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MR MILLS AT PORT CHALMERS., Issue 7936, 18 June 1889
MR MILLS AT PORT CHALMERS.
Mr James Mills addressed a meeting of his constituents at the Foresters' Hall, Port Chalmers, last night. The Mayor occupied the chair, and there were ahout 300 persons
present. Mr Mills said that when he last appeared before the electors the circumstances of the colony were in a very bad state. Business in all directions was being carried on without a profit, and the finances of the colony were sadly disorganised; it appeared, indeed, that it wanted little more to bring about a state of bankruptcy. It was recognised throughout the colony that something must be done to remedy matters; that there must be rigid retrenchment in all directions, and cessation of borrowing and spending of borrowed money. This was a great cry during the election, and representatives from all parts of the colony, no matter what their politics, were pledged at all events to this. When the House met, therefore, the question was not very much what leader they were to follow, but whom they could get to lead and to take upon himself the very onerous task of bringing the finances of the colony into a state of order. The speaker then went on to refer. to the deficit in the public account at the time when Sir Harry Atkinson took office, and explained what steps had been taken in the way of retrenchment by the present Government. In alluding to the Government's increasing the publie revenue by an increase in the Customs tariff, the speaker said this was rather a sore point with those who, like himself, were on the Freetrade
side of the House. The Government proposing a very protective tariff in opposition to theirviewswas ratherabad pill to swallow.
As he had told the electors before, he was a professed Freetrader. He, however, was not so extreme in his views as to deny that local industries should be supported by bonuses or differential duties—that was, industries connected with the products of
the soil, and which employed a large amount of labor. He had always been opposed to a general system of protective duties, because he thought they really means a heavy amount of taxation upon a certain class of the community—the consumers, who were least able to bear the great burden of taxation.—(Applause.) The speaker next referred to the surplus in the public account owing to the retrenchment that had been carried out by the Government, and said it was a matter for congratulation that there was a surplus. He thought that it would have a very beneficial effect upon the colony abroad, as well as inspire confidence in our own community ; and it only needed confidence to bring about better times very quickly. He, however, did not thinkthough there seemed every reason to believe that the revenue would improvethat they might look for a decrease in
taxation for many years, because there were still a great many charges debited to loan accounts which would yet Lave to be brought against the consolidated revenue. In addition to the questions of finance and
taxation, which occupied a good deal of time in the House last session, several important measures passed. The first of these was the Land Act. Under this Act many of the restrictions with regard to taking up of land that had previously existed were removed, and settlers were now allowed to take up land under any system they chose—under cash purchase, deferred payments, or perpetual lease, the latter being most popular. But further provision was also made for settlers taking up land under perpetual lease, so that they could if they wished later on change their tenure for cash purchase.— (Applause.) He thought there could be no doubt that the new Land Act had been, in that respect at all events, productive of good, because within the last year settlement has increased very largely, both in the South and in the North Island. This was no doubt due in a measure to the improved times, but also no doubt largely due to the more favorable provisions of the new Land Act. Another important piece of legislation was the Bills dealing with Native lands, provision being made for the lands being dealt with after having passed throngh the Native Land Courts, always, however, with the proviso that enough land should be left-for the tribes so that they might not become a burden on the community.—(Applause.) The creation of the present Railway Board was likewise the work of last session, and vas due to the widespread dissatisfaction that existed regarding the working of the railways and the result of their working. The experiment of vesting the railways in a non-political Board had been tried in the neighboring colonies apparently with a great amount of success. _ The Government therefore decided that this was
the remedy which they had to adopt. Accordingly it was decided to procure an expert from England at a high salary to take the position of Chief Commissioner. They were told that every effort had been made to procure such a man without Buccess. Whether that was so or not he could not say, but no doubt the facts would come out. It seemed to him a pity that they could not secure such a man, although he was not one of those who joined in condemning the past railway management as it was the custom to do, However, it was a good thing when a
business got into such a state as to cause dissatisfaction to bring an entiroly new man to bear upon it-(applause); and if it was the case that an outside man could not be eelected. Mr M'Kerrow was, ho thought as good a man as the Government could get without going outside the colony. Of course if the experiment was not a satisfactory one, Parliament could piss an Amendment Bill and abolish the Bill altogether. It was a matter of congratulation that tho railways were ablo to show a surplus in these depressed times ; but lie did not think it was in tho interests of the colony that the railways should show any large surplus. They should be looked upon more as a moans of encouraging settlement iu the interior and putting those who went into the back country on an equal footing with others who had secured a more fortunate location nearer the seaport towns.—(Applause.) Aa soon as the railways could pay interest on the money employed in their construction, benefit should he given to those who used them. For this reason he had always opposed the selling of the railways. Many people would like to seo them sold, but their sale, in his opinion, would bo a public calamity.—(Applause.) Anyone buying the railways would simply endeavor to make as much out of the people of the colony as possible, withovt considering the interests of the colony as a whole. Being directly interested in the San Francisco mail contract, he had not tiken any part in the discussion on that matter in the House or out of the House. However, he might say that ho did not ngreo with those who advocated its abolition, though he quite agreed with those who said we were paying far too much for it. The fact was the colony was paying twothirds of the subsidy through the mismanagement of past Governments, while New South Wales, which derived all the commercial advantage, only paid one-third of tho subsidy. That condition of affairs, however, was now altered, as New Zealand had withdrawn and New South Wales had arranged for the continuance of tho contract for another year, taking the whole responsibility of the subsidy on her own shoulders, so that if New Zealand wished to come in she could now do so on more favorable terms. Looking at the matter simply as a public man, he would say that if fora moderate sum the service could be continued to New Zealand it would be of great advantage merely from an advertising point of view. True, it did not carry such a great quantity of goods or ooal, and another argument was that it flooded the wheat market of New South W T ales to the detriment of New Zealand. There was, however, very littlo in that argument, aB sailing vessels would take the wheat over from California whether the San Francisco service was continued or not; and he pointed out that the freight for Californian wheat ranged from 9d to Is, whereas from New Zealand the freight was only 3d per bushel. That surely would leave a sufficient margin if New Zealand farmers were willing to sell their wheat at a fair price.—(Applause.) If for a moderate r-ontribdtion it could be arranged that the 'Frisco steamers would call at Auckland, the advantage to tho colony would be considerable, as it would fee kept within the circle of tac great tourist traffic. If the boats went direct to Sydney, New Zealand would bo passed altogether by these people, and would become more isolated than sho was at present. It would bo like dropping a few degrees nearer the South Pole. It was not the fow pounds these people spent here so much as the fact that every man who travelled through tbc country became a grand advertising medium, who would do good to the colony. That had to be considered. A Voice : Would you have them at Port Chalmers or at Auckland ? Mr Mills : Well, they could not land everywhere. Referring next to tho Yo.mg New Zealand party, the speaker said that they had taken up a strong stand on the questions of expenditure and cessation of borrowing, and though they had been referred to in sneering terms they had done a great deal of good in various ways. So much for tho legislation of last session. But several important questions would come before tho House this session. One of tkese was a Bill entitled tho Fair Rent Bill, the object of which was to enablo tenants of the Crown who had taken up land in times of excitement and inflated valuos in land, and on terms that were manifestly moro than the land was worth, to have their rents reduced and a moderate rent fixed. There was a great difference of opinion about this matter. The general impression was that when a man made a bargain he should stand by it for weal or for woe ; but in a continuous transaction private persons who were landlords had very often to reduce rents in times of depression, and he saw no reason why tho State should not do so. With regard to the Electoral Bill, he thought it was likely to be a bone of contention in the House this session, and would probably involve a reconsideration of the reduction in the number of members. He was sorry to see that many of those members E lodged to vote for a reduction of members ad seen reason to change their views and would vote for the repeal of the Bill. He, however, did not think there was any chance of their being successful, because the Government had intimated that they considered this one of the most important issues at last election, and if tho Houbo decided to reverse it they would appeal to the country.—(Applauso.) Under the Electoral Bill the Government proposed two important changes: First, what was known as the single-man votethat was, that every man Bhould have ono vote ; secondly, a modification of the Hare system. In theory, he thought the Hare system was very admirable, but unless his view changed on hearing it further discussed he should be rather afraid to try the experiment of adopting it. There was a great deal of trouble about it, and it would take some time before the electors understood it. But the main objection against it was this: In the remote districts at present they set great store upon being able to send a local man in, but under this system it would be impossible for any man of purely local influence to get into the House. The man of wider reputation would certainly get in, to the exclusion of the less known man. With regard to giving each man one vote, that was practically doing away with a property qualification. He was inclined to view the proposal with favor, but he thought if it was carried it should be accompanied with a modification of the present system of reeording votes. Tho ballot system was a very admirable ono, but to his mind it had this objection : it put every mau to such a vast amount of inconvenience bufuro he could record his vote. Besides, many clectoro wore often uiiablo to attend tho polling booths. Sometimes a man was unwell, and even if ho was away from homo temporarily ho could not record his vote. He was therefore strongly of opinion that in addition to tho vote by ballot, thoso who had no objection to its being known whom they intended to vote for should have the option vi making a declaration before a Justice of the Peace and sending their ballot paper to the returning officer.—(Applauso.) That would secure a vote to every person on the electoral roll, instead of perhaps only onehalf of those who had the privilege of voting. The question of legislative reform had often been discussed, and something would have to be done very soon, for this reason: that the number of membors in the legislative Council was diminishing every year, while other members were becoming too old to take any active part in Parliamentary business. He observed that the Government intended to effect a reform by having the members of tho Legislative Council elected by the House of Representatives for a certain period. He had last year voted in favor of tho Otago Contral Railway Bill, but on thinking over the matter more cooily he had come to the conclusion that he would not support any syndicate for the construction of any railway n the colony.— (Applause.) Their experience of the Midland Company should teach them to have nothing to do with syndicates, and he was afraid that in hat case the continued demands for further concessions would end in the colony eventually having to take the whole thing over. Then, if they went in for these syndicates there was great danger of three or four of them getting representatives into Parliament and simply dominating it in any way they liked.—(Applause.) The effect of these syndicates was to lock up the land, and the couatry was Buffering too much from that
already. Indeed, it would be a good thing in this connection if the loan companies and banks had not the power to recover more than one year's interest. He hoped that next session they would have as little legislation as possible, for he was strongly of the opinion that the Government of the country for a few years yet should confine itself merely to administering the affairs of tho country, and allow individual effort achanco to assert itself. Hitherto tho colony had Buffered very much from being a large experimenting ground for politicians, and this had to some extent the effect of paralysing the country.—(Applause.) In concluding, he referred to the prosperity of the colony, and stated that up to the present we had not experienced much of it, because money had nqt yet had time to circulate. He, however, thought that by next summer they should begin to feel it very perceptibly—money circulating, improvements goiug on in many directions, labor being employed much more freely, and prosperity permeating all classes of tho community. It was very satisfactory to notice that thore was an increase of settlement throughout the colony. In tho North Island, as well as in tho South, there were a large number of settlers going on the land, which could not but be productive of great good. lie hoped that when ho next appeared before his constituents they would be ablo to congratulate themselves that the better times they were all looking forward to were really upon them, and that they would all have much more .smiling faces than they had now,—(Loud applause.) In answer to a question as to what proportion ho thought New Zealand should pay for tho'Frisco mail service, Mr Mills said he did not think he was qualified to say. The question was one for the Government to answer. As he said befcre, tho 'Frisco service had been taken up by the New South Wales Government, and New Zealand would not be called upon to pay anything unless she chose. He, however, certainly thought that instead of New Zealand paying two-thirds she should only pay one-third, if she paid anything. But tho contract had been made, and New Zealand would simply be asked to pay by weight for mails. He was not in favor of the 'Frisco service in preference to a direct mail service. If there was a choice between the two services he thought tho direct servico should be supported at all hazards. He was opposed to the abolition of the Upper Houso, aa it was useful to check hasty legislation. Theoretically he thought the land and income tax was a most fair thing, butin the present circumstances of the colony it was not within tho range of practical politics. The property tax brought in 6uch a large revenue that it would be impossible to replace it by a land and income tax. Mr Pltxam movod and Mr Pj.atts seconded a vote of thanks and confidence, which was carried unanimously.
MR MILLS AT PORT CHALMERS., Issue 7936, 18 June 1889
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