MEETING AT MINTARO.
[From the Northern Argus.]
An adjourned meeting was held on Monday evening, May 13, at the Mintaro Hotel, to adopt a memorial to the Assembly against the proposed alteration of the Electoral District of Stanley, and discuss other matters before Parliament.
Mr. Thompson Priest, who was Chairman, said the alteration would not be conducive to their interests. Nearly the whole district was against being separated from Clare, whose interests were theirs. The Burra was more mining and pastoral than agricultural; their operations were simply agricultural, and they must have members who represented the farming interest.
Mr. W. E. Giles read the proposed memorial. Mr. P. Down proposed that the memorial be drafted. Mr. M. Tobin seconded.
Mr. G. Faulkner considered removing them from their friends of Stanley, and especially from Clare, with whom they had been so long connected in electoral and other matters, and whose interests were precisely the same, to join strangers was not at all agreeable, not only because the Burra was a mining and pastoral district. It was not to be supposed that they should ever succeed in putting in members if they did not suit the Burraites. There were a great many householders there—from 700 to 900—and the mining interest would carry the sway. The pastoral interests also were great in that quarter. When Mr. Hart was defeated elsewhere he came to the Burra and was elected. A good man was defeated at Wallaroo because he did not suit the miners’ views, or what they considered should be done solely on their behalf. He simply wanted, like others, his rights in fair and honest representation. The districts seemed to be cut to suit members, not the people.
The memorial was signed by all present.
Mr. P. Brady proposed—
‘That the memorial be forwarded to Mr. Bright as soon as convenient, and that he be requested to use his influence towards the accomplishment of the object therein specified.’
Seconded by Mr. G. Faulkner, and carried unanimously.
Several gentlemen volunteered to travel the district for signatures.
The Scrub Lands Act.
Mr. P. Dowd said as far as his understanding went a person could take three square miles and get a lease for 21 years, but if he chose pay next day. By such means the capitalists could take up the country, and what chance would the working man have? He did not object to their having a lease for 21 years, but he certainly objected to their being allowed to buy out when they pleased. He thought they should not be allowed to purchase in less than five years. The Parliament might pretend to legislate for the labouring class, but their actions showed different when they allowed land to be bought up like that. It might be better termed an ‘Act for the especial benefit of absentees.’ The Government should leave forest reserves where possible. Timber was scarce in some parts, and the farmers who purchased land required materials for fencing and licences issued. He deemed it most desirable that such should be done.
Mr. G. Faulkner said he knew scrub land which, if it were cleared, was very good; he did not consider it worth 10s. per acre—the expense would be very heavy in clearing fit for cultivation. If a man took land and found minerals by searching, he should be entitled to them, provided he could pay for the land. Some members were for high prices, but did not think so when Bundaleer was sold for £1 per acre—nearly, if not quite, the choice of the colony; and the Gum Creek Run of 35,000 acres might have been sold in, say 70 lots of 500 acres each to farmers, and would have brought population and given employment to hundreds, instead of one or two boundary, riders and a stray shepherd or two. Some who agreed to part with the lands then said now, ‘Oh, it’s too cheap.’ They did not say so then. He would be glad now to give £20 for a square mile of land, provided it was anything like fair quality; and he quite agreed with the previous speaker that the Government should reserve forests were practicable; to accommodate people in this matter would be a step in the right direction. He considered Strangways’ Act a most liberal one, if dummyism was done away with. The Broughton Area was, with one or two exceptions, all dummied, and out of 36 members in the House no one seemed to dare to enquire into it.
Mr. P. Brady considered the Act as framed was only placing the land in the hands of capitalists. Land containing minerals should not be claimed by Government, provided the finder could pay; but by the present means the capitalist could purchase and lock in the farmer. He believed Strangways’ Act to be very liberal, if carried out in its proper spirit, but there was plenty of dummyism. He knew six on the Broughton Area.
The Chairman considered Strangways’ Act exceedingly liberal.
Mr. W. E. Giles saw no reason to forward any memorial, but merely pass a resolution, which he had no doubt would be forwarded to the Press. Other meetings would also be held, and the reports would be read by the different members.
Port Augusta and Port Darwin Railway Scheme.
The Chairman-considered the proposed railway one of the best things he had ever heard of here. It would be the means of bringing capital into the country, and population also. It would open up all the country north. The land at present was worthless, but by giving a portion away, the rest would meet with a ready sale. In every way he considered it would be to the interest of South Australia.
Mr. Giles could not for a moment see how any one could oppose it. The land at present was useless. It was true the Government were running a telegraph line through, but that might be considered a ‘white elephant.’ There would be a station here and there, along the line, but would this open up the country? He would certainly say no. The quantity of land to be given to a Company might sound great, but what was the value now? There was no risk—the cost and responsibility was on the Company. The land would be given in alternate blocks; they had their risks of good or bad, and if they found gold in quantities ever so great they deserved it for their enterprise. If one-third of the land were given, it would be the means of opening up the rest. They should have railways to other markets, perhaps branch ones to other colonies, and it would bring wealth.
Mr. P. Dowd was in the House when the scheme was introduced, and was surprised at the opposition it met with. He could not account for it in any way unless on the dog-and-manger principle—(laughter)—viz.—’if I cannot get anything out of it, you shall not.’ He also heard the opinions of some members outside, who said—” A perfect humbug, got up by parties to make a fortune.’ Well, with all their opinions they did not change his as long as the scheme was for the interests of the colony. He did not care who made their fortunes out of it; some must be better off than others, or who would employ any one? As for the land in the remote North, what was it worth now? Nothing; and it would be in 100 years time, if some such scheme was not carried out. He maintained that letting the land go would bring capital to our shores, also population, and that without Immigration Acts. The Company would bring the best labour they could get. It would cause fresh markets and products, and make this the leading colony in the Australian group. (Cheers.)
Mr. G. Faulkner had heard a member say it knocked the wind out of him when he heard that they wanted five years to mature the scheme, and 14 after to finish it. He believed it would be to the interest of the Company to do the work as quickly as possible. They might ask the time, but would never require it. The Government had laid out a great deal of money in bringing labour to the colony; but did they keep it? In this case labour would be brought, and food, &c., would be required. The revenue would be benefited, and so would all. He hoped that the members would legislate for the benefit of all.
Mr. W. E. Giles moved—’That this meeting approves of the proposed Scrub Lands Act with the amendment that payment shall in no case he made in less than five years, that all minerals found shall be the property of the person taking up the land, and that large forest reserves be made.’ Also—’That this meeting heartily approves of the Port Darwin and Port Augusta Railway scheme, as the best ever brought before Parliament.’
The resolutions were seconded, and carried unanimously.
[note: ‘Dummying. In Australia, during periods of conversion of Government land to freehold or leasehold, the practice (also called “dummyism”) of wealthy squatters employing someone who qualifies as a “free selector” to acquire land that they themselves would not have access to. This practice was particularly useful in acquiring or denying to others access to watercourses and thoroughfares.’ — Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dummy_purchaser, accessed 22/4/2022.]