The choice of governor-general of the new Commonwealth fell upon Lord Hopetoun (afterwards Lord Linlithgow), who had won golden opinions as governor of Victoria a few years before; Mr (afterwards Sir Edmund) Barton, who had taken the lead among the Australian delegates, became first prime minister; and the Commonwealth was inaugurated at the opening of 1901. The first parliament under the constitution was elected on the 29th and 30th of March 1901, and was opened by the prince of Wales on the 9th of May following. In October 1908 the Yass-Canberra district, near the town of Yass, N.S.W., was at length selected by both federal houses to contain the future federal capital.
The Labour movement in Australia may be traced back to the early days when transportation was in vogue, and the free immigrant and the time-expired convict objected to the competition of the bond labourer. The great Labour movement. object of these early struggles being attained, Labour directed its attention mainly to securing shorter hours. It was aided very materially by the dearth of workers consequent on the gold discoveries, when every man could command his own price. When the excitement consequent on the gold finds had subsided, there was a considerable reaction against the claims of Labour, and this was greatly helped by the congested state of the labour market; but the principle of an eight-hours day made progress, and was conceded in several trades. In the early years of the ’seventies the colonies entered upon an era of well-being, and for about twelve years every man, willing to work and capable of exerting himself, readily found employment. The Labour unions were able to secure in these years many concessions both as to hours and wages. In 1873 there was an important rise in wages, in the following year there was a further advance, and another in 1876; but in 1877 wages fell back a little, though not below the rate of 1874. In 1882 there was a very important advance in wages; carpenters received 11s. a day, bricklayers 12s. 6d., stone-masons 11s. 6d., plasterers 12s., painters 11s., blacksmiths 10s., and navvies and general labourers 8s., and work was very plentiful. For five years these high wages ruled; but in 1886 there was a sharp fall, though wages still remained very good. In 1888 there was an advance, and again in 1889. In 1890 matters were on the eve of a great change and wages fell, in most cases to a point 20% below the rates of 1885. During the whole period from 1873 onwards, prices, other than of labour, were steadily tending downwards, so that the cost of living in 1890 was much below that of 1873. Taking everything into consideration the reduction was, perhaps, not less than 20%, so that, though the nominal or money wages in 1873 and 1890 were the same, the actual wages were much higher in the latter year. Much of the improvement in the lot of the wage-earners has been due to the Labour organizations, yet so late as 1881 these organizations were of so little account, politically, that when the law relating to trades unions was passed in New South Wales, the English law was followed, and it was simply enacted that the purposes of any trades union shall not be deemed unlawful (so as to render a member liable to criminal prosecution for conspiracy or otherwise) merely by reason that they are in restraint of trade. After the year 1884 Labour troubles became very frequent, the New South Wales coal miners in particular being at war with the colliery owners during the greater part of the six years intervening between then and what is called the Great Strike. The strong downward tendency of prices made a reduction of wages imperative; but the labouring classes failed to recognize any such necessity, and strongly resented any reductions proposed by employers. It was hard indeed for a carter drawing coal to a gasworks to recognize the necessity which compelled a reduction in his wages because wool had fallen 20%. Nor were other labourers, more nearly connected with the producing interests, satisfied with a reduction of wages because produce had fallen in price all round. Up to 1889 wages held their ground, although work had become more difficult to obtain, and some industries The Great Strike of 1890. were being carried on without any profit. It was at such an inopportune time that the most extensive combination of Labour yet brought into action against capital formulated its demands. It is possible that the London dockers’ strike was not without its influence on the minds of the Australian Labour leaders. That strike had been liberally helped by the Australian unions, and it was confidently predicted that, as the Australian workers were more effectively organized than the English unions, a corresponding success would result from their course of action. A strike of the Newcastle miners, after lasting twenty-nine weeks, came to an end in January 1890, and throughout the rest of the year there was great unrest in Labour circles. On the 6th of September the silver mines closed down, and a week later a conference of employers issued a manifesto which was met next day by a counter-manifesto of the Intercolonial Labour Conference, and almost immediately afterwards by the calling out of 40,000 men. The time chosen for the strike was the height of the wool season, when a cessation of work would be attended with the maximum of inconvenience. Sydney was the centre of the disturbance, and the city was in a state of industrial siege, feeling running to dangerous extremes. Riotous scenes occurred both in Sydney and on the coal-fields, and a large number of special constables were sworn in by the government. Towards the end of October 20,000 shearers were called out, and many other trades, principally concerned with the handling or shipping of wool, joined the ranks of the strikers, with the result that the maritime and pastoral industries throughout the whole of Australia were most injuriously disturbed. The Great Strike terminated early in November 1890, the employers gaining a decisive victory. The colonies were, however, to have other and bitter experiences of strikes before Labour recognized that of all means for settling industrial