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DR FITCHETT AT RATTRAY STREET HALL., Issue 7936, 18 June 1889
DR FITCHETT AT RATTRAY STREET HALL.
l>i I'll'lnU, member for Duucdin Central, addreuued hiu conatitucnl-u at the Oddfellows' Hall, Rattray street, last evening. Abuul 160 persons attended, and the chair was taken by the Mayor.
Dr Fire-UKtf first addressed himself to the subject of the tariff that was passed last session, and which proved so successful in its working, Two things—an increase in taxes and retrenchment—were at the beginning of last session absolutely indispensable. Sir Harry Atkinson had been put in power, and the bulk ot his party consisted of Freetraders. Now, at the end of the preceding session Sir Harry had given a curious pledge —viz., that he would bring down in the succeeding session a tariff that would suit both Freetraders and Protectionists The position wa3 a peculiar one. The Opposition had no leader, Sir Julius Vogel, who had led them in the previous session, having gono Home. Tho effect of Sir Julius Vogel's absence from the House was a distinct gain to the protective interest. On tho Government side there wero some men who favored a protective policy, but they would have nothing to do with tho Opposition as long as Sir Julius Vogel was at its head. So last session those who formed the left wing of Sir Harry Atkinson's party were brought in contact with the main body of the Protectionists, and Sir Harry feared no antagonism, seeing that the Opposition were not prepared to take advantage of any mistake on his part. Finding that the Opposition were in this position like so many children without anyone to look after them—they followed a judicious policy : they did nothing. They did not appoint a leader, and the Address-iu-Reply was not debated, to tho consternation of the Government, who had no business prepared, as they had expected a long discussion on tho Address-in-Reply. That answered the object the Opposition had in view—it brought down th* Government policy, and to the great delight of the Protectionists and to the dismay of the Freetraders it took the shape of a protective tariff. Of course there was immediately a great defection from the Government ranks. The Freetraders accused Sir Harry of betraying his trust, and they were now the bitterest enemies ho had. Well, the Protectionists held several meetings to consider the tariff, and received telegrams and communications of various kinds from all parts of the country, After lengthy consideration they waited on Sir Harry Atkinson, aDd he (the speaker) was bound to say that a more avowed Protectionist in his demeanor than the Premier did not exist in tho House.—(Applause.) Mrßichardscn and Mr Fergu3 said it was a policy for taxation and not for Protection, but the Protectionists found that Sir Harry treated every suggestion they made as a Protectionist would, and gave them every attention—and for that every Protectionist owed him his thanks.- (Applause.) He (tho speaker) was of course speaking as an Oppositionist and not as a Government supporter. The delegates who went to Wellington had done a deal of good, as the Premier, in framing the tariff, was guided to a great extent by their recommendations. Ho was bound to say that the Opposition had annihilated itself in order to carry that tariff in a manner which had not yet been recognised, and thoso who were returned pledged for Protection deserved credit for what they did.— (Applause.) There had been great speculation in the House as to what Sir Harry Atkiuson meant by this move, 110 had been iu politics from tho day ho was weaned—(laughter)—and one did not expect from him that nobio enthusiasm which pertained to early youth; and that ho should sacrifice the Treasury benches for the sake of the country was a thing that would raise a smile on the face of thoso who knew him. One theory was that he saw that a lot of tho new men who had been returned to tho House were pledged to Protection—they were like a crowd of fledglings with their mouths open all crying for " Protection," and he knew that his position with his party was not satisfactory. Ho (the Bpeaker) was disposed to think that Sir Harry was under tho impression that the mountain was going to come to Mahomet. But if he cast forth his nets he caught only one fish.—(Laughter.) Tho tariff was the most important matter that had been dealt with, and next came the Otago Central Railway. He would like to justify himself for the position which ho took up in that matter. He had supported the syndicate a priori, although he did not at all like syndicates, but he supported this ono as he thought it was a matter of vital interest to the electors of Otago that tho railway should be pushed on. Any application to tho Government to spend money on the railway would havo been followed by similar applications from other parts of the colony, and unless the Government wero prepared to spend two or three millions they could give no assistance to Otago. However, the syndicate did not succeed—(applause)— and perhaps it was a good thing it did not. Still it waa a bad thing that the railway was not carried out, for it meant that a quantity of splendid land in the interior of Otago was hermetically sealed up. The Bill was stonewalled by four or five Auckland members for no other reason than that a particular iniquity of their own—tho Kamo-Kamo Rnhvay—was not completed. Ho hoped that next session pressure would be brought to bear on the Government in regard to getting tho Otago Central carried on. Excepting the tariff', it was found that the work of last session was chiefly of a negative character. Few bills were passed, but many were killed, and some of them righteously so. Ono of the latter was the New Plymouth Harbor Bill, which the Premier tried to pass. It was a Bill insidiously worded, and tho plain effect of it would havo been most injurious, but in bpito of all the Premier's efforts the House strangled it. Tho San Francisco mail scrvico was killed, and he thought rightly so, for iu view of tho facts which had como to light since the service was not such a necessity as would justify them in keeping it. The latest development was that by its aid San Francisco had become a competitor with New Zealand iu the Sydney market—the one foreign market they had outsido England. Another set of Bills which had been properly killed was a little brood having reference to charitable aid. In the country districts there wero hospitals comfortably furnished, and having a nice little staff—everything, in fact, but patients. Bills such as these would result in throwing on the towns the whole cost of the charitable aid of tho colony, coupled with the coßt of maintaining tho hospitals of the colony. Another Bill slaughtered—but which should nothave been slaughtered—was thoFairßcnt Bill, the principle of it being that when a man took land from the Crown ho dhoulcl at all times pay only a fair rent—that was to say, if land rises in value his rent should bo raised, whilo when it foil his rent should bo proportionately reduced.—(Applause.) The Shop Hours Bill did not reach discussion, nor did tho Mechanics' Lien Bill, which ho (tho speaker) had taken charge of. The Government had, however, promised to take up the latter, and ho could guarantee that ho would get largo support from tho Opposition, and that it would become the law of the land.--(Applause.) Tho Licensiug Election Bill passed the Lower House, but not the Upper. Onthisqueationho was somewhat misunderstood. Ho had argued that it would bo well to allow public opinion to settle, and that annual elections of committees wero a mistake. Tho expense was great, and no good end seemed to bo gained by having elections every year, whereas, in his opinion, every good would be secured by making them triennial. With regard to local option, the position he had always taken up was that the people should determine whether publicans' licenses should exist in a given district or not ; but if the people by vote determined that certain houses should bo closed, ho held that houses which existed when that voto wasgi von should bo paid compensation.—(Applause.) It was unjust that a cominitteo should have the right to closo uuy house in the district of their own arbitrary will, and therefore it was wrong that the franchise should be widened to women while this power existed. He admired the sex, but thought their best friends wouldadmitthattheladiesweremoved more by sentiment and feeling than by judgment, and no large and important measures Bhould be submitted to the risk which would exist if ladies had power to clout committees while comniittteu hiit] the power to close
hotels wilhuul giving compensation.-—(Aj»■ plnunc.) Two or Unci: yearn ago then; crept into the Land Tramlcr Act Amend uiciit Act an unrighteous ]>io\ iaion—vi/., that a mortgagee, iix addition to tlio powers contained in hit mortgage, also had aright by viriuo of the mortgage to distrain on laud for interest in arrcar. Last session that was knocked out of the Act. Another Act that, passed was un amendment of the Administration Act, and they would possibly be surprised to hear that, although the sole purport of that Act was to lessen litigation and lower lawyers* fees, it was supported by every lawyer in the House.— (Cries of M Oh," and laughter.) The fact was that the lawyers were not nearly so bad as they were painted. (Laughter and "Question!'') Other measures that passed and that ho did not approve of were the Land Acts of the Government. The Criminal Code Bill, which was introduced, but did not pass the Lower House, was substantially a copy of a great Bill prepared at Home by all the leading legal learning of the land to codify tho law, and they would get it here soma day. With regard to the Electoral Bill, the Government never seriously attempted to introduce it, because it was not in the proper form of a Bill, and nobody in the House could understand it. Looking at th'o constructive legislation of the session, it was exceedingly meagre and small, and was redeemed from utter barrenness by one thing only the tariff and from being unimportant by the Government Estimates, and the way they were treated. The fact remained that the Government had done exceedingly good work in cutting down expenses. When the Estimates came down the spirit of economy was on everyone and everybody was eager to retrench. It was hard to say what the reduction totalled in the end, but he computed that it was about L2oo,ooo.—(Applause.) It was perfectly manifest that no Government could resist tho pressure for the spending of money unless thero was an avowed publicopinion insisting that the money was not to be spent.—(Applause.) No more credit was duo to the Government than to the Opposition for tho retrenchment, for both joined in the scheme. It was the cry of the country, and if the roar for retrenchment died out, retrenchment itself would die out. The Te Kooti campaign ended satisfactorily, but it was rendered absurd by the ridiculous weakness and vacillation of the Government, and if it had caused a Native war the Government would have had to bear the whole responsibility, for they snubbed tho settlers, and very nearly created a Native difficulty. The affair proved that Sir Harry Atkinson was the "Pooh-Bah" of the Ministry, for while they had a Minister of Defence in Mr Fergus, that gentleman retired to Wellington, whilo Sir Harry went to the front.— (Laughter.) During the recess the Government appointed a railway board, and he was certain that Parliament would havesomething to say on that matter. If Parliament intended anything when they passed the Railway Board Bill they intended that the Chief Commissioner should bo an expert. It must havo struck the whole colony that it was most extraordinary that a man who had nothing to do with railways should be made chief of the extensive railway system of the colony. It was said that it came about from a recommendation made by a Victorian gentleman to Mr Fergus while they were enjoying the Mclbourno Cup races, and that MiFergus communicated it to Sir Harry Atkinson. Another explanation—and if true it was evident that there had been a most atrocious job perpetrated—was as follows : Mr Percy Smith bad friends in Auckland who wanted to make him Chief Surveyor ; Mr M'Kerrow had friends in Otago who did not want him to be shelved. The Ministry seeing these matters killed three birds with one stone—they appointed Mr Smith Chief Surveyor, Mr M'Kerrow Chief Commissioner of Railways, and they shirked the responsibility of getting an expert for the latter position.—(Applause and laughter.) When the new session began tho financial condition of the colony would come forward. It would begin with a healthy spirit abroad, because the colony had done well in the last year ; and one favorablo feature, ns shown by comparing our imports and exports of last year with tho previous year, was due partly to the good harvest and the higher prices that their produce had reached, and partly to inoro things being made here than was the case before the protective tariff came into force. There was little to go on in speaking of what the Government measures would be next session. Mr Fergus, at Qucenstown, said tbey did not intend to do much. According to him, Government intended to deal with the question of charitable aid, as the present system was little better than chaos. It was ludicrous for the Government to say that they would take charge of every man who was a chronic pauper. How was he to bo known ? Was he to get a certificate ? How was he to be distinguished from a casual? And how could a local body be expected to pay for a casual when he could be shunted on to the Government as a chronic? Mr Fergus also spoke on the Education Bill—about which his utterance was rather unhappy—and about the intended reform of the Upper House. Before he (tho speaker) went to Wellington he was of opinion that the Upper House should bo abolished, but since he had been there he saw that its members did a deal of good honest work, although it was not perfect. It was high time that it was reformed, for then they would not seo repeated a scene that history had never before recorded—that of two Ministers on a division going into one lobby and the rest into another. A measure to bo introduced again next session was the Electoral Bill, and he wished to say that he was now sorry he had ever voted for it. He intended to oppose it strongly in future, He did not object to the Hare system, but to the Bill itself, because its object was to strangle tho democracy of the towns and transfer the power to the country. It was absurd to propose to have such large districts—to have tho colony divided into fifteen parts—one of which would extend from Dunedin to Gore, and possibly to luvercargill. Candidates would not be ablo to traverse their districts, and the result would bo that they would have caucuses. Men who had means, or had axes to grind, would form combinations and get the representation of the whole of the country. He much regretted that he had voted for a reduction in the number of members of the House, and would do all he could to restore the original number. With regard to the property tax he would say that he looked on it as one of the most iniquitous taxes that could be devised.—(Applause. ) Sir Harry Atkinson said that the land and incomo tax would produce no inoro than LS0.000; but if he went at it in tho right way and based his calculations on proper figures, ho would find that at least a quarter of a million would be produced every year. Ho (the speaker) favored very much n tax on absentees. According to a return laid on tho table of tho House, thero were no loss than I,MO of these gontlemen, who collectively owned property in tho colony valued at L 8,700,000. No country could prosper that had so much of its land owned outside. Sir Harry said that they could not get at tho absentees, but ho thought it could bo dono by imposing a tax of "Jd in the £, with a provision that all thoso who lived in the colony should get off for Id. It was hard to tell what was going to happen next session. Tho Government wero in a decided minority, while the Opposition were a perfect chaos. Ho would stand by his party, and ho hoped they would get a leader. He was prepared to follow any loader his party choso to select. Sir Harry Atkinson waa a good leader, and if it had not been for the villainous company (laughter) he had been keeping he might havo been with them; but ho was a politician first and a statesman afterwards. He would subordinate everything to power. His interests and his perception of what was right ran along the samo line. Ho would fain save tho country, and the country could not bo saved unless he was in power. With Sir Robert Stout it was different. He was a man of lofty ideals and unselfish aims.—(Hear, hear.) He was a statesman first and a politician afterwards. Sir Robert Stout waa his (the speaker's) natural leader in Parliament, and he regretted he was not power now to lead the Opposition.—(Applause.) The speaker concluded by saying that while in Wellington he would do everything he could to earn the uonfidcuco of tho olectoro.—(Applause.) Iu answer to queatio'us, Vt Frte'flxij ssid
lie favored New Zeiilaud remaining a democratic country. Au to Imperial titlcu far. would u;iy that if the title was conferred, not becauao of the pcroonul qualities of the niiiD, but because of the position held at tho time the titlo waa oflered to him, it would bo egregious folly for him to refuse it.— (Applause.) If .Sir Robert Stout had not been a sensible man he might have declined his title. Such titles were not given to men for anything they had done, but because of the particular positions they occupied at a particular time. Say there was a Queen's Birthday, ancl tho authorities at Home looked round and said there's So-and-so, he shall have a title. So with Sir Robert Stout—the titlo was not offered to him personally for anything he had done, but for the position he occupied at the time, and it would have been a bit of snobbery for him to refuse it. He would oppose with his life the introduction of Imperial troops into the colony. He would not abolish the Upper House, but would have it in a minority as compared with the Lower House. Not only did the Upper House do good work by strangling a lot of legislation that would do widespread harm, but also by its trery presence it prevented an enormous amount rf bad lcgisla--1 tion from coming forward at all. Mr J. S. Maitland moved a vote of thanks and continued confidence in Dc Fitchett as member for Dunedin Central. He (Dr Fitchett) had had the speaker's entire sympathy in everything he had done since he entered Parliament.—(Applause.) Mr J. R. Bryant seconded the motion, which was carried by acclamation. A vote of thanks to the mayor for presiding concluded the meeting.
DR FITCHETT AT RATTRAY STREET HALL., Issue 7936, 18 June 1889
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