Abstracts – Labour History No. 96

Bill Robbins, Governor Macquarie’s Job Descriptions and the Bureaucratic Control of the Convict Labour Process
Using primary and archival documentation this paper argues Governor Macquarie developed a range of complex and sophisticated management policies, practices and strategies which were designed to motivate convict workers and to positively extract productive labour from them. Indeed the range of policies adopted by Macquarie was surprisingly modern and nowhere is this more apparent than in his development of clear job statements and work regulations for a number of key jobs in the convict system. In practice these operated in a similar manner to the modern job description. This article examines the regulations developed for the management of a produce market, a turnpike road, the Sydney police, the superintendent of government stock and the government dock yards. It is argued that these regulations and work rules must be seen as the earliest forms of job description in the history of Australian labour management.

Danielle Thorton, “We have no redress unless we strike”: Class, Gender and Activism in the Melbourne Tailoresses’ Strike, 1882-83
The 1882 Melbourne Tailoresses’ Strike was a pivotal moment in the developing relationship between women workers and the organised labour movement in Victoria. Yet although its historical significance is often marked, the role of the strikers themselves has not been explored in detail. Focusing on the activity and testimony of the striking tailoresses, this article examines the ways in which the strike was gendered. In doing so it attempts to move beyond the impasse between poststructuralist and materialist theories of language and experience. Although the tailoresses to some extent exploited prevailing notions of female vulnerability and domesticity, their activism mounted a radical challenge to the existing stereotype of the “factory girl” which contested the sexism of male unionists and forged a new model of militant, class-conscious femininity.

Rohan Price, “In bramble of chicanery belated justice stands”? Reasons for judicial abstention in the early interpretation of the Factory and Shops Act 1896 (Vic)
It is contended here that the Victorian judiciary in the late nineteenth century carried out the policy objective of the parliament to respond to the evil of sweating without jeopardising economic recovery or promulgating a living wage. It did this through a legally formalistic interpretation of the Factories and Shops Act 1896 (hereafter, the Act of 1896) which precluded the backpayment of underpaid employees, rejected a universal living wage and any significant role in setting economic policy. The bench effectively complemented the approach of the legislature which wished to avoid a fully-blown system of arbitration.

Geoffrey Robinson, From Labourism to Social Democracy: Labor Governments and Fiscal Policy in the Australian States, 1911-40
This paper presents an analysis of patterns of social expenditure and taxation in the Australian states from 1911 to 1940. Although the 1910 Surplus Revenue Act initiated a major shift in financial power to the Commonwealth the states continued to levy income tax, operate social services, in particular health and education and provided, particularly in New South Wales, direct social welfare payments in this period. The focus of scholars on the institutions of tariff protection and industrial arbitration has obscured the importance of state social services expenditure which by international standards was high in the Australian states. The paper reviews general theories of public expenditure as well as relevant Australian scholarship. It then examines patterns of taxation and social expenditure and considers the extent to which state divergences were influenced by the partisan composition of state governments and divergent labour movement strategies.

Michael Hogan, Template for a Labor Faction: The Industrial Section and the Industrial Vigilance Council of the NSW Labor Party, 1916-1919
The years of the first Labor Government in New South Wales (1910-1916) saw increasing tension between the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary wings of the NSW Labor Party, with hostility directed especially towards Attorney-General and then Premier William Holman. By 1915 the “Industrialists”, led by the AWU, resorted to a new form of internal party organisation in order to take control of the State Executive and Conference and impose discipline over MPs. The virulence of the split in the party over conscription in 1916 was intensified by the activity of this faction. The organisation was closed down in 1919 because of a struggle for control within the faction between the moderate leaders of the AWU and the more radical ambitions of the One Big Union fraction. The structure and culture of the Industrial Section, later the Industrial Vigilance Council, set the pattern for later factional organisation in the NSW and Federal Labor Parties.

Michael Hess, Against the Odds: establishing the Miscellaneous Workers Union in Tasmania, 1949-59
When the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union (FMWU) and the Federated Liquor and Allied Industries Employees Union (FLAIEU) amalgamated in 1993 to form the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union (LHMU) they became one of the largest and most influential employee organizations in Australia. This position of influence was no accident but the product of the specific histories of the two organizations at both national and State levels. While detailed research on the national histories of both organizations has been done, little attention has been paid in this to the Tasmanian Branches. This article looks at the establishment of the Tasmanian Branch of the FMWU. It focuses particularly on the interplay of local political, social and economic factors which made general unionism viable in the 1950s in a regional location such as Tasmania.

Ashley Lavelle, Under Pressure: The Whitlam Labor Opposition and Class Struggle, 1967-1972
In periods of Opposition, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) is uniquely exposed to the influence of radical activists and movements. This paper argues that a clear case in point is the ALP’s response to the intensification of class struggle in the late-1960s and early 1970s. Not only did Labor MPs endorse strikes, they defended such actions as the most effective method of improving wages and conditions. The escalation of industrial conflict also empowered the unions to press the ALP for key policy concessions, such as the withdrawal of strike penalties from the party