South Australian Company



Sir—I learn from your report of the meeting of , electors at the Assembly Rooms, Mr. John Baker stated " that the South Australian Company alone drew an immense revenue from the colony;" and as on like occasions similar statements have often been made, it is evident there is considerable mis apprehension abroad on this subject. Will you be good enough, therefore, to give me the opportunity of stating that the South Australian Company has been established 27 years; that their capital — £355,000 — has been entirely invested in the colony, or expended in carrying out their operations in connection with it, and that during the above period the share holders have received as dividends:— For 6 years, nil; for 7 years, 4 per cent, per annum; for 2 years, 5 per cent, per annum; for 4 years, 6 per cent, per annum; and for the last 8 years, 7 per cent, per annum—an "average of not quite 4 per cent. Few of the shareholders think this return " immense,"' and I hope no one acquainted with the risk encountered in the early investment of capital in this colony will grudge them such a revenue, or think it calls for special taxation.

I am. Sir, &c.,


Manager South Australian Company, Adelaide, July 16, 1863.

THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN COMPANY. (1863, July 17). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), p. 3.

Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912), Thursday 25 January 1894, page 2



[By our Special Reporter.]

As the origin and history of the South Australian Company are just now the subject of close scrutiny, thanks to the indefatigable legal member for Gumeracha, I waited on the Adelaide representative of the Company on Wednesday to learn his opinions regarding the statements made at the interview with the Premier by a deputation on Tuesday. Mr. Brind said the deputation itself was not a surprise to him, though some of the statements made were very much so. Not long ago the Treasurer had applied to him for a copy of the Company's charter. He had replied that, according to the requirements of the Companies Act of 1892, a copy of the charter had been duly deposited with the Government, and of course would be available. Then the Treasurer asked to be furnished with a copy of the Company's deed of Settlement, and his (Mr. Brind's) reply was that as he had done what was required by the Companies Act he did not feel called upon to do any more. A third letter came saying that the deed of settlement was wanted, inasmuch as the Government had been asked to introduce legislation which might affect the Company and its tenants. To that he had replied that if the proposed legislation would affect the Company alone, and not other landowners, he was not prepared to give any information to the Government; but if it would affect all landowners alike he would refer them to the charter, which set out the position of the Company. He got to know that Mr. Hormburg was moving the Government in the matter, and no doubt that gentleman was under the impression that the Company were really departing from the terms under which their land had been granted to them. " The Treasurer, of course, found the deed of settlement deposited under the Act," continued Mr. Brind, "and the Premier now gives a certain weight to it which I am disposed to question, although on the legal points I would not put my opinion against his—I would have to take the opinion of the Company's solicitors. I think, however, it is nonsense to say that the Company cannot vary their deed of settlement or discontinue such parts of it as they consider inexpedient to follow. You see the South Australian Company, in the first instance, bought every acre that they own on the same terms as land was sold to other people, and all that they have acquired since the colony was established they have bought at auction in open competition, and have paid as much as other owners paid for land. Tuesday's deputation make a great point of the original deed of settlement specifying that leases should be granted with rights of purchase. The Company began by granting rights of purchase, but discontinued doing so after a time. This they had a perfect right to do, because the deed of settlement was simply a deed of co-partnership between the various shareholders, or, in other words, an agreement as to the terms on which the Company's business should be done—an agreement among themselves that they were at perfect liberty to vary at any time they liked. It was not a contract with any outside person. "The original deed of settlement, in addition to stating that the Company was to buy land and let it with right of purchase, goes on to say they shall do many other things. They were to attend to 'the growth of wool, and to the pursuit of whales, seals, and other fishes in the Gulf, and the curing and salting of such fish.' The Company dropped the fishing business. Will Mr. Homburg say that the Company are bound to catch whales and seals ? "In discontinuing the giving of rights of purchase the Company acted quite within their powers as a commercial body. Reference has been made to the charter taken out in 1856 ; and as showing the altered nature of the Company's business then the charter does not in any way refer to rights of purchase. It shows that the Company had gradually abandoned the shipping and fishing industries, and in the powers given to them under the charter they had the right to buy and sell or otherwise dispose of land and buildings, to lay out farms, and do many other things. Mr. Kingston says he believes that that charter did not alter the terms of the deed of settlement. I say that the Company had the power to alter that themselves." " And what do you say to the implication that the Company's possessions are too large, and to the use of she words ' rack rent ?'" " As a matter of fact there are individual owners who have a larger area than the South Australian Company. It is very easy to speak of 'rack rents,' but I believe that the rentals for the Company's land are not higher and in cases not so high as the rents of similar lands belonging to private persons. Of course, I am not in a position to compare the actual figures, but I shall try to show what the Company's rent per acre is in the various districts that the gentlemen forming the deputation represent." "The complaints of high rents are, of course, due to the unprecedentedly low prices of produce. Do the Company take this great trouble into account ?" " Of course, we are perfectly aware of the hardship involved in the low prices, and the only way I see of meeting these fluctuating prices of produce is to have periodical revaluations for rental purposes. But then there would be no lease. If a tenant gets a lease he supposes that it secures him the possession of the property for the whole of the period covered in the lease ; but if the land is to be revalued again and again, what is to prevent the landlord fixing a rental that will drive the tenant away, or what is to prevent a tenant throwing up the land? Tenants prefer long leases to short ones because of the security of possession they give them." "What connection had the South Australian Company with the original South Australian Association which germinated in 1834?"

"None whatever. The South Australian Company, was purely a commercial venture, and it came through a very severe crisis in Governor Gawler's time. The Register s references in a leader to-day to the starting of the Company are correct, and it looks to me that Mr. Homburg's attempted explanation as to the forming of the Company is an exceedingly stupid one. He read resolutions that were passed by an Association that never had any thing to do with the formation of the South Australian Company. They had a meeting at Exeter Hall, and endeavoured to get the necessary lands taken up on benevolent principles, and they failed. The South Australian Company was a purely commercial undertaking which came in and assisted the South Australian Commissioners." "From the Register report I see that the Premier said— It did seem from the information possessed at present that the South Australian Company in its initiation was never intended to have privileges of the character which it at present enjoyed. The extracts Mr. Homburg had given at least warranted the contention that the Company was intended as a matter of course for the flotation of the settlement in the first instance, but also for the distribution at convenient times and in convenient manner of the land given to the trustee for distribution amongst the intending settlers. " That leaves the impression that land was granted to the Company to be dealt with in a spirit of benevolence, instead of which the Company bought their land just like other people did. The premier will find that there isn't an iota of foundation for the idea he speaks of." " What the public would best like to know, Mr. Brind, is whether the Company is a fair and just landlord. Have there been any com plaints from tenants ?'' "Complaints! Oh, yes. For the last two years there have been nothing but complaints that they can't pay their rents. I recognise that the fall in prices has been so great that in many instances it would be harsh and useless to press for payment." "You won't mind my asking if the Company are considerate to their tenants ?" " Oh, no. I have endeavoured to establish a character for consideration for the Company, and think I have succeeded. Out of an annual rentroll of from about £19,000 to £20,000 we have failed to get from £3,000 to £4,000 of late years. Our rents are now about £20,000 in arrear. The money stands against the tenants until we see it is hopeless to expect them to pay it, and then we write off the amounts. Our rents show a considerable falling off of late. Men don't abandon their leases, but they come and say ' We can't pay our rent,' and they don't pay it." " Did you ever have any evictions?" "No. I have never had to evict a tenant, although in some instances, where a tenant has absconded, in order to put the Company into legal possession of their land again, have had to go through the form of eviction. A tenant may abscond, taking the lease with him, or at any rate not putting me into legal possession of the land, and in such circumstances the form of eviction has been gone through." " How many tenants have you?" "Four years ago, when I prepared statistics of the Company, which are in the hands of the Government, we had 242 tenants. We have more now, because of late we have been diminishing the size of some of the holdings—cutting up some of the larger farms, and endeavouring, as I thought, to meet a public want in leasing land in small blocks in the locality of small townships. But I very much question now whether that step was a wise one, because these small holders don't seem to be satisfied." " Recently the Company authorized me to sell farms belonging to them instead of renewing leases where tenants desire to buy, and if a price it agreed upon between us the Company consents to give them ten years to pay the purchase money in ; that is, by paying it in ten annual instalments, which is another way of meeting this demand for rights of purchase. We won't recognise a right of purchase ; it is a contract to purchase that we want. When a tenant holds a property with the right of purchase you never know up to the end of the lease what he is going to do. If he contracts to buy you know what to expect." " Up till now did you ever hear of Mr. Homburg's suggestion that the Company was not established strictly as a commercial venture?" "Never before," concluded Mr. Brind, with a laugh. " During all the years I have been connected with the Company I thought I was managing a commercial affair. I had no idea that I was the chief officer of a benevolent institution. "

THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN COMPANY. (1894, January 25). Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912), p. 2 (SECOND EDITION).