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Evening Star, Issue 15646, 10 November 1914
The policy of the Reform party, who naturally hope for a The Government’s renewal of ndmints Programme. trativo power, and who are striving to forget their past association with Toryism, which is now intolerable in this progressive Dominion, is explained officially in the manifesto issued by the Prime Minister as common-sense government by the cardinal principles of public health, public wealth, national safety, good times, good wages, and equal opportunities for all the people. Well, no one should wish for more if one could get so much. But experience has taught us all to make a generous allowance for political enthusiasm in the year of a General Election, and no exception need be made of this occasion and the Reform party’s good intentions. It is a. sound principle of business always to make an attractive display, and special circumstances prompt the Government party to “dress’’ their political window to the best advantage. They naturally desire to secure a renewal of their chequered term of administrative power, and they also recognise that in order to gain the electoral support of the majority of the people they must shape their plans to overcome the handicap (mentioned above) of bygone associations. Although the Reform policy is more liberal than the Liberal programme (excepting, of course, the ridiculous bonus to babies), the Prime Minister and ills faithful colleagues, especially those who journeyed with him through the political wilderness, will find it a laborious task to convince the community that thfy are the read Liberals It is to be suspected that when they come to seek the blessing of public favor many people will say that “the voice “is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the “ hands of Esau.”
Stripped of political sugar, tho policy of the Reform party, as outlined in tho Prime Minister's manifesto, is very sound, reasonably progressive, and tolerably satisfactory. It is marked with the party's characteristic cautiousness, which is often cxasperatingly paraded by their sworn friends as “1110 prudence of statesmen.” and which is not infrequently characterised by their opponents ns an inherited streak of Conservatism. The Reform plan, as a matter of fact, is designed to serve the party for a score of years, and possibly the people will become tired of waiting on all the progress that has been promised. Still, it is a better policy as a whole than the ill-considered programme submitted by the Opposition, and that fact must have a proportionate effect upon the minds of the electors.
The first plank of the Reform party is that New Zealand shall worthily sustain its share in the responsibility and obligations of the Empire. Nobody will quarrel with tho sentiment embodied in this “plank,” but many Imperial-minded mtsn and women will differ from the Govern ment if they foolishly persist in forcing their claim that the best means of contributing Now Zealand's share in Imperial responsibility and obligation is to establish a Dominion navy. We heartily support the Prime Minister in his determination to worthily sustain New Zealand's share in tho obligations of the Empire by “a vigorous performance of the system of national training for defence,” but wo oppose, and shall continue to oppose with all our might, any policy which aims at the establishment of a New Zealand navy. There is no real objection to training New Zealanders for service in the Imperial Navy, but it would ho detrimental to the genuine interests of this Dominion to build an expensive local navy capable of guarding our shores and trade routes in time of war. Recent events have unchalI lengably proved the folly of attempting to safeguard the Dominion’s interest by a single Bristol cruiser and two ships of tho P class. There is only one practicable source of adequate naval defence—»tho. Imperial Navy—and if the Prime Minister and his over- [ enthusiastic colleague the ' Minister of Defence studied tho true interests of New Zealand they would remodel their naval defence policy, and prepare tor negotiation with the Imperial Government for the supply of adequate naval protection in tho Pacific in the near future. The Prime Minister is apparently beginning to doubt the efficacy of his colleague’s “ Binstol cruiser” policy, for ho stated at Papa- ; kura last night that he wan mot going to quibble as ro whether the ships should lie j Imperial-owned or New Zealand-owned, but \ the position (tho need of adequate naval protection) must bo faced. Mr Massey begins to see tho position in its true perspective, and we hope that he will insist on reopening the question with i the Imperial authorities at a convenient | period. Tho circumstances of the war j necessitate a radical readjustment of opinions and schemes in regard to naval defence in the Pacific.
The Ministerial policy in respect to land settlement includes several proposals which will depend on financial circumstances for practical operation. It is proposed, for example, to facilitate settlement by an energetic, well-planned programme ot roads and railways construction, by the expenditure of revenue from the State’s transactions in lands, an promoting further settlement, by the encouragement of agricultural education and intense .cultures, by
departmental instruction and advice, and hy the establishment of agricultural and land banks to minimise the financial anxieties of settlers. There is still wide scope for close- settlement and intense culture, and if tho Reform party succeed in providing cheap money and cheap fertilisers (the Prime Minister is, wo believe, making a great effort' to secure means to supply tho latter form of aid to small settlers) notable progress will be effected in land settlement, and progress in a direction affording reasonable prosperity to many rather than luxurious affluence to a few. 'Che subdivision of largo estates is to bo promoted by an automatic increase of the Graduated Tax, but this policy will be exercised with a just and sane discrimination. It is to bo hoped that in this matter the justice and sanity of discrimination will mot bo too political. Let the proprietors of huge estates bo taxed to tho bone, so that the land may be cultivated to the limit of productivity all the time. As regards the Reform party's immigration policy, prudence will have to bo exercised, 'lire question has been rendered more difficult by certain recent circumstances, and it would bn wise of tho Government to confer with other Dominions and the Imperial authorities before any definite scheme of immigration mud restriction is put into operation. It is satisfactory to note that the Ministerial leaders of tho Government parly appreciate the need of legislating in the direction of assisting trade and industry. including additional preference to British manufacturers, and of encouraging enterprise in local industries. It is with especial satisfaction that we note that direct and indirect assistance is to he given to develop tho oil industry. The assistance should include a thorough prospecting of the extent and quality of our shale deposits. The fishing industry is to be cmcouraged on the lines recommended in the capital report of Professor Prince, the Canadian Commissioner of Fisheries, whose recommendations have already been discussed in this column. As regards afforestation, irrigation, and railway construction, the Reform policy is sound. All that is required is greater speed in giving effect to the proposals. Once trees have been planted “stonewalling” shall not retard their growth, but it is a pity to have politicians mouthing about afforestation every year while hundreds of low hillsides arc naked. 'The Ministerial policy also includes provision for the. extension of the maternity homos system aind tho special (raining of nurses in (ho treatment of infants. There is ample scope here for legislative encouragement. Ac. a first step forward the Government should immediately secure the enthusiastic and sound feivices of Dr Trnhy King, whoso advice would bo invaJuablc'in the matter of promoting the. welfare of baby. He should bo relieved of ids duties as medical superintendent at Seadiff Mental Hospital, and invited to devote all his time and proved ability to advancing tho Government’s schemes for guarding tho people’s health.
The cost of living is (o bo reduced—at last. Well, we all shall he pled when that is accomplished. It is very doubtful, however. ■whether the trim remedy lies in the Reform party’s proposals to reduce Customs duties on certain articles in common use, to curb the exploiting operations of combines, and to provide more workers’ homes. It all looks well in a political manifesto, hut commerce has a trick of outmanoeuvring well-intentioned patty leaders. Nevertheless, we can live and work in great heart, according to the politicians. •' There is a pood time coining, ho vs.”
Evening Star, Issue 15646, 10 November 1914
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