THE WILKINSON CASE
New Zealand still awaits the Premier's explanation of hia part, or the Government's part, in the offer of a Legislative Council seat to Mr. Wilkinson, Bay of Islands. Meanwhile, the Hon. H. D. Bell, Leader of the Council, has endeavoured to justify certain conduct which has not yet been clearly presented to the public. The cast of this political drama, staged in the Bay of Islands, is chiefly: — Mr. Vernon Reed, who was returned as a member of the Ward Party in 1911, and joined the Massey Party in 1912; Mr. Wilkinson, who stood against Mr. Reed in 1911 and again in 1914. Mr. Wilkirson was chosen as candidate at a conference of the Reform Party's supporters, but Mr. Reed refused to accept the decision of that meeting. Instead, he strove to induce Mr. Wilkinson to retire, for a "consideration," from the contest, and the scheme recoiled on Mr. Reed. What role had the Government in that ugly political drama ? Mr. Bell's words give only a portion of the answer which the people expect. The Electoral Court's judgment has this passage: — "The contentions of the respondent (Mr. Reed) are that, with respect to the Legislative Council, he merely passed on a message from Mr. Massey — that he was a mere mechanical agent in doing so, and that this offer was not his. We do not think those contentions can be maintained. . . . The object of it, whichever way it was accepted, was to secure the respondent a clear run." Mr. Bell mentions that the Government was obliged to arrange for the appointment of new members to the Legislative Council in order to carry the Reform Bill, and that principles of fairness and loyalty required, the Premier to offer a seat to Mr. Wilkinson. "The intimation," says Mr. Bell, " was given by Mr. Massey to Mr. Wilkinson some two or three months before the session of 1914. It was given at the time when the Government was considering the claims of gentlemen throughout the country to the appointments which the Government was forced to make in order to carry its Bill in the session of 1914. That is the position, and that is what took place. Mr. Wilkinson preferred to stand again for the House of Representatives, and for that reason only he was not amongst those gentlemen who were appointed to the Council at the beginning of the session of 1914." The Post has not yet observed the evidence to prove that principles of fairness and loyalty obliged the Government to attempt the conversion of Mr. Wilkinson into a Legislative Councillor. If he had accepted the " call," the Government would have been deservedly under suspicion that an awkward obstacle had been lifted from Mr. Reed's path. An average reader of the evidence and of the judgment will probably form an opinion that a seat in the Legislative Council was one of the stage properties of the Bay of Islands drama, and that the offer was rather for the advantage of Mr. ( Reed and the Government than of Mr. Wilkinson. At the time when the proposal was put to Mr. Wilkinson it was well known that he intended to be a candidate for the House of Representatives,, and therefore, on present appearances, the Government may lie under an imputation that it was willing to use a Legislative Council seat as a pawn in politics and electioneering. It is for the Government to make answer in defence. Mr. Bell's statement can only be regarded as a preliminary announcement.
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THE WILKINSON CASE, Evening Post, Volume LXXXIX, Issue 119, 21 May 1915
THE WILKINSON CASE Evening Post, Volume LXXXIX, Issue 119, 21 May 1915
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