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THE OTAGO WITNESS. Dunedin, Saturday, December 17, 1859.

The aspect of General Government politics as affecting the interest of this province, and, indeed, of all the provinces, is of more importance than the great body of colonists seem to be aware of, at least if we can judge of the opinions of our settlers by their acts. The election of Mr. Bell to serve as a member for the county of Wallace, in the General Assembly, is a fact, and one which suggests the inquiry, what can be the motive of the electors of that district in making such a selection ? To the election of Mr. Hell, personally, there cannot be the slightest objection. He is a gentleman of talent, and experience in public matters, and has been connected with New Zealand from its first settlement, and has held with credit various public offices in different parts of the colony ; but we naturally ask, in what way does he represent the people who have elected him as their representative ? So little do we know of his political sentiments, that, excepting we believe he is a supporter of the policy of dividing the provinces, we are entirely ignorant of his political creed, and we arc not in the least enlightened by the proceedings at the recent election, Mr. Bell not being present, and not having published any address to the constituency. Surely the settlers must be exceedingly apathetic to allow such an important matter to pass with so little enquiry. It says but little for the patriotism of Otago that amongst her whole community there was not to be found one gentleman resident in the province to come forward to offer himself as a candidate. It will be remembered by most of our readers that, at the preceding election, we strenuously urged the electors not to return Mr. J. P. Taylor. AYe based our objection to him on the ground that he hiul no common interest with those whom he proposed to represent—that there was, in fact, every reason to believe that his interest Avas directly opposed to that of his constituents. And how fared the matter ? "Whj', although Mr. Taylor took no very active part in the proceedings of the last session of the General Assembly, yet upon those occasions in Avhich the support of a representative from Otago was of importance to her interests, Mr. Taylor was absent, or, if present, voted on the wrong side. The position of Otago in the last session was anything but creditable to us. Of her three representatives, one Avas absent from the most important session that has yet taken place, attending to his own affairs in Melbourne, and neglecting his public duties ; another Avas opposing the interests of his constituents ; and the Avhole burden of doing battle for the province Avas left to the third, Avho certainly did fight nobly on the occasion, and did all that could be done to stop the passing of that most mischievous measure, the New Provinces Act. But Captain Cargill, finding his health such as to necessitate his retiring from public life in the province, of course cannot be expected to retain his seat in the General Assembly, and I he has resigned. We may therefore shortly I expect an election for a member to serve for j the Dunedin country district. When that i event takes place Avhat are Aye to expect? Will the electors be prepared to return a bona fide representative of Otago interests ? or are we again to take the last man Avho has arrived in the colony? or some stranger from the neighbouring provinces, with sympathies and interests opposed to his constituents? We warned our felloAv-settlers on a former occasion, and avc warn them again to elect one- of themselves, unless they mean to resign all share in the Avorking out of the Constitution of New Zealand. EA'en noAV, assuming the electors to elect the best possible man to represent them, what a miserable, weak, scattered force Avill the Otago representatives be — almost powerless for good — potent enough for evil. It Avould appear as if a large majority of the people of Otago thought that as long as they maintain the control over the affairs of the province by their Provincial Council, the General Government and the General Assembly are matters of little consequence. This falacy will be discovered fast enough Avhen the provinces have been so frittered aAvay by division and sub-division as to be utterly powerless. If A\ r e are to maintain our provincial governments, it must be by sending to the General Assembly men avlio can hold their oAvn there, and whose opinions are in accordance and harmony Avith the views of the people at large and the Provincial Council. To return the first man Avho is Avilling to go, as AA-e have latterly been in the habit of doing, is altogether folly. We have men who are capable ; but if there be such a deficiency of patriotism that they Avill not undertake the office, much as Aye may regret it, Aye must come to the inevitable conclusion that Aye are unfit for representative institutions.

That it is the object of a large and powerful body of the colonists of New Zealand to crash Provincial Governments, and to centralize the whole power in one General Government, no one who has watched the political struggles of parties in the General Assembly, can for a moment doubt. That this centralizing policyis opposed to the views and wishes of the majority of the community, admits of equally little doubt ; but yet for the last three years this systematic centralization of power has been going on almost undisturbed, because, whilst the minority are energetic and active, having a clear and definite object in view, the majority are indolent and indifferent, and have hitherto been lead by men whose provincialism is as ultra and absurd as the centralism of their opponents is mischievous. This fact may be seen by referring to the legislation on the administration of wastelands — the most important and at the sametimc the most difficult question we have to deal vrith. In 1854, the first Assembly placed this matter on such a footing that any change must be by the concurrent action of both the Provincial and General Government. In 1856, the Provincialists being powerful in the Assembly, granted all power to the Provinces. In 1 858, the Provincialists having in the previous session committed the folly, by the excessive use of thei^ower, of

making legislation again necessary, and being absent, the Centralists went to the other extreme and grasped the whole power for the General Government, and by tne passing of the New Provinces Act, so weakened and divided the powers of the Provinces as to give provincialism a blow from which it will be difficult for it to recover. In the coming session, which is to be held at Wellington in April, the struggle between the partizans of the two principles will be renewed, with what result it is difficult to predict. The Provincialists probably will be in the majority. It is essential to the peaceful and permanent settlement of the question that it should be arranged with justice and consideration, but the amount of consideration AA'hich may be expected to be exercised by triumphant Provincialists is small indeed, unless the leaders of the party Have learned wisdom from their former blunders. To Otago as an outlying Province it is of the utmost importance that there should be a suf» ficient amount of provincialism in the General Government to allow of free and unfettered action on the part of its Provincial Government in matters purely provincial ; but at the sametime it is not desirable that ultra-provin-cial vieAvs should reign. It is also of vital interest to us that a stop should be put to the sub-division of Provinces. To find then, a Representative who, on the one hand, -will maintain the Constitution in its integrity, giving to the General Government its due share of poAver, and at the same time protect the independence and unity of the Province, is the important duty of the Electors, and Aye trust that in the coming election they will judge Avell and soundly, or the consequence to the interests of Otago will be most serious.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/OW18591217.2.8

Bibliographic details

THE OTAGO WITNESS. Dunedin, Saturday, December 17, 1859., Otago Witness, Issue 420, 17 December 1859

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1,384

THE OTAGO WITNESS. Dunedin, Saturday, December 17, 1859. Otago Witness, Issue 420, 17 December 1859

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