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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 57

Want of Confidence

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Want of Confidence.

Mr. Stout.—After the long speech which the honourable gentleman has delivered I am reminded of the old aphorism, "Bitter are the words of a disappointed man." Every word of the honourable gentleman's speech reminds me of that aphorism. This is the great speech the honourable gentleman has been preparing for the last ten or twelve days, and which he has been so anxious to fire off; this the great speech which he has been so desirous of delivering, but which he has not been able to deliver, because he could not got a majority to back him up. But at last he has fired it off; and what does it amount to? He has made a strong personal attack upon myself, to which I shall refer presently. Listening to him to-night, one would be led to imagine he had been a strong supporter of the Government; but I would ask, when did he become that? I cannot forget what took place last year. He talked about supporting a Government which brought down a land-tax. What did the Government do last year? They brought down a Speech from the Governor saying they were pledged to a moderate land-tax and to certain proposals in regard to local government. Did we get the assistance of the honourable gentleman in carrying out that policy? No. This gentleman, who was pledged to support a land-tax, voted against us. What happened then? Another Government was formed; and what were they pledged to? To a property-tax; and, when a want-of-confidence motion came on, how did the honourable gentleman vote? He voted for the Government which was pledged to support a property-tax. It is all "buncombe" for a man to stand up and say he is in favour of a land-tax when he acts in that way. I will give the House a portion of the history of this gentleman as a politician, and show what principles he entertains with regard to a land-tax and all those other things which he is going down to posterity as having fought for. I am going to show what his views are with regard to a land-tax; and I can only say that if this notion of a land-tax is ever to be given effect to I hope this colony will long be preserved from such a tax. We have heard a great flourish about the principles which he has advocated in the past; but I will give honourable members some idea of the honourable gentleman's political career. Some honourable members know that years ago there was a quarrel on the East Coast with respect to the Native Agent, Sir Donald McLean. This honourable gentleman at that time could hold no position in Hawke's Bay but for the support which he got from Sir Donald McLean, whose bidding he had to do, and who was the person who kept him in his political position. I am not making this statement on my own account, but on the authority of Sir Edward Stafford. What happened? Sir Edward Stafford got rid of Sir Donald McLean, and in 1869 the honourable member for Napier came down to the House; and one of the first things he did, as honourable gentlemen can see by turning to Hansard of the year—

Major Atkinson.—That was not the first time he was in the House. He was in it long before that.

Mr. Stout.—I do not say he was not. The honourable gentleman is not going to put me off by these interruptions. Now, what was the most important thing to consider in 1869? Was it a land-tax, or anything affecting the welfare of the people of the colony at largo? No; it was the question of the removal of the Native Agent for the East Coast; and Sir Edward Stafford, in a speech to his constituents after the session, told them how it was that he was appointed, and why it was that the honourable member for Napier loft the Stafford Government. Was it any question of political importance? Not at all. He deserted that Government simply because of the disappointment he felt in regard to the Native Agency on the East Coast. What, then, becomes of the honourable gentleman's political principles? Let me take one of those political principles for which he says he fights. Take the property-tax. He opposes that tax, and is in favour of a land-tax. And yet, when I hear him say that, I think my ears must be deceiving me; for he voted for the second reading of the Property Assessment Bill, and supported the Government who brought it in. When did he support a land-tax, and what is the land-tax he supports? I will tell the House the kind of page 2 land-tax which alone would meet his wishes. What he wishes is that there shall be no direct taxation by the State at all except in the form of an income-tax. What he wishes is that there shall be Road Boards. He does not want counties—they are too large for him; and he is the gentleman who first got the suspension of the Counties Act, and would not allow it to be put into operation. But what sort of local body does he want? "Local government, local government, local government," is in every speech he has delivered since he has been elected to the House but I appeal to any honourable gentleman to say whether he knows what the honourable member means by local government. There is not one who can say. He has never gone into any details or given us any definition of his idea of local government. But I will tell you what he means by local government and a land-tax. He wishes that there should be small Road Boards, and that each of those bodies should have the sole power of imposing a tax on the land. What happens then? The honourable gentleman represents the large property-holders in Hawke's Bay, of whom he is one, and he wants these local bodies to have the sole control of the land-tax, so that there shall be no roads made through the district. In fact, these people say, in reality, that they do not want any land-tax. Thus the large property-holders will escape any taxation; because there will then be no property-tax in Hawke's Bay. That is what the honourable gentleman is aiming at. He does not want a land-tax which will go to the Colonial Treasury. He would not have it if it were proposed to-morrow, as he showed by opposing the proposition which we brought down in the Governor's Speech last year. No; what he wants is that the large landowners in Hawke's Bay shall be able to put on a land-tax—which means that they would have none, and the result would be that they would escape taxation altogether. He also told us why he left us, and, in doing so, referred to the caucus which was held. I am sorry that his memory is so defective. I appeal to those who were present at the caucus, whether they be our supporters or not, to say whether the honourable gentleman has stated the truth in regard to what took place. At that meeting I stated that there were three courses open to the Government, and one of those was that we should resign; and he was one of those who forced us to retain our position here. Was it our determination alone? He was one of those members who asked us not to resign; and he now twits us with sticking to office. I ask this House, is that honest? Is it fair? But I will tell the House why it is he is so opposed to us now. It is not the land-tax, it is not the property-tax, it is not local government; but towards the end of the speech the honourable member could not keep it down longer within his breast: the truth, after all, had to come out. It is the Native Land Bill. That is the secret of the honourable gentleman's opposition. Our Native Land Bill puts an end to Native land rings; it puts an end to speculation in Native land; it will not allow men to get land by grog; it will not allow men to take land from the hands of infants; and it prevents large blocks passing into the hands of two or three men. The honourable member knows that; and that is the reason why he opposes us. His whole opposition rests on this Native Land Bill. As to his proposal in regard to Native lands, I say a more inhuman, unjust, and unrighteous proposal was never made to civilized men. What is his proposal? He proposes to take the whole of the land from the Maoris—he proposes to take it whether the Maoris will or not; and what are they to get in exchange for their land? Just what we choose to give them. There is to be no arbitration or impartial judge to say what is the price of the land; but we are to give the Natives just what we choose. That is the honourable gentleman's beau ideal of a Maori Land Bill. And now let me refer to one of the honourable gentleman's leading principles—to the flag under which the honourable gentleman fought in one of the constituencies of Hawke's Bay. He went to the hustings, and he did not get returned, because this was the banner under which he fought. He desired all the pastoral lands to be sold. He would lease the railways. His monstrous proposal was that every acre of Crown land was to be sold for what it would fetch. That was his idea of dealing with the waste lands. That was the principle for which he fought. He wishes the Maori lands now to pass into the hands of large property-holders—Maori lands comprising thousands and thousands and thousands of acres. He wishes also to do the same in respect to the waste lands. He would sell every acre of them. These are his political principles; and is it to be wondered at,—when one knows the honourable gentleman's past history, and the principles on which he fought,—that even some honourable members, though anxious to eject us from office, anxious for a change of administration, when they came to think of his administration, could not stomach him carrying the banner of what he calls his principles of liberalism and land-tax? Now, as to local government. I have mentioned it before, and I ask this House to think of this: that, though the honourable gentleman has talked in every speech he has made about local government, he does not tell us what he means by it. He does not approve of counties. He thinks that the Hospitals and Charitable Aid Bill introduced might be of advantage; but, because the honourable member for Waipawa was able to get a separate hospital district for Waipawa, the honourable member begins to taunt him, and calls him a minnow, and speaks of him in a disparaging way. He says our Bill has been altered and is of no use. The Bill provides for rating large properties; it pro-vides for those who have wealth paying some-thing for the poor, the sick, and the needy. The honourable gentleman does not want that. His beau ideal of a land-tax is something very different from that. So far as our

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Charitable Aid Bill is concerned, I say it is an honest attempt to deal with the subject. I do not say that the Bill is perfect. I wonder it came out of Committee so perfect as it did. It is an attempt to carry out a proposal begun in 1879. If we are able to carry some Bill dealing with a question which all Ministries have previously failed to settle, I say we are entitled to some thanks. The honourable gentleman says that our legislation of last session was not beneficial, and he adds some sneering remarks about the Sinking Fund. He apparently thinks that what we did with regard to the Sinking Fund was a wrong thing to do; but he forgets what he said last year. That was a thing which he most cordially supported. Bead his speech on the financial proposals of last year. He did not object to the property-tax being reduced, or the Sinking Fund being taken to aid taxation. What does his speech to-night mean? It is simply an address to those who do not know him in the Middle Island to welcome him as the new leader of some great Liberal party. Let me go further. He next says he is opposed to the District Railways Bill because that would be adding taxation on the colony. Where is the increased taxation? Our proposal is that, instead of paying 2 per cent, on what we are now paying on, we shall pay 2 per cent, not on the cost of construction but only on the sum we agree to pay for them. We have only to pay 2 per cent, on what we get the railway made for. There is a gain to the colony. Might I ask, who was to blame that we had district railways at all? Has the honourable member forgotten that he was Minister for Public Works? Did he not introduce the District Railways Bill? Of whom was it in aid? I suppose it was for the big companies and land rings. It was for them he introduced it. He saddled the country with this 2-per-cent. taxation. In our proposals we attempt to lighten the taxation. I would like to know how we are playing into the hands of companies and land rings. We are trying to mend and get rid of a piece of mischievous legislation, of which the honourable gentleman himself was the author. The next thing he referred to was our tariff proposals. One would have imagined that he would have given the Government notice that he would oppose those proposals. He did not do so. Why did he not do so? What objection had he to the tariff? From his speech to-night he would seem to be a Protectionist, and not a Free-trader. Why, then, did he vote against the tariff proposals? He gave no reason. As to Free-traders being opposed to the proposals, one can understand their position. One who is a Free-trader will oppose all taxation through the Customhouse and on every occasion. But a person who is a Protectionist and opposes our tariff—what excuse can he give for his action? Let me say this further, in reference to this question of railway management: One would imagine that there were no complaints against railway management at the time the honourable gentleman was Minister for Public Works. I remember being one of ft deputation to wait upon the honourable gentleman in reference to this subject; and I think, if honourable members will look back to that time, they will say that the railways were badly managed compared with what they are now. What is the proof of the good management of the railways in our time compared with the previous management? Why, Sir, though the staples of our country have de-creased in value, though trade has been depressed, though we have been obliged to reduce rates because of this depression, what has happened? We have, by our careful management—not by an increase in business, because business if anything has decreased in some respects—by cur careful management we have been able to get this year 10s. per cent, on the cost of construction mere than was got last year. I do not know that anything can be a better test than that of careful management. Of course people will complain: people will object to rates here and object to rates there. If the colony were to reduce the rates, as the honourable member thinks should be done, instead of the railways paying 3 per cent, they would not pay 1 per cent. We have to look to the railway rates of the whole colony. If we reduced the rates for one district we should have to tax others for it. I go further, and say, as to many of our charges for freightage, if you compare them with the rates in England you will see that they are as low here, and some lower, and none of them, I believe, so excessive as in some parts of England. Our railway rates are not too high. You cannot get rid of complaints of railway management. If you read those papers dealing with railway management in England, you will see more complaints of railway management there than you will find here. The honourable gentleman's remedy is to lease the railways. Of course that would not be legislation in favour of big companies! This Parliament is to have no voice in their management. The people are to have no voice in their management. Our railways are to be handed over to a huge monopoly—one company. Let me point out these two things in reference to how we proceed with our legislation. I have said on more than one occasion that I do not believe in revolution. The honourable member believes in revolution. He would create a revolution in order to get the Native lands. He was one who aided in getting a revolution in 1875—the abolition of the provinces. I say that no country can go on with revolutions. Does he ask us for a revolution in regard to local government? I say that true reform will have to go step by step, and little by little. That is the only way to get local government. The honourable gentleman has a sneer at our measures. Let him produce his measures. He comes here as a statesman, a politician, and a legislator. Why should he not have the courage of his opinions, like the honourable member for Auckland East, for example? Let him bring down his Local Government Bill, and let us discuss it. page 4 I am sure that every member of the House would be glad to see him introduce his Bill. But, in fact, he has got no Bill. How have; we proceeded? We recognize that everything should be reformed by degrees: that is how we should proceed. In regard to the Counties Bill, seeing the large number of measures coming before Parliament this session, and that it was impossible for the whole subject to get proper attention, we introduced a small amending Bill. That Bill contained some important principles. One principle was that of locating local rates. It secures separate rates for the separate localities, and gives a popular representation to the County Councils. It was on lines like these that our local government was to be improved. We introduced the consolidated Municipal Corporations Bill, which laid down lines in regard to ward rating, and gave greater power to localities in every respect; and we said, "If we get these Bills through we shall have taken, at all events, one step in advance in local government." We have to remember this: that the finance of the local bodies was in a terrible state. The honourable member for Napier last year denounced—and I suppose he does this year too—the Roads and Bridges Construction Act, and demanded its repeal. Well, we wish to repeal it. But we knew that the local bodies had not sufficient rating-power, and that, even if they had, it would press too hardly on the out-districts to raise by rates all the money necessary for the purposes of local government and the making of roads. What, then, were we to do? To adopt the honourable member's notion of giving a land-tax to small local bodies? Utterly absurd and ridiculous, and never to be carried out. We had to do this: We had to give aid from the general finance, just the same as was given before. That was the only course open to us; because to put on local rates sufficient for the purpose would be ruinous to the small farmers in those out-districts, and would have the effect of crushing settlement in the outlying districts. The only course that could be taken we took, and our Local Government Bill, together with our Hospitals Bill, is an important step in the improvement of local self-government. And I challenge those honour-able members who are always talking about local government. Let them produce their Bills. Let us sec if they are practicable, if they are workable, if they are possible. Let us see how they deal with local government. Now let me see how we have approached the redeeming of our pledge about taxation. We have on the Paper hero the Property Assessment Bill. It does not go to the length of a land-tax, but it makes an enormous advance towards one. How does it proceed? Sir, what is the difference between a land-tax and the property-tax? The property -tax taxes industry; it taxes improvements; it taxes machinery; it taxes savings. How does our Bill proceed? We knew we could not get the House or the country to assent to a land-tax; and I say that if he cannot get the House and the country to assent to his views, if he cannot get the whole reform he desires, he is no statesman and no reformer who will say he will make no reform at all. How have all the great reforms of the world been carried? They have not been carried by revolutions, but by piecemeal legislation and by gradual advance. How do we proceed to deal with this question of land-tax? By the Property Assessment Bill now on the Paper we practically exempt all the improvements of the small farmer from taxation; we also exempt from taxation all the improvements of the small manufacturer; and I say that if we can get the House to assent to these two principles we shall have made an enormous advance towards getting a proper land-tax and a proper system by which every man in the colony will contribute fairly to the taxation.

Mr. Fisher.—Tax the savings of every man who insures.

Mr. Stout.—"Tax the savings of every man who insures!" The honourable member, like myself, is a director of a life-assurance association; and, like honourable members who have a specialty, he can only look at this one subject from this one point of view. Sir, tax savings! We find some insurance companies having hundreds of thousands of pounds invested on mortgage. Why should those investments escape taxation when we tax the thousand pounds of the widow, which is invested on mortgage? Is that fair? If we are not to tax savings let us exempt all mortgages from taxation. Why should men whose lives are insured for from £1,000 to £10,000 escape taxation on their savings so invested while the man who lends all his small savings on mortgage is taxed? Why should the capital of Australian companies, which introduce hundreds of thousands to invest on mortgage in this colony, escape taxation because it is held by a life-insurance office? I think the thing is utterly ridiculous. If the country is to exempt savings from taxation let us exempt them all. But I am not going to be driven away from the subject of a land-tax by a reference to the question of taxing life-insurance companies. That question can be discussed in due time, when I can revert to it. Sir, our Property Assessment Bill is not a land-tax pure and simple, but it is a great advance towards it; and I tell the House that when the division on that Bill takes place the honourable member for Napier will be found voting against it. He is not sincere on this question of a general land-tax for the benefit of the colony. How can he be—he who opposed our land-tax in 1878 and voted for the property-tax in 1879? What caused his sudden conversion? Sir, he looks on all legislation, not from the insurance-company directors' point of view, when it is proposed to tax savings, but from the point of view of the large property-holder. That is how he views every Bill coming into the House. Now let me say one word more. The honourable member seems vexed that he has not been chosen as the leader of the attack on the Government; he is bitterly disappointed that he could not get a following. I will tell him how page 5 he can get a following. It is by showing more sympathy for the people; by showing that his political principles have no personal bearing and no district bearing, but that they have a colonial bearing—nay, I will go higher, and say a humanitarian bearing. If he follows principles like these and is consistent I think he will be able to get that support in this House which is at present denied to him. Now let me say a word about the North Island Trunk Railway, about which we have heard a great deal. But, before I go to that, I will just say one word as to the reference that has been made to the evidence given before the Native Affairs Committee. We are not at present in a position to discuss that evidence; and I regret that, because the honourable member for Napier happens to be a member of that Commit-tee, and has led this House to believe that Wahanui is opposed to any land being given for settlement along the line of the railway. I am informed that Wahanui has said that if the Natives are treated justly—treated as Europeans—and why should they not be?—land will be opened up for settlement. We have on our Statute Book "The Native Rights Act, 1865," a measure in which it is declared that they shall be treated like Europeans; and why should they not be? I am informed that Wahanui has said that if the Natives are treated justly land will be opened for sale and lease to Europeans along the line of railway, and settlement will be promoted. The honourable member for Napier says we have done nothing to provide for getting land for settlement along that line of railway; and I say that statement is utterly devoid of truth. What has happened since we have been in office? What could be done in nine months in dealing with Native land? I will tell the House what we have done. Out of four and a half million acres, tied up by the Act of last year, one large chief, Kemp, has applied to have one million acres surveyed for the purpose of having it passed through the Court. Instructions have been given at his request to have that land surveyed, so that the owners may be ascertained and land provided for settlement. I will go further, and say that if we had not been in office that offer would not have been made up to the present time. Then we have the Maungatautari Block: when we took office not a signature had been obtained to the cession of that block to the Crown, and now we have seven-eighths of that block, equal to 63,000 acres. That area along the line of railway is now in the possession of the Crown, and will be opened for settlement. What right, therefore, has the honourable member to say that nothing has been done towards getting land for settlement along the line of the North Island Trunk Railway? Now, let me say this further on that subject. The honourable member led the House to believe that, when the North Island Main Trunk Railway Loan Act was passed in 1882, a distinct pledge was made that the loan should not be raised until land had been acquired from the Natives—apparently gratuitously—for settlement. That is not correct! I can appeal to two things to show that that is not correct. Let me take the preamble of the Act itself, which reads,—

"Whereas it is expedient that the construction of the Main Trunk Railway of the North Island should be proceeded with as soon as circumstances will permit: And whereas the obstacles in the way of carrying on the extension from Awamutu may be shortly removed, and it is expedient that money as required should be available for such construction."

Now, it was not obstacles to settlement, but to the actual making of the line itself, that existed when that Act was passed, and which are referred to in that preamble. But I have something stronger and better than that. Let me take what was said in the House on the subject by the then Government. On the motion for the committal of the Bill the honourable member for Akaroa wanted to know what was the actual position of the matter, and he asked what the intention of the Government was in reference to this Bill. And I ask, was there any pledge that half a million acres were to be acquired for settlement before the line was begun? Not at all. Mr. Walter Johnston, the then Minister for Public Works, said, in reply to the honourable member for Akaroa,—

"Up to the present time the Government have made no arrangements with the Natives for the prosecution of the line in any direction; but the Government naturally hope that if this House sets on one side a large sum of money for the purpose of making a line through Native lands, which will enhance very much the value of Native property, even supposing the Natives do not consent to grant considerable areas in consideration of that line, that in itself will be a very great inducement to them to allow the railway to be made there."

There was no pledge whatever that the Natives would even be asked to grant areas or were expected to grant areas for nothing. Mr. Johnston hoped that the Natives, seeing that the line would give more value to their land, would allow the line to be made through their land. That was the only pledge given. The records show that there was no pledge whatever given by the Government that the loan would not be raised, and the making of the line proceeded with, until land had been acquired from the Native owners; there is nothing at all about getting land along the line.

Major Atkinson.—It was always clearly understood.

Mr. Stout.—Where was it understood? I ask the honourable gentleman to take Hansard and take the Act, and show me where the understanding was. It is not in the Act; it is not in the speeches of Mr. Johnston, who was in charge of it during its passage through the House. Where was the understanding made, and with whom? Sir, the question was put directly to the then Government by the honourable member for Akaroa whether there was to page 6 be such a condition annexed to the carrying-through of the line, and the answer was as I have read it. There was no such understanding and no such condition annexed to the passing of that Act at all. Now let me say one word in conclusion. I did not intend to speak on this question, and I do not intend to deal further with the question, because it seems to me that it is an unusual thing at this period of the session, when the legislation is nearly all through, when the estimates are nearly through, that a motion of this character should be made. And remember how it is made. Is there a party prepared to take office and carry cut a policy if we leave these benches? If so, let them be named. Let us hear what their principles are. Let us know upon what questions they agree. Will it be local government? Will it be land-tax? What are they agreed upon? They have no agreement whatever. The honourable member for Napier hesitated, it is true, to move a vote of want of confidence, because he had to consider the bearing of his own position in the matter. I say at once to the House that I admit the Government has been placed in this position: that matters are in such a state in the House that there are three or four parties. We are not to blame for that. We are not to blame that party lines are so laid down that you cannot get in the House a majority all of one way of thinking. That is not our fault. What are we to do? How is the business of the country to be carried on? We have attempted to carry on the business of the country; and when the time comes, I repeat again, I shall take up measure by measure that we have proposed, and we will see whether they are founded upon Liberal principles, and follow what I have laid down. The honourable member talks about constituents. He says this one is afraid and that one is afraid of his constituents. I am not aware that he met his constituents during the recess. I am not aware that he consulted them about his conduct during the previous session. He was afraid, apparently, to meet his constituents. He did not take the trouble to consult them before he came to the House this session. As long as I have been a member of a representative body I have considered it to be my duty always to meet my constituents, and I am not only not afraid to meet them, but I am willing to go even to the honourable gentleman's constituency. I have no interest in Hawke's Bay, but I believe there is a Liberal sentiment even in Napier, and I should not be afraid to go to the poll with the honourable member there. I am not afraid of addressing the people on social questions. I addressed them on social questions—"sociology," no doubt, is the term—but they had a political bearing. I addressed the honourable member's constituents on social questions; and that perhaps makes him a little bitter on the subject. I found that there was in Napier—in the honourable member's constituency—a strong leaven of Liberalism, and those people can find in the honourable member no echo to their sentiments, and they do not think he is helping forward their Liberalism or helping forward democratic principles. I can not only go to Napier, but I am not afraid to go to any part of the colony, to tell them the position of the House, and the position I have occupied in the House. I have never been afraid to meet my fellow-colonists in any part of the colony. There was a time—as an honourable member sitting near me knows—when I was in a small minority, and sometimes had to fight very bitter elections with a very narrow majority to get a seat in a Provincial Council, and also when I first got a seat in the House. But I never flinched from the expression of my opinions on any occasion, whether they were popular or unpopular, and I will not flinch now. I will tell the honourable member the distinction between himself and me. If one appeals to his past history, what will one find? he will be found voting for one thing one year, and for another thing the next; he has no consistency—no leading principle. He is like a ship at sea without a compass. Either he has not mastered political science, or, if so, he has not chosen to subordinate his personal feelings and predilections to true political science; and hence it is that he is like a ship going without a compass, drifting about in the sea. Aimless has been his past political life. I ask honourable members to point out one great Act on the Statute Book with which his name is associated, or to name one political principle with which his name will be associated in future—one that will recall him to mind in this House, or in the country either, as a politician or statesman. I hope that hereafter, whether I am on these benches or off them, people, at all events, will say that my aim in legislation, my aim in administration, was the good of the colony—that I had the good of the colony at heart. No one can say that I was ever actuated by personal feelings or a desire for personal aggrandizement.

Mr. Smith.—I did not intend to speak in this debate only for the remarks made by the honourable member for Napier, which I feel bound to reply to. The Premier has given us a picture, but I will fill in a few details which will astonish honourable members in reference to the proposed leader we have before us tonight in the member for Napier. We heard the honourable member for Egmont saying "Hear, hear," to the speech of this honourable gentleman. But what do we find in Hansard in 1881? The same speech, condemning the honourable member for Egmont, and winding up with a no-confidence motion as to his Government. The honourable member for Egmont I did not say "Hear, hear," then; but the I members of the present Opposition poured out the vials of their wrath on the honourable member for Napier. When I first arrived here after beating the member for Napier I met the Premier, Sir John Hall, in the library. He said, "We are very glad to see that the late member for Napier is beaten." That was said by the Premier of the Ministry of which the honour- page 7 able member for Egmont was Treasurer. And what was the reason for that remark? Sir John Hall said, "That gentleman treated us in a fashion in which no other Ministry was ever treated. He came into our Ministerial room and heard everything we had got to say, and on the following day, without any notice, moved a no-confidence motion." That was the honourable gentleman's course of proceeding. He has posed as the great Provincialist—as the local-government gentleman. Do honourable gentlemen know what he means by local government? When the late Sir Donald McLean gave up the Superintendency of Hawke's Bay he took his place. He always took that gentleman's place and kept behind his shoulder. Sir Donald McLean was the big man of the party, and the honourable gentleman followed him up. When he took the Superintendency, one of his first acts was to abolish the Provincial Executive. There was to be no other ruler but himself. The whole of the open lands of Hawke's Bay which were worth anything were swallowed up by the honourable gentleman and his friends, and nothing was left for the people. Then, without consulting his constituents, he voted—he being Superintendent—for the abolition of the provinces. That was his great idea of local government. He helped to abolish it. What was the cause? Because he was going to have a portfolio in the then incoming Ministry. What comes next? The honourable member supported the Counties Bill to take the place of the provinces. But he came up to Hawke's Bay and told the people there to hang up the Counties Act and have none of it. And why? Because he had very large properties there, and he did not want to see them rated under the Counties Act. He did more than that. Turn to Hansard, and what shall we find? Why, as Minister for Public Works, he used his power in a way, I believe, that it was never used before: because when he found that the people would not take his advice he came down to Wellington and altered the number of members illegally in the Waipawa County by putting a notice in the Gazette, and he threw the county into confusion; and there were no rates raised in that county for some time. That was the honourable gentleman's idea of local government; and, at the present time, he is trying to divide the same county, so as to escape being rated. The honourable member told the people he thought smaller bodies than counties would do. In 1868 a Road Boards Bill was passed in Hawke's Bay, when the honourable member was Superintendent. What then happened? The whole of the districts were formed into Road Boards except the honourable gentleman's property and three others in the same district. I believe the honourable gentleman's friends were actually ashamed of the position he took up in not forming a Road Board. There were only four large runholders, and the Act said it was necessary that five ratepayers should apply to have a Board formed. After a time, Captain Newman cut up his property in that district into small sections, so that there was a sufficient number of ratepayers in the district; and they naturally wanted roads. They applied to me to come up and help them to form a Road Board, and I went up and formed a Road Board in the honourable gentleman's absence. He at once wrote a letter to a friend, saying, "How did you come to let these people form a Road Board? You have not looked after the matter." The Road Board was formed, and a rate of 8d. or 9d. in the pound was struck. But what did the honourable gentleman do? He went to the Hon. Mr. Dick, who was then Colonial Secretary, and got him to issue a Proclamation cutting out his property and making a separate district, leaving the small people to pay the rates. That is the idea of the honourable gentleman as to local government. And, furthermore, he got the Government to fix this up just before he attacked them on local government. Everybody in the district is quite aware of these facts. Now, what happened after that? the honourable gentleman refused to pay his rates, and issued writs against the members of the Road Board to prevent us suing him for his rates; and there was also an application made for an injunction to prevent us using the funds of the Board to fight the matter, and the Board replied by putting a notice in the paper saying that if the rates were not paid within the specified time they would be sued for. Then the honourable gentleman thought better of it: the writs were withdrawn, and he telegraphed up his rates, and they were paid just before the expiration of the last hour at which we should have received them. The honourable gentleman has ever since that had a Road Board in his district, for he could not help himself; but he takes good care that very light rates are levied. Last year I think there was a rate of a farthing levied, but I am not sure that it has been collected. I believe that a certain amount was collected, and that on it the honourable gentleman obtained a subsidy, under the Roads and Bridges Construction Act, in order to make a road over which his wool-drays might go. The honourable gentleman may complain of the Act of the honourable member for Egmont, but he is not above accepting a subsidy under it to suit his own; purposes. Now in regard to local government. We had a caucus. I think there were forty members present. There was nothing decided in the caucus, because those present could not agree. It is quite clear that the Government cannot settle it in the way he talks of, as the country will not stand it. It must be settled gradually. The honourable gentleman does not believe in any form of local government, or like anything that taxes himself. For the same reason he does not like Road Boards. But I will go a little further. The honourable gentleman talks about the value of local authorities. About three years ago the property-tax valuation was made in his district. He has 14,255 acres of land that was valued at £1 per acre, which I page 8 should say, reckoning improvements, is at least 100 or 150 per cent, below its real value. But the honourable gentleman was not satisfied with that valuation. He went into Court and swore that it was too highly valued; and it was reduced to 10s. per acre. The property-tax valuation is now coming on again, and the honourable gentleman is going against the Government; and why? Because they will not appoint some one as valuer in that district who will keep down the present low rates on his property. That is one of his grievances against the Government—and they know it. His idea of local government is an entirely personal one. He has a large extent of property scattered about the district, and he wants to keep down the valuation as much as possible and keep taxes off, and he can only do it by getting the power into his own hands in the district. If he can get the power he will escape. That is the sort of local government that he wants. The honourable gentleman was good enough to call me a minnow; but I am one of those minnows that the honourable gentleman is not able to swallow. He challenged me once to run him for the Waipawa District. To oblige him I did run him, and the result was that he was out of the House for three years. That election changed his views on the subject of local government and a land-tax. In 1878, as was pointed out by the Premier, the honourable gentleman voted against a land-tax, and in 1879 he voted for a property-tax. While he represented a country district it was safe enough to vote against a land-tax; but it is different now that he has had to go to Napier for a scat. While he represented the country district he was always thoroughly opposed to a land-tax; but now that the honourable gentleman has had to take to the town he finds it necessary to change his views. He says he is in favour of a land-tax; but he is careful to say that it must only be a local land-tax. He goes as far as a land-tax in order to catch the votes of the working-man; but he does not want it to be a general land-tax. He only wants a tax that will improve his own property by it being expended in the district. Then, there is the hospital question. The honourable gentleman was troubled in reference to that. He had two troubles. One was that he had just come out as leader of the Opposition, and he was going to move a no-confidence motion, and when this subject of the hospitals came up he thought that he only had to get up and oppose separation of the Hawke's Bay District and it would be negatived. He thought that he would swallow me up at once; but I beat him by thirty-seven to twenty-two votes. That was one thing that he did not like. But why did he oppose that motion? It was done out of mere selfishness, to escape taxation. The House did not know that at the time. I have pointed out what the honourable gentleman has done in reference to the county, and now I will state what he did in reference to the hospital in the Waipawa District. The people in that district have spent a large sum to build a hospital: a large amount of settlement having taken place in the Seventy-Mile Bush, it was found that a hospital was required. Now, this is what happened: the honourable gentleman was written to by a member of the Upper House, on behalf of the subscribers, for a share of the money that had been voted by the Provincial Government for a hospital. I may explain that the Provincial Council passed a vote of £500 for an inland hospital and £500 for a town hospital. On the strength of that, the people in the Waipawa District subscribed £800. Well, what was the nature of the reply? It was this: that, in spite of the vote of the Provincial Council, he, as Superintendent, declined to give the money. The vote of the Council of £500 was never given to the inland hospital. He said that he intended to give the whole of it to the Napier Hospital, and he did; and he left the country district without the money which the Provincial Council had voted for it. And how was the hospital built? we applied to the Government of the day, the Grey Government, to which the honourable gentleman was so much opposed, and they gave us the £500 which the honourable gentleman would not give out of funds that had been actually voted; and so the hospital was built. What has happened ever since? The honourable gentleman has a large property near that hospital; his men come to that hospital; there are nearly always one or two of them there, and they subscribe to the cost of maintaining that hospital; but I have never seen the honourable gentleman's name on the list of subscribers. And he was afraid, Sir, that if that were made a separate district that property would be rated, and he would have to pay towards the support of the hospital, but thought if he could get the hospital abolished he would escape. No matter to him that poor men might have to be brought a long distance to reach the rail-way-line, and then have to be sent to Napier by train. That was of no consequence to the honourable gentleman, so long as he could escape paying a farthing. That was his real reason for his opposing the Bill. When the honourable member for the East Coast proposed to exempt his district and cut it off from Hawke's Bay, he had not a word to say against that; but directly the Waipawa District was mentioned, that was another thing; and the reason is as I have stated. The honourable gentleman talks about the support that he gave to the Government. If the House knew the facts as they really are, would know that the honourable gentleman was only a supporter of the Government by a stretch of imagination. As was pointed out, he voted against them in the first instance, and, when a motion was proposed of want of confidence in the Atkinson Government, who followed, he sent his pair down from Napier in favour of that Government; for I saw the pair myself. He supported the Government during the remainder of last session; but immediately the recess commenced he began attacking them from his position as Chairman of the Education Board of Hawke's Bay, and the Government were constantly page 9 attacked in leaders in a paper in Napier which the honourable gentleman controls. That was the kind of support which he gave to the Government. All that the honourable gentleman did was this: When he thought they were in a majority he stuck to them, in order to get little things that he wanted. He got two or three of his principal supporters made Justices of the Peace, which he thought could be more easily done if he continued to support the Government. He never loyally supported the Government or any member of it. The honourable gentleman makes a strong attack upon the Government for their action in regard to taxation: that is his explanation of his vote on the tariff proposals. Well, as a Free-trader, I was strongly opposed to the tariff proposals of the Government, and I told them so. The honourable gentleman makes a song of it, and wants to show that in voting against those proposals he did so in the interest of the working-man, whereas the fact is that he simply voted as he did in order to oppose the Government; for what did the honourable gentle-man do in 1879? When the honourable member for Egmont then proposed an increase in the duties from 10 to 15 per cent, ad valorem, he voted straight for everything that was done in that direction. He swallowed everything, and never said a word in favour of a reduction of Customs duties. When a reduction of the tea and sugar duties was proposed he said the reduction would go to the storekeepers, and he voted to keep it on. When the Grey Ministry proposed to reduce these duties the honourable gentleman opposed them. He now says he is in favour of a reduction of the Customs duties. He is now out of the country, and represents a town constituency: that is the real secret of his support of a land-tax and his opposition to the Customs duties. It is simply because the town he represents is in favour of these two things. And now we have the honourable gentleman posing as a leader, and he is going to support the very gentleman whom he could not say anything too bad of. He opposed the honourable member for Egmont in 1881; and now he is going into the lobby with him, and wants to know why other honourable gentlemen are going with the Government. I will tell him why I am supporting the Government. I am supporting the Government because when they got on those benches they came down at once with very good measures, and passed them in a very short time at the fag-end of the session. When the honourable member for Napier was Minister for Public Works he never attempted to pass any useful measures. The administration of the honourable gentleman now on those benches, in my district, I know has been in-finitely superior to the administration of those who went before them. In the Waipawa District the Minister of Lands has settled hundreds of small families on land that ought to have been settled long ago. A very valuable block of land has been taken up as a settlement in consequence of the administration of the honourable gentleman. It is said against the Native Minister that he has procured no Native land. He secured the Mangaitainoko Block, which had been shut up for years, and which other Native Ministers ought to have secured. Payments were made years ago on account of it, and some of the finest land in the colony will, directly after the session is over, be thrown into the market for small settlements in consequence of the energy displayed by the Minister of Lands. That is why the honourable gentleman is so popular in my own and other districts—simply because he has shown good administration. The honourable member for Napier objects to his Native policy. Of course, anything that puts a stop to the acquiring of large blocks of Native land by speculators and others is opposed by the honourable gentleman. I supported the Native Land Disposition Bill because I believe that, with some slight amendments, it will have the effect of preventing the land from going into the hands of speculators. The present Ministry had a very short recess. Parliament did not prorogue until the 11th of last November. What has since happened? Besides the great settlement that took place there was a vast drain on the Government in reference to defence. Yet, in spite of that, the Government came down, for the first time since I have had the pleasure of sitting in this House, with their Financial Statement at once. How different from previous Governments! The honourable member for Egmont used to bring in his measures piecemeal, but the present Government brought down their measures at once. When the honourable member for Napier was Minister for Public Works his statement did not come down until the end of the session. That was the usual thing, but now he blames the Minister for Public Works for not bringing his Statement down till this week. There is no doubt the present Government attempted to bring down a much larger policy than the House could pass this session. They were pledged to it, and had to bring Bills down; and they have shown the House the vast amount of work they must have done to enable their Bills to be brought down so early as they have been. There is a diversity of opinion with reference to these Bills. If passed into law many of them will be of immense advantage. There is no doubt that the Property Assessment Bill which the Premier speaks of will be of advantage. I am a strong advocate of the land-tax, but we are quite aware that the majority in this House would not pass it, and, feeling that we could not get a whole loaf, we are content with taking half a loaf, and the Property Assessment Bill gives us that. A great many implements and other things used by small farmers and mechanics will be exempted under it, and the hardship they have suffered through being charged under the property-tax for their improvements will be removed. I shall not detain the House any longer. I simply rose in consequence of the speech of the honourable member for Napier, who seemed to think that he alone in this House had a right to arrogate to himself an opinion on the questions of a land-tax and local government.

Wellington: George Didsbury, Government Printer.-1885.