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The Evening Star FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 1, 1889., Issue 8053, 1 November 1889
The Evening Star FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 1, 1889.
The Pres3 Association has sent a very short
abstract of Mr Ballance's o i t'l!'"' 1 * s P cech at Napier last night. Stump. Considering that the member for Wanganui occupies the responsible position of Leader of the Opposition, a tsottvowhat fuller report might reasonably hove been expected. The address is said to have been chiefly a review of the session, and it would not be difh'cult to guess what judgment ho passed on a House that rejected so mauy want>of>confidencc motions. Mr Ballancis was singularly unfortunate during his first term of leadership. The Opposition are composed of a collection of factions, each with its leaders, or would-be leaders, and their new general-in-chief has none of the higher qualifications for command. Theresultwasthatinstead of leading the party he was himself driven by them. No-confidence motions were brought forward by private members which he could not possibly think judicious, but which he did not dare to repudiate. He was, in faot, compelled to support them. It thus soon became apparent that ho was simply a tool of the united factions, and no more entitled to the appellation of Leader than Mr Seddon or Mr Walkeii, He was not even primut inter pares, for he really held a subordinate position, having simply to do what he was bidden. In such circumstances his review of the session could not have been a very pleasant matter for himself; and as a lhau's opinions are always more or less influenced by his feelings, lie would be sure to say that the session was an eminently unsatisfactory one, the fact that Sir Hakky Atkinson remained master of the situation when it closed being, of course, the most unsatisfactory part of the business. It is not a little noteworthy that tho "great Liberal" party has never been properly led since the deposition of Sir GeorobGkky. It is to be hoped that Mr BallanCe will have his forces better in hand next Lcssion. The business of the House never gets on well when the Opposition are little better than an undisciplined rabble. Mr Ballance, having finished his review of the session, went on to give his audience a glimpse of the policy of which the party he leads presumably approve. A progressive land tax, however, is the only definito measure that he seems to have discussed. It is needless to say that this is a very ancient device of the Opposition for advancing the interests of the Colony. There is, in the nature of things, nothing more objectionable in a graduated laud tax than in a graduated income tax. The objection attaches to the object proposed by the advocates of such :v tax in New Zealand. That object is ostentatiously vindictive. It was not so much revenue as the " bursting up" of the large estates that Sir Geokce Grey, the first proposer of the tax in New Zealand, had in View in bringing it forward. Vindictive legislation of any kind, however, is greatly to be deprecated. It gives a oountry, and especially a colony, a bad name ; and this does it infinitely more harm than tho existence of a number of large estates. These estates, moreover, will not be hold, like estates at Home, from generation to generation. They arc, in fact, being rapidly "burst up" by tho operation of natural causes. The depression has done much in this direction ; and tho easy terms on which land is now offered to tho public, under a variety of tenures, will no doubt also tend to bring large areas of private property into the market. A progressive land tax is thus as unnecessary as it ■would be impolitic. If Mr Ballance could Bhow how the total amount of our taxation could be reduced, he would do the Colony a greater service than he is ever likely to by appealing to class prejudices in favor of a progressive land tax. Mr Ballance is also reported to have said thftt the returns of land settlement furnished by the Government had been manipulated in such a manner as to deceive the country. If he can prove this statemen the w ill of course damage Mr Richardson's reputation as a land administrator, and the reputation of the Government itself in consequence; but though we have no doubt that the Department over which that gentleman presides would place the transactions of the year in the most favorable light, we decline to believe, on the strength of an avowed opponent's assertion, that tho responsible officers of the Department would be foolish enough to attempt to falsify the returns. Another statement mado by Mr Ballance was that it had been divulged to him privately that Ministers had appointed the Railway Commissioners to do what they dared not do themselves—reduce tho rate of wages all over the Colony in the interest of the landed classes. Such wretched tittle-tattle ought to be beneath the notice of a man holding the position of responsible leader of a party. There were objections in some quarters to the appointment of the Commissioners ; but certainly not on the ground mentioned by Mr Ballance, It is, in fact, altogether unworthy of that gentleman to make such a barefaced appeal to tho self-interest of the railway employes. Party government has been made to sink low enough in this Colony without resorting to a discreditable trick (it deserves no better name) of this sort. We have never favored the proposal to disfranchise Civil servants and Government employes; but if tho large railway interest were to be turned into an instrument of political corruption something of the sort would assuredly soon be demanded by the country. Mr Ballance will not have advanced hio reputation, already weak as a leader, by stooping to retail such miserable gossip—and gossip, too, of a description that is apt to prove highly mischievous. At all events, if he found himself called upon to publish this statement that had "been divulged to him privately," lie should have disclosed his informant—or at least have taken good care to have satisfied himself of its accuracy. It is pitiful in the extreme to see the Leader of the Opposition descending to such tactics. They will yet recoil on him.
The Evening Star FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 1, 1889., Issue 8053, 1 November 1889
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