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Abstract

In October 1982, after seven years of federal Coalition government with Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and his then Treasurer, John Howard, at the helm, Australia was experiencing the worst employment crisis the nation had faced since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It was obvious from the total lack of interest demonstrated by the government toward addressing employment issues that the Coalition had no policy initiatives in place, or pending, to arrest the decline in employment nationally and in the coal and steel industries in particular. Thousands of Illawarra steel workers and hundreds of coal miners had either lost their jobs or were facing that prospect. Every attempt by the union movement to seek a political solution met with at best indifference and at times complete arrogance.

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