A Theatre of Words and Wages: reading the script of the Harvester Hearing

William Murray Robbins, Ian Harriss

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Abstract

The Transcript of the proceedings of the Harvester case heard in October 1907 presents a stark contrast with the Decision ultimately handed down by Justice Higgins, President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. A reading of the transcript reveals the discourse presented during the case in the form of argument, evidence and witness testimony did not greatly support the notion of a ‘living’ minimum wage for unskilled males. This was not, for example, a union objective in the case. Using the transcript this article outlines the details put by both the employer and union advocates and identifies the highly interactive role of Justice Higgins in this landmark case. In doing this the article explains why the judgement made by Higgins was so different to the substance of the cases presented to him. It is concluded that it was Higgins’ complex notion of nation-building which steered him away from the advocates’ arguments and towards his own objectives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-107
Number of pages21
JournalLabour History
Volume93
Issue numberNov 2007
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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