Graving Dock

This is the story of the rise and collapse of the hopes and expectations excited by the construction of the Albert Graving Dock at Williamstown. This massive and expensive monument was a product of Melbourne’s grand vision of its role in the march of material progress vouchsafed by the marvels of the Industrial Revolution. No one could deny that Melburnians had grand dreams. But history has been less kind to our first generation of movers and shakers.

In a recent book “Ten Cities that Made an Empire”, Tristram Hunt lamented the dire consequences of Melburnians’ dreams, not only on Melbourne, but upon that vast British Empire itself. Hunt points out that the colony of Victoria, and specifically Melbourne, rose to being the biggest single destination for British capital in the second half of the nineteenth century. And Melbourne proved to be a particularly disastrous choice for British investors. He lamented that Melbourne played a pivotal role in “beggaring British industry and so, in the long run undermining [British] national competitiveness. Hunt’s book would be more aptly title “Nine Cities that Made, and One City that Broke, an Empire.” British money was what Melbourne dreams were made of and there were no bigger dreams than the Alfred Graving Dock.

This is a study of how Melbourne made dreams, and nightmares come true. And it is about the effects of those dreams on Melbourne and the wider world. And there is no more poignant case study of Melbourne’s megalomania and recklessness than the circumstances of the conception, construction, operation and demise of the Alfred Graving Dock.

So, what is a Graving Dock?

The notion of a graving dock had floated around in public discussion at least since 1855. In that year, ONWARD, purporting to be a resident of Williamstown, in a letter to the Argus, demanded one for his hometown. Nostalgically, he recollected that not so long ago was a golden age when Williamstown residences grew like “mushrooms” and the town appeared to be on the verge of becoming a major commercial centre. But suddenly the wheels of progress seized. It was up to the government of the colony to do something. Foremost should be construction of a graving dock from local stone.

ONWARD noted the presence in Williamstown of many idle but willing hands to build a graving dock. But this would not be merely a make work scheme. The stakes were much higher. It was a struggle for survival. “Those who decline [to accept the challenge submit to] the yoke to no purpose ; for in a country like this, where progress is so rapid, they will ultimately be forced to take the management of their affairs into their own hands, or to be annexed … to a district with a more energetic population and more progressive principles.” Most readers would have assumed that ONWARD was referring to the despised and recently shunned City of Sydney. [Argus, 01/09/1855]

Almost twenty years after publication of this letter, ONWARD’s wish for a graving dock for Williamstown had came true. Though it is doubtful that he would have liked the results. And as it turned out, in matters relating to the rationale for possessing a graving dock, Sydney indeed proved to be Victoria’s nemesis.

Between 1855 and 1860, the question of a graving dock for Melbourne was an occasional topic of public discussion. All agreed that this facility would be a good thing for Melbourne. But why should Williamstown be favoured? A “large and influential” public meeting at Sandridge. The attendees unanimously agreed that there was a better site for the graving dock — Sandridge! Williamstown was so very far from Melbourne and the cost of cartage of goods from that distant place was exorbitant. The meeting heard that only the laziness of Sandridge’s MPs and the machinations of the ministry prevented Sandridge from attaining its destiny as the trade hub of Victoria. As it turned out, Sandridge was doomed to disappointment.

But it took a big push from the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce to induce government to vote public funds to the construction of a graving dock. In 1861, Melbourne’s merchants were gloomy. Their Chamber declared that the colony was suffering a commercial depression. The gold rush was faltering. And crucially, would-be immigrants were shunning the long, arduous, and expensive, journey from Europe.

Yet there were remedies at hand. Rapid advances in steam technology would enable a safer, more dependable passage to Melbourne. But that opportunity imposed costs. The owners and operators of these new ships needed an inducement to operate out of Melbourne.

Chief among these inducements must be a graving dock. This facility was an “urgent necessity”, especially for the steamers of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. The Chamber of Commerce learned that the cost of repairs on the P&O mail steamers alone was no less than £100,000 annually. At present, there was no place in Melbourne where this work could be done. And fortuitously, the Chamber were assured, the current lease for the repair facilities in Sydney were about to expire. Sydney’s difficulty would be Melbourne’s opportunity. And fortune would favour the brave. Melbourne must think big. The graving dock should be large enough to accommodate the Great Eastern, since 1858, the largest ship afloat. The Chamber of Commerce could not be accused of thinking small.

And there was another matter that epitomised the struggle for pre-eminence between Sydney and Melbourne. P&O held the British government contract to carry the Royal Mail. Possession of the Australian terminal of this service conferred prestige and distinct commercial advantage in this era before intercontinental telegraphy. The Melbourne Chamber of Commerce were determined that Melbourne would be the dominant entrepôt in this informational exchange. If the price of this advantage were a huge graving dock, then, in the opinion of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce,  the government of the colony must rise to the challenge. [Argus, 20/04/1861]

The Chamber of Commerce lobbied the Government of Victoria. It achieved eventual success with the consent of the energetic and combative James McCulloch, banker, democrat, social reformer, protectionist and nation builder. After scant public debate or consultation, the McCulloch majority in the Legislative Assembly ordered that £100,000 would be set aside to build a dock big enough to accommodate a ship fifty feet longer than the Great Eastern. The McCulloch government saw the grandiosity of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce and raised it fifty feet. In answer to questions about the rate of profit on such a vast facility, Mr Michie observed soothingly that a similar dock in Sydney returned a respectable 6%pa. (There was no similar dock in Sydney}. Perhaps sensing trouble, the energetic McCulloch interjected that such calculations were superfluous because there was “no experience by which they could estimate the probable revenue.” But rather, the government were driven by necessity. “[A]t present there were no means in Melbourne by which ships could be repaired; and vessels were sent to sea without examination, to the great danger of those on board.” [Geelong Advertiser, 06/02/1864]

Thus, in McCulloch’s opinion, if the reasons offered by the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce for building this graving dock were insufficient, the exorbitant cost of insurance should clinch the argument. And so, by these hasty means, the McCulloch government committed itself to the most expensive public works project in the short history of the colony. It was necessary only to decide on the site. Mr James Francis stated that “after considerable investigation, the site selected as the most suitable was one a short distance to the south of the patent slip, at Williamstown.” It is perhaps noteworthy that no other site was mentioned. [Geelong Adverstiser, 06/02/1864] What might be the consequences of  making such an expensive and irreversible decision upon such a scanty foundation, only time would tell. What could possibly go wrong?

And so the grand project ground into action. The sheer scale of the project can be understood from contremporary photographs and other illustrations. This was a massive enterprise that employed thousands and expolited brand new construction technologies. The coffer dam alone that held back the waters of Hobsons bay was a huge 300 yards in length. The basalt blocks were quarried at maidstone, cut to size, and transported by dedicated tramline and rail to the building site. Each of those blocks weighed between 5 to 7 tons. The blocks themselves were hoisted into place by one, and then later two ingenious overhead railways.

******

But despite pleasing progress constructing this massive and expensive project, Victorians were horrified to learn in March 1867 that through political recklessness and/or chicanery the whole enterprise might be rendered useless. This threat came in the form of agreements made at the Intercolonial Postal Conference of 1867. When the minutes of this Conference were published in March the Argus read them with horror. “While it is satisfactory to know that in those conclusions the delegates were unanimous, and to that agreement they were all parties, we doubt whether the people of Victoria will be satisfied when they come to understand the nature of one and the terms of the other. Nay, we feel sure that th arrangement is so utterly unfair to this colony that it is impossible for the public to acquiesce in it. For what does this arrangement amount to?

Stated shortly, it is simply this:–

1. Three services, by Galle, Singapore, and Panama, shall be maintained.

2. Victoria shall increase her annual subsidy by L21,225, while that of New South Wales shall be reduced by L21,935, and that of New Zealand by L45,194.

3. Sydney shall be the port of arrival and departure of the vessels of all three services, and Melbourne but a port of call for some of them.

4. Instead of the long-talked of bi-monthly mail by way of Galle in forty-eight days, Melbourne is to get, in addition to the present service, one mail per month by Panama in fifty-seven days, and one by Singapore in fifty-three days.

5. The contract is to be for five years certain, and at the end of which two years’ notice of discontinuance must be given.

Now, we think that every one of our readers will agree with us, that in this arrangement the postal convenience, the pecuniary interest and the commercial advantage of Victoria have been utterly ignored. As to the first, we have now a monthly service by way of Galle which brings the mails in forty-eight days,and which for the past twelve months has been as regular and as punctual as an ocean service can reasonably be expected to be. Instead of two mails each month by this route, which would seldom leave Melbourne for more than a fortnight together without a budget of London news, we are promised one day after the outgoing of the Suez mail at the end of the month, a mail via Panama with but six, and in some months only five days’ later news than that received by way of Suez, seventeen days before. In addition to this, there is to be a mail via Singapore, Torres Straits, and Queensland, leaving London on the 10th of each month, and reaching Melbourne ten days before the Galle mail is due, with sixteen days later news. In short, on the 2nd of each month, we are to have a mail in 53 days; on the 13th, one in forty-eight days, and on the 29th, on in fifty-seven days. Even if the Panama and Singapore routes were likely to be regular and punctual as that by Galle, it would be still far more convenient to Victoria to have two services of forty-eight days, than the three proposed.

Then as to the financial part of the scheme,–Victoria now gets a monthly service, by the route which suits her best, for L28,774; under this agreement she s to pay L50,000; and the only apparent reason for this increase is that New South ales may be relievedof L21,935, and New Zealand of L45,194. Of course, we may be told that at present Victoria is not paying anything towards the Panama and Torres Strats services; but to this we reply, that these two services are not worth half of the extra sum imposed upon this colony. The Panama line is a great boon to New Zealand, and may be of some service to New South Wales; to Victoria it can never be of any value as compared with that via Galle; for, were there to be a bi-monthly serice by the latter route, a mail leaving London on the 10th of the month would reach Melbourne one day before that which left via Panama on the 2nd. We should thus obtain ten days later news, and obtain it one day earlier. And a similar objection applies to the TorresStraits services; for by that a mail leaving London would not reach Melbourne till five days after one leaving on the same day by way of Galle. We say, then, that to pay the extra subsidiy of L21,000 for these services is to spend the public money for the benefit of our neighbours, and without any advantage whatever to our selves.

But slight as seems to have been the consideration which our representatives have displayed woth the postal and penuniary advantage of this colony, they have shown little less regard, with that is possible for the interests of the port of Melbourne. From the report now before us we are astonished to learn that the proposal to make Melbourne the terminus of even one of the three lines was never so much as mooted at the Conference. The enormous advantage of being the port of arrival and departure for all these routes was handed over to Sydney without a word of appea, argument, or protest on behalf of Melbourne. We are at a loss to conceive how our Chief Secretary an Treasurer can justify or excuse their silence in this matter–a matter of vital importance to this colony: for if this arrangement should be sanctioned by Parliament–which we cannot conceive to be possible–Melbourne will be for many years to come, as she has been to the last two years, completely outstripped in her shipping trade by Sydney. And of the worth of the trade secured to a port by its becoming the terminus of three ocean mail services, some idea may be gained from these facts. The annual expenses of a steamer of about 500 tons in the intercolonial trade amount to some L30,000; those of a vessel of larger size and engaged in longer voyages, would be proportionately higher–we beleive we are within the mark when we say they amount to L40,000. The three services agreed upon will require for the  trunk linesa st least twelve steamersm the annual expenditure of which will be about L480,000. In addition to this , there will also be four branch services from and to Sydney each month, which cannot take less than L30,000 each, will inolve a further expenditure in the port of L120,000, thus handing over to Sydney, without an effort to secure it for Melbourne, the privilege of being the head-quarters of these three mail services, the representatives of Victoria have made a present to our eastern neighbours of an annual expenditure in this port of considerably more than half a million a year. Nor is this the only loss which Melbourne will suffer by the proposed scheme. We have spent L32,000 on a graving-dock at Williamstown, and will have to spend, as Mr VERDON informed the assembly the other night, L110,000 more before it is finished. To enable Melbourne to become the port of arrival and departure for the steamers on the Galle route was the main object of this work, and the chied inducement to this large expenditure. Only the night before last L30,000 was voted towards this undertaiking; it can easily be finished in two years from the present; yet for at least seven years from that time it will be impossible, if this postal compact be ratifiedfor the very steamers to stop here for which the dock was primarily designed.

With such advantages accruing to Sydney, it is easy to understand that the New South Wales representatives should have departed in excellent spirits, and that Mr PARKES should have moved a resolution recording the acknowledgements ofthe Conference for the “courteous attention of the Hon. JAS. M’CULLOCH.” It is easy also to conceive why New South Wales should be content with her mails, being six days longer by way of Panama than by way of Galle. This indeed, is the sole inconvience which she will suffer from the arrangement; as a set-off against which she escapes the payment of L22,000 a year, and makes Sydney the first port of Australia.

We have already said that we cannot conceive it possible for Parliament to ratify this compact. Strong as is the Ministry, able as it is to carry nearly every measure it proposes, we will not believe that party feeling will influence the votes of any members on such a question as this. It is a matter of such vast importance to this colony that it ought to be above all party consideration. Protectionists ought to join heartily with free-traders in rejecting a scheme which hands over to Sydney that mercantile supremacy which Melbourne has until recently enjoyed, and politicians of all shades of opinions should vie with each other in endeavouring to secure for Melbourne a traffic which will renderone of our largest public works of some profit, and provide empoloyment for hundreds of artisans and labourers in our port. [Argus 30 March 1867]

Our Sydney telegram mentions that the Legislative Assembly in that colony was last night engaged in discussing the agreement entered into by the late Postal Conference, that great satisfaction was manifested at the prospect of Sydney becoming the terminus of the three routes, and that Mr Verdon objected to the correspondence between him and Mr Parkes being read. We are in a position to state the facts with regard to this matter. It will be remembered that when the question was under discussion Mr Verdon declined to read certain correspondence received from Mr Parkes. This course, it appears, was forced upon him through the correspondence being marked “Private”, and Mr Parkes, in reply to a request preferred to by Mr Verdon, having expressly objected to its being made public. Yesterday, however, Mr Parkes telegraphed to Mr Verdon stating that in this debate which was to come on that night, reference would in all likelihood be made to these letters, and asking if there was  any objection to their being published. Mr Verdon replied that as Mr Parkes had prevented them being presented to our Legislature, that body wouldin all probability deem it a slight were he now to sanction the publication of the correspondence in Sydney at the request of Mr Parkes. We are further informed that Mr Parkes, in his letter to Mr Verdon, admits tat that gentleman at the conference moved the amendments as stated by him to the Legislative Assembly, but remarks that he (Mr Parkes) did not attach that importance to the circumstances since attributed to it by Mr Verdon. [Argus 11 July 1867]

In the Assembly, yesternight, Parkes moved the adoption of the Postal Conference resolutions. Forster and Samuels spoke in opposition, and said that the Government ad no business to take the responsibility upon themselves. Parkes proved beyond doubt that Sydney would be the terminus of the three routes. He wished to lay the correspondence with Verdon on the table, but the latter sent a telegram objecting. Eventually the arrangements were agreed to without a division. Buchanan’s speech strongly censured Victoria for attempting to ignore the agreement of the delegates.

[South Australian Advertiser, 12 July 1867]

The result of the recent postal conference, for which our colonial secretary took so much glorification, is likely to fall through owing to a misunderstanding between this colony and Victoria as to what actually took place with respect to the terminus of the Suez line. Mr Verdon informed the Victorian parliament that it was understood that  when the graving dock was finished at Williams Town the mail steamers would make Melbourne their terminus. This was denied by Mr Parkes, and a correspondence which subsequently took place between the two delegates was made public when our parliament was asked to give its sanction to the result of the conference. During the debate some very hard words were used with regard to the conduct of the Victorian representatives for attempting to place an interpretation on the action of the conference which was never intended. Since the report of this debate reached Melbourne we hear that a strong feeling has been created against fulfiling the arrangements of the conference, and it is more than likely that the colony will withdraw from its engagements. The great results which it was expected would have resulted from the federal action of the colonies upon the question of ocean mail communication are likely to fall through owing to the arrogant position assumed by Victoria. The Conference was not entered into for the sole benefit of that  colony, but with the view of reconciling the claims of each party interested; and the result now proves that it will be useless to attempt any federal action so long as Victoria holds the same views as at present. In this question of postal communication Mr Parkes is borne out in his view by all the representatives save those of Victoria. [The Goulburn Herald and Chronicle (NSW : 1864 – 1881), Wednesday 31 July 1867]

Once more we are compelled to advert to the Postal Conference. The speech of Mr Parkes on Wednesday last, in the New South Wales Assembly, contains nothing less than a point blank denial of the statements made by Messrs McCulloch and VERDON, on the faith of which our Assembly sanctioned the agreement of the Conference. It will be remembered that in the discussion on Mr McMAHON’s motion. Messrs McCULlOCH and VERDON stated that no definite conclusion was arrived at by the Conference on the subject of the terminus of the SUuz line, the former saying,  “There is nothing in the decisions of the Conference to show that Melbourne is not to be the head-quarters. The matter was carefully looked after when the resolutions were being adopted, and the place of the terminus was left open, that it might be decided on by the general federal council”; and the latter making this explicit statement: “We have not given our assent to the conclusion which some hon members argue has been arrived at, that Sydney shall be the terminus of the Suez line … The words ‘from the port of Sydney,’ at first contained in this resolution (the tenth), are omitted on my motion. I moved that they be omitted,’ in order to leave it open for Melbourne to be made the terminus of the Suez line so soon as the Williamstown dock is completed, and I stated this reason to the Conference.” Now, what says Mr PARKES? They (the Victorian representatives) “stated that there was an understanding to the effect that on the completion of the graving doc, now in course of construction in Hobson’s Bay, the terminus of the Suez line should be in Melbourne. He took leave to say that there was no understandng of the kind in the Conference; and to say n the most distinct terms, tha any such arrangement was never even mentioned in the Conference.” There is no dispute about the meaning of terms, no question of interpretation, but a direct impeachment of the veracity of the Victorian delegatesAnd we regret to say that the grounds upon which that impeachment is made are but too well supported. Mr PARKES shows, as we did at the time, and was clearly shown in the debate in our Assembly, that the list of branch services agreed to on the 18th of March clearly committed all who voted for it to the terminus for all three lines being at Sydney. In support of this Mr PARKES quoted th terms of the report of the New Zealand delegates to their Government, in which they say in so many words that the terminus for all three lines was to be at Sydney; and he corroborated it by reading a letter from the Chief Secretary of South Australia, in which that gentleman, “by desire of His Excellency th Governor,’ informs Mr PARKES that both Mr Boucaut and Mr DUFFIELD endorse the statements which Mr PARKES had made in regard to the terminus. Thus six of the gentlemen present at the Conference deny that the question of the terminus was left open, deny that any such motion as Mr VERDON says he made was submitted, deny that any understanding as to Melbourne ultimately becoming the terminus of the Suez line was arrived at, and deny that Messrs McCULLOCH and VERDON did not give their assent to the proposal that Sydney should be the terminus of all the lines.

We do not envy the feelings of Messrs McCULLOCH and VERDON. The former gentlemen seems to have a fatal facility for making statements which it is difficult to reconcile with fact. He may be the most truthful of men, but if so he is very unfortunate in explaining his meaning. While the case of the police-constable who was reinstated in obedience to Mr McCULLOCH’s “wish and desire,” and in respect to which Mr McCULLOCH denied that he had ever interfered to secure the reinstatement of any constable, is still the subject of genera conversation, we receive the announcement that the statements upon faith of which the Assembly ratified the postal treaty are utterly repudiated by six of his colleagues at the Conference. As for Mr VERDON, he seems to be but too ready to follow in the footsteps of his chief. If the matter concerned only Victoria, it would be cause for deep humiliation that the word of the two functionaries of state should be thus called into question. In this postal case, however, the humiation is much greater. The fair fame of Victoria is tarnished, and her people and her Government are degraded in the eyes of neighbouring colonies. Had the Conference proved futile from the Parliament of Victoria refusing to ratify its decisions, no discredit would have attached to this colony, nor would the neighbouring colonies have had any ground of complaint. As it is, the honour of Victoria is blemished, our neighbours are all highly incensed against us, and we are just as far from any satisfactory settlement of the postal question as ever.

From this view of the case, we think no one who reads the speech of Mr PARKES will dissent. That gentleman stated, in his letter to the South Australian Government, that the demand to make Melbourne the terminus of the Suez line “amounts to a demand that Melbourne shall be the first port of arrival and the last of departure,” and also “the terminus;’ and he added: “Such a demand, so far as this colony, New Zealand, and Queensland are concerned, I apprehend can only be complied with by Victoria setting up an independent service.” Mr BLYTH, in reply, said:- “Without the consent of New South Wales, this colony will not deviate one iota from the agreement of the Conference.” Our Assembly has therefore sanctioned the agreement upon condition that Melbourne should be the terminus of at least one of the lines, while four of the other colonies will throw up the agreement altogether rather than accept this interpretation of it. There can be no mistake as to the terms upon which the treaty was ratified by the Assembly is evident from the words made use of by the Treasurer himself. “I do not as hon. members,” said Mr Verdon, “to negative this motion except upon the understanding that this colony is not precluded from being head-quarters of the Suez route.” The vague allusion to the possible re-opening of the question which Mr PARKES indulged in towards the close of his remarks, seems to us to mean nothing but this — that if another Conference should decide in favour of Melbourne, his Government would then acquiesce. But even while saying this, he repeats that th late Conference “had clearly shown that it considered Sydney should be the place.”

Whatever doubt rested over the matter at the time of Mr MACMAHOM’s motion is now completely removed. Without another Conference, Sydney will monopolise the shipping and other advantages connected with the terminus. That was not the arrangement which our Assembly ratified, yet it os one that four of the five other colonies affirm they made. This being the actual state of the case, ought a single mail be suffered to leave without conveying to the Imperial Government an intimation that Victoria must retract her assentto the terms of the memorial from the Conference? If that be not done, what is to protect us from the utter sacrifice of our position for the next eight years? We shall look with much interest for the action which hon. members of the Assembly who were swayed by Messrs McCulloch and VERDON’s statements will take in the matter. [Argus 17 July 1867]

In the Legislative Assembly last evening, the attention of the House was drawn by Mr Levey to the statements made by Mr Parkes in the Sydney Legislature, respecting the terms of the agreement of the Postal Conference. After the hon member had spoken to the point, and read copous extracts from the speeches on the occasion in our Legislative Assembly, and in the recent debate in New South Wales, Mr Verdon laid on the table of the House the correspondence between himself and Mr Parkes on the subject, which had hitherto been interdicted, and which showed that  an omission of certain word had taken place and been agreed to in the resolutions passed in the conference which amounted to an agreement that the question of the terminus of the Suez line should remain open, and that when the Williamstown graving dock was completed Melbourne should be the head quarters for the steamers. Captain McMahon thereupon gave notice of motion for the following day, that this colony should refuse to ratify any arrangement which did not constitute Melbourne the terminus of the Suez route. The correspondence was then agreed to be printed.[Geelong Advertiser 18 July 1867]

With reference to the Intercolonial Postal Conference, the Melbourne Age says:–”From our Sydney telegram it will be seen that Mr Parkes is endeavouring to throw dust in the eyes of the people of New South Wales by making unfair use of the faulty printed report of the Postal Conference in reference to the terminus of the Suez line of mail steamers. It will be remembered when the discussion took place in our own Assembly that Mr Verdon was debarred from making use of the letters which had passed between himself and Mr Parkes, in consequence of the latter having objected to their publication on the ground that they were of a private nature. Now that Mr Parkes wants to make use of them for his own purposes, Mr Verdon has very properly refused to grant a favor which was denied to himself. As Mr Verdon is backed by the South Australia Commissioners, it matters very little what Mr Parkes may say or do do for, if he persists in taking advantage of the merely clerical defect of the minutes, it will be tantamount to the repudiation by New South Wales of the agreement entered into; and that is not likely to be permitted by his colleagues. The interest of Victoria will not suffer from the course taken by Mr Parkes. the very circumstances of his trying to cast blame on Mr Verdon for his refusal to permit the correspondence to be produced, while concealing the fact that the refusal was primarily his own in sufficient to cast discredit on any other statements he may make. [The Queenslander, 27 July 1867]

It is pretty evident that the Postal Conference arrangement is on the eve of abandonmentby its authors. the contradictory assertions of the various delegates with regard to the terminal port of the steamers have not yet come to an end. We thought the other day that th statements of our delegates wre entirely unsupported, as Sydney, New Zealand, South Australia, and Tasmania concurred in contradicting them. Now, however, Mr Macallister, one of the Queensland delegates, rushes into the controversy, and takes the part of Mr Verdon. Here is a telegram from him to our Chief Secretary:– “I have read Mr Verdon’s speech in the Argus of the 19th Inst, and entirely concur in what he there states. If Mr Parkes had adhered to what he says in his note to Mr Verdon, viz., that nothing was said or determined upon as to the terminus, he would have done right; for whatever may appear on the face of the list of intercolonial lines, that list was not received until almost the last moment. It was not much regarded and cannot not lock upon as carrying the principles which the Conference had agreed upon into matters of detail.” This telegram was no doubt intended to be used in the next debate in our Assembly on the subject of the postal arrangements, but it was drawn out prematurely on Thursday night. Thus armed, it is confidently stated to be the intention of our Ministry to move an amendment on the condemnatory motion of which Mr McMahon has given notice, in which, while they relieve themselves of the censure, they at the same time will assert the right of this port to be the terminus. this will command the support of their followers, and thus save their seats; but it is obvious that with such a split between Melbourne and Sydney Mr Parkes and the New South Wales Parliament may as well save themselves the trouble of passing their Federal Council Bill, which, according  to latest advices was to limit strictly the functions of their representatives to giving effect to the Conference, which, as read by Mr Parkes, makes Sydney the permanent terminus of all the lines.[South Australian Advertiser, 6 August 1867, from our Melbourne Correspondent]

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