A few days ago we suggested thata common defensive force for Australia, such as that recommended by Major-general Edwards, woald probably strengthen the Federation movement. It would, indeed, seem as if the mere proposal had already had some effect in this direction. How otherwise can we account for Sir Henry Parkbs's unexpected change of front on the subject of Federation 1 He has suddenly discovered that the time is ripe for consolidating the Australian colonies, and he informs the Victorian Premier that New South Wales "invites the other colonies to take " the first great step—viz., to hold a " national (sicJ convention for the " purpose of devising and report- " ing on some adequate scheme of " federal government." Up to the present time, Sir Henry Parkes and the New South Wales people generally have looked askance at the federal agitation. The Federal Council had no representative from that Colony—a fact which has been .greatly deplored by ardent federalists both in Australia and at Home; and the general opinion arrived at was that the movement had been premature and would probably soon be forgotten. The conversion of Sir Henry Parkes has, however, put an entirely new face on the matter. Federation is again looking up. There is something significant, as well as amusing, in New South Wales, lately the principal drag on the movement, inviting Victoria and the other colonies to take steps to get it pushed on with all possible expedition. Sir Henry must have seen that a federal army would mean a federal Government; and hence, presumably, his despatch to Mr Gillies, which, though no doubt perfectly serious, has a distinctly ironical sound. The Australasian public will be curious to learn how the Premier of Victoria entertains this proposal to filch the leadership of the Federation movement from that colony. Personal and colonial jealousies are sure to play a considerable part in the first stages of the discussion ; and it would be no great wonder to learn that Victoria resents this sudden and, so to speak, usurping zeal on the part of New South Wales for a project which it has hitherto done its best to discourage. But if the movement has any genuine vitality it will soon get beyond the influence of such considerations.
The greatest obstacle to Federation will be found in the Protectionist policy of Victoria. It may be, however, that as the proposal for a common system of defence is working towards Federation, so will the proposal for Federation work for a common tariff and intercolonial Freetrade— ie., as far as the colonies included in the federation are concerned. Without this, a common government would be impossibile. But supposing that intercolonial Freetrade could be established in Australia, would Sir Henry Paekes and the Freetraders generally agree to the levying of protective duties by the Federal Government? Or when New South Wales invites Victoria and the other colonies to co-operate with her in establishing a Dominion of Australia, does she mean that the new State is to adopt the fiscal policy of Great Britain rather than that of America? Our own opinion is that there is not the least hope of achieving (i Freetrade Dominion. It is even questionable if the Victorians would acquiesce in a uniform tariff. The federal movement has nevertheless entered on a new phase, and the course which it takes will be watched with much interest and some anxiety by the colonists of Australasia. Sir Henry Parkes supposes it possible, if not probable, that New Zealand will send representatives to the Convention. Though Nature seems to have destined this Colony to be a separate independent State, there can be no harm in conferring on the subject; for what the future of the Australasian colonies is to be nobody can tell. The twentieth century may introduce changes that have not been so much as dreamt of—may witness political revolutions even more marvellous than the mechanical and industrial revolutions of its predecessor ; but as long as Australia and New Zealand remain dependencies of Great Britain equitable co-operation is preferable to antagonism. Let Australia federate if it pleases; but let not New Zealand be led into any confederation that may tend to weaken its connection with the Mother Country. Better retain our freedom of action untrammelled than enter into arrangements that will cramp our development and fetter our trade.
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FEDERATION., Evening Star, Issue 8057, 6 November 1889
FEDERATION. Evening Star, Issue 8057, 6 November 1889
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