Democracy at work
(b) Land, labour, and the popular welfare
Immigration — Anti-Chinese legislation — First intercolonial conference — Land legislation — Torrens Real Property Act — Labour questions — Trade union congresses — Labour politics — Great maritime strike — The Labour Party — Wages board system — Education, ‘free, compulsory, and secular’ — The Universities — Sea-routes and steam-ships — Railways and gauges.
For the upbuilding of Australia, the first need was population to occupy its empty spaces and set its industries throbbing. The Wakefield system had provided for the application of the proceeds of land sales to the stimulation of a steady flow of immigrants from Great Britain, and a New South Wales committee on immigration which sat under the chairmanship of Chief Justice Forbes in 1835 strongly recommended that the land revenue should be ‘held sacred’ for this purpose. In 1842 Governor Gipps announced it as his intention to apply ‘the whole of the money derived in any shape from land to the purposes of immigration.’ But this policy was never consistently followed in any part of Australia.
In the days when the great squatting properties were being formed the landowners were by no means favourable to the encouragement of a constant stream of immigrant settlers. As long as they could obtain sufficient labour to shear their sheep and tend their herds they were content. They did not wish to see the good lands cut up among farmers, but considered that the country would fare better — or at all events that they themselves would derive larger profits — from the allocation of these areas among a wealthy class of sheep and cattle magnates. They were satisfied with convict labour; some advocated the introduction of coolie labour from China. But they were suspicious of the free immigration of a British peasantry and farming class, who would probably — as indeed they did — clamour for the breaking up of the large estates. Various systems of ‘bounty,’ ‘assisted,’ and ‘nominated’ immigration were, however, tried between the period of the thirties and that of the establishment of the Commonwealth, which was empowered under the federal constitution to assume control of immigration. In 1837 and later years George Fife Angas introduced a large immigration of German families to South Australia, where they proved themselves to be very valuable settlers. Dr. Lang also went out as an immigration missionary in behalf of his pet colonies of Victoria and Queensland, and wrote books extolling their attractions.
As early as 1841 a committee of the Legislative Council of New South Wales considered the advisableness of introducing coolie labour from Asia. The Committee reported strongly against the proposal, chiefly on two grounds. First, the introduction of an alien and servile element was deemed to be undesirable because it would alter the racial character of the population. It would prevent the maintenance in Australia of ‘a social and political state corresponding with that of the country from which it owes its origin.’ Secondly, coolie labour would compete with immigrants from Great Britain, and so seriously lower wages that ultimately coolie labour only would be imported. This view was supported by the ablest of Australian governors, and by statesmen in Great Britain who gave attention to Australian affairs. Sir Richard Bourke wrote that the introduction of coolie labour would mean ‘a sacrifice of permanent advantage to temporary expediency’; and Lord Glenelg, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, emphatically declared that the introduction of Asiatic labour would bring agricultural work in Australia into disrepute, and consequently check the immigration of labourers from Great Britain. The clear expression of these views in the late thirties and early forties of the nineteenth century was an interesting prelude to the policy which Australia was hereafter to lay down as essential to her existence as a nation of European origin.
A disposition to exercise a filtering care in the character of immigration made itself apparent as soon as representative institutions got to work. The South Australian constitution had barred that province against the reception of convicts from the beginning; and the first Legislative Council of Victoria passed very stringent Acts against the incursion of expirees and ticket-of-leave men from Tasmania. The influx of Chinese to the gold-fields drew attention to the danger that menaced Australia from the fact that her shores lay within a few days’ steaming of the overcrowded areas of Asia. In 1858 there were 33,000 Chinese on the Victorian gold-fields, whilst five years before there had been fewer than 2,000. The antipathy to them existed mainly among the miners and artisans, but there were others also who on broad grounds considered that it was undesirable to permit an admixture of races in this sparsely populated land.
The first Act to limit Chinese immigration was passed in Victoria in 1855. It imposed a poll-tax of £10 on each Chinese immigrant, and forbade ships to carry more than one Chinese passenger for every ten tons of the vessel’s tonnage. Four years later the law was stiffened by requiring Chinese to pay a residence tax of £4 per annum. This legislation was not disallowed by the Crown, though the Secretary of State wrote that it was considered highly objectionable in principle. Queensland and New South Wales also became uneasy about Chinese immigration. Both colonies passed stringent measures. Parkes was confronted with an awkward anti-Chinese feeling in 1888. The British Government at this time was disposed to frown upon the exclusion policy, which they did not regard as being in harmony with British treaties with China. Lord Salisbury, then Foreign Secretary, had received a protest from the Chinese Ambassador. But it was impossible to disregard the repugnance of the people for whose welfare the various Australian Governments were responsible. There were riots in Brisbane, and mob violence on the gold-fields created a dangerous situation. Parkes felt it to be necessary to speak plainly. The Australians, he publicly declared, were not ‘school-children who can be called to account by the Prime Minister of England’; and ‘neither for Her Majesty’s ships of war, nor for Her Majesty’s representatives, nor for the Secretary of State, do we intend to turn aside from our purpose, which is to terminate the landing of the Chinese on these shores for ever.’
The legal right of a British colony to exclude aliens whom it does not desire to admit within its borders was determined in the Victorian case of Toy versus Musgrove. In this case a Chinese commonly known as Ah Toy — his full name was Chung Teong Toy — came to Victoria in 1888 in the ship Afghan. He was one of 268 Chinese in the vessel. That number was 254 in excess of the number of Chinese who could be admitted from a vessel of the Afghan’s tonnage, under the Victorian law. The collector of Customs at Melbourne, Musgrove, acting under instructions from the Minister of his department, refused to allow these persons to land. Ah Toy thereupon brought an action in the Supreme Court of Victoria, to test the legality of his exclusion. The Supreme Court, by a majority of four judges against two (Chief Justice Higinbotham and Mr. Justice Kerferd being the minority) decided in favour of Ah Toy. But the Government of Victoria appealed to the Privy Council, the highest court of appeal in the British Empire in cases from the colonies. The Privy Council, in 1891, decided that ‘an alien has not a legal right, enforceable by action, to enter a British colony.’ That judgment set at rest all doubt as to the right of the Australian colonies to pass laws to exclude Chinese, or any other aliens, if they thought it prudent to do so.
The common feeling on this burning question induced Parkes to call a conference of representatives of the various Governments to consider a common line of policy, and that inter-colonial conference, held in June 1888, brought all the colonies to a common line of action upon a matter of public policy.
The land legislation of Australia might very well be described by the phrase which Oliver Cromwell used concerning the laws of England — ‘an ungodly jumble.’ In all the colonies, in the beginning, it was easy to get land. The aim of Government was to induce people to settle. An unmeasured space waited occupation. Naturally, the best land soon became the possession of comparatively few people, who acquired it cheaply and held it in large estates. But, as population increased, these large holdings were found to be inconvenient. Broadly speaking, the aim of Governments, since the era of responsible government, was that of settling a yeomanry. John Robertson’s ‘free selection before survey’ policy in New South Wales, Charles Gavan Duffy’s Land Act in Victoria in 1862, the Homesteads Act of Queensland, and many other Land Acts, had this aim in view. In all the States there were fierce conflicts between the squatters, who got there first, and the selectors, who complained that the good land had mostly gone before they were born; that the lands which were fit for cultivation were being used for feeding sheep, whilst the lands which were quite good enough for sheep but doubtfully good enough to cultivate were all that were available for the higher purpose. To the student of Australian history it will appear that such a conflict of interests was bound to arise. It could only have been avoided if the Government, from the commencement, had withheld land from those who wanted to use it for the purposes for which it was at the time most profitably adapted; or if some rigorous prescription of areas had been applied.
In later years various expedients for decreasing the great estates have been attempted: compulsory repurchase and the imposition of taxation on unimproved land values being the favourite methods. Many experiments failed. Duffy’s scheme for settling farmers on crown lands on easy terms resulted in much ‘dummying’ by squatters and others who put up their own nominees to acquire land for them; and Robertson’s free selection policy resulted in ‘peacocking’ by squatters who induced sham selectors — really agents of their own — to apply for and obtain the best part of leased runs on Crown lands. Many a well-intentioned act that aimed at creating opportunities for small farmers, in the long run made large estates bigger. Moreover, the diversion of much of the energy of younger generations to manufacturing industries, which sprang up behind the barrier of customs duties, weakened the pressure upon the country areas. The policy of water conservation and irrigation, in some localities, has occasioned a degree of intense culture upon small areas that would have seemed impossible to former generations.
South Australia had much less difficulty with her squatters and her land than had the other colonies. The trouble in New South Wales and Victoria was that squatters had been allowed to occupy leased runs and to spend money in making improvements upon them, without any really clear reservation of the right of the Crown to dispose of the lands to farmers in smaller areas; and the squatters, therefore, resented the intrusion of late comers who wished to pick out the best pieces for settlement. But South Australia laid down in wide terms a clear and simple rule which reserved to the Government the right at any time to resume leased lands ‘for any purpose of public defence, safety, improvement, convenience, or utility.’ The handling of land questions in South Australia was marked by forethought and practical wisdom; and in one conspicuous particular she devised legislation which has been copied with beneficial results not only throughout Australia but also in many colonies of foreign nations.
That reform was the Land Transfer Act, commonly known as the Torrens Act. Robert Torrens was the collector of customs at Port Adelaide. He was not a lawyer, and he knew little about the intricacies of the legal methods of land transfer which had been copied in Australia from Great Britain. If a man bought a piece of land, he became possessed of a sheet of parchment whereon was engrossed at great length the tale of the previous ownerships of the property. These parchment title-deeds were costly, and the phraseology of them, which only a legal specialist could profess to understand, had been the subject of innumerable judicial decisions. Torrens knew, from his experience as a customs officer, that shipping was bought and sold without all this engrossing of prolix jargon. There was an official register in which the change of ownership of a vessel was entered, and a simple certificate from the registrar was a sufficient token that the person named in it was the legal owner. Torrens asked himself why such a cheap and easy method should not be adapted to the transfer of land.
When South Australia acquired responsible government Torrens entered Parliament as member for Adelaide, and commenced to advocate his improved system. But he was opposed and ridiculed. Lawyers declared that land had been transferred by means of title-deeds from time immemorial, and that no other method would give an owner security of tenure. The Chief Justice said that mere registration would not suffice. When Torrens brought a bill embodying his suggestions before Parliament he was laughed at. How could a layman presume to argue that another method was easy and safe, when experienced lawyers assured him that it would never do? But Torrens insisted that it would do, and the South Australian Parliament, despite the opposition of the legal members, believed him. The Real Property Act was passed in 1858, and Torrens himself, resigning his seat in Parliament, was appointed to draw up the regulations under it, and superintend their working.
The result was completely successful. A landowner who registered his property under the Torrens Act received the duplicate of a certificate which the office retained; and this was perfect evidence of his possession. If he wished to sell, the purchaser obtained the certificate from him, and, on the sale being registered, the change of ownership was complete; if he wished to mortgage, the certificate was taken to the Registrar’s Office, and the mortgage was marked upon it. There was no delay, the process was cheap, and anybody could, by paying a small fee, find out at the Registrar’s Office who owned any piece of land at any time.
The other Australian colonies very rapidly adopted the Torrens system, and it was likewise applied in the French colonies. Indeed, Leroy-Beaulieu, in his great treatise on Colonization among Modern Peoples, states that such a system of land transfer is essential to the success of a colony. He claims (vol. ii, p. 25) that the idea had a Frenchman for its ‘inventor’ thirty or forty years before it was worked out by Torrens in South Australia. It may be so; but Torrens certainly derived his idea from his experience among shipping, as explained above, not from any book or outside suggestion.
In the last quarter of the nineteenth century labour questions began to assume an importance which they had not previously had, though there was as yet no sign of the growth of a distinct Labour Party in Australian politics. The trade unions, in the beginning, were simply industrial organizations, modelled on the lines of English societies of the same kind; and, as far as concerns their purely industrial functions, they have retained their original character. The earliest record of a combination of workmen to raise wages occurred in 1837, when a meeting of ship owners in Sydney was held to consider the demand made by seamen and labourers usually employed in the outfit of vessels that their wage should be raised from 3s. to 4s. per day. The demand was resisted because it ‘did not arise from scarcity of seamen or labourers, nor from inadequacy of wages hitherto paid,’ but from ‘combination on the part of the men, which they believe they can carry into effect at this important and busy season of the year.’
But there is no clear evidence of the existence of organized trade unions before the beginning of the gold-fields era. There was a Masons’ Society in Melbourne in 1850, but whether it was a true trade union is not clear. In 1855, however, there were certainly unions of stonemasons both in Sydney and Melbourne, and they adopted from a kindred society in the same trade in Otago, New Zealand, the idea of agitating for an eight-hours working day. The eight-hours day, like trade unionism itself, and like the political projects of the Chartists, was an English working-class ideal. It was adopted in nearly all trades in which there were trade unions. After 1879 there were several trade union congresses; and the fact that the first gathering of the kind took place several years before the first inter-colonial conference of politicians on any question of public interest is noteworthy.
The object of these congresses was primarily to consider matters of concern to trade unions; but there were also manifestations of political tendency. Thus the congress of 1884 passed a resolution strongly favouring the payment of members of Parliament in those colonies where the system did not yet prevail, and one reason given for it was that it would enable the working class ‘to get proper men to represent them, men who understood and knew how to advocate their wants.’
But the idea of working class representation was far other than that of forming a distinct Labour Party. The unionists of the congresses hoped at most to return a sufficient number of members of Parliament for electorates in which there were working class majorities, to influence legislation on advanced liberal lines. It was not till after 1890 that labour groups began to appear as distinct political factors, and not till after the establishment of the Commonwealth that they were serious competitors for power in the political arena.
The year 1890 was the pivot of the movement. A great maritime strike occurred in that year. A steamship captain dismissed a fireman who was a member of the Seamen’s Union. The union took up the man’s cause, and a strike commenced. At about the same time a society of ships’ officers, having been unable to secure an increase of pay, and observing that trade union methods were generally more successful than their own had been, took steps to affiliate with the Trades Hall Council of Melbourne. To this the ship owners strongly objected. They required that the officers’ society should renounce the connexion before consideration was given to their rates of pay. But the society objected to its freedom to join with others being interfered with, and refused. A strike of officers ensued; and the seamen, firemen, and wharf-labourers decided to support them by striking also; so that the whole shipping trade was paralysed.
The dispute rapidly spread to other trades, for the unionists believed themselves to be face to face with an endeavour on the part of the employers to crush the unions from which they derived protection. A general unrest affected organized labour throughout Australia. The Shearers’ Union went on strike at the very time when the fleeces were ready to be cut. The issue was joined between organized labour and combined capital — between workmen who would only negotiate through their unions and objected to work with non-unionists, and employers who maintained their right to employ ‘free labour.’
The maritime strike lasted three months, and was a cause of intense bitterness. It ended when the workmen had nearly exhausted their funds and saw their unions brought to the verge of bankruptcy. For they were fighting a very wealthy combination of employers, who were determined, as some of their spokesmen said, to ‘break Trades Hall domination.’ But the failure of 1890 changed the character of Australian unionism, and, ultimately, of Australian politics. The union leaders now began to preach the necessity for political aggression. The fight must be transferred to the legislative chambers. Parliamentary action must achieve what strikes had failed to win.
The Labour Party from this period became an aggressive political organization with independent aims. As long as its elected representatives were not strong enough to stand alone, they threw their weight into the scale in favour of policies as nearly in conformity with their own ideals as they could induce other parties to propose. Sometimes they managed to count almost as many votes as either of the two other parties, and then they supported the one which would make most concessions to them. In only one colony did a Labour Government hoist itself into being before Federation, namely, in Queensland, where in 1899 Anderson Dawson, the labour leader in the Legislative Assembly, formed a Ministry which endured only a few days. But since 1900 there have been several Labour Governments in the Commonwealth, and in every State.
The growth of manufacturing industries naturally brought into existence a number of laws regulating factories. Much attention was directed to legal methods of settling disputes between employers and workmen. The Victorian Wages Board system did not, however, originate from a desire to prevent strikes, though it has been used for that purpose, but as a means of suppressing ‘sweating’ in certain industries. Under cover of protective duties trades had sprung up in which there was fierce competition to supply a very limited market, and the inquiries of a Commission showed that the remuneration of labour in them was miserably low. In 1895, therefore, Alexander Peacock, the minister responsible for factory inspection in the Ministry of Sir George Turner, devised the plan of giving power to the Government to appoint a wages board for any industry in which it appeared desirable that wages should be fixed by such an agency. A Wages Board consisted of an equal number of members representing employers and employed — ‘a jury of trade experts’ — presided over by a chairman who was not interested in the industry affected. It might fix wages, hours of labour, and piecework rates, and lay down rules for the conduct of the industry; and its determinations had the force of law. The system proved successful in the ‘sweated’ industries, and has since been greatly extended; so that in 1923 there were 175 Wages Boards operating in Victoria. The alternative to the Wages Board method of regulating wages and conditions of labour is the Arbitration Court method, which has been preferred by some States. These methods have been adopted since the rise of the Labour Party as a political force.
Education in Australia virtually has no history till after constitutional government was inaugurated. There were of course schools before then, and there were inquiries and experiments, but no real educational policy. The convict schoolmaster was at first in charge. His advertisements may be read in early Sydney newspapers: an excellent education offered at moderate fees; classics extra! Robert Lowe directed attention to the need for an improvement in 1844, when a committee under his presidency reported that more than half the children in New South Wales received no education whatever. The establishment of a Board of National Education in 1848 brought about a substantial improvement. But it was Henry Parkes, by his Public Schools Act of 1867, who set in operation the system which continued to satisfy the demands of the country till recent times, when fresh impulses were given to educational effort by a radical improvement of method, a clearer perception of aim, and a sounder system for training teachers.
The strenuous souls who fought for protection, land reform, the ballot, and manhood suffrage in the stormy years after 1855, had an educational ideal likewise. The educational system of the State must be ‘free, compulsory, and secular.’ In Victoria their policy was embodied in a bill introduced by Wilberforce Stephen in 1872. It set up a Department of Public Instruction, it made school attendance obligatory, it provided for opening schools throughout the country, and it prohibited teachers from giving other than secular instruction to the scholars. The Act, which came into force in 1873, has had many assailants, and the educational system of Victoria has in later years been very greatly improved, but fundamentally it remains as it was established under Wilberforce Stephen’s measure. In all the Australian States there is provided a clear and fairly easy path for the studious youth from the State school to the University.
Not the least of good reasons for holding the name of Wentworth in remembrance is that he was the initiator of the movement for the founding of the first Australian University, that of Sydney. He brought the subject before the Legislative Council in 1849, and three years later had the satisfaction to witness the opening of the institution. The University of Melbourne (1853) came into being owing to the suggestion of Childers, whose first official post was that of Inspector of Schools, and whose work in that capacity convinced him that the corner-stone of any scheme for raising the standard of learning in the country must be a University. Latrobe, the Lieutenant-Governor, gave his cordial support, and when the scheme reached fruition the first Chancellor, Redmond Barry, watched over the early fortunes of the University of Melbourne with paternal devotion. The University of Adelaide (1874) was the third to arise, that of Tasmania (1890) the fourth. The Universities of Queensland (1910) and Western Australia (1911) were the latest-born seats of the higher learning to be founded. All of them admit women to their degrees, following the example set by Melbourne, which took this step at the instance of the distinguished historian Charles Henry Pearson. In 1879, Pearson, while Minister of Education in Victoria, introduced a bill which provided that the degrees and diplomas granted by the University should be available to both sexes. As the bill did not pass in that year, owing to pressure of parliamentary business, the Council of the University forthwith decided to admit women to degree courses. Pearson’s bill was introduced again in 1880 in order to remove any doubt as to the legality of the University’s action, and was passed by the legislature. Legislation for a similar purpose was passed in respect to the University of Adelaide in 1880.
All the Universities are supported by Government grants, and some of them have also benefited from generous gifts by wealthy citizens. The Challis bequest gave Sydney an endowment of over a quarter of a million pounds, and the Russell bequest added an additional hundred thousand pounds to the funds. Adelaide received nearly a hundred thousand pounds from Sir Thomas Elder. The teaching functions have been aided by these and other endowments, and research has been promoted not only by the encouragement of prizes, but also under the inspiration of men whose contributions to knowledge have won for themselves distinction and for their Universities honour throughout the world of culture. The early student of Melbourne who listened to the lectures of Hearn on constitutional history sat at the feet of a master whose work was incomparably excellent in its day and is still important. A Sydney student in later times might pursue his work in geology under the direction of the discoverer of the south magnetic pole, Edgeworth David; and a Melbourne student of biology might learn more than his text-books could tell him from one whose original researches have revolutionized a branch of anthropology, Baldwin Spencer.
Australia is an offshoot of Europe, and its culture is European; but, in comparison with North America, which is in the like case, it labours under the disadvantage of being remote from the source. During the first half-century of settlement the sea voyage generally occupied four months, or longer if unfavourable winds were encountered; and the discovery of a route which greatly shortened the time did not occur until the steamship was on the point of displacing the sailing vessel in the passenger traffic. It was in the forties of the nineteenth century that the American naval lieutenant, M. F. Maury, conducted his important scientific researches into the courses of winds and currents, and showed that if captains of ships outward bound from England to Australia, instead of running across the Indian Ocean from the Cape of Good Hope almost in a direct line, would dip down into the latitude of 48 degrees south, they would invariably meet with strong westerly winds and long rolling seas which would carry them forward very rapidly. By following his route, sailing ships made astonishingly quick runs. The James Baines in 1854 ran from Liverpool to Melbourne in sixty-three days and returned by way of Cape Horn to Liverpool in sixty-nine days, making the circuit of the globe in one hundred and thirty-two days. The Marco Polo and other clipper ships famous in their day cut down the old sailing time by one-half. But mariners had only discovered how much more dependable the winds might be than their predecessors had supposed, when steam began to enable their services to be dispensed with. In 1856 the Peninsula and Oriental Company commenced to trade with Australia, and in later years the Australian has come to think himself imperfectly served if he is not able to read in Adelaide or Sydney letters posted in England a month before. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 shortened the voyage between Australia and England, and the increased traffic led naturally to improvements in the quality as well as the speed of the service.
The submarine cable has still more closely linked up this out-lying continent with Great Britain. There had been cable communication between London and the East for some years before the system was extended to Australia. In those days there was little co-operation between the colonies. Particularist lines of policy were pursued by each of them. The cable ought to have been a joint concern; but, failing that, the South Australian Government had the enterprise to step forward and do the necessary connecting work. She had in her service a skilful electrician in Charles Todd, who superintended the construction of an overland telegraph line 1,970 miles in length, following McDouall Stuart’s track through the centre of Australia to Port Darwin. There it was connected with a deep-sea cable laid by an English company between Port Darwin and Java. The opening of this line in 1871 placed Australia and London within a few hours’ communication. In 1902 another cable route was completed, linking up Brisbane with Vancouver across the Pacific. This line is the joint property of the Governments of Australia, Great Britain, Canada, and New Zealand.
The lack of co-operation between colonies which for too many years regarded each other as rivals instead of partners in the development of a great heritage had an unfortunate consequence in the era of railway construction. Efforts were made to arrive at an agreement to build to a common gauge, but they failed. Gladstone, while Colonial Secretary in 1846, recommended the adoption of a 4 ft. 8 1/2 in. gauge, but that was four years before the first line from Sydney to Goulburn was constructed. There was no railway in Victoria till after the gold diggings began, the first length having been from Melbourne to the Port (Hobson’s Bay) in 1854. The first lines were owned by companies, but all the colonies afterwards determined to make railway building and railway policy state concerns.
In 1852 New South Wales appointed an Irish engineer-in-chief, who had been accustomed to the 5 ft. 3 in. gauge in Ireland, and who persuaded the Government to adopt that gauge, despite the advice of the Colonial Secretary. Victoria and South Australia, desiring to build to the same gauge as the principal colony, decided to follow suit, and both commenced to construct 5 ft. 3 in. railways. But meanwhile New South Wales appointed a new engineer-in-chief, a Scotsman, who was an intense partisan of the standard, or 4 ft. 8 1/2 in. gauge, and he ‘left no stone unturned to bring New South Wales back to her first love, regardless of keeping faith with the other colonies, whose railways were now progressing with comparative rapidity, and who had already reversed their policy once in order to keep in line with New South Wales.’ The Scotch engineer won his way, the 1852 Act was repealed in 1855, and ‘the most lamentable engineering disaster in Australia was an accomplished fact.’ (Professor W. C. Kernot, in Proceedings of Victorian Institute of Engineers, vol. vii, p. 73.)
The result was that traffic has ever since been incommoded and trade made costlier by a break of gauge at the border between the two States. By 1920 there were 22,000 miles of railway in the country, with connexion between all the State capitals. The Commonwealth line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie (1,051 miles) was opened in 1917, completing a chain of lines from east to west.
An ever-increasing variety in the industries of Australia has enlarged the possibilities of life for her people; and improvements in agricultural methods have made country work easier and more pleasant. Much of the rough, heartbreaking pioneer labour has been done; not all by any means, but aids and agencies are available to the enterprising man of the twentieth century which were not within the reach of his forbears half a century ago. He is helped and encouraged by the State, which is the whole community of which he is a member. Every country has its own peculiar problems to solve, and Australia has presented many tough difficulties. They have been attacked with the energy and the adaptability which have been the outstanding qualities of the Anglo-Saxon colonizing genius; and the crowning result of democratic government in these circumstances has been the creation for the country of the passionate attachment of an intelligent and virile people.
Ernest Scott, A Short History of Australia, London: Oxford University Press, 6th edition, 1936, pages 268-285