The Long White Cloud
Chapter XXV — The Experimental Laws
The Experimental Laws
For I remember stopping by the way
To watch a potter thumping his wet clay.
Now for a short summary of the more important of the experimental laws passed by the Liberals in the eight years referred to in the previous chapter and of subsequent amendments to them. Roughly speaking, these related to (1) Finance; (2) Constitutional Reform; (3) Labour. [The Land and Liquor Laws have been given in another chapter.] One of the first strokes delivered was against the Property Tax. This, the chief direct tax of the Dominion, was an annual impost of Id. in the £ on the capital value of every citizen's possessions, less his debts and an exemption of £500. Its friends claimed for this tax that it was no respecter of persons, but was simple, even-handed, and efficient. The last it certainly was, bringing as it did into the Treasury annually about as many thousands as there are days in the year. But inasmuch as different kinds of property are by no means equally profitable, and therefore the ability of owners to pay is by no means equal, the simplicity of the Property Tax was not by many thought equity. The shopkeeper, taxed on unsaleable stock, the manufacturer paying on plant and buildings as much in good years as in bad, bethought them that under an Income Tax they would at any rate escape in bad seasons when their income might be less or nothing. The comfortable professional man or well-paid business manager paid nothing on their substantial and regular incomes. The working-farmer settling in the desert felt that for every pound's worth of improvements made by muscle and money he would have to account to the tax-collector at the page 309 next assessment. Nevertheless the Conservative politicians rallied round the doomed tax. It was a good machine for raising indispensable revenue. Moreover, it did not select any class of property-owners or any description of property for special burdens. This suited the landowners, who dreaded a Land Tax, for might not a Land Tax contain the germ of that nightmare of the larger colonial landowner—the Single Tax? It suited also the wealthy, who feared graduated taxation, and the lawyers, doctors, agents, and managing directors, whose incomes it did not touch. So when in the autumn the rumour went round that the Ballance Ministry meant to abolish the Property Tax and bring forward Bills embodying a Progressive Land Tax and Progressive Income Tax, the proposal was thought to represent the audacity of impudence or desperation. When the rumour proved true, it was predicted that the farmers throughout the length and breadth of the country would rise in wrath and terror, scared by the very name of Land Tax. Nevertheless Parliament passed the Bills, with the addition of a light Absentee Tax. The smaller farmers, at any rate, took the appeals of the Property Taxers with apathy, suspecting that under a tax on bare land values they would pay less than under a Property Tax which fell on land, improvements, and live-stock as well. Since 1891, therefore, progression or graduation has been in New Zealand a cardinal principle of direct taxation.
The system of Land Taxation introduced in 1891 was a double one of ordinary and graduated Land Tax. There was total exemption up to £500 in value, and on all land over that value ordinary Land Tax at the rate of Id. in the £ was payable. Graduated tax began on holdings worth £5,000. At that stage it was an eighth of a penny, and by progressive stages it rose until on estates assessed at £210,000 it was 2d.1page 310
Another law authorized local governing bodies to levy their rates on bare land values. Three times the Bill passed the Lower House, only to be rejected in the Upper. It became law in 1896. The adoption of the principle permitted by it is hedged about by various restrictions, but over 40 per cent. of the local bodies have now voted in favour of it.
The unexampled and, till 1895, continuous fall of prices in the European markets made it hard for colonial producers to make both ends meet. The cultivator found his land depreciated because, though he grew more than before, he got less for it. As the volume of produce swelled, so the return for it sank as by some fatal compensation. To pay the old rates of interest was for the mortgaged farmer, therefore, an impossibility. Various schemes for using the credit of the State to reduce current rates of interest had been before the public in more than one colony. The scheme of the New Zealand Government was established under the Advances to Settlers Act, 1894. Under it a State Board might lend Government money on leasehold and freehold security, but not on urban or suburban land, unless occupied for farming or market-gardening. The loan might amount to three-fifths of the value of the security when freehold, and one-half when leasehold. The rate of interest charged was 5 per cent., but the borrower paid at the rate of 6 per cent. in half-yearly instalments, the extra 1 per cent, being by way of gradual repayment of the page 311 principal. Mortgagees in this way had to repay the principal in 73 half-yearly instalments, provided they cared to remain indebted so long. If able to wipe off their debts sooner, they could do so. The Act came into force in October 1894. Machinery for carrying it out was quickly set up; applications for loans came in freely, and a million was soon lent. The scope of the Act has since been considerably extended and is now embodied in the State Advances Act, 1913. It authorizes the borrowing of moneys for the purpose of lending to settlers, workers, and local authorities, and from the inception of the scheme advances totalling more than twenty-five millions have been made. Indeed, in the five years ending in March 1924, advances amounting to eleven and a half millions were authorized by the administrators of the Act.
With one exception, the constitutional changes of these eight years might be dismissed in a very few words. The Upper Chamber, or Legislative Council of New Zealand, is nominative and not elective, nor is there any fixed limit to its numbers. It should be stated, however, that by the Legislative Council Act, 1914, there is now provision for an elective Council, but its introduction has been postponed from time to time, so that the old system is still in force. Prior to 1891, the nominations in New Zealand were for life. This was objected to for two reasons. A Councillor, who at the age of sixty might be a valuable adviser, might twelve years later be but the shadow of his former self. Moreover, experience showed that Conservatism was apt to strengthen in the nominated legislator's mind with advancing years. So a seven years' tenure has been substituted for life tenure. Then, again, in 1891 the Liberal majority in the Dominion was scarcely represented in the Council at all. In important divisions, Government measures passed by decisive majorities in the popular Chamber could only muster two, three, four, or five supporters in the Council. This not only meant that a hostile majority could reject and amend as it pleased, but that measures were not even fairly debated in the Upper House. Only one side was heard. In 1892 the Ballance Ministry, therefore, asked the Governor to call twelve fresh Councillors. The Governor very unreasonably refused to appoint so many. As there was about to be a change of page 312 Governors the matter stood over. The new Governor proved even more stubborn than his predecessor. Ballance held that in this matter, as in others, the constitutional course was for the Governor to take the advice of his Ministers. His Excellency thought otherwise. By consent the matter was referred to the Colonial Office, where Lord Ripon decided in favour of the Premier. Twelve new Councillors were nominated. Though this submission to the arbitration of the Colonial Office was attacked not only by colonial Conservatives, but by Sir George Grey, it was highly approved of both by the Lower House and the mass of the electors, and was regarded as one of Ballance's most important successes.
Another he did not live to see achieved. His Electoral Bill, wrecked twice in the Council, was only passed some months after his death. Under it the one-man-one-vote was carried to its complete issue by the clause providing for one man one registration; that is to say, that no voter could register on more than one roll. Consequently property-owners were not only cut down to one vote in one district at a General Election, but were prevented from voting in another district at a by-election. The right to vote by letter was extended from seamen to shearers. But much the greatest extension of the franchise was the giving it to women. This was a curious example of a remarkable constitutional change carried by a Parliament at the election of which the question had scarcely been discussed. Labour, Land, and Progressive Taxation had been so entirely the ascendant questions at the General Election of 1890 that it came as a surprise to most to learn next year that the House of Representatives was in favour of women's suffrage. Even then it was not generally supposed that the question would be settled. Sir John Hall, however, its consistent friend, brought it up in the House, and Ballance, an equally earnest supporter, at once accepted it. After that, the only doubts as to its becoming law sprang from the attitude of the Legislative Council and from the scruples of certain persons who thought that so great a change should be definitely submitted to the constituencies. Feeling was both strengthened and exacerbated by the enthusiasm of the Prohibition lodges, some of whose members at the same time demanded that the Government should pass the measure, and emphati- page 313 cally assured everyone that its passing would forthwith bring about the Government's downfall and damnation. There is no doubt that many of the Ministry's opponents believed this, and that to their mistake was due the escape of the Bill in the Council. It was passed on the eve of the General Elections by the narrowest possible majority. The rush of the women on to the rolls; the interest taken by them in the elections; the peaceable and orderly character of the contests; and the Liberal majority returned at the succeeding General Elections are all matters of New Zealand history.
It is as true in 1924 as it was in 1898 to say that most of the women voters show as yet no disposition to follow the clergy in assailing the national system of free, secular, and compulsory education. They clearly favour temperance reform, but are not yet unanimous for total prohibition. On the whole, the most marked feature of their use of the franchise is their tendency to agree with their menkind. Families, as a rule, vote together, and the women of any class or section are swayed by its interests, prejudices, or ideals to just about the same extent as the males thereof. Thus, the friends and relatives of merchants and professional men, large landowners, or employers of labour, usually vote on one side; factory girls, domestic servants, wives of labourers, miners, artisans, or small farmers, on the other. Schoolmistresses are as decidedly for secular education as are schoolmasters. Since 1919 women have had the right to sit in Parliament, but no woman has yet been elected. They are not permitted to sit among the august members of the Legislative Council, though the Government introduced a Bill to give them that privilege. Even now, perhaps, the right of every adult woman to vote is more remarkable for what it has not brought about than for what it has. It has not broken up existing parties, unsexed women, or made them quarrel with their husbands, or neglect their households. It has not interfered with marriage, or society, or the fashion of dress. They do less platform-speaking than Englishwomen do, though many of them study public affairs—about which, to say truth, they have much to learn. Observers outside the Dominion need not suppose that New Zealand women are in the least degree either “wild,” or “new,” or belong to any shrieking sisterhood. Though one page 314 or two have entered learned professions, most of them are engaged in domestic duties. Those who go out into the world do so to work unassumingly as school teachers, factory hands, or household servants. As school teachers they are usually efficient, as domestic servants civil and hard-working, as factory hands neat, industrious, and moral. It is true that they are, without exception, educated to the extent of having had at least good primary school teaching. But though they read—clean, healthy English books—this, so far from making them inclined to favour frantic or immoral social experiments, should have, one may hope, just the opposite effect. Far from being a spectacled, angular, hysterical, uncomfortable race, perpetually demanding extravagant changes in shrill tones, they are, at least, as distinguished for womanly modesty, grace, and affection as Englishwomen in any other part of the Empire.
There were some who connected the appearance of women in the political arena with the passing of an Infants' Life Protection Act, the raising of the age of consent, the admission of women to the Bar, the appointment of female inspectors to lunatic asylums, factories, and other institutions, improvements in the laws dealing with Adoption of Children and Industrial Schools, a severe law against the keepers of houses of ill-fame, and with the Liquor laws and the Prohibitionist movement which is so prominent a feature of New Zealand public life.
Of the Labour Acts passed, it may be said that their aim was not the abolition of the wages system, but, as far as might be, to make that system fair and tolerable, and in protecting the labourer to protect the fair employer. Of these an Employers' Liability Act resembled Mr. Asquith's—at that time—ill-fated Bill. Worked in conjunction with a law for the inspection of machinery and a thorough-going system of factory inspection, it lessened accidents without leading to litigation. It neither permitted contracting-out nor allowed employers to escape liability by means of letting out contracts.
A Truck Act declared the right of every wage-earner to be paid promptly, in full, in the current coin of the realm, and to be allowed to spend wages as they choose. Two more enactments dealt with the earnings of the workmen of contractors page 315 and sub-contractors, made them a first charge on all contract money, gave workers employed on works of construction a lien thereon, and compelled a contractor's employer to hold back at least one-fourth of the contract money for a month after the completion of a contract, unless he were satisfied that all workmen concerned had been paid in full. A Wages Attachment Act limited without entirely abolishing a creditor's right to obtain orders of court attaching forthcoming earnings.
The Factories Act of 1894, slightly extended by an amending Act in 1896, consolidated and improved upon no less than four previous measures, two of which had been passed by the Ballance Government. As compared with similar European and American laws, it could fairly claim to be advanced and minute. Under its pivot clause all workshops, where two or more persons were occupied, were declared to be factories, must register, pay an annual fee, and submit to inspection at any hour of the night or day. A master and servant working together counted as two hands. Inspectors had absolute power to demand such cubic space, ventilation, and sanitary arrangements generally as they might consider needful to preserve life and health. The factory age was fixed at fourteen; half-timers were not allowed; and the Upper House was induced to pass a clause enforcing an education test before any child under fifteen should be allowed to go to factory work. This was but logical in a country wherein primary education is not only free, but compulsory. Children under sixteen had to be certified by an inspector to be physically fit for factory life. Women and children under eighteen might not work before 7.45 a.m. or after 6 p.m., nor more than forty-eight hours per week. Whether time-workers or piece-workers, they were equally entitled to the half-holiday after 1 p.m. on Saturday. In the case of time-workers, this half-holiday had to be granted without deduction of wages. The rates of pay and hours of work in factories had to be publicly notified and returned to the inspectors. Overtime might be permitted by inspectors on twenty-eight days a year, but overtime pay had to be not less than 6d. an hour extra. The factory-owners who sent work out had to make complete returns thereof. All clothing made outside factories for sale had to be ticketed “tenement made,” and any person removing page 316 the ticket before sale might be fined. No home-work might be sublet. A peculiar feature in the Act related to the board and lodging provided on sheep stations for the nomadic bands of shearers who traverse colonies, going from wool-shed to wool-shed during the shearing season. The huts in which these men live were placed under the factory inspectors, who had power to call upon station-owners to make them decent and comfortable. The Act had clauses insisting on the provision of a separate dining-room for women workers, of fire-escapes, and protection against dangerous machinery. Girls under fifteen might not work as type-setters; young persons of both sexes are shut out of certain dangerous trades; women may not work in factories within a month after their confinement. Such were the leading features of the Factories Act. The Factories Act has been amended and consolidated from time to time, the most recent consolidation being in 1922. Its provisions cover the whole field of the conditions of employment in factories and constitute what is officially claimed to be “one of the most complete and perfect laws to be found in the statute-book of any country.”
The laws which regulated retail shops did not aim at securing what is known as early closing. A weekly half-holiday for all, employer and employed alike; a fifty-four hours' working week for women and young persons; seats for shop-girls, and liberty to use them; sanitary inspection of shops. These were the objects of those who framed the Acts, and these have been attained. Under a special section merchants' offices must close at 5 p.m. during two-thirds of each month. On the weekly half-holiday shops in towns must be closed at 10'clock, but each town chooses its own day for closing. Nearly all choose Wednesday or Thursday, so as not to interfere with the Saturday market-day of the farmers. Much feeling was stirred up by the passing of this Act, but it has since entirely died away.
Until 1894 the legal position of Trade Unionists in New Zealand was much less enviable than that of their brethren in England. The English Act of 1875 repealing the old Labour Conspiracy law and modifying the common law doctrine relating thereto, had never been enacted in New Zealand. The Intimidation law (6 George IV) was still in force throughout page 317 Australasia; the common law doctrine relating thereto had not been in any way softened. Only a few years before Australian Trade Unionists had found the old English law unexpectedly hunted up for the purpose of putting them into gaol. Three short clauses and a schedule, passed in 1894, swept from the statute-book and the common law of New Zealand all laws and doctrines specially relating to conspiracy among members of Trades Unions, who from that time became amenable only to such conspiracy laws as affected all citizens.
In New Zealand most domestic servants and many farm hands and gardeners are engaged through Servants' Registry Offices. A law, passed in 1895 provides for the inspection of these, and regulates the fees charged therein. Office-keepers have to be of good character; have to register and take out a licence; have to keep books and records which are officially inspected. They are not allowed to keep lodging-houses or to have any interest in such houses.
To certain students the most interesting of the New Zealand Labour laws will always be that which endeavours to settle Labour disputes between employers and Trade Unions by means of public arbitration instead of the old-time methods of the strike and the lock-out. One may doubt whether any law enacted in a small and distant community has been quite so widely attacked. The Act, or some imitation of it, has been belittled by Oxford Professors, Russian Bolsheviks, French Socialists, and old-fashioned Trade Unionists in England and America, by the Supreme Court of the United States, The Times, and Mr. Ramsay MacDonald. That it should have held its ground for thirty years and be in full operation in New Zealand to-day is some tribute to its vital principles. It has been called an assertion of State Control over private enterprise. The answer to that is, that it is not open to the ordinary objections to State Control. It does not involve bureaucratic administration; it does not bring in political interference. Furthermore, if Capital and Labour object to arbitration they can settle their differences in their own way provided they do not hold up industry, and by so doing make the public suffer. Unions again may refuse to register under the Act. Some do refuse: hence most of such strikes as there are. That arbitration awards lead to grumbling does not prove page 318 that they are unjust; it is more likely to be evidence that they are fair. The stronger party in a labour dispute always imagines that it could have done better by fighting. The awards of the New Zealand Arbitration Court and Boards show on the whole great care, a sense of responsibility, and a spirit of equity. In the month of September 1923 several hundred awards and agreements made under the Arbitration Act were being observed in the Dominion. It is just as well to note this, because the only news of New Zealand labour matters that ever appears in English newspapers is that of an occasional strike. Strikes in New Zealand, however, do not assume the magnitude of a national evil. A careful analysis of the magnitude of labour conflicts in New Zealand during the last thirty years, by which is meant the number of men who have lost wages and the extent to which employers have lost working time, is a triumphant vindication of the usefulness of the Arbitration Act. No other civilized country where labour is organized can show anything like such comforting figures. If these results had been obtained by reducing labour's standard of well-being, they would give no real cause for congratulation. But the standard has not been reduced. The condition of New Zealand labour since 1894 has been in every way better than it was before. If workmen there do not know that they are on the whole better off than their fellows elsewhere, then they ought to know it: it is true.
Under this statute, which was passed in 1894, the Trade Unions of the Dominion were given the right to become corporate bodies able to sue and be sued. In each industrial locality a Board of Conciliation was set up, composed equally of representatives of employers and workmen, with an impartial chairman. Disputes between Trade Unions and employers —the Act dealt with no others—were referred first of all to these Boards. The exclusion of disputes between individuals, or between unorganized workmen and their masters, was grounded on the belief that such disputes were apt to be neither stubborn nor mischievous enough to call for State interference. Unfortunately, however, the workers who remained outside the Act organized themselves for their own purposes and caused considerable industrial trouble later. At page 319 the request of any party to an industrial dispute the District Board could call all other parties before it, and could hear, examine, and recommend. It was armed with complete powers for taking evidence and compelling attendance. Its award, however, was not enforceable at law, but was merely in the nature of friendly advice. If all or any of the parties refused to accept it, an appeal lay to the Central Court of Arbitration, composed of a judge of the Supreme Court sitting with two assessors representing Capital and Labour respectively. The trio were appointed for three years, and in default of crime or insanity could only be removed by statute. Their Court could not be appealed from, and their procedure was not fettered by precedent. No disputant might employ counsel unless all agreed to do so. The decisions of this Court were binding in law, and might be enforced by pains and penalties. When the arbitration law had been in active operation for about three years there had been in all some thirty-five labour disputes successfully settled. As a rule, the decisions of the Local Conciliation Boards were not accepted. Either some of the parties refused to concur, or some of the recommendations were objected to by all those on one side or the other. In nearly all cases the awards of the Arbitration Court were quietly submitted to.
As to the kind of questions arbitrated upon, they comprised most of the hard nuts familiar to students of the labour problem. Among them were hours of labour, holidays, the amount of day wages, the price to be paid for piece-work, the proportion of apprentices to skilled artisans, the facilities to be allowed to Trade Union officials for interviews with members, the refusal of Unionists to work with non-Union men, and the pressure exerted by employees to induce workmen to join private benefit societies. A New Zealand employer, it might be mentioned, could not take himself outside the Act of discharging his Union hands, or even by gradually ceasing to engage Union men, and then pleading that he had none left in his employ. A Union, whose members were at variance with certain employers in a trade, might bring all the local employees engaged in that trade into court, so that the same award might be binding on the whole trade in the district.
Most of the references at this period were anything but page 320 trivial affairs, either as to the numbers of workmen concerned or the value of the industries, or importance of the points in dispute. It is wrong to suppose that the operation of the Act was confined to industries protected by high Customs duties or to workers in factories. It might be applied wherever workers were members of legally constituted bodies, set up either under the Trade Union Act or under the Arbitration Statute itself. Unions who wanted to make use of it registered under it; and the majority of them did so. Trade Unions who did not specially register might nevertheless be brought before the Arbitration Court by the employers of their members. The Act met with a remarkable measure of success. The Trade Unions were enthusiastic believers in it—rather too enthusiastic, indeed, for they showed a tendency to make too frequent a use of it. But some of their officials would have done well to have been more brief and businesslike in the conduct of cases. On the other hand, employers in most of the localities made a serious mistake in refusing to elect representatives for the local Conciliation Boards, thus forcing the Government to nominate members. This weakened the Boards, hindered them from having the conciliatory character they ought to have had, and led in part to frequent appeals to the Central Court of which the employers themselves complained. Public opinion in New Zealand had all along been prepared to give this important experiment a fair trial, and was quite ready to have incidental difficulties cured by reasonable amendment. In course of time various amendments became necessary, and in four or five years there has been trouble, but as it had only been in operation for a little more than three years during the period now under notice, a review of its subsequent history will be reserved for a later chapter.
The Shipping and Seamen's Act, 1894, was another piece of legislation passed during these eight years. It mitigated the old-fashioned severity of punishments for refusal of duty, assaults on the high seas, and other nautical offences. The forecastle and the accommodation thereof became subject to the fiat of the Government inspector, as if a factory on shore. Regular payment of wages was stipulated for, overcrowding amongst passengers was forbidden. Complete powers were given to the marine authorities to enforce not only a full page 321 equipment of life-boats and life-saving appliances, but boat-drill. Deck loading was restricted, and the Plimsoll mark insisted on. But the portion of the Act which gave rise to the intensest opposition was the proviso by which all sailing vessels are obliged to carry a certain complement of able seamen and ordinary seamen, according to their tonnage, while steamers must carry a given number of able seamen, ordinary seamen, firemen, trimmers, and greasers, according to their horse-power. Foreign vessels, while engaging in the New Zealand coasting-trade, had to pay their crews the rate of wages current on the coast. Parliament was warned that the passing of this Act would paralyse the trade of the Dominion, but passed it was—with certain not unreasonable amendments —and trade goes on precisely as before.
In 1891, moreover, the colonial laws relating to mining generally, and to coal-mining especially, were consolidated and amended. An interesting feature in the New Zealand Coal Mines' Act was the provision by which mine-owners have to contribute to a fund for the relief of miners or the families of miners in cases where men are injured or killed at work. Every quarter the owners have to pay a halfpenny per ton on all coal sold. Payment is made into the nearest Post Office Savings Bank and goes to the credit of an account called “The Coal Miners' Relief Fund.” From 1891 mineral rights have been reserved in lands thereafter alienated by the Crown.
Most of the Labour laws were and still are watched and administered by the Department of Labour, a branch of the public service created in 1891. It also keeps labour statistics, acts as a servants' registry office, and by publishing information, and by shifting them from congested districts, endeavours to keep down the numbers of the unemployed. In this, though it is but a palliative, it has done useful and humane work, aided—so far as the circulation of labour goes—by the State-owned railways.
From what has gone before, readers will readily understand that the New Zealand Government has usually in its employ several thousand labourers engaged in road-making, bridge-building, draining, and in erecting and repairing public buildings. To avoid the faults of both the ordinary contract and the day-wage system, a plan, clumsily called the Co- page 322 operative Contract System, was adopted during the Premiership of Mr. Seddon. It has worked so effectively that there has been practically no change in the system since its inauguration. The work is cut up into small sections, the workmen group themselves in little parties of from four to eight men, and each party is offered a section at a fair price estimated by the Government's engineers. Material, when wanted, is furnished by the Government, and the tax-payer thus escapes the frauds and adulteration of old contract days. The result of the system in practice is that where workmen are of, at any rate, average industry and capacity, they made good, sometimes excellent, wages. In effect they are groups of piece-workers, whose relation with each other is that of partners. Each band elects a trustee, with whom the Government officials deal. They are to a large extent their own masters, and work without being driven by the contractor's foreman. They are not encouraged to work more than eight hours a day; but as what they get depends on what they do, they do not dawdle during those hours, and if one man in a group should prove a loafer, his comrades, who have to suffer for his laziness, can get rid of him. The tendency is for first-class men to join together, and for second-class men to similarly arrange themselves. Sometimes, of course, the officers, in making estimates of the price to be paid for work, make mistakes, and men will earn extravagantly high wages, or get very poor returns. But as the sections are small, this does not last for long, and the balance is redressed. After many years' experience, it seems fairly proved that the average of earnings is not extravagant, and that the tax-payer loses nothing by the arrangement as compared with the old contract system, while the change is highly popular with workmen throughout the Dominion.
The co-operative public works system has always operated to a great extent as a safeguard against unemployment. In bad times the Labour Department has usually managed to draft the unemployed from a distressed district to the various construction works in the country. Moreover, when unemployment becomes accentuated in the regular industries the national works of construction are more actively proceeded with. Thus the unskilled labourer has seldom been without hope of work, and even in the more troublous days since the page 323 war the general depression has affected this class of the community much less than the more skilled workers in the towns.
The reforms and experiments which show themselves in these chapters of the story of New Zealand were in all cases examined and taken on their merits, and not otherwise. They were the outcome of a belief that a young democratic country, still almost free from extremes of wealth and poverty, from class hatreds and fears and the barriers these create, supplies an unequalled field for safe and rational experiment in the hope of preventing and shutting out some of the worst social evils and miseries which afflict great nations alike in the old world and the new.page breakpage breakpage break
1 This system was abolished in 1917, and in its stead a single progressive tax was adopted. Exemption is still allowed up to £500 in value, but over that amount the exemption diminishes by £1 for every £2 over the £1,500 mark, so that when £2,500 is reached the exemption disappears. Under the system now in force taxation ranges from Id. to 7d. in the £, but this is only the nominal rate, because during the last few years a super-tax has been imposed, and as this has been as high as 50 per cent. in addition to ordinary tax, the range of rates has virtually been increased from a minimum of I½d. in the £ to a maximum of 10½d. in the £. The super-tax for 1923 was, however, reduced to 10 per cent. and for the year 1923–4 has been removed altogether.
In the course of a recent statement Mr. Massey gave some details in regard to the rates of taxation on large estates. He said that a settler whose unimproved value (i.e. the value of the land itself without buildings and improvements) is £22,000 pays by way of Land Tax £187 182. 4d. per annum; on £30,000 the L and Tax is £306 5s.; on £45,000, £600; on £100,000, £1,468 15s. In these cases there is no deduction on account of the land being mortgaged. The landowner whose mortgage is over £4,000 is taxed on his debts. A large holding very often means a large mortgage; but even if it is mortgaged to the last shilling, Mr. Massey said, Land Tax has to be calculated on the full unimproved value without consideration of mortgage and irrespective of whether profit or loss has been made on the year's operations.
In regard to Income Tax, there is total exemption up to £300 except in the case of absentees and registered companies. In 1920 new rates of Income Tax were enacted. The rate was is. in the £ up to a limit of £400 of taxable income and the maximum rate of 7s. 4d. was reached on incomes exceeding £6,000. For the year commencing 1st April, 1923, a reduction of 20 per cent, has been made in all classes, so that the maximum rate is now £5 10s. 5d. on incomes exceeding £6,000 Earned income up to £2,000 is allowed a rebate of 10 per cent., and companies pay a (flat) rate of 3s. in the £. The annual Taxing Bill for 1924 provides for further reductions both in Land Tax and Income Tax.