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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69


No. III.

In addition to disinheriting the people and eluding the tax-gatherer by heaping the cost of Government upon the masses, the Tory party in this colony have, until quite recently, kept their power by means of the plural vote. By this infamous device the large property owners were enabled to place their nominees in the greater number of constituencies, and the voice of the people was stifled and unheard. It was not men who were represented, but property. For many weary years your great leader, Sir George Grey, endeavoured to remove this gross abuse, but he was ridiculed, buffeted, scoffed at, until at length at the end of the last Parliament he succeeded by page 6 an ingenious political manoeuvre in winning for the people the recognition of the great and sacred principle of political equality, or One Man One Vote. It is still however possible, as registration is allowed in more than one electoral district, for great abuses to take place undetected, and one of the first reforms for the present Government to effect must be the total abolition of all electoral qualifications except the residential. This will place all men on an absolute equality, and enable every man to vote only in the district where he resides.

It is therefore absolutely demonstrated that the Tory party have in the past, during their long and almost unbroken tenure of office since the earliest day's of the colony, not had the interests of the masses at heart, but their whole policy and aim has been to reproduce a facsimile of England, with its very rich and its very poor. They have sought to establish here a nation of serfs and beggars, ruled by an irresponsible and insolent plutocracy, whose domination the "inarticulate masses would be helpless to overthrow.

Now, what is the mission of the Government to whom you have given your mandate by your votes last December? The primary, the fundamental object of that mission, the one that overshadows every other object and desire, is to secure by law that the legally expressed will of the majority of the people shall be the law of the land. This is the first work to be accomplished by the Liberal party, for until it is accomplished our energies and strength may be frittered away and exhausted in achieving but the most meagre legislative results. Now what is the state of things at the present time? You have elected a majority of members of the House of Representatives pledged to carry out a policy of justice to the people, a policy based on the principle that "the object of politics is the common good not the advantage of sections." A number of measures have been sanctioned, and as far as they could do so passed into law by those representatives. Why then are the measures not in the Statute Book? Because a chamber of persons representing nobody, most of them of feeble intellect through age and infirmity, many of them ignorant and unlettered, and almost all very strongly imbued with intense selfishness and devotion to the interests of wealth, have without apology and almost without comment, contemptuously rejected the measures which the constitutionally chosen representatives of the people with great labour and at great monetary cost had enacted! You must therefore resolve that this obstruction shall henceforward cease. You are not children, but full-grown self-governing citizens. Is it not therefore an absurdity and an anachronism that an irresponsible coterie should exist which by the exercise of its mere will can stop all reform, ignore your wishes and most cherished aspirations, render useless and unworkable your Parliament, and plunge the country into agitation and turmoil unnecessarily. The Legislative Council is an institution suitable only for nations in the infancy of representative government, and it is as obsolete as the thumb-screw and "Traitor's gate." It must therefore be abolished root and branch, and the government of the country entrusted solely to a single Chamber. Why is the government of cities by Municipal Councils not subject to review by a second Chamber? Or the government of counties by County Councils? If there were only one Chamber your representatives would have a stronger sense of responsibility, and greater care and caution would be exercised than at present in passing laws. To satisfy the very timid but honest and well meaning people who have fears of rash and empiric legislation from a tingle Chamber it might be enacted that page 7 important organic changes should be passed by Parliament in two consecutive sessions before becoming law.

When you shall have made your legislative machinery workable and secured true and complete representation, then there is a herculean work to be done by your legislators. Firstly, as to great questions of policy, your Parliament will require to exert its highest intelligence and power. The system of taxation must be completely overhauled and re-modelled. The present system of indirect taxation through the Custom House is not only radically unjust in its incidence, but it is the most wasteful system of levying taxes that blundering incompetence could devise. It is wasteful in the enormous expense of collecting; it is penal in its effect on the working classes. If an importer pays 20 per cent, duty on an article it is safe to affirm that that amount is doubled as an element of cost to the consumer; because the importer has to pay the duty to the Customs before he can get delivery of his goods, and he adds on a large sum to compensate him for being out of his money from the date of its payment until he disposes of his goods. The correct adjustment of the tariff will however tax all the skill of your, statesmen, because the exemption of imported goods from all taxation, though correct in theory and suitable of application in certain given circumstances, would not be practicable or expedient here at present. Industries in a now country require a fostering hand from the Government, and city populations of artizans must be kept in the colony to afford a ready market to our farmers for their produce. There are however multitudes of articles in the tariff which are not and could not be manufactured in the colony, and the cheapening of the cost of which would do much towards increasing the comfort and sweetening the life of the masses of the people, and such things should be admitted free of duty. Everything having an educational tendency should also be admitted free, such as books, pictures, and works of art of all kinds. The same may be said of articles which alleviate suffering, such as medicines. An outrageous impost is now levied on the medicines which are most extensively used by the workers, and many thousands of pounds annually are under this head exacted from the offering poor. The land tax imposed in the last session of Parliament must be judiciously developed and extended so that the future unearned increment of the value of land shall belong to the whole people who create such value. In the time of George III. in England the land tax was 4s. in the pound, and from time immemorial war taxes (which formed the chief element of expenditure), were always levied upon the land. The ignorant Tory critics of the present Liberal Government raise a howl that confiscation is intended when a proposal is made to revert—though in a very attenuated form—to the most ancient English tax, and a tax which in all ages of history has in nearly all civilized nations been the method by which Government has been carried on. It will further be the duty of Parliament to resume possession of large blocks of accessible land now held as great sheep runs. Compensation, to be assessed by a proper tribunal, must of course be paid to those dispossessed; but the land is urgently required for settlement, and the interests of the squatters must give way to the public necessities.

The laws against combinations must be thoroughly revised, so that all shall possess equal freedom to combine for lawful purposes. The criminal law is the most chaotic and almost the most barbarous of any civilized nation, and complete revision is absolutely essential. The question of the means of transit by land and sea, a question which vitally affects, and I may say is page 8 bound up with the life and happiness of the people, is also waiting to be considered, and must ere long receive attention. The preposterous proposal advocated by Mr. C. E. Button, Solicitor to the Globo Assets Company (who is personally a most estimable man), that we should sell our railways, can never be entertained or listened to by any sane democrat. It is a covert attempt to bring us under the yoke of what would become an omnipotent monopoly. We might just as well be asked to sell our Courts of Justice and Post and. Telegraph systems. The people of the United States are groaning under the incubus of the railway combinations, and the manner in which the interests of the citizens are protected by the great plutocrats is vividly pictured by the historic aphorism of Jay Gould, the Railway King, "Damn the public."