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A FLOOD OF TALK., Issue 7937, 19 June 1889
A FLOOD OF TALK.
Now that the opening of the Parliamentary session draws nigh, members —who have maintained an almost preternatural silence during the long recess—are crowding to the front. One and all declare that they have postponed the annual speechifying function because of the reticence of Ministers. It is not certain that the country or the people have suffered by the delay. On the contrary, the fact that breathing space has been afforded for the people to think over matters political, undisturbed by the brazen conflict of opinion, may be reckoned as so much clear gain. And now that the silence has been broken, very little of importance has emanated from the platform." Dr Fitchett and Mr Mills both aired their eloquence on Monday night. Each expressed different views on many subjects, and each received a vote of thanks and contidence. It is difficult to decide whether the dog wags the tail or the
tail wags the dog. In other words, it is a question whether the constituency —that active part of it which puts in an appearance on such occasions—thinks as the member prescribes, or whether the member thinks as the constituency desire. One thing, however, is certain. It is only at elections, or in times of exceptional political activity—when some great question at issue stirs the plebs to the core—that any general interest is displayed at these meetings. Nevertheless, they are an institution not to be despised, for their anticipated recurrence, with the knowledge that in a few months at most he must meet his constituents face to face and explain his votes, tends to imbue the representative with a wholesome respect for public opinion. But after all there is a great deal of the personal element in the relations between the electors and their member, and the former seem to feel it a matter of honor to vindicate their choice by approval of that which the chosen one has done. Both Dr Fitciiett and Mr Mills limited themselves, for the most part, to a recapitulation of the work of last session, and prudently skirted the hidden shoals of future legislation. Mr Mills claimed credit for the Young New Zealand party (of which he is a very useful member) having been the main promoters of retrenchment; and Dr Fitciiett, with less logical accuracy, assumed that the Protectionists )amongst whom lie is conspicuous) effected retrenchment by the imposition of additional taxation. Economy or parsimony the name is less than nothing certainly has been forced upon the Government, but it may be accepted as a true solution of the motive cause—that the extravagance of the late Government, at a period of deep depression, brought about a natural and healthy reaction of popular feeling, and the taxpayers would not stand any further waste of public money. Whether they have really gained anything by such retrenchment as has been effected at the cost of large additions to the Customs duties is a question which only. time can solve. But there is always this consolation, that but for the free use of the official pruning-knife yet heavier - burdens must have been laid upon their shoulders.
As time rolls on, and member after member disburdens himself of "the perilous stuff" that he "is charged withal," it becomes evident that the Electoral Bill will constitute the piece de resistance —or, as Mr Mills calls it, " the bone of contention " next session. This is a subject that appeals all too forcibly to members themselves. In whatever way it is worked there will be a keen contest for " the survival of the fittest," for twentyfour members must go to the wall unless the Act reducing their number is repealed. That a strong effort to bring about such repeal will be made is clearly apparent, with what result it is not possible to predict. It is yet doubtful whether the electors quite understand the consequences or effect of the Act, and still more so whether they will regard its operation as an unmixed blessing. It means—even if the quota is not altered —that in town districts, such as Dunedin and the suburbs, there will in future be five members instead of eight, and in country districts three members where there are now four. The saving from the reduction is small, and it remains to be seen whether the inconvenience to the public will not be great. The quota alone will constitute an element of discord. In its consideration all idea of party —if such a thing there be —will be swept aside. Town will be pitted against country, and country against town ; and as it is a question of existence the contest will be a bitter one. It is on the cards that the. Government may seek to deter wavering supporters by a threat of dissolution, but even this will hardly prevent the country party from fighting it out to the bitter end, if we may judge from many recent utterances in divers parts of the Colony. A dissolution just now would be nothing less than a public calamity, and it is therefore to be hoped that this great evil may in some way—by thoughtful compromise or mutual concession—be avoided.
A FLOOD OF TALK., Issue 7937, 19 June 1889
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