(FROM OUR OWN COORRESPONDENT.)
PERTH, FEB. 25.
The excitement in political circles is great just at present. I mentioned in a former letter the agitation which had been carried on of late about the route which the proposed railway to the eastern districts should take— three different centres of agricultural popula- tion advocating three different lines, and con- demning the action of each other as selfish and short sighted. But this agitation did not arouse much general interest, because it was felt that the whole matter was probably visionary, most people strongly doubting whether the Colonial office would sanc- tion any further loan expenditure in the present somewhat-embarrassed condition of our Treasury chest. Great, therefore, waa the surpnae and satisfaction when on Mon- day last Lord Gifford received a heliogram from the Governor, who is staying at the summer residence on Rottnest Island, direct- ing him to issue a proclamation immediately summoning members to a session of Coun- cil on the 21st of March The English mail had arrived on the previous Saturday, and this hasty decision to call Council to gether at so early a date could have but one meaning, and assurance was made doubly sure when next day it became known that the Attorney General had received instructions to draft a Loan Bill
This prompt acquiescence on the part of the Colonial Office in such important pro- posals is very unusual. On every previous occasion, when the Legislature has asked per- mission to undertake any important work of this nature, long delays have occurred. Ex- planations and further particulars have in- variably been required, reconsideration of de- tails has been suggested, and the long waiting to which the country has been subjected has been disheartening in the extreme. The only way in which I can account for Lord Kimberley's much more satisfactory action in the present case in that he probably is well aware of the strong feeling in favour of responsible govern- meut which exists in some sections of our community and rightly appreciating the position of affairs, has deemed it advisable to avoid anything which might tend to strengthen the hands of those whose object it is to force the colony into undertaking political responsibilities for which it is not prepared
I think it will be found that the Secretary of State has not sanctioned the proposals of the Legislature as a whole but that, unwilling to oppose any delny to the progress of the rails way, he has authorised the raising of a suffi-
cient amount for carrying on that particular work, leaving the question of the telegraph line to the north west and other details for subsequent arrangement. Enough has already leaked out to make this almost a certainty.
The Governor returned to-day from Rottnest, and I suppose in a few days we shall hear full particulars-unless, indeed, it is considered advisable to keep the contents of the Secre- tary of States despatches a secret until Council meets which is not impossible, for the present Administration has never been accused, even by its worst enemies, of being indiscreetly over-communicative.
It ia understood that at the approaching session no other business will be brought for- ward by the Government except the Railway Loan Bill, but private members will probably have questions to ask, and the state of the public finances will no doubt be exhaustively discussed. The returns of revenue and expenditure for the last quarter of the past year have just been published and the public have made the disheartening discovery that the colony entered upon the year 1881 £7 000 deeper in debt than it did upon the year preceding The revenue for the past year was a good one-£180,000, but the expenditure exceeded the revenue by £21,000 This was in part cauaed by the paying-off of certain liabilities, but the estimates have been exceeded by some £9,000, and in view of the assurances given during the course of last session that the Government fully recognised the impro- priety of thus exceeding estimates and had fully determined to abstain from such irregu- larity in future the discovery that no attempt has apparently been made to adhere any more closely to appropriation than had for- merly been usual has given ground for well- founded complaint A commission is now sitting to inquire into departmental ex- penditure with a view to reducing the civil establishment. It is, I believe improbable that the members will re- commend reductions large enough to liberate much revenue, for although our civil service appears to be quite out of proportion to the number of the population, when it is recol- lected over how enormous an area that popu- lation is scattered, the causes which lead to what seems at first sight an extravagant es- tablishment become at once apparent. Anything more in the way of taxation could scarcely be imposed upon the people, so, unless we can contrive to increase our numbers by immigration of which there seems but little prospect it is difficult to see how our resources are to meet the steadily increasing expenditure which progres- sion must necessarily entail Some bene- fit we may hope to derive from the advance of pastoral enterprise The suc- cessful settlement of the Fitzroy would do much to ensure prosperity The country, as yet, is of course untried, but fortunately those who are prepared to test its capabilities are by no means few. The number of acres applied for when the applications were opened on the 1st of this month was 39,000,000. But a very large number of these applications were for the same country, and only 8,000,000 have been allotted. A good many Victorians were amongst the appli- cants, but in the balloting not many of them were fortunate. Amongst other other out- siders. The Duke of Manchester applied for a couple of hundred thousand acres, but his applications were not gazetted "approved,"
others who wanted the same country having drawn an earlier number than himself.
Since I last wrote the north west coast has been visited by a fearful storm, which has caused much destruction of property Mr John Brockman a gentleman engaged in pearling pursuits lately sent a graphic account of the disaster to the West Australian and from his description it would appear that a worse willy willy, as these north west tor- nadoes are locally called, has never been known, even in a region where they are very frequent and very severe. Mr Brockman says that he, with some 12 other pearl- ing vessels, was operating on the Mary Ann patch, near North west Cape, when indications of a storm coming on, he deemed it advisable to take refuge in the mangrove creeks. He lay-to in a position which he considered one of absolute safety, the other boats being all close at hand. This was in the morning, and by midday the wind had risen to a fearful hurri- cane, and a blackness had settled down upon them so dense that they could only see a few yards ahead. Their anchors began to drag, and finally they were washed by the force of the waves and wind into the narrows of the creek, where they were kept grinding upon the mangroves in the most uncomfortable and alarming way. At this time they could detect the tops of the mangroves waving some dozen feet above their heads Suddenly there was a great lurch and roll, the water came up along the deck to the combing of the main hatch, but the vessel soon righted, and the crew noticed that the mangroves had completely disappeared A few minutes afterwards the veasel gave another roll, and capsized. Mr Brookman and his men clung to the wreck until 5 o'clock p. m., when there was a sudden lull, the centre of the cyclone having probably been reached They then scrambled on shore, where they found O'Grady, the captain of another pearler, which had also been completely wrecked. Before long the hurricane came on again, and the party was obliged
hastily to seek the hills for shelter.
Here they passed a wretched night, and in the morning found that only one of the 12 vessels which, 21 hours before, had been riding at anchor together, had escaped com- plete destruction.
Mr. Robert Sholl, another pearler, who brought the tale of the disaster to Fre- mantle, states that on sailing down the coast he found that a complete trans- formation had taken place in the appearance of the country. Whole tiers of sandhills had been washed away, some of which had been as much as 50ft, in height, and at the back of where these hills had formerly been water covered the ground for miles inland. Sharks, turtle, and fish were stranded high and dry some dis- tance from the shore, and there was every indication of the action of an immense tidal wave. Although the darkness was too com- plete to enable him to judge otherwise than by inference, Mr Brookman is convinced that it was a wave of this kind that lifted him over the mangroves, and afterwards capsized him in so inexplicable a way. The loss of life occasioned by this terrible disaster was, fortunately, not so great as might have been expected. Only three Europeans perished; the number of native divers who were drowned has not been correctly ascertained, but was not, I believe, very large.
The new railway between Fremantle and Guildford is to be opened next week by the Governor. The new railway carriages are a great source of complaint. They are of the old fashioned English type, called com- posite, I believe, and quite unsuited to the