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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 55

The Australian Federal Proposals

The Australian Federal Proposals.

I will ask you now to allow me to say something on the subject of federation, and I cannot do so without expressing the great admiration I have for the energetic ability which the Premier of the neighbouring colony of Victoria (Mr. Service) has devoted to this question. It is an extraordinary thing how he has managed to force this question under the notice and on the affections of the people. I take it that Mr. Service feels that, as Victoria is the must heavily populated of the Australasian colonies, it ought to have assumed the leading position, and that by taking up the question of establishing a protectorate over New Guinea, in which it had only a remote interest, he would best show how unselfishly the people of Victoria were inclined to act in harmony with their brethren in the other colonies, which were more directly concerned. But the most remarkable thing, and the greatest evidence of this unselfishness is that, although Victoria has an interest more remoto than any other colony in this matter, yet it has been so fastened upon the minds of the people there that only recently meetings were held all over the colony to take the necessary steps for urging Great Britain to make a remonstrance against the action of Germany in annexing part of New Guinea. Therefore it is a matter of regret to me that I am not able to go the whole length that Mr. Service has gone with regard to the proposals of the Federal Council Bill. You may perhaps be aware that we proposed at the end of last session resolutions with regard to the provisions of the Bill, which was approved by the Convention which had previously been held at Sydney, and that these resolutions suggested some material alterations in it. Briefly, they were that whilst the Bill prepaid by the Convention would enable the Federal Council to pass laws which would have to be adopted by the various colonies whether or not they approved of the terms of these laws, we said that no law passed by the Federal Council should be binding on any colony, unless accepted and passed by the Legislature of that colony. We further said that instead of the Federal Council being at liberty to make representations on behalf of the whole of the colonies to the Colonial Office of the mother country, that the representations made by the Federal Council should be made separately to the various page break colonies, allowing them the same freedom of action as they would with regard to their internal affairs. It seems to me that; these differences are very distinct, and that it would be not safe to leave the approval of these laws to an outside authority, but that each colony must see and endorse the law before accepting it, and that it must go through the Legislature of each colony in the ordinary way. This is the point of difference between us and the proposals made in this Sydney Convention, and not less emphasized in the special Bill now sent out by Lord Derby, with some amendments. I do not believe that we in New Zealand will go further than the resolutions passed last session, to which I have referred. I do not believe that the colony ought to go further. At the same time, if the other colonies would go into the question of affording machinery by which common measures might be passed for the benefit of all, I think that it would be of great service to the whole of the colonies. Gentlemen, there is, I think, very deep sympathy—and there is no good overlooking it, between the various colonics. I am quite sure that a deep throb of pride and pleasure must have rung through the whole of the colonies when we read of the splendid and patriotic offer of New South Wales to supply troops to the English Government—(loud applause)—for the purpose of avenging the awful death of General Gordon. I feel sure that we have our full share of pride in this action of New South Wales; just as much, indeed, as if the action had come from ourselves. I am glad, therefore, to say that our Government immediately telegraphed its congratulations to New South Wales upon its patriotic action. (Applause.)