Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

How to Solve a Crisis? The 1977 Metal Unions Seminar on the Role of the Industries Assistance Commission

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2020), 118, (1), 83–104.

Abstract

In June 1977, metal unions convened a seminar on the future of Australian manufacturing, bringing together over 1,200 delegates from unions, business and politics. The event is best conceived as an early episode of institutional searching, whereby the state, capital and labour engage in a contradictory and contested process of discovering ways through the crisis of the extant antipodean Fordist model of development. Whereas some prescriptions tended to reinforce the structure and logic of antipodean Fordism, others cut across its grain and evinced radically new modalities of regulating capitalism. Other contributions reflected confusion and an inability to formulate concrete proposals for reform. This article will demonstrate the utility of seeing the 1977 seminar in this way, by focusing on the session dedicated to exploring the role of the Industries Assistance Commission. The analysis will reveal that, whereas the union and employer advocates remained within the ambit of the antipodean Fordist system, the Commission representative delivered proposals fundamentally at odds with its dynamics.

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Author details

Heino, Brett