HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
Thursday, Dec. 4. AFTERNOON SITTING. The House met at-2.30 p.m. THE ELECTION TELEGRAMS COMMITTEE’S REPORT. Mr. Macandrew brought up the report of the Election Telegrams Committee. He stated that the Committee were of opinion that seven telegrams sealed up, and accompanying the report, had been improperly laid on the table. The report itself set forth that five messages were originally paid for by the senders and forwarded through the Department to the destination of Ministers, and two were sent by a mistake of the Telegraph Office. These had been scaled up and left untouched. Seventy-six telegrams in all had been sent and received by Government on election subjects. Mr. Montgomery asked that the evidence and proceedings of the Committee be read. The report was not an unanimous one, as there were three votes on one side and four on the other.
In reply to a question, The Speaker said that the telegrams would remain in his hands until the House decided what course they would adopt in the math ». Sir G. Grey proposed—“ That the resolution’ passed in Committee, to the effect that the report be not adopted by the Committee, be reaato the House.”
Mi - . Stewart .seconded the motion. The House divided. -Ayes, 52 ; Noes, 41. The amendment for reading the minutes and proceedings was accordingly lost.
Mr. Tole said that a distinct statement had been made that a draft report had been submitted to the Government before being submitted to the Committee. He moved —“That a Committee be elected to enquire into tire truth of the allegation. ”
Mr. J. B. Fisher seconded the motion, and expressed surprise that Government had not denied the truth of the allegation if it was untrue. The whole conduct of Government in this matter justified him in assuming that the Government were well aware that they were producing private telegrams and laying them on the table in the first instance.
Mr. Wakefield said that the report of the Committee was never shown to' anyone until it was submitted to the Committee. He drew it up himself, and it was shown to no one until it was submitted to the Committee for approval. Mr. Tole’s amendment was withdrawn with the consent of the House, and on the original motion being put, Mr. Macandrew said that, as a fact within his knowledge, the telegrams were never at any time out of the possession of members of the Committee.
Mr. Hamlin thought that it was right the House should have the names of the members who had made copies of the telegrams as alleged by a previous speaker. * Mr. Sutton said that these telegrams having been placed on the table of the House they became public property, and a member was justified in copying them, if he thought proper. The Hon. J. Hall suggested that the motion for printing the report and evidence be allowed to pass, and an effort would be made to get them completed by Monday. Mr. Finn proposed as an amendmet that the Speaker be requested to examine the sealed packet, with a view of informing the House as to the names of the senders of those telegrams. The Hon. R. Oliver denied that the secrecy of the Department had been violated, and hoped that the amendment would not be agreed to. The debate was interrupted by the ,5.30 p.m. adjournment.
EVENING SITTING. The House resumed at 7.30. property assessment bill.
The Hon. Major Atkikson moved the second reading of the Property Assessment Bill. They had already gone as far as they could in the way of indirect taxation, and direct taxation was now rendered necessary. A difference of opinion existed as to the propriety of taxing incomes or capital, and Government had come to the conclusion that it would be better to tax property than incomes arising from property. An income tax was a tax upon a man’s energies and abilities, and on that account it was objectionable. The income tax was a great deal more inquisitorial than a property tax. In a colony like this the majority of settlers had fixed incomes, and there was no difficulty in rendering an account of what each possessed. In America the farmer had to give a return not only of crops, but likewise of any real property acquired during the year. Then, again, he was not allowed to deduct anything foxlabor he employed in improving his property. If he did not please the assessor, then he had to exhibit all his books and disclose all his transactions to prove his income was what he returned it as. Under the tax they proposed, no inquisitorial proceedings were required, and all he was required to do was to give an account of his visible property. It lay with him as far as he might deem advisable to show any transactions that did not appear on the face of his possessions. The objection that by taxing property and not incomes, a certain class escaped was to some extent true. The Property Tax was levied for the purpose of adjusting taxation. An indirect tax bears on all clases of the community, and they could not possibly tell upon whom. That the Bill would not tax unearned increment was a fallacy. If speculation in land was going on to the detriment of the settlement, by all means let them to special legislation ; but it was wrong to impose j, land tax simply to get hold of a lax-ger class of land owners. They could not deter speculators by that tax, and, on the other hand, it was a gross injustice to a particular class of the commuixity, The Bill before the House was prepared rather hastily, so that while it contains the principle of taxation proposed, there were details which he would amend in Committee. With regard to personal property it was px-oposed that man should be his own valuator, and as the owner sent in a return to the deputy commissioner, deducting as he thought fit any debt lie might owe, it was open to the Commissioner to object or not. It was then for the owner to substantiate the return he had made before the officers had called reviewers. In that case there would be no prying into the man’s affairs, and it would be the object of Government to secure
men of high standard. It might ho so far altered as to make the tax receiveable from the mortgagor instead of the mortgagee. He made that proposal with a view of preventing property being twice taxed. The question of how much was to be levied on property was imt touched upon by the Bill, as it was purely a machinery Bill, and it was to be hoped that in discussing it they would not mix up the general i|uestion of taxation. They had to make up £1,500,000 per year to meet the demands of the public creditor, and without some such tax as this, they would always be in the position of being compelled to adopt some temporary expedient for making good liabilities. The proposal was simply to provide the machinery, and then as occasion required fix the amount.. This year they proposed to malm it one penny in the pound, and in arriving at ’ that determination he was led by the feeling that they had to face very uncertain times, and it was unnecessary they should not overrate their revenue. Then again their expenditure was more than it should be, and though they would use every effort towards economy, still he could not at present take that into account. He had therefore estimated the expenditure as that of hist year, and in that case he had shown that a deficit of £BOO,OOO or £OOO,OOO would exist. They proposed to meet the House in May, and if they found the revenue .was rising on the expenditure then the amount of one penny in the pound could be reduced to what was deemed necessary. Before next March they would have to borrow some £BOO,OOO, and it was just possible that their loans would not be negotiated by that time. With this tax they would be in a position to go into the money market with a much better grace, having ordinary expenditure amply covered by taxation. If looked at impartially be thought members would agree that an Income Tax would be inexpedient at present.
Mr. Ballance contended that the romaiks which had been made al oat the proposed tax of one penny in the pound were chiefly made for the purpose of raising the credit of the colony in London. The Treasurer told them that the Income Tax was more inquisitorial than the Property Tax, but he had given no proof in support of the statement. Under the Income Tax it was only in cases of doubt that it was rendered inquisitorial, and he now asked would it not be the same in regard to the Property Tax. There were a great number of concerns in the colony in which large amounts were invested, Mining Companies for example, which paid no income at all. Now this Bill would fall as heavily on these as it would on concerns paying large incomes. They had evidence that the land tax, which was condemned by the Treasurer, was being reverted to by other colonies. If they eliminated all the objections from the land tax incidental to its immigrants, then he would say they had adopted a tax acceptable to the whole country. There was a great danger of chopping about from one tax to another, and that was precisely what the Treasurer proposed to do. If a scramble was to be permitted in Committee, as the Treasurer had partly prepared them for, then it would merge from Committee in a shape altogether different from what it now professed to be. The credit of the colony depended not as the Treasurer would lead them to suppose on one tax, but upon the whole system of taxation. One of the most prosperous classes in the colony was the professional man, and he was to escape altogether. The question that arose was was all this crushing taxation necessary 1 They had been told that it was to be a shifting tax, small in prosperous times and heavier in others. He -would contend that taxation was not called for; the sum of £200,000 had been miscalculated in the Estimates. A large amount of represented deficiency was due to the manner in which the Treasurer had brought down his statement, and he saw no reason to reduce the revenue £250,000 as the Treasurer had done. The late Government had been blamed for not calling the House together earlier than they did ; he, however contended thas there was no financial reason for doing so. One charge made against the late Government was that it lived on the land fund. It was the Treasurer who had first established the principle of bringing the land fund into the public account in 1875, and he (Mr. Ballance) went on to show that the late Government had lived on that fund far less than the Government of which the Treasurer had previously been a member, and even yet Major Atkinson had not ceased to live on that fund. He contended that the liabilities had been overstated, and that large items had been put down which wouli not come down for payment this financial year. The Treasurer had attacked his Estimates of last year ; the fact was that they had estimated £IOO,OOO from the land tax, and they would reach that amount within £IO,OOO. In the Financial Statement for the present year, a misstatement of £50,000 for taxation alone had been made, the expenditure was over estimated by £70,000, and other items were quoted and criticised to show that the computation was altogether wrong. Mr. Shrimski spoke in opposition to the Bill.
Mr. Macandrew said that all the minority could do was to record their protest against the . measure. The feeling produced was that after spending so many years of his life in New Zealand he would have to leave the country. Before imposing a tax of this kind, other means should have been exhausted. Tho Estimates ought to have been out down, for the expenditure was altogether out of proportion to their revenue. Mr. Hutchison did not think that any amendment likely to be made would make the Bill tolerable. Its principal effect would be to create another army of officials, who, once created, the colony would have great difficulty in getting quit of. The system of taxation proposed was viejons in principle, and inquisitorial in effect. It made no distinction between the man of small and the man of large property. Mr. Turnbull characterised the statement that it was necessary for the credit of the colony that increased taxation should bo imposed, tus ft most extraordinary one. The reduction in the Estimates when passing through the House should enable them to dispense with the proposed taxation. No good reason had been shown why a measure of this kind should be passed. On the contrary, it had been proved that the proposal was quite uncalled for. Mr. Dick had an idea that the difficulties of the colony had been overstated,
and ho was glad to find that the Treasurer now took a more hopeful view of matters. He believed the measure was an improvement on the Land Bill ; at the same time he thought it defective. The proposal to tax shareholders was unfair Persons deriving large incomes from these very companies escaped. Education should not be absolutely free. Fees could be easily levied to the extent of £IOO,OOO, and at least one-half of the property tax might therefore be dispensed with. Trade was better outside, and no doubt would soon be improved here. An increased revenue from railways might also be anticipated. The property tax would discourage inbrought capital. At present they should tread on the resources of the people as lightly as they could, and rather aim at reducing their expenditure.
The 1 louse divided on the second reading of the Bill at 2.45 a.in. Ayes, 24: Atkinson, Bain, Bowen, Dick, Gibbs, Hall, Hirst, Hursthouse, Kelly, Kenny, M'Lean, Murray (teller), Pitt, .Richardson, Rolleston, Saunders, Seymour, Shanks, Stevens, Studholme, (teller), Sutton, Swanson, Trimble, Wright. Noes, 14 : Andrews, Bari'on, Delatour, Fisher, J. T. (Heathcote), George (teller), Gisborne, Harris, Hislop (teller), Moss, Seddon, Slviphard, Speight, Stewart, Tole. —___
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