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Tuesday, 31 October 1905

Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania) - I think that there are very weighty reasons why the Committee should support the amendment. The Act provides for the distribution of each State into electorates, and sections 21 and 22, which Senator Millen desires to repeal, say that the work of the Commissioner shall be subject to the approval of Parliament - that is, to the approval of persons who are directly interested. That makes members of Parliament judges in their own cause.

Senator Keating - I spoke more particularly in reference to the Senate, which is not concerned with the division of a State.

Senator Trenwith - That is a very low estimate to make of members of Parliament.

Senator CLEMONS - It is an estimate which should be applied to every person in the exercise of a function. I do not take the view that members of Parliament are so exalted, and so free from the frailties of human nature, that they can safely be allowed to be the judges where they are personally interested. It is wrong, I main tain, for either House of the Parliament to have a power of veto with regard to a distribution which has been properly ascertained by independent persons. What , the amendment aims at is to remove from Parliament a corrupting influence of that sort, and to let it stand above suspicion. I admit that tEe"* amendment has no application to the Senate. There can be no doubt that under the present system members of Parliament are at liberty to give way to personal pre judices or fears. Unless honorable, senators can say. that the machinery provided is inadequate or cannot be wholly trusted, I see no reason why we should go through the farce of having Commissioners. Unless we are prepared to accept their decision, the whole thing becomes useless. If we are going to take that attitude, we might as well omit all the clauses concern ing their work. The present system commits to the majority for the time being powers far beyond those which ought to be given. While I believe; in majority rule in most cases, this seems to me to be a typical instance where it is unsafe to permit majority rule to reign,, because the rights of the minority have been absolutely ignored. It is undeniable that under the present system a majority in the other House can really make electoral divisions to suit their own interests. They could go on with the process of rejecting schemes ad. infinitum, until, as might happen some day, a Commissioner came along with st scheme which would suit the dominant majority. I think that no such power should be intrusted to a majority.

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