History of West Australia/George Throssell



George Throssell HOFWA.jpg
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THE most thoughtful and best read of the public men of Western Australia have sedulously aimed at settling the lands of the colony, recognising that younger communities in other parts of Australasia, with a smaller territory, but not many idle acres, had made rapid progress by developing their productive resources, which are the source of national wealth and the foundation of the prosperity of the people. It was mainly the intense cultivation of her vineyards, the "close settlement" of her peasant proprietors of "garden blocks," that enabled France to so readily pay Germany's war indemnity in 1870; the immense export of locally grown food supplies adds much to the greatness and the stability of the United States. In Western Australia for many years we had the land but not the tillers, and Mr. Throssell perceived that ill fares the land that supports the farmers of her neighbours, instead of a yeomanry of her own. The backward condition of agriculture in the West was reflected in the stagnation of trade, the scarcity of money, the dormant condition of enterprise, the leanness of the public revenue, for large estates on which nothing but natural herbage was grown, and which had been parted with by the Crown for a cypher, were taking the place of farms. The cry, "Unlock the lands," had been an inspiring, rallying call in the other colonies, where the battle between the squatters and the selectors had been stubbornly fought, until the victory had been won by the ploughman, but in the West all that was heard of the crusade were the voices of a few patriots like Mr. Throssell, who never lost an opportunity to demand that the people should be enabled to make homes upon the soil, create their own independence, and swell the public exchequer.

George Throssell, M.L.A., and Commissioner of Crown Lands, was born in Fermoy, County Cork, on the 23rd May, 1840. In 1850 he came with his father, George Michael Throssell, to Western Australia, where Mr. Throssell père was appointed to a police-inspectorship at Perth, his son, after leaving school, joining the staff of Messrs. Padbury and Farmane (afterwards Padbury, Loton, and Co.), merchants, St. George's Terrace. On coming of age he started business at Northam at an inauspicious time, for within a few months, in 1862, a flood swept away most of his assets, but starting again he steadily prospered, and married Miss Annie Morrell, the daughter of Mr. Richard Morrell, one of the earliest settlers in the Northam district. From the marriage have sprung Messrs. George, Lionel, and Harry Fermaner Throssell, who are now partners of Mr. Throssell in the business at Northam, and in its branches at Southern Cross, Coolgardie and Newcastle.

From the day Mr. Throssell entered Northam as a stripling, he took an active part in its public affairs, and those of the colony generally. He was elected to the Northam Municipal Council, and for nine years filled the mayoral chair, being only out of office long enough to comply with the provisions of the Local Government Act. He was at the head of the Council when Governor Broome signed the proclamation promoting Northam to the dignity of a town, and the corporation to a higher place in civic rank. When in 1890, on the introduction of Responsible Government, the people of the colony were permitted for the first time to make a free choice of their Parliamentary representatives at the ballot box, Mr. Throssell graduated easily as a legislator, for he was held in such estimation by his fellow residents, among whom he had lived so long, that he was returned unopposed as the member for Northam in the Legislative Assembly. Three years later, in 1894, a rival entered the lists with him, and was badly overthrown. In March, 1897, on he retirement of Mr. A. R. Richardson, Mr. Throssell accepted the portfolio of Commissioner of Crown Lands, and the choice the Premier, Sir John Forrest, had made in offering him the appointment was heartily approved by the press and the public, the general verdict being that the best man had been selected for the important post.

It is as the apostle of land settlement that the Hon. George Throssell enjoys a high reputation, and will be remembered in the history of the advancement of the colony. Of a strong fighting temperament, ardent in a good cause, and a popular and forceful advocate of farming interests, land settlement is, to Mr. Throssell what the repeal of the Corn Laws was to Cobden and Bright. To see new homesteads established, a larger acreage every year brought under the plough, to provide farmers with railways for the cheap and expeditious transit of their crops to market, to buy out owners of large and almost idle estates near centres of population, in order to make room for producers, are objects of Mr. Throssell's fondest ambition. To the furthering of these principles, he may be said to have devoted many of the best years of his life, and until he sees Western Australia, from one end to the other of her cultivable districts, presenting a landscape of cornfields, orchards, and fallowed land, it is safe to predict that he will not rest from the labours with which his name will always be prominently associated. The passing of the Homesteads Act, under which a free farm of 160 acres is given to every bona fide settler, and the establishment of the Agricultural Bank, which makes advances to farmers on very easy terms, in order that they may improve their holdings, may be cited as examples of the progress that is being made in Western Australia in the adoption of the liberal encouragement to the cultivator that the Hon. George Throssell and Sir John Forrest have always been foremost in asking for. Moreover, the time has come, in Mr. Throssell's opinion, when extensive properties in the fertile Avon Valley and other places, adapted to the growth of hay and cereals, should be plotted into farms, and has made a beginning in this direction by purchasing one or two large estates in the neighbourhood of Northam, in order to subdivide them, and place them under the occupation of cultivators. Another conspicuously successful movement in a similar direction has been carried out largely under his guidance, with special reference to the promotion of temperance, and under the auspices of the Total Abstinence Society, Northam, of which he is president. The society has purchased several blocks of land from the Crown, and sold them on deferred payments to members of the organisation, thus at the same time promoting the cause of sobriety, and giving a good start in life to deserving young men. The railway interests of the growers of his electorate have been zealously watched by Mr. Throssell, who successfully fought the contest of the routes in regard to the Yilgarn line, and carried it via Northam, instead of through York, which strenuously sought that deviation. He is now vigorously urging the claims of his district to a branch line from Northam, through Jennapullin, to Goomalling. This extension would open up a great deal of excellent country, which the Commissioner has had surveyed, and which is being quickly taken up as conditional purchases and free homestead farms. The important subject of water conservation for irrigation and mining purposes has received much attention from Mr. Throssell, who, while having much respect for the rights of labour, is prone to say that no man who does not work more than eight hours per day prescribed by the unions will never make much headway in the world.

Mr. Throssell, who founded the Northam Mechanics' Institute, and is president of the athletic clubs in his electorate, takes a sunny view of life, and is full of constitutional talent, the outcome of the vitality o[ a strong physique. He never carries the acerbities of debate outside the Legislative Chamber, and is much fonder of a good story, even at his own expense, than of virulently attacking a political opponent, being only moved to anger in denouncing any approach to chicanery or the oppression of the weak. He is respected even by those who do not agree with all his aims, and is acknowledged to be one of the leading men in the Parliament of Western Australia.