Abstracts – Labour History No. 95

Class Formation and Political Change: A Trans-Tasman Dialogue
Erik Olssen and Bruce Scates

The retreat from aggregate representations of class has opened the way for a reassessment of its role in both Australia and New Zealand’s history. This article focuses on two recent New Zealand research projects to review our traditional interpretations of class-based coalitions, interpretations that have often been deeply shaped by the Australian and British scholarship. The first and oldest of these projects has related political change nationally and locally to analyses of demographic class formation in New Zealand’s oldest industrial suburbs and its most densely populated urban region, southern Dunedin; the second set out to explain the dominance of conservative parties for most of the twentieth century by investigating electoral behaviour in ten provincial towns. The article concludes with some comparative remarks on how this “class work” might inform similar studies in Australia.

Gender and the Trans-Tasman World of Labour: Transnational and Comparative Histories
Raelene Frances and Melanie Nolan

With some exceptions the striking similarities of labour history in Australia and New Zealand have traditionally been examined through the lens of separate national narratives. More recently, however, we have witnessed a recovery of the “trans-Tasman world of labour”. Such historical analysis has enabled the emergence of significant insights into the parallel development of labour market legislation, policy formation and wage fixation. This article charts the shared gendered experience of the labour movement between Australia and New Zealand and focuses, in particular, on equal pay. We argue that attempts to tell national stories in these two countries will be enriched by an appreciation not just of the trans-Tasman context and influences, but also of the ways in which workers have mobilised at the international level.

Trade Union Structure and Politics in Australia and New Zealand
Bradon Ellem and Peter Franks

This thematic and comparative analysis of more than 150 years of unionism in Australasia explores the similarities and differences in the economic and political contexts in which trade unions have sought to define themselves and represent their members. The state and employers have followed a similar path in Australia and New Zealand for much of that time, and in both cases that journey has been to the detriment of unions for the last generation. In this context, unions in the two countries have exhibited very similar patterns of union growth and decline, policy, and lines of inclusion and exclusion. This is not to say that there are no differences between context and unions in these two Tasman countries. The politics of the labour movement and the relationships between unions, peak bodies and political parties have at times been quite different, and different sorts of unions have been the most influential within each labour movement. Overall, however, the similarities between the two movements have been greater than the differences. By the early part of this century, Australian and New Zealand unions faced similar problems as their relationship with the state, the labour market and employers became much more problematic than it had been for most of their history.

An Antipodean Phenomenon: Comparing the Labo(u)r Party in New Zealand and Australia
Ray Markey

The New Zealand Labour Party (NZLP) and the Australian Labor Party (ALP) share many similarities in terms of their ideology, support base and electoral performance. Labour and ideas travelled regularly between New Zealand and Australia. Australian influence was evident in the early NZLP leadership, and New Zealand influenced ALP policy regarding arbitration and age pensions. Subsequently, the NZLP and ALP have enjoyed similar national electoral records and followed broadly similar policies. However, there were always important divergences, particularly in terms of the timing of consolidation and formation of government, the impact of different state structures, the degree of support from farmers, and racial policy. This article surveys the parameters of the shared experience through examining the two parties’ political and social environments, their support bases and their ideology and policy.

“Practical Utopians”: Rochdale Consumer Co-operatives in Australia and New Zealand
Nikola Balnave and Greg Patmore

Rochdale consumer co-operatives have played an integral role in the lives of many people in particular localities in Australia and New Zealand, but have been largely overlooked by labour historians in both countries. While the Rochdale movement was more advanced in Australia than New Zealand, at no point did the movements in the two countries reach the same heights as their counterpart in Britain. A preliminary examination of the movements in Australia and New Zealand demonstrates that Rochdale co-operatives in both countries had similar “waves of interest” and obstacles to their advancement. While the movement has collapsed in both countries, a number of Rochdale consumer co-operatives survive in rural areas of Australia, chiefly by drawing upon a reciprocal loyalty relationship with the local community.

The Changing Role of the State: Regulating Work in Australia and New Zealand 1788-2007
Gordon Anderson and Michael Quinlan

The state has played a conspicuous role in the history of labour in Australia and New Zealand both as a focus for struggles and where the labour movement achieved a degree of influence that garnered the interest of progressives in other countries. The state is a complex institution and its relationship to labour has been equally complex especially when the differential impacts on different groups such as women are considered. The principal aim of this article is to trace state regulation of work arrangements (not only those pertaining to industrial relations) in both countries over the period of European presence. Although there are significant similarities, a number of differences are identified and we also try to indicate how recent research and debate on the historiography of the state can provide new insights.

A Trans-Tasman Union Community: Growing Global Solidarity
Shelley Harford

In recent years the peak union organisations of Australia and New Zealand have supported one another’s domestic campaigns highlighting the continuing “trans-Tasman world of work”. This article looks at a strand in the links between Australian and New Zealand worker institutions: the ties between the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the New Zealand Federation of Labour (NZFOL) from 1970 to the mid-1980s. During this period the leaders of the union organisations sought to understand the rapidly globalising world from a formal joint perspective acknowledging their shared economic and industrial circumstances while confirming a “trans- Tasman union community”; a community focused on global matters and civil rights, with an ability to stretch into the Pacific when necessary. This article argues for the significance of this “community of interests” in understanding an aspect of the continuing Tasman world and the development of transnational solidarity in the region.

A Tale of Two Towns: Industrial Pickets, Police Practices and Judicial Review
David Baker

Both the 1992 APPM Burnie dispute and the late December 1999 Lyttelton industrial dispute involved small bands of local police adopting peace- keeping and non-interventionist control of picket-lines. Considerable criticism from management, and subsequently the judiciary, was directed against the non-confrontational police response. Judicial criticisms of police handling of both disputes failed to consider the adverse consequences of a return to a traditionally aggressive policing approach. This article argues that the local relationship between union officials and local police was a significant factor in limiting violence and that a resort to belligerent policing of picketing should be resisted. The similarities of police and union approaches in both cases were stark, as were the criticisms of alleged police inactivity.

Other Articles

“His tap root was stronger and more tenacious than that of most of us”: Robert Semple, an Australian New Zealander
Carina Hickey

Robert Semple is remembered as a leading New Zealand politician and a dominant figure in the labour movement between 1904 and 1954. However, Semple was an Australian by birth and always remained firmly attached to that country in a complex relationship