An Autobiography HTML version

A Visit To New South Wales
Early in the year 1900 the Hon. B. R. Wise, then Attorney-General of New South Wales,
suggested a campaign for effective voting in the mother State, with the object of
educating the people, so that effective voting might be applied for the first Federal
elections. Mrs. Young and I left Adelaide on May 10 of that year to inaugurate the
movement in New South Wales. During the few hours spent in Melbourne Professor
Nanson, the Victorian leader of the reform, with another earnest worker (Mr. Bowditch),
called on us, and we had a pleasant talk over the proposed campaign. The power of The
Age had already been felt, when, at the convention election, the 10 successful candidates
were nominees of that paper, and at that time it was a sturdy opponent of proportional
representation. The Argus, on the other hand, had done yeoman service in the advocacy
of the reform from the time that Tasmania had so successfully experimented with the
system. As we were going straight through to Sydney, we were able only to suggest
arrangements for a possible campaign on our return. Our Sydney visit lasted eight weeks,
during which time we addressed between 20 and 30 public meetings. Our welcome to the
harbour city was most enthusiastic, and our first meeting, held in the Protestant Hall, on
the Wednesday after our arrival, with the Attorney-General in the chair, was packed. The
greatest interest was shown in the counting of the 387 votes taken at the meeting. Miss
Rose Scott, however, had paved the way for the successful public meeting by a reception
at her house on the previous Monday, at which we met Mr. Wise, Sir William McMillan,
Mr. (afterwards Sr. Walker), Mr. (now Sir A. J.) Gould, Mr. Bruce Smith, Mr. W.
Holman, and several other prominent citizens. The reform was taken up earnestly by
most of these gentlemen. Sir William McMillan was appointed the first President of the
league, which was formed before we left Sydney. During the first week of our visit we
dined with Dr. and Mrs. Garran, who. with their son (Mr. Robert Garran, C.M.G.,
afterwards the collaborateur of Sir John Quick in the compilation of the "Annotated
Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth"), were keen supporters of effective
voting. Among the host of well-known people who came after dinner to meet us was Mr.
(now Sir) George Reid, with whom we had an interesting talk over the much-discussed
"Yes-No" Policy. We had both opposed the Bill on its first appeal to the people, and
seized the occasion to thank Mr. Reid for his share in delaying the measure. "You think
the Bill as amended an improvement?" he asked. "Probably," replied Mrs. Young, "but as
I didn't think the improvement great enough, I voted against it both times." But I had not
done so, and my vote on the second occasion was in favour of the Bill.
But, as Mr. Reid admitted, the dislike of most reformers for federation was natural
enough, for it was only to be expected that "reforms would be difficult to get with such a
huge, unwieldy mass" to be moved before they could be won. And experience has proved
the correctness of the view expressed. Anything in the nature of a real reform, judging
from the experience of the past, will take a long time to bring about. I am convinced that
had not South Australia already adopted the principle of the all-round land tax, the
progressive form would have been the only one suggested or heard of from either party.
Politicians are so apt to take the line of least resistance, and when thousands of votes of
small landowners are to be won through the advocacy of an exemption, exemptions there