4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether it will be necessary, under the Land Tax Assessment Act, for all land-owners, large and small, to furnish returns respecting the value of their properties?
– It will not be absolutely necessary for any one holding land whose unimproved value is less than £5,000 to furnish a return, though I think that it will be desirable, sooner or later, to obtain returns from all land-owners.
– Has the Government given itself power to do this?
– If land-owners are permitted to assume that the value of their estates is less than , £5,000, and that therefore they need not furnish returns, how will the Government determine that the revenue is not being defrauded? A man whose estate is worth , £5,000 unimproved value might say that it is worth only £4,500, and therefore not furnish a return.
– The Bill puts on landowners the onus of valuing their properties, and while I express the view that it will be desirable for all owners of land to send in returns, there are circumstances under which they would be under no danger of incurring a penalty if they neglected to do so.
– It is stated in this morning’s newspapers that the Minister of Defence, while on a visit to Adelaide, endeavoured to arrange with the Government of South Australia for the acquisition for military purposes of a portion of the Adelaide park lands. Is he aware that the Lands Acquisition Bill was, in 1906, amended to exclude from the definition of “ land “ all park lands, to prevent the acquisition of such landby the Commonwealth either by compulsion or by agreement? Is the Department aware that Parliament has thus declared against the policy of acquisition by the Executive of any park lands?
– I should like the honorable member to give notice of the question.
– I hope that if the Department persists in its negotiations for the taking over of any part of the Adelaide park lands, it will ascertain whether the Commonwealth has an absolute and not a conditional title for the land offered in exchange; whether, in other words, if the use of the land for military purposes were to cease, the land would not revert to the State.
– The Minister of Defence recently visited Adelaide, and negotiations are proceeding for the acquirement in South Australia of land for military purposes, but while the Department will do its best to meet military necessities, the general public interest will also be considered. As to the. title to be given if any particular land is acquired, I think the honorable member should give notice of his question.
– I merely ask the Minister to see that the title is properly inquired into. It would seem, from the newspapers, that it is assumed that the title to park lands would be good.
Telephone and Telegraph Poles - Sorters and Typists’ Overtime, General Post Office, Sydney - Sorters’ Promotions
– Can the PostmasterGeneral see his way to reduce the amount of the deposits required from men who tender for the supply of telegraph and telephone poles?
– As I do not know what the amount is, I ask the honorable member to give notice of his question.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice - 1.Isitnotafact that sorters in the General Post Office, Sydney, are called upon to work eight hours in straight shifts, and seven and a half hours in broken shifts?
– Inquiriesare being made, and the desired information will be furnished. as early as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Commissioner’s reclassification, Letter Sorters, after reaching a salary of £156 per annum, were entitled to proceed to£163 per annum by the promotion of one-third of the staff each year, but that under the reclassification each Sorter has now to pass a second sorting test before being eligible for such promotion, and cannot be promoted until a vacancy occurs amongst the officers receiving £162 per annum - such vacancies only occurring, as a rule, through a resignation or death?
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Wilh reference to his reply (to a question asked on Friday last) that check-weighmen were being employed at various sugar mills for the purpose of protecting the interests of the Department, the growers, and the workers, in regard to sugar cane upon which bounty is liable to be paid - will the Minister say-
How many check-weighmen have been appointed?
At which mill are they being employed?
What duties hare been assigned them, and have any instructions been issued for their guidance and information ?
Do check-weighmen furnish periodical returns; and, if so, how often?
Have reports furnished up to date, if any, disclosed irregularities; if so, of what nature?
Is it intended to make the employment of check-weighmen the future policy of the Department, that is so long as bounty is paid upon sugar cane?
Is the Department in receipt of information of such a character as to lead to the belief that special precautions, such as those taken, were necessary or desirable ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
One officer at representative mills in No. 4 (Brisbane district).
One officer at representative mills in No. 3 (Bundaberg district).
One officer at representative mills in No. 3 (Maryborough district).
One officer at representative mills in No. 2 (Mackay district).
One officer at two mills in No. 1 (Cairns district), and then to proceed to Port Douglas, “ Mossman Central.”
One officer at two mills in No. 1 (Geraldton district), then to Lucinda, and then to Ayr and Burdekin.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 2. The Government will give time for all private members’ motions to be put to the vote.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message):
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize a temporary advance from the Trust Fund to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
At the beginning of this session I pointed out that one of the financial difficulties which would arise under the Surplus Revenue Act was that the States would have to be paid during the first half of the financial year in accordance with the provisions of the Braddon clause of the Constitution. It was then admitted by the Government, and plainly stated by myself, that under the Constitution, on 31st December of this year, the States must be paid their threefourths share of the net revenue from Customs and Excise, but that the revenue during that half year would be insufficient, and the Government intended to meet that financial difficulty by borrowing from the Trust Fund 500,000, to be repaid during the second half of the financial year. Early in the debate on the Australian Notes Bill, I stated, in answer to the honorable member for Parkes, that money could only be taken from that fund under the authority of an Act. That is the reason why I am submitting this motion. I expect copies of the Bill to be available in’ a moment or two. I am as much annoyed at the delay as are honorable members. It reads as follows -
A Bill for an Act to authorize a temporary advance from the Trust Fund to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Be it enacted by the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, the Senate, and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, as follows : -
This Act may be cited as the Trust Fund Advances Act 1910 (No. 2).
There may be advanced from the Trust Fund for the purposes of the revenue an amount not exceeding One million five hundred thousand pounds.
Any amount so advanced shall be repaid to the Trust Fund on or before the thirtieth day of June One thousand nine hundred and eleven and the Consolidated Revenue Fund is hereby appropriated for that purpose accordingly.
It is not expected that the amount required to pay to the States their three-fourths share of the Customs and Excise revenue will exceed the amount which we shall have in the Consolidated Revenue Fund, plus the temporary loan of 500,000 from the Trust Fund.
– Will interest be payable on the amount borrowed ?
– Whilst I agree in principle with the payment of interest on an ordinary loan, I point out that this is a temporary loan.
– If the money were not taken out of the fund temporarily it would be earning interest.
– That is quite true, and I have no serious objection to interest being paid on the loan.
– It is only a matter of bookkeeping.
– I am rather favorable to the suggestion, because I think it is a sound principle of finance.
– The money taken from the Trust Fund would be earning interest otherwise.
– Exactly. There is one point to be considered, and that is that although the Australian Notes Act comes into operation temporarily as regards the use of the present unsigned bank notes, the earning power under the Act will only commence from the date of our own issue.
– By-and-by we shall want to know how the funds are working.
– The Treasurer will want money for revenue purposes.
– No. I want honorable members to get out of their minds the idea that we shall want any money except for temporary purposes.
– This is to be a temporary loan to the revenue.
– It is in aid of revenue surely?
– It will create a misunderstanding in the minds of outside persons if that statement of the position is allowed to pass. So far as we can see, the Commonwealth revenue will be ample to meet all obligations under the Estimates for the financial year. But the extraordinary circumstance arises that the Commonwealth is constitutionally bound to pay to the States, not only their half-yearly instalment, due under the Surplus Revenue Act, but up to the 31st December next more than two-thirds of the total amount which they will get during the whole of the financial year.
– That is now reduced.
– On the 31st December we shall have to pay to the States more than two-thirds of the total amount which will be payable to them for the whole year. It was thought at one time that the States would come to an understanding in accordance with the scheme which they had submitted to the country, but that is a debatable political question which we need not go into now.
– Did the honorable gentleman try to make any such arrangement ?
– I have rtated quite freely that I was always open to do so.
– This is only a temporary loan from the Australian Notes Trust Fund.
– Yes, and it must be repaid before the 30th June next. Of course, it may be repaid within threeor four months, but the loan might extend to five months. It cannot extend longer than six months. If honorable members are of opinion that it is advisable to pay a reasonable rate of interest, say, 3 per cent. on the amount borrowed from the fund, I have no objection to offer. I rather like the idea, because it lays down a sound principle. I do not think that there is any other point on which honorable members would like me to speak. At the very beginning of this session, I repeat, it was stated that we must either borrow temporarily from a trust fund to be created, or borrow outside.
– The extraordinary purpose for which this money is to be taken from the fund is to pay for the naval unit.
– Oh, no!
– That is dealt with in another Bill.
– The only reason for creating this Trust Fund is that the Government must prepare to meet their obligations on the 31st December. And one of those extraordinary obligations is that on that date the States must not only be paid their proportionate monthly share of what they will receive during the whole of the financial year, but also an amount equal to a three-fourths share of the net Customs and Excise revenue during the first half of the financial year. The Consolidated Revenue will probably be short to the extent of£1,500,000, and therefore we now seek power to borrow from the Trust Fund that amount, which is to be repaid during the next six months.
– The Treasury could have met these obligations if it had not to pay for a large part of the unit, is not that so?
– That might have been so, but it raises a question of policy.
– I know that it is so. It comes round to this, that the Treasurer wants to borrow from a trust fund to pay for the naval unit.
– The honorable member puts the matter in a way which I cannot accept or permit to go out. He says that we propose to borrow this sum of £1,500,000 because we are paying out of revenue for the naval unit. That is nothing to do with the question. We shall be able to pay for the unit out of the year’s revenue, and also to repay the whole amount which we propose to borrow during this financial year. Therefore it is only a temporary expedient to enable payment to be made to the States of the amount due to them. But we must make financial provision to meet the obligations imposed by the Constitution, and that is why we are now asking Parliament for authority to make use of the money which will be in our possession instead of going on to the market for a temporary loan.
.- The Prime Minister was perfectly correct in saying that this is no surprise. He clearly indicated from the first that the project of the Government with reference to the payment required under the Constitution to be made to the States would render the Treasury short of cash for the time being, and intimated that he intended to make provision for the temporary advance for which authority is now sought. So much should be admitted in fairness to the honorable gentleman. At the same time it is equally necessary to put on record what I believe to be the view entertained on both sides of the Chamber, namely, that the entirely exceptional circumstances of this half-year - which can never be repeated - inasmuch as they arise out of the Constitution itself, which controlled the distribution of the Commonwealth income from Customs and Excise until the 31st December of this year-
– It has been the same every year for ten years. It is not exceptional .
– It is wholly exceptional in this respect, since a period was fixed by the Constitution during which a threefourths share of the net Customs and Excise revenue was required to be paid to the States and could not be reduced without a constitutional alteration. Such an emergency cannot occur again until the expiry of the period for which the new arrangement has been made - and then only in a very modified form. I am laying stress on the exceptional character of the position in that regard, because nothing but a wholly extraordinary set of circumstances would justify this proposal. In consenting so far to it, my assent now is governed bythat preliminary qualification. We must not forget that in passing this Bill we shall be dealing with the gold security upon which the Australian note issue is founded, and every honorable member will agree that, except in these extraordinary circumstances, not a finger should be laid upon it. The public must not suppose that this is to be merely the first of a series of dabblings with that security in order to meet either temporary or permanent inconveniences. I repeat that this is an exceptional action, and can in no sense be regarded as a precedent. All of us, being equally anxiousto uphold the credit of our note issue, to launch it under the most favorable circumstances, and to see its reputation maintained at the highest level, realize that our great care should be to safeguard the public from any misapprehension that inroads upon that security will be permitted in the future for this or any other purpose.
– Hear, hear. Well said.
– I think it may be taken for granted that, in the opinion of the whole House, the adoption of this course can never be quoted as justification for a like procedure.
– This will not encroach upon the 25 per cent. reserve behind our note issue.
– Of course not.
– I mention that fact only for the public information.
– There will always be a reserve of not less than 25 per cent., but we want the public to understand that, as the Prime Minister frequently pointed out during the debate on the Australian Notes Bill, we must have a much larger backing, and that, in fact, our no’tes will go out with a security always much larger than the minimum actually fixed. There is one point on which I desire to obtain information from the Treasurer. Under the Audit Act there is established a Trust Fund, as one whole, and in that Trust Fund moneys may be placed to the credit of separate headings, as directed by the Treasurer. In the course of his preliminary observations, the honorable gentleman stated several times what the Bill itself does not set out - that it is proposed that this particular advance shall come from the special account, under the general Trust Fund, known as the Australian Notes Account, established by section 8 of the Australian Notes Act. We may fairly ask the Prime Minister, therefore, whether he is satisfied that before 31st December next - because I presume his necessity will arise before then - the note issue will have been launched, and will have attained sufficient proportions to enable this draft to be made upon that account. It means the issue of notes representing considerably over£2,000,000 before 31st December next.
– I am in no doubt on that point.
– Not in the least?
– The honorable member thinks he has an ample margin?
– I wish now to know whether it is the intention, as stated by the Treasurer, to confine this special overdraft to the Australian Notes Account, under the general Trust Fund. If so, that intention is not stated in the Bill. We do not question the Treasurer’s assurances ; but the trust fund is a composite account - money from all sources flows into it. When it gets there, is it subdivided into different headings, of which the Australian Note Account is only one? Under the Bill, as it stands, there could be a levy on the general Trust Fund, and not upon a particular account under it.
– On the trust funds used for any purpose, and not merely for Defence.
– I think not.
– There is no doubt of it. Numerous accounts are included in the one Trust Fund, and this Bill gives the Treasurer a lien over every one of them.
– It is not proposed to draw upon the other Trust Funds.
– Why then is the Treasurer taking authority to draw upon the general Trust Fund? He was so explicit in his statement that this money was to be taken from one particular account - that relating to the Australian note issue - thatI am bound to bring this point under his notice.
– Having regard to the experimental nature of the Australian note issue, it is very desirable that the special fund relating to it should be kept apart from all other Trust Funds, so that, the Government may answer inquiries bvandby as to what is the cost.
– Certainly ; the same argument applies in degree to every heading of accounts existing under the Trust Fund.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition wish this to be confined particularly to the one fund ?
– The honorable gentleman specifically said that it would be.
– I do not propose to draw upon any other accounts under the Trust Fund. I have already made arrangements to obtain sufficient out of the one account, whilst the other has already been drawn upon to the extent of£500,000.
– To what other account does the honorable gentleman refer?
– The advance account for naval purposes.
– In view of the Treasurer’s statement, I must still emphasize the fact that there is in the Bill no such specific provision as he promised.
– I think that it is perfectly safe as it is.
– It may be so, and in any case I am not regarding this as a precedent. The special circumstances of the present half of the current financial year justify many courses that could not otherwise be approved. I am only endeavouring to protect our Trust Funds.
– I agree with all that, and I am glad that the point has been emphasized.
– I shall not revive a former discussion upon this question, but simply remind the House that the Opposition from the first pointed out what would be the consequences of a merely literal compliance with the provisions of the Constitution as to the return to the States of threefourths of the Customs and Excise revenue up to the 31st December next, coupled with a device which takes part of it back again during the second half of the financial year so as to reduce the total payment for the whole year to 25s. per head of the population. We pointed out that there would result from this attempt the condition of affairs which has actually arisen, which it is necessary to meet by this extraordinary and special proposal. What we have to say in that respect has been said. The Treasurer will be able to balance his accounts by a devious procedure to which we took strong exception. Some of the difficulties which that action involved are now upon us and have to be met.
– I understand that the object of the Government in submitting this motion is to meet the obligations that will be placed upon them by virtue of the operation of the Braddon section. Both the Treasurer and the Leader of the Opposition have pointed out that the exceptional circumstances of the present time are not likely to recur, and they certainly will not arise again until the expiration of the ten years’ period in respect of which our financial relations with the Commonwealth have been fixed. I do not approach the consideration of this question from a party point of view. Whilst the party spirit is all right, it is absolutely essential that it should be absent from our consideration of the finances of the Commonwealth. They should be dealt with in accordance with principles that are well recognised in the Old Country, and will be honoured, I believe, by all patriotic Australians. We do not want to have any party squabbles in regard to the fundamental and basic principles of finance. This is a matter that affects not only the Government, but the Leader of the Opposition and all who share his opinion. The finances of Australia may be in an equally tight corner in the days to come, and I do not like the method of financing which led to the Treasurer in the early days of his administration coming down to the House with what I told him, both privately and publicly, was an indemnity Bill. I do not put this in an offensive way, but if sound financial principles are to be observed, no Government should have again tocome to the House in like circumstances. There is nothing to justify it. and when it occurs it only proves that honorable members generally are to blame for not having taken steps to prevent it. I do not like this method of dealing with a difficulty.I understand that the Treasurer, in reply to an interjection by the honorable member for Parkes, said that he was going to borrow this money out of the Trust Fund, and from that particular portion of it which relates to our note issue. I am not going to say whether that is a good or a bad course to follow, But it is admitted that we are going to pay interest. The Treasurer has admitted, in reply to the honorable member for Parkes, that he intends to pay interest upon the money taken from the Trust Fund.
– In order to keep the accounts separate.
– I do not claim to be an astute financier, or to understand the details of financing as well as the honorable member for Parkes. But if we are going to pay interest upon the money taken from the Trust Fund, why should we have recourse to that fund at all? Why not authorize the Treasurer, say early next session, to issue floating Exchequer bills that would be taken up in Melbourne, Adelaide, and Fremantle to the extent of£1,000,000 or£1,500,000?
– Because that would be a loan, and, therefore, opposed to the policy of the Labour party. The honorable member would designate it a loan, but the Prime Minister would not.
– It would not be a loan.
– A Treasury-bill is an I.O.U. for a limited time.
– Loans are floated for specific periods and at fixed rates of interest. But in Great Britain short-dated Exchequer bills are issued by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to meet financial exigencies, and the money which flows into the Treasury from day to day is used for their redemption. They are a first-class security. If we adopted the example of the Old Country, whenever the Government required to meet an obligation at a short date they would not have occasion to resort to trust funds.
– Could not they buy some Exchequer bills with trust fund money?
– But the authority of Parliament is necessary to the issue of Commonwealth Exchequer bills, There is not a financier in London, Paris, or Berlin who would not recommend the Commonwealth Government to meet any financial exigency that may arise in the way that I have suggested. The honorable member for Parkes has designated an issue of Exchequer bills as a form of loan, but I would point out to him that time after timethey have been of great value to the British Government by enabling it to overcome temporary financial difficulties. Seeing that we have to pay interest uponthe money taken from the Trust Fund, we shall be acting wisely it we empower the Government to issue floating Exchequer Bills. I wish now to say one word upon the question of borrowing. It is true that the Labour party are opposed to borrowing under present conditions.
Mr.Fisher. - Except in connexion with big works.
– I protest against the statement of the honorable member for Parkes that the issue of floating Exchequer bills svould be tantamount to initiating a borrowing policy.
– It would be a loan for months instead of for years.
– It would be one of the most pernicious forms of borrowing.
– I do not wish to dwell upon the matter. But I certainly think that we shall be acting wisely if in the future we deal with temporary financial difficulties in the way I have suggested.
– I agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh that this is an exceedingly important juncture in our financial history. This is really a pioneering measure by means of which the House is attempting to affirm the principle that whenever in the future a Treasurer may wish to use money which stands to the credit of the Commonwealth in any trust fund, he should take Parliament into his confidence, and ask it to justify him in his proposed action. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has reminded us that one of the first deeds of the Government after its assumption of office was to obtain parliamentary authority for something which it had done improperly. It had taken money out of the Trust Funds without the authority of Parliament - a course of procedure which we know is contrary to all the financial ethics of every civilized country in the world.
– Why was the money taken without the authority of Parliament?
– Such a practice would lead to lax and dissolute financing.
– The money was taken out of the Trust Fund without the authority of Parliament because Parliament could not be convened.
– No Treasurer will agree with the Prime Minister that his action can be regarded with anything but reprobation. The Prime Minister recognised that he had done an improper thing, and asked Parliament to indemnify him for his action. I repeat that the present is a very important juncture in our history; and I feel certain that no future Treasurer will, hereafter, meddle with trust funds, without first obtaining parliamentary authority to do so, unless it be necessary for the credit of the Commonwealth that money should be provided, and Parliament cannot be called together for the purpose of voting it. During the course of his remarks the Trea surer, over and over again, “ fenced “ with the word “ loan.” We all know that from time to time the Labour party have inveighed against the flotation of loans. Their remarks in that connexion form part and parcel of the extraordinary superstition which they have always entertained in regard to borrowing. They have always looked upon the man who lends money as a “ vulture “ who is endeavouring to get his claws into some unfortunate person from whom he can extract usurious interest. The honorable member for Denison just now gave expression to the idea that a man cannot lend money without being a sort of Shylock, who is going to exact 60 or 80 per cent. interest from his client, forgetful of the fact that throughout the British Empire very little more than from 3½ to 4 per cent. is ever paid on national loans. The Prime Minister has, I repeat, very carefully avoided the use of the word “ loan.” He appears to think that because he can have recourse to a fund belonging to the Government for temporary assistance the word “ loan “ has no application to his action. I do not object to his having resort to trust funds. If those funds are lying idle, it is far better that we should borrow from them than from outside sources. When I plead for the payment of interest, I do so because I want to see our separate funds kept in a perfectly accurate way. For instance, by-and-by we may desire to discover what has been the financial result of the Commonwealth note issue. We may wish to ascertain whether that issue has cost us more than a straight-out loan upon the English money market would have done. Obviously, if we draw upon the fund into which the profits of the note issue will be paid, we shall not be doing justice to it. Therefore we should behave towards it very much as the trustee of half-a-dozen estates would behave. Let us assume that a trustee has to manage half-a-dozen estates, for each of which he keeps a separate banking account. Would honorable members opposite justify him in using the money belonging to one of those estates for the purpoae of assisting another estate without allowing interest upon that money ? If a trustee has charge of A, B, and C estates, would he be justified in using the funds belonging to B estate to help A estate, without allowing interest upon those funds? If he did so, and any honorable member opposite were interested in B estate, the latter would quickly turn round and say, “ Our fund is bearing interest in the bank at such and such a rate, and you are using a portion of it to benefit A estate without allowing interest upon it.” If we have half-a-dozen trust funds in the Commonwealth - as we shall have by-and-by - we are bound to keep the accounts accurately, so that we may, at any time, be able to discover the exact position in which each stands.
– Why should we pay interest for the accommodation? It is the same people who are interested all the time.
– We owe certain money to the States for the year 1909, and the Treasurer is endeavouring to pay that money to them in conformity with the Braddon section of the Constitution. Suppose that we have a half-a-dozen separate Departments with separate accounts, and that they render some service to the State. Would the honorable member recommend that because they all belong to the State they should not charge the State for services rendered? Does the honorable member know that the Sydney Water and Sewerage Board receives water rates from the public Departments?
– There is no analogy between the two cases.
– There is a complete analogy. The Harbor Trust of New South Wales is another instance. Its funds belong to the Government of the country.
– And it makes a profit.
– That is not the question. The water rates of New South Wales belong to the Government too. Would the honorable member say that because the Harbor Trust is affording accommodation to the Government it should not charge the Departments for it ? Would he say that because the Water and Sewerage Board is doing services for the Government it ought not to make a charge, because it is the same fund ? The answer is, “ No, charge by all means, because you want the Water and Sewerage Board to show what it is earning in the year, and the Harbor Trust to show what it is earning.” I, for one, shall be asking the Treasurer, by-and-by, to supply me with an accurate statement of the way in which the notes issue experiment is progressing. He cannot do that if he uses part of its funds, which otherwise would bear interest in the bank, for the purpose of paying the States under the Braddon section. He will be all the more capable of giving an accurate return, afterwards, to any member of the House if he knows that each fund has been accurately kept by the accountants of the Treasury, so as to show exactly how it stands. I regard this as an important juncture, because, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, we are laying down, in most definite language, and as a result of a protest by the Opposition against the taking of trust money in recess, the proposition that; before any Treasurer can borrow money from any of the Trust Funds in the Treasury, unless it be in an almost impossible emergency, he shall come to Parliament, as the trustees of the public, and ask them for authority by an Act.
– 1 said from the first that I should only use the money by parliamentary authority.
– There is nobody in the House more anxious to do the right thing than the honorable member. If I thought he was a free man I should expect nothing but the right thing from him.
– That old gag has been exploded.
– It may be very unpleasant, but it is perfectly true.
– He is a good deal freer than is the honorable member.
– I think I showed my freedom over the question of the Financial Agreement. However unpleasant it may be, I am sure the Treasurer himself must feel the truth of it.
– It is quite inaccurate, but keep on repeating it.
– I only wish! the honorable member, from my high opinion of him personally and politically, had the freedom that a Prime Minister traditionally enjoys; because we would then have a policy for his party dictated by him and not by people at his back over whom he has no control.
– The honorable member’s remarks are not relevant to the subject before the Chair.
– I have finished my lecture !
– If it is a joke, it is a very dull and stupid one.
– I sometimes have to say unpleasant things, but I try to say them in a pleasant way. The Treasurer has tried to fence with the word “ loan.” By avoiding the use of the word you do not avoid the signification which attaches to it. The Treasurer is asking us to justify him for taking ^1,500,000 out of the Trust Funds to enable him, as he says, to pay the States what we shall owe them up to the end of 1910. That is right enough; but in answer to my interjection the Treasurer very properly said that we could not pay our way without borrowing from the Trust Funds. Why? Because the Treasurer has a very large sum to pay towards the cost of the naval unit. The logic of the position, therefore, is really this : money is being borrowed from the Trust Funds because the Treasurer could not pay for the naval unit, and also pay the States under the Braddon section, without a loan, and the loan is, therefore, indirectly to pay for the naval unit. By this circuitous process the Government are coming round to the very position which they condemned the Opposition for taking up. The Opposition, when in power, were going straight to the public to borrow the necessary money at 3 J per cent., with a sinking fund of £750,000 per annum, to pay off the naval unit. The Government are borrowing from the Trust Funds practically to pay for the unit, in exactly the same way ; and yet they repealed the Naval Loan Bill because the word “ loan “ did not please them. I congratulate the Labour party on the fact that they are able, by a sort of metaphysical juggling with words, to bring themselves into exactly the position which they condemned the Opposition for taking up last session.
– The honorable member for Parkes has been most interesting. He is always precise and very superior, but in what he said to-day he forgot something. If you borrow money from an outside source, you have to pay interest outside. If you borrow money from one pocket and put it into another, you. pay the interest into the pocket from which you borrow, and do not lose interest to any one else.
– It is a loan all the same.
– But it is on an entirely different basis.
– If the money in one pocket is bearing interest, and you take it away, you deprive that pocket of that interest.
– But you are not paying the interest to a third person to be used elsewhere. If the money is still to be used for the purposes of the Commonwealth, what is the use of going outside for it when you have it yourself?
– In other words, what is the use of sinking funds?
– A trust fund is put on one side for a certain purpose and cannot be used for anything else. In this case the Treasurer is asking the House for permission to use the money temporarily. After all, it is the Commonwealth’s money.
– We are not disapproving of the Treasurer’s doing it. We simply want to draw a moral from it.
– The honorable member is saying all he can to damn it. I wish to emphasize the fact that it is simply proposed to take and use our own money. Even if, for the adjustment of accounts, you have to debit and credit interest, still the whole thing belongs to the Commonwealth, and, therefore, we are not depending upon any one else, and no money-lender or private individual gets any profit. The proposal is a very good one and entirely in the interests of the Commonwealth.
– Each trust account should be kept accurately and separately.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. This Parliament should see that each trust fund is kept for the purpose for which it is created. It is only in very exceptional circumstances that the money can be temporarily borrowed to do something else with it. The honorable member is quite wrong in suggesting that the payments for the naval unit are the cause of the introduction of this Bill. He said that the Fusion Government wanted” to borrow the money, but from whom? From some one in England, and pay ,£750,000 to a sinking fund.
– On a twenty years’ loan.
– It was not twenty years.
– I was not in the House when the matter was dealt with, but I prefer to take the information from the honorable member for Gippsland. I have no doubt he has an accurate knowledge of what was done. Under that scheme, the money would be directly paid away to outside people. The honorable member for Parkes claims that the payments of revenue for the naval unit have caused the Treasurer to be short in the money that he has to repay to the States.
– He might as well say it was for paving salaries.
– He might as well say it was for paying for the telephones, or telegraphs, or public works.
– The naval unit is the only unusual item of expenditure.
– I do not know that it is very unusual. I think we shall have to pay for a good many naval units, not with money borrowed from the English money-lender, but out of revenue. The honorable mem- ‘ ber would, I know, like to live on borrowed money, as he and his Government did in New South Wales. When he was in Sir Henry Parkes’ Government he bor.rowed more money in one year for public works in that State-
– And I built more railways.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing what took place in New South Wales.
– I simply want to show that the honorable member’s arguments to-day are in consonance with the whole of his political life. The honorable member says he built railways, but foe happened, in that year, to have bad floods, and all the bridges were washed away. I was opposed to the trust moneys being taken by the Treasurer in the way first suggested, until the Treasurer said “he intended to bring down a Bill to obtain the authority of Parliament. My opposition was entirely due to the fact that trust moneys should be sacred. Parliament only should have the power to disturb them, and the Treasurer has done the right thing in submitting a Bill to Parliament. It is very much better that the money to carry out the requirements of the Government should be obtained from sources at our own command than from the outside money-lenders. I have always felt that to borrow money abroad is to do an injury to the country, because lt means bleeding the country continually to pay the interest. That has been my objection to borrowing money if we could do without it, but it does not apply so much to the borrowing of money in the country. When I was Premier of NewSouth Wales, I think I was the first to borrow the necessary money in the States, instead of going to the English money market. If we pay the interest here the money is circulated among our own people, but if it is sent elsewhere we never see it again.
– The Free Trade member for Parkes is now silent.
– Free Trade always promoted borrowing. I hope that the action of the Treasurer is congenial to and in accordance with the wishes of honorable members generally. I hope also that it will be a long time before the Treasurer goes outside Australia to borrow money for carrying on the government of the country. I am glad of the assurance that threefourths of the Customs and Excise revenue will be paid to the States throughout the whole of the present year.
– Up to the end of December.
– When we were discussing the matter previously some doubt was left in my mind as to whether the three-fourths or a lesser amount would be paid up to the end of the present year. I trust that the result of this announcement will be to put an end to such extravagant statements as are being made in New South Wales at present with regard to the Commonwealth Government. We have paid and paid, and paid, and the States have spent, and spent, and spent, and abused, and abused, “and abused ! I trust that now the abuse will stop.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Treasurer the fact that this Bill purports to do what is not, as it seems to me, within our powers. Under the Audit Act, section 61, it is clearly provided that -
It shall not be lawful for the Treasurer to expend any moneys standing to the credit of the Trust Fund, except for the purposes of such fund or under the authority of an Act.
I submit that this Bill does not give the authority that is required by that section ; and even if the Bill be technically correct, it should be made much more explicit. I understand from the Prime Minister that he proposes to take from the money to the credit of the Australian Notes Trust Fund some portion, or perhaps the whole of what may be required, to meet the expenses of the Government.
– Practically the whole.
– Section 8 of the Australian Notes Act provides that the moneys derived from Australian notes and any interest thereon shall be placed to the credit of an account which shall be a trust account within the meaning of the Audit Act. It is also provided that part of the moneys shall be held by the Treasurer in gold coin for the purposes of a reserve provided for in section 9 of the Act j and that the Treasurer may invest the remainder or any part thereof on deposit in a bank, or in securities of the United Kingdom or of the Commonwealth or of a State. I submit that this Bill will not override the sections of the Australian Notes Act to which I have referred. The Bill contains the simple statement that moneys may be advanced from the Trust Fund for the purposes of revenue for the present financial year.
– For a portion of this financial year.
– The question is, whether the words providing that there may be advanced to the Trust Fund a million and a half of money, to be repaid during the financial year, override the specific provision of the Australian Notes Act that three-fourths of the amount received from the sale of Australian notes shall be dealt with by the Treasurer by being invested in securities or deposited with a bank. I submit that, if the Australian Notes Act is to be invaded, it ought to be definitely stated in this Bill that, notwithstanding section 8 of that Act, certain things may be done If we- are to pass Acts expressed in general terms to override a specific provision in another previous Act, and thus enable the Treasurer to spend trust money in any way he likes, we shall be doing a very dangerous thing. I trust that the Treasurer will consult his legal advisers in regard to the point.
– There is no doubt at all about it.
– This is a very left-handed way of doing things. If the Treasurer can take a million and a half in this way, why can he not take the whole of the moneys paid on account of Australian notes ?
– He would not remain Treasurer very long if he did.
– The present Treasurer, with his docile majority, can, as far as I can see, do anything he likes. I know that the honorable gentleman is pretty level-headed, but he should recognise that there is something wrong here. Surely he did not intend to pass a general measure overriding the specific terms of the Australian Notes Act, and taking away the gold reserve.
– We can repeal a provision of an Act at any time.
– But let us know exactly where we are. If it is understood that the whole of the money received on account of Australian notes - the reserve of one-fourth, and the remaining threefourths alike - are to be used-
– Certainly not.
– If the honorable gentleman will look into the matter carefully, he will see that there is much more in my argument than he appears to think.. I take exception to the statement of my leader as to the current six months being an exceptional period. In my opinion, it is not. We have been paying three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue to the States during the whole term of Federation, and merely because we are coming to the end of the tether, we cannot call the last six months exceptional. The years to come will be exceptional, but the present term is not.
– It is quite exceptional.
– When my honorable friend was Treasurer, he had to pay three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue to the States, and every other Treasurer has had to do the same.
– The right honorable member was going to borrow money to pay the States.
– That is an absolutely incorrect statement, though it is quite good enough for the honorable member to make. It is one of those reckless statements that he is so fond of. He will say anything that seems to be damaging to an opponent. Fortunately, honorable members take very little account of what the honorable member does say. I think that the Prime Minister indicated at one time during the session that some arrangement would be made between the Commonwealth and the States in regard to regular payments being distributed over the whole year. Of course, until the Act passed, nothing could be done. I was not in favour of the Government proposal. I believed in carrying out the provisions of the Constitution. I believed that the Prime Minister did not have it in his mind at the beginning that the Government should continue to pay to the States three-fourths up to the end of the year.
– -Yes, I have said so all along.
– The Treasurer intended to give the States credit for the three- fourths, but not actually to pay them.
– Yes, that was the intention from the beginning.
– The Treasurer as I. understood him, hoped that some arrangement would be made, and also said that it was not necessary to pay the money to the States all at once.
– We need not pay monthly.
– I think that some arrangement could be made with the States, so as to enable regular payments to be made to them throughout the year. But the Treasurer says that the States have not approached *him. Apparently he thinks that they should go down on all-fours and grovel te him
– No, the States think the Commonwealth should do that.
– Will the honorable member keep quiet? He is doing himself no good. The fact of the matter is - and I am sorry to say so- that this Government is at war with the States.
– Oh, no.
– The stockintrade arguments of honorable members opposite is to decry the States. They look upon the States as their natural enemies. That has been the attitude of the.. Labour party for years, and is their attitude at present. They would not approach the States, or suggest any arrangement, although the Commonwealth is the paymaster, and might fairly have suggested an arrangement, with which I am sure the States would have been only too willing to carefully consider. If the Prime Minister were to suggest to the States that it would be a convenience to the Commonwealth to pay them regularly throughout the year, I believe he ‘would find that they were quite willing to accede to his request.
– The States have never shown any inclination to be fair at all ; they have all along been trying to destroy the Commonwealth.
– I should like to see the States destroy the honorable member, for that is what” he deserves. No one has been a greater traitor to the States ever since he entered the Federal Parliament. We know that the honorable member, at the Federal Convention, was a provincialist and a strong advocate of the rights of the Stales.
– A greater provincialist never was.
– He is now kicking down the ladder which placed him in his present position. I make those statements because they are true, as the honorable member knows. In fact, he always worships at the shrine from which he expects most, and is one of the most selfish men in. this country.
– Order. Will the honorable member address himself to the question ?
– Of course, I do not wish to say a word against the honorable member personally, but only speak of him in a political sense. The Government are at war with the States; their mission seems to be to destroy the States by destroying their revenue, and placing them in such a position that they will not be able to carry out their obligations. I rose for the one purpose of calling the attention of the Prime Minister to sections 8 and 9 of the Australian Notes Act, and section 61 of the Audit Act, and to express my disapproval of the proposal now made.
.- I only desire to point out to the Prime Minister the desirableness of regarding the reserve as sacred. There has evidently been an error in drafting, because, immediately after we have passed an Act providing for a reserve, we at once seek to overcome a temporary emergency by destroying that reserve.
– As the. honorable member sees, the Treasurer must hold not less than one-fourth in gold.
– Section 8 of the Australian Notes Act says -
Part of the moneys standing to the credit of the Austraiian Notes Account shall be held by the Treasurer in gold coin for the purposes of the reserve…..
That is part of the Trust Fund, and, by the Bill before us now, we say that there may be advances from the Trust Fund, which includes the reserve.
– Section 9 of the Australian Notes Act says that the Treasurer shall hold the reserve.
– But we are overriding that. It has been laid down, that even if a Dentists Bill altered the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland, the Union would have to go.
– The end could be attained by excluding the money held by the Treasurer under section 9 of the Australian Notes Act.
– We should amend the clause to the effect that there may be an advance from the money standing to the credit of the Trust Fund not held for the purposes of a reserve under section 9 of the Australian Notes Act. In that way we should preserve the reserve; we should be able to authorize a temporary advance from the Trust Fund not set aside as revenue.
– That is all that is intended.
– I know that the Treasurer is in rather a tight fix, notwithstanding that, while the previous Treasurer only had £62,000 of new revenue, the present Treasurer is going to have something over £1,100,000. Owing, however, to the extension of oldage pensions, the development of defence, and so forth, he will be in a difficulty for the next six months, and it will be necessary, unless he faces new taxation, to obtain a temporary advance. The same policy was commenced in 1882 in South Australia, when .there was, I believe, a surplus of £57,000. Instead of imposing new taxation, an advance was taken from the loan fund, which was regarded as not lapsing in the ordinary way, like an appropriation. That policy was developed each year until 1887, when £1,108,000 had been taken out of the Trust Fund for the purposes of revenue; and the Government had to put an end to the practice. If we once begin to tamper with the Trust Fund, or interfere with Acts of Parliament, passed, as in this case, only a month ago, we never know to what extent the precedent may be pushed. I am glad that the Treasurer will consider the expediency of re-drafting clause 2.
– I do not desire to touch the reserve.
– But this Bill does touch the reserve.
.- I am sorry that the Government has seen fit to bring down this measure in its present form, because, in my opinion, it is a complete departure from the principles laid down in the Australian Notes Act. In section 8 of that Act we purposely and designedly expunged a provision that the money should be expended in any way that Parliament might direct.
– The present policy was then foreshadowed.
– That I admit; and I have no objection personally to this money being used by the Commonwealth in the particular way proposed; but I repeat that we have now a departure from the principle that the money derived from the issue of Australian notes shall remain separate. Inasmuch as the Treasurer has already intimated that he has no objection that these funds, when borrowed, shall pay interest to the Australian Notes Trust Fund in the usual way, I do not see why he should raise any objection to issuing a loan from this fund in the form of a Commonwealth security, paying interest at a certain rate. That would put the matter on a thoroughly sound financial basis, as the honorable member for Hindmarsh pointed out a little while ago. It would be sound business, whereas the present proposal is not. I had thought that, at the very outset, in dealing with funds derived from the Australian notes, we would be very careful not to depart from the principles laid down in> the Australian Notes Act. In the Bill before us we have an instance of the unwisdom of not placing these funds under the control of a separate body pf trustees. Had that been done, as the honorable member for North Sydney suggested, the present position would never have arisen. The Treasurer’s position would not have been made any more difficult, but, in the natural course of events, the Commonwealth securities would have issued, and have been pur-, chased by the trustees, and the whole thing would have been placed, on a thoroughlysound financial basis. I am sorry that the Treasurer, who has the credit of inaugurating this fund, proposes to depart from the sound principle of the Australian NotesBill.
– 1 thoroughly indorse the remarksof the last speaker, and of the honorable member for Hindmarsh. I do not take the view of the honorable member for Ballarat, so heartily indorsed by the Prime Minister,, that this position cannot occur again, because, in my opinion, it will occur very frequently, and we ought to take the utmost precautions in order that the transaction shall be carried out in a proper and businesslike manner. Despite the criticism of some honorable members on this side, I do not regard this as a loan in the ordinary acceptation of the term as applied to national finance. We have three means of raising money for exceptional circumstances - we may increase taxation; we may raise a loan extending over long periods, and issue debentures with a proper sinking fund, or, if the circumstances do not warrant long financial operations of that kind, we may raise money by the issue of Treasury-bills, as is done in the Old Country, and all the States. The present is a temporary emergency, and should be met, as under other similar Constitutions, ‘ by a temporary expedient. The Treasurer ought to have sought from the House authority to issue and dispose of a certain amount of Treasury - bills, and availed himself of the opportunity created by the notes fund to sell the Treasury-bills to the authorities having charge of the notes finances. That is why a separate trust was suggested. The trustees, when money was required, could have intimated whether they were prepared to advance at the rate of interest proposed, or whether it would be better for the Treasurer to go to some other source for the means to meet the temporary requirement. Had that been done, the trustees would have been able to devote a proportion of the funds to the Treasurer’s needs, and take security in the shape of Treasury-bills bearing interest. The public and the Legislature woul’d then have definitely known what we were doing, as there would have been an open and above-board business transaction.
– The honorable member does not say that this proposal is not aboveboard ?
– It is impossible to conceive it as otherwise than aboveboard, but there should be no misconception on the part of the public. A certain portion of the public are cautious and conservative, and may think that this or some other Government will make use of this fund for purposes to which it should not be devoted, or under circumstances which do not justify its use. If the suggestion I make were acted upon, the general public would have no difficulty in understanding the position, and there would be a feeling of greater security all round. It would not prevent’ the Treasurer getting all he required on the terms he desired, because, if those in charge of the Trust Fund did not think the interest was sufficient, the Treasurer could go elsewhere and dispose of his Treasury-bills. I regret exceedingly that the proposal has come forward in its present form I hope that honorable members will express a definite opinion in connexion with this matter, so that in future this proposal may not be considered a precedent, and that, if it should be necessary to issue Treasury-bills, the usual course will be followed between the Treasurer and the trustees of this fund. I hope that we shall yet retrace our steps, and institute the body of trustees proposed in connexion with the Australian Notes Bill, so that these transactions may be put upon an absolutely business basis.
.- I cordially indorse what has been said by the honorable members for Richmond and North Sydney. The burden of the criticism offered by the Opposition to the Australian Notes Bill was not to the Government taking control of the currency of the country under suitable safeguards, but to the means which the measure afforded the Government for raising money without interest in order to finance their other proposals. This Bill, following so closely upon the passage of the Australian Notes Bill, proves conclusively the justice of that criticism.
When the Australian Notes Bill was before us, we were assured time and again by the Prime Minister that it was purely a currency measure, and was not intended to finance the Government ; and now we have a Bill proposed to enable the Government to use the Trust Fund to be built up under the Australian Notes Bill in order to relieve them of temporary financial embarrassment ! This procedure, if adopted as a precedent, will land this country in the most complex financial quagmire that is possible to conceive. If this sort of thing is to go on, no one in Australia will know what our financial position is. The pea will be removed from under one financial thimble to another, and the man in the street will never know where it is, or how the country’s finances are being conducted.
This is a revolutionary project, subversive of all sound finance. The Prime Minister smiles, and I must say that T sometimes wonder, in view of his laborious efforts to appear frank and outspoken, whether he realizes the meaning of the language he uses. How many times did he inform me during the passage of the Australian Notes Bill that it was purely a currency measure, and would not be used, directly or indirectly, to overcome temporary financial inconveniences of the Government? It was admitted that for every note issued a sovereign would be taken in exchange; and when it was urged that these sovereigns should be held sacred in a trust account for the redemption of the notes whenever they might be presented for payment, the Prime Minister was most indignant at the suggestion that those sovereigns would be used in this way by the Government as a sort of loan without interest from note-holders. Yet to-day we have a proposal to enable the Government to take £1,500,000 of the money taken from the holders of Australian notes, and use it as revenue to finance the Government over a temporary difficulty !
Honorable members opposite profess to be against borrowing, even for reproductive works. Ninety per cent, of the loan expenditure of Australia has been capital expenditure, and here we have a proposal for a loan without interest to meet expenditure which should be met from revenue ! If. it be- wrong to borrow money in the open light of day in order to increase the production and prosperity of the country by the construction of railways, or in telegraphic and telephonic extension, is it not infinitely more deplorable that money should be raised in the way now proposed, merely in order that it might be put into the year’s revenue ?
What on earth is a trust fund if it is not to be inviolate against this particular sort of invasion? Honorable members opposite appear to regard words as merely intended as an exercise for mental juggling. A trust fund like this fund ought not to be made use of to finance any Government that happens, for the time being, to possess the key to it. I trust that the Government will see a reason to withdraw this proposal altogether. Such proposals should not be made if the management of the finances of the country is to be above suspicion. I hope the present Prime Minister will not be the first occupying that position to ask for a loan without interest from a trust account, when on the hustings he tells the people of Australia he is against borrowing money for any purpose whatever. I hope we shall have had the last of this business, if only to prove that honorable members on this side took a pessimistic view when, only quite recently, we contended that the Australian Notes Bill was really intended to finance the Government and not for the simple purpose of assuming control of the paper currency of the Commonwealth.
– There is one matter to which I should like to direct the attention of the Treasurer. The Bill provides that moneys are to be advanced from the Trust Fund, and as pointed out earlier in the debate, that fund consists of a series of separate accounts. The next clause deals with the repayment to the Trust Fund, but it is equally vague, and provides simply that the amount advanced shall be repaid to the Trust Fund on or before the 30th June. What I am anxious to secure is that money taken out of a specific fund shall be repaid to that fund.
– I have said that I am quite prepared to accept an amendment.
– We might provide that the money should be advanced from the Australian Notes Trust Fund for the purposes of the Bill.
– We might use some of the other funds. Common sense will be applied to the matter.
– I should like to have some assurance of the repayment of the Trust Fund.
– There will be no doubt on that point.
– I think that the Treasurer should pay interest on this money.
– It will only be required for a month or two.
– That may be so, but the question is one of principle. The intention of the Australian Notes Trust Fund was that moneys derived from the issue of the notes should be invested on deposit or in securities, and that the interest received in that way should also be invested. We omitted the provision in the Australian Notes Bill that the moneys might be expended for any purpose which Parliament might direct, in order that the money might not be used as revenue, but might be invested so as to be interest producing. I think that in this measure we should provide that the money advanced shall be repaid with interest at 3 or 3J per cent, per annum.
– I do not pledge myself to accept that suggestion.
– I understood the honorable gentleman to say that he would accept it. I think that ought to be done, not so much on account of the amount of interest which might be derived as an indication that the Treasurer should regard the fund as established for a specific purpose. That would increase confidence in the administration of the fund.
– I am glad to have an opportunity of saying a word or two upon this matter. In my judgment there is nothing straightforward about this proceeding. i regret to have to say it, but it seems to me to be one of those shifts and stratagems to which a Government is always compelled to resort when it makes itself the bond slave of a shibboleth as the present Government and party have done. They have gone through the country crying out, “ No borrowing” from every platform, and these are the shifts to which they are driven in order to honour that shibboleth and at the same time do the very thing which they have so bitterly denounced. If this is anything at all it is a borrowing proposal pure and simple. It is none the less a borrowing proposal, because it is intended to meet a temporary difficulty. That is one of the most sinister and subtle forms of borrowing. It is like the borrowing advocated from the other side this morning - the issuing of Exchequer bills? I venture to say that a large part of the debt of Australia to-day was incurred in this particular manner. Many millions of money so borrowed, and which is now funded and made a permanent obligation of the country, was raised in precisely the way the Government are proposing to raise this money, with the clearly expressed intention of paying it back within the financial year, though that was never done. Already the present Government, in their short career, have resorted to more financial legerdemain than all the Governments that preceded them during the ten years of our Federal history.
– The honorable gentleman should not forget what they inherited from him.
– They inherited from us a financial proposal which would have given them plenty of surplus revenue to meet all their financial obligations. We proposed to finance certain Commonwealth works out ot loan moneys, as every other financial authority in the world to-day is doing.
– The honorable gentleman is always ready to go to the pawnbroker.
– The honorable member is aware that all civilized Governments are ready to go to what he calls the pawnbroker. I may say that I never listened to a cheekier speech than that which we had from the honorable member for Hume this morning. It was astonishing to hear the arch-spender of Australia talking in the way he did of other people spending public money. The honorable gentleman has lived, battened, and kept himself afloat for many years of his political history by the extravagance of his spending, and nothing else.
– I was very economical.
– i have a very vivid recollection of the Government he trounced this morning, and of which the honorable member for Parkes was a member.
– I ask the honorable member to address himself to the question before the Chair.
– I shall do so. I am sorry that I am not permitted to make a remark in reply to an honorable gentleman who talked for fifteen minutes on this subject. The honorable member for Hume kept his Government afloat with a majority-of one merely by spending money. This is a proposal for borrowing from a fund that is not yet in existence. It reminds me of the stock exchange system of dealing in options. There is no fund, except on paper. The Bill provides for the borrowing of ^1,500,000, which we have not got. I think that provision should be made for the payment of interest, and that the rate of interest should be prescribed. i was not surprised at the honorable member for Hindmarsh telling the Prime Minister that he should borrow straightforwardly by issuing bills for the amount he requires. There is no distinction between the form of borrowing proposed, and any .other.
– What rubbish !
– The honorable member is ah authority on rubbish, but he himself has now been heaved over the political rubbish tip, and it will be a long time before he gets up again.
– He went over with honour, which is what the honorable member did not do.
– Here we have an interjection from an honorable gentleman, who prates about political honour, although he always sits on the political fence.
– I ask the honorable member for Parramatta to address himself to the question.
– I shall do so, sir, if you will protect me from the interruptions of honorable gentlemen opposite. I hear another offensive remark, from the honorable member for Adelaide. I claim the right to reply when these interjections are made. There is nothing fair in allowing honorable members opposite to say what, they like, and preventing me from replying to them.
– The honorable member has several times reflected upon my actions, but I shall not allow him, or any other member, to do so. I called the honorable member for Hume to order for dealing with certain matters affecting New South Wales administration, and I am treating the honorable member in the same way. I ask him to respect my rulings.
– You have not yet, sir, called the honorable member for Adelaide to order for his very offensive expression.
– I shall have to take my own course, and the Chairman must take his.
– The sooner he does so the better.
– Quite so. I have my rights. I was the first on my feet after the Prime Minister moved the motion, but I have been ‘the last to be called.
– This is the second time that the honorable member has made a statement which is distinctly wrong. He was muttering to himself when the honorable member for Parkes was speaking.
– I object to being insulted, and have yet to learn that the Chairman, any more than another member, may insult me. I was not muttering to myself, and I was the first to rise. However, I do not wish to go’ into that matter. I congratulate the honorable member for Hindmarsh upon the criticism which he bestowed on a transaction which occurred some time ago.
– I thank the honorable member for nothing.
– I cannot talk against these interruptions.
– Will the honorable member proceed ?
– No, I shall not.
– I congratulate the Treasurer on the great saving which he has made for the Commonwealth. Had he brought in a Bill for the floating of a loan, we should have had to spend about £90,000 on brokerage. The States have borrowed about £250,000,000, and I believe that I am well within the mark in saying that the brokerage expenses have been not less than £15,000,000. The Treasurer, however, will get what he needs for nothing. He is striking a blow at the capitalistic system, which requires the public borrowing of the Commonwealth and the States to find an outlet for the money of investors, and I congratulate him on what he is doing.
– It was indicated to the House when Parliament first met that the Commonwealth would have to pay to the States, up to the 31st December next, three- fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue, and it. was anticipated that there would be a surplus under the Australian Notes Act, which would enable the obligation to be met, the money to be recouped within a few months out of revenue. We are not proposing to borrow in the ordinary sense of the term. The States are entitled to receive during the first half of the financial year an amount disproportionate to the total which must be paid to them for the whole year, and therefore a temporary advance must be provided for. The circumstances are quite exceptional. I am glad that a protest has been made against what is proposed, because I am -strongly against borrowing from Trust Funds; but the position was made plain at the beginning of the session, and there is no other course open. I agree with much that has been said by the honorable members for Hindmarsh and Parkes, though the latter was unfair in stating that this Government, on assuming office, could have done other than borrow from trust funds to make good the payments to the States for the last financial year. We had only just come into office, and were not responsible for the fact that the revenue for the year did not cover the liabilities. We had, therefore, to borrow from the Trust Funds, or to make default in our payments to the States. Parliament was called together on the 1st July - the earliest practicable date - when the circumstances were explained ; and the necessary Bill was brought down a little lat-r. I have, never justified the borrowing t.i trust money, except under special circumstances. As to what the honorable member said about my hands being tied, my reply is that if he is as free as I am he is in a very happy position. I do not agree with the honorable member for Swan that this proposal is not covered by fl:e Audit Act, or that the Bill allows the spending of the minimum reserve required by the Australian Notes Act. The legal advice tendered to me is that it does not permit of the spending of the one-fourth required to be kept as a reserve for the notes issued ; but to remove all shadow of doubt, I am willing to accept an amendment specifically preventing the borrowing of that money. As to interest, I am strongly in favour of legitimate provision being made for the payment of interest on the money borrowed. I do not think it is worth considering in this particular case, because the whole of the money may not be taken from that fund.
– Why ?
– I shall make this pledge to honorable members that as regards any other Bill which may be brought down to authorize the borrowing of money from the Australian Notes Trust Fund-
– Or any other Trust Fund.
– I do not think that it applies particularly to other trust funds, as they are in quite a different position.
– Still under the Audit Act they can all be invested in securities.
– Yes, but I think that the honorable member knows that the interest on such investments is paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
– But in the case of the Australian Notes Trust Fund that will be illegal.
– I shall come to that point presently.
Mi. Groom. - But in this Bill the payment of the interest into the Trust Fund will be specially dealt with.
– In the case of the trust moneys, which are very carefully invested from week to week in London, my impression is that the interest thereon is placed to the credit of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
– Exactly, but the honorable member will see that in the present case he proposes to tate out of a Trust Fund money which is bearing interest, and that the interest is not to go into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. That is the distinction.
– That is a different point. At present the interest paid on moneys in trust funds is paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. That statement I made in answer to the honorable member for Ballarat, who referred to “ other trust funds “ which it will be seen are not really involved. But while it may be a technical breach, and I shall not close my mind to the matter of interest, it will be seen that from the 1st January next we shall begin to repay the money into the Trust Fund, and repay it rapidly, and the interest can be but very small.
– The principle is important.
– I admit at once the principle. If this were a Bill relating to public works the position would be quite different. But here the States are legal creditors to an extent greater than we can meet on the 31st December next, but we have the means of collecting all that is necessary to cover the advance on that date. It is a matter for rather serious consideration whether it is worth while to raise the question of interest. The honorable member for Richmond interjected that the Australian Notes Act provides that all the money raised thereunder and invested for any purpose shall bear interest to be credited to the Trust Fund. It is a sound principle, and it is only a question of whether it is worth while to do so in this instance.
– It does not involve any expense, and therefore why not do it?
– It is not a question of cost, but a case of debit and credit. My inclination is towards crediting the Trust Fund with the interest on the money borrowed therefrom. Although I have said that the bulk of the ^1,500,000 required will comeout of the Australian Notes Trust Fund, I want to point out that some of it may come out of other trust funds.
– Only a very little, though.
– At any rate, it is advisable to leave the Bill alone in that regard. I make that statement in order to correct an impression which may have been left in the minds of some honorable members that the whole amount is to be borrowed from the Australian Notes Trust Fund. That will, I think, be practically so, but I do not want the Bill to refer to that fund. Therefore I propose, in clause 2, to introduce an amendment which has been suggested to me by the honorable member for Angas. After the word “ revenue “ I shall ask honorable members to insert these words, “ out of moneys not held for the purposes-
– I rise to order. In a Committee which is only considering a message from the Governor-General, it is very unusual for an honorable member to discuss the details of a Bill, and to indicate amendments to be submitted. On the second reading of the Bill the Treasurer can state what he intends to do.
– And there is ample authority to do it now, if necessary.
– Will the honorable member please be quiet when I am addressing the Chair? In the interests of proper debate, I submit that the Treasurer ought not to go into the details of a measure at this stage. On its second reading, he would be quite in order in indicating what he proposed to do in Committee, but it is out of order to do so now.
– The Treasurer is out of order. When the Bill is being dealt with, he will have an opportunity to indicate any amendments which he proposes to submit.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I ask leave to proceed with the Bill - I think that that has been understood - and therefore I propose to move the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– I object.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s Message) :
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £2,590,000 for naval defence.
– I ask leave to move the suspension of the Standing Orders, in order to pass the Bill through all its stages this day.
– What is this for?
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the Treasurer have leave to move the motion?
– I object.
That the consideration of the report be made an Order of the Day for to-morrow.
– Does the honorable member object ?
– Yes, unless there is an explanation forthcoming.
– I arranged with the honorable member’s leader to take this course.
– If that is the case, I shall withdraw my objection.
– When the honorable member objected, I had no other course but to put the question that the consideration of the resolution be made an Order of the Day for to-morrow, and, that question having been carried, I cannot go back now.
Order of the Day for the consideration of the Senate’s amendment called on.
– Before leaving the chair, I desire to state that, in my opinion, the amendment made by the Senate in this Bill is out of order. From the item on page 5, under the head of Tasmania, “ New Quarantine Stations, including the acquisition of land at Trifftt’s Point - towards cost,£1,300,” the Senate has omitted the words “ at Triffitt’s Point.” That amendment, I consider, alters the destination of the proposed vote, and would enable the money to be expended at a place not recommended by the Estimates forwarded with the Governor-General’s message. In principle, it is much the same as if the Senate had omitted from item 2 in subdivision 3 of division 1 the words “ at Canberra.” Honorable members will see that if such an amendment had been made, money intended for expenditure at Canberra could be spent at a totally different site. I consider, therefore, that the Senate’s amendment alters the destination of a proposed vote; and the item, as amended, cannot be said to have been recommended by message from the GovernorGeneral, as required by section 56 of the Constitution.
In Committee :
– This measure comes back from the Senate with an amendment which was made partly under a misapprehension, and which involves a question of moment.
– Have they made an amendment, or a suggestion ?
– They have struck out the words referring to the locality where the money was to be expended. That does not restrict the freedom of the Government, on the contrary, it really gives us greater latitude, but, for a constitutional reason, that is undesirable. I intend to ask the Committee to disagree with the amendment, because it alters the destination of the proposed vote. It could not have been moved in this House either by a private member, or by a Minister. I move -
That the amendment of the Senate be disagreed with, because it alters the destination of the vote.
– I quite accept the Prime Minister’s explanation. I have a recollection of the amendment being moved by Senator Long, in order to prevent the expenditure of a certain sum at Triffitt’s Point, in southern Tasmania. There has been quite an agitation against the expenditure of any money at this place, I find that the Leader of the Tasmanian Opposition, who is also the leader of the State Labour party, recently waited upon the Premier of the State, with a very strong deputation, and that such an able authority as Dr. Crowther, M.H.A., said -
He regarded the subject as a cruel wrong to the city and its suburbs. They were placing the station right in the centre of a flourishing suburb and that would cause great risk to the surroundings.
The Premier, in replying, threw all the responsibility on the Commonwealth Minister. He explained that he had no responsibility in the matter, that a Commonwealth officer had advocated the placing of a quarantine station at Triffitt’s Point, and that the Commonwealth Government were responsible for its selection. I hope that the Minister of Trade and Customs will give most earnest consideration to the matter before he decides upon taking any portion of the Point for the purposes of a quarantine station.
– Where is Triffitt’s Point ?
– It is situated about six miles up the river. All I want is an assurance from the Minister that he will go carefully into the matter before coming to a final decision.
– I do not quite know where Triffitt’s Point is.
– It is Mr. Flexmore’s land, about five miles above Hobart.
– Where does it lie?
– It lies between Glenorchy and Claremont. It is the cultivated Point which runs out into the river.
– I do not think that it is in the middle of a prosperous suburb.
– The locality is being cut up into suburban blocks.
– Oh, it is going to be a suburb. What the honorable member for Denison means, I understand, is that if the item be passed in its original form the Treasurer will give the House another opportunity of considering whether the money should be spent at Triffitt’s Point or not.
– The Minister will be able to make a statement on that point.
– The trouble seems to be that certain honorable members do not want the money to be spent at Triffitt’s Point. If the Bill is passed intact the money will be voted for expenditure there, and the honorable member for Denison requests that it shall not be expended there until the whole matter has been thoroughly investigated.
– As I promised honorable members when this item was under consideration the other night, an investigation will be made regarding the eligibility of every site which is submitted. Ten or eleven sites have been submitted by the honorable member for Franklin, the honorable member for Denison, and others, who accompanied a deputation. The merits of each place will be investigated. Of course if the item is carried in its present form - and apparently under the Speaker’s ruling that must be done - before money could be spent at any spot a fresh vote would have to be obtained. Triffitt’s Point is the only place named at present, but I can assure honorable members that I shall not spend any portion of the item there to prejudice any other site that may have a claim to consideration before it is absolutely proved that Triffitt’s Point is the best site.
Sitting suspended from1 to 2.30 p.m.
.- I hope that the Minister of Trade and Customs will give us an assurance that his Department has abandoned the idea of establishing a quarantine station at Triffitt’s Point.
– I shall give no such undertaking.
– I would call the attention of the honorable member to the fact that the question before the Chair is that the Committee disagree with the amendment made by the Senate, because it alters the destination of the vote.
– I desire to showthat the Senate, in making this amendment, was guided by a more accurate knowledge of the actual position than seems to obtain in this Committee. If the amendment is out of order, then I desire to obtain from the Minister an assurance that, of his own free will, he will carry out the decision of another place. The first objection to the selection was raised in the Legislative Assembly of Tasmania by the Leader of the Labour party - the Leader of the Opposition - who moved the adjournment of the House. His views were accepted by the Assembly and the State Government, and a joint protest, signed by the Premier of Tasmania and the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly was presented to the Federal Government, asking them to reconsider their decision. The Marine Board, the Hobart Council, the Glenorchy Council, and, indeed, every public body in and around Hobart, as well as the local health officer, and practically every medical man in the city of Hobart, have condemned this site. It is just as reasonable to establish a quarantine station at Triffitt’s Point as it would be to build one on the Lane Cove River, so that passengers suffering from a contagious disease on board a vessel entering Port Jackson would have to be taken through the heart of the city of Sydney; or as it would be to bring infected passengers on board a vessel entering Port Phillip through the heart of Melbourne to a quarantine station five miles inland. If a quarantine station be established at Triffitt’s Point, infected passengers on a ship entering the port of Hobart will have to be conveyed through the heart of that city several miles inland. The Triffitt’s Point site is one of the most valuable in or around Hobart. Land in the district has been sold for building purposes at prices running up to £80 per acre ; and the area of 300 acres which has been selected by the Government would not be secured, even under arbitration, for less than£12,000 or £15,000. Land ten or twelve miles below the city, where passengers could be landed very readily, can be acquired for about £2 per acre, and the selection of such a site would obviate the necessity for conveying infected persons through the city.
-The honorable member is proceeding to discuss the merits of the question.
– The vote was passed by this House in the early morning, when there were but few honorable members present, and I endeavoured, unsuccessfully, to secure its rejection. The Minister of Trade and Customs then gave us an assurance that if another site could be obtained he would not confine himself to that at Triffitt’s Point.
– I gave that assurance again to-day.
Mr.Mcwilliams.- But the position is that the Health Officer recognised by the Commonwealth Government condemns every other site, and has publicly stated that a quarantine station is going to be established at Triffitt’s Point, despite any agitation in opposition to it.
– I do not think that he has said that.
– He has. The Senate left out the words “at Triffitt’s Point,” believing that they would thus give the Minister of Trade and Customs a free hand, and I may say in passing that I think the decision that another place was not in order in making such an amendment is exceedingly doubtful.
– The honorable member must not question Mr. Speaker’s ruling.
– I think that it would be competent for us to strike out the whole item. I urge the Minister to take upon his own shoulders for once the responsibility of refusing to accept without question the opinion of one who is comparatively a stranger to the community of Hobart, and whose opinion is entirely at variance with that of practically every other medical man there. It is about time that a Federal Minister shouldered some responsibility. I have said over and over again during the last six or seven years that successive Commonwealth Governments have been guided more by their departmental officers than have any State Ministers.
– The honorable member must not proceed on those lines.
– Every public body from southern Hobart up to Claremont, as well as the leaders of both parties in the Tasmanian Assembly, has protested against the selection of this site, and I trust that the Minister will not, on the mere ipse dixit of one man, ride roughshod over the general wish of the community.
– It seems to me that we must accept the position put before us by Mr. Speaker and the Prime Minister, although I hope that our acceptance of it will not be taken as meaning that the strong representations that have been made in opposition to the selection of this site should not be considered.
– I said that no money would be expended on this site until others had been examined.
– We passed the item providing for new quarantine stations, including the acquisition of land at Triffitt’s Point. There was therefore a specific appropriation covering that site, and it would appear from the authorities that even this Committee could not alter the designation of the vote. We could of course reject the whole item. May, at page 616, says -
Nor can the Committee attach a condition or an expression of opinion to a grant nor alter its destination.
The position is therefore that the Senate is asking us to do something which we originally could not have done. I think that the course of procedure laid down by Mr. Speaker is the proper one.
– I assured the Committee before lunch that no money would be expended on this site until all others had been examined.
– But the Minister’s officer will condemn every other site submitted to him.
– I know nothing as to that; but if I were allowed to discuss the main question I could reply to the honorable member.
– I desire to move, if I will be in order in doing so -
That the item be left out.
– We must dispose, first of all, of the motion before the Chair.
.- It is open to doubt whether on an amendment of the Senate we can reconsider our own decision. The assurance given by the Minister still leaves him a free hand. There is evidently a consensus of opinion in Tasmania–
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter.
– I do not wish to discuss it at any length. I desire to ask the Minister to go a little further, and to give the Committee such an assurance as will satisfy the representatives of Tasmania in this Parliament that the wish of the people of Hobart will not be interfered with to the extent to which presumably one officer intends that it shall be. The statement of the Minister that no money will be expended on this site until all the others have been examined merely means that the officer concerned will be requested to examine other sites, and will recommend accordingly. We know what will be the outcome of that procedure. If the Minister could go a little further, I believe that he would satisfy honorable members, and that there would then be no need to discuss the question of whether we can go further in the way of amendment by striking out the item, or taking any other drastic step. I agree with the honorable member for Darling Downs, that the Senate, desiring to intimate its objection to a particular site; has possibly gone further than it has the power, or even than this House has the power, to go. I have no doubt we have only to intimate to them what they have done, for the matter to be put right. In the peculiar circumstances of the case, when, apparently, one officer is recommending the Minister to do something which is offensive to the whole of Tasmania, and to every representative of it, in both Houses, the Minister might go further, and assure us that a mere examination of other sites by the same officer will not be regarded as sufficient.
.- The Minister will, of course, use his own discretion as to what reports he gets, and whom he consults, but he might say that he will take no action until the reports have been laid before the House, and any member who wishes to challenge them has had an opportunity of doing so.If he would do that, the matter could be allowed to pass.
– I am quite willing to do that.
– Since the adjournment I have heard something more about this matter, and understand that a protest has been sent to the Minister by the Leader of the Labour party in Tasmania and the Premier of that State, conjointly. Will the Minister defer the matter, or refer it to some tribunal ?
– I have twice offered to defer it.
– I happen to know whereabout the place is, and I also know various localities in Tasmania. Without going to such an expensive spot, and having to vote so large a sum of money, I know that there is one place, a little to the south of Hobart, which would be very much cheaper and better.
– Does the Minister say that no money will be voted, or steps taken, to acquire a property until all the reports have been laid on the table of the House?
– Until I have received reports on every site suggested by the honorable member.
– And we shall have an opportunity of dealing with them?
– I shall not spend any money until the honorable member has had an opportunity of seeing the reports, and challenging them.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance with pleasure.
– I hope the Minister will take care that the place is picked with some judgment. We are already suffering in New South Wales through having the quarantine station where it ought not to be. I wish to deal with the form of the message now proposed to be sent to the Senate. Mr. Speaker has ruled that the amendment made by the Senate is out of order, as being unconstitutional, but the Prime Minister, in moving that the Committee do not agree with the amendment, gave as a reason for disagreement that it would alter the destination of the vote. I believe that would be a good reason to object to this House making the amendment, but the reason that ought to be given is the prior and more important one that the Senate has no constitutional right to make the amendment at all. It is the duty of the Leader of the House to uphold the constitutional rights of the House, which, in this case, are being invaded. We should give the real reason for objecting to the amendment, and not a secondary reason that would also apply to this House. This House should be very jealous on all occasions to assert and preserve its rights, and the Speaker has given what I regard as tantamount to a definite ruling on the subject. It is the duty of the Leader of the House, in conformity with that ruling, to ask the House to send back such a message as will let the Senate see that we object to the amendment, in the first instance, because the Senate, in making it, has exceeded its constitutional powers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
Mr. FRAZER laid upon the table the following paper: -
Defence Act. - Military Forces Regulation Amended (Provisional), No. 504. - Statutory Rules 1 910, No. 86.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That Order of the Day number 4- Land Tax AssessmentBill; further consideration in Committee - be postponed until to-morrow.
.- The amendments proposed to be made in this Bill have not yet been sent to me.
– They will be here, 1 hope, in an hour.
– They were given to the papers last night, and could have been posted to all of us.
– It is my mistake.
– It is good of the Prime Minister to take the responsibility; but, whoever is responsible at the Printing Office for sending them out-
– I forgot to hand them to the Clerk. The responsibility is mine entirely.
– Then I say no more.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This motion was postponed previously because it was felt that the discussion on the Land Tax Assessment Bill would cover both measures. This is merely a complement to the other Bill, and provides for the levying and collection of the tax. I do not think that there is anything in it that requires amendment.
– It is really the most serious part - the paying-up part.
– It may be so, but I think it is drawn in proper legal form. A great deal of controversy has arisen amongst mathematicians, amateur and otherwise, regarding the formula for calculating the amount of the tax in each case, but, on the whole, the criticism has been rather favorable to the proposal. The actual differencethat has been discovered amounts to only about 2d. or 3d. on any specific amount, and the method is simpler and better thanis usually employed. The principle of the tax: is dealt with in the other Bill, of which we have just completed the discussion.
.- Does the Prime Minister propose to proceed with this Bill in Committee?
– I shall leave the Committee stage of this Bill until after the other.
– Regarding the famous formula by which each man may determine the amount of land tax for which he will be responsible, I have been supplied with another formula, which appears to put the same thing in a simpler and more easily understandable way. This I will submit to the Prime Minister for his consideration. The rates, of course, speak for themselves. They are binding, but the formula is added to the schedule in order that any person liable to the tax may have an opportunity of readily calculating the amount of his obligation. I presume that something will be said in Committee, then, with regard to the amount of the tax, and the raising of the rates without warning or sanction to 6d. and fd. This is really -the substance of the measure and matter for discussion mow.
– I suppose we shall have a full opportunity in Committee of dealing with the amounts.
– Yes; but the Prime Minister does not propose to proceed with this Bill in Committee until the other Bill has been dealt with.
– I wish to refer shortly to the amount of the tax. I paired last night for the second reading of the Land Tax Assessment Bill. I did not wish to delay business by making -a speech on that measure, and stating my ideas on the various points, because I recognised that I would have an opportunity -of doing that in detail in Committee. I wish now most clearly to say that I do not think it was ever contemplated during the general elections that the tax would run up to 6d. in the £1. I never mentioned 6d. I had very little to go upon, as far as Ministers were concerned ; but I understood clearly that the groundwork of the proposed taxation was to be found in a statement previously made by Mr. Watson, and generally referred to by the members of the Government. I certainly told all my constituents that I thought the Government would not go above 4d., although collectively they had not definitely said so. I believe the Prime Minister said that the amount of the tax would not exceed 4d. in the j£i. The Government should weigh well the question whether they ought to exceed that amount. I simply desire now to state what my impressions were at the time, and what my constituents thoroughly understood. When we come to deal with the matter in detail, the question ought to be tested whether the tax should be 4d. or 6d., because I know there are many of the same opinion as myself. The Bill we were discussing last night caused a great deal more thought than was anticipated at ‘ first, because it proved to be a very difficult measure to carry out in detail in the way we should desire. However, what i wish to impress on the Prime Minister is that the country really believed that the tax would not exceed 4d., and the Government should consider well before they adopt the schedule.
.- The point raised by the Leader of the Opposition, and emphasized by the honorable member for Hume, ought to be taken into serious consideration by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. Although the principle of land taxation may be said to have been affirmed in the Bill already passed, the most serious part of the whole business is really that before us, seeing that we have now to fix the rates of the tax. The other Bill was simply a machinery measure laying down the methods by which the tax should be collected, and the exemptions, should be made. A taxing Bill can deaf only with taxation, and, therefore, we now have before us the important question of the absolute amounts to be paid. As the honorable member for Hume says, the country thoroughly believed that the tax would not exceed 4d., and I beg to remind the Prime Minister that this impression was conveyed to the public by the speech which he delivered at Gympie on 30th March, 1909. This speech was republished, and, I understand, revised by the Prime Minister himself. At the time he spoke, he was Prime Minister in the first Fisher Government, and this is what he said, in dealing with a land and absentee tax -
I cannot ‘close without mentioning an item which is probably expected by you and the people of Australia. We propose to submit to Parliament a Bill to provide for the taxation of unimproved land values - (Cheers) - with a ,£5,000 exemption, and that exemption is the same as that in force in New Zealand. We propose, further, as regards absentees, that they shall have to pay, in addition to the tax specified in the schedule I shall read, an additional one penny, so that absentees living in other countries and owning large estates here shall pay more than those living in the Commonwealth and helping to develop it by their own presence and labours. The effect will be seen in this schedule -
The last-named amount represents a tax on estates of £60,000. Absentees would be charged 1d. extra in each case, with no exemption. It is a fair tax, a reasonable tax, and a necessary tax, if Australian lands are to he developed as they should be.
All this leads to the conclusion that the tax would not exceed the amount stated in the schedule he then read, and the policy declared was clearly that of the Labour Government. Subsequently the Labour Ministry were defeated, and then the present Prime Minister contested the constituency of Wide Bay as Leader of the Labour party. There had been no Labour Conference or any gathering of the caucus or other particular body which altered that policy, which, as I say, went throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth as that of the. Labour party. The Prime Minister again spoke in his electorate, and his speech was reported in the Gympie Truth and Mining Record. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister will say that the reportwas a fair one.
– I shall accept any newspaper reports except those sent in from little country places by people who were not really newspaper correspondents.
– I should not regard Gympie as a country place, nor the Gympie Truth and Mining Record as anything but an important newspaper. At any rate, I understand that the first speech to which I have referred was revised by the Prime Minister.
– I did not revise it; I do not revise one in twenty of my speeches in Parliament.
– At any rate, that speech went forth as embodying the policy of the Labour party. The second speech at Gympie was reported on Tuesday, 22nd March, 1 9 10, by the Gympie Truth and Mining Record, and the speech was delivered on the previous Saturday night. After dealing with some general matters, the Prime Minister went on to say -
They desired, as a party, to impose an unimproved land value tax on estates over £5,000 unimproved value. Between £5,000 and £10,000 they proposed to impose1d. in the £1 ; between £10,000 and £15,0001½d., and so on on a graduated scale until between £50,000 and £60,000 the amount would be 4d. in the £1. That scale was for settlers on the land living in Australia. In regard to absentees there would be no exemption. The reason for that was that the people in Australia contributed annually 50s. per head to the Federal Treasurer.
Then, a manifesto was issued on behalf of the Labour party, signed by the honorable member for Newcastle and the Prime Minister, and containing the following: -
Land monopoly is the curse of Australia. With immense areas of fertile land within reasonable distance of great centres of population, blessed with a regular rainfall, sufficient to support fifty millions of people in comfort, a population of less than five millions cannot obtain land for its own limited requirements. The foundation of all national greatness and prosperity must rest upon some form of agricultural or pastoral pursuits. In the Commonwealth nearly 80 per cent, of the people live in towns, over 50 per cent, are crowded in the six capital cities of the several States. Such conditions are unnatural ; they make for degeneration, they invite disaster, they make healthy progress impossible. We must get the. bulk of the people on the land. To do that we must kill land monopoly. If we do not destroy land monopoly it will surely destroy us.
– What manifesto is that?
– I am reading the manifesto from the Sydney Morning Herald of 5th March, 1910. There may be other references to the subject in it which I have not had time to see. It is pretty clear from what appeared in the report of the first Gympie speech-
– That was twelve months before the elections were held.
– But the second speech was in March, 1910.
– The speech deals only with lands up to£60,000 in value.
– And only 4d. was mentioned as the rate for estates of £50,000. in value, and over.
– The Prime Minister did not say he would stop at that rate.
– The honorable member for Hume says that was the impression conveyed to the public.
– In the opinion of the honorable member for Hume !
– It is not a question of opinion, but of what was intended to beconveyed to the people of Australia by thewords used.
– The honorable member ought to tell us what he told the people, namely, that the tax would be confiscatory.
– I told the people that the impression on my mind, from the Gympie speech, was that the tax would stop at 4d.
– Nobody ever said the tax would be confiscatory.
– That is only a matter of terms with which I am not now dealing. If the honorable member for Capricornia can produce a speech made by any honorable member opposite in which it was stated that the tax would go as high as 6d., that honorable member will be exonerated.
– A number were of opinion that the tax would be above 6d.
– Some members of the Opposition said it would be is.
– I never heard a member of the Opposition say that the tax would be is., and I should be very much surprised to see a single speech to that effect. The whole question was discussed throughout the country on the assumption that the tax would be 4d. ; and the honorable member for Hume is perfectly justified in “asking the Government to seriously take the matter into consideration.
– I am bound only by what I told my electors.
– Yes, but Australia looked for guidance as to the proposals of the party, not to the honorable member, but to his leaders, and it was generally understood throughout the Commonwealth that if the party came into power it would propose a land tax at a rate not exceeding 4d. Apart from this, I would urge upon the Prime Minister the need for showing consideration to those whose land is being used to the fullest extent possible, and from whom the proposed tax would in some instances take all the income, and in others more than the income derived from it. I ask him if it is not possible to so amend the schedule as to allow these special cases, when proved to the satisfaction of the Commissioner, or some other responsible person, to have special treatment. Mfn who are not using their land to the fullest extent have no excuse for not paying the tax, but in a Bill presented to the Queensland Parliament on one occasion, it was provided that special consideration should be shown to the holders of land which was being used to its fullest extent. Although the Prime Minister has not made any announcement on the subject, I hope that he intends to pay regard to the cases which were put before faim by a deputation, and to avail himself of an opportunity to verify the statements made concerning them. It is unnecessary to make public the affairs of private persons, but the Prime Minister should satisfy himself of the truth of the statements made to him, and provide for consideration in all such cases as I have referred to. Honorable members opposite say that they have no desire to impose a confiscatory tax, or tonationalize the land ; that they aim only at the encouragement of settlement, and the providing of revenue.
– At the beginning they professed not to desire to get revenue by this means.
– 1 am dealing with their recent statements. The western lands of some States could not advantageously be subdivided as rich agricultural holdings could be. There are one or two estates in Queensland which I should like to see subdivided, but there are many others which could not with advantage to the State be subdivided. The Prime Minister has professed a desire that this legislation shall work smoothly and fairly, and I hope therefore that he will listen to the appeal of the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Hume, and make the tax less heavy than it is.
.- The honorable member for Darling Downs has proved beyond doubt that the manifesto and official programme of the Labour partypublished during the last elections stated that 4d. was to be the maximum amount of the proposed land tax. The honorable member for Maribyrnong, however, says that he told his constituents that the tax should be 6d. ; and other candidates may have advocated still higher amounts, going even to the confiscation of the full income from the land. They are, of course, entitled - it is, in fact, their duty - to endeavour to give effect to the views which they put before their electors. But if the Prime Minister and his colleagues regard themselves seriously as the trustees of democratic principles, they must do all that they can to see that what they said would be clone by them, if returned to power, and no more, is done.
The statements of some honorable members opposite suggest that a free hand should be given to them in Committee.. Some of them are opposed to the taxation of city property, others would tax all property, and in Committee they should do their best to give effect to the promises made to their electors, unless they are willing to confess themselves caucus-ridden, and bound by decisions come to in a room in this building, to which the representatives ofthe press are not admitted to make public what happens there. I hope that honorable members opposite, seeing that they have made different promises to the electors, will not vote as a machine.
– I ask the honorable member not to use that language.
– Provision should be made for cases in which land is not suitable for closer settlement. There need fee no differentiation between States or parts of States” in doing that. It is obvious that land close to railway communication and yet worth not more than £1 per acre, and unsuitable for anything but grazing, should not be penally taxed merely because held in large areas. Any given area of pool pastoral land, whether in the hands of one owner or of several, would, generally speaking, employ the same number of men. Certainly, in my view, the tax on land not worth more than £1 per acre should not exceed1d. in the £1, as an impost for revenue purposes. Any heavier taxation will throw it out of occupation, and hand it back to the rabbits, making the difficulties of settlers on adjoining land greater than they are to-day.
The rabbit pest can be checked only by bringing into use all available areas, and where country is unsuited for close settlement, it is better that it should be fenced and used for grazing than left entirely unoccupied as a breeding ground for vermin, which will spread from it into adjoining areas. I urge the advisableness of putting a flat tax on land whose value is estimated at less than £1 per acre, so that pastoral land which is not suited for other uses may not be so heavily taxed that its present holders will throw it up.
In his epoch-making utterance at Gympie the Prime Minister stated that the intention of the measure was to settle population on the lands of Australia. The tax now proposed has a far wider interpretation. I do not know whether the honorable member for East Sydney would refer to “ the settlers “ or “the lands “ of Woolloomooloo.
– If we had a tax on flats, the honorable member would be taxed at a heavy rate.
– And if there were a tax on sharps, the honorable member would not have to pay a penny. That, however, is not the point. The point is that the proposal for a Federal land tax was indorsed by the people of Australia because of certain speeches made by the Prime Minister, and those associated with him, in which they declared in the first place that it was to burst up large estates, and settle districts suitable for settlement, and, in the next, that it was not to exceed 4d. in the £1.
If honorable members opposite do not wish to betray the trust reposed in them, they will seek in Committee to give expression by their individual votes to the individual pledges that they gave to their constituents. If they do that, no one who has any regard for the principles of Democracy will have any fault to find with them, although one may disagree in particular instances with their judgments. If, on the other hand, they vote solidly as one instead of each voting in accordance with his election pledges, we shall have conclusive proof that Parliament has ceased to be a free, deliberative Chamber, but nowadays is only a place to register the decisions of men who do not, or cannot, give the reasons that have prompted them to depart from their platform statements upon the question, and have made them betray the pledges that they gave to the electors when asking them to repose trust in their discretion, judgment, and honour.
.- I have not followed all the speeches made by honorable members on the hustings, but I remember having read that the Leader of the Labour party in Victoria, in 1904, proposed a land tax, with an exemption of £500, and a maximum rate of 3d. in the £1. That was a declaration of the principle that the unimproved values of estates should be taxed with a view to bringing about their subdivision. The electors reading such statements would come to the conclusion that the Labour party, in Victoria, at all events, considered that a tax of 3d. in the £1 was sufficient to accomplish their purpose. Mr. J. C.Watson, some time afterwards, speaking, I assume, as the Leader of the Federal Labour party, outlined a proposal for a land tax, the gradations of which may be briefly stated. The first imposition was to be of½d. in the £1 on estates of the unimproved value of from £5,001 to £10,000. The grades were smaller than those now proposed, and, until estates of the unimproved value of £50,000 or £60,000 were reached, were less than those for which this Bill provides. Honorable members are paying particular attention to the maximum rate proposed, but we ought to consider the intermediate rates. The first step in the land tax proposed by Mr. Watson was½d. in the £1 in the case of estates of the unimproved value of from £5.001 to £10,000. The next was a rate of1d. in the £1 in the case of estates of an unimproved value ef from £10,001 to £15,000, and thereafter the rates were gradually increased, until a maximum of 4d. in the £1 was reached in the case of estates of the unimproved value of £60,001, and upwards. We had then two suggestion as to what ought to be the limit of taxation to accomplish the object which the Labour party had in view, and inasmuch as the present Leader of the Labour party suggested some twelve months ago that the rates should be practically the same as those proposed by Mr. Watson, the public, on the whole, in indorsing the policy of a Federal land tax, must have thought . that those rates would be adopted. A mere general mandate for the imposition of a land tax does not amount to much, because, after all, I suppose that three-fourths of the members of this House are in favour of some form of land taxation. The main question relates to the rates to be imposed, and it seems to me that this Bill, so far as rates are concerned, does not correctly represent the mandate given to the Labour party at the last general election. In matters of direct taxation, the rates proposed should be stated at election time. In connexion with the proposal to impose indirect taxation, of course the limits are not mentioned at a general election. We simply declare the principle, because one cannot indicate whether the rates on particular commodities should amount to 10, 20, or 30 per cent. We do not want to take the people into our confidence as to what the Customs duties are to be, but in the matter of direct taxation the position is entirely different. No disclosure of the amount could possibly bring about a leakage. The references to which I have alluded indicate that the electors did make a mistake in giving a general mandate to the Government, believing that they were returning them to impose a land tax the maximum rate of which would be 4d. in the£1. All that is desired can be accomplished by an amendment of the schedule. A small tax on the unimproved value of the land would create a tendency towards subdivision. It would not be harsh ; it would be effective from thepoint of view of a sane policy, and it would enable us to obtain a great deal of subdivision without ari)’ sudden clogging of the market. If this high tax succeeds, the market will be flooded with estates, and there will be a consequent diminution of values to an extent that I am sure no honorable member desires. But, if a fair tax were placed on the unimproved value of land all round, with an exemption of, say,£1 per acre, which would approximately cover the. amount originally paid to the Crown,it would have the effect, in conjunction with the land taxation of the States, of creating such a timidity in regard to the aggregation of large estates as would bring about subdivision, and, without doing injury to any one, those conditions whichboth sides of the House desire. That could be shortly brought about by an amendment of the schedule so as to declare that, for so much of the taxable value as exceeds £1 per acre, the rates shall be1d. in the £1. My suggestion has, at all events, the recommendatian of economy of phraseology ; and I hope that the Government will consider the policy that it embodies.
– I rise to indorse the statement made by the honorable member for Darling Downs, that the electors at the last general election believed that the maximum rate to be imposed was 4d. in the £1. I am an elector of average intelligence, and I must say that I heard of a tax of 6d. in the £1 for the first time when the honorable member for Corangamite was moving the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. The honorable member said plainly that he advocated a rate of 4d. in the £1. He declared that they were told that the owner of a property of the unimproved value of £100,000 could “ pay a tax of 4d. in the £1, and smile.” And, because he could do that, apparently the honorable member considered that the tax should be made still higher. Evidently there was to be no joy in Corangamite after the imposition of this tax. The Prime Minister, in his policy speech at Gympie, mentioned a maximum rate of 4d. in the £1 ; and, just as I should have felt bound to tell the electors if I disagreed with any proposal in the policy speech of my Leader, so I think that honorable members opposite, if they disagreed with that statement in the speech made by the Prime Minister, should have told the people so.
– They should give consideration to their utterances ; but their first pledge is to their constituents.
– If any honorable members opposite disagreed with the proposal which their Leader made at Gympie, that the maximum tax should be 4d. in the £1, they should have made that fact perfectly plain. I do not think any of them made it clear to the people that they intended to support the imposition of a higher rate. The general impression in the minds of the people was that the tax would nol exceed 4d. in the £1, and to go beyond that rate would be almost to commit a breach of trust. I am very pleased that this Bill is not to be carried beyond the second-reading stage until we have disposed of the machinery measure. I have known for years many people in the western Riverina who have been struggling hard. Until the breaking up of the drought in 1903, they were almost financially submerged. They put up a plucky fight, and the general impression of those who know the position of affairs there is that men who went into the district, purchased land at £1 per acre, and borrowed money to pay for it, have never got out of debt. During the last few years they have had good seasons and high prices, and that has enabled them to recover, to some extent. We might reasonably adopt the suggestion of imposing, either a very low tax, or nothing at all, in respect of the amount originally paid to the Crown. Unless we do so, we shall practically push these men once more into a sea of financial troubles. Their estates are necessarily large. It takes 4 or 5 acres to carry a sheep, and the owners of these properties have never had a chance. They have paid the Government for their land, and their purchase money has been expended on the construction of railways, and tha supplying of other conveniences. If they are called upon to pay these heavy rates of taxation, they will be forced either into the Insolvency Court, or to lose their properties. Their case deserves the most earnest consideration ; and I am sure that honorable members opposite do not desire to do an injustice to such a very large section of the community. I hope the Ministry may see some reasonableness in the matter, and be able to do justice to this large and unfortunate class of people.
– I should like to see the amount which was paid for the land in the first place to the Governments of Australia exempted from the tax, whether it was £1, 10s., or 2s. 6d. per acre. To that extent the land should be exempt from tax, just as much as should any improvements. At the proper time I shall propose an amendment to that effect. It would be fair to the land-owners and to the country, and I hope honorable members opposite will recognise that there can be no increment in the case of the amount originally paid for the land. Some one received it, and some one has had the benefit of it. It was used for opening up the country, and the very people who are now to be taxed found the money at a time when money was hard to get. They were pressed to buy the land in those days, and no hardship would be done to any one if we made an exemption, which we could well afford to make, in the direction I have indicated.
– I agree entirely with what was said this afternoon by the honorable mem: ber for Hume. Until we came to the House this session no one had the remotest idea that we would be confronted with . a sixpenny land tax. Throughout the elections, as far as I heard, every one on the other side pinned his faith to a fourpenny rate. None of them went the lengths to which they have gone since. Evidently, now that they are away from the call of the electors, they believe that, for three years at any rate, they can indulge their own fancy as to how far they shall penalize the land-owners of Australia. I hope there will be a division upon the second reading of this Bill, so that those who desire to vote for a sixpenny rate can do so, while those who desire a smaller rate may have an opportunity of voting for it. I cannot too strongly reprobate the action which the Prime Minister himself says he took during the election, in keeping 33 ‘per cent, of the tax up his sleeve, and only bringing it down after the election was over. If there is one thing expected from a Prime Minister it is that, he shall deal candidly with the electors, and I submit that the honorable member was playing a political trick when he told the people that the tax would be up to 4d. in the £1, while his intention, as translated into his notes, was altogether different. There is nothing straightforward about that kind of conduct. The honorable member now falls back on certain vague phrases, which amount to very little, in view of the definite calcula-tions made and submitted to the country. .
We have heard a great deal of asseveration on the other side that in no circumstances will any of my honorable friends favour anything in the shape of confiscation. I wonder what confiscation is, as applied to the land tax,
– The honorable member ought to know.
– I do know, but the honorable member, as usual, only quotes a little bit of what I said, and does not at all indicate my opinions at that time. The honorable member will never find any occasion on which I advocated a tax of this description. I have never believed in a graduated land tax.
– Will the honorable member tell us what he did mean?
-“ When I was a child, I spake as a child. When I became a man, I put away childish things.” Like many another young student of economic matters, I used to believe that I could convert this weary old world in a few years to sounder methods of taxation. I should give a great deal to have the enthusiasm now that I had in those early days. Those opinions of mine at that time, set against this tax, will show the two things to be as different as light from dark. In the first place there was no idea of graduating taxation at that time. Graduation destroys the whole scientific basis of the tax. In those days, our Government was engaged in removing almost every article we could get from the Tariff, and so relieving the landowners, whom we sought to tax, to the extent of nearly the whole of their indirect taxation. Nothing of that sort is proposed here. Seventeen shillings per head has been put on to the indirect taxation of these people, and in addition the Government are putting on 10s. a head in the shape of direct taxation. It has been said time and again during the debate on the other measure, by honorable members opposite, that the poor were paying 75 per cent, of the whole of the taxation of Australia under the present Tariff. But is there any proposition in this measure to relieve them by one penny? They will still have to pay their full quota of indirect taxation. All the Free Traders on the other side have cast that part of their programme behind them long ago, and now they are trying to make the people believe that in some way or other the poor will get an advantage by taxing the big men.
– The honorable member is pledged to leave the Tariff alone.
– And I am pledged to leave this alone, too, which makes all the difference. The honorable member is out for a taxation orgy.
– Some of the honorable member’s friends on the Opposition side are prepared to take all, even up to is. in the £t.
– I am learning a lot about my friends over here. The honorable member will find no one on this side advocating additional taxation at present. The party over here have come to the conclusion that, with any sound and prudent system of financing, there ought to be no need at present for one penny of additional .taxation.
– Then why did the honorable member bring down a borrowing policy ?
– Because we believed in doing the thing straightforwardly, and not by the strategems and tricks which the present Government are adopting to do the same thing. We believed in financing the Navy by a straightforward policy.
– Will the honorable member confine his attention to the subject before the Chair?
– I am discussing this Bill in relation to the whole question of finance.
– The honorable member is discussing a matter outside the Bill altogether. He must not debate a question which has already been dealt with by the House.
– I propose io connect my remarks with the measure.
– I have no desire to stop the honorable member, but an interjection was made across the Chamber, and the honorable member proceeded to show why the Government of which he was a member desired to adopt a certain financial policy. The question before the Chair is the second reading of a measure fixing the rates of land taxation, and not the Naval Loan Act, or the reasons why it was introduced.
– I am simply engaged in showing that there is no need for this tax. The honorable member for Maranoa made a pertinent interjection as to how we proposed to finance the Navy if we had money enough. I propose to show that, by any prudent system of financing, this tax is unnecessary, and simply to make an incidental reference to the naval loan.
– The honorable member is going beyond an incidental reference ; and I ask him to deal with the question before the Chair.
– I come back, then, to my point that the tax is unnecessary, since there is an abundance of revenue, if properly husbanded, and if a prudent system of national finance, such as the late Government proposed, is adopted. But the Government are piling up liabilities. They will have nothing to do with any proposal to borrow for public works. Their only idea is to create a void in the Consolidated Revenue, so that it may be filled up with the taxation of the land values of Australia. When honorable members taunt us over here with the desire to do this and the other, I challenge them to find any statement by us that we believe in taxing the people for the sake of taxing them, or to prove that we have, anywhere, at any time, proposed to impose this heavy direct taxation on the top of the indirect taxation which it is the sole monopoly of the Commonwealth to impose. If this tax is superimposed upon the Commonwealth, it will mean that taxation has increased, since we entered Federation, by no less than 27s. per capita. How long the people outside are going to stand this kind of thing I do not know. Great is the power of these ideals, and powerful is the use my friends make of them ; but there will come a day of reckoning, when the people will find that, instead of being made more comfortable in their home life, and having their lot made lighter - instead of their means being made more plentiful and their outlook on life easier - the only result of all this controversy and argument has been to fasten on them, definitely and for all time, a heavy load of taxation from which they will not be able to escape. Once we impose taxation it creates, so to speak, a vested interest for .itself, and makes a constituency of its own, and it is very difficult to afterwards remove it. Let such taxation get a start, and it will entrench itself, rendering it by no means easy to economize subsequently. That has been found in every country, and in the House of Commons as well as here. In the meantime, I point out that what my friends opposite are doing is what the veriest tyro could do. It takes no statesmanship to impose taxes; if there is plenty of power behind you it is the easiest thing in the world. Economy nowadays is out of the question; the old watchwords have gone, and we are realizing, as the people most directly interested will realize in the near future, that
Socialism means a devouring monster of taxation which will not give them an equivalent to make up for the tremendous amount it abstracts from their daily earnings and comfort. If there is one place more than another that has demonstrated this truth, it is New Zealand, our neighbour, where such experiments have been in progress for fifteen or sixteen years. There the imposition of graduated systems of taxation has been followed inevitably by a tremendous increase in the cost of living, such as is to be found scarcely anywhere else. According to the highest authorities, it is costing more to live in New Zealand than almost in any other country. 1 have yet to learn that a system of government and a prosecution of ideals, which have the one and only result of making it more difficult to get the necessaries of life, are ultimately going to be for the benefit of the working man. In the meantime, it is proposed to impose a burden of 17s. per head on his back, with more promised in the near future ; and on the top of all, another 10s. per head in the case of a few land-owners in the country. I wonder what all this will do in the way of ameliorating the conditions of the people who are already heavily burdened with taxation, and who have to pay out of their scanty earnings so much more than the cost of their daily bread. These are questions which go to the fundamentals of all reform, but they are being burked by my honorable friends opposite - cast out as unworthy of consideration. I venture to say that, before many years are over, there will come a time for serious reflection amongst the working people of Australia. They will begin to wonder what they have got out of this so-called reform - out of this desire to savagely hit one or two of the large land-owners. It is beside the purpose to say that at some time in my life I have been in favour of heavy land taxation. My answer is that that taxation, rightly or wrongly, was supposed to rest upon a scientific basis, and to be in relief of other burdens ; it was intended to be substitutionary and not additional. Honorable members opposite never will, and never do, give anybody credit, but only quote something that may have been said, and distort it out of its meaning. However, it does not much matter what I or anybody else believed twenty years ago. We are faced with a practical problem today ; and in their heart of hearts, there are at least a dozen honorable members opposite who do not believe in this tax. It is in the teeth of all their protestations ever since they have been in political life. If anybody has made a “ bolt,” they have, and they have made it rapidly and very recently. They have always believed in a different system of land taxation from that which they are now supporting.
– I supported this taxation seventeen years ago !
– The honorable member, yes; but an honorable member, only last night, was discussing this question and talking about what I said and believed in, and when I asked him whether he believed in heavy direct taxation superimposed on this heavy indirect taxation, of course he declined to answer. Had he spoken honestly, he would have been obliged to say that he did not believe in it - that there was neither principle nor sense in a land tax proposal such as this. But that honorable member is behind the Government, and I have no quarrel with him on that score. He takes his own course, but he and others ought not to taunt people about something they may have done twenty years ago, “when every day they themselves are making a complete volte-face in connexion with this very matter.
We are told that this tax is not confiscatory, but that the Government repudiate any such idea. I should like to hear at what point honorable members opposite would regard confiscation as being reached. Supposing this tax were doubled, would they still consider that confiscation had not been reached? The average income from land is supposed to be 5 per cent., and that is the basis on which all the States and municipalities work in assessing for taxation. According to the scale which has been issued by the Government, a ^100,000 company as well as a £100,000 owner will have to pay ,£2,010, or £2 os. 2^-d. for every £100 of taxable value. The taxation represents more than 33 per cent. At what point is confiscation to be reached? Is there any intention, at any time, to relieve the taxpayer in any way, or to give him easier conditions in other directions? He may have paid for his land only last year, expecting it to give him the average yield of 5 per cent. ; but he now will find himself suddenly deprived of 33 per cent, of his income. As sure as daylight, that means that the value of his holding must depreciate to the extent of 33 per cent. ; in other words, 33 per cent, of his investments is gone. Supposing that when a station-owner had finished up the year and got- his returns for his wool, the Federal Government went to him and demanded 33 per cent, of the money he had received, would that not be a much more straightforward way than the imposition of the proposed tax? I am not now on the question of the righteousness of the tax, but only dealing with the wisdom of imposing it through Federal machinery. Such a man would naturally ask the Federation, “What have you done for it? Why should you get this tax ? “ He would point out that the road had been made for him by the State Government.
– With borrowed money !
– What has that to do with the argument? If it is borrowed money the States are behind the loan and are paying interest. Indeed, the interjection only strengthens my point. If the State has borrowed money to make roads into these huge homesteads-
– Bridges that are now rotten are being renewed out of loan funds.
– That is not correct, but it is near enough for the honorable member.
– It is so in my own State.
– The States do not build new bridges out of loan money except iron bridges which last a lifetime. “Rotten” bridges are not renewed out of loan money.
– I am speaking of my own State.
– I thought I was discussing an Australian question. I apologize to the honorable member ; but we are not discussing a matter that relates to Tasmania alone. I shall do so in a moment; but, in the meantime, I say that it is not a broad Australian fact that bridges are renewed out of loan money, where they have been originally made out of loan.
– I should like some instance to the contrary.
– Nothing of the kind has been done in my own State.
– I thought the honorable member was speaking from “ a broad Australian ‘’ stand-point !
– And I venture to. say that it is not being done in Victoria.
– I should like an instance to the contrary.
– I do not know what the honorable member desires me to do.
– Apparently the honorable member cannot give an instance.
– I make the statement that such a thing has not been clone, and it is a slander on the States to say otherwise. Can the honorable member prove the contrary?
– Yes, easily.
– However, supposing that the States do borrow money to make roads and bridges and provide railways, so that the land-owner may get his wool to market, I presume interest has to be paid on the loan. Is that not a reason why the taxpayer himself should say that the Commonwealth has no right to the tax, but that the revenue belongs to those who have provided him with facilities?
– The people are already taxed by the shire councils for the roads and bridges.
– The shire councils have nothing to do with the railways or permanent bridges, but only with a very small portion of the governmental machinery of the State, though, doubtless, the shire councils have a good deal to do now under their extended powers. In New South Wales they are now enabled to tax land values, and they are doing so, in many cases, up to 2d. in the £1. Now the Commonwealth propose to make the same taxpayers pay another 6d. in the £1, making 8d., so that we cannot get very much more in that direction, having regard to the average return from the land, unless we arrive at something which, if not confiscation, amounts to the same thing. I apprehend, however, that the honorable member would say that even if the whole of the income were taken it would not be confiscation.
– The taxation of 6d. could easily be got ii.d of by putting the lands to better use.
– Then the purpose of the tax is not revenue?
– We desire to settle people on the land.
– Is it not a pity that honorable members opposite cannot all say the same thing. Last night, the hon orable member for Maribyrnong was careful to say that he had not advocated on the platform a tax for the bursting up of large estates; that what he had advocated was a tax to provide revenue for defence and other legitimate purposes.
– I advocated a land tax primarily to get revenue, but, secondarily, to break up the big estates.
– The honorable member last night denied that he had advocated the tax as one to burst up large estates; now we are told that the landholder can avoid it by subdividing his property, and the honorable member is driven to advocate it as a means for breaking up large estates. No doubt he did not advocate a tax of 6d. in the £1.
– My constituents know that I am ready to impose a rate considerably higher than 6d.
– The honorable member would not call that a confiscatory tax, I suppose. The honorable member for Calare years ago advocated a system of taxation which gave relief to the large land-holders in return for the direct taxation which they paid. Having changed his views, he now taunts others with having done so. Apparently, he no longer believes in the system of taxation which he advocated fifteen yeais ago.
– The honorable member made me a working bullock in regard to the measures to which he is alluding, and denounced me afterwards.
– Nothing of the kind. But, even so, does that justify the honorable member in the course which he is now taking? He has always been in opposition to land taxation as additional taxation.
– I should like to see the indirect taxation reduced, but if that cannot be done, I am ready to impose direct taxation.
– That is a political answer. The honorable member has been in favour of a land tax as a main, and not as a substituted, tax, but he has changed his opinion. If any one had told him fifteen years ago that he would support a land tax with an exemption of £5,000, he would not have believed it. A number of honorable members opposite are in the same boat, and the party represents as curious a mixture of political principles as has ever been seen in Australia. I should like to know at what point this tax would become confiscatory, assuming that it is to be an additional, and sot a substituted tax. According to the honorable member for Franklin, a man in Tasmania holding £100,000 worth of land now pays £600 per annum to the State, and, under the Bill, will have to pay £1,500 more to the Commonwealth, while the man holding £10,000 worth of land pays £40 per annum to the State, and will Wave to pay another £20 to the Commonwealth. We are acting unfairly in applying direct taxation to the whole Commonwealth without regard to the circumstances of the several States. Why should landowners in Tasmania pay more than landowners in Queensland? They are taxed alike through the Customs Tariff.
– There is not a land value tax in Tasmania.
– I am aware of that. It does not alter the fact that the land-owners there who pay a heavy tax to the State will have to pay an additional tax fo the Commonwealth, while the landowners on the mainland will have only the Commonwealth tax to pay.
– Then let the land-owners of Tasmania come over to the mainland.
– I wish all to be treated fairly. We should try to mete out even-handed justice to every individual in the Commonwealth.
– We have nothing to do with the taxation of the States, and cannot discriminate between them.
– My complaint is that a Federal land tax should not be imposed without the exercise of discrimination, and a consideration of local circumstances, which we cannot give. We can apply only a uniform tax, which must work unjustly. What sense is there in taxing at the same rate estates in Victoria, where it is difficult to get cheap land, and estates in Queensland, where abundance of good land is to be obtained practically for nothing? The proposed tax is fundamentally a penal one. But why should we penalize land-holders in Western Australia when the State is asking people to accept land for nothing, and is offering to finance their operations? The confession that we cannot discriminate is a confession that we ought not to impose a penal tax of this kind.
– The honorable member’s statements amounts to this, that if a State imposes a land tax,_ this Parliament cannot do so.
– My point is that land taxation by the Commonwealth is not necessary for the production of revenue, if our financial affairs are prudently managed, and that it will bear unequally, because of the differing conditions of the States, working in some cases as an engine of tyranny, and not as an engine of reform. No doubt the day will come when we shall be able to lay our imposts on the people with some degree of fairness, and with a regard to the different conditions of the States, but that is impossible under this proposal.
.- As the question of land taxation was fully debated on the Land Tax Assessment Bill, I shall not prolong the debate unnecessarily. But there seems to have been a change of opinion in the minds of honorable members opposite as to the rate which should be imposed. We are told that they were unanimous in desiring a tax to burst up large estates, and that revenue was not the object in view. Honorable members know that I am opposed on constitutional grounds to this Parliament attempting to abuse its powers in this respect. Every one admits that, under the Constitution, we have no power to control the occupation, settlement, and subdivision of land. Our power of taxation, if it is to be honestly exercised, should not be applied to an effort to do by indirect means that which we have no power to do directly. I do not imagine that any honorable member will openly proclaim that it is fair to do by indirect means that which we have no power to do directly ; yet that is what we are asked to do in this case. Doubtless, as the result of this taxation, some of the larger estates will be subdivided, and their extent reduced. But even if that is brought about, will land be made more readily available for occupation by poor people? If wedeclared to-morrow that no man should’ hold land the unimproved value of whichexceeded £5,000, would we enable poormen to effectively occupy a holding of thatvalue? The improvement and cultivationof such an area is not a poor man’s task. The object of the Labour party is, I presume, that the land shall be cultivated instead of being used for pastoral purposes. Some of them seem to think that land1 which is not cultivated is not wealth producing. They overlook the fact that thepastoral industry yields nearly as much as- is obtained from the agricultural and dairying industries combined.
– But look at the immense areas devoted to pastoral pursuits.
– Most of the large areas in the pastoral districts cannot be used for cultivation purposes, even if this legislation be passed. A rainfall of 6 or 7 inches is sufficient to enable the pastoral industry to be carried on with success in many parts of Australia, but it would be wholly inadequate for cultivation purposes. In the north-west of Western Australia a big pastoral business can be carried on with a rainfall of 1 or S inches; but will honorable members say that, under existing conditions, cultivation would be successful there? Then, again, take the lands far removed from ‘ any river system. The area embraced by the Lake Eyre system is a very large one, but is it either likely or possible that it will be brought under cultivation as the result of this taxation? As large an area is drained into Lake Eyre as is drained by the Murray. In an immense part of central Australia there are no rivers running into the sea, and practically no river system at all. Land on the outskirts of that territory is used for pastoral purposes; but will that land be brought under closer settlement by reason of the operation of this Bill?
– The unoccupied lands of central Australia are not worth anything. If they were they would be occupied.
– Very few honorable members realize the extent of country in central Australia, which has no river system.
– What ‘about underground water supplies?
– I do not think that there are any underground water supplies in the tertiary desert sandstone country; but abundance of water could be obtained by boring in the Lake Eyre basin, and land there may be devoted later on even to cultivation. I again ask honorable members opposite how it would be possible for a poor man to obtain a block of the unimproved value of £5,000, even if, as the result of the imposition of this taxation, no estate in Australia exceeded that value?
– He has no hope of getting one now.
– How would he obtain such a block in the circumstances :I have mentioned?
– He would be able to buy the land on terms, or to lease it.
– The cry that land is very scarce has been threshed out.
– We do not say that land is scarce, but we do say that the best land is very scarce.
– The Labour party have become to a large extent so demoralized that they think that people should be able to get easily the very best land. They wish to be able to obtain land that has been improved and cultivated with an orchard and strawberry garden already provided, and to have houses built upon it for them. One honorable member opposite said that he. told his constituents that if at the end of three years large estates were not subdivided as the result of taxation imposed by the Labour party, their work could be considered a failure.
– The honorable member is now referring to a debate that has been ellosed
– At the end of three years, the position will not be very different from what it is now.
– We shall have some more revenue.
– But if this taxation is designed to raise revenue, why is it that the land alone is taxed?
– One thing at a time.
– It is surprising with what equanimity some people view a proposal of this kind, when they are not affected by it. I have no desire to be personal, but I suppose that scarcely a member of the Labour party opposite will be affected by this tax.
– There are some who will be.
– If any honorable member opposite will be affected by it, let him say so. Honorable members opposite can view with complacency the taxation of others, knowing that they themselves will escape.
– That remark applies to the taxation which the honorable member’s party proposed long ago.
– When an honorable member talks of imposing one tax at a time, it is only fair that he should be asked whether he, or any of his party, will be affected by the heavy burdens that they are placing on a certain section of the community.
– On the back of the poor landlords.
– It is very brave and self-denying to tax other people.
– This is the first time we have had the chance.
– I shall say something as to that later on. This is a crusade against people who have any possessions. In my own State, we already have a municipal or shire tax as well as a State tax of a Id. in the £1 on all lands, and now we are to have super-imposed upon them a Federal land tax. One begins to ask oneself, “ What is going to happen : what is this to end in?” People will, I fear, say, “ I had better get rid of my investments in land, and lay out my money in some other direction. Because I hold land, I am not only to be taxed out of existence, so to speak, but to incur the absolute enmity of certain of my fellow-citizens.”
– No. Every one has the highest respect for the right honorable member.
– What, for a man who holds land ? I should have thought, judging by the statements of honorable members opposite, that there was nothing but enmity and malice and all uncharitableness for land-owners. I do not say that honorable members opposite entertain such feelings, but, judging by their speeches, they are entertained by the people whom they represent. The fact that the Constitution will not allow us to discriminate is a good reason for our not imposing taxation of this kind. It is impossible to impose a just tax on the whole of the freehold lands of Australia without some discrimination. Lands fit for settlement and town lots hardly come within the same category. Some of the town lands are very heavily taxed. In the city of Perth we have a municipal tax on the rental values amounting to over 3s. in the
– Lands so taxed will not be touched by this Bill.
– They will, because in many cases the unimproved value exceeds £5,000. I have known properties which, perhaps, were unsuitable for certain purposes, to be sold at a price little in excess of that which could have been obtained for the land without any improvements. I live in the city of Perth - a humble abode, on which I have to pay nearly £200 a year in municipal taxes and land tax.
– It must be very humble.
– It is rather a valuable property. I have used it as a home for the last thirty odd years ; but it is not desired that one should be compelled to sell his home, and I have, therefore, paid those heavy rates on it. I said just now that it seemed to me that there was a feeling of envy and hatred sought to be planted in the minds of the people in regard to this drastic taxation. I heard to-day from the Minister of Trade and Customs, and heard yesterday, and read in the press from the Attorney-General, statements to the effect that “ Now is our chance; we have been ground down for generations.” The ancestors of the Minister of Trade and Customs, judging by the name, would scarcely be hewers of wood and drawers of water. 1 should have thought that they were the people who had ground down others. I heard the honorable member for Maranoa say, “ They are coming into their own.” I wonder if the honorable member is going to give to others some of the land he has got?
– I have no land.
– I understood that the honorable member had a large principality in western Queensland. Heis generally regarded as what we call a very “ warm “ man. I appeal to honorable members whether there is not some justification for the feeling that is being engendered outside, that this is a vendetta, a sort of long-contemplated attack upon those who have property, when we hear the Attorney-General and the Minister of Trade and Customs say, “ We are going to make restitution to the people of that which was taken from them,” and when the Attorney-General says, “ We have been ground down for generations, and now is our chance.” Fancy such statements coming from Ministers occupying the highest places ! They say, in effect, “ The opportunity has come to us of dealing with these land-owners, and we are going to take advantage of it.” The only inference that can be drawn is that the land-owners have robbed the people of what belongs to the people, and that they have no right to the lands they own. If a large land-owner is a robber, then,’ perhaps, the small land-owner is a robber also. I cannot see much difference. There is, no doubt, a. hunger for land all over the world. It seems natural for people to desire to have large estates. We begin with a small property, and keep on accumulating. I have known working men of the humblest kind in Western Australia get a hunger for land, keep themselves poor in cash all their lives, and gradually accumulate large estates. They have become wealthy in land, but not in cash. Why is that, except that the desire to accumulate land is natural? It is found in the poorest, as well as in the richest. They want something that they can call their own. Those who have no land clamour for leases; but as soon as they get a lease they want the freehold, and generally end by obtaining it. You cannot differentiate between the large and the small land-owners, if the holder ot land is a robber who has taken from the people that which he has no right to obtain. I think that is a fallacious and foolish statement, because they obtain the land under the laws of the country, and no one can be blamed for availing himself of the laws as they exist. If a man has honestly acquired a thing, no one should be able to take it from him, unless he is paid for it. I do not likethis tax, because it seeks to do in an indirect way that which cannot be done directly. Another, and minor, reason is that it cannot accomplish what is desired. A number of people will strive to pay the tax ; but when it gets too heavy for them they will subdivide their holdings; but that will not give the land to the poor man. The only way in which the poor man can get land is by the Government of the country buying it, cutting it up, and selling part of it to him on easy terms. That can be done quickly and effectively ; but this Bill cannot have the effect of putting men who have no money upon the land. That will take generations to do.
– This is a revenue tax.
– We know that that is not the object of the Bill, or, if it is, scarcely1 per cent. of honorable members opposite have said so. I must thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your liberality, during the debate on the land tax, in allowing us to deal with the question of land policy generally. I thought of taking the point that this was a taxing Bill, and that the ulterior object, which we had no direct power to achieve, and which was not mentioned in the Bill, was outside the scope of the discussion; but you gave the Bill a very liberal interpretation, no doubt rightly, because honorable members opposite have scarcely spoken at all about taxation. They have directed all their remarks and energies to the questions of land settlement, subdivision, and occupation. Another objection to this Bill is that it is not necessary. I do not think extra taxation is necessary.
– No big landowner thinks that itis.
– I suppose I have less land than the honorable member, so that that remark does not apply to me.
– I did not direct the remark to the honorable member personally.
SirJOHN FORREST.- At any rate, it does not apply to me. When we proposed last year to raise by Treasury-bills £1,200,000 to meet the deficit, we were told that we were incompetent, and that we ought to raise revenue, just at the time when an agreement was pending between the States and the Commonwealth, and when the Braddon section was nearing the time when it could be terminated. But what is the position now? The Government have, roughly, £3,000,000, which last year had to go to the States. One would have thought that, with that extra amount coming into the national exchequer, they could have financed the Commonwealth without extra taxation. Our Government were going to pay for the Navy over fifteen years, instead of paying for it all at once. The present Government have, of course, far more money for that purpose. They have not proposed to raise £1,200,000 by Treasury-bills, but they intend to get the money in another way, which will have the same result. They will take £1,500,000 from the Trust Fund, from a new source of revenue which was not available last year - money from the note issue. There will be several million pounds available from that source for expenditure of a permanent character, and the Government ought easily to have been able to carry on without borrowing from the Trust Fund. I say deliberately, with knowledge, that there was no necessity for this new taxation, if the ordinary means of financing the country had been adopted. If the Government of which I was a member, and which was defeated at the elections, had continued in office, there would have been no proposal for new taxation during this year.
– The honorable member’s Government would have gone to Cohen and company.
– I suppose the honorable member has gone to them a good many times, as we all have, so why despise the men who have been good to you?
Personally, I should have been in Queerstreet many ‘a time if it ha’d not been for those gentlemen. We now have the Labour Government, which we expected to reduce taxation, not only’ getting the money from the note issue, but also nearly three millions of money from the States, and still imposing further taxation. I suppose the practice of taking the money from the Trust Funds will become common as time goes on, as the honorable member foi1 Ballarat feared. Being hard up at the beginning of the year, it will be proposed to take money out of the Trust Funds, with a promise to pay it back at the end of the year, and then it will not be paid back. The honorable member for Hindmarsh knows what happened in South Australia, where more than £1,000,000 was raised by Treasury-bills, and a promise was made, by law, to pay it back. It was never paid back, and finally it was made part of the funded debt; and, perhaps, it will be the same in the Commonwealth as we go along. In my opinion, there is no need for this extra taxation from a revenue point of view; and as for bursting up large estates, the Bill will not achieve the aim honorable members opposite have in view. The whole is an attempt to do in an indirect way what we cannot do directly ; and I disapprove of such a course as most improper; indeed, there is no word I could use which would be too strong to describe the action of honorable members opposite in this respect. If the object of the Bill is to burst up large estates, it should have been so declared on its face, but we are told that this declaration is not made, because, from a constitutional point of view, the measure would then be destroyed. That I regard as a very poor and selfcondemnatory argument. As I say, my first objection is that the measure is unconstitutional, the second is that there is no need for extra taxation, and the third is that the taxation, if it has to be imposed, is altogether too drastic. It makes us feel a little ungenerous when we find those who are capable of giving an opinion, estimate the revenue from the tax at nearly £3,000,000 ; while the Government, without telling us how they arrive at the conclusion, express the opinion that it will produce only £1,000,000. In my judgment, the revenue will be a great deal more than the Government estimate ; and I do not see why a sort of revolution should becreated throughout the country, and every. body rendered dissatisfied, when, as I have already said, there is no necessity for it. If by some means, honest and proper, without injustice to anybody, the lands could be so subdivided as to enable every one to sit under his own fig-tree, no objection could be raised ; because we all desire to see that “bold peasantry, their country’s pride,” of which Goldsmith sings. Such a happy state of affairs, however, will not be brought about by means of this legislation.
– We hope so !
– The honorable member is much too sensible to entertain any such view. However, this land legislation is quite beyond our power under the Constitution, and the legislation now before us is clearly an invasion of the arena of the States. This is a poor return to the people of the States for the generous Constitution under which we work. If it be thought that the Commonwealth can control the lands better than the States’ are doing, let the people be asked to give us the necessary power by amending the Constitution. Up to the present, however, no suggestion has been made in that direction ; and I venture to say that, if it were not for the indirect and unconstitutional object of the Bill, we should have had no proposal for taxation of this kind at the present time. I do not wish to delay the House, and I can only enter my protest, and express my regret that there should be this attempt to invade the jurisdiction of the States by means of taxation so drastic, and which, is in its operation an abuse of our constitutional power.
– I understood that the main question was to be debated on- the Bill previously before us. At the same time, I have no objection to reasonable discussion, nor to the latitude which honorable members opposite are taking on the Bill before us; because this all tends to impress on the public the wide difference there is between the party on this side and the party opposite with respect to this form of taxation. The public have to make up their mini on the question ; and the verdict at the last general election, if it meant anything, meant that a large majority of the electors are favorable to the present measure ; and it is just as well that the line of demarcation between the two parties should be drawn as clearly as possible. When I entered the Chamber just now, the honorable member for Parramatta was holding forth very strongly, and he thought fit to make an attack on myself for the attitude I have taken up in regard to this taxation. I have no desire to import personal matters into the discussion; but I must say that, in my opinion,’ legislation of this character should be accompanied by proposals for the reduction of taxation in other directions, which falls very heavily on the great mass of the consumers. That is an end I have ever sought to secure by my voice and my votes ; and, as I interjected when the honorable member for Parramatta was speaking, I shall never be found wanting in adherence to the principles I have advocated. On looking back over the fights which have taken place during the last ten years in this Parliament, I think I may describe my position in this connexion as that of the working bullock of the party to which the honorable member belongs. At any rate, I know I bore my fair share of the battle, only to find that, when I contested an election, not as the direct nominee of that party, I was misrepresented as an advocate of that form of taxation which it had ever been my effort, at considerable sacrifice in health and otherwise, to reduce or remove. But is the honorable member for Parramatta endeavouring to remove that indirect taxation to which he apparently takes exception now ? In the last Parliament he was a member of a very strong Government, but no attempt was made by him to relieve the public from that form of taxation against- which he tilts so strongly at present. Whatever may have been my conduct, I thank my lucky stars that I do not occupy the position in this House that the honorable member does to-day. I have never yet served under the leadership of the high priest of Protection as the honorable member is now doing.
– The honorable member is doing it now.
– The leader whom I follow has never been pledged lo Protection.
– Yes; and he is now.
– High Protection is no part of the programme of the party to which I belong.
– Yes ; it is.
– The honorable member knows that the present Leader of the Opposition has ever been the mouthpiece of the high Protection policy ; whatever may be that gentleman’s inconsistencies, he has been consistent in that respect. Under all the circumstances, it does not lie with the honorable member for Parramatta to charge me with being false to my principles. The honorable member was very much concerned about the poor taxpayers of Tasmania. That State is very wealthy in the matter of land ; but I find the honorable member contending that, whatever source should be tapped for the means of carrying on the functions of government, the lands should not be touched. According to the latest figures obtainable, those for the year 1908-9, the land-owners of Tasmania contributed only £59,651 to the State Treasury as the result of a direct tax on their property, while those of New South Wales paid £80,794, those of Victoria .£85,559,, those of South Australia £92,i58l and those of Western Australia £33;r2°> a total of £351,282, Queensland having no direct tax on land. It must be remembered, too, that in Tasmania the tax is a tax, not on the communitycreated value, but on the energy of the community. Let us turn by way of contrast to New Zealand, where, in the same year, £604,900 was paid in land taxation, or £253,618 more than was paid in the whole Commonwealth.
– How much was paid in local government taxes on the unimproved value of land?
– The honorable member can get the information from the New Zealand Year-Book. The powers of the local governments of the Dominion are as great as those of our local governments, and their expenditure is equally efficient.
– But not nearly so large.
– It has been contended that the proposed tax will depreciate land values, and that that will affect even the holders of estates whose unimproved value is less than £5,000; but I find that the unimproved value of the land of New Zealand was estimated, in 1892, at £75,832,463, and that, notwithstanding the prophesying of the direst calamities, the effect of the tax there was not to reduce values, the latest estimate of the unimproved value of the land of the Dominion - I give the figures for 1909 - being £177,759,946, an increase of £99,927,483, since 1892; in other words, the land of the Dominion has more than doubled in value since the tax was imposed, and New Zealand, which was almost bankrupt, is now one of the most stable parts of the British Empire.
– Yet it has never had a Labour Government.
– The Government responsible for the position of New Zealand was condemned by the party to which the honorable member belongs as worse than a Labour Government, its members being regarded as extreme Socialists.
– Does the honorable member argue that the tax will increase the value of land?
– If it increases the prosperity of the Commonwealth, land values will increase. At present values are largely artificial, and due to the withholding from sale of land for which there is a demand.
– Then, to increase the national wealth, it is necessary to increase taxation.
– I believe, with the best economic thinkers, that to increase population is to increase the wealth of the community, and the value of its land.
– Does the honorable member contend that the tax will decrease fictitious, and increase real, land values?
– It will decrease fictitious values, and will increase real values in permitting the growth of population and the development of our natural resources.
– Then the price of land will be increased, and land will be still difficult of acquirement.
– It will be worth what is asked for it. In 1891, before the application of land taxation, New Zealand had 262 estates of 10,000 acres or more each, aggregating 7,840,202 acres, the unimproved value of the land being estimated at £12,200,320; but in 1909 there were only 84 such estates, aggregating 1,709,632 acres, the unimproved value being estimated at £5,918,302; that is, 178 large estates, aggregating 6,130,570 acres, and possessing an unimproved value of £6,282,018, have disappeared, having fallen into the hands of small holders. The New Zealand tax started at about onesixteenth of a id. It did not reach its maximum until it applied to the larger estates to which I have referred, and its effect is to be seen in the reduction that I have mentioned. Between the very large holdings ?.nd those of the small and prosperous farmer there is a class which has not diminished in the same ratio, and that is the source to which New Zealand has now to look for a further outlet for settlement. During last year 122 properties, embracing 231,853 acres, were offered to the New Zealand Government for closer settlement, and of that number fourteen properties, comprising the comparatively small area of 48,287 acres, were purchased at a cost of £260,793. The Dominion of New Zealand has expended about £5,407,792 in resuming estates and in subdividing and making them available foi settlement. This to a certain extent has accounted for the reduction in the number of large estates to which I have alluded. Whilst there is an increasing demand for opportunities of settlement in New Zealand, the Government finds it difficult to secure land at a reasonable price that will enable the demand to be met. The inspector reported last year -
There appears to be an unlimited demand foi land, but the Purchase Board is face to face with the difficult task of finding suitable areas at a reasonable price. The price placed upon much of the land offered is prohibitive.
That is due to the incidence of the tax up to a certain point, and to the fact that much of the land affected by the maximum rate has already been made available for settlement. This is a reply to many ot the Cassandra cries of despair to which we have had to listen. All the complaints and objections levelled against this taxation were raised against the New Zealand tax, and experience proves that they were groundless. New Zealand was told that the proposed land tax would decrease production, whereas, since its imposition production has increased. It was also said that it would lead to a fall in the price of land, and yet while it has been in operation the real value has been doubled, and largely because of the newer and better conditions which it has been instrumental in producing. We have been told, further, that the climatic conditions of New Zealand are different from those prevailing in Australia, and that, whilst a land tax of this description might lend itself to the conditions prevailing there, it will not lend itself to those existing in Australia. A writer in a recent issue of the Australian Sun, who is well acquainted with conditions in New Zealand and Australia, expressed himself thus -
As a matter of fact, there is a greater proportion of Australian soil adapted for denser population than” is the case in the Dominion.
He went on to say -
It will certainly be conceded by any one with a passing knowledge of the continental divisions that Australia, proportionately, is infinitely more fertile and capable of productivity than the North American continent.
Reference has also been made during this debate to the effect which this tax will have on urban lands, and we have been urged to eliminate such lands from its operation. I am prepared to deal fairly with every interest, and if possible to so amend the Bill as to meet certain conditions.
– The honorable member is now dealing with another Bill.
– Then I shall not refer further to that point. I desire merely to emphasize the fact that the experience of New Zealand is that a tax of this kind, instead of adversely affecting urban interests, has improved them. It has tended to develop population and industrial possibilities so that urban interests have been improved rather than injured. This principle of taxation has been applied in New Zealand for some years, and the experience of the Dominion proves the utter futility of the objections which have been raised against it. Let us contrast the position in New Zealand to-day with .the state of affairs that obtained before those great reformers Ballance and Seddon came to the rescue of the country; and we shall see that, instead of any interest suffering, everything that tends to promote the well-being of the Commonwealth will be substantially assisted by this beneficent legislation. That being so, I hope that the lines of demarcation that are being drawn by this legislation between the two political forces in the Commonwealth will be so plain that, as in New Zealand, no mistake will be possible as to the side on which the men who stand for the progress and the well-being of Australia are to be found, and the part they claim in the future progress and prosperity of our land.
Sir JOHN QUICK (Bendigo) rS4°lI intend to vote against the second reading of this Bill, first of all, on the ground that the rates of taxation proposed are excessive, extravagant, and unnecessary in view of the financial position of the Commonwealth ; and, secondly, because the basic principle of the tax is unfair and imperfect. Dealing first of all with the question of rates, I should like to draw attention to the difference between the land tax now proposed and that originally projected, as far back as 1908, by a former Leader of the Labour party, Mr. J. C. Watson. In the scheme which he placed before the country the rates were as follow - £5,001 to £10,000, £d. in the £1 ; .£10,001 to £15,000, id. in the £1; £15,001 to £20,000, 1½d. in the £1 ; £20,001 to £25,000, 2d. in the £1 ; and estates over £60,000 in value were to be taxed at the rate of 46. in the £1. That seemed to be a fairly substantial instalment of land taxation, and one would think that it would be quite sufficient for revenue purposes, as well as for any ulterior purpose that might have been contemplated in the shape of the disintegration or subdivision of large estates. That being so, I cannot help joining with some of my honorable friends on this side of the House in expressing surprise and astonishment at the extraordinary increase embodied in this Bill. Under the Watson scheme the rates ran from $d. in the £1 to 4d. in the £1, whereas under this they range from id. in the £1 to 6d. in the £1. There is every reason for suspecting that this change has been made in the direction of a penalizing, rather than a revenue earning, intention. The rates embodied in the Bill afford sufficient ground for strong protest even from those who are disposed to favorably consider land legislation by the Federal Parliament, apart altogether from the question of our constitutional power or authority. The rates alone- are excessively high and unnecessary. I would next draw attention to what I consider to be a fundamental defect in this scheme for the imposition of a progressive land tax based! upon unimproved land values. Apparently, in the estimation of some honorable members, this unimproved land tax is to be worshipped almost as a fetish or idol. Instead of regarding it as a mere means to an end, they seem to dwell upon it with an unction amounting almost to worship. Any tax, whether for revenue earning, or amelioration, or closer settlement purposes, ought to be looked at from the point of view of whether it will reasonably achieve the end in view, without imposing unnecessary hardship, or making unnecessary discriminations. At first blush this tax would appear to be based upon the principle of equality, merely because it is said to be an equal tax upon land values. Though it appears nominally to be based upon an equal rate according to values, in actual operation, I think, it will work with a great deal of real practical inequality and substantial wrong and injustice to individuals and to the country. The tax, according to the Bill, is declared to vary in amount and severity, merely according to unimproved land values, lt does not vary according to large areas, or acreage, or utility, or the purpose for which the lands. are used, or territorial situation, or accessibility to cities, towns, or other large centres of population, or according to railway communication, or conveniences, such as Water supply, or proximity to large rivers, contributing towards earning power and capacity.
– All those items are wrapped up in unimproved value.
– .1 contend that the rate does not vary according to any of those considerations. The lands may have been originally acquired irrespective of all of them. Large improvement may have taken place since the original acquisition of many estates, and these additional facilities, such as water supply, railway communication, and growth of cities and towns in the neighbourhood, may .be contributing factors, but were not originally taken into consideration by the first buyers from the Crown. I contend that any scheme of land taxation, even a scheme based upon land values, ought to vary, not merely according to the increases in value, but according to a well considered plan of classification. All lands in the country are held and dealt with by State laws, according to some well defined scheme of classification. The upset price, or the instalments to be paid to the State on the various classes of land, vary according to the class. Inasmuch as the capital purchase value paid by the purchaser varies according to the principles of classification adopted by State laws, so also should any land tax vary according to certain well defined principles of classification. According to the position, locality, surroundings, condition and earning capacity of the lands, so should the tax vary. That leads me to a second fundamental objection to this tax, that it is based upon the capital value. One penny or 6d. in the £1, as the case may be, is to be exacted from the landowner, according to some estimate of the capita] value. That may be a most difficult thing to ascertain. A tax, such as this, should be based upon .the annual revenueearning capacity of the land - such a principle as is generally adopted in connexion with the State income tax. It is easier and simpler, and more satisfactory, to tax a property upon its annual value, because that can be examined from year to year. The produce of a property from year to year can be dealt with as an existing going concern.
– Does the honorable member mean the annual improved value?
– Certainly. If you can determine the total capital value, you must be able to determine the annual value. It would be much more satisfactory to deal with a property for taxation purposes on the basis of its annual earning value, which may be determined and inquired into from year to year, and may vary from year to year, rather than the capital value, which may depend upon the opinion of some auctioneer, or Government official. It is not a satisfactory basis upon which to tax people, either according to their own opinion of the capital value, or the opinion of a Government expert. You can examine and cross-examine a man on his yearly earnings, and by a process of investigation, arrive at a conclusion as to the annual unimproved value.
– Then the honorable member wants a Federal income tax?
– No j I am outlining a land tax based .upon the annual value j but I object to a Federal land tax altogether. Honorable members opposite are so enamoured of a land tax based upon the capital value that they are not pre-i pared to consider the merits of a modification which would lead to the same results, and be more satisfactory than the present scheme. Moreover, any scheme of land taxation, whether based upon the capital or the annual value, should operate according to the classification of the land. The tax should vary according to whether the land is city, town, or suburban ; whether it is urban or rural land, or country land, as defined by the State land laws. I took part some years ago in a discussion upon the question of the unimproved value of land, when it first originated. I .submitted then that a scheme of unimproved land taxation should vary according to the purpose for which the land was used, and the improvements put upon the land. It is not desirable that the owners of land should be encouraged to stand idly by, and” refrain from improving it, whilst their neighbours are allowed to go on making improvements adding to the value, and die non-improvers share in what is known as the unearned increment. Vacant unimproved lands ought to be compelled to bear a heavier and severer burden of taxation, if we are to have land taxation, than lands which have been largely improved by the expenditure of capital. This Bill draws no distinction between lands which have not been improved, and lands which have been effectively occupied and utilized. A man whose land is a howling wilderness does not suffer any disadvantage under this scheme of taxation as compared with the man who has improved his land by a large expenditure. The scheme of land taxation is therefore imperfect, because it is not based upon a proper principle of classification. It ought to provide for a variation of the tax according to improvements, and effective use and occupation. Another point already referred to by previous speakers is that, in this scheme, the Government propose to try to tax what is called the unearned increment, but at the same time will tax the capital value of the land for which the man or his predecessors in title have honestly paid the Crown in years gone by. I am in favour of an amendment for the exemption of that portion of the unimproved capital value which has been so paid for. I strongly contend that land not used or occupied should be taxed at a higher rate thanland improved, and devoted to its best and highest purposes of utility, and also that poor land should not be taxed at as high a rate as rich and valuable land.
– It will not be. The tax will vary according to the unimproved value.
– It should not be faxed at the same rate, because of its less value, inaccessibility, and remoteness.
– All that is embraced in “ value.”
– Not always. Although nominally the capital value of muchpoor country land is fairly high, its earning power is not so great as that of other lands closer to railways, cities, and towns.
– That is simply a statement that the assessment is wrong.
– No; a number of large estates in many of the country districts - notably in Riverina, and in parts of Victoria - are nominally of a certain value and naturally the owners do not wish to depreciate them.
– Could the money be obtained for them ?
– Would the Commonwealth undertake to buy the estates at the value at which they are proposed to be assessed?
– If the Commonwealth bought them at the owner’s valuation, would that secure the honorable member’s support ?
– Certainly it would not. I am asking whether, if the Commonwealth taxes these poor country lands at their nominal value, the Government would be prepared to give that value for them?
– It is the present value, whatever it may be, that is considered.
– I say that the unimproved value at the present time should not be accepted as the sole basis of taxation, but that there ought to be a rate varying according to the capital value. On those grounds I shall vote against the second reading of the Bill. It is to be regretted that the Government have not yielded to the very strong arguments submitted, together with the representations made by various deputations, who have pointed out how, in numerous cases, the tax will press very severely and with ruinous effect.
– I could have wished that a different scheme of taxation had been proposed. It seems to me, as pointed out by others, that the maximum rates in the schedule are far in excess of any contemplated during the recent elections, at which the Government claim they received a mandate to impose this taxation. I also think that the taxation will fail to realize what we, in common with the Ministry, hope to attain. I am not opposed to land value taxation by the Federal Government, because I think the Commonwealth is perfectly entitled to impose such taxation; but the schedule does not disclose the right method. The taxation is brought up to 7d. in the £1 in the case of the absentee landlord, and, although I am at one with the Government in the view that absentees are fit subjects for taxation, I do not think the Government and their supporters have maturely considered what will be the effect of these extraordinary rates in the case of absentees, whether individuals or companies, throughout the whole range of landed interests in Australia. The theory of taxation which I have in my mind, and which might have been adopted, is one under which we should have exempted city lands in any attempt to burst up the large estates. No doubt the owners of city lands oughtto bear a proportionate burden of taxation ; and I am strongly in favour, first of all, of one common land tax at a low rate on all the lands of the Commonwealth without exemptions, except such as might be made in the case of land so low in value as to make it not worth while to collect the tax. That would be a common general basis for the purposes of revenue, and then, with a view to opening the lands to closer settlement,
I suggest a further tax. The work of closer settlement is being carried on so weil now that the difficulties anticipated by politicians and thinkers some years ago have almost entirely vanished. We have been told by the Prime Minister himself that the growth of small estates in New South Wales is greater than the growth of small estates in New Zealand, where similar legislation, though not so drastic, has been in force for years. Then, again, the honorable member for Mernda told us the other day that the ill-effects of the possession of land in large quantities are rapidly disappearing in Victoria. All round, large estates capable of being put under the plough are being rapidly broken up by the ordinary factors that actuate men who possess any property which can be turned to good account. Those men who cannot put their land to good account themselves, must, if the competition for the possession of it goes on as it has been going lately, dispose of it, so as to get a better return. But the mischief of the taxation proposed in the schedule is that it will impose disabilities on a large number of people whom we do not wish to tax, and whose lands we do not wish to break up. I would avoid that by, first of all, having a. general, all-round national tax of, say, a halfpenny, on lands of every character, whether city, suburban, pastoral, or agricultural. Then I would add to that a tax as proposed by the Government, so as, by its incidence, to prevent the aggregation of agricultural lands in the hands of owners who are not making good use of it. But I would exempt all lands to the extent of £1 per acre of their value, so that the bursting-up tax might not operate on the poor, arid lands in the western district of New South Wales and other .parts of Australia, which, at present, are fit only for pastoral purposes. As pointed out in the course of the debate, such land as I have referred to exists in very large quantities; and it has been shown by indisputable evidence that the operation of the schedule must be most unjust on the owners, and will not help in any way to a closer population. There is no constitutional difficulty that I know of in the way of exempting £1 per acre in the value, and then imposing further taxation, with- a view to closet settlement. Lands which were worth more than £1 per acre - say, £3 to £5 - and which were fit for the plough, would, by reason of the tax, be “put to a better use in the course of time, just as at present the natural desires of owners is inducing this higher use. The suggestion I make, if acted upon, could only intensify this tendency ; and Parliament would be acting wisely in working om these lines, if it is necessary for the Federal Government to enter the field of land development and seek to break up large estates. As it is, the tax will tend to break up, in a way not anticipated or desired, large pastoral properties which, though they are not paying the individual owners largely, are one of the main elements in the prosperity of Australia. The lands which are worth about £1 an acre unimproved value, are in many cases within a few shillings of their value of fifty years ago, when the Crown besought the original purchasers to take them over. The Bill will, in some instances, where land is held in large quantities, impose a tax more than the value of the land ; and it behoves us, if we have the interests of Australia at heart, as I presume honorable members on both sides have, to pause before we go further, so that we may preserve those lands for productive purposes. We can gain nothing by breaking up large areas of purely pastoral country. If we force those lands out of production, or compel the owners to dispose of them at perhaps 40 per cent, of their value, we shall inflict hardship and injustice on the present holders, without in any way affecting the future holding of this sort of land in Australia. But in so far as we can, by reason of the taxation, force the better class of land into a higher state of culture, I am with the Government; but I cannot follow them so far as the schedule is concerned, and inflict taxation which means confiscation of the value of some of the poorer lands. We ought to exempt urban lands from the bursting-up tax, because there cannot be any desire to interfere in that way with magnificent commercial palaces or the buildings Held, for instance, by building societies throughout our cities. These buildings are being put to their highest use at the present time, and all we can reasonably do in the interests of Australia is to make them bear their fair share of the taxation necessary to carry on the functions of government. If the Government could possibly be brought to see that their scheme of graduated land taxation will have this detrimental effect on poor lands and a very adverse effect upon urban lands, they might be induced to propose a mode of taxation such as I have suggested, with much benefit to the community. If we agreed to the schedule as it stands, we should do something which even the most Radical Government could not survive. For party purposes, it would suit the opponents of this Ministry to let the Bill pass in its native simplicity, without amendment; because, so drastic and unjust are these provisions that, if we were to do so, our opponents, as surely as light follows darkness, would be defeated at the next elections. But we have to consider, not the success of parties, but the development of the Commonwealth. The proposals before us are immature and illconsidered, and will injuriously affect, not merely those who are well off, but every section of society.
.- The debate on the Land Tax Assessment Bill was interesting by reason of the admissions by Ministerialists of the difficulties surrounding the imposition of land taxation by this Parliament, which tended to show that we had gone somewhat astray in not recognising the wisdom of the framers of the Constitution in tacitly leaving land taxation to the States. The revenue-producing effect of the proposed tax has been much less insisted on by Government supporters than its effect in bursting up large estates, which undoubtedly is the primary purpose of the measure. Had the Parliaments of the State been sufficiently progressive to pass legislation for the breaking up of large estates, a Commonwealth land tax for revenue purposes would not have been heard of. It is hard on the owners of landin States where there is land taxation that they should be called upon to pay a Commonwealth, in addition to the State, tax, because owners in other States are not taxed locally. I regret, for instance, that the Victorian Parliament has not passed an effective land tax ; still, the matter is one, not for the Commonwealth, but forthe people of this State ; and, as a representative of Western Australia, I protest against the imposition of a Commonwealth tax on the landowners of my State in addition to the existing State tax simply because other State Parliaments have failed in their duty in this respect. Then, the avowed object of the Bill being to break up the large rural estates, the taxation of city properties is an undoubted hardship. A friend of mine, who is an accountant, has taken the trouble to reckon out the amount of the tax on some of the Perth properties, and has ascertained that it will be equivalent to 40 per cent. of their annual value. Surely no such impost as that was ever intended by even the most rabid advocate of land taxation. It must be remembered, too, that after the tax has effected its purpose of bursting up the large rural estates, it will still have to be paid by the owners of city land, who, of course, cannot subdivide. I shall vote against the second reading of the Bill, because, although I am an advocate of direct taxation, I contend that the imposition of a land tax must be left to the Parliaments of the States, and because I object to imposing an additional tax, on land-owners who are already taxed, with a view to taxing land-owners in other States who at present do not pay land taxation.
.- In my opinion, the rates provided for in the Bill are altogether too high. Ministers do not realize how they will affect remote country lands, without means of communication, upon which it is impossible to place small settlers. Were the Government to accept the suggestion that an exemption should be made of so much of the unimproved value as has already been paid to the Crown, much hardship would be removed, and the tax would not be so detrimental to the land which I have in my mind. Reference has been made to the manner in which land was acquired in the days gone by. It has been stated that in many cases it was parted with for practically a mere song, the Crown getting no adequate return. The land to which those statements apply is within what are now settled areas, and would not benefit greatly by the exemption I suggest. Directly settlement began to increase, it was recognised that at least £1 per acre should be paid for Crown land.
– Have not selectors been given twenty years in which to meet their obligations ?
– Yes, but they have had to pay interest on the unpaid balance.
– In South Australia the payments were in cash.
– That was so in Queensland, too; but in New South Wales the Government has generally given credit, charging interest on the balance due. On pastoral land which to-day is worth not more than £1 per acre the smaller settler could not make a living. But: a great deal of such land, removed from centres of population, to-day possesses no greater unimproved value than it did when the
Crown parted with it. Surely we do not wish to apply a penal tax to such land. The Crown has been paid every cent that it is worth. The exemption which I suggest would leave that land untaxed, but it would not materially affect the application of the tax to more valuable land near centres of population.
– To do what the honorable member suggests would make a discrimination.
– No; I would exempt, in every case from the unimproved value, the amount already paid to the Crown to obtain the fee-simple. I hope that honorable members will give the matter their consideration before we go into Committee, and that they will be able to support an amendment which will be proposed to effect the object which I have stated.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to S p.m.
– When we adjourned for dinner, I was pointing out that it would be possible for us to prevent this tax falling heavily upon land that is far removed from centres of settlement, and at present of very small value, by deducting from the total amount of the unimproved value for the purpose of taxation the amount which has been already paid by the owners to the Crown. The honorable member for Maranoa said that he believed that that should be done.
– I think that we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.’]
– The fact that the honorable member for Maranoa said that he believed that that ought to be done shows that at least some honorable members on the Government side of the House fully recognise the justice of my plea.
One of the great objections to the severity of this tax relates to the manner in which it will interfere with the operations of the local governing bodies of the different States now ministering to the needs of the people, by giving them necessary means of communication. A good deal has been said with reference to the small amount paid in New South Wales by way of direct taxation. The Prime Minister mentioned that it was only £80,794. Recently, however, an Act has been passed giving to the local governing bodies of that State power to raise revenue which had previously been collected by the Government. They have been given powers of taxation that are somewhat extensive, amounting to 2d. in the £1 on the unimproved value of land ; and, in addition, is. 6d. in the £1 on the annual value, and they are raising a much greater amount than was collected by the Government. Under the State land tax, as introduced by Sir George Reid in 1895, the amount raised in -1906, prior to the introduction of the Local Government Act, was £329,998 ; whereas the shires and municipal councils are raising, at the present time, independently of the amount collected over and above the tax of id. in the £1, a sum of £646,071. I have not taken into consideration a very large amount that is raised in excess of that total. The total raised by the local governing bodies on the unimproved value of land is 87 per cent, in excess of that which was raised by the Government, so that honorable members will recognise that there is by no means a disinclination to use these powers of taxation.
– To what extent have values increased during the time in question?
– It is little more than three years since the passing of the Local Government Act, so that I do not think values can have been raised to any considerable extent. I point to this increase of 87 per cent, in the amount of direct taxation collected to show that the inclination of the local governing bodies is to use the powers of taxation that have, been given to them ; and that a tax so heavy in its incidence as this will take from them the privilege of increasing their taxation. Honorable members must recognise that it is of the utmost importance that we should see that we do not, by the imposition of this tax, take from the shire councils the power to increase their taxation, and so to give to the people the additional means of communication so necessary in country districts. My fear is that this tax will prove so heavy that the local governing bodies will find! that they are unable to increase their taxi tion; and it is certainly unwise that they should be so restricted. I propose now to show that this tax will be much heavier than is that in operation in New Zealand. Some figures were supplied during the debate by the Attorney-General-
– The honorable member is now proceeding to deal with a debate that has already been closed.
– I am endeavouring to point out that this tax is heavier than that in operation in New Zealand.
– The honorable member stated that he intended to reply to a statement by the Attorney-General.
– I said that the AttorneyGeneral had supplied us with certain figures, and I was proposing to quote independent figures that I have prepared, showing the revenue collected in New Zealand, and the amount which will be collected under this tax, provided that we allow for the direct taxation which is at present being collected in the Commonwealth up to1d. in the £1. I think that I am at liberty to do that.
– The honorable member will be in order in making any statement dealing with the matter before the Chair. He distinctly referred, however, to the Attorney-General, and as the list before me shows that the honorable gentleman has not yet spoken to this motion, 1 could only presume that the honorable member was going to reply to a statement that he had made during a debate that had already closed.
– That, sir, was not my intention. The following table shows the amount which will be collected under the Commonwealth tax - after allowance is made for the tax of1d. in the £1 which is being collected in some form or other in various parts of Australia - and the amount collected under the New Zealand tax -
AH through, the Commonwealth tax, save in regard to estates the unimproved value of which does not exceed £5,000, is much heavier than is that in force in New Zealand, the increase, as compared with direct taxation in New South Wales, where a tax of1d. in the £1 is already being paid, varying from 200 to 65 per cent. There is already a proposal on the part of the States to tax estates the unimproved value of which does not exceed £5,000. Messrs. Ferricks and Theodore, members of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, addressed a meeting at Warwick on Sunday afternoon, and, speaking of the Labour party’s land policy, stated that it was their aim to tax land from £300 up to £5,000, at which point the Federal tax commenced. This shows that there is already a proposal on the part of the State colleagues of my honorable friends opposite to tax estates which will be exempt from the operation of this Bill. One can only suppose that they mean to impose the tax in very much the same way as this.
Question - That this Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
– I wish to call the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that we are still without the amendments proposed to be made in the Land Tax Assessment Bill.
– I expect them in a few minutes.
– It is twenty hours since they were given to the press.
.- It is rather unfair to blame the Government Printer. It is only too obvious that the fault lies in Parliament sitting such long hours. It is almost impossible to get the normal printing for Hansard done under these sweating conditions. The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition in this connexion might be construed as being unfair to the Printer, although I believe he did not mean to apply them to the Printer at all.
– When the matter was raised previously, I took the whole blame for the non-supply of the amendments.
– That was some hours ago.
– I expected then that they would be supplied in an hour. I understand now that they will be here in a few minutes.
Debate resumed from 26th August (vide page 2189), on motion by Mr. Tudor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- In accordance with the understanding arrived at when the sugar question was brought before this Chamber, I propose to deal briefly with the protective duty of £6 per ton, to refer to the Excise duty of £4 per ton, and to deal more fully with the question of the bounty of£3 per ton. The£6 per ton import duty I regard as absolutely necessary. I believe many honorable members in this House consented to it only because they believed it was necessary to bring forward some further legislation in the way of an Excise duty in order to give effect to the ideas of the people as to a White Australia. Even Protectionists would not have asked for a £6 import duty if it were not to be accompanied by an Excise duty having for its object the compelling of the farmers throughout Australia to employ white labour. The major portion of sugar throughout the world is produced in countries where black labour is largely used. Our competitors include: In the United States, Louisiana, Porto Rico, the Hawaiian Islands, and Cuba; in the British West Indies, Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica, and Antigua ; the French and Danish West Indies. Hayti. San Domingo, Mexico, Central America, Mauritius, and Java. In all those places the people employed in sugar production are mostly negroes, Chinamen, Japanese, or Javanese. The world’s production of sugar in 1871-2 comprised 1,020,000 tons of beet sugar, and 1,599,000 tons of cane sugar, or a total of 2,619,000 tons. In 1905 the production had increased to : Beet sugar 7,215,000 tons, cane sugar 4,958,000 tons, or a total of 12,173,000 tons. The greater portion of the cane sugar production is the result of cheap black or coloured labour, the beet sugar being grown mostly on the Continent of Europe. Our chief competitors in Australia are the sugar producers in Fiji, whence we got in 1908, 198,60s cwt., of a value of £106,181 ; in Mauritius, from which we got 53,977 cwt., of a value of £38,999, and in Java, whence we received 131,538 cwt., worth £95,584. Java is only a few days’ sail from the coast of Australia, and there are some 30,000,000 Javanese, many of whom are employed in the sugar industry at wages of 3d. per day. Mr. Frank Green, of Queensland, who visited Java not long since, is fully convinced that the Australians cannot compete in sugar production with the Javanese, whose labour is surprisingly cheap, field workers receiving only 10 cents, or 2d., per day, and artisans in the sugar house, only 15 cents, or 3d., per day. Fiji is also one of our great competitors, and that huge monopoly, theColonial Sugar Refining Company, has the largest sugar mill in the world established in the islands. In Fiji there are some 18,000 Hindoos mostly engaged in sugar production, and they are imported by the company at wages of 25s. per month without rations. We are asking the sugar farmers of Australia to pay their labourers something like 22s. 6d. per week and rations, and yet the Colonial Sugar Refining Company employs thousands of Hindoos at the miserable rate I have mentioned. There is no doubt that this is slavery ; and it seems to me that we are approaching an era in our civilization when there will have to be a mental readjustment as to the sources from which people draw their dividends. There are people in Australia whom we have assisted to build up great industries. They have been enabled to establish banking accounts of considerable size - to save large sums which they have not required for their own daily expenditure - and some of them; not satisfied with the 3 or 4 per cent, to be earned in Australia, are investing in places like Fiji, Java, and India. They furnish us with the main reason why there ought to be an import duty of £6 per ton on sugar. I do not believe that any capitalist, whether on a large or small scale, has any right to take advantage of the misfortune or weakness of his fellow man, or of an inferior race, to make dividends. Take, for example, the statement made by- Mr A. J. Draper, the President of the Australian Sugar Producers’ Association, at the North Queensland Sugar Conference, that “ God only sent thick-skulled men like the kanaka into the world to do such work as cane cultivation.” That seems to be the view of capitalists not only in Australia, but in Britain and in other parts of the world; and the more we establish international peace, the more we are confronted with the fact that the capitalists of the world are going to use hundreds of millions of coloured labourers in the manufacture of sugar, cotton, and even machinery, in competition with labourers in Australia, Britain, and other Englishspeaking countries. We have to place a barrier against this competition, and that barrier is a high import duty.
– How shall we get eur products into other markets?
– In the immense area of over 3,000,000 square miles of Australia, we have enough country to enable us to produce everything necessary to human comfort and development. If all the other parts of the world were under the sea we could get along; and it will be necessary, it seems to me, for every nation to be satisfied with the ground that it has, and to set its own house in order. But, of course, we are interfered with by the local capitalist in Australia, who, as I have said, is not satisfied with the 3 or 4 per cent, given by the banks, but establishes a company in New Guinea. What is the object of the British New Guinea Development Company? Why are the shareholders not satisfied with land in Queens land and other parts of Australia ? There is any amount of land fit for sugar-growing, or for rubber and cotton production, but investors establish a company in a place where there are hundreds of thousands of poor unfortunate Papuans, who, before we took possession, were able to make good livings in their own villages. These investors are using labour in New Guinea and paying wages too low for any human being - wages of 2s. 6d. a week, with rations, consisting of. about i£ lb. of sago, sweetened with a little treacle, per day. This is what the Australian people have to combat. We have succeeded, to some extent, in establishing a White Australia; but we find that capitalists are transferring their attention to places like Papua. When we proposed to introduce the White Australian legislation, we were told that the blackest ruin confronted the sugar industry. The dreadful forecasts we have heard during the past few days are not singular in honorable members opposite in connexion with legislation ; and I think it is necessary to quote what the honorable member for Oxley said. He told us over and over again that when white men had attempted to do the work performed by Kanakas they had thrown it up in disgust, and declared it was only fit for slaves - that they had refused to do it at any price. Dr. Walter Maxwell, the Director of the Sugar Experimental Stations; in a letter to the’ Premier of Queensland, expressed the same view, only more strongly ; and he, being an expert, his words received much attention. He said -
My experience in other countries with my observation in this country (Queensland), and the history of the labour experimentation in the State, forced me to conclude that, if the industry should be made* wholly dependent on white labour, then sugar-growing north of Mackay must die out. It will not be instant, but it must be certain.
The Melbourne Argus, on the 7th October, 1901, said -
Feeling of utmost dismay prevails amongst planters, shippers, and merchants in the Cairns district. … A feeling of insecurity predominates, and the collapse of the whole industry is foretold because other aliens may be treated in the same way as Kanakas.
It was resolved by the National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland, on the 1 6th October, 1901, that the legislation would be “ immediately disastrous to the sugar industry.” The Johnson River Cane-growers and Manufacturers’
Association decided that the proposed legislation meant “ absolute ruin to northern cane-growers, 1 ‘ and the secretary of theHalifax .Farmers’’ Club said that it would mean “ ruin to the farmers of the district.” 1 could give numbers of instances in which ruin was predicted if we passed the White Australian legislation, which the Government are now seeking to renew. As to the success of that legislation, let me quote a few figures. On the 31st December, 1905, there were 23,162 white workers engaged in the sugar industry, and 8,952 coloured, or a total of 32,114; in 1906 there were 33,700 white labourers, and 7,576 coloured, or a total of 41,286 ; in 1907 there were 41,800 white labourers, and 4,068 coloured, or a total of 45,868; in 1908 there were 38,198 white labourers, and 3,319 coloured, or a total of 41,517; and in 1909 there were 36,619 white labourers, and 2,325 coloured, or a total of 38,944. In 1905, in the No. 1 sugar district of Queensland, including. Cairns, Dungeness, and Port Douglas, where it was predicted that absolute ruin would follow, there were 1,426 white labourers and 3,429 coloured ; whereas, four years later, there were 7,708 white labourers and 856 coloured, showing an increase of 6,852 whites. Honorable members, to whatever party they belong, whether Free Traders or Protectionists, must be pleased, regarding the matter from a defence point of view, that the White Australia policy has proved so successful. The result shows that we were right at the time when we claimed that it was only a matter of wages - that if the employers were prepared to pay proper rates to white meD the latter would work in the sugar-fields just as freely as they do as firemen and stokers on board the mail steamers and other vessels on the Queensland coast. This industry is a very valuable one, and the capital it represents has been variously stated. In one Government publication the value of the capital invested was put down at £7,000,000; and at the present time Mr. Young, of Messrs Young Bros., Bundaberg, states that there is £6,000,000 invested by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and about £10,000,000 by the sugar miller. These figures have to be taken into consideration when it is proposed that the industry shall be nationalized. I do not believe that it would be possible for the Commonwealth to nationalize the whole sugar industry as proposed, for the reason that too much money would be required; but I believe that it would be possible for the Commonwealth, or for the States, to invest sufficient capital in a national sugar refinery to have the effect of bringing about the better treatment of the sugar farmer, and the possible lowering of the price to the public, though as to the latter I am not quite so certain. The honorable member for North Sydney proposed, as a remedy for the grievances of the planters and of the manufacturers, who complain of the extortion of the Colonial -Sugar Refining Company, to reduce the import duty by £3 per ton, and to give the growers a bounty of £3 ; but that would not help matters. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company completely controls the sugar industry in Australia, and is the chief importer from Java and Fiji; so that the reduction of the duty by /.: per ton would merely put money into its pockets, as a similar reduction in New Zealand did. I do not agree with the honorable member that the people of Australia are badly treated in having to pay: 3d. per lb. for their sugar. Australia consumes about 200,000 tons, or 448,000,000 lbs. of sugar per annum ; and, as her population in 1909 was 4,374,138, the average consumption is about 2 lbs. per head per week. If sugar were sold at £2 6s. 8d. a ton less, it would cost Jd. per lb. less; and if sold at £4 13s. 4d. less, would cost Jd. per lb. less. Four persons constitute an average family, and their consumption would be 8 lbs. a week. Therefore, our legislation costs each family 16s. 4d. per annum. But it must be remembered that we took off the duty on tea, the consumption of which is about 8 lbs. per head per annum; so that the average family saves about 16s. a year by not having to pay that duty, which balances the extra cost of sugar. If the import duty on sugar were reduced by £3 a ton, what would become of the 40,000 persons engaged in the production of this commodity, who would be unable to compete with the sugar producers of Fiji, Java, and other parts of the world? They would have to abandon their present occupations.
– And we should not get our sugar any more cheaply.
– Probably we should not. If honorable members compare the prices which ruled prior to Federation with those which have to be paid now under our Protective Tariff, they will see that many articles are cheaper now, because of the internal competition. Where there is no internal competition, importers can charge what they like.
– They have always done so.
– Yes ; and they will do so again. I think that the people are willing to pay 1 6s. per family per annum to give employment to our population in growing sugar.
– My contention ns that the duty puts money into the pockets of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and not into the pockets of the growers.
– Honorable members opposite, both Free Traders and Protectionists, though professed anti-Socialists, are gradually being driven toward Socialism. The time will come here, as it has come both in Protectionist America and Free Trade England, when trusts will bring about an amalgamation of interests which will destroy competition, as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has destroyed competition in the sugar industry. The only way to assist the public is to provide a national refinery, and to that we shall be driven. It may take many years to bring about the general nationalization of. industries, but it is the only way in which the mass of the people can be helped. There was a great agitation, supported by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and some of the large millers, for the abolition of both the sugar Excise and bounty. They’ said that if that were brought about, they would pay higher prices. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company was prepared to pay 2s. a ton for 7 per cent, sugar cane, 4s. for 8 per cent., 6s. for 9 per cent., 8s. for 10 per cent., ros. for 11 per cent., and so on up to 18s. 9d. per von. But we know that before the Commonwealth legislation was passed some farmers were receiving only 7s. 6d. per ton, and the company is not to be trusted.
– Did the company not promise to make an agreement?
– Some of the millers prepared an agreement, but. it contained so many conditions providing ways of escape for them and for the Sugar Company that the farmers would have acted unwisely in signing it. The best proof that the company and the millers associated with it would not pay a fair price we’re the bounty and Excise to be abolished is the fact that they did not pay a fair price before they were introduced. I fear, and in this I am supported by the majority of the canegrowers in the Bundaberg district of my electorate, that if the bounty and Excise were abolished, the millers and other owners of sugar lands would lease properties to Hindoos and Chinamen. Honorable members may be surprised to hear that in that district there are kanakas working on land leased from Messrs. Gibson and Howes, of Bingara, who get only j is. 6d. per ton for cane.
– How many are there - a hundred?
– No, only a few. Kanakas who had been in Australia for a consideraable number of years were not deported under the Commonwealth Act. No white - farmer could produce sugar at that price, and pay the low rates of wages which we require to be paid, namely, 22s. 6d. per week with rations. That is not an adequate wage. I ask honorable members what chance is there of building up an Australian nation with adults earning a wage like that? How are such men to marry and bring up families?
– Do they not get more in harvesting time?
– They get ’30s. a week then, but some have to accept the lower wage all the year round. To show that some of the employers, including the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, are not prepared to give work to white labour unless they are forced by legislation to do so, I draw’ attention to the following table, showing the employment of aliens in one district alone, that known as the No. 1 district : -
I am glad to say that at Proserpine Central, Northerton, Meadowlands, Racecourse Central, Marian, and Plane Creek, all in the Mackay district, no coloured aliens are employed. I have also a statement in regard to the position in other districts, showing that, although it has been proved beyond doubt that white men can work in the cane-fields and the sugar mills, we have mill-owners employing Japanese, Chinese, and Indians.
– What is the total number of coloured aliens?
– The total number of aliens employed in the sugar mills in the No. 1 district is 171; No. 2 district, 157; No. 3 district, 46 ; No. 4 district, comprising part of Queensland, 15; and in the No. 4 district (New South Wales), 14; or a total of 403.
– There are more employed in the industry at the present time.
– I am referring now only to coloured aliens employed in the mills. I have already given the figures relating to the number employed on plantations. The point that I wish to make is that if the owners of sugar mills are prepared, under present circumstances, to employ Japanese, Chinese, Cingalese, and other coloured aliens, they would be ready, if we swept away the sugar bounty, which the Government propose to continue, to engage some of the many thousands of coloured aliens that are at present in the Commonwealth.
– Would the honorable member deport those aliens?
– The Australian Labour party were in favour of the total exclusion of Asiatics, but, as honorable members are aware, we were faced with the fact that the Imperial authorities, for international reasons, would have refused to give their assent to such a measure. Our desire was to keep this country for the British and similar races.
– We were all prepared to exclude them, but is the honorable member prepared to advocate the deportation of those now here?
– We are prepared to deport them, but is the honorable member prepared to find the money to provide for their deportation? If such a proposition were made, no doubt honorable members opposite would oppose it just as they were anxious to insert in one of the measures passed in the first Parliament of the Commonwealth a clause providing for the total exclusion of coloured aliens, knowing that such a provision would cause the Royal Assent to be withheld.
– All that I say is that it would be better to poleaxe them than to stop them from earning their living.
– Chinese, Japanese, and other Asiatics here are already earning their living in various capacities. They are to be found following all kinds of occupations throughout Australia. Some of them are to be seen scratching out a living on way-back mining fields, others are employed as cooks ; while in our large towns we find them engaged in the furniture trade. The Australian Parliament, however, has done a great deal to put a stop to the unfair competition of the Chinese within our borders, and we have passed legislation which, if properly administered, will eventually remove the evil complained of. I wrote to Mr. G. H. Knibbs, the Government Statistician, asking him to endeavour to obtain for me the total number of Asiatic aliens within the Commonwealth. In reply to that request, he has furnished me with a statement showing that, on 31st March, 1901, it was estimated that there were 30,542 Chinese, 3,554 Japanese, 4,681 Indians and Cingalese, and about 5,000 other Asiatics, or a total of 43,777. Mr. Knibbs wrote -
Complete records of the arrivals and departures of Asiatics in and from the Commonwealth have only been kept since the beginning of 1904, the results to the end of 1909 being as shown on the attached sheet. From this it will be seen that during the six years 1904-9 the departures of Asiatics have exceeded the arrivals by 6,449, the Japanese being the only race snowing an excess of arrivals over departures (211).
– That was only in connexion with the pearling industry, was it not?
– It may he. The figures supplied by Mr. Knibbs are as follows : -
It is proved beyond doubt that there are some 30,000 or 40,000 Asiatics and other coloured aliens in Australia, and our contention is that the conduct of people at the head of the sugar industry, and especially the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, is such as to lead us to believe that if we swept away this bounty legislation they would draw upon that supply of coloured labour to produce sugar to the detriment of the white farmers who are proving that Australia can be kept for the white races.
– What about the other white people who have to compete with the Asiatics in Australia at the present time? Those Asiatics must be working.
– I should be very glad to help the honorable member, but, whilst he is always pointing out the grievances under which people suffer, he never furnishes us with a remedy. No matter what measure we propose, the honorable member finds some objection to it. I thoroughly believe that if the Government came clown tomorrow with some proposition to remedy his grievances, it would meet with some objection on his part. I regret that this is so, because the honorable member seems to be a liberal-minded man. I think I have shown that it is necessary that the Government proposal to remove the limitation to the operation of the bounty system should be carried. I should like now to refer for one moment to the contention of the honorable member for Franklin, who is greatly agitated in regard to the conditions of the jam-making industry, and no doubt the honorable member for North Sydney agrees largely with his contention. We are told that jam manufacturers have to pay such a high price for their sugar that their industry is labouring under a great disability, and that fruitgrowers in Tasmania have had to dig up their fruit trees. Honorable members will perhaps be surprised to hear that the jammakers of Australia have a protective duty amounting to £18 5s. per ton. There is a general import duty -of 2d. per pound, and a preferential duty of1½d. per pound in favour of the Old Country.
– The duty is equal to about 50 per cent.
– It would be quite 50 per cent.
– As a matter of fact, it is heavier than the duty on sugar.
– I daresay that it is.
– It is about the same.
– I am not objecting to the duty on jams. I believe in the imposition of the highest possible import duties to keep out productions from elsewhere, so that we may give the Australian Labour party’s policy a fair chance.
– What about those who have to use jams?
Mi. HIGGS. - My experience is that they are obtaining cheaper and better jam than they did before the imposition of this duty. In order to show how Tasmania has benefited by our white Australian legislation and the import. duty of £6 per ton, I would point out that in 1901 - prior to Federation - the inward transfers of jams and jellies into Tasmania from the mainland consisted of 20,983 lbs. of the value of£335;whilst in 1909 they totalled 977,743 lbs., of the value of £11,812, an increase of 956,760 lbs., of the value of £11,427. Now let us take the outward transfers of jams and jellies from Tasmania to other States. In 1901 they comprised 3,820,853 lbs. of the value of £58,363, whereas in 1909 they “totalled 10.948,628 lbs. of the value of £142,290. In the nine years’ period there was thus an increase of 7,127,775 lbs., or an increase in value of £83,927. There is positive proof that so far from Tasmania suffering by the sugar duties, her jams and jellies industry has gained as much as any other industry throughout the Commonwealth. The imports of jams and jellies into the Commonwealth from abroad in 1901 were 1,312,377 lbs., of a total value of £23,358. In 1909, the quantity was 334>738 lbs., of a total value of £7,956. That shows an enormous decrease in the imports from abroad, and little Tasmania, with her wonderfully fertile orchard country, got the benefit of it. The inward transfers of fruit and vegetables, n.e.i., preserved, from other States to Tasmania, amounted in 1901 to £412 worth, and in 1909 to £4,584 worth - an increase of £4,172. The outward transfers of fruit and vegetables, n.e.i., preserved, or partly preserved, from Tasmania to the mainland, amounted in 1901 to £39,812 worth, and in 1909 to £47>I95 worth, or an increase of £7,383 worth. Therefore, I do not think Tasmania can complain of this legislation which is being passed in the interests of the sugar industries of New South Wales and Queensland. There are some members in this House who have advocated the absolute removal of the import duty of £6 per ton. On the 7th October, 1909, according to the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the following day, the honorable member for Parkes was asked by the honorable member for Wide Bay, ‘ ‘ Do you say the duty ought to be wiped off?” and replied, “ I do.” That statement caused a great deal of anxiety throughout Queensland, because the people there were not satisfied that the Free Trade party was defunct. I am doubtful even now whether that party has been wiped out in Australia. They are not saying much about Free Trade. There are one or two little associations that issue manifestoes declaring their particular views upon the question, and perhaps too great attention cannot be paid to them, but recently I saw in the papers a statement made to a meeting of farmers by Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who has been Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada for fourteen years, that he always believed, in Free Trade, and that Protection was a crime. That shows that the
Protectionists of Australia must be always on the alert, because the Free Traders might at any time come along with a statement like that made by Sir Wilfrid Laurier, after holding the position of Prime Minister of a Protectionist country for so long. The honorable member for Fremantle stated that sugar was 6s. 10d. per cwt. dearer in Western Australia than it was before Federation. As I have pointed out, presuming that the public pay £4 13s. 4d. more per ton for their sugar, it means that they are paying 16s. 4d. per family extra per year, and, in my opinion, they do not object to pay that price. I sincerely hope that this legislation will go through, and that the House will not object to taking away the limitation which would have had the effect of wiping out the bounty in the course of two or three years. I am aware from personal knowledge that many of the farmers in Queensland were so doubtful about this legislation that they would not put their land under sugar. It takes two years for the crop to mature, and they were of the opinion that as the bounty would be wiped out in 191 2, it was not worth their while to plant in 1909. I honestly believe that if the bounty legislation goes through as the Government propose, and the limitation is taken out, a great impetus will be given to the industry throughout Queensland. In the Rockhampton portion of my electorate, there is a great deal of country believed to be suitable for sugar. Many of the farmers are now importing the seedlings, and planting out cane in the hope that this legislation will go through, and that later on either they may get from the Queensland Government sufficient money to establish a central sugar mill, or the Commonwealth Government will obtain power to lend money to the producers, and advance it to them for that purpose. There are, I believe, untold areas throughout Queensland suitable for growing sugar, and a great future before the industry if the legislation which has been on the statute-book for eight or nine years is allowed to continue there. I sincerely hope the Bill will pass, and, with regard to any unforeseen difficulties which may arise in securing to the producers the full reward of their labour, I trust the honorable member for North Sydney and others who believe with him will join with us in an attempt which this party will certainly make to see that, as far as human ingenuity can devise a scheme adequate for the purpose, justice is done to all those engaged in the industry.
.- When this matter was before the House a few weeks ago I gave it some consideration, but the time that has elapsed since then has left me, perhaps, not so qualified to speak on it as I was then, as it is not so fresh in my memory. I may say at once that my desire, which, I believe, is shared by most honorable members, is to assist the sugar industry as far as possible, and to help the cane-growers. We recognise the difficulties they have to encounter. The sugar industry has given a great deal of trouble to this Legislature during the last nine years. We have been continually discussing it, and have tried our best to encourage the cultivation of the cane by white labour instead of by coloured labour as previously. I do not propose to go into the pros and cons of the question of the deportation of the kanakas, and the substitution of white labour for them, nor do I propose to deal with the forebodings that many honorable members honestly felt as to whether the cultivation of sugar-cane in Northern Queensland with white labour would be successful. I think we can give each other credit for honesty of purpose in regard to these questions, whether we agree or not, for it is, after all, a matter of opinion which time and experience alone can solve. I do not believe in too much coddling by the Government of any industry. It should, of course, be encouraged and assisted, but not hampered. If we impose too many restrictions in regard to the employment of people engaged in any industry, and on the freedom of those embarking the capital - restrictions which probably do no good to those employed - we are not likely to make the industry successful, or those engaged in it self-reliant.
My own opinion is that the time has arrived when sugar-growing should be placed as nearly as possible on the same footing as other industries in Australia. I see no difference between growing sugar and growing wheat, maize, or fruit. The only difference that I can consider as important is that of climate, and even that gives no undue preference to sugar-growing over -other industries in the tropical parts of Australia. I have no intention that anything I say to-night shall be taken as showing that I have not the greatest sympathy for the primary - producers generally, and, in this case, for the primary producer of sugar-cane. I have visited Northern Queensland, and have seen the work which is going on there, and as I have said I am in full sympathy with those engaged in the industry. I recognise that they have difficulties and obstacles in the way of climate which are not experienced in the more temperate parts of Australia.
I have looked into the statistics presented to the House during the present session, and it is very satisfactory to learn that white labour has taken the place of coloured labour, and that the industry has not been ruined, as some feared when it was decided to dispense with the kanakas. These two facts are doubtless the cause of much satisfaction to those who took part in the legislation of 1901. We have been told that the industry has flourished under the new arrangement ; but, while we may fairly congratulate ourselves on the success that has thus far attended our legislation, the figures for this year, into which I have looked pretty closely, do not show that progress we might have expected. In 1906 there were 134,134 acres under cultivation in Queensland, while in 1910 there are only 125,419, showing a decrease in five years of 8,715 acres.
– There has been a much larger proportionate reduction in New South Wales.
– I have not dealt with New South Wales, because I do not regard that State as having been so much affected by the deportation of kanakas legislation. There were very few kanakas employed in New South Wales, and the bounty was what may be called a great “ throw in” for the growers of that State; white men have always worked in the cane fields of New South’ Wales much more easily than they have done in the fields further north.
– Coloured labour was rapidly coming into competition in New South Wales.
– However that may be, it was a good thing for that State that the Federal Constitution does not allow discrimination, or otherwise the bonus might not have been paid there to the same extent as in Queensland. Even the numbers engaged in the industry in Queensland have fallen from 30,076 in 1906 to 28,372 in 1910. I do not know, however, that these figures are conclusive, because it occurs to me that a number of people might not be employed all the year round, but only at harvest time.
– I think the uncertainty in regard to this legislation has something to do with the falling-off.
– But I am dealing with the five years from 1906 to 1910. Then, again, the production of sugar has decreased from 182,158 tons in 1906 to 132,816 tons in 1909, while, I am glad to say, the estimated production in 1910 is 186,176 tons.
– According to the latest figures that estimate is likely to be exceeded.
– How can the honorable member for Capricornia say that the falling-off is due to the uncertainty of this legislation?
– I never heard of any such uncertainty. There was a proposal that the bounty should be gradually diminished, but, even so, the duty of £6 per ton would remain. I am glad to hear from the Minister that the estimate for this year is likely to be exceeded; but, at the same time, there seems to be no great upward movement in the production ; all that the industry seems to be doing in this regard is to hold its own, without going ahead as we might fairly have expected for reasons I shall refer to later on. For some years past I have been of opinion that the time would soon arrive when the bounty and Excise must disappear, and a protective duty take the place of the present clumsy method of paying out with one hand and taking back with the other. This arrangement has worked satisfactorily in the past during the bookkeeping period for the States, because they have received a large proportion of the Excise, while the bounty is charged against the Commonwealth one-fourth of the revenue. Of the Excise of £4, the Commonwealth retains£1, and pays £3 to the States, and then has to pay the bounty of £3 to the grower, thus losing £2 on every ton of sugar produced. We can hardly understand such an arrangement being made; but, of course, the position was caused by the Constitution forbidding any rebates or discrimination. The only reasons I have heard advanced why the bounty and Excise should not be abolished - and these are probably the only reasons for the legislation we are now asked to adopt - were that it may be necessary to protect the growers from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and that they will have the effect of preventing coloured labour being employed. However, I do not regard either of these reasons as very important; in any case, the industry, in regard to these two points, might be regulated in some other way than by the present clumsy method. After all, is the Colonial Sugar Refining Company the only monopoly to be dealt with in Australia? Why not deal with other monopolies, if there are any?
– Will the honorable member help us?
– Yes; if they are injurious monopolies ; if, for instance, they are such monopolies as the Labour unions, which I regard as a great danger in Australia.
– We will begin with the sugar monopoly !
– I do not know whether there are any other monopolies which take away individual freedom to the same extent as do the Labour unions.
– The honorable member is not so innocent as all that !
– I know none which interfere so much with the freedom of the people ; and I am sure that the honorable member who interjects must feel the pinch very often.
– Order !
– I have heard a great deal about the Colonial Sugar Refining Company being a dangerous monopoly; and it is innate with me not to like monopolists. I always have a feeling that, if great power be given to one or two persons, they generally use it for their own benefit; and when I visited northern Queensland some years ago, I went there with the idea that this company was very likely to be injurious. At any rate, I was not prepossessed in its favour; and everywhere I went I made inquiries, as gently as I could, bearing in mind the position I then occupied. I was astounded to learn from all to whom I spoke, that, while it was a monopoly, it was a beneficent monopoly - one great instance standing out of a great monopoly doing much good for all engaged in the industry.
– What sort of company was the honorable gentleman keeping?
– I was travelling by steamers and otherwise, and was always very inquisitive ; and, as I say, I was astounded at what I heard, because it was not what I expected. When I returned to Brisbane, I was waited upon by a deputation from Bundaberg. It was reported in the Brisbane Courier of 28th May, 1907,and the report bears out my recollection of what took place. It is as follows : -
The Acting Prime Minister of the Commonwealth (Sir John Forrest) yesterday arrived- at Brisbane from the north, and was interviewed by a representative gathering of sugar-growers from the Bundaberg and southern cane-growing districts. Sir John Forrest. was accompanied by Senator Best, and the deputation, which was introduced by Mr. Archer, comprised Messrs. C. E. Young (Fairymead), John Clark, and F. L. Nott (Woongarra), Gant and Aide (Isis), Whally ( (South Kolon), DDexter (North Kolon), RR. S. Aitken (Gooburrum), and W. A. Crigg ( (Moreton No. 4 District).
Sir JOHN FORREST said that before replying he would like to ask a few questions he had jotted down on his way to Brisbane that morning. He would ask them, with the object of gaining information, so that the Government might be fortified in having a full knowledge of the subject when dealing with it. He desired to know whether the sugar industry, in their opinion, would be aided or injured if the bounty of ?3 and the excise duty of ?4 were abolished, and the import duty of ?6 were allowed’ to remain. Would the industry be better off?
Mr. Young. ; We would be better off.
– Supposing there was no excise and no bounty, would the price of cane increase?
– If the sugar industry was treated the same as the wheat industry, and let go on its own, without bounty 01 excise, would it do?
– It is a curious thing that in my travels nobody ever suggested it.
Voices. - We did not believe it would be done. We never dared to hope for it.
– You want the import duty to remain f
– Is there not a monopoly >.
A Voice. - The monopoly is everywhere.
– There is no monopoly in regard to refining?
Mr. Young. ; Practically.
– Are you not afraid of it?
Voices. - No, we are not.
Mr. Gant. It is the whitest monopoly the world has seen - the C.S.R. Co.
The deputation, with the exception of Mr. Young, of Fairymead, consisted chiefly of small farmers. It must be remembered that the honorable member for Kooyong and I were engaged every day in making inquiries regarding the conditions under which the industry was being conducted, and no one made a complaint about the company. I started with the impression that the company was a monopoly which had regard only for its own interests, and was astonished to find that it was so popular.
An examination of the figures published by the Commonwealth Government regarding the production of sugar by white and black labour leads to extraordinary conclusions. It would appear that last year 26,377 white men, receiving a bounty of ?14 each, or ?365,297 in all, produced 118,364 tons, or 4J tons a man; while 310 whites and 1,685 coloured men, receiving no bounty, produced 14,452 tons, or 7 tons a man. Surely those figures must be erroneous. They prove a coloured man to be capable of doing 50 per cent, more than a white man.
– White labour has proved a success in the north.
– Then I ask the honorable member to explain these figures.
The production of sugar in Australia last year was 137,231 tons, the bounty paid to the growers was ,?402,1,31, and the expenses in connexion with the payment ?5,648, or, altogether, ?407,779; while the Excise receipts were ?548,718, a gain to the Treasury of ?140,939. Now that the bookkeeping provisions of the Constitution have ceased to have effect, and section 87 has practically expired, I see no reason why we should put an Excise duty on sugar any more than on wheat, maize, or fruit. There may have been reasons for doing so in the past; but it should not be necessary now to take from the industry more than is needed to pay for the supervision. Indeed, as the bounty seems to be paid to discourage the employment of coloured persons, both the bounty and the Excise might be abandoned altogether, and the end in view achieved by legislation which would be much better than the clumsy plan now in force, which costs ?6.000 a year. After all, out of 39,000 persons employed in the sugar industry, only 2,325 are coloured. Coloured people are allowed to work in Melbourne, and in other parts of Australia, so why should northern Queensland be sacred ground, on which they must not be employed? It seems to me that they are better employed in the tropics, where white men have no particular desire to work if they can get their living elsewhere, than in the temperate regions. Personally, I think that the coloured aliens themselves would rather work in the cooler climates. Probably they remain in northern Queensland either through necessity, or because they are induced to do so by the payment of high wages. In any case, if it be considered necessary to prevent their employment in the sugar industry, it might be possible to provide for that better by legislation than by the bounty and Excise system. It is said that we must preserve the race from contamination by aliens, but Queensland has no greater cause to fear contamination from 2,325 coloured persons scattered over that State than other parts of Australia where there are 50,000 coloured persons. What have honorable members to say in regard to the thousands to be found in Melbourne, Port Darwin, and other parts of the Commonwealth ? If they are fit to live in those places, they must be fit to live in northern Queensland.
The kanaka question having been settled, our great object should be to endeavour to obtain sugar at a reasonable rate for the daily use qf our people and for our jam manufacturers, so as to enable them to sell cheaply in the local market and to export their surplus. The clumsy system now in force is unworthy of us. We ought to endeavour to regulate the industry other than by the clumsy process of paying out with one hand and drawing in with the other, at an expenditure of £6,000 per annum. As a man with economic ideas, I am disgusted with such an expenditure in return for practically nothing. If the Excise and bounty were abolished, the import duty could be reduced by £1 per ton, and the price of sugar would be lowered to that extent without injury to any one. Why should we make the one singular exception in our fiscal policy of collecting £1 per ton on sugar that is locally produced? We do not take a penny out of any other Australian industry, and the system will not bear inspection.
– No one but the grower pays that £1 per ton.
– I have heard that statement before. If it is true, I should like to relieve the grower of that payment.
– Then make the bounty the same as the Excise.
– I would have neither, and I would also do away with the present system of supervision, which involves an expenditure of £6,000 a year.
– The Excise on blackgrown sugar will pay for that.
– We do not want any Excise. What we need to do is to endeavour to obtain cheap sugar for our own people. The coloured aliens now in Australia are legally here, and if we do not wish them to be employed in the cane- fields of northern Queensland, we must adopt some means of preventing their employ ment. Those who reside in States far removed from the sugar-growing centres of Australia view this matter very differently from the representatives of those districts. I do not believe in parochialism. I certainly think that it should be the desire of the States to help each other, and for that ‘ reason I have never in the past opposed the bounty on sugar. My object has been to encourage the planters of Queensland, who have had to overcome great difficulties. At the outset, we were uncertain what would be the result of the removal of kanakas from the industry ; but now that that question has been settled, the people of the other States view this matter from a financial standpoint. In Western Australia, during’ the last eight years, we have been paying over £50,000 per annum more for our sugar than we used to pay for it. We have not grumbled, because we have felt that we have been promoting a great industry for the good of the Commonwealth. At the same time, we have no desire to pay that impost longer than is necessary, and we. certainly do not want to pay the impost of £i per ton on sugar which now goes into the Treasury. With this exception there are no duties imposed by the Commonwealth on any Australian production. I do not wish to unduly blame the present Government ; they have not been long enough in office ‘ to lock thoroughly into the matter; but it seems to me that, under this Bill, they will perpetuate this system in a way that is wholly unnecessary. The Bill has been hurriedly introduced, although the reduction of the bounty will not commence until the beginning of next year. Whilst Western Australia has been paying £50,000 per annum for her sugar more than she used to do, the people of Australia generally have been paying over £750,000 a year to protect a product worth about £2,000.000 a year to Australia. I do not, however, wish to in any way disparage the importance of the industry, for although it is now worth only £2,000.000 per annum, we may be able to make it far more valuable. I think honorable members will agree with me that we should endeavour to see that the taxpayers do not pay more than is absolutely necessary for the support of the industry.
The consumption of sugar during 1909- 10 was about 210,000 tons, and during the same period 78,957 tons were imported. It is estimated that during 1910- 11, 42,409 tons will be imported. It does not seem to me that the industry is forging ahead as it should do. It is merely holding its own, but from the figures I have just quoted it will be seen that it is not yet supplying local requirements. The estimated production for this year is 186,000 tons, whereas the consumption in Australia last year was about 210,000 tons. The industry in Queensland after all these years, and notwithstanding that we have paid the growers £2,500,000 by way of bounty, has a less acreage under cultivation than in 1906, fewer men engaged in it, and a smaller output, whilst it does not produce sufficient for our own consumption.
The question that naturally arises from a consideration of these figures and the results obtained, is whether sugar can be produced in Queensland so as to compete in the markets of the world. That question has not been answered. If we cannot produce sugar to compete in the markets of the world, then have those controlling the industry, knowing this, come to the conclusion that the production must not exceed the consumption in Australia?
– The honorable member is near it now.
– If that is the position I regret it. Having regard to the cheap labour employed in the production of sugar in the West Indies, Java, Fiji, and other places, it seems hardly possible that with white labour and Australian conditions we can compete in the markets of the world. If that is the position we ought to know it, and we should direct our efforts to an attempt to supply our own requirements. If we can do more no one will be more delighted than I am. I shall be very disappointed if some means cannot be devised by which we shall be able to get our sugar into the markets of the world. If we cannot the outlook will not be a very bright one, having regard to the vast fertile lands in the north that are so well suited to this crop. I do not propose to speak further. I have dealt with the question because I am keenly interested in it, having travelled through northern Queensland and satisfied myself in regard to the actual position. Whilst there I had every opportunity to see the industry. Harvesting was in progress, and I certainly took great interest in the work. I have also a kindly feeling towards those engaged in the industry, recognising that they have had many difficulties and obstacles to overcome. I should like it to prosper, and to see no limit to the quantity of sugar that we can produce and find a good market for. The proposal to continue the bounty and Excise is no longer justifiable ; nor, as far as I can judge, is it in any way necessary. I hope some other and better means will be found to protect and conserve the sugar industry in Queensland than this clumsy method, which the Government propose to continue, of paying out with one hand and receiving with the other, and wasting £6,000 a year in the process. We scoop into the Treasury £1 ,per ton, which means that the poorest of the poor, and the richest of the rich, have to pay that amount more for their sugar than there is any necessity for them to pay. This go-as-you-please plan is no longer justifiable, and should not be continued.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Groom) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate, with a message intimating that it insisted upon its amendment disagreed to by the House of Representatives, and desired the reconsideration of the Bill in respect of such amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Within the last few months there have come under my notice cases in connexion with the Customs Department; where importers who wish to sue for moneys deposited in cases of disputed duty are obliged, under section 161, to bring the action, in the High Court, or the Supreme Court of a State. I know a case where the amount involved was comparatively small, and it would have cost four or five times as much to sue forits recovery. This practically amounted to a denial of justice; because the man did not want to spend £150 or £200 in costs in order to recover £30 or £40. The Minister might consult the Law Department, and see whether it is not possible to enable action to be taken, by a man who has a claim against the Department, in a District or County Court, seeing that the Minister can bring an action, if he likes, in those Courts when the amount in dispute is under £500. What is good for one side ought to be good for the other. It would be a great advantage to litigants if, in small claims, they could go to a Court where the costs would be much smaller.
– Ishallbe pleased to consult the Attorney-General and the Department on the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Angas.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 September 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19100921_reps_4_57/>.