Two election meetings took place in the above township on Monday evening—one of Mr. Kingston’s friends and supporters, at half-past 7, at Host Torr’s; the other of Mr. Neales’s friends, at Woodhead’s, at half-past 6 o’clock.
Commencing with Mr. Neales’s, about 25 persons were present.
Mr. Dale, M.P., was voted to the chair, and requested fair play and equal consideration to each speaker, and introduced
Mr. J. B. Neales, who said—I have brought documents and “Hansards” to carry out my statements, if contradicted, so that there can be no mistake. I will now give you my views in as few words as possible, under the following heads:—
Control of Public Funds.—The entire control must rest in the Lower House, or else we had far better go back to the old state of tilings. Real Property Act.—I did not vote for it, and I will tell you why; because it was not perfect; and the amendments since required prove that I was correct. But I consider the principle admirable, and shall use my endeavours to make it as perfect as possible, should I be returned. Land Question.—I think the squatter must give place to the agriculturist, who can turn the land to better advantage. I do not approve of forcing the squatter to buy large tracts of land, this being injurious to both the squatter and small agriculturist; and I do not approve of the sale of land by auction. (Interruption by a drunken man in the body of the room.) Emigration, in my opinion, is a question of demand and supply. I approve of assisted immigration—that is to say, I will afford every facility to persons in this colony to bring out their relatives, should they be of a suitable class; but, I say again, I would only do so when the labour market requires it. I believe the distress in Melbourne will cause a sufficient supply to flow into this colony for the present. Taxation.—We none of us like taxes, but must pay them—the rich man a great deal, the poor man a little. I am an advocate of indirect taxation. Under the old system of emigration we did little more than empty the English jails. Roads.—I had a good sample of the roads in the district coming across in my carriage to-day; and although they are, on the whole, good, yet it will require a large outlay to make them permanently so; and as they will be for the benefit of a future generation, I believe the fair plan would be to complete them by the raising of moderate loans, to be paid in the course of time. Mines.—I have been a mining man all my life, having sunk upwards of 14,000l., which can be verified by inspecting my books; although, I suppose, I must have made it up in some other way, or else I could not have parted with that sum. It is to us an interest of the utmost importance; but the present regulations are not good. I would let the workmen have the land almost free, and cause smelting-houses to be erected as plentifully as flour-mills, so that population may increase, and consume all the cereal productions of the country, without depending on a foreign market. Education.—This question has been much discussed. I now state distinctly that I am not for secular education. The Bible must be used in schools, allowing Catholics to use their version, and the other sects theirs. I am sure that the good sense of the colony will insist on the Bible. I would allow a Catholic clergyman a seat at the Board, as a Unitarian has at present. The Electoral Act wants opening, because after to-morrow I cannot address you, as it is illegal for candidates to make addresses within 24 hours of the day of nomination. When I am, as I hope to be, member for the Burra and Clare—and, gentlemen, I shall feel it an honour to be so—each interest—that of the squatters, the cockatoos, as they are called, the miner, and the labourer shall have my warmest support. There are some questions at issue between myself and my opponent. I have been told that he used harsh language towards me at the Burra. But I am sure mutual recrimination could not interest you; but I am prepared to support every statement I have advanced, and should my opponent challenge either of them I will meet him, when, if his statements should turn out true, I will say, believe him; if mine, believe me. Another thing I wish to touch upon is the subject of unimproved town land. Some people buy an acre or two of land for a small sum, allow it to remain idle, and when their neighbours have spent considerable sums and improved theirs reap the advantage. I would contrive a system of rating that would oblige such parties to contribute their quota towards the improvements. I am not an advocate for taxing capital. I have heard statements made in this town that I voted some frightful amount for a jetty at Glenelg—£30,000. Now, the expenditure of that money was the sole act of Governor Young, and neither I nor any one else can therefore be responsible. After a few general remarks, Mr. Neales expressed his willingness to answer any reasonable questions.
An Elector—Was he in favour of the new Land Bill in Victoria?
Mr. Neales—No; the Victorians had already found that a failure, as people evaded it. I would keep land surveyed ahead, so that a man might be able to go at any time and select without the delay and expense of attending an auction.
Mr. Faulkner—Would Mr. Neales support a measure for allowing the agriculturist areas of land at the same rental and on the same terms as the squatters?
Mr. Neales—No; such a thing could not be for a moment thought of, for what he considered a very sufficient reason—that the squatter added to the fertility of the land, as vasts tracts of country would show, whereas the agriculturist impoverished it.
Mr. Fawken wished to know if Mr. Neales was in favour of free distillation.
Mr. Neales was in favour of it.
Dr. Webb said he had a pleasing duty to perform, but before doing it it was necessary he should go back a little. He came forward as a warm supporter of Mr. John Clark, but he had received a note from him conveying his withdrawal from the canvass, so that their common enemy—he meant Mr. Kingston—might not have a chance of being returned by any split in the interest. All honour to Mr. Clark for his disinterested conduct. I am sorry he has retired, because his principles were nearer to my own than those of Mr. Neales; and I can only say that my sorrow is diminished by having the honour to propose Mr. Neales, who, I believe, bears the character of being a straightforward man, which was more than could be said of Mr. Kingston. I will, however, only cite one instance of his want of good faith—the school question. Compare his written and oral statements, and I ask you, is such a man worthy of belief? He was opposed to payment, but nevertheless quietly pocketed his salary as Speaker. He would now propose Mr. J. B. Neales.
It was seconded, and put to the meeting and carried.
After this an Elector enquired if Mr. Neales was in favour of payment of members.
Mr. Neales was in favour of the American system, which allowed mileage to members residing at a distance. He did not want any payment him self, but would be sorry to see poor men kept out of the House for want of means.
This terminated the business of the meeting, and several adjourned to the other house anxious to hear the proceedings. There was a very large attendance of Mr. Kingston’s supporters at the Devonshire Arms, when it was carried that Mr. Jessop should take the chair.
Mr. Kingston explained his views fully to the meeting, and alluded to a statement Mr. Neales had made on Friday evening at the Burra, with regard to his (Mr. Kingston’s) claim to the adoption of the mineral leases. He was prepared to prove that he was the introducer of the scheme, and the people at the Burra know this also, having sent him a vote of thanks for the part he took in the matter, and with regard to the insinuation that he had neglected his duty in being absent from the House on the day when the motion was brought forward, he was prevented by a domestic bereavement from attending; and as Mr. Neales was aware of all the circumstances, he looked upon his insinuation as base and unmanly. With regard to other charges brought against him, for the most part they were untrue and without foundation, as his opponents had distorted facts to calumniate him and to gain their own ends. With a few concluding remarks Mr. Kingston, whose speech throughout had been attentively listened to and very much applauded, sat down amid general congratulations.
At a certain stage of Mr. Kingston’s speech Mr. W. Dale, M.P., and Dr. Charles H. Webb interrupted the speaker, and wished to make some statements, but the sense of the meeting was unmistakably against them; and the Chairman remarked that Mr. Kingston’s party had refrained from attempting to take any part in Mr. Neales’s meeting, and he thought they were entitled to the same courtesy in return.
It was then proposed by Mr. Peter Brady, who had very great pleasure in doing so, that Mr. G. S. Kingston was a fit and proper person to represent the district. He had known him for many years, and had ever found him an upright and consistent man.
Mr. Evans seconded.
Dr. Webb wished to propose an amendment, which occasioned some uproar, as himself and Mr. Dale seemed to be the only persons present in favour of such amendment; therefore the Chair man put the motion, and declared it carried with only two dissentients.
A vote of thanks to the Chairman closed the proceedings, which had been conducted quietly throughout, and the only interruption to which was caused by Messrs. Webb and Dale.