The I.A.B (Industries Assistance Board)

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” or “living wage” as we would term it today 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 (The Great Depression) 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 debts 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 was then known as Bankwest. In 2023 it became absorbed by the Commonwealth Bank of Austrasia.

Reviewing this, often dreaded and often criticized organization, the IAB, it understandably has to been seen by many as a seriously failed financial endeavor by the State of Western Australia. To this day and right trough the generations since, there has been much despair and disappointment resulting from the forced eviction (walk off) of, possibly thousands of unsuccessful settlers, who after years and years of struggle and depravation came away penniless.

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August 21st 1919

Tenindewa Notes (From our own Correspondent)
Geraldton Guardian

Nice warm days, with frosty nights, are the present weather conditions, and some of the crops are looking all the better for them. The crops on light ground are very poor, and will yield very little, but those on good heavy land look very well. There has been too much rain for the light ground.
A lot of goods are being lost from our railway siding. It is rare that a consignment of groceries are received without shortages, and it is time action was taken in the matter. The favourite articles are tea, matches, jam and tobacco.
A great number of sheep are owned by farmers around here, and it is time we had small trucking yards at the railway siding. At present sheep have to be loaded at Mullewa or under great difficulties at our siding.
I wonder will Premier Mitchell alter the I.A.B. matters. Farmers around here have worked for their tucker for four years now, and want a change. A number of I.A.B. farmers are only receiving five shillings a day. [50 cents] One farmer who slaved and borrowed to get sheep, was cut off assistance because he would not give the Board a lien over his wool and sheep. The Board’s contention was that it wanted to protect his creditors, and still the board had four years wheat, and paid none. Now the farmer has to sell his sheep to pay his creditors and to live. Other farmers have sheep, and are still drawing their wages. It looks like making fish of one and flesh of another.

Geraldton Express May 25th, 1925
I.A.B. Prosecutions— The Resident Magistrate (Mr G Eastaugh) occupied the bench at the Geraldton Police Court yesterday, when Thomas Molster, storekeeper Mullewa, pleaded guilty to having unlawfully received 125 bags of oats from an assisted settler indebted to the I.A.B. and was fined 20 pounds ($40.00) and 5 shillings (50 cents) costs, in default 60 days [jail]. Henry William Johnson, Tenindewa, pleaded guilty to having unlawfully disposed of 200 bags of wheat, being an assisted farmer, and was fined 1 pound and 3 shillings costs. He was given a fortnight in which to pay, in default 3 days [jail]. Albert Ernest Benoit, another assisted client of the Board [I.A.B.] at Tenindewa, pleaded guilty to having illegally disposed of 100 bags of wheat, and was fined 3 pounds and 3 shillings costs and allowed one month in which to pay, in default 15 days [jail]. For having unlawfully sold one bale of cornsacks, the property of William Henry Stokes was fined 10 pounds and 3 shillings costs, and given two months to pay, in default 30 days. William George Griffiths, storekeeper Tenindewa, for having illegally received 100 bags of wheat was fined 20 pounds ($40.00) and 5 shillings costs, to be paid at the rate of 5 pounds per month, in default 60 days [jail].

Geraldton Express August 25th, 1926
(From our won Correspondent)
Extracted from (Tenindewa Notes)
Of course, you have heard that, that good old battler, H.J. Stafford, has sold out. yes, it is a fact all right. Sold out, but not yet got the money. But leave it to “Staff”. He will make the I.A.B cough up his whack, for bless your heart, though he is 63 years of age, he has heart like Nelson, and is as game as Ned Kelly. “Staff’ should have been a general in the great war. He is full of fight, and he tackles anyone or anything. Good luck to the old digger.

October 30th 1930
Geraldton Guardian and Express (No correspondent mentioned)

Wheat Growers Problems
Big Meeting at Tenindewa
Important Resolutions Carried

The largely attended meeting of wheat growers was held at Tenindewa on Sunday, October 26th, about one hundred settlers being present from all parts of the district. The meeting was so well attended that hardly a farmer was absent. The discussions continued from 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm and the meeting was then adjourned to next Sunday, so as to allow their representatives in Parliament to send a copy of the Bill which is before the House at the present, A Bill to assist farmers. [sic]
Several important resolutions were carried and it was decided to have them broadcast. Below are quoted the resolutions, and great indignation was expressed at the actions of the Agricultural Bank in threatening to foreclose on their clients, unless a lien is given over their wheat. It appears from the statements made that the bank has been lax in collecting the amounts due for the last few years, and now conditions are bad and the government wants money, they are pressing their clients, [and] even worse, it is stated, than private creditors. Many cases of hardship were quoted by those present where business people were unduly harassing people for liens on their wheat. It was mentioned that the wheat growers in this district and on the Wongan line are going to engage a special train to take them to Perth to see those concerned, with the intention of not leaving Perth until something fair is done to the wheat-grower. The farmers feel they should have ample allowance to carry them over the coming year, and cases were quoted where farmers were living on one pound [$2.00] per week for four people since the bank tightened up last harvest. They consider this unfair, as the poorest paid workers in the towns live better.
A strong feeling ran through the meeting that the farmers should store their wheat on their farms and not cart or sell any until the prices were much better or a Government allowance brings it up to at least 4 shillings per bushel. [i.e. $14.40 per tonne] It was urged that Government should lose no time in declaring a partial moratorium to protect the farmer from the creditors, who are falling over one another to obtain the harvest.
A branch of the Northern District Wheat Growers’ Association was formed, and all present joined up.
The following resolutions were carried;
“That this meeting form a section branch of the Northern District Wheat Growers’ Association”
” That this meeting of wheat growers, after careful consideration of production costs, consider there is a grave danger of this harvest being sold at a price, or loss of one- shilling per bushel, and requests the Federal Government to give a bonus of one-shilling per bushel on all wheat marketed.”
“That the State Government be asked to introduce a moratorium (partial) at once to protect farmers from their creditors”
The following resolution was also submitted:–
” That all farmers agree to hold their wheat on farms until the Government make arrangements safeguarding the farmer”

It will be further discussed at next Sunday’s meeting