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Trouble at the post office in Ballarat

The Geelong Advertiser reported that while the government had rigidly imposed licenses and thus collected a large revenue, nothing had yet been done to establish a postal service to Ballarat.

25 November 1851
Published Source
Australian National Dictionary Centre, The Gold Rushes and Australian English: a resource for researchers, teachers and students, Australian National University, 2005, http://www.anu.edu.au/andc/res/aus_words/gold/index.php. Details
This material is provided by the Australian National Dictionary Centre, a joint project of the Australian National University and Oxford University Press Australia.


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BALLARAT. The Gold Diggings have been in operation upwards of three months, large masses of people have been concentrated in one locality, licenses have been rigidly enforced, a large revenue has been obtained, and every effort made to increase it; and yet up to the present moment the laggard government which it has pleased providence and the home authorities to bless us with its benign influence, has not taken one step to establish a Postal communication with Ballarat. Like a boa constrictor, the government has gorged its prey, and lies its huge length in supineness. The assemblage of ten thousand people in the Buninyong Ranges, was at last recognised only as a medium to tax, and to exercise patronage, in the consideration of which the wants of the community have been lost sight of, or if seen disregarded, for it cannot for one moment be supposed that a government could be so purblind as not to perceive the necessity of maintaining a community of feeling and interests, through the channels ordinarily provided in civilized communities. There is no government post office at Ballarat; there is no regular rate of postage charged, it is a private speculation which has pased [passed] from hand to hand, from tent to tent, just as it has suited individuals to undertake, or give it up. It may be bought, sold, bartered, or abandoned, like picks, shovels, cradles, or a worn out claim. "Providence helps them who help themselves," says the old proverb—and Latrobian policy appreciating the axiom, leaves the gold digger to test its truth, where outlay in its part is concerned, but assures the converse when it is a question of income, and the attribute with it. Let us take a brief glance at this matter. Buninyong is about seven miles from Ballarat. Previous to the discovery of the gold fields, the late Buninyong post master received and despatched twelve mails per week, beside private bags. The down country mails were received about two o’clock in the morning, the Sabbath being also broken in upon, by receiving and despatching. The month of October brought an increase of letters and newspapers, until it reached 3,600 in one month—owing to the gold discoveries. This great accession to the ordinary duties of the post master at Buninyong, involved great labor, greater care, greater expense, considerable anxiety, constant annoyance, and great loss of time. He solicited an advance of salary—something commensurate to his increased labors, which involved the necessity of an assistant. The government refused to make any advance on the present sum allowed, and at once superseded him. Now contrast this with the professions of the government, and their acts in other quarters, and let it be considered when the demand of his Excellency on the general revenue to cover the expense incurred by raising the salaries of government officers &c, on account of the gold question is taken into consideration. The salary of the Buninyong post master is fixed at £19 per annum, being about two pounds less than that of a hut keeper, minus rations, or one pound more than the license per annum of one gold digger, and yet the beggarly stinginess of our government, refuses to increase the salary of the post master, to an equality with the meanest employee on a station, and can peril the transit of letters to and from Ballarat, for the sake of saving a few paltry pence, and yet has the barefaced impudence to talk in rounded periods to the Legislative Council of the necessity of providing for increased government expenditure. Contrast the salaries of the Commissioners, Subs and their subordinates, with that of efficient, useful, hardworking servants of the public, expected to attend to the beck, or nod of every body, at all times. Imagine only for a moment, a man dignified with title of post master, holding a highly respectable government situation at £19 a year and find himself. But it is ever the way with these pseudo libeals [liberals], they save at the spigot, and let out at the bung hole; they can lavish on patronage broadcast—whilst they cripple efficient usefulness, by miserly economy, and sacrifice the interests and convenience of the cimmunity to a paltry £ s. d. view, saving a fraction of a fraction to themselves, by starving the post master and entailing treble postage on the thirty shillings a-month for eight square feet taxed gold diggers. Of a truth here we have a notable instance of enlightened statesmanship, a foretaste of the excellency of independent government, that casts a halo around the advent of unshackled Latrobeism, which should placard its tent at Ballarat—"The highest taxation enforced here for the least service that can be rendered." Dismissing the subject of the postage, but with more ceremony than the government used is dismissing the post-master, who, like Oliver Twist was frowned down by the work-house authorities for "more soup[,]" I shall proceed to consider the propriety of damming the water. Geelong Advertiser, 25 November 1851