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Tuesday, 29 July 1902

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I was somewhat surprised to hear the remarks of the last speaker. I was under the impression that he favoured the proposal contained in this Bill, as against 'the antiquated and incomplete method which has operated in some of the States up to the present time.

Sir Edward Braddon - I am not in favour of making the settlement of election disputes expensive.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I do not know whether or not the right honorable member is responsible for it, but in Tasmania the appeal is to the Supreme Court. I anticipate that the Tasmanian Act unfortunately does not contain the provision which was referred to by the honorable member "for Bland, the effect of which must be to minimize expense. In New South Wales petitions are heard by an election and qualifications committee, and I dare say other honorable members have some experience of such a body.

It is perfectly correct that lawyers and barristers are employed on either side in the hearing of election petitions in that State ; and it is not fair to call upon members, who may -have strong political bias, to adjudicate. However much members of Parliament may desire in such cases to divest themselves of political feeling, they are almost called upon to allow that feeling to take effect, as I think they do to a limited extent.

Sir Edward Braddon - That is curious morality !

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Unknown to ourselves, we are to a certain degree influenced by- such feelings, though I cannot speak personally, because I never acted as a member of a parliamentary elections and qualifications committee. I have, however, known of oases in which I was pretty well certain as to the result before the petition was heard ; and the system in New South Wales is not one calculated to bring about the best results. In Queensland and Victoria such questions are decided, as in New South Wales, by a parliamentary committee.

Mr L E GROOM (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) - In Queensland the committee is presided over by a Judge of the Supreme Court, the committee deciding questions of fact, and the Judge questions of law.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - In South Australia the committee is formed of four members of the Legislative Council,, or four members of the Legislative Assembly, as the case may be, presided over by a Judge of the Supreme Court. Honorable members have heard what the Minister for Trade and Customs said of a case in which he was concerned in .South Australia, and in which the committee consisted of four members, who were his political opponents.

Mr Thomson - Did the committee give an adverse decision 1 That is the point.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I do not know whether the committee gave an adverse decision, but I should think it very likely they did.

Sir Edward Braddon - The Minister for Trade and Customs did not say so.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - But I infer that the Minister for Trade and Customs was not very well pleased with the .constitution of' the committee. In Western Australia the tribunal consists of two Judges of the Supreme Court, and in Tasmania the Supreme Court hears petitions.

Mr Mahon - Up to 1897, at any rate, the petitioner had to lodge £500 in Western Australia.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - That, I take it, is not the case now. The only point which I thought would be raised was whether or not the members of the House of Representatives or the Senate, as the case might be, should refer the petition to the court. Clause 198, sub-clause (3), gives power, in case the High Court is not instituted when there shall be a disputed election, to the State Court to adjudicate, and the question of expense has been considered as well as the desirability of having a non-political tribunal. Honorable members will, I think, admit that the proper course is to appoint a non-political body.

Mr O'Malley - No, no.

Mr.V. L. Solomon. - This Parliament is the highest court in the land, and ought to be above suspicion.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - In my opinion, petitioners, and those defending themselves against petitions, will go with greater confidence to a non-political, than to a political, tribunal.

Mr Mahon - A man will if he has a good banking account.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I think a banking account will be drawn upon just as heavily in the case of a parliamentary committee as under the clause. If it appear to the court that great expense will be incurred in conveying the parties agreat distance to the place of hearing, there is power to remit a case to a State court or Judge of a State court.

Mr O'Malley - There should be no such power.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The honorable member does not seem to recognise any virtue in the clause, and on the point we must agree to differ. My aim, and the aim of the Government, is to have a nonpolitical court constituted.

Mr O'Malley - Not the Minister's aim, but the aim of the lawyers with him.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I have seen too much influence attempted in political courts to have any great confidencein them.

Mr O'Malley - At any rate, I had to pay my " boodle" in South Australia.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I dare say that the honorable member had a bad case.

Mr O'Malley - I had a good case, but it cost a fortune to upset the election.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The honorable member for Bland has referred to one or two instances of strong political bias in State Parliamentary tribunals.

Mr O'Malley - State Parliaments are the products of bigotry.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - If what the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O'Malley, says is correct, there must be a great deal of political bias displayed in South Australia, and, from observations which have been made this afternoon, the same remark may be made of Queensland. Are persons, selected from one side of a House or the other, capable of absolutely putting aside the political bias which they feel so strongly upon ordinary questions?

Mr O'Malley - They did so in the two cases which have arisen in this House.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I do not wish to refer to those cases, because I may have a different opinion in regard to one of them. I hope we shall not have a too protracted discussion on this clause, because I wish to get the Bill passed as quickly as we reasonably can. I recognise chat theproposal before us is new, so far as many honorable members are concerned, but I think they need have no fear as to the cost of dealing with petitions. It will be much more satisfactory to have questions of the kind dealt with by a non-political court than by a parliamentary committee, such as has existed in most of the States in the past.

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