Walter Threlfall

Interviewed by
Rodney Sullivan and Robin Sullivan
Jun 27 2013
Walter Threlfall, 2013
Time Summary Keywords

Walter Threlfall speaks about growing up in Newcastle, New South Wales, and completing his apprenticeship as an electrical fitter and mechanic with Commonwealth Steel. He discusses his parents' occupations and his father's involvement with trade unions.

apprenticeships, Miscellaneous Workers Union, Seamen's Union

Walter Threlfall describes the role of unions in his apprenticeship, and speaks about his membership of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU). He reflects on the Labor-sympathetic and heavily unionised nature of Newcastle in the 1970s.

AMIEU, ETU, Newcastle

Walter Threlfall discusses the trade unionists who had an influence on him in his early career.

Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, Col Emery, ETU, Fred Thompson, Mount Isa Mines

Walter Threlfall recounts the positions in the ETU that he has held, and describes the duties ascribed to each role. He discusses his efforts to remain up to date with union policies and implement them in his workplace.

ETU, Malcolm Fraser, Mount Isa Mines, union delegate, union positions

Walter Threlfall comments on some of the industrial disputes he witnessed and took part in during his career. These include the ETU's 1982 general strike and the South East Queensland Electricity Board (SEQEB) dispute.

ETU, industrial disputes, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Neville Warburton, SEQEB dispute

Walter Threlfall discusses his personal role in the SEQEB dispute and describes the march and picketing in New Farm, Brisbane, undertaken by striking members of the ETU.

ETU, industrial disputes, Seamen's Union, SEQEB dispute

Walter Threlfall details other industrial disputes in which the ETU was involved, particularly the Mount Isa Mine lockout and the Weipa dispute in the early 1990s.

ACTU, Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, AWU, ETU, industrial disputes, Mount Isa Mines, Rio Tinto, Weipa

Walter Threlfall discusses the interactions of the ETU, the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, the AWU and the ACTU in the Mount Isa Mines lockout in the early 1990s.

ACTU, AWU, Bill Ludwig, David Harrison, ETU, industrial disputes, Martin Ferguson, Mount Isa Mines, SEQEB dispute

Walter Threlfall reflects on militancy in the union hierarchy and on his time as a union organiser at the Mount Isa Mines.

industrial disputes, Mount Isa Mines, union militancy, union positions

Walter Threlfall reflects on the intertwined history of the Labor Party and the trade union movement. He conjectures that trade union principles have remained the same, but that Labor Party principles have become overly politicised. He discusses his own membership of the Labor Party.

Gough Whitlam, industrial disputes

Walter Threlfall describes working with the bureaucracy of employers and unions. He discusses the MUA dispute.

AWU, ETU, MUA dispute

Walter Threlfall discusses declining membership of the ETU after the Mount Isa Mines dispute.

declining union membership, ETU, industrial disputes, Mount Isa Mines

Walter Threlfall discusses the amalgamation of unions, and the effect that has on the members of those unions.

union amalgamation

Walter Threlfall recounts his involvement in and relationship with peak trade union bodies in Queensland generally, and locally in Townsville.

ACTU, ACTUQ, peak bodies, Townsville, Trades and Labor Council

Walter Threlfall reflects on the differences in disputes and employment in North Queensland, as compared to South East Queensland.

ETU, Fred Thompson, North Queensland, South East Queensland

Walter Threlfall discusses the influence of Communism on trade unions in North Queensland. He comments on the decline in trade union activism and in the Communist Party in North Queensland.

Communism, ETU, Frank Bishop, North Queensland, union activism

Walter Threlfall describes the union involvement in wider social and community issues in North Queensland.

AWU, North Queensland, union campaigns, uranium mining

Walter Threlfall discusses union involvement with Indigenous issues in North Queensland, particularly in the community of Yarrabah.

ACTU, Eddie Mabo, Gough Whitlam, Indigenous issues, Keating Government, Townsville, Trades and Labor Council, Yarrabah

Walter Threlfall details the dispute over Labour Day in Townsville in the mid-1990s between the ALP and the union movement.

Labour Day, QTU, Stuart MacDonald, Townsville

Walter Threlfall reflects on the biggest disappointments he met with in his career as a trade union official, particularly the disillusionment he felt with the Queensland Government over the SEQEB incident. He comments on his most satisfying memories, which include day-to-day, minor achievements that made his job enjoyable.

AIMS, industrial disputes, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, SEQEB dispute, union positions

Interview ends