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24. Chapter XXIV. Tasmania.

NATURE was kind to the snug little island of Tasmania. It gave her a beautiful climate, splendid streams, grand mountain scenery, and lovely lakes. Only man, as represented by the English Government, was cruel. The awful cruelties of “The System,” set forth with so much realism by the late Marcus Clarke, seem more out of harmony with Nature in Tasmania than they do in a less congenial clime. It takes long for evil influences to die out, and the experience of the curse of England's dreadful transportation scheme hung as a dark cloud, dropping evil on each of our early settled colonies.

Jingo writers and speakers assume that we are immensely indebted to the mother country. They say that England is a wonderful coloniser, and the greatest of all nations in managing her colonies. I admit that the people who leave the United Kingdom are great and successful colonisers, but the British Governments have done more to damage and retard than ever they did to help. They made our beautiful country a dumping ground for all those disturbers of the peace whom they wanted out of the way, whether they were Labor agitators, poachers or murderers; and if the real colonisers—

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the pioneers—had not kicked, and, as in Victoria, refused to permit the shipload of convicts to land, there is no knowing how long the evil would have gone on. Tasmania kicked too, but not so successfully.

Under English rule, huge areas of our best lands were given away to individuals, and hence she started us with land monopoly before people had a chance to say what should be done. We have had a century of growth, and sixty years of self-government. We have grown into a young nation, and the British people know practically nothing about us, and their great British Government very little more. For years Downing-street was a by-word in Australia, owing to its ignorance and carelessness of the interests of the Australian people. England did little to help Australia, but the Australian States have been a fair godsend to the British money-lender. In no other country has he found such a safe market for his surplus riches.

Tasmania has been termed the land of “sleep-a-lot,” but it has got a move on, and will soon take its right place as one of the most go-ahead of the Australian States. It has two fine cities—Launceston, which is one of the most advanced in Australia in municipal Socialism; and Hobart, on the other side of the island, which is probably the worst managed city in Australasia. Hobart is the home of the great Australian gamble—Tattersall's. The Tasmanian is the only Parliament in Australia which gave the private enterprise gamble a resting place.

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Members of the Government that gave the concession share in the huge lottery, and to keep electors quiet a percentage goes to the State Treasury. It has become a vested interest and a political issue. Tasmania has been governed by the vested interests of Tattersall's racing lottery, Henry Jones's jam factory, the Union Steamship Co., the Cascade Brewery, and the Commercial Banking Co.

Tasmania provides scores of illustrations, if any are needed, to show how incapable are capitalists and alleged business men to manage the affairs of even a small State like Tasmania. One of the roads along which the tourist is driven up to the side of Mount Wellington runs for a few miles through privately owned land, yet the Government made that road at the taxpayers' expense, and put thousands into the land-owners' pockets thereby. Their whole scheme of government runs on similar lines, and then they are surprised that they cannot carry on without borrowing and running hopelessly into debt. They oppose doing away with “Tatt's” on the grounds that they cannot do without the revenue. They threatened to fight the Commonwealth when it put a stop to the delivery of letters addressed to Geo. Adams, or “Tattersall.” One of those who share in the spoil is sent into the Federal Parliament by a Tasmanian constituency, and he does not seem a bit ashamed.

Like other States, Tasmania provides many examples of how members of capitalistic Governments divert public money into their own pockets and those of their friends. To quote one case

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briefly:—The Government led by Sir E. Braddon appointed Captain Miles and Messrs. Hales, Hall, and Driffield to the position of Wardens on the Marine Board of Strachan. Six others were elected. The story of how Miles schemed to secure the position of Master Warden, and how he induced the Premier by wire to use his influence on two of the Government nominees to vote for him—how he tried to induce his opponent to retire—is highly interesting, but I have not space for it. Suffice it to say, he secured the position. Tenders were called for the West Breakwater contract, and twelve were sent in. The deposit money on all but the four lowest was returned. These were N. C. Langton, £45,382; S. Derbridge and Co., £43,963; B. Stocks and Co., £39,790; Hungerford and Sons, £33,731. Captain Miles's son, Leslie, aged 23, wrote out the tender of Derbridge and Co., and Miss Miles, aged 19, that of Stocks and Co., and the Captain put up the deposit money.

Leslie Miles was in the board room when tenders were opened, and at once wired his brother in Hobart, who sent a telegram in the name of Stocks and Co., withdrawing their tender. Of course there was no such company, neither was there any Derbridge and Co., and alleged New Zealand firm. This left Hungerford to be got rid of. He was written to by Leslie, who offered him £250 to give up. He came to Tasmania, and was met by Leslie Miles, who ostensibly represented the New Zealand firm. Leslie offered £1000 or over, but Hungerford would not sell out. The Master Warden then took

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a hand. New regulations and new conditions hitherto unheard of were presented, and Hungerford was humbugged out of his contract under a promise that fresh tenders would be called for. Captain Miles about this stage became Minister for Lands and Works. His influence secured the contract for the bogus Derbridge and Co., and thus practically the Master Warden secured the work himself at £10,232 over what an experienced, genuine contractor was prepared to do it for. Agitation secured a Select Committee, and it said:—“Our opinion is that Captain Miles, while occupying the position of Master Warden of the Strachan Marine Board, was improperly and secretly interested in two of the tenders for the west breakwater, and used unworthy means to secure the acceptance by the board of the higher of them.” On being found out, Captain Miles resigned from Parliament.

However, Tasmania is being stirred up, and will awake soon. There is much of Labor agitation and propaganda, and the Australian Workers' Union has opened a branch in the centre of the Island, which, in co-operation with the mining fields and the cities, will soon shift things. Labor made a move first in 1893, and quite a fillip was given when Launceston returned the late Allen McDonald in the following year. He was an able man and a staunch democrat. An organization was started, called the Liberal Progressive League. Like our friends in Victoria, it was timid about using the term “Labor.” Later it added the word, however. It succeeded in returning Ronald Smith. In Hobart they had formed an organization called the “Labor

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Liberal League”; and in April, 1896, a meeting was held in the old “Clipper” rooms of representatives of this league and Hobart Trades and Labor Council with a view of forming one political body.

This was accomplished, and the new organization was called “The Democratic Club.” A platform was drawn up, and public meetings were held and public debates carried out with some success. In July, 1896, a conference was held with the Labor Liberal League of Launceston, presided over by that able writer on economic and land questions, Mr. A. J. Ogilvy. The name adopted for the new organization was “The Democratic League of Tasmania.” The Platform adopted appears in the Appendix. The first meeting addressed by a pledged Labor man was held at North Hobart on December 22, 1896, when Mr. James Paton contested Hobart. The election was held under the Hare system of voting, and owing to several other men running who claimed that they were also Labor, Mr. Paton lost by a few votes on election day, January 20, 1897.

In February of same year it was resolved to run a ticket of ten men for the Federal Convention, and the League adopted the platform of the New South Wales Labor organization. Tasmania's Labor ten met with the same fate as Labor candidates for the Convention in other colonies, namely, defeat. In February, 1899, Mr. James Paton ran as a Labor candidate in the Propsting v. Patterson fight. He scored 510 against the winner's 810. It was said that Propsting's votes cost him £1 each, and his

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opponent Patterson's cost over that. The Labor man spent £15.

Photograph facing p.368. J.EARLE, M.H.A., Leader of Tasmanian Labor Party.

It is worthy of note that Labor has enormously reduced the cost of elections. Capitalists are finding out that money will not buy a seat. A Labor seat has been won at a cost of £5; and one Labor candidate for a huge country Federal electorate in New South Wales started his campaign with only thirty shillings, and he won on that. Of course loyal friends lent him horses, etc., and his meetings were nearly all in the open air. The Australian working man may be misled—he may be fooled by having political dust thrown in his eyes—but he cannot be bought with money. Paton's 510 votes showed how Labor was improving. His first effort gave him 140. As one of the ten he secured 324 in Hobart, so that Labor was gaining ground. Federation gave a great lift to the Labor movement. The popularity of the work done by the Federal Parliament, and the admitted fact of Labor's influence in moulding the legislation helped the party in every State.

In the elections of 1903 Labor ran three successfully—J. J. Long, G. Burns, and W. Lamerton. Mr. L. Jensen, who was elected as an Independent, joined the Party, which made four in a House of 35 members. Lamerton afterwards ratted on the movement, and was got rid of. The elections of 1906 returned seven—Messrs. J. Earle (who had only lost in 1903 by three votes), J. J. Long, L. Jensen, J. E. Ogden, W. A. Woods, C. R. Howroyd, and Ben Watkins, who was the youngest member of Parliament in Australia, as he had just turned twenty-one before election. Mr. J. Earle is leader.

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With a view of deterring Labor men and keeping the power in the hands of the capitalist class, only £100 per annum is allowed to members of each House in Tasmania. In spite of this small pay, splendid work has been put in by the Party inside and outside the House. Until Labor members took a hand such a thing as a Mining Bill had never been discussed in the Tasmanian Parliament. A Royal Commission was secured by the party's efforts to enquire into the question of sweating in shops and factories, and their investigations and report were an education for the Tasmanian people.

During last Parliament the Constitution was altered, reducing the membership of the Legislative Council to eighteen and that of the Legislative Assembly to thirty. The elections took place on April 30, 1909, and were carried out under the Hare-Clark system of voting. Electors were compelled to vote in order of preference, placing a number opposite the name of each candidate. They were compelled to vote for not less than three, but could vote for all in their order of preference. The State was divided into five electorates, taking the boundaries of the Federal electorates as those for the State. Labor scored a signal victory, as they secured twelve seats out of thirty, as against seven in a House of thirty-five in the previous Parliament. They ran twenty candidates. The following form the new party:—Darwin—Messrs. J. E. Ogden, J. J. Long, J. Belton, B. Watkins. Denison—W. A. Woods, W. Sheridan. Bass—J. Guy, C. H. Howroyd. Franklin—J. Earle (leader), D. E. Dicker. Wilmot —J. H. Jensen, J. A. Lyons. Mr. Earle, though

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running in a new electorate, beat the Premier. The Treasurer lost his seat. Tasmania has awakened, and will soon be under Labor Government.

The situation in Tasmania is well set forth in the manifesto of the Labor Party, from which I quote the following:—

“Now what has the anti-Labor politician, who has ruled this State for fifty years, done to assist Nature to make the people happy and prosperous? Nothing. On the contrary, he has burdened you with the heaviest unproductive debt per head of any people in the world. The national debt of Tasmania stands at £10,380,122, on which our small population has to pay over £1000 per day in interest, and for which we can only show £4,250,000 worth of public railways and telegraphs. He has sold or given away 5,000,000 acres of the best land of the State, more than half of which is held by some 290 persons. The land is mostly lying idle, affording no work, and consequently producing nothing for the common good of the people.

“Your anti-Laborite has encouraged the monopoly and abuse of land by practically exempting the large estates from taxation, and has discouraged the industrious small farmer and orchardist by taking to the last penny the value of the improvements. Succeeding anti-Labor Treasurers have received and expended the State's profit on £28,000,000 worth of minerals which have been extracted from the

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country and cannot be replaced. And what have we to show for it? A few public works, largely unproductive, and 463½ miles of railway, mainly running through large estates carrying only a few bales of wool, and upon which you are losing between £70,000 and £80,000 each year; a loss which is being made up by Ability Tax and other imposts upon the people's industry.

“The lands are alienated and locked up. The minerals are being extracted. The national debt is rapidly increasing. Ten millions borrowed, ten millions paid in interest, ten millions owing. Tasmania, with all its gifts from Nature, is the only State in Australasia where year after year the people are leaving faster than they arrive. Since 1901 the departures exceeded the arrivals by about 13,000. In 1861 the total taxation per head was 32s.; in 1907 it was 68s.

“If these things are to be allowed to continue for the next ten or twelve years, what can be the inevitable result but bankruptcy for the State and crushing taxation for the individual, families broken up and scattered over the face of the earth; ruined homesteads, cold hearths, and sad hearts?”

The above is a true statement of the position of the snug little island. Not only have its people been driven out, but the education of the young has been so neglected that the State has by far the largest

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proportionate number of illiterate persons in the Commonwealth. The Party summarises its work in the following statement:—

“For the first time in the Tasmanian legislature, important political and economic principles have been raised and seriously discussed, and the anti-Labor members have been forced to seek more cogent excuse for the stagnation and retrogression of the State than the palsied plea that the ancient methods were ‘good enough for grandfather.’ The Party was able to force useful discussions and to have important divisions recorded in the journals of the House on such questions as—1. The right of every worker to a living wage. 2. The duty of the State in regard to the health of factory and shop employees. 3. The duty of the State in the matter of the education of children. 4. The stupid wrong and crying injustice of permitting one monopolist to own more land than he can use, while many of our own young men are being forced to seek homes abroad. 6. The injustice of taxing a settler's improvements—the result of his expenditure of capital and labor—instead of taxing the land-loafer's increment. 7. Fair reimbursement of members' expenses. 8. The dishonesty of increasing a huge unproductive public debt and passing it on to posterity. 9. The ruinous policy of selling the land, minerals, and other assets of the State and crediting the proceeds to revenue. 10. The needlessness of supporting two State Houses to

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do the work of one House. 11. The right of all citizens to an equal voice in the making of laws which all have to obey. 12. The need for a better method of recording members' speeches than a scrap-book compiled from the faked columns of a violently partisan and notoriously anti-Labor newspaper. These have all been made live questions during our term of Parliament; if they were ever discussed in Parliament before the advent of the Labor Party, it was in a purely academic and perfunctory way. Nobody cared, or even pretended to care. To-day the direct Parliamentary delegates of the working class care, and compel other members to at least pretend to care.”