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THE GENERAL ELECTION.

■— MR J. ROBERTSON AT RICCARTON.

Mr J. Robertson, ex-member for Otaki, and the candidate for the Riccarton seat in the interests of the Labour Party, addressed a well-attend-ed meeting in the Oddfellows' Hall, Upper Riccarton, last night, this being the opening of his election campaign in the district. Sir Manhire was voted to the chair. Mr Robertson expressed his pleasure at being in the Kiccarton electorate that night as the choice of the Labour Party tor the forthcoming election. He did not, he said, come beiore tiiein entirely of his own volition, but as one of the chosen champions of the Party, but for all that he did not wish them to imagine that he had not a deep personal interest in the platform ntl cause of the Labour Party. The Party stood for the people who did the labour cf the oountryj the Reform and Liberal Parties stood rather for those who represented the wealth of the country, and it was obvious that there was an urgent need for such a party as the one lie represented. In the old days the Liberals, under Ballance and Seddon, aid good work for the people, but gradually the old Liberal Party fell away from the old ideals, the decay starting probably about 1909, when the Liberal Party broke down badly over its land legislation. The Liberals steadily declined, and forward came the Maasey Party, with its slogan of "the freehold,"' and its promise to bring to light and reform tho bad administration of the Liberals. The freehold promise was the biggest bribe ever offered to the electors, and the awaited reforms were more or less non-existent. The Coalition Government they had fresh in their minds, and this amalgamation was probably worse than any of the party Governments which had preceded it. Aftfer quoting at some length the "New Zealand Times" criticism in 1915 of the Liberal Party's actions in combination with the Reformers, Mr Robertson said even Mr G. Witty had said the Liberal Party was "as dead as Julius Cajsar." "I," said Mr Robertson, "like Marc Antony, have come to bury Ctesar, and not to praise him." Tho old parties failed because they did not have the vision to recognise the new spirit of the times. He and his supporters felt ithat the Labour _ Party alone could realise this new spirit, and it was for this reason that he earnestly I asked for his hearers' support. It had been said that the extremes of poverty and wealth did not exist in New Zealand, but the Labour Party maintained that the conditions which could give rise to extremes of poverty and wealth did exist, and during the war period there had- undoubtedly been a tendency for' a section of the community to become richer and another to become poorer. Mr Robertson quoted figures from the Government Statistician's reports, which showed how the wealth of the country was gradually becoming grasped Ijy the few, while the many were becoming poorer. The fact was that the gulf between wealth and poverty was rapidly growing greater in New Zealand, and we were developing a condition which very closely resembled those in the older countries. Surely, if this was the case, as he asserted it was, it showed that the destinies of the country were not being properly guided. With all the fertility and natural resources in the Dominion, such things like this should not be. The land question, said Mr Robertson, was closely associated with all labour problems. The present position, as re- j garded the land, must be taken as emi- \ nently unsatisfactory. Particularly since the Massey party came into oitico ttley had had a free trade in laud, and to-day the thing had become such a scandal that tnere was an outcry lor remedies. The ownership of the land

by the man who tilled it was a much more nominal tiling at tiie present day than most people realised, and they were not far from the day wiien tne land would be worked by a large number of mortgage-ridden toilers. Land aggregation was a growing evil, and statistics showed clearly tuat this was so, for though the area of occupied land was increasing, the actual number of occupiers was decreasing. rae Had extracted the figures relating to the question of land. aggregation in the Wellington province, and had also data wluch showed that, though. a large area of land had been brought into occupation in Canterbury, the actual area under cultivation was rather less t.n.m was

the case some few years ago. The Government proposed to bring in legislation which would stop aggregation, hut he had little faith in such measures, for legislation had been provided lor a similar purpose before, but, so far as he knew, its provisions had never been brought into force. The only way to stop aggregation was to stop tiie dealing in land as a chattel, and the Labour Party, therefore, proposed a land tenure based on occupancy and use. When a man ceased to use his land properly it would revert to the State, the occupier being reimbursed for the full value of the improvements he had put on the land.

Speaking of labour problems, Mr Robertson said it was quite plain that to-day the whole wage system was on its trial. There was a fight to-day for status; labour could no longer be classed as mere bricks and mortar, and the workers were demanding that they should be regarded as men and women, and not so much labour power to be used or dispensed with at the whim of some other class. Labour had been accused of wishing to Take things by force, but the fact that he was before th em that evening, and that the Labour Party was in being, was proof positive that Labour was out for obtaining the needed reforms by strictly constitutional notion. He was appealing then, acM all the Labour Party would, appeal for assistance in constitutional methods and on constitutional lines, but if this was refused absolutely, then there might be the danger of strife and violence bursting forth. A yoice: It was. the other side used the violence. What about the batons? "I agree with you," said Mr Robert- ! son ' "You always find that the established party is the first to uso violence." Referring to education, Mr Robertson said they had got to have better accommodation and provision made both for children and teachers, and the facilities for the secondary education of the children of poor people should be widened and made more democratic. The gradual but sure growth of the private schools was, in, his opinion, a proof that the St a to schools were falling hack in efficiency and accommodation, and such a state of affairs would have to be remedied. After deploring the fact that the aims and ideals of the Labour Party wero often woefully misrepresented tin the capitalistic Press, the candidate said that his side stood for the human element as oppnsed to material wealth. • If the production of material wealth was not goinrr to better the condition of the mass, of 'the people, then it was more or less a waste of time to produ?e it. The national life depended on the proper supply of the necessaries of life, and yet this was left to private enterprise, though no one would leave such a thing national defence to private enterprise, and the former was certainly as important as the latter. There was no I doubt that the outlook on modern j affairs was changing; ho had only to ' quote the sermons by Christchurcii; clergymen last Sunday— A Voice: Just dope! Mr Robertson said they might question the sincerity of the speakers, but they had to admit that their sermons showed that there was a -wide" change

in outlook. If the Church was of the same mind as Labour, Laibour should take all the help it could get. In concluding, the speaker said that he knew Mr Witty, ana had a high regard for him personally, but they must all remember that he (Mr Witty), in supporting the Liberals, was bound in many -nays when the party whip cracked.

At question time a garrulous gentleman at the back caused' some amuseI ment* by pathetically asking: "How are I vou going to .put Sir Joseph Ward out? How are you going to put Jimmy Allen out?" Mr Robertson, in reply to the first part of the question, salid he would leave it to the people to put Sir Joseph Ward out. Replying to other questions, tho candidate said Labour members would not be ibound to the same extent as other party members by the party whip, though he did not think che party system in some form could be aboil:shod. He was in favour of t-lie nationalisation of the coal mines, with proper provision for the representation of the miners' interests. He believed that all transnort should be owned and controlled Jin the interests of the people, cither nationally or internationally. A State bank was on the labour Party's platform, and so it was on Sir Joseph Ward's platform, though he had a vivid recollection of Sir Joseph ridiculing the whole idea. His own personal attitude on the liquor question was in favour of prohib'tion ; the party's was that the question should' be decided by the people on a referendum. It was quite true that he had been absent from Parliament when a rather important vote was taken on the licensing question. The whole circumstances had been thoroughly investigated by the New Zealand Allrinnce, and he had been exonerated from all blame in the matter.

A vote of thanks and confidcnoo in Mr Robertson was moved, and an amendment: "That this meeting thanks Mr Robertson for his address, but has every confidence in its present member." The chairman declared the motion carried by an overwhelming majority.

WAKATIPU SEAT,

Mr H. Macgilivray, Assistant Fields Inspector, Department of Agriculture, Christchurch, has definitely decided not to stand for the Wakatipu seat, although he received many promises of support. Mr W. H. Bodkin, solicitor, of Alexandra, will be the Liberal candidate for the seat. DTTNEBIN NORTH AND CHALMERS SEATS. (special to "the press.") DUNEDIN, October 28. The Dunedin North seat will furnish a straight-out fight between Mr A. Walker, M.P. (Labour) and Mr E. Kolletb (Independent Labour). It is reported that Lieutenant-Colonel Colquhoun, D.iS.O.. has been selected to contcst the Chalmers seat in the Liberal interests. '

Mr J. M. Coradine, ex-Mayor, whd had intimated his intention of contesting the Mastertpn seat in the Liberal jnterests, has now announced that, acting on medical advico, he has decided not to become a candidate on the present occnsion.

Mr W: P. Power, president of the Inangahua Miners' Union, has been selected as the Labour candidate for the Mntueka seat.

Th 9 Prime Minister stated in the Houso yesterday that he would consult the Chief E'er'toral Officer with regard to enab'.ing keepers of lighthouses to record their votes at the general election.

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Bibliographic details

THE GENERAL ELECTION., Press, Volume LV, Issue 16666, 29 October 1919

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1,844

THE GENERAL ELECTION. Press, Volume LV, Issue 16666, 29 October 1919

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