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Thursday, 13 September 1906

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - I had expected that Senator Dobson and the Minister would have advanced some reasons against the representative principle itself. I understand, however, that those gentlemen accept the principle as beneficial, but are afraid to apply it in this particular case. Senator Dobson has contended that if the elective principle were applied to the non-official members cf the Legislative Council, those elected would, in some way or other, favour a course of legislation other than that approved by the nominee members. If that be so, it is tantamount to admitting that the nominee members are misrepresenting the non-official population of Papua, and it is quite clear that they are not only not representative, but misrepresentative of those whose interests are entrusted to their keeping. There are three non-official members and six official members, and it is clear that the former, if elected, could not do anything to the detriment of the Territory. They would be in a hopeless minority if left to themselves, and the only time they could give effect to any course of action would be when they were joined bysome of the official members. It does not appear conceivable that it would be possible to get five members as against four to carry an absolutely wrong or iniquitous proposal. The fears expressed by Senator Dobson are due to the fact that he has not looked closely into what underlies .the representative principle. The three non-official members will, in theory, be selected to some extent as representative men. If they are so selected and are fairly representative of the white population of the Territory, we may assume that they will entertain prac.tically the same sentiments as the rest of the population from which they are drawn, and will seek, by their legislative acts, to give effect to the wishes of that population. If they are to do that, it makes no difference whether they are elected or nominated. But there would be a very big difference if the Lieutenant-Governor should nominate as non-official members of the Legislative Council persons whose sentiments were entirely opposed to those of the rest of the white population. The question is : Is it desirable that these non-official members of the Legislative Council should be representative of the white population? If those who oppose the Bill affirm that they desire the nomination of persons who will not be representative of the community, I shall be able to understand their position. But they frankly say that these non-official members are to be so selected that they shall be representative of the white population. If that be so, what is wrong with the principle of election? If it is desired that they should be representative of the white population, in what better method can we determine that they shall possess a representative character than by the method of election? It is because I believe that the representative system of government is not only the most equitable, but is also the soundest, and the one which, in spite of temporary defects, experience has proved to work out best for the good of those governed, and because also of the absence of any sound objection to the proposal, that I intend to support the Bill brought forward by Senator Stewart.

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