David Syme and the Victorian Land reform Debates of the 1870s. A Contextual Approach
Land reform, not tariff protection, was the most bitterly debated economic issue in the Australian Colonies in the middle of the nineteenth century. David Syme, the radical agitator-cum-economist who yielded tyrannical power over the young Colony of Victoria through his ownership of the The Age newspaper and who would eventually become known as the "father of protection", was occupied with land reform throughout this period and it was this issue, not protection, that defined his early radical agenda. The central point of contention in this debated was whether land should be allocated to the incumbent squatters or graziers or pastoralists (hereafter referred to as squatters), and thereby set aside for large-scale pastoral stations that were then commonly known as sheep runs, or to the yeomanry agriculturalists or peasant proprietors or selectors (hereafter referred to as yeomanry agriculturalists), and thereby set aside for small-scale intensive farming and tight-knit agricultural communities. In the 1850s and 1860s the debate over this allocation problem was driven by the more specific question of what was the best institutional mechanism by which to transformm the un-alienated crown land from leasehold to freehold.
Moore, G. C. G. (2006). David Syme and the Victorian land reform debates of the 1870s. A contextual approach. Paper presented at the 19th Conference of the History of the Economic Society of Australia (HETSA). Ballarat, VIC, 4-7 July.