Munich Personal RePEc Archive

The Origin of Minimum Wage Determination in Australia: The Political and Legal Institutions

Bayari, Celal (2012): The Origin of Minimum Wage Determination in Australia: The Political and Legal Institutions. Published in: Journal of Global Politics , Vol. 5, No. 1 (1 December 2012): pp. 163-198.

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This paper discusses the establishment of the minimum wage determination process in the early twentieth century Australia, following the institutionalisation of compulsory industrial arbitration between capital and labour. This process led to the 1907 Harvester judgment whereby the Common- wealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration decision determined, for the first time, the amount of ‘fair and reasonable wage’ that the employers were required to pay. The discussion focuses on the role of the state in the labour market regulation, development of the related legislation, and the role played by Justice Henry Bourne Higgins. The paper briefly discusses the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 (Commonwealth), and the setting up of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. There is a comparison of the nature of minimum wage law developments in other Anglo-Saxon economies and the paper draws on the history of the state involvement in the regulation of the economy. The minimum wage became institutionalised in relation to the tariff protection of the Australian market from the twentieth century onwards, and the analysis herein includes the discussion of how tariffs contributed to the possibility of wage controls and labour market stability.

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