This Masterclass series will inspire, educate and assist activists to become workplace and community leaders. Moderated by Professor Ed Davis, it draws on the wisdom of union elder Tom McDonald and many past and current Australian union leaders. Musicians Chloe and Jason Roweth also share the stories and music of some of the great moments in the history of the labour movement.
VALUES: A set of values lay at the core of any cause or movement. Values constitute the social philosophy that is the central part of any world outlook. In Episode 1 “Values: Guide posts for decision making and action” Sally McManus, Jo-anne Schofield and Tom McDonald discuss values, their place and role in driving change, how to counter right-wing populists and shock jocks, and how to win the support of working people for the cause of building a fairer Australia.
ANALYSIS: To win change and build a fairer workplace or society, it is first necessary to know your opposition’s strategy. Those who do not carefully study their opposition’s strategy will be captured by it. In Episode 2 “Neoliberalism: Knowing our enemy’s strategy”, Sharan Burrow, Dave Noonan and Tom McDonald unpack the strategy of neoliberalism to wind back workers’ rights and living standards and weaken our democracy.
STRATEGY: Strategy has been described as the art of creating power. It comes into play when values and interests collide. In Episode 3 “Strategy for Success: The essential ingredients”, Bill Kelty, Sally McManus and Tom McDonald discuss how to design and execute a winning strategy to build power and achieve your goals and breakdown the strategies of some of the great struggles in forging a fairer Australia.
LEADERSHIP: A key attribute of leadership is the capacity to envisage a better future and turn it into a reality. Vision and the courage of your conviction can inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more. In this Bonus Episode “Vision and Leadership: Women’s road to leadership at the ACTU,” Bill Kelty, Sally McManus and Tom McDonald discuss what it took to win equal representation for women on the ACTU Executive.
TACTICS: Militant action is pivotal to creating a fairer society. But militancy that is not underpinned by principles and smart tactics is doomed to lead the workers to defeat. In Episode 4 “Mindful Militancy: Tactics for Success” Lisa Fitzpatrick, Doug Cameron and Tom McDonald discuss the role of militant tactics in pioneering social change. Our panel unpacks militancy, the difference between good and bad tactics, and the role that values-driven leadership and culture plays in successful action.
VISION: In the midst of unprecedented global economic crisis in the 1980s the Australian labour movement defied the insidious neoliberal attack on the welfare state to forge a world class safety net. In Episode 5 “How the labour movement built the modern Australian safety net” Bill Kelty, Anna Booth and Tom McDonald share the amazing story about how a bold vision came together with a compelling strategy through the ACTU-ALP Accord to enrich the quality of life for working people. The Accord was an extraordinary blueprint for change and delivered Labor its longest period of government in Australian history. In this episode we reflect on the lessons and legacy of the Accord and an epic period of social change.
POWER: It has been said that making change happen means both understanding the power that prevents change from happening as well as understanding the power we have within ourselves and with others to create change. In Episode 6 “Building and Sustaining Power: What’s required to win the future” Michele O’Neil, Michael Kaine, Nadine Flood and Tom McDonald discuss what power is, why it’s important to analyse and understand it, how to build it, and how people can better influence decisions that affect their lives. Warning: This episode includes a story about workplace fatality and suicide.
INSPIRED TO LEARN MORE? Discover more about many of the great struggles of the Australian labour and women’s movements and what it took to win in Dare to Dream, the memoirs of Tom and Audrey McDonald, whose inspiration is behind the creation of this podcast series.
Hearts and Minds discusses values, their place and role in driving change, how to counter right-wing populists and shock jocks, and how to win the support of working people for the cause of building a fairer Australia. Values are not only the bedrock of progressive movements but are also an anchor for every activist that sees you through the tough times by providing a framework for decisions and actions.
In this episode, our host Emeritus Professor Ed Davis is joined by Sally McManus (Secretary, Australian Council of Trade Unions), Jo Schofield (National President, United Workers Union) and revered union elder Tom McDonald (former National Secretary, Building Workers Industrial Union).
Music – The Ballad of 1891 (Words by Helen Palmer, Music by Doreen Bridges).
Neoliberalism and a New Deal unpacks the strategy of neoliberalism to wind back workers’ rights and living standards and weaken our democracy. It also discusses how the CoVid19 pandemic has dramatically exposed the failings of neoliberalism and looks to the future by discussing what a new deal for working people should look like. In this episode, our host Emeritus Professor Ed Davis is joined by Sharan Burrow (General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation), Dave Noonan (National Secretary, Construction Division CFMEU) and union elder Tom McDonald (former National Secretary, Building Workers Industrial Union). Sharan Burrow refers listeners to the Communique of the Centenary Conference (2019) of the International Labor Organisation.
Music – The Swaggies Have All Waltzed Matilda Away (Words and Music by Alistair Hulett).
Strategy for Success discusses how to design and execute a winning strategy. In this episode, our host Emeritus Professor Ed Davis is joined by Sally McManus (Secretary, Australian Council of Trade Unions), Bill Kelty AC (former Secretary, Australian Council of Trade Unions) and Tom McDonald AM (former National Secretary, Building Workers Industrial Union and ACTU Vice President).
This episode is rich in stories and learnings that will better enable activists to design and implement successful campaigns. Strategy has been described as “the art of creating power” and comes into play when values and interests collide. Union elder Tom McDonald kicks off the conversation by exploring the significance of the ideas of Sun Tzu, the legendary Chinese general, strategist and philosopher from 500 BCE, who famously said that “tactics without strategy” is the “noise before the defeat” but that “strategy without tactics” was the “quickest route to defeat.”
Our panel discuss some of the great moments in forging a fairer Australia, and dive into the winning strategy and tactics used in the fight for equal pay for community sector workers and the epic battle for superannuation for all Australian workers.
Music – Don’t Be Too Polite Girls (Words by Glen Tomasetti to the traditional tune of Flash Jack from Gundagai).
Mindful Militants with Lisa Fitzpatrick, Doug Cameron and Tom McDonald discusses the role of militant tactics in pioneering social change. Throughout history militant peoples’ action has been pivotal to creating a fairer society. But militancy that is not underpinned by principles and grounded in smart strategy is doomed to lead the workers to defeat. Our panel unpacks militancy, the difference between good and bad tactics, and the role that values-driven leadership and culture plays in successful action.
We explore what different forms of militant action has achieved for nurses and midwives and building and manufacturing workers. All three speakers conclude that militancy must be shaped by principles and values, be used for a just cause, and be smart and strategic as well as tough.
In the face of unprecedented global economic and political crisis in the 1980s, Australia was the only country on earth that radically built its social safety net. At a time when the world was gripped by the hitherto unknown phenomenon of rampant and simultaneously high unemployment, high inflation and high-interest rates, the very idea of the welfare state was under attack globally with the emergence of a new sinister ideology known as ‘neoliberalism’.
In this compelling episode, labour movement legends Bill Kelty, Anna Booth and Tom McDonald join Emeritus Professor Ed Davis to share this remarkable story – a story that is rich in lessons for activists today as they continue the fight to win the future for working people.
Australia’s social safety net is the envy of the world: the highest minimum wage rates in the world, the most efficient healthcare system in the world that delivers standards of care few countries can match, and the only compulsory employer-funded universal superannuation system in the world. These towering pillars of our safety net were won through an Accord between the ACTU and the ALP; the most comprehensive agreement ever negotiated anywhere in the world between trade unions and a political party. In this episode, the discussants explain the Accord’s strategy and reflect its great achievements and disappointments, its enduring legacy and its lessons for activists today. A copy of the Accord can be found here.
History has been changed by building power, and there’s power in drawing upon the lessons of history. This podcast discusses power, what it is, why it’s important to analyse and understand it, and how to build it. In this episode, our host Emeritus Professor Ed Davis is joined by Michele O’Neil (President, Australian Council of Trade Unions), Michael Kaine (National Secretary, Transport Workers Union), Nadine Flood (former National Secretary, Community and Pubic Sector Union) and Tom McDonald (former National Secretary, Building Workers Industrial Union and ACTU Vice President).
Warning: This episode includes a story about workplace deaths and suicide.
Music – The Green Ban Fusiliers (words by Denis Kevans to the traditional tune McAlpine’s Fusiliers.
Before 1983 no woman had ever been elected to the Executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). In 1995, Jennie George became the first woman ACTU President and was followed by Sharan Burrow, Ged Kearney and Michelle O’Neil.
In Episode 3 Strategy for Success, Sally McManus and Bill Kelty, the current and former ACTU secretaries, joined union elder Tom McDonald and our host Emeritus Professor Ed Davis to discuss how to design and execute winning campaigns. They discussed how strategy is the art of building power and tactics the stepping-stones to success.
In this bonus episode Women Leading the ACTU we share more of our conversation from Episode 3 and hear about what it took to win equal representation for women on the ACTU Executive. While, as Sally says, there remains more to be done in improving women’s representation in leadership across the union movement, the achievement of equal male and female representation on the ACTU Executive, won more than two decades ago, demonstrates the power of values, strategy and tactics in making change for the better.
Learn more about many of the great struggles of the Australian labour and women’s movements and what it took to win in Dare to Dream, the memoirs of Tom and Audrey McDonald, whose inspiration is behind the creation of this Masterclass series.
Music – Don’t Be Too Polite Girls (words by Glen Tomasetti to the traditional tune of Flash Jack from Gundagai).
Producers and Credits
This podcast has been produced by Deliberately Engaging in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals to build the capabilities of civil society and give people a greater voice. Learn more here.
This podcast series has been made possible by the support Professor Davis, the Committee to Defend Trade Unions Rights, Tony and Nina Bleasdale, Chloe and Jason Roweth, Sally McManus and all our guests who appear during the series.
Listeners will also hear Chloe and Jason Roweth perform music that had inspired activists across the generations. Find out more about the Roweth’s music here.
The series has been made possible by the support of the Committee to Defend Trade Unions Rights, Tony and Nina Bleasdale, our discussants and musicians, and the ACTU.
About the Presenters
Tom McDonald AM is the former National Secretary of The Building Workers Industrial Union of Australia and a former Vice President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).
Tom joined his union when an apprentice at Sydney’s Cockatoo Island during WWII and has been a continuously financial member of his union for over 75 years.
Since his retirement in 1991 he has trained and mentored over 1000 activists through the ACTU Organising Works program, including ACTU Secretary Sally McManus (pictured).
On his retirement Prime Minister Bob Hawke described him as having made one of the outstanding contributions to advancing the interests of working people. He was awarded the Order of Australia in 1994 for services to industrial relations and the trade union movement.
In 2016 he and his partner Audrey published their memoirs Dare to Dream: Stories of Struggle and Hope. He is also the author of The future of Trade Unions in Australia (1989); Unions 2001: A Blueprint for trade union activism (co-author, 1995); Creating a super union – The story of the CFMEU (2010); and The Quiet Revolution – Superannuation for all workers (2017).
Professor Davis AM gained a BA at Cambridge where he majored in Economics. His academic career began at Monash University in 1974 where his focus was industrial relations. He retired from full-time employment in 2008 after six years as Dean of the Faculty of Economic and Financial Studies at Macquarie University.
Professor Davis attended and reported on ACTU Congresses from 1979-2015. He is the author of Democracy in Australian Unions, published by Allen and Unwin (1987) and was Secretary of the UNSW Branch of the NTEU from 1985-88.
Professor Davis is the former National Vice President and NSW & ACT President of ABC Friends. He is passionately committed to the fight for well-funded, strong and independent public media.
He is a former National President of the Industrial Relations Society of Australia and is a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia for “service to education and to the community in the areas of equity in employment, industrial relations and human resource management”.