History of West Australia/Chapter 20
1889 TO 1892.
LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL DISSOLVED—ELECTION AND NEW MEMBERS —CONSTITUTION BILL RECONSIDERED—THE DEBATE—AMENDMENTS IN COMMITTEE—LORD KNUTSFORD REFUSES SANCTION BILL CARRIED IN COUNCIL—PASSES HOUSE OF LORDS—OPPOSITION IN C0MMONS—SHELVED—RESOLUTIONS BY LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL—SUPPORT OF EASTERN COLONIES—A WESTERN AUSTRALIAN DELEGATION TO ENGLAND; SIR F. BR00ME, S. H. PARKER AND SIR T. C. CAMPBELL—SANCTION TO EASTERN DELEGATION REFUSED—SECRETARIES FOR THE COLONIES—PECULIAR VIEWS IN ENGLAND—ENABLING BILL AGAIN BEFORE COMMONS, 1890—SIR G. CAMPBELL'S OPPOSITION—A DEPUTATI0N—SECOND READING CARRIED—SELECT COMMITTEE APPOINTED—EVIDENCE OF S. H. PARKER AND SIR T. C. CAMPBELL—REPORT OF C0MMITTEE—OBJECTIONS T0 BILL—THIRD READING AND ROYAL ASSENT PROCLAIMED—THE CONSTITUTION ACT—SIR W. ROBINSON RETURNS AS GOVERNOR—HIS RECEPTION PR0CLAMATION DAY—CHOICE OF PREMIER—THE ELECTIONS—LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY AND COUNCIL—J0HN FORREST SUMMONED—FIRST CABINET MEMBERS SWORN IN—PRESIDENT, SPEAKER AND CHAIRMAN 0F C0MMITTEES, HEADS OF DEPARTMENTS—ABORIGINES BOARD MEMBERS—FEDERATION—VIGOROUS GOVERNMENT PROGRAMME—DEBATE LOAN BILL—ADDRESSES TO THE QUEEN, ETC.—SYDNEY FEDERATION CONVENTION—AGENT GENERAL'S OFFICE ESTABLISHED—DEFENCE SIR W. ROBINSON—IMPROVED STATE OF COLONY—DEATH OF SIR T. C. CAMPBELL—G. SHENTON APPOINTED PRESIDENT—S. H. PARKER BECOMES COLONIAL SECRETARY—A SECOND PUISNE JUDGE—AMENDMENT OF CONSTITUTION PROPOSED—FINANCES—RAILWAYS—HARB0UR WORKS—GOLD—YILGARN, 1889—SOUTHERN CROSS CRUSHINGS—HOPES HILL—PILBARRA DISTRICT RETURNS—KIMBERLEY—GOLD EXPORT, 1889—SOUTHERN CROSS, PILBARRA, KIMBERLEY, 1890—POPULATION—OUTPUT, 1891—RICH DEVELOPMENTS—MURCHISON GOLDFIELDS DISCOVERED—1892 RETURNS; AND DEVELOPMENT ON THE MURCHISON DISCOVERY 0F GOLD AT DUNDAS AND C00LGARDIE—MINING EXCITEMENT—TIN AT GREENBUSHES—COAL 0N THE IRWIN RIVER AT FLY BROOK AND COLLIE—COPPER AND LEAD—INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT—EXPORT AND IMPORTS—TERRIBLE DROUGHT—STOCK RETURNS— AGRICULTURE—PEARL FISHERIES—TIMBER AND SANDALWOOD—GUAN0 ETC.—DAVID LINDSAY'S EXPLORING PARTY.
THE constitutional movement was drawing to its consummation. When proroguing the Legislative Council in December, 1888, Governor Broome announced that Parliament would be dissolved so that the electors might give an opinion on the Constitution Bill. The action of the Imperial Government refusing to sanction loans sufficient to keep alive the public works policy pursued in previous years had greatly affected the finances, and there was the probability of a large deficit in 1889. Because they asked for self-government the people were not allowed to borrow. Governor Broome declared that one question which the constituencies had to decide was whether the colony could afford the additional outlay of £10,000 a year, which, he now predicted, would be the cost under the Act of the change. To Sir Frederick this seemed a grave consideration, but it was not to the electors; they had made up their minds that they wanted Responsible Government.
The Legislative Council was dissolved, and in January, 1889, the general elections were held. A distinct and conclusive vote was recorded for self-government. In detail, public opinion favoured the bicameral system, and desired that the Upper House should be elective, but rather than delay the establishment of autonomy the electors were willing to accept a compromise that the Council should at first be a nominated body, and that the elective principle should be reverted to after a given number of years. In their electoral speeches most of the old councillors spoke vigorously in support of responsible Ministers, and the new Council therefore differed very little from the old. Messrs. Hensman, Fawcett, H. Brockman, and J. Horgan did not resume their seats. The Legislative Council of 1889—the last under Representative Government—besides the members of the Executive Council, consisted of Sir J. G. Lee-Steere (Speaker), Sir T. C. Campbell, G. Randell, D. K. Congdon, J. Morrison (unofficial), L. V. De Hamel, W. E. Marmion, W. S. Pearse, R. F. Sholl, McKenzie Grant, W. T. Loton, A. Forrest, W. Patterson, A. R. Richardson, S. Burr, E. Scott, E. Keane, C. H. Rason, G. Shenton, S. H. Parker, W. H. Venn, and C. Harper (elective).
The Constitutional Bill, in a slightly different form, was again before the Legislative Council on 18th March, when Sir Malcolm Fraser moved the second reading. In April the measure passed another stage in its career, and was sent on its trying journey through the British Parliament. The debate in the Council was serious and instructive. The various speeches betokened a conciliatory spirit, a desirable quality which Mr. S. H. Parker had in previous years laid down as above all things necessary in the negotiations upon which they had entered. Indeed, certain speeches suggested the advocate bent on placating a jury. There was a pleading tone in them, which, had they been sitting on the benches of the House, might have won the good wishes of the implacable British legislators, before whom the measure had finally to go. The pity was that those honourable gentlemen, who, as after events proved, were lamentably ignorant of local conditions, took little account of what was said in the Western Australian Legislative Council. Had they done so they would not have conjured up before their minds such ridiculous fears as to the effects of the Constitution Bill, and would have given it a more ready support.
A considerable portion of the debate centred on the land question, the electoral qualifications, and the Civil List. The bill contained no provision giving the colony authority over any of its lands, but it was understood that Lord Knutsford would insert, in England, a clause giving control over them up to the 26th parallel of latitude, and partial control over lands beyond that line. The Imperial Government was empowered by the measure to divide the colony, and erect separate colonies at any time that Her Majesty might think fit. Mr. Parker declared that the Council was placing a great deal of trust in the Imperial authorities in passing the bill as it stood. He supported the second reading with pleasure, described the probable tortuous routine of the bill when it reached England, and urged members to quickly come to a decision. The more radical section considered that the property qualification for members of Parliament, and the qualifications for electors, were unduly high. It was provided that legislators must possess a freehold estate in lands or tenements valued at £500, or of the yearly value of £50; and that electors to the Assembly must own a freehold estate valued at £100, or a leasehold of an annual value of £10, and that electors to the Council (when it became elective) must possess a freehold of £200, or a leasehold of £30 annual value. Messrs. Venn, A. Forrest, and others supported the property qualifications demanded, but Mr. De Hamel wanted manhood suffrage. Mr. Burr believed that any person should be eligible to be nominated to the Legislative Council, and to sit in the Assembly, whether he had a property qualification or not. Mr. Shenton and Mr. Loton desired that the qualifications be modified, and suggestions were made that a vote should be given to miners and lodgers. Mr. Shenton referred regretfully to the state of the colony as affected by the constitutional agitation, and said that the suspense bad been injurious to trade, commercial enterprise, and to the investment of capital. He hoped that no amendments would be made that would jeopardise the speedy acceptance of the bill in England.
On 21st March the House went into Committee, and it was then that the difficulties of the situation became apparent. The measure had been drafted after a long series of despatches between Lord Knutsford and Governor Broome, and contained many features which were repugnant to the colony. Members believed that it would be dangerous to make drastic amendments, and they therefore agreed to certain clauses which they were really opposed to. The gift-horse was not to be looked into the mouth. Several amendments were, however, proposed, and some were carried. When the clause dealing with the property qualification of members was reached, Mr. Parker sought to strike out the words demanding a freehold of five hundred pounds, but he lost by fourteen votes to ten. He also moved to reduce the electoral qualification by one-half, but was defeated on the voices. Mr. Marmion succeeded in giving a vote to any person who, for one year before being registered, had occupied as a lodger a room or rooms or lodgings of the clear annum value, unfurnished, of £10. He also moved to give a vote to every man who for twelve months had paid 15s. per week for board and lodging, but was unsuccessful, and he met a similar fate when seeking to give a vote to holders of miners' rights who had lived in any district for twelve months. A clause, providing that the Assembly should be elected for five years was amended to read four years. The proposed Aborigines Board gave rise to a long discussion, and met with considerable opposition, but so as not to imperil the whole bill, no amendment was made.
The inconclusive clause dealing with the lands of the colony was more trenchantly debated than any other. Members desired that they should have some definite provision instead of leaving all to trust, and to the views of the Colonial Office. Several of them believed it futile to embrace Responsible Government without the management of the lands. Mr. Burt proposed that the entire management and control of the waste lands belonging to the Crown in the South-west, Eucla, and Eastern divisions should be vested in the Legislature of the colony. Mr. Shenton moved an amendment that the colony should have control of all the land south of the Tropic of Capricorn. Sir Malcolm Fraser objected to the amendment because the progress of the bill would be delayed. Sir James Lee-Steere objected on the ground that the amendment mentioned an exact boundary, which would suggest to Lord Knutsford that Western Australians would be satisfied with the control of only one part of the colony. He thought it better to make no reference to boundaries. Mr. Shenton's amendment was eventually carried on the voices. In the consideration of the Civil List, reductions were made in the salaries of the Governor (from £4,000 to £3,000), the Chief Justice, the puisne judge, and the clerk of the Executive Council, so as to save £1,450. The divisions in every case showed the elective members in opposition to the unofficial and official members. Reductions to save £50 were made in the schedule giving pensions to the members of the Executive Council who would lose their positions by the inauguration of Responsible Government.
On 3rd April the House reconsidered the bill in Committee, and minor alterations were made. The third reading was carried on 5th April. Governor Broome telegraphed to England concerning the various amendments. Lord Knutsford immediately replied, accepting only those reducing the duration of the Legislative Assembly to four years, and giving lodgers the franchise. In other words, he refused all the important claims preferred by the Legislative Council. On 13th April Governor Broome again referred the measure to the Council, when members adhered to their determination with respect to the lands and the Civil List. At this point the position became strained, and there was the danger of a deadlock eventuating. Governor Broome cabled Lord Knutsford, who on 15th April wired, asking if the Legislature would accept the complete control of all lands south of the 26th degree of latitude. Next day he again wired, persisting in his attitude regarding land control and the salaries and pensions, at the same time advising, in order to enable the Constitution Bill to go before the Imperial Parliament in that year, that the points at issue be settled before the Council was prorogued.
Again the Governor returned the bill to members, and be stated that the colony would gain much more than it would lose by accepting Lord Knutsford's views. He suggested that the words, "26th degree of south latitude," be substituted for "Tropic of Capricorn." Mr. Parker considered if the colony were certain of obtaining control of the waste lands south of parallel 26, that it would not be needful to offer any strenuous opposition to the Civil List as it stood originally. He would give way on the latter point, and adhere firmly to the land question, so as to let the Secretary for the Colonies clearly understand that the House was not prepared to accept Responsible Government unless the sole control of the land south of parallel 26 was vested in the Legislature. Lord Knutsord first proposed to vest the lands in the Legislature by an Act of Parliament; then he promised to delegate to Parliament his powers over the lands by regulation, as provided in statutes 18 and 19.
Members accepted Mr. Parker's view, and adjourned to permit the Governor to communicate with Lord Knutsford. On 23rd April a reply was received substantially engaging that a clause would be inserted in the Enabling Bill, giving the Legislature full control over the lands south of the 26th parallel. Members were satisfied with this undertaking; they struck out their amendment dealing with the land question and the Civil List, and on 26th April the Constitution Bill left the Legislative Council for the last time. On 28th April the House adopted a memorial to the Secretary of State, taking exception to certain items on the Civil List as being larger in proportion to the means of the colony than corresponding amounts exacted from the Eastern colonies when they were accorded Responsible Government. The memorialists stated, however, that they were willing to give way rather than imperil the early passage of the bill. In the matter of the Upper House they and the colony at large were strongly in favour of election, but they were agreeable to accept the compromise. They declared that they had with great reluctance given way on the point of the management of lands north of the 26th parallel. Then, they continued, "From the foregoing your Lordship will see how much, and how greatly against their own inclinations and those of the country, your memorialists have differed to your wishes. They have done so solely with a view of putting an end as speedily possible to a transition period, the attendant circumstances of which are causing serious injury to Western Australia, and any prolongation of which might be followed with disastrous results." Finally, they were assured that the Secretary for the Colonies would use all the weight of his influence towards promoting the acceptance of the bill by the Imperial Parliament during the current session.
The Constitution met with a stormy reception in England. After supervision in the Colonial Office, it passed the House of Lords without difficulty, but the Commons showed slight inclination to consider it. Both Liberals and Conservatives evinced a peculiar and unreasonable antipathy. Their arguments, and those of sections of the English press, betokened little respect for the loyalty and good faith of Britishers. The 1889 session had already been a long one, and as the measure reached the Commons late in the season Lord Knutsford, in July, cabled Governor Broome that there was little likelihood of its being passed in that year. The Enabling Bill did not get beyond its first reading, and, important as it was to Western Australia, it was calmly shelved until 1890. No consideration was shown for the awkward position in which the colony was placed. It was two years since the advisability of a change of constitution was affirmed by the Legislative Council. During that transition period many considerations tended to protract the passing of useful measures and to restrict local enterprise. The colony had become financially embarrassed, and legislators and private individuals were unwilling and unable to pursue vigorous policies until they knew what the immediate future had in store for them. Consequently the news of the abandonment of the bill came as a serious blow to local people. Mr. S. Burt, soon after receipt of Lord Knutsford's cablegram, voiced the general feeling when he moved, during a second session of the Legislative Council in 1889, that "The anticipated delay in the passage of the Enabling Bill will most seriously affect its material prospects, will give rise to universal irritation, and deal a fatal blow to that trustful confidence in the fair dealing and justice of the House of Commons which has hitherto been reposed in a body credited throughout the world with a reputation for sympathy with, and active support of, principles of self-government." It was earnestly requested that the Imperial Government would reconsider the position, in the interests of the colony, and would endeavour to pass the measure during the current session of Parliament. At the same time Mr. Parker carried a motion providing that telegrams should be sent to the Governments of the Eastern colonies soliciting their aid, and asking that the several Agents-General should be instructed to jointly impress upon the Imperial Cabinet the necessity of passing the bill before the prorogation. The other colonies gave a hearty support, and immediately replied to the telegrams, announcing their willingness to render every help. Mr. Fysh, of Tasmania, had already communicated with the several Premiers, suggesting a simultaneous address to the Home Government, declaring that the delay was regarded with much disfavour. Both Houses of Parliament in South Australia suspended the standing orders and passed an address to Her Majesty's Government praying for the speedy extension to Western Australia of a full measure of Responsible Government, to advance the cause of federation and complete Australian unity by adding Western Australia to the group of "loyal, contented, and autonomous colonies." The New South Wales Parliament passed similar resolutions. Throughout the subsequent travail the whole of Australia evinced lively interest in and sympathy with the movement. But this joint support and Mr. Burt's resolution did not affect the present issue. Before the end of the second session of the Legislative Council an address of thanks to the other colonies was passed.
After the shelving of the bill, Lord Knutsford informed the Governor that the measure would in all likelihood be referred to a Select Committee of the House of Commons in the following session. It was suggested, and the Secretary for the Colonies agreed that such was desirable, that a delegation from the colony should proceed to London to support the passage of the bill, and to give evidence before the Committee. Lord Knutsford declared that the services of the Governor would be valuable in that capacity and proposed that an unofficial member of the Legislative Council should accompany him. There was such an extraordinary mass of misapprehension in England respecting Western Australia that it was evident that clear explanations and evidence, and vigorous and personal advocacy, were absolutely required. A third session of the Legislative Council was held in 1889, when Governor Broome, in his address, explained these matters. In November, Mr. Venn moved that two delegates instead of one should accompany Governor Broome to England. Mr. Loton sought to pass an amendment that one delegate—Mr. Parker—be sent, but the House agreed with Mr. Venn. Mr. S.H. Parker was appointed first delegate; and as Sir T.C. Campbell and Mr. S. Burt received an equal number of votes for second delegate the latter gentleman retired. It was also proposed that two delegates should proceed to the Eastern colonies to advance the cause, and Messrs. John Forrest and V.E. Marmion were chosen; but the Secretary for the Colonies, much to the indignation of Western Australia, would not sanction such a mission. The Council was prorogued on 4th December, 1889, and Governor Broome took leave of members prior to his departure for England. He did not return again to the colony. Sir Malcolm Fraser, the Colonial Secretary, became the Administrator on 21st December, and Mr. O. Burt became Acting Colonial Secretary. Messrs. Warton, O'Grady Lefroy, J.A. Wright, J. Forrest, and Sir J.G. Lee-Steere were the remaining members of the Executive Council under Representative Government. On the motion of Mr. Parker, in August, 1889, a memorial to the Secretary for the Colonies was adopted declaring that it would be to the advantage of the colony if Governor Broome's term of office were extended to allow of his inaugurating Responsible Government.
The Western Australian delegates proceeded to England, where their earnestness and conclusive arguments undoubtedly greatly influenced the passage of the Enabling Bill. They had much rancorous opposition to overthrow. During 1889-90 influential English newspapers deprecated the hurried passage of a measure granting autonomy to Western Australia, and published diatribes which were singular for their incorrectness. From the beginning of the agitation in the seventies, the Secretaries for the Colonies had placed numerous delays in the way of the establishment of a more liberal constitution. At times they were petty and weak in their threats. Monetary privileges had sometimes been given, with the objectionable provision that they would be withdrawn if the agitation for Responsible Government were furthered, and memorials had been refused in such a manner as would try the temper of the most patient. According to them, also, they could administer the colony far better than could responsible ministers; their methods of encouraging development and progress were, sometimes, to be unnecessarily conservative in the land regulations, to discountenance any attempt to extend settlement beyond the south-west districts, and, at first, to discourage a pearling industry. There is more than a suspicion that certain statesmen placed little value on the colonies, and would have observed proposals for separation with equanimity. But Lord Knutsford had got beyond these stages, and while not over-eager in rapidly pressing the Enabling Bill through the Commons, he was apparently sincere in his expressed wish that autonomy should be granted to the colony. His hobby-horse lived in the northern lands of Western Australia, which, he held, could not be satisfactorily managed by a Government resident in the south. The mantles of past illiberal Secretaries for the Colonies now fell upon no inconsiderable section of members of the House of Commons and upon the press, and their opposition was based upon untenable premises. The questions of land and immigration were joyously embraced by these opponents. They raised a clamour against the bare idea of giving thirty or forty thousand people such an enormous territory as Western Australia, which, they said, was the heritage of Great Britain. They declared that the proposed surrender of the whole country would be nothing less than the establishment of an extensive oligarchy of squatters on a vast Imperial reserve, and that to accept such a position would be mere folly. They believed that if half the colony were to be handed over to some 8,000 families immigration would be discouraged, and suggested that if the claims of Western Australian were conceded, their power to divide the land among themselves should be definitely limited, so as to prevent land-grabbing. In other words, they seemed to think that Western Australians were not Britishers, that they would not conduct themselves as Britishers, that they would revert to primitive methods of "grabbing" the land, and that they would be so foolish as to seek to keep the colony to themselves by carefully refusing admission to immigrating capitalists and workers. Governor Broome took an early opportunity of exhaustively answering these arguments in a letter to The Times, devoting special attention to the land question. It was a splendid effort to disabuse the minds of English people regarding Western Australian conditions.
The Enabling Bill, empowering the Queen to give assent to the bill passed by the Legislative Council of Western Australia was again before the Commons in February, 1890. On the 25th, copies of the original bill were issued to members. The Imperial Government had seen fit to make some alterations, one of which was designed to enable the British Parliament to veto any colonial bill which provided for the exclusion of immigrants. But the provision of most interest to the colony was that assigning to Western Australia the control of waste lands south of the twenty-sixth parallel of latitude. Lord Beauchamp, in the House of Lords, supported the proposal made by a Western Australian, that the land west of longitude 121 should be given to the colony; but Lord Knutsford adhered to his favourite boundary line. In the debate on the second reading Sir G. Campbell, with a substantial following, was the strongest opponent. His opposition was practically based on the contention that it was undesirable to give up the heritage of the whole British nation to a few colonial monopolists. Suggestions were made that the reserved tropical and sub-tropical portions of the territory could be utilised for the surplus population of India; but one speaker pointed out that a federated Australia might object to anything of the kind. Baron Henry de Worms, the Attorney-General, had control of the bill.
Sir G. Campbell gave notice of an amendment blocking the second reading. A conference was held between him, attended by Messrs. Bradlaugh, Channing, and H. Vincent, and Baron de Worms, attended by Sir F. Broome, Sir W. Robinson (who was supporting the cause), Mr. Parker, and Sir T. C. Campbell. After producing reasons Baron de Worms asked that the block should be removed; but Sir George refused to alter his course. He subsequently, however, refrained from bringing forward his amendment, and the second reading was carried on 27th February.
A Select Committee, consisting of nineteen members representing all shades of opinion, with Baron de Worms as chairman, was appointed to report on the bill. Between the 13th March and the 5th May the members held twelve meetings, and their report had the effect of dispelling most of the misapprehension, and led to Western Australians being presented with a constitution more pleasing than they anticipated. Mr. Parker, Sir T.C. Campbell, and Sir F. Broome were subjected to a searching examination. Since their arrival in London they had been indefatigable. At a banquet held at the St. George's Club on 1st February, glowing speeches were made by Sir W. Robinson and Sir F. Broome. The former gentleman very fortunately happened to be in England when the Western Australian cause seemed most forlorn, and he threw all his influence and energy on the side of the delegation. He was already looked upon as the probable successor to Sir F. Broome. Referring at the banquet to the land hobby, he pointed out to those who said that all the territory must not be handed over, that it was not really "handing over" the land, but merely transferring the guardianship to Ministers of the colony who knew what its requirements were. Moreover, they were not handing this land over to 40,000 people, but to hundreds of thousands of the descendants of those people. He was sure if any body or gentlemen chose to send out emigrants, that Western Australia would be glad to receive them. Sir F. Broome asked those who wanted to know more about the land question to read the accounts of Forrest's and Giles's exploring expeditions; they would then discover that the country beyond the utilised areas was not such that it only required tickling with a plough to make it smile with a harvest. Mr. S.H. Parker felt pride in declaring that he was an Australian native, and still greater pride in knowing that he was an Englishman.
Sir F.N. Broome, in his evidence before the Committee, reiterated statements made in his various despatches as to the intelligence of the legislators and the policy of the country, and refuted the arguments concerning the immigration and land questions. Mr. Parker was emphatic in his declaration that Western Australians were earnest in their desire for Responsible Government, and said that at the preceding elections not one candidate advocated the retention of the existing constitution. He was frank in his references to the financial condition of the colony, which, he said, was due to the Colonial Office refusing, since the resolutions of 1887 arming the desirability of establishing self-government, to allow Western Australia to borrow money, except £100,000. With autonomy he anticipated a considerable influx of capital, and as that capital must employ labour, Western Australia must become a better field than at present for the mere immigrant as distinguished from the colonist. He agreed with Governor Broome that the south-west was the only part of the colony available for immigration. The people were unanimously in favour of an immigration scheme which would settle the land. But to simply send labour to the colony, without providing means of settlement on the soil, was courting failure, as it would be impossible for any number to obtain employment. He thought that the clause in the bill, which reserved to the Imperial Government the control of the northern lands, should be omitted. In defence matters, and the reservation of lands for fortifications for Imperial purposes, it appeared to him that Imperial interests and local interests were one and the same, and that colonists were just as much interested in Imperial questions as Englishmen residing in the mother country. He felt sure that Western Australian sentiment would be perfectly in accord with the construction of as many Gibraltars on their shores as the British Government thought proper to place there.
Sir T.C. Campbell also asserted that Western Australia, as a whole, was in favour of the movement. There could, he said, be no federation of Australia without free government in Western Australia, and there could be no free government without full control locally of the Crown lands. The colony contained all the elements of prosperity, and the people only wanted a free hand to take advantage of them. He did not think the control of the Colonial Office over the lands was of the slightest use, and he even went so far as to say that the Colonial Office favoured jobbers and land grabbers, and that the development of the colony was hampered by the Colonial Office, which would not agree to any speculative action. Western Australia wanted capital, but since the people had asked, with acclamation, for Responsible Government, they had not been allowed to borrow a penny. The interests of the aborigines, he continued, were well looked after, and he looked upon the proposed Aborigines Board as a sort of buffer between the settlers and Exeter Hall. The colonies would be perfectly willing to reserve land for defensive purposes, but such must be done by a mutual arrangement between them and the Home Government.
The finding of the Committee was in favour of the passage of the Enabling Bill, with the recommendation that the complete control of the lands should be given to the colony. The members were convinced that the objections operating against the measure before the Commons were without solid foundation, and altogether in opposition to fact. Before the time for the further consideration of the Enabling Bill had arrived, the Colonial Government, Sir W. Robinson, and the Western Australian delegation, brought all the influence possible to bear on the authorities. Statesmen were visited, and personally asked not to obstruct the measure. Petitions were presented to the Queen to grant Western Australia a constitution "similar to those of the other Australian colonies." On 9th June Lord Knutsford introduced a deputation, composed of the Australian Agents-General, to the First Lord of the Treasury, Mr. W.H. Smith. The deputation requested the Right Honourable gentleman, as leader of the House of Commons, to give an assurance that the Government would strive to get the bill through Parliament during the session. Mr. Smith promised to press the measure.
Opposition was renewed when the bill was again before the Commons. Pamphlets had been circulated among members, embracing points of objection to the passage of the bill in its existing form. These declared that it had been drawn by the Conservative Government in London without the people of Western Australia being consulted, and that it was adopted by a purely Conservative Chamber, the Legislative Council of Western Australia, consisting of members possessing a high property qualification, elected on an old and restricted franchise. Objection was taken to a nominated Upper House, to the property qualification of members of the Assembly, and to the electoral qualifications. It was asseverated that, as in other colonies, there should be no qualification for members in the Lower House, and that manhood suffrage should prevail, so as not to restrict the area of selection of representatives.
At one time and another the fate of the measure appeared portentious. Had Sir G. Campbell persisted in his "block" on the second reading, the granting of self-government to Western Australia might have been relegated to the dim future. Then the Conservative party was threatened with a storm over the Irish Land Purchase Bill, upon the carrying of which even their existence in office depended. But constant pressure, and the report of Baron de Worms' Committee, carried conviction, and, notwithstanding renewed opposition from Sir G. Campbell, the third reading was affirmed on 25th July. This was the end so devoutly desired for many years. The turmoil was over, and the Royal assent was given on the 15th August. The people obtained the entire management and control of all their waste lands without prejudice to any vested or other rights.
The new constitution provided for the establishment of a Legislative Council and a Legislative Assembly. The former Chamber was to consist of fifteen members summoned by the Governor, and the latter of thirty members elected by the people. As usual, it was left to the Governor to fix the time and place of meeting of these Chambers, and to prorogue them both, or dissolve the Assembly by proclamation when he might think fit. A session of each Chamber was to be held once, at least, in every year. No member of the Council could hold any office of profit under the Crown, other than such as was liable to be vacated on political grounds, or than that of an officer of Her Majesty's sea or land forces on full, half, or retired pay. One, at least, of the responsible Ministers must be a member of the Council. Members of the Council retained their seats until the expiration of the compromise agreed to in the elective difficulty. The Governor was to appoint a President, who was allowed to take part in debates. Writs for the election of members to serve in the Assembly were to be issued by the Governor, and members could proceed to the despatch of business even though all the writs (so that the number did not exceed five) were not returned. The Assembly was to be elected for four years, and could appoint its own Speaker. Questions were to be decided by the majority of votes, the Speaker or President having a casting vote. To qualify for membership of the two Houses, the aspirant must be a natural-born or naturalised subject of Her Majesty, of the full age of twenty-one years, with an estate of freehold in lands or tenements, within the colony, of the value of £500 above all charges and encumbrances, or of the yearly value of £50; such estate must be held for, at least, one year previous to the election. The candidate was required to make a statutory declaration to these effects, which must be delivered to the Clerk of the Council or Assembly. Judges of the Supreme Court, the Sheriff of the colony, clergymen or ministers of religion, undischarged bankrupts, or a debtor whose affairs were in course of liquidation or arrangement, and those persons who had been attained or convicted of treason or felony in any part of Her Majesty's dominions, were disqualified from membership of either House. Persons, directly or indirectly, holding contracts for the Public Service were also debarred, and if legislators accepted any contract after taking their seats their right to continue in Parliament was declared at an end. There were to be five principal Executive officers, which must be designated and declared by the Governor-in-Council within one month of the coming into operation of the Act. In their first session each House must adopt standing rules and orders for the regulation of proceedings, and it was made lawful for the legislature by enactment to define the privileges, immunities, and powers of either House or of the members thereof.
The colony, was divided into thirty electoral districts, each to return one member to the Legislative Assembly. The electoral districts were:
|West Kimberley ||Swan||Nelson|
|De Grey||East Perth||Toodyay|
|Geraldton||South Fremantle ||Williams|
This electoral division of the colony was designed so as to not give one portion of the huge territory an unfair advantage over another. A modest score of electors in a remote constituency could return a member in whom was vested all the powers and authority of a metropolitan representative chosen by hundreds of electors. It could not be said that the division was unjust to the northern districts. The electoral laws were slightly altered from those applying to the old Legislative Council. Every man was entitled to be registered and to vote who was of full age and not subject to any legal incapacity; who was a natural-born or naturalised subject of Her Majesty, or a denizen of Western Australia; who had possessed, within his electoral district, for at least one year before being registered, a freehold of the clear value of £100 above all charges and encumbrances, or a leasehold of the clear value of £10 per annum, or a lease or license from the Crown empowering him, subject to the payment of £10 per annum, to occupy, cultivate, or mine on Crown lands; and who had occupied, for one year, as householder, a dwelling-house of the clear value of £10 per annum, or, as a lodger, a room or lodgings of the clear annual value of £10. Those persons were disqualified who had been attainted or convicted of treason, felony, or any infamous offence in any part of Her Majesty's dominions, unless they had served their sentences, or received a free pardon, or a pardon conditional on their not leaving the colony.
Part III. of the Act embraced the compromise. Six years after the first summoning of persons to the Legislative Council, or when the Registrar-General of the colony certified that the population, exclusive of aboriginal natives, had attained 60,000 souls, the elective principle was to obtain. The Council would still consist of fifteen members, and the colony was divided into five Electoral Divisions, each returning three members. The Electoral Divisions were:—
Members of the Council were to retire in rotation, the senior member for each division having to go before the electors every two years. Seniority was determined either by date of election, or, in the event of two or more persons being elected on the same day, by the alphabetical precedence of their surnames, and, if necessary, of their Christian names. The members of the elective council could elect their own President. The owners of freehold estates of £200 value, of leaseholds of £30 value per annum, of leases or licenses to depasture, cultivate, or mine on Crown lands, of £30 annual value; or the occupiers for twelve months of dwelling-houses valued at £30 per annum qualified for a vote in the election of the Council.
Under the other Parts of the Act, it was made lawful for Her Majesty to remove any judge of the Supreme Court upon the address of both Houses of the Legislature. In the financial sections it was provided that all bills for appropriating any part of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, or for imposing, altering, repealing any rate, tax, duty, or impost must originate in the Legislative Assembly, but that such appropriations must be first recommended by message of the Governor. The much-debated Civil List, for paying a sum not exceeding £9,850, provided for the salaries of the Governor, £4,000; Private Secretary, £300; Clerk of the Council, £250; Chief Justice, £1,200; Puisne Judge, £900; and five Ministerial salaries, £3,200. The annual pensions to officers who would lose their offices by the operation of the Act were:—Colonial Secretary (Sir Malcolm Fraser, K.C.M.G.), £700; Attorney-General (Charles Nicholas Warton), £333 6s. 8d.; Colonial Treasurer (Anthony O'Grady Lefroy), £550; and Surveyor-General and Commissioner of Crown Lands (John Forrest, C.M.G.), £500; total, £2.083 6s. 8d. But when any these officers accepted an appointment under the Crown in any part of Her Majesty's dominions, the allowance was suspended or reduced pro tanto, according as the salary of such appointment, added to such allowance, was greater than the salary of the office vacated in consequence of the Act. Provision was made, also, that the annual sum of £5,000 should be voted to an Aborigines Protection Board, and be expended in supplying aboriginal natives with food and clothing, in promoting the education of aboriginal children (including half-castes), and in assisting generally to promote the preservation and well-being of the aborigines. At the time when the gross revenue of the colony exceeded £500,000 in any financial year, an amount of one per centum per annum on such gross revenue was to be substituted for the £5,000. Finally, power was given to the Legislature of the colony to alter from time to time any of the provisions of the Act, and the new constitution was to be proclaimed and to take effect within three months of the receipt of official information that the Royal assent had been given.
It can be easily conceived that Western Australians hailed the change in their affairs with delight. For twelve months they had been in the place of a despised pleader for justice before a cold judge. Their moral character was attainted by the opposing counsel; their intelligence was impugned; and they were declared to be unfit to manage the property which was their birthright. But now judgment had been given in their favour, and they prepared to do credit to the estate that had been awarded them, to care for it like good husbandmen. In the past there had been practically no opportunity for local men to rise and assume that place in public affairs for which their talents fitted them. Under Representative Government a community might contain men of very superior intelligence, but they could never be proved. The local administration was made up of men sent specially from England, and Mr. John Forrest may be said to have been the only Western Australian who held administrative office for any length of time. Under the old system in the Legislative Council there was no scope for great attainments, and when a politician went out of the beaten track he was apt to be brought up sharply by the Governor's power of veto. Consequently, Western Australia had not yet, in a political sense, produced great men as such an expression as understood in other Australian colonies. The old constitution, also, did not tend to improve the character of the people. They were intermittently dissatisfied, and laboured under the impression, rightly or wrongly, that they were not receiving fair treatment from the Imperial Government. The Governor might be supposed to carefully guard his public utterances, so that he should find favour in the eyes of his master, the Secretary for the Colonies. There was a suspicion that the Administrator did seek to curry favour by such means, and colonists were not backward in making accusations. On the other hand, the people themselves sometimes resorted to the pernicious practice of seeking to bring the administration into contempt and disrepute to gain their ends. A dissatisfied man is not altogether a happy man, and unless he have an unusually wholesome character he will become careless, perhaps indolent, and improvident. The old system, as it worked in Western Australia, was calculated to do harm to the temper and character of the people, and, when objectionable restrictions were enforced, to cramp enterprise and the desire for betterment.
To Sir William Robinson was entrusted the honourable duty of inaugurating the new constitution. He arranged to leave England shortly after the Royal assent had been given, and extensive preparations were made to welcome him, not only because of his popularity by reason of his previous administrations and his earnest advocacy of autonomy when the Enabling Bill needed strong friends, but because he was the chosen ambassador from whom the colony was to receive its new constitution. People waited expectantly for all the excitations of the elections and of an administration to be appointed as an outcome of their suffrage. Sir William arrived at Perth on 20th October. Addresses were presented to him emanating from various parts of the colony. From the moment of his stepping on the Albany jetty he was greeted kindly and loyally as the Queen's representative. The railway from Albany to Perth, a distance of 340 miles, was, as he reported to the Secretary for the Colonies, "practically decorated from one end to the other; the stations were festooned with the beautiful wild flowers of the country," and at various stopping-places the people assembled and cheered him. In the night, as the train rushed through the uncleared bush, a great part of the line was illuminated by bonfires a mile and a half apart. Immediately upon his arrival in the capital Sir William was for the third time sworn in as Governor, and in reply to an address presented in the Town Hall by the mayor, Dr. Scott, expressed his confidence in the worth of the public men of Western Australia.
0n the 1st of October, 1890, the new constitution was proclaimed. The city was decorated with mottoes, flags, streamers, and wildflowers. Nearly all the buildings, public and private, were festooned, and people from every remote part of the colony gathered in the metropolis to witness the historical ceremony. Complimentary telegrams were received from the Governors of all the Australian colonies, and from elsewhere felicitating Western Australia upon the attainment of her birthright and majority. The loyalty of the people was unbounded, and Governor Robinson informed the Secretary for the Colonies that he had never seen anything to equal the public enthusiasm displayed. Special religious services were held in all the churches. A procession, comprising military, various societies, fire brigades, and school children, estimated to number 3,000 persons, and representative of all classes, marched to the Recreation Ground, overlooking the Swan River, where the ceremony was to take place. A dais was erected in front of the pavilion, and before an exultant audience of between 7,000 and 8,000 people, Governor Robinson called upon Chief Justice Wrenfordsley to read the proclamation. When this impressive ceremony was completed, His Excellency called for three cheers for Her Majesty, and the huzzahs rang more merrily than ever before in the colony. Then a choir of children sang the National Anthem; three cheers were given for the new constitution, and the band gave a selection, entitled "Unfurl the Flag," composed by Sir William Robinson himself. The mayor read the united addresses to the Governor of the municipalities of the colony; other addresses from societies, institutions, and religious denominations were also read. A free dinner was served on the grounds, when savory viands, cake, beer and other liquids, as well as cigars, were dispensed. From two to five in the afternoon athletic sports were held; and in the Government House Domain the children were specially catered for and numerous pastimes were arranged for their pleasure. A proclamation banquet, a torchlight procession, public ball in the Town Hall, St. George's Hall, and the Catholic Boys' School, were held in the evening. Thus was this auspicious day ended. In country towns and villages the great occasion was as enthusiastically honoured as in Perth.
When this celebration was concluded the public mind turned to the changes that were to follow in its train. The question of who should be summoned to undertake the formation of a ministry was agitated in the press and absorbed general attention. Ever since 1887 a section of the public had advocated the claims of Mr. S.H. Parker to this dignity, while some spoke of Mr. Hensman as the proper man. Mr. Parker was virtually the leader of the constitutional movement, and it was practically upon his motion that the outgoing Government was defeated and had to resign. For twelve years—ever since his entry into the Legislative Council—he had courageously fought for the rights of the colony and even his opponents were satisfied with the sincerity and value of his services to the Enabling Bill in England. British statesmen had complimented him upon his evidence before the Commission and his manner of furthering his cause on any and every occasion. For services rendered to Responsible Government, pure and simple, Mr. Parker had superior claims. Mr. John Forrest, as an administrator under the old régime, also had high claims. He had a very large following in the colony, had obtained deserved popularity by his good works as an explorer and as head of the Lands Department, and he was known to be discreet, sincere, intelligent, determined, and indefatigable. Mr. Parker had proved his worth as an advocate; Mr. Forrest his, as an administrator.
The question was discussed as to whether the first Ministry under Responsible Government should be selected immediately after the proclamation of the Constitution Act, or whether the selection should be deferred until after the general elections. The newspapers, as a rule, desired that the prospective Premier should be summoned at once, and it was said that as the old administration had not the powers to conduct the affairs of the colony under the new Act it had no right to exercise them for a single day. Sir William Robinson took the opposite view. In a memorandum to the Colonial Secretary, dated 22nd October, be said that the point had not been considered in England, and that the Secretary for the Colonies and Sir F. Broome had apparently taken it for granted that no Ministry would or could be selected until after the elections. Then he asks, with reason:" What right have I to assume that Mr. A., Mr. B., or Mr. C. will be elected a member of Parliament? What right have I to assume that this candidate, or that, will, if elected, be supported by a working majority? And how, therefore, can I possibly select any Ministry until after the country has done its part, and furnished me with a Parliament from which to make my selection?" He explained that he was bound to maintain a passive attitude, and declared that with the aid of the Executive Council he had decided to await the results of the elections.
The public remained satisfied with this decision. The general elections were held in December. For weeks previously the political canvass had been conducted with vigour. Enthusiastic election meetings were held in every centre, and candidates and electors made grateful references to the change of constitution. The newspapers were crowded out with political news. The chief interest was centred in the addresses of Mr Parker, at York, and Mr. Forrest, at Bunbury. These two gentlemen had come to be recognised as prospective leaders. There was not much difference in their policy. Mr. Parker asked for population and then loans; Mr. Forrest for loans, and the introduction of a tax-paying people. Each was convinced of the importance of fostering the industries of the colony, pursuing an active public works policy. The need of taking a strong hold on the finances was apparent. A portion of the loan of £100,000, sanctioned in 1888, had been used in making up deficiency in the revenue.
The members of the first Legislative Assembly were:—
|East Kimberley||W.L. Baker||Fremantle||W.E. Marmion|
|West Kimberley||A. Forrest||North Fremantle||W.S. Pearse|
|Roebourne||H.W. Sholl (succeeded by G.W. Leake, Dec., 1890).||South Fremantle||D. Symon|
|De Grey||A.R. Richardson||Bunbury||J. Forrest|
|Ashburton||S. Burt||Nelson||Sir J. G. Lee-Steere|
|Murchison||E.F. Darlot||Sussex||J. Cookworthy|
|Geraldton||E. Keane||Toodyay||B.D. Clarkson|
|Greenough||W. Traylen||Northam||G. Throssell|
|Irwin||S. J. Phillips||York||S. H. Parker|
|Moore||G. Randell||Beverley||C. Harper|
|Swan||W.T. Loton||Williams||F. Piesse|
|Perth||E. Scott||Plantagenet ||A.Y. Hassell|
|East Perth ||F.A. Canning ||Albany||L.V. De Hamel|
|West Perth||T.F. Quinlan|
0n 24th December Sir W. Robinson appointed as members of the Legislative Council:—
|J. G. H. Amherst||E. R. Brockman|
|T. Burges||R. E. Bush|
|Sir T. C. Campbell ||M. Grant|
|J. W. Hackett||E. Hamersley|
|R. W. Hardey||G.W. Leake|
|J. H. Monger||W.D. Moore|
|J. Morrison||G. Shenton|
|J. A. Wright|
Nearly all the members of the old Legislative Council were again in Parliament, in one or other House, and pointed complaints were made as to the constitution of the Upper House. It was held that this body was almost exclusively composed of the landowners of the community, who represented the "high conservative" type of opinion. In this matter Governor Robinson had a difficult choice. The electors had appointed a large body of proved men to represent their suffrages in the Assembly, and in such a small community the Governor had, therefore, a very restricted field to choose from. Neither of the leading journalistic organs of the colony altogether approved of the personnel of the Council, but every allowance was made for the peculiarly difficult position of Governor Robinson.
In the Legislative Assembly Mr. Forrest had obtained a larger following than Mr. Parker. On 24th December Sir William Robinson summoned the former, and entrusted him with the formation of a Ministry. Two days later Mr. Forrest submitted to the Governor the names of the men whom he had chosen to assist him in the historical task of inaugurating self-government in Western Australia. The first Cabinet was composed of:—
- J. Forrest, C.M.G., M.L.A., Colonial Treasurer and Premier.
- George Shenton, M.L.C., Colonial Secretary.
- S. Burt, Q.C., M.L.A., Attorney-General. :W.E. Marmion, M.L.A., Commissioner of Crown Lands.
- H.W. Venn, M.L.A., Commissioner of Railways and Director of Public Works.
All the members of this administration but Mr. Burt were born in Australia, and had for years taken an important part in local politics. It was, essentially, a Cabinet of experienced business men. Each one had pursued active careers in colonial industry; the first as an explorer and land administrator, the second as a merchant and property holder, the third as a prominent lawyer, the fourth as a merchant and investor, and the fifth as a pastoralist on a large scale. They were thoroughly acquainted with Western Australian conditions, and were politicians of works rather than of words. On 29th December the new Government assumed office, and on the following day the members of both Houses were sworn in by Chief Justice Wrenfordsley and Judge Stone. Governor Robinson appointed Sir T.C. Campbell as President of the Legislative Council, and members of the Assembly elected Sir J.G. Lee-Steere Speaker. Then legislators dispersed until the 20th January, 1891, when Mr. G. Randell was appointed Chairman of Committees. In the interim writs were issued for the re-election of the Ministry, each member of which was returned unopposed.
The first heads of Government Departments, under Responsible Government, were:O. Burt, Under Secretary; L.S. Elliot, Under Treasurer; R.C. Clifton, Under Secretary Crown Lands; L.W. Clifton, Collector of Customs; R.A. Sholl, Postmaster-General; C.Y. O'Connor, Engineer-in-Chief; A.F. Thompson, Under Secretary Railways; E.L. Courthope, Auditor-General; A.R. Waylen, Colonial Surgeon; J.B. Roe, Sheriff and Inspector of Prisons; W.A. Gale, Registrar-General; Major G.B. Phillips, Commandant of Volunteers; and G. Leake, Crown Solicitor.
The Aborigines Protection Board, about which so much had been said, was appointed on 14th April, 1891. The first members consisted of:—Dr. E. Scott, G.W. Leake, S.S. Parker, E.T. Hooley, and T. Little, with Colonel D. Forbes as secretary.
So occupied were the members of the Government in taking over and establishing their respective departments on a new basis, and in investigating the financial position of the colony, that they had little time in which to prepare an elaborate programme for the ensuing session. It had been decided that Western Australia should be represented at a Federation Convention at Sydney in March, and the first session must, therefore, be a short one. The federal spirit had been growing in the Eastern colonies. The Federal Council was not considered strong enough to determine a settled and decisive line of policy for all Australia. In February, 1890, a conference of Premiers was held in Melbourne to consult on intercolonial matters, and, as on a similar occasion ten years before, debate turned on the advisability of establishing a federation. Instructive addresses were delivered by the various Premiers, and several resolutions in favour of holding a Federation Convention were carried. These affirmed that the interests of the Australian colonies would be promoted by an early union under the Crown, an aim which was justified by the developments in the national life, population, wealth, discovery of resources and in the self-governing capacity of Australia since the meeting of the Convention in 1883. It was resolved that the members of the conference should induce the Legislatures of their respective colonies to appoint during the year (1890) delegates to a National Australian Convention, empowered to consider and report upon an adequate scheme for a Federal Constitution. It was subsequently arranged that the Convention should be held in Sydney on 2nd March, 1891. While not giving any decisive adherence to the principle of a Federated Australia, Mr. Forrest's Cabinet considered that Western Australia should be represented at this important gathering. It was, therefore, necessary that the first session of the local Legislature should be a short one.
On 20th January, 1891, Parliament was opened by Governor Robinson. The Government programme, forecasted in his speech, was vigorous, and calculated to suit the peculiar circumstances of the colony. His Excellency expressed the earnest hope that the highest aspirations of the people might be realised, and while ever remaining, as they were, one of the most loyal of the provinces of the Empire, that the principles of self-government might be so administered as to promote in the heart of every citizen those sentiments of respect and true patriotism which purify public life and make a community great. He informed honourable members that the people of the old country were in sympathy with the movement, and that the Queen was graciously pleased to express her warmest interest in the welfare of the colony. The neighbouring colonies gave their sympathy and goodwill, and saw in the change a further step towards the ultimate federation of Australia. Time had but strengthened his own belief in the future prosperity of the colony under Responsible Government, and Her Majesty's Government confidently hoped that the trust reposed in the people would be administered with judgment, and with a full regard to the interests of future generations.
Then Governor Robinson, turning to the Government programme, said that the Cabinet was keenly alive to the importance of a vigorous though prudent public works policy, and after careful consideration decided to submit a loan bill for £1,336,000. This was to be expended on a railway from Perth to Bunbury, and extensions up the Preston River, from Boyanup to Mininnup Bridge, and from Boyanup to Busselton; a railway from the eastern districts to the Yilgarn Goldfields, and a railway from Geraldton to Mullewa; on harbour improvements at Fremantle, Geraldton, Carnarvon, Ashburton, Cossack, and other ports; on north-east and south-west telegraph extensions; on the development of the goldfields and other resources; on a lighthouse at Cape Leeuwin; on improvements to the Eastern Railway, rolling stock, &c.; on public buildings at various places, and on dredging operations in different ports of the colony.
The magnitude of the sum asked for startled certain members of the old Legislative Council. In the debate on the Address-in-Reply, members of the Upper House showed great hesitation in supporting what they termed "the very bold and extensive" public works policy, and Mr. Leake did not think all the works could be carried out for the sums stated in the Loan Bill. Mr. G. Throssell moved the Address-in-Reply in the Assembly, and thought the Yilgarn Railway should wait until greater development took place on the goldfields. Mr. Parker was a frank critic, and while opposing the Government in certain of its proposals, he favoured others. It seemed to him that the Ministry had cast their eyes over the colony with the idea of doing something for every constituency. They apparently began with the south, and proposed to scatter public works on every hand, and said among themselves, "We must catch the vote of every member by giving everyone something." He would support a railway to Yilgarn, but did not think a railway to Bunbury was called for. He advocated manhood suffrage, on the ground that every man who earned his own living should have a vote and be represented in Parliament.
During the short session the Government virtually carried everything before them. The following of Mr. Forrest proved even larger than was expected, and Government measures were passed with singular expedition. The Ministry was strong and hardworking. The Loan Bill was the most important measure, and until money was obtained no public works could be constructed. In moving the second reading of the bill on 5th February, the Premier uttered some home truths. After dilating on the necessity for facilitating development by the construction of public works, he asked Parliament to pass the bill by a large majority, so as to influence people in the colony and elsewhere. "If," he said, "we are half-hearted; if we are halting in any way, and show ourselves weak and undecided, we shall leave ourselves open to attack. .... There are men I esteem, good, upright men who have done their duty to the colony, but who cannot believe that the colony can progress. They remember the difficulties and toil they underwent in the early days, and they cannot now believe that things are going to be any different in the future."
Many of the members who took part in this debate seemed to be convinced that the colony was awakening to the long-sought-for prosperity. The gold discoveries in remote districts were attracting hundreds of people from other countries, and the determination of the Government to put life into industry by showing lively enterprise was causing those who at first were pessimistic to take a brighter view. Confidence in the colony seemed stronger than ever before. Mr. Parker, in speaking on the Loan Bill said it was a happy augury that Responsible Government was inaugurated at such a favourable time. He believed that the colony was recovering from the depression caused by the cessation of all expenditure on public works. Mr. De Hamel said that in the opinion of some members the Government was not only going to make the goldfields permanent, but was going to get dividends from railways which had been working at a heavy loss. Mr. De Hamel was right; the Government held the confidence of the people to a remarkable extent, and Mr. Forrest was looked upon as a hero.
The majority asked for was forthcoming, and the loan Bill was carried after a short debate. Mr. Forrest obtained the support of members in an address to the Queen expressive of the high appreciation of the House for the advantages and privileges conferred upon the colony by the new constitution, and also in votes of thanks to the other colonies for their assistance in obtaining Responsible Government for Western Australia, and to the delegates from the colony to England for services rendered in connection with the passage of the Constitution Bill through the Imperial Parliament. As to the Federal Convention, the Premier carried resolutions providing that the Legislative Council should select two delegates, and the Legislative Assembly five, making seven in all the number arranged to represent each colony. The selection of the Council fell upon Messrs. J.W. Hackett and J.A. Wright, and of the Assembly on the Premier (Mr. John Forrest), the Commissioner of Crown Lands (Mr. W.E. Marmion), the Speaker (Sir J.G. Lee-Steere), and Messrs. A. Forrest and W.T. Loton. In all, sixteen bills were passed before Parliament prorogued on the 26th February.
The Federation delegates immediately proceeded to Sydney, and Western Australia took a position in an intercolonial gathering as a self-governing colony on equal terms with the other colonies. Her delegates received a hearty and cordial welcome. It is not our intention to go into any detail upon this historical convention. It was attended by the greatest minds of Australia, and after careful deliberation a Federal Constitution Bill was drafted. Mr. Forrest, Mr. Hackett, and Sir J.G. Lee-Steere were the most active in the Western Australian delegation. Upon the return of the Premier, who was knighted in 1891, the Cabinet decided not to take any action in seeking the views of the Legislature on the matter. They were of opinion that Western Australia could not enter the Federation without hurting her industries, then in a rudimentary state, and until she was brought into close connection with her Eastern neighbours by means of a transcontinental railway.
The Government determined to establish an agency in London, similar to those of other Australian colonies. The Attorney-General, Mr. S. Burt, accompanied by Mr. R.C. Hare, proceeded to England soon after the first session, and made arrangements for the opening of offices, and superintended the negotiations connected with the flotation of the loan. In 1892, Sir Malcolm Fraser, ex-Colonial Secretary, became the first Agent-General for Western Australia, an office which he filled as successfully as he did those of Surveyor-General and Colonial Secretary.
While the House was in recess, Mr. G. Shenton, the Colonial Secretary, visited the Eastern colonies, and completed arrangements in connection with local defence matters. It was determined that fortifications should be constructed at King George's Sound, under the direction of the Victorian Defence Department, works in which all the colonies were interested. Before the second session of Parliament, in December, 1891, Governor Robinson, whose popularity was constantly increasing by reason of his urbanity, left the colony. On 18th September, he proceeded to England, and Mr. Alexander Onslow, who had returned to Western Australia as Chief Justice, became Acting Governor. It was at first thought that Sir W. Robinson would not return, but he resumed his gubernatorial functions in 1892.
The year 1891 was a very busy one for Sir John Forrest and his Cabinet. Between revising the various departments, pushing forward the business of the State, taking part in intercolonial matters, and meeting Parliament, their whole time was occupied. Agreeable to their characters, their work was business-like and useful. The condition of the colony at the end of 1891 was vastly improved. The population had increased, the finances were flourishing, and public works were being constructed with zest. On 7th December, Chief Justice Onslow opened the second session of Parliament. The Governor's speech was optimistic and congratulatory. The state of the finances and the developments all over the colony were referred to in glowing terms. A telegraph line to Southern Cross was nearly completed, harbours and railway works were proceeding, and improvements were contemplated at the railway station, Perth.
The policy proclaimed by Sir John Forrest in the first Parliament has been energetically pursued to the present day. The object of the Government has been, shortly, to further development by the construction of public works and by liberal enactments. Sir John has not varied his course one jot, but because of extraordinary developments it has been necessary for him to go further than he first intended, to meet the new conditions which have arisen. During his auspicious administration, he has been fearless, strenuous, and cautious. We do not intend to follow the subsequent Parliamentary debates, and shall rest content with referring to those works and enactments which have contributed to the gratifying prosperity of the community. A change took place in the personnel of the Government in 1892. On 27th September, Sir T.C. Campbell, the President of the Legislative Council, died. Mr. George Shenton, who had passed a distinguished municipal career in Perth, was appointed to fill the vacant chair, and Mr. S.H. Parker was offered the portfolio of Colonial Secretary. Astonishment was expressed when it became known that the talented member for York had accepted office in the Forrest Ministry. Although Mr. Parker had occupied a seat on the Opposition benches, there was substantially little opposition to Sir John Forrest; the views of the Government were to some extent the views of the Opposition and the country. It need not, therefore, have caused the surprise so freely expressed. The Forrest Government had advanced no debatable or party policy. Mr. Parker occupied his new office with success. In Sir T.C. Campbell Western Australia lost one of her ablest and most distinguished public men. For many year's Sir Thomas had edited the West Australian, and his writings were graceful and trenchant. His knowledge of constitutional practice and procedure was of great value in the Legislative Council, and his embassy to England in the interests of the constitutional movement was greatly appreciated. In the previous February Mr. J.H. Monger, M.L.C., well known in politics and in agricultural and pastoral affairs, died at the age of sixty-one years. In March, 1892, Mr. Alfred P. Hensman was appointed second puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Western Australia.
In the 1899 session of Parliament the Government introduced a bill to abolish the property qualification of members of Parliament, to extend the franchise, and to add two new members to the Legislative Council, and three to the Legislative Assembly. In the last instance it was intended to give special representation to the gold-mining districts. The measure passed the Legislative Assembly, but the Legislative Council rejected it. A bill was previously carried increasing the vote for ministerial salaries to £4,200.
The financial position in 1892 was still good, and at the end of the year there was a balance in the Treasury of £100,919. The public debt was £2,261,863, and the sinking fund, £114,294. The revenue in 1889 represented £442,725 (including £60,512 recouped from loans), and in 1892, £543,888; the expenditure in 1889 was £386,000, and in 1892, £550,616. Numerous public works were now under construction. Railways had been authorised from Perth to Bunbury, Busselton to Boyanup, Boyanup to Mininnup Bridge, Northam to Southern Cross, and from Geraldton to Mullewa. In moving the second reading of the Yilgarn railway Bill, Sir John Forrest, in February, 1891, said that the Western Australian people had expended about £100,000 on the mines around Southern Cross, and that the wages paid amounted to about £2,000 per month. He was hopeful of the future of the district, believed that the line would encourage development, and make the goldfields capable of supporting a large working population, which would supply a ready market for agricultural and other produce. Several members evinced opposition to the measure on the grounds that the success of the goldfield was not assured, and that the railway could not pay its way. The Upper House refused to pass the bill, but in March, 1892, it was agreed to. The estimate of cost was placed at £324,000. There was considerable divergence of opinion as to where the line should start from. The choice lay between York and Northam. A committee was strongly in favour of a line from York, which would pass through good agricultural country, but the Legislative Assembly chose Northam as the starting point. The railway from Geraldton to Mullewa was calculated to tap a new goldfield recently discovered on the Murchison; the line to Bunbury (Act passed in February, 1891), with the extensions, was designed to pass through valuable agricultural and pastoral country, and was estimated to cost, including branches, £368,000. Surveys on these different railways were pushed on in 1892, and contracts were let, but it was not until 1893 that any of the lines were opened.
It was with some difficulty that the proposal to build the Midland Railway was resuscitated. After long negotiations sufficient money by share capital, or debenture, was obtained to proceed with the work. The shareholders lived in England and Western Australia, and among the chief was Mr. E. Keane, whose energy largely led to the furtherance of the project. There were avowedly objectionable features in the manner of raising the capital. In 1891, in order that the construction of the line should not cease, the Government advanced the sum of £60,000 to the company upon good security. Several members of Parliament objected to this course, but Sir John Forrest was anxious to have such an important trunk line completed. The position of the company in 1892 was still unsatisfactory, and the Government and a banking institution had to give further assistance. On 9th April, 1891, Governor Robinson declared the first section to Gingin open to traffic, but during the following recess work was again stopped. A Midland Railway Loan Act was passed, under which the Government guaranteed the payment of principal and interest on £500,000. Construction was proceeded with, and in 1892 some 151 miles of the railway were opened and worked by the company.
The policy of the colony had turned against land grant railways, as it was thought to be impolitic to lock up large areas of land for a number of years. Only one other contract of the kind was entered into. This was for the construction of a line from the Albany-Beverley Railway, at a point ten miles from Albany, to the rich hardwood forests at Torbay. The concessionnaires were Messrs. C. and E. Millar, who agreed to build, outfit, and maintain a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge line within one year, from November, 1889, in return for a grant in fee-simple of 2,000 acres of land for every mile constructed. The Messrs. Millar contracted to fence, clear, and cultivate one-twelfth of their total grant within seven years, and a further one-twelfth within the following seven years. The Government retained the right, at three months' notice, to purchase the railway at the rate of £1,000 per mile. At the end of fourteen years the line was to revert to the Government free of charge. The work was completed on 18th November, 1890.
The Government persisted in their determination to improve the Fremantle Harbour. Sir John Coode was again communicated with, and he approved of opening a passage through Success Bank into Owen anchorage, and through the Parmelia Rock into Jervois Bay and Cockburn Sound, if necessary. The Government at first favoured the construction of a harbour at Owen anchorage, connecting it by a short railway, one mile and a half in length, with Fremantle. Mr. C.Y. O'Connor, the Engineer-in-Chief, advocated the construction of moles nearer Fremantle. He did not think that there was any evidence that sand-travel existed. In the absence of any artificial mole or abrupt headland there was no positive proof. Any accumulation, however, could be counteracted by dredging. His scheme included the erection of two breakwaters, extending from Arthur and Rous Heads, at the mouth of the Swan, and the excavation of a channel between the moles, through both rock and sand. An inner basin would also have to be excavated, and wharves and stores constructed. The estimated cost was £560,000. An extension, or rather the completion, of the scheme included further excavations in both the inner and outer channels, and the prolongation of the wharves, which would bring the cost to £800,000. Other engineers took Mr. O'Connor's view as to the sand-travel. The two schemes were debated by the Government, by Parliament, and by a Joint Committee of the two Houses, and it was formally decided, in 1892, to accept that of the Engineer-in-Chief. On 16th November of that year the work was set in progress, when Lady Robinson "tilted" the first load of stones for the formation of one of the moles. Thus it was left to responsible Ministers to make an organised attempt to solve the problem—as old as the colony—of providing a safe harbour at Fremantle. By this scheme it was hoped that a commodious harbour would be provided at the mouth of the Swan River Estuary for the berthing of steamers of the Royal Mail lines. Large limestone quarries were opened up at Rocky Bay, on the Swan; whence a short railway ran to the proposed moles, and tipped the stone into the sea. The mole from Rous Head, on the north bank, was designed to have a length of 2,934 feet, and that from Arthur Head, on the south bank, of 2,956 feet. The channel between them was proposed to have a depth of 30 feet from low water-mark; and a width at the entrance to the harbour of 700 feet, with a maximum width further in of 1,500 feet. The first wharf was to be 3,350 feet in length, and when the whole works were completed of 6,250 feet. The total superficial area of waterway was designed to be about 187 acres. Harbour improvements were made in various other ports of the colony. On all the coasts the Government enterprisingly spent public money to assist trade and commerce.
It would seen that the gold era of Western Australian history waited until the granting of self-government. Although discoveries were made over a wide area before 1891, the developments were not be compared with those which quickly followed. That stimulus which is begot of responsibility in affairs worked with gratifying force in the mining industry. The Government, localised and determinate, could quickly meet the rapidly changing conditions and requirements without having to refer to statesmen in another hemisphere, who knew nothing whatever of colonial life. The Forrest Government, in this regard, was vigorous and anxious to accelerate and foster development in every conceivable way. No Government could have done more, and few would have been courageous enough to do so much. This fostering care, this expeditious manner of giving help to a new industry, undoubtedly contributed very largely to the rapid and even sensational developments of the Western Australian goldfields. In water conservation, in supplying transport facilities, in appointing wardens and registrars and police to administrate the fields on the spot, and in giving miners and prospectors as many advantages as the peculiar circumstances would admit, they pursued a bold and successful policy.
The condition of the Yilgarn field at the beginning of 1889 was not encouraging. The usual storekeepers and publicans had followed the prospectors and set up in business in the mining camp at Golden Valley, but so gloomy was the outlook that they now thought of abandoning the place and moving back to civilisation. Of all the claims that had been pegged out only a few were being worked, and these with little success. There were between seventy and eighty men at Golden Valley, but only about thirty of them were working regularly. There was little system in the methods of mining, and the miners yet on the field were not capable of efficiently prospecting and developing reefs. Mr. Woodward, the Government Geologist, said that most of them were successful only when they found "gold sticking out on the surface," and even then they did not know how to develop the quartz reef in which it was embedded. Combined with this unfortunate ineptitude was a scarcity of water. Most of the water discovered by sinking was salt, and it was principally from the soakages of the granite outcrops that fresh water could be obtained. The Government made tanks in various places, but the supply had given out by February, 1889, and the Warden granted holders of protection areas thirty days' exemption. Under such circumstances the prospects were gloomy indeed.
But reefs more promising had been come upon. About thirty-five miles to the south of Golden Valley the Phœnix party—Mr. Risely and other prospectors—had discovered, in 1888, good reefs at a place which they named Southern Cross, because they used that constellation as a guide while travelling to the locality by night. There was a series of true lodes, running more or less north and south, which held some rich quartz. The surrounding country was dreary and of comparatively slight elevation. Low, thickly-timbered hills, with flats and clay pans, or lakes, made an unattractive picture. The reefs generally appeared in the low ridges, but in some cases they were found on the edges of the lakes. Here, too, water was scarce and salt, and prospecting was therefore difficult. Several companies were soon formed in Perth and Fremantle and so hopeful did the outcrops seem that shares were applied for by people in the other colonies, especially in Adelaide. The Central, Central Extended, Fraser's, and Fraser's South gold mining companies were floated, machinery was ordered, and mining captains were appointed. In July Mr. Woodward gave very encouraging reports of the properties, and described bodies of the stone as very valuable. Some rich deposits of alluvial gold were found in gullies near the reefs, and towards the middle of 1889 the number of men on the field increased, and Southern Cross soon became the most important centre in the whole Yilgarn district. Storekeepers and others abandoned Golden Valley, and set up there. Mr. Woodward had little hope of artesian water being struck, but he had such faith in the prospects of this arid country that he advised the construction of a railway. Condensers were soon erected to treat the salt water, and in subsequent years proved a source of wealth to their possessors. Tanks were sunk, and subsequently enlarged at various points. In August, however, mining matters were dull at Southern Cross, and the colony waited for the results of the first crushings. Machinery was erected on the Central and Fraser mines, but did not start running until near the end of the year. On 25th November the Fraser mine commenced operations, and was followed by the Central on 3rd December. Difficulty was experienced in obtaining sufficient water, and what was used was quite unsuited for crushing purposes. A piece of black substance was the result of the Fraser crushing. At first no one could tell whether this contained gold or not, but when an experienced mining manager treated it with chemicals, he obtained a rich button of the metal. It was found that the salt water had amalgamated all the refuse from the machinery with the gold. The boiler of the Fraser machinery soon afterwards collapsed, due to the action of the salt in the water, and four large dray loads of salt were taken from the plates. So serious was this stoppage that shares in Southern Cross companies became almost unsaleable. The Central crushed 12 tons of stone for 39 ozs. of gold, and from 75 tons the Fraser Company obtained an average of 1 oz. 10 dwts. 22 grs. per ton. Prospecting was carried on in 1889 over the surrounding areas. At Hope's Hill, five miles north of Southern Cross, a large hill of white quartz was found late in 1888. Gold was obtained at the footwall, on the east side of the reef, in a white magnesian clay, full of quartz grit. In July Mr. Woodward expressed the opinion that this mine would be a prosperous one. From Southern Cross down to Parker's find, about forty miles to the south, the ground was very carefully scanned. Rich deposits were found at the latter place, and a large number of men congregated there. From various reefs throughout this area stone was removed and sent away to be tested, and sometimes gave good results.
The population of Yilgarn increased in 1889 until it reached 250 towards the end of the year, when the numbers fell off. The pioneers had rough experiences. The climate was trying, and comforts were few. Fresh food was seldom obtained. The Court House, presided over by Mr. Finnerty, consisted of a doorless building, with palisades for walls and a tarpaulin for a roof. The Warden, when administering justice, sat on a gin case, and the Registrar sat under him on a candle box. Mr. Finnerty reported on 1st December, 1889, that seventy-one leases, representing 684 acres, had been applied for since 1st January; that two claims and eighteen protection areas had been registered and occupied, and that nineteen business licenses and 394 miner's rights had been issued. The revenue was £1,700. Within 200 yards of the township of Southern Cross about 2,550 ozs. of gold had been obtained during October and November. He was not complimentary to the class of miners on the field. Until recently, he reported, the persons employed as managers of the reefs were, with few exceptions, inferior men, with no conception of their duties and responsibilities. The miners employed by them were not properly supervised, and they became idle and useless. Fortunately, managers of experience had lately been appointed, and he expected to see the reefs energetically worked and efficiently developed in the near future. It was estimated that upwards of £80,000 had been spent in 1888-9 in developing Yilgarn. In 1889 the goldfields regulations were amended, and required that a mining lease should be worked by not less than one man to every three acres, provided that no lease was worked by less than two men. A general exemption was granted for the Yilgarn fields from the 4th December, 1889, to 31st May, 1890.
Southern Cross and the mineral area surrounding it did not at this time give the best returns. The alluvial at Pilbarra continued to yield well. Some of the discoveries in 1888 were so rich that in 1889 miners hurried in from the Eastern colonies, where a general interest was felt in the numerous fields being opened up in Western Australia. These were so distant from each other that it already got to be thought that gold existed over an immense area of territory, and professional prospectors were employed by syndicates to scour the country from north to south. The leading people of the colony evinced considerable enterprise in this direction, and prospectors were sent out to Yilgarn, the Murchison, Gascoyne, and through all the country leading to Kimberley. There was a general rush to Pilbarra, precipitated principally by exaggerated reports which were persistently circulated at Perth and Fremantle and in other colonies. The Warden, Mr. Nyulasy, who was succeeded by Mr. W.L. Owen in June, sought to discourage this influx in February by denying the correctness of many of the rumors.
In March and April several diggers entered Roebourne with parcels of gold ranging from 20 to 80 ozs. in weight. There were about 300 men on the field at this time, but their numbers so quickly diminished, by reason of other finds in the north-west, that by June Pilbarra was deserted by all but forty-two men. Marble Bar became the chief centre of the district. It derived its name from a large mottled bar of quartz which crossed the Shaw River, and was supposed to be marble. A company, the Lady Carrington (£32,000 in £1 shares) was floated in Melbourne to work Eaton's Mallina reef, and good prospects were quickly obtained. In June four reefing claims were being worked at Pilbarra, and one at Mallina.
Early in 1889 alluvial gold was discovered on the Oakover River, presumably by Mr. N. Cooke. A few men prospected the district, and by April had obtained 200 ozs., including one 70-oz. nugget. A large extent of auriferous country stretched around, and was worked with varying success all the year. Most of the diggers who abandoned Pilbarra proceeded to Nullagine, and by July there were reported to be 300 men in this district. Provisions were scarce and prices high, and for some time a famine impended. The men usually obtained "wages" but with the proverbial restlessness of diggers they did not remain long at one place. In August gold was found by a native, or a Chinaman, in the employ of Mr. H.W. Sholl, about eleven miles east of Roebourne. One report says that the first nugget come upon weighed 7 lbs., and another that it weighed 3 ozs.; the Chinaman who had possession of it surreptitiously left the district. The manner in which it was found is equally undecided, and while one report, confirming a good old story, says that it was discovered in a well, a second states that it was met with in sinking post-holes. When gold was being obtained in so many parts of the north-west, the news of this nugget naturally caused a commotion at Roebourne. The local doctor and Mr. Cue hurried to the place and pegged out protection areas. Several men worked eagerly, and by 23rd August 150 ozs. had been raised. The alluvial at high tide was covered by sea water. The new area was called Nickol Field.
Additional quartz-crushing batteries were erected at Kimberley in 1889, such as for the Golden Crown, Mount Dockrell, Lady Broome, and Ruby Queen claims. The Mount Dockrell Company obtained 311 ozs. of gold from 20 tons of stone, and the Golden Crown secured an average of 10 ozs. per ton. The alluvial where followed yielded fair returns. The export of gold from the whole of the colony in 1889 was 15,492 ozs., valued at £58,871. Of this amount 11,170 ozs. came from Pilbarra and surrounding districts, 2,464 from the Kimberley district, while the remaining 1,858 ozs. were obtained at Yilgarn.
Notwithstanding that the crushings on the Fraser's and Central mines in December, 1889, were good, the public took a dismal view of the situation in 1890. This was largely due to the stoppage of the Fraser machinery. The breakage was mended, a new manager (Captain Oates) was appointed on the 1st June, and by the 24th June the battery was again in operation. Work progressed satisfactorily, the crushings were favourable, and in November the first dividend paid by a mining company at Yilgarn was declared by the Fraser Company—6d. a share on 50,000 shares. This claim was thus the pioneer of crushing operations and the pioneer of dividend-paying mines on the eastern goldfields. Except for the Central mine, work progressed very slowly on the other properties, and the owners of them, under various pretexts, applied for an extension of exemption after the general period expired in May. Shareholders in the companies were under the disagreeable necessity of paying calls. The Rookoordine tank was enlarged to hold 125,000 gallons of water, and other tanks were also improved. In June and July the Commissioner of Crown Lands, Mr. John Forrest, visited Southern Cross and Parker's Range. A deputation waited upon him at the former place and asked the Government to build a telegraph line, establish a local court, improve the postal arrangements, appoint a qualified medical officer, revise the goldfields regulations, build a first-class condenser, grant a lot for a public hall and library, and to furnish an escort for the protection of gold in transit from Southern Cross. In his report on the eastern goldfields, Mr. Forrest recommended the construction of main and branch roads to Yilgarn, estimating the total cost of 162 miles of road at £3,105. He also advised that a telegraph line should at once be proceeded with, and that £2,000 be expended on additional water conservation; in brief, he supported nearly all the requests preferred by the deputation. As this was the transition period in the constitutional history of the colony, the works were not at once proceeded with. Mr. Forrest did not think the field had been fairly tried. He said that mines had been placed on the market before any substantial work had been done to prove the reefs, or even to prospect the ground. The natural result had been that many persons had invested in mines which had scarcely any reef, while others had been tired of paying calls when no return was probable at an early date. In addition, mining investors were few in number, and he thought that the embarrassment of gold mining at Yilgarn could be readily understood. He believed that the industry would in the end surmount all difficulties, but the Government must render substantial aid; if not, the progress would be slow and unnecessarily delayed.
Southern Cross now formed a cluster of weatherboard and iron buildings, fringed with hessian tents. That the residents had faith in the permanence of the field was demonstrated by their deciding to erect a public hall at a cost of about £300, and by the requests preferred to the Government. Upon the Fraser Company declaring a dividend, the price of shares in all properties advanced, and more public interest and assistance was forthcoming. The returns for the Yilgarn district in 1890 were 2,277 ounces of gold, valued at £8,652 12s.
What was termed the Pilbarra Goldfield, embracing neighbouring areas, supplied the chief proportion of the yearly output. At Nullagine some good alluvial finds were made. From the Forty-Mile patch some 700 ounces were got out in a few days, and in June between five and six hundred ounces were conveyed to Roebourne at one time. Rich alluvial was found in other places, and machinery was erected on the Broken Reef claim at Pilbarra, and on the Alfred Argles Company's property at Mullins, where, in April, 20 tons of stone yielded 65 ounces of gold. Gold was discovered at Ashburton early in the year, and 250 men congregated on the field. Although the returns were good at first, they did not continue, and in June the place was nearly deserted. The Ashburton Goldfield was proclaimed on the 25th December, 1890, but its yields were only moderate. The returns for the Pilbarra district in 1890 were 16,055 ozs. 6 dwts. 6 grs. of gold, valued at £61,010 3s. 9d.
While the returns from Kimberley were much larger in 1890 than in 1889, several claims on which some amount of capital had been expended were abandoned. The quartz mining companies were not flourishing. The Lady Broome and Jackson mines were closed down, and the Golden Crown was the only claim at this time paying expenses. It was estimated that it cost struggling miners at the rate of £7 to raise and treat a ton of stone, and the yield would need to be very high to make a mine which did not possess machinery pay. The yield from quartz and alluvial amounted to 4,074 ozs., valued at £17,001 4s., making a total output for the colony in 1890 of 22,806 ozs. 6 dwts. 6 grs., valued at £86,663 19s. 9d.
The mining industry at Yilgarn seemed to take new life when responsible Ministers were appointed. The proposal of the Forrest Government to build a railway to Southern Cross suggested to Western Australians, as well as to people in other colonies, that the fields must be exceedingly promising to warrant the expenditure of so much public money. Investors became more numerous, calls were paid with less delay, and, best of all, experienced prospectors and miners came to the colony from other countries, and gave an impulse to development and discovery. The returns from the Yilgarn mines—principally Fraser's, Fraser's South, Central, Central Extended No. 1, and Hope's Hill—improved, and new mining areas were exploited. The population increased, sometimes at the rate of hundreds every month, and people brought a little capital with them. The modest few persons so opprobriously referred to in London during the constitutional agitation jumped from 46,290, in 1890, to 53,285, in 1891—an increase of 6,995. This was due both to the expectation that with Responsible Government the colony would become prosperous, and to the new discoveries on the goldfields; principally to the latter. The changed aspect of affairs filled Western Australians with hope.
The output of gold for the colony in 1891 was 30,311 ozs., valued at £115,182. Of this amount, Yilgarn supplied the largest share, with 12,833 ozs.; Pilbarra next, with 11,875; and Kimberley next, with 2,699 ozs. A falling-off is apparent in the two last districts. At Pilbarra some rich patches of alluvial were come upon. The Ashburton district yielded 838 ozs. Miners' rights were issued on the different goldfields to 1,529 men during the year, and 77 auriferous leases were granted. Southern Cross became an active little town.
Meanwhile, a new and promising goldfield had been discovered. In 1854, Surveyor Austin, during his exploring expedition, described a belt of promising mineral country on the Murchison River. Slight discoveries of gold were made in that neighbourhood in subsequent years, and in 1889, Mr. W.H. Woodward declared in his Government report, after examining it, that the country between the great bend of the Murchison and Milly Milly should be prospected, as it had an encouraging appearance. Gold was found at Mulga Mulga in 1888, and Yuin in 1890. The latter find was considered to be valuable. About the middle of 1891 Mr. F.J. Conelly discovered gold about 200 miles from the coast, but he considered the country so unpromising that he did not remain to prospect it. The Government subsequently paid him a reward of £500 for discovering what is now known as the Murchison Goldfield. Mr. Wm. Douglas was the next to give important information, and was awarded £100. The reports were sufficient to encourage a number of men to proceed to Lake Annean, where discoveries had been made, and then in rapid succession came the news of rich alluvial finds. In September there were about 350 men on the field. One party—Peterkin and McPherson—were the chief pioneers, and were credited with obtaining hundreds of ounces of gold, but the report was not confirmed. Owing to the dry nature of the country, operations were at first confined to a limited area, but the diggers afterwards spread out, and finds were made in various places. The majority of them were said to be making wages, and a few obtained remarkably good results. Nuggets were picked up ranging from 1 oz. to 40 ozs. in weight. Gold was sometimes found all over the surface, and deep sinking was seldom necessary. The Government returns gave 2,064 ozs. of gold, valued at £7,844. The Murchison Goldfield was proclaimed on 24th September, 1891, and Mr. W.A.G. Walter was at once appointed the first warden. Nannine, by Lake Annean, was made the administrative centre.
The returns for 1892 nearly doubled those of 1891, and the new Murchison district jumped to first place. Very valuable alluvial discoveries were made, and Cue (named after discoverer), Nannine, and other districts were firmly established. Promising quartz reefs were exploited, and companies were formed; but the success of the Murchison field was principally due to the alluvial returns. The population of the district rose to about 600 persons, and the public fondly hoped that the Murchison would produce a Ballarat or Bendigo. Fever caused many deaths in this district. The output for Western Australia reached 59,548 ozs., valued at £226,283—a phenomenal rise since 1886. The Murchison yielded 24,356 ozs., Yilgarn 21,209 ozs., Pilbarra 12,892 ozs., Kimberley 1,088 ozs., and Ashburton only 14 dwts. The diminution in returns in the north-west and north was caused largely by an exodus of the diggers to the Murchison, whence reports of a highly promising character were constantly going forth. Not only were Western Australians greatly excited by these reports, but people in other countries were moved to migrate to the colony. The population increased to 58,674, nearly reaching the number prescribed in the Constitution Act with which the colony could elect its Legislative Council. It was an accession of people anticipated by neither the Imperial Government nor the local people, and it must have caused astonishment to those statesmen and London newspapers that pretended to believe that Western Australia would seek to prevent immigration. At Nannine, on the Murchison, the main line of reef ran north from Lake Annean, and in places stood up in huge blows. Those acquainted with gold mining in other parts of the world would have considered this reef unpromising, but patches of great richness were found in places, and small fortunes were taken out from holes a few feet deep. The gold ran in schutes, and bunches of rich stone were frequently met with. A series of reefs lay in a valley west of this line. and to the east were others. Gold was discovered along these, and very valuable alluvial was obtained on an island of the lake near by.
From Lake Annean, for about twenty miles to Yagabong, the country was flat, and generally covered with dreary and unpicturesque thickets. By Yagabong Hill was Gardner's find. As usual in the history of Western Australian gold fields, the metal was found by accident. It appears that a prospecting party was lost in a thicket, and while seeking to find an outlet saw gold on the surface. Beneath lay a reef, in no place outcropping, and, in sinking, a brownish-white quartz was come upon, which, though not containing showy specimens, carried fine gold all through to a good depth. Twelve miles from Yagabong was what became known as Quin's, where rich reefs were found which yielded good returns by hand-working. Several gullies in rough hills at Quin's proved very rich in alluvial gold, and contributed largely to the early Murchison output.
Cue, the present centre of the Murchison, lay about fifty miles south-south-west of Lake Annean. Here the largest patch of auriferous country was found, and occasioned a stampede soon after. Fitzgerald, and then Cue, discovered gold on the surface. There was no deep sinking, and hundreds of men walked daily over the ground and turned every stone with a forked stick to see if it night not be a specimen or cover a nugget. Many men quickly accumulated large parcels of gold. This procedure was called "specking," and after the small pieces of quartz and ironstone strewn on the surface were examined to the satisfaction of the searchers, dry blowing was resorted to, and in cases yielded well. Three distinct classes of reefs were found in the locality, the first being the Lady Kintore, which, rising abruptly from the plain, formed a main ridge on the south-west side of Cue Hill. The second class of reef was found to the west, and the third class ran to the Four Mile, so named because of its distance from Cue. The latter reef was known as the Day Dawn. Rich patches of surfacing were found by its side, as well as by the side of several other reefs near at hand. Several leases were taken out on these reefs. Around Cue large returns were obtained in 1892.
On an island at Lake Austin, south of Cue, very rich alluvial was obtained. The diggings were concentrated, and a defined gutter was found on the bed-rock at a depth of fifteen feet. The alluvium was cemented together by gypsum. Phenomenally rich quartz was discovered on the reefs in the neighbourhood, and large quantities of gold were dollied from the stone. Other rich diggings existed on the mainland north of the lake. Mount Magnet lay about thirty miles south of Lake Austin. A few miles to the south and west of West Mount Magnet surfacing alluvial was obtained, and rich gold was found by the side of the small reefs. A ferruginous dyke yielded a great deal of gold by the puddling process, while rich stone was obtained from the claim upon which it was situated. The rich patches on this field were usually found at the intersections of the quartz reefs, which were sometimes of totally different classes. Here, also, numerous leases were taken out in 1892-3. Gold was discovered at Yalgoo, about 200 miles west-south-west of Lake Annean. The Murchison field, as a whole, was well watered. In most of the mines good water was struck. The chief reef developments in 1892 were made on the Nannine Company's property at Lake Annean; but the most extensive area tested was at Cue, where reefs at the Four Mile and Cuddinwarra, or Dead Finish, were carefully exploited. The Day Dawn was as yet the most promising mine on the Murchison. Fine gold was proved to exist to a depth of 80 feet and a length of about 130 feet. A Huntingdon mill was being erected at the end of the year. The Nannine Gold Mining Company and the Murchison Consolidated Company were erecting battery plants at Nannine. A company named the Star of the East had also been formed to work the claim situated some twenty miles east of Lake Annean, and another, the Monarch, to develop a reef at Mount Magnet. The Monarch Gold Mining Company was erecting an Otis crushing mill.
Whilst most of the miners were hunting in every nook and corner for alluvial in proclaimed districts, there were a few hardy prospectors who toiled over the desolate wildernesses of the east searching for new mineral areas. To experienced men it seemed that Yilgarn was only the fringe of a huge mineral belt. Like Raleigh with the Eldorado of South America, they wanted to pierce the forbidding country, and find the centre of the gold region. The ugly acacia and cypress thickets, the hot, wave-like, unfruitful plains, where weakly bush struggled for an existence, and the dry beds of salt lakes were cut north-east, east, and south-east. No one could follow them; few knew that they had gone out; most would never have been wiser had they succumbed while labouring over some waterless tract. These were the courageous men who forged the golden chain of the eastern goldfields; the descendants of the unknown men who in all history have been the couriers of civilisation, the begetters of industrial prosperity.
In 1891 Messrs. Speakman and Ryan discovered gold between Southern Cross and a place named Siberia, but as similar finds had been made in other parts of the Yilgarn fields no extensive rush was made. In 1891 David Lindsey, of the Eider Exploring Expedition, crossed over an area of what he termed mineral country between Fraser's Range and Southern Cross, and known as Dundas. Prospectors went thither, and in 1892 Mr. Moir, who had previously found gold about Dundas, organised, with Mr. Stennet, a prospecting party to more carefully scan the district. These men discovered indications, but soon abandoned the field. Several prospecting parties followed them, and searched on the Dundas Hills. Messrs. Mawson and Kirkpatrick hit upon a rich outcrop, which they named May Bell. Soon afterwards Messrs. Bromley, Mason, and Dejarlais found a second rich outcrop, which they named the Great Dundas; and next, Messrs. Brodie, Kirtley, and Devine discovered two promising reefs, which they called the Scotia. By July news arrived that alluvial had been found at the Dundas Hills, and four or five prospecting parties left Albany for the district. Good reefing specimens were obtained and several claims were pegged out, but before many weeks had passed a discovery further north rivalled this in value, and gave rise to that extraordinary excitement which attracted people from all parts of the world to Western Australia.
In 1891-2 several prospecting parties went east of Southern Cross towards the Hampton Plains, discovered by Hunt in 1864. Although their search was practically fruitless they did not abandon the hope that gold existed in some of the innumerable outcrops crossed. The great difficulty here, as elsewhere in the colony, was the dearth of water, and to sustain life the prospectors had to follow the example of the explorers, and trust to the natives and their own knowledge of the Australian bush. Among these men were Arthur Bayley and John Ford. The former was but twenty-seven years of age, and in the previous year or two had gained a wide experience of Western Australian mining. He was with the first diggers at Nannine, on the Murchison, where he was believed to have obtained over 1,000 ozs. of gold from one claim. He and Ford prospected around Mount Kenneth, about 250 miles north-east of Perth, in 1891, but their horses eat of the poison plant and died, and the two men walked back to Newcastle. They purchased a new outfit and proceeded to the locality, north of Yilgarn, where Speakman had found gold. In May or June, 1892, they entered Southern Cross, and obtained provisions enough to last for about two months. Then with two horses they began a long prospecting tour within a radius of 150 miles of Southern Cross. They kept close to Hunt's track towards the Hampton Plains, and here and there prospected likely places. The way led through stunted bush, from granite hill to granite hill, from quartz ridge to quartz ridge. They remained at the Gnarlbine Rock for two days, resting their horses beside fresh water. Starting out again they intended going in a north-easterly direction to examine country seen a few days previously, but presently, in July, they came to a native well, known to the natives as Coolgardie. Grass was abundant, and they allowed their horses to feed while they prospected in the vicinity of the well. Going out before breakfast they searched a flat, and Ford picked up a nugget of gold half-an-ounce in weight. They named the place Fly Flat. A short time afterwards they picked up a 7 oz. nugget, and in a few weeks they had obtained about 200 ozs. Their rations were now almost done, and they returned to Southern Cross to get a further supply. They did not report their discovery, but hastened back to Fly Flat. Finally, on a Sunday afternoon towards the end of August, they happened on a reef near a wooded ridge. Bayley broke the cap showing on the surface, and saw gold as thick as his fondest hope had anticipated. The two men eagerly tested the reef, and quickly obtained an astonishing amount of the precious metal. The quartz was studded with beautiful nuggets. Before night they had secured about 500 ozs. of gold, dollied out with a tomahawk. One slug weighed 51 ozs., and was three parts gold. The specimens were finer than anything yet discovered in Western Australia, and Bayley and Ford reckoned that the quartz would crush 1,000 ozs. to the ton, and that there were 2,000 ozs. of gold in sight. Another party—Messrs. Foster and Baker and a third man—arrived on the scene, and obtained from the reef over 50 ozs. in three days. According to Mr. Bayley, these men followed him from Southern Cross. While Ford, with loaded revolver, guarded the treasure-ground Bayley took the two horses and the gold and returned to Southern Cross, where he arrived on Saturday, the 17th September. He approached the little mining town by night, anxious with so much wealth to guard, and in the first gleams of morning made known his discovery to the warden and registrar, Messrs. Finnerty and Compton. He applied for a lease, and lodged 554 ozs. of gold at the bank.
The news of this splendid discovery was telegraphed far and wide. Men throughout Western Australia prepared to go to the site of Bayley's find, which obtained the name of the Gnarlbine Field, Coolgardie, or Bayley's. The emotion caused at Southern Cross knew no bounds, and crowds gathered at the bank, jostling and clambering on each other's shoulders to get a glimpse of the specimens. Bayley immediately returned to the place, accompanied by Warden Finnerty, and was followed by all the inhabitants of Southern Cross who could by any means leave that centre. The exodus was such as only a sensational gold find, or imminent danger in time of war, could cause. The people were beside themselves with excitement, and clamoured for provisions and conveyances. A strike of miners was in progress, and the men were delighted with the opportunity to leave the district; tanks, stores, and offices were deserted. Parker's Range, Golden Valley, and Southern Cross were almost abandoned. The Registrar's offer was besieged by able-bodied men anxious to obtain miner's rights. All day, and during a greater part of the night, the Registrar was issuing these little bits of paper, and in the street and at his meals he wrote them out and received the fees. He was even rapped up from bed by enthusiastic men. Two enterprising residents, Messrs. Cohn and Murphy, announced during the day that they would send three waggons to the site of the find on the following day (Sunday), and charge £5 per "swag" of 100 lbs. weight. At about two o'clock on Sunday afternoon the waggons started on their journey, and took Hunt's old track. An excited concourse of men hurriedly followed, like refugees from a city besieged by an army of infidels. The route was poorly watered, and many of the men were inadequately outfitted. Some went out on this desolate journey of over 100 miles with nothing more than a few pounds of flour to sustain them; one man's provisions consisted of a bottle of brandy and two buns. When Coolgardie was reached, after a tedious journey, the first arrivals pegged out leases close to Bayley's prospecting area, and others fossicked for alluvial in the ground surrounding the outcrop. Among the first to take out leases, besides Bayley, were Messrs. Ward, Waldock, Bennett, Latimer, J.M.F. Galle, Tibbetts, Adams, Blackett, Rowles, and O'Dea.
At York, Northam, Albany, Perth, and Fremantle similar excitement prevailed. Before many days had elapsed men were trailing along the track leading from York to Southern Cross. Numbers walked this journey of nearly three hundred miles, others took carriages and horses, and still others hired or purchased all the available camels. The stampede was to most disappointing, and to some disastrous. It was soon recognised by the cautious that an extensive emigration to Coolgardie would be suicidal; there was not sufficient water for all these men. Those not well equipped suffered severely, and were dependent on the good nature of others better provisioned. Bayley and Ford employed miners to help them to manipulate their quartz, and they were put to considerable trouble to keep the men camped around from assaulting them. On 8th October Bayley returned to Southern Cross a second time, on this occasion with 528 ozs. of gold, dollied out in six days. Mr. Finnerty returned at the same time, and reported to the Government on the find. He announced that no defined line of lode showed on the surface, but that a line of quartz, from four to twenty feet wide, could be traced through a considerable portion of Bayley's ground. The chute from which the gold had been obtained was only a few feet in length. When he left there were 150 men on the field, and he met about 170 others going out.
Mr. Finnerty permitted the men to work the alluvial ground to within twenty feet of the reef. Some valuable nuggets were found. Three men are said to have accumulated 200 ozs. in fourteen days, and before the 25th October about 3,000 ozs. had been secured in the district. Much of this was picked up on the surface, or was obtained by the dry blowing process. Nearly 400 men were scattered over a ten-mile radius of Bayley's by the end of October, and numbers of others were constantly arriving in buggies, on foot, or with camels. Water became so scarce that several shillings a gallon were paid for it, while flour was sold for 1s. 7d. a pound. The majority of the men became downcast by reason of the many difficulties. Only a comparative few were fortunate enough to obtain gold. Without water, supplies, and gold they began to go back to Southern Cross, proclaiming to all they met that the field was a failure. Thus, in the hot weather, towards the end of 1892, Coolgardie was nearly deserted. This became necessary because of the absence of water. Bayley and Ford, however, had good cause to be satisfied, for within a few weeks they had dollied over 2,000 ozs. from their claim. But Coolgardie was destined to a bright near future, and in the first few months of 1893 hundreds of men were prospecting the country stretching from there, and hundreds more were coming to the colony.
While so much attention was absorbed by these gold discoveries, deposits of tin and coal were found which deserved more support than they received or are receiving. When kangaroo hunting in a gully on the Blackwood River, in the latter part of 1888, Mr. Stinton found a small quantity of stream tin. The site was situated about nine miles froth Bridgetown, and fifty-two miles from Bunbury, on the north-east side of the Blackwood. The tin was said to be very rich, and several leases were pegged out. The Bunbury Tin Mining Company was formed, and began work on Stinton's lease early in 1889. Samples of ore were raised, and by April shares in the company rose rapidly. Quarter shares, which cost the vendors £5 each, were sold for £80. Several other companies and syndicates were floated in the south-west and Perth, and for a time the future of tin mining was excitedly debated. The tin field lay on a ridge, and the greater part of the surface was covered with ironstone gravel, with here and there outcrops of hard crystalline rock, and dykes of diorite and tourmaline. The Bunbury Company sank a shaft on Stinton's claim, and found a false bottom of ironstone, in which there were pockets containing tin ore. Deeper down through a coarse quartz grit, containing a little clayey matter, richer tin ore and tourmaline were struck. Some of the stuff went 4 and 5 lbs. to the dish.
Mr. Woodward visited the district, and issued a report in June, 1889. He found prospects of fine tin nearly all over the field, and even in sand on the surface. He inspected the shaft, and expressed the opinion that a valuable discovery had been made. Good colours of gold were obtained in the shaft, and Mr. Woodward anticipated that rich pockets of that metal would be found. But although the Government Geologist had great hopes of the field, and thought that rich tin lodes undoubtedly existed, the claims, which became known as the Greenbushes Tin Field, have not been adequately worked. After the first spasmodic excitement, the shareholders of the companies became dissatisfied, and tin mining lanquished in later years for want of capital. Several rich bodies of ore were treated, and yielded good returns, but not commensurate with the excellent prospects. There is every probability that the south-west contains valuable tin lodes. The annual export of tin has been: —In 1889, 5 tons, valued at £300; in 1890, 67½ tons, £5,400; in 1891, 204 tons, £10,200; and 1892, 265½ tons, valued at £13,843.
In 1846-9 the fathers of the present generation of Western Australians had great hopes of establishing coal mines on the Irwin, Murray, and Fitzgerald Rivers. The discovery made by Captain Roe on the Fitzgerald was pronounced by Mr. Woodward and Mr. H. L. Y. Brown, F.G.S., of South Australia, to be nothing more than a brown carbonaceous substance, containing a certain amount of asphaltum. The "Murray Coalfield" raised the hopes of its supporters, but was soon proved to be valueless. The value of the coal discovered by the Gregorys in 1846 still remained in doubt. In 1879 the Government voted the sum of £100 to test the coal in the bed of the north branch of the Irwin. A shaft was sunk fifty feet, and the indications were considered good. The Rev. C. G. Nicolay then inspected the seams for the Government, and pronounced the coal of poor quality. So much water was met with in sinking that the field was abandoned. In 1888, Messrs. Bell and Eliot found better specimens of coal in another branch of the Irwin. After prospecting, they discovered in a cliff a seam four feet thick, and dipping to the north. Six other seams of smutty coal were also found, and ten tons were raised. Several seams at the site of Gregory's discovery were opened up, but the coal was proved to have no commercial value. Mr. Woodward, in December, 1888, pronounced the best coal discovered by Messrs. Bell and Eliot to be true coal measure fossils, and from the simplicity of working the seams, as well as their number and size, he hoped, when the colony had more uses for coal, that the property would prove very valuable. A long drive was put in, and the Fremantle Irwin Coal Mining Company was floated. Several tons of coal were raised, and in October, 1889, the s.s. Rob Boy steamed from Geraldton to Fremantle with Irwin River coal. A trial was also made on a small Swan River steamer with fair success. A shaft was sunk by the company, but the results were not satisfactory, and the district was practically abandoned. Two assays of the coal were made in London in 1889, and one gave 17.04 parts water, 28.61 parts volatile matter, 41.29 parts fixed carbon, and 13.06 parts ash. The other assay gave 12.4 parts water, 32.2 parts volatile matter, 43.5 parts fixed carbon, and 11.9 parts ash.
It was believed for many years that coal existed at Fly Brook, a branch of the Donnelly River, which disembogues into the Southern Ocean, about thirty miles from Cape Leeuwin. In 1888 several coal leases were taken out, and bores were put down. Owing to various circumstances, boring was not successfully carried out, and the coal seams were not thoroughly tested. The average of three samples of Fly Brook coal, assayed in Melbourne and Adelaide in 1889, gave 16.40 parts water, 38.23 parts volatile matter, 43.52 parts fixed carbon, and 1.85 parts ash.
The most promising coalfield yet prospected in the colony is that situated on the Collie River, at a point about twenty-five miles due east of Bunbury, and at an elevation of between 500 and 600 feet above sea level. In previous years coal was reported to exist at this place, but it was not until 1889 that any serious attempt was made to prove the truth of its existence. In that year Mr. David Hay, a resident of Bunbury, prospected the river bed. He and his party discovered fragments of coal, and sank a shaft on the east bank of the river to a depth of 18 feet. At 11 feet from the surface they struck a 3-ft, seam of good coal. Mr. Hay next tried to sink a shaft in a swamp a few chains away, but had to abandon it owing to an influx of water and quicksand. The river bank was examined to the eastward, and an outcrop of shale was found, a shaft was sunk, and small seams were struck. Another outcrop of coal was discovered a little distance away, and in sinking a third shaft a large seam, 11 feet 3 inches thick, was found. At this juncture Mr. Hay formed a syndicate in Bunbury to test the last-mentioned seam in solid ground. A new shaft was sunk thirty-five feet, a little to the south-west of the outcrop, and as no sign of coal was found, the work was reluctantly abandoned.
In 1891 a South Australian syndicate obtained a concession from the Gcvernment, upon the condition that they were to test the property, situated to the north of the main coal area, in a certain manner. The syndicate sank two small shafts, and in one granite was struck, and in the other work was stopped by the inflow of water. This company also abandoned the field. Late in 1891, Dr. Robertson, F.G.S., who was largely connected with coal mining in New South Wales, was visiting the colony, and the Government engaged him to report upon the Collie coalfield. The shafts were full of water, and the expert could not make a thorough examination. But he obtained samples of coal, and unhesitatingly pronounced them to be true coal, and advised the Government to test the area by boring. The Government asked Dr. Robertson to select a party and boring apparatus for this purpose, and in April, 1892, Mr. Pendleton, a colliery manager of English and Australian experience, in charge of six men, began boring with a 4-in. hand-drill. The first bore was stopped by granite, at a depth of 50 feet, after two inches of coal were passed through. In the second bore ten chains off, two seams, one 2 feet 11 inches, and one 1 inch were cut within twenty feet. The third bore was put down five miles away, near where Mr Hay sank his third shaft, but this was soon abandoned. The fourth bore was placed in the Bunbury Company's 35-ft. shaft, and six feet lower a coal seam 18 feet thick was discovered. A depth of 200 feet was reached, and several small seams varying from two inches to four feet in thickness were cut. In all, eighteen bores were put down, with more or less success. The eleventh bore, seven chains from the fourth, was continued to thirty feet, and struck a 12-ft. seam. It is estimated that the Collie coalfield has an area of 100 miles, and reckoning on the basis that one seam a yard thick extends over the whole area, would give 250,000,000 tons of coal. The coal itself is clean to handle, solid, and has a high heating power when burnt in a sharp draught. Four samples, obtained over an area of five miles, gave under assay:—
The copper and lead mines were not worked with much zest. A copper lode, situated about fifty miles east of Roebourne, was worked in 1890 by four men, and the ore was so rich that the syndicate was able to pay expenses. In following years the lode, which was named the Whim Well, was more systematically worked, and in 1891 produced 262 tons, and in 1892, 412 tons of high grade ore. Copper was now known to exist in the Victoria, Irwin, Roebourne, and Kimberley districts, as well as at Mount Barren, on the south coast, 120 miles east of Albany, Wongan Hills, Darling and Glenelg Ranges, and near Cape Naturaliste. The copper and lead exports for the colony were:—Copper—1889, £1,904; 1890, £136; 1891, £4,462; and 1892, £8,696. Lead—1889, £2,500; 1890, £2,135; 1891, £250; and 1892, £150.
The general industrial development was satisfactory during 1889-92. The export trade showed an expansion, but it did not keep pace with the dimensions of imports. As the population increased, larger imports were made. The annual Blue Book figures were:—
|1889 ...||£818,127 ...||£761,392|
|1890 ...||874,447 ...||671,813|
|1891 ...||1,280,093 ...||799,466|
|1892 ...||1,391,109 ...||882,148|
Owing to an unparalleled drought the pastoral industry suffered disaster. In 1890-1-2 the losses to stock through want of rain and pasture were terrible. Many squatters in the northern parts of the colony were ruined, while the more stable men found it difficult to tide over the period of distress. Runs were abandoned, the rentals for Crown lands diminished, whole flocks were annihilated and the export returns for wool were seriously affected. For all their years of striving in the semi-tropical country, the squatters had nothing to show but dry fields, covered with white bones. In 1891 the horses of settlers were in such an emaciated condition that men had to carry rations to shepherds on remote parts of some of the stations on foot. Thousands of lambs were killed to save the ewes. On two stations alone 10,000 lambs were immolated to this end, and 26,000 sheep died of starvation. North of Roebourne the scene was horrible and repulsive; the famished animals gathered round the wells, and died there in thousands. Mr. E. T, Hooley, who was nominated to the Legislative Council in December, 1891, in place of Mr. E.R. Brockman, stated in that House in February, 1892, that on one station, where a little more than twelve months before were 28,000 sheep, were now but a thousand odd; another man's flocks had decreased from 14,000 to 1,723, and another from 12,000 to 800. Rain came just in time, for had it held off much longer the whole of the flocks in the north would have been lost. It is not possible to adequately describe the distress caused by these fatalities; men who had been in comfortable and flourishing circumstances were reduced to poverty, with the incubus of heavy debts to liquidate. In 1889 there were 2,366,681 sheep in the colony, and in 1890, 2,524,913; by 1891 these had been reduced to 1,962,212, and by 1892 to 1,685,500. With the natural annual increase, it may be said that the colony lost over a million sheep by the drought. The wool export was:—In 1889, £395,903; in 1890, £261,351; in 1891, £329,365; and in 1892, £326,703. There was a diminution of about £20,000 in the annual rental of Crown lands. The statistics of other stock held in the colony were in 1889:—Cattle, 119,571; horses, 42,806; and pigs, 27,079; and in 1892:—Cattle, 162,886; horses, 44,973; and pigs, 24,417. It will be seen that the cattle industry was slightly improving. Considerable live stock—cattle and sheep for slaughter—was imported.
There is little that is encouraging to be said of agriculture or horticulture. In 1889 the area under wheat was 35,517 acres; under other grains, 8,297 acres; under potatoes, 462 acres; under hay, 25,694 acres; under vines, 1,088 acres; under forage, 329 acres; under gardens, orchards, &c., 2,039 acres; making a total of 73,426 acres cultivated. The area under wheat in 1892 was 35,060 acres; under hay, 35,123 acres; and under vines, 1,218 acres, which with other crops made a total of 79,603 acres cultivated. Food stuffs had still to be imported. In 1889—Grain valued at £12,923, and flour, bran, and meal at £46,058; in 1890—Grain, hay, fruit, meats, &c., at £76,929, and flour and wheat at £40,363; in 1891—Grain at £28,285, and flour, meal and bran at £27,852; and in 1892—Grain and hay at £64,865, and flour, meal, and bran at £64,783. The Agricultural Commission, appointed by Governor Broome in 1887, made its final report in March, 1891. The members collected a mass of evidence in every branch of agriculture, and their report proved a highly valuable record. They decided that under a fair system of farming Western Australia was not behind, as generally supposed, other colonies in the productivity of certain soils. Agriculture, as a pursuit, had not had all the elements in its favour to make it a thoroughly prosperous industry. Says the report—"Close observers of cause and effect will be able to trace many conditions under which agricultural pursuits have suffered, but these conditions are incidental to the peculiar circumstances of the colony—its early settlement, its isolation from general commercial intercourse with the other colonies—to the absence of those attractions which have taken population past our shores to the sister colonies—and are not directly traceable to any inherent infertility of soil." The circumstances adduced in this historical narrative bear out the finding of the commission. "The absence of cash sales," the report continued, "and the establishment of a barter system, supplied only a precarious market—a mixture of barter and tardy cash." The market was not one which stimulated production. Stagnation in enterprise was attributed to these conditions. The report dealt extensively with the various districts in the colony, drew attention to the excellent results following upon the introduction of the bonus system in Victoria, referred exhaustively to the subject of State aid to farmers, the land regulations, factory systems, and the diffusion of agricultural knowledge. Altogether the members of the commission deserved high commendation for their report, and especially the chairman, Mr. H. W. Venn.
The pearl fisheries extended further and further into the deep waters. The natives had a superstitious awe of a diver's dress, and were not greatly used in deep diving. The western coast was prospected to several fathoms deep. Most of the boats in 1890 were concentrated off the Eighty-Mile Beach, some of them working twenty-five miles from land in water varying from fifteen to twenty-five fathoms in depth. The returns in 1891 were particularly large. The annual export of pearl and pearl shell was, in 1889, pearls, £30,000, pearl shell, £88,555; in 1890, pearls, £40,000, pearl shell, £86,292; in 1891, pearls, £40,000, pearl shell, £100,527; and in 1892, pearls, £40,000, pearl shell, £79,259.
The timber and sandalwood exports were good, and excellent developments took place in the hardwood industry. The returns were, in 1889, sandalwood, £57,465, timber, £63,080; in 1890, sandalwood, £51,355, timber, £82,052; in 1891, sandalwood, £37,600, timber, £89,176; and in 1892, sandalwood, £42,870, timber, £78,419. A successful attempt was made in 1890 to manufacture sandalwood oil. In that year oil valued at £1,675 was exported; in 1891 the export was £1,530, and in 1892, £330. The guano export was, in 1889, £8,487; in 1890, £9,782; in 1891, £15,627; and in 1892, £4,389. Small quantities of beche-de-mer, eucalyptus oil, wine, gum, leather, turtle shell, and tallow were exported. The export of horses was, in 1889, £5,196; in 1890, £5,052; in 1891, £1,476; and in 1892, £2,450. Sheep, cattle and dogs were exported in small numbers. Skins afforded large sums; in 1889, £28,337; in 1890, £24,207; in 1891, £39,248; and in 1892, £36,657.
There are still large stretches of the interior of Australia unexplored. In the barren country, remote from settlement, no traveller has gone; there the prizes from a pastoral or agricultural view are few. In 1891 one of the best equipped expeditions ever sent out in Australia started from Adelaide. In August, 1890, the branch of the Geographical Society at Adelaide accepted a munificent offer from Sir Thomas Elder to furnish funds necessary for the equipment and maintenance of an exceptionally well organised party. It was desired that scientific men should form a conspicuous feature of this party, whose first duty was to attempt to traverse the unknown regions in South and Western Australia, between the tracks of Forrest, Giles, Gosse, and Warburton. They had to examine an immense tract west of the transcontinental telegraph line to the Murchison River, in Western Australia; a tract between the Murchison and the Fitzroy River, and territory between the South Australian telegraph line, the Victoria River, and Sturt Creek, in the north. They were also to look for traces of Leichardt's expedition. David Lindsey, an Australian traveller and explorer of considerable experience, was placed in charge of the party, which consisted of L. A. Wells, F. W. Leach, Dr. F. J. Elliott, V. F. P. Stretch, R. Helms, R. G. Ramsay, A. P. Gwynne, C. A. Dowden, and A. Warren. On 22nd April, 1891, these men left Adelaide for the Peake with forty camels, and six months' provisions. When the interior was reached it was found that there had been a long drought, and that extreme difficulty would be experienced in carrying out even the least part of the enormous undertaking. The further Lindsey went the more serious were the effects of the terrible dearth. He shaped a course for the Victoria Springs, in Western Australia, which provided such a timely succour to Giles, but even these were dry. The men were placed on short allowance of water, and the camels had to traverse the dreadful waste for many days without a drink. In endurance they outdid those of Giles' and travelled 560 miles without obtaining sufficient to quench their thirst. From Victoria Springs Mr Lindsey led his party to Fraser's Range, where he was able to rest the animals on fair pasture and good water. Leaving the main body there he proceeded to Esperance Bay, whence he communicated with the Adelaide Geographical Society. He declared that it was impossible to follow the route originally laid down owing to this drought, and offered, if water could be found, to proceed to the Murchison. His proposal was accepted, and he returned to Fraser's Range and struck a course thence towards Hampton Plains, with the object of completing, as far as possible, the examination of one block of the territory the party was commissioned to traverse. But the absence of water compelled him to take a more westerly route, and he went over country (Dundas) soon afterwards discovered to be rich in minerals, and arrived at Southern Cross. In his map Lindsey marked down a mineral belt, and subsequent prospecting proved his conclusions to be correct.
From Southern Cross Lindsey went to the Murchison, and he proposed to explore unknown country towards the Fitzroy, but dissension between him and the scientific members of the party culminated in the resignation of the latter. Certain charges were made against Mr. Lindsey, who was recalled to Adelaide. Mr. Wells took command of the remaining men, and while the charges were being examined into in Adelaide he made a flying trip into the country to the west. Upon his arrival in Adelaide Mr. Lindsey gave evidence before the council of the Geographical Society. The dissatisfied members subsequently gave evidence, and the leader was eventually exonerated from all blame. While the deliberations were proceeding the party was disbanded. Owing to this unfortunate climax the value of the work done was comparatively slight.