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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69



1. Your Committee have the honour to report that, in their opinion, many and very serious evils are inseparably connected with, and spring from, the system of Party Government here; that it is unsuited to such a Colony as New Zealand; and that in other colonies, and even in England, similar evils have been felt, varying only in degree, consequent upon surrounding circumstances and different phases of the system.

2. Your Committee, having consulted various standard works enumerated in the records, have made numerous extracts, a few of which are annexed to this report. The works referred to generally condemn Party Government as demoralising and wasteful not only in a financial sense, but also of the time and energy of electors and their representatives.

3. Even in England, where Party Government has grown up by degrees and under peculiar circumstances, reforms will be required before it is accepted as satisfactory, and therefore it should not be regarded as the best model upon which to form a Constitution for the page 28 government of a new country. A variety of circumstances exist in New Zealand which do not exist in Great Britain, and which make it desirable that any system of government adopted here should rest upon well-understood law, and be adapted to the peculiar circumstances and requirements of the Colony.

4. The vast difference in the population and importance of the two countries must be duly appreciated before we can justly estimate the suitability or unsuitability of British usages for adoption in this country.

5. This is especially manifest with reference to the parliamentary rule by which a government is dependent for its existence from day to day upon being able to secure the support of a majority of the people's representatives for every one of its more important measures; a system which oilers a constant temptation to the members to struggle not for the common good of the nation, but for the possession of place and power. In a country like England, where there are over six hundred and forty members of the House of Commons, and where only exalted station, strong influence, or transcendent ability can place a member within reach of a seat in the Cabinet, this demoralising feature is not so injuriously felt as it is in New Zealand, where a large proportion of members will probably believe themselves to be quite eligible for office.

6. Even amongst the millions of Great Britain it is not every century that produces in any one individual that rare combination of administrative and controversial power which the greatest English statesmen have possessed, and therefore we should not adopt any system under which the less important power of controversy is sure to be preferred to the far more essential qualification of administrative ability.

7. The rule that a Ministry must be unanimous in all its decisions, that each member is responsible for the actions of the whole, and the whole for the actions of each member, is calculated to destroy independence of thought and action, and not unfrequently results in the exclusion of valuable men from a Ministry.

8. The constitutional practice of a Ministry resigning when any important measure which it has introduced has been rejected has led to the mischievous practice of allowing Bills to drop whenever their passage becomes doubtful, thus compelling the Ministry to become followers, rather than wise and courageous leaders; and, it almost necessarily compels a Ministry, under the instinct of self-preservation, to pander to any popular delusion of the hour, instead of making a stand against shortsighted popular impulses.

9. But what the colonies have most to deplore is the fact that each Ministry is tempted to entrench its position and to buy off opposition by the expenditure of public money, a proceeding which has been felt to answer the double purpose of making the work page 29 pleasant at the time, and difficult to any succeeding Ministry taking office with the intention of pursuing a more prudent and honest policy.

10. In the opinion of your Committee the most suitable model for our imitation will be found in the present Government of the Swiss Federation. After twenty-six years experience, the Constitution accepted in 1848 was revised and improved in 1874, and has worked remarkably well ever since. Both the original of 1848 and the revised Constitution of 1874 were the work of a committee of able and experienced men, many of whom were thoroughly conversant with the forms of government adopted both in Great Britain and in the United States; and, by taking that which has proved good and suitable from cither, they have succeeded in avoiding the weaknesses of both.

11. The recomendations which your Committee offer under the head of "Executive Reform" are intended to secure the following advantages:—
I.That the Parliament may be enabled to exercise a real supervision and control over all legislative and administrative action.
II.That the executive may be selected by the Parliament itself in a manner likely to secure the services of the men best suited to the work, and at the same time so place them that they can seek the public welfare, untrammelled by party considerations and undegraded by the practice of stratagems to secure their own positions.
III.That the representatives of the people may have freedom to vote according to their unbiased opinions, without the necessity of supporting what they believe to be wrong or opposing what they believe to be right for the purpose of serving party interests.
IV.That the people of the colony may be able to look up to the Ministry as men engaged in watching over their interests, and not as men waging party warfare.
V.That the people of the colony may have confidence in the administration of public affairs, take an intelligent interest in the proceedings of the Legislature, and thus create a healthy public opinion on public affairs, and the part taken by their representatives.

With these objects in view, your Committee submit the following outline of the Constitution which they have agreed to recommend:—