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Thursday, 26 October 1905

Senator STYLES (Victoria) - I shall have to oppose this amendment. The mover of it appears to have very little confidence in Parliament, and a great deal in the Government of the day.

Senator Millen - My amendment does - not disclose any special confidence in the Government.

Senator STYLES - When he has heard my views the honorable senator may be induced to change his own. I find that he proposes that -

The Governor-General may appoint three persons in each State to be Commissioners for the purpose of distributing the State into divisions in accordance with this Act.

I have no objection to the appointment of three Commissioners in the place of one, but the honorable senator further proposes that -

The persons so appointed shall be respectively a Judge of a Court of the State, the Surveyor

General or Head of the Survey General of the State, and the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State, unless the Governor-General, by reason of any such person not being available, or for other reason appearing to him to be sufficient, thinks fit to appoint other person instead of any such persons.

That is to say that the Government at any time for any reason they see fit to advance, or for no reason at all, may remove the officials referred to in this clause, and appoint three others of whom we know nothing.

Senator Millen - They have that power now.

Senator STYLES - But the distinction is this : There would be no appeal from the decision of the Commissioners proposed to be appointed under the new clause. Talk about gerrymandering ! In the hands of an unscrupulous Government this would open the door to it at once. I should not have so much objection if we could be assured that the officials referred to in this clause would be the persons who would act as Commissioners, but the power is given to the Government to displace any or all of these 'officials, and to appoint in their place three nobodies or three creatures of the Government. Then the honorable senator proposes further that each of these Commissioners is to hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General. That means that the Government may at any time replace them by such persons as they think will best suit their purpose. After this is done, and the three Commissioners bring up their report, the whole business is to be at an end; Personally, I prefer to have a voice , in the determination of the question. This is a States question, and as the Senate is the States House, it is the Chamber in which such a question should be decided. Whilst I am a member of the States House, I shall claim a voice in the decision of such matters. I quite expect honorable senators to believe that they are likely to be as impartial judges of a matter of this kind as are the members of any Government. I do not think it is altogether in good taste for Senator Millen to reflect so severely on members of Parliament. The inference, from his remarks, and from his amendment, is that Parliament is not to be trusted. This matter would not affect the Senate directly, but it would directly affect the House of Representatives. Surely we are as impartial and as honest as any three nobodies who might be appointed

Commissioners under this proposed new clause.

Senator Millen - It is of no use for the Senate to approve of a scheme if the House of Representatives objects to it

Senator STYLES - I think it reasonable to assume that the House of Representatives will pay more attention to a decision of the Senate than they would be likely to pay to a decision of three men in whom they might have no reason to repose confidence.

Senator Millen - This scheme was not presented to the House of Representatives in the last Parliament.

Senator STYLES - I am unable to see that that proves anything. I hope the Committee will reject the amendment.

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