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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 12

Protest

Protest

Of the Convention now assembled in Melbourne against the Land Bill at present before the Legislative Assembly of Victoria.

We, the Delegates, assembled in full convention in reference to the Bill now before the Legislative Assembly, for disposing of the Crown Lands, declare that the said Bill is, in the opinion of this Convention, objectionable and unconstitutional, for the following among other reasons:—
1stBecause it is framed in contravention of the manifest intention and spirit of the Constitution Act sanctioned by her Majesty the Queen, conceding the lands and mines of the colony to the Legislature in the capacity of trustees, for the disposal of the same in a manner just and satisfactory to the people.
2ndBecause the said bill concedes exclusive rights over the public domain to seven hundred and twenty persons to the manifest wrong and the grievous injury of all the other inhabitants.
3rdBecause, in a vote of 32 to 22, twelve of the persons interested in thus possessing themselves of vast tracts of the public land have been suffered to vote in the majority on this bill, which concedes the lands to themselves for indefinite periods, and for nominal rents, a proceeding utterly repugnant to justice and to the genius and usage of the British Constitution.
4thBecause several other members of the majority on this bill have broken their pledges to their constituents, and their faith to the public, and have voted on this bill contrary to those pledges and the repeated remonstrances of their constituents.
5thBecause the members of the House of Assembly generally, under the present Electoral Act, represent but a small minority of the people, whilst the great majority of the colony, whose interests are most deeply involved, have no voice whatever, by representation or otherwise, in the framing of this bill.
6thBecause petitions, bearing the signatures of more than seventy thousand adult males, have been presented against this bill, and not one petition has been presented in its favor: because these petitions have not only been disregarded, but have been treated by the majority with contumely and derision; and, moreover, because the bill itself has been indecently forced forward against the usual forms of Parliamentary proceedings, in defiance of the protest of the minority, and with the declared intention of passing it into law before public meetings of the people of the colony could have an op-portunity of expressing upon it their deliberate opinion.
7thBecause, on the admission of the present advisers of the Crown, the House of Assembly needs, and is to receive, a thorough reform: and it must, therefore, be considered incapable at present to legislate upon a bill that will convey away the public property of the people before the people themselves are permitted a voice in the matter.
8thFor these and for other reasons, we declare that no public faith is pledged to the recognition of any pretended rights that may be hereafter claimed under this bill, should it become law; that the people of this colony are no parties to the compact; that the Act (if the bill is ever passed) will be a fraudulent enactment for the confiscation of the public lands; and that so far as it may purport to vest any rights it will be repudiated by the people, and repealed by the first Parliament in which they find themselves represented.
To give effect to this protest the following resolutions were unanimously adopted:—
1That the protest now adopted by this Convention be printed, and that each delegate be requested to send copies of it to the district from which he has been delegated.
2That the several delegates be requested, on their return to their several districts from this Convention, to submit this protest for the approbation of a public meeting convened for the purpose, and that they report the result to such central body as may remain in Melbourne.
3That the several delegates pledge themselves to use every effort in their localities to orga- page 24 nise such localities, both locally and in connection with a central organization, for the purpose of carrying out the object of this Convention, and among other objects to give effect to this protest and declaration.
4That a copy of this protest and declaration and of those resolutions, be forwarded to the principal mercantile houses and to all the banks in this and the mother country; also to the members of the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly; and to the members of the Cabinet and of both Houses of Parliament at home.