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It is commonly assumed that the ACTU is the most important peak union council in Australia, since it is a national body, which has had no serious rivals for fourteen years. During the last decade its authority and prestige have also expanded dramatically, largely as a result of its special relationship with the federal ALP government, underwritten by the ‘ Accord in its various forms. However, this paper argues that the recent period is an aberration, departing from the historical norm, and unlikely to be maintained in the long term. For a number of historical reasons outlined here, the Labor Council of New South Wales has been the main instigator of industrial reform in Australia.