HC Deb 09 July 1861 vol 164 cc631-4

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 (Power to annex to existing Colonies Territories now Part of New South Wales),


moved, as an Amendment to Clause 2, to insert after the word "afore-said," in line 23, the words "to erect into a separate colony or colonies, or." The object of this Amendment was to give the Government the power to alter the existing boundaries, so as to form those colonies into smaller communities. The territory in question was larger than France and England united, yet there was scarcely such a thing as a local Government in its limits. Everything was done by the central Government at Sydney, who were landlords over nearly the whole of the soil. They owned 47,104,000 acres, the occupants of which were not merely tenants at will but tenants on sufferance. Jobbery was, consequently, enormous. All the situations, from the highest officers and the State down to the telegraph clerk and the railway porter, were filled by the Government. Members played into each other's hands, "You help my church, and I will aid your road." Precisely the same thing prevailed in America, where it was known as "log-rolling," from the circumstance of neighbours assisting each other in the raising of their dwellings. The immense extent of the business of the Legislature rendered long sittings necessary—in fact it was all but perpetual; they lasted nearly all the year round. The form of Government was strict democracy. Vote by ballot, universal suffrage, and nearly equal electoral districts, were not tempered by any of those legitimate influences which were so necessary even in this kingdom—such as kindness from employer to employed, generosity from landlord to tenant. This democracy seemed to have a sort unnatural spite against property. Communism prevailed there. Emigrants sent out at the public expense thought they had a claim on the Government for maintenance, and works had even been set on foot for the sole purpose of giving them employment—much after the manner of Louis Blanc's ateliers nationaux. He had known the colony for fifteen years, during which time he had never seen a beggar. Now the people themselves stated that they were in a starving condition, and actual beggars were to be met with. The number of sheep, which in 1855 was 8,602,499, had diminished in 1858 to 6,662,671. No cause could be assigned for the existing evils but bad government. Severing the colony into smaller communities would be a remedy for some of them. It would diminish the mischief arising from the non-attendance of Members from the distant constituencies. Small democracies were always better than large ones. The corporations of England had proved most useful. In Switzerland some of the cantons were extremely democratic; but the Governments were effective and met the public wants. The moment, however, democracy was tried in France on a large scale, it broke down. He would not say anything of America at the present moment, for he believed he should best consult the wishes of the House by refraining from doing so. Separation had already taken place in the colonies of Australia, Van Diemen's Land and New Zealand formerly belonged to it. Now both are separate colonies, and in the case of Victoria and Queensland separation had been perfectly successful.


said, that the Bill was one of a very practical and modest character, intended to meet certain wants experienced in the Australian Colonies, but his hon. Friend would give a much more extensive character to the measure. In the opinion of the Colonial Secretary, however, sufficient reasons were not given for adopting the proposition. The Amendment had reference to the part of the Bill which enabled the Crown to erect into new colonies or annex to existing colonies regions still uninhabited and unorganized. His hon. Friend proposed that the Crown should have power to redistribute existing colonies, which so far from being uninhabited, unorganized, and ungoverned, were already partitioned out and occupied by great communities possessing independent representative Legislatures. His hon. Friend wished to confer on the Crown a general power of withdrawing from any of these Colonies a district forming part of it, and to erect it into a new colony, or to attach it to another colony. But this power had not been asked for by the Governments or by any body of the people in the Australian colonies. Under these circumstances Her Majesty's Government thought it was far safer to leave things as they were, and to deal on its own merits with any case of the kind that might arise hereafter. The difference between the proposal in the Bill and that of his hon. Friend was this, that if his hon. Friend's Amendment were adopted the Secretary of the Colonies would have power to detach any portions of these territories form one colony for the purpose of attaching them to another; whereas as the Bill stood he would be obliged to ask Parliament for any such power. He thought it better not make divorce in this matter, as in unions of another kind, too easy, and not to hold out temptation to particular districts of a colony which might have causes of complaint against their Government, to look to separation as the remedy for such complaints.


said, that if the Amendment were adopted, the central Government of any of the colonies affected by it would see that the Secretary of State would have power, without going to Parliament, to erect a new colony or attach any of the districts to another colony, and would, consequently, be compelled to do justice to these districts through an apprehension that such power would be exercised.


said, the power he proposed to confer had been already asked for, and petitions had been adopted in favour of the proposal. He did not propose by the Amendment to separate the colonies at once, but only proposed to confer a power on the Crown which would enable those colonies to effect a separation when such a course was considered necessary.

Amendment negatived; Clause agreed to.

Remaining Clauses agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read 3o on Thursday.