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Selling Labour Down Under

January 23, 2011

Australian union communications in a time of peril


Verzuh, Ron. Selling Labour Down Under: Australian union communications in a time of peril  (Toronto: Canadian Association of Labour Media, 1996).


On March 2, 1996, the Australian Labor Party lost the federal election.  After 13 years, it relinquished power to a coalition of right-wing parties led by Thatcherite John Howard.

The upset was not entirely unexpected, since Labor had consistently trailed in the polls. But the schock waves that followed the defeat will be rippling through the Australian trade movement for a long time to come.

Despite some polished and shrewd campaigning by former prime minister Paul Keating, several factors, some predictable and some not, combined to bring about his and his party’s political demise.  Some of these factors were revealed in the lead-up to the election and deserve closer scrutiny since they may provide some instructive lessons for labour and Labor.

The following commentary is an outsider’s view of where unions might start to critically assess their political relations in the interest of charting a new course to ensure victory for Labor in future elections.

It should also be useful for trade unionists elsewhere who are facing the same threat of right-wing policies like those of the Howard Coalition.  These policies are designed to undermine workers’ rights and downgrade the quality of life for all but the wealthy few.

New strategies and new attitudes will be necessary to fight back effectively to defeat these policies and the governments who promote them throughout the unionized world.

This booklet is meant as a contribution to that struggle.

Sample chapter

Chapter 3

Organizing Oz – The role of communications in recruitment

We are driving down to the Gold Coast an hour or so south of Brisbane, Australia. It’s a beautiful, sunny spring day in late October.  The Jacaranda trees are in full bloom, giving much of the flat landscape a stunning blanket of mauve.  My travelling companion is an industrial officer with the Australian Services Union.  He’s on the frontlines these days as the ASU, like many of the other 20 or so affiliates to the Australian Council of Trade Unions, searches for new recruits.

Chapter 3

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