Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Collected Parliamentary Reports of Robin Hyde

The Dominion, Thursday, August 6, 1925. p. 10. — Peeps at Parliament: At Last Some Real Speech — Storm Breaks Over Labour Benches

The Dominion, Thursday, August 6, 1925. p. 10.
Peeps at Parliament: At Last Some Real Speech — Storm Breaks Over Labour Benches

Everybody please keep quite still for one moment while we take the Parliamentary meteorological reading for to-day. Let's see now[.]

Barometer: falling tendency; Labour-Socialist depression. Quite a number of neat little Labour-Socialist schemes fell clean through yesterday afternoon[.]

Wind—no, I think we'll call it a simoon,289 a more appropriate synonym for hot air—from Wilford-Nationalist to Labour-Socialist quarters.

Loud squalls—particularly from Labour benches. General weather conditions—most unsettled. In fact, the climatic conditions of Parliament are all anyhow. What do you think? Mr. Isitt, Independent Nationalist, has actually perpetrated a brutal and punishing attack upon the Labour Party.290 And the Labour Party didn't like it at all. Mr. Isitt was what Mr. Weller, Sen., might have characterised as "werry wiolent."291

To be perfectly just to everybody concerned, we should retrace our steps and explain that Mr. Isitt was assisted in his attack, if not actually incited to it, by the member for Rotorua, Mr. Hockly, of the Reform benches.292 Up to the present moment, one of the really serious complaints that I've secretly wanted to register against the Government is that, instead of painstakingly and thoroughly dissecting, exposing, and, finally, disposing of their opponents' frequently fallacious arguments, they have for the most part simply smiled kindly, and proceeded upon the even tenure of their way. This may be efficient, but it's hardly picturesque. As everyone knows, leading a guerrilla attack (which, as in the case of the Labour-Socialist movement, one is careful to call a crusade) is very much more exciting—especially to the looker-on—than repelling a siege. And this Government, along with all the long line of Governments before it, is in a constant state of siege—a siege wherein only the defenders know just how much that is precious and irreplaceable would be lost if the fort fell.

But we are showing a distinct and altogether Parliamentary tendency to ramble. Let us stick to our muttons,293 as Mr. Hockly did in his illuminating little discourse on the Labour-Socialist land policy.

You know, I'd often heard about this ideal land policy, and, like many other unsophisticated people, admired it from afar. Those two last words should be underlined. When one really comes close up to the policy (which isn't often, if Socialist-Labour has anything to say about it), one doesn't find just quite exactly so much to admire. For instance: Let's take a telling little point that Mr. Hockly made in connection with a sweeping statement by the Leader of the Labour-Socialists. (The point told on him—visibly.) Here is the statement in all its pristine glory, absolutely unmarred by the sordid touch of logic, reality, or practical common sense. "If the farmer gets the full fruits of his labour and devotion, then there is nothing left for the mortgagee."294

Now you and I, as Mr. Hockly gently pointed out, may be the proud but not unbending possessors of a few hundred hard-earned pounds. (I didn't say that we are—only that we might be, one day.) We could, if we really felt like it, invest our money in enterprises for raising cucumbers in Chile, or selling gold bricks to natives of Guiana. But people, not altogether excluding the Socialist-Labour Party, urge upon us the necessity, wisdom, and patriotism of investing our money in our own country. They depict to us, in glowing language (sometimes these tales really are a bit too hot, aren't they?) the great undeveloped portions of our country, ready and waiting to be opened up. They tell us, with sobs in their voices, of congestion in cities, and of housing problems that can't and won't let themselves be solved. They point out to us the numbers of people who could, if financially assisted, make the wilderness blossom as the rose: they demonstrate to us the utter inability of the State Advances Department to cope with the demand for loans. And we—there being one of us born every minute—invest our money, at, if we are at heart decent people, a reasonable rate of interest. So far, according to the Labour-Socialists, so good. They have no objection to the "capitalists" helping their lame dogs over stiles, but immediately the aforementioned stile has been crossed they encourage, by every means in their power, the lame dogs to bite the hands that fed them. It looks like a first-class way of diverting money available into other channels than in helping the needy farmer and the needy worker who wants to borrow to build a home.

There is any amount of similar—would it be rude, to call it moonshine?—served out on pretty little china plates and handed round the House for the edification of members. One of these days (says Mr. Holland, says he), everything will be free to the entire community—excepting, of course, the right to criticise the then Labour-Socialist Government. It all sounds very nice, doesn't it?

"Then this Government," I asked an authority, "keeps its visitors under guard for the simple reason that its cellars are chock full of bars of gold and barrels of—no, not what you're thinking—diamonds?"

"Not that I know of," he said, with a regretful little sigh. "Bank-notes, then?" I suggested. "You know, the Labour-Socialists must have some way of finding the money wherewith to make everything free for everyone."

"The revenue of the Government," he said, pompously, "is, in the main, derived from rates, taxes and Customs duties."

"Rates and taxes," I exclaimed, "but I always thought that the people had to pay those."

"Quite so," he replied.

"Then the more revenue the Government needs, the higher will be the taxes imposed on the people?"

"My child," he replied. "Your edication [sic] is, by slow degrees, improving. The Labour-Socialist professions are just a little too good to be true."

But good gracious me, what's been happening to Mr. Isitt all this time? Though, really, one doesn't need to bother one's head about the member for Christchurch North. He can very well take care of himself—and, if necessity arises, of the entire Labour-Socialist Party too. During his speech, Parliament appeared, for the time, a trifle more like an Imperial institution, and a trifle less like a glorified borough council. According to Mr. Isitt, New Zealand is "not self-supporting, not self-centred, and not self-controlled." We are members of the greatest body in the world—the British Empire—and the slow poison of unemployment and industrial strife, can spread from one member of that body to another, till the whole is brought down.295 For no nation liveth to itself alone.296

Yet another telling little point extracted from Mr. Isitt's speech[.] Labour holds that the purely material things of life—"a comfortable home, light work, short hours"—will produce a happy, contented, virtuous race. The idle, dissipated, slave-oppressing, dyspepsia-oppressed rich have all of these benefits, and more. But somehow it doesn't seem to do them much good—at least, not if we're to believe what Mr. Holland says about them. Funny, isn't it? It seems to me that the truth of the matter is that whereas one cannot exaggerate the importance of environment, something more is needed to complete the spiritual297 life of a nation. "For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?"298 Beg pardon. I forgot Mr. Jordan has an unchallenged monopoly of Biblical quotations. I notice that he seldom makes use of the one which refers to turning the other cheek.299

Talking of Mr. Jordan. Mr. Jordan really did do his best to step into the yawning breach which Mr. Isitt had revealed between Labour-Socialist promises and their performance. But the breach opened just a little wider and swallowed Mr. Jordan up—quotations and all. A sad fate for such a painstaking member.

289 A hot, dry, suffocating sand-wind which sweeps across the African and Asiatic deserts at intervals during spring and summer (Oxford English Dictionary).

290 See Isitt's speech (Hansard 207: 155-63).

291 Tony Weller is a character in Charles Dickens’s periodical Master Humphrey’s Clock. He substitutes Ws for Vs in his speech. See also the column for 2 September 1925.

292 See Hockly's speech (Hansard 207: 146-55).

293 Cf. François Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel.

"To returne to our wethers".

The phrase is a translation of the proverbial French phrase "Revenons à nos moutons," meaning to return to the subject at hand.

Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans. Sir Thomas Urquhart and Pierre Le Motteux (London: David Campbell Publishers, 1994), p. 26. See also the columns for 20 August 1925 and 3 September 1925.

294 Hockly cited the remark from Hansard as follows: "'If the farmer gets the full fruits of his labour and exertions there is nothing left for the mortgagee'" (Hansard 207: 148).

295 Isitt said "[t]his New Zealand of ours is not self-supporting; it is not self-centred; it is not self-controlled. To an enormous extent it depends on the Mother-land as its chief market and as its banker. I think sane men will recognize that if economic disaster overtakes England, sooner or later we here in New Zealand are bound to suffer" (Hansard 207: 155).

296 Cf. Romans 14 v. 7.

For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.

297 Dominion: spritual.

298 Cf. Mark 8 v. 36.

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

See also Robin Hyde, Journalese (Auckland: National Printing Company, 1934), p. 48.

299 Cf. Matthew 5 v. 39.

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him, the other also.