Full text: Borrowing and business in Australia

the same authority at not less than 30s. per day ; but, for Victoria 
alone, this figure of about £40 per month is probably much too 
low. Wages automatically went up with a bound in every 
occupation, and Governor La Trobe remarked that ‘the few 
mechanics who would work received wages from 250 to 350 per 
cent. higher than before the rush’. 
A natural consequence of this sudden prosperity was a 
prodigious rise in prices. In Melbourne house-rents simply 
soared—it is the only word. A lar8e proportion of the people 
had to live under canvas, or anywhere that provided shelter; 
and this state of things, of course, gave a tremendous stimulus 
to building and allied trades. A similar situation existed in 
Sydney, where hundreds of houses were occupied weeks before 
they were out of the builders’ hands. Nothing illustrates the 
condition of industry better than the fact that houses were 
imported in pieces ready for assembly, and this in a country 
abounding in timber and at a time when steam transport was 
almost unknown. 
A period of reckless extravagance was the immediate out- 
come of the discoveries, due in great measure to the mental 
excitement caused by trading in bullion which was the common 
experience of every business man and banker.?2 The storekeeper 
changed the digger’s gold into goods as a favour, and this in- 
dependent spirit was carried right through the whole gamut of 
commerce. Nor was the attitude of the diggers themselves 
calculated to keep prices at a reasonable level. Reckless willing- 
ness to pay higher and higher rates became the boast of miners 
{ “The incomes of the whole working population were suddenly raised in the 
proportion of about 300 per cent., every man’s pound became four pounds—every 
man’s means of expenditure became four times greater than before.’ —Tooke and 
Newmarch, History of Prices, vol. vi, p. 806. 
? Alluvial gold of the average fineness was worth in England about 80s. an ounce. 
‘During this year and the next (1852-3) the banks would not advance more than 
40/- to 50/- per ounce on gold shipped to England; and, as the digger usually 
required an immediate return, he was forced to trade it with the storekeepers from 
whom he obtained his supplies. The ordinary price in Melbourne was 70/— an ounce, 
and on the goldfields from 60/—~to 65/—. These transactions in bullion, in which every 
storekeeper, merchant, and banker engaged, had a curious mental effect. The 
ordinary canons of trade were no longer thought to apply. The merchants and store- 
keepers stocked what it was convenient for them to handle with no thought of 
tempting a customer to buy. Customers were attended to as a favour; and mer- 
chants and bankers carried out business on similar lines,’-—Coghlan, Labour and 
Industry, p. 805.

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