The impact of the Great Depression
The Wall Street crash in October 1929 signalled the beginning of a severe depression for the whole industrialised world.
In 1931 the Court reduced ‘all’ award wage rates, including the basic wage and margins, by 10 per cent, because of the depressed state of the economy in Australia and overseas:
‘The evidence submitted by the applicants was to the effect that the fall in the national income had been so serious as to disturb completely the whole economic balance.... The Court refuses to make any variations in the basic wage ... but after much anxious thought it is forced to the conclusion that …. a general reduction of wages is necessary. As stated in the Court’s judgement….an emergency has arisen which calls for immediate re-adjustment in all directions…. All must adapt themselves to the fundamental fall in national income and national wealth and to our changed trading relationships with other countries.’
In 1934 the Court decided to restore substantially the Harvester real basic wage except in some industries which were in a critical condition. It decided to assess and adjust the basic wage from a ‘fresh starting point’. It set an amount of 67 shillings for Sydney and 64 shilling for Melbourne, with most other amounts for each capital city between those amounts.
1932: Sustenance workers breaking up tree trunks in Porepunkah, Victoria