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2-280 (Text)

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author,male,Gipps, George,53 addressee,male
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Government English
Imperial Correspondence
Clark, 1977
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2-280-plain.txt — 6 KB

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It will scarcely escape Your Lordship's observation that neither in the Resolutions, nor in the Speeches of the gentlemen who moved and seconded them, is an allusion once made to the first and most important object of the Notice. These gentlemen, though they declaimed loudly against what they called the despotism of the measure, never once hazarded the proposition that it was unjust or despotic to make persons pay for the use of Crown Lands, in proportion to the advantages they derived from them; nor were they even bold enough to assert that £10 per annum for the use of 12,800 acres of Land, or for the depasturing of 4,000 Sheep, is an excessive charge.
The mover of the first Resolution purposely confounded the taking of a price for a License (which is in fact a payment in the nature of agistment) with the imposition of a tax; and maintained, in opposition to all Constitutional Law and the positive enactment of Parliament, that the power to dispose of the Lands of the Crown resides as a matter of right in the Local Legislature. The Mover of the second Resolution declared that, so long as he continued to pay the price for his License, £10 per annum, he had a freehold in the Lands he occupied, and that from it the Government could not eject him.
I now proceed to offer to Your Lordship some few observations on the matter at issue.
According to the Returns of the Commissioners of Crown Lands, I find that, of the gentlemen who called the meeting, the three largest occupiers of Crown Lands hold collectively 305,920 acres, the three smallest occupiers 13,440; consequently, the large occupiers hold two and twenty times as much land for the same money as the small ones. The small occupiers get only 22 acres for one shilling per annum, the large occupiers get 510 acres for a shilling; and, though they may require for their own use only a small portion of what they hold, they prevent the occupation of any portion of it by others. Various ways of sub-letting are also growing into use, in addition to the common practice of what is called "taking in Sheep and Cattle on thirds", the meaning of which is that the person, to whom the Cattle or Sheep belong, shall give the holder of the Run one third of their entire produce, including Calves, Lambs, and Wool. The right to the occupation of a Station has also become an article of common sale; and sums varying from £100 to £500 are commonly given for them; I have heard indeed of £1,000 being demanded; and Stations may be said to have lately become articles of common traffic in the markets. 
From the same Returns of the Crown Commissioners, I find that, reckoning one Horse, Ox or Cow to be equal to eight Sheep the quantity of Stock depastured by the three largest of the Squatters, who called the meeting, was equal to 78,360 Sheep, and the quantity of Stock depastured by the three smallest Holders was equal to 14,168; the small holders of Stock, therefore, pay very nearly one shilling per annum for twenty two Sheep depastured by them on Crown Lands; whilst the large occupiers pay the same sum of 1s. per annum for depasturing one hundred and thirty one Sheep in each case exclusive of unweaned Lambs.
These calculations are made from the returns of land and stock held by the Requisitionists only; were they taken from the whole body of Squatters, far greater inequalities would be exposed. In papers now before me respecting a disputed Run in the District called "New England", it is stated by most respectable parties (one of them a Member of the Legislative Council) that a single squatter (Mr. Hall) holds one thousand square miles of Land, or 640,000 acres; and by the Commissioners' Returns, I find that he holds in one District (New England), and under a single License, Runs which are estimated by the Commissioner at 820 square miles, or 524,800 acres. He has also another Station in the District of Liverpool Plains, but for it he pays a separate License.
It is alleged by the Squatters that they cannot as a body pay more than they now do; but, even if this be admitted, it will not thence follow that they should pay as unequally as they now do.
The only part of the notice of the 2d inst, which is to have any immediate effect, is that which relates to persons who occupy two stations in contiguous Districts under a single License; and no individual has, I believe, been hardy enough to deny that it is right and proper that persons, who occupy two Stations in separate Districts, should take out separate Licenses, even though the Districts be contiguous. The other parts of the Notice will have no effect until the month of July, 1845; and I postponed the operation of them as well in consideration of the depressed state of the Colony, as to allow time for Your Lordship's approval of the measures to arrive in the Colony, before they are carried into effect.
If the sum of £10 be deemed too much for the price of a License, and it can be shewn that the profits of Sheep farming will not admit of so high a charge, I shall, on a fair shewing that such is the case, not object to the reduction of it; but I do not at present think the charge too high for a solvent person to pay, though I do not doubt that a person, encumbered with debts, and paying 10 or 12 per cent, per annum for borrowed money, may find £10 more than he can afford; and so even would he, if it were reduced to 10s.
I do not admit the proposition, advanced at the Meeting, that the fee on the License is only an acknowledgment that the Land is held from the Crown, and that therefore it only ought to be of a nominal amount, and the same for all. I consider the price of a license to be analogous to Rent, and that it ought to be proportional to the profits made from unimproved lands, the property of individuals. 
Estimating the value of a Fleece in the Sydney Market at the low price of 2s. 6d, the value of the Wool alone from 4,000 Sheep would be £500 per annum; and the charge of £10 for a License would be 2 per cent upon the Wool alone, without reckoning anything for the value of the Carcass or the increase.
As the Government has almost entirely ceased to sell Land, the necessity is so much the stronger for raising a revenue from the lands which are unsold. If this he not done, it seems to me that Immigration into the Colony must altogether be given up; and there cannot be a real Friend to Australia, who would desire that such should be the case. Who, it may be asked, in Australia will be foolish enough to buy Land at £1 or even 5s. per acre, if, according to the dictum of the Mover of the Second Resolution, the Freehold of an extensive domain is to be procured for £10 a year.
The most obvious interests of the Colony require that a Fund should be annually raised for the support of Immigration; and l feel satisfied that a clear sum of £50,000 per annum may be obtained for this purpose, provided only proper protection be afforded to the unsold Lands of the Crown.