The Ashburton Guardian. Magna Est Veritas Et Prævalebit. FRIDAY, AUGUST 15, 1890. CUTTING DOWN THE ESTIMATES.
The Retrenchment Paity deserve every praise for the earnest manner in which they have set about their selfimposed task to cut down the Estimates. Their labors up to the present have borne good fruit, and thousands of pounds of useless expenditure have been saved to the country. The Ministry, under pressure, promised to reduce the Estimates by £50,000 if allowed to do so in their own way, and at their own time. The Retrenchment Party were not satisfied with the conditions of this promise, In the Public Works Statement and Financial Statement, the Ministry let it be rery clearly known that any further curtail- : ment of expenditure must come off the Public Services, the Education vote in particular being hinted at. In face of this clearly defined indication, the Retrenchment Party, having first compelled the Government to promise a retrenchment of £50,000, undertook to dictate also when, where, and how the Government should save this sum. Notwithstanding Government protest, the public economy party have shown the country that the amount named can be saved without impairing the efficiency of publi* services, or dispensing with any of the commercial or educational advantages at present enjoyed, and which have cost the ratepayers much money to pr»cur«. It has been proved to a demonstration, during the cutting down of the public estimates, that not £50,000 but £100,000 per annum may be saved from administration of the public services while the serrices themselves may remain untouched. Nearly all the public services are over manned, and the officers are cVsr-salaried. In the retrenchment effected by the Atkinson Government the rank and file of public servants, whose salaries vary from £400 downwards, have been the greatest sufferers, while officers in receipt of from £500 to £1000 a year, and at whose suggestion the subordinates have been reduced, have remained almost untouched. This, the retrenchment party rightly consider, is a gross injustice, and what the Government have refused to do, the House has determined shall be done. Already large and substantial reductions have been made in Committee of Supply, and high-salaried officers and Ministerial friends are, in consequence, in high dudgeon. Strong efforts are being made by Ministers and Government supporters to damage the Retrenchment Party by making them appear as obstructionists; but the feeble public response to this view of the situation may be taken as an indication of the drift of public opinion on the question. The electors of the country are satisfied that the Retrenchment Party are actuated by a sincere desire to curtail public expenditure, and if the Government dared to appeal to the electors at the present juncture on this issue the result would be, we feel convinced, a crushing defeat. Ministerial sincerity on the question of retrenchment has been tried and found wanting. The only idea of a State policy which the present Ministry have is to transfer the burden of public services and requirements from the Colonial Treasury directly on to the shoulders of the taxpayers. If the taxpayers are not willing to bear the burden, then, so say the Government, the services must be dispensed with. It does not seem to have suggested itself to Ministers that the cost of administration may be considerably cheapened, and that without doing any further injury than cutting down the salaries of public officers who have for years been drawing princely incomes at the expense of an over-taxed colony. The Opposition deserve all credit for teaching the Government this lesson, and the forthcoming election will, we have no doubt, prove to the party that their services are fully appreciated.