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rised to convene a body to be called the General Assembly of Australia, at any time and at any place within Your Majesty's Australian dominions, which he might see fit to appoint for the purpose. But we are of opinion that the first convocation of that body should be postponed until the Governor-General should have received from two or more of the Australian Legislatures addresses requesting him to exercise that power.1
We recommend that the General Assembly should consist of the Governor-General and of a single 2 House to be called the House of Delegates. The House of Delegates should be composed of not less than twenty, nor of more than thirty members. They should be elected by the Legislatures of the different Australian Colonies. We subjoin a schedule explanatory of the composition of this body; that is, of the total number of delegates, and of the proportion in which each Colony should contribute that number.
We think that Your Majesty should be authorized to establish provisionally, and in the first instance, all the rules necessary for the election of the delegates, and for the conduct of the business of the General Assembly, but that it should be competent to that body to supersede any such rules, and to substitute others, which substituted rules should not, however, take effect until they had received Your Majesty's sanction.
We propose that the General Assembly should also have the power of making laws for the alteration of the number of delegates,3 or for the improvement in any other respect of its own Constitution. But we think that no such law
1 It would have thus been in the power of two Colonies to compel the establishment of the General Assembly. This was remedied in the federal clauses of the Bill of 1850.
2 Mr. Gladstone at once noted this weak point in the Bill afterwards drafted. He felt that there must be great difficulty in working a federal legislature, unless it was constituted upon the principle of a double chamber.' (Hans. Parl. Deb., 3rd Series, cv, p. 1130.)
Under this provision the Assembly might apparently have altered the proportion of members returned by the different Colonies.
should come into operation until it had actually been confirmed by Your Majesty.
We propose to limit the range of the legislative authority of the General Assembly to the ten topics which we proceed to enumerate. These are :—
1. The imposition of duties upon imports and exports. 2. The conveyance of letters.
3. The formation of roads, canals, or railways, traversing
any two or more of such Colonies.
4. The erection and maintenance of beacons and lighthouses.
5. The imposition of dues or other charges on shipping in every port or harbour.
6. The establishment of a General Supreme Court, to be a Court of Original Jurisdiction, or a Court of Appeal from any of the inferior Courts of the separate Provinces.
7. The determining of the extent of the jurisdiction and the forms and manner of proceeding of such Supreme Court.
8. The regulation of weights and measures.
9. The enactment of laws affecting all the Colonies represented in the General Assembly on any subject not specifically mentioned in the preceding list, but on which the General Assembly should be desired to legislate by addresses for that purpose presented to them from the Legislatures of all those Colonies. 10. The appropriation to any of the preceding objects of such sums as may be necessary, by an equal percentage from the revenue received in all the Australian Colonies, in virtue of any enactments of the General Assembly of Australia.
By these means we apprehend that many important objects would be accomplished which would otherwise be unattainable; and, by the qualifications which we have proposed, effectual security would, we think, be taken against
the otherwise danger of establishing a Central Legislature in opposition to the wishes of the separate Legislatures, or in such a manner as to induce collisions of authority between them. The proceedings also of the Legislative Council of New South Wales with reference to the proposed changes in the Constitution, lead us to infer that the necessity of creating some such general authority for the Australian Colonies begins to be seriously felt."
Composition of the House of Delegates.
"Each Colony to send two members, and each to send one additional member for every 15,000 of the population, according to the latest census before the convening of the House.
On the present population the numbers would be as follows:
Although the proposals of the Privy Council and the clauses in the Bill of 1849 and 1850 which gave effect to them were a praiseworthy attempt to avoid a danger which afterwards became very serious, it must be confessed that they do not show any close grip of the subject, or sign that their authors realized how they could be worked in practice. Lord John Russell, indeed, finally confessed that the clauses relating to federation had to be withdrawn during the passage of the Bill of 1850, because of the difficulty of reconciling the respective rights and interests of New South Wales and of the lesser Colonies (Hans. Parl. Deb., 3rd Series, cxiii, p. 623). At a time when a colonial reformer of the type of Sir William Molesworth did not see how a Federative Assembly could be admitted at all unless the intention was to separate these Colonies from the mother country' (Hans. cx, p. 800), matters were not yet ripe for the adoption of
the federal principle. Had the permissive clauses of the Bill of 1850 not been dropped, they would still in all probability have remained a dead letter.
It has been thought advisable to transcribe the greater portion of the Report of the Privy Council; because, though much of it is not concerned with the subject of federation, it throws valuable light on the strong and weak points of English Colonial Government in the middle of the nineteenth century.
The federal sections of the Australian Colonies Bills of 1849 and 1850 are given in Appendices A and B of Mr. C. D. Allin's The Early Federation Movement of Australia, 1907, pp. 419-423. Their fate can be traced in the pages of Hansard for these years.
THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA
63 AND 64 VICT, CHAP. 12
An Act to constitute the Commonwealth of Australia.
[9th July, 1900.]
Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God,2 have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth 3 under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and under the Constitution hereby established:
And whereas it is expedient to provide for the admission into the Commonwealth of other Australasian Colonies and possessions of the Queen:
Be it therefore enacted by the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same as follows:
1. This Act may be cited as the Commonwealth of Short Australia Constitution Act.
1 Note expression 'the people', following precedent of United States Constitution. The British North America Act merely spoke of 'the Provinces' as expressing their desire, &c.
? Considerable criticism had been evoked by the omission of any mention of God in the Bill of 1891. Section 116 was strengthened with a view to making clear that such mention did not imply denominational proclivities.
The word 'Commonwealth' excited some criticism mainly on account of its republican associations; but it was defended by quotations from Shakespeare.