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Evening Star, Issue 15630, 22 October 1914
Thk crushvl stage of the Legislative Council Bill, which provides Legislative for the election of 40 Council Councillors on a basis of Reform. Proportional Representation, was passed in the House of Representatives kist night with out bitter or unnecessarily prolonged debate. The basic principle of the Bill was so sound as to be almost unassailable in tho democratic branch of the Legislature. As a matter of fact, there was no real opposition to the proposals of the Government. The principle of establishing a Second Chamber wholly elective, and therefore responsible tq the will of the electors rather than to the pressing needs of Governments, with power to nominate members to the Council, had already been affirmed by the House by a substantial majority in 1912. There could only be sharp differences of opinion as to the methods Of effecting the proposed reconstitution of the Legislative Council. The scope for diversity of opinion as to -vital details had been widened >by the Government With, a deliberateness which, if exercised in tho direction of promoting other ' important reforms, would secure to them a greater measure of confidence than they now obtain from all the people. True to tho law of self-preservation, the Legislative Council £'ad So long and *o successfully rejected the proposed abolition of the dangerous nominative system, by which
they enjoyed their power that the Massey Government found it necessary,' in order to ensure a decisive majority of supporters of their proposals in the Council, to appoint no fewer than eleven Councillors. Previous to these appointments (he Government " called ” eight new members, all appointed for the standard period of seven years. The stubbornness of the old Council has certainly yielded great advantages to the present Government, who now hold the balance of power in the Second Chamber, and will continue to hold it for the next five or six years. It is not always that opposition proves so advantageous. This result has been the only source of bitterness in the Liberal party, whose leading members have pointed out with fine political scorn (which does not hurt very badly) that tho Council, as now constituted, consists of 19 appointees of the Government, 12 of the Liberal party, and 7 life members. The position is interesting and touched with amusing features to those persons who do not become angry over the game of politics. But the most amusing phase of the business is the fact that the circumstances largely created by the old Liberal party compelled the Reform Government to seize the balance of power in the Second Chamber with a view to divesting all future Governments of the privilege of nominating political sympathisers, if not actual supporters, to the Legislative Council. Surely there’s a humorous side to politics! The debate in the House last night was, as had to be expected, largely on the lines of bygone argument. There was really nothing new to say. Tho Leader of the Opposition contended that the people should be consulted on the question at the General Election. This contention was easily answered by the Prirne\ Minister, who pointed out that the House had affirmed the principle, and that the Government had pledged themselves to the electors to abolish the nominative system as applied to the. Legislative Council. The majority of electors, we should imagine, will support the Prime Minister’s argument. The time has come for reform of the Council, and “there’s an end on't.” The divisions on different clauses of the Bill were remarkably close and interesting. They show that the proposed means for giving effect to the vital principle of the measure are open to a wide diversity of opinion. Though hard pressed on several occasions, the Government managed to retain most of their proposals as outlined in the Bill. Sir Joseph Ward forced a division on an amendment providing for the election of a full Council in 1917, but was defeated by 30 votes to 28. His proposal later that all Councillors (except, life, members) should retire in 1917 was negatived only by 26 votes to 24. These divisions either prove, that the Opposition are very anxious to have an elective Second Chamber or are apprehensive of the influences of the Reform representatives in the Council before the elective principle comes into operation. The most interesting amendment to the Bill represents a bold innovation—the election of women to the Legislative Council. The proposal was submitted by Dr Newman, Reform member for Wellington East, and was accepted amidst cheers by 39 votes to 12. There is certainly scope for the feminine mind in politics, and one would have but little faith in women if one were not willing to concede that on many questions their wisdom could not be better than than that often displayed bylegislators. It is possible, for instance, that women would have made, a more successful attempt at fixing the prices of foodstuffs. They would appreciate better at ajiy rate the real purchasing power of wages. But women are not y.et in Parliament !
Evening Star, Issue 15630, 22 October 1914
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