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Tuesday, 19 August 1902

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I have no desire to unduly restrict the consideration of any clauses, and when I recommitted the Bill I asked honorable members to indicate those which they desired to recommit. Certain clauses were mebntioned, and these were recommitted. For instance, clauses 197, 197a, 197e, 197f, and 197q were recommitted. No one asked that a similar course should be adopted with regard to other clauses. Indeed, the consensus of opinion seemed to be that the committee would have to accept the principle of those clauses. But I would point out to the honorable member that this question was fully discussed when the first proposals of the Government were submitted. The committee then agreed to give the House power to deal with this matter, and, in giving effect to that decision, I thought it advisable to adopt the provisions which have been in force for several years in the various States. In South Australia they have a combined court, consisting of a Judge and certain members from each side of the House.

Mr.V. L. Solomon. - The members are elected by ballot.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - It is almost impossible to dovetail amendments in order to deal with this question with any degree of certainty. The clauses are practically taken from the Acts in force in Victoria and New South Wales, and as they have stood the test of time, not much harm is likely to arise from their adoption. The honorable member for Bland and myself have had experience of the plan of nomination by the Speaker, and if his suggestion were carried out there would be an inducement to test the validity of almost every nomination. My experience in New South Wales shows me that if the Speaker made what he conceived to be a mistake, and an opinion was expressed against any particular nomination, the mistake would be willingly rectified in order to secure an appointment acceptable to the House.

Mr Watson - Does the Minister not remember when the Speaker's nomination of Mr. Molesworth in New South Wales was challenged, and the name of that gentleman was removed from the Elections and Qualifications Committee?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I do not remember that case. We must have confidence in the Speaker, and ought not, except in very extreme cases, to object to any nominations. My experience leads me to believe that the Speaker will, as a rule, take any but a party view in nominating the members of the committee. It is usual to take an even number of members from various sections of the House, and, as a rule, we find the best men on the committee. Individuals may differ as to who is the best man, and party feeling thus be roused ; and under the circumstances the Speaker is the best person to make the nominations. I hope that no amendment will be pressed with a view to taking away from the Speaker a responsibility which, I am sure, will always be exercised in a way satisfactory to the House.

Mr. WATSON(Bland).- Of course' I do not for a moment wish to imply any reflection on the present very respected occupant of the office of Speaker, or on the holder of the office of President in the other branch of the Legislature. But I object to the whole system of politically adjudicating on these questions.

Sir William Lyne - I am with the honorable member in that, but the House decided against us.

Mr WATSON - If we are to have a committee, I should like to see it as free as possible from party bias, though I fear that cannot be hoped for. If the Speaker were to nominate five Government supporters and only two members of the Opposition, he would have a nest of hornets about his ears at once ; and if he took the opposite course, he would have an equally bad time when he laid his warrant on the table. A Speaker can hardly avoid paying some attention to the constitution of parties in making the nominations, and it is idle to say that the party element will not enter into the composition of the committee. In New South Wales, on one occasion, the Speaker deliberately overlooked the existence of parties, and the House resented his action to the extent of removing one of his nominations, although there was . no exception taken personally to the gentleman who, I am sorry to say, was made the scape-goat. This led to a little unpleasant- ! ness, and it was the next session, or the ' next Parliament, before anything like a proper understanding of the position was arrived at. I do not want to see anything of that kind occur here. I should have preferred to see the House given an opportunity to alter the constitution of the committee if we so desired ; I am at raid the present system will lead to a great deal more friction than otherwise would be the case.

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