THE QUOTA QUESTION.
The first of the two Bills prepared by the Government to provide for the representation of the people m Parliament, namely, the one which is now before the House, and which is generally spoken of as the "Hare Bill," is it now appears, certain to be rejected. It would be very surprising if this were not the case Jfor it would be contrary to all precedent were Parliament to accept so revolutionary a measure until the constituencies had been consulted, and the public voice had plainly declared m its favor. And more extraordinary would it be if the House were to pass the Bill at a time when public opinion i is known to regard its proposals with very general disfavor. All the arguments advanced as to the theoretical perfection of the Hare system are beside the mark, for though it may be possible that if the electors generally were well acquainted with all the candidates they would exercise a wise and deliberate choice, the initial difficulty occurs that as regards many, perhaps most, of the candidates the bulk of the electors would know nothing at all about them, and the selection made would be of a haphazard sort, for the whole colony is proposed to be divided into lour electoral districts, that for the northern half of the South Island comprising the entire provincial districts of Nelson, Marlborough, Canterbury, and Westland, and returning twenty-one members. Now it is not unreasonable to suppose that there would be sixty candidates for the twenty-one seats, and, if so, probably more than half the sixty would be men utterly unknown beyond the borders of the town or county m which they reside, and consequently the electors generally would be quite unable to place them otherwise than at random, and if that were the mode of election what becomes of the argument as to the perfeotness of the system ? But it is not necessary to argue the matter further ; the Bill is doomed and the sooner it is withdrawn and the alternative measure submitted the better. The points of the second Bill, whioh will be the rallying ground of the contending partieg will be that fixing the number of the new House, and that determining the quota for town and country electorates respectively, No doubt an attempt will be made to revert to a House of ninety-one European members, but we do not think it will be successful. Presuming then that the number seventy as fixed by the Act of 1887, is retained, the real fight of the session will be upon the quota question. Now m order to understand the position taken 'up by the r country members it must not be forgotten that when the Representation Bill of 1887 was passed, the Government distinctly promised that the question of the quota should be reconsidered, and that it was solely owing to that promise that the country members, allowed the clause which fixed the allowance to the country at 18 per cent to pass, it being tacitly understood that the figures were open to revision and would be revised again. It is also to be remembered that the allowance given to the country by the previous Act— thst of 1881— was 25 per cent, the reasons for making that allowance being thus stated by Sir John (then Mr) Hall :— " I have said that the qualifying considerations I mentioned do not operate between the several provincial districts, but within the provincial districts themselves they do operate, and chiefly on the relative claims of towns and country districts. The towns have much larger facilities for exercising political influence than the country districts. They get information more readily ; they can get at their representatives more readily, and there are also a considerable number of persons representing country districts, who, if they do not actually reside within the towns are practically connected with them, so that m a great many cases even if the towns did not elect any representatives at all they would m reality be well represented. Of course it will be understood that I do not for a moment suggest that such should be the case, but I am showiug that there are many methods by which towns can utilize their representation much more effectually than the country districts. This applies to some extent also to districts which may ba oalled suburban. We therefore propose m this Bill that the quota tor the country districts shall be less than the quota for town districts, by as nearly as possible 25 per cent." It then, with a House j of 91 European members, it was fair to make an allowance to the country of 25 per cent ; it is obvious that with a t House of 70 a still larger allowanoe must be made, for the fewer the number of members allotted to the country the larger must be the electorates, and. the greater the force of the arguments above quoted. The country members are therefore, m asking for an allowance of 83£, making only a reasonable demand. The effect would be if this were carried that the fou,r qhief cities with their suburbs, via., Auckland, Wellington, Ohrietchurch and Uunedin, would have a quota of 22,000, and the country electorates which would include all the other towns of the colony a quota of 8000. Thus a coimtry population of 424,00$ would return 53 members, and the oity population of 204,000 would return 17 members. The numbers at present are ; — country 67 ; cities and suburbs 24. Thus under the country members' proposal, of the 21 members by whioh the number of the House is to be reduced, the cities lose 7 and the oountry 14, which is as nearly as possible the just proportion m relation to population.
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