The "Bulletin" and Badger's Trams

Worker Saturday 10 February 1912 p. 2.

The "Bulletin" and Badger's Trams.

Two articles from this week's "Bulletin," bearing on Badger and his trams, are worth reproducing. Here they are:—

"The joy of having a great public utility like the trams in the hands of Private Enterprise has become so apparent of late, that the people of Brisbane are almost liable to burst with happiness. In fact, they may burst unless hooped up. The row between Manager Badger and his employees was not, to begin with, a matter of wide public concern, but it spread till it became about as public as anything could be. If the community cordially approves of Badger and his doings, then it is, of course, fully entitled to have a general strike or any other commotion and inconvenience that may be available.

Every community has a right to whatever inconvenience it really wants. Unfortunately, when railways or tramways or water-works or coal supply or lighting arrangements are in the hands of Private Enterprise, one arrogant or tactless person in charge—a person who isn't in any way responsible to the people—may bring about a fuss on some matter that the people take no interest in, and about which they have been in no way consulted, and, in the course of his private row, cooking and washing and locomotion may be suspended and civilisation hung up.

Now the tramways may belong to Badger's company, but the civilisation belongs to the community, and if any mismanagement on the part of Badger damages that great public property, the community has a right to complain. It has even a right to demand that the trams shall pass to the control of some authority that can run them without making a hash of the framework of society. When public utilities are owned by the State, the people can at least do something to prevent or to end disturbances. They have some voice in deciding whether they will have a great industrial scrimmage or not, They are, in a measure, voluntary parties to the fight—not mere onlookers being trodden underfoot by both combatants, without any say in the matter. Just now they are in a fair way to stand about 99 per cent of the loss and inconvenience, yet, because the the blessings of Private Enterprise, they can't prevent the shindy; they can't stop it; their opinion about it counts for nothing ; and they won't even have the retrospective joy of throwing out Badger at next general election, for Badger isn't elected.

Badger, in fact, has the right to fight out his personal quarrel in the State's china shop, amid the crash of the State's falling crockery, and so has every other man in a similar position. It is quite possible for the boss of a Private Enterprise tramway or gas concern to start, off his own bat, a row of such size and ex- pense that it would have paid the city better to stick to the old bullock dray and the ancient kerosene lamp. And it is a great deal too much power for any one individual to have. He is much in the position of a monarch, with the right to declare war between two adjacent States, and then leave them to fight it out."


 "This little statement of the Brisbane Tramway Co. profits probably explains the Badger's swollen head : —

1906 ... £24,961 1909 ... £47,977
1907 ... 32,669 1910 ... 77,014
1908 ... 39,858

Of course it wasn't Badger who bounced the profit up from £24,961 to £77,014 in five years ; it was the growth of Brisbane that did it—that and the fact that Brisbane has enough cash in its pocket nowadays to hang the expense of a tram-ride. Also, Badger and his foreign co. are under no sort of obligation to push their lines out into newly-settled districts. On the contrary, the fool-Parliament which gave Badger's co. its rights, distinctly encouraged Badger to confine himself to the crowded parts and do no development work at all. It practically gave the foreign Badger's foreign co. a free fling till 1920—and when a foreign co. and a foreign manager have a free fling till 1920, who wouldn't expect them to kick, if they thought kicking paid best? Unfortunately, the 1895 Parliament is dead, else Brisbane might get some satisfaction out of a little vigorous kicking exercise too."

No comments: