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Sir R. Stout on Federation, Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2436, 22 May 1890
Sir R. Stout on Federation
! ♦■—rFollowing is- the report gif^n- by the " Southland Times" of the address on the subject of '.'Federation?' delivered last week at Invercargill by Sir Robert Stout:—Sir 'Robert Stout, who was received with' applause, began by saying that in speaking on so wide a question he would probably have to refer to a number of authors, and as he would not quote them as he went along and so encumber his lecture, he would simply ask his hearers not to take as original everything he said. It had been well said that every' period of time had its own political ques-. tions to answer; the questions which were agitating the public mind sixty years ago were not the questions of to-day. Sixty years ago the questions considered most important were what were known as the five points of the Charter, namely, manhood suffrage, vote by ballot, annual parliaments, payment of members, and equal electoral districts.' Most of these objects had now been obtained, and yet it was felt that at least just as many reforms were required now. He quoted some of the items of the present .radical programme in Britain, his object being! to show that what was being demanded there as well as in France, Germany and other European countries, was not so much political as social reform. And along with the. movement for improved social legislation another was going on, a movement towards the centralisation. of politicals power and political activity. This movement was apparent in several countries of Europe and in the United States, and in fact it was not necessary to go out of New Zealand to notice the setting of the current in favor of the centralisation of political power. They had seen here the abolition of the Provincial system, and' now they heard the cry for Federation. Seeing that this cry was in the air it would be as well to consider what Federation meant. • Freeman, in his History of Federation, described ib as a compromise between two systems of Government, between large and small states, a union of stat 3s in which each retained indepen-, dent power tv» 'deal with the matters which affected it alone, while questions affecting - the whole were dealt with by a general government. • Each state must be independent and sovereign within its own territory. For the purpose of seeing what Federal Governments had done he would refer to ancient Greece, and in modern times to Switzerland, the United States and Canada, omitting mention of the German States because their system was not considered a true type.of Federation. He then described at length and'in detail the systems of government-in the countries named, the constitution of the different legislative bodies, the methods of their election, their functions and powers, and, in the case of Switzerland the beneficial results which had been attendant on the system. Federation meant, he said, that all the countries uniting for the purpose of federal government would have to give up a portion of their local rule, and, necessarily a portion of their local revenue. He was not going to take any side that evening on the question of Australasian Federation, but he wished to point out that if they went in for it they would have to give up for instaflee the control of- the customs, the post office, and the railways, and they would have a Parliament sitting somewhere in Australia for three or four months a year dealing with general questions. One of the main reasons given for Federation was that there must be a Federal army for the protection of the colonies, that Australasia has reached such a stage of life that it ought to be able to protect itself from foreign foes. He hoped he would not be wandering outside the subject if he said he thought the best protective union they could have was an even firmer and closer union with the Old Country. He quoted an eloquent description of3ritain by. a r French author, and said that when a Frenchman could say such things about it, the inhabitants of this new country should not try and sever the union and the associations which at present existed. He. did not think they all truly appreciated, what was meant by political reform, or .what the object of all reform was. As he understood it, the object of all reform was to .make afbetter race j not only to make those happy who were here but to create what had been termed a perfect man. Their object in. political reform should be to produce men physically, morally, and intellectually, superior to those who preceded them, to raise in fact the level of humanity. This could not be done where the object of a nation's life was simply to gain wealth. It was true that without wealth there was no leisure, and without leisure none of the fine arts of life ; but still at the same time, the object of all government should be to raise mankind to an ideal state, There were many ways in which the constitution of this country might be improved, and he would tell the audience what he would, if he could, make it like. The colony would be divided into nineteen districts, ten in the South Island "and nine in the North. Each of these ..would be. given the power of electing a' council* as it pleased, it having the poVer to fix its own franchise. These councils would have power to deal with all local matters, with education, the policy, public health, and public works, and to levy taxes to meet their own expenditure. Each would also have the power to send two members to the Legislative Council or Upper House, to which body the Government would be entitled to appoint say seven gentlemen who had rendered notable public services or would otherwise be desirable members.. Then he would also have a National Assembly, elected by the people, and representing equal electoral districts. This would practically be a return to the old provincial system, with greater powers to the provincial councils, and he advocated the system because they would not get able political representatives until the people were politically educated. If they compared the House of Representatives now with what it wtis in the provincial days Lhoy woujd find that, id wan then, when tho public were able to draw trained public men from the provincial councils, greatly superior to
what ii was now. Under the pro fine a system a far keener and more intelligent intciesl-. was taken in politics than was shown to-day. What they now Wiled in New Zealand, was the decentralisation of the government, and the political education of the people, and he strongly advised that before thinking of Australasian Federation the residents of this country should endeavor to obtain I the. reform so necessary to their well-being and progress. When this was accomplished they might go to the other.side and tea the people of - Aastaralui^hew to . manage their affairs. If New: Zealand . was to fulfil its destiny its; inhabitants would have .to try and.ntforjai th^. own political and. social /systems .Srercy The. present form 'of , government required great consideration ; question after question came to-.the surface .and-.there^ had never bejßn any proper ...solution, of' the problem of local'government 1. The question, he thought, "was whether,, they,could not get in ,';New'Zealand,' a^'sy&telh. of federal government which-would be. more efficient than the governmeht.liad Tbie^n in thei, past. . As, citizens'"'ofNNcrw r Zea-, land they should' rem'einberj that b they had quite enough to dp to" attepd to their own affairs. Tliey shbuld not run away with the. idea thatr:'Federation was higTily desirable ' because they would get their oats into' Australia 2d to 6d cheaper ; there was^ something higher and greater for a nation'to" do than that. They must consider that they were ! called upon to do something higher for „ the race, that was to come after them; they must be laying down the lines upon which the nation was to progress in wealth, power and intelleotaskl ability. They could have alliances with their neighbours, with Britain, Canada, and! the,"United State's and still preserve their own national life and fulfil-their high destiny. This could not be done, however,,. Sunless they took up the question of political r reform now, and he thought they would: »pt bo doing their duty unless they kept before ' them that New Zealand as a nation had a 1 destiny to fulfil, .andjthat. they as citizens ■ ought to try and make it one of the noblest ; nations of the-earth.—(Continued ap* ■ plause.)
Sir R. Stout on Federation, Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2436, 22 May 1890
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