Police militia

The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 – 1889) Saturday 11 January 1868

[From our Melbourne Correspondent.]

January 8, 1868.

Our feelings of loyalty no sooner cease to boil over in presence of a Prince of the blood than a new excitement presents itself in the shape of a general election. The nominations for the first of the three batches into which the constituencies are divided some off at the end of this week, and all is bustle and agitation amongst the parties who interest themselves in election matters. The long truce, however, has been so complete that politicians are only waking up in barely sufficient time to adjust themselves for the fight. This first batch comprises mostly agricultural districts, and then Is very little change expected in them. The Chief Secretary issued his address to his constituents first, but the Chief Minister, the Attorney-General, without addressing himself to his constituents at Brighton (his election only occurs in the third batch), was announced to give the key-note to his followers throughout the country, at a monster meeting in Melbourne, on Thursday evening, in which, we were told, he would state the “issue” to be put to the country.

The meeting came off, and a couple of thousand people were probably present. It was ‘found impossible, however, to secure, a hearing for either the Attorney-General or any other speakers, and they accordingly addressed themselves principally to the reporters, who have no doubt pretty accurately represented them, although one-half of what appears in print could not be heard five yards from the platform. This meeting constitutes a remarkable episode in our political history, not only because it was called ‘for the purpose of affording the leading Minister an opportunity of mounting the stump, but as indicating the sort of tyranny which appears to be associated with ultra democracy. For the first time in Victoria, the speakers had provided themselves with a strong police force for the purpose of ejecting dissentients.

At the last general election the meetings of the Opposition were systematically rushed by violent mobs, under the leadership of a man named Brodie, who was rewarded by a Government appointment, in which office he died the other day of delirium, tremens; but the sovereign people cannot tolerate this sort of irreverent treatment of the idols they have set up, and accordingly an Inspector of Police was stationed at the back of the chair, and as obnoxious individuals were pointed out from time to time by the friends of Ministers on the platform, the police walked in and captured them.

All rowdyism at meetings is disgraceful, but the Ministerial party have more sins of this sort to answer for than the Opposition, and to hand a man over to the police for merely expressing dissent from the speaker, is simply to expose the sensitive person so interfering to an action for assault However, to return to the question of the ” issues” to be put to the country, those who expected anything new were certainly disappointed, for neither Mr. Higinbotham nor Mr. McCulloch have given us anything more than we previously had in their speeches in Parliament. The Chief Secretary’s address puts the matter in the most condensed form, audit amounts to this—that the Council unconstitutionally refused supplies to the Crown —that the country was distinctly pledged to give the £20,000 to Sir Charles Darling—that the Council had ‘declined to afford to the Government the funds requisite to meet the services of the year,” and “set up a claim for co-ordinate powers with the Assembly in dealing with the finances,” and that an appeal to the people on this “issue” was rendered impel stive. Mr. Higinbotham’s address went to the same length of asserting that the Council claim to be paramount in legislation. Any one who has looked at our political difficulties with a dispassionate eye will see that these addresses “bristle” all over. The Council did not refuse supplies to the Crown, but expressed an anxiety to pass the supplies for the year, if the Darling grant were separated from them; in fact, to vote at once all “the funds requisite to meet the services of the year.” Then, again, the country cannot be said to have been distinctly pledged to this grant to Lady Darling, inasmuch as only one House had agreed to an address to the Queen asking her permission for the country to vote the proposed gift, and which permission Her Majesty refused. Instead of seeking for “co-ordinate powers” with the Assembly, the Council have simply exercised a right of veto given them by the Constitution Act, and which right has only been exercised under extreme provocation. Mr. McCulloch admits that they have the “bare legal right” to do this, but that “bare legal right” is more than he can claim for himself or the Assembly in seeking to carry on the business of the country without the Upper House. In fact these misrepresentations of the Ministry are quite as unjustifiable, or more so, than the assertion of the other side that the sole object of the present “mild revolution” is to merge the three estates into Mr. Higinbotham with the Governor as his secretary. As I have said before, however, the Ministerial cry will be the one to secure the adherence of the masses, and a large majority on that side of the House will be again returned.
A great point is being made by the Ministerial party of the despatches just received via Panama from the Colonial Office which confirm private advices received by the last Suez mail to the effect that the Home Government were determined to leave us to settle our affairs amongst ourselves. The Duke of Buckingham thus expresses himself in a despatch to His Excellency Sir J. EL Manners Sutton :—

” It is my earnest desire that you should avoid even the appearance of taking part with one side or the other in a controversy which must be locally decided. It is for the colonial Legislature to discover by common consent some mode by which the present state of things can be put an end to—a state of things which, if not speedily terminated, must, I fear, result in discredit to the colony, and injury to the public interest. I should still earnestly hope that the public inconvenience, occasioned by the rejection of the Appropriation Bill, may be averted by a conference between the two Houses, finding mutual concession.” How far we have succeeded in settling this difficulty “by mutual concession” is only too apparent by the partiesbeing now in hostile array at a general election; but as this sort of revolution cannot last very long, it is to be hoped that tarly is the forthcoming session, and with the light of further despatches from home and the result, probably, of a discussion of the subject in the British Parliament, we shall be able to arrive at a solution of our difficulties.

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