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THE FINANCIAL DEBATE., Issue 7984, 13 August 1889
THE FINANCIAL DEBATE.
[From Oor Parliamentary Reporter.l
WELLINGTON, August 12. The financial debate was begun in earnest this evening, but so far has not fulfilled the promise of interest it seemed to give earlier in the day; in fact it has been decidedly dull as yet.
Mr Balmnce, in resuming the debate, commented upon the Premier's unsuccessful attempt to convert the Auckland objectors to the Property Tax, and on his addresses at Napier and in' the South Island, aud expressed surprise that in view of these facts the Premier had not thought it necessary to make any remarks in moving the second readfng of the Bill. The Government had not, met the growth of public opinion that had taken place in opposition to this obnoxious impost. The object of the proposal to make the valuations annually instead of triennially was probably to prevent anything like a general expression of opinion in reference to it from all parts of the colony at the same time. Proceeding to review the Financial Statement, Mr Ballance complained that it was largely made up of " padding " about the progress of the colony. Our expenditure on coalfields, he feared, tended to benefit a monopoly. Much of the improvement in the credit of the ! colony was duo to the fact tflttt there were not so many people at Home running New Zealand down as formerly, and that a more cheerful tone prevailed amongst theeolonists. Last year's revenue fell short of the estimate by L 107.000, but it was made up to the Treasury by windfalls and the non-expendi-ture of votes, which largely went to make up the boasted surplus. If it were not for the funds in the Post Office Savings Bank we would be unable to meet the demands which might come some day. This and other trust funds should come under the most careful scrutiny of the House, which must insist upon their proper investment. What was the use of talking of a surplus when out of the supposed surplus of L/ 0,000 there had to be paid L 46,000, raised last year by means of the primage duty. There was also L 54.000 saved in subsidies to local bodies which were not paid this year. The fact that there was an apparent surplus was gratifying, and would go far to habilitate the credit of the colony at Home. The policy of the Opposition last year was to give the Treasurer all the revenue he thought he would require. In order to enable this to be done a three years' trial, at least, ought to be given to the tariff before any final judgment upon it was pronounced, or any attempt made to alter it, for nothing could be more detrimental to commerce than uncertainty in this matter. He agreed with the Treasurer that the industries of the colony had received a marked stimulus in whatever way it was done. He objected to the stress laid in the Financial Statement upon the increase in theeducation vote, which, after all, was due to the increased attendance, and not to the augmented cost per head. Savings could easily be made in this vote: As, for instance, by compelling the education boards to take over the control of Native schools, and also insisting upon Natives setting aside portions of every block passed through the Court as a contribution for this purpose and also for charitable aid, to the extent of, say, 10 per cent. He denied that there was any increase in the settlement on the land during the previous year, notwithstanding that the price of the land had decreased. A remarkable mistake was made in the returns by including 209 settlers who had really been on their lands for several years; so that instead of 1,779, as represented, there were not more than 1,570 last year. The statistics sliowed that there were only 100 more landholders in the colony this year than last, so that it was evident that much of the land taken up had been acquired by people already settled and who were extending their holdings. He regretted that the Government had not given more attention to village settlements, which would have largely done away with the unemployed difficulty which threatened to encourage an objectionable system of pauperism. Last year no less than L 14,631 was spent on the unemployed. The village settlers were not paupers, as the Government represented, but paid to the State larger interest upon their advances than any other class, while they did not compel more expenditure upon public works than was called for in other districts. Something must be done to stem the tide of emigration which was depriving us of our best settlers. Would it not, under these circumstances, be unwiso to promote indiscriminate paid immigration? He censured the Government for not encouraging the influx of farmers with moderate capital. He denied that the exodua was accounted for by the reduced Public Works expenditure, and said that it was due to the want of sympathy on the part of the Government with the wage-earning class. The whole policy of the Government was to offer large areas to wealthy men. and shut out people of moderate means. He dilated upon their discouragement of Mr W. L. Rees'a settlement scheme. To emphasise his point sa to publio works, he thought they had been reduced quite within our means; but the expenditure ought to be still further curtailed when present loans were exhausted—say to L 300.000 a year. Last year the Native policy was that large blocks had been acquired by speculators, and there had been no colonisation. Now, however, he was glad to see that the Government were preparing to resume the system of land purchase, with, he hoped, a view to settlement. Touching the North Island Trunk line, he would like to know why such a gloomy account was given of the Ngaire route. The proposed purchase of a block of 400,000 acres of land at this end of the line quite justified the proposal to extend the line ten or twelve miles, quite apart from the main question of the route to be adopted. The proposal to construct the Otago Central line out of the Land Fund was quite sound if the line would yield all that Ministers expected, but the principle ought to be applied to all other lines. Some of these were to be constructed out of the proceeds of the kauri forests and others out of Native lands. But what of the Wellington-Wood-ville section? It was to be gone on with when further funds were provided. —(Laughter.) This was the most cruel cut of all. The Greymouth-Hokitika line, on which the colony had spent LIOO,OOO already, was to be handed over to the tender mercies of the Midland Railway Company.—(The Premier : No such thing.) He urged that the railways should be completed to what was shown to be a paying point with all despatch, and that i! it were necessary the Government should bring down a proposal for another loan effectually ear-marked.—(Cheers and dissent) Coming to the Property Tax Bills, he disclaimed any responsibility for Mr Moss's amendment, and disapproved of the proposal for the exemption of machinery, seeing that productive and unprofitable plant was treated alike. That only went to "prove the unfair incidence of the tax. For his own part, he wanted to see the settlers' improvements exempted and speculators handicapped. All experience had condemned the tax in its present form, and any proposals for remissions ought to be general in their effect. The present proposals of the Government made matters worse than ever. The Premier could not, of course, do without his revenue, but next year he ought to come down with his tax in altered incidence in the spirit of Mr Moss'b amendment, which he supported with that idea in view. While wealth should not escape, it should also not be harassed; but our system of taxation should bear equally on all classes.— (Cheers.) The leader of the Opposition spoke for an hour and a-half in a rather labored style, and was much below his usual form.
Mr Saunders reviewed the financial position of the colony at great length, arguing that, instead of a surplus, there was in reality a deficit of L649.BB3.—(Laughter.) He deprecated any cutting down of the education vote, and was strongly opposed to any further borrowing. He said that if 5 per cent, were taken off all the employed of the Government, there would still be plenty of men left to do all the work that was required. The city of Wellington, he argued, ought to be disfranchised, not because of the actual saving it would effect, but on account of the large indirect saving that would result. He favored the raising of the sohool age to six years with an allowance to country districts. He also favored the establishment of cen*
tral distlllerlea. Be would support the Government on the principle that the devil one knew was better than the devil one did not, and because the Leader of the Opposition was prepared to increase the colony's indebtedness. Mr Verrall advocated the establishment of a State Bank as a panacea for our difficulties, and indicated that he was opposed to the Property Tax.
THE FINANCIAL DEBATE., Issue 7984, 13 August 1889
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