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Pat Mackie

1914 – 2009

Pat Mackie (1914-2009), union leader, led the Mount Isa strike of 1964/5 that polarised the town and almost bankrupted Mount Isa Mining. Mackie had been a member of the Industrial Workers of the World for some two decades before the strike, and had gained experience of the potential of rank and file action through working with the United States Seafarers Unions. He began work at Mount Isa mines in December 1961, having operated his own lead mine hundreds of kilometres out of Mount Isa for eight years, and finished up working there as a timber contractor (piece worker). The great dispute of 1964/5, one of Australia's major rank and file uprisings, arose over the failure of management to provide showers for men coming off shift underground. It simmered for some months before government intervention was threatened; Mackie declared in January 1965 that if the Government went ahead, the miners and their wives would all go to gaol and there would not be enough cells to hold them. Queensland Premier Frank Nicklin described Mackie as a 'vicious gangster unfit to mingle with decent society' and the strike as part of 'communist strategy . . . to retard and even prevent major developmental projects in this state'. At one stage of the dispute, Justice Hanger refused to determine an application by Mackie for reinstatement; union members were irate to learn that Mrs Hanger held 1235 Mt Isa shares. Questions were raised in parliament about Pat Mackie's birthplace and the Prime Minister's department is said to have met with ASIO operatives to determine whether Mackie could be deported. Records in the National Archives indicate that the federal government was willing to bend the country's immigration laws to strip Mackie of his citizenship, but after extensive investigation it was determined that this would not be legal. Mackie described the outcome of the strike as a 'triumph of the human spirit'. Mackie's days in Mount Isa are described in a book he co-wrote with Elizabeth Vassilief (widow of the painter Danila), 'Mount Isa: The Story of a Dispute' (1989). Vassilief also edited Mackie's autobiography, 'Many Ships to Mount Isa' (c. 2002).

Updated 2018