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The Evening Star FRIDAY, MAY 31, 1889., Issue 7921, 31 May 1889
The Evening Star FRIDAY, MAY 31, 1889.
Mr Valentine is a representative man, not only in the ParMr Valentine Kamentary sense, but also at Gore. j n the public sense of the phrase. He is the champion of the great and growing agricultural interest, and as such his utterances are worthy of note. Recently he addressed his constituents at Gore, of which he truly says “ there are not many more “important districts in the Colony “ from a farming point of view.” It was from this point of view that he urged the formation of a “ farmers’ league.” “ Nearly every trade had its Union,” he said, “ and was able to “ protect its interests ; why should not “ the farmers have a league for their “own protection? . . . Ever since he “ came to the country he had observed “ that the apathy among the farmers in “ regard to their own interests was “simply appalling. The day would “ come whpn they would rue it.” The farmers of New Zealand are neither better nor worse in this respect than their neighbors. The agricultural mind is the very last to be stirred into action, even when their own interests are at stake. It is characteristic of the rural life. They live apart, in a state of semi-isolation, unlike) the
toilers of the city ; consequently intercjlangc of thought is infrequent. Mr Valentine instances a case in point: “ The settlers of Victoria had suf- “ fered through failing to organise for “ their own protection against the “ manufacturers, who had simply used “ them for facilitating the passage of “ measures beneficial to themselves in “ the shape of protective tariffs, which “have proved so disastrous to the “ farming Community. A bait of “better times, higher prices for pro“duce, etc., was held out, all of which “ have proved a delusion and a snare “to the agriculturists. These are “ now obliged to appeal to the Govern- “ ment for help in their straitened “circumstances.” This is all very true, and there is no reason why the farmers should not unite for their own protection against Protectionists’ fads, by the ascendancy of which they are bound to be losers under any circumstances. Land Boards are Mr Valentine’s special aversion, but he rather unfairly charges the Boards with sins of legislation, of which the Commissioners are merely the executive medium. They cannot exercise powers which the law does not vest in them; and therefore they cannot reduce the price of land, taken up, as he says, when “ boom prices ” prevailed. “ Tis not in the law ”; and therefore they can only accept surrenders of laud and offer it again for sale at a lower price. This is a foolish, roundabout method, entailing expense on the country in various ways, such as revaluing, advertising, and other costly processes at the public cost; but it is at least questionable whether more direct power vested in the Commissioners to reduce rentals might not lead to greater abuses. However, these considerations incline Mr Valentine to support the Pair Rent Bill, which provides machinery for the revaluation of State lands held under the perpetual lease or deferred-payment systems. This Bill was first introduced by Sir George Grey, and afterwards adopted by the Government, but never seriously put to the House ; and in the shape in which it has been presented does not commend itself to the judgment, because it has the inherent defect pointed out by Mr Valentine of “ unsettling the settlers’ minds as “to their true position in regard to “ the land ” by legislating for its revaluation at stated periods. In the course of his remarks Mr Valentine hinted that a struggle was possible in the near future between town and country, J.t is to be feared that his vaticination is correct. Mr Valentine himself gives indications of a growing feeling in that direction. Thus he disapproves of a subsidy being granted to what he is pleased to term the “ Dunedin Exhibition,” for the reason that it is “ a commercial venture.” This is surely a strange rending of the business. The New Zealand Exhibition is a commercial venture to this extent only—that instead of asking the Government to provide an Exhibition entirely at the public expense, as at Wellington, the people of Dunedin and elsewhere patriotically put their hands in their pockets to raise the greater part of the necessary money, standing the risk of losing it all. But the rural view of it may bo gathered from the question that elicited the remark. He was asked if he approved of the subsidy “ whilst burdens increase, and a surplus “is only shown by greatly increased “taxation, while aid to road-making “ diminishes and rapidly approaches “ the vanishing point, local bodies “ resources meanwhile being largely “appropriated to the support of ‘ hospitals and paupers T One very excellent shrewd answer he gave to a question respecting a traffic bridge over the Mataura between the two townships that frown upon each other from cither bank of the river. He answered that the people had only to tax themselves to get it; and if it was true, as stated, that the bridge would enhance the value of property by 20 per cent., they should not hesitate in having the bridge built. This advice is conceived in the proper vein. The people must be weaned from making everlasting appeals to the milch cow of the Government for every want they conceive, and taught to rely upon themselves.
In respect to the appointment of the Railway Commissioners, he charges the Government with having broken faith with the Parliament, to which the Premier promised that the services of the best man obtainable in England should be secured; and expressed a very strong opinion, with which most men will concur, that such a man could have been obtained if the Government had been sincere. With regard to the Minister of Lands, whilst admitting his ability in that capacity, he reminds him that he is also Minister of Mines, and desires that the two offices should be separated, and that a Bureau of Agriculture should be attached to the Lands Office.
Whether we agree with Mr Valentine or not, it is certain that he fairly expresses the views of those whom he represents.
The Evening Star FRIDAY, MAY 31, 1889., Issue 7921, 31 May 1889
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