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The politics of consumption and labour history.

Australian labour historians have generally concentrated on exploring the politics of production rather than of consumption. The behaviour, actions and perspectives of consumers, however, are just as important to our understanding of society as are those of producers. This article undertakes a general review of historical debates in the Australian literature concerning the concept of consumption. It then provides an overview of the Australian experience based on primary and secondary research. Two issues are of particular interest. The first is the collective response of workers and other groups to the issues associated with consumption including the prices and the quality of goods and services. The article will primarily focus on co-operatives as the collective attempt to influence consumption. The second issue is the way in which employers attempt to control consumption through a range of strategies including company stores and canteens. The article builds on an earlier review of consumer co-operation undertaken by the authors, and extends the analysis to include an examination of consumption into the workplace. (1)

What is Consumption?

When individuals consume or purchase goods and services, they have a secondary relationship to goods and services in that they do not produce the goods and services themselves. (2) However, they can individually influence the price and supply of goods and services through their patterns of consumption. Collectively consumers can directly influence consumption in two major ways. First, consumers may attempt to determine the price, quality and availability of goods and services through boycotts of particular products and through the formation of consumer associations that monitor the prices and quality of goods and services. Here they are trying to influence an existing retailer, wholesaler or provider of financial services. Second, consumers can influence consumption by forming co-operatives to control the provision of goods and services. Consumers control and manage these organisations, which include Rochdale consumer co-operatives, building societies, credit unions, and Starr-Bowkett societies. The latter are co-operative, non-profit and mutual self-help financial institutions that provide interest-free loans to their members. (3) The objectives of co-operative organisations have ranged from improving the quality of life within a capitalist system to transforming capitalism. Co-operativism is an important subfield of the politics of consumption, although one that has been largely neglected by researchers.

This focus on consumption does not ignore the link between production and consumption. The rewards from employment and the price, availability and quality of goods and services underpin the standard of living. Consumers may use their membership of unions and farmers' associations to mobilise support for consumer campaigns in order to influence the price and quality of goods and services. Labour organisations also have a tradition of organising consumers to boycott employers who fail to provide adequate wages and conditions. There may also be tensions between the individual's role as a worker and consumer. The desire to have lower prices may conflict with the right of workers involved in the provision of goods and services to earn a decent wage. (4)

One important interface between consumption and production is the way in which employers affect their employees' consumption patterns through either the provision of a canteen or the establishment of a company store. Canteens or work dining rooms became part of the welfare strategy adopted by employers to win worker loyalty to the company. These facilities could range from a room with a pie heater to a large dining area with kitchens capable of providing a range of hot meals to employees. Historians in the United States and elsewhere have also highlighted the role of company stores in providing supplies to workers in isolated mining and industrial communities. While often borne from necessity, there were complaints that company stores provided a limited range of goods at higher prices and forced workers to rely on company credit. There were cases of workers being paid in promissory notes rather than cash, commonly known as the truck system, to increase their dependence on the store and reduce labour turnover particularly before the introduction of legislation that insisted that workers be paid in legal tender. The company stores did not tolerate competition and could insist that employees only trade at company stores. Canteens and company stores provided areas of both consensus and conflict between labour and management. (5)

While there are links between consumption and production, there has been a longstanding neglect of consumption in historical studies. Few historians would claim the key to understanding modern history is the emergence of a consumer society. Social, business and economic historians have focussed on the relations of production, seeing consumption as an outcome of production. Economic historians, for example, have been interested in consumption in two primary debates. Firstly, in terms of long-run trends in living standards and secondly, whether industrialisation was dependent on shifts in the scale and structure of demand. However, they consider shifts in consumption through their relationship with changes in production, and fixate on wage-rates as labour costs for employers rather than total household income and expenditure. (6)

Radical and labour historians have seen the study of consumption as a 'sordid and seductive sphere' that leads to false consciousness and a decline in revolutionary fervour. (7) They have also viewed the study of consumption as inappropriate when trying to understand people who lived in relative poverty compared to the ruling class. There are also concerns that if scholars study the consumption habits of the working class in the same way as those of the elites then this would undercut ideas of class formation and mobilisation. (8) In the Australian context labour historians have generally viewed consumption as insignificant as compared to production since the Australian labour movement preferred to take the path of trade unionism and the Labor Party rather than pursue co-operativism. Living standards were also protected through the pursuit of tariff protection and compulsory arbitration rather than co-operatives. There have also been doubts in Australia about the significance of 'islands' of socialism such as co-operatives as an effective challenge to capitalism. Indeed, Edgar Ross argued that if the various types of co-operatives did succeed they would 'blur the real issues of the working-class struggle against exploitation and for economic security'. (9)

There has been criticism of this neglect of consumption and the preoccupation with production. In the USA, Laurence Glickman notes that there have been occasional bouts of amnesia concerning consumer activism. He argues that consumer activism has been important to American political culture 'since the Boston Tea Party'. Consumer boycotts were an important part of the push by African-American claims for political and industrial rights. More recently tourists successfully boycotted South Carolina to stop the Confederate flag flying over the state capitol. Glickman claims that 'American national identity was forged in no small part through collective acts of consumption'. (10)

In the United Kingdom, historians in the early 1970s such as E.P. Thompson and Olwen Hufton recognised the significance of pre-industrial bread riots in maintaining the 'moral economy'. Society's ideas about what was right and wrong led to riots, particularly amongst the 'respectable' poor, against souring prices, malpractices by middlemen and shortages of essential goods. These rioters wanted to preserve traditional social norms and obligations, and to protect themselves from destitution. (11) In more recent years, Peter Gurney has argued that the transformations in the sphere of consumption can have as much influence as similar changes in the sphere of production on the development of a society. He also rejects the idea that the emergence of the dominant mode of mass consumption in England and other capitalist societies was inevitable or that it was the only viable alternative. Indeed the social conflicts generated by conflicting modes of consumption were just as fierce and protracted as were those generated by production. (12) He argues that the co-operative movement in the United Kingdom developed an 'alternative transformative social and economic strategy' to capitalist entrepreneurs 'based on the association of workers within the sphere of consumptions'. (13)

Consumption and Australian Labour Historiography

Australian labour historians remain primarily concerned with the sphere of production. For example, there has been a general neglect of co-operatives in books, book chapters, conference papers and other publications authored by Australian labour historians. Major works highlight their apparent insignificance or ambiguous role in class relations. While a number of labour historians recognise the significance of the debates concerning co-operation during the 1890s, they have little to say about the Rochdale co-operative movement. (14) Raewyn Connell and Terry Irving do see the co-operative store as a common feature of the Australian 'union town', but argue that the working-class impulse for co-operation through co-operative stores, building societies and friendly societies 'was contained within a bourgeois social form--the joint stock company'. (15) Erik Eklund in his study of the relationship between storekeepers and the working class also highlighted that Australian private retailers shared 'the virulent anti-cooperative mentality' of their British counterparts and opposed the Rochdale co-operatives as a threat to their economic viability. He notes that despite this, the Rochdale movement achieved 'some success' before 1940. (16) Eklund has also challenged the idea that the English co-operative movement was simply translated to Australia. He argues that far from being 'simple English copies, colonial societies were characterised by a bewildering heterogeneity'. (17) Where other labour historians have focussed on co-operatives, they have examined Rochdale consumer co-operatives in local labour histories, particularly in the Illawarra and Hunter regions of New South Wales (NSW). (18)

The co-operative movement itself has to some degree filled the gap in our understanding of co-operatives by publishing their own histories. The most significant histories produced by the co-operative movement are those written by Gary Lewis concerning the history of Rochdale co-operation in NSW and the history of credit unions in Australia. Unfortunately these studies have been largely ignored by others. Lewis's work provides a 'top down' history of the co-operative movement by relying on broad sources such as The Co-operative News rather than local sources. Nevertheless, his publications provide a solid basis for further case study orientated research into the history of Rochdale consumer co-operatives and credit unions in Australia. (19)

A survey of Labour History indicates limited focus on consumption. A small number of articles appeared in the 1980s that reflected the impact of feminism and cultural history on Australian labour historiography. Labour History published two of them in a special issue on women, work and the labour movement. These articles highlighted the way in which clothing and advertising reinforce existing sexual divisions of labour and perceptions of female sexuality. Gail Reekie in her study of the 'working women's wardrobe' from 1918 to 1923, emphasised that consumption was an area of conflict like production as women rejected men's views on what was appropriate for women to wear in the workplace. The work of Reekie and Robin Walker also revealed that a rich source of material for research on consumption were the transcripts of the various industrial tribunals in Australia, which have tried to calculate changes in the cost of living in order to determine the basic or living wage. (20)

Little has appeared in Labour History on consumer activism. One exception is Judith Smart's study of the demonstrations in Melbourne in August-September 1917 against the high cost of living. Feminists such Adela Pankhurst played a significant role in these protests and specifically formed the Women's Peace League to support the campaign to reduce the high cost of living. While the organisations associated with the 1917 demonstrations did not continue, new women's political associations such as the Housewives' Association and the Country Women's Association succeeded them. These associations consciously adopted co-operative ideas in their early years and lobbied for consumer justice. (21)

There has also been limited interest in consumer co-operatives in Labour History until very recently. Robin Walker and Ray Markey, who focus on NSW in the 1890s, wrote the only articles that specifically deal with co-operation in Labour History prior to 2006. Both recognise the vagueness of the term 'co-operation' at that time. Walker is primarily concerned with the unsuccessful experiments with agricultural co-operatives, while Markey focuses on trade unions and workers' producer cooperatives. (22) There are only brief references to the Rochdale movement. Markey dismisses it by noting that 'consumer co-operation never gained the working-class support that it had in Britain and seems to have taken strong hold in the coalfields'. (23) Walker also dismisses the Rochdale movement in Australia but recognises its presence outside the NSW coalfields in the Adelaide Co-operative, which was larger than any consumer co-operative in the 'mother colony'. (24) In several Labour History articles there is recognition of Rochdale co-operatives at the local level in mining towns such as Broken Hill, Kurri Kurri and Wonthaggi. (25) Labour History has virtually ignored the other forms of consumer co-operation before 2006. There were only two articles on friendly societies, both of which recognise their role in providing medical services to members. There has been only one study of building societies. There were no specific articles in Labour History on either credit unions or Starr-Bowkett societies. (26)

The November 2006 issue of Labour History included a thematic on the politics of consumption and co-operation. The articles highlighted the significance of consumption generally and institutions such as Starr-Bowkett societies, credit unions, and Rochdale consumer co-operatives. Maxine Darnell provided insights into Starr-Bowketts in NSW from 1900 to 1930. For many Australians they allowed a way of escaping rapidly increasing rents by providing access to housing finance, which was generally blocked by high interest rates and deposit requirements. Nikola Balnave and Greg Patmore provided a detailed study of the history of a successful surviving rural Rochdale co-operative society at Junee in NSW, highlighting the strong links between the co-operative and the local community. The leaders of the co-operative linked the survival of the co-operative to the survival of the town as a viable rural centre. Leanne Cutcher and Melissa Kerr examined how the credit unions' perceptions of themselves have changed over time through an examination of the newsletters of the NSW Credit Union from 1959 to 1989. With the general debate concerning demutalisation of co-operative organisations, they found that there has been shift from a social democratic perspective towards one based on economic rationalist ideals within the credit union movement. Since the thematic, there has been a comparative article in Labour History looking at Rochdale consumer co-operatives in Australia and New Zealand. The article analyses why the general movement collapsed in Australia and New Zealand and tries to explain the survival in Australia of a small number of Rochdale consumer co-operatives in rural centres. (27) Balnave and Patmore have further pursued the examination of Rochdale co-operatives in other publication outlets by examining for example why some rural Rochdales survived in the Riverina district of NSW and others did not. (28)

Labour historians are not alone in their neglect and confusion about the role of co-operatives. Business and retail history add little to our understanding of Rochdale co-operatives in Australia apart from demonstrating the confusion over the extent and influence of the movement. Boyce and Ville are aware of the development of Rochdale consumer co-operatives in the United Kingdom, but have nothing to say about their development in Australia. They concentrate on Australian agricultural co-operatives, which focussed on selling produce, marketing and transportation. While Webber and Hoskins emphasise the significance of consumer co-operatives to the history of retail in Australia, the majority of writers of retail history either neglect or downgrade the role of co-operative stores. Kim Humphery notes that a limited consumer co-operative movement existed in early twentieth century Australia, but dismisses it as providing little threat to the independent grocer or to the development of larger retail firms. Gail Reekie briefly notes the active participation of women in consumer co-operatives, and hence in consumer politics. (29) Beverley Kingston argues that the co-operative movement 'was one of several working-class ideas adopted and developed out of recognition by the middle classes', identifying the Melbourne Mutual Store and the Civil Service Store in Sydney as the most memorable examples of the co-operative movement in Australia, both of which 'were modelled on London's middle-class co-operatives'. (30) Reekie and Kingston both emphasise the Civil Service Store, although this was not considered to be a true Rochdale cooperative by the movement, again demonstrating the confusion over the character and role of consumer co-operatives in Australian history. (31)

While Australian labour historians, like other Australian historians, have generally overlooked co-operatives, they have recognised both consensus and conflict over consumption in the workplace in regard to canteens and company stores. These stores were generally referred to as 'co-operative stores' if administered by a joint committee or council of management and employee representatives. Erik Eklund noted that a co-operative store was an important part of the welfare strategy adopted by Broken Hill Associated Smelters (BHAS) at Port Pirie during the World War I, and that other metal-mining companies such as the Electrolytic Refining and Smelting Company (ER&S) at Port Kembla and the Sulphide Corporation at Cockle Creek soon established stores along the same lines. In Broken Hill, Bradon Ellem and John Shields noted that there was an indexation provision in the 1925 Broken Hill Mines Agreement that provided a powerful incentive for employers to control prices. A company-financed co-operative store was established for this purpose. Simon Stevens chartered the history of the truck system in Western Australia, where workers paid in chits redeemable at the company store and goods rather than cash, until it was outlawed by legislation in 1899. Workers could lose their jobs for not shopping at the company store, whose prices were generally higher than local independent storekeepers. Many workers found themselves in debt to company store and their employer. (32)

Gail Reekie found that dining rooms were an important part of large retailer stores' paternalistic and later welfare practices in Australia from the 1890s. Melissa Kerr in her study of non-union firms in the Australian abrasive industry in the immediate post-war period notes that the company Australian Abrasives 'engineered' its non-unionised 'industrial family' through providing a heavily subsidised canteen and carefully rostered lunch break to ensure that all staff became acquainted. There is also some recognition of these strategies in Chris Wright's history of the labour strategies of Australian employers which recognises the significance of company stores as part of welfarism in towns such as Port Pirie and Port Kembla. He further notes that in firms such as Pelaco, the Melbourne based shirt manufacturer, dining facilities were viewed as part of means to discourage unions by highlighting that the company not the unions were concerned with the workers well-being. During the immediate post-war, Wright argues that facilities such as canteens were used as a selling point to attract workers during a period of labour shortages. While Balnave has provided a broad overview of food services in Australian industry from 1890-1965, there remains more work to be done by Australian labour historians on this aspect of consumption, particularly in the post-war period. (33) The remainder of this paper highlights the significance of consumption as an area of research for labour historians by examining the Australian experience with the consumer co-operative movement and employment-related consumption.

The Co-operative Alternative in Australia

While recognising the wide variety of co-operatives that impacted on consumption in Australia, this overview of co-operation will focus primarily on Rochdale consumer co-operatives and also briefly review the credit unions. The first registered consumer co-operative in Australia was in Brisbane in 1859, before the separation of Queensland from NSW. One of Australia's longest surviving Rochdale co-operatives opened for business in Adelaide in 1868 with nine members. Australian consumer co-operatives spread widely throughout the country. Many co-operatives had a fleeting existence and they experienced waves of interest related to economic conditions and levels of British immigration. (34)

Despite the economic long boom that followed the Australian gold rushes, Rochdale consumer co-ops peaked in the 1860s against the background of concerns over unemployment and urban poverty. Concerns about living standards and disillusionment with the existing political system led to a second wave of interest in the late 1880s and early 1890s. Over 50 societies were registered in NSW between 1886 and 1900. Many were short-lived, and when the first official statistics were collected in 1895, only 19 societies still existed. There was a lull in registrations from 1895 until 1905 as the economy faced depression and drought. One of the major reasons for this, as with any economic downturn, is the difficulty that individuals face in raising sufficient working capital to set up co-operatives when their economic circumstances are weakened by unemployment and limited opportunities to work a full week. In the following decade, against a background of economic prosperity and rising prices, 55 new societies were registered in NSW. However, by the end of 1914 only 45 remained, four of which were in liquidation. While there was little activity during World War I, the post-war boom and its aftermath provided the conditions for a renewed interest in consumer co-operatives, particularly given growing concern over rising prices and declining living standards. There were 31 registrations in NSW alone in the three immediate post-war years, and during the subsequent three years, new registrations in NSW totalled 22. By 1923, there were 152 consumer co-operative societies in Australia, with a membership of 110,000 and a capital of 1,800,000 [pounds sterling]. While the Depression of the 1930s weakened Rochdale co-operatives in Australia, the movement grew in the recovery that followed. Lewis has calculated that while the membership of Rochdale co-operatives in NSW fell by more than half from 60,000 in 1929 to 24,000 in 1933, their numbers began to recover from 1935. (35)

British immigrants played an important role in introducing Rochdale principles to coalmining districts, in which retail co-operatives became a common feature. In 1929, there were 40 consumer co-operatives operating in NSW, more than a third of which were on the coalfields. In NSW, the Hunter Valley, the Illawarra, and the Lithgow Valley had some of the largest and most prosperous societies in the state. Wonthaggi in Victoria and Collie in Western Australia were also dominant societies. (36)

Rochdale co-operatives also became a feature of rural areas of Australia, particularly in fruit-growing and poultry breeding districts such as Eastwood, Sydney, or in towns at important railway junctions, such as Junee in the Riverina region of NSW. The Denmark Co-operative in South West Western Australia commenced operations in 1920. Like many Western Australian rural Rochdales, the Denmark Co-operative remained small, with only 110 members in 1935. In 1944 local residents at Nuriootpa, in the Barossa Valley in South Australia, decided to purchase the local Sheard's Department Store. The store was a profitable concern, but the owner decided to sell it following the death of his only son during World War II. Built on the foundations of German Lutheranism, there was also a strong community movement in Nuriootpa, where local residents formed committees to provide amenities such as a swimming pool and kindergarten. While most rural consumer co-operatives tended to be based in one locality, the Eudunda Farmers' Co-operative, which was formed in South Australia in 1896, had 44 stores in multiple locations and 38,104 members by 1943. (37)

Australian Rochdale consumer co-operatives in NSW moved to form their own wholesale society in the early decades of the twentieth century. As in the United Kingdom, local Rochdale consumer co-operatives faced serious challenges including price-cutting by competitors, and the refusal of supply by some wholesalers concerned with maintaining relationships with existing businesses. In Australia, the New South Wales Co-operative Wholesale Society (hereafter NSW CWS), founded in 1912 by four Hunter Valley consumer co-operatives, faced significant obstacles in its early years, including boycotts by flour millers and oil companies in the years prior to World War I. Manufacturers, importers and the agents of overseas companies refused to include the NSW CWS on their wholesale list. It became clear to the directors of the NSW CWS that 'the only way to gain recognition was to become cash buyers on a large scale'. To achieve this 'it was essential that the whole retail section of the Movement combine and make one strong buying organization'. (38) Over the following years, the NSW CWS attracted an increasing number of societies as affiliates. It launched the Co-operative News in 1923, which was the main journal for the co-operative movement. A slump in membership occurred in the decade 1924-34, but from 1935 the number of affiliates increased. In 1934, 15 societies were affiliated with the CWS, with the number of affiliates growing to 37 by 1945. Even so, many consumer co-operatives, particularly in rural areas, chose to remain independent of the wider movement. (39) A former manager of the Barossa Community Store at Nuriootpa remembers going to Newcastle to see the NSW CWS headquarters and was 'disappointed'. The Community Store indefinitely deferred consideration of membership of the NSW CWS in September 1949 and does not appear to have sourced goods from there. (40)

The Rochdale co-operatives failed to exploit the potential of the economic buoyancy of the post-war era. By 1949 the NSW CWS had 110 affiliates, including a number in Victoria. (41) However, the body went into permanent decline after 1957, and the Co-operative News ceased publication in 1959. The Co-operative Women's Guilds in Australia also folded. The Corrimal Co-operative Women's Guild in the Illawarra, for example, were winding up its operations in December 1966 because their co-operative store had closed and the few remaining members were 'all pensioners', who 'found it most difficult to keep going'. (42)

There are a number of explanations for the decline of the Rochdale Cooperatives in the post-World War II period, including direct competition from the non-cooperative private sector. The demise of the Collie Co-operative in Western Australia followed the arrival in the town of a Coles supermarket, some of whose suppliers refused to supply the co-operative at wholesale prices and encouraged co-operative management to buy from Coles at retail prices. There was also indirect competition associated with the changing nature of retailing, particularly the rise of chain supermarkets and shopping centres. The decline of working-class communities in mining areas, the increasing ownership of automobiles, and poor management are further reasons for the decline. In rural areas, such as Coolamon, a declining population due to mechanisation in agriculture and the economies of scale brought about by the consolidation of rural properties assisted the demise of the local co-operative. Coolamon also faced competition from the nearby growing city of Wagga Wagga, which could offer a wider variety of retail choices. Many otherwise successful co-operatives failed to survive the economic uncertainties of the post-1974 era. The most spectacular collapse in Australia was the Newcastle and Suburban Co-operative, which achieved a peak membership of 95,000 in 1978. There were rumours of impending insolvency which led to a run on capital in 1979 as 9,000 members left. Despite a freeze on capital withdrawals, which split both management and shareholders, the co-operative closed in 1981. A subsequent investigation of the collapse found there were problems such as overstaffing and inadequate accounting practices. (43)

Where co-operatives found themselves at a major disadvantage was on the wholesaling side. Supermarkets chains such as Coles and Woolworths increased their buying power as they increased in size and were therefore able to offer goods at lower prices than the co-operatives who relied upon higher profit margins to provide members with the 'divvy'. A blow was struck for the co-operative movement when the NSW CWS ceased operations in 1979. There were criticisms by co-operatives of the price and quality of the NSW CWS goods and delays in providing those goods to the consumer co-operatives. The Co-operative Federation of NSW (CFNSW), which in 1986 became the Australian Association of Co-operatives (AAC), did make an attempt to float the idea of reforming a co-operative grocery-buying group in the early 1980s, but without success. The AAC finally collapsed in 1993 due to financial problems associated with its internal banking services to members, with a number of co-operatives losing funds. The AAC had made some bad loans to the struggling NSW Rochdale consumer co-operative at Singleton, which also went into liquidation. The CFNSW was reformed in the wake of the collapse of the AAC, but it now restricts its activities to lobbying governmental agencies and providing advice on legal and financial matters. (44)

Gary Lewis' work highlights that the Rochdale movement in Australia was riddled with divisions and unable to unite around common goals. A major schism occurred between federalists and individualists. The federalists subordinated production to consumption and stressed the loyalty of tied stores to the CWS. They were concerned that autonomous producer co-operatives would not share their profits with consumers and would, through a Co-operative Union, dominate the consumer. Individualists believed that the CWS was necessary but not sufficient to achieve a Co-operative Commonwealth. They saw production as the primary act of humanity and feared that the CWS, if dominant, would fritter away surpluses through endless 'divvies' and be governed by commercial rather than social imperatives. There were also tensions between some women in the Guilds and the male-dominated CWS over the direction of the movement. Women were particularly critical of the failure of the CWS to move further into manufacturing of its own goods. (45)

The Rochdale movement in Australia was unable to form alliances with the labour movement and the farmer producer co-operatives. There was no formal political link, for example, between the Rochdale co-operatives and the Labor Party, as developed in the United Kingdom. While George Booth, the Labor member for the NSW state seats of Newcastle and later Kurri Kurri from 1925 to 1960, was president of the NSW CWS for many years, this was in an individual capacity. The co-operative movement regularly appealed for a greater link with the labour movement, urging unions to invest funds in co-operatives in preparation for industrial action. In turn, some Rochdale co-operatives provided credit to striking workers and allowed union closed shops. Calls within the Rochdale movement in Australia for unions of co-operative employees and the Co-operative Party did not please trade unions and the Labor Party. There were also concerns about the political effectiveness of the Rochdale movement in challenging capitalism and fears that the co-operatives were reinforcing capitalism through 'business co-operativism'. Despite the claims to the contrary, some unions believed that in the treatment of employees there was little difference between the co-operatives and the private sector. The Rochdale cooperatives were critical of the performance of Labor Governments. (46) The Co-operative News in January 1931 condemned the Federal Labor Government for enmeshing 'industry in a sales tax, a fiendish mass of rules and restrictions and regulations, costly to bear, costly to impose'. (47) However, at the local level, trade unions, trade unionists and members of the Communist Party or the Labor Party were active in their co-operatives. A notable labour activist in Australia was Jim Healey, the Communist Secretary of the Waterside Workers' Federation, who was on the board of the North Sydney Co-operative. As for the rural producer co-operatives, the Rochdale movement faced similar problems. Farmer co-operatives formed the Australian Producers' Wholesale Co-operative Federation (APWCF) in 1919 to trade with the English CWS. The NSW CWS, which focussed on consumption rather than agricultural production, was excluded from this relationship with the English CWS and clashed with the APWCF on several occasions on issues such as national organisation and co-operative legislation. (48)

One issue that highlighted further divisions within the Rochdale movement and the broader co-operative movement was Aboriginal co-operatives. From the 1950s to the 1970s the Rev. Alfred Clint, an Anglican priest, led a movement to bring about economic sustainability in aboriginal communities through the establishment of co-operatives. (49) As Clint was to later argue: 'The Aborigines are communal in their life, and this communal unity is the first step towards co-operative development'. (50) Many of the co-operatives eventually collapsed, with Tranby College in Sydney being a significant survivor as a training centre for Aborigines. While the aboriginal cooperative movement may not have reached its full potential, Gloria Kelly from Cabbage Tree Island in Northern NSW remembers that for her community 'The Co-op made a big difference'. (51) While he won support from trade unions, Clint faced opposition from the private non-co-operative sector, the conservative Queensland state government and even the hierarchy of the Anglican Church. The movement also highlighted divisions between co-operatives in rural Australia, including the Rochdale co-operatives, and consumer co-operatives in the metropolitan and coalmining districts. The former provided little support for this movement, while the latter provided financial assistance and training opportunities. Clint attacked the rural co-operatives for being 'more philosophically Tory than co-operative' in their outlook and being geared to the 'convenience' of the Australian Country Party, 'which represents the most conservative section of the Australian population' and 'big business'. (52)

While the Rochdale movement collapsed in Australia, Rochdale consumer co-operatives survive, and indeed thrive in several rural locations. The Barossa Community Store in Nurioopta, for example, had 14,060 members on 31 January 2009 and a trading sales of $58,229 million (exclusive of GST) for the year ended 31 January 2009. This store paid $368,439 in interest on members' capital and $524,331 in rebates on members' purchases for the same period. These co-operatives have continued to survive for a number of reasons. They have had stable and effective management and been able to minimise the problem of outstanding credit, which has led to the collapse of many Rochdale consumer co-operatives in Australia. The directors have primarily had backgrounds in small business and farming and have given strong support to the managers' efforts to run the co-operative on business lines. The co-operatives have also successfully linked their business survival to that of the town. The Junee Co-operative, for instance, participated in efforts by the local business community to assist maintaining the viability of Junee as a retail centre through emphasising the need to 'buy locally'. The remaining rural co-operatives have also survived by linking up the Rochdale model with franchising. The Barossa Community Store as of 31 January 2009 was a franchisee for 10 different business entities including Foodland IGA supermarkets, Mitre 10 hardware and Betta Electrical. (53)

Rochdale consumer co-operatives are not the only forms of co-operative retailing in Australia; there are rural co-operatives that provide retailing services. The Mt Barker Co-operative in Western Australia, for example, was initially established in 1918 to serve the interests of fruit growers with the provision of a packing shed. It built and operated a power station from 1929 to 1934 when it took over a struggling local store. (54) A dramatic example of the shift from a rural co-operative towards retailing is the Macleay Co-operative on mid-North Coast of NSW, which began as a dairy co-operative with a butter factory and now focuses on retailing. (55) There are also food co-operatives formed to allow members to pool their resources to buy food directly at wholesale prices and then distribute it to members. There are historical examples of these sort of co-operatives evolving into Rochdale co-operatives as in the case of Griffith during World War I; they tend be associated with the counterculture movement of the 1960's and 1970s. (56) Such co-operatives currently exist in Sydney suburbs such as Manly. As in the USA, these food co-operatives tend be associated with organic foods, the local food movement and ensuring environmental sustainability. (57)

While Rochdale consumer co-operatives went into decline, the credit unions, another significant form of co-operatives, flourished. Gary Lewis argues that the impetus for credit unions in Australia dates back to the passage of the NSW Small Loans Facilities Act in 1941. The first registered credit union--the Homeowner's Cooperative Credit Society Limited--was established in May 1945. Some purists dismiss these credit unions as extensions of building societies and friendly societies, and see the first 'true' credit union to be the Universal Credit Union established in October 1946. Early credit unions formed in Australia in 1946 were based on Anglican and Roman Catholic Church Parish Groups. By 1956 there were approximately 80 credit unions in NSW. The largest state and peak body called the NSW Credit League was formed in 1958. However, the credit union movement was weakened by disunity, with four peak organisations emerging during the 1960s. These divisions were complicated by the problem that credit unions, like consumer co-operative societies, were regulated on a state rather than national basis. National organisation reached its peak with the formation of the Credit Union Services Corporation (Australia) Limited (CUSCAL) in January 1992. The credit unions remain perhaps the most vigorous form of co-operatives in Australia and have been through a process of amalgamation in recent years to take advantage of new technologies and to remain competitive with the non-cooperative banking sector. (58)

Lewis has also identified that disunity and ideological disagreement, most clearly and perennially witnessed through the traditionalist-modernist divide, has been evident in the Australian credit union movement since it began in the 1950s. Traditionalists were opposed to surrendering traditional values, and to the notion that credit unions put profit before people. Modernists, on the other hand, argued for a nationally coordinated approach and the development of new services that attended to the needs of contemporary consumers. Lewis contends that while at times destructive, the traditionalist-modernist polemic was managed well, 'forming a creative tension from which unorthodox but effective solutions to problems emerged from democratic process, albeit slowly on occasions'. (59) Faced with changing technology and deregulation in the late 1980s, this ability to adapt to change is highlighted by Lewis as the key factor in the survival of credit unions in Australia.

In Australia the credit unions appeared to have had a more positive relationship with the Labor Party in NSW, where it enjoyed long periods of government. In the late 1950s and early 1960s the credit unions gained Labor support in both protecting and developing the movement. In 1960 the movement praised the state Labor Government for passing legislation that protected the term 'credit union'. After the election of a Liberal Party/Country Party Government under Robin Askin in 1965, the credit union movement became more partisan in its support of the Labor Party, particularly after the state government introduced a tax on cheque deposits for credit unions. They even extended their support to the opposition federal Labor Party, led by future Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, when he gave a commitment to abolish the state tax. (60)

Employment-Related Consumption

Company and company-supported co-operative stores formed a key part of the welfare programs of some organisations from the early twentieth century, particularly those located in remote areas. In contrast to retail or consumer co-operatives discussed above which involved members of the general public investing in the shares of the store, company schemes were financed by the company and by the sale of products. The Co-operative Councils established to administer company-supported co-operative stores generally consisted of staff members and employees, each with equal voting rights.

In contrast to the USA and Canada where workers complained of the higher prices charged by company stores relative to independent stores, the majority of company or co-operative stores in Australia were established to reduce the cost of living in remote towns. Associated Pulp and Paper Mills at Burnie in Tasmania, for example, provided two kiosks within the mill premises, run by a Council of employees and senior staff members. These kiosks sold fruit, vegetables, tobacco and cigarettes, cordials, confectionery and packaged groceries at the lowest possible prices. (61) At Port Kembla, the co-operative store selling boots, clothing, tobacco, household utensils, and general supplies, with the exception of groceries, was reported in 1920 to have had a saving effect varying from 15 to 25 per cent. (62)

The BHAS co-operative store at Port Pirie established in 1917 was an attempt to reduce the high cost of living. Initially, after a conference with union representatives in 1917, a co-operative wood-yard was started, reducing the cost of firewood significantly. The company then made available kerosene at cost price. Following this, a petition signed by over 80 per cent of the employees asked the company to attack the cost of living in general, leading to the Co-operative Stores Scheme, financed by the company. This scheme enabled goods to be retailed virtually at cost-price. Further, the agreement explicitly provided that the company would have no share in the profits made by the store. (63) The store initially dealt only in men's clothing, tobacco, men's, women's and children's boots, and a few other lines. As Eklund notes, while these items were directed primarily towards a male clientele, before long the store began selling groceries, dairy produce, and other goods of interest to women including drapery. This suggests a conscious strategy to encourage married men to stay in Port Pirie. (64)

An additional motivation behind the BHAS co-operative scheme at Port Pirie, according to Eklund, was the introduction of the Industrial Code in South Australia in 1920, after which wages were determined by the Board of Trade using the living wage index. The Board decided on wage rates for particular regions based on the Commonwealth Statistician's index of prices as well as other evidence. Thus, by reducing the cost of living in the area, BHAS could effectively reduce the wages paid to their employees. (65)

Similarly, as Geoffrey Blainey has documented, the welfare scheme at Mount Lyell helped to stabilise the cost of living when it was rising elsewhere in the state. Apart from providing cheap housing, firewood and electricity, the company established butcheries at the towns of Gormanston and Linda in 1919, and after pressure from unions and friendly societies, it sponsored a Co-operative Butcher and Bakery in Queenstown and opened a general store in Gormanston in 1920. A year before the 'cheap food' campaign began, the cost of living in Queenstown was higher than any town in Tasmania. Two years later it had the cheapest cost of living of the large Tasmanian towns. An arbitration court judge commented that 'it was difficult to believe that the cost of living in a remote district like Queenstown, away from shipping and inland on the west coast of Tasmania, should be less than in Melbourne'. (66) This saved the company from union demands for higher wages--demands that closed many fields in the recurring slumps in the price of copper during this period. (67) Wages could even be reduced to cut the cost of production without reducing the standard of living. While some of the leading men at Broken Hill laughed at the Mt Lyell Company's policy, regarding it as philanthropic scheme that the unions would exploit, the mine manager contended that 'it's not welfare, it's self-preservation'. (68) Thus, the company stores increased managerial control over labour cost and reduced the influence of unions over the decisions of arbitral tribunals.

As noted previously, the indexation provision in the 1925 Broken Hill Mines Agreement led employers there to establish a company-financed 'co-operative' store to control prices. The unions, however, supported the establishment of a Rochdale retail co-operative store and speakers from the movement visited Broken Hill to promote the idea. Ultimately, the company store was transformed into a union-orientated cooperative store based on the Rochdale system. Women, however, preferred to continue shopping with private retailers. This was despite the formation of a local branch of the Women's Co-operative Guild, which aimed to win over working-class women to the co-operative cause. Ellem and Shields suggest that women did not embrace the co-operative store as male unionists would have liked because they wished to preserve one area of autonomy in a male-dominated town. (69)

Another element of the welfare schemes of employers was the provision of food services for their employees. These ranged from formal dining areas to hot-food services or cafeterias, although some companies simply provided the equipment for heating home-brought food of employees. From as early as the 1890s, some retailers provided dining rooms for their employees, following from their paternalistic origins. The retailer Farmers & Co., for example, provided staff luncheon rooms selling food at nominal cost at both its Sydney Market-street and Kent-street premises. The Bank of NSW was also a leader in this respect, establishing its first luncheon room in 1901, and continuing to provide such amenities as branches were established in other capital cities. From 1926, the Sydney brewer Tooth & Co. provided midday meals with an elaborate dining room and a roof garden located in the 'Welfare Building', separate from the main works. Some public sector undertakings also experimented with hot food services during the early decades of the twentieth century. For example, the Commonwealth Bank offered a subsidised hot meal at midday and afternoon tea, and the Postal service provided three-course meals at a small cost to employees. (70)

By 1931, the social scientist F.R.E Mauldon found that, of the 76 private enterprises in Australia with organised welfare plans, 53 had dining rooms and associated facilities. In one company a free hot luncheon was provided for all employees. The provision of dining rooms and associated facilities was the most common form of indirect expenditure on welfare by employers, and involved outlay on comfortable equipment and/or service for meals at cheap rates. The frequency of this form of welfare, according to Mauldon, arose 'primarily from the prohibitions in the various state Factories and Shops Acts of meal-taking in workrooms, and the requirement, should the trade be declared to be noxious, that the employees be provided with accommodation for meals away from their working place'. (71) However, a number of companies providing meal services were not legally bound by these prohibitions, while those that were tended to establish services well above the legal requirement. The provision of food services was thus a conscious strategy on the part of employers to influence the consumption habits of their workforce.

A key reason for the provision of food services during these early years of the twentieth century was the effect it had on organisational efficiency. The Australian Council of Science and Industry (ACSI) informed Australian employers in 1919 of the relation between good food, temperament, health, enjoyment of life, and output:
   If health and physical conditions improve, if ailments due to
   indigestible or non-nutritive foods decrease, if fatigue and
   general sickness diminish, if the craving for alcohol is dulled, if
   the workers can eat at leisure, and have a full interval of rest,
   recreation, and change, then the restaurant has been a great
   success, and its own financial deficit will be more than wiped out
   by the increased virility and better work which will ensue. (72)

According to the Council, all these benefits would accrue from guaranteeing that the workers received at least one substantial, nutritious meal a day.

Government initiatives during World War II encouraged the spread of food services through Australian industry. At the federal level, the Industrial Welfare Division (IWD) of the Department of Labour and National Service (DLNS) was divided into several branches dealing with various aspects of welfare in industry. The Food Service Branch controlled the planning, establishment and operation of food services in Government factories, and advised private firms on large-scale industrial catering. This branch appointed a senior dietician in 1943 to plan menus and test food values in bulk recipes. (73) In addition, the Factory Welfare Board of the NSW Department of Labour and Industry was established in June 1942. This Board empowered the State Department to require employers to provide welfare facilities considered to be necessary but not dealt with specifically in the NSW Factories Act. The Board made recommendations to the NSW Minister for Labour and Industry and Social Services in respect of special measures necessary for the health and safety of employees including the provision of meals and dining areas. (74)

The State and Federal authorities enforced the introduction and/or improvement of food services in Government munitions and aircraft factories, and those of private contractors involved in the war effort. Of central importance was the need to attract or direct women from employment in the better conditions of shops and offices, as well as from the private sphere of unpaid domestic work. The Government authorities in control of war industries were faced with problems of recruitment, labour turnover and absenteeism as a result of the employment of the largely female and inexperienced workforce. The state was therefore concerned with easing the process of recruitment, and also with improving the morale of the workforce in order to minimise worker unrest. (75) According to the Minister for Labour and National Service in 1944, the provision of hot meals on the premises was one way to obtain 'better craftsmanship and products', as well as 'more efficient methods, more harmony and less discontent and mental distraction'. (76)

The IWD was also active in promoting the value of food services to private sector employers not involved in the war effort. The windows of Munitions Buildings advertised the benefits of food services, photographs of cafeterias and dining rooms were displayed on the walls of the DLNS reception room of the DLNS, and leaflets and bulletins were both prepared and distributed by the Department on issues such as 'Industrial Cafeteria Advisory Committees', 'Standard Recipes for Industrial Cafeterias', 'Fourteen Standard Salads', and industry specific studies. (77) Such strategies were continued in the post-war period. In addition, the Food Services Branch established an Advisory Section in order to provide technical advice and operational assistance to companies wishing to embark on food service schemes. A specially trained staff of officers with considerable experience in the control and management of industrial cafeterias were retained solely for this function. (78)

Labour shortages in the post-war period led many private companies to introduce or expand food services in order to attract labour. Bradford Cotton Mills, for example, set up canteens in the four Mills operating during the war years. In the immediate post-war period of rapid expansion, three new decentralised Mills were opened, each with provisions for canteens 'well above the minimum statutory standard'. (79) Others such as Jason Industries, Western Australia, were fortunate to occupy former munitions factories where facilities were already installed. Management of canteens in post-war Australian industry generally fell to an outside caterer or a committee representative of employees and management. (80) One interesting variant of the usual model of canteens was the Westralian Farmers Co-operative, which subsidised another co-operative, the Metropolitan Rochdale Co-operative, to run its staff canteen in Perth. The co-operative was formed in March 1947 and ceased business in June 1956 for reasons that are not clear from available records. (81)

Within larger establishments, canteens and hot food services became common. Companies that had previously not considered providing food services for their workers, or that provided only minimum facilities, were encouraged to introduce or improve their own provisions in order to keep pace with developments. (82) Other companies were obligated to provide food services through provisions in arbitral awards. Indeed, by the mid-1960s dining rooms were common provisions in Federal awards, and in some cases canteens were provided for. (83)

However, to many managers the operation of the works cafeteria posed constant problems. Complaints of poor service, bad food, high cost, and inadequate facilities for shift workers filtered up through the supervisory staff or came direct to the manager from union officials. Stop-work meetings and strikes on cafeteria matters were not uncommon in Australian industry. (84) According to Bradford Cotton's Company's Group Personnel Manager, employees expected prepared meals to be priced way below outside prices, and although employees were generally given notice of any proposed price increases, patronage always suffered a temporary decline. On the advice of the Food Services Branch, the company set up canteen advisory committees, but by the mid-1960s these had lapsed, leaving control wholly in the hands of the company. Indeed, by this point the Personnel Manager felt that 'amenities and provisions for employee welfare are taken for granted--by all levels of management and employees'. (85)

Workers could also use (or not) food services to express their wider concerns with employment issues. The David Jones dining room in Sydney, for example, usually attracted fairly good patronage. However, following a strike during 1949, attendance was significantly reduced and there was an 'inexplicable delay in getting back to normal'. (86) More directly, the workers of the roller-door manufacturers, Bernard Davidson Ltd vandalised the company cafeteria, leading to their disciplining by the union. (87)

In general, the value of canteens and other food services as a means of attracting and retaining employees, of improving efficiency, and of building a co-operative culture, lay with the level of patronage. The decision of Chrysler to provide a hot meal service in the 1950s was taken against discouraging reports from other employers whose experience suggested little patronage would be expected. (88) Bradford Cotton, for example, found that the hot meal canteens in both mills in Melbourne were losing fairly substantial amounts of money in 1946. The situation had not improved by 1966, the problem arising partially from the preference of workers to bring food from home or to eat away from the Mill. The large proportion of 'New Australians' employed by the company went someway to explaining this, as they preferred their traditional meals for lunch. (89) Other problems encountered by companies in attracting patronage included the cost of meals bought from the canteen relative to the cost of meals brought from home, the length of time workers had to take meal breaks, and the desire of some workers to escape the factory grounds in their time off. (90) In general, while some workers did enjoy the benefits of the works canteen, management invariably experienced patronage much lower than desired. In turn, this limited the effectiveness of food services as a means to attract and retain labour, and to foster worker commitment and loyalty.


Australian labour historians have traditionally been concerned with the politics of production rather than consumption. One of the major reasons for this is that the Australian labour movement tried to control living standards through trade unions and the Labor Party rather than co-operatives. There were also doubts amongst the more radical ranks about the value of co-operatives in bringing about a transformation of capitalism. However, when understanding society, the dynamics of consumption, and the economic and political elements surrounding it, should not be neglected or delegated an inferior position in comparison to production. Collectively consumers can exert a direct influence in two major ways: firstly by attempting to determine the price, quality and availability of goods and services through boycotts of particular products and through the formation of consumer associations that monitor the prices and quality of goods and services; and secondly by forming co-operatives to control the provision of goods and services. The politics of consumption may also extend beyond the private domain to the workplace through company stores and canteens. While the emergence of the 'consumer society' has created greater recognition of the importance of consumption in shaping modern life, this article demonstrates the historical significance of consumption as an area of study.


(1.) N. Balnave and G. Patmore, 'The politics of consumption and co-operation: An overview', Labour History, no. 91, 2006, pp. 1-12.

(2.) D. Miller, 'Consumption as the vanguard of labour history. a polemic by way of an introduction', in D. Miller (ed.), Acknowledging Consumption: A Review of New Studies, Routledge, London, 1995, p. 17. This book provides a very useful a multi-disciplinary overview of the issue of consumption.

(3.) For the background and principles of Rochdale consumer co-operatives, see N. Balnave and G. Patmore, '"Practical utopians": Rochdale consumer co-operatives in Australia and New Zealand', Labour History, vol. 95, November 2008, pp. 97-99. For Starr-Bowkett societies, see M. Darnell, 'Freehold property for mechanics: A brief insight into Starr-Bowkett Societies' in Greg Patmore, John Shields and Nikola Balnave (eds), The Past is Before Us: Proceedings of the Ninth National Labour History Conference The University of Sydney 30 June-2 July 2005, Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Sydney, 2005, p. 97.

(4.) Balnave and Patmore, 'The politics of consumption', p. 1.

(5.) D. Nelson, Managers and Workers: Origins of the New Factory System in the United States, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 1975, pp. 93-4; H.L. Scamehorn, Mill and Mine: The CF&I in the Twentieth Century, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1992, ch. 6; C. Wright, The Management of Labour: A History of Australian Employers, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1995, pp. 20-24.

(6.) P. Glennie, 'Consumption within historical studies', in Miller (ed.), Acknowledging Consumption, pp. 164-66; P. Guerney, Co-operative Culture and the Politics of Consumption in England 1870-1930, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1996, p. 20.

(7.) V. de Gracia and L. Cohen, 'Introduction', International Labor and Working-Class History, no. 55, 1999, p. 1.

(8.) Guerney, Co-operative Culture, p. 22.

(9.) E. Ross, A History of the Miners' Federation of Australia, Australasian Coal and Shale Employees' Federation, Sydney, 1970, p. 46.

(10.) L.B. Glickman, 'The strike in the temple of consumption: Consumer activism and twentieth century American political culture', The Journal of American History, vol. 88, no. 1, 2001, p. 102.

(11.) J. Smart, 'Feminists, food and the fair price: The cost of living demonstrations in Melbourne, August-September 1917', Labour History, no. 50, 1986, pp. 1-5.

(12.) Guerney, Co-operative Culture, pp. 21-22

(13.) Ibid., pp. 21-22. Unlike Australia, there are major projects in the United Kingdom involving historians that bring a multidisciplinary approach to consumption. These include the Cultures of Consumption project based around Frank Trentmann at the University of London and the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change at the University of Manchester.

(14.) V. Burgmann, 'In Our Time: Socialism and the Rise of Labor, 1885-1905, George Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1985; B. Scates, A New Australia: Citizenship, Radicalism and the First Republic, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1997.

(15.) R.W. Connell and T.H. Irving, Class Structure in Australian History: Poverty and Progress, 2nd edn., Longman Cheshire, Melbourne, 1992, pp. 128, 131.

(16.) E. Eklund, 'The 'anxious class? storekeepers and the working class in Australia, 1900-1940', in R. Markey (ed.), Labour and Community: Historical Essays, University of Wollongong Press, Wollongong, 2001, p. 234.

(17.) E. Eklund, 'Retail co-operatives as a transnational phenomenon: Exploring the composition of Australian colonial society and culture', Journal of Australian Colonial History, vol. 9, 2007, p. 130.

(18.) N. Arrowsmith and R. Markey, 'Co-operation in Australia and the Illawarra', in R. Hood and R. Markey (eds), Labour and Community: Proceedings of the Sixth National Conference of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Illawarra Branch, Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Wollongong, 1999, pp. 201-205; L. Blackley, '"You didn't admit you were hard up": Working-class notions of moral community' in Hood and Markey (eds), Labour and Community, pp. 21-22; H. Lee, 'Workforce and community 1880-1904' in J. Hagan and H. Lee (eds), A History of Work and Community in Wollongong, Halstead Press, Rushcutters Bay, nd, pp. 70-75; J. McQuilton, 'Community 1940-1980', in Hagan and Lee (eds), A History of Work and Community, pp. 147-149.

(19.) G. Lewis, A Middle Way: Rochdale Co-operatives in New South Wales 1859-1986, published for the Australian Association of Co-operatives Ltd, Sydney by Brolga Press, Curtin, ACT, c1992, p. xvii; G. Lewis, People Before Profit: The Credit Union Movement in Australia, Wakefield Press, Kent Town, SA, 1996, pp. xxiv, 42-43, 46, 298.

(20.) G. Reekie, 'Decently dressed? Sexualised consumerism and the working women's wardrobe 1918-1923', Labour History, no. 61, 1991, pp. 42-56; A. Stephen, 'Selling soap: Domestic work and consumerism in the inter-war years', Labour History, no. 61, 1991, pp. 57-69; R. Walker, 'Aspects of working-class life in industrial Sydney', Labour History, no. 58, pp. 36-47.

(21.) Smart, 'Feminists, food and the fair price', pp. 113-131; See also Smart's later work: 'A mission to the home: The Housewives Association, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and Protestant Christianity, 1920-1949', Australian Feminist Studies, vol.13, issue 28, 1998, pp. 215-234 and 'The politics of the small purse: The mobilization of housewives in interwar Australia', International Labor and Working Class History, no. 77, 2010, pp. 48-68.

(22.) R. Markey, 'New South Wales trade unions and the co-operative principle in the 1890s', Labour History, no. 49, 1985, pp. 51-60; R.B. Walker, 'The ambiguous experiment: Agricultural co-operatives in New South Wales', Labour History, no. 18, 1970, pp. 19-31.

(23.) Markey, 'New South Wales trade unions', p. 51.

(24.) Walker, 'The ambiguous experiments, pp. 26-27.

(25.) P. Cochrane, 'The Wonthaggi Coal Strike, 1934', Labour History, no. 27, 1974, pp. 12-30; B. Ellem and J. Shields, 'Making a "union town": Class, gender and consumption in inter-war Broken Hill, Labour History, no. 78, 2000, pp. 116-140; A. Salt, 'Women on the northern coalfields of NSW', Labour History, no. 48, 1985, pp. 44-53.

(26.) D. Green, 'The 1918 strike of the medical profession against Friendly Societies in Victoria', Labour History, no. 46, 1984, pp. 72-87; R.V. Jackson, 'Building Societies and the workers in Melbourne in the 1880s', Labour History, no. 47, 1984, pp. 28-38; D. Weinbren and Bob James, 'Getting a grip: The roles of Friendly Societies in Australia and Britain reappraised', Labour History, no. 88, 2005, pp. 96-8.

(27.) N. Balnave and G. Patmore, 'Practical utopians: Rochdale Consumer Co-operatives in Australia and New Zealand', Labour History, no. 95, 2008, pp. 97-110; See thematic section in Labour History, no. 91, 2006.

(28.) N. Balnave and G. Patmore, 'Marketing community and democracy: Rural Rochdale co-operatives in Australia', Consumption, Markets and Culture, vol. 13, no. 1, 2010, pp. 61-78; N. Balnave and G. Patmore, 'Rochdale consumer co-operatives: A case of rural survival', Journal of Co-operative Studies, vol. 41, no. 1, 2008, pp. 11-21.

(29.) G. Boyce and S. Ville, The Development of Modern Business, Palgrave, NY, 2002, pp. 268-271; K. Humphery, Shelf Life: Supermarkets and the Changing Cultures of Consumption, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 1998, p. 51; G. Reekie, Temptations: Sex, Selling and the Department Store, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1993, p.124.

(30.) B. Kingston, Basket, Bag and Trolley: A History of Shopping in Australia, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1994, pp. 32-33.

(31.) Co-operative News, 1 October 1925, p. 5; 1 August 1928, p. 4.

(32.) E. Eklund, '"Intelligently directed welfare work"?: Labour management strategies in local context: Port Pirie, 1915-1929', Labour History, no. 76, 1999, p. 131; Ellem and Shields, 'Making a union town', pp. 116-140; E. Eklund, 'Managers, workers, and industrial welfarism', Australian Economic History Review, vol. 37, no. 2, 1997, p. 150.

(33.) M. Kerr, 'Labour management practices in non-union firms: Australian Abrasive Industry 1945-1970', Labour History, no. 92, May 2007, p. 84; G. Reekie, '"Humanising Industry": Paternalism, welfarism and labour control in Sydney's big stores, 1890-1930', Labour History, no. 53, 1987, pp. 14-15; S. Stevens, 'A social tyranny: The truck system in colonial Western Australia, 1829-1899', Labour History, no. 80, 2001, pp. 83-98; Wright, The Management of Labour, pp. 21-4, 33-4, 61-4. N. Balnave 'Commitment and efficiency through food: Food services in Australian industry, 1890-1965', in B. Bowden and J. Kellett (eds), Transforming Labour: Work, Workers, Struggle and Change, 8th National Labour History Conference Proceedings, Griffith University, South Bank, Brisbane, 3-5 October 2003, Brisbane Labour History Association, Brisbane, 2003, pp. 22-28.

(34.) The Co-operative News, 1 March 1925, p. 12; H. Heaton, Modern Economic History with Special Reference to Australia, Workers' Educational Association, Adelaide, 1925, p. 305; Lewis, A Middle Way, p. 9.

(35.) Co-operative News, 1 March 1925, p.12, Heaton, Modern Economic History, p. 305; W.K. McConnell, 'Consumers' co-operation in New South Wales', The Economic Record, vol. v, no. 9, 1929, pp. 263-264.

(36.) N. Balnave and G. Patmore, 'Localism and Rochdale co-operation: The Junee District Co-operative Society', Labour History, no. 91, 2006, p. 49.

(37.) Balnave and Patmore, 'Rochdale consumer co-operatives in Australia, p. 19; E. Jensen, Barossan Foundations, Nuriootpa War Memorial Community Centre Committee, Nuriootpa, 1969, pp. 157-170. McConnell, 'Consumers' co-operation in New South Wales', pp. 267-269; P. Smith, Fruits of Frugality: Eudunda Farmers, 100 years, 1896 1996, Eudunda Farmers Limited, Kent Town, 1997, p. 19.

(38.) E. O'Neil, History of the Co-operative Wholesale Society of NSW from 1912 to 1948, p. 19, unpublished typescript, University of Newcastle Archives, B8045.

(39.) Ibid., pp. 19-23.

(40.) Community Co-operative Store (Nuriootpa) minutes, 21 September 1949 (held at the Barossa Community Store, Nuriootpa); Interview with Mary Hatch, Harold Hoffman, Bert Schulz, Former Barossa Community Store Employees, Nuriootpa, 16 March 2010.

(41.) Co-operative News, 1 April 1950, p. 18.

(42.) Letter from B. Arrowsmith to A. Clint, 12 December 1966. Alf Clint Papers, Tranby Aboriginal College Archives, Glebe, Sydney, ACP/105.

(43.) N. Balnave and G. Patmore, 'Marketing community and democracy: Rural Rochdale co-operatives in Australia', Consumption, Markets and Culture, vol. 13, no. 1, 2010, p. 72; Interview by Greg Patmore with Trevor Mandry, former assistant manager, Collie Co-operative, 20 June 2007; Lewis, A Middle Way, pp. 218-219; K. Webber and I. Hoskins, What's in Store? A History of Retailing in Australia, Powerhouse Publishing, Sydney, 2003, p. 29.

(44.) Australian Financial Review, 8 March 1993, p. 20; Balnave and Patmore, 'Localism and Rochdale co-operation', pp. 64-5; Interview with Mary Hatch, Harold Hoffman, Bert Schulz, Former Barossa Community Store Employees, Nuriootpa, 16 March 2010; Sydney Morning Herald, 11 March 1993, p. 4.

(45.) Lewis, A Middle Way, p. xvii; O'Neil, History of the Co-operative Wholesale Society, pp. 29-30, 49.

(46.) Lewis, A Middle Way, pp. 105-6; H. Radi, P. Spearitt and E. Hinton, Biographical Register of the NSW Parliament 1901-1970, ANU Press, Canberra, 1979, p. 21.

(47.) Co-operative News, 1 January 1931, p. 1.

(48.) Lewis, A Middle Way, pp. 94, 167, 182-5.

(49.) E. Morris, 'Clint, William Alfred (1906-1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 13, Melbourne University Press, 1993, pp. 444-445; N. Loos and R. Keast, 'The radical promise: The Aboriginal christian co-operative movements, Australian Historical Studies, vol. 25, no. 99, p. 290.

(50.) W.A. Clint, '"Aboriginal Co-operatives", in ABM Christian Community Co-operative Ltd, Tranby Co-operative School. February 23-27 1959, Sydney, p. 1

(51.) NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change, Aboriginal Women's Heritage: Ballina and Cabbage Tree Island, Sydney, 2007, p. 48.

(52.) Letter from A. Clint to J. Trotter, 20.12.1971. Alf Clint Papers, Tranby Aboriginal College Archives, Glebe, Sydney, ACP/132.

(53.) Balnave and Patmore, 'Localism and Rochdale co-operation', pp. 61-2; Barossa Community Store, Notice of Annual General Meeting: Concise Annual Report 2009, pp. 3-4, 29.

(54.) The Albany Advertiser, 29 November 1968, pp. 11, 14, 16.

(55.) C. Rhodes, McClae. The Centenary History of the Macleay Regional Co-operative Limited. 1905-2005, Macleay Regional Co-operative, Kempsey, 2005.

(56.) D. Bisset and D. Crossley, 'Organising a food co-op', in M. Smith and D. Crossley (eds), The Way Out: Radical Alternatives in Australia, Lansdowne Press, Melbourne, 1975, pp. 217-220.

(57.) Manly Food Co-operative, (accessed 9 Feb 2010).

(58.) L. Cutcher and M. Kerr, 'The shifting meaning of mutuality and co-operativeness in the credit union movement from 1959 to 1989', Labour History, no. 91, 2006, pp. 31-46; Lewis, People Before Profit.

(59.) Lewis, People Before Profit, p. 43.

(60.) Cutcher and Kerr, 'The shifting meaning of mutuality', pp. 37-9.

(61.) C.O. Turner, 'One day's stoppage in twenty years', Personnel Practice Bulletin, vol. XV, no. 2, 1959, p. 21.

(62.) ACSI, Industrial Co-opperation in Australia, pp. 20-21.

(63.) If profit was made in any half-year after all contingencies had been provided for, at the direction of the Council it would be carried to reserve and used in the business, distributed among customers, or used for any 'benevolent or philanthropic purpose', ibid, p. 11.

(64.) Ibid., p.11; Eklund, '"Intelligently directed welfare work"?', 1999, p. 140.

(65.) E. Eklund, '"Intelligently directed welfare work"? Broken Hill Associated Smelters and attempts to create company loyalty at Port Pirie, 1915-1925', Paper presented to the Fifth National Conference of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, 1997, pp. 8-9; Eklund, '"Intelligently directed welfare work"?', 1999, p. 140.

(66.) G. Blainey, The Peaks of Lyell, St. David's Park Publishing, Hobart, 1993, p. 225.

(67.) G. Blainey, The Rush That Never Ended: A History of Australian Mining, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1978, p. 306.

(68.) Blainey, The Peaks of Lyell, p. 226.

(69.) Ellem and Shields, 'Making a 'union town'.

(70.) G. Reekie, '"Humanising industry": Paternalism, welfarism and labour control in Sydney's big stores 1890-1930', Labour History, no. 53, November 1987, p.14; Bank of NSW Archives, 82-26, 1105, Address by the General Manager, 17/4/51; Advisory Council of Science and Industry (ACSI), Welfare Work, Bulletin No.15, Melbourne, 1919, pp. 30, 60, 61; Noel Butlin Archive Centre, Australian National University, Tooth & Co, N20/2292, Welfare Scheme, 8/12/26.

(71.) F.R.E. Mauldon, 'Cooperation and welfare in industry', in D. Copland (ed.), 'An economic survey of Australia', The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, November 1931, p. 186.

(72.) ACSI, Welfare Work, pp. 76-79.

(73.) 'IWD (Industrial Welfare Division), Report of Activities for the Fortnight Ending 14/8/43', Australian Archives (hereafter AA), Series SP 113/1, 180/4/2; Wright, The rise of modern labour management, p. 57.

(74.) Memorandum for The Secretary, Department of Munitions, from R.G. Baxter, Director, IWD, 24 May 1943, AA, Series SP113/1, item 560/2/2; Memorandum from the Minister for Labour and National Service, 28 September 1942, AA, Series SP113/1, item 560/2/2.

(75.) Memorandum to the Director-General, Dept. War Organisation of Industry, Melbourne, from Deputy Director, Department of Labour and National Service, Sydney, 13/1/44, AA, Series SP 113/1, item 560/2/1; Memorandum for The Director-General, Dept. War Organisation of Industry, Melbourne, 13/1/44, AA, Series SP 113/1, item 560/2/1.

(76.) Correspondence to N. Curphey, Esq., Secretary, Victorian Chamber of Manufactures from E.J. Holloway, Minister for Labour and National Service, 5/5/44. AA, SP 113/1, 560/2/2.

(77.) 'Window displays', AA, Series SP 146/1, item 573/1/1, Part II; 'Case Review', 17 March 1945, AA, Series SP 146/1, item 573/1/1 Part II; 'Photographs of Cafeterias--Private Industry', Minute from B.R. Bennett, Senior Inspectorate, DLNS, to Area Controller, Food Services Branch, Sydney, 9/2/45, SP 146/1, 573/1/1 pt II; 'Distribution of Reference Material', 22 May 1947, AA, Series SP 146/1, item 572/8/8; DLNS Minute, 26/3/45, AA, Series SP 146/1, item 573/1/1; Correspondence to Mr. Vance Palmer from Baxter, Director, IWD, Sydney, 17/4/44, AA, SP 146/1, 573/1/1, Part II.

(78.) Items 572/8/8; 574/2/4; 574/3/2, AA, Series SP 146/1; 'Distribution of Reference Material', 22/5/47, AA Series SP 146/1, item 573/3/3; 'Review Digest of "Amenities in Wartime Factories"', Circular, 2 February 1946, AA, SP 146/1, 572/5/3, Part II; Correspondence from J.P. Carrington, Acting Assistant Director, IWD to General Manager, Bradford Cotton Mills, 12 September 1946, AA, Series SP 146/1, item 575/3/13.

(79.) P. Griffin, 'Employee welfare in a textile company', Personnel Practice Bulletin, vol.22, no.1, March 1966, p. 23.

(80.) J.S. Bridge, 'Welfare in a medium-size Australian factory', Personnel Practice Bulletin, vol. 15, no.2, 1959, pp. 12-13; N. Shaw, 'Works canteen controlled by employees', Manufacturing and Management, May 15, 1947, p. 424.

(81.) File 15/47 Metropolitan Rochdale Co-operative Society Ltd--Annual Returns. State Records Office of Western Australia.

(82.) For example, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company began to realise that conditions in parts of their older factories were not as good as they could have been, and the initiative was subsequently taken to build new dining rooms, along with other amenities, Colonial Sugar Refinery, South Pacific Enterprise: The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1956, p. 268.

(83.) C.P. Mills and G.H. Sorrell, Federal Industrial Laws, 4th edn, Butterworths, Sydney, 1968, p.237.

(84.) Shaw, 'Works canteen controlled by employees', p. 425.

(85.) Griffin, 'Employee welfare in a textile company', p. 27.

(86.) 'Recreation Club David Jones', Minute, 15 September 1949, AA, Series SP 146/1, item 582/2/14.

(87.) Wright, The Rise of Modern Labour Management, p. 192.

(88.) H.V. Wallage, 'Welfare without waste', Personnel Practice Bulletin, vol. 24, no. 2, 1968, p. 142.

(89.) Correspondence from Managing Director of Bradford Cotton Mills Ltd, Sydney, to Acting-Asst. Director, IWD, DLNS, Sydney, 16 September 1946, AA, SP Series 146/1, item 575/3/13; Griffin, 'Employee welfare in a textile company', p. 27; Bradford Cotton Mills, Annual Personnel Report, Footscray Mill, July 1955-June 1958, Private collection of Chris Wright.

(90.) Shaw, 'Works canteen controlled by employees', p. 429.

Nikola Balnave and Greg Patmore *

* This article has been peer-reviewed for Labour History by two external referees.

Nikola Balnave is a Senior Lecturer in Employment Relations at the University of Western Sydney. Her main focus of research is currently co-operatives in Australasia. Nikola is the federal president of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History. <>

Greg Patmore is the Professor of Business and Labour History in the School of Business at the University of Sydney. He is currently writing with Nikola Balnave a history of the Barossa Community Store in South Australia. He also has an ARC Discovery Grant to examine forms of non-union employee representation in Australia, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the USA during the interwar period. <>
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Author:Balnave, Nikola; Patmore, Greg
Publication:Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:May 1, 2011
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