1st October, 1857.
The publication of the foregoing pages having been unexpectedly delayed, the Council is now able to add to them the final result of the opposition to the Land Bill. This Bill passed its third reading in the House of Assembly, on the 3rd of September, by a majority of 30 to 23. A few of its clauses had been modified, but in substance it was not materially altered. It still gave the public lands to the squatters on pastoral leases, for protracted periods, and on such terms as would have made it easy for them gradually to acquire a title on fee simple; and, as already stated, ministers and their supporters refused to recognise the right of any future Parliament to alter "arrangements" thus made by this Bill. The division on the third reading was as follows:—
Majority for the Bill.
||D. S. Campbell
Minority Against it.
On Tuesday, the 8th of September, the Bill was introduced into the Legislative Council, and read a first time. Faithful to the course they had pursued in the Lower House, ministers proposed to rush it through the Council as they would fain have done through the Assembly, and to make the second reading an order of the day for that day week. But Mr. Fawkner met the proposal with an amendment postponing the second reading for a fortnight, and to this amendment ministers were compelled to yield. The country immediately began to rouse it to a new effort. Public meetings were held in all parts of the colony, and petitions to the Legislative Council determined on. It was known that the Bill would encounter a strenuous opposition in the Council, and it was thought that the debate would be more than once adjourned. It was resolved, therefore, not to hurry down the petitions before they were largely signed, but to prove by the number of signatures that the hostility of the country had increased, not abated, since the Bill had passed the Lower House. But the fate of the Bill was decided more summarily than the country expected.
For the reasons just stated, scarcely any petitions from the country districts were presented on the night that the second reading was moved. Melbourne, and two of its suburbs—Richmond and Prahran—sent in petitions which numbered over eight thousand signatures, intending to follow them up with supple-
mental petitions, to be presented 011 the next night of the discussion. Collingwood and Emerald Hill had petitions already signed by nearly three thousand petitioners, but deferred forwarding them until they were signed more largely. If the discussion had proceeded, Melbourne and its suburbs would have mustered 20,000 petitioners, being about double the number that had petitioned the Lower House from the metropolitan district. The Secretary of one of the Convention Leagues (Ararat) had communicated to the Secretary of the Convention Council that it was their intention not to send down their petition for the first night, but to give the people full opportunity of signing it. He added that there was every likelihood of 20,000 signatures being attached, from Ararat and Pleasant Creek. The Ballaarat gold field had been districted for the purpose of forming Convention Leagues. Ballaarat had furnished 14,000 petitioners to the Legislative Assembly; the petitioners from Ballaarat to the Legislative Council would probably have been still more numerous. On the whole, there was every ground for expecting that the 70,000 petitioners of the Legislative Assembly would have swelled to 90,000 or perhaps 100,000 petitioners of the Legislative Council. But the bill was destined to no such pomp of obsequies. It met a speedier and more ignominious fate.
On Tuesday, the 22nd of September, Mr. Mitchell moved that the bill be now read a second time. Mr. John Pascoe Fawkner moved, as an amendment, that it be read a second time that day six months. Mr. Keogh seconded the amendment. After a debate of some hours, the amendment was put, and the Legislative Council, without even waiting to hear the country, summarily ejected the bill by a vote of 21 to 6. The division was as follows:
|For the Amendment—21.
||Mr. Power .
||Henty, S. G.
|For the Bill—6.
The Council of the Convention, whilst they acknowledge that there is cause for rejoicing in this result, desire not to lose time in exulting over it, nor to lose force by overrating this popular success. Only one step has been gained—a bad bill has been defeated; the main battle has still to be fought and won—a good bill has to be carried. This can only be accomplished by organising the opinion of the country. The Council therefore urge it on the people to organise. And, in organising now, the Council submit that they must organise, not only for a good Land Law, but also for that great Reform, which is the only effective instrument of this and all other reforms. The popular agitation must now proceed upon a more extended basis. A "People's Land Law" and "Parliamentary Reform" must be demanded together.