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THE ELECTIONS., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2540, 10 October 1890
MR W. C. WALKER AT THE ODDFELLOWS' HALL.
Mr W. O. Walker- addressed the electors of the Ashburton electorate m the Oddfellows' Hall last night. There were over 300 people m the Hall, every seat being occupied. The Mayor (Mr David Thomas), presided, and m introducing the candidate said Mr Walker was there that night to give an account of his stewardship during the time he Jbid been a member- of the last- Parliament and to enunciate the views he hold on political questions at present occupying the public mind,. Mr., Walfefir,,was iiq, stranger 'to them and had been their representative for five or six years (applause). • Mr Walker said he had great pleasure m -meeting them that night to address them on the subjects indicated by the Chairman. They had returned him to the hst Parliament and to the Parliament before that, und he trusted they would place confidence m him for another term. RETROSPECTIVE. As regarded the last Parliament he would 6nly treat it m so far as it threw light on the present and future, and as it would be wearying to go into details of its history, he would only touch, on those points that were of most interest. There were but few apparent results to note m the Work of the last Parliament and this was expected to, be the fcase when they were called together, even Ministers themselves being aware, of this. '.Sir Harry Atkinson was unable to be present,; except m spirit, at any of the debates, owingto severe illness, and thus the; House was deprived of his commanding influence, and his followers of his leading and uniting power. Nbnoof his colleagues! were able to fill his shoes, so that much time was lost that might have been saved. The question had been asked w}io was to blame for this ? He asked them not to believe the many newspapers} m the colony whp laid the blame upon the. Opposition, The f Opposition were m no way to blame for what had occurred, during the last session. The results m the shape of Bills, from a Ministerial point of view were very few, and those promised m the Governor's speech had been but a barren crop' whenone looked, for the results m the list of measures that had passed into law. Similarly the proposals m the Financial Statement had failed to catch the approval of the House, not because the Opposition had determined not to carry them,—-the Opposition were m a minority of thirteen or fourteen, and were powerlesß to prevent their passage.— out, because they were nob popular even with Ministers' own supporters. If they had read the reports of the debates m the House, they would have found. that the severest critics of the financial proposals of the Government were merilbers—and leading members too—who composed the Government patty. The general policy of the Government was hot supported because it was not believed m by Ministers' own followers, j The Financial Statement was not believed; m because of its rotten finance, .because of it»i delusive; figures, and because of its reputed surplus that was non-existent. The Statement generally was not satisfactory. vMuoh had been made of the alleged surplus. Its discovery had been triuiipeted all over this and the neighboring colonies, and he supposed it had been cabled, too, m hob haste to the Old Country. But when it came to be analysed, what did they find 1 They found the surplus set down at £115,674, which by deduction of the balance due 6h primiige duty, left £36,569. Against this wajb to be placed the Land Fund deficiency of £45,716, which left a total deficiency for the year of £9147. After referring to the fact that for years the land fund had, been looked upon by law as a part of the Con? solidated Revenue, Mr Walker went on to say the Treasurer had no right to treat the Land Fund m the way he did, and he (Mr Walker) could quote, if he chose, the Treasurer's own words m years gone by for treating it as a part of the consolidated revenue. He quoted those figures to show that the Financial Statement was founded on misapplied figures and; adroit bookkeeping, and there was hardly a member m the House who would accept the Statement m the way the Treasurer wished it to be accepted. A Voice.—ls the colony solvent then? Mr Walker : I have hot the slightest doubt of that. It had often been said that a country was m the best condition when there was a slight deficit, because when there was a deficit the country was stirred up t« look after the finances At this moment, the last thins? m his mind was to attack the solvency of the colony. (Applause). Mr Walker went on to say that the borrowing proposals contained m the Statement also proved unacceptable as the purposes, though some of them were legitimate, all rested on wrong foundations, and meant involved and expensive finance. The Primageduty was originally imposed to pay off a portion of the 1887 deficiency, and had fulfilled its mission. In the Financial Statement it was proposed,'however, to epjitinue the duty for, the purpose of erecting school buildings— virtually a proposal for fresh taxation. This also was unacceptable to the House, and at all events before accepting it members were determined to ascertain if no further economies could be practised. The great difficulty the country now labored under was the large amount of money that annually went away to pay interest on loans contracted. If our expenditure was to be increased, itcould only be met by increased taxation, and the settlers had on their shoulders at this moment as much of that as they had a right to bear. Three years ago the cry was "Economy, with remission of taxation." We had got a certain measure of economy, but we had obtained that measure at the expense of the remission of taxation that was to have come had economy not been entered upon. It ought therefore to be the object of any Government thafc came into power to maintain the practice of this economy ana* to secure the remission of taxation that had been asked for. Our expenditure,l instead of being gradually reduced —as was a part of the bargain—and as we had hoped for, was creeping ap< In 1888-9 it was ... ... £1,923,313 In 1889-90 £1,959,354 In 1890-91 (estimated) .;. £1,983,334 Those figures represented the annual expenditure for the thirteen departments of the Government—a fair test of the measure of expenditure, and ■ excluding all classes where special circumstances might vary from year to year. During these same years the amount due for interest on loans was as follows :— 1888-9 £1,833,494 1889-0 ... ... ... 1.897,602 1890-1 1,875,622 And the total revenue for the current year is only estimated at £4,243,974. In view of those figures he could not help feeling that thepositionpf thecountry'sfinance required the greatest amount of care. So long as this heavy load rested upon the shoulders of the people ; so long as this heavy outgo of interest/continued; so long as the revenue of the colony was so little m excess of the money sent put of it, there existed a special reason for care and caution on the part of whoever had control of the public purse. Not even m the Railways" and Customs, tlte two largest sources of revenue, wasi there much elasticity. Our population py' an,average for the last five years had only increased by about 12,0 0 pej: annum, or equivalent to the excess of bi~hs over deaths. The Property Tax Commissioners reported that last yew thtre was a falling pff oj XOOO
t persons who had previously paid property ! tax, so that m the currer.fjr of the last Parliament we had had but xittle progress to flatter ourselves upon. The Primage "Duty had only been imposed by Act for two years and the collection of it should have ceased m June 30th of this year In .spite of the Government wishing to continue ibs collection indefinitely, they were forced to. discontinue it oh September 30. It was first proposed by the Opposition to strike off £00,000 from the Estimates, referring them back to Government for that purpose. That, however, being defeated, a member o£ the Government party got them to agree to reduce the Estimates by £50,000 —Government t© make the reductions to that amount to suit themselves. The House insisted'on exercising its privilege of dealing with the Estimates m detail, the result being that £44,000 was knocked off the Estimates—some oft' salaries, and some off services that could be dispensed with— Government promising to make a further reduction of £6000 of their own motion. THE CIVIL SERVICE. It ought to impress itself upon the Government and the whole colony that there was great necessity for watching the Civil Service to koep it from growing to unduly expensive.proportions. Year by year it was creej>ing up, and adding to the bulk of the Estimates, and the increase had been going on more practieularly during the last three years. The Opposition had determined to teach the Government that this increase was not to proceed. They had not intended by the pruning of the Estimates to inflict individual hardship, and had avoided doing so as far as possible; but much could be done for econoiry m the way of amalgagamating offices, and pruning away services for which the financial position of the colony was not ripe enough. It had been the object of the Opposition, and others outside of it, to impress upon Government the necessity that existed for classifying the Civil Service. This would be satisfactory to the Civil Servants themselves, as it would adjust the proportions of salaries, secure the men's promotion consequent upon good behaviour and merit, and place them altogether beyond and outside the effect rof influence and patronage. Three years I ago Government had promised some such measure as this, and he was happy to say that they had now promised, after the elections, to set up a Royal Commission, upon whose report ho trusted soon to see the Civil Service put upon a pruper foot-ing. A Bill had been brought down last year and passed, but it dealt only with the Post and Telegraph departments. That measure might not be perfect, might not be wholly satisfactory m its details to the servants whom it affected, but it was a step m the right direction, and he trusted that it was only the forerunner of a measure that would improve the position of every Civil Servant m the colony. He had endeavored to draw attention to this because it was a question the colony ought to keep steadily m view. There had. been discussions m the House that were to be regretted, but he would make no reference' to them just then. He would pass over such episodes as the grave charges brought against Ministers by Mr Hutchison, and that other incident m connection with Judge Edwards' appointment, and pass on to matters more closely interesting to the colony m the present election. LAND SETTLEMENT. Among these matters might be mentioned the question of land settlement. Although m this district there was little or no land left for small settlement,' m the North Island some very large tracts still remained m; Government hands, available for such purposes, so that ho trusted no one m this district would think it useless going into the question. ..Settlement m the North Island was going on very rapidly, and the applications were greatly m excess of the acreages put up. The question of land settlement h:id last session been very prominently before the House, and the Waste Lands Committee to which the (subject of what was known as " Dummyism " was referred had sat and taken voluminous evidence. That Committee had reported that amendments were necessary upon the Land Act, and the House would have been perfectly willing to devote a few days longer of the already long session to consider the pioppsed: amendment, but Government did not think fit to go on with it. The Committee reported that much false declaration had been going on. Thisjwas to be regretted, tu.dumniyism not only defeated settlement, but would gradually accustom the people to breaking the law. There had been a certain amount of opinion expressed that all cash sales should be abolished, and that land should be dealt with by Government only by perpetual lease or on deferred payment. Others went so far as, to say that all land should be held by lease only from the Crown, It was too late now to think of dealing with the latter opinion, as a minority of the holders would immediately become tenants of the Crown and they would soon begin to agitate for commuting their leaseholds into freeholds us had been the case with perpetual leaseholders m several instances already. The whole habits of the British people were m favor of freeholds,.and it was useless to try to get British people, with all their habits and traditions upon them, to believe m the superiority of leasehold over freehold. Had the colony started at the beginning on the lines of land nationalisation, and parted with no freehold at all, and all occupiers of the soil had been tenants of the Crown, die idea might have become practical, because we would SOon have become accustomed to the equal tenure that all would have possessed, but to introduce the idea now was, lie thought, not likely to prove conducive to tlio best interests of the colony. LAND V, PROPERTY-TAX. The Property-tax; at the present moment made a very substantial addition to tho revenue of the colony, and as our finances as between revenue and expenditure were very nicely adjusted, it would be hazardous. indeed to introduce any 'change that might be prejudicial to that balance; ■■ It would be a risky thing to throw away a revenue producing tax like the property tax, unless they were to be fully satisfied, that the substitute for it? would satisfactorily supply its place, i The Land Tax, so much asked for .by-certain people, was not such a sound tax as its supporters appeared to think. In America, thef property tax was the prevailing means of raising revenue, and much more use was made of it than m New Zealand. The Americans made theiwroads with it, built their schools with it, and to the district m which a man lived went all the taxation levied upon his personal property. The charges of fraud, etc., that were so frequently laid against the collection of the property tax might, with equal justice, be brought against the income tax, and it seemed to him that m a large country like America, where the property tax was so extensively used, and the people appeared to be content with it, there was ample evidence that it was the mere preferable means of imposing taxation; but here the cry appeared to be at present for a land tax—. at, all events m certain quarters. They should want a very heavy tax on land to fill up the place of the property tax, but amendments might be made upon the latter that might very greatly lessen any objectionable features it might have. Government had. proposed m the session before last; to- exempt certain; classes,. of machinery to a very small extent- front itlie operation of the tax, but the proposal was withdrawn n consequence of the fivrs of thc|3oTernme.nfc that larger exemptions would ■be forced upon them* for himself, he
favored the exemption of machinery and agricultural implements up to a certain figure, and then he thought the tax would work more easily than itdid now, and would assimulate itself to one of the principles of the land tax. The claes who escaped altogether from the operation of the tax were people who enjoyed fixed incomes, and he would bring under the operation of the tax fixed incomes over a certain amount. There were anomalies under the tax that he would like to see rectified. For instance private railway companies wero taxed on the capital value «f their , rolling stock *nd roads, >while steamships .companies went.free. If it was sound. i policy to tax a public carrier by land, it was equally sound policy to tax a public carrier by ■sea: His thought a land tax would press too hardly on agriculture, and that under it the agricultural communities would suffer while the large towns would go virtually free. It had been a fact that the loudest cry against the property tax had come from Auckland, yet during the imposition .;of the land tax Auckland yielded scarcely any revenue under it. He had heard a progressive land tax spoken off but taxes of this kind had not commended .themselves elsewhere. In Victoria the land- was supposed to lie, classified for taxation according to its value, and it was quite true of course that •ne acre paid more' than another, but then the progression was only from £1 to £4, so that the highest taxed land only paid four times more than the lowest, while here our knd was taxed up to its full value. A Voice—No. Mr Walkek—Well, it ought to be, and ' if it was not that was no fault of the principle of the tax. The valuations, ho went on to sa^, could not be expected to to be uniform where the districts were parcelled out to half a dozen different valuators. The inequalities of valuation, need not occur if .the work were done on a proper system, and he trusted Government would see to the work being done, so that these inequalities would be done away with. , LABOR. The labor question,had been and was now occupying very much of the attention of the people of New Zealand. To a very large portion of the colonists—namely, that great division of the population who had to earn its bread by hard toil with its hands-r-;this was the all-engros-sing topic of the day,,,and very naturally it was. so. .. Government had appointed a Commission to enquire into the truth of certain strong and alarming representations that had been made to it, and that Commission ' had been known as the Sweating Commission. Impelled by the etidence taken before that Commission, j and the report the Commission itself had made, certain Bills had been introduced m the Lower House which dealt specially with matters affecting labor. They were known as the Labor Bills,' and the readiness and heartiness with which the House had dealt with them showed that the people's representatives at least ,wer.e alive to the people's interest. These Labor Bills were put m charge of a Committee, amended and passed. But when ,they reached the Upper Chamber, they! were dropped, and so did not pass into law, bub their failure to do so lay- wholly at the door of the Upper Chamber* He believed, however, that this would m the end be betler for the Bills. They would now go out into the Colony and be subjected to the close and leisurely scrutiny and consideration of the .vast number of men m whose eyes they were all important; their weaknesses, defects, and anomalies, if any existed, would be pointed out, and when they came to be veintroduced and reconsidered by the new Parliament—sent to Wellington m the choice of the men most interested m these Bills for they•• formed the majority of the population of thecoiony—those Bills would come before that Parliament m, very probably, a greatly improved condition. Matters affecting labor had been engrossing the mind of every settler for weeks back, and m making reference to these he would take occasion to remark that we were here so to speak at the end of the world. We were largely dependant for our existence upon the abundant products which we sent to the Home market, and upon the adjustment of the cost of producing, preparing, and carriage of these products depended the profit arising from them. Every interference with the balance of that adjustment was a matter of anxiety to every settler, as the result of it maiy be a very great loss to the colony. But the question was really out aide the range of politics, and was rather one for settlement between the two classes of associations who had more directly to face its settlement, viz., the Associations composed of labor, and those composed of labor's employers. He had only mentinned the question now, because it was interesting ,to all at present, and because it had been called up by the Bills he had referred to. The State really had little to do with the question, and was only involved m it because it was m one sense an employer of labor by being the owner of the railways, of the colony. The State had placed its railways wholly m the hands of the RAILWAY; COMMISSIONERS, ' but behind these -Commissioners stood the House of Representatives and the public of the colony, and the two tribunals would see. that the Oommissieners did their duty by the great estate the colony owned m its railways, by the public m relation to the working of its traffic, and by the men who worked that trafno m their relations with the Commissioners. It was not for him to say a word at the present crisis that might prejudice the Commissioners m whose hands lay a difficult, and delicate charge ; but he could say that the great Court of Appeal that would always see any wrongs righted under which the men labored would be the public and the parliament. Personally, he had always been m favor of placing tht railways. m favor of a nonpolitical Board,' and however much he mightdiffer from the detailsof the Commissioners' working,, be still believed the railways ought to be m the hands of a Board. If the working of them were not satisfactory, then they had either not got therightmen, or themenweremakinggreat mistakes.-—(Applause.)' EDtTCATIONi * He would not like to see our system of education altered. It was now m full working order, and m return for the taxation we underwent for it, we were able to give our children an education as liberal and as thorough as was given m any country m the world.; He would be sorry to see it attacked and crippled. One attack was now being made upen it by denominatioiialism m • the shape of . the Private Schools Bill. The denominations who • would profit by the success of'this/attack" were the large ones m the large centres, but the small, denominations m the small centres would be unable to take any advantage of it whatever. He admired the self-sacrifice of his Catholic friends, and their, loyalty to principle m having for so long borne the expense of their own schools rather than accept the secular principle of the.State system, but he could still pee no reason why the excellent system of education the colony possessed should be spoiled. For the same reason he was not with the ,Bibl«-in-Schools party, who sought to attack the system from another point. Under the present Act, all .they asked for could be obtained, for it was possible to have the Bible read m schools bofore or after •the usual school hojtts if such were desired, and he would like to see this have a fair tidal. It was done, he believed across the river at Tinwald, and m other parts o.f Canterbury. AGRICULTURE, &C, 1 After advocating the establishment of.
an Agricultural Department for the colony, and dwelling upon the advantages to be gained by fanners and others from 'the''practical knowledge that such a department which disseminate, ' Mr Walker went on to speak of LOCAL OPTION, He had been taken to task about a vote on this subject he had given two years ago. Let ib be borne m mind that a Local Option Bill had never been before the House, and this vote he deferred to was given on the question that wad moved and carried, asking Government to bring m a Bill to grant local option. While not for one moment opposed to the general principle of local option, he was not prepared to subscribe to the preamble of the resolution. That pretimple would have been very well m the mouth of a teetotaller— it was m fact the teetotallers' creed —and he would have been worse than a fool, he would have been criminal, had he subscribed to that resolution and voted with it, while ab the same time he refrained from signing the total abstinence pledge on the very instant that he voted. He would have been pleased to have voted for a Local Option Bill this year, but though introduced it had not been brought up; On the Bill that had been circulated there were some amendments necessary 1 He would not be m faVor of taking awny a man's license ■where no breach of the law had been committed* without giving him 'some compensation for the loss he thereby sustained. (Dissent.) Well, he was there to give his version of the views he held, and he stated before them that he was not m favor of depriving a man of the property the State had allowed him to acquire without giving him compensation m return. He thought m a right minded community the end of abolition would be better gained if some sort of compensation were given. CONCLUSION. i . In conclusion he would refer shortly to his own personal position. In 1884 he had' been returned by the Ashburton electorate to oppose Major Atkinson. ' For three years from that date he had supported the Stout-Vogel Government and three years ago he found himself m Opposition with Sir Harry Atkinson holding the reins of power. If m 1884 he , was led to oppose Sir Harry, he was now m 1890 still more firmly opposed to him, after having had longer experience of him. His politics were simply expediency t his finance was deceptive, and along with the fact that he had made an unfortunate choice m his colleagues, mistakes had constantly occurred. If returned to the House Mr Walker said he would guide himself very much by the circumstances of the Parliament returned afc this election. He hoped that he would be able to identify himself with the old party, but could not support any,such extreme measures as he had heard advocated up and down the colony at the present time. Mr Walker sat down amid loud applause. QUESTIONS. In reply to a mote than usually long list of questions that had the effect of prolonging the meeting to late period, Air Walker said the breaking tip of large estates was a question that was left for solution m the hands of time. Absentee landlords might fairly be touched by taxation. It was not with his goodwill that the House had had to accept the increased taxation on tea. He favored tho Eight fours' Bill, from the action of which the farming community were exempted; and an elective Upper House with a seven or eight years' term of office. The referendum would add another to the chances of stepping a measure, and he did Hot favor it. On the motion of Mr James Keir. seconded by Mr Silcock, a vote of thanks to Mr Walker for his address and for his past services were unanimously awarded ; as well as one to the Chairman, on the motion of Mr Walker.
THE ELECTIONS., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2540, 10 October 1890
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