The Ashburton Guardian. COUNTY. AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER. THURSDAY, JANUARY 1, 1880.
Politically, the past year has, been remarkable as the last and'wildest, though, by no means the happiest, in nine years _of artificial prosperity produced by the ex. penditure of borrowed money. * Whilst we were never .very prudent nor adverse to be merry to : day and not think of to-morrow,” it has yet been always considered-.. necessary, that ■ the > Colonial Treasurer of this, colony .should show a balance sheet' in which - we ■ at--least appeared; to be meeting our ordinary expenditure with our ordinary revenue. Until, Sir, George Grey became Premier, this was dope'without, taking the land fund from \w?hat ; was; always considered its legitimate use—i.s.v making roads and bridges ~in; the province,’, in which it was raised. ' He, however, saw that it. had become; the apparent into rest of all the provinces, except Otago and Canterbury, to moke, the land, fund' common property, and take it for ordinary purposes that would otherwise , have to ho met by additional taxation ; and this ’dishonest means of staying-6£<the taxa.' tipn that had become necessary to meet the large sums required to pay,interest bh past loans, was so much to the taste of the taxpayers generally, that Wen : thbeOi called representatives of thp two pro*
vineeis that were to be robbed for that purpose, made ng strong protest against it, and three of them were found willing everi to join a . Government whose 'distinguishing policy was the Colonial appro-' priation of the land fund. Of coarse this was a death blow to the goose that had so long been laying golden eggs, and as the -land fund was taken away and spent in.< a manner that no longer , opened up more land for sale, and only fostered the extravagance of a thoughtless selfish Government, and provided means to influence the votes of those over-represented parts of the colony whose land fund had long: been exhausted, the land fund itself ceased to flow in, and all calculations based on its continuance proved entirely dec ptive. ’ All this was becoming very apparent during the session of 1878, and should then have been met by firm and vigorous measures; of additional taxation. But his own. temporary, popularity was far more Important in Sir George Grey’s estimation than, the credit or permanent prosperity of the Colony, and that popularity he tried to secure by taking off a tax'that did not : wist one penny to collect, and putting one on;that he was never able to collect at ,all, and that will have cost the Colony very nearly as much aa. it.. will yield when it is collected. • Finding that more taxation • was -necessary to keep up even a pretence ,of making both ends meet, he attempted a most ill devised, beer tax; but as that was of course not popular, and as it was putt' ng the tax cm exactly the shoulders from which, he had promised to remove it, and was most strongly opposed by his own party in the liouse, he abandoned both it, .and the Companies’ Income Tax without preparing ’ any thing in their place, although both had been declared by his Treasurer to be necessary, and were really far more necessary than anyone at that time supposed; However, the only necessary thing with' Sir George Grey was that he should continue Premier, so on he ...went without the means that he knew, and had officially declared, to be necessary to pay • hiii- ! way, but still adding io ihe expenses of the Colony iii fill ' directions, increasing salaries and offices, adding to the Legislative Council, spending LIO.OOO a j'ear on theHinemoa, and- sowing money broadcast among the natives, with; an .utter disregard of all
Pavl’ainentary control. An attempt was made to hide the great deficiency of revenue to meet expenditure by charging to loan more than-a quarter of a million, that shop Id have" been paid out of revenue, for the defence of the colony, the erection of school buildings, and the payment of the Armed Constabulary! ' But even that fraud would not carry him beyond the
30th. of last June with any. appearance of
paying his way, and the present financial yeai was entered on with a rate of expenditure to revenue that, besides all the filching from loan fund, would leave an excess .of expenditure over the revenue of the year of no less than L 951,000. Such, was the state of the finances of the colony W'heri Sir George Grey, like iCharles the First, had reluctantly to
■Mteijiis Parliament, which he had to put VTCmtil more than three weeks after the close of the financial year. He of course soon received the dismissal that he must have expected from an assembly of men, the majority of whom were able and wiling personally to investigate the proceedings of the past year, to give blue books a preference to h’s fictions, and to be little influenced by his eloquence. Still, he is not the man to d, own while there is a straw to catch at, or even a nettle, dnd as much as he rails ■ against Governors, he persuaded Sir Hercules Robinson to grant him a dissolution at a time, and under circumstances in which a dissolution certainly ought not to have been granted ; at a time when the general depression of the colony required evident attention; when its-public finance was in' utter darkness, and demanded immediate investigation from some one able to fathom it, and honest-enough to. .reveal it. The vote of no confidence, too, had been based; not bn ary'difference of policy which the country might "decide, but on the grounds of incapacity and mismanagement which the House alone was in a position to judge of. Nor should a dissolution have .been granted under any circum- . stances without a redistribution of seats, which had long been much needed, which" justice to Canterbury especially demanded, and which could only be effected immediately before a dissolution of Parliament. However, such considerations had .no weight with Sir George G rey, and if ‘they were duly weighed by Sir Hercules Robinson, he preferred the .inconvenience, the expense, and the,risk to the colony; to the personal abuse he was sure to receive from Sir George Grey at all his meetings, if he had refused him the, opportunity to try his power of deception oncemore on the - electors,- backed aa. herthen was; by all the influence of place and power, the unscrupulous expenditure of public money, and the gift of public positions. :• Prior to thisi, his only able ..and . trustworthy Minister, Mr. Stout, the Attorney-General, had resigned his seat, both in the Ministry and the House, and Sir George had, no doubt purposely, quarrelled with and driven away his Treasurer, Mr. Ballance, to get that portfolio into his own hands, as no .Treasurer, however unprincipled or obsequious, could ever be got to do what Sir Georjge afterwards did in that capacity himself, and the most perfect concealment of the real state of the colony Was indispensable to any successful appeal to the electors. I bis rupture with the Treasurer was so managed, that while Mr. Ballance could not meet or speak to Sir George Grey, he was on the most friendly terms ■p-ith. all the other members of his ■Ministry, and by that means .was prevented from making any damaging disclosures. ~~ Besides which, Mr. Ballance ,;Waaiknown to have left the Atkinson and Eos party in a manner" that would render itrimpossible for him over to join them again. .To .the House, Sir George Grey found one pretence after another for giving them no: .'financial stat unent; and by taunting them with a fear of meeting their constituents, and of ruining, the Colony if they delayed, in any way, a loan of j five millions, he actually got them to so far abandon their duty as to pass and send Home a five million loan Bill, without being accompanied with any financial statement,- and to go back to. their constituents for election without being able, to tell them anything about the financial state of-the Colony, or the crushing burdens thaT his reckless mismanagement and extravagance had rendered necessary, at a when the Colony was so little-able-to • * it ' '
boar them. All this should have been prevented by the Parliament firmly refusing to grant supplies until Sir George Grey was dismissed, which would have left the Governor no option in the matter. In the election that followed, whilst the truth had been thus effectually concealed, even from the representatives of the people, all ’the resources of the Government were unceremoniously and unscrupulously used to disseminate falsehood and every description of misrepresentation.
Sir George sped from North to South, and from East to West, in the Hinemoa, literally promising that if he were properly supported there would be no room for discontent, because “everyone would have everything they could desire.” Newspapers were ordered to support certain candidates and to oppose others, as cool ty and as peremptorily as a servant would he told which fowl to kill and which to keep alive. Tiie Colonial Secretary has since stated on oath that he sent between 300 and 400 telegrams, and the Native Minister that he spent LOO on election telegrams out of his own pocket, besides those that were discovered in consequence of being charged to the public account. Seats in the Legislative Council were offered as a reward to candi dates who undertook the most dangerous contests, as freely, and almost as openly, as books are offered as prizes to the best boys in our public schools, although each of the seats so conferred would add at least £4OO a year to the future expense of our Government ; whilst the land tax collectors in the South Island, and native land purchasers in the North Island, were made to perfectly understand that their chief duty was, not to collect the tax, not to purchase native land, but to return to Parliament men who would support Sir George Grey through thick and thin. The result was a very narrow escape to the colony of another year of his fatal 'misrule, which could not have failed to end in the bankruptcy of New Zealand. No less than 32 of his old and well informed judges were changed for new ones, and the consequence was that a Government condemned by a majority of 14 in the old Parliament was condemned by a majority of only 3 iu the new one. Of course a nearer and less obscured view of such a Premier as Sir George Grey, and of such Ministers as would work with him, insures that a large proportion of those who honestly expected to support him will learn that they cannot do so, and for that reason that great danger is now probably passed for ever. Each month in the House of Representatives has not only lessened the number of his supporters, but has also demoralised those who are left to him, arid a glance at the two sides of either House of Parliament, as they ,at present exist, would convince the most careless observer how little of intelligence, independence, or honesty is to be found still aohering to the late Prem er, whose pedigree, whose education, whose position, and whose eloquence would all have claimed support if they ■ had been united with the more essential qualities of which he has proved so sadly deficient.
The taskof his successors is no sinecure ; they must cease to woo the the popularity which, he was ready to buy at any price; they mustdouble the burdens which he always talked of lightening, and which he did lighten for a time, with suchfataleffect onthe burdens of the future ; theymustcurtail the salaries which lie has increased ; and. they must make enemies of the supporters whom he so freely hired at the public expense. If they are wise enough, and bold enough, and honest enough to maintain our nearly lost credit, to put the unwelcome burdens on. the right shoulders, and to cut down useless expenditure without favor or affection, they will have earned a jyatitude which they may nevir obtain, but’ they will reap the approbation of the wise and thoughtful, and will be able to remember with satisfaction the depth of degradation from which they will have saved the colony, which has now entrusted its destiny to their hands.