MY LORD, It has appeared to me that your lordship may think it desirable that, before I leave, I should, so far as the limits of a despatch may enable me to do so, place before you the present state of this colony, review the progress it has made within the last five years, and indicate its future prospects.
2. When I was appointed to the Government of Western Australia I was aware that from various causes the colony had made but little progress; and on my arrival in September, 1869, I found chronic despondency and discontent, heightened by failure of the wheat crop, by the prospect of the gradual reduction of convict expenditure and labour on which the settlers had been accustomed to depend, by the refusal of the Home Government to continue to send out free immigrants, and by that vague dread of being thrown on their own resources so natural to men who have been accustomed to take no part in their own affairs, and who have consequently learned to rely entirely upon the Government, and not at all upon themselves. One healthy symptom there was, and that was a desire, not very strong perhaps, or even generally founded upon a just appreciation of the past, or political foresight of the future; but still a very wide-spread desire, and to many a reasonable and intelligent desire, for a form of representative institutions which might give the colonists some real voice in the management of their own affairs.
3. At the earliest possible moment I commenced work by travelling over as much as possible of the settled and partially settled districts of the colony; an old colonist bushman and explorer myself, travelling on horseback and camping out were but natural to me, and I wished to judge for myself of the capabilities of the colony; and before I had been six months in the country I had ridden considerably over two thousand miles, some part of the distance unfortunately, owing to an accident, with a fractured rib and other injuries. I had made acquaintance with settlers of all classes, and was able to form an opinion so accurate, both of the people and of the country I have since had to deal with, and of their capabilities, that I have never altered that opinion, nor have my many subsequent journeys done more than supplement the knowledge I then gained.
4. My first political aim was to promote local self-government in local affairs by establishing or giving real power to road boards and municipalities (a policy I afterwards carried into effect with school boards also); and, so soon as I had obtained the sanction of her Majesty’s Government, I introduced that modified form of representative institutions provided by 13 and 14 Vic., chap. 59, and then passed the Municipal Acts I have mentioned above. This policy has fulfilled not only my expectations but my hopes, and should the Council that is about to meet wish to take the ultimate step of entering into complete self-government by adopting the responsible system, the preparation afforded by the last five years will admittedly be of the greatest value.
5. It fell to me to carry into effect the ecclesiastical policy indicated by Lord Granville in a despatch, Number 80, of July 10, 1869, held over for my arrival, in which his lordship suggested that grants (regard being had to the number in the community of each denomination) should be equal in substance and alike in form, and asked if there were any difficulties in applying to Western Australia “that principle of religious equality which had long been recognized in the Australian Colonies.” Lord Kimberley, in an enclosure to his despatch, Number 78, of December 19, 1870, expressed similar views. To this on March 1, 1871, in my despatch, Number 37, I was enabled to reply that I had already carried the policy recommended into practice, that the grants had been equalized by “levelling up,” that the vote for the Church of England was “now handed over to the Bishop of Perth, the Government reserving the right to satisfy itself that it is applied to those purposes of religious ministration and instruction for which it is voted, and that all vested interests are maintained intact and claims on the Government respected.” Since then I have supported such measures as were thought desirable to promote self-organization, and I have moreover made liberal grants of land for glebes, churches, schools, and institutions to the various religious bodies in proportion to their numbers. I have reason to know that on all sides satisfaction is felt at the position in which I shall leave ecclesiastical affairs so far as the action of Government may effect them.
6. The elementary educational question, on my arrival, was a source of much contention and ill-feeling, which came prominently into play, when in the second session of 1871 I caused a Bill, drafted by myself, and the general provisions of which I was subsequently informed were “entirely approved of” by your lordship’s predecessor, to be introduced into the Legislature, and carried it–not, however, quite in its original form. Though the alterations are unquestionably defects, and may somewhat mar its success, it has hitherto worked very well, and has proved itself not only effective but economical: it has received praise from its former opponents and from the most opposite quarters, and old bitternesses are now (I hope for ever) things of the past.
7. I have not failed to give the utmost support in my power–a support unfortunately much needed in a colony like this–to the Chief Justice, and it has been a great gratification to me that, on my recommendation, the long and valuable services of Sir Archibald Paull Burt have been recognized by her Majesty, and that he has received the honour of knighthood–a rank which none of her Majesty’s servants will more fitly adorn. I have suggested to the Legislature that a small increase of salary should be given to uphold the dignity of the Supreme Court; and the question, to which I have already drawn the attention of the Legislature, of the appointment of two Puisne Judges and constitution of a Court of Appeal ought to be taken into consideration at no distant period. One new resident magistracy has been established in a district where it was very much needed, and two Local Courts have been constituted. There is some difficulty in finding a sufficiency of fit persons for the commission of the peace who are willing to exert themselves, and the pay of the resident magistrates is in too many cases insufficient to enable them properly to support their position as representatives of the Government in their districts.
8. In the Military Department I have enabled successive commandments to make reductions in the enrolled Pensioner Force. By withdrawing the guard from Rottnest Island, and by concurring in the reductions at out-stations, a very considerable saving has thus been effected. I have given all the encouragement in my power to the Volunteer movement, and I may confidently state that the Volunteer Force was never before in so good a state, either so far as regards numbers or efficiency. To this result the efforts of successive commandants and liberality of the Legislature have mainly contributed.
9. It has been for me to preside over the latter stages of the existence of the Imperial convict establishment in Western Australia, as a large and important department; henceforth it will be confined in narrow limits, and I may state with confidence that the great reductions and concentrations that it has been my duty to effect have not been attended with those disastrous effects to the colony that were so confidently predicted, and also that although the residue of convicts are, many of them, men of the doubly reconvicted class and long-sentence men, discipline is well kept, serious prison offences are rare, the health of the men is excellent, whilst severe punishments are seldom needful. I here beg leave to make favourable mention of Mr. W.R. Fauntleroy, Acting Comptroller-General of Convicts, who has proved himself to be my most valuable officer.
10. Much remains to be done in the Survey and Lands Department. When Mr. Fraser in December, 1870, took charge of the department, the greatest economy was needed to make the revenue of the colony meet the expenditure, and consequently it was necessary to reduce and lay upon our oars; Mr. Fraser reorganized his department, putting it on a new system, letting out work by contract instead of keeping up a large permanent staff, and thereby effected a considerable annual saving; at the same time he has been steadily working, as time and means have permitted, towards certain definite objects, namely, in the direction of a trigonometrical survey, by fixing points, by making sketch and reconnaissance surveys of new and important districts, and by accurately fixing by survey main lines of road: this will give a connexion to the records in the Survey Office which has been hitherto wanting, and will contribute to enable him to construct that great desideratum–a large and accurate map of Western Australia, so far as it is settled or partially settled. I concur with Mr. Fraser in thinking that, so soon as means will admit, a considerably increased annual expenditure should be devoted to surveys.
11. The joint survey of the coast will also aid in this work. The Admiralty, in assenting to my proposal to undertake a joint coast survey, which has been placed under a highly meritorious officer, Navigating Lieutenant Archdeacon, R.N., have conferred a great benefit on this colony, and promoted the interests of British commerce and navigation, much valuable work having already been done.
12. In close connexion with the Survey and Lands Department is the topic of exploration. So soon as possible after my first arrival, I took upon myself to send Mr. John Forrest overland to Adelaide, along the shores of the Great Bight, nearly on the line of Mr. Eyre’s route in 1841. I did this before the introduction of representative government, and it is right to say that I knew that I could not have got a vote for it. I felt that this was the last act of an expiring autocratic regime, and I believe it was one of the least popular of my acts; but certainly no small sum of public money has been expended with greater results–for, as I hoped, Mr. Forrest’s expedition has bridged the gap that separated West Australia from the other colonies, has led to settlement on the shores of the Great Bight, and to the connexion of this colony with the rest of the world by electric telegraph. I never doubted of the future of West Australia from the day when the news of Mr. Forrest’s success reached Perth. Since then more interest has been taken in exploration. A second expedition was sent out to the eastward under Mr. Alexander Forrest in 1871, with the support of the Legislature and some of the settlers, and at present under the same auspices Mr. John Forrest is again exploring to the northward and eastward. His route will be guided by circumstances, but it is not improbable that he may aim for the Central Australian telegraph line, and I am already anxiously expecting tidings of him.
13. In 1870, with a vote I obtained from the Council, I engaged Mr. Henry Y. Brown as Government Geologist. His geological sketch map and his researches, which he pushed in one instance far into the interior, have been of the greatest value; and it was with much regret that in 1872, owing to the disinclination evinced in the Legislature in the then straitened circumstances of the colony to expend money on a scientific department, that I was obliged to forego my desire of making it a permanent part of the establishment.
14. As Colonel Warburton’s journey from the Central South Australian telegraph line to our north-west coast was set on foot and its expenses defrayed by private colonists of South Australia, I only allude to it to acknowledge the obligation that this colony lies under to those public-spirited gentlemen and to the gallant leader and his followers. Parties headed by Mr. Gosse, by Mr. Giles, and by Mr. Ross have all within the last two years penetrated from the eastern colonies to within the boundary of our unexplored territory, but, beyond a certain extension of geographical knowledge, without effecting any material results.
15. Under the head of Survey and Lands Department, it will be proper to glance at the alterations in the Land and Mineral Regulations, which have offered increased inducements and facilities for cultivation and occupation, and which have considerably promoted mining enterprise. Gold Mining Regulations have been also prepared and are ready for issue, should occasion, as is likely, render them requisite. I willingly acknowledge the assistance I have received from Mr. M. Fraser, the Surveyor-General and Commissioner of Crown Lands, who has had much experience in New Zealand, for the services he has rendered in all these matters.
16. The mineral riches of this colony are very great. I have never doubted but that they would ultimately become a main source of its advancement. All the different kinds of auriferous quartz known in other colonies are found abundantly in various parts of this–the question of payable gold is, as I have long since reported, simply a question of time. After many efforts, I at last, in 1873, obtained a vote for prospecting, and the results are most promising, the fact of the existence of rich auriferous quartz being now established. We shall immediately be in a position to crush specimen consignments of quartz by a Government steam-crusher, and I doubt not but that, if followed up, the results will be most important. But gold is not the only nor perhaps the most important of the minerals possessed by West Australia. The colony is extraordinarily rich in lead, silver, copper, iron, plumbago, and many other minerals are found in various localities, and indications of coal and petroleum are not wanting–what IS wanting, is energy and enterprise to develop these riches, and that energy and enterprise is being attracted chiefly from Victoria, first by means of concessions that I was enabled to make, and now by the reports of the new comers to their friends. I made a small concession to a smelting company: and another, and also an iron mining company, is in the field.
17. When on my arrival I turned around me to see what was to be looked for to supply the place of Imperial expenditure, only second to our minerals, our forests attracted my attention. They could not fail to do so, because just before I came there was an outcry for the development of this industry by Government aid. With Lord Granville’s assent I made liberal concessions, and thereby induced a pioneer company, shortly followed by others from Victoria, to embark capital in the enterprise. The public ardour here had, however, cooled, and an ignorant cry was raised against foreigners, and the prospects of the trade were systematically decried. Several causes besides this militated against it, but it is surmounting them, and at the present moment not only are the companies largely employing labour and expending money, but their own success is becoming an established fact, and the export is enormously increasing, and with good management must continue to increase indefinitely. Whilst on this subject I may allude to the question of the preservation of our forests, but as I am treating it more fully in a separate despatch I will only say that this and the kindred question of planting ought, at no distant period, to occupy the attention of our Legislature.
18. The pearl shell and pearl fishery may be said to have sprung into existence within the last few years. It employs a fleet of cutters and schooners, chiefly of small size, on the north-west coast, Port Cossack being the head-quarters. At Sharks Bay also there are a number of smaller boats. A licence fee on boats and a tax on shells has been imposed by the Legislature; laws for the protection of aboriginal divers and Malays have been enacted. I shall immediately have a Government cutter on the north-west coast for police and customs purposes, which will also be useful in cases of shipwreck amongst the islands and inlets, and in searching for and reporting the position of reefs, of anchorages, and of new banks of pearl oysters. It will probably hereafter become advisable to let areas for pearling under certain regulations as in Ceylon, but this could not well be done with our present means and knowledge.
19. To turn now to the more settled industries, first in importance is that of agriculture. It is chiefly in the hands of men of little capital, and is carried on in a very slovenly way by the greater part of them. Bad seasons, an over-great reliance on cereals, which have for several successive years been seriously affected by the red rust, and a neglect of other products suitable to the soil and climate, added in too many cases to careless and intemperate habits, have until lately rendered the position of many of the small farmers a very precarious one. Last year, however, was more favourable, and they to a great extent recovered themselves. The lesson of the past has not been altogether lost; they have also been much assisted by the new Land Regulations, and a few prosperous seasons will, I sincerely trust, put this class, which ought to be a mainstay of the colony, into a really prosperous condition.
20. The cultivation of the vine is a profitable pursuit, and the quantity of land fitted for that purpose is very great; both soil and climate are eminently favourable to the growth of the grape. Recent legislation has given some encouragement to wine-growers by facilitating the sale of home-grown pure wine. The quantity of land laid down in vineyards is slightly increased, but the class of settlers that are most numerous in Western Australia do not readily take to industries that are new to them, however profitable they may be, nor can they afford to wait for returns, nor have many of them the knowledge necessary to make good wine: still this industry will become one of the most important in the colony.
21. The pastoral interest is the pioneer interest of a new colony. Western Australia has been somewhat less favoured than some other parts of Australia in its pastoral lands, but it has, nevertheless, a good deal of very good pastoral country, and under the extremely liberal concessions lately offered to those who will devote capital to the eradication of poison plants much more may be made available, whilst fresh country is being largely occupied inland. The progress, however, of the pastoral interest, considering the age of the colony, though latterly great, is not SO great as might have been expected; the comparatively good prices obtainable and anticipated for meat have kept down the increase of stock, and consequently the yield of wool; and as yet very little or nothing has been done to supplement natural resources by growing artificial grasses and fodder plants. No country presents greater capabilities for horse breeding, and cattle do exceeding well and are very profitable.
22. The sandal-wood trade is in a flourishing condition, and has brought money into the colony, and enabled many of the poorer classes to obtain a livelihood by cutting that aromatic wood for export. It is, however, doubted by some whether the labour employed in this trade does not withdraw many from more steady and permanently useful labour on their farms and small holdings.
23. In the matter of minor industries, sericulture [silk] holds a first rank. I look to it in the future as a source of employment for paupers on the hands of the Government, and also for women and children. I have taken much interest in this pursuit, and have caused a mulberry plantation to be made and plants distributed, and have published much information on the subject. The Report of the Chamber of Commerce of Como (Italy), alluded to in my despatch, Number 61, of 20th May, 1873, conclusively shows that this colony is remarkably well adapted for the cultivation of silk. The cultivation of the olive and the castor-oil plant are industries for which this soil and climate are extraordinarily well adapted. Tobacco, hops, and dried and preserved fruits might largely add to the riches of the colony. In great part at my own expense, I have introduced and distributed hop plants and various kinds of fruits of great utility, and have, in fact, in the absence of any botanic garden (in which I have vainly endeavoured to get the settlers to take an active interest), made my own garden a kind of nursery for acclimatization and distribution of useful and ornamental plants, and I have also given a small concession for the cultivation of the cocoa-nut on the north-west coast, where, in the absence of vegetables, it would be invaluable. And, thanks to the Government of the Mauritius, I have been able to introduce various kinds of sugar-cane, for which part of this territory is well adapted. The growth of coffee has been also attempted on a Government plantation, but without success. Cotton had already been proved to thrive admirably, and to be excellent in quality, but is not considered likely to pay without cheap labour. I may here note that, with an eye to the future, I have made reserves for the purposes of public parks and recreation grounds in several places. Deer, Angora goats, hares, and trout have been also introduced.
24. I will now proceed to another branch of my subject–public works and undertakings; and first in the category of public works and undertakings I put those which relate to communications, and under that subdivision immeasurably the most important are such means of communication as, by terminating the isolation which has been the great bar to the advancement of this colony, may make it a living part of the system of life and progress which has been growing and prospering around it. On this end was my mind set when I was appointed to the Governorship, to this end have I worked steadily ever since, and this end is partially accomplished, and its complete fulfilment is not distant. The vote for the construction of the telegraph line via Eucla to South Australia, passed last session, and the proposal of Messrs. Siemens Brothers regarding a submarine cable to Madras, fitly close an administration which found Western Australia within twelve miles, and has already placed her in possession of a complete telegraphic system, consisting of about nine hundred miles of wire, worked at a remarkably small cost, in efficient order, already remunerative, and affording the greatest advantages both to the public service and to private business. It is noteworthy that four or five years ago there was a strong feeling that the construction of telegraph lines was a waste of public money, and only a few months ago a prominent member of the Legislature publicly objected to the line which is to connect this colony with the rest of the world, that it would only benefit a few individuals! Such ideas, however, are rapidly becoming obsolete even in Western Australia. I will here note that, under a power given me by law to fix and alter rates, I, in January, 1873, reduced the charges to a uniform rate of one shilling per ten words, and one penny for each additional word (press messages at quarter price), and was the first to do so in the Australian colonies.
25. After much and persistent opposition, the Legislature was at length induced to vote a subsidy for steam on the coast, connecting our western ports and all this part of the colony with Albany, King George’s Sound, the port of call of the Royal mail steamers from Europe and the eastern colonies. This has done much to throw open this colony, rendering access to it no longer difficult and uncertain, and greatly facilitating intercommunication. A very Chinese objection to steam communication has been publicly made by the same gentleman to whose opinion on telegraphic communication I have already alluded; namely, that it enabled people to LEAVE the colony. I am, on the contrary, of opinion that it is certainly conducing to progress and the promotion of commerce. The steamer we have at present is, however, insufficient, but I doubt not but that a second and more powerful boat will shortly be procured, as it is already required: I understand, however, that no West Australian capital is as yet forthcoming for the purpose, nor for steam communication with India, than which nothing could be more important, as it would render available the magnificent geographical position of the colony, and open a market close at hand for its products. I have long ago and frequently stated my willingness to give all possible Government support to such an undertaking.
26. I am immediately about, by invitation, to proceed to Champion Bay, and to cut the first sod of the first West Australian railway, on the Geraldton and Northampton line. I have already fully indicated the advantage that there is good reason to anticipate will result from the opening of that line, which will, I do not hesitate to say, be the parent of future and greater undertakings. When the colony arrives at a position safely to borrow a million or a million and a quarter, a railway from Fremantle and Perth, probably up the Helena valley, into the York district, and thence down the country eastward of the present Sound road, to the fine harbour of King George’s Sound, would do more than anything else to give an outlet to the resources of the country and supply its wants; such a line would ultimately be extended through the eastern districts and Victoria plains northward to the Irwin, Greenough, and Geraldton. But I will recall myself from these and other speculations of the yet more distant future, and look back upon the modest past. Two tramways with locomotives now bring timber to the coast from the Jarrah forests, and there are also two other tramways for the same purpose, of less extent, but still of some importance. I have made concessions to the companies constructing them.
27. With regard to ordinary roads, I can very confidently say that, considering the extent of the country and its scattered population, no colony that I have ever seen is in a better position regarding roads. Occasionally, owing to the loss of convict labour, the scarcity of free labour, the disinclination of the people to tax themselves locally, and the great extent of the roads themselves, parts of the roads already made fall out of repair whilst other parts are being formed; but on the whole, having perhaps traversed more of Western Australia than any one man in the colony, I very confidently assert that, taking all in all throughout the country, the roads are in a better condition than they have ever been before. Large bridges have been constructed over the Upper Swan, Moore River, Blackwood, Capel, and Preston, besides twelve smaller bridges, and a large one completed at the Upper Canning.
28. Bushing the Geraldton sand-hills has been a very useful and successful work; the experiment was first tried by Lieutenant-Colonel Bruce. Part of the work has been done by convict labour, and part by farmers and settlers in payment for a loan advanced to them for seed-wheat before my arrival. It is not too much to say that this work has saved the town of Geraldton and its harbour from destruction by sand.
29. A little has been done in the way of improving the Swan River navigation by means of a dredge imported by Governor Hampton, and worked by prison labour and by an appropriation in the Loan Act of 1872. A work has also been constructed, from funds provided out of the same loan, at Mandurah, by which the entrance to the Murray River has been improved.
30. Harbour improvements have occupied much of the attention of Government. A fine and substantial open-piled jetty at Fremantle, seven hundred and fifty feet long, has been constructed, and answers all the purposes for which it was designed; but the larger and extremely difficult question of the construction of a really safe harbour at or near Fremantle is yet undecided. Various plans have been proposed, and great pressure has been put on the Government to commence works hastily and without engineering advice. At one time one scheme has found favour, and another at another, and the merits of the rival schemes of our amateurs have been popularly judged upon the principle of opposing most strongly anything that was supposed to find favour with the Government. Last session a strong wish to do SOMETHING caused the Legislature to advocate a scheme which many persons think would cause the mouth of the River Swan to silt up, and expose the town of Fremantle to danger, lest the river in flood should burst out (as no doubt it did formerly) into the South Bay over the town site. The question, however, is referred to the Victorian Government engineer, and the Melbourne Government have been asked to allow him to visit this colony, but I fear that the people will not accept his decision; and unless the members of the new Legislature will agree to do so, or, in the event of his not coming, do what I have long since recommended, namely, ask your Lordship to refer the whole question to the decision of Sir John Coode, or some other great authority, and undertake beforehand to abide by it, I see no chance of anything being carried into effect until the warmth and personal feeling which, strangely enough, is always evoked by this question, shall be succeeded by a more reasonable and business-like mood. One of my first acts on reaching this colony was, in accordance with the previously expressed wish of the Council and colonists, to send for an engineer of high repute to report. His report only raised a tempest of objurgations, and I must frankly confess failure in my efforts to leave Fremantle with a harbour; and, indeed, I am far from being convinced that anything under an enormous outlay will avail to give an anchorage and approaches, safe in all weathers, for large ships, though I, with the Melbourne engineers, think that the plan of cutting a ship channel into Freshwater Bay, in the Swan River, advocated by the Reverend Charles Grenfel Nicholay, is worthy of consideration. Jetties at Albany, King George’s Sound, the Vasse, Bunbury, and Geraldton, have been lengthened, one at Dongarra constructed, and money has been voted for the construction of one at Port Cossack. Moorings have been procured from England, and are being laid down at Fremantle and other ports.
31. With respect to public buildings, the Perth Town Hall–a very large and conspicuous building, commenced by Governor Hampton–was completed not long after my arrival, and handed over by me to the City Council and Municipality on June 1, 1870; attached to it I caused the Legislative Chamber to be built, and so arranged that at no great cost this colony possesses a council-room more convenient and in better taste than many I have seen of far greater pretensions. It is, however, proposed hereafter to build legislative chambers in the new block of Government buildings, of which the Registration Offices now about to be commenced will form a wing, for which the contract is 2,502 pounds. The public offices at Albany were finished shortly after my arrival. I may mention, among a number of less important buildings, the harbour-master’s house, Albany; school-houses there and in various other places; large addition to Government Boys’ School, Fremantle; court-house and police-station, and post and telegraphic offices at Greenough and at Dongarra; police-station, Gingin; addition to court-house, York; post and telegraphic offices at Guildford, York; and Northam Bonded Store, Government offices, and police-station, Roebourne. Considerable additions have been made, which add to the convenience and capabilities of the Fremantle Lunatic Asylum, and alterations and adaptations and additions have been made to several other buildings; for instance, at Albany a resident magistrate’s house and also a convenient prison have been formed at no great outlay. At Perth a building has been erected to which I call attention, the Government printing-house; this new department has been of immense service during the four years in which it has been in existence–in fact, it would have been impossible to have gone on without it; and the Government printing work is most creditably done at a very reasonable cost. A handsome stone sea-wall has been commenced by convict labour at the new jetty at Fremantle, which will reclaim much valuable land, and greatly improve the appearance of the place. Harbour lights have been erected at several places. A large lighthouse is in the course of erection at Point Moore, at Geraldton, which will be of much importance; and it is proposed, with the co-operation of other colonies, to erect one near Cape Leeuwin, as recommended at an intercolonial conference on that subject.
32. Postal facilities have been increased, several new offices opened, and postages (under powers vested in me by law) considerably reduced, on both letters to the colonies and newspapers, from the tariff I found in force. In this a step in advance of some of our neighbours was taken.
33. I have reduced several police-stations on the recommendation of Captain Smith, the superintendent, which appeared to be no longer necessary; but, on the other hand, I have extended police protection into outlying districts, both for the benefit of European settlers and of the aboriginal inhabitants. These latter have gained little and lost much by the occupation of their country by settlement. I have fought their battle against cruel wrong and oppression, holding, I trust, the hand of justice with an even balance, and I rejoice to say not without effect and benefit to both races. Their services as stockmen, shepherds, and pearlers are invaluable; and when they die out, as shortly no doubt they will, their disappearance will be universally acknowledged as a great loss to the colonists.
34. The Legislature, I am happy to say, have latterly seconded my efforts by encouraging industrial institutions for their benefit. Similarly they have in the last session turned their attention to the condition of the destitute and criminal children of our own race; and, in my own sphere, I have done what was possible for the encouragement of the (denominational) orphanages which have been long established and are in full working order. This colony is, for its size and means, well supplied with hospitals, asylums, and establishments for paupers, in which I have taken great personal interest.
35. In legislation I have endeavoured to avoid over-legislation and premature legislation. I have considered that free-trade principles are especially in place in a colony situated as this is. The ad valorem duty, and that on wines, spirits, and a few other articles, has been raised for revenue purposes; some others have been put on the free list. I successfully resisted the imposition of a duty on flour; I should have simplified the tariff still further than I have done, and admitted free many more articles–some of food, others used in our industries–had the Legislature not objected; the tariff as it stands is inconsistent. The English bankruptcy system has been introduced, and an Act passed regarding fraudulent debtors; distillation has been permitted under proper safeguards; Sunday closing of public-houses has been rendered compulsory with good effect; a Lunacy Bill on the English model has become law; the Torrens Land Registration system has been adopted, and will shortly be put into force. Many equally important measures are alluded to in their places in the pages of this despatch, and I will not inflict upon your lordship a list of many minor Acts, some not unimportant, which have proved beneficial in their degree.
36. Among lesser but not unimportant matters, I may mention that I have extended the system of taking security from Government officers in receipt of public moneys. The commencement of a law and parliamentary library has been made.
37. Immigration from England has, on a small scale, been set on foot lately, and families are now expected from neighbouring colonies, but our population from obvious causes has increased but slightly during the last five years; on my arrival it was said to be actually decreasing, and there were many reasons why such an opinion was not unreasonable–reduction of the convict establishment threw some out of employment, expirees also desired to quit a country which to them had been a land of bondage, and the prospects of the country were gloomy; now there is a great want of labour, any that comes is at once absorbed, and every effort should be made to attract a constant stream of immigrants.
38. It will be observed that when the whole authorized loan is raised, the colony will be only in debt to the extent of a little over one year’s income, or 5 pounds 16 shillings 5 1/ 4 pence a head, whilst Victoria is indebted 15 pounds 14 shillings 10 3/ 4 pence, New South Wales 19 pounds 7 shillings, South Australia 10 pounds 19 shillings 5 pence, Queensland 32 pounds 12 shillings 7 3/ 4 pence, Tasmania 14 pounds 3 shillings 6 3/ 4 pence, New Zealand 40 pounds 5 shillings 11 pence. I beg also to call your lordship’s attention to the fact that Western Australia has only yet spent the 35,000 pound loan, and has now only begun to spend that of 100,000 pounds. I also would point out that the last annual increase of revenue has about equalled the whole capital amount which has been expended out of loans.
39. I have caused the following statistics to be furnished me from the Treasury and Customs Departments for six years, ending on the 30th September of each year. The first year given, that ending on the 30th September, 1869, is the year immediately preceding my arrival, I having been sworn in on that very day.
*Ships now expected will greatly swell the items of Imports and Customs.
** This is exclusive of RE-exported articles, and the valuations are very moderate. In round numbers, the Exports may be said to be over 400,000 pounds.
*** Part of the increase of Customs duties is owing to increase of duties on spirits, wines, and some other items; and ad valorem, on the other hand, credit should be given for some articles which have been admitted free. Taking the balance as the amount accruing from increase of duties, it may be put at 12,000 pounds on the last year.
**** It will be observed that for some time, until better seasons returned and measures bore fruit, I had to a slight extent to rely on the surplus found in the chest to make Revenue and Expenditure meet. To have starved the Expenditure at that time would have been to have damaged the future progress of the colony, and the Legislative Council opposed several reductions that I thought might have been effected. On the 30th September, 1874, there was a sum of 36,616 pounds 3 shillings 5 pence in the chest, and something like this sum will be at the disposal of the Legislature at their meeting, beyond current revenue.
40. I need hardly say that the commercial state of the colony is admittedly sound, and I am informed in a more prosperous condition than at any previous period of its existence. Landed property, especially about Perth, has lately risen immensely in value, and the rise is, I hope, spreading and will reach the outlying districts. Perth has lost its dilapidated appearance, and neat cottages and houses are springing up in all directions, and the same progress to some extent is noticeable in Fremantle and elsewhere.
41. I will not conclude this Report without recalling the success which attended the efforts made by the Government, to which my private secretary Mr. Henry Weld Blundell largely contributed, to represent the products of Western Australia at the Sydney Exhibition of 1873. Much of this success was attributable to the exertions of Mr. F.P. Barlee, Colonial Secretary, then representing at Sydney this colony in the intercolonial conference. In that conference, the first to which a representative of this colony was admitted, and which therefore marked an epoch in its political existence, Mr. F.P. Barlee took a prominent part, ably upheld the trust I placed in him, and received a most marked and cordial reception from our colonists on his return.
41. I have further to express my obligations to that officer for the assistance he has ever given me; were it not for his fearless and loyal support, for the confidence which is placed in him by the very great majority of the colonists, and for his fidelity in following my instructions and carrying out my policy, it would have been impossible for me, under a form of government most difficult to work, to have carried to a successful issue the trust that has been imposed upon me, and to have left this colony prosperous and self-reliant.
42. Should your lordship, considering the position in which I found Western Australia–the reduction of imperial expenditure it has been my duty to effect, the failure of the wheat crop for four successive seasons and consequent depression, the inexperience of a new Legislature, the absence of any propositions for the benefit of the colony from the opposition, the obstacles thrown at first in the way of all measures which have eventuated in good–should you, considering these things and the present state of the colony, be of opinion that the administration of its affairs during the last five years has not been unsatisfactory or unfruitful, I beg that you will award a due share of credit to the Colonial Secretary, who, as my mouthpiece in the Legislature, has carried on single-handed all parliamentary business, and also to those gentlemen who are now, or have at various times been, members of my executive, and who have ever united to support me; to the nominated members of the Legislature who have steadily voted for all the measures which have led to the present progress of the colony, and whose merits the constituencies have fully recognized by electing them as representatives on vacancies in every case where they have stood; to the elected members, who every session have given me increased support, and who, forming two-thirds of the Legislature, had it in their power entirely to have reversed my policy; and lastly, to the people of Western Australia, who on each election have increased my strength, on whose ultimate good sense, I–knowing colonists, myself an old colonist–put my reliance, a reliance which has not been disappointed.
I have, etc., (Signed) FRED. A. WELD, Governor. The Earl of Carnarvon, etc. etc. etc. …
SUCCESSION OF GOVERNORS OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA. NAME AND TITLE. APPOINTMENT. RETIREMENT.
Captain James Stirling, Lieutenant-Governor. June, 1829 – September 1832.
Captain Irwin, Acting Lieutenant-Governor. September 1832 – September 1833.
Captain Daniell, Acting Lieutenant-Governor. September 1833 – May 11, 1834.
Captain Beete, Acting Lieutenant-Governor. May 11, 1834 – May 24, 1834.
Sir James Stirling (formerly Captain Stirling), Governor. August 1834 – December 1838.
John Hutt, Esquire, Governor. January 1839 – December 1845.
Lieutenant-Colonel Clarke, Governor. February 1846 – February 1847.
Lieutenant-Colonel Irwin (formerly Captain Irwin), Governor. February 1847. July 1848. Captain Charles Fitzgerald, Governor. August 1848 – June 1855.
A.E. Kennedy, Esquire, Governor. June, 1855 – February 1862.
Lieutenant-Colonel John Bruce, Acting Governor. February 17, 1862 – February 27, 1862.
J.S. Hampton, Esquire, Governor. February 27, 1862 – November 1868.
Lieutenant-Colonel John Bruce, Acting Governor. November 1868 – September 1869.
F.A. Weld, Esquire, Governor. September 1869 – September 1874.
W.C.F. Robinson, Esquire, C.M.G. September 1874 –
This report of Governor Weld’s is as published in Explorations in Australia, Illustrated, by John Forrest
Bolding added to the text by Michael Barker, Editor, Fremantle Shipping News
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