4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Last Friday reference was made to the extra work put upon the staff by the great length of the Parliamentary sittings, and, in compliance with the wishes expressed then by honorable members, I have, after inquiry, done what I can to give relief. As to the clerical staff, the strain falls chiefly on the officers engaged in the Chamber, as for some years past the hours of all others have been reduced when the House sits late. When such a sitting occurs, the staff retained is always reduced to the lowest number possible. The case of the Hansard reporters is different. The Principal Parliamentary Reporter informs me that their work has been exceptionally heavy, owing to the extremely long hours of work occasioned by our earlier meetings and the long sittings in another place. That, of course, we all recognise. He is of opinion that relief can be given by the extension of our dinner adjournment to 8 o’clock, and of the luncheon adjournment to half-past 2 o’clock, though this relief would be merely temporary, and if we increase our sitting hours, or if the sittings of the other House are very protracted, some other arrangement may have to be made. With the consent of honorable members, I shall lengthen the two refreshment adjournments in the manner suggested.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– In reference to a statement in yesterday’s Age regarding the Australian coat of arms and local artists, I wish to ask the Prime Minister if in future, when the Commonwealth requires designs, he will give local artists an opportunity to compete?
– I shall do so, and am glad to be able to add that I have been advised by competent persons that Australian artists are capable of doing anywork of that kind that we may require. I hope that the design for our note issue will be made by local artists.
.- During my absence on Friday last, the Postmaster-General, according to the Age report, said that -
Since he had been questioned on the subject a few days ago by Sir John Quick, he had found that a new departmental regulation, providing for payment to allowance post offices, had been adopted last March.
According to the Argus report, he said that -
Since looking into the matter he had found that a regulation had been passed in March last by Sir John Quick.
It will be seen that the two reports differ in form and substance. The honorable gentleman added that he would not object to my perusal of the papers, and he has courteously allowedme to look through the file, which I have just seen for the first time. It is a very large file, containing reports and inquiries extending over a period of years. These relate to the scale of payments to allowance post-offices, involving payments for the making up of mails after closing hours. Apparently reports were obtained from all the States, with the result that the Accountant at the Central Office drew up a memorandum, dated 10th March, addressed to the Secretary, making the following recommendation -
That the instructions already issued be supplemented by the following : - “ That is to say, that payment of the allowance for night attendance for receipt and despatch of mails is to apply between the hours of 7 p.m. and 8 a.m.”
That is, instead of 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. On the margin is written -
Approved, Robert T. Scott, for the PostmasterGeneral, 16.3.10.
At that time I was in my constituency, fighting a strenuous election campaign, and the Secretary evidently acted in pursuance of his general powers of administration during the absence of the Minister. I was not consulted, but the memorandum shows that there was not a new regulation or new scale of payment issued, but that the existing instructions were supplemented by a slight variation. I had nothing to do with this, the papers never having been submitted to me. Departmental papers when put before a Minister bear the words “ submitted” or “ recommend,” and if approved they are initialed by the Minister, but these papers have not been submitted to me or to any other Minister, the Central Department evidently not thinking the matter of sufficient importance to require that course. Perhaps they might have been submitted to me after my return from the country, but, in consequence of the defeat of the party to which I belong, I did not again interfere with matters of postal administration. I may add that I was the first member to discover this change of rule. A complaint reached me in a letter from a country official, and I asked the Postmaster-General to inquire into the matter. I am glad that he has done so, and that he has taken prompt action to rescind the amended instruction which I have read.
– I, too, wish to make a personal explanation. On 8th September last the honorable member for Laanecoorie asked me a question about the allowance offices. Then the honorable member for Parramatta asked me -
Has there not been a revision of the schedule?
I answered -
Not as far as I am aware.
The honorable member for Bendigo fol lowed up that question by asking -
Is the Postmaster-General aware that the scale of allowance -for country post offices has been revised, and that a new scale has been issued ? Further, will he inquire who authorized the issue of the new scale making these reductions?
I replied -
I certainly am not aware that a new scale has been fixed.
The honorable member for Bendigo interjected -
It is so. and I added -
I shall make inquiries.
I made the necessary inquiries, and found that a new regulation had been issued on 23rd March, by the authority of the honorable member for Bendigo.
– The paper is signed by Sir Robert Scott “for the Minister.” When the honorable member for Parramatta asked me on Friday last who had actually signed the paper, I refused to answer, as I. thought it would be unfair to do so in the absence of the honorable member for Bendigo, the ex- Postmaster-
General, and as I could not say what arrangements had been made by him for the signing of papers in his absence from the office during his term as PostmasterGeneral. If he had authorized the Secretary of the Department to sign papers for him, I took it that that would not concern the House, because in that case the honorable member for Bendigo would, I felt sure, accept the fullest responsibility for any action taken under those circumstances. It also appeared to me that it would have been unfair to Sir Robert Scott for me toanswer that question in the absence of his late Minister- -
– I rise to order. I want your ruling, sir, as to whether thehonorable member is in order in reading; a statement in that way. This is not a personal explanation, but the reading of a very carefully elaborated statement.
– I take it that the honorable member for Barrier rose to make a personal explanation. So far as I have been able to follow him, the honorable member is quite in order.
– I may be permitted again to say that it appeared unfair to Sir Robert Scott for me to answer that question in the absence of his late Minister, because it would, undoubtedly, have been a most serious thing for him to sign for the Minister without that Minister’s instructions, and Sir Robert Scott is still a servant of the Department. Personally, I did not for a moment think that Sir Robert Scott would do such a thing, and, therefore, I considered it my duty to defend him against any unjust, ungenerous, and unfair insinuation.
– Who made the insinuation ?
– The honorable member, when he asked that question.
– The honorable member is saying what is incorrect.
– Order !
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member in order in accusing me of making an insinuation against a public officer ? I have done no such thing, and I ask that the honorable member shall withdraw the statement.
– The honorable member made an interjection which I did not catch, but I am sure that, if he feels aggrieved by what the honorable member for Barrier said, the honorable member for Barrier will withdraw the statement.
– I will. But I think 1 ought to give a reason why I made the statement. The honorable member for Parramatta knew, from a private conversation which he had with me, that Sir Robert Scott had signed the order for the Minister, and knew it before he asked that question of me in the House. That is the reason why he asked it. In view of the explanation that has been made-
– I rise to order. The honorable member has charged me with making an insinuation against Sir Robert Scott. I have done no such thing, and I ask that the accusation be withdrawn.
– If the honorable member had been listening, he would have known that I called upon the honorable member for Barrier to withdraw the statement, and that he withdrew it.
– He withdrew it, but amplified it and made it worse.
– In view of the statement made here by the honorable member for Bendigo. I shall feel it my duty to communicate with Sir Robert Scott to learn why, and in- what circumstances, he signed on behalf of the Minister without haying instructions from that Minister to sign.
– Does not the Postmaster-General now think, in view of all the circumstances, that he unintentionally misled the House last Friday, when he allowed it to understand that the honorable member for Bendigo had personally promulgated the regulation in question?
– Undoubtedly not, in view of the statement that I have made, that the paper was signed on behalf of the Minister - for the Minister.
– The honorable member has the ex-Minister’s statement that he never saw it.
– How did I know that, until he said it here ?
– Is it not a fact that every action taken by the Secretary oF a Department, and every document signed by him, is theoretically signed on behalf of the Minister who represents the Crown in that Department?
– Not necessarily.
– Will the Minister of External Affairs lay on the table of the House the report from the Townsville Institute for the investigation of tropical diseases, and. make some arrangement by which an annual report can be furnished to Parliament, so that we may have some idea of the progress made?
– I shall endeavour to obtain an annual report and lay it before honorable members.
– As the laws of New South Wales provide for capital punishment for many minor offences, and those laws are to be applied in the Federal Territory, is it the intention of the Government that those providing, for capital punishment shall be operative there?
– The Government intend, before proclaiming the Capital site nt Canberra, to pass legislation through this Parliament dealing with certain matters, of which that referred to Will possibly be one.
– They can hang a man in New South Wales for stealing Government stores.
– A man will not be hanged for that offence under our law, anyway.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to certain reported remarks made by the Premier of New South Wales relating to the Federal Capital, including the following :-
In my opinion, the question is no further advanced that it was last April, and it never will be until the Federal Government takes its courage in both hands and determines to keep faith with the country and the parliamentary compact, by issuing the necessary and formal proclamation.
Later on Mr. Wade says -
It’s duty was perfectly plain - to issue the proclamation, and thereby’ formally indorse the expressed determination of the last Parliament.
Is it a fact, as alleged, that the proclamation was withheld by a previous Administration with the consent or approval of the State Premiers, for the purpose of allowing the residents within the Territory to exercise their franchise at the last Federal election, on the 13th April, and, if so, will the Prime Minister see that those people have the right to exercise the franchise in the coming elections in New South Wales, on the 14th October next ?
– Does the honorable member not know that that is the reason of the delay?
– I am not able to say from my personal knowledge whether the proclamation was delayed by a previous
Government for electioneering purposes, but I am able to say thatithas not been delayed for such purposes by the present Government. There is no delay at all ; and, further, all the statements made by the Premier of New South Wales should be read in conjunction with a certain event taking place in that State.
– As the Prime Minister has informed us that Australian artists are quite competent to prepare designs for the Australian Coat of Arms, I desire to ask the Minister for Home Affairs what objections there are, if any, to the competition in the case of the plans in connexion with the Federal- Capital being confined to Australians ?
– I have not the slightest objection to the competition being confined to Australians, my only desire being to enable Australians to compete with the artists of the rest of the world, and, if possible, beat them.
– About a fortnight ago a deputation waited on the Minister of Trade and Customs, to urge that the bounty on sugar should be levelled up to the Excise. Has the Minister arrived at a decision in the matter, and, if so, has it been conveved to the parties interested?
– The policy of the Government regarding that question is on the table in the shape of two Bills, which have been before the House for about six weeks, and which leave the Excise and bounty in the same position as they have occupied for the past four years.
– I notice from Friday evening’s press that the Minister has arrived at a decision in regard to the bounty paid on sugar; and I should like to know if the Melbourne press has been a fortnight in finding out the fact, or whether the Minister had arrived at a decision, and only gave the information on Friday?
– There was no notification appearing in the press on Friday. On Saturday a pressman asked me if there was any alteration in the sugar policy, and I told him no.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to a statement in the Age that the Duke of Devonshire had to answer fifty questions in regard to the assessment of his properties for the purposes of land taxation; and whether, as it is very difficult to get any information about the land tax dealt with in the Budget in the English House of Commons, he will see whether in his Department there is any information to add to that we already possess, so that we may know the real kernel of the land tax proposals?
– Somewhat like the House of Commons, we have not too much information on the subject, but we hope by this time twelve months to have a great deal more.
– At the request of the honorable member for East Sydney, who asked me to give notice of a question, I ask that honorable member through you, Mr. Speaker, whether he, during the recent Federal elections, advocated in his electorate the bursting up of city properties by means of a land tax?
– I tell the honorable member to mind his own business, and I shall mind mine !
– A report appeared in the Adelaide press on Saturday last to the effect that the Attorney- General had made a public statement that Crown leases, or “ convertible Crown leases,” were to be subject to taxation under the Bill now before the House. I desire to know whether that statement is true, and also what is a “convertible Crown lease.”
– That question will be answered by certain amendments to be circulated later to-day.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that honorable members have been circularized, asking their support for a temperance motion moved by the honorable member for Brisbane, and, if so, will the honorable gentleman give time for the consideration of this busjness, so that the House may be able to register its decision at some early moment?
– I have not seen any circular, and I am not aware that any has been sent round - evidently I am regarded as “ a bad case “ - but the Government will give time for all private members’ motions to be put to the vote. We cannot give interminable time for discussion, but we shall afford an opportunity for members to register their decisions on the motions.
– Are we to understand from the statement of the Prime Minister that he proposes to afford an opportunity for a division, but not for a dis- cussion, on the motion moved by the honorable member for Brisbane?
– I did not use words to convey that impression. What I said was that the Government desired to give private members an opportunity to obtain votes on all their propositions. They cannot promise unlimited time for debate upon all of them, but before the session closes an opportunity will be afforded for a division to be taken with respect to each of them.
– But will there not be time ‘for reasonable debate?
– I hope so.
Manufacture of Uniforms - Major Forsyth
– During the debate on the Works Estimates, reference was made to the Departmental Committee who took evidence in regard to the manufacture of uniforms by the Commonwealth, and I ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether that report can be made a parliamentary paper?
– I think it is a parliamentary paper at present, but, at all events, there is no objection to laying the report upon the table. On Friday last the honorable member for Maranoa asked if it was the intention that Major Forsyth, who has been obtaining experience in India, should be confined in an office when he returned to Melbourne. I placed the honorable member’s query before the Minister of Defence, and now have his reply, which is as follows.: -
Major Forsyth is being put into a position as D.A.A.G. in Victoria, where he will have the supervision and direction of the instruction of officers throughout the State. The Department will thus be placing him where the greatest value can be obtained as the result of his experience in India. »
– In view of the alarming frequency of railway accidents in Victoria, and the consequent risk members run travelling to and from Melbourne, I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he will take steps to see that honorable members are covered by accident policies?
– I scarcely know how to answer a question of the kind. I venture to say, however, that while the whole community are more or less apprehensive of the large number of railway accidents, it would be out of place for this Parliament to reflect in any way on the management of the railways of any State. On a recent lamentable occasion I took the liberty to express the hope that the wit of man would be able to prevent such occurrences, and I am sure I am expressing the wish of all honorable members when I add the further hope that fewer accidents will occur, not only in this State, but in every State of the Commonwealth.
– In view of the number of railway accidents in this and other States, and the apparent inconclusive results of the investigations held into their causes, will the Prime Minister consider the advisableness of establishing a tribunal on the lines of the British Board of Trade with power to inquire into and deal with such matters in a comprehensive way?
– I think it very possible that that is a course that will have to be considered sooner or later in connexion, perhaps, with the Inter- State Commission.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked “ the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Estimates for 1909-10 for purchase of material, and a further amount of£13,700 is provided on the Estimates for the current year.
asked the Minister of
Home Affairs, upon notice -
Public Service Commissioner for whom increments have not been provided for1910-1911. If so, for which year, and to how many officers does the omission apply, and to which class do they belong?
Staff of the Postal Department and the Customs Department ?
– In reply to the honorable member’s question, the Public Service Commissioner reports -
Department of Trade and Customs (Central) - 1909-10. Seventeen officers (4 in class 3 ; 9 in class 4; 1 in class C;-and 3 in class E). 1910-11. Thirteen officers (2 in class 3 ; 7 in class 4; and 4 in class E).
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will he furnish a statement showing -
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s, questions is - 1 and 2. The communications received from various bodies urging for consideration the superior claims of certain ports in the several States, together with the Admiralty chart and all available data, will be placed before Admiral Sir Reginald Henderson, and, if he considers it necessary, arrangements will be made for a personal inspection. The Minister has no information as to Admiral’s Henderson’s method of determining the suitableness or otherwise of a port as a Naval base.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers -
Papua - Native Labour Supply - Letter from the Hon. Staniforth Smith, Administrator, forwarding communications re.
Parliamentary Post Office at Sydney - Return re value of business done, 1909.
Debate resumed from 16th September (vide page 3338), 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.”
– Before this Bill goes to a vote, I desire to make a few observations upon it. although, in common with most honorable members, I realize what the ultimate result of the debate will be. With them, and also, I think, with the country, I recognise that the protests made from time to time from this side of the House, as well as the suggestions that are being offered bv various honorable members, are likely to be of little avail, since the Government have announced their intention of going straight on with the measure as Originally drafted. But every honorable member, no matter what his opinion as to the ultimate result may be, should give expression to his own view upon it. We have had from day to day a debate which, for brilliancy and ability, has never been surpassed since this Parliament was first constituted. We have had this question dealt with from an ethical, theoretical, and practical stand-point, and those who have addressed themselves to it from both sides of the House have shown, at all events in most cases, that they have most carefully considered it from every point of view. That there should be an impost upon land seems to be generally accepted, and the points of difference between honorable members relate only to the manner in which that impost should be levied, and the discrimination that should be observed. I shall not weary the House with a repetition of the arguments that have already been put most ably before honorable members. I am one of those who feel, and have always held, that the land should bear its due proportion of the expenditure of the country, but I have always joined issue with those who were prepared to make the tax merely a class one, or to impose it for any other purpose than that of providing sufficient revenue for the needs of the State. The Government have been returned, they tell us, with a mandate from the country. They have told us -that so often, and have laid upon it such emphasis, that they, as w-ell as we, have begun to spell the word with a capital letter. This “mandate,” with a capital “M,” was for land taxation, and they maintain it was for the imposition of such taxation as they now propose. They have also volunteered the statement more than once that they have behind them the great majority of the small farmers of Australia. As to that contention, I at once join issue with them. Representing, as I do, a large body of small farmers^ - a constituency which does not contain more than a dozen estates that will be affected by the Bill so as to compel subdivision - I venture to say that the Government have no warrant for the statement that they have this particular class of industry behind them in their present position.
– The small farmers in the honorable member’s consttuency will not be touched?
– Not at present.
– Then why should they be opposed to the tax?
– Because, as my honorable friend will realize more fully the longer he is associated with men, there is sometimes an absence of selfishness on the part of those who go to make up the body politic. There are a number of people who do not gauge every political question merely by the effect which it will have upon them individually. The farmers in my district have, for a considerable period, been educated by those who have undertaken that work, and have a very live regard for the welfare of the Commonwealth as a whole. They are prepared always to sink their own individuality in favour of any movement that may be for the advancement of Australia.
– My experience is that they would rather tax the other fellow than themselves.
– My honorable friend will probably make that statement to his constitutents when next he goes before them. I can well imagine how rapidly the halls in his electorate would empty if the people of Monaro were spoken to in that way by a representative who, in the past, has done so much for them. The disabilities under which small farmers labour are recognised by those who have lived amongst them, or who, like myself, have been brought up, and have spent the greater part of their lives, on farms. We know how the farming population has to battle against, not merely the sudden incursions of predatory Governments, but an infinite number of ‘smaller pests, which tend to considerably reduce its income. A great deal has been done by the Parliaments of the States for the settlement of the land, and, as a believer in a pure Federation, I am not one of those who continually decry their work. But I feel that the Victorian Parliament committed a grave error of judgment a few months ago in declining to pass the land tax proposals submitted to it.
– Does the honorable member think that any of the State Governments have dealt properly with the land question?
– I do not say that they have done all that should have been done, or all that I should like to be done. But, taking into account our enormous territories and the lack of proper communication, I think that the State Governments have done for those on the land much for which they should be thankful. The measure which we are considering seems to have been drafted with three objects : the bursting up of the large estates, the providing of land for the landless, and the raising of revenue. As has been pointed out by others much better than I can do it, it is scarcely possible to accomplish these three objects by a measure such as that before us. If you can provide for the subdivision of the large estates without reducing the value of the land held by small proprietors, and thus provide cheap land for those who are landless, you can do more than has yet been done by any Act of Parliament. It is not possible to break up the large estates by means of a tax which will result in them being placed on the market at a cheap rate, without reducing the value of small estates. Since the land tax proposals of the Government became known, there has been a considerable reduction in the value of small holdings in the electorate which I have the honour to represent, and those who have endeavoured to borrow for the purpose of effecting improvements have found that their margin is considerably less than they could previously count on. This effect will be accentuated when the measure actually becomes law. The Bill is full of crude and almost impossible provisions. Of course, the Government have a majority which could enable them to pass any measure, but Ministers and their sup porters will pause before placing on the statute-book this Bill and the Land Tax Bill in the form in which they have been framed. The unselfish representations of members of the Opposition, who have not sought advantage for themselves, but have been actuated solely by the desire to make this legislation more acceptable to the people, and more in consonance with the Constitution, have not been recognised by Government supporters, but will eventually be recognised by the people, when they arrive at a full appreciation of the value of their efforts. The Ministerial party has had in its mind men and not land; it has lost sight of the land in its desire to hit the individual. It reminds me of the character in the Merchant of Venice, who, in making his bond for a pound of flesh, forgot that it would be impossible to give effect to it without committing an offence against the laws of the State by the spilling of blood. The Ministerialists desire the blood - the land of the large holder - and forget that, in taking it, they must injure the flesh - that is, the land of the small proprietor. They have also lost sight of the interdependence of society. For years they have been telling us that no section of society could be injured without all other sections being affected. The re-action from this legislation will produce a state of things beyond the wildest imaginings of those who propose it. The body politic is like the body corporal, an offence against any member being felt by all the members. If, desiring to strike at a particular class, blows are inflicted by which the whole community is injured, those responsible for the blows must take the blame. I wish now to refer to a matter which I do not think has been already spoken of. Hitherto, the trend of legislation in civilized countries has been to make the married woman independent of her husband with regard to property ; but the Labour party proposes to treat the land of a married woman, if its value is below the taxable amount, as part of the estate of her husband, so that the joint estate may be taxed. This is a retrograde step. We have done a great deal for the liberation of women from the thraldom of the past, but the Government propose to revert to a principle which, in the past, was so prejudicial to what has been called the weaker sex. I do not altogether blame those who are responsible for this legislation, because I recognise that it is mainly the effect of ignorance.
– Has the honorable member all the intelligence on his side? That seems to be his assumption.
– If is not my assumption. Far be it from me to charge any one with a voice like that of the honorable member with deficiency of intelligence. In a wordy warfare he would get the better of me.
– But in studied insolence the honorable member would beat him easily.
– Honorable members misunderstand me. What I mean is that those responsible for this legislation have had little experience of land matters. Very few of the supporters of the Government are men who have been associated with the land. That, in my opinion, is the reason why so many errors and mistakes have crept into this measure. Honorable members have been engaged in occupations which are more lucrative than that of the farmer, who is compelled to wrest his subsistence from the soil, the “ unwilling soil “ as it is often called.
– There are more farmers on this side than on the Opposition side; certainly more farmers’ friends.
– I should like to see honorable members opposite on the land. If they had been farmers, they would combat these legislative proposals, which are put forward ostensibly in the interests of the farmers, but really will take from them more than will be given to them. There is a consensus of opinion amongst practical men that the Bill, if passed as it stands, will be- disastrous to those settled on the land. Since I have been in Parliament - a period of seventeen years - I have not spoken for the large landed proprietors. They have their uses, but I am glad to say that in the electorate which I represent the need for them has almost entirely disappeared. Yet, in common with others, they are entitled to consideration. Our legislation should be, not for a class, but for the community. Those on the land, both large and small holders, will suffer immediately and irredeemably if this legislation is passed in its present form.
– Why does the honorable member worry? They will “pass us out “ if that is so.
– The honorable member seems to think that all I desire is the total extinction of the Labour party. Nothing is further from my wishes. But I should like to see the energies of the party directed into a better channel. I should like honorable members to forget the individuals whom they are trying to hit, and have regard to the capabilities of the land, so that the best results may be obtained from its occupation. If it is not properly settled and developed, it will be a menace to us and to the Empire, when it should provide for the sustenance and happiness of millions. Were I in a position of trust and responsibility, and desirous of passing a measure to benefit the people as a whole, without pressing unduly upon a class deserving the utmost consideration, I should bring forward a very different Bill from that now under discussion. The Government and the part)’ behind them have brought to the consideration of this question years and years of prejudice which, to a large extent, may have been justified, but which should have been put behind them altogether when dealing with a great question of this character. If they had done that we should have had a measure of an entirely different kind. If we are to have in the future a body of men propounding legislation which they say is calculated to benefit a particular class, surely it is from the practical men that advice and guidance should be sought - from those who have had to bear the heat and burden of the day, and have worked early and late at those rural avocations which have done so much to build up the stability, wealth, and prosperity of this country. The Government might as well ask a Hottentot to draft a scheme for a State Bank, or an Esquimaux to frame a Bill to regulate motor traffic, or call on the services of some troglodyte to plan the new Federal city. I feel, of course, that it is of absolutely no use for any member on this side to speak with regard to this measure, and we all know what the fate will be of any amendments which may be presented to the Government.
– Surely there will be some amendments.
– No amendment from this side of the House will have the slightest chance of passing. The mind of the party behind the Government is made up. This Bill is not the work of the Government. The Government are in an entirely different position from any Governments which have previously occupied the Treasury bench. They are responsible not to the House, but to the party who sit behind them. The Bill is the work of the party, and the party, of course, is the work of the leagues.
– “ In the multitude of counsellors there is safety.”
– Then this Parliament is not the place to draft a Bill. According to the honorable member it should be drafted in the open air, at a Saturday afternoon football match, and presented for the acceptance of the multitudes who gather there. My honorable friend regards himself as the elect of the elect. He comes here to represent them.
– He represents the farmers ; they put him in. I know it.
– I was always under the impression that if the Labour party valued one thing *it was the secrecy of the ballot, but the honorable member for Maribyrnong seems to have some inside information which I am not permitted to challenge. It is a fallacy to drag before a whole host of people, with differing ambitions and differing ideas, a piece of legislation like this, and expect them to frame a Bill which will not be unfair to a large section of the community. It is too much to expect of human nature. We realize that there cannot be any alteration of a single letter or comma in this Bill unless the party behind the Government desire that that alteration should be made. In those circumstances, it is very like beating the air for any honorable member to offer suggestions or even to make observations on the Bill. However, I felt it incumbent upon me to express my opinion of it. As a land.taxer, I deplore that the first time a land tax proposition is brought in a proper and concrete form before the Federal Parliament it should be hampered, hindered, and leg-ironed, as this measure has been, by a number of conditions which are utterly impracticable, and will only bring disaster upon a large number of people who deserve something very much better from this Parliament.
.- At this late stage of the debate I agree with the honorable member for Laanecoorie that it is as well for speeches to be brief. This measure is one of the most important that has ever come before the Federal or any other Parliament, because, after all, the land question is the question of questions. I differ from the honorable member for Laanecoorie, because I am exceptionally pleased that’ this great National Parliament has taken in hand this great national question. I trust that before the Bill finally leaves this and another place it will be a measure of which all of i»s ran be proud, and which will tend to the great benefit of the community. I cannot understand why the honorable member for Laanecoorie should import a certain amount of feeling into the debate. Although the criticism of the measure has been exceptionally severe and keen, I do not know that any other speaker has said that there is no possible chance of it being altered, even by a comma. I believe that it will be considerably altered from the form in which it has been introduced, even from the Government side, and altered in such a way as to improve it. We on this side are accused of being narrow-minded, and of having our eyes upon a certain set of individuals whom we are vindictively pursuing in an endeavour to down them; but I resent that accusation, and throw it back in the teeth of those who make it. Our party are here to do all we possibly can for the benefit of the great masses of the people. This measure is an attempt in that direction, and I cannot conceive why the honorable member for Laanecoorie should import into the debate the feeling that he has shown. He was entirely wrong in doing so. One accusation which he made was that hardly any one on this side of the House had experience in connexion with land. Taking the members of the Labour party, from the Prime Minister down to the humblest member, and comparing their experiences on the land, whether in station or farm life, or general agriculture, or fruit-growing, with those of honorable members opposite, I make bold to state that in an examination on the land question, honorable members on this side would, in every phase of the matter, far and away surpass honorable members opposite. A very large number of us started our careers upon the land. The honorable member for Moreton related how in the early days he went with his parents into the back-blocks of Queensland, and how they had to carve a home for themselves out of the forest. Many honorable members on this side of the House have had a similar experience. The early part of my life was spent on a farm; and I assure honorable members that my experiences there have stood me in very good stead at various times in my later life. If I were to relate my experiences on the land, they would, perhaps, be found to be harder and more bitter than those that any other member of the House has endured ; but I am not here this afternoon to do that. I arn here to say that we are in earnest in the matter of land taxation. When before my constituents I said that large expenditure for defence was looming in the distance. When we entered upon our election campaign, we had a fair idea of what Lord Kitchener had suggested. His report indicated that upon defence alone millions of pounds would need to be spent, in order to place this country in a decent state of preparedness to meet an invasion. Seeing that we required such a large amount of money for defence, I put it to my electors that the time had arrived when those who had wealth and property to defend should contribute more to the cost of defence than they had done in the past. I knew no better way of obtaining money for that purpose than the imposition of a tax upon unimproved land values. Wherever that policy was advocated in my constituency, it was cheered, and I was very much encouraged by the cheering I received when I gave utterance to those sentiments. I should like to direct the attention of honorable members to the condition of affairs in Victoria, I am proud to be a Victorian ; but prouder to be an Australian j and I hope that no vote or action of mine will lessen me in the estimation of honorable members if I speak simply in regard to Victoria, because I wish always to speak and act in an Australian sense. I want to think in continents, and not in dust-bins. A large number of honorable members opposite have said that there will be no possible loophole of escape for those who have grievances under this Bill ; but if honorable members will read clause 62 they will find that provision is made whereby those who have been harshly treated will have an opportunity of stating their case and being heard. The clause reads -
In any case where it is shown to’ the satisfaction of the Commissioner that a taxpayer liable to pay land tax has become bankrupt or insolvent, or has suffered such a loss that the exaction of the full amount of tax will entail serious hardship, the Commissioner may release such taxpayer wholly or in part from his liability, and make such entries and alterations in the assessment roll as are necessary for that purpose.
If the case put forward is fair and reasonable, I have no doubt that the Commissioner or one of his deputies will be able to deal with it arid act as justly in connexion with the land tax as has been the case in connexion with other taxes.
– It is sometimes very hard to convince a Commissioner.
– I know that is so, and another argument used is that there will be a very large number of these cases. I admit at once that but a small proportion of our population will come under the tax. The Attorney-General stated the other night that only about 10,000 persons will be called upon to pay under the Bill. It is quite likely that the smallness of the number has made it appear to some honorable members that this is simply and purely a class tax. Perhaps honorable members do not realize in how few hands the wealth of our community really rests. So far as one can ascertain, though I think it is slightly higher now, the total private wealth of Australia amounts to £1,000,000,000, of which 8,000 people own £810,000,000. This brings home to honorable members the fact that very few people possess the wealth of the Commonwealth. When I further state that this private wealth is largely made up of land we realize that, with an exemption of £5,000, only a very small proportion of the population can possibly come under the Bill. Instead of this being a class tax, I contend that it is a tax under which men who have hitherto escaped their reasonable obligations will be asked to pay. I ran make a further statement which is borne out by an official paper handed to me, as to what is already paid in the way of taxation by the great masses of the population. I am talking now, of course, of Federal taxation ; and many people, in paying through the Customs, do not realize the extent to which they are taxed. According to a computation made by the honorable member for Swan, when Treasurer, the estimated revenue from Customs and Excise for the year 1909-10 was £10,500,000. We all know that that estimate was exceeded; but these figures have been analyzed, and they prove up to the hilt that £8,500,000 out of the £10,500,000 is paid by the poorer people. The 8,000 people who own the £810,000,000 out of the £1,000,000,000 of our private wealth are amongst the 10,000 who will be called upon to pay this land taxation. Seeing that already, owing to the incidence of the present taxation, the great mass of the people are paying more than their just share, it is only fair, especially when the defence of the country is at stake, to ask the wealthy land- ‘ owners, in both town and city, to pay their proper quota. I have no desire to discuss the Defence Bill now; but we have only to glance at the population to realize that in the past, as at present - more in the past than I hope it will be in the future - the working people have been the first called upon to pay into the Treasury, and the first to fill the fighting line in time of war. The great Duke of Wellington, who was a statesman as well as a general, gave expression to a great truth when he said that the rich of the country should provide the money for defence and the workers should provide the fists ; and we are now asking the rich to do their duty. I think a little more highly of the wealthy men of the Commonwealth than I do of the wealthy men of the Old Land. We have been told how the Duke of Portland, when the Lloyd-George Budget was before the House of Commons, went to his agricultural labourers, who received from £i to 25s. a week, and told them that if that Budget became law he would have “to dispense with their services. Just imagine such a wealthy landlord as he making such a declaration to his labourers ! How much was this lord receiving from the land which these men cultivated, and from other interests? No less than ,£2,000 a week. It is about time wealthy people ceased protesting against being called upon to pay their fair share of taxation. Without any feeling of vindictiveness, but in a spirit of fairness and equity, I am here in my place to give a verdict, in an honest and truthful way, in favour of the wealthy ot this country contributing more than they have in the past to the upkeep and the defence of the land. Honorable members talk as if this Bill were to be placed on the statute-book and left there for ever in its present form. As a matter of fact, this is only the start, and not the finish, of our land legislation. When the law has been in operation for about twelve months we shall, no doubt, find that it contains many anomalies, and, perhaps, does injustice here and there. It will then be our duty to amend the law so as to make it work smoothly and equitably to the whole of those who come within its operation. Common-sense, we see, comes to our rescue, and defeats the arguments advanced on the other side. In this Chamber, prior to Federation, Sir George Turner, who was Treasurer of a State Government, proposed certain taxes, and members of the Opposition told him that every measure he had introduced lately meant taxing the rich man. To this Sir George curtly replied with the question, “ Who, then, am I to tax if not the man with the money ? “ At the risk of repetition I declare that in the past the poorer people of this country have contributed far too much, and the rich people far too little, in the way of taxation. In Victoria there is what I cannot call a land tax, but a sheep tax, which returns only £90,000 per annum, and is paid by the wealthy land-owners. And let us see how, under this State taxation, the land is assessed. First class land for the purposes of the State tax, is valued at £4 per acre, second class land at £3, third class at £2, and fourth class at £1. If we took a trip to the Western District, or the Goulburn Valley, or wherever there are large station properties, I think we should find very few which were not worth more, than £4 per acre. There are stations valued at many pounds per acre ; and as an illustration I may cite a property at Werribee. This land was not all in the first class, some being in the fourth class; but when certain portions of the estate were required by the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works for the purposes of a sewage farm, the owner charged the Board no less than ,£15 per acre, and that land is of “ that value and higher at the present time. Yet, over the fence from this property, the owner is assessed for the purposes of the State land taxation at £1 per acre ; and it must be admitted that as a large land-holder, he is not paying his fair share. The valuation is wrong, and the incidence of the taxation is wrong; and neither will be right until we have a tax on unimproved values. Sir George Turner, in 1894, when in the State Parliament, endeavoured to impose a tax similar to that now proposed ; and it met with a very fair reception in the lower House, but the upper House rejected the measure. The Legislative Council professes to be extremely anxious for land legislation and land taxation; but is it? From 1894 to 1908 no effort was made to impose land taxation in Victoria. The late Sir Thomas Bent, in 1908, attempted to impose a certain tax, and we know how that proposal was received. A little later the MurrayWatt Government proposed to tax land values. This Government did not include a land tax in their programme when they were before the country, only giving a vague hint as to the limitation of estates. When the election came, however, twentyone Labour members were returned to the State Parliament - a very fair number for Victoria - and some of the Ministers and prospective Ministers, who had to fight very hard for their seats, saw that there was a strong feeling in favour of a land tax. The result was that in the Governor’s speech was found a proposal to tax unimproved land values, showing that the Government had been compelled to take the step by sheer force of circumstances. It is a matter of recent history how the Legislative Council treated that measure. We are told that, in consequence of the proposed Federal tax, land is going to be reduced in value, and that people will hurry out of Victoria. I have been scanning the newspapers and other documents recently; and it is very curious to find that, at all land sales, whether in town or country, the prices realized today are as high, if not higher, than those realized at any land sale in Victoria for many years past. Land in the Mallee and other districts, which a few years ago was worth only £1 or £2 an acre, is changing hands to-day at £12 and £15, so that it does not seem as though the farmers in those districts were very much afraid of the land . tax. These farmers are neither fools nor philanthropists, but are buying this land in order to make money. The honest farmer will find, notwithstanding the doleful predictions of many honorable members, that this Bill will prove beneficial to the whole of the Commonwealth.
– They know it now,
– I believe they do. I had many conversations with farmers during the show week in Melbourne, and I did not find them exhibiting any unanimous opposition to the imposition of this taxation. They are reasonable men, prepared to listen to a reasonable proposition; and they realize that the Commonwealth must have money for defence, and that it is only fair that the large landholders should contribute more than they have in the past. Why does the ordinary farmer buy land ? Is he looking for a buyer every day in order to dispose of his land? Certainly not. I have many friends amongst the farmers, and I know a typical instance which shows the motives which actuate the average farmer. This farmer had his farm near to a large holding, the proprietor of which desired to purchase the farm. The farmer did not desire to appear unfriendly to his neighbour, and, therefore, he asked £12,000, a price which he knew would be regarded as too high. The large holder would not buy at the price. The farmer explained that he asked this exorbitant price because he did not wish to move from his home, where he was bringing up his family, and marketing his produce with profit to himself. Of course, we know that there are speculators going about buying land, as they buy cattle, with the object of selling at a profit as soon as possible; and that kind of individual is not desirable in any community. The real farmer, who desires to permanently settle and carry on his business, is not so particular about the price of the lands in the State as he is about the price of the produce which comes from it. If it be wheat or butter, he likes to see the prices maintained; and, as I say, he is much more interested in the price of his products than he is in the price of broad acres. My first proposition is that this Bill will provide money for defence, and the second proposition is that, incidentally, it will cause the splitting up of some of our large estates. A few days ago, when the honorable member for Parramatta was speaking, I had the temerity to interject that we had better go back to the Mosaic system, whereupon he accused me of asking him to return to the conditions of 6,000 years ago. I did not desire, with a mere wave of the hand, to carry him back to those ancient days.
– He might learn something from them.
– I have, and no doubt the honorable member for Parramatta has done so, because, originally, his ideas were very much in accord with a system built upon the basic principle of, shall I say, the Decalogue. The honorable member for Moreton said that, as I had referred to the Mosaic system, he would refer me to the Decalogue, and he quoted some of the Commandments, such as, ‘ ‘ Thou shalt not steal,” and “ Thou shalt not covet,” and so forth. I fail to see the application. We are not out to steal any man’s land, and I covet no man’s property, nor his wife, nor anything else.
– The Opposition know that.
– I am sure that they do. I propose to make a quotation for the especial benefit of, not the honorable member for Parramatta, since I know that he is well conversant with the subject, but the honorable member for Moreton. I have here a little booklet written by the Rev. E. J. Gilchrist, B.D., in which he deals with some of the social ideals of the
Old Testament. His words are really excellent ; and I quote them in order that they may be inscribed on the pages of Hansard. I told Ihe honorable member that I intended to give him a lesson from ancient history, relating more particularly to the system which followed upon the Children of Israel entering the land of Canaan. Mr. Gilchrist writes -
According to the Old Testament ideal, every free-born Israelite was in possession of a portion of land which he held on a tenure which was practically permanent; for if through poverty or other circumstances it was alienated from him for a time, it of necessity reverted to him in the year of Jubilee. In the strict sense of the words there could be no sale or purchase of the land; all that could be done was to sell or purchase the right to use the land for a limited period. This ordinance seems to have been designed with a view to prevent the withdrawal of the poor from the land, and the accumulation of the land in the hands of a few, who would “ lay field to field, till there be no room.” Large estates could not be permanently secured since all lands in the year of Jubilee reverted to the family of the original owners.
– So that there were owners under that system.
– So the writer says. I am simply reading his words : -
A spendthrift heir could not irretrievably impoverish those that came after him, since the land could be burdened with debt only till the Jubilee. Even when a man had thus parted with his land, it ever remained his right, and failing him, the right of his kinsman, to redeem the land at any time, on paying the value for the remaining years. In case of the failure of a son to inherit the land, it passed to a daughter, then to a brother or other next of kin, but in no case might the land pass from one tribe to another. The Hebrew ideal for Israel was that of a people in close association with the land, possessing little opportunity for excessive wealth, and little occasion for dire poverty, “ every man under his vine and under his fig-tree.”
– That was for those who belonged to the tribe of Israel. What about the Gentiles ?
– We are now one. I referred the honorable member to the “Mosaic system.
– That was a ‘system of ownership passing from generation to generation. It was different from that now proposed.
– It was more like a system of leasing in perpetuity, and that is what I should have liked to see in this country. I am one of those who deeply regret that the Crown ever parted with the fee-simple of the lands of Australia.
– The quotation refers to the sort of leasehold that is now being practised by the States and private owners of property.
– The honorable member is placing a wrong construction upon the quotation. The writer continues -
To-day there are vast possessions in the hands of the few, and the poverty of the many is felt to be in part due to this accumulation of the land. Some alteration of the system of our land tenure seems a necessity in social reform, and it is therefore of great interest to notice how social reformers are approximating in their schemes of land reform to the ideals of the Old Testament. Thus Mr. A. R. Wallace, in his book, Land Nationalization, demands (r) that landlordism shall be superseded by occupying ownership; (a) that the tenure of the holders of land must be made secure and permanent ; (3) that arrangements must be made by which every British subject may secure a portion of land for personal occupation at its fair agricultural value : and (4) that in order that these conditions be rendered permanent, sub-letting must be absolutely prohibited, and mortgages strictly limited.
– Something like 47 per cent, of the lands of Australia are, at the present time, held under leasehold.
– I shall refer presently to the leasehold question. We have in this booklet a reference to Dr. Harper; but not, I think, to the honorable member for Menda’s brother -
Dr. Harper, who, in his Deuteronomy, draws attention to these demands, and from whose pages they are quoted, sm-s that they are, mutatis mutandis, identical with the provisions of the Israelite law, and he adds that Mr. Wallace “ is apparently quite unconscious that the plan which experience of present evils, and acute and disinterested reflection on them, has suggested to him, was set forth thousands of years ago as the only righteous one.”
Under that system, they had practically leases in perpetuity. I think that I must have satisfied even such a critic as the honorable member for Parramatta that, when I asked him to have a look at the old Mosaic system, _ or that which followed immediately after Moses. I was suggesting to him a correct solution of the land difficulty as it presents itself to us to-day. As the honorable member has referred to the question of leaseholds, may I say that I have considered the subject, and that I find that a very large proportion of the lands of Australia is held under lease. I am not too sure that we are following the strictly correct line in exempting leaseholds from the provisions of this Bill. We hear the cry. especially from honorable members opposite, that we, as a Parliament, are taking out of the control of the States certain means of obtaining revenue. In reply, I would point out that, if we exempt leaseholds from the provisions of this Bill, the States will have a splendid opportunity to tax them, or, in the alternative, they may impose additional rentals. Take the case of Cattle King Kidman. I do not” desire to select any one man for criticism, and I have nothing to say against Mr. Kidman. I believe that in the north-eastern part of South Australia, as well as in the south-western part of Queensland, he has done considerable good by showing what that part of the country is capable of producing.. He has done well, and I do not regret that fact, but the point that I ‘ wish to emphasize is that he has under his control not less than 32,000,000 acres of land, some of it freehold,, and, I believe, the greater part of it leasehold. Cattle King Kidman is fair game to come under this tax. I believe that he will, but we shall not be able to tax him in respect of his leaseholds. South Australia and Queensland, however, will have an opportunity to do so, and if he holds those lands at rentals that are too low, they will be able to raise them. If necessary, the Governments of those States can introduce legislation enabling them to tax leaseholds; and they will have a double opportunity to get at this man, as well as all other holders of large areas under leasehold.
– Why did not the Government stick to their original proposal to tax leaseholds ?
– The honorable member asks a good many questions. He may keep on asking them, and I do not say that I shall always be able to reply to them. The proposal to tax leaseholds has been dropped so far as this measure is concerned, but it is not to be assumed that this is the first and last measure relating to land taxation that will be submitted to the Federal Parliament.
– It is merely a start.
– It is only a beginning, although some say that it is a drastic commencement. In administering the measure the Government will soon ascertain whether it operates unjustly, and whether we are taxing the right class. I do not pose as a legal authority, but I understand that the constitutionality of taxing leaseholders is in question. We do not wish to take too many risks. According to the doleful complaints of. honorable members opposite, we have already taken too many. I do not think that we have. Under the Con,stitution we have a right to impose land taxation, but we may not have the right to tax leaseholders who are practically tenants of the Crown. After the Bill has been in operation for a certain period, proposals for its amendment will no doubt be made. Very likely, it may be necessary early next session to introduce an amending Bill, and I am confident that before this measure is finally passed, it will be very much improved. We are dealing with a very intricate subject. We are legislating for a vast continent in which people reside under various conditions, and we are therefore bound to find out as this measure comes into operation that it inflicts injustice and hardship in certain cases. Those injustices will have to be removed. We are not here as a Parliament to keep them going, but, seeing that the great mass of the people have been contributing far more than their just share to the taxation of the country, it is a fair thing to ask those who possess the great bulk of the wealth of Australia to pay something towards the upkeep of government. Under the present system of taxation, the people who own only one-fifth of the wealth of the country are paying four-fifths of its taxation, whilst those who own four-fifths of the wealth of Australia have to pay only one-fifth of its taxation. Is it not fair that we should balance both sides and make up a reasonable balancesheet? We have about 1,900,000 breadwinners, some of whom are females. Making a reasonable deduction, we have about 1,500,000 male breadwinners, and I have here a statement showing that only 118,000 persons in the Commonwealth, with its population of 4,300,000, are in receipt, from wages or other earnings, of £201 per annum or over. Taking into account the total estimated revenue from Customs and Excise for the year 1908-9 - £10,843,000 - those in receipt of incomes of £201. per annum and over, contributed only £2,029,000 of that amount, all other classes contributing no less than £8,814,000. We are now calling upon the one-fifth of the people of the community who possess fourfifths of its wealth to contribute a little more to the taxation of the country. That is a fair proposition to make. I do not wish to debate this question at any length, but there are one or two quotations that I desire to make, believing that the public will take more notice of figures supplied by Statists and other public officials than they would of those given by a private individual. Honorable members opposite have said that the result of the tax must be to depreciate landed property; but I find that in New Zealand both the improved and unimproved value of land has increased considerably since that country has had a land tax. Of course, honorable members say that New Zealand’s experience cannot be pointed to by way of comparison. In Australia we have the finest country on God’s earth, where we could grow anything that can be grown in any part of the world. Our range of climate and of soil must make us a very wealthy community. We have heard about the desert parts of central Australia, and about the fringe of agricultural land on the coast ; but I have yet to learn that there is any poor land, either here or in any part of the world. In these days of agricultural chemistry, we can, by the aid of the right manures, proper cultivation, and the application of water, grow fine crops where, a few years ago, nothing could be produced. Not only did the Jewish system of land holding provide food free for every one who liked to take it, but, as our agriculturists are to-day finding out, it greatly benefited the land by providing for a rest every seventh year. Agriculturists in New South Wales are beginning to learn that it is to their advantage not to take a crop off their land every year. In a district in that State in which the rainfall is only 8 inches a year, they have recently obtained a wheat crop of twelve or fourteen bushels to the acre. That crop was made obtainable by a proper method of cultivation, which caused all available moisture to be retained in the soil. With the advance of agricultural knowledge, our most barren land will, in the not distant future, become most fruitful. Victoria is only a small part of the Commonwealth, but in its north-western district it enjoys a climate almost as hot as that of the tropics. By the application of water, and the supplying of the deficiencies of the soil with proper manures, that land can be made highly productive, so that it will grow crops all the year round. The honorable member for Franklin represents a very productive district; but in parts of the year nothing can be grown there.
– We take more off an acre than can be taken off 50 acres of the country to which the honorable member refers.
– In Tasmania, they go in largely for intense culture, and it would be better for the people of the mainland if that example were followed more. We have heard a great deal of the difficulties of the mortgagees; but in many cases the people who have mortgages on their properties are to be blamed, because they have not been content with suitable areas.
I know of men who have not been satisfied with 640 acres, but have mortgaged their holdings to get a larger area. A man should do well on 320 acres.
– Everything depends upon the quality of the soil.
– Of course. Where I was born and bred, many men, instead of being content with the 320 acres they had been allowed to select, mortgaged their original holdings to extend their areas, and often did not do as well on the large holdings as ihey had done on the small. In other words, to use a popular saying, “ they had bitten off more than they could chew.” The recuperative powers of Australia will not be blighted by a land tax, which will be a mere flea-bite to most of those who will be called upon to pay it. I am of opinion that large subterranean streams find their way through central Australia, more water flowing underground than on top.
– The honorable member does not think that subterranean water is to be found everywhere?
– I have been told that it would be difficult to avoid striking water anywhere in Australia if the bore were deep enough.
– That is not the opinion of geologists.
– Professor David, of Sydney, recently told a Perth audience that between the Victoria River, in the Northern Territory, and Broome in the Kimberley district, Western Australia, there is a great delta, where large supplies of water can be obtained ; and Professor Gregory - who was at one time attached to the Melbourne University, and is now at the Glasgow University - gave valuable information which bears out the opinion that similar supplies are available in other parts of Australia.
– In Queensland and New South Wales, the geologists have determined the artesian area very clearly.
– Of course, the water that comes up the bores is not all of one quality; in some places it is salt, at other places it is brackish, and at others it is fresh, which proves that there are more streams than one. It has been said that fourteen times as much water falls on the Murray watershed as finally finds its way down the river bed. It must be remembered that most of that water falls in the winter time, when the evaporation is very much less than it is in summer. The Darling and its tributaries come from the middle of Queensland.
– Does the honorable member know any big farms which are being irrigated by means of artesian water?
– There are parts of Queensland where immense volumes of water flow from bores.
– Has not land been spoiled by the application of bore water ?
– Yes ; but, according to that Democratic paper, the Pastoralists’ Review, Mr. Symonds, a chemist, of the New South Wales Department of Agriculture, has discovered an easy and inexpensive method of making highly mineralized bore water suitable for irrigation, and it is said that, should this process be perfected, from 20,000,000 to 30,000,000 acres in New South Wales alone will be benefited and opened up for settlement. There are very large supplies of good artesian water available, and its use will enable districts which are now unpopulated to be thickly settled.
– Is the land tax to come after or before the discoveries of which the honorable member speaks?
– The discoveries have been made, and have only to be applied. I am trying to answer the arguments of those who say that much of the land which is to be taxed cannot be used for purposes other than those to which it is now being put. In other parts of the world they have done more with the use of artesian water than we have done.
– In Queensland more has been done for the determination of the artesian districts than in any other State, recent discoveries having shown that they come nearer to the coast than was formerly believed.
– Some of the station properties in Western Queensland could not be occupied were there not artesian water available. I know of large areas in Queensland where millions of sheep have been maintained in times of drought by the supply of bore water.
– But a great deal remains to be done before farming with artesian water will be possible.
– Not so much as the honorable member suggests. We have not yet tapped our best supplies. I have been told that in the Great Australian Bight fresh water is obtainable a long way from the coast, and fresh water is also obtainable in the sea at one part of the Victorian coast, proving that large volumes of fresh water flow into the ocean from underground channels. It has been said, by a gentleman who ought to know, that the biggest river in the world flows underground through the centre of Australia, and finds its outlet in the Australian Bight. Reports of recent sales show that property buyers - who are neither fools nor philanthropists - have paid high prices for land since the Bill was introduced.
– But is it not the object of the Bill to give poor men an opportunity to get land- cheaply ?
– I told my constituents that we should have a great deal to pay for defence, and that, in my opinion, the workers and rank and file were already contributing more than their fair share of the taxation, and that those who have great wealth in city, town, and country should be called upon ‘to pay more. Incidentally, however, the Bill will have the effect of providing cheap land. Since its introduction there has been a greater subdivision of land than had taken place before. The honorable member for Grey recently showed me a paragraph stating that a large estate of 44,000 acres in his electorate in South Australia, which they had long been wishing that the proprietor would cut up, was now being subdivided. The honorable member for Grey smiled, because it was obvious that the introduction of a land tax Bill into the Commonwealth Legislature was beginning to make the large landholders see that unless they stepped out, and let others step in, they would have to pay a very high figure per annum in land taxation. The people of New Zealand are paying , £604,000 per annum in land tax. A similar tax applied to the Commonwealth would, I believe, raise a revenue of £2,500,000 per annum.
– They have a lower exemption.
– I am simply showing how all classes of landholders in New Zealand are contributing heavily to the revenue.
– And, in addition, New Zealand spent £6,000,000 in buying estates.
– I am not referring to governmental expenditure. The New Zealand tax has not crushed the people out of existence. They do not seem to have an exceptionally hard time through paying the tax. On top of it, they are paying £321,000 in income tax, or a total in the two taxes alone of close on£1, 000,000. The people of New Zealand are, I consider, fairly heavily taxed, and yet they are progressing. It is therefore absurd to say that a tax like this is going to bring ruination upon the people on the land in Australia. I find that agricultural land in Great Britain in very choice parts sold recently at from £32 to £42 an acre, while in Victoria not very long ago over . £50 an acre was paid.
– Nearly £100 down at Warrnambool.
– I know that up to £130 has been paid, but I am talking of recent sales. I could not help noticing the wonderful difference between the price of the best land in Great Britain, with a population of about 40,000,000, and Victoria, with a population of 1,250,000.
– Would the honorable member like to see good agricultural land reduced in value?
– I am not very much concerned about the reduction of the price of land, because the genuine farmer is interested not so much in the price of broad acres as in the price of the produce which he gets from them. In arriving at the unimproved value in New Zealand, the prices received for products are taken into account. The following is a quotation from a speech delivered by the honorable member for Kooyong, when Minister of Customs in the late Government, to a conference of farmers -
The days of enormous tracts under wheat were disappearing. Small holdings meant cheaper production by saving working expenses, amelioration of the’ social condition of agriculturists, good roads, and better communication. He was looking forward to cheap rural telephones, he might mention. Small holdings meant cooperation among farmers. First of all, co-operation would imply more marriages, and meet an alarming problem in Australia. It would enable small farmers to purchase the best and latest machinery, application of the most improved methods, and would secure cheaper freights and the best markets. Denmark was a network of co-operative societies, and all butter was made and sold under the co-operative system.
I heartily agree with those emphatic statements. I believe that in splitting up large estates, and putting more people on the land, we are going to do a great deal for them, and for the country in which we live. Denmark is a wonderful little country, and the story of how it has gone ahead reads almost like a romance. In the Napoleonic days, it was trampled underfoot, and left in an almost insolvent condition, but to-day it is one of the richest countries per head of population in the world, although it has comparatively poor land, some of which has been reclaimed from the sea. Victoria, with an area of 87,000 square miles, has about 52,000 farmers, andDenmark, with an area of only 18,000 square miles, has 250,000 farmers. A friendof mine a little while ago said that the people of Denmark had done wonderful things, but were too Socialistic, and I replied that we wanted a little more of that kind of thing in Australia.
– Does the honorable member claim that that state of things has been brought about by a system of land taxation ?
– By a system of land settlement, following on the bursting up of large estates. The primary reason for imposing this tax is to obtain money for defence, but, incidentally or secondarily, I believe it will have the effect of splitting up large estates. If it has, I am confident that many of the benefits which have accrued to Denmark will accrue to Australia.
– In 1801, 600 men owned the whole kingdom of Denmark.
– But to-day, there are 250,000 farmers in Denmark.
– Are all those farmers prosperous?
– Yes; and some of them are doing well on 40 acres of land.
– As well as our farmers are doing?
– I do not say that, because the life of the Dane is somewhat more simple than that of the Anglo-Saxon. Still, in a measure, we can do, in Victoria alone, what has been done in Denmark. The wonderful change that has taken place in that country has been brought about by education, co-operation, and land settlement, and to-day she stands among the wealthiest nations per head of population in the world. We are paying too much to the middleman in this country, and if our farmers would imitate the Dane, especially in doing their business by cooperative methods, they would find it to their advantage. In our agricultural work generally, there will have to be more cooperation or more nationalization, and less of the middleman, if we are to be truly successful. I desire to conclude by quoting from a speech delivered by the Hon. J. Drysdale Brown, Attorney- General in the Vic- torian Government, and a member of the much-abused Upper House of this State. He said -
Now, we turn to the third group, the big land-owners, whose land ranges in unimproved value from£6,000 to£100,000 and upwards.
He was speaking of the Bill introduced into the State Parliament, which the Legislative Council, true to its traditions, unceremoniously rejected -
This is the class which the Bill most substantially affects, for they will each have to pay from£25 to£1,250 a year and upwards in the shape of land tax, according to the value of their holdings.
I do not wish to accuse any honorable member, but a misconception often arises owing to the confusion of taxation of land with taxation of land values. I point out that the Bill before us is to tax land values, and that land will be taxed according to its value.
But there is no reason at all why we should give them any sympathy. In the first place, they will be largely exempted under the Bill from income tax. Secondly, they are enormously rich men. Thirdly, they are very few in number.
That is one of the accusations made against the Bill now before us. It is suggested that, because there is a Labour majority, an attempt is made to impose a tax on the few who cannot, in a sense, retaliate. But, whenever a land tax is imposed, it must be on the few, because, unfortunately, only the few own land.
In the whole land tax register there are only 405 men who own estates exceeding£20,000 in capital value. And, fourthly, nearly all these men are obstacles to public progress.
These are the words of an AttorneyGeneralwho is a member of the Legislative Council -
Forty-five own between them 1,296,538 acres. These men are mostly big graziers. Their estates comprise some of the richest and most fertile areas in Victoria, but they are shut up from human use. Very little tillage is done upon them. The owners devote them exclusively to grazing. They employ very little labour, and that of the cheapest kind.
That is a charge made by a member of an Upper House -
Sheep and cattle and rabbits wander on lands where the homes of thousands of prosperous farmers should be seen, whilst the sons of our own soil are forced to emigrate to other countries in search of the farms they cannot get here.
As an illustration, I may say that the other day the honorable member for Maranoa rejoiced in the fact that the population of Queensland is being augmented at the ex pense of Victoria - that is, by the influx of some of the finest young farmers from the latter State.
– Is the population of Queensland increasing? Mr. Knibbs tells us that, at any rate, it is increasing very slightly.
– It must be increasing, if we may judge by the emigration from Victoria. I am not here to boast about Victoria, wonderful little place as it is; but I believe that Victorians have done more to develop Australia than have the men of any, other State.
– Why, Tasmanian settled Victoria !
– That was a long time ago. Victorians have developed Broken Hill, the Riverina, and Western Australia, and are now developing the Darling Downs ; while New Zealand can count in its population more Victorians than it can men from almost all the other States put together.
– Victoria appears to be a very good State to get out of !
– The honorable member is living here now, and is looking remarkably well on it. At any rate, the honorable member for Swan will agree with me that Victorians have done much to develop Western Australia.
– They have taken possession of us, right enough !
– And Western Australia has shown its good sense by sending Victorians into its own and the Federal Parliament. I see that in the reconstruction of the Western Australian Cabinet two new members are Victorians. At a picnic in Queensland the other day, out of 187 present, 186 were Victorians.
– Order !
– Mr. Drysdale Brown went on to say -
We say advisedly, and with all the force of settled conviction, that these big landholders are little short of public enemies. By putting their estates to proper use they would provide employment and homes for tens of thousands of people. But they will not do so. They see Victoria diminishing in population and importance relatively to the other States day by day, but they stand obdurately in the way of the national development. In the last twenty-seven years Victoria has lost by excess of emigration over immigration12,085 souls.
Our farmers’ sons, the best blood of our race, have been driven abroad in thousands to seek elsewhere the homes they cannot find in Victoria, leaving . our population vitiated by a predominance of old people and women. All this is directly due to the action of our big land-owners and land aggregators in locking up their estates from settlement and refusing to put their lands to any but grazing uses.
– It is a disgrace to Victoria that that sort of thing has been allowed so long 1
– That is true, and the same applies to a certain extent to nearly every other State in the Union. Much has been said about the “mandate” with a capital M; but if there was one question on which an emphatic verdict was returned in every part of the Commonwealth, it was that of taxation on unimproved land values. The Government today owe their position on the Treasury bench, to a’ very large extent, not so much to the other items of their programme as to their strong, sterling, united, and consistent advocacy of this tax? I am here as a Government supporter; and, without any vindictiveness or desire to harm particular individuals more than is inevitable in all taxation, I intend to do my level best to place this measure on the statutebook; and when it is in full operation, I am confident that it will prove one of the greatest blessings that ever came to this great Commonwealth.
– Those who live or work on farms must have been very highly edified, and have had their education very” considerably advanced, by the speeches on agriculture delivered in this House, especially by those honorable members who take good care to keep off the land themselves, and who have resided for the greater portion of their lives in the cities. At the outset, the question arises as to whether it is wise or judicious for the Federal Parliament, thus early in its career, to enter on a policy of direct taxation.
– How does the honorable member propose to raise revenue for defence purposes ?
– I challenge the honorable member to say that, during the election campaign, he ever declared that it was the intention to raise the revenue for defence purposes by the Federal land tax. I candidly confess that the Labour candidates in Tasmania fought the constituencies almost exclusively on the land tax question, and that, to use a hackneyed expression, they have a “mandate” to impose such taxation. Every Labour candidate made this tax the chief plank in his platform; but in one of the many cir culars issued by the Labour party during the campaign we read these words -
The Federal land tax is not intended to be revenue producing, as falsely alleged by the anti-Socialists.
Every Labour candidate in Tasmania made the bursting up of large estates the be-all and end-all of the Federal land tax.
– Of course, when the large estates arc divided into holdings which come within the . £5,000 exemption there will not be any revenue.
– The ex-Leader of the Labour party, Mr. Watson, over and over again declared in this House that, in so far as a Federal land tax yielded revenue, it would fail in its object. The present Attorney-General, during last session, estimated that the Federal land tax as proposed would yield about £[500,000 the first year ; and we are told now that the object of the Bill is not to burst up large estates. There has been a complete change of front since the Bill was introduced. The Attorney -General declared over and over again that the Bill did tax Crown lessees. The honorable member for Angas expressed the opinion that the Bill was not sufficiently clear oh the point, and the Attorney-General, while maintaining that the Bill conveyed ample powers, agreed, in order to remove any doubt, to introduce additional clauses. Two nights afterwards the honorable member for Wakefield directly asked the AttorneyGeneral if it was the intention of the Government to tax Crown lessees, and the Attorney-General answered in the affirmative. Then the honorable member for Grey, who represents an electorate in which there are considerably over 100,000,000 acres under Crown leases, expressed the opinion that the Government were going beyond their instructions ; and the honorable member for Maranoa, when he addressed the House, said, “ The Attorney-General says that Crown lessees are going to be taxed, but I say they are not.” The Government then ran away from their proposal. I have taken the trouble to ascertain what is the position in regard to Crown lessees. So far as Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia are concerned, it is not the large land-owner who is locking up countless millions of acres and blocking settlement, but the Crown lessee. Enormous areas are held under lease by some of the richest men in Australia, and since the Government have run away from’ their original proposal to tax leaseholds they will not pay is. under this Bill. I have taken from the last issue of the Government Gazette of “ Western Australia some figures relating to leaseholds in Western Australia, which I think will prove interesting. I shall refrain from mentioning names, believing it inadvisable to make personal references, but if honorable members desire them they will find them in the Gazette. One company holds under lease 10,451,060 acres, whilst one family leases over 2,000,000 acres, and another over 1,600,000 acres. One individual holds 457,500 acres; a party of brothers, 419,330 acres; an individual, 827,493 acres; and yet another individual, 261,000 acres, for which he is paying the magnificent rental of ,£65 5s. per annum. One firm in Western Australia is leasing 5*510,760 acres; a family, 1,250,000 acres; a company, 1,701,000 acres; another company, 633,167 acres; and four individuals, 837,000 acres, 2,034,400 acres, 2,469,821 acres, and 403,118 acres respectively. Another individual, who is also interested in a land company, holds under leasehold 637,108 acres. In other words, sixteen companies or individuals are leasing in the State of Western Australia 31,611,542 acres, and under the Government proposal they will not pay one shilling land tax. My argument is that leaseholders are retarding settlement in Australia to a far greater extent than actual freeholders are doing, and that although they comprise some of the wealthiest men in Australia, as well as many wealthy absentees, they will escape this taxation. Under the new Land Act of Western Australia these leases will run until 19,28. In the north-western district of Western Australia the lowest rental paid is 10s. per 1,000 acres. In the Kimberley district the rent is 10s. per 1,006 acres, and it is reducible by 5s. per 1,000 acres” if the lessee runs one head of cattle or ten sheep to the 1,000 acres. In the Central district the rental is 5s. per 1,000 acres, whilst in the Eucla district it is 3s. per 1,000 acres. If the object of the Government is really to throw open the lands of Australia, then they ought not to have abandoned, at the first sign of opposition on the part of their own supporters, the provision in this Bill relating to the taxing of leaseholds. The honorable member for Maranoa said on Friday that throughout the whole of the last election campaign he supported the pro posed Federal land tax as being a splendid thing for Victoria and Tasmania. In doing so, he was on an exceedingly good wicket so far as he and the land dummiers of his constituency are concerned. Practically the whole of his electorate, which is nearly as large as New ‘South Wales, consists of leaseholds, and the holders of those leaseholds, being tenants under the Crown, will pay nothing under this Bill. As a matter of fact, the whole of Queensland will not yield very much more revenue from this tax than Tasmania. We have heard a great deal about the enormous increase of population that has lately taken place, but I contend that the vast increase in the number of Crown lessees in Western Australia and Queensland is placing those two States in a most unfortunate position. When we set aside the boastings of their representatives, and come down to the actual figures supplied by Mr. Knibbs, we must see that that is so. In 1907 - the last year for which the figures are available - the total increase of population in the Commonwealth, includ-ing immigration and the natural increase, was 1.88; New South Wales, 2.77; Victoria, 1. 31 ; Queensland, 1.24; and South’ Australia, 2.30. In Western Australia the population declined by the smallest decimal. In Tasmania the increase in the population was 2.14, and in New Zealand, 2.28. The population of Queensland from 1861 to 1865 increased by 52,855. It increased in the four years, 1881 to 1885, by 82,393, yet during the seven years 190 1-8 it increased by only 7,056. Queensland’s total increase of population is the smallest of any State in the Commonwealth, although it is one of the most sparsely settled. Why is it that the increase in the population of that great State should be equal only to the natural increase of some of the other States. The reason, to my mind, is that so enormous an expanse of country there is held under lease. Those honorable members who boasted all over Australia that they were going to bring about a subdivision of large estates, and to encourage closer settlement, have deserted the principles enunciated by the Attorney-General in regard to the taxation of Crown leases, and have thereby enabled the largest and richest land-holders in Australia to escape. It is not for me to say whether the extension of this Bill to Crown lessees would or would not be constitutional. The only authority which this House can accept in that regard is the Attorney-General. It is for him to determine the constitutionality of every measure that he introduces. The honorable gentleman informed us early in the debate that he intended to move the insertion of new clauses that would make it beyond doubtthat Crown lessees would be covered by the Bill, and yet the Prime Minister has since intimated that they are not to be taxed. I do not say that the Federal Government should tax Crown lessees ; but I do say that if we tax freeholders we should not allow leaseholders to escape. I come now to the question of the fairness of the Bill. The underlying principle of all taxation measures should be equality of sacrifice. Is there any equality of sacrifice under this Bill? I have just shown that the Crown lessee is to escape, and I wish now to point to the actual position in regard to the absolute land-owner. A man holding property of the unimproved value of, say, , £60,000, and not owing a shilling upon it, will pay no more under this Bill than will the holder of a property of the same value on which there is a mortgage of £[40,000, and which is charged with the payment of big annuities. Many a man in Tasmania, and I dare say the position is the same in the other States, has left a large property to his eldest son subject to the payment of certain annuities to other members of his family, and the point that I wish to emphasize is that a property owner thus encumbered will pay exactly the same as will a man owning land of equal value, which is free from any encumbrance. Is there any equality of sacrifice in such cases as that? The honorable member for Maribyrnong said a few minutes ago that many properties were mortgaged because of the earth hunger of the owner, and his desire to secure more land. But there are many cases where property has been mortgaged quite apart from such a motive. Many men, anxious to get on the land, have availed themselves of terms. They have paid down a certain proportion of the purchase money, and have allowed the balance to remain on mortgage. Is it fair that the man on the land who has to take all the risk, should have to pay the whole of the tax on the full unimproved value of the land, while the money-lender, who will always take care of himself, sits in the city, and goes free. The money-lender gets his interest whether the times are good or bad. In the great majority of cases, if the mortgagor is un able to pay his interest when it falls due, compound interest is added. The mortgagee, who has nothing to fear from bad seasons, from drought, or the failure of a crop, will under this Bill escape taxation, and although the Government profess to be setting out with the desire to do justice, the man whom we say we want to assist is to pay the whole of the tax, while the money-lender is to escape.
– How many farmers in Tasmania possess land the unimproved value of which exceeds £5,000.
– I may be able to tell the honorable member. There has never been a greater parody on justice than is to be found in this Bill. It says, in effect, to the nominal holder of a block of land, “ You shall pay the whole of this taxation whether your land is free or mortgaged, and the financial institution and the money-lender shall pay nothing.” A great many honorable members have declared that they hope that one of the effects of this Bill will be a general reduction in land values. The honorable member for Brisbane, perhaps, put the position more clearly than have most of those who have addressed themselves to that phase of the subject, when he said that if land worth £7or£8 acre were reduced to £3 or £4peracre, those who had no land would secure an opportunity to obtain some. In opposing the Federal land tax proposed by the Labour party during the last election campaign, I said that although an exemption of £5,000 was proposed, the small land-owner would feel very quickly and seriously the effects of such legislation.. According to the honorable member for Maribyrnong, it does not matter to the farmer what the value of his land is, he being concerned merely in its productivity, but had the honorable member given the matter the briefest consideration, he would have detected the fallacy underlying his statement. Much of the money lent on land by way of mortgage is trust money, and according to the Tasmanian law, and possibly according to the laws of the other States, trustees cannot advance on land more than two-thirds of its value. Suppose a man whose land is worth £[900 gets an advance of £600 upon it, when the mortgage falls due - these small mortgages are generally for a three years’ term - the trustees will be compelled to require him to reduce his liability, because the depreciation in the value of the land will have reduced their margin. The land may have depreciated from , £900 to £700. The holder will not be able to sell part of it, in order to reduce the mortgage, but will be compelled to raise money in some other way.
– The honorable member seems to forget that we are going to establish a Commonwealth bank.
– The Commonwealth bank will require a margin of safety. It has been said that there are thousands of landless people in Australia who desire land, but cannot get it, because prices are too high, and that the Bill will remedy that state of things. But in breaking up the large estates, the tax will reduce land values generally, and fall with a brutal hand on the small man who for years has been doing his best to make a home for himself. I am thinking of the case of those whom I represent, whose holdings are small. If such of them as have mortgages are compelled by reason of a fall in the value of land to reduce the principal, they will suffer considerable hardship. More than half the value of the lands of Australia has been advanced to land-owners under mortgage. Dealing with this measure from the stand-point of its effect on my State, it has been calculated that the proposed tax will yield in Tasmania alone from , £25,000 to £50,000 a year, and one of my friends opposite, who has given the matter attention, says that the amount will reach £50,000 or , £60,000, though I think it will not be quite so high. We, who represent our State, have recently pointed out her need for special consideration, because of her losses by Customs leakage, and in other ways since we entered the Union. We have asked for a subsidy of , £20,000 or , £25,000. But the Government intends to take from the State , £4,000 under the Australian Notes Act, and from , £25,000 to , £50,000 under this measure, so that our position will be much worse, even if we get the subsidy for which we ask, than it is now. I do not think that the representatives of Tasmania in particular, and Australia generally, realize what the Bill will mean to the States. Tasmania has a heavier land tax than any other State of the Commonwealth. Following the computations of the Government, I have made an estimate of the taxation which the holders of land in Tasmania will have to pay under the proposed tax, and the amount which they paid last year under the State law. The information is contained in the following table-
– It is a property tax that we have in Tasmania.
– It is a capital value tax; a tax on land plus all improvements; and the land-owner in Tasmania will have to pay both taxes. The figures which I have given show what is now being paid by the land-holders there. The Bill treats the landholders of the Commonwealth unfairly in this respect, that it deals with those in Tasmania, who now have heavy taxation to bear, exactly as it deals with those in Queensland, who have none. It must be remembered that more than three-fourths of the alienated land of Tasmania is held in freehold, whereas most of the large Queensland estates are held under lease.
– Why does the honorable member ignore the local taxation in Queensland on unimproved land values?
– Because we have a much heavier tax of the same kind in Tasmania. The taxation paid by all Tasmanian land-holders, large and small, is infinitely greater than that paid by any Queensland land-holder. The road rates, the municipal taxes, and the other taxation borne by all land, however held, are much heavier in Tasmania than in any of the other States. In Queensland there is no land tax imposed by the State, and the great bulk of the alienated land is leasehold, and, therefore, will be free of Commonwealth land taxation. In our State, where the proportion of leasehold is very small, compared with freehold, the land will have to pay the Federal tax in addition to ihe heavy tax already levied by the State. I do not want to deal too much with individual States, but, as the honorable member for Gippsland said, one can deal very much better with his own State on account of the more intimate knowledge that he has of it. In Tasmania, according to figures compiled by the Statistician, there are 794 properties of over £[5,000 in value. They can roughly be classified as follows : From £5,000 to ,£15,000, there are 61.6 holdings; the capital value is £5,076,000, and the unimproved value is £3,046,000. From £[15,000 to £40,000, there are 144 holdings; the -capital value is £3,278,000, and the unimproved value £1,967,000, From £40,000 to £80,000. there are 20 holdings; the capital value is £959,000, and the unimproved value £576,000, Over £80,000 there are 14 holdings; the capital value is £[1,681,565, and the unimproved value £1,009,000. The total capital value for the 794 holdings is £10,994,565, and the unimproved value is £6,598,000. Our tax is now levied upon £[25,000,000 worth of land and improvements. We are now obtaining in Tasmania an assessment on the land value system to take the place of the present system of taxation on the capital value. This has passed the State Parliament, and the assessors have been, for the past twelve months, obtaining information. It is this information, not yet quite complete, which I am now able to give to honorable members. We find that of that £[25,000,000 of capital value, which is the selling price of the land, about 45 per cent, represents improvements and 55 per cent. land. It is well for this House to remember that the Federal Parliament is now going to take a land tax from £7,000,000 of the unimproved value of that land ; and Tasmania will have to enormously increase her direct taxation to foot the bills before her. The Federation is taking anything from £25,000 to £50,000 out of Tasmania’s land tax, and the State Government will have to make it up in some other way when altering the mode of land taxation. The heavier direct taxation by the State will, therefore, have to fall on those below the £[5,000 exemption - the smaller men. Tasmania, through the sacrifices she has made under Federation, and the financial difficulties in which she finds herself, requires every pound that can be obtained from land taxation for her own necessities. We have the hollow farce of the Tasmanian members asking the
Federal Parliament to grant assistance to Tasmania to the extent of ,£25,000 a year, and the Federal Parliament taking from her, in direct taxation, very nearly double that sum during the same session. If the matter were not so extremely serious to Tasmania, it would be something akin tocomic opera. We are asking for assistance on the one hand, and on the other, twice the amount asked for is being taken from the main available taxing source left in the hands of the State Government and Parliament. I have taken out a few figures on the question of leaseholds generally. In the Northern Territory, under right of purchase leases, which I believe the AttorneyGeneral has said he intends to tax, the total area held is only 2,931 acres; therefore, the tax will not hurt the Territory. In pastoral leases in the Northern Territory, an area of 102,123,040 acres is held, anl in other leases, 1,293,457 acres. The total land held under lease in the Northern Territory is 103,419,428 acres. In South Australia proper, and here is where the big fat leaseholders want to escape, there are 4,424,814 acres held under right of purchase leases. The Attorney-General wantsto tax them ; but he will not be allowed to do so. In perpetual leases, the area held is 13,269,290 acres ; in pastoral leases, 83,000,000 acres; and in other leases, 1,812,959 acres. The total area held under lease in South Australia proper is 102,516,713 acres. In Queensland, I have the total area held under different Acts. I think your own electorate, Mr. Speaker, is one of the great sinners in respect of leaseholds. That electorate, and that of the honorable member for Maranoa, between them, comprise more’ acreage held under lease than all the other Federal constituencies put together, with the exception of those of Grey and Coolgardie. The four electorates of Kennedy, Maranoa, Grey, and Coolgardie, contain a country held under lease nearly as big as threefourthsof Europe; and still this Democratic Government, in their desire to burst up big. estates, says that the absentees, the wealthy men, owning those leases, must escape. In Queensland, 282,878,758 acres are held under lease. Victoria and Tasmania areheld up as the two shocking examples upon, which this tax should be levied. So far as rural lands are concerned, the tax will, hit those two States very much heavier than, the others, New South Wales coming next. The two States which are more closely settled than any others in the Commonwealth are those to which the honorable member for Maranoa wishes the tax to apply. Although Victoria and Tasmania are not really settled, only the fringe of settlement having been commenced, still they are infinitely more closely settled than any of the other States, and a proposition to tax them does not come well from representatives of a State like Queensland,, with a population practically at a standstill, and an enormous area of territory held under lease. The total increase of population in that great State has been only 7,000 in the last seven years.
– Not the last seven years. There has been a considerable increase in the last three years.
– It was so in the last seven years available - up to the end of 1907. When we find that, in those seven years, the increase of population has been only 1,000 per year in a country like Queensland, with its varied interests and its enormous territory - not as much as the natural increase in the more temperate States - we recognise that there must be something wrong, and that something wrong is what this Bill does not attempt to touch. It is these whole countries that are being held for rentals of 3s., 4s., or 5s. per thousand acres. They are locked up, and are stopping settlement, and yet they are not touched by this Bill, the very object of which is to break up big estates and provide land for the people. The Bill will tax, in Queensland, the very fringe of the land, and leave the great bulk of it untouched. In New South Wales, it will let off three-fourths of the alienated land ; in Victoria, it lets off one-half ; in Queensland, sixteen-seventeenths ; and, in South Australia, nine-tenths. In the Northern Territory it taxes one two-hundredth; in Western Australia it taxes one-fortieth ; and in Tasmania two-thirds of the land is brought under its operation - that is the comparative areas held under lease and freehold. There is, therefore, no equality in the tax. I have already pointed out the absurdity of taxing equally whether the land is free or mortgaged, and the injustice of allowing the money-lender of the city to escape, while the man who takes all the risk on the land has to bear the whole burden of Federal land taxation. When my honorable friends say that wealth must pay for the defence of Australia, I reply that the great source tof wealth is not being touched at all. They are allowing the whole of the mortgagees to escape.
– Let us try to alter that in Committee.
– The honorable member will have my assistance.
– Will the Constitution permit an alteration?
– The AttorneyGeneral, the only authority which this House can accept, says it does. Then there is another case. One of the largest buildings in Melbourne will, by this tax, be rendered absolutely valueless. I do not wish to mention names, but I have no objection to give the name of this property privately to any honorable member ; and it will be found that the incidence ofthe tax is such that the whole of its value will disappear. This applies to many other properties. While we may be able to subdivide large estates in the country, we cannot subdivide large buildings in the city; and after the first two or three years this tax will fall on the latter with its full force. In regard to the exemption of £5,000 in value, a new argument has been introduced. During the whole of the election campaign in Tasmania this tax was never discussed by members of the Labour party from a revenue point of view. I give Tasmanian members of the Labour party credit for fighting the issue on the land tax question pure and simple ; and in order to be consistent they must support a Land Tax Bill. It is now stated that the whole cost of the defence of Australia is to be paid out of the land tax revenue. As the large estates are subdivided, and are brought within the exemption, what do the Government propose to do? Will the exemption be lowered? If this is not a bursting-up tax but a revenue tax, and we are to get the £2,000,000 or , £3, 000,000 necessary for defencefrom the lands of Australia, how will that amount be raised after the large estates are subdivided, unless the exemption is to be lowered? Is that the intention of the Government? As I have already pointed out, the late Leader of the Labour party, Mr. Watson, said over and over again that in so far as this tax secures its primary object in bursting up estates the revenue must be reduced. Supposing this tax to be successful from the stand-point of the Labour candidates in my own State, the revenue must disappear entirely, except in the case of city properties; and considering that Melbourne, Sydney, and the other capitals have dominated die politics of Australia for many years, we may be sure that they will always exert a powerful influence in the Federal Parliament. The moment it is realized that the landless man is no nearer to his goal than he was before, and that the whole weight of the tax falls on the city properties, we may take it for granted that the tax will not remain in force for twelve months. I believe that for the first year sufficient, or more than sufficient, revenue will be realized to defray the cost of defence for that year; but my idea is that large estates of the capital value of .£50,000 or £[60,000 will be cut up into four or five, and thus escape the taxation. Yet city audiences are told that the result is to be increased opportunities for their obtaining land on which to settle. Is it not a farce to hold out such a prospect, when we remember that all improvements will have to be paid for by any purchasers, and that such improvement may bring up an exempted estate to a capital value of £8,000, £10,000 or £12,000. I have said over and over again that there are two classes of settlers and two classes of men. Closer settlement is for the man with a limited amount of capital, but what about the man with no capital at all ? Australia has been made what it is by men who had no capital but their own “ pluck and industry, and such men have not a chance under a closer settlement policy. If they have to buy 100 or 200 acres at £2 or £4 an acre, and then fence, stock, and put up a house, they must face an expenditure of about £[1,000. In Tasmania the only chance is for a poor man to take up a bit of Crown land at 5s. or 10s. an acre over a term of fourteen years ; and I can say that in my electorate the best orchards and the best homes belong to men who have started on bush land with practically no capital but their own energy. I tell those people who, unfortunately for themselves, hang about the streets of the city, that to expect any system of land legislation to turn them into successful farmers, is to expect a revival of the age of miracles. I have no wish to speak harshly of such people, but we all know that they are totally unfitted for country life. The man who has spent the greater portion of his life in the city as an artisan, a labourer, or a clerk cannot expect to go on to the land with no capital and be successful. It would be just as reasonable to expect a farmer to carry out the duties in a bank, a shop, or an office. In the cities there seems to be an idea that all that, is necessary is to impose a Federal land tax in order to provide land for everybody - that by the wave of some magic wand all are to be taken into the country and made successful agriculturalists. It is not good on the part of the Federation, thus early in its career, to tap a source of revenue which should be reserved for emergencies. We are going too fast altogether in our expenditure. That matter will be more fittingly discussed on the Budget ; but, had the Government been wise, this taxation would not have been resorted to at the present stage. We are taxing the States, which we can ill afford to burden, and depriving them of a source of revenue which they will require in times of necessity. So far as Tasmania is concerned, every penny of taxation that can be obtained from the land is necessary for State purposes; and, because I believe this tax to be unjust in its incidence, and brutally unfair in its application, taxing rich and poor in exactly the same way, I shall have to vote against the measure.
Mr. HOWE (Dalley) 6.2o].-l feel myself somewhat at a disadvantage in having to address the House after the clear and eloquent utterances to which we have listened. We are told that “ Brevity is the soul of wit,” and, therefore, I shall attempt to show excellent wit by excellent brevity. In this respect I shall differ very largely from many honorable members, many of whom have taken up much time, some of their speeches running into hours. The honorable member for Mernda impressed me very much on Friday. I listened with a great deal of care and attention to his words, recognising his standing in the House and his large financial knowledge, and anticipating that I might receive some information to tempt me to modify my attitude on this question. I have to say, however, that in spite of the utterances of that honorable gentleman, and of others who preceded him, I stand precisely where I did. I feel the absolute necessity for this proposed tax. Closer settlement is languishing; and the measure now before us will certainly split up large estates and give a chance for the successful realization of that policy. At the present moment, the landed interests of the community constitute a monopoly, and they do not contribute to the revenues, either of the States or the Commonwealth, in proportion to the benefits they have hitherto re- ceived and are receiving daily. I may take the utterance of the honorable member for Mernda as largely expressing the opinions of the majority of honorable members opposite ; and I should say that any tax we might attempt to impose in connexion with land values would be regarded by them as worthless and undesirable. In the first place, the honorable gentleman told us that if we desired taxation for the purposes of defence we might impose it under some system which he suggested. But we have to look to something more than defence; there are many other considerations with which the revenue obtained from land value taxation is concerned. There are those great purposes which are now, and others which must be, at an early date, associated with the development of the Commonwealth. There are a thousand and one issues which may call for further taxation, and the source of the taxation must be land values. As I said, I take the attitude of the honorable member for. Mernda to be largely that of several honorable members opposite. He declares that closer settlement is taking place in a normal way, and with sufficient rapidity to meet the needs of the community to-day. What is the actual position? I was surprised to find in my box to-day a pamphlet issued by the Victorian Land Settlement Division of the Immigration League of Australia, the president of which is the Leader of the Opposition.
– But that was a long time ago - before the Fusion.
– This pamphlet was issued in 1907.
– That is a long time ago for the honorable member for Ballarat.
– It is near enough for me, at all events.
– Will the honorable member give us the names of the other officebearers ?
– Several well-known gentlemen are connected with it. For instance, the honorary treasurer is Mr. J. M. Joshua, whilst the honorary secretary is Mr. Marshall Lyle. However, the point that I wished to make was that whilst the honorable member held that closer settlement is taking place in a normal way, this pamphlet shows-
– Why do honorable members opposite sneer when Mr. Joshua’s name is mentioned?
– I have not sneered. I leave that to the honorable member.
– We have only to mention Mr. Joshua’s name, and honorable members opposite burst into uproarions laughter.
– There was not a murmur from this side of the House when his name was mentioned. The only sneer was in the mind of the honorable member for Parramatta.
– Referring to the question of closer settlement, and the supposed fact: that there is no difficulty in connexion with the settlement of the people upon the lands of the Commonwealth, we have in this pamphlet the following statement -
You will notice amongst the “Crown Lands” land occupied under different leases. These lands still belong to the “ Crown “ or State Government, but meanwhile somebody has been permitted to use them for a certain term. Land may be occupied, although it belongs to the Government. The expression “ land in occupation “ is confusing. It does not mean that the land or soil is really occupied or used for food or shelter of man or beast. “Land in Occupation “ may be land not occupied. “ Land in Occupation “ is a legal expression which practically means that somebody has been permitted to hold the land, without necessarily putting it to use or cultivation.
You may be surprised to see that the Government has so much land still remaining in its care. You may wonder why people do not apply to the Government, and get it. People, however, do apply, but they do not get it. The Government has different ways of preventing people from getting land. It tells them, for instance, that the land is no good, or inferior. Its Lands Office is an unfortunate obstacle to getting on the land. The lands are locked up, and, of the Crown lands, the Government holds the keys.
You may also be surprised to learn that so much land is occupied, or rather held by different persons, and that so little, as you will see, is done with it. How vast an extent of these lands is locked up and not cultivated you will be. able to appreciate from some information we have gathered for you. You know, of course, that the greater the production from the land, the better it is for us all.
– This Parliament cannot * control the lands of the States.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– When we adjourned for dinner, I was quoting - in reply to the contention of the honorable member for Mernda, that closer settlement was taking place in a legitimate and normal way, and was sufficient to meet the requirements of the community - a pamphlet issued by an organization of which the Leader cf” the Opposition is president. In answer to that quotation, the honorable member for Mernda interjected that we could not interfere with the States’ control of the land.
I was not contending that we could. The ^honorable member had urged that closer settlement was adequate, and progressing in a satisfactory manner, and I was simply pointing out that an answer to that statement was to be found in this pamphlet, issued by an organization seeking to bring about closer settlement and an extension of our population by such forms of immigration as we could operate. That contradiction has, seemingly, the backing of the Leader of the Opposition, and it is to the -effect that such settlement is certainly not taking place, and that there is need for unlocking the lands of Victoria in order that :it may be brought about. I shall give the Opposition a further quotation from the :same source, for I think that, in view of their contention, it is essential -
In 1S87, genuine land settlement as a State policy in Victoria came to an end. From 1887 to 1892 the number placed upon the land was at the lowest. This period (1887 to 1892) was one of feverish land speculation in the State. Land speculation, the buying and holding of land for sale, took the place of the settlement of land for the production of wealth. In no year from 1887 to the present time have the selectors numbered annually more than about a quarter of the number, who used to select before the commencement of the land speculation eTa.
Here is a further quotation from this pamphlet -
The Federal Government is anxious to assist immigration. Mr. Deakin, Mr. Watson, and Mr. Reid have spoken in favour of immigration, but the Federal authorities cannot advertise for immigrants for a State which does not provide land for its own people, and which neglects to put its land to the best uses.
From an organization, having at the back of it the Leader of the Opposition, we thus have a very precise answer to the statement made by the honorable member for Mernda, and supported by many honorable members of the Opposition. A further contention advanced by the Opposition is that the imposition of this tax is going to make the wealthy wealthier, and, at the same time, to injure the small land-owner. In face of such a contention, I cannot understand the outcry that is coming from the wealthy men of the Commonwealth. In practically every newspaper we see complaints against this Bill, not by small men, but by men who are wealthy, and who complain seemingly because they are to become still wealthier. That is a peculiar attitude for them to take up. That this tax, in breaking up, as I think it will, large estates, may for a time operate in the direction of reducing the value of small estates is doubtless true. I think that it may operate to that extent, but the question arises, how the reduction in the value of large estates will affect that of the small estates ? Where a man is holding land for use, and not for speculative purposes, a nominal decrease ia its value is of little moment to him. He is relying on the actual productivity of the land he is using - he is relying on what he is obtaining from it - and a mere nominal fall in its value is of small concern to him. I . admit that if he has borrowed, or proposes to borrow, on the security of his land, there will be a tendency on the part of the money-lender, having regard to its diminished capital value, to lend upon it a smaller sum. But if, as the result of the breaking up of large estates, lands are thrown into the market, will banks or others who have the power of foreclosure take the risk of foreclosing on these small properties, and, therefore, of throwing them into the market, and running the risk of so diminishing values as to’ render it impossible for them to realize the amount which they have originally lent upon such securities? Is it not also probable that those who are operating as trustees will be kept in tune by the banks and other large financial institutions, and will find some means of giving an approximation to the value which they have hitherto lent on small properties? There will certainly be a tendency in that direction and the great evils anticipated from this Bill in connexion with smaller estates most certainly will not arise. I do not know that it is well to take pleasure in another’s pain, but I confess to a keen sense of satisfaction at the fluttering in the dovecote of the Opposition, and in the shriek from those outside who certainly have their claws fixed firmly on the nation’s heritage, and who fear that, by the means we propose, their hold will be loosened, and a little of that heritage will come back to those who are entitled to it. The Opposition, in dealing with this question, have hesitated to say that they are opposed to a system of land values taxation. They all contend that such taxation is desirable, but they go on to say, “ Let us have not this, but some other tax;” or, ‘ 1 Do not impose this tax now ; impose it at some other time.” I view that attitude as a simple attempt to get rid of a system of land values taxation. Honorable members opposite think that if they can avert the introduction of such a system now, it may be a long time before such a proposition is again brought before us. The arguments of the Opposition may be summarized under five or six headings, and, after all, they do not appear to be of much value. In the first place, they tell us that the tax is unconstitutional ; and in the second they say that if not unconstitutional, it is at least out of harmony with the spirit of the Constitution. Then they say, “ Well, even if it be in harmony with the Constitution, it is ill-advised. Why not leave it alone for the time being. Why not give .the States an opportunity to apply themselves to this question of land values taxation? “ Hitherto the States have not done so, and it is time that we, in the public interest, took it upon ourselves to deal with it in a comprehensive way. There is the further contention on the part of honorable members opposite that it is only in periods of emergency or stress that a tax of this kind should be imposed. I ask when, if the present is not a period of emergency, an actual time of emergency may be anticipated in the Commonwealth? Face to face as we are to-day with Empire problems - when we are told that not alone is our western civilization assailing the Empire, but that we are face to face with possible attacks from the East- we have felt it necessary to enter into a scheme of defence with the rest of the Empire. Apart from the question of defence, we have to deal with that of internal development - the placing of our people upon the lands so as to enrich and benefit Australia. We have to meet expenditure not only on defence and settlement, but on proposed transcontinental 1 ail ways, one running from east to west, and the other from north to south, upon which we shall have to expend many millions of pounds. If these be not brought to a head at an early date, then this continent must languish for a considerable period. That being so, if the emergency is not present to-day, I fail to see when an emergency could arise.
– We have also to deal with the taking over of the Northern Territory.
– That is so. The Opposition are at sixes and sevens with regard to their various contentions. Some say that this Bill is unconstitutional ; others say that it is not. Some say that it is out of harmony with the spirit of the Constitution ; others declare that it_ is in harmony with it. There is no unity of thought among the Opposition as to what is the relative position of this Bill to the Constitution.
– But there is unity of purpose amongst them.
– And that unity of purpose is to destroy, if possible, the proposal that we intend to carry. It has been said that the imposition of the proposed tax amounts to robbery and confiscation, but I am nevertheless prepared, to stand by the Bill. Whenever great changes of policy occur, individuals must suffer, and no matter what evil may be done to a few persons, the public good must be regarded as the supreme law. Let me read a passage which expresses better than I can my attitude to this matter -
National well-being can never be attained if any injustice be permitted to continue. Salus populi suprema lex. The consent of one generation, or a hundred generations, can never deprive the State of the supreme duty of seeing justice done. If what is essentially a communal right, arising directly upon the performance of communal duty, has passed out of the hands of the State, the duty and right of the State demand that it -resume as speedily as may be the right relinquished in ignorance, or obtained from it by fraud.
It is said that such resumption would be confiscation. That is a much abused word, but. it is not in its evil sense applicable to what is here proposed. The failure to replace the taxes, on the land means the perpetuation of the; present system, whereby the results of personal industry are penalized both by taxes to the Stateand by monopoly rent to individuals who have done nothing to earn it. So far from taxation of land values being confiscation, it would act as a repeal of the power of individual citizens to confiscate the just earnings of their fellowcitizens while themselves performing no useful function in return.
– Was that written by Henry George ?
– No j by Edwin Adam. As I have heard it said that we are actuated merely by the opinions of Henry George, and have not the backing of the older economists, let me quote from John Stuart Mill’s Principles of Political Economy the following passage -
Before leaving the subject of equality of taxation, I must remark that there are cases inn which exceptions may be made to it, consistently with that equal justice which is the groundwork of the rule. Suppose that there is a kind of income which constantly tends to increase, without any exertion or sacrifice on the part of the owners ; those owners constituting a class in the community whom the natural course of things progressively enriches consistently with complete passiveness on their own part. In such a case it would be no violation of the principles on which private property is grounded, if the State should appropriate this increase of wealth, or part of it, as it arises. This would not properly “ be taking anything from anybody; it would merely be applying an accession of wealth, created by circumstances, to the benefit of society, instead of allowing it to become an unearned appendage to the riches of a particular class.
Now, this is actually the case with rent. The ordinary progress of a society which increases in wealth, is, at all times, tending to augment the incomes of landlords; to give them both a greater amount and a greater proportion of the wealth of the community independently of any trouble or outlay incurred by themselves. They grow richer, as it were, in their sleep, without working, risking, or economizing. What claim have they on the general principle of social justice, to this accession of riches? In what would they have been wronged if society had, from the beginning, reserved the right of taxing the spontaneous increase of rent, to the highest amount required by financial exigencies? I admit that it would.be unjust to come upon each individual estate, and lay hold of the increase which might be found to have taken place in its rental ; because there would be no means of distinguishing in individual cases between an increase owing solely to the general circumstances of society, and one which was the effect of skill and expenditure on the part of the proprietor.
– Would not that apply equally to the holders of estates whose unimproved value was less than £5,000?
– Yes ; and I have expressed regret that we cannot deal with all alike. However, the States can adapt their legislation to the position. To continue my quotation -
But though there could be no question as to the justice of taxing the increase of rent, if society has avowedly reserved the right, has not society waived that right by not exercising it?
John Stuart Mill would leave in the hands of those who have enjoyed this unearned increment all that has come to them up to the present time, taxing only future increases, but there I part company from him. It has been contended that many of those who hold land have paid full value for it, but we cannot make distinctions. They are parties to the social wrong which has been done, and must bear the consequences. I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Grampians express himself to the effect that land in Victoria is too valuable for closer settlement, and that our farmers should go to Western Australia, where there are 60,000,000 acres available. Victoria has an area of 87,000 square miles, and are we to be told, after the country has been settled for a century, and the people have administered their own affairs for fifty years, that those who desire land should trek to some other State? I recognise the. value of the work done by those who have brought the wilderness into touch with civilization, but I am not prepared to force our people out into the wilds. In our capitals we have all that art, science, and literature can give, and why should our people leave all this behind them to fight against the difficulties of settlement in unopened districts? What should happen is that our population should steadily grow outwards, the centres keeping in touch with those at the outskirts. Victoria has a population of only about fourteen persons to the square mile; that of the Commonwealth is 1.44 to the square mile, as compared with 366 in Great Britain, and over 640 in Belgium. We are told that land here is too dear for closer settlement.
– Land is too dear for those who are frightenend to work out their own redemption.
– We know how it has been obtained.
– It has been paid for in good, hard cash.
- Mr. Rankin, one of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the operation of the New South Wales Land Act of 1861, writing of the Orders in Council under Earl Grey’s Act of 1847, says -
A scramble followed the initiation of the tendering system, in which most of the prizes fell to business men and officials. Commissioners were appointed to examine the country applied for, and report upon the tenders. These functionaries varied much in their, morals and methods. Some filled their positions honorably - but such were by no means in the majority. Some commissioners sold runs like stock and station agents, while others became partners in squatting firms. A laxity as to public duty was prevalent, and a secresy and mystery in official dealings were maintained, that provided a screen for every kind of fraud.
– Does the honorable member think that these lands are still in the hands of the same families?
– In many cases.
– But in many cases they are not.
– Quite so. To continue the quotation -
A very common trick practised by functionaries was to make a copy of a tender received, ante-date it, insert the name of an accomplice or friend, recommend it to the Minister for official acceptance, and then intimate to the true claimant that the country applied for had been already allotted under a prior application. Some real squatters with stocked country had lenders put in over their heads and lost their runs ; but most of them, by taking time by the forelock, and pressing their claims personally, saved themselves. However, the portions of grazing land which they secured were mere scraps compared with the’ enormous principalities acquired by Government officials, commission agents, wine merchants, and jobbers. Tenders were also cooked up from explorers’ journals. An accepted tender became at once marketable ; it supplied the means to satisfy a pressing demand, or to smooth one’s way through the asperities of the public departments.
– Is that a justification for punishing the present holders of land in Australia ?
– It is not a question of punishing them, but of making restitution to the people. -
– The honorable member does not propose to discriminate?
– Discrimination is a matter of impossibility when a great social wrong has been done. The holders of land have enjoyed the benefits hitherto, and must suffer the loss when we take from them that to which we are entitled. What happened in New South Wales was scandalous and villainous, but things were not better in Victoria, where, according to William Epps’ Zand Systems of Australasia -
Victoria claims the distinction of having first instituted a land tax in Australia. The origin of this legislation is thus stated by Mr. Rusden, in his “History of Australia “- “ The Act (that of i860) had afforded facilities for acquiring land under false pretences and plundering Uie State. There were honorable exceptions. The fraudulent may have been a minority, but . . by rich and poor with the aid of the Government, the State was defrauded.”
It is unnecessary to read more. The book simply reeks with statements of that sort, showing .the jobbery and corruption and wholesale fraud perpretated on the people of Australia. What is the system of closer settlement in operation to-day, and is it effective? The New South Wales Government are attempting by a system of purchasing and breaking up large estates, to settle people on the land. Up to the present they have settled about 11,000 people in the course of six or seven years. Is that land settlement worthy of the name? It is settlement at such a cost to the community that the men who purchase the land are handicapped by the high prices which they have to pay. From 1862 up to the present, we have been selling the public estate at from £1 to £2 9s. gd. per acre, or an average of j£i 3s. ad. per acre, and to-day we are buying the land back from people who have in many cases not put a penny’s worth of work into it to improve it, at a minimum of £3 16s. 5d. an acre, and charging to the farmers such rates as render successful settlement highly improbable. The whole question has now been threshed out. The only point that remains is for the Bill to be perhaps somewhat modified in its details. I believe that there is room for modification in the details. The proposition of the honorable member for Darling Downs with regard to the Court of Appeal, is a good one, and a modification might also reasonably be made in connexion with the penalty for under-valuation. But on the main principles, I think that this Bill is the best thing that has come to this community. I sincerely trust that this side of the House will stand together and carry it through, because I believe that at no distant date the people of Australia will recognise it as one of the best Acts ever carried into effect by a Commonwealth Administration.
.- I have listened to nearly the whole of every speech that has been delivered throughout this very lengthy debate, and have paid very close attention to all the speeches delivered from the Government side of the House, but I have not yet heard any attempt from that side to justify the Bill. I have heard a great deal about land policy from the other side; but it is a remarkable thing that throughout the comprehensive ambit of the Constitution no power whatever is given to us to deal with land policy, good, bad, or indifferent. We have certainly the most extensive powers of taxation. I say nothing of the question of the moral influence on the community as a whole of this Legislature trying to obtain by a subterfuge what it cannot obtain by a direct method ; but I think it is most reprehensible that we, in carrying out legislation on behalf of this great nation, should attempt any such thing. I am not going to speak at length to-night, because I recognise from the state of the benches opposite that the subject has ceased to have any interest to honorable members. Throughout the whole of the debate, the state of the benches opposite has been very much as we find it to-night, with members scattered here and there. Evidently the subject is one which is not of any great importance to them.
There are a few things I want to admit. I yield to none of my honorable friends opposite in the desire to see Australia thickly populated, its rich lands developed to the fullest possible extent, as many homes on them as we can possibly have, the soil producing “to its fullest extent, and _ carrying as large a population as possible. -But the whole question is whether the Bill will have the effect which the Government say it will have; or will it, on the other hand, have the effect of forcing the large holdings, not into the hands of the small or poor men, but into other hands where we do not wish to see them. I admit that a good deal of our rich land, capable of closer settlement is held in very large areas and is not carrying the population which it should carry. No one can travel about Australia without seeing that and admitting it. But we have to determine whether this taxation will have the effect of putting the poor man upon this land.
During this debate honorable members have turned over and over again to the history of New Zealand, and that, 1 think, is justifiable, because New Zealand is the only country which, so far, has attempted to settle its people upon the land by means of a tax which would have the effect of bursting up large estates. Various claims have been put forward from die Government side of the House, some urging that the tax will reduce land values, and others, that it will leave them very much as they are. I do not want to express an opinion one way or the other. It is very hard to form an accurate estimate of whether the tax will reduce or maintain land values. All that one can say is that it may reduce them. If the tax has the effect of reducing the value of land in the Commonwealth to anything like the extent indicated by honorable members opposite - I think the honorable member for Capricornia, said that £10 an acre land would be bought for £2 after the tax had been in operation for a little while - or if it has the effect which the honorable member for Dalley claims for it, then a very serious and disastrous result is in store for the Commonwealth and its people. These values have been created and have passed into the national ‘wealth of the community as a whole. It is impossible for this Parliament to pass legislation which will reduce the value of land throughout the Commonwealth without the result being disastrous to the community as a whole. It cannot destroy those values without the effect ‘being felt. Something like £217,000,000 is invested in our lands on mortgage. One can realize, therefore, what a serious thing it would be to the financial resources of the country to pass any legislation which would destroy land values, inasmuch as the value of real estate is practically the foundation stone of the whole fabric of our commercial and industrial finance. That is a matter which we cannot afford to lose sight of. Unquestionably this tax will not have the effect of making the land available to the small or the poor man. The history of New Zealand furnishes the strongest possible confirmation of that statement. I have taken the latest figures, covering a period of five years, for purposes of comparison.
– Why not from the commencement ?
– Because it would net alter the basis of my contention, and would possibly confuse the issue. Besides, this period comes in after the New Zealand Parliament had amended the law several times in the light of their previous experience. Those figures, therefore, are the fairest that it is possible to give. At the beginning of that period of five years there were only 13,132 people who paid the land tax in New Zealand. At the end of the five years no less than 27,659 paid the tax. During the same period the number of holdings between 5 acres and 100 acres increased by 42 per cent., those between 100 and 1,000 acres increased by 49 per cent., those between 1,000 acres and 5,000 acres increased by 89 per cent., and those between 5,000 acres and 10,000 acres increased by 36 per cent. Those figures struck me as remarkable, and on following them up I found that practically the whole of the increase in holdings between 5 acres and 1,000 acres was accounted for by alienation from the Crown, and that practically the whole of the increase in holdings between 1,000 and 10,000 acres was accounted for by the decrease in the size of the holdings above 10,000’ acres. If that proves anything, it is that the operation of the graduated land tax in New Zealand has most undoubtedly resulted in bursting up the large estates, but has led also to the aggregation of the moderate sized estates. The man with money and with land has been buying up the large estates as they have been subdivided, and I submit that that must be the inevitable result of the tax which we are introducing. The very large estates will undoubtedly be broken up and the moderate sized estates will be enlarged, because,, under any system of graduated land taxation, one can easily recognise that there must come a point beyond which the land is not able to bear it. But between that point and the point at which the tax commences there are a great many grades at which it is possible to bear it, and carry on the work at a profit. So far from this tax making land available to the poor man, we have the experience of New Zealand over a considerable number of years to show us that the whole operation is to force the land of the large holders into the hands of the holders of moderate sized estates. I believe that the operation of any tax which is penal in its incidence will always operate in this way. When the honorable member for Riverina was replying to this point last night, at a meeting in another place, he said he would mention one fact in opposition to my figures, and the fact he gave us was that in the case of one estate - the Cheviot Vale Estate, I think - the Government of New Zealand, exercising their privileges under the Act, resumed and resold it to a number of holders.
– To 400 holders.
– I say that that is excellent business. Unquestionably that is the basis on which we should carry out the closer settlement policy of this country, and, what is more, it is the only effective means.
– They did what this Bill, proposes - took the lands at the owners’ valuation.
– I am not saying whether the valuation was that of. the owners, or that of the Government; all I am saying is that I believe honestly in this as an effective means of breaking up big estates, and putting small men on the land ; and it is a means which the Governments of the States are adopting at the present time almost throughout the length and breadth of Australia. It is being done in New South Wales effectively and well to a very large extent. I admit at once that it is not, perhaps, a system which appeals in the same way to the cupidity of the populace at large; it does not seem quite so much like “ getting at “ the rich man; but nevertheless I maintain that it is the only way in which this work can be effectively done. The honorable member for Cook said, the other day, that, after the Government had resumed and resold the properties the purchasers were carrying such a load that eventually the banks, which had advanced money against them, would foreclose, and the holdings would once more pass into large estates. I do not know whether the honorable mem ber was aware at the time that he was stating what was, to all intents and purposes, an absolute misrepresentation of the facts. If he did not know, he ought to have known that the titles which the New South Wales Government are giving to people who purchase these holdings carries with it a reservation for all time, making it impossible for this land to ever become part of a large estate again.
– The same principle was applied in the case of the homestead leases, and they went back again into big estates.
– I shall deal with the homestead leases presently. This title carried the reservation that the land should never be sold to anybody who had a living area. So long as such titles exist, just so long will the properties never become part and parcel of a large holding. Here I think we have a policy which is absolutely sound and just, and which will insure for all time closer settlement in those portions of New South Wales where closer settlement conditions apply. But what guarantee have we in the proposals of the present Government? Have we any? Not only will the Bill, as it stands, not provide land for the small man, but there is no guarantee that the lands, once having been acquired, will not later on go to build up moderately-sized holdings.
The honorable member for Riverina kindly reminds me of the question of homestead leases.
– I meant homestead selections.
– I dare say the honorable member knows that the New South Wales Act applies to homestead selections, conditional purchase, and settlement leases.
– There were no conditions of purchase, but a lease for ever.
– I am dealing with the last’ Act passed by the New South Wales Government, which, gave to these people the right of conversion.
– That is what I meant.
– I have had considerable experience amongst homestead selectors. In the district I represent the homestead selection experiment, and it was an experiment, was tried in the first instance ; and a. good deal of land has been taken up under this tenure. The land is leased in perpetuity to all intents and purposes, carrying, settlement conditions; and the selectors are poor men in almost every instance, lacking capital to develop their holdings. The land which they took up was such as I took up myself, with standing scrub from one end to the other - carrying a dense forest such as people who have seen only the open districts of Australia know nothing about. They found themselves at once in the position of having no means of raising capital to develop their land. They were without a title, while alongside, perhaps just on the other side of the creek, were conditional purchase settlers who were going ahead by leaps and bounds. The latter were able to get a title on which, after five years’ residence, they could borrow money, whereas the homestead selectors were without a title, and, not being able to borrow money, were handicapped at every turn. The only advance which the Government of New South Wales could give through their Land Advance Bank was one on the improvements which the holder might have been able to make without anycapital ; and we can imagine that the improvements were not very great. The demand for a change in the conditions from those of homestead selections to conditional purchase holdings came from the homestead selectors themselves - from the people who had had practical experience of what it was to go on the land and carve out a home for themselves. They found they were absolutely handicapped as against those who had’ title to their land, and they asked the Government to give them the opportunity to convert their holdings into freeholds, so that they might be able to raise the necessary capital for development.
– The honorable member must not forget that the Government advanced money to effect improvements on homestead selections.
– I admit that the Government advanced the money to the extent of half the value of the improvements ; and if the honorable member for Riverina had ever been on a selection, and known .what it was to work without any capital, with the prospect of such an advance, he would not regard it as a very great consideration.
– I have seen the land of which the honorable member is talking.
– Then all the more should the honorable member recognise the truth of what I am saying.
I desire to refer for a moment to the question of mortgages. A great deal has been said by honorable members opposite as to the iniquity of people who mortgage their land. I do not know how our primary producers would get along without the power of mortgage. I know very few farmers, indeed, who have not mortgaged their land to a certain extent to help them to improve, develop, and stock ; as a matter of fact, it is almost impossible for them to get along at all without the power of mortgage from time to time. Honorable members must realize that if this tax has the effect which they anticipate, of reducing the value of lands, it will be very serious for the small holders, who, in their endeavour to build up homes for themselves, have been obliged to mortgage their lands to a very considerable extent. After all, the financial institutions - the banks, the trustee companies, the insurance societies, and so forth - which advance money, if they see that, through the operation of this tax, there is going to be a large reduction in values, will, as a necessary consequence, “ draw in their horns,” and be obliged to call up their advances for their own protection. That is only natural; they simply look out for their own “ skins.” They are not endeavouring to finance other men for the latter’s profit so much as for their own. It is just an ordinary business proposition ; and if by this tax we reduce values, it will be veryserious for the small landed proprietors who have been obliged to mortgage in order to carry on their business. The honorable member who has just sat down said that the value of the land did not matter to the small proprietor - that it was simply a nominal thing. I join issue with the honorable member in regard to that point. The value of a man’s land is to him not a nominal matter, but a very serious consideration. In nine cases out of ten, and particularly in the case of backblocks land, the added value of the land, or the unearned increment, of which we have heard so much from the other side, has been produced by the toil of the pioneer. I wonder why a pioneer is willing to bear all the disadvantages that inevitably attach to life in the backblocks - why he is willing to cut himself off from centres of civilization and to go into the backblocks -and there, with his wife and family, set to work to carve out a home for himself ? Why does he put up with all the disabilities of such a life? Ask him and his answer will be, “I am looking to the added value of my land in time to come to repay me.” The pioneer severs himself from centres of civilization because he realizes that, in time to come, his years of toil will be repaid in the added value of his land, and that is what my honorable friends opposite are so anxious to take from kim. I wish now to refer to a statement made in this regard by the honorable member for Corangamite. He said -
We have been told that values are due to the enterprise of the settlers - to their work and the improvements they have made. We admit that, and therein lies the reason why improvements are not taxed. The increased value of the land is due on the one side to the improvements; but the honorable member for Wakefield forgot the important fact that there is another value, sometimes greater and sometimes less, known as the unearned increment, or unimproved value, which is due, not to the enterprise of one man, but to the enterprise of the whole community in public services rendered. Consequently, the whole community is justified in taking that added value.
What the honorable member for Corangamite says, therefore, is that the settler is entitled only to the value of the improvements which he places upon the land, and that he is disentitled to the value of the land itself. He went on to say a little later -
Rut it must be remembered that all these millions of acres, even if they are suited to settlement, must be provided with railway facilities before they are worth anything to the average settler.
The honorable member admits that this land is of no value to the average settler until it has been supplied with railway communication. Yet how is it that thousands of our settlers are going back miles and miles from a railway line in an endeavour to open up and settle the lands of Australia? It is because they realize that, in time to come, the land which they take up there will have an added value. But the honorable member for Corangamite says that, when that added value is secured, the Government are to come along and take it, and that they will be perfectly justified in doing so. Let me refer briefly at this stage to the uniform action of this tax throughout Australia. Honorable members must realize that, in its operation, it will fall not only on land that is suitable for closer settlement at the present time, but on land that is wholly unsuitable to be put to such use. I have in my electorate a very large estate, which has been surveyed and subdivided. Any honorable member may obtain a block of it tomorrow if he has the money to pay for it ; yet these areas are not being taken up. What is the reason? The land is excellent; anything superior to it is not to be found in the State. It will grow 80 bushels of maize to the acre, and a better depth of soil is not to be found in Australia.
– Is the honorable member referring to Tomki?
– No, it is very much further back from any centre of civilization. A little while ago I set out with a buggy and pair for this estate. Presently the buggy got stuck and I determined to leave it behind. I saddled’ a horse and rode on my way, but, after a time, the horse got stuck, and I had to leave it and finish my journey on foot. The land is eminently suited for closer settlement, but not at the present time. As it stands, it is worth £4 per acre, and it will come under the operation of the very heaviest provisions ot this Bill. That, however, will not make it more suitable for closer settlement at the present time. Will the holders of it be able to put another man upon it while its means of communication stand as they are to-day? That is impossible. This is only one instance out of many that no doubt might be quoted with regard to the inequitable operation of this Bill. The Bill is designed to break up estates suitable for closer settlement. By all means let us break them up, and- make them, if possible, available for settlement. But let us make them available by means which will enable the settler and the small man to go upon them. Where is the sense, the equity, or the justice of attempting to burst up an estate such as I have indicated, and of applying to it the penal provisions of this Bill, when in doing so we shall not add one iota to the possibility of placing people upon it. I wish now to quote one sentence from the speech made by the Prime Minister in regard to the question of the unearned increment -
I hope that, within a few years, this Parliament will face this question in its broadest aspects, and see whether it cannot do something to prevent the unearned increment from falling into the hands of private persons, because, in my opinion, it belongs to the whole community.
That is the glorious gospel which the Prime Minister would have us carry to the pioneers of Australia. They are to go into the back-blocks and to face all thedisabilities of pioneering life, knowing that the Prime Minister says that this Parlia-ment must then face this question in itsbroadest aspects, and- take from them the unearned increment which they have secured by reason of their own industry.
– That has been secured, not by what they have done, but by what the community has done.
– If the PostmasterGeneral had any idea of what the pioneer does for Australia, he would not say that the increment value which is given to the out-back lands of Australia comes from any one but him.
– What is the value when civilization comes along?
– The outstanding feature of the arguments of honorable members on the other side is that they have all urged that the unimproved value of the land, and the unearned increment are one and the same. That is to say, that the whole of the work which the pioneer does for Australia - all the work which he is willing to put into his land in the hope that in time to come he will be repaid by its increased value - shall go for naught. That is the gospel which the Prime Minister bids us take to our pioneers. I do not think that it is one that they are likely to swallow. The time will come when they will realize what has been done, in this regard, and will make their voice heard with no uncertain sound.
Another point to which I desire to refer is the application of this system of taxation to city lands. Whatever justification the Government may find for the Bill as applied to the lands that are being held back, and which are suitable for closer settlement, there can be no justification for applying it to city lands. What sense is there in applying the penal provisions to land, say, in Collins-street, Melbourne? This Bill is intended to be penal. It is intended to compel a man to use his property or to pirt with it, but where is the possibility of its enabling a man with land in Collins-street to cut it up ? Could he do any more with it than he is doing? I think not. What will be the result of placing this heavy, taxation on our city lands? Do the Government and their supporters think that those who own them will pay this tax? Primarily they will, but actually they will not. I have a very good idea that the community as a whole, and not the owners of the land will, in reality, pay it. This Parliament cannot prevent it. Already the owners of large office tenements in Sydney are notifying their tenants that the rents will be raised from; ist July. They are passing the tax on. Do honorable members think that a firm like Messrs. Anthony Hordern and Sons will pay the tax ? No ; their customers and the community as a whole will pay it. They will perhaps charge Jd. more for one article, and reduce the quality of another a little, or dispense with a hand or two, and make it up in that way.
– Is there no economic law governing the situation?
– I know of none that will prevent the man who has the chance from passing taxation on to some one else.
– Some shops are already charging more.
– The tax on city lands generally will be passed on to the community.
No doubt the Government, in applying the penal clause of the Bill to suck lands, felt forced to do so by the limitations of the Constitution. Had it not been for those limitations, Ministers would probably have- discriminated between lands near railways and centres of civilization, and lands lying remote and without means of communication. Even at this stage, however, it is possible to modify the Bill, as it applies to city lands, and to exempt from the operation of the graduated tax areas of less than 5 acres. Such areas might also be exempted from the “ aggregation “ provisions of the measure, or, if revenue be necessary for defence purposes, such areas might be taxable on a flat rate. I hope that some such alterations will be agreed to in Committee.
Honorable members opposite have told us that it is not possible to provide for immigration until the large estates have been broken up, and, in effect, that there is not now room for immigrants. But the alienated lands of Australia amount to less than 7 per cent, of its total area, and of them less than 3 per cent, come under the denomination of large estates, and will be liable to the penal provisions of the Bill. Therefore the contention of the Labour party amounts to this - that no scheme of immigration should be provided for until this 3 per cent, is made available to the poor man. I think I have shown that it will not be available to the poor man. But, remembering the vastness of our territory, what a pretence it is to say that we cannot afford to adopt a vigorous policy of immigration until these estates are broken up. No less than 93 per cent, of Australia is not alienated at all. The map, showing the ratio of alienated to unalienated land in each of the States, hanging on the wall behind me, is my answer to honorable members opposite. But although the subject is one on which I could speak for hours, it has been so fully debated on both sides that I shall not keep the House longer. We are all desirous of getting to close grips with the Bill itself. In my opinion, the tax will not have the effect desired. It will not make land available to the poor man, and will not in any material degree assist closer settlement, in which I thoroughly believe. But it will place on the community a heavy burden, for which Ministers have given no justification.
.- I agree with (he honorable member for Richmond that this is a subject on which one could speak for hours, but that it has been too well debated to justify one in occupying much time now. It appears to me that in this country we hardly know what taxation is. Honorable gentlemen opposite have appealed to the methods of the Old Land, but would they care to imitate them in the matter of taxation ? Let me, in this connexion, make a short quotation from a speech delivered by Mr. Lloyd-George in introducing the Budget which will make his name famous. He said -
Any man who has crossed and recrossed this country from north to south and east to west must have been perplexed at finding that there was so much waste and wilderness possible in such a crowded little island. There are millions of acres in this country which are more stripped and sterile than they were, and providing a living for fewer people than they did, even a thousand years ago. We are not getting out of the land anything like what it is capable of endowing us with. Of the enormous quantity of agricultural, dairy produce, and fruit, and of the timber which is imported into this country, a considerable portion could be raised on our own land. We have drawn upon the robust vitality of the rural areas of Great Britain, and especially of Ireland, and spent its energies recklessly in the devitalizing atmosphere of urban factories and work-shops as if the supply were inexhaustible. We are now beginning to realize that we have been spending our capital, and at a disastrous rate, and it is time we should make a real concerted national effort to replenish it.
Every acre of land brought into cultivation, every acre of cultivated land brought into a higher state of cultivation, means more labour of a healthy and productive character; it means more abundant food - cheaper and better food - for the people.
Remembering that over two thousand enclosure Acts affecting the lands were passed before 1801, when the General Enclosure Act was passed, and that before 1843, two thousand more were passed, these statements of the Chancellor of the Exchequer are the more surprising. Let me say a few words in reply to the honorable member for Richmond on the subject of immigration. I shall not dwell largely on the Victorian situation, because it is dealt with so thoroughly in that classic on the subject written by the honorable member for Bourke, entitled, Monopoly and Democracy in Victoria. In that work the honorable member shows that, not in one district only, but in more than ten, among them being the rich western district, this State now carries fewer land-holders than it had forty-five years ago. The Age, in a leading article published on 5th March last year, stated that 760 farmers and their sons, applied for 90 allotments in Victoria. There were 50 applicants for another block. The same journal on the 9th of the same month said that 506 applicants could not get land, and that in Riverina there were 62 applications for a block of 420 acres. Thirty-six years ago, when land should have been easier to get than it is now, since the population was only half as large, I had to go out into the thickly timbered country of Gippsland, and two years ago, when I revisited the place, I found that not one of those who were there when I was there are there now. How many hearts were broken in this struggle against natural forces in that wilderness ! Men should never have been sent into that country while there were rich fat lands waiting for the plough, but surrounded by ringed fences to preserve them for the depasturing of sheep. I know of no viler land tax than that of the Victorian Act of 1890, save that of England, under which land situated in the West End of London, and carrying four, five, and six-storied houses, is being taxed on the valuation made in 1690. It makes one wonder how England, mighty nation as she it, has been able to stand so long with her lands so unjustly controlled. The seeds of the same system have been sown in Australia, and will flourish if we do not stop them. Month by month, and year by year, the Labour people have cried out for a land tax, and now no man in this House, no matter how safe he thinks his seat, would dare to resign it and go out and say, “ I will vote against a land tax.” Some honorable members opposite have been pleading on behalf of those who will not pay one penny piece in land taxation unless they own £5,000 worth of unimproved value of land.I suppose I represent the richest constituency in Australia. Leaving out Elizabeth- street, Collins-street, Bourke-street, Flindersstreet, and Swanston-street, and, perhaps, Queen-street, I suppose there is not a single building in the whole of my constituency that will pay a half-penny of tax under this Bill. Surely if a man has £5,000 worth of unimproved land value he ought to be prepared to help a little in the defence of his country. Mothers who have sons are willing that they should fight in the hour of Australia’s need, and surely those who have fat lands, large stations, and herds, should do their share. There was brought under my notice but two weeks ago the case of a man earning £2 1 os. a week who was the father of twenty-five children. How could that man bring up that family on such a wage? Surely his burden ought to have been a little lightened in his struggle over all those years? It is not necessary for me, as a medical man, to tell the House that the death-rate in that family was much greater than if he had had seven or eight children.
– The Customs Tariff hits him.
– At the same time the protective policy, properly carried out, would give a reduced Customs revenue, and I am sure the Minister will welcome the day when the duties are made high enough to bring the Customs revenue down much lower. I may also cite the case of the men who go away with their families to Queensland, because they cannot get land here. Farmers’ sons brought up in Victoria, which was called the garden of Australia and known as Australia Felix, have had to go away, and Victoria is absolutely losing its adult population. Not a member in this House could possibly support the infamous land taxation system now existing in Victoria. Various good Liberals have tried to bring about a better system. The Leader of the Opposition assisted to a certain extent, and did good work, and Sir George Turner, in 1894, tried to get a land tax through, but how could any one expect a land tax to be passed in that second House of fossils known as the Legislative Council ? Thirteen or fourteen times that body threw out manhood suffrage, and even to-day Victoria has not got complete manhood suffrage, because a man can claim to vote wherever he has land, the only condition being that he can vote but once. They threw out women’s suffrage fourteen or fifteen times. Those who talk about leaving this matter of land taxation to the States know well that we cannot pos sibly hope to get a land tax through the Legislative Council. I had the privilege of being doctor on board three immigrant ships which came out to Western Australia. There were greater possibilities of putting those people on the land there than in Victoria, but only a small percentage of them were sent into the country, and the rest, on being landed at Fremantle, entered into competition with the men in the towns. I want the land opened up, and I claim that our own Australians should have the right to go on to it. The honorable member for Kooyong, when Minister of Lands for Victoria, wiped out the leasing system in the Mallee, by which 11,000,000 acres were held for the people who were coming after us. When he did that, he did an injury which the future historian will place against his name. When he sat in this very chamber he was called a member of the Lascelles group of capitalists up in the Mallee. If a group of capitalists wanted 500,000, or 1,000,000 acres, they had only to go up to the Lands Office, and if Mr. Best was there they could be obliged, but when I asked from the other side of the House that any father or mother of a. family in Victoria should have the right of renting a square mile at the same rate of 2s. 6d., the honorable gentleman had no time for them. There was never any time for the people who wanted small lots, but if they had been allowed to go up there and settle on those square miles of country they would have improved the revenue of the railways by sending down their produce and by the goods that were sent to them from the towns.
– The same thing occurs in Queensland and Western Australia to-day, and this Bill will not touch it.
– The Bill may not touch it, but it is a splendid foundation on which to erect something that will touch it. If the Constitution will not give us the power, let us go to the people, and they will give it to us.
– The AttorneyGeneral says we have the power.
– If so, let us use it. In Committee I will join with the honorable member in doing what is necessary. If a man has property worth , £10,000, and it is mortgaged up to , £7,000, it will be an infamy to make him pay a land tax upon the whole of it. If New Zealand can avoid that injustice, cannot we avoid it also? Let both sides unite, if possible, and see that fair play is given in that matter.The Land Tax Act of 1890, No. 1107 of Victoria, provides -
A parcel or parcels of land upwards of 640 acres in extent forming one area or separate areas not more than live miles apart, and valued at upwards of ^2,500, shall be called “ a landed estate.” (S. 3.)
Every owner of a landed estate or landed estates to pay a land tax of 25s. for every £100 of capital value thereof over and above £2,500. (S. 4 )
It has been explained to me that if a man holds various estates of the value of, say, £2,100 each, and they are more than 5 miles apart, he may hold a dozen of them, and not pay a penny-piece of land taxation. That is the present Victorian land tax. There are four classes of land; but they do not take the unimproved value, or the value the land would bring under the auctioneer’s hammer. They go to the sheep for it, and provide as follows: -
First class land capable of carrying two sheep to the acre is valued at £4 per acre.
Second class land capable of carrying three sheep to two acres is valued at ^3 per acre.
Third class land capable of carrying one sheep to the acre is valued at £2 per acre.
Fourth class land not capable of carrying one sheep to the acre is valued at £1 per acre.
Was there ever such a ridiculous system of valuation? Land that might be worth £60 an acre for cultivation might run only two sheep to the acre, and if it did it would be valued at ,£4 an acre. Further comment is superfluous. The words of the old Roman, Pliny, are as true to-day as when he uttered them. He said it was the large estates that had destroyed Italy. It is the large estates that are destroying England ; but I am glad to say that the people of England are getting enough common sense to see that it is time that they ended them. We are going to put a stop to them here. This Bill may not be perfect; but it is well worth improving when we get into Committee. The outstanding feature of last century was a change in land tenure. Not only serfdom, but slavedom, was known in Europe. Let us glance rapidly through the figures, as given by Mulhall. Russia, in 1861, freed 48,000,000 serfs, and placed them upon the lands. The nobles had mortgaged 7,000,000 human beings and 102,000,000 acres. That was in 1859. From 1861 to 1870 the Government of Russia bought 40,954 estates, of 35,000,000 acres, and freed the serfs, and put them on the land, the Government paying five-sixths of the money and the serfs only one-sixth, at the rate of 2s. per annum for forty-nine years. To-day Russia has over 11,000,000 land-holders. Forty years having passed by, they own those lands, and recognise only the Government as their head. Austria passed an emancipation law in 1849, and since that time the ownership of one half of the empire has changed. In 1810 1,200 nobles held the whole of the kingdom of Sweden in large domains ; but in 1876 there were 234,000 land-holders and tenants. In 1801, in little Denmark, of which the honorable member for Maribyrnong spoke so ably, 614 nobles owned the whole area. Who made them noble ? God knows ; I do not. In 1870, there were 70,000 freeholders, and 137,000 Hunsmen who were entitled to become freeholders, or 207,850 in all. Even in the case of Ireland, slowmoving England, by Ashbourne’s Act of
T885, will settle the agrarian question in 132 years. In Austria, as in the case of Russia, up to 1849, following Ihe year of revolution which changed the land tenure, the nobles held as many as 10,000 serfs. I want honorable members to realize that, when England makes up her mind, under a definite Chancellor of the Exchequer like Mr. Lloyd George, she acts promptly and effectively. In the case of an estate which was worth £10,000,000, the country, on the death of the owner, received as much as 31 per cent., or more than £3,000,000. Honorable members will remember that Mr. Asquith, in his Bill, in the case of an estate worth £3,000,000, made the first £1,000,000 pay 10 per cent., and the remainder 15 per cent. ; and, there being no hesitation about Mr. Lloyd George, he has had it provided that any estate of £1,000,000 and over must pay 15 per cent. And that is not all. Because, in the case of an estate of £3,000,000, the beneficiaries have also to pay 5 per cent. ; with the result that about £3,500,000 came into the Treasury in twelve months. England, as I say, does not mince matters; because the tax is now is. in the £1 on the annual value, with an additional £d. in the .£1 in the case of unimproved land. Section 16 of the Finance Act of 1910 provides -
Subject to the provisions of this Part of this Act, there shall be charged, levied, and paid for the financial year ending the thirty-first day of March, Nineteen hundred and ten, and every subsequent financial year in respect of the site value of undeveloped land a duty, called undeveloped land duty, at the rate of one halfpenny for every twenty shillings of that site value.
That is in addition to the is. in the £1 ; and then, in cases where there are mineral rights, there is another 5 per cent, added.
Honorable members will agree with me that it is very hard to understand the English Act. I have given some study to it, with the assistance of the honorable member for Angas, who brings to bear on such subjects, perhaps, one of the clearest brains in Australia ; and I take it that the land tax is is. in the , £1 on the annual value, with an additional½d. if the land be unimproved.
– About , £200,000 altogether was received last year.
– It is estimated this year that the return will be , £800,000, with another , £600,000 for the increasein the duties appertaining to land. In any case, honorable members will agree that this taxation is very high indeed in comparison with that in Australia.
– The figures the honorable member has quoted come to about 6d. per head, whereas the tax in the Bill under discussion, will mean about 10s. 9d. per head.
– The honorable member is very clever at raising side issues ; but be knows very well that the taxation in Australia is nothing compared with that in England.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. We are paying 21s.1d. per head more than the English people are now paying.
– In Melbourne, the rates are1s. 3d. and1s. 6d. in the , £1 ; but what are they in London? I have known a case in London where the rates were 80 per cent, of the rent; and I have lived in a house in England where the rates and taxes were three times the rent.
– I do not dispute that ; I am speaking of the amount per head of the population.
– In a house where’ I resided as an assistant in Hertfordshire, the tithes of the church were double the land tax of England. Then, again, the Marquis of Heytesbury, in Wiltshire, offered a farm to a friend of mine for seven years, the tenant to fix the rental himself. The farmer was one of the few yeomen of England on a farm of his own, and he asked me what I, as a young Australian, thought of the offer made to him of a farm for nothing. 1 saw that it was splendid land, and I told him that if he could get a farm on such terms, it was better than he could obtain in Australia. Indeed, I really thought of having some money sent from Australia, with a view to taking up the land myself, but I ascertained that the tithes came to £1 10s. per acre, the poor rates to £1 per acre, and that there were other charges, making £3 15s. in all, which seemed to me a very fair rent to commence with. Wherever there are large estates there is poverty, misery and wretchedness. If honorable members desire to see what private ownership in land means they have only to walk down Collinsstreet, where land is now worth £1,000 to £1,500 a foot. And then, according to the building regulations here, if a building is five stories, the partition walls have to be 3ft. 6in. to 4 feet ; and an architect friend of mine said that, in the buildings between William-street and Russellstreet quite , £250,000 was wasted by reason of those walls. All this could be saved if the building was on scientific principles. There never has been taken out of large estates the wealth that small estates have produced. Belgium, France and Germany represent the nations of intense culture in Europe; while our Asiatic brother, the Chinaman, represents intense culture here ; and the plough in large areas has never produced what the spade has with strong arms and strong hearts behind it.
– Strong arms and strong necessity !
– I wish to remove the necessity as much as possible. In my opinion, with the nationalization of land, we should be absolutely able to remove poverty, which neither Free Trade nor Protection has yet accomplished. Henry George, when he addressed that magnificent meeting in London, opposite the Stock Exchange, pointed to the words over that building, “ The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof,” and said, “No, it is not; it is the landlord’s, and he has never made the best use of it.” I have searched the Old Book from cover to cover, and I have never come across the word “landlord”; and God never meant human beings to herd together, or lie by the roadside with a swag, while there were undeveloped lands. By man’s infamous laws large estates have been created ; and in mighty England, the potentialities of which no historian has yet grasped, we should have to confess failure, if it were not for the hope of the future. With the exercise of the franchise by every man and woman, we can make laws that will remove the evils of the past ; and here, in Australia, there is an opportunity now presented to pass a measure of justice. If the Bill now before us is not perfect, we can do what we can to make it perfect.
If it should turn out that we have not the constitutional power to pass a measure of this kind, let the people by referendum alter the Constitution. People are not made for Constitutions, but Constitutions are made by the people for their own use, though too frequently they have been made the instruments of despotism; but, sooner or later, the people will rise up and smash the Constitution if it lowers and degrades them. I love my Australia as much as man could love his native land, and I glory in the knowledge that this House, in its wisdom, can pass such a Land Tax Assessment Bill as will be an example to the wide world. This measure will indeed be a lesson to those who are not gifted with our freedom - to the benighted Englishmen, Scotchmen, Irishmen, and Welshmen, who are not entitled to vote on the ground that they are human beings. Ruskin has said that life is the only wealth, but the only right to vote which; is recognised in the Old Land is that which the ownership or rental of property gives. We have a Government strong enough and able enough to frame and pass thoroughly sound land tax legislation, and that Government is supported by a party which, during the last twenty years, has thundered forth from every platform the need for a land tax. With the strongest newspaper in Victoria - the Age, which possesses the greatest potentialities of power - running straight on this question, I have no doubt that any man in Victoria who endeavoured to destroy a proper land tax measure would be swept into oblivion. With the land made more readily available to our people, with land made easy for settlement by the sons and daughters of our own people, then we shall welcome with open arms all white people who may come here. We have in Papua, which is under the dominion of the Commonwealth Parliament, the finest land system in the world, and I feel confident that when we take over the Northern Territory we shall make land there equally available for settlement. So may it be. ‘ I have only to say, in conclusion, that I have never heard any member of our party advocate confiscation. We do not wish to confiscate, but no country has ever yet parted with the right to tax its land. Land has never been completely sold. Property consists of two kinds : that which is immovable and that which is movable. The watch which I hold in my hand is a movable article, and if a tax were placed upon it, the owner could remove it from the country, and so escape its payment. The land must be made the basis of taxation, and in the fact of its immovability we have from the Almighty the lesson that every Government should make the land the possession of the people, and not of the few.
– - I propose to deal with this measure before it reaches the Committee stage. In the earlier part of the evening we were told by an honorable member that it was based upon ignorance and nurtured in prejudice, and that honorable members on this side of the House had no acquaintance with the conditions of land occupancy. It was also said that we were drawn from ranks of life that know little, if anything, of the conditions of land settlement. That objection, at least, cannot apply to me. I have been reared and nurtured upon a farm, and I understand what are the farming conditions in my State quite as intimately as does the honorable member who flung at us the sneer to which I have referred. The mandate to our party, who are the authors of this measure, would not have been as expressive and as strong as it was at the last general election if it had not had behind it the support of a considerable number of farmers. We have also been told during this debate that this Bill is in the nature of confiscation, and is tainted with the principles of robbery. That statement was made by .an honorable member who was at one time a strong advocate of the principle underlying it, but who has allied himself with those who are opposed to it. We are also told by the other side that the Bill means class distinctions of an unjustifiable character because it proposes to place a burdensome tax on one section of the community while another is exempted. Then, again, it is said that the Commonwealth Parliament has no right to impose direct taxation, and that our province is to utilize only those channels of indirect taxation that have been specially handed over to our control. All these objections have been presented to us from different sources, but more particularly by those combinations and organizations that represent the interests of the wealthy of our community. They come particularly from those who have special privileges, and whose special privileges have, in the past, been specially safeguarded by various Legislatures.
Amongst those who have raised objections to the Bill are representatives of the pastoral interests which are most vitally concerned in the application of this taxation. Only the other day the President of the Pastoralists Union of Southern Riverina, Mr. A. J. Campbell, referred to it in these terms -
It seems surprising when we consider, that, with only 6.84 per cent, of the lands of the Commonwealth alienated and over 93 per cent, still Crown lands, such a proposed tax should be imposed at all. There is more land available now, throughout the Commonwealth, and for generations to come, than there are people to settle on it. Outside the area of Crown lands as above there are freehold estates, suitable for agriculture, being offered for sale in all the States. Any man who works to that end can become a land-owner, large or small, according to his abilities, if he has energy and self-denial in him. Because a section of the people who are now land-holders have those qualities it is proposed to specially tax them for possessing them.
– I think, Mr. Speaker, that we ought to have a quorum. (Quorum formed.’]
– The President of the Pastoralists Union of Victoria, in his recent presidential address, referred to the measure in these terms -
The proposed Land Bill was one of the most unreasonable, unfair, and oppressive pieces of class legislation ever introduced. The wholesale bursting up of honestly acquired estates would not be justified by any legitimate demand for land, as official statistics showed that there was over 93 per cent, of the total land in Australia still unalienated from the Crown.
These are samples of the objections that have been urged to this measure. The Opposition, however, taking the objectors under their political wing, have summed these up in the amendment which declares that - the form of land tax outlined by the Minister and provided for in this Bill is unjust in its incidence, and an abuse of Federal powers.
What does this Bill, which has met with so much hostile criticism, propose? It is designed to place a tax upon the unearned increment or what is sometimes termed the economic rent of land. That value does not come to land from the improvements that have been effected by its owner, for the owner contributes to it only to the extent that he is a factor in the whole community. It is a community created value, and it rises and falls with the increase or diminution of population. All that the Government is asking is that for taxation purposes it shall have the right to claim so much per cent, of that communitycreated value, lt is asking only from the immediate owner that he shall contribute tq the community, for community purposes, a part of the value that increased population gives and the efficient and effective operations of government secure. In its application it is based on the principle first of all that it shall provide for an exemption of £’5,000 of unimproved land value.
– Does the honorable member believe in that?
– For the purposes of the Commonwealth application of this .principle I do. It also exempts the whole of the improvements of the individual land-owner. Then it increases the tax progressively with the increase in the value of the estates. An estate of which the unimproved value exceeds £5,000 pays id. in the £1, but if the unimproved value exceeds £15,000, the tax is 2d. in the £1, and after the unimproved value exceeds £30,000, it becomes 3d. ; then, after £45,000, 4d. ; after £60,000, sd., until the maximum of 6d. is reached at £75,000. According to a scale prepared by the Government, the owner of an estate whose unimproved value is £6,000, will Pav £.4 6s. id. per annum in taxation.On an estate worth .£10,000, the taxation will be ,£24 6s. id. ; on one worth £20,000, £93 15s. ; on one worth £40,000, £315 19s. 5d. ; on one worth £60,000, .£649 6s. id. ; and on one worth £100,000, £1,593 15s. The tax is charged on a community created value, but increases progressively with the size of the estate until the maximum rate is reached.
It has been said that if the object of the Bill is to burst up large estates by rendering it too costly to hold them, except for the purposes of the highest production, it is beyond the powers of this Parliament to pass it, we being able to impose direct taxation merely for revenue purposes. But we are charged with the high and important duty of providing for the defence of the Commonwealth, for which men and money are essential, and we must have both. The Bill will help to find the money. It has been admitted, even by our opponents, that property should bear its fair share of the cost of defence, which is in the nature of an insurance premium.
– We have taken enough money from the States to pay for defence.
– I think not. The States have not availed themselves of the right to impose land taxation such as we propose, but from the beginning of Federation have persisted in sharing largely in the revenue derived from our indirect taxation. New South Wales has been as insistent as any. At the end of this year we shall be short by a considerable sum of the revenue necessary to meet our current obligations, and were the States to have their way, we should continue to be short. The framers of the Constitution, however, gave us the right, after ten years, to deal as we pleased with indirect taxation. It must be remembered that the average cost of defence has increased from 3s. 6d. to 12s. 8d. per head, and, in addition, there is the first cost of the Australian naval unit to be provided for.
– Not in addition.
– I accept the correction. The cost of the proposed fleet will be about ,?3,500,000, and the annual expenditure on territorial and naval defence, ?[2,500,000. Then about ?[2,000,000 is required for old-age and invalid pensions, and ?600,000 for bounties for the development of Australian production, including the sugar bounty.
– Only ?[50,000 a year is required for bounties.
– The Commonweal th has also to provide for the administration of quarantine laws, and the erection and maintenance of lighthouses. The money required for defence may therefore justly be obtained by the taxation of land. If, as the result of the taxation, large estates are broken up, and a monopoly which cramps development and prevents progress is removed, defence will be aided by the promotion of increased settlement. Therefore, the Bill has been framed on wise lines. If it be held to be unconstitutional, I, for one, ?hall be prepared to appeal to a power above even the High Court, the people of Australia, so that our legislation may be effective. It cannot be said that the measure has been sneaked in. From the inception of the Labour movement, we have stood for land value taxation in the sphere of Commonwealth and State politics. We have had to fight prejudice, and to educate public opinion. The majority behind us understands our proposal.
– Has the honorable member always stood for a graduated tax with an exemption, in addition to high Customs duties?
– There was a time when I thought it advisable to have no exemptions, but the honorable member taught me the value of them.
It is stated by the land-holders that while it may have been a bad thing to alienate land, the fact that land has been alienated has conferred certain proprietary rights that must be respected and preserved. These people seem to consider that, when they purchased land, they purchased the inalienable right to put into their own pockets all the unearned increment created upon it, not only within their own lifetime, but in the lifetime of their heirs and successors for all futurity. It only requires a cursory study of first principles to ascertain that, whatever mistakes were made by governing authorities in the past, they never made the mistake of so completely alienating land that its holders would have possession of that character. In support of that view, I can quote no less an authority than Sir Frederick Pollock, who, in his English Land. Laws. enunciating the principles affecting land legislation in Great Britain, says -
It is commonly supposed that land belongs to its owner in the same sense as money or a watch ; this is not the theory of law since the Norman Conquest, nor has it been so in its full significance at- any time. No absolute ownership of land is recognised by our law books, except in the Crown. All lands are supposed to be held immediately or mediately of the Crown, though no rent or service may be payable and no grant from the Crown on record.
Sir William Blackstone, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, laid down this principle -
Accurately and strictly speaking there is no foundation in nature or in natural law why a set of words on parchment should convey the dominion .of lands.
Mr. Justice Longford, another authority, states
Every argument used to give an ethical foundation for the exclusive right of property in land has a latent fallacy.
Williams, in his text book on Real Property, says-
The first thing the student has to do is to get rid of the idea of absolute ownership (of land). Such an idea is quite unknown to the English law. No man is in law the absolute owner of land (p. 16). All land-owners are merely tenants in the eye of the law (p. 55).
Such is the principle which has been laid down by leading authorities ; and if time permitted, I could go on to quote from other sources. I could refer honorable members to many men of letters who have written on the subject. I could cite such high authorities as Herbert Spencer, Ruskin, Emerson, and Carlyle, who all agree with the theory expressed by the legal authorities I have mentioned. In the professorial world, I can instance Professor
Marshall, Professor Walker, Professor Newman, and Professor Montague; whilst among political and economic writers, Adam Smith, Mill, Ricardo, and George, express similar opinions. It is interesting to note what the politicians have had to say, because they have had to deal with the principle in its practical application. I shall quote a brief extract from a speech delivered at West Calder by the Right Honorable W. E. Gladstone, in 1879-
Those persons who possess large portions of the earth’s space are not altogether in the same position as the possessors of mere personalty. Personalty does not impose limitations on the action and industry of man and the well being of the community as possession of land does, and, therefore, I freely own that compulsory expropriation is a thing which is admissible and even sound in principle.
Again, Richard Cobden warned the great land-holders of his day that the monopoly which they created and exercised was affected by principles that were larger and more far-reaching than even the corn laws, the repeal of which he was advocating. Expression to a similar opinion was given by the Right Honorable John Bright, who said -
If we legislate for the land, or if we propose to legislate - for we have yet to begin that legislation - we do it with the intention of making land as free a commodity as any other of the commodities in which our people deal.
Lord Morley, in a speech delivered in the House of Commons in 1890, said -
The question of the unearned increment will have to be faced. It is unendurable that great increments which have been formed by the industry of others should be absorbed by people who have contributed nothing to that increase.
The Right Honorable Joseph Chamberlain, speaking in 1885, said -
The soil of every country belongs to its inhabitants, and if it has been thought expedient to create private ownership in place of common rights at least that” private ownership must be considered as a trust, and subject to the conditions of a trust.
At the present time, the Motherland is seriously considering the position that obtains there ; and there is proceeding within the political arena a struggle over one of the fiercest and most momentous questions that has been raised in modern times. Only quite recently) a cablegram was published containing an opinion expressed by one of England’s leading politicians, who is immediately concerned with die control of the political destinies of the Empire. I allude to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Lloyd-George, who is reported to have said that the possession of land is not merely an enjoyment, but involves steward- ship; and unless the landlords discharge the duties attaching to land-ownership, the time will come to consider the conditions under which land is held.
It may interest the House to know that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Parramatta, speaking in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales in 1892, said -
I do not believe in paying for land at all. I believe in taxing it, and if we tax it to its full unimproved value we shall have no need to sell it; indeed, no one will buy it. When a man wants a bit of land in this colony he has to go hundreds of miles back into the bush, behind his strong neighbour who has picked the eyes out of the country. We ought to tax the strong neighbour for every ounce of privilege he possesses over the man who proposes to go into the bush.
The provisions of this measure are mild compared with the views then held by the honorable member for Parramatta. We propose to tax the unearned increment only to the extent of t. per cent, as the maximum, and to give an exemption df £5,000. We only reach the maximum of taxation when the owner has aggregated £75,000 worth of unimproved value, and holds it as one estate. The honorable member, when he spoke on that occasion, would have taxed the whole of that value away.
In spite of what we know of land monopoly, we are told by honorable members opposite that there is plenty of land available in Australia for the willing worker. They quote figures to show that 93 per cent, of the land is still held by the Crown, and that only about 7 per cent, has been alienated. In a publication entitled The Coming King, I recently came across a highly significant passage. The author states that when the great power of Egypt went down, 2 per cent, of her population owned the whole of her wealth, including her landed possessions. When Persia went down, 1 per cent, of her population owned the whole of her (and. When Rome went down, 1,800 persons owned the whole of the then known world. The same conditions are obtaining now in our modern civilization ; and in England, America, and Australia the whole tendency is to concentrate the land in the hands of the few. The corollary of the concentration of the natural heritage of mankind in the hands of a few is the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. Whilst the few have a superabundance of the good things of this world, the great masses are denied decent conditions of life. We have in our great cities the sweater’s den, and its concomitant, the slum areas. So long as we permit the concentration of land and wealth in a few hands, as surely as day follows night we shall have the sweater’s den and the slum area and slum conditions that, if allowed to grow, are the destruction of any people. That is the lesson that the past teaches us. The great Empires of history were at the height of their strength when wealth was most distributed against them, when the people bad the best living conditions, and the freest access to natural opportunities. As soon as the land and wealth came under the control of the few, the death warrant of that Empire was signed. So Egypt, and Persia, and Greece, and Rome, passed out; and the Powers of our modern civilization will follow in their footsteps unless the present state of affairs is stopped. The Labour party have come out for the purpose of stopping this trend of affairs. We deny that it is essential to civilization that land and wealth should be concentrated in a few hands. We want to bring about conditions that will give the greatest amount of opportunity to willing men and women to get to the great storehouse which the Creator, and not the landlord, or. the property owner, has provided for the whole of His children. We want the wealth-makers of the world to be given the right to enjoy, not the minimum amount of the wealth which they produce under the worst conditions, but the maximum amount, under the best conditions that modern civilization can secure.
In New South Wales we have endeavoured to solve the problem of land settlement by different Land Acts. We have had 280,000 applicants for 39,000,000 acres, from the first enactment in 1 86 1 up to the Land Act of 1895. Out of this number, 84,000 were forfeited. In other words, we have had for the purpose of small settlement 196,972 applications, embracing 27,333,000 acres. In addition, nearly 15,000,000 acres of land have been disposed of by auction. Instead of having 200,000 thriving yeomen settled on our vast estates, we have only a total of 83,000 settlers, in round numbers. It is true that we have 75,860 settlers occupying 12,295,871 acres in holdings from one acre to 1,000 acres, and cultivating 1,468,000 acres, or nearly 45 acres out of every 100; 6,487 settlers owning from 1,000 to 10,000 acres, or 16,000,000 acres in all, and cultivating 798,000 acres, or nearly 5 acres out of every 100. But, as against these primary producers, who are making the progress of our secondary forms of production possible, there are 718 large land-holders who own over 22,000,000 acres of our best alienated land, but who cultivate only 1 acre out of every 100.
We have heard a great deal recently about the oppressiveness of this taxation - of how it is going to crush the small farmer and make his position worse than ever before. If honorable members turn to the Argus of 30th of last month, they will find an article setting forth the incidence of this taxation; and it is interesting to note that, whilst the Prime Minister’s estimate of the revenue is £[1,000,000, the estimate of the Argus is ^2,360,000, of which the State of New South Wales will contribute £[1,197,000. Taking the Argus computation, I find that the 75,860 settlers, who cultivate 45 acres out of every 100 acres they hold, will comewithin the exemption; the 6,487 settlers, who cultivate 5 acres out of every 100, will contribute in taxation £106,175 per annum; while the 718 large land-holders, who monopolize 22,000,000 acres, and cultivate only 1. 10 acre per 100 acres, will be asked to contribute £1,091,637, or practically the great bulk of this taxation. The results are similar in the case of Victoria. About 38,000 settlers, holding 11,000,000 acres, and cultivating nearly 3,000,000 acres, will escape taxation; 4,640 holders of 9,391,000 acres, 1,234,000 of which they cultivate, will, it is estimated, contribute £i43>6i7; while 183 persons, who own about 3,636,000 acres, and cultivate only 1 acre out of every 100, will pay £i9°>373-
I think that the Prime Minister was very wise in making a conservative estimate df the revenue. I have a very lively recollection of the outcry, similar to that we are now hearing, that was raised when, in 1895, the present High Commissioner, as Premier of New South Wales, imposed a land tax of id. in the £1. All sorts of disasters were predicted, and the estimate of the revenue was very large. Sir George Reid put his own estimate at too high a figure, with the result that his finances became very much embarrassed in the future.
A little while ago I said that the accumulation of the land in the hands of the few led to the concentration of wealth. In New South Wales, the whole of the lands are held by 83,000 of the total population, and while there are 75,000 farmers making a living on 12,000,000 acres, there are 718 large land-holders who own 22,000,000 acres of our best land.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.)
– In the New South Wales Year-Book for 1908-9, Mr. Trivett gives a table showing the distribution of property amongst the persons who died in the State during the decade - 1900-1909. He shows that those who possessed £5,000 worth of property and upwards numbered 1,742, and that the sworn valuation of their properties for probate purposes was £38,120,188, and that those who held less than £5,000 worth of property numbered 25,933, wilh properties valued at £17’ 833,491- Mr. Trivett points out that these figures indicate that of those who died during that decade 51.8 possessed properties which came within the jurisdiction of the Probate Court, but that 48.2 persons died without owning any property, showing the concentration of £38,120,688 in the hands of 1,742 persons, and the total number of property holders at 27,675. I have quoted those figures to emphasize the principles which I laid down at the outset.
One of the reasons which have been put forward as an alternative against the application of this land value tax has been what is known as closer settlement - that is, the repurchase of private estates for the purpose of promoting closer’ settlement. That system has been in operation in Victoria for a number of years, and in New South Wales for a considerable period, and the general verdict now is that it is not a solution of the problem of filling up the waste spaces of Australia; in other words, of providing one essential factor to defence - men as well as money. When the Nen’ South Wales Government, at the beginning of their operations, resumed the Myall Creek estate they could place at the disposal of a settler what was considered a living area valued at £1,212. But in the case of one of the latest resumptions disposed of, namely, Mungery, in my electorate, in the central part of the State, the average price per farm amounted to £3,217. As the Government operated on the land market for the purpose of repurchase and settling the price of land went up against the Government, and also against the farmer, and the net result of the operation is that £1,849,687 per annum has been spent on closer settlement, and the estates resumed have provided for only about 1,000 additional farmers. The statistics show a further fact which is well worth consideration, and that is, that whilst the area in small holdings has increased to the extent of about 1,000,000 acres, the area in large estates has also increased. The area added to the large holdings during the last four years has been 1,387,000 acres, and the area added to the small holdings has been 1,039,000 acres, or an increase of 350,000 acres in favour of the big holdings.
The great newspapers - in Melbourne the Age, and recently die Herald in Sydney - admit that this form of settlement is not sufficient to meet the needs of the States. The Age has been very strong and emphatic in its language concerning the promotion of j settlement in Victoria by this particular means, and the condition into which the State has turned. 1 could give a number of quotations, but time will not permit. I do not wish to take up too much time at this stage of the discussion. In its issue for the 6th inst. the Age makes some reference to Mr. Wade’s policy speech in connexion with resumption, and the tenor of its remarks is illustrated by this extract -
His land policy promises a pursuit of closer settlement and agricultural development, but that may mean little or nothing. In Victoria it has been productive of an enormous increase in values. The presence of the State Government perpetually in the land market as a purchaser has sent values up in a quite abnormal fashion. It will be welcomed in New South Wales for that reason by all those who are interested in booming the land.
The Sydney Morning Herald, which is very conservative in these matters, and has been supporting closer settlement as against the Labour party’s progressive land tax proposals, dealt with the question in this way in the course of a leading article last year -
Almost every town is land locked, suffocated, and at a stand-still . . . surrounded by thousands of acres of rich land suitable for cultivation ; capable of supporting thousands of families, but at present given over to stock and station. . . . Whether we go west or south the story is much the same. Here and there as a splash of brighter colour marks the advent of closely settled areas, but the bright spots are only sufficient to throw into bold relief the cold grey masses of unpeopled land.
It is interesting’ to note that the article was quoted in an article in the National Review published in the Old Country, and reprinted quite recently in the Standard of Empire. No one who is acquainted with the conditions in New South Wales will controvert the writer’s statements. It is true that our towns are land locked, and that our expensive railway system is_ not paying the amount which it should pay, because the adjacent lands are held in large estates, and the settler is pushed out into the back country where the conditions are most unfavorable for the purposes of settlement.
The members of the Labour party want to see the waste spaces of Australia settled. We believe that that is essential to our defence. We know that it is essential to our future greatness and prosperity. The difference between us and those who sit on the other side or speak for the Pastoralists’” Association and like objectors is that, whereas we want to begin filling up the empty spaces near our towns and alongside our railways where we can get the best results from the settlement, they want to hold those lands out of use in their present condition and push the settlement into the arid west or the Northern Territory; indeed, anywhere, no matter what the conditions may be, so long as that settlement will help to raise values for them, and increase their wealth from this source of unearned increment. That is the vital difference between the two parties in this House.
– That is not correct.
– We say that, in order to promote settlement, the lands that are most convenient should be made available for the purpose. We desire to get the best results from the public expenditure which has been incurred. Honorable members opposite contend that it is unnecessary to impose taxation or to use the powers of government to bring about the closer settlement of these convenient lands, and that we should send persons who desire to settle on to the 98 per cent, of Crown lands still unoccupied. I contend that we are working on lines which promise the greatest success, not only for the future settlement of Australia, but for its defence. An essential factor in the defence of this country will be men settled under healthy conditions, and adding to its progress and prosperity. It will be easy to convert that material into an organization for defence, and to find the money for the purpose. We are making a start by means of this legislation. We propose to find the men, and to give them opportunities to settle the empty spaces of Australia, not on the mountain tops, in the waterless west, in the Mallee, or away in the Northern Territory, but on lands convenient to the cities, to benefit which we have mortgaged Australia.
– The Minister of External Affairs says that the Government propose to settle people in the Northern Territory, but the honorable member contradicts that statement.
– I do not think so. Ministers agree that men are more essential for the defence of the country than are money or armaments. Armaments are of no use unless we have men behind them. The men, too, must be patriotic. The patriot is stronger in war than is the man who is.devoid of patriotism. We cannot expect to breed patriotic Australians in the slums and sweated dens of our great cities. We should depend for our defence on the strong manhood and womanhood which we can only expect if our people are settled under healthy conditions.
We do not wish to have repeated in Australia the conditions which, in the Old World, drove some of our fathers out here. I come from the sturdy race occupying the north of Great Britain. My forefathers were driven out of the country of their birth to the Ultima Thule of the north, and from there to this sunny land of Australia, not merely because of the exactions of their landlords in getting the last penny of rent from them, but because their landlords insisted that they should think politically as they- the landlords - thought, which they refused to do. I am not going to ‘remain idle and watch conditions being reproduced here which, if they do not drive me away, may drive my children out of this country. The forces opposed to this legislation are the forces which were behind the conditions which drove my people out of the Old Country. Honorable members will not find me fighting in those ranks, but in the ranks which stand for liberty, the right to think’, and to make the best of the life given us by the Creator. We do not desire that in this country there should be produced the conditions described by the national poet of Scotland when he wrote-
See yonder poor, o’erlaboured wight,
So abject, mean, and vile, Who begs a brother of the earth
To give him leave to toil.
And see his lordly fellow-worm,
The poor petition spurn, Unmindful, though a weeping wife
And helpless offspring mourn.
– I shall not detain the House long, but I wish to say a few words to indicate the amendments the Government propose to submit before we go into Committee. I realize that the question before the House at present is the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Ballarat, that, in the motion “ That the Bill be read a second time,” all the words after the word “That” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words - 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.
I have to announce that the Government do not intend to accept that amendment. I do not suppose that the Opposition expected that they would do so. The debate has been conducted on a high level and with excellent temper. I note with some pleasure that the Opposition have displayed a great deal of zeal in the matter, because, with one exception, I think every honorable member opposite has spoken on the second reading of the Bill. Some have done so at length, and I will not say whether they repeated matters which had been stated from time to time by other speakers. The speeches, as a whole, represent a valuable contribution to the literature on this subject. I intended, had I spoken earlier, to review what the principal speakers have said, but it is too late to do that now. I purpose only saying that the Government have noted the discussion, and the points raised by both sides, and have come to the conclusion that some amendments might, with advantage, be made in the Bill as presented, not only to make it more clear, but to alter some of its provisions materially. With respect to clause 3, affecting absentees holding interests in companies, we have decided that the joint assessment should not in any case be made on the lines proposed for the taxation of absentees.
– I think the honorable gentleman is going too much into details, which should be left to the Committee. I have no desire to curtail discussion, but there is an amendment before the House, and the honorable member will see that if I allow him to foreshadow certain amendments upon the Bill I shall have to permit every other member of the House who desires to do so to speak to the new matter introduced. In the circumstances, I am sure the honorable gentleman will recognise the difficulty.
– Amongst the matters discussed during the debate on the second reading has been the ques tion whether the shareholders of a company, three-fifths of whom are absentees, should all be taxed as absentees. Honorable members have felt that that would be an injustice, and the Government are of opinion that there is force in that criticism of the measure which has come from both sides of the House. They take the view that the tax should be assessed, not on the company, but on the individual shareholders, and in proportion to the number and value of the shares held by them. Any shareholder who is an absentee, will be taxed as such on his separate assessment. Another matter that was discussed during the debate, was whether lands coming in a particular class should be taxed. It is proposed to adjust that matter by omitting the word “ all “ and inserting the words “each parcel of.”
– There will have to be a separate valuation in respect of each distinct piece of land?
– That is not provided for. A great deal hasAlso been said regarding sales of land and other property made on or before the date on which the Bill is brought into existence. That matter will also be dealt with, and, in all probability, the number of exemptions will be increased by including friendly societies, trade unions, and possibly others.
– Fire brigades.
– I am inclined to think that fire brigades already come under the exemptions, if they are under a local authority.
– I do not think that they are. We pay nothing for their support.
– No strong vie.w is taken in regard to that point. It is held that some justification can be given for taxing conditional purchasers, provided that they have fulfilled all the conditions except payment of purchase money, and can become the owners of the land on making the payment to the Crown.
– Could not the Government exempt them to the extent of the payments which they have made to the Crown ?
– It is a fair thing. Land held under perpetual lease from the Crown without re-appraisement, will be taxable; but Crown lessees will not be taxable, as honorable members have already been directly notified. There are one or two other essential points that have been raised, and which have influenced the Government and honorable members generally. One of these relates to beneficiaries under the will of persons who died prior to 30th June last. It is proposed that beneficiaries holding a right to land under the will of a deceased person, shall have separate exemptions. It is further proposed to modify the provision throwing upon the owner of land the onus of proving that he has not undervalued it. That onus will be reviewed. During the debate, a question was raised with regard to the position of mortgagees in possession ; and it was asked whether they should be called upon to pay at the higher rate upon the whole of the unimproved value of their land. In the Bill, as it stands, the mortgagee in possession pays as if he were the owner. Two limitations are to be made so that it will not apply to any mortgagee whose possession began before 1st July last, or to any mortgagee within three years after going into possession. He will get three years to clear off the property. But any such mortgagee, though not taxed as an aggregate taxpayer on his own account will be liable, as an occupier, for the payment of the mortgagor’s default. Land actually taken over will be taxed in the aggregate; but while the mortgagor still remains in possession - whilst his life as an owner lasts - it is the policy of the Government to continue it as far as possible, because if the land were taxed on the aggregate of the higher value, it would simply come back and injure the mortgagor.
– Are the Government going to take any steps as regards the property of married women?
– I am afraid that we cannot go as far as honorable members desire in that matter. Covenants have been provided for as well as possible. As I have informed the Leader of the Opposition, I shall place the proposed amendments, or nearly the whole of them, before honorable members to-morrow through the medium of the press. My difficulty in dealing with this matter is that I cannot go as fully into all the amendments that we intend to propose as I should like to do. I can only say that the whole question has been very fully debated, and every phase of thought in relation to it has been put before Parliament and the country. Estimates, that I cannot accept, have been made as to the amount of revenue to be derived from this tax; and during the debate statements have been made regarding my alleged want of courtesy in failing to investigate estimates made by honorable mem bers. All that I have to say in reply is that the Government must take the best advice that they can obtain, and that the estimate of£1,000,000 is all that wecan put before the country. I remind honorable members of a distinguished citizen at present in another part of the world, who accepted, much to his own detriment, a very much higher estimate regarding the revenue from land taxation proposed by him than was actually realized. If our estimate of £1,000,000 be exceeded, the Government of the day, whoever they are. will find good use for the excess revenue. I venture the opinion that the views expressed by the Leader of the Opposition in the amendment which he has moved, and which set forth that - the form of land taxation outlined by the Prime Minister, and provided for in this Bill, is unjust in its incidence and an abuse of Federal powers - has not been substantiated.
– The honorable gentleman has just made an absolute demonstration of that amendment.
– If the Bill be an abuse of Federal powers it ought not to be carried.
– It ought not to be.
– But it will be.
– That fact will not make it right.
– Nor will the assertion that it is an abuse of Federal powers make it wrong. The Government are not so stupid as to decline to modify the provisions of this Bill - and, indeed, of every other Bill - in order to make them accord with the matured views which we have reached after it has been fully discussed. I recognise that that course is foreign to honorable members opposite, who are accustomed to adhere to their views irrespective of whether or not the weight of argument is against them. Of the statement of some honorable members regarding their superiority as representatives of the people and of the dignified position which they occupy as independent members the least said the better
– Has the Prime Minister sent his representative to inquire into the cases which he desired to have investigated ?
– The honorable memberought not to pursue that subject. He assumes that the statements which were made by the gentleman to whom he refers are disbelieved merely because I do not send an officer to inquire into their accuracy. I have not sent an officer to verify the statements made by Mr. Campbell simply because I do not think that statements made upon his honour in the presence of myself and the Attorney- General ought to require verification.
– The Prime Minister said that he would have them verified.
– Nothing of the kind.
– Does the Prime Minister accept those statements as accurate?
– I need neither affirm nor deny their accuracy. It is like an honorable member opposite making a statement and adding, “ If you disbelieve me I will swear it.”
– Statements were made to the Prime Minister openly, and he promised to send a responsible officer to investigate them.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that the names of the individuals to whom reference was made cannot be disclosed. I will not be a party to any Commonwealth officer making an investigation in such circumstances. If the names of the individuals were to leak out, who would be blamed for it? It is absolutely paltry to raise an issue of that kind.
– The Prime Minister is afraid of the truth.
– The Government are responsible for their estimate of the revenue which will be derived from this tax. If a larger revenue be derived it will be one to which the Commonwealth is entitled, and it will be expended for the purpose of carrying on the government of Australia, of assisting to protect the Commonwealth from outside aggression, or of preparing the people to defend themselves should the emergency arise.
– And the Empire.
– Those Dominions which help themselves best help the Empire. The motion for the second reading of this Bill having been debated at length, I hope that honorable members will approach the Committee stage of its discussion with their minds made up. so that we may get it through that stage as speedily as possible. I agree with the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that one day should intervene between the second reading of the measure and its consideration in Committee, and I understand I have his assurance that honorable members opposite will assist to. pass itthrough Committee as soon as possible consistent with reasonable discussion.
– Why not resume its consideration on Tuesday next?
– I am desirous of meeting honorable members to the best of my ability, but I think that the measure should be dealt with on Thursday next.
– Supply, will have to be taken upon that day.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The House divided.
Maiority … … 12
Question so resolved in the negative
Amendment (by Mr. W. Elliot John son:) negatived -
That after the word “That” the following words be inserted - “ in the opinion of this House the progressive land value taxation proposals of the present Government are unjust in their incidence, and while supporting the principle of land value taxation as a means of raising necessary public revenue, this House is further of opinion that such taxation should bear evenly upon land-owners in proportion to the value of their land, and should be accompanied by a reduction in taxation on food, clothing, and other household necessities, tools of trade, and implements of husbandry.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read the second time.
In Committee .
Clause 1 (Short Title).
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, recommending the appropriation of£2,590,000 for Naval Defence.
Referred to Committee of Supply.
House adjourned at 11.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 September 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19100920_reps_4_57/>.