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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30



Coming next to the question of taxation, he asked what it was that the Government proposed to dot It had been said that the Government proposed to put on crushing taxation; but let them take the amount of taxation it was intended to impose through the Customs, and examine the matter. The increased taxation was to be £175 000. He read in the morning paper that Mr Fisher said that £300,000 were to be raised by fresh taxation, and that 90 per cent, of this was to be on the necessaries of life. Considering that they only proposed to raise £175,00) altogether, this great man would have to alter his facts and figures considerably. (Laughter.) What is the position? It was a fact, indisputable and not challenged in the House, that the amount of money they derived last year from spirits was £70,000 less than they derived from spirits in 1882. That was to say, the consumption of spirits, from whatever cause, had fallen off since that time by the sum of £70,000 per annum. What is their duty in that case? Is it the duty of the Government to make the people drink more whiskey? or is it the duty of the Government to make up the amount by some fresh taxation? What did the teetotallers say? M If they would only give up drinking habits the State would not be ruined, because it would simply adjust the taxation upon some other thing"; and now, when the people have gives up drinking habits, they say to the Government, "Oh! what crushing taxation you are putting upon us." (Cheers and laughter). That accounted for £70,000 out of £175,000, and in addition they had lost through the dimished consumption of tobacco, cigars, wine, and beer a further earn of £25,000. so that in these two items they had lost £95,000 of revenue. Then in consequence of the cheaper goods coming into the country—a reduction of values having set in—they had lost on ad valorem duties £65,000. In that case the people had derived the benefit; indeed, in all these cases they had derived benefit. They consume less whisky, less tobacoo and cigars, less beer, and get their goods from England much cheaper, and the Government has lost revenue. It was the duty of the Government to make up this loss, in order that they might pay the increasing interest accruing year by year. The Government did not want to put on crushing taxation, but simply to change the incidence of taxation; therefore the people were not poorer; the taxation is not crushing, and they are in a better position now to pay taxation than they were in 1880 or 1882. A statement had been carefully compiled by the Colonial Treasurer to show that had the prices ruling in 1880 ruled during 1886 the value of imports during the year would have been £8,000,000, in place of £6,200,000; so that the people last year, with the fall of prices, saved £1,800,000. They would see that this change of incidence of taxation, imperatively called for, was no burden upon them, because they saved more than an equivalent through cheaper goods and non-consumption of spirits and beer. (Cheers). With regard to the tariff itself, he had a word to say. He did not say that the Tariff Bill would be revived. They took up precisely the same position with regard to it as Mr Gladstone took in connection with the Home Rule Bill. The tariff had been condemned by the House, and they were free to consider what they would do next if they were called on to prepare another budget. They were not bound by the tariff, but they were by its principles, and any fresh budget of theirs would be constructed on them, if they continued in power.