Tuesday, October 14.
Mr Whitaker was sworn, and explained that it was necessary to have an Auckland man in the Ministry, and to have a lawyer and representative on the Council. He gave a brief outline of the Ministerial policy and intentions. A committee was appointed to consider the question of auditing the accounts of public companies. The Council then adjourned to the next day. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
Tuesday, October 14. MISCI LLANEOUS.
Mr Shrimski gave notice to move that £‘500,000 be placed on the estimates for roads and bridges in Otago. Mr Murray gave notice to move that the House sit on Mondays for the disposal of Government business. Mr Hislop gave notice to move that the petition against the return of Ur Wallis, and Mr Hurst be referred to a committee to consider its validity to come before the House.
Colonel Trimble gave notice to ask the Government if they hold, or over held, any interest in the steamer Hannah Mokau. -MINISTERIAL STATEMENT. Mr Hall, before proceeding to business, wished first to reply to the statements made by the late Native Minister that, he offered to make one of the Maori members Native Minister, with control over all lands not Crown-granted, and also that he had promised to stop all sales and leases of lauds. He could only say that it was not so.
Mr Sheehan said if the Hon. Premier told them lu never said so he would be satisfied.
Mr. Hall said that was not altogether satisfactory, because there were others to satisfy, lu order that he might be prepared to refute the statement he asked his colleagues who were present at the interviews with the Maoris, to write down their recollections of what transpired, in order that he might see what their opinion was. They entirely concurred with his own view of what took place between him and Te Whooro and Tomoana, and completely exonerated him from the charges made against him by Mr Sheehan. Mr Hall continued —ho would not have troubled the House with this statement of what really transpired if the version of the hon. member had not gone beyond the walls of the House. To any gentleman who had known him long enough this explanation was not nccessaay. He could only say that if he held out such inducements as were attributed to him, he would he unworthy to hold office. Mr Sheehan said he accepted the denial, but it was admitted that something of the kind had been said or written. The statements were made in the House hy the Maori, and no attempt was made to contradict them at the time, although the hon. gentleman was in his place and heard what was said. • GOVERNMENT BILLS. Mr Hall laid the Bills of the Government were prepared, and would be found to differ materially .from those introduced by the late Government. Ho asked permission to bring down those Bills to-day, and the rest to-morrow. In regard to the Land Purchase Bill they would go on witli that of the late Government, with some slight alteration. When order No. 12 came on for leave to introduce a Bill to amend the Public Revenues Act, the Hon. the Treasurer would he prepared with a statement as to the finances of the colony, and would ask the House for permission to deliver it at half-past seven. The Native Minister had been busy looking into matters, but had not completed his investigations. He would not be prepared with a full statement until Thursday or Friday next, and it was not possible to make it before then. He would state briefly the principal features of this question. They believed in the establishment of a Maori Minister, with extended powers. With regard to the Native Lands Courts, the Government believed them cumbrous and unsatisfactory, and would take stops to improve them. The alienation of Native lands was also in an unsatisfactory condition, and would be put on an improved basis as soon as they had had time to make tl.c nselves acquainted with these matters. It had been proposed that the Governme it should sell the land on behalf of tiie Maoris. The Government looked with favor upon the proposal, but did not know whether they would be able to complete the scheme for giving effect to it. They wished to givo effect to the suggestion for re-distributiou of advertisements, without any reference to the political opinions of newsjiapers. They would give effect to this at once. In connection with the Hiuemoa, the Government would, as soon as the West Coast difficulty was over, take steps to adopt a more economical means of carrying on such work as she had been hitherto employed upon. Mr Hall then asked leave to introduce a Bill to amend the law relating to electors qualified to vote at elections of members of the House of Representatives, and proprovision for the regulation and conduct of such elections. The Government preferred to divide the matter into five Bills, in order to avoid complications arising through objections to various portions of one large Bill. Provision would be made for lodgers’, minors’, and ratepayers’ franchise. As large a percentage of electors were found on the rolls as on any rolls in the Australian colonies. They proposed to introduce a Bill defining the duties of the Native Member of the Cabinet. In connection with the West Coast a large expenditure was going on necessary to preserve the safety of that district, and the settlers wore suffering great loss through the paralysis of settlement. The Government's duty to the colony was to put a stop to this, and he gave the settlers credit for their forbearance. It was said the state of affairs arose from unfulfilled promises, and the late Government proposed that a Royal Commission should be appointed to enquire into the matter. The Government hoped that they would be able to put an end to this state of affairs at an early date. A .Bill would bo proposed specially directed to the means of • uirolling electors and imp.roving the iacliies for lining so. They proposed to give persona resilient in a district six months a vote, if they had been twelve months in
the country. They would appoint officers to see that all who had a right to be put on were so enrolled, and to keep the roll corrected ; would give the public opportunity to see who were on the roll, and if any wore improperly on, steps would bo taken in the R.M. Courts to sweep off. The boundaries of road districts trere not co-tcrminus with electoral districts, and difficulty was experienced in arranging matters ; but a large sum of money was now spent in advertising, which would be greatly reduced. The amount so saved would go far towards improving and extending the means of enrolling of electors, and keeping the roll pure. Mr Maoandrew said, before putting the question, he had to ask the ruling of the Speaker as to whether he would be in order in giving notice to move on the question an amendment, the nature of which he would lay before the House. It was to the effect that this House, while determined to pass a measure for amending the law relating to electors, declines to allow leave to do so until Ministers possess the confidence of the House. The Speaker ruled that a similar question being already before the House, it was not competent for him to receive such a resolution until the one already before them was disposed of. Mr Macandrow said in that case he had no alternative but to negative every motion introduced until the question was disposed of. There was no intention to stonewall, but they would have this matter decided without losing more time. They would make an exception in the matter of the Public Revenues Act, because they thought it was important ; but they would make no other exception. The Speaker said the question now was whether leave should be given to introduce a certain Bill.
Mr. Hall said the question was whether, if this Bill was negatived, it could be introduced again this session. The Speaker said he ruled that a resolution similar to the one on the Order Paper could not be entertained.
Sir G. Grey said they were competent to make forms of then-own, and proceeded to argue in that direction when he was called to order The Speaker quoted from May to show that matters of the kind were left to the Speaker to be dealt with according to order and precedent. Sir George Grey continued to refer to the matter, when he was again called to order.
Sir G. Grey then proposed to move the adjournment of the House in order to discuss the matter, but was told by the Speaker he could only speak to the question before the House at the time of moving. Mr Sheehan proposed the adjournment of the debate until 7.30, on the understanding that the financial statement should then come on, taking precedence of the matter now before the House.
Mr Hall said he was quite willing to adjourn if allowed to bring up the financial statement at 7.30.
Mr Sheehan said he would only consent if tliis matter was taken after the statement.
The debate on the Bill was then adjourned till 7.30.
EVENING SITTING. The Financial Statement. Major Atkinson, in moving for leaveW introduce the Public Revenues Act Amendment Act, said the circumstances were of an exceptional character. He had to disregard the usual rule, that the statement of the year should be a carefully prepared document and submitted to the Government. The finance had not been dealt with at all for fifteen months. Parliament was in the dark for that time. He would givo a broad outline of finance so as to enable members to turn over in their minds what was beat to be done. In 1878 the Treasurer estimated he would begin the year with a surplus of £120,468. The actual amount realised was £116,844. The expenditure passed was £4,210,000. The actual expenditure as placed before the House last session by the then Treasurer (Sir G. Grey) was £3,652,048 ; the apparent saving of £558,000 was reducible by £348,219 of liabilities. The payments for and made within the year amounted to a little over £4,000,000. The revenue for 1878-9 was estimated at £4,046,637. The actual sura realised being £3,751,598, left a deficiency of £203,939 at the end of this year. They began the year with £116,900 to their credit, and ended, after taking credit for assets and providing for liabilities, with a deficit of £130,824. He called attention to the following items of expenditure to show that they were not exercising any economy iu the public service. They had not retrenched in any one way, and it would be seen that some very decided step would have to be taken to place the finance on its proper footing. In law and justice, customs, &c., for the year 187778 the sum voted amounted to £866,000. That was an expenditure of £IO,OOO more than voted. In 1878-9 the same departments got a vote of £903,000, whereas the actual expenditure was £956,000. The Native Department was next referred to. In 1876-77 the cost was £34,000 ; in 187778 £43,000, and in 1878-79 it amounted to £58,000. The salaries last year were £19,000 ; they were about the same for 1877- but in 1878-79 only £15,331 was voted for salaries, but the contingent expenses rose from £4893 in 1876-76 to £5767 in the next year, while for 1878-79 they were £16,741. The expenditure for 1878- as estimated by the late Government was £3,973,425, but that did not include £140,000 for contingent defence, which it was proposed to charge to loan ; nor did it include £122,000 of local revenue, which the Government merely collected and paid. The expenditure as stated included £1,325,373 for interest and sinking fund, £63,540 the 20 per cent, of land, and £259,527 the amount of subsidies. The estimate of revenue by the late Government was £3,444,000 ; made up from taxation, £1,380,000 ; for services rendered £1,362,000; from land, £500,000. But deducting this revenue from the stated expenditure there was left a deficit of £532,034, and adding to this the deficit from 1878-79 of £131,814 there was left the deficit to bo met this year of £663,858. But in fact he feared with the experience which the Government had had of the receipts for the first quarter that the estimates made by the late Government for the current year’s revenue would not be realised. Revising the estimates as carefully as he had been aide, he feared tie- receipts would not exceed £3,193,900, made up of taxation £2,512,300, on
account of services £1,301,600, and from land £380,000. This would increase’ the deficit already stated l»y £120,000, and would leave a total deficit to be provided for this year of £711,000. It was not his at present to suggest a remedv, or to give reasons why he anticipated such results, as the House would only expect a broad statement of results. When he took possession of the Treasury, the public accounts stood thus : The receipts during the quarter did not come up to the payments made by the sum of £330,000. The late Government had issued £400,000 deficiency bills, and had used the whole of the proceeds. No provision had been made for paying subsidies to local bodies now due, or to meet other payments which it was absolutely necessary for them to make. To make provision for these they proposed to take power to issue a further £280,000 of deficiency bills, in order to enable them to carry on the necessary services of the colony up to the month of October or November, and by that time he hoped the House would have determined how the deficiency was to be made up. It would be improper for the Government to do more than submit a mere temporary remedy, so as to enable the House to take time to determine as to how the matter was to be finally disposed of. That was his reason for asking the House to pass the BUI. Regarding the position of the Public Works account, they began the year with a credit to the department of £507,000 nominally, but of this £300,000 was due for outstanding debts, so that in reality it was no'.better than so much-money paid away. So that they only actuaUy began the year with £712,000, so that the late Government had actually spent to the 30th September last half a million of the new £5,000,000 loan. Then, again, he found, upon enquiry, that their engagements entered into up to the 30th December next, amounted to £733,000 more, and further engagements, upon which they would have to pay on the 30th June next to £921,818 more. In other words, up to the 37th June next the public works they ware committed to, without any new ones being undertaken, would amount to £2,160,000 out of the £5,000,000. He was much startled when he found the amount so very large. He had taken pains to see that it was correct, but he found that it was not possible to reduce the amount below what he had stated. Included in this £2,160,000 was the sum of £200,000 for the purchase of native lands. Of that £36,000 had been spent already, and there were further engagements up to the end of this year to spend £84,000. They had a further liability upon these lands, which apparently they had engaged to fulfil, amounting to £957,000. In round figures, a million more had to be provided for to complete the purchase of these lands. They also had contracts on public works account upon the 30th June amounting to £1,281,815 more. So that one milllion would be required by the end of next June. What he desired to point out to the House, was this. They had actually spent up to the end of September one quarter of a million, which, together with their engagements, would amount to a total sum of £2,000,000, and that before
they knew whether the loan could be raised, not the slightest intimation having received on the subject. He deprecated in strong derma the propriety of pledging the credit of the colony in that way. He did not know how far the loan would go off. Fortunately the credit of the colony was good. Still, that was no excuse for the course pursued in the matter by the late Government. Such then was the financial position at the present time. He wished the tale he had to tell had been a little more cheerful. It was clearly, however, the bounden duty of hon. members to face the whole question of colonial finance at once. The position was, undoubtedly, a grave one, and would demand their immediate attention, and it''seemed to him that it was absoutely necessary that at the present time there should be a Government in power not only capable, but likewise one sufficiently strong to legislate for the interests of the/jolony, and not merely for those of party. It was their bounden duty, he submitted, to dispense with party tactics and turn their undivided attention immediately to these serious difficulties, and in some way devise a scheme to get the finances of the colony placed in a sounder and better position than they stood at present.
Sir Geo. Grey said the statement that a Financial Statement had not been made for the last fifteen months was not quite correct. The accounts had been published quarterly, and any one could have made up a statement similar to the one given as well as the Treasurer. It was not the fault of the late Government that a Financial Statement was ' not made last session. The unconstitutional provision by the_ Governor in granting the dissolution about no contested motion being brought forward, prevented them from going into the financial position of the colony. They had a Financial Statement ready this session, and but for what had taken place it would have been down before this time. Regarding the deficiency, it was brought about by exceptional circumstances. There was a large failling off in the land revenue, and to his mind that was no falling off in the revenue of the country. The Hon John Hall said no doubt the accounts had been gazetted, but very few men in the colony could arrive at any comprehension of the true bearing of those accounts. It was true that the proposed measure of taxation taken by the Government from its predecessors might produce £200,000 towards the deficit of £900,000, but no provision was , made for the balance. The purchase of the Native lands heretofore had always resulted in a dead loss to the colony. The worst feature of the present gloomy prospect was the utter . inability of the Opposition to realise their position. - Mr Ballance threw the blame on the Opposition last session, for keeping the Colony in the dark as to the financial condition. They used their majority at the very commencement of last session to intercept any consideration of financial matters, by bringing down a vote of want <jf He contended that the f real'deficit last year was only £OO,OOO, and that, considering all the facts, the results of the finance last year were by no means unsatisfactory. No doubt the "‘“Honse had to face a deficit, but it was not ' bo serious » one as was stated. It would probably be about £500,000 to £600,000 • chiefly through the falling off in the land fevwue,
Mr M‘Lean thought that much of the present evil was due to Mr Ballance. He also blamed that gentleman for leaving the late Government without meeting Parliament.
Messrs Moss and Reader Wood defended the late Ministry. If they had done wrong they had only imitated their predecessors. Mr. Wakefield, at considerable length, replied to Sir George Grey and Mr Ballance. He condemned the reckless finance of the late Government.
After some remarks from Messrs Pyke and Turnbull, Major Atkinson replied, and the Public Revenue Bill was then introduced and passed through all its stages. The Hon. Mr Hall then moved that the House adjourn.
Mr. Sheehan wished to revert to the debate on introducing the Electoral Bill to complain that Mr Hall’s action was a breach of faith.
Mr Hall denied this, and said Government would not be coerced.
The Speaker ruled that no new business could be entered on, as it was after 12.30. Mr Hislop intimated that if Government continued to defy the majority the House, he would, if only five stood by him, oppose all supplies.
Mr Whitaker defended the course Government had taken;
Mr Macandrevv said they were outflanked for the day, and had only to sumbit. The House adjourned at 1.40 a.m.
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