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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70

The Necessity of the Hour

The Necessity of the Hour.

In, with this article, drawing to a conclusion these notes on capital and finance in Australasia, we would most earnestly, most emphatically point out what is the necessity of the hour, a necessity which is almost daily becoming more and more imperative. If we would find work for our population, if we would maintain wages, if we would recover and then continue a satisfactory degree of prosperity, we must give more attention to the great producing industries of these colonies. We must seek to increase the quantity of our produce which we can sell to the rest of the world. If in our laws or habits of life there are impediments to an easy settlement of population on the soil, we must sweep away those impediments, We must seek development by labor instead of development by finance. We have expended too much energy in attracting and fighting over the expenditure of external capital, and too little energy in the work of production—work which lay ready to our hands. By our neglect we are allowing the bounty of Nature to become a curse instead of a blessing; the wonderful increase of our flocks and herds has actually led to depression through the whole pastoral industry of Australasia, when enterprise, aided by nineteenth century science, might have turned that increase into gold. We let fruit rot when millions of people on the other side of the world would gladly pay good prices for it. We shut our eyes to the fact that we have summer in this southern hemisphere when winter reigns in the northern, instead of recognising that in this reversal of the seasons has the certainty of an almost unlimited commerce. There is little doubt but that we have entered upon a grave crisis in the financial and commercial life of Australasia page 42 as a whole, and it is desirable that we should meet it like men. In all the colonies to-day there is depression, and it is—with a touch of shame that we observe that every one of them—, believe there is no exception—is a suppliant in the London money market for money for the construction of more public works, and that on this policy the various Governments are mainly relying for the removal of the unemployed difficulty. It will not do. There must be a change. Borrowing cannot at once be wholly suspended, but it must be curtailed—vastly curtailed—if the future of these colonies is not to be seriously imperilled by a great burden of interest. The intimate connection that exista in Australasia between politics and public expenditure is a grave evil, and if greater production from our industries is the first necessity of the hour, certainly economy stands only second, The extraordinary growth of public expenditure, the multiplication of offices and of new departments, make it plain that the old British cry of "retrenchment" is needed in Australasia, Depression, time after time, has driven various colonies, as it is driving Victoria to-day, to reduce expenditure; but when prosperity returns economy is thrown to the winds and extravagance again reigns supreme. Strict economy in a time of surplus revenue is a virtue as yet unknown in Austral asia, and yet it may be said that there is not one colony out of the seven that does not feel its interest payments a burden.