Pastoralists in the area exercised considerable influence through organisations such as Road Boards (which served as local government bodies) and a powerful lobby group called the Pastoralists’ Association. They also had direct access to politicians and senior government officials, as these letters show.
Pastoralist Writes to Government Officials on Strike
Talga Talga Station
August 7th 1945
W. Hegney Esq
Dear Mr Hegney
That Communist Chap McLeod has been trying to stir up trouble amongst station natives in both the Port Hedland & Marble Bar districts. I believe he has also been at it, at Nullagine. Recently in Port Hedland at race time he got amongst quite a number at their camp at the 4 mile well. These were nearly all station natives who had got a holiday to attend the races. They were supposed to go out by the train the day following the races, but McLeod persuaded them not to go, he then held a meeting at their Camp, & according to several natives I interviewed afterwards he told them not to go back to work and that if they asked the Government to appoint him their boss he would get them £3 per week wages, he also told them to wait until close up next shearing time and then clear out from the stations.
He then made a collection from them, and got £14-8-0. None of the natives knew what they gave him the money for so it is presumed it was for himself. Possibly it was to pay his expenses to attend the conference at Whim Creek as he went then by plane from Port Hedland.
You will readily understand that a man like McLeod can cause a deal of harm amongst the natives and particularly the half-castes if allowed to go amongst them at will.
I was told that he got the police-man to accompany him to the natives camp, possibly because he was aware that he had no right to enter a natives camp. I did not afterwards see Fletcher the policeman but I interviewed McLeod and left him in no doubt what I thought about his behaviour.
What he failed to understand was that the natives would give the whole show away, as soon as they were tackled about not going home by the train.
We would be much obliged if you can enquire into this matter and ascertain just how far this McLeod can go with employed natives, as although he is discredited by most white residents he can easily cause a deal of descension [sic] amongst the natives. I am taking this matter up with the Commissioner of Native Affairs but thought that you may like to be personally informed of what took place at Port Hedland.
I may say that any amount of evidence could easily be obtained from the natives who were at McLeod’s meeting.
I think all Norwesters are pleased that Mr Wise was selected as Premier.
With kind regards
E.H. Greene to Bill Hegney, MLA, 7 August 1945, SROWA, 1945/0800/10.