CHAPTER 11

OUR PASTORAL INDUSTRY

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Revision Date : 25 April 2011



F W Holder MP

Serialised in the Adelaide Observer 30 January 1892 to 4 June 1892

Chapter 1    ITS PRESENT CONDITION

    We are wisely ever on the alert to foster new industries, and rejoice over the establishment of the smallest.  Is there not a risk of our neglecting to guard the due advance of our oldest and largest enterprises?  All the other interests we have sink into insignificance alongside those which have to do with the occupation of the soil.  The agricultural and pastoral industries lie at the very root of our national prosperity, as they do also at the beginning of our history.  They supply us with all our bread and with most of our meat, and yield us annually a large exportable surplus of staple products.  The declared value of our exports of grain and flour reach an average of 2,000,000 per annum, while the wool export has varied from a little over two million sterling to a little under that value per annum.  These two together are more than nine-tenths of our total staple export value.  Of the two industries so all important to us the pastoral is naturally the pioneer.  It is a pity that even in thought there should have ever been any antagonism between the two.  The proper order of events is, first, pastoral occupation of the country in large areas – practically detailed exploration of new territory; then mining in the all too few localities where minerals exist; then the gradual sub-division and development of the capacity of the land for higher utilisation.  In due course come the big farmers, but not to stay.  In their turn, as higher cultivation is adopted, subdivision must go on, and they disappear, and so the progress and prosperity of the colony will advance.  Omit any one of these stages and difficulty results.  The wholesale resumptions of some years since were an attempt to hasten a process that cannot safely be hastened.  The fact that the pastoral interest is and must be so important to the colony is reason sufficient for all, even though they may primarily be dependent on some other interest, lending their sympathy and support to its advancement.  It is a national misfortune for one industry to be pitted against another where all should, in their own sphere, have the support of all.  It may be argued that pastoral pursuits have not always been carried on within their own sphere, but have striven to maintain a foothold where farmers should come.  Now whatever may have been the case in the past, this is not so at present.  In these articles it will be the pastoral industry in pastoral country that will be looked at, and its progress not merely outside the settled districts, but outside, too, of what is known as “1888 country” or country adjoining the settled districts will be advocated.

    It cannot be too strongly insisted upon that the squatting and sheepfarming of these days is totally unlike that of say twenty years ago.  In the old time when all the country north of the Light was held under pastoral lease – when the splendid country round Riverton and away north past Crystal Brook and Booyoolie, and Wilmington to Port Augusta was under pastoral occupation – squatters made fortunes.  The valleys of the Wakefield and the Gilbert and the Broughton were almost mints in which money might be coined by the aid of sheep.  But selectors came.  Deferred payments prompted occupation for agriculture, and soon what was then outside country had to be gone outside of altogether by the sheepowner.  With that came the era of vast holdings, of heavy costs in development, terrible losses by drought, and soon after a new and most serious trouble in the influx of vermin, which has since spread until it has almost driven the stock before it.  The area held under pastoral occupation, which in 1870 was 67,400 square miles, rose to 226,130 square miles in 1884, and is at present 166,503 square miles. The number of sheep, however, has during the same period risen only from four and a half millions in 1870 to seven and a quarter millions in 1887, and down to just over six and a half millions now.  Fluctuations in the prices of wool and sheep have been extreme.  The magnitude of the effects will be seen from the fact that in 1868, with under five million sheep, the value of the clip exported equalled the value of the clip from over six millions in 1888; wool which in 1872 realised 125/8d per lb, in 1890 brought 7d.  Cattle during the period under review rose from 136,832 head in 1870 to 389,726 head in 1884, and fell again in 1889 to 342,412.  In 1857 we had over 310,000 head in the colony, so our progress in this matter has sometimes been like that of the crab.  While we have during twenty-one years added 75 per cent to the number of our flocks, New South Wales has trebled hers, and Queensland more than doubled hers, while Queensland has also quadrupled the number of her cattle.  Clearly South Australia suffers by the comparison, and has nothing to be proud of.  This is the more serious when we note from the statistical returns that the stock kept in the counties once pastoral but now agricultural have not diminished.  The fact is that outside the country occupied twenty to five and twenty years ago the stock kept are miserably few, and the development that has taken place quite insignificant when compared with the great area occupied.  The transference of the pastoral industry proper from the inside to the outside country has changed it from a profitable and progressive to an unprofitable and precarious occupation sadly needing revival. Given the old conditions of depasturage and prices for wool, and squatters would make fortunes without the need for much legislative liberality, but under existing conditions the Legislature must do something to help, or our oldest and biggest industry will grow more and more unprofitable.

    The distance from the seaboard is an important factor in the case at present.  When a run is, as many now are, from 100 to 300 miles from a port or a railway there is heavy expense in transit of stores up and of produce down, and an absence of any “get away” in case of a drought.  That is, if a drought comes, instead of being able to shift to other more favoured localities the squatter must sit down and see perhaps the whole of his stock die, as has been done over and over again.  The losses often occur where there is some water from the absence of any feed within reach of it, and so the stock perish by the water side.  Round some of the artesian mound springs of the Far North are thousands of skeletons of cattle which have perished there.  To avoid this it is the object of the squatter to provide permanent supplies of water at such intervals as will permit of the use of all the food there may be, and bush feed stands even through a drought.  This involves heavy cost.  From 15 to 20 a mile is often sunk on a big holding, and even then the full carrying capacity of the run is not reached.  As a matter of fact it is not the land but the improvements which carry the stock.  Says one pastoralist, “On Yardea and Wilgena we now have 83,000 sheep, and they would not have carried 100 between them before we improved and developed the country.”  “The people there could not use a bullock-dray because there was no fat procurable from the sheep or anything else to make the wheels go round.”  “Moreover, we had to distil water for our wellsinkers.”  “I had parties out twice, and they made fruitless expeditions to examine the country.  They could not get into it for want of water, but the third attempt was successful.”  So that by an expenditure of about 40,000 useless country was made capable of carrying 83,000 sheep, but before this was accomplished great risks had to be run and pluck shown.  This is the work which the Legislature should encourage.  Capital in abundance is ready, enterprise is available, but a sad mistrust of the Government appears to have made the wheels of our chariot drag heavily.  Pastoralists cannot all give chapter and verse for it, but they allege that the Government have not kept faith with them, and that they are ever anxious to interpret everything against them.  On this account chiefly, say pastoralists, bankers and others, the development of the country has almost stopped, and during the past two or three years the areas abandoned have exceeded those taken up.  At the same time, what is held is held simply because those who have it cannot get out of the liabilities they have incurred.  Surely it is time that something was done.  The latest legislation on the subject was less liberal than ever.  One object of these articles will be to indicate what Parliament can do to bring about a better state of affairs.

    A few figures and facts will show the difference between what is and what might be.  One squatting property ninety miles north-west of Port Augusta has had upwards of 40,000 spent on it in development by the owners.  There are on it 30,000 sheep.  No dividend has been received from it since 1884.  This results is due to bad seasons, but most of all to rabbits.  Another property, only a few years ago regarded as good security for 45,000 advance, was recently sold for 15,000 by the Bank.  These are not to be taken as isolated cases, but as indicative of the condition of the industry at the present time in the great majority of cases.  This is not the result of want of capital either, for plenty would be forthcoming if prospects warranted it.  The area of South Australia proper outside counties is 318,662 square miles.  Of much of this little use is being made.  It may be estimated, however, that it could readily be made to carry at least thirty sheep to the mile.  That would give nearly 10,000,000 sheep against a paltry 3,500,000 kept now (allowing five sheep for every head of cattle kept now).  The additional number of sheep which, on the low estimate of thirty to the mile, might be kept would yield 1,000,000 worth of wool per annum, and would save us the necessity we were now under of importing stock for the butcher.  To develop the country to accomplish this would cost 5,000,000 sterling and give employment to many men and be a stimulus to trade.  When the result was attained the increased Crown rents and railway and Customs revenue would be a boon to any Treasurer.  Surely what might be and what is are two very different things.

Chapter II    OBSTACLES TO PROGRESS

In dealing with the present condition of the pastoral industry most of the chief obstacles to progress were incidentally referred to.  It will be necessary to a full understanding of the case to deal with them, or at least with some of them, in greater detail.  We shall not dwell on those which are irremediable.  Droughts cannot, till our rainmakers have established their claims to consideration, be prevented.  Resultant barrenness of the soil must be endured as inevitable.  If, however, the heavens are too frequently as brass and rain does not fall to make grass grow, nature has her compensation.  Those who know not what saltbush and cotton-bush, to say nothing of many other fodder bushes, can do will hardly credit the statement that a run with good bush on it is better than one with only an abundance of grass.  When occasionally a whole year passes by with a rainfall of only 2 or 3 inches, and that perhaps a summer thunderstorm, and the average fall is only 5 or 6 inches, grass is out of the question.  The bush, however, thrives on very occasional showers supplemented with heavy dews, and cannot be blown away as the grass is as soon as it dries by a very ordinary wind.  It is excellent fodder, and a good fleece as well as a good carcass can be grown on it.  Some of the best wool we have produced has come off the saltbush plain east of Burra.  The absence of rain does not then mean at all the absence of feed, but it does mean the absence of surface waters. Here and there over the pastoral country one sees various rivers marked on the maps, but they are mere flood torrents filled bank high once in five or seven years, and dry beds of sand with a margin of gumtrees conspicuous far across the arid plains at other times.  The provision of water is, then, the first duty of the squatter.  He must make a start from some existing supply, and if it fails before he gets a permanent watering-place he must abandon the attempt till rain comes.  He may spend many thousands of pounds in sinking wells and get either no water at all or water that is not even fit for stock  When at last success has rewarded the toil, it may be of many months, that water can be made a base of operations for the search for a further supply tenor fifteen miles further out.  So the simple provision of water at suitable intervals to enable stock to get to the feed is a costly and tedious operation.  Reservoirs are only possible where there is a very good catchment area, and even then, as they need to be very large, there is a great risk of the whole of the country surrounding them being utterly destroyed by the convergence on them of great numbers of stock.  Round some of the immense reservoirs excavated by steam machinery on what is known as the “pegged line,” north-east from Burra, are large areas absolutely bare, the bush having been utterly destroyed by stock coming in from all round to water.  It is not only a permanent and absolutely reliable supply of water that is required, but a supply so distributed over the country as that feed and water should be proportionate to each other.  A necessity for large areas at the outset is evident in the scope which must be afforded for the search for water and afterwards, in the fact that perhaps in one year one piece of country may be visited by a rainstorm, while all round there is none, and the next year the experience is reversed, so that only the occupation of a large area can afford a reasonable hope of having water somewhere on it every year.  Oftentimes very large areas can have no stock put on them for a year or two because of the absence of water.  The average cost of developing country so far, according to Government returns, has been about 17 per square mile, but as the distances become greater and the difficulties of access increase the cost must also increase.  The great obstacle to progress is, then, the absence of natural waters, and the cost consequently involved in providing the necessary supply to develop the country.

The next great obstacle is the presence of vermin.  Wild dogs and rabbits have been the curse of the pastoral country, and are so still.  Apart from the hundreds of thousands of pounds spent by the Government and by local bodies in the attempt to destroy vermin they are not destroyed, and are in fact spreading rapidly, as a return laid before the Legislative Council last session showed.  In the South-East, in the North-East, in the North and in the West terrible losses have resulted from their ravages.  It only needs a glance at the map of the colony to see on what a large area from the Gawler Ranges right away north-east to the north of Lake Frome and to the Queensland Border, and all south of that line, rabbits abound.   The only thing that keeps them at all in check is settlement.  Where there are small holdings they can make no headway, but the pastoral country is not suited to such occupation.  The rabbits eat the feed that should sustain the sheep, and the dogs worry and destroy the flocks that are fed.  On four runs on the Murray there were twelve years ago 83,000 sheep kept profitably.  Now on the same areas there are 12,000 half-starved, and all through the rabbits.  This is a typical case, showing what the rabbits have done.  As to the ravages of wild dogs, which are kept going by the rabbits, on which they live in the absence of other prey, it is not so easy to give statistics.  The losses are, however, very great.  All sorts of methods have been tried to exterminate both pests, but though millions of rabbits and hundreds of dogs have been killed they are as great a curse as ever in most places and worse than ever in some.  One plan alone will enable the difficulty to be overcome, and that is the subdivision of the country by means of vermin-proof fences, so that the matter can be dealt with in detail.  This again involves heavy cost, and added to the cost of development by fencing and finding water forces upon the consideration of the Legislature the consideration of the question of improvements generally.
Under the conditions existing in bygone days the country carried the stock, and the improvements were conveniences.  Now the country without the improvements will carry nothing, and the carrying capacity depends on the extent of the development - that is to say, upon the outlay of capital.  Hence there is now a great necessity for the fullest encouragement being given for the carrying out of improvements by the pastoral tenants of the Crown.  Simply as landlord, apart from the consideration of the fostering of a great industry, the State should do its utmost to promote the fullest development of the carrying capacity of its lands.  Under leases granted under Acts now repealed the Government covenanted to pay on the expiry of the leases for certain improvements made by lessees.  They then recognised the importance of giving the needed encouragement, but had not counted the cost.  According to a return laid before Parliament in 1890, prepared by the Surveyor-General, liability of the Government to lessees on this ground, either for improvements already made or for those which the lessees had the right to make and certainly would make before the leases expired, reaches 2,500,000, besides the sum paid for improvements to the lessees whose leases fell in in 1888.  The sums coming  due during the next few years are stated as follows :- 1892, 113,200; 1893, 157,900; 1894, 166,900; 1895, 265,500; 1896, 352,500; 1897, 462,200, and so on.  This is  an enormous liability, and it is not easy to see where the money is coming from to meet it.  Though the Legislature was informed of the facts in 1890 no material steps have yet been taken to cope with the difficult.  It was provided by the Act of 1890 that lessees might if they chose surrender their leases and their rights to the cash in exchange for new leases for a longer to term at a rent to be fixed by the Government, but of course the only persons who would avail themselves of this provision were those who had made but few improvements and had but little money to come.  Not much relief could then be expected that way.  As a matter of fact a good many applications have been sent in to know the terms of the new leases procurable, but that is all that has been done.  In the Act of 1890, however the right to payment for improvements was determined so far as regards all leases issued after it passed, so that now the one encouragement to lessees to improve their holdings is gone.  If a lessee now spends20,000 or 30,000 on his lease he leaves it all behind him when his time is up.  He will not, therefore, expend it unless his rent is so very low that after paying it and sinking his capital he can still get a profit, which is a rare case.  In all probability, the result of the legislation will be that the cheapest and most temporary improvements alone will be put up, and the true and permanent development of the country will cease.  Thus, while the necessity for the making of improvements is greater than ever it was, the Government offer less inducements than ever to their lessees to make any.  The Pastoral Commission of last year acted wisely in recommending that while the making of all necessary improvements should be encouraged and lessees be guaranteed a recoup for the sums they expended on their leases the State should not again commit the folly of purchasing improvements.  The recommendation afterwards endorsed by Parliament to be legitimately adopted next session is that the improvements should in  all cases belong to and be at the risk of successive lessees.  Each incoming lessee will purchase the right to the improvements from his predecessor in the occupation of the land, and the State will have nothing to do with anything besides the rent of the land.  This plan, when adopted, will, it is believed by those best fitted to express an opinion, remove some of the greatest obstacles to progress now existing.  It will also be in harmony with the provisions of the existing legislation respecting agricultural lands, and with the Act passed last session respecting tenants’ rights to improvements made by then on lands leased from ordinary landlords.  The only other obstacle to progress that need now be mentioned is the competition of the neighbouring colonies, but as our railways are extended, especially towards Queensland, large areas now used for cattle will be put under sheep, and our cattle raisers will be saved the ruinous competition, or at least much of it.

Chapter III – TYPICAL AREAS – BEYOND THE MURRAY

      In examining into the conditions of various pastoral districts while general principles to which reference has already been made, apply, there are distinct character-istics which are interesting to note.  These also demand some consideration in legislation sometimes.  The first area which will be described is that bounded on the west and north by the Murray River, east by the boundary of the colony, and South by the Overland Railway.  Other areas will be treated of afterwards in turn.  The piece of country now under consideration is thoroughly isolated by the river on two sides, and by vermin-proof fences on the other two sides along the railway and the Victorian Border respectively.  Some idea of its character may be obtained by a trip up the Murray from Murray Bridge to Renmark, in which event it will be seen on the right hand all the way.  The visitor, however, would generally be led to a much more favourable conclusion than the whole would warrant.  On the other hand, he who passed an opinion on the whole from what he saw on the side of the railway beyond Murray Bridge would underestimate it.  The soil is light, varying from a limestone formation to sandhills.  There are belts of open land, belts of dense mallee, and in many of the sandy places pines, or rather what are known here as the native pine.  There are no considerable hills, and the rainfall is light.  The average is not more than about 9in, the fall being more than that in some parts and less in others.  On such very porous soil, however, this quantity of rain is of less value than a smaller fall would be under other conditions.  It rains, and in a little while everything is as dry as ever, and not a sign of surface water can be seen.  The only way the country can be used is by occupying the back portions together with the river frontages.  Without them it is worthless.  Many efforts have been made to get water by sinking, but with the poorest results.  The wells and the money have been sunk, and the chief return has been water so bad as to be almost poisonous even to stock.  The strata sunk through comprise the light, friable soil seen at the surface, and then a formation almost precisely similar to the cliffs bordering the river.  This formation is full of fossil remains and now and again large beds of oysters and other shells are discovered with it. Vy forty miles back from the river these have been met with.  No search for water at great depths has been made.  Many persons believe that the vast bodies of water underground in the South-East, which are all flowing strongly towards the sea and are not still water, are derived from the Murray.  It is well known that along the upper course of the river large bodies of water disappear and cannot be accounted for except on the hypothesis that they percolate away beneath the surface.  It is not unlikely that some such flow passes under at least some portion of the country now under consideration, and it would be a proper thing for the Government to bore to at least 1,000 feet so as to test the question.  Of course if sufficient inducements were held out the lessees would themselves test it, but it is the absence of these inducements which leaves the country undeveloped.

     The fodder natural to the country is grass, with a liberal allowance of the various fodder bushes which are so constantly valuable.  Where the mallee is thick of course nothing else grows to advantage, but now and again it is burnt off by accident or design, and then after rain a wonderful crop of strong coarse grass comes on, which is highly welcome.  The mallee, however, springs again than ever, and speedily resumes an undisputed sway till again dead wood enough has accumulated to once more burn it off.  Such was the condition of affairs ten or a dozen years ago, and then within reach of the river frontages or of the future other waters which had been obtained, sheep did well.  Then came the rabbits.  No one quite knew where from, but they came to stay.  Victoria has a vermin-proof fence erected along her border to keep them from crossing over, but it is badly looked after, and of little use.  The fence on one side of the Victorian Border Railway is being vermin-proofed from the Murray to the Border,  so that the localisation of the pest is going on.  It is said that the rabbits have been known to swim the river, but this cannot be credited, although in flood times some may have crossed on driftwood, &c.   The total area thus isolated is about 10,000 square miles.  The continuance of the work of subdivision while it would be costly, would enable the extermination of the rabbits and wild dogs - and both abound - to be accomplished.  The devastating wrought is pitiful.  Every blade of grass is eaten as soon as it appears.  The smaller bushes are entirely consumed, the stumps being scratched up out of the ground.  The larger bushes are barked all round the lower stems and branches, and the rodents have clambered by some means up and along the branches, eating all the leaves and bark as they went all the way to the tiniest twigs.  Now and again a rabbit pays the penalty for his misdeeds, and losing his foothold on a branch two or three feet from the ground gets his head caught in a fork and hangs there till he dies.  It is most disheartening to see the whitened barkless bushes fast dying on every side.  The sandalwood and some other trees are barked all round from the ground as far up as the rabbits can reach, and the roots are laid bare in the ground and also barked.  Of course the trees will die and utter desolation is the result.  Where once tens of thousands of sheep found food and produced wool and mutton now hundreds of thousands of rabbits alone lived, and are fast starving themselves out.
    Meantime the country is being turned into a desert absolutely destitute of vegetation.  Eighteen months ago, when there was a prospect of favourable legislation being passed, giving lessees a right to their improvements, many large holders of land whose leases were about to expire were prepared to have prosecuted energetically a search for water, and to have expended large sums in the erection of vermin-proof fencing.  They would have made the country productive and have added to the produce of the colony, but the Act passed by Parliament was of such a character that they simply abandoned their holdings to the vermin and would not now touch it on any consideration.  Names tend particular vouching for these statements can be given if necessary.  Where the government will obtain new lessees when the country has been a little longer abandoned to the vermin no one can tell, nor can any one well estimate the extent of the damage to the State.  The Government propose to offer the river frontages for agricultural purposes.  If they induce farmers to go on the land wire-netting will have to be provided to keep back the rabbits, which need to have access to water during all the dry weather.  At such times bunny marches in whole armies in from the back blocks to the river and devours to all before him.  If the frontages are let separately the back country will be absolutely worthless without the expenditure of large sums in providing water and in vermin fencing.
The problem then is how to secure the making of such improvements.  With them the country can be profitably utilised; without them it is worthless.  The separation of the frontages from the rest very seriously complicates the question, but as it is determined upon it will be best to deal with the matter on that basis.  So far as the present legislation is concerned the land must lie waste.  Under the existing pastoral land laws no compen-sation is made for any improvements, but they all fall in with the lease at its termination to the Government.  No one will under these circumstances spend the money required to develop the country.  Some new step then is required.  Either the Government must bore for water, erect vermin-proof fences, or else no settler will touch either the river frontages or the back blocks, unless terms are offered to make it worth the settlers’ while to do it themselves.  If the Government do the work they will of course obtain a much higher rent for the land; but is it good policy for the Government to have anything to do with improvements at all?  Surely the best policy all along the line is for the Government to lease the bare land irrespective of all improvements, and to leave to private enterprise the making and ownership of improvements, each lessee to sell his improvements when his lease expires to his successor.  Any other policy involves borrowing for the construction of works, and great risk as to their continued maintenance.  The tenants of the land should be the owners of the improvements successively.  Far better rents will be obtained under this plan than can be had where the improvements fall in without compensation with the lease.  The one exception to the rule now laid down might be experimental boring for water.  This might be done by the Government with advantage to demonstrate to lessees the conditions under which success was to be looked for in the search for the all-important fluid.  It cannot be tolerated that this block of some 10,000 square miles of country, commencing within a little over fifty miles from Adelaide, shall lie waste and a mere breeding-ground for vermin as it is now.  Something must be done, and that soon.  The best thing that can be done, if the arguments used are conclusive, is that the Government should put down an experimental bore in a suitable position to test the possibility of obtaining good water at a depth, that these leases should be offered under the new provisions recommended by the Pastoral Land Commission of last year, giving the lessees the ownership of their improvements.  If this be done the search for water and the erection of vermin-proof fences will proceed apace.  The only other step necessary is conditional upon the disposal of the frontages to small holders.  In that case the Government should, before the land is offered, erect a vermin-proof fence along the side distant from the river.  This would not only render the occupation of the land possible, but would assist the occupiers of back blocks to localise, and thus cope with the vermin on their lands, which then could not obtain access to any natural waters.  The Victorian Government should also be communicated with so as to secure for mutual benefit the proper maintenance of the border fence.

Chapter IV – TYPICAL AREAS – NORTH-EAST OF PORT AUGUSTA

    To inspect the piece of country now to be considered the railway may be left at Orroroo or Carrieton and the track followed to Old Minburra Station and thence north-ward, eastward, to and westward; or train may be taken to Parachilna, and thence the road to Blinman and  onward followed.  In the first case the hills are soon passed, and the great North-Eastern Plain, which is practically continuous and unbroken from the River Murray to Queensland, is reached.  The plain is about 100 miles wide.  On the western edge the presence at some seasons of a splendid crop of grass waving like a cornfield encouraged selectors to take up farms upon which money and labor were long spent in a vain struggle against nature.  The herbage proclaimed the fact that the line of winter rainfall had been passed, and the grass which lured the settler to destruction grew on summer rains and heavy dews.  Far on to the Minburra Plain the farmers went, but they had to retreat, and the theory that the rain follows the plough is exploded.  The low scrubby hills furthest out on the plain, and all the watercourses from them became quickly a breeding place for vermin, and they spread and multiplied, as they ever will do where land is neglected or unoccupied.  One block surrendered means the speedy invasion of all around by the vermin it breeds, and so it is most important that the occupation of the whole of the land should be induced. As the plain is followed northwards the country that has never been used except for pastoral purposes is reached, and soon we are about due east of Hawker. Taking the other route, and leaving Blinman situated in the midst of the ranges and surrounded by rough pastoral country, a prey to vermin which in such situations can never be exterminated, the route winds through very hilly country for some twenty-five or thirty miles, when once more the plain is reached, and away to the north of west in the distance lies Lake Frome.  As these lakes loom large on the maps it may be worth while to devote a little space to some description, which will apply to them all.  The total area of the larger lake is 7,680,000 acres.  From a distance in place of the dark blue line which indicates water a clear white line appears on the horizon.  As one approaches the lake is seen to be a vast shallow basin encrusted with salt and other mineral substances with a little or much water in the deepest parts according to whether any floods have recently taken place in the district or not.  Into the lakes flow, according to the maps, creeks and rivers, many of them scores, and some hundreds of miles long.  In truth, there are rivers indeed in times of flood bearing down vast quantities of water to the lake for a week or two, but at other times they are dry, sandy river beds, belted with gumtrees.  The plains have been created by these watercourses, and doubtless the lakes are being filled up by them.  There are many evidences that the ranges were once far higher than they now are, and the whole of the plain is loose soil deposited by water, and so porous that till sheep have been some time on it and have trodden the surface hard all moisture that comes on it soaks right away.  Indeed, unless the flood in the creeks and rivers is a big one it spreads out over the plain, overflowing its banks as soon as it leaves the hills, and covering a vast area soaks in and produces what is call a “swamp”.  One associates the idea of wet and bogginess ordinarily with the word swamp, but these places are rarely wet and never for long, though the luxurious feed that springs up after a flooding leaves them clearly marked.  They are a veritable paradise for rabbits, which can do a long while without water while the feed is green.  Cotton bush luxuriates on the flooded places, and elsewhere the ordinary fodder bushes, spear grass, and some summer grasses abound.
Lake Frome is about forty miles in greatest width and fifty miles in greatest length.  On its western side it is less than twenty miles from the ranges, and on its eastern side it approaches within about fifty miles of the New South Wales Border, nearly opposite Mount Brown.  The country on the western side is good, especially as the ranges are approached.  On the eastern side it is poor, with sandhills covering large areas, and water is difficult to obtain.  The rainfall steadily but surely diminishes as the ranges are left behind.  The land on the western side has been under pastoral occupation for many years, and many bales of wool have been sent away from stations bearing the well-known names of Barrata, Mattawarrangala, Koonamore, Bimbowrie, Wilpena, Wirrialpa, Angorichina, Wooltana, Paralana, and others further north.  Owing to the length of time the runs have been occupied it might be expected that they would be pretty thoroughly developed, but they are not.  Distance from port and difficulty of access have made improvements costly, while the all-important search for water has not been very successful.  Yet the area as a whole is not by any means destitute of water supplies.  In the ranges good water in abundance can readily be got, and several of the creeks run all the year round, except in bad seasons, but the vermin have taken almost undisputed possession.  On the plains a hot spring exists at Paralana, and in other places artesian waters exist.  The water does not rise in great volume nor to a great height, but steadily flows away just above the surface, and good water too.  In the majority of cases well-sinking has been a failure, though there are exceptions to this experience.  At the present time the inclination is to provide water by reservoirs in the claypans and subsidiary watercourses, and thus to render a more complete use of the country possible.  Doubtless, but for the low prices of wool and stock of late years much more development would have taken place.  Even on the 1888 leases, where the Government had to pay for all water improvements, but little was done compared to what might be.  Successive lessons have taught lessees to be very cautious in their operations.  Many a time heavier stocking has been carried out in the presence of abundance of feed, and then a drought has come and reduced the number to the old level, if not indeed below it.  A lessee now does not think he is exercising ordinary discretion unless he has feed and water for twice the stock he has, so that he may be able to stand a siege if necessary.  That means double areas and double rent, and only half development.  The country will on the average carry from forty to sixty sheep to the mile.  With reserves of food and water against droughts the number is reduced by nearly one half.  It is safe to say that in average seasons with additional water supplies and fencing into much smaller paddocks at least twice the sheep might be kept that have been kept in the country lately, but then in time of drought with no getting away the whole would probably be lost.  As it is, while there is often great waste there is little risk of heavy loss.
It is not infrequently the case, too, over a large holding, that if no rain at all false during a long period over one part of the run a good rain may be had in another part and so the stock can be shifted and kept alive till the tables are turned and another shift can take place.  Sometimes at one end of a run the creeks are flooded and the reservoirs full, while at the other waterdraws are taxing the slender resources of the wells to the utmost, and the scanty feed is rapidly disappearing.  The development of which the country stands in need is water provision and fencing.  On the east side of the lake the country lies almost without an occupant.  Only by degrees, and from the furthest outwaters, can even an effort be made to develop it.  One of the furthest afield is the Hon J H Angas, who is not only searching for water and erecting ordinary fencing, but is about to wire-net the boundary of a large holding.  Without very large capital it is useless to attempt to make use of the country.  What is now occupied under leases granting payment for improve-ments at the termination of the lease will probably be slowly developed, but no one would think of taking up any land under existing legislation which grants no such payment.  If prices of wool or stock still further fall or drought come even the leases taken up in 1888, which include improvements for which the Government have paid large sums, and under which the Government are bound to pay for all new water improvements at the end of the lease, will be abandoned. This shows the folly of the Government having anything to do with improvements.  If bad seasons come there is no bond to bind the lessees to the land.  They can simply abandon it and leave the land, and the improvements too, useless on the hands of the Government.  In some cases caretakers have had to be employed at great cost to protect abandoned improvements for which the Government have paid.  If the improvements belonged to the lessee he would hold on to the land and protect the improvements for his own sake.
The vermin difficulty is one for which no solution is universally applicable.  In the country under review the numerous creeks from the hills and the widespread overflows on the plain present an almost insuperable obstacle to successful localisation by means of fences.  Every small flood would carry away some fencing, and on a large one would destroy many miles right away.  Far out on the plain are the pieces of timber and the masses of matted brush indicating the force with which sometimes the floods come down.  Scalping has been extensively and determinedly carried out at great cost, but with little appreciable effect.  Poisoned water in places where water is scarce and poisoned twigs where feed is scanty are the most effective methods of attack.  Where all the waters can be netted in, the rabbits can in a dry season be poisoned by tens of thousands by poisoned water, and when feed is short they will greedily eat the bark off the twigs which have been dipped in a mixture of flour, sugar, and poison.  Thousands of dead ones are gathered up after a distribution of twigs where rabbits are numerous.  Rain, however, at once stops all such operations, and once more bunny breeds and spreads.  In the rough ranges in rockholes and springs there is generally some water about, and as sheep do not like the rough country the feed is left for the rabbits, and so though the plains are cleared again and again the hills ever yield a fresh supply, and to wire net the hills to keep them back is simply an impossibility.  The only chance to hold the pest in check is to have concerted action.  All lessees must work together, and wherever the Government still have land on their hands they must cooperate and accept equal responsibility with private persons.  Then at the close of a dry summer it would be possible to so diminish the numbers as to save them getting entirely the upper hand.  Let some blocks, however, be left untouched and all round will be discouraged by the absolute uselessness of their efforts that nothing worth doing will ever be done.  In the end the rabbits would then drive the lessees and their sheep off the land, and the improvements for which we have to pay the British bondholders some day would be worthless.  Much of this also applies to the destruction of wild dogs.  The lessees now contribute under Act of Parliament to a fund for paying for scalps, but the Government accept no responsibility for Crown lands.  This is not only unfair but the height of folly, for the presence of the vermin tends to depreciate the rent value of the Crown lands.

Chapter V – TYPICAL AREAS – NORTH-EAST OF THE BURRA

  The block of country now under consideration extends from the settled districts east of the Burra and Terowie Railway line to the border of New South Wales, and from the Murray on the south to beyond the Cockburn Railway line, which runs across to it.  In dealing with it for reasons which will be obvious the plan of these articles to refer to purely pastoral lands will be departed from.  On the western side of the block bordering upon the settled country is a belt of country set apart by Act of Parliament for grazing and cultivation leases with a view to the encouragement of small graziers, and of mixed agriculture and grazing.  Next to these again the Paratoo leases and others included in the 1888 leases are crossed, and then between these and the border is purely pastoral land.  The grazing and cultivation leases are mostly very rough and poor land, including low hills badly infested with dogs and rabbits, and not at all well-watered.  The 1888 country next to the last is as a rule far better land, better bushed and not so rough and on it are some extensive improvements, consisting of woolsheds and other buildings, and a number of enormous reservoirs excavated by steamscoops and providing vast water storage.  Since the runs were cut up by the Pastoral Board and were in 1888 relet in smaller blocks the improvements have been found to be far in excess of the requirements of the smaller holders.  As the Government have paid cash for the improvements they must of course charge in the rent of the land a sum to cover interest on the money paid.  If the interest were spread over very large areas it would be manageable, but concentrated in small ones it is impossible in many cases that it can be paid.  The result is that there is a difficulty first in finding and then in keeping lessees.  Besides that since just before the 1888 leases expired vermin have been almost unchecked all through this area.  They breed in the rougher land and in the low ranges, and then spread in all directions.  When the feed is green over the eastern plains, where it grows very early owing to the extreme mildness of the winter there the rabbits move eastward.  As soon as the summer approaches the scanty water dries up, and the feed also dries, and the rabbits move to the westward over the grazing and cultivated leases, and down on to the farmers in the eastern hundreds.  This happens just as the wheat is beginning to make rapid growth at the close of the cold weather.  Then the farmers, who up to this time may have had a brilliant prospect, have to see their crops eaten off before their eyes, while to keep back the vermin is as hopeless a task as it would be to sweep back the waves on a rising tide.  When the mischief has all been done and the cold wet weather once more sets in here the bunnies travel away eastward again to the more congenial plains to eat out the pastoralist as they have just blighted the hopes of the agriculturist.  In several places the government have reserves and other unleased lands where the vermin breed unmolested, and while private persons are compelled by law to kill, and fined heavily if they do not keep their land clear, the government do nothing and accept no responsibility.  It is simply useless for the private owner to kill while the vermin are trooping into his land from the Crown lands.  The land belonging to the Crown should be let or else the government should occupy the same legal position as other landowners.  These are the simple facts of the case as they are today and have been for several years past.  Remedies will be discussed later on.
In its natural features this north-eastern country is excellent pastoral land.  The soil is generally light, though there are claypans of great area in some places.  Deep ravines formed by the flood waters from hills, cutting through the deep soil of the plains, declare that it can occasionally rain, though the occasions are all too few, and the prevailing rains are light.  Low ranges of rough scrubby hills, mostly running nearly north and south, divide up the otherwise unbroken plain.  The saltbush needs to be seen and understood to be appreciated.  Here, like an unruffled sea, it spreads often from horizon to horizon without a break, while the hot air in summer simmers over it with many a mirage.  Saltbush and bluebush can here de seen to perfection, and before the rabbits came most excellent sheep country it was, wherever water could be provided.  Here and there are belts of mallee with some sandalwood, some sheoak, and a few native pines in the sandy places.  In the open plains the bush is very thick generally, though now and again it gives place to nice flats well grassed.  Down from the hills to the westward now and again come watercourses with wide and deep sandy beds, dry most of the time, lined on either bank by gums visible far over the plains.  These watercourses gradually die out, most of them having at the end a great plain of alluvial soil brought down by successive flood torrents.  On these deposits there is after rain a wonderful growth of geranium and other excellent fodder plants.  The rainfall is not only light, but is very uncertain in the season when it comes.  Often in the summer, especially in November or February, the heaviest rains of the year fall.  The climate is delightful.  The summer is warm, it is true, but it is a dry heat, laden with the fragrance of the bush.  The winters are only too dry, with a warm air and a cloudless sky at midday and a cool breeze morning and evening, with a frost most nights.  It is easy to see how Mr. Goyder was able with such confidence to mark his rainfall line on the map.  Crossing the last low range to the eastward of the railway line between Burra and Petersburg an entire change in the character of the vegetation appears.  On the one side herbage which needs and thrives on winter rains, and a fair share of them; on the other side the salt and blue and cotton bushes and other vegetation which can live on a minimum of rain, and is not particular when it falls, or that can subsist and even thrive for a time in drought, merely on heavy night dews.  Thus has Nature marked a rainfall line which no art of man has yet been able to shift.  In general terms, and with very slight variation, the description given applies to all the country within the limits named, and including the runs known as North-West Bend, Braemar, Ketchowla, Paratoo, Anabama, Mutooroo, Teetulpa, and Outalpa Runs, beside others less well known.   The initial difficulty in dealing with this country was the water.  A start had to be made from existing supplies, and from them parties were pushed out as far as they safely could be to search for more.  Well-sinking was carried on at enormous cost, and with little beneficial result.  Oftentimes were the parties driven back by a failure of the supplies they depended on, and when after repeated efforts a considerable depth was reached the result was either no water or bad water.  Then came the steamscoops after the vain attempts to find water in other ways had ruined a good many men.  The reservoirs now excavated were practically permanent fresh-water lakes.  The intention of the lessees was to push further and further out as fast as rain came to fill completed excavations, and so to render the occupation of the whole area practicable.  Then came the resumptions known as Playford’s, and with them such a sense of insecurity as led to the stoppage of further developments.  On what is known as “the pegged line”, a surveyed route from Burra to Thackaringa, along which stores went up and wool came down for years before the Barrier silver mines were discovered, the Government have excavated some large reservoirs for travelling stock &c. but that is all.  Outside the 1888 leases development is yet only begun, and needs to be carried on with vigour and with plenty of capital.  In the 1888 country the development is fairly complete for large holdings, but for small blocks the improvements are rather a millstone round the neck of the lessee than otherwise.  Additional water supplies and fencing are an absolute necessity in spite of what exists.  On the grazing and cultivation leases the vermin have so far almost kept all else at bay, and settlement of a permanent character hardly exists.  As a whole with water and without vermin this area of the country is one of the best we have to look to for progress.  The water can be got if the capital can be induced to come and the vermin can be localised and in the end destroyed by the same means.  Without the expenditure of capital on it even this promising block, where just now probably no one is doing as well as he ought, while many have lost and are losing money, will continue unprogressive.  In his last report to Parliament the Surveyor-General, Mr. Goyder, writes:- I will submit the following figures, which are obtained from actual experience found necessary to develop an area of 1,600 square miles on the Mutooroo Run.  As a preliminary expenditure, borings were sunk to various depths, and in all parts of the run, but salt water only was obtained.  The idea of developing the country by means of wells had therefore to be abandoned, and no notice has been taken of the expenditure on account of boring or well-sinkings.  The first step taken to secure surface waters was, after careful inspection of the fall of the country and depressions by which flood waters reached the lower levels, sites of small dams or reservoirs were agreed upon and sunk.  When these were filled larger reservoirs were sunk from these as a basis, until what appeared to be a sufficient supply had been secured; but these were found to be too shallow, as in a year of drought they became dry, and all had to be deepened, not only to supply the stock for, say, two years, but also to provide for evaporation, which in the Far North, North-West and North-East is from 6 ft to 7 ft per annum. The depth of these larger reservoirs was calculated not only to supply water to stock depasturing the land within, say, five miles of the reservoir, but also to stand evaporation amounting to a vertical height of from 10 ft to 14 ft of water. This was done at a total cost for dams and drains of nearly 30,000, and, water having been secured, the run was fenced and other improvements at a cost of about 18,000, making a total expenditure of 48,000, to which may be added 600 for the destruction of vermin, about 400,000 rabbits being destroyed by means of poisoned twigs of sandalwood scattered about the various waters, the bodies being afterwards collected and carted away.  This expenditure without cost of management comes to 48,600, or over 29 per square mile.  The country will carry an average quantity of stock equal to forty sheep per square mile, and assuming that these can be placed on the run at 8s. per head the total cost of improvements and stock comes to 74,265, which at 5 per cent per annum comes to 3,713 interest, which must be met before profits can be considered.  Now 65,400 sheep will yield in the country referred to 371,325 lb. of wool, which at 6d. per pound net is worth 9,288, or 5,575 over the interest of amount expended on account of improvements and destroying vermin, and allowing 1,500 for management, horses, drays, plant, and contingencies, a balance of 4,075 is left to the lessee, or a profit of 5 per centon his undertaking over and over the 5 per cent previously referred to, requiring several years hard work, the anxiety of bad seasons, the death in stock, &c. &c., and this is assuming that by his expenditure he has guarded incentive against losses contingent upon dry seasons and against the inroad of vermin; in other words he receives on his capital and expenditure a little over 10 per cent.  Should the area of the lease be small and the expenditure in proportion - for 1,000 square miles and a capital of 45,220 16s. 8d. he would receive 4,520 per annum; on 500 square miles, with a capital of 22,610 8s. 4d. he would receive 2,260; on 250 square miles, with a capital of 11,305, he would receive 1,130; and with 100 square miles and a capital of 4,522, he would receive 452 net as profit,  provided the country carried an average of forty sheep per square mile and yielded 5 lb. of wool per fleece, realising a net profit of 6 per pound.
It may be said that the cost of improvements per square mile is excessive, and that men of small means can work the land at less cost and greater profit.  Well, let us take a square block of 100 miles in an isolated position.  At least a well or water hole must be secured prior to fencing, and the fence, which should be vermin proof, surrounding the block, costs 1,600, as it could not be erected and rendered dog and rabbit proof at less than 40 per mile, the two intermediate fences dividing the 100 miles into four paddocks of twenty-five square miles each at a cost of 400;huts and yards erected at a cost of 100; and a water reservoir or well at say, 100 more.  This comes to 2,200, and with stock at the rate of  forty per mile at 8s. per head placed on the run will come to 1,600, and the management and implements, horses, fodder, &c, at 300 will bring the total cost to 4,100, or 400 less, requiring an expenditure of 4,100 in the development and stocking the run, which would yield a return of 410 per annum, including interest at rate of 5 per cent on capital invested, and as a rent has not been charged in either of the cases illustrated, and the profit is little enough in all conscience to induce persons having the means to invest in what, under the most favourable circumstances, must prove a laborious undertaking, it is obvious that the rents must be little more than nominal, and the term of lease be not less than that prescribed by the act, viz forty-two years.

It will be noticed that in all these calculations Mr. Goyder contemplates the lessee being recouped the capital laid out in improvements, as he only calculates interest on the capital.  Under existing law, however, there is no recoup, and therefore the capital is lost altogether.  Under these circumstances we cease to wonder that our pastoral country is not developed.

Chapter VI – TYPICAL AREAS – THE FAR NORTH

  The far northern pastoral country will for present purposes be considered as all north of a line run east and west about 350 miles north of Adelaide.  The railway line beyond Farina to Oodnadatta follows a course generally north-westerly through it for about 250 miles.  Only a few years ago it was most difficult of access.  Now the railway has made its development far more easy.  If the railway revenues have not been directly satisfactory the indirect benefits arising from the existence of the line have been very great.  Beyond the end of the line the country is far better than it is along the railway, but for want of means of transit it is not developed, nor will it be till the iron horse moves on.  The most striking natural features of the country are the vast stony tablelands, the tent hills, the sandy ranges, and the “fluffy ground”.  What these are the untravelled colonist or he who knows not our interior lands will learn presently.  The general elevation of the country above sea level is inconsiderable, and no high hills exist till the MacDonnell Ranges or the Musgrave Ranges in the north and north-west are reached.  Again and again, however, low ranges and isolated hills are seen with flat tops, and generally of an even height in each group, or in those of one locality.  In some places the higher level is maintained over a large area, and often where this is the case there were evidences that at one time there were higher lands still above this.  Some of the ranges, too, have singularly abrupt ends, as if they had been broken off, and the rest of the hills carried away bodily.  In fact it is clear that in some past ages these were hills much higher and valleys much deeper than anything now to be seen.
To all appearances vast floods have been the chief agents in bringing about the change, and ranges have been wholly washed away, and higher levels cut into and by degrees carried down till only where stony places existed and the flat-topped hills left to mark what once was.  As the valleys have filled up by the action of water long past, and of wind in more recent times, great plains have been formed of loose, porous earth, often impregnated with salt magnesium etc.  Of course in these cases any water got by sinking is bad.  Some of plains on the lowest level appear to have been till comparatively recently vast lakes like Lake Eyre, and though the salt has disappeared now from the surface, yet the soil is strewn with lumps of gypsum, and is as loose as the white ashes from a wood fire.  On such land nothing will grow, and if Niagara were turned on to it it would all percolate straight away down to the depths below.  This is what the northern pastoral pastoralists call “fluffy” ground, and fortunately it is not of general occurrence, save in very small patches.  In one place, however, about ninety miles west of Coward Springs, a great area is encountered, and it is a desert indeed.  The general notion that the interior is chiefly desert is, however, quite erroneous.  On a higher level are long parallel ridges of sand, generally steep on one side and of easy slope on the other.  These often are covered with spinifex, and in wet seasons have a good crop of herbage, including a portulacca-like plant known as the parakylia, upon which animals and the aboriginal natives subsist for some time without water.  The spinifex is useless for fodder save in the seed-heads, which rise above the pointed leaves which have earned for the plant the name of “porcupine”, and being full of seed, are excellent food for cattle and horses.  In some parts nice claypans are met with between the sand ridges.  The tablelands are generally flat, but sometimes of gradual slope or very slightly undulating.
The soil beneath is loose and friable without any stones in it.  The surface is spread over to a depth of several inches with stones varying from the size of a goose egg to that of a bean.  The stones are roughly rounded by the action of the waters in ages past when they were deposited where they are, and are polished on the upper sides by the sand stones of ages since.  The stones are extremely hard, a sort of red jasper predominating.  Here and there are patches clear of stones, and to them the water runs off the stony surface when rain falls, and in them bushes grow well.  Between the stones grows some grass in wet seasons.  The feeding value of the country depends on the proportion of bush to stones.  In some places there is a yard of bush to an acre of stones and sometimes the proportion is reversed.  The country is, however, very healthy, and all the feed it grows is very nutritious, and keeps stock in a surprisingly good condition when its barren appear-ance is taken into account.  The tent hills, with their perfectly straight tops and regularly sloping sides, sometimes flank these tablelands, and what in the distance looks like a tent, will turn out when the top is reached to be merely the edge of a tableland. The only natural water of this country are the water holes in the beds of the creeks.  Some of these are more than a mile long, and are both wide and deep, so that after a flood they form natural reservoirs lasting for a year or two, or in some cases for even longer.  The pity is, however, that floods are so infrequent that the holes are often dry.  In Queensland pastoral country these holes, fed by a more abundant rainfall, are permanent, and the stockowner has no cost of water provision to face, nor any exhaustion of the supply to fear.  Hence the necessity for our pastoral leases to be let on more favourable terms than those of our neighbour.  It must be remembered, too, that it is with Queensland that we have to compete.
What has been said about the absolute importance of developing the country by providing permanent waters is doubly true of the North.  It is the improvements and not the country that carry the stock.  Some of the lessees have done most excellent work in this direction.  The Strangways Springs Station of Messrs Hogarth & Warren may be quoted as an example.  Here is a large tract of country which in its original state could carry no stock, and without the railway which now runs past it would not be worth more than the slight expenditure necessary for keeping cattle on it.  Now it has been fenced off into paddocks for sheep.  Wells of water have been obtained in the various paddocks, and tanks, troughs, and windmills fixed so as to water stock most handily.  Mr Hogarth in his evidence states the cost of improving country in such a way is about 15 a mile, and says that it has taken over fourteen years to do it.  He adds that during all this time it has only paid working expenses and interest on borrowed money, leaving no returns for the capital originally sunk.  The capacity of the run is, however, now stated at eighty sheep to the mile, although of course in seasons of drought a large deduction would have to be made from that.  The state, however, benefits in several ways from this development.  There is a larger rent payable.  The railway receives considerable sums annually for wool and stock one way, and for stores the other, and the staple products of the colony are increased.  This is a sample case of many.  Tens of thousands of pounds have been spent as yet without return.  Past legislation has induced this expenditure, but the present law simply makes it useless to undertake it and condemns all country leased under it to perpetual stagnation.  No development can take place unless there is compensation for improvements by either the Government or the next lessee.  The lessee must be the owner of any improvements he may make.  The run just referred to is the pioneer sheep run northwards.  All the others beyond, and some nearer to market even, are cattle runs only.  Two matters determine whether cattle shall be kept or sheep shall be substituted for them.  All the north country is naturally suited for sheep right up to the MacDonnell Ranges.  The first question is - What is the cost of transit to the sea board?  And the next is - Are there sufficient inducements or guarantees to warrant the outlay of the capital required for development.  Beyond Oodnadatta camel caravans are now the only means of conveyance for merchandise, and they are costly.  No wool would be worth growing there as things stand.  On the other hand, the continuation of the railway would under suitable pastoral laws lead to the substitution of sheep for cattle over a large area, and the necessary large expenditure for development.  The same remark applies also to the Birdsville country conditionally on the line to Goyder’s Lagoon or “Pieta” being authorised.  The question of improvements is, however, at the root of payable railway construction as well as of development of the country, suppression of vermin, and expansion of our staple production.  On it depends the pastoral industry and a great deal more besides.
From the description of the country given, of which the worst is the belt extending  east and west from Hergott and about a hundred miles from north to south, along which the railway runs from Hergott to Oodnadatta, it will be understood that large areas and plenty of capital are essential to success.   Northwards of Oodnadatta the country steadily improves, with the exception of isolated patches of inferior land.  Till the railway goes on sheep cannot be profitably put on the country further north, but south of the end of the line sufficient inducement to develop is all that is required to lead to the stocking of the whole area with sheep, which would add enormously to the revenue of the railway line, and would remove some competition now felt by our southern farmers and small graziers in the cattle market. With the very small and uncertain rainfall which is experienced over all the northern pastoral country it can never be occupied for other than pastoral uses.  We have an enormous area of it, and therefore it behoves us to make the very best use of it that we can.  Nature has in some places made provision for water in an unusual fashion.  Now and again the traveller sees a small hill with a green crest away on the plain, and coming nearer he finds that the green crest is a mass of rushes, and that from out of it flows a stream of water never failing.  These mound springs serve two purposes.  They provide permanent water where they exist, and they indicate unerringly that there is blow a body of artesian water which needs only to be tapped to be a never-ceasing supply.  Of course the mound springs are confined to a certain locality, and artesian water cannot be obtained everywhere.  It is evidence of the character of the country that round the mound springs are hundreds of skeletons of cattle which have died in past droughts.  When all the other too scanty waters failed the cattle all concentrated on these springs, and speedily had water and no feed left, and so perished.  The water needs to be provided where the feed is and in proportion to it.  The largest outflows known are at Dalhousie Springs, and the other mounds are dry a long time, which seems to mark a fault in the upper strata of the country extending away to the south and to the west.  In the opinion of geologists Charlotte Waters is situated in an artesian area, where boring should be undertaken by the government as a test.  Nature, however, unkind in certain particulars, has made provision for helping us if we will woo her rightly. With sheep within a certain distance of the railway line, with cattle beyond that, and in some localities with horses for the Indian market this country will be profitably started under wise laws.

Chapter VII – THE PASTORAL BOARD AND ‘88 LANDS

  Prior to the expiry of the 1888 leases the Pastoral Board at a cost of a good many thousands of pounds inspected all the land included in them.  As practical men they next proceeded to recommend the subdivision of the leases into blocks suited for single holdings.  Some of the blocks as subdivided were of a few square miles only, while others went into hundreds of square miles.  In every case the nearness to the settled districts, the nature of the soil, herbage, and rainfall, and the extent of the development were taken into account.  Due attention was also paid to the existing fences and improvements. The idea was that the country should no longer be monopolised by the few, but should be occupied by smaller men.   The sale of the new leases was by auction, the bidding being upon the annual rent.  When the sale was over, though there had been a spirited competition for some blocks, and some prices had been run far beyond their value, the bulk of the land went back to the previous occupiers.  Indifferent or vermin-infested blocks, or blocks where the costly improvements for which the Government had paid made the upset rental high, were allowed to go to outsiders or were left on the hands of the Government.  The country to the north-east of Port Augusta fairly illustrates the utter failure of the attempt made to subdivide the runs.  The rock on which the whole scheme was wrecked was the auction system.  In our dealings with agricultural Crown lands auction has long stood condemned.  It may be fairly claimed that it should also be abolished in respect of pastoral lands on the evidence supplied here.  At the auction some men were run because it was believed that they would not go very high in their bids.  Some wealthy men or Associations were let alone, because it was understood to be useless to bid against them, as they were determined to get the land back.  Many blocks were in this way secured at the upset price, while others were run far above it, and a glance at the sale list shows the reason to have been what has been stated.  In several cases where small men got blocks they have since realised the utter impossibility of their doing anything with them, and they have abandoned them.  In certain cases after caretakers had been some time in charge of improvements the rent at which the blocks were offered was considerably reduced, as by that time the vermin had so increased that they were of less value still.  Had the lands been allotted by a Board there would have been a better chance of the intentions of Parliament being carried out, but as it is the subdivision policy has for the most part proved a delusion and a snare.
The question of the area of holdings for pastoral purposes requires careful study.  The remarks made above are in relation to some of the 1888 country where development has taken place, and do not apply equally all round to undeveloped lands.  In fact the size of a holding can be better measured by the number of permanent waters upon it than by the acreage or mileage.  Even a thousand miles of country without water is useless.  In ordinary cases two, or at any rate three, really permanent waters is the least that a settler can do with with any prospect of successful results.  Those two or three permanent waters may be on a hundred square miles, or they may be, and often are, all that have been found on two or three thousand square miles.  Each new water means another paddock, and another area of feed on to which stock can get.  In undeveloped country, where waters are few and far between, no limit can be set to the area a man may hold, as he can only use what is within a reasonable distance of the water.  As new supplies are provided subdivision becomes possible, but only then.  This demonstrates the importance of promoting to the utmost the development of the country.  Carrying capacity is practically measured by the number of permanent waters.  The securing of a new water supply adds to the carrying capacity of a run, and may enable a block to be subdivided.  Development and subdivision are in this way closely associated, and what promotes the one will lead to the other.  It was because some of the 1888 lands had been developed that they could be safely divided.  As they are still further improved so will further subdivision be practicable.  It is evident that no hard-and-fast limit of area can be fixed.  A man with large capital takes up a permanent water, and perhaps even several thousand square miles round it.  His stock cannot get far back from the water, so he endeavours to creep out further and further still, as opportunity and seasons favour, to get other water on land which if he did not hold it no one else could or would.  All the while he is preparing for ultimate division or is himself promoting the breaking up of his holding in due time.  The first thing is to get the country taken up anyhow; the next to get it developed and vermin kept in check.  Then subdivision will come of itself on the expiring of the lease if the auction be abolished.  The alternative of the Government developing the country or leaving it to lessees is practically settled by the matter being left as it ought to be after once a route through it is opened up to the lessees.  Still, now and again the government do make an attempt to test an area for their tenants.  South of Lake Frome the Government have been boring for some time in the hope of finding artesian water, but so far without success, and, indeed, now almost without any hope of any.  Surface supplies alone can then be looked to.
It may be well as the 1888 leases have been referred to to see in detail what the position is with reference to them.  First, let it be remembered that owing to the resumptions which took place large tracts of these lands became overrun with vermin.  The resumed lands became in many instances breeding grounds from which the pest spread over all the adjoining country, and largely counteracted the good effects of the development which had taken place.  Many a block, such as Braemar, would have been suitable for occupation by itself but for the vermin.  It is no exaggeration to say that the carrying capacity of much of the country was reduced by at least 20 per cent by the rabbits.  The lands falling in in 1888 were those which had been taken up thirty-seven years before, and were distributed all over the pastoral districts.  They were considered when taken up to be the pick of the whole country wherever they were, and generally included the best natural waters or sources of water then known.  For all the water improvements - that is for wells, reservoirs, pumping gear &c. the Government paid the lessees cost price, but all other improvements became the property of the Government without compensation.  Instead of each block as subdivided by the Board being taken by one lessee out of the lots offered at the first sale, comprising two-thirds of the whole land, and an area of 22,000 square miles, one lessee got ten blocks, and many others several. Out of sixty-five lessees twenty-six got over 300 square miles each, and three over 1,000 square miles each, while one obtained 3,600 square miles.  The only blocks which did not go back to the original holders were small ones.  The Government had left in their hands at the end of the sales several blocks for which there was no offer at all, the reasons being in some cases the prevalence of vermin, and in others the excessive rent required to cover interest on improvements, which, while suitable for large holdings, were greatly in excess of the needs of the holders of smaller blocks.  At the present time twenty-five leases remain on the hands of the government, the number originally unleased having been added to by surrenders.  Of these three leases are within seven miles of the South-Eastern Railway, and can only be let by the Land Board.  Nine more are on the River Murray, and are now being subdivided to be let in small blocks in obedience to a resolution of the Assembly last session.  Fourteen leases taken at auction in 1888 have been abandoned.  On two of these even the deposit to be paid on the fall of the hammer never came in, the price bid being absurdly high.  Five lessees paid no rent after the deposit and so gave up their holdings.  The other seven simply surrendered their holdings, the reason being for the most part that the rent was too high.  Two leases thrown up have since been let under miscellaneous lease regulations.  One of them, Boolcoomatta, originally offered at 224 has just been let for 180 per annum, and the improvements, originally valued at 4,832, have greatly deteriorated in value in spite of the employment of a caretaker by the government, and the vermin have increased to a fearful extent.  The other so let is Angipena, and the present rent is 175 against 224 18s. first asked.  Here, too, the value of the improvements has been greatly reduced.  On these two runs alone the loss on the improvements has been very great.  Four of the abandoned leases are now occupied under commonage regulations, and that simply means that improvements are being ruined and vermin are increasing.  The other eight leases are open to application at a rental greatly reduced below that first asked and are not likely to be taken even now, though in one case the rental is only 13s. a mile.  In cases where the lands are unlet the steady depreciation in improvements owing to vermin is serious.  Even where they are in the hands of the old lessees the occurrence of a drought or a specially disastrous to influx of vermin or even a continued fall in the price of wool and of stock would result in their wholesale abandonment, and then the loss would be widespread.  While improvements belong to the Crown there is no anchor to keep the lessee on the country, and when he abandons it the improvements go to wreck.
The work of the Pastoral Board, as has been stated, was originally heavily handicapped by the existence of the auction test, and also by the large sums paid for improvements, the interest on which could never be paid by small holders.  As an attempt to create a body of small graziers it was an entire failure.  To some extent it was a good thing that it was, as the small grazier on risky country is far more likely to suffer ruinous loss himself and to abandon his holding than the larger holders. Where, however, the development of the country is well forward under wiser legislation, more might have been accomplished.  The wisest thing that could have been done in 1888 would have been to offer the lessees terms which would have induced them to accept payment for their improvements from the next lessee instead of from the Crown, and thus to have given each occupier a stake in the country which he now has not.  The work done by the Pastoral Board then in due time would have accomplished its objects, and the gradual subdivision of the country have been brought about as soon as it was ready for occupation in smaller blocks.  It may be necessary to say again that the ill-success attending the efforts of the Pastoral Board is in no way consequent upon any failure on the part of the Board, whose work was as a whole well done, but the effect of their work was entirely counteracted by the legislation extant.  The price paid by the Government on these leases was 433,528, including cost of arbitration &c.  The futility of the effort to settle small holders on even the more accessible and better developed pastoral lands while vermin is so troublesome is well-illustrated by what has taken place in the Fringe country to the west of the pastoral lands north-east of Burra.  Some, like Braemar, to which detailed reference will be made later, have been taken up and abandoned several times within the last four years, and most of those who have touched the land have dropped all the money they have put into the place.  The Fringe country is what is sometimes known as the “twenty thousand acre blocks”.  It is situated between the farm lands to the east of the Burra to Petersburg Railway and the pastoral country further east.  It was included in the famous resumption of 1880.  Near to market and adjoining farm lands, besides being fairly developed it might have been expected that here at any rate small graziers would do well, and yet the record is one of failure and loss all through.  Perhaps no lands in the colony are worse infested with vermin than these, and they are a great source of trouble to all other lands near them.  The non-success of comparatively small holdings - holdings of from 20000 to 50000 acres - here is absolute evidence of what may be looked for in any other place where difficulties are similar.  The obstacle has not been excessive rent either, for the Land Board in valuing and allotting the country have sought to fix the rentals as low as possible, and to secure the most suitable occupants with a view to success.  Nearly the whole of the Fringe land that is let is either on lease with right of purchase, and it includes a quantity of very good and some rough country.  The rents vary from about a farthing to a penny per acre per annum.

Chapter VIII – PRESENT TENURE

  The various forms of tenure under which pastoral lands are now held are very perplexing to the outsider.  The classification of the land does not depend on locality but upon date of first lease.  We have Class I, with certain conditions of occupation, including lands which fell in during 1888 or on January 1, 1889.  These lands are scattered up and down amongst other lands, though the bulk of them are situated nearer the settled districts.  So much of them as has been relet is now occupied on lease for twenty-one years, the Crown to pay for all improvements made by the lessee during the currency of the lease or at its termination.  The lessee has to keep in order all improvements on the land when his lease began.  Class II comprises lands held under pastoral lease on November 14, 1884, or pursuant to a then existing right of renewal.  These lands are falling in from year to year, and form the bulk of the pastoral lands which will be open to be let during the next ten years.  They are scattered about different pastoral regions, and are as a rule more distant from the seaboard than most of the Class I land.  They are very variously improved, some being almost as well developed as any 1888 land, and other leases being little improved.  It is on these lands that very large sums will be payable by the Crown for improvements from year to year, as the lessees have to be paid not only for water, but also for other improvements on the expiry of their leases.  Such of these leases as have fallen in since 1888 have been let on twenty-one years lease, similar to lands in Class I.  The lands in Class III include all other pastoral lands than those in Classes I and II, and are held on thirty-five year leases, at an annual upset rent of 2s 6d per mile for the first fourteen years, with periodic revision of rental then and each remaining seven years.  Should any lessee be dissatisfied with the revised rent he may quit his holding, and in such a case shall receive from the next tenant the value of his improvements, all improvements on the lease at the expiry of the thirty-five years to be paid for by the Crown.  Stocking conditions, which may be relaxed by the construction of certain improvements, are imposed on holders of Class III land.  Such was the condition of the law up to the end of 1890, and such is the tenure on which nearly all the pastoral land is now held.  The conditions are liberal and the tenure long, while the Crown has to pay for all improvements at the end of the leases.  This liability has been estimated by the Surveyor-General at 2,500,000 sterling, as has already been stated.
Since the close of the session of 1890, however, another Act has been in force which has not given satisfaction to the pastoral interest, and which is not at all likely to effect the great purpose of encouraging settlement.  During the session of that year the Cockburn Government brought down a Bill intended to prevent the issue of any new leases carrying an obligation for the Crown to purchase improvements, and also to induce lessees who held that right to surrender it in favour of the right to claim payment from the next lessee instead of from the Government.  It also provided for the repurchase by lessees of improvements the Government had paid for, so that the general principle might be adopted of the Crown owning the land and the lessee the improvements.  In fact the measure was practically what the pastoral lessees are now almost unanimously declaring is the only panacea for all their ills subject to legislative control.  It was, too, just what the Pastoral Commission of last year recommended as the result of its enquiries.  The defeat, however, of the Cockburn Administration carried with it the defeat of the Bill.  The Playford Government introduced and carried a new measure, the two leading features of which are, first, that the term of the leases to be granted under it is extended to forty-two years,  while all improvements constructed by any lessee fall in with the lease without any compensation.  The other leading feature is that holders of land other than those in Class II may if they choose apply for an extension of their lease in lieu of payment for their improvements.  In this case the Commissioner of Crown Lands will state what extension of term and what rental he will grant, and the lessee then decides whether he will accept the extension of term or take his money.  As to the practical effect of the first new departure, it can be readily understood that it will not be to encourage the making of improvements of a permanent character.  No lessee will spend more money than he can see his way to get back with a fair profit during the currency of the lease.  Any work that can be done in a temporary fashion will be so done, or it will be dispensed with altogether.  Besides this during the later years of the leases not only will improvements be allowed to get into disrepair altogether, but certainly no new ones will be gone on with, so that utter stagnation must reign.  Again, it stands to reason that if the lessees are to set aside a sum every year as sinking fund for the outlay on improvements they will be able to pay so much the less rent, so that the Government will be paying for the improvements still in a most objectionable way, and in all probability without getting that for which they pay.  Taking the average value of improvements at 17 per mile as set down by the Surveyor-General, that sum less per mile can be paid by the lessee over the term of his lease as rent.  That the Government will obtain value for this is very unlikely.  There will also be great difficulty in securing the maintenance of such improvements as fall into the hands of the Government.  Dams will silt up.  Well timbering and water gear will decay and deteriorate.  Buildings and fences only have a short life, even when of the very best quality, which pastoral improvements are not always.  If the leases now current had been let on the only terms now open, one of two things must have happened.  Either the two and a half millions now spent or to be spent on improvements would not have been expended, or else the lessees would have been worse off by that sum than they will be now.  The last is an impossible contingency, so that the only course left would have been the non-development of the country.  Take a given piece of country now stocked with cattle and very little improved.  Let on a lease giving compensation from some one for improvements, water would be provided and fencing erected, all at a cost of 10,000, perhaps 20,000, during the currency of the lease, and sheep would be put on, to the great increase of the railway traffic and the produce of the colony.  Let under the present law it becomes a question whether it is not better to keep the country as it is, unimproved and stocked with cattle, than to sink on it 10,000 at least, which may never be got back. Probably the final decision in this, which is an actual case, will be to put up cheap and temporary improvements so as to get sheep on.
The next important feature of the Act is that which provides that lessees of other than Class I country may surrender.  This will, in view of the fact that the improvements have to be given in by the lessee, operate greatly to the detriment of the State.  There are a large number of cases, including nearly all the leases north-east of Burra and east of the grazing and cultivation leases, in which the lessees are simply waiting for the payment for their improvements and on no account would take an extension of tenure.  These are lands where the improvements are considerable in proportion to the area of the country, and where the vermin are numerous.  In fact it needs no argument to show that wherever the sum due for improvements is large in proportion to the value of the country - that is just where there would be some gain to the Crown in the new conditions - the lessees will abide by the old law.  Where the improvements, to owing to the existence of natural waters or other causes, or to the exceptionally great value of the country, are small in comparison to the carrying capacity, the new law will be resorted to.  Clearly, then, the Government will lose both ways.  To in one case they have the land and must pay the cash, but cannot let the land nor secure the maintenance of the improvements.  In the other case, where the land could be easily relet and the payments due would be small, the lessee keeps the land and forgoes the cash.  The following is also an actual case :- A block of pastoral country with good natural waters and comparatively small improvements falls in.  Belonging to the same lessees there is a large area of surrounding land without water falling in later.  By the sacrifice of the money for improvements on the land first falling in, that can be obtained for a long term of years.  The rent is considerably increased, but that is of little consequence seeing that no one can touch the rest while the waters are held, and it can be obtained by the holders of the water at their own price when it falls in.  In another case, where there are considerable improvements on the land falling in later, the possession of the key to it will simply lead to the Government again getting the worst of the bargain.  As soon, too, as the lessee has lost all personal and direct interest in the value of the improvements it will require an army of Inspectors to go round the country to see that they are kept in order.  The 10 per cent deposit on the value of the improvements is no real security.
Perhaps a stronger argument still against the present Act is the fact that many a lessee would today walk out and abandon his lease but that the improvements are his and represent cash he is to receive.  Under the new law when they belong to the Crown, when perhaps a million of money or more has been sunk on them, a drought may come, or the vermin grow worse, or wool prices go down still further, and the lessees having nothing to lose will abandon their holdings wholesale, leaving everything to go to wreck.  Many a lessee in the North-East is simply holding on longing for the expiry of his lease to get the cash, and with runs almost unstocked, save by vermin, would have gone long since had the improvements belonged to the Crown.  Tinga-Tingana on the Strzelecki Creek, recently let as a miscellaneous lease after hanging on the hands of the government for many months, is a case in point.  The late lessee would not have accepted an extension of tenure on any terms.  The improvements were paid for by the Government.  Being unoccupied they speedily went to ruin.  The Government had a caretaker employed to protect them, but even then the spread of vermin, resulting in terrible depreciation of the country, could not be stopped.  Ultimately the Government were glad to accept an almost nominal rent for the run to get it off their hands, and only special circumstances led to the taking of it then.  There is nothing at present beyond the nominal deposit of 10 per cent on the value of the improvements, which deposit is returned to the lessee as soon as he shall have made new improvements on the land equal in value to the amount of the deposit, to make the lessee share the interest - the maintenance of the improvements - with the Government.  A number of lessees have applied to the Government for information as to the length of new leases they can obtain, and the rent they will be expected to pay, but it is understood that so far no lessee has accepted the terms offered, so that the object of reducing the liability of the Crown for improvements has not been accomplished. It is not very cheering to find that the latest endeavour of Parliament to perfect the pastoral land laws has resulted so unsuccessfully.  It is, perhaps, only necessary to point out that what has now been referred to is purely pastoral land law.  The law affecting the Fringe country between the pastoral lands and the farm lands is dealt with by the Land boards, either on perpetual lease or on lease with right of purchase, and the improvements belong to the occupiers.  The surrender clauses, as pointed out, do not apply either to the Class I or 1888 land.  One great cause doubtless leading up to the present sorry condition of the pastoral land laws has been that nearly every other person had a scheme of his own, and the lessees did not unite to obtain what was within reach with that unity, but what was simply unattainable with disunion.  It is, however, to be hoped that a general agreement will now be arrived at, so that an industry so important to the colony may be placed on a better footing so far as legislation can do it.

Chapter IX – SOME SUGGESTIVE EXAMPLES

  It will be instructive to take now a few examples illustrative of different aspects of the pastoral land laws.  These cases are actually existent, and where the names are not given they can be obtained from the writer.  It must be clearly understood too that the examples quoted do not exhaust the supply, but are exactly similar to hundreds of other cases which are within the knowledge of those who are acquainted with the history and condition of the pastoral industry in various parts of the colony.  First two cases to illustrate the freedom with which capital has been expended on the country without any resultant profit.  The present proprietors twelve years ago purchased at a premium from its then lessees the Parakylia Run, west of Hergott Springs.  The area of the run is 2,225 square miles, and it was then unimproved.  It is not now more than half fenced, yet 33,000 has been expended on improvements.  In the attempt to obtain water 18,000 has been sunk, 500 or 700 having often been spent in a single well, and then only water saltier than the sea struck.  In stocking and other charges large sums have been laid out, the total capital used on the run being 100,000.  The sheep kept vary from 20,000 to 40,000.  The owners do not favour the idea of the incoming lessee paying for the improvements instead of the Government, because they fear that after their experiences there will be found no one to follow them when their lease expires, and as things are the Government will have to pay whether there is another tenant or not.  There have only been three good seasons in the twelve years.  Rabbits are not yet troublesome here.  It is quite needless to say that it will not pay the State to become the owners of improvements in such cases as this, and yet they are bound to pay for them as things stand.  At the Andamooka Run close by, belonging to the same proprietors, another 100,000 has been sunk under similar circumstances.  The area of the run is 1,700 square miles.  The next case is a run of something over 1,000 square miles in the north.  The occupiers work the country themselves, and do not depend on overseers, nor have the expense of a town office.  They are thoroughly practical men, and have spent their best days on the country.  Their testimony is that when they took it up twenty-three years ago it would carry no stock.  By an expenditure of 18 a mile on it for improvements they have raised it to a carrying capacity of sixty sheep to the mile in a fair season.  Several times they have appeared to be on the eve of drawing a profit, but just at that juncture a drought or some other trouble has taken place and thrown them back again.  The net result of the twenty-three years work is that working expenses, reduced to an irreducible minimum, have been paid.  The interest on advances and Bank overdrafts has been met.  There is not a penny, however, to show for either interest on the capital originally put into the concern nor for the capital itself.  The stock if sold at present prices would just about clear off liabilities.  A good season now would mean a reduction of indebtedness, but a bad one must result in heavy losses of stock, again postponing indefinitely the hope of returns.  A drought not only means heavy losses of stock, but largely increased cost in many ways.
Two examples will show what may happen when the Government have paid for improvements at the termination of a lease and have the land and improvements on their hands.  Braemar Head Station and three blocks of land were offered in September 1888, on a grazing and cultivation lease.  The total area was 54,940 acres.  The improvements the Government had paid for were worth 4,709 14s, and there were some others on the land worth 260 more.  There was no application for the land, the upset rent of which was 1d per acre, including interest on the improvements.  In November 1888, more land was added to the block, bringing up the area to 107,790 acres, and the improvements to a total value of 7,871 1s 6d.  The acceptance price was again 1d per acre, and this time Mr. A Hay took it at the upset price, there being no competitor.  In 1889 Mr. Hay threw it up, and it was declared open for application as a perpetual lease or on right of purchase.  After lying waste till July 30 1890, Mr. G Hiles took it on perpetual lease, including only the 54,940 acres carrying the chief improvements. The next year Mr. Hiles got tired of it, and abandoned the effort to do anything with it.  After another interval in January 1892, Mr. James Pick took it up on perpetual lease at 15/-8d per acre, improvements and all.  At present he is busy trying to do something with it.  During all these changes it is needless to say that vermin have greatly increased, dams have gone on silting up, and perishable improvements generally have seriously deteriorated.  Another such period of alternate occupancy and abandonment - and there is no reason to hope for anything else - would leave the whole block practically useless, and a standing menace to all the settlers round.  A second example is Tinga Tingana, on the Strzelecki Creek.  The run was offered at auction in five blocks in February 1890, the improvements on the whole being in round numbers 9,000 value.  One block only, the one with the lowest rent, was taken.  In May 1890, the unsold blocks were again offered at a considerable reduction of rent, and still there was no offer.  In February 1891, the lessee of the one block got weary of his single-handed fight against the dogs and rabbits, and the Government at his request cancelled the lease.  On April 30 the whole of the blocks were put up together, the area being 1,290 square miles, and the rental asked, including interest on improvements, 15s per mile.  No bid was obtained.  On August 27 the lot was again put up, this time at 10s per mile.  Again there was no buyer.  In February of this present year the run was again offered, this time on miscellaneous lease, which required no deposit from the lessee on account of the improvements, as had been necessary under previous offers.  The rent was again 10s a mile, and the run was this time taken at the upset price.  The rental originally asked was over 940, and what is now covenanted to be paid is 645 5s.  Five per cent on the improvements is 450, so that the rent for the country is now only 105 for 1,290 square miles.  Besides this the Government take the risk of the improvements, which have gone very seriously out of repair already in spite of the employment by the Government of a caretaker simply to live on the run and protect the Government property.  The cause of the trouble in each case was the vermin, and unless the vermin can be kept under the experience of the past in these two cases of Braemar and Tinga Tingana will be repeated, not only there, but all over the pastoral holdings where the Government own the improvements, and the lessees have nothing to hold them to the land in spite of adverse circumstances.  Improvements which cost the State a million of money would speedily become useless, and with the land on which they stand go a-begging.  Surely nothing else could so clearly show the interest the Government have in the destruction of vermin as this condition of affairs.  They have far more at stake than any pastoralist, or even than all the pastoralists together.
These examples are a few from amongst many similar cases that exist.  They prove that the pastoral industry has not suffered seriously from lack of capital available to promote it.  Money has in some cases been poured out with a most lavish hand, and the lessee must have had almost unbounded faith in the country or in its capacity for development.  The result has, however, been disastrous, and the evil influences of failure have extended to all classes of the community, who now suffer for the losses of the past.  The examples also show that the pastoralists have not wanted pluck, but have many of them spent years of hard labour in unhomely places in the endeavour to make their enterprise pay.  As a class the pioneers of the pastoral industry have toiled hard for the little they have got, while many have had to suffer utter defeat.  It is safe to say that very little money and no fortunes have been made in legitimate stock-raising in the outside districts.  With lower prices for wool and stock than have ruled before the outlook is not encouraging, and it is little wonder that capital has grown shy of pastoral securities.  Past losses, coupled with the present feeling of vague insecurity in the financial world, gives little encouragement to enterprise today.  Yet even today Mr. Angas is wire-netting one of the boundaries of his Frome Downs Run in the expectation which has long tempted on to their ruin men of smaller means that the turn must come, and seasons and prices return to old standards.  Should the occupancy of Frome Downs not be remunerative the Government will on the expiry of lease have to pay for the fencing now being done.  The Government thus take the chief risk, and are in a very unenviable position indeed.
The cases of Braemar and Tinga Tingana prove what folly it is for the Government to become the owners of valuable improvements.  Just as in most cases improvements are the really valuable portion of a run, so under other circumstances they may become an incubus.  Where vermin exist in numbers a high rent cannot be paid.  In one case recently in the Gawler Ranges country a firm had a large paddock of feed reserved for lambing or against any emergency.  The emergency came in the presence of a drought, but the rabbits came too and cleared off all the reserve feed.  Where the rabbits abound they diminish seriously the carrying capacity of the land, and therefore its rent value.  As where there are improvements for which the Crown has paid large sums the rent must include a percentage on the value of the improvements, it will often happen that it will pay no one to give the rent the Government ask, and so the country lies idle, and vermin breed, and the trouble grows worse and worse.  If the improvements belonged to the lessee he must, to protect himself, keep the vermin down, or he would lose all chance of obtaining any one to take over his improvements.  The policy of the State ownership of improvements is most clearly shown by the two cases quoted, to say nothing of many more, to have been most mischievous.  Since this series of articles was begun fresh difficulties have arisen and more runs have been abandoned.  If, then, the examples quoted have any force at all it is important that the little Parliament can do for an industry so important and so oppressed by difficulty should be done.  Our past experience is about enough to warn us what not to do, and we have to devise some plan which will not reproduce or continue such results as have already been noted.  It is precisely such runs as it will not pay the lessee to take a new lease of which will under present conditions be thrown, improvements and all, on the hands of the Government, while those which the Government might do something with will be renewed.  Unless there is a change in our legislation Braemars and Tinga Tinganas will be multiplied.

Chapter X – BLOCKERS

  Should the eye of the Hon G W Cotton chance to fall on the sub-title of this article he will be at once attracted to it.  There are, however, blockers and blockers.  Just as in one case a little plot of a couple of acres of good garden land may be enough to maintain a family, while in another twenty acres of less favoured land is not too much, so there are “blockers” amongst the pastoralists whose holdings are diminutive indeed as compared with many others, and yet are enormous when brought into comparison with many ordinary blockers’ holdings.  The north-east of Burra was one of the localities chosen some years since for experiments in pastoralist small blocks, and it will be instructive to obtain some idea gained from very recent visitation and enquiry as to what is being accomplished.  It was originally contemplated that the blocks should be offered in about 20,000 acre lots, but ultimately, owing to various circumstances, the area has been varied from 18,000 acres up to about 60,000 acres.  The lands so let are those on the west of the resumption line, and extend westward from that line, which is also the eastern boundary of the Counties of Burra, Kimberley, and Herbert, for a width of about thirty miles.  This is the land often spoken of as the “fringe”, being situated on the eastern edge of the agricultural lands.  On it are many reservoirs and other improvements, including fences and buildings erected by the pastoral lessees.  The country has a carrying capacity in average seasons of from sixty to eighty sheep to the mile, according to the bush.  On the rises it is chiefly the less valuable bluebush, while in the low portions the saltbush luxuriates.  In good seasons a great quantity of geranium and other herbage grows, providing a temporary fodder for stock.  In summer all round permanent waters the feed is kept down, so that the bare dusty soil looks its worst, while away out of reach of water the stock could do well enough if only they could get out to it.  In a few blocks belts of scrubby land grow less feed, and are a harbour for vermin, from which they can with the greatest difficulty be expelled.
Taking ten acres to a sheep and 5,000 sheep as being required to give a reasonable prospect for the steady maintenance of a family, an average block should be at least 50,000 acres, and a poor block larger.  As, however, the best stock market in the colony – Burra - is readily accessible, possibly a larger quantity of stock at some seasons and a smaller in others might enable a living to be made off a smaller block than 50,000 acres.  Most of the leases offered carry improvements.  Sometimes one boundary is fenced already, although the fence may badly need extensive repairs.  Generally one large reservoir and sometimes two are on each block.  If any buildings exist in addition to the reservoirs and fencing the rent is piled up, as 5 per cent on the value of all improvements is in all cases added to what the department considers a fair price for the bare land.  The rentals thus vary from a penny to twopence per acre.  On Braemar, where there are two houses, a very large wool and shearing-shed, a large shearers’ kitchen, and other improvements, besides a large reservoir and fencing, the rental is now 15/8d per acre, but the lessee is bound by the terms of his lease to insure and maintain all the improvements, which are, to a large extent, useless to him.  The buildings are calculated for a run carrying 100,000 sheep, and are simply a dead weight round the neck of the lessee.  The shearing-shed is in excellent order, as are most of the other buildings, but the fences and the yards are going out of repair fast, and the drains to the reservoir badly need attention.  It is worthy of note that in spite of the improvements for which the Government paid 5,000, and for which the lessee has to pay rent, a considerable sum is now required to be laid out if the lessee is to make a living out of his block.  He must excavate a couple of reservoirs at considerable cost, and must spend 300 or 400 on fencing, besides the destruction of dogs and rabbits, which are very troublesome.  That is all preliminary to stocking.  It may be broadly stated that a capital of at least 750 is required by any blocker in addition to the value of the stock.
In several cases an excellent start has been made.  Dams of about 12,000 yards content are being sunk, and in some instances the work done is a great credit to the contractor, whose excavation with the scoop is as regular and clean as if it had been well-executed pick and shovel work.  Of course the weary waiting for water has now to begin, and a dam which cost 300, including perhaps a dozen miles of small and large drains leading to it, may remain empty and useless for months.  As for feed, just now there is ample feed where there is no water, but round the waters the country is very bare.  Some of the blockers’ houses, of galvanized iron, lined and ceiled and painted white all over roof and walls, are very comfortable and well suited to the locality.  Some excellent fencing also with barbed wire on top has just been completed.  As a body the blockers evidently mean business.  Their hold on the land is as yet very precarious, and a drought or an incursion of dogs and rabbits from unoccupied Crown lands, or from the rough country to the eastward, where the lessees are simply waiting for the expiry of their leases to obtain from the Government payment for their improvements, would drive them off.  A good season or two or a satisfactory method of keeping off the vermin would, however, make the blockers an established body of settlers.  It is somewhat significant that those who know the country the best and have the most experience are the least sanguine as to the success of the small holdings.
To let it be seen what has to be done a sample case may be quoted.  The block is over 25,000 acres.  The rent is 1 per acre.  Already 1,000 has been spent on improvements, including contracts in progress.  Chaff has to be bought and carted out for the horses needed on the place.  Set down the low figure of 500 for living and working expenses; 182 as the rent, and 80 to represent the interest at 8 per cent on the money spent in dams, fences, and buildings.  This gives a total without stock of 762 to be made annually.  The gross return in wool and increase to be realized from 1,000 sheep may be set down at 200, so that to begin with, without reckoning interest on their value, the return from 4,000 sheep is gone in the items mentioned.  Now the holder of 25,000 acres will not keep has many as 4,000 sheep.  The only way, then, in which a piece of country of this size can be worked is in conjunction with other blocks, so that at the least cost for management, &c, the utmost use may be made of the land.
At the present time the carrying capacity of the land is seriously diminished by the presence of vermin.  The dogs worry and destroy the sheep, and in some instances compel the owners to shepherd the stock.  In this case not only is there the cost of the shepherding, of say 100 a year for each shepherd, including wages, rations, water-carters, &c, but the sheep cut up the country and destroy the feed terribly when they are being worked, and the wool seriously deteriorates through the quantities of dust which accumulate in it.  Shepherding never has paid in this country.  If only the vermin could be destroyed the carrying capacity of the whole country and the resultant advantage to the pastoral blocker would be largely increased.  The great source of the trouble is in the pastoral country to the east of the county boundaries.  As already stated this is at present held simply with a view to obtaining the money from the Government when the lease expires in a year or so.  In the meantime the land is almost entirely unstocked, and so nothing is being done to destroy the vermin.  The land is somewhat thickly wooded, principally with bull oak, and nothing but an organized effort will ever clear the vermin, either dogs or rabbits, out.  Koomooloo is on the border of this country, a short distance east of the county boundary.  The homestead is a most comfortable one, and well arranged and surrounded with pepper and other trees.  It is a great pity that blocks are let by the map instead of with a due regard to natural features and fences.  The county line cuts off the only piece of open land of any extent from the rest of the run and from the bulk of the improvements.  In several cases existing fences cut off diagonal pieces of other blocks, one line following the true and the other line the magnetic north.  The result is that existing fences are rendered useless and new fencing is made absolutely necessary.
Sometimes, too, a reservoir is cut off by the new boundary from the country it was made to serve, and much unnecessary difficulty results.  One blocker talks of planting vines and fruit-trees round his homestead, but without very plentiful watering this will be time and trouble wasted.  Where any attempts have been made in this direction it has only been possible to accomplish the smallest results at heavy cost, and the little fruit grown has never repaid the growers for the trouble involved.  The capital value of the land may be set down at about five shillings per acre, but those who have right-of-purchase leasees have undertaken to pay more than this.  There is not, however, any likelihood of the purchase being effected while Government rents are so low. The perpetual lessees are for the present best off, for they escape the payment of any land tax, although of course if any unforeseen event should raise the value of the land the Government and not the lessees would get the benefit, as their rent would be raised.  The holders of the right of purchase could in such a case buy the land and sell at a profit, and they and not the State would get the benefit.  No attempt has been made at wheatgrowing outside the hundreds.  Inside the hundreds, along the fringe, the attempt has failed, and is not likely to be renewed.  In the eastern country, the best a farmer could hope for was a little wheat or hay along the watercourses, where natural irrigation had come to the rescue.  It may be taken for granted at once that while this is excellent pasture land it is not fitted at all for agriculture, and it would be as great a mistake to take this from the grazier and try to farm it as it would be to take a piece of good garden or farm land and use it for nothing but sheep.
The underlying principle of our legislation and of our practical operations should be to apply every condition of soil and climate to its best use.  Not to strive against Nature, but to work according to natural laws.  Fruit and vines should be grownon garden land, wheat on wheat areas, wool and mutton, and perhaps beef, where these products only can find a home.  On this principle the whole of the North-Eastern plains must be dealt with as sheep land.  With wise arrangements as to size of blocks, tenure, and rent, and a good selection of lessees, permanent settlement in the North-East of comparatively small graziers might be expected, but as it is it is to be feared that little, if anything, of a permanent character has yet been done.  One advantage the blockers enjoy.  They are the owners of all their improvements, and for them no question arises of a Sinking Fund.  When they have any revaluation of rent should they not choose to accept a new lease on the terms the Government offer the new lessee must pay the value of the improvements to the old lessee.  On this account the improvements being made and likely to be made are of a thoroughly permanent and suitable character.  In case of the abandonment of the leases through difficulties too great to be overcome by the present lessees the next comers will have the advantage of what is now being done, and the losses of one set of holders will be the stepping-stones to success on the part of the next.  This is satisfactory to the Government, who simply as landlords will not suffer, but it is disastrous to the people who undertake tasks too large for them.  Subdivision of the old large areas was in many cases desirable, but the subdivision has frequently been carried too far.  Gradually the land will drift back into fewer hands, till the limit of profitable occupation is reached.  Meantime, probably little if any more stock is likely to be on this country for a very long time than was on it in the days of large squattages, while at the present transitional stage there is less than there used to be.  As to the much-vexed question of vermin destruction and fencing, that will form the subject matter of the next article, when it will be dealt with from the most recent personal inspection of the district, and in the light of information gathered on the spot from those who are most interested.

Chapter XI – VERMIN AND ITS DESTRUCTION

    We suffer in this colony from many imported pests.  Many noxious weeds have been brought from far to find a most congenial home here.  In some places foxes threaten the henroosts, and are rapidly multiplying.  Sparrows are everywhere now.  Hares have readily become acclimatised, and are a nuisance where they abound.  Of all the imported troubles the worst are, however, the subjects of this article, the rabbits and the dogs.  In the old days the dingoes were pests to be fought against, but the dogs of the present are tame dogs run wild and their offspring, and the crossbred half-dingo half-tame dog, which is most cunning of all.  The rabbits, once carefully housed, and in several instances carted long distances that they might be lodged in a favourable spot for a burrow or near an old kangaroo-rat hole, so that they might breed and provide sport for the sportsmen, have since cost almost endless time and money to keep the numbers within bounds.  Bunny has not only thriven in favoured localities, but has adapted himself to conditions the most unpromising.  The fodder bushes have been laid under contribution, together with many other bushes on which stock will not thrive, and where grass and bushes have all been exhausted the bark has been eaten off the trees to maintain the voracious and insistent rodents.  They have developed the faculty of climbing shrubs in search of food, and also of living for long periods without water.  On the principle of the survival of the fittest each hardy remnant that has lived through one drought appears to have bred a still hardier race.  Not only has Nature fought them, but the State has spent, in South Australia alone, to say nothing of vast sums expended in the other colonies, several hundred thousand pounds.  As for the scalp-money, the cost of bisulphide of carbon, the wages of unemployed in digging out burrows, and all the other outlay occasioned to private persons in rabbit destruction, the outlay has been enormous, and cannot be computed.  Then we must reckon the value of the wheat and other crops eaten off to the extent of thousands of acres, and the worth of miles upon miles of feed, which would have fed stock, which has been all devoured by rabbits.  Many a farmer has sown his seed and gladly watched his growing corn, favoured by the kindly influences of a good season, only at last to lose it all by the ravages of tens of thousands of rabbits.  Many a squatter has saved a big paddock of a good many square miles area for the lambing, or for summer feed, only to have the rabbits come down upon it and clear it all off, leaving his sheep to starve and spoiling his lambing.  Nor has the mischief been confined to a small area.  The pests have spread all over the colony, except indeed in the very Far North, and even in that direction they are steadily advancing.  They travel miles in search of food or water, and taking refuge in rougher country descend in hordes on all the settlers round.  Vast indeed are the sums of money which would adequately represent the cost to the Government and private people of the damage that has been done by the dogs and rabbits.  The dogs hunt and kill the sheep, and the rabbits starve them, and so the mischief is done.  The rabbits have been the means, too, of adding to the number of the dogs, for often settlers and rabbiters have kept many dogs to cope with the rabbits, and the dogs have taken to the sport on their own account, and have gone off to live and breed in the scrub or rocks.  As Victoria and New South Wales have both joined us in the erection of a rabbit-proof fence along the Border line between us and them we should, if the fence were properly looked after – which unfortunately it is not – only have our own rabbits to deal with.
All sorts of expedients have been resorted to in the effort to destroy the rabbits.  At present the Government are directly doing nothing, but the District Councils have power to force landowners to kill, and outside District Councils the lessees of Crown Lands are under covenant to kill.  What is done is, however, almost useless, because it is spasmodic and not systematic.  One man starts on one side of his block to kill the vermin.  As he goes on with his work he drives what he does not kill before him.  When he has finished his neighbour, who has been idle so far awakes to the need for action, and perhaps starts on the opposite side of his block, and when he has done he ahs driven all that are left back on to the first man’s land, and so the game goes on.  Sometimes a careless man who does nothing stocks and stocks all the holdings round him as fast as they are cleared.  The one absolute necessity is simultaneous and concerted clearance by all.  The great obstacle to this is the Government.  The roughest land hangs on hand and the Government cannot let it.  Badly infested blocks are abandoned by lessees, and the process of obtaining a new occupier is a tedious one.  All this time the vermin multiply unchecked.  Not long since in the Terowie Court a farmer was cast in heavy fines and costs for having rabbits on his land after receiving notice to kill.  It was actually shown that he had cleared his land of vermin again and again, but the pests had crowded back off unleased lands of the Crown.  He had over 70 to pay into Court all the same.  What is known as Block A, Baldina, a block of about six square miles, once mineral leases and rough land, has been long a harbour for vermin.  It has been offered again and again at ever-reducing rent, but is not taken, or if taken, thrown up again at once and never occupied.  All the farmers round have their crops destroyed every year by the vermin off this block, but the Government will do nothing.  Non one would take it at a gift to clear it of vermin.  The District Council have spent all the rates raised in the ward in rabbit destruction, but have no more money left, and still the rabbits breed.  Such instances might be almost indefinitely multiplied.  Private people as local bodies must destroy vermin, but the Government may bred them with impunity.  Surely what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander, and if the small landowner is made to kill, the big one – the Government – should be also liable.  The Government have three alternatives in each case.  They should let the land.  If this cannot be done either the rabbits should be destroyed or they should be netted in so that adjoining occupiers should not be injured.  In insisting on universal and simultaneous action the Government must be included with other landholders, or be subject to similar conditions.  Only in this way can success be attained.  If landowners won’t kill they must be made to.  If lessees won’t their leases must be forfeited.  Every man his own rabbit-killer is a safe rule, but to compel private people to kill Government rabbits is to impose an unjustifiable burden that discourages and paralyses everyone.
The beginning of the rabbit trouble in the North-East dates back to the days of the great resumption.  Till then the few rabbits there were kept in check.  When the runs were resumed the farmers did not take up the land and the squatters lost interest in it, and the vermin increased with rapid strides.  All through the resumed country the rougher land became thoroughly stocked with rabbits and dogs, and it would cost immense efforts to dislodge them now.  From the neglected country they spread outwards over the pastoral lands, and that was the origin of most of our present and past trouble.  Government blundering then lies at the root of the difficulty.  This fact, coupled with the ownership of the land by the Crown gives the occupiers the right to look to the Government for material assistance.  If the vermin increases the land will be thrown up; Crown rents will decrease; improvements, representing very large sums of Government money will, in the absence of occupiers, speedily go to ruin.  The common methods of destruction now practised are the use of poisoned water and of sandalwood twigs dipped in a mixture of strychnine, sugar, and flour in water.  If only, in addition to the use of these agencies, the Government compelled the enclosure with netting of all surface waters great good must result.  Some lessees, too, find it useful to plough in all burrows with a dam-sinking plough.  This kills all rabbits in the ground, and the holes are rarely reopened.  The great obstacle to the extermination of vermin by these methods is, however, the migratory habits of the creatures.  To meet this and localize the pest so that each group of settlers has to deal only with its own vermin the erection of netted fences is advocated.  The same thing applies to the dogs.  It is useless for one settler to use traps and craftily outwit the cunning dogs by laying poison while his neighbours do nothing.  In the Fringe country in the North-East the very earliest rains produce an abundance of herbage in the eastern parts, which owing to the mild winter weather experienced there grows all through the months during which to the westward it is standing still.  Then at the first approach of summer the green feed and waters disappear in the east, while they are abundant in the west. The rabbits follow the feed and move east and west by turns.
With a view to preventing this migration and localizing the nuisance as much as possible, it was resolved by Parliament last session to erect a dog and rabbit proof fence along the eastern side of the hundreds from Morgan on the River Murray to Nackara on the railway from Petersburg to Cockburn, one side of which is already protected by a vermin-proof fence.  This fence was intended to keep the rabbits from coming from the eastward on to the farms, and it would also have completed the enclosure of a large piece of pastoral country on its eastern side.  That piece of country would have been bounded on the north, east, and west by vermin-proof fences along the Cockburn railway, the New South Wales border, and the hundred boundary, while on the south an effectual barrier would have been the River Murray.  During the debates in the Assembly several members contended that the line chosen for the fence was not the best situation for it.  Since the beginning of this year public feeling outside has been pretty strongly expressed in the same direction.  The most easterly row of hundreds is purely pastoral country, and the farmers object to having them fenced in with the farm land.  The strip of land thirty miles wide lying between the hundred boundary and the country boundary to the east is first-class pasture land, and the pastoralists hold that it is a serious mistake not to fence it off from the much rougher country to the east of it.  Thus the proposed line of fence pleases very few.  What would best suit the farmers would be a line ten miles further west.  What the pastoralists and all who know the country well want is a line thirty miles further east than the authorized line.  In the Act passed the Government recognised for the first time for years their responsibility in this matter as landlords.  Taking it for granted that this recognition will not be gone back from, especially as it will mean more Crown rents and less idle and unoccupied lands, it may be assumed that the same principle will also be applied to other parts of the colony.  For the present, however, as an experiment it may be well to discuss the North-East alone.  Of course the fence will not kill the vermin.  It is not the end, but a means to the end.  It will not prevent the settlers from having to kill rabbits, but it will save them from having to kill many times and more rabbits than their own.  It will place within easy reach the starting point from which private fences can be erected, if necessary, to isolate each block.  Without fencing the work is simply interminable; with it it is possible to see the end.  In rough blocks when they are left enclosed the vermin can simply be left, without danger to the neighbouring settlers, to eat themselves out.
    The utility of a fence is practically unanimously admitted and the basis of contribution – the Government paying half and the people in proportion to their distances paying the other half in one sum once for all – is regarded as fair.  The only question then is as to locality.  On this I write from recent inspection of both routes, and from conversation with most of the persons interested.  I unhesitatingly express the opinion I have held all along that the fence should not be erected where it is authorized.  If the cost could be afforded – and it would pay handsomely in the long run – both the county boundary and the western side of the eastern hundreds should be fenced.  If only one fence is made it should be that along the county boundary.  The fence along the authorized line would prevent the migration of the pest, and would assist to localize them and make their destruction easier, but it would directly protect no one.  The county-line fence would equally well answer all the purposes mentioned, and, running close alongside the worst country, would be a complete protection to all the “blockers” holdings and a help to the more distant agriculturists.  The fence along the western border of the eastern hundreds would be best for the farmers, but would serve them alone.  If the two fences were erected the “blockers” would be in clover, for with comparatively small cost they could run lines east and west from fence to fence and be absolutely secure.  It would be a good investment on the part of the occupiers of the land, both farmers and graziers, if the two fences were put up, as money spent in killing vermin would be saved and feed would be available for sheep which now feeds bunny, beside the security to the crops.  The Government would do well to provide the half cost of the works, and would get it back in rents, which can never be paid otherwise.  Fence or no fence, however, simultaneous action by all parties holding land, not excluding the Government, must be insisted on, and that will go far to keeping the evil from growing larger.  If the fence is erected it should be placed under the care of a Board elected by the persons contributing and including some Government nominees to represent the Crown.  If the farmers do not wish to contribute towards the cost of a fence the pastoralists are anxious to do so, provided the fence follows the county boundary.  As to the utility of vermin fencing, Mr C Wade, who holds the Mundi Mundi country on the New South Wales border north of Cockburn says :- “I have had much experience in rabbit destruction along the New South Wales border fence for some years.  I hold country on both sides of the fence.  We have destroyed rabbits by thousands on each side of the fence, as they make for it and can be trapped in yards or destroyed with poisoned twigs or water.  I have followed the fence for sixty miles, and in the summer months there is no difficulty in clearing the country of vermin for miles each side of the fence.  Mr Andrew Smith, of Mutooroo, says his experience agrees with mine.  I am sure that wire-netting must be resorted to before our pastoral country can be profitably occupied.  A fence is now needed from near Winnininnie on the Cockburn railway to the River Murray to follow the county boundary.  The settlers on each side should pay half the cost.”  Such testimony, based on practical experience, is valuable, and worth much mere assertion.

Chapter XII – NECESSARY LEGISLATION

If these articles have accomplished their purpose they have made it clear that the coming session of Parliament should without delay pass a Bill dealing with pastoral lands.  It was understood last year in both Houses that the Government would during the recess have a Bill prepared for submission to Parliament based on the recommendations of the Pastoral Lands Commission.  Should this be done the Parliament will be able very speedily to pronounce an opinion on the points involved and pass the measure.  The first reform needed is in respect of the allotment of lands.  It is evident that the auction system, beside other evils, leads to the monopoly of leases.  The appointment of a Board consisting of the head of the Land Office or his deputy, a Government representative outside the service, and a representative of the lessees of the Crown, which should fix the rents and allot lands, would avoid this risk.  It may be urged that our experience with Land Boards in the past has not been satisfactory.  This is granted, but no system that can be devised is perfect, and we can only adopt that one which has the balance of advantages and disadvantages in its favour.  What is needed is something equivalent to a fair classification of the land.  That is attained when the rents are justly apportioned to the value of the holding.  The Surveyor-General alone cannot make such a valuation.      In the past the auction-room has been relied on to adjust matters, but it has worked very injuriously alike to the State and to the lessees.  There is no alternative beside auction or a Board of practical men.  The Government should have two votes out of three on it, but as it would be to a great extent a Board of Arbitration to fix equitable rents at the periods of revaluation it is only just that the lessees should be represented on it.  Any bargain between the State and an individual is not an effort to overreach, but on the part of the State , at least, should be an endeavour to do what is fair.  The Board should decide on the area of each block and its boundaries, and fix the rent which should be asked.  Then on application being received the Board should give each block to the most suitable applicant, provided that except in the absence of other applicants one lessee should not have more than a certain number of blocks.  The Board should also deal with the application for leave to erect any additional improvements, so that any risk of improvements being made simply to handicap an incoming tenant should be obviated.  It is most improbable that such a course of action would ever be entered upon, but the provision just indicated would make it impossible.
The next matter most urgently needing legislation is the question of improve-ments.  These may be dealt with in three ways.  The improvements may fall in with the lease, in which case, as we have seen, it is a direct discouragement to the development of the country or productive of merely temporary or makeshift improvements.  The greatest need of the country is development, and if it has been all too slow while the Government covenanted to pay for everything at the end of the lease what must it be when nobody pays for anything?  It was the stern logic of fact evident in long experience which made the Legislature first agree to pay for improvements.  It was clear that unless this were done the country would lie waste.  Then lying waste meant that, and nothing more.  Now lying waste means becoming a breeding place for vermin, and a menace to all the country round.  If it was undesirable years ago to let the country remain unimproved it is simply suicidal to do it now.  With plenty of capital available, if only confidence be restored, it is a thousand pities not to encourage the fullest development and utilization of our vast pastoral lands.  It is a mystery indeed how Parliament in 1890 came to revert to an abandoned policy so mischievous as the falling in of improvements without compensation when the lease expires.  Probably party considerations had more to do with it than any-thing else.  The Cockburn Government had proposed another plan, and the Playford Government apparently wished to strike out a line of its own.  The Pastoral Commission, however, put the matter in a clear light, and both Houses adopted its report, evidencing a desire to atone for past mistakes.  The second way in which the improvements may be dealt with is their purchase by the Crown at the end of the lease.  Of this plan, too, we have had bitter experience, and the heavy contingent liability to pastoral lessees now impending threatens to mop up all the cash we can borrow for some time.  The report of the Royal Commission on pastoral valuations, which has just been sent in, throws valuable side lights on the question.  To pay cost instead of value for improvements is clearly a mistake in the light of the evidence now given to the public.  It is impossible to escape the convictions that some of the valuations have been made upon false data and have been excessive.  Even in cases where the State gets value at the time when the money is paid the improvements are subject to rapid deterioration.  It is well known that in some instances in the 1888 leases a flood during the night between December 31, when the leases expired, and January 1, when the Government assumed the responsibility for the improvements, filled in several large reservoirs with dbris washed along by the water.  In some cases, where the improvements are good value and most substantially put up, as, for instance, the wool and shearing shed, &c, at Braemar, the accommodation is so much in excess of the needs of any but a very large holding that they are an incubus to the small grazier.  Taking the question all round and in every aspect, it is safe to say that the policy of the Government purchasing the improvements at the expiry of the lease has been proved a terrible mistake.  If the electors were polled on the subject their verdict would unmistakably be that it must cease.  Parliament in 1890 agreed and did stop its further operation in the case of new leases, but it abandoned one vicious principle for another not less disastrous in its effects.
Having tested two plans and found them both to fail it may be asked how the vexed question of the ownership of improvements can be settled with advantage.  The answer of the Pastoral Commission and of all who have become acquainted with the practical operation of the matter is that the improvements should in every case be the property of the successive lessees, and be sold by them each to his successor.  This is the plan which in 1888 the Legislature adopted in reference to certain agricultural lands leased from the Crown.  It is evident that as each lessee would be paid on the expiry of his lease the value to the next lessee of all improvements taken over with the lease, the same inducements to improve would be held out as were offered when the Government paid for improvements.  There would, however, be this additional security.  The pastoral lessees knew all along that as the liability mounted up, as mount up it must if the country were developed, the electors would cry out under the burden, and the thing must break down by its own weight.  Under the new system there would be no fear of its coming to an end, for a profitable enterprise can always find a buyer, and the properties taken in detail would not present such tremendous difficulties as they would all taken together as one.  It is purely a question of whether the State is prepared to finance the pastoralists or they should finance themselves.  If we were prepared to borrow without limit and could conveniently delay the day for repayment we might finance all colonists, but till then there is no reason why we should not let the pastoralists, like other people, do their own financing.  The lessees, then, under the plan proposed would have the same rights to compensation as they have had in the past, but the compensation would be from the incoming lessee instead of from the Government.  The Government would thus be relieved of their all too heavy burden.  On the one hand the construction of any improvements which would not be valuable to a successor would be discouraged, as the price to be obtained would be simply what the improvements were worth to the successor.  On the other hand the value of the improvements would be a bond to bind the lessee to the land in bad seasons, when if they were the property of the Crown, and the lessee simply leased them he might abandon the whole.  The Government in the scheme now advocated would let the grazing right and nothing more, and all else would belong to and be at the risk of the successive occupiers.  The private ownership of improvements secures all the advantages attached to both the other plans we have tried without any of the disadvantages of either.  It secures the development of the country and saddles the Government with no liability.  This principle applied to new leases saves the incurring of fresh Government liability, and applied to existing leases by mutual agreement, it wipes out the liability already incurred.
It will be useful to discuss the objection most commonly urged against the plan proposed for dealing with improvements.  The first is that it burdens the incoming lessee by requiring him to pay down a sum of money on entering upon his tenancy.  Of course it does this, but is there any reason why the public treasury should intervene in the case of the pastoralist as it does not in the case of anybody else?  A business man taking over a business is burdened, and the Government do not finance him.  A farmer taking a farm has to buy plant and make improvements if he does not chance to have them on the farm, and the State does not finance him.  The pastoral lessee of unimproved country has to find money to fence, and build, and provide water, and the State does not finance him.  Why, then, should the fortunate individual who takes an improved run be financed by the Crown to save him from the necessity of laying out capital that may be none too plentiful?  If every one else were financed in the same way we should have inaugurated a system of State socialism, and it would be an intelligible policy, but there is no reason in making a special provision for the convenience of one class.  It is surely needless to say that the special provision is not made in the interests of the existing lessee, who has run the risks of pioneer work, but of the man who follows him and reaps the result of his labour.  There is no need to discuss this objection further, or it might be pointed out that it is useless for men who have not the command of a reasonable amount of capital to attempt to handle pastoral country with benefit to themselves or to the State.  Another objection is that the plan proposed gives a perpetual tenure to the owner of the improvements.  It can be shown that it does not, but if it did it is open to question whether that would be an unmixed evil.  Most private landlords prefer an old tenant, if a good one, to a new tenant who may not turn out well.  Granted that the pastoral lands in the outside districts are only fit for pastoral purposes, is it not in the interest of the State that those who can do best with the land through knowledge and experience should continue to hold it?  There can be no advantage in changing tenants unless to get better ones.  A man who knows the country ought always to be able to pay a higher rent than one who has had no experience on it.  It is not, however, true that the ownership of the improvements gives a lessee a perpetual right to the land.  Improvements are worth no more to one man than to another, and when the Government ground rent has been fixed for a new lease if it is worth while for the old lessee to remain on the land it will be worth while for someone else to buy him out.  That the value of the improvements requiring to be paid limits the number of those who can take the lease to those who can raise the money required is clear, but surely we do not want to keep the country undeveloped so that persons without capital can hold it and still keep it undeveloped.  The more it is developed the better chance will the small grazier have to use his little capital to good advantage with a minimum of risk to occupy a lease.  As new leases were offered they could be subdivided, and so what one man might not easily find capital enough for several smaller men separately could easily manage.  Besides the improvements under the suggested plan would be valuable securities, and any financial institution could in the care of a good man with energy and experience assist with the necessary capital to take a lease.  In the past runs were frequently sold at so much per head for the stock, all improvements, &c, given in, and the capital was forthcoming when the property was a good one.  So it would be in the case of leases carrying improvements.  If there were no applicants for any lease at the rent fixed by the Board the question of reducing the valuation of the improvements must be considered, and a tenant would soon be forthcoming.  Besides these two objections there is no other of importance.  It is, therefore, to be hoped that the Parliament will at the earliest possible moment pass a Bill which will be of such great benefit to the taxpayers and to the pastoral industry.

Chapter XIII – DEALINGS WITH EXISTING LEASES

    If for the future we are to adopt wiser methods of dealing with our pastoral lands, what is to be done with existing leases?  It has been demonstrated that the lessees and not the State should own the improvements.  This applies as well to past transactions as to any future disposal of leases.  Besides, the liability of over three millions sterling is on leases now current, and any measures dealing with future lettings only will not in any way affect this liability.  If it should never have been contracted and involves a serious burden on the State with absolutely no corresponding advantage should not the liability be now met in some way if possible?  Some would not stay to untie, but would cut the Gordian knot.  Surely, however, we are not prepared to repudiate engagements deliberately entered into.  The discussion of such a course is put aside as being outside the limits of reasonable consideration.  So far as regards the leases relet in 1888 most of them are so situated that with the development that is going on they will be ready for further subdivision at the end of the current term.  The Crown already owns all the improvements on them, and those now in progress will not involve very large demands on the public purse in any case.  Besides this they are so situated that special inducements are not required to induce lessees to occupy them.  It may be considered that excepting in the case of a very few blocks remote from settlement the way to make the best of a bad bargain is to let them alone and pay the money for the improvements when it becomes due.  In all further consideration, therefore, of this question it will be understood that the so-called 1888 lands are untouched.  Another distinct class of lands comprises those leases – not of large area or numerous - which have been dealt under the Act of 1890.  These have been let so that the improvements fall in with the leases, and this plan is already shown to offer a premium to stagnation and non-development.  It is equally in the interests of the lessees as of the State that the holders of such lands should be allowed to come under the new provisions, and have given to them the right to their improvements.  The State might fairly require in return a small addition to the covenanted rent, but it is hardly worth while to insist on this, as the increased development of the country will repay the Government for the concession.  There are left then for consideration all other pastoral leases now current.  What should be done in respect of all holders of land in classes 2 and 3, whose leases are gradually falling in and who have the right to payment for their improvements?  If things are simply allowed to drift on the leases will gradually fall in and money must be borrowed by hook or by crook to pay the lessees.  The electors will hardly be ready, after the facts that have come to light, to allow this large respons-ibility to continue.  Of course the lessees do not seek a change.  They are content to receive the money when the time comes, and it is none of their business how the State gets the money or what the improvements are worth.  What they are entitled to is what they cost.  In the interests of the community something must be done.  The Assembly last session in adopting the report of the Pastoral Royal Commission did so subject to the exclusion from the new legislation of 1888 country and of improved country in class 2.  Now as regards the 1888 country it has already been conceded that that should be accepted, but if the improved portions of class 2 are also excepted it simply means that the liability is practically untouched.  The liability is on the improved and not on the unimproved lands.  The fear was expressed that land near settlement might be unduly locked up, but there is little fear of that.  Probably the best plan to meet the difficulty would be to have a new classification of lands in classes 2 and 3.  At present the classification depends not on the locality, but on the accident of earlier or later application for lease.  If the very few blocks in class 2, which are close by railways or settlement, were added to class 1, all the rest might with all class 3 be allowed to come under the new provisions, subject to the approval of the Commissioner.  If this were done some remote blocks of 1888 country might be also added to this category, and the classification would then depend all round chiefly on locality or accessibility.  The Bill introduced by the Cockburn Government dealing with pastoral lands was contemptuously laid aside by the present Government, but if it had been passed with very slight alteration it would have accomplished all the Pastoral Commission and these articles represent as necessary.  It dealt with the question now under consideration by providing that the lessees of the country in classes 2 and 3 might come under the new provision if they pleased, and special inducements were held out to them to induce them to free the Government from the liability to pay for improvements and to accept the payment from the incoming lessee.  Of course as nothing can be better unless it be the cash itself than a Government undertaking to pay it is not supposed that the lessees will let the Government off without some inducement.  The inducement offered in the Bill referred to was an extension of the lease.  Where, owing to the improvements being large, the Government liability was large, a reasonably long extension might be necessary.  On the other hand, where the improvements yet effected were few the extension of the lease should be nominal.  In every case the question of term must be left to the Commissioner, who alone can decide what is fair after due enquiry.  To vary the term of existing leases by substituting payment by the incoming lessee for payment by the Government would be an act of injustice if it were compulsory without a consideration, but as a variation at the option of both parties to the contract it is perfectly fair and equitable.  If this plan be adopted next session in the promised pastoral legislation the great bulk of the contingent liability of three millions sterling can be escaped, and the price to be paid for it will be simply a slight extension of the term of existing leases of country, which will be at lease as well utilized by present lessees as it is likely it would be by any successors for a long time to come.
The question of improvements is the only one in which consideration needs to be given to the case of existing lessees, as the other new provisions advocated relate to the securing of leases, and would not affect current leases at all.  Apart, however, from any new legislation there are some departmental matters in connection with which a change is desirable.  In the case of a run including several leases expiring at different dates it frequently happens that the fences of the paddocks do not run along the lease boundaries, but across them or in various ways, dictated not by lease considerations, but by questions of convenience of working, water, &c.  Now these same reasons will apply for the most part to future lessees.  It is a pity, then, to continue to deal with the land by the purely arbitrary lease divisions when better ones are to hand.  What is required is that in a case when several leases are contiguous but expire at different dates the lessee may be able to obtain new leases of an average date, so that the Government will have them all falling in at once, and be able to follow more convenient lines of division, utilizing existing fences.  In matters like this the exercise of a little common sense greatly facilitates operations, and is far better than a mere cast-iron administration.  Then in reference to the vermin question, it is most unfair to bona-fide occupiers that vermin should be allowed to breed unchecked on the lands of careless people or on unoccupied Crown lands.  The careless lessees should be forced to carry out the covenants of their leases and destroy the vermin, and the Crown should arrange for the lease of all lands to be so offered, so that there should be no interregnum.  During intervals in occupancy the vermin breed enormously.  An idle block means serious difficulty to all the surrounding occupiers.  All covenants must be insisted upon.  Of course on the surrender forfeiture, or expiry of any existing lease the land comprised in it would come under the new provisions.  If these were made to include, as they should, the substitution of a Board for auction to allot lands the subdivision of holdings would be secured to such an extent as was best for the settler and for the State.  The land when relet would be leased at a fair price in an area neither too large nor too small for one occupier, and the result should be satisfactory alike to the State and to the occupiers.
The only remaining question touching existing leases that need be discussed is the ownership of improvements for which the State has paid.  If the principle of the private ownership of improvements be conceded it applies with equal force to those which have been purchased by the Crown, and to those which are as yet the property of lessees, but subject to a covenant on the part of the State to purchase at the end of the lease.  The best plan would be for Parliament to provide that any lessee occupying land on which improvements the property of the Government exist may purchase them at cost price.  The improvements so purchased would then be dealt with afterwards in precisely the same way as any other improvements which the lessee might have contracted himself.  No doubt some hardship might result if lessees had to pay down large sums unexpectedly, but it could easily be arranged that each lessee could purchase the Government improvements by an annual payment covering both interest and principal extending over a term of years.  The lessee could always pay up any balance, and so save any further interest whenever it suited him to do so.  Taking the interest at 5 per cent a fourteen years’ term would require 10 2s 1d for 100, a twenty-one years’ period 7 16s per annum, or a thirty-five years’ term 6 2s 2d.  Under this plan the lessee would by each payment be anchored more securely to his holding, and surrenders or abandonments of leases would be unheard of.  At the same time the State would by degrees recover the millions sterling which has been paid for improvements, and be able to spend the money in more reproductive works.  To the State the various improvements are an incubus, but to the lessees they are the very means of using the country to a profit.  Any such scheme would benefit alike the State and the occupiers of the country, and ultimately all the State would have to do with would be the grazing right on the land.  The rest would be left entirely to private enterprise.  All of these arrangements are capable of very simple application, and the pity is that instead of the retrograde Act of 1890 some measure based on what is here suggested was not passed.  Constant changes in the land laws are a fruitful source of much mischief, and can only be justified by absolute necessity.  The fact that under the legislation existing previous to 1890 the pastoral industry was not too flourishing is surely proof that the present far more illiberal Act cannot have assisted it.  If in 1890 any thing were required to be done by the Legislature for the industry there is greatly more need now.  Beside mere matters of legislation and land tenure the price of wool is still lower, and so difficulties have been multiplied in the path of the pastoralist.  The Parliament having adopted the report of the Pastoral Lands Commission has pledged itself to some action at once, and that action may be the most important work of the closing session of the present Parliament.

Chapter XIV – LEGISLATION IN THE OTHER COLONIES - CONCLUSION

In drawing this series of articles to a conclusion it will be well to look at the conditions under which pastoral lands are held and may be taken up in the neighbouring colonies.  First it should, however, be understood that Nature is more kind there than she is in our own outlying country.  Queensland, which competes almost irresistibly with our own growers, has abundant natural waters, and so her pastoralists have none of the risks and few of the costs which ours have.  In New South Wales only in phenomenal seasons is there trouble from drought that is so frequently disastrous to our pastoralists.  If in those colonies it has been found necessary to offer anything like such terms to induce occupation and improvement as it is now desired should be held out here, surely it is the height of folly for us to do less.  Rather should we do more.  Instead of doing more, however, we have been less and still less liberal, and our latest Land Act stood self-condemned from the day it was passed as an attempt to secure in return for certain stipulations results which had not been realized in return for much more favourable conditions.  If a man refuses a hundred pounds for a property it requires little time to conclude that he will not accept 50 for it under precisely the same conditions.  If we had been unable with Government compensation for improvements to induce settlement and development it was abundantly clear that without any compensation at all we should fail.  In Queensland, prior to 1884, there were various Land Acts in force, all of a liberal character.  Rents of Crown lands were low, and a good deal of rough, waterless country on most runs was returned as “unavailable”, no rent at all being paid for it.  Most of the country was taken up, and the rents were regularly paid.  As railways were extended into pastoral country it was considered that greater demands should be made, and the Act of 1884, with an amendment in 1886, was passed.  These divided the country into three divisions – viz, lands near the coast or a railway, lands not so conveniently situated, and lands still further west, nearer the South Australian territory.  Lessees on the first-named area obtained a fixed lease for twenty-one years for half their holding, the other half, called the resumed area, being held under annual lease, subject to selection after, and in some cases before, survey in grazing blocks of not over 20,000 acres, or in agricultural blocks of a less area, on a lease of thirty and fifty years respectively.  Lessees in the other divisions receive similar treatment, except that the resumed area bears a smaller proportion to the whole run.  Previous to division all runs are consolidated into one lease.  The resumed area is a fair average of the whole, and is in one block.  Compensation is paid by the Government on resumption, and also for improvements on the resumed area.  When leases expire the improvements are paid for by the incoming tenant to the outgoer.  In order to make any improvements on the resumed area held under annual lease the permission of the Minister has to be obtained.  Pastoral leases are subject to revaluation of rent every seven years or ten years.  The rents are based on the unimproved value, but in no case can an increase of more than 50 per cent be made.  Pastoral rents run from about 20s to 40s per mile; grazing leases from 1d to 3d per acre.  The rent on the annual leases is about one-half, further reduced when selection diminishes the area.  The Fencing Act applies to Crown lands just as it does to ordinary lands.  The Land Boards, who fix rents and areas of holdings, are composed of two Commissioners, assisted by a Special Commissioner, who inspects all lands, reporting as to values and divisions and placing all information before his colleagues, with whom he sits for final determination.  Lessees attend Land Board meetings, and give evidence if they please.  Appeal is provided for to a higher tribunal, but so far no case of appeal has taken place.  Such is the legislation in Queensland, where a steady increase in the number of stock and of the export value of wool is taking place, while in this colony we have had a steady decrease.  Our stock people prefer to take up land in Queensland rather than risk their money in South Australia, where, beside unfavourable terms, the rents are higher for less carrying capacity.
In New South Wales the latest Act dealing with pastoral matters was passed in 1889.  Under it leases for a fixed term of twenty-one years are granted.  Rents are fixed by a Land Board of practical men, generally two of them station Managers, subject to an appeal to the Land Court, which is composed of two practical men and a lawyer, who is practically a Judge, and are payable in three seven yearly payments.  A certain value of improvements being placed on a holding entitles the lessee to an extension of the term of his lease for a further seven years.  At the expiry of a lease the improvements come to the Crown without any compensation.  The Land Boards in their periodical revision of rentals take everything into consideration, and large reductions are made now on account of rabbits, which seriously diminish the carrying capacity of the runs.  With regard to improvements, existing conditions are much modified by the fact that under previous Acts lessees were entitled to the freehold of an acre of land up to 640 acres on which the improvements stood for every pound spent in improvements.  The station buildings and waters and such like are therefore all the property of the lessees, who are thus possessed of the key to the position.  All the improvements which fall to the Crown therefore are those which may require to be constructed out from the freehold selections.  Any new lessee requiring the use of improvements would have to purchase both them and the land on which they stand, so that the principle of the lessee’s ownership of improvements is very fully and completely observed.  No comparison of rents per mile gives a fair view of the relative conditions in the colonies named.  Nothing but a calculation at per head of stock which the country will carry will suffice.  On twelve runs situated in the Western Liverpool Plains and Lachlan districts of New South Wales carrying 480,000 sheep the rents vary for each sheep from a trifle over 2d to 5d per head.  This is calculated on the country alone, leaving out of the question the value of the improvements.  The average is 31/10d per head.  For runs in South Australia situated 150 miles from a port, and in the western district, the rental per head calculated on the full capacity of the country in favourable seasons amounts to 4d per head.  On another run, ninety miles from a port, but near the railway, the rent amounts to about 6d per head.  In both cases the rent is calculated for the land alone.  The country in new South Wales is of far superior character in every way to the other, carrying a much larger proportion of sheep to the mile, a very small area of waste country, water far more easily obtained, and so the general cost of working the station is far less per head.  The amount of money per square mile required to develop the New South Wales country is much less – probably not half – that needed in South Australia.  Allowing for relative values of country the rentals of South Australian runs should, in comparison with those in New South Wales, be about 50 per cent lower in place of so much higher, as they are at present.  On all the other points named the neighbouring colonies with which we compete are already seen to have the best of it, and thus we have accounted for the fact that there are constantly increasing numbers of stock in both New South Wales and Queensland while ours constantly diminish.  The large payments due annually by these colonies to the mother country must be made in gold or its value, and the large exports of wool from the eastern colonies help them very consider-ably, while as our wool export decreases we must make up the deficiency by an export of some other produce or gold.  The most striking feature about pastoral enterprise in the adjoining colonies is the confidence which prevails there as to the Government observance of contracts.  It is useless to attempt to disguise the fact that such confidence does not prevail here, and that its absence tends to divert capital and to kill enterprise.  Now the great resumptions in the eighties and the passing of the Interpretation Act in 1887, making the word “value” mean henceforth “cost”, are the two instances alone which in the slightest degree justifies any feeling of insecurity.  As to the first event it was strictly no breach of covenant, but it was so unexpected and so wide-reaching as to paralyse the industry for the time, and its effects are slow in wearing away.  The injury to the squatter is almost surpassed by the injury to the general public of the colony.  The other matter was not only the worst possible policy as policy, but it has not secured the object which was assigned for it.  The State has done an unjust thing, and the financial result has been, it is true, to save some money from going into certain pockets, but in return far more has gone into others, which had no right whatever to it.  The Bill was passed under a misapprehension, and is to be deeply regretted.  It is evident that cost means in most cases far more than value.  Besides these two things all that is behind any sense of insecurity is the occasional unguarded speech of irresponsible persons, and there is nothing in it.  Panics, however, cannot be reasoned with, they must be lived down, and if the Parliament is wise in time to come the same confidence that is felt elsewhere will return to us, and the present apprehensions will be seen to have been quite needless.  In spite of climatic and other things in which Queensland and New South Wales have the advantage of us we can, if we will, promote the prosperity of the pastoral industry and remove the reproach which now rests upon us of going backwards while our neighbours advance, and of depending on other colonies for much of our beef and mutton.  The future depends on our wise forethought in the present, and on that we now must rely.
The task undertaken on commencing this series of articles is now ended.  As complete a view of the present pastoral conditions and prospects of our pastoral industry as is possible under the circumstances has been presented.  So far as the Legislature can help, and the way in which that help should be given, has been indicated.  The facts adduced and arguments advanced will surely have convinced all who are unprejudiced.  It is to be hoped that the coming session will see an end of the weary waiting, and that the hopes long deferred may be at last realized.  The establishment, on a firm basis, of our pioneer industry will at once give an impetus to many others, and provide profitable employment for much labour.  The Government are under pledge to introduce a measure of the kind now advocated, and it is to be hoped that Parliament will speedily assent to it.  Briefly, it must include, as suggested by the Pastoral Commission, the abolition of auction, the allotment by Board, the lessees’ ownership of improvements, the strict enforcement of vermin destruction on Crown and other lands, the erection of vermin- fencing in certain localities, and the coming under the new provisions of certain leases in outside country on equitable terms.  The results will be a revival of the industry, a more rapid development of the country, the localization of vermin and its destruction, and the repayment to the Treasury of a large portion of the million of money paid out for improvements besides the cancellation of the greater part of existing contingent liability on the State.  Should these object be attained these articles will not have been written in vain, and if their publication helps to hasten the adoption of desirable legislation they will have justified their appearance.  It may at least be claimed that they will help to a better understanding of the whole question in some quarters.