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THE REPRESENTATION DEBATE

[Fbom Oub Pabliamentabt Rwobteb.] WELLWOTOft, July 23. Mr Humphreys, in resuming the debate to-night, announced his intention of oppoa"ing the Bill, and went on to explain that his" position was a painful one, inasmuch as he came to Wellington a month ago determined to support the Government. Even now he would not commit himself to any course that would jeopardise the present Administration. The first ground of his opposition was that the Bill tended to the overthrow of our democratic system, which was based on the principle of " one man one vote," and an allowance to the country members was so opposed to that principle that he oould not Bee how it had crept into our electoral system. The town members would be justified in going to any length in opposing the wrong which it was sought to place upon them, and, for his own part, he would resist any allowance beyond Iff per cent.

Sir G. Grey said that the Bill proposed to deprive a large number of people of representation, Bind to place a Very large amount of power in the hands of the great landholders. The Government had brought in this Bill giving one vote to one man under the Hare system, a really liberal measure; but oould they have been sincere, seeing that they had suddenly dropped that measure and introduced the present one, which did not prevent plurality of votes, and gave the country an enormous power over the inhabitants of the towns. He compared the condition of the inhabitants of the cities with those of the agricultural distriots to show that either had its disadvantage, and there was no reason why any distinction be made between them. The town and country should be bound together in one common bond of union, so that they would work together for the welfare of the colony. The people who sought to set up differences between them were the enemies of their fellow-men. He asked whether humbug could go further than the attitude of the Premier in threatening to allow the country members to increase the quota even beyond the present allowance. Was it not known that the Premier was master of the situation ; that he could Withdraw the Bill if he ohose, or advise the Governor to disallow it even after it had passed ? (Here Sir George flourished his notes in great excitement.) He said that every word the Premier had Uttered was contrary to fact, and resumed his seat amidst cheers.

Mr Bruce denied that the principles of representation were now at issue, and claimed that the present Bill was an attempt to place the town and country representatives on an equable basis. As to the disadvantages of city life spoken of by Sir G, Qrey he said: Was it not a fact that some of the most shif tlesß people in the colony gravitated into the towns, where they raised unemployed agitations and acquired considerable political power ? He did not altogether approve of the Bill, as it gave a large amount of power to the larger boroughs, but he would vote for its second reading. Mr Mbnteath objected to the Bill because it gave the country quota to a number of large boroughs, which was quite indefensible in principle. For years the country had benefitted by the expenditure upon publio works, as hardly onethird of the money spent since 1880 had been applied to reproductive works, and most of the works carried out had been undertaken for the purpose of conciliating political support. He did not believe in the adoption of a purely population basis, but disapproved of the way in which the Government proposed to adjust the representation, and also of treating the large boroughs such as Napier, Nelson, and Invercargill in the same way as the country districts. He predicted that in a few years the number of members would have to be increased again, because with larger electorates members would feel impelled to plunder in order to avoid political extinction.

Mr Pebceval would not be a party to any organised obstruction to the Bill, but taunted all its supporters with having completely altered their opinions since 1887, when they all voted against an increase of the quota to 25 per cent. The deduction from the town populations was an insult to the townsmen, because it implied that they were not as good aa the residents in the country. His opinion was that there should be no difference between the two classes, but he was prepared to let 18 per cent, stand, though even that was a mistake. One effect of the Bill was to discount manhood suffrage ; another would be to endanger the continuance of the policy of Protection. To obtain these objects was, be believed, the purpose of the country members and the price of their support. Mr Marchant did not think that the country districts would gain much advantage under the Bill. Chrlstchurch and Wellington would suffer, he admitted; but he did not think the latter would lose if it were placed on the same footing as Washington, the capital of the United States.

Mr Stewart said that the had been conceived in sin and brought forth ininiquity. The only provision in it he favored was the amalgamation of city electorates, which was a very commendable proposal, and always had his support. He protested a&ainst the passing of a Bill which would undoubtedly, if passed, create profound Indignation in every large centre of population in the colony. Mr Ballance objected to the manner in which the towns had been pitted against the country on this question. The position in respect to this Bill showed the utter folly of the Government in doing that which in his opinion the country never intended should be done—viz,, the reduction of tho number of members from ninety-one to seventy.— (Hear.) He failed to see how the country had gained by this Bill. The small towns, it was true, would gain to some extent, but the rural districts would gain nothing. One of the principal reasons why the country members were fighting this question was that, through the reduction of members, the rural districts would be very much enlarged and extended, and unbearable expense would be entailed on candidates, fle thought the question of town v. country was a false issue. He failed to recognise any antagonism between the town and country on this question, and denied that the Hare system would have offered any solution of the difficulty as between the two parties. The object of the Government should be to show the towns and country that their interests were identical, and certainly not to threaten the towns with the possibility of an increase of the deduction to 33J per cent. If things went on at that rate the logical conclusion would be that eventually the towns will be disfranchised altogether. His own experience was that political activity was in every way more intense in second-class boroughs than in large centres. The system of single electorates should be maintained and be given a fair trial, as it embodied the democratic principle of one man one vote; and therefore he disapproved of the consolidation of the city constituencies. He deprecated the pitting of the town against the country. The idea was abhorrent to the public throughout the colony. He therefore appealed to the Government not to press their present proposals, but to provide for a sufficient number of members to adequately represent the colony properly. His firm conviction was that three-fourths of the members of the House were desirous of returning to the original number, and he therefore asked them to be true to their opinions and repeal the reducing Aot.— (Cheers.) Mr Fisher described the Bill as panio legislation, introduced to serve ulterior purposes. To say nothing of the bitter elements to which it would give rise, it sought to disfranchise a large section of the inhabitants of the colony; and he undertook to say that if the Bill were submitted to the constituencies it would be unanimously rejected. All the members of the present Government were of a Conservative tendency, and on the first opportunity he would reverse the vote he gave in 1887 for the reduction of the number of members in order that those people who were now to be disfranchised might receive proper representation. The city constituencies had been traitorously betrayed. The introduction of this Bill was due only to the desire of tho Premier to catch a floating majority. Our

Cdnstftntion AJct provided for equal representation to fill creases, but the present Bill was a complete refertfa! 1 of that Act. If the Bill were paßsed, the people could no longer say that New Zealand #pW a* Democracy, for it scattered every demo*Cfatle principle to the four winds. He strongly approved of the amalgamation of the city electorates, bat in other respects he Would oppose the Bill by any means he could legitimately employ. Mr Goldie disapproved of the amalgamation of the city electorates, chieSy because it would enable cliques in the cities to combine, and would give persons of practical ability enormous power, and would increase the cost of contesting elections. He suggested, however, that the clause be made permissive, so that each city might adopt amalgamation if it chose. At 11.45 p.m. a motion by Dr Fitchett for the adjournment of the debate was loßt by 47 to 17.

Mr Withy complained of the short notice that had been given of this'Bill, which had been no part of the Government policy, and had not been demanded by the country. Decency alone required that proper notice should have been given, and that the Press of the colony should have had time to discuss the matter. It was, however, evident that the country members,-1 who had a personal interest in the question' they were discussing, intended to carry thw Bill by the brute force of a' majority, fie saw no reason why any allowance should bo made to the country districts, though he would not object to 18 per cent, continuing. He certainly objected to exempting the large boroughs from the deduction. All that was really required was that our representation should be on a population basis. The abolition of a property vote and of plural voting should be especially insisted upon. After blaming the Government for their want of backbone, which, he said, made him waver in his allegiance, he intimated his intention of voting against the Bill. Mr Hakkness supported the Bill, and honored the Government for having adapted themselves to circumstances.

Dr Fitchett claimed that the country would receive no new advantage under the Bill, while the smaller towns would benefit very largely. Oppositely the distinction between the four chief towns and the rest of the cdlony would become more distinctly marked. He suggested that a Bliding scale of representation should be adopted. It was dishonest for the Government to have reduced the number of members and now to truckle to those who wished to serve their own ends at the expense of tbe cities.

By I a.m. all town members bad spoken, and

Mr Barron then moved the amendment of which he had previously given notice. He explained that he had not much hope of carrying it, but he moved it by way of protest againßt the action of the Government in forcing on the Bill. It was—" That the present Parliament having already passed an Act reducing the number of members subject to the existing 'quota,' it is undesirable to disturb the decision then arrived at without further reference to the constituencies." He blamed the Government for keeping this Bill at the head of the Order Paper, thus blocking all other business with tbe aid of their temporary majority. There was no necessity for the Bill this session, and it could very well stand over until next year. Mr T. Thompson seconded the amendment, but asked the Colonial Secretary whether, it being now 1.20 a.m., he would coneent to the adjournment of the debate.

The Colonial Secretary said he did not propose to adjourn. Mr Thompson proceeded to enter his protest against what he considered a very unjust and cunningly devised measure. There was no reason why the cities should suffer and the smaller towns escape scot free. He would prefer to see a Bliding scale adopted. He opposed the amalgamation of city electorates on various grounds, and, strongly opposing the Bill, said he would hold himself free to take whatever action bis discretion might direct as to his treatment of other Government Bills.

At this stage (1.30 a.m.) an adjournment for ten minutes was made, and on resuming it was announced that the Speaker had retired for some hours for rest, so the Chairman of Committees (Mr Hamlin) presided. Until some time after midnight the debate had not been distinguished by particularly long speeches, but towards two o'clock a distinct declaration of war took place between the Government and the opponents of the Bill. Mr Fish had made one last appeal to the Premier to agree to the adjournment of the debate, when Major Steward informed Mr Hamlin, who had taken the chair, that the' Hansard' reporters would be unable to take notes of a long debate and be fit to resume duty next day, Mr Fish asked whether, under the altered circumstances, the Premier would agree to adjourn. Sir H. Atkinson replied that the proceedings on the Imprest Supply Bill had showed how he had been misled by the town members. If it would be in order he would move that the 'Hansard' reporters be allowed to leave, but if not the reporters would have to go on until they could write no longer. Mr Ballance appealed to the Premier, suggesting that the adjournment should be granted on condition that there should be no stonewalling. The Premier replied that the understanding come to had been deliberately broken already. Dr Fitchett said he had deliberately j delayed the Bill; but his own object had been simply to put it off till the evening, and he asked that the whole party should not be punished on his account, Mr Maoarthtjr moved that strangers be cleared out of the galleries, which had to be put without debate—(a hot protest from Mr Fish was thus interrupted)—and was carried by 34 to 19. Mr Fish continued to speak till 3.20, when Mr Barron's amendment was lost by 34 to 12, and the second reading carried by 33 to 12. The Premier proposed to commit the Bill on next sitting day. Mr Fish suggested that the Bill be committed at once, as a fitting commentary on what had just taken place. On a division, the Premier's motion was carried by 32 to 12. The House then adjourned till 7.30 this evening. The following is the division list on the j seoond reading of the Bill:

Atbs (SS).—Anderson (teller), Atkinson, Brace (teller), Buxton, Cadman, Carroll, Dodson, Duncan, Fraser, Graham, Grimmond, Guinness, Harknegß, hlslop, Hobbs, Lance, Lwry, Marchant, M'Gregor, J. M'Kenzie, Mitohelson, Moat, Monk, Parata, Rhodes, G. F. Richardson, Russell, Saunders, Seddon, Seymour, Stewart, R. Thompson, Walker. Nobs (12).—Barron, Blake, Peldwlck (taller). Fisher, Fish (teller), Fitohett, Humphreys, Moss, Newman, Perceval, Taylor, T. Thompson. Pairs. - For: Messrs Cowan, Samuel, Hodgkinson, Pyke, Mills, M. Mackenzie, Valentine, Ward, Wilson, Bmith, FilKherbert, R. Reeves, Verrall, E. Richardson, Fulton, Fergus. Aeainet: Messrs Joyce, Menteath. Stewart, Jones, Ross, Talwhanga, Taipua, Loujrhrey, Allen, Goldie, Withy, Larnaofi, Sir G. Grey, W. P. Reeves, Turnbull, Ballanee.

Expecting that the discussion would last till morning several members had gone home for a rest, intending to return at daylight as relief; thus it is that many names are unaccounted for in the division list. The following did not vote or pair:—Messrs J. C. Brown, Sir J. Hall, Hamlin, Hutchison, Izard, Jackson, Kelly, Kerr, Macarthur, T. Mackenzie, O'Conor, Ormond, and Tanner,

[ During the evening the Premier was approached by some of the Ministerial party, who asked that the Bill after its second reading should be allowed to drop down the Order Paper and not be carried through this year, This proposal is said to have been rejected by the Government, but the following observations in the Ministerial organ this morning have some significance in view of the overtures that have been made:—" That the Bill may be forced through in spite of all opposition is possible enough, but the process will leave a bitter legacy of urban resentment. Why need > this be ? Let the Bill be read a second time and then be allowed to stand over while the other public business is gone on with. There is an abundance of work to occupy the House for another month. By the end of that period some modus vivendi may have been devised; and, if not, the Bill might well be allowed to remain over till next session. We wish the Government could see their way to adopt the course we have suggested. The whole question could then be dealt with next session in ample time for the general eTeotfon, ,

Why there was no Stonewall. The town members had at first intended! to stonewall the second reading of the Representation Bill } but when the Speaker left the chair for ten minutes soon after one SMa morning an impromptu meeting was hef<J, add attended by Dr Kewman, Messrs Fish, PerCeval, Fitchett, and Men, when a> determination Was arrived at merely to ask for an adjournment, and if that were refused to allow the motion for the second reading to be put.

A Strong; Feeling of Indignation was aroused by the manner in which the request for adjournment was met, andi especially at the galleries being cleared ? hon. members thinking that while there' might be a tangible reason for instructing; the ' Hansard' staff to cease reporting there l was no justification for the ordinary Press reporters to retire, and the public be thus prevented from knowing what was being done". Thfc was the consideration which weighed with Mr Fish' and indsced him to speak at length. As Baa as the Cloture. The town representatives saw that the | cloture might as well have been enforced, as that course was prftctisally adopted by the majority of the Honae, and they regarded this action as justifiaOTr.

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Bibliographic details

THE REPRESENTATION DEBATE, Issue 7967, 24 July 1889

Word Count
3,051

THE REPRESENTATION DEBATE Issue 7967, 24 July 1889

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