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Evening Star, Issue 15655, 20 November 1914
It is .i Jong time since a leading Liberal in New Zealand received Are the with cordial epoutainicty Liberals the same measure of welOownhearted? come and support as was proffered to the Eight Hon. vSir Joseph Ward, the Leader of the Liberal party, by an overflowing assemblage of Dunedin citizens last night in and about the Garrison Hall, It is a longer time still sine© a demonstration of the popularity of a politician included the exercise of horse-power by staid men, who, in order to display their enthusiasm and friendship, yoked themselves into their favorite’s carriage and drew him triumphantly to a local fountainhead of oratorical wisdom and salvation. There have been occasions wiren the feelings of men find expression in horseplay against, rather then in horse-power for, representative politicians. There was no regrettable “ counting out ” last night; tile only regrettable feature was that hundreds of eager citizen.-, were locked out—a fact which again demonstrates the need in Dunedin for an adequate civic hall. It is as clear as noonday that as far as Sir Joseph Ward is personally concerned thousands of the people of Dunedin hail him as—from their point of view, which may or may not be right—the only possible leader for that queer, complex, fascinating organism which we call democratic government, and head of that party who have always been, as Hr Asquith says, “ the-standing enemy of unjustified privileges and of unequal laws.” Liberals are everywhere excellent theorists. Are the Liberals downhearted? Not they. Sir Joseph Ward, their accepted and able leader, never was more- optimistic, and that is saying a groat deal in a few words, for his mind, which scatters optimism like grapeshot, lias no room for pessimism. Ho is not a dismal politician, though ho must have had his moments of despondency, and may again have more of them. The significance of his notably successful meeting last night is to bo found in the Liberal tone and spirit of tho magnificent welcome given him rather than in tho policy of his party, and their criticism of the work and intentions of their opponents. It would be a task to find a more successful political meeting; it would not be difficult to obtain a bettor speech. Most of it was on the familiar lines of party argument, but all of it was given with a vigor, a confidence. and with a courteous urbanity seldom exercised by vote-pleading politicians. As a matter of fact, Sir Joseph spoke as one within sight of his goal, and succeeded in convincing for a time tho spectators (so to speak) that a score was sure. Tho doubt and possibility of failure will come when the efficiency and calibre of the whole Liberal team are viewed in full active play throughout the political field. The penetrating points of an over-long address were his sound arguments as to Naval Defence, which wo discuss in. another part of this column, and. his justifiable criticism of the Kcform party's exaggerated reliance on the advice of independent hoards and commissions. It would have been interesting if Sir Joseph Ward had curtailed his remarks on, say, borrowing (he spoke of £40,000,000 as though it were 4d), and had given -a detailed list of the remarkable number of sources of political advice deliberately provided by the Reform Government during their short but stirring and creditably effective term of office. It was somewhat amusing to hear the emphasis with which the Liberal Leader asserted the need for Proportional Representation, to be made applicable to the House of Representatives. There was a time not far distant when he was as cautious as tho Prime Minister on that electoral system. Political vicissitude broadens' the mind of the politician—and a very good thing, too. Everybody knows that the principle of Proportional Representation is unassailably sonnd, but what is still lucking In common knowledge Is the precise system the Liberals are prepared to Inaugurate If they are given administrative power. As a matter of fact, the Liberal Leader has not in the matter of outlining his party’s policy broken away from the teasing method of meet politicians—flaunting a list of proposals stated in bald general terms. The public would admire tho statesman who adopted tho policy of Mr Mantalim i •‘Never mind details > give us the dem nit ion total.” It was particularly interesting to note that Sir Joseph Ward considers it neccs »ary -to guard against the possibility of the system of Compulsory Military Training becoming as it has developed into in Germany—controlling the people and establishing a military caste in this country, where love of freedom is, greater than, say, love of laborious sacrifice. Is he really apprehensive d£ a trend in that direction? Last year £488,570 was spent on the New Zealand Defence Department, while the estimated expenditure for the current year is £512,001. 'The Liberal party adopt a maximum annual expenditure of £450,000 on internal defence as their policy. On what phases of internal defence do they intend to economise ? Although many people’ are inclined, in view of the disappointing response of Territorials to the call to war, to sneer at the possibility of our young men accepting as the extent of their obligations to become efficient in military defence the resistance or combating of invasion—a remote contingency so long as the British Navy is supreme In all the seas—and to suggest that a curtailment of expense on military training for internal service would be justified by events, we do not concur with .that distorted argument. We regard, 'and have always regarded. Compulsory Military Training in our scheme of home defence ae of-the highest import-
present scheme is perfect, wo believe, in the absence of detailed evidence to. the contrary, that the scheme is based on sound lines and administered efficiently. Until the Liberals can demonstrate scope for economy and the need for fixing a limit of expenditure we snail continue to support the present organisation. There is justification for Sir Joseph’s contention that the apparent delay on the part of the authorities in essaying l to place the responsibility for the appalling neglect of precautionary inspection of the Huntly mine upon the responsible official or officials stultifies legitimate criticism of the Government’s administrative association .with the unfortunate accident. Possibly the delay was unavoidable, but even if legal action had been taken promptly, as it should have been, it would be folly to associate the Government with any criminal negligence there may have been as regards mine-inspection and precautionary safeguards at Huntly. As a rule the average politician’s knowledge of the real conditions of practical mining could be put into a miner’s lamp without spilling the oil. What is required in the administrative sphere is the allocation of the important portfolio of mines to a man whose personal knowledge of mining would enable him to be beyond the dependence on departmental and other advisers. The guiding rule in administrative politics is, and has been always, “if you don’t know, depend upon the knowledge of departmental officers.” As to the other.various points raised by the Liberal' Leader, their bluntness was their most marked feature. The value of Sir Joseph’s groat meeting was the splendid spirit and heartiness of hia welcome to Dunedin. But it may not be the handwriting on the wall.
Evening Star, Issue 15655, 20 November 1914
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