The history of political parties in Queensland began with the general history of the colony. In 1824 the Moreton Bay District was opened as a base to which the more undesirable convicts of New South Wales might be sent, and as such it remained until 1840, when the abolition of transportation prepared the way for the settling of the colony by free immigrants1. The new class of population naturally demanded some voice in the government of the colony, and so, within a very short time of the abandonment of convict labour, the inhabitants of Moreton Bay were called upon to send a representative to the Legislative Council in Sydney2. Such representation was too remote to carry with it any influence, and, as the need for direct control of legal and political business became more pressing, it was realised that it would be advisable to relieve New South Wales of the difficulty of her northern administration. In these circumstances, on the 10th December 1859, the whole of the vast territory north of Point Danger, representing an area of 668,497 square miles, was made a separate colony under the designation of "Queensland"3.
The "genesis" of Queensland in 1859 was remarkable owing to the fact that Queensland was the only colony in Australia that did not pass through the preliminary stages of colonial government. But her representation in the legislature of New South Wales had awakened her political consciousness, and had already laid down the lines upon which parties were to range themselves for almost the first two decades of her parliamentary history. In New South Wales the clash of interests lay between the squatters, the town population and the agriculturalists, and Moreton Bay, involved as it was in the struggle of Sydney parties from 1842 to 1859, found itself dividing on similar lines. The real cleavage came as a result or the action or the United Kingdom in 1844 when it tried to re-open New South Wales to transportation4. The agriculturalists and squatters wanted cheap labour and supported the Home Government, but when the convicts arrived in 1849 the Legislative Council in New South Wales had reversed its opinion, and, being rejected in Melbourne and Sydney, they were eventually sent to Moreton Bay. Lord Grey, at that time Colonial Secretary, realised the inadvisability or his action and no further convicts were despatched, but agitation had already been aroused in the Moreton Bay district) and a movement for separation, based on the question of convict labour, began5. For the first time in this area the clash of interests was one purely local in character.
The squatters wanted separation because they saw in it a reintroduction of transportation, which would procure for them the necessary labour to enable goods to be produced for export at the lowest possible cost. Opposed to them were the traders who demanded high prices for the articles they imported, and who naturally resented any attempt to reduce the cost of living. The latter desired separation only because they wanted a legislature or their own and a fairer representation against the squatting interests. To the division between the squatters and traders was added the further disturbing factor of the rivalry of Brisbane and Ipswich, both of which wanted the profits made by distributing the imports after their arrival and by collecting the exports before shipping them away6.
The gold discoveries of 1851, though they did not extend to the Moreton Bay district, added still further to the anxiety of the squatters and laid even more firmly the basis of party politics of the next few years. The squatters desired labour at any price, but the new artisans and small farmers who had returned from the gold rushes and who were gradually growing up in and around Brisbane, determined that they should have it only at a high price. The squatters' petitions for "exiles", as the convicts were called, were met by an opposition which based itself upon the alleged evils of the introduction of convict labour, but which was really produced by an anxiety to prevent the flooding of the labour market7.
The cry for separation was not, therefore, a united cry. The squatters, represented in the Council at Sydney by men of their own class, tried to tempt the Colonial Office to grant separation, by offering to· relieve the Mother Country of an annual draft of convicts. The small farmers and men of the towns sheltering themselves behind the Australian Anti-Transport League of 1851 aimed at separation pure and simple. As it was, when separation was established in 1859, it was accompanied by no conditions relative to transportation, the convicts being sent to Western Australia instead 8. But the class demarcation, which the separation movement had caused to be drawn between the grazier in the country and the traders and settlers of Brisbane, continued to be the basis of political division long after separation itself was an established fact.
1. A Foreigner looks at Australia by P. Staal P. 83.
2. The Evolution of Political Parties by C. Schindler (Journal of the Historical Society of Queensland V.1.P 130).
3. Queensland Politics during sixty years by C. A. Bernays P.4.
4. Labour and Industry in Australia by Coghlan, V.1 P.335
5. Labour and Industry in Australia by Coghlan, V.1 P.348-9
6. The Evolution of Political Parties by C. Schindler (Journal of the Historical Society of Queensland, V.1 P. 132
7. A History of the Australian Colonies by E. Jenks P. 111
8. A History of the Australian Colonies by E. Jenks P. 111-112.