- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 15 Apr 1909, p. 197-211
- McColl, Hon. J.H., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The increasing community of interest between Canada and Australia. Our commonalities. How the very diversities that exist in climate and situation and in products forms another bond of interest in dovetailing into needs here. Differences in our pasts. Working out the great social, political and industrial problems which the complex situation of the day present to every land for investigation and solution. All the nations today experimenting socially, industrially, politically, ethically; finding everywhere that the new wine will not fit in the old bottles. Readjusting our conditions in accordance with the trend in humanity as a whole. How all this matter of readjustment is connected with politics. Some history of Australia. Representational government not given until 1856. Ensuing battles for settlement, then for the tariff. Ways in which the terms Conservative and Liberal differed in Australia from Great Britain. A proposal for the ballot which gave the usual impulse toward democracy. The development of local self-government in Australia. Industrial legislation. An examination of the Victorian system with regard to working conditions. The passing of female suffrage as one of the most important steps taken in connection with politics. The constitution. Attempts made at Federation. The unique formation of Australia's federation, entirely a voluntary union, springing from deep conviction of national unity. Speculation as to the future. Ownership of public utilities. Legislation with regard to the inferior races. The question of defence. Australia's land forces. The Cadet force. Australia's old-age pension scheme, coming into operation July next. The free educational system, compulsory and secular. The desirability of better acquaintance between Canada and Australia.
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- 15 Apr 1909
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- AUSTRALIAN POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT.
Address by the HON. J. H. MCCOLL, Senator of the Commonwealth of Australia, before the Empire Club of Canada, on April 15th, 1909.
Mr. President and' Gentlemen,
I count it a very great honour to have the privilege, in my flying visit to Toronto, to be able to sneak to a gathering such as this, and it will be one of the happy incidents of my tour through America and Canada that I have been able to speak to you and come in touch with those who represent the business and the life and soul of this city. My remarks will represent my own personal opinions, based upon my own personal experience, and therefore I do not wish you to take what I say as speaking officially. My remarks are a hasty sketch, and it was not till this morning that I put some notes together. If you will bear these things in mind, I will proceed.
First of all I want to say that there is, and I hope there will ever be, an increasing community of interest between Canada and Australia. We have the very warmest feeling for our brethren over here, and I am sure that feeling is reciprocated. We are of the one language; we have a common loyalty; we are a common race; we have in our veins the same scarlet thread of kinship. The very diversities that exist in climate and situation and in products should form another bond of interest, because we dovetail into your needs here. When you are full and plenty we are scarce; when you are scarce we are full and plenty, and therefore this should bring about a closer bond of union between the two countries.
Our past, however, has been different from yours. Here you had a land in which you always had neople, and plenty of them. Whoever might have been the original inhabitants, there were always people. Later on you had people who came over from the Continent of Europe, and who settled here, one nation after another. They came and took possession, and they fought a number of battles. Canada has been a great battle-ground, and the reflex influence of these battles has not been confined to Canada only, but has had a great effect on the Empire to which we belong, and on the other nations on the other side of the water away to the east. We have therefore developed under different conditions to what you have. You have had here many races; you have had fine types of those races; and you are approaching, I feel sure, now to having a type of your own-approaching homogeneity in the races that have come and settled in this country.
We are quite different. Our people came there to that great lone land in the southern sea, a land which has been existing for untold ages, for, while it is the youngest land developed mentally, it is the oldest land geologically, our friends the geologists tell us. Nations have waxed and waned while our great country--larger than the United States, four-fifths the size of Canada--waited to be peopled. In due time, under the guidance, I have no doubt, of Divine Providence, it was peopled, and peopled by the race best fitted to develop it, best fitted to make it a land not only for the good of the race there, but for the good of all the peoples of the earth, no matter who they might be. We had there a few wandering nomads, very, very low indeed in the scale of civilization, who had no settled place of abode, who built their places of bark and leaves, and moved about from time to time as the necessities of their animal needs compelled them to do. We had nothing in the way of difficulties from aboriginal inhabitants to encounter. We had a very even climate. Our total variation is only 81 degrees; here you have about 150 degrees. We have a soil fitted to produce anything that is produced in any part of the world, except, perhaps, in the extremely cold regions. We have no blizzards, no diseases, no pests, no wild beasts, no enemies: we have had no wars.
You see this land came down to us as a great trust from Providence to be used for the good of humanity as a whole. We came to ideal physical and racial conditions, under the shadow of the flag of the mightiest Empire and the mightiest race that has ever ruled in the world. That is the land that was last found, last occupied, last developed; and, looking at it in all its fairness of conditions, all its freedom from difficulties of environment, where could more ideal conditions be found for working out the great social, political and industrial problems which the complex situations of the day present to every land for investigation and solution? All the nations today are experimenting, more or less, socially, industrially, politically, ethically, and they are finding everywhere that the new wine will not fit in the old bottles; that we have to re-adjust our conditions in accordance with the trend of humanity as a whole; and I say that in that land from which I come we have had opportunities of trying these new experiments, perhaps under more favourable conditions than in any other land on the face of the earth.
All these new experiences, all this matter of readjustment, are connected with politics. It is in the arena of politics that these things have to be done, that these experiments have to be made, that these battles have to be fought, that these problems have to be solved. And so the work which is going on in this newest of lands, with an untrammeled environment and without any complexity of races, should be of interest to our brethren here in Canada, and to our Anglo-Saxon race throughout the world. Many people decry politics, but we should remember that politics is the most important thing we have to consider. Past politics is just the history of today, and the politics of today will be the history of the future; and, therefore, you see, while we are engaged in politics, though some think it is a bore and a nuisance, we are really making history-everything that we do and every step we take. Politics is a science that every man and woman interested in the country should study as much as he or she can.
To get to Australia. It was first claimed as a British possession by Captain James Cook in August, 1770. Formal possession was only taken of it by Governor Phillip on August 22, 1788. There was, however, no political development (and that is my subject today) until about 1851, and very little then. It was, up to about that time, .a Crown Colony, presided over by a Governor sent from home, and who acted entirely under the direction of the Imperial Government. The discovery of gold in 1851, however, worked a great revolution. The population in 1841 was 320,000; in 1851, just as gold was discovered, 437,000. But in ten years more it was 1,168,000. You can see the rush of people that went over to this new land, lured by the desire for gold and to better themselves. You can imagine the class of men who went there. They were the hardiest of adventurers, tired, perhaps, of the conditions of the old lands in which they were; and they went to this newer country to make a home and a fortune for themselves and their families.
Representative government was not given to any of the Colonies until 1856, when it was accorded to Victoria and to New South Wales; and from that time our politics actually began. And here I may say that the generosity of Great Britain to her Colonies is to be marvelled at. We all know how generous she has been; she has given us absolute liberty of self-government. She gave us the land, and said: " Do the very best you can with it for yourself and your race;" and we are left practically untrammeled in anything we choose to do. And' this ought to be recognized by citizens of the British Empire wherever they are. At first there were no political parties. Men were too busy looking for wealth to bother about politics, and the first political lines were drawn on the land question. The surface deposits of gold were very rich, but were soon worked out. Then they would go down from the surface one or two hundred feet, but that in time would be worked out. Then they went down below the old river-bed formations-they got worked out. Then the country found itself with a large population, with the gold falling off, without manufactures, without industries, and without anything for the people to do. Then arose the cry of " Unlock the land!"
The shrewd men, many of them Scotch, had got all the land they could lay their hands on. There is a proverb there that the English have all the money, the Irishmen all the billets, and the Scotchmen all the land. That was the first cry that divided political parties. A battle ensued for settlement, and men ranged themselves on one side or the other, and the first terms used were Conservative and Liberal, and the land was the first battleground. The next battle-ground in politics was the tariff. A little later on it became obvious that manufactures would have to be established. It also became obvious that without some assistance in the shape of a tariff men would not put their money into manufactures, and thus the question of protection came up for discussion in our country. Those who had come in from England came with free trade ideas. Those from other countries came with protectionist ideas. But, strange to say, the terms Conservative and Liberal were differently applied to what they were in the old lands. With us the Liberals were the protectionists; the Conservatives were the free traders. Up till the establishment of the Commonwealth, Conservative simply meant free trader and Liberal meant protectionist. These were the main dividing lines until about 1885 and 1890. During this time the most marked political incident in our career was the establishment of the ballot, which has found its way to almost every nation in the world where there is representative government. This proposal for the ballot revolutionized elections, and gave the usual impulse toward democracy.
Another factor that largely influenced Australia was our development of local self-government. We began right away and formed our local bodies. First of all they were simply roadboards, but the principle extended to villages, towns and cities, and these local bodies gave the people a spirit of local self-reliance. They did not go running to the Government for everything they wanted. These local governing bodies were also a training ground for our parliamentarians. So we go on until 1881 to 1890. The Labour Party came into prominence after the
great maritime strike, about the end of the eighties, and the main plank they put forward was direct representation of the workers in Parliament. They had a number of other planks, but felt that if they could get direct representation in Parliament they could do anything they, pleased.
We have had a great deal of industrial legislation; and, while the Labour Party are inclined to take the credit, it does not belong to them. It has come really from the Liberal Party in Australia in the various States. Some of that legislation has been founded on the legislation brought over from the Old Country. Much of it, however, is peculiar to Australia. Almost the first instance of it was the recognition of an eight-hour day for miners in all mines, and for women workers and for children. And though it is not now a statutory day's work in all occupations, it is practically recognized; and when you hire a man for a day, unless you have some special arrangement, eight hours is supposed to be his day's work. I may make an exception in regard to farmers; they make their own arrangements. The first factory act was in 1873, and gradually there has been growing from that time until now Government interference between the employer and the employee. This interference, which has culminated in acts of parliament, has regulated hours of labour in a great many callings. In Victoria we have the shops regulated, the factories regulated. We have the various trades regulated-the conditions under which workers are to work. In the factories they must provide buildings fitted for men and women and children to work in, a certain amount of airspace, and the economic and sanitary conditions must be clean and good and reputable.
The question of wages is also a matter that has come under the Acts; accommodation; safety of employees in regard to hazardous occupations; and there has been, right through from that time, both in our State and in .the Commonwealth, careful legislation, a general care, for the workers, both male and female, and also for the young people who are working. The rise of the Labour Party is, perhaps, made too much of. They have been an impelling force, but they have not had a majority in the parliaments, except for a very short time in one or two cases. In New South Wales and Victoria and Queensland they have not had a majority, but they have been an impelling force, and they have influenced legislation to a considerable extent, because they put before the people ideas of bettering their condition, and ideas of more work and more pay and less hours, which, of course, are attractive, and the legislators have found themselves compelled to some extent to follow and support the legislation proposed. Credit for most of it is due to the Liberals.
Among all this legislation probably the most effective and the most satisfactory is the Victorian system. In the Factory Act of 1894 provision was made for wages boards. If a trade wants to come under that Act, they apply to Parliament; arrangements are made by which an election is held among the employers and employees. Five only are elected, and they sit at a table and they have at the head a chairman. If they can agree between themselves, they select him mutually. If not, the Government appoints one in six weeks. The chairman is not connected with the trade at all, and is chosen as a levelheaded man who will not show any party spirit. We have found that system, which has been working since 1894, most satisfactory. While there was a little friction at first, we have had no strikes, no trouble. If any difficulty arises in a trade it goes to the Board, and the advantage is that the men on both sides of the table know the business that they are talking about, and, with an impartial chairman, he generally comes in the middle and compromises. In New South Wales, where they had a Conciliation Arbitration Act, they are superseding that Act and adopting our Victorian system. Workers have had better conditions, somewhat better pay, and the cost of articles has not risen to any great extent to the public; and, while employers have, perhaps, a little less profit, they are well satisfied, because they are free from the trouble of strikes and lock-outs, and these are the things which interfere so seriously with trade.
One of the most important steps taken in connection with politics was the passing of female suffrage. That was brought into force in South Australia, where we had had a Liberal Government for some years, in 1894. West Australia followed in 1900. New South Wales in 1902, Tasmania in 1905, Queensland in 1906, and Victoria, while one of the most Liberal, did not get it until last year. And now we have female suffrage in every one of the States, and on the drawing up of the Commonwealth Act in 1902 they gave the women the vote all over the Commonwealth for Federal members. I know that this is a matter that has been discussed here to some extent, and it was discussed over there. Personally, I have always supported it. I have always failed to see why one half of the world, who have to obey the laws, a great number of whom, too, go out and earn their own living, should not have a voice in the selection of the men who make the laws they have to obey. I have always looked upon it as a right that women should have a share in the choosing of their representatives. That is my own personal opinion.
Furthermore, in these changed conditions that are coming in all civilized countries; where governments are interfering more and more, not only with the trades and the professions, but with the home; where they won't allow a man to have a dirty backyard or to bring up his children in ignorance or disease-in all these things I say it is necessary that we should not only have the stern rule of man, but I say we should also have the sympathizing feeling of women as well. The nations, if they are to be fathered by these paternal governments, then, I say, they ought to be mothered as well. We have had this working in Australia for some years, and we find that our political meetings are carried on in a more orderly way; that women come with their brothers and husbands, and they have a keen intuition. For the first election or so women's vote was not given in the same ratio as the men's. That is gradually altering. At the last Commonwealth election they were not so many percent behind the men in their vote, and at one or two by-elections they were fully equal, and in one case had a larger proportion than the men. The result has been that really they are cleaning politics up, and one thing they are very careful about and that is the character of the men they vote for. A man now stands very largely on his character, and if there is a breath of suspicion that he is not living a good, straight, clean life, he stands no chance whatever.
Coming to the Commonwealth, I cannot deal with the constitution, although it is very interesting. It was a people's business from first to last. First of all, it was decided that a Convention should be elected, ten from each State. They met, framed the draft of constitution. That was sent to all the State parliaments, passed through each parliament clause by clause, returned with all the suggestions and amendments of the various parliaments, reconsidered by the Convention, and then the clean draft was brought out. But that did not end it. It was then sent to the people for their approval, "Yes or no; do you accept it or not?" It was accepted by overwhelming majorities. Then it had to go through the British Parliament in the same manner, and then past the law officers of the Crown at home; and so, you see, we are the heir of all the ages. We have been able to take from all the constitutions of the world, and we have got what Mr. Joseph Chamberlain called "the most complete democratic instrument that ever was written on the earth." It received the royal assent in July, 1900, and the inauguration took place in January, 1901. Parliament met on the 29th of April, 1901.
Federation had been talked about since 1849. Many attempts were made, but it was not until it became a people's question that success attended the efforts to bring federation about. Powers that had to go to the federation were definitely stated; different from Canada. What is not definitely mentioned in our constitution remains with the States. The formation of our federation was unique. It was entirely a voluntary union, springing from deep conviction of national unity. There was no external pressure, no foreign complications. It was just that the people saw the folly of disunion and the advantages of nationhood. When formed, political parties were mixed. The Labour Party was the only compact one. We drifted into a three-party-system--the Government Party, the Opposition, and the Labour Party. The Labour Party had the balance of power, and, of course, exercised, a very strong influence. The consequence has been that we have had a number of changes of Government, and that, with the exception of the first Government, we have not had one Government altogether which had a solid party of supporters at its back. Therefore, they have had to lean more or less to those who held the balance of power and give way to them to some extent.
What the future will bring one can scarcely say. We have a Labour Government in at present, and the leader (Mr. Fisher) is a fairly honest man. Of course, he will have to follow his party's programme; and, while I would not like to prophesy, I think that the chances are that the other sections of the House will probably join together after the House meets in May or June next and form a united party as against the Labour Party, and put forward a national Australian programme. We had our foundation work to do first, then the tariff. Our tariff was a stupendous work. We had six different tariffs before. We had to take all these different tariffs and weld them into one whole. It took us nineteen months to get that tariff through. We had to formulate our Civil Service. There is no patronage in our system. Politicians have nothing whatever to do with it. No man's position there depends on what political party is in power. Entrance depends entirely on merit. The chance is given to the son and daughter of the poorest people in the country, if they have the ability, as well as the richest. The Prime Minister could not put a lad into our public service, no matter what he could do, nor would he try to do it.
In Australia we have a strong conviction, which we have carried into effect, that all public utilities should be publicly owned; that they should not be made a means of profit to private people, or be used as a means of gambling, as many of the railroad stocks are in America today. Our waterworks, railways, tram-cars, etc., are under control of the Government, or under the cities in which they are running. We have found this system to work well. You must, however, understand that politicians have nothing whatever to do with it. W e put our railways under a Commission. Mr. Tait, a Canadian, has taken over our railways in Victoria, and from a deficit of one thousand pounds a day we are now paying our way. The politician has no right to interfere. The State determines as to what lines shall be carried out. But the fixing of wages and every matter of detail is entirely in the hands of the Commission and without interference by anybody else. We say, "You take it and manage it as a business proposition; pay your way, and whatever you have over you can give to the public in greater privileges or reduction in freight rates."
We have another question which is of great interest and importance, I suppose, to Canada, and that is our legislation with regard to the inferior races. We have looked around and seen what has been the effect of the introduction of these races into other lands, and we find that in every case it has not been the means of raising those races up to our own level;' it has been the means of dragging our own people down to theirs. They marry when they mix; they have children sometimes when they do not marry-children who have the contempt of both races, with the vices of both and the virtues of neither. We saw that here would be an influence that would work harm; and we took the thing right at the start and our legislation says, " You shall not come in." Nothing can enable an Asiatic to come over there and make his residence. He can come for two or three years for the purpose of study, but he only gets a permit renewable from year to year to the extent of three years. Whether we are right or wrong we thought that we bad better settle it at first, and we believe we will have a stronger country, a sounder country, a country in which we will have a more general level, socially, industrially and morally; and that we will have people with whom our children can mix when young and marry when they get more advanced in years, and we believe that with our advantages in other respects in time there will come to us the immigration from other lands which we need.
This question of defence! We feel that we have not been doing what we should have done with the Old Land. We have had an arrangement with Britain by which we pay her 200,000 pounds a year, and she provides a fleet and takes so many of our men. We felt that was unsatisfactory, that while we were doing something we were not encouraging the Australian naval sentiment. We want to encourage an Australian-Imperial naval sentiment. We have a sea-girt land, but we want to give our young people facilities to get out on the ships, and so we will, I think, this year break off that agreement with the Old Country, and instead of paying them 200,000 pounds a year, which, while it is something toward the expense, does not quite meet the requirements; what will, take place will be this. We will say: " We free you from this agreement. We will not ask you to keep your ships in these waters, but we will look after our own coasts. We will build submarines and destroyers. They will be here when you want them. We will provide coaling stations and docks, so that your fleets may come in and make repairs instead of having to go back to the Old Land or other places." We believe that while this will cost us more money we will render the British Marine a greater service than by simply the payment of a paltry two or three hundred thousand a year.
As regards our land forces; we have some 22,000 men in the ordinary forces, mostly volunteers. There is a permanent artillery, but not very many. We have some 43,E men in rifle clubs. They are attached to the force, so that they have to come up once or twice a year for drill, and the Government gives them their ammunition at half price. We are bringing military training into our schools. We have miniature ranges. A lad is taught to use a rifle, and when he gets eleven or twelve he is given a rifle and taken out to the ranges. They have their drill and shooting practices; and sometimes go away 100 miles or more to shoot with other schools; and so we are developing a nation of rifle-shots. The youngsters look on it as a sport, and it takes the place of their other sports, and they throw themselves into it with abandon. We have in these Cadets the nucleus of a force which will be trained in military drill and discipline, and also they will be encouraged in a patriotic spirit by being taught that they are doing all this not for mere pleasure; but that in the future they may be fit and ready to defend their country if the necessity should arise. And we have found this Cadet system to work admirably. It brings the youngsters under discipline. They are better and straighter for the work they get in this Cadet system.
I noticed yesterday in the paper some teacher condemning this system in Toronto. I think he is wrong, and if we could only get him over there and show how the system is working, I thing he would alter his opinion very quickly. Then we have a senior Cadet force, which takes boys from sixteen to twenty-one, and by that time they can go into the Militia. We do not wish to encourage a spirit of militarism; we want a plain, homely, sound force; but we believe we will thus encourage a spirit of patriotism that will be there when the call comes. We were not paying enough, $1.50 per capita, and I think Canada ought to pay a little more than $1.00, which is all she pays at present. (A Voice: What about the Dreadnaughts?) I am unable to say what has been done regarding the Dreadnaughts, as I have been away for some time and have not seen our papers. The mere matter of the cost of a Dreadnaught is not considered. But if it is looked upon as an example, something that will be a sort of warning to the outsiders to say "hands off!" the Dreadnaughts will be there. When the call came in South Africa, Canada sent troops, Australia sent troops, and the other nations got a lesson then that they will never forget.
We have an old-age pension scheme which will apply to all Australia, coming into operation July next, under which sums of $2.5o a week downwards will be given to men and women of 65 years of age, and they will be allowed to earn up to $5 a week over and above that if they can. They must be 65 years of age, but if incapacitated before, then they can apply and come under the provision. We believe that this is a great humanitarian step to take. These old men and old women have borne the heat and labour of the day. Although it is a great expense it is in the right direction, and I believe a blessing will follow any country that will take in hand its aged so that they will be absolutely sure that in their later days they will have enough to keep them without becoming paupers. It is given as a right to the citizen and not as a dole 'of charity. We have also provision for invalid pensions, but no date has been fixed. Immigration will be discussed this Session.
We have an educational system free of charge, compulsory and secular. At the same time we inculcate reverence for the Divine Being. Our Courts of justice, we are glad to say, are like those of Canada, pure and unsullied, and no suspicion of favouritism or party feeling is ever launched against any Judge, no matter where he sits. Our people look to their representatives to have a high standard of personal character, and our aim of legislation generally has been liberal, progressive, humanitarian. We are trying to keep the purity of the race and the general well-being of the people as a whole constantly before us. We are not looking to have our people wealthy. Probably you would not find more than ten millionaires in all Australia. We want a happy and contented people, enjoying the pleasures of life, at the same time doing their duty to their families and the State-a high standard of civilization and of comfort. I do not say that we are better than others, but we are going in that direction. An American politician called at Stonewall Jackson's house and he saw Stonewall Jackson's bodyguard. He said to him: " Jack, do you think your master has gone to Heaven?" " Oh, yes, sir, I am sure, sir." "Well, why do you think so?" "Well, sir, his head was always sot that way." While we are not doing much, while we are blundering along as the Anglo-Saxon does, our heads are "sot that way," and we are trying to reach the ideal which I have endeavoured so briefly to sketch out to you today.
The desirability of better acquaintance between Canada and Australia must be patent to everyone here. These great outlying regions, areas of the British Empire must sooner or later become more and more a factor in Imperial affairs. I, myself, am an Imperialist, and we have a very strong Imperial spirit there. While we have a section who will cry out about the British Crown and all that, you have only to mention the old Flag arid the Empire and the King to evoke in any meeting a cheer that will drown any opposition that might be raised. And while Canada and Australia and South Africa may each pursue her own development there is room to hold together arid never forget the great old country in the northern sea which has done so much for us. We should all make for Anglo-Saxon unity. I trust we will rise to be worthy of the glorious traditions of our past; that our heritage will be prized by every one of us; and that we will seek to show in our public and private capacities that we value our loyalty, our race, our heritage, arid the privileges that all of us enjoy.