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The Evening Star THURSDAY, OCTOBER 29, 1914., Issue 15636, 29 October 1914
The Evening Star THURSDAY, OCTOBER 29, 1914.
Is - a few weeks' time the political opinions of the adult population The Coining of the Dominion will Election. again be sought by means of a General Election. The antiquated machinery discredited hv experience and condemned by reason will once more he set in motion. There will be the usual crop of eccentricities of representation. In some constituencies a minority will prevail; in others the triumphant majority will be the outcome of a factitious and inharmonious union of forces that cannot commingle. Under the pernicious influence of the single electorate there will be some men returned who have neither the ability to assist the deliberations nor character to sustain the dignity of Parliament. Elections here and there will turn on a promise respecting a bridge nr an ingenuity in campaigning. In short, the present electoral system is just a congeries of defects, blemishes, and inefficiencies. When the people have cast their votes practically half will count for no thing at all. Surely it would pass tho wit of man to devise a scheme for ascojfc Uining the will of the people more tab 1 ciliated to stultify its purpose than the ona which this year of grace still preserveill our democracy. We are led to these reflection* by a perusal of the latest publication " of the British Proportional Tfeprerenl-ation Society. The account it contains of progress in various parts of the world acta as a foil and accentuates the backwardness of New Zealand and its tender solicitude for hoary irrationality. 'AT- are not insensible of the reform which has overtaken the Legislative Council, hut we chafe under the encumbrances which fetter the true expression of the people's will in the House of Representatives. Very briefly let us explain the ilefects which have drawn our censure. In the first place, Parliament should be the mirror reflecting the people's opinions. All creeds of politics and every respectable public sentiment should have its voice. Parliament should be the epitome of the nation. Representative institutions are only resorted to because the people ‘n mass cannot assemble. The representative principle is violated if only half of tho jKiuple are privileged tu .select their spokesmen. On what canon of equity, or on what ground of democracy, do «e find the justification for 2,1C0 voters in a. con stituency having a representative and 2.000 having none '! Because the upholders of the Government slightly exceed in number the supporters of tho Opposition in an artificially-bounded area, the Government shall have all the representation. Because in another slice of territory the protagonists of the Government fall short by a few of the magical majority, tho Opposition shall have all the representation. Disfranchisement goes hand in hand with enfranchisement. Were the Hon. Mr Massey able to command the adhesion of a majority of the voters of this country, and were this majority evenly distributed throughout the Dominion, then the Hon. Sir G. Ward would secure neither the election of himself nor of a single follower. Only the beneficence of chance saves us from this absurdity. The Radical vote gets concentrated in the cities, and the Conservative vote preponderates in the rural districts. Were they -equally diffused, one or the other would arrogate all the representation to the entire exclusion of the other. The forthcoming election will be determined not by the dominant sentiment of the country as a whole, but- by that political opinion which enjoys supremacy in a majority of the electorates. It is not only possible, but j frequently happens, that, a Government j reigns when the total votes cast in its j favor are less than those recorded for | the Opposition. The present system does ! not even secure government by the will of the majority. Now, Proportional Representation would effectually prevent these vagaries. It would ensure government by the majority, and full representation to minorities. It must never be forgotten that the reform involves no violation of the democratic principle that the will of ! the greater number shall prevail. Indeed, it imposes an insuperable obstacle to such infringement. The emphasis laid upon minority representation is apt to lead the unthinking astray. Not minority control is sought, but majority control, coupled with the opportunity to all substantial minorities to exert an influence in the deliberations of Parliament in proportion to their weight in the country. The paramount virtue of Proportional Representation is the equal value which attaches to every vote. Let ua illustrate by a. reference io the Dunedin South and Bruce electorates. The representation of these districts has not changed for many years, and seems most unlikely to change in the coming contest. There has always been a large minority of Liberal and Labor vo|es cast against the Hon- Air
Allen. and there has always Won a suh-1 stanr-ial vote cast against the party which Mr Sicley has so consistently supported, i The votes of those vast minorities are on- j tirely wasted. So far as their effect is ! concerned they might as well never have j been recorded. They have no representative to voire their sentiment, and are in | a state of perpetual disfranchisement. The | ‘■Reformers” of St. Clair have to look i to such as the Hon. .Mr Allen as the! champion of their interests, but he recognises no special obligation because they are not his constituents. So the miners of Kaitaugatn are dependent upon .such' as Mr Webb to make their aspirations vocal in Parliament. Under Proportiona.n! Representation with the single transferable vote every voter would have the satisfaction of realising that his vote counted in the election of some member whom ho could appropriate as his representative. Practically Proportional Representation means that every elector votes for a winning candidate. Waste is avoided. The object is not to gather 2,001 votes on one ■side and 2,000 on another, and then say that the 2,000 votes shall count for nothing. lint to transfer those 2.000 votes to another minority vote in another area, where, as (he result of their combination, they will be effective to secure the election of a member of Parliament. We are solicitous for a Parliament that -shall faithfully represent Public Opinion. 'I - he adherents of every propaganda .should 'nave a strength in Parliament proportionate to their strength in the country'. Parliament should be a place where the power of minorities is suppressed as a dangerous tyranny, but where the voice of minorities is heeded in the deliberations which precede the determination of the policy of government. Abandoning the- light of science, we are again plunging into the <! ark ness and confusion of a General Election <>n immemorial lines. With the repeal of the Second Ballot the conn try is giving up tho attempt to make sure of the, representation of majorities. The spirit of the gambler has obsess.-rt our legislators, and they magnify i lie element of chance. Make the election a huriy-buriy ; let capricious hazard sit in government- upon it ; tVie result will lye many Mirpri.ses ; £oocl men will be overthrown ; poor men exalted ; there will lie clever manoeuvring at this point ami that to convert large minorities into small majorities; and there will be a delightful state of uncertainty when the difficulties of prediction based on scientific
analysis arc maximised, and " no man can toil until tho numbers jo up." We have contended that the Second Ballot was a miserable shift in the way of reform; but we cannot condemn too strongly its repeal without the substitution of something better. After all. if there is to be disfranchisement, belter that it should afflict the minorities in constituencies than the majorities. We shall return to this subject al a convenient opportunity.
The Evening Star THURSDAY, OCTOBER 29, 1914., Issue 15636, 29 October 1914
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