Brisbane Courier, Saturday 13 September 1902, p. 5
THE HON. JOHN DOUGLAS, C.M.G, RETURNED TO QUEENSLAND
The Hon. John Douglas, C.M.G., Government Resident at Thursday Island, returned to Queensland on Friday evening last, after a holiday trip to England. Mr. Douglas was for many years a conspicuous figure in the political life of this State, being at one time Premier, and his views upon certain questions of the day which he very courteously gave a representative of this paper at Riviera, North Quay, yesterday will be read with interest. At the outset, it may be said that Mr. Douglas seems to have benefited in health by his trip. He is robust and fresh-looking, and all his physical nobility and charm of manner are with him just as they were when some twenty-five years ago he led the Parliament of Queensland with honour and distinction.
Mr. Douglas, without any affectation or tho "fume of little minds" on the subject of being interviewed, at once began to speak of his trip. "It was a pleasure trip," he said. "I went to see my friends, and saw them all, and was delighted to think that they were pleased to see me. I had a charming time, and am glad that I am permitted to come back again to live in this good old country, which is really now my own country." Mr. Douglas spoke with the enthusiasm ono notices in so many returned Queenslanders.
"I was in London," he said, "during the time of excitement regarding the King's illness. It was a terrible disappointment to everyone in London, for London had made up Its mind to have a supreme show. Londoners like a show. In my early life London was a very steady-going place, and people did not care for display; at least they affected not to do so. But they go in for show now, and appreciate it. The King is personally very popular. He is very tactful, and deserves all the personal goodwill which he secures. It is really the personal liking for him which is at the bottom of his great popularity. I had an Invitation to attend at the Abbey for the Coronation, but the postponement of the ceremony prevented me from being there. I could not remain longer in the face of all the changes that are taking place. I did not know what they would do with me; but they must have someone at Thursday Island, and I do not know if there is anyone who knows the work there better than I."
Mr. Douglas returned to Australia by way of the Cape and Hobart. He was very pleased with Cape Town, but disappointed with Tasmania. "I expected to see more cultivated country there," he said. "I found it very rough between Launceston and Hobart. Tasmania does not seem to be a very go-ahead place, and though the climate is delightful, I was very glad to get into the Queensland temperature again. From the Cape to Hobart we scarcely once saw the sun, and we were down in the Roaring Forties; as far as 48 deg. south, and had snow on the deck several times. On the ship wo had a number of Immigrants for New Zealand; a fine lot of people, full-paying passengers. Our ship, the Paparoa, like the other New, Zealand boats, is a line vessel, and passengers are very comfortable."
Discussing the drought, Mr. Douglas said that he had heard a great deal about it, but he has great faith in Queensland soon pulling round. "I believe that Queensland will come to be a big wheat exporting country," he said. "When the Burnett and other splendid lands are closely settled, we shall be exporting a lot of wheat. I stated that at the annual Queensland dinner in London; a dinner which nearly all Queenslanders attend, and where I was able to meet many old friends, including some of our South African warriors, who had a very hearty reception, as they have everywhere."
Asked to give an expression of opinion on the Imperial Conference in London, Mr Douglas said: "I don't think much has come of it, but I believe that a growing good feeling has been stimulated by it. Public men in England, like Mr. Chamberlain, had an opportunity to know exactly what the mind of our public men is. There is an idea in England that we should contribute largely to the Imperial, military forces. I do not think that will come about, and believe that as long as we prepare to protect ourselves, and show our vitality and give assistance in the time of trouble, that that is as much as can be expected at present in the way of Imperial Federation. But no doubt the Imperial federation feeling has immensely increased, and is predominant at the present time.”
"Amongst the changes I observed, especially in the provincial cities of England and Scotland," said Mr. Douglas, "was the marked improvement made In the sanitary arrangements. You can have no conception of it in that respect. There are lavatories everywhere, and on a most complete scale. The London County Council and tho municipal bodies in the provinces have contributed very much to that. Public convenience is carefully studied by the provision of underground lavatories in the streets, and I noticed that more perhaps than anything else in the large cities. I only wish we were up to the same standard of comfort, which induces, I believe, cleanliness and decency, it is the same at all the railway stations.
Mr. Douglas was not inclined to talk, very freely upon the pearl shelling question. He said: "I saw several leading men in Melbourne, and I gathered that they are prepared to meet the actual conditions of the case. What I believe they wish to avoid is the filtering of Asiatics in any considerable number into Australia, so that they can keep control over them. Otherwise, I take it the public men of the Commonwealth, as far as I can judge, will be willing to deal with these matters from a common sense point of view, without seriously disturbing existing interests. I may add, in connection with the matter, that the Thursday Island yield has been for the past few years very good, taken on the whole.”
Upon the question of retrenchment in Queensland, Mr. Douglas expressed himself thus: "I suppose there will be a serious reduction all round here, and the Ministry are quite right to make it, so long as they do not imperil the efficiency of the Government service, which has been of a very high character."
Mr. Douglas was asked to give his views on the subject of the agitation at Thursday Island, respecting the operation of the Factories and Shops Act. He said: "It has been represented that the action has been "taken in consequence of a recommendation in one of my reports. That I most emphatically deny. I have not referred to it; but there are a number of small traders at Thursday Island, and I can conceive that the closing of their shops in the evening, when most of the business is done by the residents, will cause them some loss, but that is a, matter which I believe is before the Government. It has been represented to me from Thursday Island that the hardship is being seriously felt. I am not informed fully on the subject, and I must reserve my opinion; but I unhesitatingly say I have not recommended tho action myself. Mr. Farquhar, one of the leading pearlshellers is expected, down by the next Japanese boat, and I believe he is charged with making representations to the Government on this subject.''
"I saw Sir Henry Norman in London” said Mr. Douglas," and he expressed himself very warmly regarding Queensland and all his old Queensland friends. I spent an afternoon with Lord and Lady Lamington, at Westminster, and it happened to be the day on which Lord Salisbury's resignation was announced, so we went to' the House of Lords, and it was rather an interesting occasion. Lord Lamington has been spoken of as the future Governor at Ceylon, and I do not know how that may be, but Sir West Ridgeway, the present Governor, is returning to Ceylon for another year. Lord and Lady Lamington are very well and they were very kind. Sir Horace Toser is full of business, but I do not think favours the removal of the Agent-General's office to the city. Mr. Chamberlain is anxious that the different offices should be merged into a central office, under the Commonwealth. I rather doubt myself the wisdom of moving from Victoria-street, where the Colonial offices have been settled for many years, and where they are known and identified with the locality. If they go into the city they will have to pay to get anything like an equivalent to their present premises. It is suggested that the Agents-General should mix more with the business people and that they be regarded more as mercantile agents. How that will work remains to be seen. I rather suspect that they will notice a good deal of opposition from the present mercantile representatives of the state in the city.
This concluded the Interview.