On 23 October 1937, the ACTU called on the Australian government to boycott trade with Japan, following the Japanese invasion of China.
From The Advertiser (Adelaide), October 1937:
The full executive of the All Australian Council of Trade Unions, the central body of the trade unions of Australia, decided to appeal to the people of Australia, to launch a boycott on the purchase of Japanese goods.
‘The decision, it is thought, will have a far-reaching effect among trade unions, as some unionists declare that members of the Waterside Workers Federation in the various ports may now consider that it is their responsibility to refuse to handle Japanese goods.
The interstate conference of the federation decided on Thursday to act in conjunction with the A.C.T.U. in an action taken as a protest against the Sino-Japanese dispute.
A manifesto will be issued by the A.C.T.U. on Monday urging that the people of Australia should support the boycott by refusing to purchase Japanese goods.
Such a policy, however, is in conflict with the views of the political wing of the Federal Labor Party, which contends that a trade boycott would be “futile and provocative.”
The A.C.T.U. decided also to endeavor to bring about a complete prohibition of exports of scrap iron from Australia to Japan, and to make representations with the object of having withdrawn all concessions to the Japanese to work Yampi Sound ore deposits.
It was also decided to urge world-wide action on the lines of calling upon all people to refrain from purchasing Japanese goods.
The debate on the boycott question occupied the whole of the session today. The need for a boycott was raised by the secretary of the Sydney Labor Council (Mr. King, M.L.C). who said that Australia could not afford to ignore the happenings in China.
A boycott of Japanese goods by the workers of Australia was in line with the new anti-war policy of the trades unions