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The Evening Star MONDAY, MAY 20, 1889.

Sir Robert Stout's letter to the

' New Zealand Times' DUingenuouH- challenges comment. It iieHH. has been well said that

nothing is so deceptive as facts except figures, and Sir Robert has furnished another illustration of the axiom. His statements will not bear the test of examination; not that they are absolutely incorrect, but because they are only half-truths. Thus, whilst it is true that tho deficiency in March, 1887, was only £92,293 of " ordinary revenue," plus £54,263 of land revenue (in all £146,556), it is also true that it was considerably more when his Government quitted office in the following September. In his Financial Statement of that year, Sir Julius Vogel anticipated a surplus of £84,880, "the proposed expenditure "being £4,071,304, and the revenue "(inclusive of additional taxation) " £4,156,184." But when Sir Harry Atkinson examined the financial position six months later, he found that, " adding to the original estimates the " cost of additional services for which "no provision had been made, the " probable expenditure (for the year) « would amount to £4,118,395." That the revenue would fall below the estimate was foreseen by Sir Julius Vogel himself, and the actual deficiency in March, 1888, was £382,047. If to this is added the deficiency admittedly existing in the previous March, as quoted above, we have the total of £528,603. That is the final outcome of the year's transactions. Sir Robert asserts that for result his Government are not responsible. Even taking the measure of .exact time, the responsibility for £146,556, and for ihalf the remaining deficiency, restjs on their shoulders. But the argujpS)Le#t s{\t .their successors are

extravagance could not be instantaneously checked. At the most it could only be mitigated, as in fact it was, or the deficiency would have been greater. The blame therefore rests on those by whom an expenditure out of all proportion to the revenue was initiated and carried on, and not on the Ministry which succeeded to the control of a depleted Treasury and an unwieldy public service. But Sir Robert Stout alleges that if their " policy of economy and fresh " taxation had been carried out there "would have been no deficit." As to the first, the economy proposed was of a somewhat minute character. In two branches of the Civil Service there was a reduction of £15,000 ; in another an increase of £7,500; in six other branches reductions to the extent of £44,850 were "proposed." Salaries were to be reduced by the sum of £20,000, and the subsidies to local bodies by £40,000. There were vague suggestions of other " economies "; but nothing came of them. But there was a very tangible proposal for extra taxation, which the House rejected, believing that by the exercise of due and proper economy such taxation would be unnecessary. It is nothing to the purpose that a new House took a different view of the situation. The " roar for economy " was absolutely blended with a howl for fresh taxation of a certain kind. But above all, there was a demand that the Stout- Vogel Ministry should no longer rule the country. They had been tried and found wanting; and had forfeited, because they had abused, the confidence of the electors ; and nothing tended so much to bring them into evil repute as the fact that they had allowed the Colony to drift into debt and difficulty, so that it had lost credit and prestige in the money markets of the world. The deficiency which first grew into existence under their regime, was allowed to become larger year by year till it had assumed formidable proportions ; and men saw no hope of alleviation save in a radical change of rulers. It was not £92,000 or any other particular sum that frightened them, but the general mismanagement of public affairs that shocked them. The question now raised by Sir Robert Stout as to the exact number of pounds for which they should be held responsible is overshadowed by the magnitude of the injuries inflicted on the Colony at Homo and abroad by their sliiftlessness and extravagance; by the Premier's landnationalisation follies, and the wild borrowing proposals of the Colonial Treasurer. If the pruning knife has been unsparingly applied by the present Government, it has been rendered necessary by the rank growth of expenditure sanctioned by their predecessors. If taxation not of a desirable character has been imposed, it has been because means to recoup former deficiencies had to be devised. And if we have at last worked round the corner, so that there is a small but welcome surplus on the past years transactions, it is to the prudence and firmness of the present Government that credit is due. It is worse than useless—it is frivolous—to ring the changes on "economy" and parsimony." Strictly speaking, the meaning of parsimony is "saving" or "keeping"; and New Zealand wants all the saving and keeping it is possible to have. The proposed economies of Sir Robert Stout's Government would have amounted to about £72,000 had they all been carried into effect—which they were not. We do not count the £40,000 withheld from local bodies as an economy, because in practice it would only involve additional demands on the public purse. It will soon be shown what the parsimonies of the Atkinson Government have resulted in. Primarily Sir Robert blames the Young New Zealand party. We have not space nor time to go into the merits of the twelve cardinal sins of this party as enumerated by him in his letter. The first three items the reduction in the number of members and of the honorarium and Ministerial salarieswere demanded by the electors, and if their operation is injurious a reaction will set in against them. Those relating to the occupancy and tenure of land are viewed with favor by the bulk of our people ; and the handing over of the State railways to an "irresponsible" Board was first suggested by the Government of which he was Premier. In 1885 the Governor's Speech contained this paragraph : —"You will be asked to consider " whether the effective working of the " railways opened for traffic could not "be improved by the constitution "of Boards of Commissioners, to " whom would be entrusted the general "management of the railways. In "order to enable you to deal with " this subject my Ministers will submit " a Bill for your consideration." Such a Bill was actually brought in by Mr E. Richardson, Minister for Public Works, and read a first time. There the matter ended. It is clear, however, that the measuro is not due to what Sir Robert Stout is pleased to term " the new Conservative reaction," since it only carries out the intention of himself and his colleagues. It is not easy to understand why Sir Robert indulges in these querulous complaints. He has intimated that he does not seek to re - enter public life. What purpose, then, does he propose to serve by this outcry about parsimony? The word is harmless enough in itself, but its reiteration is apt to set people reflecting on certain items of expenditure indulged in by the Stout-Vogel Government —such as travelling expenses and costly furniture for the Ministerial residences, which certainly were not parsimonies, and cannot be classed as economies. If his " No" means " Yes," and he intends to make a fight of it, let him come out into the ' political arena boldly. Nothing is to be gained by sitting in a corner and writing letters apropos of nothing to the newspapers.

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The Evening Star MONDAY, MAY 20, 1889., Issue 7911, 20 May 1889

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The Evening Star MONDAY, MAY 20, 1889. Issue 7911, 20 May 1889

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