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4-206 (Text)

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addressee author,male,The Worker,un
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Newspapers & Broadsides
Clark, 1957
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The Convention, of course, did a lot of talking, and succeeded at last in evolving a Constitution which is, at least, a vast improvement on the one that our too clever politicians tried to foist upon the colonies six years ago.  Some of our readers may think that small praise. But the matter upon which we congratulate the people is the vindication of the principle of popular election. The improvement visible is an indication of the influence of public opinion even upon the most stolid of hide-bound Conservatives. We do not forget that, owing to the introduction of sectarianism at the elections in New South Wales, the whole of the Labour candidates were defeated; nor that for other reasons, the Labour representation in the other colonies was far below what the number of Labour electors in those colonies would have amply justified. The class of men who composed this Convention was the class that furnished representatives in 1891. The quality of the men was generally about the same, in some cases actually the same individuals were chosen. Three of the New South Wales men were the same; four of the Tasmanian; five of the South Australians; one Victorian of the 1891 crowd found his way into the Convention.
Yet though the men were the same, how different was their tone! The hot breath of Democracy had wrapped them round, and their speech was redolent of the hustings. The sense of responsibility to the people was never far away; the fear that after all the great piece of work might be ruthlessly rejected was always present. The principle of direct election by the people received its most emphatic justification, and it is safe to say that a reversion to any system of constitution drafting by a select few has become ever impossible. Upon every point of conflict between Conservatism and Democracy Conservatism has gone down heavily; and the advance towards enlightened Democratic rule has been directly due to the influence of popular opinion evolved during the elections. Measuring the possible advance in the future by the progress between 1891 and 1897 it is difficult to set a bound to the developments which the next five years may witness. Our Democratic readers, groaning under the rule of the most unprogressive, reactionary of Governments may take to heart this fact that the government as provided in the Convention of 1897 is more liberal than the Provincial Government existing in Queensland at this moment.
Take the two points around which the conflict between Conservatism and Democracy has raged, and mark the advance made between the two periods; and compare the proposed Australian Constitution with that of Queensland.  The Upper House, or States Assembly, according to the scheme of the wise men of 1891, was to consist of senators appointed by the States Parliaments. The Upper House in Queensland consists entirely of nominees so that under this beautiful scheme the senators from Queensland would be the nominees of nominees. The Upper House of the 1897 Federation is to consist of senators DIRECTLY ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE on the same franchise as the House of Representatives. A very moderate proposal in 1891 to leave the separate States to decide for themselves the method of choosing senators, was defeated by 34 votes to 6, Queensland's delegates, of course, voting on the Tory side; in 1897 the absolute mandatory provision for popular election was adopted unanimously, and almost without a protest.
The next - perhaps the most vital question of all: What shall, the franchise be for both Houses of the Parliament? There is the palladium of Australian liberties. Compare the concession of the freest franchise in 1897 with the solid fight of Conservatism in 1891 for the, preservation of the most restrictive franchise prevailing in any province. Truly the walls of Jericho fell flat at the trumpet blast that proclaimed the will of the people. The greatest effort made in 1891 was embodied in the proposed amendment by Mr. Cockburn, which modestly asked that:
No property qualification shall be necessary for the electors of the House of Representatives, and each elector shall have a vote for one electoral district only.
Oh! the indignation of the true-blues that the one-man-one-vote 'faddists' should dare to intrude their fads in that august company. The insolent proposal was quietly rejected, the voting being 9 to 28. Among the dissentients appear the names: Donaldson, Griffith, Macdonald-Paterson and Rutledge - four of the Queensland delegates. Of the other three delegates sent by the Queensland Parliament, Macrossan had previously died, and M'Ilwraith and Thynne did not vote - were probably away at some other sort of picnic.
Now, what brought about the complete change of tone in 1897?  Why was it that the one-man-one-vote men were masters of the situation, who, in their turn, could pour contempt on the obstinate few who ventured to plead for property qualification and plural voting? It was nothing but the solid conviction brought home to the delegates on a thousand platforms that in this matter the people have won their fight and that no constitution will ever be accepted for Australia which is not broad-based on the principle of equal, voting rights. The only point upon which the Conservatives dared to make a fight was the admission of women to the franchise, and the contention was settled by the wise compromise that the Federal franchise shall be on the principle of one man one vote, but no person having the right to vote in any State shall be precluded from voting for the Federal Parliament. This lets in the women of South Australia and will admit their sisters in the other provinces as the women's franchise movement spreads and is successful in other parts of Australia. Whilst Queensland is gagged by property qualifications and plural voting,' the remainder of Australia will be governed under a Central Parliament elected by one man one vote, or (we hope generally) by one adult one vote.
Now, why does Mr. Tozer want to send down a Queensland contingent? Has he begun to realise that there is some business in it? - and some business not at all pleasing to reactionary, black-labour-loving Boodlewraith? Surely, Australia has been getting. on very well without the assistance that the Tozer Government would like to send. We know what a government delegation would mean, because we have the record of the delegation sent down in 1891, and we can learn from that the views of the Government on all the important questions which have been or might be discussed. All the possible effect that might result from the sending of a Government delegation would be the strengthening of the hands of the Conservative minority on the Convention; and against that every sincere Democrat should fight to the last ditch. The good work already done has been achieved by a convention of men DIRECTLY CHOSEN BY THE ELECTORS. Out of the fifty members present, forty were so elected, and the other ten (the Western Australians) were Conservatives to a man, and nearly always in opposition to the majority.  Will the people of this great colony (as important, having regard to its potentialities, as either of the Southern colonies) supinely submit to allow themselves to be misrepresented and maligned by a government which exists only through the dissensions of his opponents? That is what they will do unless the people stir themselves in time. The trick attempted to be played last session to, gain the same end, failed only because the plotters in the two Houses disagreed among themselves. Another attempt will certainly be made,; and this time, probably, the discordant elements may be brought into line. The dominant faction know quite well the importance of the fight of Democracy that has been fought and so far won on the floor of the Convention; and what they desire now is to use the name of the people of this colony to help to defeat the aspirations of the Democracy in the Southern colonies.
Is not this an occasion to fire the hearts and minds of the people? New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania, have sent delegations to the Convention DIRECTLY CHOSEN BY THE ELECTORS. The Premier of Queensland gave a promise on behalf of Queensland that a delegation also DIRECTLY CHOSEN BY THE ELECTORS should be Sent down.
He broke his promise because he durst not go to the people, and the Acting-premier (Mr. Tozer) since blurted out a confession that such an election might show that the Labour Party counted far more than his Government. It might, indeed; but whether or not, if Queensland is to speak, she can speak only through a delegation so elected. Our Labour Party in Parliament took the right stand, the only defensible stand, in the last Parliament. Queensland must either be represented by delegates 'directly chosen by the electors,' according to the promise of her Premier and the practice adopted by the Southern colonies; OR THERE MUST BE NO PRETENCE OF REPRESENTATION. Out of courtesy to the other colonies and to, preserve a spirit of federal concord, it would be justifiable to send such a delegation even at the eleventh hour; but any Government-concocted scheme would be a lie and a sham, an affront to the peoples of the other colonies and an insolent fraud upon the people of Queensland, and it should be stopped here and now.