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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 27

The Land Question in Victoria

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The Land Question in Victoria.

Mr. Mirams.—Mr. Speaker, at all times it is a somewhat difficult matter to do justice to a large question of this kind, but it is additionally difficult in the circumstances under which I am called upon to address the House to-night, when there is such an evident indisposition on the part of honourable members to enter into the discussion at all, being desirous of taking up business which they consider to be of more immediate importance. I am not responsible for that, however. I cannot, in justice to the views which I hold on this very important question, refrain from addressing myself to it, even although in doing so I may run counter to the wishes of a large number of honourable members. I desire, first of all, to address myself to the speech made by the Minister of Lands when he introduced this measure some five months since. On that occasion the honourable gentleman supplied the House with a table of statistics. There is no doubt that the paper which he supplied us with was a very voluminous one except as regarding the particular aspect of the question which we are called upon to discuss. A large portion of the information which I think the country had a right to look for was not forthcoming, and those of us who had to address the House on the particular aspect of the question to which it related, and who are opposed to the view which the honourable gentleman holds as to the way in which the remaining portion of the public estate ought to be dealt with, have had to justify ourselves and our position by means of information gathered from all kinds of sources, instead of being supplied with it in an authoritative form by the Lands Department. I refer more especially to the fact that we have been supplied with no official statement as to the amount of land which has been selected under the various Land Acts that have been in operation for many years past, and which has passed out of the hands of those who originally held it. That, in my opinion, is one of the most important matters which the House should have been called upon to deal with. I am quite sure that no honourable member can attempt to properly deal with the question until he is in possession of full and correct particulars as to the methods in which the land has been disposed of, and of the results of those methods; and no honourable member can attempt to deal successfully with the land in the future without obtaining that information. The Minister of Lands supplied us with a considerable number of figures which have very little to do with the questions at issue between the various parties in the House and in the country as to the manner of dealing with the public estate in the future. The first passage in the speech of the honourable gentleman to which I shall refer is the following:—

"It must not be forgotten that our soil is exceptionally rich, especially for wheat-growing, and that our climate is so favourable as to have the effect of causing many persons from the other colonies to settle and make their homes here."

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I may here mention that the foregoing statement supplies incidentally one of the best answers to a frequent argument used against the leasing principle, namely, that our settlers are sure to leave us unless we can offer some very peculiar attractions in the mode of our land legislation. The Minister of Lands, having made the statement which I have read, ought to have given us some facts to bear it out. If our climate and our soil are exceptionally good for the growth of cereals, especially wheat, the honourable gentleman ought at least to have proved his statement, and he ought further to have proved that the growth of wheat has been encouraged by the Land Acts of the past, and more particularly by the present one—that of 1869—which is the principal one under which selection has taken place, and the principle of which he asks us to extend very greatly in the Bill at present before us. Now, what are the facts relating to this alleged superiority of our climate and of our soil for the growth of cereals, as supplied by the figures submitted by the honourable gentleman himself? In the table which I am about to submit, honourable members will be shown how far the statements of the Minister of Lands are borne out, and to what extent he was acquainted with the real question at issue. He gave us the wheat averages per acre for the several colonies for the year 1880, and also supplied a return relating to this colony for the year 1881. There were no returns for the other colonies later than 1880, so that I shall take that year's average, in order to deal fairly all round. The average yield of wheat in Victoria in 1880 was 10 bushels per acre; in Queensland it was 20¼ bushels. The Minister of Lands made a great point of the fact that our average was greater than that of South Australia; but, if the question of the number of acres under cultivation is to be admitted into the argument, the superiority of our climate and soil will not be admissible. The average yield in New South Wales in 1880 was 10¾ bushels per acre; in Western Australia it was 15 bushels; in Tasmania it was 15 bushels; and in South Australia it was only 5 bushels in that particular year. It should be remembered, however, that that was an exceptionally bad year for South Australia, as will be seen from the fact that, in the year previous to it, the average yield per acre was, not 5 bushels, but ¾ bushels. The average yields of all kinds of grain throughout the colonies in the year 1880 were as follows:
Colony Bushels per Acre.
New South Wales 12¼
Queensland 13¾
Western Australia 9
Tasmania 4
South Australia 31/8

Mr. Francis.—You include the maize harvests of New South Wales and Queensland?

Mr. Mirams.—Of course I do, but that makes no difference so far as my argument is concerned. If I leave out the maize harvests of the north-eastern colonies, I might as well omit the barley harvests of Victoria. The Minister of Lands bases his argument on the superior quality of the soil and climate of this colony for the growth of wheat, and I want to point out that, if we disregard all other crops, some of which are exceptional in particular colonies, and confine ourselves to the illustration which the honourable gentleman himself has taken, namely wheat, there is only one colony which is worse off than ours. So then page 5 what becomes of his statement that our land and climate are exceptionally adapted to the growth of wheat? The honourable gentleman then proceeded to show that the selection which went on under the Land Act of 1869 was of great benefit to the country, because it had resulted in the growth of large quantities of grain. He contended that, for this reason, the principles of that Act should be continued. Now, as his advocacy of the desirability of continuing the Act depends to a great extent upon asserted facts, the facts which he adduces ought to be undoubted and un-challengeable, and he ought to have proved them to be so. I admit that the sum total of the figures which he supplied was a great one, but, I ask, of what use is it to us. unless we take it in comparison with the quantity of land which we have parted with to secure the yields he has spoken of, and with the returns made previous to the coming into operation of the Act of 1869, which he has extolled so highly, and the principle of which he is so anxious to extend? Speaking upon this point, the honourable gentleman said—

"Under our system of selection, notwithstanding all that has been said against it, Victoria has become the greatest wheat-producing colony in Australia. During 1880, the area cultivated was 1,997,000 acres, which produced 13,625,000 bushels of grain. That yield was above the yield of any other colony, that of South Australia, from a large area of land, being 8,867,000 bushels. This satisfactory state of things has been brought about by our land law."

Of course, in using the term "our land law," he is referring to the law which has been in existence since 1869, and which he approves of, and asks us to extend by the present Bill. I want to know why the honourable gentleman in his figures did not go back to 1879? Why did he content himself with comparing 1881 with 1880? Simply for the reason that if he had gone back to 1879 his whole argument would have been broken to pieces, because in 1879 the yield was much larger than in either 1880 or 1881. As a matter of fact there was a greater yield of grain, by 1,275,000 bushels, in the year 1879 than there was in 1881, notwithstanding all the land that was taken up in the meantime. There is another aspect of the question which deserves attention, and which was brought under notice by the newspaper which supports the Ministry—the Argus. After the Minister of Lands made his speech on the second reading of this Bill last session—the House will remember that the honourable gentleman has given us two second-reading speeches on the Bill—the Argus contained a leading article, in which, speaking of the large totals of yields of grain which had been given by the Minister, it said—

"But this is no proof of successful settlement."

Why? Because every one knows that one of the principal conditions under which selectors take up their land is the condition of carrying out so much cultivation. Whether they intend to hold the land genuinely, or have merely taken it up speculatively for the purpose of selling it at the end of three years, they must at all events perform a certain amount of cultivation, and consequently the gross result is necessarily large. As the Argus said—

"While the selectors are engaged in fulfilling the conditions of their licences and leases, which prescribe cultivation to a certain extent, and while the land they till retains some of the fertility of virgin soil, we may be sure that the production of wheat and other grains will be large. The real results of our agrarian experiments will not be known until most of the selectors' titles have matured, and they are free to do what they please with their holdings."

That will be the real test. The honourable member for Creswick (Mr. page 6 Richardson) last night, as the result of working out the matter for himself from figures supplied by the Lands Department and by the Government Statist, estimated that 50,000 of the selectors under the various Land Acts have parted with their holdings.. That is a point to which the Minister of Lands ought to have devoted his attention, and it is a real, true, and authoritative statement of the case upon that issue which the House has a right to demand from the Lands Department before it is asked to part with a single further acre of land upon any condition whatsoever. It seems to me to be perfectly monstrous that the head of a department which has already parted with more than 13,000,000 acres of land under the selection clauses of the various Land Acts should come to this House and ask it to pass a new Bill on the same lines, only affording facilities for getting rid of the land more quickly by affording increased powers of selection, without giving us any real, truthful, and authoritative statement as to the quantity of land that is now held bonâ fide by the people who took it up in the first instance, and who professedly took it up for the purpose of cultivating it. Upon that point the country has been supplied with no authoritative information at all, and, in the absence of that information, honourable members have to make calculations for themselves. The honourable member for Creswick has arrived at the result which I have mentioned by calculating according to one process, and, as I shall presently show, I, by calculating by a totally different process, have arrived at a result remarkably close to that of the honourable member for Creswick. But even if the amount of grain mentioned by the Minister of Lands were a criterion of successful settlement, the honourable gentleman would still have to make good another point before he would be in a position to base an argument upon it for the House agreeing to extend the present system. He would have to show that, before the passing of the Land Act of 1869, the principle of which we are asked to extend, there was little or no cultivation at all—that the colony did not produce much wheat or other agricultural produce until that Act came into operation. Why did not the honourable gentleman bring down a statement showing the amount of cultivation in the year 1869, before the Land Act of which he so much approves came into operation, and the amount of cultivation now, so that we might see what has been the net result of parting with the additional 9,000,000 or 10,000,000 acres of land? The honourable gentleman did not do that, but I have taken the trouble to do it for myself, and for the benefit of the honourable gentleman and of the country. I will submit the figures to the House, and I think they will tell a tale which will astonish some honourable members. In the year 1869—the year before the present Land Act came into operation—the total quantity of land alienated, or in process of alienation, which I consider to be the same thing, for land which has once been selected seldom returns to the Crown, though it may pass into the hands of other persons than the original selectors—was 10,169,662 acres. At the end of 1881 the total quantity alienated was 19,819,739 acres, so that the amount of land selected under the Land Act of 1869 at the end of 1881, which is nearly twelve months ago, was 9,650,077 acres. What has the colony got in the way of the extension of agriculture, in the way of the settlement of the people, in the way of additional production from the soil, in return for squandering those 9,600,000 acres? The only argument that has ever been used for parting with the land upon the terms on which we page 7 have been parting with it is that we gave it away knowingly, willingly, and with our eyes open, for the purpose of settling people on the soil who were to become the heads of industrious families. We were going to place a "yeomanry," to use the cant phrase, upon the soil, and from them, as citizens, we were to reap indirect benefits—though I must say that I have never heard it shown exactly where they were to come from—which would more than compensate the community for giving away its estate on the ridiculons terms on which we have been parting with it for the last dozen years. Well, what have we got in return? The number of acres cultivated in 1869 was 827,534, deducting from which 49,372 acres which were fallow in that year, leaves the actual area under crop in 1869 778,162 acres. At the end of 1881 the area cultivated was 1,813,941 acres, or, deducting 142,866 acres which were fallow, 1,671,075 acres. Thus, as the net result of parting with nearly 10,000,000 acres, there was an increased area cultivated to the extent of 892,813 acres. We have got rid of nearly 10,000,000 acres of land for the purpose of getting less than 1,000,000 acres cultivated—and cultivated in the style of cultivation which those selectors give us who merely comply with the terms of the Act for the purpose of getting the fee-simple—a style of cultivation which gives us a return of 10 bushels to the acre of wheat and 6¾ bushels to the acre, taking the crops all round. Is that a result which is calculated to satisfy this House and this country that we are on the right track in dealing with the land, so that we should not only go on in the same way, but that we should go on in the same way twice as fast? Let us look into the particulars of the figures I have given. The quantity of land upon which wheat was grown in 1869—I shall only trouble the House with round numbers—was 288,000 acres; of oats, 144,000 acres; barley, 28,000 acres; maize, 1000 acres; rye, 4000 acres; and of peas and beans, nearly 4000 acres. In 1881 the area of wheat was 921.000 acres. I would call attention to the fact that wheat is the cereal for which this colony is supposed to be peculiarly adapted, and the promotion of the growth of wheat more than anything else is the object held to justify our dealing with the land in the way we have been doing. Yet in 1881 there were only 632,000, or less than three-quarters of a million, acres of wheat more than there were in 1869, when we had only parted with 10,000,000 acres instead of 19,000,000 of land. When we consider that nearly all the 10,000,000 acres alienated in 1869 was held in large estates, used as sheep runs, I confess I cannot see how it can be regarded as a "success" that the 9,000,000 acres alienated in selection since 1869 have only increased the area under wheat by 632,000 acres. Most of the land parted with before the Land Act of 1869 was held in large estates, and the squatters did not grow wheat, but sheep.

Mr. W. Madden (Minister of Lands).—The effect of the Land Acts has been to put the people on the land instead of sheep.

Mr. Mirams.—We will come to that directly. If the honourable gentleman can prove that the Land Act has put the people on the land, he will have more trouble in proving that it has kept them there. The Land Act was not passed merely to put people on the land, but to keep them there, and the honourable member for Creswick last night clearly showed that 50,000 out of the 80,000 selectors who took up land under the various Acts are nowhere to be found on the land. Returning, however, to the subject I was discussing, I find that the total yield page 8 of grain in 1869 was 10,305,299 bushels, and in 1881 13,967,935 bushels, an increase of 3,662,636 bushels only. That is the net result of parting with 9,650,000 acres, so far as settlement can be judged by the results shown in cultivation. There is another point which is important, as showing the character of the cultivation under the old system before the Land Act of 1869 came into operation, and the character of the cultivation since. In 1869 the average yield of grain was 21-89 bushels to the acre, whereas in 1881 it was only 12-19 bushels to the acre, being a decrease in the average yield per acre of all kinds of grain of no less than 9-70 bushels to the acre, which, assuming the older cultivated land to be as fertile as formerly, give a yield per acre for the new land of 5-42 bushels only.

Mr. McLean.—Because the selectors have to cultivate land which is unfit for cultivation.

Mr. Mirams.—I fail to see the compulsion. No one compelled them to take up the land if it was not fit for cultivation.

Mr. McLean.—They wanted it for other purposes.

Mr. Mirams.—They wanted it to get rid of it. That is just what I say. A large number took up land, and merely went through the form of cultivating a portion of it, in order to comply with the conditions of the Land Act, so that they might then pass the land on to someone else who would buy it, and then they went with the money they so obtained to some of the other colonies.

Mr. McLean.—I have seen land——

Mr. Mirams.—What the honourable member has seen in one particular instance is nothing. I am dealing with the whole net result of the twelve years' land transactions of the colony as set down in the public records. Exceptional cases do not affect the average, which is what I am dealing with. If the land is exceptionally bad in some cases, it is exceptionally good in other cases. Then what is the result as regards root crops? In 1869 the total number of acres under root crops was 45,397, and in 1881, 41,662, so that, while the acreage under grain increased in the interval, the acreage under root crops decreased. I do not know what deduction honourable members who are more acquainted with agricultural matters than I am will draw from that fact, but to me it appears to afford direct proof of my contention that the kind of cultivation we have had, as a rule, from selection is not genuine, not the cultivation of bonâ fide settlers who intended to remain on the soil. If it were genuine, it strikes me that the quantity of land under root crops would not have decreased during the twelve years, in view of the larger area under cultivation, but would at least have increased side by side with the increase in the growth of grain. Is it not the fact that the readiest and least expensive way in which that portion of the selectors who take up land for speculative purposes can comply with the conditions of the Land Act is by putting in a crop of wheat? I believe it is, and I think that circumstance accounts for the fact that root crops have not been grown so extensively as they formerly were. Whether that be so or not, the fact remains that there were 3735 acres less under root crops in 1881 than in 1869, although the yield was greater in 1881 by 2640 tons. The number of acres growing hay in 1869 was 140,435, and in 1881, 211,461, or an increase in the latter year of 7.1,026 acres. Although there was this increase in the acerage, the produce of hay only increased by 13,000 tons. The grapes grown in 1869 amounted to 110,185 cwt., and in 1881 the quantity was only 93,318 cwt., so that less grapes were grown in 1881 than in 1869.

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Mr. Connor.—A large number of vineyards were destroyed in 1881.

Mr. Mirams.—But surely the colony does not depend for the production of grapes on one district alone. Every one who professes to know tells us that this colony is wonderfully adapted for the cultivation of grapes and the manufacture of wine—and the result of the Exhibition at Bordeaux proves the truth of the statement—and surely the fact that a few acres were destroyed at Geelong should not diminish the returns of the whole colony for twelve years. If this colony is adapted for grape growing, as every one says it is, and we had real bonâ fide settlers, who wanted to make the best of their land, the number of acres under vines would have gone on increasing at such a rate during the twelve years that the mere occurrence of one bad season in one district in the colony would not render the yield in 1881 less than it was in 1869. The destruction of vineyards in Geelong might have somewhat reduced the increase, but on the whole there would certainly have been a great increase, and not a decrease. I am only dealing with the broad facts; so long as honourable members do not dispute the facts, they can, at the proper opportunity, attempt to account for them, or explain them away as best they can. The Minister of Lands stated, a few minutes ago, that people had been put on the land instead of sheep. Now the fact is that they have not. The number of sheep in the colony is greater now than it was before the Land Act of 1869 came into operation.

Mr. W. Madden (Minister of Lands).—The result of subdivision.

Mr. Mirams.—There we have another quibble. The honourable gentleman asserted that the Land Act has been a great success, and based his assertion upon certain figures. When I come to deal with those figures he attempts to lessen the force they give to my argument by what I must call a parcel of miserable quibbles, which have no force when properly investigated. He first takes a fact, or an alleged fact, and when he is bowled over he attempts to get away by some side-wind or excuse. He stated distinctly, only a few minutes ago, that the Land Act had settled people on the land, and driven the sheep off.

Mr. W. Madden (Minister of Lands).—I said the Land Acts had settled people on the land instead of sheep—referring to the squatters' sheep.

Mr. Mirams.—What does the honourable gentleman mean? I want him to explain, if he can, to the House and the country how it comes, if the sheep have been driven off to make room for selectors, that there were 436,662 more sheep in Victoria in 1881 than there were in 1869. That proves that we have not driven off the sheep—that the selectors do not cultivate, but run sheep. If we have simply changed the sheep-breeders from the big to the small men, we have not got what we bargained for. The Land Act was not intended for that. It was intended to settle cultivators on the soil. It was intended to settle farmers—to establish a "yeomanry." The Land Act fixed the area of selection at 320 acres. Did any one suppose for a moment, when that Act was passed, that 320 acres of land were going to be taken up for the purpose of sheep-breeding? The Land Act was intended to settle farmers on the land, and not sheep-breeders. The number of cattle had increased in 1881 by 593,748, and the number of horses by 113,686.

Mr. Connor.—By improving the land.

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Mr. Mirams.—I suppose the cows and the sheep would have stopped breeding if they had remained the property of the squatters, and there had not been selectors. That is the meaning of the honourable member's interjection, if it means anything. There is another point in connection with this matter to which I wish to call attention. Sending the people to the land, whether they have remained there or not, has imposed a very large burthen upon the country. It has necessitated the expenditure of immense sums of money, which the country has had to borrow. We have had to provide for the construction of railways, roads, bridges, post and telegraph offices, schools, and all the other conveniences of civilisation. If the Government encouraged the people to go upon the land, it was quite proper to follow them with those appliances. As to the mode in which it has been done, there may be differences of opinion, but the fact of the propriety of the proceeding no one will dispute. Well, we have got rid of nearly 10,000,000 acres of land under this process, and we have burthened ourselves with £10,207,000 of additional debt. What I say is that we would not have had the debt if we had adopted another system. Very likely, if we had sold the land properly instead of giving it away in the manner we have been doing, we need not have borrowed money. We might at least have obtained sufficient from the land to provide those conveniences for the people to which I have referred. That, however, is another question which I do not propose to go into just now. I now come to the question of settlement. The Minister of Lands, in speaking on this point, said—

"Our desire is to continue the land policy which has been in force for so many years, and which has had the effect of settling the people on the lands and making Victoria the greatest wheat-producing colony in Australia, and one of the greatest wheat-producing countries in the world."

As regards the question of wheat production, if the figures I have cited do not satisfy honourable members, they will have to find others for themselves. In dealing with the question of selectors, I may say that I have taken my figures from the last report I could obtain at the Lands Department. The total number of selectors of all kinds, so far as I can estimate them from this report, who had taken up land previous to 1870—the year in which the present Land Act came into operation—was 17,443. The number who have taken up land under the present Act was, at the date of the report, 78,339. The honourable member for Geelong (Mr. Berry) will now see something about the "proportion" he spoke of. Of course it would not be at all likely that the quantity of land cultivated by 17,000 selectors would at all equal or approach the amount of land cultivated by the 78,000 selectors under the present Land Act. Counting the 17,443 selectors previous to 1870 and the 78,339 selectors since, we find that the total number of persons who have selected land in the colony is 95,782. Seventeen per cent, of those have forfeited their selections, which reduces the number to 79,513. That is the number of people who should be in occupation now if they had remained there in accordance with the implied terms upon which they took up the land. The number of holdings in the colony in 1881 above one acre and up to 500 acres was 44,543. Of course no one will attempt to say that the whole of these 44,543 holdings are selections. In the first place, during the last twelve years, no selector could take up more than 320 acres, and this return embraces every holding up to 500 acres. I am driven, however, to use the return owing to the paucity of information which is available when anyone wishes to discuss a question of this sort. No return can be obtained page 11 which will give the number of holdings in the colony limited to 320 acres, which is the statutory limit of a selection. The number of holdings is given up to 300 acres, and then there is a jump to 500 acres. Consequently, when anyone tries to find the number of holdings up to 320 acres he has to take the number up to 500 acres, and then make a reduction on some theory of his own. In addition to this, a very large number of these holdings are held by people who have never been selectors at all; they are occupied by persons who purchased them either direct from the Crown, or at second-hand from other persons who purchased them direct from the Crown. Nearly all the farms in West Bourke, for instance, are either leasehold farms, or freehold farms not obtained by selection at all; and the same is the case in East Bourke and in the counties of Bourke, Grant, Mornington, and Dalhousie. A very large deduction, therefore, has to be made from the 44,543 holdings up to 500 acres, in order to arrive at the real number of selections now held by selectors who have taken up land under the system of selection. I estimate the number to be deducted at 15,000—of course some other honourable member may make a different estimate—and subtracting this number from 44,543 leaves 29,543 selectors who are now in possession of land selected under the various Acts, out of the 79,513 selectors who took up land. That is to say, there are gone—there are not represented on the land now—according to my calculation, 49,970 of the selectors. This calculation I made ten months ago, and used in a speech on this question at Collingwood. So far as I know, the honourable member for Creswick has never seen it, yet it is a remarkable fact that the estimate which he has given the House, and which was arrived at by an entirely different method, is the same as mine within 30, for last night he estimated that 50,000 of the selectors who have taken up land are not now to be found on the land. A calculation of that sort arrived at separately, on independent grounds, by two-honourable members, can hardly be, although possibly somewhat astray, very far from the facts of the case; and it may, perhaps, be accepted, until the Minister of Lands supplies the House and country with an authoritative return from his department which will put us right. The fact is that, go where you will throughout the country, and converse with whom you may on the subject of the lands, you will not proceed far before you find numbers of persons—I have always done so—full of stories of individual cases within their own knowledge of selectors who selected for no other purpose than to comply with the conditions of the Land Act, and then get the best price for their allotments they could possilbly obtain. Assuming what I have described to be correct, is it a result with which the Legislature ought to be satisfied? Is it one which ought to induce us to base another land law on the same principle, with provisions enabling the Lands Department to get rid of the territory at an even greater rate? I say it is not.

Mr. W. Madden (Minister of Lands).—You forget that the purchase of a single acre may transfer a holding to a higher area.

Mr. Mirams.—But the Minister of Lands will see that, to make anything out of his interjection, he must show a reduction in the number of the one-acre areas, because the moment one is added to another allotment it must cease to stand as it formerly did in the records of the Lands Department. In no case can what the Minister of Lands alludes to touch my argument in the least, and, moreover, I think he will find it difficult to show that the single-acre allotments are less in number than they were before. I have gone into the question of area in exactly the page 12 same way I did into that of the number of selectors, but it is not necessary that I should explain the precise method to the House. 'Whether honourable members do or do not agree with me as to the exactitude of my results, they must admit, in the absence of authentic information on the point from the Lands Department, that there is every presumption that the figures I have given are based on truth. No one denies that a very large number of the selectors have sold out, and that a very considerable proportion of those who have done so have not only left their holdings but the colony also, to settle in other places. So that our Land Act, instead of settling people on our own soil, has operated to provide facilities for the settlement of Victorians in the neighbouring colonies. This removal of selectors is one of the most important of the subjects we are called upon to consider in relation to our land system. Perhaps there are some honourable members who, if they will not adopt my views on the point, will accept those of the Argus. Well, the Argus of 11th November, 1881, describes the results of the Land Act as follows:—

"But we know that the attempt to create a yeomanry on a large scale has only been partially successful. Selectors struggle on until they can get a title, and then in too many instances their holdings, which have been granted on easy terms, in the hope that they would be attached to the soil, go to swell the estates of the large land owners. Then with a sum of money in their pockets, which they have acquired in a great measure at the expense of the general body of the Victorian taxpayers, they take their departure for the neighbouring provinces, where the capital with which we have furnished them can command greater advantages."

And on the same question the Sydney Morning Herald of 24th February, 1882, speaks in the following strain:—

"All those men who transferred their holdings in Victoria had no chance to select again. The law prohibited such a process. It was necessary for them to seek another colony, and the great majority were drawn across the Murray by the superior inducements of the land and land law of New South Wales. Immigrants to Victoria having in Victoria acquired capital by selling out, came to us with their earnings and their energies, and their experience as land speculators. Five years ago we felt their influence in a new flush of prosperity, especially in our southwestern district. While Victoria was mourning their departure, our land and Customs and railway returns were rapidly increasing; our free and comparatively illimitable land reserves were acting as a sponge, and we were becoming moist at our neighbour's expense. To some extent, the same conditions still exist. They might be perfectly satisfactory if only the present were to be considered; but it must be recognised that surely as Victoria has met her reckoning day, so are we advancing on ours. Land monopoly is not unknown in New South Wales. Dummyism is a very familiar word in our vernacular; the process begun across the border is continued here; land is going for a fraction of its value to incorporated companies and non-resident landlords. The lesser matters of continuous strife between selector and squatter, and consequent waste of energy, might be forgotten, could it be shown that we have in any degree learned the lesson Victorian history teaches, or that our selectors were as a body honest homemakers and tillers of the soil, and not merely birds of passage and transferrors."

That is the testimony of the leading journal of New South Wales as to the effect of our people going over to that colony to settle with money supplied them by the sale of land here which was given to them for a very different purpose, and on terms which would never have been allowed them except with the hope that they would remain firmly settled on our soil, and in that way indirectly and directly benefit this colony. That is an aspect of the case to which I think the Minister of Lands will do well to give his serious consideration, and upon which he ought to supply some authentic information before the debate proceeds much page 13 further. I will now deal with the proposal to extend the area of selection. Not satisfied with the 320-acre limit, the Minister asks us to double the area of selection, on the plea that the land already taken up is superior to that which remains to be selected, and that therefore, if the selectors of the future are to be treated equally with the selectors of the past, they ought to be able to take up 640 acres to the others' 320 acres. There is one view of this case to which I would like to direct attention, before I enter upon it more in detail—which may indeed be said to force itself on us from the start. If it is so necessary to deal out even-handed justice between the few people who now want to select and those who selected previously that we are bound to give the former 640 acres in order to put them on an equality with the selectors at the 320-acre rate, what justice are we going to mete out to the thousands and thousands in the colony who, when the land is all gone in 640-acre selections, will have none at all? Are our ideas of justice in the matter to be at an end when the 6,000,000 acres estimated by the honourable member for Creswick to be fit for agricultural purposes are exhausted? Are we to be just, honest, and fair to our own citizens only up to that point? Surely, if the Minister of Lands goes upon the ground that there ought to be equality of treatment in the matter, he could not possibly ask the House to pursue a more absurd course than the one he proposes. If justice is the word, and we ought to be just to those who come first, ought we not to be equally just to those who come last? That we have hitherto been getting rid of the national estate at such a rapid rate that there is little more of it left is surely a reason why we should decrease rather than increase the area of selection. If those who select now are not so well off as those who selected formerly, still they have advantages over those who will not be able to select in the future. Again, in the very next breath, the honourable gentleman told us that under the Bill those who formerly selected 320 acres would have the privilege of taking up another 320 acres. What then becomes of the contention that each of the present race of selectors ought to have 640 acres, because the value of the land he can select is one-half less than that of the land previously selected? Why, the ground upon which the argument is urged is cut from beneath it. If 320 acres taken up years ago is worth 640 acres taken up at the present time, where is the even-handed justice of giving the man of the smaller but equally valuable allotment the opportunity of selecting an additional 320 acres? By such treatment you immediately put him again ahead of the other. Unquestionably, according to the premises laid down by the Minister, if the former selector is to have 640 acres, the latter selector ought, to be placed on the same footing, to have 960 acres. In fact, the Minister shuts himself off altogether from using his equality argument. Then he must know that almost all the members of standing in the House who have preceded him in dealing with the subject of the lands have expressed themselves as opposed to the idea of extending the area of selection to 640 acres. I have by me volume upon volume of Hansard out of which I could read plenty of extracts showing that such members used the strongest possible language against the adoption of the 640-acre area, condemning it on a great variety of grounds. For example, it was denounced in the land debate of 1872 by the honourable member for Warrnambool, the then honourable member for Belfast who now represents Portland, and the honourable member for Brighton; in that of 1873, by the honourable member for Stawell, the then honourable member for the Wimmera (Mr. MacBain), page 14 the honourable member for Ararat, the honourable member for Geelong (Mr. Berry), and the honourable member for Ballarat West (Major Smith); and in that of 1875-6, by the honourable member for Barwon, and the Hon. George Higinbotharm, who represented East Bourke Boroughs.

Mr. W. Madden (Minister of Lands).—Yet the Land Bill of 1869 when it first left this House extended the area of selection to 640 acres.

Mr. Mirams.—That is true, but the feeling of the House and country proved to be so strong against the area being so large that the Assembly undid what it had done, and reduced the area to 320 acres.

Mr. W. Madden (Minister of Lands).—It was the Legislative Council that made the reduction.

Mr. Mirams.—And this Chamber agreed with the alteration for the reasons which will be found set forth in the speeches I refer to. Now, however, it is proposed to revert to the system which was then discarded. Let us next look at another aspect of the subject. The Minister of Lands, in his second-reading speech on the Bill, said:—

"We have nearly 32,000,000 acres of land to deal with at the present time. Of this area, as I have already pointed out, I believe that about 9,000,000 acres will be taken up under the selection clauses of our Bill. Owing to those 9,000,000 acres being so interspersed among the 32,000,000 acres, it is impossible to separate them except by selection. That is the only way in which the good land can be separated from land which is fit for no other purpose than grazing; and after the 9,000,000 acres have been selected, the balance of 22,000,000 acres will have to be dealt with in some different way."

But what does the honourable gentleman want to separate the agricultural from the grazing lands for? Is it not one of the objects of the Bill to combine grazing with agriculture? Is not the mixture and contiguity of such lands just what he would desire? He must admit as much himself, because I find a few lines further on, in the speech I refer to, that he stated as follows:—

"By this arrangement selectors will be able to rest and manure their agricultural holdings by running sheep over them, and by having two strings to their bow—agriculture and grazing, instead of agriculture only—they will be able to increase their chances of farming successfully and profitably."

Seeing that he aims at combining both industries, why does he not want to combine in each holding land of both the kinds suited to them? In any case, why does he want to separate them? His different statements can hardly be reconciled with his arguments. If he asked the House to believe that it would be difficult to mark out areas containing the required proportions of agricultural and grazing land, I would know what he was driving at, but he has done nothing of the sort. Further on he stated:—

"We estimate that it will take from 10 to 15 years before the 9,000,000 acres of agricultural land still available for selection will be taken up; and after those lands have been taken up, we will have, as I have already said, 22,000,000 acres still remaining. That is close upon the one-half of the total area of the colony. So that the statement that under our Bill the lands of the colony will be squandered is simply a cry of 'wolf' when there is no wolf."

Yet the honourable members who side with the Government in opposing the mode of settlement in advocacy of which I will speak presently are never tired of telling us that it is too late to resort to it, simply because all the lands of the colony are gone. How will they make their assertion page 15 fit in with that of the Minister of Lands? The next statement of the honourable member I will draw attention to is the following:—

"The improvements required are reduced from 20s. to 10s. per acre; and, as is now the case in New South Wales, youths and girls of 16, instead of 18, will be allowed to take up land. This concession with regard to age is intended for the benefit of parents of large families. For a long time it has appeared an anomaly that a youth of 18 should be able to take up 320 acres, and that the head of a family of five or six should not be able to take up more; but, by reducing the minimum age to 16, growing boys will be able to help their parents by taking up land."

But what is there special about the "youth of 18" that the minimum age should be reduced to 16? Will not a boy of 16 grow up in a few years, and become his own master, just as a boy of 18 will? If you cannot expect a boy of 18 to help his parents, how can you expect a boy of 16 to do so? Many honourable members will remember that, on the 27th June last, in response to a motion of mine, a return showing the number and area of selections which had been transferred during the nine months ending 31st March, of the present year, was laid on the table of the House. It was signed by the responsible officer of the department, and showed that 1730 selections were transferred, and that their area was 339,444 acres. The return just laid on the table refers to the operation of certain sections of the Land Act, but how far those sections bear on the question at issue I cannot yet tell. In the 12 years during which the present Act has been in operation there have been 16 periods of nine months each, and, if the figures given in the return which I have quoted may be taken as a criterion of those periods, we arrive at this result, that out of the total area selected, 5,271,000 acres have been transferred during the currency of the 12 years. The only explanation which I can see of the difference between the figures which I have quoted and those which appear on the return laid on the table to-night is that the particular nine months upon which my figures bear formed an exceptional period, during which there was some unusual reason why selectors should transfer their holdings which was not in operation previously. If that is the reply to my argument, it will have to be proved that that particular period was of an exceptional character. I am strongly inclined to think, however, that that period was of an average character, and, if it was, and if the facts and figures adduced by the honourable member for Creswick (Mr. Richardson) are likewise correct as to the number of selectors who are not now in possession of the holdings which they originally took up, then I say we have arrived' at a serious aspect of the question, and one which we are entitled to have distinctly and definitely settled. If I and others are wrong in our calculations, there ought to be sufficient reliable information submitted to the House by the Lands Department to satisfy honourable members and the country as to the real operation of the existing law, not only as regards the number of transfers, but also the direction in which the land has passed away from the original holders. Honourable members will find from the departmental returns that, during the past 12 years, the size of the estates covering a given area has increased almost to the same extent that I, by my process of calculation, proved the holdings of the selectors to have been transferred. If we take the area held in large estates in 1870 and compare it with the area held in the same way at the present time, we shall find that the increase is almost parallel with the decrease of the selections which have been handed over to other than page 16 their original owners. If my statements are not borne out by the returns obtainable in the department, the House and the country are entitled to be supplied with correct information, whatever it may be, before they are called upon to consider and legislate upon a question of such vital importance as the disposal of the public estate.

Mr. W. Madden (Minister of Lands).—It is all given in the annual returns.

Mr. Mirams.—There is a great deal of information which is not given in the annual returns, and which I have had to work out, by a long process, in order to give the House the simple figures which I quoted' last night. There is another point in the speech of the Minister of Lands to which I desire to refer before leaving this branch of the subject, and it is in relation to the mode in which the honourable gentleman; proposes in the Bill to deal with what he calls the squatters' runs. I do not object to the method which he intends to adopt in relation to a portion of those runs. In my opinion he takes a very wise course in: determining that in the future only runs of a smaller area than have hitherto been granted shall be obtainable from the State. That is a move in the right direction. He also proposes to fix the rent of those runs at a certain sum, and then to put the rights of the runs up to public-auction, so that the highest bidder above the upset price may obtain them. I have not much objection to that, but I have grave objections to the mode by which the honourable gentleman proposes to ascertain the amount of rent to be fixed upon the runs in the first instance. The honourable gentleman said in his speech when introducing the Bill:—

"The grazing capabilities of the new runs will be assessed before they are offered to public competition, and a rental of Is. per sheep will be charged."

I would like to know why, in fixing the amount of rent, the honourable gentleman proposes to continue the system which has been in operation' in dealing with squatters' runs for so many years past, and which has; worked so prejudicially to the public interests, and so greatly to the benefit of the pastoral tenants—that is the method of assessing the rent according to the number of sheep which the land will carry? I admit that, by putting the land up to public competition, we shall, to a very great extent, remove evils which existed when there was no competition. Under the new system the purchasers of runs may have to pay a pretty good premium to the State for their leases of three-years, but I shall show that even to that practice there are grave objections. It has frequently been said that the absolute capabilities of runs cannot be ascertained, unless either by the persons who have been using them, or by their immediate neighbours, and, consequently, competition for the right to have the runs for three years would be very limited indeed, and not likely to bring much to the State by way of premium. In the past, the lessees paid Is., per head for the number of sheep which these runs were supposed to carry, and the consequence was that one-third more sheep than were paid for were placed upon the land. In August, 1877, I moved for a return covering the previous ten years, showing the proportion which the number of sheep paid for to the Government bore to the number actually placed upon the runs. That return showed that in 1867 the runs were assessed to carry 5,354,000 sheep, and that 7,512,000 were depastured, and that in 1868, 5,207,000 sheep were paid for, while 7,348,000 were depastured. Without going through the whole of the figures, I may say page 17 that they hear the same proportion through the whole of the ten years. The last year with which the return dealt was 1876, when the assessment of the runs was reduced owing to the amount of land taken for selection. In that year the sheep paid for numbered 3,248,000, while the number depastured was 4,834,000. In addition to the sheep, there were a large number of cattle and horses which were not taken into account in the return, and I have not included them because I left them to be regarded as a set-off against the freehold land which some of the holders of the runs must have possessed. There could, however, have been but little freehold land, because the total area in 1876, including the freehold land, was 21,906,000 acres, and if that area is compared with the quantity of land held under pastoral leases in the same year it will be found that there is not much difference between the two. Whatever that difference may really be, I have allowed as a set-off against the cattle and horses not included in the return. In view of these facts, I assert that the Minister of Lands ought not to have proposed to continue the existing system in the assessment of runs. In my opinion he ought to value the runs, not on any fancy assessment, but on the number of sheep and cattle which the runs have been known to carry for several years past, and which can be easily ascertained from the books of the parties who have held them. I have now done with my criticism of the honourable gentleman's speech in moving the second reading of the Bill, and of the Bill itself. I suppose it will be said that my criticism involves a condemnation of those persons who, in the past history of the colony, were instrumental in passing the Land Acts to which I have referred; that I, as a member of the Liberal party, ought not to be so anxious to find fault with the results of what has been called liberal legislation; and that, in stating that that legislation has failed in obtaining the principal object towards which it was directed, I am inferentially casting a slur on the judgment or the patriotism of gentlemen who, in the past, have agitated land reforms, and by whose instrumentality the various measures were passed into law. I do not think that I am called upon to defend myself from those charges. Even assuming that the results of the various Land Acts which have been passed have been as prejudicial to the public as I have stated, I say that I am casting no slur at all. It must be said, however, that legislators, in framing those Acts, had the country and the future all before them, and knew nothing of what the results of their actions might be. Now, however, we are called upon to legislate with all the results of previous Acts behind us, and we have an opportunity of judging what is likely to be the best for the future of the colony. If those results have not been satisfactory, am I to be debarred from drawing attention to them and urging a new departure, because to do so will be an admission that previous land reformers, whom I respect and admire, have been misled? I believe I am not called upon to take any such position. My duty to my constituency, and to that section of the community which holds the same views as I do, compels me to speak, and I feel that I should be neglecting my duty if I allowed any feeling of reticence to interfere with me in my efforts to ascertain clearly what the results of past legislation in regard to land have been. It may fairly be said that, granting that land legislators may have been misled, they are not to be judged solely by the results of the various Land Acts, because it may safely be asserted that the greatest land reformers the colony has ever had were unable to secure all that they wanted; that they were compelled to accept compromises, and that, had they been able to pass page 18 the Acts in the form in which they desired them to remain, their actions would have had better results than we are now able to look back upon. I am certain that this would have been the case more particularly in two points. The results would have been different, in the first place, if it had been insisted, as was proposed, that no selector should be allowed to take land unless he could show that at least he had capital proportionate to the quantity of land he wanted to take, so that he could work it properly. It was not to be expected that a penniless man could take up land and attempt to comply with the conditions of the law without laying himself open to very great risk of having his holding taken from him by some means or other. There was another condition which ought to have been imposed, and which would have gone a long way to secure better results. It was advocated by a great many liberal legislators at the time, but they were unable to secure its adoption. I refer to the proposal to extend the probationary term beyond the three years which had to elapse before a selector got complete possession of the land. If land reformers in the past had had their way in these matters they would have taken means to prevent the land passing out of the selectors' hands, though it should be said that it often passed away under circumstances over which the selectors had no control. They went on the land without sufficient money to work it properly and to comply with the conditions, and a succession of bad seasons caused their holdings to slip into the hands of those from whom they had borrowed money. It will thus be seen that in saying that past Land Acts have failed in the grand object of settling people on the soil as permanent and industrious holders, and in making them good citizens, employers of labour, and purchasers of articles of commerce, I am not open to the charge of casting reflections on the land reformers of the past. Had the Duffy Land Act not contained the word "assigns," a large proportion of the land which went out of the hands of the selectors, many of whom were dummies, would have remained in the occupation of that class. If we are to part with the land at all, it is almost impossible to impose such restrictions as to prevent it from slipping out of the possession of those who first get it. Those who have capital and desire to obtain more land will get it from those who have selected from the Crown. There is no real remedy to prevent it, and in such transactions the State is defrauded of the difference between the amount paid by the selector and that received by him from the purchaser, for I contend that the capitalist who buys the land from the selector could equally well buy from the State. It makes no difference in a monetary point of view to the purchaser whether the land is bought from the one or the other, provided the price paid is the same in each case. It should also be remembered that the land thus sold by the selectors is not only obtained by them in the first instance as a gift, but the State also gives them a large annual payment into the bargain. I will assume that a selector has sold his farm at £5 per acre, and in doing so I have the authority of the Minister of Public Works, who says he knows of instances in which land, obtained from the State for 20s. an acre, to be paid in ten annual instalments of 2s. each, has been sold for £20 per acre cash down with no other improvement than a fence. In the illustration which I am now giving, the selector receives only £5 per acre, and he has paid 20s. per acre for it in ten yearly instalments of 2s. each. Without deducting the amount spent in improvements, it will be seen that we give the selector 3s. on every acre that he holds in every one of the ten years—the difference page 19 between a rent of 5 percent, upon its capital value and the 2s. which he pays—and then we give him the land for nothing at the end of the ten years.

We now come to deal with the question of the land as it presents itself at the present moment. My remarks up to this time have been directed to the criticism of the proposals of the Government to meet the necessities of the case. I think I have shown that the provisions of the past have .not accomplished the object we have in view. We have now to consider what is the best course to adopt to secure the fullest results and the best .returns from the public estate, not only in the interests of those who go upon the land, but in the interests of the whole community to whom the public estate belongs. No one, I think, will deny that the land of the country belongs to the people of the country—that there has been no particular privilege given by Providence to any one class which could enable them to claim an exclusive right to the soil over any other class. It is the duty of the State, therefore, to make the best use it can of the public estate in the interests of the people who compose the State. We are, at the present time, the representatives of those people. Members of this House in dealing with the land stand exactly in the position of trustees for the public, and we are called upon now to undertake one of the most important duties that devolve upon us—to decide what is the best thing for us, as trustees, to do with the remainder of the public estate which is left under our control. We have no power over the past, however much we may regret the want of success which has followed our past efforts.

Mr. Grant (Chief Secretary).—We have.

Mr. Mirams.—I admit that, in the particular way in which the honourable gentleman is looking at the matter, we have something to do with the past. We have sold or parted with the land, but, of course, I admit that the State, backed by a majority of the community, could even determine to take it back again, or could determine to put a tax upon it. But all must acknowledge that it is much harder to go back upon the past, to impose conditions which are to be retrospective upon property we have parted with, than it is to deal with that which is still absolutely within our own control. Accepting that position, and assuming that the 35,000,000 acres which are left are all we have to deal with, it becomes our duty to consider what is best, in the interest of the whole community, to be done with the land that still remains. Although honourable members may dispute the extent to which our past system has been a failure, no one will assert that it has been an absolute success, or even so successful that we should go on in the same direction with light hearts. Looking at the question in its broad aspect, it seems to me that there are four parties who have to be considered. The first is that section of the community who are anxious to obtain the whole and sole possession of the lands of the colony. I do not say this in any carping spirit towards those persons, because we find the same feeling existing in other countries, and I presume that it is a natural feeling. It is especially a natural feeling in a country like this, that when men become possessed of wealth by any means—by trade, by mining speculation, or by fortunate gold discoveries—they should desire to invest their wealth in a landed estate, which, while yielding a certain and progressive return, will at the same time also secure for them and their children certain advantages which are only obtainable from the possession of landed property. That feeling is abroad in England at the present time to so large an extent that moneyed men are willing to give prices for page 20 landed estates which will only return them 2 per cent, on the capital invested. They look to the extraneous advantages which the position of landed proprietor will secure for them to make up the difference between the return they obtain for their money and the larger return they would receive if they invested it in some other direction. But, while admitting that that feeling is natural, I say that it is our duty, as trustees of the public estate, to ask ourselves how far we ought to give way to that feeling, and help those who entertain it to satisfy it—how far it is in the interests of the whole community that we should afford those persons an opportunity of securing for themselves the whole of the remaining portion of the public estate that they desire to secure. It is impossible, I think, for any man to consider the state of the land question in England, Ireland, and Scotland at the present time without coming to the conclusion that it would be a very bad thing indeed for the people of this colony if at any time the state of things which exists in those countries should exist here. We are bound to look forward in this matter, for we are here as pioneers of this great country, and we have to make laws which are to affect the future for generations yet unborn. As public men, intrusted with great public duties, we have not merely to think of what pleases "Little Peddlington" at the present moment—what this or that constituent may desire in relation to securing a selection! for himself or someone else. If we are to rise to the height of our position in considering this question and our responsibilities in dealing with it, we are bound to take a broad view, to look ahead, and to legislate for the future as well as the present. There is this party in the State which desires to secure the land. Then there is a second party in the State which is quite willing to lay hold of any law that is passed in order to assist the first class to obtain large estates if, in so doing, they can secure for themselves a few pickings out of the transaction. On this point it is unnecessary to do more than remind honourable members of the experience of the past. It is idle for us, like the ostrich, to put our heads in the sand and suppose that we shall not be seen by our pursuers—to shut our eyes to the facts of the case, and to pretend that there is no such thing as dummyism or a dummy—that, whatever has taken place in the past, dummyism has died out. We are bound to recognise that there is a class in the community who are willing to help those who desire to accumulate large estates, if in the process they can put a certain percentage of profit in their own pockets. Then there is a third class—the true bonâ fide cultivator, who desires to obtain land for real settlement and cultivation. It is for that class that we profess to legislate, but, in professing to legislate for that class, we have in reality so legislated as to assist the two other classes in obtaining their several objects at the sacrifice of the public estate. Finally, apart from these three classes, there is the whole community, who have as much right to be considered as any of these three sections—more right, indeed, to be considered than any of the three, except it be the real bonâ fide selector who desires to become possessed of the soil, that he may settle upon it, and rear up his family upon it, and improve and cultivate it. The question then arises—How can we, in the light of past experience, so legislate as to secure the use of the land to those whom we desire to use it without assisting those to obtain it whom we do not desire to have it? I assume, of course, that there is no public man in the community who professes to desire to assist in any way in the further accumulation of large estates. Now, the experience of the past goes to prove that we cannot stop the action of page 21 the second class to whom I have referred, who are willing, to make use of the laws, to pass land on to the large estate holders while making a profit for themselves, so long as there is on the statute-book a law which permits the alienation of land in fee-simple. As long as the Crown parts with the fee-simple of the land, so long will the large estate owner, who wants to get land and has the money to pay for it, be able to procure it. The amount of money to be paid is nothing to him. He is like the moneyed man in England, who is content to obtain half the return from land that he could obtain by investing his money in other directions. No law can be made which will prevent the large estate owner from accomplishing his object and gratifying his desire to extend his estate, except a law which will prevent the fee-simple of the land passing out of the hands of the Government. If the Government keeps the land itself, it is utterly impossible that it can pass to anyone. But honourable members will say, if the Government keeps the land, what use will be made of it? I say the right thing for the Government to do with it, is exactly what those people who want it will do with it if they get it—what their descendants in the next generation will do with it, and their descendants in the generations following. When those people obtain land, we know that they do not let it lie idle and unproductive. They either devote it themselves to grazing or farming, or, in many cases, they let it out upon lease to others who will cultivate it. What will happen when the State has parted with all that remains of the land? Assuming that this Bill is passed, and that the 10 or 15 years, which the Minister of Lands says will be required to get rid of the remaining 9,000,000 or 10,000,000 acres of agricultural land have elapsed, we shall then have no more land to offer for farms upon the terms we have been offering it. What will happen then? Do we suppose that population is going to stop? Because the Government will have no more land to part with, do we suppose that everything will come to a stand-still? Nothing of the kind. Everyone knows that, immediately the State has got no more land to offer, those who desire to become farmers will be compelled to lease land from those who have been allowed to accumulate it. Consequently, instead of having a set of leaseholders with the Crown for landlord, dealing with them on broad national principles, and treating them as human beings and as fellow-citizens, we shall be gradually drifting towards the condition of things in the old country—a condition in which the cultivators will be the tenants of the owners, and will have to pay large rents, increasing year by year as the colony becomes more thickly settled, and the land becomes, in consequence, more valuable. Seeing that that will be the inevitable result of our present system, I ask, then, would it not be a wise thing for the State to step in now and make another experiment? Our past legislation has not been successful, and, even if we do not succeed by adopting the system which I advocate, at all events we shall even then be in a better position than if we adopt the proposal of the Government, and get rid of the remaining 9,000,000 acres of agricultural land in fifteen years—allowing the full time given by the Minister of Lands. We shall not be able to hark back when we have parted with the land in fee-simple. That experiment once entered upon, the result will be final. The land will be gone. But if the Government of the country step in now and say—"We will give this new system a trial; we will sell no more land, but lease it," even if that system does not produce the good results that I anticipate it will, we shall, at all events, when we have proved that, be in a position to try page 22 another experiment. We shall still hare the land, and when the leases have expired, if we are satisfied that the system has not proved successful, we can again return to the present system of selection, or adopt any other system of disposing of the land which may find favour with the public at that particular time. The Minister of Lands shakes his head. I know the honourable gentleman is thinking about the Yarra bank leases and the difficulty there would be in preventing the leaseholders from turning their leases into freeholds. I shall deal with that aspect of the question presently. There is not a statement or an assertion which has been levelled against the proposal in the press or in this House which I am not prepared to answer.

I wish now to say a few words as to what I understand by the leasing system. I desire to do so because I have noticed that, in the whole of the discussion in relation to this question, the public have been systematically misled, either wilfully or ignorantly. All through the discussion the word "leasing" has been played upon, and it has been assumed that the advocates of the principle of leasing in this colony intend to follow the leasing system of the old country. It is assumed that the same sort of thing is intended, that the same conditions would surround it, that the same disabilities would exist on the part of those who would hold the leases, and that the same advantages must necessarily come to the State as accrue to private owners leasing farms on the conditions which obtain at present in the old country. Now there is no similarity whatever between the two systems, except in name. Everyone who knows anything of the conditions under- which land is held at home knows that the tenants have to pay enormous rents, and that they have to make enormous impovements, which go into the pockets of the landlords. I do not pretend to say for a moment that in all the leases held in those countries all the improvements made by the tenant go to the landlord. But I say that, taking the average—and I can only deal with them in the bulk—the leaseholders in England have to leave their improvements, without any remuneration, on the land when the term of their leases has expired. If it were not so, where would be the ground for the agitation which is going on in England at present to secure a land law which will give the farmers there the three things which the people of Ireland have been fighting for, and which go under the name of "the three F's?" All over England the farmers' clubs and associations are agitating for the introduction into the Imperial Parliament of a Bill which will secure for the English tenants the same rights as the Irish tenants have obtained under the law which gives them "the three F's." One of the three F's is that they shall have their improvements, or the portion of their improvements which remains unused when their time expires; this is classed under the head of "free sale." They wish to have the power of selling freely, without let or hindrance, their portion of the improvements which remains unused when their lease terminates. On the question of the conditions under which leases are held at home, Professor Caird, who is regarded in England as one of the highest authorities on the land question, said in a recent, lecture:—

"Between the year 1857 and 1875 the agricultural land in the United Kingdom, was augmented in value by £331,000,000. Of this enormous sum only about £60,000,000 was due to the landlords. The remainder was created either by improvements erected by the tenants or by the operation of natural causes, such as the growth of contiguous towns or the construction of railways. Now, making the most ample allowance for what John Stuart Mill termed the 'unearned increment'—estimating it at one-half of this increase—the sum of at least £136,000,000, the produce of the industry and capital of the farmer, hast in the course of eighteen years, gone into the pockets of the landlords."

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The attempt of honourable members in this House, and the attempt of writers for the press, who disapprove of the leasing system, to class the kind of leasing which contains conditions producing results of that sort with the proposal which I advocate is either the result of the grossest ignorance, or it is purposely done to mislead the public on the real issue. Taking the figures which I have read as the groundwork of my illustration, what would be the result if we had the leasing system which I advocate here? If this land had belonged to the Government of Victoria, instead of to the English landlords, and the increase in eighteen years had been exactly the same, the £60,000,000 expended by the State would be its own property, the natural increase from the growth of population and the construction of railways would also be the property of the State—and the increase from such causes would be greater in this colony, where we spend much more in proportion to the population on the construction of railways than they do at home—but the £136,000,000 expended by the tenants would be absolutely their own property, not to be touched by the State. Not only that, but there would be no increase in the rent for the next term of the lease based upon the expenditure of that £136,000,000. Whatever increase of rent was asked for the second term should only be asked for by virtue of the increase in the value of the land brought about by the operation of other causes—by the expenditure of the State, the landlord, on the land, or by the expenditure of the community, also through the State, upon the construction of railways, or by the increased value given to the land by the increase of population, without any effort on the part of the leaseholder. Those increases would be the fair property of the State, but the £136,000,000 of improvements effected by the tenants would be absolutely their own to sell to the next comer, if they did not get the renewal of the lease, and to keep and use without any increased rent on account of them if they themselves became the possessors of the land for another term. Are those two systems at all comparable? Is it fair, is it just, is it statesmanlike to talk as though they were the same? Does it show any recognition of the real issue at stake for honourable members to tell us that leaseholds in England, held under such conditions as I have mentioned, are not popular, and that consequently leaseholds, held under totally different circumstances and conditions, would not be popular here? It appears to me that when the opponents of the leasing system in this colony have resort to that mode of dealing with the question, it can only be because they have no real genuine argument to offer against the system on its merits, and they are driven to condemn it by a side-wind since they cannot confute it by fair, open, and straight argument. The next proposal I would make in connection with the system would get rid of another objection which is very strongly urged against the leasing system—the objection that backstairs political influence would always enable Crown tenants to obtain advantages from the State which they could not obtain from private owners. Honourable members in this House are never weary of referring to the leaseholds on the south bank of the Yarra as an illustration in support of that argument.

Mr. Bent (Minister of Railways).—Hear, hear.

Mr. Mirams.—Let me tell the honourable gentleman who cheers that statement that there is nothing in the illustration at all. In the first place, those who advocate the system of State leaseholds do not believe in leaving it in the power of any Government page 24 to be influenced by any backstairs influence whatever. Our proposal is that the public estate should be taken out of the hands of the Government of the day, that it should be put entirely apart from political influence, and managed by commissioners appointed for the purpose, exactly as savings banks are managed by commissioners, or as the Duchy of Cornwall is managed by commissioners in the interests of the Prince of Wales. The commissioners would manage the land in the interests of the community, precisely as the directors of any corporation manage any land that it may have in freehold in the interests of the corporation. This system would obviate the objection that political backstairs influence could be brought to bear in order to wrest, in the interests of one or two individuals, concessions which the country was not prepared to make to the people as a whole. As to the Yarra bank leaseholds, let honourable members recollect the facts. We had a system going on in the colony by which every one else in the community was permitted to obtain the freehold of his property. A selector who went up the country and took up land could obtain the freehold of it; a miner who had taken up land originally under a miner's right could get the freehold of it; a man who, under the "novel industry" provision, established a vineyard, or an olive yard, or anything else of the kind, could do the same thing. All these people were allowed, without restriction, to obtain freeholds; but while this system was going on in connection with every one else, was it not somewhat strange, and somewhat unfair, that another set of men who, whether wisely or not, were allowed to take up certain sections on the south bank of the Yarra, should be placed in a different position? Remember that these sections were also taken up under the "novel industry" provision of the Land Act. The land was taken up under, exactly the same conditions as were imposed on those people who went further up the country and devoted their land to other purposes. Under the "novel industry" section one gentleman established a brewery, though I never knew before that a brewery was a novel industry. I am told that another gentleman built a public-house under the same section. Certainly there is nothing novel in a public-house. But I ask, was there anything to be surprised at in the fact that when every other class in the community which took up land was allowed to purchase the freehold, the persons who took up land on the south bank of the Yarra should ask for the same privilege? I am not at all surprised that they did ask for it, and I am not at all surprised that the Government of the day—I think it was the McCulloch Government who gave the first permission—granted their request. If the Government had refused, they would have been in the anomalous position of refusing to one section of the community what was being granted to every other section. But that position of affairs is not on all fours with the condition of things which I would like to see carried out, namely, that no one should get the freehold. If the law provided that no one should have the freehold, it would be the exception to give it; and it would be very much harder to make the exception in that direction than it was to make the exception in the case of that land held under lease. I wish to draw attention to another point. Certain parties who held land under lease on the south bank of the Yarra were allowed to convert their tenure into freehold, and, after a while, Other parties who had also taken up land there on the same terms asked the Government, of which the honourable member for Geelong was the head, to grant them the same concession. That Government are generally page 25 blamed for leaseholds on the south bank of the Yarra being converted into freeholds, but they simply, when they were asked to do so, granted one set of people what preceding Governments had done for others. Previous Governments had allowed persons holding land on the south bank of the Yarra, under the very same conditions, to convert their leaseholds into freeholds, and how could the honourable member for Geelong refuse to treat other people in the same way? He could not do so. The honourable gentleman agreed to allow them to turn their leaseholds into freeholds, but he went out of office a day before the expiration of the thirty days allowed by law within which any contract for the sale of Government land can be cancelled. Mr. Service was the head of the next Government, and he refused to carry out the arrangement made by the honourable member for Geelong. Very soon afterwards Mr. Service was ejected from office, and the honourable member for Geelong came back again, and fulfilled the promise which he made when he was previously in office. Apart from the political aspect of the question altogether, the honourable gentleman would have acted unfairly and unjustly to those lessees if he had not permitted them to convert their leaseholds into freeholds, as others had been permitted to do by preceding Governments. If the honourable member had taken the first step in that direction he would have been to blame in the matter; but whatever blame attaches to the conversion of the leasehold tenures on the south bank of the Yarra into freeholds is attachable to the Government who first sanctioned it, and not to succeeding Governments, who simply placed one set of lessees on an equality with others. The case of the Yarra bank leases, however, does not at all upset the proposal I am advocating, because if it was the law, and not at all dependent upon an act of administration, that there should be no further alienation of land, I venture to assert that no Government would go behind that law, and convert leaseholds into freeholds by an act of administration.

An Honourable Member.—They could not do so.

Mr. Mirams.—True, they could not do so. I therefore hope that we shall hear no more about the leases on the south bank of the Yarra being a "shocking example," and a direct proof that if the Crown lands were leased, instead of being sold in fee-simple, the tenants would be sure in time to get them converted into freeholds. In connection with the details of the scheme which I advocate, there is one point to which I desire to direct the attention of the House. I have said that I would have the whole of the Crown lands placed in the hands of commissioners appointed for the purpose, who should deal with the public estate in the interests of the public—look after the interests of the public in the same way that the trustees of a private estate would look after their wards if they were placed in charge of any. I would therefore lay down no stringent unalterable conditions as to the area to be leased to any individual, the length of tenure, or the terms upon which the land should be occupied. I would leave the commissioners absolutely free, within certain bounds to be settled by the Legislature, to make whatever terms they considered best with persons who wanted to lease Crown lands, exactly in the same way that private lands are leased. Does any one suppose, for instance, that the land in Collins-street belonging to St. James' Church, which is about to be leased to private individuals, will be leased upon exactly the same terms, and for the same length of time, in every case? It might suit one tenant to pay a page 26 large ground rent on condition that at the end of the term for which his lease was granted he was to retain the ownership of the buildings which he erected on the land; it might suit another tenant to pay a small ground rent, and to let the buildings belong to the trustees of the Church at the expiration of his lease; and it might suit a third tenant to make a different arrangement from that entered into by either of the other two. With reference to Crown lands, a great variety of arrangements might be entered into in the interests of the tenant on the one hand and in the interests of the State on the other. It might suit one man to go into the ranges, and take up a large area of land absolutely useless for cultivation, and at the present time almost valueless to the State. The trustees of the public estate might be willing to let him have it on a long lease at a certain rental, but he might prefer to take it on a shorter lease at a lower rental, and the trustees might see their way to meet his views. The Crown lands should, in fact, be absolutely in the control of these commissioners to deal with them in the same way that they would deal with them if they were their own property. Does anybody suppose that the Hon. W. J. Clarke, in dealing with his immense estate, binds himself to grant leases in every case for the same length of time, and on the same terms? Nothing of the kind. He suits his terms and conditions to his customers. He makes one sort of arrangement with one man, and another with another man, looking after his own interests in each case; and that is what the commissioners of the public estate would do if they were allowed—within proper limits fixed by law—to deal with the Crown lands in a business-like way. We would then have an immensely improved estate, bringing in a revenue which would increase every year. I have now given a rough outline of the proposals which those who advocate the leasing system in this colony are prepared to support; and I think honourable members must admit that the scheme is as different from the condition of things which exists in England as day is from night, or summer from winter. We are told by others—and those who adopt this line of argument appear to think that it is a magnificent one—that the idea of leasing the lands is a fad, that it is new-fangled, and a craze. I was highly amused at the Minister of Lands when, in the speech which he made nearly five months ago, he said that the idea of leasing the lands was a "new-fangled theory," as if he thanked God that he was not as other men are, that he was not such a fool as to be taken up with anything "new-fangled." I can imagine that if the honourable gentleman and those who think with him had lived in the olden times they would have been among those who voted for imprisoning Copernicus for daring to believe that the earth revolves round the sun. That was a newfangled notion when it was brought forward, and I have no doubt that there were persons of the same calibre as the Minister of Lands who howled at Copernicus for daring to introduce it, and who jeered at his theory as a "fad" and a "craze." I can also imagine the honourable gentleman forming one of the conclave who sentenced Galileo, who compelled him to repeat the seven penitential psalms every day, and made him withdraw his statement that the world revolves round the sun. Sir, every new proposal that has been brought forward in opposition to previously-conceived notions has been branded, traduced, sneered at, and derided as "new-fangled" by those who had not brains to understand it, or who were interested in maintaining the old system. The phrase "new-fangled" is a very convenient one to be applied to the leasing page 27 system by those persons who cannot answer the arguments in support of it; but I will point out, in the first place, that the leasing theory is not new-fangled, and, in the second place, that if it is new fangled, I am in very good company when I advocate it. I could, if it were necessary, quote numerous extracts from writers on political economy—men of acknowledged thought, power, and influence in political circles in England in their day, and whose words are read and honoured at the present time—who have held exactly the same view that I hold in regard to the leasing system; and it is because I have seen it held by them, and have read their advocacy of it, that I consider it to be my duty to do what I can to induce honourable members to make use of this opportunity, almost the last which may be afforded them, of securing at least a partial acceptance of the theory in this country. Not only has the leasing system been advocated by some of the greatest political thinkers in England, but it is not even new in this country. The idea of leasing the lands in Victoria is almost as old as the Constitution. We obtained the Constitution in the year 1856, and the agitation for the adoption of a system of leasing the lands was first commenced in 1857, and it has been continued intermittently ever since both in this House and the country by some of the foremost men in the colony, and yet the Minister of Lands tells us that it is a new-fangled theory. I will trouble the House with a brief epitome of the history of the agitation in favour of the leasing system. So far as my researches have enabled me to discover, the first person who advocated the theory in this colony was Dr. Hickson, who delivered a series of lectures upon it, which were reported in the Argus in 1856 and 1857. In 1857 the leading journal of the colony, which now sets itself up as the champion of the selling theory, and pats itself forward as the backer of those who call the leasing theory a craze, advocated the leasing of the lands in almost exactly the same words that I am using to-night. I will quote from two leading articles in the Argus, one of which appeared on the 16th of May, 1857, and the other on the 27th of the same month. The first of those leading articles said—

"But to return to the description of tenure we would propose instead. It is necessary that the land should be thrown open freely to labour, and by giving an absolute right oyer all improvements, either to sell or bequeath them to successors, every power will be conferred which now is conferred by the fee-simple of the land itself, except that of locking it up uselessly. The title may be made good and transferred from one to another without all the legal technicality which we have adopted from a country whose lands are held under laws based on the requirements of a feudal system, and which we are foolishly endeavouring to perpetuate."

We were then told by the Argus that the colony was foolishly endeavouring to perpetuate the system under which the lands were held in England. We have foolishly perpetuated that system up to the present time, and now the same journal is doing its utmost to continue a system which it then declared to be foolish, and warned the colony against adopting. The article proceeded to say—

"The unproductive branches of the Government expenditure may be much reduced, and taxes will eventually assume the less objectionable form of rent, which every one is willing to pay for what he derives a direct benefit from. As a tenant willingly undertakes to pay his landlord a portion of the proceeds of his labour for permission to appropriate the remainder, so a tenant of the public lands may be fairly called on to contribute for the general good a portion of the produce of the land he is allowed the sole use of. Instead of a number of petty landlords exacting as much as they can from their tenants, we would have the Government, as the State landlord, managing the public property so as to yield the most benefit to the community, and only taking from the tenants what is absolutely necessary."

page 28
The Argus had no doubt about the value of the leasing system at that time. Its only anxiety was that the public might not see the matter in the same light that it did. The article continued as follows:—

"If this principle is found to be the correct one and brought into operation, all other taxes for the purpose of revenue may be gradually abolished, and the rent required from the tenants of the public lands will be very much less than what is now paid to private individuals, and need be but a small percentage on the present purchase money."

These statements are on the lines of what I have said here this evening, and on previous occasions, and elsewhere. On the 27th of the same month the Argus returned to the same subject, and used stronger language, if possible, in advocacy of the adoption of the very system which it now cannot find words sufficiently strong to traduce and malign. On that date it made the following remarks in a leading article:—

"In a recent article under this beading we endeavoured to sketch the groundwork of a plan for the settlement of the lands of the colony, which we should very much like to see fairly tried. If one district were to be set apart for the experiment, it would soon become apparent whether or not the theory is sound and reduceable to practice. It is only by seeing it in operation that the prejudice which many are inclined to entertain against the proposed plan, merely because it savours of innovation, can be removed; and it is surely worth our taking some trouble to ascertain if it is possible to carry out free-trade in the only way in which it can be brought to perfection, and to throw off for ever a moiety of the burthen the productive interests have now to bear. By selling the land, or in any way giving to individuals the power of converting it into a monopoly, one tax is imposed on all consumers of its produce for the benefit of the landlords; and to obtain a revenue for the public service additional taxation of another kind has to be resorted to. If one of these taxes would be sufficient, why need we impose them both? The public interest requires that only one of those should be raised, and no one objects to pay a fair rent for the use of land, but there are few who will not evade the payment of a tax when possible; and this tendency to evasion (we might almost call it an instinct) necessitates the employment of a large number of officials merely for the prevention of smuggling, the support of whom consumes much of the revenue. In the possession of a public property capable of being made to yield an income much beyond our wants, for the legitimate expenditure of Government, we have the opportunity of removing for ever the second and more odious portion of this burthen, and of very much lightening the first, and at the same time of showing to the world what free-trade really means. Until the revenue is raised altogether by a system of direct taxation, this can only exist in a mutilated state."

These were the sentiments of the Argus in 1857, and they could not be more forcibly put by the most thorough advocates of the "new-fangled theory" who can now be found in the present community of the colony. The arguments put forward by the Argus in 1857 are absolutely unanswerable, and they cover nearly all the ground of the theory. Now why was the leasing system not adopted at that early stage of the colony, when it could have been adopted with comparative ease, and when its adoption would have saved the colony from the evils under which it now groans in consequence of bad land legislation? Sir, the Hon. George Higinbotham, on the floor of this House, within the hearing of many honourable members now present, showed that it was not adopted because of a letter which Mr. John Stuart Mill wrote to a gentleman in this colony. That letter turned the tide of public opinion, which was then setting strongly in the direction of the leasing system. I will read an extract from a speech made by Mr. Higinbotham on the land question in this House on the 30th June, 1875, on this point. It is as follows:—

"Mr. John Stuart Mill, in 1858, raised the very argument which the honourable member for Collingwood (Mr. Tucker) now raised. He expressed an opinion, page 29 which he conveyed in a letter to a gentleman connected with the press in Melbourne, that it was in vain to attempt to institute a system of leasing public lands, because, as he said, men, and especially Englishmen, were so desirous of possessing the fee-simple that, although leasing was the best system in his opinion for dealing with the land, it was a system which he did not believe would be carried into effect in our English community. An attempt which was then being made to obtain the public approval of the leasing system was abandoned in deference to the opinion expressed by that great authority at that time."

I admit that people who want land desire to obtain the fee-simple, but what I ask is—Are we bound to give way to that desire in order to satisfy one-tenth of the community, when by doing so the other nine- tenths will suffer? It is our duty, as legislators, to legislate for the community as a whole, and not for the satisfaction of the desire of some persons, the gratification of which may be inimical to the rest of the people. Mr. Higinbotham went on to say—

"Mr. John Stuart Mill, however, completely altered that opinion before he died. For a year and a half before his death he advocated, very powerfully and in a variety of forms, a system of leasing. He even went beyond that, for he advocated the expenditure of capital in recovering for the State in England the great bulk of the alienated lands."

Mr. Berry.—We shall have to do that here.

Mr. Mirams.—I am sure of it; and therefore it is advisable to make the quantity of land which we shall have to repurchase as little as possible by keeping what we have got in our own hands. I am as satisfied as I am that I stand here that in the future—I don't know how long that future will be—we shall have to buy back the lands from those who have got them, and we shall have to repurchase them upon terms and conditions that the country will be ill able to afford, and that will bring down upon those who now persist in parting with the Crown lands, and thus make the repurchase more difficult, the curses of those upon whom the duty of effecting the repurchase will be imposed. Mr. Higinbotham added the following remarks in reference to Mr. John Stuart Mill:—

"And some time before his death he communicated to a gentleman in this city the opinion he then entertained that the people of Australia had a great opportunity, which Englishmen had lost, by being able to save from alienation the public lands in these colonies yet unalienated, and to preserve them for the use of future generations."

This, I think, disposes of the question as to whether the idea of leasing the lands is a new-fangled theory as far as other countries are concerned. But, in addition, what do I find? That there is hardly a public man in this country who has not advocated the leasing system at one period or another. The leasing theory died out for a time in the colony after 1857, and a number of Land Acts were passed dealing with the lands on an entirely different basis; but in 1871 the agitation cropped up again, and a Land Reform League, with which the late Mr. Gresham was prominently associated, was started, the main object of it being to secure a system of leasing instead of alienation. The Argus was then true to the principle that it advocated in 1857, though it did not espouse it so strongly, being apparently not quite sure whether it would be exactly in the interests of its constituents to speak out so boldly in favour of leasing as it did in 1857. However, one extract from its issue of the 8th January, 1872, will satisfy even the Minister of Lands that he was altogether wrong when he talked about the leasing theory. The Argus of that date said—

"The programme of a proposed society, to be called the Land Tenure Reform League of Victoria, has been issued, and, whatever objection may be taken to some page 30 of the items it contains, it cannot be denied that the ends which it will be its endeavour to attain have received the sanction and approval of many of the most eminent political economists of the day."

'The objects of the league were as follows:—
1.The immediate cessation of the sale of all Crown lands.
2.The fee-simple of the public domain to vest in perpetuity in the State—that is, the people in their corporate capacity.
3.Occupancy, with fixity of tenure, subject to rental for revenue purposes. Transfer of tenant right.
4.Land already alienated from the State to be repurchased by the State. No resale to individuals to be permitted.
5.The gradual abolition of all indirect taxes whatever. The revenue of the State to be derived solely from the rentals of the land."
After saying that the objects of this league had "received the sanction and approval of many of the most eminent political economists of the day," the Argus went on to state—

"The idea of permanently vesting the ownership of the land in the Government of a country in trust for the general community is by no means new."

I hope that after this we shall hear no more from the Minister of Lands or from anybody else about leasing being a "new-fangled theory." The next public action in reference to leasing to which I will allude is that taken by the late Mr. George Harker, a gentleman who, I suppose, will be admitted by every member of this House to have been a cute business man, a man of integrity, and a man of considerable ability. Mr. Harker for many years represented the constituency which I have now the honour to represent. In 1873 he brought before this House a resolution to give effect to the objects of the Land Tenure Reform League, of which he was a member.

Mr. Bent (Minister of Railways).—And he bought an estate at Healesville the next day.

Mr. Mirams.—I have nothing to do with that, and it has no relevancy to the point at issue. If Mr. Harker did what the law allowed him to do, that fact does not make the law a good one. I will read two or three extracts from Mr. Harker's speech in proposing the resolution to which I refer. He said—

"It has always appeared to me that, when we had self-government conferred upon us, all the Crown lands were virtually handed over to the whole of the people of the colony. If that be true, what right had we, as legislators, to alienate any portion of that which belonged to the whole community for the benefit of a small portion of the people? It seems to me that, in doing so, we have infringed upon a natural right. The right of the whole of the people to the lands of the colony is as much a natural right as the right to the free use of the atmosphere which surrounds us, or of the water which we necessarily require. I think I shall be able to show that the way in which we have allowed the best lands of the colony to be alienated is a policy that cannot be justified. . . . Now under what circumstances have the best lands of the colony been allowed to pass away from the Crown? Virtually the possessors of them have obtained them for nothing."

Now this is exactly what I have repeated to-night, and what I have told honourable members on every occasion that I have had the opportunity of doing so. Mr. Harker further remarked—

"What I mean is that the best lands in the colony are certainly worth 2s. 6d. per acre per annum as a mere rental; and if selectors have got the fee-simple of those lands—as they have in numbers of cases—on payment of 2s. 6d. per acre per annum for eight successive years, the State has virtually passed away the freehold of the people without getting any money equivalent for it whatever."

This is exactly the ground I take. Mr. Harker went on to say—

"The principle of the State leasing the land is in actual operation in this colony page 31 in connection with mining leases. Does the State find any difficulty in carrying out the provisions of those leases? Is it not quite an easy matter for the State to see both that the rents are collected and the conditions of the leases are duly fulfilled, complicated though they be? If that is so, I really know no reason why the leasing system should not be applied, with equal success, to the whole of the unsold lands of the Crown.

This is the view which was maintained by Mr. Harker in 1873. He moved an amendment on the Land Bill then before the House, which amendment gave rise to a debate, and was supported by several honourable members, amongst whom was the present Chief Secretary, who on that occasion said—

"For myself, however, having given the matter a great deal of thought, for some time past, I must say I entirely agree with the honourable member for Collingwood (Mr. Harker) in everything he has said. . . . The arguments of the honourable member for Belfast (Mr. Wrixon) against the State leasing the lands instead of selling them are, I think, more of a theoretical than a practical nature. . . . It might, perhaps, not be advisable to adopt the leasing principle in cities, towns, and boroughs. There the Crown might still continue to sell the fee-simple of the land as an inducement to persons to erect good buildings."

I don't agree with that, because I see improvements going on all around me on leasehold land.

"The honourable member for Belfast really admitted the point for which the honourable member for Collingwood contended when he said that alienation should be backed up by a tax. . . . It has been suggested that it is too late in the day to begin a new system when so much land has already been alienated."

And the same parrot cry is raised now, although in the meantime we have managed to get rid of 7,000,000 or 8,000,000 acres. But there was no force in the cry then, and there is, if possible, even less force now. Surely, the smaller the area of the land left to us the more reason there is why we should take care of it. The honourable gentleman also said—

"If it belonged to a private individual, and he desired to turn it to the best advantage, he would probably not sell an acre of it, and why should the State?"

I repeat that question, and I leave the Chief Secretary to find an answer to it, and to himself. Mr. Harker's resolution was negatived without a division, but Mr. Higinbotham, not content with that situation, moved a further amendment, in the shape of a string of resolutions, one of which embodied the leasing system in a modified form, and it was supported by the present Chief Secretary, the honourable member for Ballarat West (Major Smith), and Mr. Burtt, then one of the members for North Melbourne. Finally, it went to a division, and among the names of those who voted for it I find those of Mr. Bent, the Minister of Railways.

This is not the only division of the kind at the head of which I find the same name. The other names are—Mr. Burtt, Mr. Cope, Mr. Harker, Mr. Higinbotham, Mr. Phillipps, Mr. Richardson, Mr. A. T. Clark, and Major Smith. Many of these gentlemen are still in public life, and I am most anxious to see how far they retain their old principles, or how far they have been led astray by the new theories of the Argus. The same question came up again in 1875, in connection with the Land Bill introduced by Mr. Casey, the then Minister of Lands. On that occasion the present Speaker, in his capacity as the representative of South Grant, moved a resolution in favour of leasing, with the reservation that every leaseholder should be allowed to purchase a small portion of land as a site for his homestead, but it was negatived without a division. However, practically the same matter was brought forward a second time, in the shape of a resolution moved by Mr. Godfrey, page 32 a gentleman who was then one of the members for East Bourke, and who is now seeking election to a seat in the other House for the Southern Province. At that time he gave a hearty support to the leasing principle, but, like many others, he has fallen away from his first love. A division was taken on the question, and among the names of those who voted in favour of Mr. Godfrey's proposition were those of Mr. Bent, Mr. Campbell, Mr. Dixon, Mr. Gaunson, Mr. Higinbotham, Mr. James, Mr. Johnstone, Mr. Jones, Dr. Madden, Mr. Moore. Mr. Patterson, Mr. Purves, Major Smith, Mr. Woods, Mr. A. T. Clark, Mr. Godfrey, Mr. Berry, Mr. Crews, Mr. Levien, and Mr. Grant. The latter honourable gentleman also spoke on the subject as follows:—

"He had listened with a great deal of attention to almost all the speakers during the discussion, and nothing had transpired to change the views which he expressed on the second reading of the Bill of 1873, namely, that he believed that land was in its very essence inalienable, but that, like all theories, this was apt to be subject to modification. He then stated his opinion that country lands ought to be leased, and that lands in cities, towns, villages, and suburbs should be sold by auction. To that opinion he still adhered."

Up to 1875, then, the honourable gentleman held views in favour of the system I am now advocating, and I wait to see how far he will act consistently with them at the present juncture. It is unnecessary I should follow the course of the question further. The debates on the subject honourable members can study at their convenience, and I will only say respecting them that they will well repay any one who desires to give the matter full and impartial consideration, and who is not prepared to be led away by party interests, and by personal or political prejudices. It will especially profit such an one to read the speeches of Mr. Higinbotham on the point, for the arguments he advanced run all through the discussion. Sir, the pages of Hansard for 1873 and 1875 are full of instruction with respect to the leasing principle, and it is a disgrace to the House and to the country that their study is so systematically neglected. I have now given the history of the question, so far as this country is concerned, up to the present time. I will next deal with some of the objections urged to the introduction of the leasing system under existing circumstances. First among them, not because of its weight, but because it is the one most persistently reiterated, is that it is too late to begin. It is a complete answer to that argument—if you will dignify it by calling it an argument—that no man in his senses would think of applying it to the case of his own individual property. Were a man among us to declare that because he had wasted half his substance it was of no use to take any care of the other half, we would have little hesitation in declaring him insane. Certainly we would pronounce him utterly unfit to be intrusted with the management of his own affairs. How can honourable members of this Chamber, elected to their seats by the people of the country, presumably because of their ability to grasp large and important questions, and deal with them in a practical and business-like way, justify to themselves opposition to the proposal I am discussing on any such ground? I could understand a similar objection being urged against some two-penny-half-penny question, the settlement of which was a matter of no importance whatever, but it passes my comprehension how honourable members, with 35,000,000 acres to deal with, and the future interests of a noble country like this to consider, can dare to let their names go down to posterity—to generations yet unborn—as those of men who were content to ignore those interests on the flimsy pretence that, having spent so much, it was too late to begin to take care of what was left. I say that the page 33 fact that so much of our national estate is gone affords all the more reason why we should do everything we can, even if we go beyond what we might have been content to do at the beginning, to save what is left in the interests of those who will come after us. If any honourable member opposed to leasing has got any real argument, if he can show that the leasing principle is a wrong one—that it violates a fundamental law of our nature, and is against right and justice to individuals—I would be glad to hear him; but it is too much to elevate into even the appearance of an argument a motive for procedure which every man here must know in his heart he would not be fool enough to let influence him with respect to his own private affairs. The next objection is that leaseholders will not cultivate. I ask those who take up that ground, and especially the newspaper writers who are everlastingly dinning their assertions on the point into our ears, upon what terms land in England, Scotland, and Ireland is cultivated at the present time? I venture to say, without referring to any figures, that nine-tenths of the land cultivated in England is held on a leasehold tenure, if not a tenure that is worse, namely, one that depends simply on the will of the landlord. Why, those who tell the people of this country, and expect them to believe it, and to accept it as an argument against introducing the leasing principle here, that land is not generally cultivated on a leasehold tenure, might just as well say that the sun does not shine, or the moon does not rise—or, in fact, make any other ridiculous statement they choose which every one knows to be contrary to fact. For practically the whole of the land cultivated in England is held on a leasehold tenure, and the same may be said of more than half of the land in Belgium, a country where the soil is cultivated in the highest manner and to the highest extent, and with the highest results. I take the latter fact from a pamphlet, copies of which the representative of Belgium at the Exhibition left behind him here for the general information, and which is full of instruction respecting social and political matters in that country. But, for statistics which fly in the face of the objection I am dealing with, we need not go further than our own country—the one in which we now live—because it is well known that a very large portion of the cultivated land in this colony is held and cultivated on a leasehold tenure. Would honourable members like to know how large that portion is? Well, on that head I can only again complain of the paucity of the information obtainable in any of our public departments with respect to any great public question. Would anyone believe, for instance, unless he was solemnly assured on the point, that although he can obtain from the Lands Department the acreage of the cultivated land held on lease in years further back, he cannot get similar knowledge with respect to the present year? It seems just as though the department expected that some attempt would be made to use the facts the figures would disclose, and was possessed of an idea that it would be best to keep things as dark as possible. I have got, however, a return on the subject for 1871, and I find that, notwithstanding all the facilities afforded by different Land Acts for the selection of Crown lands as freeholds, no less than 22 per cent, of the occupiers of land in that year were leaseholders. Furthermore, I find something even more remarkable, namely, that 31 per cent, of the cultivated land of the colony was then held on a leasehold tenure. What, then, is the use of telling us that Victorians will not cultivate on a leasehold tenure? That [unclear: and] page 34 condition of affairs in 1881? In that year 11 per cent, of the land in occupation was occupied by leaseholders, no less than 2,000,000 acres being held on lease from private owners. The proportion of that acreage which was in cultivation I have not been able to ascertain, but I think we may fairly assume it to be about 400,000 acres. Then what was the rent being paid in that year to private landlords for the use of land originally obtained from the State at an average of £1 1s. 6d. per acre? Mind, I am taking no special cases, but an average of the figures supplied to the Government Statist. I find that for agricultural land the rents paid were from 6s. to 14s. per acre, the highest terms being 80s., and the lowest 3s. per acre; while for pastoral lands the rents were from 2s. 6d. to 6s. 6d. per acre, the highest terms being 10s. 6d., and the lowest 1s. 3d. per acre. If the State had kept that land, could it not have been now receiving from 3s. to 80s. per acre just as well as the present owners? Could not that money have gone into the public treasury to be spent on such public works as canals, waterworks, roads, or bridges, instead of the funds for those purposes being taken out of the pockets of the hard-worked mechanics of the colony? With respect to the rents paid for pastoral lands, it is particularly worth notice that the lowest terms, namely, 1s. 3d. per annum, are just 3d. per acre beyond the 1s. per acre paid by the selector of Crown lands with the fee-simple given in at the end of 20 years. These are facts which the public have a right to know, and it is a disgrace to the Lands Department, if not to the Minister of Lands also, that it should lie on the shoulders of a private member to hunt them up, and afterwards submit them to the House and country in the face of the greatest opposition, and in spite of the strong desire of many honourable members to shorten the discussion. I say that, if we have any right to deal with the question before us with a full and complete knowledge of all its surroundings, the facts I have submitted ought to have been supplied to us by the Government. The next point raised in opposition to the leasing principle is that a leasehold is not a good security. First of all, that statement is not true. Next, if it were true, it would represent no valid objection to the principle I am advocating. Are we here to find good securities for a few favoured individuals at the expense of all the rest of the community? Our task is something higher than that. But, in fact, a leasehold is a good security, the extent of its goodness depending on the terms on which it is obtained. The leasehold I am advocating is one which would involve improvements being as much the property of the leaseholder as they would be were he a freeholder with a preferential claim to a renewal at its expiration. Let us take, under these circumstances, the cases of two farmers, each with £1000. One of them spends his money in buying the freehold of his farm, while the other leases his farm from the Government on these equitable terms, and keeps his £1000 in his pocket, in order to spend it as he goes along in stocking his holding and improving it, being able, should he want more money, to borrow on his improvements. Meanwhile the case of the former is that, in order to raise money to stock his farm, he has to mortgage it, which he will only be able to do, under the most favourable circumstances, to the exentt of two-thirds or three-fourths of its value. Under these circumstances, which of the two is in the most advantageous position? As a matter of fact the freeholder, who, there can be little doubt, will have to borrow at a higher rate than 5 per cent., will have to pay as much in interest upon £750 borrowed as the rent of the leaseholder's farm will amount page 35 of the latter will be the best. Not having sunk any money in the purchase of his property, he will have been able to put one-third more money into improvements, and consequently his borrowing power will be as great, while his farm will be more profitable. Besides, he will be able to borrow not only on improvements made but improvements to be made. So much for the security a leaseholder will have to offer. I am free to admit that short-dated leases, where the lessee has no claim for improvements, would scarcely be accepted as good security, but the leases I have in view would be extremely different. Do we not know that money is lent on leaseholds every day? The splendid buildings just put up in Queen-street near Little Collins-street are erected on ground leased for 21 years. Only a very short while ago the institution with which I am connected advanced money on leasehold property in Collins-street. In truth, if the lease be long enough, and there be a claim for improvements, there is not much difference in character between the security it offers and that of a freehold. Let us remember, too, that we desire to give the leaseholder only a certain amount of security. We don't want to give him a security which it would be to his interest to sell, but merely one on which he could raise money if needed to enable himself to work his farm.

The next objection to the leasing system is that we shall have our population leaving us, because they cannot get a freehold here, and going where a freehold is obtainable. The first answer to that was supplied by the Minister of Lands, which I read last night. He told us that so great are the attractions of Victoria, irrespective of the land tenure question, that persons are actually coming from the other colonies to settle here. Again, if the argument I am dealing with has any power, why don't the leaseholders, who are paying from 80s. to 1s. 3d. per acre per annum for their land, clear out for the other colonies? Is State landlordism thought likely to be worse than private landlordism? On the other hand, I ask how long do honourable members suppose Victoria would, if Parliament adopted the present proposals of the Government, be able to compete for settlement with the other colonies? Why, the whole thing is an utter absurdity. It is the biggest sham ever offered to the consideration of sensible men. With our land being taken up in areas of 640 acres we could only hold our own in such competition for a very few years longer, and then we would have no territory to deal with. Instead of keeping up a rivalry with colonies whose territory is so much larger than our own, ought we not rather to face the position? Would it not be better for us to admit at once to ourselves that Victoria, not being one-fifth the size of any of its neighbours, competition for settlement on the basis of offering easy terms for the acquisition of freeholds ought to be out of the question with us? At the same time we have advantages of another kind, and these, combined with a good system of leasing, are amply sufficient to hold our present population, and also to attract more from elsewhere. Surely to make use of those advantages in that way would be infinitely better than entering upon a course of land squandering, which can only bring us in a few years into the position of having no Crown lands to deal with. It is said that a land tax would answer every purpose I have in view as well as the leasing system. If there is any truth in the statement, made by those who object to that system, that the tenants would combine to wrest from an unwilling Government the freehold of the land which they held by leasehold tenure, page 36 and if they were strong enough to accomplish their object, where is the power to come from that would be great enough to impose a tax? If the leaseholders are to be so numerous and so powerful as to take from the remaining portion of the community the whole of their share and interest in the land—for it is urged that they would be able to influence Parliament sufficiently to have their leaseholds converted into freeholds—would they not be powerful enough to prevent the imposition of a tax on land which was sold to them in the first instance? In the past a land tax could only be imposed under very exceptional circumstances—circumstances which a large number of people are constantly praying may never occur again. Now, if we were only able to secure a land tax from a few proprietors under such circumstances, where is the power that would be sufficient to wring a tax out of the great number of landed proprietors who would have a vital interest in the question if the land continues to be extensively sold in small quantities instead of being leased? Again, if we admit that a part only of that power would be sufficient to convert leaseholds into freeholds, how would it be possible to impose a land tax in opposition to the whole of it combined? The two positions are absolutely unmaintainable. One or other of them must be given up. That Parliament would be supreme as against the whole, and not as against a part, is an absurdity which needs only to be stated to be proved. It must either be admitted that Parliament would have no power to impose a tax, or that the tenants would have no power to wring freeholds out of an unwilling people. One or other of these propositions must be accepted by every logician, and I do not care what position other gentlemen take in relation to the question, because I am not anxious to convince those who are not inclined to follow their argument to its legitimate issue. I assert that it would be impossible to convert the leaseholds into freeholds. Only let the people of this country once realise the advantages which would accrue to them from the adoption of the leasing system, only let them once feel and see the money coming in from rents, only let them once realise the fact that it is a perpetual revenue, increasing year by year as the value of the land increases, and. I defy the leaseholders to bring about legislation which shall rob the people of the revenue thus derived, even supposing them to be unprincipled enough to attempt it, and I regard it as a libel on the people of this country to say that they would attempt it. It might as well be said that the people will insist on riding on the railways for nothing, as that they will ask to have the use of the land free. The number of people who use the railways is greater in proportion to the whole community than the number of leaseholders would be, and yet we have never heard of the slightest agitation being got up at election times with the object of forcing the candidates to declare themselves in favour of allowing the population to travel free of cost on the State railways. Where would we find a man to stand up on a public platform in this colony, and advocate such a thing? And yet I say there is as much reason, justice, and force in this application of the argument as there would be in the other. If you let a piece of land to a tenant at so much per annum, and he has the use of the land, his money is not a tax but a rent, just as is the sum which a man pays his landlord for the use of a house. It might be said by those who oppose the leasing system that, the whole body of household tenants being more numerous than the landlords, they ought to rise up at election times and insist on their candidates promising to try and pass a law that would wipe out landlords altogether, so that the tenants might have the use of the houses for nothing. One proposal page 37 would just be as reasonable and fair as the other. But there is no fear that the leaseholders would attempt to repudiate their obligations. If they did, however, the other nine-tenths of the population who would not be leaseholders, and who would be reaping the advantages accruing from the continually increasing rent, would take very good care that they did not get what they asked for. But, supposing that I am wrong, and that there would be a sufficient number of tenants so roguish as to want to escape the conditions of a legitimate bargain made with their fellow citizens through the Government, and supposing that they actually succeeded in accomplishing their object, what then? What worse position would the community as a whole be in than it would be if the State gave the tenants the freehold of the land at the outset? It would be in no worse position, and it would have the advantage of having made a trial of the leasing system. I therefore say that there is nothing in the argument that the tenants would force the hands of the Government of the day. Those who oppose the system say further that it would raise the value of the land that has already been disposed of. I am free to admit that it would, but I am perfectly indifferent to the fact, because it would be impossible to raise the value of that land without raising also the value of the remainder, which the State would keep. If we passed a law to-morrow that no more land should be sold, and the effect produced by it was to raise the value of the land already parted with £1 an acre, the value of all the remaining land would be enhanced in proportion. Do not honourable members know that the reserved shares in a company increase in value in the same proportion as the shares already on the market? If the shares already on the market are valued at half-a-crown premium, the shares held in reserve would, if floated, be quoted at the same price. And, in a similar manner, if we legislate so as to increase the value of the land already disposed of, so in proportion shall we increase the value of the land that we keep, and the fact that by introducing the leasing system we should be enhancing the value of a few properties held at the present time would not be such a very bad thing, and certainly it ought not to be sufficient to prevent us from doing justice to the rest of the community. I should be ashamed of myself if I refused to support the passing of a law which my judgment told me was one calculated to benefit the country as a whole because, incidentally, it would be a pecuniary advantage to a certain section. The position is so untenable that I think no honourable member would think of taking it up. Another argument which the opposers of the leasing system urge against it is that it would necessitate the repurchase of the land already sold. If it did lead to that—and I am not prepared to say that it would not do so—it is better that it should lead to it at once when we have only part of our public estate to buy back, than that the present system should be continued by which the country will be brought into the position which England and Ireland occupy at the present time. The greatest political thinkers of the day are now advocating the repurchase of the whole of the land in Ireland, in order to use it in the same way that I am asking the House to use what is left to us in Victoria. I am quite aware that there is an agitation in Ireland in favour of the Government repurchasing the land, with the object of selling it again in small blocks to a peasant proprietary. I venture to predict that if the English Government repurchased the land from the present holders, the advanced political thinkers would advocate exactly the same policy as I am now advocating. They would prevent the Government from selling the land again, and they would page 38 have public opinion with them. Their argument would be—"You have bought the land, and it is quite right that you should; but now you have got it you must keep it in the interests of the people." Honourable members who know what is going on in Ireland are aware that there is a strong party in that country who are exactly in accordance with the view that the Government should purchase the land, but who are utterly opposed to its being resold. The mechanics, the tradesmen, and the townspeople of Ireland are beginning to ask themselves the question—"What better position should we be in if we had a large number of small landlords instead of a few large ones?" And that feeling will grow, because it is founded upon right, and truth, and justice. If ever the British Government goes so far as to buy back the estates held by the present owners, they will never be able to sell them back again to small proprietors. They will be compelled to let them on lease, not on the rack rents which the tenants have been paying to the large landed proprietors, but on rents which will pay a small interest on the purchase money, and which will not prevent the leaseholders from cultivating their holdings with profit to themselves and to the whole community. That is the position which affairs are gradually and slowly, but surely, coming to at home, and every man who has given his attention to this question and what is written upon it in English, Scotch, and Irish current literature knows that what I say is the truth. Seeing what is coming on in regard to land, and the difficulty the British Government have in buying it all back at the enormous valuation which is now put upon it, we ought to take a lesson, and say that no more of the public estate shall be sold here, so that there will be less to repurchase when the time comes. Let the present generation get the benefit of increasing rents, which will enable the next generation to buy back the land already sold. Amongst the advantages which would result from the adoption of the leasing system, the financial advantage stands in the foreground. I do not mean to say that that is the only advantage, nor do I intend to convey that it alone would be sufficient to warrant us in adopting the system, but it certainly stands in the foreground. The great social and political advantages of the system are such as ought to command the attention of this House, and of the community as a whole. In laying the foundations of this colony, do we want them to result like those at home have resulted? Are we so enamoured of the state of things there that we want to copy them here? The arguments against it are so numerous, and so patent to every man of intelligence, that it is not necessary for me to go over them. I will not waste either my own or honourable members' time by recounting the social and political arguments in support of the position which I take. I will deal only with the financial aspect of the question. What, in the first place, are the financial advantages to be derived from the system which the Government have brought forward? I will contrast them with those of the leasing system, and then leave it to honourable members and to the country to put one set of results against the other. The Premier, in the course of his Budget speech, referred to the land revenue, and laid on the table a return showing the amount of alienation which had gone on up to that time. He estimated that the total of the payments for the current year, on account of land revenue, would be £549,000; that at the end of the year ending the 30th June, 1901, the amount would dwindle down to £10,000, and that in the next page 39 year it would disappear altogether. That is the income which we have to look forward to from the present system. Of course the revenue might be dragged out for 15 or 20 years longer, when the land remaining for selection was being paid for, but at the end of that period nothing more would be obtained. Now, what is the other side of the question? According to the return laid on the table by the Minister of Lands when introducing the Bill, there are 35,000,000 acres still in possession of the State, and the area is divided into three classes. There are 9,500,000 acres of land fit for agricultural settlement, 16,000,000 acres fit for grazing purposes, some of which are occupied by squatters, who pay more or less rent to the State, and 10,000,000 acres which the honourable gentleman called waste land. I venture to say that the last term is a misnomer, because a very large portion of that land, if not fit at present for grazing or for cultivation, only requires to be kept until the colonies are more thickly populated, until some different uses are found for the lands, and until the minerals with which this colony teams are discovered in them and brought to the surface. It must also be remembered that the timber which grows upon these so-called waste lands will render them as valuable as if they were devoted to agriculture, so that to talk of them as waste lands is misleading to the public and absurd. Only to-day a gentleman came into my office and informed me that "outsiders" were told that there was no land left in the colony worth taking up. I said that he might disabuse his mind of that idea altogether, because, by the Minister of Lands' own confession, there were 9,000,000 acres fit for agricultural settlement still left in the possession of the State, 1 (3,000,000 acres fit for grazing purposes, and 10,000,000 acres of waste lands. Now let us assume as a very low valuation of the 9,000,000 acres which are capable of cultivation, that they are worth £1 an acre, the price at which we at present part with such land. That will be admitted to be a very low valuation if the glowing accounts of the Minister of Railways, when describing the country through which some of his lines will pass, are to be accepted as correct. We may take the grazing land as being worth 10s. per acre, and the waste lands 5s. At these valuations the capital value of the land amounts to £20,062,500, and if we let the land on lease at, say, 5 per cent, rental on that capital value, we should have a revenue of £1,003,125 per annum so long as the lease continued. If a 5 per cent, rental is too high, then take a 4 per cent, rental, and the annual revenue we should receive would be 42802,500; at a 3 per cent, rental it would be £601,875; at a 2½ per cent, rental—which would be 6d. an acre on agricultural land", 3d. an acre on grazing land, and lid. an acre on waste land—it would be £501,562, or nearly as much as we are getting now for the absolute sale of land, and, moreover, it would be a perpetual source of income, and one which would increase according to the increasing value of the land. Of course,! do not suppose that all the land would be taken up at once, but we must not circumscribe the question by the limit of the immediate present. If all the land would not be taken up now, it would be by-and-by, and in addition, if it increases in value during the next 50 years as it has done during the past—and where is the man who will say that it will not—we shall have three or four times the revenue which I have here quoted. [unclear: As population extended and as money was required for governmental] page 40 purposes, the revenue would have to be increased, and to supply the deficiency the rents from these leaseholds would be utilised, instead of that, if we accept the proposal of the Government the land revenue will dwindle down to nothing at the end of twenty years. Is there a man in the colony who, having given his undivided attention to the question, can hesitate for one moment in saying which system is the best from a financial point of view? The other aspects of the question I leave honourable members to think out for themselves. In conclusion, I hope this House will rise above every consideration in its desire to do its duty to posterity. Some honourable members may ask—"What is posterity to us?" Is it becoming to Englishmen, who are never tired of boasting of their ancestors, and of what their ancestors have done for them, to say that they disregard posterity, and that they want those who come after them to think less of us than we do of those who went before us? I would be sorry to think that the future generations of this colony should have it to say that we, from any petty party or personal object, could be induced to depart from what, in our own judgment, we thought to be right in dealing with this question, and I ask every honourable member to vote upon it in that light. Above everything else I ask that, at least, the people of the country should have a chance of saying whether they want this system which I advocate or not. I would impress it upon the Government and the House not to venture, at the fag-end of the last session of a Parliament which is moribund, to legislate upon a question of this great, this vital, and this lasting importance. To do so under these circumstances would be to act in a manner which no honourable member could justify to his own conscience now, or to the posterity which is to come after him.

Mr. Connor moved the adjournment of the debate. The eloquent address delivered by the honourable member for Collingwood (Mr. Mirams) would require a good deal of consideration, and, as honourable members appeared to be tired out, it would not be wise to proceed further with the debate that night.

Mr. Zox seconded the motion. The honourable member for Collingwood (Mr. Mirams) had delivered an excellent speech, lasting between five and six hours, and honourable members, whether they agreed with his views or not, would be willing to admit that it reflected the highest credit on him. The honourable member had taken great pains in the preparation of his address, and honourable members intending to reply to it should be afforded an opportunity of studying the question.

Mr. Walsh said that the honourable member for Collingwood (Mr. Mirams) had brought forward an aspect of the land question which might almost be considered new, and his views were not likely to be fully understood until honourable members had an opportunity of seeing them in print and carefully considering them.

Mr. Berry remarked that the speech of the honourable member for Collingwood (Mr. Mirams) was a very able one as representing certain views, but unless more rapid progress was made with the debate there would be no legislation at all. Some honourable member should have been prepared to reply to the honourable member for Collingwood.

The motion for the adjournment of the debate was agreed to.

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