The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. FRIDAY, JUNE 13, 1890. FEDERATION.
The Federation movement does not appear to interest the majority of New Zealanderstoanygreatextent. Colonists generally appear to think, whether Federation takes place or not among the Australian Colonies, the question is outside the domain of practical politics in New Zealand. Our insular position renders it almost an impossibility that any system of Legislative or Executive Government can be devised which will permit of our affairs being managed by anyone so well as by ourselves. A' Federal Executive, sitting in Australia, under no concervable conditions at present could give satisfaction to New Zealand. This appears to be the firm belief of nine-tenths of New Zealanders, and the pregress of the Federation movement in the neighbouring colonies is therefore watched curiously, rather than from the standpoint, of its possible' or probable effect upon this colony. New Zealand, at her own desire, and with the. tacit ccmsent of the Federating colonies,.has decided.tohold aloof from the movement. But the question is, nevertheless, one of serious importance to our farmers and dairy producers. - Should the Australian Federation movement be worked out to a successful issue—and of this there appears |to be little doubt— New Zealand will suffer in a greater or lesser degree by having a grain and produce market close to her own door wholly or partially closed. The most hopeful of those who trust to the magnanimous promises of the promoters of this mpvemebt cannot fail to realise that, if the Australian Federated Colonies adopt a prohibition Protective tariff against the whole world, New Zealand will not be exceptionally treated. Having been offered the opportunity to federate, and having refused to do so, what is more natural than that Australian farmers, manufacturers, and artisians will take steps to protect themselves against New Zealand competition as well as other outside competition. If, for example, South" Australia, as a member of the Federal Union, urges that her farmers are being injured by the competition of New Zealand farmers in Australian ports, what is more likely than that Customs machinery will be put in operation to shut New Zealand out? Although it is quite true that the Federal movement has arisen, in large measure, in order to 2 }ut an end to the intercolonial Avar of tariffs, there is no guarantee, that, if it suits the interests of Federal Australia to do so, a Protective tariff will not be the basis of operation against outsider?. This phase of the large question of Australian Federation, although a somewhat narrow one when compared with more important principles involved, requires to be looked fairly and squarely in the face, and when this is done New Zealanders will regret that their insular position prevents them from joining with Australia in building up a r« Lion, and this regret will be all the greater because, in the initiatory stages of the movement, there is a possibility that the friendly commercial relations between ourselves and our neighbors will become less cordial than heretofore. Retaliatory tariffs between New Zealand and her neighbors in<iy, it is true, in the future result with equal disadvantage on both sides; but at present, however, disagreeable the confession may be, Australia can better afford to dispense with the New Zealand market for her for fruit and wines than New Zealand can afford to dispense with the Australian markets for her grain and dairy produce, The united population of the colonies at the present time is nearly four millions, and of this number New Zealand can only boast of 600,000. Can we afford to be shut out from commercial intercourse with the remainder of the Australasian population? This is a question which will assume great magnitude should the first step of the proposed Federation be in the direction of protecting Australian manufactures, grain, and produce against New Zealand competition, and it is perhaps, to be regretted that; New Zealand, through her representatives, withdrew at so early a stage from the movement, and before the full importance of this aspect of the question had been forced upon the people. The New Zealand delegates, by associating themselves with Federation up to a certain point, could at least have succeeded in obtaining a more distinct pledge than the Q:ie implied that she would be treated exceptionally, and their counsel would, no doubt, have had some influence in shaping the policy of the Union.