SYDNEY, Apr. 23 1901




SYDNEY, Apr. 23 1901; May 28 1901.

The royal visit was predestined to success as far as cordiality of feeling and careful preparation could secure it. Whether the power of the Crown has increased or not, the personal prestige of the Sove­reign and his family undoubtedly is increasing. When the late Grand Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha came to Australia five-and-thirty years since he was received with immense enthusiasm, which was deepened when the act of an insane fanatic shadowed the close of his tour. The late Duke of Clarence and the present Duke of Cornwall and York called with the Flying Squadron when they were “middies”, but were welcomed, of course, in a much more informal fashion.
On the present occasion the celebrations will far surpass anything attempted this side of the globe. The Heir to the Throne and the Duchess have associated their visit with the beginning of the Commonwealth, and will thus make the event doubly memorable to its people. Our States are vieing with each other in the decorations and the festivities to be enjoyed. Sydney is fast resuming the appearance presented prior to Proclamation Day, four months ago, and it is safe to say that the repetition of the pageants will be equally splendid. Except, perhaps, at Auckland, and there on a much smaller scale and with less varied surroundings, no spectacle will be presented to the eyes of our royal guests comparable to that of Sydney Harbour and its city when arrayed for their reception. If our neighbours rival us in either the artistic character or in the organisation of their fetes they certainly cannot in landscape beauties and effects. The first impressions, therefore, of their Royal Highnesses should suffice to convince them how popular the Crown is, and how attached the whole body of Australians are to his Majesty and his children.


The Colonial Office at first scarcely appeared to recognise sufficiently the restraints imposed on its action in regard to the part to be played in the opening of Parliament by the Duke of Cornwall and York. Indeed, some time elapsed before it could be brought to understand that the Constitution Act of the Commonwealth assigns powers to the Governor-General which would require to be cancelled before he could be superseded in his functions even by the Heir to the Throne. We have among us a Federal Ministry of lawyers and a number of professional men who during recent years have been making a special study of constitutional procedure. Immediately it was understood that the Colonial Office proposed that our royal visitor should open Parliament in person by reading the Speech, which declares the causes of its being summoned, it was warned by telegram that such a course was illegal, unless steps of a serious nature were formally taken to dispossess Lord Hopetoun and instal his Royal Highness temporarily in his place. The programme was therefore revised.


The position of the Ministry has, on the whole, improved since the election. A fair majority in both Houses is prepared to give it reasonable support. Party lines have yet to be drawn with rigour, but at the outset the Cabinet will at least obtain a fair hearing. Beyond that, all rests with its members who, at all events, seem quite able to keep their own counsel. Up to the present nothing has been heard of any response to Mr. Chamberlain’s invitation for the despatch of an Australian repre­sentative to consider the proposed amalgamation of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council with the legal tribunal of the House of Lords so as to establish in London one Imperial Court of Final Appeal. Save by inference from the action of New Zealand in appointing a delegate, which must have been taken in response to a communication from Downing Street, there is no admission from Mr. Barton that any such invitation has been received. The New Hebrides question has been similarly wrapped in silence, either in consequence of a request for secrecy from the Colonial Office or because of its delay in replying to the Australian protests. Either of these subjects may be included among the grounds of challenge to the Ministry if it can be saddled with responsibility in regard to them.


Independently of this circumstance the fact that, though all the elections closed on March 30, the Western Australian declaration of the poll has only just taken place, we in New South Wales are still waiting for the ballot papers from a remote hamlet called Five-Day Creek, and that the official receipt of the Queensland poll, even with the aid of railways and the telegraph, may not be officially ascertained six weeks later is in itself worthy of note. It may help to convey to the minds of Englishmen some sense of the enormous areas and distances which make the problems of government in Australia so much more complicated than they appear to Londoners, who approach them with all the preconceptions which are necessarily misconceptions begotten of old-world experience in a small, compact, and thickly-settled country. Another striking circumstance of the late election is the number of ballot papers rendered ineffective by the multitude of candidates to the Senate. In New South Wales nearly forty thousand votes were wasted in the attempt to strike out exactly forty-four names from a list of fifty so as to leave six, and six only, unerased. Many other incidents equally unsuspected by critics beyond our borders will require to be allowed for by them if they desire to do justice to our public men. The standards set up for them must differ from those of Westminster, because the conditions, often entirely different, are always ruder and cruder. There must be boundless opportunities for blundering somewhere in the endeavour to deal with so vast a territory lightly sprinkled with population along its interminable coast-line. No capital wherever situated can keep in touch with more than a fraction of its dominion, and must be so remote from the rest as to permit the presence of but a few qualified representatives from its outlying regions. Yet its Government and Legislature must needs speak, act, and provide for the whole. Truly the Commonwealth, like an infant Hercules, will need to fight even from its cradle.

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