The Coming Colony/Chapter 22

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The Coming Colony by Philip Mennell
Chapter 22

XXII.


Why Western Australia has not Progressed—Her Bad Start—The Convict Stigma—Her Unwieldy Territory—Excellent Future Prospects—Opinion of the Other Colonies the Best Test.


The question is often put to one, Why, if Western Australia be all that its champions (and they have been but few in the past) would have the public believe, has it not long ago gone ahead in something like the same proportion as the Eastern Colonies? The question, it must be admitted, is something of a "poser." The worst thing in my opinion which Western Australia has had to contend with has been the "bad name" which she unfortunately got at the start, through the mistakes and follies which characterised her early colonisation. This is only just now ceasing to stick to her. Then she had to struggle against the convict stigma, quite a sufficient explanation in itself. The unwieldiness of her territory, as compared with the means of exploitation and administration at her command in those crucial early days, was also a huge drawback. Then, too, she had an unprogressive next-door neighbour, and even from that neighbour her settled areas were cut off by eight hundred miles of practically impassable desert. Had she had the good fortune to be set down between Victoria and New South Wales we should not have heard much of her inferiority to the other colonies in soil and products. So far did the evil influence of her bad name extend that she was pronounced, ex cathedrâ, to have no mineral wealth, and it is the disproof of this assertion in the slow course of time which, more than anything else, has given a new turn to her fortunes and attracted towards her the not wholly disinterested regards of the adjacent colonies.

It is often charged against Australia as a whole, that in the case of mining and other ventures she sends only her leavings to London. It cannot be said, however, that in the case of Western Australia the British public are being asked to go to a country which those on the spot do not think good enough for themselves. The contrary is the case altogether—all the coasting steamers of late months having been crowded with emigrants from the other colonies, anxious to invest their capital or turn their labour to profitable account in what their conduct shows they regard as essentially the "Coming Colony" of the Australian group. I mention this because I believe that the Australian people are much better judges of the attractions of their own continent than people at a distance can possibly be. If, therefore, the former are looking towards Western Australia as a likely arena for bettering their own fortunes (and I found a good many of this opinion even in New Zealand last year), I think the obvious conclusion is that the Englishman who may decide to throw in his lot with Western Australia is in no way flying in the face of the best kind of evidence in regard to its future possibilities.

In order to avoid all misapprehension it is as well to point out that, though in the course of the preceding pages I have dealt mainly with the territories of the two great land grant railway con1panies of Western Australia, I have done so quite apart from, and in total ignorance of, the position of either of them from a stock -broking and speculator's point of view. It seems to me useless for agricultural emigrants to settle at a distance from railway communication, and I have thus mainly confined my self to a description of the land available alongside of the recently and partially constructed lines. In doing so, I have given as far as I could a faithful account of the attractions of the country with just as little regard to shareholders' and debenture holders' interests as the future settlers need indulge in, so long as they have got a good climate, good land and cheap and easy access to a good market for the products of their labour.

It is now necessary to conclude what pretends to be nothing more than a very sketchy account of a very limited area of this land of large possibilities for "small men." Paraphrasing the words of the pious motto of the old Merchant Adventurers, I say, as regards all the new settlers who may venture their fortunes on her shores: Dieu lui donne bonne aventure.