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MR W. D. STEWART, Issue 15670, 8 December 1914
MR W. D. STEWART
FAILURE OF THE PARTY SYSTEM.
A REMEDY SUGGESTED,
Mr W. D. Stewart, in the prosecution of his campaign as Government candidate for Dunedin West,, delivered a very interesting and illuminating address in the Roslyn Institute Hall last night. The most engrossing portion was undoubtedly the prelude, in which Mr Stewart set forth with expressive brevity his opinion that party politics as at present conducted are a source of embarrassment and obstruction to the solution of the economic problems that so urgently need solution. Tho latter portion essayed to show that tho energy and power of the present Government are undiminished, and the speaker so successfully imposed his arguments upon the minds of his largo audience that a unanimous voto of confidence in him as the most fitting representative for Dunedin West was passed. Mr Stewart began his address characteristically with a jest that seemed to put him at one© on good terms with his auditors. " One candidate," ho said, " has claimed that he is entitled to the support of the electors because he is the lather of 10 children. I was rather embarrassed how to rival him in that respect until I remembered that last year I was the father of the City." (Laughter and applause.)
—An Analysis of Parties.— Dallying no longer at tho outworks of his subject, Mr Stewart plunged into an analysis of tho positions of the parties and the failure of the party machine. "It hae been said," he began,"' - that there will be no true issue between the parties in New Zealand until the Labor party become an independent party with separate representation in Parliament. That is true, I think, to a great extent, for there is no real line of division so far as the present parties arc concerned except on questions of administration and administrative policy. Their political ideals and views on social and economic reforms are very much the same, and you will find many men of mark in the House who admit that they realise that within a few years the best elements of these two parties must be welded together. In Australia there were first two parties. Then there arose the Labor party, resulting in a fusion between the two pro-existent parties. I think that is likely to happen in New Zealand, because there is no question that the people are tiring of party politics. They realise that so tar as tho problems that face us are concerned we are not making the progress we should make in reaching a solution of them ; that the reason is that too much time is occupied in wrangling debates as to which party is to occupy the Treasury benches, and too little time in threshing out the grave economic difficulties that face us. (Applause.) . . . I believe that one of the greatest reforms that could be attempted is the doing away with the present system of party government. (Hear, hear.) The flaws in it are so obviou6 and so unnecessary that it is difficult to see why some attempt should not be made to rid ourselves of the system. I do not suggest that you will do away with parties, for so long" as man remains a political animal he will divido according to his belief and intelligence. But under the present system of party government, which was not provided for in tho original Constitution, but imposed by the House of Commons., wo have a machine under which one-half (or a little more) of the members are returned to do what is wanted, and another half (or a little less) are returned to prevent the ether half from doing what is wanted. (Laughter.) And the greater part of the time is spent in one party trying to put the other party out." The speaker proceeded to announce the alteration that, in his opinion, would obviato this illogical pceition :
It seems to me that \l we were to adopt tho system of an Elective Executive we would rid our party system of its worst flaw. Under tho system of an Elective Executive, the Ministry are elected by tho House, just as the members of the House are appointed by tho electors. Men are appointed to tho Cabinet not because they belong to the big party in the House, but because they are the men most fitted for the respective portfolios. Men of all shades of political feeling are appointed, and it is not a fact (as some seem to think) that the predominant party would make all the appointments. —What Have Labor Governments Done ?
Mr Stewart turned to the question of a .Labor Government. He said that ho knew there was a certain amount of dissatisfaction at present, but it was not confined to New Zealand. It was found in even greater degree in other countries. No doubt some people believed that everything would be reformed if they turned out the present Government, and no doubt, too, many thought that a Ward Government would bo only a steppingstone to a Labor Government. But, even so, in countries where the Labor party had been put into power, those countries had come no nearer to a solution of tho vital issues than countries where other parties were in power. "Take Australia," he said. " In New South Wales the Labor Government were returned to power entrenched behind a big majority, and an effort is already being made to organise another Labor party to turn them out. I do not suggest that there has been any failure on the part of the Labor Government, but the situation arises from tho inability of any party at present to find a dear solution of the problem of the redistribution of wealth and the other problems that face every country. . . . Similarly, the Commonwealth Labor Government went into' office strongly entrenched behind a big vote, and their most friendly critics say that once in power they become as every other Govern-
merit ... In Australia, no great reform marks Labor's occupancy of the Treasury benches. Changing political parties will not produce any sudden improvement in such an intricate organisation as modern industrial society. But if we can only introduce an Elective Executive as a preliminary step towards ensuing closer and quicker consideration of the great problems, we shall make substantial progress towards tho solution of those problems." —Why Ho Joined A Party.—
" You are asking," continued the speaker, " why, with these views, I have attached myself to one. of the parties. I answer : that so long as parties exist it is necessary, because any man who enters the_ House as nn ' Independent' findfi himf>slf committed t<» nselessness. He is confided in by none, mistrusted by all (including his constituents), and "his position is impossible. Now, while I believe that the main trend of the* policy of the two present parties is not widely "divided. I oeliove that in administration the present Government have justified their claim to a further term of office." (Applause.) Tho speaker proceeded to recapitulate some of tho retorms introduced by the Massey Government, especially in the administration of finance and land. He asserted that the previous Government had used New Zealand's gilt-edged securities (which should havo been held in reserve, for emergencies such as the present war) to finance themselves on the Loudon market. As to land policy, ho stated emphatically that the Government had taken 10 times as much land for settlement last year as was taken for settlement by the Ward Government in their last "year. Moreover, the Graduated Land Tax had been increased, and would be still further increased until no man would be able to hold large tracts of land unless he was prepared to sacrifico the whole of the revenue from it in taxes. —The Opposition Manifesto.— Mr Stewart analysed at some length tho Opposition manifesto issued last week. " I do not," he said, " wish to associate this manifesto with my opponents in Dunedin West, because this is obviously one of those documents which are manufactured at headquarters, and, moreover, neithjr of them has put forward all tho allegations made in this document. I will say this of tho person responsible for it—that one can only conclude that his memory failed him" before his imagination. (Laughter.) Ibere is some difficultly in
dealing with the statements made, because they are just bald statements unsupported in any way at all. The first part is devoted* to 'broken pledges.' Well, I admit that this Government, like every other Government, have not succeeded in carrying out all the promises made. No Government ever do succeed in doing i-o in one term of office, as the late Mr Ballance said. . . . But the electors should
consider that if a Government have carried out a fair percentage of platform promises, as the Massey Government have clone, it is proper to presume that the Government will carry out all their pledges if returned to office and given the opportunity." Mr Stewart went on to narrate the many important reforms set in motion by the Government, and dwelt with emphasis upon the removal of the Civil Service from political control. " The Government," he said, "have done that in spite of the protests of the Opposition, and it is one of their avowed designs to repeal the Act if they get into power. Personally. I attach so much importance to the reform that I assert that on that reform alone the Government are entitled to go back. The Public Service is growing, and it is of the utmost importance that it should be independent of political control and Ministerial patronage, so that the members of the service may feel that they will owe their advancement not to the activities of members of Parliament, but to their own merits, and that no Civil servant will be advanced through 'political pull.'" The rest (if the Government's reforms, which on other occasions have been dealt with at length by the candidate, he dismissed on this occasion with heroic brevity. __Tho Wheat Shortage.— Mr Stewart also referred briefly to the action of the Government in tho wheat crisis. He asserted that the principle of bringing in wheat and competing with those holding it was better than going round the country making small seizures, because the wheat had to stop here (exportation being prohibited), and sooner or later holders would have to coma in and sell at the price fixed by the Goernment in competition with them. He believed that if it was shown that peoplo were exploiting the public, and if their hands could not be forced in any other effective way, the wheat should bo seized. But so far the country was not short, and the bulk of the wheat was iu the hands of the millers, where they all wanted it to be. Large quantities were coming from Canada and elsewhere, and it reflected great credit upon the Government that they got wheat from Australia earlv before it was realised that there was a shortage. —Sir Joseph Ward and "Sugar."— The following statement and question were submitted to Mr Stewart in writing: —"At his meeting on Friday night in Wellington Sir Joseph Ward, in answer to the interjection 'What about sugar?' replied that he understood that there had been rises in sugar which were not justified. The Liberal party, he vent on to say, would not allow that. Xow, is it not the fact that the ColoaM .Suaa* Comnan.v.
arc mainly a Queensland company, aw! that they are quite independent of >"cw Zealand; that they have an unlimited market and a better market in London, where sugar is selling retail at 4d per II;. aagainst 2Jd per ll> in Xew Zealand : and that the Opposition Leader's statement was only a hit of bounce, and an attempt to discredit the Government?"
.Mr Stewart replied that it was quite true that the retail price was <kl in Kupland and 2£d in Xew Zealand. The balance in our favor worked out at between £3 and £4 a ton. When Sir Joseph Ward made Mich a statement he should have explained the method by which he proposed to prevent a ri-e in the price of sugar. Economists all over the world recognised the difficulty of controlling the price of a commodity that came from an outside source, and the company manufacturing which had an unlimited market elsewhere. It woidd be very difficult to tackle such a question until there was some system of international agreement giving control in such matters.
Mr A. Washfer presided, and introduced Mr Stewart with the plain statement "We mean tn put him at the head of the pull."
MR W. D. STEWART, Issue 15670, 8 December 1914
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