Some unionists, demoralised with direct actionturned to a political solution and sought election to colonial parliamentsand led to the formation of the Australian Labor Party. The first general election contested by Labour candidates was the New South Wales electionwhere Labour Electoral League of New South Wales candidates won 35 of seats, giving Labour the balance of power.
Re-elected at the double dissolution election serving until his death init was the world's first stable Labour Party government. So successful, John Verran led Labor to form the state's first of many majority governments at the South Australian election.
InAnderson Dawson formed a Labour minority government in Queenslandthe first Labour Party government in the world, which lasted one week while the conservatives regrouped after a split. Labour candidates emerged in the late 19th century with much success, being a part of informal coalition governments from the early s. The first Labour government in the world came in through Anderson Dawsonthough it only lasted for a week.
The first national Labour government in the world was that of Chris Watson inwhose government lasted four months. Labour held the balance of power in the early years of federation, and was able to use it to secure the setting up of the protectionist system in Australia, and the passage of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Actto set up a compulsory arbitration system in Australia.
In the s and s, the trade union movement had organised a series of protests against "foreign" by which was meant non-Anglo-Saxon labour. Their arguments were that Asians and Chinese took jobs away from white men, worked for "substandard" wages, lowered working conditions and refused unionisation. A scandalised establishment, took measures to counter Labour's growing electoral dominance. Believing that an anti- socialist alliance was necessary, it pressured Deakin and Anti-Socialist Party 's new leader, Joseph Cookto begin merger talks.
The more liberal Protectionists joined Labour. The federal election was a straight two-party contest between Labour and the combined anti-Labour forces. The election delivered total victory to Labour under the leadership of Andrew Fisher. It delivered the first national Labour majority government in the world, the first national majority government in Australia, and the first Senate majority in Australia.
The Fisher government was able to pass Acts in the three years of the government, an unprecedented record, a period of reform unmatched in the Commonwealth up until that point. The Fisher government carried out many reforms dear to the labour movement in defence, constitutional matters, finance, transport and communications, and social security, such as establishing old-age and disability pensions, a maternity allowance and workers compensationissuing Australia's first paper currencyforming the Royal Australian Navythe commencement of construction for the Trans-Australian Railwayexpanding the bench of the High Court of Australiafounding Canberra and establishing the government-owned Commonwealth Bank.
The state branches formed their first majority governments in New South Wales and South Australia inin Western Australia inand in Queensland in Such success eluded equivalent social democratic and labour parties in other countries for many years. World War I[ edit ] The chief proponent of industrial unionism in Australia was the Industrial Workers of the Worldwhich actively sought out conflicts with management. The IWW also acted on a political plane, opposing boyhood conscriptionthen the first world war.
The Australian labour movement united around opposition to conscriptionlargely due to vocal opposition by the IWW and Catholic archbishop of Melbourne, Daniel Mannix. Two referendum proposals to introduce conscription by Labor Prime Minister Billy Hughes were defeated, making Australia and South Africa the only nations at war during the First World War not to introduce conscription.
The Labor Governments of Hughes in the Federal sphere, and William Holman in New South Wales, were held in low regard by much of the labour movement due to their policies on military conscription. On 23 September twelve members of the IWW most of them active organisers were arrested and charged with treason under the Treason Felony Act As four buildings had been deliberately damaged by fire, the charge of arson was added to the charges.
They became known as the Sydney Twelve with many unions and people in the labour movement actively campaigning for their release for several years. In late July the Act was amended resulting in any organisation or individual able to be easily proscribed. In return the IWW ran a ' free speech movement ' campaign in which over 80 members in Sydney were sentenced to 6 months hard labour the maximum for simply proclaiming their membership, which was enough to scare many others away from open defiance.
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Those not born in Australia were subsequently deported at the end of their sentences, mostly to Chile. Sydney's Burning An Australian Political Conspiracy At the end of the first world war in Australia there were a number of major industrial and political actions which threatened the stability of society. In Queensland counter-revolutionary and racist riots broke out in the Red Flag Riotswhen it was made illegal to fly or wear the red flagexcept as a sign of danger.
The New South Wales General Strike of started on 2 Augustby railway workers over the introduction of the Taylor system of determining where work could be speeded-up. It was the most widespread labour upheaval since the s, and ended when mining workers returned to work on 15 October The party achieved some influence in the trade union movement in New South Wales, but by the mids it had dwindled to an insignificant sect, and Garden and other communists were expelled from the Labor Party in However, the Communist Party began to win positions in particular trade unions, such as the Miners Federation and the Waterside Workers' Federation of Australia.
Strikes in this period were commonplace, and remained threatening to the Commonwealth government, which took measures to control union activity. In the federal Crimes Act was amended for the Act to apply to unions and in the Transport Workers Act more commonly referred as the Dog Collar Act was enacted, directed against the Waterside Workers' Federation. Of particular note is the Victorian Police strike. Trade union membership wasin  and reached its peak inaccording to Green and Cromwell, when trade union membership "comprised less than 15 per cent of the whole population, only 47 per cent of the workforce.
By this point the idea of trade unionism had won out over industrial unionism.
This was in part encouraged by the industrial courts which freely gave registration to small, shop and trade-specific unions. While the Communist Party of Australia would always argue for industrial unions, the idea of industrial unions smouldered until the s, and only received support from the ACTU and the ALP in the s. The Dog Collar Act was used to break up strong unions, in forestry and on the docks.
These unions were perceived to be revolutionary, or at least militant. At the same time the fragmented trade unions sought to maintain member conditions in an environment of massive unemployment. The Australian timber workers' strike was the first large strike during the depression when Justice Lukin handed down a new timber industry award that increased the working week from 44 to 48 hours and reduced wages.
During the strike Lukin ordered a secret ballot to be held which was the first attempt to enforce a secret ballot in an industrial dispute. A month lockout during — of miners on the northern New South Wales coalfields was particularly bitter. The Rothbury riot resulted in police shooting at miners, killing Norman Brown and seriously injuring many more.
The trade union response to unemployment was not inspiring.
Before the depression, some strong trade unions would provide welfare for unemployed members, and seek jobs for them. However, the depression rendered this system unworkable, where it existed at all.
Union welfare primarily existed in seasonal work with militant unions, like dock-working. It was precisely these unions that were attacked by the Dog Collar Act. In response to the depression, the remains of the IWW set up a union for the unemployed. This idea was quickly taken up by both the CPA and the ALP, both of which established associations not organised as unions of workers for the unemployed.
The militance of unemployed workers who identified with the CPA or ALP, and the spirit of universal unionism which remained from the IWW, changed these movements of the unemployed into effective unions. The unemployed unions attacked local councils, and occasionally landlords, in order to win conditions.
The unemployed movements did not win significant employment, payment or condition victories for the unemployed workers. No future union of the unemployed would ever match the achievements of the unemployed unions of the s. As Australia approached the Second World War, the Dalfram dispute of in Port Kembla showed that trade unions and workers were not afraid to take strike action on political issues, in this case the export of pig iron to a military aggressive Japan invading China.
Although workers returned to work after 10 weeks and 2 days on strike, the Transport Workers Act of The Dog Collar Act had been shown to be ineffective when concerted action and solidarity was undertaken. Attorney General Robert Menzies earned his nickname of Pig Iron Bob during this dispute as a result of significant union protest.
This attempt to seize control of the union movement failed and was the start of the decline in communist leadership and influence in the labour movement. At the same time, agitation by Catholic organisations such as the National Civic Council or Groupers started setting up of Industrial Groups within unions to counter the influence of communists.
The s and s period was generally one of industrial peace, dictated by preference agreements and closed shops. This period saw union membership keep pace with the growth of the workforce. The post war years saw the Australian labour movement support Indigenous Australians in their fight for human rights, cultural rights and native title, through supporting the Pilbara strikeThe Gurindji Strike at Wave Hill in the Northern Territory, equal pay for aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, and support for the Noonkanbah people in their land rights dispute with the Western Australian Government over mining companies disturbing sacred sites.
Governments relied on penal powers to keep union activists in line. The general strike over Clarrie O'Shea 's imprisonment broke the government law and ushered in a period of rising union demands. These demands existed in a context of a general social radicalisation under Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser.
After industrial militance declined, and a newly amalgamated trade union movement presided over falls in real wages. In the Mudginberri dispute and the Dollar Sweets dispute employer organisations such as the National Farmers Federation successfully backed legal sanctions to defeat union industrial action. During the Hawke Labor Government in the s, Australia experienced a push for economic reform encompassing deregulation of a number of previously regulated markets, including the labour market.
This ended nearly a century of centralised wage-fixing based industrial relations. Under the post Howard Liberal Governmentincreasing pressure was brought to bear on industrial relations reforms, aiming to reduce the industrial power of Australian trade unions. One of the first targets of the conservative Government was to undermine the power of the Maritime Union of Australiathrough breaking its closed shop on waterfront labour.
The Australian waterfront dispute resulted with stevedoring firm, Patrick Corporation under CEO Chris Corriganattempting to sack its entire waterfront workforce of people through company restructuring.
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The Australian Council of Trade Unions condemned the sacking as a gross act of collusion between Patrick, the Government, and the National Farmers Federationand with the threat of legal action against the Government and Patrick Corporation, a settlement was negotiated to allow some reform with the MUA retaining its effective closed shop. When the Howard Liberal Government won an unexpected Senate majority at the electiondespite not being part of their election manifesto they took the opportunity to introduce WorkChoicesa decision which would ultimately seal their fate at the election.
This legislation received widespread criticism from the Australian union movement, many religious and community groups and, significantly but not widely reportedthe International Labour Organizationof which Australia is a member. On 30 Juneup topeople marched through Melbourne in opposition to the proposed industrial relations changes, with meetings also held in capital cities and regional towns around Australia. Wikinews has related news: Hundreds of thousands rally in Australia against IR legislation On 15 Novemberthe ACTU organised a national day of protestduring which the ACTU estimatedpeople took part in marches and protests in Australia's state capitals and other cities.
Other notable Australians, including former Prime Minister Bob Hawkealso spoke in opposition to the industrial relations changes. The Bill was passed by the Senatewith minor amendments, by a vote of on 2 December and received the Royal Assent on 14 December.
Following the defeat of the Howard Liberal government at the federal electionthe Rudd Labor government moved quickly to outlaw Australian Workplace Agreements AWAs besides other changes. WorkChoices legislation was superseded by the Fair Work Act on 1 July which, whilst seen as an improvement for workers, has attracted criticism from industry experts, the Australian Greens Party and organised labour, especially the Victorian Branch of the Electrical Trades Union.
The report found that "the act does not bring our laws into compliance with ILO standards". Professor Ron McCallum of the University of Sydney asserts that the new legislation will "probably" be deemed a breach of international law by the International Labour Organizationparticularly in regards to ILO Conventions 87 and History of the Australian Labor Party The failure of each of the industrial conflicts of the s was seen as a demoralising blow for the labour movement.