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MR PURNELL AT WAKANUI., Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 490, 1 November 1881
MR PURNELL AT WAKANUI.
Mr Purnell addressed the Wakanui electors at the schoolhouse, Wakanui, yesterday evening. There was an excellent attendance, the meeting being probably the largest ever held at Wakanui. Mr David Wilson was voted to the chair.
Mr Purnell, who was received with applause, said that he had come forward as a candidate for the Wakanui district, at the request of many electors. He did not profess to have felt any reluctance in complying with that request, because although if he had to leave his practice for three or four months every year, for the purpose of attending the sessions of the General Assembly, he would sustain considerable loss, yet he was quite willing to bear that loss, because be had always taken a very keen interest in politics, and should feel it both an honor and a pleasure to be a member of the Assembly. He should,; this evening, dwell principally upon the topics of local government and railway management, and while those matters might seem less attractive than the highly spiced and sensational topics which sometimes formed the staple of election addresses, yet, in reality, they were of far mere importance, because while these sensational topics were not likely to become the subject of serious debates in the Assembly, the subject of local government was sure to come before that body, and was moreover of immense importance to the colonjq while the subject of railway management was of vital consequence to farmers, since the railways might either like be so managedas to promote agriculture, or be so mismanaged as to blight the farming interest. Mr Purnell then proceeded to discuss the subject of local government and railway management, repeating and enlarging upon the views enunciated by him at South Bakaia. After pointing out the necessity of appointing a Minister of Agriculture, Mr Purnell went on to discuss the land question, observing that much declamation was being indulged in upon this subject, and he could also indulge in declamation if necessary, but the land question was not really before the constituencies, nor was it probable that fresh legislation on the subject would take place immediately. The Land Act, of 1877, was a liberal measure embodying the principles of deferred payments, special settlements, and the cutting up of runs. If honestly worked —and no doubt the honest working of the measure depended a good deal upon the Ministry in office—the Act would largely tend to promote the settlement of the country. He had always fought against land monopoly, and should always do so. At the same time, he was opposed to bursting up taxes, and similar violent measures as being unjust in themselves, and quite unnecessary, since our constitution was wide enough to enable us to effect any land reforms, however great, and it was a sound principle, of legislation that violent and extreme measures should not be adopted when ordinary measures would suffice. By adopting the old English method of effecting reform by gradual but sure steps, we had succeeded in creating (50,000 freeholders in New Zealand, which, in proportion to our population, was perhaps a more numerous body of freeholders than was possessed by any country of equal size in the world. This should encourage us to persevere in the path of moderation. He would support any measure for the prohibition of entail, or indeed any just measure calculated to burst up large estates. Mr Purnell then dealt with native affairs, and his views as to the present Ministry, and resumed his seat amid loud applause. In reply to questions—Mr Purnell said he was in favor of the Bill introduced by Dr Menzics in the Legislative Council and passed by that body, but rejected by the Lower House, which gave school committees the power of allowing, at their option, the Bible to be read in schools without comment (a conscience clause being provided.) He -would make this concession, because the majority of the parents attending the Otago schools had expressed themselves in favor of Bible reading in schools, and a similar opinion appeared to prevail in South Canterbury. The Bill was. however, strictly optional, and he would not support any change in the present Act which would make the Bible reading in schools compulsory. He did not see his way to support a proposal for the establishment of denominational schools in largo towns, although he sympathised with the Catholics in their inability to make use of the present schools. He -was, however, convinced that if we had a State system of education applying to the whole country, that system must be secular. Hajquite agreed that the present system of electing Education Boards was unsatisfactory, and thought they should be elected by the people in the ordinary way, the education district being divided for the purpose. He felt that a change in the constitution of the Legislative Council was desirable, because tho Council consisted too exclusively of rich men. At the same time, none of the proposals which had been made for effecting that object commended 1 itself to his mind. The experience of :
Victoria showed us that a Legislative Council might be an elected body, and yet would neither work in harmony with the Lower House, nor possess popular sympathies. On the ether hand, nominations for life were obviously objectionable. It must be borne in mind that our Constitution Act differed from those of the neighboring colonies, inasmuch as it imposed no property qualifications upon members of the Council, but successive Ministerial had filled the Council with wealthy men. He was not in favor of abolishing the Legislative Council altogether. A great deal of capital was being made about pensions, but the fact was the question had been settled long since. About ten years ago the Assembly took the whole subject into consideration, and decided that, while it would respect rights to pensions which had accrued under existing Acts, any person who entered the Civil Service after that date should ntft be entitled to a pension, and that was the law at the present time. He should; of course, support any legislation which might be necessary to prevent abuses with respect to pensions. He had studied Hare’s system of representation, and the more he ♦bought of it the less he liked It. He would not vote for a repeal of the new Licensing Act until it had been fairly tried. He thought the present state of the Commission of the Peace was unsatisfactory, and that justices might fairly _be asked to undergo a legal examination before appointment. He was in favor of paying an honorarium to members of the Lower House. He was in favor of legislation for the suppression of the small bird nuisance. If the present form of Government were continued, he would support the removal of the seat of Government to Christchurch. Assisted immigration was not required at present. Mr Leadley moved —“ That this meeting is of opinion that the present Government have been the means of the salvation of the country during the recent crisis, and, therefore, we will not pledge ourselves to support any candidate who is opposed to the Hall Ministry.” Mr Walsh seconded the resolution.
Mr James Brown moved, and Mr "IS. Thomas .seconded, as an amendment—- “ That a vote of thanks be given to Mr Purnell for bis address,” and in doing So, said that he thought it was the least they could do to pass such a vote after hearing an address containing so much information. (Cheers.) The amendment on being put was carried unanimously. A vote of thanks to the chairman concluded the proceedings. We must not forget to add that ihe meeting was a mopt orderly and attentive one, and the large number of questions asked, were of an interesting kind and to the point, evincing the earnest interest now taken in Wakanui on Parliamentary matters.
MR PURNELL AT WAKANUI., Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 490, 1 November 1881
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