The Ashburton Guardian, COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER. SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 1879.
The Opposition are now finding out that the ways of the transgressors are hard, and that punishment usually follows upon evil doing. During the last election it was notorious that an extensive use was made of the telegraph wires to influence the various contests in which eJir George’s side fancied they could do a stroke of business in their own favor. We don’t know that, so long as telegrams sent regarding electioneering matters are paid for they are much out of the way. The Grey Government were in office, they were passionately fond of office, there was every chance that they would be turned out of office, and being desperate and not very particular men they were not quite choice as to what means they resorted to to maintain their position. Eapid communication with the various districts where the contests were going on that were to decide the Greyites’ fate was indispensable, and having the Hinemoa at command, and the public purse under their control, and the telegraph system at their beck and call, it is nothing to be astonished at that men who have not been famous for sticking at trifles should be found turning the first sod of a railway in a district where an election was about to take place ; nor rising up above the arrangements of the steam shipping companies, and landing where and when they would from the Hinemoa ; nor flashing their messages by the telegraph all over the country. Of course the telegraph is a public institution, and was as free to be used by Sir George Grey or other member of the Cabinet as it was to any other individual in the colony. Only, when the telegraph came to be used by a Cabinet Minister for purposes other than those of the Department he conducted, that is of the public business of the colony, then this freedom required to be purchased. For instance, we can understand the Hon. John Sheehan telegraphing to a Maori man regarding the purchase of a tract of native land for Government. That would be a perfectly legitimate telegram to bear the frank of the Native Minister ; but a telegram to a Maori lady, that embodied a tender “ sonnet to her eyebrow ” would not be a legitimate missive for free transmission. We do not suppose that the Hon. John Sheehan could possibly be guilty of any such telegram to any such native lady, and we only use the illustration to show how the franking power of Ministers can be used, and how it cannot. The election of a supporter of of Sir George Grey to the exclusion of a supporter of the Hon J. Hall may be a public question, but it can scarcely be called public business in the sense implied in a Minister’s power to frank telegrams ; and when the hon gentlemen who lately occupied the Government benches stepped aside from their proper powers and scattered telegrams over the colony, trying to influence this contest and the next, the very least they could have done was to pay for them. That such telegrams have been plentiful we are just now learning from the proceedings of Parliament, and that they have not been paid for is the additional item we glean. Quitea stir wascausedin the House over a batch of “ free ” telegrams sent by the ex-Premier to the electors in Oollingwood during the recent struggle between the former and present holder of the -Collingwood seal, Mr Gibbs, and two nominees of the Grey side. These missives were not paid for, and Sir George hitches the blame on to his Private Secretary. That able officer has too much to account for we fear, but he did not charter the Hinemoa, and he had nothing to do with the Thames railway requring to have a demonstration just at the commencement of the election. We fear the Private Secretary is too indigestible an argument for the House to swallow, and results will doubtless show this. The telegrams are not the only instances in which charges of malversation of office can be brought against the Opposition, and it is well for the country that an opportunity has been given to the present Government to show that the threats they held out of making ugly exposures if they could once get hold of the departmental keys were not without foundation.
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