Western Australia and Federation - To the editor



Western Australia and Federation - To the editor


May 18, 1891








Letter to the editor regarding Federation


SIR,- Some attention has been given to a
telegram from Melbourne recently published
in your columns,and purporting to give the
substance of letter to Mr Munro, in which
the Hon. J. W. Hackett informs that gentle-
man that the present feeling of Western Aus-
tralia on the subject of Federation is either
apathetic or hostile, and expresses Surprise
that this should be so, considering the ex-
cellent terms obtained for the colony.
Since you, apparently, invite discussion on
a matter of such great importance as the
Federal movement, may I ask space for a
few remarks bearing upon Mr. Hackett's
alleged statement: Animated by no spirit of
antagonism to the policy of Australia's
statesman, I merely wish to suggest how this
colony's attitude towards it may be accounted
As to apathy, which is, perhaps, the
state of mind of a considerable majority of
our people, this is explainable by a
quotation from Sir Henry Parkes when, at
the Convention, he spoke against republi-
canism. "The very parent of the erection of
new governments," said Sir Henry, "is some
cause or grievance which everybody feels."
West Australians possess the spirit of
nationalism, but when its "cause" assumes a
form involving essential alterations in the
nature of the governmental institutions they
have but recently acquired, it is little matter
for surprise that few of them should be able
to accept so heavy a demand upon the senti-
ment of local ambition. On the other hand,
the want of federal machinery has established
no 'grievance' whatever for our people at
large. They live in perfect amity with
their nearest neighbours, and though poli-
ticians experience impediments arising
from absence of a federal authority, the
general public are little concerned with them.
Few would oppose federal action applied to
purposes of defence - which, in a measure,
we are already getting,- nor to quarantine
and coast lighting. But what rouses the
"hostility" of some is the wide scope of
the present federation proposals. Why, they
say, for instance, should we hand over our
excellent internal post and telegraph service
to the care of a Government thousands of
miles away, and which could not possibly be
so closely ia touch with local wants and
feeling as a Cabinet upon the spot? And
why, in particular, should we give to such a
Government supreme control over our cus-
toms and immigration policy? The terms
we obtained for such renouncement might be
excellent. But would that make up for a
possible serious interference with local trade,
production, and settlement on the part of an
outside Parliament and Executive, whose
interests were divergent from ours? The
people of Western Australia feel little, if any,
inconvenience from the various tariffs of the
eastern colonies, but they conceive that they
might sustain not only inconvenience but
loss and, disturbance of their economy from a
common tariff forced upon them by their
neighbours. While, as for immigration, mis-
giving takes them that their own special
interests would little affect the policy of
East Australia if she got the West, in this
matter, under her thumb.
With regard to the "excellent terms"
offered by the Federal Constitution Act, from
the financial point of view, that there is
absolute divergence of opinion between those
of the late delegates who have made them a
study, is not unknown, and in the absence of
an authoritative statement of the facts in
dispute from the delegates as a body, the
general public must necessarily hold its
opinion in suspense.
There can, to sum up, be no doubt as to
the existence of a generally prevalent feeling
against allowing our wings to be clipped for
the flight we are about to take, and against
being merged, to a great extent, with other
colonies in a more advanced stage of develop-
ment. Closer investigation than the people
can make, might show that this feeling is
wrong, from the point of view of self-interest;
the WEST AUSTRALIAN, indeed, has alleged
that it is so. Wider and more far-seeing
statesmanship might even be willing to
sacrifice much in the present, for the attain-
ment of a great national object. But our
small population stands in a peculiar position
to the federal movement, and the supposed
feeling of the people towards it is but what,
in the circumstances, might naturally be
Yours etc,.
Perth, May 15th, 1891.


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