The Ashburton Guardian. Magna et Veritas et Prævalebit. SATURDAY, october 18, 1890. THE SKINFLINTS AT WORK.
Mr Saunders, when addressing his constituents at Lincoln the other day, gave, a very graphic account of how the party known .as " The Skinflints " secured substantial retrenchments during the late session. After freely condeming the Treasurer's Financial Statement, which professedly showed a surplus of £115,174, while the actual expenditure of the year waa some X 400,800 more than the revenue, and during the last three years £2,570,000 more than our income, Mr Saunders told m a straightforward manner the story of the Government opposition to economy. The Skinflints, first approached the Cabinet, demanding that £f)0,000 should be retrenched from the Estimates as brought down. At first they were met with- a blank refusal, the Premier saying that no Government with any respect for itself could submit to such a thing. A second deputation then waited on the Premier, who, fearing the secession of several members of the Government party unless the economists were appeased, showed an inclination to sacrifice a little Government selfrespect, ifj by so doing he could manage to stick to office. After some parleying, the Premier surrendered, on the understanding that, when the " Skinflints" set about reducing the Estimates by £50,000, the process should be as courteous and inoffensive as possible to the Government! The Government, the deputation were told, could not vote against their own Estimates, but if the Skinflints could induce the House to support their proposals, the Ministry would accept the verdict and carry out the reductions proposed —this only on the condition that the Skinflints "would loyally support the Ministry through the remainder of the session. To these conditions only two out of four of the deputation would agree, two members remaining firm that they would only support the Government so long as they thought them right. The second deputation therefore left without any definite understanding being come to. The Premier thought he had, by the tactics pursued, completely baffled the economists ; but the party were determined upon securing economical administration, and Mr Saunders waited upon a leading supporter of the Government, telling him that the Retrenchment Party would vote for the Opposition proposal to reduce the Estimates by £60,000 unless the Government came to terms. This threat effectually brought th« Cabinet to its knees; and a promise was given that Ministers would vote against their own Estimates if the Skinflints would first of all vote against the Opposition amendment to reduce the Estimates by £10,000 more than the economists demanded, This compact was literally carried out, so far aa the rejection of Mr Ballauce's motion yaK concerned j but the party of economy had their suspicions aroused as to the bona fides of the Government. Tho Acting-Premier, m attempting to defend or explain the humiliating position m which the Government had been placed, said the £50,000 which they had pledged themselveg to retrench would be made from some of the services which the country then enjoyed, and that no material alteration would be made m the cost of administration. Having used the Skinflints to defeat the Opposition, the wily Premier sought to turn the tide of public opinion against the former, who were practically accused of endeavoring to diminish the puhjic conveniences. The move was a most asWfc# pne, but the Premier overreached himsdf m jLljp jnatter. Instead of allowing themselves tff b,u thus snuffed out of existence without i accomplishing their purpose, the Skin- 1 flints (e^i'^d "ntp a compact with the other vetreivchnwjut pfl-rjEy (the Opposition), whereby jt was deojded, when m CaagMtvo ®t ftujapty, to cut- tUe
Estimates down item by item, prune all extravagances, and leaTO the public conveniences untouched. How the expenditure was cut down by thi» meansby£46,oooisamatter of histoiy ; and it is also a matter of history thatthe Government sat sullenly on the Benches watching their Estimates being torn to shreds, but were powerless to resist, —except by resigning, and this they resolved not to do. Mr Saunders' story, as sumtnnrised above, is a very correct record of the doings of his party, the Skinflints, m the .matter* He does nob give mUch praise to the Opposition for the part they played m the political drama- except to say— and it is a most important admission —that Messrs Ballance Jand Fisher, as two ex-ministers, pointed out the methods by which the Estimates could be reduced without sacrificing the interests of the colony. Yet, without the aid of the Opposition, the Skinflints would have been unable to effect their . purpose. Any retrenchment Effected by a combination with t"ie Government would not have been acceptable to the country; and the wonder is that, having found out by practical experience who were thei real and intelligent economists, the Skinflints did not sink their individuality as a party and at onceplaee themselves under Mr Ballance's leadership. The Skinflints wished to save public expenditure, but had not the slightest idea how to go about it; and it was not until the Opposition put them on the correct track, after the Government had thrown them over, that their ideas could be put m practical shape. The retrenchment, therefore, that has been effected is practically that of the Opposition leader.