4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. GLYNN presented a petition from six taxpayers in South Australia,, praying the House to reject the Land Tax Assessment Bill.
Dressed and Undressed Dolls
-Has the Minister of Trade and Customs, or his Department, arrived at a decision as to what constitutes a dressed or undressed doll ?
– I have gone into the matter again, and hope, within the course of a day or two, to decide that any doll which has on a garment of any sort shall not be classed as undressed ; but that, if it has only a ribbon or a piece of lace or a flower in the hair, it shall be classed as undressed.
” Illegitimacy “ Heading.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs if, in view of the injustice done to certain children, he will, when the statistics of the Commonwealth are being collected, cause those children to be described, not as illegitimate, but as the children of illegitimate parents, and so remove a slur from innocent children?
-At the earnest solicitation of the honorable member for Melbourne, I have decided to do that. I think it is right.
– Is it correct that, in his answer to the honorable member for Melbourne, the Minister of Home Affairs said that, where the children were illegitimate, he would have the parents described as illegitimate in the census papers?
– No ; what I said was that in the statistical papers the parents, and not the children, will be “illegitimate,” because the children had no say in the matter.
Payments for Allowance Post-offices.
– A few days ago, the honorable member for Bendigo asked whether there had been a new scale of payments instituted for ‘allowance postoffices. I said at the time that I knew of no new regulation, but, on looking into the matter, I find that there was a new regulation passed in March last by the honorable member for Bendigo, which has been coming into force, and, apparently, has been affecting the amount of money paid in several of the allowance offices. I have, however, decided to cancel that regulation, and go back to the old one.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General whether his predecessor personally signed that regulation?
– What has that to do with it?
– It has everything to do with it. Will the PostmasterGeneral also state what was its date?
– I shall look into that matter.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster- General a question . without notice. He told the House a moment ago that the previous Postmaster-General had promulgated a certain regulation. Does he know that the honorable member for Bendigo signed that regulation, or not?
– I should be glad if the honorable member would give notice of that question.
– Are we then to take it that, when the honorable member declared that the previous PostmasterGeneral promulgated the regulation, he did not know whether that honorable member had done so personally or not?
– I do not quite understand the honorable member. The circular was issued on the 23rd March last.
– By whom? Who signed it? The Minister is deliberately keeping back the truth from the House.
– What does the honorable member mean by that ?
– What I say.
– The honorable member for Parramatta, as an old member,, must know that the words he has just used ought not to have been used. I ask him to withdraw them.
– I will withdraw anything I have said that is unparliamentary ; but I wish to say, by way of personal explanation, that it is known to us, as it is known to the Postmaster-General, that the. honorable member for Bendigo did not sign that regulation at all. The PostmasterGeneral knows that, but he will not tell the House so.
– The honorable member for Parramatta is going’ far beyond his privileges, and such conduct on the part of honorable members must always place the Chair in an awkward position. Under the cover of a personal explanation, the honorable member made a definite statement against the Postmaster-General. He knows he has no right to do that. I do not like to have to remind honorable members of these things, but ‘I must protect the House, and I ask the honorable member not to do that sort of thing in the future.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral know, or does he not know, that the previous Postmaster-General did not sign the regulation referred to?
– I shall be delighted if the honorable member for Bendigo asks me to place every paper connected with the matter upon the table of the House.
– Bluff again. There is nothing straight about you.
– The honorable member must withdraw those remarks, and on this occasion I ask him to apologize to the honorable member for having made them.
– I withdraw them, and apologize.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence a question. It was read out to me this morning from the Age that Major Forsyth, who has been in India for some time gaining experience on the frontier, is returning to Australia, and that he is to be appointed in the office iri Melbourne as, I think, D.A.A.G. Some time ago this question was debated in the House, and the then Minister of Defence said that no officer who had gone abroad to gain experience should be put in an office, but that such officers should be sent out to the country, as the House desired, to impart to others their experience in military affairs. Will the Minister ascertain from the Minister of Defence if it is the policy of the Government to shut officers who have gained practical experience up in an office, as has been done heretofore?
– I shall have pleasure in . putting the case presented by the honorable member before the Minister of Defence, and in getting his reply. I have informally discussed the question with the Minister, whose view, and, I think, the view of the Government, is to utilize the experience gained by these officers to the best possible advantage for the military defence of Australia.
– But that will not be obtained in an office.
– It will be obtained where it is desired.
– I wish to call the attention of the Prime Minister to the following statement, appearing in the London Times, of 5th August -
It should finally be noted that the Secretary, of State has already twice asked for the views of the various Governments of the Dominions on the business to be discussed at the Conference next year. The first of these despatches was sent in February, 1909, the second in March of the present year. Neither has as yet produced any definite suggestions.
Are those despatches still unanswered, or have any suggestions been made by the Government as to matters for discussion at the Conference ?
– I believe the statement is a fact, but the experience has been that the agenda of these Conferences generally reach the persons who are to confer at about the time they land in Great Britain.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs been drawn to a cablegram, appearing in this morning’s papers, referring to frauds committed by officers of the American Sugar Trust, whereby the United States Government was defrauded of revenue? Is the Minister taking any precautions to protect this country, first, in regard to manufactured sugar, and, secondly, as to sugarcane for manufacture, upon which bounty is required to be paid?
– I have not seen the cablegram referred to, but have taken steps to protect, not only the revenue, but the farmers, by having check weighers appointed in certain of the mills this season.
– Can the Prime Minister yet lay on the table of the House the report of the deputation that waited on him with reference to the operations of the Land Tax and Land Tax Assessment Bills?
– I mentioned the matter to Mr. Sheppard, the secretary to the Prime Minister, and he said the newspaper reports of the deputation were practically verbatim.
Meetings at Parliament House.
– Yesterday morning the honorable member for Lang brought before my notice a paragraph appearing in, I think, the Argus, to the effect that a meeting was held within the precincts of this building, in connexion with the appointment of the executive of the Waterside Workers. I have made personal inquiries into the matter, and find that a meeting was held here, and that nearly all those present, with the exception, I think, of one, were members of Parliament. However, I pointed out to those responsible for the holding of the meeting that they had committed a breach of privilege, and warned them that such a thing was not to occur again.
– I desire to state, by way of personal explanation, that it is with great regret that I notice that an honorable member took exception to what was done, but I quite agree that it is within the province of any honorable member to take such action. I think the practice might lead to abuse, and even to an intolerable state of affairs, and, personally, I regret that the meeting was held within the precincts of this building.
Perth and Bunbury Telephone Line - Salaries of Telephonists - Penny Postage : Official Post-offices.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Perth, has furnished the following information : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Gazette (date10/9/10) for a Telephonist for Wellington, N.S.W., 16 to 21 years of age, at a commencing salary of 12s. 4d. per week, and increments of about 3s. per week ?
– The following answers have been furnished by the Public Service Commissioner : -
With regard to question 3, I would point out to the honorable member that the duties of the Public Service Commissioner are defined by an Act of Parliament, and it is therefore outside my province to make suggestions as to how they should be performed. The “6 ft. 3 in.” referred to is the height to be reached with arms upraised above the head.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the decision of the Government to introduce penny postage, and the probability that the revenue from official offices will be reduced in consequence, will he consider the advisability of amending the regulation which provides that the minimum revenue from such offices shall be four hundred pounds per annum, and thus avoid the lowering of the status of many country offices?
– Yes, the matter will receive attention, and be dealt with in such a way as to prevent the status of existing offices being lowered as the result of the introduction of penny postage.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
What are the junction charges on -
– I am informed by the Victorian Railway Department that-
Through rates are operative in respect of goods in classes “A,” “ B,” “ C,” “ 1,” “2,” and “3,” consigned between Melbourne and Sydney, and Adelaide and Sydney, and also for fruit and vegetables, but otherwise goods are subject to the following junction charges : -
Goods in three higher classes, viz., “ 1,” “2,” and “3’’- 2s. 6d. per ton.
Other goods (wool, live stock, empty returns, and vehicles excepted -1s. 6d. per ton.
Empty returns -1s. per ton.
Vehicles -1s. 6d. each.
No junction charge is made on wool, and the charge for the haulage of wool from Albury to Victorian stations is the Victorian mileage rate. Through rates are also quoted for , live stock conveyed by passenger trains between Melbourne and Sydney ; but all live stock carried by goods trains, and all other stock carried by passenger trains, are subject to the following junction charges : -
By goods trains -
In live stock trucks - 3s. per truck.
In New South Wales goods. trucks - 2s. per truck.
Horses per passenger trains -
One horse -1s. 6d.
Two horses - 2s. 3d.
Three horses - 3s.
The specified “ junction “ charges represent the cost of haulage as between Wodonga and Albury, the provision of terminal facilities at Albury, and the cost of transfer at Albury of goods in the three higher classes ; and the charges are of an arbitrary character, and the proportion directly ascribable to the break of gauge has not been determined.
The amount paid in junction charges during the year 1909-10, or in any year, is not ascertainable without considerable labour, and a statement in regard to the matter is in course of preparation.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
In Sydney the various premises leased for Ministers’ and members’ rooms, offices for Works Director, Public Service Inspector, Common wealth Electoral Officer, Patents offices, have been given up and concentrated in the Custom House buildings.
In Melbourne a scheme is now being considered for concentrating a number of the Federal offices into the one building.
Debate resumed from15th September (vide page 3303), on motion by Mr. Fisher -
That this Bill be now read” a second time;
Upon which Mr. Deakin had moved, by way of amendment -
That after the word “That” the following words be inserted: - “the form of land tax outlined by the Prime Minister, and provided for in this Bill, is unjust in its incidence and an abuse of Federal powers.”
.- In addressing myself to the second reading of the Bill, I shall deal briefly with the few points which it seems to me that we ought to ‘consider, without touching upon ‘the constitutional question, which has been so admirably discussed by previous speakers. My remarks will have a more practical application to the probable effect of the imposition of the proposed tax.
The party in power is certainly entitled to introduce a Bill to tax land, because it distinctly announced to the country its intention to do so, and a majority has been elected in favour of that course. What I individually may think of the wisdom of such legislation is, therefore, beside the question. We are, however, entitled to compare the provisions of the Bill with the statements put before the electors. There was a cry for the imposition of taxation to burst up large estates, the idea of those who raised it and supported it being that there are large estates which, by reason of the suitability of their soil and climate, and their accessibility to markets, are specially adapted for small holdings, and should be subdivided, instead of being left in the hands of a few owners. The Bill, however, not only provides for the taxation of what are large estates, but also for the taxation of what I may call constructive large estates, because it regards all the lands of any holder, whether private person, banking, pastoral, or investment company, in whatever area they may be held, as large estates. No one thought that this principle of taxing aggregations of separate landed properties would be adopted, “or that the tax would be applied to land which is now being used to the fullest possible advantage.
I do not wish to deal with the circumstances under which the land’ of the Commonwealth has been alienated, except to say that alienation has taken place in accordance with the laws of the country, it having been considered for many years that the best way to provide for settlement and to attract immigration was to get as much land as possible into private hands. The acquirement of land in British communities by the ordinary processes of law has not hitherto been penalized, but this Bill goes beyond the professed intentions of its framers, and penalizes the investment of capital in landed estate, even when improved and used for industrial and other purposes. I remember when, in compliance with a popular cry for the opening of the land, many millions of acres were forced on unwilling buyers, both in this State and in New South Wales, and that it was a common practice in the seventies, and even in the eighties, for Treasurers to ask companies and private investors whether they would not take up so much land; because they wished to make up their land revenue accounts for the half-year. The policy of rapid alienation was pursued with the consent of the State Parliaments. It has now been abandoned in the States which I have mentioned. But in Queensland, within the last two or three years, many companies and private individuals have been induced by the Government to buy large tracts of country at IOS. an acre.
This Parliament cannot deal with land matters as if it had a clean sheet. The laws of which I have spoken were passed by majorities representing the people, and were considered liberal. We are entitled to think differently from those who have gone before us, as to the wisdom of that legislation. The rights of the holders of land were acquired by the operation of laws made by the Parliaments representing the people. As fair men we are bound to recognise that, and must not treat them as if they had obtained their land by unfair, underhand, and improper means. I do not say there were not abuses and evasions of the law which might have been punishable, but even the land so acquired has since descended to others, or been bought and sold for value given and received. It is not fair to refer, as an honorable member did last night, to what happened in 18m, or in 1837. The events of those times have nothing to do with the questions with which we have to deal.
To my mind, this Parliament is taking belated action to remedy a grievance which undoubtedly at one time existed in the withholding from the occupation by farmers of tracts of rich agricultural land near to markets. There are estates which perhaps all of us would agree should be in the hands of small settlers, and the public imagination has been inflamed regarding them. For the last ten years, however, the breaking up of large estates has gone on steadily and persistently under the operation of State laws passed in compliance with public sentiment. Honorable members here are adopting, apparently without inquiry, cries which have done duty before in many a party fight in the State Parliaments, and are neglectful of the forces which are at work to bring about what they profess to desire. In this country the possession of land has never carried with it that social prestige which elsewhere has induced moneyed men to hold large tracts for very little return. Here land, like other forms of property, is regarded as possessing a certain commercial value upon which a fair return should be earned, and if a man who is raising sheep finds that by selling his land’ he can increase a profit of 3 or 4 per cent, to one of 5 or 6 per cent., and avoid all’ the troubles of management and the risks: of seasons, he willingly sells. Nature> too, brings about the subdivision of estates by the death of their holders, and their distribution amongst heirs. These processes of disintegration will continue, and if nothing is done to induce aggregation, land will be available as long as there is a demand for it, in such areas as the community will absorb.
But it is idle to make statements without supporting them by authorities which honorable members will recognise. The deputation which waited on the Prime Minister has not been treated quite fairly, the honorable memmer for Riverina having asserted, in effect, that its statements were untrue. In justice to Mr. Campbell, who saw me on the subject, I must repeat that the Prime Minister was informed that the cases put before him were actual cases, and that he could have the returns from the “estates mentioned, for the years referred to, verified by any confidential officer he liked to appoint, if he would not allow the names of the holders of the land to transpire. Naturally people do not like to have their affairs exposed, particularly when the exposure would be somewhat painful to their friends and themselves, but the Prime Minister received from Mr. Campbell a letter intimating that accounts were in the offices of certain companies, and could be examined by a confidential Government officer. It is hardly fair of the Prime Minister to say that he will not express any opinion upon the statements made by the deputation. Parliament desires to get at the truth, and to be satisfied that misleading statements are not being made to it. Whenever new taxation is proposed, hard cases will always be brought forward, but we, as the representatives of the people, ought to search out the truth, and to discover what is the actual position in regard to this measure, which will certainly be much more farreaching in its consequences than its promoters anticipate. I do not wish to put before the House statements that cannot be substantiated, and I have endeavoured to obtain information of an authoritative character, bearing upon the land question in this State. The Attorney-General, and several other honorable members have, in defence of this Bill, referred to Victoria as offering a shocking example of the aggregation of large estates, and the misrepresentation of the position in this State has caused me, as a Victorian, to feel at times rather indignant. I shall put before the House the actual position.
In March, 1906, a full inquiry was made in regard to the occupation and cultivation df the land in Victoria, and at page 609 of the Victorian Y ear-Book for 1908-9, it is stated that -
The position disclosed was that 48,489 occupiers of 11,842,695 acres of private land up to 1,000 acres each -
And taking one class of land with another, an area of 1,000 acres is not a large estate - also occupied 4,159,932acresof Crown land- a total of 16,002,627 acres, and less than half of the total area in occupation.
In other words, of the 24,000,000 acres of alienated land, 11,842,695 acres were then held in holdings up to 1,000 acres in extent.
– Do those figures include city lands?
– Yes. The main point, however, is that these 48,489 occupiers of holdings up to 1,000 acres in extent - controlled 70 per cent, of the total cultivation, and possessed 75 per cent, of the horses, 87 per cent of the dairy cows, 69 per cent, of the other cattle, 90 per cent, of the pigs, and 26 per cent, of the sheep.
– Then it would be a good thing to multiply their numbers.
– That is what we are doing. The honorable member has anticipated me. The figures that I- have just given show what was the actual position in 1906. A similar inquiry was made in March, 1908, and referring to the facts then disclosed, we have the statement, at page 611, of the Victorian Y ear-Book -
Comparing the position with that in 1906, it will be observed that in land privately owned, estates of over 10,000 acres were reduced by twelve in number and 497,747, or 12 per cent., in acreage, while estates up to 320 acres had increased by 2,637in number and by ‘ 199,851 in acreage; also that the increase in the total number of holdings was 6 per cent., whilst that in land alienated was less than 2 per cent.
Thus in two years about 500,000 acres were converted from large into comparatively small estates. There were 2,637 additions to the number -of freeholds up to 320 acres, whilst the number of large holdings materially decreased. An ounce of fact is worth a bushel of argument. Unfortunately, particulars under these headings were not obtainable in respect of last year, but we have in the Year-Book information as to the changes in estates exceeding 5,000 acres up to March, 1909. In March, 1906, there were 220 estates of from 5,000 to 10,000 acres, comprising a total area of 1,567,251 acres, and in 1909 the number had decreased to 202, with an area of 1,423,000 acres. In March, 1906, there were 195 estates of 10,000 acres and upwards, comprising an area of 4,134,067 acres, and in 1909 the number had been reduced to 168, with an area of 3,327,360 acres. In the three years twenty-seven of these large estates were broken up, and the area held in estates of 10,000 acres and upwards had decreased by 806,707 acres. To summarize the position, in the three years there was a reduction of forty-five in the number of estates of 5,000 acres and upwards, and a reduction of the acreage of these large estates to the extent of 950,269 acres. Seven or eight years hence, at this rate of progression, the whole of the lands will be broken up. Advices which I have received from authoritative sources lead me to believethat the progress made up to 1908-9 has since been accelerated, and that at the present time, without the imposition of any “ bursting-up “ tax by either this or the State Parliament, estates arc being subdivided. We cannot rush men on to the land without capital or experience in a wholesale fashion. We have to obtain settlers of the right class, and I contend, on the facts disclosed by the Victorian Year-Book, that the public demand for land in this State is being amply- met in a legitimate and natural way . I fail to see, therefore, any reason why this Parliament should interfere with a matter with which, after all, it has not much concern.
We have been told during this debate that Victoria has lost a considerable portion of her population. People who leave Victoria do not do so because they cannot maintain themselves here. Victorians are a little like my own countrymen; they have a natural tendency to seek for the line of least resistance. Where a man with his family has done well on his farm here, and finds that he can sell out to advantage at£10 an acre, he is inclined to do so, for he knows that in another State, where land is much cheaper, he can get for the same money an area of perhaps four times the size of his present holding. The man to whom he sells does well, and he, in turn, will probably do well in another State. I have in mind some men who were formerly in my own electorate, and who left Victoria, not because they disliked it or had failed to do well here, but because they thought they could do better by taking up a larger area in another State, where land is obtainable at lower prices.
– Western Australia has taken a lot of Victorians.
– And Western Australia was made by Victorians.
– Victorians !
– I repeat that statement. I have had business connexions with Western Australia for forty years, and know that, until 1892 or 1893, when a large influx of population from Victoria took place, it was a dead-and-alive State.
– Western Australia has in return done very well for Victoria.
– As in all good business arrangements, both States have done well by the transfer of population. As an Australian, I ask, What does it matter if people do go from one State to another? Why should an argument in favour of certain taxation be based on the fact that good Australians have left Victoria to promote the interests of Western Australia and Queensland? Australia has not lost those people. By these transfers of population from State to State we are making the Commonwealth. Settlement in the. United States proceeded along the same lines. Who made the western States from New York west to California ? Who during the last fifty years have caused the central States to become the important centres they are? These territories were peopled by the farmers and the farmers’ sons of Maine and Connecticut, as well as the other eastern States on the seaboard, who migrated west and took up land there, not because they were dissatisfied with their own States, but because they wished to obtain larger areas.
– They desired a larger scope for their energies.
– That is so. All this has happened in the natural’ order of things, and so far as this Parliament interferes with that line of development it will not act in the best interests of the Commonwealth. Victoria is the most densely populated of all the States. According to the last census it appears that it has nearly fourteen persons to the square mile, as against four to the square mile in New South Wales, and less than one to the square mile in the other States, except Tasmania. The next census may show a different result, but-
– When the people pegged out Victoria they selected a choice little spot.
– Naturally. The pioneers knew what they were about, and it is natural that the State which is the most densely populated should be sending forth people to increase and equalize the population of more sparsely settled parts of the continent.
At page 612 of the Victorian Y ear-Book for 1908-9 we have the statement -
Under each heading -
Those are the headings to which I have just referred - there has been a substantial reduction in the number and acreage of estates, and the average area of each in1909 is less by about 1,400 acres in the larger estates and by 76 acres in estates of from 5,001 to 10,000 acres.
In order to show that this change is not confined to Victoria, I shall now make a brief reference to the position in New South Wales, with the rural conditions of which I have not, however, that practical acquaintance that I have with the conditions prevailing in Victoria. In 1901, there were in New South Wales 63,693 holdings under 1,000 acres in extent, whereas in 1908 the number had increased to 74,824. In other words, there was an increase of 11,131, or an average of 1,590 per annum for the seven years’ period. That is just about the same rate of progression, in comparison with population, that we have had in Victoria. I am told that in Riverina, and in the constituency of the honorable member for Hume, the subdivision and settlement of estates in small holdings is going on at an amazing rate. I do not know ‘ whether the honorable member for Hume can bear me out; but that is the information I have.
– The owners are afraid of the land tax.
– The honorable member for Hume will notice that I admitted that one of the elements in this subdivision was the Land Acts of the State Legislatures, and it may be that the fear of a land tax has influenced these subdivisions.
– Most of the subdivision has been caused through the Government improving the land.
– I am not dealing with causes, but with results, and pointing out that, without any interference from this Parliament^ a process of disintegration is going on at such a pace that in the near future there will, with very few exceptions, be practically no enormously large estates. This Bill is intended to deal with very large land-owners, who, being wealthy, may be taxed, but, in my opinion, this will not cause them to subdivide their estates unless they choose to do so. The Bill will, however, affect thousands, and tens of thousands, of people most adversely, while it will not have the desired effect on the rich land-holders beyond making them pay a few thousands extra per annum, which they can well afford.
In this Bill we have an implement which is being used under a wrong impression.
– The difficulty is to find buyers now.
– Then we must not forget that the use of chemical manures, and other scientific processes, have made land, which was formerly not suitable for any thing but sheep, fit for profitable grain growing. This has, of course, enhanced the value of the land, and made it worth buying, even at an enhanced price. But immediately a man makes a good profit on the sale of land, envious people say, “ Well, he did not get that rightfully, and is practically robbing the public.” I may say that I. never was a large land-holder myself, though I am in danger of being made one in a constructive sense by this Bill. I admit, frankly, that I have held, and do hold, some land ; and I am very sorry for it, because, while we hear a great deal about the unearned increment, I have rarely experienced anything but the unearned decrement. I have land which I bought twenty years ago, and which I have been trying to sell ever since, and I should be very happy to “sell it for half what I gave for it, and add a considerable bonus. Profits and losses are made on land as in every other kind of business transaction. I notice that, in the case of the man on the turf, we always hear of the wins, and never of the losses, and the same applies very much to dealings in land. No allowance is ever made for the case of those who buy land, even from the Government, without any intermediate profit, and have to sell it at about half the price ; and this has been the experience of some smart, business men. The honorable member for Balaclava last night referred to a case with which I am acquainted, namely, that of the Kerri-Kerri property in the Riverina, for which the owners’ paid 20s. per acre a good many years ago, and which was sold last week, after being months and months in the market, for about 8s. 6d. an acre.
– We never hear about the estates which were bought for about£1 an acre, and are now worth£25 an acre.
– My complaint is that we hear all about those cases. The honorable member’s mind is obsessed with the idea that estates for which £1 an acre was originally paid are now worth£10 or £20 an acre. I am endeavouring to make the honorable gentleman see that, while he is at perfect liberty to regard the matter from that point of view, there is another side to the question, and that is that it is not fair to penalize a land-holder merely because he may have been successful. We all agree that it is desirable, in the interests of the country, that rich tracts of land in accessible places should pass into the hands of the largest possible number; and, as wise men, we ought to consider how this end can best be brought about. Of course, that depends on whether we have the power to pass legislation to that end, and, in my opinion, we have not. However, my whole point is that, without any interference by the Commonwealth authorities, the object of this Bill is being attained by means of local legislation, and it may be the fear of taxation as well as economic causes to which I have referred.
The Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral referred to what they regarded as the alarming fact that, in spite of all the closer settlement legislation in New South Wales . and Victoria, by means of the re-purchase of estates, the- actual increase in tillage amounts to only 552,000 acres in five years. That is only another instance of the narrow and contracted view which is taken of this question. What is the reason that the tillage has not increased materially ? I thought every man knew that our farmers and settlers are now coming to the conclusion, which was arrived at in other countries long ago, that mixed farming, consisting partly of tillage and partly of grazing and . dairying, is the most reliable and profitable, and are adopting that policy. In view of the demand for lambs and the high price of wool, their, desire is to produce commodities which are, perhaps, not so liable to fluctuation as grain. They go in for sheep. At any rate, they are following the example of every intelligent man of business, and avoiding the mistake of putting all their eggs into one basket.
– Do not forget the large increase in dairying.
– Quite so; I had forgotten that. We now have agricultural colleges and other educational agencies to instruct and interest our farmers, and the farmers are waking up and beginning to better understand the land.
– The Governments are providing schools, and doing everything but provide the land !
– I am endeavouring to confine myself to the Bill, and the remark about the schools was only incidental in the statement that we are now getting a better class of farmers. My point is that big flock-masters, who used to own all the sheep, so far as Victoria is concerned, are pretty well a thing of the past. I have here a return compiled from the Y ear-Book for 1906-7 and 1908-9, which I should like to appear in Hansard..
– The honorable member must read the return if he desires it to appear in Hansard.
– It is a long return and very important, and I think that the rule might be relaxed a little in such a case as this. Hansard is practically the only means we have of conveying to people outside exactly what is said in this House ; and that publication contains a vast amount of information useful to the electors and the community generally. However, as I desire the return to appear, I shall read it, as follows : -
In 1908 the total number of sheep in Victoria was 13,977,464, of which holders of flocks under 5,000 held 9,087,197. That is to say, the big estates have remained practically stationary in regard to the sheep they carry, while two-thirds of the sheep in Victoria belong to people who own under 5,000. This is a remarkable fact, of which honorable members ought to take note. The holdings have increased in two years by 2,370, and the big estates have decreased by about ninety, so that practically the flocks in Victoria increased from 15,705 in 1906 to 21,400 in 1908, a difference in two years of 5,695. The number of sheep held by ‘people in flocks up to 5,000 sheep was 60 per cent, of the total for Victoria in 1906, and 65 per cent, of the total for Victoria in 1908. As to flocks above 5,000 sheep, the number in 1906 was 362 with 4.736,734 sheep, while in 1908 the number of such flocks was 384 with 4,890,767 sheep.
– That is another proof that the smaller the blocks the greater the number of sheep !
– I do not see how that has any bearing on what I am saying. We all agree that it is desirable to have small holdings in suitable areas ; and I am emphasizing the fact that small holdings are being created without any interference by this Parliament. The process is going on in a way really surprising ; and in this connexion I have a return relating to New South Wales which, however, I shall not detain the ‘House by reading.
– It would be rather interesting to hear that return; we are legislating for Australia and not only for Victoria.
– I quite agree with the honorable member; but, in my opinion, Victorian instances ought not to be quoted as applying to the whole of Australia, nor indeed New South Wales instances, though that is being done in the course of this debate. I shall not read the details of the return, which, I may say, is reprinted from the Sydney Wool and Stock Journal of 19th August, 1910.
– Why not take the figures from the official statistics ?
– Because the statistics do not give the same particulars. The number of holders of flocks of from one up to 5,000 sheep in New South Wales’ in 1891 was 11,256. In 1906 the number bad increased to 18,946 ; in 1908, two years later, it was 22,249. That was an increase of nearly 100 per cent, in seventeen years; in the last two years there was an increase of 3,303, as against an increase of 7,690 in the number of flocks in the previous fifteen years, showing that the process is going on at an accelerated rate, and that the object which, in this Bill, it is sought to bring about is being steadily achieved, and the process will continue, without any interference on the part of this Parliament.
– It was the rainfall that brought about that increase.
– The honorable member for Hume is mistaken, as those figures cover the whole of the drought years. There were both good and bad years in the period from 1891 to 1906, and in spite of the drought there was an increase. I admit that the years from 1906 to 1908 were good years, but that does not affect my general argument that, without interference on the part of this Legislature, the process of disintegrating large estates is steadily going on, partly through the action of local Legislatures in acquiring estates, and threatening taxation policies, which have no doubt had some effect, and partly through the natural trend of things. The use of chemical manures and the raising of stock for export have enhanced the value of land, and made it less worth while for people to hold it merely for grazing areas without any other improvements.
– The cause of the increase referred to by the honorable member was the coming of South Australians and Victorians into New South Wales.
– Those obscure reasons do not weigh with me at all. I am dealing with facts.
– That is a fact.
– It may be a fact, but it is not relevant to my argument. I havedrawn attention to facts which are not answered by interjections as to how thesethings come about. I am trying to ascertain our reasons for interfering with a state of things which is going on without our assistance, and with which we are interfering only by a stretch of our authority under the Federal pact.
I never yet knew of a Bill being introduced to impose a tax without some explanation, on reasonable grounds, of the basis upon which the return of the tax was calculated. I have carefully read the speeches of the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, and found in them hardly anything that is informative as to the revenue the Government expect to get from the tax. The Prime Minister says he reckons, and wishes to get £1,000,000. That is all the information he gave us. But the Attorney-General, in a remarkable passage, which I regret that a gentleman holding so responsible a position should have put. forward as argument, gave particulars of.: certain land-owners in Australia holding: estates of over ,£5,000 and up to £6,250,. unimproved value, and others holding estates of from £6,250 to £12,500. and soon, and then said, as reported in Hansard, at page 2225 -
Roughly speaking, there are less than II,000persons who will pay under this tax, excluding absentees. There may be fewer than 11,000, and I think there will be, but we are unable to tell. A man may have aggregations of estates in various States, and so it is impossible to compute the number exactly. But roughly speaking, 10,000 persons own £127,000,000 worth of unimproved land values, that is to say, reckoning the unimproved value to be 50 per cent, of the total value, 10,000 persons own about £254,000,000 worth of landed interests in the Commonwealth. Or one-four hundred and fiftieth of the population own three-eights of all the landed interest of Australia…..
The bare telling of these facts is a sermon more eloquent than the finest oration ever delivered. One-four hundred and fiftieth of the population own three-eights of the entire landed wealth of the country….. I ask the
House to contemplate a state of things where, not 10,000 persons, but 1,000, or even 10 persons, shall own three-eights of the entire landed wealth of Australia. That is no wild exaggeration. Already in the United States a handful of men absolutely control half of the entire wealth of the country, and the time is rapidly coining in Australia, unless we check it, when a handful of people will own three-eighths of the landed wealth of Australia, lt is because that state of things is absolutely incompatible with the well-being of the country that we ask the House to assent to this legislation.
That is the whole of the information given by the honorable member as to how we are to arrive at any estimate of what the tax is likely to produce. I have already shown that that passage is absolutely unfounded. The honorable member raises a bogey about a state of things which he says will come about here, but which all the statistics show to be impossible, seeing that the disintegration of the large accumulations of land which have fallen into the hands of individuals is going on at a rapidly increasing and really surprising rate. The honorable member could only have made those statements in ignorance of the facts.
– Does the honorable member deny the correctness of those figures?
– I shall not deny them, because I do not know how the honorable member arrived at them, but I shall make certain use. of them. He says in ‘ his speech: -
No statistics are available, and one might as readily endeavour to compute the number of souls in hell as find the amount of property that each person holds in this country. For some inscrutable reason these statistics have not been prepared ; but, so far as one can judge by figures available from -other sources - and then he makes the statements which I have already quoted.
– Those figures are from Knibbs.; there is, therefore, no question or mystery about them.
– If the honorable member had said so when giving them, I could perhaps have checked them, but he says in his speech that they are “ from other sources.” If Knibbs’ Year-Boo/; is the source of the honorable member’s information, I should like him to refer me to the tables bearing him out. He refers to “ Hell,” and I thought that perhaps spirits from above had given him the information. Am I to understand that the honorable member refers to returns given by Knibbs in the Year-Book? If so, I shall deal with them. I take his silence for assent. I have examined Knibbs1 and various other Year-Books, and I do not recognise these figures. How does the honorable member arrive at the statement that so many men hold properties between £5,000 and £6,250 in unimproved value, and so on? Knibbs’ Y ear-Book, so far as I have seen, does not refer to landed estates only ; that is where the trouble comes in. The tables in Knibbs’, so far as I have examined them, do not give unimproved land values. It might be that the whole of the people referred to by the Attorney-General in his figures were holders of city property, and not country property, because the two are mixed up. Landed property, in Knibbs’ , embraces not only vacant land, whether in large or small areas, but also improvements. If the Attorney-General was seeking to lead the House and the country to believe that his figures justified the introduction of the Bill, I join issue with him, because they prove nothing of the kind. I have taken some trouble to form an estimate of what the tax will bring in. The same trouble could have been taken by the AttorneyGeneral, or some other member of the Ministry. If it had been a straight tax, and nothing else, I could have put the Attorney-General, in five minutes, in possession of a means of getting all the money the Government profess to want by a tax that nobody would feel - a land tax that would raise more than £1,000,000, and do no injustice to anybody.
– But this land tax is intended for some people to feel it.
– I said that, if this were only a tax to get, say, £1,000,000 for defence - and I admit that the Labour party have a perfect right to say that they want to get money to pay for defence by a land tax - I could put them on to a way of getting it in five minutes, with nearly the whole machinery for collecting it already in operation. I find, after careful inquiry into the systems of local taxation, taking the figures mainly from Knibbs’ and other Year-Books, that the total value of alienated land, including improvements, is, in the whole of Australia, £551,175.277.
– And mortgaged for £234,000,000 at least.
– I am afraid that the honorable member, like the AttorneyGeneral, is dealing with an unknown quantity. I shall give presently an estimate of the mortgages in Victoria; but it can only be an estimate.
– It is easily arrived at, as they must be registered.
– They are not all registered.
– What value have they if they are not registered?
– The banks would not take them unless they were good. The registered mortgages form only a part of the whole mortgage indebtedness, because, although the banks would always prefer a registered mortgage, they often take, in order to save expense to the small man, what are called equitable mortgages. They hold a document which is a mortgage, and can be registered at any time, if necessary, but which, as a matter of fact, is not registered. Such documents are out for millions of pounds.
– The honorable member is stating an excellent argument for land nationalization.
– If the honorable member will content himself with less magnificent conceptions, and deal with the matters in hand, it will be more to the purpose.
The estimated improved value of Australian landed estate is £551,000,000. A tax of1d. in the £1 on that amount would give £2,250,000. The estimated unimproved value is £269,504,901, on which the same tax would give £1,128,937. Those are the sums which could be obtained by a land tax for defence purposes, in the levying of which the municipal machinery of the States could be used.
– What chance would there be of getting such a tax passed?
– I am pointing out what could be done if the purpose of the Bill were merely to provide revenue for defence purposes.
– Would the honorable member support the Bill if that were stated to be its object?
– I am too Scotch to commit myself by replying to such interjections. I shall support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, because I think that it exactly covers the case. I will, however, deal with the estimate of the Attorney-General for what it is worth, because it is all that we have, though judging by what he said it is not worth much. According to him, 10,000 persons own £254,000,000 of improved land values, and, taking the unimproved land values as 50 per cent, of the improved land values, they own £127,000,000 of unimproved land values.
– The honorable member’s figures show that the improved value is twice that of the unimproved value.
– I am accepting the Attorney-General’s figures for what they are worth. Making allowance for the exemption of estates not exceeding , £5,000 in unimproved value, an average tax of 4d. - the rates range from 6d. to 2d. - would produce, say, £2,250.000.
– The minimum rate is1d.
– Yes. The tax starts at1d., but it accelerates in accordance with that peculiar formula which the honorable member said was as meaningless to him as the French on a menu card. On an average rate of 4d., the tax would bring in twice as much as the Minister estimates. On a tax of 3d., which is a very low average, the return would be £1,500,000; but these figures make no allowance for the estates which by means of the “aggregation” provisions would fall under the Bill. If the tax on those estates were taken into consideration, I believe that the return would be £3,000,000.
The measure was advocated in the country as one needed for the bursting up of large estates, and, therefore, it seems to me that that should be its dominating purpose. The taxing - of aggregations of freehold landed property was not contemplated even by the Government, and the Prime Minister had not such a thing in his mind when he made his Gympie speech. Let me show how I arrive at my figures, which I think are more reliable than are those of the Attorney-General. In all the States there are local governments, which practically embrace their whole area. In New South Wales, Queensland, and’ Western Australia, these local governing authorities tax unimproved values; in Victoria and Tasmania, improved values are taxed, and in South Australia revenue is obtained from a tax partly on improved, and partly on unimproved, values. This, want of uniformity makes it difficult to estimate the actual improved and unimproved values of landed estate for the whole of the Commonwealth. In New South Wales, however, an estimate has been made of the unimproved and the improved values of the land of the State, and, according to our Year-Book, the unimproved value of the lands of Sydney and its suburbs is £44,007,668, and the improved value £105,502,428, making the value of the improvements £61,494,760, or 58.3 per cent, of the improved capital value. The unimproved value of the country lands of the State is £20,104,983, and the improved value £44,784,238, making the value of improvements £24,679,255, or 55.2 per cent, of the total capital value. I have applied these proportions to the statistics for Victoria, the improved value of whose cities, towns, and boroughs is £106,149,960, while that of her shires is £136,538,811, a total of £242,688,771. Applying the New South Wales ratios, I find that the improved value of the land in Melbourne and its suburbs is £94,885,708, and the value of the improvements £55,349,991, the net unimproved value being £39,535,717- The improved value of the other Victorian cities, towns, boroughs, and shires is £147,803,063, and the value of the improvements £81,587,256, the net unimproved value being £66,215,807. Applying the same principle to the other States - and any difference can only be very slight - I find that the unimproved value of all the lands of the Commonwealth is £269,504,901, of which Melbourne and Sydney freeholds unimproved represent £84,000,000, leaving £185,012,000 as the unimproved value of the rest of the land of Australia. The improved value, which amounts to £551,175,277, is made up of £105,000,000 for Sydney, £95,000,000 for Melbourne, and £350,000,000 for the rest of the Commonwealth.
– Does not the honorable member take into consideration the value of the land in the other capitals?
– I have not ascertained separately the value of the land in Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart, and Perth, which strengthens my position, because nearly half of the total landed wealth of the country consists of the improved properties in the capital cities and in the cities, towns, and boroughs. I prefer, in propounding an argument, to understate rather than to overstate a case. Half the total improved value comprises estates which cannot be regarded as estates which it is necessary to tax for the purpose of bursting them up. Of course, it is competent for us to tax all land, and no one could take exception to an all-round tax for defence purposes. But the case for the imposition of a tax to burst up large estates has absolutely failed.
This legislation is on wrong lines, and hits the wrong men. Some members of the Labour party seem to think that the small land-holders will not be affected.
– Estates having an unimproved value of less than £5,000 are exempt.
– There are other ways of paying a tax than that of paying it directly to the Government. Many small land-holders supported the Labour party believing that it would impose a land tax that would not affect them.
– And this tax will not touch them.
– I intend to put before the House a few considerations showing that even if the small land-holder does not have to pay the tax to the Government, he will have to pay in some other direction. Two-thirds of those who have been assisting in the development of small land holdings in Victoria and New South Wales, as shown by the figures I have quoted, are enterprising men who are being financed by trustees or trustee companies and financial institutions. I speak with the knowledge of one behind, the scenes in view of my connexion with financial institutions, and my position as a trustee. Two-thirds of these people are in debt to the extent of 60 per cent, of the value of their properties, which is the maximum to which a trustee may go. These men will not have to pay the tax itself, but the feeling of anxiety and unrest brought about by its imposition will be such as to cause a lot of land to be thrown upon the market, and in the absence of buyers-
– There will be plenty of buyers.
– Yes; the man with plenty of money will step in and buy up land at reduced rates. In this way the Labour party will assist to build up a class of millionaires in Australia.
– The tax will round them up again and brand them.
– Those who, like the honorable gentleman, have money on deposit with the banks will step in and buy land at cheap rates as the result of this taxation.
– Does the honorable member mean to suggest that because of this taxation the banks will foreclose in the case of mortgages on land?
– I am not talking about the banks.
– - The honorable member said that two-thirds of the men on the land were in debt to the banks.
– I made no such statement. I said that two-thirds of the enterprising men who are taking up land in small blocks are in debt, but I did not say that they were in debt to the banks. Tn order that there may be no misconception let me say that I speak now as a trustee. For the last forty years I have acted as trustee in an estate having £150,000 invested here, and I shall, therefore, speak as one who has acted in that capacity, so that it may not be inferred from anything I say that the banks are going to take action in the direction suggested by the honorable member for Riverina. The banks can very well look after themselves. Let me explain now how men with small holdings will be affected by this tax. Take the case of a man who has bought land at £10 per acre, which it is honestly worth, and who has obtained from a trustee a loan amounting to 60 per cent, of its value. If, as the result of this taxation, and as intended by its promoters, land values are reduced and an adjoining block is sold at £6 per acre. The mortgagor in due course finds it necessary to seek a renewal of his mortgage. The mortgagee as a trustee, in accordance with the law, must have a fresh valuation made; that valuation fixes the value of the land at £6 instead of £10 per acre, and the mortgage has consequently to be reduced, or it will not be renewed.
– Every lender must make himself safe.
– By law a trustee must make himself safe, and as the fresh valuation discloses a reduced value he will require at least a proportionate reduction in the amount advanced. This will have a serious effect upon ‘ a most deserving class of settlers. It will affect men who have worked hard, saved money, purchased a piece of land, and borrowed on the margin. That margin, as the result of this taxation, will disappear, and tens of thousands of men represented in this House will find that their savings are, if not lost, very seriously imperilled. I have every justification for making that statement, and believing it to be true, do not think that I should be doing my duty as a representative of the people if I failed to give utterance to it.
– The honorable member has not made it clear that the small man is going to be affected by this taxation.
– I have made it clear, but I cannot supply that which, in the honorable member, may be wanting.
– The honorable member has given us a splendid argument for the establishment of a land bank.
– I am glad that I have achieved something, even if it is not what I had in view. Let me now put before the House a letter from a thoroughly reliable correspondent dealing with the position of a small farmer in the Western District of Victoria -
A farmer of twenty years ago rented 30 acres, and, by careful management and good farming, saved a little money and bought 20 acres on long terms. By thrift and the help of his boy, just able to work, he gradually reduced the debt, and bought 30 acres more - in all 50 acres. By degrees he cleared off all the debt and released his certificate of title last year, worth £2,500. The 50 acres were too small for the sons, who are now young men, so, as they wished to keep together, he bought 60 acres more, and to do so borrowed £3,300 for five years on both properties, being 60 per cent, of the value. His - own interest in the land is 40 per cent. When we have a depreciation of value of 40 per cent., what becomes of the hardwon earnings of the lifetime of this first-class producer? When there is not sufficient margin the trustees who lent him the money must withdraw it, and he loses his land.
– According to that statement the man will not come under this Bill.
– He will if his land is worth more than £5,000. Honorable members opposite seem to have made up their minds, and are impervious to argument. I am stating facts. This man obtained a loan of £3,300 on land worth £7,000, and, therefore, he will have to pay the Federal land tax on £2,000.
– No. The unimproved value of his land would have to exceed £5.°°o-
– The point that I was making related not to his liability to pay this tax, but to the reduction in the value of his property.
– Why should it be reduced ?
– It will be.
– Even if the tax be imposed the land will still produce the same number of cabbages as before.
– But the cabbages will not return him sufficient to pay off his mortgage.
– His mortgage will be the same as before.
– The honorable member has had something to do with mortgages, and he knows very well that if I asked him for a loan of £1,000 on the security of property worth £600, he would jot lend me more than £350.
– But the man to whom the honorable member has referred will not be taxed.
– My honorable friend has had great experience, but he seems to be impervious to argument. If a man has obtained a mortgage representing 60 per cent, of the value of his land, and that as the result of the imposition of this tax, land decreases in value-
– But why should it?
– Where you have a sellers and no buyers, that result must be inevitable.
– The honorable member is assuming that there will be the same number of applicants for land-
– When the Government offer a few blocks of land for selection, many people apply for them just as some people take tickets in a Tattersalls sweep. They know that if they have the good fortune to secure a block, they may be able to dispose of it at a profit of £1,000 or £1,500. That does not truly indicate a bond fide demand for land.
– Surely ,the honorable member does not suggest that every applicant for a block thrown open for selection is a speculator?
– The honorable member is very apt at drawing a red herring across the trail, but this one is not very well cooked. All that has been said as to the rush of people to select a particular block of land is quite beside the mark. The man who is really anxious to settle on and work the land is the man who buys a block; and if he is honest and hard working, and knows his business, he will always be financed, and carried through, as many thousands of men have been.
– Wait till we have a Commonwealth bank.
– A Commonwealth bank could not do more than has been done for many thousands of people by the existing financial institutions. They have financed them, and carried them through; and I am glad to say that those who have been so assisted have proved, for the most part, honest men. Nearly all of them are now well off, and do not owe their bankers a shilling. If they had been crushed, as this Bill will crush them, they would have been driven out of the country.
– They could not have been crushed if they owed no money to a bank.
– The great bulk of the money lent on the security of land is advanced by trustees and trustee companies.
– And financial institutions.
– The financial institutions temporarily finance them. This’ Bill has been introduced on the pretext that it will burst up large estates. What sense is there in such a reason for it?
Let us consider for a moment how, under the aggregation clauses, it will affect a large industrial company with establishments in the various State capitals, employing, perhaps, thousands of hands and possessing valuable freeholds, which it has improved to their fullest capacity. Why should this Legislature, under the pretext of bursting up large estates with a view of promoting settlement, tax those city properties which, although small in area, are of great value? Their’ taxation will not promote closer settlement. Trading or industrial institutions are taxed in every State upon the income they derive, not only from the land, but from the products of the industry carried on on the land, and the businesses which are conducted. They are now to be treated as if they were large land-owners. I am amazed that the honorable member for Hume, who, like myself, is a strong Protectionist, should countenance legislation that is really a direct attack upon the industries or the lands that are necessary to the carrying on of industries that we are endeavouring to establish in this country. I cannot understand why this is to be done. We shall not burst up large estates by imposing additional taxation on city blocks that are improved to the highest point, and are a source of employment to thousands of people. Is there any justification whatever for the proposed aggregation of estates? I know of none, unless it be designed to overcome some provision of the Constitution. Those who voted for the present Government, and for land taxation to burst up large estates, never contemplated such a proposal as this. The
Prime Minister himself admits that, because, he said, as reported at page 1543 of Hansard -
Honorable members will see that the taxation applies, not only to large estates, but to city and town areas, and, therefore, could not be justified alone on the ground of breaking up large estates.
Then what justification . is there for this provision in the Bill? There is no mandate for it from the country. The country never heard anything of it.
– I told my constituents all about it.
– The honorable member represents a district in which I have a manufactory, and he is going to assist to tax me very heavily.
– The honorable member has not £5,000 worth of land in the case of the factory alone.
– I do not like to introduce private matters, but I am afraid I shall be a heavy taxpayer under the aggregation clauses of the Bill, which place my business at a disadvantage.
– I wish to put the matter, fairly ; I am merely asking for information.
– Quite so; and while it is true that the land on which the factory in Victoria stands may not be taxable, the offices, together with the establishments in Sydney, Brisbane, and elsewhere, will bring me within the scope of the Bill, as the owner of a large estate, although these premises have no more connexion with one another than the Goodwin Sands has with Tenterden Steeple.
– It will help to pay. for defence.
– The honorable member must have been asleep ! I pointed out that for the purposes of defence, an allround property tax might be justifiable; but I am now dealing with legislation which was not authorized by a mandate, because this part of the Bill was never put before the electors. These clauses are dangerous, and so destructive tha? they will bring discredit on this Parliament and untold losses to thousands. There is no doubt that they will cause a feeling of insecurity; and I may say that I am dealing with this question with a due sense of responsibility. Any one who merely desires to let the Government “fall into the pit,” or “ stew in its own fat,” would say, “Go on with the Bill and see the result.” But I conceive it to be my duty to warn the Government, although I do not sit on their side of the House, of what, in my opinion, may happen, and what in the light of past experience will probably happen. The effect of this legislation has hot yet been realized ; but it will be found that any man who buys shares in a bank, industrial company, or any investment company may become a land-owner and amenable to this tax, though he may possess no more than the house he lives in, or the piece of land he may cultivate as a small farmer. Such legislation must bring about financial paralysis. I view with great trepidation the effects of this Bill if it becomes law. People who have invested money in this country will, in addition to a feeling of insecurity, be convinced that we have done a scandalously dishonest thing. The land now possessed by private owners was acquired by sanction of laws passed by Parliaments elected by the people, and every British community has ever recognised its obligations in such circumstances. If the people, through their Parliaments, make foolish laws and bad bargains, they must take the responsibility of the result, and not turn round and penalize those who have invested their money in land in good faith. As I said before, this taxation will not have the effect of bursting up the very large estates ; and it is indefensible on the grounds of honesty and prudence. I have tried to make out my case, and if I have not succeeded, I can only express my regret. I felt it my duty to place before the House the facts as I see them, and to warn the Parliament of the possible consequences of this legislation. We should, I contend, go warily. Had the Government introduced a land tax of id. in the £1 on properties of every kind, both- improved and unimproved, they would have received all the revenue they require for the purposes of defence. They Have elected, however, to introduce a Bill which, whilst it will not achieve the end they have in view, will result in the infliction of loss and suffering upon many small men, who are not intended to be affected. The big men with large incomes will continue to hold their desirable lands, and pay the tax of several thousands a year. In the case of many of the small land-holders, however, the land will probably fall into the hands of the mortgagees.
– That is too thin !
– The honorable member cannot say that he is “ too thin “ ; at any rate, I am glad that I am thin, and not thick like the honorable member. I am glad to see the Prime Minister present! now.
– I have other things to do besides sitting here.
– I do not see how the Prime Minister can get on with his Ministerial work when he insists on Parliament sitting all day.
– It would seem as though, like Tennyson’s brook, we were going on for ever.
– I am sure that I do not take up much of the public time.
Sitting suspended from1 to 2.15 p.m.
– To formulate our legislation in such a manner as to cause a feeling of distrust in its fairness is a strange way- to induce settlement and population. At the present time we are discussing the alienated lands, which represent only 6¾ per cent, of the whole area of Australia, for the States still hold 93 per cent, of all the territory, which has yet to be disposed of. Consequently the States are the biggest land-holders, and consideration should be had for their interests, which practically mean the interests of the people of Australia, because the State Parliaments represent the same people as we do in this Chamber. Therefore, to pass measures which will in any way tend to discredit this country or cause a feeling of mistrust in the honesty and fairness of our legislation seems to be a very bad and doubtful policy. The Prime Minister, in the opening sentences’ of his speech, said he introduced the Bill with a feeling of hope that it would help to promote industrial peace, the social welfare of the people, and the safety of the Commonwealth. I honestly believe that he spoke his true sentiments and that the great majority of his supporters have the same feeling- I do not think that they are supporting the measure with a perverse desire to ruin anybody, but if it can be shown on facts, not on theories, to be oppressive, unreasonable, or impolitic, I trust that they, with the Prime Minister, will be prepared to assist to put it into such a form that, as finally passed, it will fulfil the ideals enunciated by him. The arguments which I have put before the House to-day, based as they are on a calm, dispassionate con sideration of facts, and putting aside all feeling of partisanship or party, have produced in my mind the profound conviction that the policy of the Bill is bad. It is because I think so that I say so. I trust that honorable members will realize the cogency of the facts to which I have referred. I have shown that, apart from the question of taxation for defence purposes, the Bill will not accomplish the end in view, but will be oppressive in tens of thousands of cases where, I am sure, honorable members opposite have no intention of inflicting injury. I have . proved that in many of the worst cases, if I may. call them “ worst,” of the retention of aggre-. gations of land in the two States which have been particularly afflicted in that way, the Bill will not have the effect aimed at, while it will interfere with the welfare and prosperity of many thousands of our most industrious citizens, and give the Commonwealth a bad name. To get a bad name is the worst that can happen to a man or a country, and if this country gets a bad name we shall not attract to it the people we want. * The Prime Minister says he hopes the Bill will promote the safety of the Commonwealth, and other honorable members have interjected to-day that the money is to pay for defence, but the first element in effective defence is population. Expense will necessarily be incurred, but if we have not the material all our expenditure will not do much for us. This Parliament ought to consider above everything else how to make the Commonwealth popular all over the world, so as to attract people to it. That is not to be done by unfair legislation. If once the principles of the sound policy of strict honesty are departed from, unfair legislation which may be applied just now to one class . or section of the people, against whom some honorable members may have a more or less justifiable prejudice, may be applied to others. False principle, want of honesty, lack of recognition of obligations, once introduced as a characteristic of our legislation, will be fatal to any hope of attracting people to this country. It is not by telling them that they can get land for nothing or at so much an acre that they will be attracted. If they have a feeling of uncertainty as to the equity of our laws, or the probity of our people, they will not come here. What was the case in the South American republics? They have enormous areas of land, and resources equal, perhaps superior, to those of Australia. What kept them back for nearly a- hundred years, for they are only now beginning to develop ? Simply the fact that there was no confidence in their governing bodies. They repudiated their obligations. People would not settle in those republics because they had not any confidence in their Governments or legislation. They could not be sure that contracts made by the Governments of the day would not be upset or disregarded by those who followed them. It is only since those countries have experienced the results of that sort of policy, and have established Governments which have recognised their obligations and contracts, and which give fair play to all men, irrespective of section or class, that confidence has been established. Confidence has brought them population, and population has brought them prosperity. He who runs may read. There is nothing new under the sun. History repeats itself constantly, and the man who comes to Parliament as a representative of the people and does not give consideration to the events and experiences of the past is scarcely worthy of his high vocation.
– Hear, hear ! That is what we think.
– I am glad of the honorable member’s approval, and trust he is up to the standard. It is because of a profound conviction that this legislation, on the lines proposed, will not have a good effect, ‘that I am objecting to it. I am not objecting as a partisan. Last session I had a somewhat similar experience when sitting in the Ministerial corner. I showed then, against even the great majority of my party, rightly or wrongly, that I had convictions. Then, as now, I was accused of wasting public time. No man is worthy of his position in this House unless he has convictions, based on a sound knowledge of facts. Having such convictions a man is unworthy of his position if he is not able to speak fairly on a great question like this, by which the development of this continent may be either benefited or retarded. If in those circumstances a man’s statements are not listened to with respect, I submit that it is of very little use for him to speak, but I do not apprehend that that is the position in this Parliament. I believe that even those who cannot agree with me will give my statements fair consideration. Summarized, my position is this : If, as appears to be the result of the last general election, the majority of the people, represented by honorable members on the Ministerial benches, desire that the cost of defence shall be provided by a land tax, I certainly have no objection to that course. I have shown that a uniform’ land tax of id. in the £1, without exemptions, would, even on the unimproved value of land, produce the amount of money required.
– Without exemptions ?
– Yes, because it would be so little. If a man had £100 worth of land he would pay 8s. 4d. If he had £100,000 he would pay proportionately a greater sum, say £416.
– That is right; make the little fellow pay !
– There is no big or little fellow in the matter at all. I am assuming that the party in power want to raise £1,000,000 for defence, and am showing how it could be done. Even with an exemption up to £5,000, they would get the money with a tax of id. in the £1, and certainly a tax of 2d. in the £r, with an exemption of £5,000, would raise all the money required. It would be a fair and uniform tax, affecting everybody alike.
– But why tax land only?
– If the majority of the people think that this is the best way in which to raise money for defence, they , have a right to give expression to their view. I am pointing out how it can be done without the doubtful and distressful provisions contained in the measure. But the object of the Bill is declared to be, not the raising of revenue, but the breaking up of large estates, which, as I have shown beyond the possibility of doubt, has been anticipated by State action. Partly because of legislation, partly, as the honorable member for Hume says, from fear of it, and partly from economic considerations, large estates are being cut up, arid are passing into the hands of small men. This should encourage us to leave things as they are. Honorable members say that the Bill is not unfair; but I shall show that it is. Let . me mention a case. An Australian made money here in business, and went to the Old Country, where he amassed a large fortune; but, having a warm side for this country, he left the greater part of his wealth to be invested here, and after his death, his trustees advanced £125,000 on- 122,000 acres in the Riverina, owned by a. man who was at the time wealthy, but who was ruined by the droughts of the nineties, with the result that the property fell into the estate. To make it yield anything at all, the trustees had to spend another £25,000 upon it; but the average returns for the last five years have not been more than £2,500 per annum, notwithstanding the most careful management. The tax which will be imposed by the Bill will amount to £2,038, or r6s. 2d. in the £1 of the revenue. That is, 83 per cent, of the average yearly income will be confiscated, and only £400 a year will be earned on a total expenditure of £150,000. The trustees lent the money in good faith, without wishing to acquire the land, aud would be glad to get rid of the property.
– They could do so if they would part with it in small areas.
– They have tried all means in their power without success. The land is in the western district of New South Wales, and small men, who have as much discretion as big men, would not go into that country, even if they got the land for nothing. What will be the effect in England, Scotland, and Ireland, of statements like these? I know that the effect of the news about the bank stoppages was most detrimental to our interests, and prevented persons from coming here.
– What is the name of the estate referred to?
– I have not the name with me; but I can get it. In another case, a property consisting of 20,000 acres fell into the hands of a company, which did not want to retain it, and cut it up into small holdings, selling 14,000 acres in blocks of from 200 to 4°° or 500 acres each, at £4 an acre, an area of 6,000 acres remaining unsold. Those who bought land from the company, not being able to pay cash, obtained advances equal to 60 per cent, of its value. The company intends to sell the balance, and will be compelled, to do so in consequence of this tax; though, probably, under a forced sale it will not get more than from £2 10s. to £3 per acre. As for the men who have bought on credit, they will have to reduce the principal, or pay their advances off.
– That is quite wrong.
– I am talking by the book The honorable member may, in his optimistic way, hope, like Mr. Micawber, that something will turn up; but I am stating facts. When the unearned incre ment is talked of, it is frequently overlooked that the lands of this country have changed hands many times, with the result that the present holders, almost without exception, have paid for the unearned increment. The Bill proposes to take that from them, except in respect to city lands, whose holders would be able to protect themselves by raising their rents. The effect of the measure will be to depreciate land values, and rich men who have made money in mining or business will buy for cash properties below their value, and’ thus will have the tax paid for them for all time. I do not know whether the AttorneyGeneral was more correct in what he told us about the condition of things in America than in his general statements about the Bill; but I should like to point out that the millionaires there have mostly made their money by stock transactions. Recently, when President Roosevelt attacked the trusts, as they are called, and caused a financial panic, stocks went down, and moneyed men bought securities at perhaps two-thirds of their value, making their profit when the rise came. I do not think that it is just for us to rob the men in possession of our lands to enable others to make profits in this way. During our financial crisis, there were men who decried the future of this country, and were instrumental in causing distrust in London, making use of the opportunities afforded by our misfortunes to buy at low prices properties on which they made immense profits. They were merely wreckers. As a Legislature, we ought in these matters to proceed with great care and premeditation, and, after full inquiry, hasten slowly. We must be on sure ground, and then, if any mistake be made, it will probably be trifling in character, and we can revise our proceedings, and recover something of what we have lost. If we proceed with legislation of this kind with no adequate sense of the possible and real effects, we may create a state of things for which we shall be heartily sorry. I am sure that the members of the Labour party would be as sorry as myself, because I know- and I say this without offence - they have not realized the wide ramifications of the results of their proposals. I think I hear a murmured interjection, “ We have heard all this sort of thing before.” That may be; but when the inevitable results follow, nothing is said, while the people are made to suffer. I have not dealt with the question of the constitutionality of the Bill, simply because I am not a lawyer ; but the Federal Parliament is, in my opinion, seeking to interfere in a matter with which they cannot deal as effectively as the States can, and are dealing with it. The Prime Minister said that he and his party were committed to the “ principle “ of the Bill, and the Attorney-General went further, and said that it was this particular Bill to which the country was pledged. I say unhesitatingly that the idea of aggregating all properties in any way connected with land, and coupling a man’s property with his wife’s, and so on, was never even contemplated by the Prime Minister and his party, nor was it ever placed_ before the country until now. In fact, the principle is a wide departure, as I said before, from the professed intentions of the framers of the Bill. Its insidious danger lies in the fact that this is practically a tax on every individual or company whose investments are in land, or who finds it necessary to use land. I am sure the Minister of Trade and Customs will not contradict me when I say that this principle was not included in the Gympie programme, and was never placed before the country. It is :i principle that will affect industrial and other interests in a most detrimental way, though its full consequences will not be seen for some time. As I said before, I feel a grave sense of responsibility in dealing with this question, and I have exaggerated nothing. Indeed, I have understated, rather than overstated, my case ; but my honest conviction is that this measure is so far-reaching that it ought not to be pressed on in its present form. The Government ought to listen to honorable members on this side, with a desire to cooperate in making the Bill so reasonable that we shall have no cause for regret in the future. The initial mistake, which makes it almost hopeless to amend the measure, is the endeavour to do two things - to impose a land tax, progressive or otherwise, which is constitutional, and to burst up large estates, which is unconstitutional. This mistake has given rise to all the difficulty and differences of opinion ; and it is the duty of the minority to clearly express their views. The criticisms that are offered ought to have their weight ; but, of course, the responsibility for the results of the measure rests wilh the Government and their supporters. The debate has been . conducted in admirable temper ; and I think it will have its effect. It should not be said of this
Parliament that it matters not what is said within these walls - that everything is arranged outside. The Government have taken up a question as the result of public clamour for many years, and have placed it in their programme, simply because it is supported by people who know little about its merits. I am, of course, speaking about the public outside; but even honorable members do not seem to be thoroughly seized of the problem. I represent one of the largest agricultural, dairying, and fruitgrowing districts in the Commonwealth, containing very few large estates ; and I have always urged that it is not competent for this Parliament to impose a land tax of this kind. In my opinion, the compact between the Commonwealth and the States was that a land tax should be imposed only in some extraordinary emergency ; and I have been returned again and again as opposed to such a measure, the great body of the electors in my constituency being distinctly against legislation of the kind. I. impress on the Government the desirability of appreciating at the right value the representations that have been made from this side. In his speech the Leader of the Opposition, from the wide field he had to cover, necessarily did not go into details, which have been supplied by other honorable members ; but enough has been said to justify the Government in reconsidering their position, with a view to making reasonable and honest legislation characteristic of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– I should not have taken part in the debate but for some remarks by the honorable member for Parkes, whose absence this afternoon I regret. The honorable member made a special charge against the Labour party that these land tax proposals are made in a spirit of revenge; and that charge he dwelt on at some length, quoting in support of it articles which have appeared in the Queensland Worker, and with the sentiments pf which he identified all honorable members on this side, without knowing whether they indorsed them or not. That newspaper is the official organ of the Labour party in Queensland, and I regard it as one of the liveliest Labour publications in Australia; in fact, it is the preaching by that paper, in season and out nf season, of the Labour doctrine in Queensland that is responsible for /:our presence. Mr. Speaker, with others, including myself, in this House. We certainly have had .no assistance from the other sections of the press in Queensland, and we have nothing to thank them for. The honorable member for Parkes went on to say that the land tax had been a proposal of the Labour party for, at most, only a few years. Any honorable member who has taken an interest in politics since the great Maritime Strike in 1890, knows very well that at the first Labour Convention at which the solidarity of the party was achieved, the first plank in the platform was land values taxation. If the land-owners and the people of the country generally did not know that the one desire in life of the Labour party was to impose such taxation immediately they got into power, they must have been asleep, and particularly the honorable member for Parkes. At the general election, when the then right honorable member for East Sydney, Sir George Reid, went to the country, he represented antiSocialism and anti-land taxation ; and his policy was described by the present Leader of the Opposition as a policy of negation - a “ necklace of negatives.’’ It was a strange coincidence that at the very next general election the present Leader of the Opposition should have adopted the self-same policy, as was evidenced’ by the fact that every Opposition candidate stood for anti-land taxation, anti-Socialism, and anti-Labour. There is a good yarn told in Queensland about the Leader of the Opposition. I have been informed that at one public meeting, when he had been dealing most trenchantly with the policy of the Labour party for about an hour, an old gentleman in the centre of the hall said, “ Well, Mr. Deakin, you have given the Labour party particular fits about their policy - what is yours?” To this the honorable member for Ballarat replied, “ I will make my speech in my own way, but I will come to that later on.” Next morning he travelled by train at the rate of 25 miles an hour for Rockhampton, Bundaberg, and Maryborough ; but at the end of his journey he had not found a policy. Then he hurried off to Ballarat at something over 25 miles an hour, and even when he got there he had not found his policy.
– A very pleasant fiction.
-It. is the truth. The present Opposition - then the party in power - had no policy except that they were antiland taxers, anti- Socialists, and antiLabour.
– And anti-Nationalists.
– They were “ States frighters.” I will not say that they were anti-Nationalists.
– No wonder, because it would not be true.
– I cannot accuse the honorable member for Ballarat of being an anti-Nationalist. I must admit that he always stood up for Nationalism until he joined the Fusion. It is idle for the Opposition to say that the country did not know what we intended to do in this direction. Does any Government, in going to the country, explain every detail of its policy? The people knew that we were out for a land tax. I told the people of my electorate explicitly that I came before them pledged to a tax on unimproved land values, with an exemption of £5,000, to burst up big estates, particularly in Victoria and Tasmania. It is all very well for honorable members to laugh, but we have in Queensland no big freeholds, such as exist in Victoria and Tasmania. We have large leaseholds, and in passing I may remind honorable members that the leasehold system is the policy of the Labour party.
– We all understand now how the. honorable member got such a big majority.
– At all events, the honorable member told the people what ne was out for, and that is more than some of the Opposition did.
– I appeal to the honorable member for Darling Downs to say whether he has ever known me to resort to a subterfuge in order to secure my return 10 Parliament ?
– I have not.
– I have, from the first, expoundedthe policy of my party. I am proud to be a Labour man, and proud to be here to help to carry out its policy. I am reminded of the wrath displayed by the honorable member for Bendigo in regard to the failure of the Government to tax leaseholds. The honorable member, in discussing the question, flogged himself with his coat-tails and danced about in a way that reminded me of old Syd. Smith. He wanted to know why the Government did not tax leaseholders. By a strange coincidence on the very next morning the Age came out with a leader in favour of the taxation of leaseholds.
– The AttorneyGeneral said he was going to tax them.
– Did he? Well, I say that he is not. The Age came out with a thousand and ninety-nine’ reasons why leaseholds ought to be taxed; yet, when I asked the honorable member for Bendigo whether he was anxious that leaseholds should be taxed, he said, “ No, I do not. want any tax at all.” I suppose that there are freeholds and no leaseholds in his electorate, and that he thought he would like to have them all in the one soup.
– Are there any big freeholds in the honorable member’s electorate ?
– A few.
– Why did the Government abandon their proposal to tax leaseholds?
– So far as I am aware it was not a Government proposal. One of the principles of our party is that the lands of the Crown should not be sold, but leased. In Queensland we have leasehold tenures of twenty-nine and forty years, with a seven years’ re-appraisement and the right to resume where land is needed for closer settlement. The people reap the benefit of the system, as in many cases when a re-appraisement is made rentals, instead of being increased, are considerably reduced.
– Queensland is a good place to live in.
– Yes, come up with us. The best colonists we are getting in Queensland to-day are young men and women from Victoria. People are leaving Victoria by hundreds and thousands, and are becoming the backbone of the agricultural industry in Queensland. I say, “ Good luck to them.” They are showing us how to use the lands of the State that have so long remained idle.
– And we are getting some good colonists from South Australia.
– That is so. This proves very clearly that Queensland is a good State to live in. People are leaving other States, and going with their flocks and herds to settle there. I know of one Victorian farmer on the Darling Downs who chartered a vessel here, and carried all his herd up north. Let me now refer briefly to the difference between lease-holders and freeholders.
– The lease-holders are the biggest durnmiers we have in Tasmania.
– We have one or two Tasmanians in western Queensland, and dummying or no dummying in Tasmania, they like our State so well that they are prepared to remain there, and to become bonâ fide squatters. Mr. Bond is the name of one of these men, and I may say that Mr. Speaker and I have the whole of western Queensland in our pockets.
– No wonder the honorable member is not in favour of taxing lease-holders.
– Who would be benefited if that were done. The people are reaping the benefit of the leasehold system at the present time. But let me say straight away that I hold that people should not be assessed in respect of the money that they have paid to the Crown to acquire the fee-simple of their lands. Honorable members of the Opposition say that we believe in confiscation - that we believe in taking from those that have, and in giving to the “have nots.” If I thought that our. party was out for a policy of confiscation I would leave it to-morrow ; but no man on this side of the House would take from any one that which he did not think he had a right to take.
– This Bill will, in effect, confiscate property.
– The honorable member has got confiscation on the brain. If instead of travelling only between Melbourne and Tasmania on the Loongana, he would take a trip by rail from Melbourne to Brisbane, he would have his eyes opened, and would have broader ideas as to what Australia really is. Let him see the lands andthe conditions prevailing in the other States, and he will be convinced that there are other places on the earth besides Tasmania.
– Even if I went there it would make no difference, so far as my opinion of this Bill is concerned.
– If the honorable member shut himself up in the telephone cabinet in the corridor until Monday, and then came into the chamber, what would be the effect upon him? Would he not when he came out have a larger view of things? And so a visit to the other States would broaden his views. I come now to the statement made by the honorable member for Parkes, that ours is a policy of revenge. I leave it to the people of Australia to say on the facts whether that is true. The honorable member says that we are out on a policy of revenge, and that we mean to make the “fat man” sit up. That, he says, has been our intention ever since the great strike of 189 1. If that were really our object, have we hot had many chances of achieving it long before this? I say fearlessly that no one in my electorate, whether he be a squatter, shearer, rouseabout, or bullocky, has ever appealed to me in vain to do him a service when I believed him to be right. I entertain no feelings of revenge towards any one, and the fact that at each election I am returned by a large majority proves that that is so. When I first took up the cudgels on behalf of the Labour party, I certainly had in me the spirit of revenge. After a man has had to “waltz Matilda” over the plains of western Queensland, mile after mile, and to visit shed after shed, only to find himself “blacklisted”; after a man has had to resort to fictitious names, and to use fictitious references, in order to get a day or two’s work here, and another day or two’s work there, only to be told to push on again, it is not surprising that such treatment should engender in him some feeling of revenge. But the members of our party have forgotten all that, and we are out, not for revenge, but to carry out the policy that we have enunciated since we first banded together. If I, or any other Labour man in. this House, had made statements such as some mem- bers of the Opposition have made, the honorable member for Parkes might very well say that revenge was our object. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition once said that he did not believe in paying for land at all. He made this statement -
I do not believe in paying for land at all. I believe in taxing it. And if we tax it to its full unimproved value we shall have no need to sell it ; indeed, no one will buy it. When a man wants a bit of land in this Colony he has to go hundreds of miles back into the’ bush behind his strong neighbour, who has picked out the eyes of the country. We ought to tax the strong neighbour for every ounce of privilege which he possesses over the man who proposes to go into the bush.
– Who said that?
– The honorable member for Parramatta. That is a “ fair staggerer ‘ ‘ for the honorable member.
– What year?
– Never mind what year. The fact remains that the honorable member said it. I have never heard the most revolutionary Labour man say anything as bad as that in the whole of my experience.
– Was he not a Labour man when he said it?
– He was the Leader of the Labour party, but that makes it all the worse. It is strange how the tone of his remarks has changed. Only the other day he was most concerned as to how we were to pursue the man who had the unearned increment. The honorable member knows as well as I do that the price of a thing isthe value it brings. If a man gives £100 an acre for land to-day, it is because he thinks he is going to get at least £100 an acre out of it. I notice that since the election, and since this infernal Labour party got into power, one of the banks in Queen-street, Brisbane, paid from £18,000 to £20,000 for a few feet of ground. If a banking institution will purchase freehold land at that abnormal price, there must be something in it. I would not buy an acre of land in Queensland unless it was a town allotment.
– That was not a very big price.
– It is over £5,000, so that the bank will have to pay a few “bob” in taxation. I know that this tax will press very heavily on some people, but any tax does the same thing. Individually, I believe in the plan)*in the State platform in Queensland, that no man shall pay income tax as well as land tax. I do not think it fair that a man should pay two taxes for the one thing.
– That is exactly what the Government are going to make him do.
– Well, we shall try to alter those things. Many of our party have an open mind, and I can assure honorable members opposite that not one of us is shackled, as they repeatedly say that we are when alleging that we are caucusdriven.
– That is not what the honorable member for Gwydir said yesterday afternoon.
– If the honorable member for Richmond knew the honorable member for Gwydir as the majority of the members of this House know him, he would not take anything that, he said too seriously. It shows the innocence of the honorable member when- he quotes the honorable member for Gwydir as an authority. I am sure that Sir Thomas Ewing would not have done so. Experience makes one wise, and after a year or two the honorable member may drop into the same groove as most of us. This Bill is as far removed from confiscating one acre of land owned by any man as a measure could possibly be. I am not anxious to tax any man out of his property.
– Why does not the Prime Minister have the cases that have been submitted to him investigated, and let us see?
– I am not the Prime Minister or his private secretary. In fact. I have no more to do with the Prime Minister than the honorable member has.
– He is afraid of the facts, anyhow.
– No one knows better than the honorable member that figures will prove anything. We had an instance of that years ago, when the Minister in charge of the Tariff said, “ There is a set of figures; if they do not suit you, I will give you some more to-morrow.” Ever since then, I have been very doubtful of figures.
– Let us have the Prime Minister’s estimate of £1,000,000 as the revenue from this tax, proved.
– The Prime Minister said that the tax is going to produce only £1,000,000. If it does produce more than £1,000,000, I feel confident that there are honorable members on both sides of this House who will be prepared to furnish proof of where a reduction should be brought about before next session. 1 believe that a Government can have too much money. I hope I shall never sit behind a Government which has too much money. If there has been any abnormal expenditure, it has been the result of the policy of honorable members opposite, and we have followed in their footsteps. We are going to effect great reforms by means of the land tax proposals and the 25s. per capita arrangement. Over £2,000,000 per annum is to be spent on defence, and the money has to be found somewhere. The policy of the Labour party is a non-borrowing policy.
– Certainly it is. I should not give a vote for a loan for unproductive works. Nothing grieved me more thanthe Naval Loan Bill that was passed last session. The honorable member for Lang set out to put a little ginger into the debate, as he said, and did it by attacking the Labour party. He told the House and the country how the party had strayed away from its original platform. He said it was not he that left the party, but the party that left him. He reminded me of the recruit, in a story which I heard the Minister of -Trade and Customs tell, who excused himself for not keeping- step on parade, by saying that he was all right, and all the rest of the men wrong. The honorable member for Lang wants every one to believe that we are all out of step, and that he is the only one in step. I do not think any person has anything to fear from this land tax. Bogies are being raised simply for the purpose of knocking them down. Some honorable members have said that we have had no mandate from the people for this tax. They also ask why we do not leave the State to impose land taxation. Does the Leader of the Opposition honestly think that the States could carry through the different Upper Houses a land tax which would make the owners cut up the big estates, and put people on them?
– Some could.
– Of course; that is a very wise answer. Some could, but they will not.
– A double dissolution can be obtained in South Australia.
– South Australia is only a fleabite in comparison with the rest of the Commonwealth. What happened in the Victorian Parliament last session? The Government brought down a proposal for a land tax, which was passed in the Lower House, after a long and stormy debate. I think Mr. Watt, the Treasurer of Victoria, ought to be complimented on the speech he made on that measure, which was one of the finest deliverances I have read on the subject of land taxation. The Bill went to the Upper House, and they threw it out ignominiously. They said, “ Bring it in in another form, and we will consider it. “ We have brought in our measure in another form, and they have got to consider it whether they like it or not. This Bill is going through both Houses of this Legislature as surely as the sun will rise to-morrow morning, and my sincere wish is that it will not bring about the devastation and destruction that honorable members opposite predict.
.Since the 13th April all the people of Australia have been well aware that a land tax would be introduced in this House as soon as possible, but hardly anybody thought that we should see such a drastic and inequitable measure as the Government have put on the table. We have heard a good deal about a mandate from the people. I admit that the result of the elections justifies the party in bringing in a proposal for a land tax, but there was no special mandate to introduce it in this particular form. About the year 1906, Mr. Watson assured Australia that the tax would be limited to 4d. in the £1 on the biggest estates. In the Brisbane Labour Conference, in 1908, the proposal to tax the land was re-affirmed, and a plank to that effect was put in the platform, but the Conference simply decided that the exemption should be £5,000, leaving the party free to fix the rates and other conditions as they thought fit. At that Conference, according to the official record of the speeches, it was contemplated that the tax would be a bursting-up tax. No attempt was made to tie the party down as to the rates, or to special conditions, except in the stipulation for an exemption of £5,000. When the Prime Minister was before the country, he never told any one, so far as I am aware, that a rate of 6d. in the £1 would be imposed. Therefore, the mandate from the people, about which we hear so much, leaves the Government free, even at this late hour, to lower the rates if they see fit.
– That shows that we were not committed to any particular rate.
– That is what I am saying. If they are not committed to any particular rate or special conditions, where is the mandate about which they talk ?
– Honorable members opposite said we were committed to 4d.
- Mr. Watson said the tax would not exceed 4d. in the £1. It is possible for the Government, if it can obtain the consent of the caucus, to alter the Bill in many important particulars, and to lower the rate of the tax, and I hope that Ministers will do this. I have always held that land should be made to do its duty, ‘and I admit that the past actions of the Legislative Councils in some of the States have given cause for the belief that they have refused for improper reasons to agree to land taxation. But while I wish te* see closer settlement, so that every acre may produce as much as is possible, I am of opinion that the proper authorities to take the steps to bring this about are the Parliaments of the States. It was not intended that this Parliament should impose land taxation, except in the event of a national emergency, such as has not yet arisen.
– Is not the failure of the States to do what is necessary sufficient warrant for our interference?
– It is not. The States have not altogether failed. In some of them there is already land taxation, and they are all moving towards the taxation of unimproved values. But the Customs and Excise revenues having been taken from the State Governments, it was felt that they should be allowed to obtain revenue for the development of their territories by taxing land, amongst other things. It is upon them that the onus of making the country fit for settlement chiefly rests. Furthermore, by the recent financial adjustments, their annual returns from the Commonwealth have been reduced by about £2,500,000 ; .consequently they will sooner or later be driven to tax land, and we do not want a Commonwealth land tax as well as State land taxes. There should be a compulsory land purchase system, and already some of the States have provided for the resumption by the Crown of land fit for closer settlement, which is held in large areas. Even the Legislative Councils must now admit the need of the States for revenue, and it is only a matter of time when their opposition to measures of reform must cease. With a strong Government in power, the opposition of a Legislative Council can easily be overcome, because such a body will not, any more than a Legislative Assembly, withstand the will of the people for long. No person should be allowed to hold valuable land out of use, preventing the expansion of settlement, and injuring his neighbours by providing a harbor for vermin. The State should resume such property, paying for it its fair value. Probably the owner will ask too much, and the Government offer too little ; but by arbitration a fair price could be arrived at. It would, however, be iniquitous to compel men to part with their land for less thanits market value.
– If a holder gets what he values his land at, plus 10 per cent., he will not be badly treated. o
– I shall not object to that arrangement. But the Bill does not provide for it. The provision of the measure is that a man who makes a false declaration of value may be fined £500, be called upon to pay treble^ the amount of the tax, and have his land confiscated. The Bill, if not unconstitutional,comes near to being so. It will not be declared unconstitutional if it is held to be primarily a taxing measure which only incidentally tends to burst up large estates. But it violates the spirit of the Constitution, because it provides for the exercise of the power which the framers of that instrument thought would be used only in a national emergency, such as a war. Ministers think that because the provisions of the measure apply to city land, the burstingup intention will not be evidenced, and, therefore, the measure will not be declared ultra vires. But that their intention is primarily to interfere in the administration of the land is obvious from the fact that the memorandum attached to an almost identical measure introduced last session spoke of it as introduced to burst) up large estates, no mention being made of the desire to obtain revenue. Then, in “1906, Mr. J. C. Watson, speaking at Redfern, said -
The main object of the tax was to burst up the large estates, and it was of little moment if the small men escaped for the time being through estates under £5,000 in value being so exempt.
Then, on the 25th August of last year, Senator Stewart, speaking in the Senate, referred to the land tax as the thin end of the wedge to burst up large estates, and finally, he hoped, to nationalize land. During the last electoral campaign the AttorneyGeneral inveighed continually against what he called the “ dead hand of land monopoly,” but no mention was made of the need for revenue, and we have not yet been told that revenue is wanted, or what it is wanted for. To-day the Prime Minister says that the measure is intended primarily for revenue purposes, and repudiates the idea that it is to burst up large estates, but speaking in November, 1906, he said -
It was strictly directed at land monopolists and large holdings in centres of large populations where such land was required for closer settlement. The exemption of unimproved value to the extent of £5,000 would protect all small holders against burdensome taxation.
The rate of tax then proposed was not to exceed 4d. in the £. It was to be a burstingup tax. Now that the rate is to be up to 6d. in the £1, we are told that it is a revenue tax. So much for the Prime Minister’s opinion in regard to this legislation. As to the question of constitutionality, I call attention to clause 44, which provides that the Commonwealth may acquire lands in case of undervaluation by the owners. It seems to me that if the Bill is not declared unconstitutional, on the ground that it is an interference with the States’ jurisdiction, there is every probability of its being ruled out in consequence of this provision. Of course, the Attorney-General may rely on the case of McCulloch v. Maryland, in which Chief Justice Marshall said that where the Federation has a power, it must have all the incidental powers necessary to the exercise of it. I doubt very much, however, if the acquiring of land is necessary and incidental to the power of taxation. This tax could be enforced by other means. What would happen in a case where a land-owner decided not to pay the tax, and simply walked out of his holding? The Commonwealth, if it took possession, would be acquiring land within the territory of, say, New South Wales; and it might happen that the State had a land tax which the same owner had refused to pay also. Under such circumstances, it would be simply a question of whether the Commonwealth or the State took possession first, in default of the payment of the taxes ; and in such case, I feel convinced the Federal Government would find they were “ sailing very close to the wind.” In my opinion, the proposed taxation is most unwise, throwing, as it does, on the States, suddenly and harshly, a burden which they certainly ought not to be called upon to bear. This, perhaps, can be better illustrated by an example. Victoria, under the recent financial adjustment, will receive something like £480.000 less than she did during the currency of the Braddon section. The State, of course, in connexion with old-age pensions, will be relieved of a liability of some £200,000; but, even so, there will be a shortage of £280,000. Although this is a good year, there is only a small surplus in Victoria; and, as- it is difficult to see how she is to recoup this loss, she must be driven to land taxation. Should that be the result, and the Commonwealth taxation, as is estimated, means £400,000, we can see how serious- becomes the position of the State. Can we say for one moment that the Victorian people will not feel most acutely this sudden impost? Is this the sort of policy to encourage the people to put forth their best energies, or become permanent residents of Victoria ? In Tasmania there is already a pretty heavy land tax on improved values, from which there was realized last year about £60,000. With the super-tax on property, considerably more revenue is raised ; but for the purposes of this argument I shall place it at the figure I have mentioned. A Federal land tax would probably mean a similar amount of revenue; and I ask whether it is wise for the Commonwealth to impose such burdens on the States?
– Let the Tasmanian Government reduce their expenditure !
– Tasmania is administered on as low an expenditure as is possible ; at any rate, I know that the State public servants would be very glad to change places with the Commonwealth public servants.
– Tasmania still imports her Governors !
– Yes; but the expenditure in connexion with the Governor is not very heavy, and would not make an appreciable difference in the amount that Tasmania has to raise. The policy of the Commonwealth is calculated to cripple the development of the States ; and, after all, it is on the State authorities that the progress of the country, as a whole, depends. Lands have to be opened, railways built, and other public works carried out ; and it will be most difficult to find the necessary money. It will, in my opinion, be absolutely impossible to avoid both State and Commonwealth land taxation in Tasmania and Victoria. As for New South Wales, her surplus of £1,000,000 is simply wiped out by the recent financial adjustment, and if the present prosperity does not continue, even that State may be driven to the lands for revenue. All this means duplication of taxation ; and the intolerable position which will be created may have the effect of doing some good in the end, inasmuch as it maylead to the States and the Commonwealth co-operating in a scheme, whereby there may be one land tax for the whole of Australia, imposed by the Commonwealth, the revenue being divided according to arrangement. Under such circumstances, land would be made to pay its fair share of the cost of development. The Bill attempts the difficult task of imposing a uniform system over the whole of the States, the conditions of which are extremely diverse. From this point of view, the measure may be considered as very crude, as well as very cruel. In Queensland there is no land tax; in New South Wales there is a tax of a kind ; whilst South Australia, Victoria, and Tasmania all deal with the land problem in different ways. Can we hope that a uniform system of land taxation can be imposed in the way proposed with any hope of equitable adjustment?
– Does the honorable member not think that unification would suit Tasmania ?
– At present I am dealing with taxation, which is aimed at the very wealthy land-owners of Australia. Although this land tax will make the landowners contribute largely to the revenue, it will not compel them to burst up their estates. In the attempt to hit the few, we are going to seriously injure hosts of people who are unable to defend themselves, and whose lands, when they are divided, will be found to be very unsuitable for closer settlement. Then we have to remember that this taxation will fall on only rhat 7 per cent, of the land of Australia which has been alienated, or is in process, of alienation. In Australia there are, roughly, 130,000,000 acres of alienated land, while there are 774,000,000 acres under leasehold. In Queensland there are 20,000,000 acres alienated or in process of alienation, v.hile 244,000,000 acres are leased. The honorable member for Maranoa, who preceded me in a fierce and fiery outburst, is one of these Crown lessees. We find, amongst the number, some of the richest men in Australia, and they are to be allowed to go free, while struggling people are to be taxed. A man may have a property worth £100.000, which he has mortgaged, and in which he has an interest of not more than £20.000. Out of the profits derived from that estate, however, he will have to pay, not only the interest on the loan, but the full amount of the land tax. and he will be ruined. Is this system equitable? Surely, if there is one canon of taxation which is accepted by all economists, and even by some honorable members opposite, it is that a man should be taxed according to his ability to pay.If we wish to raise revenue, surely we should tax those who are best able to provide it. If Crown. lessees are not to be brought under the provisions of this Bill. what is to be done with regard to the Northern Territory, which we are to take over at an early date? Nearly all the lands in occupation there are held under lease, with a tenure running up to iorty years. Are we to expend millions of money in building railways and in developing the Territory by other means, while these leaseholders, who, perhaps, are deriving a big income from the land, contribute nothing under this taxation to the revenue -‘ Surely freeholders ought to be encouraged ? A freeholder is a man who backs his opinion of a country by taking up land and permanently settling upon it ; and we ought to encourage him rather than to try to tax him off his holding. In this respect, the Bill is crude and unjust. The Prime Minister, in moving the second reading of this measure, quoted a mass of figures with a view of proving that the prosperity of New Zealand was due to the imposition of an unimproved land values tax similar to that proposed by this Government. He made a comparison between New Zealand and Victoria over a thirty years’ period, showing that while in New Zealand large estates had been broken up into small holdings, the same state of affairs had not prevailed in Victoria. Had he made a comparison between the two countries in respect of the last ten years, he would have shown that Victoria, which has no unimproved land values taxation, is holding its own with New Zealand in every particular. Small holdings are on the increase here just as they are in New Zealand, where this wonderful tax has been in operation, dipping into the pockets of the people to the extent of 12s. per head. If he had told us that New Zealand, up to March, 1909, had purchased for closer settlement purposes 187 estates, comprising 1,195,291 acres, at a prime cost of £5,146,999, whereas Victoria had purchased only 240,090 acres for the same purpose, at a cost of £1,656,172, and yet was holding its own, he would have put before us statistics having a more direct bearing on the subject under discussion than those which he gave us. Had he told us, further, that, during the last year or two, New Zealand has been receiving immigrants at the rate of 1,000 a month, and that many of them enter the country with a little capital and take up land, we should have known that her prosperity was not due to this wonderful tax. A careful examination of the figures shows that New Zealand is going ahead, in spite of the heavy burden of taxation that she is called upon to bear, and that the business people, who have to provide largely for the cost of government, are becoming a little tired of the unimproved land values tax. Had the Prime Minister told us, further, that, owing to the great increase in the number of small holdings, there are now in New South Wales 77,136 holdings, he would have shown that there, too, large estates are being broken up without the assistance of such a tax as this. The honorable gentleman’s claim that land is being aggregated in Victoria is [“9j absolutely baseless. There are not as many large holdings in Victoria as there are in New Zealand. The big holdings in the Dominion are certainly being gradually broken up; but the same sort of thing is going on in Victoria. A point to be borne in mind in comparing New Zealand with Australia is that the greater part of New Zealand is fertile. There do not exist there, as in Australia, vast areas fit only for grazing .purposes. Then, again, no part of New Zealand is more than about 100 miles from the sea, and the farmers have no heavy freights to pay to the sea-board.
– And they have a magnificent rainfall.
– It is because of that magnificent rainfall, and the quality of her grasses, that New Zealand has been able to obtain, in the British market, better prices for her butter than Victoria has. The prosperity of New Zealand, I repeat, is not due to her land taxation. It is due rather to the fact that her people have availed themselves of cold storage and refrigeration, and have exported frozen mutton and lambs in large quantities. In New Zealand, in 1906, there were 45,068 land-owners. In Victoria, which has an area of about 13,000 square miles less than New Zealand, there were in the same year 50,522 landholders. There were 21,269 people owning from 100 to 1,000 acres in New Zealand, as against 29,316 in Victoria. Does that show any wonderful aggregation of estates in Victoria? According to the Year-Book for 1907-8, the area under cultivation in Victoria was 4,032,221 acres, and in New Zealand only 1,709,592. I am not going to draw from those figures any unfair inference that New Zealand is necessarily declining, or that land there is being aggregated in large estates. She is simply putting it to other uses, going in for dairying and lamb raising, and that sort of thing. But when people say there io no land available in Victoria, and that large estates are being aggregated, the figures when sifted lead the impartial observer to the opposite conclusion. Between 1906 and 1908 the number of holdings in Victoria increased from 52,987 to 56,065. That ratio of increase is, I believe, still going on, or was until the Government unfortunately introduced this preventative of settlement. The areas over 20,000 acres had fallen from 79 to 65 in number, showing that not only were the small areas om the increase, but that the big areas were coming down, without this wonderful tax. The Prime Minister seems to think that the States are not going to duplicate land taxation on the man holding over £5,000 of unimproved value. If that is the case, and the States tax only up to the £5,000, all that has been said about the small man escaping, and the bait held out to the small farmer to vote for a Federal land tax because it would not hit him, will prove the veriest deceit that was ever uttered. The State of Victoria is raising only about £80,000 per annum now from areas of 640 acres and upwards. If she has to turn round and raise the money that she will require from land to the extent of, say, £200,000, for State purposes, the small men will be hit very much more heavily than they have ever :been before. In Tasmania the small men, holding under £^,000 worth of land, are bearing a heavy tax, which, according to Hie Labour orators in that State, is far more than they should pay in comparison with what the big men are paying. I am not going to say that the big holders of Tasmania are paying what they ought to pay, but of the £60,000 a year raised in Tasmania more than half is being paid by holders of over £5,000 worth of unimproved value. The unfortunate small holders in Tasmania, who are paying more land taxation than they ought to pay, will simply have to pay twice as much in the. future, because the State must raise that £60,000. Apart from that, if this tax, as it almost inevitably will, causes people to give up their holdings and throw their land on the market, what will happen? There will be plenty of land for sale, but, unfortunately, there will be nothing like the number of buyers that there should be to keep the land up to its proper price. If all this land comes on the market, and the price goes down, the little man, as well as the biggest holder in the country, will have the price of his land lowered. If the man with a £10 an acre farm suddenly wakes up to find it is only worth £8 an acre, he will lose £200 on a holding of 100 acres.
– The land will be no less productive.
– I admit that, but that man possibly has a mortgage of £500 or £600 on his land, and the balance may represent the savings of a life-time. If he wants to sell his farm and go in for something else he may find that, instead of being able to command £500 for his interest, he must sell it for only £300. That will make a difference to him. What the honorable member and his friends told the people at the elections is likely to prove a pitfall instead of a benefit to small holders.
– It is a fairly big farm in Tasmania that is worth £5,000 of unimproved value, is it not?
– It is, but, unfortunately, the State needs revenue.
– Does not the honorable member think it a living area?
– Yes, but what has that to do with it? I am sorry that so many of the small holders had not a higher motive than to support a Federal land tax at the elections, simply because they thought they were going to escape it, but I am afraid they will fall in very badly in an indirect way.
– The honorable member will fall out.
– If the honorable member thinks he can put me out and ;s willing to resign Maribyrnong, I am willing to resign Wilmot, and contest it with him. We have heard the cry that there is no land in Australia”, but those who raise it cannot have considered what they are saying. Whatever paper you pick up you find all sorts of places offered for sale. In Western Australia the Government are offering land on as liberal terms as were ever given in the world. They have 1,000,000 acres surveyed and ready for people to go on. The State is also adopting a forward policy in the encouragement of immigration, and I am glad to say that its efforts are meeting with success. Of the immigrants who have lately come to the Commonwealth, Western Australia has had its fair share. There 160 acres can be got for nothing, and we know that men who went to the State six years ago without capital, and took up land, are to-day fairly well off, and possess good, prospects. In all the States, farms are being - offered for sale, but, while plenty of land is available, there are not enough buyers. We have been told that there were 700 applicants for a certain block offered by the Government in New South Wales, but most of those applicants did not intend to settle on the land, but hoped to get for much less than its value land which they could sell at once, and make a big profit. Their interest In the ballot was like that of the holder of a ticket in Tattersalls’ sweep. When, a little afterwards, a rush was expected for a favored estate which had been resumed by the Government, and cut up for closer settlement, the officials were surprised to find that it took six weeks to get rid of the blocks. In Victoria, the Closer Settlement Board has recently offered eleven farms in the Kenilworth Estate, at Hamilton, at prices ranging from 50s. to 70s. an acre, and blocks suitable for small holders in several other estates. If there is such a demand for land, why are Mr. Mead and the Victorian Minister of Agriculture touring Europe and England to obtain settlers for the irrigation areas of this State? It may be said that Australians do not offer to settle on that land for want of special knowledge, but if there were such a demand for land there would be persons ready to try what they could do. It is for want of the pioneering spirit which animated those who settled the country that the land is not taken up. But had I £50,000 I should not invest a penny in land until I had seen what the effect of the Bill will be. I. know something about money-lending, although I have no money of my own to lend, and am convinced that land-holders, large and small, will find it more difficult to get advances for the development of their property after the measure has been passed than it is now.
– They will get lower rates of interest.
– -Not unless they get advances from a State bank. The State Governments should be encouraged to develop their territories. Those who take up land back from the railways can do better than those who settle on land which is probably improved as much as it can be, and twenty years hence will not be worth more than it is now. Those who clear back country, buying it for £1 an acre, will probably be able to sell it later for £10 an acre. It is the men who have the grit to go out and do that that we want, not city loungers who are content to prop up verandah posts, and who, if they were put on the land, and given the Bank of England, would have nothing at the end of twelve months. To succeed, a settler must have knowledge, patience, energy, and aptitude, and, unfortunately, we have not enough persons of that class to settle all the land that is available for settlement. It is necessary to go abroad for the class of men represented by our early pioneers who laid the foundation of the noble herit- age we possess in Australia to-day. This tax, however, by crippling the resources of the States, will prevent that immigration which is one of the most pressing needs of the country. We know that the lands which can be made available to immigrants are in the hands of the States, and that the latter will be called upon to construct railways, and carry out other public works, so that the country may offer inducements to the right class of settlers. However, if the result is to retard immigration, it will only be of a piece with the past policy of the Labour party. Honorable members opposite declare that they are not against immigration; but I challenge them to point to any earnest effort at encouragement on their part.
– There is the Bill before us.
– But this Bill will deprive the States of the power and the money to make immigration possible.
– Does the honorable member desire to give preference to others as against his own people?
– No; but if our own people have not the spirit to go on to the lands of the country, it would be better to hand them over to immigrants from oversea.
– Is that the way the honorable member talks on the platform?
– It is; I am never afraid to express my opinion when I am asked.
– Then it is a wonder that the honorable member was returned !
– I represent a district in which are to be found many of those pioneers who carved their way through and levelled forests - into which the honorable member could not see a yard - and created some of the most smiling farms in all Australia.
– I could see my way into a forest as well as the honorable member could !
– That may be, and, like myself, the honorable member has the good sense to keep out of forests.
– I thought the honorable member was a farmer by the. way he talked.
– The fact that I have not the courage to go on the land myself does not deprive me of the privilege of admiring the energy and resolution of those who have. If . this taxation be imposed, many of our large land-holders, rather than give up their estates, will curtail their expenditure in order to meet the impost. They will employ fewer men rather than place their properties on an unfavorable market ; and what are the workers and those landless men we hear of to do if they are unable to obtain work ? There are many thousands of these men, employed in twos and threes, on different estates throughout the country, and it would be hard to ask them to seek new occupations now. Still, however, the landowners, like others, have to look after themselves, and if the Insolvency, Court has to be avoided, they must live within their incomes. To that end, they will, as I say, curtail the employment they give, and, retaining their land, defeat the very intention of the Bill.
– They will try to sell their lands.
– Yes ; but they will hold them until a favorable opportunity offers. When they realize that this is a tax for the purpose of lowering the value of their lands, they will be glad to sell, and invest the proceeds in another country.
– They cannot take the land with them, anyhow !
– And the unfortunate part is that the honorable member and people like him refuse to go on the land themselves, and confine their efforts to taxing people off it. Another effect will be that when land is heavily mortgaged, the earnings will not pay the interest and the tax, and the placing of it on the market must mean a reduction in price. Much of the land that will be thus rendered idle by the tax, is fit for nothing but grazing, and will prove a hindrance rather than a help to the primary industries which, after all, must be the mainstay of Australia for many years. Unfortunately, much of the land that is occupied in Australia to-day is not fit for closer settlement ; and Heaven knows whether it ever will be, unless the* States take in hand proper irrigation schemes which, of course, mean time and money. I am afraid it is not’ of much use my continuing for all the impression that my arguments make on honorable’ members opposite, who close their ears to anything in the shape of facts. I have heard many of them discuss the land problem, and take us all over the world, and into the Dark Ages in search of arguments, but I have as yet heard nothing cogent or relevant to this particular Bill. One of the most serious effects of this legislation will be the want of confidence it will create in the Australian Government and Australia generally. If we simply tax people out of their lands, and thus obtain them at lower than the market price, we shall be committing neither more nor less than confiscation ; and the Government and Parliament, which should be the fount of justice, will be striking at the foundations of our social structure. The Postmaster-General smiles, but he knows that my statement is correct, and I. hope that he will do his best to avert such a calamity. There are many absentee companies which have invested money in Australia, and upon which they received no interest for years. Recently they have been obtaining some return, but their properties are to be aggregated under this Bill, and subjected to heavy taxation, so that their profits will speedily disappear. Honorable members opposite do not seem to realize the serious step they are taking in thus shaking public confidence in Great Britain. In proof of my contention that this measure means confiscation, and that some honorable members opposite have no qualms of conscience in regard to its effect in that direction, I shall quote a few words from a speech made at Bendigo, on 6th November last, by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports -
The tax would not be hard on men owning land of the value of £1,000. But how would it operate on the big fellow? Holders of small areas need not be afraid of the land tax, for not only would they not suffer injury, but it would make land cheaper for their sons and daughters.
– Hear, hear ! That is what I want.
– The honorable member says, in effect, to the large landowner, “ Your land is worth £5, but a lot of my friends want it for £3 an acre. Since you will not let them have it at that price, I am going to join with others in imposing upon you a tax that will crush the value out of it, and enable my friends to get it at the price offered by them.”
– We cannot reduce the productivity of the land.
– And it is in that respect that the honorable member’s friends will be benefited. They will get the same returns from the land, although they pay oni)’ £3 Per acre f°r it, whereas it is actually worth £5 an acre.
– My objection is that many of the present owners are doing nothing with their land.
– It is well known that Australia produces more per head of her population than does any other country.
– -‘The honorable member knows that the Van Diemen’s Land Company has many acres of land with which it is doing nothing.
– When that company went to Tasmania, it could have got practically the whole of the island had it desired. It took up land there at a time when the honorable member would not have looked at it if he had had a comfortable berth. It introduced into Tasmania the best breeds of stock that could be obtained in the Old Country, and from its stock the best herds in the western part of Victoria were created. For years, the company paid no dividends, and I doubt whether it is paying even now more than 4 per cent, on its capital. I hold no brief for it, but I wish to look the facts in the face. Even if it is an absentee company, it should be treated fairly. That it should pay more than it does by way of land taxation, I doubt not, but surely it is not reasonable that it should be called upon to pay a tax of 6d. in the £1, in addition to the State land tax of id. in the £j. Even if the Government have no idea of confiscation, some of those who have helped the Labour party in the past do not mince matters in regard to their views on the subject. Recently, Mr. J. Thorn, who is connected with the Labour movement in New Zealand, called at Melbourne on his way to attend a Labour Convention in the Old Country, and speaking at the Trades Hall, said - ‘
We are going to shift you and we are going to appropriate your lands ; and we are going as a State to use that land just as we use our railways.
He went on to say that the land system of New Zealand was a farce; that there were many unemployed there, and that real prosperity was only to be secured by the nationalization of the land. Then, again, Mr. J. C. Watson, a former leader of the Federal Labour party, said on one occasion, “ Tax the value out of the land,” while Senator Pearce said, “ Make it too hot to hold.”
This measure will have a very bad effect in that it will frighten capital from Australia. It will make money that ought to be available for loans on mortgages on small and large properties harder to get, and in time to come, as the man on the land gets poorer, and has a smaller margin of security to offer, he will have to pay more interest for what he does get. To satisfy honorable members that New Zealand is not as prosperous and a* rosy as has been made to appear, I would point out that the Argus, of 25th June last, published an interview with Mr. D. J. Nathan, a visitor from that country, in which he said-
Sir Joseph Ward has also intimated that the new penal impost under the graduated land tax will have to be repealed. This heavy tax on both town and country estates over a certain value has only recently come into force, but the nature of its effects is obvious. Propertyowners are quite willing to bear their share of our expenses of government, and even of the cost of our humanitarian experiments. It is not solely or even mainly for selfish reasons that the heavy graduation is opposed. The real reason is that it operates to restrict enterprise. Land and buildings of considerable value are required for almost every industrial undertaking, for woollen mills, for jam factories, for warehouses, and so on. Penalizing the ownership of such land and buildings is penalizing the trade and industry by which the country lives. What we are feeling already in New Zealand is less the immediate burden of the taxation than the fear which it has created. The policy is bad, because it has made every would-be investor in industrial and pastoral undertakings afraid that yet another turn may be given to the screw - that in response to extremist demands at some crucial point in the history of a Ministry or party, the penalty may be increased or that the level at which it begins to be enforced may be lowered. Even as it is, every industry in the country, save mining and shipping, which are unaffected by the tax, is being hit. No one is prepared to launch out and put up a costly factory or warehouse on land which may have to bear so heavy a burden. As a natural consequence, there is stagnation in spite of the recovery from the recent tightness of money. Though the bank returns are showing steady accumulation, and the prospects for the year are good, there is no movement to extend industry.
He was then asked -
If Sir Joseph Ward repeals the penal tax, and “ goes slow “ on Labour legislation, that will come right? and replied -
I am confident it will. The Government has made a wise change in its closer settlement policy. It found that the compulsory purchase system was really raising prices against itself, so now it is prepared to finance voluntary subdivision of estates. It will advance the money to a group of purchasers, and let them deal directly with the owner. When the owner receives his purchase money, we should, of course, like to be able to offer him sufficient inducement to reinvest it in New Zealand, and it is because the penal land tax lessens the inducement that many of us dislike it. At the present moment any company or individual with anything over £39,999 would be foolish to buy further land, or property, or shares in any undertaking requiring land, as he would immediately be subject to graduated tax, and also to a further penal tax. Consequently men and companies of this description are sending their money and capital out of the country. Owing to the unfairness of incidence and collection, this graduated tax is paid more than once. Our experience of the close connexion between a high graduated tax on land and property, and the discouragement of industrial enterprise should be worth the study of Australians.
I say so, too, because in many of its features the picture that gentleman draws is similar to what has to be contended with here. We, too, have a lot of extremists who are in a position to push the Government on to twist the screw to any extent they like. An indication of that is to be found in the fact that before the present Caucus party faced the people we never heard of a land tax of more than 4d. in the£1, but now the rate is pushed up to 6d., showing clearly that, amongst the new members who have come into the House owing to the late elections, there must be a great many extremists who are able to make their presence felt. I shall reserve for Committee some of the other matters I intended to speak about, and statistics which I proposed to quote. I believe this tax when put into operation will be found to be most unjust and inequitable, and that, instead of tending to open up land that should be closely settled in Australia, it will not have that good effect, but will lay on us the burden of having done something which is really immoral in lowering by a legislative enactment the fair and reasonable price of that land.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fenton) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate, with an amendment.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY laid upon the table the following paper -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at Pennant Hills, New South Wales - As a site for a Wireless Telegraphic Station.
That the House do now adjourn,
I wish to say that I expect the secondreading debate on the Land Tax Assessment Bill to end at the next sitting. I think that is a reasonable thing.
.- In view of the protracted sittings of both Houses, it might be well for the Government to consider the advisability of having a fresh relay of assistants for the staffs of the- Parliament. I find on making inquiry that an all-night sitting affects some forty persons connected with the services of both Houses. During the week, you, Mr. Speaker, declared your physical inability to remain in the chair during the very long sittings that have recently been decided upon. I quite agree that it is unfair to ask you to remain in the chair for twelve hours continuously, although even that strain was without protest endured by your predecessors. However, it is only reasonable that Mr. Speaker should be relieved by the Deputy Speaker. But the pressure of these long hours applies to the Clerks and other officers of the House. It must be infinitely more difficult for the Hansard reporters to work’ through all those hours, seeing that they have not merely to be at the table of the House, but have to dictate their notes after we have retired to our rest. I understand that there are connected with the Hansard staff ten reporters, six typists, and ‘ a messenger, who have to be in attendance long after the House has adjourned, and for some time before the House meets on the following day. They have to perform similar duties in connexion with the Senate. I may remind honorable members that, although we may be able to recuperate after an all-night sitting of this House, it so happens, and has happened several times during the present session, that after this House has had a very long sitting, the Senate has taken it into its head to have an all-night sitting also. As the Hansard staff and other officers have to attend and report the proceedings in the other House, as well as in this, it becomes doubly hard upon them. If we are to continue to meet at half-past 10 o’clock in the morning, and not adjourn until nearly 11 at night, which means over twelve hours a day, some arrangement ought to be made to replace the officers who are on duty all this time.. It may be said that the members of the Hansard staff do not complain; that they have long holidays, and so on. I admit that they do not complain. They certainly have never complained to me. A holiday is no value to a man if his health is permanently unpaired.
– Have the House Committee considered the matter at all?
– The House Committee has sat only once since the present Parliament met. Relief for the staff seems to come rather within the province of the Government, and the President and Mr. Speaker. I cannot see that our progress is any greater because of the early meetings and late adjournments. During the daylight hours there are rarely more than eight or ten members in the chamber at a time, and the House is rapidly becoming demoralized. One of two courses must be adopted : the reversion to the usual hours of meeting, or the making of provision for relief for our officers, and especially for those of the Hansard staff, who cannot be expected to work continuously day and night, under the strain which has been upon them for some time past.
.- The Opposition will be happy to co-operate with the Prime Minister in concluding the debate on the second reading of the Land Tax Assessment Bill next Tuesday. It has been protracted inevitably. I suggest that, if the Government intend to proceed with the Committee consideration at once, and as there must be many important amendments to propose, time will be saved by circulating them at the earliest moment. We have no desire to prolong the session. As to the remarks of the honorable member for Coolgardie, it appears in the highest degree unwise, in view of the excellent services we obtain from the Hansard staff and other officers of the House, to impose upon them burdens which are too great to be borne. No doubt, with the assistance of the Government, you, Mr. Speaker, could easily arrange to allow some of them to get away in turn, and thus reduce their day’s labour to as nearly as possible a period of eight hours. Honorable members feel the strain of the long sittings, and, of course, have other labours added to their parliamentary tasks, but some of our officers are here for hours before we meet, while others remain long after we rise. I confess that the recesses are a considerable compensation.
– Not so much to the Hansard staff.
– The pressure put on our officers, and particularly on the Hansard staff, is not good business manage ment. We cannot expect the best results from those who are working under an undue strain.I trust, therefore, that the Prime Minister will rum a sympathetic ear to the reasonable proposal of the honorable member for Coolgardie.
– The Government may, perhaps, use part of Tuesday for other business, to enable the amendments to be proposed in the Land Tax Assessment Bill to be circulated among honorable members. I am glad to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that the party which he leads will co-operate with us as much as possible in getting the Bill through its various stages. We may be able to come to an agreement to pass so many clauses, or to do so much business, each day, according to the importance of the matter in hand. The honorable member for Coolgardie has done a service in calling attention to the long hours which have been worked by our officers, though I do not think any of them works longer than 1 do. That, of course, is no reason why they should be subjected to an excessive strain. The position of the Hansard reporters, in being liable for duty in both Chambers, is, of course, particularly unfortunate, and if relief ean be afforded in any way, I shall be glad to co-operate with the President and Mr. Speaker in affording it. We should not endanger the lives or the health of our officers by keeping them at work for too long a stretch.
– We might also pass a motion relieving some of the journalists in the galleries from attendance for a period.
– We might spare some of them for a week at a time. But, of course, we are always pleased to see them here. I corroborate what was said by the honorable member for Coolgardie that there has not been a whisper of complaint from any officer, which is to the credit of the whole body, and the Government will be glad to render financial assistance in giving any relief that is possible, where the duties are excessive. No doubt we are primarily responsible for the length of the sittings, though I do not agree with the honorable member for Coolgardie that we have not made progress by the longer sittings. The speeches which we have had in the debate on the Land Tax Assessment Bill would have been delivered in any case, and had our sittings been shorter, the discussion would have extended over a longer period.
– My point is that no one listens to these long speeches.
– I have been here all day, and every day, coming before the House assembled, and not leaving until after it had adjourned.
– I do not do that.
– It is unnecessary for the honorable member to say so. I hope that now that the principal speeches on the Land Tax Assessment Bill have been made, members having expressed their views regarding its most important features, the remaining consideration will ‘ not be so arduous.
-The President and myself realized some time ago that if allnight sittings should occur in another place something would have to’ be done to give relief to the members of the Hansard staff, who attend there as well as -here. I have already had a conversation with the Principal Parliamentary Reporter on the subject, but the recent all-night sitting of the Senate is the first that has- occurred since we determined to meet at 10.30 a.m. on three days of the week. I shall to-morrow consult with the President, to see what can be done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 5.9 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 September 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19100916_reps_4_57/>.