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[per press association.]

Quebnstown, May 22. ' The Hon. T. Fergus addressed his constituents in the Town Hall this evening, the Mayor occupying the chair. He said he would not detain them with a review of the past session, as nothing had been said by the.members of the Opposition in the shape of criticism that required ah | answer. '■ l . ■ \ ': ' FINANCE. After devoting some time to a reply to the attack by Mr Fisher, M.H.R., on the financial administration, he said he had the pleasure of congratulating the meeting on another surplus, a little larger than .that on which he congratulated them"last year. The Government, after meeting I every legitimate claim, were able to present a balance sheet showing to the good £115,174, which had been arrived at without undue straining, and ■ ' ■■'!1:' ' ■i;-'!:::"; ; the fact that the newly .'■ i- •[>■■ i t i:"»i -i not provide within £49,000 of the Estimates, the railways, on the contrary, yielding £63,340 beyond the estimate. The task of Government was still a difficult one, and he did not think there was much chance of the impost being reduced. ' No doubt some charges, as buildings, must be transferred from the Loan to the Consolidated Account, and there was the fact that throughout New Zealand the population was increasir-7 "^ rir-:rlly, -t l. tl-*----advantaees of the - !:■■' ■ >■■:>■.■. ■■■.■ ■,- so largely utilisec".. ;':v :\u v .n..iv.y required a considerable amount of-money for the erection of schools. Before they could remit taxation they must provide for all •v *V" r,:- t:-ir: '-n the Loan Fund, and th>-". -'i-". '■ :.■".■■ : for school buildings. It was the intention of Government to ask the sanction of Parliament to set apart a sum of money, at least, this year, probably for two or three years, to enable them to overtake the school buildings requirements of the colony, especially in some parts of the North Island. It might be well also to provide at the same time for the extension of Lunatic Asylums. He was largely of opinion that the time had arrived for a proper classification of the'inmates, and for the drafting of those who had to be kept as in gaols into establishments of that kind. • The Government thought that some portion of the revenue should be devoted for a little time at least to this purpose. INCIDENCE OF TAXATION. 1' A noticeable feature of all the speeches of late had been that there was no talk whatever about the change in the incidence of taxation. Mr Ballance claimed exemptionsfor agricultural improvements, but Sir R. Stout at Oamaru carefully abstained from any reference to the incidence. He believed that these gentlemen when in office had it brought home to them that it was impossible, witb. any change, that the public creditor could be satisfied and the service of the Colony be discharged. It would be exceedingly absurd to make a change. He disliked the property tax as much as any member of the Opposition, but he saw no other course at present for the Colony to pay its way. Those who talked about a land and income tax forgot that the bulk of taxation at present fell oii land, as out of the total of £354,000 paid in property tax at least half was paid by peoplo utilising land for agricultural, pastoral or dairying purposes. BORROWING BY LOCAL BODIES. Passing on to the question of the burdens of the colony he said that a debt which, to him, was just as much colonial debt as the thirty-seven millions owing to the British lender was the considerable quantity of local debt. Local bodies in the colony had borrowed £5,000,000, for ; which they paid sums varying from 4 to 7 per cent. ■ The average rate was £5 9s 6d, and .the r total- annual payment £272,530. He had always thought it a great pity that local bodies were taxed so heavily for the accommodation received, which was required for necessary works, and Mr Westgarth when in the colonies had pointed oflt that by a consolidation of local government loans a saving of 1, 2,----or even 3 per cent might be made upon present rates. Supposing by consolidating these loans at 4 per cent, a saving would be effected of £73,450. In addition to these were loans of £332,715, being money borrowed from four Government departments. He did not advocate that increased facilities should be allowed local bodies to borrow, but he maintained that it would be the height of folly to allow local institutions within the colony to be bled at the rate of 1, 2 or 3 per cent niore. than they would have to pay if the loans were put on a more satisfactory footing, and it was the duty of Government to see if something could be done by which in future borrowing loans should be issued with such restrictions that local,bodies could obtain accommodation on more reasonable terms than at present, The question of; indebtedness of-local bodies had been brought home with considerable force in view of the fact that the New Plymouth Harbor Board had been unable to meet its interest on the Home market,, and thab there was further , danger of the Gisborne Harbor. Board making default. .It was certain that if one and another of the local bodies made default the fact would operate on colonial stocks, and 1 would also restrain people' at' home from ■ having anything to do with our investments, and prevent that stream of desirable immigration that was needed. If they could do anything at all to ease the minds of people at .Home, or to ease the municipal taxpayer of the! colony :from an undue burden of payment of interest, it would be a wise and statesmanlike action. LOCAL SELF-GOVERNMENT. The question of local borrowing led up - to the whole ■ question of local .sellgovernmont, He was strongly of opinion that local self-.govennent was grossly overdone in the colony, with the result that useless expenditure was heaped up. His own opinion was that a great many Licensing Committees throughout the colony might be done away with, as they were doing infinitely worse than under the old system. Government had under consideration a measure for the amalgamation of some bodies on the West Coast, and in any other similarly affected districts, giving them greater power than at the present time and enabling them to put their finances on a more sound and proper basis. - SETTLEMENT OF THE LAND. One subject of considerable importance was that of settlement of the people on the land. The colony had'a grand estate yet in the hands of the Crown and of the Natives, and the question was how best to bring under occupation those lands that were fit for settlement. Since the passing of the late Native Bills a disposition had be.en shown by the Natives to bring their lands through the Court, and thus being enabled to "deal with them. He was of opinion it was a great pity the Crown ever gave up the sole right to purchase Native lands, and had ever allowed land jobbers and sharks to enter into competition,. but Government were of opinion that the time had arrived when they should use every endeavor to secure as much of the land as possible when it came on the market. The question was how to obtain money. Government had resolved, orit had been resolved for .them, that they should-not borrow,. but - they thought the thing could be managed by the creation, by the Treasury of land debentures on the security of such Native l lands as were already.'acquired,; and on the security of lands.about to be acquired. These debentures to be issued . iri the colony, made available as investments to colonists, and made a first charge on the land wlioh .sold or -settled. There Av ras no other way except to go on the London markets, which they did not intend to do, i

at present at all events In connection with the Native lands and Crown lands 1 already acquired came the question of the roading of the lands. Government thought they saw bheir way to raise the necessary money for this in a somewhat similar method to that proposed to raise money for the acquisition of lands—by creation of roads debentures, to be an additional charge on the land, which, when surveyed, would be valued by a competent valuer. It was a very gratifying fact that land was going off well in the colony, especially on perpetual lease, but Govern- . menttßought a great deal more must be done to open land for settlement. Considerable areas were being held unprofitably, having fallen into the hands of land and mortgage companies from mortgagors who had been unable to meet engagements. They could not blind them, selves to the fact that these lands were injuriously affecting the prosperity of New Zealand. He would be the last, to consent to legislation that would.rob those who obtained land in a legitimate manner, • but; he was of .'opinion- that while the colony should do nothing toinjure them, they should do nothing toinjure the colony. The question arose, Jiow was it possible, in fairness to the. Companies, to get these lands settled, and how was it best in'; the interests of the colony—whether by additional taxation in order to get " bursting, up," or, as he thought .preferable; by State acquisition, after a reasonable time had been given to realise 1 He was not prepared to say. /.Government had some time ago put £10,000 on the estimates for the acquisition of property for village settlement. The vote was struck out, but whys should they not go further and take, up considerable quantities of this land,'* rendering it fruitful and profitable. -That was ■ a question that would have to be faced. He did not refer in these remarks to lands that had been acquired by Land Companies for the.purpose of development by agricultural or pastoral pursuits. There were a number of other questions that must force themselves on attention during the incoming session, or in the coming Parliament. Among.these was ohe question of ,' CHARITABLE AID. . " Concerning which' Government were entirely convinced that the measure introduced last year was a fair, equitable and just solution of the difficulty. A question of some importance on the gold fields was that of the ; GOLD DUTY. He had long been of opinion that the existence of this duty was a relic of barbarism, and he thought the time had come when it should be abolished, and a more just[ duty substituted.- If they were to adopt to some extent the suggestion made at the Miners' Conference in Dunedin, it seemed to him they would overtake the difficulty. Twelve thousand acres were held under miners' rights, a good deal being held by speculators purely for shepherding purposes. If the minimum annual value were put on each claim, and local bodies were authorised to rate up to that; value, they could and would, force speculators to contribute to the revenue,, and;miners would be relieved of an annual payment, which he believed to be. indefensible. Besides, they should; allow all Mining Companies to be rated "ordinarily under the property tax. CIVIL SERVICE REFOBSI. Government had been trying \,o effect the classification of the Civil service and bring it into workable lines, taking department by department. The first Depart-' ment they had taken was that of Post and-. Telegraphs, in which officers were paid more poorly than in any other, and ifa was the intention of Government to submit a classification of this department, which would raise the salaries of all the smaller poorly paid offioers, and put them in classes, where they would rise accord- ! ing to service and merit year by year, without the interposition of Parliament. He was of opinion that some classification Should similarly be made of the teaching profession, and he would like to see teachers made civil servants. This subject was engaging the attention of the Government. FEDERATION. Regarding federation, he said he would begin to believe in federation, and to believe that other colonies were sincere in a desire for federation, when they, began to take off instead of putting on taxes oh our natural products. Till some disposition of that kind was- shown he would think the question of federation was very much "in the air," He concluded by inviting the careful attention of electors to these questions, which they must ultimately decide. :At the conclusion of the address a vote o,f .confidence in Mr Fergus was unanimously passed.

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HON T. FERGUS AT QUEENSTOWN., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2437, 23 May 1890

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HON T. FERGUS AT QUEENSTOWN. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2437, 23 May 1890

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