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8. CHAPTER VIII

THE PUBLIC WORKS ACT—ITS PROVISIONS IN SUPPORT OF THE RESPONSIBILITY OF MINISTERS AND THE AUTHORITY OF PARLIAMENT—SHUFFLING TACTICS OF THE OPPOSITION—MY SPEECH IN DEFENCE OF THE BILL—MEMBERS WHO OPPOSED THE BILL CHANGE THEIR OPINIONS AFTER SEEING THE ACT IN OPERATION—THE STATE RAILWAYS—CHANGE OF MANAGEMENT—THE NEW COMMISSIONERS—UNSCRUPULOUS ATTACKS UPON THEM—RESULTS OF THEIR MANAGEMENT—THE CHINESE CRISIS OF 1888—NEW LEGISLATION—DECISIVE ACTION OF THE EXECUTIVE—RANCOROUS OPPOSITION—NEW BANKRUPTCY LAW—THE ADDITIONAL NAVAL FORCE—SUCCESSFUL PASSAGE OF THE BILL—‘THREE CHEERS FOR AUSTRALIA AND FOR OLD ENGLAND’—IMPORTANT WORK OF THE MINISTRY

AFTER a recess of only two months and seven days the second Session of the new Parliament was opened by Lord Carrington on September 20, 1887. The speech announced several measures of more than ordinary importance, and explained that members were asked thus early to renew their labours ‘with the hope of bringing the financial affairs of the colony within the limits of regularity and order imposed by the Constitution.’ It has been explained in previous pages that great confusion had resulted from, and little advantage had been gained by, the disregard of usage and season in conducting parliamentary business. My colleagues considered with me that it was our duty to do all in our power to bring the transaction of business within


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proper limits, even at some present sacrifices of personal convenience.

One of the new measures was the Public Works Act, now on the Statute Book of the colony. The idea of this Bill arose out of the loose and profligate expenditure of money for public works in past years. I had determined within my own mind that this absolute absence of effective check in public expenditure should be brought to an end. The threefold difficulty in any scheme of reform was to hold the Government responsible for its proposals, to ensure an independent investigation, and at the same time to preserve the authority of Parliament unimpaired over the expenditure. The measure which was framed under my instructions has attracted much attention, and among others, Sir John Macdonald, not long before his lamented death, applied to me to supply him with copies of it, and all information on the subject, with the view of considering the expediency of its adoption in Canada.

Under the Public Works Act the Parliamentary course of procedure is this. The Minister in charge of the Works Department must in that capacity explain his proposal to the Legislative Assembly, but, instead of appealing to his political majority to vote for resolutions there and then, he must move that it be referred to a non-Ministerial Parliamentary authority for investigation. It requires little insight to see that the knowledge that his plans and estimates have to go through this ordeal will make him more industrious and careful in preparing them. And what is the authority which


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is called into existence by the Act to check the Minister? It is a Standing Committee of both Houses of Parliament, chosen from both political sides. Thus, Parliament itself, by the only practical means, and by its own committee, instead of dissipating its authority in a loose discussion, exercises it in sifting, searching, and reasoning out the Minister's calculations and arguments.

The Act, as it stands, provides for the appointment of the ‘Standing Committee on Public Works,’ as soon as practicable after the opening of each Session, such committee to consist of five members of the Legislative Council and eight members of the Legislative Assembly. Each member has to subscribe an oath to ‘faithfully, impartially, and truly’ execute and perform the duties of the office he undertakes. The committee has power to enter and inspect any land, building, place, or material; it may summon such persons as may appear necessary to attend as witnesses; it may compel the production of books, maps, plans or documents, relating to matters under investigation; and it may examine witnesses on oath.

All works exceeding in cost twenty thousand pounds, except fortifications and works of defence and certain works of repair authorised by Act of Parliament to be carried out by the Railway Commissioners, must come under the functions of the Parliamentary Committee. The 13th section of the Act definitely prescribes the course of procedure:—

After the first gazetting of the Parliamentary Committee of Public Works pursuant to this Act, no public work of any kind whatsoever (except as expected in the last preceding section,


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and except such works as the Railway Commissioners are authorised to carry out pursuant to the ‘Government Railways Act of 1888’), the estimated cost of completing which shall exceed twenty thousand pounds, and whether such work be a continuation, completion, repair, reconstruction, extension, or a new work, shall be commenced, unless sanctioned as hereinafter provided:

  • (1) Every such proposed work shall, in the first place, be submitted and explained in the Legislative Assembly by some member of the Executive Council having a seat in such Assembly (hereafter termed ‘the Minister’). The explanation shall comprise an estimate of the cost of such work when completed, together with such plans and specifications or other descriptions as the Minister shall deem proper, and in the case of a proposed railway or tramway, a map or plan of the line and book of reference, together with a report by the Railway Commissioners on the probable cost of construction and maintenance of such railway or tramway, and an estimate of the probable revenue to be derived therefrom; and such estimate, plans, specifications, or descriptions shall be prepared and be authenticated or verified in the prescribed manner.
  • (2) Upon motion, in the usual manner, made by the Minister or by any member of the Assembly, such proposed work shall be referred to the Parliamentary Committee on Public Works for their report thereon.
  • (3) The Committee shall, with all convenient despatch, deal with the matter so referred to them, and for that purpose may exercise all powers by this Act conferred on such Committee.
  • (4) The Committee shall, as soon as conveniently practicable (regard being had to the nature and importance of the proposed work), report to the Legislative Assembly the result of their enquiries.
  • (5) After the receipt of such report the said Assembly shall, by resolution, declare, either that it is expedient to carry out the proposed work, or that it is not expedient to carry out the same. Provided always that the said Assembly, instead of declaring affirmatively or negatively as aforesaid, may resolve that


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    the report of the Committee shall, for reasons or purposes to be stated in the resolution, be remitted for their further consideration and report to the said Committee; in which case such Committee shall consider the matter of such new reference, and report thereon accordingly.

The 15th Section, however, provides that if ‘any such resolution declares that it is not expedient to carry out any proposed work, no proposal for a public work in substance identical with the work referred to in such resolution shall be submitted to the Legislative Assembly until after the expiration of one year from the notification of such resolution as aforesaid, unless the Governor, by writing under his hand addressed to the said Committee, declares that, in his opinion and in view of the public interest, it is desirable that any such proposal should be resubmitted to the said Assembly.’

I moved the second reading of the Bill on February 8, 1888, and the debate occupied two nights. I argued that the management of the railways completed and handed over for public traffic ought to be kept distinctly separate from the policy of the Government and the departmental machinery in the construction of public works, whether railways or of other character, and I contended that, though the management of the railways as great State-properties ought to be withdrawn from all political influence, the origination and construction of railways, as of all public works, must necessarily form a vital part of the policy of Government. In this province of expenditure, where the colony was so deeply concerned at every step in adding to its burdens, I contended that the Bill did not in the least degree take


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away or diminish the Minister's responsibility, while it gave to Parliament a more effective and certain means of exercising its authority, and at the same time ensured a thorough examination of every proposed new expenditure. In the debate that followed it was difficult to keep the questions of railway management and railway construction separate in the average member's mind; and the Parliamentary Committee got continually mixed up with some supposed commission and an imaginary Board, and, as is usually the case, those who were most confused on the subject were most active and eloquent in explaining it. Mr. Dibbs, the leader of the Opposition, distinguished himself greatly in misconception and misrepresentation. He began: ‘I have no hesitation in saying that a more miserable piece of work for the consideration of Parliament was never submitted.’ The whole measure was a gross scheme to shift the responsibility of Ministers to other shoulders, and to rob Parliament of its rights. Other members followed in the same track, and one courageous gentleman moved to substitute for the Parliamentary Committee the following:—

A Board of five members of the Civil Service, to be called the Public Works Construction Board, shall be appointed for the purpose of exercising such powers and authorities, performing such duties, and be liable to such obligations as are by this Act vested in or imposed upon such Board. The names of the persons appointed to be members of such Board shall be notified in the Gazette with all convenient despatch.

But the Bill was read the second time without a division, and, though in committee Mr. Dibbs again


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declared it was ‘taking away the liberties of the people, and he would resist it as far as he possibly could,’ the amendment just quoted was defeated by forty-one votes to five, and Mr. Dibbs did not vote at all.

In reference to the proposal in committee to substitute a Board of Civil Servants or Experts, I made the following speech:—

The honourable member (Mr. Toohey), when he supported the second reading of this Bill, must have entirely misunderstood its character and objects, or he could never support this amendment. My object is to conserve the authority, the independence, and the liberties of Parliament. The amendment is to hand over our privileges to a Board of Civil Servants. We have done a great deal too much of that already, and I, for one, will certainly be no party to such a step. I would rather the present mode of procedure went on. It would be infinitely safer, infinitely more in accord with the intentions of Parliamentary government. I will now try to deal with the arguments, or so-called arguments, as they have been put forth one by one. I first come to the value of civil servants for this particular enquiry. The value is enhanced by their being supposed to be experts. We do not want experts. We want colonists of experience, good standing, and character, who understand the country in the general interests of the country; and we do not want the expert knowledge of civil servants in conducting an enquiry of this kind. As to the independence and freedom from what is called log-rolling if human nature is so irredeemably rotten that members of Parliament cannot be trusted, how can the civil servants be trusted? How is it possible for the assaults of improper influences which will affect members of Parliament to be warded off from civil servants? Now let us see what is the object and intention of this Bill. At all times I have tried to draw a distinct line between the legislative power and the executive power of the country. For that reason, and holding those views, years ago


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I maintained that the Executive ought not to interfere with the Speaker and the President in the appointments to the offices of Parliament, and if I had observed them I should have resisted to the utmost those most unparliamentary provisions in the Civil Service Act, which place the Speaker and the President in the position of a Minister, and make the appointments of this Parliament subject to the investigation of the Civil Service Board. Those provisions are in direct conflict with the spirit of Parliamentary government, and it is only because of my absence from the House, and my oversight, that I allowed, without the utmost resistance, those most unparliamentary provisions to creep into that statute. In the same manner I now draw the broadest and most distinct line between the executive power and the legislative power. What does my Bill do? When the executive power comes down to this House in the shape of a Minister to submit a proposal for a large public expenditure—whether it is a railway, a bridge, or something else —I intervene, not by a band of civil servants who are under that Minister's thumb, but I intervene by a body of your fellow-representatives to guard your privileges, to protect you against the executive power. That is my object. I hold the power, the authority, and the independence of Parliament above all other considerations, and the body I seek to create is a body of your own members, to conduct an investigation in check of the responsible Minister, in check of the civil servants, in check of the whole machinery of the civil government, and strictly in the interests of the representatives of the people. My measure is in favour of liberty; yours is in favour of undermining liberty. Mine is in favour of the authority and the power of the representatives of the people of this country as a check upon the Executive Government of the country; yours is a proposal to hand over this enquiry to the very servants of the Executive. I cannot think of any proposal more adverse to the real foundation of a representative Parliament. I do not wish to influence honourable gentlemen; but most certainly if such an amendment as this is carried, I shall decline to proceed with the Bill. It would entirely destroy the Bill. It would be infinitely better


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to leave matters as they are. With regard to how the scheme would work, unless we are to come to the sad conclusion that no body of representatives can be trusted, there can be no doubt whatever that the scheme would work well. I pointed out in my reply on the second reading, that my proposal is really in harmony with great reforms in all parts of the world. In the Senate of the United States the whole business of consideration is conducted by committees. As soon as Congress meets, the Senate appoints committees to consider nearly every branch of political and economic business. For example, there is a committee on defence, a committee on finance, a committee on foreign trade, a committee on post-offices, and committees on every conceivable thing. Any measure that comes down, generally recommended by message from the President, is at once referred for the consideration of one of those committees. But I do not rely upon that. I rely upon the great change that has taken place in the mother-country in that great body which is the mother of parliaments—the Imperial Parliament. It has been found there that it is utterly impossible to conduct the multifarious business which has grown up of late years, and the device has been resorted to of appointing grand committees to consider the more important business. Then, if we pass over the Channel, and go to France, we find that in that great legislative body, the Chamber of Deputies, Bills, instead of being considered as they are in this House—as this Bill is being considered on the present occasion—are considered by committees of the Chamber of Deputies. The House only confirms or disapproves when the committee has finished with the Bill. The tendency in all parliamentary bodies now is to relieve the main body by doing the work by means of committees. Then I come to the objection that it is proposed that the committee should be partly constructed of members of this House, and partly of members of the other House. That falls to the ground the moment you reflect that no Bill for a railway can be passed into law without the assent of the other House. The other House must take a co-ordinate part with us in passing any Bill whatever. If that be the case, what becomes of the objection


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to a mixed committee, partly composed of that House, to conduct simply the business of the enquiry? The real value of this proposed enquiry consists in this: that a committee so constructed would be an independent body, as independent as it possibly can be; and that it would reflect and represent the Parliament of the country, not a body of civil servants, but composed of members of Parliament representing fairly the two Houses, which is the highest authority that could be constituted. The essence of the whole thing is that as members of the House in their legislative capacity they would stand in check over the improper tendencies of the executive power. There is no possibility of fairly meeting the arguments in support of this proposal. Now, there is no information—nothing to guide Parliament—except the bald statement of the Minister, whoever he may be. He has to introduce his proposal on his own responsibility, and to submit his statement. He would have to do the same now. But a body would step in, not a body composed of civil servants, but a body composed of yourselves, of the two Houses, who eventually have to consider the Bill, and pass it into law. They would intervene with the highest powers with which they can be invested, to sift all these proposals in the real interests of the country. I do not believe that the gentlemen returned to this House would be false to their oaths, that they would be false to their highest sense of duty. I believe that with but rare exceptions they would carry out their duties faithfully, honestly, and for the benefit of the country. There would be every chance of getting the very best, the most sifted, and the most pure information that could possibly be obtained. Then the Legislative Assembly steps in, takes up the business where it was left off, and instead of deciding on no information whatever of a trustworthy character, it decides in the light of the evidence obtained in this scrupulously careful manner. The improvement, I maintain again, would be incalculable, both upon the present method and in preserving the power of the representatives of the people against the Executive Government.




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It is gratifying to be able to say that several gentlemen who opposed the passing of the Bill have since acknowledged that the working of the Act has satisfied them that they were mistaken, and that the enactment of this measure was a great step in sound legislation. We occasionally hear a discontented Minister, who has had his old sores rubbed by the Public Works Committee, wailing over his lost power of man[oelig]uvring his schemes through Parliament; and when he turns over afresh his favourite Board of Experts, he involuntarily grasps at the facile substitute. Or, now and then, we meet with a statesman in his novitiate, his ideas not yet out of the gristle, who speaks approvingly of an investigation by professional men, and who would have no difficulty in finding the very man himself. But in any great national proposal which involves the expenditure of tens of thousands, perhaps a million or two, of the public money, the interests of the country are safest within the scrutiny and control of Parliament itself. Parliament can command the assistance of experts, has ample means of supplying itself with the guiding light of science whenever it is required; but it cannot delegate to others its supreme functions in protection and control of the public revenues.

Another measure of the Government, which may fairly be classed with the Public Works Act, was a Bill to make better provision for the management of the Government railways and tramways. Up to this date the railways had been under the ministerial control of the Department of Public Works. There was an officer styled ‘The Commissioner of Railways’—and the office


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was filled by an able and deserving man—but he had no executive power apart from the Minister; and the whole department, especially in respect to the railway service, was hampered with the pressure of members of Parliament on behalf of needy kinsmen and unfortunate friends. The new Bill provided for the appointment of these Commissioners, to be a body corporate by the name ‘The Railway Commissioners of New South Wales,’ and to ‘have perpetual succession and a common seal, and be capable in law of suing and being sued, and, subject to the provisions hereinafter contained, shall have power to take, purchase, sell, lease, and hold lands, tenements, and hereditaments, goods, chattels, and other property for the purposes of the Act.’ One of these officers was to be appointed as Chief Commissioner.

By the 16th section it was provided that, for the purposes of this Act, there shall be vested absolutely in the Commissioners, and, in respect of land, for an estate in fee simple—

  • (1) All railways and tramways, and all rolling-stock heretofore constructed or acquired by or on behalf of Her Majesty, pursuant to any Act in force for the time being authorising the construction of railways, rolling stock, or tramways—and all railways and tramways hereafter to be so constructed or acquired, upon transfer of the same to such Commissioners in the prescribed manner.
  • (2) All piers, wharves, jetties, stations, yards, and buildings connected or used in connection with such railways, tramways, and rolling-stock, being on Crown land or land acquired for or on behalf of Her Majesty respectively.
  • (3) The land, being the Crown land or land acquired or


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    which may be acquired for or on behalf of Her Majesty, over or upon which, such piers, wharves, jetties, stations, yards, and buildings have been, or may hereafter be constructed or erected.
  • (4) The Crown land or land acquired for or on behalf of Her Majesty included within the boundary fences of all such railways or tramways.
  • (5) All land outside such fences acquired by or on behalf of Her Majesty, under any Act authorising the taking or acquiring of land for railway or tramway purposes.
  • (6) All Crown and other lands taken under the authority of any Act authorising the taking of land for railway or tramway purposes.
  • (7) All telegraph posts erected on any lands by this Act vested in the Commissioners, which posts at the passing of this Act were under the control of the Commissioner for Railways or any person for or on behalf of Her Majesty, and all wires, instruments, and other telegraphic or telephonic apparatus used in connection with the railways or tramways so vested as aforesaid.

To the Commissioners was given the authority to appoint the members of their staff and all railway servants, and all other persons necessary for the discharge of the duties of their corporate office with certain checks lodged with the Governor in Council.

The Act received the Royal assent on May 17, and after much enquiry in different parts of the world, and the fullest consideration, the Commissioners were appointed in the persons of Edward Millar Gard Eddy, chief, William Meeke Fehon, and Charles Nicholson Jewel Oliver. Few acts of my public life have given me more unmixed satisfaction than this change in the management of the State railways. I had the warm support of my colleagues all through in resisting every attempt of political influence either to give a sinister


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twist to the clauses of the Bill in committee or to bring the weight of personal favouritism to bear on the appointments.

The colony was fortunate in its selection of Commissioners. Mr. Eddy is a person who, in any position, and in any part of the civilised world, would make good his claim to be considered an able and upright man. With a high sense of personal honour, and sensitive almost to a fault to the obligations of fair dealing between man and man, he has refinement mingled with strength of character, and that rare gift in the human organisation— resource in critical emergencies. He brought to his post a thorough knowledge of railway business, and a practical acquaintance with railway administration, which he had gained in long service under some of the most competent railway chiefs in the United Kingdom. Mr. Fehon came to his new appointment with excellent credentials of competency as a trained railway servant, and with a high character and capacity for business. Mr. Oliver had won his own way in the Civil Service of New South Wales by his personal merits and indomitable perseverance, and had proved himself a skilful organiser. The three Commissioners while I write (May and June 1892) are passing through a crucial trial of their fitness and incorruptibility, at the instance of worthless persons who, without a shadow of foundation in fact, preferred the most serious charges against them; but it would hardly be possible to find an honest man in the community who does not believe that they will come out of the enquiry with just ground for the renewal of the confidence of the public.




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The result of the management by the Commissioners will be best seen by comparison. In the year 1882, under the former system, when the colony had only 1,268 miles of railways, with a capital invested of 15,843,616l., the net earnings, after paying working expenses, were 763,661l. for the year. In 1888, when the Commissioners under my Act took over the railways, with a mileage of 2,244 and a capital of 27,722,748l., the net earnings, after working expenses, were 766,332l., giving an increase on the six years of only 2,661l. While there was in those years an increase on the total earnings of 2,673,278l., there was an accumulated decrease on the net earnings amounting to 139,897l. I now give the result of the new management. In 1889 there were 2,171 miles of railways, with a capital invested of 29,839,167l., and the net earnings, after paying working expenses, rose to 903,875l. In 1890 there were 2,182 miles of railways, with a capital of 30,555,123l., and the amount of the net earnings was 967,251l. In 1891 the railway mileage was the same, with a capital of 31,768,617l., and the net earnings had risen to 1,143,050l. For the current year (1892) the report of the Commissioners is not issued, but I have made such enquiries as satisfy me that it will show a steady increase. We thus have for the first time, with better organisation and greatly improved means of accommodation for the public, a solid railway income of 3½ per cent. on the railway capital, after paying all working expenses. In other words, the railways of New South Wales are on the eve of paying the interest on the capital expended in their construction, and


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being no longer a burden upon the taxpayers of the colony.

The management of the State tramways (which for the most part are confined to Sydney and the metropolitan suburbs) shows even a better result. In 1884 the net earnings amounted to only 4,775l. In 1891 they amounted to 53,171l. At the present time the tramways give a return of 5½ per cent., after paying all working expenses.

I think I and my colleagues of 1888 may be pardoned some feeling of pride at this practical vindication of the railway legislation of our administration. It is worth the abuse we received from those who wished to make these great State properties a field for the exercise of their unwholesome influence, and the means of serving their friends and supporters.

Towards the middle of 1888 several vessels arrived close upon each other in Sydney harbour with Chinese immigrants. Quite a trade had grown up with a class of steam trading vessels in bringing Chinese, chiefly from Hongkong. Three or four ships were in port at the same time, with Chinese on board. This occurrence led to boisterous proceedings among large numbers of the working classes, and, if the Chinamen had attempted to land in the usual way, there could be little doubt that violence, and possibly serious bloodshed, would have taken place. One large public meeting was held, presided over by the Mayor, which adjourned in a body to Parliament House. The angry mob, which the adjourned meeting had now become, filled the space before the building, crowded the corridors, and some of the


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intruders attempted to force their way into the chamber of the Legislative Assembly, which was sitting at the time. The Mayor and others saw me in an anteroom, but I declined to go outside to the crowd. Ultimately a written message was brought in to me enquiring if the Chinamen would be allowed to land, and, as the Government had already decided that they should not land, I returned a written answer to that effect. My answer was read to the crowd, which soon afterwards dispersed. Other meetings were held, and at one it was computed that 40,000 persons were present.

In the agitation against the influx of Chinese, which is common to all classes of the working population, there are forces which the superficial observer is likely to overlook. Every mother of a working-man's family is an uncompromising opponent, and every child imbibes the feeling of resistance and denunciation from its parents. No outlook is possible to the humble house-hold dependent upon daily labour which is not obscured and rendered less hopeful by the contingent intrusion of the Chinese. Where moral principles and provident habits prevail, this feeling is probably strongest. How could it be otherwise? It will not be denied that it is meritorious in the poor to do the best they can for their children. How can their ‘best’ in the struggle of life be assisted by the intrusion of hordes of men who are foreign to them in language, religion, notions of law, and all the usages of their state of society, and who are of a servile race?

Persons who in a new country have to do with the administration of government, or the making of the


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laws, however disinclined they may be to pander to any class, are nevertheless bound to study the peace of society and the contentment of all classes. It is mainly because the influx of Chinese, or of persons of any other inferior nationality, is a disturbing cause to social peace and contentment, that it should not be tolerated. No advantage to employers, no convenience to a limited number of citizens, can compensate for loosening the consanguineous ties which bind a State together. If we may speak of statesmanship, there is yet another and a higher ground of objection. In founding a free State no nationality or class should be considered whom we are not prepared to admit to all our franchises, all our rights of property, all our privileges of citizenship, all our social usages and trusts, not excluding intermarriage. The existence of a servile or degraded class is incompatible with the safe possession of national liberty.

This was the second occasion when I had to face the Chinese difficulty by legislation. My colleagues concurred with me that the wisest course was to get rid of the trouble altogether. We determined, therefore, to introduce a Bill virtually prohibiting the landing of Chinese; and we determined to press it through Parliament with the least possible delay. Whatever we might do, we knew we should be blamed. If we did nothing, it would be cowardly indifference to the danger; if we went halfway, it would be bungling incapacity to deal with it; if we went the whole length, it would be high-handedness and tyranny. We tried to see our simple duty in the crisis which confronted us, and to perform it with a single view to the demands upon us.




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In the beginning the Government had sent to the Secretary of State the following cablegram:—

March 31, 1888.

In reference to Chinese immigration and the—enquiry made by the Marquis of Salisbury, your Excellency's advisers beg briefly to explain that the law of this colony for some years past has imposed the restriction of a poll-tax of 10l. on each immigrant, and a limitation of one immigrant to every hundred tons of the ship's burden; but owing to recent occurrences severer measures are now demanded throughout all the colonies. This state of things has given rise to new reflections in dealing with a difficulty which threatens to become a calamity. As these colonies form an important part of the Empire, it is submitted that our cause of contention is of sufficient national concern to be taken up by the Empire; if we have no voice in the making of Treaties, it seems only just that our interests should be considered and protected by those who exercise that power. We learn by public report that the Government of the United States has entered into a Treaty with the Government of China by which Chinese immigration into America is no longer permitted. We fail to see why Australia may not be similarly protected. We desire, on behalf of this colony, through your Excellency, to impress upon Her Majesty's Imperial Advisers the more prominent phases of the Chinese question as it specially and almost exclusively affects the Australian section of the British people. (1) The Australian ports are within easy sail of the ports of China. (2) The climate as well as certain branches of trade and industry in Australia, such as the cultivation of the soil for domestic purposes, and tin and gold mining, are peculiarly attractive to the Chinese. (3) The working classes of the British people in all the affinities of race are directly opposed to their Chinese competitors. (4) There can be no sympathy, and in the future it is to be apprehended that there will be no peace, between the two races. (5) The enormous number of the Chinese population intensifies every consideration of this class of immigration


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in comparison with the emigration of any other nation. (6) The most prevailing determination in all the Australian communities is to preserve the British type in the population. (7) There can be no interchange of ideas of religion or citizenship, nor can there be intermarriage or social communion between the British and Chinese. It is respectfully submitted that the examination of these principal phases of the question can only lead to one conclusion, namely, that the Chinese must be restricted from emigrating to any part of Australasia. It will be seen that, while the question scarcely touches the people of the United Kingdom, it vitally concerns these great colonies, whose importance in their political and commercial relations entitles them to be protected by the diplomatic influence and the powers of treaty which belong to the Empire. With renewed expressions of our loyal attachment to Her Majesty, we urge that immediate steps be taken to open such negotiations with the Emperor of China as will result in permanent security to the Australian colonies from the disturbance of Chinese immigration in any form. The matter is too grave and urgent to admit of long delay. However desirable it may be to avoid the irritation and conflict of interests which may arise from local legislation of a drastic character, if protection cannot be afforded as now sought, the Australian Parliaments must act from the force of public opinion in devising measures to defend the colonies from consequences which they cannot relax in their efforts to avert.

HENRY PARKES.

(For Cabinet.)

On May 15 we informed the Legislative Assembly of our purpose, and on the following day I moved the suspension of the Standing Orders to admit of the Chinese Restriction Bill passing through all its stages in one sitting. I did not say one word in support of my motion, but an angry debate was got up, and I said a few words in reply to some of the speeches. The


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feeling of the House was so strongly with me that no division was called for, and the House immediately went into committee to consider the expediency of bringing in the Bill.

On moving the second reading I made the following speech, which throughout was enthusiastically cheered. I mention the fact to show that the House approved of the course the Government had decided to take, which was further shown by the only two divisions in committee, 31 for and 18 against the Government, and 37 for and 10 against:—

Sir HENRY PARKES rose to move:

That this Bill be printed and now read the second time.

He said: In moving the second reading of this Bill, I disclaim any attitude of even aversion to the Chinese people settled in this country; and I disclaim any possible action on the part of the Government in deference to public agitations out of doors. I am convinced in my conscience that neither have we at any time joined with those who have derided, and, as I think, traduced, the Chinese residents in this country; nor have we at any time yielded to the pressure of popular agitation. So far as the Chinese people who reside amongst us are concerned, I have for thirty years, many times and often, borne testimony to their law-abiding, industrious, thrifty, and peaceable character, and I have never for a single moment joined with those who have held them up as in many respects more disreputable than a similar number of English subjects. For a generation—long before some of the men who are listening to me took any part whatever in public life—and at all times I have opposed the introduction of Chinese upon these, as I conceive, national, and to a large extent, philosophical grounds: I maintain that in a country like New South Wales it is our duty to preserve the type of the British nation, and that we ought not, for any consideration whatever, to admit any element that would detract


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from, or in any appreciable degree lower, that admirable type of nationality. Now, I would like for a moment to examine the ground on which I stand. I contend that if this young nation is to maintain the fabric of its liberties unassailed and unimpaired, it cannot admit into its population any element that of necessity must be of an inferior nature and character. In other words, I have maintained at all times that we should not encourage or admit amongst us any class of persons whatever whom we are not prepared to advance to all our franchises, to all our privileges as citizens, and all our social rights, including the right of marriage. I maintain that no class of persons should be admitted here, so far as we can reasonably exclude them, who cannot come amongst us, take up all our rights, perform on a ground of equality all our duties, and share in our august and lofty work of founding a free nation. It is on this very intelligible, this solid ground that I, at all events, have been averse to the admission of Chinese. Now, I want to call attention to the state of the question at the present moment. It cannot be denied—it is tacitly admitted by all—that there is a widespread legitimate agitation on this subject. We, the members of the Government, who are responsible for bringing in this Bill, have been in no way instrumental at any time in promoting this agitation; but the question is there, black and startling, in the midst of our social economies, irritating, agitating all classes of persons, and operating in a most intense way on those who are least informed, and for that reason the most dangerous. Can this thing be allowed to go on, this gangrene in the body politic, this seed of disturbance in the midst of society? No friend of the social fabric in this country can for a moment say that this thing can be permitted to go on without danger to the peace, to the law, to the good order and stability of society itself. It is because this thing has grown now to gigantic dimensions of danger—not a danger in which we need have any fear of an invasion—not that danger which has been in such puerile terms alluded to, but the danger of a poison— running through the veins of society, poisoning the very health of our social life—it is that danger that we have to confront;


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all the more deadly for its being so subtle, so unseen, and so little demonstrable to the ordinary observer. It is against this danger that we are called upon at the present time to legislate. You tell me about obedience to the law; you tell me that because I occupy the great place which I am permitted to occupy in this country, that I am to set an example of obedience to the law. I say, in reply, that there is one law which overrides all others, and that is the law of preserving the peace and welfare of civil society. Would you talk about a technical observance of the law if a plague was stalking in our midst—if a pestilence was sweeping off our population—if a famine was reducing the members of our households to skeletons? Why, a Government that stood in fear for the technical observance of the law in any such case as that would be swept away, and deservedly swept away. We rise above any such considerations at the present time, in staying the growth of a disastrous seed-plot which, if left alone, would soon ripen in the dismemberment of society. And what justification is there for the strong feeling which I am quite sure at the present time pervades all classes? We have in this country, as in all others, the working-class. The man does not live who ever heard me pander to the working-class. I have passed through some thirty-five contested elections, and I never won a single vote by pandering to any class. Well, we have the working-class in the country, great by its apparent and undeniable virtues. I do not believe that at this moment there is any class in society of more value, of higher character, with a more lively sense of social and personal obligations, than the better portion of the mechanics of New South Wales. Most of those men are married, and have families; many of them have freehold homes, which even in bad times they struggle to preserve. Can it be surprising to any of us that the mothers of those families, during a period of depression such as that which has passed over the country of late, look with something like aversion—with even stronger antipathy— towards the Chinaman, who is a direct competitor with their husbands—the fathers of their children—and with the future of their households? Is it to be wondered that the mother, who is


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suffering from her husband's want of employment, possibly from her son's want of employment, who sees her little ones deprived of many comforts which otherwise they would enjoy, should cherish, encourage, and cultivate a feeling of hostility to the persons who come in direct competition with the bread-winners of her household for the daily food of the family? Although I may not say anything to encourage it, I can well sympathise with the aversion that grows up in the most influential and most valuable portion of our working-class towards those people. But that is not all. Is it a safe, a wise, or a tolerable thing for us to have nearly 60,000—I mean in all the colonies—of these men, belonging to an alien race, out of tone with us in faith, in law, in traditions, in everything that endears life—to have 60,000 of these men, with no natural companions, in the midst of society? Must not that be a thing to be deprecated, to be lamented, to be resisted by every man who wishes well to the social fabric of this new country? I may be fairly pardoned if my sympathies go out a long way to meet the feelings of that large class of our people without whom society could not exist for a day. It was said by Sir Robert Peel that the great working-class was the foundation of every other class, and what was said by him was so true that no man who has succeeded him could deny it. Without this great mass of human beings, who form the foundation of society, society itself could not exist. They are really the blood, the bone, the sinew, the mind, and the spirit of the social fabric. Having stated my case so far as the social elements affect this question, I shall proceed in as calm a way as I can to trace the history of late events, which have led up to the present action on the part of the Government. On December 12 last the Chinese Minister, resident at the Court of St. James, addressed a note to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who happens to be the Prime Minister of England. It is not always the case in the constitution of English Governments that the same Minister holds the position of leader of the Government and also that of Foreign Secretary; but, at the present time, the Marquis of Salisbury is not only Prime Minister, but also Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.


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In this note, to which I have called attention on other occasions as being a singularly able paper—I do not think, so far as I can judge, that I ever read a diplomatic paper more astutely worded than this note of the Chinese Minister—in this paper the Chinese Minister in London calls the attention of the British Government to what the Australian colonies are doing, and he evidently calls the attention of the Prime Minister to our proceedings with some kind of a confused view that we are in the capacity of school children, and can be called to account by the Prime Minister of England. His words are these:

‘The Imperial Government sees with regret the continued existence of the exceptional and exceptionable laws which some of the colonial legislatures of Australia and the Dominion have at different times enacted against Chinese subjects, and hopes that, with a view to the elimination of any part of them which may be found to be at variance with treaty obligations and international usage, Her Majesty's Government will be pleased to institute an enquiry into their nature, and how far they are compatible with the increasing growth of the friendly relations which now happily exist between the two countries.’

No complaint can be made, and last of all should I be to make any complaint, of the Chinese Minister faithfully representing his Government at the British Court; but he clearly was under the impression that he had only to make these representations to have the matters of which he complained put right. That would hardly be worth my while to notice, if it were not for the great fact that lies beneath and beyond it, and so much above it as to affect the whole tenor of this diplomatic note— what I have on another occasion described as the awakening of the Chinese Empire. It clearly proves an inclination to assert the rights of China on a level with other civilised nations; and I confess at once that I think the time will come, and that probably very shortly, when they will succeed. It will be observed, then, that I do not by any means concur in some views which I have heard expressed here to-night. I do not agree with any of those persons who think that China is an inferior Power, with


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whom we can trifle. I think nothing of the kind. I think that with her large territory, with a population which exceeds one-third of the whole population of the world, China has only to learn the lessons which are taught on every hand—and which she appears to be doing—to win an honoured place in the community of nations. I, then, neither despise the individual character of the Chinese, nor underrate the majesty of the power of China; and it is for these very reasons, and because I believe that China is fast becoming a great Power; because I believe her people are endowed with great though homely virtues—the virtues of industry, of provident care, of foresight, of unmatched patience, and vast powers of endurance; it is that I believe in all these things that I do not wish to see the Chinese element increasing in our midst. I wish to dwell particularly on the circumstances which followed the reception of this note from the Chinese Minister, because I think they have been greatly misunderstood in this country. Lord Salisbury caused a request to be made to the Colonial Office to obtain for him certain information to enable him, which means the British Government, to deal with the Chinese Minister's note; and in this matter the Secretary of State for the Colonies has only been used as a medium by which the Prime Minister's desires were made known to the Colonial Governments. I dwell upon this because I see it continually noted that Lord Knutsford does this, and Lord Knutsford does that. This question does not belong to the Secretary of State for the Colonies at all. It belongs to the English Government, and the chief actor is the Prime Minister of England, who is at the same time Foreign Minister. The communication made to us was from him; the information sought is for him, and the Secretary of State for the Colonies is only a medium in the regularity of business by which these communications are made. Well, this note was received, as I have pointed out, by the British Government on December 12. No communication was made to the colonies until January 23; then, for the first time, we were asked for information. Now, it will be remembered that this Government, after some communications of an irregular character with neighbouring Governments,


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and after consulting among ourselves, sent a telegraphic message on our own account through his Excellency the Governor in reply to this communication from Lord Salisbury. This communication of ours was dated March 31; and up to this time I have never heard of any person who has taken serious exception to the character and completeness of our communication; on the contrary, our opponents have more than once, on several occasions, complimented us on the character of this message. I think myself, without taking to ourselves any of the compliments paid to us, that we stated the case fairly and fully, and with sufficient emphasis of language. I must now, at this point, call attention to one or two passages in this message of ours of March 31. We put forth our claim to be considered in the exercise of treaty rights in these words: ‘As these colonies form an important part of the Empire, it is submitted that our cause of contention is of sufficient national concern to be taken up by the Empire; if we have no voice in the making of treaties, it seems only just that our interests should be considered and protected by those who exercise that power.’

I maintain for the Government of which I am a member, that in these few words we stated on solid ground the claim of these colonies to be considered in the exercise of the treaty rights of the Empire, and I believe that we made good the ground of our contention. A little further on, towards the conclusion, after having stated as concisely, as clearly, and as emphatically as we could the difference between the impingement of the Chinese question on us and on British people resident within the United Kingdom, we use these words:—‘It is respectfully submitted that the examination of these principal phases of the question can only lead to one conclusion, namely, that the Chinese must be restricted from emigrating to any part of Australasia.’

That is surely clear and precise, as it is unquestionably emphatic and concise. We proceed:—‘It will be seen that, while the question scarcely touches the people of the United Kingdom, it vitally concerns these great colonies, whose importance in their political and commercial relations entitles them to


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be protected by the diplomatic influence and the powers of treaty which belong to the Empire.’

Then we go on to say:—‘With renewed expressions of our loyal attachment to Her Majesty, we urge that immediate steps be taken to open such negotiations with the Emperor of China as will result in permanent security to the Australian colonies from the disturbance of Chinese immigration in any form. The matter is too grave and urgent to admit of long delay.’

Then we conclude in these words:—‘However desirable it may be to avoid the irritation and conflict of interests which may arise from local legislation of a drastic character, if protection cannot be afforded as now sought, the Australian Parliaments must act from the force of public opinion in devising measures to defend the colonies from consequences which they cannot relax in their efforts to avert.’

We stated our case, as I contend, fully, fairly, and truthfully. We stated our case in the highest sense in the interests of this people. We put forth our case in the interests of preserving the integrity of the union of the Empire. Well, what was the result? We certainly were not so foolish or simple as to expect a satisfactory reply at once, or even in a month or two months; but we did expect, after stating in this earnest and urgent manner the danger of our cause, the courtesy of some acknowledgment. Well, things went on until April 26, or twenty-six days after our message was sent, when at my instance his Excellency the Governor sent a message in his own name, reminding the imperial authorities that we had received no answer, and stating that all kinds of statements were being made on the spot, some to the effect that the English Government had decided not to interfere; that public feeling was very strong on this question, and that in the interests of peace and good order, and of the preservation of society itself, it was necessary that it should receive attention. This message elicited no response either. From April 26, the date of our reminder, until May 12, we received no communication whatever; but by this time it was announced in various ways that inconveniences were arising in the colonies; that in the sister colony of


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Victoria the Government had taken the step of refusing to allow the Chinese to land; that these had left that port, and had come on to Sydney. These and various other statements appeared in the European world. The owners of the ships who were thus interfered with obtained audience of the Secretary of State; even merchants in China, who care nothing about these colonies, I presume, so long as their interests are served, had begun to complain of our action. Then we received from the Secretary of State this message, which, if it had come from any other quarter, would have been set down as a mean method of excusing procrastination, negligence, and unwarranted delay. This is the message:—‘Referring to your telegram of April 26, no foundation for report that Her Majesty's Government refuse negotiations with Chinese Government. Negotiations being carefully considered. Her Majesty's Government fully recognise strength of feeling.’

I say that if the same kind of treatment for this long time had been inflicted on any private person, and then a message of this character were received, it would be held as a specious device to cover culpable negligence of the interests at stake. I wish to say a word or two on the treatment which we received from Her Majesty's Imperial Government. I do not know how any set of men could use more temperate language to make their grievance known; I do not know how within the limits of propriety we could employ English words more clearly to express the urgency of our complaint. Notwithstanding that, we are treated as if the wisest course was to let us alone and the excitement would die out, and there would be no need for anything to be done at all. I venture to say that a few other masterful displays of indifference like this on the part of the Secretary of State would do more than much more serious occurrences to sap the loyalty of these great countries. We can bear remonstrance, we can meet argument, we can make good our case against the world; but we cannot patiently stand to be treated with the frozen indifference of persons who consider some petty quarrel in a petty state of more importance than the gigantic interests of these magnificent colonies. I say this with


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the most earnest desire to preserve the integrity of the Empire, with as loyal a feeling to Her Majesty the Queen as any other man amongst her subjects; but we must be loyal to ourselves— we must be loyal to the Constitution under which we live; and the only way in which we can be true to ourselves as Her Majesty's free subjects is to show that we have a lively appreciation of the great liberties—the great privileges—which we possess, and which we will never forfeit or suffer to be impaired. Now I am brought to the immediate events which have preceded the present action of the Government in appealing to Parliament. Every person who has regarded our course of conduct with anything like candour and a spirit of fair play, must have known that, if we could obtain no redress where we thought that we ought to have obtained it, we should about this time make the appeal which we are now making. It is not that we have neglected this question. It is simply that in fulfilling the first process of our action, we have waited a reasonable time for some courteous acknowledgment of our urgent appeal to be made by the Imperial Government. We could not have acted sooner; we could not have acted a minute sooner. We have waited until there has been not only time for telegraphic communication, but also time for communication by the regular course of post. Getting no satisfaction whatever, we began to feel, as well we might—and I venture to think we should be unworthy of your confidence if we felt less indignant—we began to feel that we had been treated in a most unworthy manner. We do not represent insignificant communities; we represent great, free colonies, which are fast approaching the threshold of national existence. We represent interests too colossal to be passed over in a flippant, or an unsatisfactory manner; and we should have been unworthy of our post if we had not felt the slight, not offered to us, but through us, the constituted authority, to you, the representatives of the people, and behind you, to the free people of this great colony. Well, in the meantime, what occurs? Ship after ship arrives in this port with Chinese passengers. A day or so before the arrival of the first ship, two large meetings of citizens were held in and near the Town


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Hall; one inside, and the other outside the Town Hall. A large, irregular, and disorderly crowd of persons numbering, I believe, some 5,000 or 6,000, headed by the chief magistrate of the city, arrived at Parliament House, and as some honourable gentlemen observed to-night, it is almost by a miracle they did not invade this place, and drive you from your seats. Are we to have a recurrence of such proceedings as those? Some honourable gentleman to-night—I think it was the honourable member for Wollombi—said that the police were blamable for this great outrage on the Parliament of the country. I am satisfied that the police were not to blame. In justice to that body, and in vindication of their character and efficiency, if I may be permitted, I desire to say that it was to the police a complete surprise, such as may occur anywhere under any circumstances in any country. The police had no reason to apprehend any such gathering at such a time—and especially it was incredible to them that the chief magistrate of the city would be at the head of such a body—and for that reason, and that reason alone, there was not a sufficient force to meet the emergency. If there had been any reason whatever to have apprehended such an occurrence, and I am satisfied there was none, there could have been a power here that would have prevented it—and if any attempt of the kind should be made in the future, there will be a power to render it impossible; for I do not believe the police were to blame in any way whatever. It was one of those surprises which will occur under the best discipline and the best regulation, and which cannot be guarded against. Now, one of the reasons, as I stated in the commencement of my observations, for the introduction of the Bill is to put an end to these disturbing and most poisonous agitations. If this could take place, which did occur only a night or two before the arrival of the steamship Afghan —if this could occur in this well-ordered city, and under the presidency of the Mayor, the chief magistrate of the city, what is likely to occur in the remote thickly-populated districts such as populous goldfields, where there are not the same means of preserving order, where there are not the same influences in favour of order at work, where the distances between the


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agencies of authority are much greater, where the means of concentrating force to quell disturbance are much more difficult—if it could occur in this great metropolis, what guarantee have we got that every centre of a thick population would not be distracted by disorderly and tumultuous assemblages of this kind? And so long as this question of Chinese immigration is allowed to rankle in the hotbed of every ill-formed and ill-informed passion—so long as that is permitted, there is food to feed inflammatory speeches and the mischievous dispositions of the worst class of persons who seek to lead the unthinking multitude. And if for nothing else than to stop this source of fuel for feeding these inflammatory influences, in the highest interests of society, in the highest interests of preserving law, obedience to authority, and the promotion of peace amongst us, the thing must and ought to be stopped. And it is in that view that we think we are bound to do all in our power to bring this cause of contention amongst us, which bears such a plentiful harvest of ill-fruit, and which cannot bear any good fruit for us, to an end once and for ever. Now, if any person supposes that we have acted thoughtlessly or hurriedly, or without due regard to all the consequences, he is woefully mistaken. In this crisis of the Chinese question, and it is a crisis, we have acted calmly, with a desire to see clearly the way before us; but at the same time we have acted with decision, and we do not mean to turn back. Neither for Her Majesty's ships of war, nor for Her Majesty's representative on the spot, nor for the Secretary of State for the Colonies, do we intend to turn aside from our purpose, which is to terminate the landing of Chinese on these shores for ever, except under the restrictions imposed by the Bill, which will amount, and which are intended to amount, to practical prohibition. Now in what position do I stand in regard to this question? When the Mayor of Sydney pressed upon me to receive at Parliament House a deputation from that disorderly multitude, I refused to receive it. The request was modified, and I was asked at last if I would receive a deputation consisting of the Mayor and one or two other persons. My answer was that, with every respect for the Mayor and his high position,


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I could not recognise the disorderly proceedings which he countenanced by receiving him at that place; but when he wrote to me a respectful request, under his own name, as Mayor of the city, to know what the Government would do on the arrival of the Afghan with these Chinese passengers, I replied to him in writing that they would not be allowed to land. I have said sufficient to show my condemnation of the course he pursued; but, still, he was the chief magistrate of the metropolis of this country, and he was a very proper medium through which I might speak to the people of the country; and I consider that I have given, through the Mayor of this city, a written pledge to the people of New South Wales that these Chinese passengers shall not land. And, so far as I am concerned, I cast to the wind your permits of exemption. I care nothing about your cobweb of technical law; I am obeying a law far superior to any law which issued these permits, namely, the law of the preservation of society in New South Wales. So far as I have means, against every power that can be brought against me, I will carry out my pledge given on that night in writing to the free people of this country, and not allow these men to land.

Now, what has been the conduct of the owners or agents of these ships? We have in the port at this moment, I believe, four ships freighted with Chinese passengers. We have the Afghan, the Tsinan, the Guthrie, and the Menmuir; I am not sure whether the last ship is in or not.

Mr. DALTON: She is at the wharf!

Sir HENRY PARKES: It does not matter. On board these vessels there are not 47, but considerably over 300 Chinese.

Mr. GARRETT: 600, with the two last ships!

Sir HENRY PARKES: And a portion of these are the men who were refused a landing in Melbourne. But what did the owners of the ships do? I am bound to say that they have acted, as far as I know, in the most commendable way from the first. The owners of the Afghan voluntarily wrote to me offering to carry back the whole of these people.

Mr. DIBBS: If you did not fine them. That was the condition!

Sir HENRY PARKES: There was no condition of the sort. I


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may as well state that I assured these gentlemen that the Government were not desirous of subjecting them to any inconvenience whatever that could be avoided. I assured them that while we were determined to carry out our decision in respect to their passengers, we had no desire to injure the ships or their owners, or to put them to any inconvenience, and they offered to carry back the passengers to China on the condition that those who had no proper permits, or who in other words were fraudulently on board the ship, should be carried back at the expense of the ship, and that those who had proper permits should be carried back at the expense of the colony, which I thought was an extremely fair and handsome proposal. The owners of the Tsinan went a little further, and offered that if we would be at the cost of conveying their Melbourne cargo by a coasting steamer to that port they would carry back, not only the passengers for Sydney, but the passengers for Melbourne. I communicated with the Government of Victoria, and they agreed to pay the cost of conveying the Melbourne cargo by coasting steamer to that port, and the offer on the part of the owners is to carry the whole of their passengers back to Hongkong. It is not a condition laid upon them by this Government; but we have their written offer, and I should like to know whether that is not to a large extent, a fair ground of justification for the step we have taken? I now come to the Bill. It proceeds to a large extent on the principles of the existing law. The provision for imposing a tax on the arrival of Chinese; the provision for limiting the number to be carried to the tonnage of the ship; the provision for imposing penalties; the provision prescribing the means by which those penalties are to be recovered, are all on the lines of the present law. If the principle is admitted of imposing a poll-tax of 10l., I assume that no gentleman here will contend that the principle is affected by the tax being 50l. or 100l. The principle is in its nature precisely the same, except that it is applied in a way in which it operates more effectually. So that the principle of the Bill in all these clauses is exactly the principle of the present law. I now come to the new clauses of the Bill which distinguish it from the existing law. By the treaty executed between Her Majesty's


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Government and the Government of the Emperor of China, and signed on August 29, 1848, it is by Article 2 provided that British subjects shall be entitled to reside in a prescribed area at five cities in China, and that in those cities they shall be allowed to reside for the purpose of carrying on their mercantile pursuits without molestation or restraint. Now if honourable gentlemen will turn to the 11th clause of the Bill, they will see that it is in the very language of the treaty executed between Her Britannic Majesty and the Emperor of China:—‘The Governor, with the advice of the Executive Council, may by proclamation in the Gazette set apart a defined area where Chinese arriving in this colony, after the passing of this Act, with their families and establishments, shall be allowed to reside for the purpose of carrying on their mercantile pursuits without molestation or restraint at the cities of Sydney and Newcastle, and such other places (not being more than five) as the Governor with the advice aforesaid may appoint.

So that it will be seen that we are more liberal to Chinese subjects than the Treaty is to British subjects; for while in a population of 400,000,000 Chinese, British subjects can reside at only five cities—I think seven is the number now, by subsequent Treaties—we are going to permit the Chinese to reside possibly at five cities in our limited population; and all I can say is much good may they do there. Well, by these Treaties no British subject can travel in China without a passport to cover his liberty. We are going to do exactly the same. We provide in the following clause that ‘no Chinese who shall arrive in this colony after the passing of this Act shall be permitted to reside at or trade with any place or part of the colony, except as prescribed by last preceding section, and no such Chinese shall be permitted to travel in the interior without a passport.’

So that exactly what is done to us in China we do to Chinese in Australia, except that we do it with a more liberal hand, and I cannot see how any Treaty obligation can be violated, so long as we extend to our respected brethren from the Chinese Empire precisely the same class of rights which they


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extend to us. What is good for the British goose is good for the Chinese gander. The only provision that can press in any inconvenient way upon the Chinese residents in the country, is the provision requiring them to take out a licence, for which they are to pay a fee, which the committee may fix at any sum they like. We do not pretend to interfere with the liberties of any of the Chinese residents amongst us up to the present time; but we do consider it expedient in the public interest to require them to register their place of abode, and their names, and to take out a licence, so that we may know who they are and where they are. But with that one very rational and justifiable restriction, they are free to go where they like—to indulge in what pursuits they like—with one exception, which I shall allude to presently—and they are free to enjoy all the rights and privileges which we ourselves enjoy. I would be no party to legislation which would place disabilities beyond what I have indicated upon the Chinese population now in the country; but in regard to those Chinese who may arrive after the passing of this Bill—if it passes into law—they must enjoy the rights of residence just to the extent that the rights of residence are permitted to British subjects in China, and no further. So that under this law—supposing the Bill to pass into law, and I do not doubt that it will—there will be two classes of Chinamen in this country: those who arrived before the passing of the Act, and who will not be interfered with, except that they will be required to take out a licence, and to register their names and places of abode; and those who arrive after the passing of the Act, whose residence will be restricted to limited areas, and who will not be permitted to wander all over the country. There is another provision in the Bill which is justified by the laws of China. The Chinese are not to engage in mining. British subjects are not allowed to engage in mining in China, and following that example, and extending to Chinese subjects the same rights, we forbid them to engage in mining pursuits in this country. These are the leading provisions of the Bill, and I maintain in the face of this great gathering of honourable men, that it is a fair and just, though somewhat


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drastic, measure for settling this question in the interests of this young nation, and settling it on the grounds of reason and enlightened policy, and in the interests of preserving the freedom and the great privileges which we enjoy. I have said before, and repeat now, that we are fully justified in everything that we have done. Our first object is to serve the people of New South Wales, and in this high service to preserve not only their liberties, but to preserve to them the peace, the law, the order, the safety of society. If this cause of tumult were to continue, those high conditions of the free people of this country could not be conserved. We have taken the steps we have to preserve to this people their great inheritance of freedom and security; and if in doing that we have infringed any law, I say that this House is bound in honour to indemnify us, because, in infringing the law, we have obeyed the higher law of conserving society and the best interests of this people. We appeal with confidence to have our conduct justified, and ourselves, collectively and individually, indemnified for the strong steps we have felt bound to take. And I appeal to gentlemen in all quarters of this House—I appeal to every section of my fellow-countrymen throughout the land—to support us in this effort to terminate a moral and social pestilence, and to preserve to ourselves and our children, unaltered and unspotted, the rights and privileges which we have received from our forefathers.

When the Bill went into committee, a few members, led by Mr. Dibbs, did their utmost to defeat it by mangling its provisions. Mr. Dibbs himself at once moved an amendment in these words:—‘From and after the 1st day of June next it shall not be lawful for any subject of China to land from any vessel, or to enter any part of the colony.’ Of course a provision of this kind, if embodied in the Bill, would render the Royal assent impossible, and in his clumsy adroitness, Mr. Dibbs conceived that it would at the same time


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show to the unthinking that he was in earnest, and that the Government were not in earnest. The real friends of the Bill saw through this thinly-disguised attempt, and treated it accordingly. Mr. Dibbs then gave full vent to his spleen; the following are a few samples from his armoury of invective:—‘The Government had acted in a worse form than any bush-ranger who had ever scoured the roads of New South Wales;’ ‘the Government had exercised its power in a brutal manner on a harmless lot of people;’ in reference to myself, the working classes ‘would curse him living and dead for having outraged the country.’

The Bill was reported and passed through its remaining stages, and the House adjourned at fifteen minutes past seven o'clock on the morning of the 17th, having sat nearly twenty-seven hours.

In the Legislative Council the Bill received a difference of treatment which clearly marked the difference between a nominee and an elective Chamber—between men who hold their seats for life with no responsibility, and men who hold their seats for three years, directly responsible to the electors. The provisions relating to Chinese resident in the colony were struck out, but the Bill passed with its stringent clauses against future Chinese immigration. It is now the law, and has worked with complete success in stopping the influx of Chinese.

My speech on moving the second reading received much attention. It elicited strong expressions of approval, and it was made the subject of adverse comment in many quarters, and it even called forth an


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enquiry from the late Sir George Campbell in the House of Commons. On May 21, 1888, I wrote the following introduction to my speech. I quote it here as the vindication of my conduct which I put forth at the time:—

‘This speech is copied, with very few verbal corrections, from the admirable reports published by authority, under the popular but somewhat loose designation of Hansard. In some quarters the speech has been received with a kind of criticism which I venture to say has been neither accurate nor just; and small consideration has been shown for the complicated difficulties which beset the question under treatment. If the colony could be relieved of the Chinese affliction by stilted phrases, slovenly dealing with facts, and unwarranted abuse of other men's motives, some of my critics in both Houses of Parliament and elsewhere are eminently qualified to settle the question.

‘I, however, have neither time nor inclination to offer any reply to these critics. The position which I and my colleagues have taken up is plain and visible to the people of New South Wales; and we look to our country for our vindication.

‘I wish to notice three points in the controversy, if controversy it may be called; but in noticing these only, I must claim to be understood as not admitting the correctness of several others.

‘(1) It is not true that I ever used language to show that I expected a reply in forty-five days from the Imperial Government to the telegraphic message sent from here on March 31. I complained of receiving no acknowledgment whatever. My words were:—




  ― 229 ―

‘We put forth our case in the interests of preserving the integrity of the union of the Empire. Well, what was the result? We certainly were not so foolish or simple as to expect a satisfactory reply at once, or even in a month or two months; but we did expect, after stating in this earnest and urgent manner the danger of our cause, the courtesy of some acknowledgment.

‘(2) It seems to me something like insolence for men, who have not had to face our trial, to accuse the members of the Government of acting from panic, and of pandering to the multitude, when our course of patient and self-restraining action for many months past is before them, and when I have expressly for myself and colleagues disclaimed any such action. My opening words in the speech of the 16th were:—

‘I disclaim any attitude of even aversion to the Chinese people settled in this country; and I disclaim any possible action on the part of the Government in deference to public agitations out of doors. I am convinced in my conscience that neither have we at any time joined with those who have derided, and, as I think, traduced, the Chinese residents in this country; nor have we at any time yielded to the pressure of popular agitation.

‘(3) I feel that I need not say a word in vindication of my loyalty to my Sovereign and to the Empire. The proofs of my devoted attachment to both are interwoven with my whole public life. But my loyalty would never lead me to prostrate myself before men, however lofty their station in the Queen's service, who are still only subjects of the Queen like myself, and it would


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lead me by an overmastering obligation to do my utmost to protect from injury, neglect, or slight the great province of the Empire for the good government of which I, in common with my colleagues, am directly responsible. My first duty in the high office I hold is to serve New South Wales, and at the present moment I believe that this service, faithfully performed, demands of me “at all hazards” to preserve the soil of the country from the presence of Chinese. With a genuine feeling of loyalty to Her Majesty and her Imperial Government, I hold it to be a sacred doctrine that no Imperial Minister has any constitutional right to interfere with us in working out our system of self-government, and that under this system the right of self-preservation from a great threatening evil is one of the highest of our inalienable rights and liberties. In our national trouble we sought aid at the seat of the Empire, and we failed even to receive an acknowledgement of our appeal. And it must be recollected that some of the parties with whom we had to deal talked loudly of appealing, and did actually appeal, to the Admiral on the station. It was in view of all this that I used the words on the 16th:—

‘Now, if any person supposes that we have acted thoughtlessly or hurriedly, or without due regard to all the consequences, he is woefully mistaken. In this crisis of the Chinese question, and it is a crisis, we have acted calmly, with a desire to see clearly the way before us; but at the same time we have acted with decision, and we do not mean to turn back. Neither for Her Majesty's ships of war, nor for Her Majesty's representative


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on the spot, nor for the Secretary of State for the Colonies, do we intend to turn aside from our purpose, which is to terminate the landing of Chinese on these shores for ever, except under the restrictions imposed by the Bill, which will amount, and which are intended to amount, to practical prohibition.

‘It is a noteworthy fact, that although the Government had been acting “illegally” for nearly a fortnight, in refusing to allow the Chinese to land, no virtuous member of Parliament said a word until our Bill was brought in on the 16th, and it was thought that there was a chance, not of serving the Chinese or of protecting the country, but of twisting our conduct in a time of extreme difficulty to a mean party advantage. I had previously offered for three members of the Government to confer with three members of the Opposition, with a view to agreeing upon a basis for legislation to secure unanimity, the question being considered a non-political one; but this was declined, no doubt with the hope of some chance turning up in favour of high-minded party ends.’

Among other measures of the Session 1887–8, the Attorney-General (Mr. B. R. Wise) introduced a Bill to remodel and consolidate the law of bankruptcy. The Bill became law and is giving general satisfaction.

Another measure which gave rise to strong dissent from a minority in Parliament, was a Bill to provide for the establishment and maintenance of an additional naval force to be employed for the protection of the floating trade in Australasian waters. Bills of like character were introduced by the Government of the


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other Australian colonies, pursuant to an agreement arrived at by the Imperial Conference in London. That agreement was appended as a schedule to each of these Bills, and its scope and object may be gathered from the first four articles, which follow:—

The Commissioners for executing the office of Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, &c., and the Governments of Her Majesty's colonies of New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia, New Zealand, Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia, having recognised the necessity of increasing the naval force for the protection of the floating trade in Australasian waters at their joint charge, have resolved to conclude for this purpose an agreement as follows:

ARTICLE I.

There shall be established a force of sea-going ships of war, hereinafter referred to as ‘these vessels,’ to be provided, equipped, manned, and maintained at the joint cost of Imperial and Colonial funds.

ARTICLE II.

These vessels shall be placed in every respect on the same status as Her Majesty's ships of war, whether in commission or not.

ARTICLE III.

The officers and men of such of these vessels as are in commission shall be changed triennially, and of those in reserve as may be considered advisable.




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ARTICLE IV.

These vessels shall be under the sole control and orders of the Naval Commander-in-Chief for the time being appointed to command Her Majesty's ships and vessels on the Australian station.

These vessels shall be retained within the limits of the Australian station, as defined in the standing orders of the Naval Commander-in-Chief, and in times of peace or war shall be employed within such limits in the same way as are Her Majesty's ships of war, or employed beyond those limits only with the consent of the Colonial Governments.

I moved the second reading of the Bill on November 24, 1887. The debate was protracted over two nights, and some animated speeches were delivered, the little party in opposition to the Bill being composed of members from both sides of the House. The principal grounds of opposition were, that the Bill committed the colony to the quarrels of the old world, and that it brought the people under payment of ‘tribute’ to the power of England. It was further objected that the colony had no voice in the command of the fleet in the maintenance of which it was called upon to pay its share. As the naval arm of defence is the most valuable to the colonies, which are not in a position to create, and hitherto have shown no disposition to undertake, the vast expense of creating a fleet of their own, these facts alone would seem to be a sufficient reply. However, an amendment was moved that the Bill be


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read the second time that day six months. This was defeated by forty-one votes to nine, and, thereupon, the second reading was carried by a similar division. An unusual incident followed; the members, who had been in the House all night, rose to their feet as the daylight streamed in through the windows, and gave three cheers for Australia, and three cheers for Old England.

Besides these great Acts of Parliament—reducing the Customs tariff to simple proportions on the basis of Free-trade, creating an entirely new authority for protecting the people in large expenditures for public works, placing the State railways under a system of non-political and competent management, dealing effectually with the Chinese difficulty,—a large number of other useful measures were passed into law. The Ministry, which had held office for eighteen months when Parliament was prorogued on July 24, 1888, could point to as fair an array of important legislative measures as any Ministry that ever existed in New South Wales.

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