The Ashburton Guardian. MONDAY, JANUARY 17, 1881. Free Education v. Untaxed Beer.
TOWN EDITION[Issued at 5 p. m. J .
In a recent issue of the Neiv Zealand Times , a paper published in Wellington, it was hinted that one of the “ events” of the next session of Parliament would be the withdrawal of the beer tax and the imposition of school fees. The same paper further indicated that the powerful class interested in the question of beer would leave no stone unturned to have the beer tax repealed, whether the school fees were re-irnposed or ,not. Taken stands, and only in its. own light, the rumor might have very safely been set down as one of the many gossiping speculations that arise during the recess, and which have no foundation whatever beyond some idle conversation amongst certain politicians who are always discovering some new way of governing the-- country. But color is given to the rumor by the fact that,, since it gained currency, Mr. Rolleston has been relieved of his portfolio as Minister of Education, and has been replaced by the Colonial Secretary. Mr. Rolleston is a politician prepared, we believe, to nail his colors to the mast on the question of the present educational system of the colony, and quidnuncs hint that he has been relieved of his portfolio so that he may be out of the battle brunt when the proposal is made to re-impose the school fees, which imposition would go so terribly against his grain. In connection with the question of education, the fact cannot be gainsaid, because it is so patent, that the cost of teaching the young of the colony is painfully large; and every year adds to its magnitude. At present the expenditure on education is within a short cooey of half a million sterling, with a forecast of a steady increase in the future. No matter .whether the money to meet this expenditure is paid out of Consolidated revenue, or a local rate is struck to meet it, or school fees imposed, the money has to be paid by the public. It is so paid now, and comparatively speaking the taxpayer does not feel the payment very much; but the day is not far distant, when, to keep the educational system of the colony up to its present standard, with the steady increase of outlay that that entails, a levy heavier thrn ever must be made upon the public purse. Most of the colonists expect this call sooner or later, and as they every now and then hear of a new school being erected, with a schoolmaster’s house, in some out-of-the-way place, and another Li,ooo expenditure incurred in consequence, with an ahnual Laoo or so of a fresh burden laid • on thereby, they set down the time as so much the nearer when the colony must be called upon to do something in the matter of finding more funds for educational expenditure. Every member of Parliament who has addressed his constituents in the recess has played the part of. a stormy petrel in regard to the demand : that must come upon the taxpayers for more money, if the present undoubtedly costly system of education is to be maintained. That it is costly no one will deny, and there are many schools in which education is dispensed at no less a figure than per head of the children taught. This must of course continue while population is so sparse and scattered, and while the colony adheres to its present way of doing educational work. But the rumor raised by the New Zealand Times involves a question that all electors would do well to consider—viz., whether it is better to pay school fees or rates than a tax on beer. The rumor may be a piece of blank cartridge only, with nothing in it; or it may be, after all, an echo of* what is really intended on the part of those who view the beer tax with horror and abomination. If there is any real intention to fight out the battle, then we are bound to hope that it will be won by the patriots who advocate the spread of education as against the nurture of the beer industry. The imposition of the beer tax was bitterly opposed at its first imposition, and. there can be no doubt that if the idea of repealing it is again mentioned in Parliament it will; be heMillV Supiidried by’those who op-i
posed its impositions and nothing will be left undone to bring about the old state of things. It may be necessary to return to school rates or school charges, and if it is necessary < o do so, by all means let us so return ; but kf it never be said that we sacrificed our ' ree system of education to admit of lightening the tax on beer, and at the bidding of the brewing interest of the colony.