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Laurie Carmichael

1925 – 2018

Laurie Carmichael (1925-2018), union leader, left school at 14 to take up a fitting and turning apprenticeship, and after service in the RAF joined the Amalgamated Engineering Union. By 1958 he had risen through the ranks from shop steward to Victorian state secretary; in 1972 he became assistant national secretary of the Amalgamated Metalworkers’ Union, which prefigured the AMWU. As assistant secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) he was a key figure in the Australian Council of Trade Unions Accord of 1983, which cemented the relationship between the unions and the Labor Party and was re-negotiated six more times by October 1991. Giving up his position in the amalgamated metal workers’ union in 1984, Carmichael became assistant secretary of the ACTU in 1987 and that year was the principal author of its manifesto Australia Reconstructed. By the late 1980s business groups and neoliberalists in the Coalition had become uneasy and vocal about the influence of the ACTU; at the same time, Carmichael and the metalworkers became increasingly concerned about the Accord’s focus on money rather than the social contract and industry policy. An early adopter of computer technology, he retired from the ACTU in 1991 to focus on advising government on vocational education into the future.

Updated 2019