Mr E. G. Wright and the Ashburton Electors. Mr Wright, member for the Coleridge electoral district, addressed a meeting of the Ashburton electors last evening in the Town Hall. There were present at the commencement only about 100 persons, but this number afterwards increased to about 250, and Mr Bullock occupied the chair in the absence of his Worship the Mayor, and briefly opened the proceedings. Mr E. G. Wright, in opening his remarks, said ho hardly knew whether to interpret the small attendance as a token pf perfect contempt on the part of the electors regarding himself, or as one of contempt as to the conduct of public affairs. He hoped it was not the latter reason. He appeared before them in observance of a custom by which every member of the House of Representatives is expected to meet his constituents yearlj, and to give an account of his stewardship. This was a duty which he thought might be very judiciously dispensed with, and be was aware that his feeling on the subject was one shared in by several other in embers of the House. Of course he excepted the case of members of the Ministry or the leaders of the Opposition. It had been abandoned in England, and surely if they could do without it there, those in the colony, who received far lengthier accounts of the sayings and doings of their representatives in the House, could also dispense therewith. He would ask them to imagine the manner in which the English press would be burdened in this direction did such a custom exist in that country with its 680 members. With these opinions of his on the subject they would not naturally expect a very lengthy address at his bands A charge had been made against the ppegeijt (government that the session of 1880 was' one barren pf result*. He did not thjnlf, however, .’they would entertain this opinion when he informed them that during the session fifty-seven Bills were passed through the House, including the Prevention for Cruelty to Animals Act, the measure dealing with the importation and sale of arms, the prevention of adulteration of food, regulations ra branding of stocu, destruction of rabbits, the Deceased Wife's' Sister’s Marriage Bill, etc., 23 local Acts, and (three private Bijls, inclusive of there own dealing with the waterworks, in fact, 83 Bills in all were passed through* the House. The protracted length of the session was not attributable to any fault of the Government but to the disorganised state of the Opposition, which was in such a delightful state that it possessed six leaders! instead of one. The Deceased Wife’s Sister’s Marriage Bill happily disposed of the question fer the dealing with
which it had been drafted, 'and they! would not be surprised when hadnfonned them that he fully concurred in the same. Possibly the legalising thereof would, not make any '.marked increase in the marriages under such circumstances, but he regarded it expedient to legalise them, and by so doing remove the brand' of illegitimacy which the children up to the present of such marriages bore, and to also remove the bar which formerly stood in the road to their accession to property, in the event of their father’s not having made provisions therefor in the form of wills. There wore, of course, peculiarities in the case, but he regarded it that the good resulting would outweigh the evil, and he felt no hesitation at the time he accorded his support to the measure, which in debate had occupied the attention of the House the whole of one evening and part of a second. Many Bills had been introduced, and some had been approved, some rejected, whilst others had been withdrawn to be advanced on a future opportunity. Many of these he hoped never to see again. The fact was the Government had provided more Parliamentary business than the House could digest in one session.' Whatever the merits of these deferred Bills might be, ho fqlt sure they would coincide in his opinion that they they would be none the worse for bavin,' an additional twelve months wherein to consider them. Among these were the Licensing Bill, Hospital and Charitable Aid Bill, Representation Bill, and Local Public Works Administration Bill. The last he hoped would never make its appearance again in the same form. He regarded it as a piece of cumbrous machinery, having for its aim the taking from those who were willing to help themselves and the giving to those who were unwilling so to do. It was a measure which appeared very objection-: able, and the Government very wisely dropped it. The Licensing Bill would be re-intrbduced next session, and he was prepared to give it his support in ■ its old form with the exception of the clauses dealing with bottle licenses and working mens’ clubs. His reason for disapproving of those was, that in the latter case these clubs soon degenerated into drinking shops, and, as regarded bottle licenses, these had helped many a poor woman on the downward course (applause). It had been urged that by refusing to license working mens’ clubs they would be providing a law for the rich and for the poor, but he would say let them do away with the exception observed to clubs and let every one pay for a license. It would also, he thought, be far better if
these clubs were obliged to close at 11 o’clock. He voted for the imposition of an additional tax of 3d per gallon on beer, not because he liked the measure, but because he regarded it as necessitated by the exigencies of the position. He did not think the tax would maternally affect the public, for they would get just as much beer and as good as before. In fact they would get better beer for their money, for the Act necessitates the brewers giving an accurate account of what was put in it. Losses on bad beer would come out of the pockets of the ■brewer, and adulterations were easily sheeted home. The colony would benefit in this matter of revenue to the extent of LOO,OOO per annum, whilst the public would suffer no loss whatever. As an instance of the immense profits derivable from the branch of trade affected by the Act, brewing inferior beer, he might relate that one brewer in Christchurch, after carrying on a trade for a moderate number of years, and who had started on a very limited capital, had recently sold out for the modest sum of LBO,OOO. The tendency of the 4ct would be to improve the quality of the beer brewed. The Representation Bill was brought down last session in fulfilment of a pledge given by the Government in 1879, but as it was manifestly the wish of the majority of the House that it should not be brought into force during the last session, the Government very wisely decided to postpone it intead of wasting valuable time over its consideration. The reason for this opposition to the passing of the Bill was that the members felt that taking into consideration the fact of Parliament becoming moribund following the coming session, it would only be a waste of the public funds were they to pass the Bill, and by so doing necessitate an election during the recess for the additional seats. That measure affected the Coleridge dis trict more than any other in the colony, but he did not think they would blatpe him for his advocacy of a postponement of the consideration of it. The census just completed would also form a good basis whereon the working of the electoral districts could be regulated. In the Bill brought up last session the population formed the basis, and this required that the number of electors for a town representation should pro rata be five to four as regarded the country representations. The exact number for the Coleridge district was 4,152, and for Ashburton 6,142. He felt that these numbers were scarcely sufficient to carry two members. The distinction required between town and country constituencies was a very proper one, although he hardly expected his hearers to agree with him, being nearly all townspeople. If, however, the population was to be taken as the basis, this was but fair, but if they confined it to the adult ntale population, the men to whom the franchise was given, the breadwinners of the colony, fie would be still more willing to give it big support. If they were to count every member of the community, from the fiaby in arms to the octagenarian, the prisoners in gaol and the orphans in the asylums, some difference must be made in the numbers requisite to form a constituency. They must bear in mind that in tae towns the population was swollen by the prisoners in the gaols, patients in the hospitals, children in orphanages, and by the loafing element of all classes of society. These in particular always gravitate to large towns, and in order to afford due weight to those who by their industry maintain the Government and discharged the burdens of the colony, it was necessary to constitute a wide difference in the matter of town and country constituencies, making the former far in excess of the latter. Otherwise, let them only count the male adult population. That of the colony in 1878 was 116,000, of which total Canterbury had 25,004 to her credit, and Coleridge 3,500. Under the proposed readjustment this gives Canterbury 18 members, instead of 14 as at present, whilst Coleridge would have 2|- members instead of only 1. In 1878, the population of the district was 9,220, whilst under the last census they had 12,420, or an increase of 34 per cent in three years. The total population of the country had only increased at one-half that rate. This gave the district a fair right to a claim for three members, whether on the basis of the adult male population, or by the Bill introduce,4 last gessipn. His remarks I on this subject had been ratfier prolonged, but ho felt certain they would excuse this, as they materially aifected the interests of his hearers. Regarding the Public Works administration, there was nq doubt that the cplony had progressed in this matter too rapidly in tfie past, and would have to proceed at a more cautious rate in the future, but whilst avoiding precipitation they must also avoid anything approaching stagnation. They had imbibed top deeply of the Public Works pplicy of 1870, and fiad consequently suffered severely from the accompanying headaches s a,n4 following curtailing of expenditure, The colony, however, would reap a benefit therefiom, in that they would not be willing to again repose trust in the Ministry which held office in 1879. That Ministry had over-estimated the land revenue to. the extent of some L‘359,947, and had ex-
pended L 504.732 of the last loan before the same had been raised, and had entered into engagements involving the country in debt to the extent of L 1,715,377, from which there was no drawing back. They estimated the land revenue at L 1,229,500, and it actually did produce L 869,729, of which sum Canterbury contributed L 545,007. Their story of the falling off of the land fund, however, was not entertainable, for it was only subsequently, March 1880 and 1881, that this occurred. The Grey Ministry had cherished Utopian schemes of affording railway communication to holders of rabbit warrens in Otago, and therefore could not be supposed to be capable therefrom of a prorate system of public expenditure and how to meet their engagements. Subsequent events prove they never troubled to estimate their ways and means, and their view was of a bank of issue with unlimited' greenbacks. Having failed to assure themselves, they proceeded to lay rough hands on the native lands on the Waimate Plains, and this before they had settled the claims of the natives thereto, to which fact he had called attention at the time of his election, some twenty-one months back. He, at that time, was satisfied they had grounds for complaint, and this has been proven by the report of the Commission, showing that the Grey Government had made promise after promise to the natives. In this respect they were no worse than the preceding Government, but when it became a question of dealing with the native lands it devolved upon them to ascertain the justice of the native claims, and their failing to pay attention to this nearly plunged the country into war. He would not allude to the blunders of the Grey Government had not their friends tried to prove, and were still endeavoring to prove them heaven-born statesmen, bound - on retrenchment, which they would have effected had they been permitted to retain office longer; but, had this been permitted, the result would have been unpleasant to contemplate. It should be born in memory that the present Ministry took office at a most critical moment, and that, by so doing, they had placed themselves in an unpopular position. The task they undertook required wholehearted men, willing to sacrifice their popularity for the public welfare, and they had carried out the task faithfully. The question of retrenchment was beset with great difficulties, for, notwithstanding that everybody assented, in the abstract; with retrenchment, the personal application met with strenuous opposition from one and all. The Ministry were but flesh and blood, and it was no easy task they had in the face of appeals against dismissal from servants, who retired with noother reward than a consciousness of having performed a hard duty. The Government had done much in the way of amalgamation and retrenchment, and deserved the thanks of the people for the resolute way in which they had performed this most unthankful task. Much had been done by them in this direction, but much still remained to be done therein. As an instance, he would point to the Waste Land Boards of the colony, and to the Property -Tax Department. It was known that these Boards had in the present but little to do in comparison to the work devolving on them a few years back, yet their staffs were just as numerous. When the Land Tax and Property Jfax, were levied, it was found necessary to^ appoint men for this, whilst he though this duty might justas well have devolved upon some of these highly-paid members of the Land Boards, and if they found this' dual task too much for them to ' discharge, he thought they ought to be made to give place to persons competent of discharging the same. It was noticeable that the Minister for Public Works had, during the past year, paid off 80 of the salaried officers in his department. The expenses of the department since the time of Mr Carruthers had been increased from llper cent on the outlay to 3 per cent. Formerly there was great difficulty in obtaining engineers to carry out the work of the department ; now there was a.difficulty to obtain work for the engineers, and these gentlemen were positively obliged to have recourse to inventing work to give them employment, ri e considered the office of an Engineer -in-Chief in both Islands a mistake. This was all well and -good under Mr Macandrew’s proposal to cover the Islands with nef-works of railways, half a century in advance of the population of the country, but now one Engineer-in-chief should be appointed, having his head quarters at Wellington, and he thought this would have been done long since had Mr Oliver represented other than a Dunedin constituency. He was still, however, satisfied that, notwithstanding the difference of opinion existing, the Government had done good service to the colony in the way of cutting down expenditure. JBe the railway tariff, the general working had been far more effective than in past years. One of the evils of triennial Parliaments would be that they would no sooner have obtained a Minister of Public Works whose knowledge of the department would guarantee the repose in him of confidence than he would have to give way to a novice who, in his turn, after serving an apprenticeship, would have to fall out for a new hand, and thus the colony would suffer, for the under-secretaries and commissioners, having to deal with new chums at the business, would be enabled to pull the strings more than would be good for the country; in fact the control of the department would really be in their hands, The October tariff was not founded on principles of justice, but on that of exacting all thg,t was possible, in virtue of the monopoly possessed by the Govern ment, and although this would have been yx’pected under a company, it was not to be borne under present circumstances. It could not be supposed that they would be permitted to exact the last shilling from one portion of the community to pay the taxation of the whole. He was adverse to this view of the subject. His opinion was that so long as debts have to be defrayed let them be borne by the whole community, and not by any particular section thereof. The tariff, as drawn up in October, was most unjust on those who contributed the major part of the revenue. No doubt taxation was a serious subject, but he looked forward to the increase of population to considerably lighten the same. The colony was not doomed to stagnation: the resources were unlimited ; in fact, no father country could boast of equal blessings, and each new local industry inaugurated would add both to the wealth of the colony and also to the population. He was of a similar opinion to Sir Julius Vogel, who said in 1876, — “I have desired to make it clear to honorable members that a leading feature of the present budget is the putting upon a simple footing the finance of the colony; relieving the consolidated revenue of various contingent charges; giving to the colony its finance, and to the different local bodies theirs; preventing, in the future the clashing of claims, if not of interests, which has caused so much mischief in the past” This placed the finances on a very simple footing : in facj, the colqny topk all ‘and' tip Ipou bpdto nothing. (Laughter.) In spite of all this simplicity he considered it a mistekp tfl remove the 20 per cent, land fapd. Op this subject there had bepn a long di§pps r sion in committee, and the romovalwais only carried by the casting vote of the chairman. He had always considered that gentleman’s vpting was in very question? able taste, and contrary to all Parliamen. tary usage. As he himself had experienced them on previous occasions, in such a case it was the duty of the Chairman of Committees to vote in such a manner as to leave things exactly as they were, yet that gentleman in this instance voted in such a way as to entirely reverse matters. It was unfair to impute motiyes, blit be
believed that gentleman \.i manner because the district he rep. w. uuj i had no land whatever, having p rte i with
it at five shillings and ten s'.i 1 ■ •- per acre some years before. The c •u*uy !■ >d laid hands on the 20 percent., and this gone and the subsidies gone, the Boards had nothing to do but, if they wanted local works done, put their hands in their pockets and paj for them themselves. Having so simplified matters he thought it the duty of the Government to get rid of any quasi pensioners, or any supernumerary officers in the service. The retrenchment was far from complete. To turn to the education question. In the last annual report it was shown that the total number of children on the roll was 75,556, and the total average attendance 54,724, thus giving a total cost on the State per scholar of L 7 10s lOd. These returns included a 25‘43 per centum of children under seven years of age, and from 3 to 4 per cent, of children under five years j and if these v. ere struck out the cost per head would be LlO Is Id. The first step in the direction of retrenchment, he thought, should be to get rid of this 25 per cent., and exclude all children under seven years of age. The children would be very much better off doing nothing, and laying in a stock of health out of doors, instead of trudging one, two, three, or four miles to school daily. It was too much strain on a child of tender years. He was averse to education at such an early age. The brains were apt to get addled. The State would also save in the way of providing house accommodation. They were called on to provide schools, but not nurseries. (Applause). The income of the Boards during last year had been L 461,448, and the expenditure L 417,849. Let them get rid of the nursery element, and the expenditure would be reduced one-fourth. He would not advocate any lowering of the standard of education. Let the body and brains be a little more vigorous before being called on to go through the grind of a public education. It was notorious that the precocious child seldom turned out Al. He had touched briefly on a few matters in which they doubtless felt interested, but did not propose to continue at any greater length. He thanked them for the manner in which they had listened to him, and for the courteous manner in which they had always treated him. It spoke well for the district that, large as it was, he had never had a single application for any individual favor, or for the use of his influence to provide a billet for any person’s sisters, coqsins, or aunts. He was glad to see them look to themselves for advancement, and not trust to an impecunious Government for support. He thanked them for the way they had always behaved, and felt honored to represent such a constituency. He concluded by inviting questions from any person present on political matters. Mr G. Cates asked Mr Wright whether he would use his best endeavors to bring in an Act to restrict the influx of Chinese into New Zealand. (The speaker was greeted with considerable applause and laughter, and cries of “ Platform,” “ George,” &c. ; but on his walking up towards the stage he was loudly cheered.) He then expressed his opinion that if the Chinese were allowed to flock into New Zealand, all justice would be at an end. Mr Wright said this was one of the questions which had cropped up at the time of his election, and his opinion as then expressed, had not altered in the least. It was no new question, as there had been for years a considerable number of Chinese in the colony. However, indications of a fresh influx of Chinamen were npw apparent, and he thought that before long the Government would find it imperative to impose a heavy poll-tax. (Applause.) He hoped a Bill for that purpose would again bo presented this session ; and if so, he would give his ' support to it. (Applause.) A similar Bill was presented last session. Mr George Martin asked whether Mr ; Wright was in favor of letting or selling the railways? Mr Wright, in answer to the question, said he should be decidedly against either letting or selling the railways, as the result would be that a monopoly would be given to any company powerful or ' wealthy enough to lease or purchase the i railways, which would cause a dangerous ' political power to be raised up. A private company could work the railways more economically, but some safe-guards were necessary, or the people in the colony would suffer from such a gigantic monopoly. (Applause). For these reasons he would vote against either selling the railways or leasing them. (Hear hear). Mr M‘Laren asked whether the question of monopoly or political power would not disappear if the railways were leased in sections to different companies. Mr Wright said that such a course might be practicable in certain parts of the Colony, such as Blenheim, Nelson, Hawke’s Bay, etc., but the Middle Island could hardly be leased to more than one company. If the Amberley to Bluff line were let to half a dozen companies, he failed to see that any advantage would be gained by the public. In his opinion a permanent Board of Management, having a continuous existence, con- ' Bequently a continuity of purpose, was necessary for the proper working of our railway system. If some of the members of the Board were to retire annually, sitnilar to a joint stock company’s directors, the management, whether elected or nominated, would work satisfactorily, Political jealousies would, of course, be the chief drawback to this scheme, and would crop up whenever such a scheme was proposed. He believed when these died out, and the colony had found that it had advanced beyond them, such a method would be found to wofk much easier and more satisfactory. (Applause). Mr Cates. asked whether Mr Wright could give any information as to the imports and exports of the colony, and the relative amounts of such per head of the population 7 Mr Wright said he could not give the figures, but a few years ago the imports ..were largely in excess of the exports, and during the last few years the exports had largely increased, and he believed exceeded the value of the imports. Mr G. Andrews asked if Mr Wright . was in favor of getting 20 per cent of the land fund back to the counties ? Mr Wright said ho thought he had made himself thoroughly clear on that point before. He was strongly in favor ' of it. It was only fair that the countie should receive that proportion of the land fund, as roads, bridges, and other Eublic works might be constructed on the ewly purchased lands. He would bo glad to see it back again, as it was a serious mistake to have it ever taken away. (Cheers.) : Mr Andrews said that many large buildings were erected at the expense of the country for encouraging secondary education. He had also been asked many questions regarding Mr Wright’s action in ... reference'to the completion of the Mount gqmprs line. (Applause). Mr Wright paid he would take the education question first. There was not a large ampuht qf money expended on secondary fdpcatiop, as such schools were supported y phdowmepta principally, and it must W borne in ipjnd that the children attend- *; ’lngtheHigh School had to pay substantial ii: '.ft&k, 'lt had been suggested that the ' ‘’ whole of the endowments should be thrown jwfai , one common fund for administration; ' In ' Otago, the reserves ■■were' l very large, and consisted of hundreds of thousands of acres, but on ■ preferring to the Minister of Education’s ...report, it would be seen that although wbontfour or five times larger than those in 'Canterbury, their value was only a very little higher, as the reserves in Otago
■\r - 'ncnnfcainous and comparatively valueless if all the reserves in the colony [ o reserved for primary education, Cantei luiry would be no gainer by the | alierali-n. Now, as regards the Mount S mins lino, he certainly was unfortunate enough to have bis property affected by it (Laughter.) If they looked over the proceedings «f the County Council, they would find that at the time this railway was mooted the course of the line was sketched out by himself and the members of the Council. This course was on the south branch of the Ashburton, through Buccleugh station, and so on to Mount Somers township. This had been considered the best for the whole district, and had been approved and passed by the County Council. When the grand scheme of a central trunk line for the interior of Canterbury had been mooted in 1878, the Government stated this line would cross the Ashburton, and, therefore, two bridges were necessary, and the course of the Mount Somers line had been altered to run up south bank of the river to a junction with the proposed line. This was the cause of the alteration, and he was not responsible for it in any way. (Applause.) Mr F. Lewis asked if Mr Wright would be in favor of supporting a reduction in the Customs’ duties on the necessaries of life. He spoke feelingly, as he could see how men were burdened with expenses and taxation when they had nine or ten children to support. He thought that the Customs’ duties required re adjustment, and many articles would, if reduced, make the burden on the people much less. Mr Wright said he was in favor of no taxation of any kind, but they must remember that more than a million had to be paid in interest every year by the colony, and that money was absolutely necessary for the public expenditure, but he would be in favor of reducing the duties on the necessaries of life so soon as the colony was able to afford it. Mr Lewis should remember that if he had nine or ten children, and had to pay large taxes for their support, his neighbor who had no children had to help to pay for the education of Mr Lewis’ children. (Laughter and applause.) Mr Lewis said he could hardly agree with Mr Wright, and did not believe that the man who had no children contributed in any way to the education of his neighbor’s children. He thought there should be a re-adj astment of the Customs’ tariff, as well as a re-adjustment of the representation of the colony. (Cheers.) Mr J. Leggett asked if Mr Wright was in favor of the principle of the Charitable Aid Bill introduced last session, which provided that the money contributed by ratepayers should be disbursed by a nominee Board.
Mr Wright objected to the nominee system. He preferred the elective principle. The total cost of charitable aid should be provided for out of the consolidated fund. The present arrangements were adverse to Canterbury. The Ashburton County Council had to contribute LBOO, and the Borough L 350, to maintain the Hospital and Charitable Aid in Christchurch, and against this only two patients had been nominated by the Chairman of the Council and one by the Mayor. He thought that a change was desirable. Mr J. Leggett asked whether Mr Wright would be in favor of compelling people to insure their lives, so that the necessity for charitable aid might be done away with. Mr Wright said the Government could of course insist on their servants insuring their lives, but the British public did not like compulsion of any kind, and such a system would not work at all. Mr G. Andrews asked Mr Wright whether he would support the Local Option Bill. Mr Wright said he had always been in favor of it since his election, and his opinion had not changed. Mr James Bradley said that a difficulty was experienced in establishing local industries in Ashburton owing to the prohibitive charges made by the railway in its carriage of certain goods. For instance the carriage on one article (carbonate of lime) was almost three times as much as that on iron. Was Mr Wright in favor of reducing charges on the railway, especially upon articles which would stimulate the growth and establishment of industries in Ashburton and other towns 7 And would he advocate the extension of the Mount Somers line to the Hills, in order to obtain their mineral wealth 7 (Applause.) Mr Wright said all present knew what his action was in reference to their late Exhibition, and therefore it would be unnecessary for him to say that he would give every possible assistance to the encouragement of local industries in Ashburton. (Hear, hear.) As to extending the Mount Somers line, he would use his greatest influence to make it available for the carriage of coal, building stone, and minerals ; but it would, in his opinion, take some hard work to get it done. In reply to Mr Bradley, Mr Wright said that he was sure the Mount Somers line would be extended to the hills before the Methven railway. Mr Wright, in reply to Mr Cates, said, as he was not a Minister, he could not offer a reward for the discovery of gold and minerals.
Mr P. Lewis asked Mr Wright whether he would favor the question of erecting a traffic bridge across the Ashburton 7
Mr Wright said this was a most necessary work, and he had tried hard in the County Council to get it done, but had not succeeded. It would have been wise for the Government to have voted, as requested, half the grant originally proposed by the Canterbury Provincial Council for this useful work. He would try again. (Hear, hear.) The Chairman said that he received the following letter from the Mayor, which he would read to them :—“May 21, 1881.— Dear Sir, —Allow me to express my sincere regret at my unavoidable absence this evening. As one of Mr Wright’s late opponents, and I flatter myself of having been a pretty strong one, I should have been very pleased indeed to have been present, but tirs the state of my health does not permit. I think no public man can bo more gratified if, through his actions, he has turned his opponents into followers, and that such is the case with our worthy representative I have no doubt an unanimous vote of confidence from the meeting in Mr Wright will show.— l remain, yours faithfully, Hugo Pkiedlander, Mayor.” Mr Wright must be gratified to hear one of his opponents write in such a strain, and no doubt the letter expressed the opinion of many others. As there were no more questions, he would ask some ratepayer to propose the usual vote of thanks passed at these meetings. Mr St Hill moved a vote of thanks to Mr Wright for his kindness in attending that evening. Not only his supporters, but many of his late opponents had doubtless heard him with much pleasure. He would move a vote of thanks, and in doing so wished to express that Mr Wright’s constituents had the same confidence in him now as • when he was first elected, (Applause.) Mr Cates—l beg to second that resolution. (Laughter.) Mr Purnell said that whilst supports ipg the resolution, he for one could not entirely agree with Mr Wright’s views on political matters, or his support to the present Government. At the same time he must acknowledge that Mr Wright had done much good for the the district. Mr Wright had given them the usual tirade, against the Grey Government. He would ask Mr Wright what had the present Government done to deserve this support? First they had crippled the local bodies by taking off twenty per cent, of the Land 1 Fund, and secondly they had raised the
railway tariff, a id by so doing had caused a disastrous effect to the commuiiby. He failed to see where the benefits of the Hall Government were. With reference to the retrenchment policy, it had really been inaugurated by the Grey Government, and the present one had merely, in this respect, carried out their policy. Take Major Atkinson’s Financial Statement, for instance, and it will be found to have been more extravagant than that of his predecessors. The supplementary expenditure was large and in accordance with Major Atkinson’s favourite idea, the extra debt of one million had been turned into Treasury Bills, which entailed a heavy burden on the colony as interest, of some L 60,000 a year. The Hall Government boasted that they had saved L 200,000 this present year, but why was it not effected the first year they were in office ! In his opinion the present Government were a set of political imposters. (Laughter and cheers.) With reference to increased representation he considered that this district should have three members at least, and thought that Mr Wright represented the most numerous, influential, and he might also say, virtuous constituency in the colony. He did not believe that any other member could say that he had not been asked for some billet, either of a son, cousin, or avpporter, if they were to go from one end of the colony to the other. (Laughter.) The district was an important and a growing one, and he believed they exported a quarter of the whole grain grown in the colony. The export of wool was also very large as compared with other districts. Taking the last census as a basis, he thought that if there were 12,000 or 13,000 inhabitants in the Coleridge district, they were fully entitled to two more representatives. With reference to the Hall Government, he believed they had lost ground since last elections, and a different result will follow the next, as their actions have been such as to show them utterly unmindful of the interests of the colony. (Applause.) Mr Wright said he hoped Mr Purnell would not wish him to reply at any length. He would briefly reply to his remarks on Major Atkinson’s statement. The fact was that all practical retrenchment had been insisted on dining the first year, but he would explain how it was impossible to carry out a scheme for larger reductions. Owing to a change in the end of the financial year, it only included nine months’ expenditure, five or six of which had been gone before Major Atkinson was in authority. As it was necessary to give those civil servants it was intended to dispense with at least three months’ notice before discharging them, they would thus see that it was impracticable for the Government to make any large reductions until the second financial year had commenced. Directly the Government had a fair field, they went in for wholesale reductions, and in so doing effected a saving of a quarter of a millon. The quasi Liberal party had in turn gone in on a reduction cry, but what had they effected. His idea of liberality was to give something of his own to a more needy neighbor ; but the Grey Government had shown their liberality by putting its hands into their pockets. As he did not anticipate the attack, he was not ready to receive it, but would be better prepared next time. For the present he would leave the Hall Government to defend themselves, and they were well able to do so. (Applause.) The Chairman then put the resolution, which was carried unanimously. Mr Wright thanked those present for their attendance. He was found to have gained their confidence, and as long only as he felt that he deserved it, he would assure them, could he retain his seat as their representative. (Applause.) After passing a vote of thanks to the Chairman, the meeting terminated.
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 352, 24 May 1881
POLITICAL ADDRESS. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 352, 24 May 1881
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