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POLITICAL STAGE.

PROSPECTS FOR 1931.

TEST OF STATESMANSHIP

PAST YEAR IN REVIEW.

(By DAMOCLES.)

The curtain of 1930 has been rung down on the political drama, and the Parliamentary stage remains in readiness for the presentation of those swiftly-moving* ecenes which will lead up to the assembly of the House and will have their grand finale in A general election. Politically, the twelve months just closed have been momentous, and with the country still in the slough of depression and the shadows of lower prices and less work hovering over industry, 1931 challenges the statesmanship of. those guiding 'the destinies of New Zealand to a degree that has rarely been demanded in the past. What the political future holds in store, the ensuing twelve months alone can.' reveal. Many possibilities might be explained, but only through the uncertain glasses of speculation. The suggestion for an early session of Parliament has not been given official encouragement, and unless the economic position becomes desperate, the House is not likely to assemble before June, up to which month the Government has been granted supply. } A Normal Course? Whether the Government will survive the session or be forced to an early dissolution no one can with confidence predict, although the us.ua! pre-sessional rumours and alarms are to be expected. If the Government's occupancy of the Treasury benches is to be challenged— and doubtless it will be —it should follow that the earliest opportunity will be taken, after members reassemble, of testing the feeling of the House. But events of the past two sessions lend colour to the conjecture that the battle will be one of tactics, with each of the Opposition parties seeking to force the other into the position of being responsible for any defeat of the Government. Masterly manoeuvring would be required to bring.Reform and Labour into the same lobby, and a repetition of last year's alienating no-confidence motions would occasion no surprise. An eruption of the political volcano was promised for last session, but the upheaval did not take place. The experience next session may be similar. Based on the serious position of the country and the need for calm Parliamentary action, the belief held in well-informed circles is that the session will run a normal course and that the general election will take place in the ordinary way. There is nothing certain in politics, however. In 1931, as in the past, it must be a case of 'wait and see." Courageous Revenue Hunt. The outstanding event of last year's political calendar was the death of Rt Hon. Sir Joseph Ward, who 18 months previously had led the United party to the Treasury Benches. Followed the election to the leadership of the Rt. Hon. G. W. Forbes at a caucus, at which minor domestic differences were composed and forces consolidated in a determination to implement further the policy the departed statesman had formulated. Cabinet reconstruction completed, Mr. Forbes marked his assumption of the Prime Ministership by a frank disclosure of the anticipated shortage of £3,000,000" in the country's revenue for the year which will end on March 31 next, and a forecast of tW steps to be taken to balance the national ledger. The subsequent search for additional revenue was undertaken fearlessly, and, as the intimates of the Prime Minister well knew, without consideration of the political consequences. The country's need, and that alone, was the governing factor. Contentious Legislation Passed. The course of action set by Mr. Forbes was made the more difficult by the necessity of New Zealand's representation by ite Prime Minister at the Imperial Conference. When the way was cleared of the party barriers and an assurance given that no want-of confidence motion would be carried in his absence, Mr. Forbes' departure became dependent upon the prior passage of his more contentious legislative proposals. Before lie left for London, the Prime Minister was able to see posted to the Statute Book the laws which he had set out to pass, these including the highly-important Customs and Land and Income Tax Amendments. Progress through the . House of the Unemployment Bill and other policy measures had been sufficiently advanced to enable them to be left, with confidence, in the care of the Hon. E. A. Ransom and his Cabinet colleagues. The Session's Production. The Unemployment Bill, easily the outstanding product of the session, encountered a rougher passage than had been anticipated; the P.- and T. Estimates were the subject of protracted debate; the Legislative , Council, biting off its nose to spite its face, rejected the Defence (Temporary) Amendment Bill; and the Workers' Compensation Amendment Bill was the innocent victim of an unpleasant development. But the session ended with the Government still in office, and New Zealand's main representative at the councils of Empire still its Prime Minister. The result of the session's labours was the passing of 45 Public Acts, 18 Local Acts and 6 Private Acts. There were 40, "slaughtered innocents," including the Defence Bill, the Gaming Amendment Bill, the Workers' Compensation Amendment Bill., and the Auckland Provincial Water Board Bill. The more important of the Acts passed were: Unemployment, Customs, Land and Income Tax, Annual Taxing, Disabled Soldiers' Civil Reestablishment, Land. Laws, Arms,

Coroners, Census Postponement, Nurses and Midwives' Registration, and Rent Restriction. Historic Documents. Prominently linked up with the sessional programme were the reports of the Royal Commission on Railways, the Select Committee on Education, and Professor P. G. Hornell on Arapuni. All, were historic documents in their way. Many of the recommendations for the improvement of the railway system arc now in operation, and those affecting Arapuni'fi restoration are being carried out at the moment. Had the Defence Bill been passed, the drastic change recently made in the land defence system of New Zealand could have been incorporated in the list of outstanding events of the session, but the retrenchment undertaken by the. Government was possible without fresh authority from Parliament. The main object in introducing the measure was to give the House an opportunity of discussing the whole question. The only effect of the defeat of the bill was to prevent the Government from financially assisting voluntary defence camps. Another non-legislative yet decidedly important policy action was the recent Cabinet decision to appoint a special economy committee to overhaul Departmental expenditure and to cease work on the construction of four new railway lines. State of Parties. There were four by-elections during the year, three of them occurring while the session was in progress. The Government lost Parnell to Reform, but retained Invercargill and captured Waipawa, while Reform held Western Maori. From defections, the Independents gained two members, Mr. J. S. Fletcher (Grey Lynn), formerly United, and Mr. W. L. Lysnar (Gisborne), previously Reform. The state of parties at ihe close of the session was as follow : _United 26, Reform 27, Labour 20, Independent 6 3 Country 1.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AS19310107.2.17

Bibliographic details

POLITICAL STAGE., Auckland Star, Volume LXII, Issue 5, 7 January 1931

Word Count
1,143

POLITICAL STAGE. Auckland Star, Volume LXII, Issue 5, 7 January 1931

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