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Melbourne Notes., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2421, 5 May 1890
» (fkom our own corbespondent.) i Some wiseacre has written to the "Age" submitting for the consideration of the Orovernment a proposal that is worthy of Henry George himself. He advises our rulers to purchase every available acre of land withing 50 miles of Melbourne, forgetting that the Government are sellers of land, including that magnificent reserve at Kew at present occupied by lunatics. The purchase of all the land obtainable within 50 miles of Me.lbou.rne would, con-, fer substantial benefits upon more than one class, we are asked to, believe. For "one thing, says the sapient" writer in the " Age," the'purchase would relieve, frbnf their embarrassments all the people' who are encumbered with land purchased for I speculative purposes during the, ; land boom. No doubt it would, and if the proposal, had come "sooner, and' had' been ; acted upon, there are'-a gbod many people who might have escaped from the insolvent courts through the taxpayers':pockejbs. Ridiculous as all'this may sound to prosy people, it is .capped,, in point of absurdity- by what follows. n.Wheri ajll this land—which .Mr, Henry -George informs us ought never to nave* been sold—has been repurchased by the Government, the " Age "^correspondent,.recommends that it should be cut up into blocks varying in area from 4to 10 acres each. This; done the Government, is to. build -nice \ little cottages and homesteads upon eadK section, and then we overworked city people will be afforded art. opportunity of spending our evenings in pure country air, where we who like to do so may " potter about" in our gardens, see the hens go to ;roost, etc., etc. Of course we never.can become the owners of these suburban retreats, because the Government is to remain universal landlord for ever and ever. You must not suppose, however, that there is no method in this fool's madness. He recognises as well as anybody that a city man cannot get to and fro. every day, even over 10 miles, much less 60, without some means of v locomotion. So, the Government is to run out lines of railway, like the spokes of a wheel, witti Melbourne for the centre, and then, wKen all this is done, cross lines are to be; made circle within circle, until the whole net work has been made to look like a spider's web! money or interest upon money, does not appear to have entered into this gentleman's calculation. You are not to think, either, that he is writing in a spirit of levity. He is thoroughly in earnest. Fortunately Mr Gillies has ; floated his big loan before jthe lenders can hear of this stupendous proposal. Otherwise, they might, acting upon the assumption that there may be more than one idiot capable |;of propogating, such schemes amongst us", have buttoried up their breeches pockets. \ ' Mr Trenwith, it appears, notwithstanding his recent social elevation as a member of Parliament, was not the possessor of a gold watch. Trades Hall thought it a shame, so the President says, that their doughty champion should have to sit in Parliament with a silver watch in.,his pocket. So thoy have presented."him, with a gold one. (Mem. —If they'will send me, and pay me £300 a year for being there, I will sit in Parliament without a watch of any sort.) There is a very general and well-folmded complaint respecting the ridiculously high rents of houses' in the,- suburbs of Melbourne. And yet, house-property is not a highly remunerative investment, that is, if the house is honestly built. Land" bought at prices out of all proportion to its real value, wages maintained at abnormal rates, and heavy import duties upon imported materials are, of course, responsible for rents one hundred per cent higher than the same class of houses let for in the suburbs of London. We have just had an instance of the way in which wages are maintained in a strike of the Brunswick brickmakers. A new manager has just been imported from Sydney by one of the brickmaking companies, and he put on some" boys to do work at which men had previously been employed. The lads could do the work easily enough, but that did not suit'the book of the men at all. They have an unwritten law that only one boy shall be employed for every, two men, and- it matters not whether the men dawdle over boys' light work or not, they are determined that the lads upon the works shall only be in the- proportion of fifty per cent to the men. This looks very much like yoking a strong dray horse to a wheelbarrow, but no amount of argument could convince the men of the absurdity of the proceeding. The manager was firm, the men were obstinate, ' and a strike was the result. "Matters' have since been arranged on the men's own terms, and the lads; r .have to seek work elsewhere, and^ the" price of producing bricks is kept up, The same sort, of'feeling prevailed within my own recollection in certain trades in England, notably that of watchmaking. Coventry, noAT famous for its ribbons, was not so very long ago, equally famous for its watches: There are not many watches made there now, nor in any part of England upon the same terms. The Geneva watch, in the manufacture of .which.not a.man.is employed~rwhere a woman can do the work as well, nor a woman where a girl will answer, gradually edged English watches out of the pockets of English wearers. This? system of labour, coupled with the use'bf machinery, has brought down English watches to today's prices. To Sir John Benneb belongs the credit of introducing^ the change into England. But, although watches are cheaper, wages are not Jess ; there are more watches worn than formerly—that is all. The time > will come, but not yet, when the folly of restricting production by high-priced labour will be understood in Victoria; but, although we are, bound to learn the lesson' sooner or later, we 'shall have to pay for the knowledge—that much appears to.be certain.'.-. ■ . ■..'.'. > The newspapers are jubilant over the price at which the new Victorian loan has been floated in the London market, which is proof that the terms are better than were expected. t But the adverse criticisms which have been made by the London financial press should convey a caution to Mr Gillies; and a thoughtless Parliament. Pi] ing up debt at the rate of a million and a half a year, even when the money is expended upon re-productive works, is quite sufficient for a community,]: no matter how prosperous they may be, of a million souls. But, when the pace is accelerated as it is this year—or rather last year, for I suspect it will turn out that a big lump of the money has been expended in advance—from one million and a half to five millions and a half, even | reckless people must feel and begin to. look grave. It is like setting a stoiip rolling down hilj, At first it rolls gqntly, and it is possible to keep it under control. But unless some sort of break is applied, and its progress is governed at will, the speed increases, and we know how,it rolls to ;the bottom. It is thus with us. Each million means anincreased yearly interest to be paid, and if we isuddenjy increase that amount by an juniyise, application of. the multiplication table we sliair^'ccumula^e saip}^ qjqd w.e shftl} .haye.^o sup a, pewter ladle instead, qf a,n ele,ga,nt silver spoon, ,-
Melbourne Notes., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2421, 5 May 1890
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