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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 10 (February 1, 1930)

World Affairs

page 10

World Affairs

Wars and their antidotes held the stage in January. London tried to prune navies. Speed limits may disappear from street warfare. Unemployment intensifies the problem of warring tariffs and troubled stock exchanges. In a month of air-crashes Chichester provides a bright spot.

* * *

Pruning of Navies.

In any survey of world events for January, first place must of course be given to the world-conference that met in London to try to reduce naval armaments. As publicists like Hilaire Belloc have declared that the Anglo-American preliminary conversations mean an Anglo-American understanding by which Britain accepts naval dependence on the United States, and in return is promised the suppression of submarines (carrying with it restoration of Britain's mastery of the Mediterranean), it is easy to gauge the impression caused by a published statement that the conference had decided not to discuss submarine-abolition. But the statement was promptly denied by the British official spokesman, and at present there is a general outcry against publishers of canards. Whether the conference will produce results cannot at the moment be foreseen. One eloquent incident, following the assertion of British insularity, is Signor Grandi's discovery that Italy is “almost an island.” Prime Minister MacDonald emphasises the dispersion of the British fleets in many seas. He did not mention that in 1904–14 the German threat called them home. The aim now is to see that such a North Sea concentration is never again necessary.

Motor War and the Hospitals.

War between the nations may or may not come, but the war of the street goes on for ever. Newspapers in most countries of the world express amazement at the motor traffic toll in killed and injured. A Bill before the House of Commons provides for the abolition of the speed limit for light motor cars and motor cycles. That is to say, the authors of the Bill consider that street safety is not to be insured by speed limits, and they prefer to rely on penalties for “dangerous driving” and for a lesser offence to be called “careless driving.” Whether motorists who break the speed limits will be able to break these new driving laws with equal impunity and immunity will be practically tested if Parliament passes the Bill. Meanwhile the compulsory insurance provisions of the Bill have given rise to a claim by hospitals for some participation in the benefits thereof. Not only has modern motor traffic created a host of new accidents, but, being peripatetic, it scatters its victims throughout the length and breadth of the land, creating cot cases in districts where there are few cots, overcrowding the local hospitals, and squeezing out residents with first claim on such hospitals. Moreover, “the gratitude of these motor patients to the hospitals rarely takes the form of cash, page 11 even when they have obtained compensation for their personal injuries.” Perhaps such complaints are not unknown in New Zealand.

* * *

Tariff Promise to Argentina.

Press cablegrams received in New Zealand did not reflect the sensation caused in Empire preference circles in Britain when the Argentine Government announced that the British Government, in return for Argentine tariff concessions on British artificial silk, had undertaken that “any protective duties or restrictions which may in future be levied by Great Britain on foodstuffs originating in countries outside the British Empire will not be levied against Argentine meats and grains.” The cablegrams did not mention that Mr. Amery, who was for some years secretary to the Dominions in the last Conservative Government, said that any such undertaking given by the British Government to the Argentine Government “ought to be fought tooth and nail by those who cared about Empire trade.” Nor did the cablegrams mention a further statement by the Argentine semiofficial journal “La Epoca” that the British Ambassador had promised to submit to the British Government a proposal by the Argentine Government that the undertaking should be extended to include dairy products and fruit—export lines in which New Zealand is especially concerned. British tariff reformers who seek to put duties on foreign-produced foods, in order to encourage Empire-grown foods, object to any promise by a British Government to exempt a foreign country from such duties. They do not admit that a promise to put Argentine on an equal tariff basis with Empire units is binding on any future Government.

* * *

Politics Faced by Hunger.

While persons imbued with the national spirit call for tariffs, and internationalists call for abolition of tariffs, the unemployment that both dread tends to increase. Financial-commercial depression now includes the United States. It is admitted that politicians have so far failed to deal radically with unemployment, and it is being more and more recognised that there must be closer co-operation between politicians and practical economists. A difficulty at present is that politicians are not always economic and that economists are not always politic. Yet co-operation is increasing. It manifested itself in the United States when President Hoover (a President has greater powers of initiative than a Prime Minister) called in the heads of private business in direct conference to devise means to avert or moderate the unemployment and distress likely to result from the New York Stock Exchange collapse, with its immense monetary losses, plus its bad moral effect. The British expression of the same movement is found in Prime Minister MacDonald's decision to appoint a National Economic Committee. Everywhere it is being recognised that politics and economics can no longer be kept in separate compartments. The MacDonald Government also hopes to find some relief for bad trade in an international agreement to reduce tariffs and trade barriers. It is noteworthy, however, that Geneva cabled on 19th December that Australia and South Africa had both advised the League of Nations of “their refusal to participate in the tariff truce conference.”

* * *

Gambling and Fraud Losses.

The depth of the reaction of stock exchange disturbances on the general commercial and industrial life of a modern highly commercialized country has still to be plumbed. Stock exchange disturbances of two kinds are before the world—those caused by frenzied speculation, and those caused by criminal dishonesty, such as has earned Hatry fourteen years’ penal servitude. The proposal to charge the bankers as accessories has not materialised. Evidence was given of a deficiency of thirteen millions in Hatry's affairs, of which, it is said, only about three-quarters of a million falls on the public. Financial writers pronounce 1929 a bad year. Five hundred millions is the small sum representing the decline of stock and share values during the year, according to the “Daily Express,” which mentions the Hatry affair and the depreciations in Inveresk papers, Royal Mail Steam Packets, etc., and writes: “No year within memory has been fraught with such disasters.” But the close of the year was somewhat brightened by the reduction of the Bank of England rediscount rate. to 5 per cent. As a borrowing country, as a remote land whose trade and finance are washed by the waves sent out from Europe and America, as a fly which, even on the rim of the wheel, feels the centripetal pull, New Zealand is vitally interested in all these events at the world centres.

page 12

Trusted and Perhaps “Busted.”

If the Roman Empire had had a daily newspaper press, therein would the historians have looked for the seeds, signs, and evolution of the decline and fall. So one can imagine a future Gibbon examining with particular care the daily and periodical publications of the English-speaking world from Addison and Steele to date. And nowhere would he find a greater change than in the daily press of the Twentieth Century, once trusted, now Trusted. But publicity chains have had a bump on the London Stock Exchange through the failure of the Inveresk paper group to fulfil the financial expectations formed by shareholders concerning this linking-up. The group is both provincial and metropolitan in character, and the journalistic Napoleon in this case is an Inveresk lawyer, who has now resigned his chairmanship. The cablegram (19th December), containing this information regards the Inveresk set-back as “a city sensation of the first magnitude”; the shares were 13/9 on that date, and earlier in the year had touched 67/6. Preference dividends are postponed. Naturally, considerable noise is created by any failure to keep trust with preference shareholders whose capital (at 7 or 8 or 9 per cent.), enables these combines to be brought off.
The Fine New Waterfront Rail Approach To Auckland. The Westfield deviation, over which goods trains are now running daily in and out of Auckland.

The Fine New Waterfront Rail Approach To Auckland.
The Westfield deviation, over which goods trains are now running daily in and out of Auckland.

But the larger question is whether journalism in general is keeping trust with the public as a whole. On that point no stock exchange verdict is obtainable, and a Gibbon judgment may arrive rather late. In the British periodical world the Edinburgh Review, famous for the writings of many classics from Lamb to Macaulay and Matthew Arnold, has recently died. The “Morning Post,” subject of Macaulay's invective, survives on the rock of Toryism, oldest of London's newspapers, dating from 1772. When the Nineteenth Century was born the poet Coleridge was lifting a decadent “Morning Post” to high eminence by his writings. “Mr. Coleridge's essays in the ‘Morning Post’,” said Fox, in the House of Commons, “led to the rupture of the Treaty of Amiens.” Where is the Twentieth Century Coleridge? What is his place in up-to-the-minute daily journalism? Has he a place?

* * *

No account, however brief, of recent world events should conclude without a tribute to airman Chichester, “the amateur of aeronautics,” for his untrumpeted solo flight, across Europe, Africa and Asia, from England to Australia. Considering the capacity of the machine and the flying experience of its owner, this New Zealander has put up a new record in performance, if not in hours and minutes.