§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN, Birmingham, W.)
In moving the Second Reading of this Bill I want to call the special attention of the House to the amendments which we have embodied in the Bill and which constitute the difference between our Bill and the Bill as it was originally presented to us by the delegates from Australia. I mentioned, in introducing the Bill,* that there were a certain number of drafting alterations of no serious importance to which the delegates had agreed, and I do not propose to refer to them again. They are very trifling in extent, and, as I say, of no serious importance. But there were two points of very considerable importance. The first was the application of the Colonial Laws Validity Act to the legislation of the Commonwealth Parliament.*For discussion on Introduction and First Reading of the Bill, see page 46 of this volume.758 We considered that a doubt had been created as to whether that would apply to the work of the Commonwealth. That doubt arises entirely from the introduction into the Commonwealth Bill of a definition of the word "colony" as "a colony or province," which seemed, therefore, specially to exclude "commonwealth." But having had the advantage of further discussion with the delegates, Her Majesty's Government and the delegates from Australia are now entirely agreed that the best way of meeting this difficulty and of removing any doubt will be to omit from the Bill the words defining a colony. When those words go out the doubt which they raised will cease to exist, and it will be unnecessary to make any further alteration. So far, therefore, as this point is concerned, we have come to a perfectly satisfactory agreement. Perhaps I ought to say here that when I speak in future of the delegates from Australia I refer specially to the delegates from New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania. It is well known that the delegate from Queensland differed from his colleagues in regard to the important point of the 759 appeal. The question of the right of appeal is undoubtedly one of very substantial importance, and I have explained the principles upon which Her Majesty's Government proposed to deal with it. I stated, in the first place, that we had come to the conclusion that, whatever our opinions might be as to the value or advantage of any particular provision in the Australian Bill, so long as it dealt exclusively with Australian interests, it would not be wise or desirable that the Imperial Parliament should interfere. We might make suggestions, as indeed we have made suggestions, but if they were not accepted on behalf of the Australian colonies we did not think it was our duty to interfere or to insist upon amendments against their settled convictions. On the other hand, I also ventured to lay down as an important principle that wherever the interests of Her Majesty's subjects outside Australia or of Her Majesty's possessions outside Australia or our relations with foreign countries were concerned—in those cases we were acting as trustees for the Empire, and we had a right to claim that the existing power of appeal should in no way be lessened or affected. I confess that in the discussion which I have had the honour of having with the delegates I have never seen that there was any very real difference of opinion between us. It is quite true that Clause 74 as it stood in the Bill violated the essential principle which I have laid down. It did propose to limit the right of appeal in cases in which other than Australian interests were exclusively concerned. But even in Clause 74 as it was originally drawn there was an exception made. The clause read—No appeal shall be permitted to the Queen in Council in any matter involving the interpretation of this Constitution or of the Constitution of a State unless the public interests of some part of Her Majesty's dominions other than the Commonwealth or a State are involved.It is perfectly evident to me from the introduction of those limiting words that the framers of the Constitution at the convention themselves recognised a distinction between matters which were Australian and matters which were extra-Australian. But the distinction in that clause did not go far enough. The phrase "public interest" was so ambiguous that 760 it rendered it uncertain whether the private interests of investors, for instance, or of any body of Her Majesty's subjects would be held to be the public interest of any portion of Her Majesty's possessions, and a very large class, therefore, of British subjects interested in Australia would be shut out from their full right of appeal by the clause as it was originally drawn. I pointed out, also, what perhaps from the Imperial point of view was of even greater importance, that questions of foreign relations which might arise in many subjects which were permitted to the Federal Parliament to legislate upon would also be excluded from all possibility of appeal to the Privy Council. It seemed to mo that that was a matter of so much importance to the United Kingdom especially and to the Empire at large that we could not, in consideration of the duty and responsibility imposed upon us, agree to the Bill as it stood in that respect. We endeavoured to meet these objections, which we ourselves felt, and to make what we believed was the intention of the Australian people and of their representatives more clear by amendments which have been embodied in the Bill and which are made certainly not in our interest alone, but in pursuance of that trusteeship to which I attach so much importance. I ventured to say, when I was introducing the Bill, that the proposal of these amendments by Her Majesty's Government was not likely to be in any way resented by the people of Australia. I repudiated altogether the notion that they would be construed as a flouting of their representatives or an open rebuff to themselves. I said there was no fear whatever, in my opinion, of any serious conflict between ourselves and our kinsmen in Australia, and that the discussions had been, and would be, conducted throughout in a friendly spirit. My confidence has been, I think, wholly justified. These proposals of ours have been before the people of Australia now for a full week, and anyone who has taken the trouble to read the reports which have come home to us will be convinced, as I am, that our proposals have been favourably considered in most cases, and in all cases generously considered, by the people of Australia. The evidence shows that the people of Australia recognise thoroughly the spirit in which we proposed these amendments, and that they ridicule the idea that any 761 insult was intended or was conveyed by these amendments; and they have shown their willingness to give the fullest consideration to those arguments which we have put forward in their support. But this treatment of the subject has not, I am glad to say, been confined to the people of Australia. The delegates to whom I have referred, and who, no doubt, differed from us in the first instance in regard to this matter, have treated it subsequently in precisely the same considerate spirit. They also have been willing to recognise that we have a duty thrown upon us which we cannot ignore, and they have endeavoured in every possible way to meet our wishes and to prevent any disagreement. No doubt they came to this country in the belief that they had a mandate to secure, if possible, the passage of this Bill intact; and I do not for a moment doubt that they would have preferred, if we had been able to agree with them, that the Bill should have been passed exactly as it was produced in Australia; but, finding that to be impossible, they have, as I have said, treated the matter in a most considerate spirit. They have discussed with us various methods of meeting the objections which we took to the original Bill, and, so far as the four delegates are concerned, I am happy now to be able to inform the House that we have come to an absolute agreement. This agreement follows exactly the principles I have laid down. That is to say, it leaves Australia absolutely free to take its own course where Australian interests are solely and exclusively concerned, and it makes provision in all other cases, in which other than Australian interests are concerned, that the right of appeal shall be fully maintained. The delegates pointed out to us that their desire, and what they believed to be the desire of the people of Australia, was that where differences arose as to the interpretation of the Constitution between two States or between any one State and the Federal Parliament, and where, therefore, Australian interests were exclusively concerned, they should have the right of dealing with such questions finally in Australia, and I at once admitted, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, that that was entirely in accordance with the principle which we had constantly laid down—that if it could be shown that in questions of that sort Australian interests were exclusively 762 concerned, we claimed no right whatever to interfere with their decision. Accordingly we have agreed to exclude that particular case from the clause in which an appeal lies to the Privy Council. But we asked that, inasmuch as experience has shown, in the case of Canada, that an appeal in such cases was valued by both parties, and that experience might show in Australia that it would be in the future a desirable thing to have a Court free from all prepossession, to which both parties could appeal, words should be inserted giving this right of appeal in every case in which both parties consent. The effect of this understanding will be that Clause 74 will be exactly reversed; that whereas, in the original clause, appeal was to cease in all cases except where the public interests of some portion of Her Majesty's dominions outside Australia were concerned, in the clause as we now propose to insert it an appeal will lie in every case, except in the cases where Australian interests alone are concerned. That, I think, is a form of clause which gets rid of practically every one of the difficulties which I anticipated when I referred to the original clause in introducing the Bill. There was another point to which we also took exception. It was a provision in the Bill which gave the Federal Parliament the right to pass laws amending or limiting the right of appeal. The delegates pointed out to us that this right is inherent in the powers of every Parliament in Australia. The Parliament of every single State in Australia has, in its general powers to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the country, the power, if it pleases, to make laws limiting the right of appeal, and that power is subject to the right of Her Majesty to disallow or to have reserved any Bill dealing with the subject. The delegates contended that, as their Constitution specifically refers to the subjects which alone can be treated by the Federal Parliament, it was necessary specifically to mention this subject, or else the Federal Parliament would have less power than the Parliaments of the constituent States. The reasonableness of that we fully acknowledged, but we felt that if we specifically gave this power by this Constitution we might be assumed to be giving away the right of reservation with regard to this subject. It appeared to us to be quite possible 763 that hereafter we might be accused of breach of faith if, when the Federal Parliament had legislated, we had reserved a Bill under the powers given to us in another clause of the Constitution. The House, probably, is aware what the power of reservation is. When an Act passed by a self-governing colony is reserved it is treated as a dead letter, and it does not come into operation at all unless in the course of the next two years Her Majesty formally signifies her assent. She has not, however, to announce her disallowance, or to veto the Act; she has only to refrain from allowing it. Now, the delegates have agreed that if the power to deal with the subject is maintained in the Bill there shall be added this proviso:—"Provided that in every such case such Act shall be reserved for Her Majesty's pleasure." So that, whereas all other legislation of the Commonwealth comes under the general rule that it may be reserved, if the Commonwealth should deal with this specific and delicate subject then the proviso is that it must be reserved, and, of course, Her Majesty's Government for the time being will have a full opportunity of considering what the nature of the legislation is and what advice they should give to Her Majesty in regard to it. I may say at once that these suggestions which have been worked out in the friendly discussions that have been going on entirely meet the views of Her Majesty's Government. They give us all that we ever asked for, and they have the enormous advantage of being equally satisfactory to the delegates of the colonies concerned. I have received this morning the following letter from the four gentlemen named—Whitehall Court, May 21st.Commonwealth of Australia Hill.Sir,—In relation to our interview of last Thursday, we have no hesitation in accepting your offer to substitute the amendments then discussed in place of the amendments at present proposed in the Bill, and thus secure its passage without further alteration. We thank you heartily for so far meeting our request that our Bill should be accepted with-out alteration.We have the honour to be, Sir,
§ your obedient servants,
§ "EDMOND BARTON.
§ "ALFRED DEAKIN.
§ "C. C. KINGSTON.
§ "P. O. FYSH."
I will read to the House the form in which the amendment with regard to the Court
of Appeal now stands, but I wish to guard myself against being supposed to be absolutely pledged to the exact words. All this business has had to be conducted under a certain amount of pressure, and it may be that, by mutual agreement, we may find that some alteration in a particular word may hereafter be necessary and desirable. As it stands it is as follows—
Appeal to the Queen in Council.—No question howsoever arising as to the limits inter se of the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth and those of any State or States, or as to the limits inter se of the constitutional powers of any two or more States, shall be capable of final decision except by the High Court, and no appeal shall be permitted to the Queen in Council from any decision of the High Court on any such question unless by the consent of the Executive Government of the Governments concerned, to be signified in writing by the Governor-General in the case of the Commonwealth and by the Governor in the case of any State.
Except as provided in this section this Constitution shall not impair any right which the Queen may be pleased to exercise by virtue of her Royal prerogative to grant special leave of appeal to Her Majesty in Council. Parliament may make laws limiting matters in which such leave may be asked, provided that any proposed laws containing any such limitation shall be reserved by the Governor-General for Her Majesty's pleasure.
I have spoken entirely of the four delegates, representing four colonies, whom. I have named. There are two other colonies that were concerned in this matter. One is Western Australia, which has not, of course, up to the present time agreed to enter the federation, but to whose Parliament and people the question is very shortly to be put. From the officer administering the Government of Western Australia I have received the following—
In reply to your telegram from Mr. Barton, forwarded to my responsible advisers through the Premier of New South Wales, my responsible advisers prefer the amendments proposed by the Imperial Government to those suggested in the telegram of Mr. Barton. They consider that there should be no power in the Federal Parliament of limiting matters of appeal to the Queen in Council, and are of opinion that in all matters there should be a right of final appeal to one tribunal for the whole Empire.
I communicated, of course, to Mr. Dick-son, the delegate of Queensland, the proposals which had been made, and which appeared to Her Majesty's Government to be satisfactory. He telegraphed accordingly to his Government, and he has
received from them, late this afternoon, the following reply—
Do not approve of modifications suggested by Mr. Barton in Imperial amendments. Our great anxiety with regard to the retention of the plenary appeal to the Privy Council has been to ensure that constitutional disputes shall be referred to an impartial tribunal free from local bias. It is out of the question that the successful party in the Federal Court would consent to appeal to Privy Council. Hope Secretary of State for Colonies' original proposal will be given effect to; public opinion within colony strongly in favour of it.
Of course it is evident from these two; telegrams that the two colonies concerned greatly prefer our original proposal. We appreciate very much this support of the views which we expressed. We have not altered those views in the slightest degree. We think that in the interests of Australia herself it would be most desirable that the plenary right of appeal should be preserved, but we cannot, in accordance with the principle to which we have committed ourselves—namely, not to interfere where exclusively Australian interests are concerned—we cannot take sides with the two colonies as against the four. If even yet it were still possible to persuade the representatives of the four colonies to make a further concession, nothing would give greater pleasure to Her Majesty's Government. But that is a matter which, in our view, must be discussed between the colonies themselves. Probably it would be better discussed by them in Australia, and we shall be prepared to register their decision, whatever it may be. I hope that, after the statement which I have been able to make, the House will not think it necessary to delay the progress of this Bill by any considerable discussion. Immediately the Bill has passed a Second Heading, I propose to lay upon the Table the form which the amendments will take in order to carry out this agreement. I hope that its very early passage may then be confidently anticipated. I hope that the Bill will be passed unanimously, and I firmly believe that in that case, even without any such further alteration as Queensland and Western Australia desire, the House may pass the Bill with the full conviction that in sanctioning the union of Australia they have in no way impaired or weakened the unity of the Empire, and we shall be able to contemplate the consummation of this great achievement without the slightest drawback to the pride
which we feel in the wisdom and the patriotism of our Australian kinsmen.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Secretary Chamberlain.)
§ * MR. ASQUITH (Fifeshire, E.)
I cannot but express the gratification which I am sure will be shared not only by the people of this country, but by Her Majesty's subjects throughout the length and breadth of the Empire, at the welcome but not wholly unexpected announcement which the right hon. Gentleman has made. This is not an ordinary occasion. This is a measure which transcends by reason not only of its intrinsic importance but of the influence which its adoption must exercise on the future of the Empire—a measure which, I venture to say, transcends in interest and magnitude almost any legislative proposal of our time. Therefore it would have been unfortunate if it had not been most cordially welcomed by all sections of opinion in this country, and received the unanimous assent of all parties in this House. The several Australian States have grown from infancy to manhood almost within living memory. Each of them has developed a character and individuality of its own. All alike have contributed to the strength and vitality of the Empire. But the Australian Commonwealth, the Commonwealth of the future, is a whole which we believe is destined to be greater than the sum of its component parts, and which, without draining them of any of their life, will give to them, in their corporate unity, a freedom of development, a scale of interests, a dignity of stature which, alone and separated, they could never command. This great constitutional instrument, itself a most characteristic product of the methods and spirit by which the English-speaking races work out for themselves their own political salvation —this great constitutional instrument was certain, as I have said, to receive, as it has received, a cordial welcome from all shades of opinion in this country. During the last few weeks it has appeared as though that welcome might be marred by one discordant note. But I am sure I am speaking the unanimous opinion of this House when I say that we all rejoice that, by a wise exhibition of tact on the one side and the other, whatever 767 differences may have emerged are now forgotten in a settlement which reflects equal honour on the Colonial Secretary and the Australian delegates, and that this great fabric, which has been so skilfully and laboriously built, may now be launched without friction or delay on a voyage in which it will carry with it, not only the fortunes of the Commonwealth, but the hopes of the Empire. After the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has made it would be only a waste of time to pursue in any detail matters which have been the subject of controversy during the last few weeks. At the same time, I do not think it would be right to let the occasion pass without saying one or two words—which, as far as I am concerned, will not be couched in a controversial spirit—both on the character of the difficulties which have arisen and the nature of the settlement by which they have now been happily overcome. I accept to the full, and I believe everyone in the House accepts, the two canons which the right hon. Gentleman laid down last week, and has repeated to-night, as to the principles which should govern the action of Parliament in a matter of this kind. What are they? On the one hand this Bill—being as it is the mature outcome of nearly a generation of agitation and discussion; having run, as it has, the gauntlet of debate in the representative Conventions and in the Legislatures of the separate colonies; having been, finally, solemnly ratified by the voice of the vast majority of the Australian people—comes before us with the almost overwhelming presumption that it represents their deliberate judgment on the form of their future government. That is a presumption which ought not to be lightly displaced. On the other hand, I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman that we, in this Imperial Parliament, are by the necessities of the case the ultimate custodians and trustees of Imperial interests; that that; is a duty we cannot abdicate without being false to the mandate which sent us here; and, however wide and authoritative may be the representations made to us from any part of the Empire, we are bound to interfere—we have not only a right, but a duty to interfere—if those plans should be inconsistent with the welfare of other parts of the Empire, or offer menace or danger to our Imperial interests. As to the cogency of those two principles, I do 768 not think there is the slightest difference of opinion in this House. But, again, there must be clear and unmistakable proof that proposals which have received the unanimous assent of a large section of the Empire (such as these proposals have received) are inconsistent with Imperial interests, before the Imperial Parliament would be either disposed, or think it its duty, to interfere. As we know, traces of such danger have been discovered, in the case of this Bill, in the 74th clause in the form in which it was passed by the people of Australia, and in which it was originally presented to us. Expressing my own opinion, which, I think, is widely shared, I say those dangers have, in my judgment, been greatly exaggerated in some quarters. I am not complaining of the action of the Government, because I think they were bound, by the necessities of their position and by the duty they owed to the country, to exercise a most scrupulous and, if I may use the phrase without offence, an almost jealous vigil ance before, on their authority, they submitted them to the Imperial Parliament. But there has been in some quarters a certain amount of unnecessary exaggeration. In my judgment if there ever were any danger—I do not myself think there is—of the people of Australia using the powers given to them by this Act in a manner hostile or injurious to the interests of any other part of the Empire, this danger would arise far more from the clauses that confer legislative powers upon their Parliament than from the clauses which confer the power of interpretation upon their Courts. I am not saying that these dangers are real dangers, but the right hon. Gentleman in his speech last week instanced in his category of subjects in which possible injustice, or at any rate disagreement, might arise, maritime jurisdiction, the Pacific Islands, foreign enlistment, and external affairs. These are all among the cluster of subjects as to which the power of legislation is given to the Federal Parliament of the future, and, in my judgment, we are, on the whole, better protected against any possible abuse of those powers by the right which is conferred upon the face of the statute itself upon the Imperial Government either to veto, or still more to reserve them for Her Majesty's approval, than by any provision limiting the powers of the Courts, or 769 providing for appeal on questions of interpretation. It is quite obvious that you may have a statute as to the interpretation of which no Court could be in doubt, and the 74th Clause would be no protection to Imperial interests in the case of a statute of that kind, whereas the power given to the Government to reserve it before it received approval is an ample and sufficient safeguard against any danger of that sort. That being so, may I add that I am one of those who look forward to the constitution of a real Imperial Court of Supreme Appeal, a Court not to be forced on the colonies against their will, but a Court of such character, having such attributes, as would appeal to every part of the Empire, and under such arrangements that the prerogative of the Crown and leave to appeal to the Queen in Council upon fit questions and upon proper conditions would not be regarded as a fetter that would be dangerous, but as a safeguard to liberty. I think that the House will agree—and the matter is not foreign to the discussion on this Bill—that the constitution of such a court is desirable, not in order, as is sometimes stated, to have a uniform interpretation of the laws of the Empire. You cannot have a uniform interpretation of diverse systems of law. One of the great glories of the Roman Empire was that the system of jurisprudence which we know as the Roman law extended in its application practically throughout the Empire. Napoleon will be remembered by the only beneficent act of his life which remains, and which still influences the lives and the actions of the vast Continent of Europe over which his dominion was once overspread. Napoleon, by sweeping away all the separate systems of local law which prevailed in Europe, and substituting the Code Napoleon, with its comparative simplicity and reasonableness, did undoubtedly introduce a uniformity of law throughout his empire. That has not been the method of the British Empire. Our method has been totally contrary. We have always proceeded on the principle of jealously preserving and maintaining local laws and usages. Go into the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council for a single week and watch its operations. You will see it deciding on one day a question according to the Roman Dutch law; on another question the same according to the French law 770 as it prevailed before the Revolution modified by subsequent Canadian statutes; and on another day according to the common law of England as modified by Australian or New Zealand legislation; and at the end of the week according to the customs of the Hindu or Mohammedan law. It is one of the great glories of our jurisprudence and one of the great links that have kept our Empire together that our Courts have maintained, most jealously and scrupulously, the integrity of those different systems of law which conform to the historical traditions and local necessities of the different parts of the Empire, and have prevented, as far as they can, any filtration of ideas from a foreign source of law which might permeate and corrupt another system. It is not because we want a uniform interpretation of law that we desire this great Imperial Court, but because we wish there to be here, at the centre of the Empire, a Court so authoritative and weighty from its composition and the attainments of its members that all our different colonies and dependencies, when questions arise, such as are certain to arise even in Australia among the different States that constitute the Commonwealth, will look upon it as a tribunal of unsuspected impartiality and possessing that authority which no local Court, of however high a character, could attain to. I am certain the constitution of such a tribunal as that will be one of the best links by which we can maintain the unity of the Empire as a whole. But it is only fair to our Australian fellow-subjects to say that, at the time when this Bill was framed and submitted to the judgment of the Australian people, not only was no such Court in existence, but, so far as we know, there was no such Court contemplated. If they had at that time a knowledge that it would form a part of the scheme of the Government or the Imperial Parliament to constitue a tribunal of that kind, I doubt whether Clause 74 would ever have appeared in the Bill. It is said you have the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. I desire to speak with the utmost respect of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. It would be invidious to mention the names of living members, but I do think that an opinion upon any question of law to which the late Lord Herschell and the late Lord Watson assented is as likely to be right 771 as any proposition can be, in a sphere in which there is so much of what used to be termed "contingent" matter as the field of practical jurisprudence. But for some reason or other the Committee of the Privy Council have been very little resorted to by our Australian fellow-subjects. The Attorney General gave us the other night the figures, and I think there is something less than an average of twenty cases in the year; and when we remember what Australia is, its area and population, the growing complexities of its industrial and commercial interests, and, above all, that healthy zeal for the pursuit of justice according to law, which is engrained in the British temperament, and not changed by sky or climate —putting all these things together, it does show, in my judgment, a certain want of confidence in the tribunal, a certain disinclination to resort to it, that we find appeals from Australia so few year after year. I believe that tendency will be reversed, and an exactly opposite current of feeling created, if such a change were made as I have ventured to suggest in my last few sentences. I come now to the difficulty alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman, and his method of solving it. I confess if I had been drawing up a Constitution for Australia I should very much have preferred to have loft this question of appeal as it was left in the Constitution of Canada, because it appears to me there is very good ground for the contention that a distant court removed from local prepossessions, and even, perhaps, from local knowledge, may be said on constitutional questions to be a more impartial arbiter. But I cannot see in the proposal Australia made and approved—namely, that they should keep their constitutional questions for home consumption, and not export them from time to time for decision in this country—I cannot see in that anything that in the least degree militates against our Imperial unity, or constitutes any danger to other parts of the Empire. I quite agree that the provision ought to be confined to matters purely Australian, and as I read the clause in its original shape that intention seemed to be given effect to; but if that intention is made more clear, as the right hon. Gentleman and his advisers think it is, and as the Australian delegates appear to believe it is, by reversing the form of the clause into an affirmative from a negative shape, I am 772 quite sure nobody will make the least objection to the change. There is one other point I think more serious—namely, the proposal to reserve to the Federal Parliament of Australia the power still further to limit the right of appeal to the Privy Council. That is a point on which, in my judgment, we were already sufficiently protected against any real grievance by the Governor's power of veto or reservation, as the case may be, expressed on the face of the statute. If, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, ambiguity has been suggested in the construction of the statute as a whole, so that it might be left open to the contention that the power of reservation does not apply to this case, I agree with him that it is most desirable and prudent to place it there in connection with the clause itself, so that we may avoid all future complications. What is the conclusion of the whole matter? I have come to the conclusion that there was never any very great gulf of difference between the opinions of the Government and the Australian delegates. I do not wish to use language of recrimination, and I have not, I think, indulged in it; but I think we must all regret— and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman more than any of us—that at the time when negotiations were going on in Australia, when proposals were submitted to the various Australian legislatures, discussed, and put to the referendum of the whole people—I am sure we must all regret that more attention was not paid to this particular point, and that what I am certain would have been a friendly and fruitful interchange of opinions, thereby avoiding misunderstandings, did not take place. I can quite understand, and I give the right hon. Gentleman full credit for it, that he may have felt indisposed to obtrude the Imperial factor into a purely domestic discussion, and that he may, perhaps, have been over-scrupulous in abstaining from anything even in the way of suggestion which might seem to bias the opinion of the Australian people or the Conventions. I have only to say in conclusion that I believe men of all parties in this House, now that these difficulties have been got rid of, will join in welcoming this measure as, perhaps, the most signal illustration in our history of the successful development of that process of reconciling local liberty with Imperial unity which is the strength and safeguard. of the British Empire.
§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON (Canterbury)
I simply desire, as one having considerable interests in Australia, to express my high gratification at the settlement of the question that has been arrived at. The arrangement will be received with great rejoicings throughout that important Southern land. Before concluding these brief remarks, I wish to compliment the Secretary of State for the Colonies on his tact and wisdom in inviting to this country the brilliant band of Australian statesmen—the delegates here—who not only have helped to arrive at an amicable settlement, but by their eloquent speeches have enlightened the people of this country on the resources of Australia, and its patriotic regard for the mother land.
§ * MR. BLAKE (Longford, S.)
I have heard with a glad heart the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies; for I was pained by the reflection that in the condition in which this question was left after the First Reading of the Bill, agreement on a question of transcendent importance should be marred by a seeming disagreement on a wholly insignificant point. The difference was almost microscopic when we analysed on the one hand the principles of action laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, and on the other hand the methods by which those principles were to be applied in dealing with this Bill, I think that, under the circumstances, it is our duty—at any rate I think it mine —to omit all consideration of how Clause 74 stood in the Australian draft, and how it stood in the Bill as introduced into this House, and, in fact, how it stands to day; because as it stands to-day I think that it has practically received the assent of Australia herself. If I may make an observation, it would be that there are one or two points in the view of expediency laid down by the Colonial Office in the course of the discussions with the Australian delegates in which I would have agreed with the Office, and questioned the arguments of the delegates, while there were many considerations in which I think the Colonial Office were wrong and the delegates right in these details. But I would add that while I was prepared to affirm, as I now affirm in the strongest sense, the absolute right of the Australian people to ask that there should be no appeal here in matters wholly internal and affecting their own constitution as between the 774 States and the Commonwealth, if they so please, I am not sorry that, by the free communications which have taken place, there have been elicited some slight modifications in the expression of that view in the Act of Parliament. I speak from experience; because I know that in the country whence I come, while a different set of circumstances obtains and there are different provisions, there is yet a written Federal constitution; and it was found with us that where bitter controversies had been excited, where political passions had been engendered, where considerable disputations had prevailed, where men eminent in power and politics had ranged themselves on opposite sides, it was no disadvantage, but a great advantage, to have an opportunity of appealing to an external tribunal such as the Judicial Committee, for the interpretation of the Constitution on such matters. Therefore I rejoice at two things: first of all, at the indication that there may be, under certain circumstances—I agree not very probable circumstances, for it is part of human nature to suppose that litigants successful in Australia would hardly consent that their action should be re-tried elsewhere —resort should be had to such a tribunal; | and, in the second place, that an increase in the effective strength of that tribunal is also recognised as essential. And so I pass away altogether from that phase which might have been, but for the settlement which has been arrived at, the centre of discussion; and I turn to that which has become—as, in my opinion, it ought always to have been—the only subject of debate here, the great work which has been achieved and its immediate and remoter possible future effects. Now, some words upon that larger aspect might reasonably be expected from these benches to-day. It is natural that we, the representatives of the great bulk of the Irish people, should desire to express our cordial congratulations to that large proportion of the population of Australia which is of our race and blood; aye, and to that still larger proportion of the population which, though not of our race or blood, has extended to us a steady and important sympathy in the interest of our Irish national aspirations—that we should extend our cordial congratulations to Australia at large, and especially to those Australians with whom we are kin, on the achievement of their great end. It is natural that we, the representatives of an 775 ancient nation, claiming here, though as yet failing to obtain, the recognition which is our due, should express our earnest good wishes for the unending duration and increasing magnitude and unmarred prosperity of that new nation which is to be recognised by the Act we are now passing. And we rejoice, we who some years ago accepted upon high invitation from this Island the federal system and principle as a plan for the settlement of the Irish question, as a plan for the substantial recognition of our nationality and freedom, consistently with the ideal of a united and reconciled Empire for common concerns —we, I say, who accepted that view, naturally rejoice upon every occasion on which, here or elsewhere, the federal principle receives striking exemplification and is successfully applied. We hope, indeed, that some day you will deal with Ireland, whose case is in some important aspects far easier, in the same spirit in which you have dealt with other communities. You have dealt with them in the full belief that local freedom means Imperial unity. I regret that at this moment, called auspicious for Ireland because of the Royal visit and the ordered wearing of the green, that at this moment, called auspicious for the Empire because it celebrates the inauguration of a new federal sister nation amongst the communities of the Empire in Australia— a nation founded by the wholesome process of long deliberation and popular consideration, and sanctioned by overwhelming majorities yonder and by unanimity here; that at this moment, called auspicious by some authorities for the Empire because in another corner of it you believe you are laying the foundation, in an unhappy soil moistened by blood and tears, and shaken by force and arms in South Africa, of a new—shall I say?—of a federal sister nation in distant days to come. I regret that, at this auspicious moment, personages most conspicuous in the counsels of the party opposite should have thought it fitting to intermingle with these elements audacious travesties of the facts with reference to the terms and conditions of the Home Rule settlement, and of the sentiments, feelings, and pledges upon which that settlement was accepted by the Irish people. To mix small things with great, may I add one phrase of regret that at this moment, said to be auspicious, because you recognise the importance of reorganising your Imperial tribunals of 776 final judicature upon the principle of the representation here at home of the great communities abroad; when you are persuading and have ceased to coerce the people to try their cases here, you make the opportunity, for some trumpery purpose of mere Ministerial convenience, to deprive Ireland of the right granted by understanding and sanctioned by custom, the light which for several years she has enjoyed, of that same principle of representation in the Court of final judicature in which her concerns are to be determined. I pass from these subjects of regret with this word, that the great transaction in which we are engaged contains encouragement in all its elements far higher than those trivial causes of discouragement, and gives us heart to persevere in the effort to press upon the minds of those to whom we have to look for relief the conviction which we ourselves entertain, that it is not merely in Australia or Canada, or the remote corners of the earth, that the principles of liberty lead to Imperial unity, reconciliation, and common action. They would do so with even greater force at the heart and centre of the Empire. What is strong in those principles, though oceans may roll between, is strong also—aye, stronger still—if applied to the centre and core and heart, or what ought to be the heart, of this Imperial realm; and we shall get hope that you may some day give liberty to Ireland in order that you may make that country reconciled to union upon the federal principle. May I touch one personal note? I feel it a great privilege to speak in this House to-day on this question. Colonial born myself, I have witnessed the birth of the Canadian, the first great federal constitution in the Empire. Engaged for thirty sessions in two legislatures, in Government and in Opposition, in working and developing, and making practical the paper forms in which the constitution is written, and that in both its provincial, federal, and imperial aspects, and for ten sessions here a humble labourer in pursuit of the recognition of the federal principle as a means of consolidating the Empire at home through justice and freedom to its parts, I rejoice to be able to say some words of cheer and congratulation to my fellow-colonists on the other side of the globe upon the work they have accomplished The Colonial Secretary the other day entered very 777 naturally into some historical and critical considerations with reference to the Canadian as contrasted with the Australian plan. Into these I will not follow him. I will only say that I cannot wholly agree with everything he said with reference to the Canadian Constitution. I do, however, agree that that constitution, owing to circumstances which it would take too long to detail, has more of a centralising element than is to be found in the Australian Constitution, and that from those circumstances and the form of its clauses arose long and bitter controversies, now happily settled; and that very largely by what is the main element even in a written constitution for settling controversies—the common sense, the discretion, the determination, and the decision of the people at large; but also, as is sometimes essential where there is a written constitution, by the decisions of the Courts. In many respects the people of Canada manifested the need of compromise in the structure of their constitution. The Canadian Constitution contains many propositions which arc, to my mind, quite illogical, and some of which I have never seen a defence; nor I must own, as a humble student of written constitutions, have I been able to observe absolute perfection in this Australian draft now before us. But, after all, that is not necessary or even common here. After all, in all constitutions the great and saving elements are in the men who work them—in their spirit, patriotism, moderation, and good sense, and their determination to work for the best interests of the people. Although we ought, no doubt, to make the best theoretic constitution we can, it is upon those saving elements, after all, that we shall have to depend; for a very inferior constitution, well worked, is very much better than the best you can conceive if not worked in the right spirit. To these elements it is that I trust when I survey this draft. The Colonial Secretary has stated in terms not too large the magnitude of this achievement. My right hon. friend has followed him in the same vein. Yes, Sir, this is one of the greatest things that has been done. But remember it is not we who are doing it. Thus and thus only can we justify ourselves when we are intending in the course of an hour or two to pass the Second Reading of this great and transcendent Bill. I will undertake to say that from those who made this constitution and are really 778 responsible for it, it has received quite different treatment. It has demanded weeks of debate and years of deliberation from those who are to live under it; it furnishes almost interminable topics of discussion; and yet we are rightly asked by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and by my right hon. friend, to agree that we have nothing to say about it. Then who has? The Australian people! I might, as I have said, as a humble student of constitutions, throw out suggestions with reference to some of the most important elements of this work; but I will not even name those elements on which I doubt; for where we cannot amend, it is needless and harmful to assault. And the constitution, whatever may be its drawbacks, is, and I hope it will stand, a noble fabric fit for the habitation of such men as those who have made it and defended it. It is a noble fabric, fit for noble ends. Yet it may not be useless to touch for a moment upon the genesis of these two great instruments of Parliament, so as to find and to follow our duty here to-day; and to recognise clearly what a difference thirty-three years has made in our methods, and in the advance of popular rights. Thirty-three years ago the Canadian Constitution was passed. At that time in my country, save in one province where local circumstances made it necessary, there was. no general election on the question. At that time there was no elected convention to prepare the constitution. At that time there was no textual preparation of a Bill. At that time there were but Ministerial delegations speaking in conference, resolutions framed by them, resolutions submitted to the Assemblies, addresses to the Crown for legislation not at all in the form of a Bill, correspondence with the Ministry at home, and Ministerial representatives despatched to Westminster to confer as to the framing of the measure. It was framed for introduction here with some few provisions in the supposed Imperial interest, and with a few others which these colonial delegates thought themselves authorised to insert, and so it passed. Yet even then misfortune followed from the non-adoption of more popular methods; for this Parliament was appealed to by one of the smaller provinces—the province of Nova Scotia, where a moribund Legislature, elected before the question was on the horizon, had passed an address for the Union—this Parliament was appealed to by the people declaring 779 that they were opposed to confederation. You did not recognise that protest. You determined to accept the voice of the Legislature, and the Act was passed. I should have dilated upon this subject but for this settlement, because it shows the vast importance of obtaining and acting upon recognised popular opinion when expressed in the genuine manner by the people concerned. The circumstance that Nova Scotia had not had the opportunity the Australian States have had of speaking injured the success of federation for at least twenty years, and has been got over only within a recent period. But even then Parliament passed that great Bill as you intend to pass this Bill. It regarded the measure as a treaty or convention between the provinces, and passed it, if I recollect aright, without any substantial alteration. Now all the elements lacking then are present here. You have the march of popular government and administration shown here. You have the methods by which the popular sanction should be obtained laid before us. You have popular resolutions and authority from legislatures. You have freely elected conventions framing the constitution. You have Acts authorising popular referenda, and you have popular sanction thereupon. You have the text of the Bill so framed and so approved; and it is upon that we act. There never was an instance of such long consideration and such deliberate sanction, and thus the case for absolute acceptance here in all domestic affairs is infinitely stronger even than it was in the case of Canada. I join in the regret expressed by my right hon. friend, a moment ago, that at quite an early stage of these Australian discussions the Imperial Government did not come to a conclusion as to what they thought vital to Imperial interests, and did not communicate what they thought absolutely essential. I believe that discussion initiated, as I think it ought to have been, on the other side or here, at an earlier period, would have prevented that which might have been an unhappy circumstance connected with this measure. Now I quite agree that a vote on a referendum does not and cannot imply the same measure of assent to all the proposals contained in the measure. There is no opportunity for separate expression. It is yea or nay to the whole. But the people knew, as we know, that this con- 780 stitution was the fruit of compromise and concession. They knew that it was created as the best that was feasible by their trusted leaders whom they had commissioned to do their work. They may have had even a distaste for some of its provisions. What, after all, the people had to determine was whether they would take it all or leave it all. And by what you rightly call overwhelming majorities in every colony— though not at all so overwhelming as those you refuse to recognise every day in Ireland —this constitution was actually passed and accepted. In this great transaction in all matters exclusively Australian, and that is as regards almost all in the Bill, we are not in any sense its authors. The decision may be right or wrong, it may be fortunate or unfortunate for Australia; but it is their affair, not ours. This creature has not been conceived in the womb of this mother of Parliaments. We do but take her on our knees for adoption. We give her a name and place, and title, and a blessing. But we know that she was begotten, fashioned and born on the other side of the globe. Nor is this attitude of ours a humiliating attitude for the mother of Parliaments. It is but a wise, temperate, and dignified recognition of the march of events, of the spread of popular government and popular control. It is indeed a recognition of the fact that this is rather a daughter who is coming of age than a child new born; that she is able to speak for herself, that she has become in truth, as has been said, rather a being now grown up, and is now rather a sister than a daughter nation. Indeed on this view only can the links of empire be maintained. But I may be asked what links are left if on this principle we deal with this great transaction. You may say, "Are we mere registrars of Australian plebiscites? May we not discuss and decide?" I agree in the principle laid down on both sides as to matters exclusively Australian—that we are but the registrars of the Australian will. As to these we are trustees for her of our legislative power, and should use it according to her wish. But as to matters touching the public interests of the Empire, or of parts of the Empire beyond Australia, we are the trustees for the whole Empire, including Australia. We should give her wishes full consideration. We should weigh fully her views 781 on matters which, though they may extend beyond her bounds, are yet mainly her own concern. We should yield what we may. We should choose between the evils of concession, and the perhaps greater evils of dissent. But in the last resort we must decide in the general interest of the whole. You see I go a long way with the Colonial Secretary's general principles of action, which, truly followed, settle the late difference, and conclude points of infinitely greater moment than that on which for a time he broke with the delegates. I rejoice that our attention is no longer fastened on a minor point which would have obscured the magnitude of this great transaction, which would have exaggerated the importance of that minor point, which would have aggravated the character of the very difference, which would have lessened enormously—and this is a most important practical consideration—the chances of a favourable result as to the utility of the jurisdiction you were asserting. If you had the Australian people against you, how many appeals would you have, and how much respect would your tribunal secure? On that ground alone it was of the greatest consequence to those who most value the retention of the tribunal that a settlement should have been reached. What, then, most marks this great achievement? It is the application by the free and well-considered judgment of the Australian people of the federal system of government to that immense continent, thus giving the best chance of good government and contentment to each of the states of which that continent is composed, and to the nation in which they are united as one Commonwealth. So much for Australia by herself. Now what of Australia as part of the Empire? The effective and unified government which will be set up for the nation through the medium of the Commonwealth will make easier of accomplishment all the present pressing Imperial problems as to Australia. That is the point to which my mind now most turns. Agreeing in the principle of leaving to the Australians all the details from the local aspect, I ask myself whether by this transaction in which we are engaged we are really facilitating the management of Imperial problems between ourselves and Australia. I say we are; and why? Because this transaction entered into at their instance strengthens the only real ties of union between the 782 great colonies and this kingdom—the ties of goodwill, the sentiments of affection and contentment, pride and patriotism, springing, no doubt, in great part from common blood, but really maintained and strengthened, mainly everywhere and exclusively in very important quarters, where the tie of blood does not exist, by virtue of the local freedom they have obtained, by virtue of the autonomous growth of their nationalities, by virtue of the development, the peace, security, and progress, enjoyed under local self-government by these great communities within this Empire. Again, it is helpful to the disposition of the Imperial problems between us and Australia, because the Commonwealth, with a greater area, larger and more varied interests, wider views, and unified political powers, will obviously deal with Imperial matters in a higher and broader spirit than could be expected of smaller and separated States, and will thus greatly ease Imperial negotiations. I would appeal only to successive Ministers concerned in this country as to whether that has not been the case with regard to Canada. I know it to have been the case from the colonial side. I know the spirit that has prevailed when questions arose of this description, and I know how far that spirit was due to the consideration I have referred to. I have said Imperial negotiations, because for many years I, for my part, have looked to conference, to delegation, to correspondence, to negotiation, to quasi-diplomatic methods, subject always to the action of free Parliaments here and elsewhere, as the only feasible way of working the quasi-federal union between the Empire and sister nations like Canada and Australia. A quarter of a century past I dreamed the dream of Imperial Parliamentary federation; but many years ago I came to the conclusion that we have passed the turning that could lead to that terminus, if ever, indeed, there was a practicable road. We have too long and too extensively gone on the lines of separate action hero and elsewhere to go back now. Never forget—you have the lesson here to-day—that the good will on which you must depend is due to local freedom, and would not survive its limitation. Never forget what has passed in the course of this brief controversy. It is another evidence that the real link is good will, and that the root and foundation of that link is the local freedom, 783 which you give so freely everywhere except in one small part of the Empire. I do not think Pan-Imperial Parliamentary federation is within the bounds of possibility. And this conviction it was which made it impossible for me, with every sympathy, to join in the efforts of the late Imperial Federation Leagues. I do not in the least degree think this Bill is a step towards Imperial Parliamentary federation. On the contrary, I believe it is distinctly a step the other way. Because the greater the power, the greater the success, the higher the ambition of united Australia, the less the likelihood of her surrendering to a Parliament sitting on the other side of the globe, in which her representation would now be scanty, the powers you give to her to wield at home. That great problem of finally reconciling the national aspirations, as they may develop, of these distant communities with British connection, the great problem of reorganisation remains inscrutable. Let us maintain, at any rate, the essential element of good will. I believe the condition to be not as the Colonial Secretary said in his speech on the First Reading. I do not believe, as he said, that the links that bind you to your colonies are slight and slender. I do not believe, as he said, that they could be snapped by a touch. I believe them to be strong and real. But I believe them to be absolutely impalpable, not founded on costly appeals, not on your clauses of reservation, not on your powers of disallowance, and not on the paramount legislative power of this Parliament. I am not complaining of these things. But they are not the real links that bind the whole. You frankly agree that if the great colonies say "Let go," you will let go. Thus your coercive powers, useful in their little measure, are useless here. What then are these impalpable links on which alone you can depend? I warn you once again, from the deepest conviction of my soul, that while these links are strong and real, they are links of good will, founded on local freedoms. That this is so is exemplified to-day in the concessions you have freely made to the principle of nationality, the principle of self-government and of local freedom, which will enable this people, under the ægis of the Empire, to go their own way according to their own view in all chose matters which concern their own interests. Let us then guard that essential element. Let us deal as best we 784 can with the problems of the hour, taking care above all things to keep a free hand for those of the future, for grave problems there are which certainly loom before us. Let us give a warm welcome to the Australian Commonwealth, and hope its glorious fate may be to setThe bounds of freedom wider yet,and that West Australia now, and distant New Zealand later, may find adequate common ground to justify their accession to the Union. May I repeat as a last word the hope that the day may come when the eyes of Her Majesty's Government will be opened, and that they may see fit to apply at home the principles which have ruled their treatment of Australia to-day.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
The statement made by the Colonial Secretary has relieved some among us of the necessity of offering remarks which would have been in order had the Bill remained in the form in which it was introduced. There are very few words that I intend to say, and they will certainly not be of a controversial character. May I recall to Members of the House what passed when, in 1885, this House considered the Bill which established a Federal Council for Australasia. There were many of us then who were impressed with the narrowness of the scheme laid before the House for the joint action of the Australasian colonies, and seeing how narrow was that scheme, and how little prospect, apparently, that the colonies of Australia should be brought together with larger powers under a common body, we scarcely hoped that we should live to see so great an advance, and that now in 1900 the House should be asked to pass the Second Reading of a Bill for uniting those colonies in a great federal community. It is a great event and a great-work. Very rarely in history are such constitutions framed, and those who know with what interest and sympathy and curiosity countries living under a written constitution, like the United States, look back upon the days and the men by whom that constitution was framed, may form some conception of the interest with which generations to come will look back to the circumstances which surround us, and the negotiations that have been proceeding recently, to the Australian conventions and votes of the past nine years, and to the Parliamentary proceedings on this Bill to-day. It is, I 785 believe, the only occasion in history on which an instrument of government had been framed which is intended to operate for a whole continent. I hope that one may be permitted to say that even to the British Parliament, with its long and famous record, it is a new honour to be invoked for such a purpose and to exercise its power in passing an enactment like this. This Federal constitution has been made with much difficulty and after long delay. Nine years have been spent in debates, and in the course of these debates many occasions have arisen when the difficulties seemed almost overwhelming, but the perseverance, the hopefulness, the public spirit, and the patriotism of the statesmen of Australia have overcome all those difficulties, and they have come to us with an instrument which, I believe, will be of the highest possible interest to the students of all constitutions, because it has many elements of novelty. It is based upon the lines of our British Constitution. It embodies its most ancient and valuable principles, it proposes to carry out a system of responsible Cabinet Government, and yet at the same time it has borrowed many features from the constitution of the United States. It has taken from it and from the constitution of Switzerland the federal principle, and it has adopted, unlike the constitution of Canada, the principle of delegating the powers of the central authority and reserving the powers of the local Parliaments. In these respects it is a unique creation, and I am persuaded that the students and the statesmen of all civilised countries will watch with the greatest curiosity and interest the progress of government under this new constitution. May I add one or two words on the general subject? The progress of the negotiations and the debates which have led to the enactment of this constitution have coincided with the constant growth of the belief in the colonies themselves that it will tend to strengthen the ties that bind them to the mother country. When the project was first mooted I well remember that there were some who said: "This is the beginning of the end. Australia desires to be a nation, and when she is a nation she will have little need of the mother country." These ideas have been singularly falsified by the result, because, I believe, every year these debates have gone on has strengthened the feeling in Australia, which has now happily spread to our- 786 selves, that the ties can be closer, and the co-operation can be better between the mother country and a united Australia than with an Australia composed of diverse and unconnected colonies. There is also another thing we ought not altogether to forget, and that is how much we owe, in the drawing closer of the ties between the Australian colonies and ourselves, to the fact that our institutions are monarchical. The prolongation, by the blessing of God, of the life of our present sovereign, the reverence and affection for her entertained alike in all parts of the Empire, have been a very powerful influence in drawing all parts of the Empire together. That is all the more reason why nothing should come in to mar the harmony of the proceedings when enacting this constitution, and I am bound to say it was with the greatest feeling of relief and satisfaction on this side of the House, as has been so well said by my right hon. friend, that we heard the statement made by the Colonial Secretary. I do not for a moment deny that Her Majesty's Government had an absolute right to scrutinise most closely the propositions laid before them by the Australian colonies. As trustees for the Empire it was their duty to examine any proposition affecting the Empire as a whole. That duty was just as clear as is the legal right of Parliament to enact that which commends itself to the judgment of Parliament. But considering that this constitution had had not only the approval of the Australian conventions, but had had the solemn sanction of a popular vote taken in five colonies, incomparably more important than any private and unauthorised opinions which could possibly be collected from the colonies, such as those that were put forward by the Colonial Secretary last Monday, I think it is immensely to be desired that we should not vary in any way from the substance of what that popular vote has approved, and I am happy to think that the Bill in the form in which it is passed by this House will in substance, if not in the very letter, carry out what the popular vote in Australia has approved. As far as I can follow the effect of the amendments read by the Colonial Secretary, I agree with them. They do not really differ from what the Bill, as approved by the Australian people, contained; and that is why we on this side of the House are satisfied with them. We have argued that the Australians should obtain what they asked 787 for, and the Government have now con- ceded it. I venture to say for my own part, speaking with the greatest possible deference, I somewhat regret the final decision, arrived at by a majority of twenty-one to eighteen, in the Convention, by which one class of constitutional questions were declared not to be appealable to the Privy Council. I was one of those who thought it would on the whole have been better if the absolute and complete right of appeal to the Privy Council from the High Court of the Commonwealth upon all constitutional questions had been left subsisting. I quite admit that there is much to be said on both sides of this question. One of those very interesting and thoughtful memoranda submitted by the Australian delegates argues that the difficulties arising on the working of local constitutional laws can be better determined by a court in Australia familiar with the needs of the country than they could possibly be by any court sitting here in England, 10,000 miles away, and not con- versant with the motives which had led to the enactment of a law, or the reasons which had suggested the executive acts whose constitutionality might be called in question. I do not for a moment mean to deny that there is great force in that argument. Perhaps it was an argument not easily appreciated by us in this country because we are not accustomed to have the construction of our statutes reviewed in this way by Courts of law. But it may be observed that in the United States matters have frequently arisen which indicate and illustrate the force there may sometimes be in the argument advanced by the Australian delegates. Cases sometimes arise in which the words of a Constitution are so vague or difficult to apply that it becomes necessary to have regard to what may be called the general spirit of an instrument, and to the policy which is most likely to keep it in harmony with the needs of the time and to promote the welfare of the community. Thus where it has been doubtful whether some particular statute was in consonance with the State Constitution or the Federal Constitution (as the case might be), it became necessary for the Courts to give a decision on points not expressly covered by the language of the Constitution itself, and for the purpose of such a decision to examine and weigh the causes which led to the enactment of the statute and the evil it was meant to remedy. Such 788 cases must always be expected as possible under the construction of any constitution, and we may be quite sure that under the construction of this Australian constitution cases of that kind will arise. If any case of the kind arises, it is quite true, as the Australian delegates have argued, that a Court upon the spot which is in possession of the views that led to the enactment of the law, which knows the circumstances and understands what are the evils that the law was meant to meet, is in a better position for giving a liberal and practically useful construction to the provisions of the constitution, and for applying the spirit of these provisions to the questions raised by the law, than is possible for a Court which does not know these local circumstances. There was one very remarkable group of cases which arose in the United States some years ago—the cases which would be known to lawyers as the Granger cases—in which questions arose as to the validity of certain legislation, in regard to which there was really very little in the constitution to enlighten the Courts, and in which the Courts took a very large and liberal construction of the powers of the Legislature, and so averted difficulties and struggles which would otherwise have arisen—a course which, I think, the general opinion of the profession there and of the community subsequently approved, and yet which it must be admitted might have been decided in the opposite sense by a Court which had no knowledge of the local conditions and which was anxious to adhere very closely to doctrines that had been laid down in earlier decisions, rendered before the problems involved had been fully considered. That seems to me to be an illustration of the worth and importance of local knowledge for the purpose of interpretation, and I have adduced it to show how much weight there is in the view which the Australian delegates have put forward. But, on the other hand, we have the important fact to bear in mind that it is eminently desirable to keep courts of justice out of all questions of a partizan character, to prevent their decisions being even suspected of political bias, to secure for them that respect and deference which can be secured only when there is a certainty that no political motive can affect their judgment, and to prevent the suspicion that the appointing authority, which, of course, 789 must be the Ministry of the day, could be actuated in any way in its choice of persons to be placed on the Bench by any considerations of their political views or of the sort of decision they are likely to give in a question in which political motives might enter. Bearing that in mind—which, after all, is a consideration of the highest moment—most of us in this House will conceive that, on a balance of arguments, it would be better to let Australian Constitutional questions be settled by an Imperial tribunal removed from all local proclivities, and will feel that if we had sat in the last Australian Convention we should have been found amongst the eighteen who voted to reserve the appeal to the Privy Council in all cases whatsoever. I have ventured to refer to this point for the sake of expressing the hope that when the whole matter conies to be fully considered in Australia by its Commonwealth Parliament there will he a feeling that, even in the purely Australian cases which, under the amendment indicated by the Colonial Secretary, are to be left to the High Court, it may often be in the interests of Australia herself that an appeal should lie to the Privy Council. If I understood properly the words read out by the Colonial Secretary they mean this, that, while the final decision upon constitutional questions would remain with the High Court of the Australian Commonwealth in cases where only Australian interests were involved, there would be a power, even in those cases, to let these appeals come to the Privy Council in England. Did I understand that correctly?
§ MR. BRYCE
That is to say, that when both parties consent, these appeals may still, under the amendment pro- posed to be introduced, come home to the court in England for adjudication. I welcome those words, although the instances in which the provision will be used may not be frequent. In cases where it is felt that the peculiar gravity of the question or the fact that it may be complicated with political issues makes it desirable to have an adjudication from an absolutely impartial and unconnected body—1 ought not, perhaps, to use the word "impartial," because I do not want to suggest that an Australian Court would not be impartial, but a body which cannot be even suspected of poli- 790 tical partiality—it is very desirable that this possibility of sending constitutional appeals, even such as are purely Australian in their issues, to the Court of England should be preserved. I echo the hope that the Imperial Parliament should proceed with the creation of a Court which may be fitted, in some respects even better fitted than is the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, to inspire confidence in our colonies and India, a Court whose composition and external dignity may be found even more worthy of the functions it is called upon to discharge than the Judicial Committee has been, though I am bound to say that for many years past, indeed ever since the days of Lord Kingsdown, the Privy Council has, by its diligence, its learning, and its acumen, placed the colonies and India under the greatest obligations. If there be any Members in the House who, still disquieted at the idea that questions affecting the interests of other parts of the British Empire may be left to be finally decided by an Australian Court, let me remind them that wherever there arises a doubt, as to whether or no those interests are touched, that doubt will be resolved by the action of the Imperial tribunal, the Privy Council. The party which alleges that the question does affect extra-Australian interests will be entitled to argue this preliminary point before the Privy Council, and if they decide in his favour the appeal will lie, and that Imperial tribunal will deal with the issue it raises. Therefore we may feel the amplest confidence that there will exist a complete protection for the interests of any other part of the Empire under the provision which it is the intention of the Government to insert, a provision which was all along contained in the Australian scheme, though in words not quite so explicit. One word more I will venture to say with regard to the question of the competence of an Australian Court. Although I do not suppose that the Government have been actuated by any distrust either of Australia or of the Australian Judges, there is a parallel between the case of Australia now and that of the United States a century ago which deserves to be recalled because it may re-assure those who imagine colonial tribunals to be necessarily inferior to our own. Australia has now a population of nearly 4,000,000. When the Supreme Court of the United States entered upon its functions at the end of the last century, 791 and when in particular Chief Justice Jay was succeeded in 1800 by the great Chief Justice Marshall, one of the first constitutional jurists of modern times, or indeed of any times, the population of the United States was almost exactly the same as the population of the Australian colonies now. Yet it was found possible from that population of 4,000,000 to secure a Court which was in every way worthy of the momentous functions that devolved upon it, and which from that time until now has succeeded in giving the fullest satisfaction, so far at least as learning and ability and purity are concerned, to the people of the American Republic. Why should we not hope that the Australian population, of our own blood, and trained under our own traditions, should be capable of furnishing Judges for the Federal High Court of Australia who will be equal in their capacity and in the spirit which will animate them to those whom America was able to find with a population no larger a century ago? I have nothing further to add except to express once more the warm satisfaction which we feel that the difficulties which seemed to threaten the harmony of our proceedings have been removed by an admission of the reasonableness of the Australian demand. I believe that the creation of this Federation in Australia will facilitate co-operation between that great group of colonies and ourselves in all political questions—and there are not a few political questions affecting the Pacific in which Australia, equally with ourselves, is interested—and I join in the hope which has been expressed by everyone who has spoken in this debate, and by none more eloquently than my hon. friend who last addressed the House, that the creation of the new Commonwealth, and the welcome which has been given in this country to its establishment under a federal scheme, will strengthen the ties which unite our Australian kinsfolk to ourselves. The unity of the British race over the world, that unity which makes us here and in the colonies one people in many States, is however based upon something deeper and more enduring than any political arrangements. It rests on the foundations not only of a common interest in the defence of our Empire and of all that the Empire secures for us, but also upon community of ideas, of habits, of institutions and traditions, and on the pride 792 which we all take in the long and glorious history which we share with the Englishmen of Australia and of Canada. This constitution is a product of that history, and witnesses to the vitality of the principles by which England had begun to be guided as far back as the days of Magna Charta.
§ * MR. EVELYN CECIL (Hertfordshire, Hertford)
I should like to say a very few words in praise of the tact, friendliness and insight with which the Colonial Secretary has carried out these negotiations, and of the reciprocal goodwill with which the suggestion of Her Majesty's Government has been received by the Australian delegates. The Bill is one of the highest importance, and I think we recognise our position in regard to it by abstaining from criticising greatly or even at all the provisions in which Australia alone is concerned. There are questions involved which might perhaps very well afford some ground for friendly criticism. I notice, for instance, that in Clause 47 it is suggested that disputed elections are to be determined by the House in which the question arises. We have had considerable experience in times past in regard to the deciding of disputed elections. From the days when the House itself, and afterwards its delegated Committees, endeavoured always by a party vote to settle disputed elections to the time in 1868 when we found it necessary to transfer that power to the Judges of the Queen's Bench—all that period of history has taught us that it is not very wise to give to Houses of Parliament the right of deciding disputed elections. That, however, is a matter which concerns Australia and does not concern us. All that concerns us is such a question as the appeal, which, no doubt, is a matter that every trustee of the Imperial interests ought carefully to look into. As regards that I feel we ought to give our cordial support to the Government which has jealously looked into the matter of the right of appeal and arrived at a successful compromise. I did not quite gather whether it is intended in that new amendment now proposed by which appeals are always to lie to the Queen in Council, except when Australian interests only are concerned, that the Privy Council is to be the body which is to decide whether or not only Australian interests are concerned. That is a point of some 793 importance which I feel sure will be agreed upon and settled in as friendly and satisfactory a spirit as has been shown in all the negotiations of the past, but upon which I hope we shall have a clear explanation before the debate is concluded. As a result of the recent negotiations we shall have an alteration of the appeal clause. That alteration is one which might be required in the future to apply to other colonies than Australia, and if we frame the amended clause in a particular form it may be that South Africa and Canada will also ask to be granted similar privileges in like cases. I trust that that will be borne in mind in coming to any compromise in regard to this matter, but I have no doubt, in view of what has already passed between the Colonial Secretary and the Australian delegates, that this point, like others, will be met in a spirit of friendship and compromise. We cannot too strongly insist upon the importance of up- holding the Supreme Court of Appeal for the whole Empire. It maintains the scales of justice between the various portions of the Empire; it has the important advantage that it is free from local influences; and in my humble opinion it is one of the chief links which bind together the different portions of the Empire—a limb which I should be very sorry to see broken. In view of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary to-day, I do not think he can possibly be accused with any show of commonsense of having wished to flout or to give a rebuff to Australia. That is a contemptible accusation, and one which we feel keenly in the Unionist ranks. The right hon. Gentleman's past—not only his speech of to-day, or his speech of last Monday, but his reception of the Colonial delegates at the time of the Queen's Jubilee in 1897—has shown how much he has the interests of the colonies in his thoughts, and how much he desires to strengthen the links which bind them and us. It is far from a question of rebuff. If we did not offer any intelligent criticism on such an important Bill as this we should not be doing our duty. Criticism is intended as a compliment, not as a rebuff, and we all have criticised entirely in that spirit. I trust that this Bill, through the management of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary and Her Majesty's Government, will be the means of setting on a firmer foundation the good relations which 794 already exist between ourselves and Australia, that those relations will long continue, and result in the pushing forward of that great cause of Imperial Federation which both the Australians and ourselves alike have so much at heart.
§ * MR. S. T. EVANS (Glamorganshire, Mid)
The termination of the controversy between the Colonial Office and the delegates from Australia, which has been announced to the House by the Colonial Secretary, brought a feeling not only of gratification but of great relief to this side of the House, because we were greatly afraid that the negotiations which were being carried on were such as to cause friction in Australia and to make it very difficult for us to give graciously that which we ought to give graciously if we give it at all. We on this side of the House have always been ready and willing to give to Australia what Australia demanded in this matter, because we recognise that Australia, moving entirely in allegiance to England and from feelings of devotion to England as well as to her own people, desired to have a federation of the Australian colonies. And when we knew, as we did, of the great work which had been done in Australia for very many years by its statesmen and people, by full and free discussion, by conventions, by two separate and distinct referendums, we were very much afraid at one time that it was possible that such a degree of friction might be created between Australia and the Colonial Office that the federation of the Australian Colonies would have been, at any rate, for the time imperilled. Fortunately that time is over. We gladly recognise the ability of the Colonial Secretary, and I quite as gladly recognise that the right hon. Gentleman is able to give in when he knows he ought to give in. That spirit which the Colonial Secretary has shown upon this occasion by acquiescing, and properly acquiescing, in the demand made by the delegates from Australia is a spirit which perhaps might have been extended in other negotiations to which it is possible to refer. There never was any question at all of limiting any existing right of appeal from the State Courts. There was a demand made by Australia that she should be allowed to limit further the right of appeal from the new High Court. The real, solid, and only ques- 795 tion at issue between the Colonies and the Colonial Office finally was, whether or not Australia was to be allowed in her own courts to decide matters of internal constitutional law. That matter has at last been conceded to Australia, and we are all very rejoiced at the fact. The Amendment which I placed upon the Paper was conceived entirely in the spirit of the result of the negotiations. Our desire was, when it had been clearly shown, after the fullest discussion and all possible care, what was the will of the Australian people, that that should be considered and met. Australia now, or, at any rate, those portions which have contracted to come within the scope of the Bill, will have a Constitution which we on this side of the House would be very rejoiced to have in this country. The Constitution is the same in Australia as in England in that the Queen is at the head, but there are other matters now conceded to Australia which we on this side of the House would be very glad to see conceded nearer home, and we readily thank hon. Members opposite who have done their very utmost to prevent these reforms being granted to other portions of the Queen's dominions, for being willing to give them to Australia, which is at the very antipodes. Australia is now starting with a Constitution under which she will have triennial Parliaments, one man one vote, payment of members, and direct elections to the second chamber, and a Constitution under which the second chamber will not be able in the long run or permanently to defeat the wishes of the people as expressed in the Lower House. We gladly give credit to hon. Members opposite for showing their wisdom in agreeing to concede these rights to Australia, although they are not willing to extend that wisdom to other portions of the Empire. Western Australia and New Zealand have not yet agreed to come into the federation, but I hope that both those colonies will in the very near future join the federation of Australia, which is hailed by everybody in this country as being the greatest thing which could happen to that continent. Even as late as to-day, I believe, Western Australia and New Zealand have telegraphed to the Colonial Secretary that they still adhere to their opinions with regard to Clause 74, but when they hear that the Government have given way to the dele- 796 gates on this matter, I think they also will see that their true wisdom is in accepting federation, and giving the fullest power and freedom to the people of Australia to work out their own political salvation. Under the circumstances, it will be entirely unnecessary for me to move the Amendment which I had placed upon the Paper.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir ROBERT FINLAY, Inverness Burghs)
Almost every speaker to-night has expressed gratification at the tone which has characterised this debate. It is a tone which has given unmitigated satisfaction in every part of the House, and I think I may say that not a single jarring note has been struck. I desire to express in the fullest manner my appreciation of the way in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife opened the debate on the part of the other side of the House. I am sure that every one feels that there are subjects which far transcend all the interests of party, and on which both sides of the House are thoroughly in agreement. This debate, if that is the proper word to apply to it, has not only given satisfaction to the House, but it will give satisfaction throughout the whole of the Empire and to the friends of the British Empire in every part of the world. I think events have vindicated the wisdom of the course that was taken by my right hon. friend the Colonial Secretary in not intervening in the earlier stages of these negotiations. It was suggested, in a not unfriendly spirit, that by interfering some years ago even the possibility of a divergence of views might have been avoided. I would only remind friendly critics who expressed that view that nothing could be more difficult and delicate than to intervene at an early stage of the negotiations that were being carried on in Australia upon points of this description. The happy result at which we have now arrived seems to show that, whatever other course might have been possible, the right course has been taken throughout. I find myself in agreement with a great deal that has been said by my right hon. friend the member for South Aberdeen as to the necessity for a Court of undoubted authority to interpret the constitutional power to make certain laws. He truly says that in this country we are not familiar with such functions 797 on the part of the Courts of Justice; that our Courts are concerned almost entirely in the interpretation of laws when made, and are not concerned with the authority of the body which has made them. But as he pointed out, under the American Constitution, and as has been seen in regard to other parts of the British Empire, questions are certain to arise with regard to the authority of legislative bodies to pass certain laws, and I recognise in the amplest terms the necessity of having a Court of supreme authority and influence for the determination of such momentous questions. The principle which has guided the conclusion that has been happily so far arrived at is this. All that concerns Australia alone, if the Australians desire it, will be decided in their own High Court. What concerns other parts of the Queen's dominions, or the British Empire as a whole, will be subject to an appeal to an Imperial Court. It will be obvious to the House that the question of the delegation of powers may be a matter of Imperial concern. It may be of the utmost moment to the Empire to know whether or not a certain power has been delegated to the Colonial Legislature. On the other hand the question as to how such powers are to be distributed as between the general Legislature of the Central Government of the Australian Dominion of the Queen and the Legislative Governments of the States is a matter which concerns Australia. The extent of the delegation may be an Imperial interest, but the question of distribution must necessarily be an Australian interest only. With regard to the question of distribution, the question as to the limits of the powers of the Commonwealth and States infer se, questions of the limits of the powers of the Legislative Governments of the States as between themselves—even on those questions there may be a great desire, under certain circumstances, to appeal to the Privy Council. Her Majesty's Government have found it their duty to safeguard and secure the possibility of a right of appeal to an Imperial tribunal in every case where the interests of the Empire hold, or the interests of Her Majesty's subjects in any other part of the dominion are affected. It is a matter for congratulation that the course of events has resulted in the discussion to which we have just listened.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
After what has taken place, and 798 especially after the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Longford, I should not have felt justified in intervening for even a very few moments, but for the fact that I have taken an exceptional interest in matters connected with Australia, in view of the fact that I have been there and I have a good many friends there. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Aberdeen said very truly that occasions such as these in the life of a nation like Australia will be in future of great interest. In generations to come the people of Australia will look back to this day as marking a great advance in their national existence. That being so, I would like to have it said of the Irish people that they had the satisfaction of being able to point to the fact that whatever little assistance their representatives in Parliament could give to. the development of the continent of Australia was freely given in this House. With regard to what the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary said, I only desire to make one or two observations. He pointed out quite truly that the representatives of four of the States and the Government of Western Australia had taken a different view in the controversy which is now happily closed. In this controversy Queensland and Western Australia have backed up the view of the Colonial Office and of Her Majesty's. Government. But in connection with this matter I think it should be borne in mind that all through this Australian Federation movement the colony of Queensland has undoubtedly acted as a sort of deterrent and a brake. All through this agitation the colony of Queensland held back, and it is not going too far to say that if the colony of Queensland had had its way the question of federation would never have been in its present position, and we should never have been able to pass unanimously—as I am sure we shall do—this great measure of the Commonwealth of Australia. With regard to Western Australia there is this much I will say—and I believe it will be approved by a great many hon. Members in this House and out of it, and in Australia as well. Whether Western Australia ultimately enters into this federation or not, I think it is the duty of the Colonial Office and of the other Australian colonies to see that Western Australia puts her own house in. order and extends to her own citizens within her own borders a broader system of 799 enfranchisement, which will give proper representation to all the people in the colony. At the present time we hear of the grievances of the Uitlanders in South Africa and the Transvaal; but there are thousands of British subjects in Western Australia who are more completely deprived of the franchise and representation than the British subjects ever were in the Transvaal. In the gold districts of Western Australia the representation of the people is a mockery and a farce, and if I were an Australian connected with any other colony and having any influence in this matter, after Western Australia has hung back so long, I would make it a condition upon the entry of this small colony into the Government Federation that she should, by a proper measure of representation, do away with an undoubted scandal which exists at the present time, and give full and fair representation such as other colonies do to the whole of the people within her borders. I will say no more than this. A great portion of the people of Australia are of Irish blood, and upon this occasion I think an Irish Member like myself cannot be found fault with if I remind this House and the people of this country, who are all interested in Australia at the present time, that a great deal of the present proud position of Australia is attributable to the genius, the talent, and the industry and labour in every walk and position of life of the Irish in that country. And I must say that it is a sad reflection to Irish Members, anxious upon this occasion to do everything they can to forward freedom in a great new country, to think that exactly one hundred years ago this Parliament was engaged in destroying the ancient Parliament of Ireland. And now one hundred years afterwards you are giving a great nation beyond the seas what you have deprived us of. It is certainly a strange and a sad thing to some extent to an Irish Member to witness here with what cordial readiness the Colonial Secretary and his colleagues accede to the wishes of the majority of the Australian people in almost every possible respect. He tells us that two of the colonies hold one view, but the delegates of the other colonies hold a separate view, but at once the opinion of the representatives of the four colonies is allowed to prevail, and the opinion of the two colonies is put upon one side. 800 Here in this House there are eighty Irish Members holding one view, and that view is discarded, and our country is governed not in accordance with the views of the majority, but in accordance with the views of the minority. There will be no class of people throughout the length and breadth of Australia who will feel more pride and gratification when they read that this Bill has been unanimously passed than the Irish section of Australia. The Irish section of the Australian people, I venture to say, are as loyal and contented, and as much respected, as any other section of people throughout the length and breadth of Australia. But why are they contented? Why will they be proud and grateful when they read of the passage of this measure? Why are they satisfied and why are they loyal? Because they enjoy those things which Parliament has given them—those measures of freedom which you deny to the Irish people at home. When you see on occasions like this Irish Nationalists and Irish Catholics in Australia loyal and contented, and living in cordial brotherhood with their fellow countrymen of other religions— when you see that spectacle, ought it not to induce you to try with the same methods to bring about those happy results in Ireland which make Englishmen, Scotchmen, Irishmen, Protestants and Catholics live in harmony and goodwill together in Australia? The hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Glamorganshire said there were many things in this Australian Constitution Bill which we would be glad to have here at home. There is one portion in particular which might be applied in that direction, and that is the portion of the Bill in which you lay down that there should be no Church establishment in Australia, and that there should be no possible disability upon religious grounds in any sense in Australia. If it were for nothing more than that I would cordially support this Australian Bill. Surely, it is an anomalous state of affairs that we, this afternoon, should pass a Bill laying down that religion shall be no bar of any kind throughout the length and breadth of Australia, while in Ireland and in this country, to some extent, religion is a bar and obstacle to promotion and other things. Under this Bill the governor or the chief ruler of the Australian colonies may belong to any religion, but in Ireland we have the stigma upon us that the chief governor, 801 the Viceroy, must be of one particular religion and may not belong to the ancient faith of the great bulk of the Irish nation. We Irishmen cordially support this Bill, and it is with some degree of envy that we give our poor assistance to our countrymen beyond the ocean in supporting this measure of justice and freedom which we want so badly at home. I hope that in years to come, when this great historical occasion is recorded, future generations of this great historical nation may derive some satisfaction from the fact that the representatives of Ireland gave everything they could in the way of freedom and liberty to their countrymen beyond the ocean. In conclusion, I cannot refrain from saying that the one drawback on this occasion, the one thing which to my mind mars the greatness of this Act in setting up a great and a new free Parliament in Australia, lies in the fact that while the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary is giving freedom with a free hand to the Australian people, while he is giving them freely a great central Parliament, at the same time he is spoiling and marring that great work of liberty by endeavouring by force and by cruelty to destroy the free Parliaments of people who are as much entitled to freedom as any section of the British people.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
I and other Irish Members seem to night like penniless beggars, enabled suddenly to give away large estates abroad. I marvel at the terms of this Bill. Why is it that the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, his private secretary, and all his friends who took so large a part in endeavouring to defeat the Home Kale Bill, do not think it necessary upon this occasion to move any of the Amendments which they considered were so absolutely vital seven years ago? I have had the curiosity to take up this volume of Amendments they moved against the Irish Home Rule Bill of 1893 [holding up a large book]. This is only one of them, but there are seven more outside full of Amendments which the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary along with his friends moved to that measure seven years ago. I have reckoned up the number of times he spoke as nearly as I can during that brief period. I examined the index to Hansard, and I calculate that against the 802 Home Rule Bill the right hon. Gentleman spoke nearly 300 times. Is it therefore not a most astonishing thing that the right hon. Gentleman does not find it necessary now to move any Amendments to this Australian Bill, prepared at the Antipodes by beginners in statecraft, when he so distrusted the proposals of a veteran British statesman, so lately his leader? If it was absolutely vital and essential then that the right hon. Gentleman should lay down all these safeguards in regard to setting up a subordinate Parliament in Ireland, why is it that now, when he has supreme power in the matter of this Parliament of Australia, he does not attempt, in any single degree, to give us the benefit of the great knowledge which he then displayed? I look at these 1893 Amendments, what do they demand? The first thing which it was then stated by the right hon. Gentleman was absolutely necessary in passing any measure granting a subordinate Parliament was that you should assert the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. But where is the assertion of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament in this Bill? For over a week upon that occasion we were engaged in opposition to the tremendous eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman in struggling to show that, after all, the unhappy Irish might be trusted in small matters; but now it appears that an Irishman cannot be trusted with Home Rule unless he has first been transported. By some extraordinary means the moment you send an Irishman 10,000 miles away, that moment he becomes entitled to be equipped with all the liberties which a very large measure of self-government can give to him. I do trust that, as the right hon. Gentleman has changed his opinions so much on the question of yielding to Australia, we maybe encouraged in the hope that on some future occasion we shall have the right hon. Gentleman coming forward and saying that all those safeguards which he found so necessary to propose in the case of Ireland were mere figments of the imagination, and that he will see that what he is now giving to Irishmen 10,000 miles away from the central Imperial authority he may safely give to Irishmen when they are only separated from the Imperial authority by some sixty or seventy miles of salt water. In regard to the Amend- 803 ments he has now proposed we must say, at all events, that they are bonâ fide. We can see that the heart of the right hon. Gentleman is in them. He believes that he is acting as the trustee and custodian of the Empire and as a patriotic Englishman, and however much we may think he was mistaken no one can deny that he is absolutely sincere in his view as to , this question of appeal. The right hon. Gentleman has done a great work, and he has put, I think, into his work a great deal of that genius which undoubtedly he has shown in the management of these affairs. If that be so on the present occasion, what are we to think of this miserable bundle of old amendments to the Bill of 1893? Even the Irish Secretary proposed then that the Irish Parliament should not have a right to give a salary to its members, but in this Bill the Government propose that the members of the Australian Parliament should have £400 a year. These amendments proposed seven years ago imposed restriction upon an Irish Parliament to prevent payment of members, the giving of any Irish titles and dignities, dealing with the criminal law, the law relating to intimidation, the regulation of trade and commerce, the regulation of flags and colours for merchant vessels, bounties to Irish industries, and we were not to be allowed to deal with the laws of marriage and divorce and many other matters. Even it was proposed we should be forbidden to deal with telephones. What a noble work that was for the right hon. Gentleman in this mother of Parliaments with all these Colonial Parliaments surrounding him, with Parliaments in the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, not to speak of Parliaments abroad, to show such distrust of Ireland, while now the right hon. Gentleman, without the smallest reference to the debates in which he was then engaged, gives to these colonies this great blessing! I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon giving these colonies these immense powers of sovereignty, which we believe will result so beneficially to Australia and will redound to the benefit of the Empire at large. However, I did not rise to make a speech upon this question, but merely for the purpose of asking a question. I understood from the First Lord of the Treasury and from the right hon. Gentleman himself that this occasion would be availed of for the 804 purpose of explaining the position with regard to the final Court of Appeal. I am very glad to hear that a compromise has been arrived at, and I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman is to be attacked for the attitude he has taken up, nor do I agree with the criticism which has been passed upon him that he should have entered into this dispute at an earlier stage. I think he has taken up a reasonable line by submitting his proposals to the Australian delegates, and they together have come to a conclusion which this House can ratify. But the greater the importance which attaches to this question of an Appeal Court the greater is the necessity of fully explaining it to the House. If it be essential to set up this Court of Appeal for the consideration of Australian or international difficulties, why are we not told exactly what the nature and the duties of that Court are to be? We observed on Friday last some slight conflict between the views of the First Lord of the Treasury and the views expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary. I gathered from the speech of the First Lord of the Treasury that this Court of Appeal would not be a Court consisting of the present House of Lords, but would consist of the Privy Council. If that be the case, why is any change in the personnel of the Appeal Court necessary? What is the necessity for making these Australian, African, Indian, and Canadian gentlemen, colonial lords of the realm on a seven years lease? The reason we are interested is this, if this is to be a final Court of Appeal for the Empire it must be a final Court of Appeal for Ireland; and whatever you do for Australia, Canada, and other places, you are not merely doing; for them alone, but for every county of Ireland and England, just as much as for the new States of Australia itself. If an Australian peer is to be brought over here and given a salary of £6,000 a year, I want to know why is the impoverished peasant of Mayo and Connaught to maintain that gentleman and his peerage in London. I object to it altogether. If the Australian people desire to have peers of the realm then let them pay for them. I do not think that that statement is in the least degree offensive to Australia, for I am sure that if you do not provide this bounty on Australian peers out of our pockets Australia will not export any of these 805 curiosities. Having at times read the views expressed in Australian newspapers, I should hardly think that the opinion of the Australian people is one of extreme reverence or respect for peers of the realm, for I have seen some rather caustic criticisms on Australian Ministers who have gone back with a knighthood or a baronetcy. Therefore, I contend that the line Irish Members take up is a fair one. We are also entitled to know, if this Court be created, why English, Scotch, and Irish appeals should lie within the cognisance of these antipodean noblemen? No doubt if they are properly rolled they will present a most interesting and formidable appearance, but it is somewhat capsizing to my intellect to suggest that you will obtain in the new judiciary thus constituted that reverence which attaches in many minds to the ancient judicature of the House of Lords. The British Constitution has grown; it has not been patched, tinkered with, and cobbled. In 1874 and 1876 the Irish Members stood out for the ancient constitution of the House of Lords as a final Court of Appeal, because it was guaranteed by the Act of Union. I think, therefore, it is too much to suggest now that this new and hybrid Court will have either support or reverence from any section of the people of these countries. I protest, then, against this piebald peerage system which the right hon. Gentleman has associated with this Bill. I should be greatly surprised if, when his second Bill is introduced, whether here or in another place, the right hon. Gentleman will have any support to his proposal, for I rather think that, suspect as the right hon. Gentleman is by many of the ancient Conservative party in reference to the Peerage, they will regard this as a further undermining proposition, the real object of which is not to establish a Court of Appeal for the Empire, but to discredit the House of Lords. They will think that, as in the botanical world there are what are called "sports," so in his case there has been a reverter to " type," and that in his mature years the right hon. Gentleman has had a recrudescence of his Radical days. I say, therefore, we are entitled to some more reasonable explanation of this extra ordinary court which it is proposed to set up. As the right hon. Gentleman has so happily come to a conclusion with the Australian delegates, and no one rejoices 806 at it more than I do, he should now let this new-fangled tribunal rest. This macaronic House of Lords' proposal grew out of the difficulties he at first was placed in, by insisting on a general power of appeal from Australia. That has been found to be untenable. It is no longer necessary therefore to pursue his consequent innovations, and even though Chief Justice Way is entitled to great consideration, and although he has rendered the right hon. Gentleman important service, I trust that the strange apparition of these Australian peers will not be allowed to threaten an ancient constitution, but that, in their aboriginal loveliness, they will be allowed to sleep in the shades of the Australian forests.