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DR MACGREGOR’S REPORT., Issue 7954, 9 July 1889
DR MACGREGOR’S REPORT.
Dr Macgreoor’s report pu the hos' pitals and charitable institutions of the Colony offers a pleasing variation from the usual high-and-dry cut effusions of public officers. It is actually readable—a rare tiling in. official documents—and it is to be hoped that he will not incur any censure from dull-witted Parliamentarians in consequence thereof. He sppaks pqt, as all men in positions of trust should speak, boldly and bravely. He repognises fully that the central difficulty ,Is to be found in the vexed question of town versus country. On tbe one hand it. is _ maintained that everywhere oar social detritus .drifts into the large towns-the unfortunate, the idle,y and the vicious from the naturil instinct of their kind, and the sick poor because of the superior advantages of the larger hospitals. This fact, together with all its manifold implications, cannot be denied. All that can be done is to point ont that probably the roost serious rock ahead of our civilisation is precisely this fact—namely, that the whole tendency of our industrial organisation i i to make the towns too attractive as compared with tbe country ; and the townsfolk must make up their minds to put up with at any rate some of the drawbacks. Farther, the chief difficulty to be got over in the working of all our charitable institutions is the impossibility of getting the taxpayers of the large towns, where the most lavish charity & 'dispensed, to take the least trouble to prevent, or even try to hinder, the wholesale pauperisation that i* going on. Nothing, lam persuaded, but the tax-griherer at the door will make the towns organise themselves to 'stamp out the professional pauper by separating, . after full and discriminating inquiry, the sheep from the goats—the deserving from the undeserving poor. This is the. key of the position, which, if a determined assault were made on it now before onr towns have become too large, might be conquered once for all. But so long as the State gives money ont of the Consolidated Fund, and allowsthe towns to tax the count'y, what hope is there that this problem will be seriously faced? A consideration which might fairly be urged on tbe other side is that the country, and especially > the pastoral districts, is heavily mulcted,each year by the itinerant swagger whose home is in the towns, though it may be asked how far ia this evil due to the runbolders’ refusal' to provide suitable accommodation for respectable married laborers. The questions raised in the foregoing extract afford matter for volumes. The gravitation of the people into the towns, which. is the most calamitous and most dangerous blot on our present social system; the “ wholesale pauperisation ” of the people, mainly in consequence of the indiscriminate bestowal of charity; the encouragement thereby of the “professional pauper ” and the “ itinerant swagger ” —these are the main causes of the urgent and aggressive demands made on tbe taxpayer. Whether the longsuffering taxpayer will rise or be goaded to a ddi sense of the position remains to be seen. There is much truth and sense in Dr MacGregor’s statement of the position of affairs, which has led up to the present difficulty. The notion of disruption and division of our institutions, which had been inaugurated under the temptation of geit ng borrowing powers, has, I believe, inadvertently been allowed to proceed eo far that now at length it has culminated in a reductio ad pbsurdum, 'What with multitudes of municipalitieSj multiplying by fission—like so many bacteria m a good fat' infusion— and county councils and road boards, harbor boards, licensing boards and school boards, district charitable aid boards and united boards, incorporated benevolent societies, and hospital boards, we are almost in a state of administrative paralysis from the impossibility of organically co-ordinating their functions. Worse still, but which is never heard of, a very large part of the real administration of the country is carried on by their officers, who are miserably underpaid because of their multitude, and whose efficiency is in proportion to their pay. This state of• thing constitutes, perhaps, the gravest "difficulty in the reformation of the government of our hospitals and charitable institutions ; for, until come consolidating Local Government Bill is passed by Parliament, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to devise a scheme for their satisfactory Take,.for" instance, the case of the Dnnedin Hospital and the Benevolent Institution in Caversnam, Shall we hand over the Dunedin Hospital, with its medical school, drawing patients from remote districts, as well as from tbe provinces or o*ago ■ and Southland, to the Dunedin City Council? How, then, shall we deal with the questions that most emerge regarding the maintenance of patients from the dozen municipalities that are clustered all around the City proper ? Shall we give the CSty Council power to' charge these municipalities and tbe counties for the patients coming from them ; and, if so, how shall we define a legal settlement for this purpose ? Or shall we give them power to rate these municipalities, as well as themselves, according to their property, with the certainty that, these governing bodies will refuse to be rated ' unless they are represented; and if they are represented, will not their sole anxiety be to keep down the taxes ? Now, thongh just at present this is undoubtedly the most urgentlyneeded reform, yet there is grave cause to apprehend that the taxpayers’ representatives will not be the wisest and most discriminating . helpers of the deserving poor, who alone will be left to their care if the Government’s proposals for the elimination of inveterate paupers and habitual drunkards are successfully carried out Again, not merely is it to be apprehended that the municipalities will combine against the City, but they will probaby fly at each other. The councillors of Boslyn and Morningtoo,' on the hill, being aristocratic and well-to-do districts, will refuse to be equally rated with South Dnnedin and St. Hilda and the others on the Flat, whence a much larger proportion of paupers and hospital patients come; and so on all over the Cpjony. v Christchurch and Auckland will stand on their', rights against their independent offspring, and Wellington will still be at war with Wairanpa.
We present this strong statement ■without comment at present, but there is more to be said hereafter.
DR MACGREGOR’S REPORT., Issue 7954, 9 July 1889
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