John H. W. Pettit letters to his family in England, illustrated with sketches by the writer, 1852-1868 - Page 320
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THE NEWSLETTER OF AUSTRALIA
MELBOURNE. VICTORIA. OCTOBER, 1860.
JOURNAL OF POLITICS
The Land Bill has at last, passed both houses, and having received the vice-regal consent, is now the law of the land, Subjoined is a series of the Act, which, it will be seen,makes important concessions to the agricultural interest, and removes the impediments which formerly existed in the way of farmers and small capitalists possessing homesteads. The Government are [indecipherable] engaged surveying land in various parts of the country, and within a few weeks, threw millions of acres will be thrown open under the provisions of the law.
The following is a summary of the provisions of the Land Act which has just been passed into law.
The first 11 clauses deal with lands reserved for public purpose and other preliminary details. All other waster lands are to be classed as special and country lands. Special lands include all lands within given distances of town, cities, villages, railways , rivers, and as a margin. Country lands include all other waste lands, and may be sold by selection at the uniform price of one pound per acre. Country lands are to be divided into allotments of from 80- 640 acres, and each allotment is to be subdivided into two equal positions. Theses subdivisions may be taken up by free selection at the uniform price. Three millions of acres are to be surveyed as soon as possible, so that the whole extent may be proclaimed as open for selection within twelve months from this date. Applications for subdivisions are to be lodged at places appointed, and the full amount of the purchase money is to be deposited at once. Thus, for forty acres, forty pounds must be paid down. Receipts must be given and secrecy preserved by the officer who receives the payment. On the day appointed the application are all to be opened publicly. If there be only one applicant for an allotment, of course he gets possession without further trouble. If there be more than one applicant for an allotment, a limited auction is to be held, at which the applicants, but no other persons, may bid against each other. Unsuccessful applicants receive back their deposit moneys. The selector of an allotment may elect to purchase it at the uniform price, or to rent it at one shilling an acre, ( per annum, with right of purchase within the time specified in the lease. Unsold lands within the area proclaimed may be taken up in allotments to the extent of 640 acres at any time, upon payment of the uniform price. Certain conditions of improvement and occupation must be complied with by all lessees of public lands on pain for forfeiture of lease. At the expiration of a lease the lands may be sold as special lands. No compensation is to be given for improvements made on rented lands, but buildings, etc., may be removed. When one-fourth of a proclaimed area has been taken up, the remainder may, until selected, be used as commonage by the settlers. Stringent penalties instituted against all attempts at land jobbing. Every
transaction under the Act must be genuine and direct. Sold lands must be improved up to a certain amount under a penalty of taxation. Special lands are to be sold by auction as at present, at an upset price of one pound per acre. These are the main provisions, or "popular" clauses, of the new Act. They afford, as will be seen, facilities for agriculturists without much capital to enter on the occupation of small farms on almost minimal terms of rented. The rest of the Act is occupied with details of a more technical or strictly legal kind.
While we are not over sanguine about the working of this measure, we hail with delight the settlement of a question which for the last four years has stopped the way of all practical legislation.