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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70

Australasian Statistics: Imports and Exports

Australasian Statistics: Imports and Exports.

It must be said that Australasian statistics lend themselves with singular facility to the creation of deceptive views of Australasian affairs. Statistics are like edged tools—they require to be used with care and knowledge, and the number of those who are skilled in their use is exceedingly small. The result is, the existence of very exaggerated ideas on the development, resources, and importance of these colonies. It will be will to note some of these points. Take first the simple figures of imports and exports. We have seven colonies, all importing and exporting, not only from and to the rest of the world, but with one another. Imports and exports are simply the names given to goods when they cross political boundaries; as political boundaries are increased, so imports and exports are increased; as they are lessened, so imports and exports are decreased, Millions of pounds' worth of commodities pass between England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, but there being no political boundaries between these countries, the trade between them goes unrecorded—is not included in imports and exports. In Australasia we have seven—with Fiji eight—colonies, and every particle of trade between them goes to swell the volume of imports and exports. In 1890 the combined imports and exports of Australasia came to a total of £132,801,164, equal to £85 10s, 8d. per head of the population. For the same year the imports and exports of Great Britain showed an average of £21 3s. 11d. This gives the idea of a relatively vastly larger external trade in this part of the world. But looking further, we find that more than two-fifths of the Australasian trade was simply inter-colonial, that is entirely between the colonies themselves, and that the true Australasian imports and exports only aggregate page 30 £75,223,727, or £20 2s. 4d. per head. Instead, therefore, of Australasian imports and exporta being per head very much heavier than those of Great Britain, they are really rather lighter. Even this reduced figure of £75,000,000 includes at least £15,000,000 new capital imported. Australasian external trade, apart from borrowings, would not give an average of over £16 per head, as against £21 for Great Britain. The moment these colonies become federated, and the political boundaries between them are swept away, there will be a real increase of trade between them, but import and export returns will show a mighty shrinkage. In the absence of federation we can continue to exaggerate our trade in the way referred to. Mr. Coghlan, the able statistician of New South Wales, has divided the external from the inter-colonial trade in his book, the "Seven Colonies," and it would be well if the distinction were generally remembered. The imports and exports per head of the United States are £5 18s. 8d., of Canada £9 6s. 2d., of France £11 10s. 10d., of Germany £11 1s. 11d., so that, with all deductions, Australasia still makes a comparatively good exhibit in her record of external trade.