Advance Australia!


Finch-Hatton did not mince his words, and showed himself to have quite a talent for stinging insults. Here is a selection of the better ones (page numbers are from the 2nd edition).

On Naples, Italy:

I had been there before, but as I never can be twenty minutes in a steamer without wanting to get out, of course I went ashore. There was nothing fresh to be seen, and certainly nothing fresh to be smelt. In appearance the whole place resembles a very inferior chromo-lithograph; and I cannot help thinking that the saying, "Vede Napoli e poi Mori," [See Naples and then die] has more reference to the asphyxiating nature of its smells than to any overpowering beauty about the place. (p. 1)

On Port Said, Egypt:

This town forms a receptacle for all the scum and dregs of every nation under the sun, and is undoubtedly one of the most villainous dens in existence. Composed almost entirely of casinos, gambling saloons, and houses sacred to the worship of blind Cupid, it is a sink of iniquity whose waters, like those of the Dead Sea, are so dense as to support numbers who would go to the bottom elsewhere. The lighthouse and the coalsheds are probably the only buildings in the place that have not a professional tendency towards the subversion of morals and the encouragement of vice. (p. 3)

On the Queensland Government:

The Queensland Government, not contented with figuring before the civilised world as sordid and immoral politicians, never lose an opportunity of proving themselves benighted barbarians as well. (p. 178)

On sugar-cane farmers:

The planters of the district have long been a byword for meanness and stupidity. Entirely absorbed in the process of growing and making sugar, they absolutely refuse to acknowledge the importance of any other industry, and have always entertained an unreasoning aversion to any kind of mining in the neighbourhood, only to be accounted for by the supposition that a prolonged course of sugar-boiling has turned their heads into vacuum-pans, and raised the density of their wits to the level of that of their most prolific cane-juice. (p. 189)

On the Salvation Army:

The most entertaining thing I ever saw in Brisbane was a small detachment of the Salvation Army. They were parading the streets in search of truth, and I had the curiosity to go up and examine them closely. Their soul-saving apparatus consisted only of four blasphemous hymn-books, a cracked concertina, and a very faded banner that I think had once seen better days in the form of a kite.

But although their technical appliances were rather defective, fate had been kind in lavishing on them a profusion of those higher gifts that are indispensable to their calling. They all possessed in perfection the whining voice, the vicious droop of the eyelid, and the peculiar expression of petrified rascality about the corners of the mouth, that neither vice nor sickness, drink nor toil, are capable of implanting there without the assistance of a course of open-air piety. I sincerely hope that I did not misjudge them. Appearances are very deceitful, and from a short distance I defy anyone to tell whether the prima donna was shouting "Glory" or had just sat down on a tin tack. (p. 285-6)

On Sydney Harbour's much-touted beauty:

Where Sydney Harbour got its reputation for beauty I am quite at a loss to imagine. I never saw anything more forlornly ugly in the way of scenery. Undoubted it is one of the finest harbours from a naval point of view in the world, but there is nothing whatever picturesque about it. It is surrounded by low rocky ridges about 200 feed high, covered all over with stunted trees. (p. 291)

Sydney Exhibition Hall
Sydney Exhibition Hall

On Sydney's former Exhibition hall:

The Exhibition itself was unfortunately burnt to the ground in 1883. It would have been an eyesore anywhere else, but was quite an ornament to Sydney, and its loss was deeply felt by the inhabitants, who entertain feelings of superstitious reverence for the supposed beauty of the place. (p. 292)

On Melbourne's Yarra River:

The Yarra is a foul, sluggish stream, brown in repose and the colour of ink when stirred up, and smelling horribly all the time. (p. 304)

On Melbourne's mining investors:

I had always heard that the mining men of Melbourne were as great a lot of scoundrels as there are in existence, but I was surprised to find that in addition to this they were most of them perfectly ignorant of anything connected with the practical or theoretical working of a mine. Most of them would not know a gold-mine from a blue gum-tree, and the object of everyone of them seemed to be to puff up the shares of the companies whose scrip they held by lying reports, and to sell out at a profit. (p. 306)

On critics of Imperial Federation:

Here and there some editor of a newspaper, determined to prove that his ignorance does not arise from want of information, but from inability to digest it, exposes the petrifaction of his intellect in the shape of an article sneering at the promoters of Imperial Federation, because they have as yet laid down no definite scheme.

Fortunately it is not by babbling critics such as these that the matter will be decided. (p. 330)

The following quotes come from the article North Queensland Separation.

On political theorist John Bright:

It is true that one of the greatest leaders of the Manchester school still survives in the person of Mr. John Bright, who may be heard at intervals shouting his paean of disintegration over the fossil remains of his predecessors; but his voice has lost much of its former power of persuasion, and, when it is heard, it acts more as a warning than as a guide. Anchored by the twin cables of pride and prejudice to the rock of ignorance, for more than half a century he has withstood the advancing tide of progress and of common sense; and now, having gone down at his moorings, like a wreck whose masts are still visible above water, he serves as a sort of involuntary beacon to warn future politicians off the shoals and quicksands of Imperial navigation. (NQS, p. 796)

On the Premier of Queensland, Samuel Griffith, who was arguing against the separation of North and South Queensland:

It would have made our task a far pleasanter one if we had to deal with a less responsible politician than Mr. Griffith, for we shall have to bring charges against him which cannot fail to throw discredit upon the political morality of a colony which has chosen him for her premier. (NQS, p. 797)

Relying, it is to be presumed, upon the twelve thousand miles that separate him from those in this country whom his utterances are intended to deceive, he has put forward statements so entirely misleading, and shown such a cynical disregard for facts, as not even the extremely lax morality of modern politics can possibly condone. (NQS, p. 798)

When we consider that the Northern miners have achieved the above results by their own unaided exertions, entirely unassisted by the Government in Brisbane, it is difficult to know which to wonder at most--the extraordinary perseverance of the miners, or the inconceivable stupidity of the Government. (NQS, p. 800)

It is difficult to imagine that Mr. Griffith is serious in putting forward so utterly childish a proposition. (NQS, p. 803)

Accordingly, the present Premier set off last year on a tour round the Northern country, not, as might have been supposed, with a view to ascertain the grievances of the inhabitants, but with the express purpose of throwing dust in their eyes as to the real facts of the case. Mr. Griffith has been brought up in the modern school of politics, and no one knows better than he the value of an opportune falsehood, and the worthlessness of any subsequent contradiction to efface the effects of it. (NQS, pp. 805-6)


Jim Foley || Email me