BLF - OHS - CHAPTER NINE: COMPENSATION
to the legal protection for injured workers came in two stages. The Common
Law had continued to protect the Master by reasoning that he could not be
held responsible if one of his Servants injured another. A run of outrages
encouraged the Chief Justice of England to overturn that doctrine during a
case in 1880. Later that year, the United Kingdom parliament tried to
repair the situation by introducing an Employers’ Liability Bill. After
1897, the inadequacies in that approach made unionists press for
Workers’ Compensation Acts. The change in titles indicated that union
pressure was tilting the onus of proof from worker to capitalist.
faults had become obvious before NSW parliamentarians debated their
Liability Bill in September 1882. The draft banned contracting out of
responsibility, and held employers to account for faulty machines,
materials and methods, even if they were not aware of the problem.
Employers attacked these clauses as “class legislation of a most
objectionable kind.” Tory Legislative Councillors declared themselves to
be so kind-hearted that they were 100 per cent behind the original UK Act.
Only their sense of fairness compelled them to denounce the removal of its
failings as “the most one-sided and unreasonable measure ever
devised.” An employer would have to pay ₤10,000 to his pantry-maid
if one of his stable hands got her in the family way. The plutocrats had
had enough of this “constant pandering to one class – the
employees.” The Council not only drew the teeth from the Bill but
limited the operation of its wreck to three years.
The renewal Act of 1886 redressed none of the failings. However, it
imposed no time limit for the Act’s expiry and it extended coverage
beyond manual labour. These concessions were not much use to workers who
still had to prove negligence by their employer, and to show that they had
in no way contributed to their injuries, a bias which remained in the NSW
Statutes until 1926.
Australia had copied NSW in 1884 when its Act allowed an employer to avoid
responsibility if he said he did not know about a fault in the machinery.
The Adelaide employers resisted the Liability Bill by forming that
colony’s Contractors and Builders’ Association, which made workers pay
for their own insurance, in effect, a wage cut. 
the 1880s, capitalists muttered against Employers’ Liability Acts as the
biggest concession ever to workers. Before the end of that decade, the
unions had dismissed the legislation as “an all-round failure” and
“complete farce”. Its canker was the Common Law assumption that the
employee accepted risk as part of the employment contract (volenti
non fit injuria).
The injured worker, therefore, had to prove neglect, or worse. The unions
also protested that the length of time in which a claim had to be lodged
was too short because some workers were too ill to file their own paper
work, or had no one to assist them. Not for the last time, the unions
reported that the authorities were not enforcing minimum standards of
care. For example, bricks were falling onto workmen’s heads when a sheet
of iron would have protected them.
sought refuge in technicalities to escape payment. In one case from 1890,
the Supreme Court in Victoria discovered that the Act had so many
sub-clauses that the liability of an employer to an injured building
worker had dissolved to nothing.
Lawyers busied themselves to prove that a ladder was not a scaffold,
thereby depriving one widow of compensation. They also showed that
painting a house was neither a repair nor a renovation, yet men had been
killed doing so.
The insurance firms practiced every possible scam to avoid paying up. In
1893, a New South Wales labourer, Charles Brown, was hit on the head by a
brick; the court dismissed his suit because he had not proved whether his
employer had been the contractor or the sub-contractor.
Other insurers disputed whether there was a next of kin so as to deny
payment to de facto spouses. If
a labourer took action under the Employers’ Liability Act, the insurer
cut off payment, although the man had paid the premium himself.
paid for the insurance became a running sore. NSW employers took
eight-pence out of wages each week for coverage. If a man asked the name
of the company, or refused to pay, he was sacked.
From 18 January 1892, 70 stonemasons struck against the deduction of fees
from their wages.
Summing up the year 1897, the Age
editorialised against the refusal of employers to take responsibility for
tried all manner of dodges to avoid taking out insurance, even telling the
men that deductions were illegal. (p. 310)
of who paid, Employers’ Liability insurance had increased the dangers in
workplaces. Because the employers paid neither the premiums nor the
penalties out of their own pockets, they felt no financial pressure to
spend on safety to avoid liability suits.
From the labourers’ point of the view, the solution was to rewrite the
Liability Acts and to enforce scaffolding regulations. The Master Builders
moaned that “the workmen had it all their own way.”
Robert Reid railed against the Bill as “socialistic”, “drastic”
Councilor Sachse, an enterprising engineer, embodied malign reasoning:
men of property, Legislative Councillors had no fear of dismissal. By
contrast, a workman knew that he risked the sack if he reported faults,
defects or negligence as he was required to do in order to claim
compensation. An ex-miner member of the NSW parliament had explained
during the 1882 debates why this was so: “I have myself many a time been
compelled to work with plant that I knew to be unsafe; but the necessity
of supporting my wife and family compelled me to work, and I had no choice
in the matter.”
Only organisation by workers could prevent that outcome. Warmed by his own
righteousness, Councilor Sachse went on to allege that
grew was slander against workingmen from Councillors opposed to reform on
employees who could prove neglect and thus gain some entitlement had a
tough time living off whatever payments they managed to secure. A worker
got half his wage during incapacity. In the event of a death, dependents
got three years wages, perhaps ₤450. Returns from investing that sum
might attract ₤60 a year for the widow and children to live on,
which was 40% of their breadwinner’s wage.
compensation schemes paid three years income for death, and half the
weekly earnings while unable to work. The 1905 Queensland Act provided
₤1 a week during a disability, with between £200 and ₤400 in
case of a fatality and made some employers liable for £30 in funeral
Contractors there had to take out an insurance policy as a condition of
tendering for government works. (p. 207) In a display of meanness,
Tasmania’s Act denied entitlements to a victim who earned more than
₤3 in a week. Steamship owners took advantage of that exemption by
making stokers work seven days to get ₤3; slave-driving at
starvation wages freed the employer from paying a few pence. (p. 309)
self-interest of the Masters contrasted with behaviour among workers. On
Tuesday, 28 December 1897, five men died of poisoned air in the South
Yarra section of the sewerage tunnel. The coroner found that their deaths
had been no one’s fault. Two of the men had sacrificed their lives by
going back to rescue their fellow navvies. One of those heroes, Jimmy
Stevens, plunged into the poison gas, shouting: “Mick, mate, we must get
them out.” Stevens was found with his arms around another corpse.
NSW, fear of electoral defeat in 1910 had stimulated the non-Labor
administration to pass a Compensation Act. The government had hoped to win
back electors who had just given the Federal Labor Party a thundering
success. The attempt failed,
but the State Labor administration did nothing on the subject until a few
weeks before the next general election. By then, the Cabinet could be
certain that its Bill would not get out of the Legislative Council.
Despite criticism from the unions, the Labor ministers again did nothing
until March 1916 when the Legislative Council delayed the Bill before
hobbling its provisions; one of the few advances was to remove the
provision that an employer was not liable for an injury caused by another
of his employees, as Britain had done nineteen years earlier.
the laws differed between jurisdictions, they shared key features which
filled gaps in the Common Law that had prevented workers gaining
“redress for injuries”. Henceforth, more employers had to insure their
workers. That right could not be exchanged for any other benefit, such as
shorter hours or higher rates of pay. The injured, or their surviving
dependents, got compensation without having to prove neglect by the
sponsors of the 1897 UK Law had looked forward to its operating without
the intervention of lawyers. Twenty years on, a Law Lord lamented that
solicitors ferreted out precedents to serve which ever side had briefed
them. By 1941, Reports of UK
cases filled 34 volumes.
Workers’ Compensation had become a new province for ordering up lawyers
who denounced a no-fault system of National Insurance proposed in 1911.
Loughnan swore in 1913 that his members got “not a penny” in
compensation: “We are insured but we pay for that insurance
ourselves.” (p. 306) The men never knew with whom they were covered: “A
man pays 6d a week as a rule and he sees no policy or receipt or anything
else. The employer is supposed to insure you and in most instances he
does. It is stopped out of our wages.” Loughnan had never seen a written
policy: “I was asked by a solicitor for a receipt and I said, ‘I have
none.’ And he said, ‘Does that include everyone else?’, and I said,
‘Yes, including the engine driver’.” (pp. 306 & 386) A spokesman for
the MBA explained why the men could not get documentation:
If a man were injured, the contractor gave him a note to take to the insurance company to get his pound a week. (pp. 386-7) He bore no mark of entitlement, other than his scars.
where a labourer’s premium had found its way to an insurance company,
the injured man had to battle for his money. The parliament in South
Australia amended its Act in 1908 to stop employers from pocketing the
After Bro. Blair ran a nail into his arm, which became poisoned, he spent
a week in a Melbourne hospital but got no benefit from the 6d a week
deducted by his employer until the Federation took up his case. Then, the
boss settled out of court, paying ₤7 4s. (p. 176) In the ABLF’s
unions contended that the employer should pay the premium in addition to
the wage, which was small enough.
Federation aimed at sustaining labourers and their dependents while
establishing uniformity across the continent. When Justice Higgins
delivered the Award on 19 December 1913, he justified its compensation
clauses on the grounds that they were in accordance with the “new and
almost world-wide theory that industrial risks should be perceived by
society to be inseparable accompaniments and expenses of industrial
Workers’ Compensation opened a “new province for law and order”,
alongside industrial arbitration.
to hear that an injured worker had no document to prove that he had paid
for his insurance, Higgins ruled that the employers cover the cost of the
passage hinted at why Higgins had overcome his reservations about the
complexity of the ABLF’s proposal:
Award provided for Boards of Reference to make the compensation clauses
workable and to decide on the amounts to be paid.
The MBA had argued that deductions for insurance were private arrangements
beyond the constitutional remit of the Arbitration Court to “prevent or
settle disputes”. The High Court agreed, striking down the compensation
clauses. (p. 175)
among Victorian employers of falling under the ABLF’s Award had driven
their parliamentary apologists to enact a minimal scheme of workers’
compensation. The Act did little to make it easier for labourers to
collect their entitlements.
When one insurance company refused to pay after the death of Bro. H.
McLeod in September 1924, the membership decided that the case was a one
of principle and voted to proceed, irrespective of cost.
A lad who died late in 1925 got nothing because he had no dependents; the
union protested and took his mother’s claim up with the Trades Hall
Council. The Branch had more success a few months later when it enforced
sick pay of 30s a week for Bro. McBride after an accident on “Pop”
Another insurer was paying only 3s 6d per day to a man injured on the
Melbourne High School when the Award wage was five times greater.
- NSW 1926
erstwhile Labor Party minister for Labour and Industry, Justice Beeby,
recommended three reforms: the first was to lift the rate of accident pay
from 50 to 66⅔ per cent of the Award wage; the second was to speed
proceedings through the tribunals; and a third would compel all employers
to pay premiums. The latter pair of proposals formed the basis of the 1926
Act introduced by the Lang Labor government. That law expanded benefits in
several directions. It applied to all diseases, even if employment had
been only a contributing factor. The injured worker could accept a
scheduled sum of compensation and so avoid waiting for a judgement. The
Act also covered travel to and from work, which accounted for one in ten
work-related deaths. Accident pay provided £1 for a wife and 8s 6d for
each child up to 14 years, placing the NSW rates towards the high end of
the wide variation in benefits between the States. The maximum in Victoria
was only £2. The advantages to NSW workers from the extended coverage in
the Act were obvious from the doubling in the number of those receiving
compensation payments. The increase in the building trade was even
greater, rising from 700 to 2,400.
Of the sixteen workers killed on the Harbour Bridge, only the dependents
of the two married men received compensation. The families of the other
fourteen got £20 funeral expenses.
had the more generous provisions got through the NSW Legislative Council?
At that time, its members were appointed for life by the Governor on the
recommendation of his ministers. The Tory bloc had been spooked by
Lang’s insistence that his Excellency select 25 Labor nominees. The
reactionaries gave way out of fear of being swamped, or even abolished, as
had happened in Queensland in 1922.
Deprived of their redoubt in
the Legislative Council, the employers turned to saboutage by getting the
underwriters to announce rises of 150% in premiums. Lang broke this
“lock-out” by following the Queensland example of setting up a
Government Insurance Office. The Mayor of Singleton was not alone in
reacting against half-way decent protections by declaring that “the
sooner they had a Mussolini in this country the better.”
Keegan was the only labourer among Lang’s 25 nominees to the Council.
Born in Victoria in 1875, he had been typical of the nomad tribe as he
shifted between places, industries and unions to earn his crust. At the
time of his appointment as Councillor, he was labouring in Sydney’s
Botanic Gardens. One morning, the Minister for Agriculture strolled past
as Keegan was stirring up his fellow employees after their starting time.
The Labor Minister sacked the Labor Councillor on the spot.
Keegan supported the Compensation Bill from his experience as a
bridge-builder for public authorities, which contracted out the work at so
much a foot, and for which he employed off-siders. When one broke a leg,
Keegan had tried to make the Department meet the compensation because he
and his helpers were all “wage-slaves”. However, the courts ruled
that, as the employer, Keenan had to pay out of his own pocket. He further
proposed that share-farmers be given coverage because they too were merely
“wage-slaves” paid by a percentage of the crop instead of in cash.
in the Act
the main, the appellant tribunals erred on the side of generosity in
weighing up the impact of events at work. For instance, a 24-year Brisbane
labourer, with three children, damaged his knee at a weekend football
match. The hospital told him to continue working while he waited for
surgery on his cartilage. A month after the game, he prepared to start one
morning: “The ‘five to eight’ whistle had blown and I had got my
sugar-bag apron on and I started to run back to my position and I slipped
to the ground. I hurt my knee. It was paining. I could not walk.” The
Industrial Magistrate accepted that the fall at work was “the immediate
cause of his incapacity”, and that the sporting accident was incidental.
even the most sympathetic adjudicators could ignore the technical
requirements for securing payouts. An early case under the 1926 NSW Act
delivered injustice under the law to a Randwick Council labourer who had
injured his thumb while digging into “sand in which were hidden pieces
of rock and roots.” He reported his injury to the leading hand before
seeking medical help. The wound did not heal and he returned to the doctor
for 29 consultations, two x-rays and two surgical procedures for a total
cost of £23 12s 6d. The Council provided weekly accident pay but refused
to cover the medical expenses because the labourer had not made a formal
request for treatment. The Commission accepted “that the applicant
honestly believed he did all that was necessary”, but regretted that he
had not carried out the procedure laid down in the new Act. He lost his
every labourer was so honest. In May 1938, a Public Works labourer on a
school in Roma (Q,) injured his hip while lifting buckets of gravel and
cement into a concrete mixer. He received accident pay for almost a year,
becoming an out-patient at Brisbane General Hospital. An inspector from
the State Government Insurance Office found him digging in his yard. That
garden was his undoing since he had complained to the police about his
neighbour’s fowls scratching up his plants. She dobbed him in.
experts diagnosed beyond their expertise, making their prognoses suspect
when they declared labourers fit for work. X-rays showed that there was
more than met the eye, as happened to a Brisbane labourer on the
Commonwealth Bank in Fortitude Valley who strained his back while
excavating stone for the foundations. After three weeks on compensation,
he returned to work but stopped after 50 minutes. The doctors for the
Insurance Commission declared him fit to resume. An orthopaedic surgeon
certified him as suffering from sacro-iliac arthritis. The x-ray found no
disability but “disclosed an abnormality which could cause pain, and
pain could disable.” The Magistrate awarded compensation for partial
NSW examples from the late 1930s illustrate the range of risks faced by
labourers and the variety of responses from the Compensation Commission.
The first case involved the ABLF’s old rival in NSW, the United
Labourers’ Protective Society (ULPS), which was being sued by its South
Coast Secretary/Organiser, Bro. Flynn. Flynn worked for the Public Works Department at a quarry outside
Wollongong for £4 14s 4d a week. The ULPS paid him £7 a quarter to
organise the district. During his lunch-hour on 13 May 1938, he pedaled to
a job in Port Kembla to recruit members. On his way back, he fell off his
bike and was away from his PWD job for a month. The ULPS argued that it
was not responsible for injuries incurred during travel. The Commission
found for Flynn, awarding him £4 5s per week, medical expenses and costs.
1938 death of a 39-year old brought out the tasks expected from a labourer.
At dusk on 13 August, a supervisor sent the man 180m. up the street to
mind his roadster. A few minutes later, another car ran over the labourer,
killing him. The Commission awarded £950 to the widow with six children
under 14 years.
year later, a labourer named Rodighiero started concreting for an Italian
sub-contractor on a theatre in Darlinghurst. On 6 August, he was wheeling
a barrow from the top of a hoist to a beam wall. At lunch time, he
followed another labourer, the Italian foreman’s brother, onto the hoist
to travel the 12m. to the ground. The hoist was almost 2m. square, with
open sides and a single bar across the top to which the rope was
connected. During the descent, Rodighiero held onto this bar but lost his
balance, catching his right leg in the framework, which fractured his
tibia and fibula. His workmates wheeled him to St Vincent’s Hospital in
a barrow. In claiming compensation, Rodighiero said he could not
understand the English notice forbidding workers to travel on the hoist.
The Commission rejected his claim that he had been putting his barrow onto
the lift when the other labourer signaled for it to descend. The
foreman’s brother had shot through to North Queensland and so could not
be cross-examined. The Commission denied Rodighiero compensation because
traveling in the hoist was illegal and thus “outside the course of his
through the courts were a long way from the experience of labourers in
need of support. The ABLF bridged that gap by informing members of their
rights and obligations, and by funding appeals. State Branches built up
connections with solicitors who became expert in compensation and acquired
influence in the Labor Party. Left-leaning and Communist-led unions
directed their compensation cases to lawyers whose politics had put them
outside the profession, such as the Sydney solicitor and Communist,
Christian Jollie-Smith (1885-1963).
initial hearings, a union official or a union-appointed solicitor
represented the applicant. The quality of the case depended on Branch
finances and on the energy, probity and perhaps sobriety of the Secretary.
In New South Wales, that combination was absent until the late 1960s. No
one captured the failings of the Old Corruption in that State better than
one of its peripheral yet perennial figures, the disbarred lawyer and
self-styled “Lenin of Australia”, the Trotskyite Jack Wishart, whose
energies were of an intellectual bent since his physical powers were
impeded by the truss supporting his scrotal hernia. Imprisoned for misuse
of a client’s money, Wishart had emerged to find employment as a clerk
with a firm of solicitors who handled union business. Thus reunited with
the proletariat, he bought a ticket in the ABLF and got himself elected to
its State Executive which, in the 1950s, appointed him to conduct its
compensation cases. An attempt to discontinue his services ended with the
Court’s awarding him £615 in damages.
A later bout of his wrecking cost the Federation it £1,426 in legal
fees. When Wishart dropped dead in the Phillip hotel on 3 August 1965, his
passing did not write “finis”
under thirty years of chaos since the New South Wales Branch was still
where the ABLF was dysfunctional, its members could be compensated in
conformity with a Table of Maims, with so much for each body part, an
instance of cost-cutting through standardisation. For instance, from 1953,
Victoria paid £1,680 for total loss of hearing in both ears, but £560
for total loss on only one side. Twenty-five years later in New South
Wales, the offers were $14,450 and $6,850 respectively.
No amount of money could erase the psychological agony from certain
physical injuries. The courts awarded a massive pay-out to a young miner
who lost both hands in an explosion on the Snowy. Unable to adjust, he
managed to take his own life by hurling himself out a window.
years elapsed between the passage of the first Workers’ Compensation
Acts around 1900 and their recasting on fresh principles. In the interim,
most States had not consolidated their amendments. The West Australian Act
of 1912 was typical. Its intention had never been clear. After 65 years,
High Court Justices deplored its ill-fitting scraps as “patchwork”.
In the meantime, forces beyond the compensation laws altered the
significance of their provisions and schedules. On top of fiddling with
the Acts, change came through interpretations by the courts. The biggest
difference was the extension of welfare benefits.
1953, the English courts began a series of judgements specifying the
liability of sub-contractors. The UK judges held that contractors retained
liability if they kept control over the work of their sub-contractors.
Lawyers then contested the definition of “control”. What did it mean
to say that a contractor had “effectively delegated the execution of
work to a sub-contractor”? The outcome turned on the extent of control
that each sub-contractor retained over an operation, as was decided in a
1967-69 case where the tasks of several sub-contractors had overlapped.
The Law Lords determined that the subbies could not have proceeded without
supervision from the contractor. The liability for compensation,
therefore, fell on him. Had there been only one sub-contractor, the
liability would, more likely, have remained with that individual. Although
Australian judges resisted British precedents, local building firms
realised that these decisions were “of the greatest practical
In 1984, the High Court reiterated that employers could not delegate their
duty of care.
Even when a decision benefited the claimants, the cases took years to
decide. More time passed before the implications of a higher court ruling
percolated through the system of claims. Meanwhile, labourers whistled for
enough money to live.
received compensation in three forms: accident pay, lump sums for lasting
disabilities, and reimbursement of medical expenses. The significance that
labourers attached to each depended on the availability of comparable
benefits throughout society. Pensions were so niggardly that they did
nothing to lessen the urgency of the other supports. Australians did not
have a permanent, universal no-fee medical service until Medicare in 1985.
To help labourers secure such welfare benefits as were available, the NSW Builder’s
Laborer published articles on the TB allowance and the age pension
Ten years later, the Victorians distributed a pamphlet “to inform people
of their rights to various social services”, winding up with an attack
on monopolising imperialists.
labourers had a greater need for accident pay than most workers because of
the nature of their tasks. The low levels of site safety pushed their
rates of illness and injury above national averages. Yet, all workers
needed to improve their compensation payments because other public
supports were almost non-existent until the 1940s. Social security was
critical for labourers because of the nomadic nature of their employment
and the churn among their employers. In those circumstances, an
individual’s pursuit of a remedy against a particular boss was less
likely to succeed than in most other sectors. Indeed, the NSW reform team
in the early 1960s had to deal with demolishers who insured only a
fraction of their workforce to save on premiums. Should one of the
unlisted labourers be injured, the boss told him to apply under a false
name. Inevitably, some missed out on entitlements.
determination of the ABLF to extend compensation cover, to increase the
rate of accident pay and to improve health and safety on sites was part of
the effort by the labour movement to reach beyond wages as the workers’
sole support. They needed industrial legislation and welfare programmes to
sustain them throughout their lifetimes. By pressuring politicians, the
ABLF lifted the concerns of its members towards a class-wide struggle. The
extent to which labourers were able to make governments respond depended
on the strength of their class as a whole, organisationally and
ideologically. Putting Labor parties into parliaments repositioned the
contest between classes but only at the level of law-making and
administration. Industrial action and social agitation pushed all
governments towards strengthening safety regulations and to improving the
terms of compensation. Weaknesses in the welfare system spurred unions to
redress failings in compensation and OHS laws.
life for injured labourers and their dependents was decided at the
intersection of various pensions, benefits and health care, the next
section will consider three of these concerns across the first 70 years of
last century. The first deals with invalid and Repatriation pensions.
Attention then turns to the struggle for universal medical cover. Finally,
we look at how the affluent society of the 1960s altered what it meant to
the depths of the depression, the Auditor-General denounced the old-age
pension for its undermining of thrift and for its rewarding of
“laziness, drink, gambling, extravagance and waste.”
Non-Labor governments insisted that families support their own infirm.
That attitude was relevant only if a family existed, if its members
maintained contact, and if they were well off. Assistance was often not
available. Poverty was “inherited”. Children could afford to
contribute only until their own offspring came along. As children moved up
the social scale, a few turned their backs of their parents.
Nomadic labourers were more likely to be isolated than many other
categories of worker.
than 30 years passed before a new welfare payment filled one of the gaps
in compensation. Sickness benefit became available from 1944 for a
temporary illness, or an injury sustained outside working hours. A family
got £2 10s, which was just over half of the basic wage, or around a third
of average weekly earnings. The bread-winner could earn another pound a
week before the payment was reduced by an equivalent amount. To qualify
for an invalid pension after 1945, the applicant needed to be only 85%
incapacitated. The majority of recipients had suffered from polio or road
accidents, though some were from workplace injuries. The invalid pensioner
got the same fortnightly amount as an aged pensioner, but had greater
calls for medicines, were less able to manage public transport, and had
special housing needs. Hence, invalid pensioners remained among the
Australians most in misery.
last benefit became known as the Burnt-Out Digger’s Pension. All
labourers had a claim for what could be called a Burnt-Out Navvy’s
the Second World War, the number of Repatriation recipients trebled until,
by 1952, one in eight males over 30 years of age was getting some benefit.
Perhaps the most welcome was outpatients care at Repatriation hospitals
since there was no universal health service.
1955 and 1966, the price of health insurance rose by some 140%, while the
basic wage grew by only a third. That spread between incomes and medical
costs made it harder than ever for a low-income earner to maintain medical
cover, so that health costs often busted household budgets even for those
in regular employment. An Italian couple, in 1969, had three pre-school
children. The labourer husband earned $48 a week. They were paying off a
house at $14 a week, which left $34 for living. As well as contributing to
a health fund, they spent $2 a week on medicines.
intensified their obstruction in 1973 when the Whitlam government proposed
Medibank. In response to the profession’s selfishness, the ABLF
black-banned jobs for medical practitioners. The universal scheme became
law in 1974, despite a barking-mad campaign from doctors and the corporate
providers of insurance.
To reward those vested interests, the Fraser government trashed Medibank
so thoroughly that the ALP started afresh with Medicare in 1985, once more
in the face of loony tunes from medicos. Their high-minded objections to
socialised medicine never stopped their rorting the system. Specialists
over-serviced in pathology and radiography to tens of millions of dollars
a year. Fee-for-service became fee-for-NO-service.
crises of this order were chronic disabilities because their recurrence
across a working life deprived labourers of the prospect of a comfortable
old age. Life expectancy for adult males rose slightly in the first half
of the twentieth century. A man entering the workforce aged 20 in 1901
could expect to live another 45 years, which meant he died before getting
the aged pension. His son, starting in 1921, could expect to live long
enough to be on the pension for three years. The slight increase in
longevity meant that, by the 1960s, more retired workers had to eke out an
Because life expectancy was lower among labourers, death rescued many of
them from this indignity. Those who did survive beyond 65 found that it
was costing more to be poor. Chemists reported that pensioners pleaded to
have their prescriptions filled to their monetary value with soap or
1963, the post-war trough in unemployment had erased fear of another Great
Depression. However, memories of the 1930s continued to identify poverty
with being out of work. That equation made it easier for authorities to
ignore the working poor. The conventional ignorance was that jobs and a
few benefits had done away with want.
Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith published The Affluent Society in 1958, protesting that the price of private
affluence was public squalor. Eight years later, John Stubbs wrote The
Hidden People (1966) which confirmed Galbraith’s assessment for
Australia. Stubbs brought together information long known to the church
and local government agencies sustaining the aged, the homeless, the
jobless and the friendless. Apart from Aborigines, the worst-off were
welfare recipients renting commercially. The most vulnerable were single
mothers, the sick, and southern European immigrants. The last two groups
included a higher than average proportion of builders’ labourers.
1946 and 1972, the pension rate as a fraction of average weekly earnings
had dropped from 25.5% to 19%.
Labourers in receipt of accident pay were better placed than pensioners,
but they were still below the basic wage. In July 1970, an Australian
survey set $43.40 as the minimum needed to support a family of four. At
the time, the pension for an invalid male with three dependents was
$29.50. Every week, his family was $15 short. Meanwhile, average earnings
were going up by 8% a year.
opposition to other Master Builders, Civil & Civic developed a welfare
system to as novel as its design for Australia Square. In responding to
opposition from his building workers to incentive payments, the
company’s managing-director, Dick Dusseldorp, accepted that any scheme
to drive productivity had to protect older and partly incapacitated
workers. In 1958, the NSW Building Trades Group signed an agreement that
distributed two-thirds of productivity gains equally among the Civil &
Civic workforce, lifting the daily rate for a labourer by 15 per cent. A
rigger recalled: “A lot of us were migrants, and we were all short of
money: trying to settle and get married and buy property.” Civil &
Civic also provided its employees with 24-hour sickness and injury
insurance, and, in 1963, introduced superannuation for its on-site
workers. While other employers predicted bankruptcy for Civil & Civic,
its welfare approach meant fewer interruptions to labour time, which
contributed to turning $100 invested in 1958 into $100,000 thirty years
collapse of the Westgate Bridge on 15 October 1970 reminded labourers for
the rest of Messrs Construction Capital that the holes in the welfare and
compensation systems were as gaping as those in safety. To divert
attention from the slaughter, the Victorian Government scurried to raise
rates of accident pay from $31 for a family of four, or around a third of
what a labourer earned most weeks. The Branch called for weekly payouts to
match those taken home before the Westgate deaths or injuries, and for
every Westgate widow to get $35,000 lump sum without chasing claims
through the courts.
After Victorian unions demonstrated against the meanness of the new
legislation, Branch officials criticised the small turnout of BLs but
praised those who showed for their standing up to the police.
need that capital had to induce needs spurred all workers to keep their
incomes up with the expansion in the socially necessary costs of
reproducing their labour power.
One aspect of this dynamic was the battle by building workers to lift
their accident pay to match their incomes while in work. Making that
struggle more uphill, no State provided for automatic adjustments in
accident pay to keep pace with the costs of living. Some pay-outs slipped
to two-thirds of the Basic Wage, which was itself depressed under a freeze
between 1953 and 1958. Australian workers endured a crack-down on wages
and conditions because penal powers made strikes illegal. From 1967, the
metal unions broke out of this iron cage to protect their over-Award
Militancy ran free into the O’Shea strike of May 1969. Two years later,
a global upsurge against the rule of capital encouraged building unions to
strike for 100% accident pay.
Pay - 1971
can Worker’s Compensation be more nearly equated to a man’s normal
wages, so that the effect of an accident at work is less devastating to
his wife and family?” That question had troubled the President of
Victorian Council of Social Service in 1966.
Action on New South Wales jobs in 1971 supplied the answer when building
workers insisted on more than survival money. Because the cost of
reproducing their labour power exceeded the Award minimums, labourers kept
their households going through overtime and penalty rates. They lost many
of those extras once they went off injured. Accident pay was about half of
their income while working. They demanded make-up money in order to take
home as much spending power as they did when on the job. By 1971, NSW
accident pay for a family of four was $49.50, $6 above the poverty line.
Building unionists wanted the carpenter’s rate of $78.80 for everyone.
The accident-pay campaigners also went after more cash when they needed it
most, and not after waiting years for a lump-sum.
union approach to the Industrial Court early in 1971 led to weekly
meetings with the MBA.
After a month, the employers endorsed the new formula - but only if 100%
accident pay applied to all industries through amendments to the Act. That
offer spelt indefinite delay. The BWIU’s Tom McDonald declared: “We
have been led up the garden path.”
Most jobs then held short stoppages, the Opera House proving pivotal
during April when 250 workers there struck to force Hornibrook to make up
the earnings of three injured employees. The tradesmen’s unions secured
a general stoppage from the third of May.
Four days later, the ABLF Branch joined in. With 38,000 on strike,
bigger numbers turned up at each meeting. Rallies across the State on
Monday, 13 May, resulted in large majorities to stay out.
at the Arbitration Court on 14 May, Justice Sheehy heard from the MBA
before asking: “Does any one else wish to speak on behalf of the
employers?” Whereupon Mundey spoke up: “Yes, I would like to say a
couple of things.” Sheehy retorted: “I said ‘on behalf of the
employers’, Mr Mundey, … unless of course you would like to say
something on behalf of the employers.” Unfazed by that twist in the
proceedings, Mundey volunteered:
cheekiness voiced differences in strategy and tactics between the BWIU and
in both unions had never known a dispute to attract so much enthusiasm
from building workers and their families. A delegation of 43 wives turned
on the MBA representatives in front of the cameras. An executive officer
later told the BWIU’s Tom McDonald: “I can forgive you for just about
everything, but there’s one thing I can never forgive you about, and
that was for unleashing those women onto me during the Accident Pay
negotiations deadlocked on 17 May, the Building Trades Group referred the
strike to the Labor Council’s Disputes Committee to block supplies to
any jobs working without a permit, and to spread the action interstate and
to the metals. Officials appealed to hire-purchase firms not to repossess
BWIU Federal Secretary Pat Clancy returned from overseas, he recognised
the depth of feeling but not the degree of militancy.
He found a soul-mate in Justice Sheehy. At first, Sheehy had suggested a
loading onto the weekly wage to make up for time lost during accidents.
The unions wanted nothing to do with a couple of dollars a week which
workers would absorb into their spending. Accident pay had to be available
when they were off work. Moreover, a loading offered little support to
those labourers who spent short periods in the industry. Anyone injured on
first day would get nothing.
the employers repeated their 1913 objections to treating compensation as
an industrial matter, and were implacable against the Courts’ altering
an Award under strike pressure. Instead, parliament should amend the
Workers’ Compensation Act. The Government talked about doing so during
the August session. That prospect delivered no guarantee of any
improvement, minimised the unions’ influence over the new rates, and
involved the certainty of delay while draft legislation shuffled back and
a wink and a nod from Sheehy, the BWIU leaders steered mass meetings on
Thursday 21 May into a return to work.
Next morning, his Honour altered the Awards to make employers pay 80c a
week for each worker into an fund to cover the 100% accident pay. One
insurance firm had offered to do so earlier, but withdrew under
intimidation from the Insurance Council. The Employers’ Federation got a
writ to block the advance, but the Full Bench upheld Sheehy.
across the country and in every industry feared that the NSW victory would
add compensation to the fire of industrial disputes. To head off strikes,
the Victorian builders pressured their State government to legislate for
accident pay at the minimum wage, plus $4.50 for each child. When that
compromise did not satisfy the workers, the MBA offered more
money to avoid stoppages
and to sidetrack demands for the make-up scheme achieved in NSW. Once the
Victorian BLs insisted on the NSW system, the MBAV offered 90% of the
Award as an interim arrangement.
In South Australia, the 1973 Compensation Act provided “average weekly
earnings” calculated over the previous 12 months, an improvement from
the 85% previously.
West Australia’s Labor administration also increased payments.
unions’ resistance to a national system was stronger than it might have
been before the Accident Pay wins of 1971 for full make-up rates. Most
unions wanted any National Scheme to pay 100% of the Award. “What we
have, we hold”, declared Tasmanian T&L Secretary Brian Harradine,
who attacked 85% as “inhumane and unjust”.
Equally intolerable were the delays in paying compensation. The ABLF next
strove to get compensation payments to its members within days of their
being off the job with an injury.
way the law works
few lines to let you know how much I appreciate the way my compensation
case was handled by the solicitors you chose to put the case before the
Court, with very favourable results. The case was practically settled out
of court, with an offer by the GIO which was accepted by me, leaving an
amount of $46 to be paid and that may be wiped also if the solicitors can
persuade the Hospital to take less for treatment. So all in all it was a
very satisfying conclusion to a very shaky case, but that’s the way the
Law works, sometimes, and I am sure glad it did, thanks to your concern
for a Rank-and-file member, also special thanks to Barney Moore, who
brought the situation to you, also the solicitor’s secretary who did a
great job keeping me informed of proceedings. The QC Mr Downing was a good
man to have on my side. I am glad he was for me and not against. Hoping
you and your officers continue to keep up the good cause in the future. I
am sure our union will go a long way
second case, Ron Dumbrell had been concreting on 16 October 1974 at
Mannering Park on the NSW Central Coast when he fell down a flight of
steps. The labourers had been asking for a light because over-head
formwork kept the stairwell in darkness, but the boss did nothing until
after Dumbrell’s fall. When his back got worse, his doctors put him in
traction for a week. After seven weeks, he had received only two weeks
compo. The insurance company said the cheque was not in the mail because
it was having problems with the post; in addition, it had switched to
fortnightly payments. The company next claimed that Dumbrell had a back
disease, and was not suffering from the accident. The insurer refused to
pay him again until he saw one of its doctors.
the 18-year old Glaswegian Jock Canning immigrated to Melbourne in 1968,
he continued to work as a builders’ labourer, joining the Federation
because that is what you did when you had been raised in the Gorbals. Some
18 months later, he was planning to travel north until his left arm was
ripped open from wrist to shoulder. For eleven weeks, he lived off his
holiday savings. After his money ran out, Jock paid his first visit to the
union office where an official asked, “Who’s the contractor?” When
Jock named a subbie, the official shot back: ‘That’s no use. Who’s
the contractor?” Jock overheard the official on the phone making it
clear that if the compo money were not at the Federation by noon, the job
would be stopped. Moreover, the payment had to be in cash, not one of
those bouncing cheques. “Get yourself a coffee son, and be back here at
twelve.” When Jock returned, the official handed over a wad of
banknotes. “Come back every Friday and there’ll be more.”
Jock Canning had been through the tangle of the compensation system. He
had witnessed the power of the ABLF to ride over its evasions and delays.
He had also made the acquaintance of his Federal Secretary, Norm
as such interventions were for each member, they were no solution to the
burdens that delay placed on them. Wins on behalf of an individual sent
warnings to employers as a class. Yet, those efforts were no substitute
for upending the system. The 1971 victory over rates of accident pay left
unanswered the matter of its prompt delivery.
union leaders who upheld their members’ right to chase damages all the
way to the Privy Council were on stronger grounds in pointing to a double
standard. Why remove those rights from injured workers while allowing
employers to use Common Law remedies against unions for damages during
benefited the most from Common Law actions. For 1982-83, their fees in NSW
amounted to $34m., or 6% of premiums.
By the early 1990s, lawyers were getting between a third and half of
Common Law payouts.
Delay was as profitable to them as it was depressing to claimants. A
therapist who dealt with the families of victims painted this portrait:
conduct these cases, the lawyers relied on medical experts who subjected
labourers batteries to “friendly” and “unfriendly” tests. Some
labourers saw as many as 50 specialists, though the average was 20. The
expert’s job was to evaluate the injury, not to treat it. In 1981, a
psychiatrist reported on his work with immigrant labourers who were left
pressure on the victim was to “hang on to legally valuable symptoms”,
which “become his major point of communication.”
Cases took an average of two years to reach settlement, some dragging on
for five. Only 1.6% of these disputes went to judgement, most being
settled “at the door of the court” in deals between opposing
solicitors. Without the option of “compo lotto” under the Common Law,
many of those outcomes would have been achieved within weeks.
Locked up in this legal-medical madhouse, relief from pain represented
“defeat”, rehabilitation appeared as failure.
Victims deserved compensation for the stress caused by the proceedings as
much as from the injury.
do we want it!
workers occupied insurance offices on and off for six weeks, finding a
sympathetic ear among clerical staff. The British multi-national C. E.
Heath thought itself secure 33 floors up in BHP House when 4,500 building
workers marched on them. Just to make sure, the managers stationed police
downstairs and turned off the lifts. BLs knew the ins and outs of the
place, having built it. Entering through the delivery dock, 300 of them
bounded up the 600 steps, while the majority stormed the front entrance.
Soon afterwards, all sixty insurers signed up to end delays in their
delivery of accident pay on injuries “caused by violent visible external
means.” Money had to be there each week, not fortnightly.
with the 1971 campaign in NSW, no one in the industry could recall an
issue with wider or deeper support for militant action. The Melbourne
struggle united the native-born and the immigrants. Unlike in NSW, the
action also strengthened the alliance between tradesmen and labourers. The
ABLF leadership rejoiced that the battle had not been diverted into
another “Vote Labor” fiasco, like the one that had derailed opposition
to the 1976 wind-back of Medibank.
rank-and-file representations to the insurers jumped State borders. Early
in 1980, the NSW Branch went after the Victorian deal by occupying company
premises. Here too, the campaign had been triggered by a single case which
resonated with labourers. Sun Alliance had cut off payments to a worker
from the QANTAS job. The appearance of 600 unionists brought a change of
mind and convinced other insurers to agree to the Victorian practice.
Direct action in July got a lump sum of $4,700 for a member who had been
on sickness benefit of $56 week for 20 months.
the same happened in August 1981 on behalf of Canberra scaffolder Bob
Weslin who had got accident pay after falling onto his back at the
National Gallery. When he returned to work, though with a different
company, his back gave out and he had to go off again. This time, he saw
no payments for four weeks. To get Weslin the money to support his twin
daughters, thirty BLs sat in on the Canberra agent for the insurer. Once
word reached Melbourne, ten jobs stopped and 1,000 labourers marched on
the company. The manager accepted that Weslin was entitled to his accident
pay; the hold-up, he explained, resulted from a tussle between his firm
and City Mutual. He suggested that Weslin wait until the courts decided
which insurer had to pay. No sooner did the Federation mention bans on a
City Mutual project in Perth than the cash began to flow.
Next year, even whispers of a march on C. E. Heath in Hobart was enough to
win a payment outside the Table of Maims.
rescue package foundered when capitalism spawned a sub-species of its
disorderliness by combining inflation with stagnation. “Stagflation”
hit insurance firms harder than other sectors. Throughout the 1960s,
inflation had averaged around 2.5% before shooting up to 15% in the
mid-1970s. Payouts exploded. The cost of motor repairs, for instance, grew
faster than the Consumer Price Index.
Holders of life policies took flight before their nest-eggs lost even more
value, pushing the surrender rate up by 50% during the early 1970s.
The insurers suffered a triple blow because their actuaries had failed to
predict the risk of higher inflation, thus underestimating the premiums
that their firms should have struck. On the supply side, stagnation meant
that fewer new policies were written. The global downturn also cut into
the returns from investing the premiums. These contractions contributed to
the collapse of the construction sector where insurers had been major
compensate themselves for their own folly, the insurance firms increased
premiums. In turn, the Master Builders leant on governments to reduce
entitlements and thereby stabilise insurance costs. A 1978 report in West
Australia advocated cutting lump-sums from $42,000 to $30,000, and weekly
payments back to 85%. The investigator opposed 100% accident pay on
principle because injured workers and their dependents had to endure
hardship to discourage malingering by a few.
That an early return to work risked compounding the original injury did
not cross his conscience. The swipe at compensation entitlements was part
of a strategy to drive down labour costs. After the oil price shocks of
1973, the crisis in Japan’s economy disrupted Western Australia’s
resources sector. During 1974, a new State government armed itself with an
Emergency Services Act which undermined the rule of law. To back up this
regime, the premier appointed a reactionary ideologue as police
commissioner who equipped his force with armoured cars and trained them
with the Army’s Special Air Services.
other States, the MBA urged similar changes.
The Victorian government met the hopes of the employers in October
1979 by proposing to amend the Act to compensate insurers for their
mistakes. On the down side for workers, some amendments cut back on the
range of medical conditions for which claims could be made. For instance,
a labourer who suffered a heart attack at work had, henceforth, to prove
that its onset resulted from “effort, strain or stress that is abnormal,
excessive, or unusual.” Victims now had to convince a court that their
work had been a “major” contributor to their illness.
The rewrite made it harder for labourers to be compensated for back
injuries, hernias, bung knees, lung diseases, hypertension, heart attacks
and strokes. Meanwhile, doctors and lawyers – known as “blood-and-bone
– coined money by disputing the definition of “major”. In another
blow to labourers, injuries during travel to and from the job were
transferred to the Motor Accident Act, which allowed less favourable rates
The new regime was so hostile to injured workers that unions that had not
struck for 75 years went out. Their concerted opposition forced the
government to abandon its Bill and start over.
that appeals to politicians were a diversion of energies, the building
workers directed their protests against employers and insurers. The unions
told the builders to “Switch to State Insurance or else!” The day
after the changes became law in November 1980, labourers took to the
streets. Next, the private health insurers drove up their charges. During
July 1981, 4,000 building workers marched against the prospect of paying
$20 a week for the top private cover or 10% of the weekly base wage for a
brickie’s labourer. The ABLF applauded the ALP’s promise to restore
universal medical care under the Accord.
the late 1960s, the ABLF had applied industrial pressure to doctors, to
employers and to insurance companies. Its extra-parliamentary politics
subjected governments, Labor and non-Labor alike, to the forms of struggle
that labourers had developed for industrial disputes. These guerilla
tactics outraged the employers and their political agents onto a new round
of deregistration and a Royal Commission into corruption during 1981. The
Federation’s militancy around compensation had not, of itself, provoked
those moves. The attack in Victoria had its origins in the Branch’s
victories at Loy Yang Power station and the Omega Tower.
To sell their onslaught, the MBA and its government presented
the ABLF’s direct action against insurers as corroboration of its
“blackmail” and illegality.
social good and individual self-esteem from a labourer’s returning to
paid employment are clear. The obstacles to making that transition vary
with job experience, age and ethnicity. Rehabilitating labourers to
perform their previous tasks is often as hard as retraining them for a
different kind of work. Not every disabled labourer will be offered work
as a nipper or first-aid officer. Even those who do find those positions
have to cope with a loss of pride from no longer being able to display
prowess and endurance while demonstrating skill as a scaffolder or
steel-fixer. Disablements that put labourers outside the building game
deprive them of three of its attractions: one, the pleasure from working
outdoor; two, the sociability from being part of a team; and three, the
self-worth from retaining more control over their tasks than do process
workers. Retraining had to adjust the labourer’s expectations to an
indoor job under a regime of rigid time controls, itself a form of
disablement. In addition, both rehabilitation and retraining have to deal
with limitations on off-work activities, such as sport and child-raising.
Messrs Construction Capital did not face competition from imports, their
profitability was not immune from the pressure to earn the average rate of
profit. Once the Hawke government floated the dollar in December 1983,
institutional investors organised in the Building Owners & Managers
Association, screwed down on contractors to contain the clients’ costs
from a global competition for money capital.
That financial squeeze increased the determination of the Master Builders
to eliminate the ABLF.
felt the impact of globalisation first because of their exposure to
imports and their difficulty in competing in foreign markets against
lower-priced rivals. Because Victoria had been Australia’s manufacturing
heartland, that State had most to lose from de-industrialisation. In
response, the State ALP government gave “top priority” in its 1984
Economic Strategy to reducing the costs of workers’ compensation which
were “strangling Victorian business”.
Employer groups backed the cutting of premiums from ten percent of wages
to no more than four.
ALP campaign promise to the unions had been to overhaul compensation and
OHS. By the end of its first term, the Cain cabinet had made little
headway on either against the hostile Legislative Council. The ALP was
returned on 23 March 1985, with its first majority in both houses. Here
was the chance to keep its promises on compensation. The government
hurried through legislation in July. Opposition Councillors slowed its
progress by calling eighteen procedural divisions but failed to prevent
its passage before the government lost its upper-house majority at an
labourers did well out of the scheme’s immediate and medium-term
accident pay. After 60 weeks, however, they lost almost all monetary
support, leaving it to Medicare and Social Security to maintain many of
the permanently disabled.
The reliance on the welfare system shifted some of the costs of injury
from the premiums paid by employers across to taxpayers in general. That
transfer was typical of the Federal ALP’s use of the Accord to reduce
the direct costs of labour through a social wage. Disability pensions
concealed unfunded compensation as well as an increase in those workers
deemed to be no-longer employable.
1986, NSW employers moaned that insurance premiums were driving them out
of business, or interstate. Their complaint was fraudulent since many had
been up to their old trick of cheating on payments. Those evasions drove
up the cost for the firms that could not escape their obligations. In one
case, the unions identified a window-fixer with fourteen staff on
“individual contracts”, but who had paid premiums on an annual wage of
only $1,000 for each employee, or about one-tenth of his obligations. An
official investigation of sawmills and abattoirs eliminated rorts and
thereby cut premiums by between 30 and 50%.
Evasion in Victoria was so rampant that the Payroll Office collected
$2.5bn in missing premiums, or 5% of the total wages bill.
before employer pressure, the ALP in New South Wales moved to lower the
costs on capital from premiums for compensation. Building and transport
unions talked the Labor Council into opposing the plan. State cabinet then
tried to slip its changes through at a meeting on 24 February 1987, until
word leaked out. Within four hours, 10,000 building workers had surrounded
the State Office Block. The ALP ministers and their mates at the Labor
Council then crafted a compromise which reduced some entitlements but
improved others. For example, accident pay for the second 26-weeks off
work went down to 90% of the previous wage while limits on the Table of
Maims went up from $31,000 to $80,000. Building workers welcomed an
emphasis on rehabilitation.
openly anti-labour administration in Western Australia from early 1993
brought on a sequence of amendments which failed to contain costs. At
first, the Coalition’s promise to reduce payouts encouraged insurers to
lower their premiums. When the cuts did not eventuate, the insurers had to
play catch-up by pushing up their rates. The attempts to reduce
entitlements also encountered unanticipated consequences. For instance,
the amendments ran into conflicts between the insurers and the mining
industry. The mines had got their employees to sign individual agreements
which tightened the companies’ control over labour-time in order to
extract more surplus value. The inducement was to offer earnings above the
wages set in the Awards. Once injured, a mine worker expected compensation
at the higher rate whereas the new Act insisted on Award rates.
The cross-currents and confusions were reminders of how much workers had
lost with the sinking of a National Insurance scheme in 1975.
this century, the ebb and flow of money-capital across the globe again
caused governments to shield corporate insurers from each other’s
criminality (HIH Insurance), incompetence (United Medical Protection), or
the madness of strangers (Bali bombing). The surviving insurers faced huge
payouts from the coincidence of non-state terrorists with underemployed
lawyers soliciting class actions on payment-by-results. In response,
governments limited liabilities for negligence and capped pay-outs.
In 2008, South Australia became the last of the States to cut compensation
payments on advice that reducing benefits was the only way to save
WorkCover from bankruptcy.
What was wrong with eliminating the injuries on which compensation is
paid? That alternative is obvious to anyone concerned with the health of
workers rather than with boosting profits. The untried method for
prevention is to prosecute every employer whose workers suffer compensated
injuries. To contemplate doing so challenges the “legal reasoning”
that industrial assaults are not real crimes.
 Barry Dyster, Servant & Master, Building and Running the Grand Houses of Sydney 1788-1850, University of New South Wales Press, Kensington, 1989, p. 99.
NSW, Parliamentary Debates (PD),
First Series, volume 7,
NSW, PD, v. 7,
C. G. Wade, A Treatise Upon the Employers’ Liability Act 1886, Law Bookseller,
Sydney, 1891; see also Peter W. J. Bartrip and S. B. Burman, Wounded
soldiers of industry: industrial compensation policy, 1833-1897, Oxford
at the Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1983.
South Australia, PD, First Session of the Eleventh Parliament, 2 November 1884, p.
1671; Rod Flemington, “ ‘To Unite More Closely’: South
Australia’s United Trades and Labor Council”, Labour
History, 45, November 1983, pp. 26-27; K.C. West, The
Builders, The History of the Master Builders Association of South
Australia 1884-1984, MBA, Adelaide, 1984, p. 5.
 William Tighe, Law as between master and servants and the law of employers’ liability in New South Wales, Law Book Co., Sydney, 1905, pp. 135-43.
Australian Trades and Labour
Building & Engineering
Victoria, PD, vol. 92,
Australasian Builder &
 Transcript of 1913 Award Hearings in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, Australian Builders’ Labourers’ Federation v A. W. Archer, Australian Archives B1958 (B1958/1) 9/1912, p. 308, hereafter the page references are given in brackets.
Report of the Royal Commission
on Strikes, 1890-91,
Building and Engineering Journal,
quoted Australian Mining
Victoria, PD, v. 92,
Victoria, PD, v. 92.
Victoria, PD, v. 92.
NSW, PD, First Series, vol.
Victoria, PD, v. 92.
J. W. Blair, et al., Workers’ Compensation Act of 1905: with an explanation of its
provisions and cases decided on,
Law Book Company of
Gina Cass, Workers’ benefit or employers’ burden: a history of workers’
compensation in New South Wales, 1880-1926, University of New
South Wales Industrial Research Centre, Kensington, 1983, pp. 53-59.
E. F. Hill and J. B. Bingeman, Principles
of the law of workers’ compensation, particularly in Victoria,
Law Book Co., Sydney, 1981, p. 1.
T. H. Kewley, Social Security in
 SA PD, 19th Parliament, Third Session, 1908, p. 768.
 7 Commonwealth Arbitration Reports (CAR) (1913) 210 at 213.
 Harvard Law Review, December 1911, p. 132 quoted by Higgins 7 CAR (1913) 210 at 231.
In the tumults of 1919, Queensland Labor initiated a comprehensive
insurance against unemployment, denounced by the Tories as the
Loafers’ Paradise Bill, Carmel Black, “The Origins of Unemployment
 7 CAR (1913) 210 at 231; for Higgins’s shock, 1913 Transcript, pp. 357 & 359.
 7 CAR (1913) 210 at 234.
18 Commonwealth Law Reports
(CLR) (1914) 224 at 235-6;
Geoffrey Sawer (ed.), Cases on
the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, Law Book
Company, Sydney, 1973, pp. 518-24; Australian Archives, A10074; for
High Court interference 12 CLR
John Quick, Annotated Workers’ Compensation Act 1914, Charles F. Maxwell,
Australian Builders’ Labourers’ Federation (ABLF), Victorian
Branch Records, Minutes,
 Cass, Workers’ benefit, p. 43.
Cass, pp. 44-46.
Peter Lalor, The Bridge,
Allen & Unwin,
 Heather Radi, “Lang’s Legislative Councillors”, Heather Radi and Peter Spearritt (eds), Jack Lang, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, 1977, pp. 99-118.
Quoted Helen Nelson, “Legislative record, 1925-27. How radical?”,
Radi and Spearritt (eds), p. 82; Roslyn Pesman Cooper, “ ‘We Want
a Mussolini’: Views of Fascist Italy in
Radi, Jack Lang, p. 107; Sydney
Morning Herald (SMH),
NSW PD, v 106,
Blair et al., Workers’
Compensation Act of 1905, pp. 180-83;
 Quick, Annotated, pp. 85-87.
NSW, PD, v. 106,
 NSW Workers’ Compensation Reports (WCR), v. 1, 1926-27, pp. 70-71.
 NSW WCR, v. 12, 1938, pp. 235-9.
 NSW WCR, v. 13, 1939, pp. 109-12.
 NSW WCR, v. 14, 1940, pp. 33-38.
Heather Radi (ed.), 200
Australian women, Women’s Redress Press,
Kenneth Gee, Comrade Roberts,
Recollections of a Trotskyite, Federation Press,
 Care, October 1953, p. 55; Work Hazards, May 1978, p. 2.
Siobhan McHugh, The Snowy: the people behind the power, A&R,
 Report of the Judicial Enquiry into the Workers’ Compensation Act of Western Australia, Government Printer, Perth, 1979, p. 7.
NSW, Workers Compensation
Reports, 1947, pp. 23-31 and 121-30; C. P. Mills, Workers’
 Mills, Workers compensation, pp. 178-82.
Care, October 1953, p. 121;
Kevin Anderson and Peter Rendit, Workers
 96 CLR (1956) 18.
 Hill and Bingeman, Principles, pp. 58-59, for which see 107 CLR (1961-62) 353.
 108 CLR (1962) 251; see also 110 CLR (1963-64) 372.
 55 Australian Law Reports (1984) 619.
Foenander, Developments in the law, p. 53.
 For some examples see Unity, November 1965, p. 17.
 Builder’s Laborer, June 1959, pp. 15-16; August 1959, pp. 5-9; TB allowance, NSW Builder’s Laborer, February 1960, pp. 7-9; age pension, February 1960, pp. 13-14.
 Jack Mundey, Green Bans and Beyond, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1981, pp. 36-37.
Kewley, Social Security, chapter 7.
 The Secretary, May 1931, p. 65.
Quoted John Stubbs, The Hidden
People, Poverty in
Bertram Hutchinson, Old People in a Modern Australian Community, MUP,
Stephen Garton, The Cost of War, Australians Return, OUP, Melbourne, 1996, chapter
3; Lorraine Wheeler, “War, women and welfare”, Richard Kennedy
(ed.), Australian Welfare,
Historical Sociology, Macmillan, South Melbourne, 1989, pp.
Claudia Thame, “Health and the State: The development of collective
responsibility for Health Care in
 Hayden, “New horizons in health and welfare services”, p. 235; Ronald Henderson, Alison Harcourt and R. J. A. Harper, People in Poverty A Melbourne Survey, Cheshire, Melbourne, 1970, pp. 142, 161-7 and 170; see also J.C.H. Dewdney, Australian Health Services, John Wiley & Sons, Sydney, 1972, pp. 25-52, and Kewley, Social Security, chapter 18.
 Henderson et al., People in Poverty, p. 172.
 Gough Whitlam, The Whitlam Government, 1972-1975, Viking, Ringwood, 1985, chapter 7; Bill Hayden, “New horizons in health and welfare services”, pp. 214-43.
 Stubbs, The Hidden People, pp. 47-48.
 L. Ruzicka, Length of working life of Australian males, 1933-1981, Bureau of Labour Market Research, Monograph 15, AGPS, Canberra, 1986, pp. 20-21 and 45.
 Stubbs, The Hidden People, p. 24.
 Chartered Accountant in Australia, September 1959, p. 134; Burgess Cameron, “ Hire Purchase and the Stability of Consumption”, Economic Record, December 1961, pp. 497-503; Report of the Committee of Economic Enquiry, Volume II, Commonwealth Government Printer, Canberra, 1965, pp. 958 and 963.
Richard Titmuss demonstrated that the welfare state in the
 Hayden, “New horizons in health and welfare services”, p. 216.
 Henderson et al., People in Poverty, p. 154.
 Lindie Clark, Finding a Common Interest, The story of Dick Dusseldorp and Lend Lease, Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne, 2002, pp. 65-69 and 118; BLJ, October 1957, pp. 2 and 4; January-February 1958, pp. 1 and 3.
 Michael Lebowitz, “Capital and the Production of Needs”, Science and Society, 41 (4), Winter 1977-78. pp. 430-47.
 L. J. Louis, Menzies’ Cold War, a reinterpretation, Red Rag Publications, Carlton North, 2001; Australian Left Review, Feb.-March 1968, pp. 9-15; April-May 1968, pp. 8-9; R. J. Hawke, ‘Total Wage – An Analysis’, Federal Law Review, 3, June 1968, pp. 100-3; J. Hutson, Six Wage Concepts, AEU, Sydney, 1971.
 Quoted Stubbs, The Hidden People, p. 57.
 In the matter of a dispute between The Master Builders’ Association and others and the Building Trades Unions, Industrial Commission of New South Wales, Nos 129 and 130 of 1971.
For a chronology see George Crawford, Footprints,
history of the plumbers union, G. Crawford, Beaumaris, 1997, pp.
137-9; Glenn Mitchell, On Strong Foundations, The BWIU and Industrial Relations in the
Australian Construction Industry 1942-1992, Harcourt Brace,
Sydney, 1996, pp. 174-86.
NSW Industrial Commission, Transcript,
NSW Industrial Commission, Transcript,
 Mundey, Green bans and beyond, pp. 68-70.
Tom and Audrey McDonald, Intimate
 For the drunken brawl at the Labor Council that night see MLK 04266.
 NSW Industrial Commission, No. 251 of 1971, MLK 04268.
W.R.H. Keast, Building
 Hayden, “New horizons in health and welfare services”, pp. 224-6; Whitlam, The Whitlam Government, pp. 635-42.
 Letter from the AMP to Country Party MPs, 21 April 1975, exposed by the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation, Senator John Wheeldon, Commonwealth of Australia, Parliamentary Debates, v. Senate 64, 14 May 1975, p. 1376, 1383, 1385-6 and 1557, Building Worker, July 1975, p. 6; Geoffrey Blainey drew a veil over this conspiracy in his The history of the AMP Society, 1848-1998, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, 1999, p. 281.
G. W. R. Palmer, Compensation for Incapacity, a study of law and social change in New
Zealand and Australia, OUP, Melbourne, 1979, p. 74 and 184-92; Building
Worker, December-January 1987, p. 6.
 Quoted Palmer, Compensation for Incapacity, p. 182.
 Maurice and May folder, MLK04263.
Bud Cook to NSW Building Trades Group Secretary, Les Boyce,
Australian Insurance Industry
Journal (AIIJ), February
1981, p. 39; Kevin Purse, “Common Law and Workers’ Compensation in
 Purse, “Common Law and Workers’ Compensation”, AJLL, December 2000, p. 270.
 John Lloyd and Brian Stagoll, “The Accident Victim Syndrome – ‘Compensation Neurosis’ or Iatrogenesis?”, New Doctor, 13, 1979, p. 31.
 Brian Stagoll, “Work injuries and Invalidism in Migrant Families: A Systems View”, Australian journal of family therapy, 2 (2), January 1981, p. 69.
 Legal Services Bulletin, August 1985, p. 196.
Stagoll, “Work injuries etc”, Australian
journal of family therapy, January 1981, p. 69; John Ellard,
“Doctors, Injury and Compensation: Some Elementary
and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 16 (4), December 1982, pp.
260-3; Fiona K. Judd and Graham D. Burrows, “Psychiatry,
compensation and rehabilitation”, Medical
Journal of Australia, 144, 3 February 1986, pp. 131-5; Caroline
Alcorso, “Migrants and the Workers’ Compensation System: The Basis
of an Ideology”, Australian
and New Zealand Journal of Sociology, 25 (1), May 1989, pp. 46-65.
 Builders Labourers’ Federal Journal (BLFJ), 1979, p. 14; December 1983, p. 4.
 BLFJ, 1979, pp. 4-5.
The Great Compo
 BLFJ, 1980, p. 7.
 Stewart Harris, The B.L.F. a personal view, ABCE & BLF, Sydney, 1982, pp. 8-9.
BLFJ, September 1982, p. 15;
 BLFJ, September 1982, p. 18.
 AIIJ, November 1977, p. 13.
AIIJ, August 1977, pp.
24-28; see also R. Swakins, “The Results of Private Sector Insurers
– in the six years 1974 to 1979”, AIIJ,
May 1981, pp. 68-72; A, C. Gray, Life
Insurance in Australia, An Historical and Descriptive Account,
McCarron Bird, Melbourne, 1977, Chapter 15.
 Blainey, The history of the AMP Society, pp. 283 and 294.
Report of the Judicial Enquiry
 Western Australia, Annual Report of Commissioner of Police, Votes and Proceedings, 1976-77, vol. III, p. 5, and 1977-78, vol. IV, p. 7; National Times, 3 November 1979, p. 42.
 Premiums in that State had risen steeply to cover a retrospective 70 per cent increase in statuary benefits from 1 July 1975; almost immediately, the government appointed Justice Harris to suggest ways of cutting insurance costs, Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, Workers’ compensation in Victoria: a position paper, VCM, Melbourne, 1978, unpaginated.
 For a decision on the right to appeal from the Queensland Neurology Board, 157 CLR (1984-85) 398.
 Mundey, Green Bans and Beyond, p. 40.
Victoria, PD, v. 346,
Victoria, PD, v. 350,
 BLFJ, November 1981, p. 7.
 Liz Ross, Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win, Builders Labourers fight deregistration, 1981-94, Vulgar Press, Melbourne, 2004, p. 40, and Brian Boyd, Inside the BLF, Ocean Books, Melbourne, 1991, p. 27.
 See my “What happened in Globalisation?”, Journal of Australian Political Economy, 51, June 2003, pp. 103-31.
 Valuer, April 1985, pp. 517-20; BOMA Magazine, May 1986, p. 11.
Quoted Kit Carson and Kathy Henenberg, “The Political Economy of
Legislative Change: Making Sense of Victoria’s New Occupational
Health and Safety Legislation”, Law in context, 6 (2), 1988, p. 5; Legal Service Bulletin, August 1985, pp. 195-7; R, Craigie, R.
Cumpston and D. Sams, “Accident compensation reform”, Australian Economic Review, 3rd
Quarter, 1986, pp. 9-32.
 Victoria, Legislative Council, PD, vol. 378, 18 July 1985, p. 993, and 23 July 1985, pp. 1078ff.
One exception was Norm Gallagher who spent over five years on
Don Stewart and Jennifer Doyle, Workers’
compensation and social security expenditure in Australia: anti-social
aspects of the “social” wage, Social Welfare Research Centre,
UNSW, Discussion Paper 7, December 1988; Don Stewart, Workers’
Compensation and Social Security: an overview, Social Policy
Research Centre, University of NSW, Reports
and Proceedings, No. 63, Kensington, 1986; Don Stewart, Workers’
compensation and social security: personal and social costs,
Social Policy Research Centre, University of NSW, Reports
and Proceedings, No. 93, Kensington, 1991.
 Building Worker, November 1986, p. 3; Legal Service Bulletin, August 1985, pp. 194-5; SMH, 1 October 1986, p. 17; Chartered Accountant in Australia, 57 (4), October 1986, pp. 53-55.
 Australian Builder, August 1985, p. 12.
 Building Worker, February 1987, p. 5, April 1987, pp. 7-9, July 1987, pp. 16; SMH, 23 April 1987, p. 13.
Robert Guthrie and Colin Huntly, “Workers’ Compensation and the
Western Australian Liberal Government, 1993-2001”, AJLL,
14 (2), September 2001, pp. 190-201.
 Alternative Law Journal, 28 (5), October 2003, p. 210.