SYDNEY, Nov. 29 1900
THE AUSTRALIAN UNION.
PREPARATIONS IN SYDNEY.
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT.
SYDNEY, Nov. 29 1900; Jan. 3 1901.
Sydney has been simmering rather angrily for the past month, despite what may fairly be termed a temperate season, and is now fast approaching boiling point. Our preparations for the inauguration of the Commonwealth are the immediate cause, though the high pressure at which the local Parliament has been kept working, with a view to its early prorogation, has contributed to the general friction. Not that the Lyne Ministry is in present peril. If it were the danger must arise from some quarter altogether beyond propitiation, for there are few sacrifices of policy that could be demanded of its leader which he would not cheerfully make in order to retain his position. We are sufficiently accustomed to the undisguised mastery of this motive of political self-preservation in our recent Administrations to note the subservience with equanimity and without any overt manifestation of patriotic indignation. We have also been compelled to recognise that for many months past Sir William Lyne has been battering at the gates of the Colonial Office with many cables in order to assure to himself and to us all the glory which is rightfully ours in connection with the birth and baptismal rites of the Australian Union. If preeminent in this he is not singular. In fact, the pose for posterity which has been assumed of late by all the little men who see in this event a divinely provided means by which they hope to float their names to distant ages has rendered many recent public performances more painfully ridiculous than usual. That Sir William Lyne himself and most of those now straining for a front place in the Federal picture fought against Federation with all their might and predicted nothing but ruin as its result in no degree diminishes their determination to make the most of its initiation for their own advertisement.
PREPARATIONS FOR FESTIVITIES.
Sydney itself can claim no credit for any devotion to the cause of Union, but nevertheless, as the capital of the Mother-Colony, now the most populous and prosperous of the group, it was clearly entitled to the pride of place. Though our streets, despite the improvements of the last few years, still afford a more cramped field for civic festivals than even Adelaide or Brisbane, not to speak of Melbourne, our natural surroundings are so incomparably superior that the festival, as far as background is concerned, will lack nothing in the way of ornament. We are all perfectly satisfied that even more than if it were set on a hill a city on such a harbour as that of Sydney cannot be hid, and must not be passed by for any of its competitors. This superb feature of the landscape will be made the centre of the demonstration, and here, at least, we are certain beforehand of scoring a conspicuous success. On shore the issue is more doubtful. Not that expense has been or will be spared, or that anyone can guess what sum will be disbursed. Parliament has been hoodwinked by being encouraged to suppose that its preliminary grant of £20,000 will suffice for the occasion, but it appears plain already that the bill must exceed five times that amount and may far surpass even £100,000 unless order can be brought out of the chaos that now exists. There are upwards of thirty committees at work planning, amending, submitting, and revising plans, but so far only a few bold outlines suggest the nature of the celebration. A display on the harbour, a procession through the streets, the swearing-in of the Governor-General in a park before an immense concourse of people, a review, and a display of fireworks, will be offered to the masses. There will be dinners, balls, and picnics for the more distinguished guests. The school children are to have copies of the proclamation as mementoes of the great event. There will be photographs of the more important persons in sundry situations in their Sunday clothes. Out of the £20,000 voted no less than £6,000 was promptly invested in champagne, a somewhat extravagant libation, as some may think, except in view of the fact that January is one of our summer months, when it is always possible that we may be gasping in a steamy atmosphere extremely provocative of thirst and anxious to avoid any function save that which can be attended in a bathing dress.
The real risk is not the weather, for after all it is likely that we shall be favoured with cool breezes and Italian skies such as belong to us for most of the year. There has been delay, and, of course, there is what seems unconquerable confusion everywhere. Such is the inevitable accompaniment of every great public festivity, however, in the earlier stages. Delays have been intensified with us because the Premier—always very uncertain about his own opinions and never persistent in them unless they are prejudices—has apparently a suspicion that either his colleagues or his committees may in some way or other obscure his personality if he does not keep them well in hand. Of course, the occasion is Australian, and the union of the States could properly be celebrated only by the States in union. This would have rendered the display more significant, more appropriate, and, as far as New South Wales is concerned, more economical. If the other Colonies had co-operated they would naturally have insisted on bearing their share of the federal outlay in proportion to population, as has always been customary hitherto. Such a course, though dictated by every consideration of courtesy and wise policy, seems to have been set aside because Sir William Lyne was determined to have no partners in the control of the ceremonies attendant on the entry into partnership. Those of our neighbours who visit us will do so as guests, and at their own expense, except in a very few instances. The throng of our own residents will be so dense that few strangers will be able to find accommodation in Sydney. It will be a very general rejoicing as far as our Metropolis is concerned, but, of course, it cannot comprehend half the people scattered over our vast territory, and barely a handful from beyond our borders. The Commonwealth which makes us one people with one destiny will thus be ushered in by an almost purely provincial function.
LORD HOPETOUN’S POPULARITY.
Lord Hopetoun’s appointment has been popular even here, in spite of his former association with Victoria as its Governor. The Earl of Jersey would have been preferred, because of his admirable record in this Colony, though he was not more popular with society in general than the present Governor-General, whose tact, liberal hospitality, and genial manners made him a favourite with both the classes and the masses. His unfortunate visit to India not only has obliged the Countess to remain at Colombo till she recovers from fever, but has sent the Earl of Hopetoun on board ship in so weak a condition that he has evidently doubted his own physical ability to face in one day all the programmes prepared for him. Years ago he almost fainted at his Melbourne levee, and naturally dreaded the prolonged ordeal which was sketched out for him on January 1. The plan was that he should land in Sydney unofficially on his arrival about December 12, and remain in comparative privacy until January 1, when he would re-embark and make his official entry from the sea. All invitations have been issued accordingly for January 1. He has now telegraphed to request that his official landing may take place on his arrival, so that his part in the inauguration ceremonies of New Year’s Day may be reduced as much as possible. This reasonable proposal involves a recasting of all arrangements so far made, and thus affords another ground for anxiety, though it diminishes the pressure put on us by to some extent dividing the functions.
MR. BARTON’S POSITION.
But for his loss of office and failure so far to regain prestige as leader of the Opposition, Mr. Reid would have been first favourite for the Federal Premiership. His temporary obscuration has left the field open for Mr. Barton, with whom the Colonial Office and the London public have recently made acquaintance. In loyalty to the Federal cause, in character, and in political consistency he stands far above his rivals, though his Protectionist leanings are not popular with us in the city, and he is out of favour with the Labour Party, in whose eyes he is a confirmed Conservative.