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3-184 (Text)

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author,male,Jenkins,un addressee
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Clark, 1975
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Mr. JENKINS assured the House that though he was aware that he was looked upon as a squatter, yet that he had now no personal interest in squatting affairs; and that he only took an interest in them from believing that the squatters contributed more than any other class to the welfare of the colony. The chief objection he had to the bill was against the clause providing for free selection. Against this the gravest objections were to be urged. It had been stated that the squatters were hostile to the spread of agriculture, but, on the contrary, the squatters would be only too glad to see agricultural settlements formed throughout the length and breadth of the land, if they were confined to proper areas; since from these settlements they would be able to procure a supply of labour, and would be saved the expense of carrying flour from the coast into the interior. From the long experience he had gained as a bona fide squatter, his opinion upon these matters was entitled to some weight, and he declared that he regarded free selection as a most unnecessary interference with the interest of the pastoral occupants, the more particularly as the same object could be obtained by bringing some of the extensive surveys that had already been made into operation. It might not be known to hon. members that there were now two and a half millions of acres of land surveyed in the pastoral districts in large reserved blocks of from five to ten miles square. These had been originally selected and reserved on account of their capabilities, and from their being adapted for the settlement of agricultural village communities, and if properly subdivided and offered for sale would prove, in his opinion, necessary for every purpose that could be required. Unlimited free selection would, he believed, aim a fatal blow to the pastoral interest, unnecessarily injuring a class that had given to the colony its largest exports. It had been said that the produce of the pastoral districts did not stand so high on the list of exports as those of the gold districts.  Now, he did not with to depreciate that interest, for he earnestly hoped to see it go on increasing; but he could show by statistics that a great mistake had been made when it was said that the produce of the gold-fields was superior to that of the pastoral districts. The hon. member then referred to statistics to show that while the export of gold dust from this colony amounted to between one and two millions sterling annually; the amount of exported pastoral products was between two and three millions. (Mr. GARRETT: Which employs the most labour?) It would be a very serious thing for the colony at large if there was any unnecessary interference with the pastoral interest. Hon. members might not be aware that at the present time the produce of grain in this colony was fast overtaking the demand. (Oh, oh.) Recently issued statistics showed it to be the case, that while up to last year the quantity of land put in crop was fast increasing, the annual importations of grain since 1855 were gradually ally diminishing in proportion, and the time was evidently near at hand when the colony would not require to import a single grain of wheat. He was very glad to find that such was the case - that without unduly fostering the agricultural interest, we should be able to grow all that was required for our own consumption. If this were the case, was there not danger of overproduction? (Laughter.) The hon. Premier might laugh, but if a large number of persons went upon the Crown lands, deluded and snared into doing so by the provisions of this bill, should it unfortunately become law, and, taking up a position as debtor of the Crown upon agricultural lands, there was the greatest danger of over-production, as had been the case before, and within the recollection of the hon. member himself. Then, again, there were to be expected occasional bad seasons, which might greatly interfere to prevent the settler from meeting his engagements with the Crown, the consequences of which, if the cases were numerous, would be much to be feared, as instead of the Government being able to obtain its claims, or the fulfilment of the engagements the settlers were under, the settlers might demand the sympathy of the Government, especially as it was through the Legislature they were brought into that position. 
In speaking of free selection, he (Mr. Jenkins) had stated that the squatters, as a body, did not object to afford proper facilities for the settlement of the country. The squatters in the district which he represented, at all events, were not hostile to the settlement of the land by an agricultural population, and their views in this respect could not be considered otherwise than liberal. In the districts of the Gwydir, Liverpool Plains, and New England there were extensive reserves of land, and he should have no objection to see some of these reserves properly surveyed and subdivided into farms, which should be offered for sale at the same time on the same day, in order to prevent a scramble for the best allotments.  Supposing fifteen to twenty allotments were sold, the remainder should be left open to free selection at the upset price. The residue after this should be left as pasture for the benefit of the agricultural settlers, so that they might have room for running their stock. These opinions had met the views of his constituents, who considered that by these means all proper facilities would be given for the settlement of the land. With regard to deferred payments, he had no objection to them, provided the settlers were not thereby put into relationship with the Government as debtor and creditor- - a relationship he considered most dangerous. He proposed that they should enter upon the land as leaseholders for ten years, to pay 2s. per acre annually, and at the end of the ten years all payments to cease, and the title to the land to be given to the settler. This was a species of deferred payment, but, instead of the relationship with the Crown being that of debtor and creditor, it was that of tenant and landlord. He believed that one of the great evils likely to result from the passing of such a measure as this would be the consequent dispersion of the population. Crime was here unfortunately but too prevalent, as compared with England; and, especially, drunkenness. This deplorable state of things, the operation of this bill, if it became law, would greatly tend to aggravate. He held that the inevitable result of this measure would be to superinduce such a dispersion of the population as would very materially augment the evils referred to by removing the people from the ordinary ministrations of religion, and by cutting them off from the benefit of schools of art and educational institutions generally. Other inconveniences would from time to time be experienced; the difficulty of having the work of blacksmiths and other handicrafts done when required would also be sensibly felt. In a moral, social, and material point of view, he thought the House would do well not to aid in the dispersion of the population. He would be very glad to see the bill carried if he could think that it would be the means of attracting a large amount of immigration to these shores. This, however, he did not think would be the case. An analogy had been sought to be drawn between this country and America on this important question. No such analogy could in fact exist. Here we had no export market, which they had in the United States. All that the community of this colony could do to attract an influx of immigration was to encourage the gold diggings and other industrial pursuits, and so, indirectly, to afford proper assistance to agriculture. He considered that this was a most unnecessary piece of legislation, - one which would materially interfere with the due development of the pastoral interest. As a practical squatter, he could not forbear also to state that he firmly believed that one of the results of this bill would be that it would promote cattle stealing, and be, in many other ways a heavy discouragement to the pastoral interest. He regretted he was opposed to so many principles of the bill.  
He objected to the classification, deferred payments, and free selection. He believed the powers placed in the Executive by the classification clauses were most dangerous, and he considered they should do all they could to limit instead of increasing powers possessed by the Government. Being opposed to so many principles of the bill, he could not make up his mind to vote for the second reading of this bill, although he was as desirous as any hon. member of seeing a land bill passed, in order to stop this clamour, which acted as a lever to raise so many men in power. He was in hopes when all these great questions were settled that they would turn their attention to other social measures, which would benefit the community. If the bill went into committee, which he supposed it would, he would in committee do all he possibly could to emasculate all the objectionable features in the bill, both by voting against them and endeavouring to substitute other clauses which he believed would promote the prosperity of the country. He should not think it worth his while to call for a division, because a division did not shew the true sentiments of hon. members, but if any hon. member called for a division, he would divide with him against the bill.