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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8

Abolition Bill

Abolition Bill.

And if there was no other objection to it than that it took the whole administration of the waste lands of Otago out of the hands of the people of Otago, that should of itself be sufficient to cause its rejection. He did not exalt the land revenue to the position of first place—the administration of our waste lands was, in his opinion, of as much importance to us the revenue to be derived from them; and this bill took the administration of the waste lands out of the hands of the people, and vested it in the General Assembly, in connection with which there was an Upper House that had done everything in its power to prevent a liberal land bill being passed. (Applause.) But that was not all the bill did, as he would show hereafter. It not only took away the administration of the waste lands, but introduced a most vicious system, that of allowing the people to be governed by nomineeism. He was not, as they would see, opposing this nominee system because it was introduced into the Abolition Bill. He had opposed the same thing as introduced in the Harbour Board's Bill in the Provincial Council, and because, as he stated, he would never consent to nomineeism having anything to do with govern- page 3 ment; therefore he was now simply asserting the same principle that he asserted in the Provincial Council before this question of abolition came up. Now, what did this bill propose? They might say they did not want a Superintendent and Eexcutive. But this bill provided for a nominee Superintendent; and the only difference what they had now and what was proposed was this: At the present time the people elected the Superintendent; under this bill the Governor elected him; and they would even find in the bill that there was a provision for officers in lieu of Executive officers. He (Mr. Stout) quoted the 9th section of the bill, which provided that the functions performed heretofore by the Executive officers should be exercised or performed by any person or persons from time to time appointed for the purpose by the Governor; so that it would be seen they would, even if the bill was passed, have their Superintendent left, and their Provincial Executive left; but with this distinction, that they would have no voice in their election. Therefore, this was another step on the road to this vicious system of nomineeism. With respect to the general phases of the bill, they would remember that last year, when the resolutions were introduced in the House, he addressed meetings at Caversham and at Mornington, and then said two things which were found fault with by the Press. According to the report of his meeting at Mornington he said: "To those who said that they must believe in Mr. Vogel's sincerity when he said he would not touch the Middle Island land fund or abolish the Middle Island Provinces, he would merely ask them to remember Mr. Vogel's action in reference to the capitation allowance, which showed what political exigencies compelled Mr. Vogel to do. Mr. Vogel's proposals for the abolition of the North Island Provinces must end in there being a common purse for the whole Colony. The whole of the lands will be administered from Wellington, and the proceeds of the land will be taken to pay the Colonial debt." Now, he would prove that every word he then uttered, everything he said, had come to pass; but what did the Star say? The Star said this: "We are told that in revenge they (that is, the North Island Provinces) will never rest until Provincialism is abolished in this island. This is the bugbear held up to frighten us, and if we allow ourselves to be terrified by it we shall deserve what will inevitably follow. If Northern Provincialism is maintained, our land revenue will pass from us." So that the Evening Star was so prophetic as to say that there was no intention to abolish the Provinces in the Middle Island, and that the people ought themselves to trust to Mr. Vogel's sincerity and Mr. Reynolds' honesty, and that the abolition of the Provinces in the Middle Island would not be carried out. He (Mr. Stout), however, stated at the time that the Star was making a statement that would within a year be shown not to be a fact, and he now asked the meeting whether he or the Star had been right in their prophetic conclusions as to the future? (Hear, hear.) The Hon. Mr. Reynolds, when he came to Dunedin, stated—and, of course, that gentleman was always very careful what he did say—that there was no chance of the abolition of the Provinces in the Middle Island. In fact, Mr. Reynolds told them that if such proved to be the case, he would retire from the Ministry. (Hear, hear.) Then Mr. Reynolds was asked what guarantee Canterbury and Otago would have that Provincialism would not be abolished in those Provinces. This was his sapient reply: "The guarantee Canterbury and Otago had that their Provincial Governments would not be abolished was, that if their members, and other strong members, opposed the project, a Government could not stand before them for an hour." Therefore, they would see that the question of Provincialism was brought before the people in the Middle Island under the distinct guarantee that whatever happened in the Northern Provinces, in the South it should not be interfered with. That, in fact, was dinned into the people's ears daily by the Press, and by members for Otago who supported abolition in the North; and yet those men now came forward and said that the Middle Island people had never opposed the abolition of Provincialism. But they must acknowledge that the people had been misled on this question, and led to believe, also, that it would not affect the Middle Island people at all. He (Mr. Stout) had said this much to make them cautious of the promises of politicians. The promises of politicians were likened by an American to a Western road, which opened out broad and fair, but ultimately ended in a squirrel track up a tree. That was the type of the promises of a politician of the present day. (Laughter.) Everything was beautiful and fine; everybody was to get lollies; but when they came to guage them they were not what they protended to be. He had brought forward this matter to show that what he said last year had been fulfilled to the letter. Now, it had been admitted that the abolition of the Provinces would confer a boon on the North Island. That, indeed, could not be got over; they might cloak it and endeavour to disguise it as they pleased—the funds of the Middle Island would be taken for the benefit of the North. He did not care how the matter was put. He would guarantee to show any man who would page 4 consent to discuss the question with him—he would, he said, guarantee to show any man, by figures, that such was the fact, and some of the papers had already admitted it. He would quote from the Guardian of last year. First, the Guardian said—"There is no foundation for the rumour at all,"—namely, that the land fund would be absorbed. Then the Guardian also said—"Would it not be better for Otago to have a rich and prosperous neighbour living across Cook's Strait, than a needy and struggling one—a neighbour able and willing to buy its merchandise and produce, and foster and increase its trade?" Well, that certainly was a novel proposition—that in order to get a trade for the Middle Island they must provide the North Island with funds. Let them apply the same proposition to commercial life. Let them take, for instance, a storekeeper who started business on the flat. He had got a small trade, and his neighbours were not able to buy his groceries, but in order to enable them to do so, he went and furnished them with money. (Laughter.) That was precisely the position which the Guardian took up, namely, that the Middle Island should give money to the North Island to enable them to buy their produce. No doubt there would be plenty of buyers, if a storekeeper only furnished his customers with plenty of money. (Hear, hear.) Now, there were two views of