Labor, politics and unemployment : Queensland during the great depression

Costar, Brian (1981). Labor, politics and unemployment : Queensland during the great depression PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Costar, Brian
Thesis Title Labor, politics and unemployment : Queensland during the great depression
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1981
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Supervisor -
Total pages 330
Language eng
Subjects 210303 Australian History (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
Formatted abstract
This thesis is a study of the impact of the economic depression of the 1930s on the State of Queensland. It is primarily concerned with the politics of the period but economic and social factors are not ignored. As a political study, the thesis is concerned with the behaviour of Governments, political parties and interest groups. The formulation of public policies directed towards the alleviation of unemployment are also investigated. The central focus of the thesis is the Queensland Labor movement, which is defined broadly to include those individuals and groups that claimed to belong to a political/industrial movement that was concerned to advance and defend the interests of employed and unemployed workers.

The central arguments of the thesis are: that the medium and longterm effects of the depression have been exaggerated; and that, in certain respects, Queensland's response to the depression was different from that in some other States. These arguments are explained and expanded in the Introduction. The remainder of the thesis is divided into two sections. Section One includes Chapters One to Seven and deals mainly with general political developments. Chapter One seeks to explain why Queensland appears to have been less affected by the economic collapse than the other States. Attention is drawn to the fact that the Queensland economy experienced a severe, locally induced recession in the late 1920s that was unrelated to the world-wide depression that occurred after 1929. Chapter Two surveys the major Queensland political events of the twenties that were to remain relevant for the depression period and argues that the Australian Labor Party lost the 1929 State election not because of internal disharmony but because of the condition of the State's economy.

In Chapter Three an assessment is provided of the Country Progressive National Party Government, led by Arthur Moore, that was elected in I929. The purpose of the chapter is to show how the policies and performance of the Moore administration assisted the re-unification of the Labor party. The details of Labor's reconstruction are outlined and explained in Chapter Four. Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the majority of State branches of the ALP in the 1930s was intensive and debilitating factionalism. Chapter Five explains why Queensland did not share this experience and shows how the ALP coped successfully with the challenges of rival groups such as Lang Labor, Douglas Credit, the Communist Party of Australia and the Protestant Labour Party. Chapter Six examines the impact of the depression on the internal affairs of a selection of Queensland trade unions. It argues that the depression weakened the unions but did not alter substantially either their ideology or their organisational structures. Chapter Seven argues that the defeat of the trade unions in two major strikes early in the depression oriented most of the members of the industrial Labor movement towards working for the re-election of a Labor Government in 1932.

Section Two of the thesis contains Chapters Eight to Eleven and concentrates on the issue of unemployment. In Chapter Eight the ameliorative measures that both the CPNP and Labor Governments devised to provide relief for those out of work are examined. Chapter Nine attempts to assess the effectiveness of the Forgan Smith Government's expansion of the public works programme after 1932 and investigates why the Labor Government was so keen to seek rural solutions to the problem of unemployment. Chapter Ten details the failure of the trade \inions to develop effective policies to cope with unemployment among their members. The chapter also includes an examination of relations between the unions and the newly established organisations of unemployed. Chapter Eleven continues this theme and details the structure, behaviour and political affiliations of the unemployed groups. It argues that only a minority of the unemployed joined such bodies and that they were relatively non-violent in their methods and generally unsuccessful in the pursuit of their objectives.

The thesis concludes with a brief examination of the notion of a 'depression generation' and assesses the impact of the economic crisis on the electoral behaviour of Queenslanders and the consequent effect on the political party system.

Keyword Depressions -- 1929 -- Australia
Unemployed -- Queensland
Queensland -- Politics and government -- 1922-1945
Queensland -- Economic conditions -- 1922-1945
Additional Notes The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

Document type: Thesis
Collections: Queensland Past Online (QPO)
UQ Theses (RHD) - Open Access
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Created: Mon, 16 Nov 2009, 11:41:42 EST by Lachlan Kuhn on behalf of Social Sciences and Humanities Library Service