THE UPPER HOUSE.
— : . w : •• The existence of a Second Chamber of the Legislature m all British Colonies is an instance of the tenacity with which the Britisher clings to old ideas and associations, and a proof of the slowness with whioh we abandon the ways and notions of our forefathers, At Home — a survival of the days of feudalism — the House of Lords has, at any rate, traditions venerable for their age, and is composed of men whose progenitors have, m the case of the old nobility, helped to make the history and win the triumphs of the nation, though of late years its prestige on this account has been greatly lowered by the number of nouveauoa riches —the aristocracy of cotton and iron and beer— -who have been admitted within its once exclusive precincts. But m the colonies we have no hereditary order of nobles, and the maintenance oi an Upper Chamber is Only theoretically defensible on the assumption that its existence is necessary as a revisory body, and if occasion require as a oheck upon the possibly hasty legislation of the Representative House. This looks very pretty m theory, but as a matter of fact is mainly illusory, inasmuch as it happen, muoh more frequently that the Upper House interposes its veto to prevent useful reforms, than to defeat mischievous legislation or policies, and take it all' round we are inclined to think that its function m the Constitution is little better than that of the fifth wheel of a coach. Yet fof all that it is not likely to be abolished, seeing that it cannot be abolished without its own consent, and therefore as it is like the poor m the sense that it is "always with us," the only practical question is that of its possible reform. • Even those who are most strongly convinced of the advantages of the bicameral system must be unable to defend the present system under which the members of the Upper Chamber are appointed for life, for it is only m exceptional instances that advanced age mellows aud brightens the faculties, the rule being that, as m all other things, weight of years brings sooner or later diminished mental, as well as bodily, capacities— in a word, means that men are past useful work. Examples of this can easily be found m our own Upper Chamber, and they will be more frequent as years go on. Quite independently of this, however, there are members who, owing to the present method )f appointment, at the will of the Ministry of the day, are like flies m amber, m that it is a pu&sie how they ever came to be where they are, for the outside world certainly fails to discover any peculiar fitness on their part for the positions they occupy. All this has been discovered long ago, and from time to time proposals for the reform of the Legislative Counoil have been brought forward — the latest of these originating m the Counoil itself, with Sir F. Whitaker. Hitherto, however, the matter has never got beyond the stage of discussion, and until it is taken up by some Government as a matter of Ministerial policy it never will. It is already known that a Bill m this direction is to be brought forward next session and its proposals are so moderate that if Ministers are really m earnest it ought not to meet with any very serious opposition, even m the Chamber specially affected. These proposals, are, as our readers are already aware, that m future members of the Council shall be elected by the House of Representatives, and shall serve for & fixed term of years only — but being, we presume, eligible for re-eleotion. This will be a great improvement upon the present system and we shall be glad to see it carried into effect, It will necessarily mean, however, that the number of members will be fixed, and will thus take away the power of enforcing the will of the House of Representatives (if occasion require) by the adding of members to the Counoil for the special purpose of carrying any given policy, and failing this a dead-lock is of course possible. But this may be provided against by the adoption of the Norwegian plan of both Houses sitting together and deciding the disputed point by a majority of the whole. Probably something of this sort will be proposed. I
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THE UPPER HOUSE., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2149, 15 June 1889
THE UPPER HOUSE. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2149, 15 June 1889
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