The Ashburton Guardian. COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 1880.
At first sight, looking over the list of measures introduced, abandoned, and passed by Parliament this session, one is inclined to cry out against the barrenness of the time spent by our representatives. Scarcely a newspaper in the colony has omitted to make the “ barrenness of the session ” the subject of a jeremiade, and the refrain has followed a defence and commendation of the Government, and the denunciation of those opposed to it; or a laudation and justification of the Opposition, with an accompanying tirade against Government ; according to the political color of the journals taking up the cry. At first sight, we say, the session looks barren. Measures expected by the people, promised to them, and looked upon by them as what must be within a short space of time and ought to have been now, are absent from the list of things accomplished. But, notwithtanding, examination shows that the session has not been so barren as it seems. True, much time has been wasted in useless talk that might very well have been done without, but the New Zealand Parliament has not yet reached the standard of the House of Commons, and until it does so we must be content to bear with the over fondness for oratory which so many of our members —from the leaders to the humblest followers —display. The local Board element, with all its “ our district ” notions, is still strong in both Houses, and till the colony grows older and its power and influence expand with its growth, bringing with it to the constituents of the House of Reprecentatives a more liberal political education, we must be content, looking upon the colony and its legislators, with the
reflection that both are yet young, and that “ as the man is, so is his strength.” Yet in the midst of much time frittered away there has been work done, and good work, too. Parliament has begun to learn that the colony cannot live always on borrowed money, and that a country’s business must be conducted on the same principles that regulate the business of a-private individual—viz., with a view first to make both ends meet, and after that to work to profit. Gorged with the wealth of the English money-lenders the country has been taught a bad lesson difficult to unlearn, and has contracted bad habits that must be got rid of. The continual feast of fat things of the past ten years has tended to blind its eyes to the nearness of the time when the bill for these should be presented, and to the question of how the bill was to be met. The Treasurer’s account of his chest has given the colony a rude awakening, the report of the Civil Service Commission has brought it face to face with the knowledge of how great an army of officials has to be supported; the Local Industries Commission shows how little is done in the colony in the way of production to find work for busy hands that are now idle, and shows at the same time how much may be done; while the Railway. Commission has brought vividly to our view that railway lines which were ; to be the making of our country and the developing of its resources fail To give a return at all equal to paying the rent of the money spent in their construction, and shows how wild and extravagant have been many of the railway projects of the past, and for the folly of which we have now to pay. The railway report has come in. time, however, to enable Parliament to steer clear of projects not attempted,, but proposed, that would have been as unproductive and as great a waste of money as those already embarked in which are condemned. All these reports have their lessons, and with pockets touched by fresh taxation, the colonists and their representatives will be quickened to learn. Experience teaches fools, and bought experience is the most valuable. We contend that the costly lesson the colony has learned in the session just closed, and the one that preceded it—a lesson that was being prepared by an austere teacher while the colony tumbled heedlessly on in its youth—will be worth more to it as a country in the future than we can well estimate at this period of its history. It will teach US' to cultivate the muchwanted virtue of self-reliance, it will teach us not to accept as progress every work that is done in the colony unless we are fully assured that work is to be beneficial, and before we undertake it to satisfy ourselves that the assurance of its benefits is not simply the ipse dixit of those whose axe is to be ground by the undertaking. Those Commissions’ reports ought to make us more careful, less visionary and more practical, to induce us to look more to ultimate and actual /results than present promises, and to lead us to exercise a wider grasp of the present so that we may include therein more of the future.
Then, the work of the Native Commission has not been barren. It has thrown light upon a question that was to a large proportion of the legislators, and to a still larger proportion of the colonists, a political skeleton in the closet; and, if the light so thrown will enable Parliament to approach nearer to this skeleton and ultimately and shortly effect its removal the reproach of the session’s barrenness will undoubtedly be past. The Parliament’s weakness has been from the beginning to the end too great a desire to legislate. An old printer in the Government office used to say that, provincial and colonial, we had had forty square feet of laws in force and effete since the colony first began. This mass has been * considerably reduced, but still enough remains to be cumbersome, and even contradictory. The Revision of Statutes Committee has been at work on the codification of this, and surely it is no small thing gained when we are able to say that on many subjects on which there was a multiplicity of laws there is now only one. In fact, the best legislative work of the session was that done in approval of the Revision Committee’s work. The session has no gaudy measures of popular attractiveness to show; it has no statutes to point to passed in response to a popular cry, but after all it has not been altogether barren and unfruitful.