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Evening Star, Issue 15642, 5 November 1914
Thk fourth and final session of the eighteenth Parliament of The Work of -New Zealand ha.s been the Session. more noteworthy for
external interruption and abnormal conditions than for notable legislation in the normal interests of the Dominion. The momentous events of war in and beyond Europe completely overshadowed local politics. As tho whole world gradually felt tho bewildering potency and dire growth of this unparalleled conflict political affairs became petty ami of as little interest to the people as the noisy stirrings of a "bluebottle" to gain and regain the top of a window pane. It was only by the dogged, and somewhat extravagant, determination of the. Government that even a desultory interest in legislative proposals was secured among politicians. The interest of the public wa„s rarely won, and any interest there was aroused found expression in comment of this character : " I see they are still at it in Parliament." There was one flame of public interest, bub it was only a temporary flicker. This was stirred by the promise of effective legislation to fend the disturbing influences of war by means of regulating the price of foodstuffs and frustrating the greed of men who do not scruple to seize the commercial advantages of war. And all the people looked to see if a strong Government could and would prove equal to an abnormal occasion, and make the name of "Reform,"' a* applied to a well-inten-tioned political party, a word to be revered. The. results were disappointing. With uwhallengablc good intention the Government set out with assuring promptness to check commercial greed and exploitation—and immediately fell into error. Instead of adopting the simple method of fjsing the prices of foodstuffs and then establishing a Royal Commission to regulate those prices according to changing circumstances, the Government appointed a Commission, and then, conscious of a happy division of responsibility, awaited a belated independent verdict. We all know the result—a commercial farce at the expense of the public. Many critics have charged thp- Government with design in the unfortunate delay and ineffective outcome of the legislative movement to regulate commerce during war. We do not support that criticism. The Government can only be charged with clumsy blundering in a husiness that micht have been regulated with* simplicity.
In many other features of sessional work in Parliament tho Goveniment. who certainly have been dogged by ill-luck throughcut their term of office—two strikes, (•mallpox, and a vnisrhty war—are entitled to a, full measure of credit for doing al' in their power to place on the. Statute Hook the most important proposals in their legislative programme. Xo special commendation is due for the extiaordinary legislation which was necessitated by the war. Abnormal circumstance.* demanded abnormal measures, and the Government, readily supported by the Opposition, did their plain duty. With the exception of the Regulation of Food and Commerce Act their duty was well done. In connectijn with the administrative activity in the matter of equipping and despatching the Expeditionary Forces theiv certain features which indicated a lack of perfect judgment, nut these weaknesses were doubtless due to the hurried preparations, and the stir and excitement of the occasion. It was bad judgment, for example, to concentrate the work of fitting the majority of the troopship* at Wellington. The Government were not responsible for th' l delay in despatching the troops. As a matter of fact, there is at the back of that delay an interesting story of groat credit to the Prime Minister. It may tiever be told, but that will not alter tho fact that .Mr 'Mnssey is a man of tine mettle.
It is impossible to go inio an ecstasy over the ordinary legislation passed by tho Government during this remarkable session. Most of it was of a progressive character, but Jione of it represented the ulti mate limit of progress in different directir.ns. The question of educational control, for example, is still a far pitch from a satisfactory standard. But it, is to tin? credit of tlio Hon. .1. Allen and his colleagues, iliat a. great deal ha* been done to prepare Ihe way to real and profitable reform of the State system of education. An advance was made in what politicians delight to call humanitarian legislation, but lack of time and a plenitude of unprofitable disputation rendered necessary a deferment of questions affecting the interests of workers, settlers, and tho general public. Possibly these deferred proposals will figuiv prominently in the policy of tho Reform party in the near feature. The Prime Minister should announce his programme without delay. He >need not he apprehensive of a charge of theft from the Liberal party. It i* a curious fact that the greatest energy of members of the Hoti«> of Representatives was really devoted to manoeuvring for party preferment, at the polls. Most of the argument and simulated indignation was aimed at currying favor, but tho people, who are now familiar with the wiles of politicians, will adopt their own course in determining the relative strength and weakness of parties. A great deal will be heard about borrowing and deep sympathy with the small man and all that sort of vapid talk. What is most required in the present circumstances is a political policy which shall afford a guarantee to the public of sound, progressive ad mini stratum and of legislative action rather than costly contention ovpr trivial party interests. As to the close of a queer feseiom. the public will have no regret that at last there is an end to an " anld e»rtg." -•>-
Evening Star, Issue 15642, 5 November 1914
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