Interesting Items/Snippets from Australia's Colonial Past
THE RIVERINE SEPARATION MOVEMENT
(From the Pastoral Times.)
At the Independence meeting, held at Deniliquin, on Tuesday the 28th ultimo, the following petition to the Home Government was adopted: -
To the Honorable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled,
The Humble Petition of the inhabitants of the Pastoral Districts, and others interested in that part of the colony of New South Wales known as “The Riverina,”
1. That your petitioners inhabit a portion of New South Wales so far removed from the capital and so geographically situated that the administration of government, legislative and executive, has proved practically inoperative; that they have so severely suffered from political disabilities that their position is no longer endurable, and that they humbly approach your honorable House to pray for relief.
2. That the colony of New South Wales is nearly 450 miles from the north to the south, and 600 miles from east to west, containing nearly 300,000 square miles. This immense territory divides itself naturally into two portions, each with peculiar features and character. New South Wales proper, with 600 miles of seaboard, contains all the mountains, mines and agricultural country with a suitable climate, while the interior district is purely pastoral, consisting of immense level arid plains, with a climate which has hitherto defeated all attempts at cultivation.
3. That the boundary proposed for the new dependency, now known as the Riverine district, is set forth in the map and description annexed, and extends from north to south, dividing the present area of New South Wales into two almost equal portions.
4. That your petitioners would point out that the proposed boundary is drawn with such regard to physical geography, that while the Pastoral Riverine District embodies fully one-half the area, it includes less than 20,000 out of the 350,000, the population of New South Wales according to the census of 1861.
5. That the representation of your petitioners being proportioned to their limited and scattered pastoral population, they are practically disenfranchised, and their large property placed at the mercy of distant and often hostile constituencies.
6. That the sheep amount to not less than 2,000,000; cattle 400,000; and horses 25,000, representing, with stations and improvements, a capital of not less than four and a half millions sterling.
7. That while the interests of your petitioners are of this magnitude, they are represented by only three, or at the most four members, out of an Assembly containing seventy-four, and that their just claims are not only over-ridden by the members for the populous towns, but met with such a spirit of actual hostility to the Riverine Province as a purely pastoral district, that your petitioners justly distrust the legislation of the Assembly.
8. That a very large revenue in proportion to the population has for years been paid by your petitioners to the Sydney Treasury, that it now amounts to 250,000 pounds per annum, or upwards of 13 pounds per head; yet they have with the greatest difficulty obtained even a fractional portion of it towards the most necessary improvements.
9. That the telegraph office in Deniliquin, the principal town, is a room rented in a hotel; that the post office a room rented in another hotel; the chief police barracks a portion o the same premises; that the judge of quarter sessions, as well as the police magistrate, hold their sittings in the Masonic Hall (built by subscription); that the only gaol in the district is a wooden lock-up of four rooms; and that three bridges in the district, all indispensable to protect life and property, were built by private individuals, after many years spent in asking the Sydney Government to erect them; that a short telegraph line to Hay, in the district of Balranald, a district with 801 voters, and yielding about 40,000 pounds per annum to the Government, was conceded only on condition that six substantial householders entered into a bond guaranteeing to the Sydney Treasury five per cent, upon the gross outlay besides working expenses.
10. That the position of your petitioners does, in fact, come emphatically within the exception made by the noble Secretary for the Colonies, when refusing separate government to another Australian district, they suffer “an intolerable political governance;” and the following facts will prove that the disabilities under which your petitioners labour cannot be removed either by extended representation or by enlarged powers of local government: -
Firstly – Because the distance of Sydney from Deniliquin is 478 miles, with a twelve days course of post, from Perry?? and Wentworth 640 miles.
Secondly – Because the highest mountain range on the continent running north and south almost throughout its entire length, cuts off the Riverine District from Sydney and the seaboard.
Thirdly – Because the district is so completely isolated and the journey overland to Sydney so difficult and tedious, that there is no direct communication between them; the judge of the country courts on his periodical visits comes by sea to Melbourne; and by the same route Crown rents and other public dues are remitted to the Sydney Treasury.
Fourthly – Because your petitioners neither export nor import, nor transact business of any kind through Sydney or its seaboard.
11. That your petitioners do not believe it is possible that these districts can be reached by railway from Sydney for generations to come; but even if they were, the position would not be changed, because such railway would intersect the navigation 250 miles from the sea, at the head of the navigable portion of the rivers, and the trade would go down stream to Echuca, 150 miles from Melbourne.
12. Your petitioners would state further that the nearest assize court is held in Goulburn, distant from Deniliquin 270?? miles; from Moama 420 miles; from Wentworth 500 miles; from Menidie 600 miles.
13. That the majority of witnesses travel these distances on foot, over trackless plains and bridgeless rivers, with considerable risk, and not infrequent loss of life; while those who can afford to do so proceed by Melbourne and Sydney, a distance to and from of about 2400 miles, at an expense of nearly 100 pounds. Convictions are consequently so difficult that felonies are compounded or silently submitted to; even undoubted murderers have escaped through the absence of witnesses.
14. That your petitioners suffer the greatest inconvenience in respect to registering title deeds, liens, and mortgages, having to employ attorneys in Melbourne, who engage attorneys in Sydney to transact their business at the Registrar-General’s and other Government Offices.
15. Your petitioners respectfully submit that for these reasons their connection with New South Wales is a political and geographical illusion.
16. That while the colony of New South Wales, although incapable of governing your petitioners, desires to retain them, the colonists of Victoria are still more anxious to annex the Riverina District to that colony.
17. That your petitioners strongly object to a political connection with either; they desire a government separate and independent of both, for the following reasons: -
Firstly. – Because their district is of a special nature, requiring special management for the development of its resources. New South Wales and Victoria are undulating and within the influence of rain and temperature from oceans and mountains, so that they are essentially fit for cultivation, while the Riverine District is a portion of the great plains of the interior, with its arid climate and scorching siroccos, and is essentially pastoral.
That a local independent Government would apply the resources of our petitioners to their special requirements, by collecting and distributing water, canalizing the water-courses (now chains of precarious holes in summer), and opening up to the settlers by lines of wells our great plains, sometimes 200 miles across without surface water.
That experience has proved to your petitioners that whether attached as a distant dependency to New South Wales or Victoria, your petitioners must content themselves wit an insignificant share of their own money, grudgingly given for improvements neither understood nor appreciated by the representatives of the sea-board towns.
Secondly. – Because the Riverine District is almost purely pastoral, and a local Government, while affording every scope and facility for cultivation, will give security and encouragement to the pastoral occupant; the Legislature of New South Wales and Victoria, on the other hand, have for years encouraged agriculture alone, ignoring the pastoral interest, treating it as an evil to be got rid of – a bare hindrance to agricultural settlement.
18. That the country has hitherto been depastured only along the rivers and natural watercourses, leaving nearly 100,000 square miles of the pastoral land wholly unavailable. By sinking wells, forming tanks and reservoirs on these now desert plains, the Riverine District would carry twenty millions of sheep, and get nearly fifty millions pounds of wool in value four millions sterling, to the supply of Great Britain, and would support a population of 250,000 most profitable consumers of British manufactures.
19. To effect this, at least five millions sterling must be invested under peculiarly difficult circumstances; your petitioners feel convinced that under the Government either of Sydney or Melbourne, pastoral occupation would still be held subordinate to an impossible agricultural development, and be surrounded with such restrictions and uncertainty that these millions of acres of salt-bush plain must remain what they are now – a parched and trackless waste.
20. Your petitioners respectfully represent to your honorable House that the ey believe the revenue now derived from these districts in rents from Crown Lands, assessments on the same, from excisable goods, and from other sources, amounts to 250,000 pounds.
21. Finally, your petitioners would respectfully and most humbly appeal to your honorable House for relief from their present political degradation and anomalous position. Very extensive producers of the most endurable and valuable staples of these colonies, and having invested between four and five millions sterling in the improvements of the Riverina District, they have virtually no voice in the Parliament of New South Wales. Almost isolated from the seat of Government not only by distance, but by the geographical features of the country, they have, as shown in this their respectful petition, no commercial relationship with Sydney or its sea-board, so that their connection with New South Wales is purely arbitrary. With a territory of a special nature, - with requirements particular to itself, - sufficiently large and valuable to form a separate dependency, - with a population willing and able to support a separate Government, your petitioners would humbly submit to your honorable House that they are in a position respectfully to claim the right inherent in them as British subjects – the right to govern and to tax themselves.
Your petitioners would therefore humbly pray that your honorable House would take these matters into your consideration and grant to your petitioners a separate Government with such a constitution as your honorable House may deem fit.
And your petitioners will for ever pray, &tc.