MR PURNELL'S ADDRESS TO THE ELECTORS OF WAKANUI.
;.i Asbbnrtoni 1 tip*:! I; .''have,. of in '“tne of. W fsanui, .jap*l bitoyeiif; meetings of electors convened iforithe Llnftposei •1 j , MWevew sdnie> of yoji haye 'been:‘ prevented/ by bljbutp- ' froth these’ mefetingg, EO and t; sjpce> Ijrpit, p/.^time necessarily imposed upon ajj -.public . jspeaker has debarred me i: fronx giving f w full- exposition of thy political views to r any 'partloalar-' meeting/ 1 will ,c toerbapS be convenient if I now publish, S fcas bnef /' ahdrj clear « possible^ 1 J a' suinm^rybf -ttevwg Kfe !! e 4 , ( >hicbir to r eCgetiienwitbiroy/-T e^Qa b:b. u abfl < sS^*’ s ' for the honorable post whibh l seek; r, yoh will' be --able'-'to 1 how> far I to make a suitable represeh--tSiveGf your interests in the General Assembly. . sxll .t io rra | Liberalism and the Land Laws, 1
I need hardly say that, I am a liberal in politics. I was so»ip days .gone by, when the “ Shepherd* I 'King -ruled New Zealand, and - every itfan who suggested that the land was in-j pended for.iteuse vf t at large, and not -for the of a select, Tew,a wasVlddkedl .Upon with eyes of suspicion,- and I certainly see no reaspn tp chipge ipy opinions now, when Liberalism is rising triumphant Ifhippgfeqpt the cpppdJfilAOd .sDwyf iicandidatefi t everywhere . affirming tbatOthey.ialone jaEe the; true Liberals—• •that Codings ‘!the) man, not SHbrfc”] -qp firffily that the T)’nlk 6f the; ( ,Wakanui electors thprbhghly isej ; Wf,ben I; 'first tome to this 'district, about-threej
years ago, I found myself in a very: Jhotbed of the> midst of a! most profound. The! • faot°'bf.tf6ur cjittdidMeS in the j -field fori the representation 6f WakariUi, j 'pth...tJ*ft r .k>een. .interest, taken an‘ jthej election, proves that the era of | languor ,;has passed away, and given I place to'a healthy and useful activity*; ■whiles Lwhateyer may be jthe ; result -of j the polling I am convinced, from what | •f tfevie > -keen 1 and' hea'rd duririg ]sy| electioneering tour, that the Wakanui • constituency is Liberal at heart ' c i Let me: define Liberalism according Js.roy,yiew! of,,|t - Certain dangerem* doctrines have lately been put- fqrtji, and you have been invited to embrace them as the creed of Liberalism. You brnre- been; ; asked i to j believe ;*that«a “bursting-up” tax is,the true and orily method available for causing the landed estates Of excessive 1 size Which are nowrtp be(,fbrihd in of Mo disappear; endeavors to inflame your passions > against i the .large landowners _ by rhetorical;:•'comments .'Upon ancient grievimces deftfig since redressed ’to set clas^' against class ; to make the poor, hate . the rich as their natural enemies ; arid more particularly have the laboring class been asked to believe that it ■is only by sending men ;who advocate these dangerous doctrines to the Assembly that their interests Will be trrily advanced. I repudiate all sympathy with'sUch doctrines, and these inflammatory appeals to men’s baser passions. Such doctrines and appeaklhave nothing in common with Liberalism. I understand Liberalism to mean a readihess and "willingness measures which are likely to tend to the happiness and well being ,of. society, aris ta t raise the whole community, m tbe scale of intelligence, and civilization* attfaesame time seekirig these ends by tbe path of justice; and [ With a fbH ; re i ’ gird to; the rights t>f !e'very ihdividual; citizen. - You do not .firid the .StateStneri who, lead.; the Liberal, party at advocating schemes ior thecpn-; fscation of s people’s, property* t or iAI dting one class of the community to fly at the throats of the other*. ‘ • The)' pride themselves Upon their readiness tp embface’ large and comprehepstye measures, for the redress of public grievances ; nor are .they backward in • proposing such measures, in the Legislature ; but in the measures which they : propose they carefully abstain ftpra attacks upon property, andstrive tp observe those principles of justice Which all who guide the destinies .of civilised States.;agtee .to observe in framing laws intended to remedy publicrgrievances. ' • The : doctrines to ■ which : 1 all ude mightindeed find, a fitting' place: bri 1 ; d. Sriciaji£t■; programme.V, v cannot be that; .irieri liying ..ip: despotic, it is impossible to obtain redress of grave political grievances' by-‘ ; constitutional : meatis—shonldprodbririd dangerous doctrines ririd rissbtt tp acts of violence ; , but in a free coiiniffy like ours, np Jocli ; excuse .is nyj^ahlp.; Our Constitution is so large that every desirable- reform—can.: be; eficcted within its limits; and ; L defy any main ;to • point out tb me-any'-just reform, which cannot be. so effected, drir Mother Country has conferred upon us one of the noblest gifts which a parent State ever bestowed upon its colony in the Constitution which it has given to us. It is -one of the freestConstitutions in the world. Let .us sßbw.ourselyes worthy of this splendid gift by using the powers which it cod’ feWjiUpo|i us with naoderariort. y like
To excite your feelings and kindlj class animosities, now slumbei
ing, all k inds of old grievances are being raked up. You are told, for instance, of the gross iniquity of pre-emptive-rights, and the scandalous manner in which they were abused in Canterbury in years gone by. I thoroughly agree that pre-emptive rights were a greajt wrong. They were a class privilege, granted to a few at the expense of many. They are, however, past and gone, and there is not the remotest probability of their being again revived They were abolished by the Land Act of 1879. j Clause Ix2 ofithat;Act reads thus— _ ? j “ All rights for pre-emption heretofore granted in the Provincial District of Canterbury shall, on and after thb Ist day of May, 1880, absolutely cease and determine.” 1
This abuse having been effectually remedied, what good end cart be attained by raking up the dying embers of these ancient fires ? Is it not clear that for election purposes, an endeavor is being madg to create negdfessj.ieuds be-f tween different classes of society ? |
If these efforts were successful, what would be the effect upon the prosperity of the working classes ? ’ The working classes are required to believe that these mischievous and revolutionary schemes are for their bene-| fit, whereas the slightest reflection will show that the working class, above all; others, would suffer from their operation. For what is it a working man— I mean a genuine working man, not a! loaforemost wants;?;, Js it not 'constant employment, so that he may obtain the wherewithal to support himself and his family? And when does employment; most abound ? Is it not when all classes of the community are living at peace with one another; when capitalflows undisturbed; and men feel safe in their possessions ? Then do indus-; tries flourish, and men find employ-; ment to the fullest extent. But if you; rudely shake the rights of property ; if; no man feels secure, then capital, shrinks info’narrowest channels;! industry is disturbed; employment; grows scarce and the laborer and his; family suffer want and misery. Remember, that the laborer holds] his cottage and quarter-acre section of] land by precisely the same tenure as the 1 rich man holds his broad acres, and if you recklessly attack the rights of the i one, you are pretty sure to injure the | rights of the other. If you once introduce dangerous principles into your legislation, you will not. be able to stop their operation just when you please. You may glut your revenge upon the rich man (so to speak), but the weapon you raise is pretty sure, in the long run, to injure the hand which raises it. I yield to no man in my desire to see the overgrown estates of this country broken up. I am convinced that if this colony is to become a great and prosperous community, we must distribute the ownership of the land widely atridhgst' the pedple,- sb 1 Wa| create a numerous body of independent yeoman, and prevent the poorer classes being unduly massed in the towns and cities, there to struggle with toil and poverty. We should strive to rear up in these southern seas a new and nobler Britain —a country where every man who is willing to work, shall be able to acquire a freehold of his own, and enjoy a fair share of the comforts of life, with time and opportunity for cultivating those mental faculties which God has given to him fFor his own enjoyment, and the benefit of his fellow ; men. We should avoid those errors, i largely imputable to a bad land system, i which have been committed in England, whereby large masses of our felI low-countrymen have been plunged into ia state of hopeless pauperism, while I millions pass their lives amid grinding ; struggles for their daily bread. These
great ends, however, cannot be attained by violent and unjust measures, (even though their injustice be glossed over with fine phrases); nor by setting class against class; they can only be achieved by patient perseverance along the ancient path of sober legislation, and by strict adherence to the eternal principles of justice. I hold a “ bursting up tax ” to be unjust for this reason. At present, the ilaw permits a man to buy as much land as his purse will allow. I think that jis a wrong state of the law; but so it is. Either of you who can command Lioo,ooo is at liberty, so far as the law is concerned, to invest every penny of it in the purchase of a big estate. When a man has thus exercised the right which the law gives him, where is the justice in turning round upon him and punish-
ing him for doing what the law expressly permitted him to do by imposing a penal tax upon the land which he has bought, thus virtually confiscating a portion of his property ? Because it comes to that. A “ bursting-up tax pruist be heavy enough to effect its object ; otherwise it is a farce. We must distinguish between a bursting-up tax and a mere land tax imposed for revenue purposes. It may or may not expedient to impose a land tax with the pbject of compelling the holders of jarge estates to bear a heavier share of the financial burdens of the country; put such a tax is quite legitimate in itself, and has nothing in common with a bursting-up tax. j When I ask you to adhere to the principles of sound legislation in your efforts to lessen the size of large holdings, I can point to our past experience as a proof that searching land
ago ? A mere sheep walk. What are they now ? :We have,too, created in New Zealand a body of over 60,000 freeholders, a larger body of freeholders in proportion to our population than is possessed even by France, subdivided as the ownership of Jand there is become by the operation of a peculiar law of secession. ‘
Some twelve, or fifteen years ago, when,the land monopolists ruled: New Zealand, we Had to fight hard, in Otago especially, for the establishment of the principle of deferred payments. Now the system Of bellingland bn deferred, payments is part of'the law of the land. The Land Act of 187.55 even applies; it to the sale of pastoral lands of the jCrown ; and the samfe Jtetatdte contains ample provisions for the cutting up of runs and their sale^ij^BUse - pipt_ such a manner that the public at large shall have full opportunity of competing. We have-also abolished the jaw of, prime- ; geniture. Last session, too, the Government introduced a bill for prohibiting ing. the entailing of landed' estates—a practice which'at Home is the acknowledged root of most serious;evils in the English agrarian system.: The bill was rejected by the Assembly, and it was so crude a measure that one cannot regret the circumstance; but I shall be prepared‘to support any 1 properly 1 framed measure,for dhecking the’ entailing of estates.;' Indeed,! shall*cordially sup- - port any just and well-considered measure which will tend to cause the disappearance of large estates* whether! freeholds or Crown lands, and you will not find me less zealous a land, reformer, because I ask you to’adhere to the honorable principles of legislation which are observed by British states-i men. - : I .i have already remarked-that the inevitable effect of -violent measures ■ would be to disturb industry; and I; may: point out that in all our.land legis-! lation, we must bear in mind''that the, woof industry is: at present the, largest tn odey-produci ng industry in the colony. Our export of" wool last year was valued at L 3, grain, Li,060,0000f gold, Li,222,060. I am quite aware: that sheep - can be reared elsewhere ; than -bp large stations; and our ultimate aim must be to cause them .to be so reared; but unless we are extremely cautious in changing the channel Of this.important industry, and do'it * we may do ourselves and the country serious injury. This is, however, a 'minor argument. . You rearm ot expect to-revolutionise the land s>fetem of the country iff a day, ur ta month, or a year. You must give the laws you pass time to Operate; and always? bear in mind that while the land question is easily disposed of by platform r bra tors, it is in reality a most difficult and complicated political problem, the ; solution of which we should approach with the utmost; deliberation. ij think some 1 useful legislation 'might take place with respect to- the fbreigh land companies. These cpnipknies are the worst form of absenteeism. Their Shareholders,,,for the most part, live 16,000 miles away, and the only interest which they have in the welfare of the fcblopy is ' the money 'they can screw out of it. Moreover, I cannot consider the holding-of largeblobks of land a means of speculation which ought to be allowed to foreign capitalists.- , South of this place, I am, informed that the large holdings of foreign companies kre befcoming a serious obstacle to .settlement. Indeed, we need not Ib'dk' kb fat ; fot an 5 'illustration. The township of South Hakaia, which ought to rival Ashburton in magnitude, is half-strangled by. the Acton station. The New Zealand and Australian Land Cotn'paffy hold, I believe, 340.000 or 350j00'6 ! acres of land in the MiddlfeTslancb ; To put.it on the lowest ground, a small country like this cannot afford to let so vast' an area of its territory be motibpolised by strangers. Fresh companies are forming. There might be some difficulty in dealing with companies already formed, but I see no reason why we should not impose restrictions upon the dperktions of fresh companies so. as to prevent further mischief. ,
The Pension System.
; As a further election cry you have been told much about the abuses of a supposed pension system. Probably nine-tenths of the people of this colony (myself being amongst the number) are agreed that pensions, ought not to be paid to persons engaged in the Civil Service, and that these gentlemen should provide for their own future, as theib fellow colonists 'have to do. But the pension system ;which'Once existed in New Zealand has, a long since been been abolished, formerly, every member of the Civil Service who fulfilled certain conditions was entitled to a pension; but in 1871 (I think) the General Assembly abolished the system, |ind no person who has entered the Service since- that date will be entitled (o a pension. It is true that some pensions are now being paid and more, w}ll hereafter have to be paid; but this is <Jpne in pursuance of the contracts entered into before the year named, which contracts cannot be broken with-out-the grossest possible breach of public faith. Irregularities were last session shown to have occurred in connection with the granting of three par-, ticular pensions, but it is, very easy to take measures for preventing such irregularities in the future, and there is nothing in, the; shape of a great abuse t f*!u emedied ' ' ’ TT.a TTattVfl QnartW
been almost absorbed during the last few weeks by the action of the Government towards the natives on the West Coast. I have read the explanation 'given by the Premier, but it throws little light on the subject, and, so far as I understand the matter at present, what is called “the march to Parihaka” seems remarkably like a triumph of: might over right. Consider what has occurred. ' Te Whiti and'his hapu are quietly residing it their home at Parihaka. With then are ; numerous visitors, who have cone> according to th?ir wont, to discuss with the i Parihaka-na-tives their common grievances against the Government, They ‘'assert, and have been asserting for months past, through their chiefs,' that ‘they intend to seek redress for those grievances by peaceful means. Suddenly their pah is surrounded by 1,700 troops. The natives do not show any sign of intended resistance ’ The Riot Act is, however,! read; although nobody is rioting, and immediately the troops'proceed to take large numbers ! ofi natives prisoners on no definite charge, to seize the property and destroy the houses of the Pariliaka natives, and' to render their hone a howling wilderniess; ' Still more. The; troops proceed to ride about the. country, seizin? and destroying the property of other natives, VqVen of natives who have fought for us -against their felowcountrymen in days gone by. Next Te Whiti and Tohu are broight before'a’ Bfcrlch qf r 'Magistrates' at Jew •Plymouth. • A lerigthy charge; of' a \ery indefinite ( nature, is. L r s ead out.to th;m, based on an information which-his i been sworn fo by a gentleman who d?clares ihithp. witness-box, that he ,did not. understand when he was swearing the information that he was' for all the statements it contained, fothefwise he would hot have swdrh tq theU. On the Bench is seated, . Parris-a gentleman, tVhiff suppqsd to be. Jargelyi .responsible. tfor,. th e,.Wet Coast difficulty, •:and who virtually! assists in the proceedings as accuser 'and judge combined!''' Te Whiti and Tohi are of coutsh‘ qbmrnittefi' to prison. ' To my mirid'a sham trial is an odioui th.iiig'—a mockery of justice and thi examination of Te Whiti’s seems.to nu to have been-essentially a sham, inasmuch as* the?'real charge; against him was very different from that; oh which he 1 was examnfod.; Mf the Govet-ninent really thought' his continudnce at liberty to be dangerous ,to the peace .of the country, the proper and manliest course would have jbeen ,to>make him a State prisoner,; and l theh asked the Assembly for a bill of indemnity. It is true that Te Whiti and the Pariliaka natives have said and done many things which, said and done by Europeans, would wear a. very grave aspect indeed. But you must bear in mind that the natives are still a semibarbarous people—their ways are' not our ways—and it is most unfair to judge of their conduct by the same rigid tests which we ought to apply to our own. Te Whiti- and his friends have real and substantial grievances to be redressed ; that is admitted even by the Government. T Promises were made to them years ago that large and ample reserves should be set apart for their uSe and enjoyment before we surveyed and sold certain of the confiscated land ion the West Coast. It was not until Te Whiti’s followers turned the surveyors off the Plains that the ■ Govern-ment-took any! measures whatever tp redeem these'promises ; nor is it : clear that up to the time of his arrest Te Whiti aware that at last reserves were actually being made, for him ajid his followers! ; : . ' The whole matter demands a rigid parliamentary enquiry. The only redeeming feature in the affair seems to be the conduct of the Volunteers, who deserve every praise for the patriotic manner in which they turned out at the call of duty. . It is true no actua’ fighting has taken place, but when the Volunteers offered their services for the front, it was with the full consciousnes! that in a few days they might be engager with the enemy. I trust that the public spirit which they have displayee on this occasion will induce the Assembly to deal more generously will the Volunteers in the future then it ha done during the last few years.
The Hall' Government is, in my opinion, a very weak one. Its mem bers individually' possess a consider able'amount 1 of administrative ability but, as a Ministry, they cannot be re garded ; as; strong or capable. ■ Th«. Ministry Has no backbone, no policy; it brings forward the measures of it» predecesssors and opponents, ani passes, or tries to pass 'them, althougl it is evident y that it does hot believe it Some of 'measures., think even Ministry shqpld possess a mind of its. Own, and ought only to i bring down those measures i which; ;it honestly believes will be for the good of the country; aftd : ’if it ' ; finds that public Opinion'reqbirbs thp passing of measures ip which it does Hot concur, then it should retire' and give place to some other Ministry whose views are more corisbriaht with those of the people. The Ministry is lamentably weak in the matter, qf finance, and showed considerable disregard of the credit of the country‘by the sensational announcement ! shich it made as to‘ the state of dUt' finances npon its accession to office. Xt-jis the duty of a Finance Minister to the truth, but not to needlessly depreciatei;;lh§ public' eredih The ; iGolonial Treafltitet’aUaek^df 0 irtvetittbft’ .ub
l in the Treasury chest. His first financial period resulted in a deficiency of nearly a million sterling, which he covered by the simple process of adding a million to our debt, thereby increasing our interest charges by about L 50,000 per anuurn. The year 1880 revealed a fresh estimated deficit, of ‘some L6oo,bob, which Major Atkinson proposed to deal with by postponing the treatment of a portion of the deficit until a more convenient season, while the greater part of the deficiency he proposed to provide for by additional taxation. Now, at this very time it vyas notorious 'that the civil service was vastly'overgrown. The Government were paying over a million. a year in salaries and wages, Under these circumstances, then, would not a real financier have sought to effect a ■thorough : retrenchment in the civil service before lading the country with Additional taxation ? This obvious course, however, was scarcely perceived by'Major Atkinson, who brought down extravagant estimates and asked the House to pass them as they stood, stating , that, if ,the House would do so 'he would endeavor to effect tcjfepchraent , during the year to the extent of 1,50,000; but: he was particularly careful ,to explain that it would ■fee a 'most difficult task to effect ‘ such a saving, and''he' might fair in the attempt. Fortunately the House , took the bit in its teeth,,, and the Government saved not 1 L50,000 but over 1,300,000 during the year. Had! Major Atkinson been allowed to have his own way, the colony would now have been paying a quarter of a million more taxation than it is doing. 1 ./ ! The Ministry seem incapable'of devising any great measure of policy. The local government question offers £ a splendid field foh statesmanship; but the Ministry are unequal to the occasion. Two sessions running they have brought down’measures for solving, this i problem, but have miserably failed. The House has refused to look at their measures', and the 'cbuhtry; has endorsed the the House. , You are entitled, however, to ask me the practical question of whether in the event of my election I should be prepared to assist in turning the Ministry out of office. Now a Ministry may be weak, and its conduct unsatisfactory, but the country ought not to be put to the trouble and expense ;of a change of Administration unless the change is likely to result in something more than the substitution of Tweedledum for Tweedledee. I should not be disposed to help to oust the present Ministry from office unless : I felt certain that they would be succeeded by a stronger and abler Government; and in any case I would give them a reasonable ■ opportunity of bringing down their measures next session, and if those measures met my views they would receive my support. What the composition of the new House will be is, of course, merely a subject for speculation ; but I trust it will contain the elements from which a strong Government of Liberal views (using the ■ term Liberal in the sense already defined) can be formed. That is the kind of Government which I wish to see in power. Local Government.
The question remitted to the country by the last House was that of local government. It is a subject of moment to the whole country, and of peculiar importance to farmers, for a reason about to be mentioned. It has been forced to the front by the financial needs of the Treasury. These are such that the local bodies cannot look for further subsidies. The Government is now paying them a final composition. In this part of the colony the County system has worked under peculiar ; ad T vantages. The Ashburton County Council has always had plenty of money at command; its share of the] accumulated land fund. Hence the Council has never found it necessary to levy an ordinary rate, and yet has been able to execute important irrigation works; In other' parts of the colony, however, the 1 'County Councils have been less fortunate. They have been compelled to subsist on the rates and the Government subsidies, The withdrawal of the latter, therefore, leaves them (and you will shortly be in the same* position, for the County Council Is rapidly getting to the ; bottom of its exchequer) dependent upon rates alone tor support, for. the Assembly having virtually rejected the Local Government Bills of the Ministry two sessions running, we cannot take any temporary relief which might: have been afforded to the rural districts by; their operation into account. The Government themselves have, however, plainly intimated that in their opinion the, local bodies should, for the future, seek to provide for their own wants by means of rates, and have proposed to confer upon the. County Councils and Road Boards power to levy ordinary rates up to as in the £, augmenting likewise their borrowing powers, which, of course, means special rates into the bargain. N ow, what would be the practical effect of imposing ordinary local rates to the extent of 4s in the j£, with special rates of, say, the same aniount, upon the farmers in this j district in a bad season ? Would it not almost snuff them out ? Called upon to: pay such crushing local rates, you would, I suspect, begin to ask yourselves the question —-Is it absolutely necessary‘for us to maintain •So costly att establishmem 1 t jas General Government ? We ndt bv remodelling that Government set
luxuries, which will be available for the local bodies, and. enable them to efficiently perform their functions ? And it will doubtless: immediately occur to you that only last year, by sharp and vigorous retrenchment, we reduced the expenditure of the General Govern* ment by 1,300,000 per annum; and that; too, without in any way impairing the efficiency of the public service. What lesson can we learn from this circumstance ? Does it not prove that before the reduction the Government was in the habit of annually squandering 1300,000 upon its departments beyond their proper cost ?
This opens up a fresh phase of the local government question. The Ministry persist in treating the question as one of finance only. Undoubtedly finance is one of its aspects, but it also wears a second of perhaps deeper importance. When the Provinces were abolished Major Atkinson’s Ministry distinctly promised that the powers of local, government formerly vested in the Pro-! vincial Governments, and by the operation of the Abolition measures, trans- ! ferred to the General Government,, should be devolved upon the local; bodies; they declared in point of fact; that under the new order of things! about to be inaugurated we should j possess a more efficient system of local) government than before. They further; promised that the local bodies should i receive substantial endowments. Such was the bargain made by the Abolitionist leaders with the country. It has been broken in both respects. The “substantial endowments” are still iri'the" clouds. The real governing functions of the Provincial Governments p—such as the administration of waste lands—still remain vested in the General Government, and if you will take the trouble to study bur Statute Book from 1876 to the present day, you will find that the Central Government has continuously been drawing to itself greater and greater control over the administration of the country. You cannot get a Cemetery Board constituted without the permission of the Wellington officials. The country is losing its political manhood, and a bureaucratic system of government is being riveted upon its shoulders. This method of government, too, is very costly. Even in these days of retrenchment, the proposed ordinary expenditure of the General Government for current year amounts to L 3,500, 000 in round numbers, of which one million and a half represents interest and sinking fund, and the balance will be absorbed in administration. If you deduct from the latter the cost of working the railways, and' of maintaining the Government Insurance Department and Trust Office, as being business departments, you will find the net cost of the ordinary administration to be about Li,400,000, which I submit is far in excess of the means and requirements of the colony. It is hopeless, however, to expect efficient reform without a radical change of system. There is anamazing elasticity about the General Government. They may effect a saving under the influence of a strong pressure, but as soon as the pressure is removed the expenditure grows more extravagant than ever. Much of the work done by Government officials is valueless. It is not that they fail in their duty—many of them work very hard indeed—but a great deal of their labor is expended, not on public work, but on work which one’ department makes for another—redtapeism. The only plan by which you can j make a Government economical is to keep it constantly berteath the eve of the public criticism. That is the weak point Of our pVesent system. For all purposes of public criticism the General Government might almost as well be seated in Melbourne or Sydney as in Wellington, The bulk of the colonists have no possible means of knowing how the ; ordinary business of the Government iS conducted at Wellington, while it is the interest of the Wellington people that the Government should be as costly as possible, and of the Wellington press to hide the expenditure. If the General Government could be removed to Christchurch, although the outlay in doing so might be considerable, I believe we should save money in the long run by the sharp public criticism to which the Government would be thereby subjected, while it would also be withdrawn from the action 1 Of many secret and mischievous influences to which it is exposed in the “ Empire City.” The Assembly, too, has had thrust upon it a mass of petty legislation, which could be much better and more cheaply done by local bodies. Choked with business the Assembly neglects some of its work and does the rest badly. Just consider the amount of business which the Lower House was required.to perform last session. There were laid before it 158 public and 3 private bills, some of the former dealing with most important subjects, and demanding much time for their proper discussion, such as, for example, the [ Licensing Bill, the Railways Construe tion and Land Bill, and the Local Government Bills. A mass of motions were tabled. One of them was a want of confidence motion, the debate on which lasted over the best part of a fortnight. Twenty-six select and standing committees were appointed, which brought up reports. Committeework occupies a great deal of time, and upon its proper conduct depends, to a large extent, the efficient working ofthe [-Legislative 5 machine ‘ 1 .385 petitions; 1 were fif'eserifeff’ Wpe J House, which were separately considered, or supposed
mittee. A variety of miscellaneous business was also transacted. And this was the bill of fare for seventy-two sitting days! Every thinking person will perceive that it was not possible for the House to perform so much work efficiently in so short a space of time, and the natural consequence follows. It likewise seems absiird to employ so costly a machine to deal with such petty matters as bills relating to racecourses and the like. It further appears to me that if the Assembly were relieved from the control of public works its character would'Be greatly elevated in the eyes of the people. The power of the Government to spend large sums of borrowed money on public works places the members of the House and the Government in a false position towards each other, and gives the Ministry far too much influence over the Assembly. I think we should try to effect a thorough decentralisation of the General Government. Let us hark back to the principle of the Constitution Act, and limit the functions of the Assembly, as far as we can, to legislation on really important subjects. We shall thus materially reduce its work and its cost, while we shall stand a chance of getting sound laws. Let the control of public works and the management of the railways in each island be devolved upon a Board j of Works for that island, the Board likewise having powers of legislating on minor subjects. ■ It would, of course, be needless to maintain the Counties under the changed system. By this means we should not only get a much cheaper system of government than we possess at present, but we should likewise strike a. death blow at Centralism. I merely throw out the foregoing idea as a suggestion. I am' quite prepared to support any rational scheme of decentralisation; but I insist it shall be thorough. There must be no playing with the question.
The Railways. One great advantage which could be gained by creating Insular Boards of Works is that we could thereby effect a satisfactory reform in the management of our railways. I would give each Board of Works exclusive control over the railways of its own island. If you study the matter, you will find that the great defect in the existing system is that the North Island railways are linked with'the South Island, and both are. managed on the saine principles, although the nature of the traffic on the two sets of lines and the conditions to be met are fundamentally different.
We lie under the curse of a uniform tariff. That is a genuine official notion. Were our railways in the hands of a joint stock company, you may depend upon it the tariff on each line would be framed so to suit the traffic on that line. If carriers and steamboat proprietors conveyed goods and passengers at low fares against a railway, the company would quickly meet such competition in the only way in which such competition can be successfully met. Nor would a private company dream of managing the North Island lines on the same principles as the South Island. The fact is Canterbury producers are taxed in the way of high 'freights for the purpose of supplying the deficit in the Northern railway accounts. The North Island railways pay about i per cent, above their working expenses; the Canterbury line some 7 per cent. There is not the remotest probability of the North Island railways paying the interest on the money expended on their construction for many years to come. The practical question then arises: How long will the Canterbury farmers patiently endure the imposition of high freights for the benefit of the North Island ? Looking at the matter from the stand-point of either justice or generosity, you ought not to be required to make such a sacrifice, but rely upon it that while the railway tariff may be changed and amended now and again to meet your demands, you will never get your produce carried at fair and proper rates until a complete severance in the management of the North and South Island railways is effected.
When the railway scheme was brought before the country in 1870, the question was discussed as to whether it would not be wiser to leave our railways to be made and managed by ; private enterprise, instead of permitting the Government to undertake the work; and one of the principal reasons which led to the adoption of the latter course was the argument that if the railways were in the hands of joint stock companies they would be managed simply with an eye to the profits of the shareholders, whereas, if they belonged to the Government, they would be administered on principles of public policy, and even if the railways did not yield satisfactory returns at once, full compensation for the loss would be obtained by the indirect advantages which would accrue to the country through the development of its resources and enhancement of its prosperity by a wise and politic railway administration. Unfortunately these expectations have been disappointed. Our railways have not been administered on principles of public policy. The sole aim of their managers seems to be to screw the last farthing i out of the producers’ pockets, heedless of the effect ■ upon Jndpstry >and ; ifuttoeprosperity of'the'’country. It is of peculiar importance to the
should be managed on broad and enlightened principles. ~ You may, for example, easily find yourselves . shut out of the London wheat market by bad railway management, or at all events unduly handicapped there. The grain trade is one .of the mainstays of this district ; it has , assumed surprising magnitude ; but never forget that it rests upon a most unstable, foundation. You have no local market, but are obliged to send your wheat to London,, 16,000 miles, off, where it conies into competition ..Tritp 1 tlffi duce of all the wheat-growing in the world. Every one 01 these countries is nearer tothe market than .you, some of them, lik£ the ‘ States, having to carry their .grain, but a..inaction of the distance which, .separates you from the London buyer.'ir'fHe wheat-growing area from whieh the London market is supplied adendjng year by year, and the facilities for the transport of the grain from jhp,; the market are undergoing coMtant improvement, notably in the, States, so that a real and, imminent danger threatens you. The : :wl}£aitgrowirig capacity of the United States and Canada is enormous and , capable of vast augmentation,, In .187,9,, the United States raised , 469,900 bushels, and in 1880, .480,000,000 bushels, of which about one-third was available for export. This year you have not much to fear from American; competition, ,53s there is a bad harvest in the States, and it is expected that the crop will fall 125,000,000 bushels short of last year’s yield, but this is a casual circumstance, and the fact remains that unless you are diligent in maintaining your .position, and the transport. charges, are cut down to the lowest figure, you will, find yourselves drivep oiit of- the, Lpudb? wheat market. Important v,ons|durfr tions like these, it appears to ,raei should largely influence the management of our railways. , , . -. ;
If it be impossible to secure for .each island the management of its railways, I think an effort should be ipade to revert to orte of the prime features pf the railway scheme as originally pro: pounded, viz., that railway rating districts should be constituted, and dis-r tricts through which non T paying rail-? ways pass be rated, in order to make up the deficiency in the railway accounts. lam aware that serious difficulties lie in the way of carrying out this project, but I do not, regard them as insuperable.
Minister of Agriculture. r’ A Minister of Agriculture ought, ;I, think, to be appointed How it has come to pass I do not profess to know, but every important interest in the country seems to be represented in -the
Cabinet but yours, although the/arming interest is the backbone of New Zealand. Ido not imagine that any great impetus would be given to ; agriculture by the appointment of a iMinjstfer of Agriculture, but it would be vetyconr venient if there was a Minister in the: Cabinet whose special duty it would be: to look after your interests,, and to whom farmers could go with- .their; grievances. At present it is ::not; the: duty of any particular member of the Ministry to look after your wants and grievances, and what is everybody’s business is nobody’s business; so that your affairs get neglected by the Go vernment, and you are left to look after yourselves.
Local Industries. The development of local industries is a matter of much importance to the ; farming community, because if: local ■ manufactures could be made to flourish farmers would find a local market for much produce which they are now compelled to send to distant countries, and also a market for some 1 kinds'of produce which it does not now pay them to raise at all. The vexed question of Free Trade versus Protection comes to the front ip connection with this matter. A few years ago it required considerable moral courage on the part of any man either in England or in New Zealand, to avow a belief m ; <iven modified Protectionist doctrines. In Great Britain, however, a feeling is taken place ; men of standing are found advocating Protectionist Views, under a slight disguise, and a powerful league, styled the National Fair Trade League, has been formed for the purpose of getting those views put into practical operation. 1 The fact is that Great Britain staunchly supported Free Trade principles so . long as the application of those principles caused her trade to prosper; but the shoe is beginning to pinch her, and she cries but accordingly. The products of America and Continental manufactories, reared under Protectibnist systems, are successfully competing with the products of her own manufactories on her own soil; and her manufacturers and workmen are beginning to . ask . j whether it is- just" or right,.tbgt,-jthey,,■ > should be subjected to'such unfair: competition. Most ofu^wejeeducated ... in Free Trade principles ; but do .npt . let us be Free Trade bigots. Let .us free ourselves from old world, habits of. . thought; let us look our circumstances , fairly in the face; and frame our.Cus- : ; toms tariff accordingly. Free Trade, in its fullest sense, may be the proper, policy to adopt in an old settled country like Great Britain; but it does not follow that it is applicable to the widely different circumstances. of a young colony. I do not. propose : that we should abandon say -ihatwe should have the courage to frame our tariff to suit our local wants.
name by which that tariff will be designated. As a matter of fact, this colony already possesses a semi-protec-tive tariff, under which we have created a most valuable industry, commercially speaking, viz., the brewing industry. By the same means the soap trade is being fostered, and we are now exporting soap to other colonies. Last session a small import duty was put on jams and preserved fruits, and the immediate result is that jam factories are springing into existence in Dunedin and elsewhere. A duty of 2d a pound was also put on hams and bacon, which ought to help the local producer; and the Assembly also determined to allow a rebate of 2s 6d in the pound on locally manufactured tobacco, which is likely to result in the creation of an important industry in the North Island. Your wheat trade, I may remind you, enjoys the benefit of a small protective duty, which has the effect of shielding against Adelaide and Californian competition. Out tentative efforts , have so far been successful; let us then persevere. At the same time, - ; %e must be careful not to fall into the ' fiscal eirors of yictoria. It would be a ■mistake to put our local industries into a hothouse; all I propose is that we ■ should foste r them by gradually adjust- •’ ing our tariff in such a way as will turn scale against the foreign manufacturer, but at the same time will not itn-
pose an unjust burden upon the consumer.
My previous remarks indicate a r ihethod by'which I think a substantial '’ saving in the colonial expenditure could 'W'* effected; but, speaking more may say that I feel con'vinced that if we are to get our finances " placed bn. a sound footing, we must p ipsist upon, the Government keeping its ' ordinary expenditure within its ordinary income. . Every item which ought ■to be charged against the ordinary -revenue should be so charged. A ’most vicious practice has prevailed for years past of charging, in some shape or .form, .items against loans which -ought to be charged against the • ordinary revenue; but until this practice, is abandoned (which I fear ' will not be the case so long as there is ' a lorn. fund to draw upon), we shall •never get our finances into a healthy state.. We must cut our coat according ‘ to our cloth. ,
T fiave been several times asked whether l would support an Income in preference to a Property tax. I cer•taihly would. At first sight a Property ; tax looks fair enough ; but I think experience has shown that it presses hardly upon . many industrious men, while it does not possess sufficient plasticity to suit , the varying circumstances of the taxpayers. The best principle seems to be to tax a man according to his earnings, and make him pay in proportion as he is prosperous Or otherwise. I would also levy the tax, on a graduated scale, so that the "rich man would be called upon to pay more in proportion to his income thah the poor. It is objected against an Income .tax that it is inquisitorial, and that many persons would find it difficult to form an accurate estimate of their incomes. Both of these difficulties have , been surmounted in Great Britain, and I see no reason why we should not be equally successful here.
The Legislative Council.
The Government seem about to undertake the task of changing the constitution of the Council, but it is difficult to say in what direction they propose to go, because while the Premier is groping about, by the light of Hare’s system, for a “ moderate property qualification,” Mr Dick, the Colonial Secretary, informed the Dunedin electors a few days ago that he was opposed to anything in the shape of a property qualification. Possibly the other Ministers may be equally at sea in their opinions. I confess that I have no scheme of my own to add to the Adore of projects which have at various times been propounded for the reconstruction of the Council, and my mirid is free to consider with impartiality any' measure which the Government may see fit to lay before the Assembly for effecting this object. The system of- life nominations is, I think, highly objectionable, and I am also opposed to ah exclusive representation of property in the Council. At present the Council is composed almost solely of rich men, in direct violation of the spirit of ' the Constitution Act, which requires no property qualification from its members. I concur with the enlightened views of the framers of that statute, and consider that the Council should be a strong revising chamber, composed of representatives from all classes of the community, holding office for a limited period.
The Licensing Act.
The Good Templars have scored a victory here, The two leading features of the Act are that it vests in the ratepayers the power of determining whether any new licenses shall be granted in a district or not; and it mates Licensing Benches elective. The principle, of local option, as applied to new houses; meets with my full concurrence, but I doubt whether the elective Licensing Benches will work welT, as I fear that instead of finding judges seated on those benches we shall find partizans. However, time will show. In any case, the Act ought to receive a fair trial It was passed after fuU deliberation by both Houses of the Legislature, and experience alone can show how far the novel principles which it embodies can be successfully applied to this country.
I think very desirable reforms could be made in the procedure of the Supreme Court, so as to simplify and cheapen it I believe such to be the practically unanimous opinion cf the legal‘profession. The work involves serious difficulties, but as the Government have now had the matter in hand for a considerable period, we are entitled to expect them to bring down a measure on the subject next session. Any Bill that would accomplish the object in view would meet with my support Of course you will remember - that a measure to change the procedure of the Supreme Court can emanate from' th£ Government alone; all a private; member can do is to say . r r * . T' . .. ......
Yea or Nay to the Government proposals when they are made.
I have so frequently been asked my opinion on this subject that it is perhaps desirable that I should here formulate my views. I see no reason for altering our present educational system, except in the particulars about to be mentioned. The Act passed the Assembly by substantial majorities, and was cordially welcomed by the bulk of the European inhabitants of these islands ; and so far as I can judge no material change has taken place in public opinion. The Act, doubtless, is not a perfect one, but it is doing good work. I deeply regret that so important a section of the community as the Roman Catholics should feel unable, from conscientious scruples, to use the public schools, but the claims which their leaders put forward would, it seems to me, revolutionise the character of our educational system, and convert it from a secular into a denominational, or semidenominational, one, which would evidently be repugnant to the wishes of the major part of the community. In one particular, I am prepared to assist m amending the Act. I would support a Bill similar to Dr Menzies’ Bill which passed through the Upper House last session, and was rejected by the Lower. This Bill left it optional with each School Committee to determine whether the Bible should or should not be read in its school during school hours. If any committee determined that the Bible should be so read, it would be optional with the teacher to perform the duty himself or not, nor need he be present at the reading. If he declined the duty, then it would be done by one or two of the senior pupils, whose parents would have the right to object. There would, of course, be a time-table and conscience clause. The Bill, indeed, is optional in every respect; and the reason why I should be disposed to support such a Bill is that it has been conclusively shown that a large proportion of the parents of the children attending the Otago schools desire that the Bible should be read in schools; and I understand that a similar feeling exists in South Canterbury. Now, if the people of Otago want to have the Bible read in their schools, why should we stand in their way ? The Bill, if it became law, would not compel us to follow their, example; every committee would resolve for itself whether it would take advantage of the provisions of the Act or not. It is only the strictly optional character of the Bill which preposesses me in its favor; I would not support any measure to make Bible reading compulsory. I think, too, the method of electing the Education Boards might well be changed. It would be an improvement upon the present system if the Educational districts were divided into wards, each ward returning a member to the Board, to be elected by the householders.
My programme, briefly summarised, is this : I advocate liberal land legislation to the fullest extent, and am willing and desirous to support every just measure which may be brought forward, from either side of the House, which will produce the effect of limiting the size of freeholds and distributing the ownership of the land amongst the mass of the community. We should aim at so framing our laws that every industrious man who desires it, and is willing to work for it, shall be able to acquire a freehold of his own, and a sufficient amount of property to form a safeguard against him and his family suffering actual want. We ought to strive to create in this Southern land a new and better state of society than exists in the Mother Country, and thereby gain one step more towards the final and glorious goal to which civilisation is tending. It will be an eternal stigma upon us—the present generation of colonists —if, with a new and prolific country at our disposal, endowed with the right and power to mould its social and political institutions as we please, free to mark out its destiny, we wilfully enthral it in the vices of ancient States, and recklessly plant in this colony the seeds of want and pauperism, to bring forth a heritage of woe to its poorer classes and of continual peril to its rich. But we shall never attain great ends by seizing the torch of the social incendiary, by kindling feuds between different sections of the community, and marking a particular class out for injustice and vengeance. If we hope to reach noble ideals in politics we must strictly pursue the path of justice, and be content to legislate with moderation, at the same time zealously pursuing the end in view. I shall advocate a thorough decentralisation of the General Government, with the double object ®f reducing our present extravagant expenditure and of restoring to the people those rights of local government of which they have been wrongfully deprived. Until this is done we shall never have good and cheap government in the country. I shall strenuously contend for the right of each island to manage its own railways and to fix its own railway tariff; and I shall do so because I think it is unreasonable and unfair to expect the Canterbury farmers to pay high railway freights in order that Northern settlers may enjoy the Inxury of travelling on lines which, it was well known before they were constructed, would not pay for a long period, and would never have been made at all but as a concession to political influences. I think efforts should be made to foster local industries, and the bonus system having failed, the best course to pursue appears to be to carefully ; adjust the Customs tariff from time to time, as occasion requires, with ! the view of , assisting the local pro- | ducers and manufacturers; nevertheless avoiding extravagance and Protectionist theories. I look upon this j matter, like railway management, as 3 being of especial importance to a J farming constituency. lam prepared e to support any feasible scheme for re- f constructing the Legislative Council, f with a view to making it truly repre- c sentative of all classes of society, ® instead of being the mouthpiece of one only, as it is now; and, further, p to limit its members’ tenure of office 1 :o a term of years. I shall advocate •igid economy in our finance, feeling a :onvinced that unties? we live strictly h I f rv/f-t fi-t j, v>rft• 1 ■?,'>l f * t!y ‘i trrjLui iJ ii -J.
within our means we shall ultimately become burdened with such an oppressive load of debt and its concomitant taxation, that the prosperity and development of the colony will be effectually checked. Gentlemen, if is not, I admit, a sensational programme. It is not likely to stir up strife between different classes of the community, ; or to tickle the ears of thoughtless persons ; but, in my opinion, a man who aspires to the honorable office of a legislator should refrain from appeals to men’s baser passions, and from exciting hopes and expectations which cannot be realised. My programme is of a practical nature ; it deals with the practical politics of the colony, and seeks important ends by legitimate means; and if, gentlemen, you confer upon me the honor which I now seek, you may rely upon it that I shall strive to carry that programme into effect, and otherwise advance your interests to the best of my ability. I have the honor to remain, Gentlemen, Your most obedient servant, CHAS. W. PURNELL.
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MR PURNELL'S ADDRESS TO THE ELECTORS OF WAKANUI., Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 505, 30 November 1881, Supplement
MR PURNELL'S ADDRESS TO THE ELECTORS OF WAKANUI. Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 505, 30 November 1881, Supplement
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