Race & Family – The Nationalist Origin of the Australian Labor Movement

As recorded by William G. Spence, the Australian Labor Party’s founding articles and objectives of faith reveal the social-nationalist principles of the Australian political ideal.
He writes:


The first part of the Federal objective (for the Labor party) declares for “The cultivation of an Australian sentiment based upon the maintenance of racial purity and the development in Australia of an enlightened and self-reliant community.” The party stands for racial purity and racial efficiency—industrially, mentally, morally, and intellectually. It asks the people to set up a high ideal of national character, and hence it stands strongly against any admixture with the white race. True patriotism should be racial.


We aim at being self-reliant in regard to defence—in being able to manufacture all our own requirements of guns, ammunition, and food supplies. We should also manufacture all our own requirements for everyday life. Labor takes the home as the unit of the nation and works for all that is calculated to make it happy. It desires that the makers of the useful and the beautiful shall have the pleasure of enjoying all that is best in modern civilisation.

This summary of belief is the product of many years of experience in the colonial Australian endeavor, The racial politics started most influentially at Lambing Flat in 1861, following the rebellion at Buckland River in 1857 then Clunes in 1876 ; These movements and rebellions culminated in the Great Shearers Strike of 1891 in which W.G Spence writes: “The stand made by the shearers and shed employees in 1891 was not only against a reduction of wages and an attempt to introduce “freedom of contract,” but was principally against the introduction of Chinese labor. [ch. 20, p. 274]”


Further adding: “The squatters had cut wages. This was bad enough, but when they were going to fill white men’s places with Chinese, and further insisted on “freedom of contract,” shearers and shed hands had no alternative but to go on strike. It stands to the credit of the workers that in spite of all the powers of State, of suffering and imprisonment, they stood true to the cause they fought for, and proved themselves worthy sons of the great white race. [ch. 13, p. 145]


Australianism, beyond its racial idealism took strongly to social advancement to the working class, our own unique school of “Socialistic” thought is often called “Producerism” it was in the Australian experience in which we had H. B. Higgins; the honorable justice of the high court of Australia declare that all working Australian men should receive at minimum a living wage that could support “a human being in a civilised community” to support a wife and three children in “frugal comfort”, while a skilled worker should receive an additional margin for their skills, regardless of the employer’s capacity to pay.


This producerist sentiment was captured in the Australian Labor platform in which they declared “Labor takes the home as the unit of the nation and works for all that is calculated to make it happy.” ; unlike the individualist, atomised ideal system of the Liberals of the day – Labor traditionally supported a working industrial environment in which unskilled working men could support a wife and three children, that “the home” is the most important unit of the nation.


This great tradition went on in the form of the “Full Employment White Paper” ; commissioned by Australia’s Labor Prime Minister John Curtin it was to detail policy that would ensure full, stable and meaningful employment in Australia. Based heavily from John Maynard Keynes economic works ; The White Paper embraced a protectionist, industrialist society which would focus on mass, stable employment which would defend the stability of the home.


The paper reads: “Full employment has advantages to offer to every section of the community. To the worker, it means steady employment, the opportunity to change his employment if he wishes, and a secure prospect unmarred by the fear of idleness and the dole. To the business or professional man, the manufacturer, the shopkeeper, it means an expanding scope for his enterprise, free from the fear of periodic slumps in spending. To the primary producer, it means an expanding home market and – taking a world-wide view – better and more stable export markets. To the people as a whole, it means a better opportunity to obtain all the goods and services which their labour, working with necessary knowledge and equipment, is capable of producing.”

Nativist Herald