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THE ELECTIONS., Ashburton Guardian, Volume X, Issue 2556, 29 October 1890
MR C. W. PURNELL AT THE ODDFELLOWS' HALL.
Mr C. W. Purnell, one of the candidates: for the Ashburtqn seat in the general election of Members of the House of Representatives, addressed the electors in the Oddfellows' Hall on Tuesday evening The boisterous weather no doubt militated against the attendance at the meeting, which was not large, not quite 100 people being in the room. ■- , The Mayor, Mr D. Thomas, was chair"niati, and introduced the candidate in. a. short speech. He said that any one who tffimc out on a night such at that to listen to .1 political speech deserved well, both of his country find the candidate he came to hear. He regretted, '■ however, that a larger audience was not present to hear Mr Purnell. PRELIMINARY. Mr Purnell said he had coins forward as a candidate mainly in order to giro the (doctors of the Ashburton district an opportunity of saying whether they approved ef the financial policy which the present Ministry had pursued since they had been in office or whether they wished the colony to revert to that disastrous linaucial. system of wliich Mr Bsllance wad the exponent. That, after all, was the principal question at issue. Other important questibns required consideration, ;but When the battle was over and tlm result of the poll made known, the country would simply look at whether a majority of the successful candidates were deolnred supporters of the Government or of the Opposition, and the Ministry would ..remain.' in or go out of ;■office accordingly. He ventured Mo think that the political views of the people of this town' and county had been greatly misrepresented in Parliament during the last year or two; and that the people of Ashburton had no sympathy whatever with Mr Ballance or, confidence in "him as a political leader. The perpetual lease system wag an admirable way cf dealing with the^waste lands, but Jib demurred t» tihe proposition that Mr Walker, was to have a kind of • perpetual lease of this constituency «imply because lie,was "a goodsorfc of a fellow." The rent was not high enough. If they asked one ■of Mr Walker's adherents why he, was supporting that gentleman, seeing, that Mr Ballance's policy Was obviously detrimental .to the interests of a constituency of this kind, the! answer you got was "Oh/ I don't' beliave in Mr Walker's politics, but I intend to vote for him forpersonal reasons." Well, if they were to keep on re-electing Mr Walker for personal reasons, irrespective of his political views, Parliamentary representation, so far as this district was concerned, would .become a farce, and they had better ejscfc Mr Walker for life, and have done with ir. THE LABOR QUESTION. He should first deal with a question qf absorbing interest—the labour question. He felt the greatest possiblo sympathy with the object; of those movements Which Were now taking place amongst large masses; of the laboring classes, our fellowcoUritrymenj in Great Britain, who were striving to ameliorate their own condition in life. Ho dul not profess to approve of all tho steps which had been taken to achieve the end in view, but in movements of this kind errors were suro to be committed at the outset, and he felt so much faith in the strong common-sense possessed by the English people that he made no doubt these matters would come out right in tho end. Important change.l? were, he believed,.about to take place in the relations between capital and labor throughout a largo part of , the civilized World. A peaceful revolution would be effected, and although .he. did not aspire to be a prophet, he believed the change would be largely beneficial to the laborer. It was right that our nation should lead such" a movement. The English people had enjoyed the proud, distinction of having been the first to teach the world' the principles of civil, political, and religious liberty ; and it would be an additional gem in England's diadem if she could lead the way in these great labor movements, and show other nations how the lot of the laborer could be materially improved, while no injustice wag inflicted upon the employer. Ho believed firmly that problem would be worked out soon ; and when it, was solved, our nation would have risen one itep higher in the scale of civilization. But to come nearer home and to the'labor troubles in New Zealand. He believed thoroughly in the principle of Unionism ; and the employers of this colony would be wise to recognise Unionism, frankly and freely, as an accomplished fact. The manner in which a large number of working men had recently thrown up their employment — risked their means of livelihood—in a cause in which they had no direct personal interest, but simply because they believed that Unionism wm in peril, proved iriiat a strong hold ifc had upon their minds. Mistakes had been made, due to the inexperience of their leaders, but Unionism would survive them, and the Unionists would learn wisdom from experience; He'did not^ indeed^ profess >to think that Unionism had been much wanted in the past in this colony, but it would be useful in the future. At the same time, if Unionism was to benefit the workmen, and yet not throw impediments in the way of trade and carrying on of the industries of the country, the Unionists would have to modify their programme somewhat. They must be willing to grant the same liberty of action to employers as they claimed for themselves. They must grant equal liberty to non-Unionists. It was perfectly legitimate for the members of a Union to say to an employer : " We will not work except at a certain wage ; we will not work for more than so manyhoursaday ; we will not work alongside non-Unionists." But then they must, on the other hand, con cede the right to the employer to reject their terms, and to carry on his business in such manner as he thinks fit; they must".concede to the non-unionists the inalienable right which every man possessed to dispose of his own labour as lie pleased. They had no right to boycott an employer or Jv non-unionist for doing what he had both a moral and legal right to do. That was an attack upon personal liberty. Unionists were not entitled to 1 attempt to ruin an employer because he would not accept their terms. And supposing they did succeed in ruining him, how would the workmen be benefited ? They would simply be killing the goose which laid the golden eggs. By ruining onq employer or forcing him to carry on his business upon unprofitable terms, they would cause other employersto contract their operations, and deter capitalists from embarking upon industrial undertakings whish would give employmerit to artisans and laborers. It would be particularly likely to deter persons who might otherwise come from Great Britain to embark in such enterprises. It was a pressing need of this Colony that persons, with money of their own, should como here '.and start new enterprises, and so open f reih avenues of employment to the labourer.; But if the idea once got afloat thata permanent antagonism existed between tcapital and labour in New Zealand, we might bid farewell to the hope that "any....such influx of capital would occur. The world was wide, and there were plenty of other fields for the investment of capital besides New Zealand. He hoped it would be many a long day before we had such another strike as had just taken place. In the ordinary course of things differences between master and man 3 were sure to arise ; but, surely a highly ci Vilixe4 people like ourselves ought tobrrite-tQ tavlw" tome bettor method
of settling trade disputes than strikes and lock-outs; which seemed to him very crude and unsatisfactory ways of deciding such differences. Tli|.^uccessful party in a strike or lock-out was not necessarily in the right. Generally the whining, side was the one which could stand out the longest. It was something like duelling, whore the innocent parly was just.as likely to get killed or wounded as the guilty. He did not know that the Legislature could do much towards the prevention of strikes and lock-outs, although it might do something. He regretted that MrDownie Stewart's Strikes and Board of Conciliation Bill did not receive better treatment at. the hands of the House last session than it did ; and lie more especially regretted, that the : pretended representatives of the labor party in the Honse should have "sat" upon the Bill as though a measure of that kidd ought to be hounded out of the House as quickly as possible. The Bill may have been faulty in its construction ; but he ventured to think that some of the members of the House would have been mucli better occupied in putting the Bill into working shape than in olwtructing the Government business in the manner in which they did. The Assembly would, richly deserve the thinks of the country if it could assist in the creation of «ome tribunal for the peaceful adjustment pf trade disputes, and which' would possess the confidence of both eniplpyers and employed. He hoped to see the Labor Bills which were laid before Parliament last session again introduced. He did nst, indeed, anticipate that they would pijo duce any startling revolution in the present state of. affairs, but thoy were, useful measures of their kind;. The Bills, would, however, require some..amendment, Under the Building Lien Bill^for- example, the owner of say a half-acre of land, might employ a builder to erect a cottage for him ; he. might pay that builder in all good faith ; and having done so, 'it might turn out that the builder had failed to pay some of his men or his timber merchant, in which case the innocent landowner would have to pay over again, or ejse his house and land would be sold. THK LAND QUESTION. , He now Came to a question which was an evergreen question with them all—th 6 land question.' He considered that the present land, law;, whbh gave intending settlers a. variety of tenure to choose frov, was working satisfactorily, although some amendment was required in the shape of a better check against dummyism. There Seemed td;beloophblesin the Land Acts by which their "provisions could be evaded in this respect, >nd these defects should bo remedied.' At the same time, the evidence, taken by the Select Committee of the House of Representatives last year showed that very little dummyism had actually occured. A large amount of bona fide settlement was taking place ; but of course this. was rapidly absorbing the waste lands at the disposal of the Government, and before very long we should be brought face tp face with this.problem : People would be crying out for lands for settlement; the Crown lands would be all gone, and yet in various parts of the country there would be great private estates, well fitted for cultivation, but which were merely occupied as sheep runs. What, then, will have to be done 1 Let them consider the problem a little more closely. They must bear in mind that New Zealand was a small country. He did not think people always comprehended how small it really was. The other day he read a leading article in a newspaper in which the writer advocated that we should give, the Crown lands away to all persons who would actually occupy them./ The writer seemed to imagine that we possessed scores of millions of acres of waste arable land, as the United States did 40 or 50 yean? ago. Thefact was, New Zealand was only a little larger than Great Britain, i.e. Ore it Britain proper, excluding Ireland. A large part of the country is occupied by mountains, or it is of so broken* nature as to be useless for human occupation Then, we had large lakes and, in the North Island, extensive areas which were mere pumice tracts. Even of the level, or comparatively level land, a good deal was only fib for pasturage, and when they camn to make all these c'eductions, they would find the area of arable land in New Zealand a comparatively limited quantity. In Canterbury, the Crown had disposed of virtually all the good agricultural land ; and in Otago, there was no great quantity left. In the North Island, there Vas still a very considerable area of agricultural land which had not yet passed into the hands of the colonists, but the bulk of it belonged to the Maoris, ■ The day, therefore, was not far, distant when the Parliament of the country would have to decide whether the immense private estates, which were now to be found in many parts of New Zealand, when used simply for sheep walks, and fitted for agricultural purposes, could be permitted to exist, jfj they were really required for : genuine settlement? He was not;going to bore them with figures on the subject; because it had been no threshed out on the public platform and in the Press that they all knew that a very large area indeed of New Zealand was embraced within these great estates. He had always held that a gigantic blunder was committed in ever allowing private individuals or corporations to accumulate as much land as their purses could buy. If no other reason existed against such a policy, the country was not big enough to allow of it being done without injury to the public interests. When they considered the magnificent possibilities which lay before the founders of this colony, if they had only treated, the land question by the light of modern knowledge, one could almost weep at the thought of the splendid chance which they had throwu away. Still, they had allowed these great estates to be bought—hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of pounds had been spent upon their purchase and improvement, immense sums of monjy had been advanced upon mortgage of them: most of the estates had changed hands more than once ; the Government had issued Crown grants for the land—the highest title known to the law- and he entirely deprecated all projects and arguments which treated the large landowners as public enemies, whom they were entitled to subject to penal taxation, and to hunt, out of the country as though they were persons who had knowingly broken the law and done some grievous wrong. He declined to permit his mind to be befogged by discussions about the abstract rights of the State to the land. They could not get over the fact that the law—an unwise law—had in the past permitted, and even encouraged the acquisition of large estates, and the large landowners, in purchasing them, had only been investing their money in the way in which the law invited them to do. Well, then, they would ask, wer« matters to be allowed to remain as they wero at, present 1 His reply was : No, decidedly not. When they found one of these great estates used merely as a sheep walk, arid not for agricultural purposes, and it was actually wanted for settlement, they must buy it from the owner fairly and squarely ; and if he declined to sell at a moderate price, they must take it for scttlementpurposjes ) just in the same manner as tliey took private lands under the Public Worits Acts, when required for railways, toads, fortifications, or any other public work and in the same way he would pay tlie owner fair and reasonable compensation for the land of which he had been deprived. In short, he would extend the provisions of the Public Works Act softs to enable the Government to take those large estates for settlement purposes^ After all, it was only a question of money j and if they were to err at all in this Hwtyorj w» it not bettor to err on the
right side ? Had they not better put themselves in such a position that the colony could not hereafter be reproached with having violated the rights of property —those rights which all civilized" people, respected, and the preservation of which was as important to the poor man with hia cottage and quaHer-acvo of land ax it was to tho rich man -with liis broad acres ? rj)Uf!ATIon. Ho cordially acknowledged that our present education system had done a great and valuable work; but lie could" not. ndmit that ir wrw perfect by any means. .Every imliassed parson must perceive that modifications of ib were desired by large sections of the population. A largo and constantly augmenting body of people ask that gr;m'-s-in-aid for secular results should be made to private schools ; othor.s ardenlly desira that optional .Bible-read-ing should, be allowed in the Government schools. These demands ought not to be disregarded, for, after all, the parents --- i not the Government—were primarily responsible for the children's education, and if the parents desired to choose their own teachers, instead of placing their children in the Government schools, or if they desired their children to hear a chapter from tho Bible read daily, why should not tho Government endeavour to satisfy these wishes so far as it c»uld be done without impairing tho stability of our education system ? The existence of these discontents whs a source of weakne.S3 to the ! system, and the system would become 1 more stable and strong tho more it was brought in harmony with the views of tho , people. Moreover we couid not gel over ; the hard fact that whether a parent sent i his children to a Government school or a I private ,one, he had to contribute to the I taxation just the same. Our education , system was based upon two propositions— j (1) That it was the duty of the Oovern--1 menttq see that all the children in the i country were educated ; (2) That it was the duty of the Government to do the work of education itself. Ho admitted the truth of the first proposition ; but the second proposition was false. He thought it was rather the duty of the Government to encourage the establishment of private' schools than to suppress them, and" we should have got.a cheaper and more efficient system of education if the Government had confined itself to. supplementing the efforts of the private schools. In the rural districts ho doubt the entire work of education must practically be done ,by the Government,; butinthelargertowns it was only necessary for the Government to have established schools for the poorest elassesof the population. Private enterprise would have done all the rest. Whit, he would do was this:—lnthefcownshe would give grants-in-aid of a moderate amount to all private schools which could pass the ordinary Government inspection for secular results; in other words, the Government would not recognise any religious instruction which might be given in such schools.; the scholars would be presented for examination in the same subjectsas were prescribed for the Government schools ; and if the Government Inspector was satisfied with the result of the examination, the school would, get its grant, but not other wire. He would confine these grants, to schools in towns, because he doubted whether the system would work'satisfactorily in country places where the population was limited. In such a district, the denomination which was numerically the strongest might establish a school where its own religions doctrines would be taught, and all the children in. the district, would virtually be obliged to attend it because its establishment would draw away so many children from the Government 'school that tlio latter would have to be closed. It; wjjs usual to resrard this ?is a question affecting tho Catholics alonry but he did n<fc view it in that light himself. Tho large mini b'.«rofP J "(> 1-es tan tprivr^oschoolsinNcw Zenland proved thfca very considerable b-xly of parents, not Catholics, were dissatisfied with the Government schools. /Even in this comparatively small town of Ashburfcon I,hey had two 1 or three private .schools besides the Catholic schools, and the same thing might be found all over the colony. It was estimated that about 13,800 children were attending private schools in New Zealand, of whom about 9000 attended Catholic schools ; but although this estimate was probably correct as regarded the Catholic schools, he believed it understated the number of IT children attending other private schools A large body of the members of tlie Church of England, which was numerically tho strongest denomination in the Col|ny, were anxious to see grants-in-aid for secular results given to private sch6dl|s. They must remember that the system &f , grants-in-aid had '"already been tried in New Zealand with satisfactory results. It was formerly in force in' the province of Nelson and worked well there. Besides satisfying those parents who desired the daily instruction of their children to be permeated with religious teaching, it would tend to improve the present educational system by creating a healthy rivalry between the public and private schools. One great fault in our public schools was that the teaching in all; the schools was upon precisely tlie same lines; no allowance was made for the natural bent of the children's minds; and the mental faculties of the children were nob really cultivated. If the public could be brought into competition with private schools it would be of immense advantage to the former. It could not be disputed that a very large number of parents, whose cliildren attended the public schools, wished for optional Bible reading there. He had never been able to under j stand why such violent opposition should be offered to this change. He could heartily appreciate and sympathise with opposition to compulsory Bible reading,; but if the householders of, say,, the Tinwald school district wished a portion of the Scriptures to be read in their school daily, without comment,. why should outsiders object? He proposed that the matter should be entirely optional. It should be left for the School. Committees of each district to decide whether it would permit Bible reading in its school or not; the reading should be without conurent; it should take place at some convenient hour ; and every parent should be at liberty to say whether his child should attend the reading or not. If this were done he was unable to see whose conscience could be oft'ended, and in matters of this kind we should give and take a little. PROPERTY TAX. The minds of many of the electors seemed to be much exercised just now upon the subject of a, Land and Income Tax as against the Property Tax. The weak part of the arguments used by the advocates of a land and income tax was that they entirely failed to show how much revenue could be raised by this means. Ih^ Colo"y was this year raising £305,000 by the property tax, every penny of which was absolutely required j and the first and foremost thing which the advocates of a land and income tax had to show was that we could raise an equally large sum by this means without pressing unfairly upon any particular section of the population. So far as a land tax was 'concerned, data were available upon which a reliable estimate could be formed as to what such tax if imposed upon improved values would produce; but lie believed he was justified in saying that no reliable data existed upon which we could calculate what sum could be raised by such a tax if levied upon the unimproved values of land; while, as to an income tax, it was a matter of pure speculation what such a tax would yield. From this point of view, the proposal to abolish the Property Tax in favour of a Land and In oome Tax was altogether premature. Ho also supported the Property Tax beoauea under it every mm pai<* in pro-
portion to his means ; while the man who lived in the town p<tid the same as the ninn who lived hi the coiintiy. That would not bo so with a Land and Income Tax. Suppose two men 1.-inded in Lyttelton, encli with a capital of £5030. Cne determines to betake himself .to a town life, thu other t* a courtly. The first settles in Christchnrch ; the other buys land at Ash burton with his £5000 and farms it. Under Hie Property Tax e:ich would pay the Rnmvs amount of tax to a penny—each would pay Ihe tax on £4500. Under a Land and Income T.ix. however, the man in Chriitclrireh would only pay a'tax upon tho Jinn rial income which he derived, from tha £5000; his capital would not be taxed at nil. "Whereas tho man in .he co.m'ry would first pay a tax upon the whole amount of Ida capital, in the shape of a tax upon (he land lie had bought; and secondly, he would havo to pay an income tax upon the income*, which he derived from his" land. The cry for the abolition of the property tat and 'the nubstitution of a land find income'tax in its place fi.st arjse in chw I-'-rge towns, and was in his opinion -in attempt to shift, a part of tho taxation now justly borne by the residents in the cities upon the shoulders of the people in tho country districts. ■■•■". REFORM OF PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE. The mode of conducting business in th« House of Representatives vas, extremely unsatisfactory. What struck one most was the excessive amount oi time that was consumed in discussions of no practical usefulness — discussions upon motions relating to every Subject under the sun ; discussions arising but of questions put to Ministers ; discussions upon all »»rts of faddish Bills. There seemed a perfect mania for legislation in the House. .-What did they want with so much legislation ? It: was rather difficult, to, ascertain precisely how many statutea wore in force in New Zealand, but- so .far.as.he could discover, there were rather more r than 1300 statutes of one kind and another in force. In addition, they enjoyed the blessing of a vast mass of what was known as "case law"—i.e. the decisions of'the Judges upon legal questions, which were enshrined within the covers of. hundreds upon hundreds of. volumes of law books. The man who was not. satisfied with this huge accumulation of law must be a ' perfect > glutton for law. Why should we not' have a spell from legislation 1 Why could the House of Representatives not conduct its .proceedings in a simple business-like fashion as our County Council did ? Why should not the Treasurer's Budget and the Estimates be laid before the House immediately after the session was opened, 'be discusspd, and any other absolutely necessary business disposed of, and then members return to their homes ? Ho really did not see why a session should, on an average, last more than a month, instead of being spun out for three months every year. Might we not go. farther; arid ask whether it was indispensable that the General Assembly should meet every year 1 Why should it not meet every second year ? In the United.States there wap, in addition to the Federal Congress for the whole Union, a .separate Legislature for each State, and _ these State Legislatures had, in many .instances; the control of the affairs of millions of people. Now, some of these Legislatures only meet every second year; and the practice seemed to have worked well enonghi Was it not worth trying in New. Zealand ? THE MINISTRY. If elected, he should support the present Ministry so long a3 they continued their present financial policy, l.ut no longer—in other words, it was their financial policy lie should support «nd not the men themselves. Beinsr a new man, he .should onter the Assembly free from party ties and associations ; but while tho l arty system existed, it was mere folly for an individual member of Parliament .to try and play alone hand <here ; and as. ho would apparently have to choose between the financial policy of which !bir Harry Atkinson was the exponent, and that with which Mr Ballance's name was connected, he should unhesitatingly choose the former. When the present Ministry took office the finances of the colony were in a deplorable condition. Our credit in the London money market was at a very low ebb ; there wae a large deficiency in. the Treasury chest; and the Stout-Vbgol Ministry proposed to levy additional taxation to the extent of a quarter of a. million sterling without making any cflbrfc to reduce the cose of the public services. Now, what had the present Ministry done towards reinstating the colonial finances ? They had restored our credit in England, and our bonds were now quoted pn\ } th© Stock Exchange at a satisfactory 'fijuta ; they had effected savings in the public expenditure to the extent of £291,000 a year, while, had the retrenchment'proposals which they originally laid before the House been adopted in their integrity, a saving to an even larger amount would have been effected. No doubt Mr Ballance and his friends have latterly pretended ,an excessive zeal for economy, but what lie wanted to know was I why did they not display the. same zeal.when they were in office? The Ministry,; of which Mr Ballanco was a member, simply pooh-poohed the" idea that any material economies .could be effected. He ,(Mr Purnell) did not stand there to defend the Ministry or to say that he approved of all their actions. ■He dare "say they had made mistakes, but so did their prede - cessors, and' so would their successors. But he did feel that it was of' vital importance to the colony that - its finances should be restored to a sound condition. He felt that the work cf reinstating them was* only half completed, and he would support any Ministry which was able and willing to complete the work. It was quite possible that, after the elections, new political combinations would arise. In that case they would understand that he would support whatever Ministry would carry out his views njjon the financial question. He did nofc care who the men were so long as they did the work. He knew that financial subjects were not interesting, > but ho felt strongly that we could not hope thattwsd© would expand,, industries ' flourish, employment become plentiful,. and wages hierh until we had pulled the Sfcate,chariot out of the financial quagmire in which it had been floundering for so long.' The 620,000 colonists who inhabited New Zealand owed ninety, millions of money, I principally to outside creditors; the 1 annual interest upon this immense sum was the first charge upon' their industry ; and until they could succeed in some way in lightening the oressure of this tremendous burden they could not expect the colony to make rapid prej*ress. They Mere now paying the penalty of past extravagance and riotous living ; but having sown their wild oats and learned wisdom from experience, let tliem manfully redeem the errors of the past, put. their shoulders to the wheel, and start the i colony once more upon the; high road to prosperity. QUESTIONS. ' \ In answer to questions, Mr Purnell said he would favour any. scheme of taxation that would touch the owners of large estates x*. proportion to the mtenfc of these estates. Under existing Uw there were provisions by which thret&inir machine owners could, protect,thouttelros against loss w'^en threshing grain over vuicn there was alien. There was only one colony in which the elective principle was adopted in regw.l to. tin* Upper House,—Victoria ; him! that was the onlycolony in which there, had been a.ctfmliict between . the two Houses.. -The Upper House should be a xprisin*' Chamber, and should represent the matured intellect of the colony. On© defect of the nominated system was that t was impossible to get rj4 of ray
one member until he died or chose to resign, He would not be against an elected Upper House, but the mode of election and the constituences returning the mombors woiild want some thought. He did not sec his iray to support local option without compensation. It "WM.a principle both at Home and in the other colonies that when vested interests were disturbed compensation waagiven. Buthja temperance friends made too much of this compensation. It would only be in large towns that -compensation would represent any important sum. In our uwndißtnct as they all knew, temperance principles had wTrl taken away, the house would still reSain and the 7 whole circumstances of each Sse would have to be considered by the Coition Court, -^S^ was that in country town* and djnete fe/ZwoStw.ve^it£th: £knS:mr e^ c« means been a failure previous to the introduction of the present system. Mr I R. C.C.Graham moved a vote of thanks to Mr Pnrnell ,which Mr Picked seconded, and the vote was passed with *& ftfiS of Mr Pumell a similar compliment was passed to the Chairman, and the meeting broke up.
THE ELECTIONS., Ashburton Guardian, Volume X, Issue 2556, 29 October 1890
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