moved the Second Reading of the Waste Lands (Australia) Bill, in doing which the noble Lord explained the state of the law as it stood at present in the Australian Colonies with reference to waste lands. One object of the Bill was to authorize the Governor of New South Wales to grant leases of waste lands within or without the limits of the Colony, on the same terms as the other lands were disposed of, namely, by auction. It was proposed, however, to restrict the leases to twenty-one years at the outside. The produce of the revenue to be derived under the Bill was to be applied in part to raise a fund for the encouragement of immigration of free labourers;—but this regarded New South Wales only. In Australia there was no want of capital, but there was a deficiency of labour. In Van Diemen's Land, on the other hand, there was a superabundance of labour seeking for employment. This, resulted, in great part, from the excess of convict labour. We, moreover, imposed a heavy tax upon the Colony on account of the convicts we sent 664 there. The expense incurred there for police and gaols, was 36,000l. per annum, whilst the rest of the expenditure was only 70,000l.; thus one-third of the whole expenditure of the Colony was entirely taken up by the police and the gaols. It was proposed by this Bill to retransfer to this country the proceeds of land sales, which had dwindled down to almost nothing; to take into the hands of the Government the proceeds of the sales of lands, after they had been improved by convict labour, and to release the Colony from the gaol and police expenses. It was proposed to allow the best-conducted convicts to become renters of Government land in Van Diemen's Land: whereas in New South Wales, the object was to give a certain permanency of tenure, and enable the free occupier to surround himself with some of the comforts of life. He (Lord Stanley) believed the Bill would be found satisfactory to many of those who had presented petitions to Parliament.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
was not prepared to oppose the Bill in its present stage. He thought a case might be made out for legislative interference. But when entering upon so large a subject, he considered it was absolutely necessary that the noble Lord should make out a case of most urgent necessity before their Lordships consented to pass a Bill of this nature, especially as they were now coming to the close of the Session, and when many important measures, which had undergone great consideration, had already been deferred to another period. Many of the clauses of this Bill might be of value, and among the rest, he thought the system of granting licenses for the occupation of waste lands might be attended with beneficial effects; but there were provisions in the Bill, giving to the Governor such arbitrary powers, that he was entirely opposed to them. By the 6th Clause, persons who had already occupied parts of the waste lands under licenses, were to be made liable, at the pleasure of the Governor, to an amount of taxation almost indefinite, assuming the shape of an agistment tax. It authorized a tax upon cattle, paying a certain sum per year for every horse, sheep, and head of horned cattle depastured upon the waste lands which Her Majesty's Privy Council or the Governor might decide upon. To this he most strongly objected. Their Lordships were aware of the effect of a law of agist- 665 ment in Ireland; and he thought it would be a rash, inconsiderate, and ill-judged measure to introduce into Australia. He wished to impress it upon their Lordships, that they were now, in fact, laying the foundation of a principle of property which would affect two thousand miles of territory and vast millions of acres of land, and that without giving the measure such consideration as its importance demanded, and which if brought on early in the next Session it would of course obtain.
observed, that the noble Marquess seemed to suppose that the license conferred a permanent right upon the party obtaining it. But that was not the case. It was an annual license to pasture stock.
No; it was merely a license to depasture stock within a certain district. The Governor was at the present moment perfectly free to fix from year to year the amount to be paid by each party obtaining a license.
§ Lord Monteagle
objected to the 6th and 13th Clauses, which he believed had excited the greatest possible apprehension and alarm. He objected to their provisions as perfectly without precedent. In 1842, an Act was passed regulating the sale of Colonial property; but the proposed Bill, which extended to the whole of the Australian Colonies, suspended the operation of the existing Statute law of the land so long as any Colony should continue to be a place to which felons might be conveyed for punishment. The noble Lord stated that he meant it to apply only to Van Diemen's Land; but an Order in Council, by sending even as few as ten felons to New Zealand, or any other Colony, would extend the provisions at once to those places.
explained, that the Bill could not apply to any existing Colonies, as their charters would not permit the sending of felons there; but if new Colonies should be established, and it should be deemed necessary to found new penal settlements in such places, but for the provision referred to, those Colonies would be subject to the old Land Sales Act.
§ Lord Monteagle
, in continuation, expressed his regret that the Bill had been introduced at so late a period of the Session, not only on public grounds, but also for the sake of the noble Lord himself. It 666 was clearly impossible, at this period of the Session, the measure could be well considered; and it was more than probable that, if considered, it would not be satisfactory.
expressed a hope that the provision which made some amends to Van Diemen's Land for the expense incurred by gaols and police might also be extended to Australia.
§ Bill read 2a.