The Ashburton Guardian, COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER SATURDAY, MAY 22, 1880.
The speech of the Premier at Leeston on Thursday was one of his best efforts ; and in it he has given some hard raps to Sir George Grey, called forth by that orator’s wild gush at Christchurch. But the Premier’s speech is most valuable at the present moment for the statements he makes respecting the colony’s financial position, and for the hints he gives regarding the legislation of the ensuing session. With a constantly receding revenue staring the colony in the face — an income that is falling more and more below the expenditure—it is imperative that economy, and that of the most stringent kind, should be practised. With this in the abstract, as the Premier says, everyone is prepared to agree ; but let Government put forth its hand against the pet public work of any particular district —let it withdraw v.he tenders for this railway that it cannot afford to construct, or that post office that it cannot afford to build, —and the people are in arms at once. In public meeting assembled they will tell their representatives that unless Government are prepared to spend money on these promised works —promised at a time when there was money in the chest, and when empty coffers were not anticipated yet awhile—support must be withdrawn and given to the party that is prepared to spend money in the way wanted. Yet those same districts, clamant for public works, are usually the first to cry out against what they are pleased to call extravagance, and the term to them has only one meaning—money spent outside their own boundaries. Cut down your expenditure you must, say they. But you must spend public money in our district. It is against this sort of opposition that any New Zealand Government has to fight, and with clamorous demands for expenditure meeting them at every step, and threats of withdrawal of support it these demands are not acceded to, there is great temptation to sell promises that Government know they can only fulfil when the colony is wealthy enough to afford the works promised, as a luxury. And we all know that that time is yet in the far distant future. It was, we believe, as a countercheck to this system of terrorism that the Royal Commissions, that have been so much the causa of wit in Opposition newspapers, were sent fossicking over the country. The personnel of these Commissions have been decried as the worst that could possibly have been chosen for the work. But we fancy the various deputations who, in the several districts visited by the Railway Commission, interviewed the gentlemen composing it, will tell a very different tale when they relate how all the weak points of their claims for attention were laid bare—not by sharp and clever argument, not by pointed declamation, but simply by a practical catechism that led up to whether or not a colonial benefit or a remunerative traffic would i-esult from the outlay involved in the making of a railway. And just as we know what that Commission is made of, so are we able to judge of how deputations have been .analysed and the poor cases they have made out, when we hear the Railway Commission sneered at, taunted with being an evidence of the Hall Government’s extravagance, and its tendency to appoint, to make investigations, only its own suborned supporters. This Commission, having practically examined the whole new-railway question ; and the Civil Service Commission, having poked its nose into every Government office ; will report to Parliament the state of matters as they found it; and upon the information they supply, trustworthy and accurate, Parliament will be able to proceed in the work of economy, both in the direction of cutting down officialdom where the pruning knife will not injure departmental efficiency, and in reducing the crop of railway lines that have threatened to over-run the country', but the money return from which is not so assured, and which until the revenue and expenditure are more equally balanced the colony must do without. Perhaps
the most important feature of the Parliamentary programme for the ensuing session will be the question of redistribution, and, as wo have frequently pointed out in these columns, it is one of great moment to this district. Mr. Hall’s indication of how Government mean to proceed in the matter of redistribution — namely on bases that have population as their chief—is in accordance with what has already been hinted at in more than Ministerial newspaper, and on the basis of population there are few districts in the colony that can make out so good a case as can Coleridge. But though this district has perhaps the best claim of any, it seems to be the least concerned whether that claim is recognised. If it had twenty representatives instead of one, and its interests in retaining them could only bo served by maintaining a discreet silence, so that attention should not be attracted to its over-representation, it could not act with more reticence on the subject of its Parliamentary representation than it is now doing. Not a word seems to be to be spoken by any of our public men on the subject, and the matter has not oven been mentioned, that we have heard of, at any of the Road Board, Borough Council, or County Council meetings. Some time ago, a public meeting was held to force on Government the claims of the district to public works. These claims were not ignored, but owing to the want of funds by the Government their recognition will not bring the works any nearer starting. On this subject of increased representation, however, we may agitate with some hope of success; for the giving of another member does not require any pecuniary sacrifice, and the case the district could advance is unassailable. The hint is worth consideration by the Mayor and Council, and the members of the other bodies, and we hope it will not be lost sight of.