Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70

Social Legislation

Social Legislation.

One of the earliest reforms which the legislature ought to accomplish should be the complete abolition of imprisonment for debt in New Zealand. In theory there is no imprisonment for debt in New Zealand, but as a matter of fact men are almost daily sent to prison for not paying debts which in the majority of cases they are wholly unable to pay. The present law is also one sided in its operation, because it only oppresses the very poor. If a man is unable to pay his debts but can, nevertheless, obtain ten pounds or so for expenses ho can seek the protection of the bankruptcy court, but the unfortunate who is without sufficient means to do this must endure the degradation of imprisonment. Another question which might well engage the attention of your representatives is to secure for every man the exemption from seizure of an irreducible minimum of property. It is not to the interest of the State that a man should be stripped of even the commonest necessary possessions of his household. I think some such law altered to suit the circumstances of our country as exists in Canada with regard to this subject should be adopted. I will just quote to you what exemptions from seizure are allowed in Canada:—The Homestead Law in the North West Territories of Canada exempts from seizure, by virtue of all writs of execution issued by any court, the following:—
1.Clothing of defendant and family.
2.Furniture and household furnishings to value of 500 dols
3.Necessary food for defendant's family for six months, which may include grain and flour, or vegetables and meat, either prepared for use or on foot.
4.Two cows, two oxen, and one horse, or three horses or mules; six sheep and two pigs, besides the animals kept for food purposes, and food for same during the six months beginning in November.
4.Harness for three animals, one waggon or two carte, one mower or scythe, one breaking plough, one cross plough, one set of harness, one horse rake, one sewing machine, one reaper and binder.
6.Books of a professional man.
7.Tools and necessaries used by defendant in trade or profession.
8.Seed grain sufficient to seed all land under cultivation, not exceeding eighty acres (two bushels to the acre, and fourteen bushels of potatoes.)page 15
9.Homestead up to eighty acres.
10.House and buildings, and lot or lots upon which same are situated, up to the sum of 1,500 dols, in value.

No article (except of food, clothing, or bedding) is exempt from seizure where the judgment and execution are for the price of such article.

The power which landlords possess at the present time of seizing their tenants' goods without any legal process for nonpayment of rent should be taken away, and the landlords placed on the same footing as all other creditors. (Cheers.) The duty of government is to protect the weak and to direct the strong, but unfortunately some people seem to imagine that government ought to oppress the weak and allow the strong to work their own sweet will.

The present law with regard to combinations requires very drastic amendment. On this subject we are even behind Great Britain, where several Acts have been passed in recent years mitigating the harshness of the old common law doctrine of conspiracy, and rendering trades unions combinations lawful. This principle ought to be laid down, that whatever a man may lawfully do of his own accord it should not be an offence for two or more to agree to do. (Hear, hear.) Upon the question of education the last word has not been said, while a good, sound knowledge of the subjects usually imparted in the schools of the colony at the present time is indispensable for every child, yet it cannot be said that the instruction given fits the pupils adequately to commence the battle of life. A thorough system of technical education for boys, and housewifery schools for girls, as in Belgium, are not only desirable but essential adjuncts to the present educational system, if we desire our young nation to take its rightful place among the states of the world in the future. (Applause.) Concurrently with this educational reform child labour ought with a few exceptions to be entirely abolished. (Cheers.) While we are in this colony happily free from anything like what is virtually the child slavery that exists in England, yet it is notorious that children of tender years are habitually overworked, and that they are sent to work at an age when they ought to be acquiring knowledge and bodily strength to fairly equip them for the full duties of citizenship. There are some other topics which I should have liked to have touched upon, but I must not further detain you—(Go on). The democracy of New Zealand must swing back the political pendulum until something like an equality of burdens is borne by all sections of the community. (Cheers.) In the past, almost since the earliest days of the colony, the Tory party have legislated and devised systems of taxation in the interests of property. Now we must legislate in the interests of men. (Cheers.) As was said by a distinguished orator, "Property ruling manhood is like the servant ruling his page 16 master." We must take care that in New Zealand the master shall rule in future. (Loud cheers.) When we consider that almost everything in the nature of property is the creature of labour, and yet that some ostensibly sane people—members of the National Tory Association for instance—calmly argue that the inanimate thing created—property—ought to be more considered than the living being who created it—the man with all his powers and faculties, affections and emotions—we must marvel at the strange mental—aberration which self-interest, and the current prejudices of men's environment, frequently cause. John Locke, who was certainly not a Radical, in his "Essay on Civil Government," gives his opinion in these words: "I think it will be but a, very modest computation to say that, of the products of the earth useful to the life of man, nine-tenths are the effects of labour." When we consider that stupendous fact we are driven to the conclusion that the position of the labourer ought to be one of dignity and power, and that he is entitled to participate in an equal degree in all the rights and privileges which the laws of his country confer upon other classes of his countryman. (Cheers.)