Labour History

Postscript: The Significance of the Fisher Labor Government, 1910-13

Labour History (2012), 102, (1), 119–130.

Abstract

The authors of this thematic issue have substantially rescued the second Fisher-led Labor government of Australia from the relative neglect of labour historians, by acknowledging the significance and achievements of the first majority labour or social democratic national government in the world. The government’s significance was twofold: first, its election was based on the creation of a mass working class constituency; and second its busy legislative program extended the Australian Settlement, contributed significantly to the nation-building project, and instigated a progressive redistributive welfare program well in advance of other countries. The government’s reforms were based on liberal philosophy as well as prior initiatives, but it also extended the terms of the Australian Settlement and contributed to the divergence of liberalism and laborism. This postscript reviews the contributors’ arguments in the context of the government’s full reform agenda to assess the significance of the Fisher government’s achievements.

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Endnotes

1.To usePaul Kelly‘s term referred to by most of the authors in this thematic. Google Scholar

2.The standard accounts are:R. Gollan, Radical and Working Class Politics: A Study of Eastern Australia, 1850-1910,Melbourne University Press,, 1966(first published 1960);L.F. Crisp, The Australian Federal Labour Party, 1901-1951,Hale & Iremonger,, 1978(first published 1955);R. McMullin, The Light on the Hill: The Australian Labor Party, 1891-1991,Oxford University Press,, 1991;D.J. Murphy(ed.), Labor in Politics: The State Labor Parties in Australia, 1880-1920,University of Queensland Press,, 1975;D.J. Murphy,R.B. Joyce andC.A. Hughes(eds), Prelude to Power: The Rise of the Labour Party in Queensland, 1885-1915,Jacaranda Press,, 1970;F. Bongiorno, The People’s Party: Victorian Labor and the Radical Tradition, 1875-1914,Melbourne University Press,, 1996;J. Hagan andK. Turner, A History of the Labor Party in New South Wales, 1891-1991,Longman Cheshire,, 1991;G. Freudenberg, Cause for Power: The Official History of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Labor Party,Pluto Press,, 1991;N.B. Nairn, Civilising Capitalism: The Labor Movement in New South Wales, 1870-1900,Australian National University Press,, 1973;R. Markey, The Making of the Labor Party in New South Wales, 1880-1900,NSW University Press,, 1988;J. Moss, Sound of Trumpets: History of the Labour Movement in South Australia,Wakefield Press,, 1985;B. Oliver, Unity is Strength: A History of the Australian Labor Party and the Trades and Labor Council in Western Australia,API Network,, 2003. Google Scholar

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30.H. McQueen, A New Britannia,Penguin,, 1970. Google Scholar

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35.SeeN. Kirk, Comrades and Cousins: Globalization, Workers and Labour Movements in Britain, the USA and Australia from the 1880s to 1914,Merlin Press,, 2003, p.101. Google Scholar

36.R. Markey, ‘Comparing the Labo(u)r Party in New Zealand and Australia’, Labour History, no.95, November2008, pp.69-70. Google Scholar

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Author details

Markey, Raymond