THE NEW THEORY OF THE CONSTITUTION.
[By SioMr.Y Low, author of 'The Govern- I auce of England ’ and many books on constitutional history, j The Governor of a oniony lias no power to impose his wishes upon a Ministry. He most ;e i cpt Ids .Ministers’ ail vice “ unquestionably.'’ That is the new constitutional theory as stated by Mr Ilr.rvourl. the Colonial Secretary, in Ids despatch to the Coventor of Tasmania. The importance of Mr liaivourt's attitude is explained in the followin:; article by Mr Sidney Low. the wellknown constitutional authority. The despatch which Mr Harconrt has just sent to the Governor of Tasmania is a State paper of considerable significance. , It puts the coping-stone on the edifice of colonial self-government, and marks the final phase in the emancipation of the oversea States from external control in the management of their domestic affairs. The Secretary of State has ollicially declared that the Governor of a British Dominion is bound to follow the advice of his Ministers in respect to any question of internal politics. He has no discretion in the matter, and must leave the responsibility with the group of politicians who ate supposed to represent the people. The colony, in fact, is a sort of Republic with the Prime .Minister, for the time being, as its virtual President. The same doctrine was ailirmed by Mr Hareourt in the House of Commons when .h-aling with the relations between Lord Gladstone and General Botha in the South African Union. How the Crisis Arose. — The Tasmanian crisis turned on the juustion of the Governor's right to grant >r withhold a dissolution of Parliament. This right is part of the royal prerogative which the Governor is supposed to exercise as the representative of the Sovereign. In this country, however, tht* royal prerogative in this matter lias fallen into abeyance. If a Prime .Minister, whether defeated in the House of Commons or not, advises the King to dissolve that advice is accepted. The reiponsibility is left with the Minister who thought tit to appeal to the <nnstituenries; and the wisdom of his action must do judged by the results. The issue is between him and the people, and the Sovereign docs not intervene either to influence the verdict nr to postpone the trial. In tile colonies a different practice has prevailed. The Governor has been supposed to exercise Ids discretion in this and other matters. Dissolutions asked for by Premiers have been frequently refused. Colonial Parliaments are shortlived, and party minorities' are narrow; and His Excellency may not deem it worth while to put a busy and scattered population to the expense of an election when the people will, in any case, soon have an opportunity to express their npinion. In 1899 dissolutions wore refused by the Governors in no fewer than three of the States. In 1909 Air Earle, the Labor Premier, was defeated in the Tasmanian House of Assembly by a majority of six, and asked the "Governor, Sir Harry Barron, to let him go to the country. The Governor refused, and sent for the Leader of the Opposition, who was able to form a Alinistry with sufficient support in the House. In these and other cases “ Downing street ” backed up its man on the spot and asserted tho discretionary power of the Governor.
—New Attitude of “Downing Street.”— It has now decided in the opposite sense. The old trouble has broken _ out in Tasmania again. The Liberal Minister in Tasmania was defeated by a single vole, and the Premier, Mr Solomon, asked Sir William Ellison-Macartney, the Governor, to grant a dissolution. Tim Governor refused, and called upon Mr Earle, the Labor Leader, to form a Ministry, annexing, however, to his request the condition that a General Election should take place. Mr Earle accepted under protest, and his objection was supported by the Parliament. which resolved, with only one dissentient vote, that the Governor's cje’uand was contrary to the principle of responsible government. The resolution was transmitted by the Governor to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who has reolied in tho despatch which emphatically supports tho position taken up by the Tasmanian Premier and Legislature. It is laid down that the Governor ought to act upon tho advice of his Ministers in such a question as that of authorising or prohibiting a dissolution of Parliament, which is one of purely internal polities, and that he ought not to impose, conditions upon them. In other words, it is the Ministers, presumably representing the people, who are responsible for the “ peace, order, and good government ” of tho colony, not the officer who represents the Crown and the Imperial Cabinet. If this doctrine is maintained—as it probably will be—almost the last vestige of Imperial control over the affairs of self-governing colonies disappears. It is an emphatic recognition of the complete nationhood of the Dominions. so far as regards their own domestic government. The Governor remains, though it may not bo long before bo will be appointed on the recommendation of the local, rather than the Home, Cabinet. He is there to guard the general interests of the Empire, and to see that any legislation which may touch these, or" affect international relations, is reserved for the consideration of the central Government.
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THE NEW THEORY OF THE CONSTITUTION., Evening Star, Issue 15687, 29 December 1914
THE NEW THEORY OF THE CONSTITUTION. Evening Star, Issue 15687, 29 December 1914
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