Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/756

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739
QUEENSLAND


period. It took formidable shape at Townsville in 1882, the chief argument in its favour being that the north and central districts did not get a fair share of the public expenditure. Delegates were sent to London on several occasions to interview the Colonial Secretary, but success did not attend these direct appeals. Sir Samuel Griffith's Decentralization Bill of 1890, which proposed to erect separate legislatures in the three divisions with powers of local government, was a blow to separationists, and the agitation gradually disappeared. The Labour Party in Politics, 1890*1900.*Th€ decade from 1890 to 1900 was chiefly notable, apart from the accomplishment of Federation, for the rise of the Labour party as a power in politics and the gradual disappearance of the squatter as a dominant factor. In 1890 the old opponents, Sir Samuel Griffith and Sir Thomas Mcllwraith, were still working side by side. The revenue for the year fell short of the estimates by half a million sterling, and a heavy accumulated deficit had to be grappled with by Parliament. Sir Thomas McIlwraith, the treasurer, proposed a dividend tax and other imposts, which were agreed to, and a Treasury Bills Act authorizing an issue of £500,000 was also passed. A Constitution Act establishing triennial Parliaments, in place of quinquennial, which had hitherto existed, also went through. In August the great maritime strike spread to Brisbane, and crippled trade and commerce for several months. In 1891 a loan for £2,500,000, which was issued in London under the auspices of the Bank of England, failed. Sir Thomas Mcllwraith reflected strongly in Parliament on the conduct of the Bank of England, and the governor of the bank wrote to Sir James Garrick, the agent-general, protesting against Sir Thomas lIcIlwraith's statements, and breaking off relations with the colony; but mutual explanations afterwards healed the breach.

Litigation was initiated by the London board of the Queensland Investment and Land Mortgage Company against the Queensland directors, on the ground that they had made advances without taking adequate security. The case was tried by the chief justice, Sir Charles Lilley, in 1891 and 1892, the defendants being Sir Thomas McIlwraith, Sir Arthur Palmer, then president of the Legislative Council, and Messrs F* H. Hart and E. R. Drury. The judge submitted 143 questions to the jury, and though these were answered generally in favour of the defendants, judgment was entered largely for the plaintiffs. On appeal, heard before a specially constituted court, presided over by the late Sir William Windeyer of New South Wales, this judgment was reversed, with costs. Lack of employment and a disastrous strike of bush workers paralysed the colony in this year. The strike began in January at Logan Downs station, where 200 shearers refused to sign the Pastoralists' Convention agreement. This strike was remarkable for the determined and aggressive attitude of the men, and the firm, though conciliatory, manner in which it was handled by Mr (afterwards Sir) Horace Tozer, the colonial secretary, who had to provide military forces and artillery to hold the strikers in check. The trouble lasted many months; and after it was over a farcically planned plot to seize the central district and proclaim a republic was revealed in the Brisbane Courier. As an outcome of this strike, “ New Australia ”-a settlement on communistic lines-was founded in Paraguay (q.v.). The year 1892 was one of gloom and depression: want of money interfered with public works, and the impending stoppage of Kanaka labour and the low price of sugar almost ruined the planters. Sir Samuel Griffith then announced his conversion to the policy of continuing Kanaka labour for the sugar plantations, and also of land-grant railways. An act was passed authorizing agreements with companies for the extension of the trunk lines on this principle; but the measure was unpopular, and no transactions under the act are recorded. Financial depression reached its height in 1893: the salaries of ministers and civil servants were reduced, and drastic retrenchments were made in every department. In February, 107 in. of rain fell at the head of the Brisbane river, and enormous losses were caused by the resulting floods; several vessels, including the Queensland Government gunboat Paluma, were washed into the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, and left high and dry when the waters subsided. A second flood followed and caused further losses. Rockhampton, Bowen, Townsville, and other places also suffered severely from floods. On 13th March Sir Samuel Griffith was gazetted chief justice, and on the 27th Mr (afterwards Sir) Hugh M. Nelson became premier and treasurer, and Sir Thomas Mcllwraith chief secretary and secretary for railways. Parliament was dissolved on 3rd April, and after the general elections the ministry returned with 38 supporters, against Labour, 16, and Opposition and' Independent, 18. During the month several financial institutions suspended payment, and on 15th May the Queensland National Bank closed its doors. Parliament was hurriedly summoned to deal with the financial crisis and the question of the Government funds held by the Queensland National Bank. Treasury notes, issued against coin held by the treasurer, were made legal tender throughout the colony; an issue of £I, 000,000 treasury bills to retire the treasury notes was authorized, and a series of acts dealing with the suspended banks were passed. To assist the unemployed, labour and co-operative communities were started, but proved failures. An impetus was given to the sugar industry by the Sugar Works Guarantee Act, which authorized the treasurer to guarantee debentures issued by companies for the erection of sugar mills and plant. In 1894 little legislation was achieved, the policy of the Government being directed towards national rehabilitation. In 1895 Sir Thomas Mcllwraith left the colony for London, where he died on 17th July 1900. At the general election of 1896 the Labour party slightly improved its position. In that year a committee of investigation reported a heavy deficit in the affairs of the Queensland National Bank, and made certain recommendations. In 1897 the bank was reconstructed a second time upon terms very favourable to the institution. An act was passed granting powers to a company to construct a railway from the rich mining district of Chillagoe to the terminus of the Cairns railway at Mareeba; at the end of fifty years the State was to have the right to acquire the line. In April 1898 the Queensland-born statesman, T. ]. Byrnes, whose early death in the following September was lamented throughout Australia, succeeded Sir Hugh Nelson as premier. On 24th October the trial of the three ex-directors of the Queensland National Bank, Messrs F. H. Hart, B. D. Morehead and A. B. Webster, was commenced. The prosecution was instituted by the Government, on the advice of three barristers to whom the report of the committee of investigation into the affairs of the bank, which sat in 1897, was submitted. After a trial lasting I2 days, a verdict of “ Not guilty ” was returned. Proposals for the acquisition of 250,000 acres of land in New Guinea, made by a syndicate of London capitalists, were provisionally agreed to, but were eventually rejected, owing to a popular outcry raised, in the colony and in New South Wales and Victoria. In 1896 the first of a series of factory acts was passed, and in 1907 Wages Boards were established for fixing the statutory minimum rate of wages. (See AUSTRALIA.) Federation was a burning question in the neighbouring colonies during the year, but Queenslanders generally took little' interest in the movement, and the colony was not represented at the Federal Convention at Melbourne when the Commonwealth Bill was passed. In 1899 Mr (afterwards Sir I. R.) Dickson, who had succeeded Byrnes as premier, was enlisted on the side of the “ Billites, ” and in June of that year an Enabling Bill was passed. In September the Referendum supported the act by the narrow majority of 7492 votes on a poll of 69,484. Towards the end of the second session the ministry narrowly escaped defeat. on the Railway Standing Committees Bill, and resigned. Mr Dawson, leader of the Labour Opposition, then formed a ministry, and held office from 1st December to 7th December 1899. He was then defeated on a motion by R. Philp, and resigned, and Philp