The Industrial Depression in New Zealand:
Its Cause and its Only Cure
Auckland Printed at the Star Office Shortland and Fort Streets.MDCCCXC.
To the Toilers of New Zealand.
The audience to whom this lecture was delivered expressed at its close a unanimous wish that it should be printed for general circulation. I hare, therefore, much pleasure in complying with their request.
I am aware that by doing so much indignation will be felt and expressed by the class which has so long misgoverned this magnificent country; but the time has arrived when the real truth of the position we are in should be plainly told, and until it is plainly told and intelligently understood by the people there is little hope of reform, and no hope whatever that the social position of the toilers of New Zealand will be materially improved.
H. W. Farnall.
The Industrial Depression in New Zealand:
Its Cause and its Only Cure.
I have noticed of late years a strong and increasing tendency to praise and glorify the human intellect; some go so far, indeed, as even to almost deify it. Now, to such I would ask, where did the founders of our New Zealand laws and institutions exhibit the greatness of the modern human intellect when they deliberately saddled us with laws and institutions far inferior in some respects to those in force amongst uncivilised savages? As a matter of fact, it could be proved that in some instances the untutored natural instincts of savage races have evolved for their own use laws and institutions infinitely better adapted to the wants of the people, and more conducive to their happiness and well-being, modern times, produced from the greatest and mightiest of human than many laws that have been brought into force in either ancient or intellects.
I have been the more confirmed in this opinion from reading, in an Auckland newspaper, an account of an interview which took place, only the other day, between a reporter of that paper and the Premier of Rarotonga, a native of that island, of the name of Tepou o te Rangi. This man and his people were yesterday, so to speak, savages, but you will see, from the account I will give you of the interview, that the social conditions of the islanders he speaks of are in some respects far in advance of those of people supposed to be in the highest stage of civilisation. He also clearly explains how this has come about, and we shall do well to carefully mark his words, for he is undoubtedly right in every particular.
In the first place he eulogises his country and its resources. He says: "We have thousands and thousands of acres of land waiting for people to come and cultivate them. Not one-twentieth of the land is tilled, and yet it is like the Garden of Eden for luxuriance and natural beauty. Nature supplies men there with every good thing."
You will observe that what this man says of his country can be equally said, or rather said with ten-fold more force, by us of i New Zealand. We have millions of acres of the very best land in the world waiting to be cultivated, but not one-seventieth is cultivated; and yet our land is as the Garden of Eden for luxuriance page 4 and beauty, and nature has most lavishly and bounteously provided us with every good thing. But mark what this man next says. He goes on: "No one is ever hungry with us as with you, and there is no servile class among the people." Here the great contrast commences. We have all the natural opportunities and advantages that these islanders have, but not like them, we do have the poor, and the destitute, and the starving amongst us, and the condition of our working classes is nothing more or less than industrial slavery. And why is this?
He goes on to explain how and why it is his people enjoy these happy, social conditions. He says: "We have no lawyers and no wilderness of laws." For this these islanders are certainly to be congratulated, and though he does not say so, the reason that there are no lawyers there is clearly because they have no use for them. He says: "Every man has a just right to the produce of that land which he alone cultivates (less tithe in kind paid to the chief). No man owns land as private property, but as leasehold under the chief, who is trustee and guardian for the whole tribe. The land cannot be bought and sold as under the English law. This is our ancient law, as old as the time when the islands rose from the sea. Neither the chiefs can sell the land, nor all the people combined. If they could sell their land, and did so, that would be confusion indeed. No; buying and selling the land is a bad law—a very bad law (and thumping the table energetically with his fist)—an extremely bad law!
Now, these people have had this admirable custom from the earliest times, as Tepou said, "from the time when the islands rose from the sea." They were not guided in this matter by studying political economy as expounded in the literature compiled by the great intellects of this or past ages; they arrived at the grand and true result entirely from their natural instincts. And mark, when they emerge from barbarism and come in contact with the mighty intellects of the highly cultured races, do they see the folly of their custom, and begin to follow the lead of the intellectual race? By no means. On the contrary, they take upon themselves, these savages of yesterday, to unsparingly condemn the institutions evolved from the mighty human intellect of modern time, and say "they are bad, very bad, extremely bad;" and, moreover, they can also triumphantly point to the fact that in consequence of this law and these customs nature's gifts are freely enjoyed by all, and "no one is ever hungry with us as with you, and we have no senile class, as with you."
The subject of my address this evening is "The Industrial Depression in New Zealand: its Cause and its only Cure." Before entering into the particulars which I propose to put before you, I feel it my duty to make myself perfectly clear upon one point. I am accused of being a "pessimist," and that I take a warped and narrow view of the position of this colony, and that anything wrong about it rests entirely in my own imagination; that if I and others find a difficulty in making a living in this country the fault lies with us and not with the country. The country, they say, is right page 5 enough, and that this is the case is proved by its boundless resources, its enormous exports, and its power to meet the interest on the enormous debt it has incurred.
Now, so far as that is concerned, I wish here to emphatically assert that it is my honest belief there is no country on this earth containing superior natural advantages, capable, if rightly used, of supporting an immense population in ease, luxury, and comfort, than New Zealand. It is because matters are so ordered with us, that the people are debarred from taking full advantage of those opportunities and advantages, that I consider I am justified in raising my voice against existing laws and institutions, and doing my level best to supply a remedy, in the hope of getting our affairs managed in a more satisfactory manner.
Let us now take a glance at our present position, and endeavour to ascertain, if we can, how it is that in this fair land, the small population that is in it is unable to exist in comfort. We have now entered upon what is called the year of jubilee, or the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of this colony. It will be found interesting to dwell for a moment on the signification of this word "jubilee." It is taken from a very merciful law, which was one of the institutions of Israel of old. It was with them a year of great rejoicing. In that year each man restored to his neighbour any land he might have taken from him during the previous fifty years, and every man who, because of debt or any other misfortune, had become servant or slave to another, was allowed to go absolutely free; the debt was cancelled, and each man enjoyed his own again.
The wording of the command, as given in the twenty-fifth chapter of Leviticus, is as follows: "And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof. It shall be a jubilee unto you, and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family."
And this is the year of New Zealand's jubilee, our great year of rejoicing, in which we are called upon to look back with pride and thankfulness upon our glorious history in the past, and rejoice in the glowing prospect of the future. Well, I for one, so far from rejoicing at the past, look back with pain, sorrow, dismay, and positive disgust at our past record, and I would ask concerning what, in all that has taken place in New Zealand in the last fifty years, are we called upon specially to rejoice? Are we to rejoice that one absentee New Zealand landowner draws an income from this country of £85,000 a year, and lives in ease and affluence in England? Are we to rejoice that there are 1,140 of these absentees, all living in ease and luxury in England and elsewhere, all drawing large sums from this colony, and positively draining its life-blood, whilst they contribute nothing hardly to the national revenue? Are we to rejoice because we allow ourselves to be robbed of our small and hardly-won earnings, and be brought to poverty and destitution in order that the wealthiest class in this colony may escape their share of taxation? Are we to rejoice over that huge debt which, though spent entirely page 6 and wholly in the interests of one class, the land owners, the other, the down trodden, the governed class, is called upon to pay all the interest? Is it these things upon which we are to congratulate ourselves and rejoice in this year of jubilee? Is there any one individual here who can mention any one thing upon which the people of this colony may fairly look back upon as a true cause of rejoicing in this year of jubilee? I do know of fine thing, and one only—a most important one truly, but one that I will introduce to your notice later on, as it is connected with the remedy for the disease we are suffering from. It is one that is never noticed favourably by the press, it is one that the governing class of this colony would willingly keep out of sight altogether if they could; but it is one that enables you, if you choose, to make use of this jubilee year in its highest and truest sense, and will also enable you in the words of the Scripture, to "proclaim liberty throughout all this land, to all its inhabitants."
Now for the cause of the social and industrial depression in New Zealand. This, I think, is easily found. New Zealand is about the youngest nation in existence, and one would have thought that those responsible for making our laws and shaping our institutions would have taken advantage of the ages which have gone before us, that they would have noted the causes which led to the decay and ruin of past nations, would have also noted where the laws of those nations increased their happiness, prosperity, and caused their progress; and being in possession of all this wisdom, gained from the experience of past history, they would have said, "Come and let us provide such laws for this young nation that it shall be a model to all others. We will so order our affairs that there shall be no special class with special privileges, as has been the case in all other nations, but will provide that all the great natural opportunities of this good land shall be free to all, and that none shall have advantage over his neighbour." Did they do this? They did not. On the contrary, they deliberately introduced into this new country all those conservative and aristocratic laws and institutions which experience has shown to be the main cause of all the fearful misery, poverty, crime, and destitution in older countries, and which, as a matter of course, has resulted in a very similar state of things here, although we have accomplished our national social degradation in the short space of fifty years, whereas it has taken centuries to develop the same thing in other countries.
It must not be supposed that the founders of the laws and institutions of this colony started on their work entirely unassisted. This was not so; in the year 1844, a Committee of the House of Commons was appointed to take the affairs of New Zealand into consideration, and make suggestions as to the course she should steer. Some of Britain's ablest statesmen were on this committee, they sat for a long time and examined a host of witnesses, the report of the proceedings occupies a very bulky volume, but in their report they make a great point of one thing, and this they most earnestly impressed upon the English Parliament and those engaged in framing our institutions. That was, that before all else a land tax page 7 should be at once imposed. The committee points out that unless this be done precisely what we see before our eyes in this year of jubilee would happen. The whole country would be monopolised by a few in large estates, bona fide settlement would stagnate, and the masses would be pauperised. It seems rather a singular thing that a committee of Englishmen, chiefly landowners, who it is to be supposed fully realized the comfortable position that they themselves were in through land monopoly, should have strongly warned this colony against the same thing. But they did so in the most emphatic manner, though nothing came of it. I claim that the neglect to impose this land tax was one of the main causes of the trouble from which we have for years been suffering, and from which we shall continue to suffer and go from bad to worse until such a tax is imposed.
Few people are aware of the extent to which land is monopolised in this country, but I will show you, from authentic figures given in the Government official returns, the position in which we now stand with regard to it.
There are, it appears, in this colony, 346 private owners and sixteen banks and companies who own between them 7,348,713 acres of land, the unimproved value of which, according to the same Government return, is £15,153,630 sterling. The average size of each estate is 20,300 acres.
It must be remembered that these are all freehold properties, how acquired does not matter, although some of them have passed into their owner's hands without his parting with a sixpence on account of their purchase. Of these holders thirty-four are permanent absentees. They own between them 721,897 acres of an unimproved value of £1,041,984. Thirteen companies own 1070,900 acres of land of an unimproved value of nearly £2,000,000 sterling, and one bank, the Bank of New Zealand, owns a quarter million acres, of an unimproved value of considerably over half a million pounds sterling. Forty-eight of these holders have their properties still in a state of nature; they have spent no money upon them whatever. They hold amongst them 1,400,668 acres, of an unimproved value of nearly a million pounds sterling.
To go a little further into detail, we find that there are twenty-four holders of land, the unimproved value of the holdings of each of which is from £100,000 to £1,000,000 sterling. There are three holders, the unimproved value of whose land is between £90,000 and £100,000; there are six between £80,000 and £90,000: there are eleven between £70,000 and £80,000; there are twelve between £60,000 and £70,000; and twenty-one between £50,000 and £60,000; or a total of seventy-six persons who own between them land of the unimproved value of £8,498,541.
The total number of holders of these freeholds and leaseholds, comprising in the aggregate nearly eighteen million acres, is 1,615.
It is only by encouraging a large and settled agricultural population in this country that it can ever make satisfactory progress, and this at the present time is practically an impossibility, as all the best, all the most available, and most accessible land is monopolised by these 1,615 large landowners.
The statement frequently made by some New Zealand newspapers and some public men that there is no country in the world where land is so equally distributed as in New Zealand is most atrociously false. The agricultural returns show us that the largest number of settlers living and supporting themselves on their own land are actually existing upon from one to ten acres each, and they number in all 9,172 families; then come a smaller number, 7,507, who are existing upon plots of from ton to fifty acres, or a total in all of 16,679 families, and these represent the bulk of the settled agricultural population of this colony. And how much land is occupied by this goodly number of families, 16,679? Taking them at the lowest estimation they must number, all told, upwards of 80,000 souls, and what is the area of land occupied by them, think you? It is something under 300,000 acres! just enough, in fact, to make one good sized sheep run. But what a contrast, and if it be true that the land is the source of all wealth, what a catastrophe to find in this young country that fifteen hundred people monopolize between them nearly 18,000,000 acres of land, whilst seventeen thousand families are vegetating upon 300,000 acres.
Take another view of the case, that is, the question of taxation. The amount contributed by the 1,500 large landowners towards the national revenue would be barely one-tenth of what the others would be called upon to pay, although those who paid the least would be occupying and monopolising 18,000,000 acres of the only page 9 source of wealth—the land; whereas the larger number would be occupying only 300,000 acres. This is one great cause of the inequality of wealth, low wages, and scarcity and uncertainty of employment in this country.
The Auckland Herald had a wonderful leading article on Monday morning. It commenced with noticing the recent competition of the reaping and binding machines at Mangere, and then launched out into a lecture on political economy from a Wyndham Street point of view. The writer said: "Can we possibly create a prosperous peasantry, cultivating its own land, unless a flourishing city market be at hand? Must we not keep step with the existing order of things, and leave both large properties and small to arrange themselves naturally? The former are the only properties on which purely exportable products can be profitably raised to any extent."
Now I would ask you which should come first in a new, rich, agricultural country such as this is, the flourishing city with the market, or the prosperous peasantry? Surely, if the land is the source of all wealth, the cities to be flourishing shall become so as agricultural and other operations connected with the land are proceeded with. The contrary is the view taken in New Zealand, and here we have large cities with magnificent buildings and institutions, and the bona fide occupation of the land is, and always has been, disgracefully conducted by those who have had the guidance of the destinies of this country. "But,' says the Herald writer, "let us leave the large and small properties to arrange themselves naturally." How very pretty and how beautifully simple! As a matter of fact the owners of the large estates have always had the arranging of matters, and the way they arrange it is to monopolise to themselves millions of acres of the best agricultural land in the colony, to the exclusion of the bona fide occupier and cultivator, and to shift the heavy burden of taxation off their own shoulders on to the shoulders of those who hitherto have had matters arranged for them, being absolutely powerless to help themselves.
As regards the statement made also by the writer, that "the large estates are the only properties upon which purely exportable products can be profitably raised to any extent," let us see how this works in New Zealand. What is produced chiefly upon these large estates comprising an area of 17,987,507 acres? Why, wool, of course. And if we turn to the exports of the colony for last year, for instance, we find that the value of the wool export was nearly four million pounds sterling, or just about one half the value of the total exports of the colony, which amounted to nearly eight millions. This is the purely exportable product for which the writer in the Herald thinks it is a good thing to keep the large estates going. But what becomes of the money? The wool goes home and is sold in England, and the principal part of the money remains there, going to the credit of the Welds, the Staffords, the Cliffords, the Tolle-maches, and the 1,140 other permanent absentees, together with the financial companies and money lenders who are living away from this country, yet drawing princely revenues from it.
I mentioned just now that the large landowners ruled this country, page 10 and that hitherto they always have ruled it. In corroboration of this, I will give you an extract from a speech of an ex-Cabinet Minister, delivered in the House only last session. He said: "The honourable member for Lincoln says in times past there was in this legislature a powerful and influential land party. I say there is now a powerful and influential land party. They remain one and the same always and forever. It is a party composed of the honourable member for Napier, the honourable member for Hawke's Bay, the honourable member for Selwyn, the honourable member for Mount Ida, the honourable member for Manawatu, the honourable member for Waipawa, the honourable member for Foxton, etc. These are the gentlemen who are the all-powerful party in the legislature at the present day."
In another debate, this same gentleman, alluding to the influence of this party in Parliament, said, "Now, whom and what does the Government represent? The answer is, it is kept in office merely to give effect to the desires and wishes of the Tory-Conservative party (that is, of course, the big landowners' party). There exists a political advisory body, composed of Mr. Ormond, Sir John Hall, Captain Russell, and Mr. McArthur, together with two member from another place, who exercise a more potent influence on the political affairs of this country than do any members of the House. This advisory body gives him (Sir Harry Atkinson) full liberty to speak as he chooses, but he must do as they tell him." These words were uttered by Mr. Fisher last session. He had been a colleague of Sir Harry Atkinson; he had had a seat in his ministry, and he Knew from experience what he was talking about.
This is how we are governed. This is a matter, I presume, for jubilee rejoicing; but, I think you will agree with me, it is not good for the country, and ought to be altered.
|1st.||Taxation must be laid in just proportion upon all classes.|
|2nd.||That it must be certain and not arbitrary. The time, manner, and amount of payment should be clear and plain to all.|
|3rd.||The time of payment should be suited to the convenience of the payer.|
Our system of taxation is diametrically opposed to all of these leading principles, there is not a man in New Zealand who knows how much he pays in taxes, or when he pays it, neither would it he possible for him, let him be ever so clever, to calculate it. For he pays it indirectly and with it is also combined wholesale merchants' and retailers' charges, all of whom charge as a matter of course for the trouble and expense they have been put to in paying the tax in the first instance. It has been computed that, although the Customs revenue may be a million and a half, yet the people pay, in consequence of the extra charges, nearly half a million more.
Customs duties do not fall upon all alike, as it stands to reason a page 11 man with a wife and family, and who is earning £2 or £2 10s. a week cannot afford to pay them so well as a man with £85,000 a year. In the case of a man earning wages or having an income of £100 in the year, the duties at present raised would mean a deduction of 20 per cent, per annum from his yearly income, thereby reducing his earnings to £80. If the £85,000 a year man was treated in just proportion, he would pay £17,000. Customs duties are nothing more nor less than a mean and cunning device for abstracting from the little hoards of the poor huge aggregate sums that ought to be drawn from the treasuries of the rich.
The great bulk of our taxation is drawn through the Customs, and the wealthiest men in the colony need pay no more than the poorest. Our absentees, of course, pay no Customs duties, and as according to an official return laid before Parliament there are 1,140 of them, all drawing large incomes from the colony, the making the Customs duties our principal source of national revenue is shown to he outrageously wrong, and a robbery of those who do pay it.
Sir Harry Atkinson was asked in the House if it was not possible to frame a tax that would reach the absentees, and he said he could not see his way to do it. Some people innocently imagine that the property tax catches them, but it doesn't. The property tax after all only returns £380,000 a year, and this is presumed to be a tax of a penny in the pound on all the land and all the wealth of every conceivable description in New Zealand.
But if these rich men pay a property tax in proportion to the value of their property and the wealth they get out of the country, where do they appear on the property tax return published by the Government? In that return the property tax payers are divided into classes; the lowest, numbering 10,362, pay under £1 7s. 6d., the highest payers number 548 and they are described as paying £67 14s. 2s. and over. The number of property tax payers in 1886-87 was 27,286, and out of that large number only 548 pay over £67. In what part of this return are we to look for the 1,140 absentees, who, contributing nothing to our national revenue through the Customs, our chief source of revenue, should certainly be contributing at least that much to the property tax? In what part of the return are we to look for the 1,615 landholders who monopolise the source from which all wealth is derived to the tune of 18,000,000 acres, the unimproved value of 7,000,000 acres of which is over £15,000,000 sterling? The property tax return knows them not. If it does account for them, it is evident they are not paying to this tax in proportion to the value of their property and the wealth obtained by them from it. It will be seen that this tax is not a property tax in the true sense of the term, and that it is a fraud and a delusion.
It is popularly supposed that those who came under the £500 exemption escape the property tax. Sir Harry Atkinson stated in one of his financial statements that such was the case. He divided the colonists of this country into two classes, those who paid the tax and those who entirely escaped. The second class, he asserted, were not touched by it. That is absolutely not the case. The page 12 largest payers of the property tax in this colony are not the millionaire landowners and squatters, but the importing merchants, the banks, and the insurance companies and financial institutions. Out of the 34,743 freeholders of agricultural land in this colony, only 9,747 are paying anything to the property tax. There are 380 banks and insurance companies, loan companies, and financial institutions generally, paying property tax, most of whom must surely be included in the 548 who pay £67 and over. There are 8,207 merchants, importers, tradesmen, shopkeepers, warehousemen, storekeepers, etc., who are paying to the property tax. Enough could surely be taken from these to make up the whole number of 548. These 8,207 merchants, etc., and the 380 banks and companies, pay considerably more than half of the whole sum collected under the property tax, but though they pay it in the first instance, they of course collect it again in charges from the public.
An Auckland merchant gave a cheque last year for £2,000 for his property tax, but do you suppose for one minute that he made the public a present of it? Hardly; he charges the retailer with it, and the retailer charges the consumer, and you, the consumers, pay it, notwithstanding your £500 exemption. It is virtually a double tax on dutiable goods, for it is levied upon goods that have already paid one tax to the Customs, and positively those who presumably escape the tax through the £500 exemption, in reality contribute more than half of the tax.
Is this fair and honest taxation? I think you will agree with me that this is not a matter for jubilee rejoicing, and that it is high time an end was put to it. Land monopoly, as it exists at present in New Zealand, is primarily responsible for the general industrial depression, inasmuch as bona fide settlement is strangled by it, and in the absence of a prosperous, energetic, agricultural population, it is impossible for this or any other country to progress. The other cause is the robbery of the toilers of such a large percentage of their earnings through the medium of the Customs duties and the Property-tax, by which its spending power is so greatly curtailed, that all the industries of the country suffer therefrom. These are what I imagine to be the chief causes of the trouble in this country.
We will now, however, turn to the only remedy. To explain this clearly it will be necessary to look at the matter first from its political aspect. You have all heard of what is termed the Continuous Ministry. This is, I think, a slight mis-nomer; it was not so much a continuous ministry as a continuous policy. It is true that although new men of confirmed conservative views were every now and again admitted into a new ministry, yet the same men were continually taking office year after year; there was always a sufficiently strong element of the old stagers to make the policy continuous. Take, for example, the case of Sir Harry Atkinson. This gentleman was a prominent member of a New Zealand ministry over a quarter of a century ago. Since then he has always taken a very prominent part in politics. He has been in thirteen different ministries, in seven of which he has been Premier. page 13 Now, just consider for a moment the splendid opportunities this man has had for beneficially guiding the affairs of this country, for very many years he has been the chief guider of its destinies, but in the whole of his long political career I will defy anyone to point to a single measure that he, of himself, has either passed or caused to be passed, that was of any permanent or practical benefit whatever to the country.
Sir Harry Atkinson has been so long and so frequently in office, his powers of intrigue are so great, that at last, not without good reason, he assumes that he is master of the position, and that by continuing to play the same old tricks, he and the privileged class whom he serves will continue to sway the destinies of this country. This is made very clear by two short extracts from his speech which I have clipped from last session's Hansard. In one he says, "What do honourable gentlemen expect to gain by a dissolution? What the country wants is rest—political rest. No wiser thing could be done by this Parliament than to say 'We will not meet again for a couple of years.' That an election can do any good at the present time I fail to see: the difficulty is that there is no such thing as party in thin House or in the country."
Please mark this, "There is no such thing as party in the House or out of it." That is, the Government have no fixed policy, the so-called Opposition has no fixed policy, and the electors are dummies; they neither know what they want, neither, if they did know, have they the intelligence or the energy to try and obtain it. That is our leading statesman's view of the political position of the country.
Further on he emphasises the matter more strongly by saying, "I say that a fresh election during the coming year will not give the relief that is expected. True, we shall come back twenty men less, but I venture to say we shall come back in much about the same proportion of parties so-called as where we are at present."
What does this mean? If I understand the English language, it means this, that he takes it for granted that there is no intelligent political life yet in the people, that they are absolutely ignorant of their wants, to say nothing of their rights, and that at the next elections the same men, or at all events the same class of men, will be returned, and he will continue to reign triumphant, the cause of the land monopolists shall prosper, the people shall continue to allow themselves to be robbed for the benefit of the wealthy, and what he terms "political rest" will be attained.
But to return to the Continuous Ministry or the continuous policy. This policy, which is a conservative policy, a policy that favours class privileges and creates class interests and grinds down the toiler, has been the policy of New Zealand from the earliest times to the present, with one, and only one, brilliant exception—that was the short interregnum of Sir George Grey.
If this country has anything to rejoice at in its year of jubilee, it is entirely owing to the earnest, persevering, in-season and out-of-season advocacy of the people's cause by Sir George Grey. That gentleman blew the smouldering embers of liberalism in this country, when they had almost died out, into a living flame, and in page 14 the political excitement which ensued he was carried into power and became Premier. What was his first action on assuming power! Precisely the very thing that, as a Liberal statesman, it was his bounden duty to do, he imposed a land tax. This question of a land tax is not so much, I take it, a great political question as it is a fiscal necessity. Taxes must be levied from some source, and all true Liberals and Radicals are aware, and all honest men of even-political creed are aware, that the fairest and justest tax, and the only tax which falls with equal and just proportion upon all those who are enjoying and monopolising the natural opportunities of a country, is a land tax.
Therefore Sir George Grey imposed his land tax straight off; he then went to the country with three liberal planks in his political platform—manhood suffrage, triennial parliaments, and representation according to population. This, as a matter of course, took well with the country, and he was returned to Parliament with apparently a strong following. Put what happened? In the interim the landowning or Conservative party had discovered the full and glorious (not to them, however,) significance of a land tax, and they put their heads together and worked out a plan, which ultimately succeeded in removing Sir George Grey from power. They made overtures to some of Sir George Grey's strongest supporters, arguing that Sir George Grey was insincere in his promises to support and pass those liberal measures upon which he had gone to the country, but that if they would support the Opposition and put Grey out, then when the Opposition got in, they would introduce those measures and carry them. The bait took, Sir George Grey was beaten, and had to leave the Government benches.
But what was the first step taken by the new Government: Why, as a matter of course, holding as they did Conservative views, they repealed the land tax and substituted a property tax, and then with wry faces and very much against the grain, they redeemed their pledge, and passed Sir George Grey's liberal measures.
Sir George Grey thus even in his fall was triumphant, and the people's cause was greatly advanced. After weary years of waiting and fighting, Sir George Grey, last session, passed his "One Vote One Man Bill," and this event perfected the electoral system of this colony, and the glorious democratic arch of freedom and liberty was then completed. On the one noble pillar is emblazoned the mottoes, "Manhood Suffrage" and "Triennial Parliaments," on the other, "Representation by Population," and "Payment of Members." This was not complete without the keystone, and that was fitted in hist session with the "One Man One Vote."
"Who would be free,
Themselves must strike the blow."
And thanks to Sir George Grey, you are now provided with armour and weapons of war absolutely invulnerable; all you have to do is to take them up and make use of them.
I would also earnestly and seriously point out to you that never before in the history of civilized man has any nation had it absolutely in its power as we have to work out its own salvation, and cause those reforms to be made in our laws and institutions, which must be made if all class privileges are to be abolished, and perfect freedom, justice, and equality reign throughout the land. The ballot of America is still so grossly faulty that many years must elapse before she can make use of it with success. In England they have neither manhood suffrage, payment of members, nor triennial parliament; popular representation there is at present impossible. What shall we do with it? Shall we, as Sir Harry Atkinson suggests, again return the same class to Parliament, and continue to suffer the ills of which we so loudly complain? Shall we fold our hands and do nothing, and make no use of those high privileges which are now ours? Rather, indeed, do you not think the time has arrived when an entirely new people's party should be formed and our House of Representatives swept clean of its conservative members, and candidates chosen and members elected from amongst those who will earnestly and conscientiously work for the good of the whole community, and not of a privileged class.
To my mind the time has arrived when this should be done, and this is what I meant when I said in the earlier part of my address, that we in New Zealand had indeed something to be grateful for and rejoice over in this year of jubilee, namely, that in that year the people had for the first time a perfect electoral system, and in that year for the first time—what?
The reply to that question is for you to fill in. The answer is yet in the future, and the next elections will have to give the correct reply. But if such a party is formed, as I hope and trust it will be, I would suggest it should be called the "Jubilee Party," and when in future years the question shall be asked, what is the meaning of the Jubilee Party, the answer shall be, "because it was in the year of New Zealand's Jubilee that the toilers of that country emancipated themselves from slavery and proclaimed liberty throughout all the land to all the inhabitants, and established a model Government which was shortly afterwards copied and followed by all of the civilized nations of the earth." The cure for the political diseases under which we are suffering rests entirely in page 16 your own hands. You have two courses open to you. One is to fold your hands and do nothing, but wait until in future years some more intelligent and more energetic people than we are shall have acquired those political privileges which we now possess, shall make use of them, and prosper exceedingly, then you can follow in their wake. Or the other alternative, you can at once, this very year, make use of your privileges and cause this colony to enter on an era of such national prosperity and social happiness, such as has not vet ever been attained by any civilized nation.