Australia History Between 1851 and 1900 Part IV

The defeat of the working class in the economic field was at a good point to accredit and generalize a movement which, with the spread of the principles of the new unionism brought by the last immigrants to come from England, with the spread of the Marxist idea throughout the civilized world, had some years ago it also entered Australasia, but it was still in its infancy: the participation of the working class in political life, with a class program. The new tactic of integrating economic resistance with political action was first sporadically and tumultuously, then systematically, inaugurated; economic organizations became so many electoral leagues; seats won by workers or their representatives in colonial parliaments multiplied and Labor or Labor Party, as the new political current was called, wedged between free trade liberalism and protectionist conservatism (comparable to European radicalism and liberalism), it soon became the arbiter of the political situation in almost all the colonies of Australasia and could imprint the social legislation of the antipodes of an impetus hitherto unknown to the whole world. The buttgang system or system of cooperative works, that is, compulsory cooperation between workers gathered in teams of 3 to 20 under a leader of their choice, responsible for carrying out the work; state workers’ pensions for old age; invalidity pensions; the maternity contribution; conciliation and then the same mandatory arbitration in conflicts between capital and labor; the minim the legal wage and maximum working hours, and so on, were already legally established workers’ conquests in Australasia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Australian social legislation (Grandmotherly legislation or “grandmother’s legislation”, as it was called out of contempt by individualistic adversaries, due to its excessive regulation) thus led to a real rudimentary state socialism; although any socialist doctrinaire preconception, and even less Marxist, was alien to it: so much so that a European illustrator of the same, Métin, could in 1901 entitled a book of his, dedicated to it, Socialism without doctrines. But where this social legislation reached, theoretically at least, the apex of social daring, shaking the very fundamental principle of the right of individual property, was in the field of agricultural legislation, precisely in correspondence with the vastness and gravity of the land problem in Australasia. In fact, with the decrease in the productivity of gold – fields, with the exhaustion of placers or gold deposits that are easier to work with, with the transformation into species of the individual and primitive exploitation of gold mines, accessible to all, in a large organized industry, hoarded and conducted with good other means, from powerful companies substituting the small and medium-sized dissociated owners; agriculture drew upon itself, as never before in the past, the eyes and aspirations of the populations.

According to mcat-test-centers, the agrarian question was thus brought back to the table with the cessation of the gold rush, no longer this time to the advantage of the squatters, but of the lower social strata, masters of the colonial capitals; and the demand for public lands was transformed, even before the seventh decade of the century, into a real agrarian agitation whose first fundamental postulate was the free choice of public lands. The Robertson’s Land Act of 1861, promoted in New South Wales by that Sir John Robertson, under whose leadership the new Democratic party had given the rise to power with the banner of land reform, opened access to the people of the mother colony. to public lands. For it, although the auction system was not abolished, each settler had the right to choose (hence the terms of selection to the chosen land and selector to the buyer) a parcel of land ranging from a minimum of 40 to a maximum of 320 acres, even before it was registered, and to purchase it at the price of one pound per acre, with the option of paying a quarter of the price immediately and the remainder within three years without interest, but with the obligation on the other hand to reside in the fund for three years and to carry out work on it for the value of one pound per acre. Satisfied his commitments, the selector became the definitive owner of the property; while, in the event of non-payment, at the end of the three-year period he remained in possession of the land for an indefinite period, through the simple payment of an annual interest of 5% on the unpaid sums. In compensation for the residence and improvement obligations, the buyer had the right to the temporary occupation, for grazing use, of an extension of land three times greater than that purchased by him, until this additional lot was requested by others for the purchase. Another law in New South Wales regulated the leasing of land for grazing, against the interests of squatters. With it, the public lands of the colony were divided into three large zones, according to the degree of penetration into them by the colonization: in the first, the runs were granted only in annual rent, at two pounds sterling for each square mile; in the other two, the runs, ranging in area from 25 to 100 square miles for each, were rented for 5 years at a fee to be established by public tender.

Australia History Between 1851 and 1900 4