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  ― 558 ―

35. Chapter XXXV. Australia In 1908.

THE Labor Party all over the continent is one. The same electors vote in Federal and State elections. The same organizations select the candidates and work for them. It is only in the Commonwealth, however, where there is a chance to democratise both Houses of Parliament. In all the States there is a second chamber, composed of the most crusted Tories and Conservatives, and they carefully block every measure of a radical or even moderately liberal kind. Thus we have the rule of a class, and are not yet a self-governing democracy. The particulars which follow will give a rough idea of our past and present situation, and indicate what has to be done before Australia can take a forward step.

The total value of wealth in Australasia is, according to Coghlan, £1,204,042,000. £152,000,000 worth of this is held outside. The value of land in private hands is £461,255,000. The people owe to the money-lender £407,290,000, or £85 per head, and the yearly tribute totals £18,102,500. Confining ourselves to the Commonwealth, we are in debt to the tune of £86 16s. 3d. per inhabitant, a total sum of £343,938,000 of State, local bodies, and private borrowings. For this we are levied to the tune of £15,508,000 per annum, including £400,000 income of absentees.

The primary producers and the industrial workers in the Commonwealth total (male and


  ― 559 ―
female) 959,339. As they have to produce the whole of the wealth which pays all burdens, it means that they have to produce over £16 each for the money-lender ere they get a loaf of bread for themselves or their dependents. This almost equals Coghlan's estimate of the average cost of food per inhabitant, £16 14s. They get absolutely no return for this. They have already paid to the British money-lender £116,000,000 in about 33 years, but not a penny of the principal yet. As we have more detail for New South Wales than other States, let us take it as illustrating what has been done all over the continent.

In 1903 there were 735,589 adults in New South Wales. Of these 190,617 possessed property, and 544,972 own no property. The total value of property in the State was £368,778,000. Of this, £130,521,000, or 35 per cent., was held by 987 persons, 2086 owned 45 per cent., and about 3000 persons owned one-half the total. Twenty per cent. was owned outside, ten per cent. in Britain, and six per cent. in Victoria.

Alienated land in New South Wales is held thusly:—

5¼ million acres in 57,342 holdings of 400 acres and under.

5½ million acres in 8488 holdings of from 401 to 1000 acres.

13 million acres in 4399 holdings of from 1001 to 10,000 acres.

21 million acres in 676 holdings of 10,000 acres and upward.

Total, 44¾ million acres.




  ― 560 ―

A very small percentage is cultivated, the highest in any district being only 18 per cent.—of course, by the smaller holders. The larger holdings only run from a-quarter to one per cent. for whole districts. Out of the whole only 2,400,000 acres, or five per cent., are cultivated, and only one per cent. put under artificial grass.

The census of 1901 gave the total number of breadwinners, male and female, in New South Wales, as 564,799. Employers number 53,844, the commercial class 77,664, and wage-earners 362,205, with 24,403 unemployed. Though the wage-earners outnumber other classes combined, they have in the past allowed the capitalist class to govern the country.

Here are some additional figures, showing how, under the conditional purchase system, which was designed to allow the poor man to obtain land on easy terms, the number of large estates in New South Wales has increased. Since 1882, 44,352,613 acres of conditional purchase lands have been transferred, and only 18,481,880 acres have been applied for. At present, 22,830,261 acres in New South Wales are held by 722 persons, or companies, whose holdings average an area of 31,621 acres each, and the total area alienated comprises 48,081,314 acres. In South Australia, 304 persons, or companies, own 3,545,000 acres, whilst 1,269,704 acres are held by 30. The following table gives the names of the thirty largest land-owners in South Australia, together with their area and the unimproved value of their holdings:—




  ― 561 ―

                                                             
Acres.  Value. 
Angas Estate .. ..  81,502  £200,238 
W. J. T. Clarke .. ..  76,000  159,556 
Canowie .. .. ..  68,450  139,700 
Robertson .. .. ..  67,709  151,400 
Dutton .. .. ..  66,000  132,862 
Maslin .. .. ..  53,791  85,436 
S.A. Company .. ..  52,579  262,400 
University .. .. ..  53,228  36,000 
J. J. Duncan .. ..  50,230  107,622 
Willowie .. .. ..  49,799  88,000 
Mortlock .. .. ..  49,536  56,642 
McFarlane .. .. ..  43,996  76,862 
T. R. Bowman .. ..  41,919  78,000 
Smith (Hynam) .. ..  38,000  76,000 
T. E. Barr Smith ..  36,000  62,000 
Ellis (Benara) .. ..  35,000  81,000 
Watson (Riddoch) ..  34,000  52,000 
Queensland Land Coy.  33,000  31,000 
Dutton and Melrose ..  33,000  75,000 
A. S. Browne .. ..  33,000  83,000 
Duffield Estate .. ..  32,000  56,000 
James Melrose .. ..  31,000  27,000 
Dickson .. .. ..  29,000  56,000 
G. T. Melrose .. ..  28,000  47,000 
K. D. Bowman .. ..  28,000  50,000 
Lawson .. .. ..  26,000  42,000 
C. H. Angas .. ..  25,345  47,498 
L. G. Browne .. ..  23,731  74,178 
A. G. Laidlaw .. ..  23,902  33,456 
L. McBean .. .. ..  26,077  30,818 




  ― 562 ―

In many parts of South Australia one may travel all day by train without seeing more than a few individuals, the scanty population of many districts being due to the fact that the land has been alienated, and not put to proper use.

In the rich lands of the Western district of Victoria 4000 square miles are held by 60 families. Total dwellings thereon, including tents, 1285. Total population, 7869. The Government built 362 miles of railway through about 40 owners' lands at a cost of £3,753,000. In the shires of Hampden and Mortlake, 20 families own over 800,000 acres. They hold closed roads embracing 16,337 acres, for which nothing is paid. Outside of towns there is one human habitation for each seven square miles. One-eighth of all privately-owned lands in Western Victoria is held by 525 people. Over 1,000,000 acres are held by 11 persons, and 1,240,000 acres by 18. No wonder that Victoria lost by excess of emigration over immigration 143,542, mostly adults, between 1891 and 1904.

There are three main sources from which the few have become possessors of the riches held so disproportionately. The commercial man by exorbitant charges, adulteration, etc.; the contractor by high prices and inferior work and material; the owner of land by taking increased rents or selling at values enhanced by the energy and efforts of others. Some have made money in mining or other speculation, but as a matter of fact, all place their money in land ownership either directly or indirectly—that is, the contractor and the commercial man after acquiring money becomes a landowner.




  ― 563 ―

We had no Labor members in Parliament till 1891; no solid party till 1894. Before that the capitalist class had matters in their own hands. They very early began to grab the land. Some secured large areas by grant prior to constitutional government. Having secured possession of the land, they proceeded to raise its value—not by doing anything to develop it themselves, but by inducing the Government to make roads, construct railways, bridge streams, and erect public buildings, many of which were never required, but all put money into the pockets of the ruling class. In more than one case roads were made through private estates with Government money. All these works were done by what the capitalists term private enterprise—that is, they were let by a friendly Government to their own class on contract, and paid for out of loans floated in London. Fortunes were made by contractors. One railway contract, one big bridge or large building was sufficient to enable a contractor to retire for life. Municipalities were established, governed by the same class, and carrying on in the same way, added to the openings for private gain at public loss. The waste of public funds was enormous and cannot be estimated. Huge buildings were erected, the elaborate furnishings of which rival those of the palace of an Eastern potentate. Carved book-cases, marble statuary in the offices of Cabinet Ministers, all speak eloquently of the largess thrown with lavish hand to the middleman. Every Ministry found billets for its needy friends, quite irrespective of whether there was any work for them to do, or whether they were fit to do it


  ― 564 ―
if there had been. In Victoria this was so much the case that departmental work practically came to a deadlock, as four separate offices were dealing with the same matters, and it took additional officers to enter upon a search to find what had become of your particular set of red-taped papers. New South Wales was just as bad.

The commercial middleman shared in the Government distribution of loan money. He had the advantage of coming in between the user and the producer, and had the supply of contractors and workmen. The press controlled public opinion, and was itself controlled by the advertiser, and the commercial man is the advertiser. All were in the swim together, whilst the fool public were gulled and the wage-earners were denied voting power.

In 1871, the public debt of New South Wales was £20 10s. per capita. In 1891, it was £45 10s. 8d. In Victoria, it was £16 0s. 11d. and £37 14s. 4d. respectively. During the eighties the boom was worked up. Banks grew up like mushrooms, until there was one for every 3000 of the population. From 1871 to 1892 private capital was introduced into New South Wales in excess of withdrawals to the total of £19,000,000, and over £23,000,000 was brought in by immigrants. The greatest bulk for investment came in the period 1886-90.

In New South Wales, from 1882 to 1892, land sales were enormous. The population increased 50 per cent., and £51,200,000 was introduced, yet agriculture only increased 28 per cent., or from 660,000 acres to 846,000 acres. In the years of the greatest introduction of capital—namely, 1885,


  ― 565 ―
£11,470,000, and 1886, £10,028,000—the export of domestic produce was the lowest for any period since the gold discovery.

In 1886-7 the great strike against reduction of wages took place in the Southern collieries, followed by a similar strike in the Northern in 1888. In 1889, about 12,000 men were thrown out by the stoppage of various works, and about 40,000 were unemployed a couple of years later. All this proves that the workers did not get much of the loan money, and that the inrush of capital was not used for development.

In Victoria, for the five years 1886-90, £54,694,000 came in, and was spent in the same reckless way as obtained in the mother State. Queensland, in the same five years, had £9,581,000.

Holders of land, who had worked the thing up, cut up land around the big cities and grabbed the money sent for investment. Government lavished loan money in what they termed a “vigorous public works policy.” Contractors, commercial men, bankers, the press, and lawyers, all shared, and millions out of State and municipal borrowings went into their pockets.

At a very low estimate New South Wales railways cost in construction and equipment £12,000,000 more than they would if they had been constructed under day labor, as is now the established method. The same would apply to all other public works. Out of our debt of over £80,000,000, probably £20,000,000 has been wasted in that way in order to boost private enterprise. The real object of the governing class of that period


  ― 566 ―
was not the development of the State. That idea was put forward to cloak their class designs. There was no need to have borrowed at all, and more genuine and healthy progress would have been made by doing public works out of taxation and by direct methods of construction under efficient management. If the sum we now pay in interest were available for public enterprises, we would soon become a prosperous people. As it is, the country producer has to pay interest on the £12,000,000 extra cost of railways which was diverted into the pockets of contractors.

Railways were built in Victoria at enormous cost, which have since been closed and the rails taken up. All this was done by the “business men” we hear so much of from the capitalists. Under their management in 1892, twenty-one companies in Victoria and twenty in Sydney went down for £25,000,000. Over £18,000,000 belonged to the public; £14,500,000 in the form of deposits and debentures. Nearly £4,000,000 was due to British depositors and debenture holders, and £7,000,000 was due to shareholders. There were a few cases of prosecution for fraud, and men were jailed; but the full exposures of all the various swindles never came out, because the “keen business men” we hear of had secured the passage of an Act of Parliament allowing them to wind up in a voluntary manner.

In addition to this, in 1893, as a result of capitalistic management, twelve banks of issue suspended—five of these were Victorian, two New South Wales, and two British. They reconstructed,


  ― 567 ―
and closed on £54,000,000 out of £86,000,000 of deposits lodged with them. In Victoria they seized on business men's current account. In New South Wales they were saved by the Government coming to their aid.

I need not dwell on the inevitable ruin and suffering of the thousands of poor and middle class who had trusted the capitalistic ring who controlled affairs, and who took care to save themselves. It was simply a huge gamble; the sharpers won, the flats lost. Millions changed hands, but tested by those things which are genuine signs of progress the result of class government and commercial control proved to be not only a failure, but to be in many ways demoralising.

Just as men are drawn from honest industry by the card table or the racecourse, where they try to live on the game, so in the gamble over land swarms of parasites grew up. The cry was, “Let posterity share the burden,” and so every municipal council, every society of any kind whatsoever appealed to Government. Roads, now grass grown, were made; harbor works started but not finished; parks fenced and laid out, sometimes on land bought from private owners. Bonuses, subsidies to private companies, and money to private individuals were drawn from Government. In Victoria, capitalists obtained so many free passes on the railways that the list filled eleven columns of “The Age” in small type. The system followed has neither been private enterprise nor public enterprise, but a demoralising system of commercialism, which means to take advantage of anybody if you see a chance of profit. We have


  ― 568 ―
now to undo the mischief and introduce the collective and co-operative methods; to abolish all needless and costly excrescences, such as State Governors, State Second Chambers, all parasites and middlemen, and see that each has opportunity to utilise the energy and the good that is in him and have the results conserved to him.

The exposures made by Labor members of matters which the capitalistic press tried to hide or condone have tended to make people doubt the wisdom of trusting their affairs to so-called business people. Railway syndicates, land scandals, and Bentism are explaining why it is that Australia, which is the finest country under the sun, should be in the bad way it is. Capitalist Governments have proved a dead failure. They have plunged the country into debt, the burden of which is so great that if we were attacked by an enemy we would be in a helpless position financially, and could not put up a fight even though we have the bravest men on God's earth. Bad land laws and maladministration have left no room for people in at least two States which had the start.

Of alienated land in New South Wales, 728 persons or companies own 45 per cent., 100 own one-fifth, 44,000 hold under 100 acres each, whilst 104 own over 50,000 acres each; 1,500,000 people own no land at all. In Victoria there are thirty-seven counties. In thirteen the population is becoming less, and these are the best as regards quality of land. In sixteen counties the population has been stationary for some years; eight show less than twenty years ago; six less than thirty years


  ― 569 ―
ago; and five less than forty years ago. The male population has decreased, the female increased. Victoria has more old people than any other State. She has 66,000 over 65 years of age, whilst New South Wales, with a larger population, has only 47,000. The women have overtaken the men in numbers. The birth rate is low; the death rate high.

The Victorian “Settlers' Guide” says, on page 7:—“It is a fact that the maps of many of the early settled parishes of Victoria, subdivided as they originally were into numerous valuable farm sections, present the appearance of so many draught board squares from which the men are missing, the land of whole parishes having become in many instances merged in one large estate—the property of one person.” No wonder that forty-five per cent. of the population live in Melbourne. Thirty per cent. of New South Wales people are in Sydney, and of South Australians forty-two per cent. are found in Adelaide. In New South Wales forty-nine million acres are alienated, in Victoria twenty-one million, Queensland fifteen, South Australia twelve, West Australia six, and Tasmania four million acres. The country is a sheep-walk, and if the owners sell at all it is only at prohibitive prices.

Nothing has been done to alter this condition of things, and nothing will be done by the men whom the people elect as Liberals or Reformers. Labor has at last educated the people up to a desire for a progressive land tax, but it is unlikely that any Government other than Labor will succeed in


  ― 570 ―
passing it into law. With their own people squeezed out of these two States, the “Liberals” spend the money of the workers in spreading lies in the old world for the purpose of attracting immigrants, so as to secure cheap labor and crush the worker here. Australia needs people badly. The Labor Party is ready to give a welcome to all desirable white people, but it wants that welcome to be genuine. It wants to provide a place and opportunity for the newcomer before he arrives, so that the welcome is to a mate and not to a competitor. It is positive cruelty, when there are already thousands of unemployed in every city of Australia, to bring out other persons to add to the list. The land must be thrown open first, and then bring the people.

Recently there has been much agitation about giving encouragement to immigration, yet the facts are that we are not making room for our own people. Statistics show that the departures exceeded arrivals by 4446 during the past four years. We have an immense unpeopled continent, and yet the sons of our own farmers cannot get land. The Commonwealth Government has communicated with every State Premier, and not one of them has any land to offer immigrants, however desirable they may be. A system has been introduced by the big land-owners called the shares system. It is the most cruel and complete system of sweating. It is being helped and encouraged by each anti-Labor Government. In every State except South Australia the Governments of to-day favor the big landlord, and oppose any proposal to stop land monopoly or to force land into use.




  ― 571 ―

With second Chambers constituted as they are, the only hope for any immediate relief lies with the Federal Labor Party, which has recently appealed to the people on the question of a progressive land tax, expressly proposed to force the cutting up of the large estates. They propose exemption of all estates up to £5000 value exclusive of improvements. The following are the latest figures available in regard to the land values in Australia:—

                     
Land Alienated.  Value, exclusive of Improvements.  Per acre, 
Acres.  £  £ s. d. 
New South Wales  48,851,524  136,417,000  2 15 10 
Victoria .. ..  24,526,255  126,078,000  5 2 9 
Queensland ..  16,901,127  41,800,000  2 8 8 
South Australia  14,149,171  35,957,000  2 10 10 
West Australia .  10,548,057  11,095,000  1 2 9 
Tasmania .. ..  5,040,413  21,852,000  4 6 7 
120,106,547  373,679,000  3 2 3 
New Zealand ..  23,857,633  87,576,000  3 13 5 
Australasia ..  143,964,180  461,255,000  3 4 1 

The figures just given have been made up to 1906, and show existing values; but if New Zealand methods of valuing were adopted, the amounts would be largely increased.

The land problem is the first and most important one to be dealt with, and the only political party even proposing to touch it is that of Labor. With a tax so heavy in its incidence as to make it


  ― 572 ―
unprofitable to hold a big estate, the gambling, speculative value would be at once struck at and land thrown into the market at such a price as would enable many who are anxious for farms to acquire them. This, together with a system of banking or of Credit Foncier by the States, will prove of immense and immediate value, and will greatly aid development.

New South Wales and Victoria have a system of Closer Settlement under Acts empowering the purchase of estates. In both cases the prices they have to pay are too high, and it is evident that the speculative value, to say nothing of that value given by the increase of population, must be struck at by a land tax. The Australian people are undoubtedly in favor of a tax on the unimproved value of land, and probably if a vote were taken it would favor the New Zealand system of a progressive tax, with power to resume at a price plus ten per cent. over owner's valuation. Land and Finance are the two big problems, and they press for a solution which cannot long be delayed.

Capitalistic Governments have always endeavored to hide facts which expose the rottenness of the present social system, hence they have prevented our statisticians from giving us any information of a clear kind as to the distribution of wealth. There will have to be quite a new line of inquiry centred upon when Labor acquires power. From a speech by Labor-member Hugh Mahon I give a few figures which he worked out from the basis of Coghlan's statistics. He estimates the private wealth of


  ― 573 ―
Australia at £1,000,000,000. This is based on an extension of New South Wales figures, which are the most complete. Of this 8450 persons own £810,000,000; 1,283,540 own £190,000,000; and 2,635,000 own nothing. Taking the Victorian Income Tax returns, they show that 92 out of every 100 are under the sum taxable, namely, £151. Of taxable income 60 per cent. is divided amongst 12.4 per cent. of the taxpayers receiving over £500, and the remaining 87.6 per cent. of taxpayers divide the other 40 per cent. Those getting over £1000 per annum constitute 4.3 per cent., yet they receive 40 per cent. Of incomes from property 68 per cent. is received by those with over £500—less than 17 per cent. of the taxpayers—and 32 per cent. is divided between 83 per cent. of the taxpayers.

Thus in relation to taxation and defence Mr. Mahon says that a fraction of the people own four-fifths of the wealth and pay one-fifth of the cost of protecting it, whilst the rest of the community possess only one-fifth of the wealth and carry four-fifths of the burden of protecting all. I have roughly tested Mr. Mahon's figures by taking out the number of workers in the several callings enumerated in the census returns, and the results support his conclusions. In wealth production per head of population Australia stands very high, but the bona-fide producer gets probably a smaller percentage than those in older lands.

The proportion of the parasite class is enormous. We have had a vigorous young manhood putting forth their energies in the wide field of a young, unpeopled country, with splendid natural resources.


  ― 574 ―
The men and women who came here brought old-world ideas with them. The wage rate was on old-world lines, and, as almost all wage-earners are content with a very limited standard of comfort, it took a long time to awaken in the toiler's mind the demand for his own. He is now coming to understand how foolish he has been to allow the swarm of suave but entirely needless middlemen to fatten big bellies and bank accounts out of his hard labor.

The uncertain nature of the wage-workers' occupation deterred him from attempting to secure a home of his own, hence it gave a splendid field for landlordism. The rent-taker was able to secure tenants for any sort of insanitary, old, jerry-built dog-box. The absence of a Building Act enabled him to erect four alleged cottages on one allotment in either Sydney or Melbourne. Cheaply run up terraces, with a thirteen-feet frontage to each dwelling, are common. Even under the more settled conditions of to-day, our electoral rolls show thirty per cent. of new electors in each city electorate every three years. All this unsettledness is against the worker and in favor of the parasite.

Australia has been the happy hunting-ground for capitalists in search of splendid bona-fide investments. Last year very few companies paid under ten per cent., and over fifty paid dividends ranging from ten up to one hundred and sixty per cent. The parasite has found the Commonwealth full of openings, and he has not been slow to take advantage. Prior to boom time scores of companies


  ― 575 ―
grew up, all tapping the pockets of the easy-going public for cash. Banks started with half-a-crown capital.

We have still a swarm of parasitic institutions which will have to be wiped out of existence. Some of the worst “take-downs” are fire insurance and fidelity guarantee companies. A few friends get together and decide to form an insurance company. They provide themselves and their friends and relatives with billets, and the fool public provides the money. They charge needlessly high premiums and the public pays, as it does not take the trouble to inquire as to whether such sum is required or not. One has only to look at the cost of management to see what a fraud the whole thing is as run under private enterprise.

Statistician Coghlan says it is impossible to get at the real facts as to insurance companies, as they hide them away in the accounts and do not separate the work as they should do. Taking five of the sixteen Australian life insurance companies, it is seen that the expenses of management use up from fifty to seventy-seven per cent. of the gross receipts. In relation to premiums paid, it takes from £3 to £4 out of every £5 received to carry on the society. When we think of all the other companies—such as land, building, investment, trustee, agencies, trading, commercial, tramway, etc.—we can form a dim conception of what becomes of the workers' labor-product and of the swarm of parasites sucking his life-blood without giving an equivalent. So long as the worker allows a class to rule him, not only in


  ― 576 ―
Parliament but in all the other branches of social influence and power, so long will he suffer.

The worker must take possession everywhere, and clear out the gangs of boodlers now using public positions, such as municipal councils, to help themselves and their friends. They are interested in an insurance company—say fire and fidelity guarantee—and naturally the company gets the council's favors. The biggest profits are made out of public bodies, such as municipalities. The City Council of Melbourne, for instance, paid in premiums for fire risks the sum of £8500 in fourteen years, yet all that the company had to pay out was £480. Thus the City Council took over £8000 out of its ratepayers' pockets and handed it over to a few individuals, whose particular business it is to take down ratepayers in that particular way. A neighboring council has done still more for the enterprising company which deals in that line, as it has paid £18,000 in all, and the company which collared that sum was only called upon for £1200 in payment of claims.

Victorian Railway Commissioners between 1884 and 1903 paid £295,058 10s. 3d. to a private company for insurance of their staff. The company which got the money settled the 449 claims made during the period for £64,400, and thereby made a profit of £230,658 10s. 3d. Thus the cute schemers running the insurance company used the commissioners as instruments to bleed to the amount named the public who use the railways. Of course the press, ever friendly to these parasitic companies, will explain in answer that it is unfair to pick out isolated cases.


  ― 577 ―
Very well; let us take the totals, and we find that the fire and fidelity companies doing business in Victoria received last year £612,288 and only paid out £254,059, leaving them a profit of £358,224.

Photograph facing p.576. Interstate Conference Australian Labor Party, 1908.



The most impudent of all private enterprisers are the coal companies. The influence of those who held interests in Newcastle, N.S.W., coal-mines and in shipping—exerted in various ways, but most plainly through the Melbourne “Argus”—was sufficient for many years to stop even a search for coal in Victoria, though geologists said it existed. At last it was opened up, and for years the public have been fleeced to provide dividends for shareholders in the coal-mines of Gippsland. The system was to get up deputations and induce the Railway Commissioners and the Minister to agree to carry the coal at low rates—so low, in fact, as to entail a loss. Then special rates were paid on long contracts for supplies for the railways. Not satisfied with dividends averaging 27 per cent., the companies reduced wages, and with the help of Ministers of the Crown filled the men's places with blacklegs at low wages.

The Jumbunna company put in £12,291, and has drawn dividends to the amount of £22,000. The Coal Creek company had from its shareholders £10,177, and paid in dividends £26,250. The Outtrim mine paid 27 per cent. None of the companies put anything into development, but followed the simple plan of dividing every available penny, and then if things were bad owing to lack of proper management they would get up a deputation and secure more concessions. Practically the companies have had


  ― 578 ―
their dividends from the railways, as detailed elsewhere, and it emphasises the need for such management of the railways as will get the supplies of coal at cost price by doing their own mining.

These few examples from Victoria illustrate what goes on all over the Commonwealth. It is not possible to get at the totals, as the various devices known to cunning and unscrupulous commercialism hide away the facts from outsiders. Watered stock, misleading balance-sheets, and secrecy keep the public in the dark; but if we only look at what is known through municipalities, railways, and other public bodies coming into contact with these parasites we can realise that hundreds of thousands of pounds are wasted in upholding a swarm of boodlers. By the Commonwealth taking up insurance of all necessary kinds the saving to the people would be enormous. Banking and insurance must both be faced so soon as Labor gets a majority. The average man is ignorant of the fact that he is heavily taxed by such parasitic institutions; and, whilst he will object strongly to direct taxation or to additional taxation, he goes on paying vast sums in an indirect way without a word. It is the duty of a Government to relieve the citizen of all burdens it is possible to take off his shoulders, and to provide at once that all public utilities shall be run at the lowest cost by eliminating the profit-stealing boodler and doing the work by the Nation, State, or Municipality, according to its scope or importance. That it can be done better and cheaper has been proved by Australian and New Zealand experience.




  ― 579 ―

Another peculiar scheme which the politicians of the past are responsible for is the way in which the Savings Banks are controlled. The people have placed about £36,000,000 in the Savings Banks of the Commonwealth, nearly all of those institutions being under Government control. In order to assist in robbing their own people, however, the Governments limit the amounts upon which interest is paid in every State, and in some cases limit also the amount taken on deposit. New South Wales allows interest to depositors other than Friendly Societies or Charitable Institutions only on sums up to £300. Victoria allows interest at three per cent. up to £100, two and a-half per cent. up to £250, but nothing over that. Queensland allows interest only up to £200, but can issue bonds for sums over that amount. South Australia has a limits of £250, and Tasmania one of £150; whilst West Australia limits deposits to £600 and interest is only allowed up to £300. This method forces money into the private banks and gives them cheap money to handle and charge high interest on. The Government, instead of having the use of the people's money, are thus forced to borrow from private banks. The people pay for all this and the bank shareholders pocket the profits.

I have not touched on mining at all, as most people are aware that it is a gamble and is full of wild-cat schemes for taking money out of the pockets of the investor as well as the plunger and gambler. The games are known, and hence those who are taken in cannot grumble, as they took the risk. It is the wily schemes which fit in so well with commercial life and its evils which are most


  ― 580 ―
necessary to expose. I have already mentioned the fact that the knowing ones who worked the worst swindles in the land boom of 1889 secured the passage of an Act of Parliament in Victoria to allow of voluntary liquidation. It only needed then to put a friend in as liquidator to have all evils hushed up. They ran against a straight man sometimes, and did so in the case I quote below. It is a fair sample of many others if the truth had all been made known. In this particular case there were not enough assets realisable to pay the liquidator and he went without his payment and handed all there was to those entitled to claim. I quote from the “Argus” of 27th April, 1907:—

“In August, 1891, the Anglo-Australian Bank Limited went into voluntary liquidation, and in October of that year Colonel J. M. Templeton was appointed official liquidator to conduct the winding-up and to settle the voluntary liquidation. The way he started off, and what he discovered, is told as follows:—‘Finding that the liquidators had continued to occupy the bank's premises, which had been taken on lease at a high rental, which was still being paid, I took possession of all the bank's assets, and its books and papers, and removed them to an office which I secured at a small weekly rent, and left the landlord to make a claim for the breach of contract made by my leaving the premises unoccupied. I immediately appointed a chief clerk, and, with his assistance, made an examination of the books and papers,


  ― 581 ―
and a complete investigation of the bank's affairs. I discovered that the bank was a sham and a swindle from its inception, and that it was an offshoot of another sham bank—the British Bank of Australia Limited—which had been put into voluntary liquidation some months before.’

“On Colonel Templeton's advice, a criminal prosecution of the chairman and directors and the manager and auditors of the Anglo-Australian Bank was undertaken by the Crown, which resulted in the conviction of all of them, and they were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. ‘Thus,’ he said, ‘the swindlers were punished without trenching on the very small funds of the bank for the expenses of the prosecution. The so-called assets of the bank, for the most part, consisted of uncompleted contracts for the purchase of large blocks of vacant land at exorbitant prices, and of contracts of sale, also uncompleted, of small allotments into which the large blocks had been subdivided. The sale money was payable by monthly instalments extending to twelve years, and many of the purchasers were quite unable to pay what they had undertaken under the glamor of the bank's representations as to value, while others refused to pay on the ground that they had been swindled. The position was very difficult, for the bank could not give titles to the small allotments, because it had not yet paid the original vendors of the large blocks which it had subdivided. … The next step was to


  ― 582 ―
look up shareholders so as to compel them to pay, under the order of the Supreme Court, the full amount of their shares. These shareholders having been victimised by the promoters of the bank, strove, as far as possible, to avoid the payment of calls.’ … The cause that led to the delay in the completion of the liquidation was Colonel Templeton's objection to admit the preferential claim of the liquidator of the British Bank, which had been allowed by the Court at £286,630. He had opposed the claim, on the ground that the two banks were practically the one institution, but the Court had overruled his objection. Therefore, the winding-up of the Anglo-Australian Bank was delayed by Colonel Templeton until he heard that the British Bank had been finally dissolved. That information now being forthcoming, he was in a position to declare a final dividend, and make a report. … The total claims allowed by the Court against the bank were £420,299, of which £119,790 represented the claims (alleged to be preferential) of depositors and debentureholders. By excluding the British Bank a dividend of 3 1-16d. in the £1 is possible when payments are made for clerical work, etc., the net amount available being £1528. This is the ignominious end of one of the prominent creations of the land-boom period.”

In these brief quotations we see disclosed the methods followed then and still adhered to by the parasites of society. A few persons form a company,


  ― 583 ―
take up a block of land, cut it up, advertise and sell it at an enhanced price pocketing the difference. It seemed alright until the bubble burst—then it was a swindle, and everybody agreed that it was. What the public do not seem to realise is that it is a swindle none the less when it succeeds.

Amongst other evils to be remedied are the methods adopted under State and municipal control to save the rich from paying their honest taxation. Recently portion of a big estate was purchased by the Victorian Government. It had to pay £17 an acre, whereas the valuation upon which land tax has been paid for some years past was only £1 per acre. All over the State it is notorious that the big landowner dodges his land tax, and no Government has had the courage to discharge the valuators responsible. Under the Shire Councils the same under-valuation for municipal taxes goes on. Recently under a new Act the Water Commissioners made a valuation, and it turns out to be from 75 to 90 per cent. above that upon which rates have been paid. Especially is it the case with regard to the value put upon the land. Taking four places as samples, the respective values per acre are:—

         
By Municipality.  By Commissioners. 
Bacchus Marsh ...  £51 0 0 ..  £72 14 0 
Benjeroop........  2 18 10 ..  4 11 0 
Campaspe........  3 5 0 ..  5 16 0 
Gunbower West ..  2 7 0 ..  4 10 0 

The total values by the shires amount to £122,810. That is the sum upon which rates are paid. The


  ― 584 ―
valuation by the independent Commissioners is £195,799. £1,172,027 was spent on free head works on which no interest was charged. £142,506 was given in free grants and £1,106,852 written off by the Government for various Water Trusts in country districts. It is not surprising also to find that the Shire of Rodney, which asked and secured from the Government a remission of £202,000, which they alleged they were unable to pay on an irrigation scheme from which they had all the gain, was collecting rates on a valuation of £59,565, whilst the Commissioners find it is a fair value to put £105,908 on the Shire. This place was the headquarters of a recent conservative political movement which swept Victoria off its feet and sent in a big party pledged to economy and reform in administration. It is characteristic of that class that no sooner had they closed their big conference in Melbourne after launching the scheme which was going to save the country than they fairly rushed the various departments asking concessions for their several districts. It is only another way of taking down the masses, who have no personal axes of this kind which they can grind.

The majority of those who now run municipal government have been trained and lived their lives in the atmosphere of profit-making by taking advantage of every opportunity which presents itself, and hence they apply it to municipal and political work. They are ever for class—always against the masses. The great working masses are but a field for exploitation, and must be kept in that position


  ― 585 ―
or the classes will no longer enjoy incomes without effort and escape taxation by keeping control of the man who would impose the tax.

It has been the boast of Australians that our political and municipal life has been clear of that bribery and blackmailing “graft” of which we hear so much from America. To a large extent that is true, but we have not quite the same system here in many things, such for instance as railways. By having them State-owned we have blocked the boodlers. Also, we have not yet reached the same high pressure of social life, nor have we many extremely rich men. Our Australian commercial and land-owning class are just as clever in carrying out a “graft” as our American cousins, and if social conditions are not soon changed we shall see just the same development of corruption and bribery as has disgraced the public life of the great American people. Like conditions produce like results. The social system here is the same in principle if not in detail as in the U.S.A. and older lands. Australians have produced many champions in various fields, and it will just as surely produce champion “grafters” and swindlers as other countries unless the class rule up to now dominant is done away with altogether.

The hope of Australia is with the Labor Party in politics, in local government, and in every social force. Labor has a better record for honest, economical, and efficient management than any other class. In Friendly Societies, in Co-operation, and in Trade Unions where the workers dominate, the


  ― 586 ―
ability of practical men who know how to manage has been displayed. When they take charge of the public affairs of the nation in all their ramifications an era of healthy prosperity based upon justice to all and privileges to none will begin, and will never end.

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