Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Australian Shearers' Strike of 1891

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
1891 Australia: Hard on the heels of the devastating Maritime Strike of 1890, the Shearers' Strike began when Logan Downs shearing station in Queensland employed non-union men to do the work. It was one of the most significant industrial actions in Australian history, and from February until May, central Queensland was on the brink of civil war.

On May 16, famous Australian poet, Henry Lawson, while a journalist on Gresley Lukin's Boomerang and inspired by the shearers' strike, published in William Lane's Worker 'Freedom on the Wallaby', the last verse of which read:

So we must fly a rebel flag,
As others did before us,
And we must sing a rebel song
And join in rebel chorus.
We'll make the tyrants feel the sting
O' those that they would throttle;
They needn't say the fault is ours
If blood should stain the wattle!

Six weeks later (July 15), in the Queensland Legislative Council during a 'Vote of Thanks' to the armed police who broke up a Barcaldine labor meeting, MP Frederick Brentnall (1834 - 1925) recited the last two stanzas as evidence of the danger of the radicals. There were calls in the chamber for Lawson's arrest for sedition. Lawson wrote a bitter rejoinder to Brentnall, the sarcastic poem, 'The Vote of Thanks Debate' ...

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