The Industries Assistance Board was set up as a result of the two, year on year, dry seasons of 1913/14 and 1914/15. It was initially created to assist “settlers” through an extremely tough period in that fledgling period of wheat growing throughout Western Australia.
Though termed an Industries Assistance Board it was essentially an agricultural assistance board as very few loans went outside of agriculture in its 30 year existence.
It geneses was actually pre. 1914 and under the title of “The Seed Board” before it became the I.A.B.
Under the IAB Act, mortgaged “settlers”, (as the new farmers were deemed) were bound to declare annually their gross production and were bound to sell only with the authority of the IAB Board. As a consequence both sellers and buyers were often prosecuted under the criminal code for violation of the IAB rules. (back door trading)
Incorporated in the act was a “sustenance wage” of 6 shillings ($0. 60) per day paid to settlers, presumably, while they were “clients” of the IAB.
The scheme was highly contentious on the one hand, and highly acclaimed on the other, depending on which side of the political fence it was viewed from. However, the reality is that, many settlers could not meet their obligations to the IAB during this horrendous economic period and sadly and slowly abandoned their properties, plant and equipment thus forfeiting all to the State.
In 1945, after the scheme meandered from one crises to the next and a major restructure was initiated whereby settlers debts due to the IAB and to due the Agricultural Bank of WA were capitalized and rolled into a loan. The IAB then amalgamated with the Agricultural Bank of Western Australia and the two became known as the Rural and Industries Bank of Western Australia. This “bank” was still not a real bank even then, in that it did not take deposits from the general public, but was capitalized by government bonds. The landscape of the organization changed again in 1990 when the Bank of Scotland acquired the bank and listed it. It is now known as BankWest.
In the final washout and review of the, often dreaded and criticized IAB as it has to been judged by many as a seriously failed financial endeavor from the State. To this day and right trough the generations since, there would have been much despair and heartache resulting from those settlers that “walked off” after years of struggle with absolutely nothing to show.
However as this is post is published in February 2022, the year in which the previous grain growing record in WA was surpassed by a massive 6 million tonne (total 2021/22 harvest was 24 million tonne plus) it could be argued that the debts (losses) incurred by the State in that 1914 to 1945 period were in fact, by accident or great foresight, a most judicious injection of seed capital into an industry that has become one of W.A’s major export sectors.