The Legislative Council


Otago Daily Times

Issue Date

7 May 1918


Julius Vogel & William Cutten






The official announcement of the new appointments to the Legislative Council is now made. The list is more extensive than was expected, for it comprises eighteen names. The effect is practically to double the strength of the Upper House, since it consists at present of twenty membeers, not all of whom can be said to be active politicians. It seems very questionable whether the maintenance of the efficiency of the Council necessitated such a heavy addition to its membership. If it did, then it is clear that some at least of the appoinments should have been made long ago. There is, however, another standpoint from which the appointment at the present time of as many as eighteen members of the Council may be viewed. The appointments increase the membership of that Chamber to a number in excess of the membership in any year since the measure providing for a reform of the constitution of the Upper House was passed. This is a fact which will certainly throw some doubt upon the robustness of the faith of the authors of that measure in the virtues of a system of an elective, as opposed to a nominative, Second Chamber. For it is obvious that the appointment at the present time of eighteen members of the Council, each with a tenure of seven years, must considerably postphon the date when the Upper House will become a purely elective body, even if the Act providing for that reform comes into force at the date in 1920 at which, in accordance with existing legislation, it becomes operative. It is to be recognised, of course, that under the conditions upon which the National Government was established the question of the constituion of the Legislative Council is, during the existence of that Government, held completely in abeyance, and we do not think it can seriously be argued that it was not desirable that the personnel of the Council should be strengthened to some extent. But the need for the addition of as many as eighteen members to the Second Chamber is by no means apparent. An appreciably smaller list of appointments would have sufficed to maintain the Council at the requisite pitch of efficiency until the time when the measure of reform is brought into operation, or until, at any rate, the whole question of the constitution of the Council can be taken again into consideration. Nor will the taxpayers be readily persuaded that such appointments as were necessary might not have been conveniently deferred until the eve of the reassembling of Parliament in October next.

Apparently each of the leaders of the parties that are represented in the National Government was responsible for the recommendation of nine of the appointments that have been made. This may have been inevitable, but it hardly promises such an obliteration of the old lines of party conflict as we should have hoped to see when the cause which brought the National Government into existence has been removed. The appointments should, upon the whole, be regarded with satisfaction. Sir John Sinclair, Mr Jones, Mr Louisson, and Mr Wigram have already occupied seats in the Council. Mr Jones, in fact, held a seat for three sucessive terms of seven years and had previously been a member of the House of Representatives. Mr Louisson did not take a very active part in the proceedings of the Council when he was formerly a member, but Sir John Sinclair and Mr Wigram were two of the most useful of its members, and the valuable experience gained by Sir John Sinclair as a member of the Dominions Royal Commission will make it more than ever to the advantage of the community that he should possess a seat in the Legislature when the problems of after-war settlement are being discussed. Mr Alison, Mr Fraser, Mr Izard, Mr Steward, and Mr Thomson all have enjoyed the benefit of parliamentary experience in the Lower House –that experience having, however, in Mr Stewart's case being limited to a sinble session –and Mr Flemming, Mr Garland, Mr Gow, Mr Hawke, and Mr Michel may be said to have qualified for appointment by the services they have rendered to the public in their respective districts as members of local authorities. The opportunity of service on public bodies is practically denied to journalists like Mr Geddis and Mr Triggs, for it is generally held to be incompatible with the exercise of their duties as conductors of public opinion that editors of newspapers should personall enter into local politics; but they have necessarily to study the problems of government and to watch closely the whole current of public affairs. it may reasonably be anticipated, therefore, that the Council will contain no more active members than the two journalists who are included in the list of appointments. Politically, the two new Native members are unknown quantities. It will not be surprising if they remain so. The fact, however, that the Native race had ceased to be represented in the Upper House rendered it necessary that it should not be overlooked when fresh appointments were being made.