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THURSDAY ISLAND. Australian papers state that on the 1st of January a (Queensland) Government settlement was established on Thursday Island, at tHe entrance to Torres Straits, in substitution for that which has been maintained at Somerset, and mail steamers will in future call at the former place instead of the latter. Thursday Island, hitherto little known even to Southern Queensland ers, lies thirty miles north-west of Port Somerset, and the settlement is at Vivian Point, at the western extremity T l a *s*aB< There is a signal station on Goode Island, four miles west, and as all ships passing by either the inner or outer passage from the Arafura Sea to the Pacific Ocean and vice versa must be sighted from this point, this island is very properly des. cribed the key to the position. It is said that it was chiefly to secure this that the transfer from Somerset to the Prince of Wales Group was decided upon. The Queensland Premier, who has been to inspect the island, states that as a port of call it may not perhaps be quite so convenient as Somerset for the mail steamers, but the anchorage will prove much safer than in the Albany Pass. He goes on to say: As a centre for the pearl-shell fishery, Thursday Island will, I am sure, be found to be more convenient, and if it prove to be as healthy as Somerset has been It will toon attain to some imoortance, for the pearl- shelling industry now appears to have a permanent character; at least, I gather from the pearl- shellers themselves that the supply of shell is likely to be permanent, and that the reefs are reproduetive. I endeavoured to stimulate the interest of some of these gentlemen in observ- ing the habits of the pearl oyster, and I have authorised Mr. Chester to expend a small sum of money In experimenting on their growth in one of the secluded bays near Thursday Island." The pearl-shell industry represents exports amounting to £ &0,000 a year. Advantage was taken of the Premier's pre- sence to call his attention to the labour contracts made on the fishery. He was told that some natives en board the Gem, brought from Port Essington, had been taken thence against their will, and he says: "I saw six of the men themselves, interrogated them, and • endeavoured, without success, to ascertain whether they understocd the nature of their agreement with Cap- tain Oadell. They had already been entered on the usual port agreement for a service of a year, at the rate of 10s. a month. I am convinced that they had not the slightest idea of the nature of their agreement. It 18 quite possible, however, that they may turn out useful men at the end of the term of their agreement. I had no time to pursue the inquiry, but I instructed Mr. Beddome to go on board the Gem, to see the rest of the natives themselves, and to place some European on board in the pay of the Government, in order to see that they are not taken beyond our jurisdiction* It is quite possible that Captain Oadell may, duriofi their twelve months' term of service, make good pearl-sellers of these native gentlemen from Port Essington; and when they return, aa they nwy, it is very possible that they may be looked up to with some respect by the rest of their tribe; but I cannot help thinking that they were not aware of the nature Of th3 enterprise with which they are likely to be made acquainted by Captain OadeU. I shall take care, at any rate, to bring this matter under the notice of the Government of South Austral so soon as I receive Mr. Beddome's report. It 18 evident that serious abuses might arise out of traU- sactions of this kind. I should wish also to take thw opportunity of remarking that South Sea Islanded are sometimes sent up from Sydney under agreenoeots which are manifestly unfair. It appears that the law does not require that the agreements should ho entered into in the presence of the shipping master. This has given rise to a loose state of affairs, much to the advantage of the lodging-house crimps and by nO means to the advantage of the men themselves.


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GOURDS. MARCH TQ philippof^HS;:


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