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4-411 (Text)

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author,male,Berry, Graham,un addressee,male
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Government English
Imperial Correspondence
Clark, 1975
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4-411-plain.txt — 4 KB

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A Despatch signed by yourself (No. 121 of the 1st of October 1878) was handed to the Ministers by His Excellency Sir G. F. Bowen, a few days after ) Parliament had been prorogued. Had this Despatch been communicated in time to the Cabinet, Ministers would have felt it their duty to request that it might be laid before Parliament. It is only right, however, to add that the proved futility of attempts at reconciliation frequently renewed had produced a state of feeling in both Houses which made it undesirable to protract discussion in Parliament.
The Despatch alluded to the differences of opinion which have existed at various times in the colony as to the method in which reform should be effected. There is not, and there never has been, any difference of opinion among the large body of electors as to the principles on which reform must be based. All agree that the legislation of the colony ought to express the mature will of the great majority of the electors, whereas Government is controlled at present in all essential particulars by the veto of the minority. Mr. Francis proposed that both Houses should vote together in cases of dispute. The circumstances of the session 1877-8 induced Ministers to favor the plan of a nominee Upper House, and the measure they introduced last session proposed to limit the use of the veto enjoyed by the Legislative Council. 
In all proposals, however, the object aimed at was the same, to give effect to the deliberate purpose of the representative Chamber.
The legislative measures which, after mature deliberation, Ministers finally decided on as most proper for the Assembly to request, and for the Imperial Parliament to grant, was a simple alteration of the 60th section of The Constitution Act, so as to enable the Legislative Assembly to enact in two distinct annual sessions, with a general election intervening, any measure for the reform of the Constitution. It can scarcely be called an extreme measure to propose that a Bill carried in the Assembly by an absolute majority, on the second and third readings, afterwards submitted to the constituencies, and again carried in the new House by absolute majorities, should at last pass into law. Such a change in the present Constitution would, it is believed, supply that safety-valve which is admittedly required. Ministers also feel that it would simply carry into effect the original intention of the Imperial Government, which undoubtedly intended to confer self-government on the colony.
The third paragraph of the Despatch proceeds to state that, in your opinion, no sufficient cause has been shown for the intervention of the Imperial Parliament in the manner suggested. I venture to believe that this opinion will be modified by a consideration of the events which have taken place since you received the information on which your Despatch is based. The Council has refused even to discuss the Bill carried in the Assembly. Invited by the Assembly to a conference, the representatives of the Council declined either to abandon the right to reject Money Bills, including the annual Appropriation Bill, or to substitute a suspensive for the absolute veto on legislation at present enjoyed and freely exercised by the Council.
Thus, after long and exhaustive discussions the representatives of the Assembly were compelled to report that not even a basis for negotiation could be secured; and informal overtures for fresh negotiations have been barren of all results, except to show that the most conciliatory members of the Assembly could devise nothing which the Council would even consider. I feel it my duty to express a belief that no Ministry will be able to carry on the Queen's Government satisfactorily in Victoria if some solution to present difficulties be not provided. At present, scarcely a year passes but it becomes a question whether the supplies necessary for the Queen's service will be granted, and the discussion of useful laws is unavoidably postponed to that of constitutional reform.
The Assembly has decided to invite the interposition of England, not because its members are in doubt with respect to powers conferred on them by the Constitution Act sufficient to practically establish the principle for which they contend, but in order to escape from exercise of those powers at times and under circumstances when the public mind becomes unduly if not dangerously excited.
I am, &c.,