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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 76

New Zealand

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New Zealand.

There is, judging by what appears in the public journals, a great anxiety in England to become acquainted with the various social and legislative experiments we are making in the Australasian colonies—especially in New Zealand. It may happen, when what we have done is carefully analysed, that it will be seen that we have no new ideas to offer, but that we have only put into practice very old suggestions.

To understand our experiments, however, the point of view of colonists should be ascertained. Those who have lived in the colonies for over thirty years are struck with the changed view of colonial life which prevails to-day. In the olden days most immigrants came to the colony intending merely a temporary sojourn, and a return to the land of their birth when their fortunes were made. The institutions of the colony were regarded from that point of view. All this has changed. To more than half of our population New Zealand is the birthplace as well as the present home. And there has grown up a strong feeling that no country in the world equals New Zealand in all the elements that go to make for happiness. We are fast acquiring a national spirit and developing a local patriotism. There is, it is true, still a strong "Home-land" feeling, but perhaps that is waning. Not many more than one-fourth of our people have ever seen any part of the United Kingdom, and many of those who were born in England, Scotland, or Ireland were so young when they came to New Zealand that the "Home-land" is but a vague memory to them. They consider themselves as much New Zealanders as if they were native born. This change in the feelings of the people has altered the old point of view, and with that change have followed many other changes in our colonial life. Of course, England herself has changed.

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The village life portrayed by Miss Mitford—or even by Charlotte Bronte—is not, I suppose, the prevailing type of village life in England to-day. In the colonies we seem to be drifting further and further apart from the ways of our Mother-land. This may be seen in many directions. Even our language is becoming a distinct type. We use words not used in England, and others in a sense different from English usage. And the pronunciation of our youths is characteristic. If a stranger were to pass down the streets of Wellington or Auckland, and to listen to the ordinary conversation of our youths, he would realise that he was not in an English, Scotch, or Irish town. Nor do we speak as the Americans or Canadians speak, but we are rapidly developing a variety of the English tongue all our own. Our life, also, must be on somewhat different lines from life in England, though, no doubt, it has much in common with it. I judge that there is a considerable difference, from what I learn from those who have recently visited the Home-land, and from the perusal of English books, journals, and newspapers. Our physical environment is considerably different. We have more sunshine and no severe winter. Frost and snow are practically unknown on the sea-coast of the North Island, and even in the South Island the winters are mild compared with those of Southern England. The eyes of the English people do not, however, seem to be turned to the climatic and physical advantages of our life. Social reformers and philanthropists are discussing certain legislative or governmental experiments that we have made and are making, and these seem to be the cause of more debate and discussion in Britain than in New Zealand. We take them as a phase of the necessary evolution of our life. One law for the reform of social abuses has succeeded another, and we did not know that we were making ourselves famous till some able men in London discovered it and told us. Can our experiments, or the reasons why we have made them, be even appreciated if our point of view is not clearly understood?

There are two experiments, if I may so call them (though we ourselves hardly consider that they are experiments), which may illustrate our colonial point of view. The one dealing with Labour, and the other with the attitude of the State towards the Church, will show our view of the functions of the Government, and will serve as a key to explain the principles which guide us. Government is, to us, a powerful institution—as powerful as the Tsar appears to be to his subjects—and it is considered to be benign. The socialistic wave has reached us, and has affected us. And, although we have not any socialistic societies, nor any community-settlements, we appeal to the Government whenever a social wrong is proved to exist to redress it. Is there anything, we ask, which the State cannot set right? And the reply to our query is, Nothing. Our labour laws are a product of page 541 this feeling. They have not sprung into being during the last ten years. They have grown as we have grown, and are the product of prevailing sentiment as to the duty and power of the State to remedy grievances and to promote general happiness. Statutes regulating employment in factories have been on our statute-book for over twenty years. But the impulse to remedy ills by statute has grown much during the last ten years: our appetite in this respect has grown by what it fed on, so that the more laws we pass the more we demand. And with the increase in the number of our laws the drastic nature of their provisions has also increased. The State's supervision over employers and employees has increased, and demands for more laws are still put forward by the trade-unionists.

The present labour laws are not deemed the last that will be required and that must be passed. Perhaps the most characteristic of our labour laws is the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act. By it a tribunal is created that has the power, on the demand of the employers or employees in any trade, to fix the hours of labour, the wages, the number of apprentices, &c., in that trade, and the decision of the Court must, under heavy penalties, be obeyed. The final tribunal in all labour matters consists of a Judge of the Supreme Court and two assessors, one appointed by the Employers' Association and one by the trade-unions throughout the colony. We have also a law to regulate the hours during which our shops are to be open for the sale of goods. In every borough there must be a half-holiday on one working day in each week, and no employee is permitted to work in a shop on this half-holiday. We have also innumerable Inspectors—Inspectors of Factories, of Shops, of Dairies, of Stock, of Rabbits, &c. And thus the State has affirmed the right to regulate labour. It is not my intention to discuss the provisions of any statute, or to deal in detail with our labour laws. My inquiry is rather as to how the passing of such laws can be explained. We find that individualism, in the old English Liberal sense, is at a discount in our colony. The Government is no longer deemed an enemy of the people, but, on the contrary, it is believed to be the benign father and mother whose every care is for the people, who are not considered capable of regulating their affairs without such assistance. The action of a political party, or a Ministry, may be condemned or denounced, but the Government can be guilty of no wrong, and whenever or wherever a social evil is discovered, an appeal is at once made to the Government to redress it. The omnipotence of the Government is never doubted. What the effect of this change in the attitude of the people to the Government will be we do not know, and few of us have cared to inquire. If we did, and were we to issue any warnings, our warnings would be ignored. Statistics are often quoted to reassure ns whenever any qualms of distrust of the results of our efforts come upon us. But page 542 statistics cannot estimate or analyse this growing habit of dependence upon the State, and it may take many years before the real effect of our policy can be determined. We are progressing. Our population is increasing. Our death-rate is low. We believe we live in one of the best countries in the world. Food is cheap and abundant; our surroundings are pleasant; as our population increases our wants increase, and what is termed the economic pressure is not yet felt by us as it is felt in older lands. Statistics are quoted to make us believe that we are sailing in the right direction to reach the haven of joy. When an optimistic wish is father to our thought, we find that kind of theorising whence, as Browning says, "a fact looks to the eye as the eye likes the look." Hence in our discussions upon our progress we find it convenient to ignore those statistics that tend to shake our self-complacency, for it has become a fixed idea that all this State interference is right. For example, some Jeremiahs have pointed out to us that, whilst from 1886 to 1891 the number of our factories increased by 308, from 1891 to 1896 the increase was only 205. To appreciate these figures it has to be remembered, first, that our population increased from 1886 to 1891 by 8-33 per cent, and from 1891 to 1896 by 12.24 per cent. The period from 1886 to 1891 was called "the years of depression." The labour laws began to be made more drastic in 1891. The increase in employment and in the value of the productions of our factories was less in the prosperous years than in the years of depression. From 1886 to 1891 the increase in the number of employees in factories was 3538. From 1891 to 1898 the increase was only 1756. The increase in the value of the output was £2,067,458 from 1886 to 1891, but only £775,523 from 1891 to 1896. Until another census is taken in 1901 we cannot judge accurately of what has happened since 1896. There is, however, one result given us by Customs returns that some people do not deem satisfactory. Our population has increased and is annually increasing. We gain a few thousands every year from immigration, and our births exceed our deaths by about 12,000 a year. With this increase of population we should have more factories and more employees in industries, and we should import less and export more manufactured goods. Our Customs duties were increased in 1895, and this should not have led to an increase in imports and a diminution in exports of manufactured articles. The figures, however, tell against us. They are as follows—I shall take the last ten years—In apparel (boots, shoes, drapery, &c.) the imports were in value: 1888, £1,510,013; 1893, £1,908,046; 1898, £1,935,009. Ironmongery, implements, &c.: 1888, £697,784; 1893, £920,626; 1898, £1,502,974. These, no doubt, include many things which we could not manufacture, and the figures may be used to show that we had a greater purchasing power; but, on the other hand, there are among page 543 these imported articles many things which we could well have manufactured.

The values of our exports of manufactured goods (including flax) were as follows: 1888, £253,919; 1893, £358,455; 1897, £204,252; 1898, £194,783. Our trade has increased, though it has not made great strides, but the increases in the exports have come from pastoral and agricultural operations, and these are little affected by labour laws.

The statistics, of our colony will not at present help us much towards realising the effects of our legislative experiments. Many years may—nay, must—elapse before we can ascertain what the results are to be; but, whether they prove beneficial or baneful, we must go on with our experiments. The colonists worship the State and believe that the Legislature and Government can save them from many untoward evils. The other illustration that may be given of this feeling of reliance on the Government is the attitude of the people towards Churches and towards education. State education is believed in, and State aid to Church schools is supported by very few. The Roman Catholic clergy denounce secular and State primary schools, but they have been unable to get any strong support for denominationalism. The idea of allowing Churches to control the education of the young is foreign to the views of the colonists. And as the years roll by the number of those who favour aid to Church schools diminishes. The colonists cannot appreciate the difficulty English statesmen seem to have in dealing with the education question. Take the Irish University question, for example. I have spoken to scores of colonists—men who favour Home Rule for Ireland and have not a tinge of Orange feeling or Protestant bigotry, some of them members of the Roman Church—and they simply cannot understand all the pother over such a question. The solution is so easy and clear to them that they think it is not attempted because of some deep political party consideration. To understand their point of view we have to learn what has been done for higher education in the colonies. In all the colonies the University is a State institution, and not under the aegis of any Church. There are certain institutions called colleges affiliated to the Universities of Sydney and Melbourne. Some of these institutions are connected with Churches; but these so-called colleges are rather of the nature of halls or boarding establishments. The students living there must attend the University lectures and pass the University annual examinations, and the University confers the degrees. New Zealand has a somewhat different and more complicated University system. This was occasioned by the fact that New Zealand, though now one colony, was at first really a congeries of colonies. It was colonised from different centres, and had Provinces and Provincial Parliaments. The late Sir William Fox, page 544 in writing on New Zealand, called his book "The Six Colonies of New Zealand." This definition was accurate. The Provincial Parliaments were not abolished until 1876. We began to provide for University education in 1869. We have four cities that are the four main centres of civic life—Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin. We lack a chief city, the centre and metropolis of the colony, such as we find in all the Australian colonies, which has prevented our having one central University. The provincial element has exercised an influence on the founding of our University. But, strange to say, the point at issue at first was whether we should have an institution for the higher culture in the colony, or should provide scholarships for the brighter youths to enable them to be educated in Europe. Those who favoured a colonial institution won. The Province of Otago, through its Provincial Parliament, founded the first University. Later was established a New Zealand University, which is a scholarship and degree-granting institution alone. It insists on attendance, with certain exceptions, at the teaching University colleges. The cases for exemption are: a student who does not reside within ten miles of an affiliated college, or who is engaged in acquiring a profession or trade, or earning a livelihood. Such students are not required to attend lectures for the degrees of arts, science, or law; but they must pass the annual examinations of one of the colleges. There are now four University colleges—the Otago University, situated in Dunedin; the Canterbury College, in Christchurch; the Auckland University College, in Auckland; and the Victoria University College, in Wellington. All these colleges have professors and lecturers teaching subjects necessary for the degrees in arts, science, and law. Otago has a Medical Faculty and a Mines Faculty, Canterbury an Engineering Faculty and an Agricultural School, and Auckland a School of Music. The examinations for all degrees are conducted by the University of New Zealand and by examiners resident in the United Kingdom. This has kept the standard for degrees high, and it will be admitted that the ordinary pass degrees—B.A., B.Sc., &c.—are more difficult to obtain in New Zealand than in Oxford or Cambridge.

All these institutions for higher education are State institutions, and are endowed and supervised by the State. There are no religions tests, and no Church organisation has anything to do with any of them. The New Zealand University is managed by a Senate of twenty-four Fellows, who were at first chosen by the Government. The Fellows are appointed for life, and if vacancies occur they are filled by the Senate and by the graduates alternately. The University statutes must, before coming into force, be approved of by the Governor. The University colleges are managed by boards or councils, and the modes of appointing the boards or councils vary. The Government has, however, the right to appoint some members on all of the councils. For example, page 545 part of the council of the Otago University is appointed by the Government, part by the graduates, and part by the professors and lecturers. The most recently constituted University college—the Victoria—is managed by a council; part of its members are appointed by the Government, part by the members of the Legislature resident in the middle district of New Zealand, part by the Education Boards of the same district, part by the graduates, part by the teachers in the district, and part by the professors. The regulations or statutes of the college must be approved by the Government; the accounts of all must be audited by the Government auditor; and a report must each year be submitted to Parliament. The Visitor in all cases is either the Governor or the Minister of Education. The appointment of all professors, lecturers, and officers rests with the boards or councils. The Government has no power to appoint any officer. Though they are State institutions, free from any Church control or any religious test, there are found on the various boards ecclesiastics of all Churches. For example, on the Canterbury College council there are four ecclesiastics—an Anglican bishop, a Roman Catholic bishop, a Presbyterian minister, and a Wesleyan minister. On the "Victoria College council there are three clergymen—an Anglican bishop, a Roman Catholic priest (rector of a Catholic college), and a Congregational minister. And on the Senate of the New Zealand University there are four ecclesiastics—the Anglican Primate, the Roman Catholic Archbishop, a Presbyterian minister, and an Anglican minister. No suggestion has ever been made that there should be any religious tests for students, professors, or members of the governing bodies. No Church institution is affiliated to the University. All the teaching and examining for higher education is, like the primary schools, under the control of State institutions. And though this has been the case, there never has been even a suggestion as to the possibility of any proselytising. The students are of all religions, and the professors belong to different Churches or no Church. And the members of the different Churches in the managing bodies of these institutions have worked together harmoniously and without the slightest friction.

During all the time that these University institutions have been in existence there has been a persistent demand by the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church for aid to their primary schools, but they have never asked for aid to establish a University college. They have, on the contrary, nobly aided in the management of our University institutions. We cannot, therefore, understand why the same arrangement that has worked so well with us should be impracticable or impossible in Ireland. That is our point of view, and we are amazed when we read in English journals of disputes, which appear to us to be over trifling matters, when the great need of popularising University teaching in Ireland is considered. To imagine that the only solution is an page 546 Anglican University in Dublin, a Roman Catholic University in the same city, and a Presbyterian University in Belfast, appears to ns to be midsummer madness. Is the State, we ask, under the control of the Churches? I am not concerned with the rightness or wrongness of our view. We may be altogether wrong in exalting the State over the sectarian institutions of the nation, but we do it. If we had to settle the Irish University question, I believe it would be on some such lines as the following: We should follow the plan of the Queen's Colleges. We should establish a degree-granting University, and perhaps there would be sufficient funds granted to this University of Ireland to enable it to grant scholarships to students who could attend any colleges affiliated to the University. There would then be established in the north, the south, the east, and the west teaching University colleges free from Church control. The University and colleges would be under separate management. The University would be managed by a Senate, partly appointed by the Government, partly by the graduates, and partly by the affiliated colleges. The Senates of the colleges would be partly appointed by the Government, partly by the graduates who had studied at the college, partly by the professors and lecturers, and partly by the local bodies in the district—the County Councils and City Councils. At none of the colleges would theology be taught, and the Churches would have to institute their own theological colleges without Government aid. Trinity College would become the University College for Dublin; part of its endowments, now being used for theological teaching, would be given to a theological college if the Irish Church established one. The University and colleges would receive such endowments as their necessities required, and in time new and other colleges might be required in other centres. Under such a University system Catholic need not vex Protestant, nor Protestant Catholic, and there would grow up, perhaps, a true national feeling of brotherhood, that seems as lacking in Ireland as in many other countries. It would be a State system and based on citizenship, not on Church membership or Church organisations. And as the Imperial Parliament has declared that Ireland does not require a State religion, can it be said that she requires a University system based on Church organisations?

This is the point of view of the majority of the colonists. The Church and State are kept apart, and we believe that that is the only policy that can give us freedom and true equality as citizens. No one says that our University system has weakened the power of the Churches over their own church members, or that we are less touched with religious emotion than our kin across the seas. We have erected magnificent church buildings, we have quite an army of ecclesiastics, and our Church organisations are active, strong, and zealous. And the State has gained by the separation of Church page 547 from State, for we have relegated theological discussions to the Churches. They are outside of politics.

May it not be necessary to strengthen the affection of the people for the State so that the perennial struggle in older lands between Churches and the State may cease? The colonists, as has been said, are being trained to look to the State for most things which they require. This may be a phase of our evolution. The time was when the Church loomed largest in the ideas and imaginations of the people. With us the State holds that position. Humanity, it has been said, cannot get on without institutions. Is the State to take the place of the Church? If it is to do so, it must become altruistic and dispense favours. This may explain why it is that in the colonies the functions of the State have been greatly extended in all directions. But who knows but that this increase of State duties and worship of the State may not be a phase of our growth and pass away, just as the domination of the State by the Church is passing away in all nations? The growth of the power of the State has its dangers; but such a power centred in one organisation, and that under democratic control, may prove much less mischievous than power centred in sectarian organisations, which tend to separate citizens and destroy true brotherhood.

These few observations are not offered as a defence of, or apology for, our point of view. This point of view of the State's position and functions exists. It is the stage in politics that we have reached—whether it shows progress or retrogression it is not for me to say. The liberty of the individual is not so sacred in some directions as it was, but it is more so in others. There is a tolerance of opinions, and there is an altruism and a growing civic conscience, that will compensate to some extent, perhaps, for the curtailment of freedom of contract, and for the interference between employers and employees.

Many explanations may be given for our point of view. It has to be remembered that in starting a new colony there is no co-operation amongst the immigrants. The Government is their co-operative association, and it is some time before private associations or companies can be formed. Individual effort can do little without co-operation, and the early immigrants were not capitalists. The Government must perforce do many things that in older countries are left to private enterprise. And as the government of the colony is in the hands of the people of the colony there necessarily is developed this feeling of the power, the wisdom, and the benevolence of the association called Government. And bit by bit its power has extended until the Government has come to occupy a position and importance entirely disproportionate to the position occupied by Governments in the opinion of people in other countries. But, whatever the genesis of this feeling, it exists, and it has to be page 548 reckoned with by colonial statesmen and understood by our foreign critics.

Whether our experiments have any lessons for our Mother-land, or whether they can help to point a way to solve her burning questions, it is difficult at this distance to say. To appreciate our attempted solutions, however, it is necessary to understand our point of view. And perhaps it is necessary also to remember our environment. We have many advantages. We are possessors of a country having five-sixths of the area of England, Scotland, and Ireland, with a climate of great variety, extending from the sub-tropical North to the temperate South, with no extremes of heat and cold, and without the droughts or floods of Australia or the hurricanes or blizzards of North America. The scenery of our country cannot be excelled, and its productions are varied and abundant. We are also the healthiest country in the world, for our death-rate is often under 10 per 1000 in a year. Our people are few—under 800,000—and we lack and shall lack great cities with their inevitable slums, or great concentration of people. Our manufactures are small, and our labour troubles can, consequently, never be very acute. Situated as we are we must escape, in their accentuated form, many of the troubles of the older land, though the recent decrease in our birth-rate would seem to show that we, as well as the inhabitants of Europe, have an economic problem. There is, however, no sign amongst our New Zealanders of physical, intellectual, or moral decadence. Our young generation can hold their own and compare favourably with their fathers and mothers. But our time has been but short. One of our colonies—Canterbury—only celebrates its jubilee next year. It may take us fifty years more before we can see the effects of our experiments. If they fail with us they must fail everywhere, for our lines have been cast in pleasant places. And if we succeed, perhaps our success may be due as much to our environment and to the qualities of our race as to our laws. Some of us may have our doubts whether in other lands differently situated our experiments can be models for universal adoption.

Robert Stout.