Do trade unions help or harm Australia’s economy and society?

Event status:

Corporate worker and tradesman The Ideas and Society Program at La Trobe University is very pleased to present two outstanding Australians to discuss this topic. Bill Kelty, as Secretary of the ACTU, was a key player during the Hawke and Keating years and one of the fathers of compulsory superannuation. Jennifer Westacott has been an outstanding public servant and is now an energetic and respected Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia. It is an interesting fact about our country that both came from unprivileged family backgrounds but rose to the top of their professions through hard work, university education and, of course, talent.

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Date:
Wednesday 30 October 2019 06:15 pm until Wednesday 30 October 2019 08:30 pm (Add to calendar)
Contact:
University Events
universityevents@latrobe.edu.au
Presented by:
Ideas & Society Program
Type of Event:
Public Lecture
Cost:
$25 General / $15 Alumni & Staff/ $10 Students

There has never been a time when trade unions were not a subject of contention between Labor and the parties forming the Coalition. The nature of the argument has however changed. From the creation of the Commonwealth until the mid-1970s the existence of strong trade unions - covering more than half the Australian workforce and fighting for better wages and conditions - was accepted on both sides of politics. What was debated, sometimes bitterly, was the supposedly damaging actions of those trade unions led by the Communist Party.

Since the rise of neo-liberalism, with the elections of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, all that has changed. At the heart of neo-liberalism is the idea of the Free Market. According to this idea, trade unions interfere with the operation of the market in regard to the price of labor. For some inside the Coalition and the think-tanks of the neo-liberal right, the very existence of trade unions has been called into question.

Issues connected to trade unionism will be debated heatedly in the next months or years of the Morrison government. The Labor Party will try to expel John Setka, the Victorian state secretary of the CFMEU. Labor and the Greens will try to prevent a new piece of legislation further limiting trade union power, the Ensuring Integrity Bill, from becoming law.

Beneath the surface of politics, there are deep questions. Why has the membership of trade unions shrunk to only 16 % of the workforce? The balance of the economy has moved from manufacturing to services and from permanent full-time to insecure and part-time jobs. Without strong trade unions in the service industries, is the consequence of exploitation and wage stagnation? Are trade unions outdated, nineteenth or twentieth century institutional dinosaurs? Can they survive or even grow? Is the Labor Party damaged by its close relations with the trade union movement? And, most fundamentally, does the continued existence of trade unions help or harm Australia?

The Ideas and Society Program at La Trobe University is very pleased that two outstanding Australians have accepted our invitation to debate these questions. Bill Kelty, as Secretary of the ACTU, was a key player during the Hawke and Keating years and one of the fathers of compulsory superannuation. Jennifer Westacott has been an outstanding public servant and is now an energetic and respected Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia. It is an interesting fact about our country that both came from unprivileged family backgrounds but rose to the top of their professions through hard work, university education and, of course, talent. Watch the Livestream

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Speakers

Bill Kelty AC

Bill KeltyBill Kelty has had a long career in the union movement, as a board member of several private and public companies, a director of the Reserve Bank of Australia and member of the AFL Commission, since graduating as a Bachelor of Economics from La Trobe University.

His career commenced when he was appointed as an industrial officer with the Federated Storeman and Packers Union, after which he became a research officer for the Workers’ Education Association in Adelaide and then research officer/advocate for the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).

From 1977-1983, he was Assistant Secretary of the ACTU, and then Secretary from 1983-2000 when the “Accord” between the Federal Government and the union movement evolved.

Current board appointments include Linfox Group Director, Virtual Communities Director and Luna Park Board Director.

Other previous governance roles include La Trobe University Board member, Bank of Queensland Board member, Commonwealth Government Regional Development Taskforce Chairman, Superannuation Trust of Australia Chairman, Ministerial Advisory Group for Young Adults Chair, National Employment and Training Taskforce member, Australian Retirement Fund Director, Industry Funds Investments Director, Australian Football League Commissioner, AFL Players’ Trust Board member and Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal member.

Jennifer Westacott AO

Image of Jennifer WestacottThe Business Council of Australia is the nation’s premier business organisation, advocating for a stronger and fairer society through a more prosperous Australia. Jennifer Westacott AO has served as Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia since 2011, bringing a unique combination of extensive policy experience in both the public and private sectors.

Under her leadership, the Business Council tirelessly champions meaningful policies that strengthen the ability of businesses to grow the economy for the benefit of all Australians. Jennifer built her career in the public sector, working in senior leadership positions in the NSW and Victorian governments across housing, education, and infrastructure, planning and natural resources. As a senior partner at KPMG, Jennifer advised major corporations on climate change and sustainability and advised governments across Australia on significant reform priorities.

Jennifer has an unrivalled understanding of how the public and private sectors intersect and can work together to achieve the best outcomes in the national interest. Since 2013, Jennifer has served as the Chair of the Mental Health Council of Australia and is a Non-Executive Director of Wesfarmers Limited. She is the Australian Co-chair of the Australia-Canada Economic Leadership Forum, the Co-Patron of Pride in Diversity, and the Co-Chair of the Australia Sino One Hundred Year Agricultural and Food Safety Partnership (ASA100).

In 2018, Jennifer was made an Officer (AO) in the General Division of the Order of Australia. Jennifer has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from the University of New South Wales and in 2017 received an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Letters) from her alma mater. She was a Chevening Scholar at the London School of Economics.

Moderator

Andrea Carson

Andrea CarsonAndrea Carson is a political scientist and an Associate Professor in the Department of Politics, Media and Philosophy at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. She has authored numerous articles on Australian politics, election campaigns and digital media. Her most recent co-authored book is Australian Politics in the Twenty-First Century: Old Institutions, New Challenges (2018).

She was awarded Australian Research Council (2018-2021) funding as part of a team using big data to understand the media’s role in political debate and policy decisions. She holds a PhD in Political Science and a Master of Arts in International Politics. She has taught courses on journalism, political communication, women in politics, and campaigns and elections.

She worked as a newspaper journalist and section editor at The Age in Melbourne from 1997-2001 and as a radio broadcaster (RRR) and radio and television producer (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) from 2001-2010. She is a regular media commentator and examines the latest media trends and issues for The Conversation’s ‘Media Files’ with colleagues, available on iTunes.

Venue Accessibility

Wheelchair access is available. The Village Roadshow Theatrette is also equipped with a hearing loop inside the Auditorium.

Map:

Entry 3, The Village Roadshow Theatrette

State Library of Victoria Conference Centre

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