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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30



The question of retrenchment had been made one of the issues of the election, and rightly so. The people had a perfect right to say, before further taxation was imposed, that the Government must retrench to the utmost limits. The Government recognised this fact, and they replied that they had laid the foundation of a scheme of further retrenchment to a very great extent. They would no doubt be surprised to hear that the expenditure when the Government took page 8 office in 1884-85 was considerably larger than it is to-day, notwithstanding the fact that they were spending more on Education, and that the extension of the Post Office and Railway Departments required a larger expenditure every year, and the interest on loans was greater now than in 1884-85. With regard to Education, people might cry out that it was overdone in this colony, and that great reductions might be effected. To this the Government replied that the Education system was laid down many years ago—in 1877—and it was then provided that a certain amount of money should be net aside for education from year to year. The amount was first fixed at £3 15s per head after that it was raised by Act by a sum of 10s and a few years later this was reduced by five shillings per head and what the Government next proposed to do was to reduce it in five years by one shilling per year. In this way a sum of £5000 per annum or £25,000 in five years would be saved. Dealing with the suggestion that school age should be raised, Mr Ballance said that whatever provision might be made by raising the standard of age from 5 to 6 years, or by doing away with the 5th and 6th standards, the whole effect would fall upon the teachers. At the present time the average of teachers' salaries was £94 10s per annum, and he thought it would be a mistake to reduce them to starvation wages (applause). He believed to at every rational man must come to the conclusion that nothing rash or hasty should be done in this matter, but that they should act deliberately and with the facts before them. He was not sure that those connected with the Universities of this colony were favourably inclined towards the Education system; but he would point out this, that if they once commenced to attack education they would have to tackle the higher institutions as well as the others, although they were provided for by Act of Parliament. Whatever reduction was made must be made all round, and they must deal with those gentlemen who were receiving large salaries as well as with those who were receiving smaller. (Applause.) These individuals would find that a permanent Act would afford them no protection when the reduction of a permanent vote came to be considered. (Applause.)