Australian Access Federation

You are here: Home Corpora Corpus of Oz Early English 3-133 (Raw)

3-133 (Raw)

Item metadata
author,male,Sydney Morning Herald,un addressee
Newspaper Article
Word Count :
Plaint Text :
Public Written
Newspapers & Broadsides
Connell, 1980
Document metadata

3-133-raw.txt — 3 KB

File contents

The Cowper Ministry has expressed an opinion against the use of Boards in Government.
The cry for "popular Government" in this colony is a deceptive cry. It is pernicious as a diversion of the public mind from the real danger. It is impossible for anything to prevent the Government being made dependent on the votes of those electors who choose to vote. When the so-called reformers pretend there is some despotic power - some class domineering over the rest, in virtue of rank or wealth - they are merely gulling the populace. No such power does exist, and until some ages have passed, none such will be found in the colonies.
It is not in that direction that we have to fear any obstruction to popular Government. But an evil is at our doors, of a far more serious nature than any supposed by political theories. This is the sale of Government patronage; the bribery of public officers, and generally the use of popular institutions to get a vote, and to make it a matter of barter and sale.
The peculiar circumstances of this colony offer every facility to this bribery. We have a vast estate, and by the proposed law its distribution will be in the hands of Ministers.
Beside the land management, there is the patronage of an ever extending web of offices, multiplying daily, and comprehending appointments of great value. It is fearful to reflect that judicial offices as well as others of great trust are at the disposal of parliamentary majorities, such as the present House gives; still more alarming when we look at the ever downward tendency in the popular choice.
But we have another grand field of jobbery and corruption, full of intricacies and obscurities - the Contract department.
That there might be every guarantee of fairness, the late Governments established Boards to deal with tenders. We are told that Boards are screens. They may be so; but it is far more likely that a bargain struck by a head of a department would be corrupt if acting alone - and it is equally likely, under the same circumstances, a bargain would be struck by a corrupt Minister. It is the impossibility of trusting several parties with a secret that makes it not only safer, but indispensable that no transaction involving money be left to one or two men. It is not at all impossible that a Minister will receive direct bribes; history does not lack examples. But it is positively certain that they will tacitly assent to a system of bribes, if necessary to the duration of their power.
The object of a Board is to have a chance that a bona fide opinion of what is best for the public may be obtained; that discussion may take place; that reasons may be given and recorded; and, finally, that a Minister, who goes in the teeth of a competent authority, may be under some practical responsibility. [148]
The general responsibility of Ministers, we repeat, as a protection against bargains, is a delusion. What does it amount to?
They may be turned out of office by the Assembly, but who is to make the Assembly turn them out. The late Ministers were threatened with the loss of supporters, purely on selfish grounds, - that is, for not giving what was equivalent to public money. The responsibility of Ministers is a great cheat - the reverse of the popular idea; a responsibility to men who may, if they choose, sell their votes for whatever the Minister can bestow. Boards are a check on one large department of bribery, - for wherever money is to be expended, a honest Minister will desire a check; and a roguish Minister ought not to escape one.