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FINANCING THE GIFT., Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 80, 3 April 1909
FINANCING THE GIFT.
" BY OURSELVES IN OUR TIME." CONSTITUTIONAL POSITION. (By Telegraph.—Special to "Star.") UPPER HUTT, Friday. The Dreadnought offer from New Zealand and the future defences of the Dominion were the subject of; an exceedingly important statement by the Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Ward) in his Sspeech this evening. At the time of the crisis, said Sir Joseph, the Government offered to the Old Country, to which we were all devoted, a gift of the cost of a .battleship, or, should circumstances require it, a second one. (Loud applause.) Some of the Government's critics had evinced absurdly erroneous ideas as to the constitutional position of the New Zealand Government in connection with the offer that had been made. The Executive and the Cabinet were €he agents of Parliament in the recess, and, constitutionally, what they did as agents of Parliament during recess required to be Parliament when it assembled. If Parliament did not ratify the Government's action, it was perfectly clear what' the (course of the Government would be. It would either resign, or take another course open to them: that of appealing to the people of the country. Every member of the Administration, -when dealing with this important matter, did so with his eyes open, recognising what was his personal position. FACING THE POSITION. "Wβ faced that position without a moment's hesitation," declared the Prime Minister, "believing it was the right thing for this country to do, and, as a matter of fact, I believe that when Parliament meets you will find a large majority of the people's representatives as loyal and as strong to help the Motherland in what is recognised by everybody watching the course of events to have been an important crisis in its histpry." (Loud cheers.) The suggestion had been made, continued Sir Joseph, that the Government should have done what was done during the South African War, by consulting members of Parliament by telegram. The circumstances were entirely different. In the former case it involved sending out to do battle in another portion ori the Empire of a number of human lives, and no Government would accept the responsibility of dispatching large numbers of men to fight upon a British battlefield abroad without first obtaining the concurrence of members of Parliament, because the withholding of ratification after such an event could not possibly stop a loss of life, and, therefore, it was the clear duty of the Ad-' ministration to ascertain what was the opinion of members of Parliament before committing a number of human lives to people outside the country. SHOULDERING RESPONSIBILITY. The offer of a battleship was an entirely different matter. Parliament ■would be asked to ratify this, and he was proud to say that from one end of the country to the other there were evidences that the large majority, if, not all, of the people of New Zealand were in favour ol maintaining the power and prestige of the oountry to ■which we belong. (Applause.) The speech of Sir Edward Grey in the Houso of Commons a few <3aye »go ehowed that tin Germans Trould have 3* Dreadnoughts And. possess
the most" powerful navy" in the world, and to meet the national peril England must rebuild*her navy. .In these distant parts of the Empire, were we going "to say that because of the opposition 'of a section of the community, however well intentioned, we did not have the courage to follow what was quite a constitutional course. They would find in the history of England instances where the Government under similar circumstances, without shouldering the responsibility upon members of Parliament by sending telegrams, did what was required, and let Parliament ratify it later. PAYING FOR THE BATTLESHIP. The Government accepted the responsibility, and when Parliament met proposals would be submitted providing for the repayment of principal, sinking fund, and interest on the money proposed to be borrowed, not by the generation and generations to follow, but to be paid by ourselves in our own time. (Loud applause.) They -would do so without trtenching upon any of the present sources which -were contributing to the consolidated revenue. They could earmark the loan and the revenue specially to meet the repayment of principal, interest, and sinking fund, and if they carried out a course such as that he was certain Parliament itseif would ratify and confirm, as loyal Britishers in this portion of the Empire, that which had been done for the preservation not of England alone, but of the whole Empire. NOT A PARTY MATTER. There was no such thing as party in this matter, and he Eegretted that this element had been introduced in the Old Country. We had not made our offer in the interests of preference between the Mother Country and its outlying lands. We had not made it for commercial reasons, but to make stronger, to make greater, and to make still more impregnable the power of the British Empire upon the seas, that which was so essential the interests of every portion of the Empire. (Loud applause.) What were we getting in return for what we had offered? We were getting the protection and support of the whole British navy. (Hear, hear.) Wherever the arbitrament of nations had to be settled at the cannon's mouth, it would not be on the shores of New Zealand, Australia, or Canada. WHERE OUR PROTECTION LIES. If New Zealand were to embark upon anything in the shape of a local navy, if we were foolieh enough from the standpoint we occupied to go for anything in the shape of submarines or destroyers without an auxiliary of a fleet (the financial strain of which we could not stand), of what assistance would it be in the time of a crisis to the Old Land? "Our course is clear," continued the Prime Minister, "for the protection of our country's 'interests lies far away from our shoTes. The protection of our sea-borne commerce js the British navy, and if we realise that it is to the British navy that we have to look for protection, then our clear duty is to cooperate with our internal forces so as to be of assistance by protecting ourselves." (Cheers.) The Prime "Minister pointed out that any of the great battleships could lie off our principal ports seven miles away and shell the city, and to urge that we should co-operate with the Australian Continent in having an inadequate system of submarines and destroyers, with the knowledge of what was going on in the scientific development of battleships, was next door to childish. (Loud applause.) There was no use in times such as these, said Sir Joseph in conclusion, of people calling member of the Administration names or imputing motives. The Government had no motive of any sort except one, and that was the recognition of the enormous responsibility upon their shoulders of doing what they believed to be right to maintain unsullied in the interest of generations to follow a country peopled by a white race proud to belong to the Old Land, and a country that was proud to live under the British flag. (Loud and continued cheering.)
FINANCING THE GIFT., Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 80, 3 April 1909
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