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The Wide Comb Dispute: Australian Sheep Shearing: 1983

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Published on Sep 9, 2013

This video containing material of historical interest has been uploaded for purposes of scholarship and research. It was broadcast in Australia by Channel Nine's "60 Minutes" on 19 April 1983 during a national strike in the shearing industry, making clear the intensity of feelings on both sides. Wide combs (3 1/2 inches) had been legalised on 10th December 1982. The Australian Workers' Union strongly objected. The AWU's appeal against the ruling had been unceremoniously rejected by the Australian Industry Commission on 23rd March 1983. Hitherto, since way back in 1926 only narrow combs (2 1/2 inches) had been permitted by the Pastoral Industry Award. In fact there had been a union rule against wide combs since 1910! Shearers were sharply divided between those who wanted wide combs, and those who wanted the ban continued. The video has great shots of unionists and wide comb "scabs" fighting at the door of a union meeting at the Wagga Wagga Leagues Club in NSW. Also an account of a violent assault on wide comb shearer Bob White and his wife outside the Eromanga pub in Queensland. For a book on the history of shearing see "Mateship and Moneymaking, Australian Shearing: The Clash of Union Solidarity with the Spirit of Enterprise, 1895-1995" by Rory O'Malley, Xlibris, 2013. The website shearinghistory.com also contains relevant historical information.

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