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Tuesday, 12 December 1905

Mr CARPENTER (Fremantle) - As I shall be found voting against some of my colleagues on this question, I desire to say a word or two. We have heard the High Court spoken of from the legal standpoint as a fitting tribunal to adjudicate upon disputed election returns, but I desire to speak not so much in favour of the High Court, as against the proposed Committee. I have had no personal experience in this matter, but I have been made acquainted - with cases - one in particular - which has taught me that whatever disadvantages may attach to tribunals constituted of trained lawyers, they are not to be compared to those which are associated with Committees composed of partisans. I contend that no House ever elected an Elections and Qualifications Committee without paying some consideration to the parties to which honorable members belong.

Mr Chanter - The members of the proposed Committee are to be nominated by the Speaker.

Mr CARPENTER - Still the members will be selected with a view to secure the representation of all patties in the House. If they were angels from heaven honorable members could not help taking a party view of election disputes. I am surprised to hear the honorable member for Darwin arguing against the retention of the High Court as a Court of Disputed Returns. If there is one honorable member in this House who has suffered as the result of a decision on the part of a Parliamentary Committee it is the honorable member for Darwin.

Mr King O'Malley - A Judge was at the head of that Committee.

Mr CARPENTER -Yes, but the Judge was not responsible for the decision of the Committee. As soon as it was known that the Committee was to be appointed, an honorable and learned member of the State Legislature, who was engaged as counsel by one of the parties to the action, suggested to the members of the Committee, directly or indirectly, what verdict they should give. No one was surprised, although many were shocked, when the Committee decided as he had indicated. A bench of three Judges could not very well be got at in that way. The candidate who was elected had promised the electors that if he were returned he would distribute his parliamentary honorarium among them, and for that reason - for that act of bribery - he was unseated. Although the Committee unseated him, they refused to assign any reason for their decision, because if they had done so the candidate would havebeendisqualifiedfrom sitting as a member or contesting an election for two years. Yet the honorable member says : " Let us substitute a Parliamentary Committee for the High Court." I would point out to him that a Judge would not rule the Committee; it is more likely that the Committee would overrule the Judge. If members wish to insure that the parties to a disputed election shall receive a " fair deal," and if we can secure a reference of all such cases to the High Court, for the same outlay as would be involved in an appeal to an Elections and Qualifications Committee, by all means let us provide for that. But do not let us abolish the High Court as a Court of Disputed Returns, upon the ground that the appeals to it are too costly.

Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause - put.

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