5 / 3/1879
... part of the KellyGang story
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The New South Wales Government, on the 4th February, informed the Victorian Government that a board had been appointed to recommend, amongst other things, arrangements for working the traffic over the bridge.
Mr Labertouche referred that communication to the engineer in chief to note, adding, "I think some officer of this department might have been included in the board, and on returning the letter to the under secretary on the 3rd March Mr Labertouche wrote the following minute -"Returned to the under secretary. I trust the proposed board will soon enter upon its duties, as six months have elapsed since the New South Wales Government was invited to send their engineer in chief to inspect the bridge, and during all that time the people of Echuca have been clamorously demanding the use of the roadway thus provided, and I have repeatedly requested that the inspection might be made. I submit, moreover, that regulations for working the traffic over the bridge could have been made at any subsequent time, when the requirements of the public were better understood. On this subject the New South Wales Government was moved on the 30th July 1878, but, apparently, has done nothing since in the matter.
Before the 3rd March, however, further communications had been received from Echuca, complaining that the bridge had not been opened for public traffic, and in one of those communications was comprised a report of an indignation meeting held in Echuca on the subject on 21st February. In the reply to the latter communication Mr Labertouche stated that he had again telegraphed to the New South Wales Government drawing attention to the matter, and urging that their sanction be given to the bridge being made available for road traffic. The papers end for the present with a telegram, stating that the public of Echuca had forced their way over the bridge on the 3rd inst.
The Riverine Herald gives a narrative of the obstruction offered to the opening of the bridge, which concludes as follows -"Mr Gillies waited upon Mr Woods on Friday last, when once more the blame was laid upon the Sydney Government. No regulations, it appears, had been forwarded, no official inspection had taken place, and nothing practical had been done. All that Mr Woods knew was that 'recently the Sydney Government had intimated that a board would be appointed to recommend arrangements for working the traffic on the bridge, and even at the present juncture a letter had come to hand promising a more definite communication at an early date. To complete the story, we have the replies from the two Ministers submitted to the meeting on Monday afternoon. That from Melbourne represented that a further telegram had been sent to Sydney, urging that the department there should give its sanction im mediately to the bridge being opened for road traffic. That from Sydney, received by telegraph only half an hour before the meeting commenced, curtly informed the chairman that the bridge would be opened as soon as the regulations were agreed upon by the two Governments. In this way have the people of the district been trifled with by the two departments, and it is not to be at all wondered at that a feeling of indignation and exasperation has been aroused. In the whole range of incompetent officialism, we venture to assert that no more flagrant example of stupid incompetence can be found than in the negotiations which have been going on for months past between the Governments of the two colonies over this matter of the Murray bridge. If such aggravating incapacity or perversity does not actually justify the doings of last night, it at least takes it out of the power of the authorities to complain of them."
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