OPPORTUNITIES IN QUEENSLAND.
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(By Our Australian Correspondent.)
HOW many British manufacturers have been content either with no agent at all in the Queen State of Austsalia or to place their representation in the hands of their New South Wales agents? In reality it is only comparable to an endeavour to work Scotland or Ireland from London! The area of Queensland is 670,500 sq. miles and the population 687,500, qr practically one person to the square mile!
The main idea that one gets, on reading figures of population-cum-area, is that the firstois not worth bothering about and the second would make cost of .Liistribution prohibitive. As is so often the case, it is just one of those half-truths which are so difficult to dispose of. Cost of distribution is heavy, as can be judged from the relative price asked for motorcars or any other articles in Sydney and Brisbane, but the population is not negligible. Queensland's exports
are relatively huge. In-1916 69,000,000 ' lb. of wool was exported overseas ; £3,325,000 worth of minerals, from gold to tin were handled ; 1,153,000tons of sugar
cane was crushed. On top of all that there is the meat industry, from beef to bacon, with butter, cheese and fruit in addition. There are 5000 miles of railways, and centres of population are commonly far from the seaboard. Thus Cunnamulla is 604 miles in-. land, Charleville 483, Blackall 443, Longreach 428, Winton 368, Cloncurry 481, with Townsville and Cairns respectively 748 and 908 miles bysea. from Brisbane.
Transport To and From the Coast.
Evidently, many centres of production must inevitably-be even hundreds of miles from the railways
and one must wonder how all this vast production is got to the coast for transport overseas. It is equally certain that men willing to trek, in solitude, over vast distances from centres of population, will only under take it in return for high.wages. Surely, such being the conditions, a very vivid imagination is not neces sary to recognize the possibilities of such a market. Why cannot all this be handled by motors ? If it can, and education will awaken the local public to its possibilities, then population will flow in these directions and the demand will automatically increase. The question is as to whe' ?her it is possible. Personally, I have been through these parts of Queens land and have seen Commers, Halleys, Hallfords and Saurers doing relatively big mileages and giving excellent results. Then why nob more? All this country is one vast plain, lying between 600 ft. and 700 ft. above sea level. It is black soil and roads are unmade, and one travels over this earth with few, if any, hills. For nearly two months in the year rain turns it into glue, and it is nearly impossible for horses, motors or anything else to get through. One station which I visited had to pay 3s.-per ton mile for its haulage 80 miles—to .the railway, and then freight from there to the coast. Oxen are com
monly used, and they haul from 10-12 tons and 'average about two miles an hour when going. ' Such a
trip would be accomplished in a little under four
days,, therefore, either way. Whilst I was in this district, a man arrived with a tractor which did the
trip in two days, and I heard subsequently that he paid for his machine in less than 12 months, which is quite conceivable. Unfortunately, not a few British commercial vehicles were sold into the district to carry 6 and 7 tons on the platform. It was a shortsighted policy that permitted it, as vehicles and roads echnbine to knock each other to pieces in the shortest possible time. Prom tyre records, which I collected, it is only too clear that the 3-4 ton lorry is quite as heavy as conditions permit. Such vehicles adequately shod would B30 do 18,000 to 20,000 mils per set of 'tyres, whilst 5tanners would do from 7000 to 8000, and alleged 7tonners from 3000 to 3500. The chassis themselves, wearing in like proportion, ultimately show uji badly with heavy loads. Having lost sight of my tractor friend, the only information I got was that he could never pass an ordinary wagon as he'dare not stray from the compressed surface of the road and that the next few vehicles following him had a pretty rough time of it! Under the circumstances, I think a strong case can be made out for the type of vehicle with 34 tons on its own platform and' hauling a trailer with 2i or 3 tons. In the instance I have referred to, the 80 miles would be accomplished in. one day, so that the same man would carry 18-20 tons in a week of six days, as against 10-12 tons in eight days steady going by bullock wagon. The profit is such that a reduction of one-third in the charges would still leave a more than handsome margin for all contingencies.
It is to be hoped that I have made out a strong ease for the commercial vehicle in Queensland, and I am in no way alone with the idea that a big and growing market is there for the development. What applies to the haulage of goods applies equally to passenger and m.ail services, but that subject must be left for another article. The touring ear, too, has its inevitable uses ; under such conditions it, too, is a business vehicle. The doctor can be fetched ; mails, Stores, seeds, medicines can all travel quickly and cheaply, by. such means, so that the market for " pleasure " vehicles is as important as for the former. When it ceases to be a pleasure vehicle, pure and simple, it becomes a necessity and must be there under all conditions, which means that more than one is kept. Americans, having studied all these things for themselves, and learned .,them for themselves, have been able to meet the requirements of these countries 'and so have ousted the.British manufacturer.
• The Problem of Distribution.
But how is the question of distribution to be faced in Queensland? Frankly, it is the biggest of the Colonial problems, and the man who finally discovers the best solution will not quarrel with the lining that appears on his trouser _pockets! According to the gazetteer of Queensland, Brisbane itself has barely 40,000 inhabitants, whilst there are six other towns dotted about the country with populations of between .10,000 and 20,000. Numbers of others there are with smaller numbers of inhabitants, which serve large areas, and mike them of equal importance. It is, of course, equally impossible to open 12 or 18 branches controlled from tle factory for such a. population. Some houses have opened branches in suitable centres away from Brisbane, and this practice will probably be extended as time goes on.
One essential drawback to fixing on a settled policy for ,Queensland at the moment is that the scheme of railway development which is being slowly carried out, by linking up numerous rail-heads in the country, will completely alter the importance of many centres and make others still more easily accessible from the coast. For instance, the solid tyre manufacturer can hardly expect wheels to be sent from, say, Longreach to Brisbane to he retyred. The journey by mail (which only runs twice a week) occupies nearly 48 hours, each way, and the distance is 825 miles. The freight for that distance would be 20s. 6d. for the first cwt. and 3d. per lb. over each way. There are Rrobahly nearly 75 solid tyred vehicles owned in the Winton and Longreach districts, and the freight from Rockhampton (the nearest port) on tyres alone, 428 miles. is heavy kenougy I Obviously a tyre press is needed somewhere in the district, to. saveboth freight and time. Then, how about spare parts and repairs I Some agents expect to effect repairs themselves, but think of the idea of sending a commercial vehicle suchdistances, at such rates, for overhaul ! No, repairs must he more easily effected and heavy-weighing spares must go by the cheapest way. But how ? As I commenced...by saying, I do not believe distribution • in Queensland is by any means an open book. Consequently one falls back on the theory of small begin.nings. Brisbane alone, or worse still, Sydney, will not do at all ; one must go further afield. Naturally, one's inclinatiOn is to follow one's own interests. I could not suggest to anyone with interests in Longreach, to open a depot on the Darling Downs. Rather,
i open n Longreach; it,is a first-class centre ; and 'develop that district to its utmost and then proceed to the next. The country is too vast to tackle all at once, unless one is prepared to spend a lot of money and operate from, say, ten centres simultaneously,
The very first time I visited QUeensla,nd I found a British manufacturer with his sole agent at Toowoomba ; I wondered why. I should not do so today ; it was not really a bad idea and was a good centre, only 100 mileswest of Brisbane. Other good eentres are Hukhenden, 'Roma, -Warwick and Cairns ; but there will be plenty of people to say, why not a dozen other places'? Quite so why not? It just depends on the class of vehicle and where business is cleveloPing. At the same time, I would say, watch railway extensions. Some, at any rate, have been carefully thought-out. and will.seriously alter distribution when they are open. And, by the way, why should not THE COMMERCIAL MoTort seek to impress on Colonial railway administrators the fact that these vehicles will do infinitely more to feed railways than to compete with them, and that, therefore, tyres andspare parts (dare I say petrol, too) -should be carried at reduced rates!
Queensland is well worth while and should be carefully developed.