Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

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Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (1972), 23, (1), 74–81.


DOCUMENT SECTION During the 1880s secondary industry in New South Wales became almost as well developed as in the colony of Victoria. In 1890 New South Wales had over 2,500 factories which employed about 41,500 male and 4,500 female workers; machinery of the capacity of 24,662 horsepower was employed and the value of plant and machinery estimated at over ?4.5 m. Victoria had passed factory acts in 1873 and 1885 but the mother state was much slower in taking steps for the regulation and inspection of factories. However, in December 1890 a Census and Industrial Returns Act [54 Vic. No. 31] was passed which empowered the Government Statistician (T. A. Coghlan) to enquire into 'the industrial condition of the people, the hours of labour, the regularity of employment, the wages of workers, the accommodation afforded by employers for their work people, the employment of children and females, the displacement of labour by machinery, the return upon capital invested, the variation in prices, and any other subject on which the Colonial Secretary may deem it expedient to have inquiry made.' (Part II, s. 11.) Among other things proprietors of factories were required to make returns concerning the power used, the value of factory plant, lands and buildings, and the kind, quantity and value of goods manufactured. In 1891 and 1892 an examination was made of a large number of workshops and factories in New South Wales. The chief abuse found to exist was the almost uniform absence of proper sanitation. Working conditions and wages were poor in many cases, but sweating, not surprisingly, was not detected to any great extent. Home workers were, as a rule, grossly underpaid and it was found that large numbers of apprentices and learners were not paid at all. No immediate action followed on Coghlan's reports but in 1896 a Factory Act on the lines of the Victorian Act of 1885 was passed. The document which follows is the report concerning the boot making trade. Though necessarily brief it provides us with an excellent picture of an important manufacturing industry. G.P.W. 74

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, G.P.W.

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