Report on Female Factory

Evidence Type: Newspaper Report
18 January 1844


“The spirit of Free-trade is the tide which Sir GEORGE GIPPS has always depended upon, to carry him over every difficulty, and that spirit must infallibly lead to the abolition of any existing monopolies, and certainly not to the granting of any new ones.”—AUSTRALIAN, October 17, 1843.

Such was the opinion expressed in these columns pending the memorable debates on the Pfandbriefe scheme. We maintained that the Governor of New South Wales who would advocate a free-trade in articles of maritime commerce, and attempt a monopoly in money, would scarcely be entitled to a large degree of public confidence; and His Excellency’s decision in the matter of the Pfandbriefe Bill, was in strict accordance with the principle embodied in the prediction we put forth. It is, therefore, with regret that we now feel ourselves called upon to advert to certain features in Sir GEORGE’s policy, with regard to some branches of our internal industry, wherein we fear this principle has been entirely lost sight of.

The complaints set forth in a Petition presented by Dr. BLAND to the Legislative Council, and which described the injuries done to a number of industrious females by reason of the monopoly by the Parramatta Factory of the washing of the chief families of the City and its suburbs, were not unheeded by us, although at the time we did not comment at any great length thereon. The Colonial Secretary promised that the matter should receive the attention of the Executive, and hinted, moreover, at the difficulties of arranging the remaining vestiges of the convict system. We therefore felt that the policy of the Government, however well inclined to reform in this department, was obliged to partake, for a short time, of a temporizing character; and that, to a course, springing from impediments of no long endurance, we ought not too rigidly to object; but, in consideration of the alleged difficulties, we should withhold our complaints, if, as was promised, the evil appeared in course of extirpation.

We, however, could not but feel the full force of Dr. LANG’s sarcastic remarks, whilst inveighing against the unseemliness of the Executive making our Sovereign Lady, Queen Victoria, la  blanchisseuse et la corturiére to her leiges in New South Wales, and we had hoped that the subject would have been properly disposed of; but we are sorry to say, of this there appears to be very little prospect; on the contrary, we are compelled to announce her Majesty in a new character, chosen for her by her Representative in this Colony, and in which her faithful subjects cannot date to compete with her. This character is “PRINTER TO THE COLONISTS,” and in such capacity, the smallest orders will be thankfully received, and cheaply executed, at the Crown Printing Office, Bent-street, Sydney.

We will not indulge the current of humorous thought that runs in full stream through our minds, but we cannot help saying that the list made by Martinus Scriblerus, in the Art of Sinking, of the different characters of Wrestler, Attorney, Recruiting Officer, &c., under which the most sublime of all Beings has been represented by Sir RICHARD BLACKMORE, ought to have prevented Sir GEORGE GIPPS from affixing to her Majesty’s titles a list of trades and occupations; particularly as from recent declarations of his Downing-street superiors, on the subjects of free-trade and protective duties, we may reasonably expect that his Excellency will soon receive instructions to close the Queen’s Washing, Needlework, and Printing Establishments in Sydney and Parramatta.

In the mean time, we must enter our emphatic protest against the principle involved in the competition of the Crown with individuals engaged in any branch of commerce or industry. Our readers are well acquainted with the distinction we have ever drawn between what is called free-trade and beneficial foreign commerce. In discussing complicated points arising from this distinction, we have, over and over again, shown that, loaded as are our farmers and graziers with peculiar burdens, they suffer severely from unrestrained foreign competition, backed by the capital and machinery of the foreign growers. This principle has been lately recognised by a solemn vote of our legislature, and we are certainly at a loss to conceive how, in the face of such a vote, which equally applies to every branch of our industry, His Excellency can subject any class of individuals, who are engaged in industrial occupations, to a competition with the Government—a competition, which involving as it does the quastis vexata of ‘Free, versus Convict Labour’ ought no longer to be permitted.

Of the particular case which has called forth these observations, very little requires to be said, as the facts must carry conviction with them. The City Council lately called for Tenders for certain Printing required for the Corporation, and these were duly supplied by the various printing-offices in the city. However, when all the tenders had been put in, the lowest of them was taken to the Government printing-office, with an enquiry as to the price at which the work could there be performed. The printing representative of Royalty, with convict means and appliances to boot, named a lower price than the employers of free labour could positively afford to take, and the result was, that Her Majesty put her humble competitors entirely hors-de-combat. The Proprietor of the VICTORIA THEATRE was good enough, on a very recent occasion, to grant the use of the House, for the benefit of the unemployed Printers; but with this ruinous competition with the Crown before them, we fear that the ‘Workhouse’ must be the next stage whereon our distressed Imprimeurs will take a benefit.

We will but add that, inasmuch as the proprietors of the printing-offices contribute in no small degree to the payment of City Rates, whilst the Government buildings are exempt from taxation, we could have hoped that something like reciprocity would have been observed by our City Councillors, and that a trifling saving of Five Pounds, at the most, would not have been considered a sufficient excuse for sacrificing the interests of the citizens. We are the more surprised at the conduct of the City Council, because His Excellency had—out of the Government moiety of the Corporation funds—stopped payment for the amount of printing for the Council, done at the Government printing office, during the last year!

In conclusion, we beg distinctly to say that, connected as our remarks have been with typographical interests, we are not personally affected by the injurious competition waged by the Government. Our tender for the Council work was not the lowest submitted to that worthy ‘body corporate,’ and we have considered the matter in reference only to the interference of the Government with the industrial occupations of private individuals.

See Original: “GOVERNMENT COMPETITION WITH PRIVATE INDUSTRY,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Thursday 18 January 1844, p.2