Royal Commission report day 1 page 8

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The Royal Commission evidence for 23/3/1881

(full text transcription)

(see also introduction to day 1 ) Captain Standish giving evidence

48 Was it the letter of the 7th September 1880 or the one of the 12th August 1880 you refer to?- It was the 7th September letter I refer to.

49 That, you say, is full of misstatements?- Full of misrepresentations.

50 And not worthy of notice?- Yes. I should only remark that Mr. O'Connor states that, during the whole sixteen months he was here, he was treated by me with the greatest discourtesy. To that I give the lie direct. For several months when he first came-for three or four months we lived together, and we were always on the best of terms; but when I found out things about him, which I do not wish to state before the Commission, I ceased my intimacy with him. In fact, if I were to state things that I can prove direct evidence, it would show you how utterly unreliable a man he is.

51 He was in the service of the Victorian police at that time?- Yes.

52 Was he a part of the police force of Victoria?- He was sworn in when he arrived. With reference to a part of that letter which refers to the expedition to the Warby ranges I must refer you to Mr. Hare's evidence, as he can give more satisfactory evidence on that point. About the end of June, after having been upwards of six months at Benalla, finding that all the business in my office was being frightfully muddled, and that things were going wrong both in Melbourne and the country districts, I obtained the authority of the Chief Secretary for my return to Melbourne.

53 In June 1879?- Yes.

54 Was that Mr. Ramsay?- No, Mr. Berry, Chief Secretary at the time; and Mr. Nicolson being next in seniority, I had to send him up, though I confess I had but little faith in his energy.

55 Was that immediately after your return?- Yes, immediately after my return; and I instructed Mr. Hare to resume charge of his district, which also required a deal of supervision.

56 What date was that?- On the 26th of June.

57 Did you send Mr. Nicolson up?- I sent him up immediately. Shortly after my return I had several interviews with the Chief Secretary, who was not unnaturally dissatisfied at the continuous heavy expenditure of the police in pursuit of the Kellys. I may here state that the great bulk of the expenditure was caused by the new travelling allowances for the police, which were amended and approved by the Government. I should think considerably more than half the expenditure was travelling allowances to members of the police force away from their district, and it must be borne in mind that many of them were married men separated from their wives and families. Mr. Berry instructed me to do all I could to reduce the expenditure. I conferred with Mr. Nicolson, and made reductions wherever I possibly could; and with the view of making a large permanent reduction in the expenditure, I permanently transferred to the North Eastern district all the members of the police force who had been sent there. Of course this was only a temporary force, but it was absolutely necessary to cut down the expenditure. From time to time I used to meet Mr. Nicolson at Benalla, and used to write to him, but both on paper and verbally he was always most absurdly reticent. During the eleven months he was there he hardly ever sent out a search party except just before he was recalled. I left the direction of affairs in his hands, save and except when I was acting under the instructions of the Minister. Mr. Nicolson, it seems, employed a great many agents, some of whom were, to my knowledge, in the habit of communicating with and meeting the outlaws. Mr. Nicolson frequently received reliable information as to the whereabouts of the outlaws, but he took no steps whatever to act on the information, which I believe would clearly, in more than one instance, have led to the capture of the outlaws. Mr. Nicolson used to say to me on every possible occasion, "I have the outlaws surrounded by my spies, and have my hands upon them. It is not a chase of months or weeks, but of days and hours." That was his favorite utterance to me on every possible occasion, and from information which I have received from time to time, I believe there is no doubt whatever that nearly the whole time Mr. Nicolson was in charge the outlaws were hanging about Greta and Glenrowan.

58 How far is that from Benalla?- They are about five miles apart.

59 As you stated that during the whole time that the outlaws were in the neighbourhood of Greta and Glenrowan, you had better say how far those are from Benalla?- Glenrowan is about twenty five miles by rail, I think. Oh ! no, it is a little more than half way to Wangaratta.

60 What is the distance?- I cannot say exactly.

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