The Ashburton Guardian. SATURAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 1890. SUPPLEMENTARY ESTIMATES.
Tlie action of the Government m bringing down a proposal to reinstate all, or nearly all the reductions m public expenditure recently effected m Committee of Supply, is reprehensible; and we were pleased to see that the members of the House, on Thui'sday, let this be distinctly seen. The ActingPremier, judged by the apologiatic tone adopted when introducing the Supplementary Estimates, had evidently felt the pulse of the Hous beforehand, and had arrived at the conclusion that to press proposals for reinstatement of salaries of certain favored officers would be to invite defeat. Certain members of the House made no secret of their intention to "stonewall" until the sth October rather than permit all the work of the past few weeks to be undone by a single stroke of the Ministerial pen. This fact, combined with the advice of fast friends, the threats of enemies, and the luke-warm support of sworn Governmemt supporters, convinced the Acting-Premier that Parliament had thoroughly made up its mind to have reduction m public expenditure m high places. The Government therefore, as is their custom when m a decided minority, placed themselves unreservedly m the hands of the House, and expressed their willingness to perform the now time-honored feat of swallowing or modifying their proposals as the House should direct. A virtue was made of necessity, and though the Government made a wry face over the matter, Civil Service retrenchment has been sanctioned—and the Ministry retain their seats. The incident, however, serves to show the weakness of the Cabinet and their inability to lead the House. Indeed, under the New Zealand system of Party Government, the House formulates a policy, and if the Ministry do not choose to carry it out, they mtfst make room for those who will do so. The Atkinson Combination realise this position thoroughly. Indeed were it not for the important difference that the House formulates the policy and the Ministry obey it, instead of the Ministry bringing down the policy and asking the advice of the House upon it, our system of Government at present is m close affinity to the Swiss Referendum. Under the last-named system, however, a certain amount of creative po-sver is expected from the Benches, and the members are expected to be something more than mere marlouotteH, who only move when the strings are pulled. The position occupied by the present Ministry, viewed from a Party Government standpoint, is not a dignified one, but from the public standpoint m the matter of retrenchnven; m the Estimates is not all bad. fit Is better that the Government should be compelled to carry out retrenchment, even unwillingly, than that " party " should step m and keep the Government on the Benches and the will of the people out; m other words, it is better to have retrenchment, even from the enemy, than no retrenchment at all. The will of the people m this matter, and the will of the House, lias been raised above party considerations, and the public will reap the benefit through the lessening of taxation. Indeed were it not that the gaunt spectre of " party " occasionally stalked through the House during the period when the Estimates were under consideration, much more substantial reductions would have taken place.