THE FINANCIAL DEBATE.
[From Our Parliamentary Reporter.]
WELLINGTON, October 21. When the House met this afternoon, it was resolved, on the motion of Mr O'Regan, that the resumption of the debate on the Financial Statement be postponed until halfpast seven." - .
At the hour named Mr Thomson (Clutha) resumed the debate in a thin House, Ministerialists being conspicuous by their absence. The speaker declared that he could a tale unfold regarding the co-operative works system that would make each particular hair to stand on end. He condemned the surpluses as a novelty, proving that more had been taken out of the pockets of the people than there was any necessity for. Mr Montgomery infused a little new life into the debate. Referring to Mr Hutcheson's criticism, he said it reminded him of the conjurer's trick of slinging up balls in the air and making them suddenly disappear. Of course they all knew they were there somewhere. So it was with the surplus. He deprecated the attempt by the Opposition to delude the people into' the belief that all the increased revenue had accrued from Customs alone, when the tables proved beyond doubt that there had been a general increase under all heads. He said that the Seddon Government had constructed more public works out of the Consolidated Revenue than any previous Administration. In six years upwards of a million was transferred from the Consolidated Fund to public works. Mr Ballance had the advantage of £300,000 a year from the sinking fuud3 in aid of works. As to light railways, he thought the existing lines light enough ; but why was not stress laid in the Statement upon the Otago Central and North Island Main Trunk lines ? Three main conditions mu9t be studied in an old age pension scheme: it must encourage thrift, it must have a clear account, and be locally administered. In eloquent terms he advocated the preservation of Otira Gorge, ToDgariro, and other picturesque scenes, as national parks ; and, alluding to the reckless destruction of forest, he quoted the lines from a poem : Is this the price we pay ? The price of progress—beauty swept away ? The Minister of Lands: Who's the author of that ?
Mr Montgomery: Your late colleague, Mr Reeves.—(Great laughter.) The member for Ellesmere was ambling along the smooth tenor of his way.when, with a swift, anxious glance at the clock, he asked: " Will you tell me, sir, how much more time I have 1" and for answer that dreadful bell warned him that only five brief minutes remained to him.
Mr Richardson (Mataura) began by dubbing the Ministry " political sandwich board 'men." The burden of it was that the increased Customs taxation exceeded the net surplus, while the latter was itself the baseless fabric of a visioD, the country having gone to the bad at the rate of a million a year. Adversely criticising the land settlement, he declared that if the recording angel under-stated the offences of the Minister of Lands as much as the latter had over-stated the results of his land policy, then he was pretty sure of Heaven. Perceiving that the bulk of his notes was only about half reduced ho remarked : " The hands of the dock go round very quickly." The hon. gentlemen meandered along through a few more platitudes, when he was suddenly switched off. Mr Taylor (Christchurch), a well-built young man, with a good deal of the debating society style, proc2eded to his satisfaction to utterly demolish the Budget surplus. He vouchsafed the information that the Minister of Railways knew nothing whatever about railways and declared that he had issued his fiat against light railways. He went on, occasionally prompted by Captain Russell, to annihilate the Public Woika Department, and sketched an entirely new, not to say novel, policy for its guidance. Referring to settlement in the King Country, he expressed the hope that the sale of grog, which had proved the greatest curse to the Natives, would not be permitted. He said that no one having any knowledge cf what was occurring on the borders of the King Country could come to any other conclusion than that to permit "the sale of liquor would bo inhuman. Referring to the polico inquiry, he said there were scores of men who had been third class constables for years, and recently a man who had held a publican's lioense for two years was reinstated by the present Premier as a first class constable. The country wanted to know to what extent this had been going on, and what were the influences behind the Ministry which maintained men in such positions. Any investigation must go back for six years. If on appointing the Commission any attempt were made to burke full inquiry the responsibility would recoil on • the Government. The charges already made were only a third of those which must be investigated. They were not against men but against the system. He did not brand all the force as incapable or immoral. There were scores of able men in the force who had been deprived of promotion through political influence. Many men in the force were smarting under a sense of Only last year a recruit refused to do Btreet duty, and was appointed a' police oourt orderly. Being again ordered to do street duty, he appealed to Wellington, and the reply was that the order was not intended to apply to him. The Defenoe Minister might laugh.—(Mr HALtrJoitES: It would make anyone laugh.) The country had been laughing foryears at the Bystem he was condemning. The proposed inquiry must not have the same object as the Bank Committee inquiry to conceal the truth. He did not approve of the Commissioner, as a Civil servant, being a member of the Commission, though he should be present. The House should have an opportunity of discussing the names of the Commissioners appointed. No partial inquiry would be tolerated ; there must ba unlimited Bcope. People who made charges must be allowed to attend personally or by counsel and adduce evidence. If he found the inquiry a partial one he would refuse to recognise the Commission. Mr Lawry, in a slashing speech, said it would be a waste of effort to break a butterfly upon a wheel, but he knew the Natives in the King Country intimately, and he scouted the idea that they were drunk and immoral, as was alleged by the Prohibitionists. Would Mr Taylor and his party be willing to submit the question of establishing licensed houses in the King Country to the decision of a plear majqrity ? He vindi. cated the action of the Government in connection with the Russell case. In the course of severe strictures on Mr Taylor he said that when he heard of his election he thought a Bill ought to be passed to disfranchise Christchurch. If they had more chivalry in the House there would be fewer sneaks.—(Mr PiRaM: "Order.") It was notaquestion of order but fact. Exceeding to.
c e r end the railway adminis tratic n, he declared that from end to end of the Auckland district not a solitary complaint was heard. He had seen in a Palmerston paper that Mr Pirani had promised to support the Government if it came to a fight with the Opposition.
Mr Pirani : lb is not true. Mr Lawry : Then your own paper lies. Continuing, Mr Lawry asked : Why did Mr Taylor not make these charges until the police inquiry was set up ? As to Mr Pirani's insinuation that he was using that hon. member's brains, they were the very last he would ever dream of using. Mr Lawry went on to defend the Advances to Settlers Act. He asked : Could any man raise £IOO at 5 per cent, before that Act was passed ? (A Voice: "No; 8 per cent.") He declared that the Opposition had not attacked the Budget, but had only rung the changes on two or three stock gags. Massing on to the Bushy Park transaction, he said that in impugning it the Opposition were attacking their friends. Mr Lawry's speech, though abounding in humor and keen repartee, had little or no relation to the Budget, but he always manages to attraco a full House. ' The Speaker : Time's up. Mr Lawry : That's rather a sudden cut off.
Mr Pirani, rising to a point of order, read an extract from his Bpeech, in which he declared that he would not be a blind, subservient follower of anyone. The House adjourned at 12.30 a.m.
Permanent link to this item
THE FINANCIAL DEBATE., Evening Star, Issue 10451, 22 October 1897