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Wednesday, 22 November 1905

Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia) (Minister of Defence) . - I move -

1.   That, in the opinion of this Senate, the Com monwealth of Australia should join with Great Britain,. Canada, New Zealand, the Cape Colony, Natal, Newfoundland, and other parts of the Empire in the erection of a memorial in honour of the personal worth and beneficent reign of the late Queen Victoria.

2.   That this Senate is prepared to approve of a grant of £25,000 for that purpose.

3.   That the foregoing resolutions be transmitted by Address to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral.

I may be excused for my lack of preparation, because I did not anticipate that I should have to submit this motion, to-night. I may begin by saying that this proposal was carried in another place. The first reference which I can find to the question of a national memorial to Queen Victoria is in a despatch signed by Mr. Chamberlain, and dated from Downing-street on 10th June, 1901. It is addressed to the Governor-General of Australia, and is as follows : -

You are doubtless aware that a. Committee was, in February last, appointed by His Majesty the King to consider the best means of giving effect to the desire which is so universally felt that a memorial of Her late Majesty Queen. Victoria, Imperial and not local in its character, should be erected in London as the metropolis and centre of the Empire over which she ruled for more than sixty years. The recommendation of the Committee was in favour of a memorial of a strictly personal and monumental kind, in which a statue of her late Majesty should form a most prominent feature ; and the King expressed his approval of this proposal and of the site in front of Buckingham. Palace which has been selected. The general idea of the scheme is to place in front of the Palace a group or groups of statuary, of which the statue of Queen Victoria will form the central figure, and; if funds admit, to form an imposing architectural and processional approach to the main group, of statuary and to the Palace, with statues at intervals representative of the Colonies and Dependencies of the Empire.

The subject was also considered at an Imperial Conference relating to Colonial affairs, and there an undertaking was arrived at that New Zealand and other portions of the Empire would each bear a certain proportion of the expense. As to her late Majesty, we are all aware that during her long reign she endeared herself to the whole of her people. In all her relations of life - as girl Queen, wife, mother, widow, and constitutional monarch - her conduct won the admiration and respect of all hersubjects. It is somewhat appropriate that a motion of this kind should be submitted in the State in which we are met. Victoria was named after the late Queen, and the capital city of the State was named after her first Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, who directed her when she, as a mere girl, ascended the throne, and instructed her in those lessons of constitutional government which she remembered and followed for the rest of her life. To Lord Melbourne a deep debt of gratitude was owing, not only by the Queen, but by all her subjects. It may be said that Queen Victoria saw the growth of Australia from the time when it consisted of the three Colonies of New South Wales, Tasmania, and Western Australia, until it developed into the Commonwealth. She granted or approved of the constitutions that were conceded to the various divisions of this continent by the Imperial Parliament, and her crowning work,just before she died, was to sign the Constitution under which we live. Thus, the late Queen survived .to see the Australian Commonwealth firmly established. One virtue of Queen Victoria, of which we are justly proud, is that she was content " to be .throughout a constitutional monarch. She governed on- precedents that were established partly in the reign of William and Mar)-, and partly in the reign of the first and second Georges, and, subsequently, under the influence of Whig traditions. I have no recollection of her late Majesty ever having shown the slightest feeling of antagonism to any of her Prime Ministers. Of course, we know that in the case of Lord Palmerston she on one occasion objected very strongly to his dealing with despatches without her knowledge, and the result was that he had to retire from office. However, in the course of about- eighteen months Lord Palmerston was again Prime Minister, and the Queen gave him her unbounded confidence, although I have no doubt she felt rather keenly that he had treated her some- what unfairly. The Queen always .recognised that the man who had the confidence of the Commons was the .man who ought to be entrusted with the formation of die Ministry, and the Prime Minister, whoever he might be, always had her loyal support. As to the proposed memorial, it is, estimated tq cost £1,000,000, of which the Colonies will, it is believed, contribute £100,000. To quote a statement made in another place -

The improvements which have been taking place in London in recent years have altered great portions of that old city almost beyond recognition, and this memorial is intended to be the crowning part of 1 one of these .great schemes of improvement and beautification. The idea is that the contribution of the mother country - as far as I am aware it has not been voted yet - will be about nine-tenths of the total sum. The remaining portions of the Empire which have acted already are Canada, which has voted ^30,000, Cape Colony, which has voted ^20,000, New Zealand, which has voted .£15,000, Natal, which has voted ,£10,000, and Newfoundland, which has voted £2,000. Measuring them roughly by order of population, it has been estimated that on this scale a grant of ,£25,000 on the part of Australia will represent its fair contribution to the fund. That means that the outer Empire, so to speak, is expected to contribute about £100,000 of the £.1,000,000, almost the whole of which will be devoted to the provision of a statue of the Queen, surrounded by statues or other emblems representative of all parts of the Empire over which she ruled.

There are two points on which I desire to say a word or two. One honorable sena tor has given notice that he intends to move the addition of the following words - provided that such memorial be a public hospital to be erected in an Australian city chosen by the Commonwealth Parliament.

If before she died Her late Majesty Queen Victoria had been informed that some memorial was to be erected in her honour, and had been asked whether it should take the form of the memorial to which I have alluded, or that indicated by Senator Stewart, I have my doubts as u> the answer which she would have /given. Knowing as we do how charitable she was, it is -possible that she would have said, " Erect some institution which will be at the same time a memorial of me and useful to the poor and needy of my kingdom." But it must he remembered that in this case we have not a determining voice. We must to some extent follow others, since we are contributing a mere moiety of the large sum which it is proposed to expend. Others have proposed a form of memorial which I have indicated, and as is proved by the despatch received, from Mr. Chamberlain, His Majesty the King has, expressed a wish that it should take that form. In the circumstances, I hope Senator Stewart will not press his amendment. No doubt the honorable senator and many other persons believe that it would be better that the memorial should take the form he has suggested ;; but as we are contributing only so small a proportion of the amount to be expended, and as. the proposal has been elaborated, considered, and practically decided, I hope the amendment will not be pressed. The honorable senator suggests a further amendment to the following effect : -

That the people of the Commonwealth of Australia be invited to contribute by private subscription the balance of such sum as may be necessary for the erection and endowment of such memorial hospital.

The idea of erecting a national memorial to the late Queen was mooted before the inauguration of the Commonwealth, and it was then suggested that the proposal might be given effect to by means of private subscriptions, and in other ways. My own idea is that there is not a man or woman in the Commonwealth who has any knowledge of the late Queen Victoria wEb, no matter how poor he or she might be, would begrudge contributing what would amount to something like ijd. each for the purpose of erecting a memorial to a Queen who was so much beloved. I think that the people of the Commonwealth would prefer to contribute in this way than that the rich of the community should be asked for subscriptions. They would prefer a national' memorial, to which every member of the community could contribute. The motion I ' have moved has been agreed to in another place. The .£25,000 amounts to a very small sum per head of the population of the Commonwealth, and under the motion rich and poor will contribute alike. The only way in which that can be arranged is by taking the money required for the purpose from the Consolidated Revenue, to which all the people of the Commonwealth subscribe. This must be admitted to be preferable to any proposal to ask for private subscriptions, under which a few rich people would possibly advertise themselves to a considerable extent by having their subscriptions paraded in the newspapers. It is far better that we should all subscribe the very small sum per head involved in the vote towards the memorial of the good Queen, who kept her Court so pure. Those of us who have any knowledge of the Courts of George I., George II., George IV., and even of William IV., who preceded the late Queen, and who have read in Greville's Memoirs of her early days as a Queen, must hold her memory in high regard on account of the way in which she purified her Court. I have very much pleasure in moving the motion.

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