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(2) EARL GREY'S SCHEMES.

EARL GREY'S DESPATCH.—Meanwhile the agitation for the separation of the Port Phillip district, and for more completely representative institutions, was going on; and Lord John Russell's administration had begun, with Earl Grey as Secretary of State for the Colonies. Earl Grey, in his famous despatch of 31st July, 1847, announced his Government's intention to bring in a Bill to erect the southern part of New South Wales into a separate colony, to be called Victoria. Incidentally, he foreshadowed some changes in the Constitution of New South Wales. He proposed to establish a Legislature of two Houses instead of one, and made the startling suggestion that the House of Assembly should be elected by District Councils, or municipal bodies, instead of directly by the people. But to us to-day the most interesting part of his constitutional scheme was that which at the time received the least attention—the idea, previously hinted at by Governor Fitzroy, of a General Assembly to deal with matters of common Australian interest. We must give Earl Grey credit for recognizing that besides municipal and provincial interests on the one land, which would be the care of the local Legislatures, and Imperial interests on the other hand, which would be the care of the Imperial Government, there must be general Australian interests which would need to be regulated by a central Australian authority. He wrote accordingly the first recorded statement of the case for Australian union :

“The principle of local self-government (like every other political principle) must, when reduced to practice, be qualified by many other principles which must operate simultaneously with it. To regulate such affairs with reference to any one isolated rule or maxim would, of course, be an idle and ineffectual attempt. For example, it is necessary that, while providing for the local management of local interests, we should not omit to provide for a central management of all such interests as are not local. Thus, questions co-extensive in their bearing with the interests of the Empire at large are the appropriate province of Parliament.

“ But there are questions which, though local as it respects the British possessions in Australia collectively, are not merely local as it respects any one of those possessions. Considered as members of the same Empire, those colonies have many common interests, the regulation of which, in some uniform manner and by some single authority, may be essential to the welfare of them all. Yet in some cases such interests may be more promptly, effectively, and satisfactorily decided by some authority within Australia itself than by the more remote, the less accessible, and in truth the less competent authority of Parliament.”

And in due course he went on to outline his project for union :

“Some method will also be devised for enabling the various legislatures of the several Australian colonies to co-operate with each other in the enactment of such laws as may be necessary for regulating the interests common to those possessions coll vely, such, for example, are the imposition of duties of import and export, the conveyance of letters, and the formation of roads, railways, or other internal communications traversing any two or more of such colonies.

The subject of your own despatch of the 29th September, 1846, viz., the imposition of discriminating duties, in any Australian colony, on goods, the growth, produce, or manufacture of any other Australian colony, will also be adverted to, and provided for, in that part of the contemplated Act of Parliament which will relate to the creation of a central legislative authority for the whole of the Australian colonies.

RECEPTION OF THE DESPATCH.—This despatch was greeted in New South Wales with a storm of indignation. The colonists resented the idea of constitutional changes as to which they had not been consulted, and were especially alarmed at the suggestion of indirect election, which would take away the instalment of representative institutions which they had lately won. Public meetings were held everywhere to express“ apprehension and dismay” at the proposed changes, and to protest against any change about which the people of the colony had not been consulted. But amidst all this uproar very little was said about the federal proposal. When mentioned at all, it was usually in a tone of mild approval—as being unobjectionable, and possibly even useful, but of little immediate importance.

In May, 1848, Mr. William Charles Wentworth brought before the Legislative Council of New South Wales a set of resolutions affirming that the separation of Port Phillip might be effected without any material change in the Constitution of New South Wales, and protesting generally against Earl Grey's proposals. One of these resolutions was “That the only useful amendment in our present Constitution suggested in the despatch is the proposition relative to a Congress from the various colonial legislatures in the Australian colonies, with power to pass laws on intercolonial questions; that such a Congress, if not too numerous, might be got together for short periods at certain intervals." A set of resolutions framed by a Committee of the Council was ultimately substituted, and these were considered in Committee. One of them, which was passed “almost without remark,” declared “That this Council cannot acquiesce in any plan of an intercolonial Congress, in which the superior wealth and population of New South Wales, as compared with the other colonies of the Australian group, both individually and collectively, shall not ; be fully recognized as the basis of representation." These resolutions, however, never got beyond the Committee stage. Mr. Edward DeasThomson, Mr. Robert Lowe (afterwards Viscount Sherbrooke), and others, wished to express approval of the proposal for a two-chambered legislature; and in spite of the protests of Wentworth, who complained that this introduced a debatable detail into a question of constitutional principle, they succeeded in carrying it. On this rock the Council split. On Wentworth's motion, the resolutions were shelved by leave being obtained to sit again that day six months. Consequently, though the wish to protest was unanimous, no protest was ever made by the Council.

The “apprehension and dismay,” however, had their effect. In a

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despatch of 31st July, 1848, Earl Grey disclaimed any wish to impose unwelcome constitutional changes on the colonies. The project of making District Councils serve as constituencies to the Legislature would be given up; and the division of the Legislature into two Houses would be left for the colonists themselves to effect whenever they wished. The idea of an intercolonial Legislature, however, was adhered to. Earl Grey pointed out that communication by land between New South Wales and Port Phillip was already completely established; that the trade of Port Phillip with South Australia was becoming not inconsiderable; and that the intercourse would yearly increase. If these portions of Australia were under independent legislatures, tariff differences would inevitably grow up. The extreme inconvenience of this would necessitate some means of providing for a uniform commercial policy, in order to give free scope for the development of their resources and their trade. How this could best be done was a question of some difficulty, which he reserved for more mature consideration.

COMMITTEE OF THE Privy COUNCIL.—The details of Earl Grey's scheme were soon forthcoming. In 1849 a Committee of the Privy Council—the Committee on Trade and Plantations--was commissioned to enquire into the constitutionat changes which it might be advisable to make in the Government of the Australian colonies. (For the nature and history of this Committee, see Jenks' Government of Victoria, p. 3.) The Committee brought up a report in which it recommended that the southern part of New South Wales should be established as a separate colony, to be called Victoria ; that each of the colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Van Diemen's Land should have a legislature of one House, of whose members one-third were to be nominated by the Crown, and two-thirds elected; and that the Legislature of each colony should be empowered to alter its own Constitution. On the subject of a uniform tariff and a federal legislature the Committee reported as follows :

“ There yet remains a question of considerable difficulty. By far the larger part of the revenue of the Australian colonies is derived from duties on customs. But if, when Victoria shall have been separated from New South Wales, each province shall be authorized to impose duties according to its own wants, it is scarcely possible but that in process of time differences should arise between the rates of duty imposed upon the same articles in the one and in the other of them. There is already such a difference in the tariffs of South Australia and New South Wales, and although, until of late, this has been productive of little inconvenience, yet with the increase of settlers on either side of the imaginary line dividing them, it will become more and more serious. The division of New South Wales into two colonies would further aggravate this inconvenience, if the change should lead to the introduction of three entirely distinct tariffs, and to the consequent necessity for imposing restrictions and securities on the import and export of goods between them. So great indeed would be the evil, and such the obstruction of the intercolonial trade, and so great the check to the development of the resources of each of these colonies, that it seems to us necessary that there should be one tariff common to them all, so that goods might be carried from the one into the other with the same absolute freedom as between any two adjacent counties in England.

“We are further of opinion that the same tariff should be established in Van Diemen's Land also, because the intercourse between that island and the neighbouring colonies in New Holland has arisen to a great importance and extent, and has an obvious tendency to increase. Yet fiscal regulations on either side of the intervening strait must of necessity check, and might perhaps to a great extent destroy, that beneficial trade.

“If the duties were uniform, it is obvious there need be no restrictions whatever imposed upon the import or export of goods between the respective colonies, and no motive for importing into one goods liable to duty which were destined for consumption in another; and it may safely be calculated that each would receive the proportion of revenue to which it would be justly entitled, or at all events that there would be no departure from this to an extent of any practical importance.

“Hence it seems to us that a uniformity in the rate of duties should be secured. “For this purpose

recommend that a uniform tariff should be established by the authority of Parliament, but that it should not take effect until twelve months had elapsed from the promulgation in the several colonies of the proposed Act of Parliament. That interval would afford time for making any financial arrangements which the contemplated change might require in any of them, and by adopting the existing tariff of New South Wales (with some modifications, to adapt it to existing circumstances) as the general tariff for Australia, we apprehend that there would be no risk of imposing upon the inhabitants of these colonies a table of duties unsuited to their actual wants. We should not, however, be prepared to offer this recommendation, unless we proposed at the same time to provide for making any alteration in this general tariff which time and experience may dictate, and this we think can only be done by creating some authority competent to act for all those colonies jointly.

“For this purpose we propose that one of the Governors of the Australian colonies should always hold from Your Majesty a commission constituting him the Governor-General of Australia. We think that he should be authorized 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 GovernorGeneral should have received from two or more of the Australian legislatures addresses requesting him to exercise that power.

“We recommend that the General Assembly should consist of the Governor-General, and of a single House, to be called the House of Delegates. The House of Delegates should be composed of not less than 20 nor of more than 30 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 proportions in which each colony should contribute to 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 for 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, or for the improvement in any other respect of its own constitution. But we think that no such law 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 for 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 qualification 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."

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