Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/755

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

hitherto composed the House, now began to enter public life. From 1870 to 1879 progress was satisfactory, trade interests were prosperous, and in this decade the foundations of V the public and social structure of Queensland were laid. Agriculture was extended, and sugar-growing took the place of cotton cultivation. (The first crop of sugar was grown by the Hon. Louis Hope at Cleveland, about 1862.) Hitherto politics had been non-partisan, and legislation was chiefly of a domestic character. From the time of Herbert's departure until the appearance of Thomas Mcllwraith and Samuel Walker Griffith, the two master-spirits of Queensland parliamentary life, the political history of the colony was composed of short-lived administrations, with Messrs Macalister, Mackenzie, Palmer, Lilley, George Thorn and John Douglas (afterwards Government Resident at Thursday Island) as premiers. Arthur Hunter Palmer (whose administration, from 1870 to 1874, had the longest life), a. New South Wales squatter, entered the Queensland Parliament in 1866. He was one of the most popular of Queensland's parliamentary leaders, and has left the impress of his labours on the public works, and educational and defence force systems of the colony. In 1870 Queensland was disappointed in her ambition of becoming the connecting-point for Australia with the European and Eastern cable systems. A company-the British Australian Telegraph Company-was formed in London to connect Australia by cable with Singapore. The plan provided for a land line from the Queensland telegraphs at Burketown to Port Darwin, in the Northern Territory, where the cable was to be landed. Writing on 25th January 1870, the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company officially informed the governor of Queensland that it had received a contract from the British Australian Telegraph Company to construct “ cables and land lines, to be laid between Singapore and Burketown, in North Australia.” The Construction Company deputed Commander Noel Osborn to negotiate with the Governments of South Australia and Queensland in reference to the land line; but on arrival in Adelaide he accepted the offer of the South Australian Government to construct and maintain a telegraph line right across the continent from Port Darwin to Adelaide, and Queensland was informed that the original plan had been abandoned. Although the company was thus saved the expense of making and maintaining the Port Darwin-Burketown line, it was regarded as having broken faith with Queensland, which had specially pushed on her telegraph system to connect with the proposed line. In consequence of this incident Queenslanders have not always had the facilities for cheap cabling to Europe enjoyed by the other colonies, though the subsequent owners of the cable, the Eastern Companies, were in no way responsible for the act of their predecessors. A resolution in favour of the payment of members was carried in 1871. In 1872 the first Agent-General in London, Richard Daintree, was appointed. The same year the Railways Act Amendment Act was passed, authorizing the construction of railways by private enterprise, land being offered as compensation for the outlay. Electoral representation was increased to forty-two members. In January 1874 Palmer resigned, and Macalister came into power for two years, the most important measure of his Government being the State Education Act of 187 5, on which the present educational system is based. Both Messrs McIlwraith and Griffith were members of the Macalister ministry, but the former resigned in October 1874, owing to a difference of opinion as to a proposed land-grant railway from Dalby to Normanton. In 1878 Mr (afterwards Sir) Tames Francis Garrick first became a cabinet minister, joining the Douglas ministry as secretary for public works and mines. .,

Active Politics, 1879-1890.-On 21st January 1879 the first Mcllwraith administration came into power, and an important extension of local government was one of the early measures passed, divisional boards being formed to take charge of public works in districts not included in municipalities. In the following session, 1880, the Opposition, led by Mr Grifhth, bitterly opposed the Government proposals on Kanaka labour, land-grant railways, and a European mail service via Torres Straits. The Government, however, concluded an agreement with the British India Steam Navigation Company for a monthly mail service between Brisbane and London for an annual subsidy of £55,000. The Railway Companies Preliminary Act, giving the governor in council power to treat with persons willing to construct railways in return for grants of 8000 acres of land for each mile of rails laid, was also passed. This measure was generally unpopular, and no railways were built under its provisions. During the session Mr Grifnth impeached the premier in connexion with contracts for the purchase of 15,000 tons of steel railway metals, and their carriage to the colony, made in London whilst 'Mcllwraith was there in January 1880. A select committee in the colony, and afterwards a Royal Commission in London, subsequently reported in the pren1ier's favour. The discovery of the celebrated Mount Morgan gold mine, and the initiation of artesian well-boring by R. L. Iack, Government geologist, took place in 1881. In 1883 a great drought prevailed, and the compulsory stoppage of public works demoralized the labour market. Early in the year information reached the colony that Germany proposed to annex a portion of New Guinea, which, together with other islands in the Papuan Gulf, was becoming of great strategic value to Australia; and the premier, fearing that it would thus be lost to the empire, instructed Mr H. M. Chester, police magistrate at Thursday Island, to proceed to Port Moresby and take possession of the unappropriated portion of the island in the name of the crown. This act was afterwards-to the indignation of Australiarepudiated by Lord Derby; and, eventually, under the Berlin Treaty of 1886, England and Germany entered into joint possession of that part of New Guinea lying east of 141° E. In July Sir Thomas Mcllwraith (created K.C.M.G. in 1882) was defeated by 27 votes to 16 on a proposal to arrange for the construction of a land-grant railway from Charleville to the Gulf of Carpentaria. The general elections which followed were fought mainly on the questions of coloured labour for the sugar plantations and land-grant railways. The Government was defeated, and Griffith formed his first administration. Later in the year the premier drafted the Federal Council Act at Sydney, and through his efforts Queensland eventually joined the Federal Council of Australasia. In 1884 a ten-million Loan Act was passed, intended to secure continuity in borrowing for railway construction, but many of the lines specified were unsurveyed. According to the view now generally held in Queensland, this loan seriously hampered the, colony in after years. In 1887 the number of seats in the Assembly was increased to 72 (the present number), and several reforms were effected in the public service, notably the establishment of the department of agriculture. At the general elections in 1888 Sir Thomas Mcllwraith was returned for North Brisbane, defeating Sir Samuel Grifiith (who had been created K.C.M.G. in 1886) by a large majority, and resumed office as premier and leader of the “National Party.” Ill-health, however, soon compelled him to leave the colony, and he was succeeded by Boyd Dunlop Morehead. Sir Thomas McIlwraith's inflexible nature was evidenced all through his public life. On the death of Sir Anthony Musgrave in Brisbane in 1888, he maintained that the Government should be consulted as to the appointment of the new governor. Lord Knutsford declined to accept this view, and appointed Sir Henry Blake. The premier formally protested, and a deadlock ensued, which was only removed by the resignation of the governor-designate. In 1889 payment of members at the rate of £300 a year, plus 1s. 6d. per mile travelling expenses, was established. In 1890 a financial crisis arose. Sir Thomas Mcllwraith had -returned to the colony and dissociated himself from the ministry. He conferred on the situation with Sir Samuel Griffith, and a want-of-confidence motion was nearly carried. Moreheadresigned, and a coalition ministry, with Griffith as premier, chief secretary and attorney-general, and Mcllwraith as treasurer, was formed. An agitation for the separation of Queensland into two or three separate colonies mentioned as early as 1866-was very marked during this