15. SOCIAL CONDITIONS. The social conditions of a country may be considered from different points of view. They might be considered from the general welfare of the peo ple, or from what is known as social distinction in society. This last aspect of the question could be disposed of in a few words so far as Australia is concerned. The people mostly be long to the great class of honest industry in one form or another. The large majority are, if necessity requires, willing to undertake al most any kind of work, while those who are wealthy, with but few exceptions, prefer use ful or philanthropic employment to a life of idle dissipation.
The common weal of the people is indicated by the fact that in no country is there less real poverty than in Australia, or better and more systematic organization for dealing with those few persons who are in need of temporary assistance. No one is ever knowingly allowed to suffer for want of food. The state does not consider it to be its duty to find employment for those who may be out of work, but in the interest of humanity it always provides food for those in want of it.
It has been said that the happiest people are those who can live upon the products of their own country. Australia offers greater possibil ities for such happiness than almost any other land. Cattle and sheep, pigs and poultry, all kinds of grain, vegetables of every variety, and nearly all known fruits are easily produced by properly applied industry.
Primary Productions.— Lord Sydenham, G.C.M.G., who was governor of Victoria for some years, after his return from Australia said may be taken as certain that where the averages from primary production stand high the country is a good one.) This dictum has such a direct bearing upon the condition of the people that the comparisons become im portant. According to population the primary production in Australia is greater than in Can ada, 50 per cent greater than in the United States, twice as great as in France, three times as great as in England and over four times as great as in Russia.
The productive nature of the soil and cli mate has a great deal to do with the fact that a greater number of people in Australia, in proportion to its population, enjoy more of the comforts and pleasures of life than is the case in many other parts of the world. The people
as a whole are better housed, fed and clothed than the residents of most other countries. Cheap houses and discomforts are to be found in Australia as elsewhere, but even in the cities there is a lack of the poor shanties and tene ments which are so noticeable in many large cities in Europe, Asia and America.
Educational Advantages.— No one question has a more important or direct bearing upon the social conditions of the people than that of edu cation. No country has better facilities, and but few as flood, and with the exception of some parts of America, Australia affords as good an opportunity for secondary and advanced education at a moderate cost as any other country.
Generally speaking, the system of public edu cation is free, compulsory and secular, the whole expense being met out of the general revenue. The greatest care is taken to provide schools in every part of the country as well as in the thickly populated cities, and in some of the thinly settled districts, schools of from 10 to 15 children are established. Fortunately, Australia's educational advancement has not been delayed by sectarian interference. There it is generally considered that a country's ad vancement rests on the education of its people, and that as national education is a national gain, the nation's treasury should meet the bill. Efforts have been made from time to time by zealous propounders of sectarian beliefs to incorporate religious instruction with the Edu cation Acts of the different states, but the majority of the people are strongly opposed to any form of state aid to religion. They feel that in the bitter strife for sectarian su premacy the efficiency of the schools would be come impaired and the practical education of the children neglected. A large majority of parents take advantage of the public schools for their children, but for those who object, either from class prejudice or religious scruples, good private schools are available.