§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1.
§ (5.30.) SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
I think we have been rather hardly used in respect to this Bill. We find it sometimes high, sometimes low, in its position on the Paper, and we have never known when it was really coming on. When the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) asks when the Indian Councils Bill is going to be taken he is promptly told when the Bill will not be taken, bat this Western Australia Bill, which proposes to give away half a 346 continent, after being set down continually at the tail of Government Bills, now comes on rather too early, and I doubt if many Members expected it. However, we must make the most of it. I have already proposed to postpone Clause 1, but the Government would not agree to that, and I was not allowed to discuss the merits of the clause on a Motion for postponement. I suppose now we shall have to pass the clause, but, at the same time, seeing that it has a very strong bearing upon the much more important Clause 3, I should like to make a few of those observations from which I was precluded on the Motion for postponement. This clause confers what is called responsible government on the Colony of Western Australia, and to understand the bearing of the clause a short recapitulation of the history of the origin of this Bill is necessary. Western Australia is, as colonies go, rather an old colony, but there have been no discoveries of gold there; a great part of the country is covered with forests, and the colony has made but slow progress, and at this time there are but 40,000 people occupying a territory equal to all Europe, excluding Russia, an area of 1,000,000 square miles. Most of the population are in one little spot of the country about Perth and Freemantle. It has self-government to some extent, an Elective Council, but with a Crown Executive. It is not a free Government as regards the disposal of land, the land rules are subject to the control of the Secretary of State, and so also are loans if the colony wishes to raise such. The late Governor is in favour of the change, but he gave evidence hardly in that direction, for he told us the existing Constitution had been extremely successful, upon which I am not prepared to express an opinion. Sir Napier Broome also told us it was in the nature of an oligarchy. But this was the subject of an Amendment moved a few days ago. The proposal now is to hand over vast territories, hitherto Crown property, to the unlimited control of a small clique in these two large villages of Perth and Freemantle. Until the last two or three years the people were content with the present system, a little short of free government; until the colonists of Perth had a quarrel with the Colonial Office, the Secretary of State 347 having made some difficulty about some extravagant loan, and having refused to give the colonists powers to relax the land rules for a particular concession, as to which I may have to say more upon Clause 3. The result was that the Council who, until the other day, did not want responsible government, under the circumstances of this quarrel, petitioned Her Majesty for self government, and, though a large number of the population petitioned against it, we are now told that most of them have changed their minds. I do not know how this may be, but that all have not changed their minds is evident from the strong opinion of the late Attorney General, which the hon. Member for Northamptonshire has quoted, and the evidence of the Member for Albany, who was one of the delegates from the colony, shows that opinion is not unanimous, by any means. Albany is the south - west district, which contains some of the best land, though Albany still is a small place. I have a letter from the late Member for Albany, in which he says though in the north the colonists are bent on securing responsible government, in the south they are not in favour of it in the shape represented in the Bill. I feel justified in saying that the Western Australians are not unanimous on the subject. A good many objections are suggested, besides that which was disposed of the other night. In the first place, government will be in the control of a small clique at Perth, who will use their power for raising loans for the benefit of Perth, and concessions over vast and almost unknown territories will be sold to companies formed for the purpose. I am somewhat suspicious about these enterprises. I was reading the other day, in an Australian newspaper, an article, in which the effect of this Bill was anticipated in the acquisition by the Government of the Midland Railway of Western Australia. So people are induced to invest in unsuccessful undertakings in the expectation that the now State will buy up the undertaking at a premium. We know how railways and canals in India have been forced upon the Government, a Government much stronger than this is likely to be. I am, therefore, somewhat apprehensive of a system of jobbery under this new Constitution, and inclined to the view of 348 the late Attorney General, Mr. Hensman, that control will be exercised in the interests of a few squatters, not of the whole colony. This question arises-more particularly in relation to the acquisition of Crown lands under Clause 3. Then comes the question of control over the natives. We could not get from witnesses any approximation of how many natives there are, because, the fact is, the country is unexplored. It is certain there are considerable numbers of them in the North-West. Many have been tamed, and in the course of examination of witnesses, I elicited the fact that at some of the stations the proportion of natives is 20 to every white man, and we may assume that there are large numbers of natives in the unsettled territory. It is a question how far we should give unlimited control over the native population to a small clique of people at Perth. We were told in Committee that the-natives were not used badly, as had been the case in Queensland, because they were utilised; but I confess I have some apprehension that, when home control is removed, the scenes in Queensland may be repeated in West Australia. There are considerable reasons why we should hesitate in handing over control of enormous territory to a small number of people. Be it remembered the people of Perth will not have responsible Government unless they have complete control over the land, insisting upon a condition that is not recognised in the United States nor in Canada. When the Bill was projected in 1889, we know what a strong feeling was evoked against the Government rashly giving away enormous territory, and reservations of land were made for colonisation purposes. Then Delegates were sent over, an ex-Governor was induced to support the demand, and a heavy canvass was instituted and newspapers have been converted to approval or induced to maintain silence. The Colonial Office never can resist colonial demands, and so we have the Bill re-introduced without the reservations it originally embodied. On the Second Reading great diversity of opinion was expressed. Strong doubts were expressed as to the propriety of the proposal, and the Bill was sent to a Select Committee, and this Committee proved pro-colonial, and struck out the reserva- 349 tions the Government had inserted. The Under Secretary did not attempt to defend them; he surrendered with a light heart, and so we have the Bill granting, without reserve, entire control to a small knot of people at Perth. This clause, I suppose, is bound to pass; but I have still grave doubts if Clause 3 will be allowed to pass in its present shape. I hope the Committee will remember that the colonists have themselves said that the whole Bill is contingent upon the passing of Clause 3, upon which, I trust, there will be a thorough discussion.
§ (5.50.) MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith, &c.)
I hope the clause may speedily pass; but, while it is under discussion, I would ask the Under Secretary for some explanation in regard to what seems to me to be a somewhat important point which was raised in Committee. I do not think I need go into the question as a whole, but I may say I refer to the question of Import and Export Duties as affecting the West Coast. The matter was brought out in Committee, and, so far as I can judge, the position of the Colonial Office was that foreign vessels engaged in the fisheries would be subject to the same duties as vessels under the British flag. I have also heard it said that this contention has been withdrawn, and, at any rate, I do not think it is a position that can be maintained. Matters should continue as they are, and discrimination should be made between the British flag and foreign flags. Under the Federal Councils Bill power was granted and delegated in turn to Western Australia, and Western Australia has been allowed to extend her local Fishery Acts to waters beyond territorial limits. Now that we are dealing with Western Australia alone, I do not see why the colony should not accept what seems to be a fair contention that National and Colonial Maritime Law should follow on parallel lines. I shall be glad if the Under Secretary will give us some information on the point.
§ (5.52.) SIR R. FOWLER (London)
I confess I have some sympathy with views expressed against granting unlimited control over the Crown lands to this small population; but, seeing the unanimity with which the other Australian colonies support the proposal to give Western Australia a free Constitution, 350 it seems to me the House has only one coarse to pursue—to pass this Bill. Upon this ground I support the Bill.
§ *(5.53.) THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Baron H. de WORMS,) Liverpool, East Toxteth
I do not propose to follow the arguments of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, because I might almost say he has given us a third edition of this Second Reading speech. The Committee have heard the hon. Member's remarks repeated many times, and no doubt have weighed his words of wisdom, I have had the additional advantage of hearing his speech in the proceedings of the Committee over which I had the honour to preside. There are, however, one of two points that ought to be noticed. The hon. Member assumes that the Bill originated among a small clique of persons at Perth.
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
That is a mere assertion not sustained by any evidence. The Legislature of Western Australia passed this Bill, and I do not know in what way the hon. Member is justified in the assertion that the Bill is the result of the action of a small clique at Perth.
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
And how should it be passed? I fail to see the logic of the hon. Gentleman's argument. Then the hon. Gentleman said this demand for responsible Government arose out of some dissatisfaction with the Colonial Office. That statement is utterly without foundation, and the hon. Member would never have made it if he had taken the trouble to read the Blue Books. I know he does read them sometimes, because he favours us with copious extracts. The movement originated many years back, and at the commencement it had no encouragement from the Colonial Office. It had no connection with the Colonial Office; it was a spontaneous movement in the colony to obtain that government which exists in the other Australian colonies. Then the hon. Member went into the old, the oft-repeated story that this demand does not come from the people of the colony, and he gave us what he thought a convincing piece of evidence—a letter from the ex- 351 Member for Albany. Well, that gentleman did not think his view of sufficient importance that he should come over and support it by evidence, and in that course I think he exercised a wise discretion. He wrote a letter to the hon. Member, in which he expressed a wish that the colony should be divided in a manner different from that proposed in the Bill, and that a new colony should be formed, and called Albania. Further, the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy said the hon. Member for Northamptonshire had brought forward strong evidence of opinion against the Bill, and quoted Mr. Hensman. I am not aware that Mr. Hensman is a great authority, but again I say, if he were the exponent of the views of a large number of people, they would have found means to send him here to give evidence.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
I never said that he represented the opposition to the Bill. I said that he, with others, opposed it.
§ *MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
I never said that Mr. Hensman opposed the Bill. I said Mr. Hensman wished to see the Bill carried; but he thought there were serious defects, which he pointed out to me while he was in England, and, afterwards, in a letter he urged me to represent these and protest against them. But I did not represent that he was opposed to the granting of a responsible Government.
*BAROX H. DE WORMS
I am glad to accept the hon. Member's explanation, against the evidence quoted by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, in support of his argument against this Bill. I place the views of the Western Australians, expressed through the mouths of their own Delegates, in favour of the Bill against the vague statements of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, and I am justified in saying that they absolutely refute them. I hope the hon. Member, having discharged what he considers his conscientious duty, will allow the Bill to proceed, and will not, until some point is reached connected with the question of land, again review the principle of responsible Government, which was affirmed when the House gave 352 a Second Reading to the Bill. With regard to the question raised by the hon. Member for Leith respecting the pearl fisheries, the Act dealing with them is not an Act of Western Australia, but of the Federal Council, and, therefore, Western Australia has no power to rescind it or deal with it in any way whatever. I hope the hon. Member will accept that explanation as satisfactory.
§ (6.3.) MR W. A. McARTHUR (Cornwall, Mid. St. Austell)
I cannot, for the life of me, see how anybody professing Radical opinions in this House, or who votes for Home Rule for Ireland, or desires the spread of Local Self-Government throughout the Empire, can continue to oppose this Bill in face of the unanimous feeling of the colony in favour of it. This Bill has been passed by a Representative Assembly, and proposes to give Home Rule to the Colony of Western Australia; it is backed up by all the other Australian Colonies; how, then, can hon. Members on this side justify their action in continuing to oppose it? If there are objectionable provisions in the Bill, these concern nobody but the people of Western Australia. We surely ought to keep our fingers out of their pie, and leave them to make the necessary alterations.
*(6.5.) MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)
I can assure the hon. Member who last spoke that there is no desire on the part of Radical Members criticising this Bill to oppose the extension of representative Government in Western Australia, but I contend there is mixed up with the Bill much that is not essential to the principle of self-government. The people of Western Australia ask not only for the management of their own affairs, but the control of a vast unpopulated territory. This is a Crown Colony with a certain admixture of representative Institutions.
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
The hon. Member is absolutely in error; it is not a Crown Colony at all, but has representative Government.
*MR. T. H. BOLTON
That statement is hardly borne out by the evidence of the witnesses as contained in the Blue Book.
*MR. T. H. BOLTON
What, then, is the necessity for this Bill, if the colony has already full and complete representative Government? If the Bill simply proposed to make complete an incomplete system of representative Government, it would meet with no opposition from these Benches. But to transfer the Administration of the vast unpopulated territory I have referred to uncontrolled to the Local Legislature is to abandon Imperial interests.
Order, order! The question of the control of the land is not before the Committee at the present stage.
*MR. T. H. BOLTON
Of course, I bow to your ruling. There is no objection to giving Local Government in itself, but the difficulty is the proposal to deprive the Imperial Government of that control over the land which we desire the Imperial Government to possess.
Order, order! The second consequence does not attach to the first; one may be granted and not the other.
*ME. T. H. BOLTON
But we are told that the Bill will be practically defeated unless Clause 3, vesting the management and control of the waste lands in the Legislature of the colony, is passed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle told us we must pass the Bill in its entirety, or reject it.
*MR. T. H. BOLTON
That is not the view of the Delegates themselves. From their evidence I take it that it is quite within our competence to revise the arrangement. We have no desire to take up a hostile attitude towards the West Australians in dealing with this question. We want them to understand that our wish is to give them full self-government; but, at the same time to preserve our Imperial interests. The hon. Member for North Fermanagh expressed surprise that Metropolitan Members should venture to oppose the Bill, seeing that they are not interested in Western Australia.
§ MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I expressed surprise that he should have 354 spoken of what was being done by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle in promoting this Bill as a manœuvre.
*MR. T. H. BOLTON
I am glad to accept that explanation. I did not, of course, use the word as conveying the idea that it was anything discreditable. I referred to the modes in which this Bill was being got through Parliament as a Parliamentary manœuvre, and I wished to convey that by the course adopted we were not, having full Debate on the Imperial principle underlying the measure. The word "manœuvre" was not used in any offensiveor unpleasant sense, and I certainly should be sorry to accuse the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle of anything in the nature of a trick. If all the Australian colonies are backing up the claim of Western Australia, I suppose we are practically powerless; but I think we are justified in criticising the proposal and suggesting modifications which the good sense of the Australian Colonists ought to induce them to consider favourably. The Bill undoubtedly places in the hands of 44,000 people an enormous unoccupied territory which has hitherto been considered by the people of this country as a national domain, and surely these colonists cannot be surprised at our seriously considering such a proposal.
(6.17.) MR. J. MORLEY
Of course, I understood when my hon. Friend the Member for North St. Pancras used the word "manœuvre," that he uttered it in its Party sense. However much inclined we may be to look at this question from a large Imperial point of view, we must, at the same time, regard the limits of our competence in dealing with the matter. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, on a recent occasion, read to the House a clause of the Statute of the 25th & 26th Vict., which he said imposed upon the Government of Western Australia the obligation of submitting constitutional changes to the final judgment of the House of Commons. The hon. Baronet read the 1st section of the Act, but he omitted to read the second, which specially exempts Western Australia from the operation of the first. Some hon. Members have pointed out that some of the restrictions in they scheduled Bill to which they object have been carried 355 over the heads of a majority of the elected Members of the Council. That is quite true; but what has happened since? Mr. Parker, the leader of the Radicals in the Western Australia Council, was examined before the Select Committee, and what did he say? Did he say that he would like to defer the establishment of responsible Government in Western Australia, and to postpone this Bill until the franchise should be accurately adjusted to his ideas? On the contrary, he said—You will pardon me for saying that I do not think it is the province of a Committee of the House of Commons to alter the franchise and the property qualifications of Members. I have not the slightest doubt that as soon as we have this constitution, the property qualifications of Members will be altered, and that the franchise will be, at any rate, very much reduced, if we do not have actual manhood suffrage.The same witness also said explicitly of the people in the colony who are in favour of the removal of the restrictions, "They are quite satisfied with this form of responsible Government at present." It is said sometimes that Mr. Parker and his friends do not represent the real opinions of their constituencies. To that argument the Members of the Opposition in this Committee ought not to attach much weight, for they know how little force the same argument has when applied, as it sometimes is, to hon. Members from Ireland. Although 86 Members for Ireland sit on these Benches, we are told that they do not represent real Irish opinion. We have heard a good deal about our "lofty Imperial connections." Well, if we wish to preserve those connections you must grant Local Government. To withhold it will be the shortest way to destroy that lofty Empire by which hon. Members claim to set so much store. It has been suggested that the Bill should be delayed until the colony has assented to the restrictions which hon. Members wish to impose. But the Committee should remember that despatch in this case is vital. The Colonial Agents have represented to the First Lord of the Treasury that all business in Western Australia is suspended because the people do not know what constitution they are going to have. There has been a complete deadlock in the colony for months. Why? Because the House of 356 Commons, overladen, overburdened as it is with work, has not had time to attend to the colony's affairs. Further delay would be most deplorable, and those who have Imperial interests at heart will not cause such delay.
§ (6.23.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)
We are quite satisfied that the Vote should now be taken. We are not going to wreck the Bill because we cannot get what we want. A large number of us are strongly in favour of the principle of the Bill; but, at the same time, we think it rather hard that the colony should have thrust upon it by officials appointed by the Crown a bad franchise qualification, which will put the power in the hands of the land jobbers. As the House is against us, we will, as far as we can, assist in passing the Bill, although, personally, I believe that some of its provisions are adverse to the interests of the colony.
§ (6.25.) SIR T. ESMONDE (Dublin Co., S.)
I hope that the Committee will pass the clauses of the Bill as quickly as possible. I regret to say that the Liberal Party have not too good a name in Australia; and if further opposition is shown to the Bill, they may fall into still greater disrepute. I trust that now no frivolous objections will be made to the measure. We must look at the principle underlying it. No doubt there are some provisions which we, as Radicals, cannot approve. Nevertheless, the Bill is an expression of the wishes of the colonists, and I think we are bound to accept it. We are told that we are making a great mistake in handing over the land to these 40,000 people. But who could be better qualified to deal with it than those who live in the country itself. A great amount of the capital of New South Wales and Queensland has already been invested in the land of Western Australia; and when the Bill has been passed, there will, I expect, be a large influx of population into the colony. We are also told that if we refuse the colony this power over the land, the people will not care about the rest of the Bill. I can easily understand that that would be the case, because the land is the main thing which concerns the colony. The only means by which it can prosper is through the development of the natural resources of the country, and, therefore, I, for one, am most anxious to give the 357 inhabitants full control over the land. We are told we must preserve great Imperial interests in the colony. The best way to do that is to conciliate the sentiment of the people, and you can attain that end by giving them the form of government they desire. The Australian colonies unanimously desire that this Bill should be passed, and I think the House will be well advised to agree to it.
§ (6.30.) MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
I do not wish to be misunderstood in regard to my position in this matter, and I desire, therefore, to say that my hon. Friends and myself do not wish to obstruct the Bill. On the contrary, I am strongly in favour of it; but I object to the interpretation that has been put upon our action. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has spoken of our raising frivolous objections, and has accused us of being opposed to the principle of the Bill. I say we have not raised frivolous objections, and we are not opposed to the principle of the Bill. Indeed, rather than the Bill should be lost I would withdraw what further objections I have to it, and assent to its passage. What we strove to do on Thursday night was to ensure the amendment of the Bill, so as to bring the franchise more into conformity with the notions and wishes of the Australian people. We desire that every honest man working for his living in Western Australia, or who goes there with that intention, should have some share in the management of the colony and the distribution of its lands. My idea was, that we should arrange a kind of quid pro quo, and that in giving the West Australian people entire control of the land north of the 26th degree of latitude the colony would be only too anxious to strike out all qualifications as to elected members, in conformity with the wishes expressed in this House. Therefore, I strongly protest against anyone, even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. Morley) or any other Member sitting above the Gangway, saying that our objections are frivolous, and that we are opposed to the principle of the Bill—a principle which I certainly hope to see adopted in all the colonies.
§ *(6.33.) MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
I think it most desirable that this Bill should not be rushed 358 through Committee; but, at the same time, I think that the grounds given for the position taken by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy are somewhat out of date. The position of affairs is this. We are at the present moment face to face with the fact that a strong Committee—one of the strongest ever appointed by this House—sat and heard witnesses, and presented a Report on this subject, while, on the other hand, we have from the whole of our Australian colonies expressions of opinion which seem to be unanimous in favour of a measure of this kind, whereas, if objections were to be taken to the placing of so large an area of land under the control of some 40,000 persons, they might have been expected to come more naturally from the Australian colonies than from this country. We have had a sort of discussion between the hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Pancras and the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies as to whether Western Australia is a Crown colony or not. I think that, after all, this is merely a matter of words. No doubt, in a strict legal sense, Western Australia is not a Crown colony; but, at the same time, there is so large a nominative element in the Constitution of the colony that it may be called a Crown colony compared with other colonies which are in the enjoyment of full responsible government. Therefore, it comes to this, that we must either keep Western Australia under its present form of government, or introduce such a system of government as will be in accordance with Australian ideas, and the express wishes of the great majority of the people of Australia. One point that has been raised has had regard to the expressions of opinion on the part of the majority of the electors of Western Australia in reference to the electoral franchise; but that has been fully dealt with in connection with the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Northampton-shire, and, with regard to other points in the Bill, I do not think it can be seriously contended that there is any strong body of opinion in Western Australia that is really opposed to the present measure. There are only two alternatives open to the House. One is that it should leave Western Australia to its present form of government, and the other is that it should introduce such a system of go- 359 vernment as is in accordance with Australian ideas and the expressed wishes of the people of Western Australia. Now, for my part, it appears to me that those are the only two courses open to us, and although we might carry out the reservation of a certain proportion of the territory, so that it should not be placed under the control of what is at present the small population of Western Australia, yet in practice it would, I think, be found that the difficulties would be so serious as to render such a course undesirable, because it might bring about a state of things similar to that which now exists in Southern Africa. You might have a Government of Western Australia which would be a responsible and Constitutional Government, and yet at the same time might be—
§ *MR. F. S. STEVENSON
I have no desire to anticipate the discussion on that clause. I was only endeavouring to answer the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, and endeavouring to show the desirability, if possible, of passing the Bill in its present form, because if any serious Amendments, such as that which he proposes, were introduced they might have the indirect effect of causing difficulties similar to those with which we have now to contend in South Africa. I would now simply urge on the Committee to do what it can to carry out the principle of governing Australia in accordance with Australian ideas. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy has referred to the question of railway policy, and has suggested that railways might be laid down and canals constructed for the purpose of being bought by the State, but if he entertains objections to State interference on these matters the same objection might be urged against the action of all the other colonies.
§ *MR. F. S. STEVENSON
I am glad to hear that my hon. Friend does not object to that system, because it has hitherto been found to work well; although in the United States of America you have, undoubtedly, development of the rail way system by means of companies and so forth, in Australia they 360 have adopted the principle of State construction and purchase of railway property, and that system has been found so beneficial that there is no reason for resisting its further development. So far as the question of any refusal to carry out the provisions of this Bill is concerned, a similar refusal might have been suggested with regard to Queensland. No doubt the Queenslanders have committed great blunders, but will any hon. Member get up and say that those errors would have been committed if a responsible Government had been granted to Queensland. The question is one which ought to be regarded from a broad point of view, namely, in regard to the best interests of the people, whose wishes on this subject ought to be consulted.
§ (6.52.) MR. W. REDMOND
If I understood that the hon. Baronet the Member for Kirkcaldy did not intend to push this Amendment to a Division, there would be no necessity for any observations on my part, but I desire to offer a word or two on a point which I think may not be without some weight in this discussion. I was one of those who had an opportunity of observing the gentlemen who were sent over from Australia to give evidence with regard to this Bill. I heard that evidence, and assisted in the examination of the witnesses on the Colonisation Committee upstairs, and I remember that when those gentlemen were questioned as to the merits of Western Australia as a field for emigration, they were perfectly unanimous in the statement that the prospects of that part of the world as a field for emigration would be immensely improved by the passage of this Bill. In fact, when a question was raised as to why Western Australia was so backward in population, the opinion of those witnesses was almost completely in the direction that the small population of Western Australia was due to the fact that people would not go to a colony which did not enjoy responsible self-government. I do not think there is the slightest difference of opinion in regard to the principle of this Bill. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy compared the principles of this measure with the system at present existing in Western Australia. I do not propose to go into the question whether Western Australia is a Crown Colony in 361 the sense in which we generally regard a Crown Colony, but I am certain there is no Member in this House, certainly not on the Liberal Benches, who will venture to say there is the slightest comparison in the system it is now proposed to confer on Western Australia with the system under which the people are living at the present time. There is, no doubt, a great deal of objection to the restricted franchise under this measure. There may be a certain amount of legitimate objection to placing vast areas of land under the control of the Western Australian Legislature. But on those two points, and on those points alone, is there any room for any material difference of opinion. We on this side all object to the restricted franchise, and there may be objections on our part to hand over the vast territory of Western Australia to the Western Australian Legislature; but neither of those points affects the question as to whether Western Australia is entitled to this measure, or as to whether the people would not be much better off under the proposed Constitution than under the existing system. I, for one, have not the slightest doubt that the restricted franchise would not long be maintained in Western Australia. Nor have I the slightest doubt as to the fact that there would be no jobbery in connection with the land of Western Australia. Why do I say this? Because I know that each of the Australian colonies is enthusiastically in favour of this measure. The Australian colonies are as democratic and as radical as any States in the world, and I am certain that the fact that all the colonies are in favour of this Bill may be taken as a proof that this is really, even with the restricted franchise, a democratic measure, and one which certainly ought to be acceptable to the Liberal Members of this House. I know that the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy himself would be, but for these ideas of a restrictive franchise, the last to object to a form of self-government in Western Australia over which the people had the sole command. If there were any real opposition to this Bill its opponents would have done something more than merely send a letter to an hon. Member, in order that he might read it to this House. Had the Member for Albany, whose letter has been read by the Mem- 362 ber for Kirkcaldy, really represented any great body of public opinion in Western Australia, we may feel sure that, as a Member of the Legislative Council, he would have felt compelled to take much stronger action than he has taken in sending that letter to the hon. Baronet. I trust the Australian people may be gratified by the news to-morrow that this Bill has been passed by the British House of Commons.
§ *(6.45.) MR. CHANNING
Sir, I had not wished to take part in this Debate, and should not have done so but for what fell from my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall. I should wish to see the Bill passed. I have raised the special point in which I was interested, and the House has decided it. But my hon. Friend took upon himself to lecture the Radical Party, and to say that we opposed giving Home Rule to the colony. That, I think, was somewhat out of place. The action which I suggested on Thursday was with the view to giving real Home Rule to Western Australia—to give effect to their views as represented in the Blue Book. To say that this Bill represents the exact wishes of the people of Western Australia is simply to fly in the face of the facts contained in the Blue Book. I would point out that there is no reason for the attack on those Members who supported my Motion, and for saying that they desired to delay the Bill. This clause authorises Her Majesty's Government to issue an Order in Council to assent to the Schedule of the Bill. The proposal the other night was to delay this Order in Council—not to have the Bill re-introduced—until the wishes of the inhabitants of Western Australia were really carried out in the Bill. These could then have been registered in an amended form of the Scheduled Bill. I sincerely hope the discussions on this Bill will result in the people of Western Australia being encouraged to strive to get what is their wish, free from those restrictions which really prevent the people having the Government which they have decided upon by an immense majority.
§ *(6.48.) MR. A. M'ARTHUR (Leicester)
I hope the result of this discussion will be to gain universal assent to this Bill. I recollect perfectly well a similar discussion which arose 363 in the New South Wales Parliament, of which I was then a member, in reference to Queensland. Similar arguments were then used to those we have heard tonight. The matter was seriously considered, and after a long Debate it was decided that Queensland should be a separate colony. Ever since Queensland has increased rapidly, and it now occupies a very important position. I have no hesitation in saying that if Queensland had continued part of New South Wales, its development would not have been so rapid as it has been. I believe a similar result will follow the giving of a Constitution to Western Australia. I have no hesitation in saying also that I would freely give the Western Australians all they have asked for in this Bill. I would give them entire control of the land. It would be wise, too, that some provision should be made by which the funds to be raised for emigration from this country to Western Australia should be at the disposal of the Government of that colony. I make this suggestion because I know that in the colonies of New South Wales and Victoria immigration is opposed by the working classes, who are under the belief that an increased population means increased competition. The result has been that for years past it has been exceedingly difficult for the Governments of those Colonies to get any sum passed for the purposes of promoting immigration. I, therefore, think that the sum raised for the purpose should be at the disposal of the Western Australia Government, and with that condition I very heartily and cordially support the Bill.
§ (6.52.) MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I suppose we must accept this Bill in its entirety, or throw it out. It certainly does appear to me a very strange system that a Bill should be submitted to a Committee of this House with the object and intention that it should examine each particular clause, and that then we should be told that we cannot possibly make a single alteration in the Bill. We are told that this Bill bears the imprimatur and assent of the inhabitants of Western Australia, but, from what I can gather, it appears that it has in no sort of way received their assent. How can we know here what is the view of persons in the Antipodes, 364 unless we hear what the elected representatives of the Western Australians say and think, both against the high qualification and the nominated Legislative Council? I do think that we I ought to register a protest against the action of Her Majesty's Government in not having taken means to ascertain I clearly the view of the Western Australians and laid it before this House. We ought to declare to the Western Australians that we only pass this Bill because, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcsstle and others have said, if we do pass it the Government of the Colony will be so democratic that it will sweep away the nominated Legislative Council and the high qualification. Having these objections, we pass the Bill on the distinct understanding that the inhabitants of Western Australia must be made aware of them.
§ *(6.55.) MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S)
Perhaps the House will allow me for a minute or two to trespass on its time. I am reminded by the proceedings of tonight of the Victoria Constitution Act, which formed, like this Bill, a Schedule to an Act of Parliament passed nearly 35 years ago. The Bill was passed in 1855, and in some respects it was a more liberal measure than the present, because it provided for an Elective Upper Chamber, In the colony there was, however, much controversy about the high qualification, and, having been one of those who drafted the Bill, I wished that it had been in this respect more liberal; but I may remind the House that as soon as the Bill was passed and responsible Government was in full swing in the colony, in a few years the objectionable features of the enactment in this respect were removed. I would venture, therefore, to suggest that the Bill be passed as it stands, trusting to the Legislature formed under it that they will also, within a few years, make all the constitutional Amendments now proposed to us.
§ (6.58.) MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I am entirely in favour of passing the Bill. At the same time I think the right hon. Gentleman has supplied one of the strongest arguments in favour of our amending the Bill at once. It is true that in New South Wales and Victoria the provisions as to franchise contained in the 365 Scheduled Bills were subsequently altered, but only after a struggle which, if it be an exaggeration to say it verged on civil war, was of the most suspicious and gravest possible character. We ought certainly, after such an experience, to sweep away from this Bill the causes of a similar agitation, for such agitations ought always to be avoided as far' as possible. But it is an unfortunate fact that the results of the unfortunate features in the Bills for New South Wales and Victoria have not been entirely removed. Those who were elected under the high franchise sold to each other land at £1 and £2 an acre, which is now worth £20 and £30 an acre. It is one of the burning questions in the Legislatures of New South Wales and Victoria how to undo an evil which is the direct offspring of the unfortunate features of those Bills. The present Bill should avoid the evils experienced in New South Wales and Victoria. However, we have been defeated in the Divisions we have challenged, and, as we are told that it is not within the sphere of our power without doing further mischief to delay the passing of the Bill, I am in favour of passing it. I desire to give full power to Western Australia, and I only regret that it has not been in our power to give more power. I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Wexford that there will be no jobbery in the land question in the colony. Before the Radical Party there can remove this high franchise I believe that valuable lands will be handed over to the individuals who promote this Bill. In my experience and in my study of the Australian colonies there are three degrees of badness in regard to the administration of the lands. The worst is, when they are managed from the Colonial Office, the next worst is when they are managed by a nominated Council in Australia, or a Council elected on a high franchise, and the best of the three is when you have—as you have in Victoria and New South Wales—an honest Democratic Government, where the working men can make their voices heard. But as we cannot give to the colonists of Western Australia the powers which are enjoyed by the working classes of Victoria and New South Wales, and South Australia—powers 366 which have turned these countries into perfect paradises for the working man—by all means let us, at least, lift them from their present condition, and put an end to the abominable system of managing these affairs from the Colonial Office, and give them that liberty which it is in our power to give. Aided by the experience of the southern colonies their agony may be less brief than it would otherwise be, and in the course of two or three years the people may win for themselves that wider franchise which it seems we are not to be able to give.
§ *(7.5.) MR. MORTON (Peterborough)
I object to this clause, because I object to the qualification of the Members of the Assembly. I am not so strongly against that as I am against the qualification of the electors, and the qualifying period. They have adopted in the Scheduled Act all the bad qualities of our own electoral franchise in this country, and which we are now trying to get rid of. We are told we cannot get this altered. I do not agree with that at all. The right hon. Member for Newcastle told us that they need not come to this House all with regard to the Scheduled Act, but he went on a little further and told us why they had come to us, and it was, he said, because they wanted to get possession of the land. That is so, and I hold that when they came to us wanting something, we should make conditions. If we do not do it now we may not be able to do it at any other time. I cannot agree that time would be lost if we do not pass the Bill in its entirety at the present moment, because an Amendment has been suggested which will make it necessary to go back to the Legislative Council before the Bill can be passed. ["No, no!"] Then I do not understand what I have read. On page 1, line 10, the Bill says—That it is expedient that Her Majesty be authorised to assent to the said Bill, subject to an Amendment thereof as to the pension of the Attorney General.So that they ask us to insist on an alteration in the scheduled Act before the Queen assents to it. I say, therefore, if we have to go back to the colony to consider one Amendment, surely we may ask them to consider other Amendments. I cannot concur in the view that by the attitude we are taking up 367 we are not in favour of Homo Rule. There is no one more strongly in favour of Home Rule than I am, and no one more strongly in favour of the policy laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, which is to trust in the people; but I object to the principle laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, that we should trust in one-half of the people. We have heard from the hon. Member for East Mayo as to the difficulties other Australian colonies have experienced in getting bad laws altered, and I can tell you of the difficulties that have been met elsewhere. A somewhat similar bad law was passed when you gave a Constitution to Upper and Lower Canada in 1840. The arrangements for the representation of the people went on all very well whilst Upper Canada had the smallest population, but by 1850 there was a larger population in that part of the Colony, and immediately there began an agitation to get this bad law altered. The Tories resisted the demand for alteration, and it was not until 1867, when the Federation Scheme was adopted, that a settlement was finally arrived at. Every one who has had any experience of colonial life—as I have—knows that when you commence with your Constitution you should do so fair and straight. Let your laws be as good as you can make them, and put the management of affairs into the hands of the people, and not into those of speculators and the monied classes. We can give the people of Western Australia the management of their own affairs now without any trouble whatever. I do not object to the colonists having the management of their lands; but let us see if we cannot induce the colonists to make such laws as would put the Government into the hands of the people.
§ *(7.12.) MR. WODEHOUSE (Bath)
With regard to the anxiety expressed by the hon. Member for East Mayo, to save the colonists of Western Australia from those Constitutional struggles which other Australian colonies have gone through in endeavours to liberalise their Constitution, I would point out to him that the other Australian colonies are apparently satisfied with the Constitution contained in the scheduled 368 Bill. This fact ought to re-assure hon. Members, because it is admitted that the Governments and institutions of the other Australian colonies are thoroughly democratic. Indeed, I believe that if the Constitution contained in the scheduled Bill were altered by this House, it would be resented by those other colonies as an undue interference in work which properly belongs to Western Australia itself. I would also remind the hon. Member for East Mayo that at the time when the efforts of which he speaks were made to liberalise the Constitutions of the other colonies, Australia did not contain that great body and volume of democratic opinion which now prevails there; and we may depend upon it that as soon as this Bill conferring responsible Government on Western Australia comes into operation, that Colony will be more and more pervaded and governed by the general democratic sentiment and opinion of Australia. There is no reason, therefore, to fear that the democratic feeling of Western Australia will be checked and thwarted, either in regard to electoral rights and privileges or the disposal of waste lands.
§ (7.15.) MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
The question of fisheries is dealt within Sub-section 15, and I should like to ask whether the colony of Western Australia has not the right to withdraw restrictions upon the fishing in waters outside the territorial waters? The right hon. Gentleman led us to infer that an Act of the Federal Council could not be withdrawn except by the Act of that Council. So far as I can make out from reading the measure, the Legislative Body of Western Australia would have power to allow these restrictions to lapse. This is a matter which affects the relations between the Mother Country and the colonies, and should therefore be raised in the House. The discussion seems to me to prove how entirely unfit the House of Commons is to control Australian affairs.
§ *(7.17.) BARON H. DE WORMS
As regards extra-territorial waters, Western Australia will have no power whatever to alter what has been done by the Federal Council. Of course, within territorial waters Western Australia will have such rights.
§ (7.17.) MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
I should like to know whether the Federal Council has conferred powers upon Western Australia to legislate for extra-territorial waters?
§ (7.18.) SIR G. CAMPBELL
I should be sorry to put the House to the trouble of a Division, though I do not like the clause.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 3.
§ (7.20.) SIR G. CAMPBELL
Though we could not alter a scheduled part of the Bill without withdrawing the section altogether we can alter Clause 3, and I hope the House will consent to do so. This clause is the real crux of the whole question. We desire the colony to have popular government, but we object to its governing people and territory which do not belong to it. We are asked to hand over to a handful of colonists 1,600,000 square miles of territory—a tract as large as the whole of Europe, with the exception of Russia. The Prime Minister has advised the people to study large maps. I wish people would take that advice. The Under Secretary for the Colonies is careful never to give large maps either to the House or to the Committee. He gave us a very small map indeed of Western Australia. [Cries of "No."] I should think his map of this enormous territory was about 20 inches square. The result is that people do not understand, and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman himself understands, what an enormous territory this is. The right hon. Gentleman talks of the southern portion of the reserve as the "South-Western corner" of Australia. I think I may give the House some notion of what that South-Western corner is when I say it equals the size of the United Kingdom, France, and Germany all put together. The question is, whether all the land in this great territory is to be given over to a small number of people? It is said it would not be possible to give the people self-government without giving them the land; but in all parts of America the States that got self-govern- 370 ment did not get the land, and the control of the waste lands rests with the Central Government alone. Inasmuch, however, as it has been the custom to give the Australian Colonies the land, I should be willing to give Western Australia land enough to make a reasonable colony, but I do object to give them this enormous territory. I admit that the objections to the proposal are chiefly negative. Why should you be in such a hurry to give the land away? I admit that the great question of colonisation has exercised the minds of many people in this country. The Chairman of what is called the Colonisation Committee, the Earl of Meath, asked officially to be allowed to give evidence before the Committee upstairs.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
Well, he asked whether we wanted his evidence, and we refused it. There were one or two witnesses we did not have, and, at the instance of the Under Secretary, they were not called. The clause was rushed through the Committee. [Cries of "Oh!"] Well, I withdraw that. This question of colonisation is a very important question. I am one of those who believe the time has not come for exporting our people forcibly, or for spending very large sums upon emigration. But I believe the time is coming when the population of this country may very much press on our resources. Mr. Giffen and others have told us that not only this country but other countries, including the United States of America, are rapidly filling, and that there is a growing feeling in favour of protection of labour as well as of the protection of merchandise. It is well therefore to have colonies of our own to form an outlet for our people. Until we are quite satisfied that we may not want this great Continent for our own people I do not see why we should be in such a hurry to hand it over to this mere handful of 40,000 people sitting in "a corner" of Australia. I admit that if Australian Federation is brought about the Federal Government may well demand the control of Western Australia. But Australian Federation has not come yet. Those who have read the Blue 371 Book will see that there are a great many influences tending the other way, and it is not certain that federation will be agreed to for a very long time. It is an entire mistake that all the colonies demand the whole of this great Continent. I believe that South Australia is the only colony which has expressed itself in favour of such a policy, and I fancy the others have expressed a diametrically opposite view.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
All I contend is, that the other Australian colonies have not asked that the whole of this land should be made over to Western Australia, but, on the contrary, the delegates of the most important colonies have suggested that it should be kept for a federated Australia. I would rather give it to 8,000,000 or 10,000,000 or 20,000,000 of people when the time comes than give it to these 40,000 people. The arguments are somewhat contradictory. There is some talk of developing the country for splendid enterprises, but there is a refusal to accept the view that free homesteads ought to be given to the emigrants. The Western Australians seem to prefer the system of large squatters. I should like this country to insist that if our emigrants desire to go to Western Australia they shall be entitled to insist on getting free homes. I suggest that there has been a good deal of company-mongoring in this manner. We were told in the Committee that the land ought to be given to the people on the spot, and we asked who were the people on the spot, and what was the distance from the more distant parts of Western Australia to the capital. We found that there was communication, in some cases, once a month, and that it took longer to communicate between Perth and Northern Australia than between Perth and London. Under these circumstances, it seems to me absurd to talk of people on the spot. The evidence given before the Committee convinced me that what is called the South-Western corner of Australia is eminently fitted for colonisation. We are told that it has an excellent rainfall, and that there are no droughts. There are no considerable mountains, and the soil is good. There is a great forest growth; but that is a great source of 372 wealth. We are proposing to give away this territory, with its splendid climate, I believe the healthiest in the world, and its capital soil to men who will simply job it away. The territory is eminently fitted for colonisation. It is admitted that in the South-West corner there are 20,000 square miles fitted for cultivation, and even that portion of the country is almost unoccupied. I find that only one-fourth of 1 per cent, of the district is occupied by the colonists. I have been dwelling on the temperate, well-watered, healthy, fertile South-West corner; but beyond that there is an enormous territory extending for many hundred thousands of square miles, which some people say is desert, but which we do not know whether it is desert or not. We have had glimpses of it which show that there are parts of the country which would turn out well. There is certainly the great possibility that the country is rich in minerals; at any rate, it is really no man's land, and it is questionable whether the British Crown should give it away. I greatly welcome the opposition to this clause which is offered by gentlemen who are called land nationalisers. I am not a land nationaliser in this country, because I think it would be too expensive to buy up the land; but my experience of land nationalisation elsewhere has been very satisfactory. At any rate, there is no reason why we should give up this land to a small knot of people; we had better give it to some central authority, who would make proper use of it. We were told by some of the delegates that we need not fear that the small knot of people will job the land away; but I think we should remember what was said by the hon. Member for Mayo, namely, that throughout the Australian Colonies there is a great tendency for the land to fall in great blocks into the hands of great land kings. A Return submitted to the House shows that at this moment the land in Western Australia is occupied in enormous blocks—that there are millions of acres in the hands of a single individual or corporation. It is said the land is held under long leases; but we find that under the Regulations, controlled by the Colonial Office, the leases are not renewable. My belief is that if you give control of these 373 great lands to a small knot of people, the leases will become property and the land will be jobbed away. Therefore, I want that we should hold our hand a little; that we should not release the ultimate control of the land. Then the question conies, if we are to retain any part of the land or to retain any rights over the land, what are we to retain? I agree that the original proposal of the Government that we should retain the Northern part of Western Australia for the benefit of the inhabitants of this country is nothing but a delusion and a snare; it is a red herring dragged across our path. The Northern part of the country is useless to the people of this country. The question is not whether we should keep the Northern tropical lands, but the temperate Southern lands. When in Committee we came, after a long discussion upon the tropical lands, to the question of the temperate land, the Chairman told us that the matter was practically settled by the Second Reading. No one listened to my proposal, and, as I said the other day, the discussion did not last more than 10 minutes. A great royal function was going on and I did not take a Division, because I saw it would be useless to do so.
MR. J. MORLEY
May I ask the hon. Gentleman if the charge he is now making is not the very charge he apologised in the House the other day for having made?
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
I apologised for saying I did not think the Committee did their duty. I never withdrew the charge, which I make again now, that that part of the Bill was hurried through the Committee.
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
The hon. Gentleman said that when the part of the Bill to which he refers was reached the Members of the Committee commenced to pack up their papers and to leave the room in order that some might attend the Levee. As a matter of fact, only one hon. and gallant Member left for that purpose, and he entertained views directly antagonistic to the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
As a matter of fact, one very important Member of the Committee was obliged to leave. I have no doubt the Committee did their duty 374 most conscientiously; but they felt and believed that, having disposed of Clause 4, the Southern territory had been settled by the Second Reading, as the Chairman stated. If evidence is wanted that the proposition which I submitted was not discussed and not listened to, that 10 minutes were not taken up upon it, I refer hon. Members to my hon. Friend (Mr. Wodehouse), than whom no one more thoroughly understands the question. My hon. Friend, who of all Members of the Committee best understood the question, told me the other day he never did understand what the question I submitted to the Committee was. I may be wrong in contending that we ought to reserve some of this temperate land, but I maintain it is not a question which ought to be settled in 10 minutes. My proposal is that we should retain about 50 per cent, of the South-West district, and give to the present Western Australians their own lauds and certain grazing lands which I specified in my Amendment. In all I would give them a territory something like three times the size of the colony of Victoria and twice the size of the United Kingdom, and if that is not enough for 40,000 people I do not know what is. The rest of the temperate land I would keep, believing that some day or other we may colonise it. It may be rich in minerals, and within the next 10, 20, or 30 years we may have a great line of railway running through the territory. Some day we may have to hand it over to a United Australia, but do not let us be in a hurry; let us wait until such a demand is made. What I am at present desirous of doing is to move an Amendment which will unite the different Members who wish to save something out of that great territory, and, therefore, I beg to propose to omit the word "entire" in the first line of Clause 3. By adopting such an Amendment we should not give the present colonists the entire control of the whole territory. We have been told there might be a safeguard under Clause 6, which gives the power of dividing the colony; but what is the use when the lands are already given away, when loans are contracted on the security of these lands, and the fate of the 375 colony pledged to arrangements which cannot be upset. No doubt the Government, with the powerful alliance of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Morley), will insist on forcing Clause 3, and it will be passed, but let it be forced through in the light of day. Let it be understood by future Britons that when this great inheritance was given away in 1890, it was not without a warning and a protest in the House of Commons. We are engaged in a strange policy, grabbing new territory in Africa, while we give away this vast territory in Australia. When the day comes when the nations of the earth feel bound to protect their own labour, then the Australian colonies will be the first to keep our people out of the lands we now give away in this reckless manner. I admit the Colonial Office is against us, with the occupants of the Front Opposition Bench below me. The Colonial Office is incompetent to deal with the question, and the feeling of ex-Colonial Secretaries is like the feeling of ex-Irish Secretaries, to get rid of that responsibility which has been the source of so much difficulty. But this argument may be pushed too far, and I maintain it is the duty of the Colonial Office to retain some control and insure that these lauds shall be administered in the interest of the whole Empire, not for the benefit of a handful of people in the village of Perth. Because of a p3tty difference between the colonists and the Colonial Office the Colonial Office is willing to make "ducks and drakes" of this territory. Why be in such a hurry to do this? We have been told that we should follow the precedent of what was done in Queensland. But two blacks do not make a white. Queensland did not make the best use of the gift, but there was a rush of people to mining enterprises, and the thing is done there. But here we are concerned with a territory three times as large, and we hand it over to a small and unprogressive colony. There is much to induce us to pause and make some reservation. I do not say that my proposal is best; I am willing enough there should be some reasonable concession, but I want some reservation of this great and almost unknown territory until we know something more about it, Sir G. Campbell 376 and to what use it can be applied. I accept the suggestion that we should now divide, and move to leave out the word "entire" inline 1.
I do not know whether the hon. Member has realised that if the word "entire" has the meaning he attributes to it, this will dispose of all other Amendments.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
I was only anxious not to shut out other Amendments. I will move the Amendment as it stands in my name.
Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 23, after the word "Australia," to insert the words—
North and west of the line following (that is to say): a line commencing at the point where the thirty-third parallel of south latitude strikes the coast of West Australia, thence running straight to the point where the thirtieth parallel of south latitude strikes the one hundred and nineteenth meridian of east longitude, and thence following that one hundred and ninetieth meridian northwards to the northern coast of Australia."—(Sir George Campbell.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ *(8.8.) BARON H. DE WORMS
I think, after this speech, it might perhaps be better if I said nothing. It is quite evident the Government cannot accept the Amendment. The hon. Member is fond of accusing Departments and individuals of incompetence, and it seems to me that his measure of incompetency is their disagreement with himself. Both in the Select Committee and in the House the hon. Member was in an absolute minority on this question; but he continues to assume that he was in the right, and that the majority who disagreed with him were in the wrong. He still takes a broad, if not a comprehensive, view of the subject. He reminds me of the French King who summed up his authority in the word "L'°tat c'est moi," the only difference between the hon. Member and the Sovereign is this, that whereas ho only claimed to speak for the State, the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy claims to speak for all States and all peoples. He claims to speak on behalf of those who live here and in Australia. In spite of the strong evidence that has been brought before the Committee, and into which the hon. Member himself very 377 carefully inquired, he is still not convinced, and asks the House to come to a decision in opposition to it, arid to accept in place of it, the evidence, a letter from a practically unknown person, or known only in Albany.
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
The hon. Member assumes that because he is known to himself this gentleman must be known to all the world. The Member for Albany may be a distinguished person, but his opinion does not outweigh that of the chosen Delegates from Western Australia. The hon. Member complains of the smallness of the map, but I do not know that I need answer that; although perhaps a larger map would have better accentuated the size of the territory he would exclude from responsible Government. This would leave out of the hands of responsible Government the southern half of the South-Western Division and practically the whole of the Kimberley, Eastern, and Eucla Divisions. This would please no one, and effect no purpose. It would leave to the colony a territory in the north, but would detach a territory on the south, which, of course, is much nearer to, and in closer relations with, Perth. In particular, it would detach King George's Sound, whence the mails are forwarded to and from Perth, and which is the keystone of the defence of the colony. The colony could not be expected to look after these parts properly if they are liable to be deprived of the land revenue. Among strange and remarkable statements from the hon. Member was one that, with few exceptions, the other Australian colonies were antagonistic to the lands being given up to the now Government.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
No; I said that some of the leading men were much against it. *BARON H. DE WORMS: The hon. Member quoted certain colonies, New South Wales among others, as being against the lands being given up to the new Government.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
I did not quote the colonies as having expressed a strong opinion in that direction. I said they had not expressed an opinion either way, and that some of the leading men in the 378 colonies had expressed strong opinions against it.
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
Then the hon. Member relies on negative evidence, and assumes that, having expressed no opinion, they are against the proposal.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
I said they had not expressed an opinion in favour of the transfer, but in a modified sense there had been expressions of opinion against it.
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
I deny the inference conveyed by the hon. Member that a large number of the colonists, and many leading men among them, are opposed to the land being given up to the newly-constituted and responsible Government, and I assort that the vast majority of the colonists are anxious that the Bill should be passed. One and all have represented to the Government the desirability of passing this Bill as it now stands without any of the reservations suggested by the hon. Gentleman. This is conveyed by the representations of the official Representatives of the Colonies—the Agents General. I think I have a right to protest in the name of the Colonies against the assertions that have been made. The hon. Member has repeatedly asserted that one aim of those who speak on behalf of a responsible Government for Western Australia is the promotion of land jobbery. No more unfair or untrue statement was ever made. This movement in favour of responsible Government originated, as the hon. Member is well aware, many years ago. It did not originate in the idea of a Land Act at all; it was a national sentiment on the part of the people of Western Australia, who wished to have the same Government as other Australian Colonies. With regard to land grabbing, as I understand the hon. Member, he wants to suggest that the value of the land is so advantageous that men will be guilty of great political meanness in order to obtain control of it: but the hon. Member must be well aware that millions of acres of Western Australia are of little or no value at all. There are hundreds of thousands of acres of poisoned land, and in many districts the land is so poor that five acres would barely feed one sheep. I press this on the Committee, because I believe, if the statement of the hon. Member is lo go abroad, many persons may be misled by it. 379 Then the hon. Member said that colonists were against immigration and free homesteads. There was no such evidence given before the Committee as that alleged by the hon. Member. What was said was that, in order to start a family in Western Australia, besides land, the sum of £300 was necessary. But where is that £300 to come from? Has the hon. Member any vast scheme of colonisation? Does he propose that the Government should furnish it? What does he mean by that? Where is it to come from? [Sir G. CAMPBELL: The Whisky Duties.] The hon. Member is fond of wild statements, which, when scrutinised, must be swept away. I believe the common-sense of the Committee will prevail. They will see that, if we grant responsible Government to the Western Australians, we must give them control of the land as well. [Sir G. CAMPBELL: Why?] Because we cannot separate the administrative power and the electoral power, and at the same time keep in the hands of the Home Government the sale and revenue of the land. Therefore, the Government came to the conclusion that they would not be justified in passing any system of responsible Government for Western Australia which would not at the same time give the control of the land. If the colonists are entitled to control the Government, they are also entitled to control the land.
*BARON H. DB WORMS
If the hon. Member means power to sell or lease the land, certainly they will have that power. The Government cannot assent to the proposal of the hon. Member, and I do not think I need take up time in going over all the details of his speech.
*(8.20.) MR. T. H. BOLTON
Although there may be few Members who are prepared to follow the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy in the course he has taken, there are a large number of persons in the country who have considerable doubt as to the policy which the Government are pursuing in connection with this Bill. There is no indisposition to give full representative institutions to Western Australia, but there is a very great disin- 380 clination on the part of many people at home to the handing over to this new Government these enormous unoccupied territories. The feeling of the Australian Colonies may be in favour of the land of Australia being used entirely for the benefit of the Australians—that is not unreasonable from an Australian standpoint; but I very much doubt whether the other colonies have been fully consulted as to the placing of this vacant land under the absolute control of this particular Legislature. I know individuals have appeared before the Committee who stated that the other Australian Colonies desired to see the vacant lands placed under the control of the proposed new Legislature; but other people have said that these vacant lands ought to be placed under the joint control of the Australian Colonies. No reliable opinion on this particular question has been obtained from the Australian Colonies as a whole.
§ *BARON H. DE WORMS
The question was fully discussed at the recent Conference on Australian Federation.
*MR. T. H. BOLTON
I have taken the evidence as I find it in the Blue Book; but if there is other evidence which was before the Committee, it ought to have been put in the Blue Book. I repeat that I doubt whether this particular question has been fully considered by the Australian Colonies. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy has formulated his views in, perhaps, not a very acceptable way; but we know and understand his wishes and desires in this matter. What are they? That ample territory should be given, but that this great unknown territory on the cast and the fertile territory on the south should, to some extent, be reserved, in the hope that they may be available for English colonists. We are now told by the Government that the Australian Colonies all desire this Bill should pass without delay. I admit, under these circumstances, it is very difficult to interpose. We have no desire to stand in the way of giving full and free institutions to Western Australia; we only desire that those institutions should be adapted to what we consider are the claims of the Mother Country in connection with the vacant 381 lands, and to retain control over national domains in the interest of the crowded population of this country. We must submit, I suppose, to the passing of this Bill, but I re-echo the sentiment expressed by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy-that, at all events, it shall not be said there were not some Members of this House to raise a protest against handing over the entire control of these national domains to a few people in the colony retaining no Imperial control in the interest of the crowded population in this country. (8.30.)
§ (9.1.) Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 10 Members being found present,
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
If we could modify this clause so as to prevent evils arising in Western Australia which have arisen in other Australian colonies, especially in Victoria, we might amend the land clause so as to prevent the full control of the land being in the hands nominally of the Members of the Council; but I do not see how we can bring that about by any practicable means, and, therefore, I support the clause in its present form. I am somewhat astonished at the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Kirkcaldy, because if it were adopted it would bring about the very state of things he so strongly objects to. There are two aspects in which to regard this question. The first is, with regard to the creation of a Crown Colony; and here I am glad to see that the Committee have so amended the Bill that its present form is far better than that in which it originally stood. Under present circumstances, I think it much better to give the full control of the whole of the land right away to the north to the present Assembly and Council than to divide it and place our portion under separate control. My hon. Friend (Sir George Campbell) knows something about the Administration of India, but the Administration of the Australian Colonies is a different matter. If this Bill be carried, the land will be under the control of the Government of Western Australia, who will, of course, be amenable to Parliamentary control, and can be "heckled" by gentlemen 382 holding the same views as the hon. Baronet in the Legislative Assembly; but if it be not carried, you will have, instead of this, a Commissioner appointed by the Government, and the whole control of the land will be in his hands and that of the Sub-Commissioners. There would, in that case, be no power in the hands of the people, and there would be a thousand times more jobbery than if you had an Assembly by which the action of the Ministry in regard to the land could be called in question. If there were any effectual means of carrying out a system of Imperial control something might be said in favour of the proposal of my hon. Friend. But the working of the colonial system is this: A colonial man is usually appointed, for it is rarely found that an Imperial official gets the appointment unless he has been a colonial man, and is appointed at the suggestion of the colonists, and thoroughly under the influence of colonial ideas. But if this Amendment be carried, the result will be that, instead of the land being controlled by a Minister responsible to an elected body, it is controlled by a Commissioner, and appointed by the Government, and by assistant Commissioners under him, uncontrolled by public opinion, and the alienation of the land will go on to a very large extent. The leases, which the holders regard as freeholds, will be multiplied; and if there is anything my hon. Friend desires not to have, he will secure it by the passage of his Amendment. I think the passing of the clause as it stands would be the best solution of the question, and I trust, therefore, that the Amendment will not be pressed.
§ *(9.7.) CAPTAIN BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
I am one of those who do not wish to see the whole of the land of Western Australia placed entirely under the control of the new constitution. I cannot agree, however, with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle that a Bill of this sort, having been considered by a Select Committee, it is scarcely fair, and, in fact, almost ridiculous, for us to discuss it at any considerable length. It seems to me that this Bill is one that contains more important matter than any measure that has been submitted to the House during the present Session, and, if passed, it will 383 settle for a long time the question of the government of a large portion of the western territory of Australia. I have not the fear which some hon. Members have, that, if this Bill is passed, it will result in different individuals here and there becoming possessed of enormous blocks of land to the ultimate detriment of the colony. The hon. Member for East Mayo overlooked the fact that in the colonies he spoke of the alienations of large tracts of land took place a great many years ago before public opinion was directed to these matters and when it was held that the best way of opening up the country was to allow individuals to acquire possession of large masses of territory. In these days, however, the force of public opinion will be far too strong in the colony to allow of such a course of procedure. I may say that if we look at the sales made by the Government of Western Australia it will be found that a very small quantity of land has been alienated in this way, but that large tracts have been allowed to be let upon lease, from which a considerable income has been derived and is still flowing in. An important question arising on this head is, what should be the proper destination of this income? I have been enabled to obtain from the somewhat imperfect records of this House some information as to the Australian Colonies, from which I have gathered a few figures which are not without interest. The fact is undoubted that a large sum has been realised over a series of years from the sale and leasing of laud, and, roughly speaking, about one-third of that income has been expended on matters relating either to the laud itself or to the native population. I think it a perfectly legitimate procedure that the income arising from the sale and letting of those large large tracts of land shall, to some extent, be used in opening up a territory for the future benefit of the colony. Then comes the question, what has become of the rest of the income which has been flowing in from the rest of those sources? It has gone in the relief of the taxation of the colonists, men who are quite as well able to bear their share of taxation as any individuals in this country. Why should they be relieved of taxation by the sale and lease of waste lands to which 384 they have no particular right? If the Committee will allow mo I will quote a few figures. Take, for instance, the colony of New Zealand for the five years from 1871 to 1875. The average annual income in that period for the sale and lease -of waste lands was £677,000. The amount expended on the lands was £374,000, so that the remaining £300,000 annually has gone towards the relief of the taxation of New Zealand. The land belongs not to New Zealand, but to the State as a whole. Precisely the same state of things exists in New South Wales. In the years 1867–8–9–70, the average annual income of New South Wales from the sale and lease of waste lands was £526,000, and the average annual expenditure about £200,000. The amount of the direct taxation of New South Wales was £880,000, so that really more than one-third of the amount is met by the income for the sale and lease of waste lands. Why should those people, who are undoubtedly wealthy and well-to-do, be relieved of taxation to the extent of something like one-third? I think the figures I have mentioned fortify the argument I have suggested, that the means derived from the sale and lease of waste lands ought not to be devoted to the relief of taxation of individual communities, inasmuch as the lands so dealt with do not belong to them any more than to other portions of the Empire. Take New Zealand. The large sums of money raised from the sale and lease of waste lands ought to have been spent very much more than they have been spent upon the elevation of the condition of the natives. We know what were the troubles in past times in New Zealand in connection with the natives. Unfortunately, in New Zealand, as in other countries where we have to deal with large numbers of natives, a much larger sum of money ought to have been spent in trying to educate and improve the condition of the natives. That, of course, is much less true of Australia than of New Zealand, but still it has some truth in Australia. But whether the money is spent on the natives or for purposes of colonisation, or, as suggested, for the provision of free homesteads for colonists, I am quite clear that in the case of Western 385 Australia, where you have such a small community, and such a huge area of land, that it is unjust that the money arising from the sale and lease of waste lands should be applied to the relief of the taxation of 40,000 or 50,000 people who at present dwell in the colony. I must own I should like to hear what answer the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle has to give to the argument I have advanced. It is argued that the colonists of Australasia have petitioned Parliament to pass this Bill, and, in fact, to assign all the waste land to the Government which is to be set up under this Bill. I think we are inclined to give a little too much weight to the arguments, wishes, and Petitions of the colonists. After all, though we derive benefit from having colonies, it should not be forgotten that the colonies derive very great benefit from having us. I do not think it is a sound argument, that because a colony, perhaps separated from Western Australia by 2,000 miles, petitions in favour of the Bill, we should be told by that colony what we are to do, nor do I think that New South Wales has a very lively claim to insist upon Parliament acting in a particular way. I quite admit that if you federate Australia the case is very much altered. There is a great deal that could be said for the revenues derived from the sale and lease of waste lands being managed by a Federal Government which cannot be said for a single colony. I should personally raise no objection whatever if the money were to be placed under the control of a Federal Parliament and used for the Imperial benefit of Australia. I am doing my best to support the right hon. Gentleman and his Government. I understand that it was the original intention of the Bill to alieniate a portion of the land, bat that the Select Committee altered the proposition. I do not know whether I may look forward to the possibility of the Government changing its mind, and re-inserting in the Bill the 26th parallel of south latitude. I feel considerable doubt whether it is quite wise to give to a single Government the control of a territory the limits of which are distant 1,000, 800, and 600 miles. But, be that as it may, I do not entertain the fears expressed by Radical Members of this 386 House. My views are entirely confined to the question of what I think is just. This enormous quantity of land does not belong to a small section of the people, but to the entire Empire, and it should not be applied to the relief of the taxation of a particular section of the community, but should be devoted, more or less, to Imperial purposes. I should have supported the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy had ho drawn a less quaint line through the territory. I think he would have been better advised if he had moved the words as they stood in the original Bill, and I then should have been disposed to support him. The question is, if I moved an Amendment to the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman, whether there would be the slightest chance of its being accepted. But when I consider the want of interest in the Bill, and all that has been said, I think it would be hardly worth while to put the Committee to the trouble of considering an Amendment to the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman.
(9.30.) MR. J. MORLET
The hon. Member who has just spoken has spoken, as he always does, in a serious and candid manner, and, as ho has appealed to me, it is due to him that I should say at once what I have to say on his extremely interesting and fair remarks. I do not think he has quoted rightly the original proposal of the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench opposite, because the proposal originally embodied in Clause 4 was felt to be so absolutely untenable, in the face of the great body of evidence we listened to, that it would have boon impossible to consider it, and I cannot admit that the Select Committee which sat to consider this Bill was divided by Party considerations. As to whether it is fair and desirable and compatible with the principles of Imperial policy to allow the revenues derived from this enormous tract of land to be expended for the benefit of the present generation of Western Australian colonists, and perhaps a generation to come, I agree with the hon. and gallant Member that it is not desirable. But it is a practical question whether we can have these large unexplored tracts of land brought within the sphere of agricultural, or even pastoral, operations, 387 unless we allow individual ownership, even on a scale which is found afterwards to be objectionable.
MR. J. MORLEY
Well, let us listen first of all to experience. Sir William Robinson, the present Governor of Western Australia, and a Colonial Governor of much experience, has placed the matter very clearly before the Select Committee. He stated that it is impossible to start the colonies without making these squatter allotments. He said further—Pastoral occupation is the only occupation understood here, and we owe a large debt "of gratitude to those gentlemen who brought out their capital from England and took large tracts of land—and some of them, perhaps, hold them still. Without these large grants it may be said that Australia would not have arrived at the position she now occupies.
§ (9.35.) CAPTAIN BETHELL
I think the right hon. Gentleman came in after I had gone through part of my argument. I do not object to land being rented or leased at all, but my contention is that the revenues of the lands ought to be applied to Imperial purposes, rather than to the relief of local taxation.
(9.36.) MR. J. MORLEY
I am aware that I did not hear the whole of the argument of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I agree that the Revenues derived from the selling or leasing of these lands ought to be set apart for large purposes, but if the hon. and gallant Gentleman means that the proceeds of land sales or alienations in Western Australia ought to be in any way taken possession of for Imperial purposes at large outside the colonies, I cannot assent to the principle. Practical difficulties ought not to be lost sight of in carrying out theoretically sound principles. I am not sure, however, that the Australian colonists have not learnt their lesson, and have not entirely set their faces against the alienation of large blocks of land. There, again, we have the evidence—which was not disproved by anyone who was called before the Committee—of Sir William Robinson, whose experience in some of the colonies has been very large. He told the Committee again and again that there had been a complete change in policy, and that the 388 tendency of Australian legislation is no longer to job away lands; on the contrary, Sir William Robinson said that great jealousy is now exercised. I have looked very closely at the line proposed to be drawn by the Amendment of my hon. Friend, and I think it to be a most fantastic line. He himself has changed it since it has been before the Committee, the most extraordinary proposal ever brought before the House of Commons. The House is engaged on a Bill for giving responsible government to a colony which desires to 'have the control of the land, and the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy proposes to take away from the colony all the land which is of the greatest value. His proposals would exclude first, the goldfields, which are possessions of the utmost importance. He talks about picking the eyes of the lands, but surely that would be picking the eyes of the lands which the colony can have the control over. Secondly, he would exclude the oldest settlements in the country; thirdly, the forests, and all the timber industry, which is of great magnitude now, and will be of greater in the future; fourthly, the port of Albany, at which the mail steamers call, and which is the centre of communication with the outside world; fifthly, the main lines of railway and the smaller tributary lines; and, finally, all the best land of the colony, both as to climate and rainfall. The hon. Gentleman's proposal would reduce the Bill to giving responsible Government to a community from whom you have taken all that which a colony most values. That is a thing which will not commend itself to anyone who inquires into the subject. It is asked why the Colonial Office should not reserve to itself the making or approving of land regulations for this tract of land north of parallel 26. I am not going to put before the House a long argument, but I will simply put before it for acceptance one or two considerations which were brought before the Committee. When you say that the Colonial Office is to make regulations for lands either north of 26, or any other sphere, what do you mean? With whose eyes are the Colonial Office seeing? It is clear that the Colonial Secretary would necessarily, in making these regulations, 389 have to take the advice of the Governor of Western Australia. No one in the position of Secretary of State could make specific land regulations without the advice of the Colonial Government. But who is the Government? The Governor is a man who is paid by Western Australia, and he is working every day with Ministers who are practically nominated by the Colonial Legislature. In such circumstances, is it possible that the Colonial Office could make a single regulation for those lands that is not approved by the Colonial Legislature, whoso Ministers will be constant and daily Colleagues of the Governor?
MR. J. MORLEY
Yes, but I am not sure that it is to the people of South Africa a particularly satisfactory arrangement, and I am sure it is not going to last. And it only obtains in one single province of South Africa. So much for the old Clause 4. So much for the idea which in some quarters was entertained a few weeks or months ago. So much for the idea that the Secretary of State at home should reserve for himself the power to make regulations for this great tract of land north of 26 or north of 2.3. Now, I should like to turn to the other suggestion, which has been made in the Press and reproduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy to-night—I mean that we should keep these lands in our own hands until there is a Confederation of Australia. My hon. Friend who opened the subject tonight, I must say—no doubt involuntarily—misrepresented what happened at the Australian Congress. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies has, perhaps, sufficiently pointed this out, but I should like to make it perfectly clear. What Mr. Deakin said was not what my hon. Friend apparently wished the House to believe, namely, that he approved, of all things, of the administration of the lands by the Federal Government. Mr. Deakin said nothing of the kind. What he said was that it would be better that they should be administered and governed by the Federal Authority than by the best Cabinet administrators that could be collected in London. Of course, Mr. 390 Deakin was in entire accord with the view of the majority of the Committee. Mr. Deakin, therefore, cannot be quoted as an authority for the view put forward by my hon. Friend, nor does Sir James Steer give any countenance to the contention of my hon. Friend. The Blue Book is as good evidence as we can have that those who are most in favour of Australian Federation are most opposed to our retention of these lands in our own hands. In reference to federation, what position would Western Australia be in if she went into a Conference with a view to federation, and without having the control of her own lands? I say this—and I say it subject to the full criticism of those who know most—if there were such a Conference, and if the Colonial Secretary urged Western Australia to adopt federation, the answer would undoubtedly be, "You want us to federate. Give us back our own lands, so that we can go into the Conference on equal terms with the other colonies." Of course, hon. Gentlemen can see for themselves that if they want Western Australia to go on fair terms into a Federation Conference, Western Australia must be in a position to make a bargain. I am reminded that Mr. Parker, the leader of the Opposition in the Federation Conference, stated in his evidence—I do Dot think that Western Australia would ever dream of entering into federation until she had the entire control of her own lands.I submit that to Gentlemen who are in favour of an Australian Confederation there is one more objection to the Amendment from a federation point of view. I would point out that the subtraction of these lands from Western Australia, and the proposal to transfer them to a Federal Authority is incompatible with, that policy of immigration and emigration of which my hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Rathbone) is presently going to speak. Depend upon it that the Federal Authority will not allow you to make your own emigration arrangements, and will be much less likely even than the Western Australian Government to do so. Therefore, when you say, "Reserve these lands with a view ultimately to handing them over to a Federal Authority," you make a pro- 391 posal which will be most fatal to your favourite wish of reserving those lands and putting a certain population upon them. There is no proof so far that the lands in Western Australia have been jobbed. The Western Australians are like other Englishmen, and Irishmen, and Scotchmen, they do not sit content under oppression, and we may take it for granted that there is sufficient public opinion in Western Australia to make very short work of any attempt to job away these lands. We who sat on the Committee went into the land regulations. They are recorded in the Report submitted to this House, and I venture to say they are regulations to which the extremest Radical, short, of course, of a land nationaliser, could take little exception. They seem to me, and I think to most Members of the Committee, to have been framed with the utmost care to prevent that accumulation of land, very often under bogus titles of occupation, which has had some bad results in other colonies, and I daresay would have bad results in Western Australia. The Committee went very carefully into the whole question, and came to the conclusion that the suggestion that the Secretary of State should regulate these lands was a most hopeless one, especially with regard to the gold-fields. It was made wonderfully clear to the Committee that auriferous lands require constant and minute power from month to month of varying regulations, and it would be quite hopeless to subject them to the delays of the Colonial Office—although, no doubt, such delays are no worse in the Colonial Office than in other Government Departments. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy says it takes a month to get from Perth to some of these lands. But there is a telegraph, and it is possible for a Minister sitting in Perth to vary a regulation in the course of half an hour or an hour.
§ *(10.0.) MR. SETON-KARR (St. Helen's)
I entirely agree with many of the arguments that have been put forward by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, although it is not often that we find ourselves in agreement. I was one of those who, in discussing this Bill before it went to a Select Committee, expressed a strong 392 opinion that the Imperial Government would not be justified in giving away this enormous territory to the entire control of a Western Australian responsible Government. I wish to say that, in spite of my desire to the contrary, I have entirely changed my mind. I am not a Member of the Select Committee, but I have read the evidence that was given before it, and have had the opportunity of meeting some of the Representatives of the colony—Sir William Robinson in particular—and I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to give Western Australia responsible Government without giving up to it the control of the land. The arguments of the right hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley) on the matter from the federation point of view are absolutely convincing. Another reason for giving up the whole of this territory to Western Australia is to be found in the nature of the land. A considerable part is not favourable to white labour, and it would, therefore, be almost useless to this country. I admit that it would be unwise for Great Britain to give up valuable lands that might be conveniently utilised by her for colonisation purposes hereafter, but these lands are not, for the most part, of that character; and if we keep them the only result will be to offend the susceptibilities of the colonists. It might turn out that it would be impossible to make proper use of these lands, and it seems to me we are bound, if we are going to give responsible Government to Western Australia, not to retain the land. Otherwise we shall be showing a certain amount of want of faith in the Government. As we are told by the West. Australian Representatives, they must be as anxious as we are to see that these lands are put to good use. They must be anxious to have colonists of a proper kind, and that will be a source of strength to the country. They would do everything in their power to facilitate any colonisation of the kind. On the other hand, supposing we want to colonise land, I do not see how we can carry out any colonisation scheme in the face of the opposition of the responsible Government of Western Australia. It seems to me, therefore, that we may as well do the thing with 393 a good grace and a free hand. From the federation standpoint, from the practical standpoint, from the standpoint of those who believe in the good faith of the responsible Government of Western Australia, I am in favour of giving them the whole of this territory, large as it may seem; and I am strengthened in that view by seeing that we shall have, under Clause 6 of the Bill, some future control over a portion of the land if occasion arises for anything of the kind. I believe we shall subsequently have an Amendment moved with regard to the emigration clauses. I shall listen with interest to what may be said on that point, and, in the meantime, I shall vote against this Amendment.
§ *(10.8.) MR. G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
I am not surprised that the Amendment has not been understood by my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Wodehouse), for I confess that even with the light thrown on it by his speech to-night I do not understand, and I do not think the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy does himself understand it. But I really must protest against the unjust way in which my hon. Friend has spoken of the proceedings of the Committee. I have sat on about as many Select Committees as most Members, and I can say with confidence that there never was a Committee which did its work more thoroughly. We sat on 12 different occasions, examined nine witnesses, and asked about 3,900 questions, of which my hon. Friend (Sir George' Campbell) put his full share, and we were practically unanimously agreed as to the conclusions at which we arrived. The Bill, as originally framed, proposed to reserve all the land North of the 26th parallel, but it was found that that would be a great mistake, because it would be retaining land that was absolutely useless and giving away all that was valuable. It would also have involved this country in the vexed question of Chinese or Asiatic labour, without which the land reserved could not be cultivated. But now the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy proposes to reserve the best part of the colony, and to give over to the colonists the worst part. I need hardly say that that is really trifling with the colonists 394 of West Australia. They have asked for broad, and it is proposed we should give them a stone. It is proposed we should reserve the Fort of Albany for ourselves. That is a mere idle proposal. It will be futile if we give the colony responsible Government. It is quite clear that the Colonial Office, in such matters, has been and will be guided entirely by the opinion and the action of the Governor, and that Governor will be guided by the action of his responsible advisers. I wish hon. Members to bear in mind that the Select Committee was a strong Committee. It was composed of men who went into the committee-room with perfectly open minds, and who came to what was practically a unanimous conclusion. When the hon. Member was challenged, he did not venture to put the Committee to the trouble of a Division on tins point. It does seem to me that if we are to go over all these matters again without trusting to the decision which was come to by the Select Committee who heard and weighed the evidence, there is not much use in hearing a Select Committee at all. I sincerely hope the Committee will shortly proceed to decide the question.
§ *(10.15.) MR. WODEHOUSE
I entirely agree with what has been urged by the right hon. Members for Newcastle and East Denbighshire, and it is unnecessary for mo to repeat their arguments; but as the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy made direct references to me in the course of his speech, I must say a word. I take no exception whatever to those references, because they were most kindly and friendly, but I cannot subscribe to all that he said without some reserve and qualification. He spoke of mo as tainted by my experience of the Colonial Office with a conviction of the incapacity and incompetency of that Office. To this I cannot for a moment assent. Although my connection with the Colonial Office was brief, and by no means important, I may be allowed to say that my experience there led me to believe that the permanent staff of the Office were specially capable and efficient. Mistakes have, no doubt, been often made by the Colonial Office, but they have not, in my opinion, been due so 395 much to the traditions of the Office and the incompetency of its permanent Staff as to vacillations in colonial policy, caused by deference to passing phases of public opinion and the pressure of Parliamentary exigencies. Nothing is more fatal to efficiency of administration than a vacillating policy. If I were asked to adduce the latest illustration of a blunder made by the Colonial Office from deference to a passing gust of public opinion I should mention Clause 4 of this Bill in its original form—a clause introduced into it, as I believe, against the better judgment of the Colonial Office. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy referred to my inability to understand his Amendment, as evidence of the hurry with which this Bill was hurried through the Select Committee [Sir G. CAMPBELL: This Amendment.] It is hardly fair to cite my inability to comprehend his Amendment as a conclusive proof of the hurry with which it was disposed of, because, although it is perfectly true that my inability to understand the Amendment may have been due to the limitations of my own intelligence it may also have arisen from the imperfection of the hon. Member's exposition. Though I may not have comprehended the full and precise scope of the hon. Gentleman's Amendment, I did understand that he proposed to reserve some of the land in the Southern part of Western Australia, and I thought it unnecessary to linger on that point, because it was clear from ah the evidence we had before us that any reservation of lands in the Southern districts would be absolutely fatal to the establishment of responsible Government. I believe there is no desire in any quarter of the House to withhold responsible Government from Western Australia, but the acceptance of such an Amendment as this would, I am sure, be fatal to the end and object of the Bill. It seems to me that an arrangement by which we should reserve lands for the control of the Secretary of State, and yet allow the responsible Government of the Colony to extend its administration over those reserved lands, would be quite unworkable. The power reserved would be ineffective for any good Imperial purpose, while it would provoke constant 396 irritation in the colony. If you want to reserve lands and have full control of them, do not leave them to be administered by the responsible Government, but create a Crown Colony, which would be under the entire control of the Colonial Office. Upon that Office Parliament can always make its authority and influence felt. But the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy contains no such proposal. It proceeds on the lines of Clause 4 of the original Bill; but makes a reservation infinitely more distasteful to the Colonists than the reservation made by that clause, and all the evils attaching to it would be multiplied tenfold by the Amendment of the hon. Member. There is no precedent for a reservation of waste lands on the grant of responsible Government to a colony; and Western Australia could regard it as a special mark of undeserved suspicion and distrust.
§ (10.25.) SIR. CAMPBELL
That has happened which I rather apprehended would happen, and that is, hon. Members have different plans and are not able to agree. I seem to have failed to make my plan intelligible. It is a geographical plan, and if any Member chooses to take up a map and mark out what I propose to reserve, he will have no difficulty in understanding my suggestion. But I quite admit this is a proposal which cannot well be thrashed out in the House. It might have been thrashed out in Committee, if the Committee had given their attention to it, but they objected ab initio, and I had no opportunity of discussing the matter. Perhaps I should be better advised if I took a Division upon the whole clause, rather than upon an Amendment which no one has understood. But let me say a word. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] I think it is scarcely consistent with fair play when I have been hit all round that I should not be allowed to say a word in my own defence. It has been said that my plan will deprive the colony of the gold mines. My objection to that is, that there are no considerable active gold mines at this moment. There are spots marked yellow on the map, but at the present time there are no very active gold mines. I think that it is not an unreasonable proposal to reserve the 397 Albany country from the control of the people of Perth, and keep the land for future colonisation.
§ (10.29.) MR. MORTON
I object to this land being given up to jobbers and speculators. We seem to have been deserted by the Front Opposition Bench. I do not know why, but it is so. And now we are told, on the authority of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, that the question was not fully discussed in Committee. On the other hand, we are told by the Members of the Front Opposition Bench that this matter was discussed and considered by a Select Committee, and that, therefore, we ought not to consider it here. Why is it brought here at all if we are not to consider it? I think we ought to consider it line by line.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ (10.30.) The Committee divided:—Ayesl83; Nocs41.—(Div. List, No. 166.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That those words be there inserted," and negatived.
*(10.47.) MR. CRBMER
I think hon. Members will believe me that I have not the slightest desire to waste the time of the House after the long Debates which have taken place upon this Bill. But I cannot help moving the following Amendment, which raises what is to me a vital principle:—Page 2, Clause 3, line 24, after the word "of" to omit the words, "the sale, letting, and disposal thereof including.And at the end of the Clause to add the following words:—Provided always the Legislature of Western Australia shall not dispose of otherwise by letting the lands, royalties, mines, and minerals of the aforesaid colony.If the Amendment which has just been negatived proved so very objectionable to many Members, I fear my Amendment, which is of a more drastic character than the proposal of the hon. Member for Kirk- 398 caldy, will be still more so. I have been very much amused at the support which has been given to this Bill by Members of the Front Opposition Bench. To me the attitude which they have taken is mysterious. We do not usually find them countenancing and supporting the Government, and enabling them to pass their measures, and it is a matter of curiosity with me to know why, on this particular question, Members of the Front Opposition Bench should have gone out of their way to support this Bill, some of the provisions of which are absolutely objectionable to many Members sitting behind them. It has been urged that this Bill should be passed as speedily as possible, and that before many years have passed the objectionable clauses will be swept away. But what will happen while the sweeping-away process is going on. It was stated the other night that for 12 years no organic change could take place in the Constitution of Western Australia. Why, long before 12 years have elapsed all the land will have been snapped up by those who are promoting this Bill, and by a handful of men who will profit by and find seats in the Legislature of the colony. Being at a loss to understand the eagerness to pass the Bill, I looked for a reason in the Bill itself, and I found it in Clause 3. If this clause had not been incorporated in the Bill we should probably nave heard very little about the Constitution of Western Australia. Clause 3 is the kernel of the whole question; and I object to it because it confers on a Legislature elected under a restricted suffrage the power of disposing of millions of acres of land with all mineral wealth and royalties. It does seem to me extraordinary that, while we protest against the appropriation by the few of the royalties of this country, we should hand over to 44,000 people, at the outside, the control of a territory as large as the half of Europe, if not larger. Out of the 44,000, I believe there will be only about 6,000 electors. It is, therefore, to 6,000 men, then, that you propose to hand over the control of an enormous territory. It is because I object to your doing so, and because I object to reproducing in the 399 new world the evils of the old world, that I move this Amendment. It is clearly the real object of the promoters of the Bill to get hold of the waste lands of Western Australia. It is proposed to hand over to the Legislature of Western Australia the power to dispose of, or to let those lands, and if any evidence be needed, there is plenty at hand as to the folly and iniquity of this proposal. In support of this clause, evidence was supplied in the able speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo, whom no one has attempted to controvert, although several Members have sneered at him since he delivered it. [An hon. MEMBER: He supported the Bill.] Yes; the hon. Member supported the Bill because an appeal was made to the Irish Members to support it, on the ground that it was based upon Home Rule, and the result of that appeal is that scarcely any Irish Members have been found on these Benches during this evening, they having apparently been deluded by the statement that the Bill contains the principle of Home Rule. It may contain the sham principle of Home Rule, but I would put it to the Irish Members, whether they would accept a Home Rule Parliament elected by a restricted franchise and a property qualification for Members. I, for one, would vote against any such proposal, which I should regard as anti-progressive and anti-democratic. And I am surprised that the Irish Members have been deluded by the appeal made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle that they should assent to this Bill, because it contains the principle of Home Rule. The Bill proposes to hand over to a Legislature, constituted as it must be almost exclusively of men of property, the power to deal with the whole of the land, amounting to many millions of acres, in Western Australia. What, I ask, about the poor people of that colony? What about their power to direct the affairs of the Legislature and to check the land grabbing and land jobbing which will inevitably take place when this Bill is passed. It is all very well to tell us that in a few years the evils which the Constitution contains may be remedied, but long before that, long before the Legislature can be re-constructed on a democratic basis, the land 400 will have been practically swallowed up by syndicates, formed, I hope not in this country, although it has been whispered that there are men who have assisted in the promotion of this Bill, who are connected with syndicates which have passed the first stage of their existence, and only await the passage of this measure to assume a crystallised form. The Bill proposes, in addition to allowing the Legislature of Western Australia to sell or do just as it pleases with the waste lands, also to deal with the subject of mines, minerals, and royalties. I do not suppose there are many Members of this House who share my views with regard to mineral wealth and royalties, but I know there are large numbers out of doors—I believe a growing number—who do share the view I have long entertained, that to allow any individual, I do not care how he has become possessed of the surface of the earth, whether by fair means or foul—I am afraid in most instances it is by the latter process—to appropriate the whole of the mineral wealth underlying the surface, and because a beneficent Creator, or the forces of Nature, have provided enormous quantities of valuable minerals in the bowels of the earth, to call those minerals his own, and charge the community for every handful of coal, copper, iron, or tin, or whatever else can be got at and brought to the surface, is a monstrous proposition, and it is because this Bill contains so pernicious a proposal that I offer my strongest opposition to it. Hon. Members opposite smile, but those who have watched the signs of the times in regard to the land question, who have studied the questions that are being raised in regard to the nationalisation, or communalisation, or municipalisation, as some people term it, of the land will admit that there is an enormous force of public opinion gathering around this question, and that the people are gradually being educated up to the views I have expressed, so that at no distant day hon. Gentlemen opposite will have to face these views when presenting themselves before the electors of the country, and will not be allowed to slide into this House, as they have hitherto been doing, without having to encounter these questions. We are 401 often told when speaking of the evils of our system of land tenure that if we were going to begin again our opponents would be quite prepared to listen to our proposals, but that we ought to consider the enormous sum it would cost to buy up the landed interest of the United Kingdom. Well, we are going to begin in the case of Western Australia, and we propose at the starting-point that the Legislature shall not be allowed to produce in that part of the globe the evils which exist in such abundance in the adjacent colonies and in this country. If we make this start now the Western Australians will not be called upon in 20 or 30 years time to consider the problem which we have to face, how to get rid of the system of personal property in land, and how the money is to be raised to buy out the landlords. I am not surprised or frightened at the smiles of hon. Members at my suggestion. I have learned to live down ridicule. Twenty and more years ago I preached doctrines then received with derisive laughter; but I have seen those doctrines taken up and carried into effect by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. We protest against an enactment which will create in the new world evils of which we have bitterly to complain in the old world. We foresee the beginning of the evil, and are justified in registering our protest against it. Why this eagerness displayed on the two Front Benches to pass this Bill? I do not find any strong support in its favour elsewhere, and I do not think the Government can congratulate themselves on the halfhearted speeches made in its support by Members behind them. Why is there so much frantic eagerness displayed on the part of the two Front Benches to pass this Bill? It is mysterious to me, especially the deep anxiety on the part of the right hon. Member for Newcastle to get this Bill passed. I cannot help thinking that those who promote the Bill have been prospecting this part of the globe, and have looked with covetous eyes on the land occupied by the natives. They want, however, to prove that the natives have not been lost sight of in the bargain, because I notice that in Schedule C of the Bill the promoters try to throw dust in the eyes of the House, and the people of this country, 402 by appearing in the guise of a pious and philanthropic body of men, and by proposing that a sum of £5,000 shall be appropriated for the welfare of the "aboriginal natives." Why, in a few years, if these men are allowed to pursue their nefarious practices no "aboriginal natives" will be left. Wherever the white man and the native have come into contact, the latter has been driven back by the advance of the former, as is shown by the history of the United States and the colonies. The chances are, therefore, that the £5,000 will never be expended for the benefit of the natives, for the reason that before many years have passed they will have disappeared. The Bill is promoted by-landowners, or by those who are anxious to become so; and these men recognise in the passage of this Bill the readiest and the cheapest means of getting hold of land. I make my protest on behalf of the poor and the landless in that colony, who will be called upon to pay-in the future for the huge plunder which will be committed if the Bill passes in its present shape. It has been urged over and over again that no one intends to grab or job the land of Western Australia, and the idea that this is intended has been repudiated with scorn and indignation. My Amendment will test the sincerity of those hon. Members who take this view. If they are perfectly certain that it will be looked upon as an iniquitous thing to do to take land in this way, if they are certain that the promoters have no such desire or inclination, then why not pass my Amendment and make it impossible for it to be done? I do not charge anyone positively with intending to appropriate their neighbours' land, but I have a shrewd suspicion that Clause 3 is agreeable to those who have that object in view. I want to make it impossible, and if my Amendment is passed it will deprive the Legislature of Western Australia, or the promoters of this Bill, of the power to do that which the Bill proposes to confer upon them by Clause 3. The form in which the clause would run with my Amendment and addition would be as follows:—The entire management and control of waste lands of the Crown of the colony of Western Australia, and of the proceeds of all royalties, mines, and minerals, shall he vested 403 in the Legislature of that colony; provided always that the Legislature of Western Australia shall not dispose of, otherwise than by letting, such lands, royalties, mines, and minerals in the aforesaid colony.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 24, to leave out the words the "sale, letting, and disposal thereof."—(Mr. Cremer.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ (11.10.) BARON H. DE WORMS
The logic of the hon. Member's speech can be best gathered from the last sentence he uttered—that if the Committee are sure that this land-grabbing system will not take place they would make it impossible by accepting the Amendment. But if hon. Members are sure that this will not take place, of course, the Amendment is unnecessary. Indeed, there is very little in the speech of the hon. Member worth answering. The hon. Member has made a series of charges against those whom he chooses to call the promoters of the Bill. Who are they? The hon. Member has not been able to explain who the promoters of the Bill are. The promoters of the Bill are the people of Western Australia. But the hon. Member speaks of them as if they were a body of private individuals promoting a Bill for their own interests. In the name of the colonists, I repudiate, in the strongest possible terms, the accusations the hon. Member has chosen to level against them, without a shadow of foundation. Judging by the speech of the hon. Member, it is evident that he has not studied the subject in order to become master of it; for he speaks of this power of sale as if it were an innovation, introduced now for the first time, conferring this new Constitution. He does not seem to be aware that it exists in the Constitution of every one of the other Australian colonies. Is there any reason why it should not also be given to Western Australia? The hon. Member has read us a lecture, not very intelligible, upon his principles of land 404 nationalisation, but what it had to do with the Bill I am at a loss to imagine. Be that as it may, it is impossible that we can accept this Amendment. It simply means that while giving responsible government to Western Australia we should force the Government to await the assent of the Home Government before allowing them to deal with the lands under their control. Why, such a proposal is an insult to responsible government, and an insult to common sense. It is impossible for the Government to accept the Amendment, and I hope it will not be passed.
§ (11.12.) MR. NEVILLE (Liverpool, Exchange)
I confess that all along I have regarded the Bill with a considerable amount of misgiving, and that feeling has increased as I have listened to the Debate. I do not for a moment impute to those responsible for the Bill other than a desire to do the best for Western Australia, but it by no means follows that they are acting in the wisest way in the course they have taken. I cannot help thinking that the Bill in effect will be far more in the interest of land speculators and land syndicates than of the people of Western Australia. It is said that this Bill represents the formulated desires of the people themselves, but it appears that the measure has only been carried in the Council with the assistance of the nominated members. It is a serious task we are engaged in. This Bill proposes that this country should give up to a small population, of about 40,000 persons, the last bit of land that England possesses for the purposes of colonisation, and not even to that number, but in reality to about one-fourth of that number. It is a proposal that deserves very serious consideration, and I must say I am inclined to support my hon. Friend in restricting the control over this vast territory. It is said it is our duty to endorse the opinion of the colonists of Western Australia that this Bill should be carried into effect in its present shape, but I altogether join issue with this statement. How is it that this handful of 40,000 people have remained 405 in undisturbed possession of this enormous territory? Is it not because they have had the protection of the flag of England? We know that Germany has been seeking fields for colonisation, and does anyone suppose that but for the fact that these 40,000 persons in Western Australia have been backed up by England with its Military and Naval Forces, the emigrants could have held the colony against invasion and capture? Therefore, this country has paramount rights over the colony. If it were a question of giving territory to the people of Western Australia, I should feel very reluctant to interposing any obstacle in the way of the Bill, but we find that only a small minority of the people are concerned. The hon. Member for East ' Mayo (Mr. Dillon) has shown clearly the difficulty in which the people will be placed. Under the present proposed conditions, with a limited suffrage and qualification for representation, the Bill may be fitly described as a Bill for the creation of landlordism in Western Australia. Its effect will be to create a class of large landowners whose existence will be detrimental to the future of the colony. It is no answer to say that in a few years democracy will get the upper hand. Years hence it may be, and after a serious struggle, the people will find they have the shell, while someone else has walked off with the kernel. With these views as to the Bill, I shall certainly support the Amendment of my hon. Friend, though I may point out that the Amendment ought to limit the power of leasing to a certain number of years, since a lease of 1,000 years is practically the same thing as a sale.
§ (11.20.) MR. W. A. M'ARTHUR
There is one remark to be made to the hon. Member when he speaks of the power of England having protected Australia as part of the Empire. I can assure the hon. Member that if the Australian colonies still retain their connection with Great Britain it is largely because the principles which the hon. Member for Liverpool has just laid down have never been carried out by any English Parliament. The hon. Member for Haggerston has twitted us with not supporting the Front Bench; but I may say there are many 406 of us well qualified who would have been glad to take part in the Debate in support of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle had we not been anxious that the Bill should be passed quickly, and had not such an interminable time been occupied by one or two hon. Members in stating objections which have been stated and answered over and over again, both in the Committee and in the House. The entire weight of Australian opinion is on the side of the Government and of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle. On the other side are the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, an English lawyer, and a Representative of the English working men. What is the use of experience in the House, what is the use of Committees inquiring carefully into such questions if, after the best colonial opinion has been taken, it is to be deliberately set aside at the bidding of a few English Radicals, few of whom have been out of England in their lives. Now I think we who know the colonies, and are connected with the colonies, have some right to complain of the universal vituperation employed by the hon. Member for Haggerston. The hon. Member spoke of the connection between the two Front Benches. It is a pity that a question of Government and Opposition should be introduced at all into colonial questions, for all ought to be equally interested in the progress of the Colonies. Then the hon. Member spoke of the promoters of the Bill, and of their anxiety to grab land. To whom did the hon. Member refer? This is a monstrous insult levelled against the public men of Australia.
§ *MR. CREMER
It has been done repeatedly in other Australian Colonies, and we are warranted in supposing the same of this case.
MR. W. A. MARTHUR
These men are doing their duty to their constituents, to whom they are responsible. What does the hon. Member mean? He is a man without any colonial experience, and yet he calmly and deliberately makes a monstrous charge against Australian public men—a charge amounting to one of downright theft—without a tittle of evidence or a single 407 circumstance to justify it. That is not the conduct which will endear the English Radicals to the working men of Australia, at least if they think that the hon. Member represents the feelings of English working men. The hon. Member and others who have spoken are absolutely ignorant of the conditions under which land is obtained in Australia. They seem to think that anyone can go to Australia and take up some millions of acres and then come to reside in England until the land has greatly increased in value. But, as a matter of fact, the man who takes up land has to fence it and improve it, and fulfil many residential conditions, failing to fulfil which he loses his title to the land.
§ MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
We are anxious for information. Will the hon. Member permit me to ask him if in Western Australia a man takes a sheep run he is compelled to fence it and live there?
§ MR. W. A. M'ARTHUR
I never should have thought that anybody would object to land being taken for sheep runs. It is an excellent thing for the colony that as much land as possible should be taken in this way until it is available for purchase. You do not give the land to squatters, you simply let their sheep cross it. [An hon. MEMBER: With right of pre-emption.] The hon. Member for Haggerston has said that syndicates are already interested in the passing of the Bill in order to get up sales of land in Australia, and the hon. Member hinted that Members of Parliament were interested in the syndicates. Again, what does the hon. Member mean? Is this a charge of fraud not only against Members of the Western Australian Legislature, but also against Members of the House of Commons?
§ *MR. CREMER
All through the hon. Member has put words into my mouth which I did not use. I did not say that hon. Members of this House were interested in promoting these syndicates. I object to the hon. Gentleman misinterpreting the language which I employed. I merely said that there were rumours 408 or whispers which I and others had heard.
MR. W. A. MARTHUR
I never said the hon. Member accused Members of this House of being members of these syndicates. I repeated what the hon. Member said, that there were syndicates interested in the passing of the Bill, in order to have the advantage of it.
MR. W. A. MARTHUR
Then the hon. Member insinuated it. If this honest Representative of the English Radical working man thinks he improves his position by that, he is welcome to the opinion, and I am glad I have given him the opportunity of making the correction. I venture to say I am quite sure that I am speaking the sentiments of the Radical working men of my constituency, who are much more likely to take their views and facts about Australia from one who was born there, and who has worked there for many years, than from irresponsible persons who get their information out of books and newspapers. I do not believe the Committee will say all these, our fellow-subjects in Australia, are thieves together promoting this Bill in order to divide the land and grow rich together. I do not believe the Committee is prepared to take that view, and to make Western Australia a sort of Cinderella among the colonies. If we are going to give self-government to Western Australia let us give it with both hands, not in a grudging, niggardly spirit. Let us not say we do not trust the colonists to act fairly with these lands. I trust that the House will disregard this and every other Amendment, and pass the Bill as it stands.
§ (11.30.) MR. STOREY
I am in sympathy with my hon. Friend, and say with him, "Australia for the Australians." But I venture to think that, though he is usually one of the most genial of men, he has imported into this discussion a certain amount of personal feeling which was entirely unnecessary. My hon. Friend the Member for Haggerston may in the course of his lengthy speech 409 have said one or two things to which exception might be taken; but if we eliminate the personal element, what is it we have to consider? Will my hon. Friend, who was born in Australia, deny that most of the difficulties which have arisen in other Australian colonies have sprung from the fact that the original land legislation was bad I Under the legislation which our forefathers unfortunately permitted, great grants of land were made to a limited number of persons, with the evil result that the people at large, and especially the working classes, were for years and years prevented acquiring land. I put it to hon. Members and to the House that if the land legislation of the colonies in the past has been bad, we ought now to enable Western Australia to start on a better basis. I say it is the business of this Committee to seize the present opportunity of doing this. Of course, I admit that the right hon. Baronet in charge of this Bill is as innocent of syndicates as I am. I admit, too, that my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle is as innocent of syndicates as he is of sin. In fact, I would not impute to any Member of this House that he has any personal object to serve by supporting this Bill. I do not think that that enters into the question at all. I put it to the House that the system of land legislation in Australia in the past has been bad, and the Amendment of my hon. Friend is a step in the right direction, since, while it would promote the letting of the land, it would retain the legal estate in the land in the authority of the Parliament of the colony. We hold that that would be a good thing. How thankful should we be in this country if, under our land system, we could make great reforms! I submit that, under Clause 3 as it stands, it will be competent for a limited number of persons to become owners of large tracts of land in Western Australia. What would prevent it?
§ MR. STOREY
If my right hon. Friend will agree to put in a clause referring the settlement of this to the colony when it has representative 410 Government, I am at one with him. But so far as my experience goes, and I have not been in Australia, although I have personal and practical reasons for knowing what has been the result of past land legislation there, it has been bad, and in my opinion, the inevitable effect of this Bill will be to cause large quantities of land to pass into the hands of a limited number of persons. I shall consequently support the Amendment.
§ (11.40.) DR. CLARK
When my hon. Friend says that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Haggerston is absurd and that nothing of the kind which he has suggested has ever taken place in our colonies, I must differ from him. I remember that this very same difficulty occurred in New Zealand, and an election was fought on the question. I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Haggerston has exaggerated the matter at all. As far as land jobbing is concerned, there are plenty of examples of it in a Return which has been furnished to the House, for it shows that individuals and companies own blocks of land ranging from 5,000,000 of acres downwards, the largest being the Bank of New South Wales, with 5,000,000 acres.
§ DR. CLARK
They are leases, but they are practically freeholds. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh has stated that, as far as Victoria is concerned, the matter has been settled fairly well, but the right hon. Gentleman must know that it was only after two absolute deadlocks had occurred that a compromise was arrived at.
§ *MR. CHILDERS
I did not refer at all to the land policy of Victoria; but solely to the constitution of the two Houses.
§ DR. CLARK
The contention was then, as it is now, that the squatting element and land jobbers jobbed away the land, and prevented the people from 411 getting on it. I contend that this Amendment will prevent a great many of the evils that might result from the constitution of a new Assembly with a freehold qualification for members.
§ *(11.48.) MR. CUNINGHAME GRAHAM
I wish to say a few words on this question, although it has been discussed at such enormous length. The question seems to me to turn upon the point whether the House, with the evils of the land system in this country before it, should give the land in this enormous colony in perpetuity to the squatting class, or whether it should insist upon the land being reserved for the whole community, and the power to deal with it vested in the hands of a popularly-elected Assembly. Under the Bill it is proposed to give power to dispose, at one fell swoop, not only of lands, but of mines and mineral royalties. That this proposal should be made is astonishing, knowing, as the Government must, that the royalty system is the curse of the industry of Great Britain, and has so seriously hampered it in the competition with Belgium, Germany, and other countries. And yet they are seeking to establish and perpetuate it in a country where hitherto it has been unknown. Let us, at least, leave the minerals alone, so that the inhabitants of the country may work them in the future unhampered by extortionate taxes. Some hon. Members have expressed astonishment at the apparent compact on this question between the two Front Benches. To me it is in no way astonishing, for, as far as I can see, the only division between the two Front Benches is the solid mahogany table between them, with its bauble and its books. This is almost the first time this Session that an opportunity has presented itself for discussing a real Democratic question, and it is desirable that the people should be placed in a position to know who are their friends and who are opposed to them.
§ (11.54.) Mr. SYDNEY GEDGE
rose in his place, and claimed to move "That the Question be now put," but the CHAIR- 412 MAN withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Debate resumed.
§ (11.55.) MR. P. MORGAN (Merthyr Tydvil)
I shall move to report Progress. I think that the Act in its present shape would be most reactionary. The colonies generally are limiting the areas of land that can be acquired by individuals or bodies of individuals, but this measure will sanction the acquisition of immense areas in Western Australia. I am not taking this step with a view of embarrassing the Government; on the contrary, I shall be glad to assist them in getting the Bill through. But I am interested in Australia, and I hold that the scheduled Act does not go far enough in giving representation to the people. I beg to move that Progress be reported.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Pritchard Morgan.)
§ *(11.57.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH,) Strand, Westminster
I hope that the hon. Member will not persevere with his Motion. The question before the Committee has been very fully discussed, not only this evening, but on other occasions. The real question to be determined is whether the colony is to have self-government or not. The Motion of the hon. Member, if not withdrawn, must seriously delay the progress of business.
§ (11.59.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 74; Noes 187.—(Div. List, No. 167.)
§ (12.10.) It being after midnight, the Chairman proceeded to interrupt the business: whereupon,
§ Motion made, and Question proposed "That the Question be now put."
§ House cleared for a Division.
MR. STOREY [speaking seated, with his hat on]
Mr. Courtney, we shall 413 be obliged if you will explain to us how it is that the First Lord of the Treasury can make this Motion after 12 o'clock?
THE CHAIRMAN [speaking seated]
The point of order has been explained, I think, a score of times, and will be probably followed many more times. When a Division is in progress at 12 o clock, the interruption of business is the close of the Division, and at that point it is possible to move the Closure.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ (12.14.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 186; Noes 75.—(Div. List,No. 168.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ (12.24.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 195; Noes 60.—(Div.List,No.l69.)
MR. P. MORGAN [speaking seated, with his hat on]
I wish, Sir, to call your attention to the fact that I have had an Amendment on the Paper for the last fortnight, and that I have been attending the House for a fortnight in order to bring it forward. It is an important Amendment affecting the welfare of the people of Western Australia.
THE CHAIRMAN [speaking seated]
It is entirely in the discretion of the Chair to estimate the value of Amendments so passed over. I believe the hon. Member is mistaken in supposing that the Amendment is not included in the Bill as it stands.
§ Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ (12.35.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 194; Noes54.—(Div.List,No. 170.)
§ Whereupon, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow.