The Hon. Joseph George Ward,
Colonial Treasurer and Postmaster-General, has risen to a conspicuous place in the politics of New Zealand in a very short time. Eight years ago he was quite unknown to Parliament, and at the present time he is attracting more attention than any other man in the Ministry. The story of his life is the record of continual advancement from early youth. Born in Victoria, he came when a child to New Zealand with his parents. Having received an elementary education, he entered the Postal Department at the age of thirteen. But he did not remain long here. Determined to find by experience what he was best fitted for before giving his mind seriously to anything, he relinquished the Postal Department, and found employment in a merchant's office. This, however, did not satisfy him, and when twenty he entered the Railway Department. Upon reaching his majority, he determined to begin business on his own account. That this step was well-chosen is abundantly proved by subsequent results. The line of business he selected was the grain trade, in which he made rapid progress, and soon became a large exporter. Nor were his operations confined to New Zealand. On the contrary, his success at home induced him to extend his business beyond the Colony, and he consequently established agencies throughout Australia. So rapidly had his business grown that it is now one of the largest concerns in New Zealand. Few men have met with so marked success in the commercial world in so short a time. Yet, notwithstanding the demands made upon him by his business, Mr. Ward has from the first taken an intelligent interest in public affairs. When only twenty-one years old he was elected a member of the Campbelltown Borough Council, and afterwards occupied the position of Mayor for five years. For many years he was a member of the Bluff Harbour Board, and was chairman during four years of his term of office. He has also long been a member of the Invercargill Chamber of Commerce. In 1887 he entered Parliament, but did not attract much attention in the House during the first few years. He was elected unopposed in 1890, and when the late Mr. Ballance came into power with the return of the Liberals, Mr. Ward accepted the office of Postmaster-General. It will thus be seen that he had served only three years in Parliament when he rose to the position of Cabinet Minister. As Postmaster-General, Mr. Ward has discharged his duties well, and is very popular among the employees of the department under his control. As mentioned above, he was for several years a cadet in the Post-office, and consequently the postal staff claim kinship with him on this ground. On the redistribution of portfolios, necessitated by the death of Mr. Ballance in 1893, Mr. Ward accepted the Treasurership. During the first session of his office, no deviation was made from the policy of his predecessor. But in the recess of 1893–94 he took time to consider the whole question of the finances of the Colony. The result of his deliberations was
Photo. by Wrigglesworth and Binns.
embodied in the budget of last year. The proposals made by him were so unparalleled in the history of the Colony that they spread alarm through a large section of the press and the public. Power was given to raise, in various ways, about £5,500,000, to be spent partly on public works and in the purchase of native lands and private estates. Of the above sum, £3,000,000 was to be devoted exclusively to making advances to farmers for the improvement of their land at greatly reduced rates of interest. One of the schemes adopted for raising the money was the establishment of consols in the Colony, the amount offered to the public in this way being limited to £500,000. Up to the present, however, only a small portion of this has been subscribed. But the boldest feature of Mr. Ward's policy was the scheme relating to farmers. For this purpose funds had to be provided, and with a view to floating a loan in the London market, Mr. Ward went to England in the early part of the present year. The result of his visit is well known. The loan was raised at three per cent, a rate hitherto unknown in the history of colonial finance