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OUR SYDNEY LETTER, Issue 15657, 23 November 1914
OUR SYDNEY LETTER
ONK PARTY. As Mr Fisher says, wo are all one party, so far as loyally supporting the Empire and taking due precautions against the Empire’s enemies are concerned. Hut on other matters there are the gravest divergences of opinion. The course which one side of the Assembly deems to be salutary the other side deems to be fraught with very serious dangers. One set of considerations urges that, so far as possible, the hands of the Government shall not bo weakened by destructive criticism, or by holding it up to public obloquy. Hut another set demands that courses that are thought to be inimical to the public fvc!far© shall be exposed and denounced. It is not at all easy to draw the line satisfactorily between the two. It is inherent in party government that measures and policy shall not bo judged on their own merits, but by their relation to the fortunes of the party—a most curious instance of “• how not to do it,” if “ it ” be understood to mean the administration of public affairs on sound principles. Governments, however, might considerably smooth their own path, as well as that of the Opposition, by being scrupulously careful to avoid even the appearance of taking advantage of an unprecedented crisis for unworthy purposes. There is. for instance, a possibility of using the necessity for guarding against the common enemy as a pretext for harassing political opponents, or for making capita! with hitter extremists of one’s own party. It is to be hoped that all procedure of this kind will be sedulously avoided. We ought all to be oi one party in maintaining the right. And the right is usually so simple that “ the wayfaring man, though a fool,” can hardly fail to understand it. IS IT WASTED?
in the hearing of an interesting ease beforo the Arbitration Court Judge Ileydou remarked that if a man spends his money on productive, work the community has something to show for it. but that'if ho squanders it on pleasure—such, for instance. as on theatre parties or the like—it is lost to the community. The statement needed qualification, of course. Hut the, meaning was quite plain enough, and quite true enough to be allowed to pass without cavil. It was, however, promptly pointed out, as is also true, that money spent in dissipation is nut absolutely lost to tho community. It goes round from hand to hand, and continues to perform useful service. Also, a certain amount of recreation is as essential as is productive work, and to this extent (but no further) appropriate expenditure on appropriate recreation may bo regarded as itself productive. The Judge, however, points out, in reply, the unescapablo fact that if everybody spent his money in pleasure, and no one in productive work, the community would inevitably perish of starvation, and that in view of the immense importance of productive work, and of the comparatively trivial importance of theatre parties, his remark was justified. I think that the preponderance of opinion is with His Honor, though it would have been safer to have added the needed qualifications to his dictum. WOULD THEY HAVE STARVED? According to ."Mr Holman, if lie does not keep 25.000 State employees idle for a great part of their time. 5.000 of them would starve. It is a stupendous proposition, when closely considered. For the ability to keep those men thus partially employed is only derived from the possession of borrowed money. If, then, the money lender should absolutely button up his pockets, and refuse further accommodation, there would almost immediately he an enormous increase in the death rata under the head “Starvation”! The monev lender is quite capable of doing this. Comparatively few of him has his possessions in the boundaries of the State. They cannot bn confiscated or “commandeered” like stacks of wheat. But does anyone imagine that this would be the case? At the cost of a certain amount of temporary distress, the community would adjust itself to the altered circumstances. Its members would employ one another, not at “ boom ” rates, or under arbitrary conditions dictated by the unions, but at such wages and conditions as would meet the case. According to Mr Holman, there does not seem to be any medium between giving temporary relief to men until someone else can be found willing to employ them and taking them on himself on about the most wasteful, and least economical, system that could possibly be devised. What faith in the people over whom ho presides can a statesman possess who imagines that able and willing workers would starve wholesale in Australia if the legitimate freedom of the people to employ one another wore conserved as it should be? THEY LIKE BRITISH RULE. Some interesting information respecting Samoa under British occupation has been brought to Sydney by Mr Hallard. a settler who lived in Apia for two or throe years. He says that the British rule is much more popular than that of the Germans. The latter have always been harsh and dictatorial in their treatment of the natives, whilst the British have usually been kind and liberal. The Samoans are a simple-minded race, easily won by kindness, and as easily repelled by its opposite. Even while Germany held the islands, Samoa was more British than German. The only foreign language the natives ever spoke was English, and a German who could not speak English was useless. Another feature of the situation is that the Chinese laborers are developing a spirit of independence. They want higher wages and better accommodation. Consequently, among some of the settlers, there is a movement in favor of employing Javanese, who are more easily contented. Whales er is done, it seems cer-
tain that tho islands will make a very valuable contribution to tho wealth of the Empire. CANVASTOWN. Both Mr Holman and Mr Griffith, the Minister of Works, are strong in their defence of tho tents erected at Kensington. Complaints against the sanitation of the settlement are declared to be without foundation. As a rough-and-ready expedient to meet an emergency, it unquestionably has points. Equally unquestionably, it presents many features invito damaging attack. Mr Griffith seems unable to divest himself of a certain spice of class animosity in dealing with the matter. The City Council had ventured to send him a letter expressing the hope that the health of the denizens of the tents would be duly safeguarded. The Minister replied that the only danger of disease in the new settlement might arise from tho transfer of families from the slum areas under the control of the City Council. That was a Roland for an Oliver, if you like. In certain very numerous circles it is being more heartily applauded than any achievement of real statesmanship can ever bo expected to be. And it is these numerous circles that, roughly speaking, control the course of matters political! If Canvastown, however, was the biggest blunder that the impulsive Minister of Works had ever perpetrated. It would be very readily condoned. It gets much nearer to its mark than did the more pretentious erection at Daceyville. PAPER “MONEY.” Tho advocates of a largely increased issue of paper money have received ■powerful reinforcement by a deliverance made by Professor Irvine, who fills the chair Economics and Commerce at Sydney University. His main thesis seems to',be that it is a mistake to suppose that the enormous mass of the financial transactions of the world is based on gold. He admits that all forms of bank currency—notes, cheques, etc., —must bo based on gold, and that this is because, at one time, the characteristic form of bank currency notes did in origin represent gold.” He might also have add eel that payment of these obligations in gold, except by consent of < the parties, is the only settlement that the law will recognise. This factor, which, ie really the dominant, one, lie apparently fails to discern the force of. He points out that the private banks in Britain, side by side with the note issue of the Bank of England, which is based on gold, created “ unconsciously, for the most part, a perfectly safe and clastic currency, in which moat of the business of the world is now done. It must bo remembered, however, that this can only be so dono as long as it is believed that these obligations am be encashed in gold, or set off against obligations so payable. Everything goes swimmingly as long as it is believed to be all right. Let the obligations of a big firm go to protest, as happened at the time of the Baring crisis, and all this “safe and elastic ” currency goes by the board. The gold batik has to take charge, and at that time had. moreover, lo borrow a few millions in gold from the Bonk of France to tide over the crisis.
PRACTICE VERSUS THEORY. Practical bankers admit that, given certain ideal conditions, which don’t exist, a paper currency would serve the purpose theoretically as well as that which, by law and prescription, is based on metallic legal tender. The first of these conditions is that the facilities afforded by so facile a mode of finance shall never be abused. When politicians subordinate all their schemes to the most scrupulous soundness and honesty; when they cease to purchase support by la vish expenditure: when financiers cease to be unduly sanguine and speculative under some conditions, and. under others, to lose all heart and to become, the most arrant cowards and pessimists ; when the sharper and swindler can 'be kept out of business and finance —in short, when the race has become angelic, it may not need a metallic currency. But will it need a currency at all? Under present conditions, if quantities of notes are forced into a currency which is already quite adequate to its purpose, there must necessarily be inflation. And inflation is inevitably followed either by smash or by serious depreciation. The qualities which might make a big issue of paper money practicable and safe are. in short, precisely those in which the public men of Australia—and probably those of many other countries, too —are most conspicuously deficient. They can’t stand against popular pressure, or popular clamor. The ultimate recourse to gold is, so to speak, the ballast which keeps the ship of State from capsising when the skipper " cracks on ’’ too heavily. OPEN CONFESSION. Mr. Holman took the public into his confidence rather unnecessarily at the opening of the 'first pa.vilion of the now Cost Hospital. His aim as Treasurer, he said, was not to ref us® to spend money, but to spend it liberally and generously, when the occasion demanded. But was there ever all occasion that did not demand it? And has anyone ever accused the Premier-Treasurer of any unwillingness to spend? Only, the first requisite to expending money is to get it. Had it not been for the unexpected “ bonanza ” from the Imperial Government, Mr Holman would be at Ida wits’ ends for funds. But until that has gone the way of the rest he may confidently be expected to be pretty “ cock-a-whoop.” Could statesmanship of this character bo trusted to keep a paper currency within the bounds of safety '! November 10.
OUR SYDNEY LETTER, Issue 15657, 23 November 1914
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