SYDNEY, Dec. 31 1900



SYDNEY, Dec. 31 1900; Feb. 5 1901.

When Mr. Barton was sent for on Christmas Eve to undertake the formation of a Commonwealth Cabinet the tension of public feeling, which had been somewhat severe owing to Sir William Lyne’s failure in the task, was considerably eased. The Federal spirit was quickened, and the rejoicings of those who had brought about the union, intermitted during the period of doubt, were again resumed. Sir W. Lyne’s difficulty was to find any colleagues; Mr. Barton’s has been to pick from among the willing throng of capable men, and especially from the group owing to whose generous resolution he was restored to the post he had fairly won. Sir W. Lyne had advised his Excellency that Mr. Barton should be sent for, and consequently an offer of a portfolio was at once made to and accepted by him. His inclusion was the first result of the Governor-General’s intervention, and as it implies the exclusion of Mr. R. E. O’Connor, an even abler man, who will probably be induced hereafter to accept the honorary position of Vice-President of the Executive Council, there is so far no gain. Its next result was to render necessary the substitution of Mr. Dickson, Chief Secretary of Queensland, for Sir Samuel Griffith, the Chief Justice of the same Colony. It had been much doubted if Sir Samuel Griffith could be induced to resign the salary of £3,500 a year attached to his present office in order to re-enter the troubled and uncertain arena of political strife. The fact that the High Court of the Commonwealth must be constituted at an early date would probably have sufficed to furnish a sufficient opportunity of his ultimately obtaining a haven of retreat if Mr. Barton had remained untrammelled.
Then again the Premier of Victoria, Sir George Turner, and the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Holder, to whom Sir W. Lyne appealed at the critical stage of his endeavours to make a Ministry, had so staunchly resisted all his temptations that their inclusion by Mr. Barton became in a sense inevitable. In Mr. Holder’s case the action was the more meritorious because he more than suspected that the selection of the one Minister from South Australia had been settled. Subsequent events have shown that he was right.


Mr. Kingston and Mr. Deakin were Mr. Barton’s colleagues in London in the embassy despatched from Australia to secure the safe and speedy passage of the Commonwealth Bill. Differing widely in disposition, and a good deal in opinion, the three had been so closely associated in that work and by ties of friendship that they were expected to be, and are now seen to be, federally inseparable. Mr. Holder’s magnanimity has to be recognised, and it is understood that one of the highest appointments in the gift of the new Government will be his. The general effect of the original selection of Sir W. Lyne is, then, to make the new Cabinet more distinctively Protectionist, to eliminate Sir Samuel Griffith altogether, and Mr. O’Connor administratively, and perhaps to deprive the Free Trade Party of the services of Mr. Holder, to which they had been looking forward with much satisfaction. It gives us a Ministry of Federalists with the single exception of Sir W. Lyne, and representatives of every Colony except Tasmania, from which an honorary member, either Mr. Lewis, the Premier, or Sir Philip Fysh, will be taken very shortly. The Government has been welcomed as strong, capable, and on the whole harmonious.


Sir W. Lyne has denounced one of his present colleagues as the sole cause of his failure to form a Government, and in these circumstances the relation between them is likely to be somewhat strained. His complaint was that Mr. Holder, Mr. Dickson, and others would not join him unless Victoria were represented by at least one of her two leaders. He asserted that he could have persuaded Sir George Turner to serve under him, but that this Premier would not do so unless Mr. Deakin, the Federal leader in the Colony, would also consent. This gentleman’s relations with Mr. Barton were far too intimate to permit him even to consider such a proposal.
With the exception of Mr. Holder those who resisted all temptation for Mr. Barton’s sake are now associated with him under conditions of happy augury. Such a Cabinet is the more remarkable considering that the new Ministers are drawn from distant Colonies, and are of a more even standing among themselves than has been customary or possible in local Governments. The Ministry is itself a union of Unionists. Thus closes an episode which is likely to remain almost as unparalleled as the great event which we celebrate to-morrow. It has proved so romantic in its surprises, coherence, and consequences, that like a well-knit drama it has carried men in its sweep from the depths of despair to the heights of triumph. Creditable to those engaged in it, it is inspiring to the country as a whole. It may now be classed as a comedy, because of its happy ending, though it began like the prologue to a tragedy.


Sydney is fairly satisfied with the Government, and elated with festal energy. She has transfigured herself, and signalised the occasion by assuming an entirely new dress, under which many of the familiar features are now obscured. The task of breaking the monotony of the lines and colours of modern business buildings has been accomplished simply but effectively by harmoniously blended and far-prolonged lines of emblematic and interwoven draperies or leafy festoons. Streets and squares are poled, pillared, and arched to sustain the countless decorations scattered along and above them, while everywhere on land and on water swing the light cables and cluster the many-coloured electric lamps that are to create a nocturnal fairy land. During the Jubilee rejoicings our gas supply failed under the demands made on it by the innumerable transparencies and figures intended to blaze with light. Warned by that failure, every effort is being made to provide such an illumination as has rarely been beheld in the proudest capitals of the Old World. It will be witnessed by the greatest gathering of people ever assembled on this continent, who are pouring in on us daily in thousands by rail, steamer, and coach from every corner of the Commonwealth.


In spite of every preparation in the way of accommodation that care and ingenuity could devise the Metropolis has already overflowed for miles around so that when the country excursionists arrive in their battalions to-night and to-morrow the spectacle of the living multitude is likely to rival in interest the spectacle of form, flame, and many mingled hues artistically combined which will be spread before them in one vast tableau of brilliancy. We are not accustomed here at any time to the massing of human beings, which is familiar in London and in some other centres of densely-populated Europe. Hence, especially on our young country people, who have been born and bred in the sparsely-settled tracts of our vast interior, the impression made is certain to be deep and profound. It will enable them to realise that they are indeed and at last citizens of a Union of immeasurable potencies as well as of a State whose leadership is thus openly accepted by all Australia.

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