Australia History Between 1851 and 1900 Part V

In the Robertson’s Act mold in 1861, the land laws of other Australian colonies (Victoria, in particular) were modeled; while in all the colonies of Australasia, whether or not the principle of “free choice” of public lands not yet alienated triumphed, land legislation aimed in the following decades to favor the lower classes, to facilitate more and more the purchase of land for the people with no means wishing to cultivate it, against the claim of land monopoly of an entire continent until then made even formally triumph, in law, by the squatters. South Australia on the continent and, outside of it, New Zealand, that is the most democratic of all the Australian colonies, were the two colonies where still in the century. XIX the land legislation went further and tried the most daring experiments on the subject, with the largest intervention of the state. Among others, the South Australian one of the creation of village settlements or village associations is famous, cooperative associations of workers for the enhancement of a fund, through collective work, with the sums disbursed by the state and the division of the fund itself into many individual properties among the members of the community, once the sums received have been repaid to the state.

According to liuxers, the very conception of property law was changing in the land legislation of some of the Australian colonies, losing it, precisely in the country of capitalist colonization par excellence, its absolute character, to take on a relative one, that is, subordinated to the general needs of the community, on the theoretical basis that the land is the common property of the national community, which, if its use is ceded to the individual, still retains its high property and remains the arbiter of making and modifying those positive laws that create the rights of individuals on land. The socio-economic evolution, which began in the Australian colonies with the discovery of gold, led these colonies, at least theoretically, on the path of nationalization of the soil, even before the end of the nineteenth century.

However, not even the most daring land legislation of the century. XIX succeeded in preventing the land centralization process that the economic needs of the country had started since the first half of the century; on the contrary, by provoking more acute than ever the conflict between pastoral capitalism and agricultural property, it indirectly promoted the further development of the large estates and accelerated the grabbing in a few hands not only of the possession, but even of the ownership of the land. Among the selectors, who bought on good conditions a small piece of land where they liked, and the squatters, who rented immense surfaces, of which they could only buy a very limited portion in absolute ownership and on which the first comer could make his good choice, devaluing the entire estate and impoverishing its livestock, the fight was not to be delayed. The former naturally seek the most fertile lands, regardless of the damage of the latter. These, in turn, try to prevent them, by having any figurehead buy (the famous dummying, i.e. purchase made by a dumb person or a straw man, as they say) the economically strategic points of the occupied land, for example the lands along the waterways, buying at auction other tracts under a mining pretext, having others delivered in execution of the National Defense Act, and so on; while the failure of the speculations of the large and even more so of the small land speculators, the financial distress and the forced liquidation of small properties ruined by drought or other scourge, and so on, are just as many pushes to pastoral estates, which are expanding every day more. Thus, at the end of the 19th century, the great pastoral estate represented, on the Australian continent in particular, the most unparalleled part of the now alienated public land (in New South Wales, for example, half of the alienated land belonged to only 703 people or entities); while agriculture, despite the remarkable progress made, in the last decade in particular, despite the now definitive prevail in some areas of the oldest colonization of the selector on the squatter, it still extended to only a small part of the alienated soil. In 1899, 3 million and 600 thousand hectares were agricultural, out of about 360 million hectares sold or alienated throughout Australasia, or roughly one hundredth part. Moreover, the same proportion between the area sold and the rented area was the most eloquent index of the relationship between agriculture and pastoralism: still in 1901, only 7% of the total area of ​​Australasia was sold; while already 37.09%, exclusively for pastoral purposes, was rented.

Australia History Between 1851 and 1900 5