Australia in the 1900s

The basic wage

In November 1907, Justice Higgins, President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, delivered his 'Harvester' judgement. An employer, HV McKay, was applying for exemption from the 'New Protection' excise taxes because the wages he paid were 'fair and reasonable'. Higgins inquired into exactly what was required to pay for and support a family of the era. He found against McKay, and laid down for the first time the principle of the basic wage as every worker's right.


A snapshot of 1908

  • March
    • Mawson and David scale Mount Erebus in Antarctica.

  • May
    • The first official Australian Coat of Arms is granted.
    • Alfred Deakin's government is defeated and Andrew Fisher becomes prime minister.

  • July
    • The Invalid and Old Age Pensions Act 1908 (Cth) is passed

  • August
    • The Great White Fleet sent by President Roosevelt arrives in Australia at Alfred Deakin's request.

  • September
    • 'My Country', Dorothy Mackellar's poem, is published in London's Spectator.

  • October
    • Canberra is selected for the site of a national capital city.


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