Full Text: Manifesto of the Queensland Labour Party

I was looking online for a transcribed copy of the Manifesto of the Queensland Labour Party and couldn’t turn one up that wasn’t partial or heavily incorrect, so did it myself. Enjoy!

It was written by prominent Queensland Labour Party member Charles Seymour (1853-1924) and signed by Thomas Glassey, the first person to be popularly elected on a labour platform in Queensland. Scans at the State Library of Queensland.

Manifesto of the Queensland Labour Party

To the People of Queensland

The Past.

Thirty-four years ago Queensland cut her mother-colony’s apron strings in order that she might independently work out her fortunes. Full of life and vigour she commenced her career of self-government, having at her command natural treasures in public lands and minerals greater probably than those of any other territory of the same extent in the world. To-day her people are in a deplorable condition, not because of the lack of treasures given her by an all bountiful Providence, but because of the manner in which she has been misgoverned. In the sincere hope of awakening you, her people, to the dangers which beset you, the Labour Party on the eve of this general election address you, and in doing so desire to keep for their guiding star Truth.

A Sinless Party. 

It is true that until 1886 no such Party as ours existed in Queensland. True it is also that no such person as a Labour M.L.A. existed until 1888, and that the representatives of Labour elected since that date have always been in opposition to the Government of the day. It is strange, but nevertheless true also — statistics prove it — that during the last two or three years more wealth has been produced that during any other similar period in our history. In spite of this her people are suffering more now than ever before. Not having been in a majority in the Legislative Assembly and consequently never having held the reins of Government we cannot be charged with any responsibility for placing Queensland in the unenviable position of being the most heavily taxed and indebted province in Australia. We therefore unhesitatingly throw the onus of the present deplorable condition upon the squattocracy and the would-be “heroes of civilisation” who have alone governed the country up to the present moment. 

The Farmers’ Wrongs. 

That Queensland has been governed in the interests of banks, squatters, and land gamblers cannot be gainsaid. Our railways prove this. Built, as they have been, chiefly for the purpose of conveying squatters wool to market, regardless altogether of the requirements of the yeoman farmer, population has not followed these railways, and much valuable land lies to-day unused except for the benefit of squatters, money usurers and absentee landlords. The few farmers who have been allowed to settle along our lines are penalised by a ruinous railway tariff in order that they may be made to pay as a commercial undertaking. The small grazier has been compelled to pay a higher price per acre for his land than the squatter. In fact our railway policy has become so notorious that the arbitrators award given in the now celebrated Cairns railway job (Robb v. the Railway Commissioners) is purposely kept back pending the result of the elections, the Government recognise that the magnitude of the mismanagement in this particular instance would raise such a storm of indignation as to completely wreck their already slender chances at the polls. 

Spendthift Government.

Then again thousands of our fellow men are searching for employment whilst the public moneys are purposely locked up in private banking institutions and necessary public works remain untouched. We have an enormous public debt amounting to £33,085,659, on which £1,255,238 in the shape of interest has to be paid annually.
“Strong Treasurers” borrow further sums from the money lords at usurious rates to pay the interest as it becomes due and taxation keeps on increasing. The Labour Party submit that all honest and sensible men live within their incomes. So also should statesmen to whom is committed the welfare of a country see that its expenditure does not exceed its income. “Those who go a borrowing go a sorrowing.”

Gamblers and Pledge-Breakers.

People of Queensland, ask yourselves what have your heaven-born financiers done? It is a mistake to say that you have ever been governed by statesmen. What should be said is that you have been governed by political gamblers, and so has every province in Australia if the names of the directors of financial institutions are any evidence. Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been recklessly spent, not to settle people upon the land, but to boom land values and to keep down the price of labour. Innocent citizens have, by flaming advertisements, been led to financial destruction at the instigation of syndicates and companies whose promoters we have foolishly allowed to occupy the position of M.L.C or M.L.A. Speculative chance has been the policy of those whom you have entrusted with your confidence instead of sure and steady progress. Hence the present unsatisfactory state of affairs. Five years ago you were promised a big loaf. Where is it to-day? Worse even than this is the assault perpetrated on your system of representative government. Pledges solemnly given to you have been ruthlessly broken. The right of the people to decide questions that vitally concerns their welfare has been brushed aside in contempt by those very representatives who pose as constitutionalists and champions of “law and order.” Thousands of electors have been disfranchised and the voices of others have been stifled by the enactment of an electoral law that confuses and perplexes citizens. Newspapers, with few exceptions, have become so corrupt and fearful that they remain silent in the presence of political liars who care nothing about breaking the pledges given to you. People of Queensland, these things have been done in the past. Who can deny it?

The Present.

Now for the present. The men who sought your suffrages five years ago are again before you seeking a renewal of power. They promised you prosperity. They have failed to fulfil their promise. They again promise it to you now. Consider what proposals they place before you as a means to secure it — Retrenchment, Land Grant Railways, and the probable future employment of coolies. Here are the Premier’s own words about the latter: “That the importation of coolies to Queensland was not likely to be a matter for the colony to consider for many years; that it would not disturb them in the present generation.’’ These are the principal planks in the Government platform, the chief of the paths that are supposed to lead to restored prosperity. That retrenchment is necessary we quite agree. But are the people to expect it at the hands of the leader of the defunct National Party, who himself admits having represented them for twenty five years and is now only commencing to think about it. Can the people expect retrenchment from a Government that provides bores and rabbit fences for squatters, £12,000 loans and commercial travellers and experts for meat companies, railway and telegraph stations for Premiers? The Labour Party are perforce compelled to consider the policy issued by the Premier because he speaks for the Government. Were he standing alone we should not believe him because of his utter disregard of solemn pledges. The class which the Premier’s colleague for North Brisbane (Mr. Kingsbury) calls the governing class, and to which the members of the present Government belong, have had ample opportunities in the past to enforce a policy of retrenchment. They have never done so, and now we have good cause for doubting their sincerity.

The Gigantic Land Steal.

The second item on the Government programme is that of Land Grant Railways. We are astounded at the audacious mendacity of this proposal. These “heroes of civilisation” propose to give away the lands of the people for nothing. We always have protested and always will protest against the alienation of public lands even when sold for cash. But now the present Government actually propose to give them away. They propose to give the syndicators land values for the cost of building the railways, which are to remain the property of the syndicate. Should the people, however, decide on acquiring railways for themselves they can only obtain them by paying the syndicators fancy prices in cash thus paying twice over for what is not wanted at present. When the Premier gives quotations showing the benefits accruing from the American railway tariffs, the Labour Party decline to believe him, because they have in their possession much more reliable information. When the Premier talks of English railways the Labour Party recollects the recent catastrophe resulting in considerable loss of life, and caused by the overworking of employes. On the other hand it is clear that the time is not far distant when the British Government will be compelled to resume all the railways in the United Kingdom in order to protect the people from the rapacity of the cormorants who now own and control them. It has been shown that railways to be a benefit should always follow in the wake of population. It is the ignoring of this fact together with the system of land alienation that is the reason why the Queensland railways have been so burdensome to her people. Who wants Land Grant railways? Not the people but the land gamblers and the rack-renting slave-owning landlords. You people of Queensland who know the evils existing in the old countries from the system of landlordism, a system which forced you from your native home, will you not for the sake of your wives and little ones record your votes against the men who wish to perpetuate these evils here. 

Black Labour.

Kanakas were forced upon us by the violation of sacred pledges and against the expressed wish of the people. The Government say “coolies probably” which means a lot. If there is any truth in the saying that history repeats itself there is a bad time for Australia should coloured and servile labour be introduced. The United States of America had the same number of people 100 years ago as Australia has to-day. They became an independent nation. To develop her country but not to benefit the people her “go ahead” men filled the Southern States with slaves. An aristocracy grew up amongst the sugar and cotton planters who became intolerant and overbearing to their wage-earning fellow countrymen who were called mean whites even by the slaves. This intolerant aristocracy, for the sake of profit impoverished the soil and wanted to extend the territory of slavedom, which would have also practically given them the control of the United States Senate. At last the white population saw their danger, but too late to prevent a civil war. Slavery was abolished, but the coloured race question is not yet settled. How does all this apply to Australia to-day? Like the United States 100 years ago, only our seaboard is populated. Like the United States our “go ahead” men want to develope the resources of our country by coloured and slave labour. As in the United States this coloured labour, if tolerated, will compete with our yeoman farmers, and the big estates will crush out the little ones. And as in the United States something will ensue which we would all regret. People of Queensland, for the sake of your wives and little ones, stop this by recording your votes against the supporters of coloured labour so that Australia may remain a white nation.

The Work of the Future.

From the slough of misfortunes brought about by misgovernment, and into which Queensland has been plunged, it is the task of the future to rescue her so that the people may be contented, happy, and free. The Labour Party believes that to accomplish this it is necessary that all adult men and women should have an equal voice in making the laws which govern them. The political parties who refuse this are the real cause of disorder. When laws are hedged round with such complications as preclude a large percentage of adults from obtaining votes and confuse even those who made them, as may be noted from the speeches on the contingent voting clauses of the new Elections Act, it becomes apparent that such laws are enacted for the purpose of endeavouring to prevent the people from redressing their grievances by constitutional means. We say that such laws are unfair and are a standing impeachment of the ignorance of the Parliament that placed them on the Statute Book, and must be repealed to give place to a more liberal and equitable system of voting. 

Tax the Land Monopolists. 

Farming must be encouraged at the expense of the men who hold land chiefly to obtain the unearned increment given to it by the whole community. This will allow railway freights to be reduced. Farmers should be brought more in touch with the consumer than at present by dispensing with the unnecessary middlemen, who fleece them without decreasing the cost of their produce to the consumers. We can never relieve our congested centres of population of the surplus labour until the people engaged in farming are encouraged more than they are at present, and until those who do not understand the way to draw their living directly from the soil are shown how. When men can supply their necessities at all times and have the opportunity of engaging their labour productively then only will our people be contented and labour troubles become a thing of the past. Co-operation can gradually take the place of competition. Those who doubt that the placing of the people upon the land in this manner can be accomplished have but to look to New Zealand for a practical example.

Political equality and a solution of the unemployed difficulty is what the Labour Party are seeking to attain. Both of these questions combined comprise all their detailed political platform previously published in the daily papers. By the term worker we mean a person who, whether by brain or hand, adds to the total amount of real wealth produced, and in doing so thus helps the whole community.

Intellectual equality is an impossibility. The men, however, who have legislated for this province in the past lay claim to the highest order of intellect. What a satire and how costly to you has been the testing of the truth of this assertion!

People of Queensland, the principles set forth in this manifesto are instinct with life and full of glorious possibility, and we now appeal to you to help us by supporting the Labour Party in the coming struggle, to embody them in laws for the good of the country with whose interests your own future is wrapped up.

For the Executive of the Queensland Labour Party.

Thomas Glassey, President.

G. J. Hall, Hon. Secretary. April 17th, 1893.

Charles Seymour, 9 Sep 1892