4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. GLYNN presented a petition from 240 land-owners of South Australia, praying the House to reject the Land Tax Assessment Bill and the Land Tax Bill. Petition received.
Bill presented by Mr. Bamford, and read a first time.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Federal Capital Territory (Yass-Canberra Site) - Water Supply and Rainfall- Record of discharges at the official weir on the Cotter River from the date of the establishment of the gauge [20th May, 1910) to 7th September, 1910, and Memorandum by the Commonwealth Meteorologist on the Average Rainfall.
Ordered to be printed.
Public Service Act- Postmaster-General’s Department - Recommendations in case of promo- tion of -
V.E. Butler, as Assistant Manager, 3rd
Class, Electrical Engineer’s Branch (Telephones), New South Wales.
Public Service Act - Sixth Report on the Commonwealth Public Service by the Commissioner.
Electoral Act- Elections, 1910- Statistical Returns showing the Voting within each subdivision in relation to the Senate Election and the General Election for the House of Representatives, viz : -
New South Wales.
– Will the Minister of
Home Affairs bring before the Cabinet the advisability of putting all the offices of our Public Service under one roof? The present arrangement is very inconvenient for honorable members.
– The matter is being looked into carefully.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister of Defence been directed to the first and second of a series of articles now appearing in a Sydney evening newspaper, written by an ex-officer of the Commonwealth Military Service, and beginning with the statement that “ There is not a fort along the whole coastline of Australia that could engage a model battleship with any hope of successful issue at even a medium fighting range” ? Will the Minister consider the propriety of giving a short authoritative contradiction to that statement?
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Minister, who, no doubt, will make a reply, if he deems it necessary to do so.
– In this morning’s
Argus, under the heading “ Federal Capital and Labour Problems,” appear these statements-
It will probably be nearly twelve months before the proclamation is made. From the information available it appears certain that at least no action will be taken until after the referendum On the question of industrial control has been taken next year.
Is there any truth in those statements ?
– The writer has merely manufactured facts. There is no truth in the statements.
– In the report of a speech on . the Federal Capital site, made in the Legislative -Council of New South Wales by Sir Joseph Carruthers on the 22nd September last, it is stated that he said -
As regards access to the sea, I look upon a railway to Jervis Bay as a mere visionary idea. But still, if the Federal Government, like a child, wants a toy in its early days to play with, let it have it. I know the country between Canberra and Jervis Bay, and I say that there is not the remotest chance of the railway going to Jervis Bay as long as Sydney exists, and as long as there is a railway from Queanbeyan to Sydney. The mountain country between Sydney and Katoomba is mere child’s play compared with the country lying between Canberra and Jervis Bay. The ravines that would have to be crossed have many a time prevented the embarkation of capital in private enterprises in that part of the State….. The settlers in that district, when they want to take ^ their wool to a port, never go to Jervis Bay. Their port is Bateman’s Bay, and that is the natural outlet of the Federal territory.
As those are the opinions of a politician who knows nearly every inch of New South Wales, will* the Minister of Home Affairs cause a survey to be made by an independent engineer of the country between, the proposed Federal Territory and Jervis Bay, to ascertain what the facts really are?
– In anticipation of the question I have had the matter looked into, and have received the following report from Mr. Scrivener : -
Mr. Marshall is investigating the route between Bungendore and city site in order to ascertain whether a ruling gradient of r in 75 can be obtained ; the object of the survey is to determine whether the connection should be made .with Bungendore or Queanbeyan. Between these towns the gradients on Goulburn-Cooma line are severe - 1 in 40 for miles, with little prospect of improvement without re-locating the line; hence all traffic from Sydney would be delayed by passing over” these steep gradients if the junction be made at Queanbeyan, while if practicable to connect at Bungendore the distance to Sydney would be probably reduced, and a portion of the line to Jervis Bay established. Whether the route is practicable or possesses any distinct advantage will be known in about a fortnight’s time, when a report will be furnished.
– Having regard to the reply which the Minister of Home Affairs has just given to the question put to him by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, I wish to know whether, when he next brings a red herring into the House, he will take care to have it better cooked.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs state whether there is not -in his Department a report showing that there are no engineering difficulties in the way of the construction , of this railway - that already a deviation has been discovered which obviates all the difficulties to which allusion has been made ?
– I do not know whether there is such a document in the Department, but if there is I shall have it here to-morrow.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs place himself in communication with the Public Works Department of New South Wales with a view to obtaining reports of rough surveys that were made, twenty years ago, in response to the offer of a bonus by the Department, and which showed an excellent grade from the railway line with which the Capital site will be joined to the coast ?
– I shall have the matter looked into to-morrow.
– Following up the question put by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, I ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether he is aware that Sir Joseph Carruthers does not now speak as a representative man in New South Wales, and that being an owner of property in the Monaro district, he is naturally biased in favour of that territory?
– I am not.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether it is not a ‘fact that Mr. Scrivener some time ago travelled from the Federal Capital site to Jervis Bay, and reported that there was a direct route for a railway to the coast involving no serious engineering difficulties?
– The report that I have just read was prepared by Mr. Scrivener. I shall, however, look into the matter mentioned by the honorable member.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs, when looking into this matter, inquire whether a railway with a reasonable grade from the Capital site to the coast would need to go 40 miles west of Jervis Bay before it got into the hills ?
– I shall cause inquiry to be made.
– In view of the fact that water would have to be pumped to an altitude of 800 feet in order to supply the Federal Capital at Yass-Canberra, and since there is no edifice of the height in Australia, the Eiffel Tower in Europe alone approaching it, will the Minister of Home Affairs take into consideration the desirableness of erecting in Sydney or Melbourne a monument 800 feet high, in order that the people of Australia may gain some conception of the height to which water would have to be pumped to supply the wants of the future Capital ?
– I can assure my honorable friend that from a point further up the Cotter than that which he has in mind we could supply the Capital by means of a gravitation scheme. Modern engineering has settled all these questions, and as the water supply of the great cities of the world is now obtained by pumping, I fail to see why we should not adopt the same system at Yass-Canberra.
– Will the Minister name the great cities of the world, other than London, that are supplied with water by means of a pumping scheme ?
– Chicago, the second city of the United States, and the fourth greatest city in the world, is supplied with water by means of a pumping scheme.
Mr.KELLY. - Following up the question put by the honorable member for Melbourne, I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether’ it is not a fact that, if water by gravitation is desired from the Cotter, it can be procured from a distance a great deal less than that over which the water supply of either Melbourne or Sydney is drawn?
– As near as I can calculate the cost of supplying YassCanberra with water by means of a gravitation scheme would be£700,000.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether he will consider the advisableness of constructing a branch line from the main western railway of New South Wales into the small arms factory at Lithgow?
– I shall have that matter looked into.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
The Honorable the Minister of Defence, President.
Major-General.J. C. Hoad, C.M.G., Chief of the General Staff,1st Military Member.
Colonel E. T. Wallack, C.B., AdjutantGeneral, 2nd Military Member.
Lieut.-Colonel J. C. Legge, QuartermasterGeneral, 3rd Military Member.
Lieut.-Colonel R. Wallace, R.A.A., Chief of Ordnance, 4th Military Member.
Commander S. A. Pethebridge, Retired, Commonwealth Naval Forces, Civil Member.
Mr. J. B. Laing, Finance Member.
Members of the Board are severally responsible to the Minister for the administration of the Military Forces in respect to the subjects allotted to each. The Board, as a whole, deals with matters affecting the duties of more than one member. The constitution of the Board is based on that of the Army Council of Great Britain.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Prosecutor; Senor Don Alfonso Aquirre y Carier, ‘ Conde de Andino.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The Public Service Commissioner reports -
1.1 , 021.
Debate resumed from 9th September (vide page 2936), 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.”
Mr. CHANTER (Riverina) [3.24I.- When the House rose on Friday, I was replying to the honorable member for Grampians in (regard to the pioneering work done in Australia, and showing how those early in thefield had acquired lands in the most favorable localities, having regard to transport by sea, railway communication, and a variety of other advantages. I then quoted one case, for the first time, I believe, in this Parliament; and I propose now to submit one or two others. As the honorable member for Fawkner said of certain statements and balancesheets, the cases I am now about to quote may be taken as typical of hundreds. In those days, in Victoria, there was almost a revolution caused by the withholding of the lands from the people, and this led to an absolute change in the Government, in political parties, and in the law. The result is seen to-day in the little settlement there has been up to the present in the State. The early bond fide pioneer in Victoria was limited to a very small area; and in that regard I was in agreement with the Government. The bona fide settler was able to take up 320 acres, at a cost of £1 per acre, on deferred payment; and he was for ever afterwards debarred from selecting one additional acre. A mistake was made in regard to the limitation, because, in many cases, 320 acres, though sufficient for a few years, was found to be quite insufficient for the settler, in the northern parts, as his family grew. The result was that in some -instances he sold his birthright to others who had acquired lands by the same means as he himself had. In other instances, unfortunately, the land was sold to persons who were aggregating large estates, and the results have been felt ever since. In order to obtain land, people had to leave Victoria, and the nearest State where land was available was New South Wales. The Murray, was crossed by numbers of bond fide settlers, who, with grit and determination, set to work to make homes for themselves and their families. I desire to place on record the facts in relation to one of these families, though I dare say they are well known to those who are acquainted with the early history of Victoria and southern New South Wales. In New South Wales land was made available, 320. acres for the parents, and 320 acres for each child, at a maximum price of £,1 per acre, on deferred payment. The family to which I allude was the Joachim family, well known in the northern parts of Victoria, and, subsequently, in every law Court of New South. Wales, and in the Privy Council. This family settled on the Moira lands, which were not then in the occupation of the present owner. . In good faith they selected 320 acres for the parents, and a similar area for each of the children. Their application was made, and their money received by the Crown, but, after they got into possession, the greedy landowner, who had hundreds of thousands of surrounding acres, commenced to’ .harass them, on the ground that they had no title. The title that the family had was that given to them by the Ministry of New South Wales, Who, however, refused to stand by them in their trouble. Their title was challenged, and, unaided in any monetary sense, the family fought the case in the law Courts, where it was decided in their favour. On the one side was very limited means, while on the other was practically unlimited means ; . but from Court to Court the case was taken,’ and every time decided in favour of the bond fide pioneer. The maid fide pioneer, however, strove at all hazards to oust the family, because this case was typical of many which depended on the result of the litigation. The family could not have continued this unequal contest but foi friends who had known them in the early, days in Victoria and southern New South’ Wales, by whose assistance the heavy laws costs were from time to time met. The State authorities, who should have stood by those whom they put into possession, allowed bond fide men to be crushed out of existence. Although the case to which I refer went to the Privy Council, no final decision was given on it. The parties to it were very unequally matched, one being rich and the other poor, and although the latter was assisted In defending his case before the Privy Council by the contributions of hundreds who desired to get land, he died financially ruined and mentally harassed. The honorable member for Swan twitted me last Friday with having been for many years a member of the New South Wales Parliament without doing anything to remedy this state of affairs ; but one of my first acts was to secure the appointment of .1 Select Committee, which made a recom mendation to the Legislative Assembly on which the title to the land was validated, and the selector’s family kept in possession. The then! Premier, a man who had a heart as big as his body - I refer to the late Sir George Dibbs - did not think it too much trouble to go into the district, some hundreds of miles from Sydney, to ascertain the facts. Let me quote another instance of the way in which land was taken possession of in New South Wales ; I refer to what is known as the Bickford case. In that case a free selector was driving his stock to market along a road which, had been surveyed and marked on the plans, but had never been proclaimed, and had been leased to a large squatter.. This squatter brought an action against the selector for trespass, and the case, went from one Court to another, until the selector was ruined, and lost his property. That happened although free selection before survey was permitted, and notwithstanding the fact that the road had been surveyed and was marked on the plan. I have mentioned that the only day on which applications for selection could be received was Thursday, but it often happened, when an application was made, that those in possession would put a notice on the land applied for, saying that they wanted it for an “ 1. 1. P.,” or intended improvement purchase, or “ V.L.O’s.,” or volunteer land orders, were brought into use. At one time every volunteer was given the right to take up 40 acres of land in any part of the State. These rights or orders were purchased by the land grabbers, and used to prevent selection. Another thing done tq prevent the selector from proceeding with .his application was to get the Minister to proclaim the land which had been applied for as a water or a forest reserve. There are hundreds of water reserves in New South Wales where water has never been conserved, and hundreds of forest reserves where trees are never likely to grow unless planted. Thus, with the help of Governments ruled and dominated by a class, bond fide settlement was checked. We are told that we should go and do as the pioneers did. The men of to-day have as much grit and determination as those who preceded them, but they have not the same opportunity for getting land. However, the Legislature was gradually liberalized. Radicals like my- self were elected, although it took’ all our patriotism and courage to get into Parliament, and to keep there. I have stated that while land might be applied for on a
Thursday, it might be bought at auction on- the following Wednesday at the upset price of £i an acre, which, of course, would prevent its selection. In 1882 or 1883 an Act was passed preventing the Government from selling more than a certain area of land every year. Then, when the late Sir Joseph Abbott, who was afterwards Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, was Minister of Lands, the large country estates were each divided into two portions, one known as the “ leasehold “ portion, of which the occupier was granted a lease for a period of ten years, and the other known as the “ resumed area,” which was available for selection, but it was found, when the division came to be made, that the resumed areas were often spotted all over with little freeholds made by virtue of “ I.I.P.’s,” “V.L.O.’s,” and auction sales. Sometimes a selector was almost completely surrounded by freehold land. Consequently it became necessary to pass an Act permitting the owner of freeholds in the resumed areas to exchange them for similar areas in the leasehold areas. It was thought that when the ten-years period came to an end, the . land under lease would become available for selection, as the resumed areas were, but since then many of the leases have been extended, some of them for as long as forty-two years.
– Leased land differs from alienated land because it must, by effluxion of time, come back to the people. Honorable members opposite have spoken of much of this land as very poor, but in the Riverina between 8,000,000. and 9,000,000 acres have been alienated. Were the land useless and unfertile, there would not have been the greed to accumulate large estates by means of the devilish system to which I have referred. Much of that land was taken up for speculative purposes,, and its value has ‘been increased by public expenditure by 400 per cent. I want to see our land settled on and devoted to the purposes of production, so that our people may rear sturdy boys and girls. I do not wish to see it merely trafficked in as it has been in the past. I was surprised to read a few clays since the following statement by the Premier of New South Wales regarding the land question -
The trouble had been rapidly growing, and they were face to face with two problems. On the one hand there was no encouragement for the development of the country areas, because land for agricultural purposes was not available, and, on the other hand, there were many instances of large tracts of land either hemming in large towns and preventing their expansion, or, if not, the surrounding lands were held for pastoral purposes when they were suitable for agriculture, and there was no machinery for bringing them on to markets, and no stimulant for putting agricultural land to its best use.
– The argument there was that railways should be built, not that the value of the land should be reduced.
– The speech was reported in the Narrandera newspaper of the 6th inst. Mr. Wade was pointing out that development and expansion were being arrested by the hemming in of towns by large estates, and that rich agricultural land was being used for pastoral purposes.
– He mentioned, too, that land was not being used to the full pending the construction of proper means of transit.
– Mr. Wade was speaking at Narrandera, from which town there has been a railway to Sydney for many years. Between Narrandera and Junee are large tracts of country, which, twelve or thirteen years ago were held in freehold or under lease by large landholders, who did nothing to improve them. No attempt was made by the large landholders to deal with these vast areas : but, as the result of an influx of Liberals and Labour men into Parliament, the reserves were gradually taken from the control of these men, and we now have smiling homesteads and hundreds of farms where formerly only a wilderness existed. All the towns in the neighbourhood, as the Premier of New South Wales has admitted, have consequently increased in prosperity. There are many other towns the progress of which has been arrested owing to their being hemmed in by large estates, and among these are Deniliquin, Hay, and Jerilderie. According to the newspapers, one of the gentlemen who recently waited on the Prime Minister in regard to this Bill said that a number of properties in the Riverina district had been offered for sale, and that, since they had not been sold, the only inference that could be drawn was that there was no demand for the land. But is it not a farce to offer a man having only a few pounds, but plenty of pluck and determination, an area of 200,000 or 300,000 acres of land, which would cost him, perhaps, ,£500,000, when he desires only 100 acres? Land in the Riverina district has increased in value to the extent of about £4 an acre. It was purchased in the early days for £1 per acre, and even less. In many cases a selector obtained ,a holding at £1 an acre, and improved it to the extent of another £1 an acre, but was so harassed by law suits and in other ways that he was glad to sell out to the neighbouring squatter for 10s., or even 7s. 6d. an acre. His one desire was to get out of the district, and in some cases, I am sorry to say, to get out of the country.
– How will this tax help the small man who has no money?
– It will compel owners of large estates to subdivide them, and consequently the poor man will be able to obtain a small area. In any event, it will cause the owner of a large property to put it to better use than that to which he is now devoting it, and men will find employment in cultivating it, even if they cannot obtain a portion for themselves.
– The large land-owner must use his land, or allow some one else to use it.
– Quite so. If a large land-owner were putting his land to the best possible use, then I should regard him as a public benefactor. It is the ““‘hold-back policy “ to which I object. I object to a man holding land simply for speculative purposes. In the Riverina district we have land capable of yielding a net annual return of from £2 to £2 an acre, yet we are told that it is giving a return of only per cent. The reason is that it is not being put to its best use. It is devoted to grazing, instead of to agriculture.
– But how will a man without money be able to acquire land as the result of the passing of this Bill? Such a man cannot touch land for wheat growing at ^4 per acre.
– I have known men to work hard for years in order to save sufficient to enable them to pay the survey fees and the deposit required to be lodged with an application for a piece of land. I have known those men, on obtaining a block, to battle on, year after year, improving their land, and in the off season making a few pounds by working for others. Give men of that class an opportunity to buy land in small areas and they will quickly make homes for themselves where now but a wilderness prevails.
– Still,’ they will have to pay for the land. How is a man without money to do that ?
– This tax will raise money for defence as well as for other purposes; and for the better defence of the country, we wish to settle more people on the land. My contention is that it would be better to give a poor man a piece of land for nothing, if he were prepared to put it to its best use, rather than to get ^5 per acre for it from a man who would allow it to remain practically idle.
– But that is what we cannot do, since we do not own the land.
– This Parliament certainly does not own the land ; but the passing of this Bill will provide machinery that will enable the States to do their duty in that respect. Certain valuations will be placed on the land, and we shall be able to ask the Court to determine whether or not we are entitled to acquire it at those valuations. The want of land settlement is the great problem before Australia.
– I appeal to the honorable member, because I know that he is familiar with this question. Will he tell me how this Bill will make more land available for the man with small means?
– I am endeavouring to show the honorable member. This measure will become law, and, whatever its fate may be, from the point of view of its constitutionality, the people have made up their minds to get the land, and they will have it.’
– Estates may be broken up as the result of this measure, but the prices will still remain to be paid.
– That is so, but if a man has only sufficient to provide for the purchase of 100 acres, what is the use of offering him 50,000 ? The result of this Bill is already foreshadowed in the Riverina, where owners of land in certain localities are subdividing it into small areas, and offering it for sale on long terms. Such subdivisions will be the inevitable result of the passing of this measure.
– But that is going on all the time.
– No. Now and again a station is purchased, not by an individual, but by a syndicate which cuts it j up. The unearned increment has first of ; all been obtained by the original owner, , and the syndicate have to get their profit out of the land; so that they sell at a price that will ultimately be found to have been too high.
– I do not see how that state of affairs can be altered by the passing of this Bill, unless we cheapen the land.
– - This Bill will cheapen the land. We should legislate to cause land to be brought to its best use.
– Is there not more land available in New South Wales, at a reasonable price, and on extended terms, than is demanded ?
– The honorable member was not present when I quoted the statement of the Premier of New South Wales. My answer to his interjection is that for every block of land offering in New South Wales at a reasonable price, and under reasonable conditions, there are 200 or 300 applicants.
– I am speaking of areas of reasonable size suitable for wheatgrowing.
– What would-be a reasonable area in the western district of New South Wales?
– In the very worst part of the western district of New South Wales land is being cut up into areas of 3,000 acres. It is said that men can make a living upon such holdings. The honorable member for Wimmera knows that a man who is anxious to purchase 100 acres does not want a r,000-acre block to be offered to him.
– Land is available in the Temora and Wyalong districts in areas as small as is desired.
– With a rainfall of 8 inches a year.
– With a rainfall of 20 inches and more.
– The honorable member’s statement is wrong, not only in regard to the rainfall, but as to the lands available: I know the districts to which he has referred, and can say that there is a great land hunger there.
– I know scores of people who have gone into those two districts.
– The honorable member is speaking of men who have been on the land, and, having sold out, have gone into other districts with a view to acquiring land for speculative purposes. I have no sympathy with that class; I am speaking of men who wish to put land to its best productive use. Victoria has had a bitter experience of ‘land booming, and, in some respects, has not yet recovered from it. We do not want to boom land”. We do not want to consider whether land is worth is. or £100 per acre. What we need to do is so to legislate that the land will be put into the hands of those who will remain upon it and turn it to its best productive use. Men who will do that do not care whether their land is worth £1 or £100 per acre. Let me quote the following letter, written by a selector to a newspaper -
Sir, - I have read with some interest in your last issue Mr. Wade’s statement that the progressive land tax reduces the value, &c. As a landholder (selector) here between thirty and forty years, I would like to point out that the tax does not make the land any less productive. It will grow the same amount of wheat, cabbages, stock, &c, tax or no tax. If it reduces the value, so much the better, unless for the land jobber, for whom I have no place, as it will then be available to thousands of “ Sons to the soil “ who have only limited means to get a portion of their native land. Even the “exterminating monopolist” should not complain if it makes land very cheap, as he will have less to pay for keeping his fellow men from a share of their birthright. - Yours, &c, john Archer, Tarcutta, 5th September.
That corroborates the statement I made on Friday last, and the writer is not afraid to sign his name - “John Archer, Tarcutta.” We have in this letter the voice of the selector - the voice of the class of men whom the honorable member for Wimmera would have us believe complain that they will be ruined if this Bill be passed. In this case, however, we find the selector saying that he longs for this change to be brought about, in order that true sons of the soil may get on the land.
– But how can the class of men. to whom the honorable member refers get on the land without State assistance, even if this tax be imposed?
– My argument all through has been that the States ought to assist people to get on the land. We have been told that we ought to leave this matter to the States, but since they have not done their duty we are going to force them to do it. This Land Tax Assessment Bill, if it becomes law, will enable the State Government to acquire those lands at such a. price as to make closer settlement highly profitable to the country as a whole. The honorable member for Parramatta and others have declared that there is plenty of land available for settlement, but, in reply, I can quote from newspapers published in districts of New South Wales, which are regarded as practically desert areas of that
State. The Balranald Recorder of 7th September contains the following -
The Lands Department is sending a boring plant to test for water all the country extending from Benanee Lake, and, if successful, the land will shortly be made available for selection in small areas for mixed farming. There is some very valuable land here for agricultural purposes. lt is all similar to the country occupied by Mr. W. G. Tress, who has a small area under cultivation near Lake Benanee. The results achieved here speak for themselves and show the quality of the land.
This is a case in the western division of New South Wales, where land is held at a mere peppercorn rental on a lease tenure of over forty years ; and day after day we are told that this land is useless for anything but grazing. Here, however, we have it demonstrated by a man, who gives his name, that the land is eminently fitted for agricultural purposes. Formerly, it was declared that no man could live on less than 50,000 acres of this land ; and yet we are now told that the Government are going to make it available in areas of 3,000 acres.
– Water is obtained by boring, is it not?
– Has the honorable member seen the last issue of the Australasian, in which 60,000 acres of the most fertile land in Australia are advertised in allotments of from 25 to 300 acres?
– I thank the honorable member on’ behalf of the Labour party for the information he has just given us, which amounts to the fact that this land is being subdivided in fear of the land tax.
– But this sort of thing has been going on for the last twenty years to my knowledge.
– They are putting up their umbrellas because they know it is going to rain. The same newspaper, in no critical mood, but simply giving a statement of fact, says -
As evidencing the intentions of the Western Land Board to keep pace with the demand for land in this district, we have been informed that the one-eighths of Paika and Tupra are to be withdrawn under the provisions of the Western Land Act and made available for small holdings.
I may explain that these forty-year leases contain a provision that the State Government may resume one-eighth at any time for the purposes of closer settlement - ….. the Western Land’ Board propose making this large area available for small settlers under a tenure of mixed farming, the maximum area of the farms being about 3,00a acres. … In all, the area will, it is confidently expected, provide living areas for fully 80 new settlers. It can easily be recognised what an impetus such an increase in the population of the district means to our hitherto sleepy little town.
I ask the honorable member for Illawarra and others to mark this -
In fact, at the present time, in anticipation of the opening up of the Crown lands referred to, holders of town allotments arc asking prices largely in advance of those obtained a few months ago.
All this shows how valuable settlement is. I need not deal further with the matter, because any practical man of experience knows that it is an absolute misstatement to say that there is plenty of land available. As a matter of fact, it is most difficult for the right class of people to obtain land j and for that reason I am supporting this Bill. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of this legislation as an abuse of the powers of the Commonwealth ; but I point out that the States have always had the power to make land available in the way now proposed.
– The States have had about seventy years’ experience !
– Quite so.
– The honorable member for Riverina, as a State member, helped to exercise the power of the State, and was perfectly satisfied with many of the proposals made. There was no warmer supporter than the honorable member of Sir Joseph Carruthers’ Land Bill.
– The honorable member only does me credit when he shows that it was perfectly immaterial to me what Premier or Government was in power, so long as there was a proposal to liberalize the land laws ; and I thank the honorable member for the compliment. I do not say that nothing has been done by the States ; hut until the Radical element in politics could exercise some force, and did exercise it, almost at the point of the bayonet, very little was done. If there are constitutional difficulties in the States in the way of these desirable reforms, these constitutional difficulties ought to be removed.
– Did the honorable member support the unimproved land tax in New South Wales?
– I did not, as the honorable member knows. In the State of Victoria there was a change of Government because the Ministry -then in power did not meet the people’s demands in the way of opening up the land. The first Murray Government entered office, and, with new-born zeal, pointed our even more evils than I have to-day ; and the people of the country rallied round them, just as they have rallied round the Labour party on the present occasion. The Murray Government introduced a Bill providing that land was to be resumed; but though that Bill passed the Legislative Assembly, it was blocked in the Legislative Council. We all know how infuriated the Government professed themselves to be at this rebuff,, and how they declared they would oppose every one of the members of the Legislative Council who had voted againstthe measure ; but we also know the result. When the Government were returned safely to power, the poor, landless, men were forgotten; and the Government will_ remain silent unless we do something to stir them. There is evidence of turmoil ahead unless something is done, because Australia needs men, and not only sheep, for the purposes of defence. What is it that has brought about the enhanced value of the lands? I am sorry the honorable member for Fremantle is not present, because he addressed himself particularly to the Riverina, and declared that, owing to the immense cost of clearing to the holders, there was no unearned increment. From my own practical knowledge I can say that the honorable member is entirely in error ; and he ought not to have repeated the fairy tales told him. The honorable member assumes that the whole of the Riverina was originally dense forest, and that the cost of clearing, and rendering it fertile ran into pounds an acre. As a matter of fact, there are millions of acres in the Riverina on which a tree never grew; and all the original holders had to do was to _ fence, and make provision for water by sinking.
– Is it not a fact that the land there was so rotten that for many a year it was supposed to be impossible for it to carry stock?
– That is entirely wrong. The Riverina land, like every other land, improves by consolidation. Land in its natural state and land after it has been brought into use are of two different classes.- I do not desire to go into the chemistry of the matter; but the part of the Riverina where the timber was most dense was of no value to the land-grabber, and he did not acquire it. That portion pf the land is still in the hands of the State, and is being utilized for the very proper purpose of afforestation. The timber lands there consisted of ordinary box country, not heavily timbered, but with rather a dense scrub growth. The original cost of ringing was is. per acre, which in later years nas been reduced to 6d. The cost of scrubbing and burning up ran from 2s. to 3s. ad. per acre, or an average of 3s. ; and for the purposes of this work the land-owners, through the bosses of the Chinese camps in the locality, imported labour from China, and the whole cost did not exceed 5s. per acre. The honorable member for Fremantle also said that ten or twelve years at least were required to obtain a good grass surface on the lands of the Riverina; but it takes nothing like such a length of time. There is what is called “ bark ringing,” and also what is called “ sap ringing,” one of which is much more rapid in its results than the other ; but when the scrub has been removed, and barking done, the very next year shows a covering of grass, and in two or three years there is a perfect sward. It is no use exaggerating in a matter of this kind, especially when, in this House, there are men who, like myself, have had years of practical experience of the country. According to the terms imposed by the State Government, £1 an acre should be spent iri improvements; but, so far as the Riverina is concerned, not half that amount has been expended. In a great many cases the original owners of these lands have been forced or assisted or induced by large financial institutions to acquire further lands, and I know quite well what engineering has been going on in regard to opposition to this Bill. Large firms and financial institutions are sending out circulars through the farmers’ and settlers’ associations of New South Wales, pointing out that the proposed tax will mean ruin to all land-holders. Again, I ask, if this land was of the kind described by the honorable member for Grampians and the honorable member for Fawkner, and others, why was there such intense anxiety to acquire it? For area, fertility, and favorable position to the seaboard and railway communication, there is no finer land for agricultural closer settlement than is to be found in the Riverina. We are told that the present holders can only make a return now of 3! per cent., and that this lax will ruin them. All I can say is that if the present holders can make no larger return than that, they are a positive danger to the community while they keep the lands from occupation by men who could make 500 per cent. For nearly forty years past the average wheat yield of the Riverina has been 13 bushels an acre without irrigation.
– That is a very low yield.
– It is a very good average, taking into account the years of drought. Of late years, the average has been over 20, and in many cases 40, bushels have been obtained. Of course; we may get bad seasons again, but we shall also get good ones, and the class of men I should like to see on the land would, like they did in Egypt, make provision in the good years for the bad years. Round about Deniliquin, Moama, and Mathoura, 640 acres are sufficient, without irrigation, to give a man, not a living, but a competency, if he uses the land for wheat growing, and the other profitable uses to which he could put it. The State is spending much public money annually on agricultural colleges and experimental farms, but of what use are the latter when placed on large estates whose owners do not regard agriculture as sufficiently aristocratic for them? Further, millions of pounds of public money have been spent on irrigation, the water being taken, not through Crown lands, but through large private estates, whose owners will eventually sell at £10, £15, and’ ^20 an acre to men who should have been able to buy land for £2 or ^3 an acre. I have said that land is worth only what it will produce. If those who are on it will not put it to its full use, it is our duty, by taxation, or in some other way, to prevent them from continuing in occupation. The Leader of the Opposition says that the Bill is unconstitutional, but I think I have heard him express a different opinion. I do not put my views on a question like this against those of legal members, but, to my mind, it is clear that we have an absolute right to impose direct taxation. The next argument brought against the measure is that a land tax would not bring the best land into use. Would it not bring into use the lands of the western part of Victoria, which are worth £100 an acre? Would the holders of those lands continue to graze sheep on them if they had to pay a tax? Would they not rather put them to the fullest use? As to the arid lands, is is not a fact that in the western parts of the Riverina there is very little freehold land, most of the country being held under lease for very long terms? A son of the Chaf fey Brothers, who demonstrated what could be done with irrigation at Mildura and Renmark, has a station on the Darling, which he has developed in such a way as to make many of those leaseholders sorry that they cannot convert their leases into freeholds. It has been drummed into our ears that the tax will ruin thousands. I have already complained of my ‘ exclusion from the deputation which waited on the Prime Minister.
– I think that it was an oversight.
– I again challenge the members of that deputation to name a holder of freehold estate in the Riverina who will be ruined by the proposed tax. None of them will be ruined. I say that advisedly, having a practical knowledge of the circumstances of the whole district. The aggregation of large properties, in the Riverina is still going on, the desire for accumulation being a weakness’ of human nature. When a man is poor and single, he desires to get enough to give him selfrespect, and to make him respect others. Having got so much, the Divine prompting to marry and beget urges him to make provision for the responsibilities of marriage. That he does. Then he says to himself, ‘.’ I have vigour, health, and youth now, but the day will come when I shall be feeble, and unable to continue turning the wheel. I must make provision for old age.” Having provided for the old age of himself and his wife, he says, “ I must give my children a start in life.” All these aims are legitimate; but, unfortunately, the greed for accumulation never ceases. When -a man has done what I have described - and up to that point his efforts have been laudable - the State should intervene and say, “ You have done enough “ ; because all accumulation beyond what he has deprives some one else of opportunities. I believe that the Bill will be a means to a most beneficent end. We have no desire to do injustice ; but, if there must be suffering, it is better that the few should suffer than that the whole body politic should be in a state of serfdom. Let us make it possible for our people to acquire land, and by putting their shoulders to the wheel, and their hands to the plough, to build up an Australia which, if ever the enemy’s flag should threaten, will be strong enough and patriotic enough to defend itself. It is our duty now to try to provide for a population such as We should have had fifty years ago. I hope and trust that the Bill will do what we desire. If it does, it will have the blessing of man and of God Almighty, who has given the land as a birthright to all.
– With the general sentiments of the honorable member for. Riverina, every one will be in perfect accord. His fervour at times has been such that one might have imagined him as an old Covenanter leading a sacred cause. He made many -appeals to High Heaven ; but I am not sure that his remarks will help much in the elucidation of the problem set by the Bill. The impression made by his speech, and others, is that the question should be discussed in an Australian atmosphere. During three hours, he never once travelled beyond the borders of the Riverina, one of the most favoured spots in New South Wales.
– He was answering attacks made by the Opposition.
– No one on this side disputes the wisdom - and justice of opening up the lands ; but we have spoken against a tax which is unfair in its incidence, and will not mete out even rough justice to our land-owners and land .users. The honorable member for Corangamite, too, in delivering a speech which earned the encomiums of the press and of many honorable members, did not go beyond the rich and fertile Western District of Victoria. I invite honorable members generally to take a wider view, and to consider this proposal from the Australian stand-point. Let them remember the existence of the vast areas, lying beyond Victoria and the Riverina, in Northern Queensland, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory. It seems impossible to get some of them to consider how the proposed tax will apply to lands which are good, bad, and indifferent. The honorable member for Riverina devoted two-thirds of his speech to describing the means by which, in former times, large freehold estates were acquired in New South Wales ; but he did not tell us that many land-owners there were compelled to buy land to prevent their runs from being “ peacocked “ by free selectors. The conditions he alluded to were the result of a land system which permitted any one to select land anywhere. In other words, it is the result of the haphazard methods of land selection that have been in vogue in some of the larger States.
– What party was in power in those clays?
– What does it matter? I am dealing only wilh the fact - which I am sure even the honorable member will not attempt to controvert - that we are pursuing a policy of land settlement which is the exact opposite of the policy that was deemed to be the acme of statesmanship in the days to which I allude. Every one knows that a great deal of this aggregation of land in New South Wales was the result of a system that obtained for many years under which any one could pick out a piece of land on a man’s run, plank himself down upon it, and wait, either to be bought out or until facilities were provided to enable him to cultivate the land.
– Do not forget that the owner “ peacocked “ as well as the selector.
– Human nature, in the case of the large owner, is precisely what it is in the case of the small owner. _When one man began to put his wits against those of another, we had a battle of wits, and the result, was these huge aggregations, some of them absolutely against public policy. I should be sorry if I thought any one on this side would attempt to justify some of these aggregations, and particularly those which go to make up the problem of our land-locked towns.
The honorable member has referred to towns in the Riverina that are landlocked, and he could have multiplied his instances by the score. The problem is one which Australia has to face, and to settle at the earliest possible moment. But it is precisely the problem that we in this Parliament are least fitted to solve, because of our want of control of the land policy. My honorable friend also said that some of these large estates had increased in value to the extent of 400 per cent. He spoke of the enormity of the offence committed by the station-owner, who sat back, so to speak, and allowed increased public facilities and the multiplication of population in given areas to add to the value of his land to this extent. May I remind him that in speaking thus he only accentuates one of the difficulties of imposing a tax of this kind. Suppose we say it is correct that something should be done to appropriate those values to the State - suppose we agree with my honorable friend’s argument that the State has created some of those values, and concede all that he says about these communitycreated values - what has he to say in regard to the position of the man who, yesterday, paid the full value of the land? This Bill says, in effect, to that man, “ We want back again from you 30 per cent., or 40 per cent., of the value of that land, although you paid for it only yesterday.”
– He knew what he was doing.
– Supposing he did, does that fact make him a criminal ?
– Who is making him a criminal ?
– I am pointing out that under this Bill the Government are proposing to tax the man who has paid practically nothing for his land on the same principle as they will tax the man who. say; six months ago, paid the full value for it. Is it as fair to call upon the man who has paid ,£100,000 for an estate, which to-day is valued at ^100,000, to pay a tax of 6d. in the £1 as it would be to call upon a man who had paid practically nothing for his land to bear that impost ?
– How would the honorable member get at the. man who had paid practically nothing for his land?
– It is for the Government which the honorable member supports to get at him if he must be got at.
The point is, that they are imposing one tax upon the whole of the lands of Australia, irrespective of their rate of development, the facilities for settlement, the rainfall, climate, and everything else, which differentiate the lands of the Commonwealth to such an extent as to make our land problem, perhaps, the most perplexing in the world. The Government are trying to meet a complicated state of affairs by imposing one tax, and they are doing that only because they can do nothing else. They will have no control over the lands after they have, so to speak, burst them up. There is no guarantee that when the tax is operative the Government will be any further forward in the way of providing for a distribution of land amongst the people.
– Then why all this commotion?
– I am trying to make it clear to the honorable member that one tax will not fit the infinitely diversified conditions of land tenure that obtain in Australia.
– How many does the honorable member want?
– The honorable member knows of at least twenty different methods of treating land tenures in New South Wales. He knows, too, that when this tax is imposed the Government will still have to rely upon the State machinery to follow it* out, and to see that the land is put to the use that the tax is intended to cause it to be put.
We are told that in the Riverina there arelands upon which people would grow wheat to-day if they could obtain them. We are told, too, that men wish to marry and to rear families. All that is true, and the honorable member for Riverina almost grew unctious - with even a tremor in his voice - when he was depicting the case of men who were so anxious to provide for their families? The Bible, which the honorable member has quoted so often this afternoon, tells us that a man is worse than an infidel if he does not provide for his family. We may admit everything that the honorable member says as to that. Only the other day I had a letter from a man, whom I do not know, pointing out that he has about. ^25, 000 worth of land values and a family of ten children. “ T want to keep that land intact until my children are ready to take it themselves,” he wrote. And the Government are going to penalize this man for doing the very thing that the honorable member for Riverina advocated just now. This man says that if this tax is imposed, he must break up his estate, because his sons are not yet able to take upon themselves the responsibility of working it. ls it not better, from every point of view, that those lands should be kept together, as now consolidated, until they may be mutually dissolved amongst the children? My honorable friend talks about providing for one’s family, and I point to the case of this man who has a family of ten, and wishes to provide for them.
– What about the thousands of families who have no land?
– Shall we help them by penalizing this family? Surely those ten children are as much entitled to share the fruits of their father’s foresight and enterprise as is any one else. One has only to begin to look at the practical difficulties of this question to see how infinitely complex it is. I have quoted this case to show that my honorable friend, in his desire to illustrate the enormities of those who have had land for many years, and have put it to no use, and the value of whose land to-day is very much more than it was when they took it up, has only accentuated the injustice of this tax, which will fall equally upon land which was sold yesterday as upon land that was obtained for practically nothing in the days long since past. Then, again, this tax falls equally upon the man who owns all his land, and the man who owns only one-third or half of his land. I speak now of the mortgagor. Under this tax he will be wiped out. If he has to pay the interest, as he has at present,, and also to pay this tax as if he were the full owner, he must be wiped out, unless he can make provision with the banks to relieve him of portion of the tax. This Bill does not touch any of those huge institutions as such. If it will do anything at all in its present form it will simply help many of the big financial institutions as against the men who are today their customers.
– Vet those institutions are against the Bill !
– Why should they not be, if the Bill is opposed to the interests of their customers ? The honorable member knows that the banks will not have to pay the tax on any land of which they are the mortgagees.
– Many of the big estates are owned by the banks.
– In some cases they are, but in more cases they are not ; and this Bill says that when they are not the owners, but only the mortgagees, they shall be exempt from the operations of the tax. Therefore my honorable friend will not get at the big institutions, as he sets out to do, by means of this Bill. In nearly every case he will be getting at the men who are least able to help themselves.
I have no objection, and am not likely to have- any, to a wise system of land taxation.
– All Tories say that.
– The honorable member is opposed to this tax - not to a land tax.
– I have always been opposed to Commonwealth land taxation, because I think those who control the land should tax it. The purpose of this tax is to break up big estates. Those who own the lands are the people to break them up, and those who have the machinery to break them up equitably and to apportion and adjust the difficulties are the people who ought to impose this tax.
– Suppose they will not do that ?
– Does it come to this : That if the States will not do anything that we want them to do, then we have the right, irrespective of the Constitution
– Oh, no !
– Irrespective of justice and equity, we have the right, according to honorable members opposite, to do what we like. Those who will not honour the bond in its limitations as well as in its privileges are not Federalists or Nationalists. What State has refused to impose land taxation? I understand that Mr. Watt, the Treasurer of - Victoria, a few months ago proposed a tax of a very drastic character, and in submitting his proposals in the Legislative Assembly made a speech which it has been the pride of Ministers to quote. This Government, however, stopped him.
– The Upper House threw out the State Land Taxation Bill.
– The Commonwealth Government have stopped him from attempting that taxation. I know exactly what I am talking about. I know Mr. Watt, and I believe he intended to put that tax through, Upper House or no Upper House. The Commonwealth Government, however, stopped him from tackling his problem. They are going to tackle it for him; and he says that the State must now stand aside and see what the Commonwealth is going to do.
– He says that he is going on.
-I read in the newspapers this morning a statement by the Premier of Victoria that there was to be no double taxation in this State.
– But the honorable member spoke of Mr. Watt.
- Mr. Watt represented the State Government in this matter, and the State Government deliberately say that they are not going on with their land tax proposal. By this tax of 6d. in the£1 the Government have made it impossible for any State Government, or any shire, to proceed to further land taxation. The Government have as effectually cut off their chance of imposing further land taxation above this exemption as if it had been enacted in the Constitution that they should not impose further land taxation.
– There is now a limit under the Shire Act of . New South Wales.
– The shires are taxing up to 2d., and the municipalities up to 5d., in the £1. Add to the shire tax of 2d. this tax of 6d., and we have 8d., or two-thirds of the total value. That is equalto saying to a land-holder, . “You must pay the State, in one form or another, 66 per cent, of the value pf your land.” After this tax has been paid, there will be a further margin of 33 per cent., on which the States and the shires may operate.
– Only in respect of estates exceeding the value of£80,000.
– Then the purpose of this tax is to burst up the estates of that value and over?
– Yes; that is my point of view.
– That is a frank statement. What about the statement of the Prime Minister that he had never said that this tax was for the purpose of breaking up large estates? My honorable friend is a power behind the throne, and he says that the very object of this tax is to burst up large estatesto take all the value from the occupier, if need be, and that, be it observed, without the slightest intention to recompense him in any way. I have known land taxers, and they are legion to-day, who believe in the gradual acquiring of this value from the large private owner; but, whether theoretically or really, they profess to say that the owner will lose nothing by the transaction. They say that the values will be taken gradually, and the owner will have remission of indirect taxation, so that, in the end. rough justice will be done even to him. Under this Bill, however, there is no pretence of that rough justice.
– Yes there is, in the exemption of the small man.
– Is it proposed to remit any indirect taxation?
– We have not the power to do so.
– Exactly !
– That is why there is the exemption.
– This taxation is not at all the ideal of the honorable member, in whose hands it would take a form as different from this as light is from dark. The honorable member gives the whole case for the tax away, when he says that we have not the power to give any relief of the kind suggested - that we have only the power to crush the owner.
– We do not tax the small man because we cannot remit any of his present taxation.
– May I suggest that the honorable member should not say that too confidently ; he had better wait until the tax is in operation? My impression is that we cannot depreciate A’s land without also depreciating B’s land - we cannot begin to smash things about without the effects “being felt all round.
– There would be an increased population.
– Everybody is in favour of land taxation and of settling people on the land. A wide distribution of land means, ultimately and always, a wide distribution of all that makes for civilization; the only question is whether we have the machinery to do this as fairly, equitably, and reasonably as can the States.
– We are going to make a try.
– And this Bill is the result of the first “ try.” The only thing I see in the “ try “ is a savage hit at somebody, irrespective of whom it may be, or what the consequences may be.
– That is unfair !
– I shall give the honorable member proof of everything I am saying.
– We know our own notions.
– I know that this proposed tax does not represent the honorable member’s notions.
– lt is the’ only practicable thing.
– I see nothing in the Bill which evidences a wide and broad Australian statesmanship as applied to the infinitely difficult problem of the settlement of the land. On the face of it. the Bill bears the stamp of revenge ; and that impression is confirmed by the speeches made in favour of it. Honorable members discuss the Bill from the stand-point of the few large land-holders ; they take no account of the circumstances under which the land has been acquired and is held, or of anything but the fact that some of the owners in Australia have large acreages which other people would be prepared to cultivate. In other words, this Bill, in its very essence, is a proposal to take the land from a few of the large owners and give it to another section of the community, who, for the time being, are the larger in number, and may put it to better use.
– Hear, hear ! That is a good argument for the Bill.
– Is it? Then ;I suppose, by a parity of reasoning, the honorable member would justify theft from a rich man’s house, if only, like Dick Turpin, the thief distributes the proceeds amongst the poor of the neighbourhood ? May I remind the honorable member that he must come back to the ethical side of :the question?
– The honorable member should go back to the Mosaic system !
– The honorable member wishes to take me back 6,000 years; but I decline to go.
– If the honorable member will not go forward, he had better go backward !
– We live under a new dispensation now.
– We need go back only twenty years !
– The honorable member may rake up all that has been raked up twenty times already about my early political measles - I hope I have got over them by now - but he will never find anywhere any justification on my part of a graduated land tax of this description. He will never find that I have advocated a system such as that proposed in this measure.
– Not when the honorable member was advocating a tax of is. in -the £1 ?
– I never did advocate a tax of is. in the £1. Every man who believes to-day what I did then, regards the proposed tax as unjust, unfair, and in- equitable, and as one the only purpose of which is revenge.
We are told that this tax is necessary to pay for defence, and to so people the country as to provide effective occupation. I see nothing in the Bill that will help in that direction ; on the contrary, I see much that will tend to bring the people away from the far back country of Australia. Is there anything in this Bill to induce a man to occupy the tropical country, which is our vulnerable point in defence? Our problem is to send people to the tropics; but by this Bill we tell a man that if he goes there, he shall only have a small holding of land, and that if he acquires more “he will be taxed.
– The Northern Territory is surely a separate proposition.
– Certainly not; the Minister of External Affairs the other day said that the occupation of the Northern Territory was one thing they had in view as an immigration problem. I wonder who would be fool enough to come from any other part of the world to take up a small area of land in the Northern Territory. The only chance we have of peopling the far north is to induce the much traduced squatter to go there.
– The squatter has got already what is worth having there.
– And I suppose he is rolling rich with it. Personally, 1 have not heard of many big fortunes being made there; but, if the squatters are making money, why do they not put more labour on the land, and reap more wealth. The answer is obvious; it is that their difficulties are too great in the way of transport, supplies, and so forth. In other words, the squatter has to await the oncoming of all those facilities which spell civilization, before the land up there can be put to profitable occupation. This tax, unnecessarily and unjustly, penalizes the men who are away far back in Australia; it seems, as it were, to shift the centre” of gravity of land taxation to the margin of subsistence where values taper off into nothingness in the far interior. In my opinion, the proposal is a travesty on a proper, well-adjusted, and equitablyapportioned land tax. What communitycreated values are there in the far back country of Australia? Yet it is proposed to tax lands there just as if they possessed all the advantages of communal existence in our urban and city areas.
– The honorable member knows that practically the whole of the land out back is leasehold.
– The honorable member is saying what is absolutely incorrect. He is evidently talking about his own district, and the trouble is that in discussing this question we cannot get honorable members to look beyond their own electorates. There are numbers of owners out-back who wish to Heaven they could have returned to them the money they invested, and yet they are to be taxed in precisely the same way as others near the centres of civilization.
This Bill aims at double taxation - that is its purpose and its ultimate intention. I know that this has been denied by several Ministers and others; but I shall quote a few statements, particularly one or two by the Attorney-General, to bear out what I have said. I am not going to rake up the past as far back as twenty years, but merely to quote language used by the Attorney-General on the 3rd February in this year, at a Labour Conference in Sydney. I use the quotation in order to show what is in the minds of honorable members opposite when they make proposals of this kind. The quotation 1 make is from the Worker, which reported the proceedings of the Conference. Mr. Holman, the Deputy Leader of the Labour party in New South Wales, was declaiming at that Conference against the course which the Commonwealth Government proposed to take, and we must remember always that, until the late election, the Labour party in New South Wales were diametrically opposed to the Commonwealth taxing the lands, or interfering in any way any further with industrial questions.
– The honorable member is quite wrong in regard to the land.
– Am I quite wrong in saying that Mr. Holman denounced any proposal by the Federal Parliament to tax the land?
– I understood the honorable member to speak of the Labour party.
– I was speaking of the bulk of the Labour .party.
– There are not three mem- . bers of the Labour party of that opinion.
– I am sure . the honorable member is wrong, as I shall show ; but, in the meantime, I wish to quote the Attorney-General, who, in replying to Mr. Holman, said : -
The policy of the Labour party was to raise taxation in a direct way. They believed in no Customs-house taxation at all, whether they were Protectionists or Free-traders, but in taxation on the unimproved value of land. Mr. Holman said in the State Parliament that he questioned the right of the Federal Parliament to tax land values at all. If there was anything they should go to the country upon it was taxation upon the unimproved value of land - Ihe bursting up of big estates and direct taxation. Not only should the Federal Parliament tax land, but the State House also should do it.
– The State Labour platform said exactly the opposite - that there was to be no State progressive, land tax if the Federal Parliament imposed a land tax.
– I know; but the honorable member will admit that I have a right to look beyond the platform to the ultimate intentions of honorable members. No one knows better than the honorable member that the platform is only for one election - that it will be altered before the next election - and, therefore, the views of the leaders of the party are very useful, as indicating the ultimate trend of.’ proposals for this kind of taxation.
– As indicating what the honorable member for West Sydney thinks the trend is.
– What I have quoted is a statement by the AttorneyGeneral at a Labour Conference; and I should not have used the quotation, but for the statement made a number of times by the Prime Minister, that there was no intention, in proposing this tax, that it should be a bursting-up tax ; but that, on the contrary, it is .proposed in order to raise revenue for defence and other legitimate governmental purposes.
– And, incidentally, to burstup.
Air. JOSEPH COOK.- Only “ incidentally,” of course; but we heard nothingof the “ incidental “ bursting up at the elections when the purpose was quite clearly stated by the Prime Minister, and also by the Attorney-General. The “incidental” part began the moment the Government got comfortably on the Treasury benches ; there a different tune was sung. I complainthat in this, as in many other matters, honorable members opposite do not really express their intentions to the country as they do when they are away from the people, and discussing matters in the House. What did the Prime Minister say then? There was a big Labour rally in Moorestreet, Sydney, shortly before election dayGood speeches were made from the Labour point of view, and they were reported at length in the daily press, which Labour members jeer at, but which treats them as well as it treats us. There were three meetings held on the same day, and the Labour champions addressed all of them. The present Prime Minister, speaking at: Annandale, said -
Unless the Australian Parliament undertook the duty of making available the land whichwas suitable for agricultural development, undoubtedly we would meet another financial’ crisis within a few years. At present the vast number of the population were employed in the cities. Professor Perkins, one of the ablest agricultural scientific experts, found that whereland was used for grazing its productiveness was not more than 5s. an acre yearly, whiletilled land gave a return of over £2. They would therefore be able to get eight times the amount of population on tilled land as on grazing property. If business people supported* his party, and it got into power, trade would increase eightfold. The advance of the country would be assured, and prosperity would abound.
He went on to controvert my statement that we have not the constitutional power to do what he proposed. At the big rally in Moore-street he repeated his statements -
The land tax was a policy that was an urgent necessity, lt was necessary, not only for the proper development of Australia, but for the safety of. the country, for when the land was brought into cultivation it would mean a greatly increased population to occupy it.
He said nothing to the effect that the impost would be for the purpose of raising taxation ; he spoke only of its effect in bursting up estates. It is idle, therefore, to tell us now that he has never, on any occasion, said that the tax was to be imposed for the purpose of bursting up big estates. The statements which I have read are none the less emphatic and clear because couched in moderate language. The other champion, the present AttorneyGeneral, also used language about whose meaning no mistake can be made -
I don’t care who bursts up the land monopoly. I’m not going to quarrel with the State over the question of precedence. I don’t care whether they burst up land monopoly, or we do it. But what I’m anxious and determined to the last gasp to do is to see that land monopoly is burst up.
Then, speaking at Surry Hills, he said -
If the Labour party is returned, we shall endeavour to slay that hydra-headed beast - land monopoly.
In February he used the language which 1 quoted a few minutes ago, to the effect that both the Commonwealth and the State Governments should levy land taxes. That statement was uttered when he was addressing his braves in the Labour Conference. But when he was speaking on the public platform, the politician came out. He was trying to win votes, to obtain place and power. Speaking of the £5,000 exemption, he said -
They say that we intend ultimately to tax rand without exemption.
I should say so, after the statement which he had made six weeks previously -
We could only do that by ‘getting Parliament to vote that exemption away ; and we give you our word that in this Parliament we shall go no lower than the ^”3,000 exemption. We have a record of unbroken pledges, and we shall not break this one. If any farmer is afraid that we shall in some later Parliament lower this £5,000 exemption, I say to him : What is it now stands between you and exploitation, nationalization, and confiscation by the State Parliaments? It is the power you have by your votes.
And here is an appeal which was not sincere, as it is contrary to the honorable member’s political creed -
If there were more of you, you would have more votes and more power. Our tax cutting down big estates would create little estates, and if the farmer wants to prevent a tax without exemption, he cannot do wrong in helping us to break down land monopoly.
– What is the matter with that ?
– It does not quite accord with the statement that the Commonwealth and the States should both impose a land tax, and that the land should be nationalized by means of land value taxation.
– Where did the honorable member say that?
– The present Minister of Defence declared that the land would be made too hot to hold.
– The big estates?
– Of course.
– That is what we are doing now.
– Is it the purpose of the Labour party to at any time go below the £5,000 exemption, either in the Commonwealth or State arena?
– So far as I know, it is not the intention of the party to do so.
– Not at any time ?
– Not at any time.
– Am I to take it that there is to be no further land taxation at any time either by the Commonwealth or the States?
– That is .the present intention.
– My honorable friend qualifies his statement. Labour leaders in the States have pledged themselves to lower this exemption. The other day, when a Labour leader was speaking in Victoria, some one asked, “ What about the estates worth less than £5,000? “ and the speaker replied, “ We shall leave it to Prendy ‘ to look after that? “ Mr. Watson and the present Prime Minister have declared that all problems arising out of the occupation of estates worth less than £5,000 must be left to the States.
– Can the honorable member mention a State Labour member who proposes to tax holdings worth less than £5.000 ?
– I could mention twenty.
– It is part of the Victorian Labour party’s platform. Senator Stewart says that he would tax estates worth less than £5,000.
– Yes. I believe that all the State Labour platforms, except that of New South Wales, provide for the taxing of estates of a less value than £5,000. Honorable members do not do themselves credit in trying to suggest that their proposals do not tend in the direction of the taxing of land by the Shire Councils, and the State and Commonwealth Parliaments, with a view of taking its value away. Already the taxation amounts to 8d. or 9d. in the shilling - 6d. here, and 2d. by the shires. You have two-thirds of the value already. If it were provided in the Constitution that no State should impose a land tax above the limitations which we have fixed, the provision would not be more effective than our tax. No one would contend that any State Parliament would put on a land tax in addition to ours for any purpose whatever. I fancy that the High Court will have something to say about this aspect of the matter.
The Attorney-General says that this country is more lightly taxed, so far as direct taxation is concerned, than any other in the world. He says that 1-1 450th of the population of Australia owns threeeighths of its land. The honorable member for Corangamite, too, quoted figures to show how great is the land monopoly. Speaking of the objective of the proposed tax, he said that men ought not to be pushed out into the arid districts. If it is not desired to bring about the closer settlement of the land in the arid districts, why is that land to be taxed? The honorable member said that we should settle the land near the cities, which has a good rainfall, and is in touch with railways. Every man is to be given a comfortable holding.
– Are they not entitled to it?
– Yes, if they can be given it fairly. But the honorable member’s remarks furnish a reason for not imposing a tax such as has been proposed. According to Mr. Knibbs, the total area of Australia is 2,974,581 square miles, of which 1,086,337 square miles have a rainfall of less than ro inches, and 1.041,81 5 square miles a rainfall of less than 20 inches, so that in all nearly threefourths of the lands of Australia have a rainfall of less than 20 inches, and do not come within the description of the honor able member for Corangamite as “ land near to cities, with a good rainfall, and in touch with railways.”
– Most of that land is leased, and will not be affected by the Bill.
– I shall come to that point presently. According to the honorable member for Corangamite, the object is to tax the 846,000 square miles which have a rainfall of more than 20 inches. If that be so, there should be some differentiation to make the tax equitable and useful.
The Attorney-General says also that so far the resumption of land has failed, and that out of 1,400,000 acres which have been repurchased, 900,000 acres have not been put under crop. He did not tell us all the circumstances of 11 case. Had he done so, he would have quoted Mr. Knibbs’ statement on the same page that “the persistent decline of wheat during the quinquennium has been practically counterbalanced by the increase of the area devoted to hay.” Mr. Knibbs shows on the next page that the number of dairy cows has increased from 1,499,804 to I>839>348. Does the Attorney-General suppose that Parliament can say whether land shall be used for wheat-growing or for dairying ? Are not the occupiers of the land most competent to say how it shall be used ? The increase of dairy herds and of the area under hay shows that the policy he spoke of has not been a failure, but the reverse.
With regard to his statement that Australia is the most lightly-taxed country in the world, so far as direct taxation is concerned, let me show that he manipulated the figures to support that conclusion. He says that in the United Kingdom the taxation amounts to £4 8s. 3d. per head, of which £1 7s. nd. is indirect taxation, ana £1 7S. 10d. direct taxation, making £2 15s. 9d., and £1 12s. 6d. local taxation. In Australia he says that the indirect taxation is £2 10s. 8d. per head, and the direct taxation 16s. per head ; but he should have said that the latter is 16s. sd. He spoke of. the local taxation as 14s. per head, and the proposed land tax as being equal to 5s. per head, making in all £4 6s. $d., or is. rod. per head less than is paid in the United Kingdom. He left out of account the amount received here from the public lands which is paid into the Consolidated Revenue - 16s. 3d. a head, and miscellaneous taxation amounting to 6s. 8d. a head.
– What does “ miscellaneous “ cover?
– It covers everything that is taxation, just as the honorable member gets everything that is taxation in the other case.
– I was under the impression that I had included all.
– No. There is 6s. 8d. per head miscellaneous, and 16s. 3d. per head in respect of land values.
– That is capital.
– Is rent from lease capital?
– What is the difference between a lessee paying his tax direct to the Crown, and a lessee paying it to his landlord - as is the case in the Old Country - who pays it to the Crown ?
– How does that affect the percentage ?
– In this way: That, whereas the honorable member stated it to be £4 6s. 5d. in Australia, it is £5 9s. 4d.
– That makes it still worse.
– All this is the result of the honorable member coming in suddenly, and having failed to follow what has been said. The Attorney-General quoted figures to show that Australia was the most lightly taxed country in the world.
– For the rich . man.
– I am pointing to two items that specially concern the rich man.
– Not at all.
– What! Not land revenue? If it was only the rich man that the honorable member had in view, why did he quote the indirect taxation of the United Kingdom?
– I quoted all the taxation - local and general.
– In each case; and I am pointing out that in Australia we pay£5 9s. 4d. per head, as against £4. 8s. 3d. per head in the Old Country. In other words, with all the weight of the Imperial burden upon them, the people of the Old Country pay £1 is.1d. per head less than we do.
– The honorable member is not taking the municipal taxation of the Old Country into consideration.
– The AttorneyGeneral has. He has said that it is £1 12s. 6d. per head.
– That is here.
– No; that is the local taxation in the United Kingdom. I have said that the taxation in the Old Country consists of £1 7s.11d. per head indirect, £1 7s.10d. direct; and £1 12s. 6d. per head local.
– Well, the honorable member has a bad authority-
– I believe that I have - it is the authority of the AttorneyGeneral.
That honorable gentleman also said that in New Zealand the people have to pay as much as our taxpayers would have to pay when this tax was in full operation. He did not tell us, however, that there is a unitary system of taxation in New Zealand. We are to have a land tax ranging up to 6d. in the £1, in addition to the shire tax of 2d. in the £1 in New South Wales, and a heavy tax in Tasmania. Why did not the honorable gentleman distinguish between the unitary system of taxation in New Zealand and our treble system here ? There is no analogy between the two cases. The Attorney-General also said that there were in New South Wales 104 estates comprising an area of more than 50,000 acres each. He did not say one word about the land in our western district, that people would scarcely take up on any terms. We had to tempt them to take up these lands by giving it to them for practically nothing for many years, before we could induce them to occupy it. All that is included in the big figures reeled off by the honorable gentleman. These figures have to be analyzed before we can make the tax fit, in a reasonable manner, the case that we all desire to fit. My honorable friend also said that the Labour party believe in immigration, and that that is another reason for this tax -
We are not merely talking about taxation ; we propose to proceed in a plain business-like way to make immigration possible. I speak as one who has had some experience, because, when in Wales three years ago, I found amongst my own people, literally hundreds of men who would come to this country if it were possible for us to say to them, “ There is land for you. Come, and you shall go straight on to it.
The honorable member for Corangamite speaks of settling immigrants on land that is near the city, close to civilization, with a good rainfall, and in touch with the railways. The . people are to go straight on to such land. Here we have a policy of immigration under impossible conditions.
– And yet the honorable member says that land in the western part of New South Wales is of no value.
– Where is “the honorable member going to? I am pointing out that, whilst the Labour party are mouthing about immigration, they are imposing upon every immigrant such stipulations as practically rule him out, and make his value very little to this, country.
– Why, the “ impossible conditions “ are already in existence, and are being carried out.
– I shall have something to say about some more impossible conditions that are imposed under this Bill. “ Satisfy the land hunger “ is one of the cries of honorable members opposite. Shall we ever satisfy land hunger ?
– Not until we make the land cheap.
– I am afraid that the honorable member knows nothing about human nature if he supposes that men will ever be so satisfied as not to want more land. I have not yet heard of a country where the land hunger has been satisfied. No one can complain of this Government that they did not tell the country plainly that they were going to try to burst up land monopoly by adopting a land policy as far as they could do so within the Constitution, but why did they not tell the country that they were going to impose a tax up to one-half of the unimproved value of land ? They cannot quote a print showing that a tax of 6d. in the £i was mentioned at any time during the election campaign by any responsible member of their party.
– I can refer the honorable member to some of my own speeches on the matter.
– I have been reading them. I have read of “ Shooting the tiger with explosive bullets “ and “ Slaying the hydra -headed beast,” but I can find no reference to any figures as to the amount of the tax.
– Then that is the fault of the press reports. They have omitted the point which the honorable member wished to get at.
– The honorable member should be the last to complain of the press of New South Wales. No man is treated half as kindly as he is by it.
– I never complain. I admit that the press is very good to me.
– It is rank political dishonesty for a Prime Minister to have on his notes a proposal for a tax of 66. in the £i and to mention a tax of only 4d. in the £i in his speech. If the honorable gentleman had this 6d. tax up his sleeve, he was playing false to the people of Australia by telling them that he meant to impose a tax of 4<i. in the £i.
– He never said that.
– He said he illustrated the tax up to 4d. in the £i, but that he had 6d. in the £i in his notes. It never came out of his notes, and the people were led to believe that the maximum tax would be one of 4d. in the £i. A man who plays that sort of game on the public of Australia is very like the man who plays a game of cards with the joker up his sleeve. I do not know exactly what that means, but I understand that it is very reprehensible, and I cannot denounce in language too strong the action of the Prime Minister in telling the people that the tax to be imposed would be 33 per cent, lower than the tax he has ultimately proposed. How can he say that he has a mandate for the imposition of a tax of 6d. in the £1 when on no platform in Australia did he mention such a tax? Is there an independent man outside the caucus who ever heard of this proposal ?
– The Prime Minister spoke of a tax of 4d. in the £1 in respect of estates of the value of £50,000.
-“ £50,000 and above “ was the language used.
– The honorable member supplies that.
– No, it is in the report of the Prime Minister’s speech.
– I refer the honorable member to our manifesto, in which we spoke of “an effective tax.”
– My point is that the Government did not tell the people what they really intended to do.
– Yes, they did, and every newspaper supporting the honorable member’s party throughout Australia said that this was to be a confiscatory tax.
– Of course, they did.
– Well, you have got it.
– I believe we have - a confiscatory tax, so the AttorneyGeneral says.
– -No: the honorable member said-
– I believe that the honorable gentleman spoke the truth for once.
– I say that the honorable member has a tax which his own party said was to follow our advent - an effective tax.
– The honorable member can make three more statements if lie pleases. His statement to me was that the newspapers said that a confiscatory tax was to be imposed, and that we had it.
– Honorable members have got the tax which they have been told about, and which they warned the people against.
– I have been listening to this debate very quietly and keenly to ascertain what my honorable friends opposite really have in view, and I find that they have as many opinions about the effect of this- tax - and, of course, it is impossible for all men’s minds to be pressed in the one mould - as there are faces in the party. For instance, the AttorneyGeneral was at great pains to prove that this tax was not going to break down land values, and the Prime Minister quoted figures to show that such taxation had not had that effect in New Zealand. The honorable, member for Hunter on the other hand, hopes that this tax will break down values, and enable the people to get cheap land. The honorable member for Riverina also says that he believes in his heart that it will bring down the values of the land.
– The inflated values.
– Then I will say inflated values, if honorable members please. Do honorable members think that this tax is going to decrease the selling values of the lands of the States?
– The honorable member knows all about the law of supply and demand.
– I do; and the point I make is that the moment honorable members opposite begin to bring down the values of the lands of the big man they must bring down the values of the lands of the small man near by-
– The small man does not want to sell ; he wants a home.
– If it is a good thing, as my honorable friends say, to break down land values where land is good and can be used profitably, what about those lands on the margin of cultivation that cannot be used under any circumstances? Are the values of those lands to be brought down still further? If so. who is going to occupy them?
– Land of the unimproved value of £5,000 ought to be sufficient to support a man.
– A man would starve on 5,000 acres of land in some parts of Australia. There is a huge portion of Australia in which nothing can be done except by the use of a large capital, and the occupation of the land in extensive areas. It would be idle to put men on small areas of such land.
– Where would the honorable member send them - to the Northern Territory ?
– No; that is where the Labour party, according to the Minister of External Affairs, are going to send them. I asked the honorable gentleman the other day what he meant when he said that the Government were going to take steps to throw open the lands of Australia, and he replied that they proposed the imposition of a graduated land tax and the acquisition by the Commonwealth and consequent lease of land now withheld from settlement in the Northern Territory. The Government are going to try to settle men up there. To begin with, they cannot induce them to go there. If they do, they will not stop. No man would be so foolish as to tackle the Northern Territory problem unless he had plenty of capital at his back and unless there was plenty of land available, and it was made worth his while to pioneer the tropics as men have pioneered other parts of Australia.
– Does not that apply to all enterprise?
– Then we should not tax wealth, according to the honorable gentleman, because it means penalizing wealth.
– That is not my point.
– That is the conclusion t> be drawn from the honorable member’s statement.
– No; the honorable member must not make his own premises, and then draw his own deductions. My point all through is that if the Government are going to force all land into settlement by means of this tax, by the same rule they ought to exempt land out back in the tropics, which is unfit for settlement.
– The honorable member’s idea of land taxation is that all land should be taxed.
– Oh, no. I say that no system of graduated land taxation in a place like Australia could be just which did not discriminate in its operation, and as to the areas on which it should fall!
– Why, the Bill which the honorable member introduced in the New South Wales Parliament taxed all the lands in the State.
– It exempted only properties not exceeding in value £240, and put a tax of id. in the £1 on the rest. Would the honorable member compare that tax with this?
– Yes, it was the beginning of the only good work that the honorable member has done in my time.
– The beginning ? This is a step further?
– It is.
– What is the next step?
– The honorable member is a political Mr. Faintheart; he took one step, and then turned faint !
-The honorable member is quite right; I am faint-hearted when it comes to doing a gross injustice by imposing a tax which has neither principle nor potency in it except for injustice.
– The tax is absolutely just.
– There is no principle whatever underlying this tax. I believe that every inch of land ought to pay a small tax ; and I have no objection to a fair land tax if it be applied justly and equitably.
– How far would the honorable member go?
– I am not in favour of doing what the honorable member proposes to do. This tax will fail in its purpose, and do a great deal of damage, and, in my opinion, very little good, for the simple reason that, when it is passed, we shall still be absolutely dependent on the policies of the States before there can be any practical effect. This is the clumsiest, most roundabout, and most difficult way of reaching the desired goal of peopling Australia. The other day the honorable member for Batman compared this taxation to the dog tax, and said that the latter is intended to put dogs down. Of course, it is just as I supposed - this tax is intended in the same way to put: down the land-owner.
– This tax is not intended’ to put down land-owners, but to encourage them to put their lands to the best possible use.
– Then this tax: is not intended to “ slay the hydra-headed’ beast” - not to “shoot the tiger of landmonopoly “ ?
– Some land-owners arenot beasts at all.
– I am glad tohear the honorable member now speaking, up for land-owners. Of course, this is what we hear in Parliament, but not what we hear on the platform. Nobody ever heard the honorable member say even that, much on the platforms of the country ;: what he then said was, “ If the Labourparty is returned we shall endeavour toslay this hydra-headed beast - land monopoly”?
– I thai spoke of land monopoly - I never so designated land’ monopolists.
– I should be very sorry at any time to say that the honorable member’s remarks were of a personal character, because, if they were, they would rule him out of civilized society. The honorable member compared the large holdings to a hydra-headed beast, to a tiger which it would require the force of an explosive bullet to kill. The honorable gentleman now says that this is not a taxto put down land-holders - he leaves that to the honorable member for Batman, whocompares them to dogs, which have to be put down by a tax. It is quite true that,, from many quarters, everything has been converging on a land tax. If we require a system of defence, a land tax must pay for it ; if we have to preserve the property of the rich, they must pay their own insurance; if we wish to have a system of old-age and invalid pensions, the land must: pay. All roads, it seems to me, lead to a land tax, just as in the old days all roadsled to Rome. Every one is prepared for a land tax, but every one is not prepared’ for taxation in one fell swoop, which, without compensation of any kind, takes half the land values from the large holders inAustralia. What is meant by land monopoly ? I am not going into a philosophical disquisition ; the matter has been argued’ time and again. I believe I shall have honorable members opposite with me when
I say that land monopoly means the holding of land out of its best and fullest use. The Prime Minister told us that, according to Professor Perkyns, cultivated land will yield eight times as much as grazing land, and do eight times more good for the country. All that may be admitted, providing things are otherwise equal; but will the best land in Australia, 100 miles from a railway, produce eight tunes as much as grazing land?
– It all depends.
– The simple fact is that, if land is 100 miles from a railway, it is fit for nothing but sheep and cattle.’
– It might depend on water conservation, the sowing of suitable grass, and so forth.
– It might depend on a great many things - water conservation, railways, roads, bridges, and so forth. We, therefore, see that cultivated land is not eight times as productive as other land, except in particular circumstances and under given conditions.
– In some places the land mav be eighty times as productive.
– It may be one thousand times as productive in some places; but the honorable member was talking at large. The complaint is that this tax hits all land ; it hits, not only land which can be, and is not, put to its fullest and best use, but. land with which nothing could be done to-morrow if we’ tried. Where is the sense of that?
– The honorable member said just now that he would tax every inch of land without exemption !
– I said that I believed in a land tax, but not in a land tax of this kind, which is iniquitous, and cannot be made fair arid just. The honorable member will find that scores and hundreds of the most ardent land-taxers in Australia to-day are dead against this tax. By so much as we believe in a scientifically imposed and just land tax, we must disbelieve in this, which is nothing but a political and socialistic tax. This lax sets up a false standard, because it taxes the reasonable use of land as well as the monopoly of land. I am in favour of a land tax, but not in favour of a penal impost on land which at present is put to its fullest use.
Have we a land problem in Australia such as there is in other parts of the world ? We have had the Riverina, the western district of Victoria, and parts of New South Walesquoted; but all that is quite beside thequestion when we are dealing with a. universal tax - that is, universal, so far ayAustralia is concerned. The map hanging on the walls of this chamber is eloquent, of the fact that only 7 per cent, of thelands of Australia are alienated and that 93. per cent, is still in the hands of the Crown.
– But of what sort?
– All sorts. Does the honorable member mean to say that none of the leasehold land in New South Wales is any good?
– I do not say that for a moment.
– Then I say there are all sorts of land unalienated.
– Then why the closer settlement schemes in New South Wales?
– To unlock the towns, and obtain land near railways, and other facilities for getting produce tomarket.
– That is to say, there is no land available in New South Wales* and the Government have to buy?
– Again the honorable member’s logic is upside down. Does it follow that there- is no land available, because the Government began to purchase some of the large and valuable estates alongside railways? The Government are trying to unlock the towns of Australia.
– Hear, hear ! What about Bathurst?
– I dealt with that matter before the Attorney-General entered the chamber. I am as much in favour as the honorable member is, of having the lands put to their best productive uses ; but he must not argue that because this problem arises at Bathurst, there is no land available in Australia.
– What does the honorable member propose to do?
– The honorable member for Perth the other day quoted some figures which are incontrovertible. In Western Australia alone there are 100,000,000 acres, less than 20,000,000 of which have been alienated. Last year 2,000,000 acres were alienated for cultivation, and 10,000,000 acres were placed under lease. There are sixty-two surveyors and forty assistants at work, and last year they surveyed 505,000 holdingsaggregating 2,750,000 acres or, say, 4,000 square miles. Of this land r, 000,000 acres has been already selected, and new areas are being thrown open weekly. Then the Western Australian people go on to plume themselves about the expedition that has been used, and to point out that in the eastern States in the same period 4,850,000 acres were surveyed for selection. In other words, according to the Statist of Western Australia, over 7,500,000 acres of Crown lands were surveyed in the whole of Australia last year, and, as far as practicable, sent into selection and cultivation.
– How much was actually put into cultivation?
– How much will go into cultivation when this land tax is imposed ?
– Never mind about that - answer my question.
– What power fans the Government to put an inch of land under cultivation ?
– The honorable member -does not answer my question.
– I do not answer because I am unable to answer. Whatever is done in the way of keeping lands out of cultivation, the States will assuredly take the same action when this tax is imposed.
– Not at all.
– We shall still’ have to rely on the machinery of the States.
– -We provide the kind of land which permits of profitable cultivation.
– That is an easy thing to say, but it is not the fact. The honorable member will find that the land problem will be just as acute and complicated, and just as troublesome, when this land tax is imposed. In Queensland the leases of 12.000,000 acres fell in last year, all good land for settlement. The States are scouring the world for settlers to-day; the trouble is not to find land, but to obtain the right kind of people to put on the land.
– Immigrants when they come drift into the cities to swell the ranks of the unemployed.
– Of course, immigrants drift into the cities, and, so far as I can see, all that my friends opposite can do will not prevent that drift, because there is practically only one city in each State. The capital cities are relatively too large, and some process of decentralization will have to be adopted.
– The tax will do that.
– The land tax will not touch the problem. A beginning is being made in New South Wales by the appointment by Mr. Wade of a Decentralization Commission.
-Mr. Wade did not appoint that Commission until after the 13th April !
- Mr. Wade is doing in this matter precisely what Mr. Holman says he will do if returned. This problem will have to be faced in another way. One proposal Sy Mr. Wade - and I only use New South Wales as an illustration, because it is doubtless typical of the other States - is to construct a railway into the Pilliga scrub, where 2,000,000 acres of Crown lands are only awaiting facilities for settlement. That land will not be opened up by any tax - nothing but water and railways can bring about the desired result. The land tax will only accentuate the difficulty, which will remain to be solved by the States that have been so much maligned.
– This is an admirable dissertation on the advantage of doing nothing !
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45p.m.
– The problem of land settlement is in its essence complicated and far-reaching, and when we have done our best its solution will be as far off as ever. It comprises problems of aridity, of facilities, of communication, and many other questions with which we have no power to deal. However much, therefore, we may agree as to the fairness of taxing the land, the penal impost of this Government must work injustice. While there may be land monopoly in some places, there is not in others. To understand why land is not being used more for agriculture, we must consider many factors. During the electoral campaign I visited Condobolin, to deliver an address. Three men rode 70 miles on motor cycles to attend the meeting, and two of them told me afterwards that they could each employ seven or eight hands in growing crops, but. that for years they had been trying in vain to get assistance.
– What wages did they offer?
– From 25s. to 30s. a week and keep. Labour is not obtainable in that district.
– It. cannot be got in ViC.toria
– Agricultural labour is very scarce everywhere in Australia to-day ; even in my district it is difficult to get hands for orchard work. But will a tax on land provide labour for the cultivation of the soil? The labour problem, and many others connected with the proper use of our lands, must be solved by the Governments of the States ; the proposed tax will be as little effective as a plaster applied to a wooden leg would be. We have been told that the facilities provided by the States for the opening up ot the country have given the land the value which it possesses, and that upon that value the community should draw for the purposes of government. How has this community-created value come about? The answer is that it is due largely to State expenditure, the Governments of the States having borrowed £250,000,000 to open up their territories. The money has been spent on railways, water and sewerage works, roads and bridges, and other undertakings, which, according to the Statistician, have given our lands a value of from £380,000,000 to £400,000,000. During the last ten years the indebtedness of the States has increased by £50,000,000, not one penny of which has been wasted, while various Departments have spent £70,000,000 more in giving facilities for settlement. But while the States have gone into debt to produce land values, it is proposed that, not they but the Commonwealth shall tax these, and so grievously that it would be tyrannous for the States to impose further taxation upon them. In considering the effect of a Commonwealth tax we must bear in mind the circumstances of each of the States. In Tasmania the direct taxation amounts to 30s. per head of population ; in South Aus tralia it is about 24s. per head, and in other States from 14s. to 12s. Is it fair to impose the same taxation on men paving 30s. as on men paying 12s.? A land tax would only accentuate the present anomalies, and would create difficulties which would increase with time.
This taxation cannot be made to be fair. It must be remembered that most of our occupied land is held under lease from the Crown. Does not the community yearly add to the value of that land as it adds to the value of freehold land, and is it not a fact that many leaseholders are making more money than is being made by freeholders ?
– They are the wealthiest men in Australia.
– Yet the Prime Minister tells us that he does not intend to tax Crown leases. Of course, to do so would be unfair, because we ought not to interfere with the relations between the Crown and its tenants. But by not doing so we make a discrimination between two forms of holdings which is unfair. A Crown lessee cannot be taxed because he cannot subdivide or sublease, and in some cases cannot even take cattle on agistment without the permission of the Government.
– -He could surrender his land.
– Is that the only remedy ? Have we a right to compel any man to surrender his lease? The interjection shows into what a corner the honorable member is being driven.
– It is not proposed to tax Crown lessees
– That is so, but that will make the tax unjust in its incidence. Let me give a concrete case known to honorable members. There is, in Queensland, what was a very large run. Part, of it was purchased by the present owner at ros. ari acre, while the remainder is leased from the Government at id. per acre. Under the Bill, the freeholder will be taxed 3d. per acre, while the interest on his purchase money will be about 4<J. an acre, so that altogether he will have to pay 7d. an acre for land precisely similar to that for which his neighbour pays id per acre. One man makes just as much out of his land as does the other, and yet pays only one-seventh as much. Can it be right that where two men own half a run each, one should be under a penalty of id. per acre only and the other be taxed to the extent of 7d. per acre for the same land ? That is only one illustration to show how little machinery we have to adjust this tax. and how unfair it will be in actual operation.
I do npt know that I need deal with the question on the constitutional side. The lawyers of the Chamber have already let themselves loose upon it. They have pointed out in very guarded language, though lucid and conclusive as to some points, what is the constitutional position. I do not venture to rush into a constitutional controversy, but I may be allowed to express an opinion on the subject. Honorable members will find that all the powers set out in the thirty-nine articles of section 51 of the Constitution are said to be granted to the Commonwealth Parliament “subject to this Constitution.” Amongst others the power of taxation is subject to the Constitution. What does that mean? In my opinion, it has no meaning as applied to a tax of this kind, unless it is that we are at liberty to impose taxes so far as the legitimate objects of taxation go, and so far as the functions we have taken over from the States are concerned. We may tax for the purpose of developing those functions. But have we, therefore, any mandate to interfere with the land policies of the States? The Constitution has rigidly excluded the lands from our control. It provides that we shall not have an inch of land unless we acquire it for special purposes. We may not take over any land which the States now possess, except for public purposes, or unless they are surrendered to us by the State authorities. But can we tax that land in order to burst up estates, or to initiate a particular land policy? That course would surely not be “ subject to this Constitution “ ? It is the very opposite of the meaning and intention of the Constitution, which is to leave the lands and all relating to them and their management to the State Parliaments. Whatever the technical meaning may be, it seems to me that the broad plain meaning of the expression “ subject to this Constitution,” as applied to taxation, is that we may tax only for the purposes of the functions taken over from the States. Questions of land adjustment, land settlement, and land policies generally, have been rigidly excluded from our authority by set terms in the Constitution. I see nothing in the Constitution to prevent the Commonwealth imposing a fair tax distributed over the whole of the land-holders of Australia, but, when under the guise of taxation, the attempt is made to put a penal impost upon a small section of the landholders of Australia, I say that is an attempt to do something which the Constitution rigidly rules out. The way to test the matter is this : By this tax we are making it impossible to raise revenue from the land through the medium of the States, municipalities, and shires without nationalization. We are here claiming 6d.. and the shires have already imposed a tax of 2d., in the £,1, and I say that no further taxation can be levied by a local body without involving nationalization.
– By subdivision the taxation proposed may be avoided.
– The honorablemember forgets that the Government inthis Bill are doing nothing but bursting, up large estates and formulating a land, policy, the very thing which is ruled out of our power by the Constitution.
– What percentage of land’ has been taxed at 6d. ?
– I should liketo know. We should like to hear from the Government where taxation has beer* imposed on this scale and with this range. The Government tell us nothing about it, for the simple reason that they do not know anything about it.
– How did the honorablemember arrive at the conclusion that the taxation would be 7d. in Queensland, if he does not know?
– The honorablemember should be aware that the tax is to be 7d. where the owners are absentees, and 6d. in the case of resident owners of land’ over£80,000 in value. I say that when a man is paying 2d. and 3d. in addition to that, as they are already doing in some of the States, it is impossible for any body to impose any further taxation without accomplishing land nationalization.
– What States impose taxation amounting to 2d. and 3d. now?
– The taxation is 2d. in all the shires.
– Not by anv means.
– I correct myself, and say that the shire authorities have the power to impose taxation to that extent, and have exercised it in a great many cases. I may tell honorable members opposite,, also, that they will have to impose that taxation in all cases.
– Is the honorable member not referring to taxation for services rendered ?
– It is none the less a tax placed upon the land.
– For the improvement of the owners’ property.
– I am aware that that is the theory of it. But I have paid shire taxes for several years, and have never seen much of the money spent anywhere near my place. There used to be more spent in my particular part of the district when the Government found the money for the purpose without taxation. I know that a land-taxer, and a single-taxer at that, has said that if we intend to impose land taxation, the highest amount to which we should go is 4d., so as ito leave the shires a reserve of 4d., and the State Parliaments a reserve of 4d. also. He complains that the Government propose to impose taxation in such a way as to rule out the other two bodies, and to remove any basis for further land taxation by the State Parliaments.
– There . would not be much consolation in giving the three parties referred to the right to tax up to 4d.
– He speaks merely of power and reserves of taxation. It would mean that the tax proposed under this measure would have to be 2d. less than it is. This taxation must have a paralyzing effect upon State Parliaments and municipal authorities.
Can honorable members opposite tell me by what rule of equity or justice they propose to put a tax on some city properties equivalent to 10s. in the £1 income tax, while they propose that other city properties shall go absolutely free?
– I admit that that is a difficult question to answer.
– The Government propose to tax income derived from site values at a rate equivalent to an income tax of 10s. in the £1.
– That is not so.
– I say that it 5s so. I should like to hear the honorable gentleman controvert the statement. His :contradiction does not do so. I am assuming that the owners of these city properties are getting the usual 5 per cent, return, -which is the basis of all municipal calculations for taxation purposes.
– Incomes other than rents are not based on 5 per cent. They run to 8, 9, and to per cent., and companies frequently declare dividends of 12 per cent.
– I am talking about city sites, which for municipal purposes are supposed to have a rental value of 5 per cent., and, on an average, we “know they do not return more. If they did, the municipalities would be working on a false basis.
– The honorable gentleman means 10s. in the £1 of rent, not of income.
– It is the same thing in the cities. I am assuming that the city sites give a return of 5 per cent., and the tax proposed by the Government in such cases is equivalent to an income tax of 10s. in the £1 on the people who have invested their money in these sites. I have yet to learn on what basis of equity such a tax can be justified.
– It is consistent with the single-tax belief.
– Does the honorable member contend that it is consistent with the doctrines of the single taxer to tax one property and not another?
– Where we cannot tax all, we tax the sources of accumulated wealth.
– We shall see about that in a moment. I mention a concrete case. A city land-owner has a block of land of £10,000 in value ; he is waiting for an increment in its value, and is doing nothing with it. He is taxed under the Government proposal to the extent of £20 6s. 8d. per annum. Another man in the city has £20,000 worth of land values in different parts of the city. We will say he is a speculative builder, or something of that kind. The case is one which was put the other day in Sydney, and I know the facts stated are correct. The second landowner has his land in ten blocks, worth £2,000 each, and on every one of them he has erected a house, utilizing the land to its utmost. Does the honorable member for Macquarie think that this man would pay a tax equal to twice the amount of the tax paid by the first land-owner referred to? Nothing of the kind, because he has ten blocks, all of which are put to their fullest use, the Government propose to tax him, not twice £20, but four and a half times £20. For using his land, this man will be taxed to the amount of £93, whilst the man who allows his land to lie idle will be taxed to the extent of £20 6s. 8d. This proposal is, therefore, not so much a tax upon idle lands, nor is it a tax to force them into use. So far as regards the aggregation clauses of this Bill, it is a tax on the use of land to its fullest extent. Take another case, in which a man has land of the unimproved value of £1.0,000 in Sydney, rind has a shop upon it. He decides that he will obtain a block of the like value in Melbourne, and open a shop there. Immediately his tax in Sydney is doubled., and he has to pay £93 in respect of the two blocks. If he halves the total tax, he has to pay £46 1.0s. on the block of the unimproved value of £10,000 in Melbourne; while the man alongside him in that city, with a block of like value, has to pay only .£20.
– He would be making a profit on each block.
– But the man alongside him in Melbourne would have to pay only £20, as against his £46 10s.
– He would be paying according to his ability.
– He would be penalized for daring to open another shop in another city. That is one anomaly which the Government are going to set up, and all these are arguments against the basis which has been adopted of putting the tax on aggregated values, regardless of where the land may be, or the circumstances under which it may be used. What is the reason for a great deal of land aggregation in the country? There are many cases in which land has been aggregated for the sole object of making the whole estate pay. Originally the estate was an unpayable proposition, and the owner obtained another block which would help him and enable him. on the whole, to obtain a fair return. Immediately that is done, the aggregation clauses of this Bill operate, and the owner is penalized for the mere aggregation, without respect to the particular value of the allotments that are aggregated.
Then, again, the Government are taxing the small man as well as the large*
– I think not.
– Let me give the honorable member an instance. This Bill says, that if a man has land of die unimproved value of £3,000 in a land company, which, in the aggregate, has land of the unimproved value of £300.000 - that is to say, if he is one of 100 persons holding land of a total unimproved value of £300,000 - he has to pay on that £3,000 about £67 a year.
– He has to do nothing of the sort. He pays once.
– He pays once; and I point out that he pays about £67 a year. Let the honorable member stop his bluff; I know what I am talking about. I am not speaking of the case in which the honorable member says a man may be let off a payment of £4 a year. I am speaking of a case in which a man has an interest in a land company- in a cooperative concern.
– He Days on that.
– Then the Government are penalizing associational effort. They are penalizing the socializing; of all land holdings by private individuals.
– We seem to be a pretty bad lot.
– My point alt through is that the Government are not taxing the monopolistic possession of land. They are taxing the use of land in particular ways. If a man has land of the unimproved value of £3,000, and is working it on the individualistic system, he hasnothing to pay. If he has land of that value, and begins to work it in association with others, the Government at once come down on him. I want to know by what rule of equity a man is let off in the one case, and in the other is taxed to the extent of £67 per annum. All these are anomalies that seem to make the Bill unfair, and the Government will have tocorrect them, either in this or some other legislation. Their iniquity is apparent whet* we examine them in only a cursory way. I wish to say nothing more about the mortgagor. It seems to me that he is to be wiped out, unless the bank will voluntarily step in and save him. The banks are not likely to be guilty of any such benevolentaction; but there is the position. A bank a-: present is in association with an owner to the extent of one-half, and, in some cases, may be, to the extent of two-thirds, ot the total value of the land, and yet it is to be let off ; while the whole burdenis to be thrown on the mortgagor, who is struggling with a heavy overdraft. Is that intended ? Cannot the Attorney-General frame a more equitable provision?
– The mortgagor pays inevery case, except where the mortgagee is inpossession.
– Then there isnothing for the mortgagor to do but to walk out of his holding and leave it to the banks. If he has to pay this tax on the whole of his estate, how is he going to’ make it pay ? He may, in some cases ; but they will be very rare. In the majority of instances the banks must step in, take the tax off the owner, and, incidentally, take the land as’ well.
– If they came in, they would have to pay the tax. Why should’ they assume such an onerous responsibility?
– They will keep. . out as long as they can ; but if the mortgagor goes out, they will have to come in.
– They will not be in ‘a hurry to put the mortgagor out.
– This tax will put the mortgagor out, unless he gets relief in some other way. Where that relief is to come from I do not know. The responsibility rests upon the Attorney-General of finding some way of relief for the mortgagor. When the Government proceed to tax him on his nominal, as well as his real, interest in the land, it seems to me that they must drive him out. Since a tax is to be imposed, it is fair that he should bear his proportion of it- - a proportion that will represent his real interest in the land.
– That is incompatible with the principle of graduated taxation.
– The honorable member mistakes my point if he does not take all these illustrations as showing the absurdity of a graduated tax like this. All these matters of graduation ought to be left to the States, which have the inherent power to follow a tax of this kind, and make it accomplish the purpose originally intended. The Commonwealth Parliament have not that power. They cannot follow the tax. They can only impose it, and trust to Providence to see’ them through with the business. My argument is that this couldbe done equitably by the States.
– It is useless for us to look to Providence. According to the honorable member, Providence is with the Opposition.
– All these little quips will not help the consideration of this matter, which, after all, is a veryserious one. The Attorney-General knows that the Commonwealth in this regard has not even concurrent powers with the States. The States have absolute dominion over their own lands so far as policy is concerned, and that dominion cannot be whittled away by any tax of this kind. By the act by which the Government make it unwise for the States to further tax the land, they make it unjust and unwise for the States to hold it. That is the argument I am pursuing. If the Government make it impossible for the States to follow them with further impositions on their own account, they say in effect that the States ought no longer to hold the land - that it should pass with this tax to the Commonwealth.
I come now to the effect of this Bill on immigration - the encouragement of which is said to be one of its chief objects. In the Times of 20th July, there is this ad vertisement over the signature of the High Commissioner -
Point vor Investors.
British investors are invited to inquire into
Australia’s rate of development ami to consider the dividends paid to enterprise and investment. Australia offers sound opportunities in pastoral and agricultural land, in mines, and manufactures. . The country is vast and new. lt breeds money quickly. Local markets are expanding. Exports are rapidly growing.
Here we have the hated absentee. This Socialistic Minister of External Affairs is trying to cajole British investors to invest their money here, and live in London.
– We say nothing about residence in London.
– The advertisement is headed “Points for Investors,” not “ Settlers.”
– That is a quibble.
– Is it a quibble on the part of the High Commissioner to differentiate these advertisements, and to print in one case “ Points for Settlers,’’ and in another, “ Points for Investors.”
– We have advertised “ Points for Domestic Servants,” as well as “ Points for Investors.”
– This advertisement has nothing to do with settlers or domestic servants..
– What is the honorable member’s suggestion - that the High Commissioner should not have inserted that advertisement ?
– No; I merely suggest that the honorable member should tell British investors the truth. He should have put at the end of that advertisement these words : “ Invest in Australian pastoral lands, and as soon as you do, we will annex seven-twelfths of what you spend.’’
– That would not be very sensible, and it would not be true.
– It would not be sensible, but it would be true. We have heard a great deal about the absentee ; and I am not now arguing for or against an absentee tax. I am taking the tax as having been imposed on absenteeswho own land in Australia; and I say that, when inviting these people to invest, we ought to tell them that the moment they do so we shall promptly tax them to the extent of7d. in the £1.
– We say “ Come and invest,” not “Go and invest.’’
– There is no “‘come” in it; we ask them - and a very proper thing - to send their money out for investment in Australia.
– They will be just in time to buy some of the big estates !
– At what rate? When a tax of 7d. in the £i is imposed, what will the value be but the original value less the 7d. in the £i capitalized? Assuming that land returns 5 per cent., which is the usual estimate, we are going to take seven-twelfths of the return, and, therefore, we must reduce the selling price of the land by seven-twelfths. That is the very purpose of the tax.
– The honorable member knows there is a way of escape - subdivide.
– Then we nile the absentee land-owner out; and why, therefore, invite him to invest his money here? This advertisement appeared on the 20th July, since the House met, and the “land tax was proposed. Investors at the other end of the world will simply hie themselves to other countries where they may invest’ in land without being subject to such an impost. Is there an honorable member opposite who, if he could invest his money in a country where there was no land tax of 7d. in the £1, would go to a country where there was such a tax?
– Yes, because the country with the tax would show a decent state of civilization and be a much safer place for investment.
– In any cast; -the absentee land-owner is ruled out, and, therefore, we should not seek to further perpetuate the system. ‘
– Unless absentees are very large land-owners they will not be penalized at all.
– But we are inviting them to invest in pastoral lands and not in agricultural lands merely; and very properly tell them of the good dividends, expanding local markets, rapidly growing exports, and so forth. The investor who lives on the other side of the world is a large land-owner in nearly every case ; indeed, that is the whole meaning of the advertisement. In the last ten years, since Federation, taxation has increased by 17s. per head, and it is estimated by those who have more facilities than have the Government for ascertaining the truth of thy matter that the ‘land tax means, not another 5s., but another 10s. per head; so that we are inviting people to invest in a country where there has, during recent years, been an addition of 27s. per head in the taxation. What is at the base of our land taxation proposals, and all the land policies in the States ? It is the multiform and complex problem of land settlement. When Ave wish to find out the real trouble we have only to read what has taken place in all the States? I hope honorable members will not burst into hilarity if I again quote Mr. Wade, because, on this occasion, he is simply relating facts, and showing how the State Government have tried to tackle this problem in New South Wales in the past three or four years. Amongst the headings of Mr. Wade’s narrative I read - “ Conversion of Leasehold Tenures into Freehold “ and “ Prevention of Aggregation of Holdings.” On the first point I should like to mention thar the honorable member for Riverina heartily supported the proposal for homestead leases in Sir Joseph Carruthers’ Bill some years ago. We all thought that this leasehold system was going to do great things; that leasing was better than selling land, and it was put to the test in a modified way. But the moment the lessees were comfortably on the land they began to clamour for the fee-simple; and” that is the case everywhere. Sir Joseph Ward, in New Zealand, is now actually proposing to convert the 999-year leases into freehold, though one would have thought that such a tenure would satisfy anybody.
– What has Mr. Wade done?
– I only mention Mr. Wade’s statement for the one purpose of pointing out the immense difficulties of the problem of fairly settling the lands of Australia. As to the prevention of the aggregation of holdings, this taxation does nothing, because no provision is made as to the size of holdings in the future. Other headings are - “ Extension of the Reappraisement Period,” “Reduction on Deposit and Survey Fees,” “Relaxation of Residential Conditions,” “Additional Conditional Purchase Leases,” “ Reduction of Expenditure on Inferior Lands,” “Resumption of Improvement and Scrub Leases,” “ Holdings for City and Town Workers,” “Additional Areas for Small Settlers,” “ Special Leases for Settlement Purposes.”
– All this never means anything !
– I am not saying whether or not Mr. Wade has done one single thing, but merely showing how complex is the problem. I do not know enough of the details to approve or disapprove of what Mr. Wade is alleged to have done, though I believe he is going on right lines; but we can see that the proposed land tax does not touch any of these questions. Then Mr. Wade goes on to deal with “ Special Leases for Settlement Purposes,” “Restriction of Auction Sales for Country Lands,” “ Relieving Settlers and Facilitating Settlement,” and so on.
– These are not Mr. Wade’s policy, but the policy of his predecessors.
– They represent the problem of every Ministry in Australia.
– Why has it not been solved ?
– The honorable member has been trying for twenty-five years to solve it.
– I never had the power to do so.
– The real land problem in Australia not only relates to the conditions of tenure. It has to do with periodical droughts; with pests which are bred on Government lands, and are one of the most serious troubles of the settlers; with uncertain seasons with too few rivers and practically no irrigation; with centralization, which again presupposes a problem relating to the facilities for settling people on the land ; with the building of railways, and, as I have been saying for years, with the natural handicap to which our products are subjected in their relation to the markets of the world. It costs about 7d. a bushel to get our wheat to London, as against 2d. in the case of many of the other wheat-growing countries. These are some of the problems, not one of which is touched by the proposed land tax.
– There is one other problem - the honorable member has made an alteration in his views in sixteen years.
– I have . altered my views, and I hope to alter them further. A man is not worthy the name of a reasonable being if he will not base his views on evidence as he finds it. The honorable member may jeer if he likes, but I shall continue to try to keep my mind open to facts ; and if these lead me to sanerand wiser views, I shall not hesitate to accept and adopt them. That is the only attitude for an intelligent man. In the face of a complex and far-reaching problem, the only remedy honorable members opposite have is a tax which does not touch its mtnutice in any way. It will accomplish none of the wise ends of a far-reaching Australian statesmanship. These Little Pedlingtons are telling the country that at last it has in power a set of men who can solve the difficult problems of land settlement. In my judgment, they are not capable of doing so, and have not the power. They are able only to impose taxation which will be unfair in its incidence. They come here with their little quack nostrums, and strut their hour on the political stage, without the means, the capacity, or experience to do right, though quite equal to that easiest of tasks, the making of mischief, and the injuring of the nation’s vital interests. We should remember that, as a writer has so well said -
A thousand years scarce serve to build a State ;
An hour may lay it in the dust.
– I am pleased to be able to support a measure the discussion of which has agitated the minds of the people for many years. This is the first Government possessing sufficient backbone to boldly face the land question. So many honorable members of the Opposition have at some time or other committed themselves to principles such as are contained in the Bill that they are afraid to attack it. I am more fortunately situated than those who have occupied seats here for some years, in that I have not a political past, and cannot, like them, be confronted with the spectres of principles deserted in the years that have gone. The Leader of the Opposition spoke with but little enthusiasm. His tone was much more enthusiastic on another occasion, when supporting a principle exactly the same as that embodied in the Bill. I advocated on the hustings the introduction of this measure.
– And a tax of 6d. ?
– Or did the honorable member stand by the Gympie declaration for a tax of 4d. ?
– Honorable members cannot quote a speech by any member of the Labour party which committed the speaker to any particular rate. What we committed ourselves to was an effective system of land taxation, which is what the Bill gives us. There are in my constituency at least as many persons earning their living on the land as there are in any other; but not a genuine farmer there will be in any way injured by the measure. There are, however, some large land-owners, whose land is put to practically no use, who are acting the dog in the manger policy, and whom it is time to tax for the benefit of genuine settlers.
– Are they not running stock on their land?
– They are not using their land as fully as it should be used in the interests of the country. 1 believe that the proposed tax will bring this land into proper use. During show week country visitors had more than the usual places of amusement to go to for entertainment. The members of the Opposition constituted a show in themselves. But it is time that they gave up playing to the farmers, and talking balderdash about land confiscation which they do not believe. We on this side desire to increase the number of landholders. Every landholder, no matter how small his holding may be, will oppose confiscation, and if we are instrumental in putting on the land twenty persons where there is now only one, we shall make the power of the community to resist land confiscation twenty times as great as it is to-day.
– Has the Labour party abandoned land nationalization?
– I have never advocated land nationalization, nor do I think any member of the party has clone so. It is not on our platform. The interests which honorable members opposite have at heart are those of the squatters. In shedding crocodile tears in professed sympathy with the poor farmers they remind one of Uriah Heep, that humble, plausible individual who, while acting ostensibly in the interests of one party, was really playing into the hands of another. Honorable members opposite are simply pouring oil on the farmers, so that they can be more easily swallowed by the squatters. The honorable member for Bendigo told us that he was afraid that Labour legislation trended toward nationalization, and I was, therefore, interested to come across a pamphlet written by him some time ago,’ in which he deals with this subject.
– It was quoted during the Federal Convention elections.
– And it has been quoted since.
– Quotations like those I am about to make cannot be made too often. Hansard is a fine telltale, and very interesting to the electors, though not pleasing to those honorable members who change their views often. In a preface to a book which he wrote, the honorable member said -
From the sentence which follows the reader will see what the present writer’s views are.
His views are these -
The wholesale alienation of the public lands and their stealthy but rapid absorption into large estates is a crime and a calamity which can only be averted by the steady, intelligent, and irresistible opposition of the people of Victoria to a policy at once demoralizing and destructive.
The honorable member corroborates what has been said by the honorable member for Riverina regarding the jobbery which was practised in the past in the alienation of Crown lands -
The reckoning day of Victoria has arrived. The land laws of the past have been examined, and reason enlightened by a sad experience has found them wanting. A careful study of the history of Victoria leads me to the conclusion that the unfavorable results which all deplore, and the transparent vices which all detest, are inherently associated with the principle of absolute sale on which all those laws were based.
I do not know that any honorable member on this side favours land nationalization, but the honorable member for Bendigo certainly does so -
It has been found that dummyism was less rampant, and speculative selection less resorted to, the more the control of the State over its land was increased, and the longer the period of probation was extended. Much more then would those evils have been mitigated and destroyed had the State retained an inalienable control over the land that belonged to it.
The honorable member was totally and absolutely opposed to the alienation of Crown lands.
– I was then, and tried to prevent it, but failed.
– That was in the pre-Fusion days, I suppose.
Virtually, the free selectors and those squatters who availed themselves of free selection, through the agency of dummies, have been buying the land foi nothing. The allotments which, under the Act of 1862, were paid for in instalments of 2S. 6d. per acre per annum were worth that much in rent for all time, and now, more extravagant still, a selector is permitted to acquire his absolute freehold in twenty years by paying is. per acre per annum. Even this sacrifice would hardly be begrudged, if the persons intended to be benefited were not guilty of wholesale embezzlement of the estates entrusted to them.
That is very strong language, but there is something here still stronger. The honorable member says -
No political truth is so grim and startling as this - that landlordism and tenancy are ever associated with the pauperism and degradation ‘of an entire population. And this is the condition towards which our free and glorious colony of Victoria will drift, unless its advance in that direction be arrested, by the courage and wisdom of her statesmen, assisted by the patriotism and foresight of her inhabitants. Let it not then be said that it is too late to save the remainder, or a portion, of the public estate. It may be premature to discuss the question of resumption, except to a limited degree, and in special cases, but stern and determined steps should be adopted to suspend the present process of legalized robbery and confiscation of the land of the whole people.
– I said that then, and I say the same now. I have not altered my views.
– We see another change of view on the part of the honorable member.
– I tried to stop the sale of land, and did not succeed. What is there wrong about that?
– I think this little pamphlet throws a flood of light upon the manner in which the lands of the country were parted with in the early days.
– I do not believe in selling land to people, and robbing them of it afterwards.
– The honorable member claimed that this was not selling land. He describes it as legalized robbery.
– That is not a reference to the present holders, but to the original holders, many of whom dummied the land.
-The honorable member must be aware that there are a great many still in possession of land which they acquired under the system he has described as legalized robbery.
– The people to whom I referred are dead and gone.
-The descendants of those who are dead and gone are in possession of the land to-day. Under the system we propose, we desire that the people shall get some return from these lands. Every honorable member who has’ so far spoken from the other side has committed himself almost irretrievably to the system we are advocating. I come now to the honorable member for Lang, who told us that the imposition of a land values tax in New Zealand did not have the effect claimed for it by this party of bursting up estates in that country. I have here the New Zealand Year-Booh for 1908-9, which contains some figures showing what really was the effect of the system during the time it operated in New Zealand. The statement is made that the number of estates of between 10,000 and 100,000 acres decreased by forty during the period mentioned. I have heard it said outside by opponents of the Labour party that these forty estates can be accounted for by the Government purchases, but on the same page of the New Zealand Year-Book I find the contradiction of that statement. lt is stated that during the same period the number of holdings of 320 acres and under was increased from 25,407 to 35,200.
– That includes township allotments.
– Then we are informed that coincident with the operation of the tax the number of farm holdings, including those over 320 acres in extent, was increased from 28,935 m *%92 to 45,068 in 1896. The honorable member for Wimmera will admit that these areas do not include town allotments. Up to 1909, the Government purchases accounted for 158 small estates. Some of our opponents say that these estates include the forty which we claim to have been accounted for by the bursting up of large estates under the operation of the tax. The total acreage of the 158 small estates which were Government purchases was 995,267 acres, giving an average of between 5,000 and 6,000 acres for each estate, so that clearly the decrease in the number of estates of over 10,000 and up to 100,000 acres must be accounted for by the operation of the tax. These figures should be a conclusive answer to the statement made by the honorable member for Lang.
– Does the honorable member contend that these figures indicate a more rapid subdivision of estates than is going on in Australia?
– When we take into account the size of the two countries they do show an infinitely more rapid subdivision. Our experience in Australia has been that, as fast as estates are broken up in one direction, they are accumulated in another.
– That can only be proved by giving the figures.
– I hope to be able to give some figures of the kind before I sit down. The next honorable member on the other side who spoke on the question was die honorable member for Grampians, and he developed so much heat in what he had to say that I was afraid we were going to have a bush fire. He appealed to us to think of the poor man - another evidence . of TJ nah Heep on die Opposition side. The honorable member said that there are millions of acres out back, and that the young fellows in this country must do as their forefathers did and undertake the pioneering work. I believe he mentioned that the out back to which he referred was in Western Australia, which was scarcely a becoming sentiment for a Victorian member. Personally, I believe that the pioneering work will have to be done by our young men, and they will have to go out back; but they should not be expected to do that until the lands adjacent to our seaports and railways are put to their proper use. When that is done it will be time enough to talk of sending our young men out to pioneer the uncivilized parts of the country. I come now to the honorable member for Parramatta, who occupies a more unenviable position in regard to this subject than any other member of the House. I have here the opinions he expressed on this question in days gone by. I am sorry that he is not at present in the Chamber, but I scarcely expected that he would remain to hear his past called up before him. He spoke to-day about the robbery that will take place if this system is brought into operation, but he was possessed of very little sympathy in days gone by for the men who he says will to-day be robbed by the operation of this tax. Here are some of the sentiments to which he gave expression. In speaking in the New South Wales Parliament, on the income tax, he objected to it because, he said -
It does not touch the man who holds hundreds and thousands of acres of land which are lying idle, and from which he derives no income. The Colonial Treasurer the other night professed that an income tax would be derived from these unremunerative lands. How he proposes to obtain it I am at a loss to understand. That seems to me the veriest piece of political jargon that I have heard coming from a person in the exalted position of Colonial Treasurer. The income tax will tax incomes from land, but only to the extent to which that land is used and put into occupation. That is not what we want.
I failed to follow the honorable member in what he had to say to-night. He expressed himself in favour of every kind of land tax that could be suggested. The only system of land . taxation to which he is opposed would appear to be the system proposed by the Labour party. But. according to the opinions to which he has given expression in the past, if this measure emanated from the other side it would have his whole-hearted support. The honorable gentleman went very much further than I, or, I hope, any honorable member on this side, would dare to think or dream of going. This quotation reveals the real inner thoughts of the man. He said -
I do not believe in paying for land at all. I believe in taxing it, and if we tax it to its full unimproved value we shall have no need to sell it ; indeed, no one will buy it. When a man wants a bit of land in this colony -
New South Wales, I suppose he meant - he has to go hundreds of miles back into the bush behind his strong neighbour who has picked out the eyes of the country. We ought to tax the strong neighbour for every ounce of privilege which he possesses over the man who proposes to go into the bush.
The honorable gentleman said a great deal more to the same effect, but I have quoted sufficient to show his real views on the subject of land value taxation. The honorable member for Fawkner also had something to say on this question. It is interesting to know that he is the gentleman who introduced to the Prime Minister the deputation that dealt with the Riverina land. I have heard no justification from the other side of the figures quoted by the deputationists. Really it was an insult to the intelligence of the people that men should deputationize the Prime Minister upon such a paltry pretext when they could not make out a better case. If no better arguments against the proposed system of taxation can be advanced than those which were used by the deputation to which I refer, it must be admitted that the opponents of this measure are in a very bad way.
– They were assertions, not. arguments.
– That is so. This deputation told the Prime Ministei that from an estate of the unimproved value of £165,000 the income derived was only j£2>35° Per annum. An estate of that unimproved value would have a capital value of about £247,500, and the income of £2,350 per annum would work cut at something less than 1 per cent. That being so, how did the deputation arrive at the unimproved value of £1.65,000? If the estate is of that value, and yields only£2,350per annum, it . can only be assumed that it is not being put to its proper reproductive use.
– What about the mortgage upon it?
– I know nothing of any mortgage upon it. I am speaking of the income from the land.
– That is the net income after paying interest.
– No such statement was made by the deputation. It was said that the average income for ten years was , £2,350 per annum.
– That was the net income, after paying interest on the mortgage.
– That was not stated.
– In any case, the estate should have produced more.
– The situation of the land would have a great effect upon its returns.
– Either these people imagine that they have fools for their auditors, or they are imbued with such a patriotic desire to serve the country that they invest their money in an estate which will yield them less than 1 per cent. ; whereas, if they left it on deposit with a bank they would obtain upon it 3 per cent. It is about the best argument that could be advanced in support of the imposition of such a tax as this, for it shows that great areas are practically put to no use. The honorable member for Fawkner and the honorable member for Lang, as well as the honorable member for Parramatta, who has just resumed his seat, told us that the closer settlement policies of the different States had worked admirably; that they had done all that was required of them, and that, consequently, there was no necessity for Commonwealth interference. In view of that statement, it is interesting to observe how the closer settlement policy of New South Wales has worked out. Mr. Wade, speaking to the electors of New South Wales during the present State . electoral campaign, has said that seventeen estates have been resumed by the Government for closer settlemerit, that 151 estates have been privately subdivided as a result of his closer settlement policy, and that during the life of the Carruthers and Wade Governments, 11,052 separate and bonâ fide farmers have been provided with homes.
– There have been more transfers during Mr. Wade’s term of office than there have been new settlers on the land.
– I was going to mention that fact - a fact to which Mr. Wade has made no reference. Honorable members opposite who have quoted his words as to closer settlement in New South Wales have not told us what is going on in other directions there. According to the New South Wales Y ear-Book, during the last four years the effective farming population of New South Wales has increased by 2,791 holdings; while there has been an increase of 789 in the number of holdings of from 1,000 acres to 3,000 acres in extent, and an increase of 182 in the number of holdings over 3,000 acres in extent. That, then, has been the net result of the resumption by the Government of seventeen estates, at a cost of nearly £2,000,000, the private subdivision of 151 estates and the setting apart of 11,052 separate holdings under the Crown Lands Act. It proves conclusively that as fast as the lands have been thrown open in one direction in New South Wales they have been swallowed up in another. On the testimonyof the Year-Book of New South Wales, therefore, the Wade Government’s closersettlement policy has broken down just as badly as has the closer settlement policy of other States. With one or two exceptions, every member of the Opposition has, at some time or other, committed himself to the very principles that we are now advocating, yet to-day they see no virtue in them. I believe that if this measure had been brought down by the other side it would have received the whole-hearted support of many who now think it their duty to condemn it. I wish now to compare the monopoly of lands in this country with that of lands in other parts of the world. In England and Wales to-day there are 498 persons to the square mile, and on the Continent of Europe there are, on the average, 98 persons to the square mile. On the other hand, in Victoria we have only 14 persons, in New South Wales under 5, Queensland and South Australia underI, Tasmania under 7, and in Western Australia under 2 persons to the square mile. Any one who takes even a passing interest in what is going on in this country must be forced to the conclusion that land monopoly is being carried on to an insidious extent. Although this Bill is designed to produce revenue, its natural result will be to burst up the big estates that have been a clog on the wheels of progress. We have the further alarming fact that in Victoria 116 individuals or companies own 5,280,000 acres, or about one-fourth of the total alienated lands of the State. There are forty-five estates each having a capital value of over £100,000, and some of these comprise as much as 80,000 acres each. We have in the two shires of Hampden and Mortlake, comprising an area of about 1,100,000 acres, 800,000 acres, or nearly three-fourths of the total, held by less than twenty families. In Victoria, as a matter of fact, over one-half of the total area in occupation is held in areas in excess of 1,000 acres, whilst in New South Wales over one-half of the total area in occupation is held in estates of over 5,000 acres each. On every hand we find ourselves face to face with the insidious results of land monopoly. What has been its effect upon the farmers, in whom the Opposition claim to have a special interest, and upon whom they shed their crocodile-like tears? During the twenty years prior to 1908, over 4,000,000 additional acres came into occupation, yet the number of farm holdings in occupation decreased to the extent of over 6,000. Have the Opposition any explanation for that state of affairs? Surely, with the additional occupation of land to that extent, we should naturally expect to have more farm holdings. Again, let me point out how population has been affected by .land monopoly. According to the last two census that have been taken, during the fifteen years prior to 1909 Victoria lost 150,520 of her adult population. With about two exceptions, the electorate which I represent has a larger proportion of farmers than has any other constituency in Victoria, and its position, so far as loss of population is concerned, may be taken as fairly representative of many other constituencies in the Commonwealth. It offers a good example of the effect which this absorption of small holdings by the large land-owner has had in driving out the population. In 1908 there was a population of about 70,000 in Indi, and, according to the census returns for 1901, there was then a population of 61,000. In the intervening seven years the excess of births over deaths amounted to 15,000, yet the population increased by only 9,000. In other words, 6,000 residents of that electorate have had to go elsewhere to obtain a living. The next census will, I think, prove that Victoria will lose a member, while Queensland will probably gain one. It is not very consoling to Victorian representatives to know that their State has suffered more than any other by the gradual absorption of* small holdings and land monopoly generally, and, further, that their State is the only one that has not established an unimproved land tax in some shape or form. New Zealand has had such a tax in operation for nearly a quarter of a century ; and if the system is going to prove so disastrous as we are led to believe by honorable members opposite, how is it that for the last -twenty-five years the young men have been continuously leaving Victoria where there is no land tax, and going to. other States and the Dominion where the system has long been in operation ?
– The land is too dear for them in Victoria.
– That is the second member of the Opposition who has supplied what is really the only answer to this interesting question. The facts prove that wherever a tax on unimproved land values has been tried it has resulted in greater facilities for going on the land. The honorable member for Parramatta and others have on many occasions twitted the Labour party with being opposed to immigration; but that is a charge which I take every opportunity to emphatically deny. We are not, and never Have been, opposed to immigration; all we contend isthat it is idle to bring people here until lands are available for genuine settlement. What is the use of inviting immigrants here to simply swell the ranks of the unemployed ? My own belief is that the proposed land tax will prove the means of providing land for immigrants. It is particularly desirable that there should be such a land tax when we are considering the defence proposals, because defence, like immigration, is practically impossible unless the lands are unlocked, so that Australia may become the home of a large white population. I - did not desire to give a silent vote on this great measure, because it deals with the question on which I laid the utmost emphasis when on the hustings. I made no secret about the matter, but propounded the policy of an unimproved land tax to die best of my ability ; and the fact that the great majority of my constituents are genuine settlers, who are putting the land to its best use, and that they sent me here, is overwhelming proof that the farmers of the country are too intelligent to be lured away by what is breathed into their ears by honorable members opposite and others, who declare that the proposed land taxation means confiscation. I never hear the honorable member for Swan talk about the “ sacred rights of property,” and express his contempt for the man “ without a stake in the country,” but I think of Tennyson’s Northern Farmer, who always imagined that in the patter of - his horses’ feet he could hear the words, “ Pro’putty, pro’putty, pro’ putty ! “ It is amusing to observe how dogmatic honorable members opposite are about the duty which the man “ without a stake in the country” owes to his fellow citizens in the case of foreign invasion. T should like to know where we would find some of those gentlemen if we really had to face a foreign foe. Where would the honorable member for Swan be found? No doubt, safely ensconced somewhere behind his property, where he would expatiate loudly and long about the equal rights of all, for at such a moment the man “ without a stake in the country “ is every bit as useful as the man of property.
– I think that when the right honorable member for Swan was about the honorable member’s age he did a very fair thing for Australia.
– And I do not think that Australia treated the right honorable member too badly either. However, it is not fair to speak with such contempt about the man “ without a stake in the country,” who is always found good enough to risk his life in defence of that country.
– And to preserve other men’s property.
– Quite so. As I told my electors, it is just as fair to nsk such a man to give his life’s blood in defence of his country and the property of his wealthy fellow citizens, and pay the piper, too, as it would be to ask the members of a fire brigade to pay the insurance premiums on the houses they save from the flames. Under the system proposed by the Government those who derive the greatest security from defence will have to pay their fair proportion of the cost. No patriotic man in this country begrudges contributing his fair share to what is simply insurance against aggression ; and that is the object of the legislation we are now considering. It was one of the dreams of my early life that there would be such a system of taxation in operation, because I have always been of opinion that land monopoly is at the root of every other social evil. It does not matter in what way a man earns his living, his means of livelihood can, either directly or indirectly, be traced to the land. There can be no employment or labour or capital without land ; and seeing that this question involves so much that makes for the wellbeing or otherwise of the community, I am glad that the day has at length arrived when we have before us a tangible scheme by means of which the lands of this country will be put to the best productive use. I can honestly commend the measure to the intelligence of the House without any fear as to the result.
– I desire to make a brief personal explanation in regard to a quotation which the honorable member for Indi made from a pamphlet of mine. The honorable member did not explain that that pamphlet was written in 1883 or 1884, when I was a member of the Victorian Parliament, and that its object was to assist in a movement to suspend the further alienation of Crown lands in this State, and to apply the leasing system to the remaining Crown lands. That movement, however, failed, and-
– The honorable member is, I think, going beyond a personal explanation.
– I desire to explain that the expression “ legalised robbery “ was applied to the system of dummyism which operated in the early history of Australia; and I have no reason whatever to alter the opinion which was, I may say, thus graphically expressed.
– I must again remind the honorable member that he is going beyond a personal explanation.
– I wish to say that there is nothing in that pamphlet inconsistent with my recent speech on this Bill.
– The honorable member is now doing more than make a personal explanation - he is making a speech.
– I, therefore, fail to see what point there was in the quotation read from my early pamphlet.
.- Much of the argument on the Ministerial side has consisted of opinions expressed by honorable members on this side in bygone days. I was hoping that, with new blood in the House, we should - get away from the methods of the last Parliament of rooting up old State Hansards of the last twenty or thirty years.
– Is not consistency a jewel ?
– I like a man to be consistent, but to be consistently wrong is no indication of wisdom. However honorable members may have expressed themselves in years gone by, as opposed to, or in favour of, land taxation, the present proposed tax is a Federal tax; and an ardent supporter of land taxation may not be a supporter of a graduated tax by the Commonwealth. Many of the arguments of the honorable member for Indi told as much against the measure as in favour of it ; but he asked one or two questions which I think he honestly desires to be answered. One was, how is it that there are 6,000 settlers fewer on the lands of Victoria today than there were some few years ago? I interjected that it was due to the high price of land here. No doubt, many honorable members will not agree with me when I say that I think that the land tax will not have the effect of reducing the price of this land.
– Some of the members of the Opposition say that the imposition of the tax amounts to land confiscation.
– They were not thinking of the land to which the honorable member for Indi referred. In the Shoalhaven district, where I was brought up. there was an estate of 90,000 or 100,000 acres, containing some of the best land in Australia, and known as the Berry estate. I was surprised, on recently visiting my native town, to find that the district has gone back, and that its population is not half so great now as it was twenty-five ox thirty years ago. When Mr. Berry was alive, his land was occupied by tenants* each of whom held, perhaps, 100 acres; but since his death, the land has been cut up, and many men are holding areas of 300 and 400 acres.
In districts where land costs £25 to £30 an acre - which, I understand, is what persons are prepared to pay for much of the land in Victoria - closer settlement is difficult. I have seen land in Victoria for which I would pay £50 an acre, it being worth that for dairying purposes.
– Some in the Western. District is rated at £100 an acre.
– I believe so. Men starting in life are not able to pay £50 or £100 an acre for dairying or agricultural land. In districts where land is dear, many farmers, as their families grow up, sell out, and remove to other States, where they can secure larger areas. Their land is generally bought by a neighbour, who can afford to pay more for it than any one else because of the advantage he gains by increasing his holding; and at the auction, generally secures it by outbidding all others. These facts supply one answer to the honorable member’s question.’ The statements of the honorable member for Fremantle, and others, about the inducements being offered for settlement in Western Australia, supply another. One cannot expect a great increase of settlement in Victoria when other States offer much better advantages. The honorable member for Indi asked why the holder of an estate which had been purchased for £155,000, and yielded an income of only £2,000 a year, does not sell it. When I was at Port Augusta, the mayor asked me what I though of the district. I said that it seemed to be behind the times, ora” hasbeen “ district. He told me that it had been spoilt through men paying too much for their land in boom times. I asked what they had paid, and found that they . had paid £5 a square mile. Some of the estates there are very large. At Oodnadatta, there is an estate of 9,000 square miles. The railway has not improved that land, and no doubt those who bought it would be pleased to get rid of it. Although some of the soil is good, it is in a dry belt. Some of that land may be worth 2s. 6d. an acre. I ask the honorable .member for Indi what he would do if he held such country as that. The proposed tax will amount to more than can be made from the land. In discussing this question, I do not wish to work on the “ Codlin’s your friend, not Short” line of argument. I object to the Commonwealth taking from a section of the community wealth which it has earned by hard work and economy. The honorable member for Maribyrnong asked that the Mosaic system of land laws should be re-introduced. I would remind him that Moses said, “ Thou shalt not steal,” “ Thou shalt not covet,” and recommend that part of the Decalogue to his consideration. The majority of those who hold land have acquired it at great sacri- fice, and improved it by hard work. My family originally settled 100 miles from railway communication; and for the first three or four years, we supported ourselves by cutting the cedar on the farm, and carrying it out, often on our backs. In that way, we made a home for ourselves which, no doubt, to-day is the envy of some who would say that they have as much right to land in a good district as we have. But our land, when we took it up, was land in the back country.
– We want our lands to be in the hands of men who will make homes on it, and not speculate with it.
– The honorable member says that the young men of to-day have not as good opportunities to acquire land as their forefathers had ; but, as a matter of fact, there are millions of acres as good as that to which I refer, and as near to civilization as it was. I do not suppose there is any hope of defeating this Bill, but I trust that the Government and their supporters will be prepared to do what is just in the matter so far as its provisions will permit. The proposed tax is to be levied ostensibly on the unimproved value of land, and in clause 3 that is defined in this way - “ Unimproved value “ in relation to land means the capital sum which the fee simple of the land might be expected to realize if offered for sale on such reasonable terms and conditions as a bond fide seller would require, assuming that the actual improvements thereon (if any) had not been made.
Then the “ value of improvements” in relation to land is defined to mean the difference between the improved value and the unimproved value of the land. These definitions may be just or not, according to circumstances. I remind honorable members that in Queensland railways are built on a guarantee system. Honorable members opposite talk of taxing the unearned increment, which, according to them, is an increased value which the expenditure of State money has added to the land. This shows the iniquity of a Federal Parliament attempting to legislate on a question of this kind for the whole of Australia.
– An increase of population also increases the value of land.
– That is so, but I should like to know what rule is to be followed in determining the unimproved value of land. What constitutes the unearned increment, for instance, in districts of Queensland through which railways have been constructed on the guarantee system? The construction of the railways enhances the value of the land considerably in some districts , but before people interested in the construction of a line in Queensland can induce the Government to construct it, they have to mortgage their land to the Government, and guarantee to make good any deficiency in maintenance, and the payment of interest on the cost of construction. The residents of the district under such a system take all the risk of railway construction, and though under that system the unearned increment is added to the cost of their holdings, the Federal Government propose in this measure to tax it for Commonwealth purposes. If the unearned increment is paid for, as it very often is under this system in Queensland, by the owners of the land, it should be regarded as an improvement. I make that suggestion for the careful consideration of the AttorneyGeneral.
– We should have nothing left to tax then. Those people would escape the tax altogether.
– The honorable member forgets that the Bill imposes very heavy taxation upon the capital value. The same argument would apply to lands in districts” through which shire tramways have been run. We have a number of such tramways maintained in Queensland by the local authorities, and the ratepayers are taxed to make good any deficiency in their working. Before the lines are constructed the landowners served by them are required to enter into a guarantee which practically means that their properties are tied up until the guarantee expires. I am not certain what effect this Bill will have upon mortgagees and mortgagors, but I am afraid that it will be found to interfere to a very large extent with a number of sugar farmers in Queensland who have hypothecated their holdings to the Queensland Government to -secure the establishment in their midst of central sugar mills. I think there is room for some extension -of the exemptions proposed. Land owned by local authorities should not be taxed, and land used for railway purposes should be exempt from taxation in the same way as land used for public roads. The drag-net character of this Bill is made plain if we refer to clause 33, which provides that if two-fifths of the value of a property is owned by absentees, the whole estate is taxed as an absentee estate. This measure will strike a blow at what 1 hoped would become a very generally adopted system in Australia before long. I refer to the co-operative system of manufacture and production. I was hoping to. see this system encouraged in every possible way. One of the best things that can happen for any country is that men should unite in a common cause to manage their own business, and so assist themselves and each other. I am afraid that this Bill will have the result of penalizing, cooperative companies, because, after taxing the property of a co-operative company on the higher scale, a shareholder’s interest in the company is added to the value of his holding for purposes of assessment. I do not know what object the Government . can have in thus proposing to impose double taxation upon persons interested in co-operative companies. Mutual life assurance societies are to be exempt, and why not mutual manufacturing and producing companies?
– That is a peculiar suggestion.
– If the honorable member doubts the accuracy of my statement, I advise him to read the Bill.
– I marvelled at the honorable member’s proposal to exempt mutual manufacturing companies.
– My contention is that if a man holds shares in a company, and the value of the company’s property is fully taxed,he should not have his interest in the company added, for purposes of taxation, to the value of his own property.
– The honorable member forgets that the principle of the measure is subdivision.
– That must be the reason, for the proposal. With respect to clause 51, dealing with the remedy against other persons where the taxpayer makes default, I think it will, in many instances, result in considerable hardship, and the penalties provided in the measure for offences are very severe. It has been contended that one of the main objects of the Bill is to tax unearned increments, but in the effort to do so many hardships will be “inflicted upon men who have put their money into land which has not ‘been improved in value. I gave one instance from the Port Augusta country, but many similar instances might be quoted. In many cases people who have invested their money in properties paid as much, and more, for them originally than they are worth today. No doubt in every one of the States there are in the agricultural districts estates of 25,000 acres, which were purchased at £1 an acre from the Crown, and are now worth £100,000. The unearned increment amounts to £3 per acre, or something like 300 per cent, but in the pastoral districts there are many estates of 100,000 acres, each of which has cost the owner £100,000. Yet under this Bill the owner will be taxed at the same rate, though one had paid £100,000 for his property and the other only £25,000 for his. I admit that it is right that the State should derive some benefit from the unearned increment, but itis not fair to tax it up to the extent of confiscation. Now, as to the cry for land, let us see how far it is genuine. We have heard a great deal about land hunger, but I venture to say that if residential conditions were imposed in connexion with the choice bits of land in Victoria which are quoted from time to time, there would be fewer applications for them when they are thrown open for selection. Any. man will be glad to invest his money in land if he thinks he can make money out of it, and that is a reason why the various Governments of the States give preference to those who will reside upon their holdings and make the most profitable use of them. I find from the report of the Queensland UnderSecretary for Lands, for 1909, that in that State during the year reported upon, 1,619,800 acres were resumed from pastoral holdings, and made available for selection. In case some of our honorable friends opposite may be on the look-out for some place to settle upon, I shall give them the particulars furnished in the report to which I have referred -
Notice of resumption from pastoral holdings for settlement purposes was given during 1909 as follows : -
Burke District- 6 holdings, . 301 7-16th square miles.
Burnett District- 5 holdings, 219½ square miles.
Darling Downs District - 1 holding, 187/8 square miles.
Gregory North Dislrict -1 holding, 280 square miles.
Kennedy North District - 5 holdings, 314 15-16ths square miles.
Kennedy South District - 1 holding, 5¾ square miles.
Leichhardt District- 1 holding, 18½ square miles.
Maranoa District- 4 holdings, 315 ‘ 7-16ths square miles.
Mitchell District - 11 holdings, 994¾ square miles.
Warrego District - 1 holding, 61¾ square miles.
The total area is 1,619,800 acres. In addition, there are some 3,000,000 acres of timber reserves. The Queensland Government have expended£1,593,043in trying to check the rabbit pest in that State, and if this Bill becomes law it will do very much to decimate the country of settlers who are useful, if for no other purpose, in keeping back the spread of that pest. In order to cope with the spread of prickly pear, land has been offered for selection free of cost, together with a bonus for clearing it of that pest, and under those terms 82,000 acres of prickly-pear infested and prickly-pear frontage selections have been taken up. There are millions of acres available for settlement in Queensland, and hundreds of thousands of acres may be obtained at peppercorn prices. Some of the very best land in Queensland may be acquired free of charge, and a bonus will lie paid for working it. If people are too poor to take up land under those conditions, I am very much afraid that they will not be able to take it up under any which could be devised. Anything that will hinder the settlement of this land will do an injustice to the great State of Queensland, which 1 am sure the Prime Minister, as one of its representatives, does not desire to hurt in any way. I should like him to bear in mind the large area on which the Government are spending enormous sums of money, with a view to keeping back the two pests to which I have referred. It is estimated that the cost of eradicating the prickly pear will amount to £2,445,922, and if land so infested is put out of occupation the pear will soon take complete possession of it. Some 60,000 acres of land have been repurchased by the State, and there are 3,000,000 acres of timber reserves. In passing, I am sorry to say that, notwithstanding the extent of those reserves, we are importing every year timber to the value of £2,000,000. On referring to the leaflets issued by the Queensland Government, we see under what conditions these lands may be acquired. As it will take me some time to complete my speech, I beg leave to continue my remarks at’ a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of messages from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral transmitting Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for the year ended 30th June, 1909, and Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ended 30th June, 1969, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fisher) adjourned.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fisher) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.25 P-m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 September 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19100913_reps_4_57/>.