The Government and the Working Man.
Auckland. Wilsons and Horton, Genkral Printers, Queen and Wyndham Streets,
The Government and Labour egislation.
Have their Measures Increased the Demand for Labour?
Note.—All the Figures which follow are taken from the Public Records.
How to improve the position of the great mass of workers has been the study of my lifetime, for, like other thinkers, I have seen that the only way of effecting any real lasting social improvement is by uplifting the great army of wage-earners.
In the nature of things, in every community, the vast preponderance of the people must be wage-earners. No matter what circumstances may arise, very few can be directors. In the army and navy the officers are few, the men are many. So it is in the industrial army; the leaders must be few in number, the workers many.
This being so, how important it is to us all to do everything in our power to improve the condition of the wage-earners, to elevate and dignify labour. The old Baronial days, when the workers were little better off than slaves working for the sole benefit of a few nobles, are, thank God, gone for ever; the conditions are altered we must adapt ourselves to them, and do all that we can to give the wage-earners a better chance, for it is only as they prosper that the trading and professional classes can share in the benefit.
Recognising these facts, when the present Ministry took office I was quite disposed to give them what little support lay in my power. I was not satisfied with the last administration, and hoped the new party would do better, but as time passed on, their reckless, thoughtless—I had almost said ignorant—legislation amazed me, as it has many others. The want of far-seeing judgment, and of thoughful consideration, displayed in such Acts as the Workmen's and Contractors' Liens Act, the Factories Act, the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, Masters and Apprentices Act, and numerous others, prove that they are wanting in all the great qualities that go to make up statesmen.
In order to ascertain what has been the effect of this labour legislation, I have gone through the statistics of the colony for the last 12 years, and give the result in the following tables. They are very eloquent, and require little explanation from me:—
What the Present Government Have Had to Work Upon. Table No. 1.
|Accumulated Surpluses 1891-1897||2,636,173|
|No. of Civil Servants||8,626||9,079||453|
|Contingent Liability on account of Bank of New Zealand||5,234,000|
This table shows that although the present Government has had, according to their own account, accumulated "surpluses" of over £2,600,000, they have found it necessary to increase the debt of the colony by over £5,600,000, and increase the taxation by £342,000, and this with an increased population of 95,000 to work upon.
As regards the "surpluses," their existence has been, and I think rightly, disputed; the Government, however, assert they are real, therefore it is for them to show what they have done with them.
The taxation of the population was increased last year by no less a sum than four shillings (4s.) per head for every man, woman, baby, gaol-bird, and lunatic in the colony. It is obvious that if a country is rightly governed, as population increases, taxation per head ought to decrease, but, during the last six years, it has averaged 2s. 6½d. per head per annum more than it did during the previous six years.
It will be seen that the present Government has increased the liability of the colony by no less a sum than £10,887,550. What they have given us in return, and whether it has increased the demand for labour, subsequent tables will show.
To create a permanent demand for the employment of labour, successful land settlement is a first necessity, for it is by the direct application of labour to the land that we obtain all our primary products, and without them we can do absolutely nothing.
Tables Nos. 2 and 3 will show that, as regards land settlement and mining, the policy of the Government has been an absolute and miserable failure.
As regards land settlement, I believe that the failure is not so much due to bad land laws as to the fact that the Government allow page 3 the railway officials to neutralise the effect of the liberal regulations for land purchase, by their ridiculous and unjust method of levying railway charges. Judging, however, by their past action, and the Hon. Mr. Cadman's recent utterances, they are determined that no real reform shall be made in railway administration, if by any possibility they can prevent it, and this notwithstanding the fact that they have all voted that the new system ought to be tried.
Failure of Land Settlement. Table No. 2.
|No. of Land Selectors||2,420||2,173||247|
|No. of Acres taken up||2,154,138||1,600,695||553,443|
|Amount of Land Revenue||£352,417||£272,954||£79,463|
This table shows that, notwithstanding the population had increased by 95,500, the Seddon Government, in the year 1896-1897, placed 247 "selectors" and their families, equal to at least 750 people, less on the land than the "Tory" Government did in 1890-1891; and that, notwithstanding the enormous sums spent in purchasing lands, improved and unimproved, their land revenue was £79,463 less than it was under "Tory" administration six years previously.
It is clear no extra labour can be employed in agricultural and pastoral pursuits.
Failure of Mining Legislation. Table No. 3.
|Value of Gold and Silver produced||1,012,639||1,052,017||39,378|
|Value of all other Minerals, including Kauri Gum and Coal||828,047||862,224||34,177|
Could there possibly be a better proof of the utter failure of the recent legislation than the fact that the total value of all our mineral products has only increased £73,555 during the five years the present party has been in power, and this in spite of the enormous amount of English and foreign capital invested in our mines during that period.
Failure of Industrial Legislation.
We now come to the legislation on which the Government specially pride themselves, that relating to factories, workshops, and mills, and here, as No. 4 table will show, we find the most pitiable failure of all. What is to become of the workers unless some alteration is made? I am sure I do not know. Certainly this Government has been their worst enemy.
Table No. 4.
|"Tory" Government.||"Great Liberal Progressive" Government.||"Tory" Government||"Progressive" Liberal Govt.|
|Increase per annum.|
|No. of Establishments||1,946||2,254||2,459||61||41|
|No. of Hands employed||22,095||25,633||27,389||707||351|
|Annual Value of Products||£6,711,379||£8,773,837||£9,549,360||£2,062,458||£775,523|
In 1896 the import and export trade per head of population was £2 4s. 8d. less than it was in 1891.
Thus we see that the effect of the "progressive legislation" of the "great Liberal party," has been to reduce the average yearly increase in the number of our factories from 61 to 41, the increase in number of hands employed to less than half, and the value of our locally-manufactured articles by no less a sum than £1,286,935 per annum, and it must be remembered that this is with an increased population of 95,000 people to work upon. Where is this to land our working men and women? It is clear that the "progressive legislation" is rapidly destroying our local industries as well as our import and export trade, which has decreased £2 4s. 8d. per head the workers have a poor outlook before them.
Increase of Paupers and Poverty. Table No. 5.
|No. of People dependent on the State for Support||4,717||7,501||2,784|
|No. of "Bread-winners" out of Employment||Not given||17,396|
What becomes of the boast that this wonderful legislation was to find employment for every man and woman wanting work? It is clear the Government have not fulfilled their pledges. Judge it by what standard we may, it is certain that the legislation of the last six years has not only been a complete and contemptible failure, but has been most mischievous.
Their Land Valuation Policy.
"The Government Valuation of Land Act, 1896," is one of those cunning, foxy pieces of legislation that involves a great deal more than appears on the surface; and I have little doubt that its framer's intention was, as most certainly its effect will be, to covertly but largely increase the taxation of property owners. Its very title is a fraud, it is called "The Government Valuation of Land Act;" as a matter of fact, it enforces not only the valuation of the land, but of all buildings and every other class of improvements on the land, and makes the following dangerous provisions:—
Clause 9 says: "The general valuation roll, so long as it continues in force, shall be the standard roll from which the valuation rolls of all local authorities having rating-powers and rating on the capital or on the unimproved value shall be framed."
The local bodies are not compelled to adopt this valuation roll, but they may do so if they please and levy their rates on this valuation. It is provided that these valuations shall be used "so far as the Governor in Council from time to time directs for the following purposes:—
The assessment of duties of land-tax and otherwise under "The Land and Income Assessment Act, 1891."
Stamp duties under the Stamp Act.
Duties under "The Deceased Persons Estates Act."
For "Advances and investments on mortgage of land by or on behalf" of any or all of the public moneys in the hands of the Government and belonging to any of the departments, all of which are enumerated.
After making these explicit provisions, the following clause is introduced:—"Provided that in every case where such copy" (if a Government valuation) "is required for lending purposes by any of the aforesaid officers or departments," (or for a trustee or trustees) "it shall be the duty of the Valuer-General to satisfy himself that the entry is correct as to their value and other prescribed particulars of the property to which the entry relates; and for that purpose he shall amend the roll where necessary."
Ordinary readers would think that this meant that the Valuer-General was to satisfy himself that the copy was a correct one. What it really means is this: That while the Government compel the people to pay every kind of taxation, including succession duties, on page 6 these valuations, they know that they are so utterly unreliable that they dare not lend the Government moneys on them, nor do they dare compel private trustees to do so.
I have no wish to say one unkind word of the men who have been appointed Valuators under this Act, but I know of so many instances in which people have suffered through them, that I feel I should be evading a duty if I did not expose the wrong-doing of the Government in this matter. I am sure I speak well within bounds-when I say that fully two-thirds of them have not the slightest scientific knowledge of the work they undertook to do. If they had they would never have undertaken it for the miserable pittance doled out to them.
I will cite only one or two examples of their work. No doubt the Government employed their best men in the chief cities, and this is what one of them did in Queen Street, Auckland, as brought out in the evidence taken in the Assessment Court, in the case of the Bank of New South Wales, on the 26th and 30th of last month. Starting from the corner of Swanson Street and going right up to Wyndham Street, he valued the whole frontage at £175 per foot, and this without the least regard to the length of the various frontages, their depth, or the fact of their having a frontage at the back or no back entrance at all. In this valuator's opinion, land in the principal street in the city, having a frontage of 96 feet 6 inches to Queen Street and to Mills' Lane at the back, by a depth of 178 feet, was of precisely the same value as land close by, having a frontage of only 39 feet 6 inches by a depth of 94 feet 3 inches only, and without any back entrance whatever. There is not much science about this I wonder what he thought he was valuing. Possibly soap or candles, and that being a wholesale lot, he would lump it. But really when we remember that it is on this valuation that the whole of our taxation is to be levied, it becomes a very serious matter. I venture to say that if a proper scientific valuation of this block were taken, hardly two properties could be found of which the value per foot frontage was precisely the same.
Another Government Valuer gave the extraordinary evidence that in this block small frontage lots were of more value per foot than long frontages were. Being an architect, he should have known that the smaller the lot the greater the proportion taken up in brick walls; therefore the less proportion of available space, and, consequently, the less value per foot. This same gentleman also stated that the whole of the north-east side of Alexandra Street was of the same value (£4 per foot) from one end of the street to the other.
Every man in Auckland knows that the east side of Queen Street is much more valuable than the west side, yet another of these gentlemen said that "Coombes' Arcade section" (which has a depth of 168 feet, and a frontage to both Queen and High Streets) was "worth at the present time from £160 to £175 per foot," or no more than land on the west side of the street with only one frontage and not half the depth. So far as has come under my observation, the whole of the page 7 Auckland Province has been valued in this fashion. I know of instances in which the unfortunate owners are paying taxation on from three to six times the price they are willing to sell at.
In this instance, again, the "Poor Man's Government" makes the poor man suffer most, for, in many instances, the cost of contesting the valuation makes it cheaper to pay the unjust demand.
In this valuation, the Government no doubt have two objects: (1st) To screw out additional taxation, and (2nd) to make it appear that their measures have raised the value of the lands of the Colony.
Their Railway Administration.
It is very loudly claimed that the present Government have made a great success of their Railway Administration. Well, I can fairly claim to know something of this matter, and I fail to see where the success comes in; but before showing their failures in this respect, let me give them their just need of praise.
The eternal thanks of the entire country are due to them for their courage and prompt action in ejecting from office, or rather in refusing to re-appoint, the late irresponsible Railway Commissioners. For their action in this matter I give them the warmest praise, and claim to speak with knowledge when I say that it is impossible to estimate the value of the service they have rendered the community in this respect.
While, however, I say this, I deny that the present administration is, or has been, a success, financial or otherwise. The apparent financial success has been made by the very simple process of charging to capital account items which ought to have been charged to revenue account. If the accounts were correctly taken, it is probable—I believe, certain—that the last two years would show the worst results since 1880.
It must not be thought that I consider the Commissioners did any better; they did far worse. What little extra interest they claimed to have earned was simply obtained by increasing the charges, cutting off train services, and neglecting maintenance of the lines and rolling-stock They cut off 210 train miles per annum for every mile of railway opened, and they spent £30 per mile per annum less in keeping the lines and rolling stock in repair.
To say nothing of the train mileage, the expenditure "saved" by neglecting maintenance during the Commissioners' term amounted to £393,000, or just £8,000 more than we now find it necessary to spend to put the lines and rolling stock into proper repair and order.
The Government has been very unjustly blamed for the present position of the lines and rolling stock; it is quite clear that the damage was done by the Commissioners. This, however, must be borne in mind: when they were appointed, a considerable portion both of the House and the country demanded that this should be done. The change made was avowedly in the nature of an experiment, and it was the bounden duty of the Government in power, when the Commissioners' page 8 term expired, to have made a searching investigation into the then condition of the lines and rolling stock. Here the present Government seem to be at fault, and they must, therefore, accept the responsibility of having failed in their duty in this respect, or of having caused the damage themselves.
It is claimed that the Government have made "large concessions" to the public in rates and fares. I absolutely deny the truth of this statement. What they have done is to reduce the charge on some small items, but to increase it on others to such an extent as to raise the charges on the whole. If an example is wanted, I refer to my exposure of the late Parcels Hates Fraud, in the New Zealand Herald of 26th April, 1897.
Homes for our Wage-Earners.
It is quite impossible to over-estimate the importance of placing our workers in a position to acquire homes of their own. Every man and woman so placed is directly interested in the maintenance of law, order, and the rights of property. The real strength and safeguard of any country is a large army of small freeholders, and all our efforts ought to be to greatly increase their number.
The danger to society comes from the great moving, restless mass who have no interest in the Colony beyond their daily wage. When that ceases they easily fall a prey to those curses of society—the needy, seedy politician, and the labour agitator.
To increase the number of freeholders, however, does not suit the politician who wants to manipulate the Working Man's vote. His desire is to keep him in the cities; his vote can be much more easily managed there. If he had an acre or two of his own he would be altogether too independent; he would not require to hang on to the skirts of one of "the party" to get a job on some co-operative works, for when he was out of employment he could be profitably engaged on his own land, but the "Working Man's Government" is not at all disposed to help him in this direction. This is now quite evident.
When in 1882 I invented the Stage System, my main objects were to enable the writers to live on holdings of their own, to enable them to travel long distances in search of work or of health, to promote land settlement generally, and to largely increase the railway revenue by greatly reducing the charges. That it will do all this is no longer a matter of my theory, but one of ascertained fact. The Government, however, appear to have now made up their minds to openly oppose this system, and this notwithstanding they have, one and all, voted that it ought to be introduced.
In his speech at Paeroa the Hon. Mr. Cadman is reported to have said that "he hoped Mr. Vaile would next session set forth his scheme to a Committee of the House. The evidence would be printed, and the people would be able to form some opinion as to the merits of the scheme."page 9
In order that I may not be a party to wasting the time and money of the country, I will at once say what will be my attitude if called before the proposed Committee.
If I am accorded the same position that was given me on the 1886 Committee, that is to say, the right to conduct my own case, to call witnesses, and to cross-examine the witnesses on the other side, then I will attend and render every assistance in my power; but if I am to be called merely as a witness, then I will only attend on compulsion, and no good will be done. There is an old saying about the horse and the water.
The Hon. Mr. Cadman, like his predecessors, appears to have fallen bodily into the hands of the superior officers of the Department, and their avowed object is to kill the reform movement by
"Worry and Delay."
"Vaile can't last forever, and when he dies his scheme will die with him." It is, without doubt, true that if it is not tried during my lifetime it will never be faithfully tried at all; for, after my experience, who would take up such a work. I could hardly ask my worst enemy to take my place.
In proposing to set up this Committee, it is obvious the Department wish to gain another two years of "worry and delay." I protest against it. For now nearly 16 years this question has been discussed throughout the length and breadth of the land, and "the people" have long been convinced that the new system would be greatly to their advantage, and they have largely petitioned Parliament that it may be introduced.
I was before the Parliamentary Committee of 1886 for 10 weeks; the matter was exhaustively gone into, and their report was that the new system ought to be tried. In Hungary and Russia, where it has been introduced in a much-spoilt form, it has given results that are simply marvellous. Why, then, should it fail here, where the conditions are much more favourable? It does seem hard that the country in which the system was invented cannot share in its benefits, because of the selfishness of a few officials.
To show how utterly unfit these gentlemen are to lead the public in such an important matter, I refer to Parliamentary Paper I.-9, 1886, and will just quote two answers given by the present sub-manager. At question and answer No. 422, question by Mr. Maxwell to Mr. Hudson: "Do you think that these fares (Vaile's) would have the effect of largely encouraging the settlement of the country?" Answer: "The view I take of that is, that if a man goes to settle in the country he makes one journey to the place he proposes to live at, and then the railway has done with him—that is, as far as long distances are concerned. Cheap fares would lead people to live in the suburbs and travel to and from their daily work in town; but I do not think that long-distance cheap fares will ever induce the settlement of the country, because the general expenses of moving about are so large that the difference in fares would not lead to more travelling, time always being the principal object with 'business men.'"page 10
Question No. 453: "You assume that (Mr. Hudson had been contending that the proposed reductions would not lead to increased traffic.) "I do, because I think the principal number of single short-distance fares issued are to people who travel to the parts to go away by sea. These people do not require return tickets. Therefore, I take that as the basis of my calculation. Mr. Vaile's average ticket is 5d., ours is 7½d., for the same distance. I do not think that in New Zealand that difference would have any appreciable effect." (The italics are mine.) May I ask why they issue return tickets at a reduction of 25 per cent., if a reduction of 33? per cent, would not increase the traffic?
What Mr. Hudson says in these two answers is this:—First, that the duty of our railways is to dump a settler down on his location, it may be in a swamp or a forest, and then leave him there, they have done with him; second, that in his opinion the chief use made of short-distance single journeys is to take people out of the country: and third, that a reduction of 33? per cent, on short-distance fares would not lead to any appreciable increase in travelling. It is also evidently his idea that "business men" are the only people who want to make use of our railways Mr. Hudson, of course, has a right to his opinion, but I think I may ask if a man holding these peculiar views is able to guide, or ought to be allowed to influence public opinion on such an important matter as the policy that should govern our Railway Administration.
What can we expect of a country when men like this are allowed to control an institution which absolutely dominates our trade and social conditions generally. I have no wish to injure any of the officers of the department, but I think it is my duty to show how utterly incompetent they are to deal with this question.*page 11
I note a peculiarity about the Railway Accounts for 1897-1898. In the first twelve four-weekly periods, every month the working expenses showed a considerable increase on the corresponding period of the previous year, until, on the 5th March, the increase was £88,330; but in the last four weeks the account shows a decrease of £20,193, which makes it appear that the increase of expenses for the whole year has been only £68,137, or £20,193 less than the increase for the eleven months.
How does this arise? If it is due to payments held over, it would, of course, swell the surplus, and also make it appear that the railways had earned a better rate of interest. On the first four weeks of this year there is again an increase of £2,870 in the working expenses, so it is rather remarkable that there should be such a large decrease in the one four-weekly period. "Adjustment of accounts," no doubt.
To prove what can be done by even a faulty Stage System, I give the following figures showing
What Has Been Done in Hungary.
|Year.||Passengers Carried.||Receipts in Austrian Florins.|
|1888||Last year of the old system||9,056,500||14,112,000|
|1889||7 months of old, and 5 months of new system||13,054,600||15,021,500|
|1890||First whole year of new system||21,635,600||16,937,000|
From the above figures it will be seen that during the nine years the Zone System has been at work in Hungary, the increase of traffic, as also the increase of revenue, has been great and continuous. The increase in passenger traffic has been 282.2 per cent., and the increase in passenger revenue 91 per cent.
This result has been brought about by reducing fares to the same extent that I proposed here, namely, on the average, to about one-fifth of the present charge, and I have always maintained that no less reduction would give a profitable return.
One of the most important results obtained in Hungary is the great extension in the average distance travelled by each passenger, which is from 71 to 130 kilometres, or over 83 per cent. It is easy to see what an influence this must have, not only on the railway revenue, but on other items of revenue, trade, commerce, and social conditions generally. My finance is based on the assumption that the average page 12 distance travelled will be not less than 15 miles, and the average fare not less than one shilling. It is obvious that, no matter what may be the system, the average fare paid must depend on the average distance travelled.
When Mr. Fife's table was prepared for the use of the Parliamentary Committee of 1886, the average travelling in New Zealand was 13 miles, and that table proves that we should not require any extension in order to secure the shilling average; but should we secure the same extension as in Hungary, and considering the difference in the habits of the people, we ought to secure a greater, it would mean 24 miles instead of the 15 calculated on.
What then would be the average fare? T say 1s. 8d. If that were so, the result would be remarkable, for our average fare last year, 1896-1897, was only 1s. 8½d. Thus we should secure practically the same passenger revenue, without carrying any additional fares. I expect that under the Stage System we should get five fares where now we get one. In Hungary they have now four where formerly they had one. If we only had the same, then this would be the result. Last year our "ordinary" passenger revenue was £378.684. Four times this amount is, £1,514,736. the figures are startling, but really do not seem impossible of attainment.
The Zone System was ridiculed by men who claimed to know, yet it has been a great success in Hungary, and still greater in Russia. There in its first year they secured £3,015,781 more than their railway experts calculated on, and this was from only the thinly-populated districts of that sparsely populated empire. Another remarkable development in Hungary has been the great increase in the best paying branches of passenger traffic, that is, in the first and second class and express travelling, in the United Kingdom the increase is solely in third class travelling, but under the Zone System in Hungary it is the reverse.
It was asserted by our railway men and others that the first success of the Zone System was merely due to its novelty, and that the effect would soon wear off, but the prosperity has been continuous for now over nine years, which proves that it is no mere spurt. The great general prosperity of Hungary is well known, and it is certain that the prosperity is largely connected with the alteration of its railway system.
The Cost of a Trial,
say for one year, on the Auckland Section—what would it amount to?
The number of passengers carried on this Section during 1896-1897 was 582,280, and they produced a revenue of £46,952. the same number at my average fare of one shilling (1s.) would yield £29,114. Thus, if, through the enormous reductions in fares, we did not carry one extra passenger, or carry them one single mile further, the loss for a whole year, on the department's own showing, would be only £17,838. page 13 The officers of the department know well that there will be no loss of revenue, but a great loss of credit to themselves, for they know that a trial would convict them of a contemptible want of knowledge of the business of their own department. I do not suppose there is a man in New Zealand who believes they would hesitate to spend £100,000 of the public money to prove me wrong. They know the new system will be a great success, and that is the reason why they are determined to prevent a trial if they possibly can. No trial of the new system will ever be obtained by consent of the department; it must be ordered in defiance of it.
Railways in War Time.
Although I have not hitherto written or spoken on this portion of the subject, it has occupied much of my attention.
If war were to break out now, the North and South ends of this island might easily be severed for want of inland communication. Wellington and Auckland could not properly support each other. These cities could be easily and cheaply connected by means of a 2ft. 6in. line, but here the department steps in again and says: These lines cannot be allowed here, they will never do among our mountains. They do very well among the Himalayas, and pay a high rate of interest. I was under the impression that this range was just a little more stupendous than anything we have here, especially in the North Island, but perhaps the department knows better. At any rate, these lines have been found to be very useful to connect with the English, Irish, and Indian lines, and, therefore, ought to be good enough for us.
What an enormous advantage it would be to us in war time if we could run about over the country at the fares I propose. It would be easy then to send the women and children away to places of safety. And what so much enables a country to be defended as an intimate knowledge on the part of its inhabitants of all its strong and weak places. But what do most of us know about our country now? Absolutely nothing from personal observation.
If I have dwelt long on the subject of our railways, it is because I am convinced that
The Road Absolutely Governs the World
and its social conditions, and that, therefore, until we regulate our national transit system on sound principles, it is useless to expect permanent progressive prosperity in any department. It is because of our faulty transit system that we have so very little internal trade, which ought to be the mainstay of every country.
I have no wish to detract from any merits of the present Government, but I say that their general legislation has been most disastrous, and that no class has suffered and will suffer so much as the wage page 14 earners. A careful study of their policy, their actions, and the effects of their legislation, leads me to the conclusion that, so far from wishing to
Make the Working Man Independent,
their sole desire is to render him absolutely dependent, and to put him in a position where he must go to the Government for the means of existence, which he will only get if he belongs to "the party" and will vote to keep them in power.
Where the Government have made their failure, is in the fact that their legislation has been class legislation. There has been no thought of the country, but only of the "Great Liberal Party." They appear to be unaware that the co-operation of all classes is necessary for the public good, and they are now-, by costly "experimental legislation," gaining the knowledge which they should have acquired in their schooldays.
No class will suffer so much as the class they profess to serve, as against all the rest. Statesmen might be expected to have known that such Acts as "The Workmen's and Contractors' Liens Act," and "The Factories Act," especially, play directly into the hands of the capitalists and monopolists. The only chance the wage-earner has of rising is by becoming a small contractor or a small manufacturer, but these Acts are directly against these classes, and the tables given above clearly prove that they are already fast going out of existence. None but men of considerable capital can comply with the provisions of the "Labour Legislation." and therefore it really works in the interests of the capitalists and not of the workers.
This is so apparent to all who are accustomed to study these subjects, that it is difficult to believe in the sincerity of the Ministry, and it raises the question whether their real object is not to foster monopolies and introduce the Tammany system. If they are sincere, then they exhibit such a deplorable want of knowledge that it is to be hoped the country will never again entrust them with office.
The surface appearance of prosperity during the past few years has been brought about by the expenditure of over £6,000,000 of borrowed money. When that is over we shall find out where we are.
Summary of what we have gained in six years by the "Progressive Legislation" of the
Great Failure Party;
£5,654,000 increase in our national debt, and contingent liability of £5,234,000.
£2,636,000 surpluses gone, and nothing to show for them.
£342,000 per annum of increased taxation. An increase in taxation last year of 4s. per head of the entire population, with a certainty of a further increase this year.
453 more Civil servants to provide for.
2,800 more State paupers to keep.page 15
17,400 unemployed to look after.
About 4,000 less people placed on the land.
A great decrease in the number of acres taken up.
A largely-reduced revenue from land.
Practically no increase whatever in the development of raining industries.
A decrease in our import and export trade of £2 4s. 8d. per head of the entire population.
A falling-off in the rate of increase of manufacturing establishments of 20 per annum.
A falling-off in the rate of increase in the number of hands employed of 350 per annum.
A decrease in the development of the output of our local industries of no less than £1,286,935 per annum, and all this with an increased population of 95,000, to work upon.
Is there any progress here?
Yes, there is—headlong progress to destruction. No Government has had such power and opportunity. No Government has promised so much. No Government has failed so utterly and completely as the Seddon Government, and their worst failure has been as regards the interests of the Working Man.
Once more I appeal to the Members of Parliament and my fellow-citizens not to allow the Stage System to be destroyed by any pretended "improvements" by the Railway Department.
For now 16 years I have earnestly striven to effect a reformation in our transit system. I have given the best years of my life to it, have carried on the contest at my own cost—not a small sum—and I think I might reasonably expect in return that an opportunity would be afforded me of trying the new system while I have the working power to look after it. What the department wishes is to see me out of the way, and they know that then they could speedily destroy distinctive features of the Stage System and perpetuate the present vicious condition of things.
One of the objections urged to according the Stage System a trial is that it would be dangerous to the country to give me control over a small section of our railways.
If this is so, may I ask why a gentleman who never pretended to have the slightest knowledge of either railway policy or working was made Chief Commissioner of the whole of our railways, with irresponsible power to deal with them just exactly as he pleased, and also power to over-ride his fellow Commissioners.
Mr. J. P. Maxwell, too, when he was appointed General Manager, on his own showing, had never had a day's training to qualify him for his post. (See Parliamentary Paper, I.—IX., 1886, Questions and Answers, 617 to 620.)page 16
I think, too, that without presumption I may be permitted to say that my knowledge of the railway question is at any rate equal to that of any of the Ministers who have had charge of our railways during the last fifteen years.
All that I ask for, is, that such temporary powers may be given me over one section of our railways as will enable me to lay down on it the Stage System, as regards every detail of coaching and goods traffic. That done, I shall be prepared to at once resign my post, and all I will ask for my services will be my actual expenses.
If a trial of the new system is entrusted to the railway men, it is its scientific character which they will seek to destroy. What they strive for is a system where all the rating depends on their will, and consequently all their efforts will be to assimilate it as much as possible to a mileage system, and this is how they will proceed.
They will say: Oh, yes, Vaile's System is all right; but then, like all reformers, he is too extreme. It is not possible to do all he asks, but with slight improvements it will do well enough: and, if they are allowed, they will carry out their improvements is this fashion:
They will place more stage stations on the long-distance stages, without regard to the location of population, and will thus largely destroy its value as a distributive and land settlement system. The effect will be to raise all the fares and rates to the distant and least accessible lands, and, by thus compelling the poorest and most thinly populated districts to pay more than their fair share of the revenue, retard their settlement and progress.
Even in this mutilated form it would give greatly better financial results than the present system, and the railway men would claim that these results were due to their "improvements," whereas they would only have secured a part of the revenue that might have been obtained had the system not been tampered with, and its great distributive capabilities most seriously injured.
All I ask is that my work may not be destroyed by incompetent and selfish men.
Wilsons and Horton, Printers, Queen and Wyndham Streets, Auckland.
* To show how our railways and railway magnates strike outsiders, I quote the following from a recently-published book on the Colonies. The writer is describing a trip to Rotorua:—
"At one of the small stations an untidy little man, with a shock head, a fuzzy beard, and a pair of spectacles, joined us. 'One of our traffic managers, whispered our Maori-speaking friend, 'I'll have a talk with him. Good morning, Mr. Smith,' said Maori. 'Good morning, good morning, Mr. Maori,' was Mr. Smith's reply. 'You're getting things to work very nicely on your line this year. Very few of the other lines can heat what you have done up here.' It may here be mentioned that the carriages were dirty, curtainless and uncomfortable; the average pace was, as I have said, about ten miles an hour, and there were only two trains each way per day Smith felt Maori's compliment, and replied, with a sigh, "Yes, yes, it has cost me a lot of thought. You can't imagine the anxiety and scheming I have gone through to get things as they are.' Then he passed his hand over his little brow, as if he wished us to imagine that his brain was yet feeling the effects of the strain that had been imposed upon it. 'Everything fits to a nicety, and I think the employees are satisfied and the public are pleased.' 'You're quite right,' said Maori, with a twinkle in his eye; 'the very fact that no one grumbles shows that things are satisfactory. It's impossible to improve on what you have done, Mr. Smith.' Mac afterwards suggested to me that walking would be a great improvement."
There is really something grotesquely absurd in the idea of allowing men like this to dictate the railway policy of a country.