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 76

My Policy

page 68

My Policy.

Should I again contest a seat in Parliament, and be successful, I shall do my best to initiate or support the following measures. My general policy may, however, be described in five words; it is, "Distribution as opposed to Concentration."

Knowing, as we do, that all our material well-being comes from the land, my constant attention will be given to every measure affecting its occupation and use. Land ought to be placed in such a position that every one can, if they think proper, acquire a freehold. Therefore, I shall support any measure having for its object the easy acquisition of land.

To get the best results from land, a good and firm title is absolutely necessary; consequently, I shall always be a staunch advocate of freehold tenure. I would, as is now done, let people take up land on lease, but every Crown leaseholder—except lessees of reserves—ought to have the right to convert his leasehold into a freehold. I would give him every facility for doing this, and I shall be strongly opposed to any measure that will in the least degree shake confidence in the freehold tenure.

Resumption of Lands for Settlement

While this idea may be, and probably is, right in principle, I hold that with a population of less than three-quarters of a million, in a country capable of supporting at least twenty millions, it is worse than folly to enforce it now. The lands that have been already taken were perhaps not being used in the best manner, still they were employing some labour, and producing some wealth for the community. Why then should we take these when we have many millions of acres still in a state of nature.

I am aware that the statement is made that these lands are so far away that they are not available, but that is only a question of the means of transit, and an alteration in the railway system would practically bring these lands as near the great cities as lands 30 or 40 miles off are now. That this can be done is no longer a question of my theory, it is one of actual fact, ascertained by nearly ten years' experience.

In this resumption of land there is too much danger of political influence being brought to bear to let someone out of an unprofitable estate, at the public expense. No system of land administration can in my opinion be right which does not provide means for enabling every worker to acquire a freehold of his own. This brings me to the question of the proposed Working Men's Towns.

page 69

We do not want these towns, but we do want so to alter the conditions that working men can take up land anywhere and everywhere. Homes for our workers has been my cry for many s long year, and I am glad to see others taking it up. If judiciously worked it will have a most beneficial effect; but it is a subject that requires to be most carefully and thoughtfully dealt with. It involves a great deal more than appears on the surface. If we are not careful we shall do the workers greatly Bore harm than good.

The present idea among our politicians seems to be that the Government should purchase blocks of land along our railway lines and lay out "workmen's towns" and run to and from them "workmen's trains." This means that the allotments in these towns must, be reserved for "workmen," and, in the first instance, at any rate, would be purchaseable only by them. Would this be an advantage to the workers? I think not. Have not class distinctions been the curse of the world? Why, then, should we deliberately pass an Act of Parliament and use our railways for the purpose of creating them? I protest against this scheme altogether as being vicious in every respect. Towns composed only of working artisans must necessarily not only be poor towns, but they would always be considered, and would, in fact, be inferior towns, and there would certainly be a class distinction fastened upon their inhabitants. A girl is born in one of these workmen's towns: she grows up and exhibits superior abilities, and tries to make her way. Where does she come from? is asked. "Oh, from that poor little working men's town, Eightbob" Does it help her? Again, I ask, why should we deliberately create these class distinctions? What we want is social intercourse, not social isolation. We want a system that will intermingle rich and poor as much as possible—a system that will bring them frequently into contact with each other: a system that will make them mutually acquainted with each other's wants and requirements. The more we do this the sooner we shall learn that there is much of good in every class and the more we shall esteem each other; but if we deliberately assign one district to one class, and another to another, what can be the result but separation of interests, hostile classes, jealousies, heartburnings. I can scarcely imagine a worse social movement than designedly creating poor districts, which is what these workmen's towns must mean.

We want also to place our work-people in positions where any property they may acquire will increase in value; the more their property improves the better it will be for the State; but how could holdings in districts inhabited by the poorer classes only improve in value? They would not. The better class work-men—all those able to rise—would soon desert them, and they would become the haunts of the idle and the vicious—mere slums.

What we want is to enable workmen, as well as other people, to select homes in any locality best suited for their requirements, page 70 and I say that the introduction of the Stage System of railway administration would do this. Take Auckland, as an illustration, and in the first seven-mile stage round the city—Penrose to Mount Albert—there are ten districts, over which the transit charges would be exactly the same, and in the 15-mile circuit, 19 districts. Certain it is that many landowners will be only too glad to sell, and that numerous townships would be laid out, and plenty of cheap land be available for all classes in every direction; but this does not suit the "Great Liberal Party" at all. It would render the working man far too independent, and make him too much like his better-off neighbours, so he must be kept in a district by himself.

One of the chief objections to these workmen's towns is that they would be the special hunting grounds of the political demagogues. Here they could create imaginary class grievances and prate about the poor injured working man to their heart's content. If the working classes could only be herded together in distinct districts it would be so much easier to manipulate their votes.

Other objections might be urged, as, for instance, the fact that these poor town's would create poor districts; they would depreciate the value of all the surrounding properties; in fact, create an East End and a West End. We do not want this in our colonial towns.

Public Reserves.

While I am strongly opposed to the Government being the sole landlord, I yet believe it would be greatly for the public good if in each town, village, and country district, one-third of the land was reserved, not as general government, but as local endowment. These reserves I would let on lease for not less than fifty (50) years, with the stipulation that at the end of the lease all the improvements should become the property of the country. By this means I believe the country would be greatly better off than if it owned the whole country on the system proposed by Henry George, for on the termination of the leases it would own one-third of the land, with all the improvements on it, and this third would be largely improved in value by the surrounding freeholds. I believe that reserves of one-third, with two-thirds of freeholds around them would bring in, if let-on terms as proposed, a larger rental than the whole of the land would if let on lease for short terms.

The Importance of the Road.

I do not think that any of us really understand what roads mean to the world. When we reflect, taking the sea also as land, that everything we can see or touch, except the firmament above us, is either land or the product of labour applied to land, we see how important the road becomes. Our houses, furniture, food, clothes, jewellery, everything, all come from the land, but page 71 we could not have any of these things except through the assistance of the road. The road is the first requisite for the application of labour to and the utilisation of the land, and I believe I am right in saying that our prosperity will be in exact proportion to our transit facilities. It is because I believe this that I attach so much importance to the railway question, and have striven so hard to get railways worked on sound principles.

It goes without saying that I shall exert myself to the utmost to procure the adoption of the Stage System.

Railway Construction—Narrow-gauge Railways.

I believe in railways. I believe in narrow-gauge railways as opposed to common roads, because they are the best roads, and are equally good in winter and summer. They are also, in this country at any rate, the cheapest, for with their rolling stock they can certainly be constructed for less than a macadamised road and its rolling stock. They also render a much more efficient service, are much cheaper to work, and save an immense amount of time.

I have paid considerable attention to this question of narrow gauge railways, and from all the information obtainable consider the 2ft. 6in. gauge the best to adopt.

My proposition is to join up all our present sections by 2ft. 6in. lines.

North of Auckland I would join up the lines now made, by these narrow lines from Makarau to Whangarei, from Whakapara to Kawakawa, from thence to Mongonui and Herd's Point, and from Herd's Point to Kaihu. This would practically open up all the lands north of Auckland, and I estimate that it would take 230 miles of railway to do it.

Going south from Auckland, via the East Coast, I propose to run a line from Rotorua, via Galatea, to Gisborne, with branches from Gala, tea. to Opotiki and Napier, and also from Galatea to Tokaanu, at the southern end of Lake Taupo, and from Te Aroha to Tauranga. This for the present would complete the south-eastern system, which I estimate at 459 miles.

On the south-west, I propose to carry a line from Mokau to Stratford, and from Taumarunui, on the Upper Wanganui, to Tokaanu. This would complete for the present the southwestern system, and would take 150 miles. Total mileage for the North Island, 839 miles.

The effect of constructing these lines would be to connect even town of amy importance in the North Island. It would also connect the East and West Coasts at the Northern end, and also right across the centre of the island, and put Napier and New Plymouth in direct communication with each other.

This scheme of railway construction has been spoken of as an Auckland affair only, but certainly it would not benefit Auckland so much as it would Taranaki, Hawke's Bay, and Wellington. page 72 Wellington having already secured the inland trade of both the East and West Coasts, would be at once placed in a position to extend her trade right up to Lake Taupo, to Gisborne, and Opotiki. No city would benefit so much by this scheme as Wellington. It certainly would bring her much more than the central route ever can. If carried out it would give to the North Island:—
New lines—839 miles at £2,500 per mile £2,097,000
Lines now open—806 miles, cost 6,759,073

South Island.

As regards the South Island, I propose that we should connect Blenheim with Culverden. Bellgrove with St. Ormond's, Culverden with Reefton. This would join up all the Canterbury, Nelson, and Westland lines, and would require 255 miles.

Further south I would connect Ranfurly with Gladstone, and Lawrence with Gore, 123 miles. This would give the South Island:—
New lines—378 miles at £2,500 per mile £945,000
Lines now open—1,249 miles, cost 10,112,972


North Island lines open, 806 miles; to be added, 839; total mileage, 1,645; total cost, £8,856,073.

South Island lines open, 1,249 miles; to be added, 378 miles; total mileage, 1,627 miles; total cost, £11,057,972, or over two million two hundred thousand pounds more than would be expended in railway construction in the North Island. Therefore, the South cannot complain that this scheme of construction is unfair to it.

In estimating the length of these proposed lines at 1,217 miles, I believe I have considerably exceeded the mileage required. It has been arrived at by the rough and ready process of taking the direct distance, and adding one-third for deflections. I am also certain that they can be constructed and equipped for a less average cost than £2,500 per mile, but taking the mileage and cost as Stated it would be only £3,000,000, and surely it would be worth more than that to join up all the towns and country districts from one end of the colony to the other.

This scheme would certainly benefit the whole colony much more than constructing the North Island Central Railway, and would probably mean little more outlay, while certainly it" would give a tenfold better return.

It will, of course, be opposed by the railway officials. It is altogether too "tin-pot" an affair for them. Whatever you do you must not break the gauge, they say. Why not? I ask. These same gentlemen sing out lustily for roads to act as feeders for their railways. Well, they have the roads, and a dozen drays page 73 back up their loads at the station. Do not they break the gauge? Would it be more broken by a dozen 2ft. 6in. trucks backing up? There is, however, this difference. With the drays it is easy to throw the work and the cost on the owners, but if the light railways were used, then the work and cost would fall on the Railway Department, and would help to increase the working expenses.

Now, the working-expenses of a narrow-gauge railway consumes a much larger proportion of the gross revenue than a broad-gauge line does, up to a certain point—the narrower the gauge, the greater the proportion of revenue consumed in working expenses—but this is far more than made up to the public by the greatly less amount, of capital invested in construction, and consequently the higher rate of interest realised: but while this is a great gain to the public it is in one sense a loss to the Department, for the simple reason that it is not charged with interest on the capital invested in construction. The railway man's test of successful working, is the smallness of the percentage of working expenses to gross revenue, and the narrow-gauge railways would probably increase this percentage, but in these expenses interest is never included. It has been to attain this low percentage of working expenses that since the advent of the late Commissioners our railways have been persistently starved.

Railway officials are very largely imbued with Vanderbilt, sen.'s spirit. Once, when he proposed to do something very outrageous on one of his lines, someone ventured to ask, "But what will the public say?" The reply came quickly, "The public be d—d, let the public take care of themselves. It's my business to look after my railway." This is the spirit in which railways always have been and still are worked. Railway men have had it so ground into them that "railways are commercial institutions and must be made to pay," that they have no other thought than how to make the instrument they use pay at once. The public is never considered, except in so far as money can be immediately extracted from it without any reference to the future. If the interest of the public was really considered, our railways would pay much better.

To construct the lines mentioned on the present gauge (3ft. 6in.) would cost the country £11,945,000, and at 4½ per cent, an annual payment of £537,150, and it would probably take 20 rears to complete their construction.

To construct them on the 2ft. 6in. gauge would, as already stated, cost £3,042,000. and an annual payment of £136,290, or tar, one-fourth the above amount, and they could probably be constructed in six or seven years.

The Rolling Stock.

Most people think that on these 2ft 6in railways the rolling stock must be a very miserable affair. This, however, is not so. page 74 The passenger carriages weigh from 2 tons 5 cwt, to 4 tons 17 cwt, and carry from 2 to 48 passengers.

The goods trucks weigh from tons to 2 tons 17 cwt, and carry loads of from 3¾ to tons.

Will this Scheme of Construction Pay?

If worked on the Stage System it will not only pay, but yield a large profit. If worked on the present no-system, it will greatly increase our loss, but not to the same extent that the present gauge would.

Last advices from home tell us that there are now before the British Parliament, Bills providing for the construction of 500 miles of these railways. If they are good enough for England—and they are expected to do great things there—surely they are good enough for New Zealand. On these distant lines of ours it is not possible that there can be much traffic for many years to come, and when it does come it would be easy work to lift and relay them for branch lines, or, better still, lay another track. If from the first our lines had been 2ft. 6in. gauge, we could have had an up and a down line throughout for less than half the cost of the present lines, and certainly the country would have been better served.

In order to encourage the opening up of the country, I would give to County Councils power to borrow money for the purpose of constructing these narrow-gauge railways. For the construction', maintenance, and working of these county railways, the counties should be responsible. They should also have the right to appoint their own officers and men, and fix their own time tables, and run as many and as few trains as they may think proper. The Government, however, should stipulate that all lines and rolling stock are to be precisely the same as the Government lines, that the charges are to be the same, and that the Government may run on them. Any profit made on these lines to belong to the counties, but to be used for railway construction only.


As I have said elsewhere, in our Government system of education there is too much dead level. How to alter this is a difficult question. Probably something might be done by giving to the masters of our larger schools, more freedom and power in the methods of teaching and in the selection of the books used. It appears to me to be most important to do something to break the present uniformity of teaching, and to endeavour to develope the individual characteristics of the pupils.

Possibly some means might be devised for encouraging and assisting private schools. That parents, in Auckland at any rate, see the necessity for providing something different from the uniform Government system, is evidenced by the large support given page 75 to St. John's, Prince Albert, King's, and Ladies' Colleges, to say nothing of the smaller establishments.

I am a warm advocate of imparting technical education in all the larger schools in the country.

The Upper House.

I am in favour of an Elective Upper House, but I am totally opposed to the constituency being the same that elects the Lower House. In my opinion the Upper House should be elected by the County Councils, Borough Councils, Road Boards, the Universities, Education Boards, Chambers of Commerce, Pastoral Associations, Harbour Boards, Employers' Associations, and Labour Federations. These would represent every class in the community, and they would be composed of the best men in rich class.

How the votes should be apportioned to these bodies would require very careful consideration, and much more information than I have at command. Another question is, should each of these bodies be allowed to send a representative, or should they collectively vote for a certain number of candidates.

Whether the Upper House remains a nominated chamber or is elected as proposed above, I am very strongly of opinion that its members ought to be elected for life.

Disenfranchisement of Wellington.

The question arises whether the time has not arrived when Wellington city and district ought, in the interests of the whole colony, to be disenfranchised, and placed in the same position as the district of Columbia, in the United States of America.

The enormous growth and concentration of the Civil Service in Wellington, and the way that service is being manipulated and coerced in the interests of the present Government, render it necessary that, this step should be taken in order to secure good government, a pure administration of justice, and the real welfare of the civil servants themselves, while the selfishness of the leading men of Wellington, their strenuous efforts to concentrate everything worth having in that city, and to make the whole colony subservient to its interests, show that the time has come when this power should be taken out of their hands.

decorative feature

page 76

The Federation of Literary Associations.

Thinking over our social conditions, and the forces among us that might be utilised for the public good, it has often occurred to me that in the various literary associations with which this city and some other parts of the colony abound we have a large amount of ability and energy, which, so far as practical results are concerned, may be said to be largely wasted.

There can be no doubt that these associations are exercising a good educational, influence on our young people, but they seem to have no higher aspiration than this. They might do much more. Among them they embrace not only the very ablest of our young men and women, but many in middle life and more advanced in years; yet what influence have they upon the public mind, or the actions of our Government, or of our public men None whatever.

My idea is this: These societies should federate. Their relative positions should be ascertained—as I believe is done now—by public competitive debates. Then before the final close of [unclear: t] session the committees of the two premier societies should meet and select three or four of the most prominent of the political or other social topics of the day, and cause these subjects to be debated during the next session by all the federated associations, to the exclusion, if necessary, of all other subjects, and the annual competitive debates should be on one or more of the subjects so selected.

By this means many hundreds of people, probably thousands, would be discussing all over the country, and at the same time, the same problems. This could not fail to have an educating influence on the public mind. We sadly want, some school in which to educate our future statesmen. We have none now. An organisation like this might, do something towards supplying the want.

It might be commenced as a provincial affair, and in time extended into a colonial institution. This would lead to the great questions of the day being discussed in circles where every class is represented, and where the political demagogue would have but little influence. We certainly want some means of creating a healthy public opinion on social questions.

The effect, too, would certainly be to largely increase the number of these associations, to bring into them older and more experienced men and women, and to give them a standing and an influence they have not hitherto had. They would become a power in the State. When we remember the influence exercised page 77 on public opinion in the 16th century by those not over-refined institutions, the Rhetoric Clubs, we surely may reasonably expect that combined action by our literary associations would have a beneficial influence now.

Our great want in all social matters is leaders. How many really prominent men have we! In Parliament, in politics, in the professions, even in trade and commerce, as compared with the men of 50 years ago, they are conspicuous by their absence, and this seems to me to be more prominently the case with regard to our young men. It is all too much dead level—all wanting to be masters, and few, very few, able to lead.

We are not alone in this matter. We see the same thing in Australia, and to a large extent in America, and notably in France. Why is this, and what are the causes that have led to such a result?

My opinion is that here the main causes are: The influence of our educational system, and the influence of trades unionism, and our labour laws. In France it is probably due to militarism more than anything else. They are all soldiers, and soldiers require but few leaders.

Our educational system as a national system is perhaps not capable of very much improvement, but when you have hundreds of schools—almost our only schools—all teaching the same subjects, all having the same standards of excellence, all working in the same grooves of thought and action:, the effect must be to cramp individual development, to stifle genius.

It was recognising these facts that led me during the election contest, of 1887 to advocate subsidising and encouraging private schools, and I still think this ought to be done. Private schools have each their different methods and different, standards, which certainly tends more to develop originality of character than win possibly be done in public schools, where the methods and the standards of excellence are the same throughout. In private schools, more especially boarding schools, which generally are smaller than our public schools, the teachers also have much better opportunities of studying and developing the individual characteristics of their pupils.

Then, trades unionism. While these unions have without doubt done a great deal of good in the past by compelling employers to deal more justly with the employed, yet their levelling tendency and their destruction of individual excellence cannot be denied. One of their great objects is to secure to the most inferior man the same pay and the same position as that accorded to the very best. Such a system must tend to destroy superiority in workers of every class and reduce them all to a dead level of mediocrity.

How is this evil to be met and counteracted? The only way that I can see is to give more efficient protection and encouragement to the free workers, and to do away with the abominable page 78 Seddonian provision in our labour laws, giving precedence of employment to union men.

It is scarcely possible to estimate the degrading influence that the introduction of this provision into our labour Acts will have on our working classes. What it means is, that the veriest idler and loafer who can manage to pay his subscription to a trade union, must be employed in preference to the best man or woman outside of the unions. No free man or woman is to be allowed to earn a living if the "Great Liberal Party" can by any means prevent them. The object, of course, is to try and drive them all into the unions, so that their votes may be more easily manipulated by the political demagogues.

My object just now, however, is not to discuss labour unions and labour laws, but to point, out their tendency to drag everything and everybody down to the lowest level of mediocrity, and to show the necessity of bringing some influence, to bear to counteract this undesirable state of things.

What, of course, is wanted, more than anything else, is the diffusion of knowledge. We want to get a more general and a more intelligent discussion and investigation of the great social questions of the day.

We want some organisations which will drag out of the common level rut the more active minds among us, and convert them into leaders of public opinion, real intelligent leaders of men. Somebody may, and I hope will, be able to show a better plan than I have suggested.

I think that what is wanted, in the first place, is a federation, not an amalgamation, but federation of the various literary associations, mutual improvement societies, and parliamentary unions. If these were worked on the plan indicated, I believe they would soon embrace among them most of our ablest men and women, both young and old, for they would feel that they were exercising a real influence on public thought and action, an influence that must be for good.

It will be curious to note in the future how many leading men and women have been educated in the Government schools.

decorative feature