Viv ForbesStuck on Red & Other Essays (First Published by “Business Queensland” and “Common Sense” in 1990), pp. 16-18.About the Author»

Agriculture and mining and the industries dependent on them are the creators of all primary wealth for Business in Queensland. Every Queenslander has a vested interest in the health of these workhorses of our economic wagon and should be alert to politicians who may frighten the horses, plunder the load or knock the wheels off the wagon.

One of the many government enquiries operating in Queensland today is the Crown Leasehold Review Committee. One of its objectives is to “recommend a land policy which will enhance sustainable economic growth in Queensland”.

If that is truly the objective of Queensland Government land policy I can write the recommendation which should emerge from this committee in one sentence. “Sell all leasehold land as soon as possible, preferably to the current leaseholders”.

What is sustainable agriculture? It can be defined as “profitable agricultural practices which do not deplete or degrade the land resources in the long term”.

Secure freehold title is the key which guarantees that land is used in a sustainable fashion. Leasehold title leads to stagnation or degradation.

The reason for this is simple. In any leasehold tenure the capital value of the asset belongs to the absentee landlord (in this case the Land Commissars) and all the farmer or grazier can do is maximise the production he can extract from the land during the term of the lease. During the dying years of the lease, development slows to a standstill because of the insecure tenure. Neither the occupier nor his bankers are prepared to risk additional investment on land in danger of being resumed by the government without adequate compensation for improvements.

Thus under leasehold tenure most tenants take as much wealth out of the land as they can and put back no more than is absolutely necessary. Anyone who doubts this, has obviously never rented his house.

Land policies have been even more perverse than this. Should a lessee spend a lot of sweat and capital in developing his lease into a prosperous and sustainable block, the government is likely to resume and sub-divide it. (Usually into uneconomic blocks, thus prone to overgrazing and degradation.) Even worse, the dis-enfranchised tenant is seldom offered just compensation for the assets he has built on the insecure foundation of leasehold land. If lucky he may be offered a truncated homestead block on which he is expected to start the development process over again while watching a blow-in win his assets and his land in a marble-drawn land ballot.

I recommend that the Leasehold Review Committee get a copy of Country Crisis by the late Charles Russell, a great Queensland pastoralist from Jimbour with an uncanny understanding of the causes of many of our rural and economic problems. I specially recommend they read his chapter entitled “Leasehold Wilderness.” He explains clearly why leasehold states such as Queensland are more backward than freehold states such as “the Garden State” of Victoria. He concludes:

If I could make a single recommendation to the government in connection with land development, I would say it is vital to give security of tenure … As a result of extensive pastoral experience in two states (Qld and NSW) I would say that a lessee is ill-advised to improve leasehold land beyond the requirements laid down at the commencement of the lease …  I have had a great deal of experience of developing terminable lease country in Queensland and would say that, if I could have my life again, I would not develop it over and above the bare necessity.

As another example, 1981, Pioneer Sugar Mills Ltd, a century-old Queensland company, sold its six Queensland cattle properties. The Chairman, Mr J.F. Leggo, said that state legislation did not allow big companies to buy the cattle properties they leased. He said:

The best security is freehold.

It should thus be of great concern to every Queenslander that governments own more than 70% of the state and our biggest absentee landlord is the un-elected Land Commission which presides over the stagnation of some 300 million acres of Queensland land.

And those concerned about locking up huge tracts of land should reflect that most of the largest properties in Australia are leasehold land whereas in freehold areas, the blocks are generally smaller, better developed and more productive. Unlike the forced, infrequent and often uneconomic splitting up of leasehold land, freehold subdivides itself continuously and the land shifts peacefully and voluntarily into younger, smarter or financially stronger hands.

Moreover freehold land aggregates more easily when economic conditions demand it.

This is not an issue for wealthy graziers — the security of land tenure will determine the prosperity of every business and resident in Queensland long after this committee has been forgotten. The people currently starving all across the comrade societies may not connect their sorry plight with the communalisation of the breadbasket lands in Ukraine and Eastern Europe over 70 years ago, but the link exists, whether they recognise it or not.

However, their leaders have recognised the link. Michael Gorbachev recently announced moves to dissolve Gosagroprom, the super-ministry of Agriculture, and to grant long term leases to Soviet farmers. His chief adviser on agriculture has called for lifetime leases that could be inherited by farmers’ children.

It has been said that Queensland has more government owned land than anywhere outside the communist block. If we don’t act soon, we may, by default, win the world crown.

Every Queenslander should demand that state land is denationalised now. Just a quick glance across the world will show that rural prosperity depends not on soil nor climate nor technology — more than any other factor, it depends on private farmers operating secure freehold land.

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Lang Hancock's Five Point Plan to Cripple Australia
  2. Put Windmills in National Parks
  3. Magnifying National Disasters
  4. Please Don't Feed the Animals
  5. Buy Birdsville Made?
  6. The Economics of Flood Risk
  7. Touring Bureaucrats
  8. Our slip-shod laws to blame
  9. Why Wind Won't Work
  10. A Profusion of "Prices"
  11. R.I.P. Ron Kitching - pioneer, explorer, author, family man, entrepreneur, scholar
  12. The Carbon Pollution Lie
  13. Closing Down Australia
  14. The Anti-Industry
  15. The Pyramid Builders
  16. Carbon Tax Bribery
  17. Crown Monopolies
  18. Carbon Tax Job Losses
  19. What Next, a Tax on Water?
  20. Carbon Health Warnings Coming Soon
  21. Growth Mythology
  22. The Tax Collection Industry
  23. Propaganda Puts Paid to Proof
  24. The Milk of the Welfare Teat is Watered Down
  25. "Crops for Cars" as Bad as Everlasting Drought
  26. Poll speech sets record
  27. The Emissions Trading Casino
  28. The Contract Society
  29. A Model Ministry
  30. The Five Point Plan to kill the economy with High Cost Electricity
  31. Put a Sunset Clause in the Carbon Tax
  32. Stuck on Red
  33. Time to Butcher "Aussie Beef"
  34. Carbon Tax Lies and Bribes
  35. The Middle of the Road
  36. United against taxes
  37. Call for Govt administrator
  38. Property & Prosperity
  39. "The Science is Settled" BUT Durban Climate Summit Not Cancelled
  40. No End to Fuelish Policies?
  41. The Right to Discriminate
  42. Sell the CES
  43. Free Water Costs Too Dam Much
  44. Creating Unemployment
  45. Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
  46. 1985 news item on Tax Payers United, Centre 2000 and the Australian Adam Smith Club
  47. Having the numbers is not the same as having the truth
  48. Who's Who in the Workers Party
  49. David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
  50. Caught in a welfare whirlpool
  51. Global Warming Season
  52. Mining in Queensland, Past, Present and Future
  53. WEATHER IS USUALLY UNUSUAL
  54. Political branch formed
  55. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  56. Viv Forbes on Libertarian Strategy and the Constant Resources Myth
  57. The New Brisbane Line?
  58. Carbon Lies
  59. We Mine to Live
  60. Save the taxpayer
  61. Solving Three Canberra Problems
  62. Vested Interests in the Climate Debate
  63. Carbon Tax Retrospective?
  64. Carbon Price Propaganda Taxes the Truth
  65. Don't Burn Food for Motor Spirit - Feed People not Cars
  66. Two Big Climate Taxes
  67. Greens Rediscover Hydrogen Car
  68. Atlas of Australia
  69. Shutting Out The Sun
  70. Safety Mania
  71. Coal - Sinking in the Swamps
  72. Hobbling the Competition
  73. Cubic Currency Coming
  74. "Dear Government"
  75. Viv Forbes mocks Flannery in 1988
  76. What we have is not a drug problem but a drug law problem
  77. Smoking, Health and Freedom
  78. Privatise Now! while they are still worth something
  79. The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
  80. The New Federalism
  81. Sunset for Solar Subsidies
  82. The mouse will roar
  83. The Road to Homelessness
  84. Planning & Prosperity
  85. Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
  86. Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
  87. Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
  88. Our homeless regulation refugees
  89. Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
  90. Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
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Forbes has long been active in politics, economic education, business and the global warming debate, and was winner of the Australian Adam Smith Award “For outstanding services to the Free Society” in 1986.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5