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7. Chapter VII Governmental Difficulties

Public grievances—An alleged riot—Sir Edward Wittenoom—Sir John and Lady Forrest—Fight for federation—Mr. Joseph Chamberlain—Referendum result—Electioneering—I am returned to Parliament—Civilisation arrives on the goldfields.


IN the early days at Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie the mining community felt they had grievances. Coming as they did into the colony's interior, many hundreds of miles from the nearest settlement, they naturally wanted many public services, and wanted them quickly. They were young and impatient. It took time to provide water supplies, cut roads, establish hospitals, institute postal and telegraph facilities, open warden's courts and so on. The Ministry made mistakes. That was inevitable, but in the circumstances they did remarkably well.

Inexperienced as many of the goldfields critics were, most of them did not make allowances for the difficulties. Young as I then was, I urged patience and asked that the Government should be given a fair chance, but as time went on our grievances increased, and eventually I, too, became anti-Government.

One of our grievances was that we were inadequately represented in the State Parliament in proportion to our population. There was no man in the Ministry who had experience or knowledge of the

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goldmining industry that was then raising the State from poverty, obscurity and stagnation to a condition of wealth, prominence and progress. It was asserted, accurately or otherwise, that one member of Parliament, when appointed Minister for Mines, was asked if he had mining experience, and replied, “Though I have never been down a mine yet, I've been several times down a well.”

For years the whole of the eastern goldfields, with a population of 40,000 persons, was represented by a single member in the Legislative Assembly and none in the Legislative Council, whilst in the pastoral districts there were electorates, the total number of electors on the rolls for which did not number fifty. A Redistribution of Seats Bill was carried later, but the pocket borough evil continued. Even after the general election in 1897, in a House of fifty members, the member for Coolgardie actually represented more voters than the whole of the voters in half a dozen other electorates.

The customs duties, in the opinion of many, fell with undue severity on the goldfields, where the people were all consumers. They produced nothing but gold, and gold could not be protected. To make matters worse, the whole of our supplies came long distances by train, and the railway rates which were differential constituted a second customs house. It is not surprising that for that time the cost of living was enormous. The grievances were regarded as all the greater because the chief expense of the Government railway to Kalgoorlie came out of the pockets of the goldfields people. One of the conditions of the construction contract was that the line was not to be handed over by the

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contractors until in some cases from six to nine months after completion. The result was that prior to the Government taking control the contractors squeezed all they could in freight and passenger charges out of the goldfields people. Later when the Government, by also charging exorbitant rates, were abusing the transport monopoly they possessed, it was aggravating to feel that the goldfields railways, built as they were mostly with goldfields money, should be employed merely as a further taxation medium, whilst many reforms and public works which the mining community earnestly desired were denied them. There was indeed a complete lack of sympathy between the goldfields proper and those responsible for the government.

On the one hand, those who were born in Western Australia and had lived in it all their lives regarded the country as theirs. They wanted to know who had a better right to it? Why should they hand over its government or even a share of its government to the new arrivals? They spoke of the new arrivals as “t'other-siders” and nomads “without a stake in the country,” men who were said to be “here to-day and gone to-morrow.”

On the other hand, the energetic and enterprising mining community described the Western Australians as “Gropers” who had not the courage to find gold and had left to people who came from outside the task of opening up the interior.

A particularly sore question was the refusal of the Government to build a railway to Esperance Bay, the goldfields' natural port. Instead of doing so, the trade of the goldfields had to pass through the capital, and thus the journey between the goldfields and the eastern

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part of the continent was lengthened by more than one hundred and sixty-seven miles by train and over six hundred and ninety-one miles by sea.

Another grievance was that whilst settlers in the agricultural districts received the freehold of one hundred and sixty acres, residents of the goldfields had to pay for quarter-acre sand patches on which to build their homes.

What made these grievances appear the greater was that they were suffered by those who regarded themselves as the fairy godmother who had raised the Cinderella of the Australian colonies out of the ashes and showered on her golden gifts.

It was at this time the Government made a blunder that nearly precipitated serious trouble. Early in 1898 there were thousands of men working alluvial claims that they pegged and held by virtue of their miners' rights. Most of the surface alluvial had been worked out, but a deep alluvial lead had been found at Kanowna. It was extremely rich, and hundreds of alluvial claims yielded big returns. Deep leads that promised well were opened up at Bulong and elsewhere. The freely spent money of the diggers created a condition of roaring prosperity. Prospecting for other leads was in progress. To encourage this spirit of enterprise the Government even offered a reward of £500 to any person discovering gold in alluvial at a depth of thirty feet below the surface, the money to be paid after 1,000 ounces had been taken from the find.

Trouble arose between the holders of a lease and the

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diggers. The Ivanhoe Venture Gold Mining Co. held a lease near Boulder City. The terms under which all mining leases were then held provided that alluvial claims could be pegged out and worked on any lease as long as such claims were not less than fifty feet from a reef or lode. Under the Act the leaseholder was required, when asked, to define the line of his reef. This system of dual titles was unquestionably wrong, but it was the law and up to then it had worked without friction. No objection had been raised to it by anyone. In those days, strange as it sounds now, one hundred feet along the line of reef was considered sufficient for surface workings, and many managers rather appreciated the presence of diggers on their leases, as they assisted them materially in prospecting. For instance, whenever a digger in sinking came to a reef, the manager could insist on his leaving his claim, and the leaseholder would get the advantage of the labour of the prospector.

Certain diggers believed there was a deep alluvial lead on the Ivanhoe Venture lease, and as a matter of fact the lead was later proved to exist. When the manager was asked by men who proposed to peg out an alluvial claim on it to define his reef, he pointed to the four corners of his lease, and said, “All within that is lode matter.” Such a thing as a lode that was a parallelogram was never heard of. The indignant diggers went and pegged out a claim on the lease, and others followed their example. Numbers of shafts were then sunk.

Subsequently, when a law case was decided favourable to the diggers, the Government suddenly and without warning issued a regulation directing that in

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future alluvial workings on leases should not be carried on at a greater depth than ten feet. The regulation, which, incidentally, was ultra vires, aroused considerable indignation. Goldfields public opinion condemned it unanimously. It was contrary to the admitted rights of prospectors. If a man had a mining claim, whether it be alluvial or leasehold, the depth to which he was allowed to sink should not be limited. According to the regulation, if a man unearthed a pocket of nuggets a few inches below ten feet he was not entitled to them.

Diggers talked wildly of resisting the law, but wiser counsels prevailed. An Alluvial Rights Association was formed to test the legality of the Government's action. The name of one of the Ministry was on the Ivanhoe Venture Company's directorate, and the chairman was a supporter of the Government in the Legislative Assembly. I am certain that these facts in no way influenced the Government's action, but it can well be imagined how the circumstance inflamed the public mind.

The Premier, Sir John Forrest, was absent from the State, but the Acting Premier, Mr. Wittenoom, who was also Minister for Mines, refused to annul the regulation. The Cabinet displayed rather foolish obstinacy. They failed to realise the gravity of the crisis.

On the Premier's return to Perth he announced his intention of visiting Kalgoorlie.

The goldfields people determined to form a deputation of 10,000 of their number to wait on him and ask him to annul the regulation. There was a feeling of conviction that he would see that justice was done.

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As an explorer they held him in high respect. He had twice crossed the continent, and he was known to be a brave man, a good bushman and well acquainted with the back country and back country ways. They felt that their case would be in safe hands. They wished to impress on him how serious was their trouble, and the men concerned meant to wait on him in person and hear what he had to say. Preparations were in progress to ensure that at least that number would be present. Public feeling was running high.

The real purpose of the Premier in visiting the goldfields was to declare open a railway from Kalgoorlie to Menzies, some ninety miles northwards. At much inconvenience I decided to go to Menzies and put before him the exact position. I wanted him to know the truth. I believed him to have been misled. And in fact he had. It was my desire to help him in the public interests. I felt friendly to him personally. A year or so previously he had invited me to become a justice of the peace, a position I had accepted and regarded as a compliment, as I had only been a very short time in the State.

At Menzies I saw him, told him the extent of the trouble, and urged him to reconsider the determination of his Cabinet colleagues not to annul the regulation. In those days public men had not the same regard for democracy as they have to-day. He was an autocrat. I was then young, between twenty-five and thirty, and he was over fifty. He spoke to me in a kind and fatherly way, thanked me for giving him my viewpoint, and explained that everyone else who had spoken to him had given him the opposite opinion to that I had expressed.

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I was on the railway station at Kalgoorlie when he arrived from Menzies next day. There were a few leading residents on the platform. He turned to me.

“Is this the deputation of 10,000 that I heard talked about?” he said with a smile.

He did not know that there was a huge crowd outside and that they numbered not 10,000 but probably 15,000, but they had been kept out of the station to prevent accidents through overcrowding.

His surprise was great when he came to the door leading from the railway station and saw in front of him a sea of heads. There was a lane in the crowd to the Railway Hotel opposite the station, and he and his party walked through the lane to the hotel, and there received a deputation and discussed with them the ten-foot regulation. The deputation lasted a couple of hours, and he told them he would consider what they laid before him.

He had been asked to say a few words to the crowd, which had been waiting for hours for him to address them. He declined. Some of them had walked thirty miles to attend. It was a question that vitally affected their livelihood. Their bread and butter depended on it. They had practically all come from the eastern colonies, where they were unaccustomed to such treatment. Public men there did not hold themselves aloof. They could not understand a Premier acting in that way.

All that was necessary was for him to go on the hotel balcony, say that he had only just returned to the colony, that he had heard their representatives, that when he went back he would go into the matter fully and that he would then give his decision.

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The crowd would have cheered him and would have been quite satisfied. As it was they felt hurt and mystified by his silence.

He walked out of the hotel into the crowd to proceed to the railway station. The mob began pressing round him, each one asking him why he did not speak to them. It was a considerable time before he reached his train.

There was no hostile demonstration. No blow was struck nor was any attempt made to strike anyone. He was simply surrounded by the crowd, and he had some little difficulty in making his way through it.

Afterwards Sir John Forrest complained that he had been dug in the ribs with an umbrella. The fact was that his own secretary had an umbrella under his arm—he was the only one of the crowd who carried such a thing—and in the pushing it must accidentally have struck Sir John in the ribs. Certainly none of the diggers would be likely to carry an umbrella or sunshade.

Ultimately he got to the railway station in a somewhat distressed state.

The newspapers wildly exaggerated the events of the day. No person was hurt and no property was damaged, but, to read the published reports, one would think that there had been a dreadful riot and that Sir John had narrowly escaped being torn to pieces. He was the subject of many telegrams of sympathy and congratulation in accordance with the views of the sender. A published telegram that created great amusement stated, “My God! I am proud of you.” One versifier hit the truth off well as follows:

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“There have been riots, I know, in the land of the spud,
Which are not unattended with the spilling of blood,
As the blackthorn encounters the Constable's crown
And the stalwart policemen like ninepins go down.
When the amiable Hindoo is ripe for the fray
There are nice little shindies in sultry Bombay,
Things get lively at times in Hyde Park and the Strand
When the suffering Communist gets ‘out of hand.’
But except in Westralia—'tis safe to assert
There was never a riot where no one was hurt.

What a blood-curdling story they pitched us last week
Of a tumult colossal, Homeric unique!
Of a crowd of wild diggers, some ten thousand strong,
Who bustled and chevied a Premier along;
Of ears that were deafened by salvoes of groans,
Of lives that were threatened by bludgeons and stones!
You'd have thought from the published reports of the fray
Red Hell had broke loose in Kalgoorlie that day,
And that scores had been trampled to death in the dirt
In that terrible riot—where no one was hurt.”

At the invitation of the editor of the Australasian edition of the Review of Reviews I wrote an article setting forth all the facts of the ten-foot regulation. This made the position plain to the outside public from the viewpoint of the goldfields. The same issue contained an article by the Minister who issued the regulation in justification of his action, but within a few days of Sir John Forrest's return to Perth the ten-foot regulation was annulled. By that action the Government admitted that it never should have been issued.


During the progress of these troubles I had an anxious time. The diggers were convinced that in

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working alluvial claims on the Ivanhoe Venture lease they were both morally and legally right. As a matter of fact they were, but after they had done considerable work on their claims an injunction had been issued by the warden directing them to leave the lease.

The attitude of the Kalgoorlie Miner, of which I was editor, was to obey the injunction but appeal to a higher court. My advice at that time was, “Obey the law and the court's interpretation of the law whether it be right or wrong.”

The diggers appealed to a higher court, but refused to abandon the lease. In fact, they prepared to resist being driven off. A large force of police had arrived on the goldfields. The warden one evening told me that he had received instructions from the Government to march the police to the lease that night and take possession of it. I knew the diggers would fight and there would be bloodshed. The Mayor of Kalgoorlie, Mr. Fimister, and myself determined to go with the police and speak to the diggers, and at all costs avert trouble. We waited until after midnight, and, as the police were getting ready to start, a wire came from Perth countermanding the instructions.

Later several of the diggers were arrested for contempt of court and imprisoned, but were released when the Supreme Court reversed the warden's decision and upheld the view taken by the men.

Mr. Wittenoom was at this time almost a total stranger to me. Subsequently he became Agent-General and had a very long and most useful public career. He became Sir Edward Wittenoom, and I was for a great

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many years associated with him. We were both members of the Legislative Council, of which I succeeded him as President. When speaking to me about the issue of the ten-foot regulation he often told me that he had acted on the recommendation of certain prominent goldfields residents, some of whom, when the outcry was raised against it, instead of standing by him, joined in condemning him.

With Sir John Forrest I had also much to do, especially as he and I were amongst the five members elected to represent Western Australia in the first House of Representatives. Unfortunately I was more often an opponent than a supporter of his, though I recognise that he did great work for Western Australia. He had no stronger champion than I in his building of the great goldfields water scheme for pumping fresh water in pipes over three hundred miles to supply the needs of the mining community. I also backed him in his advocacy of the Trans-Australian Railway. But I did not agree with his hostility to the Esperance Railway, and though that his policy tended to promote the evil of centralisation, an evil that to my mind is particularly objectionable in a state extending over one-third of the Commonwealth. To-day almost one-half of the inhabitants of the vast empty area comprising Western Australia are crowded together in Perth. I did not agree with his remaining a member of protectionist federal governments and supporting exorbitant protectionist duties. Still, he had the attributes of a statesman and possessed a most attractive personality—breezy, loud-voiced and cheery. In his public speeches he was direct and possessed a good deal of shrewdness and common sense. He obtained his life's ambition

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when raised to the peerage as Lord Forrest, an honour he well deserved, but he did not live long to enjoy it. He died on a voyage to England, where he intended to take his seat in the House of Lords.

Lady Forrest was much help to him throughout his political career. She believed in using all the social influence she could exert to aid her husband, and constantly entertained and promoted functions for that purpose.

When one newly elected member, returned to oppose the Government of which Sir John was the leader, arrived in Perth, he received an invitation to an evening reception at the Forrests' home, “The Bungalow.” He had never been to such gatherings before, and he appeared in an evening dress with a pink shirt. Lady Forrest with great tact complimented him on the taste he had shown in his dress, hinted that the fashion he had set would become general amongst the young bloods of Perth, paid great attention to him all the evening, and pinned a bouquet on his coat. He was young and susceptible of flattery. After that Sir John could always rely on him, and he became one of his most ardent followers and champions.

Photograph Facing Page 144: Hannan Street, Kalgoorlie. Above, as it was in April, 1894; centre, in 1898; below, as it is to-day.


A movement of far-reaching importance with which I was directly associated was the inclusion of Western Australia in the Commonwealth at the beginning of the century. When it was accomplished, and even at the time of writing, to some it may seem from the parochial or Western Australian viewpoint better to have remained outside of the Commonwealth. Viewing the question, however, from the larger Empire

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and Australian aspect, it was decidedly advantageous that the national affairs of the continent should be under one Government whilst the domestic concerns of each state should be controlled by local governments.

At the federal conventions held to frame a Commonwealth constitution Sir John Forrest and nine other Western Australian delegates were elected by the State Parliament to represent the colony. They attended, but when they returned and the Enabling Bill, authorising the submission of the Constitution of the proposed Commonwealth to a referendum of the electors for their acceptance or rejection, came before Parliament, it did not meet with a favourable reception. A large section of the Perth people, under the leadership of Mr. George Leake, were supporters of Federation, and the goldfields community were virtually unanimous in approving of it. Most of the newcomers to the colony came from Eastern Australia and in sentiment were strongly Australian. Their imagination was excited by the ideal of the Australian federal leader, “A continent for a nation and a nation for a continent.”

Mr. Leake came to the goldfields and talked over with me the question of how to bring Western Australia into the Federation. The first objective was to secure for the electors the right to choose whether the colony should join or not. We felt certain that if we could secure a referendum there would be a heavy affirmative decision.

A petition to Parliament was prepared praying that the Enabling Bill should be passed for submitting to a referendum the acceptance or rejection of the proposed constitution. We called it the Bill-to-the-People Petition. It was signed by tens of thousands of electors,

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duly presented to Parliament, treated there with contempt, and despite its prayer the Enabling Bill was rejected. Parliament was prorogued and opponents of Federation rejoiced as the union of the eastern states was approaching completion. It looked as if there was no hope of Western Australia joining as an original state. Federalists in Western Australia felt that if she did not join as a federal state there was a danger that she would never join. Mr. George Leake, Sir Walter James, Mr. James Gardiner and others who took that view were in despair.

It was then that I advocated in the Press the separation of the eastern goldfields from the colony of Western Australia for the purpose of forming a new state and joining the Commonwealth. A movement was started that had for its motto “Separation for Federation.”

Such a movement could be used as an invaluable lever to force the Government to take a referendum. If it did not result in that, then separation from Western Australia was bound to be successful and the goldfields would not fare badly as a self-governing state of the Commonwealth with a railway to the port of Esperance and considerable land awaiting development to the south of the goldfields. In either eventuality, that is whether Western Australia was forced into Federation or the eastern goldfields created a new state, the mining community would be satisfied. Their desire, however, for separation from Western Australia was not so intense as their desire not to be separated from the rest of Australia. They were essentially

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Australians who hoped to see Australia as “one people with one destiny.”

A convention was held at Coolgardie on December 13, 1899. Sitxy-one delegates were present, representatives of all the goldfields public bodies—Municipal Councils, Road Boards, Chambers of Mines, Labour Unions, and so on. With only one dissentient it was decided to prepare a petition to Her Majesty Queen Victoria, asking for separation from Western Australia and setting forth that we were refused an opportunity of voting for or against the acceptance of the Commonwealth Constitution, and outlining various grievances to which we were subjected, including the refusal to give the mining community railway access to their natural port.

Various names were suggested for the new state, and one that was favoured was “Auralia.” Public enthusiasm was excited. In at least one instance a newly born baby girl was christened “Auralia” by her fond parents.

An organisation entitled the Eastern Goldfields Reform League was formed. Branches were established in a score of busy goldfields centres and also in London. At the request of the editor of the Australian edition of the Review of Reviews I wrote an article in explanation of the movement. It was entitled “Altering the Map of Australia,” and contained a map of the proposed new colony. It was republished in various papers and brought offers of help from prominent Federalists all over Australia. The movement also received notice in the London Press.

Communication was unofficially established with the Colonial Office.

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The petition to the Queen was signed by 28,000 adults and duly forwarded through the Governor in a specially constructed and designed casket mounted with local gold. It was presented to His Excellency by the senior goldfields parliamentary representative, Mr. A. P. Matheson, M.L.C.

A largely signed petition to the Queen from the Albany district praying for inclusion in the proposed new colony was forwarded separately.

The Boer War was in progress, and the refusal to the Uitlanders of adequate representatives in the Transvaal Legislature was advanced as one of the causes. The analogy was striking between the treatment of the Uitlanders in various directions by the Kruger Government and the Western Australian Goldfields “Tothersiders” by the Forrest Government. Residents of both Johannesburg and Kalgoorlie claimed that their representation in Parliament was grossly inadequate as compared with the taxation burden they had to bear.

The Uitlanders were represented by the Reform League, and so the “Tothersiders” named their organisation the Eastern Goldfields Reform League. In the House of Commons, in reply to Mr. John Morley, a statement was made by Mr. Joseph Chamberlain of which he was constantly reminded by advocates of “Separation for Federation.” Mr. Chamberlain's statement was: “If a self-governing British colony should impose upon British subjects such conditions as are imposed upon British subjects in the Transvaal, I say we should interfere or cut the connection.”

The Eastern Goldfields Reform League was in close

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communication with several members of the British House of Commons as well as with Mr. Barton, Mr. Deakin and other Australian federal leaders. An Adelaide Committee consisting of Messrs. C. C. Kingston, Josiah Syman and P. McManus Glynn, three distinguished lawyers, drafted for us the petition to the Queen.

The British Government needed no urging to employ pressure to get the Western Australian Parliament to do the right thing. Mr. Joseph Chamberlain was then Secretary of State for the Colonies. He was keenly desirous of the union of the Australian states as it simplified the problems of Imperial unity. It is easier for the Imperial authorities to deal with one Australian national Government than with six Australian Governments, each with widely divergent views, as was shown at conferences of Colonial Premiers. He readily saw that the “Separation for Federation” petition could be utilised as a means for forcing the Western Australian Government to submit the question of joining in the proposed Commonwealth to the votes of the electors.

Mr. Chamberlain, in the course of a telegraphed despatch to the administrator on April 27, 1900, left the Ministry no option but to submit the Enabling Bill to the electors. Mr. Chamberlain pointed out that the terms that Western Australia might come into the Federation as a federal state were better than those that could afterwards be secured. He added:

“Your responsible advisers will also, of course, take into consideration the fact of the agitation by the Federal Party, especially on the goldfields, if

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Western Australia does not enter as an original state. It appears to me of the utmost importance to the future of Western Australia to join at once.”

Diplomatic language could not put it plainer. Furthermore, private and unofficial information from London made it clear that the prayer for separation would be granted if Western Australia did not federate with the other colonies.

Both Sir John Forrest and Sir Winthrop Hackett were opposed to the referendum. They took alarm at the prospect of Western Australia losing the Coolgardie goldfield. When they realised the danger, their opposition to the referendum and to Federation vanished. They became favourable not only to holding the referendum, but also to Western Australia joining the new Commonwealth.

The result was an immediate calling together of Parliament and the rapid passage of the Enabling Bill through both Houses. The question of whether or not Western Australia should federate was submitted to a referendum of the electors. The vote showed a huge majority in favour of federal union. The figures were: Yes, 44,800; No, 19,691.

Even in Perth and Fremantle there was a large affirmative vote, the numbers being: Yes, 11,695; No, 7,521.

In the country electorates there was a majority of between 3,000 and 4,000 against Federation. The goldfields vote was: Yes, 26,330; No, 1,813.

As one writer put it, “For Australia and for the Empire the Western Australian goldfields had won a Federated Australia.” Were it not for the “Separation

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for Federation” movement, Western Australia would not have joined the Commonwealth as an original state. Western Australia might indeed have been still outside the Federation.

Several of the men associated with the Eastern Goldfields Reform League became prominent as members of Parliament and Ministers in federal and state spheres. Dr. Ellis represented Coolgardie in the Legislative Assembly and afterwards practised for years in Harley Street as a specialist in consumption. Staniforth Smith was a member of the Commonwealth Senate and later administrator of Papua.

Alexander Perceval Matheson, who was President of the Reform League, became a senator and inherited a baronetcy. On the maternal side he was the great-grandson of Spencer Perceval, the Prime Minister, who in 1812 was shot on entering the lobby of the House of Commons by a madman. In Matheson's first election for the Western Australian Parliament some seventy-five years later, curious to say his opponent was a namesake said to be a descendant of Perceval's murderer. Matheson was victorious.

Hugh de Largie also was elected to the Senate, of which he was a member for over twenty years. Hugh Mahon was a member of the House of Representatives and served long terms as a Federal Minister. Charles Sommers became a Minister of the Crown in Western Australia, and J. Reside was the first Western Australian parliamentary labour leader.

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In the early years of the goldfields, parliamentary and even mayoral elections were events creating wild excitement. Four-in-hands, champagne, flaring election signs and colours of rival candidates were everywhere in evidence. In one election for the mayoralty of Coolgardie thousands of pounds were spent.

These elections were reminiscent of the elections towards the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century in the West of Ireland when open voting was in vogue. My father was fond of telling how, when he was a boy, the people remembered and often talked about an election in 1783 that lasted fifty-two days for two seats as Knights of the Shire to the Irish Parliament. At that time the polls were kept open until every available vote had been recorded. The election beat the record in the three kingdoms. It cost all the candidates immense sums. It is said to have ruined at least one of them, who soon afterwards had to sell his magnificent home to pay his election debts. During the weeks the polling lasted, drinking, entertaining and rioting were general, so the proceedings must have been lively.

Some of the men who easily and rapidly acquired wealth on the Western Australian goldfields through the sale of gold-mining leases or speculation in the share market became ambitious for political positions. When parliamentary vacancies occurred there were numerous candidates, wealthy men ready to spend money freely, and as they all favoured the same policy—encourage gold-mining—elections usually became mere personal contests.

Photograph Facing Page 152: Kalgoorlie Post Office. Above, as it was in 1894; below, as it is to-day.

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Just before the close of the last century there was an election for the representation of the Eastern Goldfields Province in the Legislative Council. The Mayor of Coolgardie, Mr. Arthur Jenkins, a lawyer, was in the field. Some months after he had been announced as a candidate, I was surprised one morning by a large and representative deputation of leading Kalgoorlie residents waiting on me with a request that I should contest the vacancy. They thought that I would be a better member than Mr. Jenkins. I replied that I had no parliamentary experience. They pointed out that neither had he, and that though I was young, yet I was about as old as he was. I believe neither of us was then thirty years, which was a necessary age qualification to become a candidate for the Legislative Council, but no one troubled about such details in those days. Finally, I was persuaded to stand.

No party issues were involved. I found that scores of my friends who would have supported me had promised to vote for Mr. Jenkins before I had any thought of becoming a candidate. There was also at that time much rivalry between Coolgardie, which was regarded as the mother town of the goldfields, and the newer and more rapidly growing town of Kalgoorlie. There were comparatively few Kalgoorlie electors on the Legislative Council roll, whereas Coolgardie's voting strength was considerable. After a spirited election contest I was defeated by a narrow majority.

The election cost me dearly. When the deputation had asked me to be a candidate I told them that I could not afford the heavy costs of an election. The members of the deputation assured me not to take that into account. I was their candidate and they said they would

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not allow me to pay a single penny. When the election was over and I began to receive the bills, no one made any offer to pay them, and I could not remind them of their promises. I paid and said nothing. It was a bad set-back, but I am not certain the experience was not worth having.

My next election contest was early in 1901 as a candidate for the first Federal Parliament. I received a petition that was extensively signed asking me to become a candidate for the Kalgoorlie electorate. The petition was signed by practically all the leading men of the constituency. My opponent was Mr. J. M. Hopkins, Mayor of Boulder City, an able speaker and a capable man. I was assisted by the public belief that I was mainly responsible for starting and carrying to a successful conclusion the “Separation for Federation” movement, which brought Western Australia into the Commonwealth. I was returned by a majority of over 2,000 votes.

Hopkins subsequently was elected a member of the State Parliament and became Minister for Lands.


It was some years after the reported discovery of gold at Coolgardie that civilisation in the true sense reached the goldfields. Its arrival was hastened by two events of much importance that changed considerably the character of Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. One was the completion of the railway to these centres in 1896 and its extension later to other parts of the goldfields. The second event was the completion a few years later, in 1903, of the project which conveys a river of fresh water

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to the goldfields in a pipe two feet six inches in diameter a distance of over 350 miles. The maximum delivery capacity of the conduit is 5,000,000 gallons. Furthermore, as the goldfields are some 1,300 feet above the level of the Mundaring Reservoir, the source of the supply, the water has to be raised, and this is done by pumping stations along the pipe-line. It takes approximately four weeks for the water to travel from Mundaring to Kalgoorlie.

Goldfields towns soon began to assume a changed appearance. Streets were formed and lighted with electricity. Rows of trees were planted on each side for shade and ornamentation. Public gardens and swimming baths were established, also excellently appointed racecourses, a polo ground, tennis courts, bowling greens and golf links. Population increased. Five or six morning and evening goldfields newspapers and several weeklies were published. Comfortable private residences were erected and many social clubs formed. Civilisation had indeed arrived. But as the goldfields settled down to work and steady gold production, they lost much of their early glamour.