The Manifesto of the Queensland Labour Party, dated 9 September 1892 (the Manifesto), held in the collections of the John Oxley Library, has been registered by UNESCO for its national cultural significance. UNESCO is also considering a submission from the State Library to record this document as being of international cultural significance.
The Manifesto, one of the formative documents of the present Australian Labor Party, was written at a time of political and social upheaval in Queensland, with the labour movement seeking alternatives to industrial action to progress its aims. It provides a detailed coverage of the party’s grievances, with a focus upon the ruling class of the time, including squatters, employers, the government and others, which it saw as opposing what it aspired to in terms of working benefits. Electoral and land reform as well as social equity are specific themes.
According to labour folklore, the Manifesto was read out under the so called Tree of Knowledge at Barcaldine following the Great Shearer’s Strike, Barcaldine being at the centre of the industrial strife that took place in the early 1890s. The town was the centre point for contact and communication for the strikers, who were later to form the vanguard of the labour movement. Whether or not this event actually took place, the Manifesto stands as one of the planks upon which the labour movement based its aims of the attainment of political power and parliamentary representation.
Subsequently, Barcaldine has become known as the birthplace of the Labor Party in Queensland with the Tree of Knowledge surviving until recently as a physical reminder of the events of the time. The Manifesto was an important link in the chain of actions and events in Queensland that culminated in the formation of the first Labor government in the world. This was the short-lived Anderson Dawson Labor Government that came to power in 1899.
The Manifesto was written by Charles Seymour, who was heavily involved in the formative years of the labour movement in Queensland. It was signed by the party’s president, Thomas Glassey, who was also the first person to be popularly elected on a labour platform in Queensland.
“Labour” or “labor” – how should it be spelled? Is there a reason for the different spelling of “labour” as “labor”? For the answer see the blog entry on this topic in the next few days.