The Ashburton Guardian. Magna Est Veritas, et Prevalebit. THURSDAY, JULY 21, 1881. The Local Government Bills.
TOWN EDITION. [lssued at 4.10 p. m. j
If there is a grain of common sense in the collective wisdom of the House of Representatives they will not hesitate about preferring the Ministerial scheme of Local Government to the rival schemes brought forward already. Major Atkinson’s Bill may not be perfect —we don’t think it is, for reasons already adduced—but it is at least feasible. Theirs, on the contrary, are all characterised by the grossest absurdities. Mr Sheehan’s proposal to abolish abolition of the provinces, and resuscitate them from the dead, is about as reasonable as to suggest that Great Britain should be governed by an Egyptian mummy, that the Heptarchy should be restored, or that Queen Victoria should vacate the throne in favor of the deceased Queen Anne of blessed memory. Mr Ormond, forgetting that taxation of property is of necessity the first duty of any local government, is so disgusted at his own property,_ of which there is a good quantity, being taxed that he is willing to call any scheme of government a lovely piece of decentralisation, a beautiful plan of local government, if only it does not tax properly. But Sir George Grey’s scheme, of which so much was heard in anticipation, is the most wildly ridiculous of all. The Dunedin Star not inaptly styles it “ a hotch-potch of Provincialism, Republicanism, and Absolutism.” It seems to us a Provincialist dress with Republican and Absolutist trimmings. To most people “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” and a province by any other name would smell as sour. Not so to Sir George. All the old follies and
injustice of Provincialism ire to be restored, and some new ones added. As the nine old Provinces were too expensive to last, and came to grief for one among other reasons, that they always spent an extravagant quantity of money, and then ran blubbering to their mother, the General Government, to pay their debts lest they should be declared insolvent, Sir George Grey, by means of his own special multiplication table, has discovered that though nine Provinces were a very extravagant luxury, twenty would cost scarcely anything. Of course the old plan of levying black mail on the remote districts to enrich the provincial capitals would be perpetuated. So also would the election of tinpot kings, only that there woulcj, be twenty instead of nine. Of course this would involve twenty provincial secretaries, twenty provincial treasurers, twenty provincial solicitors, twenty parliamentary speakers, and, so far as can be seen, twenty commanders-in-chief of the volunteers. For under the brand new scheme of the great Liberal party the volunteers arc to be under the control of the provincial Presidents and Councils. Never more will Sir George Grey’s righteous soul be agonised, as it was in the last days of provincialism, lest the Imperial vessels of war should bombard Auckland to compel submission to the brutal foreign power which holds New Zealand in subjection. Sir George—for of course he would be one of the Piesidcnts—would summon the volunteers of his province to the rescue, and the British fleet would make tracks for other waters. Once more the ancient war cry would be raised by the property-holders of Auckland—
“On with your one gun ; Onward ye twenty ! Cows we have plenty. Cowards not one. ” And the British squadron would incontinently vanish. The provisions which our contemporary the Timaiu Herald says are seriously proposed to be in force with regard to the volunteers we do not find embodied in the printed Bill, though they perhaps may be intended. They arc that a large number of wild deer arc to be let loose nil over the colony, in order that the volunteers may render themselves expert marksmen by potting them whenever they come within range. The idea is ingenious, but we shall show Sir George Grey what the Apostle Paul might style “a more excellent way,” Why not utilize the Chinese for the purpose, and thus kill two birds with one stone—furnish targets for the volunteers, and relieve the labor market at the same time. In their own country the celestials not unfrequently offer themselves for a money consideration to be beheaded or hanged in place of wealthy malefactors who pay over a sum of money to the sufferers’ parents. Perhaps a comparatively moderate sum placed on the provincial estimates would procure sufficient Chinamen to answer all purposes, and many of the parents, the mothers-in-law particularly, Height not all object to the subsidies the Government might offer in such cases. Another curious feature of Sir Q. Grey’s scheme is that which concerns the Judges. According to his notions, they have not shown in their decisions any respect for the great Liberal party or for Liberal sentiments. They are be elected by popular representatives chosen by popular vote henceforth, and as the great Victorian Liberal, Mr George Higinbotham expressed it, “ brought under the heel of authority,” and we presume have the boot of Liberal opinion, and the toe of posterity and the whole human race applied to them if they don’t behave themselves more submissive!}'. But the last of the Grcyite proposals is the most curious of all. He grapples like a man with the question, who’s to pay the piper, or find the funds for all this regal authority in twenty provinces? He tells us that the surplus funds of General Government after all expenses have been met are to be handed over to the twenty Provincial Treasurers. It. strikes us that this would be a mighty small sum. In fact judging by the experience of the past few years, the General Government would only hand over a large deficit. But what would that matter in the arithmetical calculations of a great proconsul ? Sir George Grey is a long bit in advance of his times. When we listen to his glowing eloquence, when we consider the wisdom of his new financial and judicial arrangements, we are always forcibly reminded of Punch’s model member of Parliament who told his constituents that “he looked forward to the time when men should receive taxes instead of paying them, and laws should be all repealed.”