The Auckland Star: WITH WHICH ARE INCORPORATED The Evening News, Morning News and The Echo.
WEDNESDAY. APRIL 7, 1909. GOVERNMENT AND OPPOSITION.
For the cause that lacks assistance. For the wrong that needs resistance, For the future in the distance. And the good that ice can do.
We can hardly imagine that Mr. Massey's speech at Buckland last night was intended as a complete exposition of his party's views: but as it purported to be a reply to Sir Joseph Ward's recent
speech at tie Cpper Hutt. we suppose it must be taken as a serious attempt at criticising , Government and indicating defects in the Liberal policy. And w?
can only say that if this is all that Mr. Massey and his friends can do in the
■way of -working up a case against the Liberals, they are employing thprr
energies to very '.it tie purpose.
course, Mr. Ma3sey and the Opposition generally are in a difficult position when they undertake to explain to the country exactly how and why Sir Joseph Ward and his colleagues are unworthy of the electors- confidence. For they know per fectly well that the country has committed itself irrevocably to Liberalism, and that the verdict of the last election confirms decisively the predominance that Liberalism has so long maintained here There is no possibility of securing sympathy and support in this country fo." any alternative policy: and Mr. Massey and hi- followers, have frankly admitted this by refusing to propose any substitute for the system that they profess to condemn. They are. therefore, reduced to the necessity of criticising the Liberal administration ot the country's affairs, and so convinced avp we of the value of a capable and vigorous Opposition that we regret, for the sake of the country, that Mr. Massey and his supporters have not yet learned to do their work more effectively. Mr Massey began his onslaught upon Government by finding fault with the 'personnel"' of the reconstructed ( abinet. It is not necessary for at this stasre to defend Sir Joseph Ward's selection in detail: but may v\e suggest to .Mr Massey that it would be jisst as well to give Ministers a chance of proving their fitne.-s for the work they have under taken, instead f>f condemning them unheard? It is surely premature for Mr Massey to commit himself to definite statements al>out what Mill happen when the Premier loses control of his colleagm. As to the objection that ih« Ministry is extremely miscellaneous in
composition, and that its members hold a great variety of on important public questions. this is a criticism that would apply to nearly all the Cabinets ever got together. It would certainly apply to the Elective or "se-
lective" Executive, which many members of the Opposition have advocated, professedly to obviate one of the worst
evil* of party government, or to the
Coalition Ministry which other Oppositionists have supported, as a means of securing some of the advantages of poli tical success for their outnumbered and dispirited party. In rpgard to political sentiments, all that can be required of a Ministry is that all its members should hold the same political faith and adhere to the same general principles of legislation and administration. Sir Joseph Ward's Cabinet is certainly Liberal all the way through—and that is. of course, its worst weakness in Mr Massey's eyes; but we can surely afford to wait till we get some evidence from its members of their determination to sacrifice the country to their personal fads and private prejudices, before we endorse Mr Massey's gloomy apprehensions. The only other noteworthy comment, upon the constitution of the Government made by Mr. Massey strikes us as singularly fatuous. •"The excuse for the increase in the number of Ministers,"' he said, "was that there were so many Departments to look after. The Departments were now cut down from :i7 to 16. and the number 02 Ministers should be cut down in proportion." Mr. Massey is. of course, among his own people at Buckland. and this is enough to account for the "laughter and loud applause" that greeted this sapient remark. But ne.itiier thp remark nor the applause seem to us to do much credit to the intelligence of Mr. M&seey or his audi enee. For it is surely obvious that while the Departments have been reduced in number, the country's administrative work has to b<? got through just as before. There is as much as ever there was to do. and now that the administrative heads of several import-ant Departments have retired, and their places are not to be filled. Ministers will necessarily ha\-e more work than ever thrown upon their hands. Criticism of this typhis simply silly; but Mr. Massey is so anxious to say something to discredit the new retrenchment policy that he is not at all particular about the expc-dl ents he employe, As to the Premier's retrenchment s.-heme. Mr. Massey, of course, makes the obvious Opposition comment that to cut down expenses in this way proves that Government must have been very extravagant for a long time past. This is a remark that every
Opposition caa be safely trusted to make whenever a Government recommends ', economy. The Premier has pointed out j that not only have our Departments in- ' creased in numbers with unprecedented rapidity during the past few years, but , the sudden falling off in revenue, due ! largely to reduced taxation, has made I the pruning process an absolute necessity. Everybody knows that this is true, and it is a little hard that Government, when it sees the necessity for ; economising, should be denounced just las fiercely by. the Opposition as for per sistin<r in the course it has hitherto followed. As was only to be expected, Mr. pjassfy did his best to make capital out of the Dreadnought episode. It is. of course, ludicrous to suggest that the
Premier did not make the offer subject
to the consent of Parliament for every-
body knows that t"ie money could never be raised without a parliamentary vote. As to the course that the Premier would adopt if the vote were rejected. Air. Massev is well a ware that respect for constitutional principle and precedent would compel the Ministry to resign. Mr. Massev must know all about the
circumstances that led to the resigna
tion of the last Unionist Ministry and
j its Liberal predecessor, and if a Cabinet iis assailed on a question of defence i policy, it is surely more the fault of 1 the Opposition than of Ministers if a : resignation or a dissolution should fol- ! low. As to the course adopted by the Premier in offering a battleship to England without summoning Parliament or consiilting i;s members, we have already staled our i-onviction that the circum- ! stances of the case fully justified his ; procedure. The immense moral effect that w<? have s->en was produced by the ■ offer would have been entirely lost it ,Mr Joseph Ward had delayed and besi- , iated; and the value of the gift deI pended wholly upon its offer at the I precise moment when public opinion at J Home was wavering in the balance, and our rivals and enemies abroad were j watching with pager curiosity to see i what line England and her dependencies mpant to take. We have no doubt that ; when th< history of this crisis co-nus to , 1"- written in full, ample justice will be 'don" to Sir .Toarph War.]: meantime, he ! ma) b.-> i-cmcM to put up with carping criticism of this narro-.v-minded t\pe. We are glad that Mr. Massev advocates an increased naval subsidy; and we trust ■ t ha- he does not share the extraordinary J news on naval defence set forth yesterday iii T>un"din by his friend and ally I the member for Bruce. Mr. James Allen is very angry with the Premier for dis--1 approving of t.he Australian defence si home, an.l claims that t lie Federal Covernmcnl hns the best export support behind it. As to coastal defence anu harbour works, the Admiralty doubtless appiovcj. of Mr. Fisher's scheme: bul MUViV Mr. .James Allen must aJm:t thai the dficiioo of our spa borne shipping and the maintenance vi the Empire are alikf impracticable unle~~ England's na\:es arc able to meet and overcome ar.v possible enemy. It hs he-cause the Emp.iro must stand or fall with the British fleets that torpedo d?stroyer.s and submarines mu«t fail altogether to meet, the neresMtie- r>f the case; ami Sir Joseph Ward's .>rTer reveals an infinitely wider and deeper in-sijrht into the problems of Imperial statesmanship and strategy than the captious and quibbling criticism oi his political opponents.