4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– A mistake has been made in transcribing from the pair-book the names of honorable members paired on the amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports regarding the Federal Capital question, and the name of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro appears in the proof number of Hansard. as paired* against the reduction of the vote; it should be on the other side.
– In view of the con fusion which appears to exist in many directions as to the exact additional cost to the people of the Commonwealth through Federation, will the Treasurer supply a return to the House, at an early date, showing the net total cost and the net cost per head per annum of Federation to the people, omitting transferred Departments that are paying their’ way, and expenditure on services transferred from the States, &c. ?
– I think that that can be done cheaply. There is considerable misunderstanding in the public mind as to the net cost of Federation.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether he has yet read the series of articles, written by an ex-military officer, to which I called attention a day or two ago, to the effect that the const fortifications of Australia could not defend the country from the attacks of even a secondclass war vessel?
– I informed the Minister of the honorable member’s statement, and he assured me that he would geta copy of the articles, and if, after reading them, he considered a reply necessary, would make it.
Corrected in revised edition.
HOBART QUARANTINE STATION.
– Will the Min ister of Trade and Customs lay on the table the report of Dr. Purdy on the proposed quarantine station for Hobart?
– I shall be pleased to lay the report on the table of the Library.
Meetings at Parliament House.
– I de sire to bring under your notice, Mr. Speaker, a question affecting the privileges of the House. This morning’s Argus contains a report headed, “ The Waterside Workers,” a portion of which reads as follows: -
The annual meeting of the Waterside Workers’ Federation was held at Parliament House, on Tuesday, when the president (Mr. Hughes) was in the chair.
An account of the proceedings is given, and the statement is made that the election of officers resulted as follows: -
President, Mr. Hughes, M.H.R.; vicepresident, Mr. Bamford, M.H.R. ; treasurer, Senator de Largie; secretary, Mr. ]. Morris; auditors, Senator Turley and Mr. Poynton, M.H.R. ; trustees, Mr. Fisher, Mr. Hughes, and Mr. Morris.
Is it customary to hold the meetings of private organizations within the precincts of this Chamber? If Parliament House is at the disposal of the Waterside Workers’ Union for its meetings, will other unions and political organizations, including Employers’ Unions, in future be afforded the privilege of holding their meetings here? Did you, Mr. Speaker, give permission for the Waterside Workers’ meeting to be held there?
– This is the first that I have heard of the. matter, and if the honorable member will give me further information, I shall make the necessary inquiries.
INDENTED LABOUR, PAPUA.
– Some time ago there was a controversy in the newspapers about the indented labour used in New Guinea. Has the Minister of Home Affairs heard anything in connexion with the matter from the Territory ?
– Yes ; within the last two or three days a report has been received from the Administrator, which, if honorable members desire to read it, I shall lay upon the table.
– As the Minister of Home Affairs has mentioned Chicago as the only large city which, within his knowledge, pumps its water supply - it Has no choice, because it is situated on Lake Michigan - I ask him whether he is aware that, according to the Encyclopædia Britannica, published in 1902 -
The water supply is derived from Lake Michigan, there being a series of pumping stations from one mile to Ave miles from the shore. The system belongs to the city, and is maintained and operated by the Department of Public Works. The maindrainage of the city has been into the lake.
– That statement is quite true ; but by the application of scientific knowledge the American people have discovered a method of treating their sewage which makes it a harmless fertilizer.
– Has the Minister of Home Affairs read in this morning’s newspaper’ a report on Mr. Clement Wragge’s lecture, the purport of which is as follows : -
True statesmanship would be to spendthe money intended for the Federal Capital in locking the rivers, especially the Murray and tributaries, and conserving water for irrigation purposes, instead of founding the Capital in such an absurd locality as Yass-Canberra. Rather should the Capital be in the Snowy Ranges-
– Order !
– where the bracing atmosphere and a pure water supply would breed a race of British statesmen.
– Order! The honorable member must not read an extract of that kind when he is asking a question.
– In view of the fact that Mr. Clement Wragge has expressed himself in favour of the. Federal Capital being established in the Snowy Ranges, and states that that is a very desirable place for the purpose-
– Order !
– I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether the expressed opinion of this eminent meteorologist does not coincide with the idea expressed by himself previously to taking in hand the present site?
– Even if we wanted to. spend that money, I do not know whether the States would allow us to dam these rivers or not. But we could always bring the snow down in tubes to Yass-Canberra.
– The Sydney Morning Herald, of Tuesday, reporting the utterances of the honorable member for Cook at a political meeting last Monday night, says -
Mr. J. H. Catts, M.P., said that with a Labour Government in the Federal Parliament and Mr. Wade in the State Parliament, the question of the Federal Capital was not likely to be settled so quickly. The fact was, Mr. Fisher and Mr. Wade each thought they were taking one another down. (Laughter and applause.) If Mr. McGowen was at the head of the State Ministry the question of the Federal Capital would be quickly settled.
Is the Prime Minister of opinion that the advent of Mr. McGowen to office would hasten the settlement of the Federal Capital question? If so, will he say what Mr. Wade has done, and is doing, to retard its settlement ?
– I do not propose to answer hypothetical questions. The policy of this Ministry is before Parliament and the people.
Mr.JOSEPH COOK. - I have not asked a hypothetical question. The honorable member for Cook has stated that the relations between the Prime Minister and Mr. Wade are retarding the settlement of the Federal Capital question. I ask the Prime Minister if Mr. Wade is doing anything to retard the settlement of the question, and, if so, what?
– There is no conflict or antagonism between this Government and the Government of New South Wales on that question.
– With reference to a letter appearing in this morning’s Age, signed by Mr. J. A. Campbell, president of the Pastoralists’ Union of Southern Riverina, to which is attached a copy of a letter sent to the Prime Minister reminding him that he had asked to have a verification of instances of hardship, and offering opportunities for it, I wish to know if the Prime Minister has availed himself of the offer. Will the honorable gentleman at once appoint a responsible officer to investigate the statements made by the deputation, and report as to their accuracy ?
– Any investigation which the Government will make will be such that the whole facts will be made public.
– I ask the Prime Minister to state definitely if he intends to have the cases mentioned by the deputation in vestigated, so that honorable members may know whether the statements made were true ?
– My recollection is that the statements made by Mr. Campbell were given with a reservation.
SirJohn Forrest. - Only as to names.
Mr.FISHER.- The Government must know all the facts, and they must be made public.
– I should like to know whether it is not a fact that the only reservation made by the deputation was that the names of the persons likely to be affected should not be made public. There was no other reservation.
– My recollection is that Mr. Campbell made certain statements which were published. He asks that an officer should verify them, but I do not propose to instruct any one to verify statements made by a reputable person. Full investigation of all these circumstances would have to be entered into, and that is not the function of the Government.
– In view of the Prime Minister’s statement that he intends to take no further action, are we to presume that he accepts as correct the statements made by the deputation referred to?
– These are interrogations which do not call for a reply. I neither reflect upon nor accept all statements of that character made in public.
Bill presented by Mr. Fowler, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Mr. Fowler, and read a first time.
Telegraph Line, Peak Hill to Nullagine. - Cable Rates. Parliamentary Post Office, Sydney. - Hints to Telephone Subscribers
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Postmaster- General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will lay upon the table of the House a return showing the .value of business done at the parliamentary post office at Sydney?
– Has the PostmasterGeneral read the informative article published in this morning’s Argus, headed “ Hints to Telephone Subscribers”? Does he approve of it, and will he have it reprinted in leaflet form and sent to every subscriber ?
– I have not read it, but I shall be pleased to do so, if only to ascertain whether there can be anything in the Argus of advantage to telephone subscribers.
Debate resumed from 1st September (vide page 2417) on motion by Mr. Atkinson -
That, in the opinion of this House, the Commonwealth should forthwith take over the inspection and effective control of produce passing from State to State.
Upon which Mr. Sinclair had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after the word “ House “ be left out wilh a view to insert in lieu thereof the words (1) “ A Select Committee with a representative from each State be appointed to inquire into the best means of inspection and effective control of produce passing from State to State; (2) That such Committee should also inquire as to the most suitable means of inspecting, grading, and marking of produce intended for export.”
– I hadno particular desire to discuss this question, but, understanding on Thursday last that it was the desire of many honorable members that the debate should be adjourned, I moved accordingly. I believe that, in some respects, Commonwealth control of produce passing from State to State is likely to be attended with some advantage. But that control should be exercised only in a very general way, and such a body as an Inter-State Commission would suffice to do all that we are properly entitled to do. Western Australia has very stringent regulations with regard to the importation of many diseases which do not at present exist in that State. I contend that, in view of the development generally which we confidently expect, it is to the interest of the State to prevent the importation of any such diseases. I feel sure that a Commonwealth Department of this kind would rather direct its efforts to facilitating the interchange of trade between ‘ the States than the sometimes necessary restriction of it, and that is where I contend State action is highly necessary. Western Australia has been charged with being unnecessarily strict in these respects, but I think it will be found that in every case there have been very good reasons for the action taken by its authorities. Whenever a disease has been shown to exist in a State like Victoria, I think it is very wise on the part of Western Australia - where we not only want to prevent the introduction of disease, but to take most energetic measures to stamp out disease - to prevent any possibility of the introduction of such difficulties to the agriculturist as would ensue from laxity in connexion with the regulations. Whilst I favour a proposal generally for Commonwealth control of Inter-State trade, I feel inclined to oppose this motion, believing that it is highly necessary that the States should still exercise a supervision over all imports which are likely, not only to bring danger and difficulty upon agriculturists and producers generally, but also by acting primarily upon producers to impose upon consumers penalties in the way of enhanced prices.
– I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member have leave to withdraw his amendment?
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the motion (Mr. Sinclair’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 24
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the amendment be amended by leaving out the words “ with a representative from each State,” and also paragraph 2.
Subject to that amendment the House might very well consent to an inquiry of the kind proposed, and it should be conducted by a Select Committee of this House, or, at all events, of this Parliament. This question must be faced, for in all the States it is a prolific cause of trouble which, sooner or later, must be allayed, soothed, and settled. No better way of approaching it could be devised than is proposed by the amendment, subject to the elimination of these words. There is no reason why the States should be at each other’s throats as they are everyday with regard to produce passing from State to State. Every day one readsof some fresh outbreak caused by the present condition of affairs, and it seems to me to be doing more to retard the development of the Federal spirit than almost anything else with which we have to deal. I suggest we take this amicable course. First, let us inquire into this trouble, and ascertain whether we cannot arrange some modus vivendi between the States and so obviate the present cause of friction and bring about a better understanding between the producers of Australia. The present condition of affairs amounts to a negation of Inter-State free-trade in produce. It is a troublesome matter to deal with. All the law officers that we have had have had something to say in regard to it, and time after time have sought to ameliorate the conditions that are imposed by several States as against others. It is time that we did something more. It is time for a better understanding as between the States. A carefully selected Committee of this House would, I believe, lead to that better understanding and to a larger growth of that Federal spirit that is all too sadly wanting so far as the control of Inter- State produce is concerned. It would be wrong to bring in representatives from each State upon a Select Committee to inquire into this matter; but representatives from each State who would bring to bear their local knowledge might very well be summoned as witnesses. This House is surely competent to make an inquiry of the kind, and I therefore hope my amendment will be agreed to.
– The second paragraph of the amendment deals with an, entirely different question.
– I suggest to the honorable member for Moreton that he might very well eliminate it and bring it on separately, as it deals with a separate matter.
– Both paragraphs of my amendment relate to produce.
– There is no reason why the one Select Committee should not inquire into the two matters.
– But why mix them up?
– The one has to do with the other.
– No, the one relates to the passing of produce oversea and the other to the passing of produce InterState, and I think they should be separated. If we are going to do anything in this matter, we had better try as quickly as possible to get down to bed rock, and by eliminating the second paragraph we shall be likely to sooner achieve the result that we all desire. I shall, therefore, move its elimination after my amendment of the amendment has been dealt with.
– If the amendment of the amendment be agreed to it will mean the appointment, not of a Select Committee, but of a Royal Commission, since there is no possibility of a Select Committee meeting during this session. The honorable member for Bass had a Select Committee granted to him some weeks ago to inquire into the alleged Tasmanian Customs leakage, but, owing to the morning sittings of the House, it has been able to hold only one meeting. Then, again, I know of no subject with which the States, as States, are more directly concerned than they are in this. The States wish to protect themselves from the spread of insect pests, and I feel confident that even if the matter were left an open one, and a Select Committee were appointed, every State would have a representative upon it. If such a Committee is to be appointed, that, in my opinion, would be the right course to pursue. I intend, however, to oppose this proposition, because it would mean the appointment of a Royal Commission.
– A Select Committee can obtain leave to sit during the recess.
– Every Select Committee that we have had has been converted into a Royal Commission, where its labours have not been completed at the end of the session.
– Representatives from distant States could not be expected to attend meetings of a Select Committee during the recess.
– Men from distant States would not remain here.
– That is why I hold that this Select Committee, if appointed, would have to be converted into a Royal Commission.
– I repeat that the Select Committee could obtain leave to sit during the recess.
– The Minister of External Affairs says that a Select Committee ceases to exist when Parliament is prorogued.
– Unless otherwise ordered.
– After all, I do not think that the appointment of a Royal Commission would be warranted at the present time. I promised the honorable member for Wilmot that as soon as his motion had been dealt with, I would cause a full inquiry to be made, and when the amendment providing for the appointment of a Select Committee was moved a fortnight ago, I said that the appointment of such a Committee would be advanced as an excuse for holding up practically every regulation that might be proposed in regard to the export of produce. A week ago the honorable member for Cowper mentioned that reports appeared in the papers from time to time, referring to the condition in which our goods have arrived at oversea ports. If the House, in its wisdom, decides to appoint the proposed Select Committee, since the matter is one dealt with by the Trade and Customs Department, I shall do all I can to assist the inquiry. If honorable members agree that it is not necessary to appoint the Committee, I promise to see that a thorough departmental inquiry is made, and the information obtained submitted to the House. If the matter is left to a Select Committee, it will, subsequently, have to be appointed a Royal Commission, and will not submit a report until next session, and in the meantime the administration of the Department would be hampered.
– I am sorry that the Minister has not consented to the appointment of the proposed Committee. I agree with him that it would need later to be converted into a Royal Commission, because now that we are sitting day and night, it is impossible for honorable members, who are also members of Select Committees, to attend to their duties as such as well as to their Parliamentary duties. I agree that the Select Committee would be able to little more than commence an inquiry, which would have to be continued during the recess. It is because I believe that if the Committee were appointed, it would have to be converted into a Royal Commission, that I urge its appointment. I regard this matter as one of the most important with which we can deal. One of the principal objects of Federation was to secure the free interchange of products between State and State. But now, as the result of the system of regulations by State Governments affecting inspections, and the charges for the same, the free interchange of produce between the States is being prevented. One of the leading fruit-growers of Victoria happened to be in Sydney the other day, and saw a shipment of Tasmanian apples landed and inspected. The inspection of the whole shipment was carried out by two men in the course of an afternoon, and the charges made for that inspection amounted to over £100. I feel sure that honorable members will admit that such a charge is equivalent to an exceedingly high protective duty. The difficulty is even greater in Western Australia.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that in Western Australia a charge of over £100 is made for inspecting a shipment of apples?
– I mean to say that at one time the charge in Western Australia was 3d. per case.
– What is it now? What is the use of going back to ancient history ?
– Some time ago the charges for inspection on the same shipment would, in Western Australia, have amounted to nearer£500, and I believe that the same charges are to-day being reimposed.
– That was when the Tasmanian apples were very much diseased.
– I wish to see a Select Committee or Royal Commission ap pointed, just in order to put a stop to excuses of that kind. The State Governments are imposing inspection charges with the object of protecting local growers, rather than with the object of excluding diseased produce. In Western Australia the restrictions imposed upon the imports of certain articles of produce are greater than those in force in New South Wales. I have commended the Minister of Trade and Customs for what I believe to be an exceedingly wise course of procedure in this matter. The honorable gentleman has said that he prefers that the matter should be settled amicably between the State authorities before trying the effect of Federal intervention. That is a course which must commend itself to every honorable member. But I believe that if we are to secure a uniform system of inspection and charges it will be necessary to appoint a Select Committee, which may afterwards be converted into a Royal Commission, to take evidence in the different States, and to expose the harshness, injustice, and unFederal nature of existing State regulations dealing with the matter.
– Could not the Trade and Customs Department make such an inquiry ?
– I do not wish to speak harshly of the officers of the Department, but a departmental inquiry would be so restricted by red-tape and regulations as to be of very little use. It would be conducted from the point of view of the interest of the Department rather than from the point of view of those whom we represent and are here to assist. I believe that an inquiry held by Customs officials would be utterly futile. A Royal Commission, consisting of members of this House, would be the cheapest form of inquiry we could have, and I believe it would also be the fairest. The education which members of the Commission would receive in obtaining information on the question, and imparting it later to the House, would greatly assist to settle this vexed question. There is no. more vexed question between the States at the present time than the restrictions imposed upon the interchange of natural products. There is nothing in the objection by the Minister that the appointment of the proposed Committee or Commission would hold up the regulations. During the course of the investigation there would be nothing to prevent the Minister issuing such regulations as he thought necessary. I urge upon honorable members to permit this inquiry to be held, to put an end to a condition of affairs which is becoming intolerable. The restrictions placed upon the importation of certain products represent a higher protective duty than existed in some of the States prior to Federation. I differ from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on one point, and think that if a Committee or Commission is appointed it would be better that it should be composed of representatives of each State.
– If it is to be a Royal Commission, certainly.
– If we appoint a Select Committee, it will have to be converted into a Royal Commission when the session comes to a close.
– A Select Committee, if appointed, could sit again next session.
– That is so; but we want the matter settled as soon as possible. I think we should fix a date for the presentation of a report. We should not, as has been the case with some Commissions, have to wait for years for a report. We should fix a date for the report, and should require good reasons for any extension of the time given. We ought tq have the report of the investigation in time to enable Ministers and the House to deal with the matter early next session. A Royal Commission could obtain the whole of the information during the recess, and present a report when Parliament met, and we should then be in a position to deal with the question.
.- I am in favour of Commonwealth control of the passage of produce from State to State. While State control and inspection is continued we must expect friction. Whilst I am in favour of Commonwealth control, I believe that it should be preceded by some inquiry by a Select Committee or a Royal Commission. I favour the representation of each State on such Committee or Commission. In determining the manner in which Commonwealth control should be exercised, the differing views held by different State authorities should be considered. The Minister of Trade and Customs has promised to have a departmental inquiry made, but so far as we can learn the Department has been inquiring into this matter under previous Ministers. I should be satisfied with an assurance from the Minister that a Departmental Committee would be appointed to investigate the matter, and report to Parliament within a certain time.
– That assurance can be given.
– The Prime Minister says one thing, and the Minister of Trade and Customs says another.
– The inquiry I proposed would be made, of course, by departmental officers.
– A departmental officer might write a number of letters, get replies to them, and form an opinion upon them, but that is not the sort of inquiry I desire.
– I can give an assurance that the Government will make a thorough inquiry into this matter, and bring up a report early next session. ‘
– Will they suspend all regulations in the meantime?
– No; that is what honorable members opposite want.
– They do not want anything of the sort.
– In view of the assurance of the Prime Minister that an inquiry will be made and a report presented to Parliament early next session, I shall be prepared to vote against the appointment of the proposed Committee. But I do think that something definite should be done. We should not go on drifting as we have done from year to year. I can see that if a Select Committee, consisting of members of this House, be appointed, they will not be able to pursue their investigations during the present session, considering that we are meeting at half-past 10 in the morning and sitting until practically midnight. The other method that could be adopted would be to turn the Select Committee into a Royal Commission, so that the inquiries might be continued during the recess; but such a Commission could not report earlier than the beginning of next session. Under the circumstances, I think that the suggestion of the Prime Minister will prove the more expeditious, and, therefore, I am quite prepared to act upon it.
– I was not present when this question was discussed, being engaged on other work outside ; but I am very much interested in the whole matter. I feel sure that the time is very near at hand when the Commonwealth will have to take, not only a greater interest, but, perhaps, greater control, of all affecting Inter-State trade and every kind of trade in the Commonwealth.
– This is the Government’s opportunity !
– Quite so; but if delay be desired the best means is to appoint a Select Committee or a Royal Commission. The officers of the Department are quite competent to gather the facts in a concise form under the direction of a responsible Minister, pledged to bring down a report next session, when members could proceed to consider a direct policy.
– Who is to make the inquiry ?
– The responsible officers in the Department. The Minister has power to direct any officer to report immediately on any phase of any question, and is able to obtain, not only statistical information, but other actual facts, without any delay.
– The departmental officers will not be able to get evidence unless the witnesses choose to attend voluntarily; that is the first difficulty.
– My experience is that there is no more superior body of men in any part of the world than the officers of this Department. They may have their faults and failings, like other men, but they are quite competent to gather concise information on which we shall be able to come to a proper decision.
– We require the evidence pf those who regard themselves as the victims of the Customs officers. There is no doubt about the Government being able to collect information from the officers, but there is grave reason for the submission qf the other evidence to which I refer.
– Of course, we all have our different ideas of what we are really trying to attain. I understood from the interjection of the honorable member for Illawarra that his idea was to tie the Government up from issuing any regulations in the meantime.
– That is one of the Minister’s usual wrong deductions !
– I am exceedingly sorry if that be so.
– My interjection could not possibly be so construed.
– The honorable, member is apparently a little irascible this morning. The words that reached me were, “ and stop any further regulations being issued.”
– There is not the power to stop any further regulations.
– Quite so; I am speaking of what was in the mind of the honorable member for Illawarra.
– I ask the Government to suspend the issue of any regulations in the meantime.
– When making that request the honorable member knows what was in his mind. If he desires the Government to suspend the regulations in die meantime, that would be an impossible position, because it would prevent the Government from dealing with any anomalies or difficulties, by way of regulation, in the interests of the public. There is no party interest in this matter; but I may say that we are the first Government who have taken any action.
– Why does the Prime Minister make a statement of that sort, when every Government has been dealing with the question for nine years, and has found it a very troublesome one?
– Governments exist to get over difficulties, and deal with troublesome questions; and I repeat that this is the first Government to appoint officers, and take really definite action.
– I suppose nothing was ever done before the present Government came into power?
– There may be more truth in that than appears on the surface/
– It only means that honorable members opposite have supported do-nothing Governments for years.
– Many things have been attempted, and something done; but that is not the question. We are now dealing with the future ; and I agree with the honorable member for Cook, - when he says that the whole trend of the feeling and intellectual view of the people of Australia is towards breaking down every barrier to free interchange in trade and commerce. That is a sensible, sound policy, which must commend itself to every one. There may be constitutional difficulties ; and I expect the honorable member for Angas to tell us that the Commonwealth is practically exercising all its power at the present time ; but, after all, if we have not the definite and distinct power to carry out all that the people and the members of this Parliament desire, we shall have to ask for further power. In the meantime, I ask honorable members to accept the assurance of the Government that serious and expeditious inquiry will be made, and the result submitted in concrete form early next session, so that action may be taken within the powers vested in this Parliament.
.- I regret if I have shown irritability, because this is certainly not an occasion for any such display. The question before us is most important ; and in connexion with it I have attended with deputations on the Minister of Trade and Customs, who, though we kept him for hours, gave us a most patienthearing ; so far as he is concerned he is, I know, endeavouring, according to the information he possesses, to do what is right and proper. Although I disagree with the Minister in regard to what I understand to be his proposal, I know he is actuated solely by a desire to do what is best in the interests of the producers of Australia. I am thoroughly opposed to an inquiry by the departmental officers. I have no desire to reflect in any way on those gentlemen, a number of whom I know to be very capable officials j but the report of Mr. Lockyer, the head of the Department, in connexion with the grading of butter for export certainly would not justify us in depending solely on departmental inquiry and action. I feel sure the Minister realizes that this report was based on insufficient and imperfect grounds.
– It was a good report.
– That matter has been threshed out before, and we need not discuss it again.
– The people in the trade say that it was a good report.
– Considering that this report was made by Mr. Lockyer, not only without consulting the representatives of the great co-operative movement in Australia, which is responsible for the present position of the butter trade, but in absolute opposition to their views, we cannot attach much importance to it. There was an insinuation by the Prime Minister that my object, as disclosed in an interjection, was to “ hold up “ some regulations.
– That was not an insinuation, but my interpretation of the honorable member’s interjection.
– I can assure the Prime Minister that I had no intention of making such an insinuation.
– It was not an insinuation.
– If the Minister says that he made no insinuation of the sort I, of course, accept his disclaimer. As a matter of fact, I was not consulted by the honorable member for Moreton, and I knew nothing about this proposal being on the business-paper; but, in my opinion, there is great necessity for a strong commission of inquiry. No regulations based on Mr. Lockyer’s report should be issued without the fullest and most thorough investigation. It has been clearly proved by representatives from New South Wales and elsewhere that the proposed branding of butter for export, in the case of the large institutions on the Richmond River, and also in the case of the Illawarra Central Factory, will mean the loss of thousands of pounds to the farmers. The butter turned out by these institutions already commands the highest price in the London market; and, therefore, there can be no necessity for any interference of the kind. What Government interference could do any good to institutions of (this character? The regulations which have been suggested will be in direct opposition to the experience and interests of those who are engaged in the great industrial co-operative movement in Australia. I can confidently appeal to honorable members opposite, for the reason that they are strong champions of the trade union movement. I am as much a believer in trade unionism as they are, though not in the system carried on in connexion with that movement by them. The system of co-operation in the producing industry ought to receive encouragement from the supporters of this Government. Before the co-operative system was started, the industry had been brought down to a very low ebb. But co-operation has lifted it to such a stage that it now stands first amongst similar industries in the whole world. I appeal to honorable members opposite to help us to see that no injustice is done to a movement that has accomplished much for the benefit of a great Australian industry. I thoroughly believe that a Royal Commission should b? appointed, and that it should be representative of each State. I shall therefore support any amendment in favour of the appointment of such a body. It has been stated that Royal Commissions consisting of members of Parliament are the cheapest bodies of the kind that can be appointed. I have some experience as a Royal Commissioner, and know that the services of members of Parliament are obtained at a very cheap rate. The re- muneration paid to them is very slight indeed in view of the expense to which they, are put. The general public are sometimes led to believe that members of Parliament make a great deal out of work of this kind. But I was a member of the Tariff Commission for two years, and at the end of the inquiry was considerably out of pocket. I trust that the Minister will see that members of Parliament who may undertake these duties are not allowed to be out of pocket through performing important services in the interests of the Commonwealth.
– I am rather astonished at the statement made by the honorable member for Illawarra that the placing of the Government brand on butter involves the loss of thousands of pounds in the London market.
– That is absolutely true. The honorable member has a good deal to learn about the industry in question, although he knows so much about land.
– This is not a matter about land, but about selling goods. No. doubt every one of us has much to learn about that subject. Honorable members on this side of the House are thoroughly in sympathy with the cooperative movement, the object of which is to secure to the producer what he earns. The object of the Government brand is to protect the good name of Australian industries in respect of produce sold in foreign markets, and to prevent bad ‘stuff being exported. I very much doubt whether the Government brand causes a deterioration in price. I should like to see the evidence in support of that proposition before I indorse it. The statement seems to me to be an absurdity.
– It is perfectly true.
– It may be true that that is the excuse given by middlemen who are trying to rob the producers.
– The butter gamblers want the Government brand because it plays right into their hands.
– I was pleased to hear the admission of the honorable member for Parramatta that for ten years previous Governments have -been endeavouring to do something in this matter and have absolutely failed. I wish to see this new reform Government do something, and do it effectively. Having that desire, I do not wish to see the matter taken out of the hands of the Government and intrusted to a Royal Commission. Instead of following that course, I would ask the Government to look into the subject in the most direct way, and to bring before Parliament as quickly as possible a proposal for dealing effectively with it. It is rather serious that our primary producers should be robbed under conditions that can easily be overcome. I notice in connexion with the fruit industry that, in Western Australia, in 1907, a charge of 2s. 6d. per case of 56 lbs. was levied. Such an impost means prohibition against the sending of produce from the eastern States. All anomalies of that kind should certainly be removed. I shall pin my faith to Government action. I hope that the Minister of Trade and Customs will, by means of his own officers, investigate the subject directly, and bring before Parliament a tangible proposition that can be acted upon, instead of appointing a Commission that will beat about the bush and only cause delay.
.- The remark that “ the unexpected often happens “ sometimes applies to Parliament. I did not expect this morning that events would take such a turn as they have done. I came here with the idea that, as the Minister had expressed his intention to oppose the amendment, that amendment would be withdrawn ; and, as the Minister had also assured me that he would not support my motion, I was quite prepared to withdraw it, and accept an assurance from him that he would do his very best to have this subject inquired into. My object is to have the matter tackled as quickly as possible, and in such a manner as may lead to tangible benefits being obtained before next season commences. At present Inter-State trade in many primary products is in a very uncertain condition. Farmers do not know how they will stand from season to season. During one season produce is admitted freely into a State, and the next year it is blocked. Producers who are able to grow sound produce should be allowed to introduce it into the markets of the various States of Australia.. At present that certainly does not exist. Even since I launched this motion, those who have been watching the newspapers may have observed that friction has frequently arisen in regard to articles of produce. That kind of thing is on the increase, and feeling is becoming acute. It is time that something definite was done. I submitted my motion in the hope of conferring some benefit on the people concerned in the great producing trade. I am quite prepared to accept a Royal Commission, or any other body of which this House approves, for the proper investigation of the subject. A little while ago I voted for an amendment which practically nullified my own motion, but I did that because I knew that my motion would not be carried, and I wished to fall in with the views of those who desired a Royal Commission to be appointed. I do not care whether my own motion is carried or not, my real object being to afford relief to the producers as quickly as possible. I was quite prepared to accept the Minister’s assurance, and had no wish to carry a motion against his inclination, because I realized that to do so would do the case more harm than good. If the House is favorable to the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the question of the inspection of InterState produce, together with the question of grading in respect of die over-sea trade, I am quite prepared to see that done. At all events, I trust that the House will come to a decision quickly, so that the people interested may know where they stand in this matter.
.- I do not think that the appointment of a Royal Commission would do any good. The suggestion that such a body would be able to bring about an amicable understanding cannot be entertained. All that the Commission could do would be to go through the Commonwealth, and interview various persons concerned in the evils which have arisen. I think that the only way to cope with the matter effectively is for the Government to appoint the Inter-State Commission provided for by the Constitution. The framers of the Constitution apprehended that the evils which have been experienced during the past nine years would occur, and accordingly they inserted section 101, which reads as follows -
There shall be an Inter-State Commission, with such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and of all laws made thereunder.
The complaints that have arisen have not been due to any failure on the part ot Governments, but simply to the processes employed in the direction of cut-throat competition. The Constitution requires trade and intercourse between the States to be absolutely free. I claim that this is a matter for an Inter-State Commission, and that the only manner of dealing with it effectively is by the appointment of such a body. I therefore hope that the Government will, without unnecessary delay, carry out the terms of the Constitution in this respect.
.- I should like to know from the Government whether an attempt has ever been made to obtain an account from the States of the net amount which has been collected by them upon produce. Would not such information afford the Ministry a very accurate guide as to whether they have been abusing their powers in this connexion?
– The authorities in Western Australia say that they have received £1,3.70, and that the expenses incurred have been £1,134. I intend to send them a bill for the amount.
– As the States have not thought fit to bring a test case before the High Court, the Government ought to see that the charges levied upon Inter-State produce represent only a fair charge for necessary inspection.
– Some of them make the charges inward pay for the charges outward.
– I think that those charges would be annulled by the High Court. Under section 112 of our Constitution we have power to annul these inspection laws as an abuse by the States of the power to control produce entering their territories. They are entitled to prevent only the importation of articles which are not true articles of commerce. Any true article of commerce must be admitted under section 92 of our Constitution. I would further point out that even the Commonwealth may be restrained by way of prohibition. If we take over complete control of the quarantine laws between State and State, and declare that an article which is deleterious to health shall not be prohibited as an Inter-State import, it does not follow that the States themselves may not step in and prevent its introduction. I should have liked this matter to be tested before the High Court. The extraordinary feature of it is that while the States have been complaining that their subjects are being harassed by these inspection laws, they have taken no action to put those laws to a crucial test. One would have thought that they would have helped litigants-
– It is the intention of the Tasmanian Government to test the validity of the Western Australian regulations.
– If it be a fact that those regulations are an abuse of the power of inspection, it is time that their validity was tested. Whether they are an abuse of that power I do not know. But I would point out that the terms of the amendment under consideration may not be efficacious in ascertaining what are the facts. One way of a State testing this question would be by assisting a litigant in bringing an action before the High Court. Another way would be by the Minister of Trade and Customs demanding the net produce of the charges which have been imposed, an account of the services for which those charges have been made, and a statement of how they were apportioned. For instance, they may have- been levied for inspection and for something else. If a statement were forthcoming as to how they were levied, the Minister would be able to see to what extent they were a tax on importations, and therefore a violation of the Constitution. Upon such evidence the Ministry would be able to judge whether they ought not to extend the power which we have taken to ourselves under the Quarantine Act. At present the Commonwealth merely possesses the power to stop importations as between State and State, whereas what is complained of is that the States prevent that importation. . If a Select Committee or Royal Commission be appointed to investigate this matter I hope that the scope of its inquiry will be extended beyond the terms of this motion with a view to ascertaining the extent to which the States are abusing their powers of inspection - if they are abusing them at all - for the ostensible purpose of protecting themselves against local disease. I welcome the statement of the Minister of Trade and Customs that he intends to apply to one State for certain dues which it has received. The Commonwealth is entitled to get those dues.
– I am of opinion that honorable members who recommend the appointment of a Select Committee or Royal Commission to inquire into this matter are expending their energies in an altogether wrong direction. The appointment of an Inter-State Commission was provided for by the framers of our Constitution, and it is a surprise to me that such a body was not created long ago. Very much useful work awaits that Commission, and in view of the fact that the existing in spection laws of the various States are likely to be tested before the High Court, I say that urgent necessity exists for the creation of that tribunal. I do not believe in utilizing the inspection regulations of any State for the purpose of preventing legitimate trade. If charges of the kind, stated by the honorable member for Franklin, can be made by any State in respect of perfectly sound fruit, obviously a wrong exists which requires to be speedily remedied. My idea is that inspection charges should be levied only in respect of fruit or produce which is unwholesome or diseased. Where an inspection proves that imports are perfectly sound, no penalty should be attached to them. There is no doubt that, in some oases, these inspection charges amount to a considerable tax on the producer. It is not so much the actual charge made for inspection which we have to consider, but the delay which is involved and the consequent deterioration in the quality of perishable produce, apart altogether from the additional handling that is required. These things constitute a considerable tax on the consumer. I do not believe in taxing the necessaries of life in this or any other way. But there is one phase of this question of which we must not lose sight, namely, that diseases which exist in some of the States, do not exist in others. It is, therefore, perfectly fair and proper that those States which are free from disease should have power to prevent its introduction. I contend that, in this respect, my own State is thoroughly justified in going to any legitimate length to prevent the introduction of unwholesome and diseased fruit. In Western Australia, there is at present an absence of much of the disease that has decimated the fruit and vegetable products of the other States.
– Does the honorable member think that the Western Australian Government are justified in issuing a regulation prohibiting the importation into that State of potatoes grown in Victoria within a radius of 50 miles of where Irish blight exists ?
– Perhaps the scope of that regulation is a little too wide, but doubtless the authorities made inquiries before framing it, and probably they found that the disease in question is much more widespread than has been represented locally. Speaking generally, however, I do not think that a regulation of that character is a wise one. I believe that, by means of careful inspection, the introduction of disease into a State can be stopped at the port of entry, and that is quite sufficient. In regard to produce, my own opinion is that only the diseased part of it should be penalized. Those who have taken pains to introduce perfectly sound and wholesome fruit and vegetables should not be subjected to any charge whatever. I repeat that this is pre-eminently a question which ought to be dealt with by an Inter-State Commission. Failing the ap* pointmentof such a body, the next best thing we can do is to leave the matter in the hands of the Government, especially in view of the Minister’s promise that a departmental inquiry will be made into all the alleged facts and conditions surrounding the question of Inter-State trade generally. It seems to me that the field of inquiry is a strictly limited one.” We only desire to get certain definite information tabulated, so that it can be placed before us in a compact form. That information is available to the Customs authorities. With such a report before us, any honorable member who may deem it necessary to do so, will be in a position to ask that further action shall be taken. If he can make out a case for further action, I shall have no objection to urge.
.- In my opinion, neither the motion of the honorable member for Wilmot nor the amendment, as it is proposed to be amended by the honorable member for Parramatta, will meet the necessities of this case. It seems to me that we shall be placing quarantine upon an arbitrary and artificial basis if we declare that the confines of any area shall be the boundaries of any State. The area infested by a pest may be merely a small corner of a State, or it may extend beyond the limits of a State. In dealing with a matter of this kind, therefore, we have to consider the interests of the people of Australia.
– Surely the honorable member will not advocate the introduction of a pest into a State merely to please the individuals who are suffering from that pest?
– No sane person would dream of doing such a thing. Our object ought to be to impose even more drastic restrictions upon the introduction of pests than are imposed to-day. Personally, I should like to see the law relating to this matter brought into line with our quaran tine law. I wish to point out how this question may become one of importance to our exports. One of the most .promising outlets for the Australian cattle and meat trade is in the Philippines and Japan, where the inhabitants are. acquiring a taste for meat. Prior to the Russo-Japanese war, rice was almost the sole article of food in that part of the world, but now, and particularly as the occupation of the Philippines by the United States extends, meat is coming greatly into use. Years ago, enough cattle were bred in the Philippines to meet the very scanty local requirements. Then stock was imported from China., but disease was introduced with it, and very rigid quarantine laws followed. Then came the importation of stock from Australia. Recently, however, stock disease has broken out in some parts of the Commonwealth, and, as the quarantine authorities of the Philippines cannot get a guarantee that the stock exported by us is free from infection, an embargo is placed on its importation. That is a serious thing for our trade. We should have an authority able to say, officially, that our stock had, prior to exportation, been inspected, and found to be free from disease. The markets of the East require cattle, and we can supply them more cheaply than they can be supplied from China or Indo-China. At the present time there is cattle disease in the Northern Territory, and in a few other places, but, generally speaking, our stock is free from disease, and could be exported if the exporters could obtain a Commonwealth guarantee of the fact.
– Goods exported from Victoria are stamped with the Government brand - “ Approved for export.”
– That may be held by others to mean that they are not good enough for local consumption.
– That is a reflection on the inspectors.
– It is a reflection on the phrase
– Yes. For instance, we passed a Commerce Act to prohibit the importation of shoddy goods, but that does not prevent some Victorian manufacturers from manufacturing such articles.
– Hear, hear. What about the boots of which the Minister of Trade and Customs had samples?
– We should be able to guarantee that our exportations aare clean and pure. With such a guarantee, the community would benefit through the expansion of business. But before it can be given, the supervision of quarantine matters must be entirely taken over by the Commonwealth, and the artificial State boundaries disregarded. I hope that the Minister will take the matter into consideration.
– I promised to do so two months ago, but I have been hampered by this motion.
– Then I hope that the motion will be dealt with this morning, and I shall not take up time in discussing it further.
– There is little need to labour this question, because of the absolute unanimity of the House that something should be done. No honorable member disputes the right of the States to protect their producers and consumers from imported diseased fruit and produce. On a previous occasion great objection was raised to the insistence upon inspection by the States, on the ground that the fruit that was sent from State to State was all good, but according to the report in this morning’s Argus of the meeting of the Fruit-growers’ Conference, the local Secretary for Agriculture in directing attention to the need for the strict supervision of imports, said that in Victoria alone 29,980 cases of diseased fruit- have been rejected since the beginning of this year. It will hardly be questioned that the work of the inspectors has been productive of good, an honest and fairly successful attempt having been made to keep our orchards free of fruit pests and diseases. It is, of course, impossible to entirely prevent the transmission of diseases, but the inspection at State ports of entry considerably minimizes the chances of disease spreading. On a former occasion I expressed myself as in favour of inspection at both the port of shipment and the port of entry. Inspection at the port of shipment is necessary to protect exporters from loss in sending away produce likely to be condemned at the . port of entry. Fruit and produce may appear quite good at the port of shipment, and yet at the port of entry be found quite bad, because of the development of disease on the voyage. I think that we should not interfere with the States in the good work they are doing, and that nothing would be gained by the Commonwealth taking over the inspection. I admit, however, that it is against the spirit of the Constitution to charge more for the inspection than it actually costs. At the present time our producers are paying something like ^9.000 per annum in inspection fees. Previous Ministers of Trade and Customs have attempted, with but little success, to secure an agreement among the State authorities in reference to this matter. At the present time each State has its own charges, and the producers are helpless. I should like to continue my remarks on another occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate (on motion by Mr> Riley) adjourned.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Sinclair) adjourned.
– I move -
That the election of Ministers of State by the whole Parliament after each general election (instead of their election by the Party possessing a majority) and the recognition of the individual and separate responsibility of each Minister (instead of their collective responsibility as a Cabinet) would facilitate and expedite the operations of the Legislature ; give a more ready and complete response to the will of the people ; create a more experienced and “effective Executive; and be more in accord with the democratic provisions of the Commonwealth Constitution.
The motion provides for what I have for many years considered a most desirable reform. The honorable member for Perth had a similar motion on the paper which he has withdrawn to enable me to proceed with this, and he is in hearty co-operation with me. On a previous occasion, when we both desired to move in the matter, his motion was taken first, and I then gave him all the support I could, with a view to the thorough and adequate consideration of the question by Parliament. A discussion took place in August, 1905, when the honorable member gave us a mass of information showing in the main’ that parliamentary government as we know it, and as it exists under most Constitutions derived from the Mother of Parliaments, is on its trial - not that there was anything wrong, or that any difficulty had been experienced, in the working of a large number of Constitutions, with regard to’ the theory of representative government. The theory underlying representative government, with the modifications which have been made during late years as democratical principles have been developed in these various communities, has given every satisfaction. But on the other hand the principle of party, which has nothing whatever to do with representative government, has been found, not only in Australian Parliaments, but in similar Parliaments, even in the mother of Parliaments, to have a most detrimental effect on the working out of representative institutions. It has always been held that responsible government is something which was almost divinely revealed to man in total disregard of the fact that it was possible to have such a thing as an irresponsible government. All governments must be responsible. Even the most autocratic government, which we read of in history or know of to-day, is responsible, in some way, and no matter what alteration we may desire to make* we shall do nothing and cannot do anything which I can conceive of to get rid of responsible government. The aim of this motion, and of similar proposals, which have been brought before the House is not to get rid of responsibility in the form of our government, but to give the democracy additional power over the Executive. It is in no way an effort to get rid of the safeguards of responsibility, but an effort to realize to the utmost the feeling of security which the people enjoy under responsible government. On a previous occasion the honorable member for Perth put very fully before the House the facts of history and the opinions of a very large number of widely experienced men as to the manner in which the system of executive government had broken down. And conjointly, endeavouring as we did at that time not to cross one another’s ground, we showed how the system had grown historically - how it was an expedient in the first instance, based upon the lowest political considerations which could actuate politicians or philosophers in evolving a system of executive government. We pointed out that the lowest considerations led to the first movement to institute what we know as Cabinet responsibility - that this thing, invented as an expedient, was developed into the engine of autocracy which it has since become, and that the underlying idea of obtaining responsibility was developed in such a way as to remove the real and effective responsibility which was the aim of all political thinkers in England from almost time immemorial. On that occasion - I intend to make only a brief reference, because our speeches are open to those who take an interest in the subject - we showed that the whole history of England might be described as an effort on the part of the people to acquire power to be exercised by and for the people. In the first instance we proved by references to Anson and Stubb, our greatest authorities on constitutional history, that far back in the time of the Plantagenets, and again in the time of the Tudors, the effort of the House of Commons was to get into ite hands the nomination of the great officers of the Executive, the King’s Ministers, and that this effort proceeded, with very many reverses, until the time of the Stuarts, when the greatest trouble took place between the people and the Crown. We showed that the famous historic Ministers who produced all the troubles and wars which were gone through at that lime were autocrats and irresponsible except in the sense that they might be impeached, and might lose their heads, and that, finally, when William III. came to the throne, and was unable to get the means to carry on the great European wars- which he thought essential for the carrying out of his policy, a suggestion was made to him that, instead of picking out the Court favorites, instead of getting the House of Commons by hook or by crook, by bribery or by threat, to support him, he should select his Ministers from the dominant party in that House, and, when that party ceased to be dominant, to take others, so that he might always be certain of having a Ministry which was subservient to the will and the intention of the Crown, while commanding the support of Parliament. That was the beginning of the Cabinet system, and from that day it went on and developed through many evils and difficulties, which have culminated in the present day in what is known as the paralysis of Parliaments. The growth of liberty, the extension of the franchise, and the removing of one restriction and another on the liberties of the people has been constant, but we still have left this last anachronism of a Ministry framed on party lines. I ask this House to take into its serious consideration the question of whether we should not reform our procedure in such a way as to give a freer, fuller, more ready, more economic effect to the will of the people in carrying out that will in our legislation. Not only does this spirit of party undermine our legislation, but it undermines our very life in all the ramifications of society, even in such a matter as the writing of history. Professor Seely has pointed out that the early historical writers of the Victorian era were so hypnotized by the spirit of party that they viewed the magnificent pageant of English history as if they sat in the reporters’ gallery of the House of Commons, and looked upon the final loss of America as important because it involved the defeat of the North Administration. Because it brought down Lord North, it assumed an importance in their minds as one of the factors in British history. An influence of that sort, which can distort history, delay necessary legislation, and restrict the power of the people to exercise their will in the legislature of their creation, ought to be taken into serious consideration to see how far it can be brought into accord with the spirit of the times. I think I shall be able, before I sit down, to give instances of how we have been restricted, how we have wasted time, and failed to realize the hopes and ideals formed of our Federation. Not only in this Parliament, but in all Parliaments, even in the mother of Parliaments, the same thing is felt day after day, and is constantly referred to by our ablest writers as the greatest restriction on the development and efficiency of the great national machine. Both here and elsewhere, we have long speeches, “ stonewalling,” organized restriction, the most scientific form of obstruction which can be invented - for what purpose? Is it done in the interest of individual aims, or of individual ambition? Is it not a fact that it is always indulged in from party zeal, from an idea that a man has to defeat the -party in power in order that his own side may in turn take possession of the Government benches? It is said to be the duty of an Opposition to oppose. Some persons cannot .understand that it tan possibly have any other duty. But sometimes the Opposition takes the form of unduly obstructing legislation, and that has taken place here, to the knowledge of all honororable members present, not with respect to this or the other party, but with respect to all parties. All parties are in turn actuated by the necessity thrown upon them of opposing all legislation proposed by the other side, in order that they might be defeated.
– Sometimes they think that they are right.
– I deny that they think that they are right. The most extraordinary thing about men is that they can have, as it were, a dual personalty. Things which I and other honorable members would not do privately or in business we somehow or other - by some distortion of conscience - feel that we are justified in doing for a party. We do for a party things which we would not dare to do for ourselves individually or in everyday business. In considering this question, we should try to get outside of the trammels of party, forget that we are Protectionists, Free Traders, more or less Socialists or anti-Socialists, and think, whatever political principles we entertain, how we can best give effect to this idea without loss of time, money, and energy. In ether words, we should seek to make the Legislature an efficient means of giving expression to the national will. The efficiency of the instrument is all that I am aiming at. For the moment I leave politics aside. No matter on which side we sit, or what convictions we hold, we are all bound to consider how, in the interests of the community, we can make the engine of government an efficient machine. In this connexion, I am led to make an extract in. reference to a book called Great Japan, being a study of national efficiency, by Alfred Stead. It is rather a notable book, dealing with the many measures adopted by Japan in the short space of time in which she has copied Western civilization, to make efficient her mechanism of government and development. In a foreword to the book, Lord Rosebery laments the increasing absence of efficiency in our own. institutions in so far as they fail to effect the purpose of government. We have always, he points out, been inefficient, but our inefficiency has been successful in the past. But the time has come even for Great Britain to consider whether, with inefficient instruments, she can hold her own with the rest of the world who are exercising in various directions more efficient machinery. Lord Rosebery, in dealing with this aspect of the case, writes -
We have all the raw materials - some of the best. We have courage and brains and strength ; but there is surely an immense leakage of power in the development. Politically speaking, we begin and end with party. We are all striving to put ourselves or our leaders into offices or expel other people from them. This is not from want of patriotism ; quite the reverse, the habit of centuries has made us believe that this is patriotism, this and no other. Do we ever stop to reflect what is the outcome of it all ; the net result of millions of words, words, words; of great debates and incessant divisions and spirited autumn campaigns? In truth, exceeding little. “ The hungry sheep look up and are not fed.” But Brown has made a fine speech, and Jones has surpassed himself, and Robinson has done less well than usual, and so we turn complacently from the long newspaper reports to the ordinary bread and cheese of life. And the old State machine creaks on.
Lord Rosebery, in that statement expressed the feeling of most of those who seriously reflect upon how we are getting on with our various institutions. He points out most definitely the evils that do arise, the want of success, and the utter breakdown of our institutions that inevitably follows from the operation of the party spirit underlying all our efforts to make the machine work.
– In spite of it all we get through 2,000 Bills a year.
– The honorable member’s interjection reminds me that one of our greatest philosophers has pointed out that the legislation passed by most Parliaments during the. last fifty years has been to repeal legislation enacted during the preceding 100 years. Much of the legislation which is passed is so illconsidered, by reason of party strife, so often actuated by mere party ends and party desires, that it is no wonder the number of these enactments is multiplied from time to time. I do not wish at this stage to go into all the evils that I consider to be connected with the Cabinet system. They were placed on record in 1905 so fully that I desire now to refer to what has been said in favour of the system. Some people look upon it as the outcome of the highest political wisdom. They seem to think that a certain number of philosophers and” leading politicians at one stage of our political development met together, and, almost divinely inspired, invented this system of Cabinet responsibility. Let us look at the system. A certain number of men unite to carry out a definite principle upon which they are all agreed. They have a majority in the Legislature, and it is only right that they, led by a man of their own choice, should be intrusted with the government of the country to carry out that principle. That is the theory. In fact, what do we see? How often is it that, taking our own Constitution, we can get a .Cabinet of nine men who think entirely alike upon any one great principle of political development? Even if, by some extraordinary combination of circumstances, we can get nine to think exactly alike on one question, what is their position in regard to other matters ? Does a Government exist to carry out only one principle? Is it not notorious that in the active work of politics an Administration is faced with quite a multiplicity of problems? Thenine men of the Cabinet must agree, not upon one, but upon every principle, if the idea of the homogeneity of a Cabinet is to be looked upon as something which justifies the system ? Do we get homogeneity at all in any Ministry? Is it not notorious that in this, as in every other. Australian Legislature Ministers have been divided amongst themselves? Have we not ultimately learned that on many great principles they have had to hold their peace and to vote for measures in which they did not believe? In this House I have seen three, if not four, Ministers when out of office opposing a principle which, when in office, they supported. I have seen throughout Australia men known to have been definitely convinced of the truth of certain principles compelled to hold their peace and to retain their office in a combination of men holding different views. Suppose we admit that, for the sake of carrying out, say, the principle of protection, a Ministry is formed. When it has given effect to that principle - when its mandate has been exhausted - are we to dismiss that Ministry, and to elect another to deal with the next great question, of say, defence? Are we to go on dismissing each Ministry as it has solved the problem which it was constructed to deal with? It does not require nv large measure of common sense to enable us to see that if the system is established upon that basis alone, it must break down WWe know, however, that itis based on other considerations. All of us, for the purpose of supporting this or that man, or for the purpose of being in this or that Administration, make concessions from our own consciences, our own reasons, and our own high qualities, that we ought to hold in reverence. Lift the veil from these various Administrations. Look at the autobiographies of our great politicians and statesmen, and what do we find? I referred to some of them when this question was last discussed. I was able to show that there was often the greatest discord amongst the members of a Ministry, and very often an inner camera that had secrets apart from the rest of the Cabinet. That state of affairs has existed throughout Australia. It has been made known to us in this House on one or two occasions, and we have been able to see for ourselves the differences that exist amongst Ministers. If we turn to the history of Australia, which we are only just commencing to put on record, and examine the most recent books, we find that they throw some light on this question. Take the Life of David Syme, by Ambrose Pratt, and at page xvii. of the introduction, written by the Hon. Alfred Deakin, we have this statement in regard to Mr. Syme, who was the proprietor of the Age-
In yet another aspect the position of The Age in Victoria challenged comparison with that of other papers within or without Australia. The relations between its proprietor and public men were intimate to a surprising degree. He enjoyed their confidence in and out of office, shaping their programmes from time to time, governing their selection of colleagues as incoming Premiers, and enjoying afterwards a knowledge of the inmost secrets of Cabinets, often undisclosed to many of the Ministers within them.
There we have an interesting reflection, written by one of the ablest statesmen amongst us, on the past working of Cabinet responsibility in Victoria. It shows that instead of the Legislature having any grip upon its Ministers, and holding them responsible to its will, and, indirectly, therefore, to the will of the people, Ministries were, from time to time, under the exclusive control of an Autocrat, who exercised what influence he pleased upon them. Had those Ministers been directly responsible, not to a Cabinet, but to the Legislature, is it possible that Mr. David Syme could have exercised the control over them that he did?
– I hope the honorable member notices how these same newspapers are influencing matters at the present moment.
– I do, and I say that as long as this, or any other House, holds to itself the power of dealing with the individual members of a Ministry, it can, as the representative of the people, check all the great papers. It can check their influence from time to time, and see that the will of the people is not interfered with by any panjandrum, even as great as the late David Syme was. We have not only the opinion of the Hon.
Alfred Deakin, but, at page 269 of this work, the author writes of Mr. Syme -
He believed that power to be permanent must be more or less unrecognised, and hewanted his authority to be permanent. For that reason he persistently effaced himself. For more than a quarter of a century he selected every Victorian Premier and almost every Cabinet’ Minister. But that was not all. Before each general election was held the Ministry of the day invariably submitted for his examination the list of Liberal candidates, and only gave the party support to the men he approved.
That is an extraordinary statement. Allowing for the natural desire of the recorder of the life of a great man, to somewhat exaggerate the power that he had, we all knew and felt that some such influence was being exercised. I have always felt that that power could not have been exercised to the same extent if each Minister had been individually responsible to the Legislature. Again, at page 302 of the same book, we have the statement in a letter written by Mr. Syme to a friend -
Of course the Age was continually consulted as to the formation of Ministries. Necessarily, of course, because it made and unmade them. I was always consulted, and I knew the ins and outs of everything. Had I kept a diary I could have given a most interesting account of how almost every Ministry was ever made. It would have been a complete secret political history of Victoria. I was quite aware of the interest that would attach to such a document, but I abstained from keeping a diary, because I regarded all these matters as confidential, although there was never any such stipulation made.
Whilst Parliament believed that it had complete control of the Executive, and the power to force them to give expression to the national will, it did not allow for the fact that a body of men, often inpecunious, had very frequently to be subservient to other powers and influences. Throughout the history of Victoria, it is contended, these men submitted their proposals to the proprietor of one of the most powerful metropolitan newspapers.
– Does that power exist to-day?
– Other honorable members can deal with the position to-day.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15p.m.
– I desire to read one more extract from this very interesting work by Mr. Ambrose Pratt as bearing directly on the political history of the Commonwealth. On page 230, the author referring to the formation of the ReidMcLean Administration, makes a statement that I must confess absolutely staggers me. Ever since I read it I have been wondering Low it is possible for such a statement to have been made and printed two years ago, and not the slightest public reference made to it by any politician or journal in the land.
– It has been quoted in the House several times.
– I have never heard it once referred to; in fact, I absolutely refuse to altogether believe the statement. In any case, it is my duty in dealing with a question of this sort to put the facts as here presented before the House without drawing any deductions, leaving such explanation as may be possible to others. The author states -
Anxious to remain in office, Mr. Reid decided to make terms with the Age. He, therefore, made a proposal in writing to Syme (see chapter xvi.) for the appointment of a Royal Commission of five citizens who should not be members of Parliament but competent business men, and whose duty it should be to inquire into the working of the Tariff and its effect on Australian industries. Mr. Reid verbally pledged himself to allow Syme to nominate a Protectionist chairman and other members to the proposed Commission, and to veto a certain number of names suggested by Mr. Reid or his colleagues. He also undertook that the Commission should not be appointed until after Parliament rose, so as to give plenty of time for a full discussion of its constitution, and that it should be supplied with every facility, when appointed, to perform its duties expeditiously.
David Syme, believing the offer was made bond fide, accepted it. The event proved that he had miscalculated the Free Trade leader’s intentions. Mr. Reid, notwithstanding his promise, did not wait until the end of the session, but (during one of Syme’s temporary absences from Melbourne) appointed a Commission while Parliament was still sitting, and without submitting the names of its members for Syme’s approval. The Royal Commission thus constituted was (despite Mr. Reid’s written agreement with Syme) an unwieldy body of mine persons, all, save one, politicians and members of Parliament, and some of Mr. Reid’s most attached political adherents.
I have heard it stated that the arrangement was not entered into. As I say, I shall leave any explanation to others; but while the statement remains uncontradicted it adds to the number of terrible illustrations we have of how little command there is over the Executives as constituted in Australia, and how little responsive they are to the national will, when some power outside the Legislature can be so applied to and appealed to. There is no time, nor is it necessary, to go into all the various details of the question, which were placed on record in Hansard in 1905, but I should like to dwell for a moment or two on its constitutional aspect. Many honorable membars, and certainly a great number of people outside, think that we could not make any change without’ amending the Constitution. That, however, is not so; and I speak on the authority of the best interpreters of the Constitution. If honorable members will turn to the Convention debates, they will see that this very question of directly elective Ministries was discussed, and the clauses in the Constitution were drawn in their present elastic form to enable the Parliament to select the Executive in any way it thought fit. There is no mention throughout the whole Constitution of the “ Prime Minister,” or the “ Cabinet “ ; it is left entirely to Parliament, exercising the good sense it ought to have, to decide what form the Executive shall take - whether it shall be the old, effete, worn out system of collective responsibility, or whether each Department shall be administered by the man best qualified, during good behaviour, as in the case of our Judges. In the latter case a Minister could acquire perfect command of his Department, and become what we desire him to be - a valuable servant of the State for years. Professor Harrison Moore, one of our great authorities, is of opinion that the Constitution leaves it open to us to have elective Ministries. The present Chief Justice, Sir Samuel Griffith, has always contended that the system should be adopted, and that the Federal Executive, with a Chamber exclusively representing the States, should be formed in a different way from that of the Executives under the States Constitution. The first President of the Senate, Sir Richard Baker, held a similar view, and our first Speaker, Sir Frederick Holder, was not at all inimical to directly elective Ministries, and in the Convention supported the elastic provisions which allow of such a change. I should like to read, only time will not permit, a somewhat lengthy extract from a speech by Sir Frederick Holder, in which he points out both the advantages of and the objections to the system; and it is rather important to know what these objections are, because they are those held by most people who are legitimately opposed to the reform. The chief objection is that if we had a number of Ministers individually elected and individually responsible to the House, their relations amongst themselves would be difficult to arrange. Supposing a Minister desired to spend a certain amount which he deemed necessary for the adequate defence of the country, how could he get the Treasurer to make the necessary provision unless there was some supreme authority in the Cabinet? If he did endeavour to arrange with the Treasurer and did not succeed, who would decide? That, on the face of it, seems to be a powerful argument, but the fact is that we have the same difficulty under our present system. I remember in this House one of the best Treasurers we ever had complaining to honorable members, in a somewhat wrappedup manner, that he had kept his word regarding certain Estimates, but that it had been broken by another Minister. The second Minister subsequently rose, and said that he would not be bound down by any Treasurer, but would spend what he thought necessary for his Department, irrespective of the Treasurer’s opinions. Since I first moved in this matter, I have had the extreme pleasure of visiting ‘Switzerland,, where a system of elective Ministries has been in force for many years, and I had the honour of an interview with some of the Ministers, who, when the question was put to them, could not understand such a difficulty arising. They explained their method to me, which is quite consistent with the procedure adopted in the British House of Commons, but, I am sorry to say, is not directly consistent with what has been adopted in this Parliament during the present session. I was informed that, first of all, each Minister in Switzerland submits a printed report setting forth what has been done during the past year in his Department, the changes made, and the statistics connected therewith, and then makes his proposals for the coming year. In all the great spending Departments, these proposals are necessarily submitted first, just as in the House of Commons it has been laid down that votes of Supply must precede votes of Ways and Means, on the principle that we should find out what we are absolutely obliged to spend, and then decide in what manner the taxation shall be arranged to meet the expenditure. It is the system laid down by authorities on the British Constitution j but, as I say, it is not the system adopted there. This does not, of course, get rid of the objection pointed out by Sir Frederick Holder as to the absence of some head to decide differences amongst Ministers ; but that need not stand in our way if we see adequate advantages in the system. It is not beyond the wit of man to devise some means to reconcile any difficulties between Ministers, who, after all, should be the servants of this Parliament, or, more properly, the servants of the people represented in this Parliament. We ought to be able to meet such difficulties and reconcile such differences, or evolve a system under which they will not arise. Since we last dealt with this question an important change has come over this Legislature. We have a Government that is no longer obliged to look for support outside its own ranks - as it has; a sufficient majority to hold office by means, of its own direct supporters. This party has chosen to adopt the system of elective Ministries in its own body, without any reference to any other members of the Parliament. One honorable member opposite has said to me, “ I am sure you will accept this as some step towards the reform you desire ‘ ‘ ; but, as a matter of fact, I regard this change as a departure from the central idea I have been trying to emphasize all through, namely, that Parliament as a whole should have the grip on the Executive. Parliament as a whole should elect the Ministry, because when Ministers are elected by one side only, we not only do not get that grip orr them, but there arises a new set of circumstances which,’ in some respects, is worse than the old. In one way, perhaps, this change might be regarded as a movement in advance, and we may receive it as foreshadowing something to come ; but I think it will never give satisfaction, because it perpetuates the old rule of the political spoils to the political victors. We should have some means under which the ablest and best fitted amongst us could be placed in charge of the Executive offices,irrespective of changing policy. We should1 put into power men in whose ability we have confidence, knowing that in time they would comprehend the difficulties of their position, and make adequate proposals for remedying them. Since Federation there have been eight Commonwealth Administrations, and nine Ministers of Defence, or almost one every year. At the beginning, Parliament had to confess its inability to understand the defence problems. Hardly a man amongst us was capable of giving light and leading in regard to them. But there might have been one of sufficient ability, had he been left in office long enough, to evolve a defence system which the Legislature would have accepted with confidence But for years we spent money uselessly, and it is only now, at the end of a decade, of wastefulness, that we are putting matters into proper shape. Similarly we have had nine Postmasters-General, lt would have been possible for almost any of us, had he been left in the position for two or three years, to acquire a knowledge of the difficulties of postal administration, and to remedy the grievances of the public. Could any man, in twelve months, obtain a sufficient understanding of the ramifications of a private business to make a success of it? If not, how could success in the administration of the Post Office be expected with, an almost annual change of the political head. The present PostmasterGeneral takes a keen interest in the affairs of his Department, and has instituted changes, some of which are producing friction and annoyance. Whether his present action be right or wrong, he will, if he remains in office long enough, acquire information which will enable him to act, rightly in the future.
– The honorable member would make the present political heads permanent officers?
– How have the Commonwealth Administrations risen and fallen? The first - that headed by Sir Edmund Barton - came to an end because of Sir Edmund’s elevation to the High Court Bench. The Deakin Government, which succeeded it, was defeated on a subsidiary clause of a social Bill. There was no common-sense reason for its resignation. Sometimes a Ministry rides for a fall, accepting defeat on a matter of detail to prevent it on a matter of substance. Why should not the Deakin Administration have retained office, allowing the will of the House to be given effect, and continuing to exercise Executive functions, for which its Ministers had considerable capacity ? It was followed by the Watson Administration, which went out almost on the same clause. The Reid-McLean coalition followed. If a coalition of two parties is possible, why not a coalition of several for the purpose of choosing an Executive whose individual members can be displaced only by the direct vote of the Legislature? The Reid-McLean Administration was threatened in its early days by a motion of want of confidence, the issue of which depended on the vote of one man, who boasted that he held the fate of the Ministry in the hollow of his hand, declaring that he could make six men happy and sixty-eight miserable, or sixty-eight happy and six miserable. He chose to make the sixty-eight happy, or, rather, sixty-nine, because he, doubtless, consulted his own inclinations. Thus the House was saved from a dissolution. It should not be within the power of a Government, still less of a member, to bring about a dissolution. Appeals to the electors on any question of government are the least effective way of arriving at a solution, electoral contests being decided on all sorts of issues quite different from that requiring settlement. The Legislature may be regarded as a circle bisected by many party lines. Fiscalism divides it in one way, Socialism in another. When we go to the country, the people vote as they are influenced by a number of minor considerations, into which the personal element largely intrudes. We shall never get away from party influence entirely. There are certain principles for which there must be organization - for the success of which individuals must co-operate - but why should the work of the country cease because of the application of the principle of Cabinet responsibility? Let Ministers remain in power, no matter how policy may change, as long as Parliament has confidence in them. That is the Swiss practice.
– There is a saying of Burke to the effect that minds too conversant with office seldom are remarkable for enlargement.
– I know that Burke has laid it down that responsibility should attach to some individual for every act of administration. He was speaking of permanent officers, but I would apply his words to political officers, too. It sometimes happens that an insignificant individual, who has been included in a Ministry for considerations ‘ such as we know have weight at times, commits a political crime which his colleagues have to defend, because the result threatens the existence of the whole Ministry. The former honorable member for Wilmot, Mr. D. N. Cameron, boasted that he could wreck an Administration, and send the House to the country. He told me one Friday that I had better not go home, because of what might happen, but I told him that he could do what he liked, knowing that men in his position generally regard their fate before that of any one else. But no individual member should have it in his power to wreck an Administration. I have thought over this matter a great deal, and feel that there is more to be said for the change which I suggest than against it. But I do not expect the House to decide in favour of the motion. I am appealing over the heads of honorable members to the reasonable men and women among our constituents. The question will not be solved by the politicians. Until the people are interested in it, and see the reasonableness of the reform in improving the mechanism of our governing institutions, it will not succeed. I ask them, however, to consider how much there is in favour of a change, and I hope in time to secure a verdict which will enable us to bring about a better state of affairs than has hitherto prevailed in the Commonwealth or any State.
.- In seconding the motion I congratulate the honorable member on the speech which he has delivered. He is entitled to the thanks of all who hold advanced views regarding the science of government. It is interesting to review the struggles of poor humanity to arrive at some form of government which will remove inequality of conditions. This has been a laborious and painful process. It began with the election of the chief by the tribe, chosen for his intelligence and strength. He might be called upon at any time to defend his position, and could be displaced by any one possessing greater physical strength. Following him came the feudal lord, and with the combination of the feudal lords we got the king, who could do as he liked with his kingdom. On the people revolting against the absolute monarch, we got the limited monarch, who could act only on the advice of his Ministers. To-day we have the limited monarch plus the Prime Minister, the latter sometimes assuming powers which were formerly possessed by the absolute monarch.
– The Presidentof the United States of America assumes more power than most monarchs possess.
– He has more power than the King of England, but once in four years he has to appeal to the people.
– That is a very imperfect system.
– It is better than a limited monarchy.
– I do not think so.
– I should like to see a change made. Those who take an interest in political questions must often bemoan the fact that so little advance has been made in regard to the science of politico. Contrast it with the march of invention, the improvements which have been made in the conduct of industries, the mechanical contrivances which have been invented for the saving of time and labour. In politics there has been no advance in British communities until within the last few months. According to the honorable member for North Sydney we have made no advance at all ; but I say that it is to the credit of the Labour party of Australia that it has made an advance by electing its Ministers.
– In Tasmania a Ministry was elected by a caucus sixteen years ago.
– We have improved on the old system, under which one man in consultation with a few of his friends chose the Ministry. Some persons deplore the fact that since the advent of the Labour party there are no men of striking ability and individuality in politics.
– We do not want them.
– They speak of the giants of former days, and in pictures of former Legislatures are to be seen the portraits of men who were giants. But while there were giants in those days there was also a very large number of political pigmies. Honorable members will recollect that the late Sir Henry Parkes never chose a man of striking individuality to join his Cabinets, resenting, as strong men do, any interference with the exercise of his will. In the cartoons of the day he was depicted with his Cabinet as a man driving a team of mules. But in his later life, when the Labour party were appearing on the scene, the cartoonists show him in the guise of a mule in the shafts being driven by his Ministers, he being then forced to accept the assistance of strong men. The natural tendency to hero worship offen exalts the individual so much that he at last imagines that he is a kind of deity, and can do no wrong. But the times are changed. We have established a system - and I claim this credit for the Labour party in Australia - which, while it may not be the most perfect, makes it impossible for one man to possess all the power. Our organizations are open to any person who chooses to join them, on payment of a very small fee, amounting, in most cases, to about1s. per quarter; and every individual entering one of those organizations has it in his power to advocate any particular reform in legislation. The organized branches, at given periods, send delegates to a Convention, and that Convention draws up a programme of reform. We then invite candidates who will advocate those reforms, and endeavour to make them law. In this way we get the Labour party. Having got the Parliamentary Labour party, we proceed in caucus to elect our Prime Minister and the members of our Cabinet. The honorable member who submits this motion objects to that system, but he will see that while party systems exist great difficulty must be experienced in substituting any other for it. Although parties may not meet in caucus, there is no doubt that the members of the party in a majority will decide to elect Ministers from their own ranks.
– Will not the honorable member admit that in some cases one party in a minority, plus another in a minority, might alter the decision?
– It is very likely that the party in a majority would agree to support certain candidates. I do not hold that that is the best system. That proposed by the honorable member is an ideal one, and I think that we shall gradually work up to it. I am inclined to think that power and success may possibly introduce certain evils in connexion with all parties, and that those evils will best be remedied by honorable members on the floor of the House selecting the members of every Ministry. No man can prophesy that the Labour party in Australia, which of recent years has been so successful, and which swept the polls at the last general election, is always going to be the dominant power. If we give attention to the experience of other nations, we shall agree that, in all probability, we shall have in the Australian Parliaments not two parties, but perhaps half-a-dozen. I hope that all of us, believing in reform, will do our best to make the Australian Labour party so sound and free from objection that, as far as is possible, it will reign for all time ; but if we fail in our ideals other parties will be formed. Even now there are in Australia certain workers who believe that the Australian Parliamentary Labour parties are not proceeding rapidly enough. They say, “ We want Socialism,” and, in so far as the Commonwealth Labour party and the Labour parties in the State Parliaments are unable to give the people Socialism, in so far will they fail to redress the wrongs and grievances which they set out to redress. If they fail to introduce socialistic legislation rapidly enough to suit the people, then the Socialist party which exists now in small numbers will grow and put forward candidates who will be elected to this and other Parliaments. Since I am afraid that there will be several parties in the Parliaments of Australia in time to come, I prefer that the method proposed by the honorable member for North Sydney should be adopted. It is undoubtedly the fairest, and nothing can be said against it. Honorable members have sometimes said that it would lead to bribery and corruption, but those who have followed the history of the formation of Ministries in former times must know that there was then a great deal more bribery and corruption than there could be in connexion with Ministries elected by the House. It may be said, “ You will have in power a Ministry who, in order to catch the votes of the House, will canvass members, and promise to do this or that.” That may happen, but if an elected Minister were discovered to have done anything wrong in order to secure votes, it would not be long before the majority of the people saw that he was not again returned to Parliament. We have an example of the working of the elective system in connexion with the appointment of the Speakers of our Legislative Assemblies and of the Presidents of our Legislative Councils. The President of the Senate is elected by a vote of the Senate, and Mr. Speaker is elected by this House. If honorable members cast back their minds to the early history of the Federal Parliament they will know that the very men who canvassed most for these positions were left out in the cold. It was tacitly taken to be wrong for a man to canvass on his own behalf, and those who canvassed most were rejected.
– But the presiding officers are generally elected on a party vote.
– That may be for the reason that one party is in a majority. Even if this motion were adopted we might continue to find the party system operating ; but an election by a party vote is far better than that under which a number of men decide that a certain individual shall be their leader, and authorize him to select his Ministry. In such a case a man will allow his personal predilections to prevail, and will select as his Ministers men who are not likely to give him any trouble. I believe that those who would be likely to give a Prime Minister trouble are the very men whom the House, if it had the opportunity, would elect as Ministers. Some of the best men who could be put into a Cabinet would, under the old system, never be in a Ministry. Let us take the case of that able man, who has passed away, Mr. Charles Cameron Kingston. He was a great man, and one whom many of us - and certainly the people of Australia generally - would have been glad at any time to accept as Prime Minister. That honorable gentleman would not have been chosen for a position in a Ministry if certain Prime Ministers had had their way ; but he would always have had a place in a Ministry under the elective system. The ideal Ministry is that which will give us the best brains, ability, and experience, and not take offence if fault is found with its proposals. Under the system which the honorable member for North Sydney has condemned so strongly and forcibly, it is only necessary for the Leader of the Government to have his vanity wounded in order to induce him to threaten to upset the whole course of public business by resigning. In some cases he actually resigned, not on any matter of public policy, but solely because of personal pique.
– If his party were in a majority that would not matter.
– It would. We are all prone to have our self-love - our ego - so developed that it is calculated to make us take up quite a wrong idea of our own importance in the community. The system of party and responsible government leads to that state of affairs. Under the old system the leader of a party was lauded by the newspapers, and no other man in the Ministry of the day had, as a rule, anything to say. He was waited upon by the reporters, and his utterances were published throughout Australia, while here and there he was met by the public and cheered to the echo. In time that individual acquired, in many cases, an exaggerated sense of his own importance.
– That exists to-day.
– I challenge that statement. No one can say that the position at present is what it was in former days.
– In those days a leader of a party came to think that he was infallible.
– Yes; and in some cases no one dared offend him. An honorable member who was not a member of the Government could not introduce a measure, even of vital importance to the public. He might propose some urgent legislation calculated to bring about a much needed reform, but he could not proceed with it. The Leader of the Government of the day would object, saying, “ This is a matter of Government policy,” when his objection to the private member introducing the measure was really a matter of individual vanity. The Leader of the Government of the day with his swollen ego, or, as the French have it, his “hypertrophy of the me.” would object, not on the ground of public policy, but because he knew that it might bring public credit to the individual. That was the weakness of the old system of responsible government. I recognise that it is the duty of every Opposition to obstruct and to endeavour to destroy any legislation put before them by the Government of the day, no matter how good it may be. For election reasons they deem it their duty to prevent the Government in power passing any good legislation, knowing that the public will give them credit for it and will probably vote for them to the loss of the Opposition.
– This Opposition has not followed those tactics.
– This is not a personal matter.
– Of course present company is always excepted. Honorable members opposite are high-minded patriots, and are not in any way actuated by the unworthy motives of previous Oppositions. I am thoroughly in accord with the honorable member for North Sydney, and am grateful to him for having brought this matter forward. I hope that the time will come when the House will elect Ministries and remove from the science of government the last vestige or that personal influence and self-love which does so muchto prevent the passing of effective legislation.
.- Some honorable members are of opinion that since the members of this Parliament have resolved themselves into two parties a motion of this kind must be thrown back into what is practically a mere academic position. Listening during this debate to interjections from various parts of the House, I feel very strongly that even if a discussion of this kind has to be conducted on academic lines a great deal more needs to be understood by some honorable members regarding its purely theoretical aspect. I heard, for instance, an interjection directed to the honorable member for Capricornia which led him off to a comparison between the President of the United States and the King of Great Britain. I cannot follow the honorable member in that comparison. i would point out that we are concerned at present with the question of whether the Ministries of a Parliament such as this ought to be selected by open vote on the floor of the House, or whether we ought to continue the existing system. While honorable members may think that the present system is the two-party system in its best form, and that no improvement is necessary, I would remind the House that even under existing conditions we can see some of the disadvantages of collective Cabinet responsibility. We had them before us only a little while ago in a very acute form, and they are bound to arise frequently even with the most solid party behind the Government, and with the most unanimous Ministry it is possible to imagine. The Labour party have undoubtedly the credit of initiating the elective principle as applied to Ministers; and, in my opinion, this is a step in the right direction. But without betraying any of the confidences of the caucus, I may say that the method of selection is not exactly what is advocated by those who believe in the elective Ministry principle as in operation in at least one country of the world, namely, Switzerland. In the Labour caucus, as one Minister at least has clearly indicated, the selection is en bloc. Ministers are not chosen individually, and the apportionment of portfolios is made after the number has been elected. Under the system that I and others propose, the idea is that the Parliament as a whole shall proceed to elect the individual electors for individual positions in the Cabinet. It is only in that way that the special qualifications of members can be voted on in connexion with the particular offices. Then, again, there is a fault in the system as adopted by the Labour party in that collective responsibility is still adhered to. Those of us who believe in elective Ministries desire as an important part and parcel of the reform to do away with collective responsibility ; in fact, the object that we are seeking is to create individual responsibility, and this can best be obtained by the method of individual election. ‘ It is some five years since this matter was brought up in the House, and, having interested myself in the subject at that time, and followed it up carefully since, I have been watching for criticisms and objections ; but during all these years I have seen none that I can regard as at all serious. The honorable member for North Sydney has quoted one objection as having been voiced by the late Speaker, Sir Frederick Holder, who had a more than friendly leaning towards the reform.
– He was not at all antagonistic.
– That is so. This is a difficulty which undoubtedly has to be faced; but I think that a very excellent exposition of the way out was given by the honorable member for North Sydney. But even supposing that it were impossible under the elective system to reconcile differences of Ministers within the Cabinet, there is, under the reform we propose, a very ready and very obvious method. At present, when Ministers have differences of opinion, they must reconcile them amongst themselves in the best way they can; and, to the credit of the present system, this, as a rule, is able to be done. But sometimes it happens that a Minister, unable to agree with his colleagues on a matter which he regards as vital, has to resign, and it is often not until months, and, perhaps, years have elapsed that Parliament discovers what was the real difficulty. In the case of an elective Ministry having a difference amongst themselves on a matter of policy or procedure - say a difference between the Treasurer and the Minister of Defence in regard to the amount to be spent on the latter’s Department - if the difference could not be reconciled within the Cabinet, the next step would simply be for the Ministers, on the floor of the House, to state their case and let honorable members decide the matter as a whole.
– There would be a vote of want of confidence about once a week !
– Not so, because the solid cabinet has disappeared, and all that would remain would be the settlement of the difference of opinion between two Ministers. If a Minister, having had a difference decided against him by a majority of the Parliament, thought it necessary to resign, he could do so, but there would be no obligation on him to resign. A vote of this kind would not be regarded as a vote of want of confidence ; as a matter of fact, the Minister would, in all probability, accept the situation with thankfulness, as helping him out of an awkward position. Until he had a vote of want of confidence directed against him in a straight-out fashion, it would be his duty to go on with the work Parliament had previously intrusted to him.
– Judges differ without resigning.
– It is a matter of common occurrence in other departments of life for differences to be settled against an individual, who does not take such a decision as in any way descrediting him. I feel sure that we can, and will, ultimately adopt a common-sense procedure like that in Parliament. A very common objection urged against a reform is that it is impracticable. That is the old conservative attitude of those who prefer use and wont to anything new. In this case, however, such an objection cannot be urged, for the very sufficient reason that the system is in active operation now in Switzerland, a country from which modern civilization has derived many useful lessons in politics, and which is very correctly regarded in many respects as the schoolmaster of the world. In that country the system was adopted for the very reasons which, I believe, will make it obligatory on us - the frequent changes of Ministers, the lack of continuity of policy, .and the general deterioration and demoralization in the affairs of the country which was the result. The Swiss have had, I think, sixty years’ experience of the system, and I have yet to find any one acquainted with the politics of the country who desires to go back to the old state of affairs. The improvements have been marked in almost every direction ; and although the supporters of the system cannot claim that it will do away with all difficulties of procedure and solve every problem in political life, the results are such as to make it, in my opinion, a very great advance on the present system. There has been one objection urged pretty frequently within Australia, and, as it has come from several politicians of great experience, it requires to be faced. The objection is that the proposed system will lend itself to intrigue. Those acquainted with the present methods of selecting Ministers - I do not profess to have much knowledge of them - inform me that intrigue is not by any means entirely absent. It is a somewhat amusing fact that the objections urged against elective Ministries as leading to intrigue are very frequently in the mouths of past-masters of that art. When experienced politicians, who have used underground tactics frequently and wilh advantage, under the present system, object to the proposed reform because it is likely to lead to intrigue, I, with some little knowledge of human nature, am inclined to take the very opposite view from that they express. I feel sure that this system would reduce intrigue to a minimum, and that where it was attempted or practised it would be met in the most effective manner possible, namely, by making the person who participated directly responsible by having to record his action before the electors by open vote.. The system of a secret ballot adopted by the Labour party is not, in my opinion, satisfactory.
– It is very unfortunate in its results !
– I should not say that, because, on the whole, I think that the selection is one that reflects credit on those who have adopted the system. But as a necessary part of this reform, the voting must take place openly on the floor of the House in the same way as for Mr. Speaker. Where intrigue results in a member of the House unworthy of the position being placed in charge of a portfolio, it will be the business and the duty of the constituents of any member who has voted unwisely to punish him for his action. I feel sure that, with open voting, and with the number of persons participating, there would be much less likelihood of intrigue being successful than there is at present.
– Is the election of Mr. Speaker left to the decision of the House as a whole?
– At any rate, the election takes place on the floor of the House, and members accept responsibility for their action.
– Is the question not always settled before it comes into the House ?
– That may be. I have nothing to do with that. Members may intrigue and plan in connexion with elective Ministries as much as they like outside the House - that cannot be avoided - but, having made their arrangement outside, they must, at any rate, run the gauntlet of public observation and criticism, .and, in that way, the rights of the public are best defended. A few days ago the honorable member for Parkes, whose opinions, although we may differ from him, are always entitled to careful consideration, interjected to the effect that Ministers had two opinions with regard to the Federal Capital question, and that this showed what would happen under the elective system. That remark was made very hastily and, I think, was unfortunate. Under tie elective system, Ministers would no longer need to have two opinions - they would no longer have to show that remarkable change of front which is inevitable under present conditions. An .elective Minister would continue to hold his own opinions, and be perfectly free to advocate and. vote for them in the usual way. As the time devoted to private members’ business has about expired, I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future occasion.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Report (No. 3) presented by Sir John Quick, read by the Clerk, and adopted.
Debate resumed from 14th September (vide page 3134), on motion by Mr. Fisher -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Deakin had moved, by way of amendment -
That after the word “That” the’ following words be inserted : - “ the form of land tax outlined by the Prime Minister, and provided for in this Bill, is unjust in its incidence and an abuse of Federal powers.”
Mr. WEBSTER (Gwydir) (3.30). - I cannot very well allow this debate to conclude without making a few remarks. Under the circumstances, I shall not weary the House, if I can possibly avoid doing so, with repetitions of the arguments used by previous speakers. I realize that Hansard has been filled with statistics on both sides ; and that, so far as figures are concerned, honorable members are amply informed as to the merits of the question. It is not my intention to trouble the House much with statistics. In the first place, let me say that I am delighted to support a measure of this kind. It is nearly thirty years since it dawned on me that the onlyway in which to bring about the proper development of this country was to make the land available for the people. My opinion has never changed since, and in and out of season I have advocated land taxation for the purpose of breaking up the large estates, and placing the burden of taxation on the shoulders of those who have not hitherto furnished their fair proportion of the cost of administration. I do not think that we can proceed on more equitable lines than those of the measure. The speech of the honorable member for Ballarat was, as usual, an able deliverance, because he is a great orator; but it was a very feeble exposition of the reasons why the Opposition are attacking the Bill. He has a great deal to do if he would ward off from the party the discredit which must attach to it for not having done, when it was in power, what we now propose to do. He told us that he has always been a land taxer, and has urged land taxation on the Victorian Parliament. I am aware of that.. I have read his utterances on the subject as a private member of the State Parliament and as a Minister, and some of them have instructed me as to the ideas underlying taxation of this nature. It was pitiful, therefore, to hear him endeavouring to make out a case against this measure. His followers have tried to support him, but the debate has been more or less what I may call a gramophone debate. The only speaker on the opposite side who has not followed his leader exactly is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who railed at Ministers, members of the Labour party and everything in general, because what is proposed is not exactly what he desires.. He is always railing. When a man who has once strongly advocated a policy finds himself compelled by circumstances to denounce it, he has a difficult task, and has to resort to arguments which are not logical. The honorable member objects to members, on this side relating the experiences which they have gained respecting particular electorates. He complained that they look at the question, not from a national, but from a parochial, point of view. But if every member explained the conditions of his electorate as lucidly and ably as tha honorable members for Corangamite and Riverina have done, there would be that “ multitude of counsel “ which would inevitably, lead us to a sound conclusion. Thereis land monopoly all over Australia. From the beginning those whom honorable members opposite represent have been makingthe laws to suit themselves. Before the people were enfranchised, and could not say yea or. nay to proposals of legislation, their land was filched from them, and thefoundation laid of the system of monopoly- which now presses so heavily on the country. In New South Wales, in the sixties, land was sold at as. an acre, subject to conditions which, had they been insisted on, would have given something like a Quid fro quo; but the law was so unfaithfully administered that these conditions were not observed. It is well known to students of land legislation that whenever it was desired to make it easier to acquire land, agitation was set afoot, and a law was passed to that end. When that law ceased to be effective for its purpose, another was passed to open a new door. So the practice continued of making the acquisition of large estates more and more easy, while it becomes more and more difficult for the people at large to get a footing. In Tasmania thirteen Land Acts were passed between i860 and 1870, ali of them having as their object the handing over of the lands of the country to the class then controlling its policy. The same thing happened in Queensland. There, in 1862, free selection before survey was provided for. Men were allowed to “ peacock “ the country, to choose its best land, which they took up at very little cost. The honorable member for Parramatta said that “peacocking” was against the interests of the squatters, but in the main it was done by the squatters with the aid of dummies, in the manner so forcibly exposed in a work -written by the honorable member for Bendigo, whom I call to witness as to what was done in Victoria. The same thing happened in New South Wales to a greater extent, and in every State dummying has been resorted to by those who wished to obtain land illegally. When Queensland substituted conditional purchase for her leasehold system, the object was to enable men of small means to acquire land, but the result has been that large estates have been increased. In 1893 - I do not know what forces were at work - the Parliament of that “State passed a law known as the Cooperative Communities Act,, to enable men -of small means to acquire land and work it in co-operation, but the Act has been a dead letter, never having been put into operation, because those in Parliament who desired its success were not strong enough to compel its proper administration. We have been told that there is any quantity of land available in Western Australia, and yet the Government there has had to buy back private estates.
– Nearly as many estates have been resumed in New South Wales. In Western Australia - the baby State of the union - what is known as the Repurchase of Crown Lands Act was passed as early as 1896, because the people could not get land on which to settle.
– The demand for that Act was purely local, and in respect to some of the older settled portions of the State.
– The honorable members for Parramatta and Kooyong and others have said that the young men of to-day have no right to ask for land near centres of population, but should go into the back blocks. I find that in Tasmania, at the first land sale, an area of 70,000 acres was sold for ,£20,000. That is land upon which the cities of the State have since been built, through which railwaysare now running, and which is close to rivers.
– Hundreds of acres were granted for nothing.
– Had I the time I could show that immense areas were granted for nothing. In every State the traveller can see the evil effects of land monopoly, which, is strangling the development of the country. During the last three or four years the New South Wales Government has spent £2,000,000 in resuming land andplacing settlers on it, with the result that, at most, 1,100 settlers have been added to the population of the State. What will it cost to resume the area necessary for the population required for the defence of the country? It is admitted in New South’ Wales that the repurchase system will do nothing for the solution of our present difficulties. They can be solved only by bringing land down to its normal use value, so that persons who will develop it can go on it and rear families. If honorable members desire further proof of the position in New South Wales, let me quote what Sir Joseph Carruthers said when addressing the young Australian students of the Hawkesbury College, who were being educated in the methods of using soil. The report says -
Mr. Carruthers warmed up considerably when on the question of securing land. “ You read in the papers that there is no land available,” he said, “ I tell you, you have only to travel about this State to know that there are millions of acres of land crying out loud for labour to work it.”
He went on to explain that he was not referring to Crown lands. Millions of acres of land were waiting for people to use them, but they did not belong to the Crown -
He advised them not to let Crown lands be their goal, and said that if he had half a dozen boys he would not let one of them go on such land. There are conditions about it which went against the grain.
Sir Joseph Carruthers, an exMinister of Lands, and then Premier of New South Wales, took up the position that there were no lands in the hands of the State Government which he would allow his boys to take up. He advised these students - these sons of farmers - to look, not to the Government, but to private owners, for suitable land. When I put this statement before the House on a former occasion, Sir Joseph Carruthers positively denied that he had ever made it, and he saw fit to cast serious reflections upon my veracity. I produced the reports that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph, both of which agreed as to the words uttered by him, but he had not the manliness to admit that he was wrong or to apologize for the injustice he had done me. Sir Joseph Carruthers has had a great deal to do with the making of the laws of New South Wales. He is one of those who were responsible for the settlement lease and homestead selection laws, which he believed would enable the small man to get on the land. He has admitted, however, that he made a mistake, and that the leasehold system has not been so successful as he thought it would be. He journeyed to London ostensibly as financial agent for the State Government, but in reality he used the knowledge that he had gained as a public man and as a student of the land laws of Australia in forming a great syndicate. That syndicate is now working in New South Wales, and has been doing so for some months. It would be interesting to inquire into the operations of that great monopolistic land company,’ which, so to speak, has been picking up land all over New South Wales. As soon as a railway is talked of, the company or its agent is on the job to get land in the district, and so to catch the unearned increment. It can be proved that it captured practically every piece of land that it was possible to capture along the north coast railway, which is now being built, so as to reap the value of that railway communication. Whenever there is an agitation for the construction of a railway, or a proposal for the construction of a line is submitted to the Works Committee, it is generally understood that the land company is ready to pick out the eyes of the district which; is to be served in that way, and so to deprive the people of the benefits which they ought to receive from the expenditure of public money. I very much question whether the Government of New South Wales would be altogether clear if such an inquiry as I have suggested were pushed to its utmost limits. It has been the practice in the past for Ministers of Lands in New South Wales to utilize their office in order to materially enrich themselves. It is no wild statement that it was the invariable practice for a man seeking land, not to go to the fountain head, but to carry on negotiations through some medium who was always known to the Minister of the day, and often associated in business with him. But since Sir Joseph Carruthers has been out of office he has taken up this position : That it is not safe for a Minister of Lands to continue the practices that were exposed by the inquiry into the land scandals, and that the only safe course to pursue is to secure the unearned increment by capturing every piece of land which is going to be benefited by the expenditure of public money. Therein lies the crux of the whole situation. Knowing of the operations of this and other syndicates which came to Australia to pick out the eyes of the country, and to take away practically the unearned increment, I am glad that this Bill is going to be passed, and that what they thought they would obtain will be taken from them by legal process for the benefit of the people. I applaud the Government for submitting this measure, and my advice to them is to stand firm. I urge them not to be drawn aside by the subtle arguments of the Opposition. Upon analyzing those arguments, we find that, if they were to prevail, it would be impossible to impose any taxation. The objections of the Opposition leave no room for a land tax of any kind. They say: “ You are going to ruin lots of men who own land to-day, and you will not benefit the country as a whole.”
– That is true.
– Let me remind the honorable member that ever since the initiation of responsible government in the Commonwealth we have been engaged in. making laws for one particular section. We want now to pass laws that will give the masses the right to enjoy their heritage, and enable them to become possessed of some of the best land. When we try to do something for the landless, we find honorable members opposite howling and declaring that we shall do an injustice to a few men who have already reaped a rich harvest from the monopoly they have exercised over the land.
– The landless men could not have been very active in New South Wales, or Sir Joseph Carruthers’ syndicate would not have been able to pick up land all over the State, as the honorable member says it has done.
- Sir Joseph Carruthers is wise in his generation, and is said to be one of the richest men in New South Wales. If he is, he has been fairly busy since he left office as Premier and I should like to know the direction in which his energies have been applied. I should like to know, also, what effect it would have upon the country and the Government that has succeeded his Ministry if that were exposed.
– Is it quite fair to drag in the name of a man who is not here?
– It is just as fair as it was for him to declare that I lied when I quoted the statement that he made at the Hawkesbury College. He refused, when he was bowled out, to admit that he had made a mistake. I am not attacking Sir Joseph Carruthers as a man. I am attacking him as a one-time Minister of Lands, and a one-time Premier of New South Wales, who inaugurated the leasehold system there. He was not altogether free from suspicion when the land scandals were being investigated. Owing to the limitation to the scope of the inquiry, he could not be brought to book with regard
q* any transaction. As Premier of New South Wales, he probably had something to do with the circumscribing of the lines of that investigation, and with the appointment of the barrister who represented the Crown. He and the men who were associated with him practically knew all along the line what was being done in New South Wales. When the exposure was made, the men who were really behind **Sir Joseph Carruthers in the State Parliament, and who were most anxious to use those disclosures to enable them to climb into the Treasury benches, drew in their horns. They did so the moment danger was created by the exposure, and they clubbed together to prevent the disclosures ever being fully and satisfactorily made public.
It is by reason of such administration that” large estates have been built up, and it is hy legislation such as that now before us that we shall be able ultimately to bring about something like equity in the administration of the lands of Australia.
– Does the honorable member think that this Bill is equitable?
– I see nothing inequitable in it. The Opposition say that we should have no exemptions. I wouldremind my honorable friends that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition at one timeadvocated a land tax of is. in the £1, with no exemption.
– Just as the present AttorneyGeneral did a little while ago.
– I know nothing as to that, but I know that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition at one time advocated a land tax of is. in the £1, without any exemption. The honorable member for Wilmot should remember that fact when he asks whether there is any equity ‘ in this Bill. I favour the proposed exemption as being equitable. As a matter of fact, those who have incomes of £,500 and over pay only one-fifth of the taxation imposed to provide for the services of the Government of Australia, while those who have incomes of less than £500 pay four-fifths. The time has arrived when those who have so long escaped the payment of their just proportion of taxation should be called upon to bear it. The owner of £5,000 worth of unimproved land values pays as much through the Customs as dees the owner of £40,000 worth. The Labour party have been trying to get a living wage for all men. They claim that every man has a right to have sufficient land to enable him, not merely to eke out an existence, but to obtain a decent living, and to clothe and educate his family as they should be in a civilized community. Having secured him in that position, it cannot be said that we are doing anything inequitable in providing that people having property the unimproved value of which exceeds £5,000 shall give to the services of the country a just proportion of their wealth. Something is certainly necessary te equalize the burden of taxation. Some people profess to be surprised to find the Labour party standing firmly to their guns in regard to this Bill. If they visited our land-locked towns, they would not be at all surprised. Town after town along our railway lines is being retarded in its development owing to the existence of large properties within its immediate neighbourhood. It is practically impossible to obtain an allotment of land on which to build a cottage on the borders of Camden without being under an obligation to a large land-owner. The position is the same at Bathurst; while Tamworth was, until recently, struggling for years, owing to the operations of the Peel River Company. It is this crippling condition of affairs in country districts which tends to drive people into our large cities, and itexists all over the country. I am satisfied that if the Government will stick to this measure-
– Stick to it ! We are glued to it.
– My desire is that the Government shall stand by the details of the Bill. We hear from honorable members opposite a great deal about the injustice which they say this tax is going to impose on land companies and so forth. But if we begin to make any allowances we shall open a door through which all who can will escape from their fair share of taxation. What has killed the efficacy of the land tax measure in New Zealand is its want of strictness, and the opening of loop-holes, which are always looked for by the legal fraternity, and made use of by those who desire to escape taxation. The measure is quite right in making assurance doubly sure that the land-owner who is liable shall pay his tax. Ido not feel at all afraid that the Governmentwill give way on any vital point, but I know that if they do so, it will be so much the worse for the Government. For many years we have been educating the people as to the advantages of a taxation policy of this description; and we have been returned by a majority such as has never been seen in this Parliament before, in order to carry that policy into effect. If this measure is passed without any alteration of a vital character I feel satisfied that the Opposition will be doomed to remain in opposition for many years. There can be only one result, and that is that within threeyears we shall see large areas of land throughout Australia being put to their proper and profitable use, and shall be able to honestly invite a great stream of immigration to assist in the development of this great country. Prosperity must follow the passing of a measure like this, and the party instrumental in placing it upon the statute-book will reap their reward when they have once more to appeal to the people. We shall be regarded as a party who carry out the promises they make; and I am sure the people will be all the happier for legislation of this character.
.- The speech which we have just heard is on all fours with other speeches from honorable gentlemen opposite. We have had a few charges of inconsistency, a few trifling annexations from history for the honorable member’s own purposes, a few appeals to class hatred by describing the landlords, though, of course, not the Labour landlords, as the oppressors of the poor, and an epoch-making speech has passed into the pages of Hansard, and, let us confidently expect, into the annals of history !
The honorable member for Gwydir, however, went a little further than his colleagues in the extremity of his charges. He did not hesitate to make broad charges of corruption against servants of the Crown in Australia. He did not hesitate to hold up Ministers of Lands as a class to the obloquy of their fellows as men who have used their high office for their personal advancement. I deeply regret, and I think the House deeply regrets, that such statements should be made in a Chamber of this character. The honorable member tried to make it appear that the land swindles in New South Wales were directly traceable to the Carruthers Government and the succeeding Government. Yet no one knows better than the honorable member that those scandals occurred during the tenure of office of a Government supported by the Labour party of New South Wales ! This honorable member, who is so free with his charges against Sir Joseph Carruthers, knows that Mr. Justice Owen, in his report, completely exonerated that gentleman from any connexion with the land scandals. So far from Sir Joseph Carruthers or his successors circumscribing the orbit of that inquiry, Mr. Justice Owen was given the right to roam where he chose in search’ of information; and some of the directions of his roaming did not give altogether complete satisfaction to persons who were seeking platform advertisement out of the laying of the foundation of the charges !
There is only one reference I shall make to the alleged arguments of the honorable member, and that is to a very curious inconsistency. The honorable member started by telling us that there is no land to be obtained in Australia.
– I think we ought to have some Government supporters here to listen to this speech. [Quorum formed.)
– I personally should not have asked my friends opposite to invade the sacred calm of this chamber, especially as they did not see fit to accord any greater appreciation to the epoch-making speech of the honorable member for Gwydir.
I was saying that the statements of the honorable member were mutually conflicting. In the first place, he said that we had no land available in Australia, and then he said that Sir Joseph Carruthers, and, I suppose, a few other persons like my friend, the Attorney-General, had been picking the eyes out of the land since that date.
– Did the honorable member speak of the Attorney-General?
– No, but that honorable gentleman has been able to pick up land, just as others mentioned by the honorable member have done.
– But the honorable member said that the honorable member for Gwydir had referred to the AttorneyGeneral.’
– I shall withdraw my statement as to anything said by the honorable member for Gwydir against the AttorneyGeneral ! I may assume that the honorable member for Barrier is afraid that the honorable member may have said something about himself also.
Before I pass away from the speech of the honorable member I should like to express the sincere hope that this debate is not going to be made a stalking-horse, in the way attempted, to influence public opinion during the current elections in New South Wales. The honorable member said that Sir Joseph Carruthers is one of the richest men in the State; and of that I know nothing, though I doubt its truth. He then went on to say that if it could only be ascertained how Sir Joseph Carruthers became one of the richest men in the State it would seriously affect the state of public opinion in New South Wales at the present juncture. That statement is not only without any justification, but is one that should not be made in a deliberative chamber of this character. No one can point the finger of reproach at the New South Wales Government on the score of its honesty and probity during its conduct of the country’s affairs. It is well known to every member of the Opposition in New South Wales, and also to the vast majority of the people of that State, that whatever charges they may have, or they think they have, against the Government, no man can say that the latter have not been honest from their very inception to the present time.
– What has this to do with the question before the Chair?
– The Minister asks me that question when I am defending the good character and reputation of men who are not here to defend themselves. Why did the Minister not ask that question when his follower was levelling charges broadcast against them? I apologize to theHouse for having to refute those slanders, and I hope it is the last time we shall hear them uttered against men whose characters, are worthy only of our respect.
I do not propose to address myself at any great length to this Bill, or to emphasizeunduly the fact that the lands of Australia, with their diversities of conditions, can be very much more readily and sensibly handled by the local government bodies than by one central Parliament. Nor have I any wish to emphasize the further fact that, owing to various land taxes already in operation in Australia, the proposed Federal tax will bear unequally throughout the land.
– The honorable member for Coolgardie says that he hopes the tax will bear heavily on the honorable member.
– I do not think that 1 shall be liable for the tax under the Bill. But, if I were, I should address the same remarks, neither more nor less, that I am now addressing against the measure. This is not the first time the honorable member has suggested self-interest in my arguments to the House. On a previous occasion he charged me, when opposing the construction of a transcontinental railway, with being interested in shipping companies.
– Is the honorable member quite sure?
– I think the pages of. Hansard will show that I am right.
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the question before the Chair?
– Yes, sir, if you will stop the honorable member making foundationless insinuations against me while I am performing my duty in this Chamber. I am about the last man that such charges can be made against; and, personally, J believe that such charges should not be lightly levelled against honorable members of this House. I hope, therefore, that the honorable member for Coolgardie will cease firing at me from behind a hedge.
– More Kellys than Mahons have shot from behind hedges.
– AmI to understand, then, that the honorable member admits that he was never a martyr - that all this tale of suffering for Ireland at Kilmainham Gaol is so much flummery in order to obtain the support of my compatriots in Western Australia ? However, I do not desire to bandy words with the honorable member, and I hope I shall be permitted by the irascible honorable member to continue my criticism of the Bill.
I have to ask myself, first, what is this Bill designed to do; secondly, how will it carry out its purpose; and, thirdly, who will pay the tax? I have come to the conclusion that the Bill is designed for two purposes. In the first place, it is to raise revenue, and, in the second place, to damage with a bludgeon landed interests that deserve, and are already receiving to some extent, the attention of the various State Legislatures.
As to the revenue this taxation will yield, the Prime Minister can give us no information, and the very caucus is silent.
– It will yield . £3,000,000 a year.
– The honorable member has multiplied by three the official estimate !
– And I think the honorable member is nearer the truth.
– Possibly. I visited the Statistical Bureau, only to find that there is there no information available to show how many people will pay the tax, how many absentees will be liable, or what is the valuation of the taxable properties in Australia,
– We were promised a return.
– We have been promised many things. The other day, the Prime Minister told a deputation that that was not the time to give a reply as to the possible revenue, and apparently Parliament is not the proper place ! The Government, in introducing this measure, is very much in the position of a masked man putting a dynamite cartridge to a safe - theyield may exceed his wildest expectations, whereas, on the other hand, the damage done may be his only satisfaction! A House of this kind is entitled to have Ministerial estimates of the revenue to be yielded. One honorable member of the caucus says that the yield will be£3,000,000, while the official head of the caucus says it will be £1,000,000, and the latter, we know, is anxious to show a credit balance at the end of the year. Parliament is supposed to be a reflection of the intelligence of the community.
– Be careful - that may rebound on the honorable member.
– Whatever else may rebound, intelligence very rarely does. The honorable member asks me to Be careful in stating that this House reflects the intelligence of the people of Australia. What a slander on our national intelligence if the present method of conducting public business is to be permitted to continue !
I should like to congratulate honorable members opposite on having found an admirable weapon for keeping alive the class jealousy and class bitterness on which they live. It seems to me that this Bill offers a very cheap means of keeping in cheap notoriety a still cheaper party at great expense to the people of Australia. Every person in the country will have to help to bear this tax. I do not expect that consideration to weigh very much with honorable members who refuse a free Government audit for their own unions. But I repeat that every one must help to bear this tax. Why ? Because it is a tax on production. Honorable members opposite say that this is a tax on wealth, and in the next breath tell us that all wealth springs from labour. If all wealth comes from labour, how can we tax wealth without taxing labour? What is capital but a section of industry, and how can we tax industry without taxing labour? Capital is the stored industry of mankind, and, like that industry, gravitates to the place where it can most easily and safely reap the reward of its operations.
Have honorable members opposite ever asked themselves why some countries, intrinsically rich, remain poor? If they have done so, they will find that it is either because the people are without enterprise, or because their Governments refuse to give their enterprise an outlet for its energies.
Egypt is an object lesson for us in considering the Bill. A few years ago, before the British went to that country, taxation was regarded by its rulers as a Heaven-sent engine for the uplifting of humanity. But the engine passed over humanity and left nothing but mangled ruin in its train. The government of Egypt, like the government of Australia, was in the hands of persons who thought they had no responsibility for the hardships resulting from the taxation which they imposed ; who were without a knowledge of the science of economics, and totally unfitted for the intricate responsibilities of Government. When, as the result of misgovernment, production was at a standstill and industry stagnant, when public credit and security was a mockery, and national bankruptcy had ensued, the British brought the science of economics to the rescue of the people; and within a few years what had been a desolation became a land smiling with plenty.
Let honorable members consider also the case of South America. Why has that continent, comprising the richest countries in the world, remained for a century in a backwater of the river of the world’s progress? It is because capital there has had no protection in its legitimate operations. Bandits have abounded to rob capital of its rewards after the earth has yielded its riches. What does it matter to human industry whether bandits abound in the country, or all the bandits are in Parliament? The result to human industry is the same.
What I principally deplore on the present occasion is that the Bill advertises to the world the fact that Australia is in the hands of the confiscator. Every one will know that, although here the private thief is jailed, and the private malefactor receives little leniency, the Labour party has introduced ethics of government which are, fortunately, foreign to the traditions of our race.
The measure will frighten money from the Commonwealth.
– To other parts of the world. Would honorable members, if they were living in England, and had money to invest, send it to Australia, knowing that other investors here had had their last shilling confiscated, as the result of this tax? The measure declares that every company registered in England is to be regarded as an absentee, though its shareholders may never have seen Australia. ‘ Do not honorable members know that our industries are fostered by the investment of capital from abroad, and our people given employment thereby? Yet they wish to declare what is beneficent as dangerous, and to tax English companies as absentees.
– The British Government taxes absentees.
– Not so. Did the honorable member for East Sydney tell his electors that the Bill would tax’ city property ?
– Give notice !
– The honorable member is afraid to answer the question ; but, as he has asked for notice, I propose to-morrow to repeat, through Mr. Speaker, the same question, during the time set apart for the asking of questions. I ask honorable members if capitalists abroad will send money here to develop our country, to help to sow our fields, and to help to reap our harvest, when they know that the hand of the confiscator will be upon their operations?
– That is not so.
– What, then, is the meaning of the absentee clauses of the Bill? Why are men who have never seen Australia arbitrarily designated absentees?
– Because they are not consumers !
– The honorable member seems to think that the best Australian is he who consumes most. Is that the basis of the pretence that the Labour party constitute the cream of the Australian public? Are they the greatest consumers? Honorable gentlemen opposite propose to tax absentees because they are mad with class hatred, and because of two or three absentee Australians, are ready to strike a blow at the vital interests of the Commonwealth.
– What about the Cooper estates ?
– Because the Australian owner of perhaps £500,000 worth of land has gone to live abroad honorable members are ready to drive millions of capital of foreign investors out of the country !
– Should the owner of such an estate escape taxation?
– I do not think that he should.
– All we propose is to prevent that.
– That is not all that is proposed. According to the Bill an absentee is any person residing out of Australia, including any person who is absent on the date when the ownership of the land for the purposes of this tax is determined, and “ companies formed out of Australia, or of which more than two-fifths of the shares are held by persons not residing in Australia.” Honorable members aim at not only real absentees, but also at those who are assisting the development of the country by sending capital here.
– The owner of the Cooper estates and others will not pay this tax - their covenants will save them from it.
– That may be so, but the point with which I am now dealing is that the absentee tax will frighten and keep from Australia capital which is needed for its development.
Honorable members opposite speak of what Governments have done, but most of our public works have been paid for with money borrowed from English investors. Unfortunately, of late years British capital has been leaving Australia. In 1902 there was £387,250,000 invested here, including what was lent to Governments and various local governing bodies, but in 1908-9 there was only £360,000,000, a falling off of £27,250,000.
– What dividends have those received who have invested money in Australia ?
– I shall presently show that some of them have received no return! at all. It must be remembered that during the period to which I refer the various State Governments borrowed about £30,000,000.
– The New South Wales Government was the chief borrower.
– Yes, the See Government, under the domination of the Labour party. Deducting that amount it will be seen that the English capital privately invested in Australia now, is £60,000,000 less than it was seven years ago.
– But we are more prosperous than we were then.
– The prosperity has come about under Governments to which honorable members opposite are bitterly opposed, but it has been mainly due to the good seasons which the country has enjoyed.
– And to the enterprise of our people.
– Yes. With £60,000,000 more British capital we should have done still better.
– British investors do not send money here for philanthropic reasons.
– No, but in helping themselves they help us. To make profits they buy from our people and give employment in the country.
But let us see how some of them have fared. I take my figures from the Australasian Joint Stock Companies’ Year-Book, published in Sydney, and deal first with The Agency Land and Finance Company of Australia, which has an authorized capital of £1,000,000. One hundred thousand shares have been forfeited, and the debit balance on 30th June, 1908, was £264,863. Accounts are made-up yearly to 30th June, and submitted in November. The dividends toJune, 1891 and 1892, were 7 per cent, per annum; to June, 1893, 6 per cent.; toJune, 1894, 5 per cent. ; and since 1894 - or sixteen years ago - no dividend has been paid.
– What was the original amount of capital?
– £1,000,000 sterling, subscribed by the people of England to aid in the development of Australia. I ask honorable members to consider for one moment the position of the Australasian Investment Company, a reference to which will be found at page 147 of Nash’s Australasian Joint Stock Companies’ YearBoo k.
– Give us details as to the Peel River Company.
– I could look them up. At present I have time to deal only with the “ A’s “ in the list of trading and other companies. The Australasian Investment Company has a capital of £1,000,000, and for some years, up to 1892, paid dividends of 4 per cent. Since that year, however, it has paid no dividend.
– 1892 was the boom year.
– Since that boom year this company - which is an absentee company under this Bill, and as such will have to pay additional taxation - has made no profit. Details as to the position of the Australian Estates and Mortgage Company appear at page 149 of this record, and, as they are somewhat lengthy, I shall content myself by giving the reference, so that honorable members may look them up for themselves. Then we have the Australasian Pastoral Company, which also belongs to a special class of companies doing business in Australia. For a number of years this company paid no dividends. In 1907-8 it again started paying them,, and now we are going to wipe out those dividends, and a good deal more, by imposing upon it an absentee tax.
All these companies are declared to be absentees because they are registered in London; and 99 per cent, of their shareholders are probably British investors who have never seen Australia. If the Government frighten this money out of Australia they will give the Commonwealth such a bad name that, should they change their minds, they will find it not only difficult to induce such money to be again invested here, but extremely difficult to convert the Government loans already resting on the backs of Australian taxpayers. We have to convert, within the next few years, loans amounting to many millions sterling ; and if we confiscate the values of these persons in unprofitable Australian properties by declaring that men who have never been Australians shall be regarded as absentees, then we shall give Australia a bad advertisement, and will have to pay more than the price by way of interest in the conversion of existing loans.
The absentee clauses are of some personal amusement to me, because, although I imagined that I had been doing what little I could for the Commonwealth during the last ten years - not only living in the land and trying in public affairs to help it along - I find that, under this Bill, I am an “ absentee.” Although I shall be struggling in Parliament while the Prime Minister is junketting in South Africa, I shall be, under this Bill, an absentee ! I do not anticipate that this will to any extent affect me directly, because I do not think that the value of my lands will expose me much to the operations of this tax. But surely it is most farcical that a member of the Parliament of Australia should be “ deemed “ to be an absentee, and called upon to pay an absentee tax.
– The honorable member can easily qualify, and get rid of the disability.
– I cannot. If anything could qualify me, surely it is my membership of this House. But a legal settlement over which I have no control, and which I cannot alter in the slightest particular, makes me part owner for life of certain properties with a brother who happens to be studying music in Germany; and because I have a brother studying music in Germany, I am an absentee, although I am an Australian and a member of this Parliament ! I cannot escape the situation.
– Another hard case.
– We shall have to deal with it.
– I do not urge it as a hard case. I am not worrying in the least. I am pointing out the utter absurdity of these absentee provisions, but I would prefer them to stand in this respect. It is my duty to point out their effect upon public opinion in England and the credit of the country, but I prefer them in this respect to remain as they are, because they will help to show up the absurd extremities to which my honorable friends are driven when they try to deal with a practical matter in an impractical way.
My honorable friends are positively pathetic in handling this subject. In another clause they say that a trustee shall actually sell the capital moneys with which he is intrusted in order to pay a tax upon the income from the property over which he presides. And this from a Government that declares that borrowing is immoral ! A trustee has not only to pay the tax, but he is to sell his property in order to pay it, if the income is not sufficient ! Why not declare null and void all wills and settlements that prevent the splitting up of estates in the Commonwealth of Australia? Why should honorable members opposite say that a trustee must do what he is legally bound to do under a will or settlement, with the administration of which he is charged, and, on the other hand, say to him, “ You are to sell your properties “ - a. course that a trustee under a will is probably not permitted to take - “ only to pay this tax. But you are not to allow your beneficiaries to get away from the obligation of a settlement which this Parliament declares to be immoral.” I think I have said enough with regard to the absentee clauses of the Bill to show that they merit the attention of the House.
– But under this Bill the honorable member is not here.
– I must appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, as the custodian of the liberties of the Chamber, to uphold my right to appear here, after this Bill becomes law. It would seem that an “absentee” under this Bill will have no right to take part in the deliberations of this Chamber after the Bill becomes law, although he has been chosen to represent 30,000 Australian electors.
– The honorable member had better make the best use of his time while he is here.
– The honorable member is trying to urge me on before he fires me out. I never heard of anything so utterly ridiculous.
– Is any one in possession of the Chair at the present time? The honorable member, as an absentee, is not.
– I am not sure whether, perhaps, even you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with some distant relative, do not own a section of the Northern Territory under conditions that make you an ‘ ‘ absentee ‘ ‘ within the meaning of this Bill.
– He has no such luck. We were not all born with silver spoons in our mouths.
– But honorable members opposite are doing their best to put them there, and it will need a pretty large spoon to satisfy my honorable friend.
– Can an absentee be called to order?
– The more I consider this matter the more I am convinced that Mr. Speaker has no power over me whilst I am presenting my case to the House. Perhaps 1 ought to be placed at the bar of the House, so that I might appeal as a humble supplicant to the justice of honorable members. I do not anticipate having to pay this tax to any extent, because my landed properties are, happily, rather small, but still under this Bill I am am “ absentee,” and ought not to be permitted to address the House.
There are many intricacies associated with these absentee provisions, that I shall not further emphasize, but there is one to which I desire to direct special attention. If a man happens to hold one share in an Australian company, which has drawn two-fifths of its capital from England, then he is incidentally an absentee, and so far as I can gather, to my eternal shame, it in a case of “ once an absentee always an absentee.” If a man pays an absentee tax by virtue of his holding a £1 share in an Australian company with English capital invested in it, then it follows that he has to pay the absentee rates on all the other properties that he possesses ! A man might not possess more than £500 or £1,000, but because he happened to hold a £1 share in an absentee company within the meaning of this Bill, he would have to pay1d. in the £1 in respect of every pound’s worth of land that he possessed.
– And yet there is not an Australian native in the Government.
– Here am I, an Australian, doing my best for Australia, and declared to be “ an absentee.” Yet we have in the Cabinet a number of honorable gentlemen, none of them Australian natives, but all acting as energetic Australians, and trying to drive energetic Australians out of the country !
– The statement that there are no Australians in the Cabinet is wrong.
– I think that the honorable gentleman is an Australian who, having travelled, has qualified to take his place in the Administration.
– Both the Minister of Defence and the Honorary Minister - the honorable member for Kalgoorlie - are Australians.
– Is the Honorary Minister an Australian native? If so, I sincerely hope that the Honorary Minister, as an Australian, will come to the rescue of other Australians in this Chamber who do not wish to be forced to leave Australia under the “ absentee” clauses of this Bill.
I said that this measure spelt “ confiscation,” but, fortunately, in the midst of tragedy, there is sometimes a certain amount of farce, and there are a certain number of farcical elements in the Bill. I always imagined until I saw this piece of legislation that we were living in an age in which the sexes are supposed to have equal rights. I find, however, that that is nor so. Under this Bill a woman who possesses in her own right under £5,000 worth of property, but whose husband, from whom she is living apart, has in his own right a very large property, may be placed in a very peculiar position. If the couple do not divorce themselves, for the reason, perhaps, that their religion regards matrimony as a sacrament, then the wife has to pay 6d. in the £1 on every penny she possesses, because her property has to be taxed in conjunction with that of the man from whom she has separated, but whom her religion will not permit her to divorce. This Bill will appeal to a woman in that unfortunate position as a tremendous joke. She will find that her religion and herself arc penalized by the Government, penalized by the fact that she has married, and made an unfortunate match. Surely that is a matter which ought to be rectified.
There is another feature of this Bill which to my mind is supremely humorous. The professed desire of honorable members opposite is to cause property-owners to reside in Australia.
In one breath, so to speak, they say that property-owners must reside in the Commonwealth, and in the next they hold up this Bill as an awful warning to any property-owner who dares to stay. Here we have a Bill providing for the confiscation of the values of property in Australia, and the honorable gentlemen who propose it pretend to an anxiety to encourage gentlemen with capital to stay in the country !
It is only a year or two ago since honorable members opposite said through their then leader, Mr. J. C. Watson, that no immigrant should be allowed to land in Australia if he did not come here with a capital of at least .£100. The capital of his sinews, his health, and, his energies was as nothing to the leader of the aristocracy of labour. Every immigrant was to bring with him at least £100 sterling, or he would not be admitted to compete with my honorable friends.
– Is there any provision as to that in this Bill?
– Yes, my honorable friends, under this Bill, are deliberately frightening money out of the country, although only a year or two ago they declared that no man was fit fe> .be a citizen of Australia unless he possessed £100 sterling ! Could there be greater inconsistency ?
I recognise that this Bill is not intended to be fair, but that honorable members opposite desire to use it to fan class hatred as much as possible. It does not matter to them that every section of the community will pay this tax. The honorable member for East Sydney knows that his electors make their purchases cheaply from big firms like that of Mark Foy; and if the firms, which own city .values, are taxed, every buyer in the honorable member’s electorate will have to pay an increased price to Mark Foy for the privilege of going into his shop. Every tax placed on city values can be passed on. Why are city values high ? It is because they ate centrally situated, and most easily accessible to the big city populations. There seems to be some’ confusion outside as to the effect of this taxation. I am not defining squatters as squatters; I give them the same consideration, and neither more nor less, than I give to other sections of the community. I am defending the interests of the community as a whole.’ If we tax the squatter we tax his output, and those who live on the out put. If we tax city values we tax the agencies through which those values operate. If we tax shops we tax the customers, and the poorest people have to pay.
– Let. us tax nobody !
– That is the sanest thing the honorable member has said - let us impose no tax that can possibly be avoided. If honorable gentlemen opposite, now that they have assumed the responsibilities of office, will only study economics, in order to find out for themselves how taxation cannot be imposed without affecting every class of the community, they will cease ‘o believe that taxation is an agent for the uplifting of humanity, and not merely an instrument for meeting the cost of government.
This taxation will frighten out of the country ^300,000,000 of British capital. How is that capital, invested here now? How many Australians’ wages does it pay? How many Australian firms does that capital provide with outlets for their energies in Australia ? The honorable member for Maribyrnong, on the hustings, talked in his glib way about finding employment for Australians and the sons of Australians. I ask every man who is employed in industries depending upon foreign capital, how be and his sons are to find employment if that capital disappears ? Is every man to go on the land ?
I wish to place on record my belief that this Bill will hamper the progress and development of this continent, diminish employment, decrease the lands now in use by throwing back to the rabbits certain areas unsuitable for closer settlement, and depreciate the quality of Australian fleeces.
Who has kept up the quality of our fleeces, which are renowned throughout the world, so much as the owners of some of the large pastoral estates? The owners of these estates have imported stud sheep, and improved the flocks, not only to their own advantage, although their own advantage alone was sought, but to the advantage of every man who shares in the prosperity of Australia. What is the great staple output of Australia but wool? Is it the mere quantity that gets our wool its high price? Not at all ; it is the quality. Every man in Australia, whether he be possessed of land, or lives in the great cities and handles products of the land, or makes goods for the land, will feel the effect of a depreciation in the values of our wool.
This Bill is proposed by honorable members opposite, not directly as a means of taxation, although they will make much burglarious use of this tax, but in order to foster and keep alive that class hatred on which they live. For years past they have been trying to split up this country in sentiment, and trying to make the people believe that the only men alive to the interests of the workers are those who are doing best out of the workers, namely, the members of the Labour party. I deplore this class hatred, for, I say that, never has a country prospered which is divided against itself. I say that never in the history of the world’s peoples has a country so required internal solidarity as this Australia of ours. And I say that, in insulting and taunting our country’s enemies in their press, and in seeking to divide our country against itself, honorable members opposite are heaping upon the shoulders of the Commonwealth a load of woe of which only future historians will be able to gauge the weight. Let us recognise that peoples are prosperous only so long as they are united, and let us seek to make our people prosperous by considering calmly the welfare of the many without hatred for the few. If we can do that we shall all come to “believe, as I believe, that the men who, to provide themselves with a living, “seek to set class against class in this crisis of this young nation’s history, are deserving of the contempt of every section of our people, as being men who would sell their very race to provide themselves with a temporary personal advantage.
.- In offering a small contribution to the debate I confess myself rather overwhelmed by the importance of the subject. No greater question can engage the attention of Parliament - no question is more fraught with far-reaching consequences. No question will be more keenly debated both inside and outside this Legislature, and it is. perhaps, the most difficult and complex that we could be called upon to solve. From the earliest ages in the world’s history the control and settlement of the land has vitally affected with the progress and prosperity of nations; and to-day no question is exciting more attention. The history of nations has been altered by it, responsible as it is for many wars and the major part of national -trouble. I propose in my few remarks -to get as far away as possible from the local or parochial view which has been so actively exhibited by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. With a view to discussing whether we are following a vain idea or whether there is anything in the history of the past to guide us, I invite honorable members to follow me through a short course of travel. There is a great deal to guide us in history in the imposition of taxation of this kind. The further one goes the more one is impressed that the prosperity or adversity of a country is largely dependent on the way the people use or misuse their lands. We remember with a certain amount of dismay the way in which conquerors of ancient times marched across lands leaving nothing but fire, devastation, and misery in their train. As they added the lands to their already extensive domains, they gave their friends the lordship not only over the lands, but over the unfortunate original inhabitants. This built up a system of serfdom and feudalism which has caused unmeasured misery and trouble in all the countries with the history of which we are acquainted. I should like now to refer by means of some illuminating quotations to the history of the past, beginning with that of England. Here is a statement made in the early history of that country -
If from lands that were unshackled by the law, a thrifty husbandman took a piece and proceeded to cultivate it, he thereby invited the notice of some baron greedy of possession, to whom he was compelled by force to yield it up, and be content to occupy it as a fief, upon the best conditions that could be obtained. . . . The struggles made to resist the Norman dominion were so severe, that the whole face of the country for a time appeared a scene of wretchedness. Each estate throughout the kingdom became the centre of a petty and distracting tyranny. Such were the effects of the Conquest, that four great famines occurred within a few years subsequent thereto, which were attributable to these devastations.
The history of England is one long story of attempts by the people to obtain a share in the land - to have some sort of right to live on their own land. Insurrections, little wars, domestic troubles and difficulties have ever arisen from this cause. Here is another quotation -
In 1514 a petition was presented to Henry VIII. to beg him to remedy the state of things brought about by the action of the great landowners in throwing many small farms into one large one, and by the consequent neglect of the tillage.
History repeats itself !
The petition states that many gentlemen, merchant adventurers, clothmakers, and others have occupied ten, twelve, and even sixteen farms.
This shows how the question affects population -
By reason of this it says that whole villages of twenty and thirty houses have been cleared of their inhabitants, and a solitary shepherd was employed on land which had hitherto provided occupation for sixty or eighty persons. That there must have been a good many monopolists at one period we have proof.
That is what is happening in Australia today -
The English yeoman is as extinct as the dodo. In 1660, when the population was about 5,000,000, one-seventh were reckoned yeomen. Their farms have been consolidated into large estates, the agricultural labourers having taken their place, who are themselves now in process of extinction. Between1857 and 1877, the labourers’ numbers were reduced from 2,084,150 to 1,447,500, or 30 per cent. in twenty years. There are fearful wrongs underlying these facts.
Let me read another quotation dealing with a later period within the memory of most honorable members -
Such are the facts and deductions set forth in the Radical Programme in 1885, Mr. Chamberlain’s Preface being dated the month of July in that year- that is, about four years ago. But it did not always require the formality of an Enclosure Act to enclose. Thousands of acres were filched from the people without as much as saying, “ by your leave,” by means of improvised palings and other fences, giving point to the old lines which describe it as a crime to steal the goose from the common, but perfectly en regie to steal the common from the goose.
If that is true in regard to England, what is the position in Scotland? We hear much about evictions in Ireland, but there has been exactly the same experience in Scotland. We are imposing a land tax because we believe we are threatened with evils which have wrought such ill effects elsewhere. The following quotation refers to the father of the Honorable A. Balfour, the present Leader of the Opposition in the British House of Commons : -
It is no mere figure of speech, but an unhappy, well ascertained fact, that the lovely district of Strathconon, in Ross-shire, depopulated by that individual in 1840-8, and now let out as a deer forest to a sporting brewer, or other tenant, at a rental of £2,500 a year, by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, is a district bedewed with the tears, if not the blood, of age and innocence - the infirm parents and helpless children of a deeply-wronged and plundered peasantry.
– All that was made possible by the centralized government in London. If Scotland had had Home Rule like the Australian States those events would never have happened !
– Here is a picture of Scotland soon after 1745 -
The descendants of the “ stout Glengarrys,” the “gallant Gordons,” and the “wise
Lochiels” - some of whose fathers were themselves, in the heat of the contest, carried out of the range of sword and bullet on the shoulders of their too faithful followers - repaid the Highlanders of another generation by eviction, starvation, and death.
By a slight transposition of words this would read like a bit of Australian history -
By a gradual process of encroachment the chiefs, on being repossessed of their estates, assumed the pretensions of feudal land-owners. The tacksmen, or middlemen, were the first to feel the change. Unexpectedly deprived of the privilege of sub-letting a portion of their lands, they emigrated in disgust, 6,400 leaving for America during the years preceding1792. Those on the estate of Lord Macdonald, in the Isle of Skye, did, indeed, attempt to withstand the chief - who fled the island- binding themselves by a solemn oath to keep down rents by refusing to offer for vacant farms. But in vain. The crofters, too, as suddenly found themselves deprived of pasture, wood and peat, game and fishing. Thus restricted to their little crofts, their resources quickly ran out, poverty supervened, and their doom was sealed. The landlords, tempted by offers of greater rents (and less trouble of collection) from Lowland sheep farmers, directed the tenants to take their choice of “ Hell or Canada.” According to Aikman, the continuator of Buchanan’s Scot, land, in some instances the landlords directed the factors to “ drive them into the sea, let them go to the plantations, or go to hell.”
That was the kind of language the Scottish landlords addressed to their tenants. One almost dreads to refer to the effects of land monopoly in Ireland. The history of that country in later years corresponds to that of England and Scotland in earlier years, and is one long series of encroachments by landlords on the rights of the people. This is what Herbert Spencer says about the Irish land titles -
Violence, fraud, the prerogative of force, the claims of superior cunning - these are the sources to which those titles may be traced. The original deeds were written with the sword, rather than with the pen ; not lawyers, but soldiers, were the conveyancers ; blows were the current coin given in payment; and for seals, blood was used in preference to wax.
No wonder that a plaintive note runs through the poetry of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Nothing more anti-national could be done than to divorce the people from the soil. This is what an Irish poet has written -
They are dying ! they are dying ! where the golden corn is growing;
They are dying ! they are dying ! where the crowded herds are lowing ;
They are gasping for existence where the streams of life are flowing,
And they perish of the plague where the breeze of health is blowing.
Throughout history the landlords have considered, not the health, happiness, and prosperity of their tenants, but the .satisfaction of their own desires. I could make many more quotations such as I have given, but I refrain from troubling the House with them. I have already, in speaking on the subject, referred to what led up to the French revolution. The chief cause was undoubtedly the monopolization of the land by the few, who let it out to the many only on their own conditions. A writer has said -
If the princes and seigneurs …. who had kept the best land to themselves for ages past, obliging the wretched peasants to plough, to sow, to reap for them, compelling them to pay all costs or contributions as well - if they had used their wealth in making roads, digging canals, draining marshes, manuring the soil, building schools and hospitals; if they had done this the evil would have been only half as great; but their only cares were their pleasures, their pride, and their greed.
But for the benign influences at work during the reigns of Victoria and Edward VII., there would have been a revolution in Great Britain equalling, if not surpassing, that in France in the closing years of the eighteenth century. So critical was the position in England at the close of the reign of George IV. that the London Times published the following statements concerning it -
The truth is, however - and it speaks volumes about the man - that there never was an individual less regretted by his fellow creatures than this deceased King. What eye has wept for him? What heart has heaved one throb of unmercenary sorrow? Was there at any time a gorgeous pageant on the stage more completely forgotten than he has been, even from the day on which the heralds proclaimed his successor? Has not that successor gained more upon the English, tastes and prepossessions of his subjects, by the blunt and inaffected- - even should it be the grotesque cordiality - cordiality of his demeanour within a few short weeks than George IV. - that leviathan of the * haut ton “ - ever did during the sixty-eight years of his existence? If George IV. ever had a friend - a devoted friend - in any rank of life, we protest that the name of him or her has not yet reached us. An inveterate voluptuary, especially if he be an artificial person, is of all known beings the most selfish. Selfishness is the true repellant of human sympathy. Selfishness feels no attachment, and invites none; it is the charnel-house of the affections. Nothing more remains to be said or done about George IV. but to pay - as we must - for his profusion, and to turn his bad example to some account by tying up the hands of those who may come after him in what concerns tthe public money.
If the growth of the deadly upas tree of landlordism is responsible for the sorrows and troubles of the countries and the times to which I have referred, we must do what we can to prevent it here. The justi- fication for the proposed tax is the protection of future generations.
– It is the result of forethought, not of revenge.
– During Victoria’s reign very substantial and successful efforts were made to curb the power of the landlords, and to give the people a greater interest in the land, but the tremendous emigration of farmers from Ireland and Scotland to Canada and the United States caused an inquiry as to the steps to be taken to keep in the country useful citizens for whom there was plenty of room and great need. It was found that their emigration was due to the absorption of small farms in large farms, deer forests, and pleasure grounds. Then the Right Honorable Jesse Collings made his appeal for three acres and a cow - the idea being promulgated that every family should have a direct interest in the land, a movement which I remember very well. In Scotland some of the large land-owners endeavoured to help by giving to the crofters and small farmers land on which to live, but the difficulty did not decrease. In Ireland the Imperial Parliament has bought large estates to make matters better, and now, to its credit, is facing the position more directly. Mr. Lloyd-George’s proposal to tax the unearned increment is only a small step, but the circumstances of the country prevent a larger step being taken at present, and, all things considered, the advance is tremendous. Until now the burdens of taxation have weighed oppressively on the people. It is all very well for Lord Curzon, and his friends in the House of Lords, or, as I prefer to term it, the House of Landlords, to advocate the borrowing of £200,000,000 for the defence of the country, to be repaid by the people, but I think that the burden of taxation should be put on the proper shoulders. During the late electoral campaign in Great Britain a member of the House of Lords said brutally, “ I own this land, all that is on it, all that is in it, and the air above it ; and the birds which fly over it belong to me while they are flying through my atmosphere.” Is it any wonder that the landlords of the Old Country have arrogated the right to control, not only the land, but the men and women who live on it. But by education the people are being brought to realize the brotherhood of man, and to recognise that the possessors of land are not better nor stronger than they, and are not entitled to extraordinary privileges. The people are demanding the right to control the land and to determine taxation. In the Old Country they have taken a long while to awake from their sleep. We have awakened earlier, because we have a freer franchise and greater; liberties, which we should hand down to future generations even more secure than they are at present. The honorable member for Wentworth said that the tax’ would drive capital out of Australia. If the effect of land taxation is to drive capital out of a country, capital is now being driven from every country in the world. A land tax is being proposed in Great Britain, and according to the Melbourne Age of 5th September -
Sir George Farrar, following the lead of Sir James Fitzpatrick, went beyond the official programme of his party, and pledged himself to the taxation of unimproved land values (in South Africa).
All over the world the people are demanding the control of the land, and means are being taken to prevent the consolidation of large estates. It has been pointed out that-
Of great events in history, we say; every day they approach, the last day they arrive. The fight against excessive power and wealth and privilege has begun, and though the aristocracy and the plutocracy may win triumphs they are doomed to be partial and intermittent.
In France there was a man who could have removed their financial difficulties, and prevented the revolution. Of him one writer says -
He (Turgot) would have accomplished by his ordinances all that it needed the Revolution subsequently to effect the emancipation of the people from the oppression of the privileged classes and the compelling the latter to contribute their due quota to the revenue of the State.
In Australia the rights and privileges of the many have been arrogated by the few, but we are providing that they should be enjoyed by the whole nation. In acting now we are not acting too late, but each year of delay makes the position mote difficult. It is a good thing that there is a party in power which will stand or fall by this question. It has been said that we kept the taxation of land in the background during the electoral campaign, but to that I give an emphatic denial. A graduated tax on unimproved land values was the second plank of the platform on which we appealed to the people, and has been our policy advocated throughout Australia for many years, indeed, from the inception of the Labour party. So far from hiding from the electors the fact that it was intended to tax country and city lands alike, I told my constituents that I was in favour of such a measure, and showed how the proposed tax would affect certain Brisbane properties.
– What rate did the honorable member quote?
– I quoted the rates published in the report of the Prime Minister’s speech, and by way of illustration pointed out what would have to be paid in respect of certain city properties. If there was one fact absolutely recognised by the people of Australia after the recent general elections, and when the triumph of the Labour party was announced, it was that a Federal land tax was a certainty. 1 was, therefore, astounded to receive from a newly-formed land protection association in Brisbane a communication protesting against this measure being hurried through Parliament. If there is any point in regard to which the people were well advised, well warned, and well educated, it was that, as soon as the Labour party had the power, this legislation would first and foremost receive their attention. I contend, therefore, that we cannot be charged with springing this proposition upon the public. We have consistently advocated it, and we should be altogether unworthy of the confidence reposed in us by the people, indeed we should be traitors to our trust, if we failed to bring a land tax in some form or other before the Parliament.
– The country is thirsting for land taxation.
– The country is waiting for it. The argument is frequently advanced that because only a very small proportion of the lands of Australia have been alienated there is no need for such a tax as this to make land available for the people. So far only 7 per cent, of the lands of the Commonwealth have been alienated, but that to my mind is 7 per cent, too much. Land offices in all the States are being besieged by applicants for land. There is plenty of land available, but the trouble is that areas which would be readily taken up and worked by the people are locked up. They are being used simply for cattle raising. In the book from which I have been quoting I find a repetition of a familiar argument. The argument of long ago is heard to-day. Sheep and bullocks are considered of more value than human beings; the land is being occupied by cattle and sheep when it ought to be devoted to closer settlement, and used by a class of people who would make our country all that we want it to be. Let me cite a couple of illustrations. A Sydney syndicate holds an area of land on the Tully River, in Queensland, at present valued at £1 per acre, and it refuses to subdivide and sell it. An effort is being made to get the Government to erect a central crushing mill in the district. If that mill be erected the land owned by the syndicate will immediately be worth from £8 to £10 per acre. This is the kind of thing that is hindering settlement all over Australia to-day.
– How many acres does the syndicate hold?
– I do not know, but quite recently 180,000 acres in the district have been surveyed and thrown open for selection, and there are dozens of applicants for it
– The Queensland Government is rapidly throwing open its lands.
-But it cannot throw them open quickly enough. As fast as an area is thrown open it is taken up, and there are people calling for land and unable to obtain -it. The consequence of this state of affairs is that people from other countries whom we invite to come here and settle on the land are compelled to settle 300, 400, and 500 miles from the coast, away from railways and navigable rivers. They have to bury themselves in the wilderness, and endeavour there to carve out homes for themselves.
– How many of the landless could buy the land to which the honorable member referred just now as being worth £10 per acre?
– If the land were held for the use of the State men who come out here to follow agricultural pursuits, instead of having to expend a large proportion of their capital in the purchase of land, would be able to get holdings, and use their money in its development. They would thus have a better chance than they now have of making a living. A poor fellow comes out here bringing with him a certain amount of capital - it seems to-be the rule for all countries to require that every immigrant shall have a certain amount of capital - and he has to spend, perhaps, two-thirds or more of his money in purchasing land-
– And then has to mortgage it.
– And then has to mortgage it perhaps to obtain money to develop it. We are out against the system whereby a man is compelled to pay ex orbitant prices for his land. We desire to initiate a system under which it will be possible for men to obtain a piece of land with reasonable access to a market, and so situated as to offer a fair prospect of a living for himself and his family. One immediate and certain result of the imposition of this land tax will be the making of more land available by the bursting up of large estates. I hope that it will make land so cheap that we shall not need to spend thousands of pounds with a view to encouraging immigration. If good land can be obtained at cheap rates the attractions of the country will be sufficient to induce people to come here. In corroboration of this statement, I quote the following paragraph which appeared in the Argus on the 31st August last -
Some weeks ago a letter written by Messrs. H. and H. Robertson, who selected land on the Jimbour estate, was sent to the Glasgow Weekly Mail setting out their experiences since they had come to Queensland from Scotland. The letter was copied into a number of English papers, and called forth numerous inquiries. Mr. Robertson handed half-a-dozen of these letters to the officer in charge of the Lands Inquiry Branch, who will answer them fully.
The Jimbour estate was repurchased by the Government at a cost of about £140,000. As soon as it was made available for closer settlemait it was snapped up, and those who settled upon it were so fully satisfied with the results of their labour and their prospects, that, as this quotation shows, they immediately became advertising agents for the State, and induced friends in Scotland to come out here. The danger that we have to fear in Australia, although only 7 per cent. of our lands have been alienated, is that of landlordism. Already that curse is getting a grip of the country. The present aggregation of large estates is, so to speak, only a flea-bite, but does it not point to the possibility of the curse of landlordism, which older countries have experienced, making itself manifest? On this point let me quote a statement made by the honorable member for Parramatta in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales on 14th November, 1893 -
The honorable and learned gentleman to-night made much of the fact that there are sacred rights of property held in the shape of land. It seems to me, however, that the trend of economic thought, and even of popular thought, realizes the iniquity of the recognition of private property in land. It is one thing above all others that has cursed this country, and has cursed every other country of whichwe have any knowledge, and unless it be abolished it will curse these countries in the future as they have never yet been cursed.
The cry that we hear to-day against this Bill - the cry of the Opposition that it will mean ruin, disaster, and dismay to those who have invested money in land, is merely an echo of the diatribes and complaints of their compeers in the Old Country. I have been fortunate enough to obtain a few leaflets that have been circu-lated in the Old Country in connexion with the Lloyd-George Budget, and I claim the attention of the House whilst I establish the argument that the difficulties that are confronting people in the Old Land also face us, notwithstanding that only a small proportion of the lands of the Commonwealth have been alienated. The Duke of Portland, speaking at a luncheon given by him to his Welbeck tenants on 3rd August, said -
A thousand pounds weekly was spent in wages, nearly 1,000 individuals being employed on the estate. It was, unhappily, too obvious that through no wish of his own that sum would have to be largely diminished in the new circumstances indicated by the Budget, and that the result of the change - whatever it might be to himself did not matter one twopenny ha’penny bit - could not be otherwise than disastrous and fatal to those living in the neighbourhood.
The Duke of Portland owns 183,000 acres in England and Scotland, and his estimated income is -£107,500 per annum. Then, again, the following letter was written to the Cheshire Agricultural Society on behalf of the Earl of Derby, on 29th July, 1909-
I regret to say that under present circumstances Lord Derby has found it necessary to curtail the number of subscriptions given by his late father, and that, after consideration, he has had no option but to strike off the Cheshire Agricultural Society from the permanent list. In due time His’ Lordship hopes to become a subscriber to all the societies to which the late Earl subscribed.
The Earl of Derby owns about 69,000 acres, chiefly in Lancashire, and his estimated income is over £200,000 per annum. Yet the poor man has been so seriously affected by the proposal to impose an unearned increment tax upon his land that he cannot continue some of his subscriptions. Then, again, I find that the Duke of Buccleuch wrote recently to a small football club, through his chamberlain, as follows -
I would have been very glad to have sent you a subscription, but owing to the large prospective increase in taxation caused by the present Budget it has been found necessary to curtail very largely His Grace’s annual subscriptions to such objects, and I much regret, therefore, that it is impossible for me to send a subscription.
The Duke of Buccleuch owns 460,000 acres, and his estimated income is £284,000 per annum. It seems to me that the remarks made this afternoon by the honorable member for Wentworth were conceived in something of the spirit that animated the Duke of Rutland in speaking as follows -
The Finance Bill was the product of Socialists-
That Bill included the land taxation proposals - and if ever there was a body of men destructive to the Labour market of this country it was’ the Labour members of Parliament.
One would think that Brother Kelly was speaking.
– Order !
– I beg pardon. I should have said the honorable member for Wentworth. The Duke of Rutland continued -
Personally he would like to put a gag into the mouth of every Labour member in the country and keep it there.
He owns 70,137 acres, and his estimated income is £97,465 per annum. The Duke of Marlborough, speaking at Muswell Hill on 26th June, said -
He was asked to pay a shilling in the pound for a lot of money he did not get. He was now going to be asked to pay a super-tax upon that money which he did not get. If he kept his land, he was going to be asked to pay a penny in the pound if he did not develop it, and to pay 20 per cent, if he did develop it. If somebody else did that for him he had to pay 10 per cent. When he was thoroughly weary and exhausted with the struggle. of trying to live at all, when in desperation he threw himself out of a window, his successor would have the privilege of paying 15 per cent, or 20 per cent., or 25 per cent, for that right to retire into another world.
In a note on this speech it is pointed out that-
As it is only estates of the net value of over £1,000,000 that have to pay as much as 15 per cent., His Grace’s speech in fixing the duties at “ 15 per cent., or 20 per cent., or 25 per cent.,” reveals the fact that the total value of his estate must be well over a million sterling.
And yet the poor fellow can scarcely find sufficient energy to make life worth living.
– All this is interesting but scarcely relevant. It does not apply to Australia.
– We hear here the same howl as to threatened disaster.
– The honorable member ignores the fact that we have in Australia a totally different franchise.
– I referred to that point and said that as we had this free franchise and a keen remembrance of the state of affairs in the Old Country we were determined that the same state of affairs should not prevail here.
– Do not the people exercise the same vote in connexion with the State Parliaments?
– The iron has burnt into the souls of many of the men and women of this country who have come from older lands.
– Some of those who were disinherited in the Old Land are amongst the very people whom the honorable member and his party are now fighting.
– They have taken up the same attitude which these people have assumed. We have here the same consolidation of estates and the refusal to recognise the right of the people to own and control their own lands. It is remarkable that, although only a small proportion of our lands have been alienated from the Crown, we should be faced at this early stage in our history with the very difficulties that confront the people of the Old World. How is it that’, notwithstanding the enormous extent of our country men who want land cannot get it unless they pay an enormous price for it? The Duke of Somerset wrote on 19th July to the Northern Daily Telegraph, for the benefit of the tenants on his estate at Wilpshire, Blackburn, as follows -
May I use your columns to state that, owing to the spoliative effects of this Budget on my estates, I am regretfully compelled to consider in the near future means of adjusting my outgoings to the new demands made on me, and if in so doing workpeople have to be parted with, who have worked with me for many years, if I have to forego improvements and cut down the wages bill, if I have to lessen, and, in some cases, entirely stop my subscriptions to charities and association, which it has been within my means hitherto to support, I trust that it will be understood that no one more bitterly regrets these retrenchments than I do, and the necessary hardship that they will bring on the workers and families who, directly or indirectly, live by the land.
That Duke of Somerset owns 25,327 acres, and his estimated income is £37,577. Speaking at Glasgow on 12th September, Lord Rosebery describes the dukes as “ a poor but honest class ‘ ‘ ; but, according to a tabulated estimate given by the Daily Mail on 23rd August, 1909, the “ poverty “ of the dukes works out at an average income of £81,340 per duke, and an average ownership of 163,055 acres of land. What we propose to do here is what was proposed in the Old Country, namely, to “make the knapsack fit the shoulder.” If a few men choose to hold lands and not to use them, they should be made to contribute to the revenue, because the cost of the defence of the country should be borne by those who own the wealth of the country. On a former occasion I quoted six good reasons why there should be a land tax, and I am going to try the patience of the House by quoting them again. The reasons are contained in the following press quotation : -
The Right Hon. Alexander Ure, K.C., M.P., Lord Advocate of England, gives the following “ Six Reasons for Taxing Land Values” : -
The land comes from the hands of the Creator, and does not owe its existence to man.
It is limited in quantity. You can no more add to the area of the country than you can add a cubit to your stature.
It is necessary for our existence ; it is necessary for our production ; it is necessary to us when wewish to exchange out products.
Land does not owe its value to anything which its owner chooses to spend upon it.
Land owes its value entirely to the presence and activity and expenditure of the community.
Land cannot be carried away, and cannot be concealed.
It has been freely stated during the debate that the Commonwealth Government is going beyond its powers in imposing this tax. I shall not attempt any discussion on the legal or constitutional bearings of the question, because I am quite content to leave that to the lawyers. One reason why this Parliament is the proper authority to impose a land tax is that, if we desire one thing more than another in Australia, it is uniformity in the means and methods of production. The imposition of a uniform land tax will place the producers in every part of the continent on an equal footing, whereas under State taxation, settlers in one part are taxed more heavily than in another. This afternoon we had a discussion relating to the free passage of produce between States, and it was pointed out very properly that even varied inspection fees at the ports imposed an anti-Federal handicap on producers. I contend, therefore, that if anything can be absolutely fair to the primary producers as a whole, it is a uniform land tax.
– The development of the lands in the various States is at different stages.
– I know that, and I also know that this tax will have an effect on the present State land taxes, but whatever may bedone by the State Governments in regard to lands below the value of £5,000, the position will right itself in the near future. Honorable members seem to overlook the fact that in every State of Australia there is a political party in absolute harmony with the ideas of the Federal Labour party on this question. That party in the various States will, in the near future, occupy a position of authority equal to that occupied by the Federal Labour party in this Parliament; and, as I say, all are in absolute accord on this question.
– Not so.
– Further, we have to recognise that, while we in this Parliament have no control over the lands, the State Labour parties will, in a very few years, be in a position to propound a policy based on the principle of the immediate stoppage of all sales of Crown lands. Nothing is more likely to promote settlement than a knowledge of the fact that the people can obtain land on payment of a low rent to the Crown instead of having to pay a big price to landlords.
– It works out differently in practice.
– It has not yet been put in practice. By stopping the sale of Crown lands we shall stop the successful attempts now made to aggregate large estates, and by working harmoniously with the Labour party in the various States we can make the lands free to the people for development on the right lines. This land tax proposal has a two-sided aspect. So far from being opposed to immigration we contend that there is nothing that can so much encourage immigration as the fact that lands are available and that the power remains with the Crown to protect the rights of the settlers. Then the other aspect is presented in the fact that the people of the Old Country have almost revolted, in a constitutional way, against ‘the” aggregation of large estates. One reason for this is supplied in the constant demands made on the people for the defence of the country. They began to realize that they should not in fairness be expected to be patriotic enough to lay down their lives, and sacrifice all they hold most dear, in order to protect the property of people who persistently refused to pay their fair share of land taxation. I am in favour of land taxation, because, I believe that the revenue should be ear-marked for the purposes of defence, the burden thus falling on the shoulders of those who own the land, as a sort of insurance. Some remarks have been made in regard to the methods of valuation ; and I heard some months ago, before the Bill was tabled, that it was pro posed to employ independent Government valuers. I had the temerity to suggest that, at any rate in the beginning, we ought to adopt the policy of the Old Country, and call upon the owners to declare the value; and I am glad to learn that that is the plan to be ‘followed. Conflict between the owner and the Government valuer is so likely to arise that it would be much better to impose that duty on the former ; and I should be glad if, at the same time, it was provided that the value thus ascertained should be regarded as a fair basis for the selling price in the event of there being a buyer. I should like it to be made perfectly clear in the Bill that land owned and used by municipalities is not to be liable to this taxation. I am glad to have an assurance from the Prime Minister and Attorney-General on the point, but, at the same time, the Bill does not entirely clear away the doubt. In Committee, however, I hope that this may be done, so that we may be absolutely sure that land owned and used by municipalities, agricultural societies, and other bodies for the public benefit shall not be subject to the tax. I. hope there will be no faltering on the part of the Government, because the people of Australia have now the opportunity of saying, “ We have our own land, and we shall keep our own land, with all the advantages which accrue from the use of it.”
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– No doubt the term graduated land tax sounds very well to many persons who do not realize how the proposals of the Government will affect the country. I have always felt that the taxation of land for defence purposes is perfectly just, but a land tax which makes no differentiation with regard to situation and conditions must do harm. An article in the Age of the 8th inst. speaks of scientific land taxation. Did the Government propose to tax rich agricultural land close to a railway, which is not being put to its full use, at a higher rate than land remote from means of communication which is earning as much as can be made from it, the proposal would be equitable and scientific. The prosperity of a country depends on the development of the land, whose produce is needed to pay the interest on our national debt, and to keep going our manufactories. But if we tax estates and land too heavily, the people will be driven into the cities.
In France, they kept increasing the taxation of land until about 40 per cent, of its returns went to the Government, with the result that the country people drifted to the towns, and the efforts of the present day Administrations are being directed to the reduction of taxation with a view to the re-settlement of the country. As in many cases the proposed tax will take more than 40 per cent, of the returns of our lands, it will probably have a similar effect. Unless modifications are made in the Bill in Committee, the tax will do great harm. Many honorable members say that they wish to depreciate the value of land. Have they considered the position of the small land-holders who have bought at pre sent prices, and are paying the purchase money year by year?
– What does the honorable member mean by small land -holders ?
– When I lived at Ballarat, men could make as good a living on 20 acres of Bungaree land as on perhaps 2,000 acres elsewhere, that land being cheaper at £40 an acre than much other land at 10s. an acre. I have known a man to give £25 an acre for land, and pay for it in one year with the proceeds of a crop of potatoes grown on it. In the Warrnambool district, land for which £80 and £ 1 00 an acre has been paid has produced good returns. I know land near Warrnambool which is worth £4 per acre per annum to graze cows on.
– Land there has been sold for as “much as £130 per acre.
– Under what is known as the “ Berry blight,” a land tax was imposed in Victoria for the bursting up of large estates, but it depreciated the value of land, and drove many men into other States. Similarly this tax will depreciate values, and will fall very heavily on poor land. You cannot get much fat from a starved bullock, neither can you expect men who are starved off the land to prove useful citizens. Many references have been made to the New Zealand land legislation. New Zealand is a small country, with a good rainfall, and no doubt her land legislation might be effectively applied to Victorian land, but it would do harm to apply it to the large areas in New South Wales, Queensland, and South Australia. It must be remembered that under the Closer Settlement Act many persons are paying the Government the full present day market price for land, on terms extending over thirty or forty years. The value of that land will be depreciated by the tax by 25 per cent. Is that just? In other cases, men who have bought on> terms, and who have paid two or three instalments, may, after a couple of bad years, find themselves unable to meet their liabilities, and the value of the land having depreciated, and the margin of securitybeing wiped out, the vendor will probably sell it. That is one result which may be feared. In Victoria, trustees arenot allowed by law to advance on mortgagemore than 60 per cent, of the value of land, though that is looked upon as the safest investment for trust moneys. If by imposing a tax values generally are reduced by 25 or 30 per cent., mortgagees,, when mortgages fall due, will require the mortgagors to pay up, or to reduce the advances to 60 per cent, of what the then value will be. If the mortgagors cannot do that, the properties will be put into the market, and probably be bought for 30 or 40 per cent, less than their present value. Of course, the new purchaser will be able to pay the tax because of the reduction in price. The amount invested in land on the security of mortgages is surprising. The advances by the banks amount to £78,500,000, those by the life assurance companies to £18,700,000, and those by the Savings Bank to £8,990,295, the figures are up to the 2nd February last, so that probably the amount now is over £9,000,000. The Savings Bank advances more on securities than do other institutions, giving, under the Credit Foncier system, 75 per cent., and even more, of the capital value.
– That is more than I have known to be given.
– In a case which came under my notice when in private practice some years ago, the Savings Bank advanced more than the land was purchased for, though that perhaps was due to an over valuation. It must be remembered that they have charge of the money of the small investor, who will be injured if the security on which their money is advanced is depreciated. The building societies have lent £3,087,705 on land mortgages, chiefly to wage earners and clerks, who are trying to purchase properties on long terms, instead of paying rent.
– They do not hold £5,000 worth of land.
– Many persons make the mistake of thinking that only estates worth more than £5,000 will be depreciated by the tax, but, as a matter of fact, it will depreciate all real property in both town and country. The trustee “Companies, which hold the moneys of widows and children, have invested ^25,000,000 in land, and the pastoral and investment companies something like £20,000,000, while private and British investors, and agricultural banks have advanced about ,£80, 000,000. In all about £234,000,000 has been lent on the land of Australia. That is a very large sum indeed, and it shows how heavily mortgaged land-owners, large and small, in this country really are. It shows also how necessary it is that we should be careful to do nothing which would depreciate mortgaged securities. A man who loses 40 per cent, of his investment in land may be driven off it, and this may lead again to the aggregation of large estates, because the man who can purchase the land at a reduction of 40 per cent, upon its value will be able to afford to pay the tax.
– Do the honorable member’s figures include personal advances by way of mortgages by solicitors and moneylenders, for instance?
– I have included personal mortgages in the figures given for British investments, but I was unable to get a complete return of personal mortgages. I thought it better to underestimate rather than over-estimate the amount. The total of £80,000,000 may not be more than about two-thirds of the sum actually invested in this way, but it is always safer in dealing with figures to make 1 low estimate. I do not desire that any One should later accuse me of over-stating the case.
– I may say that I took out the same figures and arrived at very much the same result.
– I am glad to have that information. The figures I gave with respect to the first five items have been verified.
– What rates of interest are being paid by the mortgagors ?
– The rate of interest varies with the demand for money. The interest payable upon money lent on mortgage runs to from 4 40 4 J per cent., and in bad times up to 5 per cent. While I. was in practice as a solicitor I had a large experience of this kind, and during the last ten years in which I practised the rate of interest for trust moneys did not exceed 4*- per cent. Many of the loans negotiated at the time are still out at 4J per cent. We wanted good security and not high rates of interest. Trustee companies generally look for good security rather than for a high rate of interest, and land is always looked upon as the highest class of security in which trust money can be invested. In the legislation of the States, freehold land is placed first as a security for investments by trustees, and then Government debentures and other stock. A great deal has been said about the large area of locked-up lands in the Western District of Victoria, but I remind honorable members- that if we burst up those estates there will still be earthhunger. If an estate is subdivided into ten blocks we shall find another ten persons asking for a share in those blocks. The Government propose to punish a number of innocent people because a few are selfish and greedy, and have made themselves obnoxious. I know the Western District of Victoria as well as I know Melbourne. It would have been opened up many years ago if railways had been constructed through it. No man can get produce to market profitably if he has to cart it more than 16 miles to a railway. Twelve miles is a fair distance for a farmer to have to cart his produce, and he cannot expect a fair return for his money if he is at the expense of carting produce for more than 16 miles. Since railways have been projected into the Western District and some cross-country lines have been built, the area of land put under wheat has been astonishing. Last month I travelled over part of the country which I had not visited for ten or fifteen years. I went by back roads and across paddocks, and I found that I had to cross over ploughed fields. There are thousands of acres now under cultiration in the district. As soon as the line from Gheringhap to Maroona is finished, I do not think there will be any large blocks in the Western District that will not be fully utilized. In New South Wales and other States there are large areas of land that are unfit for cultivation. There are rises where it would cost more than the land is worth to remove the stone - swampy and marshy land and sandy ridges. It would be absurd to think of subdividing such lands for purposes of cultivation, and to drive off them the people who hold them now by heavy taxation will not benefit the general public. I can give honorable members an instance from the experience of my own family. My father was interested in a property on the river Darling, in the western division of New South
Wales. He and his partners gave £165,000 for a large squatting property there. The rent at the time was low, but there was a cry in New South Wales that the pastoralists should be asked to pay higher rents. The rents were raised, and the lessees of this property abandoned one-half of their ‘lease in order to reduce expenditure. By degrees, what with rabbits, drought, and high rent they were starved out. My father lost every shilling he put into that property, and it was offered for sale the other day, and might have been secured for £30,000. This is a property which carried 160,000 sheep. I have said that half of it was abandoned. There were many miles of wire- netting fences constructed, and the fencing is now nothing but a sand ridge. Waterholes in the back country have filled up, and the New South Wales Government will now let any person who will take up the country have several millions of acres on the Darling. At one time this station property gave a large return in wool, and provided employment for a large number of people. I could give other instances where people have by legislation been driven off the land without benefit to any one else.
– In the case referred to the lessees had too much land.
– I have said that they surrendered one-half of the run, and the honorable member can get that country to-morrow if he wants it.
– We are proposing to tax values.
– The honorable member forgets that the taxation and rent of land may be so high as to make it impossible for people to continue to occupy it profitably. The case of the Burrabogie property has already been mentioned. Something like ^200,000 was invested in that property. It was mortgaged to two or three people in England, who advanced trust moneys on different parts of it. The mortgagor suffered from bad season after bad season, and lost all the money he put into it. It fell into the hands of the mortgagees, who are absentees, and do not want the property. It stands them in, with improvements, at something like 35s. an acre. It takes three or four acres of that land to carry one sheep. The people who hold it now will be taxed at the rate of £1 an acre - the price paid to the Crown for the land without improvements - and paying this taxation on that valuation, they will not be able to get a shilling of return from the money they have invested in the pro perty. These were trust moneys invested for the benefit of persons, including children, in England. They have no wish to become absentee land-owners, but, unfortunately, from their point of view, the property has fallen into their hands, and they cannot dispose of it. Then there is the case of the Kerri-Kerri property, in New South Wales. It comprised 45,000 acres of land for which the owners paid £1 per acre to the Crown. They improved and stocked it, and the property was sold within the last three weeks for 8s. 6d. per acre. Where is the unearned increment in that? I have no doubt that that property will be taxed by the valuators of the Government ac the price paid to the Crown. It will be said that the land cost £1 an acre, and ought to be worth it.
– Does the honorable member seriously think that will be the method of valuation? Are we to value Melbourne properties at boom prices?
– I have little doubt that the Government will try to do so. My experience of the work of Government valuators is that they make their valuations as high as they can. The. cautious man who puts his savings into land is going to be taxed very heavily under this Bill. Many men have spent large sums of money in improving their properties. They are putting them to the best possible use, and are employing as much labour as would be employed on them if they were held by half-a-dozen persons. Yet, under this measure, they will be taxed equally with the man who does not make the best use of his land.
– They will be taxed for improving the land.
– They are often taxed by shire councils for improving their land, the Government valuators will say that these lands are worth £5 an acre - it must not be forgotten that there are many improvements that cannot be taken into consideration - and men who have employed all the labour that could be profitably employed on their land will be taxed equally with men who employ no labour on their land. I say that we should distinguish between these classes of land-owners.
– The man who improves his land will be better off under this Bill than the man who does not do so.
– The Government are not differentiating between them.
– It is the unimproved value that will be taxed.
– I am aware of that. The unimproved value of two adjoining properties will be exactly the same ; but while the holder of one may be cultivating every acre, the Government propose to make no distinction between him and the man next him, who will not employ a blackfellow upon his property.
– Most decidedly they do.
– They ought to do so; but they do not under this Bill. When we take the case of the man who does not buy land, but lends to the man who does buy it, we find that he gets off scot-free. The mortgagee will not pay any tax at all under this Bill, whilst the mortgagor will have to pay both interest and land tax.
– Does the honorable member advocate taxing the mortgagee?
– I do not advocate taxing anybody. But I will tell the honorable member what I am prepared to advocate, and it is that credit should be given to the mortgagor for the interest he pays to the mortgagee. That would be only honest and fair. The mortgagee gets his interest without doing anything for it; and if the mortgagor, who has to work his land to provide the interest, does not get credit for it, he will be driven off the land. A man who has borrowed 60 per cent. of the value of his land, and is called upon to pay this land tax, will not have much of the remaining 40 per cent. for himself. A Victorian syndicate bought a property in New SouthWales for £150,000, and paid a deposit of £70,000. They still owe £80,000 to the original vendors, and when they pay the tax for which this Bill provides they will not get a return of1s. upon their outlay of £70,000. The whole of the income derived from it will be swallowed up in paying the interest on the £80,000 balance of purchase money, and the Federal land tax. Will any one say that that is fair? Will any one say that the man who has £80,000 secured on his land, and is not paying any tax, is not the top dog, as against the unfortunate man who is working that land? This is a very harsh proceeding. If the tax may be gradu- ated, why cannot the Government differentiate between the several classes of land? The Constitution merely provides that we shall not differentiate as between State and State and parts of a State, and I believe that we could legally differentiate between classes of land. The application would be the same in respect of similar classes of land in each of the different States.
The dry western lands of New South Wales are unfit for anything but woolgrowing; they are not even suitable for cattle raising, and in times of drought they have been unstocked for years. Will any one say that, because we have had six good seasons, we shall not have some lean ones ? In time of drought, what are people there to do? A settler on the western lands of New South Wales, with a mortgage on his property, a land tax to pay, and drought and rabbits to fight, will be starved out. If the Government attempt to cut up holdings there into small areas, the small man will soon be starved out. A few years ago the Government of New South Wales tried to settle some of these lands. A large number of settlers went from Victoria and South Australia to the Hay and Jerilderie districts, and took up blocks of from 2,400 to 2,600 acres. Within five years they were starved out. The areas were not large enough, and the drought and the rabbits forced the people to give them up. Unless people have fairly large holdings in the dry districts, they cannot properly work them. In South Australia the rents of leasehold lands in the northern districts were increased, and lessees had to abandon them. The Government then found it necessary to materially reduce the rentals in order to induce the people to go back. There are many Crown lands in New South Wales and South Australia, the rentals of which, to-day, are considerably less than they were twenty years ago. We find ourselves forced back to the point that we must differentiate as between different classes of lands and different values. There is plenty of land in New South Wales that was purchased from the Crown at 25s. an acre and which can now be bought for 10s. per acre. We cannot very well say that owners of city lands are not putting them to their best use. There is not room to swing the proverbial cat in the back-yards of premises in Collins, Bourke, Swanston, and Elizabeth streets, Melbourne, and the principal streets of all our large cities. Back-yards there are no larger than those of the terrace at Collingwood which is owned by one of our Ministers. Yet honorable members opposite say that the owners of these properties are not putting the land to its best use. The Equitable Buildings, in Collins-street, are well known, and are amongst the finest in Australia. In that case, every inch of the land is built upon. The company has erected a building in which every one takes a pride. The rental derived from it, I am told, is £6,000 a year. It does not yield 3 per cent, on the cost ; yet the owners of the property, being an absentee company, will have to pay a tax amounting to £2,500 a year, or about 45 per cent, of the income.
– They have no right to be absentees.
– I fail to see how they could be anything else. Our great life assurance companies - the Australian Mutual Provident Society, the National Mutual Life Association, and the Colonial Mutual Life Association - have branches in Great Britain and South Africa, and are we going to say that they have no right to do business there? What should we think of the people of those countries if they said to these Australian companies, “We do not want you here; you are interlopers?” _ Should we not say that they were miserable crawlers?
– They could tax them.
– If they did, should we not think it a low down proceeding unworthy of Britishers ? Should we not think it unworthy of Great Britain to tax Australian companies doing business there - in other words, to tax, as foreigners, her own children coming home to do business with her?
– We tax British manufacturers.
– But is that any reason why we should say that British companies should not come here?
– No one says that.
– The honorable member for Indi has just said so.
– The honorable member is quoting special cases, and what I said was that they had no right to be absentees.
– Every company that wishes to do business throughout the British Empire must be an absentee so far as some parts of the Empire is concerned. Does the honorable member say that the Australian Mutual Provident Society has no right to be doing business in Victoria?
– Some of us are policyholders, and we do not mind.
– I am a policyholder in the Victorian company, and it would be just as reasonable for me to say, “ I do not believe in the Australian Mutual Provident Society competing with a Victorian society in this State.”
– That is rather overdrawn.
– It is no more overdrawn than is the statement that has just been made in regard to the Equitable Life Assurance Company of the United States doing business in Victoria. We ought to welcome Anglo-Saxon companies as long as they compete fairly with our own people.
– Suppose we did not treat them as absentees?
– Even if we did not tax the Equitable Life Assurance Company as an absentee company, a very large percentage of the income derived from its Collins-street property would disappear under this Bill. Another point to be observed is that all these mutual companies have a lot of properties on their hands as the result of the boom. These properties will be taxed, and in that way money will be taken out of the pockets of men who have insured their lives for £100 or £200. Their bonuses will be reduced. Yet no one can say that they desire to .be land-holders. The business of these companies is not that of land-owners. As soon as a new town springs up - as soon as the blacksmith’s shop, the public house, the church, and the post-office have been erected - an agitation arises for the establishment of a bank. A banking company buys a piece of land in the township and erects upon it a building in which to carry on its business. In this way it has an aggregation of properties, and upon them it is to be taxed. Such properties are required, not for speculative purposes, but to enable ordinary banking business to be carried on. Yet taxation is to be imposed upon them. Many large insurance companies are in the same position. I have no objection to an effort being made to compel a man to put his land to the best use; but it is unfair to tax the good and the bad alike. Instead of bursting up estates, as honorable members opposite imagine it will do, this measure in the long run will lead to the aggregation of holdings. The depreciation in land will be sufficient to enable men 10 build up at least estates of moderate size. In New South Wales, during the last few years, holdings have enormously increased. I was told by an honorable member that holdings in Victoria had not, but I think my informant must have been mistaken. Every day we read of sales of properties in different districts, and of the successful efforts of the Government in the direction of closer settlement. Then, again, millions of acres of mallee lands have been settled. Twenty years ago the mallee was virtually a wilderness, but now I suppose four-fifths of it is taken up. The size of the holdings seems to be a cause of much anxiety to some honorable members. When the Wimmera was first being settled selections were limited to 320-acre blocks. Holdings of that size are sufficient in some parts of “Victoria - in fact, the people can do well on smaller areas of rich lands - but in the Wimmera it was found necessary to increase selection areas to 640 acres. In the drier districts a part of every farm must be fallowed, and farms so situated must be devoted to grazing and agriculture.
– The size of the areas must be increased as the rainfall becomes more limited.
– That is so; small holdings in dry districts are impossible. By cramping values the Government are going to injure the man who wishes to borrow money and go on the land. Institutions that used to lend on land 60 per cent, of its value are now offering only 50 per cent., because they say that the Federal land tax” will depreciate property; and these are cases where the values are all below £5,000.
– It is unnecessary squeezing !
– It is not; it is an exercise of caution by trustees who are investing the moneys of other people.
– The men who are doing it are of the most Conservative and Tory type !
– Call them what we may, the fact remains that they are dealing with other people’s money.
– They know how to “squeeze” the small man!
– I am sure that if the honorable member were a trustee, and had to deal with the money of widows and children, he would be the last to take any risks, and thus render himself personally liable.
– We have to look after men and women who are earning a pittance, and see that the wealthy pay their fair share of taxation.
– All that is beside the question. Every honorable member, and a large percentage of the people outside, have sympathy with those who are sweated and unfairly treated; and it is unfair to talk of “ squeezing “ when trustees are only acting in a shrewd, com mon-sense way. Companies and other mortgagees do not desire to become landowners, but merely to have their interest regularly. One of the best valuers in Melbourne recently made a valuation of city property for a company, and, though the property is worth £100,000, and a short time ago could have been mortgaged to the extent of £60,000, he said that, taking the land tax into consideration, the actuarial sum. that could be safely invested was £28,000. There is a property in Collinsstreet now let on lease, and this tax will mean 33 per cent, of the rentals. Every inch of this land is built on, and, although it is put to its best possible use, this excessive tax is to be imposed. There are six beneficiaries under a will in connexion with the property, and at one move they are to lose one-third of their income.
– Why is it that some of the shrewdest men in Melbourne are paying big prices for city properties at the present time?
– I have not heard of a sale of city property since this Bill was introduced. In the case, of the Watson estate, the prices realized were less than those given twenty-five years ago.
– The properties were formerly bought at boom prices.
– The Beehive and the Leviathan buildings were bought by Mr. Watson before the boom. I do not know that there would be anything specially unfair in taxing the increment, but, if so, there ought to be some allowance for depreciation. Perhaps it would have been better if none of the lands of the States had been sold, but the people of the States, having sold the land and spent the money, cannot expect to “ eat their cake and have it.” The Governments of New South Wales and Queensland actuallythrust the lands down the throats of the people when the States were short of money.
– I am speaking of the lands of Victoria, which were sold for £5,000,000, and are now worth £125,000,000.
– If somebody sells me a coat for £2, I may dispose of it for £3 ; and no matter what business a man goes into he does so in the hope ot making profit in some shape or form.
– Everybody has benefited from the increase of population.
– Quite so; and yet the only man to be taxed is he who owns land, and many lands have considerably depreciated in value. It will be all very well if the men who bought land at j£i an acre, or Collins-street blocks for ^37 10s., were still the owners; but, as a matter of fact, the properties have changed hands many times, and it is the present owners, who have bought at enhanced prices, who will be taxed. When the lands of Victoria were sold for £5,006,000, the Crown, as representing the people, was quite satisfied that it was a fair price. How many of the original buyers, or their descendants, are in possession of the property to-day? If it is fair dealing to penalize the present owners, who have given the market prices, it is a great surprise to me.
-. - What did the Government do with the £5,000,000 ? Did they not build railways, and thus increase the value of the lands?
– Have the people of the cities not been benefited by the railways in the form “of cheaper grain and meat, and so forth, and in the way of greater facilities for getting their manufactured goods into the country?
– It is the rents that are so high.
– The more we tax the lands, the higher the rents will be. When in England, some five years ago, I stayed with some relatives at Shrewsbury, and there I found that the raising of the rates to 12s. 8d. in the £1 had so increased the rents that working people, who had previously occupied separate cottages, had to live two families in a cottage. I do not care how we tax, or attempt- to tax, we cannot by that means reduce the rents in the towns ; and the working people are those who will suffer in the long run, as has been proved, not only in Shrewsbury, but all over England.
– The landlord always squeezes as much rent as he can out of the tenant.
– It is all a matter of competition. If the population of Melbourne decreased by 10 or 15 per cent., rents would go down, but if it increased, then rents, of course, would rise, as is shown all the world over. If people go further out of town, they have to pay railway fares, and cut themselves off, to a certain extent, from the amusements and conveniences of the City ; and many people would rather pay is. or 2s. a week more in rent in order to be near the centre of population.
– When a man can manage it, he gets as far away from his work as possible !
– I do not think that is so, or we should not have such crowded quarters as Richmond and Collingwood. If the Government issue bonds, as we may have to do some day, would it be fair, by means of taxation, to confiscate 25 per cent, of the interest? That is exactly what is proposed, by means of this Bill, in regard to rents. Under such circumstances, the bonds would depreciate in value 25 per cent., and in case of a fresh issue they would probably be obtained at only 15s. in the £1.
– The honorable member means that landlords will have less income.
– I do not know whether that will be so or not, but I imagine that where they could, the landlords would endeavour to make up the loss in the rents. In the country the danger is, if we do not differentiate the classes of land, that we shall depreciate values all round to such an extent that those who own holdings less than £5,000 in value will suffer equally with those who have the larger and more valuable holdings. Some people say that “ hard cases make bad laws,” but there is no doubt that “ bad laws “ sometimes make exceedingly “ hard cases “ ; and the case of the mortgagees will be particularly hard. One clause of the Bill provides -
Land owned by a married woman for her sole and separate use shall be liable to assessment and taxation as if she were unmarried.
Then, immediately following, there is this provision -
Where a husband and his wife (not being judicially separated) aTe each owners of ‘ land, they shall be deemed to be joint owners of all the’ land owned by either of them.
It does not say that that is for the purposes of this Bill. But I should like the AttorneyGeneral to consider the position of the woman who has some hundreds of acres of land, and marries a man possessing a quarter of an acre. He at once becomes joint owner with her in the whole property, and entitled to half of it, though he may be a thorough scamp, who would sell his half share, squander the proceeds, and then become joint owner in the rem’aining half. Under the Friendly Societies Act, the appointment of new trustees in the name of the former trustees vests a property in them; so this measure will make husband and wife in every case joint owners, no matter how the wife has become possessed of her land. The words “for the purposes of this Act” should have been used ; the meaning of the provision should not have been left doubtful. Were I a woman, I should not vote for the supporters of a measure like this. The only protection for a wife who has been left property by a father, or who has bought it with her own money, will be to obtain a judicial separation from her husband. I am sure that any Judge would give the wife of a legislator who had voted for this provision a judicial separation if she applied for it. Let me instance my own case to show the effect of the measure. The house in which I live belonged to my wife before I married her, and in the past six months I have invested some of my money in land, against her advice. The effect of my doing so is to make her land taxable under the Bill. Is that fair to her ? The first thing that every married man tries to do is to make a home for his wife and children, and that is the first thing that every woman who has money tries to do. But we m’ake it an offence for a wife to own land if her husband does.
– Only land exceeding £5,000 in unimproved value will be taxed.
– A wife might have £3,000 worth of land, and her husband £3,000 worth. Both, if unmarried, would be free of the tax, but, married, they must both pay. That is not an encouragement to marriage. Another hard provision is this : If a Judge determines that an assessment is 25 per cent, below the real value of the land assessed, the Government may fine the owner ,£500, make him pay three times the amount of the tax, and forfeit his property.
– The Bill says “may,” not “ shall.”
– If certain members of the Labour party were in the Ministry, they would exact this penalty to the full.
– The undervaluation must be a wilful fraud.
– The Bill does not say so. The valuation of land is one of the most difficult things in the world. Only recently the Commonwealth Government valued land which they resumed for the cordite factory at £5,000 or £6,000. but on the matter going to arbitration a Judge of the Supreme Court awarded the mortgagee of the land two or three times that sum.
– Has the Commonwealth power to resume land which is thought to be undervalued?- Our powers are not the same as those of the New Zealand Legislature.
– The ordinarycriminal who is convicted of an offence m’ay be sent to gaol, but his property is not taken from him. Yet the owner of property who undervalues is to be stripped bare, and then sent to prison. The New Zealand provision is that the State may resume at 10 per cent, in excess of the valuation of the owner, which is fair. I do not think that any Legislature in the world has passed such an unjust provision as this, and I am surprised that fair minded men should propose it. We hear about the injustice done in countries like Russia, but it cannot exceed this. Still, honorable members who criticise legislation ought to suggest improvements. One suggestion I make is that there should be deducted from the .value including the unearned increment the amount originally paid to the Crown for land that is taxed. A mortgagor, too, should have an allowance in respect of the interest which he pays. He is a fairly smart man who can make more than 5 or 6 per cent, on land, and if taxation has to be paid on mortgaged land, mortgagors will never get out of debt. There is already a land tax in New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania.
– The Victorian tax is not worth mentioning.
– It averages 6d. per acre on the lands that are taxed. That tax is borne by 600 or 700 persons, many of whom have heavy encumbrances. Is it fair to tax them twice? Were a higher power to confiscate 25 per cent, of the remuneration of honorable members, there would be a great howl. Did not members of this Parliament object to pay the Victorian income tax until public opinion forced them to do so? I was not a member of the House then, but that is the impression in my mind.
– They vindicated their right to exemption from the tax. and then voluntarily put themselves under it.
– That is so; but the/ nt first asked to be relieved of it, and I think that was a paltry thing to do. Wilh reference to the provision as to absentees, I think that shareholders resident in Australia should not be punished because the company in which they hold shares has its head-quarters in England. We should deal with the matter in the way in which people are dealt with under the income tax, and each should pay in proportion to his interest. Because some shareholders of a company live in another country, the Government propose to treat some of our own people as absentees. It is the same with beneficiaries in trust estates. Some live here and some abroad ; but, under this measure the Government will punish the man who does his duty by living and spending his money in Australia equally with the man who lives and spends his money abroad. All I suggest is that where we can point to any provision of this Bill which will act unfairly, the Government should give favorable consideration to amendments proposed. I do not think that fair-minded people object to a land. tax; but there are many cases in which this tax will press very heavily. It will ruin a number of people without doing any good. What benefit will it be to any one in this community to see his neighbour dragged down to the gutter, ruined, and obliged to start life again ? I trust that when the Bill gets into Committee the Government will be prepared to favorably consider amendments which will make the measure less drastic and less unjust to people, who, through no fault of their own, will be severely taxed. Honorable members opposite are very keen to impose this taxation. They say, “ We are going to make it hot for them.” I have to admit that I know of one or two absentees whom I should like to see slated; they hold properties here and never spend a shilling in the country, or contribute a shilling to our charities. But because it might be desirable to get at two or three such people, we should not lie asked to injure hundreds who have done much to benefit the country.
– I hope to be able to address myself to this question in a moderate way. I own a few acres myself, and I have been wondering whether I shall have to pay taxation under this Bill. I hope I shall, and that thousands of others in Australia will also have to pay this taxation. If they do not, we shall have difficulty in getting the money which the Commonwealth needs. The trouble with the Labour party is that there are so few people who will come under this tax. That is one of the reasons why we ar-i imposing it, and why it is fairly severe. It is intentional on our part, and we make no excuse for it. We told the electors that we would do this, and if we do not make the attempt now we have the power we should be given the right-about, and would deserve it. One honorable member after another on the other side has got up to plead for the large landed proprietor of the Commonwealth. The people have been led to believe that every large landed proprietor in Australia is a bankrupt. That is not so. The properties of many large land-owners in Australia are no doubt heavily mortgaged ; but that is due to the fact that they employed no labour upon them, and have not put them to their best use. They have had to borrow money on their estates, in order to keep up the high life they were living, because they got no returns from the land they held. In hundreds of cases land-owners have had to borrow money because they neglected to avail themselves of the productive capacity of their lands. Why should this Parliament be asked, on that account, to exempt these people from taxation? Honorable members opposite have said that the proposed tax will ruin the large landed proprietors. But if they had put their lands to the best use in the past there would have been very little money borrowed on them. We have been told, also, that many large land-holders have paid so much for their lands that the effect of this tax will be practically to confiscate their properties. Let us analyze this a little. Many millions of acres in the Commonwealth were taken up in the early days, and I ask how did people get possession of the land ? Let us look at the record of the past. I quote from Knibbs’ Official YearBook of the Commonwealth. At page 246 he says -
Until the year i8ri all the land which had hitherto been alienated lay outside the borders of the town of Sydney, but in that year the Governor, with the authority of the Secretary of S’tate, commenced to grant town allotments on lease only, for periods of fourteen or twenty-one years; the rents on these leases varied considerably from time to time, according to the discretion of the Governor, by whom they were imposed. In 1829 leases were entirely abolished, grants of freehold estates being granted in lieu. Five years after they were, however, again introduced.
By 1825 the principle of alienation of land by sale to free settlers had already been introduced under SiT Thomas Brisbane, and under a Government order of 24th March, 1825, land was allowed to be sold by private tender at a minimum price of 5s. an acre, no person being allowed to buy more than 4,000 acres, nor any family more than 5,000 acres. - So that the pick of the land in the immediate vicinity of Sydney was sold years ago for 5s. an acre. People were allowed to take up from 4,000 to 5,000 acres. What is the price of that land to-day ?
– People would not take it up at that price.
– Eventually it was all taken up, and the land is worth, in many instances, now £200, £300, and , £400 a foot.
– Some of it was obtained for a. bottle or rum, and is worth £1,000 a foot to-day.
– The people who hold these lands are squealing about the land tax. Knibbs further says that in 183 1 -
It was notified by a Government order that no Crown lands were in the future to be disposed of except by public auction. The minimum price for country lands being fixed at 5s. an acre.
I come now to deal with the history of the first settlement in Western Australia, and Knibbs says -
The first settlers were offered large grants of land proportional to the amount of capital introduced, which comprised the value of all stock and implements of husbandry, at the rate of forty acres for every sum of £3.
Men could take up as much land as they liked in Western Australia for1s. 6d. an acre. These are the people whose properties are to be confiscated under the Bill.
– How many of them will be affected by the tax?
– It does not matter. I am showing how the land was acquired. Again I find this statement -
The original regulations under which grants were made to the first settlers were amended by others of a similar nature issued by the Imperial Government on the 20th July, 1830, which in turn were replaced in 1832, when free grants were abolished and lands were sold at a minimum price of 5s. per acre. In 1837 the price of allotments in Perth, Fremantle, and Albany was fixed at a minimum of £5an acre.
The holders of these lands are the people who will squeal and howl under the land tax, though they acquired their land for next to nothing a few years ago. The position of affairs was worse in Tasmania, and Knibbs says -
The early settlement of Tasmania was carried out under the regulations framed for the disposal of Crown lands in New South Wales, of which colony it was at the outset a part, and after its constitution under a separate Administration in 1825 the regulations issued from the Colonial Office for the settlement of Crown lands in the mother colony were made applicable to Tasmania. In 1828 the first land sales in the island took place, but so low were the prices obtained that 70,000 acres enriched the Treasury by only £20,000.
I take it that the 70,000 acres referred to was land in the vicinity of Hobart and Launceston, or the rich flats between Hobart and Launceston.
– It included land at Yorketown.
– There are not 200 acres selected at Yorketown. This land was the pick of Tasmania. Knibbs further says -
The Act of 1870 also gave power to the Governor to reserve such land as he might deem to be necessary for public purposes, and the lands not so reserved were divided into a town, b, agricultural ; and c, pastoral lands….. The upset price for agricultural land was £1 an acre ; that for pastoral lands being a sum equivalent to twelve years’ rental, but not in any case more than 5s. an acre.
So that the pick of the lands of Tasmania were sold at 5s. The pick of the lands of Victoria were sold at from 12s. 6d. to £1 an acre. The pick of the lands of New South Wales were sold at 5s. an acre, or a little more. The pick of the lands in Western Australia were given away for 1s. 6d. per acre, and city lands in that State were sold for £5 an acre. The same thing applies to the city lands in Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania. Now, what have honorable members opposite to say about the poor landed proprietors? What have they to squeal about?
– They are all dead long ago.
– The land has been handed down to their nearest relatives. I have pointed out how the lands of this Commonwealth were originally taken up, and I suppose some honorable members will say that the early settlers were greenhorns ; that they did not know the difference between rocky land and good country, or sandy deserts and rich agricultural areas. It is a remarkable fact, however, that in every State the best of the lands were the first to be selected. The people who hold them are those who are now crying out most loudly against the imposition of this tax. The several States have borrowed no less than £251,000,000, and I should like to know whether it is the man or the woman who does not own an acre of land or those who have practically retarded the progress of the country by holding large areas who have benefited most by the expenditure of that enormous sum. Undoubtedly the large landed proprietor has reaped the chief benefit. In no other country has so much money been borrowed for expenditure upon public works and the general upbuilding of the nation. Other countries borrow money chiefly to prosecute a war or for defence purposes. Knibbs points out that -
The Australian loan expenditure and public debt thus differ materially from those of most European countries where such expenditure is very largely incurred for purposes of defence only, or absorbed in the prosecution of war. The debt of Australia, on the other hand, consists in the main of moneys raised and expended with the object of assisting the resources of the Commonwealth.
I repeat the statement that the large landowners have reaped the principal benefit from the expenditure of this £251,000,000 qf borrowed money.
– The tradespeople have secured their fair share of it.
– If they have they will come under the provisions of this Bill. Business people can scarcely carry on without lands and buildings. As the honorable member knows, city lands are exceedingly valuable, and many of them must be subjected to this tax. I find that no less a sum than £166,000,000 is deposited with the banks, the larger proportion of which is the possession of ‘the large landowners. More than two-thirds of it is owned by them.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– I am not. The deposits with the Savings Banks total £40,000,000. We all know that the poor man who can save a fiver generally deposits it in a Savings Bank.
– I undertake to say that 75 per cent, of that total of £166,000,000 belongs to those who are comparatively poor.
– It has been repeatedly stated during this debate that the large landed propraetors of Australia are worth practically nothing, and that their estates are so encumbered as to be almost valueless. In answer to that statement I would point out that in 1908 the value of the property left by 10,000 persons in the Commonwealth was sworn for probate purposes at £20,245,000. And yet we have the Opposition declaring thai we are going to ruin the class to which those persons belonged - that we are going to drive them out of Australia and to bring disaster upon every one. In New South Wales, 50,000,000 acres of land have been alienated, 29,000,000 acres are held under lease, and 18,000,000 acres are unoccupied. I may say, in passing, that I believe in taxing lease-holders. The large lease-holder from the Crown is the biggest sinner that we have, so far as retarding the progress of the country is concerned. He is a far greater sinner than is the holder of alienated land, and I should like to see him brought under the provisions of this Bill. I am informed, however, that that cannot be constitutionally done, and that I suppose is an end to the matter. In Victoria we have 28,000,000 acres alienated, about 16,000,000 acres under lease, and 12,000,000 acres unoccupied. In Queensland there are 21,000,000 acres alienated, 273,000,000 acres held under lease, and about 134,000,000 acres unoccupied. In South Australia there are 9,500,000 acres alienated, 102,000,000 acres held under lease, and 130,000,000 acres unoccupied. In Western Australia there are 14,000,000 acres alienated, 161,000,000 acres held under lease, and 449,000,000 acres unoccupied. In Tasmania there are 6,000,000 acres alienated, 1,500,000 acres held under lease, and 9,500,000 acres unoccupied. The total for the Commonwealth is 130,000,000 acres alienated, or in process of alienation, 787,000,000 acres held under lease, and 986,000,000 acres unoccupied. We have only half-an-acre of land under cultivation to every 100 acres in the Commonwealth ; and our exports clearly show that if only “5 per cent, of our lands were under cultivation Australia would be able to carry a population of 50 or 60 millions. The desire of the Labour party is not to bring about the ruination of our landed proprietors, but to do that which will tend to the betterment of the people and the Commonwealth. Our desire is that land shall be cultivated, and put to its best use. Although, as I have said, we have under cultivation only half-an-acre out of every one hundred acres in the Commonwealth, the value of our production in 1908 was £.164,000,000. Those figures do not include the gold yield; they represent only the products of the man on the land. People owning enormous areas of land declare, however, that with the passing of this Bill they will be face to face with ruin. Do these figures show that they will ? Is it not possible for us to take from them a revenue of £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 without doing them any serious injury. I think that we can easily do so. The people who are crying out most loudly against the imposition of a Federal land tax have also on their land’s “a very valuable asset in the shape of horses, cattle, sheep and pigs, valued at £141,000,000.
– Does the honorable member want the Government to take them, too?
– No;I am simply pointing out what a rich asset these people have on the land, quite apart from what they actually produce from it.
– We have the greatest production per head of any country in the world.
– And yet the cry is that we are going to ruin the landed proprietors of the Commonwealth. I come now to another aspect of this question. New South Waleshas a public debt of £90,000,000, whereas the capital value of the lands - I am speaking of alienated lands - of that State and the buildings thereon is only £150,000,000. If the value of the lands and buildings in New South Wales be, as Knibbs points out, £150,000,000, the State Government have expended £90,000,000 of borrowed money - which they still owe to the money-lenders of London - in helping to create that value. In other words, if we assume that the land is worth £1 per acre there has been an expenditure of public money, amounting to over 10s. per acre. And yet these landed proprietors growl. These figures, when analyzed, are a terrible revelation. Victoria, which is not quite so bad, owes£54,667,197, while the capital value of the land and buildings is £232,000,000.
– What about the value of the railways?
– I am at present confining myself to privately-owned properties. Queensland owes £44,000,000, and the capital value of her land and buildings is only £45,000,000.
– The honorable member means alienated lands.
– Of course.
– Have not the railways added to the value of the lands ?
– Yes; and in Queensland it will be seen that the landed proprietors have nothing to growl about. They have borrowed this large amount of money, and the poorest of the poor have to pay the interest. The Labour party is condemned by the capitalistic press for refusing to borrow.
– What do the “ poorest of the poor “ pay of this interest in Queensland?
– They pay more than their share.
– The Customs duties go to the Commonwealth.
– The duties were paid to the States until ten years ago. South Australia has borrowed £30,000,000, and the capital value of the land and buildings is £63,000,000; Western Australia has borrowed £21,000,000, and the capital value of the land and buildings is £35,000,000; Tasmania owes £10,000,000, while the capital value of her lands and buildings is , £26,000,000. It will be seen that Tasmania owes the least of all, in proportion to the capital value of her property. The total value of alienated or privately-owned land and buildings throughout the Commonwealth is . £553,376,582; and the total indebtedness is £251,000,000. The persons who own the lands of the Commonwealth have practically borrowed up to 50 per cent. on their properties, and the people of the Commonwealth have to find the interest on money borrowed by Government in the past for the purpose of making railways, roads, and buildings which have increased the value of the properties of the large landed proprietors. We certainly have spent £141,000,000 out of the . £251,000,000 on railways, but up to very recently there was not a railway in the Commonwealth that was paying. Only within the last few years, since the Commonwealth took a hand, has there been any progress in this direction ; indeed, in the State of Victoria, if I remember rightly, the loss on the railways a few years ago was £1,000 a day; while in Tasmania, at the present time, the loss under this head is £80,000 a year. The New South Wales railways are, I believe, just paying interest.
– They are earning a profit of 4.36 per cent.
– That is only very recently, and that result is to be attributed to the tramway system of Sydney. It is a remarkable fact that the revenue from the Sydney trams is larger than the whole of the revenue of Tasmania. It must be remembered that in these figures I am dealing with privately-owned land and buildings.
– That is a weakness of the honorable member’s argument.
– No, it is not.
– The honorable member does not take the assets into consideration.
– I certainly do. What was this money borrowed for? Who insisted on it being borrowed ?
– The cities.
– No; it was borrowed in order to provide conveniences and facilities for the man out-back, with his 750,000 acres, and so forth.
– He certainly ought to have facilities.
– Then he ought to pay for them, as he has not done in the past, but as he will have to do in the future. Why, the Government have even supplied wire-netting, and so forth, to the landowner. As against the total valuation of £553,000,000, the value of the products of the land in one year is £164,000,000 ; the people who own the lands have cattle, sheep, horses, pigs, and so forth, to the value of £140,000,000 ; they have deposits in the banks to the amount of £166,000,000, and the estimated value of their personal property, apart from land and buildings, is £190,000,000. These are the people who are raising such an outcry about the imposition of this tax. Honorable members opposite talk about the land-owners being so poor that they are going to be crushed; but I may point out that of the total of £251,000,000 borrowed, £62,000,000 has been lent by the Australian people.
– Good luck to them !
– So say I; but why raise the cry that the Commonwealth is too poor to stand this taxation? .
– These are the people that the tax will not fall on.
– It will fall on most of them.
– The money borrowed in Australia is not always Australian money.
– The official record says that it is money lent in Australia by the Australian people. We find that 180,000 persons out of a total population of 4,500,000 in Australia, own 130,000,000 acres of alienated land. In Tasmania there is a more severe land tax than anywhere else in the Commonwealth; and from the handful of people there the Government collect under this head £80,000 a year. Under the land and property tax of Tasmania there is no exemption, so that if a man has only a quarter of an acre, valued at £5, he must pay his share.
– And if he improves his land the tax is increased.
– Quite so; he has to pay a½d. in the £1 on the capital value. In Tasmania, fifty people own 1,500,000 acres ; 300 persons own 2,500,000 acres, and 1,400 persons own nine-tenths of the alienated land. Is it any wonder that a majority is returned to this side of the House? I guarantee that there was not a Labour candidate who did not make the land tax a foremost question at the election. Our opponents also made it the foremost question, and sought to show that the proposed taxation would ruin the people of Australia. The majority of the electors, however, took a different view, although there was not a member opposite who did not paint the land tax in the blackest colours, and stopped at nothing in their efforts to defeat the ‘Labour party.
– Be fair !
– I am fair. Honorable members opposite declared that the tax meant confiscation and ruin; indeed, they have been saying so during the last fortnight in this House. It is a startling fact, too, that the wealth produced every year is produced under bad supervision. If all the lands were put to their best productive use, thoroughly tilled and worked, we should have an annual production of £400,000,000 or £500,000,000 instead of £164,000,000. Honorable members opposite know that the lands have not been put to their best use. I desire to repeat here that in Tasmania the Government, for the last few years, have collected £80,000 a year from the handful of people who own a little over 5,000,000 acres of land ; and if the whole of the 130,000,000 alienated acres in the Commonwealth had to bear the same taxation, it would mean a return to the Commonwealth of £2,000,000. What do honorable members think of that argument? Are not the lands of the Commonwealth as good, on the average, as those of Tasmania? It is only in parts of Tasmania that the land is rich; but Victoria has her Western District, Queensland her Darling Downs, and every State her rich districts. If the people of Tasmania have been able to pay £80,000 a year on their 5,000,000 acres, surely the Commonwealth, as a whole, can pay £2,000,000 on 130,000,000 acres. I admit that the Federal land tax will double-bank the taxation of the large land-owners of Tasmania. But, notwithstanding the fact that the Tasmanian tax is the most severe in the States, the large proprietors there are increasing their acreage.
– Their assessments fall every year.
– But the fact that they are increasing their acreage shows that the land can pay the tax.
– Then the tax will not burst up large estates?
– It will cause their proprietors to contribute towards their defence.
– This does not accord with the circular that the honorable member issued before the election.
– I spoke on the platform as I speak here. Land in Tasmania which fifty years ago was put under the plough is never ploughed now. Much of it was given away in the early days. I told the people from the public platform that it was when they could get their labour for nothing that they put their land under the plough. I admit that there are good landlords. I know any number who treat their servants well, and pay good wages. But there are landed proprietors who would rather see wrinkled-faced, one-eyed sheep than beautiful children and women. Some of them think it detestable to have human beings, except stock-riders, on their estates, and desire to see nothing there but horses, cattle, and sheep. The Commonwealth should have a population of millions more than it has. It is our duty to bring about a betterstate of things ? I consider this the best measure yet introduced into the Federal Parliament. We have heard of estates of 50,000 or 60,000 acres, worth 30s. an acre, producing a return of only . £300 a year. If there are such estates, are their owners putting the land to its best uses? Are they not merely allowing a few sheep to run on the land, while they drive about in motor cars, stay at the best hotels, drink the best wines, and smoke the best cigars? They put hardly an acre under the plough to make provision for their stock, and allow the land to remain virtually a wilderness ; so that each year it carries less stock ? Do isolated cases of that kind call for consideration? If persons who, through bad years, or because their land is too heavily mortgaged, are unable to pay the tax, notwithstanding that the property is being worked to the greatest advantage, the Bill makes provision for consideration being shown to them. But those who. are not using their land to the greatest extent possible are not entitled to consideration. In conclusion, I would say that the large land-holder is a public enemy, an individual who, by his own doings and vanity, is keeping the country defenceless. Further, I should like to ask the Chamber is he an adequate compensation for national suicide?
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harper) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Greene) read a first time.
Land Tax Assessment Bill - Alleged Labour Party Disagreement - Duty on Undressed Dolls.
That the House do now adjourn,
I appeal to honorable members on both sides to bring the debate to a close tomorrow, if possible.
– The honorable member has been sparring for wind. He has to settle with the caucus.
– The honorable member is quite in error. It should not be necessary for one in my position to make these explanations. The statements which have been made are a tissue of lies. I am not referring to what the honorable member has said.
– The party has not made up its mind about the Bill.
– I hope that a division will be taken as soon as possible.
.- I agree with the Prime Minister that it is desirable to come to close quarters with the Bill as soon as possible. But it is a measure of such importance that every honorable member who desires to do so must be given an opportunity to place his views on record. There are still four or five members on this side who wish to speak, although they are willing to compress their remarks as much as possible.
– On more than one occasion, reference has been made to the fact that under departmental regulations duties have been charged on imported goods which it was. the intention of Parliament to admit free. That is altogether a wrong practice. Probably the officers of the Department act conscientiously, desiring to obtain as much revenue is they can get, but in some instances they appear to unduly stretch their imaginations to declare an article dutiable. I wish to call the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs to a case in point. After a night’s discussion, Parliament decided that dressed dolls should be subject to a duty, but that undressed dolls should be admitted free. A day or two ago I received a copy of the following letter from a firm in Sydney -
The Collector of Customs, Sydney.
Sir, - Ex Hamm, from Hamburg, on account of Mr. Y. Jorgensen. We passed a free entry for undressed dolls upon warrant 3750 on 24th August, 1910.
Upon examination, these dolls were found to be perfectly nude, but a small piece of ribbon was tied on to the hair, and, in consequence of this piece of ribbon, which is not a dress, you claimed 25 per cent, by a post, which we have paid by warrant 13169 of 31st August, 1910, the sum of £1 5s. y<. in order to obtain delivery of these goods, which were urgently wanted.
On behalf of Mr. P. Jorgensen, we have to protest against the imposition of this duty- of 25 per cent, on these dolls.
According to the Tariff, undressed dolls are free, and we fail to see’ how a. small piece of ribbon tied on to the hair constitutes a dress.
If. a lady going up George-street, Sydnev. were to walk along the street clothed as Eve with the only accessory to her blushing beauty being a piece of hair ribbon, she would be immediately seized and lodged either in gaol or a lunatic asylum as a criminal or a lunatic, as the case may be.
Trusting you will forward this protest to the authorities in Melbourne with the object of having the order cancelled and this amount of £1 5s. 7d. refunded.
We have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient servants,
To-day I received this letter -
Sydney, 13th September, 1910.
By this post we are sending >ou sample of a “ Dressed “ doll on which duty was demanded »t the rate of 25 per cent, and paid by us under protest by warrant number 13169 of 31st August last.
Hammon & Creighton.
I produce the sample referred to. Honorable members will see that the doll is absolutely nude, with merely a little thin strip of -ribbon less than an inch long on the top of its head. To class it as a dressed doll is absurd. Were any of us to walk up Collins-street in a similar condition, would the police deem us to be dressed? Should we not be taken up under the laws of the country and subjected to a heavy penalty? Yet, according to the Customs authorities this is not an undressed doll, although it is absolutely nude. Twenty-five per cent, duty is charged upon it because there is a little bit of ribbon in the hair. This is a case in which the deliberate decision of Parliament is clearly overridden by the Customs authorities, and under departmental regulation -an attempt is made to impose a duty which this Parliament deliberately refused to sanction.
– In reply to the honorable member for Lang I desire to say that under the Tariff, item 327, it was decided that undressed dolls should be free of duty, and under item 326 dressed dolls are dutiable at 25 per cent. Very many attempts were made to define “undressed doll.” At first dolls were allowed to pass as undressed with a single thin garment on them. Then it was found that little bits of lace, ribbons, and boots and stockings were gradually added, until my predecessor, Sir Robert Best, gave a certain decision. I have no wish to shelter myself behind the fact that I was not responsible for that decision, because I believe it to be a correct one. As a matter of fact, it was made at the request of the trade, who asked that if anything were added to the figure a doll should not be classed as an undressed doll.
– There is nothing added in this case. A 25 per cent, duty is charged on this doll as a dressed doll.
– The doll produced by the honorable member is not a dressed doll, and according to the definition decided upon at the request of the trade it cannot be classed as an undressed doll. The Department are acting in the matter upon a definition agreed to at the request of the trade.
.- 1 was not present this morning at question time, but I understand that the honorable member for Parramatta asked a question based on a report of some remarks I made at Alexandra on Monday night, which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald. I wish to say that the report referred to is so crude as to be incorrect. I did not make the statement attributed to me with reference to the Federal Capital to the effect that Mr. Fisher and Mr. Wade were trying to take one another down. I never made such an absurd statement. What I really said was that with a Labour Government in the Federal Parliament and a Labour Government in the State Parliament the settlement of details in respect to the Federal Capital might be expedited. That
Mr. Fisher and Mr. McGowen, being members of one great party, would be able to conduct negotiations without the delays arising through parties discussing matters at arm’s length. It was in that strain thatI addressed myself to the question. I instanced the negotiations which took place between the State Labour Government in South Australia and the Federal Labour Government in connexion with the Northern Territory, and passed on to refer to a number of instances in which State and Commonwealth Labour Governments might approach questions more freely than would Governments representing different parties.
– It was a poor compliment to pay the Prime Minister.
– I am not saying whether it was or not. My point is that the report upon which the honorable member for Parramatta based his question is absolutely incorrect. I looked around for reporters at the meeting, and though there was a representative of the Daily Telegraph present at one time, he left the building before I commenced to speak. The only other person ] saw taking notes was a young lady, and there was no representative of the Sydney Morning Herald present. It is apparent that some novice produced a report for a suburban newspaper, and that some condensed report was then sent on to the Sydney Morning Herald. The report upon which the honorable member for Parramatta based his question conveys no correct idea of the remarks I made.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member’s explanation, because in substance the statement he has made bears out the report to which he takes exception.
– There is a great deal of difference.
– I do not see any essential difference at all.
– I do not think the honorable member wishes to see any.
– One never can tell. It may be that I do not, but I venture to say that 999 persons out of 1,000 would say that there is no substantial difference between the two statements. Any one reading the honorable member’s revision of his speech as presented to-night must come to the conclusion that he meant to convey to his audience that the Capital site question would be settled more quickly with a Labour Government in power in
New South Wales. The honorable member’s statement had no meaning if it did not mean that.
– I am not concerned so much about the construction the honorable member puts upon my statement as about the inaccuracy of the report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
– Why should the honorable member discuss the matter at all if he did not desire to convey that impression?
– My opinion is that in the settlement of these questions, Ministers belonging to the same political parties can conduct negotiations more quickly than Ministers belonging to opposing parties.
– Why ? Mr. McGowen is in Sydney as well as Mr. Wade. The honorable member has put himself in this position, that he has been practically telling the people of New South Wales that Mr. Fisher would do for Mr. McGowen what he would not do for Mr. Wade.
– The honorable member’s statement means nothing if it does not mean that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 September 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19100915_reps_4_57/>.