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4-198 (Original)

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author,male,Parker, S.H.,un addressee
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Clark, 1975
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The sentiment in favour of self-government has been growing up for a great many years; in fact, we have always looked upon it that this representative form of government is merely a steppingstone to the fuller and freer form which is enjoyed by the neighbouring colonies; indeed, the Imperial statutes under which our present constitution is established provide that upon the Legislative Council of the colony passing a measure in favour of self-government that shall become the law after the Bill has lain for 30 days on the Table of the House of Commons. [332] So that, naturally, when we took upon ourselves representative institutions, we looked upon it that it was only a stepping-stone to self-government, and we were confirmed in that view by the various despatches from the Colonial Office. I remember in 1874, when the Legislature read a Bill for a second time in favour of self-government, upon the question being referred to the Colonial Office, Lord Carnarvon, I believe, who then held the office of Secretary of State for the Colonies, sent a despatch to the Governor, which was laid before the Legislature and published in the colony. While Lord Carnarvon deprecated the idea of self-government at that time in consequence of the then position of the colony, he said that of course we must look forward to self-government as a desirable end which the colony must attain. I may say, therefore, that the whole people of the colony from the first have always had this idea of governing themselves in their mind, and the only question with them has been as to the time when they should take upon themselves the burden of self-government. Of course some years ago, and even perhaps within the last four or five years, there have been times when the delays consequent upon negotiations with the Colonial Office have acted somewhat prejudicially in our local affairs, and this has created, perhaps, some ill feeling; but so far as the Colonial Office is concerned, I believe that the idea has been always to allow us, within all reasonable limits, to do what we deemed proper and right in the management of our affairs. Then, again, another reason which has operated in the minds of the people is that during the last few years there has been a considerable influx of people, particularly artizans, from the neighbouring colonies, and those people have exclaimed against what they call the Crown Colony Government. There have been agitators who have pointed out that it was a one-man government, meaning that the Governor was virtually the government. The people have been aroused, and their feelings a good deal inflamed by the opinions of these men from the neighbouring colonies, and no doubt sentiment has had a great deal to do with the unanimous feeling which there now is in favour of the new constitution. Then again, the idea has always been sown broadcast amongst the people that the birthright of every Englishman is to govern himself; and however much we may be satisfied with, or may progress under, the present constitution, feeling this desire to be placed on a par with other Englishmen in other colonies, of course operates very strongly in the minds of the people at large. Again, we have been told, rightly or wrongly, by many persons in other colonies, that as soon as we have self-government they would introduce capital into our colony, and many persons have declared, even to myself, when I have been on visits to the neighbouring colonies, that they would not dream of coming to a Crown colony. [333] Of course that has been published in the papers, and it has had great effect; it has been pointed out how we are being retarded by the fact of our being a Crown colony.
But you are not a Crown colony; you have representative government? - We are not a Crown colony; but you cannot pursuade people who are not acquainted with our constitution, that we are not a Crown colony. They say the Governor is virtually the government, and although we have a Legislature, the Legislature is derided, because while we have constantly an opposition which is double the number of the government, yet the government is permanent. Even in England we know that a government after time becomes unpopular; and I presume it is in consequence of a government after it has held office thus becoming unpopular, that we have the various changes of government that take place here. You Will of course see that where a permanent government exists, it is still more likely to become unpopular. When there is no chance of ousting a government, it is unpopular almost from the first, and as years roll on it becomes still more unpopular, and everyone who is not concerned in the government imagines that he could do very much better if he had charge of public affairs. When we have self-government, I imagine that we shall be able to act very much more expeditiously in relation to our affairs, and that it will be a great benefit to the colony It will, I think, induce a considerable influx of capital which capital must employ labour; and necessarily Western Australia will become a much better field than it is at present for more immigrants. (I am using the word "immigrants" now as distinguished from the colonists.) We shall undoubtedly do a great deal with the view of opening up our gold-fields, and extending our railways with a view to settlement. This will necessitate the borrowing of money and the employment of a great deal of labour; and immigrants must be imported to supply this labour for the purpose of carrying out these works, and we hope that a great many of them will Settle upon the soil. I may say also that one thing which has perhaps operated rather prejudicially, so far as this constitution is concerned, is, that in some instances, I think the Colonial Office in making appointments to the colony, have not studied the interests of the colony and of the colonists as much as they perhaps ought to have done.
What appointments do you refer to? - I would rather not name any particular instance.
You are speaking generally? - Yes, I am speaking generally, but there is no doubt about it that consideration has operated in the minds of some people. I could go further and say that I think that some of these appointments have had a very ill effect upon the colony; we have had men who are quite unfitted for their posts. [334] I may also say that this question of responsible government has been agitated in the Legislature ever since 1878; it has been brought up every year, year after year; and gradually the minority increased until it became a majority, and eventually all the Members of the House were unanimous upon the subject. As something has been said with regard to the petition which was sent home by Mr. Padbury, I may say that Mr. Padbury himself before I left the colony, told me that notwithstanding his having signed and sent home that petition, he himself now was of opinion that the best thing for the colony was responsible government, and the sooner the better. The unanimity of the electors with regard to the point is shown by this fact; that at the last general election, when this question as to whether we should have responsible government or not, was referred to the country, in not one single constituency was there a candidate who advocated the retention of the present constitution. I should imagine that no stronger fact, as showing the feeling of the country, could be adduced than that. In July 1887 we passed those resolutions in favour of self-government, and from that time, with the exception of a small loan of £100,000, the Colonial Office have not allowed us to borrow any money. The line taken by the Colonial Office was that, while this question was under consideration, it would be better for the colony not to incur further liability, but to allow the new government, under the new constitution, to borrow what money it pleased, and not to hamper it by any further loans. 'That is, I think, what Sir Thomas Campbell referred to; but it will be observed that the line was not taken by the Colonial Office till after we had passed the resolutions in the House in favour of the change. Speaking for myself, I do not blame the Colonial Office in any way. I cannot help thinking that, if I had been one of the permanent officials of the Colonial Office, I should have adopted exactly the same course; and I think it will be found that the future ministry, under self-government, will he rather grateful to the Colonial Office for having adopted that line.