The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4, 1890. FARMERS POLTICAL PLATFORM.
In. Otago an organisation has recently sprung into existence, which m known by the title of the Farmers' Union of New Zealand. We are not aware whether this body has been authorised to become the mouthpiece of the farmers of the colony m political matters, or whether the organisation is known or acknowledged beyond the borders of the city where it first emerged from obscurity into local prominence ; but we observs that the executive of the Union has taken upon itself to lay down a political platform supposed to embrace all the desires and aspirations of the New Zealand agricultural and pastoral farmer. These desires and aspirations are surainonrd up to be (1) Tlio reduction and amendment of the Custom:) tariff so an to make it a tariff for revenue purposew only ; (2) Intercolonial Froctrade as regards the natural products and the manufactures of the Colonies; (3) T\w reduction of railway charges, rates of freight, ami fares for wool, produce, l'Are and dead stock, nici-cliandi.se and paHsenyors, and the abolition of diifurential rated ; (4) The retention of the management and working of the railways by the .State ; and (o) Federation with Australia, .suliject to the reservation of absolute uelf-govennnont m all internal aflairs. From the foregoing it will be seen that all the farmer wants to make him contented and happy is to abolish Customs d uti oa, inatigu rate intercolonial frectrade, cheap railway carriage, andari intercolonial federation of a novel kind which will allow New Zealunri to brtcome a part and parcel of the Australian continent wicrhoutpennittingthe I said continent to have any say m New Zealand affairs. The " platform "■ is a. taking one, and if there existed the remotest chance of its being carried out we should bo glad to do our utmost to assist m the good cause. Unfortunately there iuv insurmountable difficulties m the way of securing all these advantages to the farmer. The first is ■ that the Customs tarif!:' m force m New Zealand is essentially a revenue-raising piece of machinery which, during the past throe years, \v*s btMu<;hfc into t!i<: State cot'ers something lilr; a million and a-half per an lum. From this it will be seen tliat, while the tarilf is Protectionist m some few respects, it is at the same time a convenient menus of imposing revenue, ior State purposes. Any wholesale reductions, therefore, which may be eileotod by reducing-Customs revenue, on whatever pretext, will rojv«sent a corresponding los.s of revenue which must bo made up from somewhere ; but from whence the originators of the farmers' platform do not say. The next difficulty is that if the railways are to carry trie farmer's products at very ■much less than the present rates, the railways, under present management, will not pay, and any deficit must be met by tne imposition of taxation m some other direction. And a difficulty also lies m the way uf carrying out intercolonial reciprocity m tho fact that this colony raises considerable revenue through Customs duties on Australian products. Thus, if the political programme of the Southern Fanners Union were to be carried out, the loss to the revenue would be of such magnitude that taxation would either have to be imposed m some other direction, m which the farmer would have to take his share, or the cost of Government would require to be considerably reduced. The weakness of the platform is therefore, that, while it provides for very considerably reducing the revenue, no provision is suggested whereby the deficiency may be made good. The missing plank is the absence of any provision for a change m the incidence of taxation whereby land, property, and income shall be saddled with the burden taken from the fanners' shoulders. ~No class of persons m the colony are more directly interested m laud than the farmers and graziers, and one would think that tho first plank m their political platform would be a clear and distinct line as to State land disposal, progressive land taxation, and the equal apportionment of necessary taxation between property, jjß/;ome, and laud. *Yet this most essential plank is* entirely ignored, and from its absence we can only conclude that the originators of the manifesto either do not understand tho relation of the farmers to the State, or they are wilfully trying to lead them astray. We incline to the latter opinion, as we observe that the " Farmers Union of New Zealand " sprang into existence m a large city (Dimedin) and numbers amongst its members more shippers, merchants, commission agents, et hoc genus omnr, than bona fide farmers. A Farmers Political Union for the whole of the colony is one of the pressing wants of the day, but we must decline to acknowledge that the recently- , formed " Farmers Union" either represents the farmers or their views.