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The Evening Star MONDAY, JULY 29, 1889.

New Zbalanb cannot now he regarded as an intensely political country. The llcpre- Even the present Parliamentary crisis, unique as it is in some Struggle, respects, has failed to cause anything like popular excitement. Town and country look on with comparative equanimity, while their members, ranged on their respective sides, fight the battle of representation. There have been, to be sure, public meetings at tho seal of Government, in Auckland, in Christchurch, and another in our own City on Saturday night, for the purpose of discussing the question of the hour; but it would be a great exaggeration to say that cither Wellington, Christchurch, Auckland, or Dunedin was in a state of intense political agitation. The meeting in the Rattray street Hall was well attended, and there can bo little doubt that a larger hall would have been filled. It was, indeed, unfortunate that a larger one could not be obtained. Still there was no sign of political passion—none of that boiling over of the public feeling which characterises a critical juncture in the history of a country. The citizens of Dunedin would thus hardly come up to the standard of the Athenian legislator to whom Sir Robert Stout referred ; and it may be doubted if their political condition would be greatly improved by ten or a dozen associations of the kind which exist in such profusion in Mr Lee Smith's native town. A community which is kept continually on the fret by political agitators can scarcely he said to be in a healthy condition. Sir Robert Stout, however, delivered a temperate and somewhat interesting speech. It was highly characteristic. There was u great (leal about democracy and the State, and not a little about himself what ho had done when ho was Premier (ho entirely ignored his colleagues), and what he would have done but for the contradiction of sinners. But he went too far when ho said that there was no difference between town and country, and that but for tho present Bill they would have been in perfect harmony. It is onty in an ideal democracy that such concord exists. If tho interests of the town and country constituencies are identical, why did Sir Robert Stout himself propose to give even a temporary advantage to sparsely populated districts ? And why, by the way, should ho imagine that the present measure is intended to be as unchangeable as the laws of the Medea and Persians ? In all countries under the sun there is a natural jealousy between town and country. Such is human nature, and such the complexion which its infirmities give to human society. The more, however, the friction is reduced the better, and the Government are to blame for accentuating the difference of feeling and opinion that exists, and always will exist, between urban and rural populations.

The manner iu which the compensatory advantage due to the country is effected by the Bill is decidedly objectionable. Itgives a certain color of reason to the cry of disfranchisement. Another cause of irritation,

anti very last irritation, is the blunder about tht percentage—a blunder to which the Government, notwithstanding the. admission of the Colonial Secretary, seem determined to adhere. Then the quota, practically Increased as it is by the inistake in question, is too large 5 and It was another iftiatako, : though in this case a mistake of 'judgment, to class the email towns with the country. There is no iretarm in the world for giving theta the benefit of the quota. Their interests arc, practically speaking, identical with those of the rerltaming cities, and it looks as it the Government had placed tJieiVi in the same category as the comity districts simply for the purpose of. securing an overwhelming majority. In this respect they are pitted against the four large towns, though in reality the advantage it is proposed to accord them is on the side of urban us opposed to rural interests. The proposal is of no use to the country districts. There is thus something anomalous' or self-contradictory about this provision of the Bill. It gives the small towns the same percentage as the country ; it does so apparently for the sake of reducing the representation of the large towns; and yet the result of the device is to the advantage of the towns as a whole, and in no respect or degree to the advantage of the country. These are defects in the Government measure —defects which could easily have been avoided, at least without insurmountable difficulty. Ead the Government gone about thw business in a prudent and conciliatory manner, instead of seizing (as it is to bo feared they have done) the opportunity of getting a secure majority, the natural jealousy between town and country might Surely have been overcome. The representation question is one which ought, as fur as possible, to be discussed apart from party considerations—one in regard to which members might : co be ready to agree to reason able colnprouiise. Nor is it yet quite beyond hope that a satisfactory accommodation may be arrived at by the House, unpromising though the present situation appears tolie. It has been said—and our Barliamentary reporter to-day gives body to the report—that the opposition to tire Bill springs from a desire to get the Act of 1887, which reduced the number of members, rescinded. The country members are presumably as much interested in tiie reduction as the city members. But there is danger lest the reaction against the resolution, which is well known to have act in, should he stimulated by this conflict about the .Representation Bill. This is a somewhat serious aspect of the matter, both for the Government and the country. The reduction of the House would certainly be in the interests of economy and good government; and the Premier has virtually said more than once that the Ministry will stand or fall on the maintenance of a reduced House. They are thus placed in an awkward position ; for, if a majority wore to vote for rescinding that resolution, Sir II.AuUY Atkinson must either resign or dissolve. As neither of these events is at all desirable at this juncture, it is sincerely to be hoped that better Counsels may prevail, and that the Representation Bill may be passed in a state satisfactory to the country at large. The decision of the country, Which was so emphatically pronounced at the general election, must not be tampered with without an appeal to the constituencies. One of the speakers at the meeting on Saturday night, Mr Slico, said that he did not condemn the Bill ns a whole. There were many good points, he said, in it, and the meeting passed a unanimous resolution in support of the provision for amalgamating the city constituencies. Nor is there anything after all very alarming in the stonewalling that is going on. It is one of the safety valves of our system of party government, allowing time for reflection, and preparing U.e miinb e{ the IcgUUators for eland, crowning < xpcdwnt, so characteristic of the British ra re—compromise.

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Bibliographic details

The Evening Star MONDAY, JULY 29, 1889., Evening Star, Issue 7971, 29 July 1889

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1,186

The Evening Star MONDAY, JULY 29, 1889. Evening Star, Issue 7971, 29 July 1889

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