Ashburton Guardian Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. TUESDAY, JUNE 20, 1905. THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL.
The Premier's announcement that he does not intend at present to fill the vacancies caused by the retirement of the Hons. LeeSmith and J. M. Tworaey from tha Legislative Council, has beea received uifch general approval. The .marks und domoritu of the Upper Home hnvo lK jea tlio subject of a good deal o'c controversy during tho lase few year-;, juid a gie-it amount oi: disfatUfaction exists with the manner iv which that branch cf tho Legislature has carried out its duties as a revising body. The Premier himself has admitted that the Council ha 3 reached such a condition that it must b« " ended or mended." The function for which a second Chamber exists m the New Zealand constitution is to act as a reviser and a check on hasty and ill considered legislation. The criticism which such a body is capable of exercising on the measures sent before it, may often prove a very great service to the colony, and if the. constitution of the Legislative Council and the mode of electing its members were such us to ensure that its decisions wore conscientious and impartial aud dictated by no desire to serve any particular party, then there would be no room for the agitation that has of late years sprung up against the revising Chamber of this colony. But as things are at present, tho Legislative Council is some considerable distance from fulfilling the requirements mentioned. The prevailing mode of electing members by which the reigning Government is able, when occasion requires, to practically " pack " the Council with men who it knows will support its policy, places m the hands of the.Cabiner a power that is liable to abuse, and the past history of the Council leaves room for the suspicion that it has been used as the instrument for giving expression to the views of the Government with the assistance of obedient followers. Indoed, it has been suggested that measures passed by the Lower House and supported by the Government have been cast out by the Upper House m obedience to the wishes—expressed or understood— of the Premier and his colleagues. However much or little truth there may be m that suggestion, it is clear that some effective reform is required m the constitution of this much discussed Chamber, and | that this reform will have to be introduced before very much more time has olapeed. Opinion on this subject among members of the Cabinet is understood to be divided, some favouring the retention of tho Council m its present form, while others favour a complete revision of its constitution. The Premier has himself attacked the Council m no measured terms on one or two occasions, and though his protestations on this matter expose him to-the charge of insincerity, he evidently recognises which way the wind of public opinion i 3 blowing m regard to the imperfections of the Coun^ oil. Speaking at Masterton last week he expressed himself as strongly opposed to the creation of an elective Upper HouJo, and no doubt there are some effective arguments to support him m his opposition to that proposal. But the question is how are the evils of the existing system to be remedied for the present and avoided for the future by any other method than the one to which the Premier takes exception. The Upper House has been allowed to drift into a state of eileteness and incornpetency, mainly through tbe fault of the principles on which its constitution is based, and tome radical alteration will have to be made m those principles if any substantial and lasting improvement is to be brought; about. The course that the Govarnraout ha? decided en m the cisc of the tw Legislative Councillors whoso seven years' rerin of office has just expired is a compromise, and under the circumstances, sveinyr that Uppor House reform is ia tho •lie, no one own object to (ho Government's decision m this tnai tor. In fact tho iaruo course might, with advantage, be followed m tho ca-se of the uexr vacancies that occur, thit is,ot course, provided no reform has bsen introduced m tho meantime. Probably tha discussion on this bubject of the constitution of the Legislative Council will be advanced a stage further duriDg the coming session.