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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 1892.
Trie reports of the late dobate on tho Address in the New South Wales Assembly fully support the conclusion prompted by the telegraphio summary that tho Dibbs Barton Ministry has fallen upon troublous times. The protective tariff passed last year has proved disappointing to the protectionists themselves, and their party bonds have been slackened by the exigencies connected with other important questions. The fact is undeniable that the Ministry last year took advantage of adventitious cir- cumstances to reverse the fiscal policy of the colony, and that the tariff, as so con- sistent a protectionist as Mr. Traill com- plains, while containing duties protective in their incidence imposes heavy burdens upon those least able to bear them. That lion, member yearns for a " scientifically framed and courageously-designed tariff" as though it were possible to carry a tariff so framed and designed through a Committee of Ways and Moans. It is well known that in the construction of every
tariff concessions have to be made to revenue exigencies, and to the practical difficulties encountered in imposing and collecting duties. And it is forgotten by tariff-mongers that the inhérent principle of the protective duty is to make goods arti-
ficially dear to the consumer in order that¡ importation may be discouraged and'looal production stimulated. Take the case of flour as it has within tho past week been presented to the Legislative Assembly of Queensland. If there be any truth in the assurance thal we have illimitable areas of land adapted to the growth of prime wheat, and also a favourable clinmto, is it not in tlio highest degree desirable from a pro- tectionist standpoint that wheat-growing and flour-manufacturing should be en- couraged in the colony ? and is it not
absurd for protectionists to complain that a - fixed duty, equivalent at the present time ! to only eight and a-half per cent of the, market value of wheat or flour, imposes j burdens upon the people which they cannot i well bear? A protectionist duty that did j not enhanco prices of commodities would give no protection at all ; for, whatever the encouragement offered, farms in full cultiva-
tion and mills or factories equipped! for useful work cannot be created in' a day. Again, a protectionist tariff must be " sprung suddenly" upon Parlia- ment, for otherwise its operation for a year at least would be neutralised by duties paid in anticipation of the increased imposts. And another of its inevitable effects is to
put money into the pockets of traders by | the enhanced vaines given to their stocks. This last, indeed, is the consideration that sugars the protectionist pill, and keeps bo many interested mouths closely shut while thefetters are beingplacod upon the importer or vendor ofmorchandise. Butthis temporary advantage to the trader is soon forgotten when the volume of business diminishes in consequence of advanced prices, and when for additions to his stock the merchant has to pay duties in advance, in some cases months or even years before the goods aro sold. In Queensland the people are sub- mitting to a heavy protectionist tariff because they know an increased revenue is imperative; but the protectionist Govern- ment of New South Wales had last year no such commanding excuse for augmenting the burdons of its people. With an ample public rovenuo at thoir command it was pure folly on the part of the Dibbs-Barton Ministry to impose now taxation through the Custom-house, at any rate without easing the pressure felt from other sources of the public revenue. Tlie effect of the new tariff in the parent colony has been not only to disorganise and
restrict trado and deepen the industrial depression, but also to stimulate extrava- gance in the public service, especially in the great spending departments. It is not therefore surprising that the Ministry have become unpopular, that several by-elections have gone against them, and that some of thoir best friends aro looking askance at their impossible programme of the session. There aro also amongst the protectionists raen who rogavd tho weakness of the Ministry in dealing with the disastrous Broken Hill strike with profound dissatisfaction, rightly holding that the preservation of law and order is ol even more importance than an experi- mental and unscientißc protective policy.
But perhaps the most damaging event to the Ministry has been the ostentatious junketing tour of the Protnior. Now that it is all over, and the glamour shed upon tho trip by daily cable messages flashing the news of his achievements has vanished, the people requuod to pay for those demonstra, tions are asking what the llattered subject of them ha3 really achieved. The awkward fact stands ont that Sir George Dibbs brings back with his title no promise of further supplies of borrowed monoy ; and his warmest political friends are obliged to give voice to the sus- picion that "if the Premier has not
succeeded in the announce,! object of his |
mission thoro is reason to believe he has succeeded in the unannounced object of it." It is quite clear that Sir George has not succeeded in placating his politicial oppo- nents in the colony by his tour, and that he has furnished thom with a now and poworfhl weapon wherewith lo make destructive attacks upon his administration. For the unauthorised mission to England, liko a revolution, can only be justified by success in promoting some great public object not otherwise possible of attainment. And, so far from the fiscal objects of the mission having been attained, there seems reason to foar that, despito the advance which his advocacy is alleged to have caused in tho price of New South "Wales securities, the position of tho public Treasury has been actually prejudiced by Sir George's inopportune advertisement of tho fiscal strength of the colony ; while the expectation that his advocacy would un- seal English money bags must have presumably made his colleagues loss care- ful than they would otherwise have been in incurring"new fiscal responsibilities. It was alleged that the late Ministry of Sir Henry Parkes only retired whon all the available money had boen spent, but the
acotisation will come with additional force against their sneoossors who aro in an equally impecunious situation although they have imposed new taxation to the oxtent of about a million sterling a year. And if it should appear that the Opposition party led by Sir Henry Parkes-for Mr. Roid is a more stop-gap-are willing again to take office with its grave responsibilities, it may be assumed that the doom of the Dibbs Barton Ministry is virtually sealed.
In Queensland we have had illustrations of the perilous and unsatisfactory nature of semi-official tours to England by Premiers of the colony. Sir Thomas M'llwraith's oxporience in this way was so unhappy that, when four years ago ill-hoalth neces- sitated his prolonged absonce, ho refused to go as Premier to Japan, and insisted upon Mr. Morehead assuming tho respon- sibilities of the leadership. The effect was perhaps not less disastrons to the Ministry, but Sir Thomas Mcilwraith escaped the responsibility for measures adopted in his absence. It was unfortunate for the colony that ill-health compelled the abandonment of his arduous post, but the results would probably have been still worse had his colleagues boen loft for six months without a recognised leader. Sir Samuel Griffith's experience was not less discouraging. For he rashly committed his Ministry to the Defence Scheme at the London Conference, and after his return his relations with his colleagues wore never restored to their old footing. Events had been marching rapidly in the colony during his absence, and if rumour at tho time was well founded the deputy-Premier's opinions on certain matters of policy had become too pronounced to permit of the Cabinet con- tinuing to work haraionionsly'^tfjgether. At any rate a rupture, and recojijtruction
not long, afterwards occurred in the Ministry, and the Liberal Party becamo disorganised in the constituencies. The chief functions of tho Premiership, although undefined by law, are really incapable of delegation. A deputy Premier cannot authoritatively confer with the Governor in matters of importance or diffi- culty, nor can such deputy control his col- leagues, or compel an insubordinate Minister to retiro. It is imperative under our system that a Cabinet should havo a recognised head to whom tho representative of the Queen, tho Parliament, and the public of the colony shall at all times be ablo to look as the leader responsible for the policy and the official competence of the Ministry. It may be true that the Cabinet collectively can and must be held re- sponsible in any case, but where no single will is paramount in/.pases of difjfjeren.ce trouble must inovitably ensue. It,io now pretty evident that Sir Georg'ä ©ibbs's colleagues corhuitttod a hugo blunder in con- vening Parliament before ho had'ieturned
and resumed the reins of government.
It will bo remembered that considerable dissatisfaction arose over the mooting of subscribers to the General Hospital held three months ago on the grouud that no representation was permitted to the con- tributors to the Hospital Saturday and Sun- day Fund. The matter was brought under the notice of tho committee of the hospital, and a promise was given that it should be considered. After on incubation of three months under the united wisdom of the committee their report has soon the light ; and to put it mildly the findings aro not of a kind to repol the insinuations that have beon freely made as to the unfitness of tho committee for the grave responsibilities with which thoy are charged. It was or should have been the primary object of the committee to decide in the line of encouraging the public contributions on which the hospital is mainly dependent. Yet thoy have so decided that the first person to como forward in condemnation of thoir decision is the honorary secretary of the Hospital Saturday and Sunday Fund. That gontloinan's criticism of the com- mittee's report smites it hip and thigh as ill-advised, illogical, and unjust. It is ill advised because its direct tendency is to discourage public contributions. " Repre- sentation," say the committee, " through the Hospital Saturday and Sunday Fund, is unnecessary." Unnecessary for what? Possibly for the self-satisfaction of the committoo, but certainly not for the liberal public support of the hospital. The com- mittee in their last annual roport ex- hibited a financial condition which rendors the institution dependent upon special effort to conciliate the good-will and elicit the contributions of the public; and when an opportunity of doing so is put before thom, thoy block it with an ungracious negative and set it aside as unnecessary. And they do this in the fuco ol'the fact that Hospital Sunday has not yielded the usual amount, and that Hospital Saturday is due in another mouth. But the resolution, as Mr. Poole has shown, is as illogical as it is un- fortunate. Tho committee erect a distinc- tion between subscriptions and the contribu- tions of Hospital Saturday and Sunday on the ground that the latter aro " spontaneous" and "bonafide free gifts." Do ordinary subscribers then contribute by compulsion ? And if there be anything specially spon- taneous and bona fide in the church and public contributions is that a reason why they should receive tho smaller acknowledgment and carry the loss weight? The committoo excuse themselvos further on the ground that churches and other bodies and indi
viduals can secure representation on the roll of the institution by subscribing directly the sum of £1 per annum. , Do they really mean that £1 subscribed directly is bettor and more meritorious than ¿'20 - and thero ara churches from which tho hospital has receivod moro than that sum - subscribed indirectly ? Possibly they do not; bnt that is the inference from then- language; aud they cannot bo surprised if they find " churches aud other bodies and individuals" who have hitherto been and are still to be excluded from the roll of subscribers notwithstand- ing their indirect ¿10 or £20 dropping to the direct £1 in order to have a voice in the conduct of affairs. And it has still to be said that the decision of the com- mittee is palpably unjust. Eepresenta tion in the management of the hospital should go by interest as expressed in con- tribution. Mr. Poole states that during the last four years tho hospitals have benefited to the extent of £4000, exclusive of Govern- ment subsidy, from the Saturday and Sunday Fund. Is it just that the donors of this money should be denied reprosontation ? Last year's report showed contributions to the extent of £1800 from about 800 sub senbers, each of whom theroforo has a vote' for the averago payment of a littlo over £2. The same repoit showed over £1100 of an income from the Hospital Saturday and Sunday Fund. Is it just that this groat gift should not carry with it a single vote ? To say that it would bo difficult to arrange a method of representation is no answer. The com- mittee were there to do the right and just and wise thing, aud it was thoir duty to find a method of doing it-or give place to others who would find it. Nor does it seem so difficult to provide that churches, firms, and public works should be entitled to a representativo on the roll for every £1 or £2 coming to the General Hospital from their contributions, and that tho general public should have tho privilege of electing representativos in the same proportion to their offerings. If the committee do not deliberately contemplate a serious aggrava- tion of thoir peenniary difficulties it were well for them to reconsider and rescind this obnoxious and objectionable resolution.