4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister of
Home Affairs aware that a report from Mr. Surveyor Kennedy, indorsed by Mr. District Surveyor Scrivener and Mr. Hutchison, Chief Engineer of the Railway and Tramway Construction Branch, New South Wales, was printed and laid on the table of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales on the 14th September, 1909, and is among, the papers ordered to be circulated among honorable members in connexion with the proposal to make a railway from the Federal Capital site to Jervis Bay ? Is he aware that a map showing the route of the proposed line accompanies the report? Further, is he aware that in the papers the following statement by Mr. Hutchison appears -
I have the honour to state that I gave MrSurveyor Kennedy instructions to carefully examine the country between Jervis Bay and the proposed Federal Capital site at Canberra with regard to the location of a railway at Canberra, and I forward herewith his report. It will be seen that he agrees generally with the route selected by Mr. Surveyor Scrivener.
– The honorable member is doing more than ask a question.
– Then I- shall read but one more line. It is necessary for me to do that, to make my purpose known to the Minister -
On the whole of the eastern slope of the coast line of the State no easier tract of country could be found over which a railway could be constructed from the coast to the tableland.
Will the Minister have a copy of Mr. Surveyor Kennedy’s report sent to the
Argus, the Age, and other newspapers, so that they may be in possession of correct information, which may prevent them from publishing absolute untruths on this subject?
– I shall lay a copy of the report on the table, and it will then be available to the newspapers.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs if it is a fact that imported rice straw is used extensively in New South Wales and Victoria for making brooms, the outer straw of which is millet, the brooms being sold to the public as real millet brooms. If so, will he, in the interests of the growers, take steps to prevent the continuance of this imposition?
– The honorable member brought the matter under my notice yesterday. I am having inquiries made, and shall inform him of the result.
– Has the Prime Minister read the following report of a speech made in America by Mr. Roosevelt -
Mr. Roosevelt emphasized the contention that the Federal Government must control the national resources. “ Had it not been for the predatory corporations,” he observed, “ the States rights question would never have been heard of.” Has the Prime Minister any information which would lead him to believe that the State Rights party here is under similar influence ?
– I am unable to discover what influence is at work. All I know is that this Government is a national party Government.
Stamp Selling Machines - Sydney Suburban Switchboards - Receiving Office Salaries - Remuneration, Offices not Official - Misdelivery of Letters.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that the Canadian Government recently purchased thirteen stamp selling machines of a new design, which make for economy? If not, will he make inquiries into the matter, with a view to the adoption of such machines by the Commonwealth ?
– I have not heard of the transaction referred to, but I shall be glad to make inquiries about the machine.
On the 31st ultimo, the honorable member for Lang asked the following questions : -
In reply to inquiries which were then made the Deputy Postmaster-General, Sydney, has supplied the following information -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are these -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will he cause to be printed and circulated among honorable members the revised scale for fixing remuneration to persons in charge of all offices in his Department below official status?
– Yes, immediately an alteration which I am contemplating has been made.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will cause to be laid on the table in the Library all the papers in connexion with the complaint made by Mr. Alexander Black, of Gin Gin, Queensland, as to the misdelivery of certain letters (see H2, No. Q. 1727 - 10)?
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
If the Government, when proclaiming the Invalid Pensions, will take into consideration the helplessness of the blind, and, by assisting them, prevent their appearing in our streets and elsewhere asking help from their fellow citizens?
– Yes, the Government will give the matter careful consideration. I express a hope that educational agencies may enable most of our blind to partly or wholly maintain themselves. The cooperation of the States may be expected.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
If he will consider the advisability of constructing a single branch line to connect the Lithgow Small-arms Factory with the main western line, New South Wales, near Bowenfels station?
– I understand that this matter is under the consideration of my honorable colleague, the Minister of Defence.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the facts that the Board which was appointed to inquire into Sparling’s case refused to hear any evidence from six witnesses who were in attendance, and only part evidence of four who were called, also the allegations made by Sparling that reports sent in by him at various times were destroyed in order to discredit Sparling - Will the Minister reconsider his decision, and grant Sparling an opportunity of proving the truth or otherwise of the charges he has made ?
– The Chairman of the Board states that the Board did not refuse to hear any witnesses whom Sparling desired to call, but the Board, after full consideration, declined to hear certain evidence which, in their opinion., had no relation to or bearing upon the charges remitted to them. Although every search has been made, no reports made by Sparling can be traced which have not been dealt with. In view of these facts, no action can be taken in the direction desired by the honorable member.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to both questions is, yes.
Conveyance of Troops - Third Rail : Melbourne to Albury
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Debate resumed from 13th September (vide page 3023), 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.”
.- The honorable member for Fremantle has pointed out that there are large tracts of land in Western Australia available for settlement, and I mentioned yesterday that there are now available in Queensland about 2,000,000 acres, and that the area can be added to from time to time, as the needs of bond fide settlers increase. Every effort will be made by the Queensland Government to meet genuine demands for land. Let me mention the conditions under which land may be obtained in Queensland, so that the debate, if it serves no other pui pose, may make known to our people .the capabilities of the Commonwealth. In Queensland land may be taken up in agricultural selections, but the largest area which may be held under that title is 1,280 acres. If a person is the holder of both an agricultural farm and an agricultural homestead, his joint holding must not exceed 1,280 acres. The price of such land may range from 10s. an acre upwards, and may be declared by proclamation. Land proclaimed as available for agricultural faim selection may also be open for perpetual lease selection, and applications for perpetual leases may be given priority over applications for agricultural farms. The rent for the first period is i per cent, on the proclaimed purchase price of the land for agricultural selection. Land open for selection as agricultural farms is not available for agricultural homesteads, unless so proclaimed. The area which may be selected varies with the value of the land, and is fixed by proclamation, the following limitations applying - Where land is available for agricultural farm selection at not less than £1 per acre, 160 acres may be taken up ; where it is available at not less than 15s. an acre, 320 acres may be taken up; and where it is available at less than 15s. per acre, 640 acres may be taken up. The price of land for agricultural homesteads is 2s. 6d. per acre, the annual rental 3d. per acre, and the term ten years. Surely those terms bring land within the reach of all. Land is not available for free homestead selection unless it is specially so proclaimed, and the area of any one holding must not exceed 160 acres. The term is five years, and during that period the selector must occupy the land by personally residing on it, and must effect improvements to the total value of 10s. per acre. A free homestead cannot be sold or mortgaged until a deed of grant is obtained. Lands entirely’ or extensively overgrown by scrub may be opened for selection as scrub selections up to 10,000 acres in area, and with a term of thirty years. These are classed according to the proportion covered by scrub, and for periods varying from -five to twenty years, according to the classification, no rent is chargeable. During the first period the selector must clear the whole of the scrub in equal proportions each year, and must keep it cleared, and must enclose the selection with a good and substantial fence. The annual rent payable for the subsequent periods ranges ‘from £d. to id. an acre. A negotiable lease is issued to the selector when his application has been approved by the Court. The largest area allowed to be acquired by any one person as an unconditional selection in one district is 1,280 acres; the price per acre ranges from 13s. 4d. upwards, and is payable in twenty annual instalments.
Prickly pear infested selections comprise lands heavily infested with prickly pear. The area must not exceed 5,000 acres. The term is fifteen years, with a peppercorn rental for the first ten years, and an annual rent of one-fifth of the purchasing price for the remaining five years. Prickly pear frontage selections are confined to proclaimed prickly pear frontage areas, comprising lands free from or only lightly infested with prickly pear, but which adjoin and do not extend for more than seven miles from lands heavily infested. The greatest area allowed is 5,000 acres. The term is fifteen years, with a peppercorn rental for the first five years, and an annual rental of one- tenth of the purchasing price during the remaining ten years. In the case of prickly pear (bonus) selections, the freehold of the land, and a bonus in addition, are granted in return for the complete eradication of the pear.
I have shown, sir, that, as you are personally aware, in Queensland there are large tracts of country, and good country, too, available for selection. The terms offered by the ‘State Government are such as to commend themselves to any one who is honestly in search of land for settlement purposes. I think that this cry for land, as affecting the whole of Australia, is not a very earnest or sincere one. We have a right to examine the speeches of honorable members who have supported this measure, and to ask ourselves what is the meaning of the additional taxation which is proposed. The Government have estimated the income from the tax at £1,000,000 per annum, but other authorities., . who are equally capable of coming to a decision, have estimated it at over ^2,000,000. I refer to men who are, perhaps, more directly interested in the income from this source than are the Government themselves. It has been stated by two honorable members on the Government side of the Chamber that the raising of revenue by direct taxation and in this way means a reduction of indirect taxation. I should like the Government to plainly tell the House or the Commonwealth if that is an indication that the amendment of the Tariff, as regards anomalies, is to be in a downward direction; or that the protective policy which has been adopted by Australia is to be made less effective than it is. The honorable member for Cook said that he could assure his constituents, and that the Prime Minister could assure the electors of Australia, that the revenue derived from this source would be used to reduce the burden of taxation in an indirect manner, and the Attorney-General has stated that it means the wiping out of indirect taxation. I trust, however, that a majority of the House have no desire or intention to make the Tariff less effective, even though the revenue derived from the land tax should be more than is anticipated. The Bill contains another fault, to which I desire to direct the attention of the Government, and that is the time allowed in which to make the returns. In the scattered districts, mail communication is not very frequent, and in many instances it takes perhaps weeks, and in some cases a month, for a letter to reach its destination. If persons are to be penalized for not making their returns within the time prescribed, I think that due allowance should be made to those who live in the back country. I differ from many honorable members on this side as to the effect of this tax on small holdings. It has been asserted by honorable members on both sides that the result of the tax will be to cheapen land to those in search of small holdings. My experience has always been that when an estate has been cut up into small holdings, the value of that estate on the market has increased immediately. Just on the border of my division is the Tarampa estate, which was purchased by the Queensland Government some rime ago, and sold at an average price of ^5 or £jo per acre. It is only about four years, if my memory serves me aright, since the estate was subdivided, but that land is now changing hands at £2.0 per acre, and many of the farmers in a small way who took up 160 acres have sold out to their neighbours, just as happened, as I mentioned last night, in the Shoalhaven district. Small holdings have been doubled in size, and the estate is not now in as many hands as it was four years ago. I venture to predict that within the next fifteen or twenty years the estate will be held by less than one-half of the farmers who are now on it.
– If it had been in small holdings, they never could have carried out all the big drainage works.
– That is true. i’do not believe that any further argument would alter a vote, or convince any one as to the unjustness of this land tax.
– The honorable member does not think that it is unjust.
– I do, and I predict that the honorable member, if he does not think it is unjust at present, will think so within the next year or two. There is one consolation that we have, and that is that the aristocrats of the House are on the other side.
– Honorable members on the other side have always said the opposite. They have always said that when our hats were on our heads the house was thatched.
– In my opinion, this is a very spiteful measure, and one which will recoil upon the Government.
.- In addressing myself to this question I am not like some honorable members, who feel that they do not properly represent their constituents. I represent a constituency whose previous representative was one of the live advocates of land value taxation. When he was a member of the New South Wales Parliament, he used language in regard to land taxation, and income from land, which I am not going to use.
– Not bad language, I hope ?
– It was stronger language than any honorable member on this side has used in this debate, or outside the House. The question of land taxation has been discussed all over the world. Civilization has reached no place where land taxation has not been a burning question. When the Commonwealth was instituted, twenty-seven services were handed over to its control. Of that number, twenty services yield no revenue. This Parliament has to carry out the services, some of which are of the greatest importance to tho welfare of this country, and others very expensive. The cost of defence is a very heavy charge upon the people, and that service has to be supplied. The question naturally arises by what means should we raise the revenue to continue the services? 1 am satisfied that the people of Australia are determined that direct, as well as indirect, taxation should be resorted to for that purpose. Any one who has been in parliamentary life for a long period knows that in the case of Customs and Excise duties the people are unaware of the amount of taxation which they have to pay. Under Free Trade there would be no taxation in that direction, and if Protectionist duties are of any benefit to local industries, there should be little or no revenue raised. We then have to .decide upon a method in which to obtain the revenue to carry on our various services. We, on this side, have decided that land should bear a tax. There is no member of the House, even on the other side, who has not, at some period of his life, favoured a tax on land. Member after member has got up on the other side, and spoken on this question, and honorable members on this side have been able to show that at different periods they have been land taxers. Indeed, some of them have been land taxers to this degree, that they would confiscate the whole of the rent accruing from land. But we, on this side, do not advocate anything of that kind. We propose to place a tax upon those who occupy land, and we believe that as the result of its imposition lands which are now held in large areas will be put to the use of man. The principle of the taxation of unimproved land values was first adopted in New South Wales in 1894, a Bill to provide for such taxation being introduced by a Government of which the present High Commissioner was the leader, and of which the honorable member for Parramatta was a member. Unimproved land values taxation on the part of municipalities is vastly different from such a proposition as that which the Government are now asking us to adopt. Municipal taxation of that character is designed to provide for purely local wants, to improve means of communication, and to make provision for sanitary requirements, and other services that tend to make life in the district endurable. In this case we are calling on the people whose property has been enhanced by the expenditure of public moneys and the growth of population to pay to the Commonwealth some proportion of die money which has thus accrued to them. The land question has troubled the best minds in all parts of the world. It has been a source of great difficulty in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and I propose to make one or two quotations from speeches delivered by William Ewart Gladstone in order to show how he viewed it. Unlike some of our Australian statesmen - who will make one statement to-day, and, five years hence, turn a complete somersault - Mr. Gladstone remained true to his convictions. Speaking at West Calder, in March, 1879, he said - “Those persons who possess large portions of the earth’s space are not altogether in the same position as the possessors of mere personalty. Personalty does not impose limitations on the action and industry of man and the well-being of the community as possession of land does, and therefore I freely own that compulsory expropriation is a thing which is admissible, and even sound, in principle.”
In 1889, speaking at Hawarden, where he lived, and which I visited on several occasions during my boyhood,” he said - “ I freely admit this - I stated it long ago inMidlothian, and I say it now without the slightest doubt - that if the time came when the British’ nation found’ that the land should be nationalized, and it would be wise to do it, they have a perfect right to do it.”
If our party has sinned at all in proposing taxation of this kind - if it has advanced beyond what in the opinion of the Opposition are legitimate bounds - then it has done so in company with persons who could never be accused of association with the Labour party, or charged with possessing Utopian ideals. In debating this question the Leader of the Opposition seemed to labour heavily, and it struck me that had he been speaking from this side of the House he would have delivered an address far excelling any he had ever made. I believe that in supporting this Bill he would have made the best speech of his life, for in doing so he would have given utterance to the true ambition and desires of the people of Victoria, and, indeed, of all Australia. I am led to this conclusion because the land question has always been a burning one in Victoria, and because legislators here have never attempted to deal with it in a truly humanitarian spirit. According to the Argus, in 1855 the land trouble was engaging the public mind of Victoria just as it is occupying the minds of the people to-day. The gold . fever had then abated to some extent, and notwithstanding the existence of wide areas of rich land, production was low and the cost of the necessaries of life very high. In that year a petition was presented to -
Horatio Spencer Wills, of Point Henry, Geelong (formerly of Lexington, Mr William), Esquire - the honorable member for Grant, whose enviable distinction it is, to have originated in the Legislative Council, two of the most important measures by which it is possible to legislate for the great and general good of the inhibitants of this peculiar colony, consisting of fertile soil, in an arid climate - a wealthy, yet suffering community, viz., “ for affording facilities to the bond fide Cultivator to obtain farming land on terms advantageous to himself, and on conditions beneficial to the Government, and especially to the public;” and “for causing water to be procured and husbanded for the use of man and beast, by artificial means, throughout Victoria, in situations adapted to the formation of tanks and reservoirs, but naturally destitute of rivers, brooks, or fresh water ponds ; “ and to the. Hon. the Speaker and all other members of the Legislative Council of Victoria.
The Chamber of Commerce in the same year appointed a committee, which drew up a recommendation urging that the Government should do something to try to settle the people upon the soil and to throw open the lands, with a view of encouraging immigration. In this recommendation the statement occurs -
Your Committee do not hesitate to condemn this vicious system, and to recommend its abandonment. They are satisfied that we shall get sufficient immigrants of a superior class, by opening up our lands at a low price ; and that we are only draining the colony of its resources by remitting over half-a-million annually to bring out an inferior class of settlers.
Even in those days it was found necessary to urge upon the Government of the Colony the desirableness of opening up the land so that immigrants might settle on it, and produce what was necessary for the maintenance of human life. The land question also troubled the people of America in the early days. According to Bliss’s Encyclopcedia, in 1803 the population of America was not much larger than was that of Australia at the inception of Federation, and steps had to be taken to obtain land for the landless. A party known as the “ Free-soilers “ was formed to encourage people to go out and settle on the land, but the slavery question was brought uppermost by a party like that to which I belong, and the land question was consequently put aside. The all-important question engaging the minds of the people was the abolition of slavery and the freedom of the people. If honorable members of the Opposition thought a little less of the business transacted in bank parlours and of the views expressed in club houses, where everything possible is provided for their comfort - if they would consider this question in a humane rather than in a purely commercial spirit - they would do well. The people of Australia to-day are very different from what they were before the establishment of free education, and when they advocated adult suffrage they were undoubtedly looking forward to better legislation than they had obtained. They were looking forward to the passing of legislation calculated to consider the welfare of the whole community - to legislation moulded in accordance with humane principles, rather than with due regard to the opinions of banking parlors. Men in bank parlors, after all, think of nothing but gold -
Gold, gold, gold, they love to hear it jingle,
Gold, gold, gold, its power is untold.
The best friend that a man can have, in their opinion, is gold, gold, gold ! Let us discard that Tory-Conservative spirit which has animated the legislators of the past. I invite honorable members to consider the history of Ireland, which is the only country in the world enjoying the benefits of Western civilization that has lost population as the years have gone by. Ireland at one time possessed a population of 8,000,000, and to-day she has a population of only 4,000,000. What has been the cause of this extraordinary loss of population? No member of this House can dispute the fact that it has been due to the way in which the lands of the country have been held. If we look at the condition of affairs in Scotland, we shall find that land has there been aggregated in large areas in order that a few wealthy and privileged people may - enjoy- deer-shooting at a certain season of the year. The land policy carried out in that country has been such that the only road to progress which a Scotchman can see is the road to London. Owing to the way in -which lands are held in Scotland thousands of Scotchmen leave that country, and I have to admit that very few of them go back to it again. In England practically the same conditions have prevailed. We have the squire with his broad lands tilled by labourers, who are required to work for a miserable pittance which is a disgrace to the legislation of the country. I know something of the state of affairs that existed when Joseph Arch first endeavoured to better the condition of the English farm labourer. If God has given us ability, and has endowed us with intelligence, let us try in this new land of Australia to prevent such a condition of affairs from arising here. Let us, if we can, afford opportunities to our people, to secure some of God’s soil and produce the necessaries of life from it. Man has a natural craving for land, that he may be in a position to produce from it all that is necessary for life and comfort. The honorable member for Grampians in speaking on this question, asked, “ Why do not the sons and daughters of those who are now settled on the land go away from home to set up for themselves elsewhere?” Is it not deplorable that a member of this House should suggest such a thing as that? The daughter is to leave the father and mother, say “good-bye” at the door, and perhaps never see her parents again. This is what is suggested by the honorable member for Grampians, who must know that the father standing at his own door can throw a stone on to land that is not being put to use. It would indeed be deplorable if we could not do something to alter such a condition of affairs.
– Did the honorable member tell the electors of East Sydney that he was going to assist to burst up city property ?
– I only wish that I and others had had the opportunities which the honorable member for Wentworth has had.
I cannot blame the honorable member for not feeling in this matter as I do, because he has no knowledge of the conditions under which many people have to live.
– Is the honorable member afraid to answer a question about his election campaign?
– The honorable member should remember that I am engaged in a solo. I am in no way envious of him. I say that he does not know these things, because he has never been in a position to know them. By his interjections he is trying to make me nervous, but I shall not become nervous if I can help it. There must be something wrong in the management of our affairs when our young people are obliged to leave their homes, when, if the lands of the country were available, they would be in a position to settle down in the neighbourhood of their homes. We are here as a political party to endeavour to right that wrong. Whether the results of our proposal will be as beneficial as we pray God they will, we are at least in earnest in this matter. When I refer honorable members to the evils which have followed the land policies adopted in England, Ireland, and Scotland, I do so because I desire that they should view this matter from a humanitarian point of view, rather than from the point of view of the bank parlor. We want to have a yeomanry settled upon our soil, because every one producing from the soil is adding to the wealth of the nation, and assisting to bring contentment and happiness to the people; and where you have a contented and happy people you must have a progressive nation. On the subject of existing land taxation, I may inform the House that in New South Wales to-day there is no land tax imposed by the State Parliament. The State taxation, amounting to .£80,494, has been handed over under certain conditions to the Sydney City Council.
– The land pays taxes, all the same.
– But only for municipal purposes, and in some cases the tax amounts to only Jd. in the £1.
– What is the municipal tax in East Sydney?
– This year the municipal tax throughout Sydney amounts to is. 9d. in the £x, and there is a land tax of id. in the j£i. I know that is so because I have paid the tax as a trustee. The only land I own is what is on my boots, and no one else can get it while I am standing. I might add that I have a fair hold of Australia, because I wear “ nines.” The City Council of Sydney this year take over £80,494 of land taxation on condition that they also take over some services previously carried out by the State. Queensland has no land taxation other than that imposed by local authorities, and the whole of the land taxation throughout Australia returned in 1909 a revenue of only ,£351,282. In the face of this fact, we hear honorable members on the other side howling about the double taxation which they say is involved in this Bill. This year, deducting the £80,494, which will go to the Sydney City Council, the revenue derived from State land taxation throughout Australia will amount to only £264,488. Let me inform honorable members that on one estate in New South Wales last year probate duty was paid which amounted to 36 per cent, more than the whole of the State land taxation levied in Australia. We cannot take into account taxation levied by local authorities, because it is levied for services rendered, for the construction of roads and bridges, the improvement of streets, sanitation, and other purposes which add to the comfort of residents, and increase the value of their land. When the members of this party sought the suffrages of the people at the last election, they said, as I say now, that when they were able to make land available for settlement, they would take early steps to introduce immigrants. With the experience of America, England, Ireland, and Scotland before us, we cannot encourage immigration to this country until its locked-up lands are made available for settlement. The honorable member for Parkes must agree with me that, under existing conditions, it would not be wise to ask people to come into Australia. I have here a short quotation from the Farmers and Settlers’ Journal, which shows the inducements offered to immigrants under existing conditions -
A man named Siemens wrote for two men to do odd farm work at 10s. a’ week. They sent him two men described as “ big strong fellows, two of the smartest and best set up men I have ever seen, with excellent references.” So’ hard up were they that the registry fee was to be deducted from their wages. So satisfied was Mr. Siemens with this venture in immigrants that he wrote for two more - one “ a bush carpenter, who would also have to do rabbiting, suckering, and general farm work” - and two immigrants, Peacock and Hearne, were sent under an agreement at 5s. per week and their tucker.
Surely honorable members do not desire immigrants to come here from the Old Country under such conditions?
– Order ! The honorable member must not go into the immigration question.
– I find, further on, that this farmer was supplied with another man, named Blake, on the usual agreement to pay 5s. a week.
– The honorable member must not deal with that question. The honorable member is now dealing with immigration, and the question before the Chair is the land tax.
– Men were applied for by farmers, and the rates I have quoted were the wages offered.
– The honorable, member is now dealing entirely with ‘the question of immigration.
– Might I say that the honorable member who introduced this Bill dealt at length with the question of immigration, and pointed out that one of the good effects of the Bill would be that the Labour party, if in office, would settle people on the land by providing holdings and homes for them. Under the circumstances, I submit that the honorable member is entitled to follow in the same lines.
– The honorable member would be in order in doing that, but he is now dealing entirely with the question of immigration, apart altogether from the question of the land tax. I allowed the honorable member ample latitude to deal with the point, but he now seems to be drifting entirely into the question of immigration.
– I should like to ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, on one point. Would an honorable member be in order, in discussing this Bill, in advocating certain immigration to be paid for out of the proceeds derivable under the Bill?
– That question does not arise now. When a case arises will be the time for the honorable member to raise the point of order, and for me to give a ruling.
– I have no desire to break the rules, and I bow to the decision of the Chair. Honorable members opposite have contended that land taxation should be left to the State Governments. The land has been in the hands of the States for years, and, in my humble opinion, the measures taken by the State Governments do more harm than good. As soon as the Government come into the market, the price of land is naturally raised, and the trouble all along has been the enormous values, which make it impossible for people of moderate means to obtain holdings. No doubt the Governments of the States are actuated by the best of motives, but, in my opinion, their efforts are detrimental, instead of beneficial. When Mr. Ashton was Minister of Lands in New South Wales, the sum of .£475,758 was paid by the Government for 320 farms, representing an average cost of £1,802, while under the regime of Mr. Moore, ,£870,329 was laid out on 374 farms, representing an average cost of £2,152. There was a further estate bought, which panned out at £1,943 for each farm ; and the net result was that the cheapest farm came to ,£1,212, and the dearest to £”3,217. We have been told by honorable members opposite, and one honorable member in particular, that the farm labourer of to-day is the landed proprietor of to-morrow ; but I do not see how it would be possible for a farm labourer earning 5s. per week, to become a landed proprietor, when we find the cheapest farm purchased by the Government realizing a price of ,£1,212. If a farm labourer who purchased such a farm obtained a mortgage of two-thirds of its value, or £808, it would, even if he did without tucker, tobacco, and whisky, and devoted the whole of his income to the payments, take him thirty-three years and one month to wipe off his indebtedness. The interest on his mortgage would come to £41 per annum.
– That is an extreme case !
– An absolutely impossible case; the honorable member is assuming a rate of wages that has never yet been paid in Australia.
– I endeavoured to show what rates of wages were paid, but was prevented by the Speaker. At any rate, no farm labourer could bear such a burden. Another great evil is that no matter how the Government purchase and divide big estates, there is nothing to prevent their aggregation again.
– That cannot occur under the New South Wales Act.
– No law yet has succeeded in preventing the aggregation of estates; and the greatest scandals and swindles in the history of Australia have been in connexion with the land. The large land-holders, with their ample means, can obtain the aid of the best legal talent, and defeat the best laws ever devised. I can only hope that the Labour Government have found a solution of the question, and if they have they will be blessed by the people of the country. It is wellknown that honorable members opposite are more intimately associated with tha capitalistic section of society than are honorable members on this side.
– Honorable members on this side are elected by the people.
– I am not disputing that; but the fact remains that honorable members opposite are the more intimately associated with the capitalistic section of the community. It is just as much their duty, however, as it is ours to legislate for the benefit of the country as a whole. I have here a book entitled, British National Finance, by Mr. J. W. Root, who is evidently an authority, and who, in speaking of the responsibilities of capital, uses the following words : -
For the time being questions of social reform are uppermost, expenditure upon it claims first consideration, and it is right that everybody should contribute to it in reasonable proportion to means and ability. The first and most important item, without doubt, is education ; the nations that spend most money and give most attention to it accumulate wealth the fastest, and there must be some direct association between the two. Consequently, if the rich desire to grow richer, they must spend liberally on the education of the nation, whatever they choose to do regarding their own.
Physical soundness is fast coming to be recognised as of equal importance to education, and an essential element in the upbringing of children. Wherever means of insuring it are’ deficient, and proper nourishment and medical supervision lacking, the State is being called on to furnish them, again in the interest of the entire nation.
Provision for the old age of those who are incapacitated from earning sufficient to keep themselves, is the latest duty recognised and undertaken, and once more the wherewithal must be provided by people possessing sufficiency for, or excess of, their own immediate requirements, involving a further large draft on the revenues raised from taxation.
Capital benefits from efficient administration of all these, and cannot be allowed to escape payment of its adequate quota. That does not mean that it must liquidate the entire cost, or relieve the section of the community that chiefly benefits from finding its due proportion.
These are the words of a man who is in no way connected with the Labour party, and they are as applicable to Australia as to Great Britain.
– I hope the honorable member has read the book through, for then he must have found some arguments against this Land Tax Bill.
– I have quoted what supports my argument - I do not know what there is in the other portion of the book.
– Will the honorable member lend the book to me, and I shall find those other arguments?
– The honorable member has enough ability to make me look smail without the assistance of this book. I have quoted the opinions of Mr. Gladstone. The honorable member for Parkes will be interested to hear what the distinguished historian, J. A. Froude, said -
Land never was private property in that personal sense in which we speak of a thing as our own, with which we may do as we please. Land, properly speaking, cannot be owned by any man. It belongs to all the human race.
I may also refer to a remark made by Lord Morley. Those who have read anything about the modern political .life of England must have been struck with the speeches of that distinguished public man. He has said -
The question of the unearned increment will have to be faced.
That is pretty plain.
It is unendurable that great increments which have been formed by the industry of others should be absorbed by people who have contributed nothing to that increase.
That virtually means that there are people who are enjoying enormous increments which have been created by public improvements, paid for by general taxation, and that those increments should be enjoyed by the whole community. There is much more that I should like to say in connexion with this matter, but I know that the Government are anxious to push on with measures that they intend to place upon the statute-book. We have been returned to assist in attaining that object. New Zealand has been referred to on several occasions in the course of this debate. When Mr. Ballance came into power in that Dominion, after Sir Julius Vogel was removed from office, his Government for the first time adopted the principle of a tax on the unimproved values of land. There is no member of this Parliament who does not admire the persistency with which that policy has been .pursued. By means of it land settlement has been made a success in New Zealand, and to-day there is not a party in the Dominion powerful enough to dare to propose to repeal the land values taxation. At the time when it was imposed it was prognosticated that the result would be to ruin the country. It was said that capital would leave and that the people would become destitute through the diminution of the production which creates wealth. In fact, language was hardly strong enough to condemn those who brought forward the policy which Mr. Ballance initiated. Yet to-day no one in New Zealand would think of repealing that legislation. Only this very month Sir Joseph Ward, the present ‘Premier- who, though he may be liberal in his political opinions, certainly cannot be looked upon as an ultra-Radical - has laid before Parliament an amending Bill for the purpose of intensifying and magnifying the policy initiated by his predecessors. I find that that policy was explained by Sir Joseph Ward on the 8th September -
It gives the lease in perpetuity tenants of the Crown the right of conversion to freehold, and provides for the maintenance of 11,000,000 acres of national endowment for old-age pensions and education on renewable leases.
The most important provision of the bill, however, is that which seeks to give the Crown power to compulsorily take on lease large estates for subdivision, the sub-lessees or Crown tenants being given the option of purchasing their holdings from the Original owner, and he being compelled to sell. This will apply to estates of ^40,000 and over in value. Given this power to take land on lease from the present owners, at a rental based on 4^ per cent, of the capital value, the Prime Minister declared to-day that he could settle 17,000 people on land in the Hawke’s Bay province alone. As the bill is drafted, it offers every inducement to the original owner to sell to tenants placed on the land by the Crown, since he can obtain the increment of the land up to ten years; but if the land is not sold within that time the Crown takes the increment.
Here we find that the New Zealand Government propose to settle no fewer than 17,000 people in one province of the Dominion. I am sure that even honorable members opposite must commend the action of the Ward Government in pursuing that policy. Would it not be an exceedingly good thing if we in Australia could cut up a few estates and afford opportunity for settling 17,000 people?
– Why does not the honorable member propose that policy to the New South Wales Legislature?
– The policy favoured by my right honorable friend would drive people away from Australia. Surely, however, it must be recognised that a man who causes two blades of grass to grow where but one grew before is a true patriot and a benefactor to his country. It was Dr. Johnson who made use of that illustration.
– Oh, no; it was Dean Swift.
– At any rate, I believe it io the intention of the present Government to create facilities for more people to settle on the land.
– The honorable member wants to force land-owners to grow corn where they are now growing wool.
– The honorable member will find, if he refers to the Commonwealth Year-Book, that, whereas the production from pastoral land is worth only about 5s. per acre, the production from land devoted to agriculture and horticulture amounts to ten times as much. Surely it is good policy to settle people on lands so as to bring about the production of eight times as much wealth as previously. Such a policy cannot be detrimental to the interests of the country.
– Possibly the honorable member would be happy if cabbages were grown instead of flowers.
– I do not think that the growth of cabbages has anything to do with the present question. At any rate, the people in the constituency which 1 have the honour to represent have few opportunities for producing either cabbages or flowers, because there are very few gardens there, land being more valuable for other purposes. In the remarks which I have made on this subject I have endeavoured to do my duty to those who sent me here. As I have pointed out, there are certain services which the Commonwealth has to perform. The money for those services has to be provided by the people. Direct taxation is undoubtedly within the power of the Commonwealth Parliament. However much honorable members opposite may champion State rights, it is undoubtedly our duty to have regard to the interests of the people of Australia as a whole. We can very well leave the States lo look after themselves, because, as a matter of fact, they are in a much better position in respect to taxation than the Commonwealth. I do not consider that the Commonwealth Government is in any way trespassing upon the domain of the States in this matter. We are intrusted with the control of immigration, and it is utterly impossible to separate immigration from land settlement. The two questions must go together. This is a question that had to be faced by America when it had a population, little larger than our own, and it is also a question that had to be “taken up in the early history of Canada. It was an eminent Irishman who pointed out that, though Irishmen in their own country had suffered severely from the bad administration of the land, their emigration had given a valuable asset to Australia. The oppression of the Irish in Ireland has had the effect of bringing out some of the finest men and women we have ever had, who have devoted their energies to building up Australia. But we cannot dismiss from our minds the consideration that, although ample land has been available for the purposes of settlement, the people have hitherto been denied an opportunity of securing it. If this Parliament can prevent the continuance of that state of things - even if it does nothing else - it will have accomplished valuable work for which our children will bless it. It cannot be urged that the Government are altogether bereft of the “milk of human kindness,” inasmuch as in clause 4 of the Bill they have made provision for the appointment of a Commissioner to administer the Act - an official who, I presume, will deal justly with any cases o(. hardship which may come within his cognisance. Clause 62 vests in that officer the power to remedy injustice where its existence is proved to his satisfaction. Of course we all recognise that any law imposing taxation must penalize individuals in isolated cases. In Committee I intend to submit an amendment, having for its object the exemption of friendly societies from the operation of this measure. They wish to be placed under the control of the Commonwealth Parliament, because they desire that one officer shall be charged with the administration of their affairs throughout Australia. But as they make no profits out of land, I think they should be exempted from the operation of the Bill. Personally, I think that whilst the measure is primarily designed to burst up large estates, and thus to promote closer settlement, it will also be productive of a certain amount of revenue. In my judgment, a great majority of the property owners of Australia are quite prepared to contribute towards the cost of its defence and towards the payment of old-age and invalid pensions. It is nonsense to suggest - as has been done by members of the Opposition - that persons who own property are anxious to avoid their just obligations in this connexion. A large number of them have acknowledged to me that hitherto they have been very free from taxation, and have asserted their willingness to contribute something towards the cost of the government of the Commonwealth. They have no desire to dodge taxation. I am sure that only the early training of the honorable member for Grampians was responsible for the utterances to which he gave expression during the course of his speech upon this Bill. In his calmer moments it is impossible to meet a more affable gentleman, and I am sure that he recognises that it is his duty to contribute his fair share of the taxation of this country. The aspersions which have been cast upon property owners by honorable members opposite are absolutely without warrant. Some property owners have spoken to me in regard to those aspersions, and have strongly dissented from the views which have been expressed by members of the Opposition.
– Will the honorable member give us the names of those property owners ? Is Mark Foy one of them ?
– No, he is not. If the honorable member intends- visiting Sydney at the end of the week I shall be happy to take him to the offices of men who are interested in property worth , £250,000 and to let him hear their views upon this question. I shall be glad to accompany him to another man who possesses property valued at . £500,000, with the same object in view.
– I accept the honorable member’s invitation.
– I trust that I have said nothing to give offence to any honorable member. I have merely attempted to discharge my duty to the electors who sent me here. I hope that the legislation which is embodied in this Bill will accomplish all that I have claimed for it. In any case, the Labour party cannot be accused of having neglected to attempt something. If we fail to accomplish our object it will not be because we have not been actuated by a desire to benefit the whole communitv.
.- I am sure that every honorable member agrees with the concluding remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney, and I certainly credit him with absolute sincerity in his advocacy of the system of taxation which is embodied in this Bill. But I beg: to differ from him in regard to the probable effect of legislation ofthis character, and also upon the question of the advisableness of its enactment by the Commonwealth Parliament. The honorable member’s geniality almost disarms criticism of his speech, but, nevertheless, one or two matters were mentioned by him to which I must refer. He has reiterated a charge that members of the Opposition represent the capitalists of Australia. That is an accusation which will not bear investigation for a moment. Do we not know that time and again honorable members upon the opposite side of the Chamber have been associated with some of the largest capitalists of Australia in connexion with the exploitation of gold mines, and with other ventures? I exceedingly regret having to mention these matters, but I hurl back the accusation that we upon this side of the House are the representatives of the capitalistic class. The men in this Chamber who represent that class are those who consistently voted for the imposition of the highest duties on the necessaries of life, and who thus considerably increased the cost of living throughout the Commonwealth. They are the individuals who have been publicly thanked by the honorable member for Hume for their services in that connexion - the members of the Labour party.
– Rubbish’! Your leader does not say that.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs cannot get away from facts and from votes.
– Does the honorable member’s leader agree with him?
– I am speaking of what happened during the last Parliament, when the Tariff was under consideration. It was the members of the Labour party who on that occasion represented the capitalists of Australia, and not honorable members like myself, who opposed the imposition of high duties upon the necessaries of life in the interests of the poorer classes of the community. I ask the honorable member for East Sydney whether he told his constituents during the recent election campaign that he would support a measure of land taxation which would have the effect of bursting up city properties? Did he tell Mark Foy, who took such a lively interest in that struggle on behalf of the Labour party, that he intended to advocate the passing of a Bill which would lay a heavy impost upon city properties?
– I never saw him, and I do not know him.
– The honorable member knows him all right.
– I do not.
– The honorable member has appealed to us to approach the consideration of this Bill in a humane spirit. But does the Attorney-General approach it in that spirit, seeing that only yesterday afternoon he admitted that the proposed tax is one of a confiscatory character?
– He did not say that. It was the honorable member for Parramatta who said that members of the Labour party were touring the country, and calling the tax one of a confiscatory character.
– Does the honorable member for East Sydney think that a measure which will mean ruination to men who have spent their lives in developing this country is one which embodies humane principles ?
– The Bill has not yet been passed.
– But it will be passed.
– I do not know.
– Honorable member? opposite tell us that the Bill is going to pass.
– We are going to give honorable members a dose of the physic which they gave us last session by means of their brutal majority.
– Our measures were legislation in the interests of the people, not legislation to damn the country.
– The people ousted the party which introduced them.
– A good many factors brought about the results of the last election. Of some of the things which happened during the the election campaign, honorable members opposite are not too proud. I ask the honorable member for East Sydney whether we shall act humanely if we impose heavy taxation on those who have gone out into the central and western districts of New South Wales and Queensland, and have fought against drought after drought, and the most trying difficulties. He has spoken of us on this side as possessed by Tory and Conservative instincts, but the Tories and Conservatives of Australia are the members of the Labour party, who refuse to men who will not join their unions and subscribe to their political funds the opportunities to make a living. They have created an aristocracy of labour, and are actuated by a Tory and Conservative spirit.
– The honorable member be longs’ to the barristers’ union.
– I have not practised my profession for many years; but the briefs which I got were obtained without favour.
– I earned every penny that I got from the squatters who employed me, but it was through my union that 1 was able to secure good wages.
– I hope that the honorable member’s fortune will continue to increase, and that he will see that the- leaseholds of Australia, which are held by some of our wealthiest men, including himself, bear their share of taxation. The honorable member for East Sydney quoted from the Farmers and Settlers Journal two instances in which 5s. a week was being paid to rural employes, with a view to leading honorable members generally to think that that is the usual wage for agricultural farm work. In New South Wales, within fifty miles of where he lives, the ruling rate of wage is not less than £1 a week, with keep and the ordinary perquisites of farm life. Some of the most prosperous farmers in my district, who now own their own farms, commenced work as farm labourers at £1 a week.
– Can a man marry and bring up a family on that wage?
– I have known it done in my district many a time. Farm employes are better off than city employes getting 8s. a day.
– They do not drink so much.
– The measure which we are discussing is as important as any which could beintroduced. No other could more greatly affect the community for good or ill. The Prime Minister, therefore, should have been able to give us the fullest information regarding the revenue likely to be produced by the tax. He has at his command the Treasury officials, and the Statistician’s Department, but he has not yet told’ us on what details his estimate of revenue is based. Only this morning he refused to do so. I believe that he has no details, because were he able to substantiate his estimate he would be only too pleased to do so. Estimates have been made by other persons which put the probable revenue from the tax at £2,000,000, £3,000,000, and even £5, 000,000.
– Honorable members are entitled to the fullest information on this subject.
– How can the Prime Minister give it, if he has hot got it?
– It is pitiable to hear a supporter say that he has not got it.
– 1 do not say that he has not got it. I am merely answering the honorable member’s statement.
– I oppose the imposition of a land tax by the Commonwealth, and have done so on every occasion that I have been before the people, but especi- ally during the last two electoral campaigns.
– The honorable member frightened the people from voting for a land tax by his talk about confiscation.
– The honorable member, notwithstanding all his confidence, is a new chum at the game, and does not know all about politics yet.
– I hope that he will not go to the Opposition for points.
– He might learn a little on this side. It was the intention of the framers of the Constitution that the imposition of land taxation, except in a time of great emergency, should be left with the States. The authorities which control the land should have the right to tax it. The Commonwealth has no control over the lands of Australia. That is left to the States. We have heard a great deal about the mandate from the people, and the Prime Minister has pointed to his full benches as evidence that the electors indorse his proposal. But remembering the many different opinions that were expressed by Labour candidates during the electoral campaign, and also on the floor of the House, and especially that the tax was then advocated as one for bursting up large estates, and is now proposed for revenue purposes, it cannot be held that the people have given a mandate for its imposition. The honorable member for Hunter says that he is in favour of a land tax, both to burst up the large estates, and to obtain revenue. But the State Labour members, who supported Federal candidates, have declared, both on the public platform and in the State Parliaments, that they are opposed to the introduction of this taxation by the Commonwealth Government.
For instance, the Deputy Leader of the Labour party in New South Wales, Mr. Holman, speaking in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, on the 21st October last, said -
To impose a graduated land tax does not solve the land problem. It merely commences the solution; it does not end it. I believe, myself, that the imposition of a graduated land tax merely paves the way for a proper scheme of resumption. It gives us a basis. But to say that we are going to obtain closer settlement by that alone seems to imply a spirit of optimism which is in no way borne out by facts. I believe in a graduated land tax as much as any man. But I say that the Parliament which carries out the land policy should be the one which makes portion of that policy the imposition of the graduated land tax. And the State Parliament is the one to do that.
A very sound opinion, and one held not only -by Mr. Holman, but by nearly every member of the State Labour party.
– How is a Land Tax Bill to be passed through the Legislative Councils ?
– Measures providing liberal systems of land settlement are in force in Western Australia and South Australia, notwithstanding the existence of the Legislative Councils, while New South Wales has a Closer Settlement Act, and Queensland - according to a gentleman sent from New Zealand to represent the primary industries and the large newspapers of the Dominion, who made a tour through all the States recently - has land legislation far more liberal than that of the country from which he came. All this cry about the Legislative Councils is the old gag which has been trotted out for years to gull the electors. It is said that the Legislative Councils block this thing or that thing; but we ought to be thankful that there have been Legislative Councils to look after the interests of the people in the various States.
– We are thanking God at present that there is a Senate.
– At present I do not happen to be in that humour, because of the way in which the Senate has treated the question of the Capital site.
– Oh, I see.
– I am not thinking so much of the Senate at present as I usually do. There is one phase in connexion with this measure to which I desire to make a short reference, and that is the taxation of land in the arid or semi-arid divisions of the Commonwealth. I would point out to honorable members who look so much to New Zealand for guidance that hot an acre of land in that country is over 100 miles from the seaboard, and the result is that there is a sure rainfall, and the circumstances are absolutely different from those prevailing in the Commonwealth. I ask honorable members to listen to the opinion of Mr. G. A. Young, who is well known as a valuer of long experience. Comparing New Zealand and New South Wales, he says -
In following the New Zealand graduated system of land taxation the Federal Government appears to have overlooked the fact that it was dealing with a country having generally different physical conditions. In New Zealand there is not an acre of land situated over one hundred miles from the sea. This insures for the whole area a regular rainfall and seasons. The soils in the Dominion, comprising volcanic, alluvial, rich scrub and forest lands, make it an ideal country for close settlement. In Australia, excepting a strip of coastal lands extending inland for less than 100 miles, the seasons vary from good to bad, and during extra dry years, unless water be available for irrigation, the land cannot produce anything.
Those who are acquainted with Australia know that those words are absolutely correct.
It would appear to be impracticable to attempt to fix hard and fast rates of taxation on such lands, the same as it would be reasonable to do in the case of the cities and the coastal districts. The rates of taxation should vary according to the conditions, say fixed rates for town and country lands if the latter have a minimum annual rainfall of 25 inches.
In this- Bill there is no attempt to do anything of that sort. Whether there is power to do it I do not intend to discuss at present -
Country lands with an annual average rainfall of 17 inches and under on a sliding scale, according to the season, at a certain rate if the rainfall be up to the average; but for every inch under the average for the twelve months a proportionate deduction might be made, ‘ say 25 per cent, for each inch, so that there would not be any tax at 13 inches, which would be fair, as drought conditions would prevail and the land could not bear a tax.
The honorable member for Maranoa knows that, time after time, the position of men in the central and western divisions of New South Wales, as well as in Queensland, has been a very hard and trying one indeed.
– Hear, hear.
– We know that many men have gone out to those divisions, spent their lives there, and lost their all. Yet with the possibility- nay, the certainty - of a recurrence of bad seasons, this Parliament is asked, instead of helping the men who have pioneered those districts, to introduce a system of taxation which must bear very heavily upon them. Whilst I agree with the taxation of absentees, I want to point out that the central and western districts are being largely developed with money which has been sent here from England for investment, and which, of course, will have to bear the absentee tax. That money has been sent here in good faith for investment by men who pay their share of taxation in the Mother Country to keep up the Navy of the Empire which is responsible for Australia being in the possession of a white race. If it were not for that Navy we could hold Australia but for a very short time. Is it fair. to persons in the Old Country to introduce a system of taxation which will penalize them very heavily in connexion with their investments in those districts which require to be developed more than do other parts of the Commonwealth? From my point of view that position is absolutely unfair. I desire now to draw attention to the position of New Zealand as so much has been made of ‘ that country in connexion with this measure. In his introductory speech the Prime Minister referred time after time to New Zealand as setting an example which we should follow. To use his own words, he said -
I could, if I so desired, quote from official reports of New Zealand and. other places, showing that the effect of land taxation has not been to decrease employment or development and settlement, but quite the reverse.
He also made use of these words -
Incidentally I may express the opinion - it is a personal opinion - but it is an opinion that I believe every thinking man and woman in this country must hold - that the incident and effect of unimproved land value taxation in every country where it has been applied has been to makelands available on more reasonable terms for thepeople who desire to use them.
If honorable members are in any doubt upon that subject they will be convinced if they look up the official reports published in New Zealand,, and even in some of our own States.
The Prime Minister said that it was only an opinion, but one which he felt sure would be indorsed by every thinking man in the community. He produced no evidence in support of it, but he advised honorable members to look up the official figures, which he declared would justify it. I think that he ought to have put the House in possession of the official figures. I went down to the Statistician’s office to see if I could get any figures to support the honorable member’s statement, but I was unable to do so, and therefore I intend to quote figures supplied to me by the Statistician, which show quite the reverse of the position which the Prime Minister pointed out. But before quoting the figures, I desire to refer to the unimproved value of land in New Zealand both before and after the imposition of a graduated land tax, and to let honorable members judge for themselves whether, by reason of its price, land has been made more available to the poor settlers who loom so largely in their minds. There is no man here with a feeling of patriotism who is not anxious to see Australia settled with a good class of yeomanry, because only by that means can our shores be properly defended. From the Year-Book for 1909 I intend to quote the figures for 1891, the year before the land value tax was introduced, and for 1909 -
I think that I have shown the immense increase in the unimproved value of land in New Zealand.
– The land tax has not hurt that country very much.
– No; but is land more available to those who want it? If the unimproved value of land has increased, as the table I have quoted shows, as much as 384 per cent., it appears to me that land has not been made more available. That is why I was so anxious to see the official figures. If the Prime Minister has them in his possession, he ought to lay them before the House, because, according to the information I have, so far from land having been made more available in New Zealand, people there are very much in the same position as people in other countries. When land is thrown open there is a rush for the different portions, as I intend to show later.
– Can the honorable member give a table showing the number of small holdings now in comparison with the number in 1901 ?
– Yes, and when I do the honorable member will get a bit of a surprise.
– I should be glad to hear the figures.
– I think I have quoted sufficient to show honorable members that, in consequence of a tremendous increase in value, land has not been more available to the poorer settlers in New Zealand. The other day we heard a great deal from the honorable member for Cook and others in regard to persons leaving Australia and going to New Zealand in search of land. He quoted the cases of two or three of his friends leaving Australia for New Zealand because they could not get land here, but upon being questioned all that he could say in support of his original statement was that he presumed that they went to New Zealand in search of land. I know some cases, and no doubt other honorable members know cases of persons who are never satisfied, no matter where they may be put. There are some roving spirits who like to move about, and they are to be found in Australia as in other parts of the world. I have known men who have gone over to New Zealand in the hope that they would better themselves, but in nearly every instance they have relumed.
– People are coming from New Zealand to Australia to obtain land.
– I know that that is so; and, as a matter of fact, there are many applications for every block of land made available in the Dominion of New Zealand. On the question of whether or not land is more available to the poorer classes in New Zealand than it is in the Commonwealth, I propose to quote the opinion of a gentleman well known to members of the Ministerial party, and who is now representing the Labour interests of New Zealand at the Labour Convention, at Portsmouth, England. I refer to Mr. James Thorn, who, on his way to England last year, called at Melbourne, and then delivered an address at the Trades Hall. Honorable members of the Labour party will certainly consider that the views of the leader of the Socialistic Labour movement in New Zealand are worthy of consideration. According to the Age of 22nd May last, Mr. Thorn, speaking in the Trades Hall, Melbourne, said -
The Government of New Zealand recently decided to purchase 29,000 acres in North Canterbury. They gave ^120,000 for it, and they cut the 29,000 acres into 29 blocks. They then called for applicants for selections, and 050 applied.
That does not suggest that land is very plentiful in the Dominion -
Before the Government would allow anybody to go to the ballot it insisted that every one should deposit three years’ rental.
This incident reminds me of the gambling that goes on in connexion with the balloting for blocks of land in New South Wales. The honorable member for Riverina knows better than I do that many of the applications for blocks thrown open for selection are made for gambling and speculative, and not for legitimate settlement, purposes. In New Zealand, which we are constantly told is, as the result of the imposition of a progressive land tax, a model country, there are as many as 650 applicants for 29 blocks.
– But does not the fact remain that, as the result of the cutting up of the estate to which the honorable member refers, there will be 29 families settled on the land where before there was only one?
– Undoubtedly ; and I shall show the honorable member presently how the Socialistic party in New Zealand propose to deal with those 29 families. I draw attention to the statement that, before the Government would allow these people to ballot, it insisted that every one should deposit a sum equal to three years’ rental. That is not a very liberal arrangemen.
– It means, “ Only boss cockies with capital need apply.” Mr. FULLER. - Quite so.
– In New South Wales applicants are required to show their bank books.
- Mr. Thorn went on to say -
The result of their much-vaunted land legislation was that they had now to fight 29 little Tory land occupiers, and where they formerly had one big Tory land-owner using the land as a means of exploiting the public of the profits, they now had 29 small Tory land-owners. They were going to say to the Tory land-owner, “ You are too costly. We are going to shift you, and we are going to appropriate your lands, and we are going as a State to use that land just as we use our railways.”
That is the idea associated with this proposal. The object of this Bill is not the legitimate one of settling the people on the land ; it is rather to impose a tax of an admittedly confiscatory character, to confiscate the lands and to carry out the Labour party’s ideal with respect to land nationalization. The Labour party are not honest with the people in this regard. If they were, they would admit that that is the goal which they have in view. Mr. Thorn unhesitatingly declares that it is the goal which the Labour party in New Zealand have before them. We were told by the Prime Minister that one of the effects of this Bill would be to reduce unemployment, and we had a reference to the favorable position of New Zealand in this regard. According to Mr. Thorn -
They had as many unemployed in New Zealand in proportion to their population as they had in Melbourne. In Wellington, out of 1,800 wharf labourers, 400 had been in a condition of constant employment for the last twelve months; 35 per cent, of the ironmoulders there had been unemployed for months, and, of the metal workers, from 15 to 20 per cent. In the face of that, their much-vaunted Liberal Government was introducing no fewer than 1,000 immigrants into the country every month.
The employers of New Zealand were determined to build up a surplus of labour in New Zealand by the method of assisted immigration. It was therefore not a bit of good going along New Zealand lines such as he had described.
We are asked by honorable members opposite to follow the lines adopted in New Zealand, yet a leader of the Labour movemei.t in New Zealand says that the action taken there to make land available and to find employment for the people has been an absolute failure. Mr. Thorn went on to say -
There was poverty and unemployment there, because they had been satisfied with the palliatives in the past, and because they had neglected to do the essential thing, and that was by taking the industries and the land out of the hands of private individuals and vesting the ownership in the State.
That, according to Mr. Thorn, is the ultimate object of the Socialistic party in New Zealand, and it is the ultimate object which the Ministerial party here have in view. Their idea is to impose land taxation in such a way that it will lead to confiscation, do away with private ownership in land, and bring about land nationalization. I promised the honorable member for Riverina that I would give him some figures in regard to the increase in the number of small holdings in New Zealand, and I propose now to carry out that promise. We have been led to believe that the imposition of a graduated land tax in New Zealand has resulted in the diminution of large holdings, and in an increase of small ones. But what are the facts? The Commonwealth Statistician has supplied me with some figures, which appear on page 383 of the Production Statistics of New Zealand for 1908, and which honorable members may examine for themselves. They show that the small freeholders, that is to say, those holding areas under 1,000 acres in extent, between 1902 and 1906 increased to the extent of only2½ per cent., while, for the same period, the holders of areas over 1,000 acres in extent increased by 10 per cent.
– Has the honorable member any information as to the class of soil held in areas exceeding 1,000 acres?
– If the honorable member wishes me to go into that question so far as New Zealand is concerned, then I must ask him to have regard to the class of soil comprised in large holdings in Australia, and the effect which this . tax will have upon such areas. The Commonwealth Statistician points out in regard to the position in New Zealand that, if the number of holdings from 1 acre up to 640 acres in area be compared for the years 1905-6 and 1908-9, the figures are as follow: - 1908-9, 66,932 holdings; 1905-6, 62,794 holdings, or an increase of 5 per cent. On the other hand, in 1908 there were 8,220 estates between 640 acres and 15,001 acres and over, and 7,148 in 1905-6, or an increase of 15 per cent. The larger estates are thus increasing about three times as fast as the smaller ones. This does not show that the graduated land tax is making land in New Zealand more readily available to the poorer classes, and
I am satisfied that this Bill, instead of making land, in those parts of the Commonwealth that we are specially anxious to settle, available for the poorer sections of the community, will lead to the aggregation of larger estates. I wish now to give honorable members some information with regard to the opinion formed as to the position in the Commonwealth by a well known New Zealander, Dr. Stoppford, of Auckland. According to an article which appeared recently in the Argus -
He has recently toured practically the whole of the Commonwealth, paying particular attention toagricultural matters, as several New Zealand papers commissioned him to write his opinions with regard to land matters in the Commonwealth. Before he left Auckland, he was asked by a very large number of men interested in primary production, to get the fullest information with regard to what the prospects were on this side, and whether they were better in New Zealand. Speaking with regard to his investigations yesterday, Dr. Stoppford stated that, in his opinion -
This was about’ a month ago -
The conditions obtaining in the Commonwealth are infinitely better than those in New Zealand.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
- Dr. Stoppford also writes the following concerning land legislation, particularly in New Zealand -
I think that Queensland, with her free and open-handed manner of placing the land at the disposal of her intending settlers, leads the way, and could only New South Wales be persuaded to demonstrate to the world that her capabilities were not yet exhausted, and that her Government was a truly democratic one, then I feel sure that in all parts of New South Wales a large number of immigrants would settle. The land settlement in Queensland is of such a type, and such facilities are given under the various phases of the Land Commissioners, that the Dominion of New Zealand is years behind.
These words bear out what I have already said in regard to New Zealand. The prosperity of the Dominion is attributed by many to the graduated land tax now in operation, but if honorable members turn their minds back to 1892, when this tax was instituted, they will see that that was just the time of the development of the freezing industry, not only there, but in other parts of the world. This, coupled with the extensive borrowing of some £20,000,000 of money in recent years, has put New Zealand on the upward grade.
– The freezing in New Zealand was a co-operative work.
– Yes, it was largely independent of the Government. In 1889, there was exported from New Zealand 1,700,000 lbs. of frozen mutton, and in 1893 22,800,000 lbs., and the exportation has been increasing up to the present time. It will be seen, therefore, that, as I say, it was not the graduated land tax, but the application of the refrigerating system to exportation, that gave the farmers and settlers an opportunity of placing their produce on the markets of the world, and caused the prosperity of the Dominion. The butter exportations are as follow, and honorable members will notice the progressive rise -
But even now the prosperity of New Zealand is not equal to that of the Commonwealth. There are, I am sure, many representatives of Victoria who can bear me out that that State is much more prosperous than is the Dominion, and the comparison generally is always in favour of Australia. It appears to me that, in many instances, honorable members have discussed this question from a purely local or electoral, rather than from a national, point of view. Of this we had an instance yesterday in the speech of the honorable member for Riverina, who confined his remarks entirely to that district. No doubt that speech was very interesting as a description or history of land legislation in- New South Wales, the honorable member himself having been closely connected there with a constituency very much affected by that legislation. The honorable member would have us believe that all that is necessary to have smiling homesteads from one end of the Riverina to the other is to impose this . land tax, and burst up the large holdings ; but I have received a letter from Mr. John Lamb, a life-long resident, who puts quite a different complexion on the matter. Mr. Lamb has devoted all his career to the development of the place where he now resides, and has there brought up a large family.
– That is the sort of wealth we want.
– Quite so; and we ought to be very careful that we do not impose a tax which will have the effect of dispersing such families from their homes.
– That is precisely what the honorable member for Swan said we ought to do - send the youngsters out to pioneer for themselves.
– I am not the honororable member for Swan, and I am now expressing my own views. Mr. Lamb, in his letter, says -
Let me call your attention to the fact that the Government of New South Wales, with the help of a large majority of members in the House of Parliament, Sydney, passed a Reappraisement Act authorizing Land Boards to reappraise Crown purchase lands, purchased at 20s. per acre. The Land Boards gave effect to this policy by reducing land from 20s. downwards to as low as an average of about 12s. to 13s. per acre, in Western Riverina.
And even at these reduced rates of purchase many settlers in Riverina are unable to make two ends meet, and have been obliged by adverse seasons to obtain loans upon their properties to enable them to remain upon their holdings.
This is in answer to Mr. Chanter’s statement, made on Friday last, “ That Riverina is a garden well supplied with water by nature.”
Except the river frontages, the whole of Riverina is dependent on artificial water, supplied either by tanks or wells.
The fact of the matter is that in the Riverina, as in other parts of the Commonwealth, much land is absolutely useless for small settlement purposes, and to compel the bursting up of some of the comparatively large estates is only opening the road to ruin. The honorable member for Cook went to a great deal of trouble to prepare a list of large holdings in New South Wales, including holdings in the county of Camden, in which is situated my constituency. The only large holding there is the Camden Park estate, and during many visits I have had opportunities of ascertaining some of the circumstances. According to the honorable member this estate consists of some 15,000 acres, and I know that the family in possession are the foremost in everything for the advancement of the dairying and the pastoral industry. They have adopted all the. uptodate improvements in the importation of cattle, and so forth, and I have never heard any complaint as to the way in which the estate is managed. Of course, I know that there many farmers, have, unfortunately, suffered drought for ten or fifteen years, and, though liberally treated by the proprietors, have not had all the success they would desire. Reference was also made to the Berry estate at the southern end of Illawarra. That estate was granted in the early days, when people had to be persuaded to take up land ; and it must be admitted that in recent years it has been felt to be rather an incubus on development. But it would have been impossible for small proprietors to have carried out the extensive improvement works which have marked the history of the estate, and which will render it one of the most fertile portions of the district in the near future. Thousands of pounds have been spent in draining the swamps, and the process of subdivision has been going on for many years, so that now, instead of one or two proprietors, we find dozens of farmers with their freeholds. This policy of subdivision or disintegration is going on throughout the country, as a glance at the advertising columns of any of the country newspapers will show. In the Australasian of this week 66,000 acres of subdivided land is advertised for sale.
– The proprietors are “ getting in out of the wet “ !
– It is idle for the honorable member to talk like that, because the process has been going on for years , and long before a Federal land tax was thought of. Other instances can be found in the constituency of the honorable member for Richmond, one of the most favoured portions of Australia. The Stratheden Estate of 16,000 acres is advertised for sale in blocks of 80 to 300 acres.
– The holders will escape the tax. What is the honorable member cavilling at?
– As I have already pointed out, this process of subdivision has been going on for years right throughout the country. The Barrangarry estate in the Kangaroo Valley of the Illawarra district is at the present time being advertised for sale in small farms. Everywhere settlers are being offered land on the most reasonable terms. Judging by the utterances of Ministerialists as to the result of the closer settlement legislation of New Zealand, one would think that the agricultural production of the Dominion per head of population would be much greater than that of the Commonwealth, especially when rainfall and soil are also taken into consideration, but according to the YearBook the agricultural production of the
Dominion in 1908 was only ^23,800,000, or less than £24 a head, while that of the Commonwealth was nearly ,£100,000,000 or about £24 a head. I oppose the Bill because I regard it as a straining of the Constitution, and an interference with the rights of the States, by taking from them one of their few sources of revenue. I oppose it because it is unnecessary, and calculated to bring disaster on a large number of worthy citizens, who have used their utmost endeavours to develop the resources of the continent ; and because it will apply iniquitously to those who have bought land and paid its full market value. Undoubtedly the State should share in the unearned increment which it has produced, and in 1894 I lost my seat in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales for, amongst other reasons, supporting land value taxation proposed by the present High Commissioner. At that time the honorable members for Riverina and Hume, who now pose as strong land taxers, opposed land value taxation. I believe that the tax will prevent, to a large extent, the investment of money, and that it will depreciate land values. I regard it as confiscatory, and as a first step towards the nationalization of land, which is on the platform of the Labour party. Labour members should be honest, and let the public know what they mean. We have no reliable information as to the revenue likely to be produced by the tax, nor have we been told the real object of this legislation. As I believe that the Bill will injure our best interests, and instead of settling people on the soil, will drive them off it, I shall vote against it.
.- Havingregard to the length of the debate, and to the fact that the measure has been discussed from almost every point of view, I shall state my views regarding it as briefly as possible. It must be considered as a Bill to promote land settlement, by the breaking up of large estates, and as a Bill for revenue purposes; but undoubtedly its chief object is the promotion of settlement. Had it not been for that, the measure would not have been introduced. This is made evident by the speeches delivered byLabour candidates from public platforms, and by Ministerialists in this Chamber, while the memorandum attached to an almost identical Bill introduced last year justified it wholly on that ground. Some honorable members have twitted others with discussing this proposal only as it affects their States, but those who have found fault have done exactly what they blamed others for doing. Every member must speak of what he knows best, and must consider the measure chiefly as to its effect on his own State. I am in full sympathy with those who desire to increase settlement. In Victoria, the area of available land is limited. Here for years past the existence of huge estates has been a crying evil. There are large blocks of land close to townships, with railways running through them, which are put to very little use. Indeed, the Railways Commissioners have complained that they do not get enough traffic from these large estates. Yet we are told that our young people should go out into the back blocks, those who have no families being loudest in stating that it is best for children to get away from the parental roof. I am of opinion that it is. best, if possible, to have the children settled near their parents, and justify the settler who was spoken of as developing a large “estate to enable his family to do that. For settlement in the back-blocks tobenefit the country, those who go there must marry and bring up families, and I pity those who have to do that, even in Victoria.
– What does the honorable member mean by the “ backblocks “?
– I would apply the term to many parts of the Gippsland electorate.
– You could jump from Gippsland to Melbourne.
– It a long time since the honorable member made a jump of any kind, much less a jump like that. Quite recently a block of land was thrown open for selection in Eastern Gippsland, and the Lands Department was surprised that there were not more applicants for it. It is situated about 120 miles from a railway, and 260 miles from Melbourne, and is between 50’ and 60 miles from the nearest township and the nearest doctor. I have known men to wear out their lives in trying to make such land fit for cultivation. By the time they . have done that they are almost ready to die.
– And before telephone communication is given to the district their grandchildren will be ready to die.
– Quite so. The earliest families to settle on the land of which I am speaking will have to be brought up without schooling. When requests are made for the establishment of a school, the people are told that they must provide a school-room before a teacher can be sent, and probably only a half-time teacher is sent. When a telephone is asked for, they are told that it probably would not pay for seven or eight years, and are asked an exorbitant guarantee, or given the right to erect a line themselves. While we have large estates close to centres of population, men should not have to go out into the back-blocks. I do not know what the Legislative Councils of the other States may be, but “that of Victoria is immovable. Liberal legislation can be passed through it only after years of striving. Even the possibility of the imposition of a tax by the Commonwealth would not make it pass the very moderate tax proposed last year by the State Ministry, which is by no means unfriendly to the Council. We shall not get liberal legislation while thatHouse continues impregnable. But while I sympathize with the object of the framers of this legislation, I think that we have not power to pass it. During the last and the previous election campaigns, I said that the proposal of the Labour party to break up large freehold estates by a tax on all estates worth more than . £5,000 unimproved was a violation of the Constitution, and I would not support it. This Parliament has limited powers, and the High Court will review our legislation, to determine whether it is a taxing Act or an Act to control land administration. The form of the measure shows that- the Government has had difficulty in preparing it with a view to escaping the declaration of the High Court that it is unconstitutional. Had we power to do what the Government wish us to do, the Bill would have been drawn in a simpler form, and would have commended itself, more even to the supporters of the Government. Of course, we have power to pass a taxing measure pure and simple but the complex provisions of this measure are due to the fact that an attempt has been made to frame it as a taxing Bill, and at the same time to provide for the breaking up of large estates. I agree with the honorable member for Flinders that there are no limits to our powers of taxation, nor to the methods of its imposition. But I am not in accord with the. honorable member for Darling Downs. At one of the meetings of the Women’s League which he is now graciously permitted to address, though he could not address them before he joined the Fusion, he said that it was not intended that the Commonwealth should invade the State areas of taxation, or enforce its powers of direct taxation except in cases of emergency. I ask what is meant by “ cases of emergency “ ? The Commonwealth is at the present time much in want of revenue; it needs money badly. Is not this then a case of emergency ? Perhaps the honorable member for Darling Downs, like many Oppositionists, would increase the revenue by means of Customs taxation. I am not prepared to impose duties, except for the sake of making protection more effective. I object to revenue duties whose only effect is to make the taxation of the masses heavier. But the fact that we have the power to impose taxation will not necessarily prevent the Bill from being declared by the High Court to be ultra vires. It was stated in Bar ger’ s case that -
Even if the term “ taxation,” uncontrolled by any context, were capable of including the indirect regulation of the internal affairs of a State by means of taxation, its meaning in the Constitution is limited by the- implied prohibition against direct interference with matters reserved exclusively to the States.
The honorable member for Angas, and the honorable member for Flinders, without declaring the Bill to be unconstitutional, expressed grave doubts on the subject. That is my position. Undoubtedly the Bill is opposed to the spirit of the Constitution. Probably no one in this Chamber is a stronger advocate of the national rights or powers of this Parliament than I am, and it is because I am a strong advocate of the national rights of this Parliament that I object to trespassing on the domains of legislation which have been undoubtedly reserved to the States. The control of lands was left by the Constitution to the. States. We have no power to interfere with their administration. This measure is undoubtedly an attempt to do that indirectly, and therefore I cannot support it. If the States neglect their duty, our proper course will be to ask the 1 eople by means of a referendum, to give us the right to interfere. If we did, I believe that the people would give us that power. The very fact that the great majority of the people of Australia returned to this Parliament a majority of honorable members, the main plank in whose platform was the imposition of a land tax to burst up large estates, shows that they acknowledged that the States had been neglecting their duty in this respect. I am satisfied that that is the opinion throughout Victoria, and I am sure that the electors of the Commonwealth would give us the power that I have mentioned, if we asked for it. With such a power we could pass a discriminating measure, dealing with all classes of lands, according to their particular wants, and to the localities in which they were situated. Even when I regard this as a purely taxation Bill, I am constrained to oppose it. It may be that I am behind the times with respect to the question of land taxation. I have read most works on the subject, and their arguments, although attractive, have failed to show me why, when we are taxing wealth for revenue purposes, we should tax only one class of wealth, and allow the rest to escape. I believe in a man being taxed according to the wealth that he possesses, to provide for the government of the country. That, however, is not the present position. The masses pay a far heavier share of taxation than do the wealthy, and I am surprised that those most able to pay, grumble because they are asked to do so. T wish I had some of their wealth in order that I might pay as heavy a tax as they have ever been asked to bear.
– If the honorable member were wealthy he might change hisopinion.
– If the possession of wealth would cause me to change my opinion with regard to my responsibilitiesand obligations to my country and my fellowman, may the Almighty keep me poor for the test of my days. Take the position under the Income Tax Act of Victoria. If a man invests £10,000 in land,, mining, trading, or banking company shares, or in a business, he has to pay income tax on the income that he derives from them. But if he puts the whole of that amount into the safest -of all securities - if he invests it in Victorian Government Stock or debentures he is not called upon to pay a farthing by way of income tax in respect of it. That is wholly indefensible.
– The interest on Government Stock is very low.
– That may be, but a man is not asked to pay a penny in respect of income derived from Victorian Government” securities.. The tax that has always commended itself to me as one that would make wealth contribute according to its volume, and irrespective of the way in which it is invested, is that to which the honorable member for Perth has referred - the surplus wealth tax. That is a tax that we ought to impose when we are seeking to make a man contribute to the cost of government according to the wealth that he ‘possesses.
– The honorable member for Perth did not originate that proposal. Mr. Dowling, M.L.C., discovered it.
– I know that Mr. Dowling has always advocated it, and if I remember rightly, provision was made for such a tax in a measure introduced by Sir George Turner, in the State Parliament in the nineties. This Bill will require very considerable amendment to make it fair, and not unnecessarily oppressive. I am sure that the Government do not intend that it shall be either unfair or unnecessarily oppressive. Most of its defects have been pointed out, and I shall therefore refer to only one or two. First of all, I would draw attention to the proposed method of valuation. At the first blush, it seems reasonable to require a man to supply his own valuation of his land ; but it is significant that, although that system was originally in force in New Zealand, it was found to work unsatisfactorily, and was abolished. Those who have had experience know that there is probably nothing more difficult than the valuation of land. The value of land depends very largely -upon whether or not there are buyers for it when it is offered for sale. A man might conscientiously value his land at ti certain price, which might be held by a Government official to be low. We might, therefore, acquire it, and on putting it up for sale ‘obtain a much higher price for it because there happened to be a number of persons anxious to settle in the particular locality in which it was situated. It would be infinitely preferable to have the lands of the Commonwealth valued by competent officers, and to allow a right of appeal. I also favour the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Angas, who holds that an annual valuation as proposed by the Bill is too frequent. It will lead to endless trouble and complication
– How often would the honorable member have a valuation?
– I think that a triennial valuation would be sufficient. I come now to the question of joint ownership and joint occupancy of land. The provisions of the Bill in that regard puzzle me. If the Government are prepared to allow two individuals on each of their holdings u margin of £5,000 of unimproved value, I fail to see why, if those people choose to hold their two blocks as tenants in com mon, they should not be allowed the two exemptions. I know of an estate, the owner of which died intestate, and which’ was carried on for some time until his children grew up. Then five or six of the sons bought out the shares of the daughters and some of the brothers, who wished to go elsewhere, and took over the whole of the estate in equal shares as tenants in common. Each of them has a homestead on the land, but they work it as one estate. I fail to see why they should not be allowed five or six exemptions, instead of being taxed as one owner with only one exemption.
– There is a way out of the difficulty.
– The way out is to split up the estate ; but I cannot see why the people should not be allowed to hold a double quantity jointly, as well as to hold it separately.
– They could continue to work it together without having it in their joint names.
– In order to obtain financial accommodation, it is often more satisfactory to hold such an area as one estate. Then, again, I would draw attention to the provisions as to absentee companies. Companies are declared to be absentee companies when more than two-fifths of their shares are held by absentees. The unfortunate feature of that provision is that it will tax all the local shareholders as if they were absentees.
– Look at the gain to the local men, the absentees will sell out at any price.
– I am satisfied that the Bill, amend it as much as we please before it is finally passed, will have to be amended every session for many years to come. Reference has already been made to the penalties imposed by it, and I need only say that many of them are, in my opinion, altogether extreme. If there is a division on the question that the Bill be read a second time I shall vote against it. I do not propose to vote on the amendment, because whether one voted for or against it one would by so doing admit that the Bill was within our constitutional powers. The amendment declares it to be an abuse of the Federal power, whereas I take up the position that it is altogether beyond our power. When the Bill goes into Committee I shall do what I can to assist in so amending it as to make it a reasonable measure and to prevent injustice being done.
– The importance of this Bill and the magnitude of the interests involved justify every honorable member in giving expression to his opinions upon it. Rightly or wrongly, I take the view that if passed in its present form it will for ever reflect discredit upon the Commonwealth. While it is introduced incidentally with the object of obtaining revenue, its real purpose is to burst up large estates. So much has been emphatically stated, not only by the AttorneyGeneral, but practically by most honorable members on the other side of the House who have addressed themselves to this question. If that is really the design of the Bill, then it should appear upon the face of it. The obvious reason why it does not is that if it did it would at once be recognised that the Bill was unconstitutional. Honorable members must realize that the firm and solemn agreement entered into with the States was that the control of the lands of the Commonwealth should remain within their jurisdiction. If so much is admitted, as I think it must be, then by an indirect process we are seeking to filch from the States a jurisdiction which is acknowledged to belong to them. If the States were to attempt any legislation which sought indirectly to achieve that which they have not the direct power to achieve there would be, not only indignant complaint on the part of this Parliament, but the strongest possible protest against such an immoral action. The simple ethical principle which guides us in our daily life - the principle of “ Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them “ - ought to be kept in view in dealing with national affairs. In this case it is expressly and definitely ignored, and consequently there must be resentment on the part of the States. I realize that my honorable friends opposite claim the mandate of the country as a justification for the introduction of this measure. They are taking somewhat too seriously, however, this idea as to the mandate of the country. It is true that a conjunction of factors brought about the return of the Labour party with a majority, and I admit at once that the question of a Federal progressive land tax was an important element in bringing about that result. But it is obvious that the impression was that the Land Tax Bill to be introduced would be one to burst up large estates. That was the idea that was prevalent and that seized the popular imagination. As an election cry it was a very valuable one. It meant that it was detrimental to the best interests of the country that large estates suitable for cultivation should not be put to their highest and most productive use. That was the feeling that prevailed in the minds of 999 out of every 1,000 electors, and it secured much popularity for this proposal. The idea was that such legislation would be introduced as would have for its object the breaking up of large areas which were suitable for agriculture.
– Does the honorable member think that this Bill will do that?
– Incidentally it will.
– That is all that we want.
– Incidentally it will do that after working in other directions the most violent injustice. Does my honorable friend suggest that it is desirable that even that object should be attained at the expense of the most valuable interest in the community?
– Are large holdings desirable?
– No; I have never suggested that they are, and there is much to recommend the claim for the breaking up of large estates suitable for agriculture. If that was the object of the Bill, and was stated in the Bill itself, it would not meet with serious opposition from any very considerable section of the House.
– It would be held by the High Court to be unconstitutional.
– I say if it were within our power as a Commonwealth; if it is not within our power, it is open to Parliament to try and amend the Constitution. If that were accomplished, it would be a different class of measure altogether. But was it ever in the minds of the electors, or of honorable members opposite, that the design also was to burst up town areas - to depreciate practically every allotment throughout each metropolis ? Was it ever suggested for one moment that grazing and pastoral areas, which were being put to their highest productive use, were to be burst up, seeing that in small holdings they could net be occupied satisfactorily by anybody? The settlement and control of the lands were reserved to the States for very sound and substantial reasons. The States themselves have the power to make their legislation exactly fit the conditions. I speak in this connexion, I hope, with great deference and respect, but with the advantage, for what it. is worth, of lengthy experience as Minister of Lands of Victoria. There is no more elementary as well as essential principle of land legislation than that the utmost discrimination should be exercised in dealing with various classes of land ; and this principle is outstanding in all the land legislation of the States. In New South Wales it is necessary to split up the areas into many divisions, and to specially legislate for each ; it is recognised that one stereotyped class of legislation cannot be made to apply to the whole of the lands as if they were uniform in character and uniform in value.
– Has discrimination ever been applied in an Australian land tax proposal ?
– I am talking about State land legislation, and urging that it is within the power of the States only to achieve the highest results by accommodating their legislation to the physical conditions within their own limits. If I may be forgiven for referring to my own State, I may say that, during my regime, it became my duty to recast the whole of the land laws of Victoria, and to introduce for the first time the principle of closer settlement; and especially was it necessary to legislate in regard to the classification of land which was then made. We took the utmost care to discriminate between first class agricultural land and indifferent agricultural land, and between first class grazing land and indifferent grazing land; and in each case the area and price were fixed accordingly. But the point is that we had to discriminate as to the character of the land, and to apply our legislation to each particular class, with a view to promoting occupation and settlement. In regard to grazing lands, we had to give the most generous terms to secure permanent occupation; but now it is proposed, by the cast-iron terms of this Bill, to apply taxation of a pattern to burst up agricultural areas, also to grazing areas. This must necessarily result in serious and disastrous failure, and do gross injustice in innumerable cases - a result which I hope is not desired by honorable members opposite. Within the last two or three weeks the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General received a deputation representative of the Commonwealth commercial and financial interests of Australia. That deputation, in the most studied and courteous language, laid before those honorable gentlemen various facts, to which they invited attention. Individual cases of injustice were cited, and for these special consideration was asked. It will be realized at once that in making the statements they did, and furnishing examples, the deputation challenged the Prime Minister to deal with the cases in some shape or form, feeling that the honorable gentleman would not knowingly or willingly be a party to any such injustice as they indicated. I do not suggest that every example of hardship should be investigated ; but when a deputation, practically representative of all the States of the Commonwealth, after studying the effects of this Bill expresses the opinion that certain results will follow, it is only reasonable that they should receive some answer. I have taken the precaution to speak to Mr. Arnold, one of the prominent members of the deputation, and . ask him whether he is prepared to permit an officer of the Treasury to verify the statements made, and he has assured me that he is quite willing to do so. I therefore invite the Prime Minister or the Attorney-General to do this important deputation the justice to which it is entitled.
– Hard cases make bad laws !
– Undoubtedly. I admit that the interests of the individual must, if necessary, be sacrificed to the public good, but when a Bill before the Chamber is calculated to work such widespread injustice - when the very stability of the Commonwealth is challenged - the suggestions made by such a deputation are entitled to consideration and investigation.
May I refer to only two of the innumerable cases cited ? One was as follows -
In other words, in this case, by the operation of the principle of aggregation, the tax is to be multiplied no less than six times. Could anything be more unfair or unjust? Here is another case -
In another case, a warehouse, upon which the tax would be £315 worked out under the Bill through the aggregation clause at j£i,i66.
It must be remembered that this is a town property which, under ordinary circumstances, if separately assessed, would pay £315, representing a capital value of something like £6,000; but the proposed penal tax, which was intended to attack the lands suitable for agriculture, is to be applied to burst up this town area, which is being put to its highest and best use, and in connexion with which there are vast and important trading interests. If this warehouseman chooses to extend his business by means of branches in other States this tax is to be multiplied until, as we see, it comes to over £1,100. If this is multiplied by twenty, in order to ascertain the capital amount, we see that £22,000 is to be taken from the capital value of this legitimate trading concern. What crime has this man committed that he should be thus penalized - robbed of a large portion of his estate. He was given every reasonable encouragement to build up his trade, and yet we find a land tax - designed for quite another purpose - being used to burst up his business.
– Did this warehouseman start his branches for philanthropic reasons ?
– Undoubtedly not; but it is perfectly legitimate for a man to so extend his business, and the honorable member would be the last to penalize an enterprising man who is just to hundreds of employes and whose business is regulated and controlled by the industrial laws of the State. Does the honorable member say that it ever crossed his mind that this tax, designed for one object, was to be applied in such a way as I have described ?
– That is the fault of the Constitution. We cannot differentiate.
– The Constitution was never designed to do gross injustice to any section of the community. And it is only by an attempt to distort the Constitution that such a result comes about. Nothing can justify this Parliament in doing injustice to the town areas of this country and to grazing areas simply for the purpose of achieving some other object. The design of the Constitution is to leave the control and settlement of the land a matter essentially of State jurisdiction, and the facts show how we are abusing the Constitution. Another case occurs to me. There is a banking institution which, I believe, will pay on its head office in Collinsstreet alone, no less than £1,400 by way of tax, while the taxation on its various establishments throughout Australia must be something enormous. Was it ever thought for a moment by the electors that this financial concern, with its various branches for the accommodation of the public throughout Australia - and, of course, for its own advantage also - was to be discouraged in its legitimate trading by means of this land tax? I am certain that this House will carefully consider cases of the kind and watch the operation of measures calculated to work wholesale injustice, and that, under the circumstances, there will be at least some substantial modifications of the provisions of this Bill. There are at least four factors entitled to most careful consideration, and which in themselves demand the moderating of the excessive character of the taxation. The first factor is that the Bill contains the principle of aggregation, which results in multiplying many times the amount of the already penal tax ; the second factor is that the Bill ignores any consideration of exemptions so far as mortgages are concerned ; the third factor is that the Bill penalizes the absent owner, and the fourth factor is that, if carried in its present form, the Bill will mean a system of double taxation. Land and income taxes, as a rule, have been worked together in the States, and there has never been any attempt to double tax land. The result has been that where income from land has been taxed for one purpose, the same income has been exempt so far as the income tax is concerned.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we substitute double taxation for this Bill - an income tax and a land tax?
– I am contending that the Bill already will result in double taxation, and suggesting that this is grossly unjust. These four factors indicate that the penal rates of the Bill should not be insisted on, but that the most moderate rates should be provided for. Further, the measure will, in my opinion, injure a struggling section of the community, the mortgagors. Do honorable members realize how vast their interests are? It is estimated that the private borrowings of Australia from abroad amount to something like ^200,000,000, while the banks have advanced something like £100,000,000, and private individuals about £250,000,000, so that in all about £550,000,000 has been advanced, not entirely on landed security, but with land as the basis of the security. In innumerable cases the tax will wipe out altogether the equity belonging to the mortgagor, and in every case depreciate its value. For nearly thirty years I have acted professionally for various financial institutions, including building societies, and feel that the Bill will seriously interfere with the security of advances, and will cause the depreciation of the margin. Financial institutions will, if the Bill is passed, insist on a larger margin than they have hitherto required. The result must be the restriction of borrowing and the stifling of enterprise and building. In a case which has come under my own notice, the application of the aggregation tax will cause a building society interested in various small properties to pay ,£1,800 per annum, whereas if the properties were separately assessed it would have to pay only £56 per annum. At present building societies, when as mortgagees they enter into possession, nurse the properties as long as they can, and enable borrowers to come in and release them. But if the Bill passes, the aggregation tax will prevent this. It will deprive many worthy men of all hope of redeeming their little properties. The effect will be the serious depreciation of small properties throughout the metropolitan area, which is not desired by the people, and, I think, not intended . by the Ministry. It is a common thing for a manufacturer who needs accommodation to mortgage his dwelling. In future, financial institutions will look askance at freehold security, for fear of having to enter into possession subsequently as mortgagees, and having to pay the aggregation tax. To lessen this risk they will insist on a larger margin. At present, if a man desires to build, he tries to borrow on his land, but he will not get accommodation as easily when the Bill is passed as he can now. Thus building operations will be restricted, and a blow will be struck at the workers which was not contemplated. Honorable members opposite declare that unearned increment is a legitimate source of revenue. They point to the indebtedness of the States, which amounts to ,£250,000,000, as evidence of public expenditure to benefit private property. That is a short-sighted view. It is true that the expenditure of public money has increased the value of property generally, but the increase is also due to the immense expenditure of private capital. As I have just pointed out, the private advances now in force in Australia are estimated at about ,£500,000,000, and it is the combination of public and private expenditure and enterprise that has brought about the increase in the value of property. It must not be assumed, however, that the present holders of property enjoy an increment which has not been earned. It is not to be assumed, even in the case of country land, that it was all acquired for £1 an acre. Every day land is being bought and sold, and in every case the full market value is paid. The proposed tax will confiscate a large part of the annual value of land for which the purchasers have paid. Even honorable gentlemen opposite cannot ignore these considerations. Individual hardship must result from all legislation of this kind, but the injustice and hardship caused by .this measure will be so widespread, and, in the opinion of experts, it will so seriously affect the financial stability of the country, that I hope moderate counsels will prevail, and bring about a modification of what are excessively stringent provisions. I cannot think that it is intended to discourage the inflow of capital, or to strike a blow at our best interests, and, therefore, hope that in Committee the measure will be very substantially amended.
– - The honorable member for East Sydney, in his somewhat discursive and largely irrelevant speech, boldly and openly assumed that members on this side of the Chamber regard the questions at issue in this measure solely from the capitalistic point of view, whilst the members of the Labour party alone were considering the interests of the people at large. Such an assumption, if really believed to be true, would render our discussion, which has extended over many weeks, absloutely useless. Unless we are prepared to credit each other with sincerity in the expression of views, and with the ability as well as the desire to consider all the effects of the measures brought before us, our socalled deliberations are indeed labour in vain. The honorable member, notwithstanding his years and business experience, entirely lost sight of the fact that those whose views do not accord entirely with the views of the Labour party, nevertheless may be able to see as clearly as he does that side of the question which appeals to the members of his own party. To put my argument more realistically, I would suggest that if a child were seen with a razor, or some other dangerous weapon in his hand, some persons might say good-naturedly, “ Why interfere, since he is amusing himself?” But wiser heads, while wishful to permit the child to enjoy himself, would take immediate action to prevent him from doing himself a serious injury. Honorable members opposite might give us credit for sufficient intellectual vision to see that this measure, though primarily aimed at what is desirable, may, like (he boomerang, return and strike those whom it is intended to benefit, lt is, for instance, assumed that because the proposed tax is not to apply to properties of a value of less than £5,000, only those who hold properties beyond that value will suffer by its incidence. Like the honorable member for Kooyong, J have had many years’ experience in association with the affairs of banks, land companies, insurance companies, finance companies, and others ; and the conclusion to which I have come is that this Bill will do serious injury to small landholders. Within the last week or two I have heard of many cases in which companies whose business it is to advance money on farms in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland are curtailing their advances, and requiring fresh valuations on properties whose value is as low as £1,000. They recognise that the fall in the value of large properties which will result from this tax must depreciate the value of smaller properties. In the opinion of at least a score of men, whose occasional business it is to make advances on small properties, the measure will have the effect of seriously depreciating the value of such properties. I am speaking of properties valued at £1,000, £500, and as low as £250; and I am satisfied that the effect of this Bill will be to render it exceedingly difficult for the owners of such properties to secure a renewal of their existing mortgages as they become due, at the valuations upon which advances have been previously made. If we on this side of the House can see a little further than do honorable members opposite, so that we are able to anticipate the boomerang effects of this Bill upon the class that it is supposed to benefit, it is just as well that honorable members opposite should give us credit for that fact. It is hardly to be supposed that we are so recreant to the trust reposed in us, as legislators for the whole of the people, that we would deliberately resist a measure because we desire to* look at it from the point of view of one class only of the community, and that the minority. Surely it does not follow that, because we are able to point out that an effect which is anticipated by the other side is not likely to be realized - that this Bill is likely to be injurious to the class which the other side are trying to benefit - the Labour party should refuse to consider what we have to say, and seriously consider it.
Now in ‘ dealing with this Bill I have not been able to avoid regarding it very much as I have viewed other measures introduced by this Government. It would seem that all the trouble to which we on this side of the House may go in analyzing the provisions of a Bill with a view of helping to re-shape it in Committee is to a large extent labour in vain. The conditions of discussion in this House have been so completely altered by the advent of this Government. Under the old parliamentary regime, a party elected its leader who, as a sort of captain of the legislative ship, chose his colleagues. According to all recognised traditions he had control not only ove’r his Ministers, but over the party which he led. His word was in the last resort taken as the word of the captain of a ship - as something like law with regard to the policy which he was enunciating, . and as to the principles of the measure he was endeavouring to pass. But we have now come to occupy an entirely new position. The Ministry of the day are a committee of men responsible, not to their Prime Minister, but to the party as a caucus. I use the word “ caucus “ as indicating the whole party in co-operative deliberation. The
Prime Minister is merely the chairman of the committee, called the Ministry, appointed by the party or caucus; and he has no controlling power in respect of his colleagues. Their responsibility is not to him but to the caucus. They naturally say, “ Our Prime Minister has not chosen us ; we are under no obligation to him ; our obligation is to our party.”
– This is very interesting, but hardly to the point.
– If it is interesting I am satisfied. I am going to show the effect of this system on the measure before us. In the past, when a member of the Opposition had an argument to present in regard to any measure before the House, he addressed himself to the Minister in charge. Under the old regime that Minister would carefully note the criticism offered, and would suggest to his Prime Minister - and I speak with some- years of experience as a Minister - the amendments which he thought could be profitably adopted. But how are we now placed?
– I rise to a point of order. I contend, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member for Parkes is delivering a lecture on the caucus and other methods of government, but is not dealing with the Bill before the House.
– I must admit that the honorable member is perhaps labouring the question of the caucus. He said just now that he was going to connect his remarks with the Bill, and I hope that he will do so very shortly.
– I am pointing out the difference between the manner in which the criticism of a measure must be addressed to the House now, and that in which it would have been addressed under the old regime. I feel now that my arguments must be quite differently directed, because the Minister at the table is not the honorable gentleman who has taken charge of the Bill and is responsible for perfecting it. The arguments which honorable members offer in this House must be addressed, not to the Minister - he is practically a minor factor - but to the whole Ministerial party. During the whole of this discussion the caucus who sit upon this Bill - a party of forty-seven - have been represented by an average of ten members. The uselessness of one’s suggestions becomes apparent when one reflects that an argument with regard to this Bill, however potent it may be, instead of being addressed to the whole body of men who in caucus would direct the Government how to deal with the Bill, has to be addressed to only ten out of that fortyseven. There happen now to be about nine in the chamber, and our only hope is that our arguments may so impress them that they will go to .their next caucus meeting, and say that there ought to be some amendment of the Bill.
– I would point out to the honorable member that the question before the Chair is not the practice of the caucus, but the motion for the second reading of the Land Tax Assessment Bill.
– I am dealing with the practice, not of the caucus, but of the House. There is, I repeat, very little chance of our criticism being even heard by the only body which has the power of altering this measure. If the Labour party really desire to make this Bill perfect, instead of merely forcing it through willynilly
– Then the honorable member admits that it can be made perfect?
– Yes; I would amend it by omitting all the words after the opening one, and by introducing an entirely new set of provisions. Every Bill can be made perfect in that drastic way. I am here reminded of the fact that a few days ago the Prime Minister, in addressing a deputation which waited upon him in regard to this measure, used the following words -
He had to express his appreciation to the deputation for coming there and giving them their views. The Government were always glad to hear all sides to questions, and it welcomed any facts and suggestions that might be put forward. He wished to say freely and publicly that the Government would always listen to facts and suggestions on all questions, and they would give due consideration to these.
I ask the Prime Minister whether that was mere lip service, or whether he really meant it to be understood that he was prepared to exercise whatever power he possesses to induce the party which he nominally leads to accept suggestions made from this side of the House, and which seem to him, at all events, to be calculated to improve the Bill ? If he did not mean that, if this was mere lip service to make the public believe that there is a possibility of criticism leading to suitable amendments, then the public ought to know that that is so. If, on the other hand, it was a genuine expression of opinion on the part of the Prime Minister, and he is in a position to entertain any amendment that is suggested, I invite him on the first occasion in this House to openly give the members of his party permission to entertain amendments that are suggested.
– The honorable member said, a little while ago, that the party had to give the Prime Minister permission.
– I say that, according to public knowledge, that is the state of affairs; but that this recent deliverance on the part of the Prime Minister sounded very much like a return to the old regime. If the Prime Minister does not do that which I have just suggested, the only conclusion which we can draw from his utterance is that, while he has affected, before the public, to exercise power and control over his party, so as to be able to induce them to accept any reasonable amendments, he is merely one of many cog-wheels in a great machine, and only automatic in his Ministerial movements.
Now I admit that the numbers are against us, and that whatever may be the results of this Bill on land-holders, they will realize that they have been brought about by their own corporate action, or inaction in the recent elections. We have heard a great many legal suggestions made by the honorable member for Angas, the honorable member for Darling Downs, and the honorable member for Flinders. The honorable member for Flinders laid it down as a sort of axiom that every legal member is under an obligation, irrespective of party, to propound legal opinions for the edification of the House. I do not assent to that proposition. I come here, not as a member of the legal profession, but as a member of Parliament, to represent the public in framing legislation ; and although I am always willing to use the legal knowledge I have acquired over a period of twenty-five years, I am not prepared to constitute one of a body of legal advisers to help the Government in the shaping of their crude legislation. I am not prepared to assent to the proposition that it is every legal member’s duty to offer guidance to the Government on the legal aspects of their Bills. Legal opinions are too common in this Chamber. I have heard them offered on every conceivable aspect of this measure. My experience of the present Government is . that, if you can offer them any legal advice that seems to give them a chance of saving the constitutional skin of their Bill, they are willing to accept it; but if you offer them any suggestions which have to do with the effect that a Bill is likely to have, irrespective of constitutional considerations, upon the citizens of. the Commonwealth, they waive them aside, in a lordly way, on the ground that it is part of their programme, and must be passed. I recognise, after this little digression, which the honorable member for Robertson seems to think interesting, but not relevant, that there is considerable hopelessness in regard to any amendment suggested for this Bill. If I had the whole of the party here, and could be sure that their minds were as open to conviction as the Prime Minister told the deputation that they were, I would undertake to set them thinking rather differently in regard to their Bill. But I have only ten out of the fortyseven present, and they have not open minds. I do not say this offensively ; but they are bound by their party obligations, and it is not open to them to confess that they are affected by arguments from, this side touching the effect which this Bill is likely to have on the large and small landholders of the country.
– Wait till the Bill is passed, and the honorable member will see.
– There may be surprises in store.
– There may be. I am accustomed to hear in this House such expressions as we have frequently heard during this debate about the “ fat man.” Every citizen who happens to have been fortunate in attempting what a large part of the Labour party are earnestly trying to do - in attempting to become rich - is described by them as a “ fat man.” He is considered fair game for any legislation which will have the effect of making him uncomfortable in the possession of his wealth. I know there are many thoughtful men amongst honorable members opposite. I always think of a Labour member as having what I call a double ego - there is the man and there is the” Labour member. In the train, on the tram, or in the street, in private conversation, I find him a most amenable person, who sees the foolishness of a great many things that he is compelled to do and say in the House. As a Labour member, however, he recognises that he is bound by certain pledges, and that his political existence depends on his recognition of and obedience to those pledges. Therefore, I say I should be very hopeful if I could address them on the human ego side and not on the political one.
– The honorable member has much confidence in his argument.
– I have; but I have more confidence in human nature when it is free; and I feel that I should be able to induce honorable members opposite to abandon many of the crude provisions of a Bill which they are now bound to support. First I ask them to permit me to point out some of the first principles of taxation. I shall not evolve these principles out of my inner consciousness, but take them from a well-known and well-respected authority. I should like to quote from Professor Fawcett, who, although blind, became a British PostmasterGeneral and one of the most luminous writers on political economy. Whatever we may do here it is just as well to have the tuning fork occasionally struck by an economic master to show us what the proper note is, however much we may ignore it in our tune. Professor Fawcett, speaking on taxation in general, said -
It is evident that a government cannot possibly exist unless it possesses a revenue. . . . The question is at once suggested, Are there any principles which will enable us to decide whether any particular tax is just or unjust, defensible or indefensible? Adam Smith considered that all the principles of taxation might be deduced from the four following rules or precepts, these four rules, which have been termed canons of taxation, shall be described in Adam Smith’s own words : -
The subjects of every State ought to contribute to the support of the government as nearly as possible in proportion to their respective abilities. . . .
I am glad that the Labour party should seem to approve of that proposition, because I shall show the consequences of their acceptance in a moment - that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the State.
I shall refer later to the details of this problem. I ask then : Why should a man with over . £5,000 worth of property pay a tax, while the man with . £4,000 pays none? Why should not each pay proportionately? Why should the man with £6,000 worth of property not pay as 6 is to 4, and the man with £4,000 pay as 4 is to 6? That would be just according to the principle laid- down by Adam Smith. Fawcett continues -
Then, going from general taxation, he in a special chapter deals with land taxation, and, after speaking of the existing land tax in England, he continues - *
It would now, however, be an unjust confiscation of property to increase it - such an augmentation of the tax would be paid entirely from the rent of land-owners, and would, therefore, be as indefensible as any other impost levied upon one special class.
In dealing with income tax he uses words which also throw a light on the principles of this Bill. I admit that these are lofty politics, but still it is as well we should look now and then to the higher standards of politics. He said -
It has been urged as an almost self-evident principle that an income of£10,000 ought to be taxed at a far higher rate than an income of j£ 1,000.
This has a distinct bearing on the proposed exemption of £5,000 -
It is, apparently, thought that such a distinction should be made, because a man with an income of£10,000 is so rich that he is hardly affected by the tax. This principle, however, if carried into practical effect, might lead to some very mischievous results; it would, as it were, place a penalty upon the accumulation of wealth. All such schemes, which are aimed against large capitalists probably obtain popular support, because they seem to favour the ignorant prejudice which is so frequently expressed against what is termed, “ The tyranny of capital.”
Then he goes on to pay this compliment to the increasing knowledge of the working people of England -
There was a time when the labourers of this country believed that the owner of a large capital possessed a peculiar power to oppress them - but superior education and the extension of co-operative institutions are already beginning to make labourers understand the true functions of capital.
This is allI propose to read from any writers on this subject ; and I read these extracts because they contain in a kernel the very root principles of taxation. Honorable members will see that Professor Fawcett there points out the absurdity of entertaining a sort of prejudice or grudge against capital, forgetting what its functions are in helping to make the great complex machinery of civilization work’, and of penalizing it in the hope of doing good to those who do not happen to possess it.
– The honorable member slipped rapidly from taxation of land to taxation of capital.
– I have quoted quite honestly. I did not desire to burden the House with a long dissertation on taxation in general, and I selected the part which contained the four principles that Professor Fawcett considers are embraced by AdamSmith’s work. I passed away from the land tax to the income tax, which two forms are intimately connected.
– The honorable member scarcely referred to the land tax !
– If the honorable member likes I shall read the words again.
– Can the honorable member give us any idea of the incidence of the land tax in England at that time?
– It was, I admit, a very small tax, and it was not differential. I shall show in a moment that in the Bill before us there is an absolute disregard of all the principles that have ever been applied to exemptions in any country so far as I know.
I desire now to say something about the origin of this tax. I cannot help feeling that there is relevance in asking what was the origin of this scheme of heavy land taxation. I know very well that there is in this country, notwithstanding its inapplicability, the remnant of an old prejudice, which many who come from England may have brought with them - a prejudice against large estates, which were held in England under a very quaint system of title, and passed down under primogeniture and entail from generation to generation. There was, and is, a feeling in England that most of these large estates were obtained by unfair means, either in time of its greatest conquest, when the Normans took the land from the English, or subsequently for trivial services rendered to the Crown. I desire to show that none of that spirit of prejudice can have any application to Australia; because, apart from the few grants that were made to pioneers in the older States, like New South Wales, Tasmania, and Western Australia, the whole of the alienated land has been purchased for sovereigns. I do not think there are any such grants in Queensland, and there are, altogether, very few in Australia - at any rate, they are not worth considering. The institution of primogeniture does nof apply to this country. All the laws of inheritance in the Australian States are of such a character that, unless a man likes to split up his estate under a will, his properties when he dies are divided up by law, and there is therefore a constant process of disintegration going on in landed properties naturally and normally. We know further that entail’ practically does not exist here. The right honorable member for Swan reminds me that in many of the cases in which grants were made, no doubt for meritorious services, the lands have passed to other people who have paid money for them. I am speaking of the great bulk of the alienated land as shown on the map on the wall of Parliament.
– That is not a fair representation.
– It is not, in so far as it does not show the distribution of the land, but it enables us to see what an infinitesimal proportion the alienated lands bear to the remainder. Honorable members know that in a return placed before the House these proportions have been very interestingly set out. But for the alienated land, little as it may be, we must not forget, if we desire to do justice, that gold has been paid in practically every case. In some instances the lands were bought forty or sixty or more years ago, and we have to consider what the payment given for the acre then now amounts to in the hand of the State. Compound interest of money causes it to multiply almost as quickly as in the old calculation of the horseshoe, and we have to remember what would have been the result to the present owner if, instead of taking the land, he had kept his sovereign, and invested it at compound interest. The increment is not the difference between what he gave for the land a long time ago and its present value, but the difference between the present value and what his money payment would have amounted to at compound interest up to the present time !
– The price was not £1, but 12s. 6d. per acre twenty years ago!
– That or less was the price in some cases. Only eighteen months ago I visited the middle of Queensland, and saw there land which had been sold for 2s. 6d. an acre only eight years ago, and from which the occupiers had made several pounds an acre in the first year. I hope honorable members will recognise that I am not speaking of the £1 an acre as of universal application.
– The honorable member knows that if a man wanted to buy land at twenty years’ purchase, the present terms of £1 would be equivalent to 12s. 6d. cash.
– The young men of to-day who like to lean against posts, but who are anxious to have a bit of land, do not care to go out west, but prefer to settle down near the towns.
– They prefer to be near the rainfall 1
– No one knows better than the honorable member that the old pioneers in the absence of rain gauges had no opportunity of considering such matters. Even the fertile land around Bathurst was never penetrated until thirtysix years after New South Wales had been discovered. It was only then that, for the first time, the Blue Mountains were traversed and the magnificent prairie lands beyond first seen. When we talk about the people getting those big estates in the backblocks we forget what the possession of those estates meant. A man had to go there for years - almost a life time - and practically bury himself beyond railways, coaches, and civilization.
– Men are doing that to-day in Queensland.
– But it is not done by the young men who lean against posts in the towns, but by a totally different type. I appeal to honorable members of the Labour party to consider that by this Bill they are going to levy a tax which will represent nearly 50 per cent, of the value of estates which were obtained, in many cases, by the sacrifice of half a life time.
– Why does the honorable member give all the credit for pioneering to the land-owner ? What about thousands of others who did pioneering work?
– I am showing how unfairly this tax is going to work, and not dealing with exploration. There may be many cases in which there is no merit ataching to the ownership, but this only shows the absurdity of making laws which are to apply uniformly to a continent as big as Europe, as the United States, or as Canada, with every conceivable climate, approaching a point only 10 degrees from the Equator, and running within 20 degrees of the Antarctic circle. We are making one law to sweep over this great continent with all its .varying conditions. We have heard honorable members for Tasmania speak of Tasmanian lands as if they were typical of the whole of Australia ; and we have heard the honorable member for Corangamite talking of lands in the Western District of Victoria, as if they were typical. Practically these lands are the town blocks of Australia; they do not represent the great back woods where the pioneers have done such heroic work.
– It is very strange that when any of these old pioneers die they generally leave ,£100,000 or £200,000 ( behind them. They can stand a bit of taxation.
– Surely the honorable member does not regard that as the test?
– Yes, I do !
– Surely the honorable member does not in his heart say that the test of the justice of any taxation is how much the people can stand. I am sure the honorable member will accept the principle enunciated by Fawcett and Adam. Smith, that a man should pay taxation in proportion to the benefits he derives.
– The poorest have been paying through the Customs House for the last fifty years !
– There should be some method in our taxation. We cannot simply say, “ There are a lot of rich men, and therefore we will bludgeon them because they can stand it.” A twentieth century deliberative assembly is not justified in imposing” a tax without method, arrangement, or classification. To show how deep this class bitterness is, let me read from what I always speak of as the ablest Labour newspaper in Australia, the Brisbane Worker. A recent number contained a small cartoon showing the Prime Minister, a municipal councillor, and a dog representing land taxation. The Prime Minister is addressing the municipal councillor, “Don’t be frightened, he will not bite you. I have got him for the protection of the public against monopolistic thieves.” A publication which is the guide and philosopher of the workers of Queensland thus stigmatizes the large land-owners, many of whom were pioneers, as “ monopolistic thieves.” In an article published on the 20th April, it says -
It seems strange that Australia, one of the youngest born of nations, should need a tax to- break up land monopoly. Yet, so it is. It ismeant as a measure to get at the big land monopolist, and that it is likely to effect its purpose a perusal of the Bill is sufficient to. convince.
Honorable members may be better informed, but those among whom the paper circulates take their guidance from it.
– What about those who take their guidance from the organ of the Employers Federation?
– Perhaps the honorable member will quote the passages to which he objects. To continue my quotation -
And it will, before this Parliament has run its term, have furnished evidence as to whether a tax rising from a penny to sixpence in the pound is sufficient to make the monopolist release his grip, and yield up to the Australian people the soil that is theirs, and for the defence of which they are in duty bound to give their lives if needs be. Look at the matter how you will, this measure must occupy a front rank position among the revolutionary reforms of the Labour movement.
No Labour member can say that that is balanced, wholesome, or true doctrine to put before the people of Queensland. On a later date, I find this more extravagant statement -
Every shriek of pain it wrings from a landlord, every curse it elicits from the landlord press, is a guarantee that at last something efficacious has been done to break up the monopoly of the soil, and set it free to labour and enterprise. When disaster overwhelms a marauding gang it is nothing unusual for some of them to try to save their necks at the expense of the others. Brigands and bushrangers are notorious for this skunky conduct. Landlords may now be included in the same category.
– It speaks of all landlords.
– Honorable members opposite seem amused ; but while there is an amusing side, it is not for the legislator who remembers that persons are influenced by, and persuaded of the truth of, these statements. The article continues -
Those who did their looting in the cities are ready if the slightest encouragement be given them to betray their pals in the country.
That writing is false and dishonest, and legislators are not justified in treating it merely as humorous. It shows that behind this proposal is a feeling of bitterness and class revenge against capital ; and every honest Labour representative ought to resolve that, whatever his party ties, he will not give practical effect to the feelings of those who are educated by, and who sympathise with, this class of journalistic literature in desiring revengeful legislation.
– Is the honorable member influenced by all that appears in the
Sydney Morning Herald and Daily Tele graph ?
– I hope that the honorable member will not put me on the same level of intelligence as that of the readers of the newspapers from which I have quoted.
– I know men as intelligent as the honorable member who read it; in fact, he reads it himself, and is a sub- scriber to it.
– I am, but my subscribing to a Labour paper is the wisdom of the serpent. I read for my information, to ascertain the pabulum put before the people of Queensland to induce them to support this Government. Is every member of the party going to stoop to give practical effect to the revengeful feelings evinced in the passages I have read?
– We have nothing to do with what appears in that newspaper.
– That newspaper circulates among a large Queensland public ; and its statements are evidence that the proposal before us originated in a feeling of revenge. Even here, the other day, in the course of a debate, an honorable member said, in reference to this Bill: “A dog tax is necessary to keep out dogs.” No doubt he spoke impulsively. This is a tax on men’s wealth and men’s homes. The Attorney- General, in his article headed, “The case for Labour,” which appeared in the Daily Telegraph a fortnight ago, said that the true purpose of the Act was to burst up the big estates. That has been repudiated by the Prime Minister.
– I believe it, for one.
– I know that the honorable member does. I look upon him as one of the most revolutionary members of the Labour party. It is part of the Ministerial scheme to represent the Bill as a taxing measure, and if it contained any provision indicating that its purpose was the bursting up of large estates, it would have very short shrift in the High Court. It is only by representing it on its face as a taxing measure that it can be made to run the gantlet of that tribunal.
– ‘Will it not tax the people?
– It certainly will ; but whether it will do so honestly and fairly is another question. Its barefaced hypocrisy is palpable. It professes to be a taxing Bill, and the Prime Minister, in introducing it, said in effect, “ It is true that I have stated that the Bill is intended to burst up large estates, but I am not going to proclaim that on the face of the measure itself, seeing that it will have to run the gantlet of the High Court.” Therefore the measure is not what it professes to be. If it were honestly intended to raise revenue, there would be no exemption of estates under £5,000 in value. The reasons for exemption in land and income taxation are, first, that the amounts collected would be too small to be worth the expense of collection, and, secondly, that the value possessed is the minimum on which a man can live. The New South Wales income taxation made the minimum taxable income £240 a year.
– If that is the minimum on which a man can live, what about those who get 22s. 6d. a week and rations?
– The honorable member’s interjections, by their invariable irrelevance, remind me of the herringbone stitching which women put into flannel, in which there are little stitches always running off from the main line of the thread. It cannot be said that no man can live on less than . £5,000 worth of land.
– The honorable member for Corangamite said that.
– He is too intelligent to believe it. As a proof that this is not a taxing Bill, we have the statement of the Attorney-General that it is a Bill to burst up the large estates. He said on the 27 th August last -
The object of the Bill,. apart from the raising of revenue, is to burst up the big estates. Therefore those land-owners who are prepared to cut their lands up will evade taxation altogether under this Bill.
There is here further evidence of hypocrisy. One might think from reading those words that it is intended to tax only those land-holders of large estates who are not prepared, instanter, to cut up their estates; but the measure is to take effect as from the 1st July last, so that no person holding land whose unimproved value exceeds £5,000 can avoid the payment of the tax for the present year, at any rate. The Bill is hypocritical for two reasons; first, because it professes to be a taxing Bill when it is really a Bill to burst up large estates, and, secondly, because, while it professes to exempt those who are willing at once to cut up their estates, it is deliberately antedated, so that its provisions shall apply from the 1st July last. In a memorandum issued by the last Labour Government, in regard to a practically identical measure, this statement appears -
Despite some recent attempts in various States of the Commonwealth to promote closer settlement, it is still true that land monopoly is the curse of Australia. Relatively to the enormous area of its fertile lands and the size of its population, land monopoly exists here to a greater extent than in any country in the world. In spite of the resumption of large estates by the State Governments, for purposes of closer settlement, these estates are growing both in number and size.
That is an admission that the Governments of the States are doing what it is professed to do by the Bill. Members of the Labour party have recently said that the Legislative Councils are not doing as much as they could, which is further evidence of a general conspiracy to bring about unification. Then, the Bill has been spoken of as one for the development of our great resources. How is that reconciled with its application to valuable city properties? Parliament has bolstered up the manufacturers by means of big protective duties, and now, by a sort of legislative backhander, proposes to take away half their profits.
– Surely the honorable member does not object to that?
– I object to everything that is unfair and dishonest. The Bill will also tax heavily land on which are situated warehouses, wool stores, business premises, and banks, including those in which the savings of the people are deposited. How can we bring about closer settlement by taxing city and suburban properties? We know that the application of the tax is made universal, merely, to make the Bill constitutional. If it had been possible to frame the Bill merely to give an outlet to the feeling of revenge against the large owners-
– There is no such feeling.
– I have proved its existence by the quotations which I have read from the Brisbane Worker. If those who contribute to that newspaper did not share the opinions expressed, they would not be published. Further, the paper is the Queensland mouthpiece of the Labour Ministry. When this Government came into power, it was able to announce that it had been favoured with an advance copy of the Governor-General’s opening speech.
– It is a great paper.
– It is a revolutionary paper.
– We are all revolutionaries.
– I do not think that the honorable member is so in his heart. The real man in him is most reasonable, though on the political side he is impossible.
– I think the same about the honorable member.
– The honorable member will not discover any difference between the sentiments which I express privately, and those which I express publicly.
– The honorable member U very conservative.
– If I am conservative in Parliament, I am conservative out of it, but 1 do not think that I am. The honorable member may think so, because he is attaching to the words “conservative” and “liberal” significations that are not justified, either analytically or etymologically. Dealing with the hypocrisy of this measure, I would again point out that it is not, as it professes to be, a taxing Bill. The exemptions are not honest exemptions, according to recognised principles ; and it is not a Bill -to burst up lands for closer settlement, because it is going to levy a heavy tax upon lands in our great cities that cannot possibly be devoted to such a purpose. We all know that nowadays competition is so keen that the profits of large establishments are pretty well reduced to 5 or 6 per cent. Although great companies may pay dividends to the extent of 10 per cent, on their original capital, most of them are paying only about 5 per cent, on the market value of their shares. That being so, the shareholders of the present day are receiving only 5 or 6 per cent, on their investment. We ought surely to encourage enterprising men who have built up great businesses, because the bigger a business the better it is for the public. By means of economic administration, as well as in other directions, better results are obtained for the buying public. Under this Bill, however, business companies possessing their own properties will have to pay a tax equivalent to 2 J per cent.
– Does not the honorable member think that the value of the ground is worth half the-
– Some business houses turn over their stock half-a-dozen times in a year, and others do not turn it over more than once or twice. Such a principle cannot be applied to banks, in surance companies, or wharfs. I am dealing with big business companies generally, which, as a rule, produce about 5 or 6 pet cent, on the market price of their shares. The tax now proposed will represent on the very large properties 2 J per cent., so that, as the honorable member for Parramatta pointed out, the Government will impose a tax equivalent to an income tax of ros. in the £1.
– I think the honorable member is mistaken.
– I think I am perfectly right.
– The honorable member is mixing up land with other commodities.
– I am doing so in order to show the absurdity of this Bill. I am contending that it is hypocritical, because its professed object is to break up large estates and produce closer settlement. How can it bring about closer settlement on great city properties?
– No man could pay a tax of 10s. in the .£1 in addition to his present taxation.
– That is true, but it is what the people are going to be called upon to do under this Bill. In the case of a large business, with a property worth .£80,000 or .£100,000, and producing only 5 or 6 per cent., this Bill will, I repeat, impose a tax equivalent to i per cent., so that it will really absorb about one-half of its profits.
– The tax will be only 6d. in the .£1 in the case of properties of an unimproved value exceeding .£80,000. The honorable member is speaking as if the general tax were 6d. in the £1.
– A tax of 6d-. in the .£1 on a property valued at ,£80,000 would work out at about 4½d., but id. more on a company registered outside Australia.
– Then why say that it will amount to 2^ per cent. ?
– If the honorable member works out the figures, he will see that that is the result. This is a plea for differentiation. At the same time it illustrates the absurdity of announcing to the world that this Bill is to break up large estates in order that the people may go upon the land. Think of the effect that it will have on banking and great insurance companies.
There is another aspect to be considered. Honorable members have already observed in operation an obvious economic law by which all these imposts are coming back upon the people. In the case of the Conciliation and Arbitration Courts, we have seen that as fast as we add to the wages of employes that addition is attached to the commodities which they produce, and up goes the cost of living.
– Is that going to be tolerated indefinitely ?
– We can run for ever in a circle, economically, and that is what the people are doing. People are going to the Conciliation Courts or Wages Boards for increases of wages ; and as soon as they obtain an increase the price of the commodities concerned goes up. Wages are increased, but the employer who knows his business passes that increase on to the public. Then, I repeat, up goes the cost of living, with the result that, by-and-by, the employe goes once more to the Court, and says “ Since I was here last, the cost of living has increased, and, therefore, I must have a higher wage.” I have known of cases where men have had a second addition made to their wages, because the cost of living has gone up, with the result that the cost of the commodities which they produce has again increased.
– That is where a man is not satisfied with a fair profit, and wishes to obtain an exorbitant one.
– And it is sometimes due to the fact that employes are not content with a fair wage. The whole effect of this is that the value of the sovereign is being sensibly reduced.
– That is the argument of the revolutionary Socialist.
– Then I am, perhaps, quite unconsciously, a revolutionary Socialist. I wish only to show that, economically, the Labour party are going in this way to lower the purchasing power of the sovereign. A sovereign to-day will not go as far as 15s. would ten years ago.
– Whose fault is that?
– The fault is that money has no standard value. Coins are merely counters. We are playing the game of life with counters, and constantly altering the value of those counters by saying that we will make the purchasing power of a sovereign only 15s. or 10s., as the case may be. We can bring it down to zero, or until everything is so dear that a sovereign will not go as far as 5s. used to do.
– The people will not stand that for ever.
– The point is, at what will they stop?
No one can consider this Bill without being struck by its great injustices. Take, for instance, the question of exemptions. If the Government are trying to do what is fair, why should they compel a man with an estate of the unimproved value of £10,000, to pay a tax on £5,000 worth, and allow a man having an estate of the unimproved value of £5,000 to pay nothing? Is there any reason for it ? In my opinion - formed not to-day, but when this proposal was first mooted - the deliberate object of this exemption of £5,000 was to give a palpable political bribe to the people. That object succeeded for the time being. The small land-holders possessing property of an unimproved value of less than £5,000 were under the impression that the effect of this Bill would be to break up large estates, to throw enormous areas of land on the market, and to give them an opportunity .to supplement their holdings. If honorable members opposite imagine that they are going to lower the value of large holdings, without reducing the value of the small holdings, they are living in a fool’s paradise. I have already referred to the fact that institutions are actually refusing increases, and will, no doubt, very shortly require fresh valuations of properties before they renew those advances.
– Then, we shall have to start our National Bank.
– The honorable member may well say that, for the party to which he belongs will then have reached its limit. Apart from the injury which .1 should anticipate from it, I should be delighted to see the Labour party involved in a cob- web of bank management and administration.
– The honorable member will have the pleasure before this day twelve months.
– If the Labour party’s bank is established on the lines advocated by the present Minister of Home Affairs, and adopted by the Brisbane Labour Conference, then it will be a case of confusion worse confounded.
I wish now to say something about the effect which this Bill will have on mortgagees. I shall give honorable members, as an illustration, the case of an estate of the value of £50,000, and mortgaged, as is very commonly the case, for £30,000-. There is an exemption of £5,000, so that the tax will have to be paid on ,£45,000. The mortgagor, therefore, has an interest of ,£20,000, and the mortgagee an interest of ,£30,000. The whole of the tax will obviously fall on the mortgagor. The mortgagor will be paying about 5 or 6 per cent, interest on £30,000-
– Every penny of it.
– The honorable member knows that I am putting my case fairly when I am really understating the interest that such a person would have to pay on his mortgage. The mortgagor, out of his profits on ,£20,000, will have to pay, in addition to his interest - which may be 1 per cent, more than his profits - the whole of this tax on £45,000. There is no conceivable way by which he can shunt any part of that liability on to the mortgagee, and the mortgagor finds himself in such a financial position that it would pay him to say to the mortgagee, “ Take it all.” This means chaos. The mortgagor will have to say to the mortgagee, “You will have to pay some of this tax ; I have to pay it out of my profits, after I have paid you interest, over and above my earnings.” What will be the result? Now, the Labour party look upon the mortgagee as the “ fat “ capitalist who sits in his parlour, draws his interest, and does nothing !
– He is very necessary at times.
– I wish that belief were shared by the Labour party generally. The Labour party regard the mortgagee as the “capitalistic vulture” who has his “ claws “ on the unfortunate mortgagor, who is struggling night and day to extricate himself from his terrible hold. According to the Labour party the mortgagee is the “ fat man.” And what are they going to do? This tax will have the effect of causing the mortgagor to say to the mortgagee, “ I cannot pay all thu money; I must abandon my property,” and the mortgagee will, therefore, be put by this Bill into possession of the whole estate.
– This is a graphic description of what happens every day in the week at the present time.
– I admit that.
– The honorable member is painting his picture in exaggerated colours.
– The honorable member for Bass says that I am exaggerating the facts, yet the honorable member for Maranoa affirms that incidents of the kind to which I have referred occur every day. They do occur every day where the profits are so small that the mortgagor cannot even pay interest on his mortgage. What is he going to do when on top of that interest he has to pay a tax on, say, £45,000, out of his profits from £[20,000 worth of land?
– He will be in no worse position than he is in many cases to-day. He will have to go shearing, that is all.
– Then the honorable member gives away his case. He says that a man with a property worth £50,000, and mortgaged to the extent of £30,000, will have to throw up his estate and go shearing.
– I have seen that repeatedly in Western Queensland.
– There is an old adage about “greasing the fat sow.” While the Labour party would in their hearts like to get at the “fat man” mortgagee in order to save the unfortunate mortgagor, they are practically going to ask the mortgagee to open his mouth and put the mortgagor into it - they are going to make the mortgagor a present of the’ whole equity of redemption of £[20,000.
– The mortgagees do not desire to take the properties now.
– And the mortgagee will not desire to take the properties when they have to pay the tax, but he will not be able to help himself. As I say, the whole effect is to “ grease the fat sow “ by giving the mortgagee the whole of the property. Are we out to destroy the equity of redemption of poor struggling men who happen to have mortgages? If we are not, then every Labour man ought to take into consideration how best to induce the Attorney-General to save the mortgagor in some way. It is not for me to say how that is to be done, because I am not here to give legal opinions - men do not prescribe until they are called in, and it is for the Attorney-General to find a remedy. This trouble has been touched on by the honorable member for Kooyong and the honorable member for Parramatta, and I also refer to it, because sometimes a thing has to be said two or three times in order to drive it home. The honorable member for Maranoa, who has had practical experience of the difficulties of running large estates, knows that what I say is perfectly correct. While I admit the truth of his statement that this frequently occurs now, I say that it will occur more easily, and in some cases where it would not otherwise, in consequence of this land tax. I desire honorable members to consider how the small men will be affected.
– Do not worry about the small man ; we will look after him !
– The honorable member thinks that by means of this tax the small man is to be benefited in the way of cheap land. We have heard that argument over and over again, and I only desire to show how the small man will really be affected. If we once accept the proposition, which is thoroughly believed in by all business men, that the lowering of values of large properties affects smaller properties in the same way, we must expect to see this effect under the land tax. There are thousands of farmers in New South Wales and Victoria whose properties are mortgaged, generally to about 60 per cent. That is to say, a man with £1,000 worth of property has a mortgage for £’600, and in order to obtain a mortgage a valuation has to be made, not by a valuer nominated by himself, but one nominated by the mortgagee.
– That is only a business proposition.
– Quite so; I am only showing how the business is done. These mortgages run for terms varying from three to seven .years, and when the term expires the whole business has to be gone into de novo with a fresh valuation. Now, I ask honorable members to realize what will be the position if the new valuation shows that that property has fallen to £700 or £800. The mortgagee will only advance money up to 60 per cent, of the valuation, and it will be seen, therefore, that the. mortgagor will be called upon to pay off about £150 off his mortgage.
– That is done now without any land tax !
– Quite so ; but I am asking honorable members to suppose a state of things in which the small proprietors suffer still further, owing to a reduction in value in the case of big properties. The mortgagor will ask what is the cause of this lower valuation, and he will be told that it is the land tax.
– Oh, dear no ! - he will be told that it is owing to the Labour party.
– I have never known a financial institution, or the officers of any such institution, with which I have been connected, drag politics into their business. The mortgagor would be told that the lower valuation was due to the land tax, and if he chose to infer that it was due to the Labour party, it is his own inference. I further ask honorable members opposite what the effect of this measure is likely to be when the Australian people seek, in a few years, to convert £200,000,000 worth of loans into Commonwealth stock. Personally, I think that this legislation will have a very sensible effect on that delicate institution called the “money market” of England. What effect is the additional tax on absentees likely to have on the investment of British capital ‘in this country? Many companies are registered in England owing to the fact that money can be obtained under such circumstances at least 1 per cent, cheaper, and thus we find scores of organizations of the kind managed by Boards in London. To the shareholders in such companies we practically say that if they invest their money in lands here they will be excluded from the benefits of the exemption and be called upon to pay t per cent, more in taxation. Will this Bill increase the temptation for English investors to send their money out here? My own impression is. that, not only will there be no increase, but that there will be a considerable decrease in the disposition to invest. While we have in our minds “fat” absentee holders, who are living a lively life in London on their rents from Australia, we must remember that this Bill also includes steady capitalists who are prepared to embark their capital in Australian ventures. This is part of the injustice and unwisdom of the measure ; because it will constitute a serious reason for curtailing the amount of capital people will be disposed to invest here.
Another, and a very serious, effect of the tax has been touched on by various speakers, namely, the effect that it is going to have on the States. In my opinion, the -tax is going to starve the States and the subordinate governing bodies. Honorable members have spoken of the intentions of the Constitution; but those intentions we can only infer. We know that when the Constitution was framed the States were levying land taxes ; and it is a fair inference that it was never contemplated that that taxation was to be duplicated by the Federal Parliament. There are .only three sources of taxation of any importance in Australia - Customs, lands, and income. The Federation took away all the Customs revenue, and began by returning threefourths of it to the States. We are now giving the States half of that revenue; and it is possible that at the end of a number of years they may get even less. We have now taken over land taxation, with an exemption of £[5,000, thus making it practically impossible for the States to supplement the taxation, unless, as there is every incentive to do, they tax properties within the £5,000. I saw from a newspaper that only the other day the Premier of South Australia said that a progressive land tax would be introduced in that State only if the measure now before this Parliament did not pass. This shows that the States recognise the impossibility of both States and Commonwealth levying land taxation.
– Mr. Verran was not complaining.
– No; I only quote his speech to show that he recognises there cannot be any double-banking. The income tax is so inextricably mixed up with the land tax that whatever we call the taxation, it is really on properties, or profits from properties. As I say, the result must be to starve the States. I admit that this measure falls in very well with the great conspiracy for unification. It would appear that the Labour party are bent on unification, to further which they are prepared to try a referendum and a variety of other means ; and, in the meantime, so starve the States that they will be ready, in their submission, to hand over some more of their functions. The honorable member for Denison takes all his illustrations and facts in regard to land and income taxation from his own State, which seems to be the little hub round which his imagination revolves ; and I ask him to consider what the effect of this taxation will be in that State. Goodness knows, we have heard enough of the effect of depriving Tasmania of her Customs duties, and now it is proposed to tax the large land-holder, a step which will, of course, practically make it impossible for the State Government to impose similar taxation. There is, of course, the income tax left ; but how much further can that be increased without heaping up taxation to an unbearable extent and seriously injuring the little States? Then, again, the municipalities of New South Wales now receive the land taxation formerly collected by the Government, and they are levying it with some degree of thoroughness. I had intended to deal with the question of unification at some considerable length; but I think I shall leave that foc another occasion. The map hanging on the wall of the chamber ought to remind us that, while we are making this great fuss about settlement, we have the fact that only 6.84, or, say, 7 per cent, of the lands of the Commonwealth are alienated, leaving 93 per cent, yet to be taken up.
– Why is it necessary tor the State Governments to resume land?
– Because, unfortunately, there is a very large class of people who are afraid to go out of the towns, and desire land in situations which will permit them to enjoy life near the towns and railways as they think they ought to enjoy it. If, there were the same pioneering spirit that animated the country fifty, or even thirty, years ago, we should have our young men going out into the back country of Queensland, where, not long ago, I saw magnificent land which was bought for a few shillings per acre, and which paid for the whole freehold in the first year. The honorable member for West Sydney, while referring to the “ crocodile tears “ on this side, talked of a man’s daughters having to leave him ; but, of course, they must leave, him when they get married. The sons, too, must go abroad ; and, as I have said, the necessity to resume land is created by the tendency of the modern young man to hang around the towns. If you advise them to emulate the pioneering spirit of those who went before them, and to go to Queensland and wait until railways come to them, they shake their heads, and say, “ It would be too dull, and we should have too long to wait before we became rich.” To-day only 25 per cent, of the land of New South Wales, and only 5 per cent, of that of Queensland, is alienated.
– Some of the best land in the State has been alienated.
– But equally good land remains. Eighteen months ago a farmer in Queensland told me that he had sunk 50 feet without getting to the bottom of the chocolate soil on his land. Within three years he had been able to huy that land at a few shillings an acre for the freehold. Land at Kingaroy, which was bought for 2s. 6d. an acre seven or eight years ago, is now worth £30 or £40 an acre.
– That is because of the railway communication which has been given to it.
– Our young men will not go to places unless there is a readymade railway communication.
– - A man would be a fool to go to a place like Birdsville if he could get land at Kingaroy.
– If a man wishes for land he must go where it is available. Only 4 per cent, of the land in South Australia has been alienated, only .14 per cent, in the Northern Territory, 2.24 per cent, in Western Australia, and 34 per cent, in Tasmania. To paraphrase the words of a writer whose remarks are distinctly appropriate to this discussion, let me ask, Is it a constitutional use of the Commonwealth power of taxation to impose a tax, not for revenue purposes, but for the purpose of controlling the tenure of land in the States? Technically it may be within the law, but is it so in sincerity and truth?
– The honorable member must not read a comment on the measure before the House.
– I am not doing so. The words which I have uttered are a paraphrase.
– I cannot say whether the honorable member is reading something’ written by some one else, or something which he has written himself. But even if he is reading a paraphrase of comments on the Bill, he is out of order, and to do so is to attempt to evade mv ruling.
– If you, sir, take exception to what I am doing, I shall not continue. But I should like, in conclusion, and on general grounds, to quote another writer, who says, not speaking of this Bill-
It is on the national character of the citizens that democracies depend ; on the public spirit, the patriotic feeling, and, above all, upon the integrity of the people. On these qualities true nations are founded. It is by the loss of these, and not in the flare of comets . . that we are warned of the decay of peoples and the decline of democracies. Our Australian nation is intelligent, and it will be just when it can be got to put its mind into a public question. I trust it will do this in regard to the provisions of the proposed Land Tax Bill. I will conclude by citing trie noble words which a great orator and statesman addressed in ancient times to a people who, both socially and politically, bore considerable resemblance to ourselves.
It is not possible to found a lasting power on injustice and wrong. These may, perhaps, succeed for a time, and borrow for a while from hope a gay and flourishing appearance. But time betrays their weakness, and they fall away of themselves. For, as in structures of every kind the lower parts should have the firmest stability, so the grounds and principles of the nation’s laws and actions should be founded on justice and truth.
If honorable members opposite will free their minds, not from their obligations to their programme, but from what they conceive to be party obligations, and consider the details of the measure honestly, with a view to shaping it to mete out common justice to all citizens, they will, I am satisfied, modify it very considerably, and they will do well in modifying it, because if it is passed in its present form with all its crudities, inconsistencies, injustices, and hardships, it will bring upon them from those on whom it operates more cursings than blessings.
– All honorable members are in sympathy with the desire to bring about a rapid increase in the land settlement of Australia. In no other country is the increase of population more greatly required, and in no other way can immigration be better induced than by providing land for those who wish to make a living on it. If I thought that the Bill would facilitate settlement, I should support it, but the longer the debate has continued, the more disingenuous has the measure been made to appear. It has been framed obviously to accomplish three purposes : the raising of revenue, the bursting up of large estates, and a step in the direction of unification.
– I call attention to the state of the House. There are only seven members on the Ministerial benches.
– And only nine on the Opposition benches. [Quorum formed.]
– Honorable members have not been told that more revenue is needed for the conduct of the legitimate affairs of the Commonwealth. If more revenue is needed, we should be told why it must be obtained from land taxation instead of from some other source. Only recently we passed a measure founded on an arrangement made between representatives of the States and the Commonwealth which decreases the sum returnable to the States by about £2,500,000. In addition to that saving, we are asked to increase the revenue by voting for a tax which, according to the Prime Minister, will produce £1,000,000, but which others say will yield ,£2,000,000 or £3,000,000. Since the second reading was moved, we have had the Budget statement, but it has not been shown that the revenue asked for is needed, and no sufficient reason has been given for the passing of a taxation measure such as that under consideration. As to the probable effect of the Bill in inducing land settlement, I am satisfied, after a considerable study of its provisions, that it will be a failure. Ministerialists make no secret of their intention to use it to burst up large estates. But those who read the newspaper advertisements are aware that during the past twelve months hundreds of thousands of acres have been advertised for sale on extremely easy terms in. both small and large areas, the land offered being in excess of the demand.
– Is that in Victoria?
– Even in Victoria some very large estates have been on the market, but I am speaking of Australia as a whole, where, at the present time, about 500,000 acres are being advertised for sale on easy terms. The Bill will not make land available to persons of limited means on better terms than those on which it is obtainable now.
– What are the terms?
– From 10 to 15 per cent, upwards.
– In Queensland land can be obtained for nothing.
– Yes, and in Western Australia a selector can obtain 160 acres for nothing, and obtain an advance to assist him to make improvements. In Queensland, the opportunities’ afforded for settlement are nearly, if not quite, as liberal as those offered in Western Australia. It may be said that in Victoria, Tasmania, and, to some extent, New South Wales, the throwing open of large estates is a matter of national importance which should have been taken in hand by the local Parliaments. No doubt they could have done more for land settlement, but I do not think that taxation, even by the State authorities, will assist materially to bring that about. Only a small proportion of the total area of Australia has been alienated, though there is much good land, suitable for closer settlement, and near to the railways, which has been alienated, and is not being used to the fullest advantage. This land should be subdivided into smaller areas with a view to increasing settlement by making the number of holders larger. The States have been buying up such land, and closer settlement is proceeding, if not as rapidly as one could wish, at all events fairly quickly. Victoria, indeed, has had to send to England a delegation to induce persons to come here and take up land which is capable of intense cultivation. Victoria and Tasmania have been pointed to as States in which land is unobtainable, and yet Victoria has had to send abroad to obtain settlers. According to Mr. Mead, blocks of land on the Murray, at White Cliffs, and at Cohuna, are available for settlers, who can obtain assistance from the State in making the improvements necessary to enable them to use the land to advantage.
– There is at present an inquiry regarding the Cohuna land.
– Some honorable members have an inveterate tendency to get away from the main point at issue by the introduction of irrelevant details. No authority worth naming disputes that the land which has been purchased by the Crown at Cohuna is worth what has been paid for it, and will be worth three or four times as much more when labour has been applied to it. The real question is not what has the Crown paid for it, but is it worth what the Crown is asking for it?
– It is not worth what the Crown is asking for it.
– Is the honorable member an authority?
– I am as much an authority as is the honorable member.
– I know the Cohuna land, and I know land at Swan Hill, not so favorably situated, which is selling for more per acre?
– Why have the settlers at Cohuna thrown up their holdings?
– Every man cannot make a success of land occupation. A settler might find out that he was not suited to a particular class of agriculture.
– In the Werribee district
– I am talking of the Cohuna district. If people have not been able to adapt themselves to the new conditions the fault rests with them, and not with the land. This Bill can have only one effect so far as the subdivision of land in New South Wales and Victoria is concerned, and it certainly will not help the class of people who have limited means, and to whose assistance the State should come. In many instances, it will operate most injuriously upon large properties in city centres as well as in the back country - properties far removed from railway communication, and not fit for subdivision into small holdings. Where it will operate on areas that are fit for cultivation, its only effect will be to cause compulsory subdivision, and thus to add to the already over-supply of land which is offering on exceedingly easy terms to suitable applicants. It will enable farmers with areas of moderate size to buy at a cheaper rate holdings that are thrown upon the market, and will tend to build up a new class of land-owner. It will reduce the large estates to fairlybig holdings, and build up a sort of agricultural aristocracy who will be really more difficult to deal with by means of land legislation than the large land-holders are at present.
– That is exactly what the private subdivision of estates is doing.
– Where this tax will operate, its only effect will be to build up a sort of squatocracy who will be more difficult to deal with by way of land legislation than the present large land-owners are. There is only one effective means of bringing about closer settlement, and that is by a system of Government purchase and subdivision, and the allotment of land to eligible applicants. It is impossible either under this or any Land Tax Bill to impose conditions in respect to land that is to be subdivided. It is certainly impossible for us to impose conditions that will prevent the re-aggregation of the areas that are subdivided. To do that it would be necessary for the State first of all to become the proprietor of the land. Having taken that step, the State could impose such conditions as were necessary to preserve that closer settlement which it sought to establish. I shall quote some figures that I used to some extent on a previous occasion to illustrate my point that the system of private subdivision that we are seeking to introduce under this Bill must fail side by side with a system of closet settlement initiated and carried out by the Government. In 1907, five estates in the Hamilton district, comprising an area of 44>9o° acres, and valued at £4.12,000 were privately subdivided, with the result that thirty-six new settlers were placed on the land. The Closer Settlement Board of Victoria simultaneously purchased 25,500 acres, of the value of £187,000, in the same district, and subdivided it, with the result that on this much smaller area 166 new settlers were placed.
– But were the terms identical?
– No. It is hardly possible for a private individual to give such terms as a Government can. Twenty years is an infinitesimal period in the history of a nation, but it is a large slice of one lifetime. The five large estates privately subdivided were cut into areas averaging, per inhabitant, 1,247 acres, ot the value of ,£11,444 each, whereas under the Government closer settlement subdivision, the average area per inhabitant was 154 acres, and the value £1,126. This is a striking illustration of the difference between a Government scheme of closer settlement and a private subdivision, and the position will be accentuated in dealing with the larger areas of New South Wales. It shows what will be the inevitable re- . suit of this system of land taxation. It will force into the market subdivisions of large holdings, and will lead to the building up of a class of farmers possessing extensive and valuable properties. The Prime Minister, in introducing this Bill, said, in reply to an interjection by me, that New Zealand, in regard to its increase of wealth, population, exports, and imports, number of cattle and sheep, and everything that went to make up wealth and prosperity, from a national point of view, was ahead of Victoria, and I have therefore gone to some trouble to make a comparison between the two. I recognise that we are dealing with an Australian subject, but I am making this comparison because the Prime Minister first mentioned it, and also because the area of Victoria approximates to that of New Zealand. It is not my desire to disparage in any way the very prosperous Dominion of New Zealand, but I wish to show that its prosperity is not due to land taxation, and is not greater than that of this State. Victoria has an area of 87,000 square miles as against New Zealand’s area of 104,000 square miles, and its wealth per head is £43 16s., as against £40 13s., per head in New Zealand. The population of this State is 1,271,000, whilst that of New Zealand is 960,000. Honorable members will know that Victoria and New Zealand were granted responsible government about the year 1850, so that in that respect they are on a par. In the number of its sheep, New Zealand beats Victoria, having 22,000,000 as against 14,000,000, but it has only 1,816,000 cattle as against 1,842,000 in Victoria. I find, also, that there are 424,000 horses in this State as compared with 352,000 in the Dominion. ‘ It is difficult to arrive at a proper estimate of the import and export trade of the two countries, because a large proportion of the export trade of Victoria is with the other States instead of being, as in the case of New Zealand, wholly oversea. But, comparing the Inter-State and oversea trade of Victoria with the oversea trade of New Zealand, we have a total trade of £34>588>O00> as against £[33,081,000 in the case of New Zealand. In Victoria we have a public debt of £53,000,000, or £41 per head, as compared with a public debt of £67, 000,000, equal to £70 per head, in the case of New Zealand. During the last eighteen or nineteen years New Zealand has borrowed something like £30,000,000, whereas Victoria has borrowed only a few millions, and one would naturally conclude that New Zealand would be able to show some assets to warrant that very large borrowing.
– New Zealand has a population of over 1,000,000.
– The honorable member is including Maoris. I have left them out of consideration, just as we do not include aborigines in calculating our population. I find that Victoria has 3,456 miles of railways, as against 2,682 in New Zealand.
– Is the honorable member going to connect these remarks with the question before the Chair ?
– I am replying to a statement made by the Prime Minister in moving the second reading of this Bill, and am endeavouring to show that the operation of the land tax in New Zealand, as claimed by the Prime Minister, is not responsible for the prosperity with which it is credited.
– I have been following the honorable member for some time, and have failed to observe that he is connecting his remarks with the subject before the Chair.
– I am coming almost immediately to the question of the land tax. I wish only to mention that we have expended £42,000,000 in constructing railways, as against £29,000,000 of borrowed money spent in that direction by New Zealand. I come now to the landed estate. When in New Zealand last year I availed myself of the opportunity to investigate the land question there, and can, therefore, speak with some authority upon it. Whilst we are all glad that New Zealand has made great progress, I must indorse the views expressed by the honorable member for Illawarra this morning that its prosperity since 1891 - when its land, tax was first imposed - has been due almost wholly to the wonderful development of its export trade. The statistics show that that is so. In cultivation, New Zealand is far behind Victoria. Owing to the possibilities of irrigation and the possession of more fertile lands, Victoria requires cultivation to produce from the soil the best results.
– We want more people for that purpose.
– A good deal of the prosperity of New Zealand is due to the fact that its Government has offered every encouragement to immigrants, whereas we have given very little.
– The honorable member ought to give us a comparison between Victoria and New Zealand before the imposition of the land tax in the last-named country.
– I wish to point out why New Zealand has made such remarkably rapid strides since 189 r, which happens to be the year in which the land tax was first imposed. As a matter of fact, she started to give attention to agriculture many years after Victoria had done so. It was in the Land Act of 1869 that we first gave attention to that branch of industry, and it was not until many years later that New Zealand did so. So far as cultivation is concerned, New Zealand is behind Victoria, and in 1901 we had employed in our rural industries more people than she had. The great prosperity of New Zealand is due, not to the operation of the land tax, not to any accumulation of small holdings and the development ot agriculture, but to the sowing of artificial grasses. New Zealand has over 13,000,000 acres sown down in artificial grasses, and these areas, in many instances, are yielding, in stock production, more than we are obtaining from our average agricultural lands. In Victoria we have only 1,500,000 acres so treated. The richness of the pastoral lands at Canterbury, and other places, and the export trade in cheese, frozen mutton, and in wool, account for the prosperity of New Zealand. It has been stated over and over again that New Zealand should be our model in regard to graduated land taxation ; and there is no doubt that in this respect the Dominion stands out prominently as the most advanced. But has this legislation had the effect of breaking up large estates? In 1905 Victoria had 220 estates of over 5,000 acres, and in 1908 there were 231 such estates, as compared with 358 in New Zealand in 1904, and 438 in 1908. I have hot been able to obtain the figures for 1906 in the case of New Zealand. In 1906 there were, in Victoria, 116 estates over 10,000 acres, and in 1908 there were 118 such estates, as compared with 225 in New Zealand in 1904, and 235 in 1908. In 1906 there -were, in Victoria, 73 . estates of over 20,000 acres, and 61 such estates in 1908, as compared with 177 in New Zealand in 1904, and 151 in 1908.
– But the New Zealand land tax is not the same as the land tax now proposed.
– I am speaking of the New Zealand land tax which is held up as an example; and I desire to show that it has not had the material effect claimed for it.
– Does the honorable member believe that the land tax now proposed will not have the effect of breaking up large estates?
– It will not have the effect that is claimed except in those cases where the land is not fit for subdivision, and where it will mean ruin. In the case of lands which are fit for cultivation, they will be thrown on an already over-stocked market, ‘ which, . in the absence of any influx of population, will inevitably mean further aggregation of estates by capitalists. One would think from the statement made here that Victoria was a fairly land-locked country, held in very large areas ; but we find that, while in 1906 there were six estates of over 50,000 acres, there were only four such estates in 1908; and I understand that arrangements have already been made for the subdivision of two of these. In New Zealand in 1904 there were 96 estates of over 50,000 acres, while in 1908 there were 84. These figures show very clearly that, where estates are fit for subdivision, and there is a demand for land, the owners of the estates are ready to subdivide on reasonable terms. In Victoria, largely because of the increased productivity of the soil under modern systems of intense culture, there is every inducement to subdivide. I believe, however, that it is not very large estates in Victoria or New South Wales that have to be dealt with in order to induce closer settlement, but rather what may be termed estates of moderate size. The Prime Minister, as evidence of the success of the tax in New -Zealand, stated that the people there had not congregated in the cities as in Australia ; and quoted Wellington, as an example. That comparison, however, was not quite just to Australia; and in order to get a proper view of the position we must contrast the whole of the capital cities in New Zealand with the whole of the capital cities of Australia. If we take Welling-; ton, Christchurch, Dunedin, and Auckland, we find that the percentage of population there is 33 as against 32 per cent, in the capital cities of Australia, so that the figures are very similar in both cases. One point that is disregarded in the Bill is that of the unearned increment of land. The father of John Stuart Mill was the first to propound this theory ; but we know that since that time commerce all over the world has become more complex and highly developed, with the result that the unearned increment in land, as a factor in our great economy, has become smaller and smaller. With the application of scientific and improved methods to the cultivation of the soil, we find that the value of land accords with the industry and intelligence applied- to it. The land is only one commodity ; and the products have to go through many varied forms of manufacture before they reach the state of the finished article. The more and more complex our commerce becomes, the greater number of stages has the raw material to go through ; and there is an increment at every stage, as, for instance, in the case of a log of wood sawn from the forest which undergoes many processes before it becomes the finished article in the form of a piano. I claim that there is only one possible way in which justice can be ‘ done to the land-owners, that is, to tax the unearned increment only, and in this connexion there are nations in advance of Australia. This question has been discussed in the newspapers, and was touched upon by the honorable member for Angas ; and I may say that a scheme has been in operation in Germany, while one was proposed by Mr. Lloyd George in the last session of the Imperial Parliament. Both of these schemes purport to tax only the increment or profit on land after it has been purchased. In Germany the taxation is on the increased value of land and buildings at the time of sale. I take these facts from an article written by Mr. Alfred Mond in the Nineteenth Century and After of last year, in which he states -
In Germany, taxation is on the increased value on land and buildings at the time of sale, the whole tax being treated more in the nature of an additional transfer duty. On the other hand, the British tax is levied on more occasions; not merely on the sale of real property, but on death, and also - in the case of limited liability companies - on periodical valuations at fixed intervals. It is thus more scientific in its imposition. . . . The most important distinction in principle is that, whereas the English tax will be levied on future increase of value, the datum line being the valuation now made, the German tax is retrospective. Thus, in the one case the owner is allowed to keep all the increment of the past, and has only to pay on the increment of the future, whereas in the other he is taxed on the increment which has accumulated during the ownership of the present proprietor.
This is a phase of the question that deserves more attention from the Government than it has already received. It will be seen that in the British proposal the valuation of the property is the present valuation and only the future increment is taxed, whereas the German system dates from the time of purchase. In the latter case, if an owner has purchased the land from the Government, say, at £1 an acre, and it is now worth £20, he pays a tax on . £19, or, if he bought it twelve months ago for £15, he pays the tax on the increment of £5. This system I regard as scientific and just; and it is regrettable, if the tax we are now considering is constitutional, that the same principle was not embodied in the Bill. Then the writer commenting on the two systems, says -
In both schemes, however, the great principle of obtaining for the community, by means either of local or national taxes, a reasonable share of the increased value of land, which is generally recognised to be mainly due, not to the efforts of an individual, or even a group of individuals, but to the growth of the population and the consequent necessity for land to live on, is in Germany accepted by all parties in the State, in England, by the party in power.
Germany, which is probably the most conservative nation in Europe, has adopted a system of differentiation in the taxation of land, because it believes that closer settlement may mean stable government, and Stem the tide of Socialism which every now and then threatens to interfere with the normal and reasonable progress of the nation.
– Socialism is going ahead in Germany now !
– It will have to go far ahead to reach its former position.
– The last elections were won by the Socialists.
– They scarcely recovered the ground they had lost at the previous election. Fifteen years ago nearly one- third of the voters were Socialists, but the last elections showed a considerable drop..
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– Let me recapitulate: the reasons why it is likely that the proposed tax will not have the effect claimed’ for it, and why it must be regarded as an abuse of our powers of legislation. Had further revenue been needed for the carrying on of the Government we should havebeen advised of the fact. Taxation in itself will not settle our back country, andr indeed, all efforts to settle it must fail unless provision is made for railway construction and water conservation. These reproductive works could be carried out only by the expenditure of large sums of . money,, and I should object to raising the necessary funds by means of taxation. Themoney should be borrowed. I understand that it has been stated that one object of the Bill is to provide money for reproductive works. It is claimed that the tax will fall only on the wealthy, but it has been shown that that is not so, and that the taxation of land’ remote from railways, and enjoying’ only a limited rainfall, will, in many cases, deprive the holders of all the profit that cartbe made from it, and bring them to ruin. Land that is close to water might, perhaps, be put to more productive uses than’ at present, but railway facilities are needed for carrying its produce to market. To impose the tax to burst up large estates is an’ abuse of our powers, because we have noright to determine matters of land policy. If the tax is looked upon as a meansof getting a little nearer to unification by depleting the State Treasuries, it is consistent with the policy of the Labour party. The authority which taxes should be the authority which has the power to determine questions of tenure. In Victoria we have a system of closer settlement which is not to be surpassed or equalled in any other part of the world, though the payments might be made easier during the first fewyears of occupancy. There are provisions’ in the Closer Settlement Act to prevent one person from holding more than one block, and to require permanent residence from each freeholder. Closer settlement is to be brought about, not by taxing the land, but by repurchasing it with a view to judicious subdivision. Should the Government and the Labour party desire to legislate regarding land matters generally, the people should be asked to empower the
Commonwealth Parliament to pass laws in respect to land administration. I admit that the people voted for Labour members to secure land taxation, but it was not contemplated that a confiscatory tax would be proposed. Closer settlement and a larger population are necessary to our safety, and for the proper development of our fertile soils ; but by taking from the States £1,000,000 or £1,500,000 of revenue we shall make it impossible for them to carry out the railways and water-works which are required.
– Would the honorable member support a referendum?
– I leave that to the future. I admit that the States have been slow to provide for closer settlement, but the Victorian Government last year proposed a land tax, which was thrown out by the Legislative Council, and that body should have had another opportunity this year to consider the matter. The people having given us a mandate to impose land taxation with a view to the encouragement of settlement, the Parliaments of the States should have had another opportunity this session to do what is necessary. If, having had that opportunity, they had failed to avail themselves of it, we should have had more cause for taking action.
– The States have had years in which to deal with land questions.
– It is only recently that there has been insufficient Crown land to supply all requirements. Closer settlement legislation has scarcely yet got into proper working order.
– We need revenue.
– The need for revenue has not been made clear. We were given no. information on the subject when the Prime Minister introduced the Bill. Of course, the Government are strong enough to pass the measure, but I hope that, in Committee, Ministers will be amenable to reason, and will consent to the amendment of some of its more drastic provisions. The valuation of properties by owners and occupiers, at the risk of forfeiture by the State, is a provision which has been abandoned in New Zealand as a failure. We should arrange for a properly constituted board of valuers, with efficient machinery. The penalty clauses of the Bill are without parallel in any part of the world. Although the debate has been a long one, its educational value has been considerable, because it has awakened the people to a knowledge of the extraordinary provisions, and probably disastrous effects, ofthe measure. I regret that the Government have not acted in a more statesmanlike fashion. If they were determined to force a system of land taxation and settlement, they should have straightforwardly provided for a referendum to allow the people to say whether the Commonwealth should have the power, not only to tax land, but to pass legislation dealing with land mattersgenerally.
– I did not intend to say anything upon the second reading of this Bill. 5 purposed leaving any remarks I have to make in connexion with it to the Committee stage. But this is an historic occasion, and one naturally feels a desire to take part in such a debate. I consider that the initiation of this land values taxation is one of the most important steps taken by this Parliament since Federation was accomplished. It will, in my opinion, be fraught with great good to the Commonwealth. In the opinion of honorable members opposite it can only mean disaster.
– A land tax does not necessarily mean disaster, but in this form it means disaster.
– I have listened attentively to the debate, , and the burden of the cry from honorable members opposite has been that this will be a disastrous measure, and will be found to be very burdensome upon the people. But what this Parliament does is not irrevocable, and if the operation of this measure tends to work disaster I have no fear that the people responsible for passing it will not be able to find a remedy. So far honorable members opposite have failed to show how disaster will, follow from the operation of this tax. We should require to know many details about the ownership and valuation of properties before wecould any who is likely to be injured, by it.A’ pathetic appeal has been made on behalf of the men who have enjoyed the possession of immense estates for so long. I should have preferred to hear an appeal on behalf of the many thousands in this country who have been robbed of their birthright - the opportunity to form homes for themselves - as a result of the land monopoly enjoyed by those whose cause is advocated by the Opposition. The honorable member for Wimmera has said that the demand for closer settlement ‘ was met by Crown lands up to within a few years ago. I could not help being amused at the statement. I can inform the honorable member that there are in- New South Wales and in Queensland at the present time many thousands of acres of Crown lands available. But we do not think that men of small means should be driven to settle in -the. far north, or the far west, or in remote districts. We think that they should be given the opportunity to settle and make homes for themselves on lands in touch with railways and good roads, which have been constructed, out of the taxation of the poor, because it is only upon land so conveniently situated that they can hope to be successful. .There are plenty of Crown lands available in the northern State and in the western districts of New South Wales for. the man possessed of thousands of pounds. But it is absurd to say that until within a few years ago the demand for closer settlement has been met by Crown lands.
– Who said that?
– The honorable member said so. I am not quite forty years of age, but for at least twenty years I have heard the demand for the closer settlement, of lands close to railways, good roads, and markets, where men possessed of small means might hope to be successful. New Zealand is pointed to as- a country in which land taxation has failed to give good results. But I maintain that if such a proposal as is contained in this Bill had been put into operation in New Zealand the results would have been very different. The New Zealand land tax commenced with a tax of one-sixteenth of a penny, whilst the gradations were very small up to the maximum upon estates worth many thousands of pounds. The fact is that the New Zealand land tax was too light, and Setter results would have followed from it if, as under this proposal, the taxation commenced with id. in the £1 on the first ,£5,000 of value to be taxed. If we had been in a position to differentiate between city and country lands, and might have proposed a tax for the bursting up of estates separately, I should have said that it was not right to fix the maximum at 6d. in the £1. ‘We have no use for big estates in Australia. The history oT the millions of people who have been driven out of England, Ireland, and Scotland, shows the evil of the aggregation of large estates. In those countries lands have been turned into deer parks and glorious pleasure grounds for the wealthy, whilst the people who represented the bone and sinew of Great Britain have been driven to seek homes abroad. I am proud to be able to say that amongst those who voted for the party to which I belong, with the hope of getting this land taxation imposed, were thousands of people who were driven from their homes in the Old Country because of the aggregation of large estates in that land. I wish to see in Australia many estates of moderate area, and many more of smaller area. We know that the lands of Australia to-day are not put to their best use and one of the strongest arguments which can be used in support of the proposed tax is that it will compel the owners of land to put it to its best use. In New South Wales we have seen squatters deriving incomes from estates on which they ran a sheep to two acres. We have seen their runs subdivided and the selectors taking up homesteads upon them and making one acre feed two sheep. The reason for this is that when the selector secures land he goes in for solid improvements. A great deal has been attempted to be made out of the experience of New. Zealand. I occupy a- unique position, perhaps, as one who has been a land seeker in New Zealand. I tried in vain for months to secure a piece of land there. I travelled many miles in the Dominion, and made a discovery.. I found that thousands of acres might be had, but they were covered with a ti-tree scrub, or other species of timber, and there was not a” blade of grass to be seen on the land. The first thing a settler upon such lands has to do is to fell the ti-tree scrub, burn it off, and then sow grass seed in the ashes. I was sorry that I had left Australia, where natural grass grows in abundance.
– There is plenty of land such as the honorable member describes in Australia.
– There is land covered with ti-tree scrub in the coast districts of Australia.
– I would advise the honorable member to keep as far away from it as he can.
– If the conditions of settlement in Australia and New Zealand were similar, there would be some point in the references to the experience of the Dominion. But what is New Zealand, anyhow ? In the matter of area it is only a fly speck compared with Australia. I find that in New Zealand, between 1885 and 1 89 1, prior to the imposition of land taxation, the Dominion lost 19,938 of her population by emigration. The land tax was imposed in 1891 ; and between that date and 1908, the population of New Zealand was increased by immigration by 107,541. I remember seeing some figures, the details of which I cannot now call to mind, which showed that within a very short period the improvements put upon lands in the Dominion through the operation of the land tax, amounted in value to £30,000,000.
We have been told that private owners are getting along nicely with the subdivision of their lands. I could understand that statement being used as an argument against the proposed land tax if I had land to sell, and wished to get out before the storm broke. Honorable members opposite tell us that this matter should be left to the State Parliaments to deal with. We know that they have had an opportunity to deal with the question for the last twenty years, and they have done nothing. They are demanding an opportunity to deal with the question now, because they know that the Federal Parliament has been captured by Labour, and we have a Government prepared to impose a land tax. If we had not captured the position, would honorable members opposite be asking that the State Parliaments should be given an opportunity to carry this legislation? It is sheer hypocrisy to suggest that we should leave this work to the State Parliaments, when we know that the Upper Houses of those Parliaments will be ready to block every attempt to pass such legislation. It is absurd to tell the landhungry, and the immigrants we desire to see coming here in tens of thousands when we have found land for our own people and there is sufficient available also, for them, that if they wait a little while the State Parliaments will make land available for them, when we know that the Upper Houses of the State Parliaments are constituted of men who would fight a proposal of this kind to the last ditch. It has been strongly urged that the tax may be a very heavy burden upon persons who have improved their properties to the fullest extent. I admit that it is to be regretted that we are unable to discriminate between city and country lands. There appears to be some kind of knot in our Constitution which prohibits that discrimination. It is well known that we shall require considerable revenue for the purposes of defence. The people who will be most concerned when the guns of the Japanese, ‘ or other invaders are heard will be the people .of the cities. The man who holds land hundreds of miles inlandwill not be affected so much; but thebig cities may be levelled to the ground. - The land, of course, will remain, but the* owners of buildings will suffer enormous loss. There is no comparison between the loss which” the city man will suffer and that which the man in the country will sustain. In view of the enormous expenditure on defence which must be incurred in the future, no matter what Government may be in power, the city man ought not to squirm because he is called upon to pay this tax, and, when he understands it, I do not think he will. In imposing taxation for revenue purposes we should have regard to the ability of a man to pay taxation. I object to honorable members saying that this tax is unnecessary because we have an abundant revenue, for, as a Protectionist, I hope, as the years roll on, to see our Customs revenue decrease to the extent of millions of pounds. No Protectionist desires to see a large revenue obtained from Customs duties. Such taxa-tion presses heavily on the poor, and we wish to see the revenue coming from direct taxation.
I am sorry that the large leaseholder is to escape this tax. The monopoly of lands under large leases is a grievous error, and it lies at the door of the anti-Labour Administrations of the different States. I am thankful to be able to prognosticate that a few weeks hence we shall have in New South Wales, in all probability, a Government in harmony with that of the Commonwealth. If the Federal Parliament imposes this tax we shall have nothing to fear- in regard to its administra. tion from State Governments in sympathy with the principle of closer settlement. When the honorable member for Wimmera suggested that this tax . would result in smaller estates developing into large ones, he was evidently under the impression that anti-Labour Governments are going to remain in office in -the States for all time. If a Labour Government comes into office in New South Wales, it will take care that in the allotment of land repurchased by the Government no man with a living area shall have a chance with a man who has not one.
– The closer settlement of the State Governments is very different from that which is proposed under this Bill.
– Harmonious action as between the Federal and the State Governments will rectify the trouble. We shall impose the tax, leaving it to the States, since we cannot administer the lands, to.’ attend to the work of administration, and to see that the law that we pass operates, rightly with respect to the landless man. I am hopeful that it will be so in at least one of the States, and I trust that we shall have in the State Parliaments in the future men who will deal with the Crown leaseholders: It is a pity that their monopoly should continue, and its existenceproves how abominable has been the land administration of State Governments. I wish this’ debate to close as soon as possible, and recognise that it is only a waste of time to deal with the abstract question since the whole matter, so far as the imposition of a Federal land tax is concerned, has been before the people for about ten years.
Mr-. Fuller. - It has not.
– It has been before the people for the greater part of the last ten years, so that they must know fairly well- what is proposed. Before concluding; I wish to refer to the shedding of the scales that has taken place on the part of the old land-taxers of the Opposition. One after another they proclaimed in their constituencies that they were “ as good as Labour men,” but -they refuse to avail themselves of this, the first opportunity offering, to vote for a Federal land tax. What nas become of the men who declared that they were “ as good as Labour men “ ? We find those who are in this House to-day voting solidly against the imposition of a Federal land tax.
– The debate on this very important question, which has engaged the attention of the House for some days, has placed before the country much information gathered from various’ sources, and the speeches that have been delivered have well maintained the reputation of this assembly. Honorable members have delivered speeches that have given evidence of much research, combined, in many cases, with a large amount of personal experience, and, what is not common to most debates,. the contributions have been directed from various standpoints.’ The result is that, as the debate has proceeded, the House and the country have been placed in a better position than they were to determine whether the Government’s proposal is in the best interests of Australia, in placing this measure on the statute-book. This is a measure of farreaching importance in its incidence, and it is the first time that a real attempt has been made to pass such a Bill in this Parliament. It is true that a Land Tax Bill was read a first time in a previous Parliament, but in many respects it did not resemble that now before us. This debate has spread over a wide range of subjects, all of them intimately connected with land taxation, and it has dealt more particularly with land settlement, which, again, is a most important- subject. All the Parliaments of Australia, the public men, political associations, and also, I think, the debating societies of the Commonwealth have been devoting their time, more or less, to an effort to educate the people so that they may be able to determine how the lands may best be occupied. It is rather refreshing, therefore, to observe the light and airy way in which some honorable members can tell us, in a few sentences, how this is to be done. Many honorable members have shown that this measure will involve much trouble, loss, and hardship, and it was a pleasure to hear the honorable member who has just resumed his seat say that if it did the Government would soon correct the evils. It will be very comforting to the man with a considerable mortgage over his property, who is- compelled, as the result of this Bill, to hand over his deeds and walk out, to hear the statement that Parliament did not mean to hurt him, and that by-and-by it will make everything all right by further legislation. I am glad, however, to have the assurance of those responsible for this Bill that later on they will rectify the troubles arising under it. The Prime Minister, in introducing it, said that his party had a mandate ‘from the people -to bring in a measure of land taxation. It is true that in their manifesto the Labour party said that they intended to introduce a Land Tax Bill, providing for the exemption of property of the unimproved value of £5,000, and for a tax ranging up to 4d. in the £1. It is not true, however, that such a proposal as that now before us was submitted to the people. While some honorable members have been charged with having declared their readiness at one time to vote for a land tax, although they are not prepared to support this Bill, I think that they have given good reasons for their present attitude. I am in the happy position of being able to say that, although on the last occasion I was returned by a majority of 5,000 votes as compared with a majority of 197 on a former occasion, I stated at every meeting that I addressed that I was opposed to land taxation. I made that statement from something like 100 different platforms. The proposal before the people at the last election was for the imposition of a tax on unimproved land values exceeding ,£5,000, and that tax was to range up to 4d. in the £1. It was said that if such a tax were imposed it would make lands available for those who were unable to obtain them, and, no doubt, that statement appealed to a number of people. I believe that there are many who have not been able to get the lands that they wanted, and it is only candid for the Opposition to admit that the proposals made by the present occupants of the Treasury bench at the last election secured for them a large number of votes. Many people are anxious to obtain lands in convenient places, and there are also people who are always anxious to get what “ the other chap “ has. I am occasionally presented with instances that make it hard for one to keep the Tenth Commandment so far as the property of one’s neighbour is concerned, and I dare say that many others find themselves in the same position. This Bill, however, will not deal with the land question in the equitable way that we should desire. People have acquired their land in a legitimate way. Many of them took up land at a time when much hardship had to be endured, the like of which a number of people do not seem to be inclined to undergo at the present time. An honorable member told us, for instance, that he was afraid to tackle a bit of ti-tree country. In the northern districts of New South Wales he would find himself up against something harder to clear than titree land, but when he did get such land cleared he would find it was worth owning. Let me advise my honorable friend, who does not . seem to have had much experience in this regard, to keep as far away as possible from the ti-tree scrub. One would think from statements made that we in Australia had alienated all our lands, and that there was none left fir settlement; but figures have been submitted which hardly bear out that view. Perhaps it would be just as well to read a few of those figures in order to impress them on our memory. I find from the Year-Book that the total area of the Commonwealth i» 1,903,731,840 acres, and of this 4.82 per cent, has been alienated.. 2.02 per cent, is in process of alienation, 41.36 per cent, is held under lease or licence, and 51.80 per cent, is unoccupied. While those figures are true, it is hardly fair to suggest that all the lands not occupied are suitable for the purposes of closer settlement, just as it is, perhaps, unfair to say that a number of the places occupied under lease or licence are suitable for that purpose. The figures which have been submitted do not convey :h clear impression that we might wish, because with so much land still unoccupied it would appear to be very early in our history to be resuming land for settlement purposes. To some it would seem that there is any amount of land left for people to settle on as original owners; but those of us who are more conversant with the subject know that the figures in this regard convey a rather erroneous impression. In such places as the Northern Territory, parts of Western Australia, and the Gulf country, where so much land is still available, it would hardly do to persuade people to go and look for land before facilities to reach markets are provided ; but it is fair to say that in the older-settled States, particularly New South Wales and Victoria, a large percentage has been alienated, and there is, perhaps, difficulty in obtaining the right class of land in convenient positions. But in some of the. other States, such as Western Australia, South Australia, and Queensland, we are informed by gentlemen familiar with the conditions that the complaints made by honorable members opposite as 1o the scarcity of land are hardly borne out. The honor ible member for Fremantle, in a speech which showed great research, and did him much credit, told us that the Government of his State are doing a great deal in the way of providing land for settlement ; and I must say that I had no idea such liberal terms were offered any: where. The honorable member informed us that in Western Australia there is a Land Bank which assists the people, not only to obtain land, but also to procure stock and implements, and erect houses;, and surely no fault can be found in this connexion. My only wonder is that our young men do not go to that State ir: search of land rather than to the more closely-settled States. On the other hand, we are’ given to understand that it is terribly hard if a son has to go and look for land away out of sight of his father’s place; but that, if true, does not seem creditable to Australians. I do not thins there are any young men in my district who would be afraid to go anywhere in search of suitable land. I do not think it is wise or proper to make statements which tend to give people, not only in the country, but outside, an impression that we have parted with all our lands, lt is the duty of this Parliament to see to the interests of Western Australia and Northern Queensland, just as much .is to the interests of Victoria and New South Wales ; and this cannot very well be done if we allow statements to go forth that there are no lands available for settlement. The honorable member for Barker told us that in South Australia there are not more than three large estates left, all Others having been subdivided and settled, so that in that part of Australia, at any rate, a tax for bursting-up purposes does not appear to be necessary. The honorable member for Darling Downs and the Prime Minister have both referred to the efforts of the Queensland Government to make available for settlement, not only Crown lands, but lands which have been alienated, and form part of much dreaded large estates. I notice that honorable members on both sides have confined their remarks mainly to their own States, with the conditions of which they are more conversant; and I intend to follow that example. I admit at once that there are a number of estates in New South Wales which could be subdivided and occupied under closer settlement conditions with much advantage to the people and the country as a whole. But “ one swallow does not make a summer,” and I do not see why we should be asked to pass legislation which, even though it may do good in some places, will do incalculable harm in other directions. And we are asked to do this when there are the State Governments who are charged with the fullest responsibility, and are doing legitimate and good work in this connexion. Some of the figures quoted during the debate in regard to the areas of land held are very misleading ; and I intend to quote a few more in the hope of throwing a little light on the position. I have already quoted the figures relating to the whole of the Commonwealth; and I should now like to say that in New South Wales the total area is 198,638,080 acres, of which 35>467>031> or 17.85 per cent, have been alienated; 15,798,047, or 7.5 per cent., are in process of alienation; 129,150,578, or 65.02 per cent., are held under lease and licence; and 18,223,434, or 9.18 per cent., are unoccupied. Honorable members in the course of the debate have classified these lands according to area; and I shall show the classification of the lands in New South Wales alienated, and in process of alienation, according to the size of holding. Of the alienated lands 12,120,-426 acres consist of 74,825 holdings of a size between 1 acre and 1,000 acres ; 15,429,286 acres, of 6,180 holdings, of 1,000 to 10,000 acres; 5,245,575 acres, of 368 holdings, between 10,000 and 20,000 acres; 7,495,277 acres, of 256 holdings, of 20,000 to 50,000 acres; and 9,521,273- acres, of 104 holdings, of 50 acres and upwards. From those last figures it would appear that New South Wales has a considerable number of holdings of large area in the hands of a few persons; and that is true. But the Prime Minister has fallen into the error of classifying the areas according to size only, which people conversant with the subject do not regard as a fair method of deciding whether land is suitable for closer settlement. For instance, the Prime Minister considers that a holding of 1,000 acres is a large one, as no doubt it is in some parts of Australia with a certain quality of land. In the northern rivers district of New South Wales, a portion of which I have the honour to represent, 1,000 acres might be considered an estate; indeed, a man can make a living on much less, and there are numbers doing so on areas of from 20 to 100 acres. But within a mile of such holdings a man would starve on 1,000 acres. There is land in the New South Wales river districts - thousands - of acres of it - on which I . would not ask any person to settle.
– Is there any ti-tree there?
– Yes, there is plenty, and swamp oak. The honorable member for Cook, who has not many farms in his electorate, seeing that he represents a city constituency, submitted a table showing the increase of what he termed “ large estates “ in New South Wales, classifying these estates into estates of between 1 and 30 acres, of between 31 and 100 acres, and of between 101 and 1,000 acres. To my mind, none of these areas would constitute a large estate in most districts. The largest estates of which he takes notice are those containing areas of between 1,000 and 10,000 acres. In many districts an estate of 10,000 acres would not provide the means for making a livelihood. Comparisons of areas are very misleading, everything depending on the quality of land. If land is not productive, its area counts for little. The Richmond, Cowper, and south coast districts of New South Wales contain some of the richest lands in Australia, but I ask the House to consider the condition of affairs in the western district of the State, which comprises more than half of it.
– The western district has an area of about 87,000,000 acres.
– I understand that the area is a little less; but the honorable member, knows more about that country than does any one else in Australia. Owing to the lightness of the rainfall and the character of the soil, these lands are unsuitable for agriculture, and even for cattle, and can be used only for grazing sheep. Surely there is no warrant for trying to subdivide the estates there into small holdings. The district of which I am speaking is 400 miles long by 320 miles wide, and contains 80,318,708 acres, and has a rainfall ranging from 9J to 18 inches. All the holdings there are larger than the areas mentioned by the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Cook, and it would be absurd for a man to take up a small area there. When the honorable member for Hume was Premier of New South Wales, things were so bad in thi western district that people could hardly make a living there, and on the nth August, 1900, a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the condition of the Crown tenants, and to make recommendations accordingly. The honorable! member for Darling was a member of that commission. It collected much valuable information, and on its report the Western Lands Act was framed. The land in the western division was held under various tenures, such as pastoral lease, homestead improvement lease, and homestead selection. Provision was made to permit all leases to be brought under the Act before 1902, and a tenure pf forty-two years was given. The Commissioners showed that long tenures were necessary to allow the land to be occupied with good results. The rents were fixed, not at so much a mile, or so much an acre, which is usual, but at from 2d. to jd. a sheep, with reappraisement at regular intervals, no increase in rent to exceed 25 per cent. The reason for fixing the rent at so much a sheep must commend itself to every practical man.
– There were also improvement conditions.
– That is so. It was provided further that, in no case should the rent exceed 2s. 6d. per square mile. That shows that the land is not suitable for closer settlement. I rind that, in 1884, the district carried 8,500,000 sheep; in 1887, 15,500,000; in 1894. 14,000,000; in 1898, 9,000,000; in 1899, 6,000,000 ; and in 1900, 5,000,000. The Commission reported that the large number of sheep carried between 1887 and 189-) damaged the country by over-stocking. The average number carried between 1884 and 1900 was 9,660,000, or an average of a sheep to every 8 acres, over an area of 80,000,000 acres. These figures take no account of the drought years which followed 1900. The Minister who moved the second reading of the Western Lands Bill said -
During the five years preceding 1901 there were only 259 applications granted for homestead leases, 19 settlement leases, 109 homestead selections, 164 improvement leases. The total area granted amounted during the five years to 4,689,239 acres, or at the rate of 1,000,000 acres per year.
He proceeded to further inform the House of the condition of things prior to the appointment of a Royal Commission, and the introduction of the Bill. At that time men could take up homestead areas of 10,240 acres, which was considered the minimum area on which a living could be made; yet some members speak of 30 acres as a big holding. The Minister continued -
I say you are driving men to madness by sending them out there to reside. It is admitted by experienced men that a holding of 10,240 acres is not enough to support a family.
I am quoting from the speech made by the late Mr. Crick, than whom there was no better authority in Australia concerning New South Wales land. He said that he had offered blocks of 20,000 acres and could not get rid of them. To further substantiate what I say, let me quote the report of a speech delivered by the honorable member for Gwydir, who was fairly familiar with the country, and spoke on the Bill in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, in November, 1901 -
To send people into the western division and to force them to live there would, in my opinion, be cruelty, if not to the man, at least to his family. If I had to live in the western district, even if the Crown let me have more than enough land to keep a family on, I should feel that
I was cut off from civilization. Men had been induced by being offered areas of 10,000 acres to leave central and eastern divisions, and have been absolutely ruined, and have lost the savings of a lifetime, the savings, not only of themselves, but also of the members of their family.
– Did the honorable member say that 10,000 acres was not enough for a man to live on?
– He said that a man was ruined on 10,000 acres, so I presume he thought that was not a sufficiently large area for a man to make a living on. The Royal Commission, in their report, at page 301, say -
Homestead lessees have laboured under an additional disability by being limited by law to an area insufficient, over the greater part of the division, to afford anything like an adequate means of subsistence.
That between13th May, 1892, and May, 1899, 961,950 acres of leasehold areas were abandoned, and between 7th August,1891, and19th January, 1901, 5,131,628 acres of resumed areas were abandoned.
– How much of that land has been taken up since?
– The honorable member must not anticipate me. I am following the example of honorable members who preceded me in giving the best evidence I can, and will give him the information he desires. The Commission cite the case of Boulka Lake leasehold and resumed areas, amounting to 368,900 acres. The country was taken up after abandonment by other persons, as improvement leases for a term of twenty-eight years, at an annual rent of £420, as compared with a rental, prior to abandonment, of £1,314.I use these statements to show that these lands are not suitable for closer settlement. The Commission reported further that, in their judgment, the. western division generally is quite unfit for occupation in small areas, instances being given of a number of homestead leases, on which, according to evidence, the holders could only make a bare livelihood. They add that in no part of the western division, in their opinion, may agriculture be carried on on a basis commercially profitable. They recommended that an attempt be made to get under occupation the country then lying abandoned by offering the land in large areas for a term longer than was then permitted by law. They pointed out that in several cases this was necessary, and they cited the case of the Paddington resumption area, in the Cobar district, where land was offered as improvement leases in blocks of from 11,000 to 20,000 acres at from £2 15s. to£5peryearper block. These state ments all go to show that close settlement is very unlikely to be carried out in that part of New South Wales. As further proof of this, I quote the following sworn evidence by a Mr. T. W. Kingsmill. Speaking of the country on the border of New South Wales and South Australia, he said -
There is none of the country I know that I consider capable of carrying more than sixty sheep to the mile with safety in all seasons, and the smallest area a man could make n living upon was sufficient to carry5,000 sheep (equal to53,300 acres), and he would then require to be in a position to stand two or three bad seasons.
After the report of the Western Lands Commission was submitted, it was seen that it was necessary to deal with the western division of New South Wales in a special way, if the lands were to be used profitably for the State and for the occupier. Most honorable’ members are aware that the New South Wales Parliament passed an Act called the Western Lands Act, which deals specially with the 80,000,000 acres in the western division to which I have re-, ferred, and applies to those lands provisions and administration differing altogether from the legislation affecting lands in other parts of the State. If, to meet the necessities of a part of one State, it has been necessary to pass special legislation, how can honorable members suppose that it will be possible, under this Bill, to equitably apply similar conditions to the whole of Australia ? I fear that this measure will not lead to any improvement of existing conditions, and will only serve to intensify the hardships of those settled on the lands of the western division of New South Wales. In dealing with this great question, we cannot exercise too much caution. -I have admitted that in New South Wales there are a number of estates suitable for closer settlement. They are held in large areas, some of them are convenient to railways, and they may be recognised as estates to which the provisions of this Bill might be usefully applied, if the object were to secure their subdivision. In this connexion I wish to say that I cannot accept the statements made by some honorable members that the New South Wales Government have done nothing to bring about closer settlement. The New South Wales Parliament has passed a Closer SettlementAct which has done a very great deal of good. I wish to see now if I cannot help honorable members to form some estimate of the beneficial results that have followed the passing of that Act. I need not take up time in explaining its provisions; but I may say that when the late Mr. W. P. Crick was Minister of Lands in New South Wales, he recognised that facilities for closer settlement were very pressing indeed. I had the pleasure of supporting a measure which he introduced for the compulsory resumption of estates. The Bill was passed through the Legislative Assembly, but in the Upper House the compulsory clause was deleted. When the Bill was returned to the Legislative Assembly with that amendment, Mr. Crick, to the great disappointment of many of his supporters, accepted the amendment. The reason he gave was that the Government had several estates under offer to them, and that the necessity for the compulsory provision would soon become so manifest that in the course of a year or two Parliament would be asked to make the necessary amendment. of the law. That amendment was made in the Closer Settlement Act of 1904. I give figures, which show the effect of the. operation of the 1904 Act. I find that, as a result of its operation, twentyseven estates, with an area of 676,824 acres, have been resumed by the Government and dealt with. I should like to say that the Act has had a very important moral effect upon the holders of land in New South Wales. They knew that the Government, under the law, had power to resume their estates at any time, and they decided to make them available for closer settlement themselves, the result being that one hundred and fifty private subdivisions, have taken place, under the Act, covering an area of 1,400,000 acres. The honorable member for Gwydir, speaking in the New South Wales Parliament in 1901, said -
We have already passed a Closer Settlement Dill, which is going to lead to the establishment of thousands of happy homes in the eastern and central divisions.
He will be glad to know that, as a result of the legislation which, in common with myself and others, he supported in the New South Wales Parliament, 177 estates have been subdivided, and over 2,000,000 acres of land made available for closer settlement, these being estates eminently suitable for that purpose and no hardship being inflicted on any person. It has been said during the debate that, when large estates are subdivided for purposes of closer settlement, there is always a tendency to the reaggregation of the subdivisions into large estates. I wish to say that, in the passing of the Closer Settlement Act of New South Wales, that tendency was anticipated, and provision was made to prevent the aggregation of large estates, that no person should be permitted to hold more than a “ home maintenance area.” That is a term in use in the land legislation of New South Wales, but I think it is unknown in the legislation of the other States. In all applications for land, persons are restricted to a certain area. At one time, in the eastern division of New South Wales, with which I am most familiar, 1,280 acres was the maximum area which any person could hold. It was found that in some- instances this area was too large. Twelve hundred and eighty acres of our rich river flats was too much for any one man to hold, but in the poorer lands, at the heads of the rivers in broken country, on which it is impossible to carry on agriculture, 1,280 acres is not sufficient. In order that every person might be able to get an area of land sufficient for his requirements, no matter in what part of the State he resided, we introduced what- is known as the “home maintenance area” system. Those who have referred more than once during this debate to the desirableness of encouraging people to take up land may be interested to learn that when applications are made for home maintenance areas in New South Wales a number of factors are taken into consideration in determining what a home maintenance area is. Not the least important is the size of a man’s family. A man with a large family obtains a larger area than does a man with only a small one. To make further provision in this direction it was also decided to give the State Government power to resume, for the purposes of closer settlement, improvement and scrub leases within 15 miles of a railway. These areas may be resumed at a price exclusive of the enhanced value given to them by the construction of a railway. A new provision was passed by the last Parliament which, I think, will also commend itself to honorable members, under which assistance is now given by the Government to groups of not less than three persons to acquire direct from the owners suitable holdings. These are exclusive of home maintenance areas. A deposit of 5 per cent, .is required, with annual instalments of 5 per cent*, until principal and interest, at the rate of 4 pe r cent., are paid off. This takes twenty-eight years to accomplish. These provisions have been introduced in New South Wales to enable people to acquire for closer settlement land which has been previously alienated. I shall not take up the time of the House by referring to the provision which the State Government has made to throw open Crown lands, further than to say that in all their legislation their object has been to make Crown lands more readily available and acceptable to the people. The leasehold system which has been advocated by many honorable members has been given a fair trial, but the results have not been as acceptable as could be wished. I find that objection has been taken to the Government resuming estates for the purposes of closer settlement at what are called inflated values. Some honorable members object to the Government dealing with land settlement in this way, because they say that they are called upon to pay unduly high prices for the land. I shall not encroach upon the good nature of the House by giving details of how lands are acquired by the Government of New South Wales, further than to say that they are not resumed at the prices which the owners ask for them. The Government do not wait for people to offer their lands for sale or even to quote a price for them. The district surveyors are instructed to report on all properties suitable for closer settlement, and to state what they consider would be a fair price to pay for them. On these reports, coupled with references to the Chairman of the Land Board, negotiations are entered into for the purchase of any suitable area. I have heard many honorable members take exception to lands being purchased by the Government at prices which they say are inflated. During this debate complaint has been made that persons receive payment in respect of what is called the unearned increment, and this unearned increment, whatever it may represent, is spoken of in a very light and airy fashion. Many people think that because years ago a man bought at 10s. per acre a piece of land which is to-day worth , £3 or , £4 per acre, the increased price, has not been brought about by any effort on his part. There appears to be an impression on the part of some honorable members that the original owners did nothing to bring about these increased values, and they further assume that the original holders are still in pos session. They seem to give no consideration to those who have purchased these lands from the original holders, and have paid the full market price for them, taking into account the unearned increment. Surely, since they have paid for the unearned increment when they have paid present-day values, it is not fair to take away from them that for which they have paid. But let me refer to the original holders themselves who are at present in occupation, and who, it is said, have done nothing to contribute to the present-day values of their properties. Several honorable members have spoken of these increased values as being purely fictitious. I assume that they mean that the lands are not worth the price asked for them. The interpretation which I have always accepted of the term “ fictitious price “ is that it is a price in respect of which value is not given. What credit do honorable members give to the pioneers who have contributed to this unearned increment? What credit do they give to those who went into the back country, occupied it in face of the blacks, denied themselves the ordinary conveniences of civilization, improved the breeds of their stock, used improved machinery, adopted scientific methods of agriculture, availed themselves of co-operation in the disposal and handling of their products, took advantage of cool storage and refrigeration, and who in this way have contributed to the value of their land? With the exception of the substitution of railways for bullock teams the State has done nothing to bring about these increased values. Are we not to take into consideration the money which has been expended by sheep-breeders in importing the best class of stud sheep and in raising stock which is a credit to the Commonwealth? Are we not to take into account the successes and failures of experiments in new methods of agriculture, the breeding of new classes of wheat and the improvement of machinery which has brought into use lands yielding light crops that it would not have paid before to harvest? Are all these considerations not to be taken into account? All that we hear from the other side is that the Government have opened up the lands by means of railways. The railways of New South Wales at the present time are returning a handsome profit on the money invested in them. Any money-making syndicate would readily take them over tomorrow - I do not say that this should be allowed - and run them for the profit which they could make out of them. I fail to see what claim the Commonwealth Government have in this respect. What has this Parliament done for these people?
– We have to protect them.
– I do not like the look of this first instalment of protection. Whilst the State Governments may claim that they have done a great deal to assist settlement by the construction of railways and roads, the erection of schools, the policing of the country, the conservation of water, and the provision of other facilities, what has the Federal Government done in that direction? This Parliament is brought into touch with the people on the land only through the Post and Telegraph Department, and we had better be very modest in our claims in that regard. Representatives of country districts know what the Federation has done for them. They know how difficult it is to obtain a mail service for unfortunate people _ in sparsely populated districts, and how difficult it is to obtain a telephone line for more densely populated areas. Yet honorable members opposite claim that we have a right to take some of the unearned increment of the land. Whatever claim the State Governments may have in that regard, the Federal Government have none.
– According to that reasoning we have no right to tax them at all.
– I do not say that. In certain circumstances and conditions the Government might have a fair claim to impose land taxation. I am speaking, however, of the claims of the Government and their supporters, and the grounds on which they say large estates should be broken up. I hope that I have been absolutely fair. My reference was to the failure of the Federation to do anything to add to the unearned increment of the land.
– The economic basis of this taxation is not derived from the right to the unearned increment.
– That is what I am endeavouring to prove. Can we reasonably claim to impose this tax in return for the development of the country ? What development has taken place has been due to the State and not to the Federation. I have shown that we have not done even that which might have been expected of us in that direction, and that those who undertook the pioneering work of Australia deserve at the hands of this Parliament more than they have received. We know that these early settlers took possession of their lands in the face of blacks and bushrangers, and without roads or railways. They were compelled to carry their produce and supplies under most disadvantageous circumstances, on tracks and roads made by themselves; and, taking all the facts into consideration, there does not seem to be much unearned increment. I take this opportunity of saying a few words for the old pioneers, who cut their way through the bush with their stock and families, with the result that we now have a country second to none in the world. Some honorable members would lead us to believe that the value of the lands is owing entirely to railways, roads, schools, or other public works ; but my own experience is that the value varies more in accordance with the price of the commodities that are produced. Of late years, wheat, wool, meat, butter, skins, hides, and so forth, have commanded high prices, and this has contributed in a marked degree to increased land values. On the other hand, when prices go down, as I suppose they will in the ordinary course of things, what can then be said as to the unearned increment? If lands are taxed to-day on the enhanced value, what will be the position of the settlers when values are reduced? I am afraid that the rich agricultural lands, such as I and others represent, will suffer much in the near future, especially so far as butter is concerned, from competition with the Argentine, Siberia, and other countries, and that present prices will not be maintained.
– There is sure to be a reassessment occasionally.
– Only at long intervals. It has been contended with a certain amount of truth that the object of this Bill is the promotion of land settlement. When a similar proposal was made in the previous Parliament, I showed how difficult it would be to impose a uniform tax from a centre over the whole of Australia, with its varying conditions, and how much easier it would be for the whole question of land settlement to be dealt with by the State Governments. The very fact that land settlement was not included in the powers given to the Commonwealth shows that the framers of the Constitution and the public were of opinion that it was a matter for the States. Much time has been spent on the financial aspect of this question, and, consequently, I shall not go into detail ; indeed, as representing a country district, where there is closer settlement to the fullest capacity, I felt more impelled to speak from the settlement point of view. The Prime Minister told us when he introduced the Bill that it was not a taxing measure, but one to give the Executive power to do certain things necessary to insure the payment of any lawful tax on unimproved land values which Parliament might .in its wisdom from time to time impose. We are not yet quite sure whether that occasion has arisen; and one would expect in connexion with a Bill of this kind, having for its object the raising of money from a new source, some information as to what is to be done with the revenue. When a previous Bill’ with a similar object was introduced, we were told that it was intended to provide money for the payment of oldage pensions ; and for the information of new members I may say that, as money for that purpose was found from another source, that Bill was found to be unnecessary. On this occasion, we are told, in a more or less indirect way, that the object is to provide money for defence. When this question was before the country little prominence was given to that feature, and support was asked by the present Government mainly on the ground that the Bill would make lands available. I am quite sure that numbers of people supported the present Government because they felt that some such measure was necessary ; and seeing that old-age pensions have been paid without the aid of such legislation, I sup: pose we may take it that the revenue is intended for defence purposes. If, as the honorable member for New England has said, only the people who own land are to be called upon to pay for defence, what becomes of the exemption?’ Is every landholder called upon to pay his share? I have listened as attentively as most to the debate, and I have not heard any reference to that point. For some reason or other the exemption has been fixed at ,£5,000; and I think we ought to be told why. I am quite ready to accept, as is usual in the case of a land or income tax, the exemption of a living wage, or the exemption of a living area, and hope we can accept the amendment as such, but on the present occasion I “am reluctantly forced into a position that I have no desire, to occupy. I feel myself compelled to impute motives, which, however, I hope do not exist. In my opinion, the exemption of £5,000 is a very happy way of quieting a number of people whowould otherwise have opposed the measure. I am afraid that this exemption has been fixed for the reason that if taxation had been proposed on lesser properties a large number of people would not have given their support to the Government. I hope those people will not be misled. They were, as I suggest, given to understand that if they supported the Labour party they would, as owners of land under the value of £[5,000, not be further taxed ; and I hope that in future Parliaments the exemption will not be reduced, though I am afraid it will-. As estates are subdivided by reason of this taxation, and revenue falls off, we may find a future Parliament, if the necessity arises for further revenue, taxing smaller properties. I hope that that apprehension will not be realized. I told my electorsthat the proposal of the Labour party might be regarded as the attempted introduction of the thin edge of the wedge, and that if a land tax were imposed the time would probably come when the exemption would be reduced. Regarding the financial side, the House should have been informed whether the Government require more revenue, and, if so, howmuch they need, and for what purposes they intend to use the money. Further, weshould be informed as to the probable yield of the tax. In my opinion, the right of the Commonwealth to tax land was given by the Constitution to be used only in extreme emergencies such as I hope will never arise. ‘ The Government in getting Parliament to exercise it now are bringing us into competition with the taxing authorities of the States without such emergencies arising. Last year, it was arranged between representatives of the States and of the Commonwealth that there should be a readjustment respecting the return of surplus revenue to the States, and when they agreed to accept 25s. per capita, they doubtless were willing to give to us the control of a larger share of the Customs and Excise revenue, because they thought that other sources of revenue, such as land taxation, would be left wholly te them and the local governing bodies. According to a return laid before the Senate in November, 1908, the taxation raised by municipal and other local governing bodies is very large, amounting te £[1,017,129 in New South Wales, te £[1,467,156 in Victoria, to £[414,345
Queensland, to ,£182,158 in South Australia, to £114,226 in Tasmania, and to £204,819 in Western Australia, or, altogether, to .£3,399,833. The addition of this and the land tax levied by State Governments will be a terrible load on land-owners. The Bill will affect a number of persons in a variety of ways, and I am inclined to think that it will not be as successful in bursting up large estates as some persons imagine. On estates worth ,£20,000 the tax will be only about £140 a year, and the owners of good agricultural land suitable for closer settlement will not cut it up to avoid the payment of so small an impost as that. If these estates are at present under lease to tenant farmers, as most of them are, the tax will be passed on to the tenants, though if there is any man whose burden should not be increased it is the tenant farmer. Where land is not suitable for closer settlement, and the holders cannot afford to pay the tax, it will be forced into the market, and, being such as cannot be profitably worked in small areas, will fall out of occupation altogether. I should not be in order in dealing with the Bill clause by clause, but I should like to refer to one or two hardships which it will cause. The tax must be paid by the owner of land - that is, by every person entitled to receive its rents and profits, whether beneficially or as a trustee. In many cases estates are left to a widow for life, and afterwards to her children, the widow being appointed trustee. Such estates cannot, under the will, be sold, and therefore, where they are large, cannot be cut up and made available for closer settlement. Will the Government compel the trustees of such properties to pay the full amount of the tax, even where the profits made are not large enough to cover it? The Bill also deals hardly with mortgagors. A man needs most help when he first takes over a property, either by obtaining it from the Crown under some form of tenure, or by purchasing it from a private individual. During the first few years he needs every shilling of his capital, but the Bill taxes the land to the fullest extent directly its owner has paid an instalment of the purchase money. When Sir George Reid introduced the New South Wales land and income taxation, he provided that land tax should be levied only on so much of the land as had been actually paid for, and that if part of the land had not been paid for that part should not be taxed. That provision applied to both Crown purchases and private purchases. Similarly an exemption was given in the case of mortgagors by permitting an exemption in regard to income tax. The Bill will require land-owners to declare the taxable value of their property. Seeing that the tax is advocated to enable the State to recover part of the unearned increment, it is only fair that a deduction should be permitted from the taxable value of the amount paid to the Crown in the first instance. When a man buys land from the Crown at £1, £1 ros., or £2 an acre, he pays for the unearned increment up to date, and discharges all his liabilities. It is not fair to afterwards tax him on that amount as if it were unearned increment.
– What about the purchaser for cash since then?
– That will be a still more difficult case to deal with. I think that the deductions allowed in fixing the taxable value of properties should include the price originally paid to the Crown. They should also include the taxation imposed by local authorities. This is money paid by the holders of lands to effect the improvements which produce the unearned increment, such as making of roads, &c. ; and, surely, if people have been paying this money out of their own pockets in the form of taxation, they should not, under this Bill, be taxed upon an improved value which they have themselves brought about as the result of their taxation by local authorities as a cor.porate body? Another provision of the Bill which is likely to be very far-reaching in its effects is that contained in clause 44, giving the Commissioner, where he is of opinion that the owner of any land has understated its improved value, the right to apply to the High Court for a declaration that the Commonwealth is entitled to acquire the land.. If the Justice of the High Court is satisfied that the owner has understated the unimproved value of his land in order toevade taxation, he is to make the declaration applied for, and thereupon the GovernorGeneral may acquire the land on behalf of the Commonwealth, and by proclamation declare it to be vested in theCommonwealth; and if the Government of the State does not require the land theGovernorGeneral is to be authorized to use it for any public purpose, or to disposeof it as he thinks fit. On the face of it, this may appear to be a very fair proposal ;. but I am of opinion that it involves a violation of the Constitution. Not being a member of the legal profession, I shall not deal with the constitutionality of this provision further than to say that I think this Parliament has no power to enact it. I venture to .predict that, later on, there will be ample opportunity afforded to test its validity in the High Court, and no doubt much of the revenue derived from the tax will have to be devoted to defending suits brought under this Bill. But what I wish to ask now is, what -the Government will do with lands acquired under this clause? Suppose they are fit only for the grazing of sheep or cattle, and that the State Governments do not want them, what is the Commonwealth Government to do with them? The clause provides that the Governor-General may dispose of them as he thinks fit. Perhaps this is one of the means by which it is expected that the Commonwealth Government will be able to make lands available for settlement. I doubt very much whether we have any power under the Constitution to sell these lands. I do not know whether some of our honorable friends opposite are anticipating that, under this provision, the Commonwealth Government will be able to secure properties on which they may undertake the breeding of sheep, cattle, and horses, or make a commencement with the nationalization of the land. We have heard of proposals for the breeding of horses for defence purposes, and possibly it is the intention of the Government to turn lands they may hereafter acquire under this provision into sheep, cattle, and horse breeding stations. If they acquire in this way lands that are only fit for sheep and cattle stations, they might just as well leave them in the hands of the people who hold them now. If it is the intention of .the Government to make these lands available for settlement, I should like to know what terms of settlement they intend to propose. Do they intend to apply to these lands the perpetual lease system, and make the holders tenants of the Crown? If that is to be the policy adopted, there can be no doubt that this measure will lead to a very great deal of disappointment. Every person who has any acquaintance with land settlement in Australia must know that the leasing system has been found wanting. I do not know of one homestead selector in my district who has not tried to convert his homestead into a conditional purchase or freehold. Our settlers are not satisfied with a’ Crown tenancy. Last night, we were told of a country in which it is possible to get a lease of land for 999 years, and yet, in that country, people are asking for freeholds. I am of opinion that leasehold conditions are not acceptable to the people of Australia; and if lands acquired under clause 44 are to be offered for settlement under a leasehold tenure, it will be found that the people will not want them. If they are to be offered under the leasehold conditions which find favour with honorable members opposite, there will be still less demand for them. The provision in a leasehold tenure for re- appraisement may seem a very harmless Thing to those who have no experience of it; but it is well known to those who have experience of re-appraisements that they are found to be against the occupier of the land every time. The best settlers we have in Australia are those who possess the freehold of their land ; and this applies also to the holders of small allotments acquired in towns for residence purposes. Riding along a country road, it is possible to say whether a settler has a freehold by noting the way in which he has improved his property, or is working it. If we are to have a prosperous country and successful land settlement, the people must be given freehold titles to their land. I suppose that the Government do not expect to acquire for nothing lands that fall in to them under clause 44? If that be so, I should like to be told how they intend to pay for them ? Surely they do not expect to pay for these lands out of revenue; and we have heard many times that the party supporting the Government do not approve of a borrowing policy. In the circumstances, I am at a loss to know how the Government will finance this proposal. That brings me to another point. When the time arrives, as possibly it will, when the Government will be unable to buy land which falls in to them under this provision, the effect will be that men will be able to undervalue their lands with impunity, because they will know that the Government for want of necessary capital will not be able to resume. That is the experience of New Zealand to-day. Men are undervaluing their lands, because they know that the Government have not the money to resume them. We shall find ourselves in the same position. There will be more land falling in under clause 44 than the Government will be able to pay for, and the revenue under this Bill will, in consequence, be reduced, because people will be able to under-estimate the value of their lands with impunity. I have occupied more time than I intended; but I should like now to say that the great question of land settlement has engaged the best minds of Australia from the earliest times. It has engaged the attention of the best men in every country in the world. In the early days of our history, land questions gave our legislators the greatest concern, and many a man settled comfortably in New South Wales to-day has reason to thank the early legislators of the country for legislation which enabled them to get a start. Such men as Sir John Robertson, who was the first man in Australia to propose the conditional payment, and deferred purchase systems, did more for the people than many are now prepared to admit. Still, a number of honorable members have talked in the most breezy way of how these areas are going to be settled. They talk in an airy fashion of how they are going to make land available for settlement, of how they are going to find land for the landless, and how Australia, from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the southernmost part of Tasmania, is to be made more productive. We can only trust that their hopes will be realized; but I fear that, the order is a bigger one than many of our honorable friends imagine. We have had, during this debate, some very able speeches; but I am disappointed that we have not heard honorable members on the other side, who, throughout their lives, have been closely associated with the land. I regret that I have not had the advantage of hearing yet the honorable member for Darling. No representative of New South Wales is more competent than he is to speak on that part of the country which he represents ; and he has certainly had a large and varied experience of land settlement in New South Wales. I should have been glad also to hear the honorable member for Herbert giving us the benefit of his experience in Queensland, and the honorable member for Maranoa doing likewise. The honorable member for Grey might also have given us the advantage of his views with regard to the effect of this land tax on estates in the Northern Territory. The application of land taxation to the Northern Territory is a very important matter; and we are certainly not going to settle people there on areas of from one to thirty acres, such as have been suggested by some honorable members opposite. Then, again, we have not heard the honorable member for Calare, who, generally speaking, is prepared to give to the House the conscientious opinions that he holds. He has had a big experience in land settlement in the central division of New South Wales, and that experience should be valuable to us. I have been waiting to hear also the honorable member for Werriwa who, before he took an honoured part in politics, was closely associated with the Lands Department of New South Wales, and should be able to give us some valuable information. I should be glad, also, to hear the honorable member for Wannon, who has been intimately associated with the land; and, if his health will permit, I should like to hear the honorable member for Hume. That honorable’ gentleman has had a varied experience of land settlement all over Australia, and has been closely connected with the public life of the Commonwealth. He appointed the Royal Commission to inquire into the Western Lands Bill, to which I have referred ; and” I hope that his health will permit of his giving us the benefit of his wide experience. We have had, during this debate, the opinions of honorable members who have had some experience, and, no doubt, it has been given conscientiously. We have had, for instance, a very lengthy contribution from the honorable member for Cook. Representing, as he does, a city constituency, he no doubt knows a great deal of the western districts of New South Wales and the Northern Territory. I am afraid, however, that he is not as conversant with the lands of Western Australia as is the honorable member for Fremantle. We have also heard the views of the honorable member for Indi. I have not had the pleasure of his acquaintance very long; but, no doubt, he is competent to speak to this question; although, having regard to his observations, I am not at all anxious to enter into a partnership with him in a land venture.
– He represents one of the biggest farming” constituencies in Australia.
– I did not say that he does not. This afternoon, we have had the pleasure of listening to statements as to the easy way in which land can be settled, and the advantages which can be obtained by the adoption of such provisions as have been advocated by the honorable member for East Sydney. The honorable member has shown himself to be. thoroughly conversant with the conditions prevailing in country districts. We have, likewise, been treated by the honorable member for New England to a statement of some ready-made land policies, which I should advise him to avoid, more particularly in connexion with ti-tree country. I should be the last in this House to find fault with any honorable member who thinks he has a right - as he certainly has - to give us the benefit of his experience; but I regret that we have had to listen to speeches from honorable members on the other side who have yet to gain experience of land settlement. I hope that those whom I have mentioned, and who have had large experience of land matters, will yet give us the benefit of . their wisdom and advice. If they do, it will act as a set-off to some of that to which we have listened.
– They will show their wisdom by their votes.
– I am not sure that their votes are their own. I have endeavoured to show the different conditions prevailing, and the difficulties of land settlement in the different States. I have endeavoured to put before honorable members the unequal conditions prevailing as between States and parts of States; and also to show that the State Parliaments, after many years of legislation, have not been able to induce settlement in all parts of Australia, or to adjust the revenue of the Crown, to which they consider they have a right. Yet, this Parliament expects to solve this most difficult problem - one of the most difficult that has been presented to it - in one measure. Honorable members opposite expect that, by the passing of one Bill, they are going to overcome all the difficulties that have perplexed the Legislatures of Australia ever since the introduction of responsible government. In my opinion, the real object of this Bill is not so much to encourage land settlement as to bring about land nationalization. I trust that it will not have that result, because I do not think the best conditions prevail when the land is held under the leasehold system. The one feature if the Bill is that it is designed to raise revenue to meet an emergency. The Constitution has given us the power to levy land taxation ; but the Government have yet to show that the emergency has arisen. We have a right to know that this Land Tax Assessment Bill is one which the Government are justified in introducing as a means of raising revenue.
They have not shown that they are, or should be, held responsible for land settlement; and the framers of the Constitution, and those who voted for it, decided that that responsibility should remain with the sovereign States. For these reasons, and since no proof has been advanced that there has arisen an emergency calling for increased taxation, I am of opinion that this measure is unjust in its incidence, and an abuse of the Federal power.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Finlayson) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Batchelor) proposed-
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to make a personal explanation with regard to my absence from the House last week when a division was taken on a proposal by the Government to expend £50,000 on works at Yass-Canberra. I was under the impression that that question would not be brought on, and that I was paired when I left the House. That impression, however, proved to be erroneous. I desire to explain that my absence was due to the fact that I was collecting evidence to rebut a petition that has been lodged against my return, and which is to be heard to-morrow. Had I been present, I should have voted for the amendment to reduce the item by£1.
– I desire to ask the Minister of External Affairs whether he will arrange to distribute amongst honorable members copies of the official report of the deputation which waited on the Prime Minister a few days ago, and placed before him specific cases of hardship which would result from the passing of the Land Tax Assessment Bill. The deputation was more or less fully reported in the newspapers ; but if an official report of the proceedings was taken, I should like it to be distributed amongst honorable members.
-i will submit the matter to the Treasurer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 September 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19100914_reps_4_57/>.