The Ashburton Guardian, COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER TUESDAY, OCTOBER 28, 1879.
The political situation in Wellington has taken an unexpectedly favorable turn for the Ministry, who now find themselves as much in the majority as but a short time ago the Opposition held them in the minority. It was scarcely to be expected that sensible men in the House would long tolerate the dead-lock that prevented the progress of business, and wasted valuable time at a critical period in the colony’s history. And though we were fully prepared for some change in the state of affairs, we judged, from the jubilant and even defiant tone of the Opposition leaders aud the Opposition press, that the change was to be brought about by defections not
from the Opposition to the Ministerial j side, but from the Ministerial side to the i Opposition. Our calculations were wrong, ) and the star of Mr Hill's Government is ] in the ascendent. Four of the Opposition side, and from Auckland, too, be it remembered, have that it was to the advantage of the districts they represented to “ pass over,” and they have done so. The Premier has, they affirm, assured them of the passage through Parliament of Liberal measures, that the education system non - existing will not be disturbed, and that Auckland will obtain her just share of public works. They are therefore prepared to leave the ranks of Sir Geerge Grey and vote with Government. The Northern men who have thus cast off their never very strong allegiance to the “ pro consul ” are Mr Reader Wood, Mr Colbcck, Mr Hurst, and Mr Swanson. These recruits, much to the disgust of the Opposition, have taken with them the necessary majority to enable the Hall Ministry to face the hitherto chuckling Opposition when their threatened no-confidence vote comes, and to do so with the same defiance if need be, that characterised Sir George Grey, at whose “ chariot wheels,” but a week ago, the Ministerialists were to be “dragged.” Sir George, too, helj)s to swell the Government’s majority ; for by his unseating for the City of Christchurch, and the appointing of Mr Richardson in his stead, Ministers recruit another seat. It is to be hoped, now that something approaching to a working majority has been secured, business will proceed, and that the work of legislation will go on in real earnest.
Parliament lias now under its consideration two measures dealing with the licensing question in the colony, the Local Option Bill of Mr Saunders, which has already appeared pretty fully in these columns, and a later Bill, introduced by Mr Acton Adams, one of the Nelson members, which is shortly entitled The Licensing Acts Amendment Bill. It repeals all the Acts which are inconsistent with the new Bill, particularly the provisions relating to the fees payable for licenses. In fact the Bill seems to have been introduced mainly with a view to equalise the license fees throughout the colony. Clause 4 of Mr Adams’ Bill classifies the licenses as follows :
“ There shall be four classes of publicans’ licenses, namely—(l) Town license, meaning a license applied for within any city or borough incorporated under the Municipal Corporations Act. (2) County license, meaning a license applied for outside of any city or borough, and not being an accommodation or ferry license. (3) Accommodation license, meaning a license applied for outside of any city or borough, and where the business to be done under such license shall principally consist of accommodation to travellers. (4) Ferry license, meaning a license applied for on the terms of keeping a ferry, or keeping in repair any roads or bridges adjacent to such house. Clause 5 fixes the fees payable under the Bill for the various licenses thus— For a wholesale- license £lO For a bottle license 25
For a packet license ... ... ... 10 For a town license ... ... ... 25 For a country license ... ... ... 20 For an accommodation license ... 10 For a ferry license ... ... ... 1 The above figures show a very material reduction upon the licenses now paid in many parts of the colony, and it yet remains to be seen to what extent these reductions will be sanctioned. The Bill has passed the second reading but we are very much afraid Mr Adams fee table will be considerably disturbed m Committee of the whole House. Clause 6 of the Bill fixes the business hours of licensed houses, and these are between six in the morning and eleven at night, two hours earlier in commencing than is allowed by the Forbes Mackenzie Act, but the same limit at night. The Sunday hours seem to have been fixed with a view to legalising Sunday drinking. It is notorious that a large amount of trade is carried on in the colony on Sunday, notwithstanding that provision is made to prevent it. The police seem powerless to deal with the matter ; at any rate the trade goes on, and it is probable the framer of the new Bill fancied that if the present legal machinery could not stop the Sunday traffic, it would be as well to make it a legitimate trade at once. He, however, has only given two hours during which liquor can be sold, and consumed on licensed premises by other than boarders or bona fide travellers, and these hours are between one and two in the afternoon and eight and nine in the evening. The Sunday hours also hold for Christmas Day and Good Friday. Extension of licenses till twelve o’clock could be obtained under this clause for an extra fee of twelve pounds. Clause 7 dispenses with the customary door lamp in cities and towns lighted at the expense of the ratepayers, except in such streets as do not enjoy the luxury of a public lamp. Clause 8 defines the expression “bona fide traveller” to mean any person travelling for business, pleasure, health, recreation, or any other lawful purpose to which the obtaining of liquor is merely ancillary ; and it throws the onus of proof that a man is not a bona fide traveller upon the prosecutor in any action under the Licensing Act.