FARMER PARTY EVANGELIST
Ross Leads Secession
(From a Correspondent.)
Politics m New Zealand are to b 3 further complicated by the adVent of the Country Party, which blossomed into definite being" last week. Although farmers all over the Dominion have for years talked of organising politically, they have really done very little, and the new party is the child of the Auckland Provincial Farmers' Union. The farmers are probably the worst organised l body m, the country. Certainly they have got their co-operative concerns, but these are more tb,e' result of a passive acquiescence to the aggressiveness of a few long-headed business men m their ranks than to any organised effort on their own part. The Farmers' Union is so anaemic as to be almost a corpse, and it is -kept alive merely by the infusion of occasional quantities of vocal energy by a faithful few followers. These men are to be admired for their loyalty and their persistence, .for they get little or no support from the vast community they claim to represent. They have now discovered that the present' parties m the House, do not have sufficient regard for the wants of the farmer, and the Auckland branch of the union has definitely launched into politics under the title of the Country Party. LED BY A SUCCESSFUL. SCOT. The leader of the party is Mr.' Alexander A. Ross,- a well-known farmer, of Te Kauwhata, -wh/b has done a great deal for the farmers of the Auckland province. He. was for several years provincial president of the Farmers' Union, and holds prominent positions m different trading organisations. He is a man well into the prime of life, 1 who has made a success of farming and is very highly respected by both friends and opponents.. As his name would indicate, he is a Scot, and still retains his North o' Tweed accent. Last week he made public the policy of his party. The attendance at the Town Hall, Hamilton,. where he opened his campaign, was not" large, but it: gave Mr. Ross a very fair hearing. In his opening remarks Mr. ' Ross sought to dispel certain misconceptions which he said had got abroad. One was to the effect that the fate of .the party was to depend upon the result of that meeting. This, was quite erroneous, as the question of forming a Country Party had had full consideration by various representative coiir ferences and a very definite decision had been arrived at. It could be taken, for granted that the next election, whenever it might be, would be.contested by candidates of the Country, Party for all likely seats m the province, provided suitable candidates could be secured. NO PERSONAL AXE-GRINDING. There was also, said Mr. Ross, a mistaken idea abroad that (.he movement was quite an insignificant one, kept alive by a 'few misguided individuals on the Auckland executive -.f the Farmers' Union, who coveted seals m Parliament. He did not think that a stigma should attach to anyone who wanted, to serve his country m Parliament, but he thought they would find no great readiness among the members of the Auckland executive to become candidates. So far as the movement itself was concerned,: it was true that at present it was confined to the Auck-land-Province, but it was gradually winning, support all over the Dominion, and he had not the slightest doubt that when they had proved, by actual demonstration, the value of a Country Party, it would have wide support and become one! of the strong political forces of the Dominion. The . speaker their went on to refer to the grip which the farmers' parties of other countries had gained en politics, and pointed out that- New Zealand was one of the few countries that had no farmers' representatives m Parliament. There was a general feeling amongst the primary producers that they were not. getting their fair share m the distribution of the wealth which they were producing. All other sections were strongly organised for their own protection. Each took what it considered its fair sh/ire, with the result that the unorganised primary producers had to lake what was lpft. In actual practice the farmer found that the exchange value of his. produce had fallen when measured with the things he had to buy; that m spite of good prices, he was working, m far too many cases, on the barest margin and m some instances on no margin at all. He could see that this had been brought about largely by political means, and he. was forced to tlie conclusion that he must follow the example set by the otlvr sections and. make his weight felt m the political arena.
'■ PRODUCERS' BURDEN. Every country depended largely f or its prosperity on its primary pi-oducts, and the primary producer had finally to bear the whole cost of everything, for every charge imposed on living- was finally passed on to him. There was, m fact, a 1 steady piling up of burdens for the primary producer. The reason things had gone on as they had for so long without fatal results was;because 1 primary production had been so great compared with all the other industries put together. Costs of all kinds- had gone up to such an extent that it was a losing proposition reclaim waste lands, and there were numerous cases where it did. not p,ay to hold land already reclaimed. Consequently there was a big shrinkage m the. margin of cultivation. The one bright spot m the picture of primary production .was dairying. \ This was the only branch that had shown a satisfactory increase of recent years. The discrimination m the income tax m favor of company and local body debentures had caused vast sums to De diverted from investment m broad acres. It had been made easier for local bodies and harder for the farmer to borrow.- Mr. Ross quoted figures to show the great increase m the national liability, and said that if a serious fall m prices of any one. of, the principal articles of export was' experienced they would have such a small margin to spare that they might very soon be m a serious position. . THOSE. MORTGAGES. The first thing to be taken m hand, said Mr. Ross, was a reform m the present land mortgage system. He referred to the mortgages on rural land totalling something like £260,000,000, which was mostly lent on short-dated loans' requiring constantly recurring high interest. It was estimated that the renewals cost the borrower 2 per cent, on the principal and, assuming that £150,000,000 had to be renewed every three years, the borrowers were forced to pay £ 1,000,000 J a year for renewals. This was one .excellent argument for an agricultural bank. On the £50,000,000 worth of exports the banks charged 2 per cent, which meant that for every 1000 sheep which a farmer had, the produce of twenty of them went to pay exchange, while two of every 100 cows would have to go for the same purpose. Mr. Ross, declared that while the 1 policy of the Country 1 Party was primarily m the interests of the farmer, it was calculated to benefit the whole Dominion. Asked if the party would vote with Mr. Massey On a no-confidence motion, the speaker replied that members would adopt an independent attitude. The speaker was accorded a hearty vote of thanks for his instructive address. Mr. Ross spoke rather well, and he was' supported on the platform by a number, of leading farmers. ■
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