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THE FINANCIAL DEBATE, Issue 7988, 17 August 1889
THE FINANCIAL DEBATE
[From Ode Parliamentary Reporter.] WELLINGTON, Acgcst 16. The debate on the motion for the second reading of the Property Assessment Bill, and Mr Moss's amendment declaring the Property Tax to be unfair in its incidence, harassing in its effect, and an obstacle to the progress and settlement of the colony, was resumed at 2.30 to-day, and occupied the whole afternoon and evening sittings. Mr T. Thompson said that he had always been strongly opposed to the Property Tax, as it was a tax on industry, thrift, and improvements. If Mr Ballance went into office and modified the Property Tax, instead of imposing a land and income tax, he would not have his (the speaker's) support, neither would any Government that advocated further borrowing. He must vote for Mr Moss's amendment, and if the result of his vote was to displace the Government he should regret it. Mr Monk, in a-n excited speech, expressed the hope that if there was to be a general election the country would determine not to return any more' * jelly fish " politicians. He was opposed to the Property Tax, because it wrung money out of the pockets of those who could not afford to pay it, and was driving people away from our shores. He could not see why machinery should be exempted or why a simple form of income tax should not be established. With all their faults, the present Ministry had done good work in the way of economy, and in other ways they had deserved well of the country. On the other hand, there was only a choice of those whose record was anything but good, and whose past acts showed that they were not fit to be trusted. Still, holding the convictions that he did, he must support Mr Moss's amendment, or he would be branded from one end of the colony to the other. Mr Marchant announced that he could not vote for the amendment till ho saw what was to take the place of the Property Tax. Mr Valentine considered that the amendment was only designed to catch votes. The real issue before the House waß the question of confidence or no confidence in the Government, and how anyone could vote against them after watching their career was beyond his comprehension. Mr Duncan, in supporting the amendment, warmly criticised the Hon. Mr Richardson's administration of the Land Department. Sir Geokge Gkey said that the Property Tax Bill was designed to regulate and promote the interests of the land-holders. The essence of a land tax was that it enabled the State to get at the unearned increment, which rightly belonged to the public, So loug as a Property Tax existed, so long would it be impossible to get from the land the share which it ought to contribute to the revenue. If this fact were not recognised, then woe to New Zealand. He challenged hoD. members to vote according to their convictions, and not delude themselves that the amendment, from its terms, was one which ought not to have been moved. He argued at length in favor of the taxation of absentee land-holders and bondholders, and estimated that an income tax would realise L 130.000 a year in addition to L 200.000 which could be levied on the loans to local bodies. His idea was that the Property Tax should be allowed to continue for a certain length of time, and that it should then cease to exist except bo far as it related to land, and that it should only be levied on unimproved values at, say, a halfpenny in the £. That would raise L 150.000 or L 300.000 in all, and the additional L 55.000 that would be requited from taxation could easily be saved out of the cost of administration. If his proposals were carried out the Property Tax would for ever sink into obscurity. Mr Tanner said that the amendment freed members from the pledges made to their constituents against the Property Tax, because it did not propose to abolish the tax. He hoped that the amendment would not be carried. Mr O'Conor did not see any reason for withdrawing his support from the Government, and declined to be drawn by Mr Moss's amendment. Mr Menteath said that they nowsaw for practically the first time this session the Government and what was called the Opposition armed against each other. For his own part he belonged to neither party, and neither side was at all organised, while the heads of bo'th parties aimed at much the same object. If as the result of this noconfidence division the Government were left on the benches, it would be claimed by the Premier on account of the extent of the good they had done for the country in the last elections. The Premier gave the great mass of the people to understand that the question before them was that of retrenchment as against the taxation of the previous Government, but the Defence Minister put economy first and taxation afterwards. The Premier denied absolutely that he bad made any such statement as Mr Menteath asserted. The difference between him and the late Government was that he proposed that reductions should be made first and then that taxation should balance the revenue. The Stout-Vogel Government said they must first have revenue, and they could then consider reductions. Mr Menteath maintained that the issue put before the electors was Sir J. Vogel's or the present Premier's own scheme of retrenchment. He proceeded to state that where the late Government had proposed to chastise the people with whips with taxation to the extent of L 336,000, the present Ministry chastised them with scorpions, their taxation amounting to L 424.000. He argued that the Railway Commissioners, beiDg entrusted with the management of our railways, should also be entrusted with saying what extensions were desirable. The battle ground for a no-confidence motion had been badly chosen. The Property Tax worked hardship in some respects, but was there ever a tax which did not ? It was a rough-and-ready mode of assessing both an income and a land tax. It was a just tax, and its most valuable recommendation was that it was the sheet anchor of economy. There was some danger in the proposed remission, in that it would be necessary to raise a large amount of revenue for some years; so that the deficiency in revenue would probably have to be made good through the Customs duties. For these reasons the amendment was not a wisely chosen battle-field. (Ministerial cheers.) To one like himself, who was connected with neither party, the ouly course open wa3 to vote on the merits of the measure before the House. Mr Lawby said he intended voting for the amendment, because he believed the Property Tax to be most injurious. He, however, voted with regret against a Ministry for whom he had sincere respect. On a direct no-confidence motion he would be found voting for the Government. Mr Cadman expressed surprise that the Premier had not profited from the expression of public opinion in Auckland against the obnoxious tax under consideration. Mr Mills said that the Government had undoubtedly made mistakes, not the least noticeable of which was the Ward-Christie case; but he thought that they were entitled to support for having done a deal of good work of a very thankless character. The weakness of the support accorded to Ministers had doubtless tempted them from the straight and broad road on which they started on entering office. He thought that
•■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ~...■ the oolony required political rest; and it wu very undesirable that there should be a ohange of Government at all events till after the next eleotion. He regretted that Mr Barron's proposal earlier in the session for a graduated reduotion of the Property Tax had not been assented to. Mr Moat said he quite agreed with the amendment, and was bitterly opposed to the Property Tax, but he reoognised that the question was merely as to whether the Ministry should remain on the benches or not. Under those circumstances he must vote against the amendment. This closed the discussion, and the division was taken at 1.10, the second reading of the Bill being affirmed by 37 to 33. The following was the division list : Foa Tna Amendment. Against. Messrs Rylance Messrs Allen Barron Atkinson Blake Buohanan Br.'wn Carroll Buxton Cowan Cadtnan Dodson Duncan Fergus Feldwiok Fulton Fisher Graham FitOhett Hall Fraser Hamlin Ooldie Harknees Hutohison Hislop Joyce Hobbs Lance Humphreys Larnacb Jackson Lawry Macarthur Loughrey Maokenzie, T. M'Kenzle, J. Marchant Monk M'Oregor Moss Menteatb Parata Mills Perceval Mitchelson Beeves, R. H. J. Moat Seddon O'Conor Smith Rhodes Steward Ross' Taiwhanga Russell Taylor Samuels Thompson, T. Saunders Verrall Seymour Walker Stewart, W. D. Ward Taipua Tanner Thompson, R. Valentine Wilson. TAIRS. For the amendment - Messrs Kelly, Withy. Kerr, Fitzherbert, E. Riobardson, Sir G. Grey, Gilmmond, Guinness, Turnbull, Jones, W. P. Reeves. Against—Messrs Ormond, Bruce, Fish Pyke, Ande." ■an, Dr Hodgkinaon, Sooble Mackenzie, G. P. Richardson, Whyte, Izard, Dr Newman. The announcement of the numbers waß received with cheers by the Opposition, Mr R. Reeves expressed the opinion that the Opposition had aobieved a great victory, i seeing that they were designated by the Premier as a "larrikin" and disorganised body. In consequence of the Government having treated the amendment as a noconfidence question, a few weak-kneed unprincipled men had voted against their convictions. How had the Government got their majority to-night ? (Mr Fisher : "Ah, how?") The hon. gentleman was proceeding to question Ministers' votes, when Mr Speaker pulled him up short,
THE FINANCIAL DEBATE, Issue 7988, 17 August 1889
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