John Battams

Interviewed by
Roger Scott, Chris Salisbury and Alexandra Gath
Jan 23 2014
John Battams
Time Summary Keywords

John Battams discusses his childhood in Mackay, his parents and his early exposure to politics and unions. He summarises his time at university and his first job as a teacher.

Catholics, Mackay, RSL, school teacher, University of Queensland

John Battams speaks about the background of his family and their political views in more detail.


John Battams discusses his time at the University of Queensland, and his abstinence from political life at this point. He reflects on various demonstrations he participated in during this time.

protest, QTU, University of Queensland

John Battams speaks about his first years as a teacher at Sandgate District State High School, and how he came to first be involved in the Queensland Teachers Union (QTU).

Archie Bevis, Education Department, QTU

John Battams discusses his initial involvement with the QTU and his appointment as Branch President of North Brisbane in his first year of teaching. He details some of the officials of the QTU at this time.

Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Lyle Schuntner, QTU, union membership

John Battams offers an insight on tensions and factions within the QTU during the 1970s and 1980s. He discusses the representations of different teachers within the QTU.

Bob White, industrial disputes, Lyle Schuntner, QTU

John Battams lists the many honorary and official union positions he has held within the QTU, and describes the duties associated with these. He focusses on his ascent to General Secretary in 1990.

Archie Bevis, John Rockett, QTU, union positions

John Battams relates the circumstances of the Moranbah Teachers' Strike in 1981, when sixty teachers went on strike for five days.

Bjelke-Petersen Government 1968-87, industrial disputes, mining, QTU, school teacher, SEQEB dispute, unions

John Battams discusses the transformation of the QTU from a conservative union to a progressive, campaigning union.

industrial disputes, John Rockett, QTU

John Battams describes the issues with government-provided teacher accommodation from the 1970s onwards. He discusses the Remote Area Incentive Scheme (RAIS) and the difficulty of ensuring equal, decent accommodation for teachers across the big state of Queensland.

Borbidge Government 1996-98, industrial disputes, QTU, regions, school teacher, Woorabinda

John Battams lists some of the major industrial issues and campaigns that the QTU has been involved in during his time with the union, and specifically between the 1990s and the early 2000s.

ACTU, Bligh Government 2007-12, industrial disputes, QTU, schools

John Battams describes some of the changes within the QTU that he supported, including increasing the number of union representatives, encouraging in-school campaigns and the creation of a Campaign Action Group (CAG).

campaign strategy, QTU, union campaigns

John Battams speaks about the Presidents of the QTU that he has worked with. He also discusses the Directors General of the Department of Education with whom he worked.

directors general, Education Department, Frank Peach, Ian Mackie, Jillian McCullough, Mary Kelly, QTU, Steve Ryan

John Battams reflects on the division within the union regarding women's issues and women's involvement in the QTU, and the consequences of this, which included gender-tagging of positions on the Executive and in official positions. He describes the changes in the QTU when Mary Kelly became President in 1986.

Jenny Hughey, Mary Kelly, QTU, women

John Battams discusses the involvement of Indigenous members in the QTU, all over Queensland and particularly in the Cape and Gulf.

Cape York, Indigenous issues, QTU

John Battams describes the different methods of working with Conservative and Labor governments. He states that each had a different view on trade unions, but neither was easier or more difficult to work with.

Borbidge Government 1996-98, Goss Government 1989-96, Newman Government 2012-, QTU

John Battams reflects on the Leading Schools dispute, and the bitterness associated with it.

Education Department, QTU

John Battams discusses the change from the Borbidge to the Beattie governments and mending bridges between the Union and the Department of Education after the Leading Schools dispute.

Beattie Government 1998-2007, Borbidge Government 1996-98, Education Department, QTU

John Battams speaks about the issue of class sizes and how both the Union and the Department of Education have reacted to it. He moves on to discuss density of QTU membership.

Education Department, industrial disputes, Maryborough, Newman Government 2012-, QTU, union membership

John Battams discusses the technicalities of launching a Union campaign, and the importance of high membership in campaigning for rights.

QTU, union campaigns, union membership

John Battams offers an opinion on the reason the QTU has not fallen victim to falling trade union memberships, like many other unions have done.

QTU, union membership

John Battams confirms that he still a member of QTU, and details when he joined. He adds an interesting fact about the QTU and union dues.


John Battams looks back on the relationship between the QTU and the QCU during his time as General Secretary of the QTU.

Ian Mackie, Jillian McCullough, John Rockett, Mary Kelly, QTU, Queensland Council of Unions, SEQEB dispute, Steve Ryan, Trades and Labor Council, unions

John Battams offers his opinion on the reason for declining trade union membership in the last generation.

Campbell Newman, maternity leave, QTU, Rupert Murdoch, superannuation legislation, Tony Abbott, union membership

John Battams reflects on his time in the QTU, and ponders any regrets he has about his career.


John Battams discusses the greatest achievements of his career, which is the day-to-day collective achievements for teachers by the QTU, and the transformation of the QTU into a formidable power.


Interview ends