Mr G. Hutchison's
Address to the Electors of Waitotara.
Delivered in the Town Hall, Waverley, on Saturday, July 2nd.
On Saturday, July 2nd, Mr G. Hutchison opened his campaign in the Waitotara electorate at Waverley before a larger audience than we have hitherto seen at political meetings there. The Town Hall was well filled, fully 200 people being present. Mr Walter Symes occupied the chair, and, in a few words, he introduced the candidate, bespeaking him a fair and impartial hearing.
Mr Hutchison, on coming forward, was received with applause. He opened his remarks by stating that he appeared before them as a candidate for the honor of representing them in the Parliament about to be summoned. He aspired to this honor as one who was, with them, interested in the welfare of the district. There had been a great deal of fine talk as to the duties of a representative looking more to the interests of the colony at large than to the good of the locality that returned him. He was aware that it was considered necessary in some quarters to uphold such an idea, but he appeared before the electors as one who aspired to fill the position of a local member—one who would devote himself to the requirements of the district, which in this instance might be said to be of colonial importance, Even if it were not so it would still be, in his opinion, the duty of a member returned for any constituency whatever to endeavour by all legitimate means to forward in every possible way the claims of his constituency, and further obtain the redress of any grievances—if such existed—that any individual member in his constituency might have. (Applause.) He believed that this idea about representing the colony, but not a district in particular, might be traced back to some very excellent principles of Edmund Burke, laid down some hundred years ago, that a member of Parliament was a representative of the whole colony, or whole country, and not a delegate at all. That saying was a very apt one but it required a certain amount of consideration and attention in connection with the circumstances under which it was uttered. Burke was at that time a member of the Parliament of England which had to look to the great concerns and varied interests of an Empire which included colonies which were to be placed under tribute, but had no representatives at all in the English Parliament. In a colony like this that had to deal more with domestic administration, that is, a country where the railways, which ought to be made to serve the purposes of settlement, a country in which the administration of the lands was important to all, and in which both of these departments were under the control of Ministers directly responsible for their administration, it appeared to him that a representative would be neglecting his duties if he did not consider primarily the interests of the district that placed confidence in him in every possible way. (Applause.) The same Edmund Burke had also said that he considered a representative ought to be in the strictest union, the most unrestrained communication with his constituents. Their wishes, he said, ought to have great weight with him, their opinions he should respect, and their business should have unceasing attention from him; It was his duty to sacrifice himself to their wishes, above all to prefer their interests to his own. (Applause.) There was only one subject on which that statesman would reserve the right of judgmant, and it was a reasonable reservation, inasmuch as it was the reservation of the exercise of judgment upon such questions page 3 as were not particularly before the electors for their consideration when candidates were before them. On such matters representatives might be judged, and ought to be judged, by the general lines of policy which they lay down and pledge themselves to support. Dealing in this spirit with the topics of the day, he would proceed to discuss the most important of all questions,
The Land Question:
With reference to the settlement of the land, he took this position, that the policy of the present Government was the most liberal that they had yet enjoyed in this colony, and one which, with certain amplifications, deserved the confidence of the people of the whole colony. (Applause.) They were aware that the Government—especially the Minister of Lands—had been subjected to considerable hostile criticism lately with reference to the
Village Settlement Scheme.
He (Mr Balance) is charged with having inourred liabilities in excess of the vet) given last year, and a large expenditure in connection with these village settlements; and he was also charged with having misled, or rather not informed, the House as to the amount of liabilities to be incurred by his scheme. They would have seen from the delates in Parliament that a great deal had been incurred under these village settlement regulations which, it was alleged, had not been known by the members of the House. Members of Parliament to so argue must be taken to accuse themselves of very considerable neglect in their Parliamentary duties, when they found in the New Zealand Gazette, published in May, 1886—that was prior to the session of Parliament before last—the regulations for all these village settlements. These regulations indicated that money should be paid for improvements, and for houses put up, on proper certificates being given to the satisfaction of the Department. These regulations were also placed on the table of the House the session before last. Mr Ballance very reasonably said, "These are the regulations under which the scheme was inaugurated. You launched the scheme by voting me £5000 for a commencement. People went on the land under these conditions, and by these conditions Parliament of the country is bound." So far from the Minister of Lands being censured for what he had done he ought to be commended for carrying out a scheme which had had the effect of relieving at least some of the centres of population of their unemployed (applause) There might be differences of opinion as to whether this village settlement scheme was a proper one or not, and he was rather sorry that some of the auspices under which the Auckland scheme had been conducted were not such as to call for enthusiastic support. Some of them were most unfortunate, but was not the point so far as the Minister of Lands was concerned. His scheme was promulgated openly and fairly' j and he was now being condemned for doing the very thing that the Parliament authorised him to do. Whether the scheme was a proper one or not is beside the question, the present question being whether or not he improperly incurred this expenditure. No doubt it was an exercise of responsibility on the part of a Minister that it took a great deal to justify. That justification it would require time to obtain, and we ought to wait before condemning the scheme itself, Referring to the
General Land Policy
of the present Government, it was, as he had said, more liberal in its conception and execution than any other scheme previously proposed. It had however, he believed, one defect. The present Government stopped short of selling land for cash; they desired not to alienate the public estate, and preferred to settle lands under the perpetual leasing system; This he did not altogether agree with. He thought that facilities should be given those who were desirous of paying cash for their land, so that settlement might progress; It might be merely sentiment, but it was a most powerful sentiment in the colonisation of a country, that those coming to it should have the opportunity, at some time or other, either immediately, or at the end of a period of leasehold, of converting into freehold a reasonable quantity of land. (Applause). He was glad to think that this rule of administration was now being relaxed, and that the Government were beginning to recognise that those who come to this colony, perhaps with capital, should not be turned away and told "you cannot buy land, you must lease it." It was some satisfaction that the Government were coming to recognise that the work of colonisation should go on, so that the resources of the colony might be developed. While dealing with the land question, he would refer to a matter of some importance to some of them. There were several leases under "The Wet Oast Settlement Act." They were of two classes—the first consisting of leases obtained from the natives before these natives were debarred from dealing with their lands, and the second class of leases those in which the Public Trustee acted for the natives said to be interested. In the first class promises had been given as to renewals, and it was almost incomprehensible page 4 that such promises should so long have been unfulfilled. There was hope that last session legislation would have been passed that would have enabled these promises to be fulfilled, but unfortunately the measure did not pass. It would be the duty of the member for that district to speak out with no uncertain sound, and have these promises of the country carried out; As to the second class of leases, they found this spectacle: the Government of the country, through the Public Trustee, exacting blood money, or rent for lands which were leased under the system of tender—a system which was now utterly condemned. They found a measure of relief refused—not by the Lower House—though reluctantly granted, but by the dignatories who sit in the Upper House of Parliament, and these settlers' rights were postponed for another term. While on the subject he might say a word as to
They were aware that in renewals in the first class the rents were to be computed on the improved value. He thought this a mistake, and on this point he was rather radical in his ideas. He considered—and he was only following in the wake of abler thinkers—that rent was, after all, only portion of the profit that could be made out of land. No man could be expected to pay rent when it did not come out of the land itself. (Applause.) He thought that those who held these leases had a right to demand that the renewals should be upon the value of the land, exclusive of the value of the improvements effected by the tenant, for these improvements were merely the labour and capital put into the land by the occupier and to ask him to pay rent upon the value of these improvements was to tax the tenant for his own expenditure. (Applause) After a term of years of course improvements became exhausted or became merged in the land itself. It would be an impossible and unprofitable task to endeavour in every instance to assess the value of all improvements. But a period of 7 years, or some such term, might fairly be taken as a term within which improvements should be deducted in determining the value of land for renewals. That some approach was being made in this direction was evident from the way in which the second class of leases on this coast had been dealt with. The session before last the Government were prepared to have the rents under the new leases computed on the value of the land minus improvements which was the principle be upheld with regard to all classes of leases and the doctrine he had indicated would apply here inasmuch as the leases up the coast had not been seven years in existence. Last session however a retograde movement had been made and the Public Trustee desired the re letting of these lands to be upon the full improved values. The compromise of last session was not a satisfactory one inasmuch as it offered only the benefit of allowance for houses and buildings erected upon the land. These were small charges in comparison with the money tenants expended in other improvsments, and he certainly thought that in all renewals they should have a tenant based on the right, and that the rent should be value of the land, exempting all improvements of the preceding seven years.
Proceeding next to consider the question of retrenchment, Mr Hutchison said that never before in the history of the colony had this subject been more immediately before the minds of the electors. He thought the colony was now on the threshold of a great change in the way of the administration of the Government, and that we were on the eve of a policy of retrenchment which, if practically carried out, will go far to restore confidence from without and renewed confidence in ourselves. He noticed that Sir Robert Stout, speaking a few days ago to his constituents at Dunedin, took credit for the Government having saved some £92,000, but what was far better, he saw his way to save £100,000, and said the cabinet had a plan prepared to carry this out. That was a valuable admission for the Premier to make. Though there were no particulars given, he surmised that there were some subjects that were not included in this £100,000. For instance, the present Government and other previous Governments had sought to put aside the question of the reduction of the Governor's salary, but it was only necessary that the people of the colony should say that this subject must also be included in the list of retrenchment, and no feeling of delicacy should be allowed to interfere with our applying this principle throughout. The Governor's establishment costs some £10,500 per year, and it would, he believed, be paying the Governor, and providing for him amply if he got about half that sum (applause). It had been said that it would have a bad effect at Horns, but he could not see that that would be so. The public creditor would give them credit for something like soundness of finance it the colony attempted to live within its income. It had also been said that they would not get such good Governors at lower salaries, but he was not aware that merit had ever been considered a qualification for a Governor. The Governor was merely the figurehead of the Ship of State, and a little less gilding would not impair the value of the page 5 ship, or retard its progress. His Excellency's salaries and allowances were fixed by Act of Parliament, and it was very proper that any change which might occur should not effect the present occupant. But though waived in the favour of the present Governor the alteration should be made at once. His Excellency was a highly popular gentleman and it was said had done good service to the State. He was a capital after dinner speaker, of the regular "Rule Brittania stamp, specially suited for "auspicious occasions." But these qualities were rather dear at £10,500 a year. (Applause). Then there was the question of salaries paid to ministers, and he was inclined to think that some reduction was included in the £100,000 He believed he was expressing the views of the electors when he said that the affairs of the colony could be carried on just as efficiently by five ministers as by seven, and some reduction could be made in the salaries. He did not see what difference there should be between the salary of the Premier and that paid to other Ministers, for, after all, he was only a Minister himself, with the right of presiding at Cabinet meetings. If each Minister got £1000 a year and a residence they would be well paid. He believed that Ministers would be willing to see a change made. Then there was the question of allowances. They got two guineas a day travelling allowance and expenses, and their secretaries were similarly entitled. He thought that they might begin at once by saying that they thought that half the sum allowed to Ministers for allowances would be sufficient. He believed if Ministers did this they would gain in the confidence of the people. As to travelling, he did not think it desirable to discourage Ministers from travelling up and down the colony; on the other hand, he believed it had a beneficial effect, because of its decentralising tendency.
Seduction of Members.
If he were to say that he favoured the reduction of the number of members, he might say what was popular, and something he believed in himself, but he would also be saying what he believed to be impracticable. After last session's failure in the attempt to reduce the number of members, it would be wasting time to try and effect a redaction. There is no use in eternally re-opening questions of this kind. As to the honoraria, he believed—though he expressed the opinion with some diffidence—that 100 guineas would be quite sufficient to cover the expenses that members were to be put to, and he would be prepared to support such a proposal and to give it effect in every practical way. (Applause.) Then there was another class of legislators—the Upper House—supposed to represent property, though some of them had not been ashamed to say that their honoraria was their only visible means of support (laughter), and some of them would die on the floor of the House rather than suffer a reduction. He believed that an inquest on some of these gentlemen would be the best thing that could happen the colony. (Applause) As they represented property nominally they should be prepared to do without honoraria at all. (Applause.) It might be taken for granted that Sir R Stout's £100,000 did not include reductions in a department capable of considerable reduction, that of
The Premier reverenced nothing so much as education, and, within certain limits he was right. But they had to consider that the education system of this colony was supported by every person in the colony, whether that person could avail himself of it or not. Consequently it was the duty of Parliament to see that education, which now costs close on half a million of money what with revenue from endowments, building grants, etc., should not weigh so heavily on the colony. Last year there were 106,328 children in our schools of which no less than 21,000 were under seven years of age, while those receiving education above the fourth standard were 13,000. His opinion on this matter was this, that in all large centres of population at least, it was not desirable that the State should undertake the education of children under seven, and that in every part of the colony the duty of the state should finish at the Fourth Standard (applause). The average cost last year was £4 18s 8d. Now if they took 15,000 as representing the proportion of those under seven that the large towns contributed out of the 21,000 they had a sum, if reckoned only at £3 per head in place of £4 18s 8d, of £45.000. If to these were added the 13,000 above the Fourth Standard, and reckoned d at £5 each, they had another saving of £65.000, or £110,000 in all. If, for the sake of county schools, where the pay was of course less than in towns, they took ten per cent off this amount, they would still have £100,000 that ought to be saved to the taxpayers of the colony (applause). With Sir R. Stout's £100,000 they would thus have a sum larger than it was necessary to raise by additional taxation, and if this scheme were insisted on it would relieve the colony from a great burden and the settlers from further taxation. One word more as to the cost of education. He would not reduce the salaries teachers now receive, they were low enough already, but he believed that fees might be imposed in page 6 cases where children were admitted under the age, or were educated beyond the Fourth Standard. So much for retrenchment, and next he came to the question of the incidence of taxation or
Free Trade v Protection.
The meanings of these terms ought to be considered by all. Free Trade meant, literally, trade without any restrictions, and Protection meant, not prohibition, as it had been called, but encouragement to such industries as might develop themselves in this country. Mr Hutchison here briefly traced the history of manufactures and trade in England from the Elizabethan period and the advent of Flemish spinners, down to the repeal of the Corn Laws, and showed that whatever her policy might have been since Cobden's time, England did not build up her Industries by a system of Free Trade. To-day England was endeavouring to open doors that had been closed against her, and her policy was admitted to be one directed to her own benefit but not one that would apply here. We must consider ourselves. We started here as a pastoral colony, and naturally adopted a system of Free Trade; but great changes have occurred since then. Native difficulties have been encountered, and the immigration and public works policies had brought people into the colony for whom work had to be provided. It was them, as farmers, to consider how this was to be cone; because as all comes from the land, so surely all goes back to it or to those who have to do with it. The chief objections to the tariffs of past years had been that they were unequal and uncertain, but even under these tariffs raised professedly for revenue purposes, industries have sprung up, which employ some 25,000 people. On these it may be considered there are at least 100,000 dependent,—or one-sixth of our total population. There seems to be no other choice but a Protective tariff. (Applause.) He had endeavoured to go into this question in an unbiassed manner, because he had first adopted Free Trade as the ideal fiscal policy to be kept to as far as possible, and it was rot with any predilections in its favour that he had adopted Protection. He believed that the only objection that could be fairly brought against it was this—that the consumer suffers from the fact that he has to pay more for goods made in the colony than for the imported article. This, of course, assumed that a rise in prices followed from a rise in the tariff, but he believed this to be unfounded. As an instance, he quoted woollens, which, though the tariff had been raised, were lower in price now than formerly. There had not been any rise in the price, but he believed the reductions had been due, to some extent, to the fall in values in consequence of the world-wide depression now existing. I He would point out that they were not seeking now to establish industries; I they are actually in existence, and assistance through the tariff, while it would not tend to raise prices, would tend to increase the number of manufactories. But supposing it did raise the prices, and that was the strongest case they could put against Protection; supposing they, as farmers, had to pay 21s for what now cost them 20s, would there necessarily be a loss? All political science has shown that it is not so, The money is kept in the country, and circulates through it, acting and re-acting on the community. It was saved the double process of sweating, and does away with the middleman's profits. He thought that such a fact would not be detrimental to New Zealand. The effect of protecting industries in one's own country was, not to effect an increase in price, but to enable manufacturers to export largely into Free Trade countries Thus goods could be brought into England, and undersell English manufacturers in their own markets, as was happening now with Belgium rails and Sheffield (German made) cutlery. Even in New Zealand they found that the woollen goods that stock our ready made shops, and compete with Roslyn, Kaiapoi, and Mosgiel woollens, were not English goods, but Victorian. Surely there could be no objection to Protection when it did not raise the prices, but cut them down, and enabled a country to compete in the Freetrade markets of the world; (Applause) If Freetrade were to be introduced into this colony, supposing it even to be practicable, they would have to abolish the poll tax en Chinese, to enable them to compete with other countries, for no one else could work as cheaply, and cheap labour was a necessity under a Freetrade policy. Remove the tariff, do away with the poll tax, and allow these Mongolians to come in, and where would they be? the did not know. (Applause.) In a protection tariff only could he see a way to assist our industries. This, of course, did not mean much revenue, for such a tariff was to assist industries by excluding imported goods, but revenue hid to be raised, and it should come from luxuries which there would always be people willing to pay for. He believed the necessities of life should, as far as possible, be free. By following that rule, namely, that articles produced in our own borders should be encouraged, and luxuries taxed, they would be following the policy that best conduced to their own welfare. (Applause.)
From this source last year £310,000 was raised, and this year the Government page 7 wished to raise £75,000 more. He would ask them to consider who it was that was to bear this. They would not be far wrong in saying that half the property tax payers in the colony were those who worked the land. The Government proposed to abolish the exemption, and increase the tax by 2-16th of a penny on all properties worth more than £2500. Major Atkinson, in his speech on the vote of Want-of-Confidence motion, said that such a tax would frighten capital out of the country, and he (Mr H) was afraid there was a great deal of truth in it. They could not afford to do without capital. It seemed to him, however, that the principle of a progressive property tax was a proper one, but he thought the principle might be carried out in another way. What had most burdened the colony in the past was the speculation that had been indulged in for years, in the buying up of land merely to allow it to lie idle, and be enhanced in value by the labours of others in the neighbourhood. He believed there should be no encouragement to anything like a land monopoly, and an increase in taxation might be made by increasing the rates on large holdings. He thought that If there was an increase on holdings of over 5000 acres, and perhaps a higher rate for those of over 10,000 acres, and an almost prohibitive rate on larger properties the tendency would be to break up the land and make it inconvenient for people to hold large tracts of land (applause.) They had seen that Sir R. Stout expected to be able to save £100,000 on the civil service, and that a reduction might be made on the education vote to a considerable extent, which he believed would at any rate come to the £ 175,000 required by the Colonial Treasurer. Yet it was clear that it might be necessary to increase the taxation as increased expenditure was required every year if only on account of the increase in the payment of interest, but it seemed to him that by judicious retrenchment it might be possible to do without any great increase at present, though it was desirable that the customs tariff should be revised (applause).
There were his opinions on the principal topics of the day, but it was necessary for him to say which party he would be found supporting if elected. Our system is essentially One of party Government, and while perhaps no member truly believed in all the ministry he supported, did, it was necessary that he should follow one side or the other. Following on the lines he had indicated, it might be inferred which of the parties in the House he would be found supporting. He had indicated plainly that the land policy of the Government was one which, extended in some direction, deserved the support of the people; he had also indicated that the proposals so far as they tended to the encouragement of local industries had his support, but it was not only upon these two points, but upon the whole tenor of the present Government's proposals that he would be found supporting them* It was proper that in some respects a member should be independent, but upon all questions affecting the existence of a ministry he should be prepared to take his stand by surrendering details to keep in power the party which he considered had the welfare of the country most at heart.
Sir Julius Vogel.
Some three years ago he had felt it incumbent upon him to say that he had an extreme distrust of Sir Julius Vogel. The occasion on which he had mentioned this was when the Atkinson Ministry had been out-voted in Parliament, and were appealing to the country. There appeared to be no leader of the people. Sir Robert Stout had retired to private life, and it was doubtful whether he was coming out again, and there was a cry raised in the South that Vogel, who had just arrived in the colony, should be asked to lead the Liberal party. He (Mr H) could not see that Vogel was a Liberal in the sense which be fitted a people such as this; he had just been contesting a seat at Home in the Conservative interests, and had been associated with some parts of the history of the colony not altogether such as to inspire confidence in him. He therefore felt impelled to say, and under similar circumstances he would do so again, that in Vogel he did not see a leader entitled to the confidence of the people at large. He was glad to say and it must be satisfactory to many thousands in New Zealand, that Sir Julius Vogel while holding a most important office in the present Government of approved Liberal principles, and these Liberal principles had predominated, he had been a most useful Minister for the time being. At any rate, a Government was not to be condemned for the sake of one man. Sir Julius was a personal friend of his own, but he had told him before what he was saying now, that he did not deserve and had no proper claim to lead the Liberal party in New Zealand. He said this now to put himself right in supporting the Liberal party. By way of contrast, he would ask the electors to consider who, if the present Government were defeated, were to take their places. No doubt Major Atkinson would be sent for. He was put forward as the exponent of interests which he (Mr Hutchison) hardly believed he himself supported. He would be found to be page 8 an exponent of monopolist?, mortgage companies, and such like, in the new Parliament, and though they might throw some crumbs to the people, still it would only be for the purpose of veiling their own designs. which are those of monopolists, and their government would be a system of organised hypocrisy. (Applause.)
Mr Hutchison said—I have indicated the lines upon which I would act, and on these lines I ask your confidence; and if I receive that confidence there will be no exertion on my part wanting to deserve it and to retain it. (Mr Hutchison resumed his seat, after speaking for an hour and a half, amid loud applause.)
Several questions were asked principally as to the relief to be granted to settlers who had taken up land on lease under the tender system. He explained that he did not believe in competition for land, but thought a low rental should be fixed, and that if there were more than one selector the ballot should decide. He thought that tenants should be allowed to surrender their leases, and he would be in favour of the principle of tenant right—namely that improvements made within seven years should not be taken into account when fixing the rents at which these tenants should have new leases. (Applause.)
Mr Strachan then proposed, That a vote of thanks be accorded to Mr Hutchison for his address, and further, that this meeting is of opinion that he is a fit and proper person to represent the Waitotara district. (Applause.)
Mr Mason seconded the motion in a few words.
There being no amendment, the motion was put and carried by 40 votes to 4.
Mr Hutchison, on rising to respond, was received with loud and continued applause. He thanked them for the resolution, and said he hoped to again have an opportunity of speaking to them, as there were many other matters which might claim attention, and more particularly the leasing question on this coast. He then proposed the customary vote of thanks to the chair, and the meeting closed.
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