The Ashburton Guardian. MONDAY, OCTOBER 18, 1880. The Bitter Pill.
[lssued at 5
There was great consternation throughout New Zealand when Major Atkinson showed the colony how much it had gone to the bad, and what the mismanagement and extravagance oi the predecessors of his Ministry had entailed upon the taxpayers. He could hold out no hope of escape irom the situation, except by heavier taxation and rigid economy. These two cures were the only means that could be adopted to escape from our public financial difficulties. It was no use hiding the fact; it had to be faced, and like loyal and business-like men, the taxpayers, though they growled a little —as Englishmen always do when they have to pay money to the public coffers —they prepared themselves to meet further requisitions to recruit the exhausted Treasury chest. Fresh and increased taxation was at once imposed
on the one hand to meet the situation, and on the'other Government set about practising the rigid economy they had announced as necessary, and the sweeping reductions and severe retrenchment they saw only too well were possible From the report of the Commissioners, sent out to discover in what direction retrenchment ought to be practised, it was learned that one-thirteenth of the population werein the pay of Government, and this standing army it was decided to reduce, and to reduce considerably. There were few taxpayers who had a word to say against the principle of retrenchment —in fact, it became a popular cry and demand. All were agreed it was necessary, and though most were inclined to sympatl ise with such of the civil servants as the straitened circumstances of the colony demanded should be dispensed with, there was no voice raised against their dismissal, as a necessary proceeding. But this was before the weeding began—before it had been decided where the pruning-knife should be applied. No sooner, however, had the walking tickets been given, than from every corner of the colony came protests — this officer had found favor in the district, and commanded the respect of those around him—that other was an old servant who had risen to his position by sheer force of merit, and it would be a direct loss to the colony to discharge or remove the one, and gross injustice to dispense with the other. It was an easy matter to cry “ retrench,” and retrenchment was what the colony prescribed for the Government to apply to its diseased and attenuated exchequer. But the colony is a peculiar physician, and acts in a peculiar way when the prescription comes to be used. The ingredients that go to make it up must be drawn from anywhere the Government may choose, but not from “ our district.” We must retain “ our ” little convenience—we cannot do without it; “ our ” efficient officer —he is a deserving man, and has spent his income amongst us (perhaps more, who knows), and we cannot let him go. And so tire thing goes on, and Government is besieged with petitions and deputations from every part of a colony (that vigorously preaches retrenchment and denounces the abundance of Government billets) against the discharge from the Government service of any single man now employed. In the case of the police inspectors, Government were perhaps ill-advised in ordering their dismissalSwithout ascertaining whether they were willing to serve for less money in a' lower position, but the police inspectors are only one class of servants, and their summary dismissal without an alternative was made a handle of to strengthen the reactionary cry. Had the hand of the retrenchment Government not been laid on other and better paid, and therefore higher living and more money spending officers, there would have been comparatively little sympathy expressed for the policemen. But now that the terrible earnestness of the powers that be is manifested in the work of reduction —an earnestness that is born of the urgent necessity for the strong measures .that are being taken—a howl of opposition is raised by the very men who advocated the adoption of these measures to begin with. Government knew they had a difficult task before them —a thankless office —in cutting down the expenditure ; they were prepared to encounter all sorts of opposition, from friends of the “ Dowbs” who were to be removed, and even from their enemies, if their creditors may be so called ; but the Ministers had made up their minds to save the colony, and, despite petitions and agitations, no matter what inspiration may set them on foot, they appear determined to go on with the departmental reductions they have commenced. They only want to be firm and they will succeed in their efforts. The same care for “ our district ” that has started the opposition to each dismissal will aid their success, for it seems to be a guiding principle in New Zealand that, the land within “ our ” fences cared for by the Government, we care not a rap for that outside, and the jealousy that obtains, between the various communities in regard to Governmental favor is as great as that existing between two lap dogs over their mistress’s care sses.
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