Labour History

Union Industrial Responses to Escalation in Live Cattle Export in Brisbane, 1978

Labour History (2022), 122, (1), 51–75.

Abstract

Live animal export is now a subject of major concern and controversy over the issue of the treatment of animals and the question of animal rights; however, this was not always the case. On 17 October 1978, to thwart expansion of the live cattle export trade by Elders Smith Goldsborough Mort (Elders), the Australasian Meat Industry Employees’ Union (AMIEU) picketed Hamilton Wharf in Brisbane in an attempt to limit live cattle export to protect meatworkers’ jobs. The picket was broken and deteriorated into violence between meatworkers and police resulting in 45 arrests. Police had been deployed to the wharf as an instrument of the Queensland state government, a finding made clear in the Fitzgerald Inquiry Report. Far from today’s concerns about animal welfare and rights, this paper argues that the picket formed part of a traditional industrial strategy by the Union that was motivated by its obligation to protect members’ jobs. The article shows that it was also an economic issue for Queensland graziers and pastoralists and subsequently a political issue in Queensland state and Australian federal parliaments.

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Author details

Jerrard, Marjorie