationship is the traditional social democratic type based on affiliation in which unions are largely dependent on the ALP, and the exercise of labour rights, for achieving political objectives. The second form of the relationship emphasises the political independence of the ACTU and its affiliates; and, a far greater reliance on political activities that utilise citizen rights, particularly campaigning. The co- existence of these two relationship types, reliant on different repertoires of contention, has become more problematic as the first relationship type recedes in efficacy, because of the decline in the ALPs blue-collar union base, and the second grows in importance as unions employ revitalisation strategies to stabilise and rebuild their membership bases. In addition, both unions and the ALP have recognised that the old, dependent form of the relationship is increasingly out of favour with union members and voters. In response, both sides are stressing their political independence in public . This chapter begins the case study of the contemporary unions-ALP relationship with an analysis of general interviewee attitudes to the relationship using the independence and dependence dichotomy; the differences between affiliated and non-affiliated unions; and, differences between union officials and their members.

2. A question of balance
The need for a balance between independence and dependence in the unions-ALP relationship was a key theme in the interviews conducted for this study. The balance is between a public portrayal of independence and a private recognition of dependence. This concern with balance is revealed in the use of phrases like close, but not too close. The balance problem is manifested in public distancing strategies (particularly by the ALP); concerns about over-reliance of the union movement on the ALP in Government; decisions by unions to support the ALP at election time; concerns about unions campaigning against the ALP; and, the attitudes of union members to the political alignment of affiliated unions. Officials from affiliated unions reported more concern with the question of balance than officials from non-affiliated unions. There are also differences between union officials and union members, with members generally placing a far greater emphasis on the need for independence than officials, again especially in the case of affiliated unions. Indeed, the comments made by union officials in these interviews about the attitudes of their members towards the ALP, and its relationship with unions, suggest that apathy, ambivalence or hostility are the main attitudes of many union members towards ALP affiliation. From this we might infer that this question of balance is primarily a concern of officials from affiliated unions, though it has implications for the unions-ALP relationship more broadly. Interviewees used a variety of terms to capture the sense of balance. One interviewee (Current federal MP 1) referred to this mutuality as distant dependence, an intriguing phase and perhaps another way of suggesting close, but not too close, while conveying a sense of the decline in the integration and intimacy of the relationship between unions and the ALP. One official from an affiliated union talked about achieving this balance between independence and dependence through the maturity of the elite leadership involved: We talk, we get on, we deal, but we have independence and I think thats crucial. Current affiliated union official 2 105

At one level, achieving the right balance between independence and dependence is seen as a marketing, or brand positioning, issue, at a time when there is considerable scepticism among key audiences about the continuing value of a dependency relationship. As one interviewee put it: The key is that there is a mutual self-interest in maintaining ties but also a mutual self-interest in downplaying those ties publicly. - Current peak union official 4. Even occasional public conflict between unions and the ALP can be seen to have a positive side in terms of highlighting, or marketing, the extent of independence in the relationship: It probably doesnt do either side any harm to be seen to disagree (Current federal MP 5). Although some interviewees viewed this idea as a bit too cynical, because public disagreements are hard to manufacture and difficult to control, and others believed that tensions were good for the relationship in their own right, regardless of how they might influence union member and voter perceptions: Theres always going to be tensions and I think the differences are part of the strength of the Labor Party not a weakness (Current federal MP 1). One characteristic of a dependent relationship in an era of considerable scepticism is that affiliated unions not only have an incentive to market their own independence, they also have an interest in encouraging the perception that the ALP in fact enjoys a significant degree of independence from its affiliated unions. This opinion is, of course, a concession that a dependent relationship is an electoral problem for the ALP: It (the unions relationship with the ALP) is never as strong as you want it. And sometimes you dont want it as strong as you actually want it. Because otherwise you dont remain in government, you have to have a balance. Current affiliated union official 4 Public distancing is a key strategy used by ALP leaders to emphasise the partys independence from unions. Some union interviewees were cynical, or realistic,


about the difference in the ALP leaderships attitudes to unions in public and in private. Again, there is a strong sense in which the issue of an appropriate balance between independence and dependence is seen in marketing terms by both sides of the relationship: I think Gillard and Rudd have run very careful lines, when they speak privately to the unions they are all very effusive and thankful but when they are in public they dont even want to use the word union. Current non-affiliated union official 2 Rudds been nervous about being seen to be too close to unions. I know that there are some people (from the union movement) who have said to Kevin at various times its OK to use the U-word sometimes, its not a bad thing. And I think he has been advised that way, I dont think it is something that he arrived at naturally or deliberately. More recently, people have said to him its OK to publicly say that it is good to be in a union. Thats not going to lead to the re-establishment of the Berlin wall. Current affiliated union official 1 Unsurprisingly, creating an appropriate environment, which allows both sides to position themselves as largely independent of the other to their various constituencies and from within which both sides can secure the full benefits of a dependent relationship brings risks with it. These risks go beyond public perceptions and extend into the roles of unions, and the risks of excessive dependence on the ALP to deliver union objectives. One interviewee from the parliamentary side of the relationship argued that the Hawke and Keating Governments had done too much for unions, and that unions had become too dependent on the ALP: The relationship is a genuine double-edged sword and of genuine advantage and possible disadvantage to both sides. When Labor is in Government it can legislate a union agenda. But as we found in the dying days of the Keating Government, we had legislated and we had ALACed so much of the agenda that pretty soon unions werent fighting 107

for themselves and pretty soon the role of government had taken over roles that unions ought better have done and I think that weakened unions. Maximising the advantages and minimising the risks requires careful management of the relationship. - Current federal MP 4 A major indicator of the relationship paradox, the difficulty involved in being dependent and independent at the same time, can be seen in attitudes to the issue of public campaigning by unions, a key part of social movement (including community and coalition) unionism, when that campaigning is at odds with the interests of the ALP. This problem is not so much in evidence when the ALP is out of office, but when it is in government it is a different matter. Although some interviewees saw some conflict as beneficial in terms of positioning both sides as independent, it is clear that the ALP can be very hostile to union criticism of it when the party is in government. Given that many senior officials of affiliated unions are involved in the ALP at senior levels it can be difficult to even envisage where the line between union stops and party starts: The unions and the (party) organisation are for just about all intents and purposes, one and the same. I actually dont see much differentiation between the (party) organisation and the unions. - Current affiliated union official 2. Consequently, this interviewee (current affiliated union official 2) viewed the prospect of campaigning against an ALP Government as a bridge too far: I couldnt even contemplate doing that (campaigning against a Labor Government). It should be pointed out that this official, who has been openly critical of some actions of ALP Governments, was referring specifically to campaigning, particularly in an election context, rather than voicing criticisms of particular ALP government decisions. Nevertheless, this attitude suggests that union dependence constrains the extent of union independence. The occasions when affiliated unions do campaign against the ALP are rare, and


usually notorious, the CFMEUs support for John Howards Tasmanian forestry policy in the last week of the 2004 election37 being a notable example. One interviewee, an MP, used this example to stress that despite the dependence in the relationship, unions will ultimately support their members interests rather than further the ALPs electoral prospects if there is a conflict between the two: The Timberworkers supported Howard in 2004 because Latham didnt offer a good deal for their members; you cant blame them for that. And Ive heard that Latham was warned at the (ALP) National Executive that that would happen - Current federal MP 6. Although affiliated unions are likely to support the ALP, in all but exceptional circumstances, several interviewees argued that the level of support would fluctuate. One interviewee put it in overall terms suggesting that levels of union support would fluctuate from election to election depending on the state of the relationship between unions and the ALP at the time: I dont believe you will ever see in the foreseeable future a situation where the unions in Australia would campaign against the Labor Party, what you might however see is various degrees of enthusiasm with which they campaign for the Labor Party Current peak union official 1 Another interviewee, however, suggested that union support for the ALP might also become more candidate specific, a development that would bring the national unions-ALP relationship more in line with the approach of unions to electoral politics in Valenzuelas pressure group model: Thats going to be a real challenge for the union movement in the future. If the separation (between unions and the ALP) kind of solidifies then you maybe will see in the future rather than the union movement holus bolus supporting the ALP maybe channeling their

37 see for instance news report at


efforts into those candidates who actually do have a genuine commitment (to unions and their policy objectives) - Current federal MP 3 The tentative, and highly qualified, nature of these comments points us to the conclusion that the idea of the union movement not supporting the ALP, either by being less enthusiastic or by targeting individual candidates, in future elections is still pretty much unthinkable. Interviewees from affiliated unions were generally of the view that the benefits from internal influence through affiliation outweighed any restraint on their capacity to campaign independently of the ALP. Interviewees from non-affiliated unions, however, were often more sceptical of the value of restraint and reliance on quiet influence, to use Tattersalls description (2010:176). One interviewee from a non-affiliated union suggested that affiliation did not always provide the benefits that the ALP claims: It is put to us that if we were affiliated wed get much more done, wed be able to make those same phone calls ourselves and get things fixed up. But, I dont think thats necessarily true. In NSW, unions that arent affiliated have, I suspect, done better out of the Labor Government Current non-affiliated union official 3 Officials from non-affiliated unions tended to be more critical of the performance of the Rudd Government on industrial relations, expressing a greater disappointment that specific commitments were not met. One interviewee related with some bitterness the way in which he believed that a deal between unions and the then ALP Opposition had not been honoured after the 2007 election: Gillard says they will implement everything they promised but I was certainly at meetings where we were told by various senior ALP officials in the federal parliamentary labor party that they couldnt disclose all they were going to do in the lead up to the election because


it would be used against them and just provide comfort to Howard and so on, but rest assured itll all be fixed up and that of course hasnt happened, hasnt happened at all and now were treated to Julia Gillard saying when she is attacked over Fair Work Australia that they must have it right because both employers and unions are complaining. Current non-affiliated union official 3 Another official from a different non-affiliated union also suggested that the ALP was more responsive to unions in Opposition: I think you get better access when theyre in Opposition. They listen when theyre looking for friends. When theyre in government it is a little bit different, as youd expect they have then got resources and theyve got different advisers and different levels of responsibility but clearly theyre much more friendly when they are in opposition. Current non-affiliated union official 2 Although, interviewees from non-affiliated unions reported a greater willingness to engage in public campaigning even when it has a negative electoral impact on the ALP, their lack of affiliation with the ALP did not mean that they were exempt from pressure to behave as if they were affiliated and avoid campaigning that might help Labors opponents: Its harder for someone to ring us up and say dont do it (campaign). Though it happens I must say. We get phone calls from politicians saying how could you do that youre going to provide comfort to the coalition. I had one of those towards the end of last year. But youre not compromised by those personal relationships (involved in affiliation). Current non-affiliated union official 3 As well as campaigning, officials from non-affiliated unions were more likely to stress the need to engage with both sides of politics. Partly, this is because the big non-affiliated unions tend to consist of professional workers in publicly funded organisations, much more directly affected by government policies and decisions


than traditional blue-collar unionists in the private sector: I think it would be harder for affiliated unions to front up and run campaigns as we do or to have discussions with the Liberals certainly before the election outcome is known. Labor people would see it as betrayal. Labor has this absolute expectation that unions will fall in line when it comes to the polling booth and that they will get out there. But youve got to work with whoever is in government. If you dont engage, if you dont put your point of view forward then the Liberal Party will just go ahead and believe what they get told by some others. So you have got to engage with both sides. Current non-affiliated union official 2 The interviews suggest that union members are far less supportive of the ALP, and the unions-ALP relationship, than their officials38. All unions appear to have a substantial number of members, including delegates, who are not committed ALP voters, and, indeed, may even be activists in non-ALP parties. This is hardly surprising given the weakening of party loyalties in recent decades, which contributed to the ALPs loss of office in 1996 when less than half of blue collar workers voted Labor (Smith 2010:505), apparently for the first time since the 1930s (Catley 2005:101). Judging from the interviews, most unions contain active members, including delegates and officials, who are members of all other major parties: Liberals, Nationals and Greens. This leads union officials in affiliated unions to play down the institutional link with the ALP or to try and position it as yet another opportunity to influence political outcomes. It also makes the nature of the unions-ALP link problematic and perhaps only viable as a link between union officials who are committed Labor supporters and the ALP: One of the issues the Labor Party has needed to face up to for a long- time is that we really dont have trade unionists affiliated to the Labor Party; we have trade union officials affiliated to the Labor Party. It

38 Though, of course, this is based on the views of officials about their membership and their understandings may not always be accurate.


makes no difference to the life of any member that their union is affiliated and they get no say what their union does inside the ALP. No matter what the pretence is, the (ALP conference) delegation is made up of anyone the Secretary says and they all vote the same way. As if the members have only one view. Not all shop assistants are against abortion. Not all metalworkers are against privatisation, I went to a well-organised metal workers shop floor in Hobart and the delegate told me he was opposed to the gun laws and said Im not going to vote for that John Howard again. He obviously voted for him in 1996. Current federal MP 7 The interview transcripts reveal a great deal of awareness and sensitivity on the part of senior union officials to the diverse party allegiances of their memberships: We know that a majority of our members voted for John Howard in 2004. Current affiliated union official 1 Fifty per cent of our members including delegates and whatever are Liberals. - Current non-affiliated union official 2 Our members in regional areas often support the National Party. Current affiliated union official 5 Several interviewees commented on the misunderstandings widely held about union membership and voting patterns, and the political misjudgments that can result: Howard and co, particularly Minchin39, were on a course. They attached union membership to ALP support. But as you know there are a lot of militant unionists who dont vote labor and never will. Truck drivers, I know heaps of them, they were in an income bracket where
39 A Liberal Senator for SA, Minchin was Finance Minister and Senate Government Leader

in the Howard Government during the WorkChoices era, he is widely believed in the union movement to have been a hard-liner on industrial relations.


they liked having the Liberals in power because the taxes were lower. But it never stopped them going on strike when they thought their interests were threatened. Current federal MP 5 (Howard) made those Liberals who are unionists make a choice about something really close to home, their job, what they were going to take home to feed the family with. When it comes down to whose interest are we playing in, you can be an idealist about entrepreneurship and individuality and so forth but if someone is going to take the bread off your table then theyre the enemy. Current non-affiliated official 2 While the ALP remains the most important political party for unions, there has always been competition from minor parties. The position of the Greens today is seen by some as a corollary to the parties on the left of the ALP that have always operated within unions: We forget that traditionally just because youre union doesnt mean youre pro-Labor. Like in the sixties and the fifties you had the socialists, the communists a whole lot of people. Current federal MP 6 Faced with this diversity of party allegiances among their memberships, affiliated union officials appear to adopt one of two strategies. One strategy involves treating affiliation as a fact of life that the union membership does not care about. One current senior official reported that his members did not care about his unions relationship with the ALP. This interviewee advanced three reasons for this disinterest. First, there are different attitudes to politics in unions that are affiliated with the ALP and those that are not affiliated. The interviewee suggested that affiliation is just seen as a fact of life in blue-collar unions, an historical reality. Whereas in professional and white collar unions there has been a long tradition of political independence. Second, most people are members of unions in order to secure job-related benefits not because of broader political concerns and objectives. Third, a large minority of union members is capable of


reconciling their union membership with their support for the Liberal party: I dont think members really give a fuck. I dont think my members would care either way but its about the culture of unions. In other unions it might be different. In professional unions, it is a very clear issue in public service unions and in professional unions. Blue-collar unions like mine, a lot of the political work we do they just dont care. They like it, but they are not engaged with it. They care about job security, wages, superannuation, and overtime allowances. Theyre in the union for these reasons. Theyre not in the union for politics; weve always had a high proportion of the membership that votes Liberal, to me thats the evidence that the members actually dont care that much about our political objectives, there certainly is a pocket that does. But the fact is that weve always had 30 to 40 percent of our members that vote Liberal but are still members. They know that we are part of the ALP, we helped to found the ALP, but that theyre still members is testament to the fact that they think oh well who cares. Current affiliated union official 2 The second strategy that can be adopted is to try and educate union members about the benefits of affiliation and to position it as just another way of securing desired political outcomes: We make it clear, that whichever way you vote this (ALP affiliation) is another leverage point for what you stand for, especially in terms of your employment which is pretty fundamental to you. - Current affiliated union official 4 This educative approach relies on positioning the union as politically independent, even if it is ALP affiliated: They (the members) also know that we deal with conservative politicians as well. They know that we wont not make a deal with a conservative government because they are conservative. Were not


worried about giving them a leg up because the ALP wont like it. It is a political question about how you deliver an outcome. Current affiliated union official 4 One union official, however, argued that when an ALP government is deeply unpopular, unions do not even try to sell the benefits of affiliation to their members: One senior official of a right-wing union, also in the ALP, says he just mutters when members ask him whether the union is affiliated to the ALP and tries to change the subject. Recently, the NSW Treasurer,40 who wanted a wage freeze agreement, told a meeting of union officials down here that when they got re-elected next year they would look after us, people were rolling around on the floor of course. He was left in no doubt that the ALP government was so on the nose that even if we wanted to we couldnt go out there and sell it. You couldnt sell an Accord idea the relationship was such that it would just cause damage, it wasnt just the left-wing unions, the right-wing unions were also saying that they couldnt sell it to their members. - Current non- affiliated union official 3 Union interviewees from non-affiliated unions were more likely to report that their members expected them to be independent of the ALP, and consequently non-partisan and non-active in electoral politics. The members desire for independence resulted in clear distancing strategies by the officials of non- affiliated unions: You have to be careful because we dont want people to think we are just an ALP union - Current non-affiliated union official 1 The members are very tough when the union is seen to be backing Labor in. Current peak union official 4

40 The interviewee is referring to Eric Roozendaal who was Treasurer in the NSW Rees and Keneally Governments from 2008 to 2011.


Officials from non-affiliated unions also had to justify political campaigns to a sceptical membership. One official from a non-affiliated union spoke of the initial resistance to political activity among his union membership, and of their eventual politicisation by a significant anti-WorkChoices campaign: That criticism was strong when we were running that campaign because people couldnt see the absolute necessity for us to get involved in politics in order to preserve their rights so we had to do a lot of education of members around why it was critical to be politically active. A lot of members and a lot of people in the community are not sophisticated in how they reason through why you might want to run a campaign that is going to be seen as supporting one party against another. I think that since the rights at work campaign though there is a better understanding that you do need to engage in politics otherwise you get left with decisions made by politicians who youve brushed over and allowed to be elected when theyve got an agenda that is going to hurt you individually so I think YR@W politicised people and members in particular our members. Current non-affiliated union official 2 Despite the apparently widespread concern with demonstrating independence publicly, some interviewees still saw the link as an electoral positive for the ALP: I think it influences a lot of working people to support the Labor Party. If you look at new Labor, and the position new Labor is in in the UK, where they cant mobilise their base and they are seen to have not delivered on many things, I dont think the New Labor approach has delivered for Labor and we shouldnt adopt the New Labor approach (in Australia) - Current federal MP 1 These interviews are characterised by a confidence that any contradiction between independence and dependence can be managed by getting the balance right, and through a range of tactics to deal with union member scepticism about the value of a close relationship with the ALP. Yet, they also demonstrate that the 117

relationship between unions and the ALP has become more complex, and that beyond officials from affiliated unions there is little confidence in the value of being close to the ALP or that the benefits of the relationship are worth relinquishing independence.

3. Three perspectives
This section continues to explore the growing complexity of attitudes in the labour movement towards the national unions-ALP relationship. In particular it explores the ways in which reactions to the perceived problems of the Accord (essentially, the negative impacts of being too close) and the ACTUs adoption of revitalisation strategies and tactics are re-shaping attitudes and expectations around the unions-ALP relationship. Three broad perspectives about the national unions-ALP relationship are identified and analysed in the table below. The interviews were semi-structured so the questions did not follow a uniform script. The first question (see Appendix 1) sought general thoughts about the state of the relationship today. Most interviewees gave extended responses to this first question, and many returned, or were guided back to it, later in the interviews. Consequently, the database for classifying interviewees as positive, negative or about the same was more than adequate. Interviewees with the first perspective, positive, believed, sometimes strongly, that the right balance between independence and dependence had been achieved or would be achieved in the near future. Interviewees with the second perspective, negative, argued that the Accord period was the highpoint in the unions-ALP relationship and they argued that the relationship was being devalued and coming apart rather than modernising or evolving. The third group about the same hold that the relationship has always been characterised by tension and conflict, which ebbs and flows depending on the issues of the day and the personalities involved at the time.


Table 10: Overall attitudes to relationship

Positive Number of interviewees 16 Indicative comments Not too close, both sides can act independently Relationship has adapted to new political circumstances Unions have helped the ALP to modernise Negative 4 Accord was high point in relationship ACTU had a place at the Cabinet table during Accord, now they have to lobby like other interest groups Often viewed as a separation or divorce Party sees unions as a problem to be managed About the same 4 Ebb and flow, ups and downs Tensions are normal, they have always been there Tensions often due to personality issues MPs and unions have different issues and different constituencies

The quotes set out below provide more detailed examples of the typical views in each grouping: From the positive grouping: We actually have a far closer relationship than most people give us credit for. Unions provide the stability in Australia to have serious party reform. Unions ironically are the block of modernising right-wingers that ensure the party can transform and modernise. In the UK the unions are the block to that. If I had been in the UK I would have supported what Tony Blair did, in terms of weakening union influence in the party, because unions made the party unelectable generally. That is not the case in Australia. Current affiliated union official 2 From the negative grouping: Its like the divorce is starting to happen. The separation is occurring it is not a marriage of the industrial and political wings anymore. Current federal MP 3 119

It does seem to be on a moving footway to further separation. The Labor Party is now led by people who are largely not former trade union officials. So within the government there isnt the sense of a place the trade union movement could occupy in a reformist government. Former affiliated union official 1 From the about the same grouping: I think the relationship at the present time is as distant as I have seen it in my 25 years as a union official. Some of the key players dont have a lot of union history the prime minister (Rudd) doesnt understand the union culture and doesnt understand the labor culture and the union culture within the labor movement. Thats part of the issue. You could argue that that has been the case from time to time over the last 100 years. Current peak union official 3. Should the about the same grouping be considered, on the whole, to be positive or negative about the relationship? The four interviewees in the about the same group pointed to a continuity of conflict and tension in the relationship between unions and the ALP throughout its history. This meant that they saw the current level of fragmentation as neither new nor necessarily permanent. These interviewees recognised that there were considerable tensions in the relationship, but tended to see these in an historical context of a relationship that has always had tensions. Some of these interviewees also saw the tensions as contributing to a healthy relationship. Interviewees in this group also tended to stress the role of personality in the relationship as an, at least partial, explanation of these ups and downs. Some pointed to the then Prime Minister Rudd as being uninterested, or even hostile to unions. Implied, however, in the view of the about same group is a sense of return to a closer relationship in the medium to longer term. The interviewees in the about the same grouping do not fit automatically with the positive grouping because they tend to see the relationship as going through one of its low points with more than the usual degree of tension. On the other


hand, they do not fit automatically with the negative grouping either because their emphasis on the ebb and flow that has always, in their view, characterised the relationship suggests that they expect that it will get better. In addition, they do not voice the sense of adaptation in the relationship that underpins the views of the positive grouping, nor do they subscribe to the idea that the relationship is coming apart which motivates much of the sentiment of interviewees in the negative grouping. On balance, I suggest that the about the same grouping is closer to the positive grouping than the negative grouping because both groupings see the unions-ALP relationship continuing and, indeed, improving in the future. They accept a higher degree of distance in the contemporary relationship as an acceptable, temporary or, even, positive development in the relationship. Therefore, just 4 of the 24 interviewees could be said to be pessimistic about the future of the relationship. This group saw greater distance, or fragmentation, in negative, even hostile, terms. The negative group commonly believed that the Accord period was the pinnacle for the national unions-ALP relations and were more likely to believe that the ALP would prefer not to have formal links with unions because senior figures in the party perceived the links with unions as being either neutral or negative in electoral terms. Current peak union official 1, for instance, said that the ALP takes a damage control approach to its links with unions. Several interviewees in this category also believed that unions were not making a significant contribution in policy terms and tended to be seen by the ALP as narrowly focused advocates for their members as employees. Former affiliated union official 1 described this as the defender role, forced upon the union movement by rapid membership decline and the hostile environment of the Howard years. These interviewees see the greater level of fragmentation in the contemporary unions-ALP relationship as a source of decline and as a threat to its sustainability. There is no sense of a positive adaptation to new circumstances in this group.


4. Current and former union officials

There were sharp differences in attitudes to the contemporary unions-ALP relationship between interviewees who were current union officials and those who were former officials, or who had never been union officials. This difference suggests that the contemporary relationship is meeting the expectations of current officials, and that those expectations have changed, probably significantly, since the Accord era. The table on the next page (Relationship outcomes for unions) looks at the three groupings (positive, negative and same), identified in the previous section, in terms of the biographical backgrounds of the interviewees concerned. The most important biographical distinction is between current union officials and those who were either former union officials or who had never been union officials. Contemporary involvement in the relationship as a senior union official is strongly correlated with overall satisfaction with the unions-ALP relationship. The most likely cause of this sharp difference in attitude is change in union leadership and agenda since the Accord period. That is, current officials view the contemporary unions-ALP relationship, with its balance between independence and dependence, as more consistent with the ACTUs promotion of union revitalisation strategies than the previous social democratic style relationship under the Accord. The evolution in the thinking of the union leadership and its impact on how it has affected attitudes towards the unions-ALP relationship was put succinctly by a current national union official with several decades of experience at senior levels in the union movement and the ALP: There are people who went into parliament including former ACTU officials, at the 1996 election or before, and a number who went in between 1996 and 2004 who might have risen to senior positions as union officials. They dont really have much of an understanding of the union agenda as it is now. Their mentality about how they think we should do things is a bit like the mentality of the Accord, and they dont


really understand how unions have changed and this whole campaigning and organising agenda stuff that really came to the forefront from 2000 on. Current peak union official 2 This distinction between current and former union officials was a better predictor of attitudes about the relationship than whether or not the official was from an affiliated or non-affiliated union. This suggests that both affiliated and non- affiliated unions have embraced the ACTUs revitalisation agenda and that the experience of being a union official during the union density declines of the 1990s and the Howard Governments hostile reforms has reshaped union attitudes and expectations about the unions-ALP relationship. Overall, interviewees saw the contemporary relationship as positive for unions, especially by current officials. Former officials, on the other hand, viewed the relationship as either negative or about the same. The negativity flows from a belief that the Accord was the high point in the union movements relationship with the ALP. Table 11: Relationship outcomes for unions
Current union Former union Never union TOTAL Positive 11 0 2 13 Negative 1 3 0 4 Same 2 2 3 7

The next table reports on the views of current officials. All six officials with affiliated unions were positive about the relationship outcomes for unions, and 3 of 4 officials with peak union organisations were positive, the fourth was neutral. Just one official, from a non-affiliated union, was negative about the capacity of the relationship to deliver for unions.


Table 12: Union satisfaction: current officials

Affiliated Non-affiliated Peak TOTAL Positive 6 2 3 11 Negative 0 1 0 1 Same 0 1 1 2

The interviews strongly suggest that the expectations of current union officials about outcomes from the relationship are being met. Part of the reason for that result is that current officials have a more modest, or circumscribed, view about what the relationship can deliver. Former officials have higher expectations, especially around union participation in, and influence on, government policy- making processes. These higher expectations result from their experience of the Accord or, some in todays union leadership would say, their nostalgia about it.

5. Social partner versus pressure group

In essence, were another pressure group, a large and influential one, but another pressure group. We never would have been described as that a generation ago. - Current peak union official 1 Social partner status is associated with social democratic types (strong and weak) of unions-party relationships, and, therefore relatively low levels of fragmentation in the relationship and higher levels of dependence. Pressure group status is exemplified by the relationship between unions and the Democratic Party in the USA, and therefore relatively higher levels of fragmentation, and higher levels of independence. If the unions-ALP relationship has been transitioning away from the social democratic type to the pressure group type, we would expect to find perceptions of union status that reflect this greater degree of perceived fragmentation.


The next table classifies interviewees according to whether they perceive unions as social partners with the ALP, as pressure groups, or as a mixture of both. With only a few exceptions, interviewees did not use terminology like social partner or pressure group unless prompted to do so by the question. Interviewees were capable, and willing, to frame answers using those terms when prompted to do so. In addition, interviewees often responded by using arguments and language that clearly placed them in the social partner or pressure group category. Social partner responses emphasised the party identity the ALP draws from its union affiliates and the connection with working people and their issues that affiliation provides. Social partner responses also emphasised party traditions and tended to perceive deep organisational links between the ALP and affiliated unions. Pressure group responses tended to emphasise the size and resources of unions, their capacity to mobilise and other attributes of interest groups. Pressure group responses also tended to position unions as similar to other important interest groups particularly those representing business interests. Pressure group responses suggest a greater sense that the organisational links between the ALP and affiliated unions, at an FPLP level, are relatively thin. Eight interviewees gave answers that suggested they held to some amalgam of the social partner or pressure group types, or that they did not distinguish sharply between the two. A typical response in the both category was to emphasise that affiliated unions provided the ALP with its identity as a party concerned with working people and their issues, but also to stress the importance of the union movement as Australias largest and best organised interest group. Their responses suggested that these attributes were of equal importance and that neither attribute on its own would be enough to justify an affiliated relationship with unions. Nearly half, ten, of the interviewees clearly saw unions as social partners. Six interviewees saw the unions as pressure groups in their relationships with the ALP. Current union officials were evenly distributed between social partner (5), pressure group (4) and both (5), an outcome that might suggest some transition in the way unions themselves view their relationships with the ALP.


Table 13: Relationship status and union connection

Current union Former union Never union TOTAL Social partner 5 1 4 10 Pressure Group 4 2 0 6 Both 5 2 1 8

Unfortunately, I do not have any earlier data from which a trend might be inferred. The results are, however, consistent with the high levels of satisfaction with the contemporary unions-ALP expressed by many interviewees. They are also consistent with the results reported in section 2 above which found that current union officials are the most likely to be satisfied with the contemporary relationship. The fact that more than half of the interviewees viewed unions as pressure groups, or part pressure groups and part social partner, is also suggestive of greater fragmentation in the relationship. On the other hand, the fact that nearly half the interviewees still see unions as social partners with the ALP suggests that the relationship is still widely perceived as retaining its social democratic closeness, another indication of the belief that the balance between dependence and independence, between internal and external lobbying, is and can work. Interviewees who saw unions as social partners argued that affiliation raised the status of unions and privileged them against non-affiliated unions and other like- minded community organisations. One interviewee said: Affiliation is still important for a number of reasons and I just think that affiliation and credibility go hand in hand. Affiliation means that unions are more than just a pressure group. Current federal MP 5


At the same time, some interviewees saw affiliation as fundamental to the identity of the ALP: The important thing is that we still know ourselves as a labour movement and I think we must keep the unique and defining characteristic of having unions affiliated to the Labor Party and therefore having a direct say in our affairs and I dont think we should be afraid of that relationship. Current federal MP 4 Interviewees who viewed unions as pressure groups in the relationship did so for either positive or negative reasons. On the positive side, some interviewees emphasised the size and effectiveness of unions as pressure groups. As well as nearly 2 million members, the union movement can also draw on 2,000 full-time officials and over 100,000 workplace delegates (Davis 2009a), making it the largest advocacy group in Australia (Muir 2008). Descriptors like pressure group and interest group carry pejorative connotations inside the labour movement. While interviewees rarely described the union movement as a pressure group, many spoke of it in terms of its size, resources and campaigning capacities. That is, as if unions were pressure groups. These interviewees still wanted to maintain the internal role of unions in the ALP, or at least not challenge it further, on the basis of the size and power of unions, not their status as a social partner. For instance, (emphasis added): The union movement is still the dominant non-government organisation in Australia. Close to 2 million members, people making a deliberate decision to make a financial commitment to a collective organisation. It cannot be ignored. Current federal MP 1 They are still the biggest interest group in the country. I suppose you could say that if they had 4 million of them, twice as many, theyd have twice as much money and twice as many people to mobilise but its certainly not proportional, its marginal. Of the big groups there is probably no-one who can mobilise their membership as effectively as the unions. Current federal MP 7 127

On the negative side, some interviewees pointed to the decline in union membership and density as an indicator that unions could no longer claim to speak on behalf of a broader working class. For instance (emphasis added): Penetration rates in the private sector are so low that you could probably put forward a supposition that sometimes unions arent representative of the working class. The brutal reality is that when I first started out in this game I think union density was 53 per cent, sorry 57 per cent. It is now less than 20 per cent. So the union movement doesnt have the same capacity to speak on behalf of working Australians. Current peak union official 1 Now were dealing with a very different situation as regards to their membership even if they aspire to have those kinds of (Accord) relationships. Current federal MP 2 I think the overall decline in density in the private sector feeds into the argument about why should they (unions) have a special place in terms of influencing policy outcomes when theyre in decline. I get a sense that the prime minister (Rudd) would see the ACTU no differently to say the AIG or the BCA41 as another group that he has to interface with and listen to and respond to but theyre not central to the project as they were a decade or two ago. Current federal MP 3 It is interesting to note the emphasis on union density in the private sector in these comments. Of course, density has declined more sharply in the private sector so it is a starker statistic, but the ALPs union affiliates are also concentrated in the private sector making the density declines in that sector a bigger issue for party affiliation than it is in terms of a relationship with a broader union movement.
41 The two most important business groups, Business Council Australia (BCA) represents

Australias 100 biggest companies, it was established during the Accord period as a counter to the influence of the ACTU. The Australian Industry Group (AIG) is a peak organisation for many business organisations representing small to medium enterprises. It claims on its website ( accessed 6 June 2012) to represent 60,000 businesses that employ a total of more than one million people across much of the private sector economy.


While the overall picture to emerge is one of continuity when it comes to the status of unions in the relationship with the ALP, there are also clear signs of fluidity and a relationship in transition. There is also a strong, if smaller, theme of negativity that emphasises the status of unions as having diminished from social partners to pressure groups.

6. Union status and attitudes

For a decade or more, the ACTU has been promoting an agenda of union revitalisation designed to re-invigorate unions and rebuild membership through a process of union democratisation and a greater focus on campaigning. The table below identifies interviewees as being positive, negative or ambivalent about this agenda. There is a strong positive correlation between interviewees who supported this contemporary ACTU agenda and those who held positive views about the unions-ALP relationship. Current union officials are overwhelmingly positive about the contemporary union agenda. Only one of the 14 current union officials interviewed for this project was negative. That interviewee was one of two interviewees who had held a senior union position during the Accord period, the other was strongly positive about the contemporary ACTU agenda. Two interviewees in the current union official category were generally more sceptical about the applicability of US-inspired strategies than their colleagues, but nevertheless supportive of the ACTUs agenda. In a mirror image, only one of the former and never union official grouping held a positive attitude to the contemporary ACTU agenda. Some of these were not closely familiar with it; others saw it as inferior to the Accord approach. Five, of fourteen, current union officials, however, saw no conflict between their endorsement of the contemporary union agenda and the idea of unions as a social partner with the ALP. This suggests that they do not see the far greater use of external lobbying by unions as either a result of a diminished union status in the unions-ALP relationship or necessarily inconsistent with the maintenance of a social partner status more usually associated with social democratic


relationships. In addition, current union officials who did see unions in terms of pressure groups did not view this development as negative, they simply saw a greater need for unions to be independent of the ALP. On the other hand, use of the term pressure group (or more commonly interest group) by interviewees in the former and never category almost always carried a negative connotation. Table 14: Current officials: status and satisfaction
Social democratic Pressure group Mixed Totals Positive 5 3 3 11 Negative 0 1 0 1 Neutral 0 1 1 2

The existence of a strong correlation between support for the ACTUs contemporary agenda and satisfaction with the unions-ALP relationship suggests that the union leadership believes that the unions-ALP relationship has been able to adapt, or accommodate, a changed ACTU political agenda without causing disruption to the smooth functioning of the unions-ALP relationship.

7. Conclusion
The interviews conducted for this thesis provide some evidence that the broader unions-ALP relationship has become a mix of traditional social democratic and emerging pressure group type relationships. Current union officials are generally positive about this mix; they believe that it is possible to maintain a balance between the dependence and independence that characterise these two types of unions-party relationships. This balance also reflects a belief that the ACTUs union revitalisation strategies can be smoothly incorporated into the traditional unions-ALP relationship.



We want unions to continue to talk to their members about politics and to have a political engagement and have an activist political strategy. Current peak union official 2 An unusual degree of fragmentation in the national unions-ALP relationship created the relationship space for the emergence of a second, more independent, form of the relationship. Union revitalisation provided the proximate cause for the emergence of that second form of the relationship. A focus on increasing membership was seen by the ACTU as the way to boost the union movements revenue and its political resources. Union revitalisation is aimed at stablising union membership and reversing a long period of decline in union densities. Revitalisation is important for the unions-ALP relationship because it requires the emergence of a more activist style of unionism; it means a more politically independent unionism that is capable of winning public support for its policy positions and using that support to secure government, and other political, support for its policy objectives. Union revitalisation, consequently, involves a diminished reliance on two traditional major support structures of the past, that is, arbitration and internal influence on the ALP. The ACTU made a fundamental change in its political engagement strategy while the national ALP was in opposition, 1996 2007, resulting in a far greater emphasis on external lobbying. The ACTU was motivated initially, in the late 1990s, to adopt the organising (or campaigning) model as a means to recruiting and retaining members, rather than improving its influence with the ALP. The ACTUs new strategy was influenced, in particular, by the success of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) (McNeil 2007, Nissen 2009, Simmons and Harding 2009) in the US. The SEIU, and six other unions that broke away from the AFL-CIO in 2005 to form the Change to win (CTW) grouping had spent more than


$US1 billion on organising in the decade after 1996, and the SEIU alone is currently budgeting to spend $US250 million a year, far more than any other union in the USA (McNeil 2007:75). The SEIU recruited a million new members during that period (McNeil 2007:72). There are many versions of what union renewal and revitalisation might mean (Hickey, Kuruvilla, and Lakhani 2010), but the ACTU had one over-riding goal: membership increases. The ACTU framed the problem in terms of the precipitous decline in membership in the 1990s, and envisaged union renewal strategies as a means to the end of improving membership numbers, rather than as an end in itself. The ACTU drew on the ideas that inform the theories of social, coalition and community unionism; ideas that were popular in third world countries where unionism lacked the support of at least one major political party, but had become increasingly relevant to union movements throughout the Western world during the neo-liberal era (Simmons and Harding 2010, Tattersall 2010). These theories of social, community and coalition unionism are linked to Valenzuelas pressure group model through their common reliance on campaigning. External lobbying (including campaigning) is the tactic used by a union movement in a pressure group relationship with an aligned political party, or by a union movement in a social democratic relationship that has been weakened and unions believe they can no longer rely on internal party influence to secure political objectives. After the 2004 election, when the Howard Government secured control of the Senate, the ACTU used its YR@W campaign against WorkChoices to secure better policy outcomes from the ALP by demonstrating the extent of public support for a rejection of key elements of the Howard Governments industrial relations reforms. The campaigning approach at the centre of YR@W was also seen, by some in the union movement, as a way of re-engaging with union members and addressing the widespread belief in the union movement that membership decline was hastened in the 1990s by a perception that the union movement, through the Accord, was too close to an ALP government, particularly one that had become electorally unpopular following the onset of a deep recession in the early 1990s, and too tops down in its internal processes. 132

The YR@W campaign was strongly supported across the union movement. There is evidence, however, that large sections of the union leadership remain sceptical about the longer-term applicability of these US-inspired models of unionism to Australian conditions. This scepticism raises doubts about the ACTUs capacity to maintain its independent political strategy. Scepticism about union revitalisation and YR@W echoes views about the Accord period, with some interviewees already positioning YR@W as a one-off. Moreover, interviewees had a strong tendency toward opportunistic views of the unions-ALP relationship. The relationship is often treated as if it offers a range of options, with some options more suited to some political situations than others. In addition, interviewees expressed views that suggested they were comfortable with a mix and match approach, to the relationship, switching between social democratic and pressure group types as the situation demands.

2. Revitalisation
Starting in the 1990s, stemming and reversing the decline in union membership became a strategic priority for the ACTU and its affiliates. Two major papers Unions@Work (ACTU 1999) and Future Strategies (ACTU 2003) placed member recruitment at the centre of efforts to respond to a political and economic context that discouraged unionism. In the past, Australian unions had tended to rely heavily on arbitration and the ALP to ensure their status and power (Rimmer 2004). Legal provisions that favoured union membership, and industrial action, had been swept away by the Howard Governments Workplace Relations Act in 1996. The Act also set out to encourage individual bargaining, prohibit pattern bargaining and enforce the Liberal Partys version of freedom of association (effectively a measure to discourage union preference). Many union workplaces were unprepared for the move to enterprise bargaining that started under the Keating Government, and was given even greater emphasis by the Howard Government. Consequently, the membership losses of the 1990s were concentrated in the workplaces with inactive union presences (Muir and


Peetz 2010:217). By the end of the twentieth century, the scale of the task facing the Australian union movement on membership was daunting: in order to maintain current membership levels unions must collectively recruit 285,000 members each year. In order to sustain union density at the current level of 28 per cent, unions must collectively recruit 348,000 members each year. And in order to achieve an increase of only 1 per cent in density, to 29 per cent, at least 420,000 new members are needed. That is, to grow, our recruitment must be doubled (italics in the original, ACTU 1999:26). The main response42 of the ACTU to the decline in membership was to champion the organising model43 (Muir and Peetz 2010:218-219, Peetz, Pocock and Houghton 2007:153-155). This model requires unions to focus on recruitment, including through the dedication of a far greater share of their resources to the task. It also involves the use of techniques that improve the experience of membership through engagement in policy-development and campaigns. As one interviewee (Current affiliated union official 5) put it: members, paradoxically, are more committed to the union when they feel they have helped us than the other way around. The organising model was a move away from a previous emphasis on providing services to members; the servicing model, introduced by the ACTU following the collapse of centralised wage-fixing, was thought to have failed to attract and engage members (Briggs 2004:252); according to the Unions@Work document (ACTU 1999): Campaigns based on the issues of concern to workers are the mechanism for recruiting, organising and generating membership involvement in unions. People become involved in unions because of the industrial, political and social issues that unions promote, making campaigns about issues that are relevant to employees the essential tool in workplace recruiting and organising.
42 Union amalgamation was adopted before the organising model and their

implementation overlapped see pp 96-97 above. 43 The success or otherwise of the organising model is outside of the scope of this thesis and is difficult to assess, see for instance Bowden 2011:72.


One interviewee with considerable experience in union campaigning pointed to the way it is transforming some unions, turning them from traditional trade unions into modern unions with a strong political campaigning capacity, and providing additional incentives for members and potential members: At a time when there is a much more of a contest to get union members it actually gives union members an instrumental reason to join the union. Its almost like unions are becoming a model of political action committees as well as being traditional trade unions. So you find a lot of the unions now have a defined campaign fund for political campaigning. The Victorian teachers have it, the NSW Nurses have it. - Current peak union official 4 The ACTU argued that this approach was now common among successful unions in a range of countries including Canada, the US and UK. Yet, it is the SEIU in the USA that shines through ACTU documentation of the period as a particularly important exemplar. For instance, in Future Strategies (2003: 46) the ACTU reported: The (SEIU) in the US has 1.5 million members and has grown by 535,000 new members since 1996. It is now the largest union in the US and the fastest growing union in the world. (It) committs 50% of its recurrent budget to new member organisinig initiatives. President Andrew Stern nominates this hard-headed commitment to new member organising as the single most important factor in the unions growth and success. A senior union official, who has been directly involved in the process of learning from the SEIU experience, argued that the appeal of the US, and the SEIU, to Australian unions was the success that some American unions have had in growing membership in a hostile environment. Some unions in the US had been successful in recruiting and retaining members with far less access to labour


rights, and far less support from an aligned political party, than their Australian counterparts: I looked at the area where its the hardest for a union to thrive, the US44. If a union can survive and prosper in the US and I think the best unions in the US have been and I think they have done a whole range of good things. Current peak union official 2 A major part of the SEIUs success is said to be the engagement of members directly in political campaigns, something that was of particular interest to many senior Australian union officials, and became a feature of the grassroots component of the YR@W campaign: Prior to the 2004 (Australian) election I was part of an ACTU delegation to the US during the presidential election. I spent two weeks in the USA and among the things that I saw there was the way some American unions including the SEIU engaged their members in politics from some direct action on some issues through to forming a relationship around attitudes and opinions that could lead to an informed conversation with members well prior to ballot day. Current affiliated union official 1 From the start of this revitalisation effort, the ACTU has tried to locate the political independence of union revitalisation inside a continuing relationship with the ALP. Greg Combets arrival at the top of the ACTU leadership was accompanied by a concerted push towards revitalisation (Peetz and Bailey 2010:9). Combet used his first speech to an ACTU Congress as Secretary (Combet 2000) to position union revitalisation as the next phase of the relationship, one that succeeded the corporatism of the Accord. In his analysis, Combet argued that the unions-ALP relationship had been through many phases over the past century, the Accord period was just one of them. In the quote below, Combet

44 Interestingly, closer to home in NZ, where the use of labour rights has also been

curtailed, the UNITE union has had considerable success in recruiting members with imaginative campaigns (Dow and Lafferty 2007:567 fn45).


suggests that the Accord relationship was only a small part of the long national unions-ALP relationship, and by implication, perhaps something of an exceptional period and not typical of the relationship overall: Too often the (unions-ALP) relationship is seen in the narrow terms of the Accord. That period is over. Combet then went onto point to a new relationship, one better suited for the times (Combet 2000). The Future Strategies document (ACTU 2003:12) also portrayed the Accord as good for the times, but now that the (political, economic and social) times had changed so must the unions approach to exercising political influence: The Accord enabled direct union input into policy issues confronting the nation it was a vehicle for wider social, political and economic activity of unions. But times have changed. Unions have had to rethink their approach as a result of economic, political and major industrial relations changes. Combet, like other ACTU leaders in recent years (Kearney 2011, Lawrence 2011) put independence at the top of the unions list of priorities for the next phase of the relationship: First and foremost, unions will be a strong, independent voice for working people. This may lead to some differences with Labor at times. Combet, in effect, envisaged a fairly limited form of independence for the union movement. Combets version of independence was constrained because the union movement needs the ALP in government. This quote from Combet neatly sums up the tension between the two types of unions-ALP relationship. Combet (2000) argues for independence, but also emphasises the union movements continuing dependence on the ALP for securing union political objectives: Our relationship with Labor will also involve many shared 137

commitments to improve living standards and the quality of working life. For those commitments to be fully activated Labor must be in government. We must not lose sight of this. Combet (2001) underscored this continuing dependence by championing the social democratic type of the relationship. Despite the need for an independent union movement, and the declining blue-collar component of the union movement, Combet continued to position affiliation between some unions and the ALP as a strength, and advantage, for the union movement overall: Those in the labour movement who argue that the Labor-union relationship should be jettisoned altogether should consider the issues very carefully indeed. They should look to build on the strengths of the relationship, rather than condemn it for its weaknesses. The current ACTU president, Ged Kearney, has continued with the task of locating the union movements formal links with the ALP in the context of a more independent union movement. In an opinion piece she wrote titled An independent union voice, Kearney (2010) highlighted the continuing tension between the dependency of the ALP relationship and the union movements broader desire to be politically independent. Kearney sought to resolve this tension by arguing that it is not important to union members and by relying on the familiar notion of a balance between dependence and independence: Traditionally, the main vehicle for promoting workers rights in the political sphere has been through influencing the processes and structures of the ALP. It is the right course for an independent union movement to take a mature approach to its relationship with the party it founded. But at the end of the day, it is really a second order issue to our members. After all, some unions have always steadfastly refused to affiliate to any political party. Others have formed alliances with parties other than Labor over their history. What matters to workers and what they want is strong representation by unions and good outcomes, and that will only be achieved by balancing political relationships with a strong independent voice. 138

Consistent with the expansionary and inclusive approach contained in union revitalisation strategies, Combet (2003) also sought to establish the union movements independence on a basis of values that could be shared with political parties other than the ALP and with other social groupings: ACTU secretary Greg Combet told a meeting of more than 700 trade union organisers in Sydney that a clearly articulated set of values, that transcends industrial relations, is needed to rebuild union power. Combet was launching 'Future Strategies - Unions Working for a Fairer Australia', a document reviewing and building upon the 1999 Unions@Work. That report calls on unions to maintain a relationship with the ALP but also look beyond Labor to build relationships with community groups and other political parties based on a clearly defined set of values. The ACTUs approach to revitalisation was centred in fostering a more independent, empowering culture that would re-energise unions and help them re-build their memberships. In the ACTUs new approach, independence was at the heart of the survival of a viable union movement in Australia. Despite its efforts to portray this independence as fully consistent with the affiliated relationship some unions have with the ALP, the ACTU had effectively opted to graft a new strategic choice on an existing relationship structure; it had decided to make a switch from a predominant reliance on a social democratic relationship to a greater reliance on pressure group relationship type without changing anything of structural consequence in the national unions-ALP relationship.

3. Generational change
The unions that are growing are the ones that have reformed radically, had a lot of leadership changes, had a lot of youth come in. Current affiliated union official 2 This quote conveys the strong sense in the interviews that radical reform of


unions is the key to their survival and prospects for growth. The leadership of the Australian trade union movement has changed significantly since the end of the Accord period. Only one leader of a major union, Joe De Bruyn (National Secretary, SDA), has held his position since before the Accord. Whereas a previous generation had been attracted by the potential for union influence in a close corporatist relationship with an ALP government, built on high union densities and bi-partisan political support for arbitration, todays leaders are influenced by the harsh realities of sharp union density declines, and increased government and employer hostility: Most of the generation that is around now has had their perception formed by the collapse of union membership, which really happened in the 90s. Current affiliated union official 5 Some, at least, of the new generation of union leaders see themselves as more modern in their approach and more able to appeal to a modern electorate, they see themselves as leaders capable of shedding the pejorative tag of union bosses, and the legacy of union leaders of the past who relied too much on electorally unpopular industrial action, and the political power they derived from high union densities: We are having a generational change in the movement. So that the people that punters out there associate as union bosses are going and people like Jeff Lawrence, Paul Howes and Dave Oliver, thinking, respectable people, not lunatics, are taking their place. Current affiliated union official 2 This interviewee also argued that the picture on generational change and organisational revival was mixed: So the movement is kind of half-half. You have some really positive stories (about organisational reform and revitalisation) and some really negative stories Current affiliated union official 2 The table below shows clear differences in attitudes to the ACTUs revitalisation 140

agenda between former union leaders, whose experience of the Accord was positive, and current union leaders, who view the Accord as part of the problem. Former union leaders tend to see the contemporary union movement as defensive; while contemporary union officials argue that the Accord was part of the problem and that the more independent approach taken by the ACTU is the right solution for the challenges facing a modern Australian union movement. Not everyone accepts that the ACTUs agenda has changed noticeably. The neutral category has been renamed same because interviewees tended to deny that much has changed in the union movement. Again, the interviewees who held to the nothing much has changed position were more strongly represented in the former and never categories (six of eight interviewees) than in the current category (two of fourteen interviewees). Table 15: Attitudes to new union agenda
Current union Former union Never union TOTAL Positive 7 0 0 7 Negative / sceptical 5 3 1 9 Same 2 2 4 8

Despite the union revitalisation agenda, and generational change at the leadership level, there is a continuing debate inside the union movement about whether unions should push for a stronger and closer policy role with the current federal ALP government. This debate can be interpreted, partly, as a debate about the appropriateness of US-style union campaigning when the ALP is in government. Should the union movement change its political engagement strategies and tactics when the ALP is in government? Should unions campaign against ALP governments, or should they revert to a milder form of corporatism, with its elite negotiation political style? The debate opens up the question of whether, and to what extent, the unions-ALP relationship can change character as political circumstances change. 141

One interviewee recalled a conversation with then ACTU Secretary Combet to argue the case for adjusting strategies according to whether the ALP is in Government. The implication of the view attributed to Combet in this quote is that the union movement could, and should, seek a greater public policy development role when there was a change of government: Combet was only there under a conservative government so his achievements are different (to Keltys45). I remember talking to him once about whether the union movement should have something new it was trying to achieve like superannuation or whatever and he said the time is just not right, you just cant do that under this sort of conservative government you need to basically be in a defensive mode. - Current affiliated union official 5 The same interviewee was sharply critical of what he perceived to have been a failure of the union movement to move back to engagement with this broader agenda and move beyond the role of opposing a hostile conservative government: I think there are a number of unions who want to go back to Opposition. They were comfortable in Opposition. They dont want Labor to go into Opposition. But they want to go into Opposition. There is a bit of Green influence in a lot of unions which I think is quite destructive. A lot of that Green influence is going into the ACTU, which I think is destructive. - Current affiliated union official 5 Another interviewee with high-level experience during the Accord era was critical of the new ACTU leadership as being insufficiently interested in public policy development across a broad front, of being defensive rather than positive and assertive when it comes to policy development: I think the trade union movement has not moved on in its thinking about its roles. So largely, with some exceptions, perhaps Paul Howes at the AWU, there is a defender model that was entrenched during the
45 W. J. (Bill) Kelty, ACTU Secretary during the Accord period.


WorkChoices era. I dont see them seeking to engage with the economy with the drivers of the economy, the business community, I dont see them even in a very coherent way engaging with the third sector46. I see them as actually having retreated to that defender role. Former affiliated union official 1 Overall, though, there was a strong sense in the interviews that the union movement is still very much in recovery mode, and still necessarily focused on membership rather than public policy development, and that the job is far from done just because the ALP is back in office.

4. Re-thinking the Accord

A key characteristic of revitalisation suggests that switching back to a closer policy involvement with Labor in government is unlikely. The ACTUs adoption of independence and external lobbying involves a direct rejection of the dependence and internal lobbying approach involved in the social democratic style Accord arrangement. The adoption of union revitalisation strategies is based in critiques of the impact of these social democratic arrangements on union vitality and membership engagement. In fact, for the critics inside todays union movement, the Accord is viewed through the lens of a contemporary focus on re-building membership. The Accord was good for working people, but it was, they say, bad for unions. Formulated when Hayden was ALP Opposition leader, but not finalized until Hawke replaced Hayden, the Accord was a feature of the subsequent Hawke and Keating Governments, it gave an unprecedented level of influence for trade union officials at the federal level (Patmore and Coates 2005). Mainly an agreement on wage restraint, in return for important social wage improvements (notably through Medicare and superannuation), the union movement sought to invest the Accord with more meaning and to use it as a framework for exercising union influence across a broad range of government policies. Leading union
46 The third sector refers to community organisations and Non-government organisations generally.


officials also sought to make tripartitism a more permanent and important feature of the relationship between the ALP in government and the broader trade union movement. Nevertheless, the Accord arrangement was of little consequence in many areas of economic policy where the Hawke and Keating Governments pursued a neo-liberal agenda (Bowden 2011:69)47, though arguably with less adverse consequences for union members than similar policy programs elsewhere (Frankel 1997:15, 20, Peetz 1998:161 164, Quiggin 1998:82 & 88, Schulman 2009:2,5,11). The Accord has also been credited with influencing the Hawke and Keating Governments to pursue more actively Keynesian and welfare state programs in Australia than was the case in similar countries at that time (Frankel 1997:15, 20, Gentile and Tarrow 2009:481); for instance the Accord was important to the development of compulsory superannuation and the restoration of a universal health care system. The Accord went through eight iterations (called Marks), but, like many similar incomes deals between social democratic partners in other countries, it eventually collapsed. By the time the Keating Government was defeated in 1996, the Accord had become a source of controversy inside the union movement, where opinions remain sharply divided to this day. While a few interviewees, like Combet (see section above), found merit in both the Accord and the organising model, seeing them as appropriate responses to the circumstances of their times, most leaned one way or the other. Current union officials were evenly split on the merits of the Accord, while former officials were either supportive of the Accord, often seeing it as a high point for the union movement, or offered no definitive opinion. It must be stressed, however, that the sample sizes are small, and the distribution of opinions is such that it is hazardous to draw strong conclusions about the relationship between the period in which interviewees held senior union positions and their attitudes to the Accord and its impact on union membership size. Nevertheless, the interviews contained much

47 Peetz (1988:162) points to a speech by John Dawkins, a senior economic Minister in

the Hawke and Keating Governments, in which he claimed that the ALP Government had used the ACTU and the business community to help implement its reform policies.


commentary and analysis that was suggestive of a generational shift in thinking on these issues. The first table below describes interviewee attitudes to the impact of the Accord on unions and relates those attitudes to their current relationship to the union movement. Overall, interviewees were far more likely to see the Accord as good (11) than bad (5) for unions. Current union officials, however, were more evenly divided: good (5), bad (4) and neither (3). Three of the five former union officials interviewed believed the Accord was good for unions, the other two did not offer a definitive opinion. Table 16: Union attitudes to the Accord
Current Former Never TOTAL Good 5 3 3 11 Bad 4 0 1 5 Neither 5 2 1 8

Unsurprisingly, union officials with differing perspectives on the merits of the Accord tend to emphasise different aspects of the Accord experience. Supporters of the Accord tend to emphasise its policy successes, while detractors tend to see it as having adverse consequences for the union movement, in particular perceptions of unions being too close to government and the impact these perceptions may have had on union membership numbers. One interviewee, for example, argued that the problems with the Accord were outweighed by these lasting policy achievements: Everybody knew whatever the criticisms were of the Accord and weve got plenty but there was an institutional position for unions within that, there was a seat at the table, unions were not just asked to exercise wage restraint but there was actually a negotiation which saw things 145

like superannuation and Medicare, these sort of social benefits were part of the deal. Current affiliated union official 3 Another interviewee, however, argued that the well-known negatives of the Accord tend to be forgotten by an older generation of union officials who remain nostalgic about the Accord era: Theres always a perception that the old guys in this group (smaller unions) do want an Accord. I think a few of them hark back to it, look back with fond memories. A very fuzzy memory as well, they remember all the positive aspects and they dont remember the negatives. Current affiliated union official 2 Other interviewees argued that it is the positives of the Accord that have been forgotten and that history has been re-written by the union movements new leadership. An interesting part of this perspective is that it rejects the (apparently) widely held belief among contemporary union officials that the Accord was an era characterised by low levels of member involvement and mobilisation, and, consequently, declining union membership: The Accord was the high point for the trade union movement both in terms of what it was able to achieve and how it was able to mobilise workers around it. I think the re-writing of history bagging the Accord has been mainly by people who werent there. The collapse in union membership and all that post dates the Accord. Union membership pretty much held up during the Accord. It flattened in the 80s but didnt start to decline until the 1991 recession. Current affiliated union official 5 The contrary idea, however, that the Accord did involve a reduction in member mobilisation, was the more popular among interviewees. This idea that unions stopped doing all the member-engaging activities they used to do before the


Accord is also evident in the interpretation many interviews placed on the meaning of union revitalisation. For instance: It (the Accord) served the government better than the unions, quite frankly I think there is a whole range of things we stopped doing in that period. Current affiliated union official 6 Some interviewees also attributed much of the success of the Accord to Hawke and his special, or unique, relationship with the trade union movement. Again, this line of reasoning is strongly supportive of the view that the Accord was a one- off, almost a temporary diversion for Australian unionism: Hawke wanted that relationship to work, he wanted that relationship, and clearly he saw benefits both for his own government and for the union movement through the Accord. As I say, I think at the time it worked well. - Current affiliated union official 6 For interviewees that are strongly critical of the Accord, the link between membership disengagement and membership decline is almost an article of faith, and clear evidence that the corporatism of the Accord, while good in policy terms, was bad for unions in organisational terms. For these interviewees, an obvious causal relationship exists: I can only compare and contrast the union density numbers in Australia with the UK during the Thatcher period. We actually went down faster. Whatever else the Accord delivered it didnt deliver sustainable union density. - Current affiliated union official 1 The link between member disengagement and elite negotiations between the ACTU leadership and the leadership of the FPLP is also taken as axiomatic by many interviewees. In this view, the Accord excluded not just members, but also the most senior levels in union hierarchies; it is as if a whole generation of lower and middle union leaders was disenfranchised by the Accord: The Accord was a dismal failure. A combination of Kelty, Keating, the Metals, the NUW under Sword, made some very fundamental strategic 147

mistakes. Rather than trying to capture the opinion of the workforce and lead it and develop it they came up with a model they said was going to improve the country and there was very little ownership amongst the union secretaries, union officials, all democratically elected, and more accountable than most politicians in many regards. Current affiliated union official 4 The Accord processes, with their emphasis on top-down management of the union movement, were seen as even less useful during the tough years of the Howard Government; several union interviewees suggested that union officials had to re-learn the basics of unionism: The structure of the Accord process almost relegated union members to the position of observers. What we have learnt through the Howard years was that workers have to be more than observers they need to be participants. Because the Accord was negotiated at a peak level between the leaders of the ACTU and the prime minister and treasurer of the day it wasnt as inclusive and consultative and engaging as we need it to be in the new millennium. Current affiliated union official 1 An interviewee with direct experience of the Accord era, denied that it was the Accord itself that was the problem, rather the fault was with union leaders that failed to use the opportunities created by the Accord structures and processes: Its crap; if your members werent involved you werent trying hard enough because the Accord provided a framework for really significant campaigns. Superannuation came because there had been a 4 or 5-year union campaign. The structural efficiency principle great opportunity for unions to get not just real pay rises but also give workers real control over the working environment. Its true a lot of unions just treated the Accord as every six months I turn up and I get a pay rise. But the more effective unions actually used it as an opportunity and won quite historical breakthroughs. Current affiliated union official 5


Perhaps the strongest criticism of the Accord by todays union leadership, however, was that unions had become too close to government and therefore too dependent on the ALP. This criticism is related to the argument about membership disengagement by over-reliance on elite leadership negotiation, but it goes further and points to emerging expectations that union members have for independence in the unions-ALP relationship. The concern was expressed by one interviewee as a reversal of the belief that the ALP wants independence in the relationship more than unions do: The Accord was a fundamental error, not because it did bad things for working people, but because it was bad for the unions, it tied us and made us a government agency. Too close. Which is an interesting thing because there is always this view that the unions want to be closer and the party doesnt. Often thats not the case. Being too close hurts us as well. Current affiliated union official 2 Another interviewee, this time from a non-affiliated union, suggested that the problem of closeness was particularly acute for unions with substantial public sector memberships: Some unions were seen as almost captive of the Accord process with members seeing themselves as ultimately paying a fairly high price for being involved in that process. Especially public service unions like ours. At first it was embraced, the Accord process, it was seen as something useful and helpful and so on, but eventually it came to be seen as something negative, where unions were captured and constrained. Current non-affiliated union official 3 Modern union officials, the new post-Accord generation, tend to believe that whatever the policy successes of the Accord process, it was bad for unions in terms of recruiting and retaining members. They believe that union members, and potential recruits, want engagement in campaigns, and activism more broadly, rather than a union movement that pursues its policy goals through elite negotiation and public support for an ALP government. Whatever the policy 149

achievements of the national unions-ALP relationship, it must be conducted, many contemporary union leaders think, in a way that supports the union movements priority on membership growth, and that means that unions must be perceived to be capable of acting independently, or separately, from the ALP, especially when the party is in office.

5. Unity
Its interesting to watch Paul Howes (AWU right-wing) and Dave Oliver (AMWU left-wing) say exactly the same thing at an ACTU executive meeting for example. And theres lots of that now. Current non-affiliated union official 1 In Chapter 4 it was argued that ideological and sectarian factionalism had long served as an organisational principle across the labour movement. There were effectively two parties within the ALP, a right-wing party and a left-wing party. These factions had formal organisational structures that replicated the organisational structure of the party. This meant that unions were, and still are, affiliated to factions as well as to the ALP. One consequence of the two relationships phenomenon is that factionalism has become steadily less relevant in the union movement, especially following sharp declines in union density and during the YR@W campaign; but, at the same time, union involvement in factionalism in the ALP can be seen as a legacy of an ideological and sectarian past. One interviewee, an MP, lamented the persistence of factionalism in the ALP even as it seemed to be diminishing in the union movement: Some of the modern (union) leadership seem to have a little bit more sophisticated view but we are still plagued with some senior people in the parliamentary party who have a Neanderthal view of all this (factionalism) and the hangover from some who have recently left who lost sight of the balance between faction and party. Current federal MP 7 150

While unions might be more unified in the ACTU, inside the ALP, factionalism still plays the major role in shaping internal alignments at the expense of a more unified union position: Institutionally the relations (in the party) are still very heavily governed by unions factional allegiances so there is no one union position. Current affiliated union official 3 Another interviewee, from the political rather than the union side of the relationship, was highly critical of unions as the continuing source of factional conflict inside the ALP, suggesting that factionalism persists in the ALP mainly to further the ambitions of individual union leaders: The rigidity of factionalism in the Labor Party flows from senior union people using factions as a union power base inside the Labor Party. I think it might be good for them but on balance its not good for the party. Current federal MP 7 The ACTU leadership has been seeking to minimise the negative consequences of factionalism inside the union movement for at least forty years: Before Hawke was elected President in the 1960s the ACTU executive was much smaller and all the votes were decided on factional lines. A proposal to buy a new photocopier would provoke a left-right split. Hawke attempted to work more of a consensus model and when Kelty became secretary they changed the rules to make the secretary a sort of chief executive officer. Combet pursued the agenda to de-factionalise the ACTU and the current leadership is also pursuing it. Current peak union official 2 Several interviewees emphasised the high degree of factional unity that was achieved during the YR@W campaign. One interviewee with over twenty-five


years of full-time experience in the labour movement was struck by just how united the union movement was during the YR@W campaign: Extraordinary internal unity, this united all factions and philosophical strains within the trade union movement - Current peak union official 1 One interviewee argued that while some ideological divisions remain, the union leadership was now able to put them aside in order to pursue common union objectives. According to this interviewee, todays differences in the union movement are differences of interest rather than ideology: The end of the cold war, I think it has had an effect. The SDA for example, Joe De Bruyn is a senior vice-president, and the ACTU doesnt talk about social, right to life type issues, so once you put that over to one side, Joe is very supportive and has always been supportive of the ACTU as an institution and hes got a senior position so the differences you see now are really the differences that flow from peoples memberships. Some things are going to be more important to a union that has shop assistant members than one that has teachers. Current peak union official 2 From the perspective of greater unity inside the union movement, the continuing rigidity of the factional system inside the ALP can seem redundant. One current union interviewee expressed surprise that factions inside the ALP had out-lasted the end of the Cold War and the decline of sectarianism for so long: In fact, why there are still right and left factions is a bit of a mystery to me. And if youd asked me 15 years ago I would have said no the factions wont exist but actually they are inflexible. Current affiliated union official 5 There are, however, some signs that factionalism inside the ALP is changing character. Some long-term insiders had trouble in comprehending the new


factional structure in the ALP, especially in recalling labels to identify them: You get this dazzling array of sub-factions - Current federal MP 7 Ian Jones (AMWU Victorian state secretary) runs one of the factions in Victoria, its all so byzantine that I cant tell you the name of it48 Political adviser 1 An instructive example of this fracturing of factionalism, and its persistent importance inside the ALP, was the account one interviewee gave of the factional provenance of then Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard: (Gillard) mentioned the other day in an article I read how she had a couple of cracks at pre-selection. Well, the left really blocked her she was part of the socialist group, she was part of that tendency which was very much a minority in the Left and her first couple of attempts to get pre-selection she didnt get up and it wasnt until there was a split and that small group of the left cut a deal with the right and thats what got her, Martin Ferguson49 and a few others preselected and so her approach into the left really came through student politics out of the socialist forum and shes much more of a centrist and probably more about getting Julia up there. She is a very talented and ambitious person but not deeply wedded to left ideology in my view. Current affiliated union official 3 With rigid factionalism on the wane in the union movement, unions are continuing to use this unity to lobby the ALP, internally and externally, on union issues. This cross-factional co-operation has continued after YR@W and significantly in the context of a campaign focused on a federal ALP Government,

48 Some of these sub-factions have acquired colourful nicknames, the hard right in

Victoria is apparently known inside the ALP as the taliban. 49 Martin Ferguson, ACTU President (1990-1996) and a senior Cabinet Minister in the Rudd and Gillard governments.


around its decision not to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC): Thats a cross-factional campaign the AWU are a part of that campaign too and that is focused around the ABCC Current affiliated union official 3 Previously, there had been a probably unprecedented degree of cross-factional unity in the LCNSW with an ALP government in NSW, and later with an ALP federal government: There seems to be a degree of defactionalisation. The leadership of the NSW Labor Council did seem to say lets put union issues first when they were dealing with the state government and even with the federal government. So what I said earlier is a long-term problem but there has been a little bit of an indication of Robertson (then UnionsNSW Secretary50) and co bringing the unions under the same tent and seeing unions as an identity viz a viz the Labor party and Labor government. Current federal MP 2 There was a similar development at the 2009 National ALP Conference where the ACTU played a significant role, again, apparently for the first time: The last national ALP Conference (2009) was the first time that people decided that the ACTU should co-ordinate policy areas. In the past the ACTU had a role in a few policy areas but not actually co-coordinating everything. In the past this co-ordination tended to be left to the factions and various union officials. What happened was a positive thing and it meant people worked together. Current peak union official 2 At the 2009 ALP national conference the union people who were

50 Robertson entered the NSW Parliament after the YR@W campaign and became Opposition leader after the 2011 NSW election.


delegates co-operated remarkably together regardless of what particular faction they represented at that national conference. Current peak union official 1 Factionalism is another pointer to the paradox involved in the co-existence of two relationship types. In the union movement, there is a high degree of unity around union issues, in some ways perhaps an unprecedented level of unity. This unity has been used to buttress diminished union power resources including through lobbying the ALP internally and externally on union issues, most notably the YR@W campaign. At the same time, factionalism inside the ALP, although fracturing, continues to reflect the rigidity of left-right differences, which plagued the ALP, fragmenting its relationship with the union movement and undermining its electoral success, for half of the last century.

6. Scepticism
Scepticism about the extent to which US-style revitalisation strategies are capable of being used in Australia provides insights into the difficulties Australian unions face in making a sustainable transition from a dependent to a more independent relationship. Faced with those difficulties, many unions prefer to cherry-pick useable tactics rather than embrace a more fundamental transformation. In late 2010, the retiring National Secretary of the CFMEU, John Sutton, took the opportunity of an opening address (Sutton 2010) to his unions national conference to criticise the ACTU for its promotion of the organising model, according to Sutton it was an ineffective response to a well-known and growing crisis in the political representation of the working class. Suttons attack covered many of the criticisms offered by interviewees for this thesis, and conveyed them in a similar tone: One complaint I continue to register is the enormous amount of time spent by the ACTU on lecturing affiliates about the so-called organising model or union growth model. I couldnt begin to calculate the


amount of time and the amount of repetition that I have had to endure at ACTU meetings in recent years where a certain group of union leaders preach a mantra actually its mainly glitzy marketing talk woven in with traditional left activist notions that were all supposed to worship. The disciples have borrowed it from the controversial US union. Its getting to the stage at the ACTU that unless you mouth this new gospel growthspeak then you are looked down on. Active campaigning unionism building an effective delegates structure signing up new members. Its not new to us. Its hardly a revelation or rocket science. Three general points can be made before looking at the more specific criticisms of union revitalisation. First, some interviewees expressed a strong dislike of the glitzy style, as Sutton put it, in the SEIU approach. This may owe something to a cultural difference between the US and Australia. One interviewee recounted a story of attending a SEIU meeting in the US, and finding it to be too evangelical in tone. The use of words like gospel, worship and disciples by Sutton are instructive in this regard. Criticism of the American style was not necessarily a rejection of union revitalisation altogether. Many interviewees, like Sutton, sought to re-claim, or re-interpret, union revitalisation as being consistent with a more traditional, pre-Accord style of Australian unionism. These traditional Australian approaches are different to American union revitalisation that draws heavily on citizen rights and community organising and coalition building. Traditional Australian approaches to member activism are, of course, more consistent with the social democratic type of unions-party relationship; and, we might anticipate that many Australian union officials feel more comfortable with the idea of a return to a recognisable past. The second general point, also evident in Suttons remarks, is the sense in which, paradoxically, many interviewees believe that the union revitalisation approach is being driven from the ACTU, from the top of the union movement, so much so that it is causing division in the union movement. The third, and final, general point relates to the apparent failure of the union revitalisation strategies to reach much beyond a handful of


unions. Critics use the apparent limited uptake of union revitalisation as evidence that it has only limited applicability in Australia. These three general points constitute an argument for maintaining a social democratic unions-party type relationship with some more active involvement by union members. It is an argument that was common in many of the interviews. On the first general point about the American evangelical style, it was not uncommon for interviewees to ridicule this aspect of the SEIU approach, and to display a visceral hostility towards it, as we can see in the first two quotes below where interviewees use physical reactions, and analogies, to emphasise the strength of their reactions. In the third quote, there is an interpretation of the campaigning style employed as part of the union revitalisation strategy as a less serious form of politics: Sometimes, honestly, I think I just need to go outside. I cant cope with all that SEIU stuff. I just cant. Im sure it works in the US. Current non-affiliated union official 1 Weve had the model shoved down our throat by some we call the happy clappers. Its seen as this panacea as if every step the SEIU took with its organising model has to be replicated. I dont accept that. But we can learn some lessons and will. - Current affiliated union official 3 Youve got the situation where the union dresses up in silly shirts at the ACTU congress when Gillard comes to address it. And really would that have happened under Ferguson or Crean? Thats your bloody middle class you know people like Sharan Burrow51 its bullshit politics mate. Its not real politics. Current federal MP 6 In addition to this dislike of the American style of union revitalisation advocated by the ACTU and some unions, many interviewees were equally passionate about their preference for a union revitalisation approach based on Australian unionism prior to the Accord, and before sharp union density declines. Yet, these
51 Sharan Burrow was ACTU President from 2000 to 2010.


descriptions of Australian style union revitalisation approaches can be very different to the full transformations of unions and union movements envisaged by social movement unionism (Schenk 2003, Simmons and Harding 2009). Nevertheless, scholars have recognised that there are many interpretations of union revitalisation (Hickey, Kuruvilla, and Lakhani 2010) and the development of a viable Australian version cannot be dismissed. Interviewees, who saw union revitalisation as a return to the past, also saw the Accord as a time when the union movement lost its way, temporarily: I think we are just going back to our traditional way of doing things. I think the trade union movement got caught up with the bureaucracy of the decision-making rather than the community value of it. Trade union leaders sanitised their message to such a point that it became just an insiders argument. We have looked back at what actually drives politics and what drives politics is a community value or community view. Its about going back to representing the community view. Current affiliated union official 4 For a period of time in the 80s the movement lost its way a little bit and my view is that some of that campaign work and the way we organise is no different to the 40s 50s and 60s. I think weve gone back to what served our purposes best, particularly that sort of grass roots activism and that engagement with workers and activists and delegates, thats more turning the clock back Current affiliated union official 6 The last two quotes were from national officials of affiliated unions, and can be understood as a justification for current union political strategies rather than a dispassionate assessment of the Accord period itself. Interestingly, interviewees from non-affiliated unions were sometimes sceptical of the supposed newness of union revitalisation for a very different reason because they see themselves as doing something very similar for many years: Q. The campaigns in YR@W are the sort of stuff your union has been doing for decades? A. Very much so and thats why I think they relied 158

upon us in many areas we were certainly involved in discussions about planning and so on (of the YR@W campaign). It is something that we have done for decades and weve done it around a number of issues. We have a history of community campaigning. It is new for a lot of unions that havent engaged in that at all. Its always been easier for us (non-affiliated unions) to do. - Current non-affiliated union official 3 Far from being a new direction, one peak union official suggested that union revitalisation in this sense may have run its course already: Some unions have been involved in US style campaigning prior to YR@W thats been around for 10 to 15 years. I think its probably reached its peak. Weve pulled most of the good ideas we can from the US. - Current peak union official 3 On the third point, the different levels of enthusiasm with which unions have adopted union revitalisation, and its active promotion by the ACTU, have caused some tensions. Some unions have embraced the organising model, and union revitalisation strategies more broadly, with greater enthusiasm than others. Leaders in the adoption of these strategies include the LHMU, ASU and CPSU (Peetz and Pocock 2009:630). In the previous section, the declining importance of left-right factionalism in the union movement was discussed. Surprisingly, a new divide may be emerging. Never a left-right issue, the organising model was, nevertheless not universally welcomed (Peetz and Bailey 2010:9). One interviewee suggested that the organising model (a key form of union revitalisation strategies) was the source of considerable on-going division inside the contemporary union movement: Within the trade union movement there are different and very significant divides currently. There is a big divide over whether you consider yourself an organising union or not. Current affiliated union official 5 Some of these differences reflect similar differences in the USA, which led to a


split in the union movement there in 2005. Some union officials in Australia may be influenced in their views on the ACTUs policies by their connections with US unions. Many Australian unions have links with either the established AFL-CIO, or the Change to Win (CTW) Group (including the SEIU) that broke away in 2005 in a dispute over organising tactics and other issues (McNeil 2007, Mitchell 2008:200): Im a big fan of campaigning and organising and hands-on management of staff. But I think the model is a particular American model. I think there are things you can learn from it but I think there is often a mindless application of it. My view might be driven a bit by the fact that our friends in America are in the AFL-CIO side, rather than change to win; or the change-to-change group. Current affiliated union official 5 One interviewee related the ACTUs efforts to promote the adoption of union revitalisation across the union movement and argued that it had met with very limited success: Its true to say that after the YR@W campaign and after the change of government, the ACTU was spruiking to its affiliates you should be boosting your research capacity, you should be centralising as much as possible rather than operating as a series of state based fiefdoms. You should be looking at your campaigning resources and orientation you should be looking at developing your own version of an industry plan for the sector of the workforce youre recruiting in and trying to organise. Thats the message that went out from the ACTU in the wake of the change of government. Which is another way of saying OK these things delivered this and we need a more sophisticated, campaign- oriented approach at the level of the affiliates. Some of them have acted on it. The Miscos has acted on it to a significant degree. I reckon a lot havent as well. - Current non-affiliated union official 4 Several interviewees supported this view that the adoption of union revitalisation 160

had been slow and limited: The ACTU have a thing about the grass roots approach that has come out of the SEIU. The LHMU have done it well with Clean Start52 and so on but not a lot of other people are doing it that well. Former affiliated union official 1 Further evidence of the limited spread of union revitalisation can be found in the way that the LHMU was cited so frequently that it could seem like the sole exemplar of a fuller embrace of the American model: There is the massive connection between the miscellaneous workers union now and its American affiliate. At the opening of the federal office recently there were American union officials. Louise Tarrant the new national secretary is very US oriented. When Jeff Lawrence left the union as national secretary to go to the ACTU they had the function they had messages from a number of US officials beamed through. Theyve been to America often; American officials have been out here. So the miscellaneous workers union is very US influenced. Current federal MP 2 As well as these broad areas of scepticism about union revitalisation, there were also a number of more specific concerns expressed in the interviews. The table below summarises some of the more specific concerns interviewees raised about the union revitalisation model. These concerns are organised in category and specific issues are identified. The third column presents indicative quotes from interviewees identifying reasons why the US model may not be relevant, or fully relevant, to Australian unions. In the first category of concerns, political system, interviewees suggested that the Australian political system meant that the full American union revitalisation approach was either unnecessary (compulsory
52 Clean Start is a successful Australian union campaign aimed at improving pay and

conditions for cleaners, see, modeled on the SEIUs Justice for Janitors campaign, see janitors/


voting), or wouldnt work (caucus discipline). In the second category of concerns, rights, interviewees argued against the greater reliance on citizen rights in the American model. In the third category, institutionalisation, interviewees were concerned that the close leadership integration between the ALP and unions be maintained. In the final category, services, interviewees were concerned that members still expected a high level of service delivery from their unions and that no amount of campaigning could overcome poor performance in what most members still as the union movements core business (Current peak union official 3). Table 17: Limited applicability of the US model
Category Political system Specific issue Compulsory voting Impact Much of US style campaigning is aimed at getting out the vote, not necessary in Australia, and many of these techniques are not applicable to Australia - Current federal MP 1 Tight caucus system and party discipline makes it difficult for pressure group type tactics to be used in Australia, candidates are less open to lobbying on an individual basis - Current non-affiliated union official 3 Some interviewees were concerned that unions must always retain the right to take industrial action, it is fundamental to what it means to be a union Current federal MP1 Several interviewees stressed the importance of collective bargaining for building union membership, this can be linked to campaigning but it is centred in labour rather than citizen rights - Current non-affiliated union official 1, Current peak union official 2

Caucus discipline


Over-reliance on citizen rights

Collective bargaining


Category Institutionalisation Specific issue Elite leadership overlap Impact Weak relationship between unions and the Democratic party is seen as a shortcoming of the US model - Current affiliated union official 1, Current peak union official 2 Some interviewees argued that while the organising model was important, many members were focused on what they still viewed as the unions core business - Current affiliated union official 6


Member expectations

These interviewee comments suggest that most of the Australian union leadership is attracted to a form of lite social movement unionism, focused on cherry-picking some good ideas rather than a full-blown transformation to a new form of unionism. There is little indication of broad or deep support for some of the more radical forms of union revitalisation, which focus on community campaigns and coalition-building53. Instead, there is a strong desire to return to what is perceived as a better past of Australian unionism before the Accord, and to rely on collective bargaining around a narrow agenda of employment issues, often derided in the US as part of the complacent past of business unionism (Simmons and Harding 2010).

7. Conclusion
The ACTU argues that independence is central to the task of union revitalisation. Independence is required for unions, and the ACTU, to be seen as genuine campaigning organisations by their core constituencies, particularly members, potential members and community supporters. It continues to try and locate that independence within a dependent social democratic type relationship. The ACTU,
53 One early counter-example to this point might be seen in the recently launched Sydney

Alliance, which seeks to build alliances between UnionsNSW and community organisations.


and the leadership of individual unions have managed the contradiction between dependence and independence, by adopting a tactical, or opportunistic, approach to the unions-ALP relationship and the use of cherry-picked tactics from the American pressure group type. This approach embraces both a view that the relationship can be changed to suit political circumstances, and a view that tactics used successfully in other unions-party relationships can be incorporated without changing the structural fundamentals of the existing relationship. This approach is intended to provide the flexibility to maintain affiliation with the ALP, while campaigning independently and reaching-out to like-minded community organisations and other political parties, principally The Greens.



Affiliation tends to be the love that doesnt speak its name - Current peak union official 4 Affiliation is indeed a topic that many union officials and ALP leaders prefer to avoid in public. In December 2010, however, Wikileaks54 released US diplomatic cables that quoted senior Australian union officials making remarkable claims about the degree of political power that affiliation confers on them (Dorling and McKenzie 2010). According to media coverage of the leaked cables, the national secretary of the HSU, Kathy Jackson, was quoted in a cable as saying that ''she and other union secretaries wield at least as much influence as junior state ministers by controlling who is elected to parliament; while a Victorian AWU official was said to have described how his union worked hard to place its own officials in state and federal parliaments (Dorling and McKenzie 2010). The evidence in this chapter confirms that affiliated unions continue to exercise considerable influence over ALP pre-selections; it casts doubts, however, on the extent to which this influence is translated into influence over policy outcomes. An examination of affiliation trends is important because it is the key distinguishing feature between the social democratic and pressure group relationship types (Valenzuela 1992). The retention of organisational links with diminished policy influence was the relationship type identified by McIlroy (1998) for the unions-BLP relationship under New Labour. In this thesis, I argue that the emergence of a fully independent relationship between unions and the ALP would require a change in the patterns and salience of affiliation. Minimal changes in affiliation patterns would signify a potential imbalance in a relationship that is otherwise exhibiting strong pressure group tendencies in its

54 See


ACTU-ALP manifestation. Hyman and Gumbrell-McCormick (2010:319), for instance, have argued that growing asymmetry produces instability in unions- party relationships. While the broader union movement, through the ACTU, has adopted a more flexible approach to its relationship with the ALP, emphasising the capacity for the relationship to change to reflect changing political circumstances, very little evidence of change is to be found in the structure of the relationship type that exists between affiliated unions and the ALP. Affiliation provides two key benefits to unions. First, affiliation provides access to parliamentary pre-selections and access to parliamentarians for lobbying purposes. Second, affiliation enables unions to influence policy development from inside the party. These two benefits are recognisable traits of the mass party type and the social democratic unions- party relationship type. They are methods of enforcement, which give unions a greater capacity to control the partys parliamentary representatives and ensure unions achieve their political objectives (Quinn 2010:370). If the ALP is moving away from the mass party type and towards the electoral professional type, and from a social democratic to a pressure group type unions- party relationship, we would expect to see a weakening of the effectiveness of these enforcement benefits of affiliation. Instead, we see considerable ambiguity. In terms of policy, affiliated unions have been displaced largely by the ACTU, which led the negotiations during the Accord period and more recently during the development of the Fair Work Act after the 2007 election. At the same time, the presence of former union officials, especially senior officials, in the FPLP is at or near an all time high. Despite the connections that their presence creates between unions and the FPLP, the absence of a significant change in affiliation patterns has meant that union representation in the FPLP has become more narrowly based. Affiliation is no longer the chief connection between the union movement and the ALP; but it remains an important benefit for unions that are affiliated, or at least for their senior officials. In the first part of this chapter, the ALPs two recent national reviews, conducted


in 2002 and 2010 (ALP 2002, 2010), are discussed to determine their portrayals and positioning of the links between unions and the ALP. In the second part of this chapter, the biographical details of the current FPLP are examined to determine; the proportion of the caucus with union backgrounds; the extent to which affiliated and non-affiliated unions are represented; and, the extent to which non-industrial organisations are represented. In the third part of this chapter, I contrast this union presence in the caucus with the attitudes of caucus members, in particular new members of the House of Representatives at the 2007 election, towards trade unions and the ALPs links with trade unionism. This analysis confirms that access to parliamentary positions is very heavily skewed in favour of affiliated unions, with no indication that the inclusion of people from non-affiliated unions and non-industrial organisations is increasing. In effect, the ALPs links with external organisations is a legacy of its social democratic type relationship. There is little indication that the national ALP has been able to take the same flexible approach to the unions-ALP relationship that has become a feature of the ACTUs rhetoric and, to a more limited extent, its behaviour.

2. Re-defining the relationship

Two National Reviews of the ALP were conducted during the first decade of the twenty-first century (ALP 2002, 2010). Just eight years apart, their treatments of the unions-ALP relationship are markedly different in analysis, tone and prescription. These Reports provide useful insights into the way the ALP seeks to present itself, and therefore to the challenges it perceives as its most important. They were conducted by senior, and popular, ALP figures. Former Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, and former NSW Premier, Neville Wran, in 2002 and Senator John Faulkner, former NSW Premier, Bob Carr, and former Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks in 2010. They both included extensive consultation processes. The 2010 Review Panel spoke to hundreds of ALP members, senior figures in the ALP and the union movement, and ALP supporters in the community. It received 800 submissions plus 3500 short online submissions. The 2002 Review Panel received 669 submissions and held forums around the


country in its extensive consultations with ALP members and interested groups. The next table highlights some key differences in the areas of ideology, party identity, union affiliation and relationships with non-union organisations. Between 2002 and 2010, there was a significant shift in emphasis away from unions and towards community and community organisations. One indication of this shift is the amount of space devoted to each. Community is used 54 times in 2010 in a 32-page report, whereas unions was used 18 times. In 2002, unions was used 28 times in a 32-page report and community was used 30 times. A more significant indicator is that the 2010 report, in Recommendation 31, opens the door to affiliation to the party of organisations in addition to industrial unions. The 2002 report was focused on better consultation with communities and community organisations; in the 2010 report this has been upgraded to a desire for engagement. Moreover, there has been a significant shift in the interpretation of the relationship between unions and the ALP. The 2002 report refers to a partnership (14 times) between the ALP and unions. It is variously described as an enduring partnership and an equal partnership. The word partnership was not used at all in 2010. Instead, the report speaks more vaguely in terms of connections and links with unions. The 2010 Review also speaks of connections with community organisations. A use of language which tends to place unions and community organisations on a more equal footing in terms of their relationships with the ALP. Unions in 2010 are also called the bedrock of the ALP, a word that is consistent with the Reports ambitions to extend affiliation to organisations other than unions. The positioning of unions as bedrock was welcomed by the ACTU, though it could also be interpreted as a further diminution of the status of unions within the ALP and to reflect a desire the extent to which affiliated unions are privileged in comparison to other community organisations. In 2010, the ALP is no longer self-described as a social democratic, or even labor, party, but as a progressive party. Progressive is used 29 times in the 2010 Report, compared with 5 times in 2002. Bongiorno (2011) argues that progressive, after being used briefly at the end of the nineteenth century, might not have been 168

widely applied to the Labor Party again until it was picked up by Australian admirers of Tony Blair and the Third Way in the late 1990s. In 2010, the ALP is presented as a community-based movement established by working people (rather than unions) to ensure a fair go for working people. These marked changes suggest the ALP is attempting to move further away from its origins as the political wing of the labour movement by extending its formal connections with groups outside the union movement, and by de-emphasising the importance of affiliation. Despite these changes, the 2010 Review does not contain any proposals to reduce directly55 the significance of union representation within the party. Table 18: ALP national reviews; attitudes to unions, community
Issue Unions-party relationship 2002 Partnership 2010 Downgraded to connections

Described as an enduring partnership between two Partnership not mentioned. wings of the labour movement. Renew and reinvigorate The way ahead is not to sever the union connection but to renew and reinvigorate the partnership. To be reduced to uniform 50 per cent union representation at state conferences Make more meaningful Report concerned to find ways to make affiliation meaningful Unique capacity for generating, and maintaining, public support. It is unlikely that further unions will affiliate into the future. This was confirmed in evidence provided to the Review by senior affiliated and non-affiliated union leaders.

Union affiliation

55 Depending on the details of implementation, some proposals, like primaries, might

have the effect of reducing union influence, though given the resources at the disposal of many unions this is far from a certain outcome.


Issue Party identity 2002 Unions essential 2010 Downgraded to a key characteristic

It is possible to have a party of social democracy without the Affiliation described as a unions; it is not possible to have key characteristic that a Labor Party without the makes Labor different unions. New union affiliations Seek affiliation by more unions It is an ongoing problem for the ALP that many white collar and service sector unions those representing areas of growth remain unaffiliated. This is despite strong relationships at an informal level with such unions. A broader range of affiliated unions should be encouraged. Non-union affiliation Not considered Recognised further affiliations unlikely Noted that several recent affiliations had helped stablise union affiliation number

Opens the door That the Partys National Principles of Organisation be amended to allow the affiliation of like-minded organisations, in addition to industrial unions. Explore organising model Speaks highly of ACTUs adoption of organising model recommends a new Campaigns and Growth Forum based on the ACTU model Meaningful dialogue ALAC and state based Labor Advisory Committees be expanded to include a new Campaigns and Growth Forum based on the ACTU model.


Consultation The Party-union relationship is most effective when there are open channels for consultation between the political and industrial wings of the labour movement.


Consultation Said to have been under- utilised during the past decade. ALAC should be revitalised as the key consultative mechanism in the open and constructive relationship needed between the union movement and the Party.


Issue Community coalition- building 2002 Consultation If we are to maximise community confidence in the Labor Party, we must present ourselves as an open, inclusive, community-based organisation, and build meaningful relationships with local communities and interest groups. While the dialogue between Labor and the trade union movement is vital, it is only one of the relationships the Party must maintain. Other groups that must be heard include business, social and welfare organisations. 2010 Upgraded to Engagement New focus on engaging the community, seeks to deepen connection with the community and For Labor to effectively develop and articulate a modern reform agenda, it must stay closely connected to the broader progressive community

3. Affiliation patterns
The two National Reviews conducted by the ALP over the past decade show an awareness and concern about the problem caused by the shrinking of its blue- collar union base. The first Review sought to address the problem by encouraging additional unions to affiliate with the party. The second Review has opened the door for affiliation with like-minded community organisations in addition to industrial unions (ALP 2010:24, recommendation 29). This problem is best understood as a question of party identity. In an era when the blue-collar workforce has declined and union densities have fallen sharply, particularly among some of the ALPs traditional affiliated unions, a party identity centred principally on blue-collar unionism is no longer electorally sustainable. Over a long period, the ALP has not been able to change its essential structure to reflect significant economic, social and workforce changes. Cyril Wyndham, the ALPs first full-time federal secretary raised the issue of the


rise of white collar and professional unions, and the decline of blue-collar unions, in his 1966 recommendation paper on reform of the federal ALP. Wyndham (2011:19) recommended that state ALP branches be encouraged to seek the closest possible contact with professional associations. One interviewee recalled that the ALP was still considering this problem internally during the Hawke - Keating period: When I was on the (ALP) National Executive during the Hawke - Keating era, Bob Hogg, the ALP National Secretary, was constantly arguing that as the proportion of the workforce represented by ALP- affiliated unions was declining, he was highlighting the lack of white collar affiliation, his argument was that either you end up with major white collar unions affiliating or we should be diminishing the unions institutional weight within the ALP. - Current non-affiliated union official 4 Overall affiliation patterns have been remarkably stable. Some white-collar unions have affiliated in recent years, notably the Financial Services Union (FSU) in some states and the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) in the ACT Nevertheless, the two largest professional unions; Australian Education Union (AEU) and the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) remain unaffiliated to the ALP. One state branch of the ANF, the Queensland Nurses Union, which was affiliated, left the ALP in 2010 (Caldwell and Miles 2010). The growing significance of these unions within the broader union movement is indicated by the fact that the last three ACTU Presidents have been drawn from these two unions: Jennie George (AEU), Sharan Burrow (AEU) and the current President, Ged Kearney (ANF). Over the course of the past 30 years, the balance between ALP-affiliated and non ALP-affiliated unions has shifted in favour of the latter, to the extent that about one in two Australian union members now belong to an organisation that is not affiliated with the ALP (ALP 2010:11). The stability in affiliation patterns owes much to the internal cultures of unions and the attitudes of their members to politicisation, with professional unions in particular being highly resistant to the idea of affiliation.


While the interviews suggested some dissatisfaction about the benefits of affiliation, there was little indication that affiliated unions would contemplate disaffiliating. In particular, affiliation continues to be highly regarded by officials of unions affiliated with the ALP. Australian unions have adopted some positive lessons from US unions when it comes to campaigning. They have also learnt that maintaining institutional links gives them some advantages that their American cousins do not enjoy. One important advantage is access to parliamentary offices through party pre-selection processes, both a personal advantage for the individuals involved and, where strong relationships can be maintained, for the unions they came from: I went to a SEIU convention and they put up on the screen a list of public officials who had a link to the union that were either ex-union officials or had some sort of link and it was a long list but fairly minor people and if we (Australian union) had done the same thing at a National Council and put up the MPs federal and state who had been officials or had an identifiable link it would have been a much more powerful list. - Current peak union official 2 A second key advantage is the continuing influence that affiliation can confer on senior union officials through their participation in party structures: US unions are relevant if they are lucky once every four years. US unions will not be relevant again in the US political system for another 8 years. When there is a primary on for the US presidency they have enormous clout, its quite impressive. But after that, after the primaries, the powers gone. Its solely around one outcome and they dont have the institutional linkages. Current affiliated union official 2 Non-affiliated unions face similar challenges in Australia in their efforts to be relevant to the ALP, and therefore to be able to maximise their influence: We dont have that institutionalised presence. That means that we have to punch, or influence, above our weight in the absence of that


presence which is fine. I think thats a fairly significant difference (between affiliated and non-affiliated unions). Current non-affiliated union official 4 If youre not an affiliated union you have to have other strategies to work with the party and be able to deliver to the party and you normally only get those opportunities around an election. - Current non-affiliated union official 1 One interviewee clearly saw this stability in affiliation patterns as a sign of health in the unions-ALP relationship, and of the benefits it continues to deliver to affiliated unions. That is, he argued, if the relationship between unions and the ALP really was as bad for unions as is sometimes suggested than we would expect to see many more disaffiliations: The other indicator of the health of the relationship is that only one state branch of one union is playing footsie with the Greens and that is the ETU in Victoria. Current non-affiliated union official 4 Nevertheless, affiliation is a well-known source of controversy inside the ALP with some arguing for severe reductions in the extent of union affiliation and their direct representation at State Conferences (Button 2002, Cavalier 2010, Hawker 2011). Cavalier (2010) argued for a reduction of union representation to 20 per cent, a level sufficiently low, he argues, as to break union dominance of the party completely. The call to reduce union representation was recently supported by Bruce Hawker, a long-term ALP staffer, political campaign strategist and public affairs consultant, who remarked favourably on the Canadian NDP rule that restricts union votes at party conferences to 25 per cent (Hawker 2011). None of the interviewees for this study, however, expressed support for pursuing further reductions in union representation at state conferences. Interviewees thought the level of union representation was a non-issue, not worth pursuing, or that further change was not politically possible.


There was, unsurprisingly, no support, and some considerable hostility, for reductions in union representation among the union officials interviewed for this thesis: It has really stabilised at 50:50 to argue for any further reductions would be insane, you would be saying that unions are only a minor group within the ALP. Current non-affiliated union official 4 Every now and then you will have some whack job like (names two senior ALP figures) say that the union link is what damages us. That is an intellectually lazy way of analysing Labors electoral defeats. Current affiliated union official 2 Several interviewees suggested that Simon Creans leadership of the ALP56was damaged by his successful efforts to reduce union representation at state conferences to a consistent 50 per cent: Crean got conned into pursuing it, it was a good reform but he paid such a high price - Current federal MP 7 After Creans experience, where I thought he got sidetracked on form over substance, it didnt do him any good; I think that lesson might have been learnt. Current federal MP 1 Some interviewees rejected the proposition that union influence inside the ALP should be linked to union densities, a suggestion made by Cavalier (2010) and other critics: I think that the commentariat spends a lot more time focusing on this issue (union affiliation to the ALP) than people inside the movement who are also busy on other things. They have a superficial view, why should unions control 50 per cent of the conference when theyve only got 20 per cent of the workforce? Current peak union official 4
56 Crean has the unfortunate distinction of being the only federal ALP leader not to lead

the party in an election campaign, apart from Frank Forde who was leader for a week after John Curtin died in office.


Some people say unions shouldnt have as much influence in the party because we only have 20 percent membership but when we started in the 1890s we only had about that. - Current peak union official 3 The ACTUs official approach is that affiliation is a matter for individual unions: it will always be a decision for individual unions and their members how close a relationship they will form with the Labor Party. Some will choose to affiliate, others will not (ACTU 2011). The structure of the ALP makes that a decision for individual state-based union branches. The union amalgamation process in the 1990s made the pattern of affiliation in some unions even more complex with some divisions, and not others, of some unions affiliated in particular states. Some national unions are comprised of state branches that are affiliated in some states and not in others: Well obviously its a state decision, some of our branches do and some dont but most do. - Current affiliated union official 3 Were affiliated only in NSW, Queensland and SA, in NSW for a longer period. Current affiliated union official 1 The next table sets out the components, or dimensions, of the national unions-ALP relationship as a reflection of the patterns of affiliation. It shows that the overall relationship is a conglomerate of relationships that reflect both the social democratic and pressure group types. Affiliated unions are in a social democratic relationship with the ALP; non-affiliated unions are in a pressure group type relationship with the party.


Table 19: Relationship dimensions


Direct links
ALAC during Accord, but generally more informal and ad hoc.

Elite overlap

Lobbying type

Relationship type
Pressure group model, but with a much higher degree of leadership overlap.

There are many External former senior union officials in FPLP, including former senior officers of the ACTU (Crean, Ferguson, Combet, Marles). Internal

2. Affiliated unions- ALP

No direct Many MPs have representation at backgrounds with national level. affiliated unions. Unions play direct role in Senate pre-selections, and through state branch interventions in some lower house pre-selections. None. Officials are sometimes active in ALP, but many avoid high profile roles in ALP in deference to member attitudes. Very few officials from non- affiliated unions win pre-selection.

Social democratic, with additional fragmentation due to federal ALP structure.

3. Non- affiliated unions- ALP


Pressure group.


4. Affiliation exclusivity
A decline in the proportion of union members linked to the ALP through affiliation, and the ALPs consequent ambitions for a deeper connection with non- affiliated unions and other like-minded community organisations, has not been reflected in ALP representation in the federal parliament. Unions affiliated to the party continue to enjoy almost exclusive access to parliamentary positions when compared with non-affiliated unions and community organisations. This exclusivity suggests that the ALP considers a position with an affiliated union to be good training for politics, but not similar experience in non-affiliated unions and community organisations. In addition, a recent upsurge in the numbers of senior mid-career union officials moving into federal parliament points to a significant shift in perceptions inside the labour movement about the power and relevance of the contemporary union movement. That is, senior officials in todays union movement are more likely to use their positions as a stepping-stone to a larger career in politics than their predecessors did a generation or two ago. In contemporary Australia, employment with an affiliated union has become a familiar training ground for aspiring ALP parliamentarians (Cavalier 2010, Miragliotta and Errington 2008). Interviewees from affiliated unions stressed the benefits for the ALP of this training ground effect and often claimed that it was a key advantage that Labor had over its political opponents. One interviewee argued that unionism is one of the few occupations that prepares people for the role of parliamentary representative: The Liberals always make a big deal about it, but whats the closest thing to being in politics? If a politicians job is to represent people then there are two employment categories: lawyers and unions. Our life is about representing people and representing the good of all in your constituency so its not surprising that unions produce labor politicians Current non-affiliated union official 2


Another interviewee argued that the political engagement of union officials often gave them a broader perspective than non-union MPs in the FPLP: Youre always going to get people coming through the union movement that have had experience in negotiation, in political issues, social understanding and international perspectives, to be honest. I think a lot of the union people who come in have more international analysis to their politics than a lot of the local MPs. Current federal MP 1 Affiliation was also seen as providing a mechanism, not available to the Coalition parties, for grooming up-and-coming political talent: I think that most unionists that go into parliament end up being very good. The reason why there are so many unionists in the cabinet is that they are good. The Liberal Party cant ring up the NFF and say listen this guy is good give him a job and train him up and thats what we have and we have been a good factory for political leaders. Current affiliated union official 2 Some interviewees suggested that there were now too many union-trained MPs and that this had become a problem for the FPLP in terms of reducing the diversity of work and life experience contained within the caucus: Thats not healthy for the Labor Party the white bread politician argument and what it does to entrench factionalism. - Current federal MP 7. The main argument advanced by interviewees, however, against unions being a training ground for future MPs is the impact it could have on unions themselves. It was seen as a poor use of the resources of the unions concerned: I think there are people who go into the trade union movement and all they do is organise inside the Labor party and they use it as a stepping stone. That is bad for the trade union movement in terms of the


intelligent use of its resources in the interests of its members and the standing of the union in the eyes of its members. Current federal MP 7. Another perceived problem is that the trainees are often from outside the industry that the union they work for represents. An associated, or consequent, lack of a long-term commitment to the union movement was identified as a problem: You often find people in the union movement who have an eye on their seat in parliament rather than necessarily doing what is in the best interests of their members at a particular time Current non-affiliated union official 3 There was also some concern that the pathway from union to parliament was becoming just too frequent, and it was suggested that after the recent career moves by senior union officials that there might be a reaction inside the union movement against it: I think the path was well-worn of people going from leadership positions in the ACTU to the parliamentary Labor party particularly federally, that path is now starting to get some weeds. - Current peak union official 1 The labour movement is subject to a lot of status differentiation. This status differentiation is important for understanding the strength of continuing connections between former union officials in parliament and their union colleagues. Three forms of differentiation are of interest in the context of this chapter. First, interviewees often drew a distinction between the holders of junior (particularly non-elected) positions in unions and senior union officials. The former are often regarded as political trainees and they are not expected to stay in the movement long-term. The second important distinction is between affiliated and non-affiliated unions and unionists, with the former often considering the latter as not real unionists. The third important distinction


relates to the currency of union experience. Former officials who have been in political careers for sometime are often considered to be out-of-touch with contemporary union realities by current union officials. The third distinction is particularly relevant in terms of the generational change at the top of the union movement discussed in the last chapter, but it also relates to the simple passing of time, and the adoption of subsequent career roles with different and broader responsibilities: Chris Evans57 comes from the Miscos but he has been gone a long time he was party secretary in WA and so on. Current peak union official 2 Interviewees frequently drew a distinction between people who worked for a union (as researchers, industrial officers and unelected or junior level organisers) and elected officials, and only considered the latter group to be unionists in a real sense. One interviewee (Current peak union official 1) referred to those who held only non-elected positions in unions as: journeymen, or journeywomen, who worked in unions on the way through. Other interviewees made the point that just working for a union, especially at a low level, doesnt make you a union official: Chris Bowen58 for example you wouldnt say he was a career union official though he did actually work for a union. Current peak union official 2 Some of them are like Keating59 was, party activists, who get planted in a union while you get your seat then you go in Current affiliated union official 5

57 Government leader in the Senate (November 2011) 58 Cabinet minister in the Gillard Government who was an industrial officer with the

Finance Sector Union from 1995 2000. 59 Prime Minister Keating worked for Municipal Employees Union before winning pre- selection at age 25


Although employment with a law firm with union clients is also a well-trodden pathway to ALP pre-selection60, several interviewees, for instance, discounted Gillards relationship with the union movement prior to entering parliament on the basis that working with unions is not the same as being a trade union official: Gillard worked as a lawyer61 for the unions but Im not sure that shes at heart a unionist, being a union lawyer is different to being a unionist. - Current non-affiliated union official 2 She never worked for a union. She worked for a labour law firm that is a different thing. I reckon working as a solicitor on an hourly rate briefing and being a partner in a major firm is very different to doing the day-to-day work of a trade union official. - Current affiliated union official 3 Another dimension of the real unionist question relates to unions covering professional and public sector employees, most of which are not affiliated to the ALP: There is a tendency in the ALP and perhaps in the union movement generally for some time to see public sector unionists as not real unionists. They dont have that blue-collar background, that tradition and that history. I think there has been lots of suspicion of people in public sector unions that they are not ALP voters or supporters. - Current non-affiliated union official 3 Populist white-collar unions dont have the same priorities as blue- collar unions. They like getting up there and rabbiting off but they go missing on hard issues. They dominate the priorities of the unions; they are into issues that have nothing to do with (employment) conditions. Current federal MP 6

60 Former NSW Premier (1976-1986), Neville Wran, is perhaps the most illustrious

example 61 Gillard was a partner with Slater and Gordon


The reasons why senior union officials, as opposed to the journeymen and journey women on political career tracks, seek to enter parliament are varied, and apparently changing. For some time, parliament had been a useful retirement spot, or a consolation prize for the losers in internal union battles, particularly during the union restructuring and amalgamation phase of the 1990s: A lot of these people got parachuted into parliament as retirement packages to get them out of the union movement. Current federal MP 6 Parliament was always a bit of a retirement job for (senior union officials). Parliament has always been a way of you know what are we going to do with this bloke hes too important to just knife but hes hopeless at the job so well put him in parliament. Current affiliated union official 5 Dow and Lafferty (2007:555) have suggested that the career trajectories of union officials are a useful indication of the relative balance in the relationship between unions and the ALP, a prevalent desire by senior officials to enter parliament suggests that unions are very much the junior partners. The apparently greater desire for senior union officials to enter parliament in recent years may reflect the decline in union size, status and power: I was talking to (senior Rudd Cabinet Minister) about this before the last election, we were joking about it, Bill Shorten is probably the first federal secretary of the AWU who thought going into parliament was a move up. (Cabinet Minister) said that when he went in he was a state union secretary but at that stage there were very few people at his level in the trade union movement who saw parliament as a step up. People of my generation thought that being a union secretary was much more important. All of a sudden in the 1990s you got this thing that the union movement was a stepping-stone into parliament. His theory, its my theory too, is that because these jobs are just too hard for a lot of people. Being a federal secretary is a job I love, but its a lot harder than it was. Everything is different. Current affiliated union official 5 183

Nevertheless, most of the senior union officials who go into parliament do so with the purpose of pursuing a significant political career. Just as the presence of too many political trainees in the union movement was viewed as a possible problem for unions, the departure of too many senior union officials to parliament was seen as a damaging loss of scarce leadership talent: Ive seen the trade union movement weakened by the trade union officials going into parliament. Former state MP 1 I think Combet leaving the union movement to go into parliament at the time he did was a great blow for the union movement. It was an act of great selfishness. I think he should have stayed with the union movement. But having got in hes now in the Ministry and hes a good voice so you are caught. Current federal MP 6 A review of biographical information available on individual web pages for Senators and Members of the House of Representatives on the parliament of Australia website62 indicates that 51 members of the current 103 member FPLP have previously worked as full-time union officials. Sometimes the information provided on the biographical pages for individual MPs has been supplemented by information from their first speeches, which are linked to from their individual web pages, and from their own web pages, maintained separately to the Australian Parliament site, but linked from that site. The table below provides a summary. It shows that, overwhelmingly, affiliated unions are the main source for union officials entering the FPLP, by a ratio of about 12 to 1. Second, former union officials are about twice as prevalent in the Senate as they are in the House of Representatives.

62 Parliament of Australia website


Table 20: Caucus: union officials, affiliated and not affiliated

Affiliated Not-affiliated TOTALS FPLP House 25 2 27 72 Senate 22 2 24 31 Totals 47 4 51 103

In terms of union backgrounds there is a significant difference between the House of Representatives and the Senate. The current (November 2011) Senate ALP group has a far higher percentage of union officials, and a far higher percentage with senior roles, although these are concentrated at the state level. This concentration of state officials probably reflects two key factors; the continuing power of state branches in many unions and the affiliation of unions at a state level, perhaps to the disadvantage of federal officials. Senior federal union officials were more likely to enter parliament through the House of Representatives than the Senate. For instance, all the senior ACTU officials in the FPLP since the arrival of Bob Hawke in 1980 have held seats in the lower house (Crean, Ferguson, George, Combet and Marles). An analysis of the biographical backgrounds of ALP senators in the Senate that commenced on the 1 July 2011, see table below, shows the continuing significance of the domination of affiliated unions in this part of the FPLP. The biographical information was sourced from the Australian Senate webpage63 in October 2011, and supplemented with information from the personal websites of some Senators. Of 31 ALP Senators, 21 had previously held a full-time position with an affiliated union. I n addition, one Senator, whose Senate term started in 2002, was from the CPSU, which affiliated to the ALP in 2009; and two other Senators had previously held a full-time position with a non-affiliated union (AEU, NTEU). Fourteen of these twenty-one Senators joined the Senate after 2000, making them nominally at least part of the new generation of union leaders, discussed in the last chapter.
63 Australian Senate


Only seven Senators, or fewer than 25 per cent, hadnt had any experience as full time union officials; of these one had been a state party official (Faulkner), four had been political advisers (Brown, Carr, McLucas, Polley) and one had been a state politician (Pratt). Only one ALP senator (Stephens, NSW) appeared to have not held a full-time position in the labour movement prior to joining the Senate. The biographical data points to the continuing relevance of state affiliation. Although it is sometimes difficult to determine from the information supplied whether the positions held were national or state, nearly half (eleven) of the 24 senators with full-time experience in the union movement, were state secretaries or presidents of their unions prior to winning pre-selection for the Senate. Almost all the Senators with union backgrounds were from Australias largest unions. And all of Australias biggest affiliated unions have at least one person in the Senate with a background in their organisations. Some unions were more represented than others TWU (5 senators), SDA (4), ASU (2), CFMEU (2), AWU (3), LHMU (1), CPSU (1), NUW (1), AMWU (2). There were just two representatives from smaller unions: ETU (1), UFU (1). Men are much more likely to have union backgrounds than female Senators. Thirteen of the ALPs Senators are female; five of these do not have a full-time union background. Only two of the eighteen male Senators had not held a full-time union official (Carr, Faulkner). In addition, the two Senators with backgrounds in non-affiliated unions were both female, as was the Senator (Moore) from the CPSU, which was not affiliated when she was elected to the Senate. Table 21: Senators: union backgrounds
Name Arbib, Mark Bilyk, Catryna Bishop, Mark Brown, Carol Cameron, Doug State NSW Tas WA Tas NSW Start 2008 2008 1996 2005 2008 Union TWU ASU SDA No AMWU Affiliated Yes Yes Yes N/A Yes Position Official Industrial Officer State secretary N/A National Secretary


Name Carr, Kim Collins, Jacinta Conroy, Stephen Crossin, Trish Evans, Chris Farrell, Don Faulkner, John Feeney, David Furner, Mark Gallacher, Alex Hogg, John Ludwig, Joe Lundy, Kate McEwen, Anne McLucas, Jan Marshall, Gavin Moore, Claire Polley, Helen Pratt, Louise Sherry, Nick Singh, Lisa Stephens, Ursula Sterle, Glenn Thistlethwaite, Matt

State Vic Vic Vic NT WA SA NSW Vic Qld SA Qld Qld ACT SA Qld Vic Qld Tas WA Tas Tas NSW WA NSW

Start 1993 1995 1996 1998 1993 2008 1989 2008 2007 2011 1996 1998 1996 2005 1999 2002 2002 2005 2008 1990 2011 2002 2005 2011


Affiliated N/A Yes Yes No Yes Yes N/A Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes N/A Yes No / yes N/A N/A Yes No N/A Yes Yes

Position N/A National Industrial officer Superannuation officer Branch Secretary State Secretary, UFU State secretary N/A Federal industrial officer Branch Secretary State president State president Senior industrial officer Organiser, Vice-President ACT branch State Secretary N/A Official State Secretary N/A N/A State secretary Organiser N/A Organiser Organiser, later Deputy Secretary Unions NSW


Name Urquart, Anne Wong, Penny

State Tas SA

Start 2011 2002


Affiliated Yes Yes

Position State secretary Industrial Officer

Former union officials are a far smaller proportion of the ALPs contingent in the House of Representatives than in the Senate, 77 per cent in the Senate and 37.5 per cent in the House of Representatives. The next table provides a summary of the ALPs representation in the House of Representatives; a detailed list is at Appendix 3. There are a total of 27 former union officials among Labors 72 MPs in the lower house. Outside of former union officials many ALP MPs had backgrounds in other political class occupations (i.e. political staffers and party officials), as well as the law and other professional occupations (Miragliotta and Errington 2008). There are four union officials from each of the ACTU, SDA, and LHMU; three each from the CPSU and the AWU; eight unions contributed the remaining nine positions. Only 2 of the 27 are former officials from non-affiliated unions. As with the Senate, male House of Representatives (HoR) members are more likely to have union official backgrounds than female members. Five of the twenty-seven former full-time union officials were female (just under twenty per cent), while twenty-three of the seventy-two HoR ALP MPs are female (or thirty- two per cent); or, in other words, twenty-two of the forty-nine male HoR ALP MPs (nearly half) were former full-time officials. Table 22: Caucus: unions represented
ACTU AEU AWU AMWU ASU CEPU CFMEU House 4 0 3 0 1 1 0 Senate 0 1 3 1 2 0 2 Totals 4 1 6 1 3 1 2



House 3 1 2 1 1 4 0 1 4 1 0 27 72

Senate 1 1 0 0 0 2 1 1 4 0 5 24 31

Totals 4 2 2 1 1 6 1 2 8 1 5 51 103

There are three times as many male former union officials in the FPLP as there are female former union officials. Despite the ALPs commitment to affirmative action, it is still much less common for women to enter parliament from full-time union positions than it is for men. Table 23: Union backgrounds: by gender
House Senate TOTALS Male 22 16 38 Female 5 8 13


The next table summarises the Ministry appointed after the 2010 federal election according to the election at which they were first elected to parliament. The Second Gillard Ministry has 42 members, including parliamentary secretaries. Eleven of these are Senators, ten of whom have backgrounds, which include full- time union positions. As with the caucus overall nearly half of the Ministry have backgrounds that include a full-time position with a trade union, all of them affiliated to the ALP. Table 24: Ministry: union representation
ACTU AWU ASU CFMEU FSU LHMU NUW SDA TWU TOTALS Ministry House 4 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 0 10 31 Senate 0 1 0 2 0 2 0 2 3 10 11 Total 4 2 1 2 1 3 1 3 3 20 42

The next table lists the members of the current FPLP with significant experience (i.e. full-time paid employment) in the third sectors (i.e. non-government organisations). Only 8 of the ALPs 72 members in the lower house can be said to have significant third sector experience. This is a fairly generous classification, which may actually over-estimate the extent of NGO backgrounds in the FPLP. Garrett was recruited by the ALP before the 2004 election; Gray is better known


as a former ALP National Secretary and executive with Woodside, a large oil and gas company; and, Dreyfus and Parke could also be classified as lawyers with NGO experience. Table 25: Federal caucus NGO experience
Name Byrne Cheeseman Dreyfus Electorate Holt Corangamite Isaacs Experience Chief Executive Officer, Anxiety Disorders Foundation of Australia 1994-1996 Fundraiser, Association for the Blind 1999 - 2002 Field officer for the Northern Land Council, Darwin (1979 1981) and a research fellow at the National Research Institute of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine in 1982 President, Australian Conservation Foundation 1989- 93 and 1999-2004 Executive Director, Medical Research Foundation 2000-2001 Spent a decade as a health community councilor and 14 years as a Queensland Baptist Care board member Senior international lawyer with the United Nations (Kosovo, Gaza, Lebanon, Cyprus, New York), 1999 2007 Senior Project Officer, Central Land Council, Alice Springs 1983-1987

Garrett Gray Neumann Parke

Kingsford- Smith Brand Blair Fremantle


Northern Territory

In terms of union representation in the FPLP, access to parliamentary office continues to result in a strong connection between affiliated unions and the parliamentary wing of the ALP. Although affiliated unions represent fewer union members than ever before, there has been little evidence that officials from non- affiliated unions are gaining greater access to parliament through the ALP. In addition, like-minded community organisations (including environmental, community health and welfare groups) are also largely absent from the ALPs parliamentary ranks. Consequently, there is a continuing strong connection with a narrow section of the overall union movement and the community organisation


sector. This narrowness represents a form of weakening links between the union movement and the ALP. It is a weakening of links by inertia and omission. It also suggests that despite the ambitions of the ALP expressed in the 2010 National Review to position itself as a progressive party with a broad community engagement its pre-selection processes reveal a continuing large and rigid bias in favour of a small number of affiliated unions and the ACTU.

5. Connections
The fact that someones an ex union official doesnt mean that you can rely on them behaving in a particular way Current peak union official 2 The growing autonomy of the parliamentary party from the organisational party marks a party in transition from the mass party type to the catch-all, electoral professional and cartel types (Katz and Mair 1995, Panebianco 1988). In the discussion on the impact of federalism on the national unions-ALP relationship in Chapter 4, it was observed that the relative autonomy of the FPLP in the early decades of its history was a matter of some considerable interest to earlier scholars (Rawson 1954, Crisp 1978). More recently, Cavalier (2010) has argued that all of the splits that characterised the federal ALP during its first six decades were a result of conflicts between the parliamentary party and the organisational party. As the ALP transitions away from the social democratic type of unions- party relationship and towards the pressure group type we would expect to see a greater degree of parliamentary autonomy, and a greater acceptance of it by the union movement, even if this acquiescence is reluctant. The importance for the union movement of the presence of its former officials in the FPLP depends on the extent to which it translates into the type of automatic support for union policy positions described by Minkin (1992) and Valenzuela (1992). Personal relationships between former union officials in the FPLP and current union officials are particularly important in the absence of formal affiliation, or an institutionalised relationship, at the national level between


unions and the ALP. Many interviewees stressed the individual nature of these relationships, and the importance of the individual MPs attitudes to the union movement after they enter parliament. There was overall satisfaction with the performance of former union officials in parliament; twelve of the fourteen current union officials interviewed were either positive or neutral in their overall attitudes towards the usefulness of MPs with union backgrounds to the union movement. Nevertheless, there was also evident discontent and concern, about the attitudes and behaviours of some individuals. The next table reports that nine of the fourteen current union officials were negative (two) or neutral (seven). Some in the neutral category emphasised that some MPs maintained good relations with unions, while others did not. Table 26: Current union officials: Attitudes to ALP MPs
Affiliated Non-affiliated Peak Totals Positive 1 2 2 5 Negative 0 1 1 2 Neutral 5 1 1 7

Interviewees frequently discussed the unions-ALP relationship in terms of individual relationships between specific unions and individual MPs; they tended to see the relationship as an agglomeration of many such specific relationships, rather than a general, or generalisable, unions-ALP relationship: There are key pollies in the federal caucus that weve got a relationship with, weve got an ex branch secretary in there now, and a Senator and there are other people we know and can work with but again thats working those relationships. People like (Minister), the relationship will always be there. We might have our differences on some stuff but you know - Current affiliated union official 6


Look at de Bruyn at the SDA he has a cell of about half a dozen in the caucus. But hes not able to influence a lot of policies because a lot of his stuff is on the conservative extreme of social policy its as if it is a blast from the past. Santamaria lite and it doesnt go down well. Current federal MP 6 I know that with the metalworkers there is a level of frustration because they have a number of people in the caucus who are not necessarily doing anything which is why Doug (Cameron)64 is in the caucus. Current federal MP 6 If anything, the trend is likely to be towards more individualisation in the relationship between unions and the ALP. The individualisation trend is a logical outcome of the union movements marginal seat activity, where relationships can be built on political campaigning as well as the union backgrounds of some MPs: Labor had to win so many seats and the unions made a lot of connections at local levels. Julie Owen (Parramatta) is a good example she comes out of the management of theatres, the music sector, but she is very close to the CFMEU and they have helped her very strongly, not just in that campaign, she has a strong connection. Current federal MP 2 Some of the union concern and discontent about continuing relationships with former colleagues might simply be due, or at least needs to be seen in the context of, a different approach to governing and the impact that has on the relationship between the FPLP and unions. One MP argued that the Rudd Government was very different to past ALP Governments: It is just a reality if youre going to deal with us as a union movement were a very different animal than Labor Governments that you have

64 Senator Cameron joined the Senate in July 2008, elected 2007, as a Senator for NSW; he

was previously National Secretary of the AMWU. Cameron is now a high-profile leader of the left faction in the FPLP.


seen in the past. Its genuinely generational change in the leadership, it is times have changed and it is that society has changed so there are a whole bunch of factors that conspire to make it a very different environment - Current federal MP 4 Nevertheless, a common concern is the extent to which some union officials change when they enter parliament. Some interviewees were generally confident that union officials mostly do not change their pro-worker ideology when they become MPs: I dont think any of my union colleagues who have gone in there (to parliament) have lost their respect or stopped fighting for working people, its just a question of how you do that Current peak union official 3 Most Labor MPs would still see themselves as having a pro-worker orientation. Current peak union official 4 Despite this overall satisfaction, there was criticism of some specific individuals, with many interviewees recalling the behaviour and attitudes of some MPs with disdain, bitterness and cynicism: A lot of them do change; a lot of them definitely become different people. Very disappointingly. Current affiliated union official 2 I wont name names but even people who occupied some very senior positions in the union movement seem to go through this metamorphosis that, not all of them, but a number of them, they now have a different role. - Current peak union official 1 Nevertheless, some sign of the acceptance of the autonomy of the parliamentary party can be found in interviewee comments that acknowledge the different pressures and responsibilities faced by parliamentarians. Interviewees argued, for instance, that the behaviour of individual MPs was shaped by the political


realities of parliament, rather than mere individual failings. For example, one interviewee recognised the importance of caucus and cabinet discipline, seeing them as similar to union values of solidarity: I think they mainly become parliamentarians. Im not totally dismissive of them obviously they bring some values and some beliefs and all that. Im not taking that view that they are all shit because they went into politics because I think that is a bit harsh but look I mean the reality is that people join up they sign up to be in caucus they sign up to the discipline of caucus and even more so when they go to Cabinet we all know that and they know it when they are going in. Thats the way it is. Current affiliated union official 3 Another interviewee acknowledged the political realities that provided MPs with incentives to distance themselves from the union movement, especially as they assumed senior roles: The more senior the portfolio the more difficult it would be to be portrayed, or allow yourself to be portrayed, as highly sympathetic to a union movement that you came from. - Current non-affiliated union official 4 Other interviewees saw a need for union officials who became MPs to change their approach given the different demands on MPs: I think a lot of people have their hearts with the union movement but parliament is a different place its like playing on a different court in tennis, grass court or hard court. Current federal MP 6 Sometimes politicians get up there and they sort of get mugged by reality. In the modern world there are lots of competing interests banging on the doors of government and youve got to try and deal with it - Current peak union official 3 Most union interviewees did not have high expectations about their capacities to


influence parliamentarians. In fact, few participants could point to examples of substantive union influence on policy outcomes during the Rudd Government outside industrial relations, where the ACTU negotiated directly with the ALP leadership. Some interviewees expressed disappointment with the level of union influence on the Rudd Government caucus: The thing that amazes me, well it doesnt amaze me I understand why it happens is that so many of the marginal seats that we picked up people will say that they got there on the back of the efforts that unionists made as part of the YR@W campaign but as soon as they get into the caucus room. I know some of my marginal colleagues particularly in Queensland say we wouldnt be here if it wasnt for the teachers they did all the work but when it comes to issues nationally where the teachers federation has a different view its still Julias view that prevails. - Current federal MP 3 One MP recounted a particular episode to highlight the lack of union influence on the caucus, it also points to the vast difference between the union composition of the House of Representatives and Senate components of the FPLP: Jeff Lawrence, secretary of the ACTU, and Mark Lennon, the head of NSW Labor Council, asked for a meeting with all federal labor MPs. It was to be held in the caucus room at 5pm on a Wednesday. It was to discuss their opposition to proposed health and safety changes65 put forward by the federal government, Julia. I counted them there were 10 senators there, now there are 32 Labor senators, 10 of them are ministers, parliamentary secretaries or presidents so there are 22. So 10 out of 22 attended which is pretty good. There were 4 House of Reps people there. They didnt turn up because they dont think the unions are relevant. There wasnt one NSW MP there. Since the caucus changes where the Leader picks the frontbench again a number of us
65 The ACTU campaigned against the proposal by the Rudd and Gillard Governments to

harmonise, and make other changes, to Australias federal system of occupational health and safety laws see


opposed it there is no protection for people to get up and query the executive there is no group you can go back to and give you a bit of sustenance because in the end it doesnt matter what they think it matters what Kevin thinks. So the next day the Government was well aware of how little agitation there was from its own backbench and sent us a letter saying they werent changing their mind about whatever the ACTU and NSW Labor Council wanted on health and safety. - Current federal MP 5 The relationship between unions and the caucus has, according to some interviewees, been severely weakened by Rudds decision to reverse a century of ALP tradition and select his own Ministry66, a main means by which the FPLP could exercise influence over the parliamentary leadership. Gillard has retained the new practice as Prime Minister. As we have already noted, MPs with union backgrounds tend to become more removed from (narrow) union concerns as they move into frontbench and then Cabinet roles, this makes the diminution of the role of caucus even more adverse for unions as they rely on their relationships with individual caucus members, particularly those that have entered parliament more recently: Now youve got a situation where youve got caucus solidarity so you cant break out of that but youve also got a situation where in order to get advanced theres only one bloke who is going to advance you. Now the faction leaders of course still have a big role in that but he is immensely more powerful than any previous labor leader - Current affiliated union official 3 It took a lot of courage for the seven people (in caucus) who spoke against the ABCC proposal - Current federal MP 3

66 Even though the early FPLP was relatively more autonomous than many other

parliamentary Labour parties, its early leaders (Watson and Fisher) were unable to establish the principle that the Leaders should be able to select the frontbench team.


Dissidents in the caucus, of which there are very few and usually people on the way out, cop a hiding and in my experience quieten down pretty quickly. - Current non-affiliated union official 3 One interviewee recounted an incident that suggested that many MPs now feel less empowered, including by the sidelining of caucus, than the union officials seeking to lobby them: We had a meeting last year with ALP backbenchers and when it was announced that we had a meeting lined up with Julia Gillard and we were trying to lobby the backbenchers as we were about to bring the meeting to a close one of the backbenchers said Im sure I speak on behalf of everyone here, about 15 of them in the room, look if youre going to see Julia could you ask her to listen to us a bit more too. Its a bit sad when ALP backbenchers are asking us to put in a good word for them. - Current non-affiliated union official 3 Although there has been increasing unity between unions inside the ALP, especially at the 2009 National Conference, the range of issues on which this unity has been exercised has been very limited, indicating a narrow union influence on policy issues inside the party. Procurement67 was one of the issues unions made a strong push for at the 2009 National Conference, but even here one interviewee commented on the contrast between winning support at the ALP conference and getting Ministers to deliver: There was an agreement to have model employers being able to win contracts, now weve run across a half billion-dollar contract that doesnt have model employer status in it. Were now being told that its supposed to happen in a few months, youd think youd wait before issuing a half billion-dollar contract and that makes you wonder about the governments commitment. And then there are issues about
67 Unions, particularly the AWU and AMWU with significant memberships in

manufacturing, campaigned to get the government to favour local producers in its procurement policies.


removalist contracts and cleaning contracts. Julia Gillard agreed with a very effective campaign run by the LHMU (Clean Start) but a contract then gets issued worth several million dollars to an employer who isnt a member of Clean Start68. There is general commitment but delivery is always another thing. But when a half-billion dollar contract goes out. A minister knows it goes out. There is no minister who hasnt been lobbied about procurement for the last 2 years. - Current affiliated union official 4 The obvious conclusion from these comments is that affiliation has considerable influence on who gets into parliament, but much less influence on how they behave once they are there. The general acceptance that parliament is different and that people often change when they leave the union movement and enter parliament is an indicator of a growing acceptance of weakening links and the growing autonomy of the parliamentary party. In addition, the weakening of caucus has reduced the value unions can derive from their continuing relationships with individual members of the FPLP. Except for the fact that the FPLP carries a disproportionately large contingent of former officials of affiliated unions, the relationship between unions and the FPLP is consistent with theories about the transition of parties away from the mass party type (Katz and Mair 1995, Panebianco 1988); it is also consistent with the arguments of McIlroy (1988) who suggested the co-existence of strong organisational connections with declining policy influence under the New Labour model.

6. Non-affiliation
The unions that built the party from the beginning have stature. It wouldnt matter how fabulous the (non-affiliated union) was, it just wouldnt. Its almost like a historical cult. Current non-affiliated union official 1

68 Clean Start encourages purchasers of cleaning services to use employers who are committed to certain standards in pay and conditions.


There is some evidence that the pattern of union affiliation with the ALP creates a distinction between insiders (from affiliated unions) and outsiders (from non affiliated unions). Most interviewees tended to play down the distinction, though some interviewees from affiliated unions were sharply critical of non-affiliated unions. In addition, some MPs were critical of non-affiliated unions for, in their view, wanting the benefits of affiliation with the ALP without embracing the discipline of refraining from campaigning against the ALP: The teachers are probably one of the biggest lobbyers in parliament. They are constantly there in parliament. So other than not paying money to the party they play a big role. Current federal MP 1 They (non-affiliated unions) are outside the tent but they get far more outraged when they are not getting the outcomes they want than affiliated unions do. Current federal MP 5 Some Labor Party ministers particularly feel aggravated by unions that havent got a symbiotic relationship with the party but which go out there as they see it undermining the government, its often standing up for the members conditions. I think there is a very different way that you deal with the railway workers over their problems and with some other public sector unions that arent affiliated. Current federal MP 6 One possible explanation for the perception that non-affiliated unions are more demanding is that professional unions represent members in publicly funded sectors and are therefore more likely to be in direct conflict with ALP Governments: Were also seen as more demanding of ALP governments than a lot of other unions. That has to do with the role of the public sector. - Current non-affiliated union official 3 Nevertheless, some interviewees from non-affiliated unions were just as adamant about the benefits of not being inside the tent, the primary benefit of non-


affiliation being the capacity to act independently of the ALP: I think we walk both sides. I think it would be harder for affiliated unions to front up and run campaigns as we do or to have discussions with the Liberals certainly before the election outcome is known. Current non-affiliated union official 2 Once Howard came in we had to be able to talk to the Coalition as well as all the other parties and I had to be able to say that I am not a member of any political party, that as the President of the union my job is to do the best for the union and for our members. That helped a lot. Current non-affiliated union official 1 The independence of non-affiliated unions, or their outsider status, sometimes sees officials from these unions excluded from discussions with ALP Ministers that might have party political significance. Generally, however, affiliated and non-affiliated unions work together in their efforts to influence ALP Governments: There might be some issues about discussions about election tactics with the Government that we might be wary about having non- affiliated unions involved with but on policy things its a bit hard to separate the two really. Current peak union official 2 When it comes to crunch time and distinctions are made and it is well this is really one for the ALP affiliated unions. By crunch time I mean going to the ALP conference and arguing against electricity privatisation. Current peak union official 3 While there are some differences between affiliated and non-affiliated unions in policy concerns and their preferred modes of contention, these seem insufficient to explain the huge disparity between the access the two groups have to ALP pre- selections. The combination of a stable affiliation pattern, and a huge imbalance between the representation of affiliated unions and not-affiliated unions in the FPLP, suggests that the composition of the FPLP reflects the partys history,


particularly the first half of the twentieth century when Australia had a blue- collar workforce, rather than the political realties of the first half of the twenty- first century.

7. Caucus attitudes
How have the attitudes of Caucus members changed since the Accord period? Do MPs view unions as partners in a social democratic relationship, or as interest groups with a similar status to other like-minded community organisations? One way of approaching these questions is through the first speeches of new members. In 1998, ANU historian Paul Pickering published a comparison of the intakes of new members from the Liberal National Party coalition after its two big election wins in 1975 and 1996, including a detailed examination of the first speeches of incoming government MPs (Pickering 1998). Pickering (1998) argued that these first speeches were valuable because they showed us how these members chose to reveal themselves to the world. How they chose to reveal themselves provided, in turn, valuable insights into the changing face and composition of the Liberal and National parties. These new members represented the seats won with the help of the Howard battlers, outer suburban blue-collar workers who deserted the ALP, much like the Reagan Democrat phenomenon in the USA a decade and a half earlier. The new Liberal National Party (LNP) members were far more likely to have attended government-run schools than their predecessors and they were loud champions of small business and family values. After winning the election in 2007, 32 ALP members sat, and spoke, in the House of Representatives, for the first time, 39 per cent of Labors representation in the lower house. The last time Labor had been returned to office, in 1983, 27 new ALP members (36 per cent of Labors lower house contingent) entered the House for the first time. Comparing these two cohorts of new members provides some interesting insights into the evolution of the FPLP. In making the comparison, I used biographical data from the parliamentary website and from the 59 first (still


called maiden in 1983) speeches made by these two groups of new MPs. The ALPs intake of new members in 2007 joined what is still a fairly exclusive club; by that time only 1059 people had been elected to the House since Federation. Their fates are also politically important. Labors new members held 22 of the ALPs 25 most marginal seats they are the difference between Government and Opposition. Equally, their tenure can be short. Eleven (11) of the new members were not returned at the 2010 election. Nine (one-third) of the new members in 1983 went onto ministerial positions during the period of the Hawke-Keating governments (1983 1996). Of the 32 new members who entered parliament in 2007, for the first time, and the 21 that survived beyond the 2010 election, ten were appointed to the Second Gillard Ministry after the 2010 election. They included one Cabinet Minister (Combet), four members of the outer ministry (Butler, Clare, Gray, Shorten) and four parliamentary secretaries (Bradbury, Julie Collins, Dreyfus, Kelly, Marles). Of these ten, four had been senior union officials prior to their election (Butler, Combet, Marles, Shorten). The table below sets out the details of the ALPs 21 surviving new members from 2007. Of the 21, 11 had held full-time union official positions at some time prior to entering parliament. Of these, 10 had been officials with affiliated unions. They comprised two former senior officials from the ACTU (one previously with the MUA, and one with the TWU), two from the AWU, two from the SDA, one from the LHMU, one from the ETU, one from the LHMU, one from the CPSU, one from the HSU, and one from the (non-affiliated) IEU. As with ALP MPs in the House of Representatives and the Senate more generally, the former union officials among these new MPs are also more likely to be male. Five of the twenty-one new MPs in 2007, who survived the 2010 election, are female. Two of these five had full-time union backgrounds. The other seven of the nine former union officials are male.


Table 27: Class of 2007: after 2010 election

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Name Butler, Mark Bradbury, David Champion, Nick Cheeseman, Darren Clare, Jason Collins, Julie Combet, Greg DAth, Yvette Dreyfus, Mark Gray, Gary Kelly, Mike Marles, Richard Neumann, Shayne Parke, Melissa Perrett, Graham Rishworth, Amanda Saffin, Janelle Electorate Port Adelaide Lindsay Wakefield Corangamite Blaxland Franklin Charlton Petrie Isaacs Brand Eden-Monaro Corio Blair Fremantle Moreton Kingston Page State SA NSW SA Vic NSW Tas NSW Qld Vic WA NSW Vic Qld WA Qld SA NSW Union official Yes No Yes Yes No No Yes Yes No No No Yes No No Yes Yes No Affiliated Yes (LHMU) N/A Yes (SDA) Yes (CPSU) N/A N/A Yes (ACTU / MUA) Yes (AWU) N/A N/A N/A Yes (ACTU / TWU) N/A N/A No (IEU) Yes (SDA) N/A 2nd Gillard Ministry Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes No No No No No


18 19 20 21

Name Symon, Mike Shorten, Bill Thomson, Craig Zappia, Tony

Electorate Deakin Maribyrnong Dobell Makin

State Vic Vic NSW SA

Union official Yes Yes Yes No

Affiliated Yes (ETU) Yes (AWU) Yes (HSU) N/A

2nd Gillard Ministry No Yes No No

A distinctive feature of the 32 first speeches made by ALP members after the 2007 election is the lavish praise and expressions of gratitude they contain for the campaign efforts of the trade union movement, and for many individual unions and unionists. This praise and gratitude is often supplemented with rhetorical efforts to position trade unions as community-based organisations defending the rights of ordinary workers and protecting key Australian values like the fair go, the same expression of the ALPs ideology that appears in the 2010 ALP National Review (ALP 2010). The praise and gratitude is not surprising given the large investment in marginal seat campaigning made by unions in the 2007 campaign (Muir 2008), but it is a marked departure from the first speeches of ALP members in 1983 when there was little attention paid to unions, even though the formal ALP-ACTU accord was an important part of the ALPs election strategy and of the Hawke Government (1983 1991). All but three of the 32 of the class of 2007 mention unions in their first speeches, and 23 (72 per cent) mention specific unions and union peak bodies. Altogether, 29 separate unions and peak organisations were mentioned by at least one MP. Australias trade unions got far less attention in the 1983 ALP first speeches. Only eight of the 27 (30 per cent) mentioned unions at all, only one of these mentioned an individual union. The next table provides some examples of the comments about unions made by union officials joining the FPLP for the first time. There are some recurrent 206

themes suggesting that even at this early stage of their transitions they are already using the rhetoric and ideology of the pressure group type. Greg Combet (former ACTU secretary) made the most substantive remarks about unionism, but even here he used the language of individual rights in proposing a human rights charter (a key citizen rights tactic) to enshrine the right to collective bargaining and freedom of association. Others spoke in terms of a balance between the interests of unions and business (Combet, DAth, Shorten). Shorten (Maribyrnong, former federal secretary, AWU) was particularly strong on this point: the old class war conflicts should be finally pronounced dead. Another MP (Rishworth, Kingston) spoke of the value of unions as training grounds for a parliamentary career. Several spoke in fond terms of their time as trade union officials without saying how this might affect their views as parliamentarians. And, of course, the idea of unions as champions of the fair go also got a mention. Cheeseman (Corangamite) argued that this iconic Australian value originated in the union workplace campaigns of 100 years ago. Table 28: Union role: comments of former officials
Former official Butler69 (Port Adelaide) State Secretary, LHMU Champion70 (Wakefield), SDA Cheeseman71 (Corangamite) organiser, CPSU None My experience as a trade union official taught me that the most important prerequisite for public office is empathy for others. The fair go now has broader application but, originally, it was born out of union workplace campaigns from over 100 years ago Substantive quotes

69 House of Representatives website accessed 7 December 2011 70 House of Representatives website accessed 7 December 2011 71 House of Representatives website accessed 7 December 2011


Former official Combet72 (Charlton) Secretary, ACTU Substantive quotes Basic rights such as freedom of association and the right to collectively bargain should, ultimately, in my view, join other fundamental democratic freedoms in a codified set of human rights in Australia. I believe the absence of such a code, perhaps in the form of a human rights act, to be a weakness of our democracy In my role as a union leader, I learnt the importance of considering and balancing competing views and to respect the legitimate interests and concerns of business. DAth73 (Petrie) Senior Industrial Advocate, AWU The AWU has always sought to balance obligations to job security and improved wages with the sometimes conflicting need to see that businesses and the economy remain strong. The union movement will always hold a very special place in my heart The importance of health and safety on worksites everybody in this chamber must recognise the important role our unions play in saving lives every single day all around Australia I make no apologies for having been a union official. I am extremely proud of the fact that I have helped thousands of people get a better deal at work and protect their interests in the workplace. Only those who have no genuine conception of real workplaces can think being a unionist is anything less than a fine and admirable preparation for parliamentary service

Marles74 (Corio) Assistant Secretary, ACTU Perrett75 - Organiser (IEU)

Rishworth76 (Kingston) Official, SDA

72 House of Representatives website accessed 7 December 2011 73 House of Representatives website accessed 7 December 2011 74 House of Representatives website accessed 7 December 2011 75 House of Representatives website accessed 7 December 2011 76 House of Representatives website accessed 7 December 2011


Former official Shorten77 (Maribyrnong) Federal Secretary, AWU Substantive quotes The old class war conflicts should finally be pronounced dead. The real conflict today, I suggest, cuts across the old divides. It is reflected within business, unions, the community and politics. The real conflict is between those who are stuck in a business-as-usual routine and those that pursue innovation, knowledge and creativity. None.

Symon78 (Deakin) organiser and sop steward ETU Thomson79 (Dobell) National Secretary HSU

I am a unionist, a former trade union official of the Health Services Union. Can I say that I am immensely proud of that fact? This election showed everybody that union is not a dirty word

The 2007 speeches contain an almost universal belief, explicit and implicit, that the ideological struggles of earlier years are over. In 2007, much more than in 1983, the language of class, and of conflict, has disappeared from the first speeches of Labor MPs. Nor is there any talk of socialism or democratic socialism. In 1983, Gerry Hand, a leader of the left, future Cabinet minister and new member for the safe ALP seat of Melbourne, used his first speech to tell the parliament that capitalism was an immoral and corrupt system. Several new MPs in 1983 also opined that Australians had voted for socialism, social democracy, democratic socialism or socialist solutions at the 1983 election. Similar pronouncements in 2007 are simply unimaginable80.
77 House of Representatives website accessed 7 December 2011 78 House of Representatives website accessed 7 December 2011 79 House of Representatives website accessed 7 December 2011 80 The 2007 first speeches were made before the global financial crisis; since then Kevin Rudd and other ALP figures have criticised alleged market excesses but have not launched anything like a full-scale critique of capitalism of the sort that lay behind Hands pronouncement.


Instead, the first speeches of the class of 2007 are populated with hopes for greater social justice in the sense of a fair go and of government helping to remove barriers and create opportunities for individuals and communities. Labor is positioned in these speeches as the party of traditional Australian values (the fair go, mateship and family life) and, above all, social cohesion. The 1983 intake was often savage about the events of 1975 and the divisive role of Malcolm Fraser in Whitlams dismissal and the policies pursued during Frasers term in office. The 2007 intake has been just as savage on the perceived divisiveness of the Howard Government, and even more eloquent in seeking to position the ALP as the true protector and preserver of genuine Australian values. In recent years, there has been growing public comment and criticism about the declining diversity in the social backgrounds of Australian MPs, including those from the ALP (Catley 2005:106, Miragliotta and Errington 2008). Arguments about lack of diversity have two main components. First, the MPs are seen as being overwhelmingly from middle class backgrounds because of their education levels and choice of occupation; and, second, it has been noted that MPs are increasingly being drawn from a newly emergent professional political class, with a growing number of ALP MPs having worked as political advisers, union officials and party officials before entering parliament. In this study, five occupations were used as indicators of membership of a political class. Those occupations are paid employment as a political staffer, party official or union official; or previous experience as a political representative in local or state government, and, in one case, the Senate (Neal). Some of the new MPs had filled a number of these roles. The four MPs with no professional political class experience had pursued notable careers outside politics: Kelly (army), McKew (journalism), Neumann (law) and Parke (university lecturer, UN lawyer). On the other hand, only five of the new MPs (15 per cent) can claim to have had genuine blue-collar experience (i.e. not just a student job): Bidgood (printer and platemaker), DAth (various low-skilled occupations), Hale (Australian Apprentice of the year, 1991), Raguse (compositor) and Symon (electrician). 210

Table 29: New members: political class

Prior occupation Union officials Political staffers Local Government Parliamentary experience Party officials None MPs (32) 12 9 8 4 2 4

In terms of education, the most notable characteristic is the preference for legal qualifications and the choice of the law as a pre-parliament occupation. Fully 15, virtually half, of the new members had an LLB qualification. By way of contrast, a total of five had qualifications covering science, medicine, engineering and agriculture. A total of seven had a business, commerce or economics qualification. The new cohort of ALP members, especially those that survived the 2010 election, continues the domination of the ALP caucus by MPs from affiliated unions. The cohort is more likely to use the language of the pressure group type of unions- party relationships, where unions are like-minded organisations sharing similar values, rather than the language of class and a purposive social democratic ideology centred on representing the labour interest in parliament. Nevertheless, the benefits of affiliation, in terms of access to parliamentary pre-selections, continues to be narrowly focused on affiliated unions, and non-affiliated unions and community organisations continue to be absent from this key form of party engagement with social groupings.


8. Conclusion
In contrast to the flexibility with which the ACTU, and the union leadership more generally, tend to view the unions-ALP relationship, the structural relationship between affiliated unions and the ALP has changed very little. The ALP privileges affiliated unions through a legacy form of the social democratic relationship. In doing so, the ALP has made more difficult its realisation of the vision of a broadly- based progressive party contained in its 2010 Review. The social democratic legacy when it comes to pre-selections is a contrast to the greater preference for pressure group type rhetoric. It is a matter of social democratic form with pressure group content.



1. Introduction
Should unions remain affiliated, that big question, is that good for the party, is it good for unions? I think its benign for unions, I think in the end it is good for the party, if the unionism is good unionism Former affiliated union official 1 In the previous two chapters, it was argued that unions and the ALP are publicly moving away from the closeness and dependence of the social democratic type by emphasising their independence and pursuing strategies aimed at broadening their engagement with outside bodies. Unions are seeking to interact with other like-minded political parties and community organisations; the ALP is seeking stronger relationships with progressive community organisations. Despite these efforts the traditional social democratic relationship type remains as a potent constraint. The reason why the dependence of the social democratic relationship type retains its salience lies in the superiority of the political benefit exchange that results from the social democratic type, particularly for unions. Unions-party relationships are political exchanges. In his study of the relationship between the BLP and the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Minkin (1991:654) argued that a hard-headed appraisal of its benefits by both sides held that relationship together. This chapter argues that understanding the dynamics of the political exchange in a time of transition requires a more sophisticated analysis of the benefit exchange, by considering two important characteristics of the political exchange of benefits inside the unions-ALP relationship which are central to the ways in which those benefits are interpreted and valued. I refer to those aspects as symmetry and predictability. This analysis of benefit exchanges helps to explain why both sides of the relationship are seeking to move apart, become more independent, while seeming to be unable, or unwilling, to do so decisively. 213

2. Benefit exchanges and relationship types

Unions and parties are ultimately separate political actors with different political objectives. This separateness and difference was minimised in the past by a number of factors: by policy confluence during the Keynesian era and by a certain degree of political bi-partisanship around the arbitration system and an institutional role for unions in it. These factors had the effect of reducing the electoral cost to the ALP of its close connection with unions; while high union density levels and a predominantly blue-collar workforce, maximised the electoral benefit unions were able to deliver to the ALP. The ALPs primary vote in House of Representatives elections hardly fell below 40 per cent until 1990 even during periods of internal conflict (see Table at Appendix 2). Subsequent social and political changes in recent decades have made the political exchange between unions and the ALP more problematic. The symmetry and predictability of the benefit exchange have been brought into question. Symmetry has two dimensions. First, it describes a sense of overall equivalence between the benefits received by both sides. That is, the benefits received by the ALP are as important to the ALP as the benefits received by unions are to unions. A situation in which one side feels the other is getting a lot more out of the relationship is likely to be characterised by tension and, therefore, instability. I refer to this dimension as external symmetry. Second, there is the question of symmetry within the basket of benefits received by both sides. For instance, it might be argued that the internal balance of benefits received by the ALP has shifted, with the benefit of funding and human resources received by unions remaining important (though less so), but the electoral benefit of a strong connection with a unionised blue-collar workforce having diminished significantly. I refer to this dimension as internal symmetry. The de-linking of resources from identity is an important step in the weakening of links between unions and the ALP; without the identity benefit, the relationship becomes closer to the more independent character of a pressure group relationship.


Predictability is also critical to the interpretation and value placed on benefit exchanges. Quinn (201:360) has argued that party organisation is a solution to the problem of asymmetrical political exchanges, where unions, for instance, deliver short-term electoral benefits in return for medium or long-term legislative and policy benefits. Asymmetry is a result of time in this instance rather than value. Valenzuela (1992) made a similar point when he drew a distinction between the social democratic and the pressure group type based on the presence of affiliation in the first and its absence in the second. Affiliation, the direct representation of unions in internal party forums and processes, Minkin (1992) and Valenzuela (1992) argued, means that unions can rely on the partys political representatives to support union policy objectives wherever that is possible; that is, where such support does not pose a significant electoral threat. In a pressure group type, the partys political representatives are not so favourably, or so automatically, disposed. This predisposition is always problematic in practice and, from the partys earliest days, unions affiliated to the ALP have used enforcement rules and strategies (particularly the pledge, the authority of party conferences and the caucus system) to improve predictability of benefit reciprocation. The importance of these rules and strategies underscores the significance of predictability for unions in social democratic relationships. Cavalier (2010) argued that all the major internal conflicts in the ALP have come down to a struggle between party organisation and parliamentary party over the autonomy of the parliamentary party. Put another way, they have been struggles by the party organisation (particularly affiliated unions) to maintain an acceptable degree of predictability of benefit exchange in the unions-ALP relationship. Finally, predictability and symmetry are directly related to notions of dependence and independence in the unions-ALP relationship. The more dependence there is in a unions-party relationship, the more symmetrical and predictable will be the benefit exchange. Conversely, an independent relationship will be characterised by asymmetry and unpredictability. A relationship that is characterised by diminishing symmetry and predictability can be said to be transitioning from the social democratic to the pressure group relationship type. 215

The table below sets out the relationship between the key characteristics of benefit exchange and unions-party relationship types. Table 30: Benefits, dependency and relationship trends
Benefit characteristic Description Impact on dependency Impact on relationship Impact of trends towards asymmetry / unpredictability Greater asymmetry is a move away from social democracy Less emphasis on worker identity suggests move to pressure group type Lower levels of predictability are associated with pressure group relationship type

External symmetry

Benefits for unions and ALP are of similar value to each Benefits for each side are in balance i.e. resources match identity Short-term benefits provided by unions result in longer term benefits for unions

High level of symmetry indicates high level of dependence High level of symmetry suggests social democratic type relationship High levels of predictability associated with social democratic type

High level of symmetry promotes resilience High levels of symmetry associated with coherence as a workers party Provides strong rationale for affiliation

Internal symmetry


3. External symmetry
You draw the curtain, you open the curtain. The parliamentary party believes it can get anything it wants without the unions, but they are consistently confounded when they find they have to rely on the unions. Then the love fest starts again, its a rollercoaster ride. Current non-affiliated union official 1 There is a trend towards external asymmetry that heavily favours the ALP. The trend is not new. Mule (2002:270), for instance, argued that growing asymmetry, resulting from falling union densities, influenced the ACTU to accept Government


policy proposals during the Accord period that were less than optimal for the union movement. Unions remain exclusively dependent on the ALP for legislative protection. This dependency was highlighted by the hostility of the Howard Government. The ALP, on the other hand, has been more successful in finding replacements for its reliance on unions for campaigning resources through public funding and business donations. Within this larger trend, there was also a view among many interviewees that unions werent getting the policy benefits they might have expected from their large investment in the YR@W campaign. Nevertheless, all interviewees believed that the benefits of the relationship for both sides continued to justify participation. In essence, the exchange of benefits in the contemporary unions-ALP relationship involves unions securing legislative protections in return for providing election campaigning resources for the ALP. Minkin argued that a key dimension of the relationship was the unions basic interest in ensuring that legislation affords a degree of protection for union activity, particularly for the principle of collective bargaining (1992:11-13). Unions in Australia, as elsewhere, formed political parties in several colonies to promote legislation that was favourable, or at least less unfavourable, to unionism (Turner 1979) and unions have been able to gain favourable legislation when the ALP has been in office (Bowden 2011:63, Muir and Peetz 2010:216, Schulman 2009:13, Wilkinson, Bailey and Mourell 2009:360). The interviews for this study show that this legislative protection remains the unions basic interest, particularly in the light of the union movements experience with the conservative Howard Government, which culminated with the 2005 WorkChoices legislation81. The next table provides a summary of interviewee perceptions of the current external symmetry of benefits in the unions-ALP relationship. The interviewees were roughly split in half on whether there was a trend towards external asymmetry favouring the ALP or not. Interviewees were asked who they thought
81 Australian unions also faced adverse legislative changes by conservative state

governments during the 1990s, particularly the Kennett Government in Victoria (1992- 1999) and the Court Government in Western Australia (1993-2001).


benefited the most from the relations: unions, the ALP, or were the benefits about equal? Table 31: External symmetry who benefits most?
Current official Former official Never official Total ALP 6 4 0 10 Unions 0 0 0 0 Equal 8 2 4 14

In interviews for this study, there was a strong belief among officials from affiliated unions, and many ALP MPs, particularly those with union backgrounds, that dependence delivers real benefits for both sides above and beyond what might be achieved in an independent, pressure group type relationship. In fact, dependence, in the sense of a highly valued benefit exchange, continues to be seen as the source of the long-term resilience of the relationship. One interviewee neatly summed up the historical dimension of this attitude towards dependence: The Labor Party knows that the union movement is important to their electoral prospects, the union movement knows through bitter experience that you cannot have decent employment rights without legislative rights. Former affiliated union official 1 In this perspective, there is a sense that nothing fundamental has changed in the unions-ALP relationship over recent decades. Echoing this historical dimension, another interviewee argued that any benefits from ending the relationship would be illusory and temporary: Labor, I think, can survive without the union movement for some time because of the dynamics but in the crunch it will be found short. The support of the union movement is what makes Labor different and the union movement needs Labor to get their stuff (i.e. favourable legislation and policies) up. - Current federal MP 6 218

Inertia, and history, are major barriers to change, as one interviewee put it, the union movements significant, long-term investment in the ALP makes the prospect of a change in political alignments difficult to justify: From the union movement there is recognition that youve established a political force, its yours, your responsibility to keep hold of it in some way. Why would you say were going to walk away and set up a new force when youve got the structure already? Current peak union official 4 Nevertheless, nearly half the interviewees saw a trend towards external asymmetry, as revealed by their reference to a change recently or in recent times, for example: I think recently the ALP has got more benefit out of it than the unions. - Current non-affiliated union official 2 I think the party has got more benefit in recent times. - Current non- affiliated union official 3 Asymmetry is also seen as particularly evident at election times, when the ALP draws upon the union movements political resources: You can nearly argue that the party does better out of the relationship than we do, particularly come election time. - Current affiliated union official 6 The heavy dependence of the union movement on the ALP for legislative protection was a prominent theme, undoubtedly influenced by the Howard period, which was still a strong influence on the thinking of many interviewees. Without the legislative protection that ALP Governments can provide some interviewees suggested a bleak future for the Australian union movement: It (the cost of the YR@W campaign) hurt my union; Im still recovering a bit from the amount of money we spent in those three years. We spent enormous amounts of money, like horrifying amounts. My hand 219

used to shake signing those cheques with lots of zeroes on them. But Greg (Combet, then ACTU Secretary) said to us all at a leadership meeting, we are going to spend a lot of money because if we dont win this its all over red rover, we (unions) have very little hope of survival. Current affiliated union official 2 Had Howard been re-elected then to all intents and purposes, organised labour in this country through the trade union movement, if it had not been put out of business would have been rendered ineffective for a generation. Current peak union official 1 Unions would have survived, unions have survived in the US, but WorkChoices was worse than the US legislation, unions survive its how well and how effectively. Current non-affiliated union official 2 These three quotes represent a cross-section of opinion in the union movement: peak, national and state union officials; blue collar and professional memberships, right wing and left wing factional alignments. There may be a temptation to discount their extremity as hyperbole had it not been for the resources the union movement poured into the YR@W campaign. It is generally believed that unions spent between $20 million and $30 million to ensure the election of an ALP Government in 2007 (Muir 2008), compared with just $17 million the ALP received in public funding for the 2004 election (Mayer 2006). This degree of perceived threat from the LNP coalition and the consequent level of union movement reliance on the ALP for legislative protection suggests that the union movement would accept a high degree of external asymmetry before it moved to sever or diminish the unions-ALP relationship. The views may also reflect the sense of crisis that was deliberately created within the union movement during the YR@W campaign (Ellem, Oxenbridge and Gahan 2008), but certainly my impression as the interviewer was that these views were still deeply felt, even two years after the defeat of the Howard Government. The exclusive reliance of unions on the ALP for legislative protection, because the Coalition is hostile and the Greens are not (yet) a prospective future government,


is a major source of asymmetry. When faced with criticism from the union movement, the Rudd Government has also found the lack of an alternative political alignment for unions a strong argument. For instance, then Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard who received a hostile and confronting reception at the 2009 ACTU Congress, especially over the ABCC issue,82 reminded delegates of their lot under the Liberal Government and asked what hazards they might now be facing if the Liberals had won again in 2007 (Davis 2009b). Gillards approach is a demonstration that the ALPs political leadership is as aware as the union leadership of the continuing dependence of the union movement on the existence of an ALP Government. Non-affiliated unions are also affected by this lack of a political alternative. While in theory non-affiliated unions, like American unions, are free to negotiate with both sides, and sometimes do, for the most part the ALP is still the only viable alternative, as these comments from current officials of non-affiliated unions indicate: The problem has always been that the alternative (to the ALP) is always worse. - Current non-affiliated union official 2. At various times we were considered to be one of the most powerful collective bargaining unions and therefore they (the Howard Government) hated us and would never speak to us. - Current non- affiliated union official 1. Support for the Greens by some in the union movement has led to speculation of a broader alliance between unions and the Greens. Interviewees suggested, however, that the Greens have not emerged as a serious alternative for unions disappointed with the performance of the ALP in Government: The overwhelming majority of union officials will continue to support the Labor Party. You will have some at the edges who will be attracted by the Greens. - Current peak union official 1
82 The CFMEU led a protest at the Congress against the Governments decision to retain the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC)


Greens influence in unions seems to be strongest in unions not affiliated with the ALP, unions associated with the left of the ALP and with the CFMEU, because of the ABCC issue. Interestingly, this MP suggested that non-affiliation was a reason for some unions being more associated with the Greens: The Green element is particularly in non-affiliated unions except for the CFMEU. Because these unions dont feel the same attachment historically they often feel that they have got to have a two-way bet by having a bit of Green support around some issues. You see unions, on the left of course, developing a little bit more of a connection with the Greens. - Current federal MP 2 The other important cause for the appeal of the Greens to some in the union movement was their support for what are seen as traditional ALP policy positions: Privatisation thats an example you can count on the Greens more than the labor party. And I guess the left is still more interested in foreign policy and human rights. - Current federal MP 2 The CFMEU has people who would never have dreamed of voting Green but will vote Green because they are the only party that has taken a decent position on the ABCC as far as their members are concerned. Current peak union official 2 The Greens, on the other hand, despite receiving donations from some unions disaffected with the ALP and the presence of some Green members in full-time union jobs, are not a social democratic alternative to the ALP. Jackson (2011:160) found that two-thirds of activists in The Greens were opposed to any greater role for unions in the party. The main benefit the ALP receives from its links with the union movement is the provision of campaign resources. The 2007 federal election was unusual because


industrial relations is rarely an agenda-leading issue in Australian politics at the national level: There were elections that we have won in the last 15 years that would not have been won without the union relationship, 1993 and 2007. Lots of questions about any others but the two election campaigns in the last 30 years in fact quite possibly the only 2 elections in modern times, that is post 72, where that relationship was a real winning partnership were 93 and 2007. Current federal MP 4 Nevertheless, in an environment where the ALPs own membership has collapsed, most interviewees, saw that the big advantage for the ALP from the relationship came from the union movements resources, particularly, people. This is a key pointer to internal asymmetry with resources remaining important while party identity as a workers party has declined: Its not just the money, its the troops on the ground on election day and in the lead up to elections. Current federal MP 3 As a young union official I was a campaign director at each election. Thats important. Labor always has more people on the ground, they (Liberal Party) spend a lot of money on basic things that we (unions) do for free. Current affiliated union official 2 I was told the Liberals were pissed off in the last NSW election (2007) because we (interviewees union) spent 1.2 million dollars on advertising and they couldnt raise 1.2 million dollars, they didnt have it - Current non-affiliated union official 2 The contribution of resources is important in both social democratic and pressure group type relationships; arguably in a pressure group relationship the size of the contribution is more closely related to the importance of the issue to the group(s) involved: Throwing in of resources, thats the crucial thing. We were talking


about Putnam earlier; we live in a society where people dont join arent involved, party membership is rock bottom. When you can get a whole lot of people motivated around an issue working for you going around letter-boxing going down the streets putting up signs which you havent got otherwise in these marginal seats. That armys crucial. Current federal MP 2 Despite this recognition of the importance of union resources to the ALP, many union interviewees felt their contribution was not fully appreciated: I think they get more than they acknowledge and I think there is a lack of awareness particularly among that political class. Im not saying everyone I mean Im sure that blokes like Karl Bitar (former ALP National Secretary) those guys know whats going on they know what unions do in terms of money and logistics. Current affiliated union official 3 One union interviewee suggested that the union movement had not been fully effective in securing policy benefits in return for the resources it provides to the ALP and had allowed the ALP to benefit from the relationship in an unequal way: I think the annoying part for some of us is that come election time they (ALP) just take us for granted. Were going to turn up with the cash and were going to turn up with foot soldiers and until we get really serious about that then those dynamics dont change. Current affiliated union official 6 Even with the trend towards external asymmetry, and the balance of benefits increasingly favouring the ALP that might not be enough to outweigh the electoral disadvantages of close union links that some in the party perceive: The Labor Party gets more benefit than the unions but some of them are also probably questioning what it does for them image wise - Current federal MP 2


Apart from the exceptional circumstances of the 2007 federal election, the proportion of the ALPs funding that comes from unions has declined significantly in recent decades. Schulman (2009:14) said that only between 9 and 15 per cent of the ALPs total income now comes from unions. Quoting figures from Senator Robert Ray, Bramble and Kuhn (2009) say it has fallen from 80 per cent to 15 per cent. This sharp decline was seen as having a negative impact on the unions-ALP relationship: There is less dependence now on unions in terms of the electoral process, of income, public funding, access to public funds means the Labor Party no longer has to rely on unions to the same extent. Not just donations at election time but fundraising at branches and so on. Local members became far less reliant on that with access to federal funds. Current non-affiliated union official 3 Several interviewees also saw prospective changes to public funding of parties as a further challenge to the unions-ALP relationship: The more interesting question is do they exclude union affiliation fees from the so-called crackdown on donations, if they dont then you are headed towards a more significant weakening of the institutional link with the ALP - Current non-affiliated union official 4 Other external and internal changes to the electoral process were seen as favouring the ALP over unions: The access to changes to balloting procedures which meant that parties were identified on ballot papers it wasnt so critical to have someone standing outside polling booths where unions had had a big role to play especially in marginal electorates. Less significance and reliance on unions for that sort of activity all accelerated that breakdown or breaking down of the relationship with the ALP. They werent seen as being as vital as they were once Current non-affiliated union official 3 Finally, one interviewee suggested that the ALP derived a benefit in terms of 225

organisational strength from having affiliated unions, this interviewee used the same phraseology, bedrock, to describe the relationship as the National Review (ALP 2010) did, though this interview was conducted many months prior to the release of that review. This quote, and the bedrock analogy, neatly encapsulates the idea that there is external asymmetry favouring the ALP in the contemporary relationship, but it does not exclude an important role for unions: The ALP institutionally has a strong foundation by just having the unions there; unions are the foundation of the party. It is a very sound bedrock for the party because youve got these unions with their resources, theyre institutions, they are able to come together when they are needed to assist, to help run the party effectively, some would say theyre an impediment to running the party effectively, but in the main I think unions give the party as an institution a fair bit of strength. Current peak union official 3 The national unions-ALP relationship has become characterised by a high degree of external asymmetry. In some ways, the degree of asymmetry is more characteristic of the pressure group relationship type where unions provide support in response to issues that are felt to be urgent and significant, and where that support remains important to the party but the identification as a workers party has declined in value. Nevertheless, the importance of legislative protections to the union movement, the hostility of coalition parties and the lack of a viable political alternative are factors that make higher levels of external asymmetry acceptable to unions.

4. Internal symmetry
Internal symmetry, the relative balance between the types of benefits that accrue to each side, has also changed in recent decades. In essence, it is a question of whether resources and party identity are commensurate. We would expect resources and identity to be roughly commensurate in a social democratic relationship, but to be far less relevant to a pressure group relationship. In recent


times, the value of the ALPs affiliated unions as a source of working class identity and as a connection with voters and communities has declined faster than the value of financial and other resources that unions can still provide to the ALP in significant quantities. Conversely, the union movement, through the ACTU, is willing to support the ALP electorally, particularly during the YR@W campaign and the 2007 election, but seeks at the same time to be regarded as independent of the ALP, with a clearly separate identity and agenda of its own (Combet 2000, Kearney 2011, Lawrence 2011). Archer (2007:4) defined Labor parties as parties that attribute a uniquely privileged position in their ideologies to workers and make the pursuit of workers interests their prime objective, as well as embracing the symbolism of the workers party as their self-identity. With the dramatic decline in union densities, in particular during the 1990s, and the changes in the workforce that have reduced the importance of blue-collar unionism, we might expect to see a significant change in the ALPs self-identification as a workers party. Indeed, the most recent ALP National Review (ALP 2010) does make important steps to redefine the partys identity as that of a progressive, community-based organisation and Gillards two major speeches (Gillard 2011a, Gillard 2011b) as Prime Minister in which she has sought to define and position the contemporary ALP convey a strong endorsement of individualism and use the language of individual rights and opportunities. Gillards intention is to reconcile the individualism of contemporary ALP ideology with its collective past. It is a view of the ALP in which affiliated links with unions are far from essential. Some interviewees, however, argued that the ALPs links with trade unions still help to make it a genuine Labor Party, i.e. provide it with an identity as a workers party, and give the party a strong foundation: It wouldnt be a Labor Party if the relationship with the unions wasnt there. I still believe that the Labor Party should be a voice for working people and if youre a voice for working people I dont think you can walk away from the linkage. The Labor Party needs a working class base, and the unions provide that. Current federal MP 1 227

One interviewee also argued that unions still provide the ALP with vital links into workplaces and the concerns of workers; something not always appreciated by the ALP parliamentary leadership: What the unions offer Labor is an early warning system to frame the economic debate in ways that affect people because that is still their point of connection into the workplace and I think that particularly centrist administrations dont always appreciate that or get that. Current peak union official 4 In addition, some interviewees also saw the union linkage as a continuing connection with the broader community: I do to some extent think that clearly the connection with the unions enables the ALP to be in closer contact with the community. Current peak union official 3 On the negative side, some union interviewees claimed that unions keep the ALP relevant to a broader electorate by protecting it from the idiosyncrasies of the partys rapidly declining branch membership. These views assert that unions, and their memberships, are the real Labor Party, not the dwindling branches which some senior union officials seem to think of as people that, for some reason, have not yet joined the exodus to The Greens: If you talk to some of the key decision-makers in the Labor Party there is a bit of mythology around that the Labor Party would like to rid itself of the union influence but they will actually tell you if you took the union delegations out of the national and state conferences then the maddies would be running the place. Current peak union official 1 Mate, I went to a branch the other week. Theyre mad, the rank and file of our party, apart from the people who are careerists looking to run for parliament, are crazy. If they were determining so you look at the rank and file membership of the party. Youve got at least a third nationally are stacks, so a third arent real members, a third are just 228

people who have serious like the party is kind of their social security and a third are people like me, that are part of the party but they are not going to be active and all that. So, if you basically just had the rank and file determining things it would be crazy. Current affiliated union official 2 Some interviewees clearly saw the branch membership as either atrophied to the point of irrelevance or closer in character to The Greens than the traditional blue- collar trade union movement (Current federal MP 5). One interviewee argued that parties dont really exist anymore (Current affiliated union official 5), another argued that debate within the ALP had declined dramatically with membership decline, and that a lot of the people who used to drive debate in the ALP had left, often for The Greens. (Current federal MP 2) The ALP is struggling to find a modern party self-identity. An older identity as a workers, working class, or trade union party is seen as far too limiting by the ALP national leadership and the preferred replacement, in the form of a progressive community-based party, at least as far as the 2010 National Review Panel (ALP 2010) was concerned, has not emerged with any substance or clarity. The separation of resources from identity can be seen as a necessary step in the process of weakening existing vertical links so that the partys new links with non-industrial organisations can be established. Parties in pressure group type relationships do not privilege particular social groupings over others and are therefore able to admit new organisations without displacing the existing linkages. The process of creating space in the national unions-ALP relationship is not far advanced.

5. Predictability
Predictability is the consequence of the enforcement strategies and rules that are used in mass parties to limit the autonomy of the partys parliamentary representatives. In terms of benefit exchange, these rules and strategies are important for ensuring that unions can secure favourable legislation and policy


outcomes in return for the significant contribution they make to the ALPs campaigning resources, as well as (in the past) its legitimation as a workers party. There are two indicators that predictability has been diminished in the unions- ALP relationship, especially in its affiliated form. The first indicator is a consequence of the relative independence of the ACTU and its lead role in negotiating policy with the leadership of the FPLP. During the Accord period, the ACTU, and the policy engagement framework established by the Accord processes, became the main means by which the union movement pursued predictability in the national unions-ALP relationship. Predictability during the Accord period was an exchange for wage restraint, rather than electoral support (in the sense of contributed financial and human resources). Without the Accord, this method of promoting predictability has vanished. The second indicator is the increased use of external lobbying techniques by unions, including affiliated unions, to secure policy outcomes from ALP governments. This greater use of external lobbying can be seen as a (partial) replacement of the Accord processes for achieving predictability. The greater use of external lobbying by affiliated unions suggests that affiliation has also lost much of its salience as a predictability mechanism, although affiliated union officials still claim that, overall, affiliation is an advantage when it comes to pursuing policy objectives with an ALP Government. When asked about union policy influence over the ALP, all interviewees responded by commenting on the role of the ACTU. This is unsurprising given the changes in the labour market discussed in Chapter 2. At the same time, the policy engagement of unions with the ALP has narrowed since the Accord era, with the primary emphasis on industrial relations; perhaps, an unsurprising outcome given the policies pursued by the Howard Government in this area. Nevertheless, some union respondents with Accord era experience lamented the reduced policy role of todays unions, but todays union officials on the whole did not. There were also indications that the narrower policy engagement of unions with the ALP might be a more lasting phenomenon. For instance, current union officials 230

explicitly recognised that parliamentarians had a broader role than union officials, often this was expressed as a rationale for the different approaches some union officials take when they enter parliament, but it also acknowledges the status of unions as advocates for fairly narrow sectional interests. Starting with the Accord period the principal policy relationship between the national union movement and the FPLP leadership has been mediated through the ACTU, not affiliated unions: During the Accord years we had an impeccably bright and well-placed union leadership in the senior ranks of the peak body of the union movement. The debates were at ACTU congresses not between the Government and individual unions. Current federal MP 5 The next table summarises interviewee views on the most basic of predictability mechanisms: access. General satisfaction with access afforded to union officials by ALP Ministers and other key decision-makers was high. Even though the formal consultation structures of the Accord are no longer present, union officials reported little difficulty in getting meetings and that personal rapport remained high. Table 32: Predictability: access and overall satisfaction
Category Overall Specific issue General satisfaction. Comments Union officials generally satisfied with policy relationships Current affiliated union official 6. The ACTU conducts negotiations on issues that affect the whole union movement (e.g. industrial relations policy), but individual unions lobby in their own areas of policy interest. ALAC little used; Accord frameworks not replicated Former affiliated union official 1.

Conducted at peak levels and by individual unions.


Consultation frameworks not much used.


Category Access Specific issue Much better than under conservative governments. Affiliation Comments Unions can see anyone anytime whereas they had been shut out during Howard Government Current affiliated union official 1, Current peak union official 4. General agreement, though not strong, that affiliation improves access and influence Current affiliated union official 6. Relationships are much stronger at senior levels than in the US or UK - Current affiliated union official 2

Personal relations

Closeness is a key indicator of strength of relationship.

The next table looks at the next level in predictability mechanisms after access, structure and personal rapport; these are influence and lobbying. Interviewees uniformly argued that influence was no longer automatic and that extensive lobbying techniques were now required to achieve policy objectives from ALP governments and Ministers. These techniques include re-enforcing personal relationships between individuals in union and party leadership elites; and, the external lobbying techniques required to build public support for union policy positions. Table 33: Predictability: Influence and lobbying
Category Influence Specific issue Affiliation results in better access, credibility and influence, but it is mediated through personal relationships between individual unions and officials and individual MPs. Representation at conferences enables unions to block proposals, rather than initiate them. Comments Affiliation delivers real power, but it no longer delivers automatic outcomes - Current affiliated union official 2, Current peak union official 3

Unions can stop things happening, but it is very hard to make things happen Current federal MP 7



Specific issue Greater emphasis on policy content, quality of proposals, consistency with Government policy agenda. Internal lobbying takes the form of building personal relationships.

Comments Some interviewees reported that policies were more likely to be judged on their merits (as judged by ALP Ministers) than the degree of union support. Current peak union official 1 Relationships between unions and ALP MPs have to be worked at, otherwise unions get treated as just another interest group Current union official 6


External several Campaigning is required to ensure interviewees stressed the influence on political outcomes; need to win public debates. affiliation and personal relationships are no longer enough - Current peak union official 1, Current peak union official 2, Current peak union official 3 ALP politicians more likely to support union policy objectives if public supports them first - Current affiliated union official 1

All unions have far better access to ALP, than Coalition, Governments. This is far more than a matter of a degree. The ALP is willing to engage constructively with unions; the Coalition, for the most part, is not. Affiliated unions reported that affiliation provides them with better access and a more sympathetic hearing, though many interviewees were tentative about the extent of this additional advantage. Beyond that affiliation seems to have only limited effectiveness as a predictability mechanism. Without the formal structures for policy engagement provided by the Accord processes, unions are increasingly using external lobbying to secure desired policy outcomes. In other words, they are supplementing, or buttressing, the pre-existing social democratic type relationship with some tactics more associated with a pressure group type relationship.


6. Conclusion
Although both unions and the ALP continue to derive benefits from their relationship, there have been significant trends affecting the symmetry and predictability around the political exchange of those benefits. The external balance of the benefits has become increasingly asymmetrical with unions arguably needing the ALP more than the ALP needs unions. The internal balance has also become more asymmetrical with the benefit of resources provided by unions to the ALP becoming more important than the electoral value of its legitimation as a workers party provided by the link with trade unions. In addition, unions are turning to external lobbying to maintain predictability in the benefit exchange. In the next Chapter, the extent of the capacity to use external lobbying to improve predictability will be examined through the experience of the YR@W campaign and its aftermath.



The structure of chapters 6-9 of this thesis were inspired by the suggestion made by McIlroy (1998) that each side of unions-party relationships should be looked at separately, and then the interaction between them. So far this thesis has explored the two wings of the national unions-ALP relationship separately (the ACTU in chapter 6 and the ALP in chapter 7) to understand the changes each side has, or has not, made in recent years. The last chapter looked at the interaction of the two wings through the theoretical understanding provided by Minkin (1992) that an exchange of benefits is the key to the resilience of unions-party relationships. This chapter looks also at the interaction of the two sides of the relationship, but this time the concern is whether the ALPs electoral fortunes affect that interaction. Do the changes made by the ALP and the ACTU affect the relationship differently when the ALP is in Government and Opposition? This chapter reviews the Your Rights at Work (YR@W) campaign in the context of the paradox that results from the co-existence of relationship types. In this campaign, and what followed, we see evidence of the tension resulting from the co-existence of two forms of the national unions-ALP relationship. For many interviewees, YR@W was a highly successful interest group campaign that delivered its main, or even single, objective of defeating the Howard Government and returning the ALP to Government where it could deliver on its agreement with the union movement to replace WorkChoices with new legislation more favourable to unions. For other interviewees, there was a sense in which YR@W was to be the start of a new direction for the union movement, a direction that embraced the key elements of social movement, community and coalition movement unionism. The ACTU, itself, proclaimed its intention to see unions become permanent campaigning organisations capable of attracting and retaining new members through union democratisation, coalition-building and greater political independence. 235

Two years on, as we saw in Chapter 6, many interviewees for this thesis, expressed considerable scepticism about the new, largely US-inspired, approach to union political campaigning. This scepticism is also evident in perceptions of the YR@W campaign, which many now see as a one-off and a moment in time. By the end of 2010, the ACTU itself was lamenting a loss of momentum since the end of the YR@W campaign and the disappointing nature of the union campaign during the 2010 election campaign. Despite these disappointments, the ACTU leadership committed itself once again to the goal of independence, and continues to urge campaigning, the organising model and union revitalisation on its, sometimes unwilling, affiliates. Beyond the problem of scepticism, a more basic problem has emerged since the triumph of the 2007 election. To what extent is the political independence of unions, and the union movement, sustainable when the ALP holds office? Faced with widespread union criticism of the policies of the Rudd and Gillard Governments, the ACTU favoured elite bargaining, supported by limited public campaigning, and it provided significant electoral support for the ALPs re-election campaign. Finally, this raises the question of whether a mix, or balance, of dependence and independence, and of social democratic and pressure group relationships form a viable, long-term strategy for augmenting union political resources during a neo-liberal age?

2. 2007 election
Scholars and commentators have written extensively about the YR@W campaign (Ellem, Oxenbridge and Gahan 2008, Muir 2008, Muir and Peetz 2010) and the 2007 election (Jackman 2008, Watson and Browne 2008, Williams 2008). The general outlines are well known. I summarise some of the evidence here as background and context for the discussion in the rest of this chapter. These accounts point to the differing perspectives that were also evident in the interviews conducted for this thesis. Between 2005 and 2007 the ACTU ran the most expensive and sophisticated campaign ever undertaken by a non-party political group in Australian history


(Muir 2008: 36). The ACTU, not unreasonably, claimed considerable credit for the downfall of the Howard Government (Muir 2008), although the victory on a plate many in the union movement claim to have delivered to the ALP (Muir 2008) is almost certainly an exaggeration. The 2007 Australian federal election was remarkable because industrial relations was a high profile issue (Buchanan et. al. 2008, Cooper 2008, Hall 2008, Muir and Peetz 2010, Watson and Browne 2008, Williams 2008), which happens infrequently, and because the YR@W campaign may have influenced the outcome significantly (Cooper and Ellem 2008, Kelly 2008, Lewis 2009, Spies Butcher and Wilson 2008). The Howard Governments earlier workplace relations efforts, the Workplace Relations Act 1996 and the subsequent Maritime Dispute, although highly controversial, and the subject of high profile union political campaigns, seemed to have had no impact on elections in 1998, when tax, health and Medicare dominated not Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs)83 and the maritime dispute (Goot and Watson 2007: 267), and no impact in 2001 and 2004 when industrial relations again was not a major issue (Goot and Watson 2007, Hall 2008, Muir 2008). In fact, individualisation, particularly through the 1996 introduction of AWAs, was strongly opposed by unions for a decade with little electoral impact and only equivocal ALP support for this opposition. So much so that the ALP actually reversed its opposition to AWAs after the disastrous, for Labor, 2004 election (Bramble 2005: 257). Exit polls, political party analysis and analyses of electoral figures confirmed that industrial relations had been the decisive issue and that YR@W had been vital in changing voting patterns (Ellem 2011). Spies Butcher and Wilson (2008) point to significant circumstantial evidence from opinion polls before and after the ACTU began its advertising campaign and exit polls after the 2007 NSW election (Spies Butcher and Wilson 2007). Spies Butcher and Wilson (2008) point to the ALPs adoption of key elements of the YR@W campaign such as the term working families, as a further indicator of the significance of the YR@W campaign. Spies Butcher and Wilson (2008) and Muir (2008) also point out that most of the seats targeted by the ACTU in its marginal seats campaign were won by the ALP.
83 AWAs were formal individual employment contracts introduced into the federal system for the first time by the Howard Governments 1996 Workplace Relations Act


Further, using an analysis of swings in individual seats, Spies-Butcher and Wilson (2008) found that seats with ACTU-led YR@W organisers and campaigns delivered a 1.3 2 per cent additional swing to the ALP. Similar circumstantial evidence has been used to argue that the election of Kevin Rudd to the ALP leadership, with his weak alignment with unions in comparison to his immediate predecessor (Kim Beazley), was the real turning point in Labors electoral fortunes (Jackman 2008, Williams 2008). Hall (2008) draws on Newspoll data to suggest that industrial relations was dipping as an issue, and Labors advantage on this issue was evaporating, before Rudd took over. According to this interpretation, Rudds ability to be anti-WorkChoices without appearing beholden to the union movement may have been integral to his greater appeal and to the failure of the Coalitions anti-union fear campaigns during the election period (Williams 2008). In addition, Rudds appeal might have also stemmed from his image as fresh and untainted by Labors debilitating leadership battles of the past decade (Fraser 2008: 565). In an interview with the Australian newspaper in May 2007, former Labor pollster Rod Cameron said: unions are very unpopular the majority of voters are anti-union and they dont want unions back in their lives (Kelly 2007). Cameron also said that John Howard had made a mistake with WorkChoices, but that it was worth a 1 per cent swing to the ALP, not 5 per cent as some ALP insiders were apparently claiming. Watson and Browne (2008: 5) analysed exit poll data and found that industrial relations was the biggest issue for Labor voters, and that voters who regarded industrial relations as very important were eleven times more likely to vote for the ALP than for the Coalition. On the other hand, Watson and Browne (2008: 5) also found that among vote-changers climate change was decisive and a long way ahead of industrial relations. Jackman (2008) quotes ALP leaders to suggest that the ACTU campaign was a good interest group effort, but insufficient of itself to defeat the Howard Government. Cooper and Ellem (2008), like Jackman (2008) and Muir (2008), suggest that the Howard Government over-reached with WorkChoices, provoking voter concern that was easily exploited by the ALP and the union movement. Although many 238

commentators were staggered by the scale of the changes in WorkChoices (Cooper 2008), others believed there was a good chance that the pragmatic Australian electorate would accept them (Norton 2005). The Government sought to portray WorkChoices as a policy evolution, not a radical departure, and asked the electorate to believe the reforms would deliver better economic outcomes. In addition, Cooper and Ellem (2008) have suggested that a striking feature of the public debate was its focus on the impact on low-paid, often non-union, jobs. Cooper (2008) also argues that evidence provided by scholars about the impact of WorkChoices on employees, particularly vulnerable workers, was damning when released during the public debate. Fraser (2008: 564), typical of much commentary, said that because of YR@W, WorkChoices became entrenched in the electorates mind as one (policy) that would hurt vulnerable workers. Some interviewees clearly thought that the Howard Government had over- reached: I think it was a classic case of a bridge too far when they fell over the line with a chance majority in the Senate. - Current peak union official 1 According to interviewees, the political flaws in the WorkChoices legislation offered the union movement an opportunity to influence the votes of union members who might otherwise vote for a Howard-led conservative coalition. These employees were often in secure, well-paid jobs but had a general sympathy with unionism and saw it as important for maintaining protections for young people entering the workforce: What they were saying was that they didnt expect it to impact on them, but they were really concerned about what it meant for the sort of society their kids would grow up in. The Liberal support among those people just absolutely collapsed. According to our polling, about half went to the Labor Party and half went to Independents and undecided. - Current peak union official 1 YR@W shifted people who a few elections ago were voting for John Howard. I found a very big thing about your kids and grandkids. There 239

seemed to be a very big element that people thought that they could handle it but it would get worse once you surrender this kind of say in the labour market and kids and grandkids going into the labour market they would have difficulties. - Current federal MP 2 Given these problems with WorkChoices itself, and a range of other political factors discussed above, some interviewees suggested that it is not possible to know whether or not Rudd would have won the 2007 election without the success of the YR@W campaign: Who knows whether Rudd would have been elected anyway? But I dont think anyone denies that WorkChoices was a huge influence on defeating the Howard Government. - Current federal MP 1 YR@W campaign was successful in the sense that it brought down the Howard Government and if you look at any reasonable analysis of the last election campaign and took out the YR@W campaign it would be interesting to speculate on whether Rudd would have been elected. - Current non-affiliated union official 3 The next table illustrates the strength of support for the view that YR@W either delivered victory to the ALP, or made a very significant contribution to it. Only one current official did not hold the view that the YR@W campaign was significant or decisive in the 2007 election outcome. One former official and one interviewee who had never been an official also did not share the dominant view, both were MPs. Table 34: Attitudes: YR@W and 2007 election outcome
Current official Former official Never official Totals Yes 13 4 4 21 No 1 1 1 3


When these interviews were conducted approximately 2 years after the 2007 election, there was still a strong view across the union movement from interviewees in affiliated, non-affiliated and peak union organisations that the YR@W campaign was decisive in delivering victory to the ALP: So we (the unions) got them elected not the Labor Party. - Current non- affiliated union official 1 All the polls show that WorkChoices and those issues were decisive. That wouldnt have happened without YR@W. - Current peak union official 2 That was reflected again on polling day. I was on a polling booth all day and people were coming up and walking past all the established parties and picking up the YR@W vote cards saying thats the one I want. It was quite, quite noticeable. - Current peak union official 1 Two interviewees reported that the tracking and exit polling undertaken by their own organisations as part of the YR@W marginal seat and individual targeting exercises confirmed the evidence of published opinion polls and analyses of trends in seats targeted by the union movement: We tracked it and we know it happened. By the time we finished the campaign there was a collapse in the Liberal-National party vote among our members of very significant dimensions, something like 40 percent of the people we talked to. We targeted particular members in particular seats and tracked their voting intentions based on what we knew from 2004 and we saw a 40 percent swing among those members in those seats. - Current affiliated union official 1 The YR@W advertising, the focus of the movement and the resources and the personnel in a broad sense won that election. We did exit polling. It was massive. - Current affiliated union official 4


Only one union interviewee admitted to subscribing to the view that the ALP, not the union campaign, ultimately gets the credit for the defeat of John Howard: I am one of the few (union) leaders who dont think we won the election. I think the ALP won the election. I think we were an important component. Who knows whether they would have won without it? I think it was a very effective campaign but we (unions) are kidding ourselves if we think we won the election. - Current affiliated union official 2 The next table summarises interviewee attitudes to the question of the impact of the YR@W campaign on the 2007 election, essentially the reasons why the vast majority of interviewees (see table above) believe that YR@W was significant in determining the election outcome. Table 35: Impact of YR@W on election
General impact Agenda-setting Specific Top election issue Interviewee comments Unions made it the most important issue Current affiliated union official 6. Howard Government was always on the back foot, unions were crucial in turning the issue. - Current affiliated union official 2. YR@W crystallised other voter concerns and reinforced the idea that the government was past its use-by dates - Current peak union official 3. YR@W built and sustained momentum against the Government - Current federal MP 5. We pointed out the impact on Howards battlers and I think they saw WorkChoices as Howard going too far - Current peak union official 3

Framed public discussion of the WorkChoices legislation Focal point for discontent


Framing issue

Howards battlers


Although some MP interviewees acknowledged the importance of the YR@W campaign at both national and electorate levels, there was also support for the view reported by Jackman (2008) that YR@W was a good interest group campaign but not sufficient of itself to win an election. These explanations list WorkChoices and the YR@W campaign as just one of a number of issues and factors that influenced voters. One ALP MP offered an account that plays down the role of the union movement, and gives most of the credit for the election victory to the leadership of Rudd and Gillard. T his explanation is exclusively reliant on the interplay of parliamentary party tactics, offering no role for the YR@W campaign: I think we would have won anyway. One of the things you have to remember is that in 1996, there was a lot of myths about the Howard Battlers but there was some truth. He carved off a disaffected part of our working class base and played the wedge politics between our middle class base and our working class base effectively for a decade. Security, refugees. All social democratic parties around the world have to balance those groups. Howard separated them for a decade but WorkChoices united them. The only other thing that did that was the GST in 98. The GST delivered our working class and Pauline Hanson delivered our middle class. The security and immigration issues of 2001 blew it apart again and then Mark Latham blew it apart again. Then it had to be put back together and most of the credit for that goes to Kevin and Julia I think. - Current federal MP 7 Another MP also gave a detailed account that strongly downplayed the role of the YR@W campaign: The key issues in my mind were that governments lose elections oppositions dont win, so there is a sense in which John (Howard) had served his use by date. I think WorkChoices was important, I think their reticence to do anything on the climate change issue was important for young people but I think the Its Time factor its hard to quantify and Kevin appearing to be a very safe pair of hands and of 243

course he played the politics of that well there was almost a paper thin difference between John Howard and Kevin Rudd. I mean I think he acknowledges that too Im an economic conservative. You can trust me Im a safe pair of hands. So to say it was WorkChoices alone is gilding the lily. I think the Its time factor was the key. - Current federal MP 3 It is interesting to note that in both these accounts the interviewees refer to WorkChoices not to the YR@W campaign. This suggests that the electoral damage to the Howard Government resulted from policy overreach rather than the way in which the union movement was able to exploit voter concerns about the Howard Governments policies. Union leaders saw the political and technical flaws in WorkChoices legislation as significant, but not of themselves sufficient to win the argument. Union interviewees who believed that the Howard Government had over-reached with WorkChoices generally went on to argue that YR@W was highly effective in exploiting that political mistake: The 1996 Act was bad for us (unions) but it was hard to argue about the unfairness, but I remember when WorkChoices was announced. Reith negotiated with us but they wouldnt even have a meeting with us. But when we saw it we thought my god they dont know what they are doing. It is crazy legislation its like someone got five different lawyers and wrote five different acts and then stapled them together. We found provisions that directly contradicted each other. The NDT, award modernisation, unfair dismissal it was just wonderful it was a gift, it was just what we needed. I think the real aim of WorkChoices was to destroy us. - Current affiliated union official 2 The scope for competing interpretations of the 2007 election and its outcome was greatly expanded because the ALP and the union movements campaigns ran along separately. It is possible that union leaders, activists and members saw the


campaign through the lens of the YR@W campaign, while on the ALP side the lens was the Kevin 07 campaign: The other thing that was notable was that there were two parallel campaigns run in the last federal election (2007), the unions ran the negative campaign on IR but Rudd did not buy into that campaign at all. Rudd tried to set himself above and beyond that and spent a lot of time hitting union leaders over the head to show that he wasnt a captive of the union movement. - Current peak union official 4 One union interviewee provided a sophisticated account of how these two campaigns related to each other both strategically and operationally. This account gives credit to both the YR@W and Kevin 07 campaigns and argues compellingly that they were two halves of a more complex whole: You need to look at that in a tiered way. What I think YR@W did was that it convinced a broader electorate who werent trade unionists, or convinced labor voters, that there was something extremely serious, and wrong, about the Howard legislation. There was therefore a very strong argument for a change of government in order to deal with that. The platform for a change was established by YR@W. Youve then got to look at the extent to which the Labor Party and Rudd, in particular, handled the campaign in a way that either re-enforced or strengthened the need for a change of government. Its fair to say that without YR@W there probably wouldnt have been a change of government but it set the imperative for a change of government, it set a climate favouring a change of government. But without the campaign actions of the parliamentary leadership in the lead-up to the election campaign and during it, you could still have ended up with the re-election of the Howard Government. If theyd badly played their campaign or badly played the re-positioning of the new leader after Beazley got knocked off. If you look at the margin, the margin in terms of percentage rather than seats, it was still a very contestable election. - Current non- affiliated union official 4 245

Writing at the end of 2010, Brian Boyd, Secretary, Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) complained: Yet very quickly after the result the Federal ALP leadership re-cast the narrative to claim the campaign was all about Kevin 07 and very little about the anti-WorkChoices anti-Howard theme (Boyd 2010). Boyds complaint was not a new one. From the time of Rudds election night victory speech (Rudd 2007), when he chose not to refer to the union movement84 or the YR@W campaign (Muir 2008), there has been a theme of disappointment in sections of the union movement about the ALPs alleged efforts to diminish the importance of the YR@W campaign: Q. Some unions feel that they might have got a bit more credit from Rudd and he didnt mention unions in his victory speech? A. Absolutely. He mentioned Mark Arbib (the then Secretary of the NSW ALP) not unions. - Current peak union official 4

3. Campaign elements
The nature of the YR@W campaign, like its electoral contribution, remains open to interpretation. Did YR@W owe its success to good strategy and great television advertisements, or was grassroots mobilisation and activism the key to success? If mobilisation was important, should we see this as a return to a pre-Accord style of unionism or a radical new direction in Australian unionism, owing much to successful US models? There were some specific Australian precedents for the YR@W campaign on which planners could draw. These included the UnionsNSW campaign around workers compensation in 2001 and the NSW Teachers campaign between 2001 and 2004 for increased in education funding and wages (Ellem, Oxenbridge and Gahan 2008, Tattersall 2006). In a more general sense, the Australian union movement had been engaged in a long-term change in its use of repertoires of of the past, the old battles between business and unions (Rudd 2007).

84 Rudd, in fact, made one reference to unions: I want to put aside the old battles


contention. There had been a steady decline in the use of labour rights until the cavalcade to Canberra then a sharp drop off, together with a concomitant trend in the other direction in the use of citizen rights. The Maritime dispute can be seen as a significant turning point. The Whitlam Government was unable to arrange co-operation with the union movement, and union claims for catch-up wage movements in a centralised wage system adversely affected the Whitlam Governments fortunes (Hawke 1994, Whitlam 1985). During the Whitlam Government, unions insisted on using their labour rights under the existing Arbitration system to the full extent possible. The Accord was a reaction to the problems encountered by the Whitlam Government, and was designed to implement economic change without a wages breakout. The Accord used the social wage concept to offset wage restraint, an idea Whitlam had proposed but had not been able to win union support for (Hawke 1994, Whitlam 1985). The Accord was a key part of Hawkes pitch at the 1983 election, but unions played little role in the campaign, unlike the 2007 election (see Chapter 6 discussion on first speeches after the 1983 and 2007 elections which reveal differences in union involvement). The Canberra Cavalcade in 1996 was organised by the ACTU as a protest against the incoming Howard Governments workplace relations reforms, it became rowdy (or a riot) and was considered a public relations disaster for both the union movement and the ALP Opposition85. The Cavalcade seems to have been premised on the idea that a massive show of union strength would influence the Howard Government. The reverse was true. The Cavalcade was a tactic left-over from the days of high union density and antipodean corporatism. It was a reprise of the famous 1969 Clarrie OShea case, sometimes still cited as an example of the power of unions to mobilise the working class (Bramble 2005, 2008). The approach adopted by the ACTU in the 1998 Maritime dispute (Trinca and Davies 2000) was shaped by the Canberra

85 ALP Senator Faulkner: Let me say on behalf of the opposition that the Labor Party,

too, condemns the appalling violence that occurred at the doors of Parliament House yesterday - p.2673. The ACTU president at the time, Jennie George, later described it as a low-point of her presidency (George 2009).


Cavalcade fiasco and the withdrawal of labour rights in the Howard Governments 1996 Workplace Relations Act (Gentile and Tarrow 2009). The YR@W campaign reflected a further restriction of labour rights in the WorkChoices legislation and the adoption of union revitalisation techniques, based on citizen rights, during the decade before the 2004 federal election. The next table outlines the transition from the use of labour rights to the use of citizen rights. Table 36: Repertoires of contention
Labour rights Citizen rights Whitlam High Low Accord Medium Low Cavalcade Medium Low Maritime Medium Medium YR@W Low High

Ellem, Oxenbridge and Gahan (2008) have characterised the YR@W campaign as a combination of marketing and mobilisation. This combination, they argued, gave rise to a number of paradoxes: Union leaders (and media) described the campaign as a grassroots one, but the importance of leadership in strategy development was quite clear. YR@W was described as a community campaign, but it was also a highly complex marketing campaign. These paradoxes are evident in the responses of interviewees and they allow for a number of interpretations. One interpretation emphasises the strategic speed and skill of the ACTU campaign, which surprised both sides of politics, allowed the ACTU to frame the debate and generally gave it an advantage that it maintained throughout. A second interpretation, usually seen as complementing the first, argues that the real success of the campaign came from the grassroots mobilisation component because ultimately it was the many one-on-one conversations through everything from bus tours and street booths to telephone canvassing and marginal seat campaigns that changed votes. Both of these interpretations owe something to the pressure group type tactics that the ACTU adopted during the decade before in its efforts at union revitalisation. The first


interpretation is more suited to the augmentation process discussed in this thesis, which involves cherry-picking pressure group tactics to augment a social democratic type relationship that is declining in its capacity to deliver predictable benefit exchanges. The second interpretation includes a more radical embrace of the union revitalisation model, and it includes the elements that appear far more difficult to sustain and build on. The YR@W campaign started early catching both the Howard Government and its ALP Opposition by surprise. The YR@W campaign may have had its genesis on the first working day after the 2004 federal election (Muir 2008: 89) and by March 2005, the ACTU had formulated a national, research-based media strategy and announced that it would work against the government (Muir 2008: 467, 53 5). This early start gave the union movement the initiative and allowed it to frame the debate on its terms; that is, as an issue about vulnerable workers and working families, rather than the Governments preferred ground of economic benefits for the country as a whole (Ellem 2011, Lewis 2009). This strategic advantage was significantly increased by the success of the Tracy television ads, which first went to air in June 2005 (Lewis 2009, Muir 2008). The strategic, tactical and operational sophistication of the YR@W campaign also took both sides of politics by surprise. Union interviewees believed that the Howard Government was expecting, and hoping for, some industrial action and rowdy demonstrations to use in its effort to demonise union bosses, while the ALP fearing the same thing was hoping to distance itself from such conflict: The government was expecting us to do the usual thing national strikes big rallies storming parliament. Greg (Combet) was so strategic, George Wright86 and Greg. - Current affiliated union official 2 Extraordinary discipline and extraordinary restraint. We didnt fall for the sucker punch of having a massive industrial response, which I think,

86 George Wright was Director of Policy and Communications at the ACTU during the YR@W campaign. In 2011, he was appointed ALP National Secretary.


is what the previous government thought we would do. - Current peak union official 1 Reacting to pictures of lots of unionists demonstrating in the streets is one thing, in terms of Labor Party reaction, but reacting to a sophisticated, successful ad campaign is another thing altogether. - Current non-affiliated union official 4 The ALP was also caught out initially, but unlike the Government its surprise was ultimately a pleasant one. One interviewee described the problems the ALP was encountering at the time the YR@W campaign was getting into full swing: I remember all those marches in Melbourne, they (the FPLP leadership) were very late coming in Macklin87 didnt come until like the third march or whatever it was. A lot of politicians did not trust what was happening originally. Im only reflecting on Melbourne. Partly thats because Labor was still in disarray, still wondering where they were going and how they were going to get there and they were still doing that when we started the YR@W campaign. - Current non-affiliated union official 1 The union movement, YR@W, breathed life into it (opposition to Howards IR policies). The Labor Party had given up. Current federal MP 6 The surprising sophistication of the union campaign was also found in its decision to focus on vulnerable workers and working families rather than unions. The YR@W campaign was designed to frame the public debate around the impact of WorkChoices on people rather than unions: In 1998 our slogan was Mr. Howard, unchain my union88. We were so stupid, so dumb back then we always made it about us about unions. This time we never mentioned unions; we didnt want Australian Council of Trade Unions or unions in anything. We realised if we make
87 A senior ALP federal frontbencher. 88 An ironic reference to the expensive pro-GST advertising by the Howard Government.


this about ordinary people we win, if we make it about unions he (Howard) wins. - Current affiliated union official 2 The ACTUs first television advertisements were seen by interviewees as a turning point in the YR@W campaign and contributed enormously to its success in setting the agenda. Lewis (2009) reported that the ads were put to air early in order to frame the debate, on a first to market principle. Interviewees from affiliated, non-affiliated and peak union organisations offered remarkably consistent views about the TV advertisements: I think those couple of ads that were put out were important initially in helping to set the agenda. They focused on the things that did resonate, AWAs and unfair dismissals, even though unfair dismissals dont really do that much for unions but in terms of peoples whole perception of job security I think it was an important thing. - Current peak union official 2 Once we got Tracy out there. I tell you what it took a big, big argument at the ACTU executive to get it. To actually use TV advertising and use the money. It was the principle of it, but Greg (Combet) just kept at it. It won the award for the best workplace campaign in the world. - Current non-affiliated union official 1 And the ads were so effective. Andrew Robb told me it just blew them out of the water, it was not expected, and they didnt know how to respond. - Current affiliated union official 2 Andrew Robb is a former Federal Director of the Liberal Party, and at the time of writing was the Opposition spokesperson on Finance. During the WorkChoices period he was appointed by John Howard to help the then Minister for Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews, promote WorkChoices through the media. The second interpretation sees the whole campaign as important but argues that the grassroots mobilisation components were decisive, particularly the capacity to talk with potential swinging voters, rather than conducting a marketing


campaign: So the change with YR@W and the engagement strategy there was moving away from telling people how to vote to asking them how they think they should vote given what they have said about particular issues and having an informed discussion respecting the fact that they are going to make a choice on polling day and while we have got a role to play its largely a role based on an obligation to inform them about things that were in a position to engage them rather than arrogantly assume that you can send a form letter out and they will do as their told because they dont. - Current affiliated union official 1 When you could actually talk to people and they could listen to someone they trusted (thats what made the difference). What the unions were doing, and this was run through the ACTU, is that they managed to target their members in the marginal seats and they managed to target it down to who were the swingers and they managed to focus on calling and contacting them and thats something that was unimaginable 20 years ago and thats the degree of sophistication of the campaign. - Current peak union official 3 Talking to people in regional locations was quite effective. - Current peak union official 1 Some interviewees saw all the components as vital to an integrated and comprehensive campaign: There was a legal strategy to help unions survive; there was a political strategy to engage with the Labor opposition to try and make sure we could defeat the Howard Government. There was an industrial strategy that was extremely important because those mass rallies, I think there were four of them, included the biggest ever rally in western Sydney and huge rallies all over the country. Millions of workers mobilised. So it was a multi-faceted campaign and then on top of that they grafted quite a sophisticated media campaign. - Current federal MP 1 252

Nevertheless, some interviewees were cynical about the real role of the grassroots campaign. One interviewee suggested that the ACTU leadership, correctly, played lip service to alternate views about the shape of the campaign and ignored internal debates about the importance of various activities: Actually there are different views about what the YR@W campaign means. Some people think the key part was the on-the-ground door knocking in the electorates. Theres no doubt that where the YR@W campaign was active, there were bigger swings in those electorates. Correlation is not causation but there is some evidence to suggest a positive impact. Some other people think the big rallies had an impact. And its true that the Labor vote tracked by Newspoll would always go up after those big rallies89. But there were also advertising blitzes around those rallies so you dont know but everyone has their own explanation. The great skill of Combet was to listen to those interpretations and then go off and do whatever he was going to do anyway. - Current affiliated union official 5 Another interviewee was more cynical and suggested that some activities were purposely designed to keep people occupied and away from causing problems: We knew we had to have rallies because the Victorians and all the mad people always want a rally. But we were determined to do it different, its got to have music be positive were going to have workers, were going to stage manage it, were going to make it look like an election rally so instead of the usual flags on the back of a truck with a megaphone. We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on staging. - Current affiliated union official 2 The existence of a range of interpretations of such a large campaign is not surprising, but it does allow sceptics of union revitalisation to downplay the ongoing importance of mobilisation and community campaigns.
89 See Bramble (2008:260): In the days following the rallies, Coalition support, on a two party preferred basis, fell from 51 to 46 per cent in AC Nielsen polling.


4. Policy benefits
Just as the role of the YR@W campaign in shaping the 2007 federal election contest, and contributing to the outcome, is contestable, so too is any assessment of the policy benefits the union movement derived from the incoming Rudd Government and its Fair Work Australia Act. All union interviewees, unsurprisingly, viewed the Fair Work policy as a major improvement. Nevertheless, all union interviewees found at least some aspects of the new legislation disappointing90. There was, however, a sharp divergence on the way those disappointments were interpreted, of the glass half-full or half- empty variety. The table below summarises interviewee attitudes to the Fair Work Australia Act. Table 37: Attitudes: FWA outcomes
Current official Former official Never official Totals Good 7 2 3 12 OK 6 1 0 7 Bad 1 1 0 2 None 0 1 2 3

Interviewees who took a glass half-full approach focused on the defeat of the Howard Government when asked about whether the union movement got the policy outcomes it expected from the YR@W campaign and the election of the Rudd Government: Well not having the Howard Government is a huge benefit. Can never be forgotten and we (unionists) have got very short memories. Not

90 Many union officials were in fact angered by the decision of Rudd and Gillard to retain

some of Howards anti-union measures in the Fair Work Act (Wilkinson et. al. 2009:366).


having a government thats absolutely committed to destroying unions is in itself a benefit. - Current peak union official 2 The glass half-empty responses tended to focus more on the specifics of the legislation: The prime example (of unions getting fewer benefits from the relationship) is the YR@W campaign where unions I believe delivered victory to the ALP around that issue and have got not much in return. Fair Work is certainly an improvement on WorkChoices, theres no argument about that. But I think its been disappointing. - Current non- affiliated union official 3 Several interviewees described the first type of response as a sign of political maturity in the relationship, a capacity to accept defeat in negotiations between unions and the ALP without blowing up. One interviewee (Current affiliated union official 2) identified this maturity with affiliated unions and contrasted it with both the approach of non-affiliated unions in Australia, and the more militant approach adopted by unions in the UK. Some interviewees believed that the success of the YR@W campaign resulted in gains for the union movement from the ALP on industrial relations policy, over and beyond what the ALP would have done anyway. Prior to YR@W, the union movement had been struggling to get the ALP to adopt some of its policy positions: The Labor Partys position wouldnt have been the same (without YR@W), not that there hadnt been a range of things happening before that like they were locked into a position that was the abolition of AWAs91 after a struggle that had gone on for 5 or 6 years before that. - Current peak union official 2

91 The ALP Opposition under Latham, in particular, showed little willingness to fight against the Howard Governments reforms (Johnson 2004:546).


The policy achievements of the YR@W campaign, according to one interviewee, resulted from the way in which it demonstrated to the ALP leadership the strength of support for union policy positions: Q. Would the Fair Work Act have been as good without the YR@W campaign? A. No it wouldnt have been. I think (YR@W) was one of the most successful mobilisations of the union movement in Australian history. It was a very good community campaign. People were mobilised because it was a genuine issue and people understood the importance of it. That had a huge influence on the Labor Party. - Current federal MP 1 Nevertheless, there were clear limits to what the ALP was prepared to deliver in its efforts to balance union policy concerns and ambitions with those of other groups, particularly employers: I think they (ALP) recognise the YR@W campaign was helpful in defeating the Howard Government but I dont think that they were prepared to introduce all the changes that unions, certainly ours, believed should have been introduced Current non-affiliated union official 3 Another interviewee suggested that the union movement faced even greater difficulties in winning policy concessions in other policy areas, particularly in economic areas where the ideology underpinning union policy objectives was at odds with the economic conservatism championed by the Rudd Government: The metalworkers before the YR@W campaign were doing quite a bit of research about the impact of tariff policy and would commission, they had a research policy unit, they commissioned people like Peter Brain to write elaborate micro-economic scenarios about the car industry etc etc etc. Did it achieve anything in terms of Rudd Government attitudes to tariff policy? No. So youve still got the problem, no matter how much research or how effective you are at putting your case if youre up against a solid ideological or otherwise 256

refusal to contemplate change in that particular area then thats not going to work. - Current non-affiliated union official 4 The YR@W campaign may have helped the union movement win greater concessions on industrial relations from an incoming ALP Government, but the limitations on what it could achieve were significant, particularly because the incoming Government did not want to be seen to be indebted to the union movement, and stressed that it treated unions and business groups equally.

5. A moment in time
Some interviewees saw YR@W as a one-off or a moment in time. This view may owe something at least to the sense of crisis fostered by the union leadership during the YR@W campaign (Ellem, Oxenbridge, S., and Gahan, B. 2008). The effort and unity produced by a sense of crisis is hard to maintain when the immediate threat has been removed: We spent a lot of time with Greg Combet, it was all happening. It was all we thought about for awhile. It dominated and thats the thing that makes a difference. But they are only moments, they come, they go. Im a realist, pragmatic, they are just moments. - Current non-affiliated union official 1 I suspect it was a moment in time. It was a fundamental defensive strategy. I t didnt have much of a positive outcome beyond defeat of the government and to get rid of WorkChoices. - Current affiliated union official 5 YR@W was an exception, not something that could be easily repeated. - Current federal MP 7


Since the YR@W campaign the union movement has run many smaller campaigns but struggled to get the same traction: That was a powerful thing, but Id have to say because I sit on the ACTU executive, that theyre finding it really hard to replicate that now. Youve got to have something that really, really, really gets people annoyed and gets people worried and gets people concerned. - Current non-affiliated union official 1 Nevertheless, some interviewees also saw the loss of momentum as a result of a deliberate choice made by many unions: It was a fantastic campaign and had the grassroots enlisted but I think the lesson out of that is that we need to continue that work. There are parts of that campaign that involved the community we didnt continue that on we went back to our traditional way and that was sitting around a table and negotiating. - Current affiliated union official 6 Moreover, the campaign focus on a single political objective tended to encourage the view that it was over after the 2007 election. The result was that YR@W did not become the union revitalisation campaign that some in the union movement had hoped. Some interviewees were clearly disappointed that the campaign ended with the election and did not result in boosts in membership: Well, the first failure of YR@W was that in all the conversations I had with Robbo92 and with Greg Combet, Robbo was about him and Greg was just about the next election. I kept saying what happens if we lose and what happens if we win. Its not just about getting Labor elected its about getting a stronger movement which actually entrenches Labor for the future. Their focus was definitely just the next election. - Current affiliated union official 4

92 John Robertson, Secretary of UnionsNSW during YR@W campaign and later ALP Opposition leader in NSW Parliament.


If the goal of the campaign was to defeat the government than it was successful. If the goal of the campaign was to re-build the trade union movement then youd have to say it was a failure. The ACTU leadership said weve just got to get through this and everything will be fine. - Current affiliated union official 5 The YR@W campaign didnt make how to protect your rights by joining a union the issue. It said vote for Kevin and hell look after you. Well, has he? Current federal MP 5 A possible explanation for the discounting of the continuing relevance of YR@W is the perceived narrowness of its objectives. A broad set of objectives related to union revitalisation became, fairly quickly, focused on the single political objective of defeating the Howard Government at the 2007 election. The YR@W campaign has been seen as a major success for the union movement because it achieved its primary goal, which came to be seen as the defeat of the Howard Government (Ellem 2011). YR@W was less successful in achieving some other goals that were canvassed at the outset and during the three-year campaign. These included coalition building and membership growth (Ellem, Oxenbridge, and Gahan, 2008). Moreover, the positioning of the YR@W campaign as a one-off that was suited to its times, not unlike the Accord is now regarded, allowed the union movement to slip back into reliance on the ALP, now that it was back in Government and Howards WorkChoices had been defeated. In the next section, evidence is highlighted that the union movement was disappointed with the ALPs performance on union issues in its first term after the election victory. This disappointment indicates that there was a view in union circles that the new federal ALP Government would deliver because the union movement got it elected. That is, there was an expectation that the old social democratic rules about symmetrical political exchanges would apply once again.


6. A second act?
I think that the challenge for us is to continue to be independent and campaigning and so on while having a communication with the government and having input into policy Current peak union official 2 After the 2007 election triumph, unions and their peak organisations, particularly UnionsNSW and the ACTU, seemed to have neglected their new political strategy of mobilisation and returned to a more traditional approach of political exchange with the state mediated through the ALP. The neglect of mobilisation, in favour of elite negotiated political exchanges, and widespread union disappointment with the Rudd Governments Fair Work Act, resulted in a lack lustre performance by the union movement in 2010. The continuing relevance of the union movements dependent relationship with the ALP was highlighted when the two main architects and high profile leaders of the YR@W campaign left the union movement to embark on parliamentary careers with the ALP. The UnionsNSW Secretary, John Robertson, entered the NSW Legislative Council in late 2008 and became the Opposition Leader after the ALPs crushing electoral defeat in March 2011. The ACTU Secretary, Greg Combet, left the union movement just prior to the 2007 election and quickly rose through the ranks to become Prime Minister Gillards climate change minister after the 2010 election. These departures were not always welcomed. It can be seen as a sign of the union movements ongoing struggle to make the shift to a future based on mobilisation: We got so insider focused and for many unions it still is insider work. Thats a real danger. Theres always a capacity for people to slip back into that. John Robertson is a good example when his ACTU bid failed we spoke to him about the future but he decided to just not enter into a dialogue about the new legislation. He then was also getting offered the premiership by some and the opposition leadership by some. He decided to go quiet on the IR stuff, a quid pro quo, during the most critical period of debating the new legislation. This is a guy who was on 260

the front page of the SMH saying I was the one who delivered Kevin Rudd the leadership of the ALP against Kim Beazley; and also the guy who played a big financial role, not necessarily intellectual role, and deserves congratulations for the YR@W campaign, which did help even though it was a shortsighted campaign. He could have had a lot of influence on Kevin Rudd but he decided not to use it because he had a political career he wanted to pursue and that just exemplifies the worst aspects of some labor leaders. - Current affiliated union official 4 The insider problem was further highlighted by the attitudes of some senior ALP leaders during the YR@W campaign once they were in the FPLP at a time when the Rudd Government was negotiating the Fair Work Act and dealing with union hostility to some aspects of the new legislation: When the laws were presented to caucus a number of us objected to various aspects of it and when Gillard presented the Bill to caucus the first two to jump up and support the Governments, what I would see as not strong enough legislation, was Greg Combet then (during the YR@W campaign) the ACTU secretary who had negotiated this with Kevin and Bill Shorten who was then a member of the ACTU executive. When (Senator) Doug Cameron (former National Secretary AMWU) got up and spoke against it and Ill never forget him saying I know Im going to get rolled. So there certainly has been a very big shift - Current federal MP 5 One interviewee pointed to the dilemma of mobilisation versus elite negotiation when the ALP is in government and argued that perhaps the YR@W campaign wasnt after all the ultimate test of whether the Australian union movement is capable of adopting an independent political position: There is always a bit of nostalgia after a successful campaign when youre back in the humdrum of lobbying, I suppose, with occasional media interventions to say the government is up the creek when it comes to government procurement among other things. But I dont think anyone seriously believes they can re-create the momentum of 261

YR@W. The real question I think is more is if there was a serious falling out between the Labor Government and the ACTU with the unions generally supportive across the Left Right factional divide which is what made the YR@W campaign successful, the extent to which the unions would go back to the sort of tactics they used and the extent of mobilisation of their activist base. That remains to be seen. We havent got anything of that kind. - Current non-affiliated union official 4 The ACTU, having reviewed the disappointing campaign role of the ACTU and unions in the ensuing 2010 election, has renewed its commitment to the mobilisation agenda, and to its key feature of political independence. The ACTU President, Ged Kearney, told a conference in August 2011 (Kearney 2011): The most valuable lesson that was reinforced by our review of 2010 was that the union movement must always have an energetic and independent agenda that speaks for the needs and concerns of our members, not what suits any political party. And it must be a positive agenda that moves our issues forward, not simply defends old ground. After the disappointments of the Rudd and Gillard Governments and the union campaign in the lead up to the 2010 election the ACTU is now looking towards re-establishing sustainable community campaign activist networks and developing a positive independent policy agenda for the trade union movement (UnionsNSW 2010:17). The ACTU has also attributed some of the blame to frictions between unions and the federal ALP government between 20072010 which saw much of the energy and goodwill from the YR@W campaign dissipate and made it difficult for unions to mobilise their membership and the community in support of the Labor Government at the 2010 election (Boyd 2010). Although not publicly available the ACTUs review of its election campaign, Report of the Review Panel On the ACTU Election Campaign 2010 (Boyd 2010), has been discussed on union websites, in annual reports and in speeches by the ACTU leadership. 262

ACTU President, Ged Kearney (2011) said that the ACTUs 2010 campaign had failed to generate the massive enthusiasm or engagement from our membership base of 2007; it did not reconnect with the community, and the importance of our union issues in shifting votes slid down the scale. Kearney attributed these failures to disappointment with the performance of the ALP Government on some significant union issues and in the union movement the Government was perceived to have failed to deliver on the investment working Australians made in Labor through the YR@W campaign. This disappointment caused some unions to feel that they had lost credibility in the eyes of their members by pushing for an involvement in the campaign to re-elect the ALP in 2010 (Boyd 2010). Boyd (2010) reports that the Review found that: Blue collar unions expressed anger and deep disappointment over the Fair Work Act as failing to deliver promised changes expected from Labor, whilst all other unions talked about the cynicism from members, which manifested in their inability to run strong pro Labor campaigns. According to VTHC Secretary, Brian Boyd, the review also points to the failure to maintain the campaign infrastructure and activist base that was created during the YR@W campaign beyond the 2007 election. Boyd (2010) quotes the report as finding that: as a movement we failed to find a role for this network when the focus shifted to the new Fair Work laws. This led to the demobilisation of our activists who were politically organised. When it came to the 2010 election campaign, the union movement was unable to use these structures effectively and it is clear that these networks have not been contacted since the 2007 campaign. In addition, without the threat of WorkChoices the unity of the union movement seems to have dissipated: a situation evolved whereby individual unions largely coordinated their own election activities, and these varied immensely. In addition, affiliates believed that without its own agenda, the ACTUs campaign was seen as too close to the ALP by union members and community supporters. Boyd (2010) also reported that the Review criticises many union officials for getting caught up with the three year electoral cycle and the machinations in the


national parliament e.g. leadership changes. This return to politics as usual may also have led to a level of complacency across the union movement and this complacency followed through to organisers, activists and members. Last minute planning, and little or no engagement with members and officials, reflected a lack of interest or commitment to the ACTU campaign (Boyd 2010). Commenting on the Review in a speech, ACTU Secretary, Jeff Lawrence, anticipated further debates in the union movement about how we engage in politics (Lawrence 2011). Lawrence argued that there was a need for a longer- term political strategy not just campaigning for survival in election years: but rather unions that are campaigning for a positive agenda about issues that will change workers lives (Lawrence 2011).

7. Conclusion
For many people in the Australian union movement, the YR@W campaign was an unusual period of intense engagement and political triumph. It was a shining example of what a newly revitalised union movement could achieve. For many members of the union leadership group it was a grim political fight with a hostile government, a fight that was unprecedented in its scale and cost and, probably, unrepeatable. Once the fight was over, the momentum slipped away. Campaigning proved more difficult when the threats were less dire. The union leadership group returned to its comfort zone of elite bargaining with an ALP government. Some put their faith in collective bargaining rather than political campaigning to boost membership. Activist networks built up to support the YR@W campaign were allowed to atrophy. There was widespread disappointment across the union movement with the Rudd and Gillard governments. The ACTUs 2010 election campaign did not provoke much enthusiasm among union members, and many officials found it difficult to urge their members to campaign for the ALP Government, much harder than encouraging opposition against the previous Howard government. For many in the union leadership, YR@W had become, like the Accord before it, a good idea for the time, but times had changed once again. Nevertheless, as it did a decade ago 264

when proposing union revitalisation strategies, the ACTU leadership spoke of the need for the union movement to be independent of the ALP and to reach-out to other like-minded political parties and community organisations. Independence remains the key to revitalisation. Yet, convinced that the union movement was a significant contributor to the 2007 ALP election victory, many in the union movement became complacent and pre- occupied with the machinations of electoral politics, similar criticisms to those that the ACTUs new leadership generation make about the Accord era. YR@W became a one-off and the union movement tended to revert to business-as-usual rather than push ahead with building the infrastructure (campaigning capacity, activist networks, community coalitions) that are vital to successful union revitalisation strategies. This experience points to three important conclusions. First, it is difficult for union movements to campaign against aligned parties in Government, especially where affiliation delivers many senior union leaders continuing, and senior, roles in the party organisation, and almost half of the new Ministry, and almost half the new Caucus are former union officials, mainly from affiliated unions. The temptation to revert to elite negotiations (the insider game) is powerful. Second, emulation of the politically independent campaigning borrowed from the pressure group type by affiliated unions is feasible in Opposition, but much less so in Government. Third, it is difficult to switch between the different repertoires of contention involved in social democratic and pressure group type unions-party relationships. As Tattersall (2010:176) has noted, after her analysis of three case studies of coalition unionism in Australia and North America, a strategy of public agitation sits in stark contrast to the restraint and reliance on quiet influence associated with union relationships with political parties.



Faced with declines in union densities and the adoption of neo-liberal policy frameworks by union-aligned political parties, union movements in Western countries are choosing to augment the internal lobbying of the social democratic type relationship with the external lobbying associated more strongly with the pressure group type of unions-party relationships (Hyman and Gumbrell- McCormick 2010, Ludlam, Coates and Bodah 2002, Valenzuela 1992). A move from reliance on internal lobbying to a greater reliance on external lobbying, involves a switch from repertoires of contention based on labour rights to those based on citizenship rights (Gentile and Tarrow 2009). These changes are consistent with arguments about weakening vertical links between parties and associated groups during the transition away from mass party types to the electoral professional, catch-all and cartel party types that place a greater emphasis on parliamentary autonomy and show a preference for milder forms of ideology that are more electorally popular and less likely to be divisive (Duverger 1964, Gunther and Diamond 2001, Katz and Mair 1995, Panebianco 1988). This thesis examined the Australian case study of the national unions-ALP relationship between the Accord period and the 2010 federal election to explore three questions: 1. Relationship types. Is there a politically important contradiction between the ALPs relationship with its affiliated unions and the partys relationship with the ACTU? 2. Consequences. How does the contradiction of two co-existent relationship types affect the contemporary dynamic of the national unions-ALP relationship? 3. Reconciliation. Has the independence of union revitalisation been reconciled with the dependence of affiliation? The case study in this thesis offers the following answers to these three questions.


Relationship types. There are two types of unions-party relationship co-existing at the national level in Australia. There is a receding social democratic type relationship between affiliated unions and the ALP, which is characterised by the dependence of unions on the ALP; and, there is also an emerging pressure group type relationship between the ACTU and the ALP, which is premised the independence of the union movement and the capacity to broaden its engagements with like-minded community organisations and, in the case of the ACTU, other political parties. Federalism, in particular, fragmented the national- unions ALP relationship to a degree that was unusual for an otherwise social democratic type relationship. Fragmentation allowed the ACTU to engage with the FPLP as if it were a separate organisation; first during the Accord and later during the YR@W-Fair Work episode. The ACTUs adoption of US-style union revitalisation strategies was facilitated by this fragmentation, and served to extend it. A politically important contradiction has resulted from this co- existence of two relationship types because the social democratic relationship is characterised by restraint and quiet influence (Tattersall 2010) and the pressure group type is characterised by the generally adversarial nature of membership activism (Hickey, Kuruvilla and Lakhani, 2010). Consequences. The unions and the ALP seek to manage this contradiction by maintaining a balance between dependence and independence. Many interviewees spoke of the need to get the balance right and to be able to position the relationship as neither too close nor too distant. This balance is also identified by terms like maturity, and by claims that the national unions-ALP relationship has evolved in ways, and to an extent, not found elsewhere. Accord- type relationships are no longer seen as appropriate for the times by many interviewees on either side. In addition, affiliated unions can no longer rely solely, or principally, on the benefits of affiliation to secure policy objectives and they are now augmenting internal lobbying with external lobbying. This is a cherry-picking approach that is premised on a belief that useable bits of the American pressure group type approach can be plugged into an existing social democratic type relationship. The contradiction between independence and dependence was not obvious during the YR@W campaign when the ALP was in 267

Opposition, but the ACTU has had considerable difficulty in maintaining the momentum for its union revitalisation campaigns; and, the perception prevalent among union members that the ACTU was running a pro-ALP campaign during the 2010 federal election contributed to the failure of the union movement to have a significant impact in the 2010 election campaign. Reconciliation. Links between unions and the ALP have remained strong in terms of pre-selection outcomes. There is little evidence that this benefit of affiliation is likely to decline without significant structural reform of the relationship. This is despite the ALPs desire to engage more broadly with unions and community organisations, beyond its blue-collar base, and to re-cast itself as a progressive community-based party. The ALP retains an affiliation model that privileges a small number of traditional unions at the expense of other unions and social groupings. The ALPs largest affiliated union, the SDA, has just 230,000 members (less than the number of voters in two federal electorates) and 8 of its former officials sit in the 103 member federal caucus; twice as many as the ACTU contingent. The ANF has more members than the SDA and none of its former officials are in the FPLP. Nearly half (49 of 103) of the federal caucus have full- time union official backgrounds, the number with full-time experience in the community organisations the ALP would like to engage with can be easily counted on the fingers of two hands. At the same time, unions, and the ACTU, have found it difficult to forgo the benefits of internal lobbying in favour of a more robust embrace of the independence of the external lobbying approach. This evidenced by the widespread and multi-faceted scepticism in the union movement about the long- term applicability of US-style union revitalisation strategies to Australia. Many interviewees are already thinking of the YR@W campaign along similar lines to the contemporary understanding of the Accord in the union movement as a strategy that was right for the times, but not as a permanent basis for the unions- ALP relationship. Unions and the ALP also use ideology and rhetoric as devices for reconciling independence and dependence in the national unions-ALP relationship. The ALP 268

has adopted the language of individualism and citizen rights to respond to the socially dominant neo-liberal ideology, but also to broaden its appeal and connections with social groupings beyond blue-collar, industrial unions. The ACTU has adopted a values-based approach, which moves away from more rigid ideological constraints and opens the way for a broader engagement with like- minded community organisations and political parties other than the ALP. So far these ideological and rhetorical changes have had little impact on the unions-ALP relationship. A key purpose of the case study undertaken in this thesis has been to identify hypotheses that can be tested by further research. That is, the research undertaken has been exploratory rather than validating. Based on the outcomes of this research, the following hypotheses are proposed: 1. Social democratic type unions-party relationships place constraints on the ability of union movements to augment declining political resources with strategies, and repertoires of contention, borrowed from social movement unionism. These constraints are emphasised when union-aligned parties are in office. 2. Parties are limited in their capacity to weaken links with unions through ideological and rhetorical changes while more traditional links (i.e. affiliation) remains in place. 3. Labour parties are constrained in their capacity to change their self- identification while affiliation remains in place. These hypotheses lend themselves to further case study research and to country comparative analyses. Australian case studies could focus on: 1. The national relationship after the 2010 election, to test the extent to which the ALP and the ACTU are successful in building a relationship that is based on independence and reconciles this with a continuing level of dependence;


2. Unions-ALP relationships at the state level, to identify differences and similarities with the national level and to further clarify the impact of federalism at the national level; 3. Relationships between individual unions and the ALP at both the state and national level, to assess the impact of particular features of unions on the balance between independence and dependence at a disaggregated level, this could include comparisons between affiliated and non-affiliated unions and between unions that follow the SEIU model more closely and those that emphasise a reversion to an earlier form of Australian union membership activism. Cross-country analyses would be particularly important to compare the divergence or convergence of relationship types with countries with similar political and industrial relations systems, notably NZ and the UK. These analyses could look at whether the national unions-ALP relationship is facing the challenges of union power augmentation strategies earlier than other national unions-party relationships; or is diverging to an extent that it really is unique as several interviewees claimed. I conclude with a few further observations. First, unlike much of the contemporary discussion about the relationship between unions and the ALP, this thesis has neither vilified nor glorified unions and their leadership. Unions continue to make a major contribution to the lives of millions of Australians; a contribution that was recognised during the YR@W campaign and in the ballot boxes of the 2007 federal election. Second, times change and unions-party relationships must also change, a point that has been emphasised repeatedly by ACTU leaders over the last decade and which featured prominently in the interviews I conducted. Unfortunately, the ALP has never been quick or adept at changing its internal structures in response to changing times. This slowness, bordering on paralysis, has been a feature of ALP history. It attracted the attention of earlier scholars like Rawson (1954) and Crisp (1978); and it is also evident in the many failed attempts to transform the federal ALP structure into a genuine national structure over the past century. Nevertheless, to paraphrase 270

Edmund Burke93, a political party without the means of change is without the means necessary for its own survival. Third, just as unions remain important to millions of Australians so does the presence of an effective centre-left party, especially in an era of growing inequality. A viable centre-left party in the twenty- first century must be able to build and maintain strong linkages with many organisations beyond its traditional union base. It is unlikely that this broader range of linkages can be achieved while one group of unions, representing just over half the nations union members, is privileged so markedly by the current affiliation arrangements. I hope that this thesis has made a compelling case that change, in the end, must mean structural change to the national unions-ALP relationship as well as ideological and rhetorical change. So, finally, I finish with the famous words of Tancredi: If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change94.

93 Edmund Burke (1969), Reflections on the Revolution in France, Penguin. 94 Giuseppe Di Lampedusa (1960), trans. Colquhoun, A., The Leopard, London: Collins and Harvill Press, 31.


Appendix 1: Interview questions The questions were designed to be open-ended and to prompt discussion. Not all questions were asked in all interviews. How would you describe the current relationship between the ALP and unions? How would you compare the relationship today to when the ALP was last in opposition federally? How would you compare the relationship today to the Accord years under Prime ministers Hawke and Keating? Is the relationship more important to unions or the ALP? What are the key benefits for each side? How important is the relationship to the ALP in electoral terms? How much influence do the unions have over ALP policy? Is that influence more or less than it was in the Accord years? Is that influence more or less than it was in the period the ALP was in opposition? Do unions affiliated with the ALP exercise more or less influence than the ACTU? How significant was the YR@W campaign on ALP policy? Did the popularity of the ACTU campaign influence the ALP to meet ACTU policy objectives?


Appendix 2: ALP vote share (1901 - 2010): federal and major states95

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

ELECTION 1901 1903 1906 1910 1913 1914 1917 1919 1922 1925 1928 1929 1931 1934 1937 1940 1943 1946 1949 1951 1954 1955

FED 15.76 30.95 36.64 49.97 48.47 50.89 43.94 42.49 42.30 45.04 44.64 48.84 27.10 26.81 43.17 40.16 49.94 49.71 45.98 47.63 50.03 44.63

NSW 18.4 21.3 38.5 51.1 46.9 52.2 41.7 46.0 42.6 46.3 52.1 51.5 16.4 9.4 45.3 35.3 53.8 51.4 46.9 49.1 52.3 49.6

Vic 8.7 27.1 30.4 48.1 46.8 45.8 46.6 38.1 42.2 44.8 39.7 48.9 34.2 36.4 39.3 43.5 43.4 47.9 46.8 49.1 50.3 37.1

Qld 39.7 56.7 43.0 47.6 54.8 55.7 48.7 46.8 41.4 42.4 47.4 39.8 39.3 46.8 43.0 46.1 47.8 43.1 39.5 41.0 42.5 42.1

95 This is an expanded and updated version of a chart that appeared in Warhurst and Parkin (2001)

23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43

ELECTION 1958 1961 1963 1966 1969 1972 1974 1975 1977 1980 1983 1984 1987 1990 1993 1996 1998 2001 2004 2007 2010

FED 42.81 47.90 45.47 39.98 46.95 49.59 49.30 42.84 39.65 45.15 49.48 47.55 45.83 39.44 44.92 38.75 40.10 37.84 37.64 43.38 37.99

NSW 47.1 52.2 47.5 40.7 47.7 51.9 52.7 45.5 42.4 46.4 50.1 48.3 45.1 41.2 48.3 39.6 40.1 36.4 36.7 44.1 37.3

Vic 39.5 41.6 40.4 35.1 41.3 47.3 47.9 42.1 37.2 45.5 50.5 48.9 46.9 37.1 46.4 42.9 44.4 41.7 40.4 44.7 42.8

Qld 37.5 48.1 46.3 42.1 48.2 47.2 44.0 38.8 37.7 42.8 46.1 44.1 45.0 41.6 40.5 33.2 36.1 34.7 34.8 42.9 33.6


Appendix 3: ALP MPs, House of Representatives 2011: union backgrounds Note: Senior role means a substantive elected role.
Name Adams, Dick Albanese, Anthony Bird, Sharon Bowen, Chris Bradbury, David Electorate Lyons Grayndler Union LHMU No Senior Yes N/A Affiliated Yes N/a 1sr elected 1993 1996

Cunningham McMahon Lindsay


N/A No N/A

N/A Yes N/A

2004 2004 2007

Brodtmann, Gai Canberra Burke, Anna Burke, Tony Butler, Mark Chisholm Watson Pt Adelaide


N/A No Yes Yes N/A No

N/A Yes Yes Yes N/A Yes

2010 1998 2004 2007 1999 2007

Byrne, Anthony Holt Champion, Mark Cheeseman, Darren Clare, Jason Collins, Julie Combet, Greg Crean, Simon Danby, Michael Wakefield






Blaxland Franklin Charlton Hotham Melb Ports


N/A N/A Yes Yes No

N/A N/A Peak Peak Yes

2007 2007 2007 1990 1998


Name Dath, Yvette Dreyfus, Mark Eliot, Justine Ellis, Kate Emerson, Craig Ferguson, Laurie Ferguson, Martin Electorate Petrie Isaacs Richmond Adelaide Rankin Werriwa Union AWU No No No No LHMU Senior Yes No No No No No Affiliated Yes No No No No Yes 1sr elected 2007 2007 2007 2004 1998 1990






Fitzgibbon, Joel Hunter Garrett, Peter Kingsford- Smith Hindmarsh

No No

No N/A

No N/A

1996 2004

Georganas, Steve Gibbons, Steve Gillard, Julia Gray, Gary Grierson, Sharon Griffin, Alan Hall, Jill Hayes, Chris Husic, Ed





Bendigo Lalor Brand Newcastle


No N/A N/A N/A

Yes N/A N/A N/A

1996 1998 2007 2001

Bruce Shortland Fowler Chifley


N/A N/A Yes Yes

N/A N/A Yes Yes

1993 1998 2005 2010


Name Jenkins, Harry Jones, Stephen Kelly, Mike Electorate Scullin Throsby Eden-Monaro Union No CPSU No No No CPSU Senior N/A Yes N/A N/A N/A No Affiliated N/A Yes N/A N/A N/A Yes 1sr elected 1986 2010 2007 2001 2011 1998

King, Catherine Ballarat Leigh, Andrew Livermore, Kirsten Lyons, Geoff Macklin, Jenny Fraser Capricornia

Bass Jagajaga


N/A N/A Yes N/A

N/A N/A Yes N/A

2010 1996 2007 1996

Marles, Richard Corio McClelland, Rob Barton

Melham, Darryl Banks Mitchell, Rob Murphy, John Neumann, Shayne OConnor, Brendan ONeill, Deb Owens, Julie Parke, Melissa McEwen Reid Blair

No No No No



1990 2010 1998 2007






Robertson Parramatta Fremantle

No No No



2010 2004 2007


Name Perrett, Graham Plibersek, Tanya Ripoli, Bernie Rishworth, Amanda Rowland, Michelle Roxon, Nicola Rudd, Kevin Saffin, Janelle Shorten, Bill Electorate Moreton Union IEU Senior No Affiliated No 1sr elected 2007






Oxley Kingston


No No

No Yes

1998 2007






Gellibrand Griffith Page Maribyrnong

NUW No No AWU No No No No

No N/A N/A Yes N/A N/A N/A N/A

Yes N/A N/A Yes N/A N/A N/A N/A

1998 1998 2007 2007 1998 1993 2010 1987

Sidebottom, Sid Braddon Smith, Stephen Smyth, Laura Snowdon, Warren Swan, Wayne Symon, Mike Perth La Trobe NT

Lilley Deakin


N/A No Yes

N/A Yes Yes

1993 2007 2007

Thomson, Craig Dobell


Name Thomson, Kelvin Vamvakinou, Maria Zappia, Tony Electorate Wills Union No Senior N/A Affiliated N/A 1sr elected 1996












Appendix 4: Second Gillard Ministry: union backgrounds

Name Albanese, Anthony Arbib, Mark Bowen, Chris Bradbury, David Butler, Mark Burke, Tony Carr, Kim Clare, Jason Collins, Jacinta Collins, Julie Combet, Greg Conroy, Stephen Crean, Simon Dreyfus, Mark Eliot, Justine Ellis, Kate Emerson, Craig Evans, Chris Farrell, Don

Chamber House Senate House House House House Senate House Senate House House Senate House House House House House Senate Senator

Started 1996 2008 2004 2007 2007 2004 1993 2007 1995 2007 2007 1996 1991 2007 2004 2004 2008 1993 2008

Union No TWU FSU No LHMU SDA No No SDA No ACTU (from MUA) TWU ACTU (from NUW) No No No No Firefighters (LHMU) SDA

Affiliated N/A Yes Yes N/A Yes Yes N/A N/A Yes N/A Yes Yes Yes N/A N/A N/A N/A Yes Yes

Position N/A Official Industrial officer N/A State Secretary Organiser, N/A N/A National Industrial Officer N/A Secretary Industrial Officer President N/A N/A N/A N/A State secretary State secretary


Name Feeney, David Ferguson, Martin Kelly, Mike King, Catherine Garrett, Peter Gillard, Julia Gray, Gary Ludwig, Joe Lundy, Kate McClelland, Rob McLucas, Jan Macklin, Jenny Marles, Richard OConnor, Brendan Plibersek, Tanya Roxon, Nicola Rudd, Kevin Sherry, Nick Shorten, Bill Smith, Stephen Chamber Senator House House House House House House Senate Senate House Senate House House House House House House Senate House House Started 2008 1996 2007 2001 2004 1998 2007 1998 1996 1996 1999 1996 2007 2001 1998 1998 1998 1990 2007 1993 Union TWU ACTU (from LHMU) No No No No No AWU CFMEU No No No ACTU (from TWU) ASU No NUW No LHMU AWU No Affiliated Yes Yes N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A Yes Yes N/A N/A N/A Yes Yes N/A Yes N/A Yes Yes N/A Position Federal Industrial Officer President N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A Industrial Advocate Organiser N/A N/A N/A Assistant Secretary Assistant National Secretary N/A Organiser N/A State Secretary Federal secretary N/A


Name Snowdon, Warren Swan, Wayne Wong, Penny Chamber House House Senate Started 1987 1993 2005 Union No No CFMEU Affiliated N/A N/A Yes Position N/A N/A Organiser


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