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The Evening Star TUESDAY, MAY 28, 1889., Issue 7918, 28 May 1889
The Evening Star TUESDAY, MAY 28, 1889.
Two representative Canterbury men have recently addressed their constituents Mr Lance at Sefton, and Mr TintNiuar. at Tiniaru. Perhaps there are not in all the Parliament two men more opposed to each other's views upon almost every conceivable question. Mr Lanck is very plain, practical, and conservative, confining his attention exclusively to the things of to-day. Mr Titbnbull is more or less of a democratic ideologist —shrewd as to the present, but hazily speculative as to the future. The matter most remarkable in the speech of the member for Cheviot is his repudiation of any desire to assume the position of leader of the Opposition—a position tacitly assigned to him last session, not because of any special brilliancy as a Parliamentary orator, but owing to his being considered a "safe" man, never extreme in opinion and always very guarded in his utterances. There are two distinct species of political leaders—strong men, like Gladstone, who enforce adherence to their views and rule the Cabinet ; and cautious men, like Lord John Russell, who subordinate their opinions to the will of their colleagues. Mr Lance may be ranked in the latter category, as Sir Harry Atkinson is classified in the former. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that his idea of a strong Government, "free to act in any direction that is right," is a coalition Ministry. All experience tells us that coalition Ministries, composed of irreconcilable units, have ever been a failure. We need not go farther than New Zealand to understand that. Witness the discordant elements of the last Administration. Now that Mr Fisher is out of the way the present Government certainly cannot be accused of being variously minded. Mr Lance's definition of a "strong Government" cannot therefore be accepted without reservations. One curious revelation made by him was in reference to the Representation Act. He told the Cheviot electors that, upon its being urged that this Act should not come into effect until after the next census had been taken, Sir Harry Atkinson said that if they insisted upon such a course he would look upon it as a motion of want of confidence. So much was known before, but it is the cogent sequel that is surprising. " When the "Premier took up this position, of "course nothing more could be said " about it." Why "of course ?" Mr Lance explained that Sir Harry " knew no one wished to remove him " from office, and he used the power he "thus held to thwart their wishes." This is a most serious and damaging indictment against the Premier, and it reflects not creditably on the members of the House, who are sent there to do the things that are right, irrespective of persons. Some sense of this seems to have occurred to Mr Lance during the recess, which may be termed the reflective period of Parliamentary life, in contradistinction to the active life of the session. For he went on to say: " The adjustment of the quota would " be one of the burning questions to be "fought out next session; and he
A Brnre of Canterbury Members.
" would warn the Premier that, however much the House was predis- " posed in his favor, a stern sense of "justice would impel the members to "have the matter put right." It seems more than probable that the quota question will constitute the greatest tight of next session, and the interests of so many—indeed it may be said, all—of the members are bound up in it that the retention or loss of office by the Ministry will be regarded as of secondary importance. The point of contention, as was fairly stated by Mr Lance, is this:—ln 1887 it was decided that the difference in the number of electors in the town and country electorates should be in favor of the latter by 18 per cent. This was when the number of members was ninety-four; but when the reduction to seventy-four took effect the quota was never altered. "This," he declared, " was an injustice to the '"country electorates. The Premier " promised to give every opportunity " early last session to discuss represen- " tation matters, and especially with "reference to the quota. The ques- " tion was never considered." Here is another charge—of broken promises—against the Premier. Evidently the member for the Cheviot is girding on his armor for the fight, and—judging from the speeches of other country members —there is a very strong determination to enter upon a trial of strength over this question. The issue is doubtful; but the peculiarity of the position is in the circumstance that, whichever way the struggle terminates, the Premier holds the whip hand. If he takes the side of the towns by refusing to alter the quota, and is beaten, as is also probable, he can demand a dissolution and appeal to the country with the quota, as now fixed by the law. The country members, by assenting to the reduction of the number of representatives without insisting on an alteration of the quota, have fallen into a trap from which they will find it difficult to escape. For the rest, Mr Lance is too conservative to agree to the adoption of the Hare system or any modification of it; nor sufficiently democratic to believe in the application of the closure. " What," he asked, " has the " Colony of New Zealand done that it " should be punished by being made " the playground of men with unfortunate fads?" And he deprecates the reduction of members as " the out- " come of an acute, spasmodic attack "of economy." As to the composition of a Ministry other than the present, he affirmed that " there was as good " material in the House at present as "during many years past, when it had " been possible to find more than one "Ministry. The qualifications for a "Ministry nowaday," he went on to caustically observe, "seemed to be " stentorian lungs, a tongue steeped in " venom, and the power to say most "bitter things with, .a calm smile "on the face." It would be interesting to know whether Mr Lance said this with a smile or a scowl on his face. " Such a state of "things as this (he continued) did " not add to the credit of the Colony. " They did not wish to have to listen " to the roaring of bulls or the hissing "of asps in the House." Said we not he was girding on his armor t Everyone will endorse his expression of the opinion that " it is a pity men sent to " represent the country should stoop to " use personal invectives against each " other," and echo his suggestion that the people should let public men know that they considered such action " bad form." We have lieen in the habit of comforting ourselves that we were not as others—that our own Parliament set a bright example to the Parliaments of the Australian colonies, and was even better behaved than that of Westminster ; but Mr Lance thinks there is still room for improvement, as no doubt there is. But unfortunately candidates for Parliamentary honors do not have to pass an examination in gentlemanly behaviour, and some black sheep, who" are not in " good form," creep into the fold. We have devoted so much space to Mr Lance that we must needs postpone our remarks on Mr Turnbull's speech for the present.
The Evening Star TUESDAY, MAY 28, 1889., Issue 7918, 28 May 1889
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