THE DOUBLE CHAMBER IN VICTORIA. [To THE Eorroo or THE
.HrEarAron.1 SIR,—I wish to say a few words in your columns on the great question of the day in Victoria,—a proposal by Mr. Francis, the actual Premier, that in case a Bill twice passed by the Legislative Assembly is twice thrown out by the Legislative Council, there shall be a conference of the two Houses to reconsider the question, at which both shall vote together.
1. The bi-cameral system was introduced into Victoria under rather peculiar circumstances. It was recommended by the British Government, and as the time, 1856, was one when society had hardly yet settled down from the excitement of the gold diggings, a Second Chamber, whose special function should be to protect property, appeared to many not undesirable. Un- happily, in copying the English model, the English provision against obstructiveness in the Upper House was forgotten. Accordingly, after seventeen years of experiment, we find our- selves in this position. We have a Legislative Assembly, which contains the ablest of our politicians almost without exception ; and to which, as a rule, only men of property or of high prefes- aional standing are elected. The best and most carefully prepared measures of this Assembly are perpetually thrown out or patched
by the Second Chamber, which is the refuge of mediocrity, whiclr
represents employers rather than property, and which is certainly not needed to protect property in a country where there is no poverty. Once, as you will, no doubt, remember, there was an actual dead-lock between thetwo Holmes, the Council refusing to vote the supplies. The Ministry of the time made shift to pay official salaries by borrowing money, but public works and grants to districts had to be retrenched, with great temporary suffering to the community.
2. Moderate as the Premier's proposal is, it is assailed by our Victorian Conservatives, and especially by their organ, the Argus, with bitter acrimony. The most effective argument against it hitherto used is that it is "a Norwegian dodge," an argument which has rather broken down, since it has been shown that something like the same system is adopted in six other Con- tinental States. Then it is said that there was no public cry for it, and that Mr. Francis would have done better to leave well alone. As a fact, Mr. Francis has been considerably annoyed by the dogged obstructiveness of the Council, which is now quite en rapport with the Assembly, and which takes a childish pleasure in asserting its independence. But were it otherwise, the beet time for reforms is surely one when there is no great public- excitement, and when a measure can be discussed dispassionately on its own merits.
3. Mr. Francis took the country by surprise with his plan, andt in the first batch of elections the question of Reform was hardly considered. But the unwise attacks of its enemies made it the cardinal point in the last batch of elections, and its enemies were beaten "all along the line," with a rout as total as that of the English Liberals last February. Parliament is now about to meet. The ltrmistry have sustained a severe loss in the person of their late Attorney-General, Mr. Stephen, who has accepted a judgeship. It is possible they will throw away their majority, and withdraw or modify their scheme. But it is certain that the issue now raised will not easily be lost sight of, and if /dr. Francis's moderate measure is shelved, we shall soon hear the question asked whether we have any need of a Second-Chamber