Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Tuesday, 29 July 1902

Mr FOWLER (Perth) - I listened with a great deal of interest to the speech of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, who is always instructive, but I was unable to agree with his arguments, because I could not accept his view that a committee formed of members of this House would necessarily be biased and partisan. Whilst honorable members might be ready enough to steal a march upon their opponents in political tactics, I have no hesitation in saying that I should be prepared to allow my bitterest opponent to choose his own committee from members of this House, and would go before. such a tribunal with perfect confidence that substantial justice would be done. So far from having any fear that any honorable members would depart from a true conception of justice in deciding matters of this kind, I can quite imagine some honorable members erring in favour of their political opponents, in. their anxiety to escape from what they might believe to be their unconscious bias. If such a possibility is admitted, those who favour the appointment of a committee of this House to deal with disputed returns are furnished with a very strong argument. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne urged that the Judges adopted a severely intellectual view of the questions submitted for their decision. I interjected at the time, and I now repeat, that throughout the history of Great Britain there has been no tyranny without a Judge to justify it. Not very long ago a decision was given in Great Britain with regard to the responsibilities of Trades Unionists, which has been very generally recognised as something very nearly approaching a travesty of Justice. The honorable and learned member admitted that there was a tendency on the part of Judges to indulge in too many technicalities,, and that therefore the provision in clause 204 was necessary. The mere presence of such a provision is an indication to us that in trying to avoid one danger we shall very likely encounter another. A committee such as the honorable member for Coolgardie suggests would meet all requirements. A J udge might be appointed as chairman, and be empowered to give a- casting vote in the event of the members of the committee being equally divided. Some technicalities might arise to which the ordinary Member of Parliament would not be able to give sufficient consideration,, and perhaps it would be as well to provide for at least one judicial mind upon the committee. I agree with the honorable and learned member for Bendigo that we could easily provide for a special scale of charges in connexion with the hearing of election petitions, and thus restrict the expenses to a very modest sum. If the Government proposal be carried, I can easily imagine certain press organs, which for some time past have been deliberately attempting to belittle parliamentary institutions and politicians, using this as an excellent point to their contention that Parliament is. composed of men. who ought almost to be despised by the general public.

Mr L E GROOM (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) - The honorable member does not agree with .that position.

Mr FOWLER - No. But only last week in this city an article appeared in a weekly publication which is issued from the office of one of the metropolitan newspapers, and which, to my mind, constituted one of the most scurrilous and contemptible attacks upon parliamentary institutions and politicians that I have ever read. If we prove to the people of the Commonwealth that we are unable to trust ourselves in matters of simple justice, we shall be giving to those press organs, which fain would rule the Commonwealth in lieu of its Parliament, a very powerful weapon with which to lash our backs. I hope that the common sense of this committee will be sufficiently strong to carry a proposal to leave the settlement of what, after all, is an ordinary matter of understanding and simple justice, to the members of the House of Legislature concerned.

Suggest corrections