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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69

Address to the Electors of Wellington [Delivered at the Opera House, on Thursday, December 17th, 1891]

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Address to the Electors of Wellington,

Wellington Edward & Co., Printers and Publishers Brandon Street.

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Mr. Bell addressed a crowded meeting in the Opera House on the 17th December. Mr. J. G. W. Aitken was voted to the chair. The candidate, who was received with loud and continued applause, said:— Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The exigencies of the approaching ministerial holidays, or some other reasons which I do not now desire to enquire into, have brought my opponent early into the field, and thus made me appear to be late in addressing the electors, though the writ was only issued yesterday. However, I stand here to-night alone, a Wellington man asked by Wellington electors to come forward at this crisis, content to stand or fall by the principles which I avow, supported only by Wellington electors, and having none but myself to speak for me. (Applause.)

The issue, ladies and gentlemen, has been somewhat confused. We have been told that the function of a member of parliament is one and one only—to vote for or against the Government; that the business of parliament is only to determine who shall administer the affairs of the country. That is, no doubt, a very important part of the business and the duties which Parliament has to perform; but not ten per cent, of the measures which come before Parliament, and only a very small part of the committee business involve any party issues. What you are now called on to do is to elect a fit and proper person to represent the City of Wellington in Parliament. That is the issue between myself and Mr. McLean, which I am content to leave to the people among whom I have lived so long. (Applause.) I say the issue has been confused, because the electors have been led to understand by speaker after speaker (though very little, I must admit, has been said by my opponent himself) (laughter) that the legislation and the business of the country are in no way part of the questions you have to consider. Not at all. You have to consider for whom the person whom you will send will vote, and if he be content to be silent and to obey his party's call, that is all this great constituency is to require of him. Why, Wellington is the first constituency of the colony. We are living in the Metropolis; as the colony grows so will Wellington. As the rest of the colony has grown so has Wellington increased in a far greater proportion. We ought to be proud of the city and to have a care that the man whom we send to Parliament as its representative is able to speak with the power and weight and influence page 4 that the voice of Wellington ought to carry. Are we to be represented by men recommended to us by outsiders? Have we no say in the matter? Is the choice ours or theirs? I will not believe that any class of this community will accept dictation. I say that the choice ought to be by Wellington, and if so I am content, as I have just said to stand side by side with Mr. M'Lean and await the determination of the Wellington electors. (Applause.) Now I have been referring, as you will observe, to the interference in the affairs of the city by Ministers of the Crown. I do not say—I do not pretend—that the Ministers of the day have not a right to exercise political influence. Not at all; but I deny their right to turn the ministerial residences into the committee rooms of party organization. Perhaps the appearance of a Minister on the platform at elections elsewhere may be justifiable; but in this city, the capital, where the members of the Government reside—not that the present ministers reside here much, by the way (laughter),—it becomes a matter of grave and serious importance. If the members of the Government are to become election agents, and undertake election contests for their supporters, and if the man whom they happen so to support is to be returned as a matter of course, then we may as well give up the pretence of choosing our representative, and Wellington may be regarded as the mere appanage and pocket borough of the Government of the day.

The Government are the largest employers of labour in the country. Let me read to you a portion of the speech which my opponent addressed to the electors in this building. He said,—"The Government—(cries of "Go on.") I beg your pardon; I have got to a place in the speech where he propounded a scheme for the increase of our population by scientific means. Laughter.) He said: "He was told that the working men would not stick to him—that their employers in many instances would not allow them to do it. If that was the case, were they going to be dictated to by their employers when they had the ballot box before them? He hoped they were net, and that they would exercise their privileges. He warned the employers that if they unduly interfered, the time would assuredly come—though it might appear they were somewhat stronger here now than in other parts—he could assure the employers of this colony that there was a wave rising within the world at the present time, and whatever steps the employers might take it was still rising up."

I believe that the Government are the largest employers of labour in the colony, and I ask those who support Mr. M' Lean whether they practise what they preach. (Laughter and applause.)

I now wish to say a word, if the Labour Councils will allow me, with regard to them. I deeply and sincerely regret that the organisation of labour has been turned into a political caucus. That of course is their business and not mine. I repeat I so much sympathise with the organisation of labour, and so sincerely recognise the good it has done, and join so much in the hope of what it is to do, that I strongly deprecate and regret the circumstance that it had been turned into a political organisation, which cannot but alienate a good many sympathizers from it. That, however, as I said just now, is their business and not mine. But there is one thing I have to say to page 5 them upon a subject which is my affair. I know that there are fair and just men among them; I dare say most of them are so, and they will listen to this appeal of an Englishman to Englishmen. Is it right or is it fair that my opponents should be heard in the secret conclaves of the organisation, and misrepresent me (if they attempt to represent me it must be misrepresentation) misrepresent me without my being heard in reply? A great many things I know have been said there against me personally. I shall enter upon no personalities in this election. Heaven knows there are plenty upon the other side who deal with them, and look upon them as the principal matters to be referred to, either upon the public platform or at the bars of public-houses where such politicians assemble. I am not complaining now, but I am appealing to the Labour Party to say whether it is fair that the other side should have been heard in that way, the press reporters and the public being excluded, and I also being excluded, and no opportunity afforded me of meeting or answering the charges and allegations made.

But to return to the Government. This is what appears to be the Government position in this election. They say—We want a man who will vote, not think. Good heavens! where should we we next session if our supporters began to think! What we want is a man who will follow us as a waggon follows a locomotive round every curve (and he will have to take some pretty sharp curves too). (Laughter). Opinions! Why, what business have the Wellington electors to ask for his opinions. We have none of our own. (Laughter). You have no right to ask for his! We are Liberals. You are Conservatives. And who ought to know, if we do not, who are the high priests of the cult of Liberalism? (Applause and laughter). The Government speak for Mr. M'Lean. My opponent was heard first, for a short time, at his first meeting, and was followed by Ministers of the Crown. Hut at subsequent meetings Mr. M'Lean occupies a secondary position, and a Minister speaks first and tells the electors what Mr. M'Lean ought to say, and Mr. M'Lean doubtless says it. It reminds me of what took place when Master Slender went a-wooing, and took Justice Shallow with him. Shallow led Slender by the hand and told sweet Anne Page what he would do and what were his qualifications. She said: "Good Master Shallow, let him woo for himself." Then she turned to Slender: "Now. Master Slender, what would you with me?" "Truly," said Slender, "for mine own part I would little or nothing with you. If it be my luck, so; if not, why, happy man be his dole. They can tell you how things go better than I can." Just so comes Mr. M' Lean a-wooing the Wellington constituency. (Applause and laughter.

I deny the right of these gentlemen to define a Liberal to be a man who happens to support the administration of Mr. Ballance, and to define as a Conservative a man who happens not to do so. There are many men in this city, in the colony, throughout the world, who have devoted thoughtful study to the problems which the political enfranchisement of the masses, and in a greater degree the education of the people, have brought to the front; who hope to lend their aid to the solution of those problems in page 6 friendly alliance with the men who propound them; and who believe and hope, with the great poet and prophet of the century, that as knowledge grows from more to more, so more of reverence may in us dwell, leading us all to that accord and mutual respect and goodwill which are the only guarantees of the peace and stability of society. Such men, ladies and gentlemen, have called themselves, and have been called, Liberals for the last fifty years, and of such I claim to be one, (Loud applause). Such men have always discarded and repudiated those who for the sake of the triumph of the moment foment passions which it is the business of the highest civilisation to subdue; who do not disdain to take advantage of such an excitement as accompanied the bitterness of the struggle which followed the strike of last year, to play upon men's minds with promises they know they can never perform, and to excite hopes they know cannot be realised. Such men as I have been first describing are truly liberals; the last are no Liberals, though for the moment they may pose in the lead of liberal movements.

In respect to many matters which Mr. Ballance's Government advocate I am at one with them. I am at one with them, if they are at one among themselves, upon the question of the female suffrage. (Applause). I believe that one half of the human face has no right to exclude the other half from legislation, or at all events from the right to elect legislators to Parliament. I am at one with them in their belief that in the perpetual lease system may be found the solution of the great Problem of the land. I am at one with them also in their desire to aid the organisation or labour in everyone of its legitimate objects; and those who Know know that I speak the truth when I say so. (Applause). I believe that I am at one with them also in the idea that wealth of every kind (I do not know that I ought to say wealth of every kind, for they exclude many forms of wealth) that wealth should bear its share of the burden of taxation according to the ability of those who own it. And I am not at an separate from them in the idea that a graduated system of taxation may be the right one; but it does not follow, as I am about to attempt to show (so far I have been dealing with facts, very shortly I shall come to arguments) it does not follow that the present Taxation Act is in any sense a liberal or a just measure.

Mr. Bruce, speaking at Christchurch the other day, compared the Government to the itinerant vendors of patent medicines, who describe the occasional symptoms of dyspepsia, to which we are all subject, as the premonitions of a fatal disease, and who, when they have succeeded in sufficiently arousing the patient to a sense of discomfort and danger, proceed to administer their worthless and nauseous nostrums, with the result that if the sufferer escapes death, he does so only with his purse depleted and his constitution impaired. The Government represent to us that the exodus, monopoly, money bags, capital, speculators, and so forth, are diseases. It is prescribing, and attempting to administer, its specifics; and if they are not discarded by the body politic, it will very soon be in a condition similar to that of the unfortunates who, having taken the patent medicines, are, as parson page 7 Wilbur says, thereafter mercifully preserved long enough to write recommendations to the daily press.

Let me ask you what are the measures which Mr. Ballance says, and the Government say are the specifics which they have applied—the Liberal measures which they, as a Liberal Government, have passed, and upon which they claim your support in future. Well, they refer to the Factories Act, the Truck Act, the Employers Liability Act. The Legislative Council Amendment Act. And who introduced these? Mr. Ballance's Government had no more to do with their introduction than I had. They were brought into Parliament by the preceding Government with the approval of the Trades and Labour Council, who approached the Government and induced them to bring those measures forward; and this of itself proves that no Government and no party in the colony is hostile to the organisation of labour. Mr. Ballance's Government can take no credit for these measures. That credit belongs to the administration which they displaced. The measures were introduced into Parliament by the late Government, and passed by the present Government in the following session.

I do not know what is the position which the Government of the day take now upon the Shop Hours Bill. If they say still that they stand by it, then there is one Bill which they claim as a Liberal measure and which I take to be a most illiberal proposal. No man in Wellington has proved himself to be more in sympathy with the shop assistants in their desire for a half holiday, and in their desire for shortening their hours of labour than I have. So much, I think, the shop asssistants will admit. But if it comes to this, that for the purpose of granting to the shop assistants the leisure which I hope to see them obtain, and which they are entitled to if they can get it in a legitimate way, every small shopkeeper who keeps no assistant is to be obliged to close his shop at a fixed hour, whether he likes or not,—then I say such a law is not a liberal measure, but a re-establishment of the Curfew of the Normans and the Plantagenets. After all, the working classes have the matter in their own hands. The larger shops, where the shop assistants are employed, might shut at any hour and the custom of the wealthier classes would not go elsewhere. The small shops do not keep the articles the wealthier classes require, and the only reason why the larger shops keep open in the evening is lest that portion of the custom of the working classes which they can command should leave them. If the working class want to see the shop assistants relieved, all they have to do is to abstain from shopping after a certain hour, and the thing is done already. For all I know it may be a necessity that the small shops should be kept open in the evening, for the convenience of the working class. But whether that be so or not, we cannot, without an injustice to the small shopkeeper, close his shop compulsorily and perhaps, ruin him, for the sake of any advantage to the assistants in the larger shops. I do not know what position the Government now take. I should like to hear from Mr. M'Lean, or the Minister who, I suppose, will accompany him at his next meeting (laughter), what their position is at the present moment with regard to this matter. I am told they page 8 have abandoned it for good. If not, it would form a very neat issue between my opponent and myself on the definition of a Liberal.

But they say,—"Look, we have passed a new taxation Act." And so they have. Well, they have led the people to suppose that in some way or other the incidence of taxation is by that Act shifted from the shoulders of the poor on to the backs of the rich. No such thing. There is not one single item of taxation paid by the poorer class of which they have been relieved. On the contrary, the taxation which was previously paid by the property owners is still paid by the same class; the large land owner pays a little more, and the smaller property owner pays a little less. In no sense has the incidence of taxation been shifted from the shoulders of the working class. What was wanted, and what I think was earnestly looked for at the last election, and what the people are looking forward to and hoping for now, is a relief of the taxation upon the necessaries of life. (Applause.) Not one penny of such relief has been granted, though a large surplus was in possession of the Colonial Treasurer. Not one penny of it was applied in the reduction of such taxation, unless the postage rate was reduced as a convenience and a relief to the working classes. (Loud laughter and cheers).

Gentlemen, I deny that this taxation bill is a liberal measure, and I propose, if you will allow me, to explain why it is not. According to true liberal ideas, taxation is not a good thing but a bad thing; taxation should be used for the purpose of raising revenue only, and for no other purpose, and the tax should fall upon those best able to boar it. It is not for the purpose of raising revenue that this Act has been passed. Mr. M'Lean himself told you—speaking, I suppose with the authority of the Premier, who followed him, or perhaps with the authority of the Minister for Education, who followed the Premier (laughter)—that no more money was raised by the Land and Income Tax, or was expected to be raised by that tax, than was raised by the Property Tax. Therefore it was not passed for the purposes of revenue; but the incidence was changed, the new burden was imposed, in order that there might be "bursting up." That being so, it contravenes the liberal principle I have stated—that taxation should be used only for the purpose of raising necessary revenue, and not as an engine for any other purpose. It is intended to be an engine in the process of "bursting up" the rich. But even in that it will certainly fail, because you cannot, by any process of taxation which you devise, "burst up," anyone except the man who is already on the verge of ruin. The taxation which you apply sufficient to ruin him will only go a little way in reducing the income of the man who is better off.

It is supposed that the proposals of the Government have in a great measure relieved manufacturers, and so benefitted them and the class which they employ. On which side do you find the manufacturers at this election? Why, gentlemen, they do not feel any relief, and for this reason (though the Premier denies it), that the rate of interest is slowly increasing on account of the feeling of insecurity which has arisen, and the advances of the banks and monetary institutions are gradually being drawn in. Can the manufacturers be page 9 relieved by a policy of terrifying Capital and an increase in the rate of interest? The Government were warned of this before they made their taxation proposals. Let me read you something that was said before the general election: "I speak to you on this, as on all questions, as a colonist speaking to fellow-colonists, and my remarks upon taxation are based upon the fact that what tends to weaken the credit of the colony does an injury to employers and employed. There is a great want of elasticity in the colony's finances, and, taking into account that there is no great increment of settlement, and the loss of population, I advise you to be exceedingly cautious in making any change in taxation, and, above all, there should be no revolutionary changes."

You would say that sounds like the prediction of some Tory seer. The quotation is from a speech delivered by Sir Robert Stout at Napier, on the eve of the last general election. (Loud applause). Now let me read you one proof of the accuracy of Sir Robert's forecast:

"There is no denying the fact that these possibly unnecessarily timid creatures are alarmed at what they term "the revolutionary character of New Zealand legislation," meaning thereby, more especially, the attacks upon capital which seem to have characterised the regime of the Ballance Ministry. I hear this, not from one or two quarters, but on all sides; and, what is worse, condemnation is rapidly being translated into action, which cannot fail to be most disastrous to the colony. I have already indicated that orders have been sent out to withdraw capital invested in the colany, but hitherto the amonuts were not alarming. But it has come to my knowledge within the last few days that the scare is spreading, and that one company, with large interests in the North Island, has decided to withdraw no less than £250,000 of its capital. I near that other companies intend to follow the" example thus set, and it is notorious that other investors distinctly decline to increase their stake, even if they take no steps to withdraw it. This state of things, coupled with the cessation of loan expenditure, cannot but produce a state of things that must react sorely upon the well being of the wage-earning classes. One of the most influential of the public companies operating in New Zealand has decided to withdraw all the money it can, and has at the same time ceased to receive English Capital that would be gladly invested in the developement of New Zealand, if public confidence had not been so severely shaken of late."

The Premier says, and 'writes, or the statement that money is being withdrawn from New Zealand, and the rate of interest rising, that it is a cry raised by bankers and money lenders, financiers and capitalists, who, I presume, are the last people likely to know what is doing or about to be done in the money market. (Laughter). That class of the people does not, it may be assumed, comprise a greater percentage of liars than the rest of the world. Is it likely that the business men of this place, and of other places would be standing ranged against the present Government if the thing were not true? The extract I just now read was from a letter written by the London correspondent of the Auckland Herald, a gentleman who page 10 is well informed as a rule; but it only verifies facts which are known to anyone who has direct communication with the money market. I could give you quotation after quotation from letters received here from men whom you know and respect, to the same effect.

The Financial Times is a London journal of weight in the City, and I will add a reference to an article which appeared in its columns:—"The Financial Times, while finding much that is admirable in the policy pursued by the New Zealand Government, is simply horrified at the drastic character of its recent attacks upon the landed interests and joint stock companies. It gravely cautions the Administration that it is pursuing a policy which will prove most hurtful to the best interests of the colony at large, and disastrous to the welfare of 'the pampered labour party' which controls the elections."

When I said just now that the alarm felt by Capital is known to every person who has direct information of the state of the London money market, I heard a cry from the back of the theatre—"A good thing too." How can we get on without money, without foreign capital? The greater part of this island is covered with bush, and that bush has to be cleared from the land by the settlers. With whose money? Certainly not with the settlers'. They have not the money to do it, and unless we can borrow from outside we cannot get the work done at all. We want capital and cheap capital.

I do not know that there is any other so-called liberal measure to which I need refer. I will come shortly to their land policy. But with regard to their legislation, I understand Ministers to say: Look out for what we are going to do. I heard a politician, in the course of a speech in this hall some years ago, tell a story of a man who stood on the bank of a wide and deep river, offering to bet each traveller who came by that he could throw him safely across. One traveller, foolish enough to take up the bet, was duly seized, hoisted into the air, and pitched—of course into the water. Half-drowned, he scrambled out and claimed the bet. "Oh no," said the other, "I did not bet I would do it the first time. Come along, try again, I'll do it sooner or later. I think of that story when I hear Ministers boasting what they will do next year if we give them another chance. (Laughter and applause).

Now, I understand that a very great deal has been made, and properly made if it had been true, of a statement of Mr. Ballance's to the electors, when he followed Mr. M'Lean on the occasion of Mr. M'Lean's first meeting. I will read you the passage which I understand has been so much relied on. He said,—"The present Government were dealing with the settlement of the land in an eminently satisfactory manner. Since they took office last January thirty-six Special Settlement Associations had been formed with 1200 members, and the area applied for was no less than 250,000 acres, of which 97,000 acres had been taken up in the Wellington district. None of the sections was more than 200 acres in extent, but if the policy of their predecessors had been followed, the whole of the area would have been taken up in sections of 2000 acres and more."

There can be but one answer to Mr. Ballance,—that his statement was not an ingenuous one; and I shall shortly ask you whether we page 11 can trust a man or a Government who can put figures before us in such a way and ask us to draw the inference which is here invited. These are the figures. They are taken from official returns to be found in the Appendices to the journals of Parliament. Mr. Ballance must have known them at one time, but, I suppose, had forgotten them for the time being when he spoke:—In the three years from 1st October, 1887, to 30th September, 1890, the total number of selectors of land was 6438 and the total area taken up was 1,414,100 acres. The average number of selectors annually for those three years was, therefore, 2146, and the average area of each selection 220 acres. (Cheers.) But this number includes 184 small grazing runs of an area together of 364,164 acres. Deducting these the average area of each selection is reduced to 180 acres. (Applause.) In the same period 987 village and special settlers applied for and obtained land.

In 1878 the proportion of land taken for cash to that taken up on settlement conditions was four acres cash terms to one acre settlement. In 1883 the proportion was one acre cash to one acre settlement. In 1887 the proportion was one acre cash to four acres settlement; and in 1890 the proportion was one acre cash to six acres settlement. (Applause.)

According to another return, for the two years ending 31st March, 1891, out of a total of 3837 selectors, 2905 took up areas less than 250 acres. 555 toook up over 250 and less than 500 acres, and only 377 had over 500 acres.

These figures are, as I have said, taken from Parliamentary returns prepared by the Crown hands officials, and their accuracy cannot be questioned.

And yet the Wellington electors are told that if this present Government had not come into power, the whole of the land would have been disposed of in blocks of over 2000 acres Why, no Parliament would permit such a tiling. Any Government would go out of power in less than a month who dared so to part with the land. The Acts under which this Government are working are precisely the same as the Acts under which the last Government worked. And by whom was the Act of 1885 drawn? By Mr. Ballance, the Minister of Lands in the Stout administration. It was amended by Mr Richardson in 1888, and under those two Acts the present Government are working. They cannot have a different land policy, because they are working under the same statute, if they obey the law. But they do not; and that is what I want next to call your attention to.

The regulations issued by this Government are supposed to be regulations in promotion of settlement. Well, is that so? They are the regulation of the last Government with this exception,—the purchasing clause is not included. Does that alteration promote settlement? Does that encourage men to go upon the land? How they can declare that their exclusion of the purchasing clause from the perpetual leasehold conditions, and a limitation of area to 200 acres, is a special inducement to men to go upon the land I cannot understand.

Mr. M'Lean said that there were 84,000 people owning land in the colony, and 450,000 who were landless; but his computation page 12 takes in the babies in arms, the children in schools, and all the women, and excludes somehow another 100,000 persons who have escaped his notice. Mr. M'Lean failed to observe that there are only 160.000 adult males in the colony, and that nearly one-half of that number live in the boroughs. The fact is, gentlemen, and it is shown by returns from this and other countries, that there is no country in the world where the land is better held by the population generally than in this country. Why is it that the Wellington electors do not hold land? It is not due to any defect in the legislation, but to the difficulties and disadvantages of settling in he bush. The people here very naturally prefer the comforts and conveniences of a large city.—the better schools for their children, the theatres, working-men's clubs, the society of their fellow men, the better newspapers. ("Oh, oh," and laughter.) The working man is naturally unwilling to exchange such a life for the misery of the first year of a settler in the country. It is the settlement conditions which prevent you who are here from owning land. The truth is—and I hope the time is coming when it will be admitted by all,—that this land question is not and "Ought not to be made a party one. There is no real difference between Mr. Hal lance and Mr. Rolleston. Mr. Rolleston is one of the most liberal land legislators the colony ever had. (Cheers and uproar.) Let me tell you my authority for that statement. Sir Robert Stout is my authority. I say there is no real difference between the parties in this country as to the way in which the balance of the land of the should be administered. There may be a difference as to the methods of getting at and taxing settlers to whom you have already sold land; and there may be a difference of opinion as to the honesty of the process by which it is now proposed to be done; but as to the remaining undisposed of land of the country differences of opinion about it should not be treated as party questions. The liberal administration of Mr. Rolleston was as just and fair as I hope the liberal administration of Mr. M'Kenzie may prove to be. So long as you have—and I think it is quite right that you should have—residential conditions of settlement to prevent dummyism. So long the people in the town cannot own land in the country; and so long there will be a continual feeling of grievance among the people of the towns because they are not the owners of land. If they want land, then the settlement conditions must be abolished, and that I hope will not be done.

Gentlemen, I have dealt with the measures of this Government; I have referred to their land administration, and now I come to their general administration. I can only select a few examples, but I shall endeavour to show thereby that that administration is not such as to entitle the Ministry to your respect for the past or your confidence for the future. First, look at the way in which they have dealt with the civil service. When Mr. Ballance was in opposition, a coterie of gentlemen met together, at his invitation, in his room, and resolved that the estimates should be cut down by certain amounts; and cut down they were, by the force of the majority, which Mr. Ballance brought from that private meeting. When he came into power he restored the salaries which had been so reduced,—and rightly restored page 13 them, though he had not the courage to admit that what he had done when in opposition was wrong. The reason given was,—"When I cut the salaries down I had no responsibility." No responsibility! The Leader of the opposition! and dealing with the servants of the country! No responsibility, when he and a number of gentlemen set to work to cut down the salaries of poor people who could not afford the loss. And wrongly, too, as is proved by himself, because if he was not wrong in cutting the salaries down he was wrong in restoring them. (Applause.)

Next take the way in which they dealt with the question of the Chairmanship of Committees, and contrast it with their methods in dealing with this present election. Then it was their duty to lead the House on the question of who should be Chairman of Committees. It is no business now of theirs to interfere with this election. The gentleman who made the speech I am about to read is not now a supporter of the Government, and doubtless for very good reasons, but he made this speech from the Government side of the House: "Who is responsible for the humiliating position the House is in, and the Government is in, with regard to this Chairmanship of Committees? It is undoubtedly the duty of the Government, in my opinion, to lead the House in so important a matter as that of the Chairmanship of Committees. They understood from common rumour that there were two or three of the party desirous of occupying the position. Instead of calling a caucus of their own party, and endeavoring to lead that party, they refrained from calling a caucus. They allowed a caucus of their own party to be summoned, and determined themselves not to attend that caucus at all. They practically threw down the appointment to be worried over like a bone of meat by a lot of hungry dogs."

What a description by a member of Parliament of a scene in Parliament! The member's name is Mr. Fish. (Groans.)

There is another matter I ask your earnest attention to, because it really affects us in this city. The Wainui-o-mata water supply is a matter that ought to give us all, and it certainly gives me now, a great deal of anxiety. We have to take care that nothing shall be done to injure that supply. In and around the watershed of the Wainui stream a considerable forest reserve has been proclaimed, and it is of vital importance to Wellington that nothing should be done to remove the restrictions created by that proclamation. Now, I want to call your attention to the action of this Administration in regard to another forest reserve, to enable you to judge if we are not in danger while they have the reins of power. In the statute there is a clause which allows the Governor, by proclamation, to withdraw a forest reserve from the forest reservation for the purposes of settlement; but the exercise of the power is limited by these words: "Provided always that no such Proclamation shall be issued in respect of any land on the ground that it is no longer required for State forest purposes until a plan showing the extent and position of such land, and a statement of the reasons why it is no longer required for State forest purposes, shall have been laid before both Houses of Parlia- page 14 merit for a period of thirty days without any resolution objecting thereto being passed by either House."

There was a forest reserve at Hokonui, which (I am reading from Hansard) the Minister of Lands wished to withdraw for the purpose of settlement. I do not of course accuse Mr. M'Kenzie of doing anything improper in the matter. It question of administration, not of impropriety of his conduct. Three days before the close of the session the Government laid upon the table of the House a proclamation withdrawing this reserve. The statutory safeguard of thirty days was disregarded, the Administration over-rode the Act of Parliament, and the forest reserve ceased to be a forest reserve by this method of procedure, without Parliament having the opportunity required by law of considering the question. I say it is not safe to leave the administration in the hands of men who so disregard the law, and deal with safeguards which ought to be sacredly observed. Who can say that our own reserve at Wainui may not next be seized in the same way?

Again, is it right that the members of the Government should altogether abstain from doing the work which the country supposes them to be doing, and employs them to do? They are in every part of the colony except the Government offices. The only thing that brought them to Wellington in a body was the resignation of Mr. Macdonald and the issue of the writ. But for that, they would still have been endangering their digestions in various other parts of the colony. (Laughter).

Let me take another illustration of their method of leading the House. Look at their ungenerous treatment of the late Minister of Lands, and of Mr. Bryce. I venture to say that there is no man in the colony who stands higher in the estimation even of those of you who are against me to-night than Mr. Bryce; and I do not believe that any supporter of the Government who has read that debate can have done so without a sense of shame. There never has been so grave an instance of ungenerous treatment on the part of the Government towards a leader of the other side than was displayed by this Government towards Mr. Bryce.

I have said already that in showing you how I differ from the present Government I have practically stated what I think myself.

There is one matter which I wish to specially refer to. It is the question of education. I have not changed in the slightest degree the opinions I expressed when I last had the honour of trying to address you in this house. Let me interject that I am very much obliged to my present audience for having given mo so fair an opportunity to-night of making my views known. I now cay as I have said before, that is quite impossible for this colony to lend financial aid to the denominational schools.

Electors of Wellington, it is in your power on the 15th of January, by returning me to parliament, to sound the first note in the dirge of this administration. (Loud cheers).

The candidate resumed his seat amid applause which continued for several minutes.

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