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6. CHAPTER VI

THE GENERAL ELECTION—I DEFEAT THE PRIME MINISTER AT ST. LEONARD'S—THE DIBBS MINISTRY DEFEATED IN THE NEW PARLIAMENT—SIR JOHN ROBERTSON FORMS A MINISTRY—HIS DEFEAT—SIR PATRICK JENNINGS SENT FOR—POLITICAL DESERTIONS—THE ‘THIN END OF THE WEDGE’ OF PROTECTION—VIOLENT PROCEEDINGS IN THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY—BREAK-UP OF THE JENNINGS MINISTRY—THE MOUNT RENNIE CRIMINALS.

THE eleventh Parliament, with which we were chiefly concerned in the last chapter, lasted a little short of two years and nine months. And into this short space of time the Stuart Government managed to crowd six separate and distinct Sessions,—a feat, so far as my knowledge extends, never performed before in any part of the world. One of these Sessions, as already explained, occupied a whole year and twenty-two days. This first wrench to the Constitution was mainly the wide source of the succeeding irregularities. In eighteen days after the prorogation, on November 19, 1884, Parliament was called together again for the sole purpose of granting Supply; and members were appealed to in both Houses, on the ground of their late protracted and heavy labours, to pass the Estimates in globo without discussion, the Government pledging itself, by the mouth of Mr. Dibbs, the Treasurer, to convene Parliament for the Session proper to 1885 not later than the


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early part of May. The Legislative Assembly pliantly responded to the appeal of Ministers, but the pledge of the Ministers was not kept to Parliament. The Session for the regular business of 1885 was not opened until September 8—four months later than the ‘early part of May.’ That I may not do an injustice to Mr Dibbs, I quote his words from the official report of the Debates. In the Assembly, on November 19, 1884, he said:—

The Government is fulfilling the pledges of its existence as rapidly as possible. We trust to meet Parliament in the earlier part of May next, and in that Session to succeed in passing, and we shall certainly do our best in that direction, a Local Government Bill, and honourable members will then, as with the Civil Service Act, be relieved of much of their labour of a detail character, and be enabled to give their time to matters more specially within the functions of a legislature.

Between this date and September 8, 1885, there was a short Session, from March 17 to March 26, to enable Parliament to condone the illegal conduct of the Government in sending a contingent of the military forces to the Soudan. When Parliament did at last meet on September 8, to transact the business of the year, the opening speech promised a Local Government Bill and other important measures; but it was soon made evident that no business would be done. Ministers had presumed too far on their lease of power; the commonsense of the people had re-asserted itself, and there was a sense of outraged public feeling abroad. In less than a month, on October 2, a proclamation was issued, countersigned by Sir Alexander Stuart, proroguing Parliament.


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Another wrench to the Constitution of a different character was now on the eve of coming to light. Sir Alexander Stuart, as chief adviser of the Crown, prorogued Parliament, but on the fifth day afterwards, another man, as chief adviser, dissolved Parliament. In secret conclave the political cards had been reshuffled; Stuart, Dalley, and others had dropped out, and Want, Slattery, See and others had crept in, with George Richard Dibbs at the top, Prime Minister made nobody knew how, though everybody knew it was without the knowledge of Parliament. In the late Assembly Mr. Dibbs represented the district of St. Leonard's. When he offered himself for re-election as Prime Minister, I was induced to present myself as his opponent on the hustings, and I defeated him by a majority of 500 votes. Mr. Dibbs was afterwards elected for The Murrumbidgee, but his Ministry survived only seventy-five days.

Some months before these events, Sir Alexander Stuart had unhappily been stricken by paralysis, and he was in New Zealand seeking restoration to health when the decision was arrived at to send the contingent to the Soudan. He had, however, recovered sufficiently to occupy his place in Parliament during the last Session.

The next Ministry was formed by Sir John Robertson. On receiving his commission, Sir John did me the honour to wait upon me, and he very handsomely left to me my choice of office. I told him at once that for several reasons, some of which I explained, I could not join him. He then said, with the utmost cordiality,


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that he was willing to go back to the Governor and advise him to send for me, and he would take office with me. I replied that during my absence from the colony, he had been leader of the Opposition, that the Governor's commission had come properly to him, and that I could not hear of any such arrangement. He finally said that, if I would not join him, he would return his commission. This I begged of him not to think of doing, but to go on, and form his Ministry. I had some time before determined that, if any such crisis occurred, not to take office, and I had come to this determination for reasons which appeared to me then, and appear to me now, perfectly sound and justifiable.

Some ill-natured things have been said of me in consequence of my refusal to join Sir John Robertson at this juncture, and for that reason I shall quote a passage from a letter addressed by me to the late Mr. Thomas Garrett, which he read to the Assembly on December 22, 1885. A rumour had been circulated, that I refused to join the new Ministry because I objected to Mr. Garrett, and that gentleman asked me to inform him whether such was the fact, and he read the following from my letter in reply:—

In reply to your note of this date, I can say without the slightest reserve that I was not influenced by any feeling towards you in declining to accept office with Sir John Robertson. I made no enquiries of Sir John as to whom he intended to offer seats in his Ministry, as my mind was made up when he called upon me, and you will recollect that I told you during the Want of Confidence debate that I would not take office.


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I may add that, if Sir John were to form a ministry from the principal men with whom I have recently acted, including yourself, I should give to such ministry an unhesitating support.

I must also quote what Sir John Robertson said himself in his explanation to Parliament in reference to his interview with me. Sir John is thus reported:—

I desire to say that on receiving the commission from the Governor to which I have alluded, without a moment's delay, on leaving His Excellency I waited upon my honourable and distinguished friend, Sir Henry Parkes, in the hope that he would take some part in a new administration. Of course, from his great ability, his great experience, and his high position in the country, no restriction whatever was by me thought of or suggested to the honourable member. However, in a short conversation, the honourable member made it apparent that at that time he was disinclined to take office, and, in answer to certain observations of mine, he expressed his hope that I would not, in consequence of his determination, abandon the idea of forming a Government. At the same time he conveyed to me his appreciation of the great difficulties I had in my way, and his hope for my success.

Sir John Robertson's Ministry was a surprise to all parties, and it included men who were known to be inveterate Protectionists. It was said that he yielded to advice to form a Ministry of any complexion rather than fail in forming one. What he did, naturally brought about a state of things, in which the new Government had to confront not only the legitimate Opposition, but a large dissentient section of the side on which alone it could depend for support. The policy of the Government, as put before the electors, and as put before Parliament, was, to use the mildest


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terms, unhappily explained; and, after much debate, a resolution was submitted in the Assembly: ‘That the policy of the Government is unsatisfactory to this House.’ I took no part in the debate on this motion, but beyond all question it expressed an indisputable truth, and I, with some reluctance, voted for it, with eight other members who, before and since, have held office with me.

On the defeat of the short-lived Robertson ministry, Lord Carrington sent for Sir Patrick Jennings, who apparently aimed at drawing what he mistook for strength from both sides of the House. The ministry which he succeeded in constructing included gentlemen who had served with me, and gentlemen from the Stuart-Dibbs party, to whom they had been bitterly opposed. If this expedient in cabinet-making did not give the strength expected, it certainly had the effect of weakening the public character of the persons most conspicuously concerned. Sir Patrick Jennings, who is an amiable, well-meaning, honourable man, soon found that he had created for himself a situation of insupportable misery. He placed Mr. Dibbs in the great office of Colonial Secretary, taking himself the Treasury, and forming, in imitation of an absurd step in some of the other colonies, what he called ‘the Premier's office.’ Mr. Dibbs contrived to quarrel with him in official intercourse, set him at defiance, flouted him in public, and converted his bed of roses into a garden of thistles.

In the last Stuart days, and throughout the troubled life of the Jennings Ministry, repeated confessions had


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to be made of a failing Treasury, each time with a larger sum on the wrong side of the account, until at length it was admitted that the deficit far exceeded two millions sterling. In addressing his constituents, Sir Patrick Jennings had informed them, that additional revenue must be obtained, but that, whatever form the new taxation might take, the Ministry would not be guilty of ‘sneaking in Protection.’ This phrase was remembered with scornful gibes and mocking denunciations when he himself introduced a Bill to largely increase the Customs revenue by the imposition of specific and ad valorem duties. It was vehemently contended that this was a reversal of the settled policy of the country, and was being done behind the backs of the people, who had been assured by the Prime Minister that he would be no party to ‘sneaking in’ Protection. Resistance was carried to extreme lengths. The Government determined to force their measure through at all hours of the night and by any available means. They supplied their supporters with pillows and blankets, and put them to bed in the ante-rooms, to be awakened when the division bell rang. This unreasoning attitude of the Government naturally provoked a corresponding spirit of violence in the Opposition, and language was used, and means were adopted, which were utterly unjustifiable. All night sittings extended into day and night sittings, but with no advantage to the Opposition. The Bill passed, and became law.

I spoke on the second reading of the Bill, and I give the concluding portion of my speech. It will be


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seen that, yielding to the tempestuous excitement of the hour, I declared with others that the Bill should never become law. But all that we could do failed in the end to arrest its progress:—

In the year 1852 the late Sir Edward Deas-Thomson carried through the old Legislative Council a Bill to impose Customs duties, and that Bill followed as nearly as possible in the light of great English precedents. It reduced the number of articles on which revenue was collected to about the same number as that in the English tariff, or only one or two more. And it is very remarkable that it reduced the duties on tea and sugar to one-half the present duties on those articles. The Deas-Thomson tariff left the duty on refined sugar at 3s. 6d., unrefined sugar, 2s. 6d.; molasses, 1s. 6d.; on tea, 1½d. The duties were doubled before the Constitution came into force—I think at the time when Mr. Merewether was Acting Treasurer, during Mr. Riddell's absence in England on leave. The Government, however, wanted revenue, and the tea and sugar duties were doubled; but as Sir Edward Deas-Thomson left them, they stood at the low rates I have quoted. The tariff, as I have said, almost copied what had been achieved in England. In the year 1865 a great alteration was made. In the year 1873 another great alteration was made, and now it is proposed to make another great alteration. Now, I will show to the House and the country, that under freedom, here as elsewhere, the country progressed, and that during the pressure of the duties which were imposed in 1865, and until they were removed, the country was stationary. If I prove that, I think I make out an unanswerable case for maintaining a free policy in this country. I shall give the figures first, and then I shall show by an analysis of the figures how the country went on under the two different systems. From 1852—we will say 1853, because the Bill was passed late in the year—from 1853 to 1865 the country appears to have made very decided progress. In the last year the value of the imports into this country stood at 10,635,507l., the value of the exports at 9,563,811l., the revenue at


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1,938,656l., while the population was 411,388. In this year, 1865, which is represented by the figures I have just read, revenue was wanted, and without much regard either to principle or to symmetry, let alone scientific lines of construction, duties were imposed on the country. They were all customs duties. There were specific duties, a 5 per cent. ad valorem duty, and there was a package duty. They lasted for eight years, and remember that in 1865, when they were imposed, the imports were of the value of 10,635,507l. In 1873, when they were abolished, after eight years, the imports stood at 10,471,483l. Instead of progressing they actually diminished during the eight years. That is our experience under a system such as that which we are now asked, in the madness of its authors, appealing to some madness in ourselves, to pass. We have had it before, when the country under its pressure made no headway. The same amount of imports when it commenced measured the amount of imports when it ceased, and the exports declined also. Do not think that the volume of trade mounted up in the interim. It sunk as low as 6,000,000l. It never was as high as 10,000,000l., when these duties were levied. These are our own figures, from our own records. We imposed these destructive duties; and the effect was to arrest the progress of our trade for eight years so that at the end of that time you stood at the same figure as you did when you commenced. Nay, you had receded. Very well, the package duty expired by effluxion of time the year before the time alluded to. In 1873 the other duties were all abolished, except what remain on the tariff to-day. Let us see what the country has done since. I have shown from our own records—which admit of no alteration, admit of no misinterpretation, admit of no other explanation—that throughout the eight years of this taxation the country stood still in the volume of its trade; and I will tell you what it did when the taxes were taken off. I have just stated that in 1873 the imports were 10,471,483l. The exports were 9,387,873l. In 1884, after the expiration of eleven years, the imports amounted to 22,826,985l., and the exports have doubled; they stood at


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18,251,506l. So here you have our own experience. You tried freedom under the guiding hand of Mr. Deas-Thomson, and you made a great advance. You tried restriction for eight years, and you stood still; nay, you went back. And the records are open to all the world. You cannot deny them. You tried freedom for eleven years, and your trade doubled. Let us see how the revenue fared. In 1865, when the duties were imposed, the revenue was 1,938,656l. In 1873—and this makes our trade stagnation the more remarkable, because the revenue did progress by reason of the fruits of these duties and the disposal of land—the revenue stood at 3,937,975l. In 1884 the revenue was 7,000,000l., notwithstanding the cessation of the land revenue. The population in the first year to which I have alluded, namely 1865, was 411,388 souls; in 1873 it was 560,275; and in 1884 it had increased to 921,268. A large number of these souls, as was shown by the honourable member for East Sydney last night, came from the Protectionist country of Victoria. This will be seen perhaps more strikingly if I give the percentages of the increase. In twelve years of Mr. Deas-Thomson's tariff the imports increased 67½ per cent., the exports 111½ per cent., the revenue 135 per cent., and the population 80 per cent. In the eight years of the Customs duties—ad valorem and specific duties exactly like these—the imports were stationary, and the exports remained stationary too. The revenue increased 113 per cent., and the population 35 per cent. In eleven years of freedom, from 1873 to 1884, the imports increased 120 per cent., the exports 100 per cent., the revenue 193 per cent., and the population 70 per cent. Answer these figures. Try to answer these figures, and human reason must fail, because human reason cannot accomplish impossibilities. And until you have answered these figures you have no title to ask us to roll back the tide of freedom and bring in an era of darkness and slavery. At least you must have a mandate from the electors of the country before this great national suicide is committed. You have no moral right, you have no right, against reason and understanding, again to commit this flagrant wrong, and to


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roll back the tide of our prosperity, unless the electors of the country are blind enough, mad enough, to give you this suicidal mandate. What does the honourable member want? Has he not got a fair prospect of increasing the stamp duties? Has he not a fair prospect of getting a land tax? Has he not a prospect of getting an income tax? He can milk the country by the teat of a stamp tax, he can milk the country by the teat of a land tax, he can milk the country by the teat of an income tax. Will he go on milking till he milks the country dry? I would appeal to him in the language of the Irish poet:

If thou art strong, be merciful,
Great woman of three cows.

Do not tax us to death. Have some mercy upon us. Do not take more than you want. The taxes you are imposing will simply oppress the people; but this tax will not only oppress the people, it will disorganise all our commercial arrangements; it will destroy our reputation in civilised countries; it will take away our fair prestige which we have so honestly won. It will not make you famous, but the reverse. It will do no good to anyone, and it will inflict an enormous evil upon the struggling classes at the present time in this country. Why, it would be better for us to have a volcano in eruption than to have a tax like this; it would be a less misfortune. Twelve hundred miles of stormy sea between us and New Zealand does not afford us safety from the disasters which have caused such dismay to our fellow-subjects in that country. Our Mount Tarawera is on the Treasury Benches, belching forth its poisonous fumes, and tainting the pure air which hitherto has fed us with such lusty life, sending its black clouds far and wide over the land, covering the fair face of our commerce and industry with the pestiferous ashes of a worn-out fiscal creed, and threatening to bury us beneath the deathly-coloured ‘blue mud’ of old world laws of restriction and repression. It would be better for us to suffer from these destructive natural catastrophes than to have a thing of this kind invented in our midst—invented behind the backs of the electors, and by men who dare not take this Bill before the


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face of the country. There is not a man amongst them who dare stand up and defend this treason against the country. There is not a man amongst them who dare appear before his constituents and say, that he is inflicting upon the country this enormous wrong. I feel quite assured of this, because I believe in the principle of a great cause at all times, that this Bill will never become law. It never shall become law so long as others will stand by me to resist it.

Mr. DIBBS: Stonewalling!

Sir HENRY PARKES: Stonewalling! Why, there is nothing that human ingenuity can contrive that is not justifiable against a treason like this. Put the issue fairly; go to the electors, and if the electors will support you, we will accept your nauseous measures till a more enlightened time arrives. But you dare not go; not one of you dare go to the electors with this Bill in your hands; and I am thankful to think that even here we are still Britons, and, knowing that we have a just cause, we will stand together, and will resist this iniquity, this gigantic treason, until our resistance shall justify us before the enlightened portion of the country, and shall redeem our dear land from this heavy affliction.

Sir Patrick Jennings at the same time introduced a Bill to impose a land tax, which received my support at nearly all its stages through the Assembly; but it was ultimately lost.

While these struggles were going on in Parliament I delivered a speech at a public meeting in one of the Metropolitan suburbs, on August 16, 1886, which fairly expressed my view of the mischief which had been done, and was still being done, since the accession to office of the Stuart Ministry in 1883:—

He was not going to indulge in any declamatory speech, but it was his intention to put before them, in plain and simple words, what, from his point of view, was the true position of public affairs in this country. He should try to show them


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the condition this country was really in, compared with what its condition was a few years ago. It was very possible that many persons would suspect him of seeking to carry out his own views; if so, their suspicions were well founded. The man who had any well-founded and earnest opinions on public questions must be anything but a straightforward man if he did not desire to give effect to them. Now let them look fairly and dispassionately at the present state of things. The Parliament of this country had been in session nine months. The work of Parliament in this country ought to be performed in less than six months. It was so performed in the other colonies. The Imperial Parliament, as a rule, transacted the business of the Empire in less than six months. It was essential, absolutely necessary, that a Government should have time to attend to the real business of the country—the administration of the Civil Service departments and the due execution of the laws; and the work in Parliament ought to be the lesser part of Ministers’ work. We had been in session nine months, and we might really say we had done nothing. He would glance at what he thought were the causes of nothing having been done. His review of the affairs of the country would stretch over the time dating from the period when he and his colleagues retired from office three years and eight months ago. Of course he was not going to pass in review what he and the gentlemen associated with him did during the time of the Ministry which retired at the beginning of 1883. Others might do that in the same way as he was doing now. He would simply deal with the period which had elapsed since his retirement from office. During that time there had been to his mind singular irregularities in the conduct of business. For example, during that period, there had been seven Sessions of Parliament, or nearly double the number we ought to have had. In our country the financial year extended from January 1 to December 31; we ought to have one Session in each period of twelve months, and during that Session we ought not only to pass the necessary laws but to pass sound and good laws. It was not particularly desirable that private members should introduce measures; the Government


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should introduce and pass into law all the measures to meet the present needs of the country. And if the Government of the day had not the power to pass those measures, their inability to do so supplied the proof that they were not entitled to hold office. One safeguard of our constitutional form of Government was that the Crown, whether represented by the Sovereign or by the recognised representative of the Crown as in this colony, should not have a penny of money beyond the needs of one year; hence the necessity for Parliament to meet once in every year, and hence the necessity that it should carefully consider the estimates of expenditure before sanctioning their appropriation by law. The law making provision for the public service of 1887, for example, ought to be passed before the expiration of the year 1886, in order that the Government might be constitutionally and satisfactorily carried on. In other words, to make his meaning perfectly clear, the estimates of expenditure for the year of 1887 ought to be considered by the Legislative Assembly and legally appropriated before December 31 this year. So far from this being the case at the present time, though they were more than half through the year, we had never yet considered the estimates—not simply the estimates for the coming year, but not the estimates for the current year. That would give some idea of the state of public business. It was supposed that their representatives would carefully examine and honestly criticise all proposals of expenditure, but as the moneys for eight months of the year had already been voted away in monthly Supply Bills, they would see that it was a farce to talk of considering the estimates now the money was gone. Some years ago the late Mr. Fitzpatrick proposed a resolution and carried it against the Government then in power, that Parliament ought to meet for the despatch of business not later than the month of May. The resolution stood on the books of the House, but it had been disregarded. The object of this resolution was that the business might be wound up before the close of the year, and that there might be a clean sheet for the next year. If they remembered that the estimates of expenditure amounted to 9,000,000l. of money, they would see


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how necessary it was that their representatives should consider them. Yet for nineteen months there had been no deliberate consideration of the estimates of our public expenditure. In his judgment the present Government fairly represented the Government formed three years and eight months ago by the late Sir Alexander Stuart, and for all political purposes he must consider the party, as it stood before the country, one and the same. Three of the present Ministers, Sir Patrick Jennings, Mr. Dibbs, and Mr. Copeland, were members of the Ministry which took office early in January, 1883. Mr. Lyne and Mr. Garvan were strong supporters of the first Ministry, though the latter gentleman fell away in his support afterwards. It was true that Mr. Suttor, Dr. Renwick, and Mr. Fletcher had joined them, but these were weak men and had suffered themselves to be absorbed in the old element; the Jennings-Dibbs members were the dominant force. Dr. Renwick had told them that he intended to keep Mr. Dibbs in order, so that he should do no harm; but it seemed to him that the relations between these two Ministers were those of an overgrown boy with a poor little bird safely shut in a cage. He would like to show what they had got from the long reign of gentlemen who had in one shape or other held the reins of Government in their hands since the beginning of 1883. In 1882 the estimated expenditure was 5,961,368l. This year—and let them remember this was a year when everyone admitted that the utmost exertion should be exercised to reduce expenditure—when they were threatened by new taxes on every hand, when every interest had been suffering a long and painful depression, when there was not a single branch of trade or industry which could be said to be in a soundly flourishing state; this year, when all these things existed, and all these obligations to economise were thrown upon the Government, the estimated expenditure was 8,571,855l., or an increase since 1882 of 2,610,485l., or more than 2l. 10s. per head for every man, woman, and child in the country. If they would bear these facts in mind they would see what a downhill process of expenditure they had commenced, to increase in less than four years their expenditure to this extent.


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Now, he was going to show by-and-by the increase in population, expenditure, and debt in that time. But it would be interesting if he were to give them figures showing how our public debt had increased. In the year 1880 we had enjoyed Responsible Government since the year 1856, just twenty-four years, and in that year (1880) the public debt stood at 14,903,919l. In 1881 it had risen to 16,924,019l. In 1882 it had risen to 18,721,219l. It would seem that in those three years the debt rose gradually and not by very excessive strides. And he would now require his hearers to fix, as a starting point, upon the year 1882, when the debt, after twenty-six years of Responsible Government, stood at 18,721,219l. The change of Government took place at the beginning of the next year. In the year 1884, the second year of the new men, the debt had increased from 18,721,219l. to 30,101,039l., or in those two years it had increased by the enormous sum of 11,380,720l., or it had increased by more than 60 per cent. on the total debt of all the years of Responsible Government up to 1882. Now, at this present time, the public debt of this country was 41,064,259l., or it had increased upon the debt of 1882 by the tremendous sum of 22,343,040l. The interest on the debt—and he wanted them to pay particular attention to this because it meant that they had to find it every year of their lives—in 1882 was 640,518l. In 1886 it was 1,646,681l. 1s. 8d., or, in other words, after four years there was added to the annual expenditure of this country the sum of one million sterling for interest on borrowed money. Now they understood why taxes were wanted. This interest, supposing it did not increase for some time, was 1l. 13s. per head for every man, woman, and child in the country. No wonder—with this large increase in the public debt—no wonder that the revenue had failed to meet our engagements. No wonder that the legislature was called upon to impose new taxation, no wonder that many things which should be done for the real benefit of the country could not be done; but still extravagant expenditure went on for unproductive works, and those not necessary for the general happiness of the people. It was, then, no wonder that we found


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ourselves in a difficulty. Before he said anything further on the present state of things, he must say a few words about the late Treasurer, Mr. Dibbs. he charged that gentleman with an almost unpardonable political offence, in concealing for so many months the great difference between revenue and expenditure. So far back as April last year he (Sir Henry) offered himself as a candidate for Argyle. He went there—not merely to obtain a seat in Parliament, but because things had been done which, in his view, were unjustifiable and which called loudly for a public protest. At that time, now considerably over twelve months ago, he stated distinctly that whenever the exposition of the financial affairs of the country was made there would be a deficit of over a million sterling. It was denied at the time and laughed at, and he was called by every kind of uncomplimentary name. In the general election, for reasons which he considered justified him, he threw himself into a contest with Mr. Dibbs himself, then Premier of the country, and he was glad to say that he beat him by a very large majority. But in that contest he again repeatedly stated there was a deficit of a million sterling. That statement was again laughed at. But a very short time afterwards Mr. Dibbs had to acknowledge that the deficit was nearly 1,100,000l., and it turned out that he had not given the full amount. The Governor, or the gentleman acting in his place, who opened Parliament was made to say that Parliament would not be asked for new taxation, notwithstanding that Mr. Dibbs must have known that there was a deficit of considerably over a million of money. No wonder that men with the slightest conception of the true principles of Parliamentary government were annoyed beyond measure that, after these great political crimes, this gentleman should be placed in his present important position, As to the legislation of these disastrous years, they had got the Land Act, which one of the greatest Australian lawyers said was as incongruous and unworkable a measure as he had ever seen, and which satisfied nobody in its provisions for the management of the public estate. Where was the revenue they expected to get from this Act? In some districts the administration of the Act more than


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swallowed up the revenues received under it. No one seemed satisfied with it, and the pastoral tenants were loudest in their complaints against it. They had also a most crude and unworkable and unjust measure in the Civil Service Act. If they had to make laws for the regulation of this service, they should have been made in the interests of the people for whom the service is created. The service should be regulated in the interests of the country, and not exclusively in the interests of the Civil Servants themselves. Besides this, they had had offices multiplied in the most reckless manner and salaries increased without much regard to the merits of the recipients, and they had had pensions lavishly increased. Now they had a perfect cloud of measures for imposing taxes upon the people. Hitherto the proud boast of New South Wales had been that they were the. lightest taxed of all the colonies. Now they would have to hang down their heads and confess that they were the heaviest taxed of all the colonies. Hitherto it had been their proud boast that, while they were making more rapid progress than the other colonies, their public debt was the smallest. Now, unhappily, their debt was the largest, and these things had been brought about in a period of less than four years. Let them contrast their increased expenditure and indebtedness with the increase of population. In 1882 the population of this country was 817,468 souls, now it was a little over a million, or an increase of not 25 per cent. Their expenditure had increased 50 per cent., and their indebtedness had increased 120 per cent. He asked them to pause and think where this course of things must lead them. Population constituted the strength of a free State. Gum trees and cedar brush, treeless plains and fertile valleys, were of little value in themselves. It was men and women, spread over the country in happy conditions, which gave to it life, prosperity, and power. Was it any wonder that there was stagnation, want of trade, want of employment, want of profitable investment—that things were not going right—when, with an increased population of not 25 per cent., they had increased their expenditure by 50 per cent., and, above all, when their


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debt had increased 120 per cent? That was the condition of things to which they had been brought by the new rulers of this country. He would try to honestly explain the new burdens which the Government were endeavouring to place upon the people of the country. They had increased the stamp duties. These duties were often harassing, but all taxes were more or less objectionable, and he for one had given his assent to the measure in order that the Government might have money to preserve the public credit. Then there was the Customs Duties Bill which they had fought so desperately. It was a very peculiar measure. It really in itself offered no particular inducement to the votaries of Protection. There was no duty imposed by this Bill which, as it stood, would have any appreciable effect in protecting articles made in this country. For example, the 5 per cent. ad valorem duty would have no very appreciable effect in protecting cabinet-making. He supposed the advocates of Protection espoused the Bill because it really introduced the principle of Protection, or to use a homely phrase, it introduced the thin edge of the wedge. And, of course, if once introduced and incorporated in the laws of the country, it would be easier to put some new force on the screw or to drive the wedge further. The gentlemen who honestly believed in Protection hailed this measure on account of its introducing the principle of Protection. But what were we to say to the specific duties which this Bill imposed? These duties actually raised the present duty in some instances 100 per cent. and in other instances 50 per cent., without having any effect upon native industries, because many of the articles thus heavily taxed would never be manufactured in this country. The taxes directly pressed upon the poorer portion of the community, and upon those persons who could least afford to bear the pressure of taxation, without doing good to anybody. And, in some instances, the duty imposed was of such a character, that persons well acquainted with trade said that it would prohibit the commodity altogether; and, therefore, there would be no revenue derived from it. In other words, the measure was a crude and an ill-considered one, and had been produced without any knowledge


  ― 170 ―
of the fiscal principles which would inevitably operate in its working. The measure did not in its present form afford protection, and it unnecessarily meddled with men's affairs. Free trade did not alone mean the absence of an active policy of Protection, but it meant the absence of all unnecessary and vexatious impediments and interferences. Importers should not be interfered with, any more than persons following some industry in the fields or the mines of the country, unless such interferences were absolutely necessary for the needs of the State. But in this Bill, so far from it being necessary for the needs of the State, in some cases the tax acted so badly as to exclude the article taxed from the market. Then there was the Land Tax Bill before Parliament at the present time. And if any of his hearers had noticed the proceedings in Parliament on Thursday, as reported in the papers, they would have seen that, though the House was in a good temper and ready to assist the Government, still they spent nearly all the evening over one clause, it being found so difficult to see how that clause would operate without injustice to encumbered properties. It was a clause which in no way distinctly defined how the tax should be imposed in regard to mortgaged land. So that, without there being any desire to oppress, it would act oppressively upon men in straitened circumstances. Then there was the Income Tax Bill. To show how that would operate he might say that he knew persons whose business amounted to 3,000l. to 4,000l. a day, and he had been assured by more than one of these gentlemen that during the last twelve months they had not made a single penny owing to the bad times; they were simply living upon the fruits of former operations. How unpleasant and distressing it would be to these persons to have to explain to the tax-collector the real condition of their affairs. The inquisitorial reach of this tax would be the worst part of it—far more harassing than the mere burden of the tax. These were the measures now engaging the attention of Parliament; and no wonder if men at times lost their balance in contending against measures of such a kind, and in trying to protect the country against heavy burdens, unjust interference, and, in some cases,


  ― 171 ―
cruel oppression. No wonder resistance went to a length sometimes, which people sitting at home in their arm-chairs thought hardly justifiable. But he thought it was gratifying to know that there was a spirit of resistance in the Legislative Assembly capable of rising courageously to meet what was believed to be unjust. With regard to Protection, this country had for many years past been known all over the world as a Free-trade country, and he believed we were favourably known because we were Free-traders. We once lived for a period of eight years under a system of duties very much the same in character as those proposed to be levied by this Customs Duties Bill. We lived under that system for eight years, and during that period we made no progress in our commerce, while the very opposite was the case when the duties were taken off. The other day a wise alderman at the Glebe stated that, if we only had Protection, instead of sending the money out of the country to buy railway plant we should have the railway plant made in the country and have the money also. A man so wise as that was above the reach of argument. It never occurred to that alderman to give himself the trouble to examine into the inevitable laws of exchange and international trade, which were as exacting and true as the laws of nature. You could not import anything by sending your money out of the country as a rule; though that might be done in a trifling, isolated case. You could not import without exporting; and your imports were the measure of the real value of your exports. As an illustration, he would suppose a man to invest 10,000l. in horses for the Indian market. He chartered a ship and took his horses to Bombay, where he sold them at prices which gave him 5,000l. profit, clear of all expenses. He would not bring back his ship in ballast and his 15,000l. in Indian coin; but he would purchase rice or sugar, or other produce of Indian labour, and, if he purchased well, his clear profit on his new venture might be, say, 2,000l. So that the complete transaction between Australia and India would be represented by exports 10,000l., imports 17,000l. Would anyone say that the balance of trade was against Australia? Was it not clear that Australia would


  ― 172 ―
gain 7,000l. of additional wealth by the transaction? So it was in the purchase of British manufactures. If, to pay for them, the merchant bought a draft on London for 50,000l., the Bank would not send sovereigns away to meet it, but it would be met by the proceeds of Australian produce. No country could for any continuance import more than it exported. If they cast their eyes abroad, they could see that Protection was identified with despotism. The despotic countries of the world were all highly protective. Certainly the Melvilles and Luscombes would be protected if they got into a country like Russia or Germany—they would be protected off the face of the earth. There was only one free country that had advocated a protective policy—the United States of America. And some of the wisest and most enlightened as well as cultivated of American citizens were as strong Free-traders as Mr. Gladstone or Mr. Bright. They must not for a moment suppose that because there was a high protective tariff in that country, that there were none who objected to it. If these men had not succeeded in changing the tariff, they had ameliorated it. There were signs that gradually they would change it. But if they went to England which had adopted Free-trade, and to her eternal honour had adhered to that policy, they would see that she was carrying on nearly all the trade of the world. Her ships swept the sea in greater number than nearly all the other maritime nations put together. Her flag was flying everywhere. Where they saw the flag of Germany, of France, or of the United States, they saw twenty vessels bearing the grand old flag of Great Britain. She was still empress of the seas, and carried the commerce of the world. Not merely was she in advance of other nations in this respect, but of all others put together, and her exports had swelled to an extent never dreamt of in these times of Protection. But freedom was freedom. They could not be free and bound by artificial laws. Freedom meant that every man should stand erect and take his own part in the industrial and commercial world without any person telling him where to go, and without any occasion to ask the leave of any person, and without any law


  ― 173 ―
that implied that his own intelligent enterprise was a breach of his individual freedom. But men could not be free under protective laws. Freedom was freedom, and there was no modification of it. And it was abundantly proved that in the time of despotism, when men had no voice in the management of their country and barbarous laws took away life for trifling crimes, when education lay dormant and the children grew up in ignorance—that when this state of things existed, then was the time for the triumph of Protection. The mother-country had emerged from this dark condition of humanity, and had burst her fetters and freed herself from all the burdens which still oppressed less favoured nations; and to the honour of the English nation she bravely upheld her radiant standard of freedom. People talked about Protection benefiting the working-man. Those who talked this palaver about the working-man were generally those who never did a day's work themselves. But to talk about Protection benefiting the masses who had to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, how could it benefit them? How could it benefit the farmer to have 6d. a bushel put on imported wheat if taxes were imposed upon every article his wife and children wore or he used on his farm? How could it benefit the tin-miner or the coal-miner to have a tax on every article they consumed? How could it benefit the tradesman? How could this Protection be for the benefit of the working classes of the country? He said now, as he had always said, that the great body of the people of the country ought to share in the fruits of civilisation. Civilisation must be imperfect if it did not raise the condition of the large masses of the people and make their toil lighter, their chances of instruction and elevation better and more certain, but it could never do this under Protection. Our safety was in the bright light of general freedom. He trusted, if the conflict should come between Protection and Free-trade, that there was sufficient stamina in the people of this country, sufficient British intelligence, sufficient power of examination, to enable them to maintain their freedom by preserving the freedom of all their fellows. In this effort there was a spirit required, which he hoped, when the time came, would not be


  ― 174 ―
wanting—a spirit of fervid attachment to what was high and noble. They ought not to be ashamed to bow down in reverence to what was lofty and noble in the progress of mankind, and to honour those who had shown themselves to possess the attributes of strength and courage to resist assaults upon the cause of good government. How could any man do other than honour, and pay reverence to, those illustrious men who had illumined the public life of England—who had laboured so long, so faithfully, so nobly and so successfully, to raise the country to the proud position she occupied to-day! There was an attachment to principle, and an attachment to forms of glory as well as to the substantial securities of justice and freedom, which ought to animate all of them on trying occasions, let them tread in whatever walk they might. He did not know how better that could be illustrated than by an incident in that terrible civil war which raged between the Northern and Southern States of America. When Stonewall Jackson marched at the head of a Southern army into Frederickstown, the inhabitants pulled down the Stars and Stripes in all directions. There was one old lady, fourscore years and ten, Barbara Pritchie, who resolved to stick to the flag. Whittier had immortalised her in these lines:—

In her attic window the staff she set
To show that one heart was loyal yet.

But Stonewall Jackson saw the contumacious flag. He called upon his men to halt; a volley of musketry cut the staff and riddled the bunting. What followed?

Quick as it fell from the broken staff,
Dame Barbara snatched the silken scarf.

She leaned far out on the window sill,
And shook it forth with a royal will!

‘Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country's flag,’ she said.

A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came.



  ― 175 ―

The nobler nature within him stirr'd
To life, at that woman's deed and word.

‘Who touches a hair of yon gray head,
Dies like a dog; march on!’ he said.

That embodied the true spirit which ought to live in a true citizen in any contention for the public good. There ought to be the courage to do all that the occasion demanded—the loyalty to adhere to what he believed right, through good report and bad report, to the very last.

A member of the Upper Chamber, the Honourable W. R. Piddington, who had held office twice as Treasurer, moved for a Return of the ‘ordinary revenue and disbursements’ for the seven years 1879–1885 inclusive. This Return, dated from the Treasury, August 11, 1886, which tells its own tale, is copied hereunder:—

CONSOLIDATED REVENUE FUND, 1879 TO 1885.

(RETURN.)

Printed under No. 14 Report from Printing Committee.

Return to an order of the Honourable the Legislative Council, dated June 10, 1886, That there be laid on the table of this House,—

‘A return, showing in columns the ordinary revenue and disbursements on account of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the years 1879, 1880, 1881, and 1882, with a parallel column exhibiting the surplus or deficiency in each year, and a statement of the average expenditure per annum during the four years enumerated, and the name of the Ministry in office during the above period. Also a similar return on the same page, showing, in columns, the ordinary revenue and disbursements on account of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the years 1883, 1884, and 1885, with a


  ― 176 ―
parallel column exhibiting the surplus or deficiency in each year, and a statement of the average expenditure per annum during the three years enumerated, and the name of the Ministry in office during the above period.’

(Mr. Piddington.)

INSERT [TABLE]

J. PEARSON, Accountant.

The Treasury, New South Wales,

August 11, 1886.

This Session of the Parliament, which was brought into existence by Mr. Dibbs's dissolution, was opened on November 17, 1885, and it was closed on October 25, 1886; and it was virtually the only Session of that Parliament, for though it met again on January 18 following, it only met to be dissolved. After the prorogation in October, the internal broils of the Ministers grew insensible to the observance of public decency, and Sir Patrick Jennings, in desperation to escape from his galling fetters, tendered his resignation to the Governor. I have no knowledge which would justify me in supposing that


  ― 177 ―
Sir Patrick himself was a party to any design for another re-shuffle of the political cards as in the case when Sir Alexander Stuart retired to make way for Mr. Dibbs; but there can be but little doubt that the calculation among his colleagues was, that one of them would be commissioned to reconstruct the Ministry. The Governor, however, took a different view, and accepted the resignation as absolute. It is possible that His Excellency thought, after his year's experience, that the public interests would be best consulted by an entire change of men.

During the Ministry of Sir Patrick Jennings an event memorable in the criminal annals of the colony occurred in the execution of four young men, some of them scarcely more than lads, for the crime of rape. The occurrence naturally awakened a widespread painful feeling. I was appealed to by the Right Honourable William B. Dalley to make one with His Eminence Cardinal Moran, the Right Rev. the Bishop of Sydney (Dr. Barry), and himself, to wait upon the Governor and urge a mitigation of the sentences. We saw His Excellency, and severally stated such reasons as appeared justifiable in support of our plea for mercy; and I think we all concurred in the opinion that the execution, if carried out, would shock large sections of society as what would be regarded as the wholesale hanging of misguided youths, and that the authority of the law could derive no strength from a vindication open to such extreme interpretations. The Governor listened to us with the closest attention, but replied briefly that he must be guided by his responsible advisers.


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To my mind it has always appeared a very serious thing to attempt to influence the judgment of those, who are charged with the responsibility of carrying out the law in these extreme cases, and who must possess the fullest information and the best means of investigation in every case of the kind. But I cannot free myself from the conviction that a sad mistake was made in the case of the Mount Rennie culprits.

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