The Ashburton Guardian. COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER TUESDAY, MARCH 9, 1880.
It will no doubt be remembered with what a howl of disapprobation the Financial Statement of Major Atkinson was received by the so-called Liberal party and their supporters throughout the colony. When the Major had ransacked the Treasury accounts and satisfied himself as to how they balanced, he had no difficulty in coming to the correct conclusion as to why Sir George Grey had carefully held back everything in the shape of a balance-sheet and the customary Budget, and gone to the country while it was in ignorance of the true state of affairs. The reason why Sir George did bo was not difficult to find. Had he put before his dearly beloved “serfs ” the fact that the colony had made a financial leeway of £900,000 —a leeway that had every prospect of increasing instead of diminishing, and that to make good a portion of
this leeway he would require to impose additional taxation, the multitude who “gaped and clawed the elbow” while ho spoke, and swore by his name at the poll-ing-booth, would have gaped with another wonderment, and would have cast about for another conjuror. But Sir George did not care to show his hand. In fact his success, if he was to succeed at all, lay in the ability he could display in concealing that hand, and how well he succeeded in doing so is shown by the difficulty his opponents experienced in turning him out ; for he went back to Parliament with a following about equal in strength to that of the party ranged against him, and it was not till his own supporters became disgusted with his tacties that a defection from his ranks turned the balance of power, and let in the then Opposition. Up to this time no clear statement of the colony’s financial position had boon laid before Parliament. That money was scarce and the outlook not cheering everyone was aware, for indications were nut wanting, by the falling off in land sales, and the gradually attenuating revenue from ordinary sources, that the treasury chest was getting low. The wild anxiety of the Greyite Ministry to rush on the Loan Bill -was sufficient index of their trouble ; bat it was only when Major Atkinson got fairly into office that a fair statement of the colony’s position was laid before the House and the people. Then came the storm. It was only an accountants trick—the deficiency was not real ; it existed only on paper, and was manipulated with the object, not of showing the true state of the colony’s finance, but of giving color to the charges of extravagance and incompetency that had been brought against the Grey Government. It was said that a statement such as that produced by Major Atkinson would ruin the colony’s credit and throw her back in her inarch of progress, rendering and deficiency that did exist more difficult to redeem. But Major Atkinson still held to his statement, and the evils that were prophesied to result from his fearless laying bare of the colony’s financial position have yet to come. But the evils lie himself prophesied have come. He told us that to meet our engagements, it would be necessary to increase taxation to a disagreeable extent, and to reduce expenditure at every available point. He told us, too, that by the end of the financial year we should have to face a deficiency, roughly estimated at £900,000. His opponents told us that the news of the deficiency would so fearfully tell on the colony’s credit that all hope of ever entering the money market again was irrevocably gone. We have bad to endure the increased taxation, and that at a time when we could ill afford it, and reduced expenditure is the order of the day throughout every Governmental department, and now we hear that a further issue of £200,000 Deficiency Bills has been necessary, making £1,000,000 since the commencement of the financial year. This is only the state of affairs wo expected from the Major’s statement, and is further proof that Government knew the rottenness of our finance when they took office, and promulgated the disagreeable but spirited financial policy they did to make revenue cover expenditure. The tax-payer will have reason to remember how the extremely Liberal Government paved the way for the burdens he now has to pay, and the colony lias reason to bo grateful for the intrepidity with which the present Government stepped in and saved her from financial disaster by simply pointing out the disparity between the two sides of her legor and with a bold front taking such stops as they could to equalise them.