What values and vision can Australia look to in the 21st century to restore nation-building achievements of the labour movement?
Laurie Carmichael, trade union leader and activisit, was dedicated to collective values and principles that are deeply relevant to Australians today. As a nation, we again face the callous and corrupt rule of a Coalition government incapable of offering workers a vision that empowers them to participate in political, social and economic transformations that create quality jobs, a fairer society and a greener environmental future.
Carmichael's life was one of service to Australian workers. The values he held and the beliefs he demonstrated embodied ideas that all workers must hold close to their hearts when they next negotiate for better pay and conditions with increasingly powerful employers; when they next go to the ballot box to decide whether workers should have a bigger say in the economy or whether the investment banks, oligopolistic corporations and fossil fuel executives should decide what trickles down to the workers on a dying planet; and in choosing, in the workplace and in public life, whether this legacy might shape the union movement’s decades-long effort to leave future generations a better Australia – the kind that Laurie Carmichael wanted for all.
Exploring the legacy of Laurie Carmichael in this essay is how I have come to understand what unions have done for Australians, and how Carmichael’s values hold meaning for all workers. A study of Carmichael’s life and values uncovers guiding principles by which the Australian trade union movement could actively shape a social contract for the 21st century.