The Ashburton Guardian. Magna et Veritas et Prævalebit. THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 1890. THE PRIMAGE DUTY.
Yielding to pressure from the Opposition the Acting-Premier recently gave the House and country a promise that the Primage duty of one per cent ad valorem over and above all other Customs taxation would be abolished on and .after 31st August, 1890. This promise has not been kept, and Mr Ballance, very properly inquired the reason thereof. The Answer to this inquiry has revealed the fact that the Atkinson Government will cling on to primage taxation, or any other form of taxation, as long as it is possible to do so. It will be remembered that the primage duty was originally imposed by the present Government for two years only, to meet a deficit of £128,605. In the Financial Statement brought down this year it is stated that this deficit had been j wiped out m the time named; and a general hope was expressed that the objectionableimpost would be removed. The Colonial Treasurer, however, is not the man to sacrifice a source of revenue when once it has been established, and with that astute financial jugglery for which he is famous, he made a proposition for the continuance of the duty for a further period of two years. The Consolidated revenue, he said, was not able to bear the burden of school buildings, and lunatic asylums could no longer be provided for from balance of loan ; therefore he proposed to continue the primage duty for two years more, or until the consolidated revenue was again able to bear the charge. This proposal was not favourably received, and members of the House set themselves earnestly to work to show the Treasurer that the primage duty could not only be dispensed with, but thatthey were determined that it should be abolished. A demand was made that retrenchment to the extent of £50,000 a year —the amount realisable by the primage duty—should be effected, and this the Government consented to, and having been shown m Committee of Supply how this could be done, the Acting-Premier gave a promise to abolish the duty on the 31st August last. The Ministry, however, were prepared to seize upon any excuse to retain the primage duty and prevent any reduction of taxation, and the duty is still being eollectel— at present on the flimsy pretext that the labor troubles may cause a falling off m revenue during the current year. Another reason given, and which does the Government little credit, is that the Cabinet is waiting to see how much will be saved m Committee of Supply by the House before consenting to cease collection of primage duty. The Ministry are doing all they can to prevent reductions m the Estimates, and yet they are prepared to take full advantage of the economy thus practised, before abolishing a form of special taxation introduced for si specific purpose, and which would not otherwise havebeen sanctioned. The insincerity of the Government m the whole matter is strikingly apparent, and while they profess a willingness to reduce heavy and unnecessary taxation imposed by themselves, they are straining every effort to prevent the slightest burden being lifted from the shoulders of the people. When the labor troubles are over, and the Estimates have been re duced far below the amount realisable by the Primage Duty, it will be interesting to observe what other specious excuse will be forthcoming for the continuances of a tsix universally condemned all over the colony.