What Price Pastoral Leases? The Exploitation of Queensland Aboriginal labour by Pastoralists and Government 1897-1968
This paper focuses on a particular issue in relation to what is known as the Wik debate. It argues that for over 70 years Queensland pastoral leaseholders financially benefited from a government-initiated system of wages under which the labour of Aboriginal pastoral workers was priced at about a quarter the cost of white labour. The system, begun by an AWU-supported Labor Party Government to protect white wages in the pastoral industry, was maintained and cynically exploited by successive Queensland Governments, firstly to off-set the costs incurred from the policy of rounding up Aboriginal people and placing them on reserves; and secondly, to provide a fund of money that could be drawn on to support general governmental expenditure. By supplying pastoralists with cheap Aboriginal labour, Queensland Governments gave pastoral leaseholders the financial viability to retain and develop pastoral leases which otherwise they may have had to surrender back to the Crown.
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