Topic: Gen - St - SA
The Critic, 23 September 1914
GOOD SAMPLES OF SOUTH AUSTRALIAN SOLDIERS.
[Left to right: Lieut.-Col. F. Rowell, Lieut.-Col. A. Miell, Major D. Fulton, and Lieut. Lewis.]
Here are the issues discussed:
- The soldiers are doing a wonderful job;
- The water shortage due to the prolonged drought;
- How the opposition can support the government;
- The union monster that is destroying Australia and the ALP; and,
- Train mismanagement.
Think this is all new? Think again.
September 23, 1914.
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SOUTH AUSTRALIA AND THE WAR.
In a most dramatic and impressive manner the people of Adelaide were brought into intimate touch with the great European situation on Monday afternoon. The march of the Expeditionary Force through the streets, a demonstration, however, with which Kitchener might not have wholly agreed, stirred the grim side of the people's imagination as well as the depths of their patriotism. Here were their own "boys" going forth to do battle for the Empire's honor. Here was Australia's answer to a self-imposed call that she should shoulder some of the burden of a great responsibility. There was a thrill in a study of that long line of khaki, and a lump came to the throats of the onlookers as they thought ahead a few months and saw them taking their places in the far-flung fighting line with the British, the French, and the Belgian soldiers. Intermingled with the enthusiasm for the gallant South Australians who are going to risk all for their country's prestige, were many serious moments. That was why the large crowd of spectators did not give way to hilarious cheering, although there were, of course, expressions of the heartiest appreciation. It was not an occasion, after all, for hysterical rejoicing, but for sober contemplation and a robust, thoughtful sentiment. These soldiers were not going to Europe for a picnic or for comedy, but for a perilous duty. Some, we knew, would not come back, but with untold thousands would have to pay tragic toll to the God of Battles. It seemed terrible to think-and yet the awful possibilities were there-of any of those manly Australian hearts sleeping and their bodies rotting in the trenches because a single European monarch had run amok and had caused his men to turn almost the entire Continent into a vast ocean of blood.
There was one cause for rejoicing as that brave line of khaki swept through the streets. It was that the advance of the Allies and the retreat of the German Army were proceeding steadily towards a happy and decisive conclusion. The news from the front continues to be eminently encouraging, and while we may still expect reverses and checks, it seems that an all-enveloping victory is assured for the Allies and for honor.
THE WATER DIFFICULTY.
After sympathising with themselves, the public of the metropolitan area will, to some extent, sympathise with the Government in connection with the water difficulty. It is a serious, almost an alarming one. The position has to be looked squarely in its menacing face. A water famine is imminent and everybody will agree with the action of Sir Richard Butler in instituting prosecutions against those who have persistently neglected the warning given by the department that none of the precious fluid was to be used for the gardens. This intimation was prominently notified and should have been instantly respected. No doubt, many people have imagined that this was a cry of "Wolf! Wolf!" on the part of the authorities, but, unfortunately, it is no such thing.
The regulation is perfectly clear and there must be no monkeying with it. The watering of gardens is absolutely prohibited.
That means, as the Commissioner of Public Works has pointed out, that no moisture is to be applied to them by any method or by subterfuge. There has been a silly and criminal attempt by certain householders to make the regulation a solemn farce by throwing water on to the gardens by means of a bucket instead of a hose because Sir Richard had stated the objection in that popular way. The gardens are not to be watered at all. Now, is that plain enough: The Minister in future does not intend to limit the prosecutions to those who are caught squandering the golden contents of the reservoirs through a hose. And, of course, it is not necessary for the consumers to be actually caught in the act. The meter tells a sufficient tale. Every day the trouble is becoming more acute. September is passing-there are only six more days to go and there has been practically no rain to speak of. The most that we can hope for is a replenishing supply from the effect of the equinoxial gales which occur towards the end of the present month or early in October. If that should fail, the residents of the metropolitan area will be faced with a water famine on a scale never before approached. The only advantageous feature about the problem is that it is forcing private people to do what they should have done before-getting water independently of the reservoirs.
A BUNGLE SOMEWHERE.
But what is the Government water department doing? Is it to be presumed that the experts are not sitting idly by during this crisis and waiting, like some criminal Micawber, for rain to turn up? Surely not. The public are entitled to have enough confidence in those officials to believe that they have in their minds some practical scheme to alleviate the terrible difficulty if the worst should come to the worst: It is an easy matter to blame somebody over this unhappy development, but it certainly does seem that the Hydraulic Engineer's Department has not looked far enough ahead, inn its calculations. There appears to have been a bungle somewhere in having allowed such enormous quantities of water to be wasted, when, with a drought, which is always possible in Australia, it must have been inevitable on the estimates of quantities stored in the reservoirs that a perilous position lurked near. The development of the suburbs, the accompanying extension of the sewage system, and the tremendous increase in the number of gardens, were facts_ quite visible to the untrained eye of the layman, and they should have been far more significant lessons to the officers charged with the responsibility of reckoning up the available supplies of the reservoirs as against these new and opposing factors. It is not hard to imagine what an immense saving could have been effected if the order to stop street watering by public bodies had been given long ago, and if similar action had been taken in respect of the quantities used by such institutions as the Botanic Gardens and the Zoo. From whatever view the trouble is examined there hardly seems to be any escape from the assertion that the-Hydraulic Engineer's Department has, all this time, been lulling itself into a false security. The capacity of the reservoirs has been unfairly and unwisely attacked.
WHAT IS BEING DONE?
But all that belongs to the unfortunate past. Regrets or mistakes cannot help us now. The position in which the residents of Adelaide and its environs are face to face with a water shortage probably more serious than any in their history has to be met. "The Critic" repeats that it is to be presumed that the danger is not being allowed to take care of itself. There ought to be some provisioning against the worst coming to pass-as it might very easily do. No expense which would lead to relief of a famine would be too great. Suggestions from those not cognisant with the technical considerations of the Hydraulic Engineer's office might be very absurd, but it does occur that provision could be made to direct some of the water from comparatively close reservoirs to metropolitan centres. That may not be feasible from an engineering standpoint. Neither may the proposal that the Murray should be drawn upon for supplies. But, in heaven's name, something ought to be feasible. It is obvious now that the Millbrook scheme should have been inaugurated long ago. No blame in that direction, however, can be laid. at the door of the present Government, and most certainly not on Sir Richard Butler's unfortunate head. Practically everything that has been 1 possible in the time has been done. Whether or not the scheme should have been recommended by the officers of the Hydraulic Engineer's Department much earlier is quite another matter.
"ASSISTING" THE GOVERNMENT.
When the war drums were first sounded and the battle flag was unfurled, there was a patriotic scene in the House of Assembly. The members, so the newspapers reported, sang lustily "God Save the King," gave several cheers for the King and Australia, and at a later stage some of them indulged in highly patriotic speeches. Among .them was the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Crawford Vaughan, who then promised, presumably on behalf of his party, to give the Government all the assistance possible during-the crisis. That promise appears to have died away with the cheers. The patriotism of the Labor Party in South Australia has grown stale. Instead of assisting Mr. Peake and his colleagues of the Ministry in these delicate circumstances, the Socialists - or most of them - have, for petty party purposes, deliberately baulked and embarrassed them. It would have been a low down game at any time. There is no term fitted for publication that can be used to describe what this action amounts to at present.
The militant section of the Labor Party has been whipping up the unemployed and suffering proposition with great energy. There is no virtue in the clamor, or sincerity of pathos, no genuine indignation. Instead of assisting the Ministry to dispense practical sympathy on the unfortunate people, the Labor members are out to win political kudos. That and nothing more. They are harassing the Government right and left and making a difficult position infinitely more difficult by fanning, a sentimental flame. 'The Premier was perfectly justified in telling the Socialists in the House of Assembly the other day that that was the kind of assistance the Ministers would far sooner be without. The patriotism of the Labor Party is a treacherous alliance, and is not wanted. Let Mr. Vaughan and his associates keep it. This "loyal assistance" of theirs is mere humbug and sham and party deception. And they know it.
NOISE AND FROTH.
What point, it may be asked, could the Government have in deliberately aggravating the unemployed problem-, What right has the Labor Party got to arrogate to itself the supreme virtue of being the only one to be able to do the right thing in any given set of circumstances, Why should it claim a monopoly of this trumpeted virtue of sentiment' The Premier has repeatedly told the people that the Government is doing its best in connection with this difficulty, and the people may rely upon that best being all that is reasonably possible against -very heavy odds. In any case, as Mr. Peaks has emphasised, the South Australian Liberal. Ministry is doing, on the whole, much more than the New South Wales Labor Ministry. Mr. Peaks and his colleagues are at least keeping on deck while the storm is on, and that much cannot he said for the others. From the noise and froth that are issuing from the mouths of certain local Socialists it would seem that the Government is doing absolutely nothing to alleviate the distress. The Labor members are always able to cultivate convenient memories. They appear to have forgotten the prompt and splendid action on the part of the Government which has been responsible for keeping 2,000 men in work on the Peninsula Mines. Does that amount to nothing? Does the substantial assistance to the distressed farmers in the Far North and the West Coast amount to nothing? Is the determination of the Government to avoid, until the absolute limit of impossibility, the necessity for putting more Government employees on reduced time amount to nothing. The Commissioner of Public Works, who is at least an industrious and conscientious administrator, has thrown out the challenge that the party politicians who are protesting against the supposed inactivity of the Ministry cannot place a finger on a single instance of neglect to push on with public works. No, they cannot do that. But, if the occasion should be necessary, the Socialist imagination is a vile thing. Its party prejudice is even viler. Why, the Government is spending money on public works at the rate of quite £3,000,000 during the present financial year_ What the Labor agitators are after is what has been capitally described by Sir William Irvine as "soup kitchen" financing. They will not get it from Mr. Peaks or Sir Richard Butler.
LOOSE HEADS AND LOOSE TONGUES.
The remark of the Attorney-General in reference to the unions using some of their funds to alleviate distress is by no means extravagant. It may be pertinently enquired how the wealth of the labor organisations is being distributed. The reason why the criticism has been so hotly resented is that Mr. Homburg has put his finger on a sore spot. The fact is that the money which is extracted from the workers for the unions is not intended for their relief at all, valuable as it would be in a time like this. It is intended for the maintenance of labor newspapers which don't pay, and to enable the political agitators to draw their rather handsome salaries. That is where the money goes, and it is because the labor members cannot deny the truth that they are losing their heads and their tongues at the same time.
It was publicly known that thousands would throng the streets of Adelaide on "Monday to farewell the troops, and see the procession. From all parts of the suburbs the crowds came-and what did the railway authorities do? Did they put on more trains? No. Did they add more carriages' No. Did they study the convenience of the public at all? No. It is a fact that at many stations crowds could not be accommodated, and where second-class passengers travelled first, excess fare was demanded. Where was the justice or common-sense of it?
The largest crowd ever seen in Adelaide, Monday, 21 September 1914
[Editorial Note: This is the crowd that arrived in Adelaide about which the last article on Railway Mismanagement was written. Since this was the era without Port-a-loos, fast food outlets and rapid transit, the management of basic human necessities at this event requires some imagination.]
Citation: Great War, South Australian History, The Critic, 23 September 1914