§ The House went into Committee on this Bill.
§ Clause 17.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he objected to the clause altogether; but if he could not succeed in expunging it, he should endeavour to improve it as much as possible. The Act contemplated the saving of expense; but the proviso to this clause declared that if as aving were effected, it should not be at the disposal of the colony, but should be applied to such purposes as to Her Majesty might seem fit. He moved the omission of this part of the proviso.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
saw some reason in the hon. and learned Member's proposition. He was willing that the words should be struck out, reserving to himself the right of reinserting them in the report, if he felt called upon on further consideration to do so.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
objected next to the schedule of salaries attached to the Bill, The salary of the Governor of Van Die-men's Land, 5,000l. a year, was greater than that of the Governor of the State of New York. The whole schedule was 73,000l. a year, to oppose which his only course was to propose that the entire clause be omitted.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
said, that the Bill had been framed in accordance with the report of the Privy Council, which laid it down that salaries of colonial governors or judges should not be made the subject of an annual vote in the colonial legislature. This was in accordance with the practice of this country, where the salaries of Judges were placed beyond the control of the House of Commons. The possibility of differences of opinion between the governors and their parliaments rendered it inexpedient that their salaries should be made subjects of annual discussion. With respect to the amount, he did not think 5,000l. a year too much for the Governor of Van Diemen's Land. He must, therefore, oppose the Motion.
SIR W. MOLES WORTH
supported the Amendment. He did not think 5,000l. too much for the Governor, but he looked upon him as an Imperial officer, to be paid out of the Imperial treasury.
§ Clause agreed to, as were Clauses 18 to 28 inclusive.
§ Clause 29.
§ MR. J. E. DENISON
said, that the boundary question had a very important bearing on the question of transportation. The noble Lord at the head of the Colonial Department had told the people of New South Wales that if their legislature should be indisposed to receive any more convicts, no more should be sent. Now, at present, the boundaries of New South Wales to the north were entirely undefined and unlimited; and, unless some limits were assigned, the legislature might at some future time object to allow any district to the north to be set apart for the reception of convicts. He was aware that powers were given to the Crown by this Bill to alter the boundaries by means of an Order in Council; but the people might say that they understood the promise of the noble Lord to be that no convicts were to be sent to any place within their present boundaries. He thought it therefore important that the bouudaries of New South Wales should be settled before such an extensive power was delegated to the legislature.
§ LORD J RUSSELL
said, that his hon. Friend was quite correct in stating that the boundaries of New South Wales to the north were, at present, undefined; and also that Earl Grey had informed the Governor of New South Wales that, if the legislature should object to convicts being sent to the colony, they should not, in future, be sent. But in this Bill power was expressly taken to detach certain territories from New South Wales, and erect them into a separate colony or colonies, to a greater extent than could be done by the former Act, viz.—from the 26th to the 30th degree of south latitude. The Crown would thus have power, if necessary, to detach Moreton Bay, and erect it into a separate colony, if they thought proper, and Moreton Bay would thus be ready to receive convicts, although the Legislature of New South Wales should be averse to receive them. No determination, however, had yet been come to to advise Her Majesty to pass such an Order in Council; but the Bill gave the Government 799 power to advise Her Majesty to interfere whenever they might think it expedient to do so, and would, of course, be guided by circumstances with regard to the exercise of that power.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 30.
MR. V. SMITH
said, that this and the following clauses introduced the novel principle of a federal assembly, which it had been found impossible to effect in other colonies, and which would fail in this instance from the distance at which the settlements were from each other, if from no other cause. Every governor had expressed an opinion adverse to a federal assembly, which had also been condemned as unconstitutional by the meeting on which the noble Lord at the head of the Government had laid so much stress the other night. It might be said that the legislative council need not adopt it unless they pleased; but how did that argument tally with the arguments of the Government upon other parts of the Bill? It was said, for instance, that the colonies were perfectly satisfied with their present constitution of a single chamber, and that therefore it was inexpedient to thrust a double chamber upon them. But could it be said that the colonists were in favour of the federative assembly? On the contrary, did it not appear from all the information before the House that they held it in perfect contempt? The noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Colonies had also given it as his opinion that for a long time such an assembly would be wholly inoperative. Why, then, encumber the Bill with such a clause? Upon the subject of the admission of leaseholders to the franchise—those who came under the denomination of squatters, it appeared by a despatch received that day, that there was an opinion in the colony that they should be represented by four members; and the Governor of the colony stated that, in his opinion, there would not be a fair representation, unless these parties were represented. Under these circumstances, he wished to know what course the Government had decided upon on this subject?
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
said, that with regard to the first point, the general assembly as proposed by the Bill, though it was true there had been an expression of opinion against it in the colony, those who objected had not taken into account the facts that no colony could be included in the federal assembly unless by their own choice, nor unless two of the colonies proposed 800 it would such an assembly be formed. And, though it might not be called for at the present moment, in two or three years hence it was probable that there might be a desire to form such a body, and then it might be inconvenient to come to Parliament for the necessary powers which they might now give without any inconvenience. There were many questions which could scarcely be left to each colony to decide for itself—as in the case of customs duties. If the Legislature of New South Wales were to say, we will impose a duty on spirits of 10s. a gallon, and the Legislature of Victoria were to impose on the same article a duty of 6d. a gallon only, all the importation of spirits would be at Victoria, while a large smuggling trade would be carried on across the border. On this question, then, on that of a supreme court, and on the subject of lighthouses, such a body would be useful in establishing some common system. With regard to the squatting interest, though he by no means meant to say that it ought not to be represented at some future time, he did not think it advisable to introduce any provision on the subject into this Bill. If the boundaries of New South Wales were permanently fixed, it might be proper to say that all persons residing within such boundaries should have the power of sending members to the legislative council; but while the boundaries remained undefined to the north, it might lead to much difficulty should it be deemed advisable to separate that district into another colony if these persons were admitted.
§ MR. J. E. DENISON
said, suppose under the provisions of the Bill, New South Wales and Victoria were to form a federative assembly, the former colony sending twelve members and the latter four, why, New South Wales would be in a position to appropriate all the duties collected in the ports of Victoria to its own purposes. It was not likely that under such a liability a smaller State would ever voluntarily enter into a federative union with a larger.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, the principle of the proposed assembly was not similar to that existing in the United States of America, where every State, no matter what population it might have, had an equal number of representatives in the senate. In this Bill, on the contrary, the larger States would over-ride the smaller ones. They had to legislate for the future, and he wished them to repudiate altogether the sneering that was so often heard at the 801 idea of a great confederation of States in that part of the world. He believed that such a result was certain to take place, and that they ought to act now under the conviction that these colonies would be united hereafter in a great confederation of States, having the same language, the same institutions, and the same motives for mutual peace.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he was not one of those who sneered at the future prospects of these colonies. On the contrary, he had stated the other night that if there was any question on which they might anticipate the future, it was in legislating for the colonies. It was clear that in a federative assembly in these colonies they should proceed on the same principle of economy which was acted upon in diplomatic intercourse between independent States, at least in former times, when their power was never measured according to population or revenue. Wishing to support the Government in the object which they professed to have in view, of treating the colonies with equality, he felt bound to oppose the clauses as they were now drawn, as he believed they were calculated to defeat the object which the noble Lord at the head of the Government professed to have in view. He believed the noble Lord would never see federation existing in the colonies, if inequality, and not equality, were to be the basis of their legislation.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
said, it was very true, as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield had remarked, that the United States had got over the difficulty which they had to meet by adopting the principle of equality in the Senate, and of representation according to population in the House of Assembly. In the clause before the Committee, they adopted the principle of equality, by giving each colony a right to send two members to the General Assembly, while they consulted the right of representation according to population, by giving one additional member to each colony for every 15,000 inhabitants possessed by it. It should be recollected that the General Assembly could not include any particular colony without the consent of the colony itself, and therefore much of the objection urged could not apply. He certainly should wish to see the clauses passed as they stood; but, at the same time, the Government would take the objection that had been urged into consideration before bringing 802 up the report, so as to see whether the provisions might not be improved.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, that the ground of opposition to the second chamber, was the difficulty of finding suitable materials; but by providing that each colony should send two members to the General Assembly, that difficulty seemed to be overcome.
§ SIR. W. MOLESWORTH
said, if they wished to lay the foundation of a great federal republic in Australia, to be independent of this country, as were the United States of America, then the plan recommended by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield ought to be adopted. He did not see how a federative assembly could be admitted at all, unless the intention was to separate these colonies from the mother country. It appeared to him that the monarchy of Great Britain was the true federative assembly that should be contemplated, at all events, for a long time to come, by these colonies. All the questions that were proposed to be referred to the General Assembly could be settled by mutual arrangement between the colonies, without any such authority; whereas if they appointed a general assembly, and gave them only a few matters to devote their attention to, they would be sure to begin encroaching on the Imperial power; and as to the questions proposed to be settled by a federative assembly, they could just as well be settled without one. On these grounds he should oppose the adoption of the clause.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
entirely differed from the hon. Baronet who had just sat down, as he was of opinion that so far from leading to a separation from the mother country, the establishment of a general assembly would have the very opposite effect. If the colonies saw that they had an interest in meeting together for particular purposes, they ought to be invited to do so legally, instead of being left to illegal means to effect that object. The power was to be only permissive after all, and he believed that by adopting the clause they would be strengthening and not weakening the connexion with this country.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, the noble Lord had admitted that there was no great necessity for this general assembly at present, though the necessity might arise hereafter; while the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down seemed to think that it was a very delicate and difficult matter. AS the Government evidently had not their minds made up on the question, he 803 thought the wisest course would be to withdraw these clauses altogether.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
hoped the noble Lord would not take any such course. He would take, for instance, the case of an intended railway from the colony of Victoria to Sydney; and without a general assembly, where would be the means of carrying such a project into effect?
§ MR. ADDERLEY
said, the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield at one moment advocated the necessity of independent colonial legislation, and at the next of imperial legislation, to be extended even to such matters as colonial railways. The hon. and learned Gentleman always argued the case of the Australian colonies on the analogy of America; but he should like to hear from the hon. and learned Gentleman whether he knew of any analogy in the history of the United States to such a measure as that now before the House? What would have been said if, in the reign of William III. for instance, when all the colonies were independent of each other, a Bill were introduced into Parliament authorising any two of them to form a congress, which the whole of the other colonies should acquiesce in? [Mr. LABOUCHERE said, the Bill empowered only the colonies acquiescing to elect the general assembly.] He believed the first suggestion of a congress was made to the American colonies from this country, to provide against the attacks of the Indians; and the reply sent over was, that the independent and spirited inhabitants of these colonies were not likely to accept any suggestion of the kind sent them from the mother country. Therefore, the only analogy to be drawn from the history of the United States was directly against this Bill. He believed the Government could induce a majority of the House to vote that black was white if they wished, and he had therefore not much hope of the decision of the Government being modified in the present low state of feeling with regard to colonial matters. It was, however, he was happy to think, not the lowest state of feeling which had been known on this subject. The hon. Member the Under Secretary for the Colonies had truly stated the other night that the Bill of 1842 had passed through Parliament without any expression of disapprobation; but he might with equal truth have also stated that it passed without any expression of approbation. He was proud to think, however, that during the last eight 804 years a different feeling had sprung up, and was rapidly extending, and that during that period many important discussions had taken place in Parliament on the subject of the colonies. He wished to know what the object of these clauses was? They would evidently materially increase the colonial difficulty; but what good would they effect? Who had asked for them, or by what party were they not condemned? This general assembly was condemned by the colonial governors, by the colonists themselves, by the Government, and, in fact, by every interest under Heaven. All the rest of the Bill was defended on the ground that the colonies had asked for it; but this part was defended because the colonies had not asked for it, though they possibly might ask for it some day or other. Two colonies might ask for this power, and they were then to have a general assembly; but supposing the other three colonies to ask for another general assembly, were they to have two general assemblies sitting at the same time? He believed, however, that none of the colonies would ask for such an institution except New South Wales, which would no doubt be glad to get handed over to her for ever the destinies of four neighbouring States, just as England would be scarcely able to resist an offer of getting the destinies of all Europe placed in her hands. He could conceive no earthly object in this general assembly, and, with all due respect for Earl Grey, he thought it was the result of a mania in his mind for finishing off constitutions. Earl Grey appeared actually to have such a mania, which he was unable to resist, and after having failed so often in constitutions in single colonies, he now sought to unite five colonies all in one Bill. As the question would come fully before the House on bringing up the report, he should not at present enter at greater length into it.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, the hon. Gentleman fancied he had discovered a great blunder, but the blunder was on his own part. The hon. Gentleman supposed that two general assemblies might be formed under this clause; but, if he referred to the clause, he would find that the words "such general assembly," frequently recurring, meant the one general assembly to be established; and each separate legislature desiring to join that one assembly was to be permitted to do so.
§ LORD J. MANNERS
observed, that if two of the colonies established a general 805 assembly, the other three colonies, which might, for good and wighty reasons, decline to join that assembly, were debarred from forming another; and he, therefore, considered that the general assembly to be constituted under this Bill could not justly be styled the general assembly of Australia. He hoped the noble Lord would assent to the suggestion that had been made, that the consideration of the clause should be deferred.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
would put this question—Suppose that two colonies were to unite, and form a general assembly, and that afterwards the three remaining colonies were to resolve to unite among themselves and form another general assembly, who on earth was there to prevent them from doing so, under the clause of this Bill?
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
thought the difficulty raised by the hon. Member for North Staffbrdshire could be easily solved. The application for a general assembly must be made to Her Majesty in Council, and if two of the colonies had united in forming a general assembly, and any of the other colonies desired a general assembly, the answer to their request would be—" If you wish to meet in general assembly you must join the assembly that at present exists." He must say, that he thought it would be very unwise to give up these clauses as they at present stood, for, by so doing, the Government would abandon the principle of a general assembly. The establishment of such an assembly seemed to have been assented to, if not by a majority of the House, at least by a majority of those hon. Members who had spoken on the subject. The proposition had been supported by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, and approved by the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire. He (Lord J. Russell) thought the only question for consideration was, whether the proposed proportion of two members for each colony, and one additional member for every 15,000 inhabitants of such colony, might or might not deter any colony from joining the general assembly, and whether it might not be advisable to have a greater latitude than was given by the clause. It might be very useful in certain cases, with respect especially to duties and customs, that the representatives of two neighbouring colonies should meet and agree that their duties and customs should be alike, and he considered it advisable that authority should be given them by Parliament 806 so to meet. The hon. Member for North Staffordshire seemed to think, that because Parliament gave these powers, it acted in a compulsory manner; but all that Parliament did was to give the colonists a power to do of their own will what they would not otherwise be able to do.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
said, that as he understood the clause, the power was not merely permissive, but would be practically compulsory.
SIR W. MOLES WORTH
said, he should oppose the clause, and would take the sense of the Committee on the question.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 63; Noes 10: Majority. 53.
§ House resumed.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered on Friday, 3rd May.