The coolie labour crisis in colonial Queensland

Griffiths, Phil (2017) The coolie labour crisis in colonial Queensland. Labour History: a Journal of Labour and Social History (113). pp. 53-78. ISSN 0023-6942


The conflict over 'coolie labour' was of great importance in colonial Australia. Like the debates and conflicts over Chinese immigration and Pacific Islander labour, the outcome helped shape dominant national strategies around labour, immigration and nationalism, summed up in the idea of a White Australia. Unlike the issue of Chinese immigration, it drove major capitalist interests into a prolonged and bitter conflict with each other. Sugar planters in Queensland demanded the government facilitate the large-scale recruitment of indentured labourers from British India, and liberal obstruction of this led the planters and their allies to campaign for separation from Queensland. This article describes this conflict, the divisions and rival perspectives within the ruling class that shaped it and the reasons that almost the entire southern establishment, Conservative as well as Liberal, galvanised against the planters. It outlines the role played by British anti-slavery thought, and the belief that such a plantation colony in the north would develop a radically different social and political structure, one that was a threat to the free-labour economy.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: © 2017 Australian Society for the Study of Labour History. Permanent restricted access to Published version, in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Commerce (1 Jul 2013 - 17 Jan 2021)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Commerce (1 Jul 2013 - 17 Jan 2021)
Date Deposited: 17 Dec 2017 23:53
Last Modified: 26 May 2022 05:17
Uncontrolled Keywords: White Australia, indentured labour, coolie, Queensland, North Queensland Separation movement, Griffith, McIlwraith, Macrossan, slavery, sugar industry, liberalism
Fields of Research (2008): 21 History and Archaeology > 2103 Historical Studies > 210303 Australian History (excl. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
Fields of Research (2020): 43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4303 Historical studies > 430302 Australian history
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): C Society > 94 Law, Politics and Community Services > 9402 Government and Politics > 940299 Government and Politics not elsewhere classified
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