The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 12
Interview with Mr. Haines
Interview with Mr. Haines.
While the Convention was engaged in discussing these land resolutions, it was contemporaneously performing other work.
Immediately after its assembling, it appointed, as already stated, a Select Committee to arrange an interview with the Chief Secretary, Mr. Haines; also to arrange an interview with the Parliamentary minority who opposed the Bill.
This Committee reported to the Convention a short address to Mr. Haines, requesting the withdrawal of the Bill, recommending the request to be presented to that gentleman by a deputation.
The request to Mr. Haines was as follows:—
Melbourne, July 22, 1857.
To the Honorable the Chief Secretary.
Honorable Sir,—At public meetings held at the towns and districts hereinafter mentioned, it was determined that the persons whose signatures are attached to this request should meet in Melbourne, for the purpose of using all lawful means in order to obtain the withdrawal of the land bill, at present before the Legislative Assembly.
The requisitionists represent the metropolis, the metropolitan suburbs, the agricultural, and the mining districts of the colony.
Having assembled, the requisitionists have come to the unanimous conclusion to request the Administration to withdraw the laud bill at present before the House, and hereby do earnestly request its withdrawal.
This request was presented by a deputation of twelve members of the Convention. Mr. Haines declined to withdraw the Bill; but, at the close of his interview with the deputation, he gave them to understand that no bill should be passed that any future legislature might not repeal. This promise stands so much in contrast with the subsequent conduct of Mr. Haines and his Government, that the Council of the Convention desire to record it here, as it was recorded next day in the respective journals by the several representatives of the daily press of Melbourne who were then present.
The Age reports Mr. Haines thus:—
He could not admit that the intentions of the Government were otherwise than to frame a bill which would be acceptable to the people, and to the whole community, and he could by no means accede to the request of the deputation, and pledge himself either to postpone or withdraw the bill, because he honestly believed that it might be so modified and amended in its progress through committee as to become acceptable to the community. If it should prove otherwise, they must bear in mind that finality did not attach to any act of the present Legislature. They were wishful indeed to pass a law which the people would not be desirous to alter by means of any page 19 future Legislature, but if the present measure was found in its operation to be injurious and not acceptable to the country, as it owed its temporary validity to the act of the Legislature, it might hereafter he repealed at the instance of a decided expression of the will of the country to that effect. The Government could have no wish to adopt a law which, instead of settling this question—a settlement admitted by all sides of the House to be necessary and desirable—would require to be altered or repealed by a succeeding Legislature: and he was so well assured that this was not the case, and that the bill could be satisfactorily framed, that be could not consent to its withdrawal.
He thought it was the case, that no ten men in the community, who opposed the Government Land Bill, could concur in the details they would recommend. Indeed, there were things in the bill he did not approve of himself: and as this was so, the Government being, as he had before said, actuated by an honest desire to meet the requirements of the people of the colony, were desirous of at once settling the question. Should any reformed Parliament object to the details proposed, it was a question quite open to them to deal with, and the acts of the present Assembly were not final.
He begged to call the attention of the gentlemen who addressed him to the fact that the present measure was by no means one which need be binding upon any future Parliament: there was no finality in it. All parties of gentlemen in the House concurred in the belief that there was a strong necessity for a speedy settlement of this question, and this being so, he could not promise on the part of the Government that they would withdraw this measure. He was quite willing to admit that the agricultural interest should be considered. He was an agriculturist himself until within the last year or two, and was quite ready to admit that it was necessary to the well-being of that interest that some of the pastoral lands of the colony should be placed at their disposal, but there were many other details which the opponents of this measure had insisted on, and to which he could not agree. He thought it was the case that no ten men in the community who opposed the Government Land Bill could concur in the details they would recommend; indeed, there were things in the bill he did not approve of himself; and, as this was so, the Government being, as he had before said, actuated by an honest desire to meet the requirements of the people of the colony were desirous of at once settling the question. Should any reformed Parliament object to the details proposed, it was a question quite open to them to deal with, and the acts of the present Assembly were not final.
In contrast with this undertaking, the Council desire to record that, on the third reading of the Bill in the House of Assembly, on the evening of the 3rd of September, Mr. Ireland, the member for Castlemaine, desiring to have this principle of the right of any future legislature to deal with the subject, as if this Bill had not been passed, recognised in the bill itself, moved the following resolution:—
That notwithstanding anything in this Act contained, the Legislature may, from time to time, amend, alter, or repeal the whole or any part of the provisions of the Act, so as to authorise the alienation or disposition in fee simple, or for any lesser estate or interest of the whole or any part of the lands comprised on any run, for any purpose calculated to facilitate the settlement of the country; and to alter the terms and conditions provided by this Act in relation to the resumption of lands by the Governor in Council, or to substitute such new terms and conditions in lieu of those already provided as may be deemed advisable for effecting the purpose aforesaid."
This resolution was opposed by the whole force of the Government, and negatived by a majority of 28 to 17, Mr. Haines voting with, his ministry in the majority. The following are the names of this Parliamentary majority:—
|Mr Moore||Mr M'Culloch||Mr Sladen||Mr Griffith|
|Michie||Service||D. S. Campbell||Capt. Clarke|