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PRE-SESSIONAL., Issue 7923, 3 June 1889
THE DEFENCE MINISTER AT QUEENSTOWN. The Hon. the Defence Minister addressed his constituents in the Borough Hall on Saturday night, and was accorded an enthu sialic reception. The Mayor (Mr St. Omer) presided, and there was a large and representative gathering, persons coming from Buch distances as Cromwell and Bannockburn. We are indebted to the ' Daily Times' for the following report of the hon. gentleman's speeeh:— Mr Mayor and electors of Wakatipu district, I need scarcely say that it givcs_ me vary considerable pleasure to be here to-night and see such a muster of my constituents. many of whom have como from very long distances to-day to hear me, and perhaps, shall I say, to have a friendly chat as well. When last I had the honor of seeking your suffrages there was a black cloud of depresa on hanging os-er the land, with not even fie proverbial rift in it to betoken the dawn of a better and fairer day. The revenue of the colony had been going down gradually, aud our land fund, railway, and Customs returns had all failed to realise expectations, and we had staring us in the face a very large increase of taxation and considerable reduction of privileges and retrenchment in the public service. The first duty the Government had to perform when they took ol'ici was to see how far they could economise in the service of the country. With regard to RETRENCHMENT — a most distasteful and disagreeable job—they felt that in order to do the thing thoroughly they would have to begin at th'j top of the tree ; so, commencing with tin Governor, they ran down the gamut through Ministers, members of both Houses, aud heads of departments, to the lowest in the Civil Service. But our economics were effected not so much by the cutting down of small salaries as by dispensing with officers who could be done away with. We also ha'l to effect other economies by curtailing so mi privileges, good in themselves, but which in the state of the colony could not be continued. The privileges which the people enjoyed were, however, left untouched, so that the whole work of the colony lias been carried out in a fairly efficient manner.— (Hear,hear.) WhenwemettheHouselastses Bion we were able to show as the result of the laborsof therecessthat there had been effected economies to the tune of L 240,000 per annum. But such was the state of the colony that this did not obviate the necessity of proposing to the House a scheme for largely increased taxation. Accordingly we brought down our tariff, and were opposed by a great many members in the House, as well as by a large section of the influential Press of the colony, who predicted that our scheme of taxation would end in failure and ruin to tho colony. One of the ablest men in the House (Mr Withy), while speaking on this subject, recognised the difficulty in which the Government were placed, and frankly informed us that he felt himself in a dilemma. He said the Treasurer had clearly shown that FRESH TAXATION WAS NECESSARY to carry on the public service, but that while he differed from the way in which the Government proposed to obtain revenue, he was not in a position to propose a substitute. Now that was exactly the condition in which we found all tho objectors, both in the Press and on the platform. It was easy enough to find holes in the tariff the Government In ought down; but it was quite another thing to provide something to take the place of it. This increased taxation was also rendered necessary by the fact that the expenditure on publicbuildings, subsidies, etc., heretofore placed upon borrowed money should henceforth be placed on the consolidated find. One gentleman not long since said that if the Government were in earnest they could _ a till effjet economies in the Civil Service to the extent of half a million. That hon. gentleman was speaking without any knowledge or sense of responsibility. The cost of the public service of the colony, as nearly as possible, is about one million per annum. That is what is paid to public officers, exclusive of police and country postmasters, who are in receipt of from LlO to L2O per annum. The bulk of that million—viz., L64B.ooo—is paid to railway employe?', surfasemen, wages men, and postmasters and telegraphists receiving under L 250 per annum. The whole balance of the service, which includes the higher paid salaries of Judges, Customs officials, etc., does not come to more than L.340,000, so that if you were to sweep the entire lot away this economical gentleman's proposition could not be maintained. MINISTERIAL ECONOMIES. When we met the House last year we wore able to show that we had saved L 240.000. We were told, and we are told now by a certain class of people, that this was not a real saving, and that at the present time we are still in a deficit, that the revenue is going down, and that there is no chance for us to pay our way. At the end of last year, however, with the increased taxation which we proposed, we reckoned we were just about able to pay our way. But it is satisfactory for us to know that at the present time we have succeeded, not only in paying our way, but in paying off a portion of the deficit which had accrued in former years, and which on the 31st March, 1888, amounted to L 328.000. Some L 46.000 of that has been paid off, and we have commenced the new year with a sum of L 22.000 —(applause)—and this, too, without holding one single payment from the public account. Indeed, so anxious was I to get in every account in my department, that I sent telegrams all over the country to get the accounts in before the end of the financial vear (hear, hear) and I will quote from a return laid on the table of the House every year showing the liabilities at the end of the year in proof of my assertion. On the 31st March, 18S8, the total liabilities from general revenue account and land fund, which practically are one and the same, were L 150.000. On the 31st March of the present year the liabilities of these two funds were L 152,000, and they have never been lower for a considerable number of years. The items are rather singular. In the ordinary revenue account the liabilities on 31st March were L 31,852, and the annual appropriations L 110.000; while the land fund account liabilities were Llo.ooo—making, as I say, L 152,000. In 1887 the total amount of liabilities was L 178.000 from these three accounts. These are facts that cannot be disputed; and it seems strange to me that men in our midst, who have the opportunity of verifying these statements if they like, persist in running down the colony to the utmost extent in their power, when it is a fact that a brighter and better day has dawned, and we are paying our way, living within our means, and endeavoring to do honestly to all.— (Applause.) Now I do not wish for a moment to be understood as saying that I believe the whole of
TUB CIVIL SERVICE is in a perfect state of organisation, and that further economies compatible with efficiency cannot be effected, for, as a matter of fact, at the present time this is going on ; but I say that whatever economies can be effected should be, not by cutting down poorly paid officers by a few shillings and pounds, but by the amalgamation of offices. I always believe iu the argument that the laborer is worthy of his wage, and those who are in responsible positions should have adequate remuneration for the work which they perform. By this means you will get true and faithful servants, und it will be the cheapest way in the long run.—(Applause.) It is true we have been blamed on some hands for proposing certain reductions in the education expenditure You know my opinion on that quite well. I believe the people are entitled to the education they get, and they pay for it, It was, however, necessary to cut off certain excrescences which had risen in connection with the system, and those who blame us for endeavoring to make it symmetrical are its real enemies, and would soon see it going into decay. I will deal with some anomalies which I think of importance later on. Another question we had to deal with last session was LAND LEGISLATION. During the preceding session we had tackled the general land legislation of the colony, and we brought in a measure the fruits of which are fully appreciated by the people, while the quantity of settlement which has been and ia b\AU going on through New Zealand is almost unprecedented. There is a large demand for land, and I am happy to
say that moat of the settlement ia going on under tho perpetual lease system, which peoplo seem particularly to favor. This legislation of last year did not affect the great question of Maori lands in the North Island. This is a question which is very indifferently, if at all, understood by the people of the South Island. To see large blocks of country held by Natives lying idle, and blocks in the way of settlement without contributing anything to the maintenance of roads and bridges, was an exceedingly sore point in tho North, so we had certain legislation passed to enable tho Natives to put the land through the Courts, with the idea of making it productive and aidiug the settlers in the scattered districts of the North Island. I am glad to say that this has been productive of nothing but good, and we have had to increase tho Judges of the Native Land Courts in order to overtake the vast quantity of work coming before them. I make bold to say that before very long there will be a demand for settlement in the North Island as great as there has been in the South; that the laud will in time become productive, and local bodies will be found with the much-needed funds for putting roads in proper repair and the construction of bridges.—(Applause.) W c had also this hj t year the whole question of pastoral leases to deal with. A great many leases fell in in Canterbury mid Otago, and the Government had a special classification made of all the land into three divisions agricultural land, semi-agricultural hind, and purely pastoral country. We endeavored to cut it up so that small holdings would bo easily obtained, and the best done both lor tenant and State. Lust year the rents from Crown lands were L 1,800,000. It would have been easy to ruin this industry, and it is a largo one, by taking the good land and leaving the entire extent of barren hills waste ; but the plan adopted would result in the utilisation of the whole of the country, and at tho same time relievo the Government of a large responsibility in keeping down the rabbits. These lands have been classified and offered with very satisfactory results to the State ; and I only hope the result will be satisfictory to the people who have obtained them. You know, as a matter of fact, that it is always a good thing to run down the squatters, large or small. That is a good card to play at a public meeting ; but it; is pretty well played out in a district such as this, where squatters do most obtain, Just look around and tell mo any single man who was in comparative afllueiico a few years ago who is worth auything row. I .scarcely know one, but I can point to a gnat many who have absolutely come down to their very bottom dollar. There are 3,700,000 acres of land in the Wakatipu electorate—-one-eighteenth of the entire colony—yet I cannot remember any pastoral tenant who has made a fortune on the land hero within recent years. KAILWAY BOARD. We took authority some little time ago to create a railway board for the better management of the colonial railways, and the reasons we had for asking the House to assent to a measure of this character were that we thought we should gut greater efficiency of management combined with greater economy in working, while at the same time we should obtain freedom from that political tinkering and intermeddling that had prevailed to such an extent in tho past. We took authority to obtain if we could from Home a suitable man to act as manager, but though we advertised, and the AgentGeneral had associated with him one of the greatest experts on railway matters at Home, out of numerous applicants for the post there was none that these enntlcmen would recommend. The salary offered was L2.5U0 a year, and we were induced by representations from the Agent-General to make it L 3.000. After a time we received a cable from him recommending a certain gentleman, and telling us at the same time that his testimonials would be scut out for our perusal. It was a matter of considerable importance, and we decided to await tho arrival of the testimonials, but before they could possibly he considered—two or three days, I think, after we received them—that gentleman withdrew his application, and we were no further on than wo were before. Now, when I wa'i over ia Australia tome time ago, one of the first experts in railway matters south of the Line had a conversation v,it'n me, and lie ni ; d : " Look here, Fergus, you don't want a railway manager, and you have get men good enough for what you want in New Zealand. What you want is a diplomatist—a man who will reason with the people, and an approachable man." I thought there was a very great deal of truth in what he said, and when I got back to New Zealand I told the frcniier of this, and we cast about for a man who could satisfactorily till the chief cr.inmissionership; but although we searched through the whole commercial and trading community we could not find one man we thought more suitable than the one we appointed—Mr James M'Ktrrow.— (Hear, hear, and applause.) It was quite true that Mr M'Kcrrow was not brought up as a railway manager ; but it was also true that he is a man in thorough sympathy with the settlers, an approachable man, and a man who, if you showed him good reasons, would be quite willing to give you your way and listen to reason—a man also in thorough sympathy with the settlement of the country and settlers. I am happy to say that the appointment has been received by the best thinking men of the colony very well indeed. The Commissioners have during the short time they have been in office done yeomen's work throughout the entire colony, and there is a disposition on the part of people to give them a fair, honest trial, and I am sanguine of the very best results in the long run. OVER LEGISLATION. I think if there is one fault more than another to which New Zealand is prone it ia that of over legislation. Since the creation of responsible government in New Zealand to the present day we have passed something like 2,028 statutes, and repealed I.4GG of them. We legislate for something to-day, and next session we repeal it. I do not think the Government should give so much attention to this fancy legislation, but should »ive a great deal more consideration to the general welfare of the colony, and see that ourlegislation, instead of being bulky, should be good. That is what the Government intend to bear in mind during the year which we have just entered upon. They intend that the work shall be judged by its quality rather than its quantity. I will touch on a few measures we propose to introduce. REFORM OF THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL. Amongst the first things the Government propose to touch is that of a reform of the Legislature itself. We wish to deal with tho Legislative Council. It has long been felt by the people of the colony that the Legislative Council is not in accord with the present time, and to bring it more in accord with the present time is the task which the Goveenment have undertaken. When we took office tho number of councillors in the Upper Chamber was forty-seven, but by death this number has now been reduced to forty-four. That, however, does not show the working strength of the Council, because there are always a number of men away on leave, and some who scarcely ever come up, so that at the present time we may say the strength of that body is only some thirty members. I am sorry to say that amongst those we have lost by death there were some of our ablest and most straightforward men ; and I am sorry also to state that amongst the ablest of those that remain age is telling very fast, aud in course of nature they cannot much longer take a prominent part in the legislation of the colony. It behoves us to look the difficulty in the face, and see what we can do. At the last general election there was a very great cry about tho number of the Legislative Council, and there was also some talk about the abolition of that body, I for one have no sympathy with the cry for the abolition of that body, but while I think that we require this body, I do not think that it is wise to allow it to remain as it has been in the past. We must bring it more in accord with the public feeling of the present time. Some people are in favor of the present nominated system, with a limitation of the term of office. That would be something, but it would not be sufficient. It would only be introducing another factor than death in terminating the political career of unsuitable persons. Another proposition is for an elective council on a different franchise, but this would not do, for, in the first place, I am quite euro that the Council and the House would then come into conflict. The
history of these councils had been that they could not long maintain a differential franchise. There is still another proposal—viz., to elect the Council by the House. The Government favor this. They think that the Council should be elected by the House of Representatives by ballot, and we intend to introduce a Bill similar to the one intro- ' duced previously by Sir Frederick Whitaker, but with certain amendments, and see if we can get it through the House. It will provide for election by the House for a definite period, and it may also provide for the em- j powering of the Government to call to the Council one member as a Minister for the purpose of facilitating their business, but making provision also for that member retiring from the Council when the Ministry goes out of office. We also propose to effect a I REFORM IN THE lIOCSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. We were successful some time ago in getting the number of members reduced to seventyfour. Some people are of opinion that this will be upset next session, but there ia little fear of that, and I am sure the number ia amply sufficient to manage the affairs of the colony at the present time.—(Applause.) There may be less talk, but there will be more real work. Our idea now is to put the members of the House on a nobler and a broader franchise than that which at present obtains. We intend to propose the . Hare system or a modification thereof to the House. This system, if carried, will bring a better stamp of men into the House, and prevent men of colonial fame from bciDg shelved by a temporary gust of passion beciutc they have done something which 1 their constituents may think is not right. > Tho opinions of the people of the colony as a whole should be fully and truly_ repre- f sented, and every minority has a right to [ representation in the highest Court in the colony. It is with this object, and in order ; that men who are not mere work grabbers, ; but men of independent colonial repute, \ shall be found in the House, and in order | that there shall be less Jog-rolling, that we I contemplate introducing this measure ; and ; I have no doubt that, if it is carried, we ; will have a better class of Parliament, j superior debate, and that it will be better j altogether in the long run for the colony of | New Zealand. (Applause.) There is. another subject which will hare to engage I the attention of Parliament, and that is the question of j JIOSI'ITALS AND CHARITABLE AID. j When the Bill was brought before the House, I gave the then Government very j great credit for tackling a very difficult sub- ! ject. The condition of our hospitals and charitable institutions at that time was anything but creditable to the colony. Some districts put their hands in their pockets and very liberally provided funds for the support of their own poor, while others drew their funds entirely from tho colony. ; The evil, however, was not cured. I will give you a few figures to show the growth of this matter. In 1881 there was paid ont of the colonial exchequer L 73.855 for hospital and charitable aid ; in 18S2, L 75.712 ; in ISS3, L 92.000; in 1884, LOS.OOO ; in ISBS, Lll'i.OOO ; and in 1880, for about nine months of the year, LI 17,000. By the Act which was passed contributions from the colouy vrnrti very considerably diminished, aud under the new system Government only paid L 0.3,000, but there was no real relief from the tax as the burden was simply shifted from the shoulders of the colony to the shoulders of the local body, and though the Government only paid L 93.143, the local bodies were called upon to pay no less than Ll4,G3b' a year, so that it cost L 137.779 in that year. In 1883 the Government 1 !) contribution was L 82.559 mid the local bodies' contributions L 55,991, : making a total of L13ti,550. This thing is very bad,and the Government are called upon ' to 'deal with the question. We propose, therefore, to bring in a measure which will tn ii certain extent simplify the charitable aid question by separating hospitals from • charitable aid, and allowing hospital dis- j tricls to < x:-;t in much the same as at present, but with this difference: that the management of hospitals will be given to local bodies, who may transfer the management to trustees such as we have at the present time. The local body, if it docs not wish to maintain such an institution, can . c ay it will not do so, and hand it over to | those who are willing to take the manage- I incut of it. Then the local institution may be supported partly by rates and partly by j contributions. A3 bi fore, the Government, will subsidise them on a sliding scale. We ' intend to give a liberal subsidy to such hos- ! pitals as are absolutely necessary, and it' will rest entirely whether these institutions shall be maintained in their entirety with tho people themselves. Witli regard to ; charitable aid, we propose in the first place j to relieve local bodies from the maintenance of what we call inveterate paupers and incorrigible drunkards ; and we propose to put men who will not support their families, either by reason of their drunken habits or downright laziness, in institutions where they will have to do something for their own support, leaving the subsidised local body to deal with the casual poor within its bounds. Another subject which the Government intend to take up is that of j
THE BANKRUPTCY ACT. The Bankruptcy Act has been in a considerable mess for a long time. At the present time it is more of an escape for a fraudulent debtor who wishes to escape payment of his liabilities than a refuge for a poor man who is unable to pay his debts. The statistics of the bankruptcy of the colony are rather interesting. In 1884 there were 807 bankruptcies; in 1885 there were 984 ; in 1880 there were 1,089 ; in 18S7 there were 1,030 ; and in 18SS there were 873—0r a total of 1,788 for those years. A great many of these were very small indeed, Now, tho machinery of the Act is so complex that when a legitimately poor individual goes into Court, and his assets have been manipulated by lawyers and official assignees, the whole estate is swallowed up, and there is nothing left for the creditor?. Now, what wc propose is to allow Email estates to bo dealt with by the resident magistrates, who will order the distribution of the assets. This will remove a great deal of work from the Supreme Courts and District Courts of the South Island, which have been almost exclusively taken up by the adjudication of bankrupt estates. We propose also to embody a number of amendments suggested by various chambers of commerce, and which have been found necessary. In speaking on THE EDUCATION QUESTION a little time ago I omitted to mention that it was the intention of the Government to introduce a measure to deal with this question. I think there should be no departure from the main features of the system, but some necessary reforms in administration might be effected. The defects to my mind in the working of the Act are : First, want of uniformity of inspection ; second, tho salaries of similarly qualified and occupied men are unequal; third, the range of promotion is limited generally to a particular district, ruled over by an education board. I have long held that the appointment and working of the inspectors should be in the hands of the Minister for We havo no less than eighteen inspectors iu the colony, with salaries from L 230 to L 550, aud with qualifications with as great a range, We want to obtain as nearly as po3siblo uniformity of examination, and at present that is far from existing. The percentage of passes obtained in one part of tho colony is far in excess of that which would be got had the teacher or school to undergo the ordeal in another district. Uniformity of appointment, of qualification, and as far as possible of salaries is required to effect a change for tho better, and besides which periodical changes in the location of inspectors would be healthy, as in the very nature of things men, when too long stationed in a place, unwittingly become biassed in favor of certain persons, and against others. These changes ' would also conduce to uniformity in examination of schools. The salaries of the teachers, too, might well be placed on a fairer basis. It certainly seems preposterous that two teachers with similar qualifications and teaching similar sized schools should receive—ab they may, and often do such different salaries. Take an example : A master with a certificate, say D, teaching a school of fifty children, in one part of the colony receives at present a salary of LI 79 ;\ while a gentleman with a similar qualification, officiating in a school of like number in a different part of the colony, receives only Lll3. Youmayaskhowdoes this discrepancy occur. This reason is obvious. In certaii)
districts there is a larger number of big j schools in proportion to the total number of schools than thcro is in another, and the surplus after paying the teaching staff in those schools is taken to supplement the salaries of the masters of the smaller schools. This is as it should be ; but, instead of confining the thing to the separate district, the system should .be made general throughout the colony. Teachers with equal qualifications and equal dutiea should undoubtedly have equal salaries. The present method, too, of administering the Act tends to restrict the field of promotion to the teachers serving in the immediate districts. This should not be the case ; nor does it obtain in any other branch of the public service. Teachers should be graded, and where a vacancy occurs the highest in point of qualification and service should have the first chance of promotion, wherever the school waß. Education Boards naturally lean to the teachers in their own service. The points I have named are the main alterations which I desire to see effected. There is nothing very revolutionary in them, but much that would go to the of the system, On the question of Education Boards lam not quite clear. Certainly sweeping them away would facilitate some of the changes, but I sec no adequate authority to take their place ; and to hand over the entire control to a central department I sincerely deteet. With to the teachers, however, and their salaries, there should be uniformity throughout the length and breadth of New Zealand. That is only fair and just.—(Applause.) Some minor alterations in connection with the election of sohoul committees, etc., might beneficially be provided for; but there should be no departure that will impair the general efficiency of the system, and no attempt to rob the people of free, compulsory, and secular education, which is every year being taken more advantage of all through the colony. There are now 123,000 children, out of a population of 600,000, on the public school rolls of the colony, and the average attendance ia no less than 90,000. We should be exceedingly proud of that.— (Applause.) 1 wish now to say one or two words about a subject which touches my own department rather closely. That is the question of
VOLUNTEERING. As you are aware, there has been some rather hostile criticisms against the Government, and myself in particular, in connection with this subject. When I took office I found the volunteer expenditure had grown to the enormous sum of L 56.000 per annum. The figures in 1885 were L30.G20, in 1886 L44J47, in ISB7 L 56,610. This year the expenditure has only been L 25.000. (Applause.) I am sorry, indeed, that it became my duty to propose eucli a terrible decrease in the vote last year, but when we had such grievous taxation in store it hec.imc the bounden duty of every Minister to cut flown expenditure to the utmost limit compatible with tho efficiency of the service. It is pleasing, however, to note that, notwithstanding the heavy reduction in capitation, there is a substantial increase in the number of volunteers in the large centres of the colony. Altogether the number is about the same as it was twelve months ago. I trust wo may be able to make some slight increase in the capitation to volunteers for the succeeding year. —(Applause.) I have also been blamed for cutting down the battalions, Now, as a matter of fact, the battalions ivero gradually dissolving themselves, and there were innumerable complaints about their formation, so that, all things considered, it was best to dissolve thern, and give the volunteers in the large centres a chance of reforming themselves into battalions on better and broader lines as in other countries. They have not up to this time taken advantage of it, but in the large centres, instead of having companies parading with only twenty-five or thirty men, tlu-y have now substantial corps, well officered, and with tho full complement of men turning out to drill. There has been a decrease of ten companies, hut an increase of 124 mon, so that instead of breaking down volunteering our plans have done just tho opposite. Again, I have been blamed for endeavoring to form rifle clubs throughout the colony, but this was just the very best thing that could be done in outof-the way country districts. I pee by the newspapers that some words of mine to which I gave utterance in Auckland have been taken as a text on which to preach innumerable sermons against further borrowing, which it is taken for granted the Government intend to propose. Now, it affords me very great pleasure to tell you that there is not a single scrap of truth in that statement.— (Applause.) The Government hare NO INTENTION OF BORROWING, and the question of raiting another loan for publio works was never even mooted by Ministers. We do not intend to do anything of the sort, but we do intend to hold the reins as firmly as we possibly can to guide the colony on the path on which it has entered, and to show that we are capable of paying our way. We mean to pay our way and to live within our means and raise the credit of the colony r.s much as we can both at Home and abroad.—(Loud applause.) I am pleased to think that the efforts of the Government in tho past have been productive of much good, and that our debentures, which were at IOOg, with a dividend nearly due, when we took office, by recent advices are up to 10G in tho London market. It is also gratifying to find that, with the equalisaof our revenue and expenditure, there is a great recovery in the large agricultural industry, and a move all along the line of commerce. The volume of our natural trade is expanding, and the colony, freed from the adventitious aid of borrowed money, goes forth to gather in the fruits of legitimate industry. A number of questions having been asked, Dr Donaldson (Arrowtown) moved and Mr M'Kersie seconded a vote of confidence, which was carried by acclamation,
PRE-SESSIONAL., Issue 7923, 3 June 1889
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