HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Monday, August IC. After some minor business, at the evening sitting of the House, Mr. Shepherd resumed the debate on Mi’. Moss’ motion re the report of the Railway Commission. He condemned the report, and all Royal Commissions, as assuming Government’s duties without, its responsibility. Captain Russell spoke in defence of Coramissious. Log-rolling had retarded the Public Works Policy of the colony, and neutralised its object. Self-reliance was wanted more than borrowed money. It was important that the various railways should be connected, but that should be done as circumstances permitted. Referring to several lines of railway as needful, and that might very well bo gone on with, he said all traffic tended towards the seaports, and coast lines of railway should be completed. They should finish through railways, and not fritter away their money on fragments.
Mr. Thomson was averse to Commis sions.
After Mr. George, Mr. Hurst, and Mr. White had spoken, Mr. Jones, denying a statement by Mr. Pyke, said the Livingstone line would not benefit Mr. Reid, a member of the Commission, and had not been made at his instigation. Mr. Hutchison thought that of the three documents, the Railway Commission; Public Works Statement, and the Civil Service Report, the latter was the most important. He was afraid, however, that that,document was buried from the public gaze .beneath a heap of replies, reports, and so on. If the gentlemen who made that report were satisfied with the reception it met with they were very easily satisfied indeed. The report told the truth, and in doing so it had not made a single friend all round. So much for the truth and love of it. He believed himself that he was the only one in that House who had a good word to say of this unfortunate report. Regarding the Publie Works Statement, he said it was not the outcome of a policy. It was simply a thing of patches and shreds. The Government had no policy, and all they were doing was to damage the credit of the colony. They were throwing over a few under-paid clerks, who were compelled to do work in excess of what they were paid. Those men were dismissed, while not a single office-holder of any importance was cut down or dispensed with. The other night he asked what they proposed to do in reference to the recommendation made by their own Commission about dispensing with the services of the two Railway Commissioners, who had cost the country not less than L 20,000, and he could get no reply. Then, again, the proposal to reduce the Governor’s salary was shirked wit'll equally little ceremony. Mr. Pitt generally supported the recommendations of the Commission, contending that from the impartial manner in which the Commissioners had conducted their inquiries, instead of conveying censure, as the motion is intended to do, the Commission were deserving of the best thanks of the colony. The question was then put for going into Committee of Supply. Ayes—3o. Noes—ls.
In committee of supply on the Public Works Estimates the following votes were passed : —class 2—L14,870 ; class 3 Kawakawa, L 47,000 ; Wangarei, L 39,000; Kaipara-Waikato, L 131,000 ; Waikato Thames, L!)9,000.
Wellington - Napier, L 37,000. Mr. Seddon moved it be reduced L 20,000 Ayes—ll ; Noes—33. The item passed as printed. The following other items were passed:— Woodville, with branch to Greytown, L 120,000; Wellington toFoxton, L 36,000: Foxton to New Plymouth, Lll7,000; Carlyle to Waitara, L 199.000 ; Nelson to Greymouth, L 13,500 ; Greymouth to Nelson, L 70,500 ; Greymouth to Hokitika, L7OOO ; Picton to Hurunui, LIO,OOO ; Hurunui to Waitaki, L 178.000 ; Canterbury interior main line, L 15,600. Progress was reported and the House rose at 3.50.
Tuesday, August 17. The Hon. Major Atkinson explained that unpaid beer duty could not be recovered under the resolution passed in Committee of Supply, but the Beer Duty Bill, if passed, would be made retrospective, and then the amounts unpaid could be recovered.—Government said one-third of the amount voted last year would this year be placed on the Supplementary Estimates for the maintenance of public domains.—Mr. Oliver recognised the importance of opening tracks on the West Coast, but declined to put L7OO on the Estimates for connecting the Marina and Hanmer plains by a track through Cannibal gorge. —Mr. Armstrong, the locomotive engineer on the Southern railways, would have an opportunity given him of rebutting the Commission’s charges. Ho had been dismissed because he was not an engineer, but a carpenter. The Public Works Bill was read a first time, and its second reading fixed for Friday. On the motion for reporting the resolutions from Committee of Supply, Sir George Grey moved that the matter be postponed until after the Revenue Bills had been disposed of. His reason was that the depressed state of the country had been, in his opinion, overrated, and the consequence of that was to create an unnecessary panic', suspending commercial enterprise, and otherwise operating seriously against the labor market. When the Revenue Bills had been discussed he believed it would be shown that this alarm was altogether unnecessary, and that much more money than was supposed would be available for public works purposes.
The Hon. J. Hall said that the motion had taken him by surprise. They had ascertained correctly the amount available for public works. They had the statement of the Treasurer, and the statement of the Public Works Minister, and if those
hon. gentlemen did not know the state of the public works fund it could never be ascertained. The course was unusual, unconstitutional, and would be calculated to obstruct public business. He thought that there was not the slightest possibility of the hon. gentlemen being right, therefore he could not give way.
Mr. Moss denied that the state of the public works fund was made clearly known. For himself he could not say whether the balance available was one or three millions of money. His own impression was that one million was to be made available, and that two millions were being kept back with a view of giving them a surplus on some future occasion.
The motion for reporting was then put and carried.
On the motion for agreeing to the resolutions, several members took exception to votes that had been passed in their absence; and the Hon. J. Hall promised to re-consider the Greymouth-Nelsoa section vote which had been reduced by L2OOO. If the reduction would endanger the work, the vote would again come before the House.
At the evening sitting, the motion for agreeing was carried, and that for going into Committee of Supply proposed. Mr. Speight challenged a sum of L 1,433, arrears of pension to Dr. Pollen, and the matter was referred to the Public Accounts Committee.
Mr. Montgomery objected to the Chatham Islands being added to the Akaroa electorate but the Premier was firm.
After a motion of Mr. Pyke to limit the 10 per cent, reductions in salaries to those over L2OO had been negatived, the House went into Committee of Supply. Yotes passed—Waitaki to Bluff with branches, L 365,000. Invercargill to Kingston, L 11,500. Otago Central .Railway, LBB,OO0 —passed with a reduction of L 20,000. Western Railways, L 64,000.
Mr. Pyke moved the reduction of the item Otautau to Nightcap, L 12,000, by L 4,000, which was lost on a division by 31 to 11. Mr. De Lautour moved that the vote Riverton to Oropuki be reduced L 1,500. Mr. Pyke said there was a time when he had had a good .opinion of some members of Government, but now he had lost it on every one of them. He would table before long a direct vote of want of confidence. They were false to the House and the constituents who returned them. With a large question they could not grapple, but with a small twopence-half-penny matter like this they herded their abject followers into the lobby to vote with them.
The motion was lost on a division by 9 to 35, and the vote passed as printed. Surveys .of new lines in the North Island, L3,ooo—passed. Surveys of new lines in the Middle Island, L 6,550. Progress was reported, and the House adjourned at 2 a.m. Wednesday, August 18. The House met at 2.30. Mr. Pyke gave notice that he should ask Government if they were aware that the line from Sheffield to Oxford, recommended by the Railway Commissioners, was a mere pretext to get the line continued to Temuka, so that it may pass through the estates owned by the Premier and Mr. Wright, a member of the Railway Commission. Mr. Hall said there was no foundation in fact for the statement set forth in the question. Mr. Pyke produced a telegram on the subject from a resident of the district, who was well known and highly respected in the House. He refused to give the name. The Speaker ruled that the telegram could not be read. Mr. Pyke desired to read it, and laid it on the table, but this was ruled out of order. Mr. Hall said that Mr. Pyke would not give the name because he was thoroughly ashamed of himself, and the position he had taken up. Mr. Pyke gave notice that on going into Committee of Supply, he would move that an address be presented to the Governor, informing him that Ministers did not conduct the business of the House in a satisfactory manner. Mr. Moss gave notice that he would move that it is expedient, to relieve greatly the Legislature of all duties that can be more efficiently performed by local governing bodies directly responsible to the electors by whom they were chosen, that School districts be grouped to form Road districts ; Road districts grouped to form Counties ; and Counties grouped to form Provinces sufficiently large to warrant the creation of local legislatures to maintain peace, order, and good government within their respective boundaries, with power given to local bodies to manage local matters in' accordance with such laws as may be passed by the legislature of the Province. Replying to questions it was stated that Government had communicated with the other colonies regarding joint action to bring to justice men who deserted their wives and families. New South Wales, Queensland, and Tasmania, had replied favorably. The others had merely acknowledged receipt of the communication. Further action would be taken.—Government had under consideration the recommendation of the Local Industries Commission, recommending a thorough examination of the west coast of the Middle Island, with a view of ascertaining what aid can be given for the development of its resources.
Mr. Hall moved that for the remainder of the session Government business should take precedence on Thursdays at 7.30. The motion was carried, on a division, by 47 to 20. Mr. Murray gave notice that he would ask the House to sit on Saturdays for the consideration of private members’ business.
On the motion for going into Committee of Supply, Mr. DeLautonr moved “ It is desirable that the Minister of Lands, before the close of the session, should give a distinct enunciation of his policy in regard to the future administration of the Crown Lands in Otago now occupied by pastoral tenants on lease.”
Mr. Rolleston said that the Government had all along followed out the principle of affording every possible facility for the settlement of waste lands. No cast iron rule could be laid down on the subject, but only a few general principles, to be acted upon as occasion required. The policy of settlement was laid down in general terms by the Act of 1877. The course Government proposed following under that Act was a subject on which the House had a right to expect the fullest possible information, and he was quite prepared to supply that information. The discussion was interrupted by the 5.30 adjournment.
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