The Australian Settlement and the Fisher Government Conference

9am-5pm, 30th April 2010. Women’s College, The University of Sydney

This conference is supported by the Business and Labour History Group, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Sydney.

In April 1910,Andrew Fisher, the Scottish-born former child miner, led the Australian Labor Party to a sweeping victory at the fourth federal election held since federation. By virtue of its double majority in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate, Labor became the first social democratic party to hold office in its own right anywhere in the world. This one-day conference marks the 100th anniversary of this momentous achievement and seeks to analyse the record of the second Fisher government (1910-13), locate its ideological tenor and establish its place in Australian political history.

The scholarly brief of this conference requires participants to have a broad focus, to explore both the achievements of the Fisher Government, and its place in the development of the liberal post­ Federation nation-building project. The ‘Australian Settlement’ is a term that has come to describe the project enacted by the Commonwealth Parliament before the First World War, with Labor’s support. The legislative program of the Australian Settlement included: tariff protection of Australian industry; the ‘White Australia’ restriction of non-white immigrants; and compulsory industrial arbitration – initiatives that sought to develop Australian society within a liberal democratic framework.

Recent research has called for a more critical and wider understanding of the Settlement. This conference provides an opportunity to draw together new research into the more complex and contingent dimensions of the Settlement anc\ the Labor Party’s relationship with it. Issues to be addressed include: the role of organised labour, and the relationship between liberalism and labour movement ideology; the terms of citizenship offered by a gendered and racially exclusionist settlement; the role of defence policy; the nature of Australian liberal governance, and the transnational context of nation building.

Conference convenors:

Mark Hearn, Modern History, Macquarie University; Nick Dyrenfurth & Harry Knowles, Work and Organisational Studies, University of Sydney. Enquiries to: