The ‘Australian Settlement’ in the Countryside: Small Farmers and the Rise of Statutory Marketing in Australia

Publication Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date



The institutionalisation and mediation of class conflict in Australia is conventionally understood to have been established in the first decade of the 20th Century, with the enactment of ‘New Protection’. This ‘Australian Settlement’ provided tariffs to protect and compensate capital, and Arbitration to provide a measure of protection and compensation for workers. This paper explores the dynamic behind the incorporation of a class that was left out of the original ‘Settlement’: small farmers. While the existing literature assumes that small farmers were incorporated and compensated in the 1920s, with the rise of the Country Parties, this paper argues that the incorporation of farmers did not occur until much later, in the 1940s. It was not until this late state that a bipartisan consensus finally emerged, supporting compulsory, grower-controlled, statutory marketing, with cost of production support for wheat and dairy farmers (the two largest groups). This battle over compensation’ for small farmers festered for three decades, and considerably destabilised the Australian political system until the end of World War Two. The cause of the destabilisation was that the Australian Settlement could not address the grievances of small farmers who faced the twin threats of exposure to the international market and exploitation by merCHANts and processors. Statutory marketing was pursued by small farmers as a solution to these threats. However, the Australian bourgeoisie opposed statutory marketing both because it threatened sectional interests within the bourgeoisie, and because it undermined ‘free market’principles. This paper charts the struggle over statutory marketing during the interwar years, outlining the underlying forces that drove and mediated this conflict.


Politics and Social Change

Research Areas



Australasian Political Studies Association Conference

City or Country

Dunedin, New Zealand

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