Australia in the 1890s

The Australian Labor Party

In August 1890, the first general council of the Australian Labor Federation convened in Brisbane and drafted a parliamentary platform.

By March 1891, the first Labor electoral league in NSW was set up in the Sydney suburb of Balmain, and soon other leagues were being set up in nearby industrial suburbs. A political platform was agreed upon, which included an 8-hour day as the maximum working day for anyone in any industry, elected magistrates, support for the Federation of Australasian colonies, and parliamentary recognition of the entire (non-Indigenous) community's right to the land. In elections that year, Labor candidates clearly struck a chord with the electorate and met with immediate success. In June 1891, 34 members of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) were elected to the Legislative Assembly of NSW.

In December 1899, the first Labor party government was formed in Queensland under the premiership of Andrew Dawson. The government only lasted six days, but it was the first Labor government seen anywhere in the world.

A snapshot of 1898

  • April
    • The Eighth Intercolonial Trades Union Congress is held in Adelaide.

  • June
    • A referendum is held in New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria to approve the draft Constitution of Australia.
    • The constitution is accepted by the required majority in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria, but not in New South Wales.

  • October
    • The Perth Zoo opens with two lions and a tiger in its collection.
    • The Queen Victoria Building in Sydney is completed.
    • Hobart is lit by electricity.


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