Monday, 11 July 2016

Empire Parliamentary Delegation - 1926

A visit to Townsville by a group of political delegates from throughout the British Empire in 1926 had the city’s dignitaries in a spin over the opportunity to promote north Queensland as the ideal place to settle British immigrants.

Empire Parliamentary Delegation, outside Townsville Railway Station, 1926. Mayor Anthony Ogden is seated towards the front in the white suit. On his right is the Marquis of Salisbury, Chairman of the Delegation.
Photo: Townsville City Libraries. 
Delegates from the parliaments of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Newfoundland, India and Malta were on a tour of Australia, and their visit to north Queensland included a brief stop in Townsville, before moving on to Cairns and the Atherton Tablelands. The main aim of the tour was to discuss “numerous questions of common interest to the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations”.

One of those issues was immigration, and Townsville Mayor, Anthony Ogden, told the assembled delegates at a function held in the town hall, that the region offered opportunities for settlement that could not be found anywhere else.

“In no part of the world has such a good attempt in the settlement of the tropics been made than that contributed by Australia,” Alderman Ogden said.

The Mayor assured the gathering that there was “room enough here for any number of representatives of the British race to settle and live comfortable and happy lives”.

The Chairman of the Harbour Board, Mr J.E. Clegg, told the delegation he believed that Townsville had never in its previous history been honoured by a gathering of men of such importance from all over the Empire.

With great pride, he told the assembly that Townsville was a port of considerable note. To illustrate, he explained that in the previous year, the value of trade through the port had exceeded £6 million, and the railways which Townsville served, extended 600 miles into the west. However, he thought that if the area was to continue growing, there needed to be more British immigrants in the region.

Mr J.N. Parkes, the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, continued in a similar vein, stating that Townsville’s principal exports were wool, meat and meat by-products, sugar and minerals; and in the previous year 120,000 bales of wool had been exported, with a value of £3 million. He also noted proudly that Townsville, with a population of 28,000, was home to six primary schools, a technical college, Grammar School, and eight State schools.

One of the visitors, Mr Arthur Henderson, who was secretary of the British Labor Party, told a local reporter why north Queensland had been included on the agenda.

“We have come with the intention of getting all the information we can regarding the problems of the Commonwealth, and its development,” Mr Henderson said.

“Recognising that this can only be carried through by a considerable increase in the man power essential to development, the question of migration has been receiving our most careful consideration,” he said.

“We have come north because the people were very anxious to show they are developing the tropical portions of the Commonwealth with white labour, and there is a very natural desire for white population, and preferably that increase should be from British stock.”

But the party only spent two hours in Townsville, much to the disappointment of the Townsville statesmen. The editor of the Townsville Daily Bulletin noted bitterly, “the Empire Parliamentary Delegation yawned over the couple of hours it spent here, after three days of sightseeing in another district”. 

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