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Tuesday, 22 March 1904

Mr SKENE (Grampians) - I join with honorable members in regretting that it should be thought necessary, in the Transvaal to take any action such as is proposed. I should not have risen to address the House but for the question of verbiage which is involved in this motion. The honorable and learned member for Corinella has pointed out that the messages from the Premier of New Zealand and the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth were received in the most friendly and proper spirit by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. But honorable members should recollect that those messages were couched in language very different from the terms employed in the motion. They have been accepted as official, whereas the motion is couched in language which the very member of this House, who has brought it forward admits to be officious. It is intended that it shall reach somebody by a side-wind. I hold that it is beneath the dignity of this Parliament to pass any motion which we 'cannot send direct to the central Government of the Empire. That is my objection to the verbiage of it. If the word " object," which it is proposed to substitute for "protest," comes within the official scope of our present relations with the central Government of the Empire, why not forward our expression of opinion to the proper quarter. It is beneath our dignity to pass a motion which is not capable of being transmitted direct to the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It will be sent on, will it not ?

Mr SKENE - I understand that it will not. It is simply to be recorded in our Votes and Proceedings, and there it is to be left. That is not a proper course to pursue. To my mind, the wording of the amendment is better. Although people may talk about " trifling differences of words," there is a great deal lying behind the objection to this motion on the score of verbiage. If we had an Empire system of government, and were represented on some central Council, such as that which met at the time of the late Queen's Jubilee, we might be in a position to adopt the language of the motion. I think that the Prime Minister was present at some of the meetings of the Imperial Conference then held in England. I recollect that on one occasion Sir Wilfrid Laurier, in addressing the Imperial authorities on this very matter of the Transvaal, said, " If you want our assistance why do you not call us to your counsels?" and I think it was the Duke of Devonshire or the Earl of Onslow who replied, "Ask us to call you to our counsels and you will be surprised at the alacrity with which we shall respond." Had we been represented on such a Council possibly the word " protest " would not have been too strong. But the action of the honorable member who has brought this motion forward shows that it is an officious rather than an official communication.

Mr Watson - How does the honorable member make that out?

Mr SKENE - I say that any resolution which we pass, and do not transmit to the central Government of the Empire-

Mr Watson - We are prepared to send it on.

Mr McCay - Let the honorable member move subsequently that a copy of it be forwarded to the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

Mr SKENE - Most certainly I shall do nothing of the kind, because I do not approve of it. If, -however, the amendment be carried, I shall be prepared to move in that direction.

Mr Mauger - It will not be carried.

Mr SKENE - If the amendment were carried and transmitted to the Imperial authorities as an official resolution, it would be of very much more value than a resolution which is to be left to reach the Home authorities through the medium of press reports. Under the circumstances I shall vote for the amendment.

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