The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. TUESDAY, AUGUST 26, 1890. THE HUTCHISON CHARGES.
I " "What may happen to an M.H.R.' m New Zealand " is a title which might well be written over a full, true, and particular account of the now famous Hutchison charges. In the course of a strong party speech on the floor of the House the member for Waitotara criticised very closely the relations of several members of the Government with a leading banking institution. In the course of his remarks Mr Hutchison mentioned many things that are true and are matters of every day comment. He pointed out, for instance, that one, member of the Cabinet held the dual position of Minister of the Crown and chairman of the Bank of New Zealand. This, Mr Hutchison very properly pointed out, was not a desirable state of affairs, especially when the colony was m the habit of transacting a large amount of business with the Bank. A Borough or Municipal Councillor is required by Act of Parliament to keep himself clear of any connection with or personal interest m any contract that may be accepted for work required to be done or goods to be supplied. If this is necessary m the case of a civic councillor, where only tens of pounds are concerned, surely it is doubly necessary m the case of a Minister of the Crown where thousands of pounds are involved. Mr Hutchison went further than this, however, and entered into the private relations of certain Ministers with the Bank. The Government took the matter up, and an impartial Committee was appointed to investigate the truth or otherwise of the charges made. This Committee, set up with a great show of virtuous indignation on the part of the Government, was humbugged and irritated m regard to the procuration of evidence, until members became thoroughly disgusted and asked to be relieved from their duties. All the obstruction came from the Government side, who nevertheless, with remarkable inconsistency, professed themselves as only too willing to have the charges probed to the very bottom. The Committee having been appointed, and nothing satisfactory resulting therefrom, the Government dare not let the matter rest, as the charges wer» of so serious a nature that to do so would place the Ministry m a most unenviable position with the country on the eve of a general election. A Royal Commission was then spoken of, but this was exactly what the Government did not want, as such a commission would be m a position f to demand the production of all evidence considered necessary. Another course was open to Government, and that was to institute proceedings for slander m the Supreme Court, where the technicalities of the law could be availed of to prevent evidence from coming forward, as was done m the case of the Parliamentary Committee. In order to make the Government case stronger Mr Hutchison was repeatedly chalto make the charges outside the House, but the member for Waitotara was too wary to be thus entrapped. If each member of the House were to repeat outside the House the speeches made within, there would be no end to libel actions—the very freedom of Parliament is involved m the privilege of free utterance upon matters affecting the well-being of the State. Notwithstanding that two members of the Ministry have replied fully and exhaustively to the charges made, and that the country is m a position to judge impartially between the accuser and Ministers, we have the information telegraphed over the colony day after day that a bailiff is hunting Mr Hutchison up and down to serve a writ upon him for slander. Thus a member of the New Zealand Parliament may, for adversely reviewing the Government, render himself liable to be shadowed like a criminal, and have all manner of abuse heaped upon him, while he is denied the opportunity of proving the assertions he has made. This is small inducement to upright men to endeavour to serve their adopted country, as they may, while having the best of intentions, suddenly find themselves transferred from a seat m the House to a precincts of a Court of Law, saddled with damages they cannot pay, and ultimately find themselves confined m prison. Full [rt-Qyisjon is made m Parliamentary procedure t°v the refutation of reckless charges, and it says little for the present occupants of the Benches that these provisions have not been availed of to settle the Hutchison difficulty y/jt<hout an appeal to the Law Courts.