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Thursday, 10 June 1915

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - How does the honorable member arrive at those figures?

Mr LYNCH - My statement embraces the people in the cities and towns, as well as those in the country. The condition of things in the district from which I come is enough to make an honest man blush. I employ share farmers, and make a good profit out of them; but where men are engaged in farming who have no better title to their land than a yearly lease, few are doing well. In some extreme cases, when a drought comes, they are compelled to go out on to the stock routes and camping reserves until the rain comes. After the crop has been put in, they have to get away somewhere else, coming back to harvest it. What we have now cannot be called settlement, but .is merely an exploitation of the resources of the country. We shall not get genuine settlement until we have a better system of land tenure. But I am not going to deal with the principles by which the land tenure of the States could be improved, though the question is an urgent one in every State. My present concern is the development of the Northern Territory under the leasehold system. We are told that it is the absence of the freehold system that prevents settlement in the Territory. Yet we know that in New South Wales, with its various free selection Acts, the freehold system absolutely broke down, and even a conservative party like the Liberals departed from that principle in the Act of 1908 in an endeavour to avert the direct consequences of the freehold system.

Mr Fleming - But they had to return to the freehold.

Mr LYNCH - All the elements that contribute to make a freehold are taken out of the title that may be Required under the Crown Lands Acts of New South Wales.

Mr Patten - In 1908 the lease-holders were given power to convert to freehold.

Mr LYNCH - It was a concession more honoured in the breach than in the observance. The party of which the honorable member is president sought a certain concession for conversion, and the then Premier, Mr. Carruthers, gave a promise of it, which promise was afterwards redeemed by his party; but they afterwards turned his party out, because, when they attempted to convert, under the 1908 Act, the Courts decided that they must pay what was considered the capital value of the land at the date of application. What they wanted to do was to convert at the nominal rates fixed on homestead and settlement leases in the out-back country in dry seasons, and which they were allowed to do by the amending Act of 1910. The limitations contained in section 25 of the 1908 Act in regard to converted holdings are such that the title, which purports to be a freehold, is nothing more than a glorified leasehold. Not only is there the limitation of individual holdings, but even after the deed of grant is issued the holder can transfer only with the consent of the Minister. Therefore, I say that all the elements that go to make a real freehold, such as Froude said no man should possess - that is, a freehold with which a man can do what he pleases - were taken away. Even after that was done, with the very best intentions, it was found that the. real evil of land monopoly was still latent in the system, and would ultimately destroy it, because what is called a living area in a progressive country is constantly changing, and a man who has no more than a living area to-day, may be in half a generation a land monopolist. That is the evil we seek to prevent by instituting the leasehold system in the Northern Territory. I wish to make a few suggestions as to how that system may be applied to the Territory. Having given consideration to this matter as a practical man, I have come to the conclusion that if we wait until the Northern Territory is developed by capital going into the country either under the leasehold or freehold system, or until the Government develop the country by a purely communal system, from which, as I understood the propounder of that system, we are to eliminate every socialistic element, we will wait till the millennium. The way to commence the development of the Northern Territory is to make use of the best material which Australia can produce in the form of capable and willing young men who are now struggling all over the Commonwealth to get a piece of land on which to maintain their individual independence. Every willing worker of this type the Commonwealth may enlist for the Territory by a system that can be very easily devised. Nothing should be simpler than to classify the lands of the Territory, and place them under the control of a commission of three capable managers. Such men are to be found in abundance throughout Australia, and I would give them power to improve and settle pastoral properties, having due regard to the frontages to railways that will be gradually constructed in accordance with the expressed desire of the majority of this Parliament that the country shall be adequately served by railways suitable both for defence and prosperous, settlement and development. The land could be manned by the Government calling for applications from capable young men, who would be willing to enlist for a period of five years at a fixed wage of, say, £2 per week and keep, on the understanding that half the wage was to be held by the Government as a deposit for the future settler, whom we should hope to create under the advantageous conditions I am outlining. Those men should be engaged in clearing, fencing, and working the properties, which would be made productive firstly with cattle and horses; then, as closer settlement became possible, and as the railways came into being, the improved holdings could be subdivided, and these young workers, equipped with the small capital which their deferred wages would furnish, would be given the premier position as leaseholders, under a system which would not aim at taking the biggest possible rent from the community for the individual, but would make the prosperity of the settler the first consideration. Having so provided for these first State settlers, I would map out the country so that every man with capital, large or small, could take possession at light rentals of the areas further removed from the railways than 'the areas which had already been allotted to the State itself and its embryo 'settlers. I would give these independent leaseholders the best rental terms possible, but I would enforce strict residential and stocking conditions, together with a stipulation that they should employ young men in the manner I have described, and pay a proportion of their wages into the Commonwealth Bank, to be drawn and utilized on the same lines as the wages of the employees on the Government stations. Ultimately, of course, these larger leaseholds would be subdivided under such terms, and at such time as the necessities of settlement might dictate, and the leaseholders' employees given the same preference when qualified as settlers as employees on Government stations. I venture to say that every man who is now vainly seeking for land in the Commonwealth would avail himself of an opportunity such as this, and the system would be Socialistic only so far as any Socialism should go - that is to say, it would aim at doing for individuals what they could not do for themselves. When, with the growth of development and the increase of facilities, it became possible to make a living on a more restricted area, a system of subdivision, with appraisement of and payment for improvements," could be put into operation. In this way, it would be possible to open up and develop the best pastoral country of the Northern Territory, and under the capable management of three commissioners, the pastoral products alone would pay for the extension of the system. The development of other industries would gradually follow. I could lay hold of hundreds of men who would gladly sign on for five years at a wage of £2 per week and keep, with the certainty that, at the end of that term, as the Government holdings became fully improved, railways were advanced, and closer settlement became possible, if only to the extent of substituting sheep for cattle and horses, they would be the first settlers, and would be able to carry on their individual enterprises untrammelled by the absurd conditions which hamper other settlers throughout the Commonwealth. There could be no greater reflection on the intelligence of Australia than the fact that, at the present time, we are unable to find land for our capable and willing workers. Of course, it suits a section of the community to sit down and live on the products of others; I myself could do that; but no political economist would defend the private ownership of land as being in accordance with the highest principles 'o£ human justice. They ali say that, at the best, that system is an expedient, and that they have found nothing better to accord with the natural desire of people to acquire the ownership of land. *

Mr Manifold - If these young men you refer to did not settle on the land, would you return them their deferred wages 1

Mr LYNCH - Certainly. I would pay them about £2 per week, but if they proved their incapacity under the capable management of three commissioners, they could be sacked in the ordinary way, or could be allowed to sign on at a reduced wage. I would withhold half of the £2 paid, and pay 3 or 4 per cent, on the deferred amount, and then, when the stations were subdivided into, say, ten blocks, these young men would" start independently with a small capital, and with the inestimable advantage that comes to an individual from having worked for some years under the conditions he will have to face in the future. Then at any stage the settler could sell out to another man similarly qualified, of whom the Commissioners approved. In that way we could begin settlement, and provide for, at least, a good living being obtained by the average man, bar accident or disease.

Mr Manifold - If a man is a failure, you would give him his money back?

Mr LYNCH - If a man were a failure, it would be found out, not in two or three years, but in two or three months : and I would give him his money back at the rate of 30s. or 33s. a week.

Mr Manifold - They would not go under these circumstances.

Mr LYNCH - This is no place to defend the details of a scheme of the kind; but let any honorable member indict the principle, and I shall answer him. If the principle is sound, it is a reflection on human intelligence to say that we cannot provide for the details. Let us look at the contrary system of freehold, as we have it in New South Wales and Victoria. We find that before there is . a population anything like a tenth of that which a State could carry. the Government is compelled to buy back land. The same principle is applied to mining, to " encourage capital," as it is called, and we know the sort of development that takes place; indeed, if the present system were specially designed to prevent true mining development it could not be more effective. In New South Wales, with the conditions of which I am the better acquainted, can any man show me any mines discovered simply because of the application of capital ? In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, mines are discovered in consequence of the daring and enterprise of the man with the nick and shovel.

Mr Richard Foster - But mines are developed by capital.

Mr LYNCH - I am now speaking of the discovery of mines. I wish it to be understood that I am not indicting capital, which does not receive, from either this side or the other, the consideration it deserves. I am now speaking of legitimate capital, used directly in assisting its parent, labour, to carry on production. We were fighting for years in New South Wales for a Mining on Private Lands Act, and the remarks I am making are applicable also to mining on Crown lands, except that I am stating the strongest case. If a man who has discovered some " show," makes an application under the Mining on Private Lands Act, he begins, after certain preliminaries have been complied with, to develop the particular lode, or whatever it may be. Then a man, whom we call a " capitalist " - though I say this is an illegitimate use of the idea of capital - comes along, and, if he thinks the circumstances warrant, he may lodge applications for as many leases as he likes, with the result that by the time the real miner has discovered something good, and a rush sets in, it is found that the country is pegged out all around, and those who hold the titles begin to float "wild cat " or genuine mines - all based on the discovery of the miner. This is tolerated; and yet it would be very simple to prevent it, and enable the State to render the necessary assistance, and see that the real worker got the benefit of the discovery. As a matter of fact, the way is paved for monopoly, and those who support the system of freehold land, or the present system of mining, never stop to consider that the interests of individuals are always made subservient to the favoured few who possess capital. The principle of Socialism is the principle I look forward to as that on which the development of the Northern Territory depends, especially in the matter of land; and I was sorry to hear the honorable member for Flinders say, some time ago, that we of the Labour Darby went through the country at election time preaching direct opposition, and almost undying enmity to capital. What we are really aiming at is the setting of reproductive labour free - at giving practical and logical expression to a doctrine, the truth of which is admitted by the ablest economists, namely, that capital is the child of labour. It is unjust and monstrous that labour should have to stand aside until a thing of its own creation gives it a right to work; and that monstrosity should be removed. We all know that the three great factors are land, labour, and capital; and we wish to see labour the predominant partner, because it is the creator of the one and the inheritor of the other, under Divine ordinance.

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