THE CHANGE IN THE CABINET.
At length we have a detailed account (from Mr Fisher's side of the question) of the causes which have brought about the resignation of his portfolios by the late Commissioner of Customs and Minister of Education. This is given as the outcome of an interview with a representative of tho press, who, of course, wanted to know all about it, and to whom Mr Fisher seems to have unbosomed himself pretty freely. According to the ex-Minister his retirement was by no means solely due to differences m connection with the recent prosecutions under the Beer Duty Act, though this is admitted to have been the final and proximate cause. As to this Mr Fisher's version is that the non-prose-cution of one of the offenders was the fault of his colleagues, owing to so much time being waßted m discussion on the last day on which an information could have been laid, that " four o'clock slipped by before it was determined to proceed with the prosecution, and so the opportunity of laying the information was lost ; " tbat as regards the cases m which there have been remissions of fines, "he acted m accordance with the views of tho responsible officers of the department ; " and that "m tho case of Hamilton, who was convicted m both instances, the Cabinet over -ruled him and his officers, and tbat he (Mr Fisher) acquiesced." To a question as to whether he regarded the alleged differences as to these prosecutions as " merely a stalking-horse to covor ulterior' motives " lir Fisher replied m the affirmative, and declared that " the agencies at work were really deeper than that, and involved much more serious disagreements than a dispute over some trumpery beer cases. He had at various times differed with the Cabinet on some great questions, of which the most important wero the composition of the Railway Board, and the peculiar treatment of Mr Ree, the English railway expert ; the appointment of a successor to the late Mr Justice Johnston ; tbe behaviour of certain Ministers m the Gasparini affair ; the Te Kooti exped i-
tion ; the appointment of Engineer-in-Chief ; the leasing of the Canterbury runs ; the public exposition by the Premier of his views on tho question of land nationalisation and pauper farms ; and, finally, the necessity of proposing a modification of the Property tax. He differed, too, from the Premier upon the uncalled for and unnecessary expenditure on costly surveys conneoted with the proposed divergence of the North Island Trunk Line to the BtratfordTaranaki route. When differences on such large questions' of policy existed, he could not concede the Premier the right to select a particular and much less momentous question, wherein no political principle at all was involved, upon which to make it appear his resignation was necessary. He considered it altogether a false issue, and
this was partly the reason why he took bo ranch time to consider his position before actually handing m his resigna-
tion. Another reason was that he had just drafted an Education Bill, which had cost him some months of labour. It was at the moment m the printer's hands, and he naturally desired to see it finally completed." Suggesting himself that it might perhaps be asked " Why he did not of his own account leave a Government between whom and himself
there were such important points of disagreement," Mr Fisher Baid : — "Well,
the answer is that I felt it was tho duty of a Minister to sink his personal views where the point at issue was not sufficiently niomentous to justify him m assuming the responsibility of breaking up the Ministry. Moreover my political
friends whom I consulted thought I ought to remain m the Cabinet as long as possible, to represent the views we held m common." He, however, went on to say *• I resigned, I could not con-
tinue m the Ministry holding the views I did. My position had been, I feel, a
false ono for Borne time, m view of the divergence of opinion amongst Ministers on questions of principle, and the personal differences which had arisen between the members of the Cabinet." If Mr Fisher's statements are to be
accepted as absolutely correct m a!
particulars then it is evident that the Cabinet haß been very seriously at variance upon a great many important
questions, and it is quite certain that he haß taken the only possible course m handing m his resignation. But it is
not a little curious to find that at a subsequent interview with the Premier it was elicited that Sir Harry Atkinson knew nothing about these differences, stating this more than once. Ho is reported to have said l * Mr Fisher never expressed to me, as Premier, any dissatisfaction with the doings uf the Cabinet on any point. The differences alleged as reasons for leaving are all new to me. I never heard from Mr Figher any objection to the aotion of the Cabinet oa *py one of \km point* nntfl
I received his letter conveying hi* resignation. On some of these, which ] are now said to be serious points ofj difference, Mr Fisher's views were actually given effect to. It was the beer duty case alone on which he was asked to resign." The only possible way of reconciling the two statements is the inference that the differences of opinion were as between Mr Fisher and his other colleagues m the Ministry, and if these were unknown to the Premier then it argues anything but those relations of confidence between the Premier and the other members of the Cabinet which certainly ought to exißt. There is a good deal evidently yet remaining to be explained, but for that explanation we shall doubtless have to wait' until Parliament again assembles.
Permanent link to this item
THE CHANGE IN THE CABINET., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2104, 13 April 1889
THE CHANGE IN THE CABINET. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2104, 13 April 1889
Using This Item
See our copyright guide for information on how you may use this title.