The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 50
The President, having read the speech delivered at an earlier hour by His Excellency the Governor, said it was now the duty of the Council to take His Excellency's speech into consideration.
Mr. Griffith proposed that a Select Committee be appointed to prepare an ad-dress-in-reply to the speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor in opening this, the first session of the Federal Council of Australasia, and that such committee consist of Mr. Douglas, Mr. Berry, Mr. Lee Steere, Dr. McGregor, and the mover.
Mr. Berry seconded the motion.
The Committee retired, and after a short absence, returned with the following draft address to His Excellency, which was read at length by the Clerk:—
To His Excellency Sir George Cumine Strahan, Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Governor and Commander-in-Chief in and over the Colony of Tasmania and its Dependencies.
May it please your Excellency.
We, Her Majesty's loyal and dutiful subjects, the members of the Federal Council of Australasia, assembled at Hobart, in the Colony of Tasmania, desire to assure your Excellency of our continued loyalty and affection towards the Throne and Person of our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to tender our thanks to your Excellency for the speech with which you have been pleased to open this, the first session of the Federal Council.
We heartily reciprocate your Excellency's congratulations upon the establishment and formal inauguration of the Council, and we confidently hope that the work thus happily begun may lead to a complete and lasting union of the Australasian colonies, and may aid in the maintenance of the unity and stability of the Empire.
We shall give our most careful attention and consideration to such matters as may be brought before us; and it will be our earnest endeavour so to deal with them that our labours may be conducive to the material and moral advancement and prosperity of Her Majesty's Australasian dominions.
Mr. Griffith said: Mr. President,—I rise, sir, to move the adoption of the address to His Excellency that has been brought up by the select committee appointed to draft a reply to His Excellency's speech. At this, the first meeting of the Federal Council of Australasia for the despatch of business, it is important, I think, that something should be said with respect to the present constitution and to the future action of the Federal Council. To my mind, this first session of the Federal Council initiates a very important era in the history of this part of Her Majesty's dominions; and it is of the greatest consequence that what we do should be done wisely and considerately; that we should make no mistakes; that we should show by our wisdom and moderation that we are thoroughly aware of the responsibilities cast upon us, and that we should encourage not only the colonies which have already invested us with those responsibilities, but the other colonies which at present hold aloof, to believe that the powers conferred by the Enabling Act on the Federal Council were wisely conferred, and that the Federal Council can be trusted to exercise them with discretion. Much misunderstanding, I fear, exists in many quarters, as to the functions of the Federal Council. In some colonies there appears to be a feeling of alarm lest the Federal Council should usurp the functions of the local legislature, and do things which the local legislature itself would not do if they were allowed a free voice in the matter—that it may commit them to expenditure, or to a course of policy with which they might disagree. You, sir, who are particularly familiar with the history and constitution of the Council know well, as do most others of us, that there are no grounds for that apprehension. In order to make that clearer I propose to take the opportunity—and I will endeavour not to be prolix—of calling attention to some of the matters dealt with by the Imperial Act, and to the special questions arising upon them. It will be remembered that the resolution of the convention, accompanying the draft bill which was submitted to Her Majesty's Ministers in Great Britain, and which, with a very slight modification, is the charter of our Constitution, set out the position which the members of the convention thought then existed. That resolution, which I had the honour of moving, was in these words:—"That this convention, recognising that the time has not yet arrived at which a complete federal union of the Australasian colonies can be attained, but considering that there are many matters of general interest with respect to which united action would be advantageous, adopts the accompanying draft bill for the constitution of a Federal Council, as defining the matters upon which in its opinion such united action is both desirable and practicable at the present time, and as embodying the provisions best adapted to secure that object, so far as it is now capable of attainment." The time has not yet come, I think, Mr. President, for an entire and complete legislative union of the Australasian colonies. But that such a union is bound to come about in time is, I think, manifest. As is sometimes said, "It is in the air," it is our manifest destiny; it is bound to come. I wish we could persuade everybody in Australia that that is so. But public opinion is formed slowly sometimes, and it is seldom of any use to attempt to hasten it unduly. But that that is the destiny of Australasia there can be no doubt. As we found things then, two years ago, so we find things now, I doubt indeed whether the idea of general union has made much substantial progress amongst its enemies during that period. But that it will make progress amongst its enemies, I confidently hope, and I think a good deal in that respect will depend upon our own action on this occasion. It makes it all the more necessary for us to be extremely cautious in the action we take. By cautious, I do not mean timid, but that we should be careful and circumspect in what we do. The preamble of the Act which was drawn by the convention, and is based on the resolution which I have just read, recites that "it is expedient to constitute a Federal Council of Australasia for the purpose of dealing with such matters of common Australasian interest in respect to which united page 13 action is desirable, as can be dealt with without unduly interfering with the management of the internal affairs of the several colonies by their respective legislatures." And that must be the key-note of our action here, not only because it is laid down in the Act under which we are constituted, but because for every reason it is desirable that we should carefully avoid unduly interfering with the management of the internal affairs of the several colonies. We are here, sir, today, representing live colonies. There are three colonies still unrepresented, although I trust they will all be represented here before very long. But the fact they are not here is no reason why the Federal Council should not proceed to do such work as it may properly do. Now with respect to the functions and position of the Federal Council. I apprehend that the true position is that it is a Parliament—a Parliament with extended powers and jurisdiction, a Parliament with a jurisdiction beyond the merely territorial limits of the colony in which it sits, or indeed, of all the colonies, with a jurisdiction extending over Australasian waters and over the ships trading upon them. A great step, which was much wanted, has been taken. There has never been any difficulty in the Governments of the different colonies meeting together, and coming to an agreement among themselves on matters relating to common action. But when the time came to enforce that common action—unless it was simply a question of paying or receiving money, a very small part of the functions of Government-it was found that there was no general law to give effect to it, and application had to be made to the Imperial Parliament to legislate on the subject. It seems absurd that if three or four colonics have agreed upon some matter, desirable in the interests of all of them, they should be unable to give legal effect to their agreement until the Imperial Parliament, amidst the multitude of its operations, finds time to attend to it, and carry it into law. I remember one instance in which the Imperial Government was first moved in 1857 by a gentleman who was then Attorney-General of New South Wales, and afterwards a distinguished judge in Queensland, but who is now dead. On that motion, an Act of the Imperial Parliament was passed, authorising Her Majesty in Council to take certain action. That was done in 1861. The next step taken was a remonstrance from myself in 1874, as to the delay that had taken place in taking action, and ten years afterwards the Imperial Government moved. That is an extreme instance, but many other instances have occurred of a less extreme nature. That is the position in which we have found ourselves for a great many years. It is certainly desirable to have authority to act in such matters without waiting for the leisure of the Imperial Parliament, or the convenience of Her Majesty's ministers. Now, we have here a Parliament, authorised to deal with many such matters—one House, I admit, and at present of small numbers, though I hope to see them largely increased—but we are a complete Parliament, as was shown by the formalities which have taken place today. I hope indeed, to live to see in the future the members of the Federal Council reckoned by the score rather than the unit, and unless there is some unexpected delay in the advancement of this movement, which is now inaugurated, there is no reason why I should not hope to do so. I have observed in the course of the discussions which took place upon the Federal Council Bill, before it was finally passed by the Imperial Parliament, much misapprehension as to the powers and functions that the Council would exercise, and that, I cannot help thinking, has very often arisen from the fact that the critics did not carefully study the provisions of the bill which they were criticising. Now the legislative functions of this Council are defined in the 15th section of the Act. There are some matters over which we have legislative authority of cur own without any delegated authority, and there are others that we have only power to deal with when they are referred to us by the legislatures of the different colonies. I will take the opportunity of saying a few words upon some of those subjects about which there has particularly been this misapprehension. The first subject named is the relations of Australasia to the islands of the Pacific. That is a largo subject upon which many differences of opinion have arisen, and upon which many more are likely to arise, and at the present it is probably not desirable for us to assume to exercise these functions in the name of the whole of Australasia. Then there are a variety of matters in regard to which it is clearly desirable there should be uniform laws. It is very important, however, to bear in mind that the Council has no power whatever over questions of finance except to the very limited extent of the expenses incurred during the sitting of the Council. But without dealing with questions of finance there remains many matters upon some of which the individual colonies have power to legislate each for themselves, but as to which it is extremely desirable that there should be uniform laws, and there are other matters on which the colonies have separately not power to legislate. For instance, passing to the next subject enumerated in clause 15, if the colony of Queensland were to adopt a stringent law to discourage the arrival of escapees from New Caledonia, and there was a law in New South Wales by which they were treated more kindly when they went there, a convict would, in the first place go there if possible, and afterwards remove to the other colony, where, if he had originally gone, he would have been treated with much greater severity. The next question mentioned in the clause is the fisheries in Australasian waters beyond territorial limits. That does not perhaps at present affect all the colonies, but it affects two very important ones-Western Australia and Queensland. At present legislation on the subject can only be enforced while the ships are in port, or are engaged in their operations within three miles of the shore, but while at sea, where they are practically while engaged in fishing, the law is inoperative. We in those colonies know what we want, and the Federal Council has now the power to legislate on the subject without appealing to the convenience or leisure of the Imperial Parliament to pass our suggestions into law. But I do not suppose that the Council would pass any such legislation against the wish of any colony specially interested. I introduced formally today a bill to regulate the fisheries page 14 in Torres Straits, but it is not intended to go on with the bill this session. As soon as possible I hope to be prepared to deal thoroughly with the matter, and I venture to say that we shall invite the Federal Council to pass a law to regulate those fisheries instead of appealing to the Secretary of State to induce the Imperial Parliament to do so. The next subject that is referred to in the 15th section is the service of civil process in colonies other than that in which the process is issued. I will take the opportunity of referring to the difficulty which at present exists. It has been the practice in all the colonies to issue process to be served out of the limits of the colony, under conditions in which, if I may use the expression, in the nature of things the Court ought to have jurisdiction. Such a law may properly be made in one colony and enforced by its Courts, but there is not an equal reason why the Courts of another colony should recognise their authority. They may say, "What is this paper signed and sealed by someone whom we do not know? Why shall our subjects obey your directions, when they owe you no allegiance Yet, if the cause of action arose within a colony there is no reason in natural justice or common sense why its courts should not have jurisdiction over it. That was a matter which needed a remedy, but which would not be remedied by the Colonial Legislatures separately. At present persons were able to go into another colony and escape liability. Power is now given to the Council to remedy this grievance, and I trust that this Council will address itself to it. In regard to the enforcement of judgments many of the same arguments apply, but there, perhaps, more caution will have to be exercised, because, although it is right that the judgment of one country should be recognised in another, there should be some restriction, as a judgment may be obtained unjustly, and care should be taken that in such a case the judgment should not be enforced without an opportunity of redress. In dealing with this matter we shall have to exercise our power with discretion. As to the enforcement of criminal process beyond the colony in which it is issued, that matter has very lately been dealt with by the Imperial Parliament, and therefore it is at the present time not of so much importance. It will be found, however, I think, before long, that the provisions of the Imperial Act are not sufficient to deal with the whole subject, and the aid of this Council may then be invoked. Another provision in section 15 is that Her Majesty may, at the request of the Legislatures of the colonies, refer any question to the Council. That is an addition made in England, and I am not prepared to indicate any case in which it would apply. The other subjects dealt with in section 15 are general defence, quarantine, patents for inventions, copyright, bills of exchange, uniformity of weights and measures, recognition of marriages and divorces, naturalisation of aliens, joint stock companies, and any matters of general importance that may be referred to the Council by the Legislatures of two or more colonies, But the laws that may pass on these subjects are only binding in the colonies by whom they are so referred, and others that may adopt them. I should like to say a word with reference to the questions general defence and quarantine, upon which a great deal has been said of late as to the desirability of unity of action. The necessity of united action for general defence is daily becoming more apparent. It certainly was daily becoming more apparent during the first six months of last year, but as soon as the war scare passed off the immediate necessity became less manifest. But to my mind the necessity is greater now than it was six months ago, when everyone was impressed with the importance of it. With regard to this question of general defence there is some misunderstanding as to what the Council can do. One of the essential conditions of the constitution of this Council is that it has no power over finance. It is quite clear that some people think the Council can do mischief by interfering with finance, and they cannot get out of their mind that we have power over finance. Nothing of the kind. It was proposed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies that the Federal Council should have power over finance, but it was pointed out to him in reply by the various colonies that it was entirely inconsistent with the constitution as devised at the convention in Sydney. If it had boon intended that it should have jurisdiction over finance its constitution and the mode of representation would no doubt have been different. If we had powers over finance, we might very seriously interfere with the financial arrangements of the different colonies, which might lead to their withdrawal from the union. However, the remonstrances of the colonies prevailed, and the proposition was not pressed. But to return to the question of defence. Arrangements cannot be made for general defence, or a plan of defence, without the expenditure of money. If we take the case of King George's Sound, a point of great importance to all the Australasian colonies, it would be unfair to make Western Australia boar all the expense of fortifying that place. It is the duty of us all equally to prevent such places being taken by a foreign foe, and the different Governments, irrespective of this Council, can arrange for the necessary expenditure for maintaining those defences. I trust also the colonies will join in a system of joint naval defence ere long. This is a matter in which, Mr. President, you have taken great interest in, and I may say I have a similar interest. For this also there must be an expenditure of money, but the Council has nothing to do with that. That is a matter which concerns the individual Governments. They must come to an agreement upon this, as they have done on other matters. But in the past the question was if defences were established on the coast of Western Australia, or naval forces were raised by joint action, to what law would the soldiers and sailors be amenable; now by this Act powers are conferred on the Council for regulating this matter, but those powers are independent of the money question. They are, in fact, supplementary and complementary to the inherent power of the various colonies with respect to money. Then, as to the question of federal quarantine stations, several have lately been suggested, amongst others King George's Sound and Thursday Island, or Lizard Island, on the N. E. coast of Queens- page 15 land. And it has been proposed that ships coming by way of Cape Leuwin or Torres Straits should be compelled to call at these stations. But, without a law on the subject, which the colonies individually cannot make, ships need not call there unless they like. The local legislation cannot compel ships to call at any established quarantine station, but this Act gives the Federal Council power to legislate on the question. It is, of course, idle to establish a quarantine station at any point until we have the power to compel ships to go there when they have disease on board. In this case again, however, the fiscal arrangements of the colonies are not interfered with. As to the Council acting unreasonably, that is a danger inherent to every body and every man with responsibilities entrusted to him. But ordinarily it is found that persons entrusted with great responsibilities do not abuse their powers. I have pointed out that many of the difficulties previously existing in the way of dealing with these subjects are now removed. With respect to the question of the naturalization of aliens I desire to call attention to the fact that it is not so clearly and evidently a subject which may be left to the Federal Council, as unfortunately on this subject the opinions of the colonies are not unanimous. One of the colonies at least encourages the introduction of Chinese into a certain portion, and it would be a mistake if, with the divergence of opinion that there is, the subject was left to be dealt with by the Federal Council, because, although I do not anticipate there would be any danger of their legislating adversely to the views of the majority of the colonies, yet if the law was passed by them, and did not accord with the views of the colonies collectively, there would be a great danger that under the power conferred on them by the 31st clause of the Act, one or more of the colonies might withdraw. I know hon members are quite as well aware of what I have said on these matters as I am, but at the same time on an occasion like this when one is moving the address-in-reply to the Governor's speech, one is at liberty to dilate, and the more prominence that is given to these matters the more will the functions of the Federal Council be understood by the other colonies. There is one other subject which I should like to mention before I pass on to more general topics, and that is the subject of the status of corporations and joint stock companies, to my mind one of the most difficult subjects that can be referred to the Federal Council to be dealt with. It is a subject upon which the opinions of lawyers differ, and one upon which remarkably little is to be found in the treatises written by lawyers. It is a subject upon which it is desirable we should thoroughly know what the law is before we attempt to deal with it. I have given a half pledge to the representatives of Victoria that I would submit a bill dealing with the subject to the Federal Council. Unfortunately, this subject is only referred to the Council by Queensland and Tasmania, and there are no Tasmanian companies carrying on business in Queensland, or Queensland companies in Tasmania, but there are a number of companies from the other colonies who carry on business in Queensland. It is a subject of great difficulty, and requires very great consideration. I hope to be able to lay on the table of the Council before we adjourn a measure, declaratory of what I conceive to be the law, whether it is right or not is another matter altogether, as I know the opinions of persons adverse to mine are quite as numerous as those of persons who agree with me, and I attach great weight to them. I do not know whether it would not be expedient to leave a matter of that sort to be dealt with by a future session of the Council. I now wish to say a word or two with reference to the absence of New South Wales, New Zealand, and South Australia. South Australia, we had reason to believe, would be represented here, until the last moment, and I believe that but for causes of the most exceptional character, they would have been. They are in a position to derive considerable advantages from coming here, South Australia is bounded on the eastern side by New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria. As far as Victoria is concerned the land on the borders is tolerably well settled, but the border between South Australia and Queensland extends for about 1,000 miles, marked for the greater part by posts, at sufficient intervals through very sparsely settled country. Lawless characters congregate there who can commit a crime on one side, and by getting over to the other, cannot be pursued or arrested without serious difficulties. The arrest can take place now under the Fugitive Offenders Act passed in 1883, but the main difficulty yet to be got over is their trial. We have police stations on the borders of Queensland, yet an offender who commits a crime or a trivial offence in South Australia just over our borders has to be conveyed hundreds of miles for his trial, and the result is that there is practically no administration of law there at all. The advantages of union to South Australia are thus extremely apparent. Their representatives have for a long time been associated with us, and have endeavoured to bring the matter to a successful issue all through, and I sincerely trust that South Australia will be represented here soon. New South Wales, as you are aware, has also stood out, although we had reason to believe they would join with us, as their representatives in the convention unanimously supported the resolution adopting the bill which is the basis of our meeting here to-day. Their Parliament, however, did not adopt the resolution to Her Majesty requesting that the measure might be submitted to the Imperial Parliament, for reasons no doubt satisfactory to themselves. But I trust they will not long stand out, indeed I am sure they cannot. As far as I can understand they are afraid,—and we cannot afford to lightly disregard the opinions of men of the Parliamentary and Executive experience of the leading statesmen of New South Wales, although they entertain a fear which I believe to be unfounded,—first that this Council may interfere unduly with their local affairs, and secondly that the actions of this Council may tend to endanger the relations between Australasia and the British empire. With regard to the fear that we may interfere unduly in local affairs, I have pointed out that there are no grounds for apprehension on that score, and even if there were it could only be on some of the special mat- page 16 ters which can only be referred to the Council by the colonies themselves. If they anticipate that the conclusions arrived at on any one of these matters would by any possibility endanger their own internal affairs, or disturb their fiscal relations, they could abstain from referring them to the Council, or so limit the powers of the Council with respect to them that so far as they were concerned there would be no danger of any such result being brought about. The other fear that our action may tend to weaken the bond between Great Britain and the Australian Dominions is perfectly unfounded. No more loyal subjects of Her Majesty can be found than the people of the colonies which are represented in the Council to-day. I think, for my own part, that, so far from tending to weaken the connection between the old country and the new, in the words, of the address-in-reply which we propose to adopt: "The inauguration of this Council will aid in the maintenance of the unity and stability of the Empire," and that for many reasons. One reason is that we have become accustomed, for many years, to speak for ourselves, and have been accustomed to expect to be listened to. If we were all to speak unitedly, our voices would have a much greater weight. If all the colonies were represented here, and, after full deliberation, made a serious remonstrance to the Imperial Government, with respect to any matters of domestic or foreign policy, as affecting these dominions, it would demand as much attention and carry as much weight as any European power. The Australasian colonies would thus demand a share in the control of affairs, not under any written scheme, but they would have a potential voice in the management of the policy of the Empire, so far as it concerned themselves, and this would tend more than anything else could do to the maintenance of the unity between the Mother Country and Australasia. It is the custom now to talk of Imperial Federation, but I do not think that most of those who talk largely about Imperial Federation have any clear conception of what they are talking about. The majority of them appear to be actuated by one of two motives. One section would like to see a portion of the expenditure upon defence shared by the other parts of the Empire, instead of being all borne by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. This is very laudable, for we should be ashamed to depend wholly on the Mother Country for the defence of our shores. That is a view I sympathise with. Another section would like to see a great Customs Union of all the British Dominions, but with those persons I have no sympathy. If their desire for Imperial Federation is simply for the purpose of enlarging the markets "for any particular manufacturers—and here I do not think I am treading on dangerous ground—I do not sympathise with them. If this is their object the less they say about it the better, for it is not likely to bring about the result they desire in any time at present within the range of practical politics. They do not understand the problem they have to deal with. I desire to see a close union of sympathy between the different parts of the Empire, to assist the Mother Country and work with her, but with the expectation that where our own interests are concerned, we should receive as attentive consideration as any part of the United Kingdom. This will be brought about less by any formal scheme than by endeavouring to listen to what we have to say, and before they can tell what we have to say, there must be some one placed in a position to speak for us. This brings me to another question. The functions of this Council, as pointed out by Colonel Stanley, are not only legislative but deliberative. We cannot yet act as the mouthpiece of united Australia, but we may express our own opinions, although on matters of vital consequence it would be advisable for us to act with some hesitancy until our numbers are more complete. South Australia, I am confident, will be here before long, and I hope before long the mother colony of New South Wales will see that the advantages to be gained by union will manifestly outweigh the possible disadvantages, and that all the dangers they fear are imaginary. As regards New Zealand, they are not, I think, unwilling to join. In some matters their interests are not so closely connected with ours as are those of the other colonies, but for many of the purposes and functions of this Council they are equally interested, and it is important they also should be here on matters relating to the general interest. I conceive it should be one of the principal duties, not only of every member of the Council, but everyone who has the interest of the further union of the Australasian dominions of Her Majesty at heart to do all in his power to induce these colonies to come into the union. How it is to be done is a matter which must depend upon circumstances, but one important matter is that we should not, in our present session, do anything which is likely to frighten them. I do not mean that we should be timid in our actions, but that we should not do anything which might induce the other colonies' to think that the Federal Council is a possible power for evil, but on the contrary, that we should show them that it has great power for good, and that the probabilities of its exercise of those powers for good will preponderate over the probabilities of the exercise of its powers for evil. It will be dangerous for us to do anything precipitately, or anything which does not recommend itself to every intelligent man as the right thing to do. If any occasion should arise for serious doubt it would be better for us, with the limited opportunities for deliberation which we have, to defer it. We have the powers; we have not yet decided how we shall use them, but I counsel hon. members that we should do nothing as to which there is any serious doubt as to its propriety or wisdom. If we do we shall frighten the other colonies, and it is important that we should avoid doing that. I do not say we should be timid, but be properly certain we are on the right ground. This Council, as everything else, must have a commencement. We come here, summoned by His Excellency, in accordance with the Act. He has delivered a speech, for which we thank him, as without it our proceedings would be incomplete and improperly commenced. His Excellency had no constitutional advisers to recommend him to make any formal proposals. He could not recommend page 17 what matters should be brought before the Council, or what line of action should be taken by it. That, of course, is a disadvantage. The difficulty was foreseen, as you, Mr. President, and Mr. Berry will remember, in the convention, of our having nothing in the scheme analogous to an Executive to administer the laws of the Council, though perhaps that is not of so much importance as the origination of matters for the consideration of the Council. In practice a body of that nature will probably be found necessary. Constitutions that work generally grow up, and are not completely devised, written, and prepared complete in the first instance. There is very little of the constitution of Great Britain in writing, and of the constitutions of the colonies, which it is the custom to call written, a very great part is unwritten. There is nothing written in relation to the offices of Ministers except that certain persons are allowed to hold a seat in Parliament whilst holding an office of profit under the Government. That they must be members of Parliament is entirely unknown to any written constitution, unless I am mistaken. No single Minister need be a member of Parliament at all, so far as the written constitution is concerned. As a matter of theory, members of the Executive Councils are persons selected by the Governor to advise him. In fact, although they are not appointed directly by the Legislature by election, yet they are, really, committees of the Legislature appointed to administer the Government and advise the Governor. I conceive, sir, that something analogous to that will be found to develop itself out of this Council, and I think that it will be desirable that this matter should be considered during the session. The 24th section of the Act anticipates the matter. It provides that the Council may appoint committees, temporary or permanent, to perform duties when the Council is not in session. A very short time has elapsed since the Adopting Bills were passed, and we have none of us had much time for the consideration of the questions to be brought before us. I believe that one of the most important duties we have to perform this session is to launch the Council in such a way that it will work in future, that when it is started it will go on without friction, and that when the next session assembles there will be no difficulty in proceeding at once to business, and doing useful work and work of a much more elaborate character than we can possibly do today, or during this session, considering the short time we have for consideration. It will be necessary, of course, for us to appoint a committee to formulate standing rules and orders, and I intend to suggest that the standing orders shall provide that a standing committee of the Council be appointed to act permanently during the recess, whose functions it should be to prepare matters to be brought before the next session of the Council, to see that they are thoroughly matured and made known to on, members of the Council, so that in effect we have the advantage during the recess of public opinion,—to which I attach the very greatest importance—in respect of all proposed legislative measures, and as to other proposals likely to be made, just as we have such opinions with respect to the business of the other legislatures. This committee will be in form, like the Executive Council is in effect, an elected committee of the Council, and one of its most important functions will be not only to watch over the general interests of the colonics represented in the Council, but also to see that when the Council meets again there is a programme for them, and that everything brought before them will have been carefully and deliberately considered. They will have an opportunity of hearing objections from all sources, and thus there will be the greater probability that any action taken by the Federal Council will be such as will commend itself not only to the colonies represented, but to the public opinion of the rest of the Empire. I commend this proposal to hon. gentlemen. It is impossible to say exactly how it will work in the end, but in the beginning I think it will be desirable to take this step. Another suggestion, I have to make, and I alluded to it yesterday in a word or two, when I had the honour of moving that you, sir, take the chair as President, is in respect to the functions of the President he is elected now as such for the session, but the question may arise, and I suggest it now for the consideration not only of the members here, but for others outside who take as warm an interest in the movement as we do, whether the functions of President should cease when the Session ends. It may be a question whether the President should be the Chairman of the Standing or Executive Committee, or by whatever name it is called, or whether he should absolutely cease to perform any functions the moment the session closes. I can see advantages in adopting either view. I can see advantages in having always an apparent permanent head—by which I mean a permanent head which can be seen and recognised by name—I use the term in that sense—and it might be of advantage that such a head should be the President. On the other hand, it may be thought to be of advantage that the President should not perform any functions of the sort, but perform more the functions of a Speaker of the Assembly or President of the Legislative Council. Which of these views will ultimately commend itself to those having the future guidance of the Council I am not prepared at this moment to say, but I think this a fitting opportunity to make the suggestion, because, as has been pointed out by many persons, and I am glad to see that the leading paper in Great Britain, is of the same opinion, one of our most important functions in this session is to determine now we shall act in the future. We have not much to do this session, but we have important work in the future. Our important work just now is so to order our goings that in the future we may probably perform the most useful work which we have to do under our constitution. I have detained hon. members longer than I intended, but before I sit down I should like to say a word or two more as to the responsible position we occupy at the present time. I do not know of any occasion in the history of the Australian colonies where public men were charged with more serious responsibilities. We have undertaken an experiment which, if it is successful, will lead certainly to the permanent advancement of the prosperity of Australasia, but which, if it is unsuccessful through our fault page 18 and carelessness, may lead to a great retardment of that prosperity. We do not know for certain in regard to any matter which is the wisest course to adopt, but we ought to recognise the responsibilities of the position in which we are placed, and that what we have to do is to consider the interests of Australasia at large. Although I represent Queensland, I consider myself to be on this occasion as much a representative of the other colonies as of Queensland, and as bound to give as much consideration to their interests as to those of the colony which I represent. If this movement is to be a success, it must be because we, the present members of the Council, and all the other members who are prospectively charged to do what we are now charged with, and who will be charged with the responsibilities which devolve upon us now, and will devolve upon them afterwards, resolve that they are determined in all they do to disregard any interests except the interests of Australasia—and that no interests of ourselves, or of our own particular colonics, shall be allowed to intervene so far as they clash with the general interest. Of course I do not mean that we ought to come here to commit suicide as to our own colonies, but if it is once supposed that we do not act in the interests of the whole of the Colonies, we should do much more mischief than we can do good, and the good we can do, I believe, is immeasurable. But I am sure that we shall use all the wisdom and discretion we can bring to the performance of our duty, and I have no fear as to the result. I believe, as I have already indicated, that this is the first meeting of a Parliament which will be the greatest Parliament in the Southern Hemisphere—which will, in fact, administer the affairs of what will be the only dominion of consequence—and I hope I shall see it in my own lifetime—in this part of the world. We are charged with laying the foundations, and I hope that we shall rise to the occasion, and that when in future years we look back upon this our first meeting, we shall have no reason to be ashamed of the work we have done. I hope that we shall earn some credit such as that which has fallen to other persons in other periods of the world's history for the work they have done in laying the foundations of great national institutions. I confidently nope that such recognition may be extended to this Council before it has been many years in existence. I beg to move the adoption of the address to His Excellency as read by the Clerk.
Dr. Macgregor said: In rising to second the motion that this address be adopted in reply to the gracious speech addressed to us by His Excellency of this colony, it is not my intention to take up the time of the Council by speaking at length, but it may not be altogether out of place if, on such an occasion, I offer a few remarks of a general nature with regard to the Federal Council and the work before it. To one like myself, whose active connection with Federation is only of recent date, the constitution, the powers, the duties, and the future development of the Council naturally form the chief object of study. With regard to the general constitution of the Council, it appears to me that it cannot be too frequently or too clearly pointed out in the way it has been done by my hon. friend the member from Queensland, Mr. Griffith, that the duty of the Council is confined to dealing with matters of common interest without unduly interfering with the management of the internal affairs of the several colonies by their respective legislatures. That restriction is in my opinion a wise one, and as sound sense and the letter of the law forbid undue interference with local Legislatures by the Federal Council, there can be no doubt that the Council both now and hereafter will act sincerely in the spirit of this limitation of its duties. Probably all will admit that the spirit of emulation in progress and advancement has been greatly stimulated by the independence of the local Legislatures. By the agency of the local Legislatures a greater number of able and competent men, than could otherwise have been the case, has been brought forward, and trained to take part in administration and political affairs; and at the same time different interests and industries are in turn originated, fostered, and developed by men of different political opinions. The greater Australasian colonies have had representative institutions and local autonomy conferred upon them at an earlier period in their existence than has been the case in regard to any other colonies, and it must be said that they have proved to be one of the greatest political successes of ancient or modern times. Those institutions are fully appreciated and highly prized, and they will consequently be well and jealously guarded. Perhaps until the true functions and sphere of the Federal Council have been more fully studied and are better understood, there may be a certain number of people who, for some time, may look upon the Council with a little suspicion, but it will be seen before long that the Federal Council is simply a cementing medium connecting the local legislatures and the colonies together, giving to the whole of them solidity of unity. Looking at the constitution of the Council as it is now met, I can only express the very greatest regret that the important colonies of New South Wales, South Australia, and New Zealand are not represented here we must recognise the fact that the Council as now constituted does not carry with it the weight that it would possess if it were more complete, nor has it yet that respect that it will gain with age We must remember that at the present moment the Council represents on the basis of population and revenue less than one-half of Australasia. We have also to bear in mind that a quorum of the Council as now constituted is comparatively a small body, and that a majority of that quorum would consist of a very limited number. Bearing those circumstances in mind, it must be manifest that the work of the Council in this session must not be too ambitious, and the friends of federation ought not to be disappointed or discouraged by what may appear to be the apparent smallness of the results of the session. Looking at the constitution of this Council, as now met, it is a noteworthy fact that two of the eight members are representatives of Crown colonies. Now, I think, Mr. President, it may be well if, as a representative of a Crown colony, I state clearly what will be my own position in the Council with regard to the work that it is to come before us. I have been instructed by the distinguished and experienced officer who administers page 19 the Government of the colony I have the honour to represent, to deal with every question that comes before the Council entirely in the way which my own unfettered judgment and discretion point out to me, and to further in every way I can any measure that to me seems calculated to be conducive to the general welfare. It will thus be seen that I do not come here to represent a Crown colony with a set of specific orders and directions to carry them out. Indeed, were that so, I should feel that my responsibility was very much less indeed than I now feel it to be. As a matter of fact my acts in the Council will be subject to examination by the Colonial Office, they will be carefully scrutinised by the Governor and Legislature of Fiji, and lastly, they will be open to the criticism of the public of Australasia. Bearing these things in mind I do not see how anyone can say that my position in the Council, as a representative of a Crown colony, is an irresponsible one. In consequence of the absence of representatives of the colonies which have not yet entered the federation, the work of the council must, as I have already stated, be somewhat limited, but notwithstanding this I trust that we shall be able to pass some measures of obvious and recognised utility that will be acknowledged by all concerned to be useful to the colonies now taking part in the Council without presenting any obstacle that will stand in the way of the admission of the other colonies at, I hope, an early date. Such measures we have in two bills prepared for submission to the Council—for the Federated Service of Civil Process, and the reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments,—which, if passed by the Council, will be received with gratitude by the colony I have the honour to represent, because they will supply wants that have been long and keenly felt. As was so well pointed out by yourself, Mr. President, the Legislative functions of the Council are perhaps hardly more important than the deliberative. I am not sure that it will not be found frequently that the deliberative will be the more important of the two. The power conferred by the twenty-ninth section of the Imperial Act enabling this Council to make recommendations or representations to Her Majesty with regard to matters of common interest, or with regard to the relations between Her Majesty's possessions in Australasia, and the possessions of foreign powers, will, I trust and hope, offer sufficient inducement before long to procure the admission of the other colonies into the federation. It must be manifest that the voice, the opinions, and the wishes of the Australasian colonists do not now carry with them the same weight, and are not heard so clearly nor are they so well understood as they will be when the whole of Australasia speaks with one voice by the mouth of the President of this Council. (Hear, hear.) Although we must feel the incalculable loss and the disadvantageous position in which we are placed by the non-representation in the Council of the colonies which are not in the federation, I still feel that we can set about our work full of courage. The histories of the Australasian colonies supply unparalleled examples of the grand results which often ensue from small beginnings. It is true that the beginning of this Council is unpretentious and modest, but I am convinced that with prudence and careful management it is susceptible of very great development, and I confidently look forward to the time when this assembly will take its place amongst the other great federated assemblies of the British Empire. I have great pleasure, Mr. President, in seconding the address-in-reply to the Governor's speech moved by the hon. member from Queensland.
Mr. Berry said: I think the members of this Council who have listened to its proceedings so far have done so with pleasure. The address you, sir, delivered yesterday—the speech we are now dealing with which was delivered by the Governor this morning—and the two addresses which have been given by the hon. members for Queensland and Fiji—will, I think, satisfy hon. members that the scope and objects of the Federal Council have not only been fully realized but have been efficiently and very minutely detailed. It has occurred to me that while we are meeting here, and while we find ourselves acting as a Parliament for the federation of Australasia, we scarcely realize all the difficulties which usually stand in the way of communities, who, having a common interest, but having also local self-government, agree to meet together in a form of federation. History has taught us that in all similar institutions in the past the federation of such communities has only been brought about when some disadvantage, some outside pressure, or some national danger has exercised men's minds, and taught them that union is the best means of self-defence. Every historic incident we know of teaches us that one lesson, and I think it is probable that the success we have so far enjoyed in connection with the federation of Australasia is not altogether free from, or with out that element. In listening to the very interesting speeches that have been made in this Council to-day it has also occurred to me that if there has been anything wanting it has been in the realization of what may be regarded as the coming foreign relations of this part of the world, our dealings with other countries, and matters dealing with the future progress of Australasia as a whole. We all know of the recent progress of the Powers of Europe—of their increase in material strength, in population, and in the improved weapons of warfare and engines of destruction, which science has brought to their aid—and while we see this in these great powers, we can only hope that the Mother Country is keeping fair pace with them, while we cannot help hoping further that, in the future the power of Great Britain will be found greatly in those free communities which have gone from her, and have founded powerful peoples in other parts of the world. The balance of power should daily increase in favour of England by the spread of her colonies, by the spread of her population, and by the spread of her wealth—by their powers of self-government, and also, I hope and trust, by their powers of self defence. With regard to the Australasian Colonies, we can readily realize that the policy of England in the past has been one of generosity and uniform kindness to us from the very first down to the present time. With regard to the land, we were endowed with all the valuable territory that now constitutes this dominion. We page 20 have had constitutions so free, that we can scarcely desire anything in addition beyond what has been recently conceded to us, and which has been inaugurated here to-day—the power of combining together for a common object—and what I desire to call attention to is that this liberality on the part of the Mother Country has been followed by an immense growth of these communities, which has brought with it correspondingly great responsibilities, and that the Mother Country may now look to us to do for ourselves in the future a great deal of what has in the past been considered to be a responsibility of the Imperial Government. This federation, imperfect as it is to-day, foreshadows a federation of an important congress of people, which cannot be without a very decided significance in regard to the aid to be given to the Mother Country at a future time. That is a matter which ought never to be either omitted or forgotten in the work of this Council. It may be, and I believe it is necessary, and important that the proceedings of this Council should be marked with great circumspection, with a feeling of grave responsibility, and also with a feeling that until the other colonies of the group join with us we can scarcely be in a position to speak with that authority, or to act with that decision, which I believe and hope we shall ultimately be able to do. In the meantime I do not think we have any reason to suppose that the colonies which are—almost by accident—outside this chamber to-day, are so on the ground of any fundamental differences of opinion, or any real diversities of interest; but that rather it is in matters of detail that they differ with us, and that there has not been time or opportunity in the limited period which has elapsed since the last convention in Sydney to remove misconceptions or to allay passing irritation. We have, therefore, a right to assume that whilst we are not perfect by the inclusion of all the colonies in our midst, we represent the true Australasian sentiment—the sentiment that it is the will and wish of the people of the Australasian colonies—whether represented here to-day or unrepresented, that there should be a federal Government, that it should be as perfect as possible, and that in the future it will, as I too believe it will, exercise a mighty power that shall be for the benefit and safety of these communities. While we bear in mind, in passing from these relations of the past, that we owe a deep debt of gratitude to those statesmen who gave up, not only the whole territory of Australasia, but also subsequently the inestimable boon of perfect self-government—while we recognise that in the past, we must not forget that future time and circumstances will develop events which will be no less important in their results, and which will bring a corresponding responsibility on our part. We shall now be able during the times of peace, through the wise action of this Council, to maintain all Australasian interests as they should be maintained; not only her territorial interests, but her interests within the seas, and with regard to the islands adjacent to her, about which we cannot be indifferent. What the Council says is that having the opportunity of considering what occurs around us from day to day, with full power to deliberate and consider and to come to a determination, and to officially address the Imperial Government, it must in the future have an immense influence on the course of events in years to come. And also in the event of war we ought to be able to relieve the Mother Country of some of those expensive armaments and expeditions which we have in our infancy expected her to take for us, but which in our maturity it ought to be our proud privilege as it is our bounden duty to wish to undertake for ourselves. (Hear, hear.) We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that the growth of circumstances is bringing to the front possible results between Australasia and other foreign countries. We have France fixed by a colony in these seas, and recently Germany has come upon us also, and there are our relations with China and India and the other islands of the Pacific. To what extent matters may arise in connection with these in which these colonies may be interested, or to what extent they may be threatened by circumstances which may arise none can foresee, but everyone must realise that instead of a number of isolated communities acting separately with a different voice, to have an Australasian federation with an organized body such as this Council, able to be called into special session if any special danger menaced the community, must be a source of great good and additional strength in the future, which will represent to the Imperial Government an influence which this part of the world has never possessed or been able to exert before. While therefore giving the fullest significance to all our domestic legislation, which will tend so much towards the convenience of a commercial people, I cannot think that the foreign relations of this Council to other communities is second in importance to any possible domestic legislation. I would quite agree with the lion, member for Queensland, Mr. Griffith, that at the present juncture our duties should be entered upon in a spirit of moderation, with a full sense of the responsibility of our actions, and that we are being watched anxiously on the one hand and jealously on the other—anxiously by our many friends, and jealously by many who do not altogether go with us in the matter, and that we have to justify ourselves to our friends, and to disappoint our opponents if we have any. Federation is one of those things which can go on slowly. It is not like the life of an individual which needs to be hurried in its incidents. All time is before us, and so that we make no mistake but lay the foundations of the great edifice which is hereafter to be erected surely and substantially, we shall have done a great work. We all know that in the erection of a material edifice the laying of the foundation stone is a matter of ceremony, of congratulation, and marked progress, and if this session of this Council should be no more than the laying of the foundation stone of federation, or, to use another metaphor, if it be merely the launching of a ship on the seas whose voyage will eventually redound to the credit and the profit of those who own it—in either case to do that work will if we do not more justify our being here, and it will, moreover, justify all the labours of those who have worked so strenuously for years to bring this matter to a successful issue. If we do that, I am sure we have all of us faith enough to know that others who succeed us will go on building up stone page 21 by stone until the perfect edifice is completed. The materials for it will be provided by history, and will no doubt be availed of by those who follow us in the occupancy of seats in this Council. That it will grow until it embraces the whole of the communities in this part of the world I have no manner of doubt. Every circumstance points to it as an absolute certainty, and that our only safety, commercial or material, is to be found in that measure of federation, which these communities may accept without sacrificing any of the elements of self-government, standing shoulder to shoulder, organised to the best of their ability cither to defend themselves from foreign aggression or to take advantage of every opportunity of growth and extention of the dominion of the flag under which we live. I agree, Mr. President, with the sentiments expressed, that no stone should be left unturned by the members of this Council, either as to our public acts, or our utterances public or private to induce the other colonies to join this federation, and it will not be a perfect federation until all the colonies have become members of it. We may all, therefore, join in the wish that has been expressed that when this Council meets again there will be no Australasian colony unrepresented in this Council. I am sure, Mr. President, that that is your hope; it is what you have laboured for—what we have all laboured for. Those who differ from us do so mainly on matters of detail; they are friends who do not agree with us for the time being, and we shall, I am sure, accord them the courteous treatment to which they are entitled; and, in the meantime, we Know that our scheme of federation is looked upon with satisfaction and pride by Imperial statesmen. An active and intelligent interest is taken in it by 999 out of every 1,000 of the population of this part of the world, who feel that the time has come when we should form a great and powerful confederation. They feel that they must federate for their own self-defence, to maintain their own status, and to extend their own prosperity. Looking around, we see no one but friends, and although it may be out of place for us to discuss this question further in the abstract way in which it has been discussed, yet I thought it was our bounden duty to show to the world that we not only welcome this, the first meeting of the Federal Council, with confidence and hope, but that we feel assured that in the future it will extend its boundaries until it embraces the whole of Australasia. It has a grand work before it, not altogether of a selfish character. In looking to its own interests it will not be unmindful of the fact that it regards Australia as a part of the British Empire. It will realise that it has responsibilities and duties; that it has received much, and that much is expected from it. I trust and believe that the result of our deliberations will be such as to justify the friends of the movement, to conciliate opposition, and be of happy augury for the future.
Mr. Dickson said: Mr. President, I am sure, sir, that every person will agree with me in saying that we have listened with the very greatest pleasure and attention to the eloquent speeches which have been made in submitting this motion to the Council. So far as the Address-in-Reply is concerned, I feel that it has been so well debated that any words of mine are almost superfluous. At the same time, I feel that members who have addressed themselves are members—two of them at least—who took part in the deliberations of the Convention in Sydney in 1883, out of which this Federal Council has sprung; and it seems desirable that a member who has not had that advantage should say a few words of his own by way of introducing and interpreting the newer and warmer feeling which exists in the colonies in connection with this most important subject. It is for this reason that I rise to occupy the attention of the Council for a very few minutes. I consider the Council which meets to-day is the inauguration of a Greater Parliament of Greater Britain; that this small gathering will be the nucleus of the great Federal Parliament of the future to be sent by all the colonies to legislate on questions of general concern. I am fully convinced that, having once established the Council, there will be no act of retrogression. It will continue to exist. "Men may come and men may go," as we are told by Tennyson, but the river "goes on for ever." It will be the same with the Federal Council; members may come and go, but the Council will remain. It is a gratifying fact that this Federal Council is the outcome of no external menace or pressure. It has been the wish of the colonists themselves, who are deserving of great credit for what they have done in the matter. As we all know, the Australasian colonies have had but a comparatively short period of life, and they have but recently gone through the struggle of forming themselves and endeavouring to form their Legislatures, and other social organisations, in such a manner as to arrive at a position which is fully abreast of the times; and I think it will be admitted that the Australian colonies have become through those struggles and efforts one of the foremost dependencies of the British Crown. The establishment of the Federal Council at the present time, therefore, is not only an act which must commend itself to the intelligent consideration of all Australians, but it is a far outstretching into the future, highly creditable to the foresight of the colonies themselves. Undoubtedly it would have been highly desirable and most gratifying to us all had the Council been filled by representatives from all the colonies. But that, as has been said, is only a question of time, and I think that one result of the able speeches that have been made will be to remove a great deal of misconception and misunderstanding which prevail on the subject. There can be no doubt, Mr. President, that the action of the colonies in confederating at the present time will have a very marked effect, not only on our future position, but upon the consolidation of the British Empire. Australasia will cease, in the future, to be considered as a mere geographical expression; it will become a powerful confederation, and form a source of strength to the Mother Country. It is gratifying to us that we shall be able to form these new United States, if I may be allowed the expression. There is no question of dismemberment. Indeed, instead of using the term "United States," I ought rather to say this United Dominion under that British Empire of which we intend to remain an in- page 22 tegral portion. Undoubtedly, sir, it would have added greatly to the importance of our proceedings had there been present here representatives from the colonies of New South Wales, South Australia, and New Zealand. I think, however, that it will be but a matter of time for those important colonies to become united with us, and I take it that our deliberations this session will have the effect of facilitating that action on their part. Doubtless we are placed in a position of some difficulty, and our deliberations must be conducted with the greatest prudence, but it is not impossible for us to leave our mark upon the statute book to some extent, however inconsiderable, being at the same time careful not to attempt too much, and putting quite aside private feelings and personal aspirations. It has been said that we meet here only as members of local Parliaments, but we meet on a much wider basis; we are a Federal Council in fact, as well as in name. It is only right, I think, to acknowledge the courtesy which has been extended by the members of this Council in treating every colony represented as of equal importance in connection with the union. We in Queensland have had several matters from time to time to contend with, which would very properly came within the scope of a Federal Council, and more particularly when we were threatened with the Chinese invasion of Australasia. The alarm was sounded in Queensland long before the dangers were apprehended in the southern colonies, and we from time to time had to take action in self-defence, in the face of great opposition, and which ultimately has had to be adopted by the southern colonies of Australia also. The original action of Queensland was, therefore, taken in defence of the whole Australasian colonies. Now that the Federal Council has been instituted these and similar matters will in time doubtless come before the Council, and I trust that our deliberations will not only show that the Council is of some practical utility in dealing with such questions, that it is not merely a name, but that it will have the effect of acting as an incentive to the other colonies to place themselves within the range of its operation. (Applause.)
The Address-in-Reply was unanimously adopted.