18 MAY 1929, Page 11


A LETTER FROM MELBOURNE. [To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] Sia,—Australia, having had a fairly good season for its two principal exports, wool and wheat, regards the prospects of the current year with cheerful optimism, though we have recently had a salutary reminder from four distinguished visiting Englishmen known as "The Big Four" that we are spending more money than we ought. The trouble is that most of the money we spend is borrowed and further, that we are not spending it wisely. However, the Australian is essen- tially a care-free person, and has never known anything of the impoverishment and distress of older countries, and the warning of the "Big Four" will not be generally heeded.

In the new Session of Parliament Mr. Bruce, our respected and popular Prime Minister, is having a great deal of criticism and hostility to meet for having sold the Commonwealth line of steamers. He will have to fight harder than he has ever fought before against the open attacks of the Labour Party and the ill-concealed hostility of the Country Party, which is sometimes with him and sometimes " agin ' him.

Australia is nominally a "Great Democracy." In fact, we are a very snobbish people, and the repeated affirmations of Labour leaders that there are and should be "no class distinctions" are everywhere nullified by evidence of the existence in this country of the same social castes which obtain in older and more sophisticated lands.

The " Talkies " have at length arrived in Australia and have created quite a sensation, but this will probably wear off, though Australians are wonderful devotees of the film. It is a strange reflection that thousands of young men and women in this great continent who have never seen a large-sized town, and have been born and bred in the Great Outback derive their impressions of the world at large chiefly from American films. In the most remote districts, far from railways and towns, the ubiquitous film finds its way, telling its strange and distorted message to these untutored minds who receive their first and only impression of, for example, an English gentleman from a crude film.

The great event of the year will be the opening of the Trans. Continental Air Mail from Perth in the Far West to Sydney in the Far East—a distance of roughly 2,500 miles. The

route is being prepared, the aeroplanes are on their way, and the service should be under way before you have this letter. Not only this, however, it will be possible to travel across Australia from North to South, in comparative comfort, from Adelaide to Darwin, by means of the new railway which is to be taken to the centre of .the continent at Alice Springs,. prom Alice Springs travellers will go by motor. to the railhead of the Darwin railway and thence to Darwin, the time of the complete journey being five days. Less than fifty years ago hardy explorers set out on this adventurous trip equipped with camel trains and well digging appliances.

The cricket season having been wound - up in a manner which we find quite unsatisfying, the country is turning its attention to football. The national game here is played Under what are known as "Australian Rules," a hybrid sort of game between Rugby and Soccer in which kicking and catching the ball—oval shaped—are the principal fealties. The popularity of Rugby, however, is growing; -dile in large Measure to the migrants who come out here in large numbers from the -Rugby playing districts of the "Old Country."

The question of the future of our aboriginals has been raised in an acute form lately by news of an increasing number of attacks.by the blacks on white settlers. , Australians as a whole are kindly disposed towards these Peer Sthne -Age people Whom we have rudely dispossessed of their own lands, but their future is a knotty Problein: - Of course, they are rapidly dying out, but there are still a very large and unknown number in the Far Nor'-West of whom very little is known save that they are very wild. Another problem, offshoot of the aboriginal one, is the increasing number of half-castes, or "Yellows," as they are termed. These poor creatures' plight is a desperate one, and it will be seen that white Australia is not without its racial problems.

Oil and rumours of oil have been plentiful in past months and mime millions of pounds have been subscribed by the public to enable certain so-called promising fields to be examined. Hitherto no flowing oil has been found in the length and breadth of the continent, and those whose opinion is worth while consider that it will never be found. Apparently the great oil belt of the East passes along, and outside of, the northern fringe of Australia, but this fact does-not prevent- the 21 shares of certain companies standing at-the abnormal figure of 27—and without a sign of oil having been found ! . •

Lord Somers, who has been Governor of Victoria for two years, is taking a trip to England with Lady Somers. They have made themselves very well liked here,-in a country where envoys from England have a difficult row to hoe. It certainly seems ridiculous that a country of six million people should require six -State Governors and six State Parliaments, not to mention a Governor-General, and- a -Commonwealth Parliament which overrides and frequently clashes with one or other of the States.

But Australians, like many other people, take little interest in their politics. We, Sir, have a penchant for the races and for gambling generally. We have-plenty of ready magi, some of which has come- in return for Our woel and our wheat and the remainder of which we have borrowed from you. We have had a short life of barely, a century, and some of the original pioneers are among _us to-day. Except for an occasional drought, innumerable strikes, two of which are dew pending, and several indigenous and imported pests, we have no worries or troubles.' The strong right arm of England and her fleet protects us and olir standard of a "White Australia." We have the highest wages in the world and we work when we feel like it. One day perhaps Nemesis will arrive, but in the meantime we are well content to bask in the warmth of the Australian sun and watch the wool grow on the sheep's backs and our wheatfields ripen,