The Sydney Daily Telegraph, Tue 20 Nov 1883 1
Mr Lyne, MP, has a motion on the order paper of the [NSW Legislative] Assembly for to-day which would be at any time of very great importance, but in view of two matters is of the most pressing moment. The motion is for a Royal Commission to inquire into and report upon the best method of conserving the rainfall of this colony, of searching for and developing the underground reservoirs of water supposed to exist in the interior, and to inquire into and report upon the practicability, by a general system of water conservation and distribution, of averting the disastrous consequences that, at present take, place through the periodical, droughts to which this colony is subject.
The two matters which make Mr Lyne’s motion of such immediate interest are the Government Land Bill and the near approach of railway extension to the Darling River. For both of these matters are bound up with the questions of rainfall conservation or of sinking for water in the interior of the colony. Already the extension of our railway system to Nyngan, whilst it cannot in nature alter the climatic conditions of the “never-never” country; yet, by supplying a road over which stock and goods may be conveyed, independent of drought, has greatly modified the conditions of settlement on, or occupation of, the waste lands of the colony in the dry country beyond its present terminus. And when the railway reached Bourke, these conditions will not only be modified — they will be completely changed. Similarly, whilst the Government proposals to grant homestead leases in the Western division can have no more effect upon rainfall there than Tenterden steeple had on the Goodwin sands, yet the new conditions of settlement make a State inquiry into the circumstances under which water can be best conserved, or into the existence of the great underground reservoirs of water known to exist there, of even more importance than it was when the land was occupied by large pastoralists, or settled on by selectors who took 40 acres of land in order to put up a roadside publichouse. If the lands included in the past have been profitable by purely private enterprise in the way of water conservation or discovery, when a drought meant closed roads for the sending of sheep away from thirst and starvation, and closed roads for the purpose of obtaining supplies — how much more profitable must those lands become, when right into the heart of the country there has been sent a road which drought cannot affect; and how much more necessary is it that with this road, and an opportunity for leasing small squattages, the utmost inquiry should be made into the actual water resources of the interior, so that they may be applied to increased settlement. Already good work is being done, we are aware, with the water-borers by the Government parties away out on the Warrego, and good work has been done by such private enterprise as that which carried the Kapiti well down on Karuie station to a depth of over 500 feet until a volume of water — fresh, pure, wholesome, and abundant — was struck. But in the face of the railway opening to Bourke in some 18 months, and of the Government proposals for settling more men and women and children in proportion to the sheep on the land in the Western division than has been hitherto the case, the time has come when such an inquiry as that proposed by Mr Lyne should no longer be delayed. It is certainly no more the duty of the Government to sink a well, or excavate a tank, on each homestead lease, or each part of a run which has been granted on secure tenure to the squatter, than in certain, now historic, words it is the duty of the Government to give every man a bridge “against his own door.” But, as a sequence of railway extension to the Darling, and of facilities for pastoral settlement on small areas, it is not only the duty, it is the interest of Government to obtain the best possible information on the great question of water supply for the country they are about to bring within 24 hours’ journey of Port Jackson, and on which, under their proposals, a largely increased settlement of the people should take place. More than this, it will be the duty of the Government as a result of that inquiry to take means for providing water along the various roads throughout the Western division, and then a drought will be deprived of most of its terrors and nearly all its accompanying financial ruin. It is now established with a tolerable degree of certainty that the vast quantities of water which sweep over the north-western border into New South Wales from the flooded Bulloo and Paroo, and lose themselves before reaching the Darling, as well as the great floods which now and again come down from the head waters of the Darling and its tributaries, and the disappearance of which has hitherto been by some ascribed to evaporation, in reality find their way to a great reservoir, which lies beneath a country periodically visited by drought. It is also known that much of the surface water runs to waste, and that a uniform and regular system of conservation would preserve this, and keep the country from being at times strewn with the carcases of sheep and cattle that have died of thirst. It is into these things that the Commission, asked for by Mr Lyne, will have to inquire; and in view of their importance, every one will agree that there should be no opposition to Mr Lyne’s motion by the Government, and there is little likelihood of opposition from any other quarter.
A party of a local debating society, consisting of three gentlemen, appear to have been distinguishing themselves at Bathurst. The Balmain Debating Club a short time ago received a challenge from the debating societies of the “City of the Plains” to meet four of their representatives in public debate, and the challenge being accepted, Mr Angela Smith, Mr Beaver, and Mr Schultz proceeded to Bathurst on Saturday last. The debate took place in the Lecture Hall on Saturday evening, in the presence of a fashionable audience, the majority of whom were ladies. The subject for debate was “Should the political franchise be granted to women?” and the four Bathurst representatives, Messrs Williams, Spencer, Cornwall, and Reilly took the affirmative, the motion being opposed by the gentlemen from Balmain. After a vigorous and interesting debate, in which there was some eloquent speaking on both sides, the question was decided in the negative, the Balmain representatives thus scoring a victory. A peculiar feature of the proceedings was the remarkable fact that nearly all the ladies present voted against the proposal to give them the franchise.
At the Redfern Police Court yesterday, a young fellow named George Wakeham, who gave his age as 15, was charged with wilfully and obscenely exposing himself. It appears he was travelling on a ’bus, and committed himself in a moat gross manner. The prisoner pleaded guilty, and Mr Dillon, SM, who said he considered the crime worse than that of embezzlement, sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment.
1 The Sydney Daily Telegraph, (NSW), Tue 20 Nov 1883, p. 2. Emphasis added.