5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took tbe chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the fact that yesterday the House resolved that a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire into electoral matters, does not the Prime Minister think that it would be better to postpone the consideration of the Electoral Bill until the Committee’s report has been received ?
– I am quite aware that the great desire of honorable members opposite is to postpone the transaction of all business, and, in particular, the consideration of the measure which the honorable member has mentioned.
– I understand that yesterday evening the honorable member for Darwin charged me with having stated that I was an Australian, and a self-made man. I certainly claim to be an Australian, and can substantiate the claim, but neither here nor elsewhere have I ever claimed to be a self-made man. On the contrary, I am proud of my ancestors, and if I do as well in my life-time as some of them did in theirs I shall be quite satisfied. I object to the honorable member, or any oneelse, putting into my mouth words that I have not uttered.
– It is true that I referred to the honorable member for Robertson yesterday, but I did so because, when he first entered the House, and before he had passed through the proper parliamentary refrigeration, he called me a blatant American, though be had never met me. I knew that the words were used in a state of excitement, and I thought that I would wait until he cooled down a bit before replying. Owing to the fact that I was not born here, I cannot claim to be an Australian, but if the important and interesting ceremony of my birth were to occur again I should tryto arrange to have ithere, so that there might be no trouble about that matter. I understood the honorable member to say that he was made here in Australia, and that he made himself. I added yesterday that I was pleased to hear that he claimed to be a self-made man, because that statement relieved Almighty God of a great responsibility. The honorable member will understand that there is no illfeeling in what I said.
– Last week I asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence if he would have bound copies of tbe Defence Regulations supplied to honorable members, and he graciously agreed to have such a copy placed in the Library; but, in view of what transpired yesterday in this House and in another place, I ask if he will try to arrange for each member to be supplied with a copy.
– I think that what is asked for is quite feasible, and I shall consult my honorable colleague with a view to seeing if effect can be given to the honorable member’s wishes.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the report which was published in the Melbourne Argus of a meeting held at Sydney, and presided over by the Lord Mayor of that city, at which a resolution was carried asking the Commonwealth Government to remove the quarantine embargo that has been placed upon it. In this connexion I draw the honorable gentleman’s attention to the fact that Sir William McMillan supported a motion affirming that there was no need for the embargo, and, further, that the Premier of New South Wales stated that there was no need for it. This is a momentous matter, affecting half-a-million of people, and I ask the Prime Minister if he will give consideration to the decisions arrived at.
– I have read. the report referred to, and I may tell the honorable member that I think that, under the circumstances, the Premier of New South Wales had a hide to be at the meeting.
– What does “ hide “ mean? That is an undignified expression.
– Of course, the Premier of New South Wales is to be permitted to criticise me to his heart’s content, and I must not make a reply of any kind. In my judgment, he is responsible for all the trouble.
– That is hardly an answer to the question.
-I was asked if I knew that the Premier of New South Wales was at the meeting. I say I do know that he was there, and that I think he would have done better to attend to his own duties in this matter.
– On a point of order, I ask if I shall have an opportunity to make a statement in reply to that of the Prime Minister?
– No. At this stage the honorable member may only ask a question, seeking for information, and in asking a question he may not say more than is necessary to make his meaning clear. On the contrary, a Minister of whom a question is asked is allowed some latitude. He has to give information, and must, therefore, make a statement, but that statement must not go beyond what is a fair answer to the question.
– I read the report of the meeting,and know that among those present were the Premier of New South Wales, and my friend Sir William McMillan, so that there would appear to be another Fusion over there. It was stated that only about 1,000 persons attended.
– The meeting was held in the vestibule of the Town Hall.
– Then it was not an extraordinarily large meeting.I am glad that the meeting was not large, because this is not a matter to be made the subject of popular clamour and appeal. There is no objection to citizens voicing their opinion, but I am glad that there was no attempt at a huge demonstration of the nature of some demonstrations which have been held. The position of Sydney is under very serious consideration, and I hope that my honorable friend will believe that as soon as we think the quarantine embargo can safely be lifted it will be lifted. .
– Some time ago I asked’ the Postmaster-General whether he would give consideration to the fact that tradesmen of populous suburban areas are entitled to the same postal privileges as areenjoyed by those doing business in the city itself, and he informed me that he would do so,
– I think I told the honorable member that there is great difficulty in doing what he suggests, and that the departmental officers advise the continuance of the present system, which requires the posting of large parcels of circulars at the central office.
Mr. KELLY laid upon the table the following paper: -
Railway Track-Former - Particulars re the “ Castles machine used on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta line.
Questions of Discipline
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– I am going to answer this series of questions, but I desire to express the hope that at the beginning of our new naval training system honorable members will not bring to this House questions of ordinary discipline.
– I sincerely hope that we shall do so, and I tell the Prime Minister that he will get them.
– Then I can only say that if matters of ordinary discipline are brought up here they will be ignored.
Mr.Fenton. - The civil authority is going to prevail.
– Certainly it is; but no navy can be carried on if every little grievance is to be brought here from the Admiral, Such a thing is not done in any other part of the world.
– I hope the Minister will stick to that decision.
– Does the Prime Minister regard it as a petty matter when the men have to go on the quarter-deck and enter their protest?
– I have not used the word “ petty.”
– Order ! Questions cannot be debated.
– Having made this statement, I am going to answer this series of questions. The answer to the first question is -
No complaints have been received from Australia or Melbourne. Crew of Sydney have asked for alteration in system, and a committee to consider matter was appointed on the 17th October.
As to the second question -
Will the Minister inquire into the accuracy of the statement that 80 or 90 men of the abovementioned vessels, whose time expires in April next, intend to leave the Naval Service owing to their dissatisfaction, the answer is -
Nothing is known of this, but total number of men in fleet whose time expires on or before 30th April next is” only 40.
This is one of the questions which,I think, ought not to be put in the House in this way. Nothing is known of the statement, and it is a matter entirely for the commanders of these vessels. The answer to the third question is “Yes”; whilst the answer to question 4, “ Have the crew been supplied with margarine instead ‘of butter?” is-
Yes, on occasions during passages through tropics part issueof margarine was made. Experience has shown that in the tropics margarine keeps better than butter.
The reply to the fifth question, “Does the paymaster hold a balance of £200 out of the victualling allowance?” is -
Yes, owing to length of sea passage. The allowance of1s. 4d. was based on Australian conditions, and it is probable that food-stuffs were obtained in England at lower prices before ship left.
That is a perfectly feasible explanation, and it shows the undesirableness of bringing all these matters before the House. The answer to the sixth question is “ No,” while the answer to the seventh is -
Complaint was made and dealt with.
The next question is -
Will the Minister inquire into the question of the marriage allowance and alleged dissatisfaction of the men in connexion therewith?
The reply is -
Several matters in connexion with the marriage allowance are now under consideration.
That, I think, is a perfectly proper question, but I hope that honorable members will make a distinction between ordinary matters of general administration of the Naval Department and matters concerning the discipline of the men on board these vessels. The answer to the last question is -
The inquiry required by the King’s regulation’s was held immediately after the accident, and report has been received.No further inquiry is deemed necessary.
Debate resumed from 16th September (vide page 1247), on motion by Mr. Glynn -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- It is not my intention to . delay the passing of this Bill since I favour the proposal that the Commonwealth shall take over Norfolk Island. I realize that Australia at present is faced with a large number of obligations and. some very heavy burdens. Amongst these is the Northern Territory, and I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister admit yesterday that in connexion with it we have a very big problem to solve. For three years, whilst the honorable gentleman was in Opposition, he did not seem to think that the administration of the Territory was a very serious problem, but since his assumption of office he has apparently changed his view. Papua is another problem, but the destiny of Australasia, undoubtedly, is that she shall have the predominating influence in the South Pacific. Norfolk Island is not a very large island, and I do not think that its transfer will impose upon Australia a very serious burden. In view of the fact that it is about 200 miles nearer New Zealand than it is to Australia, I should have liked to see it placed under the control of that Dominion, because New Zealand will have to take, and certainly will take, her share of insuring the maintenance of Australasia’s predominating influence in the South Pacific. Apparently, however, the people of Norfolk Island desire to be associated with the Commonwealth, and, that being so, no objection should be offered to this proposal. This Bill seems to embody all to which the late Government were prepared to agree ; but, in clause 15, there is a proposal to which we had some objection. It was for that reason, indeed, that the Bill was not submitted by us to Parliament. The passing of that clause will mean embodying, for all time, in the Constitution of the Island, a provision that Free Trade shall prevail in respect of goods imported into Australia, provided they are produced in Norfolk Island. I do not know that there is much in such a provision to occasion any concern, but I do not thinkit wise to place it inthe Constitution itself. Norfolk Island is about 600 miles away from Australia, and it might be found advisable at some time or other to do away with Free Trade between the two places. Whilst we were not prepared to embody this provision in the Bill providing for the government of the Island we were ready to submit, simultaneously, a separate Bill declaring that for the time being there should be Free Trade be tween Norfolk Island and Australia, so that if any future Government desired to make an alteration, with the consent of the people, it would be able to do so. The point, however, is not a very serious one, and if, after discussion, honorable members think it well to accept the clause as it stands, I shall offer no objection.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
– I understand that Norfolk Island was previously under the Government of New South Wales, and I desire to know whether I am correct in assuming that that Government has practically said in effect to the Commonwealth, “ We do not desire to control this island any longer, and we shall be glad if you will take it over.”
– The New South Wales Government is acquiescing in our taking it over, so that there will be no difficulty in that regard.
– And the people of Norfolk Island desire that it shall be taken over by the Commonwealth?
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Continuance of laws).
.- This clause provides that laws in force in Norfolk Island may be altered or repealed by Ordinance made in pursuance of this Act. It seems to me to give rise to a very important consideration.’ In connexion with the Northern Territory, for instance, important questions which should come under the immediate purview of this Parliament are determined by Ordinances instead of by Acts of the Parliament itself. I recognise that Ordinances cannot have the effect of law if the Parliament objects to them, but I should like the Minister to say whether he does not think it would be better to deal with these matters by actual legislation rather than by way of Ordinance.
– As the island is some distance away, I do not think that it would lead to any more efficiency in its administration to do everything by Act of Parliament in this House, instead of by Ordinance. I would point out that the power to make Ordinances is vested in the Governor-General in Council, that all Ordinances must be submitted to the Federal Parliament within thirty days after the making thereof, and that the House has complete power of disallowance. I think the honorable member will find that this provision will work satisfactorily.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Continuance of Executive Council).
– Can the Minister in charge of the Bill tell us the method by which this Executive Council is elected ? Are the members of the Council subject to election by the inhabitants of Norfolk Island ?
.- This clause provides that the Executive Council of Norfolk Island now existing, shall continue, subject to alteration, or abolition, by Ordinance made under this measure. Two members of the existing Executive Councils are elected by the male residents of Norfolk Island, and four members are nominated by the Governor of New South Wales.
– That will be the GovernorGeneral, in future?
– Can the inhabitants of the island bring about any alteration in their Constitution ?
– That will be subject to ‘ Ordinance, except, so far as provided by this Bill.
.- I notice that the election of the locallynominated members of the Executive Council is confined to the male adults. Will the Minister be prepared to issue an Ordinance so that the women of the island shall have the same voting power as the men ?
.- The honorable member realises that this is merely a Bill providing for the continuance of the laws now in existence relating to Norfolk Island. It also’ makes arrangements for creating a body that will frame new laws. The honorable member asks something in regard to a line of policy that may be adopted in the future. T shall bring his suggestion before the Minister of External Affairs, so that, when the question of making an Ordinance relating to representation is before him, the matter of extending the franchise to the women on the island may be taken into consideration.
.- We are not likely to hear much about Norfolk Island for a considerable time after it is taken over by the Commonwealth, and I would like an assurance from the Minister now that the Government will bring in an Ordinance extending to the women of the island the right of voting.
– My own feeling towards the question is one of sympathy. I shall make representations to the Minister.
– Perhaps the Minister of External Affairs will deal with this matter on the third reading.
– Yes; you can bring the matter up then.
.- I welcome the fact that Norfolk Island is coming under the control of the Commonwealth; but an injustice, unfortunately done to the islanders by the New South Wales Government, ‘may continue. The islanders were promised that they could elect their own officials to govern them, and that they could hold their houses for all time; but, fifty years after that promise was made by the late Queen Victoria, the islanders were evicted by the New South Wales Government in office in 1906-7, and very unjustly treated. Therefore, I hope that provivision will be made for a very wide franchise, and that’ the islanders will be able to elect their own magistrates, subject, of course, to the appointments being approved by the Commonwealth Government. The plan for the government of the island was originally set out by Mr. Labouchere, a very wise officer of the Imperial Colonial Office, who said that it was essentially an experiment in land tenure. That experiment was very successful until the Nev South Wales Government interfered too much with it.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Laws for Norfolk Island).
.- We may be called upon to incur considerable expenditure upon Norfolk Island. Last year we spent £68,000 on Papua, and the amount is to be increased this year to £138,000. If we are going to take on this additional expense, though we have practically no control over Norfolk Island,
I would like to hear from the Minister what the extent of our liability will be.
Mr.GROOM (Darling Downs- Minister of Trade and Customs) [11.10].- By the Commonwealth taking over Norfolk Island, the Government of New South Wales will be relieved of an annual expenditure of £1,500. Of course, further expenditure will be necessitated by the island coming within the sphere of the Federal jurisdiction, but I do not think the honorable member need have any apprehension that any excessive expenditure will be incurred.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 (Appointment of Officers).
.- Am I to understand that when this clause places the power of appointing officers solely in the hands of the GovernorGeneral, it is to be taken to mean “ the Governor-General in Council”?
– Can we learn from the Minister what is likely to be the cost of the appointment of the officers referred to in this clause, so that we may know exactly what our expenditure is going to be ? If the revenue is not sufficient to meet the expenditure, what do we contemplate doing to make up the deficit?
– It will be met by a Commonwealth grant, as is done in the case of Papua.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 (Grants of Land).
– According to this clause, the GovernorGeneral may make grants or other dispositions of Crown lands in Norfolk Island. I understand the land is now held under the perpetual lease system, but I would like to know if any of the area has become alienated, also what revenue is received from the land. Further, I would like to hear whether the island justifies the beautiful picture the Minister of External Affairs presented to us in moving the second reading - whether it is absolutely a community of leaseholders?
.- On my two visits it was explained to me by some of the descendants of the Pitcairn Islanders that they were not being treated too well, as the amount of arable land is limited. The. time was when an islander could bring a wife from the mainland and set up a home on a small farm of 20 acres, or, if a sailor landed from one of the ships and married a daughter of the island, they could start a household in that way. I understand that this condition is now changed. The Anglican Melanesian Mission have fullpossession of 1,100 acres of land in the island. I do not question that, but I regret the mission are teaching the dead Motu language instead of the English the ministers are proud to speak. Is there anything in the Bill that will forbid the aggregation of land in larger quantities than, say, 40 acres of the good rich land, because the Islandersassured me that they could live comfortably on 20 acres of that class of land? The Minister knows clearly that the settlement was established for the sake of relieving the Pitcairn Islanders, and also for the purpose of experimenting in a certain form of land tenure. I do not think a law relating to land is to be found in any other part of the British Dominions similar to that in force in Norfolk Island. I may remind honorable members that the captain of the war vessel who annexed Norfolk Island promised the people, in the name of Queen Victoria, that the buildiugs left by the military and officials of the convict system would be given to them. They were promised that they would be established’ in better homes than they then occupied. I have no doubt that the church lands will be made a proper use of, but I hope that something will be done to prevent private individuals securing an unreasonable area of land, in view of the fact that the total area which can be cultivated in Norfolk Island is very small.
– I may inform honorable members that the total area of the island is only 8,528 acres, and 5,400 acres have already been alienated in freeholds. The grants to the church are freeholds. I have a map of the island here, which the honorable member for Melbourne might like to see, on which the grants to the church, and alienated lands, are shown. As regards the form of land tenure to be adopted, the Bill contemplates nothing more thanthe taking over of the island under existing conditions, but provides for legislative power, by Ordinance, to frame a policy with respect to land and other questions as matters develop. I do not well seehow we could lay down in this Bill details of a policy on land and other questions. The Bill provides for the disposi tion of the land in accordance with law, and that is the usual form of power provided for in every Constitution.
.- I am afraid that it is hasty legislation to pass ten clauses of a Bill in one morning, and that it is necessary I should make an observation or two. The question of a land policy for Norfolk Island, now under review, is a most important matter. When honorable members opposite were on this side, they had a great deal to say against the leasehold system, and in favour of the private ownership of land.
– Freeholds have been granted for nearly all the land on Norfolk Island.
– The Minister has explained that 5,000 acres out of about 8,000 acres have been alienated in that way; but it will be for the Government of the Commonwealth to frame a policy for the disposal of the remaining 3,000 acres. This legislation seems to me rather pathetic. It is difficult to deal with such a large question as a land policy in such a small measure. I have very great sympathy with the people of Norfolk Island. I am sorry that we cannot put a sum of money on the Estimates to bring them all over to Australia and settle them on some of the fertile lands of the Commonwealth.
– And leave the island for another race.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member’s suggestion would involve that.
– I am extremely doubtful whether the people of any other race would go to Norfolk Island. The ancestors of the people who are there now went there under very peculiar circumstances.
– They are a splendid race, and are very fond of their home.
– I am aware of that; but there are many who would like to come to Australia. The policy of the present Government for the disposal of the 3,000 acres remaining unalienated in Norfolk Island will be to sell the land, or give it away. I admit that there are great difficulties in the way of educating the public as to the advantages which must follow where the lands are retained for the benefit of the people as a whole, instead of being cut up and sold to individuals who, in the course of time, will levy very heavy taxes on those who are without land. I read the other day that it would be possible to buy the whole of the lands of the United Kingdom for about £52,000,000, and it would be a great bargain for the British people to purchase it.
– The lands of London would be worth more than that.
– I know that in London the land is of extremely high value, but there is agricultural land in Scotland and in other parts of the United Kingdom which could be bought more cheaply than land can be bought in Australia. I met a Scottish immigrant who took up land in New Zealand; worked it for a few years, and then sold out. He told me that he was going back to Scotland to buy agricultural land, because he could get it cheaper there than in New Zealand. I have said that it is very difficult to educate the public as to the advantages of the Crown ownership of land. I paida visit to South Australia some little time ago, and was shown the “Blockers” homes there. Some twenty years ago there was an unemployed difficulty in South Australia, and the State Parliament was induced by the Labour party to purchase some lands in the suburbs of Adelaide. They were cut up into 5 and 10-acre blocks, and leased to the unemployed at a rental of, I think, 5 per cent. on the purchase money. The “Blockers” had to pay, I think,1s. per week for their blocks, whilst £50 was advanced to them to enable them to cultivate them and build their homes. The “ Blockers “ were doing very well until the land speculator came along, and pointed out to them what a splendid thing it would be for them to get the freehold of their blocks, and then sell out at a high figure. The “Blockers,” who were formerly unemployed, formed themselves into a society to secure the freehold of their blocks. At the elections they fought the Labour party, who were responsible for securing for them this great concession, and won. I believe that in many cases the “ Blockers “ got the freehold of their blocks, and sold out. I am informed that some of these men subsequently went into business, and are now no better off than they were twenty years ago. I am afraid that this was due to the unfortunate spirit of gambling with which we have to contend in Australia, and which is very hard to eradicate. Sometimes I think that we might do something to eradicate it if we could induce the people to stop gambling, generally in such matters as Tattersalls consultations, for instance. The Labour party were quite willing to make a trial of the public ownership of lands in the Northern Territory, the Federal Territory, and New Guinea, where no very large vested interests have to be dealt with.
– The honorable member surely knows that the aggregation of large estates in Australia has taken place to a greater extent in connexion with leaseholds than in connexion with freeholds.
– What the honorable member says is very true, but that is only part of the process of aggregation that is going on all over the world, not only in connexion with landed property, but in connexion with industries, and does not prove that the private ownership of land is desirable. If honorable members will look at the lists of runs held in Queensland they will find that the pioneer squatters, like the Leslies and others of whom we read, have practically all disappeared, and the leaseholders now are mortgage companies, banking concerns, and other financial institutions. The number of leaseholders in Queensland has been greatly reduced, whilst the aggregation of estates has proceeded. I have confessed that it is very difficult to induce the public to approve of the Crown ownership of lands. I think that we should, so far as possible, make a .commencement in connexion with town lands. I do not suppose there will be many town lots to be dealt with on Norfolk Island, but almost every week town lota are proclaimed in different parts of the Commonwealth, and no provision is made for keeping these lands for the municipalities or the State Governments. _ A very considerable revenue might be gained from the municipal ownership of town lands, which might be leased at very reasonable rental. At present townships are cut- up into small blocks, which are sold to individuals for, perhaps, £5 each. In ten or twenty years’ time their value may run up to £500, and in the course of fifty years they may probably be worth tens of thousands of pounds.
– Does the honorable member anticipate such enhancement of values in Norfolk Island?
– No, but it is a convenient peg on which to hang a political hat. We desire information. We are thirsting for it. No University student was ever more anxious for it than we are. Honorable members opposite should give us credit for that. . We do not pretend to know everything. We want to learn. My honorable friend the Minister of Trade and Customs will have had time during the last few minutes to collect his scattered thoughts. I am sure that he must have been confused by the rapidity with which the Committee agreed to nine clauses of this Bill, and we must recollect that the honorable gentleman has also succeeded in putting through another Bill to-day. I wish to know whether the Government have abandoned their ideas on freehold tenure, as they have abandoned so many of their professed principles during the last three months. They were anti-Socialists on the stump, but since their advent to office they have become pronounced Socialists. They are going to establish an Agricultural Bureau to benefit the farmers, and it is quite possible that the Minister of Trade and Customs, the strong individualist and antiSocialist of a few weeks ago, has abandoned his freehold principles in the case of Norfolk Island. In regard to the 3,000 acres which belong to the Crown there, I say that they should be let at a reasonable rental.
– The bulk of the land in Norfolk Island has already been sold.
– Roughly speaking, twothirds of it have been alienated. Five thousand acres have been disposed of, and 3,000 acres remain-. It may be that in course of time some man may come along and wish to run a sort of Cafe Monaco there. I am sure that the honorable member for Barrier must contemplate such a prospect with alarm, and there are more wowsers than he upon this side of the Chamber. I desire to know whether the Government have abandoned their socalled principles in order to hang on to office, or whether they intend to give effect to them in this Bill?
.- I move -
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ No Crown lands in Norfolk Island shall be sold or disposed of for any estate of freehold except in pursuance of some contract entered into before the commencement of this Act.”
These words are taken from the Northern Territory Acceptance Act. I quite agree with the Minister of Trade and Customs that a Bill for taking over an island is not a proper one in which to embody the details of land tenure. But I think that we have a right to lay. down the principle upon which future Ordinances are to be based. If my amendment be embodied in this measure, any subsequent Ordinances must be framed in accordance with its terms. That such a provision can be introduced into a Constitution Bill is evidenced by the fact that a similar provision is incorporated in the Northern Territory Acceptance Act and the Papua Act of 1905.
– The present Minister of Trade and Customs supported the proposal when the Papua Bill was under consideration.
– I do not think there was a very long discussion upon the proposal to insert a similar provision in the Northern Territory Acceptance Act.
– There was a long discussion on the Northern Territory land Ordinance.
– As the result of a long debate when the Papua Bill was under review, this provision was embodied in that measure almost unanimously. Some years later, after a very brief discussion, it was also incorporated in the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill. So that Parliament has already affirmed the principle that when the Commonwealth takes over any territory it is not to part with the freehold of the land. The same principle was embodied in the Seat of Government Bill. In that measure we affirmed the principle that no Crown lands should be alienated. Mr. Barton was Prime Minister when the Bill was dealt with, and he accepted an amendment to the effect I have indicated. Later on, when Mr. Deakin was Prime Minister, the same principle was affirmed in the Papua Bill, and the present Minister of Trade and Customs supported it. The Minister of External Affairs also spoke in favour of it, and pointed out that at the Federal Convention he wanted to embody in our Constitution a provision that no land taken over by the Commonwealth should be alienated. He advocated that policy, and Mr. B. R. Wise, of New South Wales, did likewise. Seeing that the principle of the non-alienation of Crown lands has been accepted in all these measures, I think that the Minister of
Trade and Customs should be prepared to agree to the amendment. It affirms nothing new. It simply gives effect to the accepted policy of three Governments, and embodies a principle which was almost unanimously adopted on each occasion.
– I desire to enter my protest against the alienation of Crown lands in a new country like Norfolk Island. It is rather late in the history of nations to argue whether it is advisable to start the administration of a country by selling land or by leasing it. Modern thinkers are unanimously in favour of the Crown retaining the fee simple. I am aware that the adoption of this principle is urged in many cases where land has been alienated. I quite realize all the difficulties which hinge upon a change of that sort where vested interests have grown up. Where there is no rental value to speak of, where the future of new country is concerned, there can be no argument against leasing the land in preference to alienating it. It is argued, I know, by many persons that you can get the rental by taxation, but there you are up against a proposition which it is very difficult to handle and involving institutions which have grown up on land values and unearned increment. In a case of this sort, I consider that we are helping settlement by making the way open for the land in the island. If the amendment is carried, discreet leasing, of course, will have to be the order of the day, and the Government, it seems to me, will always have in view this great economic need, namely, free access to the source of all wealth for its surplus population. If, in the early days of this country, we had been careful in that regard; if the world had been as enlightened and democratic as it is today, in my opinion, the fee-simple of the land of Australia would not have been parted with. If the way is kept open for the surplus population to find occupation by the application of very little money, and by energy and ability, then the solution of one of our gravest economic problems - the unemployed - is very near at hand. We are well on our way towards that event. I strongly oppose any attempt to alienate virgin land that may come under the control of this Parliament.
.- I hope that the Government will not accept the amendment. I do not wish to enter today upon a discussion of the principle of freehold versus leasehold. Two-thirds of the area of Norfolk Island has already been alienated, and only a comparatively small area is coming under the control of the Commonwealth.
– It is never too late to mend.
– In the circumstances, I am not too sure that it would be wise to disturb the existing state of affairs.
– We are not proposing to interfere with the existing state of affairs.
– If I am permitted to proceed I will state a few of the reasons why I think that the clause, as printed, should be allowed to stand. I do not consider that there will ever be a large rush of people to Norfolk Island. A number of the men who hold land there in- fee simple have families, and their sons having been born and bred to the one pursuit, will naturally feel inclined to engage in the same industry as their fathers have been engaged in. It would be unreasonable to put a boy on a leasehold area when his father is on a freehold area.
– Are you quite sure that the land has been alienated?
– I know that twothirds of Norfolk Island has been alienated.
– Are you quite sure of that ?
– I am as sure as it is possible to be without referring to the documents. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong in that regard. At any rate, a very large portion of the island has been alienated. But, after all, in dealing with the island we are only dealing with a paddock of respectable size.
– Five thousand four hundred acres has been alienated, and 1,100 acres remain to be alienated.
– We are now dealing with an area of 1,000 odd acres.
– We should hold on to that land.
– This area of 1,000 odd acres I am led to understand comprises land of second-class quality. My view is that it is not worth while to disturb the present position in view of the fact that such a large area has been alienated.
If the position were entirely different, and we were dealing with a country where no alienation had taken place, I think it would be an opportune time to have an exhaustive discussion on the principle of freehold versus leasehold. We know that for a large number of years land at Norfolk . Island has been alienated in fee simple, and now that the island is coming under our control, it is proposed, with regard to the residue, to introduce a new system. In my judgment, the time for doing that is not opportune, and, therefore, I hope that the Government will not accept the amendment.
.- Whether the area of unalienated land on Norfolk Island is small or large, a very vital principle is attacked by the Bill. The Minister knows as well as any one in the Chamber that honorable members on this side, ha ve almost a fetish on that principle. We intend to maintain the principle which we have hitherto affirmed. It is very unfortunate, I think, that this clause was inserted in the Bill. We thought that the Bill would go through nicely and peaceably, and that we would then go to lunch and spend the rest of the day somewhere else, but we cannot possibly allow this most contentious clause to pass. The principle which is involved in the amendment is spreading. Those who have read the brief summary of the speech made by Mr. Lloyd-George, as reported in the newspapers of this morning, are aware that the principle is extending to England. It is evident from that speech that the position there has become so accentuated that a very drastic change must be made in the land policy. I am not complaining as regards the area of unalienated land on Norfolk Island. If the area were of any particular value it would have been alienated long ago. Those who were able to obtain the feesimple of the 5,400 acres would, if the balance had been worth securing, have obtained it too. I cannot see that an injury will be inflicted upon anybody by deleting the clause. I ask the Minister, at any rate, to postpone the clause for reconsideration, because we cannot possibly allow it to pass in its present form, and must put up a strenuous opposition to it.
– I have no intention of accepting the amendment. Norfolk Island comprises an area of 8,528 acres, of which 5,400 acres have been alienated in freehold. The balance includes 967 acres of reserves, 850 acres of leased land, and 1,311 acres of unused land. Of the unused land, 80 per cent, is said to be of good quality, hilly, and partly covered with heavy timber. The Melanesian Mission has obtained a grant of 1,000 acres, which are used for mission purposes. Practically the whole of the island has been alienated in fee simple. The honorable member for Herbert has indicated that it is simply to enforce a principle that the Opposition have submitted the amendment, and not because it is a question of practical politics or expenditure in connexion with the administration of the island. Incidentally, reference has been made to the principle as applied to Papua; but the two Territories are altogether different. When Papua was taken over by the Commonwealth, it was in the occupation of a large number of natives. In administering that Territory, we have to remember the rights of the aboriginals, and, for that reason, the supreme control is kept, and can be kept, in their interests.
– That was not the reason which was advanced at the time.
– I cannot remember the reasons which were advanced, but I am stating the reason which exists to-day. The theory of the administration of the lands in Papua is that, with the exception of the waste lands, they are for the natives. The native interests have to be regarded. As regards the Northern Territory, the honorable member for Barrier must admit that the provision was put in the Constitution by the Government of the day, of which ho was a member.
– It was agreed to by the House.
– It was not agreed to by the Opposition. The Bill was brought in by the Government, and passed the House, and they took the responsibility of its enactment.
– Was there any division on it?
– As soon as the provision came into practical operation, as soon as a land Ordinance was laid on the table of the House, the Opposition took action, and protested against the principle of leasehold only. The honorable member for Illawarra gave notice of a motion ‘ to disallow the Ordinance, and spoke very strongly on the question of freehold versus leasehold.
– Was he speaking for the whole of the Opposition at the time? Was he speaking, also, for the honorable member for Angas, who is now Minister, of External Affairs?
– The whole of the Opposition supported the matter.
– They did?
– It certainly was supported by the Opposition.
– By the whole of them? Did you hear the speech of the honorable member for Angas?
– I do not know whether my honorable friend spoke or not. All that I know is that the honorable member for Illawarra moved for the disallowance of the Ordinance, and his motion was supported by the Opposition. The honorable member cannot assume that at that time the Opposition favoured the application of the principle he advocates to the lands in the Northern Territory.
– There was no division when the Northern Territory Bill’ was originally before the House.
– That does not matter. Because there was no division taken, it does not follow that the Opposition were pledged to the Government measure.
– The Government was responsible.
– On the first occasion that the question of leasehold tenure was raised here a very strong protest was made.
– No. The principle was put in the Northern Territory Constitution Bill.
– What is the use of the honorable member making that remark, when he must know that a strong protest was made against the introduction of the leasehold principle? He has only to read the speech of the honorable member for Illawarra to know that. However, we need not get into a heated controversy over facts.
– Was not the protest directed against the whole Ordinance, and not against that one principle?
– The protest of the Opposition included that principle.
– The honorable member for Illawarra was not speaking for the Opposition.
– We are now dealing with the Norfolk Island Bill, and, as I have pointed out, so far as practical politics are concerned, the question of freehold versus leasehold has only been raised by honorable members opposite for some reason of their own. I am not going to question the purity of their motives.
– It attacks a principle to which we are very much attached.
– Have we not always advocated this principle?
– In the State sphere, I think Labour men are bound by their platform pledge to adopt leasehold as against freehold.
– That shows that leasehold is a principle of the party.
– Whether honorable members opposite are bound to advocate the principle or not in the Federal sphere is a matter for them to declare. As regards practical politics, even if they should pass the amendment, there is only a small area of land to which the principle would be applied. We ought not to introduce the principle into this Bill, as it involves a question of policy. We are framing a Constitution for a territory, and the principle is that in the Constitution we should only define powers, and not settle the question of policy under those powers.
– What about the Papua Constitution ?
– There was a justification for dealing with the question in that measure, because, as I said, the rights of a large number of aboriginals had to be protected.
– What about the Capital area?
– At present we are framing a Constitution for a settled community. We are taking over Norfolk Island as a going concern, and therefore all that we ask in the Constitution is a reserve of powers to develop such policy as the Government may think fit for the administration of the Territory.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs has said that the amendment ought not to be inserted in the Bill, because we are framing a Constitution for Norfolk Island. That argument will not hold water, I think. The honorable member had to admit that when the Papua Bill was before the House a similar provision was inserted, but he went on to say that the provision was inserted because there was a large number of natives in the
Territory. That was not the reason why it was done.
– T think it was.
– It was not. The amendment represented the general feeling of the House at the time, and I do not know but that the right honorable member was a member of the Government then.
– Perhaps that is the reason why I did not protest more.
– I assumed from the Treasurer’s interjection that, because he is a member of the Government, and knows that the thing is wrong, he is not prepared to protest. That is a nice position for a Minister to take up.
– You had to eat a good many things when you were Speaker.
– The right honorable gentleman has said that, perhaps, the reason why he did not oppose a similar provision in the Papua Bill was because he was in the Ministry at the time.
– I opposed it somewhere else.
– Now the honorable member is letting out the secrets of the Cabinet. Where was the somewhere else ? The honorable member is always giving away these secrets, and then wonders how they get into the press. One of the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Hume and the Minister of Trade and Customs is that so much of the land is already alienated that we should not attempt to enforce the leasehold principle upon the remaining portion. At the earliest possible opportunity we ought to try to preserve the lands that remain. I do not need to quote the speeches of the Prime Minister and other members on that side, particularly the honorable member for Angas, but everybody knows that if there is one problem which is agitating the world to-day more than another it is the freehold tenure of land.
– Yes, but is it worth while arguing the question for the little bit down there ?
– The principle is exactly the same, whether it is in Norfolk Island, Papua, the Northern Territory, or other portions of Australia.
– The application of it; that is all I suggested. If you want to test the principle, let us do it.
– I contend that the amendment ought to be accepted. Already this session we have had discussion on the matter, and in the speech which he has just delivered the Minister of Trade and Customs has thrown down the gauntlet again, for he immediately said that the Government will not accept this proposal. We believe the principle is a good one, and that it therefore should apply here as well as anywhere else.
– Will the honorable member suggest that the Government should resume all the freehold areas?
– And pay the market price?
– We can do the same in regard to the price as was done in the case of the Federal Territory - fix the price as at a certain date.
– As a matter of consistency, I mean that we ought not to have two tenures running side by side.
– I am quite prepared to make them uniform. It would be a good investment for any Government to resume every piece of land that they could possibly get hold of in Australia. We have only to look around us to see how the value of land has grown. The block of land bounded by Swanston-street, Elizabeth-street, Collins-street, and Flindersstreet, in Melbourne, was originally bought for a few pounds, and to-day is worth millions. Even now I do not think it has touched the price that it will ultimately attain.
– There is no possible parallel.
– In the very early days no man would have anticipated the springing up of a big city like Melbourne. People in the suburb in which I live now used to think it quite an ordeal to get into the town,
– Does the honorable member ever anticipate Norfolk Island being worth an immense sum ]
– I do not know that, but as we are taking on a responsibility in regard to the island we shall have to protect it, and it will mean additional expense so far as the navy is concerned. It is possible that it may become a valuable outpost.
– It is a telegraph station for communication with New Zealand now.
– That in itself makes it valuable. We do not know what development will take place. It may become a valuable naval station, and the value of the land may increase fiftyfold.
– It is only an area of 8,000 acres. What can you anticipate ?
– The very srnallness of the island, and the fact that it may become a naval base, make it more valuable still. Apart from it’s ultimate value, its area does not matter. Even if an area of only 900 acres is concerned, those . 900 acres should be reserved for the Crown. If only such a small area is involved that, according to the Government, it does not matter, why does not the Minister accept the principle and put it in the Bill ?
– Because it would be creating conflicting tenures.
– Nothing of the kind. I think the Minister said that a portion of the land was used fcr parks and reserves.
– Nine hundred and sixtyseven acres.
– It would be a very graceful act on the part of the Government to reserve the whole of that land for the people there, if only for recreation purposes, and any other object for which the Crown may acquire it at a later date. In the circumstances, the Government ought to welcome such a proposal.
– Let us divide!
– The honorable member prefers divisions to the expression of opinions, because he expresses so many conflicting opinions that he never knows when they will be brought up against him. In regard to Papua, the Northern Territory, and the Federal Capital site, one of the strongest arguments used was that it was wise to reserve the land for future generations because, by holding them on the leasehold principle, the unearned increment that at present was going into the pockets of private speculators-
– A very good fad.
-The honorable member has a good slice under the other principle.
– I have none. Less than the honorable member, I expect.
– I am prepared to make an exchange with the honorable member at the earliest possible moment. One of the arguments brought up against honorable members on this side in regard to freehold was that they had no stake in the country, and now the honorable member admits that he has none. I remember the honorable member for Darwin saying that he did not believe in the stake-in-the-country business, and telling the story of a goat which was tied to a stake with beautiful pasture all round it. It wound its chain round and round its stake in the country, and practically starved, in spite of the feed all round it. We have the leasehold principle already established in the Papua Act, and it has worked well there. We have in Papua one of the most fertile parts of Australasia, and all I regret is the stupid mistake made by the Imperial Government in not backing up Sir Thomas McIll wraith when he annexed the whole of the island. The leasehold principle has been firmly established there, and I have not the slightest doubt will prove very beneficial.
– You would keep back the development of all these places by a century by this proposal. Nobody would be induced to go there.
– What is the inducement to go there? In any of the Australian capitals, probably half the magnificent buildings are built on leasehold tenure. It is idle to believe that people will not settle on leasehold land in Papua and the Northern Territory. If the land is good enough, and opportunity is given, they will soon settle there.
– They are not doing it to-day.
– I regret some of the remarks that were made about the Northern Territory last night.
– The honorable member does not like the truth.
– Whether what was said was true or not, Ministers of the Crown should be the last to decry Commonwealth territory. There is a lot of good and very valuable land in the Northern Territory, though there may he other land that is not good, and its settlement would certainly not be retarded by the adoption of leasehold tenure. Australia gets its inland rainfall mainly from the monsoonal rains, which come inland, and, according to their density, spread over the interior of the country. Unfortunately, this rainfall occurs only in the first few months of the year. Even where there is a rainfall of less than 10 inches, good land is to be found. As to Norfolk Island, I do not hesitate to say that, although there may be only a small part of the land still unalienated, we should, as a matter of principle, require that theleasehold principle be applied to it. It is idle for Ministers to say that this is not the time to deal with the question of tenure, and the only guarantee that the Parliament can have that the leasehold principle will be applied is the insertion of a provision in the Bill, makins it impossible for any Government to alienate the land in freeholds. Land maybe required for a naval base, or for other Government purposes, but in any case we are fighting for a principle. Ministers have admitted that there is so little unalienated land that it would not matter much whether freehold or leasehold tenure were applied to it, but being in favour of freehold they are resisting our proposal. They do so only to assert that they stand by the freehold principle, because not only isthere not much land to be alienated, but much of what there is must be poor land. If the Opposition were to allow the Bill to pass as it stands, we should find the Prime Minister going round the country later, asking, in his melodramatic way, “ Where were these champions of the leasehold principle when the Norfolk Island Bill was going through ? “
– “ Where were the Socialists?”
– I have been a Socialist for a good many years, and have not been afraid to own it, but the honorable member ranks as a Conservative, and poses as a Liberal.
– And is ready to grasp Socialism whenever it pays him.
– The supporters of the Ministry would follow the lead of the Prime Minister, saying, “The members of the Labour party did not object to the freehold system when the Norfolk Island Bill was going through Parliament. As a matter of fact, some of them own property in freehold themselves. They will not accept leasehold when they can get freehold.” Personally, I would sooner have leasehold than freehold, if I could get it, but we cannot always get what we should like. I am prepared on this occasion to show my adherence to the leasehold principle by pushing the matter to a division.
.- I presume that there will be no difference of opinion as to the advisability of taking over Norfolk Island, but we have got into holts with the Government over the important question of tenure. I am surprised that Ministers should cling in this way to the stupid old fetish of private ownership of land. At one time the Prime Minister uttered truths regarding the evils of the private ownership of land, which are even more obvious to-day than they were when he gave utterance to them. At the present time, the Liberal Government which is in power in Great Britain is fighting to bring about land reform, and, in taking over the territory of Norfolk Island, we have a chance to lay down a principle which will prevent the trouble that has occurred elsewhere, by requiring that Crown lands shall only be leased to those who desire to occupy them. Thedemand for freehold is made only in the interests of speculation. Money is made by persons who acquire the title to land, and then wait until others, by their expenditure, increase its value.
– Every one does not do that.
– It is a very common practice. In the cities you see it stated on hoardings that land is for sale “ on building lease.” Bonâ fide, enterprising capitalists desiring city premises have to acquire this land on lease, and build on it at their own risk. An instance of how far this system is pushed has been afforded by the manner in which the Duke of Westminster has managed renewals of leases of his London property. In one case he demanded £1,000 before he would consider the question of renewing a lease, and then required the erection on the land to be leased of a building costing £250,000, although, until the energy of the tenant had increased its value, the land itself was worth very little. Ministers wish to perpetuate the evils of private ownership of land. We know that legally there is no such thing as private ownership, in the sense that there is private ownership of anything else, and the land legislation of Australia, by giving tenant right in improvements, recognises that. Our legislation is based on the well-known theory that the land of a country is owned by its people, even though it may be alienated in freehold. But the operation of the freehold principle is such that it interferes with enterprise and blocks settlement. The man who has secured a piece of land in freehold is able to tax the capitalist who wishes to use it in any way. A perpetual leasehold is as good as a freehold, and leasing certainly gives more encouragement to agriculture. It may be that, even at Norfolk Island, there will be a demand for agricultural land of some kind.
– Is there any place in the world where the leasehold system has been a success?
– Yes; in the Malay States.
– In Queensland they cannot sell big areas of land.
– Very few will touch perpetual leases there.
– Too few of those who engage in balloting for land do so with the idea of acquiring it to make their home on it. Their desire is to make a profit by selling it. There is too much gambling in land, and the clamour for freehold is due to the fact that it is easier to speculate in land that is held in freehold. The honorable member for Wimmera, who poses as a business man, knows that if he buys a block of land he must debit it with interest on the cost of purchase, and that, if machinery is needed to work it, he must also debit it with the interest on the cost of that machinery. Now, most of those who wish to take up land for rural pursuits are men with little or no capital. Many men without capital are, perhaps, the most desirable settlers that we can get, because they understand how to use the land. To such men, the leasehold system is the easiest. When land is held under lease, there is no need to debit against it the interest charges that must be debited against land that is purchased, and consequently a lower return is profitable. Of course, many persons in the country who buy and sell land do not regard the transaction from the proper bookkeeping point of view. Many a farmer will buy a piece of land for £100 or £200, and sell later for an advance on that amount, saying, “ I have made so much profit,” quite oblivious of the fact that he has made no calculation in regard to the interest charges, and that if he had treated the transaction according to the proper bookkeeping method, he would not have made any profit at all. If he had put his money into town property, he might, perhaps, have secured a bigger return. If people dealt with their land according to ordinary business methods, they would soon decide that leasehold was preferable to freehold. We hear men say, “ If we have a freehold, we can borrow money from the banks upon that security.” This inordinate desire to borrow, both in respect of private and public business, seems to be characteristic of the Liberals. I do not believe in borrowing.
– The honorable member is very fortunate if he has never had to borrow.
– We desire to establish conditions under which it will not be necessary to borrow; but those which the Government advocate will force people to go to the money-lender. Under the freehold system, a man has to obtain from some other human being the right to occupy a portion of God’s earth, and, having got the land, he has to mortgage it to some financial institution to obtain the machinery with which to work it. Under the leasehold system, that is not necessary.
– But the leaseholder has to pay rent.
– In South Australia and Western Australia, a man who desires to go on the land is assisted by the State. By means of the Agricultural Bank or the Credit Foncier system, which are infinitely preferable to private banks as a means of helping the man on the land, a farmer can get all that is necessary to enable him to prosecute his industry. There is starting in England at the present time a great movement to deal with the evils of private ownership in land. Landlordism has done great injury to the Old Country. It has kept land out of use. Men have been put off the land in order that it may minister to the mere pleasures of the idle rich and the waster, who is of no use to his country. Great areas in England remain idle, while the people have to import the corn with which to make their daily bread. Gladstone struck a blow at rack.-renting in Ireland. When peasants carried soil on their backs to make their rocky lands more fertile, the private landlord came along and charged, them a higher rental, just as a landlord in this country will increase your rental when you have done something to improve the house in which you live. The failure of the principle of private ownership in land has been proved. It is no longer arguable. The system is such a failure that the State has had to interfere. In this morning’s newspapers, we read that this question is to be tackled in Great Britain. Private ownership in land has produced evils which the State finds it necessary to regulate. In the interests of the people, it is necessary to interfere with private ownership, because of evils which, under the leasehold system, are avoided. The British Parliament has voted millions of money to resume land in Ireland.
– But not for leasehold purposes.
– That does not alter the fact that this action on the part of the British Parliament shows that private ownership in land i3 a failure, and that it cannot be allowed to continue. In this new country, we have the chance of avoiding the evils of the freehold system. But the Government, in the case of Norfolk Island, are not proposing to impose any safeguards. They are associated too much with the speculators in land. Look for a moment at the big city properties. How have many of our wealthy men secured their independence! Not by their own efforts, but merely by sitting down and reaping the benefit of the unearned increment. The block of land in this city, bounded by Swanston, Collins, Elizabeth, and Bourke-streets, was sold in 1835 or 1836 for £3,600, and to-day it is worth £20,000,000. Have the owners of that property been responsible for the enormous increase in its value ? There may not be an immediate rush for land in Norfolk Island, but I think that the demand we have made is a reasonable one. The leasehold system is much fairer than the freehold system, and under it we shall avoid all the evils of private ownership. I shall not vote for this Bill unless there is inserted in it a clause securing to the people of Norfold Island the land still unalienated. We may leave to the future the question of making other changes which countries in the Old World have had to face, and which we shall have to face, and are, as a matter of fact, already facing to some extent by the resumption of land. We inherited a great unpeopled country, and yet within a few years the State Governments have found it necessary to pay enormous sums for the resumption of land. Owners of land may barrack for the freehold system, but the people must get rid of the idea that there is something sacred about a freehold, for there is no better title in law than that which a leasehold affords.
– In view of the fact that we have already provided for the leasehold system in Papua, the Northern Territory, and the Federal Territory, I am surprised that the Minister is not prepared to accept the suggested amendment. He is really going back on a principle which this Parliament” has adopted. I believe that this is the first act of the Conservative Government now in power to satisfy those who sent them here, and to show them what they would do if they had a sufficient majority. I hope that it will demonstrate to the people of Australia that they have placed on the Treasury bench men of the most Conservative type. We learn from this morning’s newspapers that Mr. Lloyd-George has said that the great Scotchmen who helped to defeat Napoleon were drawn from lands that are no longer occupied by human beings - lands that have been converted into deer runs to gratify the pleasures of visiting American millionaires. . One American millionaire put hundreds of people off a large area of land in Scotland, which I saw when I was in the Old Country recently. I do not hesitate to say that it is a crying shame that lands used for hundreds of years by the greatest race of people that the wo’rld has ever known - people who have done much to settle new countries - should be dealt with in this way. It is a disgrace that people should be ousted from their holdings in order that the land may be converted into deer runs. It was also said by Mr. Lloyd-George that a man who voted on the Radical ticket or belonged to the Methodist Church would not be allowed to remain on the land that he owned in England. When I was in England, a dear friend of mine took me to the farm leased by his brother, who was paying an enormous rental, and yet had not the right to allow me to shoot over it for an hour or two. The owner of the land comes down with his friends from time to time every year, pulls up the fences, and walks over the crops in the pursuit’ of his pleasures.
– And shoots some one else’s sheep, I suppose?
– I shall not say that. The alienation of Crown landa means giving land over to people who do not work. I should not mind people owning the fee-simple in land if they would work that land to the best advantage. The very object of private ownership in land is, however, that you may draw rents and tithes from other people. We have in this Bill a clause which is practically a copy of the Act which gave away enormous areas of land in Tasmania to the Van Diemen’s Land Company, the shareholders in- which have never worked them. Tenant farmers have cleared the land, and made it what it is to-day. As the result of the Land Tax imposed by the Fisher Government, the Van Diemen’s Land Company is now selling its land, and getting from £18 to £24 an acre for it. Was this increased value given to the land by the shareholders in that company? Certainly not. It is the result of the. work of the horny-handed settlers who went there years ago, and some of whom have not enough money to purchase a block, notwithstanding that the company is now offering it for sale on the best terms of which I know.
– The honorable member can only discuss the question of freehold and leasehold in relation to the amendment.
– I am desirous of backing up my argument with something of a tangible nature. That is why I mentioned these lands. They were given away under precisely the same conditions under which the Government now desire to hand over the land of Norfolk Island to private persons. The Treasurer suggests that there would be no settlement on the island if we did not do so, but the very thing that has prevented settlement in Australia is the monopoly of land. If we make land available at a fair and reasonable price we shall always get settlement. That is why I am totally opposed to the alienation of Crown lands. I am totally opposed to the private ownership of land. I believe in the residential lease. While a man resides on the land he should be allowed to work it and get the product of it. The honorable member for Wimmera has interjected “ Where is the country where there is leasehold only?” I can reply that New Zealand has done much by the leasehold system.
– Surely the honorable member knows that a majority of the House of Representatives in New Zealand has been returned pledged to alter the leasehold system to the freehold system.
– Had the late Mr. Seddon or Mr. Ballance still been in power in New Zealand, instead of the present Conservative party, either would have prevented land being again alienated in New Zealand. Recently I met a gentleman who intimated to me that he had supported the Labour party during the last election. After the way in which the gentleman had opposed us when I first knew him I was surprised, and I said, “ Why your conversion?” he said, “A son of mine went to New Zealand with a few pounds in his pocket, and the Government immediately allowed him to take up a piece of land they leased to him. He was able to put all the capital he had into stock, or farming implements, and the result is that to-day he is independent. That has completely converted me to your ideas on the land question.” This young man was driven from a country that could support fifty times its present population; he was trained as a farmer, but in his own State he could not get land on which to farm under £20 or £22 an acre. W. Flürscheim, in The Commercial Labyrinth, has pointed out a case in New Zealand years ago where a man put £3,000 into purchasing a piece of land - all the capital he had - and then had to mortgage the land in order to get the capital to stock the farm and buy farming implements. When things went a little bad with him pressure was brought to bear on him, and eventually he lost the lot. Had he been able to get on Crown land, on leasehold terms, and had the whole of his capital been made available for buying stock and farming implements for the improvement of the land, his capital would have been wealth-producing from the start. Our Government in an unfair way seize the present occasion for asserting the principle of freehold tenure. It is essential that Australia should own Norfolk Island. It may eventually become a very valuable asset to us for de fence purposes. I regret that we are not able to make some exchange with France so that we may secure New Caledonia. I regret we do not hold the whole of New Guinea.
– The honorable member is now getting away from his subject.
– Our not holding these lands may be disastrous to us in the future defence of Australia. Later on it may be necessary for the Commonwealth to resume a portion of Norfolk Island for defence purposes. The Government now propose to make it possible for some speculator to purchase land made available upon the Island and hold it for his own purposes, and by-and-by, when some expert we may bring out from the Old Country reports that it is essential for Norfolk Island to be made a base of operations for the protection of Australia, the Government will have to repurchase that land, probably at the enhanced value given to it by an increase in the population on the Island. The Minister of External Affairs has in the past saved great tracts of country in Australia and on the adjacent island of New Guinea from being alienated from the Crown, but now, probably under the pressure brought to bear on them by the wealthy land-holders who sit behind them, and those who sent them into power, Ministers are desirous of asserting the principle of freehold. Good luck to them if they can have it done, but I hope the people of Australia will understand such Liberals as the honorable member for Wimmera. I respect a Conservative who comes into the House in his own colours and says, “ I am in favour of the further alienation of Crown lands. I am in favour of defending the right of the capitalist; “ but I have no time for a man who poses as almost as good as a Labour man, but will alienate all the land of Australia and hand it over to monopolists. The sooner the electors realize the true colours of the honorable member for Wimmera the better. If we allowed this Bill to go through without a protest we should be going back on the very principle that we enunciated throughout Australia at the last elections. If the Labour party are solid on one question, it is the land question. We realize that land is the fulcrum on which Capital has placed a lever to push the worker down into the wage-slavery in which he finds himself today. The Argus says that this is not an original expression, but I had never read it before I used it previously, and at any rate it is original as far as I am concerned. If access to the land were made easy we should not have the trouble of overcrowded cities and two men looking for one job. Honorable members have noticed the splendid way in which the Melbourne Age is now throwing open its columns for people to proclaim to the world the state of affairs existing in Melbourne, where we find twenty-three persons living in one house and under the most abominable conditions. It is a shame that such a state of affairs should exist in any country, but it is due to private landlordism, and to the system of giving away lands in freehold. Yet we have honorable gentlemen on the Ministerial side, simply that they may augment their already big incomes and find means of investment for overflowing coffers, willing to perpetuate this system. They do not know what it is to have no roof over one’s head, or what it is. to have to pay a pound for the loan of ten pounds for a month. I heard of a man who urgently required financial assistance, and who had to get a member of Parliament to go bond for him for the loan of £20. That man gave his IOU for over £24, though he was to have the money for a few months only.
– Order! The honorable member is away from his subject.
– Private ownership of land brings about this state of things. Without private ownership the land is no asset. The legal fraternity know that behind the money they lend is the land. That is why these gentlemen wish to perpetuate the freehold system. I have nothing to say against them personally for doing it. The people have the opportunity of changing the existing state of affairs, and if they allow it to continue I have no objection to these land-holders owning the land - so long as they come into the House in their true colours and say that they are prepared to vote for private ownership of land because it enables them to find investment for their capital, and to keep a certain section of the people from earning a living on the land, and force them to work in other spheres of life. But I am sent here to protest against private ownership, and I shall fight against it to the bitter end. This bottling up of the land is altogether wrong.If our friends on the other side of the chamber could get somebody to invent a machine for bottling up the air they would do it, and they would have us gasping like fish out of water and prevented from living unless we paid further tribute to them. There is no more right to private ownership of land than there is to private ownership of air.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– The honorable member for Hume has suggested that our purpose is to take their land away from the present owners in Norfolk Island. We have no such intention. Our sole object is to prevent the further alienation of land in the island. I do not know whether honorable members opposite are prevented from speaking on this matter, but, as the representatives of land-owners, they should have the courage to justify the position they take up. I hope they will do so for the enlightenment of the Committee. I have had to go to land-owners outside this Parliament for enlightenment on the question. I went to a great friend of mine, who has done much to mould political thought, not only in Tasmania and Australia, but in the world generally, because the books he has written have been printed in three languages. He is a big landowner, whose property is valued at an amount which just falls short of the taxable minimum under the Federal Land Tax Act. I refer to Mr. A. J. Ogilvy. He is the descendant of a wealthy man, he is a University man himself, and, because of his book Land and Labour, is recognised as an authority on the land question. He spent two years in the Old Country considering the question, and returned to Australia still an advocate of the nationalization of land. He puts this matter so beautifully that I cannot help quoting from him. I believe that the Labour party of Australia owe him a debt of gratitude which we can only repay by bringing his works prominently before the people, hoping that they will eventually bear fruit. We may apply what he says to the condition of affairs in Norfolk Island. Speaking of the workers, he makes this statement-
But having land he can always find something to produce that somebody else wants. Even if there be no actual land-produce that seems to him worth producing for sale, there ore always goods to make that somebody will be glad to buy, or services to render that somebody will be glad to hire. His home and his food supply being secure, he is independent. For even under the extreme and absurd supposition that he can find nothing to produce or to do that anybody else wants, he can always employ himself; he can always find something useful to do on his own account, to multiply his comforts, or add to his enjoyment in some way, so long as he has access to land. But if he has not access to land - if A claims all the land, and will not allow him to occupy - then his freedom is gone indeed ; he is at A’s mercy. He must get work from A (or somebody) on any terms, or die. Without the first factor (land) the second factor (his labour) is paralyzed, and the third factor (his spade) is useless.
That puts the whole matter iu a nutshell, and supplies the reason why we are in favour of the non-alienation of land. We are prepared to fairly compensate those from whom land is resumed.
– Many of them would like to get rid of it.
– Judging by what I hear of the honorable member’s factories, the nuts and preserved ginger made therein, and the rent-collecting that goes on every week, I do not think he would like to get rid of his. It would be disastrous to Norfolk Island to permit any further alienation of the land there. It is not proposed that any portion of the land so far unalienated in Norfolk Island shall be set aside for parks. The. honorable member for Parkes cannot imagine the common ownership of land. He thinks that everything should be owned by private individuals. If the honorable member had been treated fairly by the present Conservative Ministry he would probably now be Minister of External Affairs, and would have the administration of Norfolk Island in the event of this Bill passing. Somehow he is out in the cold, but he might yet bring sufficient influence to bear to enable him to become the administrator of the land in Norfolk Island. The people there would then have no public parks at all, because the honorable gentleman is totally opposed to the ownership of land by the Government, and he would promptly alienate every acre of land in Norfolk Island. I have referred to the overcrowding in the principal cities of every one of the States of the Commonwealth, and I fear that the same thing would follow in Norfolk Island under the private ownership system. It is a disgrace to fifty years of responsible government in Victoria, and to the Municipal Council of _ Melbourne, that twenty-three persons should be found occupying three rooms in this city. We should have the same thing to-morrow in Norfolk Island if the population there was as dense as that of Melbourne. The honorable members for Parkes and Franklin, becoming dissatisfied with the state of affairs here, might go to Norfolk Island. They might start a big factory there, and we should no doubt have overcrowding of the hands employed in that factory. We should do all we can to prevent this little island getting into the hands of the people who own land but do not live on it or work it. Some of them seek cool lands, in which to escape the hot places here in the summer, regardless of the future. It might be well for some to remain in the hot places, that they may become accustomed to what they will have to put up with in another place. Those who are responsible for the suffering arising from the private ownership of land may have a good time on this earth ; but Heaven knows what sort of a time they will have to put up with in the future.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not wish to restrict discussion, but I should like my honorable friends opposite to give us this Bill to-day, if they will.
– Let the honorable gentleman accept the amendment, and we shall do our best to do so.
– Might I suggest that, whether the amendment is accepted or not, the Bill is urgently needed. The honorable member for Barrier knows that. I will tell honorable members what we are prepared to do, and I do not think they can ask for anything more. If there is any difficulty about the vote on this question, we will give the Opposition pairs to any extent necessary; but do let us come to a vote, and get the Bill through. This is a non-party measure, except for the one question which has been raised, and if we agree to pairs upon that, what is the use of carrying the discussion on the Bill over to-day. I think I am making a very fair offer.
– If the clause is defeated on division will the Government abide by the decision?
– I think we should have to do so.
– Then, why not withdraw the clause?
– There must be some discussion, even though the Government give us every pair we want.
– -That means that we cannot get the Bill through today. I am prepared to make any arrangement that is fair for that purpose. We shall have other work to do on Tuesday, and I am afraid this Bill will have to stand over if we are unable to deal with it to-day. I am anxious to get the decision of the Committee on this question, in order that we may get the Bill through.
– I have a rather important amendment to move.
– I am aware of that, and that is why I should like to have this discussion finished. I do not see why there should be all this discussion in connexion with a little trifle of land remaining unalienated in Norfolk Island, though, of course, I am awaro that the principle is the same.
– A matter of principle should be discussed.
– Matters of principle need not be challenged on every occasion.
– If we do not challenge the Government on these matters of principle, our failure to do so will be raked up against us.
– I am not suggesting that honorable members opposite should waive this principle. All that I am asking is that they should come to a vote on it. I do not ask them to withdraw the amendment. They can please themselves about that. I am asking that’ we might have a vote upon it, so that the Bill may be put through to-day. I hope that honorable members will consider my request seriously. We are prepared to meet them in every possible way in connexion with the vote to be taken.
.- It is rather surprising that, at this late hour, the Prime Minister should desire to waive this great principle aside. The honorable gentleman has, in the past, been in the forefront amongst those in favour of the leasehold principle. He is a veritable champion of the principle of leasehold as against freehold.
– From which century is the honorable member quoting?
– Although I know the honorable member can deliver some fine lessons upon health principles, as a rule we do not live to see more than one century -
Private property in land is an insult to civilization.
These are the words of the present Prime Minister.
– When did he use them?
– When he was a member of the New South Wales Parliament.
– How long ago?
– I am surprised at that interjection, coming, as it does, from the Attorney-General. He himself, at one time, was a Single-taxer.
– The honorable member is not quite right. But I had some foolish ideas some twenty years ago.
– It charms one to see how the honorable gentleman glides over these stony places.
– Has the honorable member never changed his views?
– Yes. When I have changed them I have changed them for the better. That evidences progress.
– That is an egotistical observation.
– Will the Treasurer listen to what his own leader has said upon this question -
Is the practical enlightenment of the nation to be set aside out of respect to this old effete enactment? I say that it is an insult to our civilization to set these rights up as sacred things to be regarded in a sacred light.
– Order ! That matter would more appropriately have been discussed upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill. I must request the honorable member to immediately connect his remarks with the clause under discussion.
– I know of no quotation which could be more appropriate to this clause. We are discussing whether land should be privately-owned or publiclyowned. The present Prime Minister also said -
There is nothing at all sacred about them. The only idea is that of their monstrosity.
Having made such emphatic statements, how can the Prime Minister oppose the amendment ? This little island, which is 5 miles long and 3 miles wide, is one of the beauty-spots of the earth, and one of the most fertile. It is a charming place, which was named after the Duke of Norfolk, and it is rich in cultivation land. Pines grow there 9 feet in diameter, and the pictures iu a book which I have here portray their splendid growth. If there is a little Crown land left there, we certainly ought not to part with it. Up till now, Norfolk Island has been a neglected spot. Although it has been, in a sense, under the wing of the New South Wales Government, little or no care has been exercised over it, and its administration has proceeded in a slip-shod way. As soon as it is known that the Commonwealth is about to take it over, land speculators will rush in, with the result that the land will be given an enhanced value. The Prime Minister has said that this is a small matter, and, therefore, we should not cavil at it. I cannot understand why the Government object to incorporating the proposed amendment in this Bill. If we take over the island, it will be absolutely incumbent on the Government to see that regular communication is maintained between it and the mainland. Communication with it at present is of an erratic character.
– A vessel visits it once a month.
– Norfolk Island is about 900 miles distant from Sydney, and 600 miles distant from New Zealand. Lying in the ocean between important branches of the British Empire, namely, the Dominion of New Zealand and the Commonwealth, we do not know how valuable it may become to the Commonwealth for defensive and other purposes. We ought to do everything that we can to maintain as much of it as possible under public control. As soon as regular communication with it is established, up will go the price of land there. I believe that the same thing is taking place in the environs of the Federal Capital area. The great works being carried out within that area has enhanced, and will enhance, the value of lands and property just outside the area, and it would not surprise me if speculators have been operating already on lands adjacent to our territory. I do not say that there will be a considerable rush for the remaining lands of Norfolk Island, but there is no telling what may take place. The Treasurer has declared that he has never been averse to selling lands in the vicinity of townships, or elsewhere. I believe that if he had his way in connexion with the Federal Capital area he would sell land there.
When Lord Loftus was Governor of New South Wales, he paid a visit to Norfolk Island, and submitted certain reports upon it. He spoke of the settlement of its lands, of its occupancy, and of the use to which it had been put. He made a series of complaints against the inhabitants of the island, and affirmed that they were more intent upon whaling and other pursuits than upon putting the lands of the island to their best use. In the book which I hold in my hand, I find the following: -
His Excellency will long be remembered for the matter-of-fact truths he enunciated. Since his departure we have been asking ourselves a few questions, and the situation has been freely discussed, the one all-absorbing topic being the probable stoppage of the issue of free grants. The people whom this measure most affects, the rising generation, have, however, taken matters very calmly, and although quiet threats not to do public work were uttered here and there, nothing came of it. A word or two may be offered in explanation of this said land business. It has been the custom here, when a young couple marries, to give them, without conditions, a free grant of half an allotment (25 acres) of land; a girl marrying a stranger getting a quarter allotment, about tab acres. During the first year of the occupancy the portion was a whole allotment of about 50 acres. All the immigrants from Pitcairn Island received that quantity, but during the reign of Sir John Young it was cut down to half, and has so remained since. Now, His Excellency, taking into consideration the large quantity of land granted, and the small portion under cultivation, thinks, with good grounds, doubtless, that we have too much land to little purpose, find that the free grant system ought to cease; or rather that he can hold out no hope for its continuation. The total area of the Island is 8,600 acres. Of this, in round numbers, about 5,000 acres have been alienated (including 1,000 to the Melanesian Mission), and on this large area less than 180 acres are under cultivation by the community-
That report, although it is somewhat old, bears out the burden of the argument which has been advanced in this Chamber to-day, that the great evil connected with our system of land tenure is that the land is not put to its best use. If it were, there would be thousands more employed upon it than there are to-day. The report proceeds - a small quantity no doubt, but when the means of communication are considered, one which should be judged rather by opportunities than by figures. Another grave factor in this state of things is that a large portion of the people love boating and whaling better than farming.
That is a pity, because it is true. I was never so enamoured of the island aa I am to-day, having read so much about its beauties as portrayed in word-pictures.
It is apparen(lj one of die beauty spots of the world, and the most fertile. At that time the people, instead of indulging in farming and improving the area allotted to them, got more pleasure in boating and whaling than in following farming. The passage continues -
And many are away from their farms pursuing the more genial occupation during the most critical time of the year. It cannot be said, however, that they are not good boatmen or good whalemen, or that they do not pursue the business they love with great assiduity.
We on this side are fighting for a principle in connexion with the unalienated lands on Norfolk Island, which, I think, ought to be maintained. If it is a desirable principle to apply to land in the Federal Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, and Papua, surely it ought to be applied to the latest addition to Commonwealth territory. Reference has been made here to-day to a block of land in Melbourne. Honorable members on the other side have spoken of the leasehold principle. I guarantee that if the honorable member for Wannon or the Treasurer were to go and ask the men who conduct big businesses in Melbourne, or Adelaide, or Perth, whether they hold the land in fee simple, they would reply that they do not.
– I would like to go to the bulk of your landed constituents, and ask them if they would support your contention.
– They would. If an inquiry is made of the men who conduct the biggest businesses in and around Melbourne, it will be found that the buildings of a large number of them have been put up on leased land. Now, to show bow an individual or a family can provide a fine living by obtaining private property in land, and to show how harmful it is to the community to allow so much land to get into private hands, let une instance the block owned by Major Howie, in Collins-street, Melbourne. In 1835 his uncle, or father, promiscuously sailed into Hobson’s Bay, and a little later found his way into the Yarra, where he pulled up, and as the crew tied up their small boat he landed. As he was walking up what was almost a creek then running into the Yarra - Elizabeth-street - he heard some persons talking about a Sand sale. He made some inquiries in respect to the sale, and was told that a public auction of town allotments was hsing held. He went to the auction-room, and purchased four or five blocks, while one block was purchased by another individual for less than £200. Major Howie obtained what, to-day, is a big frontage to Swanston-street, Collins-street, and Little Collins-street. The Howie family have never spent a penny in putting up . a building on the area. All that land has been let on building lease. I admit that Major Howie was out here, I think, about eighteen months ago, and sold about £100,000 worth of land. I wish to tell the honorable member for Wannon that, although the Labour Government were then in power, Major Howie re-invested the purchase money in Australia. He still owns the greater portion of the original block, and he has not put up a brick nor has his money nailed up a weatherboard in connexion with the buildings on the land. Yet you will not find in Melbourne an area which is better built upon or put to better use. The rents are sent out of Melbourne to a landlord who is living in a mansion in Scotland, and having a delightful time.
– Is it not rather a matter for regulation than the introduction of the opposite principle?
– Go into the country and you will find that there are hundreds of persons working on land leased from private individuals. If it is good for one individual to lease land from another individual and make his money by farming or grazing, or by running a business or a factory, surely it cannot be exceptionally harmful for land to be held by the Government and leased to individuals.
– Do you subscribe to the theory put forward by the honorable member for Barrier that we should have free rides in trains at the expense of the public ?
– Order ! That has nothing to do with the amendment.
– I can see that the honorable member wishes to prolong this discussion by diverting my attention. I hope that’ in the future we shall not hear very much from the other side in denunciation of the leasehold principle, seeing that so many of them are in the habit of leasing lands to other persons.
– I would like to see land-holders land-users.
– That is right. The best policy is to allow as many persons as possible access to the land. We want to bring idle hands to idle lands. That is wanted here as well as in other countries. I believe that if we had State lands and State forests, there would be no such thing in Australia as unemployment. It would be a splendid thing, I think, if we had great State areas to which in bad times we could send persons in order to obtain healthy employment and sufficient remuneration to keep themselves and their families. It is well known that big businesses are conducted on leased lands. I am not a bloated capitalist, but I am interested in a building which has recently been erected many stories high on leased land for the purpose of conducting business. That kind of thing is being done every day. With very few exceptions the State is the best landlord, and if all our laws are in consonance with the principles of proper development, it must certainly be the best landlord in the community. Seeing that there is so much land under lease in the Wimmera district-
– Very little.
– There is a certain quantity held under lease. In my electorate there are some retired farmers who, in the course of a few years, did so well that they were able to lease their properties and come down and live there. I do not wish to deny to them that right.
– Why make them serfs again ?
– The right honorable gentleman knows full well that it has never yet been advocated from a Labour platform that land should be confiscated and no compensation paid for it.
– You object to leasing land any way.
– No. I am pointing out how fallacious it is for honorable members on the other side to protest against the leasehold principle, when many of their chief supporters and themselves have leased lands. I am not saying anything about the farmers leasing their lands, but only stating what is being done. I am pointing out to the honorable member for Wannon that there are farmers, or retired farmers, living in my electorate who have leased to other individuals their lands, which are in portion of the honorable member’s electorate.
There are hundreds of such cases, if notthousands.
– Their families areworking the properties in most cases.
– In some cases that isso. I ask the Government to relent somewhat. I do not intend to use a threat, but I would point out to them that it would be just as well to insert this amendment in the Bill as to have it inserted’ in the Senate. Why should it not bedone here? The amendment embodies a sound policy. We have seen fit to apply the principle to the land in the Federal Capital Territory. Let us retain, in the interests of the people, the little land that is left unalienated on the beautiful island which we are about to take over.
– If you do not want Norfolk Island, do not take it; leave it where it is.
– I think it is right that we should take over the island.
– You cannot have the island on your own terms.
– If you do not want the island, why introduce this Bill ?
– We cannot give very much time to the Bill.
– I understand that the residents of the island, whether nativeborn or otherwise, are anxious that it should be taken over by the Commonwealth. I dare say that the residents, if consulted, would approve of the Commonwealth retaining in its own hands a portion of the island. Later on it may be the policy of this Parliament to retain for the people many of the properties which the Commonwealth has taken over, and work them to the best advantage for the whole community.
– The people who took up the land will not thank you.
– The present landholders obtained the fee-simple of their land under a local, or New South Wales, law, and nobody would dream of taking their land without paying compensation. But when we have the opportunity to retain some land for the State, why should it not be done? I am sure that every honorable member would be in a much better position to-day if the pioneers and the originators of land settlement in Australia had decided not to alienate a single acre of land. Australia, to-day, would have been one of the most delightful places in the world, where everybody would be happy, and it would not be necessary from time to time to introduce taxation measures, because revenue would flow into the Treasury, and the whole of the people would benefit, instead of only a few individuals. We, on this side, must be on the right track. We are not only in accord with advanced thought, but side by side with leading legislators in other parts of the world. In Great Britain what is being done by that great man, Mr. Lloyd-George? It is practically a revolution that is taking place there, and one which, perhaps, will avert a worse revolution. Mr. Lloyd-George is a farseeing man, and so are those who are acting with him. They are trying, as far as they possibly can, to lighten the burden of the down-trodden people, and place it more on the wealthy land-owners. Mr. Lloyd-George is on the right track, and will relieve Great Britain, if he passes advanced legislation, of one of the greatest stigmas which have rested on her for years past. The Government of the day are going to take a bigger hand in dealing with the land in the three kingdoms than was ever done in the past. He will, I suppose, do much the same as the SalisburyBalfour Government did in Ireland. He will probably repurchase the lands and give an opportunity to those who have been the tenants of absentee landlords to get their rents reduced.
– Or to own the land.
– Not necessarily. I hope that the Government will give the kindliest consideration to the amendment, because unless it is inserted there will be a bar to the island being taken over by the Commonwealth. I hope that the honorable member for Hume will relent somewhat, and act in accord with honorable members on this side, who want to retain for the people of the island, and the people of the Commonwealth, the little bit of land that is unalienated.
.- I feel compelled to vote for the amendment. Very few honorable members, I think, have any conception of what the future of Norfolk Island is going to be. The adjoining island, Lord Howe Island, is a very pretty place - I suppose one of the prettiest places on the face of the earth - and certainly one of the most interesting island-places to visit. It is held under what is called an occupancy lease, and no land is held in fee-simple. There is no freehold on the island; there are a number of people living on it, and owing to an unfortunate misunderstanding a quarrel arose, due to the fact that they held occupancy leases. Some of those on the island claimed a right to the land by virtue of occupancy, but it was proved they had no right to it, and to-day every person there shares in the products of the island. They are thus very successful indeed. The Government, in taking over Norfolk Island, have done a very wise thing. It will be admitted that fish is a necessary food for the people, and there is no better fishing ground than in the vicinity of Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island. Soon after the island has been taken over by the Commonwealth, I feel confident the Commonwealth Government will have to resume land to assist the fisheries that will be established there, and also for defence purposes, and cable and wireless communication, because Norfolk Island lies in the New Hebrides route, between New Zealand and Australia. This is a trade route that would be very much used if there was a better survey. In view of these great prospects for the island, it is only reasonable for members to be anxious to conserve a portion of it for the use of the Commonwealth Government and for the people who live on it. We are told that certain lands are still reserved by the Crown. It is essential that the Government should maintain those reserves. We should be failing to discharge our obligations if we did not conserve the commons and other lands necessary to the people. I look upon Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island as sanatoria for the continent of Australia. At present only one boat runs there, Burns, Philp and Company having the contract. The Commonwealth Government already subsidize a boat for the New Hebrides, and that boat calls at both places. One of the reasons why Norfolk Island is not used for health purposes is that there is no proper place of landing, and the inhabitants have no way of providing it. As soon as a proper place of landing is established, I am sure that a large number of people from Australia will go to the island. The Government, in taking over the island, ought to have made provision for preserving the land for the people, and they certainly should not ask honorable members on this side of the House to violate a principle that has been inserted in every Bill with which the Parliament has dealt when the land question has come up. I am rather surprised at -what has taken place, because the Minister of External Affairs is known far and wide as a champion of land nationalization, while the Prime Minister, whom I have known ever since he landed in New South Wales, has always been looked upon as one of the champions of the single tax. The Acting Minister of Home Affairs, when a deputation waited upon him in August last with regard to land in the Federal Territory, said in reply - and this ought to have some weight with the Government, because, I presume, that a public reply by a Minister to a deputation becomes portion of the Cabinet’s policy -
It would, undoubtedly, be an advantage to the Commonwealth Government to resume all lands which were going to be under an unearned increment owing to expenditure to be incurred.
There is no doubt that when the island is taken over, aud the Commonwealth assists the inhabitants with facilities for landing, the population will increase, and, as consumers, will contribute to the general revenue. When that happens, land values will rise considerably - and the rise will be greater in comparison than that of land in the cities. The Government would be acting wisely and save discussion if they accepted the amendment, as they cannot expect to get the Bill through the two Houses without this vital principle. The Minister of External Affairs, who introduced the Bill, is not present to-day. I do not know if that is because of his views on land nationalization or not.
– That is absolutely a wrong assumption.
– I have no evidence of the fact, but it was quite reasonable for me to assume that the honorable member felt that he would have to fight against a principle which he had cherished all his life. In the interests of the unborn generations on Norfolk Island, the Government should deal wisely with the land question. The people of Australia are pretty evenly divided on this question, and parties are very evenly divided in this House, and we certainly should not be asked to forego a principle, which it is known throughout the whole of the world, that we uphold. What greater object-lesson on the land question could be found than in the country that we spring from ! Many of us know the hardships, and the cruelty and injustice, that take place there. Conservative as the Home Government may be, it is to their credit that they are doing something to alleviate the misery that exists by giving the masses of the people an opportunity to share in a little of the world’s wealth. We in this House should not be asked to abandon a principle of which -we have raised the flag; for once our party raises a flag, it will defend it to the last ditch. I do not know whether the Minister for Customs .is over-sensitive, or suffering from a sort of brain fever, that he can sit there unmoved and hear member after member pounding at him the doctrine of liberty. I feel sure that my eloquence and determination and honesty of purpose ought to have some weight on his little mind and little brain. It should make him feel that the time has arrived to grant this great concession. All that we are trying to do is to uphold for the people of Norfolk Island something that they will be proud of, so that there ‘may be, at least, one portion of the island which they can call their own. Twelve months ago, I endeavoured to land on Norfolk Island, but the sea was too rough, and I landed on Lord Howe Island, and spent a nice time there. I can assure honorable members that, if they went there, they would soon see’ what a hardship it would be if one or two persons owned and controlled the land. The rest of the people would be slaves or martyrs to them, and, in the interests of the present inhabitants, as well as of unborn generations, we cannot do better than take effective steps, to prevent the possibility of land monopoly there. There is no economic writer who does not contend that a mistake was made by the Crown in the past in parting with the freehold of its land, and experience should have weight with us when we are making arrangements for the future. We .should use it to prevent further wrong-doing and injustice. The other evening, the Prime Minister consented to reduce an item in the Works Estimates at the request of honorable members on this side, and I hardly think that the Government will decline to accede to the very reasonable request that is being made to them now, especially since, in another place, the majority cannot be expected to give way on a question of principle. I know that there are members of the Ministry who, if they were independent, would be only too pleased to support the contention of the Opposition that the Crown lands of Norfolk Island should never he alienated in freehold. The adoption of our proposal will not prevent the use of these lands by the people of Norfolk Island; but those who use them will have the Government for landlord, and every one knows that a Government is at least humane, whereas private land-owners have no other motive than the gaining of profits. I have no quarrel with those who own land, and, had I had the opportunity, I should own some myself, but I have always found it too dear to purchase. We have now an opportunity to give effect to the conclusions of the best political economists, and we should not fail to do so. I am quite in accord with what the honorable member for Capricornia said on this matter. The Labour party came into existence to remove the wrongs of the past, and to prevent ‘the exploitation and robbery that has hitherto occurred in connexion with land holding. We wish to prevent the occurrence in Norfolk Island of evils that have troubled other places. It matters not to me that the debate may go into next week, and that the Government want to get the Bill through. When we have gone, there will be others to take our places. Our policy and our ideals will not die with us. Others will take up the great work of reform and the advocacy of the humanitarian principles of the party. I cannot understand the obstinacy of Ministers in this matter. If I were outside, I would call it pigheadedness, but I cannot use that word here. Governments are creatures of to-day, and are gone to-morrow, and very often the members of the Ministry are advocating views that are not their own. Nearly half of the present Ministers have at one time or another favoured land nationalization, and the taxing of owners out of existence. I have never gone so far as that, because I have always had respect for present owners. I would, if I could, get the land away from them in as easy a way as possible.
– The honorable member believes in compensation.
– If I could tax them out of existence, I would try that, but every land-owner should be treated justly. As a member of this Legislature, I shall not sanction the alienation of land in feesimple, and so long as my voice lasts, I shall be found fighting against it. I know that if the Minister of Trade and Customs were free in this matter, he would be only too glad to reserve the Crown lands of Norfolk Island for future generations, who would enjoy the unearned increment that had accrued, if any. He has a golden opportunity now to show the people what he is. The people of Norfolk Island will bless us for the stand we are taking to-day. If they could be present in the galleries, I do not think that they could be prevented from cheering our endeavours to prevent the alienation of the land of the island. If honorable members were inhabitants of Norfolk Island, they know how glad they would feel that members of Parliament, 2,000 miles away, were pleading their cause. The Minister of Trade and Customs has had a legal training, but legal men can sometimes be generous when they escape from the dull life of books and musty legal traditions. I appeal to the Minister to open his mind and heart, and recognise the wisdom of the views of those on this side. If he does that, he will have the satisfaction later of knowing that he did at least one good deed in his life, in preserving for the people of Norfolk Island land which will be theirs for all time.
.- Since we are considering the question of land tenure in respect to Norfolk Island, I think it well to place on record a statement as to the area with which we shall have to deal. Of the island’s total area of 8,528 acres, 5,400 acres have been alienated, 967 acres consist of reserves, 850 acres are held under lease, and only 1,311 acres still remain unalienated. Eighty per cent, of the unalienated land is said to be good, but hilly, and parts of lt is heavily timbered. The Melanesian Mission has obtained a grant of about 1,000 acres, to be used for mission purposes only, so that there. is only a very small area involved. It seems to me that if we adopted the policy now advocated by the Opposition we should have in Norfolk Island a conflict of tenures.Our opponents, if they are logical, will agree that we must have either a leasehold or a freehold system ‘in force on the island. It is absurd to advocate the holding of one “ section under leasehold and another under freehold -
Indeed, such a state of affairs, in my opinion, would not be in keeping with the Constitution, which declares that ‘we shall not discriminate between States and parts of States.
– In every State at the present time there are areas held under leasehold and freehold.
– I subscribe to the principle that the two systems must alternate. Lands fit for occupancy and development should be held under freehold, but country which can be used to advantage only in large holdings - such, for instance, as pastoral areas over which the Crown might desire to retain certain rights in respect of timber, water, and other public utilities - should be held under leasehold. If the leasehold system possesses the virtue which the Opposition claim for it, how is it that the Northern Territory is not booming? The late Government initiated there the leasehold system, which is so dear to their hearts, but it has absolutely failed to attract population to that part of the Commonwealth.
– For forty- three years the Northern Territory was open to the freeholder, but it signally failed to attract population.
– We were told that under the leasehold system the whole Territory was to be revolutionized. We are anxious to secure from abroad land users, and naturally those people are looking about for the best land and the best class of tenure. One of the reasons why my parents came to Australia was that they might secure a bit of land on which to make a home for themselves, and there can be no doubt that thousands of people have come to Australia with the same object in view. While society is so regulated that parents must be responsible for the families they raise, we can never depart from a system under which those parents shall have the right to pass on to their families their worldly possessions. Canada is one of the most recent successes in land settlement, and undoubtedly the chief factor in attracting people to that country has been the offer of the Dominion Government of a small section of land free of charge to every man who goes there. An outstanding fact connected with those who advocate the single tax or the leasehold system is that they are rarely land owners. It is an easy matter to advocate the adoption of a principle which is going to help some one else, provided that you will not have to pay for it. Let us look at the financial aspect of this matter.
– Hear, hear !
– In regard to the theory held by the honorable member for Barrier and his party, that the whole of the land should revert to the Crown, so that it may be parcelled out under leasehold conditions, may I ask the honorable member whether he has ever conceived a financial scheme for acquiring the land? These matters are best tested by practical experience, and we certainly are not wanting in experience in this regard. The Mallee country in Victoria was first parcelled out under a leasehold tenure. I think that at first a twenty years’ tenure was given, but under that system settlement was slow, and conditions of life were hard. At the end of the twenty years’ period the State Government granted an extension of seven years, and again the struggle was continued. There are in this House many who will remember the newspaper controversy at that time as to whether or not the Mallee was worth saving. Finally, however, Victorian statesmen, in their wisdom, offered settlers in the Mallee the option of a lease in perpetuity, or the freehold of their land. The honorable member for Kooyong, to his credit be it said, was one of those who, as Minister of Lands in- Victoria, came to the rescue of the Mallee farmers. The users of land should be the best judges of the tenure they desire. What right have people who are not on the land, and who have no desire to go on the land, to lay down the whole of the conditions under which it should be occupied and used ? I am right in saying that fully 90 per cent, of the holders of Mallee areas plumped for freehold, with the result that to-day the Mallee is one of the richest properties in Victoria, and no one would now dream of raising the cry that it is not worth saving. Another instance that can be advanced for the information of honorable members opposite is to be gained from the action of those who support our opponents. We all know the little town of Wonthaggi. The people there are not all supporters of the Liberal party; for the most part they are supporters of those who believe in the leasehold system, and all the other socialistic doctrines so dear to our opponents. For reasons well known to honorable members, the Victorian Government, in order to relieve themselves from a crisis, established a coal mine at Wonthaggi, and they parcelled out the land on the lease system, the miners of Wonthaggi being given the opportunity to occupy some of the leaseholds, and build homes on them ; but they . had not been long in possession of their holdings when they came to the Victorian Premier, a Liberal, to ask him to convert their leaseholds into freeholds.
– It was the business people who asked for that; not the miners.
– The miners were included. That can be ascertained from the records in the State Department.
– That does not alter the fact.
– No; but it shows that Socialists like the principle of leasehold for other people, but they do not adopt it when they take up land. A third illustration, for the information of honorable members opposite, is. to be found in that highly developed socialistic centre, New Zealand. I was pleased to learn that the Norfolk Islanders are in the happy and undisturbed condition described by the Minister of External Affairs in moving the second reading of this Bill. Their history, and the contentment in which they live, makes me feel all the more convinced that the Government will be well advised to leave the islanders in the enjoyment of their present land tenure, and all the other conditions obtaining on the island.
.- Had the honorable member for Wannon gone into the history of Norfolk Island, leaving out of consideration the terrible history of the convict time, he would have found they have not always been living in contentment. When a wave of sympathy swept over the world at the condition of the little speck in the great Pacific where the Pitcairn men, women, and children were living on an island that could not provide them with sufficient food, it was owing to one of the most generous acts of the late Queen Victoria, on the advice of a Mr. Labouchere, not the honorable member who represented North
Hampton in the British House of Commons, that these islanders were transferred to Norfolk Island, and an interesting experiment in land tenure was inaugurated. Had that land tenure continued, the islanders would have been happy, and they would not have been in the state of seething discontent in which I found them when I visited them. But that system was changed. The New South Wales Government evicted these island tenants from the holdings they had been occupying for fifty years. Under their old system, if an islander visited the mainland and took back with him a wife, he was immediately given a small block of land, or if a sailor remained on the island, and married one of the daughters of the island, he also could set up house on a small block of land. I find, from a map in the chamber that, apart from the 1,100 acres held by the Melanesian Mission, the largest single block held is 53 acres, while in the crowded portion of the island the holdings are 5 acres 2 roods 3 perches, 4 acres, and so on. These are very small allotments on which to rear families, but the land should be given to these people, either on leasehold or by Ordinance, that will prevent the aggregation of large blocks. I am sorry to say anything against a church of which my grandfather was a minister, but, out of the total area of 8,528 acres, the Mission of which I speak holds 1,100 acres.
– You do not say that their area is not used for the purpose for which it is supposed to be held?
– I am told that the Mission is principally used to train preachers to instruct the islanders in a dead language, when they themselves speak the noble British language. They are teaching Motu, because it has more vowels and is easier taught. I do not impugn any religion, but I do impugn the act of certain individuals in taking such a large slice of land from the islanders, to whom it was given by the late Queen Victoria. The government of Norfolk Island was a patriarchal form of government, under which an elective magistrate ruled, but the New South Wales Ministry, finding, perhaps, that crime was not punished as severely as they thought it should be, appointed a Governor. Can any one imagine that this island can afford a Governor? Why were the islanders not allowed to carry on their patriarchal form of government, which produced so much happiness? People talk about the decay of the race. No one who has seen these islanders managing a boat could do that truthfully. I was landed on the island during a storm, on a little strip of beach not longer, than the chamber, and with coral reefs threatening to wreck our boat. No one who saw the firm islander handling, the oar at the stern, and those obeying his command, but would feel the admiration that has gained for the islanders the renown of being the greatest boatmen in the Southern seas. When the Administrator of the New Hebrides required boatmen he found that he could get none better in the world than the natives of Norfolk Island. I have no desire to delay the passing of this Bill, but I must keep the pledge I made to these people. I understand that there are only 1,300 acres of arable land remaining unalienated in the island. The highest point of land, Mount Pitt, with a double peak, is only 1,050 feet above the level of the sea, and I must say that I saw no bad land there at all. It is a fertile little spot. The Norfolk Island pine, which is indigenous to this island, and to Lord Howe Island, named after Admiral Howe, has become known for its value throughout the world, and seeds of this pine are now exported from these islands to other parts of the world. The statement sometimes made that the people of Norfolk Island are decadent was certainly not supported by the fine physique of the boatmen I saw there. I was met there by a Mr. Quinton, the oldest son of one of the original Pitcairners, and when I returned to the Island, four weeks later, at a meeting the people told me that they earnestly desired to come under the control of the Commonwealth. I therefore welcome this Bill. I offer it no fractious opposition, but I must support the amendment to preserve the land for these people. It would be a great pity that any more of the land should get into the hands of mortgagees or money-lenders.
– That could be dealt with by regulation.
– It is much better that we should prevent the possibility of it ever occurring. The best land law ever known was that of the old Hebrews. They did not allow the land ever to be sold in perpetuity. I maintain that the lands of Norfolk Island were a gift to the people from Queen Victoria. I cannot forget the noble words of the captain of the man-of-war in offering to provide the Pitcairners with land and better homes on Norfolk Island than they had on the island of Pitcairn. In spite of his offer, some of the Pitcairners desired to be left on Pitcairn Island, and their sincerity was proved by the fact that after they had been settled on beautiful Norfolk Island forty of them returned to Pitcairn. The captain of the manofwar assured these people that they would be given for their homes the buildings which had been occupied by the military and civil officials who had conducted the convict settlement at Norfolk Island. When the honorable member for Wannon says that to secure the best results people must be given the freehold of land, I ask him to consider the position of affairs at Hong Kong, where, with the exception of a few blocks alienated in very early times, there is no land privately owned. Hong Kong is the only Tree Trade port in the world to-day, and the only place where the public revenue derived from the land, is increasing every year.
– Is that because of the leasehold system?
– It is because every enhancement of the value of the land goes to the Government. Hong Kong is an island, and its acreage can only be increased by reclamation. When any land is reclaimed it is cut up into blocks, a moderate rent is placed upon the blocks, and they are offered on lease of seventyfive years, with the option of renewal at a revised rent. The right to lease them is put up to auction, and the choicest blocks are secured by the payment of the highest bonus. Buildings are erected according to approved plans, and at the close of the lease of seventy-five years there is a new valuation. Honorable members can understand that the value of these lands vastly increases by the massing of population, and it is because all that enhancement of value is retained by the Government that the revenue of Hong Kong is relatively greater than that of any other place of which I have heard. The year 1907 was a sad year for Norfolk Island. That was the year of eviction. I am satisfied that the Commonwealth Government would never have done what the New South Wales Government of that day did. I am glad that the island which is the heritage of the Pitcairners is to be brought under the more beneficent rule of the Commonwealth. If the Government, at the last moment, will accept the amendment which has been moved, they can have this Bill, and Ministers must be aware that there willbe no objection raised to the amondment in another place. I make a final appeal to the Prime Minister to provide in this Bill that the 1,300 acres remaining unalienated in Norfolk Island shall not be parted with, but shall be retained for the benefit of these descendants of the mutineers of the Bounty, who talk the language of their fathers, with the soft accent of their South Sea Island mothers, and it is the sweetest English I have ever heard spoken.
– If my honorable friends will agree to take a division, we will recommit the Bill now.
– The Prime Minister would not do that when he had a chance.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
,- I desire to call attention to the necessity for establishing a testing station for explosives. This subject has been previously discussed here, and the Prime Minister, I understand, is favorably disposed towards my proposal. Since the matter was last before us, the cost of explosives has again been increased, with the result that the workmen in the mining districts are feeling the tax very severely. Yesterday they appointed a deputation towait on the Minister of Mines in New South Wales, requesting him to undertake the erection of a testing station at once. In reply, the Minister stated that for a considerable time he had been endeavouring to get a testing station erected. He considered that it was a Commonwealth queston, and had written to the head of the Commonwealth Government, on behalf of the Government of New South Wales, stating that, if the former would undertake the work of erecting a testing station for explosives, his Government, would pay a proportion of the expense. He added that he had been waiting for some time; but, up to the present, no results had accrued. Will the Prime Minister give this matter his early attention? We are all anxious to prevent any risk of mines giving off dangerous gases. We do not desire to witness a catastrophe here similar to that which was experienced recently in Wales. That is why a testing station should be established. In the absence of such a station, the manufacturers of explosives in the Old Country can charge any price they choose for their explosives in Australia. We have an industry in our midst which is capable of manufacturing explosives that give off no fire whatever. It can supply a good article to the miners at a less cost than is charged for the imported article. 1 wish to know if the Prime Minister will give this question his early and earnest consideration.
– I am taking the papers connected with the matter with, me this afternoon, in order that I may look at them in the train.
.- I shall not occupy the time of the House very long, because we have had a rather lengthy discussion to-day. We have had a most instructive debate, and have done good work, considering that it is Friday. I was rather dissatisfied with the reply of the Prime Minister to a most important question which I put to him this morning. I asked him whether he proposed to proceed with the Electoral Bill before he receives the report of the Royal Commission which is to be appointed to inquire into the alleged defects of our Electoral Act. The Prime Minister declares that he is an economist, and, if he is anxious to save the public funds, he will surely await the report of the Royal Commssion before he wastes the time of the House in passing a measure which may require to he amended later on. What is the idea of appointing a Royal Commission to investigate this matter, if it is not to enable us to embody its conclusions in an Act of Parliament?
– Why is the honorable member so anxious to know? Cannot he wait and see !
– Because the Electoral Bill is on the business-paper.
– Will it not be time enough to raise this question -when the Government propose to put the Bill on the table?
– The Bill stands second on the business-paper.
– There is nothing in that.
– Are we to understand that the Bill will be brought on, because I have several amendments to propose in it?
– I will tell the honorable member that the Bill will not come on for consideration on Tuesday. I will even say that it will not be proceeded with on Wednesday. I will do anything to please the honorable member.
– I took it that the honorable gentleman was quite sincere when he said that a Royal Commission was to be appointed to ascertain what defects exist in our electoral system.
– The Commission will be appointed right enough.
– I wish to protest against the time of the House being wasted in carrying motions, if they are not to be put into force. Are we going to have half-a-dozen Electoral Bills?
– Yesterday the honorable member for Batman asked some questions relating to the Harness Factory, and I promised that I would lay the replies on the table of the House. I have pleasure in doing so now.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjournedat 4.3 p.m
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 October 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19131024_reps_5_71/>.