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3-254 (Original)

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author,male,Parkes, Henry,52 addressee
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Webby, 1989
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MR PARKES said: I am sure I express the feelings of my colleague as well as of myself, when I say that we are deeply gratified by the kind and cordial manner in which you have drunk this toast. We were told when we were invited to this entertainment that the gentlemen inviting us were colonists of New South Wales - gentlemen having a deep interest in the prosperity of that colony. This circumstance invests the present gathering with peculiar interest, because we ought not to forget - and I admit it freely and generously - that we are assembled in the capital of another colony, which is at the same time the greatest city in Australasia. The circumstance that we, the members of the Government of New South Wales - the parent of all the colonies - are met in this room in so cordial a manner by our fellow colonists, is one that I regard with special interest. In returning thanks for the compliment you have paid us, I set a special value Upon this circumstance. Our worthy friend the chairman - and I am sure you must be wise men to place this gentleman in the chair - has told us pretty distinctly the occupation in which you are all engaged. [438] I give our worthy friend the utmost credit for ingenuity and good nature; but if he expects me to make any serious revelations regarding the land policy of the Government, I fear he will be disappointed. If in the exercise of his bounteous good nature he has any design of tying me to a buggy and carrying me on to Fort Bourke, in order that I may acquire a knowledge of Riverine interests, all I can say is, he will not catch me on the other side of the Murray. I appreciate his kindness but would rather be excused from his services. Gentlemen, considering the few opportunities that I have had of understanding the country with which you are more particularly identified, considering that I have no personal interest in common with yours, I think there are few persons who have shown more consideration for the exceptional circumstances of the Border districts, or more sincere anxiety to do all that can be fairly done to place you on a level with the people of the other portions of New South Wales. On the question of the Border duties I have always felt very strongly the impolicy of collecting those duties along the River Murray. Years ago, before they were collected in accordance with law - for nothing could be more irregular than their collection at that time - I felt that if continued for any length of time they would be fraught with such serious evils that it would be better to lose the revenue than risk the danger of their collection. I have always regarded the establishment of inland Custom-houses as a positive evil which no circumstances could to any great extent modify or decrease, and I would rather have assented to any imaginable arrangements than see a whole body of custom-house officers stationed along the narrow river dividing the territory of Victoria from New South Wales. We know that the duties entrusted to officers at a remote distance from the central authority are seldom well performed; but however well they may be carried out, they must necessarily and inevitably lead to bickerings, to bad feeling, to much of that kind of evasion of the law which, if it goes on for any length of time, settles down into the inveterate vice of smuggling; and rather than see a numerous class of petty smugglers disseminating the virus of their bad habits and disaffected feeling throughout society along the banks of a river like the Murray I would submit to almost any conceivable law. This is and always has been and always will be my view of the question. I expressed this view to the colonists on both sides of the Murray when I had the honour of visiting those districts during last year; and I am sure my honourable colleague will say that I did not lose any opportunity of enforcing those views upon the Government on my return to Sydney With regard to distant portions of these Australian colonies, I am one of those who believe that where self-government can be carried out it is better that it should be carried out. [439] I am a colonist sufficiently old to remember the time when the country which is now the colony of Victoria was part of the colony of New South Wales. I took some interest in public life when the agitation was going on for the separation of this portion of the territory. I was in this city of Melbourne on the very day when the separation from New South Wales was celebrated, and all my sympathies were with my fellow-colonists in this part of the territory. I thought it was only just to them, and must necessarily be beneficial to the whole of the population, that they should be separated from the old colony and erected into a separate community. Later still I was in the Legislature of the colony when the separation of Queensland took place, and if anyone chooses to search the records of Parliament he will find that my vote was recorded for motions previously made in favour of the separation of that colony. I believe that persons considerable in numbers, considerable in property, and considerable in their industrial enterprises, who are carrying on the work of colonisation at a remote distance of 600 or 700 miles from the seat of Government, should be allowed as they attain to numerical strength sufficient for the purpose - and if other circumstances conform to such a condition of things - to form a colony of themselves. I have great sympathy for any class of my fellow-colonists who are placed under the disadvantages and difficulties which remoteness from the seat of Government will at all times carry with it. I should not like to be misunderstood or to be supposed, even by implication, to be the advocate for the creation of a new colony to be called Riverina. However earnest some gentlemen may be as Riverine patriots, I am sure they will not be displeased with me for candidly declaring my own sentiments; and I do think that the colony of New South Wales, within the boundaries fixed by the Constitution Act under which we now live, has not yet been proved to be too large. I think, before we split up any portion of this territory, we should try better than we hitherto have done - and this I confess candidly - to govern these outlying districts satisfactorily and beneficially for the whole community. I think the Government in Sydney ought to devote all its energies, without the loss of a single year to connecting the metropolis of the colony with those districts by railway. I am bound to acknowledge that one of the finest and 'noblest examples of statesmanship that I know of in the Australian colonies is the conception of the Victorian railway from Melbourne to Echuca, and the vigorous action of the Government in carrying it out to completion. I don't know who were the authors of that scheme; but I think it was sagacious in conception, and that it has been carried out with true patriotism; and I give the colony of Victoria every credit for its far-sightedness in this great work. But I should like to see the Government of New South Wales do something more than copy that example. [440] I should like to see the parent colony putting forth all her spirit of enterprise, and constructing a railway to the Murrumbidgee with even double the energy of her ardent offspring. I should go further even than this. I should be disposed to devote all the revenue derived from those outlying districts in the interior to their improvement. I believe it is a sound principle to dedicate the revenue derived from the public lands of a new country to the improvement of that country, and that the mere expenditure incurred in carrying on the civil government should be met by the ordinary means of taxation. The land once alienated can never be alienated again, and the revenue derived from that source is collected once and for all. I think, therefore, it is a correct principle that the Governments of these new countries should devote the whole of this revenue to making the land more accessible for the purposes of settlement and civilisation. I held this doctrine years ago, and I hold it still. At all times I shall be prepared to support the doctrine with reference to the outlying districts of the country. Our worthy chairman has alluded to the occasion which has brought my honourable colleague and myself to the city of Melbourne; and I am sure you possess that interest which intelligent men must feel in anything which draws the colonies into closer intercourse and into a better understanding. For my own part, I do not hesitate to say that I regard this occasion - though I am in no sense the author of it - as one full of interest, as one from which much may be expected, and from which I believe many good results will undoubtedly flow. For the first time in the history of these Australian colonies they have all assembled, including New Zealand - I may say all of them, because they are all represented, with the exception of Western Australia - with no feeling of emulation less worthy than the desire to have the largest share in effecting a common end to promote their common interests. It appears to me a very important occasion; and from my intercourse with the gentlemen who have been entrusted with this important mission I have formed so good an opinion of their judgment, of their sound understanding, and of their disinterested desire to promote the good of the entire group of colonies, to lose sight of individual interests as far as they can be lost sight of consistently with a proper feeling of patriotism; that, although I am restricted from saying anything about our proceedings, I think I may venture to say that the results will not fail to be satisfactory to the Australian people, and productive of great good to the Australian family. Apart from all personal interest I take in this occasion, I think the time has arrived when these colonies should be united by some federal bond of connexion. I think it mu