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A GREAT SPEECH., Issue 7952, 6 July 1889, Supplement
A GREAT SPEECH.
[From Our London Correspondent.]
London, May 10,
Sir Charles Dilke has very kindly furnished me with shorthand notes of the speech he made at the Forest of Dean last week, which teemed with references to legislation and education in Australia and New Zealand. Some of his observations will greatly interest your readers, and I make these selections:— SUFFRAGE. Sir Charles Dilke said he thought that iußt as we had followed our Australian colonies, not only in the adoption of the ballot, but in the particular form of secret voting which we had taken, and as we had also followed them in the extension of the suffrage, so we should follow them in many other points. As regarded the suffrage, the colonies were not agreed. Some of them still based it upon property in some form, but the most advanced had frankly adopted the principle that property should not be the basis for the franchise, and he himself had long contended that, since the pasting of the lodger clause and of the Rating Act of 1869, no practical difference would be found as regarded party, or as between moderate and extreme opinions, whether they based franchise upon age only or upon property. But an enormous amount of complexity, chicanery, and fraud would be avoided by the change RELIGION AND EDUCATION. Whether or no all wished it, it was pretty certain that colonial example would be followed in the direction of an increased tendency towards religious equality. They would also follow the example of the majority of their colonies in the adoption of free schools. He had a vigorous controversy upon this subject a good many years ago with Mr Fawcett, who had always held that the institution of a system of free public education would have a pauperising effect. It had not pauperised Victoria or New Zealand, or Queensland, or the United States, where the system had been adopted. But, on the other hand, our own people were pauperised by the Bystem of the remission of fees upon application, which was the alternative to a free system. He thought that no one was pauperised where all paid through rates and taxes for what all were free to use ; that we were not pauperised by not having to pay for street lamps as we passed them, or for the police when we called them in. Compulsion had been defended here as in the colonies upon the ground of the good of the community, and free schools followed logically upon compulsion. In the colonies some curious and interesting steps had been taken which went far beyond the mere abolition of school fees. In some colonies the railway fares of children attending school were paid for them by the State. Another point in which he felt certain we should " follow the colonial example " was in the general adoption of the boarding out system as regarded the only paupers who ought to be paupers even under the present law—namely, the children of the very poor, in addition to the old and infirm. In the Australian colonies they had first begun by imitating us, and by buildiug vast barracks to contain the children who were left upon their hands. They had found, as we had found, the weak points of this system. But, instead of timidly adopting partial emigration and boarding-out, in Australia they had closed their barracks and had boarded out all the children, and, in some of the colonies, had boarded out all the old dependent people. STATE INSURANCE. There was another connected question in which our colonies had declined to follow a colonial lead. In New Zealand, but in New Zealand only, there had been adopted a State Insurance Provident Fund, which, although not compulsory or universal, nevertheless competed actively with tho friendly societies. The other colonies had continued in the condition of the mother country in this matter. LOCAL OPTION. Another question in which we were likely to follow colonial lead was that of local option, for the majority of the colonies had adopted this system, which now indeed prevails in New Zealand, Canada, and in the greater portion of the Australian Continent. PAYMENT OF MEMBERS. In most of the colonies payment of members was accepted, and the Parliament of New South Wales (in which it did not prevail) was not superior to the Parliaments of those countries. There would be less difference of opinion as to clearing candidates of the necessary costs of election. Not only did the present system of making candidates pay for polling places and ballot papers not exist in any of our colonies, but it was unknown outside England. The effect of the two reforms together would five a better chance to poor men of talent, n South Australia there is a singular power which there might be a tendency in the country to imitate. There was there an elective Upper House, such as existed in many colonies, but also the power of dissolving the Upper House in order to carry Bills against its veto. He had the greatest repugnance to most of the schemes put forward here for the so-called reform of the Upper House.
ODMUtATIVE TAXATION. Another point in which we have already begun to follow colonial example, and in which we should soon go much further, was that of graduated or cumulative taxation, intended to give the State a larger share of great than of small properties. Mr Goschen had this year introduced the thin end of the wedge in his tax of 1 per cent. It was small, but it was a beginning, and the needs of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the convenience of the country would soon carry it further. There was in the colony of Victoria a graduated succession duty, rißing from 1 per cent, upon small properties to 10 per cent, upon the large. It had been introduced by a Minister always pretty conservative for a colony, and who, at all events, had become thoroughly conservative before he carried it—Mr M'Cullock. The tax had worked well, had been
imitated in moat of the other colonies, and would probably be still more extended. Iu New Zealand the tax in caao of persons who were called "strangers"—that is absentees—was as high as 13 per cent, upon all large successions. The object of graduated taxation in Australia was to obtain a large sum of money for the State at the minimum of hardship to individuals, and to gradually lessen the great estates and bring about, without positive hardship to individuals, a more equal division of property, while indireotly the community would obtain a share of the unearned increment. He had seen with pleasure the triumph of these principles in the Australian colonies, and now witnessed with satisfaction their tardy introduction here under the auspices of a Conservative Administration. Equal rates pressed heavily upon the poorer payers; for example, a penny for a letter, which was in fact a tax, being vastly more than letters cost upon the average, and bringing in a large revenue to the exchequer. On the other hand, in the colonies the poor gained by State control of enterprises which here were left in private hands. For example, in Victoria the railways were worked at low rates, especially as regarded their suburban workmen's traffic, to the enormous advantage of the poorer citizen. Graduated or cumulative succession duty upon large estate?, increaiiug as the amount increased, existed in our large colonies of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and New Zealand. In some of them it was complicated by a property tax distinctly intended for the purpose of gradually breaking up large estates. Yet no one could maintain—certainly no Englishman at a moment when all rich Englishmen were
finding their best investments in Australian lands that the principle of property had suffered much by such legislation, Property was made more secure by laws which made its existence more conformable to the public interest. In New Zealand, where taxation was heavier than in the other colonies, they had devised a system under which the property owner assessed the value of his property for taxation, while the representative of the State also assessed it. As they usually differed, they then met with their preliminary return upon each side, and the property owner had a right to compel the colony to purchase his property at its final assessment. The State, on the other hand, had the power to compel the owner to Bell at his tihal assessment. It was found under these circumstances that they generally agreed, and that everybody was pleased. _ THE EIGHT HOURS SYSTEM. A point of colonial usage upon which there existed the gravest difference of opinion concerned what was known as the eight hours system. They were here getting on dangerous ground, for this was a matter which involved difference of opinion between even the most advanced politicians. In the colonies the eight hours system was universal in practice, but was unknown to positive law. In Victoria, indeed, a preliminary resolution had been carried to the effect that eight hours constituted a day of work, but there was no such legislation, and the absolute universality of the eight hours day throughout the Australian colonies was, in the opinion of many, only made possible there by the colonial high rate of wages. It was impossible to approach the considerations of such problems as this one without feeling thajfc, whatever might be the advantage which Contiaental nations gained from the more logical construction or training of their people, those writers were wise who maintained that the English in England and in their colonies were likely to work out these problems sooner than other nations on account of the fairness and tolerance which characterised our people. THE TEEORATION. Sir Charles wound up a lengthy speech as follows:—" The present was an interesting period in political affairs, because we seemed to stand watching the dawn of a new day, There were clearly visible throughout the world, but especially in Australia and in England, the beginnings of a fresh evolution of society ; and it was passing strange, when such tremendous issues were on the eve of being presented to mankind, to find men continuing to fight for place with old watchwords and by old means. ... In England, happily, the rich were not so uniformly hostile to such change as were the Continental bourgeoise ; and there was as much chance, as was shown by the enormous
benefactions of the English rich, of peaceful ' revolution coming from themselves as had been exhibited among the French nobility before they set aside their privilege. But in this country also, happily, there was a less burning discontent, and peaceful revolution would be less likely to be followed by excess and by reaction. The existing strong sympathy of class for class seemed in England only to precede the advent of a day in which class would exist no longer. They should leave violence to the side of prejudice, avoid ascription of unworthy motives, and, in the words taken from the poem of Browning's ' Waring,' sayChildren of England—choice of menLet this, your power, be still your prideFirst masters ot yourselves, and then Masters of whom you will beside.
A GREAT SPEECH., Issue 7952, 6 July 1889, Supplement
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