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as long as it is in the hands of white labourers. But the Kanakas are to be sent back to their own islands, and the Japanese and Malays are to be excluded from South Australia and Queensland. Lord Hopetoun, rightly or wrongly, decided to give his sanction to this measure, instead of
reserving' it for the King's pleasure. The Alien Immigration Act has become law, and now the federal Government is wondering how it is going to carry it out.
The tropical States are not likely to give the central Government any help. South Australia, Queensland, and Western Australia do not contemplate with any equanimity the loss of their valuable pearl-fishing industries, which are mainly carried on by the fearless Japanese and Malays. The Dutch are trying their utmost to get hold of the pearl fishers for their own shores in New Guinea. But far and away the most dangerous of these questions is the threatened exclusion of the Kanakas. The Premier of Queensland has spoken with considerable vehemence, and the General Election in Queensland has backed him up. The white men in Queensland see themselves threatened with the expulsion of all their labourers in virtue of an Act passed by a remote Government lying within the temperate zone. Their finances are already in a precarious state, and no one quite knows how the Kanaka is to be deported. The Queensland Government, sooner or later, may refuse to act, and the federal Government may well hesitate to send troops to carry out its orders. The policy of the Trade Halls of Melbourne and Sydney does not seem quite suitable for the tropical colonies.
The third and last instance of friction is fortunately of a less serious kind. The 5th section of the 51st clause of the Commonwealth Act gives to the federal Parliament control of the postal, telegraphic, telephonic, and other ·like services. No one can doubt the desirability of this provision. One of the practical discomforts that led up to the federation was the variety and mutual hostility of the postal services in Australia. But the new postal service has met with a very curious difficulty at its start. Early in their existence the Commonwealth authorities discovered that Hobart formed the centre of a great racing sweepstake business from which Tasmania derived considerable profit. The federal Government decided that this was immoral, and they proceeded to stop all communication between Hobart and Tattersall’s. The result is that Tasmania now loses an income of about 25,0001. a year, and loudly complains of illegal interference on the part of the Commonwealth. It is, of course, a somewhat open question as to whether the central Government has the right not merely to make laws in regard to postage, but to intercept the private correspondence of a State. The unfortunate thing is that there is no authority yet established to decide such points once and for all.
These larger political problems are accompanied by a number of smaller practical difficulties. The virtual dismissal of Lord Hopetoun on the ground of expense because the State Governments refused to pay for the two State residences required by the Governor until the new capital is built-is simply one instance of the financial panic which has fallen upon the federal statesmen. That panic seems likely for the moment to dominate Australian politics, and the recent elections in Victoria show that the Ministry is simply reflecting the opinion of the people in its policy of thrift. Under this influence all talk of building the new Australian capital has ceased. The 125th clause of the Act lays down that the seat of government shall be determined by Parliament, and shall be built within territory belonging to the • Commonwealth within the State of New South Wales, and • not less than a hundred miles from Sydney. This clause was the result of a long strife, arising from the jealousies of Melbourne and Sydney, and formed part of the concessions by which the consent of New South Wales was finally gained. But the Parliament still sits at Melbourne, and there is no present enthusiasm for a new capital and a new set of expensive Parliament buildings. Perhaps the force of custom will prevail, and Melbourne will pass naturally into the position of the Australian Washington. It would certainly seem a pity for the Australians to turn their backs on a great city like Melbourne, and to erect a capital of shanties away from the sea, where the federal members of Parliament would find their sessional duties even more tedious and expensive than they are at present.
A far more serious hitch is the failure to create the federal Supreme Court, which forms the pivot of the whole constitution. At any moment a constitutional deadlock may occur, and there does not exist at present any means of unlocking it. The appointment of this Court is all the more necessary since the famous 74th clause has removed all inter-state constitutional questions from the purview of the Privy Council. Many such questions have arisen between the provinces of Canada or between the Dominion
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Parliament and the provinces, and have been decided by the Privy Council. But Australia claimed internal independence from Privy Council control. We all remember the struggle over the 74th clause, and most of us were perhaps content that Australia should be left to settle her own constitutional problem. The federal Court, as laid down by the Act, closely resembles the High Court of the United States. It would be perfectly easy for the Australian Parliament to constitute it by creating the Court from the chief justices of the various colonies. But there seems to be a strong political prejudice against creating a Court which might have supreme powers over all political parties. The situation is a curious one, for the written constitution is simply being defied. It would now plainly have been better if the High Court had been nominated in the Commonwealth Act, and if the Commonwealth Parliament had been left no option as to its powers. But the Act leaves the Parliament a wide scope of choice as to the jurisdiction to be conferred upon the federal Court, and it does not seem at present likely that the parties will come to an agreement on the question. At present, indeed, the first step requires to be taken. The federal Court itself has not been appointed.
Perhaps this omission is only one sign of the fact that the various States of Australia have not yet entirely acquiesced in their subordinate relation to the federal Government. The position of the Australian States is difficult and peculiar, and they may be excused if they do not immediately accept the new situation. They have until recently been powerful independent colonies. Victoria and New South Wales have held their heads high. They are countries of the size of European monarchies, with no inconsiderable populations, with traditional policies, and even hereditary jealousies. They have been virtually sovereign States. They have fixed their own financial policies on different lines, and have nourished their own local patriotism. New South Wales has been a free-trade State, and now finds herself compelled to accept a strong measure of protection. She has to accept legislation from Melbourne, and to see her capital—Sydney-gradually sinking to a second place among Australian cities. These questions may seem small at this distance, but on the spot they are apt to figure more largely than problems of Imperial moment.
The situation largely resembles that which existed in
North America during the early life of the United States. There were many moments in the period subsequent to the War of Independence when it seemed as if the inter-state jealousies and traditions would break up the union of the Republic. The spirit of local independence, which afterwards culminated in the War of Secession, has always been a powerful factor both for good and for evil in the history of the United States. It is equally powerful in Australia, and let us hope that the good will be greater than the evil. The individual colonies have certainly had some very trying experiences of late. The premiers of New South Wales and Victoria have, for instance, seen themselves rewarded for their adherence to the Commonwealth by exclusion from the Colonial Conference. They have seen the Premier of New Zealand, on the other hand, invited to England as a guest of great distinction, and figuring at English public meetings as one of the chief spokesmen of Australasia. The glorification of Mr. Seddon has not, perhaps, been quite the sort of event that encourages the federal spirit. New Zealand is a vigorous and active community, and has just as much right to stand outside the federation of Australia as Newfoundland has to stand outside the federation of Canada. Nobody can blame her, too, for having attempted to obtain by a side wind special rights of subsequent admission as an original State. Nobody, on the other hand, can blame the Australian Commonwealth for her scornful rejection of such a demand. For not even Mr. Seddon can pretend that the action of New Zealand has been heroic. The other colonies have risked and sacrificed much for the federal idea; New Zealand has refused either to risk or to sacrifice anything. It has been a little galling, therefore, for the premiers of equal States in Australia to see themselves passed over in the invitations to the Colonial Conference, while the premiers of colonies like New Zealand, Natal, and Newfoundland have all been invited.
We have now mentioned sufficient instances to illustrate the difficulties of the new-born Australian Commonwealth. We do not doubt that the robust young community will strangle these snakes in its cradle. But it is as well to face the fact that the snakes are there before we hurry on to other and more complicated Imperial experiments. It would have been better, perhaps, if the new federal Parliament had taken the form of a convention to pass laws in pursuance of the Commonwealth Act. Administration has
to be carried on, but at the present moment the legal position of the central Government can be questioned at every point. The 51st clause, which gives to the central Government its power, opens with a preface that the Parliament
sball have power to make laws,' and then details the subjects on which these laws may be made. But few of the laws are made, and yet the federal Government is proceeding to act. Take, for instance, the case of defence. No Defence Act has yet been passed. And yet State officers and troops are being moved about freely by the central Government, although they are under no law at present but that of their States, which does not permit movement in time of peace. In the absence of a federal Court, in fact, the federal Parliament does virtually what it likes. The energetic and industrious labour party, which inspires that Parliament, and forms the chief support to Sir Edmund Barton, is scarcely equal to the task of facing the problems of Australia as a whole. The immense length of the session and the smallness of the pay combine to drive away busy men, and it does not seem possible at present to increase the salaries. Even the financial powers of the central Government are by no means clear, and the States are at present inclined to kick against the assumption of the central Government to impose additional taxation.
A review of the present condition of affairs in Australia will send us back better fitted to deal with the problem of the Empire as a whole. When we consider the difficulties which Sir Edmund Barton has to face at home, we can understand more easily the position which it seems he took up at the Colonial Conference. It is only our own provincialism which makes us imagine that the federation of the Empire can be brought about in a day. Whether it comes at all may be a doubtful matter. But it is quite certain that the process will take place from below rather than from above. In medical language, it will 'granulate. The internal federation of the various groups must be strengthened and solidified before there can be any real possibility of a larger federation between the groups.
Perhaps we shall realise this better if we reflect how the federation of the two federated groups—Canada and Australia —has been brought about.
Few people in this country, perhaps, realise how slow and laborious this process of continental federation has been.