A Tribute To Bill Kelty

Australian Workers Film Guide


A collection of speeches in tribute to Bill Kelty at the ACTU Congress Dinner on 16 May 2012.  Speakers include Paul Keating, Jeff Lawrence, Bill Kelty and Bob Hawke. Bob Hawke sings Solidarity Forever on the stage. Speeches interspersed by interstitial sections featuring Tom McDonald, Ged Kearney, Jennie George, Jeff Lawrence, Bob Hawke, Simon Crean, Paul Keating, Laurie Carmichael, as well as archive footage of Bill Kelty and government officials, Bill Kelty and family and Bill Kelty with Nelson Mandela.

Paul Keating delivers the first speech highlighting Bill Kelty’s dedication to workers, the community, equity and justice. A man of great vision and persuasive ability, the most impressive union leader in post-war Australia. Recognising problems with Australia’s post-war economy, Kelty played a critical role in the development of the Accord, fighting inflation, the real increase in wages of 36% since 1991, championing minimum rates awards and superannuation, and modernising Australian economy with its flexibility and resilience.

Jeff Lawrence introduces Bill Kelty, after reading messages from Julia Gillard, Greg Combet, and Sharon Burrow. Bill Kelty presented with an Aboriginal painting for his services to Australian Labor Movement.

A long and passionate speech by Bill Kelty, where he talks about dedicating his working life to the betterment of working people’s lives and the nation, his love for working for unions, his working class background and humble beginnings, the socialist literature he was raised on by his mother, his belief that Australia is a nation of workers and that unions are a centerpiece of that. Articulates how he believes in the ACTU Congress, where great political and societal initiatives are discussed and born, how unions created a third way in the socio economic development of Australia, the introduction of Medicare, Superannuation, and how the Australian approach made a better country, in comparison to the American approach. He states that what makes Australia so special is that they introduced a social democratic model, with the emphasis on productivity and a concern for people. Kelty then attempts to address and explain the unpopularity of Labor in the face of these successes, before talking about the need to never give up, as demonstrated by the unexpected election of both Hawke and Keating, the challenges of declining union membership, protecting their gains. Kelty then talks about Woodie Guthrie’s song This Land is Your Land and its importance to the American experience. The Congress Dinner concludes with Bob Hawke’s stirring performance of Solidarity Forever.

Special Notes/Achievements

ACTU Congress Dinner, 16 May 2012

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 95 mins

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