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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30



Proceeding next to consider the question of retrenchment, Mr Hutchison said that never before in the history of the colony had this subject been more immediately before the minds of the electors. He thought the colony was now on the threshold of a great change in the way of the administration of the Government, and that we were on the eve of a policy of retrenchment which, if practically carried out, will go far to restore confidence from without and renewed confidence in ourselves. He noticed that Sir Robert Stout, speaking a few days ago to his constituents at Dunedin, took credit for the Government having saved some £92,000, but what was far better, he saw his way to save £100,000, and said the cabinet had a plan prepared to carry this out. That was a valuable admission for the Premier to make. Though there were no particulars given, he surmised that there were some subjects that were not included in this £100,000. For instance, the present Government and other previous Governments had sought to put aside the question of the reduction of the Governor's salary, but it was only necessary that the people of the colony should say that this subject must also be included in the list of retrenchment, and no feeling of delicacy should be allowed to interfere with our applying this principle throughout. The Governor's establishment costs some £10,500 per year, and it would, he believed, be paying the Governor, and providing for him amply if he got about half that sum (applause). It had been said that it would have a bad effect at Horns, but he could not see that that would be so. The public creditor would give them credit for something like soundness of finance it the colony attempted to live within its income. It had also been said that they would not get such good Governors at lower salaries, but he was not aware that merit had ever been considered a qualification for a Governor. The Governor was merely the figurehead of the Ship of State, and a little less gilding would not impair the value of the page 5 ship, or retard its progress. His Excellency's salaries and allowances were fixed by Act of Parliament, and it was very proper that any change which might occur should not effect the present occupant. But though waived in the favour of the present Governor the alteration should be made at once. His Excellency was a highly popular gentleman and it was said had done good service to the State. He was a capital after dinner speaker, of the regular "Rule Brittania stamp, specially suited for "auspicious occasions." But these qualities were rather dear at £10,500 a year. (Applause). Then there was the question of salaries paid to ministers, and he was inclined to think that some reduction was included in the £100,000 He believed he was expressing the views of the electors when he said that the affairs of the colony could be carried on just as efficiently by five ministers as by seven, and some reduction could be made in the salaries. He did not see what difference there should be between the salary of the Premier and that paid to other Ministers, for, after all, he was only a Minister himself, with the right of presiding at Cabinet meetings. If each Minister got £1000 a year and a residence they would be well paid. He believed that Ministers would be willing to see a change made. Then there was the question of allowances. They got two guineas a day travelling allowance and expenses, and their secretaries were similarly entitled. He thought that they might begin at once by saying that they thought that half the sum allowed to Ministers for allowances would be sufficient. He believed if Ministers did this they would gain in the confidence of the people. As to travelling, he did not think it desirable to discourage Ministers from travelling up and down the colony; on the other hand, he believed it had a beneficial effect, because of its decentralising tendency.