THE Election Campaign.
MR O'MEARA AT WOODVILLE.
In spite of a very unpleasant evening, Mr O'Meara had a good house on Wednesday in the Alexandra Hall to hear his address on the political questions of the day. A number of ladies were present, and the meeting was in high good humour throughout. The chair was taken by the Mayor, who introduced Mr O'Meara as one of the candidates for their votes at this election. Although Mr O'Meara had not taken any active part in politics in Woodville, still he had done so in the South Island, where he had been a candidate for the Wakatipu electorate three years ago. Mr O'Meara, who was received with applause, said he would like to preface his political [oration by explaining his position in the past. He had only been here about three years, and had not taken any part in local politics. But previous to that he had been a member of the Lake County Council for four or five years, three of which he had been its chairman. He had been a member of the Queenstown Borough Council for ten years also. He was asked to contest the Wakatipu seat three years ago in the Liberal interest. Previously that seat had been held by the Conservative party for many years. Mr Eraser, a squatter of Vincent County, was the sitting member, and determined to re-con-test it. Mr O'Meara was asked by the Government to contest it, and after a very careful consideration of the matter, agreed to do so. He thought he had done very well in that election considering he had to fight the Hon W. J. M. Larnach and Mr Fraser, who was an old identity in the place. Mr Larnach was an exMinister of Mines in the Stout-Vogel Government. Mr O'Meara agreed to fight the seat, never dreaming of his coming out. Another thing that went against him was that he was very ill at the beginning of the election and could not get to work early, while Mr Larnach commenced the fight early at a place called Wendonside. Mr Larnach stood first as an Independent, but before the election was over he had turned to a stronger supporter of the Government than Mr O'Meara was himself. He had great influence in the electorate, especially among the miners, on account of his liberal administration of the Mines Department when Minister of it. He had been free with grants to it, and the consequence was that the mining vote was split, and the Liberal vote being split as well, a Conservative was returned. Since that he has been asked to return and contest the seat again, and the people there had offered to guarantee his expenses if he would go down and »do so. He might say it was a very expensive seat to contest, as it was a large and widely scattered district. He did not see why he should go back and contest it, for the fact was that he was exceedingly glad to get away from it; neither his own health nor that of his family had been good there, or he would have been there still. He would like, too, before he went further, to mention a rumour that had been circulated, that if elected he would leave Woodville and go back there to reside. He would do nothing of the sort, and if he had to leave Woodville he would at once resign his seat.—(Applause.) There was another matter he would like to speak of, and that was INDIVIDUAL CANVASSING. He had not done it. He had not asked a single individual for a vote, and he thought that if he had he would be unworthy of the position he wished to hold.-(Applause.) He wished, too, to say a word about the ELECTORAL LAWS. Those who lived in the cities had three votes each, while those who lived in the country only had one. He thought they ought to be equal, and that the four large cities ought to be cut up into three districts each. There was ONE UNPLEASANT MATTER he wished to refer to, and he was very sorry for it. He had had a very favourable reception everywhere as he had gone through the Coast part'of this electorate till he came to Akiteo. Akiteo was a place where there were two stations, one on each side of the river; and he got there about half-past five in the evening. He asked at the station if they could let him have a shed to hold a meeting in, but was curtly refused it, and was told he might go on seven miles further that night. He was sent on like that because he was preaching a Liberal Gospel, and all he could say that if these were Conservative notions the sooner they were driven out of the country the better. We had now got women's franchise, and we ought to be glad of it. He had advocated it at Wakatipu, and ought to congratulate ourselves on its existence. As to the CANDIDATES, there were a number of them, in the field, on the Liberal side, and one was to be chosen by the delegates appointed by the various committees representing the people in the various centres. He thought it was a good scheme, provided that a fair and impartial selection was made, and that no personal feeling was allowed to interfere by the delegates. Ho trusted that the delegates would put away all personal feelings and choose the man most fitted for the purpose.—(ApplaUse.) The scheme might appear autocratic, but it was not really so. It looked like being a TRIANGULAR DUEL. They would have something under twenty candidates before them, and the result would probably be that the representation would be imperfect, and that no candidate would have a clear majority of the votos. He would approve of "a second ballot being taken between the two highest
candidates on the poll. They would not have to speak again; it would not be much trouble, and he thought it would be a good thing.
He would warn them that the Conservative party was using every meaDS to influence the election by maligning the leaders of the Liberal party and misrepresenting Liberal principles through the free distribution of literature. He thought the Liberal party ought to take steps to counteract that. He would ask them to overlook any faults in his speech. He could assure them they would not be intentional, and he would be glad to answer any questions that might be put to him. He would RETIRE IF NOT SELECTED by the committee (applause) provided the other candidates did the same, and he thought this ought to weigh with the committee. He would now endeavour to give them a brief and explicit account of his views. THE PRESENT ADMINISTRATION took office in 1891. Of course pre dictions Cwere made by onservatives and financial magnates that the policy of the Government would result in ruin. They had said it was wild and idiotic, but the Government had continued up to the present day. The prediction had been shown to be utterly false. The change to the Land and Income Tax from the old Property Tax was a w,ise one. The Law and Income Tax was more wise and just then the Property Tax. Under the Land Tax the small settler paid less, and those who would look at it fairly would say it was more equitable. By small and struggling settlers he did not mean the forty of fifty acre man, who was not touched by either of the taxes, but he meant the man who was trying to make a home and living with 500 or 600 acres. No doubt some of the Government measures had not been so successful as they might fairly have been expected to be, looked at from a theoretical point of view. But he thought the blame was in the administration of the measures, in the clerks, the engineers, and the rest of the staff. This was especially so on the CO-OPERATIVE WORKS. He thought these ought to be arranged something in this way : The work ought to be cut into small contracts, which would be fairly estimated, the estimates to be approved by the Government, and that then the men should be allowed to select their own companions. He thought, too, that no outside labour ought to be brought into a district till all the available labour in that district already was employed.—(Applause). He would also establish FOUR INDUSTRIAL FARMS under Government control, in which aged and infirm persons unable to fight the battle of life might be placed and aided. He thought that on these farms such persons would acquire experience which would enable them to go out and fight the battle of life again. Elderly people could be put on these farms and their labour made reproductive. He would have ONE FARM for paupers, habitual drunkards, and men who loafed on their wires. He thought that these men are evil examples, and he would send them to this farm on a magistrate's order. It would do such beggers good. A scheme like this was in operation in the States and on the Continent. There was one in South Gippsland ; persons were sent there and paid small wages. The experience they get there and the help it gives them makes them equal to their fellow men, and able to take their place amongst tbem. Such a scheme could empty the prisons and reduce the number of loafers. He approved of the ALTERNATIVE SYSTEM, on which the men worked half their time on public works and the balance of the time on their own farms. But he thought it was useless to put poor men on poor land, and that if the Land for Settlement Act was not put into more vigorous operation the alternative system must fail. He thought the State farms should be sold when brought into a high state of cultivation, and fresh ones bought to replace them. By this means the country would be brought into cultivation. Figures showed that the Government had grappled with the UNEMPLOYED DIFFICULTY. In Hawkes Bay, Gisborne, and Auckland there had been 202 married and 121 single persons, with 1274 persons dependent on them assisted by the department. As to the LAND QESTION, during the past year there had been 492 cash applications for 2G,584 acres ; six deferred payment applications for 455 acres; seven perpetual lease applications for 1427 acres ; 434 occupation with right to purchase for 84,970 acres ; 1461 for lease in perpetuity for 199,093 acres ; and 188 pastorals run of 2,156,378 acres had been taken up. This showed that the settlement of the land was progressing under this Government. Of course the opponents of the Government, who were in favour of land monopoly, said the CHEVIOT PURCHASE must be a failure, but as the value had increased from £250,000 to £271,000 he thought it was a good valuable asset. In Hawke's Bay 16,853 acres of Crown laud had been taken up by 87 selectors. He thought that when selectors found they had more land on their hands than they could manage, they ought to be allowed to sell, or lease, or surrender part of their sections. There was no power to do this at present, and at times it was very hard. Government, in dealing with Crown lands in back blocks, ought i to remit the rent for five or seven years. He believed in the Governi menfc assisting the settlers, for on
close settlement depended the probperity of the Colony. In fact, he thought that the Government ought to give those settlers who went into the back blocks to take up lands ought to be given a bonus "instead of having to pay taxes (applause). He had been very pleased to note he
GENEROSITY OF THE GOVERNMENT in dealing with the Otago squatters after the disasterous Bnowstorm down there. It had remitted £15,180 of rent to them, and no doubt this had enabled tbem to hold on. No doubt these squatters looked on this remission as their just right, for all these huge laud-holders were Conservatives, and very likely they blamed the Premier for the snowstorm had caused them so much trouble.
THE LAND FOR SETTLEMENT ACT was one that had been very much criticised, but let them see what had been done under it. Under it no less than 80,919 acres had been acquired at a Co3t of £377,556. In addition to the cost of purchase the roading had cost £11,761. In all there had been 28 estates acquired, and of these nine at the present time returned 4.76 per cent, on £205,557 paid for them. After allowing 4 per cent as the interest to be paid on the cost of estates they showed £1605 profit for the year. The other estates, Mr O'Meara pointed out, had either not been cut up or had not come into the year's accounts.—(Applause). He thought that VILLAGE SELECTIONS AND PERPETUAL LEASEHOLDS ought to be convertible into freeholds after seven or ten years' time, at the lessees option. Britishers everywhere liked a freehold section of their own, and he thought they ought to be able to gratify their wishes. He approved of the old deferred payment system which used to enable them to obtain this, but he thought the limit of a holding in New Zealand ought to be 640 acres of first class land. If a man had more land than that he was a land monopolist. He thought aho that improvements ought to be accepted in lieu of residence under certain conditions. Many residents in the towns and cities would like that, so that they would get a block of land in the country and prepare it for a home for themselves in their old ages. He was afraid that figures might tire them, but it was his duty to convince them that THIS ADMINISTRATION was right and good. The revenue account for the year, which ended on the 31st March last, showed a surplus of £215,458. This, he thought, demonstrated that the present administration had sound financial abilities, and that in this point they were the equals, or the superiors, of any Ministry that had preceded them.—(Applause.) The Postmas-ter-General's vote was increasing by reason of the extension of his department, and it expended £32,296 last year more than the year before. The Territorial Kevenue showed a decrease of £24,493, which told of the fact that the best of the Crown lands had been alienated from the Crown, and that a future revenue from this source must not be looked for. There was one matter about this land question he would like to bring before them. He thought that land should be roaded before residence was required on it. He had never seen such a place in his life before as the road between Pongaroa and Weber. There was a packman guiding him there, and he suggested to this man that he would do better to get a flat-bottomed boat to take goods along that road instead of a packhorse. He understood that nineteen horses had been lost on that road this winter. He thought it was barbarous cruelty to compel people to reside on sections with no better access than that. As to the PUBLIC WORKS, the Government began the year 1895-6 with £268,526 available for them. The receipts were £2272, and £150,000 were transferred from the Consolidated Fund. Out of this the Government expended £389,647 in excess of the amount expended the previous year, and at the end of it the Government had £81,150 left. The EDUCATION VOTE was increasing by reason of the increase of the population, and there could be no fault to find with that. The CONVERSION operations in connection with the old loans had resulted in a saving of interest on them. The total amount saved was £159,644, and of this £102,114 was saved on the 4 per cent, loans, and £52,530 on the 8J per .cent. Of course, in consequence of these conversion operations and of the purchase of the Bank of New Zealand shares, the total debt of the Colony had increased, but the weight of the larger debt was more easily borne than that of the smaller.
THE LOANS TO LOCAL BODIES amounted to £722,787, and he was glad to be able to say that there were no arrears of interest outstanding. This amount, too, he would point out, was owing to ourselves. The
ADVANCES TO SETTLERS ACT would, no doubt, interest many of those present, but as for himself he had nothing to get a loan on. Under it during the last year there were 8276 applications received for the amount of £1,250,583, of which 67 per cent, was to pay off old mortgages. The number considered was 2026, and 2196 loans were approved for £722,427. During April and May last—they would remember the Government year ends on the 81st March—but during April and May 591 loans were applied for, for the sum of £222,808. These figures proved the advantage taken of the department by those who were Buffering from a heavy weight of debt. He would congrafulate the Government on passing the amending Act
to enable advances to be made on suburban lands used for farming dairying, or horticultural purposes, and on improvements on them. He thought it wise of them to do so, and that it would be beneficial to the Colony. The Government was considering the question of reducing the interest and giving borrowers the option of paying into the Sinking Fund or not. He thought it would do so because its action already had compelled the money - lenders to accept lower rates of interest for the loans made by them. It had been strongly opposed by capitalists who had been receiving 10 and 12 per cent, for their money. Naturally they would not like to be obliged to take 4 per cent. He had seen the other day a Wellington solicitor's advertisement to the effect that he had money to lend at 4J per cent., and, if they remembered that a half per cent, had to be paid as mortgage lax, they would see that this was equal to 4 per cent., which was the ruling rate in Australia now. This Act and the Land for Settlement Act ought to bring down showers of blessings on the Liberal administration.— (Applause). A statement had been prepared by the superintendent of the office showing that the interest charges on the loan for this department would be more than met by the payments on the loans. This statement had been strongly condemned by the Opposition, but the last statement issued showed that the department had not only paid its way but had a profit of £SOOO besides allowing for the mortgage tax. THE PUBLIC DEBT of the Colony had increased from £40,386,904 on the 31st March, '95, 1 to £43,050,760 on the 31st March last,but as hehadpointedouttheitems that caused this increase had been profitable investments and bad paid their way. The Land and Income Tax had showed an excess of £14,173 over the estimates for last year, which was a good sign. The [ PUBLIC TRUST OFFICE was working satisfactorily and well under the present Government. The volumn of business done by it showed the confidence felt in it now which was in marked contrast to the feeling displayed towards it when it was instituted by Sir Julius Vogel. As to THE PUBLIC WORKS the nett amount available when the Government took office was £477,709, and the Government had carried on the works out of ordinary revenue. Many of the railways were not completed yet. He had been through the colony from the South Island to Auckland, and had seen them with the sign posts telling the way-passers to " Look out for the engine." The settlers had told him of how they had been induced to buy their land by the Premier that the I railway would be open soon, but some of them had been looking out for the engine for the last ten years, and it was no nearer yet. He would be in favour of borrowing three millions at least to complete these railways and to make roads, especially in the Pahiatua district, for there they were a standing disgrace. Why, there was an existence under our own eyes the Eketahuna line. It ought to be completed without delay, and would pay if it was. He would read an extract, he could not say certainly from what paper it was, but he thought it was probably the Post, to the effect that formerly there was a loan bill every two years. The extract gave the dates and amounts of these loans, and showed the total to be £27,217,000, but that since. 1888 there had been no loan, and yet the public works had been carried on without any loss of vigour. Now, turning from these matters, there were several minor matters that always came up at election times, and on which a candidate was expected to express bis views. The first he would deal with was the LICENSING QUESTION.' He thought that on this the law was sufficient as it stands, if it was vigorously carried out. He thought that if the people desired prohibition by a three-fifths majority they should have it, but he did not believe in a bare majority vote on the question. If it was established by a bare majority vote it would be reversible also by one, and the result would be everlasting muddling with the liquor laws. All temperance people who were not prohibitionists wished that the Licensing Committees should deal with badly kept houses. By badly kept houses he did not mean those which were sometimes guilty of technical broaches of the law, but really disreputable ones. At present, as the law stood, if a man had his house open five minutes late he was liable to have his license endorsed for breaking the law, and three endorsements meant the loss of the license, while the next man escaped, though perhaps he might keep a much worse house, simply because he kept his eyes open. He thought cases ought to be dealt with on their merits, and he would like to say that in his travels he had found that outside licensed houses the accommodation provided was very poor. He thought CLUBS ought to be brought under the Licensing Act, and that licenses for them ought to be granted by the Committees at fees equal to those paid by the hotels. In large cities they would find a club for the elite, two for the middle class folk, and another for the unfortunate working men. In Wellington he saw innumerable people about the Working Men's Club, and he was sure they were not all members; he himself was not, for one. Frequently they were merely drinking dens, and frequently they led young men astray. BOTTLE LICENSES ( were a thing we had no experience of here, but they were a curse to the* Colony. Very often a woman who would not go to the public house would get her " bottle of comfort " from the grocery store, and have it put down as " tea and sugar." He would favor their total abolition. He
thought thit hotels often got blamed i'or drunkeniie s that was' really the fault of the grocery store. Ii regard tO the EDUCATION QUESTION, h? was prepared to pledge himself, and he regarded a pledge given by a candidate on an election platform as a solemn compact between him and his constituents, that he would not in any way interfere with the present system. (Applause.) It was giving satisfaction, und until a change was demanded by the people generally it would not be wise to make any. He thought the secondary education systemought to be altered, foritwaa too expensive for the Colony altogether. In the Canterbury College in Christchurch the cost of secondary ed -cation was £2B per head of the scholars, while the grant for primary education was under £4 per head. He thought this was not fair to those who had to go out into the back blocks and hew out homes for themselves. He thought it ought to be within the power of the Education Boards to provide such people with good schools and properly qualified teachers. It was a shame that they should send young girls back to such places. They should be able to send good teachers there at decent salaries. In a district like this the settlers were compelled to take the children away from school very young in order to assist with the work on the farms, and the result would be that the children of such a district as this would be bound to suffer. He .thought that to remedy this it would be necessary to establish night schools, or continuation schools, so that the boys who had to work through the day might be able to carry on their education instead of letting it all go. As to LOCAL GOVERNMENT he thought there were too many local bodies altogether. The result of this was that the expense of administration was so great that they were only able to maintain the main roads, and the bye-roads were allowed to drift. He would not interfere with the Boroughs, bat he thought that Road, Hospital, River, and other Boards ought all to be ! under one governing body. The
INDUSTRIAL, CONCILIATION, AND ABBITBATtON ACT
he thought would play a most important part in the future. Of course the old Tory idea was that men ought to take whatever the employers chose to give them. Not that the employers were any better men than the others, but only so by reason of their accumulations. (" I hope, Mr Chairman," said Mb U'Meara just here, " I am not putting you to sleep, or wearying you with all these figures," and the applause was long and loud.) But thanks to the present Government every man had the same chance to get on as the rich man had. He did not blame the rich man for being rich, but he thought those who got on ought to be prepared to pay mora than those who had just ordinary, or even fair incomes.
He thought it would not now be necessary for him to Bay that he was a supporter of the present administration. He thought they were a careful and painstaking set of men, as could be told by the reoent experiences of the Col&ny. But If the Conservative Party gained powes again they would make it like the worst parts of Great Britain. What would the squatters of Hawke's Bay have done for the people? The people would have had to leave the) Colony and go to wild and lawless lands for the chance to live. He thaaked God for the Liberal ad* ministration.
The local organ had given him a birthright of which he would be proud, it it were correct. But he was not an Irishman; he was local born, and he thought while any man had a right to come forward, that a locally born one had an equal, or a superior, right to a man who happened to be born in the Old Country. He trusted the electors would return men who would do oredit to their constituents, just as such a constituency as this would do credit to their men. He placed himself io their hands and trusted the result would be favourable to him and to his supporters. \. He wished to refer to a rumour that had been spread about that at the last election he stood as an Independent Liberal, and that Mr Larnach was the Government candidate. It was entirely false, and he would ask the Chairman to read a telegram he had received at the time from the Premier; He would assure them he would never turn his coat, and that £2O would never buy him off. Mr O'Meara sat down amid great applause. The Chairman read the following telegram received by Mr O'Meara during the election campaign in November 2nd, 1893 :—" Pleased to hear you had such good success at Cromwell. Do not leave any stone unturned. The harder the work the sweeter will be the victory.—S. J, Seddon." QUESTIONS. Mr Bolton asked if Mr O'Meara would be in favour of extending the Municipal Franchise, and if so in what way and to what ex« tent ?—No. Mr O'Meara would be in favour of contracting it, and doing away with the plural vote. He thought a small owner often took more interest in his town then a big owner. He was against plural voting in counties too, he believed in one man one vote with a property qualification. Mr Hyde asked if the 640 acre limit Mr O'Meara had referred to did. not refer to first-class land only.—Yes. Mr O'Meara would not limit a man to 640 acres of second-class land; he would not like to live on 640 of Pongaroa land if he had it at a gift—he would want 2000 acres of it at least. But lie thought the limit in first-class land ought to be 640 acres, for a man who had more than that was a land monopolist Mr A. Milne asked, in reference to State Farms for drunkards and ' loafers, if O'Meara believed in spoon, feeding all the loafers who
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THE Election Campaign., Woodville Examiner, Volume XIV, Issue 2588, 30 October 1896
THE Election Campaign. Woodville Examiner, Volume XIV, Issue 2588, 30 October 1896
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