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THE COMMON MAN'S AUSTRALIA

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The winds of change had blown across this sunburnt country in 1901 when Australia was born. 

Henry Parkes had called for One People One Destiny, and Henry Lawson had written The Song of the Republic, a land that belongs to you.  What would this mean for the common man born in Australia, who had fought bitter fights for justice, for the vote, and for decent wages and working conditions? Would he have a voice in the future developments of his country? And what of the native Australian?  Are we British or are we Australian? 

Martin was the son of Alf Martin Godfrey and Emma Amelia Green. Emma was the daughter of wealthy pastoralist Henry Green of Coonamble. Alf Martin crossed between the common man and the wealthy when they married; their future was determined by drought, disease, death and war. They had 13 children and early in the century their destiny was determined.  

Martin was greatly influenced by the experiences of his father, but would leave the Outback permanently in 1942, moving as far south as possible when the Japanese bombed Darwin, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, “Let Australia Go!”  Martin was a Labor man, a union man, and a socialist, but at the age of 75 one Labor Prime Minister lost his vote. 

In Melbourne Martin’s transport changed from horse to horsepower, his family with five children did not escape tragedy; suicide shocked their very foundation, and illegal abortion brought fear unknown.  Nearing his twilight he reflected on the journey of the common man over the century past, One People One Destiny, of the Republic, and of what had changed for white and black Australians.  

 

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ISBN:  978-1-876882-49-5
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 567
Genre: Non Fiction

Cover: Clive Dalkins

 © Cover Design—Zeus Publications 2019

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Author:
Rhonda Godfrey Gibson
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published:  2019
Language: English


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About the Author  

Rhonda Godfrey Gibson was born in Melbourne. Her parents moved south from Bourke, NSW in 1942 when Darwin was bombed during World War Two. Her father, Martin W. Godfrey, was a horseman and bushman; he was also an avid reader and storyteller. Even with five children, he made time to tell stories of Outback Australia. He also followed Australian politics closely. 

Rhonda married Robert Gibson in 1966. Identical twins Dan and Ben were born in Ballarat in 1974. Robert had postings from Ballarat to Britain. They were ex-pats in Hong Kong in 1996/97 when Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule, experiencing the fears of the local people. Whilst there, she wrote articles for the AWAre Magazine, a monthly magazine for the American Women’s Association. 

At the Sydney 2000 Olympics she worked in the Main Press Centre and wrote several pieces. Was it a Dream was published in the book Living is Giving by Laurie Smith. Her first book Alf Martin Godfrey was published by Zeus Publications in 2006, (ISBN 1-9211-1859-8) under Non-fiction (amendment). 

Her grandfather’s story was set in the early days of Australian colonial history as workers fought for their rights in 1891 & 1894, and Unions formed, leading to the formation of the Australian Labor Party.  

This book about Martin W. Godfrey is book two of the Godfrey trilogy tracking Australia’s history from Federation to Independence.

 

Dedication 

 

I dedicate this book to my husband of 53 years,

Robert Mitchell Gibson,

who showed me the world 

& 

to my twin sons,

Daniel and Benjamin Gibson,

intelligent & loyal. 

So privileged to have such a family.

 

Acknowledgements 

Martin W. Godfrey - MD - my dad

A reserved and respectful man, a person easily admired. He was honest, reliable, and trustworthy to the extreme. He treated everyone with the utmost respect, no matter who they were, or their walk of life. He protected his children like a lion her cubs whilst insisting they learnt right from wrong, good from bad, and the need to fight for justice. He proved one need not be wealthy to lead a privileged life. To have known this man your life is enriched with strength and character. No better a father could a girl ask for. We knew love without the spoken word. 

Jessie Godfrey (nee Teerman) – my mum

The rock with the hearty laugh who born five children.

Whose eyes lit up at the sound of her children’s voices.

She gave her soul and asked for nothing in return.

There is peace in a garden where Jessie spent many hours.

She worked at Astor Music Records in South Melbourne.

 

Robert Gibson – my Scottish husband of 53 years

Who showed me the world.

 

Dan and Ben

Our twin sons, intelligent and loyal.

 

Jake, Amber, Amy, Zachary, Henry and Corinne

new and treasured members of our Godfrey/Gibson family.

 

Wendy, Heather and Rose

my Godfrey sisters, gone but not forgotten.

 

Henry Lawson, poet for The Bulletin newspaper

 

Banjo Paterson, poet for The Bulletin newspaper

 

Francis H Brown, poet, Bourke, NSW – Songs of the Plains

 

Alan Tucker – The Bombing of Darwin

 

Janet McAllen – Struggletown - Richmond, Victoria

 

Jeffrey Turnbull – Once there was Jordanville

 

Michael Paterson – A Brief History of the House of Windsor

 

Les Godfreypoet and proof reader

 

 

FOREWORD 

 

Aspiring authors, in my own personal opinion and observation, are generally earnest, creative, anxious and sincere personalities who feel that they have a story to tell, whether it’s fiction, fact, comedy, horror or any genre.

Storytellers of the far distant past would, of course, rely on personal experience and imagination, and these stories without written word would be handed down to further generations who would then perhaps translate them and record them into their newly created understandable and readable language.

In my quest to continue to contribute to the storytellers of the past and present I do hope that readers of my previously published philosophical fiction novel Paradise Mislaid enjoyed it.

On embarking upon this series of short stories I can assure you that all of them contain an element of truth and personal experience.

Anyone recognising situations or characters portrayed will kindly regard them as fictional, coincidental, and sheer imagination. 

 

 Read a sample:

1

Australia is Born 1901

The winds of change had blown across this sunburnt country when, on 1st January 1901, with great celebration, the colonies federated and the Commonwealth of Australia was born. Federation was reignited when Henry Parkes, Premier of New South Wales, gave his Tenterfield Oration in 1889. He promoted One People, One Destiny but one of the key reasons he saw was to achieve a united defence force to protect Australia from attack from Germany, France and Russia who already had interests in parts of the Pacific. Japan and China also had large populations and great military might. Another issue was trade; the railways between Sydney and Melbourne had different gauges and passengers and goods had to go through Customs as they passed over the border. Henry Parkes hoped to be the first Prime Minister of Australia but died in 1896, and never saw Federation evolve.

The Common Man believed One People, One Destiny meant every Australian – black or white – would get a fair go.

They would get fair wages and working conditions, and have a voice in the future development of their country. That justice and arbitration would be available equally to the worker and the wealthy. That government would no longer act unconstitutionally partisan.

Alf Martin Godfrey – my father – had taken the train from Bourke to Sydney to watch the historical signing in Centennial Park during the Federation celebrations. He was excited when he talked of the 250,000 people in the park that day, for he had never seen that many people in his entire life. In the outer circle, as far as the eye could see, were rows and rows of ordinary people who had come with their dream of One People, One Destiny, he said. He painted a vivid picture of dignitaries in top hats, troops of many nations, battalions of Australian and imperial forces with their gold braid, silver helmets and loud brass bands. Fittingly he remarked that the parade was lead by a contingent of shearers. Proud he was to see the shearers lead the parade, as this country had developed and grown on the wool off the sheep’s back.

He travelled to see the historical signing as he held high hope for Henry Parkes’s vision of One People, One Destiny, for he had been involved in the shearers’ strikes at Barcaldine in 1891, and again in the violent strikes of 1894 where pastoralists were motivated to cut rates for workers because of the falling wool prices in London. Pay rates were so low that a man was unable to support a family, and working conditions had been atrocious. Unions had formed but were ultimately defeated. With the federation of the colonies, the unions also federated to become the Australian Labor Party. One People, One Destiny indicated that times were changing, but was it just rhetoric?

Queen Victoria reigned for 63 years, and signed the proclamation, giving her assent for the Commonwealth of Australia. However, the new nation remained an integral part of the British Empire. The British Empire was at the height of its power and Victoria had ruled over 450 million people, one quarter of the world’s population, including one quarter of the world’s land mass. The Victorian era was a time of immense industrial, political, trade, scientific and military progress for Great Britain.

In 1840, Victoria married her cousin, Prince Albert, from the German Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotta. They had nine children. Her husband died from typhoid in 1861, aged 42. So devastated by his death was Victoria, she remained in black mourning clothes for the next 40 years. Despite being matriarch to nearly a quarter of the world’s population, Queen Victoria was against women’s rights. She died soon after Federation on 21st January; many said she held on to see this historic event. Her eldest son, Edward VII, became King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India on 22nd January, and this made him our King too. His coronation followed on 9th August.

Lord Hopetoun, born in England, was appointed as first Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia. Queen Victoria had made him Knight of the Thistle. The Governor-General took the Oaths of Office at the inauguration ceremony on 1st January then swore in Edmund Barton’s ministry. Mid-1902, Lord Hopetoun’s time as Governor-General ended after a dispute over his salary. He was paid £10,000 a year, but requested a further £8000 a year for expenses to conduct vice-regal duties. No provisions were made for this in Australia and his request was rejected. He resigned, having applied to the Colonial Office to be recalled from the position.

There was no basic wage for the worker in Lord Hopetoun’s time, but in 1908 the Harvester basic wage was introduced at 42 shillings for a six-day working week. This was seen to allow for a man, wife and three children to live in frugal comfort; a stark contrast to Lord Hopetoun’s way of life.

Lord Tennyson, who requested a one-year term, replaced Lord Hopetoun. Tennyson had a flair for writing and was the author of the children’s book Jack in the Beanstalk.

Edmund Barton, a barrister, became Australia’s first Prime Minister after what was referred to as the Hopetoun Blunder. Lord Hopetoun, poorly advised, had invited the New South Wales Premier, William Lyne, to form the first Australian ministry. This decision was defensible in terms of protocol as Lyne had strongly opposed Federation. In Australia it had been assumed that Edmund Barton, as key leader of the Federation movement and drafter of the Constitution, would be offered the post. Alfred Deakin and other prominent politicians told Lord Hopetoun they would not serve under Lyne. The main task of Edmund Barton’s ministry was to conduct the first federal election. Barton later resigned from parliament to become one of the founding justices of the High Court of Australia.

At Federation, births had outstripped immigration, and the population had reached three and a half million people. This count did not include the Aboriginal natives. The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK) (Australian Constitution) came into force in 1901. It gave the Commonwealth power to make laws with respect to the people of any race, other than the Aboriginal race in any state, for whom it was deemed necessary to make special laws.

The 1901 elections were split by date, and on 29th March New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania voted. The following day South Australia and Queensland voted to elect the inaugural members for federal parliament. Voting was in accordance of each state’s specific electoral laws. South Australia and Western Australia were the only states where women were enfranchised, so in other states women could not vote. Tasmania had a property qualification, but in other states all males over 21 could vote. Voting was voluntary throughout Australia and candidates were elected by a first-past-the-post voting system.

The new Federal Parliamentary Labor Party was formed and the union branches of the colonies united under the federal structure. Labor’s Constitution stated: The Australian Labor Party is a democratic socialist party. At the first election Labor, under Chris Watson, won nearly 16% of the vote with 14 seats. Edmund Barton had contested with his Protectionists Party and won around 37% of the vote and 31 seats in the House of Representatives. No party had won a majority, but Labor supported Barton’s Protectionist Party against the Free Trade Party, thus holding the balance of power. Labor would become the voice of the common people.

My father was a union member, and said that Federation Day was one of his proudest as it appeared the battle for workers’ rights finally had a voice. He had crossed between the classes when he met pastoralist Henry Green, although Henry’s wife, Elizabeth, was not accepting of him. Elizabeth was from inherited wealth, from a British family who had fought in the War of the Roses, and although Australia did not have a class system as was seen in England, Elizabeth strode around with the graces of her upper class. Henry had no time for the upper class pomp and ceremony, but respected anyone who proved their worth and knowledge. Elizabeth described my father as a man with a few head of cattle, no class, and not even Catholic. My father had a history of fighting for justice at a time when justice was for the wealthy, educated and political. He managed to rise to respectability when he owned 100 head of cattle. From the Tree of Knowledge at Barcaldine, to Raelands at Coonamble, he learnt what drives both sides and it was obvious to him that the working man had a constant battle to achieve fair conditions in his own country.

The first sitting of the federal parliament was on 8th May in the grand Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne. The Duke of York was there with a message from the new king, Edward VII. He read aloud:  “My thoughts are with you on today’s important ceremony. Most fervently do I wish Australia prosperity and happiness.” Inside the Exhibition Buildings there was not an inch of standing room with 12,000 invited guests, mostly gentlemen in top hats, and a few ladies in splendid gowns. Cheers rang out when it was announced: “I now declare the Commonwealth of Australia opened.” The Duchess of York pressed a button inside the building, and the Union Jack was raised outside where thousands of people in the street watched, and waited for the royal parade. It would be September before a national flag was flown comprising the Southern Cross and the Union Jack.

The Barton Government’s first piece of legislation was the Immigration Restriction Act – The White Australia Policy. For a man born in Australia, whose entire adult life had been spent in the Outback working with the Aborigine, my father thought the White Australia Policy made no sense when the natives born in this country were black. He had worked amongst them, and had great respect for their ability in the bush. They were good horsemen, and had greater tracking skills than any white man. Australia was one of the few countries which had race as a dominant political ideology. The British Government in London was not pleased with this legislation which discriminated against certain subjects of its empire, but did not disallow it. The Indian Empire League had protested in writing, stating this policy made its distinctions on the basis of nationality and race alone. The Indian Merchant Class demanded a boycott of Australian imports, and Japan, who had a treaty with Britain, was outraged.

The discovery of gold in Australia had led to an influx of immigrants from around the world. Forty thousand Chinese men and 9000 Cantonese women had arrived, seeking prosperity. Competition in the goldfields had led to violence. Prime Minister Barton stated: “The doctrine of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of the Englishman and the Chinaman.” In Queensland the growth in the sugar industry had seen thousands of Kanakas brought into Australia as indentured workers, and cheaply employed. So began the protests against foreign labour. The arguments were that the Chinese and Asians took jobs away from white men, worked for sub-standard wages, and lowered working conditions. So the new White Australia Policy forced foreign workers to leave the country or be deported.

The states followed soon after with the Aboriginal Protection Act, which made the Chief Protector legal guardian of every full-blooded Aboriginal and half-caste child under the age of 16. The round-up of black children began, and the effort to wipe out this race had started.

Australia’s first war was the Boer War in South Africa. At Federation it was all but over, except the Boers would not give in and took to the hills, adopting guerrilla tactics. The Australian contingent of 16,000 men had been fighting for four years in the Second Boer War for the “Mother Country”. Tensions ran high between the shared British colonies and independent republics of Dutch-Afrikaner settlers known as Boers. The discovery of massive deposits of gold and diamonds intensified the rivalry; it was no longer a struggle for farming land. The Boers attacked in order to forestall what they saw as an impending British conquest.

The British had difficulty in finding troops, and sent out the call to the colonies for able-bodied young men to defend her honour. Prime Minister Barton complied and 10,000 men sailed to South Africa. Sixteen thousand in total fought there, the largest number from any Commonwealth country. More than 600 died, half in action and the rest as a result of disease. The British were not equipped to fight a guerrilla war on horseback and over great distances, so Australian bushmen became prized fighters in this ugly war. Savagery between combatants escalated. British supreme commander, Lord Kitchener, recruited Australians to take the war to the Boers. He formed a special British unit – the Bushveldt Carbineers. This meant our soldiers were no longer fighting as Australian soldiers, but were imperial volunteers. Lord Kitchener had given specific orders to the Bushveldt Carbineers to “take no prisoners”. Captains Taylor and Hunt confirmed this order; Taylor was Kitchener’s intelligence officer. When a Berlin Bible Society missionary named Hesse was found shot dead, a white flag attached to his buggy, Kitchener came under pressure from Queen Victoria to do something about the killing. Her grandson, German Kaiser Wilhelm, had complained on behalf of the Berlin Bible Society. To convince Germany and the Boers of Britain’s fairness, and to expedite the peace process, someone had to be charged!

Two Australian bushmen, Morant and Handcock, were used as scapegoats to get the British Empire out of its dirty water. Handcock had admitted killing eight Boers whilst following orders under Rule 303 – a reference to the .303 rifles used by the British forces. He denied killing the German missionary, Hesse. Both were court-martialled for shooting unarmed prisoners and civilians. Their punishment – death before a firing squad.

Major James Francis Thomas was a lawyer from Tenterfield, NSW. He had been awarded the Queen’s Medal for his bravery at Elands River. Ironically, he was plucked at short notice by British authorities and found himself before the court martial of Morant, Handcock, and a third soldier, Witton. To the British, this prosecution was a foregone conclusion. Thomas was considered no match for a well-drilled, experienced British prosecution team. But the British were rattled when, at short notice, Thomas argued the Boer War was characterised by atrocities, and that other auxiliary units acting under orders from a Kitchener underling, Hubert Hamilton, also followed the same and deliberate policy of shooting prisoners.

Thomas unsuccessfully defended Morant and Handcock, who were told they would be shot at dawn the following day. Thomas had tried to halt the proceedings, but was advised by Colonel Kelly that the King had confirmed the orders and there was no hope of a reprieve. Kitchener was conveniently away from Pretoria at the time and not available to give evidence, but his second-in-command, Colonel Hamilton, denied the existence of any such unwritten orders. Hamilton and Kitchener were freemasons, and the brotherhood would ensure their silence. At 06.00 hours the two Australian bushmen, Morant and Handcock, were led out of the fort at Pretoria and were executed by a firing squad from the queen’s own Cameron Highlanders. Advocates insisted the courts martial had acted with deadly purpose and swiftness, and were legally flawed.

The Australian Government learned of these executions the same way as Moran’s wife, from the newspaper in late March. The Australian Government demanded an explanation from Kitchener, who on 5th April sent a letter to the Governor-General which was published completely in the Australian press stating their guilt.

It read:

 

In reply to your telegram, Morant, Handcock and Witton were charges with 20 separate murders, including one of a German missionary who had witnessed other murders. Twelve of these murders were proved. From the evidence, it appears that Morant was the originator of these crimes, which Handcock carried out in a cold-blooded manner. The murders were committed in the wildest part of Transvaal, known as Spelonken, about eight miles north of Pretoria, on four separate dates. Lieutenant Witton was also convicted but I commuted the sentence to penal servitude for life in consideration of his having been under the influence of Morant and Handcock. The proceedings have been sent back to England.

 

The British Government announced in the House of Commons that the court-martial proceedings would not be made public. The official records of the court-martial vanished following the trial, and their location remained a mystery.

George Witton’s death sentence was commuted to life in prison. He was transported to naval detention quarters in England. One hundred thousand Australian people signed a petition demanding his release; so great was the public disgust at the executions. He was released after serving 28 months, but was not pardoned. Lawyer, Major James Thomas, returned to Australia and assisted Witton with a copy of his trial notes for the preparation of his book Scapegoats of the Empire, thus raising awareness for Australians to beware of the enemy within. My father supported the petition and spoke openly of his disgust at the British rule. Australian bushmen should not have been sent to fight for the Empire in a war that was not ours, a war not fought over our land, but for gold and diamonds. Diamonds which would never sparkle on our shores. My father was not of convict heritage, but felt strongly that all Australians were tagged by the British as convicts, and our worth was not valued the same as theirs.

By 1902, white adult women over the age of 21 – married or single – were given the federal vote and the right to stand for office when the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 was passed. The Act, however, specifically excluded Aborigines, Asians, Africans, criminals and the insane. It did not give women the right to vote in state elections.

Women’s suffrage is explicitly stated as a right under the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. The Australian Women’s Suffrage Society aimed to obtain the same rights for women as were possessed by male voters. The Society argued for equal justice, equal privileges in marriage and divorce, rights to property, and the custody of children in divorce.

The Women’s Temperance Union sought social reforms, which included establishing equal moral standards for both sexes. In Victoria 30,000 signatures were presented to parliament by various suffrage societies. What was unusual was that women were uniting across class and political lines. Ada Evans was the first woman to qualify in Law in Australia; she graduated from Sydney University but was not allowed to practice. The women’s Political Association protested against the government not allowing married women to apply for a position of Director, School of Domestic Economy.

Politicians soon realised the advantages of securing the female vote for a woman independently able to earn her own keep, and able to do so on a wage of about 60% of the equivalent male wage. Although they believed that a woman’s place was in the home, she should be able to influence laws which impacted upon that home. Some campaigners felt that men and women should be equal in every way and that there was no such thing as a woman’s natural role. Some campaigners felt that all adults were entitled to vote, whether rich or poor, male or female, and regardless of race. Others saw women’s suffrage as a way of cancelling out the votes of lower-class or non-white men. Vida Goldstein was the first Australian woman to nominate and stand for parliament.

The Dawn, a new women’s journal for the household wrote:

 

The sun rose on the morning of the sixteenth upon the greatest day that ever dawned for women in Australia for, apart from the pleasure of exercising the just privilege so long denied her, that of taking an active and direct part in the selection of lawmakers, she had also the blessed satisfaction of being as she is, not through the glasses of those interested in her suppression.

 

A royal commission was held in 1903 to address the decline of the Australian birth rate and the mortality of infants. Childbearing was seen as a national duty, not a private affair, but a major political issue. The royal commission consisted of senior public servants, politicians, doctors and businessmen. There were no women. The witnesses before the commission were also men, with one exception. Their final report observed:

The reason invariably given by people for restricting procreation is that they cannot conveniently afford to rear more than a certain number of children. This was not a real reason, they said. Expert witnesses referred to an unwillingness to physical discomfort, the strain and worry associated with childbearing and childrearing, and a love of luxury and social pleasures, which is increasing. These elements added up to selfishness, by which they meant, women’s selfishness!

 

The royal commission warned about the dire consequences to health of contraception for women.

 

The nervous system is deranged; frequent distress of mind and body are caused; the general health is often impaired, and sometimes ruined; and inflammatory diseases are set up, which disable the reproductive organs. Abortion causes illness, sterility and death.

 

The commission also warned against the moral consequences of birth control. For example, it quoted the Archbishop of Sydney, who commented that birth control lowers the whole view of what marriage is for; it turns the marriage into a mere sexual compact. It also warned that birth control jeopardised Anglo-Saxon sovereignty in Australia and imperial prospects in the nearby region. Men overwhelmingly conducted the public debate about the future of family at the turn of the century. English men!

There were at this time, 120 hospitals in New South Wales. The government managed only one. Most had been set up by societies, run by a board of directors, appointed or elected by subscribers. Hospitals were usually free, with visiting doctors treating the poor. Charges were made for private patients. In the Outback, when the shearers were being paid, they were asked to contribute to the hospital fund. The shearers usually donated their small change. Accolades for these donations inevitably went to the station, not to the workers. But still they gave.

Drought continued to be a major problem for Australia. Flooding often followed a drought, but we had no way of harnessing the water. Rain-making experiments in June and July had failed, but in August good rain began falling. Although rain brought relief to many parts of inland Australia, the losses of the seven dry years were felt for a long time. Thousands of carcasses of sheep, cattle, kangaroo and emu littered the parched countryside. The smell of death was everywhere, and every patch of grass had disappeared. There were 106 million sheep and 12 million cattle prior to the drought, but those numbers had halved. The human cost was even greater, as many farmers had walked off their properties, and some had been driven to suicide.

Two busy years had slipped by when an Australian national flag was adopted on 20th February 1903, following a nationwide competition. Thirty thousand entries were submitted and the British Admiralty made the final choice. The union flag of Great Britain occupies the canton. Below this is the six-pointed Federation star (changed to seven in 1909). In the fly are the five stars that make up the Southern Cross. The Australian flag is essentially a British Blue Ensign charged with the Commonwealth Star and the Southern Cross.

In September, Alfred Deakin, MP for Ballarat, became Prime Minister following Edmund Barton’s resignation. Alfred Deakin was a barrister, then a journalist. Deakin’s new government was not expected to break with tradition of the Barton Government. Deakin resigned in April 1904 after refusing to accept a Labor amendment to an Arbitration Bill. He had served for seven months. Workers and new unions thought they had struck gold when John Christian (Chris) Watson became Australia’s third Prime Minister, taking office on 27th April 1904, at the age of 37. The perfect picture of a statesman, Watson was the first Prime Minister from the Australian Labor Party, and the world’s first Labor head of government at a national level, but Watson’s ministry soon fell victim to the chronic political instability of the time. Six bills were enacted, and all but one were money bills. Unable to command a majority in the house, then having been refused dissolution by the Governor-General, Lord Northcote, Watson resigned and his term in office ended on 18th August 1904, just four months later. Watson did not go away, but became director of Labor Papers Ltd and publisher of The Worker, the Australian Workers’ Union paper. The cartoonist at The Worker, Monty Scott, lead the international press with his class iconography that openly depicted Labor and Capital heroes and villains, engaged in a life-and-death struggle. Through his depiction of the workers’ budding parliamentary representative, he and his contemporaries held an optimistic belief that Socialism in our time could be achieved.

The High Court of Australia was established in 1901, but it would be October 1903 with the passage of the Judiciary Act before the first sitting took place in the Supreme Court in Melbourne. It was a distinguished bench; Chief Justice Samuel Griffiths, Edmond Barton, and Richard E O’Connor. Many thought the High Court would be a redundant tribunal without status, but from their first judgements the justices stamped the authority of the High Court over the State Supreme Courts, proving a powerful and necessary arm of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Court quickly gained an international reputation for judicial excellence.

In the fourth year of Federation, George Houston Reid, leader of the Free Trade Group, became the fourth Australian Prime Minister, and Minister for Free Trade. Free Trade Regime within the Commonwealth had been ordained by the Constitution, and the Commonwealth Parliament had exclusive powers to levy Customs and Excise duties. There would, therefore, be free trade within tariffs at Australian borders. But the Commonwealth was also required to return three quarters of all its Customs and Excise revenue to the states for 10 years. This meant a higher tariff than Free Traders would want. The battle was to maintain a workable revenue tariff without slipping into Protectionist levels. The search was for fiscal truth, but that had to wait until the next election. Reid’s success story was the passage of the Conciliation and Protectionist Act. The Reid Government was defeated in a censure motion. His term was brief – 10 months – but Reid became the first Australian High Commissioner to Britain.

The horse and carriage was challenged when a new era brought to private transport the introduction of a horseless carriage. The Landau was sometimes known as a motorcar. The vehicles, elegantly painted and trimmed, had the power come from a horizontal oil engine using ordinary kerosene. It acted upon friction gearing direct on to the rear wheels, and the control levers were simple and handy to the driver. It tested at over 10 miles (16 kms) an hour, was speculated to travel up to 30 or 40 miles an hour, and the pneumatic tyres kept the ride quiet. It was displayed at the Exhibition Buildings in Melbourne where statesmen and the wealthy alike were excited over the new invention. Dim street lamplights would also disappear when electric street light brightened the night sky in Sydney. Tamworth was the first to light up in Australia.

Development progressed and Walter Edmund Roth became the Northern protector of Aboriginals. Part of his responsibilities was to record Aboriginal cultures, but his main brief was to prevent the exploitation of Aborigines, particularly in employment and marriage. He was also responsible for the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders’ employment. Roth possessed a strong personality and administrative drive, which bought him into conflict with politicians, settlers and the press. He also headed the Western Australian Royal Commission into the condition of the Aborigines in the North West. In his 1905 report he documented wrongs and injustices, cruelties and abuses, and made recommendations for better administration, and contributed to the new legislation. Police would no longer be able to force Aborigines without a contract to stay with their employer. Roth appeared to have good relations with the Indigenous and Chinese people wherever he worked. It was during his time that neck chains were banned from use on Aboriginals in Western Australia. When he came under further political attack in 1906, he resigned on the grounds of ill health and left Australia, never to return.

The Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 had created a new Arbitration Court. This court was formed to provide the mechanism for the compulsory arbitration of industrial disputes. The High Court of Australia had three main purposes. It interpreted the Constitution, acted as a Court of Appeal for decisions of state courts, and had an original jurisdiction. On Constitutional matters its decisions were final except where it granted leave to appeal to the Privy Council. The Arbitration Court was founded on the need for the workers who had been defeated in their recent great strikes of 1891 and 1894, to put their claims for industrial justice to an arbitration authority for legally binding decisions.

Alfred Deakin returned as Prime Minister for a second term in office in 1905. He was responsible for the 16 white-painted war ships of the United States Atlantic Fleet sailing into Sydney Harbour on 20th August 1908; a reminder to our Asian neighbours that although Australia was white and isolated, we had powerful allies. Deakin had defied protocol by making his request directly to the US consulate, his first step in asserting Australia’s post-colonial independence. Under-Secretary, Winston Churchill, objected but the British Government grudgingly endorsed the Australian invitation. Following, Deakin argued strongly in parliament for the establishment of an Australian Navy, but the British Admiralty opposed Australia’s ambitions. Churchill and Deakin had clashed at the imperial conference in 1907 over the great Free Trade versus Protection row in Britain, and this encounter coloured Churchill’s attitude towards Australian politicians – and Australia – forever.

Whilst the Federal Treasurer was having tests done to see if the new calculating machines could be trusted, the Copyright Act of 1905 was established. Not members of the Berne Union who controlled world copyright laws, Australian parliamentarians accepted a limited conception of copyright as the property of the authors, and not third parties, with the term of the copyright not exceeding the life of the owner. Senator Keating stated in Hansard that Australia led the way so far as legislation on the subject of copyright was concerned.

Books were out of the reach of the working-class man; even newspapers were passed hand-to-hand to those who could read. The Bulletin Newspaper Company in Sydney published a rare literary insight into Australian life when it published in several parts the novel Such is Life by Tom Collins. It was quite common at the time for people to write under a pen name, and it was Joseph Furphy who penned as Tom Collins. Joseph had won first prize at the Kyneton Literary Society for his verse on the death of President Lincoln. Such is Life was a witty account of the travels of Tom Collins, a bullock driver, and his encounters over a decade. The aim of the author was to assist the readers to get both wisdom and understanding. The reading public were slow to respond, and sales were disappointing.

Henry Lawson, a writer of Australian ballads and short stories, was first published by the Boomerang newspaper, but the newspaper was in trouble and let him go. The Worker also published some prose and rhymes, but it was J F Archibald of the Bulletin who recognised Lawson’s extraordinary skills and inner failings, paying his expenses to go to the Outback and Bourke. When Lawson returned, he had written some of his finest, like The Union Buries Its Dead. His works were well received. Lawson employed a pseudonym: Tally.

Andrew Barton Paterson used the pen name The Banjo and was another Australian bush poet, author and journalist. He began writing for the Bulletin when he was a law student. He helped Lawson draw up contracts with publishers and they began a friendly battle with responding articles in the Bulletin. Banjo’s ballads such as Clancy of the Overflow and The Man from Ironbark were so popular with readers that Angus and Robertson published the collection. Waltzing Matilda became Australia’s best known. Still, those who could afford to buy books preferred to get them sent from England, believing that the best writers were published there.

The Quarantine Act, The Bureau of Census and Statistics, and the Meteorology Bureau were also established during Deakin’s second term which lasted three years.

 

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Drought had been the biggest cause of unemployment in the bush, and when it extended through Federation for seven long years this country, which had risen to prosperity on the sheep’s back, came crashing down in the red hot dust. My father was employed at a property called Raelands near Coonamble by a wealthy pastoralist, Henry Green. They met when Father was seeking a paddock to hold 100 head of cattle he had purchased. Their friendship grew and Henry asked Father if he would come and work for him. Henry had only one son and many daughters. His brother, who had worked with him, left after a disagreement, and my father had proven himself honest and reliable. So together they worked hard to save their cattle. In a desperate attempt to save Henry’s prized bulls, Father had driven cattle wherever feed could be found, often staying away from Raelands for long periods of time. As the long dry continued, Henry lost most of his cattle, and my father lost all but three head. Henry was loyal to the end to those who worked for him, but finally had to let men go. My father had married Henry’s eldest daughter, Emma, in 1904 and was kept on, but his pride would not allow him to stay at the expenses of the Green family.

After much discussion, he packed the wagon. Henry was distraught at this decision and begged them to stay. Emma was 19 and had only known a privileged life and Henry feared for her safety. In truth, she was his favoured daughter. In desperation he called out as they boarded the buggy, “If you go now, you can’t ever come back.” This shocked them both for Emma loved her father, and Alf Martin respected and admired Henry. With tears rolling down her cheeks, Emma glanced back at her father; her mother had already turned her back. They rode in silence, taking the long dusty road towards Barcaldine, Henry’s words ringing in their ears. Words that haunted them both as it was only Father’s pride that had forced them to leave. There was no work at Raelands and no relief in sight. The future was looking bleak for them all. My father had arrived at Raelands five years earlier when Emma was a young girl of 13. Each time he returned from droving he was invited into the Green homestead to share a meal with the family. Over the years he had watched Emma develop into a beautiful young woman, not tall but slim, with beautiful flowing, long, red, curly hair and a sharp wit that kept him guessing. She was doing the accounts for her father one afternoon when he returned, and she pleaded with him to take her riding with him whilst he checked on his cattle.

My father told the story that following that ride, she proposed to him, suggesting they had known each other for five long years and that she would make him a good wife. She knew how to cook and clean, she had cared for her brother and many sisters, and was a competent bookkeeper for her father. She was sure she was in love with him. Her mother, Elizabeth, disapproved of Emma marrying below her class, but within a year they were married with Henry’s blessing. Father couldn’t believe his luck, for by the time they married his only wealth was three head of cattle. At Marro Station the owner welcomed them. Father worked tirelessly for the next three months as a shearer and union representative, then sadly the work ran out. He had been well paid during his time and was given a fine reference stating he was a first-class example for the rest of the shearers. There was only a handful of small jobs as they travelled away from Marro. Work was scarce everywhere. With Emma by his side and his determination to make a new life for them, desperation appeared in his voice as he asked every passing traveller if they had heard of work.

My father was not a miner, but gold had been discovered at Canbelego on the Nyngan to Cobar Road where the Mount Boppy Mine had been established. By 1905, the mine supported a population of 1500 men. Although the mine did struggle because of the shortage of water, they were still hiring when Father arrived at the office. Emma was heavily pregnant and sat in their uncovered horse-drawn cart to wait. It was midday, and the scorching hot sun beat down on her. My father had no desire to go down into the mines, so took a job as a tree cutter. The timber was used to support the working faces underground. They needed accommodation so followed the sign stating “House for Rent”. During the night, and without warning, Emma went into early labour and gave birth to twin boys. Grief overwhelmed them when both boys died soon after delivery by a midwife. My father carried his guilt heavily, believing Emma would have been in better hands if they had not left Raelands.

Canbelego was surveyed as a new township in 1901, and when my parents arrived it was already a bustling mining town. There was a large mining office, a schoolhouse attended by over 200 children, a grocery store, Cain’s Cash Store, run by a husband and wife team, and a vegetable stall run by a Chinaman with a long, plaited ponytail. Over the road from their house, large green motors bellowed smoke into the air as they chugged noisily. Whistles blew from time to time and some 300 miners, dressed in their long trousers, suit jackets and hats, were coming and going, changing shifts. The railway station was located at Mount Boppy and locomotives passed through their town each day from Cobar to Nyngan.

The Mount Boppy Mine was established in 1896 when significant discoveries of gold were made. They quickly became the largest producer of gold in New South Wales. The town was thriving and work was in abundance. My parents’ home was a small, white, wooden, attached house, the same as those that ran for a mile up the right-hand side of the main street. Their front door, bright red, stood out amongst the many bright colours alongside them. Out front was a horse rail and out back they stored their buggy and horse feed. Here they settled into a new life and Emma had made friends through her tragedy. Emma wrote a short note to her mother about her babies, but no reply came.

My father was a storyteller. Whenever there was a dispute about wages or working conditions at the mines he would say, “Never forget Barcaldine, son, for those men fought long and hard for justice for the worker.” In 1894, the pastoralists had a new contract which stripped the union and the workers of their rights, making the employer the sole judge under the law in all disputes under the Masters and Servants Act. Slave wages were offered. Unbeknown to the union and workers, the government had spent over £100,000 to ensure the success of the 1894 Pastoralists Agreement, using police and the military to deal with riots; the West was alive with police. The workers refused the contract terms and stated: “If we are offered slavery, we cannot be condemned if we refuse it. It’s better for Australians to die than become a nation of slaves.” Instead they took up arms, and the strike began.

The union leaders were arrested and sent to jail. The conspiracy trial under Justice Harding was venomous, vindictive and blood thirsty. He had a personal distaste for the working man, and believed that the squatter was the ruling power on the land. Harding attacked the police for failing to fire on the unionists. He bullied the jury for three days to come up with a guilty verdict, and his contemptuous refusal to consider the jury’s recommendation for clemency was notorious. He had summed up to the jury for nine hours, stating there was a prima facie case of conspiracy. Then in one fell stroke, the most cherished of civil liberties were removed.

“We must stand up for our rights,” Father had insisted, and he was talking from first-hand experience. At the Tangorin Shed in the Hughendon District north of Barcaldine scuffles broke out between the union men and the scab labour. Workers rebelled and Constable Quilter, who was directed by the pastoralist, clambered onto a box, ordering the men back to work. Colonel Price had issued orders to the police that the rebelling was to stop, and the police were to shoot to kill if necessary. Although the constable was armed, a shot rang out before he was prepared. Constable Quilter fell to the ground with a bullet in his leg, his red blood staining his white jodhpurs. Union men galloped out to the nearby strike camp to warn of the trouble. Two men – Johnson and O’Brien – were later arrested. Father did not fire a shot, but was involved in trying to resolve the dispute, so his name was blacklisted and he struggled to get further work. The way around the blacklisting was for men to change their names, then apply for a new shearer’s ticket. Alf Martin Godfrey was the alias name of Alfred John Shipp.

Queensland had come pretty close to slavery around 1870 when traders searched the south seas, looking for workers for the state’s sugar and cotton plantations. As profits increased, so did the abuse. One newspaper accused Captain Robert Town’s skippers of being kidnappers who used leg irons, whips and nooses. Opposition to the blackbirding came to a climax when the bosun of a Burn’s Philip schooner received death sentences for murdering natives, but it was not the protests that ended the Kanakas era, but Federation and the White Australia Policy.

The Common Man – mostly white – did it tough, but the Aboriginal native had it tougher. There was no pay, only food and clothing. There was no freedom to move about, and their children were taken away from them and placed in missions. The Aborigine was smarter than he was given credit for, and his treatment by the government was appalling. The removal of black children from their mothers was a reason for the white man to be afraid. “Always keep one ear to the ground,” my father would say. “Where whispers are loud, you often find the truth!”

The following year, on 8th July, Emma gave birth to another baby, a boy. My loud first cry brought relief, then sheer delight for my parents, for the memory of their lost twin boys still lingered. Mother suggested to Father, “I will name our boy after you and your father. We will name him Martin William Godfrey.”

My mother was happy in Canbelego. Heads turned as she passed, pushing her new white wicker pram, not because she often sang as she walked, but because she was beautiful and her voice so refined was not often heard in a mining town. She was happy because their son was born in this great land, a land now called Australia. I was classed as an Australian-born British subject.

At the beginning of the 20th century Australian citizenship was not a formal legal term. A person born in Australia was a British subject, and owed allegiance to the empire. 

 

 

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