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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 3 (June 1, 1936)

Massey Becomes Premier

Massey Becomes Premier.

After the death of Seddon a rift developed between the old Liberals headed by Ward and the Labour party, and the Reform faction gradually increased in activity and strength. Sir Joseph Ward resigned and gave place to Sir Thomas Mackenzie, whose regime was brief; he did not possess the qualities necessary in the leader of a strongly-attacked administration. The unsteady Government was defeated in 1912, and the Reform party entered into power for a long and momentous term of office. For eight years Mr. Massey had been leader of the Opposition, hitting hard all the way against the Liberals and the principles for which they stood. Now he had fairly earned his succession to the seat of the mighty. He retained it for thirteen years, until his death.

In his first Cabinet there were some very able men, chief of them the veteran Sir Francis Dillon Bell, who was accounted to be the principal motivating power in the Reform Party. He was a sage adviser, a very keen, experienced politician, indeed one of the great statesmen of the Empire. Another tower of strength was Sir James Allen, Minister of Defence, Education and Finance. The Hon. A. L. Herdman was the Minister for Justice. Other members of Cabinet were Sir William Herries, Sir William Fraser, Sir Heaton Rhodes, and Mr. F. M. B. Fisher. Sir Maui Pomare was the Maori member of the Executive.

There were many long-waiting items on the Masseyites’ legislative programme. One of the first was the land laws. Massey and his supporters were pledged to give the freehold to Crown tenants. The legislation now passed gave the right of obtaining the freehold to 13,175 Crown tenants, holding nearly three million acres of land. This was not altogether to the benefit of the country, for land values went up to an artificial value and there was a harvest for the speculator. Another branch of legislation was a new Labour Disputes measure. The Government passed an Act setting up machinery to investigate disputes and formulate proposals for settlement. A very disturbing question, the control of the Public Service, was next attended to. The Legislature removed the Service from the direct control of the Ministers and placed it under Public Service Commissioners, with very wide powers of appointment and control of State employees.