Australian Labour Policy

Australian Labour Policy is the greater trade union that majority of the trade unions contingents that had been extensively studied by many researchers and writers. Australian Labor Movement (n.d, par. 3) defines Australian Labor Policy as “Although the Labor party represents a larger constituency than the just the trade unions, its structure is unique in that the majority of trade unions in Australia are affiliated with the party, paying dues and participating in setting party policy.”

The topic had significantly extended to social concerns, ethnicity, class, gender, are of origin and state. The study of labour history is directly connected to the historical origins and implications of the said study.  As it had been pointedly stated by many researches that history is a circular process that tends to repeat itself in due time, the study of the history of Australian Labour should not be any different. Given the situation, then the history has a significant impact on the present case. In an attempt to have a clear view of the present situation, the study of the past is deemed an important collection of events for referencing. According to Kerr (2004, par. 2), historical studies had been influential. He stated that “influenced by this approach, Ray Markey contends that Australian labour ‘history has always been important for the labour movement in defining its identity … and the immediate relevance of labour history to contemporary issues has never been more apparent’.”

            If the present case would serve any clue as to what the nature of Australian Labor will be, then it should be noted that the present labour movement had undergone major challenges. These changes include the decrease in labour membership, an unfavorable change in the working environment, wage inequality brought about by inflation problems, job insecurity due to the deflating job amendments, and the issue concerning the industrial and the political system. As an answer to the enumerated challenges, the Australian Labour Movement had seen to it that they would be able to widen their scope for future needs. It has made the necessary action to widen its field of expertise to include the more traditional sectors. This the movement had done in accordance to the impending wage problem.  “In response to these challenges the labour movement has broadened its horizons from traditional industrial issues, such as wages and conditions, to incorporate a wider social agenda. If labour history has been important in defining the identity of the labour movement, it seems pertinent at this time to examine the current research interests and research projects in labour history (Kerry 2004, par.3).”

              Various surveys regarding the research trends in labour history had been conducted, one of which is the survey conducted by the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History in 2004. It has been evident in the survey that the more traditional research areas gathered most of the turnouts, so solidifying the statement that the labour sector should invest into the more traditional. Some of the research fields mentioned by the respondents to the survey were union activism, biography and institutional histories. On these fields, more interested surveyors were named, as restated by Kerry (2004, par.4).

            Most of the broader terms identified were broken down into more specific fields where interests were building up. The industry sector turned up to be one of the coveted fields. It is “an important and enduring area of intellectual endeavour”, specifically identifying that research diversity is yet to be developed. There has been an issue about the preferences and the limited diversity of the industry sector. “The survey found that the majority of research interests were focused on traditional male industries, such as iron and steel, coal mining, metal mining, railways, maritime industries, lumber and forestry, police, printing and utilities (Kerry 2004, par.9).”

            Furthermore, the female-dominated industry sectors like nursing and healthcare had only been given minimal attention. It should be noted however that on the said female sector a more diverse and innovative study had been built. Majority of the respondents named the Cold War, in relation to politics, as another popular area of interest. In a war-torn setup, the Australian parties and organizations politically inclined like the Australian Labor Party, the Democratic Labor Party and the Communist Party of Australia began the notion of unions. In fact, according to Kerry (2004, par.10) some of the areas that gathered immediate concern were the local government, taxation policy, social work and politics. From these political parties industrial and trade unions were formed at a smaller scale.

            Despite the focus on Australian Labour History, a comparative profiling alongside other countries had not been pursued. Thus making the comparison of Australia’ growth to other countries slightly off the mark. If this was to be conducted, then a list of the country’s strengths and weaknesses can be created for future reference. The immediate need of attention of this certain area is seen to be growing dramatically, along with the interest in race and cultural origin. At this level, gender issues had also intervened together with the fact that women are beginning to predominate more areas of study.

            It should be interesting to note that the first labor action in the form of a strike was taken over by convicts in 1791. The action was done for the adjustment of their rations. As of the present, Australia has more than 50 trade unions with more than 2 million members (Australian Labor Movement n.d, par.1).

            The Labor Party began from the worker’s need to voice out their needs at a more sophisticated manner. According to Oz Politics (1999, par.2):

The roots of the Labor Party are found in the workers’ desire to have their interests represented at the political level. While the party is one of the few labour parties to retain its formal affiliation with the trade unions, it has been “middle-classed” over the last 40 years. In the words of Kelly, the party embraced “a coalition of white collar professionals – teachers, social workers, university lecturers, journalists, reformist lawyers, environmentalists, civil servants and union officials – products of liberal education, affluence and the women’s movement.” Labor’s middle classing saw the concerns of the party expand to include a wide range of issues which would not have been traditional preserve of the blue collar worker, including: women’s issues, conservation, quality of life, environmentalism, and uranium mining.

            Socialism was an integral part in the definition of a Labor Party. Not only was it required in the interaction between union members, it was also an effective part in communicating with other trade unions. It was an integral part of their system since 1921, aiming to destroy exploitation of members and of the unions as well as anti-social awareness. Instead of the proliferation of socialism, social liberalism helped in creating a positive atmosphere within the system. Another theme was labourism wherein the commitment of the members to be the protectors of their fellow union members. “Labourism is the broad commitment to protect the most vulnerable members of the working class; safeguard the position of workers; ensure a fair day’s wage; and paid employment as the primary guarantor of human welfare. Labourism promotes full employment as the key strategy to prevent poverty and social distress (OZ Politics 1999, par. 4).”

            What does ignorance of the Australian Labour Policy mean? Disregarding the notion of history repeating itself, the significance of acknowledging the policy cannot be determined. The surveys regarding the subject might mean that history has an impact on the field of Australian Labour. However, the same surveys are not capable of stating infinitely that history does affect the present situation of the system. In accordance to this, delving into the traditional sectors can be helpful in uplifting the labor industry. As present studies imply, the respondents as the fields of focus of study have chosen the traditional sector.

            Although concentrating on the traditional sectors that had garnered voters’ turnout could have a positive impact, and since there is no harm in investing on the said sectors, it can be said that Australia’s move on the direction of labour law is defensible. The current trend in Australia is the representation of traditional sectors where industries are focusing upon can be seen to help in the advocacy of trend development. Focusing on the more traditional sectors follow the path of historical repetition and consequently shapes the idea that everything done in the past has an impact on the trends in the present. Seeing the scenario in another perspective, the lack of historical repetition’s negative effect except that it may in some cases lead to a false trail in the trend, then it can be concluded that it is defensible.

            The lack of a significant negative effect on following the Australian Historical Policy is essentially pointed at the greater good of the economical boost. Surrounded by many articles that ascent to the idea that history serves as a clue to the present trend, falsifying this idea will be more tedious than looking at its upside.

Word Count: 1500


Kerr, Melissa 2004, ‘Current research interests in australian labour history’, The Australian Society for the Study of Labour History,  <>‘Australian labor party’, 1999. Oz Politics. <>Scalmer, Sean, 2001, ‘Labour and democracy’, Symposium: the Future of the ALP. Macquarie University. <>Gould, Bob, 2005, ‘John Percy’s invincible ignorance of Australian labour history’, Ozleft. <>‘Radical tradition’, 2009. An Australian History Page. <>

‘Australian labor movement’, n.d. <>