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Wednesday, 18 June 1902

Sir JOHN QUICK (Bendigo) - This proposal apparently gives effect to a principle which has had a trial in New South Wales, but which does not appear to have been attended with a great amount of success. It also represents in a concrete form the feeling of want of confidence in Parliament to do certain work, which has been industriously fomented outside. Of late years there has been a fatal tendency to rob Parliament of its powers and functions, and transfer them to apparently irresponsible boards and commissions. Our powers are being whittled away, and sanction is being given by such a proposal as this to the feeling of distrust which is being engendered in regard to the honour and integrity of Parliament.

Sir William McMillan - We have the final determination of the matter.

Sir JOHN QUICK - Then why should we delegate it in the first instance to a public servant ? Until the Federal Parliament shows incapacity or unfairness in dealing with public matters, I do not think we should do anything that would have the tendency to transfer the powers of Parliament to outside bodies, and rob us of our proper responsibility. I believe that the Ministry of the day, whilst retaining our confidence, ought to be charged with Ministerial work of this kind, and that they should submit proposals to Parliament.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And take the responsibility of them.

Sir JOHN QUICK - Yes, certainly. Every proposal submitted by the Ministry is presented with a due sense of responsibility. If any scheme brought forward by a Ministry is corrupt, it will be open to criticism and challenge, and can be rejected, and surely the scrutiny of Parliament should be sufficient to insure that any unfair proposal will be held up to ignominy. In Victoria we have had no experience such as that which is said to have been gained in other countries, and which has led to the present proposal. No fairer or better distribution of seats could have been made under the circumstances than that which took place in Victoria in connexion with the federal elections. The scheme was prepared by the McLean Government on the knowledge which they were able to obtain from their officers, and it ran the gauntlet of criticism both in Parliament and throughout the country, and was eventually adopted. We have had no experience as a Federal Parliament that would justify any abrogation or surrender of our right to take a practical part in the division of the electorates.

Sir William McMillan - Parliament will have to approve of the scheme in any case.

Sir JOHN QUICK - Yes ; and I object to delegating to commissions the powers which ought to be exercised by this House from the outset. The commissioners are to be empowered to travel all over Australia, to take evidence, to invite objections, and to hold inquiries, and I ask where is the necessity for all this. Every little village orator will be able to appear and give evidence before the commissioners, whilst honorable members of this House will be denied the right to make any suggestion or to take part in the preliminary investigation. I hope the committee will cast upon the Government the responsibility of bringing forward a scheme for the distribution of electorates, and that we shall not abandon our rights, powers, and functions as a Parliament.

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