The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30
His Worship the Mayor occupied the chair, and in a few remarks introduced the speaker.
Mr Ballance, on coming forward, was received with rounds of applause. He said that he appeared before them on that occasion, after a very short interval since his last speech, in consequence of the defeat of the Government. The Government had been defeated because certain gentlemen of exalted opinions and patriotic motives who usually found their normal resting place on the verge or margin of parties, withdrew their support from the Ministry. It had been very easily done. The change was brought about by the change of views of four gentlemen; even less—three gentlemen accomplished the work. They found out that the Government were not entitled to their support as soon as the tariff proposals were brought down; but in reality they had withdrawn their support from the Government before they knew what the tariff would be, and they had expressed their intentions of not voting for the Government. There were always to be found men in this position on the boundaries of parties, and the defeat of Governments were generally caused by these extremely conscientious gentlemen. The question that arose with the Government was as to the course they should follow, consequent on the motion being carried. There were only two courses open. One was to resign office and allow their successors to come into power, and the other to appeal to the country The Government could have thrown up the reins and said to the other party that they could go in and show what they were able to do, and in fact a great many of the friends of the Government advised them to take this course, on the ground that the Opposition, when they got into power would also find the necessity for Increased taxation, and would begin to make enemies immediately they proposed it. The Government, however, dissented from this position, and having a distinct policy on which they could appeal to the country, as against the negative policy of the Opposition, they decided to go to the country to ascertain whether or not it endorsed their policy. He was aware that this course was attended with considerable inconvenience to Ministers, more especially as they had a definite policy, while they were unable to ascertain what their opponents' policy was. Everyone was aware of the policy of the Government, but no one knew the policy of the Opposition. Some had tried to find out their policy from the negative policy or no opinions of Major Atkinson, and had gone back to the "Continuous Ministry" which had held office from 1879 to 1884 and had in some cases gone back to some of Major Atkinson's speeches to find out if his policy was there. He was not going to refer, except in a very cursory manner, to the policy of the Opposition. He recognised that as a member of the Government he held an important position, and he was that night on his defence before them as a portion of the electors of the country, and it would be for them to say whether the Government policy contained any merits or not, or whether it should be adopted by the country,