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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

Chapter X. — What Was Rroposed and is Being Done

page 32

Chapter X.

What Was Rroposed and is Being Done.

Some of my readers may not know what Governments have already done, or have proposed to do. During Sir Harry Atkinson's Government of 1887 to 1890, at a meeting held at Wellington in July, 1889, to consider juvenile crime, it was shown that there were five hundred children roaming the streets between the hours of 7 and 10 o'clock in the evening. The following resolutions were carried: Firstly, that the imprisonment of children be altogether discontinued, and that they be either birched, or dismissed, or sent to the industrial school. Thirdly, that a distinction be made between children who are criminal and those who have been merely unfortunate or neglected, and that the two classes be separated and placed in distinct establishments. Fourthly, that farms be set apart, one for each set of children, where they may be taught fruit-and vegetable-growing, the management of horses, cattle, &c., with a view of their becoming useful settlers upon land on reaching manhood. And fifthly, that the Court to exercise jurisdiction in these matters should consist of a committee of seven Justices, to be annually appointed, of whom three should form a quorum.

On the 10th July, 1890, in a debate in the Legislative Council on the treatment of neglected and destitute children, these resolutions were confirmed. In Hansard of 1890 is a report showing a training college at Lincoln, which only partly supports itself. And on the 18th July, 1890, Mr. Goldie asked, in the House of Representatives, that £3,000 might be placed on the supplementary estimates as a grant towards the foundation of working-men's colleges and technical institutions for Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, seeing that £1,000 was provided for a like object in Dunedin. Again, Hansard of the 15th July, 1888, shows that 5,000 acres of land had been set apart for the establishment of a home for aged and infirm miners on the West Coast of the South Island. And, once again from Hansard, No. 17, of August, 1890, it may be seen that a quantity of land was asked for on which to build agricultural prisons. It is evident, if they have farms for juveniles in Wellington, all other towns will expect the same. The same may be said respecting working-men's colleges and technical institutions. And are not the aged and infirm of any class as much to be considered as the miners on the West Coast? And here let me ask, how long would it be before such farms and institutions would be ready, and what good purpose would they serve, and at what cost to the country? I contend it is the duty of Government to provide and to offer the same benefit to all State subjects on equal terms, the same for the poor as for the rich. If the rich want something better than the Government offer, they are in a position to pay for it, Then, in sixteen State co-operative farms we have sixteen working- page 33 men's colleges or technical institutions; sixteen farms where all juveniles may be taught fruit-and vegetable-growing, the looking-after horses, cattle, &c.; sixteen farms to which all juvenile offenders might be sent, instead of being associated with hardened criminals—sixteen farms that would answer for agricultural prisons—sixteen farms that would answer for those people whom the Inspector of Prisons refers to in his report of August, 1889.

The Inspector of Prisons says, "The large increase in the average of sick is due to drunkards and old and infirm people being sent to gaol as vagrants, instead of to refuges." "This," the Inspector says, "is a serious blot on our administration, and a gross injustice to the unfortunate aged people too old and infirm to earn their own bread." Mr. W. L. Rees, M.H.R., in his "National Policy, and Local Self-government for New Zealand," says, "If we can turn the vast estates of the Maoris from a mine of litigation to fields for settlement and the homes of men, if we can restore to the people the power of local self-government, and free the General Assembly from the domination of local interests and selfish cliques, we shall accomplish a good and useful work, and lay the foundation for future prosperity and improvement on the eternal principle of justice and fair dealings."

An article which appeared in a Sydney newspaper of March, 1890, says, "There are nearly two thousand men sleeping out in the open air," and goes on to say, "The effect in Sydney has already been to build up a large class who systematically look to Government for support. This is one of the most serious evils that have arisen out of State ownership of railways, and the gigantic system of works constructed out of borrowed money that has obtained in all the colonies. But it is manifest there must be some finality. Governments cannot, with justice to the majority of the community or with safety to the State, go on borrowing money merely with the object of finding employment. It would be far better for them to face the difficulty at once and devise some scheme, either of land-settlement or dispersion of the city population throughout the country districts, that will permanently solve the problem."

The reader will notice here what Mr. W. L. Rees has just said, also what this Sydney article has said, and then he will see that that is exactly what my scheme will accomplish. It is a permanent and sure reproductive way of relief from poverty. It for ever sets at rest the ever-increasing difficulty of the unemployed. It relieves the thickly-populated cities, and offers the best means yet devised for local self-government. The General Government, carrying out this reform as I propose, would in five years have sixteen farms in good working-order, well stocked, and everything complete, worth £380,104. I then propose that the General Government hand over those farms, stock and all complete, together with any other endowments they already possess, to the local governing bodies. We are living in an age of social reform; social reforms are better than, socialistic wars. Some great social reform is wanted page 34 to place the masses of humanity in a better condition. If the Government of New Zealand should adopt this scheme it will be setting a grand example to the world. It is a remedy against the sweating system, against strikes, and against that great labour agitation which is revolutionising the world. Should we adopt it in this colony we may escape what appears inevitable in the Old Country—namely, a great social revolutionary war.

After twelve years' correspondence with Ministers of the State, and personally explaining my scheme to them, let us see how they act towards me. At an interview with Sir Harry Atkinson, then Premier, on the 11th February, 1889, explaining my scheme at length, he offered to have my scheme put into form for publication, and, if he was satisfied that the idea would be useful to the colony, to have it printed at the cost of the Government. I declined the offer, saying the position was similar to that of Mr. Hannaford and his lighthouse, which the Government would not adopt, although they used his ideas in the construction of the lighthouse for Cuvier Island. Corresponding with Sir Harry Atkinson immediately after this interview, he evidently thought I should forward my manuscript to Wellington, for Sir Harry, addressing a public meeting at Napier on the 20th of same month, says, "Among the new things, Government would probably propose to establish pauper farms, where able-bodied paupers should be compelled to work for relief." You will notice Sir Harry finds another name—he calls them "pauper" and not State farms. However, 1889 and the following session passed, but not a word was said about either pauper or State farms. Why was this so? I had not sent my manuscript, so Sir Harry had not got my ideas, as his Government managed to get Mr. Hannaford's. After a long interview and a lengthy explanation respecting my scheme with the Hon. Mr. Ballance, Premier, on the 19th December, 1891, Mr. Ballance acknowledged a number of good points in it. I asked the Premier to have my manuscript published, according to the recommendation of the Public Petitions Committee of the 21st August, 1891, so that the Government and the country might have the benefit of my ideas; but no, this could not be. Yet we see by the New Zealand Herald of 11th February, less than two months after my interview, that the Premier is going to adopt, not State farms, but industrial farms, which is only another name, thus making it appear as if the idea originated with the Ministry. At last they call it by its right name—State farms. At last the Hon, Mr. Ballance acknowledges that he is strongly impressed with the need for some important changes, or, I might say, a complete revolution, and he says, "My idea is that it will come to State farms, with practical organization upon these farms."

Have I not worked out a thorough systematical and practicable plan as laid down in this pamphlet? Yet it appears Ministers would like, by some means, or by any means, to deprive me of the credit, It is such things as these which drive good citizens to become extreme revolutionists, and cry for "Liberté, égalité, fraternité."