Finance difficulties

Mount Alexander Mail (Vic. : 1854 – 1917) Monday 6 August 1866 
AGITATE ! AGITATE !
We confess, in spite of the Mayor of Chewton, that agitation seems to us the only remedy against the suspicious inactivity of the Government in the matter of the national water supply scheme. For a long time the confidence of the public in the ability, if not in the eagerness, of the M’Culloch Administration to carry out the wishes of the country, and the intentions of Parliament, has been wavering, and now it may be fairly surmised that the mistrust has reached its climax. On all sides, from the lips of all parties, but one unani mous expression of doubt and apprehension is heard, and the chorus of unbelievers has been rendered more impressive in contrast with the single confiding figure of Mr J. B. Patterson. Proceeding by a rule of contraries known only to himself, this eminent political opponent of the Government has hit upon the rather novel plan of showing his hostility to them by refusing to join iu any demonstration against them, and in a spirit of tenderness for their feelings, that would be sublime if it were not utterly bis- placed, combined with a philosophy rather more Irish than kind, has come to the conclusion that the only way to hurry them on is to let them alone. Their activity can only be ensured by offering them inducements to inaction, and the best way to further the progress of the works is to let them stagnate along with their authors. Such a policy appears to us as unreasonable as the considerateness upon which it is pre sumed to be based. What has the Govern ment done that it should have suddenly enlisted the tender mercies of Mr J. B. Patterson in its behalf? Or what does Mr Patterson see in the conduct of the Government that he should assume that his feelings will be requited ? Are the signs of the times calculated to encourage such a confiding temperament? What do they evidence? Is it not a fact that Mr Sullivan retired from the Government, because he detected its lukewarm ness towards his favorite proiect ? Is it nob a fact that the machinery which Mr Sullivan constructed for carrying out that project has been dis mantled by the Government ? Is it not a fact that some of the contracts entered, into by the Government in connection with the works have been suspended, while it has announced that no more contracts will lie farmed for the present? What more convincing proofs than these can be asked or given that the Government is shrinking from its obligation to the country, and that the country ought to protest against such back sliding? Yet, in face of these proofs, Mr Patterson goes to Sandhurst, attends a public meeting, gives way to his feelings, and proclaimed himself the champion of tenderness and the inerts! No wonder the Sandhurst quid-nun a were taken aback by I such a remarkable exhibition in such a remarkable man ! No wonder the Bendigo Advertiser is at its wit’s end to account for such singular conduct, and gives up the solution of Patterson in despair. Such conduct would puzzle a greater philosopher than even the Bendigo Advertiser. “Why, at the very meeting it was distinctly admitted that the financial difficulties of the Government, over which Mr Patterson has; suddenly got so pawky, were not so great that they could be fairly urged as a plea for long suffering aud indulgence. True, a letter was read from a Mr Halfey, in which the writer states, with apparent authority, that he had been officially assured that the delay arose from want of funds. According to the report his communication went to show that up to the present time “a sum of ” £140,000 sterling has been taken, from the general revenue, and a further sum of £105,000 sterling borrowed from the London Chartered Bank, showing a total sum of £245,000 sterling, which has been devoted to purposes for which Parliament authorised a loan of £250,000 sterling upon the issue of debentures; but at present these remain uusold. The contracts now entered into on account of water-supply are, in round numbers, £130,000 sterling. This is declared to be the actual state of affairs, and assuming it to be correct, what is to be inferred from it ? A sum of £245,000 is at the disposal of the Government for carrying out a work, for which Parliament voted a sum of £250,000 ; and yet the Government complains of want of money. Surely, there must be some mistake somewhere. Either the Government has been misrepresented, or has been guilty of misrepresenting. Either Mr Halfey’s arithmetic is an emanation from Mr Halfey’s brain; or the complaint of the Government is unreasonable, and the tender hearted Mayor of Chewton has been wickedly imposed upon. Either way, the object of his sympathy is in a dilemma. If the Government really have appropriated the £245,000, why didn’t they go on with works that are to cost only £5,000 more? And if they have not got the funds why didn’t they say so? Why appeal to the instincts of the charitable with confused tales of poverty and want, when, after all, the heart of Mr J. B. Patterson need never have been touched? Either the £245,000 in question have not been secured, or they have been applied to other purposes than the water works, and the Government have been trifling with the feelings of their fellow-citizens. Mr Patterson, if we remember rightly used his forbearance towards the Ministry on the plea that they had done all that could be expected of them in sending Mr Verdon home to raise the money, and that they ought not be harassed pending the result of Mr Verdon’s mission. Happily, the Ministry have through their official organ put an end to this, theory of their embarrassments by a confession that leaves the plea no longer tenable. The Age, in its issue of Saturday, made the very significant announcement that it was impossible to hope that Mr Verdon’s mission to the English money market could be successful, And that some other means for raising the requisite funds must besought. What the means are which it recommends we shall not now discuss. The creation of an inconvertible-paper issue is a very serious affair, and the merits of the proposition are not to be disposed of in a paragraph. But we have no hesitation that the simple publication of the fact out of which the proposition has arisen is of scarcely less moment to the country. The country now knows, for the first time, the real state of the case. What Mr Bindon was ignorant of only a few. days ago, Mr Bindon’s organ has. just officially declared. The truth is out at last, and all the cruel rumours about which Mr Bindon’s colleagues kept him so mercifully in the dark are about to be verified. The Treasury is empty, and the worst of it is, the Government knew it. This is, indeed, a case for the charitable! Here is a field in which the Christian Mayor of Chewton may cultivate the virtues of long-suffering aud forgiveness to his heart’s content. Mr Verdon’s mission is “futile,” and those who sent Mr Verdon are the first to predict it! All that we can infer from this miserable mess of inconsistencies and contradictions , from the official silence and the official communicativeness, from the hints and nods which the Government deal out in such different directions — all the public may conclude is, that some danger is impending to its interests in the water-supply scheme; that the delays, which have been denied and admitted aud denied again, are real, and are likely to be more permanent than the alarmists anticipated. With this conviction forced upon us, agitation is not only politic, it is just. It is not only an act of well-advised self-defence, but it becomes an act of well-merited retaliation. To agitate is not only more necessary than ever, it is also more justifiable than ever, and even Mr Patterson may safely dispense with his scruples and join in the agitation.

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