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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 50

"London, February 3, 1886


"Telegram from Berlin reports agreement Germany France determining respective possessions Africa and South Seas, in which Germany engages do nothing calculated to prevent France occupying New Hebrides. Immediate steps must be taken address Secretary of State for the Colonies. Other agents advised.

"Murray Smith."

The President: This telegram, it is evident to me, was intended by the Agent-General to be communicated to this Council before its rising, evidently with the view that the Council should take action, and I think that the Council will feel that some action of a very decided character is necessary. I would suggest whether it is not advisable to appoint a select committee of this Council to draw up an address to Her Majesty on the subject contained therein—the question of the New Hebrides. I should be glad to hear the views of hon. members.

Mr. Douglas: I beg to suggest that we should, in the first place, finish the formal business of the Council before going into this matter.

The President: There is nothing before us at the present moment, and, of course, it is for the Council to determine the order of business.

Mr. Berry: Mr. President,—By leave of the Council I would ask leave to move a resolution without notice based upon the information conveyed in the telegram you have just read. I think that the importance of the information conveyed in that telegram can scarcely be overrated. For a long time past, before and since the convention met in Sydney, the possibility of France annexing the New Hebrides was present to the minds of public men in this part of the world, but whenever the suggestion of the possibility of that kind has been made public, it has always been met by positive statements that the arrangements and the agreements between England and France precluded the possibility of such an event. We have been satisfied with such assurances from time to time, but I may say that we received similar assurances with regard to the island of Raiatea, and since then the statement made by the public Press has been confirmed that England has conceded for advantages elsewhere the island of Raiatea to France, without any reference to these colonies, notwithstanding the assurances we had by the publication of an agreement between the two countries in regard to that particular island. Only a few days ago, in moving a motion on that subject, I said that if this could be done in regard to Raiatea it might be done in regard to the far more important islands of New Hebrides.

Mr. Griffith: I rise to a point of order. Although I have no objection to the resolution being passed, I think it is highly inconvenient that a general discussion on the question of the New Hebrides and Her Majesty's Government should be made without notice. I must, therefore, object to the matter being discussed.

The President: I may point out that it is impossible to give notice, that the time is now past for giving notices of motion until to-morrow, and if the Council proposes to adjourn to-morrow there will be no possibility of discussing it.

Mr. Griffith: You misunderstand me, Sir. I said that I do not object to the motion being made, but to going into the whole subject now. For my part I have no objection to appoint the committee, or to the suspension of the standing orders for the purposes of the motion, but I think it would be inconvenient to go into a general discussion of the question.

Mr. Berry: I do not intend to go into a discussion of the question, more than to justify the action I have taken in bringing the motion forward without notice, because I do not think that anyone is justified in presenting such a motion unless he can show cause. Having said so much in justification of the course I have taken, and as I understand there is no objection, I shall not add anything further, but simply move as follows,—" That having regard to the telegram received by the President from the Agent-General of Victoria, relating to a reported agreement between Germany and France, this Council do appoint a select committee to draw up an address to the Queen on the subject, viz., Mr. Griffith, Mr. Douglas, and the President."

Mr. Lee Steere seconded.

Motion put and passed.