MB W. DOWNTE STEWART'S
AN APPRECIATIVE AUDIENCE.
Mr W. Downle Stewart, tho Government candidate for Dunedin. West, opened his campaign last evening, when ho addressed a large audience of ladies and gentlemen in the Burns Hall. Mr T. Scott presided, and in introducing the candidate said that he had worked with Mr Stewart In the City Council, and he knew of no more strenuous or more hard-working man in public affairs than Mr Stewart. Apart from that, he thought their sympathies "hould go out strongly to a man who had been born and brought up and had to s.pend his life in this fair City. No one knew the requirement'* of this City better than Mr Stewart, who was a man of undoubted ability and was well fitted to represent Dunedin West in Parliament. ■Applause.) MY Stewart, in his introductory remarks, mid he was sure he expressed tho feelings jf the electors of Dnnedin West when he said that they all regretted the causes that ' led to the Hon. Mr Millar's retirement from politics, and they realised that during the many years in which he represented the electors, both as a private member and a Cabinet Minister, he did yeoman service for Dnnedin and the Dominion as a whole. Some nine years ago he (the speaker) had stood for Parliament, but had then been told that ho was too' young, and "had better win his spurs in municipal politics first, lie had spent six years in municipal service, but the trouble Was that he now felt younger than he did nine years ago. (Laughter.) —Tile Effects of the War.— Continning, the speaker expressed the opinion that the electors were little in--1 dined at the present time to listen to the ordinary cries of party politics. The affairs of the Dominion were for the time being overshadowed by the great European war, and nothing had been more gratifying than the unanimity which had pervaded all parties in all ranks of society. They had seen that, where the necessity arose, all parties were prepared to combine together in Parliament to pass legislation In connection with banking, with defence, and with foodstuffs that was calculated to minimise the effects likely to spring from the abnormal circumstances in which the country found itself, and it could only bo wished that it were possible at all times to combine all parties and classes of society In a common endeavor to wage war on poverty, unemployment, and all the ether evils that afflicted modern civilisation. Making a strong point in regard to this matter. Mr Stewart declared that there was one political quettion. and only one of any real importance, which should guide the electors in the course they were to adopt at this juncture. That was the question of finance and wise administration in order to lessen the shock and the reaction that must inevitably follow from the world-shaking events that were at present taking place. So far, comparatively speaking, wo in New Zealand had hardly felt the effect of it, but we must look forward to the possibility of a period of stringency in the money market, and the Government who were entrusted with carrying on tho affairs of the country during the years that were to come would have no easy task to perform, and their position was not one to be envied. It was true that this country, which was mainly devoted to tho production of foodstuffs and raw material, might come off more lightly than those countries whose energies were chiefly devoted to industrial and manufacturing pursuits; but, nevertheless, it was not to be supposed that we could avoid altogether a fall in our Customs revenue and a difficulty in obtaining loan money, and it would require the utmost care and caution on the part of the Government to And ways and means of ameliorating the state of affairs that would arise. —Naval Defence.— Mr Stewart stated that this matter had ■unfortunately drifted into the arena of party politics in New Zealand, and at all costs J* would have to bo removed from that sphere. If the leaders of the present Government and the Opposition were going to wrangle about it they would have to bo locked up in a room, like a jury of former days, and told they would not be " ellowed out until they came to an agreement on it. (Lauchier.) Ths fact was that the wholo position woidd have to be rwised and reconsidered after the war, and the chief thing to boware of was that no step should be taken in tho meantime that would embarrass New Zealand at a future date and prevent her from adopting a policy that would fit in with the policy of th« whole Empire. He did not agree with the contention that the- capture of the Emden by the Sydney was any conchisivo argument ir. favor of a local nary any more than that tho presence- of the New Zealand at the engagement in the .Vorth Sea was any conclusive argument in favor of tho _ opposite policy. Mr Churchill had pointed out, only as far back ar- March last, that two or three Australian and New Zealand Dreadnought?, if brought into line in the decisive theatre, might turn the scale and make victory not merely certain, but complete; whereas the tamo two or throe Dreadnoughts in Australian waters would be useless the clay after tho defeat of the_ Rritish Navy in Home waters Their assistance woidd only nerve. to prolong the agony, without altering th*> course of events On the other hand, for many years there- had been a steady drifting away from the old policy nf paying over a cash contribution to the .■British Government in snpnort of the Navy- As far back as 1902 Lord Selborne, First Lord of the Admiralty, had pointed out the weakness of a mere cash payment: and experience bad shown, both -.n Canada and elsewhere, that the contribution of cash, or t-ren ships, to the British Government, did not carry out tho Veal intention of tho self-snvernimj Dominions, which was to increase by that amount tho strength >f the British Navy, and not merely to reduce bv that amount tho contribution of the British taxpayers. Jfo admitted that it was essential thai the disposition and control of the fleets of the Empire should be in the hands of Britain. »t» long as she retained complete control »>f tho diplomatic- relations and of the power to make peare. and war, because «>idv the Government, that had power to make peace and war knew where tlv* pressure was. where the danger was. and where concentration was essential. He beli--ved also that New Zealand was too small bv herself to establish a fleet unit, because of the expense of upkeep and replneemeut. and j because of the lack of opportunities for pro- ! motion and transfer of officer* and men. ■which could onlv exist in a larsre tle«t. The ideal position for New Zealand would be tho creation of a Pacific fleet by the joint efforts of Canada. Australia. New Zealand, and perhaps South Africa. Tlvt would afford opportunities for personal service, which was the great object to be aimed at. and would not impose nn undue financial burden on New Zealand. The events of the present war, however, might alter the whole aspect of tho subject, and the important thins was to see in the meantime that New Zealand was not committed to a policy which might embarrass it in a fresh consideration of the question after the war. It micht then be practicable to evolve a fchomo which would fit in with the aspirations and ideals of all parts of the Empire. »nd produce a common plan for their common safety, instead of each Dominion pursuJng its own plan without regard as to whether it fitted into the needs of the Empire as a whole. • —The Liberal-Labor Alliance.—'
Keeping these facts In view, he desired to say a few words on the position of political parties at the present election. It bad been said that there was to be a renewal of the Liberal-Labor alliance •with a view to ousting tho present Government from office. In pursuance of that policy it was said that in conititu«ndat where Labor candidates of Socisl- "■"*" Democrats were running tho "Ward candidates were being kept out of the field, ant} vice versa. Bnt to call that course a renewal of the old Liberal-Labor alliance was an abuse of terms, and nothing that would be done by the Leader of the Opposition could reproduce the alliance, -winch for ao many years was successfully , Itald togather- by tint lata Mr Seddon.
That alliance was composed of small farmers and moderate Labor, and was only rendered practicable by the skill and judgment of Mr" Seddon, and tho fact that numerous reforms were then possible, which appealed equally to tho good senso of tho small farmer and the trade unionist. But to realise how different were the ambitions of different sections at the present time it was only necessary to recall briefly the events leading up to tho last election and the history of the Labor party since that time. —The Decay of Liberalism. —
They knew that after tho death of Mr Seddon the Liberal party had rapidly degenerated; that they had failed to showany ability to present a constructive policy ; that they had temporised on tho land policy in an attempt to pleaso all sections of the party; and that some of their best and most earnest workers, like Mr Fowkls, had left, protesting that they could see 110 prospect of progress under the policy* of the Ward Government. Not only so, but the Labor party had definitely broken with tho Ward"party, and declared their intention of constituting themselves as an independent political party. Sir Joseph Ward would have them believe that the Labor party only went forth likb tho dove from the ark, when finding no rest for the soles of their feet had come back at this election to the Liberal ark. (Laughter.) But he found no such intention in the declarations or utterances of the members of tho Labor party. They realised only too well that the Ward Government had ceased to justify their existence, and could never again regain their confidence. —Cut-throat Euchre.— The real position was far more accurately expressed by an Auckland candidate, who said that the Ward party were playing a sort of political cut-throat euchre. The Social Democrats were using tlio Liberals in an endeavor to oust the Massey party from office, whilst the Liberals were using the Social Democrats in the same way. (Laughter.) Now, to propose such an alliance was one thing and to carry it out was quite a different matter, and it was tha speaker's firm conviction that the great body of moderate opinions, or what he might call the arbitrationists. would decline to assist in this project either as a matter of fair dealing or in their own interest. That conviction was bused on a study of the cours« of events since the last election and the attitude which, after some hesitation, was taken up by the arbitrationista towards tho Social Democrat or " Eed Feds" in their efforts in the industrial world. At first they were so impressed with the strength and organisation of the Federation of Labor that they were half inclined to assist it in the* great industrial 'Upheaval which occurred last year, but 011 reflection their good senso and their desiro for fair play prevailed, and wlvle they sympathised with admirable loyalty with their brothers of the federation in the distress in which they found themselves, they refused actively to join in the wrecking tact ; cs adopted* by the federation. At the various Labor conferences and congresses held since last election innumerable attempts had been made to construct political platforms composed of all sorts of planks. Someone had wittily saic] that during these years Labor had been afflicted with abundance of political carpenters, but has lacked polit ; cal joiners. (Laughter.) Why was it that these innumerable platforms aU "broke down and ended in wreckage and disaster? The reason was that the oratorical members of the federation failed to grasp the real facts of the local situation ; they took the ready-made phrases of foreign "Socialists' words originally written to portray the plight of the most unhappy toilers of the Old World, and the phrases were used absurdly in this country, where tho condition of tha wage-earner, however, disadvantageous it might be, was a happy one compared to the misery of the most depressed men of Europe. —Robbers and Parasites.— The fact was that to misuse words and to twist them from their popular meaning did not alter facts; and when the Federationists and Revolutionists described those who lived on their means, as public robbers and social parisites, 1:0 one was rcallv hurt or offended. The words "robbers" and "parasites" by the verv fact of their application in such a case 'found ! their meaning evaporate, and people, mora ,or less consciously reflected that, after 1 all. such robbers and such parasites as these were only that which innumerable good citizens were, as well as that which all. without exception, desired to become. (Applause.) To come back, therefore, to the position of the Moderate Labor party, they seemed to be in exactly tho position described by John Bright in 1861. when he said that" the wage-earners of Great Britain had no leaders of their own elasa and no confidence in tho leaders of any other class. The speaker did'not believe tnat thoy would lend themselves to tho tactics of either the Ward party or the Social Democrats, and, if thev did" all he could eay was: "Oh, foolish Clalatians. who hath bewitched you?'' If thev did form such an alliance* they would " only find themselves again sold" and it would lend further color to the statement that the capacity of the New Zealand Labor party tor staying out in the wet amounted almost to genius. (Laughter.) It might then be asked: What are they to do? —What Should Labor Do?— What course should they follow if they were not yet strong enough to form a party of their own"? He suggested to them that they should support the partv of the present Government for the following reasons :—First, it was of the utmost importance to the Labor party that thev should, attach themselves at all costs to a pary who were financially sound, and that for-this reason: that the social reform* which they wished to enact involved hj 11,70 expenditures of money, and unless they could find someone competent to cope with the financial problems involved they would only discredit their own policy and make "opportunities for their enemies. In the next place, so far as these social reforms were concerned, there Mere more genuine social reforms to he found in the platform of the; Reform party than in the extraordinary jumble of it finis which went to make up the Ward policy. Take, for example. Sir Joseph Ward's most spectacular item—the bcnui; of £5 per baby. That was a very handy ,-ort cf carrot, but he suggested that it was hung on much too long a stick—daughter)—and. if the money was required at all, it was required when the child was born much more than 14 years afterwards. Compared with that, the proposal of Mr Masscy to take steps to initiate a scheme for sickness and unemployment insurance wis a sdatcsmanliko measure, and one that would be cf far more service to the wage-earner than the distant proscect of £5. Therefore he said again that if the Labor party were bent on making an alliance, at least let them make a decent alliance, and not an unholy alliance with a party that had done nothing in the past out throw dust in the people's eyes. Even assuming that the Labor party were merely bent, as their leaders very cynically stated, on squeezing alternately the Ward party and the Masscy party, bis" advice to them was to squeeze that party that had something "to give. —Social Reforms.—
The fuct was that, so far as soda* reforms were concerned, the public conscience had hoeu so aroused that the Labor party need have no apprehension that steady progress would not be made in that direction, and the best guarantee that the electors could have that the present Government would continue to initiate and carry out large measures of eocial reform was* the energy and success with which they had dealt with the questions^already standing on their programme. Notwithstanding tho extremely adverse circumstances under which they had worked, they had*' carried out the reform of tho Public Service, the reform of the Upper House; had increased the Graduated Land Tax; had increased the Graduated Income Tax; had extended and enlarged the provisions of the Old Age Pensions Act; had pursued the policy, of erecting workers' dwellings with a vigor unparalleled by previous Ministries; and their policy of settlement—mora settlement, and still more settlement—was borne witness to in a remarkable degree by tho annual returns which were laid before Parliament. In regard U> the regulation-in •
—The Price of Fqodstuffs.— The Government had been subjected to much hoatilo and ill-informed criticism. It had been said that, instead of setting up a Royal Commission, the Government should have acted at once, on their own initiative, and fixed prices at the rates ruling at the time the war broke out 5 and it had been said that, in this respect, it had lagged behind tho Governments of Australia and England. Now, everyono, who had studied tho subject, knew that any Government which attempted to fix the price of foodstuffs attempted the most difficult and delicate task that, could possibly be undertaken. If to fix the price of fooastuffs were an easy matter, one could only wonder why it had not been more frequently undertaken by Governments in normal times, in order to got over the artificial inflation of prices-by rings, trusts, and combines. Ho proposed (.0 show that, not only was the commission necessary, but that every State of Australia which was trying to regulate prices, set up a commission; and, moreover, that the attempts made in Australia had not been in any way more aucessful than the attempts that had beon made in New Zealand. Tho necessity for a commission arose from the fact that, unless a Government had accurate and reliable information as to the existing stocks, and the probable sources of supply, in order to determine what the natural market price would be under normal circumstances, it was completely in tho dark in making any attempt to fix an arbitrary price. Now, they knew that in New Zealand there was practically no information at all available as to what the supplies of wheat and flour were, and it was necessary to collect that information before any attempt was made to fix their price. But, while that information was being obtained, the Government was not idlo Immediately on the outbreak of war the Prime Minister cabled to Australia to buy a large quantity of wheat; but he only succeeded in obtaining a moderate quantity, quite insufficient, as subsequent ovents had shown, for the needs of the Dominion. Wheat-growing had been on the wane for many years in New Zealand, and, although tne population had perhaps doubled in the last 20 years, less wheat was grown in the Dominion than was grown 20 years ago. Farmers had found it more profitable to devote their attention to the production and export of meat and wool and dairy produce. They now knew that many mills were closing for lack or' wheat, and the Government had done their best to obtain wheat for them by removing the import duty on wheat, by obtaining quotations for large quantities in Canada and India, and by seeking in every way possible to title over tho necessities of the caso until fresh stocks could bo secured. —Australian Experience.—
What had happened in Australia? In New South Wales, as ho had said, the Government sot an a Commission. That Commission had sought to regulate the. price of only two items —wheat and gas. The Commission as first attempted to fix the prire of wheat at 4s 2d. As no wheat was forthcoming at this figure, the Government assumed, in the same way as the Committee of Safety assumed at the time of the French Revolution, that it was duo to the cupidity of the, farmers. They therefore seized a- considerable quantity of wheat. That was a spectacular* and dramatic step bound to appeal to the electors; but what was the result ? Tho Government soon found that so far from solving tho question, they had only accentuated it. They had to givo tip about half the wheat seized, as this had been sold before being commandeered. The balance was soon exhausted by the mills, and no further wheat was forthcoming.- The farmers, rather than bring their scanty crop into Sydney, with the prospect of having it seized at a figure unremunerative to themselves, began to cut the wheat for hay and chaff. The Government then declared that the proclamation applied only to existing stocks, and that the new croo then coming in would not be affected by tho price fixed, but would be allowed to be sold at auction. Tho wheat immediately brought 4s 9d at auction. The Government then raised the price of wheat to 4s 6d in certain counties, and increased tho price of flour by 17s 6d a ton. These attempts to fix the price were evaded in various ways, and in soma cases tho brokers shared tho commissions with the buyers, in order to bring tho price within the limit allowed by law. Since then the price had. been again raised to 4s lOd. The Sydney * Workor,' a Labor paper, had stated: "Once the Government bagin to fix prices the only equitable and eftectivc course is to make the regulation of prices universal, and if you are to fix tho price of wheat, flour, and bread, you must fix and regulate the price of the feed for tho horses used, tho price of the horses, their harness, the machinery used, and the material of which it is made, and so on through tho intricate endless chain of industry that after all goes to the making of a loaf of bread, and that means the whole process of production, distribution, and exchange." If it was desired to make comparisons with New South Wales, what had been tho effect of the war there on employment, so far as the Government employees were concerned ? The Labor party in that State) had bean persistent in its nrotests against tho action of tho Government in reducing tho work of employees to four days a week. That had not even been suggested in New Zealand. In Western "Australia the prke of first-grade wheat was fixed at no less than 5s lOd. In Victoria an attempt had been made to fix retail pricea,' and in Queensland, ulthough retail prices had been fixed, there seemed to be tho same complaints and dissatisfaction th&r* as in New Zealand. —Price of Meat.— In Queensland it- was freely stated that to try and _ fix tho prico of meat without fixing the prico of cattle, was a farce; and the Prime Minister admitted that the price was fixed by the demand, both as to wheal, meat, and cattle. Tho prico of meat, was fixed by the demand in the world's markets, and to prohibit the export of moat was to reverse the whole policy of thir country for the. In6t quarter of a century, which has been to extend the demand and to increase the national income of Now Zealand. He believed it might bo worth considering the imposition of a slight export duty on moat, so that tho farmers, out of their increasing prosperity, should contribute something to the cost of this war, but such a proposal could only be recommended as a temporary expedient, as it would r<*trict the national income, and tent! to throw out of cultivation lands on the margin of cultivation. To enable the workers to par in this increased wealth they wovld have- to resort to taxation, and apply tho proceeds in social reforms. —Finance.—' T!io speaker next gave sorao details on the question of loans, and pointed out that as soon as Mr Allen took office matters ran more easily, and had continued to improve ever since, and in view of tho fact that loans amounting to £9,990,000 would fall due next year, and largo loans in following years, ho would rather trust Mr Allen with the handling of this most important of all branches of Government than, the Opposition. The borrowing by both Governments was heavy, and the result was that any sudden curtailment of these amounts would lead to serious curtailment iof employment and check development. There never was a time when it was more necessary to keep public works going on the widest possible basis, and for tho greatest amount of money to be provided by the great State advancing departments. Moreover, th© present Government was getting better value for the money they were spending than did their predecessors. The 6peat«r then went on to give details as to the railway proposals, 6howing that tho Government sought to promote the efficiency of tho wholo system, even at the loss of eome popularity in districts which would not immediately benefit from tho projected improvements. Its scheme concentrated expenditure Where it would do the most good. Touching upon tho problem involved in the —Cost of Living,—
Mr Stewart said it was absurd and idlo for members to indulgo in recrimination, because everyone knew, who 'had studied tho question", that it was a world-wide jprobkm, and that no country and no
party, had yet met with any marked gaiccess in its efforts to counteract, the increased cost of living. It would therefore be ludicrous for him to suggest that ho had any simple panacea that would operate as a cure. Indeed, tho first thing to be beware of in facing the problem was the assumption that any single scheme of legislation would solve the difficulty. The real fact was that in connection with social and industrial problems the world had not made the same- progress as it had done in tho world of science. It was becoming increasingly obvious that wo must rely more and more on tho knowledge of the expert. It was tliis inability of Parliament to grapple with these vital problems that disgusted tho worker, who expected from members of Parliament a knowledge they did not possess. Although it was often said too many Royal Commissions were set up, he behoved that the Government would have to resort more and more to commissions of experts to trace out, patiently anl laboriously, the causes at work ana propound sound remedies. If they looked at America and England they would find that the Government were calling to thvir service tho ablest and besttrained minds, ?o that their schemes of social reform might be based on sound and scientific principles and not on the haphazard guewes of partison politicians. Economists were in substantial agreement as to two common causes—namely, the increased supply of money, including gold and credit which appeared to have outstripped the increase in the volume of goods; and the slackened rate of production of foodstuffs in older countries, which were more and more turning their attention to industrial and manufacturing enterprises. There were also other causes at work, such as monopolies and trusts, and a higher standard of comfort. Tho road which they must travel to reach a solution of that question was a long and arduous one, and while they might mitigate tha intensity of tho problem by taxation, by moie industrial education, and other expedients, the chief thing to beware of was the short-cut methods of impatient reformers. —Council Reform and Proportional Representation.— Tho elective Upper Houso was, said the speaker, a vast improvement on the previous state of affairs, but his own view was that in a small community like N'ew Zealand we could quite well do without a Second Chamber. (Applause.) In a small democracy wheie Parliament was so closely in touch with public opinion, and elections were so frequent, tho dangers against which the Second Chamber was supposed to provide were not very obvious. Writers on political science at the present day claimed that if any check was required on Parliar ent it could be secured by giving the right to the electors to call for a referendum on any national policy question. Otherwise the old maxim still seemed to hold good: that if a Second Chamber meiely concmred with the Lower House, it was superfluous, and if it differed from it it was michievous. If the Upper House had been abolished it would ha'v* simplified the question of providing proportional representation for the Lower House. As it was, it would be difficult, if not impracticable, for the two Houses both to be elected by proportional representation. Tho country representatives in both partis were so strongly opposed to the abolition of the quota that neither partv could carry proportional representation" without retainine the quota, and if the quota was retained the scheme would be unworkable. Mr Stewart dealt briefly with the Land Question and the Graduated Land Tax, and concluded by a vigorous appeal to the electors to resist any attempt to tamper with the Public Service Act. —Questions. — A number of written questions asked the candidate were fairly fully dealt with by Mr Stewart in his address. He favored a referendum on the Blble-in-schools being granted, provided the question was properly stated, so as to obtain a true expression of public opinion. He was not in favor of the "abolition of the totalisator A var tax, if levied, should be imposed upon land, income, and death duties as far as practicable. —Confidence and Cheers. — Mr W. R. Brui;h said he wished, on behalf of the meeting, to thank Mr Stewart very much for his interesting and very able address, end at the same time to express entire eat'siaction with the Government partv. If a thought tlist they wer-» pcj-ficularly fortunate in this electorate in having as* a candidate » man like Mr Stewart, whose undoubted ability and
high integrity were well known to all of them. (Applause.) He therefore had very much pleasure in moving—" That this meeting express their thanks to Mr Stewart for his able and convincing address, and are of opinion that he is a fit and proper person to repiesent the electorate of Dunedin West in the House of Parliament." (Loud applause.) Mr AV. D llavaid seconded the motion. No amendment was forthcoming, and after a show of hands had been taken the chairman declared the motion carried unanimously. Cheers were then called for Mr Stewart and enthusiastically given.
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DUKEDIN WEST, Evening Star, Issue 15654, 19 November 1914
DUKEDIN WEST Evening Star, Issue 15654, 19 November 1914
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