The Fifth Estate: The State of the Union

The Fifth Estate: The State of the Union

What is the future of trade unions in 21st century Australia?

Do they suit the needs of workers and the culture of employment in the times we live in?

Australian workers are facing unprecedented pressures: the mining boom may well be over, manufacturing and export companies are struggling or failing to remain competitive, and the newly elected federal government is disinclined to subsidise companies that can’t support themselves.

As Ford, Holden, Toyota and now Alcoa shut their factories in Australia, and Shell and others look likely to follow (with SPC Ardmona spared at the eleventh hour), thousands of workers will look to their unions for leadership and support. At the same time, a royal commission into union governance and corruption will absorb the time, money and focus of unions as they try to help their workers.

The Australian trade union movement has a proud past, but can it survive unchanged into the future?

Joining host Sally Warhaft for this discussion, our guests are Associate Professor John Howe (Deputy Dean of Melbourne Law School and Director of the Centre for Employment and Labour Relations Law), and Lisa Fitzpatrick (State Secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation).


Portrait of Alan Boulton

Alan Boulton

Justice Alan Boulton is a Senior Deputy President of the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

Portrait of John Howe

John Howe

Associate Professor John Howe is Deputy Dean of the Melbourne Law School, where he is also Co-Director of the Centre for Employment and Labour Relations Law. John teaches in the areas of labour and employment law, corporations law and corporate social responsibility.

Portrait of Lisa Fitzpatrick

Lisa Fitzpatrick

Lisa Fitzpatrick is currently the state secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) and a registered nurse. She held various nursing positions over her nursing career in the public and private sectors.

Portrait of Sally Warhaft

Sally Warhaft

Sally Warhaft is a Melbourne broadcaster, anthropologist and writer. She is the host of The Fifth Estate, the Wheeler Centre’s live series focusing on journalism, politics, media, and international relations, and The Leap Year, a Wheeler Centre podcast about Australians' lives in the fog of the Covid-19 pandemic. She is a former editor of the Monthly magazine and the author of the bestselling book Well May We Say: The Speeches that Made Australia.

Sally is a regular host and commentator on ABC radio and has a PhD in anthropology. She did her fieldwork in Mumbai, India, living by the seashore with the local fishing community.

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