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Wednesday, 25 October 1905

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Exactly. The fact that Mr. J. J. Holmes resigned from the commission of the peace proved that, although he might have been appointed for political reasons, he was thoroughly honest, and determined 'to do what he thought was right. Senator de Largie has mentioned that some representatives of Western Australia have recently been appointed to its commission of the peace for political reasons. I think that the appointments were made, not on political grounds, but merely as a compliment to those representatives of the State who were not already on the commission of the peace. Suppose, however, that the appointments were made for political reasons, will the honorable senator say that in witnessing a document the representatives of the. State in this Parliament would be dishonest or partisan simply because they had been appointed by the leader of a political faction ? Certainly not, and we ought not to impose a stigma on other people that we would not apply to ourselves.

Senator de Largie - I applied it to ourselves.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.Would Senator de Largie be dishonest in witnessing a document?

Senator de Largie - I might be biased.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.The only thing that was brought against justices of the peace in the recent inquiry was that they signed some forms in blank. That cannot be done under this Bill. Honorable senators might as well say that because certain dignitaries of the church have misbehaved themselves all church dignitaries are not reputable persons, or that because certain members of Parliament have disgraced themselves all members of Parliament are rogues, as say that because some justices of the peace have done wrong all justices of the peace would do wrong. Because in individual instances justices of the peace have been dishonest or careless, or guilty of reprehensible conduct, surely we are not going to say that justices of the peace as a class cannot be trusted to issue voting certificates.

Senator Givens - Has the honorable senator ever heard of a bench of justices being packed?

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.I have heard of reprehensible conduct in every walk of life, but I do not say on that account that all members of a class ave rogues. Has not the honorable senator heard of injustices being done by policemen, and of cases where civil servants were not as honest as they should be? But we do not condemn policemen and civil servants for that reason. In country districts it is generally found that amongst the most reputable people in a town are the justices of the peace. Justices of> the peace are bv their commission appointed to witness documents of the greatest importance, and vet it is proposed to excise them from this Bill - to say that, while they are competent to witness State documents of great moment, the)'- are not competent to witness the signatures of voters.

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