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THE COMING STRUGGLE., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2537, 7 October 1890
THE COMING STRUGGLE.
TO THE EDITOR. '■ Sir, —In the course of the next t;wo months the electors of the colony will be culled itpon to clionfe a new Houstf of ■Representatives, and virtually to decide upon the weal or-\voe of New sJealand[for the next three years. The labor question has suddenly loomed up m striking proportions,, and eveiy candidate for a seat m m the* 'House will doubtless, and very properly, be required to explain'his views upon thin most ■ important topic, while maay an election will, I dare say, bo fouglit out upon it alone. I fully recognize the importance of the labor question, and the necessity of sending men. to the House who are able to tiike a liberal and enlightened view of this subject ; but 1 should like my fellow-electors to bear m mind that the labor question is not the sole question which the now Parliament will have to consider, and that employer and employed Avill alike suffer m pocket if we permit incompetent men to seize the helm of affairs and steer the ship of State into troubled financial waters. To put the matter plainly, inasmuch as we have to choose between the present Ministry, with Sir Harry* Atkinson at its head, and a Ministry under Mr Balance's leadership, we ought not, m the; light of pastjexperience, to hesitate m returning men to Parliament who will undertake to give a rational support to the present Ministry so long as the latter pursue the financial policy which they have hitherto followed with so much success. The question upon which the last general election was fought out was the financial question. The colonial finances exhibited a miserable deficit, and our credit m the London money market was at the lowest ebb. Increased taxation was inevitable ; but the country naturally demanded that before fresh taxation was imposed, severe economies m the owe of administration sho.uld be effected. Sir Julius Yogel, then Colonial Treasurer, however, declared that further economy was impossible ; that retrenchment was a mere hustings cry, and so forth. His opinions wore echoed by his colleagues, amongst whom was Mr Ballance ; biit,"at last, find iug the country was m earnest, Sir Robert Stout; the Premier, admitted that £100,000 a year might possibly be saved by retrenchment. Beyond tint, how•yer, he s-ud wotnuld not go, and the candidates who were thfin standing m the Yogel interest obediently echoed the views of their chief, although some of them who were returned have si.ice been talking m the Houso as glibly about economy as though they had always been its apostles, and to prove their zeal, have mercilessly cut down the salaries of a few Government officials, quite regardless of whether these officials earned the salaries vvhich they had previously received or not. The elections resulted m the return of Sir Harry Atkinson to office ; and how has he performed the financial task set him by the country ? In the first place he has actually reduced the annual cost of. administration by £291,000; and had all the economies which his Ministry proposed to the House been adopted, a considerably larger saving would have been effected. The price of New Zealand debentures has substantially risen, and confidence m the financial stability of ■ the colony, which ■ had been so grievously shaken, is now restored m the London money market., The Atkinson Ministry has, so far, done' the great work entrusted to them by the Colony, M'eil ; and the question which we nmat now ask ourselves is—Shall we take that work of vital consequence to the colony, and yet unfinished, out of their' hands, and place it m charge of those who, m the past, have shown themselves hopelessly incompetent to manage our financial affairs ? 1 have already alluded to the mess into which the last Ministry (whereof Mr Ballance was a member) got our finances j but I nmy remind your readers that Mr BuflanQc was .Colonial Treasurer m the Grey Administration, and ho proved to be the very worst Treasurer New Zealand h=vs ever had. When the Grey Ministry left office, there was a gaping void m the Treasury chest, bigger than had ever been known there before* or lias been known since—the actual deficit, if 1 remember right, amounting to some £900,000. The present Ministry may jtf^ eMm
mrdih fora highly successful land administration s but 1 do not wish to lay stress tijiuii ihi.-j point, bocmse public opinion osi tho land question had acquired an iiTcsUtiblo strength, and the waste I l-.nds will l>o administered m theinterests of settlement whatever Government is m office. Mr Richardson may, however, fairly lake credit to himself for having improved our hind system m such a manner that the intending settler has now a choice of tenures instead of being virtually ihn.tod to cue kind, as under Mr Jii'illfiioe's regime. Mr JJ.illance's tactic* »s a Parli:unoutai'y leader do not in«|>ir*» contittQncty-tn-«tMs fitness for office. t . I never heard such n'oneivil and miimtigatwd 'distjust exp raised at the conduct of a'Parliamentary party as I-heard during thw-ktarmweion at, the conduct bf.t.tfre'rflpposition m the Lower House. To whomsoever jou spoke on the subject you heart!s tlothing but condemnation. The Budget was brouglit 'down within a week' of the" 1 opening of Parliament, arid- as there appeared little other business of importance to be discussed, one saw no reason why the session should not be over m a month] instead of which, it was spun out for more than three months. And, whon we turn to /'Hansard" for. the .purpose, of ascertaining what occupied the House for so long a period, we find,it^as". Words words— nothing but words.'* Mr Ballance .tabled a no-confidence motion,.' founded' upon nothing .m particular, excepting the desire of himself and party to get into office ; and; ,-th© Opposition vigorously clamoured for a second session,this year ; but nobody outside the House wanted a second session ; indeed, ."the ordinary taxpayer could not, understand why such a demand should be made unless it was to increase his burthens. All through the session «very possible obstruction was offered to the progress of the Government business- .It deemed quite enough for the. Government to propose something to induce Mr Ballance and his f) iends to oppose it: and even some of the civil servants were ruthlessly sacrificed m order to embarrass the Government, if possible. Such ' proceedings are calculated to bring Parliamentary Institutions into contempt 1; and they are certainly not m accordance; with the traditions of the, House ofj Commons, by which the, House of . Representatives is supposed to,, be ,guided. We do not find Mr Gladstone- moving -want-of-confideuce votes on every possible occasion ; nor obstructing 'ttar. passage of a measure simply because $it is brought down by the .Salisbury ministry, qui^e irrespective -. o£. it»- merits. When that Ministry brought forward their Local-Goye,rnmen^ BHl—obviously a measure of policy, upon : which/the right of the Ministry to retain office might fairly have'been .challenged—; Mr Gladstone eulogised it as a'whole and merely criticised it» details*, jln.like manner, he refrained from opposing the African Treaty with Germany, recognizing that its provisions <were F favorable, *o the interests of, England. The office of an Opposition is not *to obstruct the public business, but. to criticise the Government measures when tjhey, require criticism, and if it,becomes plain that the Ministry, cf the day ■ have lost the • confidence of Parliament, - and the country, then the Opposition : may fairly ,ask the House to decide whether or not that Ministry shall longer continue m office. The foregoing arc a few out of , many reasons which might,be .adduced why the electors should, vote against Opposition candidates at the-, forthcoming teleetion, but I am afraid that, with the other demands upon your space, you will have already cried "Hold, enough."—l am etc. Cjlvkles. W. Pithsell. Ashburton, 4th October, 18JH).
THE COMING STRUGGLE., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2537, 7 October 1890
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