180

28th February, 1929

PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL

(Due to arrive Canberra 29.3.29)

My Dear P.M.,

I mentioned last week the scheme that originated with Philip Gibbs for the association of the Prince of Wales with a big settlement programme in the Peace River district of Canada. [1] The idea in its present form is taking the shape of a Chartered Company to acquire some millions of acres of suitable country, with a capital of say 5 millions of ordinary shares and debentures up to say 20 millions. It is proposed that the British and Canadian Governments should take say 500,000 each in ordinary shares and guarantee up to say 5 millions each in debentures. The Board would be partly British and partly Canadian. The whole scheme is very much on paper at present and it is uncertain whether it will mature. In any event it is regarded as very secret at present. Not the least good that might come out of it, to my mind, would be the enhanced prestige that the Prince of Wales would acquire by a successful issue to such a scheme. If it is gone on with, I think the beginnings will be made fairly soon so that some announcement may be made before the Election -for obvious reasons.

In a recent confidential memorandum to the Cabinet on unemployment, the Minister of Labour [2], in the course of an analysis of the subject, states, inter alia:-

One of the contributory causes of the excess unemployment in recent years has been the decrease in emigration. We are now faced with a substantial reduction of all nominated passages to Australia. It is quite clear that we cannot look for any material increase in emigration by normal methods. I am, however, informed that there is one scheme of bulk migration on a considerable scale, which is a practical proposition, judged by business standards. It is to Western Australia. The extent of available land is said by the Western Australian Agent-General to be 37,000,000 acres. If all this land were ultimately settled in wheat and sheep farms of convenient size, there would be 3,500 farms. It is, I understand, quite unnecessary for the British Government to interest itself financially in the development to the full scale. Our interest clearly would be to secure that the development is on lines which would insure the maximum absorption at the earliest date. A British Government guarantee would be needed, for a sum extending to about 2,500,000, the guarantee being for a limited period. Without a guarantee it would be difficult to arrange that the development proceeded on the right lines, so that primarily British migrants were absorbed. The management would have to be on business lines by a business corporation. But if the necessary Australian agreement were forthcoming to a scheme on these lines, I am told that there is no reason why it should not succeed.

The above is a frank and confidential expression of opinion, and, of course, cannot be quoted, but a knowledge of how the Western Australian scheme [3] is being spoken of may be of interest to you.

I am, Yours sincerely, R.G. CASEY

1 See Letter 174.

2 Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland.

3 This was a similar scheme of development to those discussed in note 2 to Letter 141.