Cobber’s Morning Herald
March 4, 2021
1788 AND ALL THAT:
Until very recently it has been maintained, as one of the numerous illusions from which Australians suffer, that “Australia has no history”—except a deplorable history of convicts, bushrangers, and explorers dying of thirst: a history deserving to be forgotten. A teaching such as this of the same order as the idea that Australia is a land “where bright flowers are scentless, and songless bright birds.” It is purely a British, or Pommy, idea. A huge book remains to be written on the psychology of exile, or of nostalgia, as exemplified in the mental reactions of immigrants to Australia over a period of 150 years. Acclimatisation has been slow. The mental adjustment of immigrant Europeans to the Australian environment is as yet uncompleted. The great forces of Europocentric propaganda, such as the Church of England, the University of Sydney, and the Communist Party, together with the book-importing and drama-importing industries, and the daily newspapers (to name only some of the anti-Australian cultural forces) are much more preoccupied with Australia’s antipodes than with Australia itself. The result of this organised Europocentric propaganda, working upon a sentiment of immigrants predisposed to nostalgia for their Homeland, has been an almost overwhelming depreciation of everything Australia, widespread among Australians themselves—even unto the third, fourth, and fifth generation of those who know no other natal soil than this. This condition is quite pathological. Australians are unrooted in Australia—not yet planted here. Mentally, the nation is not yet acclimatised: it is, in other words, no nation, but merely a colony suffering from sentimental nostalgia: a longing to return, if only in spirit, to the land of its origins. National sentiment, in any country, is inculcated by the teaching of history. Hitherto the teaching of history in Australia has been limited mainly to the teaching of European history. At no Australian University is there, as yet, a Professor of Australian history. To take a current example, Professor S. H. Roberts, of Sydney University, after publishing a very scrappy book on an aspect of Australian History (The Squatting Age) now appears to be devoting most of his time to current European affairs—travelling to Germany and writing an anti-Hitler thesis in support of the prevailing anti-German strafes of Downing Street foreign policy. It would seem that Australian history, an immense field of research near at hand, makes less appeal to Professor Roberts than does a much over-publicised aspect of local European contemporary politics. I mention this case merely to draw attention to the fact that, in Australia, the Universities are more concerned with European, than with Australian affairs.
OUR OWN HISTORY:
A nation without a history is a nation without self-respect: and, if Australia indeed “has no history,” then this merely means that Australians have no self-respect. Who are the makers of history? Not so much the doers of deeds, but those who tell of such deeds dramatically! Historians are the makers of history, in the literal meaning of that term. If Australia “has no history” then self-evidently the reason is that Australia has no historians. Without historians, Australia could not have a history—for all deeds would be forgotten. How often must I repeat here that facts are less important than the interpretation of facts? Facts and deeds are quite unalterable, in themselves. A deed dies as soon as it is done, unless there is somebody to keep it alive in memory, by telling of it. Australia’s great lack is not a lack of history, but of historians.
Owing to the merely fortuitous circumstance that this month marks the 150th Anniversary of Governor Phillip’s landing at Sydney Cove in 1788, there is a temporary stimulation of interest in Australian history. To the mathematician, or even to the historian, 150 years is not intrinsically more important as a period than 149½ or 151¾ years. To become excited over the “round number” 150 is asinine. Real history is quite unaffected by such asininity. It goes on all the while. Nevertheless, the Sesqui-Centenary Celebrations this month have a certain value, as fixing in the mind of the public the fact that Australia is no longer “Young Australia,” but has become “adult.” This fact, once grasped, should lead to a considerable increase of self-respect among Australians. It should accelerate a tendency away from Colonialism towards Nationalism, and thus should help Australians to find a New Path for themselves, instead of following the present Colonial Path, which leads to a dead-end. A time such as this is, for thoughtful persons, an opportunity for National Review, stocktaking. As every businessman knows, stocktaking sometimes produces an unpleasant surprise. It has been assumed, rather too hastily, than an Australian stocktaking today must necessarily provide an occasion for widespread rejoicings— which ought to mean, payment of a higher dividend. Such an attitude far too optimistically anticipates the auditor’s report. After looking carefully at the facts, I have decided to join the Aborigines in their Day of Mourning on 26th January. The official fireworks, pageantry, tomfoolery, speechifying, flag-flapping, processions, illuminations, and rejoicing seems to me be uncalled-for and even puerile. A review of the real situation in Australia today—of the deadendedness of the ten years past and the dubious prospects of the ten years ahead—leaves me feeling very sad. I have placed an order for a suit of sackcloth and a hundredweight of ashes, for use on Sesqui-Centenary Day.
WHY BE MORBID?:
The expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds on fireworks, bunting, illuminations and tomfoolery will have the effect of stimulating retail trade, in Sydney particularly, for a couple of months. But after that what? When the debris of the Celebrations has been cleared away, Australia will awaken suddenly, like a man with a headache on the morning after a night out. Was it worth it? he asks. We may look forward to this mood about March or April next, when the realities of our situation will once again have to be faced. If we are not in a War or Depression before the end of 1938 we may consider ourselves extraordinarily lucky. In the meantime, Sound the Loud Kazoo and Let the Tinhorn Bray.
INTERPRETATION OF HISTORY:
If history was concerned only with facts, a cold mathematical formula of history would suffice—a list of facts and bare statements. But even in compiling such a list there would have to be selectiveness in presentation—an emphasis of omission and inclusion. I am convinced that all history-writing is biased. It is impossible for the historian to be completely “objective.” For example, an Irishman’s history of Ireland must be quite different in tone from an Englishman’s history of Ireland.
It is amusing to examine American accounts of the War of Independence, and to compare them with the accounts given by British historians. In both instances national pride is salved. Similarly, a Catholic historian’s account of the divorces of Henry the Eighth is quite different from a Protestant’s account of the same phenomenon. To bring my point home, I insist that an Englishman’s history of Australia is quite different from an Australian’s history of Australia. The facts, in general, are the same, but the interpretation of those facts is different, in accordance with the ingrained prejudices of the historians themselves. Unfortunately for Australian self-respect, most of the Australian history-writing, hitherto, has been done by Englishmen. I quote as examples the historical work of Jose and Ernest Scott, two English historians who have consistently presented the history of Australia from an English point of view. Looked at from the Australian point of view their work is uninspiring, and even deadly. It resembles in tone the landscape painting of Conrad Maartens, who Anglicised, or Europeanised, even our eucalypts. There is need now for Gruners, Heysens, and Streetons in the field of Australian history-presentation. We need now historians who will present Australian history as seen through Australian eyes.
HISTORY AND CREATIVENESS:
History is the art or science of creating National Illusions—so I define it. There is no such thing as a “world” point of view in history: no real historical objectivity. Take, for example, The Outline Of History, by H. G. Wells: a recent attempt to tell the history of “the world.” If ever there was a book written by an English suburban draper’s assistant, it is this. Australia since 1788 is mentioned only three times, once as a “dump for convicts” (1815), once as a producer of copper, gold, and wool (1842 to 1850), these commodities being noted as “increasingly marketable in Europe”; and the third reference is to the conversion of Australia, during the nineteenth century, from a “mere administrated dependency” into a “quasi-independent ally” of Britain, this conversion being described by Wells as “a very fine feat of statesmanship.” Such is the history of Australia in a nutshell, as presented by a “world” historian from Balham (or is it Tooting?). A Chinaman’s History of the World would probably make only three references to England, all unfavourable. All history, I say, must be nationally coloured, even a pretended “History of the World”: but the study of a specific Place cannot avoid being nationally coloured. It is by the study of its own history that a nation becomes self-conscious and self-respecting. The crying need now in Australia is for history-makers, history-writers, to present Australia’s story creatively. By this I mean presentation of Australia’s story from an Australian point of view, nationally and constructively. We need here a national lore, a national legend, a National Illusion it may be, to buoy up the community intellectually with an idea which has meaning. This is a work for creative literary genius in the field of history. It is certainly not a work for Professors, who are notoriously lacking in creativeness and constructive imagination. Will the hour produce the man? Is there somewhere in Australia a man (or woman) who can project Australian history on to an Australian plane? I cry in the Vast Open Spaces for this man (or woman) to materialise. Bombinating in the void, I get nothing but vacuity for an echo. Yet I say it again, feeling like the offspring of Jeremiah and Cassandra, that unless Australians learn to be self-respecting, by devising a legend, or an illusion, of their own history, creatively, then this community is doomed and doubly damned to colonialism and inertia forever.
SLAVES AND CONVICTS:
The Englishman’s history of Australia begins with Captain Cook, proceeds to convicts and bushrangers, thence to Burke and Wills and similar thirsty explorers, with side-glances at glamorous gold-rushes; brings in the great British boon of “self-government,” and finishes on the cliffs of Gallipoli, with Anzacs heroically assaulting the Turks at Britain’s behest. The perspective of this story is altogether British and false. Realising the key-significance of history-teaching in keeping Australians colonial-minded and abject interest-payers, the British Garrison in control of Australia’s University system has succeeded, after eighty years of effort, in grafting a thoroughly British-coloured interpretation of Australian history on to the Australian school study of history. Take, for example, the “convict origins,” so stressed in British presentations of our history. Every country in the world has a slave-and-flogging origin. Britain, in the period of recorded history, has been conquered six times—by the Romans, the Angles, the Saxons, the Jutes, the Danes, and the Normans. After each conquest the British Islanders were put under the lash and made serfs: hanged and flogged ad lib. The servile attitude of the English lower orders of today goes back in history to this fact. No one could truthfully sing Britons never never never have been slaves. Yet the writers of British history skim lightly over such a painful topic, while gloating as they fasten the “stigma” of convictism on Australian history. It was the British who sent the British convicts here. It was the British, too, who sent almost all the Negro and convict slaves to America for two centuries before Australia was colonised, and it was the British who took the side of the slavers in the American Civil War. Yet we hear little of America’s “convict” origin. The Americans write their own history, that’s why. Ninety-five per cent of the European migrants to Australia have not been convicts. England is still using Australia as a “dump”—for Barnado Boys, many of whom make excellent citizens here, as did many of the convicts. The Barnado Boys, victims of misfortune or injustice in England, and often regarded, quite wrongly, as “undesirables” there, are not necessarily undesirables here. Much more undesirable are the remittance-men, bad-lads of “good” families in England, who, even today, fall into cushy jobs in Australia, on the strength solely of their Pommy accent—particularly on the “National” Broadcasting Stations, where they find a Home away from Home.
As for Captain Cook, far from being the first man to discover Australia, he was about the last to do so. For a million years Before Cook (B.C.), Australia had been inhabited by human beings who had discovered the place without Cook’s aid. All that Cook discovered was his own previous ignorance concerning these people and their land. Moreover, as the Aborigines are particularly sharp-sighted, it is at least probable that they discovered Cook before he discovered them. As we become Australocentric, we revise our concepts in such matters. In any case Cook was the last, not the first, of the European navigators to discover Australia. A plain, honest, and truthful man, he never made any claim to be the discoverer even of our East Coast. The continent had been distinctly mapped, from Cape York westabout and southabout to Tasmania (Van Dieman’s Land), by the Dutch, two hundred years Before Cook. Tasman took possession of the East Coast on the third of December, 1642, when his ship’s carpenter, Jacobzoon, swam ashore at Marion Bay, north of Hobart’s site, with the flag of the Netherlands in his teeth, formally claiming the entire continent for Holland in accordance with the recognised practices of international law. This was 128 years Before Cook, but long before that the land had been known as New Holland. When Cook sailed from New Zealand, westward across the Tasman Sea, leaving Cape Farewell on April Fool’s Day, 1770, he noted his intentions as follows:
“Upon leaving his coast to steer to the westward, until we fall in with the E. coast of New Holland, and then to follow the direction of that coast to the Northward or what other direction it might take us, until we arrive at its northern extremity.”
This the worthy man did, making no pretence of being the “discoverer” of New Holland. In his diary of the 14th ugust, off the coast of what is now named North Queensland, Cook made a reference to charts of that coast which were on board the Endeavour: charts of the discoveries of De Quiros in 1606: and other charts supplied by the Admiralty before Cook left England. Finally, on arrival at Batavia, the honest Yorkshireman wrote:
Altho’ the discoverys made in this voyage are not great, yet I flatter myself they are such as may merit the attention of their Lordships; and altho’ I have failed in discover’g the so much talked-of southern continent (which perhaps do not exist and which I myself had much at heart), yet I am confident no part of the failure of such discovery can be laid to my charge.”
Thus the “Columbus of our shores” himself declaims the discovery since attributed to him by British propaganda-historians. He failed in the only actual discovery he attempted—namely that of a continent to the south of New Zealand. He was a map-maker, not a discoverer; and a thoroughly honest man. The same cannot be said of the casuists of the Admiralty, who, to satisfy a “moral” humbug, altered the name “New Holland” on Cook’s charts and diaries to “New South Wales”—the most ridiculous specimen of nomenclature anywhere on earth. Cook, always scrupulous, was careful, when “taking possession,” to do so only on a small Island (Possession Island) off Cape York, and not on the mainland itself. The point does not matter much now, because Might is Right in international law; and the Dutch were not strong enough to dispute Britain’s claim, though, in abstract legality, the Dutch had every “moral” argument on their side. It does not matter at all, now, because occupancy and use have given Britain the only effective title that need be considered. And precisely because the “moral” claim that Cook was the “discoverer” of Australia” no longer has effective weight, the time has come to drop it: to drop from our history all pretence that he was, in fact, in law, or in morality, our Columbus: and to give historical credit where credit is due. Thus Australian history, as written from the purely British-political propagandist and humbug-moral point of view, will go into the discard, beginning with the story of Cook, as soon as Australians learn to write their own history less Britishly and more truthfully.
It was the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Dutch, and the French who opened up the seaways—from Europe—to India, China, the Indies, Australia, and Pacific Ocean. The English were last upon the scene, and they staked the biggest claim: their predecessors having been content mainly to trade, rather than to grab. Cook’s voyages came absolutely at the tail end of three centuries of exploration and discovery by European nations in the Pacific. He was positively the last of the discoverers of Australia. Eighty-two years Before Cook, another Englishman had landed in New Holland, and had written about this place. I refer to the scoundrelly Dampier, who, in 1688 (which is two hundred and fifty years ago), arrived with his filthy crew of blackguards, scallywags, murderers, rascals, and thieving pirates, on the northwest coast of this land. Dampier went ashore, and, while his ship was being careened, made notes on the inhabitants of the place. Nine years later, in England, he published his monstrous libel on the Australian Aborigines:
“They are the miserablest people in the world . . . The Hodmadods of Monomatapa, though a nasty people, are gentlemen compared to these.”
Well, well! And what did the Aborigines think of Dampier? They thought him a cutthroat and a villain. They thought him a murderer and a thief, who had qualified a hundred times over for the hangman. His cruelty, lust, and ignorance they thought moronistic and sub-human. Black they were in their skins, but he was black in his heart. Around their camp-fires, and at their corroborees for generations after Dampier’s departure they warned their children:
“He is the most crocodile-hearted man in the world . . . The carrion crows of Meekatharra, though nasty thieving brutes, are gentlemen compared to Dampier.”
The Christian World heard Dampier’s libel first, and took his word. His book, A Voyage Around the World,was a best-seller in England for eighty years before Phillip landed in Botany Bay. It was almost the only book available in England, containing descriptions of the Australian scene and people, for a hundred years after its publication in 1697. Its libel on the Aborigines became deeply-ingrained in the English mind; so much so that the libel persists to this day, reinforced by scientific hocus-pocus about “Australoids” being “the lowest types of human beings” (which is unadulterated anthropological bunkum. The lowest types of human beings are found in Europe’s slums.)
New Holland was neglected by the English for eighteen years after Cook visited here in 1770, the reason being that the English had something more important on their hands—a revolt of the American Colonies. It was in the year 1773 that a party of Bostonians, disguised as American Aborigines, and shouting “America First!” (or words to that effect), went aboard an English ship, and emptied her cargo of tea into the salt sea waves. The reason for this seemingly irrational act was a reluctance of Bostonians to pay taxes for Britain’s benefit. Ungrateful as they were for all the Negroes and convicts which Britain had sent them, the Americans had an uncouth desire to be masters of their own fate, in their own continent. In a war which lasted for six years after America’s formal Declaration of Independence in 1776, the British were decisively beaten by the Colonials—who were fighting on their own soil, and for their own right to that soil. One of the first results of this severe British defeat was that trade between Britain and the United States, as between equals, increased enormously as soon as British domination of America was removed. The population of the American colonies, at the time when they decided to take their destiny in their own hands, was a little more than two million persons, including a quarter-of-a-million Negro slaves and several hundred thousand ex-convicts and descendants of convicts. The Declaration of Independence by America occurred exactly one hundred and forty-six years after the first settlement of the Pilgrim Fathers in what they had fondly termed New England. The American colonists celebrated their sesqui-centenary by cutting the painter; an action which they have never since had reason to regret. (America today is richer and more powerful than Britain; as Australia will be some day.)
The first effect of the American Revolution was that Britain had to find a new place as a convict dump. Three years after the American Declaration of Independence, Sir Joseph Banks gave evidence before a Select Committee of the House of Commons; and, speaking with the authority of one who had been there, suggested that Botany Bay would be a suitable place to send convicts to, in view of the fact that the American Colonists were no longer willing to receive them. This seed of a suggestion, planted thus by a botanist, grew, and flowered, and fruited. Lord Sydney, Secretary of State for Home Affairs and Plantations in the Ministry of William Pitt, Junior, was the politician in whose mind it fruited. This utterly undistinguished nobleman held office for four years only (1784-88), and then passed into well-deserved political oblivion, remembered only in the name of a gaol-town, planted under his orders, as faraway from London as it could be. Although the honour, such as it is, of first suggesting that New Holland would be a suitable site for a gaol, belongs to Sir Joseph Banks, the true glory of putting the suggestion into effect belongs to Lord Sydney, who has no other claim to fame. Sydney had to find some place to which to send those convicts which America refused any longer to take. His immediate predecessors had tried the experiment of establishing a penal settlement on the West Coast of Africa, in an attempt, no doubt, to re-populate territory which English slave-traders had depopulated in two hundred years of raiding; but the convicts just died there, and hence were not sufficiently punished. Vexed, Lord Sydney, as British Secretary of State for Home Affairs, saw the hordes of felons accumulating in the hulks of the Thames and Mersey, with nowhere to go. Simultaneously, as British Secretary of State for Plantations, he had to deal with a letter from a Corsican, named James Mario Matra, who wrote suggesting that the American Loyalists (those who had put Britain First and had Followed Britain’s Lead during the American Revolution) should be compensated for their loyalty by being transferred to Botany Bay, as free settlers, with grants of land, native wives from Tahiti, and Chinese coolie servants. Matra had been with Cook to Botany Bay, and hoped to become Governor of the new colony. Lord Sydney, sniffing snuff to clear his head of the port-wine fumes, solved both his problems with one fell swoop of the pen. He ordered that the accumulating British convicts should be sent to Botany Bay. As for the American Loyalists, who had been such fools as to put Britain’s interests first, Lord Sydney gave them never another thought. Their loyalty to Britain earned Britain’s contempt, which the loyalists thoroughly deserved.
On the 6th December 1786, as a wintry Christmas approached, His Besotted Majesty, George the Third, the German King of England who had “lost” the American Colonies, signed the Order-in-Council appointing the eastern coast of New Holland and adjacent islands as a Place for the Transportation of Felons; and thus the British Empire remained approximately the same size as it was before the American colonies seceded. The First Governor of the new Colony, Commodore Arthur Phillip, R.N., was the son of a German father; and the first Surveyor-General of the Colony, Baron Alt, was also a German. Arthur Phillip’s watchword was “thorough,” his mind was generous and humane. “I would not wish convicts to lay the foundation of an empire,” he wrote. And again: “There is one law I would wish to take place from the moment His Majesty’s forces take possession of the country: That there can be no slavery in a free land, and consequently no slaves.” Most of Phillip’s life had been spent as an officer not in the British, but in the Portuguese Navy. He was aged 48 years of age when commissioned as Commodore of H.M.S. Sirius. On the 12th of May, 1787, the First Fleet, commanded by this painstaking officer, weighed anchor at Portsmouth and set sail. Here endeth the history of Old Australia. A New Australia is in the making: the history of the whitefellows in this land. In fifteen decades that history has developed since 1788.
Some day, if I am granted the leisure of a Gibbon, I may write a History of Neo-Australia in fifteen volumes—one volume for each decade between 1788 and 1938. When the next “world” war breaks out, safe in my hollow log at Oodnadatta, I may undertake this magnum opus—unless someone more competent, and more inspired, does it in the meantime. A great work it is, indeed, waiting to be done. Fifteen decades—150 years—is only two life-times: not long as human history goes; but what a wealth of historical material has accumulated in Australia in those fifteen decades! What a tremendous story! The mind reels at its possibilities, particularly when Pommies say that “Australia has no history.” Why, every square mile of Australia’s three million square miles has its history—a huge story to be told someday. If the Commonwealth Government will kindly appoint me Official Inculcator of Australianism, with sufficient funds available for the purpose, I could suggest a method of mass-producing the magnum opus of Australian chronicling. My method would be to set fifteen competent young writers to work, assigning a different decade to each—after giving them an intensive training in Australianism to wipe out from their minds any possible Church of England Grammar School and Sydney University influences of anti-Australianism in their minds. Then, they would have to travel widely, within Australia, seeing the land in all its variousness, and finding local historic traces and records. They would need to avoid all newspaper reading, hysteria, and world-dreams, while engrossed in their tasks. They would have to be shown how to anchor their minds in their own country: and would have to dedicate themselves to Australian creativeness, impregnating themselves with a belief in Australia’s future as a nation different from all other nations. Alas, it can’t be done, I know. Only in Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia (the “Totalitarian” States) is there a dedication of youth to national ends. Here in Australia, a decadent Democracy, youth loafs at street-corners, takes tickets in the Lottery, and lives mentally on Speed Gordon, Popeye the Sailor, and other democratic intellectual dope. Resurgence is not yet. Things will have to get much worse before they get better, here. I shall have to write the Creative History of Australia, myself, at Oodnadatta, fed on Witchetty grubs by the Arunta while writing it. In the meantime, taking advantage of the present “historical” atmosphere and of my free scope in The Publicist’s unique pages, I jot down memos of themes and heads of treatment for each of the Fifteen Decades, in sequence; obliged by the limitations of this medium to include nothing but bare details and outlines of a story that is so huge that not even a University Professor, with a life-time to devote to it, could tell it all within the covers of one book. Here follow my notes for An Australians’ History of Australia:—
THE FIRST DECADE, 1788-1797: Rats nibbling at the rind of the huge cheese of Australia.
At the end of the Decade the total white population is 4,344 persons, comprising prisoners, their gaolers, and a sprinkling of free immigrants. Three hundred white children are born in the continent during the Decade: the first native-born white Australians. The Colony is a Crown Colony “of the most extreme type.” The Governor’s word is Law. Britain’s first gift to Australia is a Dictatorship backed by Martial Law, floggings, hangings, and arbitrary autocracy. The only settlements are at Sydney Town (which Phillip intended to name “Albion”), Parramatta, the Hawkesbury River, and Norfolk Island, where cultivation of various European food-plants is begun, inefficiently and after much newchum bungling. The entire colony consists of newchums, who, much to the amusement of the Aborigines, starve in a Land of Plenty, relying upon England to send food. Frightened of the bush, the newchums do most of their exploring by rowing up the rivers and along the coast. A few expeditions, however, penetrate the awful forest westward and southward far enough to see that the Colony is hedged in by impenetrable mountains and wilderness, and is therefore a safe gaol. Sydney Town, however, refuses to remain a gaol, and immediately becomes a roaring seaport town, the rendezvous of South Sea whalers, who establish Australia’s first Great Primary Industry—export of whale oil. As free settlers arrive, and as emancipists are given grants of land, Sydney becomes a centre of pastoral, agricultural, mercantile, and marine industries; and is also a Garrison Town, post of the hard-drinking New South Wales Corps (red-coated “lobsters”). Official records (the only ones preserved) deal mainly with floggings, hangings, and the cruelty and sadism of the Official Autocracy, a clique of jumped-up military and naval popinjays, men of small consequence or substance in England, who suddenly find themselves dressed in a little brief authority, and with the lives of hapless fellow-humans in their hands. These Antipodean Aristocrats (after Governor Phillip’s departure) take advantage of the penal system to introduce a form of British chattel slavery termed “convict assignment,” under which they grant themselves tracts of land, worked with convict labour—the convicts being victualled from Government stores. The Officers of the New South Wales Corps also engage in trading monopolies, particularly in rum, which becomes currency; and thus add to their own possession land obtained by rum-barter from grantees. Yet, with it all, with all the drunkenness, debauchery, cruelty, sadism, knavery, ineptitude and venality of the period, both among rulers and ruled, gaolers and gaoled—there are undoubtedly among that small community some few who are becoming acclimatised, who are finding love and laughter here, and never wish to leave this place. There are acts of kindness innumerable, not chronicled in the Official Records—there is joy abundant in the work of taking possession of a land so fair, so jocose, so lyrical. The incurable criminals are hanged or sent to Norfolk Island, the incurable Pommies go home; but, even within the first ten years, the Spirit of the Land itself works in the breasts of some at least of the migrants. These echo the kookaburra’s laugh, exult in the measure of freedom that is theirs, and begin to become Australians:
True patriots they: when bound in chain and fetter,
They left their country, and they found one better.
THE SECOND DECADE, 1798-1807: The Colony digs itself in.
At the end of the Decade the white population has risen to a total of 8,794 persons, of whom 2,855 are females. This total includes free immigrants and a considerable number of Australian-born children, but the majority of the population still comprises prisoners and their gaolers. The settlements remain huddled near Port Jackson, and on the Parramatta and Hawkesbury Rivers, and at Norfolk Island. The main area of the continent remains unexplored and unknown. A beginning, however, is made with the colonising of Tasmania (Van Dieman’s Land), which is formally occupied in the year 1802 through jealous fear that the French navigator Baudin might be intending to possess it. The British Garrison at Botany Bay, having news from Home that Britain is at war with France, make feverish preparations to defend Sydney Town from a French attack. This occupies the military mind greatly; but no French attack is made: and the military officers of the New South Wales Corps are free to devote their main energies to getting rich, acquiring lands, robbing the Government, and intriguing against the Naval Governors, Hunter and Bligh. Macarthur goes HOME, and returns with a grant for 5,000 acres, obtained from Lord Camden, Secretary of State for the Colonies. He takes up this grant at the Cowpastures, a Government reserve, much to the indignation and envy of other settlers, and begins to breed sheep. Another large estate is that of the Reverend Samuel Marsden (“the flogging parson”) who, after 12 years in the colony, owns 2,908 acres, carrying 1,416 sheep. During the Decade some wealthy free immigrants arrive from England, including Gregory Blaxland, who brings a capital of £6,000 and is granted 8,000 acres, with the right to use labour of 80 convicts. In Sydney Town, Simeon Lord, an ex-convict, and Robert Campbell, a free immigrant, commence trading, and break the Officer-traders’ monopoly. To hamper American competition, a general tariff of 5 per cent ad valorem on imported goods of non-British origin. All British goods, including rum, are imported duty-free. Sydney Town now begins to thrive as an exporting centre—in addition to whale oil, there are already exports of coal and timber—the former from the Hunter River (Newcastle) where a penal colony is established. Of local industries, the most important is ship-building, more than twenty locally-built vessels being engaged in coastal and riparian trade on the Parramatta, Hawkesbury, and Hunter Rivers. Tonnage of local shipping, however, is restricted by the British East India Company’s monopoly of sea-borne trade in the South and East Pacific Ocean. At the end of the Decade (1807) the first shipment of Australian Merino wool (245-lbs.) is sent to England. The flax industry booms, fine linen being manufactured in the Colony. A Government brewery is established, to try to break the Officer-traders’ monopoly in rum. The Decade ends with extreme tension between the Naval Officer, Bligh, who, as Governor acting on instructions from HOME, is trying to control the military officers of the New South Wales Corps, and those same officers who, as New Feudal Barons of the South, are now tempted to create a Magna Charta situation in Australia by forcing Vice-Royal Governor Bligh to abate his British despotism. The common people generally, having no say in the Government one way or the other, concentrate their individual attentions on making a living for themselves and their families (as is usual for the common people everywhere at all times). The official quarrels and plots go into official records, thence into school history books; but the sacrifices, hopes, labour, successes, and failures of the public (as usual) go unrecorded, being normal. It is in this second Decade that the word “Australia” begins to replace “New Holland” as the general name of the continent: the suggestion coming from Matthew Flinders, the first Englishman to circumnavigate the coasts—though a similar term (“Austrialia del Espiritu Santo”) had been used by De Quiros two hundred years previously. Among the 8,794 white persons now settled in this huge place, a few, a very few, are Australians: the rest are colonials, longing to go HOME. It is estimated that there are 300,000 Aborigines in the continent, all Australians.
THE THIRD DECADE, 1808-1817: Macquarie’s Benevolent Dictatorship.
The Decade begins with the deposition of Governor Bligh, an act of insurrection, rebellion, revolution, and sedition by the “best families” of New South Wales: and ends with the Benevolent Dictatorship of Governor Lachlan Macquarie, a patriarchal Highland Chieftain, who gives Australia the best one-man Government ever known in these parts. At the end of the Decade, the white population has risen to 21,912, including 7,014 white females. There are also a large number of blacks, and an increasing number of halfcastes. Terrible atrocities against the blacks occur in the Hawkesbury Valley and elsewhere, and Macquarie achieves his only substantial failure when he sends detachments of British Infantry marching into the bush to capture the blacks (the blacks laughed, as did the kookaburras, at notices posted on gumtrees, calling for surrender). Apart from this, Macquarie the Builder acts like a Roman Proconsul, erects huge buildings of stone, constructs 270 miles of road. The greatest event of the Decade is the finding of a pass over the Blue Mountains, and construction of a road to Bathurst, followed by the explorations of Evans and Oxley beyond the sites of Cowra, Forbes, Condobolin to Booligal, thence to Wellington and Dubbo, and northerly to Tamworth. Now the pastoral era proper begins, and the key to the West has been found. Southward, also, settlement is extending beyond Berrima and Minto to Wingecaribee and Sutton Forest; and there are cedar-cutters along the coast of New South Wales, both north and south of Sydney. In Sydney Town, the Governor gives offence to the officers of the British Garrison by inviting freed convicts to his table at Government House, and also by appointing emancipists to the magistracy. Pooh to the British Officers and their quirks, which may be left to University historians and similar chroniclers of minutiae. Macquarie and his policy of justice for emancipists is so much bigger than the Nancy-boys of the British Garrison—and Australia’s 20,000 rough pioneers now peering into the interior are so much more important than Sydney’s “social intrigues”—that we may leave the British Nancy-boys to their boycotts of Government House without much more than a passing mention. Stunned by the vastness of the West now revealed, and the hugeness of the Colony now for the first time realised, Australians in all directions are roaming into the bush, seeking homes for themselves and their descendants. Cattle, of any kind, in mobs, of all sizes, are now being driven across the Blue Mountains to graze on the rich plains beyond, in No Man’s Land. To cater for Sydney’s growing commercial importance, the Bank of New South Wales in established. Shipbuilding is stimulated by the lapsing of the British East India Company’s monopoly, the barque Elizabeth Henrietta (150 tons) being launched in Sydney Cove by Governor Macquarie in 1816. The worst of the convicts are now sent to Tasmania (V.D.L.), which, under a Lieutenant-Governor, grows into a thriving community, harassed by bushrangers (escaped convicts). Bay whaling and sealing stations in Bass Strait, Western Tasmania, and along the southern coast of the continent from Kangaroo Island eastward are wild rough communities, producing hordes of halfcastes, as well as thousands of barrels of sperm oil. But with all this, at the end of the Third Decade, by far the greatest portion of the Continent, including all its northern, western, and central portions, remain unknown to white men. The rats have taken thirty years to nibble through the rind of the cheese; but now they are ready to bite into its heart.
THE FOURTH DECADE, 1818-1827: Immigration tide sets in.
At the end of this Decade the white population has risen to a total of 56,300 persons, including 13,247 white females. The black population is still unnumbered, but is being decreased, in every pioneered district, by shootings. As an offset to this process, however, the halfcaste population, also unnumbered, increases wherever the white men go (as is only natural). To what extent the halfcastes, begotten during the first forty years of settlement, are merging into the community through production of quarter-castes from half-caste mothers, is not scientifically known; but the process exists. The white women in Australia are out-numbered by white men, three to one, and at least two-thirds of the white male population must satisfy procreative urges with Aboriginal women, or not at all. Almost all the white women are in towns. As each new outback district is pioneered, the white pioneers cannot resist the lure of Black Velvet. (This phase of our history is destined to be quite overlooked at Universities and by moralists.) Apart from natural increase, chronicled and unchronicled, the population of Australia is now greatly increased by immigration—not so much of convicts as of free migrants, attracted partly by London publication of Wentworth’s descriptive book, the first book by an Australian-born writer to be issued in England. Politically, the major event of the Decade is the separation of Tasmania (1825). An English Company, The Van Dieman’s Land Coy., is granted 250,000 acres, a road is built from Hobart (population 5,000) to Launceston (population 2,000), and the Van Dieman’s Land Bank is established. Meanwhile, in New South Wales, an English Company, The Australian Agricultural Company, is granted 1,000,000 acres at Port Stephens, and sends out 80 settlers, with stud cattle, horses, sheep, and good farming experience. The Brisbane River is discovered, and a settlement made there. Land exploration goes northward to the Darling Downs, westward almost to the Darling, and southward via Goulburn to the Monaro, thence right to the Port Phillip District (Hume and Hovell’s overland journey, 1824). In Sydney, Governor Macquarie’s Benevolent Despotism comes to an end in 1821, his last years being plagued by Commissioner Bigge, a dunderhead sent out by the British Government to report on the Colony. Bigge opposes Macquarie’s policy of favouring emancipists, and shows himself otherwise uncomprehending of the Colony’s possibilities as anything over than a penal settlement. His report, widely circulated in England, deals almost entirely with convictism. Macquarie is succeeded by Governor Brisbane, an easy-going Scientist, who spends most of his time star-gazing at Parramatta Observatory. He in turn is succeeded by Governor Darling, the most asinine of all Pommy Governors ever sent to Australia: after whom the largest River in the continent is named. Wentworth and his friends in Sydney have a lively time libelling Darling, who attempts to close down their newspapers. Wentworth champions the emancipists, who send one of their number, Redfern, to England with a petition urging repeal of regulations preventing emancipists from holding property. Under Darling’s reign, there is political turbulence and discontent in Sydney. As a slight concession to popular feeling, the autocratic powers of the Governor are curtailed by appointment of “Legislative Council” of nine nominated members—five official, four non-official men. But the big work of the Decade reaches beyond such political tomfoolery in Sydney to the far corners of the land where few records are kept. Lockyer discovers coal at Ipswich on the Brisbane River, and then goes to Western Australia to establish a military outpost at Albany. In Northern Australia, too, settlements are established at Port Essington and at Melville Island; and the British have, beyond doubt, collared the whole continent now. (The British can do what they like with it, for their only formidable rival, Napoleon, is crushed: and Napoleon never threatened Australia, having too much else on his mind.)
THE FIFTH DECADE, 1828-1837: Australian Jubilee.
The white population at the end of the Decade has mounted to 134,488, including 39,607 white females. Aborigines are dwindling, and halfcastes increasing, both unnumbered. We may guess that there are still 250,000 Aborigines in the Continent, including numerous comely gins. (Look out! I am hinting at a worse Australian scandal than the convictism of the history-books: a scandal smothered by moralists—namely miscegenation, the unblessed production of halfcastes in every Australian district as a dominant feature of the first 100 years of pioneering!) The Fifth Decade sees the white population trebled—by natural increase, by an ever-dwindling flow of convicts, and by an ever-increasing flow of free immigrants. In this Decade the inland river system of New South Wales is explored and mapped, the great rivers Darling and Murray are traced and named after Pommy officials, and pastoral settlement extends right through to the Port Phillip District southward and beyond the Darling Downs northward. This is the Decade of huge pastoral wanderings in the western plains, where mobs roam at will, finding their own pasturage on the largest tract of Crown Land in the world. The Pommy Governors, acting on instructions from Home, will not give grants or titles beyond the Blue Mountains, or beyond officially “recognised” settled areas; but Australians and potential Australians do not let that worry them overmuch. Out go the squatters, fighting for their “rights” with stockwhips, fists, and guns against neighbours. Cattle duffing goes on indiscriminately—the Rule of Law does not extend to the Western Plains, except in theory. Official History deals with politics in Sydney, not with this—except in regard to the journeys of Official Explorers. (But the cattle-duffers and squatters, guided by black-boys, are not waiting for Official Exploring Expeditions to help them find the good country “further out.”) Sydney has now become a big town, with street lights and paved streets. As a further concession to public protests against irresponsible British autocracy, the Legislative Council is increased in number to fifteen members (all nominated by the Governor). Darling is succeeded by an Irishman, Bourke, a Roman Catholic, who does something to circumvent Church of England sectarian plans in education, and, in other respects, also shows himself to be fair, generous, and broad-visioned. Wentworth forms the Patriotic Association, and, popularly supported, agitates intensively for Australian Representative Government by an elected chamber (elected by land-owners), instead of by a nominee chamber, responsible to Downing Street. During this Decade the Papineau Rebellion gives Britain a fright; and methods are secretly devised in British Government circles of keeping Colonials from seceding by “granting” them “self-government” under British superior control. Wentworth’s agitations in Sydney are therefore well-timed, and will bear fruit. In the meantime, the English A.A. Coy., putting “social pressure” on Governor Darling, obtains a grant of 600,000 acres on the fertile Liverpool plains and of 2,000 acres of coal-land on the Hunter River, with a coal-monopoly for 31 years. The Dumaresq brothers, relatives of Darling, arrive and are granted 200,000 acres at Armidale. So it goes on. In Governor Bourke’s time, despite Bourke’s opposition, coolies are imported to provide cheap labour for pastoralists. Sydney develops as a sea-port. In the year 1835, 293 vessels arrive from Overseas, of which only 60 are from Britain. The first steamship arrives, the “Sophia Jane” (1831), coaling at the Hunter River. Before the Decade is ended, coastal steamers, locally built, are operating in New South Wales. The cultural amenities of Sydney have also increased. Eliza Winstanley the actress appears nightly at the Theatre Royal. Wallace, composer of the opera Maritana, gives concerts in Sydney with a string quartet. In Tasmania, Governor Arthur organises a Great War against the Aborigines. Three thousand armed whites, at a cost of £35,000, in seven weeks capture one black woman and a boy. The military having failed, it is then left to the missionaries to entice and exterminate the Tasmanian Aborigines through charity; which they do, though not all in one Decade. Arthur is succeeded in the Governorship by Sir John Franklin, explorer and scientist, who reduces the harshness of the penal system, and becomes a patron of learning. Tasmania’s potato-crop is already famous, and the Island becomes prosperous. On the mainland opposite, the Hentys are settled (1834) at Portland Bay, being trespassers on Crown Land. Batman and Fawkner are also settled, the former having “bought” 600,000 acres from the natives. A settlement grows on the Yarra, recognised as the Port Phillip District of New South Wales, with an Administrator appointed from Sydney. In 1837 the first steamer plies from Sydney to Melbourne. In the last year of the Decade, 100,000 sheep cross the Murrambidgee during one period of three months, on the great move southwards into new country. Expansion northwards to the Darling Downs continues, the Brisbane Valley, however, being a penal settlement, closed to pastoral occupancy. In Western Australia great activity is occurring, Captain Fremantle having founded the Swan River Settlement in 1829, annexing a million square miles (everything west of the 129th parallel) for Britain, under a scheme whereby an English land-company acquires vast tracts at 1s. 6d. per acre. Two thousand free colonists duly arrive from Britain, together with a quantity of coolies from Madras, who are set to work for the Pukka Sahibs. Great activity, too, occurs in the new Colony of South Australia, carved out of New South Wales in the year 1834. The first settlers arrive in 1836, under the splendiferous Wakefield scheme of colonisation, whereby land (at £1 an acre) was to provide the Government with enough funds to finance perpetual expansion. As South Australia has 300,000 square miles (on the map), the scheme looks good—the only drawback being that land is cheaper in the other colonies. To divert migrants accordingly from New South Wales, South Australian interests in England make a hot scare-propaganda about convicts and bushrangers in New South Wales. The home-staying English, knowing no better and craving for sadistic romance, believe these stories. And so, at the end of the Jubilee decade, there are four distinct British colonies in the continent—New South Wales, Tasmania, Western Australia, and South Australia—together with two garrisoned settlements—Port Phillip and Moreton Bay. Only in Australia’s Empty North is there a setback, the British Garrisons there being withdrawn, unable to endure the climate. A few independent settlers remain, to shoot buffaloes. One of these, Thomas Cahill, is reputed to have shot 60,000 buffaloes at the rate of 2,000 a month—for their hides. So ends the Fifth Decade, the continent “effectively occupied” on east, south, and west; but not on the Empty North.
THE SIXTH DECADE, 1838-1847: The Land Fund Boom.
Now there are four distinct Crown Colonies, and each has a history of its own, but all have the wonderful idea of selling Crown Land to obtain finance to subsidise immigration, thus causing land values to rise, and so on, da capo al fine. The white population of all Australia rises at the end of the Decade to 308,797 persons, including 118,532 females; and the poor old Aborigines, outnumbered and dispossessed, are callously driven towards extinction: though halfcastes, still begotten in droves, are perpetuating the Aboriginal blood—for quickly they merge to quarter-castes, indistinguishable from sunburned whites. Concomitantly with the sudden flow of immigrants attracted by the Land Fund Boom, the transportation of convicts to New South Wales ceases (1841), and convict labour assignment also ceases. The total number of convicts transported to New South Wales between the years 1788 and 1841 has been 83,290; yet in two years, under the Land Fund Bounty system (1841-42) there are 71,315 free immigrants arriving, at a cost to the Government of £979,000; and this rate of free immigration increases steadily; for, now that convict labour is finally abolished, there is competition among employers to secure any labour available. To meet this situation, the employers organise a Coolie Organisation, the patriot W. C. Wentworth being a keen supporter of indentured Coolie Labour. Henry Parkes, owner of the Empire newspaper, meets a compositor’s strike by importing 35 Eurasian compositors from India. Ben Boyd on the Monaro employs Coolie and Kanaka shepherds, and Wentworth himself imports Coolies. Public indignation, particularly among the white labouring classes, runs high, and a petition signed by 4129 persons, in protest against Coolie Labour, is forwarded to Downing Street. Now the political issue, of Emancipists versus Exclusives, has been swamped in the flood of immigration, and a new fight develops, of Squatters versus the Pommy Governor (Gipps) on control of the Land Fund. Wentworth champions the squatters’ cause, claiming that the Crown has no right to impose a Squatting Tax, as the squatters are on Waste Lands (commons). The upshot of it all is that squatters obtain a legal right to take up their land, and so become taxable. Gipps proves very stubborn during this struggle, as Downing Street orders are that no title of occupancy is to be recognised beyond the Pale (the proclaimed settled area). However, Beyond the Pale (in 1846) there are 2½ million sheep and 600,000 cattle—more than Within the Pale, so Downing Street has to recognise a fait accompli. In this Decade the Legislative Council is increased to 36 members—twelve nominated and 24 elected by £20 freeholders. Gipps is confronted by a hostile majority on the Council; and Downing Street, warned by American experience, recalls him and ponders very deeply. In 1842-43 there is a severe Depression caused by overspeculation in land and cattle, and by bank advances to persons of insufficient substance. “Boiling-down” (of cattle and sheep for tallow) saves some landowners. The Colony weathers the Depression, but learns a lesson. James Brown, at East Maitland, opens a coal mine, and challenges the legal right of the Pommy A.A. Coy to a coal-monopoly. Copper in mined at Molong and Canowindra. The shipbuilding industry in Sydney booms strongly; but three iron steamers are imported from Britain for the coastal trade. At the end of the Decade, the first American-built clipper ships are arriving, ousting the slower British ships. Wool auctions are instituted by Thomas Mort. Now the Port Phillip District, governed paternally by Latrobe, is agitating for separation from New South Wales. One of its six members in the New South Wales Legislative Council is Dr. Lang, the Presbyterian firebrand, who urges, also, the separation of Moreton Bay. The Port Phillip Land Sales and Leases provide a surplus of £362,000 in six years, of which £158,000 is spent in Sydney. Melbourne, a mushroom town, is the port for a district grazing a quarter of a million cattle, innumerable sheep, and cultivating 25,000 acres. The demand for separation is insistent, and its granting cannot be long delayed. Across the Strait, the Colony of Tasmania has a population of 66,000 persons (including 29,000 convicts). The free colonists clash with Eardley-Wilmott, Pommy Lieutenant-Governor, over Downing Street’s policy of taxing Tasmanians to pay the costs of the Convict System; and also over exorbitant grants of land made to the English-owned Van Dieman’s Land Coy., (which has now increased its holding to 600,000 acres). The “Patriotic Six” resign from the Legislative Council, and agitate for cessation of transportation. Eardly-Wilmott is recalled. The new “Wakefield” colony of South Australia receive a great impetus from arrival of 7,000 immigrants of excellent type from Germany, who come at their own expense, as do 27,000 others from Britain; and 21,000 come with Government assistance. Despite this, the Colony gets into financial difficulties and the Legislative Council “walks out,” leaving the Pommy Governor without a quorum. Copper is discovered at Kapunda and Burra Burra in 1845, solving the Colony’s difficulties. Bull and Ridley invent the wheat stripper, and the Colony becomes a great flour-milling centre. Sturt makes explorations into the arid centre of Australia, to Eyre’s Creek, his report damping optimism. In Western Australia there is fiasco and mismanagement, the wrong type of immigrant (investors) being attracted by the prospectuses issued in London, labour being scarce, and no markets available. The Western Australian Company (English-promoted) holds huge tracts, undeveloped, while free settlers starve. Pommy Governor Hutt earns hatred by refusing to unlock areas beyond the map-defined area. George Grey and F. T. Gregory make wide explorations in the northwest, but their reports are discouraging. In North Australia, the abandoned settlement at Port Essington is re-garrisoned, and buffaloes are imported from Timor. Downing Street approves a plan to settle Port Essington with Malays, but nothing comes of it. In the Moreton Bay District of New South Wales, convicts are removed from Brisbane (1842) and then the river valleys are settled by free immigrants. There are thirty stations on the Darling Downs, and the furthest out have reached beyond the Burnett District towards Rockhampton. The German Dr. Leichhardt (1844) makes a land journey from Moreton Bay northwards and reaches Port Essington (a ten months’ trip). Dr. Lang is busy in London agitating for separation, the colony to be named Cooksland, to grow cotton, and to be peopled by Scots Presbyterians, according to his plan. Disregarding these suggestions, the Colonial Office, in Downing Street, under the Hon. W. E. Gladstone, decides on establishing a new colony, to be named Gladstone Colony, a penal settlement. Major Barney, first Governor of the new Colony, with 6 officials, 22 soldiers, and 40 civilians, occupies his Capital (Gladstone City) for two months, at a cost of £15,000; but, owing to vigorous protests from other colonies, the British Government is not game to go on with its scheme, which is dropped. So ends the Sixth Decade, with Australianism very assertive, and Downing Street’s imperialism seriously bothered to devise a method of holding these Austral colonies firmly within the Empire.
THE SEVENTH DECADE, 1848-1857: Gold, and a problem solved!
At the end of the Gold Decade, the white population has risen to 970,287 persons, and the first million is in sight. Men still predominate in the community, the total number of females being 395,487—approximately six white men to every four white women. The proportion of females (“sacred vessels of maternity”) has been increased by recruiting campaigns, particularly in Ireland, from which country a very great number of Australian grand-dams are derived. Now Australia is governed by five Colonial governments, for the Port Phillip District is separated from New South Wales, and is named Victoria after Her Faraway Majesty. In both Colonies gold! gold! gold! is discovered, in huge quantities, and men are on the march in hundreds of thousands to wash dirt in the diggings of Ophir, Turon, Araluen, Bendigo, and Ballarat. Sailors of all nationalities desert their ships in port, immigrants pour in from all countries—and, almost at a stroke, Australia has become an El Dorado. Boom, boom, boom! In addition to the attraction of gold, there are bumper wool clips, and thousands of immigrants are also coming in assisted by bounties from the Land Fund. All Australia is seething with optimism, with movement, with rushings hither and thither. Future prospects seem unlimited. This is indeed “The Land of Opportunity.” The clipper ships are now in their heyday, doing the journey to England in sixty days, instead of ninety days, as previously; but already the first mail steamers are arriving, and the Steam Age has come. The first railways are built—Sydney to Parramatta and Newcastle to Maitland; Bulli coal is mined. A branch of the Royal Mint is established in Sydney. Streets are lit with gas. Cobb and Co.’s coaches open mail routes. Universities are established in both Sydney and Melbourne, to become centres of British political propaganda. The two “Gold” Colonies flourish greatly, at the expense of the other three Cinderella Sisters; and there is strong rivalry between the two fortunates. The population of Victoria at the end of the Decade is 408,000—greater than that of New South Wales, and almost half that of all Australia. The New South Wales squatters term Victoria “the Cabbage Garden.” Chinese immigrants flood in to Australia, imported for shepherd-work; but the Diggings attract them, too. This is the Decade of the Glorious, the Never-to-be-forgotten EUREKA STOCKADE, the hoisting of the Flag of Stars and Proclamation of the First Australian Republic. Pommy Governor Hotham calls out the British Garrison, who fire on the miners and suppress the rebellion in bloodshed; but Downing Street gets a fright at the subsequent Australia-wide indignation and wave of protest. Hotham dies on the job in chagrin, and, within two years, the Australian Colonies are “granted” self-Government, or “Responsible Government,” or Whatever-You-Like-To-Call-It—the system whereby Britain nominates the Governor, with power of veto and dismissal—the system of two-chamber Legislatures so eminently suitable for intrigue, wire-pulling, bribery, political “fixing,” under which Australia’s Colonial Status is confirmed, seemingly for all time, in the form of words of “self-” government—a Gift of the British Government: excellent “statesmanship”—by Britain, in Britain’s interests first! And now, too, despite the enormous production of wealth—mineral, vegetable, animal—in Australia, the First Overseas Loan is floated in London. Ha! This is the meaning of Responsible Government! Responsible for payment of interest to Britain! The loan is at 5 per cent; and the Black Year of its first incurring is the year 1855. The Loan is on the security of El Dorado. The Sydney Mint coins 5,000,000 sovereigns in its first four years (1855-58) and gold is coming into Melbourne at the rate of two tons a day. Yet Australia borrows money Overseas! Oh, what colossal folly! What colonialism! British statesmanship wins all along the line. “Responsible Government,” and the division of the continent into so many Colonies, has been a British Game, which no Australian sees through. The British now have Australia in pawn—and all the gold, all the wool, all the great wealth of Australia is theirs to command: and they duly command—and commandeer—it. Such is the story of the Seventh Decade—the Lucky Seventh—lucky for Britain; for now Australians may posture and swagger as much as they like in their tinpot Colonial Legislatures: but the whole lot of them are in Britain’s bag, Britain’s money-bag. Diddled again, and sold a pup! Australians have “self”-government, five times self-government, and soon to be six and then seven times self-government: but where will all the gold, all the wheat, all the gold go? (Guess.) Let us turn our mind to more congenial topics. The first intercolonial cricket match is played (1851), Tasmania beating Victoria by three wickets. Five years later the first match between New South Wales and Victoria ends in a win for New South Wales, also by three wickets. This is the Decade, too, of Captain Cadell’s steamers on the inland rivers. He reaches Albury, Gundagai, and Walgett; but none of the vast new wealth of Australia is applied to preserving and developing the grand watercourses of the Murray, the Murrambidgee, and the Darling as permanent steamboat-ways; for this is an intercolonial question, a National question for which there is no National parliament to solve. Let the rivers silt up! Australians don’t care! In all the Colonies there is a Russian Scare, for Britain is fighting Russia in the Crimea. To “defend” Australia from a Russian attack never contemplated by the Czar, regiments of militia, in all the stupid colonies, stupidly go on parade. How characteristically British-Australian! The Colony of Western Australia is not prospering, its population being less than 5,000, so it is granted neither loans nor self-government. Instead, it remains a Crown Colony, and now (1849), West Australia is made a dump for British convicts, so that the British Pastoral Companies who hold all the best land may have cheap British convict labour. In North Australia, nothing much is doing. The settlement at Port Essington is again abandoned; but A. C. Gregory the explorer, accompanied by the Dane Von Mueller, crosses the entire continent by land north of Capricorn from west to east. In the northern part of New South Wales vaguely known as the Moreton Bay district, exploration has proceeded right through to Cape York. Kennedy, Leichhardt, and the Archers, open out huge areas (unimaginably huge) of fertile country. Leichhardt “goes west” (1848) and is never heard of again. Dr. Lang brings out many shiploads of “virtuous Presbyterians,” and the time for the Separation of Cooksland approaches. In Tasmania (now officially re-named such) transportation of convicts ceases (1853) and “Responsible” “Self-” government is inaugurated, according to pattern. South Australia’s contribution to humanity during this Decade is twofold: the Torrens Title and the system of Parliamentary Voting by Secret Ballot, both copied subsequently throughout the world. So ends the Seventh Decade, the Decade of Gold and of the Colonial Yoke.
THE EIGHTH DECADE, 1858-1867: The Railway Decade.
Now Queensland (as Dr. Lang’s Cooksland comes to be called) is separated from New South Wales, and there are six British Colonies, with six British Governors, in Australia. The white population mounts during the Decade to 1,483,848 persons, of whom 664,000 are females. Gold is still being mined in huge quantities. New fields are found at Lucknow and Lambing Flat in New South Wales, and at Eidsvold in Queensland. All the Colonies settle down, under their ready-made Colonial Constitutions, to a policy of borrowing money in London, mortgaging the future; but confident of being able to meet interest and redemption from the surplus of the Land Fund, and from the huge export surplus of gold, wool, and wheat. Much of the money borrowed is used for railway and telegraph construction—the rails and locomotives being imported from Britain at fancy prices. This suits the British very well, for they get profit on the rails and locomotives and interest on the loan money as well. Moreover, the railways, Government-owned, are run at a loss so that wool may be conveyed cheaply to ports for English buyers; and so it goes on—a soft snap for the English. Now in this Decade, beginning on the estates of the A.A. Company in New South Wales, the wasteful process of ring-barking trees is inaugurated, and spreads all over Australia, millions of pounds worth of timber being destroyed, to provide extra grass for sheep and cattle, and to start the process of soil erosion to make a problem for the future. Every problem created by pioneering is passed on to the future, under a quick-grab British policy, engendered perhaps on the goldfields, which are soon despoiled. Public finance continues to rely on the Land Fund, that seemingly inexhaustible source of revenue, and assisted immigrants from land-hungry Europe pour in, attracted by promises of proprietorship in Happy Australia. In New South Wales, Robertson’s Land Acts, providing for free selection before survey, and conditional purchase by residence, create consternation among the Squattocracy: who defeat its provisions by dummying selections. But the net effect is towards closer settlement, smaller holdings, development of a peasantry or yeomanry in the more fertile coastal districts of the east of the continent. Politics in the Six Ready-made Colonies follow closely on the contemporary English model of Tory and Liberal, Protection and Free Trade, Secular versus Church Education, and so on. Victoria is all for Protection, but New South Wales declares for Free Trade. All the Colonies liberalise education, and make much fuss of “Democracy” and ballot voting. Australia’s main line of political development is thus clearly laid down—to “follow Britain’s lead”; and all parties are eager to borrow more and more from Britain, pawning the birthright of Australia’s sons. The political development in all the Colonies is somewhat similar, except in Western Australia, which is still a Crown Colony and stagnant, no gold being yet found there, and British convictism and Land-Company speculation being still the mill-stone. North Australia is now excised from New South Wales, and is added to South Australia, a very heavy liability, particularly as the explorations of McDouall Stuart and of Burke and Wills reveal graphically that the heart of Australia is an uninhabitable desert. In South Australia, Adam Lindsay Gordon, remittance man, receives a legacy of £7,000 from HOME, gets into Parliament, rides steeple-chase winners, and writes British-Australian poetry. In Tasmania, the whaling industry begins to decline, but the potato and wheat industries flourish. Dicky Dry, son of a convict, is knighted and becomes Premier, and a submarine telegraph cable is laid to the mainland, while Howard Smith provides regular steamship communication to Hobart and Launceston. The whole of Queensland is now explored, partly by Landsborough and Walker (searching for Burke and Wills), and all the Colony is proclaimed for pastoral occupation. Assisted immigrants reach Queensland at the steady rate of 7,000 a year, including a large proportion of Germans. The American Civil War provides a temporary stimulation to the cotton and sugar industries, South Sea Islanders (Kanakas) are indentured, copper is discovered at Mt. Perry, and at the end of the Decade (1867), gold is discovered at Gympie; and Queensland booms. During this Decade, the British Government, satisfied to work through political intrigue and convinced of the futility of anything resembling force to coerce Colonials, decides to withdraw the British Military Garrisons. The Australian Colonies eagerly agree to establish their own Military Defence, thereby relieving Britain of a great and useless expense. There are some intercolonial conferences on postal matters and tariffs, and dimly federation of the Colonies is presaged. Now, now, the first Melbourne Cup is run (1861) and in 1866 the Cup is won by The Barb. The first English tourist cricket team arrives. Everything in the garden is lovely—except in Australia for a while, where Higginbotham, Australian patriot, brings about Pommy Governor Charles Darling’s recall, exposing the Governor’s acquiescence in a piece of political trickery on tariffs. These are the large Colonial days, where Colonials are Colonials, and proud of it. Victoria is Permanent Queen, Britannia Rules the Waves. Happy, happy, bygone Eighth Decade!
THE NINTH DECADE, 1868-1877: The Liberal Decade.
Now the white population rises to 2,013,130, including 928,790 females, and the Aborigines have dwindled to perhaps 150,000 all told. This is the Liberal Decade—liberal immigration, liberal construction of railways, liberal borrowing from London, liberal export of wealth, and, more particularly, “Liberal” legislation. This is the Decade of Education—compulsory, secular, and free; subsidies to denominational schools being withdrawn, after angry protests from the Churches. Australian politics is tailing behind English politics, democracy is the fashion, most of the Australian politicians are English Radicals, in the fashion of the period. Trades Unions are organised on the British model, some obtain an Eight Hours Day, democratic “progress” becomes ingrained as an article of faith (the Nineteenth Century Englishman’s Dream materialising in the Antipodes). Dibbs in Sydney is elected as a Republican; but that is not serious, for Queen Victoria At HOME is a Permanent Institution. This is the crinoline-and-bustle era, par excellence—even pioneer women, lonely in the outback, queen it over galahs and jackaroos, following the Feminine Royal Lead, prudish and innocent, smug and dominant; breeding large families. The Spirit of Fecundity waves a wand over Australia. Everything is expanding and lovely. The cream of the wealth is being skimmed easily from the milk of the land. Can it last forever? Virgin soil has been upturned, land fallowed for aeons, eager to yield of its plenty. The perpetual boom of immigration, import of capital, overseas borrowing, gold and other mineral production, and ever-increasing pastoralism, lifts Australia up and ever up on the crest of a mighty wave not yet destined to break and crash. The system of Six Imitation-Pommy Parliaments, supervised by Real-Pommy Governors, is working well, as any system would work well, with new wealth so abundant in a “new” continent. The only discordant political note is that of Higginbotham, in Victoria, who refuses to accept Cabinet Rank under Premier McCulloch, on the grounds that the Colony is not Sovereign, but is “governed from Downing Street.” But perhaps this, like Dibbs’ republicanism in Sydney, is only fashionable Liberal ebulliance. All the Colonies are hugely expanding in population and wealth, prosperity is the keynote, politics is a game, one thing will do as well as another. The British of Britain reap a rich harvest from this easy-going Colonial attitude of Australians. In New South Wales, coal mines are opened at Lithgow, and iron-smelting also begins there. Copper is mined at Cobar; the railway is over the mountains beyond Bathurst; prosperity seems illimitable. A member of the Royal Family (Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh) visits Australia, and is shot, but not killed, by a mad Irishman, Farrell, at Clontarf. Like all assassinations, this one has no general political significance. The Barb wins the Sydney Cup at Randwick two years running (1868-69), Jem Mace visits Australia and introduces glove-fighting, Ted Trickett wins the world’s sculling championship, Frank Gardiner the bushranger is pardoned, there is an Intercolonial Exhibition in Prince Alfred Park, to commemorate Captain Cook’s Centenary; and, at Sydney University, there is a great musical festival, with Lucy Chambers (contralto), Neri, Contini, and Dondi (male singers)—all in the pageant, or phantasmagoria, of Carefree Colonial Life. (Gone are those days! We dip quite at random into historical memory, the lore of the Land . . .) Now in Victoria Marcus Clarke founds The Colonial Monthly, hails A. L. Gordon as a genius, and himself writes the Convict Classic, His Natural Life, a fixing of the stigma of colonialism and convictism on Australia just when it seemed likely to be forgotten. Henry Kendall wins the poetry prize of the year (1868) and his verse achieves book-publication. In Tasmania, tin is found at Mount Bischoff, a railway is built through from Hobart to Launceston; and poor little Truganinni, the Last of the Tasmanian Aborigines, dies. (“Bury me behind the mountains,” she pleads on her death-bed. They put her skeleton in the Hobart museum: callous, callous monsters.) South Australia’s greatest feat in the Decade is construction of the Overland Telegraph to Darwin, at a cost of £300,000, using 36,000 telegraph poles through country mostly desert; but it is to be a link with HOME—so worth the money. Giles and Warburton explore the Centre of the continent, and find it as barren as could be. In North Australia there is a brief gold rush, Darwin is established as a settlement, Chinese Coolies are brought in by the Government, for public works. In Western Australia, convict transportation ceases (1868), Representative Government is granted (1870), coolie labour is largely imported, John Forrest makes his series of grand marches into the arid interior; the pearling industry begins to boom on the northwest coast. In Queensland there is a rush to the Palmer goldfield, thousands of Chinese flood in, Kanakas are cruelly blackbirded to work on the Colonial Sugar Refinery’s plantations. Lo, the rumbling of a storm! Griffith, Premier, introduces legislation to restrict Asiatic Immigration (1876). At the end of the Liberal Decade, the Colonies are ready to create the extremely illiberal policy of White Australia.
THE TENTH DECADE, 1878-1887: Australian Centenary.
The population mounts to 2,881,362, including 1,322,244 females. Immigrants are still flooding in, but there are more babies than immigrants each year, now and henceforth; and the percentage of Australian-born must rise: Colonial-born, and born colonials. Now in this Decade the adroit British plan of managing Australia (in Britain’s interests first) is seen to have matured. The six London-made Constitutions of Australia provide ample scope for “democratic” local political argumentation about merely local matters; but the people of Australia are divided into six areas of Government, and have no united voice or “say” in Imperial matters. British political intrigue is at work in each of the Six Colonies, to fasten British Loans on the not-very-alert Colonial Treasurers; and this process means essentially that the Colonies must buy British goods, to make the loans effective. The British Ruling Class having quickly understood that Democracy means government by bluff, propaganda, and “management” of the people’s “representatives,” find the Australian Colonials an easy mark. Most of Australia’s trade, export and import, is diverted to Britain: and British shipping gets the carrying of it. In the meantime Australians are becoming more and more convinced that they are making tremendous political progress, and that Australia is the most brilliantly democratic country in the world. On account of the vast production of raw wealth, and after as much of this as possible has been exported to Britain, Colonial basic standards of living rise higher than those of Europe, the process being furthered by inflow of capital, brought by immigrants, and by the ever-mounting loans from Britain. Australia is still in a boom phase, and the possibilities of expansion appear illimitable. Now the great Broken Hill and Mount Morgan mines are discovered, prodigious increments of mineral wealth are to be exported to Britain. Simultaneously, the Suez Canal route and invention of refrigeration enable frozen beef, mutton, and fruits to be sent HOME. Sheep and cattle now occupy every fertile square mile of the continent—wool exports sent HOME are golden fleeces for Britain, the greatest quantity of wool, and the finest quality, the world has ever known. Pastoralism has almost reached its saturation point, and the beginning of the export of frozen carcases, in addition to wool, hides, and tallow, now means that Australians are a nation destined to be Britain’s herd-keepers and shepherds for many decades to come. This is the Age of the Horse, when Colonials are “born to the saddle”—it is the age, too, of the nomadic shearers and pastoral workers, “waltzing Matilda,” swagmen of the idyllic era of swaggism. But also, yeoman agriculture and dairying booms; it is the period of expansion of small settlers, “selectors,” who raise big families on 160 acres. Cream-separators are introduced, co-operative butter factories established; the stump-jump plough is invented, opening the Mallee Country and facilitating wheat-production. Farrer at Queanbeyan begins his epochal experiments in breeding rustless wheat: Australia is a British granary. Apples are exported from Tasmania, irrigation begins at Mildura: Australia is a British orchard. The poor, half-starved, industrially-exploited Pommies, AT HOME, get their bread, butter and jam from Australia—also their meat, and wool to make clothes and blankets for themselves. Already they are accustomed to getting gold, copper, silver, zinc—every kind of industrial metal. In exchange they send us loans, railways, tramways, electric telegraphs and telephones, and some of their surplus population. Also they send us manufactured goods, made up from the raw materials we have sent them. Everybody seems well satisfied, particularly the British of Britain, with an arrangement whereby Australia is to be permanently a producer of Colonial Products (raw materials) and a buyer of Imperial Products (loans and made-up goods). So it goes on; and now, for the first time, Australians demonstrate that they are eager also to export soldiers for Britain’s benefit. In 1885, the Acting-Premier of New South Wales, W. B. Dalley, during a Parliamentary Recess, arranges to send a contingent of warriors (212 artillery, 522 infantry, with 200 horses) to help Britain make aggressive war against the Soudanese. The troops duly arrive in Egypt, but are not considered seasoned enough, or disciplined enough, to go into action. They are used as a railway fatigue party. Dalley is offered a knighthood for establishing this extraordinary precedent, but accepts in preference a Privy Councillorship. It is the era of inventions. Hargrave invents the aeroplane, Brennan invents the naval torpedo, McKay invents the harvester, Archibald invents The Bulletin. In Australia, too, the world’s greatest opera singer, Nellie Armstrong (Melba) makes her debut in this Decade. McIlwraith, Premier of Queensland, annexes Papua for Britain, over-riding Downing Street’s objections, and 300,000 Papuans become subjects of the Queen. With lavish hands, Australia repays Britain for the boons which Britain has conferred upon Australia during the First Hundred Years. All is optimism, the cornucopia overflowing, Australia the Land of Plenty, the Land of Progress, the Land of Millions. Even in the Empty North there is some Progress—the Government of South Australia, at enormous cost, beginning construction of a railway south from Palmerston to Pine Creek, built by a gang of 3,000 Chinese Coolies. Only in West Australia is there no real progress as yet. Still a Crown Colony, West Australia, under Pommy Governor Broome, systematically imports Coolies, and tries to benefit English Land Investment Companies with a wild scheme of “railway” settlement, which catches numerous mugs. In Queensland the importation of kanakas is restricted; but in every Colony now there are Chinese coolies in thousands. Suddenly, like a thunderclap, the slogan “White Australia!” reverberates through the continent. The Labour Party is born in this excitement, for the Trades Unions realise that employers are using Asiatic labour to force down the standards of white workmen. It is a first-class political issue:
Rule, Britannia, Britannia rule the waves!
No more Chinamen allowed in New South Wales.
So the Colonial workingmen bawl their defiance of Asia and their plea to Britain in one breath. As the Decade ends, this is the outstanding Australian question—how to make Australia a Home for the White Race. (A hundred years ago have gone by since Phillip landed at Sydney Cove. The surviving Aborigines, less than 150,000 of them, hear the words “White Australia” with consternation. For a million years Australia had been a Black Fellows’ Country. The year 1887 is Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. For five years she has been the Great White Queen of Australia.)
THE ELEVENTH DECADE, 1888-1897: Labour Party Decade.
The population of the continent now rises to 3,617,783 persons, including 1,700,323 females. Immigration persists, though for a period it falls off. Births also persist, and the term “Native Australian” now comes to mean Native Whitefellow. In this Decade the sincere, but incoherent “nationalism” of the “Australian Natives’ Association” gains ground, helping Australians become more self-respecting and assertive: while Archibald’s Bulletin, also proclaiming nationalism, fixes Colonial uncouthness as an Australian ideal by glorification of the larrikin, and by persistent caricature of the bush types as loons: a caricature ultimately accepted as a true picture, through persistent repetition. But all this “nationalism” rampant in the 1890’s does not really aim at secession from Britain’s Empire. It aims rather at Australian continentalism—the political unifying of the Six Colonies so carefully established as separate entities by Britain. It aims also at excluding Asiatics from Australia—a policy which does not commend itself to Britain; for the British know the value of Coolie Labour in developing an Empire. Only when Australian protests become loud, long, and violent, does Britain yield to the Colonial demand for a White Australia. In the end it is Jo Chamberlain, British Imperialist and Secretary of State for the Colonies, who, as a compromise, suggests an “education test,” which will avoid wounding the susceptibilities of China, Japan, and India, countries in which Britain has huge and ever-growing interests. The outstanding economic event of the Decade is the Great Bank Smash and depression of the early and mid-’nineties. This originates in Victoria, and spreads throughout the Colonies as a panic. It is the calling of the bluff of the perpetual Land Boom Delusion of the Colonies, for it is caused primarily by a fall in land values, followed by a panicky attempt of banks to call in inflated overdrafts. The Depression spreads through every branch of trade and commerce, and the bubble of Perpetual Australian Prosperity is pricked. The country recovers, and optimism returns when gold! gold! gold! is found at Kalgurli, in Western Australia, and surplus labour is drawn off in the rush to the West; where now, at last, “self”-Government, on the approved Colonial pattern, is established by Britain. But, during the Depression, the Labour Party comes to strength and power in each of the Colonies, after strikes of shearers, seamen, and of Broken Hill miners. Labour is agitating against any fall in the basic standard of living, believing, in accordance with the theories of contemporary English Radicals, that parliamentary action can alter economic realities. William Lane, Henry George, and other visiting Radicals, come to Australia, and arouse wide public support for this plausible doctrine. Under the pressure of Labour Agitation, the democratic franchise is made more and more wide, the slogan “One Man One Vote” being irresistible as a catch-cry. Manhood suffrage is followed by Womanhood Suffrage, and Australia pioneers this form of Democracy. (No cry is raised, as yet, for Child Suffrage, or for Aboriginal Suffrage, or for Kanaka Suffrage in Papua—children, Aboriginals, and Kanakas being ruled by a dictatorship.) The Labour Movement sends £30,000 HOME to London to help the London Dockers, which arrives like manna there—Colonial Manna for the proletariat. Prosperity is restored by the gold strikes of West Australia, the finding of copper at Mount Lyell in Tasmania, an enormous development of dairying in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland; increased mineral production at Broken Hill, Cobar and Mount Morgan, among many other mines; and finally by good seasons throughout the continent, which causes boom production of wool, hides, beef, and mutton for export. The Labour Party is given great credit for these natural phenomenon, the boons derived from which are held to have been won by political agitation. Throughout the Decade the question of Federation is sharply raised, in a series of intercolonial conferences, held to deal with transcolonial matters such as tariffs, postal and railway communications, and defence. Britain’s lead is eagerly awaited in this important Australian matter, for nothing can be done without Britain’s sanction. It is in 1889, following the visit to Australia of the British War Office Representative, General Edwards, that Henry Parkes, the immigrant English politician, makes his Tenterfield speech supporting Federation, which previously he had opposed. In the year 1897, in London, a Colonial Conference decides that “Colonies united geographically should when possible federate, in order to make eventual Imperial Federation easier.” As soon as it is realised that Australian Federation will mean a seventh British Parliament with a seventh Pommy Governor in Australia, British enthusiasm for Australian Federation is unbounded. Now the Six Colonies are each deeply in debt to Britain, and it is essential that Britain should devise a superior control, a system of checks and balances, to manage Australian affairs. Much British thought is given to the best British method of federating Australia in Britain’s interests first. It is the necessity, which Britain feels, of taking steps to ensure future supplies of soldiers exported from Australia which clinches the matter. At the end of the Decade, at Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, the Federation of the Australian Colonies, on a British plan, is a foregone conclusion, details only remaining to be completed. Finally, in this Decade, in which Carbine wins the Melbourne Cup, carrying 10 st. 5 lbs., and also wins the Sydney Cup twice in succession, Australian literature gives expression to the hopes, fears, pessimism, and optimism, which fluctuate in the breasts of Australians. Banjo Paterson and Henry Larsen sing robustly of the pastoral phase, the former emphasising horsemanship, the latter swagmanship. Larsen is particularly overcome (following a visit to England) by fin de siècle morbidness; to which Barcroft Boake succumbs, hanging himself with a stock-whip after writing Out Where the Dead Men Lie. The Pommy Remittance Man, A. L. Gordon, subject to similar melancholia, has already shot himself; and now Rolf Boldrewood, another Pommy, writes the Australian Masterpiece, Robbery Under Arms, placing emphasis on bushranging as a characteristic Australian phenomenon: but already Steele Rudd, Queensland cocky-farmer humorist, is guffawing louder than a kookaburra, creating travesties of Australian life, which are none the less authentic for being burlesque. A wonderful Decade—the Naughty Nineties—Norman Lindsay, in his adolescence, is permanently affected by Beardsley and naughtiness; and the crude Australian genius of the anonymous larrikin mob throws up the giantly derisive word “WOWSER!” as a counter-stroke to the parsonical prunes, prisms, and prudery of the Late-Victorian English epoch, translated to Australia. Now Randolph Bedford, E. J. Brady, Louis Becke, A. G. Stephens, and Tom Collins, indigenous literary men, become “offensively Australian” and glory in the fact that they are literary accoucheurs to a Nation. The wonderful, seething, never-to-be-forgotten and never-to-be-repeated Eleventh Decade!
THE TWELFTH DECADE, 1898-1907: Federation Decade.
On the First Day, of the First Month, of the First Year, of the Twentieth Century, Australia becomes—A Nation! (With seven Pommy Governors, instead of six, as previously—A Nation by Gracious Permission of Her Faraway Majesty—A Nation by no act of its own, but by the initiative of a Government, and by an Act of a Parliament, at the other end of the world—A Nation in name; a Perpetual Colony in fact.) At the end of the Decade the population of White Australia has risen to 4,161,722 persons, of whom 2,001,509 are females. The main flow of immigration has suddenly dried up, mainly because of superior attractions in America: so much so that, during the first five years of the century (1901-05), Australian actually loses population by an excess of departures over arrivals, to the extent of 16,793 persons. This loss, however, is more than made up by Australian births—the excess of Australian births over deaths being 284,431 persons during the same five years. Natural increase by births has indeed become the main source of Australian population during the period from 1898 to 1907. The population is thus rapidly becoming more and more Australian by birth. No scheme of Government-assisted immigration can compete with the productive impulses of the two million females now resident in Australia; but, despite this fact, official policy, looking backward for precedent instead of at actuality, seeks for immigrants as though the inflow of these were the only means of filling Australia’s “Vast Open Spaces.” Now Queen Victoria is dead, and Australia is in the Edwardian Era, the last days of the Horse Paramount, the last days of dung in the streets, to be replaced by petrol fumes: for it is now, in this Decade, that the first chuff-chuffing of motor-buggies is heard in the land. But, before Queen Victoria dies, the Six Colonies of Australia, which are under no attack whatever from the Boers of South Africa, supply Britain with 16,632 Colonial Australian troops, to help Britain prevent the Boers from achieving Self-Government. No sooner is this disgraceful episode in Australia’s history ended, than yet another Australian Contingent is sent overseas—this time to China, to suppress the Boxer Rebellion. In this, the third aggressive British war in which Australians have taken part (1901), the British give the world a demonstration of atrocities and looting, which leaves civilisation aghast; for the age-old Winter Palace at Peking—an arcanum of art—is burnt down and looted by British troops, some of the loot being brought back to Australia by the Australian Contingent of Looters. The Australian Boxer Contingent is a Punitive Expedition by Australia against China, though China has given no cause for offence. As in the Soudan War and Boer War previously, Australians are not attacked, but are attackers. Not by any stretch of imagination can Australia’s first three foreign wars be called wars of defence. And now the full beauty of Australian Federation is revealed, as a series of discussions takes place between Australia and Britain on Military and Naval Affairs, Tariffs, and Imperial Federation. In these discussions Britain has to negotiate with one Australian Government only (The Commonwealth) instead of, as formerly, with Six Colonies. Negotiations are thus enormously simplified—for Britain. The question of “Defence” is the most important, particularly as Australia is not under any threat of being attacked. A Foe must be found, against whom to Be Prepared. Statesmanship finds a way. Britain is at peace with Japan, has entered in fact into a Holy Alliance (The Anglo-Japanese Alliance) with Japan. British Naval Officers are training the Japanese Navy, and British Naval Shipyards are building that same Japanese Navy. Accordingly, Japan is selected as the Threat to Australian security! When Admiral Togo wipes out the Russian Navy, all Australia, prompted by persistent British propaganda, shivers and never stops shivering, which precisely suits the British book. Alfred Deakin returns from an Imperial Conference (1907) in London, to announce that Australia will establish Compulsory Military Training (for “Defence”). Already, Australia is subsidising the British Navy (also for “Defence”). What a scared lot of fear-stricken and conscience-stricken Colonials! Having expelled and excluded Asiatics from Australia, and having looted Peking, Australians now fear that Japan will retaliate. The “Yellow Peril,” a creature of British militaristic and navalistic propaganda, becomes, during this Decade, Australia’s most permanently-recurring nightmare. The polite little Japanese are astounded by this illwill: but they loyally abide by the spirit and the letter of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, and consider Australia’s panic to be only a move in the British game of seeling warships (as, indeed, it is). The second advantage of Federation is now revealed in the Protective Tariff Policy promptly imposed by the Commonwealth. This policy protects Britain in two ways: first, by providing an additional form of taxation on foreign trade (Customs Revenue), to assist Australians in raising money to pay interest to Britain; secondly, in penalising Britain’s competitors by preferential clauses to British goods. Thirdly and incidentally, the Australian Customs Tariff aims at protecting and establishing industries in Australia; and some are in fact so established, frequently with British capital. The Commonwealth is completely in Britain’s Bag, form the word “go”; but few, if any, Australians see through it. The nationalistic movement of the ’nineties sinks into quiescence, mollified by Federation and by the White Australia Policy; and, above all, weakened by intense British propaganda to the effect that the Britain’s Navy is “protecting” Australia. Lo, the poor Colonials! They have had it put right over them, and are too politically innocent to see the trap into which they have fallen, even after they are in the trap. There is superficially some reason for boundless optimism and belief in the permanent progress of Australia as a part of Britain’s Empire; for now Britain’s might and wealth is at its zenith: the challenge to Britain’s mercantile and industrial supremacy by the U.S.A. and by Germany has not become fully effective: but the British are watching Germany, as a cat watches a mouse, but more fearfully. Germany has now developed substantial trading relationships with Australia, despite the hostile British-preference tariffs. German toys, sewing-machines, pianos, watches, pocket-knives, are making serious inroads into Brummagem’s hoped-for monopoly of the British market. Germany has become the second-biggest buyer of wool at the Australian auctions; and by competition is keeping wool prices up, which annoys Bradford. Look out, Germany! The bulldog will have a bite at you soon! Australians don’t care, thousands of German settlers have arrived and are arriving, breeding up real Australian families. Australia has no quarrel whatever with Germany. But Australia is grateful to Britain, not only for “protection” at sea, but also for the lovely flow of loan money which flows in and flows in, on the security of a Continent. A depression threatens in New South Wales, following a drought in 1902, but this is easily averted by E. W. O’Sullivan, who, as Minister for Public Works, spends £18,000,000 of Loan Money—on Public Works. He knows, and the British moneylenders know, that Australia can recover from a drought, and that the security is first-class. Thus the financial system of Australia is bolstered up by Overseas Loans, and by reliance on Crown Land Sales and Leases, and by reliance on perpetual pastoral, agricultural, and mineral expansion. No Australian statesman sees farther than his nose: all apply the Expansion Formula of the past, as if expansion could be perpetual. For the time being, the Expansion Formula works well enough. The Labour Party comes to office, improves basic living standards and conditions of labour by energetic Public Borrowing, establishes the Arbitration Court, which fixes a Basic Wage; and accelerates the process of Government Paternalism, which enslaves Australians to bureaucracy, tends to kill initiative, and makes Australia, for the time being, “a Workingman’s Paradise.” This Decade is the heyday of the Labour Party. Its formula is not socialistic, but is merely ameliorative of labour conditions—an amelioration made possible by the increasing Vast Productiveness of the land—every fertile portion of which is now “effectively occupied.” During this Decade, Australians look frequently at the map, make paper calculations of millions, ignore the fact that the Empty North and the still-more-Empty Centre are virtually uninhabitable; and make prophecies that Australia’s population will mount to a Hundred Million before the end of the Century. As for the Empty North, the Commonwealth takes it over from South Australia, including South Australia’s liability of over £3,000,000 spent on it, with no return worth mentioning. Nothing will remove from the minds of Australians the idea that the Empty North and Empty Centre are a great “attraction” to Japan. Apart from this fear, it is a cheerful, jolly Decade in Australia: the last, the very last, of the cheerful jolly decades. Over £58,000,000 worth of gold has come out of Kalgurli, and now the water-supply pipeline across the desert is built by C. Y. O’Connor: a classic engineering feat and one of the greatest in the world at that time. Oil shale is retorted at Newnes, Joadja, and Murrurandi in New South Wales, 13,000,000 gallons of oil being produced before the works suddenly close down—American and British oil being considered the best for Australian lamps. Now the wandering, pastoral days of Australia are almost at an end. The entire continent is explored and settled. The towns grow larger and larger, become metropolitan. The “drift to the cities” sets in, slowly at first. Australia is still predominantly rural, predominantly a Colony; but the Colonial days of swagger and swank have reached their zenith. After 120 years of pioneering, the Australian type is becoming defined—different from the European, better fed, mentally more casual and slovenly; but with a pronounced set of characteristics including self-reliance (individually, if not nationally), initiative, camaraderie, a sardonic sense of humour, and a hatred of being bossed. So ends the Twelfth Decade, Australians finding their feet, eagerly looking forward, and with confidence, to an Illimitable Future.
THE THIRTEENTH DECADE, 1908-1917: Unlucky Decade.
Now this is the Decade of the “Great” War in Europe; and in the year 1917 that war has not ended. The population of Australia on the 1st December, 1917, is 4,982,793 persons, of whom 2,523,934 are females. Thus at the end of the Thirteenth Decade, for the first time in our history, the number of females exceeds the number of males: one of the reasons for this sudden disparity being that approximately 300,000 males, in the prime of their manhood, are away from Australia fighting against Turks, Germans, Austrians, Hungarians, and Bulgars in Europe. It is the “Great” Adventure, the greatest in Australia’s history, the most costly in money and lives, and the least profitable. The Australian political events which precede the Declaration of War are excellently managed by Britain. The “Labour” Party comes to office in most of the States and in the Commonwealth. Prominent among the “Australian Labour” leaders are Fisher, a Scotsman, Hughes, a Welshman, and Holman, a Pommy. Australia has given these three immigrants a chance. Had they remained in “The Old Country” they might not have had anything like the opportunity of fame, power, and wealth, which Australia now offers them. But, instead of being grateful to Australia for the benefits which Australia has conferred upon them, these three, and many others like them, give their primary loyalty to the Land of their Birth; and they eagerly offer Britain the Last Australian Man and the Last Australian Shilling, for the purpose of a British Military Adventure, to smash Britain’s main commercial rival, Germany. In making this offer, they have behind them the overwhelming majority of the public in Australia, a public impregnated with a sentiment of gratitude for Britain for all the convicts, loans, and naval protection of the preceding twelve Decades. Thus it is the Labour Party, pride of Australian democracy and its highest expression, which pitchforks Australia into militaristic imperialism. It is the Labour Party which establishes Compulsory Military Training, following the visit of heavy-jowled, brute-type Von Kitchener to Australia in 1909. It is the Labour Party which, following a Colonial Conference in London in 1909, establishes an “Australian” Navy, ordering a battleship (H.M.A.S. Australia) from British shipyards. It is the Labour Party which, following the visit of Andrew Fisher to an Imperial Conference in 1911, establishes an Australian Commonwealth Bank, to facilitate the financing of Australia’s part in a “Great” European War. All this is done in the sacred name of “Defence” and of socialistic-democratic progressiveness; but, in the sequel, the Japanese Navy defends Australia, while the trainees, who have received Kitchener’s Compulsory Military Training, go overseas, escorted by Japanese cruisers, to invade Turkey, and to attempt to invade Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Bulgaria. In the sequel, too, His Majesty’s Australian Ship “Australia,” delivered (C.O.D.) in 1913, goes to the North Sea for the duration of the war, where she cruises 57,000 miles guarding the ships and ports of Britain, at Australia’s expense. Sixty thousand Australian men in their prime are killed outright in this war, and 200,000 others are wounded, either physically or mentally, or both, by the horrors which they encounter in dirty, filthy, stinking Old Europe and Asia Minor. From the loins of these men the seed of the future was to have sprung; but now they are expending their vitality on the battlefields of France, Gallipoli, and Palestine, and their virility in the brothels of Cairo, Paris, London. Australian women, knitting socks and sending white feathers, have urged their men into this madness; for women are the main war-soolers. Cruelty, lust, and sadism, disguised as patriotism, now take command in Australia. Hysteria sweeps the country, engendered by bugles, brass-bands, flag-flapping, speeches of frothing hate, as shipload after shipload of lithe, keen-eyed, eager young men, the perfection of manhood, sail away from Australia’s shores—many never to return. All are going voluntarily—or under that form of compulsion known as Public Opinion. An able-bodied man, of military age, who wishes to remain in Australia, is branded as a slacker, a shirker, and a coward. Very few Australian men have the moral courage to refuse to enlist: the courage to stand against Public Opinion, the courage which earns no medals, brass bands, or smiles from women, the courage far greater than any that could be shown on a battlefield. Australia, an advanced “democracy,” is the country of the Mob Mind. Social pressure, threat of ostracism, the finger of scorn, drive tens of thousands to volunteer: others sincerely believe that they are saving Australia from a German or a Turkish conquest by enlisting: others go just for a lark, an adventure, a chance to see foreign countries, the desire to be with the mob. Brought up on a school education which glorifies the British soldier as hero, few Australian young men, in prime physical nick, can resist the Recruiting-Sergeant’s beckoning finger. (Jacky at Cunnamulla is the exception: “I lost my country years ago, boss,” he grins when they ask him to put up his hand “to fight for his country.”—Yes, there are Aborigines in the A.I.F. Despised in peace, they are acceptable in war, fodder for cannon.) The War does not go well for Britain, nothing like as well as had been too confidently anticipated. The assault plan of the Allies (Britain, France, and Russia) is a failure. Under this plan, the British and French were to hold Germany on the Western Front, while Russia, an irresistible Steam Roller, reached Berlin from the east. Von Hindenburg, in the East Prussian marshes, before the end of 1915, has knocked the bottom clean out of this plan by shattering the Russian Steam Roller to bits. Now Britain and France realise that, even with the aid of all the Colonial troops they can muster, they can never smash Germany on the Western Front unaided. Frenzied efforts are directed to obtaining the support of the U.S.A., efforts which at last succeed when the U.S.A. comes in as the World’s Policeman, to put a stop to a conflict between Europeans which has become a deadlock, a war of attrition. It is during this phase of attrition that Britain’s agents in Australia, twice, make the attempt to impose Conscription-for-Service-Abroad—and are twice rebuffed, though by a narrow margin, by a NO! NO! vote of the Australian people—the outstanding achievement of real Democracy in Australia’s first 150 years. As for the rest of the events of the Decade in Australia, the War Excitement causes (as all wars must) a boom in primary and also in secondary industry. For metals, and for wool, wheat, butter, meat, there is a demand limited only by the amount of shipping available to carry these commodities to Europe. Shipbuilding booms in Australia, the “Fordsdale” and “Ferndale” (12,000 ton cargo-vessels) being constructed at Cockatoo Dock, Sydney. In 1915 the Broken Hill Proprietary Company opens steelworks at Newcastle, New South Wales, using coal from Maitland and iron ore from South Australia in the blast furnaces. In 1916, the Hydro-Electric scheme is completed in Tasmania, the power being used industrially for production of zinc and of carbide. All mineral production booms, and unemployment in Australia virtually disappears. Brown coal is now mined at Morwell in Victoria; the Transcontinental Railway, linking Perth to Adelaide, is completed (1917), the outstanding Australian engineering feat of the Decade, length 1,051½ miles—one of the longest stretches of railway in the world. Many news industries are established in Australia, and the foundations of new fortunes are laid, from war’s exigencies. It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good. Women benefit most, war pensions and employment in industry giving many of them, for the first time, a feeling of economic independence and selfish spending power. At the Imperial Conference of 1917, held in London, the question of Imperial Federation is discussed; but is shelved as “too difficult.” In the meantime Lloyd George establishes an Imperial War Cabinet, with Prime Ministers from the “Dominions” in it. Billy Hughes is in his element. The Unlucky Thirteenth Decade is the Decade in which Australia is dominated, despite Conscription rebuffs, by William Morris Hughes, Duce and Fuhrer of the Most Advanced Democracy in the World. It is the Decade in which women rise, sociologically, to equality and even to paramountcy within the community; the Decade which sees the Labour Party as intrinsically incompetent to defend Australia against British cunning and British blandishments. Oh, and sad but true—it is the Decade in which Australian Nationalism is swamped by British Empirism, Australian sentiment swamped by Empire sentiment. Il Duce Hughes had, as a new immigrant, come in contact with Australian Nationalism in the making. He sees how to use this phrase and this idealism for British Empire purposes. He calls his anti-Australian, pro-British-Empire Party, the Nationalist Party, than which there is no greater misuse of words in all human political history, and none equally great except the misuse of words by Lloyd George, a Welsh compatriot of Hughes, in stating that the “Great” War is being fought “to make the World Safe For Democracy.” So ends the Unlucky Thirteenth Decade, which puts back the clock of Australian Progress, perhaps forever; but the realisation of this is not yet.
THE FOURTEENTH DECADE, 1918-1927: Post-war Boom.
The population rises to 6,251,016 persons, including 3,056,158 females; and now the returned soldiers are repatriated, restoring a slight preponderance of masculinity. Each soldier is given a gratuity, in cash or bonds, the total payments (popularly named “blood-money”) amounting to £30,000,000. In addition, the wounded are pensioned, as are the widows and orphans of the dead. Australia does not attempt to evade its responsibilities of gratitude to the returned soldiers, but the problem of their repatriation is no light one. Virtually, it is a problem of re-immigration, the problem being how to find jobs and land for an army demobilised, as well as for a population that leaps up in response to the stimulus of post-war prosperity. This prosperity is primarily one of loan-money, which has now become the Great Australian Standby: loans, in unprecedented hundreds of millions, being raised for war and repatriation purposes, both in Britain and on the local market. The prosperity is thus in part specious, but not entirely so. The loan-money, so freely expended, represents a genuine inflow of capital from abroad, which can be made effective, however, only by huge Australian imports from Britain. The loan money raised on the local loan-market represents a spending (consumption) of savings which had accumulated in thirteen decades; and is thus a form of “living on capital.” The day of reckoning must come, but is not yet. The post-war boom is a “paper money” boom; but it is anchored to reality, considered as the spending of national savings, and considered as a consumer-boom made possible by easy money. But there is also a producer-boom, for, throughout all the world, peace-time production gets back into its stride, aimed at replenishing depleted stocks, and at putting new goods on the market, new kinds of goods which have resulted from the enormous technical advances in machinery—war’s stimulus to engineering trades. In the U.S.A., particularly, the Ford Age arrives, and ownership of a motor-car comes within the reach of persons of moderate means. The Australian repercussion of this is that Australia, like most other countries, suddenly begins to import cheap motor-cars, cinema films, and petroleum products form the U.S.A.—the financial adjustments being used (through London) for payment of the interest of billions of American Dollars which have been loaned (through London) to the Allies during the War. Thus Americanised, Australia enters the Motor-Car Age, the stench of petrol and carbon monoxide poisons our streets, thousands of miles of bitumen roadways are constructed through eucalyptic bush, and the characterful horse is a goner. The Cult of Ford intensifies the “drift to the cities”; the sons and daughters of pioneers become bored with hardships and lack of modern amenities (such as Cinema) in the lonely bush: Australia’s population becomes more than fifty per cent urban. War has also stimulated Australian industry, intensifying the urban populations: but it no longer stimulates the ship-building industry in Australia. This industry is killed, mainly by the sale of the Commonwealth Government Shipping Line, to an English Company, which never pays for the ships, the Chairman of the Company (a Peer of the Realm) ultimately going to gaol as a swindler. Almost the whole of Australia’s Overseas trade is carried in British vessels—Australia has been “sold again”—a deep cynicism smites political thinking; but the blare of the brass bands, the howling of the war-soolers, is still fresh in the public ear. “Great” War hysteria has fixed in the Australian mind the idea that patriotism means only patriotism to Britain. The War has stirred the cess-pool of human nature and of politics, and the scum has floated to the top. Now the women of Australia, annoyed at having missed the Great Adventure, and made envious by soldiers’ tales of Europe’s glamour, develop an intense desire to go HOME—away from Australia—as their menfolk have done. In thousands they leave Australia’s shores, travelling in the new luxurious British liners, with or without fathers, husbands, or sons in their train, to make a pilgrimage to England, as Arabs make a pilgrimage to Mecca, religiously. This is the Decade of the Female Hegira from Australia to England. The tourists come back to Australia, aping English culture, wearing English fashions, making their stay-at-home sisters envious. It is the Decade of the Shipping Ad., of the sudden realisation by wiseheads in England that the tourist industry can become one of England’s main sources of income. The characteristic novel of this period os H. H. Richardson’s The Fortunes of Richard Mahony, now suddenly boomed as Australia’s magnum opus. It is a story of escape from Australia, of an unacclimatised Britisher’s yearning to leave the Southern Hemisphere and go back HOME. How raw, how vulgar, how un-genteel, how un-English is Australia compared with HOME! So think most, if not all, of the 3,056,158 addle-pated Australian females of the Decade, hysterically, neurotically, yearning to escape from Australia’s crudeness and their own responsibilities to go HOME to find culture, to escape from Australian family ties, to become “modern” and free—ah, god, free!—free as the Million Surplus Women in Britain who are now setting the pace in British manners and morals! Thus the Decade becomes one of mass nostalgia, particularly among females, for HOME, i.e., for Britain, where birth control is the fashion and decadence leers invitingly. Gone are the robust pioneer days, gone forever. Australia’s females are now become vessels, not so much of maternity, as of modernity; and the rot has set in—post-war hysteria, post-war boom, post-war emancipation of women, the drift from domesticity, the drift to decadence, to office jobs, to “equality” with men! The War Decade had produced The Sentimental Bloke as a description of the rude larrikin Australian male. The post-war Decade now produces, in addition to H. H. Richardson’s tight-lipped female culture-dream, an output by the Lindsays, Norman and Jack, of etchings and poems glorifying The Sentimental Tart: the Australian female dominant, leering at herself among caricatures of satyrs, centaurs, poplar-trees, stone terraces, old gardens, fine lace, tapestry, peacocks, and similar European retrospective culture-paraphernalia. So time creeps by, and great, deep, but subtle changes have occurred in the minds of Australians: changes quite unnoticed by criticism, which is lulled, or bewildered, by the velocity of the change; and now Australians are no longer Australians, as they had promised to become in the ’nineties. They are Bastard Europeans, or Americans, recidivists, nostalgics, bowel-less imitators of modes from abroad. The stench of death is in the atmosphere. The Great Plague (influenza) which sweeps the world after the War, kills more people than the war killed. In Australia, for a while, the public becomes panicked, and instructed by the Officialdom which has now taken the community under its officious wing, dons millions of white linen masks and creeps furtively along streets, like mimes in a dance macabre, or mutes at a funeral It is all lowering resistance, lowering morale, destroying common-sense: and a new generation is born in this atmosphere, poor pallid things, begotten in terror, brought up in hate, young robots, automata of the Machine Age. Such is the post-war boom period, the period of mounting debt. In the year 1921, a specimen year, the total Australian public debt (Commonwealth and States) has reached £812,551,693, a total so staggering that it is seldom or never mentioned in polite circles. It is already too large for Australians ever to repay. Each child born in 1921 has a mill-stone of £148 around its neck, and the total of debt is mounting and mounting, as Government Paternalism, in pensions, social services, public works, and other forms of manna, becomes more and more characteristic of the Australian democratic system of government. More than half of this money is owed to Britain, and the British must surely be becoming anxious; for, if Australia’s resources are ultimately not limitless, and if the population is not going to increase vastly to share this debt and so reduce it per capita, then the English may yet have to whistle for their money; but only wiseheads see this, as yet. For the time being credit is still obtainable. More and more loans are floated, and the bubble of false prosperity has not yet burst. Britain’s policy is to “make Germany pay” for the War—a policy so naive as to make one wonder whether Lloyd George (and Clemenceau) were quite sane in formulating it. Germany is virtually knocked out of the world’s markets, both as buyer and seller, by post-war British Empire Preference Agreements, and similar trade-restricting doctrines; and so Germany will never be able to pay. Britain and the U.S.A., to preserve the mad scheme, lend Germany money, so that Germany in turn may have money with which to pay reparations to Britain and the U.S.A.! All that Australia knows of it is that Germany is no longer buying wool. Ah, yes! And Australia now has New Guinea, under a Mandate from the League of Nations. White Australia now has a Black Empire, consisting of more than half-a-million natives (Kanakas) in Papua and New Guinea. The responsibility of caring for these people is Australia’s reward and recompense for the sacrifices of the Great War. A Black Empire! Will it provide Australia someday with a Black Army, on the French model? There are now only 70,000 Aborigines remaining in White Australia; but the accretion of Kanakas, under the Australian Flag, shows that the League of Nations is well satisfied with Australia’s reputation as an exterminating civiliser of backward peoples. The opportunity of becoming Pukka Sahibs in New Guinea and Papua is one which must appeal instantaneously to Australian democrats. Solar topees come into fashion, beginning to replace the old Australian slouch hat of the cabbage-tree tradition: a small, but significant, indication of the increasing Pommification of the country. But what do you expect? The signs are everywhere (to those who can see them) that Australia is not a Real Nation, and has taken the wrong path. Few can see the signs; and the post-war Boom Decade ends on a note of optimism, of “getting back to normal”—a Dream of Perpetual British Manna. (D. H. Lawrence visits Australia during this decade. “Yes,” he says. “A Colony is more progressive than a Mother Country—further gone in decline!” Again he writes: “You talk of bushwhackers whacking the bush—but just wait until the bush whacks the bushwhackers . . .” Who understands such cryptic utterances? Not a dozen people in Australia!) Farewell, the Fourteenth Decade, the last, the very last, of Australian boom-times! Farewell, blast you, rotten period of lull.
THE FIFTEENTH DECADE, 1928-1937: Sesqui-centenary Depression Decade.
And now, at the 30th June, 1937, the population (exclusive of Kanakas and Aborigines) is officially estimated at a total of 6,831,363 persons, of whom 3,373,576 are females. If Kanakas and Aborigines are added, Australia’s population is over seven million; but we ignore the Black Australian Empire, and note that, among the white population, the rate of increase has suddenly slackened. There is more emigration than immigration during the Decade, the birth-rate is falling, falling. What hope is there of Australia ever reaching the Ten Million mark of white population, let alone the Hundred Million of optimistic calculation familiar at the beginning of the Twentieth Century? This is for statesmanship to solve; it is the major Australian population. The problem is for Australian statesmanship to solve, not for British statesmanship; for Britain’s population is even more seriously in decline than Australia’s. Britain cannot and will not help. We must tackle it ourselves. Each child who is born in Australia now inherits a Public Debt of £184. 18s. 10d., of which £79. 11s. 7d. is owed in London (25 percent is to be added for exchange on this at present rates). The Community is now as a whole in debt to the following extent:
PUBLIC DEBT: GRAND TOTALS (VERY GRAND)
Owed in £
Australia …………………… 674,509,661
London .……………………. 543,412,362
New York …………………. 44,949,861
Tremendous Grand Total — £1,262,871,884
(Note: Exchange is to be added to Overseas Owings.)
If the whole Continent were sold for cash, it would not realise enough at auction to pay off this staggering debt. The interest payable in the year 1937 totals £44,952,443; and by some mysterious financial alchemy, the amount payable is mounting each day to grander and grander totals. Taxation is also mounting each year. In 1937 it stands at the “record” total of £108,303,392, the equivalent of £15. 18s. 4d., per head per annum for every man, woman, and child (excluding Aborigines and Kanakas) in the Commonwealth. In our specimen year (1937), the taxation is collected as follows:
Customs and excise ……………… 42,993,032
Other Commonwealth taxes …….. 19,853,225
State Government Taxes ……..…. 45,457,135
GRAND TOTAL £108,303,392
and this total does not include “incalculable” taxes, such as post office profits, wireless licence fees, high railway and tramway fares, and other funds raided to support general revenue. Ah, here is our long-expected Hundred Million! The population is below seven million (excluding darkies), but annual taxation exceeds a Hundred Million. Laugh it off, Australians! Grin and bear it—if you can! Now, in the Fifteenth Decade, the Sesqui-Centenary Decade, the axe has fallen at last—and the basic standard of living, throughout the entire continent, is reduced, on the recommendation of Sir Otto Niemeyer, Jewish British patriot. The Labour Party is able to do nothing—absolutely nothing—to prevent this fall. J. T. Lang, in New South Wales, makes the gesture of threatening to reduce payments to British bondholders before reducing Australian standards. He is dismissed from office by Pommy Governor Game, whose action is supported by a pseudo-Fascist movement of the “New Guard” and subsequently by the majority of the people of the State voting at a General Election. Peculiar Fascists are these led by Eric Campbell, using the Fascist technique not for a National cause (as in Germany or Italy), but for the cause of International (British) finance. A “New” Party is formed under the slogan of “All for Australia”—but this slogan really means, “All for Britain.” Once again, the simple-minded Colonial Australians have had it put across them. Nationalism has momentarily flared up in response to the slogan of “All for Australia,” but how quickly it is side-tracked, as the “United Australia Party” boasts that its real objective is to “follow Britain’s lead”! The Slump hits Australia early in the Decade, as commodity prices fall, immigration is restricted, overseas borrowing is restricted, and imports are almost prohibited under high tariffs. Now occurs the greatest fiasco in Australia’s history—the pathetic, pitiable search for gold, for another Kalgurli, Lasseter’s Reef! But there are no more Kalgurlis, to save Australia. The mineral, animal, and vegetable productiveness of the continent is already being exploited to its fullest possible extent. Never again will El Dorado wave a magic wand over Australia. Almost all the gold (£500,000,000 worth?) produced in Australia since the ’fifties has gone HOME, HOME, HOME, where all good Australian metals go. The country is stocked, to full saturation point, with sheep and cattle: in fact it is overstocked—so much so that the natural fertility of the grass-bearing areas is being steadily reduced, and soil erosion now threatens, slowly, to make Australia another Sahara, as the Desert creeps in from the Centre towards the coasts. The wheat-lands, too, now need fertiliser, for their first prodigious productivity has now been ruthlessly cropped. The dairy lands will give a diminishing return of butter. The timber of the continent has been despoiled, with little or no effort at replacing reserves. Australians, in every direction, are brought up with a jerk, to realise that the Boundless Possibilities of the Vast Open Spaces is nothing but a legend of uninformed optimism, a legacy of the thoughtless pioneer decades. Yet the people must be fed. If business provides not enough work, the Government, exercising democratic paternalism, must provide work, at subsistence level! Public Works, Public Works—financed by Public Borrowing—is the Only Australian Way out of a difficulty; but how long can it last? Optimists indeed are they who think it can last forever, now that the British are cutting down their lendings to Australia, firmly convinced (and they are right) that the present overseas interest-bill is the limit of Australia’s capacity to pay on balances of trade (surplus of exports over imports and other balances). Henceforth, Australians must finance their own Public Works; for the British are getting cautious; and the udder of the Old Cow, Britannia, is drying. The Governments of Australia act promptly and efficiently to meet the slump, by taking such steps as are necessary to reduce the entire standard of living in Australia. Yes, but such measures do not attract immigrants—or babies! Australia in this Sesqui-centenary Decade is losing population by emigration, and the birth-rate is falling. (This is the chant of sesqui-centenary doom. It croaks like the chorus in a Greek tragedy.) Now the population is predominantly urban. More than half are in the capital cities, and it is estimated that altogether only 37 percent of Australians are following rural occupations—a thoroughly decadent condition in any country, monstrous in a “new” country, which relies mainly on primary production. The Typical Australian is not now the country-dweller, but the city-dweller—and what a type! The cities are architectural monstrosities, showing no creativeness in architectural styles, nothing but imitativeness of overseas modes. This latter trait indeed, in every aspect of Australian life, is now characteristic. The newspapers reflect it in the emphasis which they give to overseas news, and in their habit of filling whole pages with “syndicated” articles, stories, and even joke drawings, from Britain and the U.S.A. The feminine influence, tending towards decadence, has now reached full tide. A mania for overseas fashions has been strengthened by Yankee cinema. In the streets of Sydney appear Platinum Blondes, strange doll-like faces, made up to look like this or that Hollywood photo-star. Women have taken “men’s work” in industry and in administration; and they work for smaller wages than men. Relying nevertheless on some man (some day) to keep them, they do not save their earnings, but spend lavishly in the drapery palaces which accordingly set out to trap the silly little fools with vast advertising spreads in the daily press. Now the daily press indeed is quite feminised, with its drapery palace and cinema-palace and underwear ads.; and queer new “women’s” papers come into existence, full of black magic, fortune-telling, astrology, spiritualism, and other female foibles. Truckling to the national policy of “One Woman One Vote,” the newspress conducts political propaganda in a hysterical style, with feminine appeal. The unfortunate, bewildered Australian male is shoved into the background. Now in this Decade the weary voice of the Pommy Announcer is heard bleating and blah-ing in every corner of the land. Cissy-boys are seen mincing along the pavements under the Neon-signs of the street-canyons, dressed in the latest English fashions, discussing the latest English books, bleating with the radio-“Oxford” bleat. These are the typical Australians of the Fifteenth (Sesqui-centenary) Depression Decade. Oh my country! Now, to meet the wild shopping-mania of wage-earning, cinema-frequenting females, chain-stores are opened throughout the continent to sell baubles and glittering trash: not from Brummagem, but from Japan! Japan becomes the second-largest buyer of Australian wool, and is Britain’s most serious rival in the Australian fancy-goods market. Look out, Japan, the bull-dog will bite you? Ah, no; the bulldog is getting too old, too battered, too weary to bite. The bulldog will snarl, but that is all. Unless the U.S.A. can be persuaded to fight Britain’s battles, Britain will not fight alone—that is plain. Australians anxiously await the international outcome. War or peace, Australia will be here—a Pacific Island. Without national pride, soaked in British and other European “ideology,” the pathetic lost generation of post-Great-War Australians stares into the future, listless and afraid. Somewhere, morosely sitting under gum-trees, there may be half-a-dozen, half-a-hundred, perhaps even half-a-million Real Australians, surly, resentful, not taken in by the Democratic and British blather-and-blah of sesquicentenary skite. These surly few will mourn with the Aborigines, as I intend to mourn, on next Australia Day: will mourn the loss of the Australian ideal, its smothering by Pommy delusions and Yankee hooey. Things will get much worse before they get better, here. As the Sixteenth Decade begins, we cast our eyes in retrospect over our history to ask: “Are we Australians? And if so, what?”