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AS OTHERS SEE US., Issue 8042, 19 October 1889
AS OTHERS SEE US.
New Zealand is at present attracting considerable attention at Home and in the sister colonies. The Colony turned over a new leaf, financially, some time ago, and the eyes of interested observers are keenly watching whether the good resolutions formed when the Stout-Vogel Ministry collapsed will be faithfully carried out. The reputation of New Zealand has risen immensely since Sir Harry Atkinson's retrenching operations began. Of this the improved value of our securities are a significant proof; and the tone of that section of the London Press which habitually comments on our affairs has completely changed. All this is extremely satisfactory, and will help towards placing the Colony in the position it ought to hold. But it remains with ourselves to determine whether our reputation shall continue to rise, or whether we shall relapse into our old habits, and again become the butt for the world to sneer at. The Melbourne ' Argus' pointed out a week or two ago that the great improvement in our prospects and position was not wholly due to the exertions of the Government. Sir Harry Atkinson had undoubtedly performed an essential service to the Colony; but one of the main causes of the more prosperous state of things which now exists is the sudden and general rise in the value of our exports. The amount of production in most of our industries has increased, and higher prices have been obtained; so that the Colony would have occupied a better position than it has done for years had there been no improvement in the administration of its affairs. This improvement, however, has combined with the advance in values to restore its good name ; and New Zealand now stands well forward in the colonial rank. But our friendly critics tell us that we are now at a critical juncture. They doubt whether the long period of commercial depression which we brought upon ourselves has completely cured us of our tendency towards extravagance and political tinkering; and they profess to be in dread lest the return of prosperity should tempt us to inaugurate another heroic policy of public works. Nor is this fear without a certain amount of justification. There can bs no doubt that a considerable section of the community, including many of our politicians, would be only too glad to welcome the resumption of borrowing on something like the old scale, whether the expenditure was beneficial to the Colony or not. The article in yesterday's 'Argus,' from which we publish an extract elsewhere, sounds another note of warning. Our Melbourne contemporary again gives Sir Harry Atkinson credit for setting the finances of the Colony in order, but says it remains to be seen whether he and his colleagues will retain the confidence of the country. The doubt implied in this statement is not, however, lest the Government should do anything exceptionally imprudent, but rather lest a continuance of their careful and economical administration should lose them the support of the electors. The ' Argus' says that New Zealanders have been addicted to the discussion of theoretical politics, and that it is only too probable that they are beginning to think that the time for further political experiments has arrived. In this statement there is a certain amount of truth ; but we are not disposed to admit that our people, as a whole, are more disposed than their neighbors ' to dabble in mere theoretical politics. The fact of the matter is that the noisy and persistent agitation of a few theorists, who had no clear conception of the subjects they were discussing, has given the colonists an ill name. But the great bulk of us do not care a straw for such discussions. It cannot be denied, however, that the politics of the Colony have been both distracted and vitiated by the ill-digested theories —if theories they can be called—of some would-be political philosophers. People are too easily tempted to believe that there is somo royal road to national prosperity and national greatness, and are apt to look with far too much indulgence on impracticable proposals. It is thus that New Zealand has been afflicted, nearly as badly as Victoria, with the experiments of political quacks. The evil was intensified in that the colonists lost confidence in themselves ; and it was to be expected that they would in consequence cease to be regarded with confidence by outsiders. Was it any great wonder, in such circumstances, that capitalists should hesitate to invest, or intending emigrants to settle, in a colony in which political fads were rampant, and no stability in the general policy of the Legislature % The * Argus' further says that, as a consequence of our tendency to indulge in theoretical discussions, we are in the habit of measuring the success of Governments by their policy Bills rather than by their administration. This is, unfortunately, only too true. Unless the Governor's Speech is cram full of proposals, practical and impracticable, it is at once pronounced by some journals to be bald and uninteresting; and the session that does not add another bulky volume to. the statistics of the Colony is said by them to be utterly barren. As if the whole business of Parliament were to make laws ! Many shrewd people think it would do the Colony a good turn if it were to take to. unmaking them for a session or two. It
is admitted on all hands that lawmaking has become a kind of mania in New Zealand. The constat t demand for what are called " policy measures" is particularly reprehensible. It is simply impossible, in a young country like this, with scarcely more than halt' a million inhabitants, that the Government should need to bring down a certain number of genuine policy Bills every session; and the sooner the absurdity of expecting a constant succession of such measures is recognised
the better it will be for the country. " Administration," and not " legislation," should be the watchword of the future. Our Melbourne contemporary hints that the Exhibition may possibly distract the attention of New Zealanders from impracticable projects, and give the Government time to mature a policy upon which they could appeal to the country. The Paris Exhibition is said to have saved France from a revolution ; the ' Argus ' hopes that the Dunedin Exhibition may save New Zealand from a relapse into its old foolish ways. It is not very flattering to our amour propre to be talked of in this way, especially by a journal published in a land of fads ; but there is nothing more foolish than to refuse good advice. Wo certainly could not do better than renounce our liking for showy policy measures and unnecessary borrowing; and as for the policy upon which the Ministry should appeal to the country, why, that ought simply to be the policy which they have been for the last two years endeavoring to carry out—the policy of good and honest government.
AS OTHERS SEE US., Issue 8042, 19 October 1889
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