4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30- a.m., and read prayers.
FREMANTLE WIRELESS TELEGRAPH STATION.
Mr. HEDGES. - Has the PostmasterGeneral any information to give the House as to the location of the wireless station at or near Fremantle?
Mr. THOMAS. - A Conference is taking place in Fremantle between representatives of the Defence Forces, the Navy, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and the contractors for erecting wireless telegraph appliances, and we had the valuable advice of Admiral Henderson on the question. There are two sites which are regarded as suitable by the Naval and Military authorities and the officers of my Department, and we are waiting for the contractors to say which’ they will accept. We have asked them to let us know their decision as soon’ as possible.
STATE OF FRANCE.
Mr. HIGGS. - Has the Minister of External Affairs read the following statements concerning France and the French people, the first of which appeared in the Melbourne Age on Monday last: -
France to-day under a Republic is the most decadent nation in the world, fading and dying of its own inherent rottenness.
The second appears in this morning’s cables -
Prizes Won by Frenchmen.
London, nth October.
A return which has been prepared showing the successes gained by leading aviators illustrates the pre-eminence of Frenchmen in this class of sport. The prizes won by Frenchmen this year amount to a total of£120,000.
Will the Minister of External Affairs cause a letter to be written to the writer of the Age article asking him where he obtained his facts concerning the great French Republic?
– I do not suppose that the honorable member expects an answer to that question.
Bill presented by Mr. Thomas, and read a first time.
Settlement - Communication - Population
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are these -
Debate resumed from 6th October (vide page 4256), on motion by Mr. Batchelor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I am obliged to my honorable friend and colleague, the honorable member for Angas, for conceding to me the opportunity to continue this debate. So far as one can judge, the proposal embodied in the Bill has passed almost beyond the debating stage. It is unnecessary now, though it was very necessary earlier, to contend that it ranks among the very first demanding the attention of the Commonwealth. I do not estimate its call upon us by the magnitude of the territory affected, although that is enormous, measured by any civilized standard ; I do not judge it by its financial prospects, though they are great ; I have from the first applied the standard of national values, with its implication of national dangers and necessities. In that way alone can the relation of the proposal to the future of this country be appreciated.
This measure has had an extraordinary and almost romantic history. In the first instance, the Commonwealth and the State Governments were so far apart that no progress was made, and after a period the latter withdrew the offer which it had submitted on the authority of its Legislature. We differed too greatly in our estimate of the requirements of the situation to permit of the proposal being practically considered here. But after the definite abandonment of a project which had engaged the attention of the South Australian Ministry, correspondence was resumed. It became evident that the subject must be dealt with by agreement between the Commonwealth and the State. Happening to be a member of the Commonwealth Ministry of the day, the result of a correspondence with Mr. Price, the then Premier of South Australia, was that a conference was held in Melbourne early in 1907, at which an agreement was attained. This is now, with a small exception, practically before us.
It was embodied in a Bill which was discussed by the South Australian Parliament at the end of that year, and received the Governor’s assent early in 1908. The stormy conditions prevailing in this Parliament prevented the consideration of a similar measure here, though it was part of the business on our notice-paper. The early months of 1908 were devoted to the completion of the business of 1907, when Tariff revision was concluded. When it was completed Parliament was too exhausted to consider any other measure. After a short recess we met again, in 1908, but a change of Government taking place caused a further postponement.
In 1909 the political conditions for the first time permitted us to proceed with the Bill, but there was every indication, according to the most careful estimate of forces, that it was hopeless to expect the measure to be passed. Legitimate personal influence was exercised, conduct to which, also, I plead guilty, since the subject has since been made matter of discussion. The opponents of the Bill were induced to refrain from defeating it on the second reading, as they could have done, believing that it would be easy to secure certain vital amendments in Committee; but I doubt if ever in the history of this Parliament there has been a more rapid change of opinion than that which occurred between the second reading and the consideration of the Bill in Committee that followed immediately. The pressure of national sentiment was so strong that the measure went through the House triumphantly.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– Because it was national arguments that were employed.
– One-third of the members who voted for the Bill did so to oblige the honorable member for Grey, in the belief that the measure would be thrown out by the Senate.
– That is not so.
– It must be remembered, too, that one side of the House was not under the whip.
– It was done by honorable persuasion; and, so far as I am concerned, never, at all events, since the High Court Bill was put through the House, on a most delicate occasion, have I been so intimately concerned with that endeavour to urge any honorable members who attached any value to my opinion to give this measure a friendly hearing on account of its ultimate effects upon Australia.
– The whip had got beyond control, if the honorable gentleman remembers.
– One of them did, but that was because undertakings, express and in print, had been given, which rendered it impossible for him to take another course. I merely mention this in passing, because hereafter it will be a matter of some interest to realize that personal, State, and financial considerations have been discarded here at times, under the influence of a national ideal, and this in a manner which, in my opinion, reflected the highest’ credit on those who were content in such a crisis to subordinate their personal interest, and, in many cases, their personal wishes, when convinced that this question could not be longer postponed. In the Senate, however, the pressure of business, and the strong feeling entertained by representatives of particular States combined together. Although we had a far larger number rallied for the Bill than had been anticipated, we unfortunately fell two votes short of the number required to pass it. We now have precisely the same Bill, with the recommendation that it has already run the gauntlet of the House in which the States are directly represented, and I am sure its welcome will be even more cordial than it was in 1909.
May I offer one quotation from my remarks of 1909 upon the real character of this Bill, and as indicating a point of view on which I think it can be recommended more strenuously than ever to the attention of this Parliament? On that occasion I said -
To me the question has been, not so much commercial as national, first, second, third, and last. Either we must accomplish the peopling of the Northern Territory or submit to its transfer to some other nation. The latter alternative is not to be tolerated. The Territory must be peopled by a white race. We could put a garri-son there in barracks as a watchdog. That would be extravagant, foreign to our instincts, and, having regard to the extent of the country, insufficient. The garrison we need is -not idlers, but workers. We must people the Northern Territory with settlers who may be organized and equipped, so as to render them capable of serving in the defence of Australia. We can evade our risk only by shutting our eyes. In no other way can it be ignored.
I again venture to urge support for the measure upon national, and not on commercial grounds, though they are not to be disregarded. I dealt with them last year in some rough detail. At that time it seemed necessary to touch upon them, even at the close of a long debate. Even now the bestinformed men in this community know practically nothing of the possibilities of this vast area ; but we know quite enough to realize that the most pessimistic view discovers what would be considered in any
Other continent an immense area suitable for settlement - relatively immense according to European or civilized standards - and with evidently great mineral prospects. Optimistic views are heard occasionally, though these are at present more based on hope than on practical information. The point I have always wished to urge has been that, whatever may be the prospects of the Northern Territory, the Common.wealth alone is capable of coping with it as it requires to be dealt with in the national interest.
– Does the honorable member think that South Australia is justified in driving that railway bargain with the Commonwealth ?
– I shall come to that question in its place, because that and all such questions are to me either minor or inconsiderable. In whatever way they may I c decided, I should vote for this measure. When the time comes for considering particular items in this proposal I shall be prepared to deal with them freely.
– It is loading Australia with an expenditure of millions which may not be justified.
– With the portion of the agreement to which the honorable mem ber has just alluded I propose to deal presently at some length. Let me admit that although we fought these details - as it was our duty to do while we were in the process of completing the bargain, and although this Parliament would not have been properly served if its individual interests,, so far as they came in conflict with those of the State, had not been fairly pressed - yet the point of view from which I reconsider that transaction does not alter my judgment in the slightest degree. No matter how any particular proposal may be decided, the whole question is one of such urgency as to demand early action.
Considerations of economy must stand second until we secure the settlement and defence of that area. Even if the agreement had been very much burdened - it is. very little burdened at present - with, onerous conditions, and the choice had been between accepting thew now or waiting ten years, or even five years, for better terms, I hold that the intervening time is more valuable to Australia than the sacrifices which we shall be called, upon to make. It is only fair to put stress on that view in order that we may preserve a proper proportion between this proposition as a whole and particular conditions of that proposition which have been debated at such length as to obscure the main question. This Bill was carried, in- 1909, solely for national reasons, by many honorable members who considered the bargain an unwise one in certain particulars - especially the one to which reference has been made. Any opposition of the same kind which may be offered on this occasion will receive the fullest and fairest consideration, but I trust that unless it can be brought into the terms of this agreement, with the consent of the State, we shall not consent to run the risk of any further postponement.
Last night, when engaged in considering the prospects of the sugar industry, I tookoccasion to remark how much the measure before the House meant, not only to the sugar industry, but to Australia as a whole. There are a number of problems of the very first importance awaiting us with reference to the application of white labour to other tropical and sub-tropical industries. There are considerations, to which I do no more than allude in an off-hand way, covering preliminary measures for the defence and protection of Port Darwin and part of the north-west coast, which will require to be borne in mind. There are also the interests we have in the Territory of Papua, which derives a good deal of its importance to us from its geographical position. Unwilling as a House so strongly recruited from the southern portion of Australia may be to have questions of international policy forced upon it, because they affect the future of Australia, I think we must all agree that it is impossible for us to draw an arbitrary line anywhere in this continent so as to imply that north of it our interests are any less than they are in the southernmost portion, that every inch of land is not requisite to the rest of Australia, or can ever be severed from it either in population or in policy. Even our outlying Territory of Papua or any further developments in that direction must be undertaken, not for themselves, but in relation to the northern part of Australia and its future as affected by south-east Asia.
– The honorable member does not see that the farther we get from Australia the nearer we approach to some Power which may be hostile to us.
– I do see that, and could not help seeing it if I were only looking at a map. I do not propose to embarrass the consideration of this subject by more than that passing reference, but if the time should come for a debate on the foreign relations of Australia and its interests in the north and in the islands to the north, I shall be perfectly prepared to discuss them, either publicly or privately, with the honorable member or any others interested.
We are providing for a much farther future than any persons here, even though their lives be extended beyond the ordinary term, are likely to view. At present there is no responsibility so grave in relation to their national existence resting on the same number of white people anywhere in the world as that which rests on the white people of Australia, to-day the mere occupants of a trifling section of this enormous continent.
The reason why I brush aside commercial considerations is not because I have not the greatest hope of remunerative developments of sub-tropical agriculture, as well as of those much less certain elements of wealth which are derived from mineral discoveries - though I have the highest expectations of these, I put them aside - simply because, no matter how prosperous the Northern Territory may prove, yet for more decades than we are called upon to count we must look upon it as a place for expenditure, lather than for providing revenue. Whatever revenue we may derive from it, far more outlay will be required to complete the necessary developments without which our foothold there cannot be firm, and without a firm foothold in the north we can keep a firm foothold nowhere on this continent. Consequently this is not a business question, though every business element should be properly argued and given its proper weight, because that is one side of the proposition. On the other hand, not to mislead the House, let me express the personal opinion that, no matter what the developments of the Northern Territory may be, neither for one generation, nor probably for two generations or more, can we expect to see Northern Australia add to the income of the Commonwealth anything like the sum which it will he called upon to spend there in the interests of Southern Australia as much as in the interest of Northern Australia itself. This continent is, and must be, one and indivisible.
– Does not the honorable member think that the north-west might be included in that argument?
– I meant that, too. In speaking on the measure last year I declined to consider the Northern Territory, vast as it is, apart from other parts of Northern Australia. It is really Northern Australia of which we are speaking. The coast portion of Queensland to the east of ;he uplands is not part of Northern Australia. It has different conditions, it has become fairly settled, and has’ exceptional advantages of its own. It will be, in my opinion, one of the high revenue-producing areas of Australia. Therefore, when I speak of Northern Australia, I refer to those portions, starting from the eastern side, where the sea communication ceases to be cheap and the climatic conditions alter right across to Derby and Broome, and thence down as far as Roeburne. That is the Northern Australia in which the money of the Commonwealth must be invested on many national grounds during the next generation.
I trust honorable members will pardon a disquisition upon a subject which is really too large to cope with in any adequate sense at this stage. We have necessities for settlement and railway communication without which our hold on this .portion of Australia cannot be sufficient. Quite apart from any increase of the white population, which we hope to see, any attack on that portion of the Territory would require the whole strength of this community, north and south together, to expel it ; that is to say, all the strength we could make available there, and without railway communication that strength could not be made so available. So in the case of the Western Australian railway, I put economic considerations in the background ; the two projects stand on precisely the same footing. That, too, is a national work, the first purpose of which is defence, by linking up the west with the north.
– The conditions are very different in each case.
– Irrespective of the conditions, our national and defence interests are of such magnitude and weight that all ordinary considerations of advantagethough they cannot be said to be insignificant, because they are not - do not weigh in the scale as against those interests, at all events, in my own mind. - As to the measure, nothing more need be said ; it is the same measure the late Government introduced and passed last year in this House. It very nearly passed through the Senate ; and we now welcome its reappearance, and hope to see it become law in the least possible time. But there is one issue which has attracted more attention, perhaps, than it deserves, considering its relative importance j although it is a question that 1 certainly do not brush aside, because, for our immediate needs, and in the early part of our development of the Territory, it will be a matter of great importance. I mean, of course, the first connexion by means of a railway from Pine Creek to join the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway at some junction. I do not wish to provoke argument, but regard this as the first transcontinental connexion - it cannot be the last, but must be only the first of several. It is the first to the north and north-west.
– Does this agreement compel the railway to go right through South Australian territory? “Mr.1 DEAKIN.- I take it that the construction of the Western Australian railway is already assented to, and its route appears to be placed practically beyond dispute by the survey.
We are not in the same position in regard to the northern railway, because there is a conflict of opinion which has arisen in a rather extraordinary fashion. Our original agreement was made, as I have said, with the South” Aus tralian Government early in 1907. The negotiations took the form of personal interviews between Mr. Price, who was the Premier of South Australia, with his colleague, Mr. Lawrence O’Loughlin, and myself on the part of the Commonwealth Government. Subsequently, of course, they came before the Commonwealth Cabinet as a whole. In the course of our discussion the question of the railway naturally emerged ; but it will complete the story if I point out the exact course of events in this connexion since we first began to get “ at grips “ with the question.
In the Commonwealth Parliamentary Papers, Vol. ti of the entire series, but Vol. - for the year 1906, at page 1233, honorable members will find a paper printed to the order of the Senate in July of that year, containing the first, or, at all events, some of the very earliest correspondence. On the 3rd February, 1906, Mr. Price forwarded to us resolutions which had been carried in the South Australian Parliament, the condition therein laid clown being -
That the line of route of the proposed railway shall be from the terminus of the railway at the South Australian boundary to the terminus of the northern section of the line at Pine Creek, and within one hundred miles east or west of the present overland telegraph line.
There was then no idea of our taking any railway in South Australian territory.
– The railway was to practically follow the telegraph line.
– Quite so. I replied to that communication on the 23rd Ferbuary, 1.906, pointing out, amongst other things, that one very doubtful proposal was that the route should be ‘ 1 restricted, in advance, within limits which may interfere with its financial prospects.”
At that time, and always afterwards, I was personally very much impressed with the absence of accurate knowledge about a great section of the southern parts of the Northern Territory, and was unwilling to commit the Commonwealth or the Government to any line until we were certain that we were choosing the best route from all points of view - the best route, not only for the present, but for the future of Australia. To that communication, Mr. A.-A. 1 Kirkpatrick, Acting Premier of South Australia,replied on the 6th April, to the effect that his Government were particularly anxious to go on with the railway from Oodnadatta to the northern border, and to complete the construction from there to Pine Creek. That communication was evidently subject to the same conditions as those previously made. On the 30th April, I wrote to the Premier of South Australia, pointing out that in 1901 there had been no mention of any railway construction, or any obligation on the Commonwealth to construct a railway either wholly or in part, and that it was a subject for careful consideration. Mr. Price wrote again on the 14th July, and I replied on the 20th, to the effect that the South Australian Government was calling upon the Commonwealth to undertake at its own expense the construction of “ a gigantic public work . . . of which South Australia dictates the route, and hoped to reap the greatest part of, if not all, the advantages,” and that this condition appeared to me “ the chief obstacle to an early and satisfactory settlement.” Then, on the 6th August, Mr. Price again wrote, giving indications that his Government had widened their view. He pointed out that to transfer the Territory without having made provision for the completion of the railway line would leave them “ blocked against extending the line from its present temporary terminus, ‘Oodnadatta, northward beyond Charlotte Waters, a dilemma never contemplated,” and expressed the opinion that the Federal Government should “ give due consideration to what has already been done in the direction of building a transcontinental railway.”
– Was not that all a lot of diplomatic fencing?
– Perhaps so, in the sense that we were feeling our way to see how far we could get.
– No doubt about that !
– Here is Mr. Price’s next “ feeler,” which seems to open the door to further consideration. He said -
To connect with Port Darwin a railway already traversing Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, is essentially a Federal work, and we trust that its connexion may be approached with appreciation of its national importance.
If honorable members read that despatch of Mr. Price’s very carefully, they will see that it is essentially diplomatic; he does not commit himself to this proposal, but merely makes an allusion to a line traversing those States.
– That was an afterthought.
Mr.- Archibald. - The honorable member for Ballarat was very diplomatic on his own side, at times !
– If not, we failed in our endeavours. Those words are capable of two interpretations - one that they allude to the transcontinental line in question ; and the other that they merely refer to the fact that by travelling from Adelaide to Melbourne, from there to Sydney, and so on, we could gradually reach the Northern Territory. However, I replied on the 30th August, pointing out that in the opinion of the Government the question of a northern transcontinental railway could not be considered apart from the question of the transcontinental railway to Western Australia, both being Federal lines of great importance.
– That, I suppose, was the idea of the honorable member for Swan ?
– The honorable member for Swan had not been consulted in the matter ; although he is a representative ot Western Australia, and I had no doub’t as to his sentiments, he was not informed of Our proposal until it had been made. I “went on to say in the letter -
With a view to assisting you in submitting the matter to your Parliament, I now put forward the following as a proposal Ministers would feel themselves justified in laying before the Parliament of the Commonwealth and recommending for acceptance -
That the Territory be offered free of all past liabilities, except those incurred in the construction of the line to Pine Creek, and subject only to the condition that the Commonwealth should undertake to make the railway between Pine Creek and the southern boundary of the .Territory by route to be chosen by the Commonwealth.
I also laid before Mr. Price the further condition that South Australia should agree to the survey and construction of the Western Australian line. At that point the correspondence ceased; and it was not until five or six months afterwards, when Mr. Price came over, that the last suggestion was made, namely, that the Commonwealth construct the railway to the South Australian border, but that we do so on a route to be chosen by ourselves.
Of the Conference that took place then I need say little. Unfortunately Mr. Price was soon suffering from that attack of ill-health which subsequently terminated fatally, costing us one of the best politicians and public men Australia ever had. Mr. O’Loughlin had charge of the agreement, and when, at the end of 1907, it came before the South Australian
Parliament, that gentleman spoke on behalf of the State in submitting the proposed agreement-
– Mr. O’Loughlin was Minister for the Territory.
– And was therefore naturally charged with the business, having also a first-hand knowledge of everything that had transpired.
– Was the conference public or private?
– Entirely private. It took place between Mr. Price, Mr. O’Loughlin, and myself. I laid the matter before the Cabinet, which expressed its views. Upon these we settled the agreement. The important point now is to show, from the mouths of South Australian representatives, what the agreement arrived at between us really was.
When the Bill was laid before the South Australian Parliament, it was accompanied by the map which now hangs in this chamber. This, I am told, is the very map that was before the members of the South Australian Parliament when they were considering the subject. The one thing that “leaps to the eyes,” as the French say, on this map is the fact that an alternative route of railway is shown outside the Territory.
– That was Mr. Solomon’s map.
– It may be so. The map in itself shows what was in the mind of the South Australian Parliament. There are references to it in the Hansard report. The present Attorney-General, Mr. Denny, on 6th July of this year, was asked a question on the subject -
Mr. Young, referring to reported statements of the Federal Prime Minister and AttorneyGeneral, that the proposed Oodnadatta-Pine Creek railway agreement would admit of the line going to Queensland, asked did the Minister regard such a position as satisfactory to South Australia?
The Attorney-General said, in reply -
There could be no doubt that at the beginning it was recognised that it was possible that the line might go through Queensland. Anybody who knew anything about the agreement knew that. When the late Mr. Price came back from entering into the agreement, he showed in the Adelaide Town Hall, by a map, that it was quite possible for a line to go that way under the agreement.
When the transfer was being decided in the South Australian Parliament, Mr. O’Loughlin, as reported in Hansard of 15th October, 1907, said -
Numerous objections have been made to the agreement on the ground that there ought to be a stipulated time in which to connect the Territory with South Australia by a line of railway, and they held this opinion, but in discussing the question with Mr. Deakin, he pointed out, and properly so, that it would be unwise to bind the Commonwealth Government to construct the line of railway within a stipulated time. Mr. Deakin, however, undertook to construct the line from Port Darwin through Central Australia to join the existing railway at Oodnadatta, or to go through what was considered to be very much better country - from Pine Creek, via Camooweal, down the borders of Queensland, and a territory west of Birdsville, and down to Port Augusta, vid Hergott.
That is the alternative railway route shown on the map.
The length of the proposed line from Port Darwin to Fort Augusta would be 1,686 miles. The length of the other proposed line from Port Darwin, vid the Queensland border and Birdsville down to Port Augusta would be 1,726 miles. No doubt the Territory would keep the line in their own territory if possible.
There is a misprint here. I have read the report as it stands, but what Mr. O’Loughlin really said is plain. He said that no doubt “ the Commonwealth “ would keep the line in their own territory, if possible. The report says “no doubt the Territory,” which is meaningless. He went on -
There was very little difference between these routes as far as distance was concerned, and he ventured to say, from information carefully gathered, that the line vid the Queensland border and west of Birdsville would be the best line for South Australia, and probably the best for the Commonwealth to construct, because the land was much more fertile and had a better rainfall.
– That was said in the South Australian Parliament?
– Yes, on 15th October, 1907, when Mr. O’Loughlin was recommending the agreement which we had arrived at.
– Mr. O’Loughlin was the Minister for the Territory?
– Yes. A little later on he said -
The Commonwealth undertook to relieve South Australia of their responsibility for all time.
He meant the responsibility for the Oodnadatta line -
Which was the best proof that could possibly be given that they are earnest in their desire to connect Port Darwin with Port Augusta with a line of railway. They would take the present 1 line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta over, guarantee to run it as it was run at the present time, and to shoulder the loss on it instead of South Australia. That was a big concession, but one that was properly made, and a guarantee was given because the Government did not insist on a given time for the railway to be constructed. It must be evident to every one that one of the two proposed lines to which he had referred must be built, because the country could not be properly developed without it.
There Mr. O’Loughlin stated what was the fact - that he and Mr. Price came over to Melbourne determined to press for a given route and a given date; and the factor that altered their calculations, and induced them to take back an entirely different agreement, was the proposal that the Commonwealth Government should give a guarantee to take over the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line, thus making it the interest of the Commonwealth, as well as its obligation under the agreement, to make that line payable, which could only be done by its extension.
When I first declined to give a time guarantee, Mr. O’Loughlin and Mr. Price refused to consider it. I had anticipated that attitude, and before they came over was prepared with this counter proposal, which was to them the novel element in the transaction. It was because we gave them this practical guarantee by taking over the line that they willingly consented, as they told the South Australian Parliament, to leave this Parliament to determine both the time of completing and the route of the transcontinental railway.
– Apart from the idea of constructing a through railway, it would be foolish for the Commonwealth to take over the line.
– Exactly ; why. should we take over this line involving a responsibility of ,£80,000 a year, and running from nowhere to nowhere, except with the intention to make it a through railway ? But when you take into consideration the harbor at the head of Spencer’s Gulf, the splendid opportunities which its central situation presents, and the connexion of the Western Australian railway at the same point, you see how advantageous it is to make the connexion with Port Augusta. The route of the railway roughly divides the continent and connects our northern and southern coasts.
– Port Augusta is the nearest port.
– Yes, it affords the best opportunities for the development of Central Australia in the future.
– For the development of our own territory.
– Exactly, and for the development of the midmost portion of the continent at the same time. Of course, I have no objection to South Australians putting forward South Australian reasons in favour of what they consider should be done; but when one reads some of their arguments, one might almost suppose that it was proposed that the Territory should be barricaded, and that no South Australian could put his head over it without running the risk of being fired at. Whereas, of course, the fact being that under our Federal system no possible obstacle can be placed in the way of trade and intercourse between the various parts of the Commonwealth, South Australia can lose none of her future commercial possibilities arising out of the construction of the railway by the Federation.
– All the labour men held that view in South Australia, just as they hold it here.
– Some South Austra- “ Hans speak as though, when making this bargain, they were bidding good-bye to the Northern Territory for evermore.
– Some of those in South Australia who use that argument are in favour of handing the Northern Territory over to a private company.
– I leave that aspect pf the matter for my honorable friend to deal with. It is certainly not my policy. At page 614 of the same volume of the South Australian Hansard, from which I have already quoted, there are passages which go to show what South Australian members themselves understood the agreement to mean. In the debate, Mr. O’Loughlin went on to say -
It had been asserted by some people that if the line running close to the Queensland border were constructed it would tend to develop the Queensland ports instead of those of South Australia. That idea was altogether erroneous, because the Federal Government were bound to construct the line -to Port Augusta, and not to take it to any Queensland port ; and the line going to Port Augusta, via Hergott, would naturally bring much of the Queensland trade to South Australia, because it was nearer than any Queensland port. Port Augusta was a much better port for all kinds of shipping than Rockhampton or any other of the North Queensland ports.
That may be a matter of opinion.
– There is no room for difference of opinion on that point.
– Port Augusta is one of the finest ports in Australia.
- Mr. O’Loughlin, the Minister for the Territory, who was also
Minister for Lands, is an authority on these subjects : and what I am trying 10 bring before honorable members is his perfect candour and frankness as to the alternative railway routes. I could also quote, if necessary, from his statement made in the present session of the South Australian Parliament. It is the same statement that he made originally, and I have preferred to quote the former statement only because it was made at a period nearer to the time when the agreement was entered into, so that no possible question as to a lapse of memory can arise.
– Both Mr. O’Loughlin and Mr. Peake have said the same thing.
– If any further evidence were required of the fact that this alternative line through Queensland was taken into full consideration by the South Australian Parliament, honorable members will find it in the speech of Mr. Butler, the Leader of the Opposition. That gentleman made a fierce attack on this agreement, because he insisted that it necessarily involved constructing the line through Queensland, traversing hundreds of miles of the territory of that State, and never coming near to South Australia until it approached the northern boundary. At pages 619 and 620, Mr. Butler argued in this way -
If this agreement were ratified we would see the line from Port Darwin connected with Queensland and New South Wales before it was connected with Port Augusta.
The clause providing that the line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta should be handed over to the Federal Government should be struck out. Another flaw in the agreement was that the railway would not benefit the Northern Territory to any extent. If it touched the Queensland border at Austral Downs or Camooweal, and then came south to our northern boundary, the railway would pass almost entirely through Queensland.
And so on. So much for the Leader of the Opposition. There is only one other high authority to whom one need refer, and I quote him because he took a very independent view, of the whole situation. He did not feel himself at all bound to agree with his Government unless he thought they were right. I quote the testimony of a gentleman who has added his counsels to this Parliament since the last election. Mr. Archibald, now the honorable member for Hindmarsh, speaking in the South Australian Parliament on 27th
October, 1907, made a most convincing statement -
The Federal Government would naturally want a free hand as to the route of the railway, and South Australia had no right to dictate in the matter.
There is a ‘national sentiment, even from a State member.
There was better land in the direction of the Queensland border, and trade -would naturally gravitate to the nearest port. It would be no concern of South Australia’s if that route proved to be towards Queensland ports. When South Australia extended the line from Hergott to Oodnadatta the Government of the day deliberately ignored all the reliable information that was at hand as to the best route. At that time there was a strong feeling outside Parliament that the line should go in the direction of Birdsville, but Parliament decided that it should follow the telegraph line. He took part in the discussion on the question outside Parliament, and favoured the Birdsville route, but the advocates of that scheme were only roundly abused for their trouble.
I need not do more than call attention to the patriotic terms in which he concluded his speech -
He asked the House to pass the motion on the ground, firstly, that we were 2,000 miles from Palmerston, and, therefore, could not govern the Territory properly ; secondly, that we were ceding the’ Territory to ourselves, as Australians; thirdly, that the cession would render a landgrant railway impossible ; and, fourthly, that it would save us ^200,000 a year.
I have accumulated many more quotations. At pages 182 and 201 of the South Australian Hansard for the current session, Mr. Denny, the State Attorney-General, is reported to have said, that it was always understood that the agreement provided for a possible deviation of the railway outside the borders of the Northern Territory ; that it had been left an open question, and that the best route ought to be taken.
– That statement is not in accordance with fact.
– It was not intended that the line should go outside the Northern Territory.
– Mr. Denny had evidently been looking up the facts.
– He knows nothing about the matter, lt was like his cheek to make such a statement.
– He -was replying to statements made during a debate on the Northern Territory Agreement.
– He knows little of anything outside” the Adelaide park’ lands.
– Apparently I have not succeeded in this instance in quoting a convincing authority. We also obtain from the South Australian Hansard information as to the attitude of the present Federal Government, which is not in conflict with, but rather supplements what we have heard in this House. For instance, Mr. Verran, the Premier of South Australia, speaking in the House of Assembly on 5th July last, is reported at page 20 of the State Hansard to have said, in reply to Mr. Smeaton, who interjected - “ Is the route to be determined by the surveyors?” -
There was much discussion over that.
The reference was to a discussion between the present Prime Minister, the Minister of External Affairs, and himself -
After we had left the matter was discussed in caucus by the Federal party.
– That was an error.
– He ought to know.
– But Mr. Verran has since withdrawn the statement.
– Perhaps the question was discussed in Cabinet, and not in Caucus, but the mistake is not unnatural. According to Mr. Verran, it was agreed by the Caucus - evidently he should have said the Federal Cabinet - it is much the same thing -
That the route should be determined by the Federal Legislature. We are leaving that an open question. . . . We wanted to leave it intact, but we are going to see if we can get a promise out of the Federal Government that the route should be determined by the engineers.
At page 208 of the South Australian Hansard, the present Minister of External Affairs is quoted as having suggested that the route to be selected should be governed by the reports of engineers and surveyors.
– But we have no authority to go outside the agreement.
– Everything must be subject to the agreement.
– I think the honorable member has made the statement in this House that the route to be followed should be determined by the surveyors.
– Decided by the Parliament on the reports of surveyors and engineers. I said that it was really a matter for report by surveyors and engineers as to theproper route to be selected.
– The agreement settles that question.
– I was coming to that point. This subject is not being considered by us for the first time, and for the convenience of honorable members who wish to equip themselves for this debate, I refer them to pages 3355-6 of Hansard for the current session, where they will find the legal opinions given by Mr. Dashwood, Crown Solicitor of South Australia; Mr. Mitchell, one of the leading barristers of this State; we have also had those of the honorable member for Angas, and the honorable member for Darling Downs. I think that in the case of the honorable member for Angas, the opinion was merely a verbal one.
– That is so.
– At page 3355, honorable members will also find the opinion expressed by the present Attorney-General. The situation is that, in the opinion of Mr. Mitchell, of Mr. Dashwood, of Senator Sir Josiah Symon, of the honorable member for Angas, of the honorable member for Darling Downs, who was Attorney-General in 1907, and of myself, the agreement before us would be interpreted by a Court to mean that a railway made from Pine Creek southwards must be within the borders of the Northern Territory.
– There is only one reasonable definition of the word “ southwards.”
– There is no limitation as before to the overland telegraph route, and there is 110 limitation of any route as long as it is within the bordersof the Territory. The contrary opinion expressed by the present Attorney-General is a reasonable interpretation of the agreement, but to my mind it is not legally sound. It would not hold in a Court of law. He expressed exactly what was in the minds of Mr. Price, Mr. O’Loughlin and myself when we discussed this question. Both Mr. Price and Mr. O’Loughlin thought the eastern route preferable, but they agreed with my contention that the route to be chosen should be that which, on full inquiry, proved to be the best. If it proved to be in the interests of Australia to follow the route outside the border dotted on the map, such a selection could be made.
A bona fide southern connexion - not a line winding anywhere over the continent - between Pine Creek and some point on the Port Augusta - Oodnadatta railway, on any route which legitimately fulfilled that requirement, was within the intention openly admitted by Mr. Price, Mr. O’Loughlin, and myself the three parties to the agreement. We knew what we meant, and never had any doubt. What we intended was a connexion between the existing southern and northern railways by any route which this Parliament, after inquiry by engineers and surveyors, or other competent persons, considered to be the best. This would be an honorable compliance with our obligation to connect the Pine Creek and the Oodnadatta railways. Our intention was that it should be no more to the east or to the west than the national interests required. South Australian interests were to be taken into account, together with those of all other States affected.
I am not positive, but think that Mr. Price and Mr. O’Loughlin also agreed with the subsidiary proposition made byrne that we must not consider this as if it were the only transcontinental line to be constructed. I urged that it was impossible that we could be content with one line. If the central route were takenalong the telegraph line, it would be too far to the west to satisfy the needs of the great stretch of country lying between that line and the Cloncurry and Longreach districts.
– The two would not be antagonistic.
– No. The first must be along whatever route this Parliament decides, as it is entitled to do, notwithstanding this legal document.
– We shall have a railway to the Victoria River presently.
– I was going to say so. Full inquiry into the routes has not yet been made, and Parliament this session cannot make a choice. Special survey parties must traverse the whole route; and that has not yet been done.
– There has not even been a preliminary survey.
– No. Special survey parties must traverse the country and advise the best route. If, on the reports of the surveyors and engineers, it were decided, with an eye to the future of the whole country, that the eastern line should first of all be constructed, as likely to prove remunerative earlier than any other, and to assist in developing country with which we ought now to be in touch, we should still require to supplement that line by continuing a railway from Oodnadatta, probably in a north-westerly direction. My ownpoint of view, knowing nothing of the country, save what I have read or heard from others who are familiar with it, is that the Oodnadatta line should touch the Mac.Donnell Ranges, where we have a splendid piece of country, and, instead of striking northwards, through what every one describes as unfavorable country up to a certain point, pass towards the Tanami goldfield, and away towards Derby or Broome. Those are two points in the north that we have to safeguard. There is also another in the north-east, but, with the development of Queensland, we may hope that it will be in such touch with settlement as will give reasonable assurance of safety. The northwest is more difficult to reach than Port Darwin. A line in that direction would pass through some superb cattle, country, and territory rich in mineral possibilities.
Speaking with no pretension to more knowledge than is possessed by other honorable members, it seems to me that everything ought to depend on the reports of engineers and surveyors. We know the difficulty of carrying the Hergott line to Birdsville, because of the sandy as well as the wide extent of flooded country at the lower part of the inflow of the Cooper. This it would have to traverse. After the agreement had been made, however, and some time before it was submitted to the South Australian Parliament, we were assured that the State Railway Department had discovered a route to Birdsville avoiding the swampy and sandy country.
– A good deal east of Birdsville.
– It would describe a curve about one-fourth of the distance between Birdsville and the extremity of the South Australian border curving back towards Urandangi and into the Territory.
I have detained the House longer than I intended in order that this question might be made reasonably clear. To understand how the agreement came to be drafted as it was, honorable members must recollect that it was made in February, 1907, shortly before I left for the Imperial Conference in London. The negotiations with Mr. Price were conducted at high pressure, while making arrangements for a necessary absence of four or five months. Consequently it was not until my return that I discovered that the terms of the agreement had been so drawn as to confine the line strictly within the boundaries of the Northern Territory. I communicated with Mr. O’Loughlin and Mr. Price, and both agreed with me that it did not fulfil the terms of the agreement we arrived at, which gave a choice of route. They had already told their Parliament that they agreed that the route should be considered and decided by the Federal Parliament.
I did not raise this question when a similar Bill was before this House on the last occasion, because to have done so then would certainly have been fatal to the measure. The view I held, and still hold, is, that if we are to be bound by the strict legal interpretation of the agreement, as it was erroneously expressed, I am for accepting it as it stands. I wish to make that perfectly plain ; but let us deal with the matter justly. Let me remind honorable members that there was but one view held by all the parties concerned in the making of the agreement which would have been kept by Mr. Price, had he lived, and which will be kept by Mr. O’Loughlin and Mr. Peake, who are aware of the whole of the circumstances. They have recently said so in the South Australian Parliament. All the parties intimately concerned concur that the intention of that agreement was not that which was embodied in the Bill actually submitted. Consequently, we are placed in a position of some embarrassment to-day, though I do not think there need be any real embarrassment.
What is required is some addition to this agreement making it plain that this Parliament, after making a thorough and searching investigation of all the alternative routes proposed, and fully inquiring into the question, shall decide which route is to be adopted.
– Does the honorable gentleman mean an alteration of the agreement?
– No, it would be in the nature of an addition to the agreement.
– That would be fatal to the agreement.
– We should never see any more of it.
– It would correct the difference between what was intended and what was said.
– I do not at all agree with the Minister for External Affairs, and for several reasons. This could be put to the South Australian Parliament on the evidence of which I have to-day given only the most essential points. A great deal more might be obtained, if necessary, showing what the agreement actually was. We have also the statement of present Ministers of South Australia, who have said that they regarded this question as one for the decision of the Federal Parliament. I have quoted statements to that effect, and many other similar statements might be quoted: In these circumstances, the per sons intimately concerned having no doubt as to what the agreement was, and the present Government of South Australia being willing to recognise their obligation in that regard, when the whole of the evidence is laid before them, I cannot see that they could reasonably, or that they are at all likely to refuse to consent to the agreement that was actually made, being carried out, instead of another. This part of it, in all good faith, but probably owing to verbal instructions being relied upon in the circumstances in which they were given in 1907, is drawn with a strictness which was not intended. That would exclude from consideration the alternative route which Mr. Price, Mr. O’Loughlin, and Mr. Verran agree was submitted to the South Australian people and Legislature before they passed their Bill.
I wish honorable members to realize that the Bill which the South Australian Parliament passed, consenting to the transfer of the Territory, was passed, as the South Australian Hansard shows, on an interpretation of the agreement which allowed of the consideration of the alternative eastern route.
– That was the interpretation of only two men.
– That was the interpretation given to, and accepted by, the South Australian House of Assembly.
– That was not the impression in the House at all.
– I have quoted the evidence from the South Australian Hansard.
– It was the interpretation of two men only.
– No j the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Assembly adopted this interpretation, as did other honorable members, amongst them Mr. Travers.
– Does the honorable gentleman realize that the Bill now before us is the same as the Bill introduced last vear ?
– I do. I have said so. That Bill was drawn on the agreement, which was erroneously limited. I have stated the reason why I was not prepared to imperil the fate of that Bill in the circumstances existing last year. The circumstances now are entirely different. The whole situation ought to be cleared.
– It is the other way about.
– We have also had the statements from the South Australian Government in the South Australian Parliament.
– It is said that the South Australian Government are not unanimous on this question.
– We know that two members of the Government were against the agreement, who are now supporting it. I have thought it necessary to go through the whole of these numbers of the South Australian Hansard to discover what was said in this regard.
There was, in 1907, a clear statement of the agreement as it was actually made, and there have been in the South Australian House of Assembly recently criticisms of the legal effect of the agreement as submitted, some in support of the opinion expressed by the Attorney-General, and others in support of the opinion expressed by Mr. Dash wood.
– That was only in one House, and a majority in the other House of the South Australian Parliament is opposed to the handing over of the Territory at all.
– Who are the two Ministers to whom the honorable gentleman refers ?
– I have referred to Mr. Verran and Mr. Denny, and to what they said in the South Australian House of Assembly.
– This will certainly be news for South Australia.
– How can it be, when the matter’ has been fully discussed, and lately much commented upon, in the Parliament of that State?
– If the honorable gentleman desired to assist the attempt made to defeat this measure, he could not do so better than by what he is stating now.
– I am doing my duty to the House. 16 is not a matter of choice but a question of facts.
– Has the honorable gentleman no duty to Australia ?
– I have”, and am performing it now. It is my duty to remind the people of Australia what agreement was actually made. I have added my own testimony to that of the only two other persons who were concerned in the making of the original agreement. All three of us who were concerned in making it are in absolute agreement as to what we intended its terms should be.
– The honorable gentleman has not quoted anything said by’ Mr. Verran which justifies that statement.
– I am referring now to those who made the agreement, Mr. Price,
Mr. O’Loughlin, and myself. We never bad the slightest doubt but that the best route should be adopted, even though it should be found to go outside the boundaries of the Northern Territory.
I am not arguing for a line outside the Territory. At the present moment I would not vote for the construction of such a line. At present I would not vote for the construction of any line, because I do not know which would be the best route in the interests of Australia. All I desire is that the best route should be adopted. If it be shown that the best line must follow the overland telegraph line, I am prepared to vote for it. But I want evidence on the subject. I want the testimony of men competent to give expert opinion. I hold no brief in the matter for any locality, and, needless to say, I have no personal interest . in the construction of any particular line there or anywhere else. I have no personal or party feeling or interest to serve.
All I desire is that the best line shall be constructed first. I say that in order that we may know which is the best line we must have a thorough investigation of the whole of the country. Mr. Verran and Mr. Denny have both agreed to leave this question to the Federal Parliament. That is all that anybody asks,
-r-We have all said that - subject to the agreement.
– But not subject to an agreement which may prevent us from adopting the best route if it would take the line an inch over the border of the Northern Territory.
– That is the honorable gentleman’s opinion.
– Yes j my legal opinion and that of several other persons. I put ray own opinion last.
– That would be breaking the agreement. We should require to have another agreement if the line is to be taken outside of the Northern Territory.
– We should not break the agreement which was laid before the South Australian Parliament, with an interpretation expressly allowing the line to be constructed outside of the Territory. Throughout the debate on the subject, so far as I have been able to read, the agreement was never challenged on the ground that it compelled the line to be constructed within, and not without, the Territory.
– What would the High Court say?
– I ask the honorable member not to take me off the point. The agreement at which we arrived appears to have been accepted in both Houses of the. South Australian Parliament as permitting the line to be taken outside the boundaries of the Northern Territory should that be found to be necessary.
– That was never the impression conveyed to the South Australian House of Assembly. I was there at the lime.
– Let the honorable member refresh his memory by reading not only his own speeches, but, as I have “done, all the speeches made in the debate on this question. He will nowhere find the statement made that the agreement prevented the choice of a route that was not wholly within the Northern Territory. On the contrary, he will find all the principal speakers, arguing the question from the point of view that what was intended was that this Parliament should be left to make its choice in the matter. It was admitted that this was the intention of the parties to the agreement, and that the agreement accepted by the South Australian Parliament, was that we should be free to make our choice of the best line. No doubt now, as then, we shall find it, within the boundaries of the Territory, if possible, but we ought not to be confined to that. I have expressed my own opinion on the subject.
– We are told that the original agreement must stand, or nothing.
– Every one who is honest must admit that that is so.
– This is a leg-rope agreement, if you like.
– As I have said, if this House decides that it is not to be bound by the actual original agreement entered into at the time by Mr. Price, Mr. O’Loughlin, and myself, as to what was intended, but prefers to adopt this proposal, with its limitation of the construction of the line within the Northern Territory, they will be unduly limiting the power of choice which the Federal Parliament ought to exercise, and ought to be left to exercise.
– The honorable gentleman should have raised this matter last year, before the elections.
– If I had done so I should have been held responsible for the loss of the previous Bill.
– Why did not the honorable gentleman raise this question when Mr. Price was alive? Why raise it now when the man is dead?
- Mr. Price’s action is on record, and Mr. O’Loughlin, who was even more concerned, has spoken, and is speaking to the same effect. If the decision is to keep the line within the Northern Territory, my vote and advocacy will go strongly for this Bill, because, in my opinion, we cannot afford to wait. But asthe person in this House who, so far as the Federal Parliament is concerned, was primarily responsible for the initial undertaking, it is perfectly impossible for me to refrain from putting the matter fairly before honorable members in a way which could not have been done -without risks that do not exist to-day, when this Bill was before this House on a previous occasion.
– How is that? We were in precisely the same position as we are to-day.
– No, we were in an entirely different position as the numbers supporting the Government proposal in the Senate showed. We were depending upon a very few votes to get the measure through. In the circumstances, I followed the course which I am still prepared tofollow, of voting for the agreement as it stands to secure the acquisition of the Northern Territory.
That is the essential matter. The question of the route may prove very important, but, after all, remains relatively a minor matter. In justice to the Federal Parliament, I think it should have the right of choice of the route on the best information available, but if that be denied us, I should not hesitate for a single instant to support the agreement as it stands. This House can, of course, accept the responsibility of deciding to adopt the agreement as printed, though it is not the actual agreement that was made.
– Will the honorable gentleman support the Bill even if the Federal Parliament is denied the right of choice as to the route ?
– Certainly ; I have said so from the first. The taking over of the Territory has always had - my support. I think we should not refuse it on even much harder terms than these, so strongly do I appreciate its importance. It is the key of Australia, which we cannot afford to leave in the door for any one to turn who pleases.
I am sorry that an agreement for the transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth was not completed ten years ago at the commencement of Federation. We could have spent, and should have required to spend, our funds liberally, as we shall have to do in the future, in order to insure the settlement of the Territory, and safeguard it for coming generations. We have no choice in this matter. We must take this agreement, because we must take the Territory; we cannot afford delay. There have already been knocks at the door in the north, and may be more. Above all things, whatever we do, we should pass this Bill, with or without the condition as to route, and without another moment’s delay.
.- I think the House is under a debt of gratitude to the Leader of the Opposition for the speech he has made this morning. I have heard the honorable gentleman on national ideals, which might, perhaps, be more pleasing to the ear, but on this occasion he has given us information to which the House and the country are entitled.
His speech emphasizes the necessity for holding with open doors any conferences that take place between Commonwealth and State representatives on matters of concern to the people as a whole. We ought to have verbatim reports of the whole of the negotiations, so that members of Parliament and the people as a whole can form a correct judgment of the understanding a’rrived at.
I have spoken on the subject of this Bill before, and do not intend to go into it at length now, except to deal with one aspect of it, namely, the railway proposal.
I yield to no one in a patriotic desire for the welfare of my native country or any portion of it.
– Except as regards the material benefit of the Capital.
– The honorable member’s taunt is quite unjustified. When the Federal Capital was under consideration, I expressed the opinion that the bargain in the Constitution was a totally immoral one, and said I proposed to give effect to it only because it was there, and that we ought to honorably carry out the agreement. I object to entering into another immoral agreement. It is degrading questions of great national policy into the gutter to make them the subject of pounds, shillings, and pence bargains. Every time the question is raised, while I am in political life, I shall take up the same attitude, whether it refers to my own or any other State in the Union.
So far as regards the commercial aspect of this transaction between the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia, if there were any limitation to the expenditure - if it were stated, for instance, that we must find ^10,000,000, and hand it over to the South Australian Parliament - I should not have nearly the same objection as I have to a bargain the cost of which we have no means of estimating. It may be that a railway will be built under the agreement that will cost this country millions upon millions of money.
The agreement may mean the construction by the Commonwealth of a railway through what has been described as the “dead heart of Australia,” causing a tremendous loss in perpetuity.
– Does not the honorable member think there is some good land in Central Australia?
– I visited the Northern Territory with the parliamentary party. I admit that the time at our disposal and the extent of our excursions were not sufficient to enable us to thoroughly investigate the nature of the whole country, but I believe we were shown the best of it. I am bound to say that in the country we saw there was none that, in my opinion, would be called third-class land as we understand it in the south of Australia. We travelled 100 miles south of the most southern portion of the railway.
– The honorable member had a chance to go and see the country,, but he would not take it.
– The honorable member’s statement is entirely incorrect. When we reached a certain point the party was divided into two; one part was to look at what was called better land than we had seen, and the other to inspect ihe mineral development of the country. We had to make a choice between the two, as we could not see both. If the honorable member says that I would not look at a certain class of land my retort is that he refused to look at a certain class of mineral country. We had to make a choice of alternatives. I went with the party which tried to get some idea of the mineral resources of the Territory. Others went in an opposite direction, seeking, as I understand, to look at some river country.
– Both parties saw some of the mineral country, but one party saw none of the best land.
– The honorable member knows what I am saying is perfectly true.
– The honorable member had a chance to take the riding trip, and would not; he preferred to stick to the trap.
– The honorable member is very cute with his small-minded pettifogging personalities. When we seek to discuss the question apart from them, the honorable member makes mean insinuations that certain parts of the investigation were deliberately refused by certain members of the party. Does he refer to every member of the party which I accompanied in an endeavour to visit as much of the mineral country as possible? Does he mean that every one of them deliberately refused to look at land that was better from an agricultural stand-point than we had yet seen? His contention is absolutely absurd.
– He means that the honorable member could not ride a “geegee.”
– I have ridden from one end of this country to the other. I am sure that those who read the report of these debates will be disgusted to read such petty interjections.
– If the honorable member does not want the Commonwealth to take the Territory over he should not try to discredit it.
– I am talking about what I saw.
– Did the honorable member understand anything about it when he did see it?
– The honorable member is. I know, the embodiment of the whole of the knowledge of Australia, and any one who dares express an opinion contrary to his is, in his view, an ignoramus. That is the bombastic attitude which the honorable member seeks to take up in this House..
I have been returned by a constituency to represent, so far as I am able, ils best interests, and I am trying to do so. If my actions do not please other representatives, my reply is that I do not come here to please other representatives. I come here to take up an attitude which I can justify before my constituents, and I should not be afraid to justify my attitude on this question before any reasonable people.
I do not say that there is no better land in the Territory. All I can say is that the best of the land I saw is what could not be described as third-class land in southern parts. We went, comparatively speaking, only a short distance south, but no one regretted more than 1 did that arrangements were not made for a return trip overland to Adelaide.
– The party simply travelled along the ridge - the backbone of the mountains. They could not do any more.
– I did my utmost in the time at my disposal. I did not choose the trip myself, but went where 1 was taken by the State Government party.
– If the honorable member could, he would have come right through and had a look at the country? “
– If I had had the opportunity I should have gone over as much of all portions of the Territory as time would have permitted, because I went with no other idea than to get the fullest information regarding this great region, which it was proposed to transfer to the Commonwealth.
– Does not the honorable member think, from the information at his disposal, that there is some good land on the MacDonnell Ranges?
– The only information which has had any effect on my mind is some photographs that I have seen of cattle in the vicinity of the MacDonnell Ranges. The stamp of beast shows that they must have been reared upon decent cattle country. Beyond that I have no real evidence.
The whole point of my argument is much the same as that of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, that we should have the opinion of experts regarding the route for the railway, and not be tied to the expenditure of many millions of pounds of the Australian taxpayers’ money without the slightest information to guide us as to the route which will best serve the Territory and the Commonwealth as a whole.
If this agreement contained no stipulation as to the direction the railway should take, the South Australian people would start out with an immense advantage, because, if the Territory is taken over by the Commonwealth, every member of the Commonwealth Parliament will have a leaning towards a railway wholly within the Territory, as none of us would desire the expenditure of Commonwealth money to develop State property in preference to Commonwealth property. If the route through the Territory is justified by experts no one will be more pleased than myself, and I should be prepared to lean towards it to a considerable extent, because I believe we should spend Commonwealth money in developing and enhancing the value of Commonwealth territory.
If, however - even with that fact taken into consideration - the sacrifice from the national point of view is still altogether too great, and the best expert advice obtainable shows that the route ought to take some other direction, it is not right that we should be tied down to a route that would mean the loss of millions of pounds without an adequate development in return.
– We should add to the Bill a proviso “ subject to the right of the Commonwealth to alter the route of the railway.”
– I am in agreement with the honorable member.
– But the Government are so satisfied because they have the Attorney-General’s opinion !
– I am not so satisfied. I think the interpretation of the agreement placed before the House by the Leader of the Opposition is correct. It was that the agreement limits our choice of the route ofthe projected railway to the Northern Territory - that under the agreement it cannot diverge from that Territory.
– The honorable member does not advocate that the line should pass out of the Territory?
– No. But I do say that this Parliament should act upon the advice of independent experts in regard to the route to be followed. - whether it should be wholly within the Territory or partly within and partly without the Territory.
For South Australia to attempt to drive a hard bargain with the Commonwealth-
– The honorable member assisted to drive a hard bargain with the Commonwealth in connexion with the Federal Capital site.
– The honorable member’s statement is absolutely incorrect. He knows perfectly well that I always objected to the provision in the Constitution
– The honorable member did not evidence that attitude by his vote.
– If the honorable member will look up the Hansard report of the first speech which I delivered upon that question in this House, he will see that I then stated that if the Government would bring down a Bill authorizing them to proceed to establish the Seat of Government at Dalgety I would support it. But when the whole question of the site was reopened, I intimated that I intended to vote for Yass-Canberra.
I contend that any arrangement under which the hands of the Commonwealth Parliament are tied in advance is absolutely indefensible. When the people of South Australia - knowing that it is urgently necessary from a national stand-point that the Northern Territory should be transferred to the Commonwealth - attempt to drive a hard commercial bargain with the Commonwealth, I say that their action is utterly indefensible. That is the position.
– This is a leg-roped Government.
– If we had no alternative, we might be compelled to subscribe to this hard commercial bargain. But suppose that we say to the South Australian Parliament, “ We think this agreement ought to be amended so as to allow experts to decide the route of the projected transcontinental railway,” and that it absolutely refuses to listen to us, cannot the question be remitted to the people for their decision ? Is it not possible to appeal from the people of South Australia to the people of Australia?
– Why did not the honorable member agree to submit the site of the Federal Capital to a referendum of the people ?
– Because that was a question upon which an agreement had been arrived at. This is a question in which an agreement is being considered before ratification. Surely the honorable member does not desire that we should add to our past mistakes by blundering now? We could, I think, appeal to the people of the Commonwealth for authority to take over this Territory.
I am in favour of doing absolute justice to South Australia. I am prepared to believe that that State constructed the line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta in the belief that it would eventually become a transcontinental railway through to Port Darwin. Consequently, if that line be not linked up with the railway from Port Darwin to Pine Creek, it is only fair that the Commonwealth should take it over. I would be quite agreeable to the adoption of that course, because we should then* know definitely what are our obligations. I believe that South Australia should be recouped any loss she may have sustained by reason of holding this Territory for Australia, whether that loss be in the form of money spent within ils borders, or of money expended on the construction of that line. But I cannot vote for a proposal to build a railway through country which we are informed does not offer the best available route, and which cannot be justified from a developmental or defence stand-point.
I have no desire to reflect upon any individual. No doubt the people of South Australia feel justified in saying to the Commonwealth, “We want you to spend £10,000,000 to link up our railway in the Northern Territory, and to bring trade to our State, thus insuring our future well-being.” Doubtless they feel that the Commonwealth is so strong that the expenditure of a few million pounds would not injure it, whilst it would do them an immense amount of good. But are we warranted in regarding the question from that stand-point?
– Was that the honorable member’s judgment on the attitude of the Sydney representatives towards the Federal Capital Site?
– I am referring to the taxpayers of Victoria as well as of New South Wales.
– Does not the honorable member think there is sufficient room in the Northern Territory for a railway?
– There is room for quite a number of railways.
My idea is that transcontinental railways should link up the various States by means of an iron band of steel all round Australia like the present connexion between Brisbane and Adelaide, and that branch line’s should connect with the various ‘ ports around our coast for developmental purposes.
– The honorable member is supported by a very good authority in the person of Lord Kitchener.
– For developmental purposes we should construct short lines of railway from the transcontinental line to the various ports around our coast. But these are questions which ought to be investigated by experts.
If an expert commission consisting of defence, railway, and engineering authorities were appointed, and if its, members recommended the construction of a transcontinental line along a certain route I should be prepared to act upon their recommendation. But I am not prepared to subscribe to a route upon the recommendation of politicians, who came together for the purpose of driving a political bargain, and who know nothing whatever about the country..
The honorable member for Ballarat has stated that irrespective of the economic burden, the Commonwealth must take over the Northern Territory. Had he said that, regardless of the “necessary” economic burden, the Commonwealth must take it over, I should have agreed with him. But are we to add to the necessary economic burden by assuming a tremendous liability which we may afterwards discover was altogether unnecessary ?
It has been said that that portion of the Commonwealth in which sugar cane is grown has been developed by the expenditure of between two and three millions of Commonwealth money, and that because that burden has been shouldered by the Federation the burden which will be imposed upon it by this Bill should also be shouldered. But I would point out that in the former case the Commonwealth was free, whilst in the latter it is shackled.
– The Commonwealth expended that money in Queensland without getting any territory in return for it. In the present case she will get a quid fr» quo.
– Then are we not to pay any heed to national considerations? Are we merely to drive a commercial bargain ? It appears from the honorable member’s interjection that it was not the bargain which was entered, into in connexion with the Federal Capital Site which was immoral. It was the circumstance that the question was decided to the advantage of New South Wales.
– This is not a question of advantage to a State, but of carrying out an original conception to run a transcontinental railway through the Northern Territory.
– The Leader of the Opposition has shown that it was not an original conception.
– He has done nothing of the kind, in addition to which he does not know the facts as I do.
– The Minister of External Affairs is evidently speaking of the original conception of South Australia..
– It is because we must regard this matter from the standpoint of Australia as a whole that our conception of what is right and proper in the circumstances may be totally different from the conception of South Australia.
– It is not a matter of individual State interests.
– I quite recognise that. I am only replying to an argument which has been interjected by one of the honorable member’s South Australian colleagues.
– What argument?
– When a reference is made to the terms of this agreement honorable gentlemen interject about the Federal Capital question.
– The Federal Capital is dead. The honorable member need not worry about it.
– I hope that it is dead. I trust that, with the Federal Capital and the transcontinental railway to Western Australia, we have seen the last of the leg-roping agreements which shackle the Parliament to-day, and will do so in the future.
– This comes very richly from the honorable member after our fighting for the settlement of the Federal Capital question.
– It does not come richly from me ; but it suits the honorable member to ignore the attitude which I have always taken up, and which is recorded in my first speech on the question.
– Is the honorable member against the establishment of the Federal Capital?
– Certainly not. When I first spoke on the question here, I expressed the opinion that it was a very great pity that the bargain between New South Wales and the other States had been placed in the Constitution, but that, having been placed there, it should be carried out. I disagreed with the whole principle underlying these bargains, by which a concession was to be given to this or that State, provided that another State did something else, because it tends to subordinate the welfare of Australia as a whole by making it dependable on a particular benefit being given to a State or a section of the people.
– Surely the honorable member regards this as a big national question. Why parochialize it?
– I concur in the national part of the agreement, but not in the parochial, part of it. I wish the latter to be eliminated, and the former carried out.
The Leader of the Opposition has indicated a course which he proposes to follow, and I am in hearty agreement with him. If he intends to secure the carrying out of the original intention, that is, that the route of the railway shall depend upon the report of experts, then he will have my support when a division is taken.
– The honorable member will get a chance of voting on that, I can assure him.
– That is how my vote will go.
– How does the honorable member anticipate that the Leader of the Opposition will proceed to realize that?
– I hope that he will propose an alteration of the agreement which will be acceptable to the House.
– He is not going to touch the agreement.
– Surely the honorable member for Ballarat cannot say that he desires to see the original intention of those who conferred carried out, and stop short of taking action which would give honorable members a chance of voting in that direction.
– The trouble is that this is the Bill of the present Government, and of the last Government, too.
– I cannot understand those who spoke on the last occasion, as I am now doing, turning a double somersault simply because this measure comes from the present Government. So far as I am concerned, a proposal which was wrong when it came from the .Deakin Government is wrong when it comes from the present Government.
– On the last occasion the Bill had an overwhelming majority here
– I am talking now about the attitude of individual members. The honorable member for Grey will admit that, during the passage of the last Bill through the House, he made a personal canvass amongst honorable members, and, as the Leader of the Opposition said, a number of votes were cast because that personal appeal had been made to them. This argument was used with them : “ Do not stop the Bill from going up to the Senate.”
– If the honorable member insults the Northern Territory, he insults me.
– That is the attitude of the honorable member on this question.
– If the honorable member misrepresents the actual value of the Northern Territory, he insults me.
– The question of actual or other values is always a matter of opinion. If the honorable member’s opinion of the actual value of the Territory is not accepted, he is insulted. That is utterly indefensible, I think.
If it were necessary for sacrifices to be made to secure the welfare of Australia as a whole, I should be prepared to go as far as any member of the House, or any citizen, would go ; but I cannot see that I should be doing right by my constituents if I voted to cast a tremendous burden on the whole people of Australia; in other words, to vote blindfold, without any knowledge of the extent of the financial responsibility, and without any authority from experts as to the proper route for the railway. I should fail in my duty to my constituents if I remained silent here, and cast a vote in opposition to the transfer of the Territory, without indicating my objections. I do not believe that the people or the legislators of South Australia would take up the attitude which some members of this House indicate that they would. I do not think that they would refuse to see in the agreement what Mr. Price, Mr. Verran, the honorable member for Hindmarsh, and Mr. Butler, the Leader of the local Opposition, have said - that it is perfectly reasonable that it should be left to experts appointed on behalf of the Commonwealth to determine the route of the railway. With me there is no other point in dispute.
Any burden which may necessarily follow from the transfer is a fair and reasonable obligation on Australia as a whole. I sincerely hope that we shall have an opportunity to discuss the matter without personal heat or party feeling. Let us concede to each other that we all desire that the best thing shall be done for Australia as a whole, and for our constituents. When the Territory is transferred, as I hope it will be, I shall be one of those who will see that the agreement. is carried out. It is because- 1 desire to see the agreement strictly adhered to that I am entering a protest now against a portion which I do not think can be justified. “Mr. GLYNN (Angas) [12.40].- After the very clear” and able speech of the Leader of the Opposition, even if I had recently gone closely into this question, I do not think that I should be justified in speaking at any length, because I hope that the desire of the Government, which fits in with the desire of South Australia, that the measure should be disposed of quickly will, consistently, of course, with judicious criticism, be recognised by the House as far as possible. I think that the impressions of the Leader of the Opposition as to what was intended in 1907, when the resolutions were drawn up, have been supported by the then Minister for the Territory, Mr. O’Loughlin, because I hold in my hand a copy of the speech which he delivered iri October, 1907, not on the Bill, but on the resolutions which were submitted for confirmation to the South Australian Parliament, but not to the Federal Parliament as had been arranged. He seems to have been of opinion that the then Prime Minister, Mr. Deakin, had considered both lines, and had not given a positive undertaking, at all events in the agreement, as to which particular route would be followed. But the main point is, “ What was in the minds of the Parliament and of the public of South Australia when the Northern Territory Act of 1907 was passed,” because it really does not concern us, nor will it concern the Court, as to what was in the minds of the representatives of the Commonwealth and of the State in that year, when a rather hurried Conference took place between them as to the preliminaries for’ the transfer of the Territory. I know that it was a hurried Conference. I had nothing to do with it, but I happened to be in Melbourne on some other Inter-State business, and heard something during the evening of the day on which the preliminary negotiations had been finalized. I subsequently was draftsman of the State Bill, and queried some points of the resolutions on the ground of ambiguity. Theoriginal arrangement was that these were to be submitted for confirmation in order to test the feeling of both Parliaments as’ to the terms of them. They were signed in February, 1907, by Mr. Deakin, as Prime Minister, and Mr. Groom, and wit’nessed by Mr. Powers, the Crown Solicitor,-‘ who presumably drew them up. They were also signed by Mr. Price, and, I think, by Mr. O’Loughlin, on behalf of South Australia. It must be assumed that they knew exactly what the resolutions meant, but in order that each Parliament might have an opportunity of suggesting variations, it was agreed that the resolutions should be the basis of a motion in each House of each Parliament, and, if carried, should be followed by Bills, one by South Australia to surrender, and the other by the Commonwealth to accept, the Territory. In view of, I suppose, the pressure of work in the Federal Parliament, the resolutions were not submitted here for confirmation, but” a Bill was at once introduced. . The South Australian Parliament confirmed the resolutions, and followed them up with a Bill. We must presume that, as the Federal Government did not think fit to test the feeling of each House of this Parliament on the terms of the resolutions, they had pinned themselves to the adoption of them. As they said, they did not ask for any alteration in them, and they did not anticipate that this House would have made an alteration if they had been submitted for confirmation before the Bill was brought in. I therefore hold that the public are justified in assuming that the resolutions which, as regards the route, are word for word the same as the terms of the agreement in the State Act and in this Bill, -did express the opinion of the Federal Government of the day and presumably the opinion of this House. These resolutions were drawn up in February, 1907, and were, in October of that year, put before the South Australian Parliament, while the Bill for the taking over of the Territory submitted to this Parliament, was first under consideration last year ; so that, if there was any doubt as to what ought to be the policy, there has been every opportunity for making it known. The resolutions were at first to be embodied in the Bill, but, on my suggestion, that was altered, and the agreement was substituted. But the Government of the Commonwealth took the position that not a line of the agreement should be altered, except where alterations in syntax were necessary. The resolutions were signed on 20th February, 1907. I looked through the resolutions for the purposes of the South Australian Bill and queried certain ambiguities, though no alterations were made. But the opinion having been expressed by certain public men that it was open to the Com monwealth to bring the railway through Queensland, a public meeting was held in Adelaide on 5th March, 1907, denouncing the resolutions on the ground that they were open to that construction. I think that Senator Sir Josiah Symon was one of the chief speakers. I mention his name because he has been spoken of as agreeing with Mr. Mitchell. His opinion was not, I think, a legal one, but such as a man might casually express when asked in the street, and he has since told me that, having looked more closely at the agreement, he has come to the conclusion that the line must be kept within the Northern Territory. The Leader of the Opposition has stated what was his impression in 1907 as to the meaning of the resolutions, and I believe that it was shared by Mr. O’Loughlin.
– And other persons.
– I have not referred to others, because, during Parliamentary discussions opinions are sometimes coloured by political necessity or party views. I think that Mr. O’Loughlin said that it was possible, on the statement made to him by the honorable member tor Ballarat, for the line to follow the Queensland route. But South Australia as -a whole believes that the line should be through her territory, and the public meeting, to which I have referred, asked for the rejection of the Bill should there be any doubt on the subject. Mr. Simpson Newland, speaking at that meeting, said that he thought that the Territory should not be parted with under any terms, and certainly not under the terms of the agreement.
– That has always been his opinion.
– I believe that it is still his opinion, but the League, of which he was for some time president, has recommended the adoption of the agreement.
– It has since gone back on it.
– The Premier of South Australia telegraphed to the honorable member for Ballarat when he was Prime Minister that the members of the Northern Territory League held six million acres in the Northern Territory.
– In freehold?
– No, in leasehold.
– If matters of prejudice are to be introduced I would say that I believe that some of the members of the League are in favour of the construction of the transcontinental line on a land grant system. I took the platform, with some of the members of the Labour party, to protest against that project, and, although it was not quite within my province as a Federal representative, I spoke on the hustings against it.
– If South Australia does not wish us to take over the Northern Territory, why should we hustle and bustle about this business?
– The honorable member need not do so. Two or three members of the South Australian Parliament told me yesterday that there is no strong desire that the Northern Territory should be taken over by the Commonwealth.
– We are not anxious to have it.
– Then the honorable member should vote against the Bill.
– The South Australian representatives in this Parliament have all their war-paint on, and are fighting strongly for the Bill.
– There is nothing like the fight which was made in connexion with that, by comparison, petty project, the Federal Capital. During the last election, public opinion was against the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth. In my view, however, the control of the Territory is a continental responsibility. Hongkong is nearer to Port Darwin than is Adelaide or Sydney, and the East is awakening to military activity. We need not be scared; but iti the Pacific, where the British flag was once supreme, there are now, perhaps, not more than two British warships, the Fleet having been recalled to the waters of Western Europe, whose nations are engaged in preparations for aggressive or defensive warfare as if Christianity was not 2,000 years old. They have left us to lace the new conditions of an Orient which they have civilized into moral restlessness and military Activity. These are facts which cannot be ignored, and from the broader point of view we should recognise our continental responsibility, even though it may be, as some honorable members seem to think, encumbered with the specific condition that the railway must keep within the limits of the Northern Territory. As to the position of South Australia, she is not a mendicant. Reference was made by the last speaker to our policy with regard to the kanakas. There was no obligation to recognise what Queensland had done in that matter. She began a course of policy in 1869, which ended iri 1892 with a grace of ten years to those indenting kanakas. The Commonwealth took the matter up in 1902, and fulfilled a sort of moral obligation to settle the matter finally in one way or another. This has cost us a pretty large sum of money.
– Queensland has been well paid.
– Pretty well paid. I do not wish to decry Queensland, but if statements are made about concessions, I say that it is that State, and not South Australia, which is obtaining them. This year we are paying something like ,£577,000 in bounty. The Northern Territory was transferred to South Australia in 1863. It was suggested at the time that Queensland might take it over, but the Government of that State said that it had enough to do to develop its own lands. The Imperial Government, therefore, placed the Territory under the care of South Australia, until, with the growth of population, either in the south or in the Territory, a new arrangement might be necessary. The time for that has come. The Act 24 and 25 Vic, chapter 44, which placed the Territory cinder the control of South Australia, provided that, should! the Territory be separated from South Australia, under the powers reserved by Letters Patent, its debts and liabilities should be apportioned between the parties concerned. What is proposed is nothing more, except that the Commonwealth should also take over the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta. If the line from the Northern Territory were taken through Queensland, the junction with the line which I have just mentioned would have to be at Hergott. The total cost of the line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, which is about 478 miles in length, was £2,272,000, exclusive of rollingstock. There is no special rolling-stock belonging to that line, but the value of that apportioned is £142,000, making the whole cost of the line £2,414,000. There is a loss of £84,000 on the line, but of that £32,000 is the loss on the portion between Hergott and Oodnadatta.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– The loss on the line to Oodnadatta was estimated in January at £32,000 odd, out of a total of £84,000. No matter which line is adopted, the Commonwealth must bear the loss of £50,000 odd on the line from Port Augusta, because it is almost imperative that the connecting line must strike the Port Augusta and Oodnadatta line at Hergott, the country between Hergott and Port Augusta being sufficiently good to justify the full use of the line. Therefore, I think it is only fair, considering this part of the contract that binds the Commonwealth to take over ^2,414,000 of indebtedness in connexion with the Port Augusta and Oodnadatta line, to regard the loss as ,£33,000, because, by assumption, the only point in dispute is the route of the line. When the line is constructed it is beyond the bounds of possibility that the connecting lines will strike at some other point lower down than Hergott, because a spur line to Hergott would be useless to either State or Commonwealth. As to the view of South Australia in regard to continental lines, I may say that, as far back as 1898, attempts were made to get the Queensland Government to join in a proposal tq connect the South Australian lines with the Queensland lines. In September of last year a motion was tabled by the then Commissioner of Public Works, to introduce a Bill providing for the construction of a line from Leigh’s Creek to near Innamincka. I notice that the opposition to that measure was not based on any desire not to connect with Queensland; the question was as to which was the better route - that of the Bill, or another route suggested. A Mr. Bevern, whom I referred to in the de”bate, and who had been over a good part of the country through which the proposed line would pass, and also had a knowledge of the other proposed connecting lines with New South Wales and Queensland, advocated linking up with the latter Colony by another route, basing his preference on the fact that the latter would considerably help the development of reciprocal trade with New South Wales. I do not wish to say any more on the point, but merely to indicate that, before the question of taking over the Northern Territory was considered at all, South Australia was inclined to shoulder continental responsibilities in the way of railways for the purpose of the development of reciprocal trade with the three States concerned. As to the position of South Australia in the matter, I believe that the Imperial Government was considering the advisability of abandoning the Territory) and, as Queensland did not seem desirous of shouldering the burden, South Australia stepped in, and took on all the responsibility entailed by the administration of a vast stretch of comparatively unpeopled country. This work was begun in 1869 with a survey of 600,000 acres, involving an initial cost of ,£30,000. There was, I believe, great difficulty in continuing surveys, and that led to a retardation of development of fifteen or twenty years. In” 1870, when the first line was projected in connexion with the Territory, policies were mooted, but, unfortunately, were blocked by frequent changes of Ministries. Up to a few years ago South Australia seemed to follow the line of our climate by having as many periodical changes in the Ministry as there is in the weather. In 1879, the Northern Territory Immigration Act was passed, and in 1882, after an arrangement had been made with the Indian Government, there was another Act for the permission of the introduction of coloured labour. By that time, however, public opinion was too strong for the introduction of coloured labour, and, except in connexion with the Port Darwin to Pine Creek railway, which led to an addition to the population of Chinese, South Australia has never tolerated alien labour by contract or otherwise.
– But coloured labour was introduced under another Immigration Act.
– I do not think so. When the first Act was passed, the Indian Government objected on the ground that there was no arrangement made for supervision when the coolies were brought out.
– But Major Ferguson was commissioned by the Government, and he removed the objections, and the Bill was passed the next year.
– In 1882 there was an Act passed as the result of an arrangement made with the Indian Government, but I do not believe that a single coolie was introduced under that measure.
– The Governor in Council would not agree to their introduction.
– Public opinion had, in the. meantime, become awakened on the question, and, therefore, no proclamation was issued bringing the Act into force.
– Mr. Playford also was concerned in the negotiations.
– Yes; but the result of all the ‘ interviews and communications was that nothing was done. Therefore, there has never been created in the Northern Territory a kanaka or coolie difficulty, or the cost of removing coloured labour from Australia might have been doubled. South*
Australia has faced many continental problems . single-handed. I had a return, made by . the Audit Commissioner of South Australia, in 1897, when the Federal Convention “was sitting, showing that the portion of the public debt of South Australia which- could be debited to transcontinental projects, was £5,000,000. It is only a portion of that obligation that it is now proposed the Commonwealth shall take over ;. and this is not as a concession to South Australia, but as a portion of the debt represented by assets that we take over in connexion with the transcontinental railway, and as a portion of the liabilities that the Act Vic. 24 and 25 never contemplated in connexion with any subdivision or change such as we’- are: how ‘ dealing with in this Bill. I cannot see that South Australia has any need to be -grateful in this connexion, because this liability is a necessary part of the .proposed arrangement. I remind honorable members that we have kept the land grant system out of the Territory. A Land Grant Commission in 1887 made certain recommendations, and there were further recommendations, if I remember rightly, by a Royal Commission in 1895.
– I was on that Commission, and dissented from the recommendations.
– When the recommendations came before the House, there was a pretty strong debate, with the result that they were not accepted; and the only occasion on which the land grant principle was ever recognised was when the Jenkins Government passed a Bill in 1902. That Act, however, received its quietus soon afterwards, public opinion being against the adoption of the principle. South Australia also constructed the overland telegraph single-handed. Two of the States were asked to join in this work, but it was carried out by South Australia alone, commencing in 1872, and resulting in 1,169 miles of telegraph, on which for several years there was considerable loss. After the Commonwealth came into existence, and the Post and Telegraph Act was passed in 1901, there was a loss of about £15,000 a year, caused by the competition of the Pacific Cable Board with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. I might give many other instances of loss to South Australia in connexion with the Territory under Federation. ‘ When there was a separate Tariff for the Territory, the Customs duties brought in a revenue of about £34,000, but, of ‘course, that ceased when the uniform duties were decided upon in
– If the present Parliament of South Australia is opposed to the Bill we should not hold it to a fiveyears’old agreement.
– If not, then the best thing would be to reject the agreement, for that might fall in with the desires of a good many people in South Australia. I do not say this as a piece of “ bluff,” but merely to show that there is a strong, but I believe, mistaken, feeling that South Australia is capable for many years to come of shouldering this responsibility. However, the Northern Territory is a pretty good asset, and the Commonwealth is not asked to pay anything, but simply to take over a share of the responsibility. Captain Barclay, Mr. Cotton, Steuart, the explorer, Mr. Searcy, Professor Spencer, and geologists like Mr. Wood, Mr. Parkes, Mr. Brown, and the botanist, Mr. Holtze, are of opinion that the prospects of agricultural and pastoral settlement, as well as of mining, are considerable. The rainfall, though it varies from 62 inches to 4J inches, is, for 86,500 miles of country, 40 inches on the average.
– Over what period is that?
– I do not know ; the information is given in the memorandum issued by the honorable member for Darling Downs. These figures show that the prospects for tropical agriculture, as shown by Mr. Holtze, are exceedingly bright. I hope the Bill will be passed as it stands so that South Australia may know what is to be done. There are now over 20,000,000 acres under pastoral permits, and it is really very inconvenient that settlement should be so suspended. Then, I think, that there are over 82,000,000 acres leased for forty-two years, and about 4,500,000 acres for twenty-five years. There are conditions of stocking and fencing to comply with in order to lead to the development we desire; and if these improvements are not carried out, it would justify resumption without any Act of Parliament. In the circumstances I think that a very fair case has been made out by the Government for the acceptance of the agreement as it stands.
Debate (on moi ion by Mr. Fenton) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
£2.46]. - I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of ti Bill for an Act relating to the imposition, assessment, and collection of a land tax upon unimproved values.
It is necessary to cover the Bill with a message from the Governor-General owing to the fact that there has been inserted in it a provision for the payment of the salary of the Commissioner. With that exception, this is not a money Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
The Order of the Day for the third reading having been called on -
.- I move -
That the Bill be now recommitted to a Committee of the whole House for the reconsideration of clause 11.
The clause as it stands provides that an owner who bona fide sells his land between 1 st July and 30th September last shall not be taxable in respect of that land. I desire an extension of that provision so that any person who has bona -fi.de sold his land in order to relieve himself of the tax and to give effect to the desire of the Government for closer settlement on or before 31st December next shall not be liable to taxation; but that liability shall be on the purchaser. If it is desirable that three months’ grace should be given, that period should be actual and not merely nominal. It was within two days of 30th September last that the Attorney-General announced to the Committee that he was willing .to .insert that date in the clause. It was, therefore, impossible for any one to take advantage of the concession. No one save those who had already sold their land before that date could derive any benefit from it.
– But some people have done so.
– Perhaps they were informed of the intention of the Government. I ask the Attorney-General why he selected the 30th September for insertion in the clause only two days before that date. The Government have admitted the principle that three months’ grace is a reasonable period to allow a man to dispose of his estate, and all that I ask is that it shall be three months’ grace in fact and not merely in name. A good many large land-owners would, no doubt, sell their property rather than subject themselves to’ this taxation.
– Some of them are selling now.
– The honorable member reiterated with much force the statement that the object of this Bill was to bring about the subdivision of large estates, and therefore he should be satisfied if large estates are already being cut up.
– Large land-owners are cutting up their estates.
– But they cannot do so now, and by so doing avoid the tax for the current year. That being so, there is no inducement for a large landowner to sell his land before 50th June next. The object of the Bill is to cause the subdivision of large estates, and the opportunity for which I ask should be given to owners of big estates to carry out that object. The provision as to the 30th September is a mere farce, and it is only trifling with land-owners to say that they are given three months’ grace, since the Bill is not yet law. If the Government will accept my proposal, it will prove advantageous to many land-owners, and will enable them to carry out the desire of the Labour party for closer settlement.
– But we might lose revenue.
– I do not know that the Government would lose very much. Nearly every honorable member opposite has declared that the object of the Bill is not so much to secure revenue as to bring about closer settlement. At the last general election that was the reason given to ihe country for the proposed land tax, and, in the circumstances, I think that my proposition should be accepted.
– The reasons advanced by the right honorable member for Swan are sound, and 1 do not see how the House can consistently do other than sympathize with his desire. It is a matter for comment, as the right honorable member has put it, that, although originally the date beyond which conveyances would not be recognised as clearing owners from the tax was postponed till the 30th September, the public were not made aware of that until two days before the actual date fixed. It was therefore impossible for any land to be transferred within that time. I do not think that the question should depend, as some honorable members opposite seem to put it, upon the effect which the amendment would have upon the revenue. It is possible that if land were sold in order to fulfil what has been described from time to time as the principal object of this Bill, the Treasury would be depleted to some extent. It is to be presumed that when a large land-owner, in order to avoid the tax, legitimately distributed his land, he would distribute it in small parcels that would not involve payment of the tax on the part of those to whom it was transferred. But there is a much stronger reason than that put forward .by the right honorable member for Swan for giving an opportunity to transfer land up to a later date without liability to pay this tax. The professed purpose of this measure was not to enable the Labour party to exercise any feeling of revenge upon holders of large *states, but to break up big estates into small areas, and so to encourage settlement. If large land-owners, recognising the force of this measure, are prepared to subdivide their estates, then the professed object of the Government will be effected, and they should hold out to every one an opportunity to comply with the chief aim of the measure. It would be very wrong for the Government, or the party behind them, to say, “ We shall not allow you to do this, although it is the purpose of the Act, because you will escape taxation.” If they had said in the first place that the object was to get revenue out of people with large estates, and to let those with small estates escape, it would be quite consistent for them now to refuse the request of the right honorable member for Swan. But the effect of the Bill is to classify the land-owners of Australia into two classes - those who hold land worth up to £5,000 and no more, and those who hold land worth over £5,000. I should like to know why people who own: land under £5,000 should have a privilege which is denied to the owners of large estates. The latter may fairly say, “ We want to distribute our land in order to get into the second class - to bring ourselves within the category of people owning not more than £^5,000 worth of land.” Therefore, to refuse this request now is practically to deprive people of an opportunity of coming into the class favoured under the Bill. I submit that the right honorable member’s request is most fair. It is open to comment that the extension from June to September was announced only two days before it was made, and it would be only consistent with that first extension that another should be given to enable people to avail themselves of the Act. It would be very unjust to say, “ Although you are prepared to divide your estate so as to bring about the result which the Act seeks, we are going to make you pay a penalty for doing it, in the shape of one year’s tax.”” I take it that the object of the right honorable member is to enable people to dividetheir land without paying a penalty for doing what the Act professes to desire every large land-owner to do.
– I quite agree with the move made by the right honorable member for Swan, to recommit the Bill with a view to alter the date from 30th September to 31st December. Ashas been pointed out, only two days’ noticewas given of the intention to alter the date from 30th June to 30th September. It has been stated here hundreds of times that theobject of the Bill is to burst up big estates. That, at any rate, was the object which was put before the country, and on which theparty opposite gained the votes of thepeople who put them into power. They told the people that they would introduce a Land Taxation Bill for the purpose of bursting up big estates.
– The honorable member is now going beyond the motion for recommittal.
– Is not the question the alteration of the date from 30th September to 31st December?
– The motion is for therecommittal of the Bill with a view to- amend clause 11. If the recommittal is decided on, the honorable member will have an ample opportunity to discuss the amendment of the clause. He must, however, not go into details now, although he may make an incidental reference to the matter.
– I am endeavouring to give reasons why the Bill should be recommitted. Those reasons have been referred to in detail by the two previous speakers.
– The honorable member was going further. He was dealing with something said at the elections, which had nothing to do with the motion before the Chair.
– I do not wish to transgress your ruling, but I thought it necessary in order to get at the truth of the whole business, to refer to the great difference between the way the question was put before the people at the elections and the way it is now being put before the House. The Bill should be recommitted in order to give land-holders who wish to escape taxation, and to be placed in the second class referred to by the honorable member for Parkes, a fair and reasonable opportunity of subdividing their land. The object of the Bill is to bring about closer settlement, and if men who hold large landed estates show an earnest desire to subdivide them and promote closer settlement, and so escape the incidence of the tax, a fair opportunity should be allowed them to do so. It has been said this afternoon that the Government have no wish to avenge themselves on the landholders. The Attorney-General and others have stated time after time that their only desire is to deal equitably with the owners of land, and if that is so, seeing that the - Bill will not come into operation for some time yet, as it has to pass another place, the least they can do is to grant the extension of time asked for, in order that the real object of the Bill may be achieved. I take it that the real object of the measure was not taxation, but the promotion of closer settlement.
– The honorable member knows that if the object was not taxation we could not place it on the statute-.book.
– I know that that is the reason it is called a taxation Bill, but when it was put before the country, in order to get the votes of the people, it was described as a Bill to burst up big estates.
– Order !
– If you, sir, allow such disorderly interjections, how am I to avoid replying to them?
– I cannot always prevent interjections.
– The motion ought to receive the support of the House, because it will help land-owners who honestly and bond fide wish to divide their estates, and bring about closer settlement, to carry out the object of the Act. I hope the AttorneyGeneral will not oppose a proposal which’ ought to receive the approval of every fairminded member. A great deal has been said by honorable members about their f airmindedness and the equitable way in which they will treat land-holders. If they wish’ to make those professions good, they will take the opportunity of showing their bona fides by voting for the recommittal of the Bill to carry out the object which the right honorable member for Swan has in view.
– I have not previously addressed myself to this Bill, and, therefore, in speaking at this stage I cannot be charged with wasting time. I sincerely hope the Attorney-General will not agree to the recommittal of the clause. I should not, perhaps, have felt so keenly upon the matter if the whole contention of the other side had not been that the purpose of the Bill was to break up large estates. Members of the Opposition know as well as I do that if that had been the object, and if the Bill had been placed before the House for that purpose, it would undoubtedly have been declared unconstitutional. To my mind, the cardinal idea of the measure is to get taxation from those who have evaded it in the past.
– The honorable member is now going beyond the scope of the motion.
– Those who support the recommittal have given reasons for it, one being that the object of the Bill is to break up large estates, and not to raise revenue.
– I have already prevented honorable members from speaking on those lines, and I ask the honorable member to observe the same restriction.
– Then. I shall waif until the Bill is recommitted.
.-!’ cannot understand why the AttorneyGeneral should not grant the extra three months asked for, because it was he himself who initiated the idea of clause n, by which any one who breaks up his estate before the 30th September escapes the payment of the tax. Possibly certain people took steps in that direction between the 30th June and the 30th September, although not with a view to escape the tax, because they could not have known at that time that the AttorneyGeneral would make the alteration. If the honorable member is going to act on that theory, why should he limit the clause to practically two days’ notice? A person living in a distant part of Australia has no chance of breaking up his estate if he gets only two days’ notice.
– What date does the honorable member suggest- the Greek kalends ?
– The date suggested by the right honorable member for Swan is reasonable. It allows only three months, and the number of people who would take advantage of it could not be great. Even if many did so, the more the better, because they would be only assisting the policy of the party opposite in breaking the big areas up into small holdings. That is the foundation of their policy,- and the motion of the right honorable member would assist in that direction. Seeing that the Attorney-General has initiated this very system, it would be unreasonable of him to refuse to extend it. Two days’ notice is only a mockery. I am satisfied that if the Attorney-General were quite free in the matter, he would be prepared to allow three months, because he sees the justice of the idea.
– The suggestion to extend the period set forth in the proviso to clause n is one that the Government cannot accept.
– Why start the idea at all, then?
– The honorable member has exploded his bomb, and, perhaps, will permit me how to pursue the orderly tenor of my way. We put the proviso in the Bill in order to meet the views of those who declared that the clause as it stood was rather harsh and abrupt. We provided, as it were, a gentle declivity down which taxpayers might slide without inconvenient haste or untoward results. It is now suggested that the grade should be lessened.. When last the right honorable member for Swan spoke on this subject, he wished to fix the 30th June next as the date.
– That would be a fairer arrangement.
– I am amazed at the moderation of honorable gentlemen opposite, as 1 am amazed at my foolishness in agreeing to the first amendment. If they had their way, the tax would not be imposed at all, and they will denounce the Bill no matter what may be in it. The provision was agreed to, not in the interests of those who may sell between the 28th and 30th September, but of those who sold before the 30th September. Every sensible land-holder in Australia knew after the 13th April what the Labour party would do.
– The people did not give a mandate for this Bill.
– That is a matter of opinion. If the honorable member doubts that I am right, let him take the matter to some tribunal which will decide in his favour. It was intended to give those who have done what we -wish to have done some reward for their action. But we cannot lengthen this term indefinitely. The logical conclusion would be, if we are to accept any more amendments, that any person selling his land in any year should not be taxable in regard to it for that year: We have done our best to meet the objections of honorable gentlemen opposite, and cannot go further.
.- The framers of the Bill have from the outset told us that the tax can be evaded by subdivision, and a large number of ‘landowners are ready to subdivide. But it must be remembered that the Bill is retrospective - a most unusual thing with measures imposing direct taxation - and landowners have not had time to subdivide to escape the tax. The subdivision of large estates cannot take place within a few weeks or a few months. There must be surveys, the delimitation of boundaries, and the determination of suitable blocks. More time is required to find buyers. Even three months is not sufficient to meet the convenience of those who wish to sell. I know an owner who has 30,000 or 40,000 acres which he wishes to sell, but he cannot do it within the time allowed, and escape the tax; in fact, he knew of the provision under discussion only a few days before the end of September. Why should honorable members object to the extension of the period within which owners subdividing may escape taxation, if their desire is merely to cause subdivision? It seems unfair to penalize land-owners who subdivide in the first year that the tax is imposed. Although the Labour party is strong at the present juncture, it will lose nothing by being reasonable and moderate.
– For once, I agree with the right honorable member for Swan, and cannot understand why the Government will not accept his proposal giving reasonable time to landowners to do what they wish to have done. I do not see why a land-owner who wishes to subdivide to escape taxation should not have an opportunity to do so. The opportunity was given under the New Zealand law, the provisions of which were not made stringent until nine years after the first Act was passed.
– And it was not retrospective.
– That is so. The original legislation was made more stringent because improper practices had been attempted. It is only reasonable that persons should have an opportunity to give effect to the will of the Legislature. In my opinion, an extension to the 31st December will not be sufficient, and had I had anything to do with the framing of the measure, I should have proposed a longer period. The present arrangement seems too much like an attempt to catch persons before they can know what is expected of them.
– This is an Opposition dodge to defeat the purpose of the Bill.
– I do not think so. By not giving fair and reasonable terms, the honorable member may create a feeling against the principle of the measure.
– The terms are fair and reasonable.
– I should not think so if I were a property owner wishing to subdivide.
– The Bill cannot become law until the end of next month.
– I do not think that it will become law until a much later date. I am in favour of land taxation, but I wish to avoid anything that may create antipathy to the principle. I am afraid that that will be the effect of these little tricks. The Attorney-General speaks of having made a slide, but it seems to me a precipice.
– I have explained that the intention is to reward those who have sold in conformity with the verdict of the people on the 13th April.
– Why should they have an advantage over those who now intend to do the same thing?
– If it comes to that, why should those who sell before the 31st December have an advantage over those who sell after that date?”
– It takes time to carry out l subdivision.
– It did not take Mr. Manifold long.
– It took him a year or two to subdivide and sell two properties which he bought on the Richmond.
– I am referring to the land which he sold the other day.
– That land was already in possession of tenants who were able to pay for it.
– I think it would be in the interests of the Bill to extend the period. In introducing a measure of this kind, we should endeavour to be fair.
– Is the honorable member afraid of being unfair, or of offending the strong feeling against the Bill? I am afraid that if he thought that there were a strong feeling against what he is now supporting, he would take a different view.
– I believe in the principle of land taxation, but I do not like a trick to be played on the people.
– Does the honorable member’ suggest that this is a trick?
– It is a trick.
– The honorable member advised the Labour party to get its proposals on the statute-book quickly.
-I say so now.
– The honorable member is going beyond the question.
– I shall have an opportunity to refer to the matter more fully on the third reading. To my mind, it is not right to impose the tax in this sudden manner, as by a guillotine stroke.
– The honorable member did not take that view when a Tariff was being introduced. “
– That is an entirely different tiling.
– In both cases the design is to protect the revenue.
– It is not necessary to protect the revenue in regard to the imposition of a land tax in the same way as in regard to the imposition of a Tariff. In all fairness, I think that a grace of three or four months ought to be allowed. If the Government are not careful this land taxation will arouse in the country a feeling that they will not get over for some time.
.- I agree with the Attorney-General that the proviso inserted in the clause referred to was moved in order to meet some special cases mentioned. The trouble is, however, that the proviso does not cover all cases. The honorable member for Swan the moment the clause was mentioned, told me that he thought it was unfortunate that the time should be limited to the 30th September, and the honorable member for Grampians laid before me cases that cannot be covered by the proviso, because, although there was an arrangement to sell, there was no formal agreement. The Attorney-General told us that if there were any other cases of hardship he would consider them.
– And so I shall.
– There are cases in which property has been advertised to be sold, although there is no agreement.
– That is a notification of the intention to sell.
– As the Attorney-General says, such a concession cannot be given for all time; but I think that a case, applicable to the existing financial year, and not covered by the clause as it stands, ought to justify an amendment. For that reason, last Friday, I asked whether the honorable gentleman would extend the time to October, or, better, to the 31st December; but in the hurry of the moment, he did not reply. In one case, I know that the advertisement to sell was as far back as the middle of April, though the sale will not take place until July, and there may be cases of advertisement, perhaps, in the middle of June, while the sales are not until October or November. All such cases as these ought to come within the proviso. I suggest to the AttorneyGeneral that it may be necessary to also recommit clause 32. Last week, when the Attorney-General moved to strike out clause ‘ 34, I pointed out that amendment was also required in clause 32, which provides -
Provided also that when a trustee is also the beneficial owner of other land, he shall be separately assessed for that land, and for the land of which he is a trustee, unless by reason of joint occupation or for any other reason he is liable to be jointly assessed independently of this section.
– If a consequential amendment is required I shall see to it.
– Then, I think that the word “ share “ in the clause does not cover “ annuity.” The clause provides that where there is land under settlement, prior to 1st July this year, and there are several beneficiaries, the trustee, in making his return, may make an exemption of ,£5,000 from the value of the share. Will the AttorneyGeneral also consider a temporary provision to cover settlements where there are annuities which are not shares in the sense that they are liable to be taxed? It is rather rough to be taxed for the whole feesimple, when two-thirds may be eaten up with annuities.
– The annuities might be capitalized.
– Yes, I suggested that. The Attorney-General, at the time, mentioned that he thought such cases were covered by another clause, but I do not think that is the case. Perhaps the AttorneyGeneral will recommit the clause or have the matter attended to in another place. There is another point to which I should like to draw attention.
– The honorable member is going beyond the scope of the question, which is that clause n be recommitted.
– It is competent for me to move the recommittal of any other clause.
– That is so.
– I am taking my present course in order to ascertain whether the Attorney-General would prefer to recommit the clause himself.
– I have stopped other honorable members from going beyond the scope of the one clause, and if I allow the honorable member to proceed to discuss something not before us, honorable members will claim the same privilege, and the result will be chaos.
– I merely desired some information from the Attorney-General, and do not care to indicate motions with which, perhaps, I should not proceed. There . are technical amendments that ought to be made, and my duty will have to be discharged by referring to them on the third reading, or by calling the attention of the Attorney-General to them privately.
.- I hope the Attorney-General will take a reasonable view of the proposal that has been made. He has himself conceded the principle by the extension to the 30th Sep- tember ; and, consequently, it is only now a question of reasonable convenience and propriety.
– I must stop somewhere.
– Quite so; but even those who are supporting this proposal have criticised it as quite inadequate. It is a small concession, and the sum involved will probably be inconsiderable. I do not desire to labour the question, but the justice of the suggestion must commend itself to all who desire to see the estates susceptible of being subdivided with advantage, subdivided as soon as possible. The number of estates that could escape the tax by this course must be small, and the concession asked for would be a graceful act, especially in view of the fact that the Attorney- General has had so much of his own way in respect to ninety-nine hundredths of the measure.
– The difficulty I foresee is that the Government will have to frame their regulations, and issue all kinds of forms within a very short time. The Bill will not be passed until probably some time in November, and the returns will have to be in during the early part of next year. The measure has to be circulated throughout Australia, and taxpayers who are wise will see the advisability of employing sworn valuers. The penalties are so severe that a man who takes the responsibility of valuing his own property, runs considerable risk.
– It would be just as cheap for him to over-value.
– It might be so. But I assume that, the tax being so heavy, no person will be anxious to over-value, or, indeed, to under- value, considering the risks. Many thousands of returns will have to be made, and, in my opinion, it will take from six months to twelve months to get them in. I assume that the Government will not have their regulations ready, and all other arrangements made within three or four months ; and yet the tax is payable by the 30th June next. This is really ante-dating both legislation and taxation; and when a tax is imposed for all time it would be wise to postpone the date until the passing of the Bill, or until the end of the year. To date back to the 30th June is unwise, not to say ungenerous. We all know the difficulties there are in initiating the administration of heavy taxation, such as a Tariff, for
– I add a word of appeal. I remind the
Attorney-General that on the 30th June last, it was perfectly legitimate for a man to own a large area of land; but on the 10th August a measure was introduced, the effect of which is to penalize the man holding the area on the former date. There should be every opportunity for relief in a situation of the kind, having regard to the retrospective character of the measure. I agree with those who contend that it would only be fair and reasonable to postpone the operation of the Bill until 1st July next. The Attorney-General has never attempted to disguise the fact that the object of the Bill is subdivision first . and incidentally revenue. It is now urged by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and others, that we should fix the 30th June last, because, otherwise, the object of the revenue would.be defeated - in other words, it would prevent men being penalized.
– A tax is not a penalty, but a just due.
– In this case, it is acknowledged to be a penalty.
– The honorable member would not describe a municipal tax as a penalty ?
– No. A municipal tax is for revenue purposes and is reasonable, whereas this is penal. Even if this proposition would involve some loss of revenue, that point would be unworthy of serious consideration on a question of doing justice. Honorable members well know that there is ample room in which to come and go, since it has been estimated on the very best authority that this tax will produce more than , £3,000,000 per annum.
– Order ! The honorable member is now going beyond the scope of the question before the Chair.
– I am trying to meet objections that have been raised. It was said that if a departure were made from the provision as to 30th September, a loss of revenue would be involved, but I shall not pursue the subject if you desire me not to do so. In view of the retrospective nature of this Bill, and the fact that it has been avowed by many that it is not intended that it shall be revengeful, a way out should be found. The request that the period of grace should be extended from 30th September to 31st December next is a mild one, and might reasonably be conceded. By agreeing to it, the Government would do justice to themselves and to persons who would otherwise be penalized, since they would give large land-owners an opportunity to carry out the professed object of the Bill - the subdivision of large estates - before the end of the year.
: - I trust that this proposition will be accepted. In the first speech that he made after the last general election, the Prime Minister declared that there would be nothing vindictive in the policy of his party. I am afraid that if this Bill be made retrospective, and no opportunity is afforded land-owners to comply at once with the real object that it has in view, the result will be to bring it within the category of vindictiveness. Since the chief aim of this Bill is to secure the subdivision of large estates, twelve months’ grace might well be given to encourage the owners of such properties to cut them up for closer settlement. Under this Bill, the Government say, in effect, to large land-owners, “If you do not subdivide your properties, we will ruin you by taxation, and, even if you do subdivide them, we shall tax you.” Large land-owners are already seeking to subdivide their holdings, because this taxation will make it ruinous for them to retain them.
– They can pay the tax this year, and subdivide next year.
– There we have exactly the suggestion of vindictiveness to which I have referred.
– The honorable member must not measure my corn by his bushel.
– There we have the suggestion of vindictiveness that will engender the very feeling to which the honorable member for Hume has referred. It will create an impression amongst landowners that the Government, having knocked them down, are now going to jump on them. Having called upon them to subdivide their properties, they are going to tax them heavily, whether they subdivide or not. In the interests of the principle of the tax itself,I hope that the AttorneyGeneral will concede a reasonable time within which large land-owners may subdivide their estates without becoming liable for this tax. By making the Bill retrospective, and compelling men to pay the tax irrespective of whether or not they subdivide their property, the Government are laying themselves open to a charge of vindictiveness and of desiring to punish large land-owners, and to punish them severely, whether they are prepared or not to carry out one of the professed objects of this measure.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- Before we finally part with this Bill, there are a few points on which it may be excusable to reiterate very briefly one or two leading considerations that have impressed the Opposition. Before doing so, I wish to make a quotation from an article in the North American Review for November last, to which I referred on a previous occasion, since it has an important, although very general, bearing on this situation. In Federal legislation, the one country above all others in which we may expect to find practical illustrations and evidence of value is the United States of America. This article was written by Mr. Seligman, one of the most famous authorities on economic questions in the United States, who has a reputation throughout the English-speaking world, some of his works being regarded as text-books.
The bulk of the article is not material to this Bill. It deals only with general principles. Mr. Seligman, who is McVickar Professor of Political Economy at Columbia University, considers the relations of State and Federal finance, and gives the results of his expert examination of the American experience in regard to taxation. He commences -
The existence of several concurrent or overJapping tax jurisdictions has always been a source of more or less difficulty. It is especially, however, in federal states that the problem assumes its most acute form, and it is primarily in recent years that the complications have been vastly increased by the new developments of economic life. The problem is not peculiar to the United States, for the relations of local and Imperial finance have long agitated the minds and taxed the abilities of British statesmen; while in federal Slates like Germany, Switzerland, Canada, and .Australia we have, as in the United States, the threefold complications of local, state, and federal fiscal adjustments. The problems are, with slight variations, everywhere analgous.
– Is that in order in this connexion ?
– It is on the question of land taxation.
– We are discussing the Land Tax “ Assessment Bill, not the tax itself.
– It is die Land Tax Assessment Bill to which I am about to address myself. I merely quote these passages as illustrating its nature.
– It was understood that we were entitled to discuss the rates of tax on this measure.
– I shall not now discuss the rates. It appeared to me that on the broad question of Federal land taxation one or two short extracts were directly pertinent. On the first page of the article the author points out that -
Of late years, however, a threefold change has occurred. ‘ In the first place, the growing inadequacy of State and local revenues has led to the selection of new sources of income, some of which were also occasionally utilized by the Federal Government. Secondly, the vast economic changes which have broken down State lines and made industry national have disclosed, to a great degree, the inherent weaknesses of certain forms of State taxation, and have led to the demand for some method of national supervision or regulation in order to secure uniformity. In the third place, the well-nigh complete failure oE the general property tax in
State and local finance, and the growing belief that large fortunes are evading their share of the public burdens, has engendered a widespread demand for some more effective method of reaching the wealthier classes of the community.
Those are three important considerations which to some degree are commencing to manifest themselves in Australia, making these illustrations more pertinent. He says -
Looking at the subject in its largest aspect, it may be stated that there are at least three general considerations which must be borne in mind in the attempt to make a permanent choice nf revenues for each of the competing tax jurisdictions. These are, respectively, the considerations of efficiency, of suitability, and of adequacy. Let us take these up in turn.
The problem of efficiency in taxation is naturally of vital importance. No matter how well intentioned a scheme may be, or how completely it may harmonize with the abstract principles of justice, if the tax does not work administratively it is doomed to failure. It is clear that the effectiveness of different taxes depends upon the nature of the tax as well as upon the character of the administration. A tax on land, for instance, is apt to be best administered by local authorities ; for it is, after all, the local assessors who may be presumed to possess the most exact knowledge of the local conditions upon which the value of the land depends. State supervision may, indeed, be desirable for certain purposes, but into that question we do not propose here to enter. In the main, a locally administered land tax will be relatively efficient.
After dealing with other taxes less obviously local, he inquires on page 617 -
Is the basis of a given tax wide or narrow? Obviously in proportion as the basis of a tax is more and more extended, the argument in favour of its utilization by the broader tax jurisdiction becomes correspondingly strong. Thus, one of the principal reasons, in addition to that previously mentioned, why the tax on real estate is not employed by the central Government is because the basis is so narrow a one. It is chiefly because the tax on real estate is unsuitable for the general revenue system that it is everywhere becoming more and more relegated to the local. jurisdictions. This tendency is universal throughout the civilized world, and the seeming counter tendencies which are illustrated by some of the proposals in the new British Budget could easily be explained away for entirely different reasons. So far as the relations between State and Federal finance, at “ all events, are concerned, there is no doubt that a tax on real estate is obviously unfitted for the Federal Government. We, in the United States, have had but three instances of such a tax, of an entirely ephemeral nature, and, in the main, so unsuccessful that its repetition is exceedingly doubtful.
I shall not push home his further points. The rest of the article is mainly taken up with other methods of taxation, land taxation as a Federal agency in the United States being ruled out by this high authority..
That supports our main general position taken up in the discussion on the second reading, that there was something to be said on the broadest general principle of taxation with regard to the unsuitability ot such a tax for Federal employment over any large area.
It is necessary to reiterate briefly, but as often as we can, in the ear of the public, that although this Bill imposes a tax in effect, it does not impose a tax on principle. There is no principle upon which as a tax it can be justified, so wide is die area of its operation outside that principle, and so many qualifications are required to be attached to its irregular operations. For instance, on a proper principle of taxation there would need to be an adjustment to the circumstances of each case with a view to the production of revenue, but that is ignored or set aside by far the greater number of the provisions of this Bill. In the same way, a taxation scheme to be justified on principle must satisfy the equities. This satisfies few or none, and then only very indirectly, and in casual instances.
This authorizes, in point of fact, so far as it is revenue producing, a collection of penalties instead of a collection of taxes. Those penalties are, unfortunately not levied upon any principle associated with unimproved values, because the uses and possibilities of lands are deliberately disregarded. Land which is already being put to its very best uses, on which the greatest amount of employment is given, and of which the best resources are being developed, is not sheltered from this tax in the slightest. The tax remains the same whether the land is absolutely idle, or. in a condition of partial or complete utilization. AH such considerations are entirely ignored.
Hence this is not a Bill for a tax, but a Bill for the collection of penalties upon land-owners, under no principle of justice or even of expediency. There will be no public gain except the mere revenue collected. A certain sum will go into the coffers of the Commonweal th, and to that extent the Commonwealth Treasury will.be better off ; but the country will be no better off in most instances. Indeed, a huge number of people in. the community will be worse off and less encouraged to carry on their already existing investments and occupations. They will receive no stimulus for their industry, but will find themselves subject to an inconsiderate and unjustifiable levy.
On the other hand, the Bill only incidentally, one may say only accidentally, fosters a land settlement. That it will enable some areas, which ought to be better utilized for the public advantage, to be cut up, is doubtless true. There must be a number of such tracts in this vast continent, but whether the obligations imposed by the Bill will bring about their better use is doubtful in many of them. Into this I do not desire to enter at length. Let me remind the House that in many cases distance from markets and want of railway and other facilities will operate against any such result. We shall find a man struggling with a heavy debt upon a property over the minimum value, and now just making both ends meet, seriously burdened, unable either to cut up his land, put it himself to a better use, or enable others to use it better. He will simply be saddled with a fine from which othersin more favoured circumstances may escape. There must be many hundreds, and perhaps thousands, in the community who will suffer, without any possibility of redress and without any corresponding public advantage.
Mi. Bruce Smith. - Many mortgagorswill probably be ruined.
– In many cases where the mortgage is heavy the Bill must lead to ruin, but with that subject we have already dealt. The tax, so far as it is both a tax and a penalty as it is in most cases, will be levied entirely on the present holders of the land. They will have no opportunity of passing it on to others, as a rule, in any degree, or in many cases except in a small degree.
This is one of those burdens which’ ought to have been carefully guarded on its introduction by affording a series of preparatory opportunities for owners to adapt themselves to the new conditions of things to be created. The proposal of the right honorable member for Swan to-day was one of the simplest and fairest of these. To make this imposition fair, there should have been several other similar proposals coupled with it, so that the purpose which’ honorable members opposite had in view, or alleged themselves to have in view before the measure was brought forward, might have been made effective throughout Australia. In that case every encouragement should have been given to the cutting up and disposing of land before any tax at all was levied. There should have been an adjustment to the circumstances of each’ class, which would have made the imposition heavier where there were abundant opportunities of selling, and lighter where the opportunities of selling were small or infrequent. Thus the greatest possible’ quantity of land suitable for greater uses or better cultivation might have been placed on the market at the earliest moment. At the same time those putting their land to the best uses should have gone free, and have even been encouraged with some recognition from the Legislature so that their capacity for usefulness should not be in any way weakened.
In the country districts whole areas will be brought under the penal application of these provisions, without any possible advantage to the community. Every one admits that in the western portions of. New South Wales, some of the northern portions of Victoria, the western portions of Queensland, the eastern and northern portions of South Australia, and a large area of Western Australia, the land is already being put to its best uses under present conditions, and with our present population. It is used for pastoral purposes, and, in the circumstances under which that industry is carried on, it is necessary, in order to meet the variations of seasons and make the land profitable, to have considerable areas on which to run a large stock of cattle or sheep. This brings the holdings over the minimum valuation.
– -About 95 per cent, of it is leased land.
– A great deal of it is leased in Queensland.
– About 95 per cent, all round.
– I do not think the honorable member can say that with regard to New South Wales or Victoria. In South Australia, of course, what are known as leases in perpetuity must be taken into account, and in Queensland undoubtedly the leaseholds coveT a very large area. The same applies to Western Australia”, particularly in the northern and western parts. I am quite content to make all those exceptions, and still assert that, to a class of this community certainly not affluent, but most of them struggling and fighting unaided while carrying on pioneering work in outlying districts, their lives will be made by this measure far more burdensome than they ever were before, though no one in the community will be benefited thereby.
– This tax will not touch them.
– It will where they are freeholders.
– There are no freeholders out there.
– I have admitted that my remarks require the exclusion of Western Queensland, portions of New South Wales, and South Australia, and the northwest of Western Australia.
– Then where do the honorable member’s remarks apply ? Where are these pioneers?
– Quite a number in Riverina, in districts of Queensland nearer the coast, and elsewhere.
– There are a lot of them between Ballarat and Melbourne 1
– There will not be found a leaseholder between Ballarat and Melbourne except a leaseholder from some proprietor, and then, of course, it is only a question of the distribution of the tax.
– Are there many pioneers in the Western District?
– The sons and daughters of pioneers are to be found there; but their land is so valuable that there are always buyers, and they can more easily than others evade the burden of the land “ tax. They, and those similarly situated elsewhere, who have rich agricultural land close- to railway communication, call for little provision.
Yet, even in the Western District, there are estates heavily encumbered with annuities and settlements under wills, for the benefit largely of women and children. Unless the Attorney-General responds to the appeal of the honorable member for Angas, and provides for the deduction of annuities and other interests of that character, which, when capitalized, do not exceed .£5,000 - a proposition which is fair and reasonable, and in no way interferes with the object of the Bill - there will be many painful cases. Those to whom I refer are absolutely dependent on the proceeds of property, being, for the most part, either widows too old, or children too young, to provide for themselves.
– A very elderly widow would not have young children.
– In some estates young children are dependent, and, in others, elderly ladies. I hear of estates in which a grandmother and grandchildren are concerned. Such incomes derived directly from an estate, will practically be swallowed up if the Bill passes as it is. I should not omit to point to the failure of the Bill to effect any good purpose in taxing land already put to the best use - city lots on which have been erected costly buildings, and which cannot, in any way, be further improved. The possession of such buildings does not always imply affluence, and the imposition of the proposed tax cannot compel more profitable occupation. It cannot bring about the enlarging of buildings or the reduction of rents.
– Or the division of properties.
– It will usually lead to an increase of rents.
– I read last Saturday that the owner of a Riverina estate, who had made £200,000 out of it, recently sold it at a big profit.
– No doubt huge fortunes have been made out of real property in Australia.
– And huge fortunes have been lost in that way, too.
– Quite so. The interjection would have been pertinent to my argument regarding country properties, but does not touch what I am saying regarding city properties.
If this were a tax on wealth, it would have our support ; but it will hit those who own rich agricultural land less than those who own poor land. In many cases city land-owners will be able to’ pass on the tax by increasing their rents; this will be so where offices have been built on their land. But- where the land is that of a factory, the tax cannot be easily passed on, because the occupier will be in competition with other manufacturers elsewhere, who occupy much less valuable sites. It may be replied that those occupying valuable land will have to move to less valuable areas; but if that came about, what would the public gain?- Who would occupy the buildings left untenanted ? Most of us are in favour of. unimproved value taxation with a view to getting land put to better purposes, and giving more opportunities for settlement and progress. This taxation of city properties, however, helps no one, when, as in most cases, they cannot be put to a more effective use.
I regret that the first great land-taxing measure passed by the Commonwealth Parliament is not associated with any consistent and coherent application of those true economic principles which would popularize it. Its provisions are not calculated to do anything, except in a haphazard way, to feed the revenue. It will neither stimulate investment nor industry, in town or country, throughout Australia. I am sorry that, instead of a progressive measure, we have a maimed and disproportioned Bill, which, partly because of circumstances over which the Government have no control - I refer to our constitutional limitations - and partly because of the determination of Ministers to accomplish two separate and, to some extent, contradictory objects with one set of machinery, will not make for the development of the wealth of the community.
Some of the provisions here must necessarily more often result in failure than in success to accomplish any of the ends in view. Those interested in real estate who have made calculations as to the proceeds of the tax are more likely to be right than the officials on whom the Attorney-General relies, and therefore I anticipate that, notwithstanding the reductions in Committee,, the tax will be. far more prolific than he expects. But the raising of the money in the manner proposed will neither assist our great producing interests, nor improve the conditions of our civic population. It is unfortunate that we should be placing on the statute-book a measure which will call for an entire transformation as soon as the public have seen it in full operation. The practical experience which we shall then receive will not be thrown away on Parliament. This measure will hardly be recognisable as the original of the amending legislation which must follow.
– The honorable member will prove a bad prophet.
– My prophecy is based upon the necessary effects of its provisions, and seems as inevitable as the result of a properly stated equation. As Mr. Seligman reminds us, under a Federal Government. Federal land taxation must always be associated with special disadvantages.
It is ji pity that we have not framed a measure reasonably adapted to the circumstances of the continent, which vary so enormously. When we look at the map before us here, and reflect, even in the most imperfect fashion, on the absolute antitheses furnished by its various districts in regard to opportunities, methods, and values, and then consider this Bill, which must operate in every corner of the Continent, without regard to distance or circumstances, treating town and country, pastoral and agricultural lands alike, it is plain that nothing like justice can be done. Failure must result. I do not know exactly how mineral land values stand.
– They are not excluded.
– Mining properties are to be taxed?
– Where a mining property is a rich one, we should take into account the number of its shareholders, the distribution of the shares, the position in which they will be put by having to increase their payments to the State, before the benefits which the revenue is likely to receive from the taxation.
– How will mining companies be taxed?
– In estimating the unimproved value of their land, are its minerals to be taken into consideration ?
– Yes, that is so, if they are not exempt under the clause that exempts lands dealt with under any State Crown Lands Act.
– 1 believe that some of the very large mining enterprises of the country, which have involved enormous private outlay in development, and are stil immensely valuable properties not yet exhausted, will suddenly become liable to a huge tax that certainly will not assist in the development of such mines or encourage the development of others. Will the AttorneyGeneral say how ordinary leasehold mines come under this Bill?
– If the lessee holds land under the laws of any State relating to the alienation or disposition of Crown lands, he will not.
– That does not cover the cases in which a company is a leaseholder, for there are many mines leased from private owners.
– Clearly, in the latter case the lease-holders will have to pay.
– Who is benefited by that ? Nobody but the Treasury. Mining as mining must often be discouraged, since such a tax may make all the difference between a mine being payable and otherwise. The value of mining to Australia is not only in its dividend-producing quality; a number of mines, which are producing next to no dividends, give considerable employment in every State. If we place a burden on them, the result is to diminish employment or close them up altogether. We are then doing something that no politician in his senses and no elector would permit.
– I think that such i case is impossible.
– I trust it is, but they do not appear to be sufficiently guarded against. How are they to be guarded against when we are trying to bring a continent of 3,000,000 square miles inside a tiny bird-cage?
– Does the honorable member not think that that will “ cop “ the bird?
– I do not know; but it seems to me that if the Treasurer had really intended this to be a proper taxing measure it would have been something absolutely unlike the measure now before us. Like a true sportsman he would have gone out and marking his “bird on the wing”” have gone home happy after bringing it down with his first barrel.
– He would have a “ dead bird “ then, and that would be no good.
– Good for dinner. But what does the Attorney-General do? He stalks his bird until it settles on the farmyard fence, and then, shutting both eyes, bang go both barrels, with the result that not only is the bird riddled, but innocent poultry are massacred - he gets one bird he went out for by butchering all sorts of innocent poultry and laying hens.
– Does the honorable member suggest that I would rob a hen roost ?
– Not now, because the honorable member has something more profitable in hand. In the political “ hen roost “ he has achieved much success already, as his presence on the Treasury benches proves ; in fact, we see him visibly decorated with plumes and feathers.
In taking leave of this Bill, all I have to say is that, as a land taxer and land reformer, I will not be associated with a measure which will not assist our cause in the future. That could not have been the result had we more judiciously tackled this great task. I am sorry to see the Commonwealth entering on taxation of the kind, so long as it could be dealt with thoroughly by means- of the State Parliaments, which, as owners, are more close to the soil and its cultivators than we are; but when it became our duty to impose land taxation, I should not hesitate. The measure would be one producing the full revenue required in such a manner as not to impede or interfere with any industry either on the soil or in the city. I should have hoped to see it operate as land taxation should operate, not merely to feed the Treasury and harass our settlers, but to stimulate production and open up avenues and facilities for employment, thus attracting more people to our shores. Land taxation for settlement and development, can be justified ; but the land taxation before us is so hobbled, that when the revenue leg is advanced, the settlement leg is impeded, and vice versa, with the result that the measure comes down on its nose. This land taxation will not be approved by the country, will not assist the national movement towards assessing land values, nor add to the credit of those who take the responsibility of passing it.
– I desire to take advantage of what I conceive to be the last opportunity we shall have of expressing our views on this piece of legislation. This is an occasion on which we should not be fettered in the full statement of our opinions, whatever offence those opinions may give to honorable members opposite.
In the first place, I object to this measure because it is a deliberate evasion of the Constitution - an evasion deliberately adopted after the fullest warning and the clearest arguments, to which no answer whatever has been heard from the other side. Had the object of the Labour party been, as was so often declared from every platform, to break up large estates with a view to closer settlement, there is an honest way in which that could be done by the Federal Parliament. That honest way is not to attempt to walk round or crawl under the provisions of the Constitution, or to put forward, under the cloak of taxation, a proposal which is of a totally different character. The honest and direct way surely would have been to go before the people and ask them to give the powers desired. Were the Labour party afraid to do that ? Is it because they know that they would not have got those powers that they are adopting this indirect, and, as I say, dishonest method-
– Order !
– I use the word “dishonest” in the sense that there is a deliberate invasion of the constitutional limitations imposed on this Parliament. If the Labour party had gone before the people whom they say they represent, and obtained the power, their end could have been attained without inflicting endless cruelty and hardship on the many hundreds of people who are hit by this Bill.
– The people sent us here to impose this taxation.
– That is the old cry of the “ mandate.” For the honorable member to say that this Bill represents the mandate of the electors is to do the grossest injustice to the majority of the electors. This Bill was never before the electors.
– On what grounds does the honorable member make that assertion? This Bill, in its essence, is the Bill that was laid on the table twelve months ago.
– This Bill, I venture to say, with the most drastic of its provisions, coupled with the rate of the tax, was never before the people of Australia. In the first place, the tax discussed before the country was a lower one; and this Bill, which imposes the greatest hardship, approaching ruin, on large numbers of people, cannot for one moment be supposed to have been ever present in the minds of the electors. No honorable member opposite will suggest, for instance, that the question of the circumstances under which a mortgagor should be liable to pay the tax on the value of the” whole of the land was ever before the people. It is one of the grossest slanders on a majority of. the electors to assume that they ever gave a mandate for such a Bill.
– No Bill was ever put before the electors, except the Constitution Bill.
– I agree with the honorable member ; and, therefore, it is futile to say that, in regard to the details of this measure, there was any mandate from the people. On any broad principle there may be a mandate ; and the principle affirmed, in this instance, was the imposition of land taxation.
– That is what I said.
– We all know that the words of the Constitution giving the power of taxation are, from their very wideness, necessarily vague; and we must apply to them their ordinary meaning. What is taxation? Taxation, in the ordinary sense, means a reasonable and comparatively small contribution from people, according to their ability to bear it, towards the expenses of government. That, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, is the basis of all of what is known as taxation. It is true that, in times of great national emergency, taxation may come to include something in its rates and incidence that, in ordinary times, would be considered to go beyond the legitimate functions of taxation. But where, as in this and the accom panying measure, the effect of the provisions is to impose on certain classes of people a tax representing 30 per cent., 40 per cent., 50 per cent., or even a higher percentage, of the whole of their incomes in peace time, it is going out of the region of taxation and into the region of confiscation and of repudiation. “ Repudiation “ is an ugly word, but it expresses the position. There are contracts of all kinds between the Crown and the people; and for those contracts every Parliament that advises the Crown is responsible. There are contracts for the borrowing of money, for the granting of concessions, and for the creation of titles to land; and when the instrument of taxation is deliberately used as a means to pick out certain classes of contracts and titles, and destroy, or practically destroy, them, it is not an act of taxation but an act of repudiation. That is the plain fact of the case, and the mere fact that honorable members opposite think they have a majority of the people behind them, and think that, under the general sanction for the principle of land taxation, they have sanction for some of the effects of this Bill does not deprive the measure of its real character, or remove the responsibility for giving effect to it.
– We will take all the responsibility.
– Of course, the honorable member will - because he has no responsibility.
– I have to face my electors, just as the honorable member has.
– A great many effects of an unforeseen kind flow from the Bill ; and one was brought under my notice by a gentleman of very wide experience in connexion with land. I am not at liberty to disclose the name of my informant, but will give the effect of his argument, which seemed to me to be a very strong one. He says that the effect of this Bill will not be to hit very heavily large land-owners in the Western District of Victoria, or similar localities in the other States.
– Is the honorable member’s informant a big property owner ?
– Yes; but, as a matter of fact, I believe he has got rid of his land. I do not deny that the effect of this Bill will be to compel a considerable quantity of land to be subdivided which ought certainly to be cut up. We must admit that, and if such a result could be achieved justly without carrying with it the effects which must surround this Bill, no one would welcome it more than I should. My informant said that those whose lands are the most suitable to be broken up will not suffer very severely. First of all, the wealthy squatters in the Western District, and men similarly situated, are in a strong financial position ; and, secondly, they can at once obtain a market for their land. It is plain, therefore, that they can secure full value for their properties, and that, at the most, they will have to pay only one year’s taxation. That will be a very small amount on the capital value of some properties, although large when compared with the income derived from them. The people who will suffer most severely are those who possess large pastoral holdings in the outlying portions of New South Wales, and other States, and cannot dispose of them. In such cases there is no possibility of closer settlement for, perhaps, ten or fifteen years. Such lands will at once be depreciated to a very serious extent. And for what purpose? For the purpose of closer settlement ? No ; but for the purpose of enabling the wealthysquatters in these districts to transfer their capital into huge holdings.
– Then they will, come under the tax.
– But they will be well able to pay it, because they will have acquired large areas at the immenselyreduced prices which this tax will bring about.
– In New Zealand the price of land has gone up.
– We are always being referred to New Zealand. I wish the honorable member would go there and inquire into this question.
– We must take some illustration. What are we to do?
– Of course, honorable members opposite must tax some one or some thing.
The effect of this Bill will be that those who, in the opinion of most of us, ought to have tried to break up their estates for closer settlement will be the least hardly hit. They will be placed in a position of inconvenience, but nothing more. The Government, in order to compel a comparatively few large land-owners to break up estates which are suitable for closer settlement, are bringing disaster, and, it may be, ruin upon a portion of the same class holding pastoral areas in outlying districts who are least able to bear the tax, and are most worthy of our consideration. As has been pointed out again and again, the Government are also including in this system a drastic scheme of taxation relating to city and town properties which will not bring about the desired end. If the end which the Government had in view were that of obtaining revenue, would honorable members opposite say that they would let off professional men and owners of property other than land?
– All in good time.
– Would they allow wealthy interests not connected with land to escape?
– Such as manufacturing and mining interests.
– And others. If the Government would not have done that, is it not plain that the object of this Bill is not to secure revenue but to do indirectly that which the Government could not do directly - to achieve that which the Government have no right whatever under the Constitution at present to effect.
Instances are always being brought up, and will continue to be brought up, of the effect which this Bill will have, and I am going to give only one more which was brought” under my notice a day or two ago. It may be a strong one, but it is not unrepresentative of a good many others. It relates to one of the properties in the Riverina district to which I have made reference. A man who was not very wealthy, although he possessed a fair competence, died two years and nine months ago, leaving an estate near Deniliquin comprising 64,000 acres of freehold.
– How is it tha: the honorable member never shows that a small holder will be injured? How is it that the Opposition always speak of some big fellow with a large area ?
– If the honorable member would wait until the completion of my statement he would find that such an interjection was very inappropriate. All these facts are absolutely vouched for, and I am prepared to give privately to any honorable member my authority for them. The income from this estate during the last two or three good seasons has been £5,149 per annum. There is upon the property a first mortgage of .£55,000, which was raised to buy out a partner.
– To buy out a partner?
– Is that a very iniquitous procedure?
– Mortgages are -generally effected to enable more property ‘to be secured.
– Is it a crime to endeavour to obtain property? The sum of £55,000 is still owing. Here were two men carrying on an industry sanctioned by the law of the country as partners in a large station. One desired to sell out, and the other desired to buy him out. Was there anything sinister or dishonest in that ? The man had to borrow £55,000 at 4I per cent, to buy out his partner, and there is on the property a second mortgage for accumulation of drought losses and improvements amounting to £29,520. There is thus on the land a total burden of £84,520, on which the annual interest is £3,813. The district is a dry one,’ but the last few seasons have been excellent, and the income, as I have said, has, during the last few years, amounted to ,£5,149 per annum. The balance of income available is only sufficient to pay to the widow the bequest under the will of the testator. There happen to be four other beneficiaries under the will - four elderly ladies, who are family connexions of the widow, and she has hitherto shared her income with them in equal parts. Thus these five elderly ladies, who are entirely dependent upon the income of this property, receive about £260 per annum each. No one can accuse them of being enormously wealthy. They are merely enjoying a very modest competence earned for them, probably, by the diligence, labour, and toil of the testator’s life-time. That is their position. The tax on the unimproved value of the land at the present time will amount to £576 per annum, leaving for these five women a’ total of £760 per annum, so that their income will be reduced by an amount of from 40 to 45 per cent. In a bad year the income of these unfortunate people will wholly disappear. Honorable members opposite may jeer.
– I do not think we are jeering.
– The honorable member did not, but surely these facts ought to be considered.
– How would clause 62 affect such a case?
– I have already objected very strongly to that clause. I have grave doubts as to its constitutionality, but even if it is constitutional, I doubt- very much whether these elderly ladies could avail themselves of it. It could not be said that they had suffered bankruptcy or loss. It may be all very well to answer cases of this kind by saying, “ We have given power to a Board to remit taxation in hard cases.” A more dangerous power could not be given to any one man or Board than that of the right to remit taxation in certain cases. It is not only dangerous, but the necessity for such a provision marks the whole character of this Bill.
– The Income Tax Commissioner has like powers.
– He has no power to do that. The only other fact that remains to be told in connexion with this station is that it is impossible to sell it. Every effort has been made to sell it in portions.
– Will the honorable member give the name of the station ?
– I will give the honorable member the name of my informant. I have satisfied myself that the facts stated are correct, and there is no reason why we should unnecessarily publish the names of the people concerned. The land carries one sheep to every three or four acres, and is useless for other purposes. An area of from 20,000 to 303000 acres would, therefore, be required to enable a man to make a living by sheepfarming, and this case is typical of a good many.
– At what price was the property offered ?
– I do not know, but I am certain that the owners would take anything like a reasonable price for it rather than pay this taxation.
– If an estate of 64,000 acres near Deniliquin will only return £5,000 a year, the sooner a change is made in the management the better.
– Does the honorable member say that there is no land about Deniliquin that will support only a sheep to every three or four acres?
– Yes, I do. There is absolutely none near Deniliquin.
– Apparently, it depends on the meaning of the word “near.” There is, of course, poor land in all parts of Australia, and the trouble is that under this indiscriminate form of weapon which the Government are using they are hitting the people with poor, as well as people with rich, land.
– The poor land near Deniliquin is held under lease, and will not come under the operation of the tax.
– I suppose that means that the honorable member says the facts I am stating are not true.
In adopting this kind of measure, and putting this interpretation upon what they say was the mandate of the people on the 13th April, the Government are doing our cause on this side of the House an enormous benefit, politically speaking.
– If the honorable member thinks so, why oppose the Bill so vehemently ?
– I believe there are considerations which ought sometimes to outweigh even political advantages. When I see something proposed which will work an injustice, and which I believe a great many members on the other side of . the House are not even now aware of, I conceive it to be my duty to point it out, and protest against it as loudly as I can.
– They certainly do not approve of the injustices, either.
– I feel absolutely certain that honorable members opposite either do not believe the facts that have been brought before them in many cases, or think there are some mitigating circumstances. Otherwise, they would not have supported the Attorney-General in his absolutely rigid attitude in regard to amendments.
– I believe a lot of the cases have been absolutely overdrawn.
– The honorable member must take the responsibility of that conclusion. Our responsibility is fulfilled when we bring these facts before the House. Where, for example, the Bill imposes on the mortgagor, no matter Mow great his mortgage or how small his equity of redemption, taxation at the enormously high rates suggested by the Government, based upon the total value of the land, it must necessarily lead to cases of the grossest hardship.
– I think that is the cruellest part of the Bill.
– I think so, too. It will, and must, bring ruin and disaster. What is the good of multiplying instances? The thing is plain on the face of it to’ members who know the conditions in all countries, but more particularly ,in a new country, and especially in the new districts of a new country, where men go out, in the endeavour to stretch the bounds of civilization, and engage in the only industry by which that can possibly be done - this being in most cases the pastoral industry - and are heavily burdened with the results of getting the necessary capital. What result can you possibly hope for from an Act which imposes upon the mortgagors the whole burden of the taxation payable on the whole of the land, including the mortgagees’ interest as well as their own? 1 desire finally to record my earnest protest against the passage of a Bill which I think puts an ugly mark in the forefront of the whole policy of the party supporting the Government, and marks their political escutcheon with a bar sinister. And it is only the beginning. It -is not merely what they are doing here, but they are proclaiming to the whole of the people of Australia, and to the world at large, that for the purpose of getting a little advantage they are prepared to go unlimited lengths in the direction of confiscating existing rights and repudiating existing contracts. They are doing something which, although it will probably in a very short time do away with much of the political advantage they have recently obtained, will, in the meantime, work an infinitude of mischief, cruelty, and hardship.
.- I dare say the honorable member who has just sat down is a good judge of cruelty. If we take his record, we find that, first of all, he was a believer in a land tax, but that when he had the power he did not put it into effect. It does not lie in his mouth to say that this party has left an ugly mark on its record. I challenge any man to point to any one who ever left an uglier mark upon the laws of his country than the honorable member for Flinders did. When Premier, he had a power that few men had. He had a majority of thirty-five in a House of ninety-five, and what did he do? He left his name a laughing-stock throughout the length and breadth of the States. When he says he speaks here on behalf of the people, I ask, how dare he take that on his shoulders? Who is he to say that he speaks on behalf of the people of Victoria? He represents only a minority. Would he dare to resign and fight his seat on the question of the land tax, which all his life he has tried to prevent being put on the statute-book? The electors of Flinders would send him into political oblivion, if he ventured to do so. It is all very well for him to come here in a splendid Equity Court style, mouthing fine words and throwing out insulting epithets, such as “ ugly marks “ and “bars sinister.” I have no doubt that no one knows better than he the meaning of those words.
– He was only talking politically; he did not mean anything personal.
– I am aware of that. I am sure the honorable member for Maranoa would not support the actions of the honorable member for Flinders. He, with his rough-and-ready good-heartedness, would be the last to rob any man of his rote, as was done in Victoria by the honorable member for Flinders. From every platform the demand for a land tax has been thundered. The people of Australia have asked for it throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. Every man who opposed it is on that side of the House, and when this gentleman, who represents a minority, comes in here, having been Premier of Victoria on one occasion, and yet cannot command a majority in his own constituency, we who know him value him at his real worth, as described by the Leader of the Opposition in the State House when the golden calf of Flinderslane decorated him. No Victorian Liberal would like to follow him in his land system or his ideas of land taxation. No public meeting held in any large centre would support the honorable member in any of the planks of his policy, whether as Premier of Victoria or as private member. His record is as dross in comparison with the good work that the Leader of the Opposition in this House has done in the past. I have always paid my meed of praise to the honorable member for Ballarat for the good work he did in matters upon which he was earnest, especially in land legislation. 1 may not agree with all he does, but if it rested with his vote alone whether this Bill should be thrown into oblivion or not, I believe he would vote for it. I do not want to labour the question or allude further to the honorable member for Flinders, but his lips should be the last to brand this party with an ugly mark. It ill becomes a man with his record to apply such terms to a party that has been straight and honest on this question, as he never was.
– Order !
– 1 am referring to the honorable member’s ideas of land taxation and land legislation. I sat for years in the State House with him, and I do not believe he was ever honest in his intention to impose a land tax. He had me as a soldier who would have followed him to the death, until I found what a trickster he was.
– The honorable member must withdraw that expression.
– I withdraw it, and say that he had me as a loyal soldier willing to tol low him until I found he did not intend to live up to his professed principles, although he had the power of the mighty Age behind him at the time.
– Will the honorable member connect his remarks with the question before the Chair?
– I object to the honorable member, who represents a minority, accusing this side of the House of placing an ugly mark upon the legislation of the Commonwealth. All his speech was made in the interests of men with 64,000 acres or more in their possession. He trotted out the poor widow again, but when did he help the poor widows by means of old-age pension legislation, as he could have done in Victoria ? They have no land. But his whole speech was ridiculous. Only an equity barrister would dare to argue that a person possessing land of the unimproved value of ,£5,001 cannot afford to pay a penny a year. If his voice rang out for human beings as it does for property we could appreciate him better. Every case he gave was anonymous. He was not man enough to give the honorable member for Riverina–
– The honorable member must not use that language.
– I withdraw it, and say that he could not find it in the scope of his mental capacity to give the honorable member for Riverina a chance of recognising where this particular property of 64,000 acres was situated. I believe, with the honorable member, that there is a difficulty in regard to the taxation of mortgagors, but why does he not apply his legal mind to the task of devising a clause that will hit the money lender, who is the mortgagee ?
Mi. Fairbairn. - The honorable member for Flinders gave the honorable member for Riverina the whole of the particulars.
– The honorable member for Fawkner must admit that the statement was anonymous. We are not told what amount was refused for the 64,000 acres, or what the reserve price was. Even at £1 an acre, the estate would be worth £”04,000, and does the honorable member for Fawkner justify the assertion that the owner of that property cannot afford to pay a land tax? The land taxation system of Victoria, when the honorable member for Flinders was Premier, was one of the vilest the world had ever seen, but, with his big majority, did he raise his little finger to alter it? No, because it might have hurt some of his friends - some of the very rich people. He did not have the excuse that it would affect the poor people; but because it would affect his rich friends he left it alone. Our side welcomes names from the lips of the Equity Court barrister, who is so well known in this community. “ An ugly mark,” forsooth ! When he had a chance of putting a good mark on the land taxation system of Victoria, why did he not take it? If he had, we should not now be losing the sons of farmers who have had to seek land in other States. His record stands on the statute-books of Victoria. They show what a rocket he went up into the sky, and what a stick he came down. When the honorable member was in the State Parliament, he had me at first as one of his firmest admirers, and I think if the honorable member for Fawkner had been there he would have been with me. I saw a splendid vista before me. I saw a decent and fair tax placed on the large landed estates of Victoria. But my hopes died, as did the honorable gentleman’s power. ‘To-day, he stands for nothing in any constituency. He knows in his heart of hearts that he sacrificed the goodwill of his fellow-men for purposes that are not honorable.
– The honorable member must withdraw those words. He is attributing improper motives.
– I withdraw the technical words, and can only say that I regret heartily that he sacrificed the high position which I felt he would obtain, because he could hot see his way clear to carry out the promise which heralded his entry into power. He lost the Premiership, and to-day is a member of this House. I have stated the circumstances over and over again, and declare now that if he resigned his seat to fight against this Bill lock, stock, and barrel, his constituents would send him to political oblivion. ‘
.- On Friday last, the Attorney-General said that he would let me know what he intended to do in regard to providing for estates on which annuities were chargeable, but he has overlooked the matter. I wish to know if I can have his assurance that when the
Bill goes to another place attention will be given to it.
.- I understand that the honorable gentleman desires that the capitalized value of annuities shall be deducted from the unimproved value of an estate before a tax is chargeable in respect to it. I promise that some consideration shall be given to the matter. I shall draft a clause, and show him a copy of it.
.- I am sorry that, notwithstanding our efforts, great injustice will be done by this measure, particularly to those who, in remote districts, hold land which cannot be cut up into smaller holdings, and to those whose land is heavily mortgaged. If honorable members opposite knew the extent to which suffering will be caused, they would not impose it. I agree with what the honorable member for Flinders said about the repudiation of contracts. In other countries, land-owners may have got possession of their estates by conquest, but here the land has been bought from the State, and paid for.
– Did the honorable member ever hear of “dummying”?
– Yes j and I have heard of union officials stealing the union funds. While such occurrences would not justify one in characterizing all union officials as dishonest, neither does the fact that there has been dummying create a fair reason for cancelling the contracts which have been made with land-owners all over Australia. I have had as much experience of land transactions as any one in Australia, and I have never known of a case of dummying.
– The honorable member should read the pamphlet published by the honorable member for Bendigo.
– Under the Grant Land Act, unsuitable persons took up country remote from railways, with which they could do nothing, and were glad to be bought out by the squatters. Those facts do not justify a breach of the contract made by the Governments of the States with those to whom land has been alienated. If the land-owners are monopolists, is it not the Governments of the States who are responsible? Are persons to be punished for buying land which they were asked to buy to provide money for public works? Every Government must, for the time being, represent the people, who are bound by its acts, and the fact that past Governments sold land does not justify present Governments in trying to get it back, except by adopting the proper and honorable course of paying for it. Where large estates exist to the detriment of the public interest, they should be bought back and subdivided. Let me remind honorable members of the manner in which the people of Great Britain dealt with the slave-owners, who were surely ‘ entitled to less consideration than our land-owners. The slaves which they held had not been purchased by them, but nevertheless Great Britain paid £20,000,000 for their release, a vast sum to provide at that time. That was a glorious action, but the proposal to take from people what they have honestly bought is degrading. I have never objected to a small land tax, but honorable members must admit the impossibility of fair land taxation by the .Commonwealth, seeing that conditions differ so greatly in every State.
– The State Parliaments are alike in their refusal to tax the land.
– There is land taxation in South Australia, Western Aus/tralia, New South Wales, and Tasmania. In Queensland, they have deliberately refused to tax the land, because they have a territory seven times the size of Victoria to develop, and they can develop it only by selling their land. To tax land would be to discourage settlement. Honorable members opposite wish to develop Australia by taxing a portion of its people, and spending the revenue derived from the country upon the towns, although it is the country, and not the towns, that require to be developed. This kind of legislation will make Australia hide-bound. The Labour party has always spoken of the class which it represents as down-trodden. No doubt, long ago,- under autocratic rule, the people were not considered, but, since 1830, under legislators like Gladstone, Bright, and many other brilliant men, fair opportunities have been given to every class.
– The honorable member is going beyond the question.
– This is the first important measure passed by the Labour party, and, in my opinion, a bad start is being made. If you once break a contract, you cannot expect your word to be taken again. This is a bad start ; and I had hoped better things from the Prime Minister. i recollect that, when he sat in the Government corner, he one night, in the course of a speech, said that if a Bill meant injustice to any single individual, he would oppose it, and try to make it just to all. Does this measure ‘fulfi.1 that promise? It will inflict fearful injustice, amounting to actual ruin, on individuals. However, we have made our protest; and the responsibility must lie with honorable members opposite.
.- 1 do not wish to prolong the debate, but I would not be justified in allowing the Bill to leave us without entering my protest as to some of its provisions. I expressed my views on the second reading, and, as the Bill has not been altered in any material way, there is no occasion to repeat them; but I may, at least, once more urge that it represents an attempt to do by indirect means that which this Parliament has no power to do directly. We have no power to legislate in regard to subdivision, control, or management of land. That power has never been parted with by the States ; and, therefore, we cannot constitutionally legislate for the subdivision, occupation, and settlement of land, though that is hard to believe in view of the discussion to which we have listened. For the most part, the speeches have had reference to the bursting-up of estates and closer settlement. I ask myself whether, when it becomes law, the Bill will result in any good to the people of the country. Will it conduce to the comfort and happiness of the community or to the development and progress of the country? If, at one stroke, all the lands of Australia could be divided into blocks not exceeding £”5,000 in unimproved value, would that provide land for occupation by the “ poor people “ of whom we have heard so much ? A man who owns land, and has a family, would not be able to find adjoining allotments for his sons and daughters, who would have to go to distant parts of the State, or even to distant parts of Australia ; and such must always be the rase. If we provided all the young people of the country with allotments of unimproved land, what would have to be done to provide their sons and daughters with land as time went on? How could they all be provided for unless we subdivided and subdivided again?
– Is the honorable member opposed to the exemption ?
– I have said nothing about the exemption. I am op posed to the whole Bill. All I say is that the end the honorable members opposite have in view cannot be attained by means of this Bill. This Bill sets out to attack and injure all those who have invested, and happen to have land worth £5,000, whether it be in town or country. All others are exempt ; and, therefore, this is nothing but a class tax, which is pressed forward by honorable members opposite who will not themselves be affected.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– I take the responsibility for my statement. Honorable members opposite will not be affected themselves, but light-heartedly, laughing and joking, they take delight in imposing this taxation on others.
– Many an Act which the honorable member was instrumental in passing did not affect himself, but affected others banefully.
– The honorable member can be very glib when the legislation dees not affect him, but how would he act if it did happen to affect him? I do not like flippancy and lightheartedness, when a great injury is being done to those people who, by their ability! self-denial, and industry have acquired property. Honorable members forget that the .land-holders; who will be injured, are great producers, and, in many cases, are the pioneers who to a great extent laid the foundations of this country and made it what it is.
– They have got a very good thing out of the country !
– That is the sort of thing I listen to with disgust - these expressions of an envious spirit. Some people do better than others in the world, and that will always be the case ; every person cannot attain the same successful position. Such expressions as we have heard are founded on envy, the worst of all the attributes of our nature. It might be thought from the speeches of honorable members opposite that, because lands are not cultivated, they are not productive of anything; but the pastoral and dairying industries are the greatest in the country - greater than agriculture or even mining or manufacturing. I have always been in favour of closer settlement, which has been a feature of land administration in Western Australia since 1887, when I framed the Land Act that has been the “foundation of the land laws of that State for the past twenty-three years. I also introduced a Bill for the purpose of acquiring land for closer settlement, which proved a great boon ; so that it will be seen my zeal in this direction is not new-born. In saying this I merely desire to emphasize the fact that the principle I adopted, if the Crown required land, was to buy it, as the only honest way of obtaining the goods of other people. If that honesty, which is the foundation of our liberty, can no longer be relied on, we are no longer free men, but slaves; if any one can take from me without payment that which 1 have lawfully acquired there is no more freedom in the country. I regret very much this farce of legislation; for the Attorney-General and all his supporters know that the distribution, occupation, and settlement of land is not within our powers under the Constitution.
– I enter my protest against the absolute injustice of this taxation. The first principle of taxation should be equality; but this Bill makes no attempt to that end, by distinguishing as to the individual ability of persons to pay the tax. An estate mortgaged up to the hilt, and carrying annuities, may have the value absolutely taxed out of it, while an adjoining estate, exactly similar in value, but unencumbered, is called upon to pay the same amount of taxation. One property has been brought under my notice, owned by an eldest son, subject to annuities, and the taxation will absorb the whole of the profit, while adjoining there is an estate perfectly free, with no greater liability under the Bill.
– Does not the same apply in the case of Customs duties?
– When we are considering the Customs duties the honorable member may find my views coinciding with his more than they do in the present instance. We have heard all about the rich man in the country, but what about the rich man in the city, who holds the mortgage, and though he takes no risk, has his 5 per cent, paid regularly. The man in the country, however, who takes all the risk of stocking and working an estate, has to pay the tax.
– We shall get at the man in the city yet.
– We shall touch him up with an income tax.
– Honorable members opposite will take’ care not to tax those whom they represent. Their idea of taxation is to tax the other fellow.
– And the desire of the Opposition is to save themselves from taxation.
– When the honorable member knows me a little better, he will admit that that is not so.
– Then why make such a statement regarding us?
– Because it is the absolute truth. Honorable members opposite are imposing this taxation in such a way that it will fall just as heavily upon, a man who has a mortgage on his property as it will upon a man whose holding is free, whilst the money lender who takes no risk will be allowed to escape. If there were any justice in this tax, then in the case of a property of the value of £60,000 on which there was a mortgage of £20,000, the mortgagor and the mortgagee would each be taxed in proportion to their interest in the land. That, at all events, would be fair. Nearly 60 per cent, of the real estate of Australia is to-day under mortgage, and mortgagees, in the case of all estates exceeding the unimproved value of £5,000 will be allowed to escape. If I had to choose between taxing the landowner who takes a risk and the man in the city who takes none, I should give the man on the land a chance..
– will this Bill give the man on the land a chance? During the last Federal election, a circular was distributed throughout Tasmania to the effect that the Federal land tax proposed by the Labour party was not to produce revenue, as falsely alleged by the anti- Socialists. I challenge any member of the Labour party from Tasmania to say that he informed the people at the last election that the object of this tax was to produce revenue. It was generally declared that its object was to compel large land-owners to subdivide their properties. Labour representatives from Tasmania are perfectly justified in supporting a land tax since they were returned pledged to impose such taxation.
– Did they not discuss the rates of the tax during the election campaign ?
– I do not think so.
– The honorable member for Denison has said that he repeatedly suggested that the maximum rate should be increased to 8d. in the j£i.
– In the case of estates of an unimproved value exceeding £100,000.
– i accept the honorable member’s statement. But I am sure that the honorable member will indorse my statement that the Tasmanian reading of the Labour platform was that the object of the proposed Federal land tax was not to secure revenue, but to burst up large estates’.
– Te cause the land to be put to its best use.
– Quite so.
– Revenue is only an accident in the matter.
– The honorable member has said so. He has declared that the object of the Bill is to reduce land values. He has said that it will reduce land valued at £6 to perhaps £4 an acre, and so enable the landless to secure land. The honorable member for Brisbane, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and one or two others, were more candid than were the rest of the party, and gave an honest interpretation of the Bill, declaring that its object was to secure a. reduction in land values.
– Then they did not correctly state the object of the Bill.
– I think that the honorable member for Corangamite spoke on much the same lines.
– These honorable members said that it would bring about a reduction in land values which were already too high.
– a reduction not of values, but of prices.
– I make my honorable friends a present of whichever term they choose. 1 warn honorable members opposite that when they secure the object which they have in view, and bring down the values of land according to fair valuations, this tax will fall with brutal force on a class of the community owning property far below the £5,000 exemption.
– lt cannot interfere with the productivity of the land.
– My honorable friend speaks with all the authority of a city representative.
– I am talking common sense
– i shall try to show the honorable member where he is wrong.
– It may hurt the man who is speculating in land, but it cannot hurt the-man who is holding land for productive purposes.
– Let me support my case by an illustration. Take the posi-tion of a man owning a property worth £900, on which there is a mortgage of £600, or two-thirds of its value, the full extent to which trust moneys may be advanced. As soon as that mortgage falls due, if the selling price of the land has been depreciated to the extent of .£100 or £200, the mortgagor will have to pay off a corresponding proportion before he secures a renewal.
– I think the honorable member will find that after the passing of this Bill foreclosures will not be as numerous as they have been.
– I am speaking, not of foreclosures, but of the position of those having trust moneys to lend. The law does not allow a man to advance trust moneys beyond two-thirds of the value of the security, and millions of pounds have been advanced on that margin. If the margin be reduced, then, when these mortgages fall due, what will be the position? If die result of this Bill is that which the honorable, member for Brisbane has suggested, the value will have been taxed out of the land altogether.
– When did I suggest anything of the kind ?
– Millions have been lent on a two-thirds margin. Mortgages exist to the extent of 60 per cent, on the capital values of our real estate.
– On the inflated values.
– Then, if the money has been lent on inflated values, which are to be reduced to actual values, the margin on which trustees and others have advanced will be reduced, so that a man who has lent £2,000 on a property worth £3,000 will probably refuse to renew the mortgage for more than £1,400 or £1,500. If that will be the effect of the Bill, then it must result in widespread disaster and ruin, not to those whom honorable members opposite wish to get at, but to men owning property far below the £5,000 exemption.
– Then the honorable member’s remedy would be to further inflate values ?
– My remedy would be to refrain from touching them. If there is one class of the community mort deserving of our sympathy than- any other, it is those who have small holdings of their own on which there are considerable mortgages. The great bulk of the homes and holdings of Australia- have been obtained by men with small capital, who have put down a small deposit, and have borrowed the balance of the purchase money. If land values, are reduced’, the money-lender will take care that he is secured.
– The honorable member suggests that we should tax the mortgagee?
– To the full extent of his interest in the land.
– Would he not raise the rate of interest on the mortgage, and would not the mortgagor have to pay that increased rate?
– The mortgagee to-day gets the highest interest possible on his money. If he can obtain 5 per cent, for his money, he will not lend it at per cent.
– The honorable member evidently knows him, and he is not the only one who does.
– The honorable member has a good idea of his methods. If this .tax is going to have the effect I have described, then the men who voted for it under a mistaken notion of security, in the belief that they were going to escape it altogether, will find themselves the very class that will be crushed under it. There is no justice or fairness in the tax; but. as I said on a previous occasion, I am afraid a spirit of vindictiveness is actuating this House, which, I believe-, will bear very bad fruit in the near future-.
– Some of the observations made by honorable members opposite call for a brief reply. First, as to the general effect of the Bill and the authority of this party for introducing it, nothing is clearer than that, of the two things upon which the people decided in the most emphatic and precise way. the land tax was one. There is no necessity for a long speech about it, but I shall quote a few facts from sources which will be generally accepted. Speaking at the Glebe on 16th February, of this year, I said -
The chief plank in the Labour party’s platform is to wipe out land monopoly by making it unprofitable for holders of great estates to hold land out of use.
On- the following day the Daily Telegraph, commenting upon that statement in a leading article, said -
Mr. Hughes now confirms that, declaring that the aim of the Labour, party is to make it unprofitable for owners of large estates to keep them out of use. We, therefore, get to this point, where the Labour party intends that the Federal purposes and the State purposes shall cross. Where the holding of big estates om of use is considered detrimental to the public interest, the policy of the States is to compel the owner to. make way for closer settlement, but to equitably compensate him for the rights of ownership that he has to give up. Mr. Hughes explains that the first plank now in the Labour platform is that the Federal Government shall override that policy by forcing the owner to get rid of it.
The statement I first quoted is only one out of literally hundreds that were made; but I quote it because it was made by myself . The Argus, on z [St March, of this year, ina leading article said -
If the Labour party has its way, land throughout these districts will be depreciated by one third of its: value……
The tax, by means of which the. Labour party seeks to’ depreciate the value of large estates, will not end with that effect. It will depreciate the value of all land.
The people were warned- over and over again in the great journals of the Commonwealth, and by Opposition candidates, that this was a tax of confiscation. The Daily Telegraph, on the 9th April, four days before the election, came out with a series of messages to the people, signed by eminent persons throughout the Commonwealth. They were told by the Leader of the Opposition that -
This election must prove final and conclusive in its verdict upon our public finances and positive in its declaration for fiscal efficiency. Every non-voter really votes for minority rule. Every voter makes a vital- choice either accepting .the cramping grip of a despotic caucus or trusting the free growth of the free Parliament of a free nation. He either authorizes unsound or extravagant labour ventures in Government proprietorship or else secures the liberal policy, multiplying Australian employments, productions, population, and well-being.
The honorable member for Parramatta stated in his message -
Ours is the national high road leading te honour and success.
The alternatives were set forth very clearly by the Daily Telegraph, as follows: -
Vote for Liberalism and….. or for
Labour Socialism and …. crushing land taxation not properly within the sphere of Federal action.
There is not one phase of this question that was not brought before the people over and over again. They were told that this was going to be a crushing tax ; that it meant . con.tiscation, ruin, and iniquity. The honorable and learned member for Flinders said that we had a mandate for a land tax, but no mandate for this Bill. I shall prove, in the most positive way, that the people of this country knew about this measure, so far as the newspapers of the country could inform them, one year and six months ago. There was published in the Argus, Age, and other papers, on 27 th May, 1909, a precis of the Land Tax Bill then laid on the table of the House, which contained every operative clause of any importance that is in this Bill. If anything, it was a more drastic measure than the one now before the House, lt was set forth in the Argus of that day, nine months before the election, under the headings ‘’ Labour Land Tax,” “Details of the Proposal,” “ Confiscatory Clauses.” The explanatory memorandum was given, as was also the definition of “absentee”; the exemption was stated at £5,000; it was pointed out that we took the right to acquire land as under clause 44 of this Bill, and that provision was made for the imposition of treble the tax and a £500 fine in the case of a defaulting land-owner, or one who made a declaration which was not in accordance with facts. In fact, that precis, published in the press eighteen months ago, set forth clearly what the Bill now before the House contains. Every newspaper of any importance throughout the Commonwealth declared over and over again that it “was a confiscatory tax. The people were told that if the Labour party were returned to power ruin and desolation would stalk throughout the land. So much for the mandate. I take it that the mandate was general to impose a land tax. It was specific and precise to impose this tax in the form of the particular Bill” which had been published by the press on the 27th May, 1909. I tell those honorable members who have been returned to support the Labour party’s Land Tax Bill, and who have voted against provisions in it, that they have been, as it were, misunderstanding the mandate of the people, which was precise, definite, and unmistakable.
– Not on every clause, surely?
– The mandate of the people was given upon a question which was deliberately made by the Labour party a prominent plank, and against which it was urged by the party on the other side that it went to the length of confiscation. Tt could not go further than that. If you take from a man all that he has, it is not possible to go further in that direction. Honorable members on the other side said over and over again that we intended to take everything that people had. Only the night before last, I was met with a statement that had been circulated ‘n the Glebe electorate, that a poor unfortunate woman had been told that the effect of the Federal land tax would be to confiscate her little cottage, worth £350 ! In the most shameless and brazen way it was said that we meant to confiscate land, or diminish its value, and that the effect of the tax would not stop at the big man, but would proceed to the little man. In the face of that, the public, being solemnly warned by the Leader of the Opposition, and by every citizen “with a stake in the country,” deliberately gave the Labour party a majority. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat started with a quotation from a gentleman named Seligman, who, we learn for the first time, is a great economist, and solemnly warns people against imposing land taxation for Federal purposes. I accept what Mr. Seligman says for what it is worth, although his facts are quite wrong, and as an antidote I offer the authority of another economist, whose name I venture to say is much more familiar to the people of this country. He says -
If the States neglected to exercise their power in this direction-
In the direction of land value taxation - then they should forfeit it, and the Commonwealth would properly be called on to exercise the power.
The honorable member for Ballarat made that statement so recently as the 5th of last May, as I had the honour to point out in ray speech on the second reading of this Bill. On a previous occasion the honorable member said -
I read those extracts to show that, although an Australian Minister and member, I had not altered the attitude which I had previously occupied in Victoria upon this question. “Before the subject came up again, the consideration of the possibilities of immigration had brought me face to face, in a very clear and distinct mattner, with the urgency of dealing with our great estates of arable land.
And again -
Rut what we do say- what I do say, at all . events - is that, land tax or no land tax, every form of government which Australia possesses, from the municipalities up to the Commonwealth Government, is properly usable by the Austraiian people in the endeavour to settle this country.
And further -
It is for the citizens of Australia to determine whether they will have one, three, or thirteen taxes upon it. 1 take it that in this conflict of authorities between Mr. Seligman and Mr. Alfred Deakin no citizen of Australia will have any hesitation in accepting the opinion of the honorable member for Ballarat. He is most emphatic. There is no irresolution or trace of hesitation in what he has to say. The facts are hopelessly against those who assert that land value taxation is improper, or that the tax imposed in this case is unusual or too high. In an article published in the Nineteenth Century, it is stated that -
At the present day land taxes are imposed, not only in Germany, France, Austria-Hungary, Russia, Italy, Belgium, and Switzerland, but in the United States of America, and even in Japan.
It is stated in volume X. of the New International Encyclopadia, in its article on Japan, that the revenue of the Imperial Government is derived chiefly from the land tax, which, since 1877, has been equal to 2^ per cent, on the market value of the land- that is, to 6d. in the £1. Yet, according to Count Okuma, in his Fifty Years of New Japan, the country is progressing by leaps and bounds. In addition to the land tax for national purposes, there is a supplementary land tax amounting to 13/iooths on building land, to 32/100ths on farming land, and to 27/iooths on other land. Our mandate from the people was clear and distinct. Notwithstanding the solemn warnings- of our opponents, many of whom have passed out of Parliament, the electors, with their eyes open, ordered us to impose this taxation, believing it to be a means for their social, political, and economic salvation. I repudiate the idea that we have departed from either the letter or the spirit of that mandate. The first measure introduced by the last Fisher Government was a Bill for the imposition of a tax on unimproved land. We were prevented from going on with it by our displacement by honorable members opposite. But the measure was before the public for more than twelve months prior to the introduction of this Bill. We have heard a great deal of the deplorable consequences which will follow the imposition of the tax, but it is not our object to cause hardship. Indeed, it is our desire to avoid hurting any one, rich or poor, and, short of emasculating the measure, effort will be made to meet every case of real suffering. But, lest it should be imagined that the cases which have been cited are typical of the condition of aH who own big estates, let us look at the facts. There never was in any country a time of so great prosperity as we in Australia are enjoying to-day, when unearned increment is being created at a prodigious rate. In days to come, we shall be astounded when we look back upon the present condition of things. During the last six years, unearned increment has been added to the land in and about the city of Sydney at the rate of £1,000,000 annually. Six years ago, one could have bought the metropolitan area for £19,000,000, and to-day it is worth not less than £25,000,000. Every penny of the increase has been created by public expenditure. Of the £251,000,000 of borrowed money spent in Australia, by far the greater part has been spent on public works, which have increased the value of landed estates. It has been assumed that the chronic condition of the average land-owner in the Riverina is one almost of despair ; but one family there owns seven stations, and last year purchased a property for £220,000. The head of the family died recently a millionaire, while another member of it, who was a director of the Bank of England, died worth £345,000. A third member owns two stations, and is worth anything up to £400,000. A fourth died recently, and, probate in his estate was paid on £120,000. All these station properties are close together. I have instances of other estates worth more than £100,000. There are about ten names on a list which I cannot make public whose owners, far from being poor in the general acceptation of the term, have nothing to fear but the complaint which seems to have been fatal to those I have just referred to. Then, in Table Talk of the 6th October last, it is stated that a Riverina freehold of 30,000 acres, from which the original holder, the late W. P. Faithful, made about £200.000, despite some terribly bad seasons, has recently been sold, with 20.000 sheep and 750 head of prime fat bullocks, at a most satisfactory figure to Mr. A. H. Lange, a gentleman possessing squatting interests in Riverina and Queensland. Therefore, in spite of the tax, business is being done in the old way, and land-owners are making a good thing 01ft of their estates. In connexion with a number of city properties similarly satisfac- tory profits are being made. While the tax has gently stimulated the subdivision of properties, it has not unduly depreciated values, and there is no reason to believe that it will have any worse effect than the bursting-up of big estates, to the great and lasting benefit of the community. The Bill is not drastic; it is not a departure from the letter and spirit of the mandate of the electors; and it must do good to Australia generally.
Question - That the Bill be now read a third time - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 21st September, vide page 3527) :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.33 to 8 p.m.
Clauses 2 to 5 agreed to.
First schedule :
Rate of Tax when Owner is not an Absentee.
For so much of the taxable value as does not exceed £75,001, the rate of tax per pound sterling shall be One penny where the taxable value is One pound sterling, and shall increase uniformly with each increase of One pound sterling in the taxable value, in such manner that- the increment of tax between a taxable value of £15,000 and a taxable value of £15,001 shall be Twopence; the increment of tax between a taxable value of £30,000 and a taxable value of £30,001 shall be Threepence; the increment of tax between a taxable value of £45,000 and a taxable value of £45,001 shall be Fourpence; the increment of tax between a taxable value of £60,000 and a taxable value of £60,001 shall be Fivepence ; and the increment of tax between a taxable value of £75,000 and a taxable value of £75,001 shall be Sixpence.
For every pound sterling of taxable value in excess of £75,000 the rate of tax shall be Sixpence.
The rate of tax for so much of the taxable value as does not exceed £75,000 may be calculated from the following formula : -
R = rate of tax in pence per pound sterling.
V = taxable value in pounds sterling.
– I move -
That after the heading” Rate of tax when owner is not an absentee “ the following words be inserted - “ For so much of the taxable value as does not exceed one pound per acre of the land owned by the taxpayer, the rate of tax per pound sterling shall be one penny.”
The object of the amendment is to exempt from the graduated rates so much of the unimproved value as has been paid originally to the State, representing an average of something like £1 per acre. According to the Land Tax Assessment Bill, the value of the capital and labour expended on improvements is exempt, and the amount paid to the Government for the land representing, as it practically does, a tool of trade, should be placed on the same footing. The radical objection which is naturally taken to the schedule lies in the fact that the cast-iron rates are made applicable to the whole of the land of Australia, recklessly disregarding all the widely divergent conditions of climate, soil, and rainfall. Much has been said about discriminating between various lands and our limited constitutional powers, but I do not think the AttorneyGeneral will suggest that we have not the fullest power to classify land, and to fix. various rates applicable to the various classes. At all events, in my opinion, we have full power to do so. The amendment is an attempt to approximate, at least, to justice, and to apply a flat rate of a penny in the £i as a sort of revenue tax on the low value land. I take it for granted that we are all agreed that, so far as closer settlement is concerned, the value of the unearned increment may be taken as a fair index as to the class of property which is suitable for closer settlement purposes, and this amendment will tax such property in accordance with the value. For instance, in trie Riverina, a property of I00,000 acres, and worth £r per acre, or no more than the State actually received for it in cash, would pay only a flat rate of one penny in the £i ; that is to say, 100,000 pennies, or £416 13s. ad. in the form of a revenue tax as distinguished from what we may call a bursting-up tax. Then there may be a property, such as may be found in the Western District of Victoria, the Hunter River District, the Richmond River District, or the south coast of New South Wales, consisting of 25,000 acres, worth £4 per acre, with an increment of £3. Such a property would pay the tax of one penny in the £1 on £25,000, and the bursting-up tax on the graduated scale on the balance of £75,000, or a total tax of £1,071 18s. 4d. The result of this would be that the bursting-up provisions would be applicable to properties which were suitable for closer settlement purposes. The added value, the unearned increment, or the community-made value, as it has been variously called, may, as I say, be taken as a fair indication of suitability for closer settlement. Of course, as regards property worth £1 an acre and less, to which it is proposed the uniform rate of a penny in the £1 shall apply, it is obvious that it can be hardly suitable for subdivision or farming purposes ; whereas, when the value ranges from £3 to £10 and over per acre, the unearned increment is very large, and in such cases, consistently with the terms of the Bill, the graduated rate would apply only to the unearned increment, but not to the original amount of £* Per acre paid to the Crown. There are vast areas ‘ of pastoral lands, particularly in the central portion of NewSouth Wales, and the western, or even the southern, portions of the Riverina, which are already put to their highest productive use; and the £1 per acre, with perhaps, a few shillings more, in some cases re- presents the full value at the present day. These properties are subject toan unreliable and small rainfall, and. have light carrying capacity. If werefer to more favoured portions, for instance, from Narrandera along the Murrumbidgee down to the Murray, we find properties capable of carrying something like one sheep to 4 or 5 acres ; and the general experience of pioneers in those districtshas been disaster. No doubt they havehad their good years ; but, at the sametime, they have had bad years, and the general average has been entirely unsatisfactory. It is not poor man’s country, because it can only be held in very large areas ; and, what is more, every encouragement has been given by the various State Governments to secure its occupation under present conditions. It is true the AttorneyGeneral has mentioned several casesof land-holders in Riverina who have died possessed of vast sums. It is very easy to pick out a number who have been successful; but, at the same time, the consideration of the Committee should be given, to cases of hardship in the areas to which 1 refer, as a result of enforcing the proposed rates in the Bill. Some little time ago a number of gentlemen, representing those pastoral areas, waited on the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, and cited authentic cases in which the imposition of the proposed penal taxes will result in absolute ruin. They detailed the full circumstances of some eleven cases ; and if itwere necessary I could give those particulars showing the total unimproved value, the amount of the tax, and’ the average net income, in order toshow that the case’s are completelyauthentic. However, I think that the general result will be the more readily grasped. It was shown that the percentage of the tax in the £1 of annual income in some cases was respectively 8s. 7d., 5s. 7d., 15s. 9d., 9s., 16s. 2d., 10s. 9d.,. 17s. 4d., 15s., and in one case 27s. 2d.. There is no use in citing cases of cruelty and hardship unless they can be authenticated, and it would be fair on the part of the Attorney-General to suggest the postponement of the schedule in order that proof might be forthcoming. If. the cases were not completely established, then the Attorney-General would have shown, to some extent, a justification for the passage of the measure in its present form. If, however, it is a fact that the penal taxes provided in the schedule are capable of working such cruel hardship, it would be only fair that they should be modified. The effect of the amendment would be to, at least, relieve the pressure so far as this particular class of property is concerned. It will be observed that the amendment is limited to areas of the value of £1 and under, which are. already applied to their highest and best use, and are not capable of subdivision. If the penal taxes be imposed under the circumstances, I ask honorable members to realize the unfortunate position in which the holders of these lands are placed. They have no means whatever of escape from the tax, which is imposed for burstingup purposes, ‘ while they would be utterly unable to secure purchasers, seeing that the land cannot be profitably held in lesser areas. What are these land-holders to do under the circumstances? The AttorneyGeneral should, at least, be anxious to meet this particular class of case. If those areas were capable of subdivision I could quite understand the Attorney-General raising strenuous objection to the amendment, but as they are not, we must grant some relief. My proposal is that we should apply to them a uniform flat rate of id. in respect of the first £1 per acre of taxable value, and not the penal rate prescribed in the Bill. Honorable members are entitled to know what the operation of this amount would be, and I shall endeavour to make it perfectly clear. Estates up to £20,000 would hardly be affected. In the case of land of the value of ,£1 per acre, or under, id. instead of 6d. in the £1 would be charged, where the property exceeded the unimproved value of £80,000. Where the land was valued at £5 per acre according to the terms of the Bill, the tax would amount to 6d. in the £1, or 2s. 6d. per acre, but under my amendment the first £1 of value would be subject to a tax of id., and the remaining £4 of value to a tax of 6d. in the £1. In other words, in the case of land of the value of ^£5 per acre, the tax under my amendment would amount to 2s. id. per acre instead of 2S. 66. per acre, a concession of 16 per cent. In the case of land of the value of £15 per acre, the tax would amount to 7s. 6d. per acre under the Bill, as it stands, but under the amendment, it would be. 7s. id. per acre. It will thus be seen that in this case, as we reached lands of higher value, the concession would amount, to only 5^ per cent. As the value of the unearned increment increased so the value of the concession would largely decrease. To put another case, I (would mention three different properties, each of the unimproved value of £100,000. On- 100,000 acres, worth £1 per acre, unimproved, the Government tax would amount to £I>593 15s.) but under my proposed exemption it would amount to only £416 13s. 4d. Thus, in the case of country incapable of successful subdivision, and worth only £1 per acre, or less, relief would be granted to the extent of about 74 per cent. The Government rate of taxation works out in the case referred to at a little under 4d. per acre, whilst under my amendment it would work out at id. per acre. Let us take now the case of an estate comprising 20,000 acres worth £5 per acre, unimproved. On that estate, the Government tax would amount to £1,593 15s., whilst under my proposed amendment it would be only £1,177 !S- 8d. In that case, relief would be granted to the extent of only 27 per cent., as against relief to the extent of 74 per cent, in the case of an estate of 100,000 acres of the unimproved value of £1 per acre. The Government rate of taxation would work out at is. 7d. per acre, whilst under my amendment the rate would be is. 2d. per acre. In the third case, that of an estate of 4,000 acres, worth £25 per acre, unimproved, the Government tax would be £1,593 15s., whilst under my proposal the tax would be £1,489 ns. 8d. The relief granted would amount to 7 per cent., the Government rate of taxation working out at 7s. 111/2d. per acre, whilst under my amendment the tax would work out at 7s. 5d. per acre. It is obvious, therefore, that the graduated rate would apply, so far as the unearned increment was concerned, and that the amount would be in no way repugnant to the general principles of the Bill, although very substantial relief would be given in respect of land of the value °f £1 Per acre, or less. The Acting Prime Minister might very reasonably say that this amendment would seriously affect the revenue. On a previous occasion, however, I mentioned that it had been estimated that the revenue to be derived from the tax as originally proposed by -the Government - and very little alteration has been made from a revenue stand-point - would be largely in excess of the amountsuggested by the Government officers. The honorable gentleman has had an opportunity of studying certain estimates that have been furnished to him, and which were prepared by experts on the basis of statistical information contained in the Year-Books of the various States. Without making any allowance for the aggregation and absentee provisions of the Bill, it is estimated by these experts that the minimum revenue which would be received would be £2,359,819. In the case of land worth £1 per acre, and under, the estimated revenue from a uniform rate of taxation amounting to id. in the £1 - and that would be imposed really on the price paid to the Crown - is £253,205. The estimated revenue on the rest of the value at scheduled progressive rates is £i:3°5j337) or a total) if this amendment were carried, of £1,558,542, irrespective altogether of the aggregation and absentee provisions of the Land Tax Assessment Bill. The data whereon this estimate has been made can be verified by the Acting Prime Minister. The estimate is the result of careful expert calculation, and when it is remembered that it is estimated that there will be an increase of something like £1,500,000 in the Customs revenue it is hardly within the province of the Government to resist this amendment on the ground of the poverty of the Treasury. There is ample room to come and go upon, and immediate justice would be secured by passing this amendment. It would mean the taxing of a poor class of country commensurately with its poverty. Having regard to the strenuous efforts that have already been made to settle this class of land such an act of justice is certainly called for. The Government have the future before them, and if it were found that a mistake had been made in granting this concession they could bring down an amending Bill. Let us start mildly, and increase the taxation if experience shows that that is necessary. Do not let us commence with penal rates, for it would be no satisfaction to those on whom disaster and ruin had been worked to be told later on that experience had justified a reduction of the tax. I would remind honorable members that the general period over which mortgages run is from three to five years. We may, therefore, take the average at four years so that one-fourth of the mortgages now existing will fall due within the next twelve months. Owing to the tax, larger margins will be required. In the case of a property paying .£1,000 of land tax, this means, capitalized, a depreciation to the extent of ,£20,000. Many of the vast pastoral areas to which I have referred are mortgaged, and as these mortgages fall due the margin of the equity will have depreciated to the extent of the capitalized amount of the tax. Consequently, many of the mortgagors will be unable to repay their loans, and they will not be able to secure the renewals which, in other circumstances, they could obtain. The equity in many cases would be wiped out or, if the mortgagors were able to secure renewals, they would necessarily be at excessive rates. What would probably take place in such circumstances is that the mortgagor, having been completely crushed and squeezed out, the mortgagee would come into possession of the holding at very depressed values. If experience justified a reduction of these penal rates it would be no satisfaction for the mortgagors to realize that the rates were to be reduced after they had lost their, properties. I ask the AttorneyGeneral to give a generous consideration to the cases to which I have referred. If he can see his way in the circumstances to make a concession I am sure he will aid the continued settlement of these pastoral areas which, I contend, are already being put to their best and highest use.
.- I wish to support the amendment. This is a proposal not to exempt poor lands, but merely to mitigate the penalty. As I understand, it is a proposal to apply a flat rate of id. in the £1 - in the case of land not exceeding the value of £1 per acre - in respect of that portion of the unimproved value which is represented practically by the original purchase money paid to the Crown. It would grant some relief to the owners of the poorer classes of country lands. It would not be a concession to the owners of rich lands, and would grant no relief to the owners of town lands. This appeal is made on behalf of the owners of poor country lands not exceeding in value £1 per acre. It is proposed that they should be liable to a tax of only id. in the £1, and that they should be exempt, not from the tax, but merely from the penal rate.
– Because it is contended in respect of lands which are not worth more than £1 an acre that there cannot possibly have been any unearned increment. One pound an acre substantially represents the price originally paid to the Crown for these country lands. If they have not improved in value above the original upset price of the Crown, it stands to reason that there has been no unearned increment upon which the owners can be called upon to pay under the principle of this Bill. The basic principle of the Bill is, I understand, to tax the unearned increment.
– Plenty of land was sold for 5s. an acre.
– I hope very little of it would be covered by the tax under this Bill. At any rate, it is suggested that £1 an acre might very well be accepted as representative of the original upset price. The owners of these poor lands in country districts will feel this tax with greater severity than anybody else. It is only by degrees that we are beginning to realize the severity of the penal or graduated rates. I was somewhat startled by seeing some comments by Mr. G. C. Arnold a day or two ago, showing, in a concrete form, what their operation would be. He pointed .out that even at 4d. in the -£z the tax would be most oppressive, and would involve, in many cases, the confiscation to the Crown of one-third of the value of the land for ever, so far as the present owners are concerned. I have had no opportunity to test that calculation, but it is made by a gentleman of authority and reliability. If it is true, it justifies the contention that this graduated rate from id. in the £1 upwards is of intense severity, and will work tremendous havoc and ruin amongst a large number of people. Mr. Arnold goes on to say that he is convinced that, at present, enormous areas of land in the interior are put to their best use, and are not now suitable for subdivision. He adds -
In these cases, the tax at 6d. (in the £1) will not only take half the economic rent of the land, but will seriously depreciate its value. There are many cases where the tax will absorb from 40 to 60 per cent, of the average net revenue - I mean revenue from capital invested in land, improvements, and stock.
Those are startling figures. In fact, the more the graduated scale is examined the more startling it becomes, and the more oppressive appears the tax in its actual incidence. Of course, the owners of large and rich properties would not be entitled to so much consideration and sympathy as the owners of poor properties. These will suffer the most by the graduated tax, and if it is applied to them it will involve a terrible sacrifice of their property, and their interests, representing, perhaps, the accumulations of a lifetime. Whilst it will be, perhaps, impossible to success fully assail the graduated scale as a whole, we feel justified in making a strong appeal on behalf of those people whose property does not exceed the average value of £1 per acre. We do not propose or suggest that even they shall be absolutely exempt from taxation; but we ask that they should be liable only for the flat rate of id. in the £1, and that any balance of value should come within the drag-net provisions of the graduated scale. I trust that this proposal will appeal to the reason and liberality of even the most enthusiastic and strenuous advocate of a land tax. Whatever attack may be made on property or land of the higher values, it would be most inequitable to apply the graduated tax below a value of £1 an acre. This is not like the amendment submitted on another measure by the honorable member for Fremantle, who claimed absolute and complete exemption of the original £1 per acre paid to the Crown. This amendment merely appeals to the advocates of the graduated system to mitigate its severity and make it a revenue-earning tax, instead of a penalization of the owners of property. Here is a very startling effect, which ought to be remembered, with reference to the present owners of large estates. If it were possible to spread the loss over a number of years, and distribute the burden among a succession of landowners, the tax would not press so heavily ; but it is an absolute fact that the whole of the burden of the tax- will have to be borne by the present owners of land. The incidence of the tax can be capitalized. It will be calculated with exactitude. The extent to which the tax, capitalized, depreciates the current value of the land will be ascertained, and to that extent the land values of the present owners will be absolutely lost and confiscated to the Commonwealth. The ownership of large estates in these times certainly involves a very heavy and terrible penalty. Some may be able to bear the burden, and for them we are not putting in a plea to-night. We simply claim that the owners of the poorer land should receive some mitigation of the heavy, exhausting, torturing burden which will be imposed upon land-owners generally.
– - The honorable member, in moving the amendment, has set forth practically the arguments used by the honorable member for Fremantle during the Committee stage of the Land Tax Assessment Bill. He proposes to exempt the amount paid to the Crown.
– Not to exempt it, but to make it pay a revenue tax.
– The amendment is in, tended to have the effect of exempting it, and we are urged to accept it on the ground that it will distinguish one class of land from other classes, and, in particular, allow lands of low value in the back country to pay little or no taxation. For example, a man who has £100,000 worth of land at £1 per acre would practically pay no tax.
– He would pay id. in the £1.
– That is so. We have heard a great deal during the course of this discussion about the constitutionality of the measure, and yet honorable members on the other side now suggest that we should differentiate and discriminate between one class of land and another. We cannot do it.
– -This is not a discrimination, but a classification. The £5,000 exemption is a discrimination.
– If there be a shadow of logic in all that the honorable member has been urging against the constitutionality of this measure, his amendment is clearly unconstitutional. ‘ In any case, there is not the slightest reason for accepting it. What he proposes has never been done or suggested in any State Act. The honorable member cannot show me in the land taxation measures of New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia, or New Zealand that the price paid to the Crown has been exempted. The persons who bought from the Crown have had full value for their money. In many cases they have received benefits over and over again in increased value. They have had the use of the land, and now it is proposed to exempt the amount they paid for it. Why should they be so treated ? The exemption that the honorable member proposes would be valueless to a man in Collins-street or Kooyong.
– If the honorable member will only grant the system of classification, we can be fair to that class of owner also.
– The honorable member practically suggests that we should exempt from the operation of the tax all the money paid to the Crown?
– No; I propose to subject that to a revenue tax of id., and to apply the graduated tax to the unearned increment.
– This is a graduated land tax, and the honorable member proposes to exempt from the graduated principle all the value equivalent to the money paid to the Crown. If £250,000,000 has been paid to the Crown, for the land, he proposes to exempt an equal amount of land values above the £5,000 exemption from the graduated tax. Such a proposal, from the stand-point of the Treasury, would spell absolute suicide. If the honorable member were on this side, he would not dream of listening to it. The amendment is founded upon no sound principle. The honorable member proposes to differentiate. I venture to say there will be as much hardship endured by a man in a thicklysettled district as in a district where the poorer lands are. This is a tax that falls fairly on all men’s shoulders by virtue of: one condition only, and that is the possession of land. According to the value of the land they hold, so will the incidence of the tax fall. The greater the value of land they own, the heavier the incidence of the tax on them. The matter has been discussed at great length on another measure ;. no arguments have been put forward tojustify the Committee in altering its opinion, and I hope the amendment will berejected.
.- I do not know whether an Act has recognised thisprinciple, but I know that propositions have been made to Parliaments in thenature of the honorable member’s amendment, although it is modified to fit in withthe progressive principle of the Bill. In> 1888, as a strong advocate of the principleof land taxation, I tabled a motion in theSouth Australian House of Assembly for an increase on the then land tax of Jd.,. taking the stand that we should first base our operations on that part of the valuerepresenting unearned increment, though I: did not declare that the amount originally paid to the Crown, or the sunt of £1 an acre, as representing it,, should always be exempted from taxation. I agree with the AttorneyGeneral that we should not declare thattaxation should not touch the amount paid’ to the Crown, because the adoption of sucha principle might render all tangible assetsexempt from taxation. But when you apply the economic theory that certain increases in value are due, not to the energy of the person who benefits from them, but to the progress of the State increasing competition for the article which he holds, it must 6e remembered that part of the unimproved value was originally the property of the Crown and should be the last touched. What was in the mind of my colleague is that, especially under a progressive and onerous system such as this, you should put your taxation on that part of the value which represents unearned increment. It is not a legitimate deduction that the other is exempt from taxation when the needs of the public revenue require that jit shall be taxed. As a matter of fact, it is taxed at the present time in some of the ^States, and we should, as far as possible, avoid duplication, in the interests both of the taxpayers and of our policy. If subdivision can be obtained without sacrifice of revenue by leaving small values untouched, :that should be done. The position is strengthened by the statement that we are putting on the lower value of land an additional tax; we are taxing something which at present is sufficiently highly taxed in proportion to its economic value, if I may use that ambiguous term.
– This tax does not rest ^entirely on the right of the community to .the unearned increment.
– I admit that, and am endeavouring to postulate the principles stated by those opposed to me, and, as far as my reasoning will permit, to show the weakness of their position. I have admitted that no part of the value of land is necessarily to be exempt from taxation. But we must consider this :matter, not as philosophers, who, smoking in their easy chairs, predict theories for the governing of the universe many generations hence, but as legislators who have to discover expedients for present purposes. The unearned increment will not be exempt from taxation alto- gerber, because in New South Wales there is a tax of id. in the £1 on all land, which is collected by the municipalities and shire councils. Then in Victoria there is the somewhat fatuous tax of Jd. in the £1 on the carrying capacity of the land, which we may ignore, as not based on any re- cognised principle. In South Australia there is a tax of Jd. on land not exceeding £5,000 in value, and of id. on larger estates ; in Western Australia there is a tax <of pd. on land that is not improved, and «of fd. on land that is improved; and in
Tasmania there is a tax of Jd. on estates not exceeding ,£5,000 in value, and, I think, of id. above that figure.
– In no case is there a distinction as to the value of the land.
– I know that, and were I a member of the Labour party would reply that we should not be bound by custom, which would stultify all Labour policy.
– Has not the Court specifically determined that it is left to the States to make this differentiation?
– I think so; but that’ is consistent with Federal power. If we are not to do a thing because it has never been done, no improvement will ever be accomplished. As Shakspeare says -
What custom wills, in all things should we do’t, The dust on antique time would lie unswept, And mountainous error be too highly heap’d For truth to over-peer.
The basis of the action of the Labour party is reform, or what is often taken for it, economic transformation, and this is a very sudden one. The honorable member is consistent in applying the system of taxation first to unearned increment. The Attorney-General thinks that this is introducing a dangerous principle of differentiation, but he did not think so when the measure was first introduced. Then the progression was not by the £1. There is no differentiation in the honorable member’s flat rate up to £1 an acre, and when the Attorney-General brought down his tax the graduation was not according to every £1 of value, but, as the lawyers say, fer saltum.
– I know of no other proposal than this.
– When the schedule was introduced it was spoken of as an improvement on the original idea.
– It is the application of that idea.
– The Attorney-General did not abandon the other principle of increase, because he thought it unconstitutional, but because he regarded the Knibbsian or mathematical progression as more scientific. Under our Constitution there must not be differentiation from a general rule between State and State, or between one part of a State and another. In America the rules of uniformity are more strict than here, but there, according’ to Cooley on Taxation, you may differentiate between the members of a class, so long as you apply some rule to all. I do not share the view of the Attorney-General that the adoption of the amendment would in any way imperil the tax so far as the High Court is concerned. Let us look at it from another point of view. The greater part of the continent is still held on tenures of a’ low average value, and I understand that not 25,000,000 acres are devoted to agricultural settlement. We have a rich fringe of great agricultural possibilities, upon which, where held for pasture, our economic tax could begin its operation. The rest of Australia is good land which may attain great development under the processes of science which we conjecture may be’ discovered, but of which we have now no knowledge. At present it is being held by men who in the true sense can be termed pastoralists. The richest land in Riverina is still pastoral land. About five months ago I paid a visit to that part of the country. There is beyond Narrandera about 200,000 acres to which the principle of irrigation is to be. applied by the New South Wales Government. There is in course of construction at Barren Jack a dam which will create a reservoir as great as any in the world, until the Assouan dam is raised by another 10 feet. In September next, the Barren Jack dam will be 170 feet high, and its final height is to be 244 feet, when it will have cost over ,£1,600,000. The work is being carried out to promote the legitimate subdivision of the land. It is not proposed to subdivide land possessing a comparatively small rainfall until water is provided for making closer settlement a success. This Bill makes no provision for water, except perhaps in the tears which it will cause. The low rainfall will be no drawback, and, indeed, rather an advantage, when the land is used for intense culture and irrigation. Without water it could not be used for agriculture, and if the tax is applied to it, the land will be forced into the market against common sense, and, having regard to the conditions, against common decency. Its subdivision will be brought about without this tax, be-‘ cause the New South Wales Government intend, I think, to charge 5s. an acre on all the land within the area of possible irrigation, leaving the holders to take the water or not as they choose.
– A similar condition applies in Victoria.
– Yes, but I am dealing with the Riverina lands, because they do not at present sell for as much as the Victorian lands. It is inexpedient to tax the first £1 in regard to such land, it by exempting it you can prevent the subdivision of pastoral leases until the only policy which can make that a success is capable of being applied. I refer to irrigation. As regards the Northern Territory, the greater part is held under pastoral lease ; and what is the good of asking the lessees there to make returns? We know from the discussion on the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill that there are about 86,000,000 acres leased for a period of forty-two years, and 25,000,000 acres for a lesser period.
– There are 99,000,000 acres leased for forty-two years; and, altogether, 116,000,000 acres leased.
– And the total rental received is, I believe, under £10,000 a year. What unearned increment is there to tax? We shall embarrass lessees who have to fence and comply with a number of covenants.
– I ask the honorable member not to raise the question of taxing lessees.
– The tax falls on alt Crown leases which have some economic value, and, therefore, I do not think I am out of order. In a few years the land values must go up to a price showing some unearned increment ; but it would be inexpedient to check settlement by imposing a tax the financial result of which can be only small. When the first assessment was made in South Australia, I think it was over £500,000, but that gradually came down until, on the 1st January this year, it was less than £90,000. Does that not show that, however great the Territory may be in area, there is very little in the way of unearned increment to be taxed ; and how inexpedient it would be to deter settlement from outside by declaring that the moment the value goes beyond that represented by the rent to the Crown a tax will be imposed? People are actuated as much by anxiety as by realities ; and I should say that such taxation would deter the taking up of large areas of land by capitalists from the other side of the world. I hope that for such reasons as I have advanced, the Attorney-General will even now, with the reasonableness he displays so far as the necessities of party allow, accept some amendment of the sort proposed. I have said that this matter was mooted in South Australia.
– That was quite a different matter.
– It was the same, subject to such alterations as the progressive character of the tax necessitates. In 1888, when there was a proposal to increase the land tax in South Australia, I tabled a motion to -exempt ,£1 per acre of the value. It has been pointed out by the honorable member for Wimmera that in parts of Germany this principle is followed out; and 1 know that some theories of political economy justify it as sound.
– I desire to put on record an extract of the judgment in The King v. Barger, so that honorable members and the public may be able to understand exactly the attitude of the Court on this question of discrimination. It is contended that because there is land taxation in South Australia and other States the Commonwealth should not impose taxation; but the judgment of the Court, as delivered by the Chief Justice, contains the following : -
The fact that taxation may produce indirect consequences was fully recognised by the framers of the Constitution. They recognised, moreover, that those consequences would not, in the nature of things, be uniform throughout the vast area of the Commonwealth, extending over 32 parallels of latitude and 40 degrees of longitude. The varying conditions of climate - tropica), sub-tropical, and temperate - and of locality - near or at great distances from the seaboard - make an effectual discrimination for many purposes between the several portions of the Commonwealth. Lest, however, the Parliament should desire to bring about equality in the incidence of the burden of taxation, or what has been called an equality of sacrifice, by discriminating between such different portions, they were expressly prohibited from doing so.
That, I think, very clearly disposes of the argument used by the honorable member for Ballarat that such a tax as now proposed, dealing with all sorts and conditions of land throughout Australia, cannot possibly be a desirable one. I have already shown that the Constitution directly contemplates such taxation by forbidding us doing anything else than what we are now doing. What is proposed by the honorable member for Kooyong is really the exemption of all the money paid to the Crown originally. Roughly speaking, the six States, up to eighteen months or two years ago, had sold 123,0001000 acres for £123,000,000, or an average of £1 per acre. The honorable member now calmly proposes to exempt that £123,000,000, plus the value of all the land that has been alienated in the last two years. What the honorable member suggests is to make the land-owners of this country a present of the taxable value of £123,000,000, seeing that the smaller land-owners will not be taxed.
– What proportion of the £123,000.000 is included in estates of more than £5,000 in value?
– I have already pointed out that the proportion, whatever it may be, of the £123,000,000 which is covered by land held in parcels of over £5,000 in value, will be sacrificed by the amendment; so that practically it is the wealthy man, and not the poor man, who is to be helped. The honorable member for Fawkner estimated that the revenue from the tax would be £2,300,000 odd. If that be so, the return in New South Wales will be £1,200,000; and the 75,000 farmers who own up to 1,000 acres of land in that State will pay no tax; the 6,400 persons who own between 1,000 acres and 50,000 acres will pay £106,000 amongst them; and all the rest of the tax, or £1,091,000 will be paid by 7>i8 persons. I mention the figures for the purpose of pointing out in the clearest way that the amendment of the honorable member for Kooyong is an effort to shift the portion of the taxation on the £123,000,000, which would be borne by those 718 gentlemen, from them to the other two classes of land-holders I have mentioned. This is not a question of unearned increment, but a question of the prevention of land monopoly; and, I regret that the Government are unable, under the circumstances, to accept the amendment.
.- The Attorney-General claims that the amendment is unconstitutional because it creates discrimination; but, with all deference, I cannot follow him in that contention. When the honorable gentleman’ first spoke he advanced no reason for his attitude, but he has since quoted from a judgment of the High Court, which, however, in my opinion, has little or no bearing on the point involved in the amendment. I cannot see that the amendment can cause any great danger to the constitutionality of the Bill. If I understand it aright it means that where a man owns land of the taxable value of £1 per acre, he shall pay a penny in the £1. We know that there are many people who paid £1 per acre to the Crown, and hold large areas which they would be very glad to dispose of at the same price, including the improvements they have made. The position of those unfortunate people is that if they hold 100,000 acres valued at £100,000, they may be heavily mortgaged up to £60,000 or £70,000, and, in add, tion to the interest, they will be called upon to pay £1,500 as a tax. Under the circumstances, the equity of redemption represented by £30,000 or the £40,000, simply disappears by reason of the crushing impost. The amendment would give such people well-merited relief. Those who have bought the 123)000,000 acres at £1 an acre will pay a penny on the first £1, and then the graduated tax. They would have to pay a large sum if the value of the land went beyond £1 per acre.. The Attorney-General has, in this amendment, an excellent chance to grant relief to those who hold large areas of land which, unfortunately, do not command a high price per acre. If some such relief as is proposed is not granted, the effect of this schedule will be altogether too sudden and drastic. Australia has hitherto raised but a comparatively small sum from land taxation. To my mind, the State Parliaments should have passed proper land tax measures long ago, and have called upon the land to do its duty as a revenueproducing asset. We must not forget that we are imposing taxation mainly for the purposes of revenue. Australia has not raised nearly as much, as New Zealand has done by way of land taxation, but if this tax is followed, as it most certainly will be, by Land Tax Acts in all the States, we shall probably have a total revenue of something like £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 derived from the land. In other words, there will be a sudden increase from £300,000 or £400,000 to £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. This must take a lot of money out of circulation, and the effect will be felt by the whole community. No one will feel it more than will the man who has to work for his daily bread. The casual worker, who has no regular trade - and there are many such men in the Commonwealth - will feel the pinch as severely as any one. The country will need to be iu a flourishing state to withstand such a sudden and enormous increase of taxation. Australia is certainly flourishing at the present time, but we are subject to sudden changes, and two or three years of drought would make a vast difference in our position. The Attorney-General has said that State legislation offers no precedent for such a proposition as that immediately before us. My reply is that no such measure as this has ever been before a State Parliament, and that, therefore, no State member has been cai iea upon to exercise his ingenuity to meet such a set of conditions. Different forms of land taxation have prevailed in the States, and we are now proposing what is supposed to be a uniform tax, but it will apply unequally. It will, be difficult to make the cap fit the situation, and, viewing the whole of the circumstances, I think that we have in this amendment a chance to grant relief to many mortgagors whose land, unfortunately, is not of high value. This Bill is framed largely on the. New Zealand Act, but that measure does not take out of the pockets of the people anything like the amount which the Bill now before us is estimated to yield, apart altogether from the revenue that will be raised bv means of State land taxation. I hope that the Committee will view this matter impartially, and accept the amendment.
.- The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Kooyong is based on the principle that there should be some differentiation between the application of the tax to the amount originally paid to the Crown for land and the value of the unearned increment. It has been contended from the first that the unearned increment is not created by the owner of land, but is rather community -made. Land-owners, however, have had to pay the original price charged for their land. The Attorney-General seemed to think that if this amendment were carried, land-owners would escape taxation to a very large extent, but that is not the position. Under this amendment it is estimated that a revenue of £253,205 12s. id. would be derived in respect of the value of £1 pei acre originally paid for the land. Surely the Attorney-General must recognise that there is a great difference between taxing the amount originally paid for land and the unearned increment?
– But the unearned increment has nothing at all to do with it.
– I cannot agree with the honorable gentleman. It seems to me that it would meet the case to fix one rate in respect of the amount paid for the land, and another in respect of the increase in value.
– How would the case differ in principle in the case of £253.000 worth of land held in Collins-street?
– In the case of town lands the tax can, and is going to, be passed on, but in the case of country lands it cannot.
– I thought it was the other way about.
– In the case of town lands it will be passed on, but the owner of land devoted to wool-growing - the man who has to sell his wool for European consumption - cannot pass it on.
– Does the honorable member say that the position of some industries is different from that of others - that capital is handicapped in some cases and not in others?
– Certainly, the conditions vary. The primary producer, who has to sell in the world’s markets, is in a different position from the man who produces for the local market, and whocan be protected.
– Does not that apply to the producer of gold, silver, and copper? To what does it not apply ?
– The position is different in the case of town offices. Then, again, no Tariff could be devised to protect the great wool-growing industry.
– Does the honorable member suggest that where there is an unearned increment we should take it?
– I do not.
– The honorable member simply says, then, that we should remit the tax where there is none ?
– No. There is something totally different in principle between taxing the amount which a man has paid originally for his land- and which has gone into the public Treasury -and taxing the unearned increment. It is much easier to justify a tax on the unearned increment, as it is called, than it is to justify one on the amount actually paid originally for land. This amendment would meet many of the hard cases that have been put forward. It would grant’ relief in the case of large estates in the interior which have been mortgaged. Many men who have borrowed money to buy land have never got out of debt. I know many cases where people have borrowed the money which they have had to pay the Crown for their land, and are still hampered by the indebtedness so incurred. The names of three or four men occur to my mind who have never got their heads above water. The value of their land has not increased, and I do not think it reasonable to tax them just as others are taxed whose land has risen in value to the extent of £3 or £4 per acre. The proposed flat-rate of1d. in the £1 in respect of land of the value of£1 per acre or under - the amount originally paid to the Crown - -would yield £253,205. That would be the amount derived in respect of the first £1 of value per acre, and the progressive rate on the remaining value would yield a revenue of £1,305,000. The amendment would cause the tax to press less heavily than it would otherwise do, and it might well be taken into consideration. The Treasurer has often said that there were nine turns of the screw in New Zealand.
– There have been only four turns of the tax screw and nine turns of the assessment screw.
– In this case we are to take the poison in one dose, and I think that the Attorney-General might well agree to reduce the dose. In New Zealand the people have gradually become accustomed to this class of taxation, and matters have adjusted themselves, but the imposition of a heavy tax in one dose will have a very prejudicial effect on the country. If, as in the case of New Zealand, we had had nine amending Land Tax Assessment Acts the tax would not be felt so heavily as it will be. I trust that the Attorney-General will agree to the amendment, for it will be a very acceptable concession, and make the tax much easier in the case of those least able to bear it.
.- I hope that the Attorney-General will see his way clear to accept the amendment, which, to my mind, is very fair. In many of the States £1 per acre was the minimum price paid to the Crown in the early history of Australia, and for many years the land was not worth the money. Those who have followed this debate closely., and especially those who heard the speech made by the honorable member for Kooyong, must admit that there is in Australia a great deal of land that would not bring the price paid for it many years ago. In my own State that is so, and plenty of people would be glad to get for their land the £1 an acre they paid for it. . If they were given the little relief now proposed it would be of great benefit to them. I quite agree with the honorable member for Kooyong that there are thousands of acres in Australia that will not stand subdivision, and as the tax is being imposed merely to secure the subdivision of large estates, it should not apply to those cases. If poorer lands are subdivided, people cannot possibly make a living on them.
Therefore, the effect of the tax will be to destroy the present value of large areas of country land. There never was a worse time in the history of Australia to put a tax on the land than the present. We are right on top of a big wave of prosperity, and 1 think this is the best season we ever had. It is easy to put on a land or any other kind of tax, but it is very hard to get it repealed, as there is always some one to say that money is wanted.
– We shall let the honorable member down lightly.
– I am sure the honorable member, with his even mind, would be very pleased to let us down lightly, but he has not the power. I hope the Committee will assist the honorable member for Kooyong, because it will be a detriment to the whole of Australia if something is not done in the direction he proposes. We are not really taxing the unimproved value of the land, but are taxing the improved value, because the unimproved value has gone out years and years ago. We are therefore putting a check on the whole of the improvements on land in the Commonwealth. If we do that, we shall find it a very serious thing for the working people. Directly improvements are stopped, the community will feel the effect. I am sorry to think that we are about at the end of the present series of good seasons. I do not believe that bad seasons will ever trouble us as much as they have in the past, but if we do get bad seasons again, this tax will press very hardly on the land-holders. If we do not give the relief now asked for to the landholders of Australia, I think we shall suffer for it before very long.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Sir Robert
Best’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … .. 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I have been requested by the honorable member for Darling Downs to take charge of an amendment of which he has given notice. I move -
That the figures” £75,001 “ be left out, and the figures “£45,001 “ be inserted in lieu thereof.
There are also consequential amendments. The schedule, as the honorable member for Darling Downs would amend it, would read as follows -
For so much of the taxable value as does not exceed £45,000, the rate of tax per pound sterling shall be One penny where the taxable value is One pound sterling, and shall increase uniformly with each increase of One pound sterling in the taxable value, in such manner that- the increment of tax between a taxable value of £15,000 and a taxable value of £15,001 shall be Twopence ; the increment of tax between a taxable value of £30,000 and a taxable value of £30,001 shall be Threepence; the increment of tax between a taxable value of £45,000 and a taxable value of £45,001 shall be Fourpence.
For every pound sterling of taxable value in excess of £45,000 the rate of tax shall be Fourpence.
Shortly summarized, the honorable member’s proposal would substitute four gradations of tax, of1d., 2d., 3d., and 4d. in the £1, for the six gradations in the existing proposal. The amendment would practically give effect to the original proposals of the Labour party during the last election. Whatever mandate they received at the last election, it was not for a land tax of 3d. or 6d. in the £1, but for a land tax of 4<- in the £1 at the very outside. The honorable member for Darling Downs, in a speech delivered in the House on 21st September of this year, and reported in *Hansard at page 3503, quoted from a speech delivered at Gympie on 30th March, 1909, by the honorable member for Wide Bay, who then formulated a schedule of a proposed land tax, beginning at id., and going up by 1/2d. gradations until it ended at 4d. in the £1.
– Where does the word “maximum” appear in that speech?
– The honorable member for Wide Bay said “ £50,000 and above, rate, 4d. ; total tax on the estate, £035 8s- 4°’-“ There is the maximum.
– The honorable member is not in order in quoting from the report in Hansard of a second- reading speech on this Bill.
– I shall quote an extract from a speech delivered by the Prime Minister at Gympie on 22nd March, 1910, when he said that on an estate of £60,000, the amount of tax would be 4d. in the £1. No mention is made of a rate beyond 4d. in the £1. It can hardly be presumed that at that time the Prime Minister had any mental or other reservation regarding a rate above 4d. In asking the Labour party to accept the amendment, we are merely asking them to vote in favour of their own policy of a 4d. land tax, as submitted to die country.
– The amendment cannot be accepted. It is proposed to make the maximum of the tax 4d. instead of 6d., and the report of a speech delivered by the Prime Minister at Gympie on the 30th March, 1909, has been referred to in support of the allegation that he said that the tax would not go higher than 4d.- in the £1. I declare in the most positive way that I do not think that he said that. He stated here that what he had in his mind when he delivered the speech was a table worked out, showing the effect of the tax up to 4d. As it had been arranged that the tax was to go up to 6d.,. I telegraphed to him on the morning following the delivery of his speech, asking why he had stopped at ‘4d. He has declared that he had 6d. in his mind, and the reply telegram which I re ceived bears out what he stated here: “ Merely stopped short at fourpence; progressive illustration.”
– Has that ever been published ?
– I do not know that it has. But it was declared throughout the length and breadth of Australia that we intended to make the tax effective; and if any member of the Labour party bound himself to 4d., he had no justification for doing so. I stated, not once, but many times, that the rate would go to 6d. I made that statement repeatedly throughout the electorates of Indi and Corangamite, in Melbourne, and in many parts of New South Wales. Of course, the party was not bound by what I said more than by what was said by any other of its members. I mention the matter to show that the Prime Minister, in declaring that he had no intention of stopping at 4d. is amply borne out. Besides the wire which I have quoted, the manifesto of the party, issued, not in 1909, but in March, 1910, and published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 5th March, declares that -
There is, in our opinion, but one practical remedy, and that is a graduated tax upon unimproved land values. If returned with a majority, we shall impose a tax upon estates of the unimproved value of £5,000 and over (in the case of absentees there will be no exemption), beginning at id, in the £1, and rising by gradations necessary to make it effective.
– That statement would cover a tax of is. in the £I
– It might cover anything. The interjection is like the question of a man who, on receiving an indeterminate sentence, asks, “ Does that mean for life?” The reply of the Judge is, “ You are to be kept in gaol until you reform.” The people have asked us to impose what taxation is necessary to break down land monopoly. I feel sure that there is not the slightest necessity for contemplating a tax of is.
– The honorable member must be astounded at his moderation.
– I have seen so many astounding things in this Chamber, that my capacity for astonishment is deadened. The members of the Labour party were returned upon their manifesto, plus their programme. There is nothing in either pointing to the fact that the tax would not go beyond 4d. Furthermore, scarcely a day passed that the press and our opponents did not declare that we were proposing a confiscatory tax. The honorable member for Flinders speaks of1s. in the £1 as covering the very limits of possibility, yet no limit was mentioned. But the Committee and the people ought to know that, in spite of anything that may be said to the contrary, the tax will not exceed 4d. in the £1, except in regard to estates whose unimproved value is over £98,750. A man owning land whose unimproved value is £80,000 will be taxed at the rate of 31/2d. in the £1 on the taxable amount, viz., on £75,000 ; on land whose unimproved value is £100,000 the tax will be 41/38d. on the taxable value; while on a value of £150,000 it will be 4 and on a value of £200,000, 51/26d. If the tax were 4d. on unimproved value exceeding £50,000, it would be one-and-a-half times as heavy as is proposed. In New Zealand the man possessing land whose unimproved value is £200,000 pays 51/5d. in the £1, or 99/130ofa penny, say,3/4 d. in the £1 more than such a man will pay here. Our tax is higher than the New Zealand tax up to £100,000, but over that value the New Zealand tax is the higher ; while an absentee would pay on the New Zealand rate £2,291 13s. 4d., and on our rates £2,010 8s. 4d., or nearly £300 less. Honorable members opposite have described this as a heavy land tax, but it is not so. The impost is well within the mandate we received from the people, and 1 hope it will prove heavy enough to do what is desired. We were empowered to make this tax effective ; and it shall be madeeffective if this Government remain where it is. Something has been said about the effects of such taxation. I may say that in New South Wales, it is not unusual for municipal property to pay 4d. in the £1 on the unimproved value, and in the case of two or three municipalities the tax is 5d. in the £1. The effect in New Zealand has not been to unduly depreciate land values, but aggregations and speculation have been prevented, while transactions in land by bond fide settlers have been stimulated. Some very useful figures in this connexion are given in a little book published by the late Max Hirsch, from which we learn that, in 1891, in New Zealand, the unimproved value was £75,787,895, whereas in 1906, in spite of the land tax, this had increased to £149,682,689. In Victoria, where there is no tax on unimproved values, the value was £132,269,620 in 1894 or 1895, whereas in 1906 it had fallen to £131,599,078. These figures are a most effective answer to what has been said by honorable members opposite. In New Zealand land values have gone up and steadied materially; and we were told in the speech delivered by Mr. Watt, the Victorian State Treasurer, in August, 1909, that the unimproved value in New Zealand had risen from £75,000,000 odd, in 1891 to £161,000,000 odd in 1908. I have shown that our mandate was to make this tax effective, that the Prime Minister did not declare that the impost would not go beyond 4d., and that I mentioned many times that it would reach 6d., though, as a matter of fact, it cannot do so, because it must always be a fraction less than that amount. The honorable member for Franklin unfolded quite a “chamber of horrors “ which had come under his personal observation, but none of these terrible consequences have ‘been experienced in New Zealand, the Dominion on the contrary being in a very flourishing state. I have no doubt that the effect of this tax will be to make for prosperity, and induce hundreds of thousands of people to settle in the country and I feel very certain that the people of Australia will heartily indorse this legislation.
Question - That the figures proposed to be left out stand part of the schedule - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Schedule agreed to.
Second schedule agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed - That the House do now adjourn.
.- In the Herald to-night there is published a letter from an Australian who says that he invented a rifle which was submitted to the Minister of Defence, and senton by that honorable gentleman to the military authorities some six months ago. Since then the manhas heard nothing more of his invention and I would ask the representative of the Minister in this Chamber to inquire whether there has been the delay alleged.
– No doubt the statement is correct - the thing was flung aside !
– Then something should be done to enable this Australian to have his Invention properly tested, and if it is found to be as effective as he claims it to be, steps should he taken to arm our forces with this weapon.
.- I should like to bring under the notice of the Minister representing the Minister of Defence the fact that for the last two years there has been no rifle range at Echuca, and that members of the Mounted Rifles and the rifle clubs in the district have had to journey to Bendigo to get in their musketry course. The situation seems tome to be very unfair, and I urge the Minister to see if something cannot be done to have the range reopened.
Mr. FRAZER (Kalgoorlie- Acting Trea presenting to-morrow to the Minister of Defence the statement made by the honorable member for Echuca, with a view of ascertaining what can be done by the Department to remedy his cause of complaint. As to the question raised by the honorable member for Maranoa, I have not yet read the letter in the Herald to which he has referred. The Defence Department, to my knowledge, however, makes very close inquiry into every proposal submitted to it as likely to improve the equipment of our forces.
– The honorable member must think that we are very childlike if he expects us to believe that.
– I make the statement that exhaustive inquiry has been made into many inventions during the short period that I have been representing the Minister of Defence in this House. That is within my own knowledge; but I am unacquainted with the facts of this case. I shall avail myself of the earliest opportunity of bringing before the Minister of Defence the statement made by the honorable member for Maranoa, in conjunction with the letter to which he has referred, and will ascertain whether I can secure information to put before the House to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 October 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19101012_reps_4_58/>.