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COUNCIL REFORM

SOME CLOSE DIVISIONS. [From Our Parliamentary Reporter.] WELLINGTON, October 22. Prom the moment that the Legislative Council Bill got into committee last evening it was evident that the Opposition were determined to use every effort to prevent it passing that stage of its career. Sir Joseph Ward moved—“ That progress be reported on the Bill, in order that the electors may have an opportunity at the approaching elections of expressing their opinion on the proposed change iri the Constitution.” He was satisfied that the proposed change had never been before the electors, and they ought to bo given a chance to consider it betore, being called upon to vote upon it. This Bill had passed the Legislative Council with considerable difficulty, but the people of New Zealand had never been consulted as to the fundamental changes proposed, and no Government had the right to pass such an alteration in the Constitution without first consulting the people. The Bill, it was expressly stated, was not to come into foi'co until 1916, and ho wanted to know, therefore, why there was any hurry to put it on the Statute Book. No one could say what would be the result of the approaching General Election. If the Opposition were returned they would only carry out the will of the people by a large number of appointments, to the Council. If the Government were returned, they were in the position of having appointed a number of members to the Council favorable to thoir views. The Prime Minister, in reply to the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition, stated that when the Government came into power they were pledged to reform of the Legislative Council, and to make it elective* on the basis of Proportional Representation. It was undeniably a part of the Government’s policy. Ho (the speaker) had supported this plank, and his party had secured a majority—(Opposition laughter)—and members on the "other side, were left in a, hopeless minority. (Further laughter from the Opposition benches.) Mr Massey continued that when the Government ocoupied the Treasury benches one of the first Bills introduced was on the lines of the present one, and a resolution had been_ passed by the House affirming the principle of an elective Legislative Chamber. (Cries of “No. no."i Mr Massey added that it was not the Government’s fault that the Bill could not come into operation until 1916. He had asked for the period of Councillors’ appointments to be reduced from seven to three yedrs, but the Legislative Council had failed to pass tho proposal. As far as alterations to the Constitution were concerned, tho hon. gentleman (Sir J. G. Ward) himself in 1911 proposed to bring down a Bill to reform the Legislative Council, and reform it partly by making it elective. As to appointments to tho Council, he (the speaker) did not think any fault could be found with tire appointments which had been made. He believed that the people were perfectly satisfied with what had been done in this direction. The public expected the Bill to be passed during the present -session, and he hoped the Opposition would assist tho Government in helping to that, end. Sir Joseph Ward submitted that under the Bill it would be nine years before an election of members of the Council took place. The members appointed under the nominative system had seven years to go, and they w-cre—and, he believed, rightly, too—not to be distnrhe/d until the expiry of their terms, unless they had some compensatory advantage. The Prime Minister replied that it was not intended to interfere with the present members of tho Council. For 21 years previous to his party coming into power tho appointments were made only on one side of politics. It -would not be nine years before the Bill came into force. It would come into force at the earliest possible opportunity. It would have been desirable to have the election of both Houses at the next election, but this was impossible, and it was proposed that the Bill should come into force in three years’ time.

The Leader of the Opposition remarked that the Bill proposed, one or tAvo of the most drastic amendments to the Constitution yet brought before the House, and the people were bound to ha\ - e it placed before them, even if they wove placed iu the position of having to consider it retrospectively, because tho Prime Minister would not alloAv it to stand over. The Bill had never been presented to the people in the form in which it AA'as uoav brought forward. Mr M’Combs said that although he seldom voted for the Government, he would vote for the Bill, because he was pledged to reform of the Legislative Council.

Mr Russell supported the motion to report progress. The Bill was not to take effect until the Ist January, 1916. It was only right to the country that such a. areut change should he submitted to the tribunal of the electors. The Government wanted to get the Bill through so that they could appoint members to the Council at the next election on the nominative system, and also during the whole of next year. Ho accused the Prime Minister of " stuffing ” the Council. Mr Massey replied that thenre were only 38 members of the Council, and the fact that the Government had not appointed another half-dozen, as they were entitled to, showed how moderate they had been. Ho quoted from a speech made in March of this year by Mr Russell at Linwood, iu which that gentleman accused the' Government of securing office On the promise of reform of the Legislative Council, and not carrying out that promise. In that speech lie (Mr Russell) had stated that he was in favor of reform, and yet he was doing everything he could to prevent the Bill from going through. Mr Veitch said that he, like Mr M‘Combs, was pledged to Proportional Representation, but he contended that the Bill in its present form would give whichever party was in power too much control of the Legislative Council. If the Government would give an undertaking that all those members who now occupied seats in the Legislative Council would go out of office after the Bill came into force, and a general election of the whole 40 members held, he would be prepared to support it. A Voice: What about compensation? Mr Veitch; Yes; I would bo prepared to support compensation. Mr Isitt thought the only way to mend the Council was to end it, but as this was very far awav, he thought the elective principle should be established as against the nominative system. . Mr Ell said ho was opposed to the Bill going on to the Statute Book, as, although he was in favor of reform, ho was of opinion that the members of the Upper House should be elected by the House of Representatives by secret ballot. Mr Hanan strongly advocated that the Bill should go before the country, so that the people might be thoroughly able to understand what the effect of the proposals would be. Mr Webb said that as the present was the first opportunity -he had had of supporting Proportional Representation, he would vote for it on the second reading of the Bill, but if certain amendments were not made in committee ha would have to consider his position at the third reading.

At 11 o’clock a division on Sir Joseph i Ward’s motion was taken, and tho proposal to report progress was rejected by 35 votes to 28. The division list was as follows: —Ayes.— —Noes. — Brotvn Allen, Buddo Anderson' Buxton Bollard, J. Carrol! Bollard, R, F. ♦ Colvin Bradney Craigie Buchanan Dickie Buick Ell Campbell Forbes (teller) Coates Glover Davey Hanan Dickson Hindmarsh Escott Isitt Fisher M’Callum . Fraser Myers Guthrie (teller) Parata Harris Payne (teller) Herries Poland Hine Robertson Leo Russell Mander Seddon Massey Sidey M’Combs (teller) Smith, R. W. NcAvman, E. Thomson, J. C. Newman, Dr Veitch Nosworthy Ward Okey Wilford Reed Wfttv * Rhodes, R. H. Rhodes, 1. .W. Scott Statham Sykes Thomson, G- M. ' Wilkinson Young —Pairs.— Ngata _ Wilson M’Kenzie Herdman Te Rangihiroa Pomare Millar Smith, F. H. THE COMMITTEE STAGE.— The clauses Avere then passed rapidly until No. 7 Avas reached, Avhen Mr Veitcii moved an amendment dealing with the joint sittings of the two Houses.—The Prime Minister stated that he could not accept the proposal, but he Avas impressed Avith the fact that the clause as it stood might be, improved, and he Avould have the matter looked into before the. Bill passed its final stage.—The clause was passed. At clause 13, Sir Joseph Ward moved to increase the electoral divisions from four to eight, bat this Avas negatived by 31 votes to 26. At clause 15, Sir Joseph Ward moved an amendment the effect of Avhich, if carried. Avould be that the full Council would be elected in 1917. This was lost by 50 votes to 28. —Women Eligible as Councillors.— At clause 18, Dr Newman moved that women be eligible for election to the Council.—Tire Prime Minister said he was. prepared to accept the amendment and vote for it.—The amendment was carried amidst cheers 'by 39 votes to 12. Mr YeTtch moved an amendment in clause 19 providing that the vacancies which occur in the Council prior to the first election should be filled by members of the House, and not by members of the Council.—The amendment was lost by 27 votes to 25, In clause 22, Sir Joseph Ward moved that three Maori members be elected—two for the North Island and one for the South Island.—The amendment Avas lost on the casting vote of the Chairman. Sir Joseph -Ward further moved that all tho Councillors (except life members) should retire in 1917. —The Prime Minister characterised the amendment as a gross breach of faith with members who Avere appointed for seven years. Further, it was hopeless to expect the members of tho Council to accept such an amendment.—The amendment Avas lost bv 26 \-otes to 24. The remaining twenty clauses were passed in a feAv minutes Avithoat amend ment. Mr MTombs moved a new clause the effect of Avhich is that the Council Avill be fully elective in 1920.—Th0 Prime Minister acepted the amendment, which Avas carried. The schedules were passed, and the Bill Avas reported at 1.17 a.m.

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Bibliographic details

COUNCIL REFORM, Evening Star, Issue 15630, 22 October 1914

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1,734

COUNCIL REFORM Evening Star, Issue 15630, 22 October 1914

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