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Tuesday, 22 March 1904

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I wish to say a few words, chiefly with the object of briefly explaining the reasons for which I shall support the motion. I think that the occasion has arisen for some such pronouncement of Australian opinion. The honorable member for Bland proved to the hilt that there is reason for our entering some such protest, and forwarding an expression of our opinion to those who superintend the Councils of the nation. The honorable member did full justice to the subject, while the action of the Prime Minister prior to the meeting of Parliament, and his brilliant speech in supporting the motion, .are also creditable. We should proceed in this matter with all the dignity we can assume. I deprecate the way in which the discussion has been carried on this evening, and regret that the debate was not concluded last Friday. I am sorry that certain references have been made to a leading statesman of a neighbouring Colony, who was designated by a nickname, because I think they were beneath the dignity of the House. The Prime Minister has laid it down very clearly that we are ahead of the text-books in regard to the diplomatic relations existing between different parts of the Empire. In this connexion I should like to briefly recall to the minds of honorable members some of the circumstances relating to the transportation of convicts from Great Britain to Australia. In 1859 Western Australia clamored for convicts to be sent to that Colony. The cry was that land had decreased in value to 2s. 6d. per acre, that no purchasers were to be found at that price, arid that if the settlers could not procure cheap labour they would be unable to successfully grapple with their difficulties. As a result of these representations, the system was continued longer than it otherwise would have been, but those who were aware of the democratic feeling in the adjoining Colonies might well have anticipated what took place. In Victoria an agitation was commenced, and in 1863 Sir John O'Shannessy succeeded in securing the adoption of an address to the Queen protesting strongly against the revival of the transportation of convicts to Western Australia. It was therein stated that the willingness of the people of Western Australia to receive these convicts had been taken for granted. It was denied that they were in favour of the continuance of the transportation system, and it was asserted that if a vote of the people were taken, they would not support the request preferred. It was argued that even if they were favorable, the English Government should not grant what they desired, because it would be against the interests of the whole of the Empire to continue the system. This representation to the Home Government met with practically no response, and it was followed up in 1864 by Sir James McCulloch. then Premier of Victoria, who wrote a strong Ministerial minute to the Imperial Government, expressing regret that no answer had been vouchsafed to the former communication. I wish particularly to direct attention to the fact that in connexion with that matter communications passed between Victoria and Western Australia, and between Victoria and the other Colonies in reference to the action of Western Australia, and the. want of action of the Imperial authorities. The Victorian statesmen of that day even went so far as to threaten extreme reprisals if Western Australia did not see fit to retire from the position she had taken up, or the Imperial Government did not yield to the remonstrances addressed to them. The Government of Victoria threatened that they would prevent the mail steamers from calling at Western Australian ports, and it was also suggested that immigration from Western Australia to the eastern Colonies should be prohibited.

Mr Deakin - That is a very pertinent precedent.

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