The Coming Colony/Chapter 1

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The Coming Colony by Philip Mennell
Chapter 1

THE COMING COLONY.


I.


Boom in Western Australia—Outlook for Emigrants—Production behind Consumption—At the Beginning instead of End of "a spirited Public Works Policy"—Cinderella again!


I have no desire to get up what is called a "boom" in Western Australia, though that peculiar phenomenon has often uprisen on slighter grounds than those which are now directing public attention to the undeveloped resources of what, in a sober and sensible spirit, may justly be styled the "Coming Colony."

The "outer man" of Australia, as a whole, is monotonous and unattractive from a picturesque point of view, and its fauna and, to an extent, its flora, present characteristics which, even in the tropical regions, make tameness their chief attribute. Even the fast-disappearing natives lack the nobility of the Maori or Zulu, and though occasionally dangerous to the detached settler, have shown no disposition to war with the white intruder in the open. South Africa, on the other hand, with its more luxuriant vegetation, its man-devouring animals, and its warlike aborigines, presents just that element of romance and danger which renders colonisation piquant to the "young bloods" of the time. Western Australia, though a veritable land of flowers, participates in the prevailing characteristics of the rest of the continent. In a word, whilst to the nine­teenth-century representatives of the "gentlemen adventurers" of the days of Raleigh its tranquil conditions might prove disappointing, to the industrious pioneer, desirous of securing a home amidst broader and brighter surroundings, with somewhat less of convention, and somewhat more of elbow-room than the Old World has been able. to afford him, Western Australia. may be recommended as possessing possibilities of success for the steady man for which he might seek in vain in "Merrie England."

At home, no doubt, we meet instances on every hand of men who have raised themselves from humble positions to the front ranks in commerce and politics, but they mostly belong to the exceptional class of men who possess the temperament of success, and would "do" anywhere. The attractions which Australia seems to me specially to offer are, to the ordinary­-going man, who looks not so much to palaces and purple and fine linen as the goal of his hopes, as to the humbler, but not less praiseworthy aim of owning his own home and homestead, and of seeing his children, before he dies, lifted up some way on that ladder of social ascent which his own lot forbade him to climb in the land of his birth. Social contrasts are, no doubt, becoming accentuated, and social distinctions defined, even in Australia, but where all are avowedly engaged in the material development of the country, there cannot be quite the same line drawn between the officers and the rank and file of the great army of industry, which prevails amidst the more complicated conditions of the old world, in which everything has had to broaden slowly down from precedent to precedent. Entrenched on his own holding, and with the certainty that life will be better worth living for his children than it has been for himself and his predecessors, he may feel himself the equal of any one.

Comparing Western Australia with other parts of the Australian continent, it is not only possible to acquire virgin land from the State on easy conditions, but even the area that has been already alienated is more cheaply purchasable than is the case in similar situations in the older colonies. Then, too, there is the advantage of going to a country where production is behind instead of in advance of consumption, no small matter in computing the chances of success from a farming point of view; whilst as regards the general outlook for the industrious colonist, it. is a fact of no little moment that Western Australia is at the beginning instead of the end (as in the case of the other colonies for the time being) of a "spirited public works policy." This alone is a vital feature, especially when it is borne in mind that in this regard financial exigen­cies, as well as common prudence, will compel her statesmen to profit by the experience and mistakes of their more advanced compeers to the eastward. The evidences of a vast mineral wealth are also daily accumulating, with the certainty that a large mining population will shortly enormously enhance the local demand for agricultural and industrial products of all descriptions.

Under these circumstances it has been thought that the republication, in an expanded form, of some letters recently contributed from the spot to one of the London daily news­ papers would not be unacceptable to the large class who, in the United Kingdom, and even in Australia and New Zealand, are from various causes on the qui vive for "fresh fields and pastures new."

An article from the pen of one of the most trusted financial authorities in Australia is also appended, as well as some im­portant excerpts from the summarised report of the Agricul­tural Commission of 1887, which is understood to have been drawn up by the Hon. H. W. Venn, the present Minister of Railways of Western Australia, than whom very few even of "old colonists" have had a more varied and practical experi­ence of pioneering life in the vast territory which he now assists to administer. As regards Mr. Turner's "impressions," they are entitled to even more than ordinary weight, because, as I myself can bear witness, he visited Western Australia with a "mind" that was rather "shut" than "open" to a favourable recognition of the immediate prospects of the colony. It is also on record that Mr. F. G. Smith, of the National Bank of Australasia, a gentleman regarded as the very type of the cautious and astute financier, was equally favourably impressed with the outlook for what (though the phrase has grown trite by repetition) was happily styled "The Cinderella of the Australian group."

A synopsis of the Land and Mining Regulations of Western Australia is also appended; in addition to which there is a Table of Wages, particulars as to passages and outfit, and assisted emigration, as well as new matter with respect to the almost incalculably valuable timber resources of the colony.