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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8



There was the money view and the political or theoretical view. He was willing to meet the Abolitionists on both grounds. He did care whether they took the mere money point of view or what might be termed the theoretical or political point of view; in respect to either, he was prepared to prove that on neither ground should Provincialism be abolished. Let them just look at what might be termed the money point of view. But first, he asked, were the Otago electors to look at every political question from a money point of view? For example, this Abolition Bill had not been introduced as he contended a Constitution Act should be introduced, as a form of government to be placed before the people under which they were to live. It was clogged with money questions. Here the centres of population were treated as in the evil days of ancient Rome. Whenever it was desired to carry a measure in Rome the mass of the electors were bribed by some largesses or bounties. The same thing was attempted by this bill. Municipalities were to get bribes of 20s. and road boards 40s. per £1 on the rate. This system of bribery was adopted in 1870, for Provincialists were told that if they supported the scheme 40s. per head would be given to the Provinces. Next year, however, some charges were taken over by the Colonial Government and the capitation reduced to 15s., and now, if this bill were carried, there would be no capitation at all. This was the way attempts to bribe the electorate were made. No one could read the Colonial Treasurer's statement without seeing that he had tried to bribe Christchurch in respect to the fees and fines. Christchurch did not get what Dunedin got for license fees, &c., neither had they such a large landed endowment as Dunedin possessed. The Municipal Council asked the Provincial Council to give them the license fees and other sources of revenue, but the Provincial Council declined to accede to their demands. The Provincial Council said, "You have got the city, and you can tax yourselves to maintain the streets. Thereupon the Colonial Treasurer stepped in and promised that if the Municipal Council would support abolition he would give them the license fees, &c., and a bonus of £1 for £1 on the rates. That a bribe thrown out to Christchurch and a like bribe was given to the populations of the cities. He said that that was a conclusive argument against those who said that Provincialism in Otago or other parts had been a modified Centralism put up to the injury of the outlying districts, and it was not doing the outlying districts justice. This then was the manner in which the proposal to abolish the Provinces had been introduced. It had been introduced and made a mere money question. The people had been told that if they would only support it they should get £1 for £1, the license fees, &c., forgetting what happened in connection with the capitation allowance—that this bonus for bonus must cease; that the Colony could not afford to give this bonus all round as promised; and next year they would hear of a proposed reduction, as had taken place in respect to capitation allowance. That was the bribery to which he alluded, and that was the reason why he had approached the question from a money point of view. Now let them see how the Abolition question affected them so far as Otago was concerned. Supposing the Provinces to be abolished, what would they save by it? He had already told them that they did not get rid of the Superintendent, nor of the Executive. The only thing they would get rid of by abolition was the Provincial Council; and by getting rid of the Provincial Council they would save some £3,000 or £4,000. All the present political offices must be kept up. First, there was the storekeeper; he had to look after all contracts, and could not possibly be dispensed with. He also acted as Secretary to the Superintendent. Then there were only page 5 two Executive Council clerks—that was all the staff of the Provincial Executive, and if the Provinces were abolished to-morrow, those clerks could not be dispensed with. Additional clerks would have to be employed to conduct the correspondence at Wellington. The Waste Lands Board Department, the Survey Department, and all the other departments of the Provincial Government would have to be increased, and not diminished, because of the additional correspondence that would ensue with the General Government. There was no simplification whatever of the Government functions by abolition; but, on the contrary, there will be a large increase of road board clerks, civil servants, &c., and the cost of the Government to the people would not be diminished, but increased. Therefore all the saving at the first glance—though it was not a saving—was the sum of £3,000 to £4,000 for the abolition of Provincial Councils; and he asserted that, even if it were a saving, it would be better to pay the £4,000 annually and keep the administration of the lands in their own hands. Now, what really did they lose? The appropriation of the capitation allowance was done away with. Their revenue consisted of the capitation allowance, gold export duty, gold-fields revenue (which was estimated at £8,000 only this year), tolls on roads, and their railways, and that was all; and the expenditure on roads and works, bridges, and buildings, exceeded the revenue from the sale of land. Therefore, when they heard people talking about the alleged wasteful expenditure of Provincial Councils, they should recollect that they could prove for themselves by figures that the expenditure on roads, works, bridges, and buildings exceeded the ordinary land revenue.