The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. SATURDAY, JULY 19, 1890. NEW ZEALAND DEFENCES.
The Defence report submitted to Parliament, as is usual with all defence reports, recommends increased expenditure, both for harbour and land forces. It is the soldier's business; to fight, and he loves to be well equipped with the latest and most-approved appliances. Therefore, up to the end of time—or rather up to the end of standing armies—the taxpayer must be prepared to pay, if he wishes his country and home to be safe from attack by a foreign power. The attack may never come, but a trained set of fighting men, with costly and ever-changing munitions of war, must, nevertheless, be kept in readiness in case of emergency. Standing armies are expensive luxuries, but they cannot be entirely dispensed with until the nations of the earth evince more confidence in each other. Instead of the hoped-for time being near at hand when there will be a universal disarmament, the fighting men of the age are busying themselves to invent and devise machinery ia.nd rehearse manoeuvres to wipe their fellowmen off the face of the earth. The preparedness of one nation for war is an incentive to its neighbour to follow in the same footsteps, and though, perhaps, each may go to vast expense and trouble with the sole idea of defence in case of attack, the neighboring powers place the Jopposite interpretation upon tke act, and what is merely a defensive movement, is construed into one of aggressiveness. These remarks apply principally to the older countries, but, we fear, the tendency of the younger colonies, even in these far-off seas, is to ape their bigger and stronger brethren abroad, and construct elaborate defences which the circumstances of the age do not warrant. Our Australian neighbor*, following out the advice of military experts, have adopted the system of paying volunteers for their services, and New Zealand is advised to do likewise. This is the first movement toward* establishing a paid army of regulars, and it will be well for the colony to calmly consider whether it is advisable to take this step. It is no argument to say that, because our Australian neighbors have adopted a system of paid defence, this colony should dolikewise. Dimng the past five years the New Zealand Government has spent £458,000 on harbor defences, and from present appearances, there is a great probability that the material purchased with the bulk of this money will be absolete in a few years time, and military experts will bring down reports recommending new departures and more expensive and elaborate schemes. Not that we would undervalue or underrate the importance of a harbor defence for New Zealand ; on the contrary, if money must be expended on defence, it cannot be put tp better account than in fortifying the seaboard. But it is a serious question to consider whether, under the present conditions and circumstances, a mere handful of people, already heavily taxed, can afford the luxury of keeping pace with the rapid military changes and developments of the day ; and it is a still graver problem, even if it can be afforded, whether the circumstances warrant the expenditure. A European war is not imminent, and even if it were, the part New Zealand would take in the struggle would, in all human probability, be merely that of a looker-on—even if the colony were fortified up to the point of efficiency recommended by military experts. The only efficiency common sense and prudence would seem to dictate is that a stray man-of-war may be repelled, and to go to elaborate preparation for this purpose, or follow out all the instructions and recommendations of modern fire-eaters, would seem to partake of the principle of introducing a steam plough into a cabbage garden. In time of war, or threatened war, the public become scared, and even in New Zealand money has already been squandered on defences and fortifications which are not likely to be required for the next fifty years —if then. The proposal, therefore, to pay Volunteer/-;, and further fortify harbors should be viewed as an extravagance. Military experts live in a world of their own, among cannon and shot and shell, and it is but natural that, when their opinions are invited, they should recommend the perpetuation of the present expensive system of preventing war by elaborate defence measures. In the older countries it may be necessary ; but in a colony such as this the subjugation of the wilderness is of the first importance, and the money recommended to be squandered in making elaborate preparations to meet an imaginacy enemy can be spent more profitably, in ploughs and 'harrows' than in swords and cannon. We therefore trust that Parliament will firmly set its foot down upon the proposal to increase defence expenditure even to the extent of one shilling.