9am: Registration

9:30 - 11am

Divided country: class in Australia today

Socialist Alternative National Executive member Louise O’Shea explains how a class analysis makes sense of how modern Australian capitalism – and how to change it.

Media Wars: Big money and worker resistance in a changing media industry

A panel discussion of the shifting nature capitalist control, and worker resistance, in the media industry today. Featuring:
• Red Flag editor Ben Hillier on the sharpening contradiction between capitalism and effective journalism.
• A Fairfax worker reflects on their seven day strike against mass sackings earlier this year.
• Tess Lee Ack on the history of media worker struggles in Australia, focusing on the Clarion, a mass-distribution strike newspaper from the 1980 journalists strike. (Tess was involved with the Battler, a socialist newspaper which turned over its offices to striking journalists to produce the Clarion).

Resisting the new employer offensive

Penalty rates slashed, construction unions under renewed assault, and a series of bitter, drawn out disputes at key sites. Socialist Alternative’s industrial organiser Jerome Small and Red Flag industrial editor Steph Price look at the renewed employer assault, and the state of union resistance.

11 - 11:30am: Break

11:30 - 1pm

The Australian working class’ greatest hits

Kath Larkin, a socialist and delegate with the Rail Tram and Bus Union, uncovers the extraordinary hidden history of the industrial disputes that have shaped Australian society.

The economy of knowledge: Capitalism and education in the neoliberal age

Capitalism turns life’s necessities into commodities. What effect does this have on the education system and the workers in it? Join our panel for a discussion:
• Long time socialist and higher education union activist Diane Fieldes on how capitalism shapes the fundamental structure and content of education.
• Australian Education Union state councillor and high school teacher Manolya Moustafa on Gonski, NAPLAN, and the neoliberal drive in school education.
• David Garland, an activist in the National Tertiary Education Union, on the bitter fruits of neoliberal reform for workers in the sector.
• NTEU Branch Committee member Alma Torlakovic on the recent dispute at Sydney University

Migrant farm workers speak out

Migrant workers are not just superexploited “cheap labour”. They bring traditions of struggle from all over the world, which feed into battles against the often harsh working conditions they face. This discussion on migration, capitalism, and struggle will be led by members of the National Union of Workers farm workers’ organising team, along with socialist, refugee activist and NTEU delegate Liam Ward.

The 1929-30 Coal Lockout

10,000 miners around Newcastle, NSW, fought an epic 15-month battle against union-smashing, wage-cutting coal owners. One miner, Norman Brown, was shot dead by police in an infamous picket at Rothbury. Socialist historian Phoebe Kelloway retells the story, highlighting lesser-known aspects of rank and file activity,including the involvement of militant women.

1 - 2pm: Lunch

Special lunchtime event: a history tour of Trades: Historic campaigns, bruising political battles, tales of inspiration and intrigue. Join veteran socialist Mick Armstrong for a tour of Melbourne’s Trades Hall building.

2 - 2.45pm

Campaigning for a Union Yes: workers against homophobia

As the same sex marriage plebiscite passes the half way mark, join us for this special session including:
The hidden, inspiring story of union action for LGBTI rights in Australia.
A panel of unionists – from offices to schools to construction sites – discussing our workplace and union campaigning for a Yes vote.

2.45 - 3pm: Break

3pm - 4:30pm

How do workers become revolutionary?

How do workers go from accepting the main ideas of capitalism to rejecting them and becoming revolutionary? With socialist and Australian Services Union delegate Colleen Bolger.

Should unions be political?

The dismal record of Labor governments encourages cynicism about “politics” as a whole. Socialists however have a much broader and more radical idea of what “politics” consists of. Sandra Bloodworth looks at what this means for radicals in our unions.

Dare to win: Builders Labourers and the Victorian Green Bans

The “Green Bans” of the Builders Labourers’ Federation was a high point in the wave of radical workers’ in the 1970s. This session features Mick Lewis, a former BLF official who was jailed in 1970 for organising the very first green ban – a union action to save parkland in the (then working class) suburb of Carlton North. Mick will be in conversation with socialist and BLF historian Liz Ross. We’ll also show the short film “Struggle” about the dispute.


The upsurge of US industrial unionism in the 1930s is one of the great organising stories of the working class. Socialists played a key role. So why did no significant left wing political force – or even a Labor-style party – emerge from this eruption? With Socialist Alternative industrial organiser Jerome Small.

4:30 - 4:45pm: Break

4:45 - 6:15pm

Cogs in the machine: Alienation, Marxism and the work process

As long time socialist Rick Kuhn explains, “alienation” isn’t just having a boring job. It’s the systematic lack of control we have over our work, our work process, and the society our work collectively produces. Alienation is inherent in capitalism – so, short of abolishing the system, can we do anything much about it?

Defiance: rebel women at work

Special panel on women workers featuring:
• NUW delegate and Equal Marriage campaigner Cat Rose on women’s liberation and the working class.
• Socialist historian Katie Wood on the historic 1882 Melbourne Tailoress' strike.
• Rail Tram and Bus union delegate Kath Larkin on women workers fighting back today

Health, disability care and neoliberalism

Disability care, like health generally, is fast becoming yet another commodity with the rollout of the National Disability Insurance. The implications for the sector and its workers are far-reaching. Join ASU delegate Adam Bottomley for this important discussion.

The Great Strike: a celebration of the New South Wales general strike of 1917

By 1917, the slaughter and economic deprivations of war were feeding a wave of class struggle around the world. When maintenance workers on Sydney's rail and tram system struck on August 2, it was the signal for a colossal strike wave throughout NSW and beyond.


Rebuilding fighting unions with Socialist Alternative industrial organiser Jerome Small and special guests.

Join us afterwards for a social drink and dinner at a local pub


Sat 14 October 2017
9am onwards
Victorian Trades Hall
Cnr Victoria and Lygon Street

Click here to buy tickets.
$20 full price
$10 concession

Child care available,
register in advance

A list of suggested readings for the conference sessions is available here.

For more info call
Jerome: 0410 861 093

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