THE PROPERTY TAX DEBATE.
The speech of Sir Harry Atkinson last night was a brilliant effort, far exceeding anything of the kind ever attempted by him before. So much is evident from our Parliamentary reporter's report. It was the lion at bay despising his assailants, yet courteous to his opponents; for there is a wide difference between the two. Mr BalLAXCEand his supporters occupied a legitimate position, and the Premier fully recognised it ; but the " larrikinism " manifested by Mr Reeves and those around him, tending to turn a debate on the very serious subjects at issue into a stupid jest, was deserving of all reprobation, and the Premier did not hesitate to administer a well-deserved reproof to the silly members of the " Young New Zealand " party. Addressing himself to the main question, Sir Harry asked very pertinently what tax the Opposition proposed to levy in lieu of the Property Tax. They had not given any intimation of their financial policy, and it would be absurd to turn out a Government which had practised economy, even to the verge of what Sir Robert Stout terms "parsimony," without some indication of the financial policy to be pursued by their successors. " Turn us out, if you like," said Sir Harry in effect, " but first find out, if " you can, what the Opposition mean to " substitute for the Property Tax. They " have not, and their chosen leader has " not, ventured to'say what other tax « should be substituted." Mr F. J. Moss, not quite unknown in Ofcago, has proposed the following insidious amendment of the Property Tax Amendment Bill: —" In the opinion " of this House the Property Tax is " unfair in its incidence, harassing in " its effect, and an obstacle to the progress and settlement of the country." Sir Harry Atkinson said quite rightly that, with a slight alteration, he would accept it. The "slight alteration " which he desired was the insertion of the words "all taxes" instead of " the Property Tax," for what tax is there which does not come within the compass of Mr Moss's amendment. Every tax is more or less unfair in its incidence, and all taxation is harassing; whilst, as everybody knows, the additional Customs duties forced upon the country by the extravagance of the preceding Government have proved an obstacle to the prosperity and welfare of the country. We all understand that taxation is vexatious, and the duty of the statesman is to discover the means of raising in the least oppressive manner sufficient revenue to meet the liabilities of the State. Shall we levy a land and income tax in lieu of the Property Tax 1 Then the small farmer and the already overtaxed miner would have to pay. Such a proceeding, said Sir Harry, cannot be entertained for a moment by intelligent men. We agree with him that those who have must pay, and always have paid in one form or another from the beginning, and will have to do so.
As to borrowing in moderation, after spending rapidly as suggested by Mr Ballance, the Premier would have nothing to do with it. He put his foot down firmly, declaring that he would not be a party to any more borrowing, and that the unfinished public works should be completed so far as it was desirable to extend them out of revenue. He particularly instanced the Otago Central Railway as one of the lines which were included in the policy of the Government, and must be carried on to the Eweburn from revenue. "No more borrowing," cried Sir Haery. His Government, he declared, had pulled the country out of the slough into which his predecessors had plunged it, and he would not consent to the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition to borrow moderately. We learn from our Parliamentary intelligence that Sir H. Atkinson's speech was delivered in good humor; that even the sorest members of the Opposition frequently applauded him; and that the general impression prevailing in the lobbies is that his bold, manly tone had secured the continuance of the existence of his Government for another term. On the other hand, the speech of Mr "W. 0. Walkek, one of the Opposition chiefs who followed him, was lame in the extreme. Sir Haruy has vindicated his title to the position which he occupies,
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THE PROPERTY TAX DEBATE., Evening Star, Issue 7985, 14 August 1889
THE PROPERTY TAX DEBATE. Evening Star, Issue 7985, 14 August 1889
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