The Federation Press

Privatisation, Globalisation and Labour

Studies from Australia


What is the scope and scale of corporatisation and privatisation in Australia in the past two decades and what are their implications for management, labour and industrial relations?

This book documents the extensive scale of this process of state restructuring and the increasing variation in the arrangements for providing public goods and services, often accompanied by uncertainty.

It shows many sectors of the community to be increasingly distrustful of their impact and consequences, and the way in which policy makers find themselves caught between promoting the reforms, predominantly for economic reasons, and answering to this suspicious community.

It shows that it is those who actually provide public services who feel the changes most acutely, as they face questions about ownership, find their arrangements for work patterns and organization recast, and suffer increasing insecurity about work and employment futures.

The book grapples with these issues through a series of case studies on Qantas, Telstra, the electricity industries in NSW and Victoria, Job Network, Local government and the Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria.

These seven case studies, three of privatisations by the Australian Federal Government, and four of change initiated by State Governments, provide a detailed analysis of the resulting changes in employment and industrial relations.


“Seven studies of the processes of change over the last two decades, within state and former state bodies, provide the focus of this book on the scope and scale of privatisation and corporatisation in Australia. Implications for management and labour as articulated through industrial relations are explored ... The studies illustrate that while such change is usually argued on the basis of the superiority of market relations bringing economies and efficiencies, these haven’t always been evident in the outcomes, and in fact the full costs have rarely been reckoned, particularly in terms of the profound effects on management and labour relations. ... Privatisation, Globalisation and Labour is a significant contribution to the debate about the ways in which the Australian economy is changing, and in particular the way that the state and the public services delivered by the state are dramatically changing.” - Max Adlam, Newsletter SA Industrial Relations Society

“Provides a careful consideration of a number of real-life cases. ... While not readily accessible, this book is worth the challenge. Content 8/10; Readability 6/10; Presentation 5/10.” - Greg Latmore, Human Resources, 2002

“This is an important book that documents the impact of corporatisation and privatisation by federal and state governments on organised labour through a series of detailed case studies. The findings make for fairly sombre reading... ..... Overall, the book is strongly recommended as an invaluable resource for those interested in the consequences of public sector restructuring. It is also of considerable use for industrial relations teachers seeking quality industry and workplace-based case studies.” - Michael O’Donnell, Worksite October 2002

“Nine contributions, authored primarily by Australian academics, address the changing face of government, corporate and labor relations down under. Focusing on forms and character of privatization of public services, readers are asked to look to the wider context in which governments are attempting to reposition the state in an increasingly internationalized economy. In Australia, federal and state governments have done this by disengaging from the organization, ownership and control of government businesses, one result being that government also disengages from immediate involvement with labor-management relations (called “depoliticisation”) which generally have a deleterious effect on employment conditions. Cases studies of Qantas, Telstra, the electricity industries in NSW and Victoria, Job Network, local government and the Gas & Fuel Corporation of Victoria all flesh out the above scenario.” - Reference & Research Book News (US), Nov 2002

The seven in-depth studies provide detailed insight into the machinatons of privatisations and how organisations and work have been reconstructed during this process. Each study stands alone ... and addresses similar issues: the political precursors to privatisation, the process of privatisation, and the changing contours of managment-union-employee relations. However, across most contributions there is scant attention to actual bread and butter outcomes for employees, with focus more squarely on union-management relations and how this has been transformed in a ‘competitive government’ environment. The breadth and depth of the case studies is commendable and reflects the all-encompassing nature of government privatisation agendas across Australia. ...One of the key lessons from the book, and one which ties the cases together, is the power of competition, real or threatened, to undermine collectivism, shift labour to ‘survival mode’ and induce concession bargaining and work re-organisation. The power of competition cannot be underestimated in this context ... - Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol 45(1), March 2003

Table of Contents

Corporatisation and Privatisation in Australia
Peter Fairbrother, Michael Paddon and Julian Teicher

Entering the International Aviation Industry: Privatisation of QANTAS
Rai Small

Internationalising Telecommunications: Telstra
Ruth Barton

Preparing for the National Electricity Market: The New South Wales Electricity Industry
Duncan MacDonald and Mark Bray

The Advent of Multi-national Ownership of the Victorian Electricity Generating Plants: Questions for Labour
Peter Fairbrother and Jonathon Testi

Privatisation by Stealth The Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria
Ruth Barton

Where are the Jobs in the Job Network?: Competitive Tendering of Employment Services
Patricia Ranald

Privatising Local Government: The Victorian Experience
Julian Teicher and Bernadine Van Gramberg

State Restructuring and Labour
Peter Fairbrother and Michael Paddon

Of interest...