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THE RAILWAY INSURANCE BILL., Issue 8053, 1 November 1889
THE RAILWAY INSURANCE BILL.
Tim meeting o£ tke railway employes iu protest against the proposed Government Railway Insurance Bill devised in their behoof is both significant and suggestive, though we agree with Mr Sligo, who appears to have been somewhat coarsely used, that it would be more judicious to proceed by way of petition. The show of hands at the hustings does not always convey the sense of the electors as demonstrated by the ballot-box, neither is the clamor of a public meeting always to be accepted. as a test of public opinion. Always it happens that the timid, the weak, and the wavering prefer the non-committal process of holding up their hands at a meeting to signing their names to a petition. But we must accept facts as we find them ; and if we do so, we shall find that the sense of the meeting was in favor of the principle of the Bill, and only antagonistic to its details. And the details objected to are chiefly those to which we directed attention when the Bill was first reviewed in our columns. The Evening Star was, in fact, the first and only paper in New Zealand that drew attention to this matter; and we are pleased to find that as a consequence the railway employes have been induced to give the subject some conr sideration. It is not well to legislate for a people, or any section of that people, until they have had an opportunity of considering and in some way expressing an opinion on the subject. Most of the defective legislation from which the community suffers results from measures of which the people have not been previously informed, being hurriedly " sprung " upon their representatives, and rushed through Parliament without an opportunity for due consideration having been afforded.
The resolutions adopted bear out this view. The first recognises " the " wisdom of insurance against sick- " ness, accident, old age, and death." This is all that is contended for. The objections which follow are, as we have previously said, mere matters of detail But some extraordinary misconception appears to prevail as to the nature and scope of the Bill. " The Bill does not provide for sickness or accident"; and, again, " most of the employes are connected with friendly societies," etc. Now the one and only proposal in the Bill is to provide a pension fund in old age, or an " allowance to employes retired from service "; or for the payment to their representatives of a fixed sum after death. There is, therefore, no conflict of interests with friendly societies; because these do not, so far as we know, make provision for retiring allowances, nor for payments after death. Insurance companies, however, undertake this branch of business ; and we entirely agree with the contention that the railway employe's should be at liberty to select the office in which they desire to effect life assurance. But this, again, is only a matter of detail. We previously indicated the many crudities of the Bill as now drafted. In its present shape, no assembly of sensible and practical men could or would suffer it to pass into law. And here, again, there appears to be an erroneous idea afloat to the effect that the Commissioners are going to put it into operation before it is sanctioned by the Parliament. Nothing of the sort was ever contemplated; and the value of the employes' meeting is to be found in the suggestions—. conveyed in the shape of objections 1 —comprised in the resolutions adopted. A very important modification might be made in the Bill, whatever the shape it may ultimately assume, by rendering it applicable only to employes hereafter taken on, and such members of the present staff as voluntarily come under its provisions. This should remove all objections. Only let the main principle be affirmed. Oneof those present at the in mj ting expressed the opinion that everyone should be allowed to spend his money " in whatever Avay he wished." Granting this—and in point of fact every man does so—there yet remains the question of how the improvident members of society are to be supported, Religion teaches, and our laws enforce the maxim, that none shall be allowed to want Even to the beasts of the field this solid principle, applies. But society has a right to demand of every man—the human being—that he shall not so squander his money "in whatever way he wishes" as to become a burden upon it when his capacity for working and squandering is past and lost. Taking it altogether, the discussion is a useful one, which, it is to be hoped, will bear fruit hereafter to the benefit of the railway employes and others; for that which is good for any one section of the community is unquestionably good for aIL As to Mr Bain's interpretation of the Act, we can only regard it as 1 a ponderous joke. As an old Parliamentarian, 'he should know that every year Parliament votes a sum of money for the " Expenses of the Department of Working Railways," which are briefly termed " working expenses f and in these are included the salaries and wages -of every employe" on the staff. /The bald ungrammatical wording of the Bill must be Mr Bain's excuse for ftis misapprehension of its meaning, though we suspect that there was "much method" in his interpretation. Parliament may vote as much extra money as in its wisdom it pleases by way of
implementing the fund ; but primarily the recipients of public pay would have to suffer such deduction from their monthly wages as may be agreed upon if! any measure of the nature contemplated becomes law.
THE RAILWAY INSURANCE BILL., Issue 8053, 1 November 1889
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