ADDRESS AT IRWELL,
NOT BOUND BY COALITION.
Mr A. A. McLachlan, Independent Coalitionist, addressed a meeting of electors in the Irwell School on Friday evening in support of his candidature for the Riccarton seat. Mr A. Baylis presided. "Apart from the claims of certain sitting members that they should go
on sitting, the issue is fairly clear," Mr McLachlan said. "You have practically to select between two people, both more or less following the one horse. Both are in favour of a strong National Government, one a little partial to one leader and one to the pther^ and both more or less independent. Useyour own individual judgment and conscience, and decide which of the three candidates is likely to serve the district with, the most energy and devotion to duty, and disregard this Pact as far as you can. I know some will feel that they have a hounden duty to observe it, but if you look at it as I do, from the democratic point of view r you will say that this is your issue, and they have no earthly right to tell you whom you must select."
ARBITRATION COURT. A; On the subject of the Arbitration Bpourt, Mr McLachlan said he would vlretain a .system of arbitration calcu--1 lated to prevent strikes and lock- , outs but the rigid wage system would have to go. Any person who had delved into economics would know that one of the major causes of unemployment in this country, with its seasonal occupations, was its lack of permanent industrial enterprise and more plasticity in its wages was needed. He would abolish the idea of the Court as a wages board which did nothing ■ more than keep pushing up wages, and which found itself surrounded with an army of trade union secretaries advocating preference to unionists, and th« limitation of apprentices. ,
LAND TAX. Regarding the land tax, Mr McLachlan said that the farmers would naturally welcome its abolition, but possibly those who remembered the circumstances of applying land tax would hold that there was a grave reason for imposing it. In the early part of the Reform period of office, there had been two costly Commissions, which had recommended the immediate abolition of the land ta& Mr Massey, who knew the feeling of the country, and particularly of the
farmers, would have abolished the land tax if it had been feasible to do so. Land tax had been applied in the early nineties to get back some little part of the unearned increment from blocks of land which had expensive public works placed near them, and it had been a fair and logical method of getting a little of that increment. He would not say that super-tax or steeply graded tax was an ideal form, and generally, land tax was not so equitable as income tax. The less the taxation system was tinkered with, the better.
The Government should work gradually to abolish a number of taxes, beginning with the customs tax. That was not a popular thing to say, as customs tax was an insidious business which people did not realise they were paying. After the cutsoms tax, the Government should tackle the graduated tax, and ultimately, if the cost of Government could be brought down to a quarter, it should seriously go into the question of abolishing the land tax which remained. Just as it was unfair to abolish wheat duties, so it was by the same token very inexpedient, simply because there was a depression this year, to abolish land tax in its entirety. We were inclined in Canterbury to think that such a move would benefit the farmer. It would not. If the Government were to remit £40 or £50 of land tax, they would have to pay for it in some other way. The big farmers in the North would have ten times that amount to remit.
GOVERNMENT EXPENDITURE. During the Reform period of office, some £26 million had been spent on railways and public works, the bulk of it in the North Island and much of it in Auckland. The amount of justifiable expenditure would not have been more than £3 or £4 million. That had had to be paid for from taxation, and might have to be paid for again if prosperity resumed. On the question of railway expenditure, there was the salary of the general manager, as well as superannuation. Mr Sterling would be 54 when*his contract terminated, and assuming that he lived to the age of 70, he would collect £32,000 in superannuation alone, quite apart from his ser-
vices. These things led to the conclusion that, no matter what Government was in power, if it was perpared to spend and splash in that way, thej sooner the idea of Party Government was abolished the better. They would be told by the Coalition Party that it had gone—that it had been tried and found wanting. Then they would be asked to support the Party only, and disregard any Independent.
DERATING. The derating movement was rather a wonderful scheme, but it would have been welcomed more if it had come earlier. There was a grave anomaly in the scheme. It was quite right that farm lands should be derated, but residences on the Cashmere Hills and other places that happened to be in counties were to benefit too. Something "was wanting in the minds of the legislators when they did not come out in the open and decide on farm lands being derated, and urban lands not being derated. A revaluation was urgently needed, and a big reduction in rates and charges of every description. In the matter of free eudcation, because one did not have as much aa one might, the whole institution or free education should not be condemned at this stage. Rather they should see that in this, as in other things, they received value for the1 money.
SECONDARY INDUSTRIES. A lot of capital was being made out iof assisting the languishing secondary industries. There was talk of protection and bounties, but the position could be rendered very simple by abolishing the customs duties on imported raw materials. He advised the electors not to believe half of what they read of political promises to set up wonderful secondary industries. "There is only one solution of this country's problems," the candidate said, "and that lies with you people and with the key industries which are j more or less bound hand and foot! with your own. Mere increase of production is not going to save the country or solve unemployment. We
must have a complete change and a big increase in the total flow of goods jand services. We must have the question of international trade considered by experts. But above all | things, we must have the cost of administering this country reduced to about a quarter."
If we could have a vigorous and sensible land settlement policy, if we could get the people to see the advantages of some more or less Free Trade policy again—and from the farming point of view Free Trade was still the great ideal— if we could get the correct attitude towards unemployment and particularly the relief of it, if we could get the cost of running the country lowered, then there was a chance that unemployed men would be absorbed into the proper channels of industry. Some of the early Government unemployment schemes, such as the clearing or gorse from farms, should never have been dropped, but should have been enlarged upon.
READJUSTMENT OF PARLIAMENT. As one means of effecting economy, Mr McLachlan said he would have the Upper House cut right out, and in its place have a dozen men elected, all experts in their line, whose function it would be to do the work at present done by Boards and Commissions, as well as the work of the Upper House.
This would not only mean a saving in salaries, but also in thousands of pounds a year that went in Boards and Commissions. In addition, it would eliminate the vote-catching business of granting political favours that cost thousands of pounds. To have the Upper House elected on merit wquld be more democratic than the present method of nomination. The real solution of the country's recovery lay in halving out-of-pocket expenses of politicians, and reducing the cost of general administration to a quarter. This was a better proposition, he contended, than giving the farmers fertilisers or a remission of £10 on land tax.
TAXATION IN PROSPERITY. He disagreed with the Coalition manifesto that when conditions improved, the burden of taxation would be greatly reduced. It was when things were bad that they wanted the burden of taxation reduced, and when they were smiling again, they could afford a certain amount of taxation. "Let us not get a Government in power that will wipe out all taxation when things are prosperous. Let us have a Government that has the courage and strength and knowledge to extract as much as it conveniently can in taxation and keep it in reserve, earning interest, against the evil day when the trade cycle will be on its downward turn," This had been one of the cardinal points of the late Sir Joseph Ward's financial policy.
Asked how he would finance the country in such times as the present if he did not impose a heavy taxation in times of adversity, Mr McLachlan replied that what he had stated was his ideal of a general fiscal policy. He was assuming a new era of prosperity, when reserves could be put by, instead of arriving, as we had now, upon a period of depression, with all the funds and surpluses depleted. In reply to another question, Mr McLachlan said he was in favour of again imposing a duty on barley and other foodstuffs, at least unless some other satisfactory reciprocal arrangement could be made.
In moving a vote of thanks to the candidate, Mr John Heslop said that there had been complaint against Mr McLachlan's standing when the powers that be had decided that he should not enter the contest, but he was justified in exercising his freedom of thought. If beaten this year, he advised him to keep up heart, and the electorate would do him credit at the following election. The vote was seconded by Mr Barnett and carried by acclamation. "Stay and give my friend the enemy the same courteous hearing you have given me," were Mr McLachlan's parting words.
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RICCARTON SEAT, Ellesmere Guardian, Volume LII, Issue 94, 24 November 1931
RICCARTON SEAT Ellesmere Guardian, Volume LII, Issue 94, 24 November 1931
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