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WITH PUBLIC ESTABLISHMENTS, OF THE OVERSEA DOMINIONS AND OTHER TERRITORIES WITH WHICH THE DOMINIONS OFFICE IS CONCERNED.
The Commonwealth of Australia is constituted under an Act passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in 1900-63 & 64 Vict., cap. 12. By this Act it was made lawful for the Queen, with the advice of the Privy Council, to proclaim that, on and after a day appointed in the proclamation, the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, and also if Her Majesty were satisfied that the people of Western Australia had agreed thereto, of Western Australia, should be the name of the Commonwealth of Australia.
united in a Federal Commonwealth under
A proclamation was accordingly issued by Her Majesty on the 17th of September, 1900, appointing the 1st of January, 1901, as the day on which the Commonwealth should be established-Western Australia being included as an original State in accordance with the result of a referendum taken before that date in the Colony and with Addresses passed by both Houses of the Legislature.
A short history of the events leading up to the establishment of the Commonwealth, and of the provisions of the Constitution, as fixed by the Act of Parliament above quoted, is given below. The account of the different States of the Commonwealth is arranged alphabetically, and a description of territories dependent on the Commonwealth follows.
The Earl of Hopetoun (afterwards Marquis of Linlithgow) was selected as the first Governor-General of the Commonwealth, a Commission was issued to him on the 29th of October, 1900, and he was sworn on the 1st January, 1901.
It was announced in September that the Queen would issue a special Commission to H.R.H. the Duke of York, for opening in Her Majesty's name the first session of the Commonwealth Parliament in the spring of 1901, and that H.R.H., accompanied by the Duchess of York, would pay visits to the different States of the Commonwealth. At the invitation of the Government of New South Wales, a representative body of
troops, about 1,000 strong, sailed from England in November, to attend the inauguration of the Commonwealth at Sydney detachment of officers and non-commissioned on the 1st of January, 1901. A small officers of the Indian Army also proceeded to Sydney on the same Commission issued by the Queen to the Duke of York was renewed on the accession of King Edward VII. The Duke and Duchess landed at Melbourne on the 6th of May, and on the first Commonwealth Parliament in the 9th the Duke opened the first session of the Exhibition Building at Melbourne. The Duke and Duchess subsequently visited Brisbane, Sydney, New Zealand, Hobart, Adelaide and Perth, leaving Australia on the 26th of July Africa and North America. to continue their tour to Mauritius, South
Until the passing of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act the only means of joint legislative action in Australia was provided by the Federal Council of Australasia Act, 1885" (48 & 49 Vict., cap. 60). This Act created a Council of two members from each Colony which adopted which had only one member each, with power to the Act, except in the case of Crown Colonies, Her Majesty at the request of the Legislatures of
the Colonies to increase the number of representatives for each Colony by Order in Council. Such an increase was upon the request of the Legislatures made by Her Majesty on 3rd March, 1894, when an Colony which was or should be represented on the Order in Council was passed, providing that each
Federal Council, except any Crown Colony, be represented by five members. This Council had power to legislate with regard to the relations of the Colonies with the Islands in the Pacific, prevention of the influx of criminals, fisheries in Australasian waters beyond territorial limits, service and enforcement respectively of civil and criminal process out of the jurisdiction of the issuing Court, the enforcement of judgments beyond the limits of the Colony where they had been passed, the extradition of offenders, and the custody of offenders on ships belonging to Colonial Governments beyond territorial limits, and generally on any matters referred to it by Order of Her Majesty in Council on the request of the Colonial Legislatures. The Legislatures of any two or more Colonies might also refer to it for patents, copyright, bills of exchange, recognition legislation questions of defence, quarantine, of marriage and divorce, naturalisation, status of
corporations, and joint stock companies, and other matters of general Australasian interest; but legislation of the Council on such matters was to extend only to the Colonies by whose Legislatures the matters should have been so referred, and such Colonies as might afterwards adopt the same. It had also power to decide on any questions affecting the mutual relations of any two Colonies referred to it by consent. The Council was to meet at least once in every two years.
The first meeting took place on 25th January, 1886, when representatives were present from Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, Fiji, and West ern Australia. Measures were passed authorising the service of the civil powers and the enforcement of the judgments of the Courts of the different Colonies throughout the territories of all those represented, and various important questions were discussed, including the defence of King George's Sound and Torres Straits. The second session opened on 16th January, 1888. An address was adopted to Her Majesty respecting the deportation of French criminals to the Pacific. An Act was also passed to regulate the Pearl Shell and Bèchede-mer Fisheries in Australasian waters adjacent to Queensland. The Council met for its third session on 29th January, 1889, when representatives from South Australia were present for the first time. An Act was passed to regulate the Pearl Shell and Bêche-de-mer Fisheries in Australian waters adjacent to Western Australia. The amendment of the basis of representation in the Council was discussed at the session, and communications on the subject subsequently passed with the Imperial Government. The fourth session opened on 20th January, and closed on 24th January, 1891. South Australia was not represented, the Act (a temporary measure for two years only) under which that province joined the Council having expired. The only Bill passed was one to facilitate the recognition in other Colonies of Orders and Declarations of the Supreme Court of any Colony in matters of lunacy. An address to Her Majesty was also adopted referring to the desirability of British subjects being placed on an equal footing with subjects of other countries in regard to the acquisition of land in, and trading with, natives of the New Hebrides. The fifth session was commenced on 26th January, 1893, when the Colonies of Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, and Western Australia were represented. An Act was passed providing for the discipline and government of the garrisons established at King George's Sound and Thursday Island; and a resolution was adopted in favour of an increase in the number of representatives for each Colony, except any Crown Colony, to five. The Standing Committee was instructed to take steps for giving effect to this resolution, and also for securing the adhesion of the Colonies not represented in the Council. As the result of action taken by the Standing Committee, the Legislatures of all the Colonies in the Council addressed Her Majesty, requesting that the proposed increase in the number of representatives might be made; and, on 3rd March, 1894, Her Majesty was pleased to make an Order in Council providing that each Colony which is or shall be represented in the said Council, except any Crown Colony, shall be represented by five members."
The sixth session opened on the 30th January, 1895, when the same four Colonies were represented as at the preceding session. There were present, for the first time, five delegates from each Colony. At this session no Bills were
brought forward, but resolutions were adopted affirming the desirability of defining the status, and of granting facilities for the winding up of companies carrying on business in different Colonies; of rendering uniform the laws relating to banking; of establishing an effectual system of quarantine; of adopting a more economic method of raising public loans; and of taking steps with a view to the holding of a second Federation Convention. An address to the Queen was also adopted praying for the appointment of an Australian representative on the Privy Council Bench, in view of the special features often presented by Australian appeals.
The seventh session was commenced on 26th January, 1897, when the Colonies of Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia, were represented. An Act was passed, upon a reference of the matter to the Council by the Legislatures of Victoria and Queensland, to provide for the naturalisation within the Australian Colonies, or some of them, of persons of European descent naturalised in any of such Colonies, also upon a reference of the subject by the Legislatures of Tasmania, Western Australia, Victoria, Queensland, an Act was passed to make provision for the enforcement in certain cases within the Australian Colonies, or some of them, of Orders of the Supreme Court of such Colonies for the production of testamentary instruments. The Council adopted an Address to Her Majesty, referring to the Address adopted in 1891 with regard to restrictions in the way of trade with the natives of the New Hebrides, urging that negotiations should be entered into with the other Powers concerned with a view to imposing on their subjects equal restrictions in that trade. This and all the previous sessions were held at Hobart. The Council resolved that the place of its next meeting should be Melbourne.
The Commonwealth Act.
Notwithstanding the existence of the Federal Council, however, a movement was made for the establishment of a more effective Federation, to embrace a Federal Executive, as well as Legislature, somewhat upon the model of Canada. Towards the end of 1889 negotiations were opened between the various Australasian Colonies, the result being that a Conference of the seven principal Australasian Colonies met in Melbourne, on the 6th February, 1890. At this Conference it was unanimously agreed that the best interests of the Australian Colonies would be promoted by their "early union under the Crown," and that the Legislatures of the various Colonies should be invited to appoint to a National Australasian Convention during the year 1890 delegates empowered to report upon the scheme for a Federal Constitution.
In accordance with these resolutions, delegates were appointed, and the Convention commenced its deliberations in Sydney on the 2nd March, 1891. After an animated discussion, which lasted more than five weeks, a "Bill to constitute a Commonwealth of Australia" was drawn up and adopted. The Convention recommended that this Bill should be submitted by the Parliaments for the approval of the people of the several Colonies. It provided for the union of the Australasian Colonies in a Federal Commonwealth under the Crown: for a Governor-General to be appointed by the Crown, who should be aided and advised by an Executive Council: the constitution of a Senate and House of Representatives, with certain definite powers, the latter to have the initiation of money bills,
which the former might pass or reject, but not amend: for the establishment of a Federal Judicature: the revenue of the Commonwealth to be derived from the Customs and Excise duties, and other taxation, which should be collected by Federal officers, and expended as required for Federal purposes, any surplus to be returned to the respective Colonies. It also provided for absolute free trade internally throughout the Commonwealth, so soon as the Parliament should have imposed uniform Customs duties. The draft Bill of 1891, though it crystallised the idea of Federation, failed to command the serious attention of the Legislatures, and Federalists began a popular agitation to place the movement on a new footing. A meeting of the Premiers of all the Australasian Colonies took place in Hobart in January, 1895, and agreed to a scheme for framing a Federal Constitution to be submitted for the approval of their respective Parliaments. The Enabling Bill, agreed to at this Conference providing for the election by each Colony of 10 delegates to prepare a scheme of Federation, was adopted by the Parliaments of N. S. Wales, Victoria, S. Australia, and Tasmania, and in a modified form by Western Australia.
Delegates were accordingly duly elected and assembled in Convention at Adelaide on 22nd March, 1897, for the purpose of drafting a constitution. Having prepared a "Bill to constitute a Commonwealth of Australia," the Convention was on the 23rd April adjourned to reassemble at Sydney on 2nd September. The draft Bill was in the meantime submitted to the local Legislatures, and various amendments were suggested by those bodies. The Bill, together with those amendments, was further considered by the Delegates at the Sydney Session of the Convention, and a long discussion took place on various proposals submitted for settling questions of difference between the two Houses of the new Federal Legislature. Considerable progress was made with the rest of the measure, but the work of revision was not completed, and the Convention adjourned until 20th January, 1898, partly in the hope of seeing delegates from Queensland join in the final discussion. This hope was not realised, as the Queensland Legislature, for the second time, shelved the Enabling Bill.
The Convention met again at Melbourne on the 20th of January, 1898, and remained in session till the 17th of March, and a Bill was adopted which in accordance with the Federation Enabling Acts of the different Colonies was submitted to the popular vote for acceptance or rejection. In Victoria the polling was-For acceptance, 100,520; against, 22,099. The Bill was also accepted by the vote of the people in South Australia and Tasmania. But in New South Wales the statutory minimum number of 80,000 affirmative votes required by the Enabling Act of that Colony was not obtained, and the matter fell through for the time.
A further Conference of Premiers was held at Melbourne in January, 1899, to consider the objections of New South Wales; and this time Queensland was represented. The Premiers met in a spirit of compromise, and on the 2nd of February an agreement was come to which all the Premiers agreed to submit to their Parliaments for reference to the electors, it being understood that New South Wales should lead the way. South Australia, however, for purposes of local convenience, took a referendum vote upon the Bill on the occasion of the General Election, without waiting for New South Wales. This vote was taken on the 29th of April, when 65,990 votes were given for Federation and 17,053 against
In New South Wales, the Bill providing for the reference to the people of the amended draft constitution was passed by the Lower House on the 2nd of March, but in the Upper House amendments were made. One of these required that one-third of the electors on the register should vote for the Bill in order to secure its acceptance. The Bill as amended passed the Legislative Council on the 21st of March. On the 22nd March the Lower House rejected the amendments of the Upper House. The latter body refused to give way. A conference between the two Houses was held without result on the 28th of March. Mr. Reid, Premier of New South Wales, prorogued Parliament for a few days, and on his advice the Governor added twelve new members to the Council. The Bill was re-introduced in the Lower House, and passed on the 13th of April. It was accepted by the Legislative Council with an unimportant amendment (providing that a period of eight weeks should elapse before the referendum was taken) on the 20th of April, and on the 25th of April it was announced that the question would be submitted to the electors on the 20th of June. It was accepted by a majority of about 25,000.
On the 27th July, the amended Commonwealth Bill was accepted by overwhelming majorities in Victoria and Tasmania, and on the 2nd September by a majority of about 7,500 in Queensland. The delay in taking action in Western Australia led to some correspondence between Sir John Forrest, Premier of Western Australia, and Mr. Reid. Mr. Reid declared on behalf of the Federating Colonies that no amendments to meet the views entertained in Western Australia could now be considered; and the same assurance was repeated by Sir G. Turner, Premier of Victoria. Sir J. Forrest, in fulfilment of his undertaking at the Premiers' conference, brought the draft Constitution before the Legislature, which referred it to a Select Committee, who reported that it should not be accepted without considerable amendment. The Legislative Council finally refused to allow a referendum to be taken.
which had accepted the Constitution praying for Addresses to the Queen from the five Colonies the enactment of the Commonwealth Bill were
received in the autumn of 1899.
As it appeared that some alterations in the Bill might be required by the Imperial Government, Mr. Chamberlain telegraphed to the Governor of New South Wales, expressing the hope that delegates were coming home to advise and assist during the passage of the Bill through Parliament.
Delegates were appointed, and reached England in March. Western Australia also sent a delegate to represent the views of that Colony, and the Agent-General for New Zealand was appointed to watch the interests of New Zealand.
The discussion between Her Majesty's Government and the Delegates turned chiefly on the clauses of the Bill relating to the Appeals to the Privy Council. Under the Bill, in Section 74, appeals were allowed both from the Supreme Courts of the States and from the Federal High Court, but there was a limitation in cases affecting the interpretation of the Constitution of the Commonwealth or of a State "unless the public interests of some part of Her Majesty's dominions other than the Commonwealth or a State are involved." Various memoranda passed on this subject of Clause 74, the delegates demurring to any alteration in the Bill, whilst Her Majesty's Government pointed out the difficulty of interpreting the Clause, B 2