The Ashburton Guardian, COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER SATURDAY, JULY 17, 1880.
It is evident from the returns of the Victorian elections that the chances of of the Service Ministry remaining in power are not over-bright. Already 45 seats in the general election have been gained by the Opposition, and only 34 by the Ministerialists, while one of the leading journals expresses a belief that Mr. Service’s party will return to Parliament in a minority of 25 or 26, and it is therefore expected that Government will at once resign. From the tone of the telegrams we gather that the religious party who so often sway an election when they vote together—the Roman Catholics —have decided the fats of the Service Government by voting with the Opposition. From this it may be inferred that the many-sided Berry is fully prepared to buy his hold on power by being kind to the Catholics on the education question.
The great political cry of the day is “ Retrench, retrench, retrench/’ and every Parliamentary speech we now read, has for its refrain, “Economy.” It was this cry that turned out the Grey Government, who stood convicted of extravagence ; and itis the credit they have for possessing the virtue of thirft that retains in power the Hall Ministry. It is needful that the whole country at a time like the present, should go into a “ pet ” of economy, for times are hard, and money scarce. Trade is dull and business slack, and the screw must be treated to an extra turn everywhere. Yet, in these hard times for the settlers Government find it awkwardly necessary to increase taxation to square income with expenditure. It is this ‘ ‘ hard-up ” state of the colony, from Government down to the humblest toiler that is the key-note of the economical refrain. It was this impecuniosity that gave birth to the Civil Service, the Railway, and the Native Industries Commissions, and that caused every member of the House of Representatives to be so economically virtuous in his criticisims of the estimates. All round, salaries are to be reduced, and every payment that can by any possibility be lessened, must be curtailed to its utmost. We say “ every ” with a reservation, for a matter has cropped up that is apt to shake one’s faith in the earnestness of Parliament in this economy pet. Abe Lincoln used to toll a story like this. A lady told her negro servant to stirthejam that was boiling on the fire, while she went out for a spell. She also gave him strict orders on no account to taste it. To make sure he would abstain she ordered him to hold up his lips to be chalked. With a dish of whiting in her hand, she went through the motion of dipping in her finger, and then drew it across the negro’s lips. When she came back she found Sambo’s lips whitened from the one corner of his mouth to the other, notwithstanding that her finger, when crossing his labials had been totally innocent of chalk. We very much fear that the New Zealand legislators are much in the position of Sambo, and that in regard to their own honorarium their lips are whitened an inch think, for we find a Bill read a second time which, despite their virtuous outcry, is to increase thishonorariumby£loayear to each member residing three miles out of Wellington. It is pleasing, doubtless, to hear Mr. Saunders move for a reduction of 10 per cent, on all salaries, and to hear Mr. S. P. Andrews attack the Speaker’s salary, the salary of the Clerk of the House, and that of the Usher, but it would be far more pleasing were we to hear that the members of the House all round were less ready to support a measure that increased their own Parliamentary “ screw.” We are quite willing to concede the principle that members should be paid for the time they spend in the colony’s service, and that all legitimate expenses incurred by them in going to and coming from Wellington should be borne by the colony. But surely the time to increase that payment is not during a session when the colony is in a financial extremity, and when the’watch word is to “ reduce expenditure to its very utmost, and save money at every opportunity.” The time to go in for increases of this kind is when the colony is well to do, not when its nose is at the grind-stone to make both ends meet. The Bill to increase the honorarium is entitled The Members of General Assembly Expenses Bill, and it is to the hon. member for Hokitika, Mr. Seddon, to whom we owe its introduction. His name appears upon the Bill, but the readiness with which it passed the second reading shows how exactly his ideas c oincide with the majority of the House.