THE PREMIER BEFORE HIS CONSTITUENTS.
The Hon. John Hall, Premier of the New Zealand Government, addressed his constituents on Thursday night, at Leeston, in the Public Hall, Mr. Bluett presiding. The Premier, after tendering his recent illness as an apology for not addressing the electors at an earlier date, and pleading want of time for omitting to speak in other parts of the electoral district, went on to deal with such questions as were of local importance. He complimented his constituents, on their considerate abstention from clamour for public works ; in this they had shown a good example to other districts in these times of financial difficulty, when the public exchequer was so exceedingly low. This want of funds interfered to such a great extent with the carrying on of public works that his Government would find it impossible to construct a bridge over the Rakaia at Bobbie's Ford, however much it was his wish and the wish of the district that such a structure should be ei'ected. The undertaking may, however, be provided for if the Selwyn and Ashburton Councils obtain liberty to lease the tolls for a given number of years. In that case some enterprising person may be found to build the bridge. If that were desired he would do his best to aid the Councils in obtaining the necessary authority. THE RAKAIA BRIDGE AMD PROTECTIVE WORKS. The next question, gentlemen, is one which very seriously affects the occupiers and cultivators of land in the southern parts of the district, namely, the extent to which the present railway works at the south side of the Rakaia bridge are said to be endangering the protective works put up on the north bank of that river. A strong opinion is entertained that the partial embankment across the river does great mischief to the works you have erected to protect the district from onc; oachment. I have examined the place, and, as far as I can judge, being a layman, that opinion is a correct one ; but the railway engineers, having been asked to consider the matter, gave it as their opinion that this work does not interfere with the protective works on this side. I found the best that can be done for your interests was this : To induce the Government to agree that they shall appoint one engineer, that the North Rakaia Board of Conservators appoint another engineer, and that these two appoint a third, to report together upon the work and say whether any wrong is being done to the district or not. 1 am glad to be able to say that the Minister for Public Works has agreed to the course I proposed, and proceedings to that end will be taken •without the least possible delay. We shall then ascertain, from an independent and impartial [tribunal, -whether some alteration of the present work is necessary or whether it is not. And I hope, gentlemen, you will admit that, under all the circumstances, I have done my best for you in that respect. THE THAMES CONSTITUENCY. Sir George Grey called the Selwyn a rotten borough. Sir George represents the Thames district. Comparisons are odious, but they are sometimes useful. It was my duty in the House of Representatives to throw some light on the electoral roll for the Thames, and this is the result of the analysis I obtained, which has never been contradicted, and cannot be : —The electoral roll of the Thames at the time I speak of comprised 4,446 electors, being more than the whole of the male population of the district. But, of these people who were on that roll, 52 were dead, 262 were twice on the roll, 118 were three times on the roll, 609 were absent, 400 could not be found out by the gentleman who sent me this, and who knows the place thoroughly—(laughter), not properly qualified, 56 had no qualification at all, 16 natives were twice on the roll, and 12 natives whose names appeared on the roll were dead. Now, I think if one of us represents a rotten borough it is _ not myself. sir George’s log-rolling. The constituents composing a rotten borough always expect certain benefits. If you look at the address of Sir George Grey to the electors of the Thames, you will find a column and a half devoted to a statement of what he had obtained for the district—such as harbor works, the high school, the railway, and other things. I have not found it necessary to speak to you in this way. I have told you candidly that some of your wants under more favorable circumstances might be considered, but under existing circumstances they could not be entertained. I do not think it was wise for Sir G. Grey to provoke a comparison between the two constituences. UNDER OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES. Sir George said at Christchurch that you are a few farmers in an obscure country village. That is the way he has of speaking of anybody who crosses his path at all, and you have so far done this as to have elected a man to represent you who has been instrumental in turning him out of office. That is why he speaks of you in that contemptuous manner. His tune would have been widely different had you elected a supporter of Sir G. Grey. This would then have been the finest district in the whole of New Zealand—you would have been the most enlightened and intelligent body of electors he had over met with —and Leeston, instead of being an obscure country village, would have been a great centre of political intelligence, from which benefits without number would have flowed throughout the whole of New Zealand. Ho would not even stop there. The interest which Sir George Grey would have taken in your children would have been perfectly marvellous. He would tell you that he never had observed such interesting children before ; that your sons would ho elected Governors of the colony in the future, and that your daughters were the most perfect ladies he had ever met with. That is what Sir George Grey would have said if you had elected—well, Mr. Gainmack, for instance. the colony’s finance. Speaking of the ordinary revenue and expenditure, we found a deficiency on the Ist of July last of LIOO,OOO ; but for the subsequent financial period in which we then were the revenue of New Zealand, fairly estimated, fell short of the necessary expenditure by a sum of not less than LBOO,OOO ; that is to say, nearly at the rate of L2 per head for every man, woman, and child in New Zealand. Members of the late Government said that the present Treasurer took an unnecessarily gloomy view of our position, and that in point of fact the revenue would bo much larger than estimated, and the expenditure much less. But at the end of the nine months for which the accounts are made up, signed, and printed, it appears that the deficiency is greater by L 280,000 than was originally estimated by Major Atkinson. redistribution. We hope to introduce at an early period of the session a Bill for the Redistribution of Seats. (Applause.) The existing distribution has become unfair, through the growth of population being greater in some parts of the colony than in others. This unfairness is especially felt in the Canterbury district and in Otago. The first consideration in the allotment of representatives will be population, but it will not be by any means the only consideration. (Applause.) We think that other tilings should be taken into consideration also; for instance, the permanency of the population—whether it is of a really settled character or not. The question of contribution to the revenue should have something to do with the matter, and the facilities any particular district may have for making its influence felt in Parliament and by the Go-
vernment, should also be taken into consideration. After carefully weighing all these points we shall lay before Parliament proposals for redistributing the representation in a manner which, while doing justice to those districts that are now insufficiently represented, will. I trust, not do injustice to any part of the colony. LICENSING. We have a Bill prepared, which, while dealing very strictly with evei’ything of the nature of abuse, will not treat respectable licensed publicans as if they were necessarily criminals. (Applause.) As to local option, what we believe, is a fair proposal is this—that with respect to all new licenses, residents or ratepayers in the district shall be at liberty to give a veto ; but we do not think it reasonable that such a principle should apply to licenses that have been continued for any amount of time, and with respect to houses well managed, and in the hands of respectable persons. At any rate we do not think the application of the principle would be reasonable unless there was compensation, which we do not see our way to provide. The Premier was accorded with cheers, a vote of confidence.
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