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THE ESTIMATES., Issue 10468, 11 November 1897
[From Our Parliamentary Reporter.] WELLINGTON, November 11. On the item “Grant to the Premier to defray the expenses of his visit to London, £1,750,” Mr Taylor said that if no details Mere forthcoming he would strenuously oppose the vote. Mr Smith expressed similar views. A long pause ensued. Mr Smith moved a reductiou of £SOO in order to keep the discussion alive. TUc Premier's Explanation. At half-past 3 p.m. the Premier re-eutcrcd the House. He said he was glad to find the Committee now in a position to receive from him an explanation with reference to this expenditure. The discussion had been vrry painful, because there had been divided opinions as to his own attitude on this question amongst his own followers. The general feeling was that he should not be in the House while the items were being discussed. It was admitted that no charge ought to be made against the colony which had not been legitimately incurred, but it was also understood before his departure for London that he should not bring discredit on the colony by any false economy, while on the other hand he was to avoid extravagance; but he hoped the Committee would not contend that in the discharge of his official functions he was to be out of pocket. He thought he had said before going Home that he (would require at least £I,OOO to defray his expenses. ‘ That was his impression at the time, but a friend who had visited the Mother Country expressed the belief that he would find from experience that his estimate of the cost would be too low. It would have saved much painful discussion if the House had voted a definite sum prior to his departure. With regard to the sum of £5lB, £2ll represented payment out of imprest, and did not include the money expended out of his own private means. Until that morning he could not have informed the Committee exactly how the account of £5lB was made up. He could not see his way to consent to any reduction of the amount, because if he had done so it would have appeared that he had charged expenditure which should not be paid by the colony. It had not been the practice in the House for Ministers to give details of expenditure incurred in public business of this kind; but he was prepared to do what no Minister on those benches had ever been asked to do—that was, if any doubt was cast upon bis honor as Premier he would submit his bank book to any member of the House or anyone in the country for inspection. That would, he hoped, dispose of any charge that had been made against him of making extravagant charges against the colony that were not legitimately incurred. As to his daughters’ expenses in connection with the trip to London, they were paid by himself. The following was a statement - of the accounts:—Railway and steamer fares (for Mr and Mrs Seddon and secretary) and transportation of luggage, etc., £790; gratuities on steamers and trains and hotels, £120; hotel expenses (including secretary) in America, Great Britain, and elsewhere, and expenses when travelling hy train and cash out of pocket, £410; newspapers, postages, and sitting rooms (including advance to Colonel Pitt for contingent, £2O), £100; miscellaneous expenses incidental to trip and _ entertaining, etc, £550 ; total, £1,970. The number of days he was absent from the colony was 149 namely, from the 13th April to the Bth September. It would be seen that in this amount was included the private secretary’s portion. Adjusting what should be deducted as private secretary’s account end his own cash, which was used to supplement the imprest account, £1,750 was the amount which his colleagues, after careful consideration, decided was the sum ho was justified in charging against the colony. It would leave him practically in this position : that he had given eight months of his lime to the service of the colony, leaving him in the same position as he was in when he went away, He had not been extravagant in maintaining the dignity of hie position as Premier or in doing justice to the colony and he thought the colony had received back in the form of services rendered every sixpence he had charged. Mr Ssobie Mackenzie asked if the item £790 for steamer fares and railways included the cost of passage from New Zealand to ban hrancisco. The Premier : Yes ; I took it that the invitation included my wife, but if the House says no (Hon. Members : Yes.) Air Monk thanked the Premier for his explanation, and trusted he would lay a copy on the table of the House as coming from the Treasury, In a little democratic country with a small population like that of New Zealand he considered that the Premier had set a bad example to the young men of the colony by his extravagant and unbecoming conduct. Air Smith, by leave of the Committee, withdrew his amendment to reduce the amount by £SOO. Mr Scobie Mackenzie said that the Premier l unneceßSar ily humiliated, because he had for some years past engendered a spirit of extravagance throughout the country. . The Premier deprecated making the ques- ■ tion of his expenses an excuse for a party attack on the Government. The Opposition had been quite as anxious that he should go Home to represent > the colony as the Ministerial supporters were. Did the Opposition think that as Premier of the colony he could escape extravagant charges, which could not bs compared with the ordinary tariff? Would it be in keeping with the dignity of a Premier that he should repudiate charges sent on ? But for the hospitality of the British nation, which paid £7,000 for the Premiers stay at the Hotel Cecil for six weeks, the charge against the colony would have been at least another £I,OOO. What a contrast the conduct of the Imperial Government formed to what had transpired in this Committee! The British nation never questioned the accounts sent in by the hotel manager. He felt sure that when the news reached London of what had transpired in the New Zealand House it would cause some surprise. The colony had, he took leave to say, been fittingly represented. If a special vote had been proposed as a reward for his services, instead of expecting him to be out of pocket, he questioned whether a large number of people in the colony would have said Parliament had done wrong. It was admitted that on the lowest calcuhtion he had saved the colony £190,000 a year in freight. Was the action of the House j-istifiable in face of these facts? _ He had purposely held aloof from discussion of the items in which he was interested, and it was only when he heard that attacks had been made on his personal honor that he had re-entered the House. He might inform hon. members that every tNyvw'®® n , era l on his appointment received foOO to defray his expenses to London, and another £ooo on his return. Reckoning the 149 days he was absent from the colony, no more economic service had ever been rendered the colony. He appealed to the Committee to bring this painful episode to a close and proceed with the business of the country. But he would take care in future not to place himself and his party in such a position as they had been placed in to-day. Had, he foreseen what would happen he would, as another Premier had done, have asked the t House to vote a fixed sum before leaving, so that no question should be raised as to the accounts on his return, Had he asked far tho sum of £1,070 before his departure, would the House have hesitated to vote it ? Captain Russell did not think there was (toy reason to discuss the question further, as the Premier had complied with the demand of the Opposition. The total vote for the Colonial Secretary’s Department was then agreed to. The Justice Estimates. Class IV., the Justice Department, was entered on at four o’clock. Members on the Opposition side of the House pressed for some reasonable assurance of an early adjournment, but the Premier would not say anything beyond that, if satisfactory progress were made, he would not'keep members late. _ln connection with the item “ Law officers £550,” the Premier explained that as there were material differences between lodges and the registrar as to contributions he’ had agreed (o refer the matter to the opinion of two outside legal gentlemen. Meanwhile the question had been remitted to the head of the friendly societies at Dunedin, Many i
•of the friendly societies were in an insolvent position.—Sir Robert Stout and Air Sligo denied that the finances were ac the root of the trouble, but said that the inttrferenoe of the revising barrister in connection with the rulea and the making of unnecessary amendments in tho rules were the real grievances. The member for Dunedin went so far as to say that the whole of the friendly societies in the colony were in a state of rebellion regarding the altitude of the registrar. There was a fear that the societies would be wrecked and ruined unless some attempt were made to put a stop to the revising barrister’s proceedings.—Mr Tanner said that the lodges, complained of interminable delays in getting their rules registered, and got irritated to a pitch which was not to be wondered at considering the fiivolous objections raised.— The Premier said that the correspondence showed that the societies, apparently acting under local advice, had rebelled against the opinion of the revising banisier; hence the conflict. In Registrar Alason he believed the societies had a gred and sound officer. —Mr Kelly uigtd that a conference of representatives of friendly societies should be convened.—Mr Sligo believed that the registrar took blame which really attached to the revising bairiater.— Air Holland said there must be bankrupt lodges till the Legislature stepped in and made contributions uniform, so as to do away with existing competition.—Mr Morrison said that the friendly societies would not stand too much dictation at the hands of the registrar. They pointed to their position and their reserve funds, and complained of the censure contained in the annual report of Air Alason.—After further discussion the item was agreed to. The Minister admitted that provision would have to be made for an extra warden on the West Coast. He promised that some of tho judicial salaries should be considered before the Supplementary Estimates came down. Air Alontgomery, at 5.5 p.m., said it was time that the House had an understanding as to when this continuous sitting was to end. They had been there twenty-seven hours, with only short respites for refreshments. Failing to get a satisfactory assurance froratheAlinisterin charge, he moved toreport progress.—Several members of t he Opposition appealed to Mr Seddon to agree to adjourn at half-past five.—Mr Hogg said that as obstruction was threatened they had better have a trial with the other side—a trial of physical endurance. The Premier congratulated members on their freshness and fitness, and said that if reasonable progress were made they would not sit late.—(Cries of “Oh.”) Cries of “Divide” came from the Left Wing corner, but the Government following were evidently not prepared to I take the feeling of the House on the question of reporting progress, and Mr Mills 1 and Mr Alorrison kept the discussion going till the dinner adjournment arrived. ! At the evening sitting the first hour was i spent in discussing Air Alontgomery’s motion to report progress, which, on bsiog 1 put, was negatived by 33 to 27. , The Premier, answering Mr Heke regarding the abolition of Native Land Courts, said it was intended to allow stipendiary magistrates to do part of the work now done by the Native Land Court judges. Some discussion took place on the prisons | th® colony. Mr Millar having urged that the hours of duly of prison warders should be lessened, the Alinister of Justice stated that their hours averaged nine a day, | with a half-holiday every other Saturday and fifteen days’ holiday a year. Mr Taylor urged that women should be appointed as visiting justices of the peace for the gaols.—The Aliuister of Justice sympathised with the member for Christchurch in this matter, but pointed out that uuder the existing law women justices of the peace could not he appointed. In connection with the item £250 for the promotion of tne sale of New Z-aland pro- ’ cluce in the United Kingdom, it was stated ; by the Premier that Mr Frey berg, the timber expert, was no longer in the emplov of the colony. Mr O’Regan : “ I am glad to hear it.” The departmental votes passed unaltered. Post amt Telegraph JJcpnriineji*. It was nine o’clock when this depariment was reached. Sir Robert Stout condemned lbs piesent system of appointing cadets to the Public Service. Some system, either by competition or so many for each district, or some fair scheme should be adopted.—The Premier agreed in this. Air Taylor raised the question of the telephone charges.—The Premier said that our telephone rates were the lowest in the world.—(Sir Robert Stout: “Ohno ”) The Premier: Well, they'are the lowest in the ; Australasian colonies. It was necessary he contended, to obtain a .sufficient reserve fund, and in his opinion it was a mistake to have ever reduced them.—Sir R. Stout and Alessrs Buchanan, J. Allen, Sligo, and others protested against the increase in the telephone charges, it being stated by Air blJgo that the telephone service was being used by the Government as a means of raising revenue.—Mr Pirani wished to know how it was that a member oi Parliament had a telephone bureau placed in his private residence used only by’him and closed during the session. He would ' l jJ° ,ow on what grounds this was done and how long it was intended to grant the bonus.—A Member: “Who is it ?’—The Premier ; “ I don’t know.”—Another Member : The same member who gob the vote for the private road.”—The Premier said .he had made inquiries and found that the telephone in question was placed in the house of a member living in a district with a scattered population. This telephone, however, was for public use.— . r Pirani: “What is the revenue from The Premier understood that no charge was made for the use of this telephone. Mr Pirani entered a vigorous protest against a telephone bureau bein'* established in this way when the depart” meut again and again refused requests for bureaus that were much more urgently needed. ■ He also protested against the Postal Department relinquishing its efforts to obtain the Tasmania’s mails. Air Wright expressed surprise at the Government establishing a telephone bureau in the peculiar manner stated while ordinary applicants had to pay bonuses, etc. —Mr Pirani moved to reduce the rate by £l, to see if it would induce the Premier to reply to him.—Mr Thomson thought that Mr Pirani deserved the thanks of the House for exposing the transaction.—The Premier said that the matter was now brought under his notice, and ifc would receive consideration. As to the Tasmania’s mails, two divers—one brought from Australia had .been engaged to attempt to recover them. Every effort was made, and the inducements offered to the divers were such that he was certain that if they could have recovered the mails they would have done so.—Mr Taylor submitted that the telephone bureau referred to was simply providing a private telephone connection for Air Larnaoh and his friends free of cost. It was a discreditable transaction.— Mr Monk regarded it as a corrupt act, and an act of injustice to taxpayers, and he hoped the House would see it remedied. Captain Russell, at this stage (10 53), asked the Premier if be would now adjourn according to arrangements entered into. (Mr Seddon shook his head.) Then it seemed to him that' it was no use enter* jog into any contract with the Premier. The discussion that evening had been a fair and proper discussion—The Premier said it was unreasonable to ask him to adjourn at this stage. The arrangement was that.they should go through the “Post and Telegraph” and the other departments.—Captain Russell said that, acting on the suggestion of Sir Robert Stout, he would never enter into an arrangement with the Premier without havmg !t in writing. He had in writing what he had offered; it was to take the Justice, Customs, Marine, and Stamps Departments. He had said that it was impossibly to get through a department like the Post and Telegraph.-The Premier : Pass this class.’’-Captain Russell said the class had hardly been begun. It would take at least four hours to finish the class. Ihe chairman and clerk were absolutely worn out and quite unfit to do the business they had.;to do. The question of the San hrancisco mail service was ope of the items in this class that would require lengthy diacusaion. 8 J S^to^O ° tion to report progress was lost by The Premier, evidently brought to his tenses by the narrowness of the majority, 1
said that if the part of the vote they were at were passed he would adjourn. This waa agreed to, and, Mr Pirani’s amendment being negatived, The House rose at 11.25 p.m., after a con-, linuous sitting of thirty-three hours.
THE ESTIMATES., Issue 10468, 11 November 1897
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