Sir John Robertson's Land Act

Note: This Parliamentary debate is preliminary to the passing of the Crown Lands Alienation Bill (1862), enabling free selection before survey and making no reference to Aborigines

Parliamentary Votes and Proceedings; Crown Lands Alienation Bill and provision for aborigines

(See Chapter 4)

  April 17th 1861

Mr. JOHNSON said that ..... the object of legislation was to allow the resources of a country to develop themselves naturally which they would do unless they were thwarted by legislation ...  country like this (had been) unfettered by any species of legislation ... His hon. Friend (Mr. Deas Thomson) had told the House of the immense tracts of  country which at this moment were not put to any use whatsoever. In the settled districts of this country there were 12,700,000 acres of land unalienated from the Crown; in the intermediate districts there were 13,000,000 acres; and in the unsettled districts there were 123,000,000 acres, making a total of 149,000,000 acres which, under the present regulations were open to any person who chose to comply with those regulations ... We were in this immense territory, with all these 190,000,000 millions of acres of land used for nothing whatever .... occupied by a population not exceeding 30,000 persons .... the regulations with regard to free selection prohibited (them) from taking land in the vicinity of townships ... He trusted that the provisions of the Act would ... render the tenure of those holding run secure ...

The SECRETARY FOR LANDS said .... that this principle of free selection before survey, of occupancy, of settlement, and of purchase was provided for in the land law ... Those who objected to the small settlers picking out the eyes of the country, had no objection to the squatters doing the same thing. The squatters enjoyed the right of free selection before survey, and years after the settlements were made the surveyor went to measure the land ... the Government had found out at last, that whilst they had the richest pastoral and agricultural country in the world a country that was also richer in gold than any other on the face of the globe they had yet a population in it many of whom were actually on the brink of starvation from being cooped up in the city .... in his opinion, it had been the operation of the present land laws that had been the primary cause of this destitution ... The hon. Member, Mr Holden, next complained that the bill contained no provision for the native blacks. Now, what he would ask, had the question of the alienation and occupation of Crown Lands, to do with the native blacks? He was quite willing to do as much as he could for the native blacks, but what was to be done for them had nothing to do with the settlement of the land question.  He would, however, tell the hon. Member that if provision were to be made for these poor people, it must be made in kind; it was not to be done by setting land aside for them for them that they will never occupy. Hon. Members knew full well that this plan had already been tried, and that even if the land were there for them, they had no means of making it available, and no capacity for making proper use of it. If they were to be assisted, it must be done by making a proper provision for them ... Let them only look at the result would be were he to follow all the suggestions offered. Some hon. Members were under the impression required to have provision made for the blacks ... others for immigration and others for the clergy. If all these were provided for in the bill he need hardly tell them what its fate would be; and if he desired to see its rejection he need only adopt all these suggestions that had been

offered ...(&c., &c.)