The agitation against the Chinese covered a space of over fifty years, a long period in the history of a young country, and was promoted and kept alive almost entirely by the trades unions, and the restriction acts were the first legislative triumph of the Labour party, albeit that party was not at the time directly represented in parliament.
The Labour unions were able to secure in these years many concessions both as to hours and wages.
Much of the improvement in the lot of the wage-earners has been due to the Labour organizations, yet so late as 1881 these organizations were of so little account, politically, that when the law relating to trades unions was passed in New South Wales, the English law was followed, and it was simply enacted that the purposes of any trades union shall not be deemed unlawful (so as to render a member liable to criminal prosecution for conspirac y or otherwise) merely by reason that they are in restraint of trade.
That strike had been liberally helped by the Australian unions, and it was confidently predicted that, as the Australian workers were more effectively organized than the English unions, a corresponding success would result from their course of action.
(See also the articles Arbitration And Conciliation; Trade Unions; Labour Legislation.) Victoria was the pioneer in factory legislation, the first Victorian act of that character dating from 1873.
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