Land Laws - Our Lost Heritage

21 June 1906 Wagga Wagga Express 

Lecture by Mr. E. McWilliams

On Tuesday evening, in the Masonic Hall, Tarcutta-street, Mr. B. H. McWilliams delivered a lecture on "Our Lost Heritage, or the History of the Land Laws of New South Wales."

Unfortunately, unpropitious weather prevailed on Tuesday, and about twenty minutes prior to the time of commencing the lecture there was a very heavy shower of rain.

Consequently the attendance was limited to a few. This was much to be regretted, as the lecture proved a most interesting one.

As an officer of the Lands' Department who has distinguished himself in recent examinations, Mr. McWilliams has gained a vast amount of knowledge concerning tho lands laws, and report has it concerning him that he has always been ready to impart to others all the information that was available. 

Without any formal opening, the lecturer took his audience back to January, 1793, when the first free settlers, five in number, arrived in Sydney, the married men being granted 80 acres; the single men 60 acres each.

Proceeding, the speaker touched upon the facts sur-rounding the commencement of squatting, the trouble with the Home Government, and the issue of the Orders in Council. 

In 1856 responsible Government was established, and in 1860 we had the notable act known as Sir John Robertson's Free Selection Act.

Although so consistently praised up to the present he (Mr. McWilliams) had no hesitation in saying that it was one of the biggest frauds ever enacted.

It gave birth to the long and embittered fight between pastoralists and selectors.

As a basis of a better system the members of the Ranken-Morris Com- mission, in 1883, recommended a system of leasing, except in towns, etc., and that the pastoral lessees be allowed to lease half their runs on secure tenure.

Nothing was really done, however, except, perhaps, that it involved a temporary check upon the amassing of large estates.

The Act of most benefit to New South Wales, in the opinion of the lecturer, was the Act of 1895.

He admitted it had its defects, but he said that the Improvement Lease clause was calculated to be of immense benefit if only it had been properly administered.

They all said that the Homestead Selection clause of the 1895 Act was a great success but he believed that every Britisher desired to have his land freehold. 

Ultimately the Homestead Selection system would be wiped out and settlers would b allowed to convert their holdings into C.P.L's. or C.P's.

It was said "Once a closer settlement purchases always a closer settlement purchase," and if they could get such a thing into their C.P. system it would be a great benefit. 

In concluding his address he made a stirring appeal to the people who, he said, were alone to blame for the mistakes of the past because of their apathy with regard to the character and abilities of the men they sent into Parliament, and their apathy also with regard to the loose administration of the laws.

He appealed to the young men to develop love for their country. 

Mr. H. S. Headley proposed a vote of thanks to the lecturer for his highly instructive address.

He regretted that many more were not present to listen to such an intelligent and informative lecture.

Mr. Hill seconded the resolution which was carried with acclamation.