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One of the most forcible speeches in the recent debate on the Financial Statement was that delivered by the senior member for Dunedin. It was not so amusing as the deliverances of the honorable! gentleman very frequently are. j but who could be otherwise than depressed in dealing with so ponderous a document and the “ confusion worse confounded 11 of the Treasurer’s. figures ? - The honorable gentleman commenced by vVas-. with great reluctanpe he addressed l the House at all on'the Statement'—it seemed to be like beating the wind, or thresly ng straw, with never a prospect of getting a grain of wheat out of it. Such a document had never before been thrown upon the table and called a Financial Statement. Treain the future should he compelled to deliver their, Budget speeches, as was the custom in the Imperial Parliament and in the Australian colonies. The Statement might be divided into two portions ; the financial portion—a very small fine and the padding. It was quite evident that the first came bodily from the officials of the Treasury, with perhaps a few words of a connecting link here and there by the Treasurer; and the rest, the mass of the Statement—the padding—was evidently the right honorable gentleman’s own. If he (Mr Mackenzie) were asked his opinion he should say that the object of stuffing the Statement with extraneous matter was' to divert attention from the finances of the Colony and the course of administration during the past six years. “ The Budget may be called a “colonial edition of ‘The Idle Thoughts “ by an Idle Fellow,’ the English edition of “which is a remarkably acute and “humorous book, whilst the colonial “ edition is the dullest and most depres- “ sing piece of literature it has ever been “my misfortune to read.” A Financial Statement ought to be a plain exposition of the financial affairs of tho day, and it ought especially to be so" when the Treasurer has the privilege of writing it in cold blood, and has not even to read it, but dumps it on the table of the House. “It should “ then be of the nature of a public document, emanating from public offices, and “ought to have all the truth, accuracy, “ and impartiality of a public document. “ Instead of that what do we find this “ Statement to be ? It is a mere piece of “ pamphleteering—Liberal puffery—of a “character never before known, I make “ hold to say, within British dominions.” The honorable gentleman quoted several choice pieces from the Statement illustrating the pretentious humbug with which the country has been to a great extent, and is sought to be:stijl further, fooled,and deluded. In the matter of liberal land laws, for instance, of which Mr John M'Kenzie claimed the credit andmonopoly, he said that before that honorable gentleman was “ discovered in his native wilds ” the deferred payment system was in full operation—a system which offered material advantages to duly qualified selectors far in advance of the present empirical schemes which have absorbed so much money to very little purpose. The Treasurer, Mr Scobie Mackenzie asserted, would induce people to believe that the real settlement of the country is quite a thing of recent times under the benevolent sway of the Seddon Government. What, however, he asks, are the facts? In 1887 there were no fewer than 2,363 settlers, occupying 182,000 acres, put upon the land in the one year. Then, going back to 1881, it is found that 1,310 settlers were placed upon 165,000 acres; and if the average is taken for the seven years before this same Liberal Administration came into office “we find the average” was “ somewhere about 2,400 settlers, “as against the 1,300 (1896-97) we are so “jubilant about just now.” -The honorable gentleman then referred to the labor legislation, of which so much was made by and on behalf of Ministers. The first Factories Act, then entitled the Employment of Females and Others Act, was passed in 1873. Then there was the Factories Act proper in 1881, with amendments in 1884 and 1885. The Employers’ Liability Act dates from 1880, and the Workmen’s Wages Act from 1884. It was, previously to the attainment of power by the New Liberals under that extraordinary impersonation of Liberal principles, Mr Seddon, that the Education Act, the most really democratic measure on the Statue Book, was passed, and the Government Insurance and Public Trust Offices established. What, he asks, have the Government really effected in the way of labor legislation? “In the main, it “amounts merely to the introduction of “amendments of Acts passed by their “ predecessors.” Mr Scobie Mackenzie made some excellent points in criticising the portions of the Statement having reference to finance and public works. The Treasurer had been forced to admit that the Public Debt had increased uqder the Liberal Administration by £5,200,000. It was notable that there had ;been a curious series of steps leading up to this admission. First of all it was contended broadly that there was no borrowing going on at all. That lasted for a couple of years or so j there waanothingtoprove otherwise. Then it was stated that there was borrowing going on, but it was by the process of conversion only; and then it had to be admitted that there was borrowing, but solely for reproductive works. Of ..the large sum added to the Public Debt, the honorable gentleman points out, only a palfty sum was devoted to railways. On the North Island Trunk Line about twenty-six miles had been-constructed in the six years, and about twenty-two miles of the Otago Central. The whole of the railways have yet to be completed. “Within the last “ few years a curious, cry has arisen “against railways in the House,, and “ there is nothing talked of but land puis “ chases and roads and bridges. Shall I “explain to the House the reason? “Shall I explain why roads and bridges “are in such favor, and railways so depreciated? It is because roads and “bridges are convenient instruments of “political corruption, and iiilways are “ not.” Being cut short by the expiration of the time limit, Mr Scobie Mackenzie had only the opportunity of commencing what would no doubt have been an eloquent peroration. His last words were “ moral degradation,” which about sums up the situation under the present regime.

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Bibliographic details

A FORCIBLE SPEECH., Evening Star, Issue 10460, 2 November 1897

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A FORCIBLE SPEECH. Evening Star, Issue 10460, 2 November 1897