MAN WHO EXPOSED LAND DEALS
WHAT A. T. SAUNDERS THINKS. HOW HE SECURED INFORMATION. CHALLENGE TO AN OFFICIAL 'SKUNK.'
To that indefatigable publicist, Mr. A. T. Saunders, must be ascribed a good deal of the responsibility of unearthing what will go down into history as the Land Scandals. By articles and adver- tisements he so influenced public and po- litical opinion that an enquiry was neces- sary in these circumstances his opinions upon the findings of Mr. Commissioner Webb are of peculiar interest. This morn ing he stated: —
A Corrupt State. You ask me for my opinion of Mr. Webb's report. Well, I do not know Messrs. Styles, Britten Jones, Blundell, or West by sight, and only once was Mr. Goode pointed out to me, and that recently. I think Mr. Styles and Mr. Jones are only getting what they richly deserve, and I am sorry that Mr. Craw- ford Vaughan, Mr. Blundell, and Mr. Goode are to go unpunished for what I allege to be their plundering or blundering. I also hope that the Surveyor-General will be taught a sharp lesson for his conduct in connection with the South-East lands "Democracy is wasteful, inefficient, and generally corrupt"' recently said Dean Inge, of St Paul's, 'London, and, democrat though I am, I agree with him. Austra- lia, politically, is corrupt, in my opinion, and I am sure that South Australia is. Why He Investigated. I have known of Government land scan- dals for some years, but not on the mag- nificent scale of the South-East proposed purchase, and I took them as a matter of course. I only started on this land scan- dal business when Mr. Fred Howell, an old schoolmate, who, like myself, knew the Pinery from childhood, told me that it had been purchased to plant returned soldiers on, and that £19 per acre had been paid for it. That politicians and officials should buy unsuitable and useless land at enormous prices did not astonish or worry me, but when I saw that the killed and maimed soldiers were to be simply pawns in the money-making games, I started my campaign, and I re- ceived sympathy and assistance from the 'Mail.' I have little feeling in the mat- ter. I am glad that some of the guilty are punished, or are to be, but beyond that, I care nothing. Other Scandals. My opinion is that Labour was cor- rupted by the irruption of the black- coated brigade of professional politicians, and I feel sure that the Labour Party is well rid of them, and will do better and
cleaner work without them. I am sorry for some of the real honest Labour men such as Ivor MacGillivray and the Spea- ker, and I hope to see them agaim in the Labour ranks now that the conscription question is settled, but I hope that none who were in the Vaughan Ministry will be allowed to rejoin. The public should remember that only a few of the land scandals have been looked into; there are many more which should be investigated. For instance, take that brick lands scandal, where Mr. C. E. Owen. Smyth refused to sign the voucher for the payment of the land, and yet the land was paid for when Crawford Vaughan was Treasurer. Where were our well-paid Treasury and Audit officials? If one costly parcel of land could be ille- gally paid for so could a dozen. I tried, without succees, to get a member of the Assembly to move that the voucher for this land should be laid on the table of the House, but I did not again try. What was the use? The bulk of them are in the game. What is Snook's call to-day may be Green's to-morrow, so dog does not eat dog nor politician show up poli- tician. Land Tax Officials. The reason I so fiercely attacked Craw- ford Vaughan and his crowd during the Ministerial crisis was because I believed, and still believe, that had Crawford Vaughan then got in again the enquiry would not have been held, the south-east land would have been bought from Mr. Morris, and the public would have been fleeced. It was a blessing that the Vaughan Ministry was given the "'flying mare," and thus prevented from com- pleting the Morris deal and making Mr. Morris and his friends a present of over a hundred thousand pounds of public money. Had the matter been referred to a select committee of politicians, no doubt Messrs. Styles, Britten Jones, and the rest would have been whitewashed. What I cannot understand is why the land tax officials have taken the insults and statements of Clarence Goode and Britten Jones lying down. If these state- ments are true, then the Valuation De- partment of the land tax wants badly overhauling, and as judgment has been allowed to go by default what can one think of the land tax officials? It is amusing to note that Clarence Goode is sympathetic to a movement to reduce the price by about half to settlers of some land in the south-east bought years ago when land was relatively cheap. What a mess the buying of this land most have been if it is not now worth what was paid for it, though land generally has risen! 'Implicated Politicians.' Tnere is a splendid field for enquiry in the west coast land, including the poli- ticians' little games over ports, harbours, and jetties; but few or no officials dare tell the truth, even to a royal commis- sioner, for the implicated politicians and their friends will have their knives into them and wll have the power to stab them. Clarence Goode valorously threatened me when giving evidence and wanted to ex- amine me before Mr. Webb. I at once wrote in and offered to submit myself to examination, but Clarence Goode decided not to examine me. The abuse I had in the "'Mail" from Mr. Reginald Pole Blun- dell, and an "influential public official" last June did not worry me then or since. 'Someone has an axe to grind and I guess I know the man who is turning the stone,' said this cowardly lying "influential public official," and now I challenge the skunk to let the public know who he is, to say who was turning the stone and for whom the axe was being ground. Well, Styles and Britten Jones got the axe in the neck, whoever was turning the stone. Mitcham Oamp Deal. I am disappointed that little or nothing is in the report aboout that scandalous purchase of the Mitcham camp land and the Dryden purchase. The Vaughan Government promoted Pethick to be Sur- veyor-General in spite of his conduct in the Hallelujah land deal, and the Vaughan
Govemmentl also fixed up a. nice little £1,000 a year billet for Britten Jones. Clarence Goode passed a Bill through the Assembly creating a Valuation Depart ment, of which Britten Jones was to be head, and this Bill had the effect of ar- ranging for the prevention of the public having free and full access to the land valuation records, and thus the little games of politicians could not be checked as they now can be. How Jnformatipn Wap Secured. I had a good deal of assistance from some civil servants in my investigation, but the Vaughan Government, or one of them, tried to bully the Lands Titles offi- cials because he thought, or pre- tended he thought, I was getting in- formation out of the usual course. As a matter of fact I received per telephone information from several people who would not give their names and whose names I did not care to know. I also had information in writing, with no name attached and a request to copy and de- stroy, which I alwayg did. No informa- tion thus received was used till it was verified. I am sure that many civil ser- vants were shocked and disgusted by the land deals of the Verran and Vaughan Governments.