There are some public national benefits in Australia that the Australian Workers Union was primarily responsible for, and amongst them is the establishment of the ‘White Australia Policy.’
The Queensland shearers struck the first effective blow at coloured labour at Kensington Downs in October 1888, by refusing to shear under a shed overseer who employed Chinese labour every chance he got.
There were just on 30,000 Chinese in Australia when the Commonwealth was established. The station, sued the shearers for damages, and the case cost the Queensland Shearers’ Union between seven and eight hundred pounds. The next station held up was Aramac.
The same man was being put over the shed, but the shearers objected and refused to start at all until the station got another overseer. The shearers camped on the creek at Aramac for about three weeks, and when they put another man over the shed as overseer the men went to work.
This happened at the beginning of January, 1889; and again at Barcaidine station another Chinese employer was going over the board as overseer. ‘ The men stood out for three or four weeks, and camped on the Alice River till the station put an other man over the shed. Most of the union men kept the Boycott going until the end of the 1891 strike.
The Queensland Shearers’ Union and the Queensland Labourers’ Union, it may be mentioned, had in their rules— ‘ No Chinese or Japanese, or South Islanders, or other coloured races be allowed to join the union.’
Harry Kelly, Australian Workers Union
The Brisbane Worker
Tuesday 27th February 1940