Labour History

‘The Benefits of Industrial Organisation’? The Second Fisher Government andFin de Siècle Modernityin Australia

Labour History (2012), 102, (1), 37–54.


Although Labor achieved an extraordinary political ascendancy at the 1910 federal election, Andrew Fisher’s post-election speeches and interviews revealed that he remained troubled by two dilemmas: whether Labor could effectively control the transmission of its message in the public sphere and the degree to which Labor could impose its legislative agenda. Fisher stressed the need for Labor to establish a network of labour dailies. Labor also committed to a referendum to radically increase Commonwealth power to intervene in the economy and control ‘powerful and predatory’ corporate ‘trusts and combines’. Labor’s priorities had to be managed within the context of unprecedented industrialisation and technological change, the extraordinary global forces offin de sièclemodernity that framed Labor’s interventions in government and the public sphere. Labor’s mission to master ‘the benefits of industrial organisation’, by more effectively transmitting its message and expanding Commonwealth legislative power, was colonised by the forces offin de sièclecapital and culture to which Labor was required to adapt.

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Author details

Hearn, Mark