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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.3/91832
- The half-forgotten proletariat: migrants and the Accord
- Bertone, Santina
- At the time of the signing of the Accord in 1983, Australian manufacturing industries had entered a 'long period of decline', commencing in the early 1970s. Added to this structural decline was the persistent problem of 'stagflation', characterised by low economic growth, high unemployment and high inflation. The Accord partners hoped to tackle these problems through the adoption of centralised tripartite interventions, which included industry planning, centralised wage fixing, wage restraint and improvements to the social wage. The Accord strategy 'embraced a wider policy agenda which stretched beyond traditional distributive policies by attempting to engage key problems of industrial and economic management'. However, the strategy very quickly foundered when the fragmented Australian business community declined to engage en bloc in interventionist planning, leaving the Accord as a largely 'bipartite affair' between government and unions, although manufacturers had traditionally supported active government policy in this area. While a significant degree of industry planning was attempted in the early years of the Accord, through the establishment of industry councils, and in particular, plans for the heavy metal, motor vehicle and textile, clothing and footwear (TCF) industries, by the mid 1980s Labor's economic rationalist agenda had come to the fore. Amidst growing concerns about the trade crisis and structural imbalances in the economy, the government began to place considerably more prominence on market forces and industry deregulation. In 1988 it announced a broad ranging program of tariff reductions, which was greeted with surprisingly little opposition. For migrant workers, the fortunes of the manufacturing industries were of vital importance. Since their arrival in large numbers after the Second World War, migrants had developed a heavy reliance on relatively low-skill, low-paid factory jobs in the protected import-substituting industries. Indeed, some writers have argued that Australia's decision to simultaneously embark on a mass migration program and a major program of industrialisation were closely linked. Migrant labour was needed to fuel industrial growth by staffing the factories and consuming the products generated by them. When the manufacturing workforce began to decline from the 1970s on, migrants found themselves exposed to high levels of unemployment. In the recessions of 1974-75, 1982-83 and again in 1991-92 (all featunng wIdespread job loss in manufacturing), migrants suffered considerably higher rates of unemployment than the Australian-born, from which they recovered more slowly. What the original Accord had to say about industry policy, and the kind of policy developed under later Accords, is therefore germaine to any discussion of the impact of the Accords on mIgrant workers.
- Publication type
- Book chapter
- Australia in Accord: an evaluation of the prices and income accord in the Hawke-Keating years / Kenneth Wilson, Joanne Bradford and Maree Fitzpatrick (eds.), pp. 123-132
- Publication year
- ALP Government; Australian Labor Party; Discrimination in employment; Economic policy; Manufacturing; Migrant employment experience; Migrant issues; The Prices and Incomes Accord (1983); Trade unions; Wage fixation
- South Pacific Publishing (for the Workplace Studies Centre and School of Applied Economics, Victoria University)
- Publisher URL
- Copyright © December 2000. No further copyright details exist in the text.
- Peer reviewed