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The stir that has been caused by the French action m reference to the New Hebrides is naturally owing to the use they have made of their colony of New Caledonia. The manner m which tbe latter island has been developed has^ made the Australasian colonies extremely reluctant that France should increase her possessions among the neighboring islands, as there is no other prospect than that any new acquisitions will be made use of as a convict settlement as New Caledonia now is. The crowding of these islands with convicts m such numbers that proper control cannot be exercised over them constitutes a menace to New South Wales and Queensland, and m a lesser degree to the other Australasian colonies, which is rightly looked upon as having become serious. Strong representations have been made by the Imperial Government to France on the subject, but so far the only result appears to be that a clear statement of the regulations affecting transported convicts has been sent to the Home Government. From this statement it appearß that only convicts whose sentences have been for a less term than eight years are allowed to return to France, and that only after they have spent m the colooy an additional period equal to the original sentence. If the original sentence was for more than eight years the convict cannot return to France for permanent residence unless pardoned. Convicts relegated to transportation or reconvicted can only return to France under very stringent conditions and such as can seldom be complied with ; and deportees are under a lifelong sentence, under which there is no exemption. Under such regulations it is apparent that the great majority of the prisoners m New Caledonia have no prospect of ever returning to France. Large numbers of them have boon liberated ok the expiration of their sentences, and have occasional opportunities to escape. What wonder that they are eagerly taken advantage of, and that from time to time a boat load lands on the Australian coast, generally to give the first indication of their presence there by the perpetration of some crime. The longer the penal settlement of New Caledonia exists, and the more the French convict sygtem is extended m the Pacific, the greater will be the number of escapees and the danger to Australia. We are bound to join our neighboring Governments m using all proper means of preventing the influx among us of persons whom the French Government will not allow to return to their own country : and it is to be hoped that the united representation of all the Australian colonies will cause the Imperial Government to induce France to discontinue or at least modify her convict system, and meantime to prevent further acquisition of islands to be turned into new criminal settlements.

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Bibliographic details

Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2222, 10 September 1889

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Ashburton Guardian Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2222, 10 September 1889