Local Industries, Local Government, and No-Confidence in the Hall Ministry.
Mr. Seddon.—At this very late period of the debate it is very difficult for any honorable member rising to speak not to travel over the same course, and to repeat a good deal of what has been already said; but I shall, as far as is in my power, endeavour to steer clear of the course that has been followed by others. I will say at once to the House that the subject-matter under discussion is one of vital importance, and I will say further that we have had too much abuse in this debate. We have had too much legislation, too much government, and too little common sense. Members on both sides of the House have taken part in this debate, and they are each wishing to be successful on this occasion: still, I question very much whether or not one or both sides have been doing their duty to the colony. The affairs of this colony have been neglected. We have our vast resources undeveloped. We have our land frittered away, and the birthright of the people taken from them; we have its varied industries left unencouraged, and we have many unemployed in New Zealand. I say this state of things is a scandal and a disgrace to our legislators. I would further say this: that whilst Mature has endowed us with innumerable blessings—while we have a climate superior to any in the Southern Hemisphere—I question very much if it is not superior to any other on the globe—while we have a population which we should be proud of and should endeavour to retain amongst us, they are gradually but surely leaving our shores. I say it is a standing disgrace to this House, which pretends to represent the people, to have such a state of things existing. Here we have been from day to day and night to night debating and legislating; the people are crying for bread, and yet we give them a stone. Under these circumstances we are proving to the world our own incapacity; we are proving to the colonists of New Zealand that we are not the men who should represent them. I say, let us go to the country; let a change take place, and it is quite possible we shall have men returned here fit to originate plans for the well-being of the people—men who will at all events give satisfaction to the colony, and who will prevent that going on which is going on at the present time. I say we have too much government. What have we in New Zealand? We have something like eight hundred governing bodies in the colony. We have Road Board?, River Boards, Highway Boards, River Conservators, County Councils, Borough Councils, Waste Lands Boards, Boards of Education, Cemetery Boards, Local Committees, Benevolent Societies, School Committees, Charitable Aid Boards—the latest—Reserves Commissioners, Cattle Boards, Boards of Health, and also Rabbit Boards. I have been totting them up out of curiosity to see the number. I find of those authorized by this House the total number is something like six hundred and forty-eight. Giving some twenty local School Committees to each education district, these bring up the total to something like eight hundred governing bodies in the colony of New Zealand. I would ask this question: Are the inhabitants of New Zealand a class of people that require to be thus specially provided for?—do they require so much government? The answer must inevitably be "No." I have seen, in this colony, between eight thousand and ten thousand men assembled together—the first pioneers. They worked together, and they appointed from among themselves a Vigilance Committee of twelve men. These men abode faithfully by the decisions of the committee. There were no police or governing body whatever, and yet there was no crime, and no expense attendant upon the governing of these eight or ten thousand men. I say it is the same class of people that we have now in the colony; and how can it be said that we require so much of this government? The cry from the country is not so much that our system of local government is defective; the cry is that there is too much government. The desire is not for that centralization which the Colonial Treasurer speaks of. The people do not want to be governed from Wellington or from any of the large centres of population in the colony; they want one governing body in each district of the colony, with certain powers to govern the people of the district. Let us consider all the expense consequent upon having so many local bodies in the colony. A return was ordered on the motion of my honorable friend the member for Auckland City West (Dr. Wallis). From the returns sent in from the Borough page 2 Councils alone in the year 1878, the total amount they had administered was over £1,200,000; and the total expense of administering this amount was something like £300,000. Seeing that we have so many local bodies administering our affairs, their revenues must be circumscribed, and a great portion of those revenues is absorbed in administrative expenses. I shall be able to prove this from figures at a subsequent period of my address. One-fifth of the total amount which the taxpayers have to subscribe goes to meet the expense of local government. Any Government or set of men who will endeavour once and for ever to put a stop to such a state of things will have my cordial support. I will, for illustration, take the West Coast, a part of the colony with which I am best acquainted. On the West Coast we have nine local governing bodies: we have Borough Councils, County Councils, Road Boards, besides various local committees. I find that the total revenue for the County Councils was £36,000, and for the boroughs £ 15,213. The cost of administering these funds by the nine bodies was something like £12,000. These local bodies are pointing out to me that there is a deficiency, and that they cannot carry on. There are works urgently required to be carried out, but there are no funds. The money has been frittered away. We have too much government on the West Coast. There are largo liabilities which these local bodies feel themselves unable to meet. Therefore, under these circumstances, so far as the West Coast is concerned, a change is absolutely necessary, and I trust that a change will take place with the sanction of this House, because I feel satisfied it will meet with the sanction and approval of those whom I have the honor to represent. Now, with regard to the consolidation of existing statutes. J say that the number of ordinances in force is another standing proof that we have not done our duty to the colony during the present Parliament, or during previous Parliaments. Why, there are ordinances in force in various parts of the colony that are twenty-two or twenty-three years old. This supreme legislative body, those who have had the honor of representing the colonists of New Zealand for a number of years, have not been able to enact for the guidance of the people laws more suited to the wants of the people than those ordinances which were passed twenty-three years ago. I say this may be said to the shame of those who have been in this House for twenty-three years. This is a matter which Las not been grasped by those who have had—shall I say?—the trust of the people of the colony committed to them. Circumstances, no doubt, alter cases. These ordinances that are now in force may be suited to the requirements of each separate district. Those that would suit one part of the colony would not suit another. This House has never attempted—since I have been in it, at all events—to grapple with the question. The people have not had an opportunity of saying what laws would be most advantageous to them, what laws should be passed and substituted for those enacted twenty or thirty years ago. The provincial system was swept away in 1875, and the Colonial Treasurer said he would not meddle until he could amend. I say that he has not been able to amend, and the difficulties placed in his way by those who have been representing the people have been so great that he dare not meddle. The Bill we have before us to-night is the first attempt to meddle or amend. Whoever sit on these benches will be for many years more afraid to meddle, because they will not have the assistance of those who should endeavour to amend. What suited the circumstances of the colony twenty years ago is not suitable now, and, under these circumstances, we are failing in our duty if we do not endeavour to effect an improvement in the existing laws. Now, I said that we had had unjust taxation, and I will ask any member of this House whether he considers the property-tax fair and equitable. I condemned it at once when it was brought forward, but we have been told since that it has worked smoothly, and that the people have contributed freely. Sir, my answer to that statement is that, so long as you have your hand at the throat of local industry, so long as you have the penalty imposed upon the people that they must contribute or be branded with infamy, it cannot truthfully be said that they contribute freely. And, while I would rather see them pay quietly and peaceably that which the law directs they shall pay, instead of massing in numbers and resisting the Acts of the Legislature, still it shall never be said, while I have a voice in this House, that they have paid those taxes cheerfully. I say they have not. In the district I represent we have many mining companies that are paying no percentage whatever upon the outlay. We have had expensive machinery placed upon the ground, and it has been taxed under the property-tax until it has become a losing investment; and, if this goes on in the way it has been going on, it means that the machinery must be removed from the district and taken out of the colony, because it must becomes white elephant in the hands of the owners. I say that if the House had listened to reason at the time we fought for the exemptions it would have exempted machinery for mining purposes and all other classes of machinery used in local industries. We should not have taxed property which is paying 2½ per cent, on all the proceeds, which no other class of property in the colony is paying. I say, under these circumstances, that the property-tax is unjust; and I ask again, why is the shipping not taxed? We were told that there was a difficulty in the way of taxing shipping, and that, if we taxed it, it would be taken away and registered elsewhere. Well, Sir, when I see the results that are obtained by certain companies which are paying very large dividends, and that the whole of their trade and capital is confined to New Zealand, it seems to me that it would have been a great saving if the companies had been taxed and the shipping of this colony made to pay its fair quota to the revenue of the colony. Then I come to another point which I consider unjust, but which I pointed out at the time, although then a very young member of this House, and that is that these large companies in London, which have advanced moneys upon land here page 3 —and which are still, although money is much cheaper, grinding down those who borrow from them—pay no property-tax whatever. Sir, when we have Mr. Tollemache coming forward and voluntarily paying £2,000 to the revenue for property-tax, which he need not have paid, I say that that very considerably strengthens the protest which I made at the time; and when the Treasurer says that he is going to amend the Property-Tax Act in order to meet such cases, it only shows that he would have acted wisely to have inserted this provision when the Bill passed, and then many like myself would not have had so many reasons to complain. I say that the gentlemen who occupy those benches, and those who support them, have not the interests of the large majority of the people at heart. It is the large landed proprietors, and those whose interests he in the breeding of sheep, who make their all out of those I represent: those are the only interests they protect, and, as I look with suspicion upon their actions in the past, I can hope for naught better in the future. One honorable gentleman, acting in the capacity of Government whip,—the honorable member for Motueka,—raised the question of rating lands that had been improved by the public works policy. Sir, that is a question that the public of this colony will, as one man, take up at the next elections. Outlying districts like those I have the honor to represent, and other districts in less favoured spots, such as that of my honorable friend the member for the Bay of Islands, can have no sympathy with the Government, and I feel sure that very few of the representatives of those outlying districts will be found voting with the Government. It is only members like the honorable member for Motueka, who raised a question upon a very important point, who will be afraid to carry out the principles they profess. I say that those who have been enriched at the public expense must and ultimately will be called upon to contribute their fair share to the revenue of the country. Now, Sir, I said that we had too much legislation. One hundred and some odd Bills were placed upon the table the first session I came here. The next session we had a repetition of the same thing, and this year we have it again. It seems to me that the Government first wished to carry out certain principles that had been laid before the country by their predecessors. Some of those principles will prove very beneficial, and will give a large extent of power to the electors of the colony at the next election; but what reform has taken place that is likely to put bread into the mouths of the people? Our Statute Book is swelled year by year; but what great social laws have been carried? Has the social condition of the people been improved? I say, No. The greater number of the Bills have been passed for purely local purposes. I would point out to the Government, and it must be apparent to those who think for themselves, that there has been a great mistake somewhere. Fully two-thirds of our time has been wasted. The Government say that much of this waste of time is due to the opposition of certain parties in the House. They say, "There has been so much debate; the session is so far advanced that the convenience of members must be considered; the harvest-time is coming on; and, after consultation with members on both sides of the House, we have come to the conclusion to withdraw many of our measures." Well, they have been withdrawn, but, so far as the people of the colony are concerned, they have neither got their quid pro quo for the expense incurred nor have they got justice. An honorable member near me says, "That is all the fault of the Government." I am not prepared to go that length. On the West Coast it is generally understood that I always say what I mean, and I accuse myself and ask the House to share with me the responsibility of that loss of time. Sir, I have said that manufactures have been strangled. Now, I put it fairly to the House, have we dealt fairly with the resources we have at command, and with our local industries? I say we have not. There has been legislation on nearly every other subject, but this one has been almost completely ignored. It is true a Local Industries Commission was appointed, but the Government were in this position, that they had to appoint gentlemen on that Commission who had had no experience whatever in manufactures. They were tied down in selection exclusively to members of their own party. And what was the result? What was the report of the Local Industries Commission? It was oily, silky, and soapy, and touched slightly upon tin-pots, crockery ware, and gunpowder. Wow, look at the result! Look at the Press of the colony, and see the bonuses that are offered for local industries. They are simply farcical. I ask, were there any data laid down which would tend to encourage local industries in all parts of the colony, and particularly in the up-country districts? I say, No. They failed irrevocably to carry out what the Government intended them to do. They never visited the West Const at all. It has been said in times gone by that we were part of Victoria. I shall show by figures that we have always been an integral part of New Zealand, and have contributed our fair quota to the revenue of the colony, and specially to the Province of Canterbury, and I say that it was an insult to us on the West Coast that they could not find time to visit us, and give us some encouragement to establish local industries in our midst. And, Sir, I will ask the House, and every thinking man in the colony, to face another difficulty that has been overlooked. In looking at our returns I find that the number of children attending our schools under five years of age is 2,788. From five to seven the number is 16,431; from seven to ten, 26,655; from ten to thirteen, 21,714; from thirteen to fifteen, 6,777; and over fifteen, 1,189. There are attending other schools 10,200. We have, therefore, according to the returns laid on the table, a gross total of 85,764 souls that require to be provided for; and I ask, are we making any provision for them? Again I answer, No. We have at our door boys and girls numbering 21,714, whose parents have a right to say to this House, "Where is the trade for my boys? What am I to do with my girls?" Yes, it is to this House page 4 that they must come. Let us go ahead a couple of years, and we find 26,665 boys and girls in the same category. Within eight years we have to provide for 85,764 youths of both sexes. We have no land for our boys to till. It is monopolized by large owners, and we have sheep where the boys should be. We have no manufactories we can put our boys into. We cannot teach them a trade, and make them independent as many of us feel; because I have always felt that the trade my father placed within my reach has been my independence—has kept and will keep me from pandering—because I feel within myself that if the worst comes to the worst I have a trade by which I can always make £4 to £5 a week. I say our boys will throw it in our teeth and tell us, "You did not make the same provision for us that your parents made for you." We have some industries in four or live centres of population; but I would like to see industries sent out into the country. I do not like to see New Zealand like Victoria, where, when you have seen Melbourne, you have seen Victoria, and Melbourne is Victoria. We have too much of the centralizing tendency in New Zealand. The Local Industries Commission should have visited the outlying districts, and, after carefully going through them and conversing with those who knew their natural resources, they should offer a bonus—if it is the bonus principle we are to stand by for starting a particular industry in a particular spot, so that it would give encouragement to local capitalists or capitalists from a distance to erect plant and start an industry. If that had been the case, we should have other permanent industries following. We should have manufacturing industries in farming districts. A farmer does not want to make all his boys farmers. We should have local industries so that he might give some of his boys a trade. We have nothing of that kind. I will refer to the West Coast as another illustration. We have there 26,000 inhabitants. What is the result? We find that our principal imports are candles, soap, boots, and shoes. Now, a gentleman did start an industry there in the shape of a tannery. The property-tax has pressed very harshly and injuriously upon him, and with difficulty he has survived the infliction. We have a large export of tallow, and a large import of candles and soap. Why could not the Local Industries Commission come there and say that they would give a bonus which would be equal to half the capital for starting a candle and soap manufactory, and also for the manufacture of boots and shoes, the leather for which we tan in the district? Had that been the case you would not have that which I see every day. I see miners with large families who could for years to come earn £2 and £3 per week, leaving the district, and saying, as their only reason, "We have a large family. We have no trade here for our boys. "We do not know what to do with our girls. For the sake of them we have to go to serfdom, and work for 30s. a week in the large centres of population in other parts of the colony." That shows a rotten state of affairs. It proves conclusively we are neglecting the interests of those we are sent here to represent. It will be my cry, and I would ask it to be the cry of the Opposition, that we should make some attempt to provide for the children we have in this colony. It is criminal for those who bring them here to neglect to make provision for them. Why should we not provide for them when Nature has given us everything, and when we have such vast resources? Let us abstain from party warfare, and do something as one man for those who are here and cannot get away. Single men can go away, as we saw two hundred or two hundred and fifty of them go away the other day in the "Wakatipu;" but it is those who i are left behind that 1 feel for—fathers who have to term themselves "the unemployed," in a country like this. They cannot go to the gold fields, because they are unacquainted with mining work. If we had them on the West Coast we would soon make independent men of them. There is no work for the unemployed in the large centres; and in the country machinery has taken the place of men so far as agriculture is concerned. We find them begging for bread, and yet they have large families to support. They should have an opportunity to find trades for their children. Now, Sir, I come to the professions. Is there a distinction drawn as far as they are concerned? My answer is, Yes. So far as the large centres are concerned, you have your high schools and colleges. They are endowed with what? With land now becoming valuable—land which belongs to the colony. And they are actually coming to this House and saying, "Give us power to sell." They feel that the people of the colony are grasping the situation. They feel, as I feel, that they will not allow all the money which belongs to the colony to be expended for the sole and exclusive benefit of a particular class or set in a district. As far as my voice goes, I will endeavour to defeat every attempt in that direction. We find; that a select few—Government nominees—control those colleges. There is a certain routine to be gone through, and the mass of the people cannot send their boys and girls to those schools from other parts of the colony because the distances are so great. The boys and girls on the West Coast compete with the rest of the; colony for scholarships and hold their own, but their parents cannot send them away to Christ-church, Dunedin, Wellington, or Auckland. We must look to that. The funds are sometimes voted by this House, and are in a great measure got from the lands of the colony, and we should endeavour to prevent that. Then, again, in many instances, the fees charged in these schools are quite prohibitive; and in other cases a man cannot afford to send his boy to a lawyer's office to sit there for three or five years. The lawyers have full control. We find them on the move now. They presented a petition to-day through the honorable member for Grey Valley (Mr. Weston). That exclusive sect, that conservative body, are on the move trying to check popular opinion, trying to hold to what they have got, and saying, "No one shall come here except those whose parents are well-to-do." I should be neglecting my duty—this House would be neglectful of the trust re- page 5 posed in it—if we allowed those persons to preserve their exclusiveness. In other countries who have been the brightest gems of the legal profession? Look at Lincoln, the woodcutter. Did he spring from this conservative sect? No. Yet he was an ornament to the profession, whom the world universally looked up to, and whose memory it respects. That should teach us a lesson in New Zealand, and we should not say that this or any other profession shall be exclusively for those who have wealth. We should say that they shall be open to all who possess merit, integrity, and perseverance, and who are skilled in what is required. If that is done, I feel satisfied we shall have a better class, as honest a class, and a class less exclusive and conservative in the ranks of the profession. I speak with all due sincerity, and I do trust that the House will consider this matter, and, as one man, will support that which I believe to be for the interest and welfare of the colony as a whole. I said we were rich in mineral resources. I find that a very able writer in the Melbourne Age commenting upon the New Zealand exhibits, says that he was astonished, and that the whole Southern Hemisphere must be astonished, to find that New Zealand could make such a display of minerals. We have every mineral required to make a country great. We find that Victoria has one very great want—the want of coal; yet she is progressing so far as industries are concerned. We have here every mineral necessary to make a country great; but what encouragement is given to develop those resources? They are cramped in every shape and form. We had a fine display in the library the other day, and no doubt our Otago friends are quite right in bringing this House face to face with facts—that they have certain minerals in parts of their district. I saw a fine display in the library the other day, and when I asked the question, "What is required to foster and encourage the development of these resources? " I was told railway communication and lower charges where the railways are already constructed. Now, if we are to export copper, if we are to develop our antimony, these industries must not be strangled by railway tariffs unsuited to the occasion. Then, if other districts are to be left out in the cold, and the policy of Sir Julius Vogel is not to be carried out, what is the use of our resources? All our population will be sheep-farmers and agriculturists, and the resources Nature has given us will be altogether ignored. I do not blame the Government very much for not paying more attention to this, for I feel satisfied that they do their best. As at present constituted, they do not know how to encourage and foster the development of our mineral resources. If we go a little farther, and go to the various departments, we shall find that the Under-Secretaries, and those who reign supreme in those departments, know less than the honorable members on the Government benches. I say that our Mines Department is neglected—the mineral resources of the colony are neglected, and will be so until some Government are in power who will have the courage to say, " We will place and have amongst us some one who understands what is required for this department, and who will be better able to deal with matters that are unknown to us." Before going on to the subject of local government, I will ask the House to believe me that from fifteen years' experience I ought at all events, if I am not too obtuse, to know something about local self-government. We have had on the West Coast the first county system tried; since that, the provincial system; and now we are working under the county system. So that, under the circumstances, what I may have to say I trust will be listened to with attention, and from that experience which I shall give—though I may differ somewhat from the honorable member for Clive, the honorable member for Cheviot, and the honorable member for Bruce—still in the scheme I am about to propose, though there are so many, I trust I may be able to claim a little originality. It is as follows: (1.) There should be only one local body in each district—the local council—which should have power to administer all matters except police, education, lunatics, surveys, railways, machinery, prisons, mines, and justice. (2.) The present provincial districts should be subdivided. Then a Waste Lands Board for each district should be formed, constituted as follows: The Government to appoint a Chief Commissioner; the Chief Surveyor also to be a member. The other members to be elected in the following manner: Each present land district to be divided into five ridings. The ratepayers then to elect the five members. (3.) On and after the 1st January, 1882, that, with the exception of Borough Councils of boroughs containing ten thousand inhabitants, all existing local bodies, by whatever name designated, be abolished. (4.) That a Commission be appointed, whose duties shall be as follows: (a) To determine the boundaries of each local Council; (b) To determine and settle accounts as between those local bodies whose districts may be subdivided and altered. (5.) That the ratepayers of any district who are dissatisfied with the decision of the said Commission as to settlement of accounts shall have the right to appeal to a Judge of the Supreme Court, whose decision shall be final. (6.) That, once the boundaries of each local district have been defined by the Commission, any separation, amalgamation, or alteration shall be left solely to the ratepayers interested and resident in the districts wishing such change. (7.) That all Acts of the General Government and Provincial Ordinances dealing with the question of local government, and now in force in each district, remain in force until repealed by this House, or replaced by by-laws made by the local Councils; such by-laws, before having effect, to be signed by His Excellency the Governor, and to he on the table of the House one session. (8.) That, in addition to the revenues now allocated to local bodies, the Colonial Treasurer shall be entitled to pay to each local Council, upon a capitation basis, the amounts received by him from the property-tax and beer duty; further, that in lieu of tolls cattle, sheep, horses, and vehicles be taxed. Now, Sir, the proposals contained therein I contend should be carried out. They do away with too much government. They define the powers, page 6 and they say there shall be only one local body in each district. We have Road Boards performing the same functions as County Councils. We have Highway Boards and River Boards doing exactly work that could be done by the one body. As an illustration of that, I will show you what occurs on the West Coast. I have seen a gentleman sit at the table of the City Council. I have seen him go two or three doors from that, and sit as member of a Board of Education. I have seen him go a little further, and sit as a member of the Waste Lands Board. I have seen him, after that, sit next day as a member of a Road Board for the district. I have then, Sir, seen him sit as Chairman of a local School Committee. And not he alone, but three or four of his colleagues; and I would ask a question of the House: Under these circumstances, would not the same men, with the powers given to them to deal with these subjects, be just as able to sit at one table, and, with the clerk, be able to deal with the subjects I have enumerated? Most decidedly so. But it is not a question of saying they are not capable of doing it. The public say they are capable of doing it. The public have to pay a certain amount of administrative expense, and, under these circumstances, I say, any Government that would come on those benches and say, "Sweep them away, abolish them, and let there be only one body in each district which shall perform those functions "—that Government, I say, would do away with the difficulty we have at the present time. I know that in Canterbury they are very much in favour of Road Boards. In the North Island they are also in favour of Road Boards; and what is the reason? The boundaries of the counties were fixed by an Act of Parliament hastily passed. They had no time to consider the wishes of the ratepayers. Each of these districts has its Road Board within the county, and each Road Board has its Chairman. The various Boards raise certain revenues in themselves, and, when they raise it, it is spent within themselves. That, Sir, is the true secret of their wishing to retain Road Boards. In Canterbury—in some parts of it, at all events—we know why they wish to retain them. They have had a law in operation which, to a great extent, at the time may have been considered right, but it seems to me at all events to have been a fallacy as far as the rest of the colony is concerned, because the land has been opened up at the public expense; the railways that have been made have enhanced the value of that land; that land has been sold, and now from the funds derived from the land sold they have been able from this day forward and for ever to refrain from taxing themselves. The interest on the money of the Boards deposited in the banks is sufficient to maintain the roads. I do not wonder, under these circumstances, that they wish to retain Road Boards, because any change that took place would mean that this money must be circulated and expended in public works. I say, Sir, it is to their shame that within a few miles of one of these Road Boards we have a cry to this House to find labour for the unemployed. We see that they, or those who represent these districts, find fault with the Colonial Treasurer's proposals. I do not wonder at it. It is only by letting these facts be known to the House that we find where the objection comes from, and the cause of that objection. Sir, with my proposals we get over the difficulty of the division of this money, which must be divided some day or other. We allow them to retain their Road Boards as at present; we do not destroy them, and any Ordinance at the present time suitable we allow them to retain. I do not disturb the existing state of affairs, except saying there shall be only one local body. Take, for instance, our fencing and impounding. We find that last session an attempt was made to introduce and pass through a Bill dealing with these subjects. What was the result? I, on behalf of a Westland constituency, objected to an alteration, because they wanted certain principles conserved which this House would take from them. We saw the same objection taken in Auckland; and under these circumstances it was shown that, in questions of this nature, the West Coast of New Zealand was distinct and different in all its bearings from other parts of the colony. We must be allowed to govern ourselves, and get that which we know to be for our own salvation. Look at our land, for instance. On the West Coast £2 an acre is the amount we pay for land. £2 an acre on the West Coast, as compared with what you pay on the Waimate Plains of Canterbury and Otago, means £102. That is a very large difference; and I may tell you that, while you can put in your plough in Canterbury and bring out results that will pay, in Westland it means £80 an acre before you can put your plough into it at all; and after taking off two or three crops it requires artificial manuring. If you would only give to the people the right of saying, under the Homestead Act clauses, how much land should be open to them to cultivate, and so enrich the colony, I feel satisfied we should have more settlement on the West Coast; but where it means £2 in the first instance and £60 or £80 expended either by labour or capital before you can touch it with the plough, it means no cultivation whatever. And yet we have no right whatever to deal with this subject. We have there a continuous Waste Lands Board. As one goes out another of the same family steps in. There is no chance for the people. And I may tell you—and it is worth relating—they are 60 conservative that that Board has actually denied the miners at Kumara a last resting-place. The Borough Council of Kumara applied for a piece of ground outside the town on a terrace, and covered with tea-tree and scrub. The Waste Lands Board, as usual, sent out their surveyor, and the ground allotted was in a swamp. Adjoining this swamp was a nice knoll or terrace. Mining accidents are frequent. These poor men are entitled to a last resting-place. As Mayor of the town, I said, "The miners have hard work enough in life, and they shall, at all events, have a dry place to rest in after death," and I ordered an interment on this knoll. We have buried some fifty or sixty persons there since, and we have sent four times to the Waste Lands Board, asking them to ex- page 7 change what they gave us for this knoll, but they refused. I know they cannot displace those whom we have buried there—they cannot bring up the dead for trespass: still, their right to rest there is disputed by this nominated Board of the Government, who defy public opinion. Everything I have stated is true. The Borough Council of Kumara have written to the Government on the subject, and they have the papers. Can it, then, be wondered at that I should protest against having Waste Lands Boards so constituted? They are all honorable men. There is not one of them whose hand I would not shake; but they are not of the people I represent. They are not elected by the people. They are exclusive men, and do not represent public opinion. Then we have had an experiment of the system which the honorable member for Cheviot would introduce. We had one County Council, which included all the Borough Councils on the West Coast. I may say at once, that experiment was successful j but the first County Chairman—the present Premier—had too much power. He had more power than a Superintendent. He had power outside his Council and outside the people. That, Sir, was the great defect in the first experiment of the County Council system upon the West Coast. Besides that, the number of members was too few, and the consequence was that we had log-rolling there as elsewhere, so that the experiment was not as successful as it should have been. But I feel satisfied that, if worked by experienced men, and if the defects I have pointed out were removed, we could with advantage revert to the system we had in 1868; and yet that is almost a fac-simile of the proposal which the honorable member for the Thames (Sir G. Grey) has laid on the table, and which has been described as so wild and visionary. We have been told so by the honorable member for Grey Valley (Mr. Weston) amongst others. But, Sir, we have had experience of it on the West Coast, and we feel that, with the slight defects I have alluded to taken out, and which are cured in the Bill of the honorable member for the Thames; it would work splendidly. Another defect was that the Land Fund was allocated by the County Council to the Road Boards, and the consequence was that we found there, as we always shall find, that the large fish ate up the little ones. The first thing the Council did was to reduce the allowance to the Road Boards to 25 percent.; but even that would not suit them, so they set to work and took it all to themselves, and then they wanted to know why the Road Boards were a failure. It is the same thing from beginning to the end, and I am afraid we shall find the same thing so long as there are two or three local bodies in any district. We must say there shall be only one. Now, I wish to say that frequent changes of government and forms of government are injurious. We know that uncertainty in taxation is injurious: that is laid down by the best authorities. I am of opinion that on the present occasion to have any radical changes would be injurious, and therefore, under the circumstances, I feel that the expression made use of by the Colonial Treasurer, that at the next elections we shall simply be confined to County Councils and Road Boards, will prove a truism. No such change can take place. We shall have to make the best of what we have at present, and I am quite prepared to make the best of it. I say that the Government have been forced without due consideration into their proposals and into the measure now before the House. I can say that as far as I am aware there was no objection made to the present system of local self-government in the part of the country I represent. No doubt the true leader of the Opposition (Sir G. Grey) has seen the defects in our present system, and, seeing them, it was his place to point them out, and to protest against continuing in the way we are going. Then we find among the Government supporters the honorable member for Clive, the honorable member for Cheviot, and two or three others, saying to the Treasurer, "We do not agree with your proposals. We say there is something more wanted." He comes to the House with a policy and asks the House to debate it on its merits, and we find that it is challenged by the honorable member for Clive in such a manner that the Government have for once a backbone, and say they will accept the challenge. I say it is not exactly fair for the Government to be placed in this position, because last session, when the Crown and Native Lands Rating Bill was brought down, there were many members on this side, some of whom have spoken against it this session, who said they would support it. I have myself said it was a step in the right direction, and I for one am prepared to support the Treasurer in endeavouring to pass it into law. The defects pointed out by many speakers are such as can be amended in Committee. I therefore shall support this Rating Bill, and I say it. Ought not to be universally condemned. But, as regards the Roads Construction Bill, I object to it. We are told that a Bill to make amendments in the Counties Act will be laid on the table, but, not knowing what those amendments are, I cannot debate them. If, however, I am to take what has happened in the past as a criterion, I believe that, while the Treasurer knows what is necessary, his colleague, the Premier, does not; for he has, on two or three occasions, objected to very necessary amendments which were brought before the House both last session and in previous sessions. The first alteration proposed was with regard to the boundaries. Under the present county system we cannot alter the boundaries or constitute a new county without coming to this House. An amendment was carried, I believe, by the honorable member for Grey Valley (Mr. Reeves), that a riding in one county could attach itself to another county, but it must be done with the consent of the two County Councils. Now, it is not at all likely that a county having a good riding in it, which is contributing well to its revenue, will let it go; and therefore a riding has really no power to attach itself to a county which it believes will do it justice. Then there is a provision by which two or more ridings can combine and form themselves into a county; but they have to send a petition to this House, and it page 8 must be sent here ten days before the House sits, and must he on the table for a certain time. I presume, therefore, that the consent of the House is required to the prayer of the petition, and that any honorable gentleman can oppose it in the interests of his own particular riding if the majority of the electors there should be opposed to separation. We have had two cases of objections being made, and the separation has not been allowed to take place—unwarrantably, as I think, and without due consideration of the wishes of a vast majority of the electors. There was, no doubt, a technical legal objection, but I urge that we ought to bow to the wishes of a majority of the ratepayers in these districts and give effect to them. It was the Government and their supporters who were the principal objectors to these amendments. Then, I think power should be given to County Councils to levy a tax on sheep, and cattle, and vehicles without being obliged to have recourse to the toll-gate system, which involves an expense of 50 per cent, of the total collected. In the Old Country power is given to impose a tax on sheep and cattle and vehicles, and it is as easily imposed as on other property. Those who have the most cattle and sheep pay the most rates, and I say a very substantial local revenue could be derived if power were given to the local bodies to impose this tax. I should also propose that the same power be given to counties as is given to boroughs: that is to say, they should have a right to charge so much upon those from other districts who pass along their roads. In the boroughs certain fees are imposed, and I cannot see why the same right should not be given to counties. An amendment proposed in that direction was opposed, and especially by the Premier, and was thrown out. Another amendment proposed was that the Chairman should be elected by the people. I say, if it is necessary that the Chairman of a Borough Council should be elected by the ratepayers, I fail to see why the same kind of election should not apply to the County Councils, and with still greater reason. There, parties are generally formed by the action of the Council in electing its Chairman. The particular party who elect the Chairman spend the money in their own districts, and the others are ignored. If the County Chairman were elected by the whole county, this party government, of which we have too much even in this House, would be done away with in the local bodies, because the Chairman would be kept independent of the Council, and it would be his duty to see that justice was done to all parties. I say, therefore, that amendments in the direction I have indicated will, I am sure, be conducive to the interests of the colony. In conclusion, I may say I disagree altogether with the selfishness that has been displayed during this debate. Honorable members who come from districts well provided with railways, such as the honorable member for Cheviot, the honorable member for Waitemata, and others on that side of the House, say that we must stop borrowing. They say that so far as the colony is concerned we are deep enough in the mire. Now, I for one say that that is utter selfishness. I say that we have no right to stop until we have carried out the true policy of those who initiated our public works scheme. I am here to say that that policy was not a vicious one, and has not so proved itself; and I say it is impossible, under existing circumstances, to stop its progress. We shall be doing a great injustice if we take such a step, and, although the people in those districts which have not been favoured with public works may be in a minority, still they will ultimately be a majority, because the districts which have had the benefit of public works, seeing that those who have been enriched by the construction of those works are not paying their fair share of taxation, will combine with those who require public works, and will make such a party in this House that no Government will remain on those benches that will not carry out this policy to the end. Amongst those who displayed a slight amount of selfishness is the honorable member for Motueka. That honorable gentleman was rather sarcastic because my constituents on my return to them honored me with a banquet. The honorable member informed us the first session he sat here that he had so educated his constituents that they regarded it as a compliment that he should come here to represent them. I think they have shown this session that they have become highly educated—or, from the honorable gentleman's point of view, debased—because the honorable gentleman admits that they have ordered him to demand public works, which proves conclusively that they are beginning to get tired of that honorable gentleman and his policy, that they are no longer under a compliment to him, but that he must obey their wishes and endeavour to obtain for them a fair share of the public expenditure. Then, Sir, that honorable gentleman said he had been on the gold fields, and that the miners were in favour of the retention of the existing gold duty, and of the charge for miners' rights remaining as at present. He has been so long away from an enlightened people, and so long in Motueka, that I make every excuse for the honorable gentleman, and attribute this assertion to his want of knowledge on the subject. The statement that the miners wish to' retain this taxation is an insult to that portion of the community, and displays such ignorance that I am astonished at any honorable member making the assertion. The honorable gentleman also went to the extent of saying the yield of gold was falling off. Now, after carefully going through the report which has been laid on the table of the House, I find that, as compared with the returns of 1879 and 1880, there is an increase of something like 30,000 ounces. There is another assertion which the honorable gentleman has made without having the slightest foundation for it. He further said that our forests were an incumbrance to us. That observation also requires to be qualified. Our forests only require to be opened up by the expenditure of some portion of the public money, to become a vast mine of wealth to New Zealand. If they were so developed, would the honorable gentleman dare, on the floor of this House, to say that our forests are detrimental to us? The forests page 9 of Westland will supply New Zealand with timber when the forests in other parts of the country, which have been grossly abused, are dead and gone. Then the honorable member for Motueka talked about gods, and he held up to us as paragons of excellence various members of this House, but said that in each case he had been deceived. I can now account for the honorable gentleman simply holding the position of junior whip. Seeing he has been in the House so long, his discernment and judgment have been very much at fault, and, unless great improvement in this respect takes place, he will always remain a whip, because he will never be fit to occupy any higher position. It is by judging of men, and endeavouring to discern between right and wrong, that each one of us tries to raise himself above his fellows. If the honorable gentleman has been mistaken in the past, I hope, at any rate, that for the future he will use better discernment, and not be too confiding. I also trust that, in debates of such importance as the present, he will not use abuse broad-cast, instead of logic, because the effect of such conduct is simply to throw a veil over the question at issue, so far as the public are concerned, and to prevent its being ventilated and discussed on its merits. Sir, that honorable gentleman, as far as I am concerned, is welcome to go back to the bumpkins of Motueka and live 011 his mutton and turnips. Other honorable members have also failed in the respect I have just pointed out, and have had too much to say as to the conduct of their fellows in this House. There has not been sufficient charity displayed. I am sorry to find amongst these offenders a recently-elected member—the honorable member for Grey Valley (Mr. Weston). When I say I feel sorry, I say what I mean. I have known that honorable gentleman for a very long time; I feel sure that he will make a very worthy member of this House; but I do say that in the stand he has taken, and the language he has used to members older than himself, and without due thought, he has acted wrongly. We find him first of all abusing the Government. He said their scheme was utterly unacceptable, and not for the good of the colony. Now, Sir, that is strong language to use. It means that the honorable gentlemen who sit on the Government benches are actually dishonest. The honorable member for Grey Valley, in saying that, used language which he had no right to use. I do not think that the proposals of the Government were ever intended to be detrimental to the colony, or that they were brought in from dishonest or corrupt motives.
Mr. Weston.—I do not like to disturb the House, and I like to disturb the honorable member still less, but at the same time it is due to myself to say that I never charged the Government with corrupt and dishonest motives. I have not the slightest intention to do so, however much I may disapprove of their policy.
"The country will yet realize the folly of degrading and pauperizing the Judicial Bench. By-and-by our Courts will be presided over by men possessing neither honor, experience, nor ability; and so it will come to pass that crime will go unpunished, the innocent will suffer, and property be no longer safe to its possessors. Of all the institutions of the country the Bench should be the most carefully protected. Its occupiers should be placed beyond temptation, and beyond the influence and caprice of members of Parliament annually exercisable."
Sir, the honorable gentleman who uttered these words was at the time a District Judge, and receiving a salary of £750 per annum. Those utterances are now challenged. They show the view the honorable gentleman took of those who were invested with the power of governing the country. I say, under the circumstances, the attack of the honorable member for Grey Valley (Mr. Weston) was unjustifiable; it was simply contemptible, and I regret very much that the honorable member for the Thames (Sir G. Grey) should have taken any notice whatever of the honorable member's remarks. Just fancy! A sum of £75 was taken away from the salary of this District Judge, and that reduction was to cause such disaster—to cause crime to go unpunished, the innocent to suffer, property to be confiscated, dishonest men to sit on the bench, and corruption generally. Such remarks brought the Bench into contempt, and were the emanations of a puerile mind, and highly improper under the circumstances. It is right and just that this House should have the power of saying by address who shall go and who shall not—who shall be dispensed with and who shall not. So far as I am concerned, the Government have my support in the action they took on that occasion. Such a statement as I have read was reprehensible, and ought not to have been made; and the person who made such a statement has no right now to cast reflections upon the honorable member for the Thames. I shall not go any further into this matter. I will now refer to the treatment which the gold-fields districts have received from the present Government. I am sure the Minister of Mines will himself admit that he has not done the gold fields justice. I am sure I pressed upon him four or five times during the recess the advisability of visiting the West Coast Gold Fields. He apologized for not going, owing to the resignation of the Native Minister. Native affairs were to paramount importance, and the mining industry of the colony was only of secondary consideration. The interests of 15,000 men were not to be considered. These men contributed last year to the exports of the colony no less a sum than £1,165,521. The duty on the export of this gold was £30,321. These men were to be ignored altogether, although they contribute a large amount of revenue which is not paid by any other class of the community. I will give the following figures as the value of the export of gold and wool: The value of wool exported amounted to £3,169,280: a duty of 4d. per pound would amount to £143,458. The value of gold exports was £1,165,521, the duty paid upon it being £30,321. The average earning of the miners is £82 7s. 6d. per annum; they contribute £3 per head per annum in the shape of special taxes, making a gross total of £49,000 per annum; besides which they have constructed 5,000 miles of water-races, valued at £800,000. The gold export from the West Coast alone last year amounted to £501,029 in value. As regards the collateral advantages derived by the colony from the export of these products, they are in favour of the gold fields. The gold fields members are not in a majority in this House, and we have not the sympathy of the present Government. Then, again, the district I represent on the West Coast has received but very little public money in the shape of public works. Have any steps been taken towards the progress of the Hokitika Railway? There are many bridges, the erection of which cost the colony a large amount of money, and they are allowed to rot. A coat of tar would save them, but there is no money even for that. This is one of the reasons why I say that the Government have been doing us a great injustice. Then, again, I ask the Government, were they justified in their representations as to the financial condition of this colony? Although I am specially a gold-fields member, yet I take a great interest in the subject of finance. I take as much interest in the credit of the colony as any other member, or as any man in the colony. I am an Englishman; we go to the English market and borrow money; we are an integral part of the Empire; I am proud of being an Englishman; I am proud of the credit of this colony, and I do not like to see it dragged down in the way it was dragged down by the present Government. Their course of action, in my opinion, was unwarrantable, and I do not think the exigencies of the case demanded it. No doubt we were in a bad position: I have admitted that all through. The same principles that apply to the Government apply to a commercial firm; and I ask, would any one in charge of a commercial firm have adopted the same tactics with regard to its financial state or credit as were adopted by the Government in reference to the credit of the colony? There is another charge I have against the Government, and I trust the honorable member for Timaru will not think I am interfering with his constituents or their wants. The Government were asked to afford employment to men who were out of employment. When the Government called for tenders for a page 11 certain public work, they imposed such prohibitive stipulations as to the amount of securities and one thing and another, that none but capitalists could undertake the work. The capitalists go to the men and say, "You must work ten hours a day, and we shall only give you sufficient pay to find bread for yourselves and your families." Those capitalists attempted to break down the system that existed in the colony as to the daily hours of labour. If the Government are to identify themselves with the interests of the colony,—if they wish to make themselves popular with the mass of the people,—if they wish to do justice, they must go a different way to work. They must not leave these matters in the hands of their engineers; they must look after them themselves. They must not call for tenders and make such stipulations as to entirely place it beyond the power of any men but capitalists to undertake the work. It is unjust to the people of the colony that they should be placed in that position. Another grievance I have against the Government—and it is the last I shall refer to—is this: They are about to deprive the people of the West Coast of one of their members. The scheme they have proposed is that the representation of the colony should be based on population. Now, this House has laid it down that every man shall have certain qualifications. The two qualifications are a residential qualification and a property qualification. My honorable friend the member for Auckland City West (Dr. Wallis) will not rest until the ladies have a voice in the election of members to this House. At present the ladies and children are shut out, and yet men, women, and children are to be the basis of representation. I say that is unfair. I say let us have our representation fixed on the basis of the male population—persons over twenty-one years of age. If that is the basis, I do not fear the scheme of the present Government. We are entitled to the same number of members on the West Coast as we have at present. If the scheme which the Government intend to propose be carried a number of the electors will be virtually disfranchised: it will simply mean throwing the power into the hands of the large centres of population. The proposal will have a centralizing tendency, and such districts as I have the honor to represent will be dealt with unjustly in the future, as they have been in the past. I should feel very much the loss of the assistance of my esteemed friend the honorable member for Totara. He has been of very great assistance to me and my district, and we require his assistance still further. I have no doubt he will be returned for some other electorate on the West Coast, and some one else will have to take a backseat. I shall not be one of these. I am not shivering and shaking, or afraid to go back to my constituents. The honorable member for Motueka said honorable members were shivering with fear to go back to their constituents. I shall go back to ray constituents with a clear conscience, as I hope that that honorable gentleman will go back to his constituents. While I admit there are some merits in the Government proposals, great credit is due to the honorable member for Olive for being the means of bringing the important question before us to an issue. The conclusion arrived at will, no doubt, be in favour of the Government, but the result will prove to the Government that they have not sufficient support to carry any policy, and that the sooner they go to the country the better it will be for themselves and the better it will be for the country. I shall give my vote with the intention of sending this House to the country as soon as possible. I am not afraid that we shall have two Houses or two parties. I know too much of those who are sent here to represent the people to believe such a thing; and no doubt that verdant greenness will wear off from the honorable member for Grey Valley (Mr. Weston) in the course of time. He said he wished to save the cost of a fresh election; but I may say this: that, if we had an election to-morrow, the last thing the new members would think about would be a new Representation Act. They would have exactly the same feeling the honorable gentleman has. They will say, "After I have gone to the; expense of an election why should I force myself J into another expensive contest? I have been sent here to represent the people, and I will stay here! as long as my term lasts." It will be just the same with the new Parliament, and therefore in giving my vote I am not at all afraid of plunging the colony into the expense of a second election.