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Wednesday, 15 May 1957

Mr BRYANT (Wills) .- Surely the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) is not serious when he compares the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea with this Parliament. What are the two characteristics of a sovereign Parliament such as this? The first is that it is wholly responsible to the people over whom it rules, and the second is that it has extensive sovereign powers. The Legislative Council of the Territories is composed of 29 people. One is the Administrator, sixteen are officers of the Administration, nine are nominated by the Governor-General - I presume by the Administration - and three are elected. Therefore, of 29 people, only three are directly responsible to the 4,000 or 8,000 Europeans and the hundreds of thousands of other people for whom they make laws.

The difference between the Legislative Council of the Territory and this Parliament is not just one of degree; it is one of kind. The argument that the authority of this Parliament should be similar to the authority of the Legislative Council in the Territories has no relevance whatever. In fact, almost the totality of the powers of decision in this body will lie with the Administrator, through his officers and his nominees. Even if we exclude the nominated members and add them to the elected members, giving a total of twelve, there are seventeen other people who hold high authority, and if they come down on one side in a debate or decision, then that is what the decision will be. That rules out any possibility, on occasions unlikely to occur, but occasions which may occur, of arriving at the same sort of decision as is arrived at in this Parliament.

The matter which I wish to raise, and which I thought had perhaps more relevance to this question, was an appropriate or relevant section of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. This is a field in which the Government has taken great pains to see that the power and initiative lie with the courts. In the Territories, a similar situation arises. The initiative in this sort of matter should not necessarily lie with the body itself, but with the court. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act deals with trade unions and with people who are responsible, though not in the political sense. The Government makes a great play of its attitude to unionism in these matters. Section 72 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides -


(a)   . . .

(b)   the Court thinks that the views of the members, or of a section or class of the members, of the organization or a branch of the organization upon a matter ought to be ascertained with a view to assisting the prevention or settlement of the dispute, the Court may order that that matter be submitted to a vote . . .

Decisions in these matters are made by a vote, and the initiative lies with the court. I suggest that is a relevant matter. The Legislative Council is not a responsible body or a sovereign body; in effect, it is a creature of the Minister and the Government. Despite that, it exercises great authority in the community, but its decisions are unlikely to be democratic in the strict sense. Therefore, if there are any points in dispute, the decision and the initiative should rest with the court.

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