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A creek-bank conference at Bective

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Monday 11 September 1922, The Sydney Morning Herald

REMEDYING GRIEVANCES.

A CREEK BANK CONFERENCE.

TAMWORTH, Sunday.

“I’m going to settle this thing one way or another and have done with it,” said Mr. Wearne, Minister for Lands, to a meeting of soldiers at Bective yesterday afternoon. He settled it.

For about two years there has been trouble among the soldier settlers over the “security form,” in effect a mortgage, which soldiers are called upon to sign when they receive an advance from the Government for the purpose of developing their holdings. Drawn up by eminent legal men, these blue forms are of imposing size, are full of “whereases” and “hereinbefores,” and on top of that contain several clauses which are not at all to the liking of the soldier. For instance, they call upon a soldier to mortgage not only all that he has purchased or might purchase out of the money advanced, but all else besides, including anything he may have bought out of his own pocket, and on top of that call for a lien over his growing crop. Bective has been a centre of opposition. A legal man came up one day and said, “sign this”. The soldiers wanted time to look the document over. “Sign now,” they were told, and their request for time was refused. So they, in turn, refused, and have been steadily refusing ever since to put their names to the document. They told the Government, in effect, that they placed implicit confidence in their local repatriation committee, which had stood loyally by them, and when its president, Mr. A. J. Creagh, told them the document was all right they would append their names and not before. Then ensued endless correspondence, which wove a web of red tape that every week threatened to become more difficult to break. When Mr. Wearne took the matter up he amended the form, and then decided that the only way to settle it — as well as a few other grievances that the Bective men had – was to go and see them. So he and the Under-Secretary of the department (Mr. F. J. Fleming) set out for Bective. Mr Chaffey, Minister for Agriculture, also joined the party at Tamworth. After a visit to several of the holdings where the wheat, though rather backward, is looking promising, the party went to the Sandy Creek reserve in the centre of the settlement, which was fixed as the rendezvous. A good proportion of the 51 settlers were waiting there sprawled about the dry gravelly bed of what in rainy seasons is Sandy Creek. The visitors were accommodated with sheets of bark to sit upon, and the conference was open. Amongst those who enjoyed the distinction of a piece of bark, in addition to the Ministerial party, were representatives of the Peel Shire — whose roads through the settlement were generally admired – the president and treasurer of the local repatriation committee, of whom settlers were unstinted in their praise, and district surveyors from Armidale and Tamworth.

The Minister opened the conference characteristically. “Now, boys,” he said, “I am here as a practical man, who has been through it all. I want you to tell me all your troubles as man to man, and in the same spirit I’ll tell you what I can do for you. But first of all, I have one of the new security deeds with me.” He produced a formidable double foolscap blue sheet. “I tell you now that I’m going to settle this matter one way or another before I leave.” They went through it clause by clause. There were still a few objections but they were all met, and within half an hour a matter was settled that had involved all concerned In red tape for nearly two years. The Bective soldiers will sign the amended papers, and as they are the chief objectors other settlers in the rest of the State will probably do the same. Then Mr. Wearne explained just where the soldiers, the State, and the Commonwealth stood financially, and invited grievances. They came all right and they were put forward reasonably and straight-forwardly. They wanted a better chance to get over the first 10 years, their hardest by transferring some of their heavy annual payments to the capital value of their properties. Mr Wearne promised to go as far as he could to meet them in that. They asked dozens of questions, and were answered. They put up problems, and with the assistance of the Under-Secretary they were either solved or given up as hopeless, and so with a few jokes, a couple of good stories, and a picnic lunch the conference progressed. One or two hard knocks were exchanged, but in the best of spirit.

After Mr. Chaffey had briefly addressed the settlers on their work generally, and on the prospects of growing cotton, the meeting concluded with cheers for the two Ministers, the Under-Secretary, the Repatriation Committee, and the shire.

Mr. Wearne then left for Maitland.

Written by macalba

April 19, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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