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Our Australian Cousins
Chapter VIII

Return to Brisbane—A ride by rail to Ipswich—Scenery on the line —Venality of legislators—The Bathurstburr—Grass seeds—-The Sida return—Ipswich—The Grange Stud farm—The horse trade with India—An Indo-Australian trading company—Excellence of Australian stock.

On my return to Brisbane I one day took a run up to Ipswich, to view the far-famed stud farm of the Hon. Joshua Bell, one of the best-appointed stock-breeding establishments in Queensland. My companion "was a merry, sporting young sub., (what we would call in Tirlioot a pucca admi,) who was now on the Governor's staff, but had served for some years in Bombay and Poona. It was a pleasure to meet an old Indian, in the land of the kangaroo and eucalyptus, and you may be sure we took to each other at once.

The ride up to Ipswich presents few noticeable features. The country shows numerous traces of clearing and settlement, but the old primeval forest or bush still holds undisputed sway over the greater part of the landscape.

The rail is on the narrow-gauge pattern, has long single carriages, nicely furnished, with a seat running down all the length on either side, like an elongated omnibus. And there is a platform at each end, where you can enjoy your weed if so minded. We first passed several neat kitchen-gardens, all cultivated by Chinamen; then, through some heavy cuttings, and finally plunged into the interminable and inevitable bush. In the bush there is no restriction whatever on timber-cutting; and gaunt, withered, leafless trees stretch out their ghostly arms in all directions. A fearful waste goes on, and in time will no doubt be felt; but at present the chief thought that occurs to one is, how this seemingly endless forest is ever to be cleared.

A drive through the thick scrub soon impresses you with an idea of the vastness of the timber-supply, and you no longer wonder at people being lost in the bewildering mazes of this eternal bush. Till we near Ipswich the soil seems arid and poor, and numerous grass-trees stud the partly-cleared slopes. This grass- tree looks for all the world like a Busby, or High­lander's bonnet, stuck on a twisted pole. From the top hangs down the withered tuft of dried grass; above is the green feathery plume of living grass; and from the centre springs out a long, thin wand with seed-vessels at the end, resembling a bombardier's sponge.

"We are here in a coal country, and several mines have already been opened and profitably worked. Near Ipswich the soil gets darker and richer; and here, a few years ago, cotton was grown in considerable quan­tities, but owing to the difficulty of getting cheap labour, cultivation has gradually died out. Under the Industrial Act a bonus was given to all and sundry who might introduce any new industry into the colony, and under this stimulus the cotton farmers struggled on for a time. As soon, however, as the bonus was withdrawn, cotton-growing was given up as being too costly a process to pay. Silk was also tried, and one far-sighted individual, with a little newspaper influence, got a sum of 1500l. voted by the Parliament, 750I. of which was to be cash down and the remainder when he produced a certain quantity of silk or cocoons. The thing turned out to be a flagrant job. An ap­pearance was certainly, made of starting the industry; but when the 750L had been pocketed, the whole affair was put up for sale. It is currently reported here that when the members voted* the money, they did so knowing that no bond fide attempt at business Avould ever be made, but they also knew that if the money were not voted, some of them would be attacked by the paper for which this pure-souled speculator wrote! Such was the tale, told to me by an Australian patriot, and I was informed then, and subsequent experience has confirmed the truth of the unsavoury allegation, that similar jobs are and have been by no means un­common, and that, however much there may be to admire in .connexion with the public policy and material progress of Australian statesmen, and Australia generally, gross venality and rampant jobbery are, alas, a too frequent and common reproach against many of her most prominent legislators. "When I say pro­minent, I mean not so much those who are prominent for talent, ability or integrity, but those who are forward and prominent by reason of their shameless effrontery. There ia generally much reckless mud- tlirowing between such members in a colonial senate. During every great debate, indeed, the Parliament House in Sydney is seldom spoken of otherwise than as the Macquarrie Street Bear Garden. In all justice let it be said, that the sinners are few in number, but then they are sinners of such enormity. A few represen­tatives of the people in Sydney are bad, very bad, ravenous.

As we whirled along in oiir comfortable though narrow carriage, the much-dreaded Bathurst burr was pointed out to me, growing plentifully by the side of the track. This is a terrible enemy to the pastoral farmer. There is an Act in force for its extirpation, as it proves such a scourge to the wool-grower, for when the burr gets in the fleece of a sheep it becomes a sorry picture. There is no way of getting it out again, and the whole fleece is spoiled.

Out west there is another kind of grass, the seed of which not only enters the fleece, but actually pierces the skin, and is the immediate cause of death to great numbers of valuable animals. This seed has a sharp point, shaped not unlike an arrow with a barb on only one' side. It is a much and justly-dreaded pest. One owner I talked to told me he had, a few years ago, to burn ten thousand fleeces, which were quite matted and spoilt by it. "When the sheep were shorn, the seeds were found sticking like pins in a cushion all over the bodies of the poor beasts, and fully one-half of them died from the irritation and pain. The introduction of the thistle into New Zealand, where it has since become a public calamity, requiring special legislation and severe punitive measures to secure its extirpation, should have taught caution; but here also a plant, the Sida return, was introduced for the sake of its fibre. It has spread, and is now such a pest that nearly all the natural pasture near the city has been spoilt by it; and although it produces excellent fibre, the cost of preparation is so great, at the present rates of labour, that it will not pay to extract it.

Ipswich, before .the railway was opened, was the point to which all the wool and-produce from the interior was brought. The river is navigable up to the town for small steamers, and most of the stores for the interior were despatched from this place. It is still a thriving-looking town, but the rail has shorn it of some of its former importance. There are fine grammar schools and beautiful gardens; and, surrounded by its amphitheatre of wooded hills, it looks a bright little picture as it nestles in the hollow by the stream.

A very high railway and foot-bridge is thrown across the river here, yet the river is so subject to tremendous floods that this extreme altitude is not excessive. The wharves, and even the offices and buildings on the banks below, are all built with sharp prows pointing up stream, to enable them to stem the tremendous floods which annually occur. The stream is deep but narrow, and a rise of over sixty feet in the twenty-four hours has frequently been recorded.

After looking through the town, we drove out to the Grange Stud-farm, belonging, as I have before stated, to the Hon. J. P. Bell, one of the first breeders of blood­stock in the whole colony. His manager, Mr. Kellett, at the time of my visit, was eager to send a shipment of young broken-in stock to India. One of the great drawbacks to exporters hitherto has been that companies will not insure against individual loss. They will insure the whole shipment, but not any particular animal in the batch. This, shippers tell me, has done much to prevent good horses being sent out.

Dealers are on the look-out all over the southern colonies, picking up cheap cattle wherever they can. These are forwarded to yards and paddocks near Melbourne. They are never handled, but shipped as they are. What wonder, then, that we too often find the animals vicious and intractable when they reach India.

In the breadth of Australia there are scores of establishments perhaps in no whit inferior to the the Grange either m stock, arrangements, or management. In New South Wales the names of Lee, Loder, Eales, Dangar, Eager, Cox, Bailie, Tait, and numbers of others which at once suggest themselves, are household words ; • and enormous sums have been expended in purchasing strains of blood that have already raised the repu­tation of Australian stock of all kinds to a world-wide celebrity, and which in time bids fair to make the horses, cattle, and sheep of the Antipodes equal, if not excel, the crack specimens of Old Mother England herself.

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