Social turmoil::1890 Australian maritime dispute

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Strike::union    Union::maritime    Meeting::trades    Branch::police    Called::august    Labour::zealand

Social turmoil While police had been used in strikes before 1890, the military had not usually been called in other than at the Lambton colliery strike in the Hunter Valley two years earlier. During the strike military units were extensively used in New South Wales and Victoria. Armed troops were deployed to support the police in Sydney, Melbourne, Newcastle and a number of other ports around Australia, as violence escalated against non-union labour and against the property of companies operating shipping, the mines, the wharves and ports.

In Melbourne, the announcement that a public meeting was going to be held on 31 August 1890 to support the Maritime strikers sent the Victorian government into precautionary mode. On the eve of the meeting, the Victorian Mounted Rifles were briefed by their commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel Tom Price:"Men of the Mounted Rifles, one of your obligations imposes on you the duty of resisting invasion by a foreign enemy, but you are also liable to be called upon to assist in preserving law and order in the colony. ... To do your work faintly would be a grave mistake. If it has to be done effectively you will each be supplied with 40 rounds of ammunition, leaden bullets, and if the order is given to fire, don't let me see any rifle pointed in the air; fire low and lay them out so that the duty will not have to be performed again.". Price was quite clear and quite unapologetic about his intentions. He only wanted ′'to hit the strikers in the legs ... not to kill them outright′'. He explained that the term 'lay them out' was used in his regiment to mean 'temporary disablement'.

A force of 1,000 militia and mounted police and another 1,000 special constables were embodied by the time of the meeting. These forces, apart from a troop of mounted police were held in reserve out of the way and the 40,000 who attended the meeting, although enthusiastic, were orderly and the forces were not called in.


1890 Australian maritime dispute sections
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Social turmoil
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