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2-282 (Text)

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addressee author,male,Sydney Morning Herald,un
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Clark, 1957
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Mr. WENTWORTH, in pursuance of notice, brought forward the resolutions founded on the Report of the Select Committee on General Grievances. When, said the honourable member, he moved the appointment of the Select Committee, whose Report he now brought under consideration, he had occasion to enter into an elaborate statement of the grievances which he thought the most oppressive - those which immediately pressed upon the attention of all who consider the position of the colony; and it was a remarkable fact that the list of grievances which he had then brought forward had in no way been increased or added to by the Committee in their Report.  it was not, however, to be inferred that no other grievances did exist. It had occurred to himself, and there was evidence to prove that there were many omissions; there was one - a paramount grievance which was not alluded to - which was, that from the foundation of the colony to the present time, the Home Government had kept to itself the appointments of all offices of honour or emolument, or responsibility, in this colony; had restricted those offices to persons from the United Kingdom, who were sent out here without regard to the opinions or wishes of the colonists. This assumption on the part of the Home Government might be, and was, one of necessity in the earlier days of the colony; but now it had become a grievance - it was a disparagement to the character of the colony. He did not say that there were not some offices even now which might form exceptions; but he must contend, that the Government ought, as a general rule, to adopt the principle of filling offices as they become vacant with inhabitants of the colony, and not with foreigners - foreigners, if not by extraction, at least by birth or adoption.  He trusted that the day and the hour were not far distant, when this colony would enjoy a responsible government; and one of the first reforms he hoped for was, that the principle which had been adopted in Canada, of filling up vacant offices with appointees on the spot, would be largely and liberally acted upon.  
There were certain grievances set forth in the Report of the Committee upon which he thought there could be no difference of opinion; and, although some feeble opposition might be offered to the resolutions by hon. members on the Treasury benches, he had no doubt that the Council would affirm the recommendations of the Committee. Amongst these grievances was the imposition of the enormous civil list, the schedules attached to the Act of Parliament, an imposition as unjust, as unconstitutional, as could be imagined, and on which no difference of opinion could exist.  There was the question of District Councils, on which the Council and the people of the colony had over and over again expressed their opinion; and there was also the charge for police and gaols.  With respect to the civil list and the question of responsible government, he would call the attention of the House to the concluding paragraphs of the Report. The Committee said, Connected with the grievances, there exists also in the present constitution of the Legislative Council, a sort of sub-grievance, which is quite as objectionable in principle as the Schedules themselves, though not at present the cause of much general or wide-spread disaffection, in the co-ordinate authority, as to the right of voting the supplies, which the imperial Act, 5 and 6 Victoria, C. 76, has vested in the nominees of the Crown, equally with the representatives of the people. However little attention this infraction of a great fundamental principle, that the public supplies can only originate from the people, has yet attracted, there can be no question, that the period is not very remote when this great and glaring innovation on the ancient rights and privileges of the popular branch of the Legislature, and the practical inconveniences that must inevitably result from it, (some of which have already become apparent), will excite that public alarm which its unconstitutional tendencies evidently justify. Now with respect to this it might be, and no doubt it would be, said, that this was unkind in the Committee towards those who had granted the colony its present constitution, unkind especially in him (Mr. Wentworth) as he might in some measure be looked upon as the author of that constitution. He admitted the charge; he admitted that some eight or ten years ago he had framed and forwarded, through a society of which he was a member, a plan ,of a constitution, such as had, it appeared, met favour in the eyes of the powers elsewhere; and the objection which might be taken on the other side to his complaining now would have some validity, if he had ever assumed to himself infallibility; but at the time he proposed that constitution he had in view the inconveniences which had resulted in other colonies from two Houses; the evil of having a Legislative Assembly, overawed, thwarted, nullified, by a Legislative Council, composed of nominees; he saw that some new mode must be adopted for the colonies; and that he was right, had been shown fully, even in the working of the present constitution of this colony.  It was now clear that, to endue nominees of the Crown with a power equal to that of representatives of the people was an evil, and the sooner that evil was remedied the better.  He thought, that in all questions of supply the nominees of the Crown should refrain from voting; they should leave this matter to the constitutional authority - the representatives of the people; he meant in committees of supply.. On the appropriation bills he would leave the nominees their votes. On every principle of constitution and precedent the nominees ought to be silent in the Committees on supplies. As he had before said, he should consider it a waste of time to say one syllable with respect to the questions of District Councils and Police and Gaols; but he must urge this question of responsible government, and it was this question which he had no doubt would draw forth the opposition of honourable members on the treasury benches. 
His honourable friend opposite (the Colonial Secretary) admitted that there was not a shadow of responsibility in the present government; that neither he nor any other government officer were responsible to this House; that this House did not possess the slightest control over them; but he said that he preferred this state of things to a responsible government; that to introduce a responsible government would be to sever the link which bound the colony to the empire. He was not at liberty to catechise his honorable friend here as he might have done in Committee, but he should like to know how often questions were likely to arise here in which the empire had .any interest? What was the burthen .of .the legislation of this Council but legislation for domestic purposes? and what had the mother country to do with these? What, for instance, had the Imperial Government to do with such a Bill as that Lottery Bill which the House passed last night? He had, indeed: heard that the authority of the imperial representative was to be interposed to prevent that measure from being carried into effect; and he would ask, was such a step likely to conduce, to good government?  Was it likely to preserve the harmony so much talked of? Was the exercise of the veto of the imperial officer, on a measure so much needed by the colony, likely to increase the fund of loyalty, and the affection of the colonists to the mother country? He would ask whether all that. was so much denied would not rather be effected by diminishing this power - by making the Government responsible instead, of irresponsible, as at present? He denied that there would be any such result as prophesied. No one could be more desirous than he of seeing the link continued between the colony, and the mother country - he, would say to it, esto perpetua; but with every desire to perpetuate that link, he would ask again what right had any imperial officer, what right had the home government to interfere with an Act like that which the Council had passed last night? It was scarcely conceivable that such interference would be made in a matter of so purely domestic legislation; but he had heard it surmised that the imperial .officer would put his veto on that  Such a state of things was unendurable in a free country; no men possessed of minds or souls would submit to it; it must be got rid of. It was well for this colony, however, that the principle for which he contended, however it might be, and was now opposed here, had been admitted by the Home Government in respect to other colonies, and he only wondered how British statesmen had for years endured the drudgery and vexation which must have resulted from constant appeals to the Home Government without having discovered their remedy. It did appear to him, that without any wish to dissever, colonies from the mother country, statesmen might have discovered, as it now appeared ,in other colonies they had, that the colonists were themselves the best judges of what was required in domestic legislation, and that the powers which their delegates had possessed, and here did still possess, could only be mischievous in the highest degree. The experience of the last six or seven years of this colony had fully justified what Lord Durham had said upon the subject.  The colonists had a right at least to expect in the Governor an impartial referee. But they had been deceived. In the published despatches they found nothing but an unceasing endeavour to damnify the colony, and from them they might judge of the spirit of those which were not published, not subjected to the public view.  The Report which he now submitted for the adoption of the Council, not only proved that responsible government had been given to the colonies, but that this colony would not be justly dealt by until the same was conceded to it. Hon. members on the other side might oppose the Report, for the permanency of their officers would be affected by the change; they must go out and come in as officers of Government did elsewhere.  therefore he was not surprised that they should have apprehended that such a system as he proposed would sever the link between the colony and the mother country, or rather between them and their Home appointments. The answer to this, however, was, that so far as imperial matters were concerned, they did not wish to interfere; the rights of the Imperial Government were not endangered. All they sought was, that their domestic legislation might be free and unimpeded as it ought to be; they asserted that there ought not to be any power to arrest the progress of domestic legislation, such as that which now existed.  What important resolution of the Council, adopted in accordance with wishes of the community, had the Executive not set aside? What important law, what measure devised for the benefit of the community, unless indeed it originated with the Executive, or had its previous concurrence, had not been opposed? 
When had the Executive given way to the decisions of the representatives of the people? If one instance could be adduced in which the contrary was the case when the majority was not overwhelming, then he would say that the Report was unimpeachable; as it was, he could only say that the Committee had not gone far enough: that the Report gave only a milk and water account of the opposition offered by the Government to the measures of the Council. With every inclination to admit the transcendant qualifications of the individual who now ruled the colony, that no single mind could compete with his single mind: yet as it was said that in the multitude of counsellors there was wisdom; while he admitted again, as taking off his shoes he approached the exalted individual, that individuals transcendant abilities, he must express his doubts whether the single intellect of that individual, transcendant as it was, was superior to the collected intellects of the members of this House; he might do this without disputing the transcendental abilities of the highly elevated personage referred to - and he might come to the conclusion that on some points the Council were right, while that exalted personage was wrong; that the thirty-six masses or clods of earth of which the Council was composed, though not to be compared singly to the concentrated essence, double distilled, of the thirty-seventh clod, should not at all times be overruled by that thirty-seventh clod, as they had hitherto been, and that it was high time to look for a remedy for the evils under which they and the country had suffered - and the only remedy was a responsible government.  This was the deliberate recommendation of the Committee, and then followed an ancillary recommendation which would enable the country, if in consequence of the imperial protection thrown around the head of the government, they could not get at him, at least to reach his advisers, and those who carried his views into effect. If a colonial Treasurer should be found again, who, without authority, would issue £25,000 to pay off debentures, or £15,000 to pay for a road, they would be able to get at him, to ask him, at all events, quo warranto, did you pay this money? There was no other means of doing this, than by establishing a tribunal for impeachments in the colony. Impeachments appear to have been considered, for years past, in this colony, as a mere joke; and he admitted that it might be so considered, while the only tribunal was on the other side of the Pacific and Atlantic; but if such a tribunal as proposed were established here, officers of Government would cease to consider it a joke. Such a tribunal had been recommended by Mr. Poulett Thomson, and although, as he had before said, the sublime head could not be impeached, yet his acts might, in the persons of those who took upon themselves the responsibility of carrying them into effect. He had extended his observations further than he intended at the outset, and he hoped that he had said enough to convince the House that the recommendations of the Committee were well founded - that the establishment of a responsible Government was essential to their future success in legislating for the benefit of the colony.  With these observations he would now submit the resolutions of which he had given notice to the House, leaving out only a portion of the second which more properly belonged to the question of land grievances: and those resolutions were - 
1. That this Council having taken into consideration the Report of the Select Committee, appointed to enquire into and report upon all grievances not connected with the lands of the territory, and to distinguish between those grievances which can be redressed in the colony and those which cannot, adopts generally the opinions contained therein. 
2. That in the opinion of this Council the schedule annexed to 5th and 6th Victoria, c. 76, should be repealed, and the whole of the General Revenue placed at the appropriation of the Governor and Legislative Council, in conformity with the provisions of the Declaratory Act, 18 George III, c. 12, s. I. 
3. That in the opinion of this Council, so much of the same Act, 5th and 6th Vict, c. 76, as relates to the establishment of District Councils, should be re-pealed.
4. That in the opinion of this Council, the Police, Gaol, and Judicial expenditure of the colony should be adjusted on the terms prayed for in the address to Her Majesty and the petitions to both Houses of Parliament prepared by the Select Committee appointed by this Council to inquire into and report upon all grievances not connected with the lands of the territory.
5. That it is the opinion of this Council, that an humble address be presented to Her Majesty, to direct that the Government of this colony be henceforth conducted on the same principle of responsibility as to legislative ,control which has been conceded in the United Canadas, and to sanction the establishment by law within this colony of a tribunal for impeachments.
6. That in the opinion of this Council,, an Act should be introduced to enable persons having claims of any description against the Crown or local Government to sue the Colonial Treasurer or some other public officer to be appointed for that purpose by the Governor, as a nominal defendant, with suitable provisions to enable claimants to enforce any judgment or decree in their behalf; but nevertheless under such limitations as may be necessary to prevent frivolous and vexatious suits. 
7. That it is the opinion of this Council that an humble address be presented to her Majesty, praying that her Majesty will be graciously pleased to place the Judges of the Supreme Court in the same tenure of office and security of salary as have been granted to the Judges of England.
Captain Dumaresq seconded the resolutions.