The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. FRIDAY, JUNE 27, 1890. LONG-WINDED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS.
Newspaper readers seldom read through the Financial Statement. It is dry reading, even when cut short; but it is insufferable when drawn out to the extent of 18,00,0 words. .He is' an enthusiastic colonist, a man of Job-like patience, who will wade through column after column o£ figures and verbosity in order to ascertain how, the finances of the country stand or satisfy himself as tp the pplicy; of a Government. There are too many other calls on the time and patience o£ newspaper readers in every-day life to permit of a further sacrifice of four,', five, or six.hours in reading through a prolix Financial Statement dealing, with the affairs of a small island and a handful of people. When such State deliveries are unusually prolix only the smallest section of. the, community, with many a gape and yawn, get through them. Politicians and Pressmen, as a matter of business, cannot shirk the wearisome task, and the public look to these useful members of the community for brief oral or written explanations. So far as the public convenience is concerned, therefore, the Treasurer could hand his Statement, before delivery, to the. Press and members of the House; and, while the former would be better, able to undeiv stand the value of the;-Budget :frqposals when delivered, Pressmen would be able to condense within. reasonable' limits the finance of the country and policy of Government. The present practice in New Zealand is, however, nothing so simple. The Budget proposals are kept a State secret until the .moment of delivery, except to Cabinet Ministers, and a few favored journals who are prepared to justify; any Government Act, however corrupt. Just prior to the delivery of the Statement the Government make elaborate pre-" parations to hare it telegraphed gratis 1 to every newspaper iri the Colony. Extra telegraphic operators are put on duty, raid-night gas is consumed, and other costly precautions are taken to ensure the free circulation of a cumberous State document, which, when published in full, very few persons read/ and when condensed by amateur pressmen and newspaper correspondents is made to appear self-contradictory and incongruous. Even those newspapers which retain a staff capable of down" an official utterance like the Budget, get no opportunity to do so, the Statement generally arriving <By wire in unintelligible sections, and up to within a few moments of going to press. The position therefore is, that i when the Budget is published in exteno by the newspapers it is too lengthy to wp,de through; and often, when condensed, becomes unintelligible. Considering the cost to the country, this is a most unsatisfactory result, and it is one which, by the exercise of a little common sense, might be easily obviated. We see no reason> when the Government has set the example of" supplying viva voce a precis of the Budget proposals before formal delivery, why all newspapers should not be treated alike, and a Government summary be published by the Press from one colony to the other. We take it th.it the Government, in going to so much trouble and expense in telegraphing the Financial Statement over the country, wish it to be not only read, but understood, by the, people; but it is evident that at present this is not the result achieved. Most country newspapers bundle the Statement, holus bolus, into the wastepaper basket, in the same manner as other wordy and windy documents,are treated ; but there is not a newspaper; in the colony which would not gladly give publicity to an important State document like the Budget, if condensed within the space of, say, a column or a column and a half. The majority of newspaper readers would, we feel sure, read through an authorised condensation of this length, and the object sought would be obtained by Government, viz., to have their proposals placed before the people in intelligible' form. What we would suggest, in order to bring about this desirable result, would be that Government abolish at once the wretchedl custom of taking only a certain section, 6f ;the Press into their confidence, and , have a reasonable condensation of their policy prepared for transmission to the Press, Government and Opposition alike. Either this, or have the Budget printed a week beforehand, and sent to every Postmaster in the colony, with instructions to hand it over to the newspapers in the several localities on the morning of the day on which it is to be delivered. Either of these courses would be much more satisfactory than the present costly and ponderous method. In the meantime it might be instructive if some M.H.R. elicited the information from the Cabinet as to the cost to the State of telegraphing the recent unweildly Financial Statement to the ,news-. papers.