§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ (4.43.) THE UNDER SECRETARY OE STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Baron H. DE WORMS, Liverpool, East Toxteth)
This Bill is introduced for the purpose of granting Responsible Government to Western Australia. It is, in form and substance, identical with the Bill passed in another place last year, and which for want of time we were unable to pass 1354 through this House. The delimitation of territory which the Bill proposes to give to the Responsible Government is the 26th parallel of south latitude. To the Responsible Government will be granted the whole area of the country; but within this delimitation certain regulations will be made relative to the sale or disposal of land, and this question with regard to the sale or leasing of land we propose to refer to a Select Committee representing all shades of opinion in this House. That being so, I do not think the House will want me to go into all the details of the Bill, but I wish especially to call attention to two or three clauses which are of great importance as embodying what I may call vital principles. The principal clauses of the Imperial Bill are:—Clause 3, vesting in the Local Legislature the management and control of Crown lands south of the 26th degree of south latitude; Clause 4, reserving to the Home Government the management of Crown lands north of the 26th degree of south latitude and providing for the application of the fund arising from the sale and lease of such lands; Clause 7, reserving power to Her Majesty to subdivide the colony hereafter; and Clause 8, reserving for the signification of Her Majesty's pleasure any local Act that may hereafter be passed restricting the immigration of British subjects. This clause is, in my opinion, one of the most important in the Bill, because I have often heard it urged with great force that power should be reserved by the Imperial Legislature to prevent a newly enfranchised colony from prohibiting immigration. This clause absolutely prevents any such action by the colony, inasmuch as any local Act which might be framed—I do not suppose one ever would be—to prevent immigration could not become law without receiving in the first instance the assent of Her Majesty through the Secretary of State, There is another clause of great importance. We all know that in connection with our colonies one of our first duties is to protect to the utmost of our power the aboriginal races, and it has always been the endeavour—I hope the successful endeavour—of this House so to protect them. This duty has not been overlooked in this legislation. In Clause 70 of the local Bill passed by the 1355 Western Australia Legislature it is enacted that:—There shall be payable to Her Majesty in every year out of the consolidated revenue fund the sum of £5,000 mentioned in Schedule C to this Act, to be appropriated to the welfare of the aboriginal natives, and expended in providing them with food and clothing when they would otherwise he destitute, in promoting the education of aboriginal children (including half-castes), and in assisting generally to promote the preservation and well-being of the aborigines. The said annual sum shall be issued to the Aborigines Protection Board by the Treasurer on warrant under the hand of the Governor, and may be expended by the said Board at their discretion, under the sole control of the Governor, anything in the Aborigines Protection Act, 1886, to the contrary notwithstanding. Provided always, that if and when the gross revenue of the colony shall exceed £500,000 in any financial year, an amount equal to 1 per cent, on such gross revenue shall, for the purpose of this section, be substituted for the said sum of £5,000 in and for the financial year next ensuing.I think this clause not only affords ample protection to the aboriginal natives, but it also affords the ways and means of providing substantially for the relief of any natives who may be destitute, and for the education of those who may need it. I would point out to the House that in no other Australian Constitution Act does this clause exist, and therefore this is a distinct advance on all other enactments; and I believe the House will regard the provision with special favour. I have heard it stated that one of the objections to this Bill is that the population of the country to which it is proposed to give Responsible Government is quite out of proportion to the area inhabited by it. I am quite prepared to admit that there is a vast discrepancy between the existing population of Western Australia and the large area over which they will have responsible control; but I would ask the House to remember that that must have been and has been the case with every one of our Australian colonies. At the inception of Responsible Government in those colonies there was naturally a very large disproportion between the population and the area which they were called upon to govern. But what was the result? Responsible Government having been granted, the discrepancy became less and less; the colonies did all in their power to increase the resources of the country; and as a result labour flowed in from 1356 other countries and prosperity followed. I hope and believe that will again be the result now, and I am warranted in that belief by a comparison of the condition of Western Australia now with the condition of Queensland when that colony was endowed with Responsible Government. Queensland was separated from New South Wales by Order in Council and established as a distinct colony in December, 1859. It had Responsible Government from the first; its area was 668,497 square miles; its population, exclusive of aboriginals, was, in December, 1859, 25,000, as against 40,000, the population of West Australia now, and in December, 1887, the population was 367,000. Its revenue and expenditure in 1860 were each about £180,000; they are now upwards of £3,000,000. In 1860 there were no railways or telegraphs; there are now over 2,000 miles of railway and 16,000 miles of telegraphs. I think that these facts afford an almost unanswerable argument against the views of those who say that Western Australia ought not to have Responsible Government because the population is so very small in proportion to the size of the territory. We can go even further. Recollect what the development of Australia has been and the comparatively short time in which that development has taken place. It is only 102 years ago since Australia became part of these dominions, and what changes have taken place in that vast continent in that time! Surely, if we are to reason by the light of facts, we are not justified in withholding Responsible Government from Western Australia on the bare ground that the population and the area are not in proportion. In addition to the fact that Ave have seen a rapid development in the different Australian colonies after the assumption by them of full responsibility, we must bear in mind that the great question which is at present agitating Australia is that of federation. The realisation of the project may be near or far distant, but the idea does exist, and it is welcomed by the Government, because they, in common with most politicians, believe that union represents strength. If Responsible Government, which exists everywhere in Australia except in Western Australia, be still withheld from that colony, it is evident that federation must of neces- 1357 sity be delayed. Again, we must remember that views with regard to granting Responsible Government to Western Australia have been expressed with absolute unanimity by nearly every portion of the Australian Dominions, to the effect that Responsible Government should be granted to Western Australia. Telegrams and despatches, the result of Conferences, have reached us from every part of Australia, all in the same direction. Five successive Secretaries of State have now expressed a similar opinion, and now that the Legislative Council of Western Australia has confirmed that opinion and passed a Bill, Her Majesty's Government ask the House of Commons to ratify its decision and to grant its request. There is one very important argument which I ought to impress upon the House. It is that the present system of Government in Western Australia is really not an efficient system. The Government is nearly always in the minority—a condition of things much to be regretted. I will shortly explain the Constitution under which the country is governed. The present Constitution comprises—(1) The Governor; (2) the Executive Council holding office during pleasure, and composed of heads of Departments and one unofficial member; (3) a single Chamber—the Legislative Council—consisting of 26 members, nine nominated by the Crown and 17 elected; the nominated members include the Colonial Secretary, the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Public Works, the Surveyor General, who also are the official Members of the Executive Council. The Legislative Council has the fullest powers of discussion; private Members have the power of introducing measures (not being money Bills); the Governor takes no part in their debates, communicating with the House by message, and has the power to veto Bills.This Constitution dates from 1870, when a local Act, passed under the power conferred by the Act 13 and 14 Vict., cap. 59, sec. 32, introduced elective members and increased the size of the Council. It was admittedly a transitional stage in the progress of the colony towards Responsible Government, and it was not long before the question of taking the final step began to be raised.The Government, as I have already observed, is in many instances in a minority, and that is a condition of affairs which cannot conduce to the good government or the well being of any country. I think that is a proposition which does not require any proof. Hon. Gentlemen will see from the constitution of this 1358 legislation that I was not incorrect in stating that in many instances the Executive Government must be in a minority, and that is a condition of affairs which cannot conduce to the good government or the well-being of any country. These, Mr. Speaker, are the main arguments which I think will induce the House to grant full Responsible Government to Western Australia. Australia may be said to be a type of what British energy, British independence of character, British intelligence can achieve. I do not think the whole history of the world can point to any such magnificent effects of colonisation as are shown in our Australian colonies. They have another advantage. They are the only colonies, or the only important ones, which have never been the cause of any war to this country. Not a shot has been fired in defence of Australia. It was founded in peace, it has grown in peace, and peace has always been maintained within its borders. Sir, that is a very important element to consider when granting such vast powers as these, for which I am now asking the House. It is one which, as I said before, cannot be sufficiently accentuated. But we may reasonably ask whether this great prosperity of Australia—a prosperity which has changed primeval forests and wildernesses into great cities and vast fields teeming with cattle—has produced any countervailing disadvantage. When we consider this prosperity, which has been developed surely and steadily, may we not ask ourselves whether any prejudicial results have accrued with regard to the relations between Australia and this country? The answer is, no. We find that the people are thoroughly contented and essentially loyal. Prosperity has not engendered either ingratitude or disloyalty. The pulsations of the heart of the Old Country vibrate in the arteries of the new; and when the time came for a practical test to be given of the loyalty of the Australian people, when England herself was involved in war, and danger threatened the old country, there was no hesitation on the part of the colonists, and New South Wales sent her contingent to serve side by side with their English brethren on the fields of Egypt. Surely, then, we need no further argu- 1359 ment in favour of granting greater powers of self-government to Western Australia. I have proved, if proof were needed, how loyal she is to the Mother Country. I have shown that Western Australia is as much entitled to Responsible Government as the other portions of that great continent, and I ask the House, in full confidence, to ratify the decision of the Legislature of Western Australia, and grant that responsibility of government which they now ask by reading this Bill a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Baron H. de Worms.)
§ (5.7.) SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy)
Sir, if the Government desire to press on this Bill, I am very glad indeed that they have given us a fair opportunity of considering it. I am not quite sure that the House, as a body, was conscious that the measure was going to be discussed, looking at the state of the Benches around; but, at any rate, it is a source of satisfaction to find that the Government have given us a night on which we can discuss the subject. For my own part, I do not profess to know why the Government should have put this Bill in the very fore-front of their business, giving it precedence over every other measure. But I desire, on this, the Second Reading, to make a protest by way of caution, and to say that in assenting to the present stage we must not be taken as assenting to the principle of the Bill, which is the alienation from this country of the only temperate lands that now remain to us—of a territory as large as Europe—by handing it over to a handfull of colonists. I accept the suggestion that this matter shall be threshed out before a Special Committee, and I think that in making that suggestion the Government are treating us fairly. At the same ime I feel we shall be placed in a difficult position when we have read the Bill a second time, for the House has not the same command over a measure when it is asked to read it a third time that it has over it on previous stages. It must be thoroughly understood that in reading the Bill a second time we claim the right to the fullest discussion in Committee, and the fullest discussion when the Bill 1360 comes back again to the House. We must not be asked to part with the measure with any undue haste. I am a. little suspicious of the extreme rapidity with which the Government seem anxious to deal with the measure. We have very little information as to the nature of this enormous territory, which comprises about 1,100,000 square miles. I have tried very hard to get information, but have not succeeded, and I cannot but complain that Blue Books have not been circulated.
§ BARON H. DE WORMS
The Blue Book was circulated, as the hon. Member will find if he refers to the Pink Paper.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
It is only the less, important Blue Books which are referred to on the Pink Paper, and I venture to say that nineteen-twentieths of the Members of this House have not seen the Blue Book dealing with this question. Now, I desire to say that while I recognise the propriety of referring this matter to a Select Committee, I have considerable doubt as to whether the Members who act on the Committee will have a fair opportunity of dealing with the subject. What I am afraid of is that all the evidence that will come before the Committee will be of a one-sided character. The Government, at home and abroad, are committed to the Bill, but I believe the people of Albany are not inclined to support it. The dominant party in Western Australia, of course, are in its favour, and so are the regular Opposition. But the leader of the Opposition (Mr. Munro) is, I am told, himself a large landowner and is naturally interested in the measure. We do not hear both sides of the question. I do not want to say anything disrespectful of the people of Ireland, but in this matter we are in the position in which we have often found ourselves when asked to spend money in Ireland. There is another view of the matter which seems to me to be a very serious one. We have the interests of the colonists on the one side, and to some extent the interests of the British Empire on the other—at all events we are not directly, so to speak, in the same boat with the colonists in this matter—and we are entitled to look to the Governor of the colony as the representative of British interests and as a man who is bound to safeguard British interests. I think it, 1361 therefore, a matter very greatly to be regretted that the Governor of this colony, Sir F. Napier Broome, has taken the part of a strong- partisan on this question. There is no doubt great temptation for a Governor to be carried away by the popularity which results from strongly and entirely espousing colonial interests. We have heard something of circumstances which, make us think that Western Australia has been not altogether a happy family. We have heard of the Governor and the Chief Justice, and the Attorney General, carrying on a sort of triangular duel; but, after all, the Governor who has espoused the cause of the colonists in this matter has left the colony in a blaze of glory. He seems to have begun by writing a very long letter to the Times, and he has accused the Members who opposed this Bill of something very like ignorance and obstruction. He has made use of expressions which I do not think a representative of Her Majesty's Government ought to have used. For instance, he said the tinkers and the tailors and apothecaries who hang about the towns should not be sent out to the colonies against the wish of the colonial Legislature, and that Western Australia is too poor to be answerable for pauper emigrants. I do not think he ought to make use of such expressions, for no one has proposed to do anything of the kind. At an entertainment given to him when he left the colony he said unkind things of the Members of this House, and writers in the Press in this country, who did not agree with him, and he seemed to be of opinion that Members of this House who were foolish enough to believe that the Return presented to the House last year, showing that single individuals held millions of acres in the colony, was accurate, were almost fools and idiots. It seems to mo to be a matter of very considerable regret that the Governor of the colony should have taken this strong partisan view, the more so because I think this Governor has to a certain extent sacrificed his independent position by accepting the post of paid delegate to this country. I have said we ought to obtain some knowledge of the physical aspect of this territory. I hoped we might have got it from the Australian Commissioner of Crown Lands, Mr. Forrest. But what I find is that 1362 this officer has made himself a strong political partisan in the matter. It was even proposed to delegate him to go to the eastern colonies and get up an agitation there, and this proposal would have been carried out if the Secretary of State had not stepped in. Mr. Forrest has taken a great deal of trouble to show what fools are the Members of this House, and the writers in the Press, but the great object of a letter which has been written by him has been to get rid of the statistics presented to the House last year, showing that the land was held in enormous blocks. He tells us that as a matter of fact a great many of these holdings have accumulated in consequence of money having- been advanced on mortgage by banks, and so on. There may be some truth in that statement, but we certainly ought to be entitled to believe in the Return presented to Parliament, and all I gather from Mr. Forrest's letter is that the lands are very much in the same position as what are called tied public houses. He tells us we have been casting unjust and unfair reflections on the people of Western Australia, and talks about the people of Greater Britain having equal rights and privileges with those who remain at home. Equal rights and privileges, certainly, but I think we have some right to ah interest in these colonies, and that the few persons who own large tracts of land in Australia should not have it all to themselves. His arguments may be good or bad in the mouth of a delegate of Australia, but it seems to me to be very regrettable that this officer, whose duty it was to give us statistics, has given us instead mere polemical arguments. I find that all the statistics given in regard to this great territory are compressed into about half a page of the Blue Book, and they are of the vaguest, most general, and most attenuated character. The officer by whom they are prepared admits that 'a small South-Western part of Australia has fine territory, and excellent rainfall, very productive land, and very fine forests. He admits that the rainfall goes up to 45 inches, but I understand other people to say that it reaches 60 inches. I may mention, as an instance of the very loose way in which the statistics are presented, that in the next division we are told that the highest rainfall is 20 inches, the lowest 1363 10, inches, and the average 10 inches, which, of course, is a physical impossibility. I find that the size of this South West territory is 126,000 square miles. It is, therefore, 50 per cent. larger than Victoria, considerably larger than the whole colony of New Zealand, and considerably larger than these British Islands. We are told that this part of the colony is already occupied. Well, you have some 30,000 people there, and I find from a subsequent part of the Return that of the 30,000 some 20,000 are in the towns, leaving only some 10,000 occupying territory considerably larger than the British Isles. A resident, writing recently to a newspaper, tells us that the greater part of the land is occupied by squatters with very many thousands of acres each, and with flocks of sheep and cattle, and that side by side with them are the blacksmiths, the shoemakers, the wheelwrights, and other country tradesmen, each with a piece of land of his own, and with his own cart and bullock. These seem to be the only small proprietors. Beyond this territory it is admitted that there is an enormous eastern territory, extending to I think more than half-a-million miles, of which this Return tells us absolutely nothing. I find the rainfall is unknown, the average temperature is unknown, the highest temperature is unknown, the lowest temperature is unknown, and everything is unknown. I will ask the Government whether they propose that this land shall be handed over to a handful of colonists without any knowledge whatever of its condition or any explanation of any kind, or whether they are going to give us time to investigate the matter fully in the first instance. The Land Commissioner, I find, has given us certain statistics with regard to the amount of land which has been alienated. This is naturally not large because the price paid for it is 10s. an acre, whereas it can be rented at a farthing or half a farthing an acre, the consequence being that people prefer to rent on terms which some of them say are practically perpetual, the leases being renewable. I find that whereas the population of Western Australia in the last 31 or 32 years has only increased about 50 per cent., the quantity of land alienated has been something like 1364 20 times what it was 30 years ago. On the 1st of January, 1860, the alienation amounted to 5,275,000 acres, whilst on the 1st January, 1889, it amounted to 108,000,000. Supposing there are 20,000 or 21,000 people living on the land the result is that, on the average, 5,000 acres per head of the population have been alienated, or 25,000 acres per family. We are told that this is not a permanent alienation, but that the leases run only to the year 1907. That is no doubt true, but we have other statements coming from residents and others to the effect that the leases are renewable and that they are practically perpetual. I admit that when I come to look at the letter of the land laws the leases are not as good as freeholds, but on the other hand there is an enormously large compensation clause. There is no limitation whatever as to the nature of the improvements for which tenants are to receive compensation in the event of the land being' taken over. The tenants may also take up small holdings, and may thus take the eyes out of the territory, so that it will be impossible to find others to rent or buy the rest of the land. We may be pretty sure that dummy holding which has been well-known in other parts of Australia is not likely to be unknown in Western Australia. If we turn over the country to the Legislature of Western Australia they will, of course, be able to alter the land laws as they please, and it is an extremely difficult thing, unless you have a very strong administration, to stop dummy holding. My own belief is that whatever they may put on paper these great holdings are practically or very nearly perpetual holdings. The experience of other colonies in Australia has been that whatever arrangements are made the great squatter—the great land king—always manages to get permanent possession of the land. The real truth of the matter is that our emigrants to Australia, having got out of touch with the land in this country have not got into touch with the land in Australia. You have there little homesteading population—no popular cultivation of the land. The population prefers the privilege of wage-earning in a country which is the paradise of wage-earners. The consequence is that these Australian colonists are drifting into two classes—one consisting of the 1365 enormous land kings and the other of the wage-earners, there being very little of that peasant proprietary system which has been so successful in America, and which I think might be as successful in Australia also, if we kept the thing in our hands and did not make the colony over to this handful of squatter kings. There is one Return which puzzled me very much indeed. It is a Return of leases and licenses forfeited for non-payment of rent, and to be offered for sale by public auction at the Crown Land offices at Perth on the 11th October, 1889. There we have an enormous list of prodigious holdings to be sold by auction in this way on account of non-payment of rent. I do not know why they should be sold by auction. I should have thought the natural thing would be to let the leases lapse, and to let them return to the hands of the Government. In one division I find that a gentleman named William McKinnon has had no less than four plots of 500,000 acres each, for each of which he has been liable to pay £250 a year, or half a farthing an acre. He had not paid this amount, and the land therefore is to be sold. There is another man who has got 20 blocks of 20,000 acres each, and the New Zealand Prime Minister has got 64,000, at half a farthing an acre, which is going to be sold. The Motion of which I have given notice suggests that this matter should not be settled until the Committee on Colonisation has come to some conclusion. I do not suggest that it is desirable that the Committee on the Western Australia Bill should be hung up until the other Committee has reported, but if the Colonisation Committee should think it desirable in the interest of this country to propose some measure promoting colonisation, they would find, if this Bill had been already passed, that the steed had been stolen,' and that their labours had been thrown away. Therefore, I think we ought not to hurry this matter too much. I protest against the way in which the alienation of the rights of this great country is carried out in the form of a Bill by which Western Australia is to receive while we are to give. For my part it would be much more proper that the Bill should originate in this House. Then in the local Bill there is the question of the Franchise. 1366 I had the opportunity of discussing this matter with the Governor of the Colony the other day, and he said—At any rate you could not for a moment think of interfering with the Franchise; that is a matter which must be absolutely settled by the colonists.I do not know that at all. Suppose you find the colony is in the hands of a small oligarchy, are you going to allow them to regulate such a matter? I believe that at present the colony of Western Australia is in the hands of a small oligarchy, and that this Bill is drawn in anything but a popular manner. It is proposed to exclude all the poorer colonists and all the natives. I certainly think that if we are to make over the government to the colony we ought to take care there shall be sufficient popular government. We are told that gentlemen have come over here from Australia as delegates, and must not be kept waiting. I entirely repudiate that view. Let us hear these gentlemen, let us give them the amplest opportunity of having their say, but I protest, against our being hurried on that account. This is a very serious matter with regard to which we want a great deal of information. The Colonial Office are very anxious to get the Bill passed, but with all respect to the Under Secretary for the Colonies and Lord Knutsford that Office has meddled and muddled greatly in colonial affairs. The Under Secretary talks a great deal about the affection of the colonies to this country, and specially mentioned Queensland. That was a most unfortunate selection to make in connection with the assertion that the colonies are loyal to this country, because if there is one colony more than another which has shown a nasty spirit towards the Mother Country it is Queensland. Queensland had also been engaged in a very objectionable labour traffic, little to be distinguished from slavery. I admit that the colonists of Australia, taken generally, are kith and kin and enterprising men, and are entitled to be heard fairly and respectfully, but at the same time we must have some regard for the interests of the Mother Country. It is all very well to ascertain what the colonies want, but there must be some consideration paid to the wants of the Mother Country. We are bound to look to the interests of the population of 1367 Great Britain and Ireland, and not to yield everything to the colonists. I believe this is not a question of the interests of this country only, but of the colonists as well. We must give some thought to the way in which the land of Australia has been alienated and to the way in which the great territorial aristocracy has been created. I will not, however, move my Amendment, but I think it is most desirable that the matter should be thoroughly threshed out.
(5.57.) MR. STAVELEY HILL (Staffordshire, Kingswinford)
There are two great dangers which we should be prepared for in the Bill now before us, and if it were not that the Bill is to be referred to a Select Committee, where we shall have the opportunity of discussing the matter fully and of guarding against those dangers, I certainly should move the Instruction of which I have given notice. The two points to which I wish to call attention are these. There is an enormous amount of open sea, and Western Australia enacts laws and imposes duties which are very much to the prejudice of vessels under the British flag. That is one of the points to which the Committee will have to direct their attention. But the other question is one with which I am, perhaps, more familiar, having had considerable experience in the Dominion of Canada, and it concerns the land. There is the danger that the Legislature, when it becomes a Representative Government, instead of dealing with the land as it is doing at present, namely, giving leases for short p3riods, which leases can be done away with, will deal with it in such a way that there will be no opportunity afforded of any of it passing into the hands of emigrants. Now, in Canada that is completely met under the Land Laws and there is no such alienation. Leases are granted of grass lands, but they are terminable at any time by the Government. We must, when the Bill conies into Committee, take care there shall be a provision in the Bill under which it will be rendered impossible that there shall be any alienation of these lands during the time when there is this very small population. These points will, I hope, be fully and fairly dealt with in the Select Committee, and if there is anything that escapes the 1368 vigilance of the Committee it will be dealt with when it returns to this House. It is not my intention to move the Instruction of which I have given notice.
§ (6.0.) MR. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
I am sorry my hon. Friend behind me (Sir G. Campbell) imported so much irrelevant matter into his speech. Why did he give so much time to the opinions and actions of Sir F. Napier Broome? Nor do I think my hon. Friend has much reason to complain in reference to the last Blue Book. All he has to do is to sign his initials to the Pink Paper, and I consider the system is a great boon to Members. Surely our colonial policy by this time is well settled; whether for good or evil, we have made up our minds and come to a conclusion founded on painful experience that as soon as a colony can walk alone we must give it Representative Government. It would be as absurd to withhold it when the colony is ripe for it as to attempt to keep a young man in the leading-strings of his infancy. Whether the colony will make a good use of the concession or not is a different matter; it may or it may not. But I cannot help thinking that colonists on the spot are entitled to say that they know what is good for them much bettor than the Colonial Office, many thousand miles distant. The question therefore is, Has Western Australia arrived at the particular point when it should have Representative Government? On this matter I would commend to the attention of my hon. Friend the latest Colonial Statistical Abstract, and he will find that in the years-from 1874 to 1888 the progress of Western Australia has been something phenomenal. The railways increased from 34 miles in 1874 to 417 in 1888, the lines of telegraphic communication from 762 to 2,966. Trade and revenue progressed in a similar ratio, and last, but not least, looking at the Stock list in the Times,I find the colonial securities of Western Australia stand as high as any other Australian colony, and are second only to New South Wales. I would point out, too, that since the question was last under discussion in the House, it has entered on a new phase. I refer, of course, to that great federation movement, and which, from the bottom of my heart, I wish every success. It will open a new era of prosperity for Australasia, from 1369 which the Mother Country will benefit. We cannot forget how, 23 years ago, Canada became a federation, since which time, Canada's prosperity has increased by leaps and bounds. I hope the same thing may hereafter be said of Australia. I mention this because it has an important bearing on this question. It is the movement of federation that has made the question now before us an Australasian instead of a West Australian question, for it is perfectly certain that a federated Australia must attract to itself every inch of Australian territory. This is the meaning of the support Western Australia has received from the other colonies. Under the circumstances, we must make a virtue of necessity, and do what we have to do with a good grace. The land has been referred to, and no one is more anxious than I am to reserve an outlet for our surplus home population. But let me call attention to the small number of emigrants Australia has attracted in the last few years. I have looked at the Returns for 1888 and I find that only 31,725 persons have gone out as emigrants to Australia, as against 293,081 to the United States. So it seems that the United States attracts nine times as many emigrants as the whole of Australia. I am sorry this should be so. I would much rather that our own flesh and blood went to build up and strengthen our own colonies. And how many of these 31,000 went to Western Australia? I asked that question of a gentleman well able to give an opinion—Sir I1. Napier Broome—and he says only 200 emigrants went to Australia last year from this country. Only 200 persons! exactly one-fifth of the number of persons by which it is said the population of England and Wales is increased in a single day; and, probably, not more than half the number of those who proceed in a single day from the port of Liverpool to the United States. Under the circumstances I should have thought this matter of land, as regards our own emigrants, became a matter of secondary importance. One other matter there is I should like to mention. It seems to me that when wo are giving up everything south of the 26th parallel of latitude, we are giving up everything worth having. Is it then worth while to retain a hold on any part of the country at all? I am told that as to the northern part it is such 1370 that no European can work there. The riches and natural resources of the country may be great or not, but they must be developed by Asiatic labour. Is that a burden it is quite wise for us to undertake? Is it wise to saddle ourselves with the settlement of the thorny question of Asiatic labour in view of the advent of great Australasian federation? I should have thought the wiser course would be to at once wash our hands of the whole thing and to hand it over, this damnosa hæreditas—northern part—subject to certain conditions, to the control of the Representative Government. I have always found it is better to do spontaneously, and with a good grace, that which ultimately you will he obliged to do. As soon as we get federation we must do it. As to the other matters raised by lion. Gentlemen, they are really such as should be dealt with in Committee.
(6.10.) SIR. G.BADEN-POWELL (Liver-pool, Kirkdale)
There are a few remarks I should like to make to remove a misconception before it proceeds further. The Bill is not as some Members seem to-think, a Bill dealing with the alienation of land in Western Australia. It is a Bill for altering the constitution of Western Australia. That I take to be the main and chief principle of the Bill, and in regard to alienation, very much misconception exists in the minds of hon. Members and the public. These lands are, at present, or the great proportion of them, in the hands of the Crown. I believe that of over a million square miles less than 3,000 have been alienated, that is to say have become private property; and in the transfer to-be carried out by the Bill there will be perhaps 300,000 square miles likely to-become private property. Now, the wish of the hon. Member opposite is not to hurry with the Bill because he wishes-first of all to know the value of this land. Let me here remark that Western Australia is essentially a new country of which we know very little. But we do-know this, that it is a part of Australia of which, like other parts, we cannot know anything of the agricultural or commercial value until it is occupied. The Reports of explorers and those who travel through, the country are to my mind worthless for our purpose. We can only find out from the experience of settlers 1371 what the land is worth. There is a large area in New South Wales, as there is in other colonies, but I refer specially to New South Wales, which was reported upon by explorers a few years since. The first exploring party nearly perished from thirst. The second party were so impeded by floods that they reported the existence of an inland sea. The third exploring party carried boats with them on waggons and brought them back without using them and were astonished to find the country rich in grass lands, and surmised that the previous party had gone in the wrong direction, for the country proved to be most fertile. That may or may not be the case in Western Australia. But what I wish to point out is that even under the present land regulations of Western Australia, which undoubtedly are not oligarchic bat democratic, there has been verylittle progress towards the alienation of land, the reason for this being the paucity of population. Population is not there, and therefore lands have not been alienated. Another point that has been referred to is the division the Bill makes of the present colony of Western Australia into halves. To my mind that division is a most important matter. I could myself have wished to see the division in Clause 7 made substantial and not permissive, because, I think, in granting certain land revenues and rights to a small population in a large area, we ought, as far as possible, to confine the area to that portion of the colony immediately affected or controlled by the residents there, and in the present case I should like to see Western Australia defined, not only by the 26th parallel, but also by the meridian of say 120, and so you would have a small portion of Western Australia, say 250,000 square miles, handed over to a population of 50,000. It is well, I think, to sever this great area, especially the tropical portion from the new Government soon to be set up and for this reason: I confidently believe that Australian federation is a matter for the near future, and I think one of the greatest problems will be how Australia, with the aid of the Mother Country, is to deal with that large area within which white labour is not possible. I do not think that it would be desirable that the large area in the north of Western Australia should 1372 be handed over to the residents of Perth; it should be held in trust by the Imperial Government with a view to coming to an arrangement with the other colonies as to what should be the future position and control in that territory. I need not now add anything further, except to say that I hope in Committee the Government will be prepared to consider the two important points raised, according to their promise last Session. I hope they will restrict the area of Responsible Government, or else lay down such regulations as my hon. Friend (Mr. Staveley Hill) suggests, that in some way or other it shall be made clear to the inhabitants of Western Australia that they shall have, from their local knowledge, full control of the lands, provided they do not check immigration of British subjects. I hope in the Select Committee these questions will very speedily be settled, for the general reason that federation is coining, and because when once an Australian colony tries Responsible Government progress is very fast—much faster than before Responsible Government is conferred, and especially in the direction of increased immigration. We know from experience of the history of other colonies that immigration proceeds for the first few years after establishment of Responsible Government on a scale that is not reached afterwards.
§ (6.20.) MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith, &c.)
Few will object to the principle of local self-government for Western Australia. My hon. Friend behind me (Sir G. Campbell) has referred to the territory of the United States as a precedent, bat I think his analogy hardly holds good, because the States are all of them coterminous, and there is not the difficulty of the Supreme Government being administered thousands of miles away across the ocean. But although I think we are justified in giving local self-government to the colony, it may be observed that the population is very much smaller than the figure under which the United States Government has given local self-government to a territory. I believe Dakota had a population of 600,000 or 800,000 before it was formed into a State. On the other hand, as to the argument of the Under Secretary from the fact that we have given self-government to the other Australian colonies, with au- 1373 thority over vast areas, farmed by by a very limited number of settlers—some 20,000 or 30,000–1 do not think that is a precedent to follow for handing over half-a-million square miles in Western Australia to 42,000 inhabitants. The question before us to-night is not that of self-government; it is a question of what area shall be handed over to the new self-governing colony, and I think the feeling in the House is that the area proposed to be handed over is far too great for the number of inhabitants there. The whole population of the colony is practically in the south-western division, which has an area of 67,000 square miles; you have there a population of 39,000 out of the whole population of 42,300. That may be held to be too small a division, and you may select a larger division such as was suggested just now, but I hope a very strong protest will be made against the proposal for handing over half, and that the best half, of Western Australia, containing half a million square miles, to this very limited number of citizens. Australian interests are great and entitled to full consideration, no doubt. I do not agree with all that my hon. Friend has said in regard to the Australian colonies, and I think if we try to solve the problem of the attitude Queensland has taken up, we are more likely to find a solution in the policy formerly pursued in regard to New Guinea and the South Pacific Islands than in the reasons my hon. Friend has given. There is no Member on this side of the House, I believe, nor I should think on the other side, who does not wish to see our Australian colonies in that state of prosperity described by the Under Secretary tonight, but, at the same time, we also have our interests there. The whole of the rest of Australia, except Western Australia, has certainly not had the responsibility of discharging the duties of government towards that area of the continent which we have had, and therefore, I think, as regards the future we may be entitled to some consideration as well as the self-governing colonies there. Our interests are not the same as they were in the "fifties," to which the right hon. gentleman referred. There were then immense unoccupied areas all over the world open to emigration, but that position is now very much 1374 changed, and one of the few areas left to us is this area of half a million square miles it is proposed to hand over to the new colony. I think there is something in the contention of my hon. Friend that this question might very properly be considered by the Colonisation Committee before it is definitely decided what land policy we should pursue in Western Australia. I think the proposed area is much too large. I object to the best part of this million square miles being handed over in the manner proposed. If there is a case for the Bill in the form in which it stands now, I venture to think it has not been placed before the House by the Under Secretary to-night. Once more I say our unanimous desire is that local self-government shall be extended wherever it is demanded, but not that vast unoccupied areas should be handed over to the self-governing colony. Vast territories have so been treated in the past, and never should have been so handed over. This is what is being done now, under this Bill. An immense amount of country in Western Australia, which may become available for colonisation, is thought to be desert now, but may be made to smile in that fruitful manner described by the Under Secretary. Many an area of which nothing is known now may in the future support an abundant population. In the interest of the vast number of emigrants who annually leave our shores, I protest against the proposed arrangement.
§ (6.27.) MR. SETON-KARR (St. Helen's)
I think on this side of the House many will feel not only surprised but gratified by what has fallen from the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy. The hon. Member, though he did not move his Amendment, expressed himself as against the principle of Home Rule for Australia, divided from us by 14,000 miles of sea, though he is willing to concede the principle to an island lying-close to our shores. I was much gratified to hear the statements of my hon. Friend (Sir G. Baden-Powell), and also of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ferguson), in regard to the Land Question. They are jealous of our territorial sovereignty in that country. I quite agree this is a question whether or not we shall grant a Constitution to Western Australia. Upon that I think we are 1375 all agreed. The question to solve has reference to these unoccupied lands. It is entirely a question of how much land we shall give to a population of 42,000, some of whom, I believe, are descended from the convicts formerly sent to the country. That, I believe, is a fact, and with facts we have to deal. I listened with considerable attention to the speech of the right lion. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies on introducing the Bill, and with all he did say I find myself in agreement. But, at the same time, he omitted a most important subject, saying hardly anything about this Land Question. We may be told that the Land Question can be considered in Committee. I protest against that suggestion, because I venture to think that the question of the land goes to the very root of the principle of this Bill. I do not want to detain the House for any length of time, but I wish to draw special attention to this point. We are asked to assent to the general principle of the Bill. I am in favour of the principle of granting Home Rule and self-government to Western Australia; but I want a little more information as to the reason why the land is to be divided in the manner in which it is proposed in this Bill. I should like to know whether it is not possible, while granting a Constitution to Western Australia, to retain a larger portion of that enormous area of 1,060,000 square miles under our own control? We find that that enormous area is practically divided into equal parts, the Northern of which is to be retained under the control of the Imperial Government, while the Southern is to go in its entirety to the Government of Western Australia. I happened to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Undersecretary for the Coloniesprivately what the reason was for making this division, and he told me that there was no reason beyond the fact that it was proposed by Western Australia itself. I am not surprised at all to hear that Western Australia proposes the division, for the simple reason that they are taking all that is worth having, and they are giving away all that is not worth having. If hon. Members look at the map they will see that almost the whole of the land to be retained by the Imperial Parliament—or, at any rate, 1376 19–20ths of the area—is marked as sandy desert in a tropical clime. Of course, there is a certain amount of sea-board, but it will be of no practical use to this country, and on the area we propose to retain it would be almost impossible for us to settle colonists. Now, is it not possible to get a better division of the land than this? I am rather inclined to agree with what the right hon. Gentleman opposite said when he suggested that if we could not get anything better than this, it would be as well to allow Western Australia to take control of the whole of the area. Why should we be troubled with a sandy desert and with a lot of responsibility when we can hope to gain no benefit whatever from the land itself? But at present I do not want to go so far as to urge that. I prefer, instead, to press for an explanation of the reasons for this particular division. We must remember that the population of the colony is only 42,000, whereas the colony of Victoria has only an area of 88,000 square miles, and yet it is one of the most progressive colonies in Australia. Why cannot the small population of Western Australia be satisfied with a smaller area of land? They can have a Constitution in the fullest degree, but why should they have reserved to them such enormous tracts of land? That is what I want to know. We all know that right hon. Gentlemen opposite are fond of making free with the land of this country, and I am therefore glad to find that there are some among them who are jealous about the territorial rights of our colonies. We have in this country, as everybody knows, a population of over 37,000,000. We are sending out a constant stream of emigrants to our colonies, and surely it will be to our advantage to retain under the control of the Imperial Parliament tracts of land for colonisation purposes. Is it absolutely necessary, in order to satisfy the demands of Australia, that we should hand over to them the whole of this land? Could not some better division be made? Could not the dividing line be drawn from north to south instead of from east to west? Let us, at any rate, retain a portion of the land which is worth having, and of which we could make some use. These are the questions which I have risen in order to ask. I may add that I am inclined to agree with 1377 the suggestion which has been made that this Bill should be submitted to the Colonisation Committee, who could go into the Land Question, and would possibly be able to elicit some very valuable information.
§ (6.36.) MR. O. V. MORGAN (Battersea)
The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy in his speech found great fault with Sir Napier Broome because he so warmly advocated the passing of this Bill, and I suppose that if Sir Napier had taken up an entirely different line my hon. Friend would have praised him. But I agree with Sir Napier, and I am strongly in favour of the Bill for reasons which I will shortly give. It may not be in the knowledge of many hon. Members that Sir Napier Broome will not be Governor when the colony, under this Bill, gets a representative form of Government. Sir William Robinson has already been appointed his successor, and among the many who have held responsible positions in connection with our colonies I think no better man could have been found than Sir William. He is exceedingly popular, and, no doubt, will be still more popular when Western Australia obtains local government. And now I come to the Land Question. I am satisfied from my knowledge of the colonies, of which I have made a study, that the land would be better managed by the Western Australians than by the Colonial Office in this country. It is impossible for us in this country to deal with subjects in places so remote, and it is not the fault of the Colonial Office. The truth is, we have not the means of obtaining the requisite knowledge. And yet my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy proposes that a large proportion of the land in Western Australia shall remain in the hands of the Colonial Office, although he admits the impossibility of the Colonial Office properly dealing with these subjects. I never heard anything more illogical than the argument he used. I have seen with great regret that so very few emigrants have gone to Australia from this country of late years, but I think the reasons are quite clear. The older colonies are unfavourable to assisted emigration, but I hope that Western Australia will favour it. If so, I believe that a considerable number of people will go out from this country. I have expressed a wish to sit 1378 on the Committee dealing with this Bill, and if I am on it I shall ask the Representatives of the colony whether they will not agree that a certain portion of the revenue derived from the sale or rent of the land shall not be devoted to assisting emigration from the United Kingdom. I know there is a strong objection in Australia to immigrants from China and India. I sympathise with it; and I hope to see Western Australia occupied almost entirely by people of English, Scotch, Irish, and Welsh blood. Lord Norton, who once held the office of Under Secretary for the Colonies, wrote with reference to this matter of the disposal of these lands—It is worth while to note that the disposal of colonial lands through a central Government has always been more wasteful and the grants far more detrimental to central, as well as local interests, than disposals made on the spot.I agree with, that, and believe that the best the Colonial Office could do would be worse than the worst the Western Australians would do for themselves. And now, as to the Franchise Question. Many on the Opposition side of the House may think that the £10 franchise proposed for Western Australia is too narrow, but such a franchise will include every house in the colony, and it practically means universal suffrage. I hope that perhaps the day is not far distant when Western Australia will follow the example of the other Australian Colonies and adopt manhood suffrage. And now with regard to the northern territory. Some years ago the northern territory of South Australia was surrendered by the Crown to the colony, and it has proved rather a tax to the latter. Why, then, should the Government be so anxious now to retain the northern and tropical portion of Western Australia? I think we shall make a great mistake if we do not give the whole of the territory of Western Australia to the colony. Every one of the Australian Colonies is strongly in favour of the Bill before the House, and that is a fact of very great weight in itself. I look forward to the day when all the Australian Colonies will be federated, and that is why I think that Western Australia should have, as nearly as possible, the same form of government as the other colonies. I am very glad 1379 that this discussion has taken place, but I think these matters could be better dealt with in Committee.
§ (6.43.) MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)
I am glad that this discussion has been of so very satisfactory a nature, and that it has not in any way been coloured by Party politics. I think that the lion. Member who has just sat down stated a true fact when he said that, when dealing with Western Australia, we are practically dealing with the whole of Australia, because on this question there is a common and almost unanimous feeling among all the Australian Colonies. They have thrown in their lot with Western Australia, and are anxious to assist that colony in obtaining the advantages of self-government which are asked for in this Bill. I think that if we give Western Australia Responsible Government we should do it with no niggard hand. What have we done for Western Australia, in the matter of colonisation for the last quarter of a century. Only about 200 colonists go out there from this country every year. How can we say, then, that by our methods of dealing with Western Australia we are opening it for the reception of emigrants from this country? Although it is not closed for colonisation, we, as a Government, are not doing anything towards getting it occupied; and, I should like to know, are we likely to do more if we have the northern tropical parts of the land left in our hands? It appears to me well worthy the consideration of the Government whether it would not be better to hand over the whole of the land to our kinsmen in Western Australia to deal with as they choose. I hope, Sir, we shall give autonomy to Western Australia without putting any clauses in the Bill that will limit the freedom which they desire. I think we may be quite sure that our Australian kinsmen are not likely to act in any hostile way towards England or towards the Empire. We may trust them perfectly well to continue the work of colonisation, for they are much more capable of dealing with it, living as they do on the spot, than we are who live far away.
§ (6.47.) MR. W. A. MCARTHUR, (Cornwall, Mid, St. Austell)
I am extremely anxious that this Bill should go to a 1380 Select Committee at the earliest possible moment, and that it should be passed into law. I desire to say a word or two, however, not because I think there is much more to be said on the general question, but because I think it is time that somebody connected with Australia should raise a protest against the extraordinary speech delivered by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy. I think it will be news to a great many of our Australian fellow-subjects to find that there is at this time of day a Member of this House prepared to taunt the Australian colonists with disloyalty, and prepared to insinuate that the only object of the land legislation in the new colonies of Australia is to put money into the hands of big squatters.
§ MR. W. A. MCARTHUR
The lion. Gentleman ascribed motives of the most sordid kind to every possible movement of these colonies in the direction of self-government. He poses here as the representative of omniscience. I do not deny that he has had great experience, but I do deny that he has had Australian experience. If I were to attempt to-reply to the speech he has delivered tonight, it would probably take me until 11 o'clock, because there was a mistake in almost every sentence. I will give but one example. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy said he doubted whether Queensland could not have taken some better way of showing their loyalty than they had done in relation to the questions which had recently arisen. He said he could not understand their petty spirit, and he further stated that Queensland was engaged in a most unfortunate traffic.
§ MR. W. A. MCARTHUR
I am within the recollection of the House. The hon. Member implied that the Local Government had not put the scandalous labour traffic down. It seems to me that Queensland has some cause for dissatisfaction against this country in regard to the action taken respecting the New Hebrides and New Guinea. But let that pass. May I point out that the hon. Member did not state that the labour traffic in Queensland has been absolutely stopped by an Act of 1381 Parliament which comes into force this year or next?
§ SIB GEORGE CAMPBELL
I said Queensland had been engaged in a very nefarious labour traffic. I did not say it was so engaged at this moment.
§ MR. W. A. MCARTHUR
The hon. Member carefully refrained from informing the House that the Local Legislature had long ago seen the evils of the traffic and taken steps to put an end to it. At this moment the traffic is virtually stopped. I wish now to say a few words on the Land Question. (Sitting as I do on this side of the House I naturally hold very strong views as regards aggregation of large masses of land in the hands of single individuals; and if I thought it was likely, or that it was in the interests of the Western Australian people themselves to retain large tracts of land in the hands of private persons, and to prevent emigration, I should be among the first to oppose this Bill. But I would put this question to hon. Members as men of business: What is the good of the land sinless people occupy it? The land alone would be worthless to a native of Western Australia. He could not cultivate it; he could not raise flocks of sheep and herds of cattle upon it unless he had people to assist him, and therefore the land would be absolutely valueless; and it is only by colonising it that the people of Western Australia can hope to make it valuable. But there is a far wider question than that. Who is it that has made the land of Western Australia valuable? Has it been hon. Gentlemen like the Member for Kirkcaldy? Has it been Members who sit in this House and never trouble themselves about the colonies until legislation of this kind is proposed? No, Sir; it was made valuable by people who ran great risks and underwent great hardships; who toiled and worked to make the land what it is, and who have made the colony a possession of which we may well be proud. The hon. Member says we ought to wait until Western Australia has been thoroughly explored. What sort of assistance have we given in the past in the work of exploration? How many Englishmen have gone out to carry it on? The exploration has been done solely by Australian settlers—by people sent out by the Western Australians themselves— 1382 without the assistance of any Englishmen and without the assistance of any Member of this House. Somebody has said in the course of this debate that the northern territory ought to be separated from the southern portion of Western Australia, because it is land situated in the tropics, and, consequently, not fit for English people to work upon. But supposing that the Western Australian Legislature passed a law excluding the Chinese or labour from the Pacific Islands from the southern part of the territory, does any one suppose that the country would force the importation of that labour, or even allow it into the northern part of the territory? I do not believe that it would be allowed, and therefore I say that the argument that if we separate the colony into two parts there will be the possibility of coloured labour being employed in the north, is an argument which will not hold water. I am in favour of handing over the whole territory to Western Australia. The Australian people themselves are in favour of it. Indeed, the Australians ask for it, and I ask is it possible to withstand a demand of that nature? The growth of the Australian Colonies has reached such a pitch that it is practically impossible for this country not to concede a demand made by United Australia. I do not believe that any Government in existence could seriously contemplate for one moment the possibility of doing so if they desired to maintain intact our Australian connection. These colonies are loyal colonies, and have now acquired such a position that you can no longer afford to treat them as children, and you will be running great risks if you strain their loyalty by yielding to the advice of Scotch gentlemen who have studied this question in the armchairs of their libraries instead of accepting the counsel of practical people who live on the spot and know exactly what they want and what best they can do with their own country when they once get the form of government they require.
§ (7.1.) SIR J. C. COLOMB (Tower Hamlets, Bow)
As this Bill is to go before a Select Committee, I will not trouble the House with any lengthened observations upon it. Still, I would say the importance of this question must be obvious when it is remembered that the Bill proposes to 1383 hand over a territory equal in area to the whole of our Indian Empire, and, indeed, as great in extent as half the aggregate territory comprised in the 38 States of America. This enormous area it is intended to hand over to a population smaller than that of an average London parish. I quite admit, and cordially reecho, what has fallen from the hon. Member who just sat down, namely, that we must recognise what has been the result to the colonies of our policy in the past in making over large tracts of land to a small number of individuals without reservation, a policy which I am afraid it is too late now to reverse. I also agree with the hon. Gentleman in thinking that the reservation of the sub-tropical portion of West Australia would be practically a useless, if not also a dangerous, reservation. I fully share the opinion expressed by other speakers that we are very near the time when we shall have a federated Australia. Let me draw the attention of the House to this consideration, namely, that if this reservation is made as provided for in the Bill, and we afterwards get a federated Australia, we shall have a large portion of the north-west corner of the continent left out of the federation, and administered by the United Kingdom. That is a position which, I think, would be practically untenable, as it would become a source of irritation and trouble. I also think that, looking at the rapid growth of the population of India and the difficulty of providing for any overflow from, that country, we may have serious trouble there, and that it would be only right and prudent to provide some tropical territory to which we might shift the surplus population of the Indian Empire, and so give relief to the overcrowded centres of that country. But we shall certainly get into difficulty if, with a Federated Australia, we attempt to utilise for such a purpose the northern and reserved territory of Western Australia. There is one point which I do not think has been touched upon in this debate, and it is mainly upon that subject that I venture to trouble the House. There are some 3,000 miles of coast line in the colony we are now dealing with, and we have not reserved a single portion of it in the temperate zone for the use of our vessels for the protection of the commerce of India and that part of the world. I 1384 think we are bound to look ahead in this matter. It so happens that in the southwest corner of that colony we have one of the most important strategic possessions that could be used as a base for the operations of our fleet in the Indian Ocean and South Pacific. That point is King George's Sound. There has for years been correspondence between the Mother Country and the Australian Colonies with regard to the establishment of the necessary naval base at King George's Sound, but no agreement has as yet been arrived at. One of the difficulties is the want of money and how the necessary means may be found. This being so, instead of reserving the northern territory, we ought to take steps for making some Imperial reservation with regard to the Port of Albany and the district of King George's Sound, so as to provide the necessary revenue for maintaining in the future the naval power required in the interests of our commerce-This, to my mind, is a very material point, and I think it is rendered all the weightier by this consideration, namely, the growth of the commercial interchange between India and Australia, and New Zealand, and Tasmania, which has been excessively rapid. In all probability, we shall find, even in the near future, that that trade will have attained proportions of great magnitude. The coast line we are going to part with flanks our sea roads of communication in that part of the world, and I apprehend that it is hardly right for the Ministers of the Crown to propose to make over the heritage that should be held, not only for the use of the millions of our people who may desire to emigrate there in the future, but, generally, for the naval interests of the State. I attach great importance to the fact that under the provisions of this Bill it is proposed to put beyond the power of recall any facilities to provide for our having a port to which we may have secure access for all future time.
(7.8.) MR. RATHBOINE (Carnarvon, Arfon Division)
I desire to call attention to a point which, I am sure, all who have an interest in emigration and are watching its progress will regard as one of great importance, and one as to which it is necessary that any legislation upon the subject should be carefully safeguarded. It is evident to those who have watched what has been going on in 1385 America that there is a growing disposition to interfere with the freedom of emigration even from the Mother Country, and even though at present in South Australia we have no fear of any such action, because it is largely in the interest of Australia to encourage emigration rather than to discourage it; nevertheless, we have to look ahead and prepare ourselves for the difficulty we are almost sure to be placed in some 20 or 30 years' hence in dealing with the increased population of this country. We have learned a good deal from what is going on in America. In that country those who have to deal with questions of this sort, being afraid that the excitement of local feeling might lead to imprudent hasty action, have taken the precaution to provide by a clause in their State Constitutions which enables them to meet the difficulty. There are means of altering any such clause; but in order to do so a considerable time and a very large majority is necessary. What I would offer as a practical suggestion to the Government is, that in Clause 8 of this Bill, which deals with the Emigration Question, instead of putting it in a way that seems almost to encourage the South Australians, as soon as their temporary interests have been served, to deal with this matter in a manner that might be unsatisfactory to ourselves, it ought to be laid down as a part of the Constitution of Western Australia that there should be no interference with the emigration of the surplus population of those kingdoms either now or at any future time. Of course, if they want afterwards to check the inflow of the Chinese or any undesirable immigrants there should be no difficulty in their getting a measure passed through this House to alter their Constitution in that respect; but I think it only just to the people of this country, who bear so large a share of the burden of taxation for the maintenance of the Navy necessary to protect the Australian and other colonies, that we should reserve to our own people their rights of colonisation and carefully guard against that selfishness of labour which seeks to set up a monopoly of its own, for there is undoubtedly a selfishness of democracy as well as of aristocracy, although I do not say that the selfishness of the one is quite the same or as great as the selfishness of the other. In America, 1386 however, we have seen that selfishness in action, and I do trust that care will be taken to make it a part of the Constitution of Western Australia that they shall not be able in the future to debar their fellow countrymen from emigration to their shores.
§ (7.14.) MR. S. GEDGE (Stockport)
I think abundant reason has been shown why we should be either very slow to pass this Bill, or else take care that it comes from the Select Committee in a greatly improved form. None of us would object to give Responsible Government to any 'colony that can demonstrate its ability to run alone. The question is, when is a colony able to run alone? A few people may establish a colony in some small island and be entitled to a Responsible Government; but that case is different from one in which we are asked to give Responsible Government to a small population whose territory includes upwards of a million of square miles. We are told that, apart from the intrinsic merits of the case, we ought to comply at once with the request for a Constitution on the part of the colony of Western Australia, and it is urged as a reason why we should accede to that request that all the Australian Colonies have united in asking the British Parliament to grant the form of Constitution proposed in this Bill. I find in the Colony of Tasmania the House of Assembly ask thatHer Majesty will be pleased speedily to extend to Western Australia that full measure or Responsible (government under a Constitution similar to that of Your Majesty's other Australian Colonies.Then it goes on—And that Your Majesty will be pleased to direct that any territory which in Your Majesty's wisdom it may be deemed expedient to exclude from the new Constitution may be reserved for settlement under a similar form of government for the use of the British people, thus advancing the cause of Australian federation and unity, and adding Western Australia to the group of loyal and autonomous Australian Colonies.The Houses of Assembly of other colonies have sent Addresses couched in similar terms. I agree that by all means we should give a Constitution to the 40,000 people in the south-west corner of Western Australia. By all means let them have a Constitution over the lands that they have made valuable, besides, if you like, land in the neighbourhood, but I see no 1387 reason why, because these 40,000 people have cultivated 170 square miles and so made them valuable, out of 1,000,000 square miles, we should give them a Constitution by which they would have entire control over those 1,000,000 square miles. That is a very different thing to what is proposed by the other colonies; and, if the Bill goes to a Select Committee, I think they ought to confine the new Constitution to a moderate portion of the territory, say even 20,000 square miles oat of the 1,000,000. To give 40,000 men dominion over 1,000,000 of square miles, with its enormous seaboard, would ha to take away our heritage. I represent a constituency containing a very much larger population than that of Western Australia—a large proportion being working men. There is a strong feeling among them about this gradual giving away of our inheritance in the land which belongs to Great Britain, and giving to a few, who happen to be the pioneers, an advantage which is very unfair to the working men of this country who look to the future, when the teeming millions of England will turn to the colonies for places of settlement. They regard as selfish the policy of those colonists who wish to keep to themselves these large tracts of land and the labour and wages to be obtained in the colonies. It seems to me that we shall not be standing in the way of Australian federation if we limit the Constitution of Western Australia to a small portion of the territory in question, as we shall be doing the very thing which the other colonies recommend.
§ (7.20.) MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S)
Mr. Speaker, I think that the debate which has taken place has been very interesting, and has amply justified the sensible course, at the end of last Session, of those who urged that the Bill should not be passed immediately, and also that of the Government in proposing to refer it to a Select Committee. There are differences in the point of view taken on this Bill, some hon. Members dealing with it from practical knowledge of Australia and sympathy with colonial feeling, while others have treated it on considerations of general policy. I think the general views which have been expressed may be reconciled with the experience of those who are practically acquainted 1388 with the development of the Australian Colonies. Interesting data have been furnished us by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Austell. My hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy, and those who followed him on the land question, have confined themselves to pointing out the difficulties which may arise in giving control over this large area to this extremely small population. We must all feel impressed by the somewhat thoughtless way in which, in some other colonies, public land has been wastefully dealt with. I contend that the excitement experienced in some of the Western States of America, arising from the way in which land grants were made, and land titles taken up, particularly in California, shows what difficulties may spring from a faulty and wasteful use of land in the beginning of a colony. It also seems to me that my hon. Friend in dealing with this land question omitted to consider another side of the subject, namely, who manages the land now, and have we any better security for its wise management under a Colonial Parliament? Hon. Members of colonial experience say that our present system does not really offer any greater security for the development of the country, or for the distribution of it amongst poor working proprietors, than would be afforded under a Colonial Legislature. The moral, therefore, seems to be that we want all these matters gone into fully and thoroughly by a Select Committee before another step is taken. I should like to suggest to the Under Secretary for the Colonies, who will to some extent be charged with the preparation of the evidence on the part of the Government or the scheme to be laid before the Committee, that he might direct the evidence, first, to the question whether the colony is ready for representative self-government; secondly, what the methods and limitations for for that self-government should be; thirdly, what rules and regulations should be laid down with regard to the distribution of land and for the control of emigration, bearing in mind particularly the valuable suggestion thrown out by the hon. Member for Carnarvon; and, finally, the question which was referred to by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley—the possible 1389 provision for controlling and maintaining for Imperial purposes any harbour or strip of land on the coast. I do not mean to say that this last is a question which at first sight seems to have much possibility of being practically dealt with; at the same time, naval defence is a matter of great and growing importance, and would deserve to be brought before the Committee. I should like, in passing, to refer to a serious dereliction of duty on the part of the Government in the appointment they made to a very responsible and important post, that of Attorney General for Western Australia. They appointed a former Member of this House, of whom I will say no more than this, that I do not think anyone who knew him in this House would say that he was the proper person for so very delicate a position. I will not say more than that; but everyone who sat in the Parliament of 1880 can appreciate the grounds for the remark. It ought to be borne in mind that the difficulties which occur in the colonies very often arise from the unwise selection of the authorities sent out to them. There is another question, which does not exactly arise on the Bill, but may arise at no distant date, to which the attention of the Committee might be usefully directed. Supposing it is decided not to deliver over to the Colony the whole of the territory hitherto called Western Australia, on the ground that the Colony is too small, and that it is not a good service to render the Colony to give it heavy powers, duties, and responsibilities before it is ripe for them—as has been shown in America in respect of the State of Nevada, whose admission to Statehood everyone now recognises as a mistake—what will we do with that remaining territory. Very likely we may have a Federal Government for the whole of the Australian Colonies, as in the United States of America. With the probable advent of that Government, it seems to be deserving of careful consideration whether the management of these remaining territories could not be better undertaken by a responsible Federal Government for the whole of Australia or Australasia than by the Local Government of the Colony.
§ (7.29.) MR. A. MCARTHUR (Leicester)
I do not desire to prolong the debate, and will only make a few 1390 observations. The waste land in the Australian Colonies (which would otherwise be utterly useless) is let to squatters at a nominal rent, sometimes as low as a half-penny or a penny per acre. But there is a condition that a certain amount of stock must be put upon it by the person who occupies it within a certain period, or his lease is forfeited. This accounts for the enormous tracts of land occupied by squatters, referred to by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, and it is surely better to have it thus occupied, than to have it lying waste. My hon. Friend has also referred to the small number of persons emigrating to the Colonies. The distance of the Australian Colonies makes emigration to them very expensive, compared with emigration to Canada or the limited States, where emigrants go in large numbers. One of the principal reasons I had for rising was to deal with the question of emigration. All the Australian colonies that I know are in favour of emigration, or "immigration," as they call it. They believe additional population is wanted, and this applies in particular to New South Wales, where I resided for many years and was a member of the Assembly. I invariably found the Governments of these colonies in favour of emigration. At the same time, it is perfectly true that the labouring population of these colonies have an idea—a very foolish and erroneous one that if an increasing number of emigrants come into the country the effect would be to lessen their wages. Therefore they oppose emigration with all their might, and these frequently succeed in exercising a powerful influence upon the Government. Formerly grants were made, sometimes as much as £50,000 a year, by these colonies towards the assistance of emigration; but owing to the pressure brought to bear upon them by the working classes that system has almost ceased. At any rate, it only exists to a limited extent. I would only express a hope that some provision may be embodied in this Bill requiring a sum of money to be given in aid of emigration to Western Australia. I do not think the matter should be left as a recommendation to the Government; but I think that we should require a certain sum to be set aside for that purpose. The matter should not be left dependent 1391 on the vote of the Colonial Assembly. Finally, I would only say that I think the measure before the House will tend to the rapid development of Western Australia. I do not think we can expect the colony to develope unless we give it Responsible Government; but by conferring that boon upon it I have no doubt that it will largely increase both in population and trade.
§ (7.35.) MR. E. B. HOARE (Hampstead)
I think that a great many of the fears expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House are founded on a misapprehension. Hon. Members seem to think that it would be to the advantage of the labouring population of this country that large tracts of land should remain in the hands of the Government, with a view to the settlement of bodies of emigrants. Now, I believe it to be a fact that there is hardly a single successful working man emigrant in the colonies who went there and settled upon the land. Every man who goes to the colonies and succeeds is a man who goes there and works for wages, who accumulates capital and buys land. If you took a mechanic or an agricultural labourer from this country and put him on a piece of unbroken colonial land he would starve before he made a profit; and the only chance for the successful occupation and cultivation of land in these new countries is to put the land in the first instance into the hands of capitalists, who can hire labour for the purpose of cultivating it. From that point of view I think there is no ground for the fears which have been expressed with regard to the alienation of land in Western Australia by putting it into the hands of large squatters. It is to the interest of the squatters to provide labour, and they are able to do it, and to make a profit under the existing conditions of the country; whereas small cultivators would be unable to succeed without handy markets.
§ (7.35.) MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, West)
I do not rise for the purpose of adding anything to the very interesting debate that has taken place on the principles that are at issue in this Bill. I take it for granted that the Committee to be appointed will give most careful attention to such important questions as the amount of land to be reserved and the conditions to be imposed upon 1392 the new constitution. I desire to say just one word in reference to the importance of the matter of emigration. I agree entirely with the hon. Member behind me as to the importance of the question to the people of the United Kingdom. Certainly, it would be most desirable to impose some such conditions as have been suggested, if it could be done with the goodwill of the Australian Colonies, but it must be remembered that we are not dealing with the 40,000 inhabitants of Western Australia alone, but with the whole population of Australasia. Unless we can persuade them, that these limitations are reasonable, I think it would be better not to push them at all. It must be remembered that in giving the colonies self-government we have given them practically independence in all that concerns their own affairs. The point to which I wish to refer is indirectly connected with this question, and I expected it would have been referred to by some other Member. I should like to draw the attention of the Under Secretary to the matter, in order that he may give an explanation. I refer to some extraordinary legislation which appears recently to have been passed by Western Australia, which I think concerns the material interests of British subjects. It appears that on the Coast of Western Australia there is a valuable pearl fishery. The Government of Western Australia very rightly thought fit to tax this industry, which they did by imposing an export duty on the pearl shells collected, and also an import duty upon the provisions brought in for the fishermen. Such a course was perfectly within their right. But then it was discovered that the pearl fishers imported their provisions from a distance in vessels which did not come within the territorial limits of Western Australia, The Authorities went for a Bill to impose these same duties upon vessels which kept altogether without the territorial waters of Western Australia, The Colonial Office refused to sanction the Bill, and the Western Australian Legislature went to the Federal Council," and the Federal Council of Australasia passed an Act which gave them this authority. I must say I think that that was a very high-handed proceeding. But, what is more extraordi- 1393 nary, they say that these duties are only to be imposed on British vessels. Here we have a British Crown Colony actually imposing duties, and, I think, illegal duties, upon British vessels whilst foreign vessels are allowed to go entirely free. I do not pretend that the imposition of legislation of this kind will be a justification for refusing legislation to Western Australia, but I think it is a matter the Committee should inquire into, and we may ask the representatives of Western Australia to give a security that they will not pass legislation of this character, and particularly against British subjects.
§ (7.40.) MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
I should not have interposed, especially as the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce) has stated the views of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, with his usual precision, and more than his usual felicity, had I not received some statements of importance from correspondents in Western Australia, which prompts me to draw the attention of the House to one or two points connected with this Bill. In the first place, my correspondent calls attention to the property qualification of the Council and the Legislative Assembly. The hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. O. V. Morgan) seemed to think that the qualification embodied in the schedule practically amounts to universal suffrage or household suffrage in Western Australia. If that is the case I should like to know why these provisions have found a place in the Bill. It must be to all hon. Members who are acquainted with the Australian Colonies, a familiar fact that the other colonies have no property qualification for the Members of the Lower Assembly or for the electors to that Assembly. This is one of the main points to which I have been requested to draw attention. I will read a few words from the letter of my correspondent, who is a gentleman of some position in Western Australia, on the whole character of the Bill. He writes—Hitherto the Legislative Council of the Colony has been decidedly Conservative. It has consisted of 20 Members, of whom nine have been nominated by the Crown, or Governor, and the remaining 17 have been elected. The electors have been, roughly speaking, £10 householders, and a qualification has been required from the elected Members:—the pos- 1394 session of land of the value of £1,000, or of the yearly value of £50.And then I would draw the attention of the House to what follows:—There has been great difficulty in this poor community, where everyone almost works for his living, in getting 17 men who have the property and are willing to give up two or three months a year to the work. Again, in this semi-Crown Colony, the people have hitherto taken but faint interest in political questions—they have been disgusted with the recent bad management, and generally desire Responsible Government; but they have left the Council to arrange the terms of the Bill. The Bill is narrow to the last degree in several particulars. First, as to two Houses—Lord Knutsford, knowing the impossibility of getting more than a very few decently fit men to take part in legislation and government, at first proposed a single Chamber. Seeing that we have had a single Chamber with three different sorts of Members ever since 1870, when the present Constitution began one would have thought this was reasonable. But the Tories in the Colony took alarm and worked against it, and Lord Knutsford withdrew the plan. The Bill proposes two Chambers—the Council, with 15 Members; the Assembly, with 30 Members. They cannot get 45 men, with the qualification, who will be content to give up one-third of the year to do this duty. Thus the property qualification, which is to be for both Houses, is altogether absurd here. In the first place, it will be evaded in many cases; but the great objection is that it will prevent a number of honest men who may be in all other respects suitable, from giving their services to the public. Moreover, it is provided that this property must have been possessed for 12 months before the election. The intention of this clause is to keep the management of affairs in the hands of the clique who now rule the roost. Again, in no other colony of Australia is there any property qualification for the Lower House. It will be a different Constitution from the other self-governing colonies of Australia, and this at a time when Federation is being insisted upon. It is said all matters such as this can afterwards be amended. Possibly; but they will not be if the present Members have their way.I am sorry to trouble the House with such a long quotation, but the extract is of importance, coming as it does from the former Attorney General of Western Australia, the predecessor of Mr. Warton. I think it deserves the careful attention of the Members of the Select Committee, to whom this Bill is to be referred. I must say that I think this debate has been amply justified by the many suggestions which have been made, of which none are more important than those which fell from the hon. Member for the Kirkdale Division of Liverpool, who presented to us the views of one of the best 1395 authorities on colonial matters, namely, Sir Charles Dilke, in his Problems of Great Britain I venture to think that we should give this colony as democratic a Constitution as possible, so as to enable the poorer inhabitants to take their part in the Government and in the settlement of any questions concerning the disposal of the land. The debate; has been marked on all sides by hearty sympathy with colonial self-government. I will not detain the House by any further remarks. I considered it my duty to lay these considerations with regard to the property qualification before the House, and, through the House, before the country, before the Select Committee deals with this important measure, affecting, as the right lion. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham has pointed out, not merely the 40,000 people in Western Australia, but the whole of the rapidly increasing population of Australasia.
§ (7.53.) MR. S. SMITH (Flintshire)
I view this Bill with very considerable repugnance, but I fully admit the difficulty in which the Government are placed. As the Australian colonies have united in advocating the claims of Western Australia, the Government could not do otherwise than bring forward the measure. I think, however, that the opinion pat forward on behalf of Australia in connection with this matter is not the bonâ fide opinion of the 4,000,000 of people in that country. I have read many of the Australian newspapers, and I submit that these newspapers to a large extent reflect the opinions of the squatters and richer classes, and entirely hide from the people the fact that the real objection of the Imperial Parliament is not on the score of the granting of self-government to the colonists, but to the million square miles of territory in Western Australia not being utilised for the benefit of the British race. In opposition to the newspaper opinions I refer to I have received a letter from one of the oldest settlers in New South Wales, whose view I believe represents those of a large portion of the people of Australia. He writes—To grant Western Australia Responsible Government means government by squatters, syndicates, and colonial banks, instead of Responsible Government, promoting population and the occupation of the soil, as in America.1396 The evil resulting from such a system as is here described has been exemplified in the case of New South Wales, where, 35 years ago, men who obtained seats in the Legislature for the purposes of self-aggrandisement managed to get 190 millions out of a total of 200 million of acres of the land of the colony into their own hands, leaving only about 10 millions of acres to be occupied by people coming from the Mother Country. Almost the whole of that extensive territory is laid out in extensive grazing farms, from which the owners derive, in some instances, as much as £100,000 a year, while every effort is made to keep out cultivating settlers from this country. America and Canada have dealt with their land upon a totally different principle, the latter colony forbidding any settler to hold permanently more than 160 acres of land. If the same policy had been adopted with the Australian Colonies their population would have been double what it is to-day. Surely it is reasonable, before we grant self-government to the last Crown Colony in Australia, that we should ask for conditions to be laid down similar to those laid down in Canada, namely, that no land shall be permanently alienated that is suitable for cultivation, except to bonâ fide cultivators who are willing to settle upon the land and cultivate it. We do not grudge Responsible Government to Western Australia. What we grudge is that a handful of irresponsible people should be allowed to gamble on the land, and establish on it an enormous squatting plutocracy, which, in future years, will create enormous difficulties in regard to the development of our colonies. If there is no other way of dealing with the land except handing it over entirely, I would much rather adopt the suggestion to hand it over to the entire Australian people, if they are willing to manage it as the trustees both of Australia and of England.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee."
§ (8.1.) MR. MOLLOY (King's County, Birr)
I should like to make a suggestion to the First Lord of the Treasury, 1397 and it is this: There are many Members of the House who have a practical knowledge of Australia, and it is desirable that we should pick out as many of these as we possibly can to sit on the Committee. This is necessary, because the speech which we have just listened to is typical of the kind of knowledge that will be brought to bear on the Committee. The hon. Member speaks of small farms in Australia. The hon. Member's correspondent seems to have concealed the fact that in many parts of Australia it takes five acres to feed one sheep; therefore, when anyone can talk of small farms, it is easy to see how necessary it is to bring to bear on the Committee the practical knowledge of men who have spent considerable time in Australia.
§ (8.2.) MR. W. H. SMITH
I assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that it will be the desire of the Government to form a Committee which shall be well informed upon all the subjects referred to it. So far as we are concerned, the Committee shall be constituted of thoroughly practical men.
§ Question put, and agreed to.