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Wxt Sibsfame (ttmwp,
Thursday, April ii, 1879.
Ouk Sydney telegrams the other day in- formed us that the Miners' Union at Newcastle had determined to adopt a new scheme for limiting the output of coal, called the vend system. The circumstances which have led up to this action are so ex- traordinary that they are worth recapitu- lating, if only to direct attention to the natural tendency of nearly all trades unions, once their authority is recognised, to abuse it by interfering with matters which are outside of their professed object, and to tyrannise over those whom it is supposed to be, their function to protect. The -whole of the arrangements under which the Newcastle coal trado has been
carried on for some years past are excep- tional, and deserving of public attention. Some six years ago differences existed be- tween the miners and the colliery proprie- tors in that district which led to several strikes, whereby both sides lost heavily, as
These differences were at last settled by an agreement between the Miners' Protec- tion Association and the associated masters, by which tho price of getting the coal was fixed at a certain proportion of the selling price. That selling price was fixed at 14s. per ton, under which no master was to sell under pain of heavy penalties. It may be said, in fact, that the war between the miners and coal owners was terminated by an alliance to plunder the consumer. Both of the contending parties were to get what they had been fighting for-at the expense of the neutrals-a mode of terminating a fight which lias before now been practised by greater powers than either tho Minors' Union or the associated masters. The miners wore to got tiro high wages, and the coal owners the largo profits which they desired, by the simple expedient of compelling the consumer to pay a price sufficient to cover the demands of both.
Mr. Dixon, tho socrotary of the Coal Mining Protection Association, when ad- dressing the Now Lambton miners a few weeks ago, acknowledged that " he was very sorry that ever there was occasion for drawing up a scheme like this . . ,
an agreement tho like of which had novor been signed in any part of the world before." This extraordinary schemo was, however, found not sufficiently restrictive. In spito of all pains and ponaltios, some owners who wore anxious to increase their output, or who had a difficulty in dispos- ing of tho produce of thoir mines would undersell the others, and to stop this prac- tice the fortilo biains which had devised the original scheme concocted another plan. The authorities of the union,
concert with the owners of what are known as the associated collieries, prepared an estimate of the quantity of coal which would probably bo required during the year, and dividing that amongst the whole of the collieries assigned to each its amount of work for the year. No pit was to raise 1 more coal thau the quantity allotted to it
by the authorities of the vend, and at any colliery which refused to come into the scheme the miners wore to strike work at once. The proprietors of the New Lambton colliery determined to resist this outrageous dictation, and their men were called upon to strike. Mr. Dibbs, who is one of the principal proprietors of the mine, addressed the men on the subject early in January last. Ho pointed out that he and his partners had satisfied all the other demands of tho union, that there was then no difference between the employers and the men as to rate of wages or hours of work. Ho pointod out that the average yearly output at Now Lambton had been about 110,000 tons, whilst the schome now put forward would limit it to 65,000 tons per annum, and that tho expenses of raising the limited quan- tity proposed to be assigned to it would amount to a larger sum por ton of coal than if they were in full work. He finished by doclaring plainly that if the miners supported the officers of the union in this attempt to dictate to the proprie- tors the quantity of coal they should »end to market he and his co-proprietors were determined to close the mine rather than submit.
A more outrageous demand than that of the union-that the colliery proprietor should only be permitted to sell his pro- perty in such quantities as met their approval-it is impossible to conceivo, and the opposition to it may not impro- bably lead to the destruction of the artifi- cial system by which the price of coal at Newcastle has lately boen regulated. The probable result of all this will be that the New Lambton colliory being ex- cluded from the Miners' Union will, of course, be freed from tho agreement entered into with that body, and Mr. Dibbs and his partners will bo able to sell their coal at their own price. If they begin to sell at less than las. per ton the associated collieries must como down to their price or else see the wholo market supplied by the obnoxious colliory. There is ample room for a reduction of price sinco the samo coal which is now sold at 14s. per ton has in times gone by sold for seven shil- lings, and the average price before the combination of master and man against the public was about eloven shillings. If, however, cutting down of prices once begins it is hard to say where it will stop, and with a diminished prico for the coal the old dispute about its division between .mployers and employed will turn up again. The idea of terminating a trouble- some trade dispute by raising the price of the article produced to a level which would satisfy in full the demands of all engaged in the business was a most extra- ordinary one, and ono that could never have boen carried out in any country where both capital and labor weiro abun- dant. It is, however, still more extraor- dinary that those who by this arrangement got all they wantod should disturb it, and risk its permanent nullification, by stupidly and without any provocation attacking tho right of the coal ownor to sell as much .oal as ho wishes, and can get, at tho market price fixed by the agreement. The last movo of the union has been a pieco of over-legislation, and, like the last straw upon the camel's back, it will probably have a result the reverse of beneficial to those attempting to imposo it.
The only satisfactory symptom in the case is the fact that some of the colliers of New Lambton have soon so clearly the injustico and folly of the proposed restric- tion on the output of thoir pit that they seem disposed to side with their employers. Mr. Morohoad, the manager of the mine, refuses to submit to interference with the working of the colliery as the schome involved, and he declines to make any engagomont with respect to the price of coal, adding that any such interference would result in his filling the colliory with fresh hands. If this last attempted tyranny should break up the Newcastle Minors' union it will pro- bably bo all the better for tho men, the country, and the coal trade. At all events the mon will have only the Union to thank for any troubles that the re-opening of strifo betweem employer and employed may bring about.
We in Queensland may perhaps benefit in somo small degree if strikes again be- come prevalent at Newcastle. Wo havo plenty of coal, and it is to be hoped that we shall soon have means of bringing it to the ship's side in moro than ono of our ports. A disturbance of the Newcastlo trado might perhaps give our coal owners an opportunity to establish a business which they have not hitherto enjoyed, and we hope that if the opportunity does como they will be in a position to take advan- tage of it. We behove that our colliers, so long as they get a fair rate for cutting the coal, will be delighted to s»e their employers increasing their output, and we trust it may be many a long day bofore they quarrel with their bread and butter as absurdly as their Newcastle brethren are doing.
It ls a lesson taught by universal ex- perience that au evil which has grown gradually is seldom remedied till it becomes nearly intolerable. There is a kind of mental laziness which wo ofton dignify by the name of conservatism that makes us shrink from a change. The old ways may be rough, but at least thoy are known ; and oven the quagmires in the path aro familiar. Following them we know what we shall bo called upon to endure, while on the other hand there are endless possibilities of trouble in the unknown. So we prefor to jog along in tho track so long followed, and continue to do so till it becomes almost impassable before striking out a now path for our-
This is one of the old paths to which we cling with obstinate pertinacity, although it is evidently plunging into an im- penetrable jungle of difficulties-the sys- tem hitherto pursued of providing the funds, planning the details, and directing the construction of our minor public works from a common centro. The need for a reform has been growing more evident yearly ; legislation on the subject has been a stock item in ministerial programmes for a long time past; a voluminous Local Government Act has actually become law ; but wo seem nearly as far from the desired end as over we were. And yot tl\e reform
sought to bo efiected is imperatively necessary ; the evil to be cured has become quite intolerable. The strain on our general rovonuc, caused by the fast grow- ing demands for road votes, cannot bo borne much longer; yet, if we are to continue our presont system, there is no hopo of their diminution. From every part of the colony thoro comes an incessant cry, " Give us roads and bridges, so that we may bring our produce to market, and, becoming prosperous our- selves, add to your prosperity also." And the cry is well founded, the demand is a just one ; as settlement spreads the need for more roads and bridges will increaso also. Wo cannot put this necessity aside ; we must meet it, and our general revenue will not long endure the strain.
It is not morely that we cannot make the general revenue cover all the demands made upon it, but it must be evident to tho most careless observer who knows anything of the colony that a great waste is continually incurred in the process of transmitting Parliamentary grants into public works. Almost the last thing thought of seems to be economy ; in every direction there is waste of time, material, and energy, or, in a word, money-tho public funds. We are not called upon to prove the assertion ; we need no argument to show that in the familiar phrase " Go-
vernment stroke" there is embodied all
that can be conceived of listless, dilatory, inefficient work. And it is quite hopeless
to look for amendment. Centralised ad- ministration weighs uko a hand of lead on the energy of tho officials ; in fact, any display of ouergy and zeal for economy are only too often rather impediments to success in official life, and a shrewd young man soon finds that a strict atten- tion to official etiquette, and punctilious deference to his immediato superior, will be of moro practical use to him in his career than any care for economy or zeal in the public service. And this is but natural. The young official knows that if he strives to please his superior the effort will be known and appreciated; if ho strives to save the public money few people will know of it, and no one will thank him for his zeal; for, under our present system, there is literally no one interested in securing economy and efficiency in our public works. The resi- dents of the locality in which a road or bridge is being made care only to securo the convenience afforded by it and are quito careless as to what it costs. Cor tainly the money that is spent on it comes from a revenue to which thoy contributo, but tho contribution is so indirect that their personal interest in its expenditure is very slight. Consequently they will witness even a gross waste or misapplica- tion of public funds without making an effort to interfere, for they know that by doing so thoy would probably incur ft sevore official snubbing, and perhaps oven oxcito the animosity of their neighbors by endangering the tranquil flow of " money spent in the district." They, therefore, profer tho easier plan of badgering their representative, and, through him, tho Minister, for moro and moro expenditure until the desired improvement has, in spite of costly waste and blundcrihg, beon fitted to their noeds. And so the Waste of money, which the revenue can ill spare, goes constantly on, and will continuo so long as our present system lasts.
But, great as the practical evils of that system undoubtedly aro, the political mischief done by it is oven greater. It is not too much to say that our Parliament has been degraded, and the whole tone of our political life lowered, by it. The choice of Parliamentary represen- tatives is always affected and often decided by the capacity of tho candidates for wheedling or bullying grauts of money from the Government of the day ; and whon an election takes place it is ofton found that intelligence, ability, and in- tegrity have beon compellod to fetand aside while a majority of voters, eager for a large share of public plunder, have carried the sturdiest beggar to the head of the poll. And the debasing influence follows the chosen representatives to the floor of House. Havo we not seen the fiercest fights, the most animated debates, over some paltry division of public plunder, whilo the gravest affairs of Stato were discussed in lifeless debates, by men apparently unablo to take more than a languid
interest iu the matter 1 Havo we not seen how tho most shamoless log-rolling, at first practised by stealth, becamo a recognised Parliamentary rule, till at last
it seemed that a Government ablo to
manipulate its Works Estimate so as to bribe a majority of voters might govern iu other respects as it ploased 1 But wo need not dwell on these details ; the evil is patent to every one, although it is not so evident how far it may go, and in what abyss of political degradation it may laud us.
Wo have only touched lightly on a few of tho moro promiuent ovils of our present system. It is leading us straight to finan- cial difficulty and political humiliation. Tho necossity for roform will not bo denied, and has been admitted by the passage of the Local Government Act; but that measure was acknowledged by its framor to bo capable of merely partial appli- cation. As a matter of fact, it can only be brought into operation over so small a portion of the colony that it will not oven serve as a palliative for the evils which it is necessary to cure ; aud, even as a pal- liative, it cannot be successfully adminis- tered as it now stands, for its partial application would tend to aggravate, by throwing into sharper relief, some of the worst anomalies of tho existing system.
Mu. Alfred Hubbard bas resigned both bia
Beats oa alderman and aa member of the Local Board of Health. The causea that led to his
resignation will, we understand, be fully ex phined by him through the columns of the Press, but we may state that they are moro or less intimately connected with some remarks made by a mombor of the Municipal Council at last Monday's meeting reflecting on the Local
Coard of Health.
With regard to the coaatal mail service, " Self Reliance" suggests that "acareful perusal of the news in your issue of Tuesday relating to the A.S.N. Company and our mail service strongly leads to tho opinion that it would be a wise in- vestment of the Government to obtain a Bteamer fit for the service and ruu it regularly in the mail service, at the same time carrying passen
' gera and cargo to cover working expense»."
The honorable the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly directs it to be notified for general information that a writ has issued, and the following arrangements have been made, for the election of a member to servo in the present Legislative Assembly of Queensland for the electoral distriot of Northern Downs, in room of the hon. Joshua Peter Bell, whoso seat in the Assembly has become vacant by reason of its resignation by the said hon. Joshua Peter Cell : -Place of nomination, Miles ; date of nomina- tion, Thursday, April 10 ; polling day, Thurs- day, April 17 ; return of writ, Thursday, April 24.
We are gratified to see by the Argus of March 25 that Mr. Thomas Joseph Byrnes, of the Bris- bane Grammar School, has won the exhibition for English literature and history, awarded by the University of Melbourne to commencing stu- dents, thus adding another laurel to his wreath.
Fbosi yeBterday'B meteorological reports we gather that fine weather prevailed at Blackall, Stanthorpe, Goondiwindi, and Gin-Gin. Bain fell at Bowen, Cape Moreton (018m.), Junction Creek (l'43in.), Burnett Heads, Cape Capricorn, Cardwell, Clermont, Condamine (O'lOin.), Cun- namulla, Dalby (O'lOin.), Dalrymple, Gayndah (0'67in.), Georgetown (2'07in.), Bundaberg, Jim- bour (O'lOin.), Hawkwood, Mackay, Mitchell Downs, Nebo, Nive, Palmerville, Ravenswood, Rockhampton, Roma, Springsure (steady rain), St. Lawrence, and Townsville. Other stations reported dull, cloudy, overcast. In Sydney it waa fine, with north-west wind ; in Melbourne dull, and ia Adelaide fine.
Thh rents received by the Land Agent for East Moreton on March 31 this year were aa follow: Renewal rents for conditional selections, £10,209 Is. Id.; renewal rents for homesteads, £1451 12s, lid.; first year's rents and survey fees, £132 3s.; total, £11,792 17s. This sum represents the rents for 923 conditional and 228 homestead selec- tions, or a total of 1151 selections. This ia a very high percentage of the total number, and must be considered satisfactory under the exist- ing depression. It is probable that many will avail themselves of the reduction of the penalty upon defaulters from 25 per cent to 10 per cent, thus reducing the immediate receipts ; but this may result in an ultimate gain to the colony in many coses by enabling selectors to hold their crops for a time instead of being compelled to sacrifice them at any cost rather than meet the heavy penalty for non-payment of rent. It will [ have been observed from our Rockhampton tele-
gram of yesterday that the number of defaulters in that district waa considerably less than last year, and tho amount of unpaid rent shows a proportionate decrease.
In the Supremo Court, in Chambers, yester. day, before his Honor Mr. Justice Lilley, judg- ment waa givon upon the summons argued on March 21, in the case of Clarkson v. the Mutual Life Association of Australasia. This, it will ho remembered, ia an action of detinue for the recovery of certain certificates of title and for £5000 damages for their dotontion, and the sum- mons now decided waa to alrike out of the plaintiffs statement of claim all paragraphs relating to special damages, on the ground that such damagos could not be recovered. His Honor held that the circumstances in respect of which the damagos were claimed were too specu- lative and remote, and made an order to strike out all the paragraphs objected to, defendant to have twenty-four hours to tonder the certificate of title to the plaintiff or his solicitor, with costs, and a sum for nominal damage» ; otherwise plaintiff to have leave to amend ; costs of the summons allowed ; plaintiff allowed costs of that part of the summons decided in his favor. In the caso of Sutheiland v. Sheaffe an order was made to aign judgment for the sum claimed, less the respectivo amounts of £C50 and £70, leave being given to defend as to a sum alleged to have beon paid, and a set-off claim amounting in all to £120, Mr. Foxton appeared for the plaintiff, and Mr. Pope Cooper, instructed by Mr. Bruce, for the defendant,
The argument on the application for a writ of prohibition in the case of Regina v. Spriggs was resumed in tho Supreme Court yesterday. At its conclusion the court discharged the rule, holding that there was adduced at the Police Court sufficient evidence from which the justices might reasonably como to the conclusion that spirits were sold at the manufactory in Forti- tude Valley occupied as a place of buainesa by Spriggs. Taking this view of the case, the court did not think it necessary to decide the point of law raised on the construction of the 64th section of the Publicans Act, under which the summons
in this case waa laid.
Arthur Venamore and William Templeton, trading asVenamoro and Templeton, of Stanley street, South Brisbane, carpenters and builders, were yestorday adjudged insolvent upon their own petition, in forma pauperis. The first meeting of creditors in the estate was fixed for the 9 th instant, the usual statement of liabili- ties, &c, to be filed by the 7th.
Last night " Heart's Delight" was again played at the theatre, preceded by " Cool aa a Cucumber." We believe we may assert with perfect safety that nothing so complete in ita general excellence as the former piece has ever before been placed upon the Brisbane stage. Of Mr. Emery's Captain Cuttle we have already spoken, and no praise could well be thought extravagant of his felicitous conception and wonderfully truthful and humorous impersona- tion of the bluff, stout-hearted, and tender mariner. With the true instinct of a genuine artist, though necessarily following a line-bo constantly imposed by the author-bordering the very limits of the possible, and from which the smallest deviation would travel at once into the realms of burlesque, Mr. Emery never for » moment mara the harmony of the perfect picture he presenta us with. Nothing could he more jovial than his boisterouB mirth, and nothing more pathetic than his rough though deep-seated tenderness. But we are not sure that we have sufficiently expressed our opinion of Mr. Bart- letts Dombey, which in its way is an equally finished piece of acting. The decision, the sublime self-importance, the unbending pom- posity of the hard selfish nature rendered blind by intense self-appreciation, were admirably con- veyed in speech, tone, and geature, and may almost claim to have divided the honors with Mr.'Emery. Mr. Thompson, as the oracular Bunsby, though having the smallest of parts, rendered his diverting scene with capital effect. Toots waa well represented by Mr. Tyrel, who shows promise of a successful future. Aa Florence Dombey, Misa Rogers was perfectly natural, and entirely impressed one with the f orlornness of the almost friendless girl ; and the scene where she listens with all her bouI to the captain's account of the wreck and saving of Walter was wrought to a climax that was im- mensely effective. The play, altogether, is a picturo that seems to come to us fresh from the hand of Dickons, and with scarcely a tint or a line that one could wish altered. The same bill is announced for to-night.