4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m.,and read prayers.
– During my temporary absence from the chamber yesterday while attending to other duties, the honorable member for Hunter, so I am informed, referred to a speech which I delivered nearly twenty years ago, and in regard to it charged me with having abandoned my principles.
– He referred to a speech delivered in 1892.
– That was the year in which the speech was made. I have not read the Hansard report of the remarks of the honorable. member for Hunter, but honorable members on this side inform me that the purport of them was that I, on the occasion referred to, hauled down my flag and abandoned my principles. I knew that there was no ground for the charge, but when I heard of it I turned up the file of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, in which the speech was reported, with a view to seeing what statement was attributed to me which could be twisted and distorted into meaning an abandonment of principles, and I found that I was defending those principles from a direct assault. The incidents connected with the delivery of the speech came back to my mind on reading the report. What happened was this : About the time the speech was delivered, the protectionists were trying to get hold of the Labour Electoral League, and to prevent the policy of protection from being grafted on to the Labour platform, ‘ I, in common’ with the single taxers generally, and others who werenot single taxers, favoured the settlement of the fiscal issue by a straight-out referendum of the people. Surely no one could call that a surrender of principle, since majority rule is the first principle of Democracy. I stated that, “ There is no mention in the Labour platform ofa protective Tariff,” and the motion to which I was speaking was designed to prevent that policy from being made part of the Labour platform. I had pointed out that there was only one means of raising revenue provided for in the Labour platform, and that was land value taxation, which I wished to preserve, and I moved -
That no alteration be made in the rules or platform of the Labour Electoral League of New South Wales.
That platform was an absolutely freetrade platform, and as such, it was my purpose and intent to maintain it. It will thus be seen that the charge of abandoning my principles is without foundation.
.- The honorable member’s explanation bears out what I said, as he will discover if he reads the Hansard report of my speech. I quoted his speech to show that, whilst in 1892 he claimed that he was a freetrader, and that the labour movement had left him, but that he had not left it, he supported a motion favouring the sinking of the fiscal question by leaving it to a plebiscite.
– Will the Prime Minister consider the expediency of providing a sum for the assistance of the Scott Antarctic expedition, which I believe is still short of funds? In view of Australia’s nearness to the Antarctic, and her connexion with the Shackleton expedition, I think this might well be done.
– Ministers have considered the matter, and have made up their minds regarding it. I do not care to promise to reopen the subject.
– It has been reported to me that products imported from South Africa are likely to bring into this country diseases which are not now prevalent here, and I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs if he will see that there is proper supervision in regard to importations, or absolute’ prohibition of goods likely to bring diseases here?
-I shall be glad, to have the matter inquired into. The quarantine officers, and the Department generally, will do their utmost to prevent the introduction of diseases into Australia from South Africa, or anywhere else.
– A few weeks ago the Minister of Trade and Customs informed a deputation, which waited on him, that he would bring before the Cabinet, at the earliest opportunity, the question of imposing an export duty on skins and hides. I ask the honorable gentleman if that occasion has yet arrived, and, if so, what is the decision of the Cabinet?
– The Cabinet has not yet dealt with the question.
– Has the Prime Minister done anything towards putting aside a fund for the purpose of securing paintings of those who we’re connected with the initiation of the Federal movement?
– Something will be done in the matter.
– I call the atten tion of the Attorney-General to the following form of agreement, which has been sent by the proprietors of the Melbourne Age, to various news vendors -
To Messrs. David Syme and Company,
TheAge office, Collins-street, Melbourne, Victoria.
I, the undersigned…… of…… undertake to conduct the agency of your newspapers, the Age, the Leader, and Every Saturday, in the district at present served by me at under the following conditions, namely ; -
Without your consent in writing first obtained I will not act as agent for any other Australian morning daily newspaper, the agency for which I do not at present hold, nor for any Australian morning daily newspaper which may hereafter be printed or published.
I ask the honorable gentleman whether such an agreement is not in restraint of trade, and a breach of the anti-trust law? I may add that the form is not dated, bu< that a meeting of metropolitan news vendors is to be called to-night to consider it.
– I cannot answer the question until I have read the circular. If the honorable member will give me a copy of it, I shall be glad to furnish him, at the earliest moment, with my opinion regarding it.
– Will the Prime Minister place on the Estimates a sum to enable overtime in excess of eight hours a day to be paid to the officers - clerks, Hansard reporters, and House staffs - worked in connexion with the present exceptionally long sittings of Parliament?
– My acquaintance with the officers leads me to believe that they are prepared to work as long as honorable members are willing to sit here, in order to get business through. Their duties in the recess are not onerous, and the shorter, the -session, the longer will be the recess.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster- General how many telephone subscribers have discontinued because of the bringing into operation Regulation 7A?
– Only one, so far as I am aware. A few days ago I had a letter, whose writer informed me that he was discontinuing his subscription to the telephone service, because of the operation of Regulation 7A.
asked the Minister of Ex ternal Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral,upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Debate resumed from ist September (vide page 2470), on motion by Mr. Fisher -
That this. Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Deakin had moved, by way of amendment -
That after the word “That” the following words be inserted : - “ the form of land tax outlined by the Prime Minister, and provided for in this Bill, is unjust in its incidence and an abuse of Federal powers.”
.- In resuming my speech, I would remind the House that I was challenged yesterday by honorable members opposite as to the amount of settlement that has taken place in New South Wales, and promised to submit information from the Prime Minister’s speech to show that somewhat satisfactory progress is being made in that State so far as small holdings are concerned. In the course of his utterance the Prime Minister said -
During the period 1906 to 1908 inclusive, large holdings in New South Wales, i.e., those of 1,000 acres and over, increased at the rate of 1.3 per cent., and the small holdings at the rate of 5.8 per cent.
That is a very satisfactory answer to those who challenged me. I would point out that the majority of men who hold blocks running up ‘ to 1,000 acres have acquired a considerable portion of them by private purchase, and not from the State. A great deal of the argument in favour of the land taxation proposals of the Government is based upon the assumption that the lands to be taxed have originally been acquired from the State at a merely nominal figure, While it is perfectly true that a great deal of land was sold in that way, I assert, without fear of successful contradiction, that in regard to estates running from 320 acres to perhaps a trifle over 1,000 acres the increase has been made up, in the majority of cases, by means of lands purchased at their full market value. We have cases in which the inequality of the operation of the proposed tax is shown.
It’ might be perfectly reasonable and just if every man was an original purchaser from the State at nominal values. But the conditions are altogether unequal and unfair when you have to apply the same taxation to the man who has had to pay £6, £l> 01 £fi an acre as to the man who secured his land for £1 an acre. I understand it is the desire of the Government and their supporters to tax the lands of the Commonwealth upon the basis of their unearned increment, that is to say, land has been secured from the Crown at a nominal figure, and the increased value given to it by reason of settlement and development is so much. They contend that that is a fair argument in favour of the land tax, but I should like to understand clearly what they mean by the unearned increment.
Let me submit a concrete case. Supposing that we fell into a sort of Bellamy slumber and took ourselves down to Flinders. Waking up in the morning, not more than about 30 to 35 miles from Melbourne, I could take honorable members on to land which is a veritable wilderness of undergrowth and bracken fern, with timber of practically no value, except, perhaps, as a poor class of firewood. Looking at that land, I would put the question to my honorable friends opposite, “ How much is it worth ? Will you give ^5 an acre for it ? Will you give ^3? Will you give even £1 an acre for it, as you see it to-day?” I venture to say that honorable members would not be prepared to give anything like its true value, but I say, as it is only such a short distance from the city that there must be a very large unearned increment value attached to it. Honorable members opposite assert that, in spite of its close proximity to the metropolis, it is in a state of nature, and in that state practically valueless. We have gone, let us say, only 200 yards into that wilderness, and can see nothing but undergrowth and scrub around us. Retracing our steps those 200 yards, we find ourselves close to a splendid farm belonging to the honorable member for Grampians. Honorable members opposite would say that the unearned increment value of the wilderness is nil, but what would they say was the unearned increment attaching to that farm land ? As a matter of fact, the difference between the two properties is this : One of them remains in a state of nature, and nothing has been done to it, but the other, by the expenditure of capital, energy, perseverance, and skill, has been made available to the use of man.
– Plus the roads, bridges, and railways built by the Government.
– That is very true; but those two parcels of land lie side by side with only a road between them, and with no difference in the quality of the soil or the climatic conditions. In the one case the majority of people who favour the Government’s land tax would say that there was no unearned increment value, and therefore I would ask them seriously where is the unearned increment value attached to the farm which has been improved.
– The improvements are one increment.
– Then is the owner to be taxed upon his improvements?
– Can the honorable member put me on to any land like that at £1 an acre only 35 miles from Melbourne ?
– The honorable member can find the land to which I have referred in the electorate of Flinders. It is most important that we should understand where the unearned increment value comes in, because that is what the Ministerial party claim they are going to tax. I have put before the House a concrete case, and I venture to say that there is not a member on the Government side of the House who can tell me where the unearned increment value should be made to apply to one estate, while it is not applicable to the other.
In the course of his speech, the Prime Minister said that his second hope concerning this Bill was that the tax would “ help “ to raise the necessary revenue to enable the Commonwealth Government to carry on the great services with which they had been intrusted. It is obvious that to the extent to which the Bill fulfils the first hope expressed by the Prime Minister, it will defeat the second. If he succeeds in bursting up large estates so that they will come under the ,£5,000 exemption, he is certain to reduce the amount of revenue to be received from the tax.
If there is any satisfaction to me in this taxing Bill at all, it lies in the fact that I told my constituents that if the Labour party came into power, we should be face to face with a period of great political extravagance. Let me call attention to these important facts. The Government have already put through a Bill, which, by substituting the payment of 25s. per capita for the payments under the bookkeeping system causes the States to lose £2,373,000 per annum, and what they lose the Commonwealth gains.
– They do not lose it; they never had it.
– That is only a figure of speech. They lose it because they have been receiving it in the past, and the broad fact remains that under that measure the Government have available for Federal expenditure £2,373,000 more than they had before. We have also carried a note issue Bill which deprives the States of revenue amounting approximately to £100,000 a year, formerly received by them from their note taxes, &c, and we are assured that the Commonwealth will get that advantage. There, then, is another £100,000 available for Federal expenditure over and above what we had previously. According to the Government’s estimate, the land tax will bring in another £1,000,000. Others who are quite as capable of forming a just estimate predict that it will bring in approximately £3,000,000. Assuming that the amount will be £500,000 more than the Government estimate, that will mean another £1,500,000, making an aggregate increase in the amount available for Federal expenditure since last year of nearly £4,000,000. Yet, according to the Prime Minister, his anticipation is that this large increase will only “ help “ to raise the necessary revenue to enable the Commonwealth Government to carry on the great services with which they have been intrusted. The taxpayers of this country have a pleasing prospect before them. Can we by any possibility tax ourselves rich? Can we by any possibility induce land settlement when those who go on the land know that they are to be the subjects of peculiar and special taxation? True, the Government propose an exemption of £5,000, but how long will that exemption continue? . Can the Government give us any guarantee that it is going to be continued? I fear from the various projects which have been mooted, and the necessarily large expense which they involve, that it will be found necessary either to increase this already very heavy tax or to depart from the exemption of £5,000. That aspect of the case is one which must impress itself upon the large number of electors who supported the Labour party, and those who support it now. I am satisfied that they cheerfully voted for the Labour party, and very largely, because they proposed a land tax with an exemption of £5,000. But those votes would not have been cast as they were, had there been in the minds of the people the slightest suspicion that that exemption would not be observed.
– Why did not the honorable member remove such a suspicion from their minds?
– I told the people of my own electorate what would happen. The fact that I did arouse them to a true knowledge of the position is demonstrated by my return.
– On a minority vote.
– If the honorable member and his party chose to set up three or four bogus candidates in opposition to me it was not my fault. But the very fact that I am here shows that I put the danger clearly before the people in my electorate. I pointed out that a period of unjustifiable and unexampled expenditure would be entered upon if the Labour party came into power. Here we have the first evidence of what is to be proposed. This tax, of course, is to be imposed with an ulterior purpose. I believe that honorable members opposite are up against all forms of wealth and thrift. It has been asserted by a prominent member of the party in Victoria that “thrift is theft.”
– Who said that?
– A member of the Trades Hall party in a dialogue which took place in Melbourne some three or four yearsago.
– What is his name?
– I can find out the name of the man. The statement is well authenticated and can be proved. This tax will bear heavily upon the thrifty and industrious, and in many cases upon those who have paid full value for their land. Unquestionably it will prove a very serious burden upon many who cannot afford to bear it. The honorable member for Hunter speaking last night said that if the tax resulted in the bursting up of large estates, the loss of revenue thereby accruing would be more than made up by the additional revenue that would be derived from the people who settled on the land. I indorse that view, and compliment the honorable member for Hunter on having taken up a position diametrically opposed to that taken up by so many members of his party. The argument used again and again by them is that every person coming into the country instead of being a wealth earner is a tax upon the community. Our contention has always been that every immigrant - every person coming into the country - is a wealth earner and not a wealth consumer.
– He is a big asset.
– Undoubtedly he is.
– Has any one on this side of the House said anything different?
– Yes. . The Labour party has stood out against immigration.
– The honorable member is a champion at putting up men of straw and knocking them down again. He is a notorious Tory of Tories.
– The rudeness of the rude is difficult to combat unless one resorts to rudeness, and that I have no desire to do.
– Why not state a few facts ?
– I am. The Labour party are opposed to immigration, and therefore the statement made by the honorable member for Hunter that he recognised the value of immigrants came to us as a refreshing dew.
– The statement is too ridiculous to be worth refuting.
– Very well. The honorable member for Hunter’s statement shows that honorable members opposite are coming round to some sense of what is reasonable, and if we have a few more converts from the party there will be some chance of our passing sound legislation. I hold that the imposition of this tax is a usurpation of the rights of the States, and an unwarranted intrusion upon their sovereign domain. It will take from them the power, which the Constitution undoubtedly vests in them, to control their own lands. . It is for that reason that I oppose this Bill’, firmly believing that the States can more properly fulfil their obligations in respect of the land than the Commonwealth Parliament could ever hope to do.
.- There can be no doubt that this proposal for a progressive tax on unimproved land values is one of the great events of the Commonwealth. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat gave us a statement of fact, which amply justifies that tax, when he said that the records showed that during the last five years 500,000 acres had been added to the lands in effective use.
– I made no such statement.
– If we are going to people this great Australian continent at that rate it will take us something like five centuries to secure anything like a reasonable population for the Commonwealth.
The honorable member for Flinders, who delivered last night, as he always does, a very powerful address, referred to the mandate given by the country for the imposition of land taxation, and in his analyses of the voting which returned the Labour party with” a majority came to the conclusion that two classes, or sections, voted for this tax. The first, he said, consisted of members of Labour leagues, whom he believed to be land nationalists, and whom he chose to brand as “ confiscatory.” The second section he believed’ to consist of the large army ofgeneral electors who hold that the best interests of the Commonwealth will be served by the bursting up of large landed estates and the settlement upon the lands of Australia of a great landed yeomanry. The honorable member for Flinders had it in his mind that those who voted for our party, because of their belief in the principle of land nationalization, for the most part believe in the confiscation of land.
I am a representative of a Sydney metropolitan constituency, and I suppose that, the majority of the workers being of the landless class, one would find extremists in such a constituency if they were to be found anywhere. But, during my connexion with the Labour movement, and throughout the election campaigns in which I have taken part, I have never yet heard of one individual who desired land nationalization by confiscation. I have not heard such a proposal made at any Labour conference, or by any Labour union, or Labour league; and I have had to come into this House to hear it made by our opponents. I do not think the charge represents anything more than the man of straw which the Opposition is so fond of raising up for the purpose of knocking down again. There are those who advocate land nationalization as a theory. In theory, I am a land nationalize^ although I do not know that land nationalization is a practicable proposal. I cannot see that practical effect can be given to it now, but in theory, at all events, we should have avoided some of the greatest problems that have faced civilization the world over had land never been alienated from the Crown.
While the honorable member for Flinders was speaking, I offered an interjection which seemed to me to touch the whole point that he was trying to combat. The honorable member admitted that there was a mandate from the country for the imposition of a tax for the bursting up of large estates, and I asked him what tax would, in his opinion, be sufficient for that purpose. The honorable member did not reply. Had he addressed himself to that point - had he shown that the tax now proposed was so drastic as to be unnecessary to provide for the bursting up of large estates - he might have made an effective point in his speech.
– I understood him to be making the point that the Labour party had a mandate to burst up estates that might be usefully broken up.
– I do not think so. I understood the honorable member to say that we had a mandate from the country to impose a land tax with a view to the bursting up of large estates, but that, in his opinion, it should be left to the discretion of Parliament itself to determine how it should be applied.
This tax will not be too drastic to effect the bursting up of large estates. From what I have read of the experience in New Zealand, a drastic tax on large estates has not had the desired effect in that direction.
– The tax has very considerably reduced the large estates.
– Quite so.
– Does the honorable member mean since 1908?
– Since the tax was first introduced.
– Until the end of 1907 there was an extremely low tax of1d. in the £1.
– Since 1908 the tax has been much more effective.
– The New Zealand Government have seen fit to increase, not only the tax, but the progressive ratio.
– If the New Zealand tax has been effective all these years in breaking up large estates, that is an. argument for a very small tax being sufficient for the purpose.
Mr.J. H. CATTS.- I submit that the New Zealand tax has not proved sufficient. The honorable member for Calare thinks that in a minor way the New Zealand tax has prevented the aggregation of large estates ; but while it has been effective in a negative way, it has not succeeded in any positive way.
I suppose that each member wishes to square himself with the opinions he expressed when before his constituents; and, in a manifesto which I issued during the elections, referring to the failure of closer settlement, I said -
The only alternative was to penalize those who held large areas of land out of use, creating speculative values, and hindering the development of the country. To effect this purpose they proposed a progressive land tax upon unimproved land values, and they would make it so stiff upon large holdings as to compel the owners to put the areas to sufficient use to earn the tax, or cut them up and sell them to others who would rescue them from criminal unproductiveness. No natural policy was complete without a progressive land tax. It was necessary to increase our population, to stimulate our industries, and to provide for the defence of the Commonwealth.
The view I placed before my constituents was that a progressive land tax is required for the purpose of making room for immigrants and providing land for our farmers and farmers’ sons, and that the money necessary for the defence policy which has been before us for the last few years should be derived from the properties to be defended.
– Are not all our interests defended ?
– Quite so.
– And ought not all of us to share in bearing the burden ?
– Certainly; but those who derive the greater benefit should contribute the larger amount. I understand that the whole argument in favour of direct taxation, of which I understand the honorable member for Flinders has been a close adherent for many years, is that persons should pay in accordance with their ability to pay.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for Echuca approved of a statement made by the honorable member for Hunter in regard to immigration, and expressed the opinion that similar statements from honorable members on this side of the House would be desirable. It would appear as though our friends opposite had been so long trying to make themselves believe that the Labour party have certain ideas regarding immigration, that at length they have succeeded ; and, therefore, it comes as a shock when they hear the cold truth from one of ourselves. This is what I said to my constituents on that point : -
The Labour parly favoured immigration of the proper kind, and under acceptable conditions. They had no objection to any decent person with a white skin coming to Australia of their own free will, and at their own expense. (Hear, hear.) They had no objection to decent white people being assisted to Australia with the money of Australian taxpayers. But they insisted that such assisted immigration should develop our primary industries and increase our wealth, and not come to merely share our existing production, and thus lower the average distribution of wealth. In other words, they objected to immigration which simply glutted the labour market and reduced wages, but they would welcome immigrants who could be settled on the land after the reasonable needs of Australian land-seekers were satisfied.
I think that is a very fair attitude to take in regard to immigration.
I could prove that immigrants, some of the landedclass and some not, are being brought to Australia, and that they cannot find land to settle on or work to do.
– Perhaps they wish to settle in the towns ?
– I shall give the honorable member a little proof to the contrary. I have here the Farmer and Settler, the official organ of the Farmers and Settlers Organization of New South Wales, which conducts what is called a labour exchange department; and in that publication there have appeared advertisements of immigrants offering to go into the country for 5s. a week, and their tucker. These are people who were brought out by the New South Wales Government, on the understanding that there was plenty of work, and land available Here is one of the advertisements -
I have several men waiting who are strong, willing, workers, suitable for rabbit-digging or any bush work. Asking 20s. to 25s.
Here is another -
I have also any amount of capable farm and station hands waiting - men who are not long out from the Old Country, and also experienced Australians. Asking 20s. to 25s.
– Is that with rations?
– Yes. Here is an advertisement which appeared on 8th July last-
Who can make an opening for two Englishmen who wish to gain experience on farm? Both have had some considerable experience on prairies (grain land), accustomed to horses, excavating with scoop,” piggery, &c. Asking 17s. 6d. each.
– What they really wanted was experience, and, surely, they are right in seeking it?
– But the Wade Government brought immigrants out on the understanding that there is work waiting for them. At my own election meetings, immigrants told me that they were practically starving in Sydney for want of work..
– Were these men accustomed to go on the land ?
– I have read advertisements by men seeking for opportunities to go on the land at 17s. 6d. a week and their tucker. On the 15th July, these advertisements appeared -
A young Englishman, who has had a good deal of experience in farm work, in Tamworth district, is anxiously awaiting situation on mixed farm in any part of the country. He “understands general work, has also had a good deal of experience in harvest work. Asking 17s. 6d. to 20s., and in harvest time harvest wages.
I have waiting two thoroughly competent and experienced farm hands, who are anxious to go together. They understand farm machinery, can drive binder, stripper, and reaper, &c. Asking 25s.
I do not wish to weary the House with quotations.
– The honorable member is only proving that New South Wales is unsuitable for agriculture.
– There is plenty of room in the West.
– But here is another advertisement -
I have waiting an English farm hand who has been out here for some considerable time, and is well up in general farming work; in fact, capable of acting as an experienced hand. He is anxious to be engaged at once, and is asking 20s. to 25s.
And so in every succeeding issue up to 26th August advertisements appear, the following being one of the latest -
An Englishman, thirty-five years of age, who is anxious to become a farmer, wishes engagement ; he can ride a horse, use an axe, and milk, but is not experienced enough to act as general farm hand. Moree district preferred. Asking 15s. to 20s.
– I suppose they keep that “ Englishman “ for advertising purposes !
– That is the typical c attitude of the Fusion. When it is shown that men are going about hungry, and begging for work, we hear nothing but sneers.
I only wish those who sneer had to suffer the hunger and cold which is the experience of those men !
– That is very kind of the honorable member.
– I do not object to reasonable argument, but I detest the constant sneering of men like the honorable member, who are comfortably situated themselves.
– Order ! The honorable member must address the Chair.
– Lord Northcote, who visited all corners of AustraliS, and gained considerable knowledge of the country, was thus reported in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 23rd February, 1909, after his return to England -
London, Thursday. - The Corporation of the City of Exeter yesterday presented an address, in the Guild Hall, to Lord and Lady Northcote on the occasion of their return home from Australia, and in acknowledgment of the services rendered by them to Exeter and the Empire.
Speaking at a luncheon in response to the toast of his health, the late Governor-General said he hoped and believed that the authorities in Australia would do their utmost to make land readily accessible to British emigrants having the necessary energy and go. It was of primary importance to split np and cultivate the land of the country as the first step in developing other industries.
– The honorable member is now going into the question of immigration, and leaving the land tax.
– I am pointing out how necessary it is to split up the large estates in order to make provision for immigrants from oversea.
– The honorable member is going a little further than that now.
– The question of progressive land taxation is so interlocked, with those of immigration and defence that it is almost impossible to discuss one without referring to the others.
– I do not desire to stop the honorable member from making incidental references, but if he goes into a discussion of immigration, we shall leave the discussion of the question of the land tax, which is now before us.
– Very well, sir, 1 have said all I desire to say on that point.
The mandate I received from my constituents was that great areas of land, in many instances in close proximity to markets and railways, should be subdivided, so as to be available for those who desire to settle. Although I represent a city constituency, I lived in the country for a long time. For three or four years I was secretary of a branch of the Farmers and Settlers Organization of New South Wales, and I found young men, of the finest type, forming parties to leave for New Zealand, where they could obtain land.
– They are coming back to New South Wales to-day.
– They are not. Within the last few days I had within this House an Australian, who is here from New Zealand on a holiday, and he informs me that the men who have gone to the Dominion for land are not returning.
-Does tnehonorable member say that land can be obtained more easily, and on better terms, in New Zealand, than in Australia?
– I am not saying that, but only that they have not been able to get land in Australia. I do not desire to be led into a discussion on New Zealand.
– The honorable member said that they had gone to New Zealand to get land because they could not get it in Australia.
– Apparently they went there because they found that they could not get land in their own country.
I constantly see men driving tram cars who I know to have been reared on farms, and who should have had an opportunity to secure farms of their own. It is often the custom for a farmer, when his son gets to the age of fifteen or sixteen, to give him a cow, whose progeny, by the time he arrives at full age, numbers perhaps halfadozen head. The young fellow probably buys himself a dray and some farm implements, and later drives away to seek his fortune elsewhere. I have known many such men to be applicants at ballots from one end of New South Wales to another, and failing in every case to secure land, to become tired of the quest, and to go into the city to compete with the workers there.
In New South Wales, on the other side of the Blue Mountains, there is a little railway depot known as Wallerawang. Those who live there are chiefly railway employes and their dependents.I have mixed among them, and have driven into the surrounding country, where, within 100 miles of Sydney, is some of the most beautiful agricultural land one’s eyes could rest on. If you ask, “ Whose is this land?” you are told “ It belongs to some ladies named Barton.” If you ask about the land on the other side you find that it is owned by the same persons. You inquire where they reside, and are told “ in England.” That land is lying idle.
– Barton is living in Wallerawang, and is a member of the Defence Force there. The Bartons do not live in England.
– The honorable member is practising his usual quibbling methods. The point I am making is that the land is lying idle.
– It is not good agricultural land.
– I say that it is. and I know railway men who have toldme that they would willingly leave the service and take up that land if they could get it. The honorable member for a number of years represented an electoral district close by, but his opinions regarding the land question have so changed that he cannot be expected to acknowledge that there is anything wrong with our land system at present. A gentleman who lived in the locality for over twenty years drove me through the district, and told me that Barton, the owner of these lands, had died, leaving his property to his daughters, who were then living in London or in Paris.
If you go a little further on, to Bathurst, what do you find? On the top of a hill overlooking the township stands Stuart’s monument. Stuart acted as Governor during the temporary absence of Macquarie, I think, and whilst in that position he said, “ I shall grant myself some land.” Thereupon he went to the top of this hill and dedicated to himself all the land that his eye could rest upon. Mile after mile of that land is now lying idle, and Bathurst, which used to be one of the best towns in Australia, is so land-locked that its commercial and industrial expansion has been prevented, and it is going back. A Labour representative was sent into this House as a protest against the locking up of this land.
A little further west you may drive from Orange to Molong, a distance of 22 miles, and find that the greater part of the land on both sides of the road belongs to the Dalton Brothers, large general storekeepers, who have a big importing house in Sydney. Going towards Store Creek it is the same.
Then about Forbes, the district from which I come, you* will find miles of beautiful coal-black soil, 4 or 5 acres of which would keep a family, given up to rabbits. The valley of the Lachlan would support a large population, but it is divided into large estates carrying about a sheep to the acre.
Similar conditions prevail in the north, in the Gwydir and New England districts. I have crossed the Breeza and Liverpool Plains when the grass has been so high that one could hardly see a horse in it. I have driven sheep there when they were almost hidden by the herbage. When the grass is long like that, much of it is not the best for grazing, but the undergrowth is good. This beautiful land is all held : in large estates.
The honorable member for Swan has stated that this House is not competent to legislate for the lands of Australia, and that the local Legislatures have a better knowledge of land conditions. I do not profess to have a thorough grasp of the conditions prevailing throughout Australia, but no member of a State Legislature thoroughly knows the conditions prevailing throughout his State. He knows the conditions prevailing in his own electorate, and I know the conditions in mine.
– How many large estates are there there?
– There are a good many people who are suffering because of the existence of large estates in other electorates. I represent intelligence, not acres. Some of the best intellects in Australia voted for the platform of the Labour party. All the theological colleges, as well as the University, are in my electorate, and I could mention the names of distinguished professors who voted for Labour.
Only I per cent, of the lands of Australia are being put to use. There are 37,781,411 acres, representing 75.71 of the total alienated area of Australia, held by 6,908 persons. In other words, £ per cent, of the population holds 75 per cent, of the land. I shall now read a tabulated list taken from the Statistical Register, compiled from the latest figures obtainable, which are dated March, 1909, showing the number of holdings exceeding 10,000 acres in each district in New South Wales -
Those are holdings of10,000 acres and over in New South Wales, as shown by the latest figures taken from the Statistical Register.
I wish to deal next with the question of land settlement. For the past six years, under the Wade and Carruthers Governments, land has been so hard to obtain in New South Wales at a reasonable price that holdings have been gambled for like the prizes in Tattersall’s sweeps, as the following will show -
At Brookong (12th March, 1907, Sydney Morning Herald), there were fourteen blocks of land ballotted for, and there were 1,112 applicants.
They were drawn for with marbles, just as the prizes in Tattersall’s sweeps are drawn for. fourteen drew prizes in blocks of land. One thousand nine hundred and eight were blanks. Take a few ballots in different parts of New South Wales -
The total money deposited by the applicants in all those cases was , £5,000. In a notice from the Lands Department, posted up at the court house at Carcoar, on 29th May, 1908, it was stated that “ single men would have to give way to older men wi-th greater need for homes.” Is not that a shocking state of things for a country like this, with its great agricultural lands, close to railways and markets, lying out of use? In a report in the Daily Telegraph, published later in the same year, it was stated that -
In many cases single men between thirty-five and forty-five years of age were rejected and prevented from taking part in the ballot.
Yet within the agricultural area of New South Wales, 104 people own nearly 10,000,000 acres, and 700 more own 23,000,000 acres, which could be cut up into 85,000 farms of 400 acres each, enough to settle in families of five nearly half-a-million people.
– Are those lands leasehold or freehold?
– At the present time there are only 142,000 people altogether engaged in the pastoral, agricultural, and dairying industries. Honorable members are continually frying to draw me off the track by speaking of leaseholds and freeholds. If great areas are held on leasehold, it is as great an injury to the country as if they are held on freehold.
– What has the honorable member for Grey to say about that?
– I totally disagree with the honorable member for Grey on the subject; but the honorable member has as much right to his opinion as I have to mine. In spite of that list of applications, mainly of New South Wales young men who are not able to get land, Mr. Wade, the Premier of the Liberal Government in that State, on 21st March of this year, said -
The gain from Great Britain alone to New South Wales during1909 was 10,000 men, of the genuine settler class. Since 1906 hundreds of immigrants have made homes on the land, and owning freehold, they are now prosperous farmers.
The Wade Government’s publication, “ Settlers Wanted,” distributed free throughout Europe and Asia, says on page 6 : -
For the agriculturist with a small capital, New South Wales possesses 18,000,000 acres of good virgin soil. . . . The man with sufficient capital to make a start with a farm will have no difficulty whatever in procuring all the land he needs.
Then this production of his goes on to say -
The settler would not dream of taking up land in the far west. For him there lie immense areas of fertile, well watered, country in the coast and tableland districts.
There are a large number of our own farmers’ sons who would be glad to have an opportunity to get on to this land. There are 800 great land-holders in New South Wales who are holding out of use 33,000,000 acres, enough to support 100,000 farmers, or nearly 500,000 people.
– Holding it out of use?
– They are putting the land to some use, but not to the best use.
We are told that as an alternative to the progressive land tax the system of buying up estates and settling people on them should be adopted. In New South Wales an attempt has been made in that direction, and has utterly failed.
– Utterly ?
– Yes; because to settle a mere handful in face of the crying needs of Australia, and the demands of the people in the State, is equivalent to an absolute failure. The figures obtained from the Lands Department of New South Wales show that up to the 3rd March, 1910, seventeen estates had been resumed, of which three were awaiting the hearing of appeals lodged by the owners. Of the remaining fourteen, one was not open for settlement, leaving thirteen available. Mr. Wade has contended that he has settled 1,093 settlers on the land, which it will be shown, is entirely wrong. The total provided for by the thirteen estates is 970, and includes fifty-six suburban blocks on the Peel River estate at Tamworth, nineteen of which average 5 acres each, and thirty-seven average g acres. They are, therefore, really suburban blocks taken up for the most part by the residents of Tamworth’. Yet those people are included by Mr. Wade in his figures amongst the farmers whom he has settled on the land on living areas. The actual figures from the Lands Department are as follows : -
Boree Creek - 30 farms, 9 not applied for ; Mungarie - 62 farms, 35 not applied for; Brookong - 20 farms, 2 not applied for.
This further reduces the number of actual settlers to 866, in six 37ears, under th£ closer settlement policy of the Wade and Carruthers Governments. The actual cost has been ,£1,800,348, and this includes £210,355, which is the estimated value of Crown lands added to ‘the resumed estates, and cut up for settlement. The money paid to the large landholders to the 3rd March, 1910, was .£1,589,993. This question of money is very likely one of the reasons of the failure of the closer settlement schemes. It is impossible for any Government to find money to buy up sufficient land to cut up and settle people on in any appreciable numbers. Every estate the Government buys increases the value of adjoining estates, and not only so, hut in the resuming of these estates large prices have to be paid for the land. In many instances those who take up small holdings on these resumed areas start out with such tremendous responsibilities that their holdings will be likely very soon to fall once more into the possession of the banks.
I have here a table showing the increase which has taken place in large estates in New South Wales during the last few years -
Small settlers, having holdings under 30 acres in extent, increased to the extent of 3,127 during. this three years’ period, whilst effective settlers on areas of from 30 to 1,000 acres increased by 2,259, and large holdings of over 1,000 acres in extent increased by 674. During the three years 863,555 acres were added to the holdings of 5,386 small and effective settlers, while 956,968 acres were added to 674 large holdings. In 1904, the number of men holding over 200, and under 2,000 acres was 21,199, and in I9°8, that number had advanced to 22,912, an increase of 1,713, or 8 per cent. In the same period the population of New South Wales increased by 8J per cent., so that these holdings practically increased to the same extent as did the population. Let me refer, by way :of illustration, to the large holdings in the district of Muswellbrook, New South Wales, which is represented by the honorable member for Robertson. I have no doubt thai our party’s proposal to impose a land tax assisted him very largely in his candidature, while the do-nothing policy of the Conservative Fusion was largely responsible for the rejection of its candidate. In the Muswellbrook District the following great stations existed on 16th May,- 1908 : - Bengalla, 20,000 acres; Overton, 8,000 acres ; Edding Lassie, 26,000 acres ; Guyarren, 7,000 acres; St. Heliers, 7,000 acres; Skellater, 6,000 acres; Balmoral, 10,000 acres ; and Pearsfield, 9,000 acres. These stations comprise a total area of 93,000 acres. Practically 100,000 acres around Muswellbrook are locked up.” The land will grow almost anything. It will produce wheat and cereals, root crops, fruit, potatoes, tobacco, oranges, vines, and all garden produce, flowers of various descriptions, especially roses and chrysanthemums, flourishing in the district. This land is held out of use, however, while the district is being retarded in its growth, and is stagnating.
I come now to the question of leaseholds. I have read with very great interest a leading article in this morning’s issue of the Age, dealing with that subject, and I may say at once that I am in total disagreement with the Government if they propose to exclude leaseholds from the operation of this Bill. It is exceedingly regrettable to me to find that the Age is, on this point, more progressive than our own party.
– It is a great paper.
– At all events, the leading article to which I refer contains an argument that is absolutely incontrovertible. As some of the figures which the Age has presented to its readers are rather to the point, I shall quote them. Let me refer, first of all, however, to the total leaseholds. There are, according to the Commonwealth Year-Book, 787.000,000 acres of leasehold lands, while the freehold lands ‘comprise about! 135,000,000 acres. The leasehold lands held in New South Wales alone amount to 128,000,000 acres, and their rental averages a fraction over one penny per acre per annum. These lands were granted to wealthy squatters by past Administrations who were in sympathy with them. They have been granted at peppercorn rentals, have been locked up for a term of years, and, consequently, land settlement in New South Wales has been retarded. These lands are subject to reappraisement at certain specified periods, but what happens when the reappraisements are to be made ? The work is carried out by a Land Board, the chairman of which is perhaps a magistrate or a Government official, but those nominated to assist him are the great squatters of the district. When these lands are to be re-appraised, along conies the squatter or the big leaseholder, and says to the Board, “ My land is overrun with rabbits, and it will cost me thousands of pounds to improve it, and put it into effective use. I shall have to spend so many thousands of pounds in sinking dams and erecting fences. I have lost so much because of droughts or bush fires, and I have suffered a loss also because of a reduction in the price of wool.” The sympathetic squatters sitting on the Land Board, who will come along later on with the same argument themselves, listen to these pleadings, and keep down the valuation to the lowest possible point. A landowner himself told me within the last week that he had a holding worth at least £2 1 os. per acre which had been valued by a Land Board at 15s. per acre.
– Will the honorable member give us the name of any one squatter who sits on a Land Board ?
– I am not going to introduce names into this discussion.
– Then I wish to say that the honorable member’s statement is incorrect.
– The honorable member for Fawkner has to do with the land, and the honorable member for Cook has not, so therefore he knows all about it.
– I have had as much to do with the farmers and settlers of New South Wales for a few years as have most honorable members. While secretary of the Farmers and Settlers’ Association, at a time when the farmers’ sons were trying to get on the land, and the squatters were preventing them-
– I wish to know what big squatter sits on a Land Board. The honorable member’s statement that big squatters sit on Land Boards is incorrect.
– It is correct so far as New South Wales is concerned.
– Government officials are appointed-
– Government officials are appointed as chairmen of the Boards.
– And the other members are nominated by the Government, but they are not squatters.
– Certainly they are nominated by the Government. The holder of a large area told me in Melbourne last week that in his district this same thing occurred. The honorable member for Fawkner is prominently connected with the Employers Federation, and is enthusiastically backed up by that one-time Democrat, the honorable member for Parramatta. They are ail “ barracking “ for the big squatter. What is the argument advanced by the Opposition but some party excuse to defeat this measure? They would reject it on some such pretext as that it is an infringment of the Constitution, an invasion of State rights, or that it will press heavily on the “ poor widows “ in London, or on some other ground which is entirely beside the point. They wish to let the great squatters escape.
– Were squatters on the Land Board which re-appraised the holding of the honorable member’s friend?
– Facts are fatal to him. Leave him alone.
– Honorable members opposite may think that they are very clever in endeavouring to interrupt the trend of my argument, but I am not going to allow these representatives of the big squatters of New South Wales to drag me into channels along which I do not wish to follow. As I pointed out just now, settlement leases have been granted largely at peppercorn rentals for periods of forty years on the understanding that certain improvements must be effected.
After those leases have run a number of years the leaseholders have got together and, finding the Government in a tight corner, have brought pressure to bear to allow them to convert their lands into freeholds. That is one of the most scandalous things that has ever been done by any Government’ in Australia.-
– What Government did that?
- Mr. Moore, New South Wales Minister for Lands, introduced quite recently a Crown Lands Act Amendment Bill dealing with the question. At the previous State election Sir Joseph Carruthers had held this out as a bait, and when his party was returned, Mr. Moore brought in this Crown Lands Act Amendment Bill, ostensibly for the purpose of giving homestead selectors a freehold tenure to enable them to make better terms with financial institutions. He included provisions conferring power on settlement lease-holders to convert their leases, and thus opened the way to the further accumulation of large estates. Settlement lessees under the original Act were granted blocks of land up to 10,240 acres, or 16 square miles in extent, on the assumption that the land was of inferior quality and not required for closer settlement.
– Is the honorable member in order in reading his speech?
– I do not understand the honorable member for Cook to be reading his speech, but merely to be quoting some figures. If, however, the honorable member is reading his speech, I ask him not to do so. While I am on my feet I must ask honorable members to cease continuous interjections. I have no desire to interrupt an honorable member when speaking, in order to call honorable members to order on this score.
– The tactics of the honorable member for Parramatta are those dirty, cowardly, sneaking tactics he always adopts !
– Mr. Speaker-
– Allow me to say-
– This is taking charge of Parliament !
– Do I understand the honorable member for Parramatta to rise to a point of order?
– I ask that the language used by the honorable member for Cook be withdrawn.
– I did not hear the honorable member for Cook use any words that I can call on him to withdraw ; but certainly, if the honorable member for Parramatta feels that words which have been used are offensive, I ask that they be withdrawn. I certainly heard no words that are unparliamentary.
– If the words I used are unparliamentary, I certainly withdraw them. At the same time, I must say that the honorable member for Parramatta makes an absolutely incorrect statement when he insinuates that I am reading my speech.
– I rise to a point of order. I said that the honorable member was reading; and I ask that he be not permitted to read his speech. Either the honorable member is reading or he is not; and if he is quoting he ought to say so.
– The honorable member for Parramatta knows that it is quite common for honorable members to read figures and so forth; and the mere fact that the honorable member for Cook is reading does not justify the honorable member for Parramatta in rising to these points of order. If the honorable member for Cook assures me that he is not reading his speech, 1 must accept his statement.
– I most emphatically assert that I am not reading my speech. The honorable member for .Parramatta knows that perfectly well ; but he thinks to destroy the continuity of my remarks by these tactics.
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the question before the Chair?
– A statement has been made by the honorable member for Parramatta, and I only desire to point out that in preparing figures derived from official sources on an intricate subject of this kind it is necessary to make notes and refer to them; and that is all I am doing. I was referring to the Act introduced by Mr. Moore into the New South Wales Assembly in order to enable the great squatters, who hold settlement leases at a peppercorn rent, to turn those leases into freehold, although the leases were granted for forty years on the understanding that at the end of that period they were to revert with the improvements to the State. The promise to convert these leases into freehold was made by the Carruthers Government when they found themselves in a tight corner ; and the transaction was simply perpetrating a swindle on the people of the country.
– Are not the lessees entitled to the value of their improvements at any time?
– No; the understanding was that the lands with the improvements were to revert to the Crown at the termination of the lease. The promise to convert the leases into freehold was made by Sir Joseph Carruthers at a farmers and settlers’ conference on 10th July, 1907, in the following words: -
He expected those, at any rate, who were interested would don the uniform and stand shoulder to shoulder and fight behind the Government when it made this promise.
Thereupon the farmers, settlers, and squatters rallied round the Government; and one of the first Bills introduced was that for the conversion of these leases into freeholds.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to how far it is in order to discuss the details and minutiae of land settlement in the various States. I submit that an honorable member may make an incidental allusion to land policy, but we have nothing to do with land policy now - nothing to do with anything except a tax on land. I submit that the honorable member is doing nothing but making attack after attack on the State Governments in regard to particularities of land administration, and that he is entirely out of order.
– The honorable member for Parramatta has asked my ruling whether the honorable member for Cook is in order in dealing with the details of land settlement in the States. The honorable member is perfectly in order. I have no power to prevent the honorable member if he desires to put his views in that way. There is now before the House a Bill dealing with land taxation, and, incidentally, land settlement; and I take it that the honorable member for Cook is showing, from his point of view, the necessity for breaking up large estates in order that they may be settled in a better way than at present. If the honorable member desires to go into details, I have no power to prevent him.
– I regard it as a compliment that the honorable member for Parramatta should desire to prevent me from placing these facts before the House.
– Order ! Will the honorable member proceed ?
– I ask that a remark just made by the honorable member for Parramatta be withdrawn.
– What was that?
– The honorable member for Parramatta said that the honorable member for Cook has not made a correct statement this morning; and I ask that the remark be withdrawn.
– I did not say that; but, at any rate, I withdraw what I said.
– There are 6,000,000 acres held under settlement lease in New South Wales by 1,837 holders. Under the original terms about 3,500,000 acres were to revert to the Crown ; but, for party political purposes, the Wade Government broke faith with the electors, and enabled those leases to be converted into freeholds; and yet it is suggested that the holders should escape land taxation.
I have a mass of information in regard to the mining leases ; but, seeing that I have already taken up considerable time, I have no desire to go into further detail. I may point out, however, that the following are some of the areas held as mineral leases : -
The owners of these leasehold properties are making tremendous profits, as is shown by the total dividends paid, published in
Palmer and Son’s Share List for November, 1909, as follows: -
In the face of these great dividends, the leases are to be excluded from the operation of the Bill.
In the Melbourne Age there appeared some figures showing that the alienated lands, or lands in process of alienation, are a mere bagatelle compared with the vast areas occupied under Crown licence.
– Order ! The honorable member must not quote a newspaper article dealing with the question before the Chair.
– The figures I desire to read are official.
– I understood the honorable member to say that he was about to quote from an article in the Age; and he must not do that.
– What I desire to quote are statistics that appeared in the Age.
– The honorable member must not quote from a newspaper article commenting on this Bill.
– Do you rule, sir. that I am not in order in quoting figures ?
– The honorable member said that he was going to quote from an Age article commenting on a matter before Parliament; that is not permissible.
– I desire not to quote the newspaper’s comments, but only certain figures copied from the Year-Book.
– The honorable member must take another course.
– I can get what I want from the Year-Book. I find that the total area of the Commonwealth is 1,903,731,840 acres, of which there is alienated 91,693,782 acres, in process of alienation 38,699,384 acres, and held under lease or licence 787,211,488 acres. In other words, 4.28 per cent, of the lands of Australia has been alienated, 2.02 per cent, is in process of alienation, and 41.36 per cent, is held under lease or licence.
– And can be resumed at any time.
– That is not so. Some of the leases are for a long term of years, and the land cannot be resumed.
The Northern Territory comprises an area of 523,620 square miles, of which 1.67,588 square miles are leased at a rental of is. per square mile. This, no doubt, explains the great anxiety of the honorable member for Grey to exclude Crown lessees from the operation of the measure, because he represents that part of the Commonwealth.
We are proposing to build transcontinental railways which would pass through these great leasehold properties and increase their value, in many cases bringing them as close to markets as some of the best land in Australia. Persons who have been lucky enough to secure large areas at a rental of rs. a square mile for forty years are to be allowed to hold the land out of effective use and to escape paying their fair proportion of the cost of defending Australia. The Bill would not have done injustice had Crown lease-holders been taxed, the proposal being merely to fax the difference between their peppercorn rents and the fair annual value of the land. I regret that the Government have given way to what appears to be hysteria in certain quarters. If the party to which I belong had an opportunity to fairly consider the question, the large Crown leases would not be exempted from the operation of the measure. As it is, the Crown lessee will escape scot free, while the private lessee will be taxed, although the former is in the better position. This seems an unfair discrimination. So far as New South Wales is concerned, there is hope for those who think with me, because after the next general elections in the State there will be a Labour Government in power which will remedy any shortcomings of this Government.
The honorable member for Flinders spoke of the drastic provisions of this measure, but they are nothing compared with those of the measures passed by the British House of Commons for the resumption of Irish lands.
– A mere mosquito bite.
– Yes. In the measures to which I refer, no provision is made for the paying of cash for resumed land, but perpetual annuity debentures bearing interest at i per cent, are given to the dispossessed owners. What a squeal there would be from honorable members opposite if a Labour Government made a proposal of that kind. Let me read the actual words of the Irish Land Act of 1903-
For the purposes of raising the money required for the Irish Land Purchase Fund ‘the Treasury may, by warrant addressed to the Bank of England, or Bank of Ireland, direct the creation of a new capital stock, to be- called “ Guaranteed stock at 2j per cent.”, consisting of perpetual annuities, yielding dividends at 2) per cent, on nominal amount of capital.
The measure was strengthened by the amending Act of 1909. In an article on the “new Irish Land Bill,” appearing in the Nineteenth Century of December, 1908, the Earl of Dunraven wrote -
The Act of 1881 not only deprived land-owners of rights and privileges inherent in ownership, to which it might be argued they had morally forfeited their claim through misuse, but it also took from them tangible property in the shape of houses and buildings, for which no compensation was given, the excuse being that, though the Act did deprive the land-owners of some of their property, the property remaining to them would become so greatly enhanced in value as to render compensation unnecessary.
I have shown that the proposal of the Government is perfectly consistent with the programme placed before the country by the Labour party, and particularly with that advocated by me in my electoral campaign. I have shown that, because of the great area of land held out of use in Australia, and particularly in New South Wales, drastic action is necessary to enable our people to obtain homes, and to provide opportunities for desirable immigrants. I have shown that the puny efforts of the Governments of New South Wales, during the past six years, have been inadequate to meet the present demand for land for settlement, and have failed to provide for the larger population, which should share the burdens of taxation, and make possible more adequate defence. Honorable members opposite will have to controvert the official figures which I have quoted to be able to show that the Bill is not required. I should like the tax to yield a large revenue, because now the taxation borne by the working classes is altogether too great. I have done my best to keep it at a minimum, and have pressed previous Conservative Governments to raise revenue from direct sources, so that taxation may bear less heavily on the masses. I hope that the tax will bring in a revenue of about £3,000,000 a year, which was the maximum estimate of some critics. If there is any surplus, the people may rest assured that there will be an immediate remission of some of the indirect taxation which now presses so heavily upon them. The measure is one of the most important that has ever been introduced into the Chamber. Its introduction is a great step towards the effective settlement of the country, and I regard it as an initial stage to the adoption of a great national policy by the Labour Government, which will, in time, enable Australia to take its place among the nations of the world as one of the greatest factors in modern civilization.
.- I was sorry to hear from the honorable member for Cook the deplorable state of land settlement in New South Wales. If half what he says is true, it only proves that that State is not a good place to live in at present. I hope to prove that if all the agriculturists in Australia went to Western Australia they could be well employed on Government land which is now available ; and which I shall prove without making any baldheaded statements - mere assertions that can be contradicted, because unsupported by fact. The legality of this Bill has been questioned, and I doubt whether it is legal at all, because section 55 of the Constitution says -
Laws imposing taxation shall deal only with the imposition of taxation, and any provision therein dealing with any other matter shall be of no effect.
I claim that a tax imposed with a view to breaking up large estates is “ dealing with another matter. ‘ ‘ Every member on the Government side has said that the reason for imposing the tax and making differentiations in it is that it is proposed to break up big estates. The portions of the Bill dealing with absentees also refer to “another matter. 1 ‘ I doubt whether it was ever intended that the Commonwealth Parliament should have the power to dictate to any individual where he should live. Even if we had the power we should exercise it in a manner more palatable to the people, and I shall show that the system applied in the Western Australian Act is fairer and better than the method proposed in this Bill. This tax will penalize the very people who built up Australia by going on to the land years ago in its virgin state, and so improving it that people to-day are coveting their holdings. If those who came to Australia years ago had been built of the same stuff as many honorable members who are advocating this tax here to-day, they would have stopped in the country from which they came, and clamoured for it to be cut up so that they could get a part of it, and Australia would never have been developed. It is not a very great trip from here to Western Australia, and any one in the east who is not satisfied with his local conditions can go to the west, where plenty of land is available. It would not involve anything like the journey that their forefathers made when they came to Australia, not even knowing that this country would grow or produce anything. As one honorable member interjected, gold was the first inducement for them to come here, as it was to people who went to Western Australia in the first instance. Many who went to the west after gold were not successful, knowing nothing about the gold-mining industry, and they noticed that the land there was suitable for agriculture. I shall quote figures that will stagger honorable members regarding the area of land available in that State, and its capabilities.
It is absolute ignorance of Australia that marks “ desert “ on that part of the map which contains these large areas of excellent land. When I first spoke in this House in 1907 I told honorable members about the land that was available in the west. It was my opinion that it was good agricultural land from the time that I first travelled through it. AVe drove to the gold-fields in those days, before there was any railway. If a team stopped beside the road, you could see years afterwards where the wheat and oats had reproduced themselves without the aid of man, and you could take it and rub it in your hand and get splendid grain. If wheat can reproduce itself naturally in that way, it does not say much for the progress that has been made in scientific agriculture, if the land will not do more when properly tilled. I said, in 1907 -
The production of wheat and other cereals is a big industry, which is yet only in its infancy. In my opinion, cereals can be grown in large areas where at present there is an idea that their cultivation is impossible. In Western Australia, ten years ago, wheat was being grown as far east as Northam, and I can assure honorable members that now there are splendid crops 100 miles nearer the gold-fields.
Great developments have taken place since that time.
Western Australia, in the last few years, has developed from a country which purchased flour from the east into a country which only last- year grew about 7,000,000 bushels of wheat. Thirty or forty years ago South Australia was looked upon as a big wheat-producing country, and is now producing about 20,000,000 bushels annually, whereas, Western Australia jumped from buying flour from the East to selling and shipping wheat in three years. That is a marvellous development.
If honorable members opposite are open to conviction, they will acknowledge that they knew nothing of the large area of land available in that State. We, who lived there, did not at first recognise its vast extent, but I have the figures here to show that it is possibly the biggest wheatgrowing area now open in any part of the world. I should like honorable members to consider these facts before injuring settlers by interfering with land which is possibly being put to its best use to-day in carrying sheep.
We ought first to populate the country now owned by the Government, and available for settlers. I would rather open up that country, and help people to settle on it, than injure those who have helped so materially to build up Australia.
What is the unimproved value that is talked of? How many honorable members know, when they look at a place, what its unimproved value is? The honorable member for Hume will confirm my statement that in the Riverina large areas, which, a few years ago, had on them scrub and trees, which had to be rung, are to-day good pasture lands. No calculation can be made of what it cost to clear that land of scrub, suckers, and the second growth, which is ten times harder to get rid of than the first growth. The unimproved value, in cases of that kind, is an unknown quantity.
It is very hard to find in Australia any one who can value the improvements on land that has been settled for so long a period as thirty or forty years. I can quite understand a man knowing what a fence or a well is worth, but many people, and their sons after them, have spent their lives in bringing many of these large estates into their present condition, and it is very difficult to place a value upon the results of their labour.
I regret the desire which has taken hold of many people to acquire something that some one else has created, instead of themselves striking out as the pioneers did. They did not worry about what other men had got, but went out back to see what they could get for themselves. That spirit should be instilled into our young people, instead of our advertising to the world statements, which, if not altogether untrue, are unfair and certainly injurious to our good name. There is plenty of land available to-day, and, after all, what is it if men have to pay up to £5 or £fi an acre in a settled district?
– Bush land?
– No, wheat land, in any quantity.
– How far from railways?
– Within 4 or 5 miles of railways. I was looking at it only last week. It is splendid land, with crops growing on adjoining properties. Nothing better can be found.
– Where is it?
– In the Riverina, and there is plenty of it. What is £3 or £4, or even £6 an acre, to a man who gets a place on which all the scrub clearing has been done, and with grass growing on it? The proportion which he does not break up at once is ready for him to put his stock on to feed them while he breaks up the other part.
Is he not in a better position than the man who came to Australia years ago, and took up forest country, with no more grass on it than there is on this floor ? It often took eight or ten years to sweeten the soil, and to prepare it for cultivation by clearing off the eucalyptus, and the suckers and second growth - especially the wattle growth, which so frequently springs up after you open up forest country. When you value the improvements, surely all those things have to be considered, yet, on those estates to-day, there is nothing to show that all that work has been done.
– Were there no natural grasses?
– Not in that country. I can take the honorable member to-day into the forest, within 60 miles of Melbourne, and show him land which, until it is rung, cleared, and scrubbed, would starve a bandicoot. After that has been done, it has to be watched. It always means more work to get rid of the wattle and sapling growth and the suckers from the stumps than is involved in the first ringing, which costs only about is. 6d. to 2s. an acre.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– When we adjourned for lunch, I was referring to the trials and troubles of the early settlers of Australia, and I believe that one could speak for a Week on that subject without exhausting it. In the early days those who went in search of land for settlement suffered great privations from want of water or lack of “ foodstuffs. Tinned foods were not available, and there was no stock about the country. Then, again, the blacks were troublesome, and were very numerous, especially on the river courses.
Nowadays a man wishing to obtain a block of land can travel by train to districts where his want may be satisfied. The longest trip that he would have to take would be from Victoria to Western Australia or Queensland, and surely it cannot be said that land seekers suffer any hardship when there are fine steamers to carry them from one State capital to another, and railways to convey them to the districts where land is available. The honorable member for Cook said that people should pay this tax according to their ability to bear it. That is what we say. Our contention is that those having only a small interest in an estate should not have that interest practically swallowed up by taxation. Many honorable members opposite have said from time to time that it is wrong for the Commonwealth or the States to borrow. I would point out, as I have before, that Commonwealth Governments in the past have taxed the States for carrying out public works. Since I have been a member of this Parliament, duties have been imposed on materials required in the construction of those undertakings. For instance, a heavy duty has been placed upon steel rails, and that duty has to be borne by the State Governments. Thus by means of taxation we extract loan money from them and use it for revenue purposes.
I am told the Dominion Government in Canada, in striking contrast to our policy, have subsidized the construction of railways even by private companies. They are prepared to give every encouragement to the construction of railways calculated to open up the country. We hear from time to time in Australia complaints that State Governments are not opening up the country, yet we penalize them for every mile of railway that they construct. It would seem that some honorable members regard the opening up of the country as a crime to be suppressed rather than an undertaking to be encouraged.
One of the anomalies of this tax is that under it the owner of a- large area, far distant from railway communication and wholly unsuitable for agricultural purposes, will be penalized to the same extent as will the man who holds land suitable for agriculture and adjacent to a market. Surely such a tax will bring this country into disrepute. No doubt there are cases where land fit for agriculture is not being devoted to that purpose, but the owner of an estate in the far-away interior that could not be cultivated, and is being put to the only use for which it is suitable, should not be penalized.
The basis of any equitable land tax should be, “ Is the land being put to the purpose for which it is most suited?” Unless that principle is observed, this tax will not be levied in an equitable manner. lt is ridiculous to penalize a man who holds an area of sheep country, and is running upon it as many sheep as it will carry.
As to the right of the Commonwealth under this Bill to take land for public purposes, I would point out that some years ago the Government of South Australia resumed a lot of land, beyond Lake Albert, held under lease, and, cutting it up into smaller areas, disposed of it to various persons. The action of the Government was tested in Court, and Mr. Justice Bundey decided that the taking of land from one person who was using it for a certain purpose, and the giving of it to others for the same purpose could not be held to be the taking of land for public purposes. The point is worthy of consideration, in this connexion. Referring once more to the penalizing of the States for opening up the country, I should like to remind honorable members of the complaint so often made, that land is locked up in the different States. Surely that cry is inconsistent with the action of the Commonwealth Government in imposing a heavy duty on steel rails, which must be used in the construction of railways.
– The States ought to be making their own steel rails.
– They ought to do many things they are not doing, but until the time comes when they will be able to make these rails why should we complain, and penalize them for doing the next best thing? If this tax be imposed, then out ®f the revenue so obtained I should be prepared to pay to the States a bonus on every mile of railway laid down by them to open up the country from Queensland to Western Australia.
A few years ago we were told that there was no land available for settlement in South Australia, Since then a vast area of country, at that time practically unknown - I refer to the Pinnaroo District - has been opened up, and found to comprise some of the finest agricultural land in the Commonwealth. Again, on the west side of Spencer’s Gulf - on Eyre’s Peninsula - railways are being pushed into country of which people thought very little a few years ago. Large quantities of wheat are now ‘ being produced there, and the output will be considerably increased.
After all, it is only ignorance of such country that marks it “ desert.” I believe the time will come when we shall have wheat grown from Albany to Port Lincoln- right along the southern coast. I’ am told, by many men who have visited that part of the Commonwealth, that splendid waving grass is to be found there. If the grass grows naturally, then I take it that it must be suitable for the production of wheat and other cereals. I do not blame some of those who tell us that there is ‘ no land available for settlement in Australia, because they have not travelled, and have not seen the country. I have travelled well into the north of Queensland, as well as into the northern parts and the interior of Western Australia, and my experience causes me to be astonished at the statement.
– If there is land available for settlement, how does the honorable member account for the fact that four State Governments have been compelled to re-purchase?
– Lands have been repurchased by the States mostly for the convenience of people residing in townships adjacent to large holdings. I have never heard of a loss being made on a repurchase by the State.
– I did not say there had been a loss.
– Then if no loss is suffered, no fault can be found with the system. The only honest “way to resume an estate is to pay the owners for it upon a fair valuation. We must acknowledge the right of ownership, whether it be in respect of large or small values. It seems to me also to be most unfair to penalize a man who has so much faith in the country that he puts his all into a block of ground - whether it be 5,000 or 20,000 acres - whilst the man who pays his money into a bank, and lives in idleness upon the interest, is allowed to go free of taxation. The man who goes on the land should be encouraged rather than penalized. Much has been said during this debate about the taxation of the unearned increment. Do we covet a man’s land because it has increased in value as the result of being cleared and worked ? How should we like to live in a country where the land steadily decreased instead of increased in value?
– That would not matter as long as the land did not decrease in productivity.
– That is the questionwho has made the increased productiveness but the owner? I shall show that there is another side to the question of the unearned increment.
Hundreds of people forty or fifty years ago purchased land from the Government, and paid cash for it, and to that money there is attached an unearned increment. As a matter of fact, if £20,000 were paid into the coffers of the State thirty or forty years ago, that money should be worth more than the land to-day. The argument of honorable members opposite is that nothing is being done with the land, and yet they talk’ about the big profits of the owners. If land has been worked properly, and big profits made, surely the owners cannot be accused of any crime. Of course, all land ought to be put to its best use, and we should see that this is done. Supposing a man fifty years ago bought 20,000 acres of land at £1 an acre, and paid for it in instalments of £1,000 a year, the value of that money to-day at 5 per cent, should be over £150,000. If he paid for the land in ten yearly instalments of £2,000 a year, the value of the money at the same percentage should be £185,951. If, however, the purchaser happened to be in a position to pay cash for the land, as hundreds did, the money to-day should be worth £229,347. It will be seen, therefore, that there is an unearned increment on the money side; and when people have the pluck to part with their money, and help to open the country as these old settlers have done, they deserve more consideration than honorable members opposite appear willing to give.
It has been urged that the rich should pay for the defence of the country. That, at all events, is the opinion of honorable members opposite. It is their desire to be regarded as the defenders of the poor people of Australia. But are they considering the interests of those poor people ? If so, their actions are very inconsistent, because at the present time they are permitting the poor of Australia to pay £1,250,000 per annum more for their sugar than is the case in any other part of the world.
– What about white labour?
– If the duty were removed from sugar to-morrow, the work could not, under the law, be done by black labour. If an industry in Australia penalizes the consumer to the extent that the sugar industry does, some inquiry is needed with a view to a remedy. My own opinion is that sugar can be grown profitably in Australia, and good wages paid.
– Order. The honorable member is getting away from the subject.
– The money which is necessary for defence could, I am sure, be obtained more easily by turning our attention to the sugar industry than by cutting up big estates.
The people who are employed in the agricultural and stock raising industries of Australia are doing more productive work than the same number of people in any other country in the world; and if we require more work, we must have more* people, as is shown in mining or any other industry. In Canada, there are 2.864,754 sheep, and in the Argentine, our greatest competitor, 77,581,100.
– What is the Argentine a competitor in?
– Wool and meat.
– The Argentine cannot grow wool anything like the wool of Australia.
– The Argentine is doing it. In Australia there are 87,034,266, and in New Zealand 22,449,053 sheep. The value of the sheep in Australia to-day is £44,950,000. I am quoting these figures to show what some of the old pioneers of Australia have done in spite of what they had to’ contend with. In i860 there were only 20,135,286 sheep in Australia, while in 1908-9 there were 87>°34>266. Between 1890 and 1902, however, the number, owing to bad seasons, decreased to 53,668,347.
I wonder if any of the advocates of this Bill would have proposed to break up the estates of the “ wealthy “squatter “ while that decrease was going on? If we add the increase in the number between i860 and 1908-9 to the increase there has been since 1902, we get a total increase of 112,000,000 sheep. That surely is wonderful work, and we have to consider the effect of droughts, which, I am afraid, we shall not be lucky enough to escape in the future. It must also be remembered that a few years ago wheat in South Australia was worth only is. 7d. to is. 9d. a bushel .
We are now on a wave of prosperity; and, in my opinion, honorable members opposite are being carried on the crest of that wave, and, therefore, desire- to tax everybody because of the good times; but by the time this Bill comes into operation we may be on the down grade again. If a land tax has to be levied, it should be on an equitable basis, so that none may be injured in an average season. The whole question ought to be most seriously considered by the Government and their supporters. It would have been wiser to first impose a tax on what I may describe as a “flat rate’.’ system; and then if it were found necessary to collect more money, and we had power to levy a differential tax, the machinery would be all ready. A doctor does not take his patient by the neck and make him swallow a whole bottle of medicine at once, but gives one dose at a time.
– And a doctor does not give all his patients the same medicine !
– Quite so. It seems to me that honorable members opposite expect too much productiveness from Australia, unless more people come to this country. In 1860-1 there were 643,983 acres under wheat, whereas in ‘1908-9, there were 5,262,474 acres. The bushels produced were 62,590,996, of a value of £13,625,253, or a value of £2 11s. 9d. per acre. Considering the few people in Australia, that is a big advance. The oat crop in 1908-9 was 1,715,242 bushels of a value per acre of £2 10s. 9d., the acres under crop being 676,156. In addition to this productive work there are huge public undertakings-, in connexion with mining and timber industries, which absorb some of the best labour, and which are not found associated with agricultural centres in other parts of the world. What has been done by the capital and labour of Australia is an object-lesson to other countries. We are only a few people, and yet the value of our productions and our wealth per head of population contrasts more than favorably with the figures for any other country. We have been told that the Bill is necessary to make land available for settlement. In this connexion, let me read a statement by Professor Lowrie -
Professor Lowrie, in proposing the toast of “ The Agricultural Industry,” said it seemed that everybody in Western Australia was interested in land and agriculture. Agriculture was a fundamental industry, and successfully pursued it made the whole community prosperous. It had been his duty the other day to make, to the best of his ability, an estimate of the possibilities of Western Australia. He sat down to- this task, he took his maps, measured his areas, made up his figures, and formed an estimate of what he thought was the capacity of the State. But that estimate, he would confess to them, seemed so over-reached - he was speaking deliberately - so far fetched, so dissimilar to what he had previously conceived to be the capacity of the State that he said to himself, “ Impossible. There is something wrong.” He always liked to be on the right side, in fact, to be absolutely safe, so he sent for the officers of the Department and got to the very source of the figures. “ Then,” continued Professor Lowrie, “I took off the face of these figures 10,000,000 acres. ‘ Now,’ I said, I will be on the right side.’ Then I knocked off 75 per cent, as problematical, and sat down to work out from the knowledge I had the actual capacity of the land, and it seemed to me there was no getting away from the conclusion that this place has in it the capacity of producing - from agricultural produce alone -^14,000,000 to ^15,000,000 sterling annually.”
Professor Lowrie is, perhaps, one of the best authorities on agriculture in the world. It was he who impressed upon our farmers the need for using phosphates, and galvanized into life the wheat-growing industry of South Australia, so that worn-out lands were made more productive than ever. Not only is there an immense area of land available for settlement in Australia, but the Western Australian Government lends money to persons who wish to settle on it.
Let me quote from a handbook issued by the Agricultural Department of that State, and obtainable from the Western Australian agency office in Collins-street, an article headed “ The Agricultural Bank.” It says-
The following are particulars of the advances made by the Agricultural Branch and the nature of the improvements required : -
Advances may be made for ring-barking, clearing, fencing, draining, or water conserva tor. Hedges. tion of an amount not exceeding £400, to the full value of the improvements proposed to bo made.
Further advances may be made of an amount not exceeding ,£250, to one half the value of additional improvements the same nature as above.
No advance shall be made for the purpose of discharging any mortgage already existing on any holding to an amount exceeding three- fourths the value of the improvements already made on the holding.
An advance may be made for the purchase of stock for breeding purposes to the extent of ^100, and for the purchase of agricultural machinery, manufactured in Western Australia, to an amount not exceeding ^100. ,
What more help is required than that?
– Western Australia is not all Australia.
– It is one-third of Australia, though it has not a third of the representation of. Australia. If it had, the Bill would not have been introduced. We have room for more than a third of the population of Australia,, and when our population grows to that extent the country will be even more prosperous than it is. To continue my quotation -
Provided that at no time shall the advance to any person exceed ^750; provided also that where any land is held by two or three persons as joint proprietors, the amount to be advanced may, in the discretion of the trustees of the Agricultural Bank, be multiplied by the number of such joint proprietors.
If two or three brothers join together in taking up land, they can avail themselves of that provision. Yet the Governments of the States have been held up to ridicule by honorable members. They have been told that in no State is land available for settlement, and that no State Government is helping the settlers. The honorable member for Cook said that the Governments of the States are assisting the squatters, but not the small settlers. . What I have read disproves his assertions.
– Yet Western Australia has a Legislative Council 1
– Yes. No Bill can become law there until the Legislative Council has agreed to it.
– The Council would not pass a land tax.
– When honorable members hear of the Western Australian law, they will be ashamed of this production. In confirmation of what I have said about the opportunities for settlement in Western Australia, let me read the published statement of a man who only sixteen years ago took advantage of these opportunities. This is it -
Mr. R. J. Keever, of Moora, on the Midland Railway, says : -
I made a start here in 1S94 with a young family, and settled on a block of land containing 336 acres, situate about two miles south of Moora, and fronting the Midland railway line. My capital was practically nil. Crown lands; I now hold Crown lands containing 2,036 acres. Clearing, &c, 536 acres cleared, balance improved, ring-barked, scrubbed, &c Cost of clearing, about 35s. per acre. Yield of wheat and hay : wheat averaged about 16 bushels per acre, hay averaged about 25 cwt. per acre. Stock carrying capacity : all the first class land will run about one and a-half sheep to the acre. Description of country : salmon gums, white gums, Yorke gums, &c. Red loamy and chocolate soil. Fencing : all the blocks fenced, thirteen miles boundary fencing and five miles subfencing. Stock : 20 horses, 40 head of cattle, 600 sheep, 50 pigs. Value of improvements : tanks, dams, wells, house, fencing, &c, ^2,000. Machinery : engine, stripper-harvester, two binders, three ploughs, two cultivators, &c, equal to £600. Agricultural Bank : assisted by Agricultural Bank to the extent of £100 and have paid it off. General remarks : I have also a small orchard and garden, value, about £20. In no financial difficulties, and see a good future in front of me. I value my property, as a going concern, stock, &c, at £6,000.
Is there any country on earth where a man could do better than that? Within the last month I have been to the Lands Office of* Western Australia for the latest information, and have received from Mr. Harris, the officer in charge of the Information Bureau, this letter, dated ist August -
In reply to your inquiry re land selected, I forward you forthwith the following details. The area surveyed at the present time, and open for selection amounts to 1,110,000 acres.
I put that statement in opposition to the remarks of those who say that there is no land in Australia available for settlement. Not only is there land available, but every assistance is given to persons who are willing to take it up.
– The honorable member is a Western Australian land agent.
– No, I am not. I am an Englishman, not an Australian, but I have been living in this country for thirty years, and know it well. I shall not say anything to damage its credit, as honorable members opposite have done, nor shall I do anything to lessen the value of property by assisting to levy a tax that is uncalled for and unnecessary. The letter continues -
The amount selected under Conditional Purchase and homestead farm conditions during the year ended June 30th, 1910, amounted to 1.000,14? acres, and for the month of July, 1910, 1 -51,468 acres. In addition to this, during the same periods 9,945.268 acres (year-s total) and 370,789 acres total for July, 1910), of pastoral lands were leased, principally in the Kimberley, North-West, and Eastern Districts.
Therefore, if honorable members desire cheap leaseholds, they are available in Western Australia. For the three years ended 30th June, 1907, 1908, and 1909, 658>544 acres, 1,842,418 acres, and 1,630,815 acres respectively of farming lands were selected. The belt of land suitable for cultivation extends from the Murchison River, in the north, to Albany, in the south, a distance of 520 miles, and extends eastward from Geraldton about 70 miles, and from the Leeuwin about 400 miles. It includes nearly 100,000,000 acres of land, of which less than 20,000,000 acres have up to the present been alienated, leaving about 80,000,000 acres yet to be selected. Honorable members opposite must think we have the patience of Job to sit here knowing these facts, and listening to them prating from day to day about no land being available in Australia.
– Without a land tax that land will also be monopolized in a few years.
– If the honorable member knew the land laws of Western Australia as well as I know them, he would know that that could not happen. Unless it is leased land, no one man is allowed to take up more than 2,000 acres. A number of surveyors are now busily engaged in dividing large areas, which will be made available from time to time. There is no doubt that the State of Western Australia, which has all this land available, is being taxed because she is laying railways into it to open it up, seeing that the rails which are used are taxed by the Federal Parliament. The party in power are penalizing the State for doing what they pretend that they want done in other parts of Australia. The following is a return, written as late as August last, from the Under-Secretary of Lands on land selection in the West -
Work in the matter of land selection is proceeding with great rapidity, and the practically universal adoption of the system of survey before selection, with the attendant classification and fixing of the amount of the Agricultural Bank advance, renders the task of selection so easy and so attractive that the resources of the Department have been taxed to the full to keep pace with the demand.
A lot of people in this country speak without ascertaining their facts. I like to have a few facts before me when I make statements. I do not go by what Henry
George or any one else advocated year’s ago. I speak of the actual facts of the country as I know it. I do not care what has been said by men who have never lived in a country like Australia as regards either area or conditions. Honorable members opposite remind me of what Mark Twain said with regard to early rising. He was a great believer in it for other people, and they are great believers in taxes being put on other people. The return continues -
However, the Survey Branch is doing great work in this direction. There are 62 surveyors in the field with 30 to 40 assistants. Hitherto the largest area surveyed in one year was 1,776,730 acres in 1908-9, but during the year ending 30th June, 1910, over 5,200 holdings, aggregating 2,600,000 acres - or over 4,000 square miles - were marked.
I must give honorable members opposite credit for believing the statements they have made to the House, but those statements certainly do not prove their knowledge of Australia, because the facts given in that letter cannot be denied. _ I would ask honorable members who are interested in the future of this country not only to look into this matter, but to consider whether they are not wasting their time in not snapping some of this land for themselves. It is further stated -
As far as returns are available the area surveyed in the Eastern States for the same period totalled 4,857,000 acres, so that the work being done in this State shows a marvellous record. Surveys are now about a million acres ahead of. selection, and new areas are being thrown open weekly.
At the same time, the lot of new settlers is being made more easy by the attention given to such matters as roads, water supply, and railways, and the result of the policy of the last few years is shown in an enormous expansion of the productiveness of the State.
A return is also attached showing the areas taken up in 1908-9 and 1909-10, as follows -
In view of these facts, I was surprised when I came into this House three or four years ago to hear the cry that there was no land available in Australia. The number of holdings dealt with in the past two years was over 12,000. - I have here the leaves of the Gazette in which new available areas are specified, with the prices set out in each case. The holdings are not put up for auction, or balloted for in the way described by the honorable member for Cook, and there is no chance of speculators getting hold of them to the extent which, according to the honorable member’s statement, prevails in New South Wales, because the price is put on the land, the applicants have to go before the Land Board, and the most suitable applicant gets the holding.
– Who is the judge of suitability ?
– The Land Board, consisting of nine or ten people, who are employes of the State.
The amount that the Agricultural Bank is willing to advance is clearly shown opposite each block. There are four or five pages of the Gazette with the list of the blocks available, to the number of 605.
– What would be the aver°age price?
– It runs from 9s. 6d., 1 os., 12s., to 17s. 6d. per acre, and twenty years are allowed in which to make the payments, while the bank makes advances to help the settlers along. What more could any man require who honestly wants to go on’ the land ? I have been through a lot of this country within the last twelve months, and can assure honorable members that dams are made and wells sunk ahead of the surveying. The work is being done in a business-like way, and any one who goes to that country need not be afraid of not getting plenty of land, with an assured rainfall. I said something about the wonderful work that has been done by the few people we have in Australia.
If we want more work done we must get more people. Sixty years ago we had a population of only 400,000. To-day we have about 4,500,000. The progress made in that period is astonishing. In addition to opening up this big country, the people of Australia have produced nearly £714,000,000 worth of minerals. They have 10,000,000 acres under cultivation, and since 1900 have produced nearly 500,000,000 bushels of wheat. Last year we exported nearly £3,000,000 worth of butter. We have 90,000,000 sheep, 12,000,000 cattle, 2,000,000 horses, and 750,000 pigs. We export annually wool worth about £23,000,000. These figures show that the work done in Australia represents the full capacity of her people. Those here could not be expected to do more work, and we must have more people. The land is available for them whenever they can be induced to come. If the party now in power insist on penalizing the people in Australia, and frightening others from coming, they will make a big mistake, and I wish to show that the tendency of this Bill will be to scare people, and to prevent their settling in Australia. We have to-day on deposit in the banks of Australia nearly £118,000,000, and if honorable members opposite would do something to establish a sense of security in the community, that money- would soon be invested and used in developing our resources. Honorable members of the Labour party have had much to say regarding the taxation of the unearned increment.
I should like to ask them whether the £49,078,137 on deposit in the Savings Banks of Australia belong to the much abused capitalistic class? If the Labour party would induce the Savings Banks depositors to put their money into the land’, instead of congregating in and about our cities, they would do good work. If, instead of imposing a land tax of this kind, they could induce the people to leave the cities for the country, we should get more money in the way of production-
– It is a good doctrine for the city man to recommend “ the other fellow” to get out.
– The honorable member need not worry; the city man will not go.
– I am afraid not. I have never been a city man. I have been a man of the back-blocks. I have built railways into the interior where we have had to condense water carrying 26 per cent. of solids, and have had to endure manyhardships. No honorable member has faced the difficulties of opening up new country to a greater extent than I have done.
I desire now to direct attention to some of the crudities of this Bill, as compared with the clear way in which the Land and Income Tax Assessment Act of Western Australia is framed. As I mentioned at the outset of my speech, it is dif ficult to say what improvements will be taken into account under this measure.
In the Western Australian Act, we have the following clear definition of “ improvements “ : - “ Improvements “ includes houses and buildings, fencing, planting, roads made or macadamized by the owner, excavations for holding water, wells, pumps, windmills, and other apparatus for raising water, drains, ring-barking, clearing from timber, or scrub, or poison plants, or noxious weeds, or laying down in grass of pasture, and any other improvements whatsoever, the benefit of which is unexhausted at the time of valuation, but does not include any railways or tramways constructed under any Act or any provisions thereof.
If an equally plain definition were inserted in this Bill, endless litigation might be avoided. Surely an effort should be made to make it a plain and workable measure.
Members of the legal profession in this House have expressed considerable doubt as to the meaning of certain provisions of the Bill; and I think we ought to take care that the definitions are made perfectly clear. Under the Western Australian Act, we have the statement that, amongst’ the “ exemptions “ are -
All lands held as mining tenements within the meaning of the Mining Act 1904.
We should insert in this Bill, in the same way, a clause that will enable any one to readily understand what are the exemptions for which it provides. It has gone forth that mining leases are likely to be taxed. If they are, the result will be disastrous.
– There is not a mining lease in Australia which could be taxed.
– The honorable member is quite right. No mining lease could stand this tax. In. Bendigo, for instance, there are scores of mines that will not carry a bigger load than they now have to bear.
– But there is no mining company with a surface lease such as would be assessed under this Act. .
– In the Western Australian Act, the exemptions are clearly set out ; and I think if we follow that example we shall avoid much trouble. Do honorable members think that the mining industry is of no importance to Australia? In Western Australia alone, from 1886 to December, 1909, gold of the value of £91,780,565 was won, and dividends amounting to £20,323,010 were paid by Western Australian gold-mining companies. We have, after all, to thank the goldmining industry for being the pioneer of settlement in Australia. In Western Australia, as in other parts of the Commonwealth, gold discoveries have induced people to go into the interior, and settlement has naturally followed.
We should make it clear in this Bill that we do not intend to tax mining leases, for 98 per cent. of the mines of Australia are struggling hard for existence at the present time. A mining lease might have one value to-day and quite another value to-morrow. A mine manager might value his lease for the purposes of this Bill at practically nil. Within a month, as the result of a good discovery, it might become immensely valuable, and he would then be accused of having made an under-valuation, and the lease might be forfeited.
In this connexion I direct the attention of the Government to section 10 of the Land and Income Tax Assessment Act of Western Australia, which provides that -
Land outside the boundaries of any municipality used solely or principally for agriculture, horticulture, pastoral, or grazing purposes, or for two or more of such purposes, shall not be deemed improved within the meaning of this section unless -
Thus, if a man has two sections of land, and has concentrated his energies on the one, he obtains credit for his improvements in respect of the whole. It is also provided that -
No other land shall be deemed improved within the meaning of this section unless improvements have been effected and continue thereon to an amount not less than one-third of the unimproved value of the land, but it shall not be necessary in any case to effect improvements exceeding an amount equal to Fifty pounds per foot of the main frontage thereof. . . .
This refers to town lands - and when any land is situated at the intersection of two roads or streets, one only of the frontages of such land shall be deemed the main frontage. . . .
I am inclined to think that the public would be saved much litigation if such’ a clause as this were incorporated in the Bill now before us. It has worked in Western Australia without any friction, and we ought to be guided by the experience of the States in the administration of similar laws. To say that we should not do so is tantamount to declaring that a man who wishes to build a locomotive on the most approved principles should not look at what has been done already in that direction.
Coming to the position of trustees, I would draw attention to section 15 of the Western Australian Act. Under this Bill, trustees are made wholly responsible for the tax.
– It is cruel.
– It is. Section 15 of the Western Australian Act provides -
Such agent or trustee shall not be personally liable for land tax to any further or greater extent than to the amount of such funds or securities for money as are or may be in his hands, in his representative character or as trustee, or of which he shall have the controlling power, after receiving notice of such assessment as hereinbefore provided.
Under that section, a trustee cannot be made responsible for anything beyond the amount which he has in hand belonging to the estate. Trustees are not protected to that extent under this Bill, and I bring this matter under the serious consideration of the Government.
– In Western Australia lessees are taxed.
– Is that so? The Western Australian Act has been found to work well, and all can understand it. On the other hand, we have heard members of the legal profession express doubts as to some of the provisions of this Bill ; and I think that an effort should be made so to frame it as to make it intelligible to the average man. As members of Parliament, we gain a knowledge of the troubles of administration under ambiguous Statutes, and I think we might with profit follow in many respects the example set us in the Western Australian Act.
Mr.Spence. - The Bill is very largely copied from that Act.
– Then a very poor job has been made of the work.
Under the Western Australian Act, a man who is absent not more than so many months, is not regarded as an absentee, and he has the same immunity, if, on desiring to leave the country for more than two years, he gives notice, and obtains permission. I have been in Australia since 1878, without ever leaving the country ; and it surely would not be regarded as a crime if I desired to travel in foreign countries for two years. The people of Australia expect this Act to be a fair and reasonable one ; and I again make the suggestion that the Western Australian Act might be profitably consulted. Though we are the National Parliament, we could not suffer any discredit or loss of dignity by accepting advice or suggestions of value from whatever direction they may come. When the Bill is in Committee, I hope that honorable members opposite who have the power, will endeavour to amend it on the lines I have indicated, so as to render it more workable and more readily understood by the people as a whole.
.- I approach this question from a purely revenue point of view. I represent a city electorate, and consequently do not propose to deal with large tracts of country or with country conditions. The arguments of the honorable member for Fremantle supply mc with ample reasons why a tax on unimproved values should be imposed. First of all, we require revenue, and we have to look for the best source. Some honorable members opposite would refer us to the Customs House and a revenue Tariff. When the Tariff was under consideration, the Free Traders contended that certain duties would impose hardship on the poor ; but the Protectionists simply retorted that in the interests of the country it was necessary to encourage industries, and, therefore, the duties must stand. Now, however, when it is proposed to impose a land tax,, we find the Protectionists cite isolated cases of hardship, and protest against the measure. But what form of taxation has ever been imposed without resulting in hardship to some. When I look around for a source of revenue, I naturally turn to the land, from which all wealth comes. I fought my election on the land tax question, as, indeed, did every member of the Labour party ; and we were returned on the understanding that a measure of this kind would be introduced. If we shirked our duty honorable members opposite would have fair ground for charging us with inconsistency. We have, of course, to inquire whether this country can bear a land tax ; and the figures of the honorable member for Fre mantle have proved conclusively that we possess a continent phenomenal in its wealth production. I have taken the trouble to look over the Year-Book this morning; and I find that of mineral wealth alone, Australia has exported £714,000,000 worth. Such a country can surely bear land taxation.
– This taxation will not touch any mineral resources.
– But it has been said that the proposed tax will crush the country, and my reply is that a country so rich and powerful as Australia is proved to be, cannot be crushed by such means. Nearly 120 years ago the pioneers found Australia a virgin country, with the land of no value; but, owing to the grit and hard work of those early settlers and their successors, the country has been opened up, and has become of great and increasing value. The creation of that value is not due to any particular class, but to the whole of the members of the British race who have landed here, and put their shoulders to the wheel. A vast extent of Australia has been opened up by means of roads, railroads, bridges, telegraphs, and telephones, all of which have added to our wealth and prosperity. In pastoral productions alone we have exported in the Mast five years - and this apart from our own consumption - £27,000,000 worth per year. All that wealth came from the soil, and its production is the work of those who are on the land. We export over £22,000,000 worth of wool, not to mention meat, hides, skins, and so forth. This production is increasing ; and it is idle to contend that any tax this Parlia-ment may impose will have the effect of crippling the country. The honorable member for Barker said that this proposed land tax would be the worst advertisement that Australia could get, but that is hard to believe in face of the fact that the wealth of this country is so great in comparison with that of other countries. Our pastoral industries are growing by leaps and bounds, and there is immense development in other directions. We have entered into competition with other countries in the production of the food supply of the world; and last year we exported more wheat from the Commonwealth than was exported from Canada, in addition to £3,000,000 worth of butter. It .will be seen, therefore, that we have established ourselves in the markets of the world. The States have borrowed millions, and, by relying on the expanding powers of the people, added to the wealth of the Commonwealth; we, as a Federal Parliament, have a right to some of the value so created for the benefit of the community as a whole.
– Has the benefit of the State taxation gone only to those on the land?
– It has added to the prosperity of the whole of the country.
– Then tax generally.
– I do not know what attitude the honorable member took on the Tariff, but I assume that he is a Free Trader; and I ask’ him whether he proposed when the Tariff was before Parliament
– I was led away by an interjection. I believe in general taxation, but we already have taxation of the kind which, I regret to say, weighs heavily on the poorer classes, while the wealthy have been allowed to escape the payment of their fair share. That is a state of affairs that the Bill before us is intended in some measure to remedy.
– It taxes the few and lets others escape.
– We can alter that later on. As another indication of our wealth and prosperity, we have to remember that, in proportion to population, no other country in the world has a larger tonnage of shipping trading to its shores. ‘ All the figures of the honorable member for Fremantle go to show the stability of Australia; and we contend that it is no injustice to tax the land-holders, to whom the country has been so good. I happen to have some knowledge of other parts of the world, and the same land troubles are experienced elsewhere. In the old country acre is being added to acre, and farm to farm, with the result that people are crushed into the cities. I am pleased to know that in Western Australia there are opportunities offered for settlement on the land. Had all the States followed a similar policy, the evils of land monopoly would not be so great as they are. What is it that the Government now propose ? To raise £1,000,000 by a tax on land. The pastoral industry alone exports £27,000,000 worth of raw material, and, in addition, there are our exports of wheat and minerals of every kind.
– The tax is more likely to produce £3,000,000 than £1,000,000.
– I accept the Treasurer’s figures. All we ask for is a paltry £1,000,000 to be spent, not to benefit any particular class, but to carry out the defence scheme that honorable members opposite initiated last Parliament.
– It came from this side.
– Members opposite were in power when the policy was legislated for. How can that policy be carried out without additional taxation? We cannot go to the Customs House again. To do that would satisfy neither Free Traders nor Protectionists. I have my own views regarding militarism, and I know of no better way of providing for defence than by taxing the land. Of course, when we propose a land tax, we are asked why we do not propose an income tax, or an absentee tax. No proposal for taxation will satisfy all parties. In my electorate, the Cooper family owns city land fronting Market and Pitt streets, and large tracts in Woollahra, Surry Hills, Waterloo, and Botany. The family live out of the Commonwealth, on the immense rents which they get from their Australian estates. I am glad that there is to be a heavy tax on land held by absentees, and that no one has been found to champion the cause of the absentee land-owner. We have every reason to be proud of the country. No other has made equal progress, or will compare with it. Our cities are modern, and filled with buildings of great architectural excellence. Everything that the art of man could do for the country has been done, but the population is a mere handful, residing on the seaboard, and unable at present to protect itself. The wealthy of the community should, therefore, be taxed to provide for defence. While the Bill will give revenue for this useful object, it will also compel the holders of large tracts of land to part with it, or to employ it to the fullest advantage, and thus give greater opportunities for settlement and the employment of labour. At the same time, I hope that the Government will accept reasonable suggestions for improvements from the Opposition. The legal members of the Opposition have already assisted greatly by expressing their opinions free from party bias. No doubt, the Bill will be improved in Committee. We have a mandate from the people to pass this measure, and it is our duty-
– To interpret that mandate properly.
– We are trying to do so. I told my electors that I was in favour of a land tax, allowing an exemption of £5,000, for the reasons which I have already stated, and, therefore, I heartily support this measure. No Bill that has come before this Parliament has promised greater results. Many persons in the city would like to get back on to the land, and the Bill will enable them to do so. It has been shown that the closer settlement policy of New South Wales has proved a failure. As a city man, it seems to me that it has not bettered the condition of the workers. That being so, the National Parliament must deal with the subject more drastically. The Government will earn the gratitude of the people by passing the Bill. Other Governments have promised to settle the land, and have failed to do so, but this Government is trying to place on the statute-book a measure which will effect what has not hitherto been done. I hope that after a few years the measure will have the effect of drawing to our shores thousands of immigrants who will find here good and cheap land. Honorable members have said the tax will depreciate the value of land. I believe it will, and, so far as it brings land down from boom prices to its natural value, it will have a beneficial effect, and be for the general good. Some honorable members opposite have said that plenty of land can be got, but at what price? It is of no use to offer a poor man land at prohibitive prices. I am speaking only from the city standpoint, and I hold that land which is not accessible to markets is of no use to the man in the city. He cannot be expected to go out to it and pay high prices for it’. I look forward with great hope to the passage of this Bill, and believe that it will be a great blessing to the Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Mr. G. B.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY laid upon the able the following papers : -
Meteorology Act. - Provisional Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 79.
Census and Statistics Act -
Population and Vital Statistics. - No. 21. - Quarter ended 31st March, 1910.
Trade, Shipping, Oversea Migration and Finance -
No. 41. - May, 1910.
No. 42. - June, 1910.
House adjourned at 3.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 September 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19100902_reps_4_56/>.