Australia [Australia Day celebration, 2 February 1903]

[Editor: An article about an Anniversary Day (Australia Day) celebration on 26 January 1903. Published in The Daily Telegraph, 2 February 1903.]


At the A.N.A. dinner in Melbourne on Anniversary Day Mr Deakin, on behalf of the Commonwealth, responded to the toast of the Ministry and Parliament — Federal and State. He said that a short time ago they had heard some talk about secession of certain States from the Commonwealth, but the movement had died a sudden and inglorious death, and appeared never likely to be revivified. (Applause.) More recently there had been whispers of some necessary alteration in the constitution, but these also seemed to have had a very brief life, and there was now no movement in that direction supported by any general demand on the part of the public. Consequently, the constitution needed no defence to-day. (Cheers.) As for the Parliament and the Ministry — well, it needed no defence either. (Laughter and cheers.)

Sir John Madden proposed the toast of “Australia and the Day We Celebrate.” The subject of his toast, he said, was full of ideality, criticism, and project, and, while he was forbidden from saying much which might be said, he felt like Nelson at Copenhagen: “I would not be elsewhere for thousands.” (Laughter and cheers.) If one were asked geographically, “Stands Australia where it did?” an emphatic “Yes” would be the answer, and although there were philosophers who at this moment told them that ice had been piled up 12,000 feet in Antarctic regions, and must tumble down and rush over Australia, taking away from all its inhabitants any necessity for putting ice in their wine — (laughter) — they would still say that Australia stands where it did. There were people who seemed anxious to anticipate the Antarctic operations by throwing cold water on the Commonwealth of Australia. (Laughter.) They said the Commonwealth had been born too soon, and now that the “infant” who two years ago was presented to a world as a new born nation was beginning to cut its teeth, those people who were unaccustomed to that delightfully domestic embarrassment were beginning to talk about the terrible consequences that were likely to ensue. (Laughter.) But the spirit of the men who travelled through the tangled forests and over the trackless thirsty plains in the old days was with them to- day, and they would be able to overcome their difficulties and work out their own destiny if they strove at all times to be “Australians.” (Applause.)

Mr Deakin responded to the toast. He said that the most striking view which Australia presented to the onlooker was the vastness of its territory. The second feature was its immeasurable resources, even when deductions were made for the vagaries of the seasons and the uncertainties common to humanity. Then the spectator must be struck by the relative smallness of the population compared with its area and resources. He, however, preferred to put this phase of their national problems in another way, and to submit for consideration the question whether the population of Australia did not look extremely small when measured with the Australian debt, with the alternative view whether the Australian debt did not look very large when measured with the Australian population. It might be urged that the assets were immeasurable, but they were not natural assets until they were reached by the hand of man. This country emptied of its people would be as if barren from sea to sea. The greatness of a country was estimated, not by its area, but by the number of people it could support under civilised conditions. This question of proportion of population to national debt he submitted as the root problem of the present situation in Australia. Mr Irvine had suggested, for the State, means by which, in his opinion, the question of population in Victoria might be dealt with, and the proposals gave him (Mr Deakin) as a citizen of Victoria considerable hope, but in the meantime the same question had to be asked of every State in the Commonwealth and of Australia as a whole. The problem was whether the population or the national debt, or both, should be increased. If the population should be increased, the question was, in what ratio and by what means should the increase be effected; and then there was the complementary question — would it be possible to increase the population without adding to the national debt? He submitted this problem as demanding Australian study and requiring an Australian solution. He feared they would look abroad in vain for any light on the subject. Canada could help them but little, and the circumstances of South Africa were so abnormal he doubted if much was to be gathered from the experiences which that country was now under-going. It was a question which no citizen could afford to pass by, no Parliament could venture long to neglect, and no Executive could very well exclude from its programme, because it stood at the very foundation of the proper development of this vast continent. (Cheers.) Having created the Commonwealth, it was their duty now to see how they could fill Australia with a prosperous and contented people. (Applause.)

The Lord Mayor proposed the toast of “The A.N.A.,” and Mr Burke responded. The toast of “The Old Colonists and Kindred Associations” was also honored.

The Daily Telegraph (Launceston, Tas.), 2 February 1903, p. 5

Editor’s notes:
revivify = give something new life, health, spirit, or vigour; invigorate; revive

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