Ashburton Guardian Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. FRIDAY, JULY 14, 1905. THE FARMERS' UNION.
The importance of such a combination as the Farmers' Union to this colony's producers can hardly be rated too highly, though it is doubtful if the great mass of the agriculturalists of New Zealand adequately recognise the necessity of according it their bearty support. Thiß subject is one to which frequent reference bas been made recently, especially in Canterbury, the speech delivered by Mr G. W. Leadley at Bangiora a little while back, being an instance in point. This i 3 the age of unions and combinations in every line of life, and where other classes have combined to protect and further their own interests, i it ia necessary for the producing classes of the colony to do the same if they do not wish to be left behind in the raep. The benefits that farmers have received from similar organisations in other oountries, are well enough known, and there is just as much necessity for these bodies in New Zealand as there is anywhere else. The question over which the supporters and opponents of the Farmers' Union take opposite sides is whether or not that union is a political body, and whether or not it was called into existence for political purposes. A great deal has been written on this subject, and strong opinions are held regarding the activities of the body under discussion. The position of the Farmers' Union was very ably put by Mr John Studholme in a letter addressed to Sir Joseph Ward, which we published near tbe end of last year. We consider that the arguments adduced by Mr Studholme are particularly weighty ones. Every man that has a stake in the country must inevitably take a keen interest in politics, and in the same way every association composed of men that have a stake in the country is bound to watch the trend of the politics of the day more or less closely. Since so much of the legislation of the present Government has a direct tearing on the interests of farmers and landowners of the colony, an associationcomposed of these would be stultifying itself and the purposes for which it was called into existenoe, if it did not devote a substantial amount of attention to watching and criticising the policy of the reigning administration. Every other section of the community claims, and is granted without murmur the privilege of emphasising its rights whenever any measure seems likely to affect those rights detrimentally, and all the Farmers' Union claims is the privilege to do likewise. The opponents of the Farmers' Union have made a good deal of capital out of the cry that this body was brought into existence by the Conservative party with the object of ousting the present Government. Tbere is, we believe, no foundation for this charge. While the leaders of the Farmers' Union claim that they are justly entitled to make public their views on the politics of the day, they draw a sharp distinction between politics and party politics, and they hare declared their intention of taking no part ia mere party politics. The party politician ia the man who supports or opposes a measure merely for the reason that it is introduced by some particular party. He puts on one side all considerations as to whether the measure in question is an expedient and just one from the point of view of the general welfare of the colony, and bases hi 3 support or opposition solely on his unvarying attitude towards the party who introduce the measure. The Farmers' Union claim that they take no part in this kind of political activity, and that their attitude towards any measure ia dictated purely by a consideration of how it will affect the interests of that important section of the colony constituted by the primary producers. As we have stated before, we consider that the Union are claiming no more credit for impartiality and non-party activity than they are entitled to. In the letter which Mr John Studholme addressed to Sir Joseph Ward lust year he pointed out that to take up an attitude of opposition to the reigning Government would be an unwise polioy for any association to adopt, Boeing that it is only from the Government that happens to be in power that the association has any chance of getting what it asks for. Clearly no Government would be likely to grant much to a body of men who put themselves in an attitude of siruightout and uncompromising opposition to their policy. Prudence alone would, therefore, make it inadvisable for the Farmers' KJnion to work against the Government, and the policy which the Annual Conference has just decided on with regard to supporting or opposing candidates at the next election is, we think, sufficient evidence of the non-party trend of their activities.