The Argus at KellyGang 16/4/1880

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Redtapeism was ever a prominent feature of the business of all departments of the Government service, and was more especially noticeable in matters immediately connected with the police force. This curse of redtape officialism has been spoken and written against times innumerably, but the result has been very similar to water showered upon a duck's back, rather appreciated by the target than otherwise. We have now a very striking exemplification of the baneful effects of this circumlocution as practised in the police department, a rule as strictly adhered to by all connected with the constabulary as was the Mosaic law by the children of Israel. Late in the month of October, 1878, society was electrified by the announcement of a fearful tragedy for which they were quite unprepared, and which burst upon them with all the bewilderment of a volcanic eruption?namely, the murder of three troopers in the mountains near Mansfield.

The harrowing details of the manner in which gallant Sergeant Kennedy and Constables Scanlan and Lonigan met their awful doom are too vividly remembered to require recapitulation. The first feeling of horror at the event having worn off, it was sanguinely anticipated that the capture and certain condemnation of the murderers to the gallows would be but the work of a few days, or weeks at most. The efficiency of the police force was referred to in glowing terms, and police authorities rather gloated over the opportunity to show the efficiency of the magnificent system of police management in vogue, an opportunity which for many years previously had been denied to them, and which it was believed would never again occur in Victoria. Indeed the bushranging days had become quite legendary and were shrouded in a mystery of romance, the "oldest inhabitant" who had actually come in contact with a bushranger being looked upon as a relic of a past age, and was lionised accordingly.

The rude shock caused by the appearance of the Kelly gang effectually dispelled these Utopian theories, but still the theorists laid to their souls the flattering unction that the unfortunate and entirely unexpected tragedy had but furnished the occasion for a display of brilliancy, of strategy, and acumen, from our defenders. The result is only too well known. After an ostentatious search of over 18 months' duration, and the expenditure of many thousands of pounds of the people's money, we are now no nearer the capture than ever. In vain where the townships of the north-eastern and border districts garrisoned so as to resemble centres of a country under martial rule; in vain was the Murray river patrolled day and night on both sides; in vain were large rewards for the apprehension or death of members of the gang offered; and in vain were the hundred and one other devices of the police officials; and now the conviction has forced itself almost unwillingly upon most persons that this disastrous failure of the combined resources of all the police magnates of both colonies to effect the arrest of four ordinary backwoods larrikins is attributable chiefly to the rule of redtape always characteristic of the Government service.


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