Latest news from Australia gives new material for characterising the general unrest and instability. We must discriminate between the riot in Ballarat and the general revolutionary movement in the colony of Victoria. The former has probably been suppressed by now! The latter can only be ended as a result of considerable concessions. The former is only a symptom, a concrete manifestation of the latter.
With reference to the Ballarat riot, the circumstances which provoked this situation are as follows: Disagreement arose between a certain Bentley, the owner of the “Eureka” Hotel, situated near the Ballarat gold mines, and the gold prospectors. The occurrence of a murder in his hotel only increased the hatred towards him. After the inquest Bentley was freed as having nothing to do with the matter. But ten of the twelve jurors, who viewed the body, protested against the biased attitude of the Coroner, who tried to suppress evidence disadvantageous to the arrested man. Due to the demand of the people a second inquest was held. Despite the very suspicious evidence Bentley was again set free. Moreover, it was found that one of the magistrates was a shareholder in his hotel.
Both the former complaints and these newly received in general showed the shady character of the activities of the government officials around Ballarat. On the day when Bentley was again released, the gold prospectors organised an impressive demonstration, burnt his hotel and returned. Three of the ringleaders were arrested on the instructions of Sir Charles Hotham, Governor of the colony of Victoria. On the 27th of November, a deputation from the gold prospectors demanded their release. Hotham refused. The gold prospectors organised a huge meeting. The Governor sent police and armed forces from Melbourne. It developed into a fight, as result of which several were killed. According to the latest information – December 1 – the gold prospectors have raised the banner of independence.
This story, taken mainly from the government newspaper, in no way speaks highly of British magistrates and government officials. It points out the prevailing distrust towards them. The revolutionary movement in Victoria arises from the following important circumstances. The gold prospectors demanded the abolition of the Licences, i.e., the abolition of a direct tax on labour; secondly, they insisted on the abolition of the property qualifications for members of Parliament, and in this way they would themselves receive the right to control taxes and legislation. It is not difficult to notice that these in reality are the same reasons which led to the declaration of independence of the United States of America, but with this difference, that in Australia the opposition against the monopolists’ united with the colonial bureaucrats arises from the workers. In the Melbourne “Argus” we read of big meetings on the question of reforms, and on the other hand of big arms preparations on the part of the government. It says there, among other things: “At one meeting of 4,000 people it was decided that the mining licences are an illegal tax on free labor, and all present undertook to burn all licences and thus consider the system of licences to be abolished. If any of the persons present were arrested for not having a licence, the united people would support and protect him.” “On November 30th the Sheriffs Reid and Johnson came with cavalry and police, and with drawn swords and rifles at the ready demanded that the gold prospectors show their licences. The latter, most of them armed, held a mass meeting and decided by all forces to resist the collection of the hated tax. They refused to show their licences and. declared that the licences had been burnt. A rebellion was proclaimed and the mutiny became open.”
To describe the general conduct of the local legislative organs of the monopolists and of the colonial bureaucracy who are united with them, it is sufficient to point out that in 1854 government expenses in Victoria amounted to £3,564,285, and the deficit amounted to £1,085,896, i.e., more than one-third of the income. And in the face of the present crisis, in face of general bankruptcy, Sir Charles Hotham in 1855 demanded the sum of £4,801,292. Victoria has scarcely 300,000 inhabitants, and out of the above-mentioned sum £1,860,830, or £6 per head, is intended for public works such as road building, making docks, coast works, barracks, government buildings, etc. Taking the same scale, i.e. £6 per head, the population of Great Britain would have to pay £168,000,000 every year for public works alone, i.e., three times as much as all taxes together. It is not difficult to understand that the working-class population rebels against such excessive taxation. And it is not difficult to understand what good “business” is done by the bureaucrats and the monopolists who have united on the basis of carrying out public works on such an extensive scale – at other people’s expense.