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The Jobs and Skills Summit held in early September 2022 was a pre-arranged event by which big business and industry unions in conjunction with the Albanese federal government moved to legitimize the future introduction of multi-employer agreements (pattern bargaining).  Pattern bargaining is where employment conditions and pay rates negotiated between employers and employees/unions are duplicated in enterprise bargaining agreements across an industry so that there is near uniformity within a particular industry sector.

There is a concern that this duplication of conditions and pay rates via pattern bargaining will create too heavy a burden for small to medium enterprises so that innovation, entrepreneurship and management agility will be fatally undermined.  Additionally, these smaller sectors of the Australian economy may be unable to afford the impost imposed upon them by the pattern bargaining process.   Therefore, the introduction of pattern bargaining could well become a socio-economic disaster for Australia.

The consequent throttling of small to medium business would probably drive-up inflation and unemployment rates.  Big business will probably be able to initially afford the onset of pattern bargaining and could even profit from the rise in inflation by raising prices.  From a trade union perspective there is an expectation that pattern bargaining will lead to a tremendous increase in trade union membership by union preference clauses becoming a de-facto condition of pattern bargaining agreements.

Pattern bargaining will effectively return the Australian industrial relations system to the days (1907 to 1988) when pay rates and conditions were effectively centrally set by binding macro industry awards.  During this era Australian union membership was amongst the highest in the world.  Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures released in 1976, indicated that 51% of Australian employees belonged to a trade union!

However, this high rate of union membership was not caused by binding centralized awards but rather to the then structure of Australian trade unions which were craft based.  Craft-based unions were smaller and therefore more able to effectively represent their members.   Most importantly, union members had a sense of identification with their particular area of employment so that they felt an institutional sense of commitment to their union.  This analysis is more than just intuitive supposition.  The steep fall in Australian union membership occurred in the 1990s/early 2000s when rank and file members, who had belonged to craft-based unions, declined to join the new industry unions which resulted from the disastrous union amalgamation policy of that period.

The amalgamation policy was a key recommendation of the Australia Reconstructed report which was released by the Australian Counicl of Trade Unions (ACTU) in 1987.  The premise of this report was that if Australian trade unions amalgamated then there would be a concentration of union industrial  power.  The subliminal 'logic' behind Australia Reconstructed was that working class power was more important in achieving union effectiveness than utilzing the arbitral supports which The Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 (the 1904 Act) had facilitated.  There was hence a left-wing trade union perspective that the utilization of arbitral institutional supports had stifled working class militancy and consequent union effectiveness - the so-called 'Howard Dependency Thesis'.  It is consequently hpocritically ironical that the current push to engineer union renewal via pattern bargaining is of itself an over-reach of external state power.  

Australian trade unions therefore need to look toward internally strengthening themselves instead of seeking to rely on external institutional supports for the idea was also canvassed at the 2022 Jobs and Skills Summit that increased pay rates achieved under pattern bargaining will only apply to unionised employees.   This two-tier approach to wages is also a flawed concept because too many businesses will still not be able to afford the increased pay rates when wage setting is determined on a macro-basis facilitated by pattern bargaining.  Any increase in union membership which may result from linking wage increases to union membership would be offset by the inflationary impact of pattern bargaining as well as the associated consequence of much higher under-employment/unemployment.

A further consequence of the pattern bargaining approach would be a lack of union delegates at the workplace level which would serve to stifle the development of increased union membership despite the existence of union employment preference clauses and the linkage of pay increases to union membership that would be facilitated by pattern bargaining.  The fundamental cause of the very low rate of Australian union membership (currently at 13%) is the failure of Australian trade unions to utilize the enterprise bargaining triggers in the Fair Work Act 2009 (The 2009 Act) by effectively applying the Union Organisng Model (the organising model).


The Union Organising Model and the Critical Link to Enterprise Bargaining

The organising model is American in its origins and was formulated in the late 1980s/early 1990s.   This model seeks to harness union rank and file support for trade union organising tasks to be undertaken, primarily by workplace delegates with them assuming a substantial degree of responsibility for organising work such as membership recruitment.  It is envisaged within the Australian context of applying the organising model that employees (who are potentially union members) will organise around issues of workplace concern which can be channeled into the enterprise bargaining system.

The failure of most Australian trade unions to effectively apply the organising model and to instead support the introduction of pattern bargaining is therefore all the more galling because the 2009 Act achieves a practically perfect balance between protecting employee rights without placing an undue and unstainable burden upon employers to do so.

The 2009 Act is also employee and union friendly by placing an emphasis upon workplace-based enterprise bargaining which is potentially and inherently a unionising process.  Employees under the 2009 Act have the right to initiate enterprise bargaining at a workplace level and to ensure that the employer negotiates with its employees or the union which represents them and does so in good faith.

Why the ‘Shoppies’ and the Transport Workers’ Union Lead the Way with Regard to Enterprise Bargaining

One Australian trade union in particular which is successfully applying the organising model in an enterprise bargaining context is the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (the SDA).  However, the SDA has been maliciously attacked by the Australian Left for supposedly entering into so-called ‘sweet- heart deals’ with major employers (such as Coles Myer) so that this union / employer relationship can consequently recruit employees into their union.

This left-wing perspective is flawed on a number of levels, but the main point of refutation is that the SDA as a union organisation has traditionally had strong rank and file support.  A brief overview of the SDA’s history illustrates why this has been the case.

The SDA, along with the Federated Clerks Union (FCU), entered into an agreement with Coles Myer in the early 1970s under which this employer undertook to promote union membership.  What the Australian left do not understand is that this agreement would not have the scope to help increase the SDA’s membership unless its rank-and-file membership supported the official union organisation.

A mass meeting of retail employees in 1973 helped to establish a workplace delegate structures so that the SDA was able to build up a large membership base.  Without this delegate structure the SDA could not have effectively represented their members’ industrial interests.  It was also because of this rank-and-file support for the SDA’s official organisation in the late 1970s that an attempt by the Australian Labor Party’s right wing failed to take over this very important trade union which is both moderate and progressive.

The established delegate structures which the SDA has had in place since the early 1970s has enabled this union to effectively apply the organising model since the early 1990s so that its branches were able to successfully adapt to the onset of enterprise bargaining.  The SDA is held up by Social Action Australia (SAA) as a union which has successfully applied the organising model to illustrate the point that if more Australian trade unions are to reap the bonanza of increased union membership, then more delegate structures must be established along with the provision of official union delegate training.

Another trade union which has successfully applied the organising model is the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU).  The TWU has traditionally had a strong delegate structure which predates this union’s official adoption of the organising model due to the practical necessity of keeping track of its often-mobile membership.  Consequently, the TWU’s application of the organising model is in effect a codification of its past organising practices.  Therefore, similar to the SDA, the TWU has been able to master the onset of enterprise bargaining in a workplace context by successfully applying the organising model.

Instead of wholeheartedly applying the organising model as the SDA and TWU are, the Australian union movement in general, is going for the ‘lazy way out’ by opting for pattern bargaining.  The lack of sufficiently extensive workplace union delegate structures will mean that pattern bargaining will not have the ramification of steeply increasing union membership.  Therefore, pattern bargaining will potentially enable the union movement as a whole to reduce the impact of existing delegate structures.

Do Not Give The BOOT the Boot!

To avoid the above scenario, the 2009 Act’s prohibition against pattern bargaining should be retained.  Furthermore, this statute’s provision for a Better Off Overall Test (BOOT), which ensures that Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBAs) do not fall below statutory minimums, must also be retained as it is.  Probably, as part of a deal between big business and industry trade unions the Albanese government has flagged diluting the BOOT in return for the former’s acceptance of pattern bargaining.  Consequently, the scope exists for pattern bargaining to be applied in an institutional context in which duplicated agreements could fall below existing award minimums.

Therefore, the federal coalition and the crossbenches of the Australian Senate (which includes the Australian Greens) should oppose the introduction of both pattern bargaining and any dilution of the BOOT.  Opposition on the federal coalition’s part to the introduction of pattern bargaining will not necessarily signify any lingering sentiment on their part in favor of the former Howard government’s notorious 2006 Work Choices legislation.

The federal coalition should instead- in an act of political statesmanship - defend the 2009 Act which Julia Gillard ushered in as being both fair and balanced.

No Free Ride for Enterprise Bargaining

If there are to be legislative changes to help facilitate the desirable outcome of tremendously increased union membership, then options such as a (tax deductible) bargaining fees for non-unionised employees should be considered if a union workplace bargaining EBA is approved by a majority of employees.

The introduction of a bargaining fee for non-unionised employees would align Australian industrial relations law with United States’ practice where trade unions must win so-called ‘representation ballots’.   If an American trade union wins a representation ballot, then that union has the right to negotiate on behalf of all employees at that workplace and to subsequently charge a union bargaining fee which all employees are obliged to pay.

Perhaps there is sufficient scope under the 2009 Act for Australian trade unions to agitate for the introduction of tax-deductible bargaining fees to be inserted into workplace base union EBAs.  Under such a regime union members would not have to pay a bargaining fee because their tax-deductible union membership fee would suffice.

If there is insufficient legislative scope under the 2009 Act to have the Australian equivalent of ‘representation ballots’ inserted in union workplace based EBAs then perhaps Australian industrial relations law should be expanded to accommodate such an important reform.  The scope to introduce such an industrial relations practice is probably viable under Section 51 (xx) of the Constitution which covers the corporations power of the Commonwealth.

Why Enterprise Bargaining Can Lead to Union Effectiveness

It would be a far superior application of the Constitution’s Section 51 (xx) to help introduce non-union bargaining fees then to have pattern bargaining.  For pattern bargaining is essentially a lazy (as well as an ultimately ineffective way) to promote union membership or union effectiveness.  The Albanese government should therefore avoid abusing the corporations power (as the Howard government did with Work Choices) by introducing pattern bargaining.  Future generations of Australians will curse the Albanese government for introducing pattern bargaining due to the structural ill-effects that this industrial malpractice will have on the Australian economy.

A transition to pattern bargaining would be a tragedy because the ALP under Julia Gillard ‘got’ the balance correct when she introduced the 2009 Act with its focus on enterprise bargaining.  For this reason, the slogan, “Pattern Bargaining, No! Enterprise Bargaining, Yes!” is apt.


An important measure of union effectiveness is union membership density.  Australian union membership has suffered a profound decline falling from fifty-one percent of the workforce in 1976 to the current level of thirteen percent!  In 1990 Australian union membership density was forty-five percent of the workforce so that the 1990s was the period during which union membership fell sharply.  The cause of this phenomenon should be identified.

The major cause of Australian union membership decline in the 1990s was union amalgamation.   The implementation of the union amalgamation policy in this time was a profoundly de-unionising process.  This occurred because too many rank and file union members refused to join the new industry unions as they had previously identified with their employment craft upon which their union membership had been based to that time.

It is therefore somewhat distressing that the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) supported an application made in July 2021 to the federal Fair Work industrial relations tribunal submitted by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) to prevent its mining section from leaving this conglomerate union.  A sinister dimension of this specific ACTU representation was its opposition to union members of the CFMEU’s mining division conducting a secret ballot on disamalgamation! 

The concept of a secret ballot is a cornerstone of the democratic process. It was introduced to prevent discrimination against voters who may have defied the wishes of other interests in a voting contest.

The ACTU seems to hold the view that there should be no secret voting at least on this occasion. Is this because the ACTU’s senior leadership believe that there is no danger of discrimination / retribution against those who vote against the interests of the CFMEU central body?

The record of the CFMEU in dealing with disputes of any kind does not fill one with confidence that retribution would not occur to those who disagree with the motion of the mining section to utilise the coalition government’s legislation to enable this section’s disamalgamation from the major amalgamated union of which they are currently a part.

Maybe it is in order to frustrate this legislation, that the CFMEU is willing to utilise extreme pressure tactics to achieve their aim of frustrating disamalgamation by ensuring that secret balloting does not occur.

Does the ACTU’s senior leadership not realize that union democracy is at the heart of Australian unionism?  Should the ACTU’s leadership succeed in helping frustrate members of the CFMEU’s mining division from disamalgamation then the ramifications for Australian unionism may well be dire!  Thousands of rank-and-file members of the CFMEU’s mining division might become alienated from the union movement if their collective will is undermined by the ACTU’s active opposition to union disamalgamation. 

The ACTU, instead of trying heavy-handedly to frustrate union disamalgamation, should whole heartedly be supporting the process!  The re-formation of smaller craft-based unions offers the potential for Australian union renewal.  This is because craft-based unions tend to be smaller so that they are consequently more democratically responsive to rank and file needs, such as representation of interests.

Therefore, while the size of Australian union organisations may shrink in the short term, in net terms Australian union membership stands to eventually regain ground because new craft-based unions will be more able (for the above cited reasons) to reach out to attract currently non-unionised employees to join the union movement. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                       The Organising Union Model

For the fact of the matter is that the ACTU to date has ignominiously failed to reverse the de-unionising ramifications of the union amalgamation policy of the 1990s.  The ACTU’s strategic response to the low membership crisis has been to promote since the mid-1990s the organising union model (the organising model).  The organising model was originally an American approach to workplace organising which was formulated in the 1990s as a strategic response to a similar crisis in the United States.

The organising model seeks to engineer rank and file support for union organising at a grass-roots workplace level.  This model envisages that paid union officials (such as union organisers) will ultimately recede from undertaking the bulk organising tasks to instead fulfil a supportive role as they liaise with rank and file elected workplace delegates, who will have the main responsibility for sustaining workplace union activity.   

A major challenge with regard to the organising model’s objective of facilitating Australian union effectiveness it that it is often too difficult for mega unions to generate support at a grass-roots level because they are too bureaucratic and consequently aloof from their membership because of their large size.  This would not be the case with smaller craft-based trade unions who could engage with their members to form an industrial community that would create an affinity with a trade union which is based upon their employment craft.

Whatever, the Morrison government’s motivations were in introducing legislation which facilitates union disamalgamation, the opportunity is still there for the Australian union movement to return to the pre-1990s craft- based model of trade unionism which had previously served Australian employees, and the union movement itself, so well.  Therefore, if the ACTU successfully opposes this disamalgamation bid (which probably has rank and file support) by the mining section of the CFMEU then this peak union body could find itself eventually becoming a collection of chiefs with no Indians. 

 David Bennett, the author of this article, was previously a National Industrial Officer with the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) and was awarded a PhD on the topic of The Organising Union Model and the Australian Union Movement. 



Yes to Enterprise Bargaining

The unexpected victory of the Morrison government in the May 2019 election is a positive development to the extent that Australia has been spared an Australian Labor Party (ALP) federal government led by Bill Shorten.  Such a government probably would have been arrogant and unresponsive, similar to the Hawke and Keating economic rationalist governments of the 1980s and 1990s.  That the Hawke/Keating governments survived was due to their coalition opponents being more extreme than the ALP.  John Howard however successfully tapped into the widespread dissatisfaction with Labor’s economic rationalism so that the coalition won the 1996 federal election. 

Nevertheless, the Howard/Costello governments (1996 to 2007) continued on with the economic rationalist policies of the Hawke/Keating era but were more successful due to the mining boom.  This bi-partisan endurance of economic rationalism can be traced to the break which commenced with the election of the Whitlam federal Labor government in December 1972 as it sought to upend the legacy of the great Alfred Deakin who served as Australian prime minister in the 1900s.

The cornerstone of the Deakin legacy was arbitration which enabled trade unions to effectively represent their members by utilizing the institutional supports of the industrial relations commission (the Commission) following the passage of the landmark Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 (the 1904 Act).  The 1904 Act enabled many relatively small craft based trade unions to be viable with Australia becoming one of the most unionised nations in the free world so that by 1976, 51% of employees belonged to a trade union!  Despite this tremendous success, a left-wing neo-Marxist critique of Australian trade unionism developed which was called the ‘Howard Dependency Syndrome’.  This critique falsely maintained that Australian trade unions became too dependent upon arbitral supports so that they were co-opted into an employment relations system which ultimately served the interests of employers (‘the bosses’). Ironically it was under the Hawke government that the very successful Deakinite industrial relations system began to be undermined with the passage of the Industrial Relations Act 1988 (the 1988 Act) which regrettably superceded the 1904 Act.  The cornerstone of the 1988 Act was the facilitation of trade union amalgamation. 

The left of the trade union movement and of the ALP accepted the economic reforms of the Hawke-Keating government in return for the introduction of trade union amalgamation and of compulsory superannuation in which many of the funds were controlled by trade unions.  The left-wing rationale behind union amalgamation was unions should exist on an industry basis as opposed to a craft basis so that there would be a concentration of resources so as to collectively advance working class power.

The reality of trade union amalgamation was that it facilitated a profoundly de-unionising process in which Australian union membership now stands at 14% of the workforce!  The reason for this abysmal state of affairs is that employees lost their sense of identity in belonging to their craft based trade union.  Consequently,  too many employees decided to opt out of trade unions.  Trade union amalgamation has also led to a situation of union oligarchy in which unions have become massive unaccountable bureaucracies.

It is therefore wrong for the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) secretary Sally Mc Manus to call for there to be a ‘change the rules’ campaign for Australian employees to gain a better deal from the current industrial relations system when it is the structure of Australian trade unionism which is flawed and thereby contributing to contemporary union ineffectiveness.  The current award system cannot be changed to the extent to lift the general level of wages because awards still essentially fulfil a safety net function.

Instead for there to be union renewal and union effectiveness the Australian union movement needs to embrace enterprise bargaining.  This is a process (which was originally introduced under the 1988 Act) where pay and conditions are determined at a workplace level as a result of negotiations between employers and unions/employee representatives.  The consequent enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) is then ratified or rejected by the workplace employees and if approved is submitted to the Fair Work Australia Commission for certification on the basis that the pay and conditions do not fall below the award safety net. 

The potential benefits of enterprise bargaining from a union perspective are immense.  This is because enterprise bargaining provides both a strategic and practical means by which unions can engage their members (or potential members) to negotiate improved wages and conditions for them.  The contemporary mystery is why Australian trade unions are not more proactively engaging in enterprise bargaining.  Currently under 15% of private sector employees in Australia are covered by EBAs.  Unless this situation improves then the viability of Australian trade unionism must be called into question.

The mystery of Australian union ineffectiveness is also apparent in that the ACTU has long being aware of the need for the Australian union movement to embrace an organising strategy. At the 1993 ACTU Congress a motion was passed calling on its constituent members to embrace union organising.  Indeed, a special trade union training programme was authorised by the ACTU called Organising Works which was suppose to endow union officials with the capacity to promote the organising union model (the organising model) among rank and file members, particularly workplace delegates.





Yes to the Organising Union Model

The organising model was originally conceptualized in the United States in the early 1990s whereby union officials devolved union organising tasks at a workplace level to rank and file delegates.  The rationale was that rank and file delegates would assume greater responsibility for organising tasks so that American trade unions could win the right in representation ballots to negotiate on behalf of employees at the applicable workplace. 

The Australian union movement’s official endorsement of the organising model should have led to a union renaissance because this model can be applied to an enterprise bargaining context. Unfortunately, too many Australian unions are not applying the organising model because they are not sufficiently engaging in enterprise bargaining.  One union which is successfully engaging in enterprise bargaining is the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), the ‘Shoppies’.

The SDA instead of being held up as a beacon of a successful trade union in a context of general union ineffectiveness has instead being lambasted by both by the far left and the neo-liberal right for entering into supposedly dodgy deals with the major retailers.  That some of these EBAs have been overturned by the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for failing the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT) has served as a rousing confirmation of the parody of the SDA as a tame cat bosses’ union. 

However initially flawed, EBAs can always be improved upon so long as the union concerned has a workplace presence.  The SDA, by its application of the organising model has established, and is establishing, workplace delegate structures in order to recruit more employees into their union. Consequently, should there be an EBA in need of improvement, the SDA will by having recruited more members be better positioned to improve future wages and conditions when the next round of enterprise bargaining commences. 

By contrast the hard left of Australian union movement seems to be continuing down the dead-end amalgamation process with the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and with the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) amalgamating with the Construction Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) to form a mega-super union. 

It is a tragedy that the TCFUA is amalgamating into the CFMEU because t this will mean that some of Australia’s lowest paid workers will not be effectively represented by such a union colossus.  If the TCFUA was going to amalgamate it should have instead linked up with United Voice which has effectively represented hospitality and cleaning employees by brilliantly applying the organising model is an enterprise bargaining context. 

Unfortunately super union bureaucracies do not reach out into non-union areas but will rather concentrate resources on their current coverage.  In other words enterprise bargaining will not be proactively engaged so as to promote broader future unionisation in non-union workplaces by amalgamated super unions.

Super unions also due to their vast scale fail to be as democratic as craft based unions were.  Nevertheless, the application of the organising model in an enterprise bargaining context offers the potential to renew union democracy in an informal context because workplace delegate structures must be established and utilized as defining components of the organising model. 


Adapt to the Rules


Enterprise bargaining is the means by which unions can ‘change the rules’ in their members favour.  Indeed, the current Fair Work Australia Act (FWA) brought in by Julia Gillard when she was deputy prime minister in 2009 seeks to promote enterprise bargaining.  It is therefore a tremendous pity that Australian trade unions (with the notable exceptions of unions such as the SDA, Transport Workers’ Union and United Voice) are not vigorously applying the organising union model in an enterprise bargaining context. 

For the FWA’s enterprise bargaining orientation to be implemented requires a shift on the part of Australian trade unions to embrace this process so that blights in Australian industrial relations such as high casualization rates for unskilled and semi-skilled labour can be addressed.  For instance, the TCFUA should apply the organising model in an enterprise bargaining context to ensure that their members have guaranteed hours of work and access to available overtime penalty rates after they have been employed for a particular period of time.

Because enterprise bargaining will be the future determinant of Australian union effectiveness, let the trend continue whereby moderate trade unions continue to apply the organising model in an enterprise bargaining context so that this becomes an ideological identifier of a union’s particular approach to union purpose. 

From a broader ideological perspective enterprise bargaining can also be a practical means of facilitating distributionism.  Distributionism is a philosophy which seeks to maximize ownership of the means of production so that there is substantial employee involvement in day to day management.  Perhaps Australia is culturally not socio-economically receptive toward adopting a distributionist system as has occurred in part of the Basque region of Spain.

Nevertheless, enterprise bargaining can be utilized by trade unions to a point where distributionist principles are applied to the extent that employee concerns can be taken into account to a greater degree so as to more greatly affect day to day management decisions.  Alas, due to trade union under-appreciation of enterprise bargaining, too many Human Resource Management (HRM) managers are utilizing enterprise bargaining as a means to control their employees.  This situation could shift should the organising model be applied by unions. 



Yes to Distributionism

The Right of the ALP will therefore hopefully continue to encourage union branches aligned to them not only to apply the organising union model but also to more proactively promote enterprise bargaining which takes into account employee concerns.  While the ALP Right may now have a monopoly on security /defence and foreign affairs issues (even if the current Shadow Foreign Minister comes from the Socialist Left of the party) this should not necessarily mean that the Right surrenders when it comes to socio-economic and industrial relations policies. 

There could be a counter argument from a left-wing perspective that the ALP Right previously dominated Labor’s socio-economic and industrial relations policies.  The retort to that contention is that the ALP Right in these areas of public policy sold out by operating under an economic rationalist paradigm which led to the arrogant neo-liberal governance of the Whitlam and Hawke-Keating eras. 

Now that the federal ALP has its first left-wing leader in the person of Anthony Albanese it is essential that the Right of the party move away from economic rationalism by embracing distributionist principles when it comes to socio-economic public policy.  In essence, Social Action Australia is asking that the ALP return to applying the Deakinite principles which valued labour, instead of continuing to apply economic rationalist policies which are derived from the neo-liberal philosophy of the Free Trade leader, George Reid, who was Alfred Deakin’s arch political rival. 

It can be pointed out by ALP stalwarts that Alfred Deakin was never of the Labor Party and eventually opposed this party following the fusion of his Protectionist Party with the Free Traders in 1909.  However, Alfred Deakin was greatly influenced by John Watson who led Australia’s (and the world’s) first Labor government in 1904.  It was under Watson’s influence that the Deakin passed the landmark 1904 Act which ensured that the Deakinite agenda prevailed over George Reid’s public policy agenda. 

The extent of the ALP’s impact upon the Deakinite legacy was reflected by the 1900’s political joke that the most frequently used phrase of Alfred Deakin was, ‘Yes, Mr. Watson’.  In a similar vein let the contemporary ALP return to its historic roots by shouting an emphatic ‘Yes’! to breaking with economic rationalism! 




Tom Rigg was born in Brunswick in 1932  where he attended the local school, St. Ambroses. As a teenager he obtained a job working for the Victorian Railways, first as a porter, eventually advancing to become a station master.   Because this man was very community orientated all his life he naturally took a keen interest in other people. It was therefore not surprising that he joined the Australian Railways Union (ARU) and the Australian Labor Party (ALP).

As an ALP and an ARU member, Tom became involved in the ALP industrial group which was active in his union fighting against communist infiltration. He was distressed by the ALP Split of 1954-1955 which was driven by the then ALP federal leader H.V. Evatt's maniacal purge of the industrial groups from the Labor Party. As a man of principle, Tom joined the party born out of the Evatt Purge which eventually became known as the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) in 1957.

As an active DLP member Tom often travelled round the state of Victoria to drum up support for his party. On one occasion when soliciting funds for the DLP he told a cattle farmer during a drought that he would save his cows by saying a prayer for them in return for a financial contribution.

By 1978 there was a move to close up the Victorian based DLP and it was Tom as party president who presided over the state conference in which there was a majority vote to close this party. Tom let go of the DLP after this conference vote but he continued to be active in the ARU of which he was made an honorary life member which then entitled to him to a life time free rail pass.

Tom’s interest in history and political affairs continued in his retirement with him writing and publishing books on the ARU industrial group and the communist trade union leader J.J. Brown.

Blessed with a happy marriage to his wife Beryl (who predeceased him by three months), Tom was a dedicated family man who was devoted to his children and his grandchildren. He eventually settled the Melbourne suburb of St. Albans in a home which he had extended and this house was often used to host functions for former political and industrial activists who had ‘fought the good fight’. Because he had such an active life Tom was known to both federal and state politicians, including a former prime minister.

Tom was not only a family man but a loyal friend to many and he took an active interest in local history (among an array of other interests). As such he was a member of the Brunswick Community History Group, the Sunshine and District Historical Society and the St. Albans Historical Society, which he founded.

Vale Tom Rigg!



The current uncertainty concerning the continuity of Tony Abbott’s prime ministership has raised the distinct and welcome possibility of Malcolm Turnbull succeeding him to that high office. Should there be a Turnbull prime ministerial succession then hopefully the leadership uncertainty which has bedevilled Australia since the Howard government’s demise in 2007 will end.