7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker(Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) toot the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Armistice with Germany : Acknowledgment of Address to the Kino.
– I have received the following message from His Excellency the Governor-General: -
The Honorable the Speaker of the House of Representatives :
The Governor-General transmits herewith, for the information of the honorable members of the House of Representatives, copy of a cablegram received from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, conveying a message from His Majesty the, King acknowledging the receipt of an Address to His Majesty, which was agreed to by the House of ‘ Representatives on the 13th instant.
M. Ferguson, .
Federal Government House,
Melbourne, 18th November, 1918.
Decode of Cablegramfrom the Secretaryof State for Die Colonies, dated London,15th November, 1918.
I have laid your telegram of the 13th November before His Majosty the King, who . commands me to oonvey to the Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth his deep appreciation of their message of loyalty and devotion and of congratulation on the victorious termination of hostilities. In this hour of joy and thanksgiving His Majesty desires to express his sincere gratitude to the Government of the Commonwealth, which has so staunchly supported the Empire throughout these anxious years; to the people of Australia who, conscious of the menace to all civilization, have borne with steadfast determination the long burden of a distant war ; and not least to the brave sailors and soldiers of Australia who, by their imperishable deeds have won for themselves undying fame in assisting to bring our enemies to defeat. And especially in this hour His Majesty bears in mind the relatives of those Australian heroes who, in Gallipoli and many hard-fought fields, Laid down their lives . in the common cause. Those glorious dead the Empire will not forget, and it is His Majesty’s earnest conviction that their sacrifice has not been in vain, but that in dying they have helped to win for the free nations of the earth a peace and ordered security which shall live.
– I desire to present a petition from certain residents of the Northern Territory, placing before the House the disadvantages tinder which they labour, and praying that an elective body of citizens be appointed to report on the administration of affairs in the Territory, and that representation in the Commonwealth Parliament may be given to the citizens of the Territory. I have received a telegram informingme that another 200 signatures are being forwarded by the Montoro.
– In view of the suggested large commitments by the United States . of America, involving the transference of their surplus wheat, has the CentralWheat Pool, or the Government, made any move towards negotiating with that country for the sale to it of the surplus wheat of Australia!
– Not so far as I am aware.
– It is alleged that the surplus wheat of our Pools has been sold in England by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) for 4s. 9d. a bushel. Has the Acting Prime Minister anything to say in regard to that allegation?
– Yes ; that it is not correct.
– On Friday week, when I rose to speak on clause 12’5 of the Electoral Bill, the Chairman of Committees told me that I had exhausted my right to speak’ on the clause, having already twice done so. I denied at the time the accuracy of his statement, and was threatened with expulsion ; but the proof of the Hansard report furnished to me next day showed that I had spoken on the clause only once. As there was a possibility of a galley slip not having been delivered to me, I waited until the publication of the complete record, and from that it is evident that I spoke only once, beginning my speech at 11.24 a.m. At 11.52 the honorable member’ for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) spoke. That was the time at which, according to the Chairman of Committees, I had spoken. His speech lasted for two or three minutes. At that time, I was absent from the’ chamber interviewing the Acting Prime Minister. Our. Tights here are little enough, and they should not be reduced 50 per cent.
– In this morning’s Age appears an article headed “ A Feeling of Unrest,” in which it is stated that another Government from within the ranks of the Ministerial party, and, perhaps, containing members of “the present Administration, with Mr. Watt as leader, might be formed.
– I have on many occasions drawn attention to the irregularity of founding questions on newspaper statements, unless the member asking the question is prepared to vouch for the accuracy of the statement, and will take responsibility for it.
– I vouch for the accuracy of the paragraph.
– I remind the honorable member also that questions must be on subjects within the .cognisance of the Ministers to whom they are addressed.
– I ask the question because I have heard a rumour on the subject dealt with in the paragraph to which I have referred. I ask the Acting Prime Minister if he proposes to form a new
Ministry before or after the House adjourns ?
– I have not heard any rumour of the kind referred to. If I had, I would not have believed it.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister communicate with the Minister for the Navy (the Right Honorable Sir Joseph Cook), and ascertain if it is a fact that during three months of his visit to England he neither saw nor had communication with the “Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and whether letters written by him to the Prime Minister “were left unanswered ?
– I shall consider the suggestion.
– I do. not know what is being done, but I shall ascertain.
– In view of the many disloyal utterances made by Dr. Mannix during the war, will the Government consider the inadvisability of asking him to participate in the peace rejoicings?
– The peace rejoicings will not be upon us this week, therefore the matter is not urgent. If the honorable member will give notice of the question, he will receive an answer in due course.
Return of Men on Active Service.
– In view of the cessation of hostilities, and the lengthy period during which the men of the Australian Naval Forces have been away from their homes, will the Acting Minister for the Navy obtain information as to when these men will be given ari opportunity to return to their friends in Australia ?
– I am not in a. position to answer the honorable member’s question, but shall make inquiries, and advise him of the result. The date of the return of these men will depend very much upon the shipping facilities available.
– Following on a question I asked recently with regard to a proposal to issue to the members of the British Forces who took part in the Gallipoli compaign a special Gallipoli star, I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether it is correct, as reported, that the proposal is to be withdrawn in favour of one for a general decoration which will also include the men who took ‘ part in the New Guinea expedition?
– I am not aware what arrangements are being made, but will ascertain the facts, and advise the honorable member.
– In view of the immense significance of the events of 11th instant, will the Acting Prime Minister, in conjunction with the various State Governments, take steps to have the 11th November proclaimed as a State and Federal holiday throughout the Commonwealth, such holiday to be known as. Victory Day?
– This is not an urgent question. I think it will be for the Imperial’ and Dominion authorities to determine, when the whole thing is finalized, what is the most suitable date on which to celebrate the great victory of the Allied Armies.
Public Servants Absent Without -Leave
– Some mistake having been made in the. instructions issued in the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Department for Trade and Customs with regard to a public holiday in connexion with the armistice celebrations in New South Wales, will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs state whether it is intended to punish those officers of his Department ‘in the parent State who, through want of knowledge as to the exact date on which the holiday was to be observed in the Federal Service, absented ‘ themselves from the De- .partment on the State public holiday ? This question will also apply to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in New South Wales.
– I have no knowledge of the circumstances alluded to, but if the honorable member will give notice of” his question, I shall obtain an answer for him to-morrow.
– Now that the detailed particulars of the armistice terms make it quite clear that Australia will not be further involved in the war, will the Government take into consideration the removal, as early as practicable, of as many of the war-time restrictions as can possibly be abolished, so that the trading, commercial, and public life of Australia may be speedily restored to normal conditions ?
– The Government havealready been considering this matter in many of its bearings. The Acting AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom) has this afternoon given notice of his intention to move for leave- to introduce a. Bill, the explanation of which will afford the honorable member most of the information he desires. I would remind the honorable member, who has apparently been reading some of the uninformed articles in the press, that the Government is not likely-
– I have not read today’s newspapers.
– I am speaking not of to-day’s issues, -but of a vamping campaign carried on in two organs, by uninformed journalists, concerning the War Precautions Act and the regulations thereunder. Whether my honorable friend is or is not influenced by such articles, I have to tell him that the Government will not attempt to restore normal legislative methods by the repeal of that Act, or .the regulations made under it, until normalities are restored.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister take action to prevent the adulteration of leather - particularly sole leather, and compel all boots and shoes manufactured in Australia to be impressed with the words, “ Made in Australia,” as well as with the name of the manufacturer? Will he further compel a true statement of the material used in such manufactures to be stamped on the surface of the soles, and will he, in accordance with the suggestion of ‘the InterState Commission, enable immediate action to be taken in regard to this matter under the War Precautions Act?
– The Government have already dealt, although not finally, with the report -of the Inter-State Commission to which the honorable member refers. After consideration, we came to the conclusion that some of the -matters referred to by the honorable member were entirely subjects for the States to deal with, and that if we did, by regulation, impose the restrictions referred to, they could not extend beyond a certain period, thus causing great damage to trade. Certain other matters are still under the consideration of the Minister, and his decision will shortly be announced.
– Will the Assistant Minister for Defence be good enough to have sent to the next of kin of every fallen soldier a copy of the programme of the memorial service held on the steps of Parliament House last Sunday ?
– I shall submit the matter to the Minister for Defence, but I would remind .the honorable member that the next of kin. of every fallen soldier comprise, in some cases, a very large number of people.
Raising of Rentals
– I desire to ask the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) a question without notice.. About a fortnight since I questioned him in. regard to the raising of the rentals paid by relatives and dependants of soldiers. I mentioned a specific case, and the honorable gentleman, I understand, submitted it to the Defence Department, from the Secretary of which I received the following letter, dated 15th instant: -
Dear Sir. - With reference to correspondence’ left by you with the Acting Attorney-General respective the rental of dwelling house of Mrs. S. L. Moorhouse, 68a Fawkner-street, St. Kilda, and from which it appears that this lady has at present one son serving - the second son having been killed - with the Australian Imperial Force, I have to inform .you that on the facts which have come to the .knowledge of this Department, there is no ‘justification for the proposed increase in that rental, nor can the owner of the house demand recovery of possession thereof on account of her refusal to pay .that increase.
I forwarded this letter to the Acting Attorney-General yesterday, and it was returned to me this morning with ‘ the following letter from the Secretary for Defence: -
Melbourne, 19th November, 1918. Dear Sir. - With further reference to correspondence left by you with the Acting AttorneyGeneral relative to Mrs. S. L. Moorhouse, 66a Fawkner-street, St. Kilda, I have to point out that the position of Mrs. Moorhouse is that she should state she is a soldier’s dependant, and refuse to pay the increase of rent or leave the house. If, after supplying such information to the landlord or his agent, she has any further demand for increased rent, or any further trouble, the matter should then be referred to this Department, “who will submit it to the Crown Solicitor for such action as he may advise’.
Before a successful prosecution could he instituted, it is essential that evidence is available that the landlord or agent knew that the occupier of the house was a soldier’s dependant.
I submitted this woman’s rent-book showing that she had been paying an increased rental for, I think, six months. This is a clear case, and’ I wish to know> whether the Department will institute a prosecution in such circumstances against landlords of the class covered by my inquiry.
– The facts in regard to the receipt and despatch of correspondence are as stated by the honorable member. Immediately upon the receipt of the letter returned by the Defence Department to the honorable member, I referred ‘ it to the Department. The honorable member, I fear; is . under a misapprehension as to the actual position. The Department takes action in all cases where evidence is available. The return of the letter to the honorable member was due to the * fact that there waa no absolute evidence, available.
– There was the rentbook.
– I mentioned that matter this morning. I understand that the evidence submitted by the honorable mem-, ber did not show a clear case for a prosecution, and the reference back jio him was in order to obtain the information necessary to enable action to be taken by the Department. The regulation relating to this matter has been administered through the Defence Department and the District Military Commandants. “Wherever evidence i3 supplied action is taken, and if the evidence asked for in this case is forthcoming, the matter will be placed in the hands of the Crown Solicitor.
– In view of the great necessity for increased production in the North and North-West of Australia, and the very great difficulties in the way of settlement, more particularly from the point of view of shipping, will the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) consider the advisability, or has he considered the advisability, of forming a practical Board to inquire with a view to aiding in the development of that part of the country ?
– I thought that some honorable members were under the impression that we had appointed too many Boards. By the same token, I notice that the very organs of the press that complain about the appointment of Boards are the organs that have asked us to appoint them. However, if the honorable member will submit a proposition in the direction indicated I shall see that it is considered by the Government.
Contract with Great Britain.
– The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) will remember that several weeks apo I asked him whether he would approach the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) with a view to permitting Australian copper producers to sell their copPer to Allied countries, provided the British Government would not purchase any beyond the 31st December ? The Acting Prime Minister promised to consult the Prime Minister about the matter; and I should now like to know whether the Acting Prime Minister has received any word as to the progress of the negotiations. Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that ‘there is great anxiety amongst copper sellers as to the position, and that they are not satisfie with his statement that the Government will finance the copper producers ?
– I have not said that the Government will “finance”” the copper producers.
– Then I shall be glad if the honorable gentleman will explain, in answer to this question, what he meant when he spoke of “ financing “ the copper producers?
Mr. - WATT.- The fact that the honorable member, who is experienced in parliamentary and in official life, has misunderstood my explanation on the question of finance is another indication that it would be wise to give notice of questions which involve big interests. I have been called on four or five times to answer such questions offhand; and although I keep up a speaking acquaintance with the subjects, I cannot, at a moment’s notice, recite all. the facts. If the honorable member will ask me a separate question regarding the financial position I shall answer him with pleasure. As to the sale ci copper, I communicated with the Prime Minister (Mr.” Hughes), asking if it would be advisable, in view of the apparent intention of the British Government not to extend the copper arrangement into 1919, to consider whether the copper producers should be permitted to sell in the markets of the Allied world. The Prime Minister’s” -reply was that he was in charge of the negotiations, and attending to them, and he did not think it would be advisable to consider that aspect of the” question until we knew that Britain would not buy. I have not further information as to the finalizing of the arrangements; but yesterday I wired the Prime Minister, and, amongst other things, asked him to tell me how the matter stood, as it was urgent. I appreciate the anxiety on the part of those interested, and I am endeavouring to finalize the matter.
– In view of the considerable disorganization that has prevailed in both State and secondary schools through the absence of a large number of the leading teachers at the Front,. will the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) take steps to allow all teachers, both primary and secondary, to be returned .from the Front at the earliest possible moment?
– I. shall submit the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Defence.
” BACK FROM THE FRONT.”
Circulation Amongst Soldiers.
– May I remind the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) that one day last week, in answer to a question of mine, he was good enough to say he would have inquiries made regarding a certain publication that is being sent to returning soldiers. I now ask the honorable gentleman if, during his hours of silence and solitude since I addressed the question to him, he has had time to. dip deeply into this publication, and if so’, whether, in his opinion, considers it is conducive to good or to bad. government ?
– I have had no moments of silence and solitude. The inference is. that, when the House is not sitting, and we do not hear the honorable member, we are in silence and solitude; but that is ‘ not th® case. My honorable friend, the Minister in charge of the matter, (returned from Sydney only to-day. I have read the document which the honorable member .put into my hands, and I shall confer with the Minister for Recruiting (Mr. Orchard) as soon as pos- sible about it.
– In view of the altered circumstances, owing to the cessation of hostilities, and the consequent likelihood of shipping being released, will the Assistant Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton), restore, as fax as possible, the shipping facilities formerly accorded to Northern Queensland, which were very seriously curtailed by the removal of the Wyreema?
– There is no doubt that, as soon as the circumstances permit, what the honorable member desires will be done. It must not be forgotten, however, that when ships come back from the Old World, there will be abundance of loading for them for return trips; therefore, I cannot hold out any great hope of increased shipping on the coast. What shipping is available, will be used for taking products from Australia to other parts of the world.
– I desire to know whether the attention of the Acting Prime Minister (Mir. Watt) has been drawn to a report in the National and Labour presses of speeches made on the 12th instant at Broken Hill by one of the mine managers and two*- returned soldiers, inciting the populace of Broken Hill to civil disorder ? Is the honorable gentleman aware that, as a result, the miners at Broken Hill lost two shifts in order to protect the Trades Hall, and that a number of free fights occurred in the town ?. Will the Acting Prime Minister take steps to prevent a repetition of these incitements to civil disorder?
– I have not seen the statements in the press referred to by the honorable member.
– I shall supply them to you.
– I shall be glad to see them, and to consider whether any steps are necessary. The most interesting reflection on the question is that at least it has been found necessary to take steps to protect the Trades Hall at Broken Hill.
Complaints of Trainees
– Has the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) any further communication to make in regard to the promised inquiry into the administration of the trainees’ camp at Liverpool?
– I have no further information.
Removal of Disabilities
– In view of the fact that the war is now happily ended, will the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) consider the removal of all disabilities on naturalized Germans and Australian natives of German descent?
– I do not know to what disabilities the honorable member refers, but possibly he has in mind the War-time Electoral Act. That. Act automatically expires six months afterthe end of the war. If it is thought necessary to consider anymodification or amendment of that Act, of course, that will be done.
– Has a definite scheme been evolved in regard to the encouragement which is sought for the conservation of extra fodder this year?
– Yesterday, a conference took place between representatives of the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. It represented a second stage in the promulgation of a scheme. I am given to understand that the Premier of South Australiahas returned to Adelaide to submit a proposal for the consideration of his Cabinet, and that he has advised us that an answer will be received from him by Wednesday morning. If the three States will step into line with the proposal made, a considerable quantity of extra fodder ought to be cut on the guaranteesand assistance which the Commonwealth Government, and the three State Governments concerned, will give to the producers.
– Has the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs noticed that, in the various States, a determined effort is being made to repeal the vaccination laws; and, in the interest of public health, will his Department take steps to prevent this being ‘ done, or provide Commonwealth legislation upon the subject?
– The matter is en tirely within the jurisdictionof the States, but I shall look into it and acquaint the honorable member accordingly.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
What remark did the honorable member make ?
– I was speaking to the honorable member for Perth.
– If the remark made by the honorable member had any reference. to the Government’s answer to his question, it should have been made to the -House. Sir, I understand that the honorable member said that the statement I have just read was absolutely false.
– I did not hear the remark.
– I heard it.
– The honorable member was speaking ‘ privately to me.
– That makes no difference, so long as the remark dealt with the answer to the honorable member’s question.
-If the honorable member uttered the remark attributed to him, and it was audible to other honorable members, I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it.
– I ask honorable members to remain silent while Ministers are answering questions.
– The honorable member for Dampier is entitled to his own views, but he-is not entitled to contradict a statement made by the Government.
– I have withdrawn the remark.
– I accept the explanation. The answer to the second portion of the honorable member’s question continues -
The main plans for the Base were prepared by Messrs. Coode, Matthews, Fitzmaurice, and Wilson, of London, after Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice had viewed the site and preliminary works, and considered the engineering data which had been obtained. These plans were then adopted generally, as the final scheme of the Base, early in 1915.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice-
If, in view of the war being ended, the Cabinet will consider the liberation of all prisoners who have been detained in prison for medical and other reasons after the’ expiration of the sentences . imposed upon such persons?
– Military prisoners who, at the expiration of their sentences, are suffering from venereal disease, are sent to an isolation camp to undergo treatment. They are not detained in prison after the expiration of their sentences.
Cost of Rifles - Inquiry. Mr. GREGORY asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government will now remove . the. censorship at present insisted upon in connexion with the manufacture, cost and quality of rifles manufactured at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory?
Prior to any further expenditure on the proposed Arsenal will the Government appoint a practical board, independent of the Defence Department or officials, . to inquire into and report on the general administration of the Lithgow factory?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the cessation of hostilities in Europe, will the Government remove the censorship from the newspaper press and leave it free?
– The whole question of continuation of’ censorship is now under consideration,” and decisions on each phase of this subject are being, and will be, arrived at as the war situation develops. It should be noted that the time fixed for carrying out armistice conditions has not yet expired. “
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1, The difference between the price fixed “for butter in Australia and the price paid by the. British Government on butter exported will be paid into a common fund which will be distributed amongst all the factories in Australia, with the exception of Western Australia, proportionately to their output.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice - -
– The answers to the hon.rable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the cessation of hostilities, the Government will recommend the House to suspend the operation of the resolution passed by the House on the ‘2nd October last, permitting the Law Officers of the Crown to supervise the speeches of honorable members under ‘certain conditions and circumstances?
– It is not considered desirable at the present time to recommend to the House the suspension of the operation of the resolution referred to.
Officials Stationed in Melbourne.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner controls all the railway projects of the Commonwealth, as well as the Trans-Australian Railway, and is the Chief Adviser of the Commonwealth Government in connexion with railway matters. It would be quite impracticable for him to be located away from the Seat of Government. It is essential that some members of his staff should not be separated from him, particularly as most of their operations can be better conducted from a large business centre like Melbourne.
The Engineer of Way and Works is sta- “tioned in Port Augusta, and the Chief Mechanical Engineer, when the vacancy is filled, will also be located there.
– On the 14th November the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) asked if, in view of recent events, the issue of the medal to relatives of Australian soldiers could be further delayed and its design altered, so that it may include the dates of. the beginning and ending of the war, which would indeed make it a commemorative medal. I am now able to furnish the following rePty: -
As the dies for these medals have already been cast, and a large number of the medals made, it is not considered advisable to adopt the suggestion as it would still further delay the issue.
Prisoners of War,
– On the 14th November the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) asked the following question: -
Will the Acting Prime Minister see that, amongst the first troops to return to Australia, are the prisoners of war in enemy countries?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
As to the order in which members of the Australian Imperial Force will be embarked for return to Australia, the Government is arranging for the troops to come back according to units under their own officers. It has been recognised, however, that there are certain classes of men who deserve a degree of preference. To meet the claims of such men each battalion, regiment and battery will be divided into halves, and the first half of each unit returning will contain as many as possible of the men meriting preferential treatment. Priority will be given to men in the following order: -
All married soldiers, with preference according to the number of their children, their length of service, and guarantees of employment in Australia.
Single soldiers of long service with guarantees of employment in Australia.
Other single men according to length of service.
Representations in regard to prisoners of war in enemy countries will be brought under the notice of the Prime Minister in England, who is dealing with this question.
– On the 31st October the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) asked a question as to the separation allowance made to wives of Australian citizens undergoing compulsory military training, in comparison with the amount paid to the wives of German internees. I am now able to furnish the following information : -
A private’ in the Australian Militia Forces when in camp of continuous training, &c, receives 3s. per diem as a recruit and 4s. per diem as a trained soldier.
Separation allowance of ls. 3d. per wife and 74cl. for each child is paid up to a maximum of 8s. per diem in .pay and separation allowance. ‘
The total weekly pay and allowances for a married private in the Citizen Forces are compared in the following table with the allowance paid to the wife of an interned enemy subject: -
Separation allowance at the rate of 4s. 4½d. per week is paid for each child under fourteen years of age of a private in the Citizen Forces, while an allowance of 2s. 6d. per week is paid for each child under fourteen years of age of an interned enemy person.
In addition, the citizen soldier receives rations, quarters, and clothing, while in camp of continuous training.
Threat op Union Official.
– On the 6th instant the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) asked a question with reference to a threat of a union official to lady clerks employed in the Military Pay Office. The Military Commandant has been requested to make personal inquiries into this matter, and report as early as possible. He has also been requested to refuse admittance to Head-quarters Offices of any person making the alleged threats, and to assure the staff that such are entirely unauthorized.
Mr. JOHN THOMSON presented the report of the Public Accounts Committee on Commonwealth expenditure on rents for public offices in the capital cities.
Ordered to be printed.
The following papers were pre sented : -
The War.-(Papers presented to the British Parliament) -
Agricultural Policy Sub-Committee - Ministry of Reconstruction -
Summaries of Evidence.
Customs Act. - Proclamations Prohibiting Exportation (except under certain conditions) of -
Cheese (dated 6th November, 1918).
Cinematograph Films to Nauru (dated 6th
Lands Acquisition Act. - Land acquired under, at Port Pirie, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Debate resumed from 31st October (vide page 7319) of motion by Mr. Watt-
That a tax be imposed on income derived from sources in Australia at the following amounts and rates, &c. (vide page 7314).
. Exception has been taken to the manner in which the income tax is levied. It has been truly stated that very few people, even those skilled in mathematics, are able to understand the formula by which the amount of the tax is ascertained. On one occasion I submitted to five young people who had just gone up for the Senior Public examination, all of whom passed in mathematics and some with honours, a couple of examples from the ready reckoner issued by the Department, and asked them to work out, according to the formula, the tax payable. Every one of the five results differed from each other, and also from the result officially given by the Department.
– The Senior Public examination would not educate a person up to this formula.
– The Matriculation examination, as a standard, has been abolished, and the Junior and Senior Public examinations have taken its place. The Senior examination is infinitely more difficult than the old Matriculation examination, yet not one of those five candidates could agree in working out the formula. I agree with the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) that “ it is a matter for regret that the Commonwealth began its levy upon incomes by means of a scale so complicated as to bewilder all but the highest mathematicians.” Honorable members may have received a circular letter from Professor
Carslaw, of Sydney, a leading mathematician, who finds fault with the formula, and asks that a simpler one he substituted. I understand that the virtue claimed for the formula is that each £1 stands by itself, and that there is no inducement for the taxpayer to represent his income as being below a certain amount in order to pay taxation at a lower rate. The persons who make up their income tax returns have no idea of what amount they will be required to pay until they receive the assessment from the Department. I realize the difficulties in the way of going back upon the method that has been adopted, and especially those which would arise in endeavouring to estimate the revenue which would be obtained under a new method. When filling in income tax returns, taxpayers state as many exemptions as they know of, with a view to reducing their tax to the minimum, and probably were the rates fixed, instead of being on a sliding scale, this would be done even more largely. At the conclusion of his speech the Treasurer inserted an interesting comparison between the income taxation rates of the Commonwealth and the various States.. The Commonwealth rate starts at 5½d. on the £100 for a single man, and I suppose at 5½d. on £156 in the case of a married man. without dependants. Remembering the reduction in the purchasing power of the sovereign, it is evident that our taxation is proportionately higher nowadays than it was. While many men have received increases in wages, these increases are relatively not so great as the decrease in the value of the sovereign. I made the statement that a man receiving £3 a week was much worse off than he used to be when getting less, and I have received letters from many persons who say that their average weekly rate is nothing like as high as £3. Of course married men getting only £3 a week are not called on to pay income tax. The Treasurer ‘proposes to increase the tax on the .prizes drawn in Tattersalls lottery “and other lotteries from 10 per cent, to 13 per cent. I have received a great many complaints about this tax. The organizers of the lottery withhold 10 per cent, of the money invested in it. I do not know whether more persons in the Yarra electorate than in other electorates invest in Tattersalls. “Mr. McGrath. - Perhaps the Yarra electors are, on the whole, luckier than others.
– A fair number must have drawn prizes in Tattersall’s. At any rate, bitter complaint has been . made against the dating back of the tax to 1915. I wish to know whether the extra 3 per cent, is also to date back?
– The extra 3 per cent, charged on lottery prizes will, be collected only from the time that the Bill is passed.
– And the 30 per cent, increase on other incomes ?
– That will apply to the whole financial year.
– Is the company rate of 2s. 6d. in the £1 an extra rate.
– That is the full rate. The original rate was ls. 6d., and it has been increased to 2s. 6d.
– Mr. Knibbs, in his booklet of Australian Statistics for 1918, shows, on page 107, that the number of persons who, according to the returns furnished under the war census, are in receipt of incomes in Australia, is 2,191,945. As their returns were not to be assessed for taxation, they may be fairly assumed to be accurate. According to Mr. Knibbs, about one-fourth of the males of the community receive incomes amounting to £110,000,000 and about three-fourths receive incomes amounting to only £91,000,000. He says that two-elevenths of the people, get more than half the in” come of Australia, and nine-elevenths get less than half of it. According to the Treasurer’s comparison, the Commonwealth income taxation is fairer than that of any of the States. Starting from 5½d. iu the £1 it goes up to 94d. in the £1. The’ Queensland rate ranges from 7£d. to 28d.; but the Victorian rate goes only from 3d. to 7d. In Queensland those who have the money are made to pay. It is, of course, from the middle incomes that the bulk of the revenue is received. According to Mr. Knibbs, 157,350 males receive an income of £27,000,000, and over 200,000 males receive only £24,000,000 .
– But many of those receiving small incomes get allowances in addition.
– I think that when the War Census was being taken, these allowances had to be shown.
– If the allowances have been’ taken into account, the figures must be wrong.. There could not be so much race-going and picture show going otherwise.
– It is wonderful what the people are able to do.
– Many a man out West has educated a family on 8s. a day.
– In view of the decrease in the purchasing power of money, our exemption should be lower than it is, though, of course, as this is merely a rates Bill, we cannot deal with the matter now. Those in domestic employment, waitresses, hotel employees, and others, are kept, or get allowances, but they would not constitute more than 10 per cent., or, at most, 15 per cent, of the workers in the towns. In the country,possibly 30 per cent., or 40 ner cent., of the workers receive allowances.
– Eighty per cent.
– More than that.
– Many of those working on stations are doing contract work.
– But they are tuckered.
– According to the Treasurer’s table, the New South Wales rates start at lid., and go up to a little over 16d. ; and the Western Australian rates start at 2d., and go up to 30d. S *
– But in both States there is land taxation as well.
– The Treasurer has not furnished us with a comparison in regard to land taxation. He has told us that he estimates to raise from his extra land tax only a little over £300,000, which is not much more than he estimates to get from the tax on 3d. and 6d. entertainment tickets. But from the 30 per cent, increase on the income tax rates, he hopes to get £2,200,000. The revenue from income taxation will, it is estimated, this year be £9,600,000, whereas it was £7,385,000. The Treasurer estimates that the increase in the land tax will yield him this vear an additional revenue of about £256,000.
– The land tax has to be paid regardless of whether there is a drought or not, and quite irrespective of whether or not the land-owner has any income.
– I admit that the land tax is on a different basis from income taxation. There are some who would raise from the land the whole of the revenue required; others, again, favour the income tax, while still others think that Customs and Excise duties afford the best means of raising revenue.
– What does the honorable member regard as the fairest system 1
– I would raise revenue from all three sources. I recognise that the Government of every country to-day will be compelled, as the result of the war, to avail itself of every avenue of taxation in order to secure the additional revenue required. The advantage of an income tax is that if a’ person has no income he is not called upon to pay any taxation under it.
Reference has been made to the taxation here and in Great Britain. I would remind honorable members, however, that in addition to the land and income taxation operating in Great Britain, there are in force there a number of taxes which are higher than those prevailing in Australia. Some startling examples of the heavy municipal taxation paid in the Old Country have been put before the House. It was mentioned recently that the municipal taxation paid by property in the municipality of West Ham amounted to 12s. in the £1. In Victoria the highest municipal rate, so far as towns and cities are concerned, is 2s. 6d. in the fi, while in country districts the municipal rate is as low as ls. in the £1, and in many cases is based upon a very low valuation. The income tax on £100 of taxable income from property in Australia, taking -the Federal rate at 5.8d. and the New South Wales rate - which is the highest - at 14. 7d. per £1, is only ls. 8d. in the £1, as compared with 3s. in the £1 in Great Britain. It is only in the case of persons in receipt of an income of nearly £50,000 a year from personal exertion that the Federal and State income tax combined - and the Queensland tax is the .highest in .respect o of such an income - is greater than that paid in Great Britain. In respect of income from property our taxation is something like Id. in the £1 higher than that operating in Great Britain, but in respect of income from personal exertion the combined State and Federal taxation is lower than that payable in the Old Country. The Treasurer has done well in furnishing the Committee with examples of the Federal and State income taxation paid in Australia, as compared with that paid in -Great Britain.
– Why compare taxation in a young country like this with that prevailing in the United Kingdom which has to maintain an army and navy ‘! We do not get the same value for our money.
– I have heard many honorable members opposite say that we get good value for our money, and particularly in respect of the services rendered by the British Navy. Over and over again they denounced our unwilling_ ness to contribute to the cost of the British Navy, and our desire that Australia should have a navy of her own. I think that .this taxation is on right lines. In preparing his Budget the Treasurer necessarily had regard for not only present requirements, but future needs. He said that he had to look ahead, and he warned us that taxation in Australia for many years to come was likely to increase rather than decrease. I do not think a 30 per cent, increase in the case of the income tax is objectionable, having regard to the advantages which we in Australia ‘have enjoyed, and I shall offer ‘no opposition to this motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Watt and Mr. Poynton ‘do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented (by Mr. Watt) and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now .read a .second time.
In Committee of Ways and Means, I gave such a full explanation of our income tax proposals that I do not think honorable members will desire any further information on the subject. The House, I am sure, will.be content to pass this Bill, in view of the necessity for ob-‘ taining additional revenue.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Debate resumed from 6 th November (vide page 7481), on motion by Mr.
That, in addition to the land tax payable under the provisions of the Land Tax Act 1910-14, there , be imposed an additional land tax equal .to 20 per centum of the amount of land tax payable under those provisions.
.- This motion is not likely to pass with the celerity that marked the passage of the Income Tax Bill.
– Why not let the >resolu’tion go, with the suggestion :that ‘the increase ought to be still greater?
– Having regard to -the fact that the Government have increased by 33 .per cent, the taxation .paid by little children who attend a picture show, I fail to see why rich land-owners should be let off with an increased land tax of only 20 per cent.
– Why not kill all landowners?
– Why not kill all children who wish to attend a picture show? The Treasurer has told us that he expects from the land tax this year a revenue of £2,308,000, or £256,222 in excess of the revenue derived last year. In other words, the wealthy land-owners o’f Australia this year are to pay an additional revenue of only about £250,000.
– They ave not all wealthy. A land-owner has to pay this tax even if his land is mortgaged and he is deriving practically no income from it.
– The land-owners have made more out of the war than have any other section of the community, yet they are to be called upon to pay only £256,000 more than was collected from this source last year, whereas, by the imposition of a tax on threepenny and sixpenny entertainment tickets, the Treasurer expects to derive from that source this year an additional £275,000.
– He will get more than that.
– No doubt he will. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) says that land-owners are not all wealthy, but I would remind him that the Federal land tax does not apply to a man unless he has land of an unimproved value of over £5,000. In other words, he must have property valued at over £8,000 before he is called upon to pay thi3 tax. As a rule, improvements in the case of rural holdings do not average more than one-third of the value of the land, whilst in the case of villa or factory property in towns and cities, the improvements represent three-fourths of the value. I do not think that the increase proposed in this case is high enough.
– The honorable member does not overlook the fact that the original tax goes up to 9d. in the £1, which represents three-fourths of the economic rental value?
– But the value of the holding must be very high before the tax at that rate applies.
– Eighty thousand pounds.
– Quite so. The Treasurer, in introducing the Bill, gave examples to illustrate the burden which wealth will bear for this year when the Budget proposals are fully effective. Example A gave the unimproved value at £28,576, and the taxable income at £7,980; example B, the unimproved value at £76,975, and the taxable income at £11,848; example C, the unimproved value at £98,523, and the taxable income at £19,158; and example D, the unimproved value at £327.226, and the taxable income at £64,229. The income in example A is two-sevenths of the unimproved value, and the higher the value of the property the smaller the proportion of income from it.
– In some years there is no income.
– The Treasurer told us he had asked the Taxation Commissioner to furnish him with typical examples without mentioning names, from a landholder of moderate area to a very wealthy land-holder, in order to show what each will have to pay to the State and Federal authorities in land and income taxation.
– Do you not see that neither you nor the Treasurer is justified in -arguing from those figures ? We should have to know the year and the district. Income from land is not fixed; and you cannot argue from those figures.
– That is true so far as country lands are concerned, but in the metropolitan areas the income is fairly fixed - it does not vary very much.
– The Treasurer is not a practical man, and the officials, on whose advice he relies, are still less practical.
– I believe that the Taxation Commissioner and the whole of his staff do their best to administer the law, and that they compare favorably with the taxation officers in any part of Australia.
– Do you say that an official has the same practical knowledge that a man has who works a property?
– No; but he is practical to the extent that he knows the returns furnished by individuals as income from land. However, I wish to point out, in reference to these examples, that the rates of taxation vary in the different States.
– This land tax is irrespective of income.
– It is the Treasurer who cites the taxable incomes.
– In other words, these are silly examples.
– The Treasurer, in another table, shows what the State and” Commonwealth land taxation amounts to in different portions of the Commonwealth on four different classes of holdings. On an unimproved value of £1,000 he shows that nothing is paid under the Commonwealth, and nothing in
New South Wales, but that £2 is paid in Victoria, £4 in Queensland, £2 in South Australia, £2 in Western Australia, and £4 in . Tasmania. On an unimproved value of £10,000, a sum of £31 is paid under the Commonwealth tax, nothing in New South Wales, £20 in Victoria, £202 in Queensland, £31 in South Australia, £20 in Western Australia, and £54 in Tasmania. On an unimproved value of £50,000, a sum of £765 is paid under the Commonwealth tax, nothing in New South Wales, £104 in Victoria, £1,346 in Queensland, £197 in South Australia, £104 in Western Australia, and £361 in Tasmania. On an unimproved value of £100,000, £2,775 is paid under the Commonwealth tax, nothing in New South Wales, £208 in Victoria, £3,323 in Queensland, £406 in South Australia, £208 in Western Australia, and £851 in Tasmania. I cannot see how these examples can be made of any value at all unless they are taken all from one State. Then the Treasurer shows how in the four examples A, B, C, and D the total State and Commonwealth land and income taxes are £2,804,- £5,815, £10,948, and £43,686 respectively. I wonder how the gentleman who has to pay £43,000 odd will get on under our compulsory loan legislation, which calls upon . him -to subscribe six times his income tax.
– The banks will finance him.
– Six times the income tax is not a very big amount for anybody to finance.
– I know it can be financed easily enough.
– I think the honorable member has got into some difficulties about the figures.
– I have simply read the figures as they appear in Hansard. I think the Treasurer should have mentioned the States from which the examples are taken.
When the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) spoke at Bendigo, he talked about the “ obligations “ and the “ responsibilities “ of wealth in this great struggle; but all that is proposed is 20 per cent, on the land tax, by which means it is expected to raise only £250,000 more than was raised last year.
I think the great land-holders of this country should hang their heads in shame, in view of the fact that, while they are asked to provide 20 per cent, additional taxation to the extent of only a quarter of a million, the children of the country are to provide £275,000, or 33 per cent, by means of taxation on their amusement tickets.
.- I am sorry at the tone adopted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), because I think it is unworthy of him and his position. Furthermore, I do not think that the figures he has submitted are correct
– I take them from the Budget- -from the Budget speech.
– If £380,000 was all that these reputed land-holders had to contribute, the remarks of the honorable member Would have some sting in them, but this sum is in addition to £2,123,000 paid in land tax in 1917-18. Many members of the Opposition, apparently, are not conversant with the land tax legislation they passed, and I remind them that the land tax is levied on the reputed owner of land ; it does not matter how heavily mortgaged the land may be. In fact, frequently the man who pays the land tax has very little more than the equity of redemption in the land. During the last drought, there were many instances in which the owner, through having to pay land tax, could not afford to buy fodder for his sheep, and which died. Further, in the Income Tax Bill, besides what is paid under the celebrated curve, there are 25 per cent, and 30 per cent, increases on account of the war, representing 62$ per cent. Under the circumstances, I do not think the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition are justified. The pastoralists, through having the price of their wool assured to them, have been having a very fair time over the bulk of Australia - though there is a drought raging now - and I do not think that the £380j000 the Treasurer hopes to get will affect them very greatly. This proposal is an intimation to the land-holders that they would be wise not to go on increasing the size of their holdings.
– Not to go into the backblocks at all !
– Of course, the -wages prevailing in the Labour market have practically prevented any development outside the land already occupied. The appreciation to the value of stock in Australia has been partly due to the cessation of the development of the unoccupied lands in the interior of the Commonwealth. There has been practically no improvement effected since the Federal land tax was- imposed, or since the Australian Labour party has’ come into such- prominence. Previously, the wool-broking and financial houses of the Commonwealth were all so many conduit pipes through which British money was poured into Australia for the development of our virgin lands. To-day those financial houses are merely earning good interest on their existing capital. No fresh capital is coming in. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) will agree with me that the interior of the continent is not being developed as it was some years ago. Certainly the high prices obtainable for beef and wool have given some impetus to cattle stations and wool-growing.
– If it had not been for those prices many properties would have been up for sale.
– I shall vote for the Bill, but I regret that it was not passed without the remarks we have heard from the Leader of the Opposition.
– I was astonished at the misleading tirade of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor). For the last month he has been making continual misleading references to the imposition of a tax of Id. upon children’s amusement tickets His references to the proposed additional impost on the land-owners of Australia were equally misleading. If the honorable member, as the head of the once great Labour party of Australia, had been desirous of putting the position fairly and squarely, he would not have made such misleading statements. As the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) has just pointed out, this tax is really a super tax on the £2,000,000 odd which is already collected from the land-owners of Australia.
Had the Leader of the Opposition been desirous of giving the people of Australia a true idea of the incidence of direct taxation, in relation to ability to pay it, he would have reminded us of the recent comparison which the Acting Prime Minister drewbetween the direct taxation paid in Australia as compared with that which is paid in Great Britain and other countries. Hewould have shown that the principle adopted by the Australian Parliament is to. place the bulk of direct taxation on the very men who will be called upon to pay this super tax.
I am bound to support the Government in regard to this impost, because the money must be found.
– There are other ways of getting it.
– If the honorable member can show how we can get the money in any other way, I will not be found supporting this additional impost.
– No, one is bound to perpetuate an inequity.
– -During war time we are obliged to perpetuate a good many things that we would never dream of in normal times. The men who own the greater portion of the wealth of Australia have, in a very fine spirit, accepted heavy imposts which four years ago we would not have dreamt.it possible to enact in our time, or for many generations to’ come. I do not favour the imposition of heavy taxation on land because it goes right down to the consumer every time. We are not assisting the poorer sections of the community by taxing the very source of the means of existence.
– The imposition of a land tax for revenue purposes is a policy which is unsound and unfair.
– That is perfectly true, but I know that this must be agreed to.
– It should’ not he agreed to.
– I shall await with some keen interest any plan which the honorable member cares to suggest for avoiding this taxation; hut it seems to me that, although we woul’d often like to succeed in formulating plans in substitution for Government proposals, we are not able to do sq. I hope that many of these imposts, including those under this measure, will be temporary. Of course, we’ cannot expect that they will pass off the statute-book very speedily. We are obliged to accept them as war expedients, and as such they -are not likely to be very temporary, because the burdens we shall have to bear will necessitate their remaining in force for some years to come.
.- I shall vote against this proposal to increase the land tax. I recognise the full gravity and responsibility of my attitude.There is no section of the community less desirous of , shirking the financial obligations brought about by the war than the landed proprietors -of Australia, but it is well to remember what occurred when the Commonwealth Parliament first imposed a land tax. One of the finest debates ever heard in this chamber took place upon that proposal. It is often said that it was one of the highest class debates we have had in the Chamber, the Opposition of the day exhausting the whole of the arguments against land taxation in their endeavour to defeat the proposal ; but the Government of the time admitted quite openly that their Bill was intended to “ burst up “ the big landed estates of Australia. I acquit the present Government of any desire to achieve that object by the proposal to impose an- additional direct impost for war purposes ; but having endeavoured to look at the matter from all points of equity, I can come to no other conclusion than that it is a direct tax on one form of capital only, that which is employed on the land of the Commonwealth. When we are waging war, is it equitable for a Government to come forward with a proposal to tax one section of the wealth of the community only while allowing capital which is’ employed in .mines, shipping, huge canning and freezing works, Flinders-lane warehouses, and in all other industries of the Commonwealth to escape? I admit that a small portion of the urban land on which factories may be built will contribute towards this increased taxation, but in the main it will affect the broad acres of the Commonwealth, and that portion of the capital of the community which ia employed upon them.
– Do not forget that you are supporting the Government that is proposing this.
– 1 can be no party to putting a further yoke in war time on one section of the people ‘while allowing other wealth to escape. Since the commencement of the war, the land-owners of Australia have suffered one of the most devastating droughts in the history of the Commonwealth, and in New South Wales and Queensland they are approaching another drought. In portions of these two States they will not only have their incomes cut off, but they will also have their capital torn from them. I cannot support this proposal. I recognise that money must be found, but I invite the Government to bring forward a fair and equitable measure of taxation. Let them not be afraid of speeches such as that which we have heard from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), who says that “wealth must bear its responsibilities,” Let the burden of taxation fall equitably upon the owners of all capital. Why should the Government pick out one particular section of the wealth of the Commonwealth? Why should they omit all the wealth employed in war loans? The land-owner will be obliged to pay his full share of income tax, and in New South Wales and Queensland he will shortly be faced with the position of having to pay an additional wealth tax on capital which is not earning any income. At a time like this such a proposal ls not equitable. No family in this country should seek to avoid it3 share of -taxation according to its means, but if ever there was a time when the impost should be fairly and equitably divided it is the present. Why should people who stand on the vantage ground of liquid capital, having that mobile wealth which is able to shift itself from investment to investment, and never running the risk of being the immovable target that land is, to be shot at by both Federal and State Governments, escape attention? We are almost at the termination of the financial arrangement between the Commonwealth and States, and soon the latter will have to look to the resources which are under their control for direct taxation. At the establishment of Federation, one of the cardinal principles of the bargain was that the lands of the Commonwealth and the land laws should be reserved to the control of the States. The land laws of Australia are State laws, and the land of the Commonwealth is under the control of the States, both alienated and unalienated. When the States, at the termination of the financial bargain with the Commonwealth, are driven to- ‘find fresh revenue, they will get it from what is under their control, and in the circumstances I cannot consent to any further yoke being placed upon the necks of the land-owners by the Commonwealth. I know their story, and I know that their lot is devilish hard. If ever there was a time when the Government, having re- ‘gard to the broad national welfare of the country, should encourage the rural population to remain where it is, now is that time. Recently I visited two portions of my electorate where the land is not rich, and for that reason must be held in large areas. It is a long way from the railways and townships, and all the great conveniences that are enjoyed by the people on smaller holdings. As a result of the war, many of the families which provided the labour upon which the stations relied for the carrying on of their work, have left the wayback. Their sons having gone to the war, the old people could not stand the isolation. Many of the sons have returned, and others will return, ruined in health - some never more. There is no doubt that war service has depopulated, and will further depopulate, the country districts and increase the city population. Even at the present time, when money is required for war purposes, the Government are ill-advised in placing this further impost on land-owners. I have never known a more disturbed feeling to exist on the broad acres of Australia than exists to-day throughout the Commonwealth. Once we damp the enthusiasm and energy of these people in . founding homes in the backblocks, doing the rough-and-tumble work of development, and rearing families under great difficulties, we shall do an irreparable harm to the future of this Commonwealth. Yet to-day the Government are placing further taxation on the broad acres, whilst the capital of the city people who have established their homes and industries near the ports and harbors, where all the privileges are, is to be exempted. That is a very bad policy from a national point of view. For the reasons I have mentioned and for others, I intend to vote against the Bill, and to ask the Government to find the necessary money by a further increase of the income tax. Let them reconsider the whole position, and raise the money equitably from all the wealth of the country, instead of seeking to put a further load upon the already overburdened land-owners.
.- Like other honorable members, I recognise that at the present time the Treasurer must obtain money. Demands are reaching him from every quarter, and we ought to realize that on account of the cost of repatriation and the enormous interest bill in connexion with the war loan3, far greater taxation will be necessary in the future than has been required in the past. The Government must raise money, and the only question to be considered is what is the best method to adopt. Every honorable member should try to make taxation as fair and equitable as possible. I have always been opposed to the Commonwealth land tax. I did not like the idea with which, it was initiated. As the honorable member for Wannon said, when the Federation was established, we thought that the States would continue to have absolute control of the land and land taxation. However, a Commonwealth land tax is in existence, and while present conditions continue no one desire3 to see any of these old questions revived or any effort made by Parliament to revoke and annul the previous determinations of this Legislature, and arouse party spirit. But we ought to realize the absolute necessity of trying to increase production, for that is the only means by- which we shall be able to pay our debts. The cities are already overcrowded. Half the population of Victoria is situated in and about Melbourne, and half the population of
New South. Wales in and about Sydney. Such a condition of affairs is unsound. We may build up industries in the city, but of what use will they be unle’ss we create a wide market for their products? We must increase the population in the back country and push on with rural development. Every thinking man must recognise that those people who have invested large sums of money in land are looking with great- misgiving upon their speculations. More particularly is that the case in Queensland, where the Commonwealth unimproved land tax on a property worth £100,000 will be, if this Bill is assented to, £2,775, in addition to the State tax of £3,323.
– It is pretty hot.
– It is, especially as that land may not produce one sixpence in income throughout the whole year. Itis in that respect that I think the land tax is so inequitable. My concern is for the man on the land; the city landholder can pass on the taxation. The man who has created our rural wealth has made Australia. But for our wheat, wool, butter, and meat, Australia would l* bankrupt.
– Do not forget that there is a land tax exemption of £5,000.
– That is so; and if I were thinking only of votes, I should support this Bill, because very few of my constituents will pay the tax. But my desire is to build up the back country. My own constituency embraces an enormous territory, which, I believe, will produce great wealth if we can get capital into it. The Dampier electorate is as big as New South Wales and Victoria put together, but it has a very small population. I wish to see population placed on those vacant areas, because the population will produce the natural wealth that is in the soil. Unless >we build up the back country there will be little hope for the future of the cities. The present congestion in the metropolitan areas is a menace to the community. On many of the large pastoral properties enormous sums must be expended in developmental work. In portions of the district I represent artesian water is available, but the land-holder must bore 2,000 to 4,000 feet to tap it. And honorable members know the cost of such work. They know also that a pastoral property must be fenced, in fairly small areas, and water supplies must be created at convenient distances. Developmental expenditure of that kind considerably increases the carrying capacity of the property. The action of the Government in proposing a further increase of the land tax will tend only to increase the existent feeling that the governments of Australia are not giving a fair deal to capitalists who come here to invest their money in the country. Capital is a very shy bird, and can be easily frightened away. Let us not forget that capital may go to other countries and find better investments. In every legitimate way we should encourage capital.. I believe that wealth should be compelled to bear its fair share of the burden in connexion with the war, and if the Government will bring down a proposal requiring all wealth to contribute I shall support them, as I fully realize the necessity of raising more money. But this tax penalizes only the man in the back country who takes all the risk of drought, and may lose next year the stock on which he pays income tax this year, and be without any asset other than his lease. If we are to tax wealth, let the tax be general, Let also the man who has spent £50,000, or £100,000, on the establishment of a huge factory be compelled to pay his fair share of taxation.
– And let those who have money invested in mortgages pay a share. To-day the owner of the’ land pays the tax on the mortgagees’ capital.
– That is so. In many cases the equity of the land may be worth very little; a man may have to borrow money in order to pay the tax. I have no wish to embarrass the Treasurer in any way, but I have a right to. say how I think the money ought to be raised. To-day the land-holders are paying a little over £2,000,000 in Federal land tax, and this Bill will increase the burden by £380,000. I have no doubt that a fair proportion of the new taxation will be paid on the city properties, and that the burden will be passed on, but in the primary industries this is a class of imposition which will tend to prevent people coining into the country with capital for the purpose of developing tile rural areas. And unless we have capital flowing into the country, we shall have very little chance of a big’ influx of population.. Australia, under good and liberal laws, can easily carry a population of 20,000,000. I am quite satisfied as to the wonderful potentialities of the Commonwealth. I know that in Western Australia there are large vacant areas with great stock-carrying capacity. But a man cannot go upon the land and face all the difficulties and expense of clearing, fencing, water supply, and so forth unless he has capital to help him. This legislation will tend to frighten capital out of the country. A far larger amount could be raised by other means. Firstly, I would suggest a further increase in the income tax beyond the 30 per cent, the Treasurer has- already proposed, and, secondly, if still further- money be required, a tax upon- the general wealth of the community, exempting, if necessary, persons having incomes of under £500 per annum.
– Is the honorable member in favour of a wealth -tax?
– I favour a tax on wealth generally instead of merely on the land-holder.
– That ought to be the last resort.
– Land taxation ought to be the last resort. If we are to tax wealth, let the impost be upon wealth generally, and not merely upon one section of the community.
– We must retain our i wealth so that we may carry on and 1 maintain our credit.
– That is one reason why we have not hitherto taxed wealth. The wealth that we should try to pro- 1 duce in this country is that which comes from the use of the land. It is that wealth that has made Australia what she is, and that will help to pay the debt that the war has imposed on us. I oppose the motion, and I hope that the Treasurer will endeavour to- find some other means for getting the revenue that tj ©©eis
.- I join with those on this side who have spoken against the proposed land tax, because I regard it as absolutely unfair. Our graduated land taxation affects the country three times more than it does the city because the country lands are three timesthe value of city lands.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has stated that the Treasurer proposes to increase by 33 per cent, the taxation of picture show tickets paid for by children, while increasing the taxation paid by the land-owner- by only 20 percent. But, as I tried to inform him by interjection,, though without avail, because, I suppose, his speech was intended for circulation throughout his electorate, and to various Labour unions - the landowner, in addition to land tax, has to pay income tax.,, and his income taxation was increased first by 25 per cent. , and then the tax, plus 25 per cent., was increased again by 30 per cent., and now his land tax is being increased by 20 per cent. Further, no one is compelled to go to a picture show, and thus the entertainments tax can be evaded, but the landowners cannot evade the land tax.
I am acquainted with the three- sons of a wealthy Sydney merchant. The eldest became a doctor, and rose high in his profession, making at times between £6,000 and £7,000 a year. The second took over his. father’s business. I often went to his house, where he lived in luxury, though he was an estimable and very charitable man. His income was anything from £15,000 to £20,000 a year. The third son took up land in Queensland, and I do not think he has ever made more than £3,000 a year. Yet it is the land-holder alone of the three sons who has to pay taxation on his capital,, whether his transactions are profitable or not. Often a land-owner has to face losses due to drought and other causes, but he must pay the land tax just the same.
The original land tax imposed by the Fisher Government in 1910 had a maximum rate of 6d. in the £1 on unimproved value. In 1914, after the war broke out, and when money was urgently needed, another Fisher Government raised the rate to 9d. This rate capitalized on the annual value, is equivalent to a wealth tax of 15s. in the £1, or 75 per cent, of the annual unimproved value.
Now it is proposed .to increase tie rate by 20 per cent., which works out at 1 4/5d. in the £1, and, capitalized, makes- the impost 18si. in the £1_; that is, if the annual value of land is £.1, 18s. of that value is taken from it by this taxation. In addition to the Commonwealth land tax, land-owners have to pay land tax to the State Governments. The Treasurer was careful to omit all reference to the New South Wales land taxation. Sir George Reid, when Premier, introduced a land tax of Id. in the £1. The imposition of land tax was subsequently handed over to the local governing authorities of the State, and now the State land-holders are taxed up to 2d. and 2£d. in the £1. At 2d. in the £1, the tax is equivalent, with the Federal tax added, to a capitalization of Is. Id. on the annual value, so that the State tax, taken with the Commonwealth tax, completely wipes out the capitalized annual value of -the land. Yet, according to the Leader of the Opposition, the land-holder is not taxed half enough.
Australia should encourage land settlement to fill her empty spaces. It is notsuggested that- the proposed increase of the land tax is needed to burst up large estates. The increase is proposed merely to raise more revenue, and being a revenue tax, should apply equitably to all. The man on the land does not wish to shirk his responsibilities. He is ready to bear cheerfully and patriotically his share of the burden of the war. But it is unfair to ask him to bear more than his share, and I cannot bring my conscience to sanction the proposed impost. A great deal has been said about unearned increment. If there were anything in the principle of taxing the unearned increment, surely it would apply with more force in Great Britain than in AustraliaBut I have looked up the Imperial Budget of March last, and I find that the Imperial Government receives only £650,000 from land taxation, whereas the Commonwealth Government receives £2,200,000, and proposes to increase that amount by over £300,000. One might think that it was Great Britain, not Australia, that had big, unoccupied spaces to fill.
– What revenue is obtained in England from income taxation ?
– The income tax yields £290,000,000, and the Excess Profits Tax: £300,000,000. If more money is needed by the Government, the income tax should be increased.
– Why not have a capital value tax?
– We have it so far as land is concerned. If of two men possessing £50,000, one invests his money iri. land, and the other in a city business, why should the land-holder be taxed on his capital, and the business man be permitted to go tax free? In. order to secure the additional revenue which the Treasurer proposes to raise by means of this increase in the land tax, all that theGovernment need do is to increase the income tax by 5 per Gent. That would be the fairest way of raising the money. I do not intend to labour this question, but I certainly enter my emphatic protest against this inequality.
– Why did not the honorable member make his suggestion when the Income Tax Bill was before us?
– It is not too late for the Government to give effect to it. There is no reason why they should not withdraw this’ proposition at the present stage. I had intended to offer certain criticisms with regard to the increase in the income tax, but since it would apply evenly all round, I decided not to delay the passing of the measure. The increase in the land tax, however, is absolutely unjustifiable. I should like to hear what the Opposition have to say in favour of it. No one can urge that it is equitable. There have been several increases in the Federal land tax since it was first imposed in 1910, and during that time the unimproved values of land hare gone up, in some cases, to the extent of something like 50 per cent.
– In some districts, but in other districts they have fallen.
– I am referring to the increased valuations placed upon country lands, by land valuers, for revenue purposes. I think I may safely say that since 1910 the valuations of country properties have increased from 20 per cent, to 25 per cent. - increased in many cases artificially by Government valuations - and on that increased valuation this additional tax will have to be paid. I hold it to be quite unjustifiable.
The only other point that I desire to stress is in regard to the need for uniform valuations for taxation purposes. In New Zealand there is a uniform valuation of all lands for State, municipal, and probate purposes. That system has been initiated in New South Wales, and it should be taken in hand at once by the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) has referred to the position of mortgagees. Many mortgagees live in luxury in our large cities as the result of incomes derived largely from mortgages on country properties. The land-owner has to pay land tax, notwithstanding the existence of a mortgage on his property, but the mortgagee goes scot-free.
– The mortgagee is taxed on his income. He has to pay income tax.
– So has the land-owner.
– In the Commonwealth many properties are worked at a loss; nevertheless, land taxation has to be paid in respect of them. In New Zealand., however, where the land tax is found to press too heavily on a land-owner with a mortgage on his property, the Government, where it is found that the mortgagee has paid by way of income tax an amount equal to the land tax payable in respect of that property, refrains from collecting the land tax. Some such system should be adopted by the Commonwealth. At the present time practically one-half of New South Wale3 is under drought conditions, and this proposal to increase the land tax is, therefore, most inopportune. The electorate of Darling, for instance, is as devoid of grass as Collinsstreet is, and the position, unfortunately, is fis bad in. many other Federal electorates. In these circumstances, I am wholly opposed to this increase, and shall vote against it.
.- I shall vote for the motion; my only regret being that the Government do not propose a still greater increase in the land tax. It must be recognised that with the close of the war we are entering on an era of taxation the end of which no one can foresee. We have left the question of an indemnity to be entombed year after year in our notice-paper, and the question whether the lands of Australia should not be called upon to bear the whole of the interest burden on our war expenditure may yet be raised. As population increases so the value of land improves.
– I disagree with the honorable member. I wish it could be said of my land.
– Everything de- pends upon the way in which the honorable member came into possession of it.
– I do not want it.
– There are many people who would be glad to have it.
– A professional man’s practice often increases with the increase of population.
– That is so. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) spoke of a medical man who enjoyed an income of £6,000 a year.
– I know of a doctor who earned £25,000 in one year.
– The position of a professional man with an income of £3,000 a year is very different from that of a man whose land yields him the same return, since the moment the professional man becomes ill his income ceases. If he dies his income dies with him, but if the landowner dies the income from his land continues.
– But the landowner had to pay for his land.
– The income from the land might decrease if the new owner were not as good a manager as the man whom he succeeded. But in ordinary circumstances it would go on as before.
– Thirty per cent, probate duty would be collected in respect of it. The honorable member will admit that unless the man on the land buys and sells to advantage he derives no income from his property, whereas a doctor would continue to earn an income, even if fatal results attended every case with which he was called in to deal.
– That is not the point. Personally, with the exception of a fee that I received in a railway case, I have not .taken a fee for the last eight years. I repeat that an era of increased taxation is before us. This increase in the land tax is a mere bagatelle compared with what landowners will have to face, since the workers will not agree to carry the cross of the interest on our war loans. I shall vote for this motion, and I hope honorable members will recognise that additional taxation is absolutely necessary. There are many avenues of taxation as yet untouched by either the Federal or the State Governments.
.- I approach this question with some diffidence. I think it would have been wiser if the Government had attempted to raise this money by some other means. There is nothing of a party nature in the proposal, because there is no idea of bursting up estates; the idea is simply to raise a certain amount of revenue.
– If to burst up estates was the original intention, the increase in the tax may have the same effect.
– I view the proposal with a certain amount of alarm, because I feel that if land taxation is inincreased, and further increased, we shall eventually drive people off the land. There is nothing more necessary at the present time than the stimulation of production, especially from the land.
– Is there any indication of people being driven off the land by taxation?
– Yes ; there .are indications that people are getting sick of the land in view of the very stiff taxation imposed by the States.
– According to the Treasurer, there is stiff taxation only in Queensland.
– What would the* honorable member call the rate of taxation in Tasmania, for instance? I am sure that if the honorable member had to pay that taxation, he would think it stiff enough ; and there is taxation of the kind in Victoria and most of the other States. At the present time, the States find themselves in need of more money; and, as they cannot borrow as freely as they did at one time, they may wish. to increase land taxation in the near future. If, in consequence, people are driven off the land, the results may be most serious for this country. At present, the markets of the world offer our land-holders splendid chances with meat, cereals, and wool ; and this is the moment we find the Commonwealth Government coming down with a proposal that may have the effect of straightway quenching the source of wealth. If the land-holders make money, as I indeed hope they may, they are entitled to it. Heaven knows that the men who go out-back, and deny themselves the ease and pleasures of the city, deserve all they get; and it must not be forgotten that, if they “do make money, they will have to pay income tax. Under all the circumstances, I see no necessity for increasing the land tax. I could understand the position if our friends opposite were iu power and carrying out their policy in regard to land, with the object, perhaps, of changing the present system of tenure. That, however, is not the idea at the present time; the idea is simply to raise a small amount of revenue, which I think could be raised quite well by an addition to the income tax. At present in the Federal arena - I do not know whether the policy is the same in all the States - if a man has a property worth £100,000, with a mortgage of £50,000 upon it, he has to pay land tax on £100,000, though the real position is that he owns £50,000 worth and the mortgagee the other £50,000 worth. And, even if we deliberately provided that the mortgagee should pay land tax, lie would pass it on by increasing his rate of interest, unless restrained by law. What is the good of any property except for its annual value! Land is worth only .what it will produce; and if you have land bringing in £2,000 a year, and you have to pay £2,000 in taxation, you might as well be without land and in some other line of business which would leave you a little for yourself. I seriously ask the Government to take a common-sense view of the position, and conduct the business of Australia as if it were their own business. If the Government do this, I have no doubt they will devise a way to meet the position.
– No land-holder objects to pay his fair share of taxation with the other members of the community.
– The honorable member is quite right; I know the farmers, as a class, pretty well, and I am confident - although it is said that fanners are never satisfied - that when they are asked to pay their share, and they know that the burden is being equitably distributed, they never shrink or play a selfish part.
– All we object to is a tax on incomes, and a tax on farming capital, while other capital escapes.
– The burden of their complaint is tha£ they are in an unfair position. The farming community is the prop and support of the country; but, instead of being encouraged, they find further obligations imposed upon them. A man with £100,000 worth of land has to pay on’ that amount, regardless of what his equity in the land may be, while a mortgagee has simply to collect his interest and pay income tax. Neither the farmers nor any other section of the community will raise a murmur against any taxation that is necessary, provided they are satisfied that the burden is imposed equitably.
– Any one strolling into the chamber at the present moment might think they had happened upon a debating society rather than on the National Parliament of Australia in the middle of a discussion of how to raise means to meet our obligations pertaining to the terrible war just closed. The burden of the complaint of honorable members on this side 13 that the proposals of the Government are excessive and will cripple the landed interests of Australia, even to the extent of bringing ruin on the country. It is difficult to conceive that any Australian Government would be so stupid as to make any proposal likely to have that effect ; and I question very much whether the measure before us is likely to result in any such disaster. I do not, of course, question what has ‘been said by honorable members who ave intimately acquainted with the pastoral and other landed interests of the country; but I have some common sense, and have read and od- served a little, and I can find no proof that taxation is pressing heavily on those interests. Indeed, if that were the fact we should find pastoral properties in the market to-day; and, further, ‘we must remember that this proposed taxation affects no properties under the value of £5,000. Of course, we all know that Parliament exists in order to meet the requirements of the country; but in discussions of this kind we have to discount the speeches by about 70 per cent., for-we generally get exaggerated statements that will not bear close investigation in the light of the true facts. If this proposed taxation were as disastrous as we have been led to suppose, we should not find the newspapers attacking lie Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in England, but we should find them pointing to the ruin of the country as evidenced by the landed properties in the market.
– What has the Prime Minister in England to do with this question?
– Nothing; but the honorable member knows as well a3 I do that the newspapers bring before the public matters in which the public are interested, and always look after vested interests. We may, therefore, be sure that if the taxation of the Commonwealth were ruining landed interests, the newspapers would have their commissioner all over the country bringing out proof of the fact. However, there is no proof of the kind. An honorable member has referred to land taxation in England ; but I am afraid that he does not know that the land taxation was assessed in the reign of Charles II. Apart from that, however, I can give a little experience of my own in the Old Country that has some bearing on the question before us. I left England in 1879, and at that time the landed interests of England had been crippled ; one-third of the farms in England were without tenants, simply because the farmers had been ruined by the landlords. The arguments we have heard here this afternoon would be all very well at a meeting of pastoralists or a land company’s dinner, where it might be popular to denounce the Government ; but such arguments are out of place on the present occasion. If there is no indication that the landed interests of the country are being injured by taxation of the kind proposed, I, for one, like any other intelligent man in or out of Parliament, regard it as . unthinkable that any Government could seek to inflict such injury. Who is in favour of taxation in the abstract? This taxation is necessary because of our participation in the war; and it is only human nature to see that taxation is paid by any persons but- ourselves. Taxation of any kind may _ be unfair in its incidence when individual properties are considered; but, if cases of the kind arise, then it is possible the Government will seek to apply a remedy. At any rate, I -at present see no proof that this taxation on the Tin-improved value of land is crippling the resources of the country. The only alteration which I can see is that some land is going out of wheat pro;duction into grazing. This is not surprising when we remember the huge stocks of wheat we have in hand, and the very small hope of shipping it immediately. There is also a section of farmers who strongly believe in the American school of thought, that the Vest product of the farm is that which walks off it, and not that which has to be carried off it. I do not say that we should remain idle and wait until the landed interests of Australia are crippled - that would be an insane policy to pursue– but there is not the slightest indication that this is likely to occur. On the other hand, our landowners are doing remarkably well. It is a fortunate fact that, during those terrible days through which we have passed, they have not suffered materially.
I am in favour of the proposed increase in the income tax. I am not in favour of it in the abstract, because I am not particularly anxious to pay income tax or inflict such taxation on my neighbour, but it is a case of Hobson’s choice, and the proposal is only part of a system of taxation which is to apply all round, and not to one particular section of the community only. The man who .holds mortgages on landed interests, and derives an income from them, will have to “ stump up “ under the income tax. As far as I am able to judge persons who derive their income in this way are “pretty well off, and will be ‘ ‘ gob at “ by the income tax. We have heard sneers and jeers from the Opposition with regard to the tax on “ kiddies.” I would like to know “any one who is in favour of taxing “kiddies,” or even in favour of taxing entertainments. The only justification for such an impost is the necessity for getting revenue. All these proposals should be regarded in that light.
A most astounding proposal from honorable members is that we should impose a wealth tax. In my experience I have heard some extreme statements about the need to be careful lest capital should be frightened out of the country. I heard the statement when I was a loy in the Old Country, but capital was not frightened out of Great Britain. I have heard the statement as many times -in Australia, but capital has not been- frightened out of this country. Notwithstanding all the talk about the effect of certain legislation, capital has not been frightened away from Australia. Of course, insane legislation might materially effect the inflow of capital. A wealth tax might seriously injure the country in this way. We must take into consideration the war taxation levied in other portions of the Empire, and in the Allied countries, and must also realize that it will be necessary to continue any taxation that is now imposed for many years to come. We must judge all proposals for taxation by contemporary history, and not by harking back to what may have happened ten or twenty years ago. I have been an opponent of many of the shrewd and curious proposals which have emanated from the Labour party. One proposal is that we should meet the expenditure upon the war by practically acquiring certain of the wealth which is in the hands of the richer section of the community. A Parliament that would set out to impose a wealth tax would be on the high road to crippling the country by so reducing its resources, that it would 1© only a matter of time for the revenue to dwindle into insignificance. It would he a dangerous step for any Parliament to take. No greater injury could he done to a community than by adopting such a proposal. Our proper course is to allow every man engaged in business to secure as much capital as he can to put into it, and to regard portion of the income derivable from the result of the application of that capital as a fair and legitimate source of taxation, but only to such a point as will not encroach upon the capital itself. Politicians of a hundred years ago had the firm belief that a wealth tax should be imposed, but the idea was buried long ago. However, the war seems to have turned thing3 upside down, and I suppose that we s hall have many ideas, long since buried, resurrected and brought once again into the light of day. Whatever mistakes may Ve made I hope that neither party will seek to enact a wealth tax that can do nothing but injure the welfare of the people.
Many figures have been quoted during this debate. I am reminded of the truism of the American humorist who said, “ Figures cannot lie,- but liars can figure.” Figures can be made to prove anything under the sun. I ask honorable members to view the matter, not only in the light of statements as to what is happening to-day, but also as regards the future effect of this legislation. Injurious legislation very speedily shows its effect on the community.
– Would not the rise in the price of our exports which has occurred prevent those injurious effects being readily seen ?
– That is what has happened. The rise in the value of our exports has saved us.
– A fall in the value of our exports would very speedily show itself. If the Government brought down an insane policy of imposing ruinous taxation the effects would very speedily be shown in the trading circles and in every-day life. . There is no need for exaggerated statements as to what is likely to happen. I support the Govern- - ment’s proposal, not because I am a lover of the proposed taxation in the abstract, but because the principles on which it is based are fair and just, considering the times through which we are passing. In the immediate future in the work of building up and reconstruction here and elsewhere, we shall hear the cry repeated, “Wolf! wolf! wolf!” and must be careful not to be led away by panic, but must see that emphatic reasons are advanced when it is contended that there is danger ahead. I do not doubt the honesty of purpose and integrity of those who represent the landed interests of Australia - if I were a land-owner it is possible that my views might be somewhat modified - but in, a Parliament like this we are bound to guard against . being seized by panic in the framing of legislation.
.- I regret that the Income Tax Bill was passed so hurriedly. At the time I was engaged in the Library collating certain figures which I wished to put before the Chamber. My only justification for mentioning the matter now is that the increased income tax and the proposed additional impost on the land of the Commonwealth have a common purpose, and an increase or decrease of the one has a reflex action on the other. I am entirely opposed to the 20 per cent, increase in the land tax. Those who represent city constituencies do not regard the seriousness of the position as it affects the sum total of national prosperity. If the land is unduly taxed, the value of its production is materially affected, and as the prosperity of the whole community is so largely dependent upon primary products, the interests of those people whom my friends opposite more particularly represent are similarly affected.
If I had had the opportunity of speaking on the Income Tax Bill I would have called attention to a very large amount of revenue which is being lost. I have frequently called the attention of the House to this matter, but I have not been able to galvanize the Treasurer into activity. The British Imperial Oil Company, which is doing a business of about £1,500,000 per annum, is absolutely - escaping the payment of all taxation. If one company is able to avoid the payment
of taxation in this way, other companies may be in the same position. J think that the Treasurer should take immediate action in regard to this company. It is doing 50 per cent, of the motor fuel trade of Australia, and yet it shows no profit. It did show a profit until the Commonwealth imposed an income tax. Thereupon, it transferred its properties to either subsidiary or parent bodies in the Old World, and thus escaped the payment of income tax. If it is the purpose of the Government to tax the great primary industries under such a proposal as this, an honest policy towards them demands that the law as affecting other taxation shall be vigorously enforced. There should be no means of escape, and when an honorable member states in the House that certain things are being done, it is the bounden duty of the Government to take the matter in hand, and not merely to send a minor officer to inquire of the company whether it has made a profit. I know that the company to which I have referred is one of the most anxious in” the Commonwealth to develop its trade. Month after month it issues circulars to every one of its customers in solicitation of their further, trade, and yet its balancesheet shows no profit. That such things can take place is a very serious matter. I could produce figures as to the amount of business being done by the company. Yet it pays no taxation. My point is that if in other departments there are serious lapses of that nature, inordinate taxation on land is unnecessary. It is quite true, as the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has interjected, that city lands are taxed in common with country lands. But the interests that will suffer under this impost are those of the producers, which materially affect the welfare of the masses.Whilst everybody recognises the value and importance of the trading interests, and how much they mean in the payment of wages, nevertheless, the great prosperity of any country depends upon its primary production. Many large holdings in Central Australia are producing in the aggregate considerable sums of money, and distributing very large amounts to the wageearners, and if Parliament by undue taxation hampers their operations, the lease holders will drop out. It is not an unknown experience that the pastoral lessees, who have ministered so much to the welfare of the country, have surrendered their holdings owing to bad seasons. I could point to huge tracts of country which are now idle, simply because the results obtained from them were not commensurate with the labour and the risks. Now .the Government propose to make leaseholders pay still more taxation, and the result will be most unsatisfactory to the people whom honorable members opposite claim to represent. Those people will feel as soon as any other section of the community the unfortunate effects of a tax upon the primary producer. This is a step in the wrong direction: moreover, it means the adoption of inequitable taxation. The land-owners are required to pay income tax in common with others; they must pay also land tax. The honorable member for Melbourne said that a medical man builds up a practice, and when he dies his practice goes for nothing. That is not so. A professional man, worthy of the name, leaves when he dies a practice that has a marketable value.
– Broadly speaking, every man who builds up a professional practice creates an asset which is saleable when he retires or dies, and I cannot see any difference between his position and that of the land-owner. As a representative of a farming and land-holding constituency, I object to a 20 per cent, increase of the existing high rate of land tax. I advise the Government to call a halt in regard to this matter, and see if they cannot, by a more perfect” system of collecting the revenue to which they are already entitled, and perhaps by further increasing the income tax, square the ledger, instead of enforcing this increased land tax, which, I know, will be prejudicial to the interests of the country as a whole.
.- There is one aspect of this impost about which the Government have been -.very clear, namely, that it is introduced in no sense as a peace time policy. Whilst that is clear to the Government and their supporters, there is a big section of the community who have been reared in the belief that land taxation will cure all the ills from which the community suffers. Amongst other things, it is claimed that land taxation will make land available to everybody at cheap rates. The history of recent years has proved the disinclination of the great mass of the people to have anything to do with the primary industries at first hand. In other words, while city industries provide families with remunerative employment, they will not face the vicissitudes that attend landed pursuits under the uncertain conditions existing. It is well to remind those people that while the land tax may tax one man off the land ithas failed to place another man on it. We may, by taxation, deprive the country districts of their population, but we cannot by taxation place population on the land. Of course it will be said in the country on a fitting occasion that those of us who oppose this Bill to-day do so because we are solicitous of the interests of the big. landholder.
– Hear, hear!
– I won my position in this Parliament as an opponent of the Federal land tax.
– With the assistance of the big land-holders.
– With the assistance of the little land-owners, and the majority of the electors. My explanation then was, and is now, that if the people desire to get on the land, land should be made available for them. Land should be put to its highest uses if we are to increase our population and develop the country. I repeat again that when Federation was accepted it was solemnly avowed that the State would control the lands and the settlement policy. Every State Government has absolute power in existing legislation to direct and control land settlement. Even in Victoria the Government have power of compulsory acquisition, and, if land settlement be right and proper, it was properly designed in the terms of the Federation that the States should retain and operate that power. I would assist to place on the land any people who desire to go there. I am not at all concerned about the interests of the large land-holders. I have alwaysfound that they, especially company landholders, are capable of looking after themselves, but I recognise that in the vast areas many of these companies are profitably employing their capital; they are out in advance of closer settlement. I am as keen as any man in my desire to put the land to its highest use, and to put the maximum of population upon it. But this legislation will not achieve that. The most ardent advocates of the Federal land tax in this House and in another place have freely acknowledged that the tax has failed absolutely to create a rural population. It has only further increased the burden of those already on the land. My only object “in speaking a second time on this motion is to anticipate the misrepresentations of those gentlemen who will seek to convince the people that those of us who oppose this further instalment of the land tax do so for the purpose of assisting the large land-holders. My concern is not for them, but for the small land-holders.
.- I should not have risen to discuss the motion had it not been that the subjectmatter has been surrounded by the speeches of the members” of the Opposition with an extraordinary atmosphere of misconception. Their Leader (Mr. Tudor) dwelt with emphasis on the statement that the taxation of the land-owner is being increased only 20 per cent., whereas that of the ordinary taxpayer is being increased 30 per cent. The honorable gentleman ignored the fact that the landowner pays land tax in addition to the income tax that he pays in common with other citizens. Every man who makes an income from the production of Lis land is called upon to pay income taxation in proportion to his income, just as other citizens are taxed in proportion to their incomes; but, in addition, the land-owner has to pay land tax, and this land tax is not necessarily in any way in proportion to his income. Moreover, it has been contended that land taxation falls chiefly on the owners of valuable town allotments; but that is not the case, because of the total value of the land that is taxed only £15,000,000 is represented by city and town lands, and £36,000,000 is represented by country lands. The land tax is not in any shape or form an income tax. It is imposed on the land-owner in addition to income taxation, and irrespective of whether he is making an income from his land or not.
– What is it that gives value to land?
– The industry of its owner.
– I do not wish to be drawn from my argument by an interjection like that of the honorable member, but it is easy to answer him by replying that, so far as country lands are concerned, their value is due mainly to the efforts of those who hold them. It is the hardships:, industry, and brains of the pioneers of Australia and those who hold from them that have* given value to our country lands. Our town lands would be of little value, and there would be little employment for the vast numbers who live in. comfort and prosperity in the towns were it not for the efforts of country land-owners. The land tax is a serious and crushing impost on a special body of taxpayers, who have to find the money required to pay the tax whether they are making anything out of their land or not. Sometimes, for years in succession, men lose money by their efforts at primary production.
– They are great patriots !
– Yes; the men and. the women who have gone out into the bush and done pioneering work, and those who are developing the lands of the country now, are patriots.
– Men like Sydney Kidman.
– If the honorable member will address his taunt to me personally, I am prepared to answer his interjection.
– You do not mean to say that you created the value of the lands you hold?
– There is not a farthing that I possess which I have not made by assisting to increase the primary productions of Australia. My efforts have been for the increasing of the food supplies of this country, and for the produce tion of the wool, which gives such great prosperity to the people of Australia. It is my labour, aided by the efforts of others, that have given me what I possess, and have enabled me to offer wellpaid employment.
– I thought that most of the landholders were in business for the good of their health.
– It would be a poor country to live in if those who went into business did not bend their energies to making those businesses profitable. If every business man went insolvent, there wouldbe no prosperity, no employment, and, consequently, no food or wages.
– It is the workers who have produced your wealth for you.
– Yes, under the direction of those who know how to provide them with profitable employment, and are thus able to pay them good wages.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– It has been suggested in the course of this debate that those who represent what maybe described as landowners’ electorates are opposed to land-owners bearing their fair share of the burden of taxation. For that suggestion there is absolutely no foundation. The land-owners of Australia have shown themselves ready to assume every burden in connexion with this war and every attendant responsibility that might fairly be placed upon them. The reason why I and those who think with me object to this proposed increase in the tax on unimproved land values is that we believe it to be unfair, since it has to be borne by one section of. the community.
– -In what sense is it unfair?
– Every land-owner in Australia has to pay, and cheerfully will pay, his full share of income taxation, and it is unfair that in addition he should be selected to bear this special impost.
I understand that this is an appropriate occasion on which to discuss the principles upon which land taxation is based. Many references have been made to the great debate which took place on the first Bill introduced into this House to provide for the taxation of unimproved land values. I have read the report of that debate, and have endeavoured to make myself familiar with the arguments then advanced in support of the principle. I had a slight personal acquaintance with the world’s great apostle of what was known as the single tax, but what has come to be known as the taxation of unimproved land values. I refer to the late Henry George.
– Does the honorable member believe in his doctrines?
– I do not support the principles of Mr. Henry George’s single tax. I also had the privilege of a more or less intimate acquaintance with another great apostle of the principle of placing upon land-owners the entire hurden of taxation j I refer to the late Mr. Max Hirsch. I have carefully studied the works of both these writers.
– The honorable member must have had a lot of time to waste.
– In the days to which I refer I perhaps did waste some time, but in listening to the speeches made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) I always feel as Paul must have felt when sitting at the feet of Gamaliel. I never feel that I am wasting time -when listening to his addresses. All the arguments in favour of the single tax and the tax on so-called unimproved land values are subject to the fatal objection that they assume that in the ownership and occupation of land used for the purposes of primary production there is something essentially different from what there is in the ownership of any other form of property. The late Henry George, the late Max Hirsch, and those distinguished members of this Parliament who advocate the taxation of unimproved land values have utterly failed to show in what respect the ownership of land so far as the bearing of the heavy burden of taxation is concerned should be distinguished from the ownership of any other form of property. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) tells me that a tax on unimproved land values does not touch improvements. As a matter ‘of fact, a tax on so-called unimproved land values is very frequently paid by the improvements. If it were a tax on unimproved land, one could understand it, but, as a matter of fact, it leaves unimproved land almost entirely free. Speaking generally, land which has not been improved has little or no unimproved value. What gives a value to the country lands of Australia is the value of the industry which has been put into them by the owners of country lands.
– And bv the industry of the people generally. “ Mr. JOWETT.- Not to the same extent..
– Is it not quite clear that industry employed apart altogether from the improvement of land affects the value of the land?
– That may be largely so in respect of city lands, but such industry is not responsible for the creation of what are known as unimproved land values in country districts. The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) asked, before we adjourned for dinner, whether the workers did not create the value of land. In replying to that interjection, let me refer to one industry of which the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner), and his father before him, have been most distinguished representatives. I refer to the industry of improving the breed of sheep. If there are any factors which have contributed above all others to the present undoubted prosperity of our people they are, first of all, the enormous production of wool in Australia, and, secondly, the satisfactory prices which we are obtaining for that wool from the Imperial Government. Putting aside for the moment the price that we are receiving for our wool, honorable members who have not been closely connected with the pastoral industry do not realize that possibly the greater part of the wool produced in Australia to-day is the result of the skill of the sheep-breeders of Australia. I well remember the first visit I paid to a sheep station in Victoria. It was in the year 1879, and the type of sheep which prevailed in Victoria and the Riverina in those days was vastly different from the type which is found there to-day. As the result of the skill of the sheep-breeders, the quantity of wool per sheep produced in Australia has practically doubled since 1879. The skill displayed in the sheep-breeding industry has been the chief factor contributing to the increased value of country lands. It has contributed enormously also to the value of city property to which the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has referred. These sheep breeders, as a result of whose efforts the quantity of wool per sheep produced in Australia has been practically doubled during “the last forty years, were almost invariably owners of country lands. They were largely the progenitors of the very land-owners whom at least one member of the Opposition would practically tax out of existence by placing upon them the entire burden of our war expenditure.
– Does the honorable member think that the special type of rams bred by the honorable member for Hume and his father before him, have been solely responsible for the doubling of the production of wool per sheep in Australia 1
– I do not say that his breed of rams alone have had that result; but the improvements made in the sheep of Australia by the sheep-breeders during the last forty years have been responsible for it.
– The sheep-breeders have done no more than the engineers have done in the way of progress.
– I fail to see what the engineers have had to do with the increased wool production of Australia, although no doubt in other directions they have rendered great service. However, I must not be diverted from my argument by interjections. Honorable members opposite have inferred that it is the land which pays this tax on the unimproved value. The very idea is preposterous; it is not the land which pays the tax, but it is the land-owner. Then it is alleged that the land-owner pays the tax out of the unimproved land value; but the land-owner, like any other citizen, has no source from which he can pay the tax except from his income, ‘or, if his income is insufficient, . from borrowed money. Therefore, this is not a tax on land, but a tax on the land-owner; and it is a tax which was expressly designed for the purpose of dragging down the value of freehold land.
– What does your Government propose to do?
– The Assistant Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton), who is in charge of the House, is well able to answer.
– And how will the honorable member vote?
– I shall vote as my conscience dictates.
– I should like to hear the Assistant Minister for the Navy say what he thinks on the question !
– I have no doubt that the Assistant Minister for the Navy could make a most excellent speech, as he is always able to do ; at any rate, I notice that he has always been able to stand up to honorable members opposite when they have reviled and abused him. But my purpose is not to defend the Minister. When the value of land has been dragged down until it has no unimproved value at all - as has happened in the case of a very large area in Australia - the value of the improvements is also dragged down ; until we find, as at the present time, areas worth no more than practically the improvements.
My honorable friends opposite may think they have done something noble and wonderful in dragging down the value of freehold land, but I te.ll them that that is the worst thing that could ° happen in the interests of Australia.
– It is your own side that is doing it.
– At present I am presenting the case for the land-owners and primary producers, and pointing out that an evil thing has been done in the dragging down of the value of land. It is by the efforts of honorable members opposite, and by the efforts of the State Governments with their heavy taxation, that this deterioration of the value of land in Australia has been brought about. If wo wish the land of Australia to be well cared for, we must make it the interest of every man on the land tq improve and preserve it. At the present time, if a man finds that pests are invading his land, and necessitate large expenditure for protection, he sees that it will pay him better to abandon the land and take up other areas not subject to pests.
– I had no intention to precipitate myself into the debate at this stage, and would not have done so if I had not had before me the illuminating example of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett). When I came in a moment or two ago, I found him propounding the question - What is the difference between land and any other commodity? I suggest for his consideration, as a first difference, that land is not a commodity at all. Land is unlike any other thing which is the creation of man’s industry by the application of labour. Land, as the honorable member ought to lin’-w, is the arena which has been given to the human race by a beneficent Creator on which to work out its destiny, and from it to draw either abundance or a sparsity, according to whether its labour applied to the land is greater or less, and fairly or unfairly divided.
– By the “ sweat of his brow.”
– Quite so. It unfortunately happens that many persons occupy land, and many persons announce themselves as land-owners - and not without some fairly good reason - who do not contribute much to the wealth of the world by the “ sweat “ of their “ brows,” or by any operation of industry that is known to the human mind. It is those persons whom it is desired to tax by the proposal now before the House - taxed not sufficiently or adequately to my mind, not. fairly as compared with the imposts that are levied on other persons, but, at least, it is proposed to make pretence by this motion of an adequate imposition on those who “ draw revenues from wealth which they do not create. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) in his eloquent - I might almost say hh eloquent and amiable address, so characteristic of him - appeared to think that the inter jection I made about value being given to land by operations altogether external to the land itself applied only to town and suburban lands. The honorable member appeared to think, also, that my experience of land and land-owners was limited to the suburban radius. Had he known more about me he would have known that my riper and richer experience - I apply the word, “richer” only to my experience - on the land and of land conditions., was acquired in the better part of my life m the farming industry in country districts, as a “ son of the soil.” Not, let me say, in those easier and more remunerative conditions enjoyed by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), but still in conditions calculated to improve a man’s mind as to the value of land, both unimproved and improved.
It is not a fact at all that the operations of the community give extra value to city lands only. What would the honorable member say of a railway carried alongside his run for the purpose1 of conveying his wool to market? What does he say of the ports and harbors that are created by taxation on the people generally, for the like purpose? What does he say about roads and bridges, which by means of taxes imposed on the general public are created for the benefit of the squatter and land-owner?
– These do not increase the productivity of the land.
– If that be so, the honorable member may sleep comfortably in his bed to-night, because this tax under such circumstances will not affect him in the very least, for if there be no improvements there is no tax. It is only as soon as the general contribution of the State and community begins to operate externally altogether to the person who owns and occupies the land, that the tax on the unimproved value begins to take effect.
– All those services - roads, bridges, railways, and everything else - would be valueless but for the production of the primary producers.
– And we pay for the services.
– It is not very likely that ports and harbors would be created if there were no products to take to markets; it is not very likely that railways would be constructed if there were no trains to run with produce of one kind and another. However, that does not affect in the slightest degree the argument I make, namely, that these railways, roads, bridges, and services of various kinds are the creation of the public generally, and not of the land-owner.
– The land-owner pays for the use of them.
– He pays only as a member of the general community.
– He pays fully for them.
– He does not pay specially, as one who benefits speciall -. unless under a tax of this kind; he doe? pay, of course, as a member of the general community and a taxpayer. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) - if he will pardon my being personal - pays for services out of which he makes huge profits precisely only at the same rate as I pay for the same services without making profits; that is the difference between the honorable member and myself.
– You make your profits as well as I do.
– The honorable member is dealing with something that has no relation to the subject. I make profits, in the language of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch), by the “sweat of my brow,” more or less: and on these profits I have to submit to be taxed. Whatever the - efforts of the professional man may be-
– He always charges.
– That is not the point. The point is that the effort is one entirely personal to himself. He is paid for a service rendered, just in the same way as is the man who wields the pick and shovel; he is paid on the same principle, ‘though not, I admit, with parallel adequacy. If the remuneration is not the same, or fairly .similar, that is simply part of a system of injustice against which I myself have always protested. It follows from what I have teen saying that when the honorable member for Grampians asserts that there is anybody on this side of the House, or, I may say on the Government side, who wishes to tax the land-owners out of existence, he may be assured that there is no thought of taxing them out of anything that rightfully belongs to them,, even if this tax were much greater than it is, or as great as I think it ought to be. The honorable member has cited the great services rendered to the pastoral industry, and, incidentally, to the community by the improvement effected to the breed of a certain class of sheep. I concede that the community is a gainer by reason of all improvements in industry, and adventures of that sort, just as “it is a gainer by all sorts of useful inventions which may be added to the sum of the world’s knowledge. We who stand for the principle of taxation on unimproved values of land claim that the person who is the primary agent, the inventor, the worker, or the discoverer is entitled to the full reward of his efforts, industry, or discovery. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner), and his honored parent, now gone, were fully entitled to, and have enjoyed, if I am not mistaken, the full benefit of their industry in regard to the improvement of the breed of a. certain class of sheep.
– They have enjoyed it much more than have many inventors.
– As the honorable member has said, they have enjoyed it much more than have many inventors, who have, unfortunately, been born to blush unseen, or who, if seen, have had their rights taken away from them by some enterprising speculator who, as middleman or direct buyer, has made huge profits, out of their discoveries. Whether the honorable member for Hume has added to the. world’s riches by improving the breed of sheep, or, as the- honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) has interjected, the world has been improved by an invention in engineering, the essential point is that the reward should go to the person who is responsible for the improvement or the invention, and, under this system of land taxation, he will get it. We say that only those additions in value which are the direct fruit of the operations of the general public, and the taxation imposed on the general public, should be taxed; and my view is that taxation should not be limited as is proposed in this Bill, and as the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, to. an amount which is far less than is proposed to be imposed pro raid upon little children seeking humble enjoyment at picture shows, circuses, and so on. In peace time, it might well be advocated that the whole of the unimproved value belonging to the State should be taxed by the State. In war time it should be the first duty of any Government to see that no part of the value of land, which is the property of the State, should go into the pockets of profiteers, just as they should see that no war profits, even 1 per cent., should go into the pockets of profiteers. It is from that point of view that I have to thank the honorable member for suggesting these thoughts to me, and so supplying to the world in this crystallized form a little light on the question of land taxation.
– It- is not my intention to say much on this proposal, because these are war times, and we must adopt extraordinary means to raise revenue to meet our war expenses, but some of the arguments used to-night are astonishing. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) characterizes the proposal to place an additional 20 per cent, on the primary producers of this country as simply a pretence. His attitude is merely in keeping with the general arguments put forward by honorable members opposite when they say that this Bill is merely to be regarded as an instalment.
– Goodness knows what they would impose if they were in power !
– They say that they would take the lot. If their proposal is absolute confiscation - and that is in their platform - an easy way to bring it about is by imposing such a high rate of taxation as will render the land of no value, and make it an easy matter for the State to become the land-holder. According to honorable members’ arguments the railways have been provided for the benefit of the ‘men who have gone out to subdue the wilderness, but when a man on the land sends down his wool, does he not pay for the accommodation? Are not these railways equally of benefit to the people in the city? I realize that this proposed land tax does not apply to the country landowner only, and that it applies also to the city dweller. I have always ‘been a believer in a land tax, but not for revenue purposes. In fact, I had the honour of proposing a progressive land tax for the purpose of bursting up big estates, which are a curse in any country; but for revenue purposes it seems to me that a land tax should be the last resource. I know that it is not popular to talk of graziers. There seems to be a desire on the part of some persons to say that -the grazier lias no right to exist.
– I have not said that.
– The whole of the honorable member’s arguments tended that way. The honorable member would tax the grazier out of existence, and thus bring about confiscation. “Where would the city dwellers be without the wool or the wheat produced by the men on the land ? When a drought occurs in the country, what happens in the city? To-morrow, if a tidal wave were to sweep over Melbourne, which contains more than half the people of Victoria, the country would go on all the same; but if a tidal wave were to sweep over the country, what would happen to the city? Its people would be suffering from starvation within seven days.’ From what some honorable members say, to be on the land is to be in a paradise.
– The honorable member for Batman left the land.
– He probably made a prudent choice. After an experience of endeavouring to extract stumps, the honorable member has chosen a life of extracting fees. Unfortunately, the trend of population in this country is towards the city. The honorable member has sneered at the services rendered by Mr. Falkiner and his son, the honorable member for Hume in improving the breed of sheep in Australia; in fact, in doubling the wool production of this continent. What has Farrar done to improve the wheat-growing industry? Yet these men are sneered at. Let me tell those who dwell in the cities and suburbs that they cannot expect any success or prosperity for , this country unless the men on the land are given a chance.
– What did Farrar get out of it? Nothing at all?
– Nothing. At any rate, he was a benefactor to Australia. I .am not speaking of what men have got out of their efforts. We do not blame the honorable member for Hume because he has been successful. There seems to be an idea amongst some honorable members that we snail settle our returned soldiers on the land. If we do so under present conditions, I am afraid that not’ many of them will succeed. Those who succeed on the land are few and far between. For every successful settler there are ten who fail. I do not know of any land-holder who has an easy time. The dairy-farmer. who has to get up- early in the morning, and work hard in the wet and cold, gets very little for his labour. Yet we are told that this tax is only a pretence, and that if honorable members opposite get to the Treasury bench they will double it, in order to bring about confiscation. It is dangerous talk. It will be very interesting to compare some of the speeches to-night, especially that of the Leader of the great party opposite, with some of the speeches which will be made at Corangamite “when honorable members opposite are courting the farmers’ vote. Honorable members have a very curious method of showing their friendship for the farmer in seeking to tax him. Every man should be called upon to pay his fair share of taxation, but there can be no comparison between a tax on amusements and a tax on the primary producers of this country. I propose to vote for the proposal of the Government, because money for war purposes must be raised, and this will not press hardly on the small primary producers, who are the real backbone of the Commonwealth.
– The whole case given away in a single sentence.
– I do not sneer at the small land-holder, as does the honorable member. I am not a believer in land taxation for revenue purposes. If honorable members opposite are consistent, why do they say nothing about the plank in their platform to wipe out the exemption? Why have they not pointed out that when their time comes they will cut out .the exemption? We hear nothing from them on that point, and yet they sneer at me because I say that this tax is not so hard because it does not hit the man who is making a bare living. If it hit the small cocky or the small dairyman, I would vote against theBill, because I am here to represent and protect these men.
– We oan save them from, the tax, but not from the effect of it. It will reduce the small man’s area.
– We have heard a lot about taxation, but we have heard nothing about retrenchment or cutting down the expenditure that necessitates taxation. There are many avenues for retrenchment, and also for taxation, apart from taxing the man on the land. The bootmaker or the tailor can pass on taxation, but the farmer cannot do so. The price of butter and the price of meat are fixed in London.
– The farm’er is the immovable target.
– That is so. It is astonishing to hear honorable members say that the only way to achieve success in this country is to put taxation on the land and bring it up to the confiscation point. According to figures quoted by the honorable member for Calare (Mt. Pigott), in regard to the taxation on land, if this measure is passed the total burden imposed will amount to 19s. Id. in the fi of the unimproved capital value. How can we improve land settlement if we make heavier the burden on land?
– By breaking up the large estates.
– I shall vote for this Bill, because I think it will have that effect. The aggregation of big estates was checked to some extent by the introduction of a land tax. The evil was minimized for a time; but now, under more prosperous conditions, it has revived, and I think that this tax will probably have a steadying influence. But we are basing -our calculations on good seasons and- war-time prices, the like of which we shall probably not see again. If we return to the old conditions, the old prices, and the old seasons - for the seasons come in cycles- the man on the land will have a difficulty in making both ends meet. For that reason we ought, besides imposing taxes on land and income, to honestly and seriously consider whether we cannot dispense with some of our extravagant Depart- ments, and institute business management, and so reduce the necessity for taxation. The country should “be run as a private business is run. If a business man found that his expenditure was exceeding his income he would not be incurring heavier expenditure, but would look about for the leakages. That is what we ought to do. I support the Bill because it will provide the Treasurer with a .large sum of money, which is necessary to meet the war charges-; but I remind the Committee that the landholder is being taxed nearly to breaking point. If, however, the Bill will have the effect of bursting up big estates, as I believe it will, it will do some good after all.
– It is introduced, not for that purpose, but for revenue purposes.
– The Leader of the Opposition said that he would vote for the tax, and double it if he had- his way, because of the tax imposed on entertainments.
– The honorable member must not put words into my mouth. I said I would vote for the Bill, and that it involved only a 20 per cent, increase.
– I inferred from the honorable member’s remarks that he would be prepared to make the increase 40 per cent. Certainly, honorable members on the Opposition side have said that the burden is not heavy enough, bearing in mind that the Acting P.rime Minister (Mr. Watt) would not agree to lighten the entertainments tax. As a matter of fact, the Treasurer did offer to make a concession in respect of children’s tickets, but it was refused by honorable members opposite because the Government would not go far enough.
– And we inserted the concession in the Senate in defiance of them.
– We know what the cry of “ tax the man “on the land” means.
– The honorable member said that the tax -would not touch the small man, and that he would vote for it.
– In war time we have to swallow lots of things. I .should like the Acting Prime Minister to say whether this tax is to be a regular thing. Will he give his assurance that this land tax will not become -a habit ? I agree with the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) that this is a war-time proposition, and I ask the Government to say whether they intend this to be a standard land tax or only an instalment of what -they will later propose, or whether it is merely a wartime measure?
– I regard this as a wartime impost.
– In that case I shall vote for the Bill.
Mr. -Finlayson. - The honorable member would vote for anything.
– The honorable member wanted us to negotiate peace with Germany in order to end the war. I preferred to end the war by victory, as we have done.
– According to the Acting Prime Minister, we are still to have peace by negotiation.
– But not by negotiation with the Kaiser.
– It is unfair of honorable members to attack the officials of the Taxation Department. I have had transactions with them on behalf of my constituents, and I consider that they are able, efficient, and courteous. I know that they take the very wise course of helping taxpayers with their advice, instead of sending them to solicitors and the Law Courts. It is not fair for honorable members to criticise officials, who cannot defend themselves. I am not accustomed to praising officials, because I consider that we have too many of them, and that the time has come for a reduction of our establishments. I have given my reasons for voting for the Bill. The time should shor tly come when we can relieve the land of much’ of the present taxation. Honorable members must not forget the difference between land tax and
Income tax. A man engaged in a manufacturing industry has to make a profit before he is required to pay income tax; but a man on the laud may have suffered losses through fire and drought, and yet have to pay land tax, even when ruin is staring him in the face. However, as the Acting Prime Minister has said that he regards this as war-time taxation, and we may take it that immediately we are able to adjust our finances and cut off many of the present extravagances, we shall be able to get rid of the war-time imposts, I shall support the measure.
.- It appears to me that the Bill may succeed, with the assistance of two divergent classes of opinion. One class of opinion is held by those who say, “ Do anything, so long as we get money for the war,” and the other class of opinion is represented by the whole-hogger in land taxation. I cannot reconcile the two opinions ; nor oan I see’ how we can be so very determined in our view that this money is required for the war, when, so far, we know very little of what is wanted for the war during the present year. The Treasurer’s Budget statement set out the facts, but we have had no discussion of it, and there must be many different views regarding its contents. At a time like this, when large sums of money have to be raised, in excess of anything we ever thought of previously, we must consider how much money is required, and whether, by the adoption of the Budget proposals, we shall get enough or too much. I recognise that there may be difficulties in the way of discussing the Budget and ascertaining how much money we really require. I am told that the Budget is not usually discussed very early in the financial year; but the conditions are so extraordinary that it is impossible, without such a discussion, for any honorable members to form View3 as to the necessity for raising additional revenue. That raises a considerable difficulty, because the only justification some honorable members have for voting for this taxation is that t-he money is urgently required, -and that this is the best method of raising it. After close study of the figures, I take the view that the Budget is £7,000,000 short of what we ought to raise by taxation. It appears to me that the principle that has been adopted in Great Britain in regard to the financing of the war, and the position in which the country should be at the moment when peace comes upon it, is the right, one. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer and hi3 predecessor have laid down the basis upon which a Budget should be prepared for such an eventuality, and the Budget of the Treasurer, as I read it, is not planned on that basis. - We have not had an opportunity of discussing what amount ought to be raised by taxation, or by what methods it should be raised, and that places us in a considerable difficulty as to the attitude we should adopt on a measure of this .kind. In regard to the whole-hogger land taxer, he is making a bad compromise with his conscience if he accepts ibis Bill; but I suppose he thinks it better to accept this tha-n to receive nothing. I certainly would not support a measure introduced for the one purpose of raising revenue, and regard it as a step in the direction of land taxation. If the Government, in due course, propose a land tax as a part of their policy, I shall be prepared’ to “vote upon it as such; but any vote I may cast upon this measure will not be governed by any views I hold in - regard to land taxation. If this is a revenue measure pure .and simple,, it is a very inequitable one. It is introduced for revenue purposes only, for we are not at the present moment considering any question of policy in regard to land, and in passing it we should be throwing a certain extra burden on one section of the community. We are throwing this additional burden on one class of the community in order to increase the revenue demanded by the expenditure upon the war, and that, to my mind, is unjust. We may tax the land if we believe in the principle of land taxation, but if our object now is merely to raise revenue to meet the expenditure on the war, we should distribute the burden of taxation in the most equitable way possible, and should not throw it specially on any one class. I cannot” support the motion as a measure of land taxation, because I understand that it is not land taxation in the special acceptation of the term, and I cannot support it as a revenue-raising proposal, because it contemplates an unjust way of raising the money needed.
.- My objection to the motion is similar to that of several of the speakers who have preceded me. other taxing of land for revenue purposes is a new principle in Commonwealth taxation. The Commonwealth land tax, under which the land-owners of Australia have suffered for some years past, was imposed for one purpose only, that was, to break up the large estates. Whether it has had that effect is a matter of opinion. The subject cannot be discussed now; my view is that in bad years such taxation will help to break up the large estates, but in good years it must fail of effect. In the development of every new country the land is at first taken up and held in big areas, and these are gradually reduced as it becomes more valuable, and there are more persons ready to occupy and use it. The more land is improved, and the more valuable it becomes, the more quickly it is subdivided. One man or one family cannot long continue to hold lands of an immense value. If we are to adopt the principle that land is properly taxable for revenue purposes only, I am driven to ask, Why is it necessary to impose any limitation on the tax? Why tax only the holders of land possessing an unimproved value of not less than £5,000? What is the essential difference between the ownership of land and the ownership of other property ?
– Did I not make that clear ?
– The honorable member sneered at the land-holders, who, he suggested, do not earn their bread by the sweat of their brow. I have yet to learn that he and the other members of his profession earn their living by similarly strenuous personal exertion. They do not draw up their deeds with the longhandled shovel. To my mind, land is merely an instrument of production, something to be used for the making of an income. What essential difference is there between the man who owns land and uses it to make an income, and the man who owns machinery and so uses it? What difference is there between land and a factory, that the owner of land should be singled out for taxation from which the factory-owner is exempt?
– One is the work of God and the other is the work of man.
– I wonder what the honorable member is. When the Commonwealth Constitution was framed, land taxation was held to be chiefly within the province of the State authorities, and the Commonwealth authority has in a measure continued to recognise that that was the intention of’ the framers of the Constitution, because it has refrained from levying taxation on land merely for revenue purposes, or, at least, has professed to do so. The State need of money is growing, and State income taxation and land taxation are getting bigger and bigger. Where are they going to stop? In the exercise of their sovereign powers the State authorities can tax land up to the limit of its value. If the Commonwealth determines to do the same, what will be the future of the land-owner ? It has been interjected that no man need own land. That, of course, is true in a measure, but if a man has bought land and is making his living by the use of it, and does not understand any other way of making a living, surely it is not of advantage to the State to deprive him of that means of livelihood, or to deprive the community of the production which results from his industry.
– Many men make their living from land which they do not own.
– There may be something to be said for the contention of honorable members opposite that Government should own all land, and lease it out to its citizens. But surely it would be dishonest to dispossess the present land-holders by taxing them to such an extent that they would be forced to relinquish their holdings.
– It would not be so dishonest as to believe a tax to be unjust, and yet to vote for it.
– Holding the views that I have expressed, I must vote against the motion.
– Then I apologize.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has said that it is the railways and other public works that have made the value of the land and the wealth of the land-owners. He entirely forgets that these public works have not been constructed wholly for the benefit of the land-owners; that the working men whom he is supposed to represent have benefited as much, or more, from this expenditure. There would be no one in the cities if it were not for the labours of the men on the land and the wealth which they produce. They give traffic to the railways and employment to those in the cities. Of course, railways are necessary to the profitable occupation of land, but they have not been built solely to benefit the land-owner. We are now asked to affirm a new principle of taxation, namely, that revenue should be . got specially from one class of the community, which should be taxed over and above all the other classes. It is contended that the land-owning class should to a larger extent than any other be made responsible for the cost of the war, and for the repatriation of our soldiers. To my mind, that is a wrong contention. Every man, no matter how he makes his living, has been benefited by the glorious victory of our soldiers, and should bear his share of the costs of the war, according to his ability to pay.
– Does the honorable member know that the Acting Prime Minister was once a single-taxer ?
– I have never been a singletaxer; but I am a sane land-taxer.
– We should not put an additional burden on the man on the land. Australia’s burden of taxation can be lightened only by getting more men to settle on the land than are there now, thus increasing the production of the country. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) said that if this taxation bore too heavily on the man on the land, estates would be in the market, and advertised in the newspapers for sale.
But what is the cause of the aggregation of population in the capitals of Australia, which is a serious danger -to the community? The reason for it is that the man on the land is too heavily burdened, and cannot do so well as the man in the city. If a man could do as well in the country, and enjoy there the facilities which are enjoyed by city dwellers; if he could educate his children without difficulty, and make as much money as the city dweller makes, he would not leave the country and come to the city. It is because those on the land are not so well off as those in the city that there “is a” drift to the city.
– Is the aggregation of population in cities confined to Australia ! ls it not characteristic of every industrial country ?
– It does occur in other countries, but it is worse in Australia than elsewhere, and it is becoming more accentuated here. I do not say that the proposed increase of taxation will have absolutely disastrous effects, but it will add to the burden of those on the land - which is already intolerable. There are many causes tending to drive men off the land and into the cities, and the determination of this Parliament that the landowners should bear taxation beyond that borne by any other section of the community will help to bring about what we ought to try to prevent - the drift from the country into the city. It is by increasing the settlement of our land that our wealth will be increased.
.- 1 was a member of the Victorian Parliament when our Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) - who says that he was never a single-taxer but a sane land-taxer - introduced a Bill, which I supported, totax the unimproved land values of Victoria.
– His was a. speech.
– It was one of the finest speeches that the honorable gentleman has made. I am pleased to be able to support him again to-night. I have bi en surprised to hear those who occupy seats on the corner benches speak in opposition to the motion. They ought to be glad that they are not being asked to pay a -war indemnity. Those who went in their thousands to fight for this country did not go because of the pay that was offered to them.
– Did not the sons of land-owners volunteer like the sons of other members of the community?
– Those who went were actuated by no other consideration than this: that their country was in danger. They offered their lives in its defence. -Now that the war is over, and the cost of it has to be met, we find the Tory element pleading that the working classes should be compelled to bear the burden of taxation.
– That statement is utterly incorrect.
– Is this a demonstration on tlie part of the Economy party? In view of what the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Leckie) has said, one would imagine that land settlement had gone on apace in this State, prior to the imposition of a tax on unimproved- land values. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) will tell honorable members that before such taxation was imposed, land settlement in Victoria was a decreasing factor. Districts that thirty years before were dotted with homesteads, had been merged into a series of huge estates. The very measure that the Acting Prime Minister introduced into the Victorian Parliament has, to some extent, assisted the legitimate land seeker and land settler here.
Although this proposal is brought in expressly to raise more revenue, it will do good work, if it tends to any extent to promote, land settlement in Australia. The- problem of land settlement is one of the most serious with which we have to grapple. Thousands of returned soldiers are looking for land, and do not know where to obtain it. One honorable member has remarked that the States have full control over the land policy of this country. That, unfortunately for this Parliament.,, is true. The Commonwealth Parliament is up against a- very serious proposition. We are to-day finding money for the States, and we have no control over the settlement of our returned soldiers on the land. Two hundred thousand or more of them will be coming back, and many of them will desire to go on the land, but this Parliament will have little power to assist in gratifying that desire. Every returned soldier will say that wherever he went in the Old Country - whether he was in the tubes, in the street cars, or anywhere else - the one topic of conversation was “ Australia.” If we can obtain the requisite shipping, scores of thousands of people from the United Kingdom will come out here. Everyone who has travelled in Great Britain since .the outbreak of the war will support me in this statement. Many thousands of the people of the Old Country, because of the magnificent physique of our men, and their bearing in the face of danger - perhaps also because of some of the tales our boys have told - are anxious to settle here.
I hope the Ministerial Corner party will reconsider its attitude. The armistice has just been signed - we are on the verge of peace - and surely they do not desire already tei urge that the whole of the burden of the war should be borne by the working classes.
– The honorable member has no right to impute to us such a desire.
– Let the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) be thankful that because of the response that was made to the call of Empire by the men of Australia, as well as by the people of the British Dominions generally, we are able to ask for an indemnity, and that because of the valour of our men we are asked to-day only to pay the interest on the -money we have spent in this war. Our country has been saved by the blood of our men.
– By whose blood? My son died fighting for you. These statements are most dishonorable.
– I must, ask the honorable member to refrain from interjecting. 0
Mi-. McGRATH.- This demonstration on behalf of the landed classes of Australia is most unwise. Some honorable members opposite tell us that they are speaking on behalf of the poor landed classes. I would remind them that no man will have to pay any part of this increased tax, or of the original tax, unless he holds property exceeding in value £8,000. The honorable member for Indi has asked what is the difference between landed property and any other kind of property. Land has a value given to it by the whole community. If a harbor is deepened, a new dockyard constructed, a railway line built, or any other public work undertaken, an added value is given to our lands. Every individual coming from abroad or born in the country gives an added value to our lands. This value is created, not by the landed proprietor, but by the community as a whole. We are proposing by this tax to touch only that portion of the value in land that has been created by the community. There is a most essential difference between landed property and other forms of property. There is- the unearned increment or the unimproved value of land which is created by the community, and it is not proposed to tax any portion of the value created by the land-owner himself. If a farmer owning £8,000 worth of property drains, clears, and cultivates it in order to make it more valuable, the improvements so made by him will not be taxed under this proposal.
– Why should the amount that he pays to the Crown be taxed?
– Such payments should be exempt; but the great principle underlying this form of taxation is absolutely sound. If carried out effectively a tax on unimproved land values must cease to be revenue producing. It will benefit the country, however, by breaking up the large estates which unfortunately predominate to-day. It will tend to cure the very evil mentioned by the honorable member for Indi when he spoke of farmers’ sons leaving the country for our large cities. We deplore the drift towards our big cities, and we recognise the truth of the honorable member’s statement that it is due to the fact that the facilities for comfort and pleasure in country districts are insufficient. The reason for the lack of such facilities is that the Government cannot be expected to run a railway line through miles and miles of territory held by only a few individuals. We cannot have public libraries, State schools, and places of entertainment in districts where a few squatters hold areas of from 10 to 50 square miles in extent. If wo desire to make the country districts attractive - if we want to put’ a stop to the centralization that is setting in here and everywhere else - then this is the class of taxation to which resort must be had. If we break up large estates, and encourage settlement, we shall be able to offer to the people some inducement to live in the rural districts. With numbers of people living in comparatively close proximity we can have free libraries, public institutions, and ample means for entertaining the people on the land. I congratulate the Government on this proposal, and shall have much pleasure in voting for it.
.- All who have studied the war taxation proposals of the Government will realize that this is essentially a class tax. It is to be imposed on one section of the community only, and is different from all other forms of taxation, since it will ba collected from land-owners regardless of whether or not the land held by them i3 yielding any income. Only the necessities of the war warrant a House that believes in the principles of fair taxation in supporting such a proposition.
I do not propose to enter upon a discussion of the principles of unimproved land value taxation, nor shall I debate the question of whether or not the expenditure of public moneys is the main factor’ in creating value in land. If we look into the -subject, however, we shall find that the corporate efforts of the land-owners themselves are alone responsible for the value of their holdings. Railway lines and water supply schemes have been’ carried into their districts as business propositions, and the interest and sinking funds in respect of such undertakings are being provided by the people on the land. It is true that the produce of the farmer would be of little value if there were no consumers in the cities to- purchase it. On the other hand, the city dweller could not live without such produce. Balancing the one against the other, we must- admit that, the creation, of unimproved land values is due to the corporate efforts of the people engaged, in the cultivation of the land.
– I would remind the honorable member that we have not in Australia a population sufficient to consume what we produce.
– That is so. We have to send most of our produce into the markets of the world. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and many others who advocated this form of taxation will find that if the present municipal system of taxing the improved values of. city lands were set aside in favour of an unimproved land values tax the big man would get off lightly and the small man would have to pay the bulk of the tax.
I rose principally to express the view that before asking us to vote for any increased, taxation the Government should have given us an opportunity to discuss the Budget and the Estimates in order that we might ascertain whether additional taxation was really necessary. I am not going to detract from the great work done by the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) in reducing Commonwealth expenditure. We are, however, living in war times, and we believe that before being called upon to consider this question we should have had an opportunity to inform the honorable gentleman that it is the will of Parliament that further reductions should be made in the national expenditure.- Had such an opportunity been afforded us the Treasurer would perhaps have been relieved of: a very, great responsibility that is forced’ upon him. The discussion of the Budget before the introduction of these additional taxation proposals would have enabled him to ascertain the feeling, of the House on tEe question of a further reduction of public expenditure. In that way he would have secured relief from a task which I can well understand in these times of war must almost overwhelm him as a single individual guid”ing the financial destinies of the- Com:monwealth. There has been a very considerable increase in the ordinary expenditure of the Government. Not. only has o.ur war taxation during the war increased from under £1,000,000 to. £22.,000,000, but our ordinary expenditure has also increased, by many millions per annum. If we deduct from our ordinary pre-war. expenditure the expenditure incurred on account of the war and the] amount expended out of revenue on. the construction of public, works we find that, the- increase during the war period is. something like £2,000,000. Honorable members do. not stand in a strong, position when they go to the country and advocate a heavy increase: in taxation, knowing at the- same time, that the ordinary expenditure of the Commonwealth has materially increased. There may be ample justification for certain expenditure, which, in the absence of explanation, we think is extravagant. The Treasurer should have an opportunity to give us detailed reasons for this increased expenditure, and this House, which has the control of the public finances, and whose sanction must be obtained to any proposed new taxation, should be informed of the -real necessities for this additional impost. It should have an opportunity to demand that: public expenditure shall be reduced to the lowest possible minimum consistent with efficiency before new taxation is imposed. If the- Treasurer is given an opportunity he may. be able to show that this new taxation is necessary ; but so far as we can see on: the face on the. Budget, certain expenditure out of revenue can be substantially reduced.
– What is it?
– I shall not go into that question now. I explained certain details the other day; and if the Treasurer will give us an opportunity to deal with the Estimates I shall move certain reductions in the ordinary expenditure. I do not say that in some instances the Treasurer may not be able to give a very satisfactory explanation; but the House ought to have an opportunity to deal with proposed expenditure before it is asked to increase taxation. The present proposal, which I shall not oppose, is. say, a class tax which can only be justified by the- necessities of the country, owing to the war. I am disappointed that the House has not had an opportunity to deal with the public expenditure generally in order to ascertain whether there is not a possibility of reductions in certain directions.
.- So far as I am concerned a division might have been taken long ago; but when I find the Government’s own supporters, ohe after another, condemning this taxation^ -
– Not all of us.
– Well, a large number; and I am surprised that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) can
So -quietly listen to it; it is a case of “.save me from my friends.” There are many who argue that this is a class tax.
– What if it is?
– If it is a class tax, are there no other class taxes ? Have we not quite recently passed a class tax connected with entertainments ? Does the income tax mot apply to certain classes who earn over -a ‘certain sum per annum ? Are there not- many other forms of class taxation ? The question is whether this taxation is necessary; and if it is not necessary we ought not to be debating it. I am surprised that just when the armistice has been signed, and even before we have peace, we find a disposition in this Chamber to place the burden of taxation on other than those who are best able to bear it.- I see in this discussion to-day the forerunner of what may be expected in this House in the very near future. When we get peace, and the coast appears to be clear, then it will be a question of the readjustment of taxation, which will be imposed in an indirect manner so that the revenue will be drawn from the whole of the people of Australia. There is not one member that has argued in that direction up to the present moment.- Everybody admits that it will be necessary to impose increased taxation, and no one has objected t» it; but this evening we are told that this is a class tax, and that it means a tax on the primary producer and every land-owner. It ought to be made clear that this taxation will not affect the poorer classes of the primary producers, who are not taxed to-day. A man must possess land to the unimproved value of £5,000 before he is called upon to pay this taxation. Some honorable members are solicitous for the welfare of those who pay the land tax, but . I ask whether they have not done better during the war than ever before, with the exception of those who are experiencing drought.
– If that is so, they will pay income tax along- with everybody else.
– Those affected by this tax have had good seasons and higher prices than previously. I admit ‘thatthose who have thus benefited will pay increased income tax; and, personally, I should prefer no other tax. I have always argued that there should be one tax only, and that an income tax; but this House has not seen eye to eye with me. It is too late now to say that in place of imposing taxation on those best able to bear it, we should place it on the shoulders of .the great masses of the country, for that is what the argument really amounts to.
I venture to say :that if the land-owners affected are unable to pay the 20 per cent, extra, it would be the best thing that ever happened to the country, because it will make land available for closer settlement.
– If you make inquiries you will find that Ministers of Lands are flooded with applications.
– That may be; but for every .estate resumed for years past there .has been paid too high a price to give an opportunity to men without means to settle and make a living. How many hundreds are there in the different States who have taken up land resumed from private owners, and have been doomed to failure from the inception? This was not because they did not apply themselves to agriculture, but simply because the land was so costly that they were unable to get sufficient from it to pay interest and keep their families.
– What particular estates has that occurred on ?
– There axe many in New South Wales.
– What particular estate? (Mr. CHARLTON. - I cannot at the moment instance the estates, but the honorable .member knows that there -are many in New South Wales.
– I do not.
– The honorable member .could find them if he looked fo.t them. The land tax was imposed to break up large estates, and if war conditions make additional’ revenue necessary, we naturally look to this source. As I say, if it has the effect of breaking up large estates, it will do a service to the country, because it will give an opportunity to many of our gallant returned men to make homes at a reasonable cost. If we require additional revenue, I know of no more suitable source than this.
– A more equitable tax is an income tax.
– If the honorable member had supported me we should have had the income tax, but my voice was like one crying in the wilderness, when I urged the one tax and the one tax only, with an allowance of a sufficient margin to work on. I would not have suggested an exemption of £156, but one of, perhaps, £200; and on all incomes over that amount I should have imposed sufficient taxation to meet the cost of the war. This would have resulted in everybody contributing a fair share, and we should, have been able to pay our way as we went along. Now we have a huge burden to shoulder, and I do not see how the Government can escape imposing further taxation. We owe £280,000,000, and the debt is growing. Even if we have peace within twelve months, it will be two years before our men are returned, and then we shall have to face all the expenditure on pensions, repatriation, and so forth. It is early in the history -of this Chamber to think for a moment that by indirect taxation we can raise all the money necessary ; “and those who have the most wealth, and, therefore, the most to defend, ought to pay something more than the ordinary person. .
There are many poor people paying income tax although they have hardly sufficient to keep themselves going; certainly to a man with four or five in a family, £156 is not sufficient. Those who are in a better position ought not to grumble if they have to pay something extra.
– What does the man with enormous wealth pay under this Bill unless his wealth happens to be in land ?
– He pays income tax only. The land tax is a tax on land over a certain value, and from that there can be no escape; and the question is whether the present proposal should be accepted, seeing that we have certain liabilities to meet. If the necessary revenue is not raised in this way it must be by indirect taxation through the Customs.
– Or by an increase in the income tax.
– If the honorable member had made that suggestion at the proper time-
– I spoke of it to-night as a substitute for the proposal before us.
– The Bill before us is only a Bill for the purpose of increasing the tax. When the principal Act was passed there were very few who suggested deriving the. whole of the required revenue from an income tax, otherwise we should have been in a different position to-day. I admit that the Government I was then supporting increased the land tax, but I made my views quite clear at the time.
This taxation will not affect what we might term the small land-owner ‘ or the man who is struggling on the land in order to get a living. Nobody knows better than I do the disabilities under which people suffer who go into the back country to settle. They are really the pioneers of the country ; but, generally speaking, those who will be affected by this taxation are not in that position. They hold large tracts of country, and are mostly able to reside in the metropolitan districts and enjoy the ordinary pleasures of life. They are altogether in a different position from the general run of persons who make their livelihood from the land, and whom I place in the same category as working men. It is only because I know that the tax will apply to those who are wealthy, and who own large estates, that I support the Bill.
– Large estates have big mortgages.
– Those who have mortgages are in ari awkward position, but I understand that there is an allowance for them.
– There is no allowance for mortgages. The land -owner pays the mortgagees’ tax.
– To that extent the Bill should be altered. According to the Treasurer’s statement, the revenue that this extra tax will bring in is absolutely necessary. I quite agree with those who say that perhaps economies could be effected in different ways in the Departments. But no one can argue that the Commonwealth expenditure should be cut down to an extent that would enable the Treasurer to finance the war expenditure without additional taxation. The Government have done right to increase the. income tax. 1 would like to see them obtain the whole of the necessary revenue from that source, but as they are not prepared to do this, they are justified in looking to the land-owners who “hold land valued at more than £5.000, to contribute towards the necessary revenue. My position is perfectly clear. I support the Bill because I think that it is justified in view of the war and the cost of the war, and because I know that it will not affect the poorer farmer. Small farmers are constantly complaining that they cannot get holdings for their families, because large estate’s are not cut up. If this tax would have. the effect of causing large estates to be cut up, it would do good service. When those estates are cut up, the revenue from this source will be a diminishing quantity, but there will be so many more mouths to fill- by the increase of population that will be brought about, that the Commonwealth will be the better for the application of the tax.
.- I would like to correct some of the misapprehensions of honorable members.
– I thought you were going to say “ obvious fallacies.”
– Some of them are obvious fallacies, especially the remarks of the honorable member about the railways. So far from railways increasing land values, or the productivity of land in Australia, they have been a curse because, owing in a. large degree to the voting power of the middleman, not to say the parasites in the cities, tie whole of our produce has had to be dragged miles and miles to certain ports, while nearer ports have been available. For instance, our produce passes by Warrnambool and Portland, in Victoria, to go to Melbourne. In New South’ -Wales, it passes by Jervis Bay, Port Stephens, and Twofold Bay, none of which has a railway to it, because the city dweller, the man who makes his living out of the tiller of the soil -and the grazier, has said, “No; it must all come to us in Sydney, where w.e shall levy toll upon it.”
– Is that why you brought all the wool to Sydney for appraisement ?
– That is the reason why Newcastle, instead of having the facilities’ it should have had, for the appraisement of wool, is crying out for wool to be appraised, now there are no available appraisers. Graziers and land-owners not only pay for their produce a freight which, provides interest on the cost of construction, but they also pay an exorbitant rate of wages to the railway employees, who do very little, and often no work for them.
– Is 10s. a day too much to pay them?
– Yes, in the aggregate, because there are far too many men employed on the work. I know as many large owners as do most honorable members, but I do not know of one who is complaining of this tax. We have been prosperous, and. out of our prosperity we are willing “to pay this £380,000. There is about £455,000,000 worth of unimproved land in Australia, and about £270,000,000 worth of it is held in areas below £5,000 in value, which are exempt from this taxation. The men with land worth £10,000, £15,000, or £20,000 do not pay much towards ‘ the Commonwealth revenue, so that, generally speaking, the proposal before the Committee will not interfere much with land-owners ; but why the rich men shall be expected to pay everything I do not know. Surely in this war the poor man’s liberty and the safety of his womenkind are matters which are as dear to him as they are to the rich man. He is a poor sort of poor man who will not be willing to pay something for .them. The rich men in Australia pay already £9,000,000 in direct taxation. They pay all the land tax, they pay income tax, and on their death their estates are taxed up to 33 per cent, in probate duty, State and Federal. When the unfortunate, downtrodden poor man is born into the world it is at the expense of the State. He is educated at the expense of the State. When he works he does so under conditions and wages which are deemed adequate by the State.
– To get which he has had to fight like hell.
– If he tights like hell, he does not work like hell. If he becomes ill during his lifetime there is something like £3,000,000 spent in public charities to relieve him, and that money is contributed by the rich or the comparatively rich. If he is’ an invalid he receives an invalid pension. If he gets tired through doing a little work between meals, and arrives at the age of sixty-five, he gets an old-age pension. If he spends his old-age pension, and there is no money with which to bury him, he is buried at the expense of the State.
– What a glowing prospect !
– It ought to be, but it is not so regarded by honorable members. I sometimes wonder whether we have not a degenerate spirit in Australia, whether the old British spirit is not passing away from the working class of Australia. Probably this lack is due to the fact that honorable members opposite get £600 a year for preaching that the workers are a downtrodden pack of slaves, who are paying the whole of the taxation of the country, and that the whole of our economic system is wrong.
Some honorable members have asked why people flock to the towns’. So far as I can understand the position they do so because our Arbitration Courts have made the initial mistake of fixing the basic wage in Australia at a high rate, which the manufacturer can a’fford to ;pay, but which the primary producer can not afford to pay. Whereas the manufacturer in the city can, by means of ‘the protective tariff, pass on the wages which he has to pay to his workmen, the primary producer cannot pass on the wage* which he has to pay for his labour, especially when times are bad, and export prices happen to be low. No matter how willing or humanitarian the small landowner in the bush may. be, he cannot compete with the city manufacturer in the matter of wages. Go’ into any of the large buildings in the city, and see the sanitary and lavatory conveniences for the employees.
– Do you object to them?
– No, I am proud of them, but not even a rich man in the bush can afford to provide similar comforts and conveniences, and as for the poor man in the bush, the struggling settler on Crown land, it is utterly impossible for him to give his employees such conveniences.
I do not know why all these class distinctions have been brought in. I wouldnot have referred to them had not honorable members done so. We have a sickening repetition, no matter what is before the Chair, of the same old union cry. As a boy, when I used to go into the local township for -the mail, while I was waiting for the coach I used to sit on my pony with my knee over the pommel of the saddle listening to thesame views put forward in a much more entertaining way. However, this money is wanted, or is not wanted. I was very sorry to hear the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) say that he regarded the debate to-night, and some of the views put forward, as a sort of prelude to honorable members opposite trying to shift the burden of taxation. Since the late Lord Forrest was Treasurer our taxation has not been as heavy as it should have been. We have been baulking the day. The revenue from taxation ‘ this year is practically £4,000,000 short. Had it not been for a carry over of £4,000,000 we would have had to raise that amount of taxation. Land-owners have had a good time. ‘The price of their wool is fixed. It is a great financial advantage to them to know exactly where they are, and out of their prosperity they are. quite willing to pay the amount that they are called upon to pay by this Bill.
.- It is rather amusing to listen to the wails of anguish that come from honorable members opposite when there is a chance of their pockets being touched in the slightest degree. The honorable member who lias just resumed his seat related a very touching anecdote of his childhood days, when he sat with his knee over the pommel of his saddle. He must have developed the habit very early, because he, with the rest of his class, is still in the saddle.
– Does the honorable member desire me to be with footpads?
– I had no desire to refer to honorable members opposite. I desire merely to- emphasize the fact that the honorable gentleman and his friends who complained so much about this taxation
– I did. not complain. 1 supported it.
– The honorable member and his friends complain, and wax tearful at this stage of the world’s history about class legislation introduced by the Government they are keeping in office - class legislation directed against the rich men who own this country. When honorable members opposite declare that the workers have something to be thankful for, that they ought to -fight for their womenfolk, that they ought to wax patriotic, and that the burden of taxation should be placed on the whole community, it is interesting to know that about 2,500,000 people are entitled to the franchise, but according to a return submitted to the Senate last year, 718,569 people own Australia. Of them, 417,571 own less than £200 worth of land each, or a total of £31,503,429. Therefore, 301,000 people own the balance of the land.
– Do not they pay income tax ? Why should they pay land tax in addition.?.
– I wish, that honorable members would settle their internal differences amongst themselves > and not worry us with them. Now that the- war has been won, they are beginning, to bring their family troubles before the public. When the war-time profits tax was before the House the honorable mem* ber for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) pointed out how the poor pastoralist was being penalized as compared with the” commercial man.
– I did not speak about the poor pastoralist in connexion with thewartime profits tax..
– The honorable member knows that from his place in the House he commented on the effects that the war-time profits tax would have on certain industries, notably, the mining: industry, in comparison with others.
– I do not think so.
– I accept the, honorable member’s denial, but I. am under the impression that my statement is cor- rect. Certainly, other honorable, members did advance those arguments and comparisons. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro. (Mr. Chapman) told the Committee that this land, tax: would not touch the small land-holder, and that, as it was needed to raise revenue, he would support it. The hon.orable member for Grampians (Mr.. Jowett) and other honorable members were loud in their denunciation of this; class tax. I find, according to the returnalready referred to, 12,182 persons own estates over - £5,000 in value, or- an aggregate of £179,668,830. If £60,000,000 is deducted from that total, on account of the- £5,000 exemption for each of those owners, there is left only £119’,668,830 worth of land to pay taxation under this Bill.
– That may be computed on the basis that, although figures do not lie, liars may figure.
– The honorable member ought not to level such a charge against the Government he is supporting. I admit that honorable members of the Corner party have been somewhat restive lately, and appear to be following the lead of the metropolitan press. Whenever the metropolitan, press sees fit to- lash the leaders of the- Government -its- sentiments are re-echoed by the- honorable members known to fame as the Corner party. We were told that if much more taxation of this kind was imposed it would involve nothing less than confiscation. For honorable members to talk about infringing the rights of the huge land monopolists who claim to have special rights in the community; for them to complain about taxation being placed on those who, with the other wealthy classes, through their control of the functions of government in this country, have operated the legislation in their own interests; for them now to complain about class legislation is to prove that they have no sense of humour. They have been in control of the legislative functions ever since they were ‘ conferred upon Australia, and we have had nothing but class legislation from them.
– Do not forget that there have been three Labour Governments in power in the Commonwealth.
– Giving the Labour Governments credit for everything they did, their term was inconsiderable compared with the long reign oi honorable members opposite. They are loudly complaining about the proposed increase in the land tax at a time when the whole world is heaving and seething with the discontent ot the bottom dog, and when the working men of the world, to whom the honorable member for Hume referred so slightingly and sneeringly, by saying that they are not worth 10s. per day, are in other parts of the world reshaping the whole fabric of society. The Workers have borne the great burden of the war which is now happily ended, and to-day when, as Lloyd George said, two-thirds of Europe is engulfed in revolution, and the whole social fabric has been shaken to its foundations, we hear honorable members opposite complaining about the very little they are asked to do by means of this proposed extra impost.
– We are prepared to pay through the income tax.
– Where was the honorable member when the Income Tax Bill was before the Committee ?
– The Bill will come on again for further consideration later.
– There will be no alteration- so long as honorable members opposite can maintain their hold on the governmental functions, and continue to exploit the people through their monopoly of the land. Those who have been responsible for the increase in the cost of living tell us sneeringly, at a time when the workers do not know which way to turn to make end3 meet, that they are not worth 10s. a day.
– The honorable member did not say that. He referred to himself as the beneficent genius of the workers. He told us that he had given value for everything that he possesses, and that his brains had been the means of providing a number of persons with good jobs at good money. I say that those who have worked for him have enabled him to amass any wealth that he may possess. It is they who have given him a prosperous job. -
– I have never denied that the benefits have been mutual and reciprocal. 1 Mr. CONSIDINE. - If you admit that the wealth of this and every country is socially produced, you must admit that all wealth belongs to society.
– How is it that the Bolsheviks of Russia, now that they are left to themselves, cannot produce anything but murder?
– If the honorable member does not know, and has a few hours to spare, I can prove to him conclusively that the Bolsheviks are doing for the benefit of humanity in Russia what the honorable member should be glad to do in his own sphere of action.
– To make me realize that, you would have to put your brains into my head.
– The change would be beneficial to the honorable member. He would then have a full-sized brain. The Bolsheviks of Russia are not wasting time.
– This is not relevant to the motion.
– In Russia, legislation such as is now proposed would be useless, because the Russian people have acquired all the land.
– By murdering the landowners.
– No. They believe in Russia that it is labour applied to land that gives value to it, and enables commodities of use to society to be produced. Consequently they do not waste the land-owners by cutting their throats.
– As Bolshevik consul, the honorable member ought to know.
– I know that in the hands of the Russian people the lands of the country are now being put. to better use than ever before. When the passions and prejudices generated by the European conflict have died, when the censorship has been removed, and the real truth about Russia is known, members will not talk about the murderous Bolsheviks. Colonel Thompson, the multimillionaire, who was head of the American Red Cross Mission sent by President Wilson to Russia, backed Kerenski with 1,000,000 dollars, so that he might establish his Government, but on his return to America he urged the American Government to recognise the existing Russian Government, being convinced that the Soviet system of administration is one of the most up-to-date systems of government that could be devised. The land system now prevailing in Russia does away with the need for representatives of the people to discuss such issues as we are now discussing. If there were in this country administration in keeping with the economic development, of the times, there would not be an assembly like this. The agriculturists of the country would not be complaining through their alleged representatives of harsh treatment in the matter of taxation.’ Under a proper system of administration, those who toil for their living on the lands of the country would have the control of those lands in their own hands, by means of local governing organizations. They and the rest of the community would be organized in up-to-date fashion, and would produce and distribute the wealth of the country in accordance with scientific methods. The time of the people would not be wasted with institutions such as this, in which the wealthy landowners complain of class legislation. If there were such a system of administration as I speak of, there would be no wealthy land-owners to voice complaints, because the land would belong to the people.
– I am exceedingly sorry that there is need for this special taxation. It is well known” that when taxation is imposed on the land, it is seldom taken off again. I hope that this taxation will not be levied for long. In my opinion, Germany should pay an indemnity of £200,000,000 to make good to Australia what the war has cost us. She should be made to pay at once the interest and contributions to a sinking fund. Our people should not be taxed to make good the expenditure which the Germans forced upon us when they entered upon the war. The taxation of land removes the incentive to improve it, and that diminishes the wealth of the country. I hope that the Government will make it clear that this is a special tax for war purposes. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) said that if it had not been for the boys who went to assist in the fight, we should have no land to tax. He went away to fight for Australia, and all honour to him for having done so. I hope that he may live long to enjoy the peace that he has helped to obtain. The land should be given to the soldiers who have fought for the country. I would not ask them to pay anything for it. I would say, “ This is your land as long as you live.” That would be the proper way in which to treat such men. I believe that the land-owners o’f Australia would be patriotic enough to hand over enough land for the soldiers to live on. Thousands of these soldiers will not want any land, because they are already landowners, and will return to their own properties. They are men who had something to fight for. Now that peace is near at hand, we shall soon be welcoming back our boys. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Ballarat say that following them millions of people would come to Australia. Millions will come here to “ see the country where our fine lads were reared under free democratic conditions ? There are no Bolsheviks in Australia, and we do hot want any here. The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) spoke of Russia and the
Bolsheviks, where they are cutting throats all round, but he should have been ashamed to speak as he did, and ought not to have been allowed to do so. He has never been to Russia, and knows nothing of the facts. However, we forgive him. I was pleased to hear the cultured speech of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who spoke of the advantages of ports, railways, roads, and bridges. He was quite right in saying that it is these that make land valuable. Without them it would not be worth much more than when first taken up. But we should do all that we can to move people out of the big cities. If we do not, Australia will .go down . But we can get the people to go into the country only by giving facilities to the country residents: roads, railways, bridges, schools, telephones, and so on. We have in Australia the best stock ‘ raisers in the world. There will be not the slightest difficulty in obtaining immigrants, and the great changes that will occur when the boys come home must make for prosperity. Our soldiers will not all go on the land. We. need factories, in which men can work for good wages under good conditions. I do not mind a°man getting 10s. or even £1 a day if he will earn it. The man who does not earn it should not get it. The better the conditions tlie better will . our people be. It is the good conditions of living here that have made the Australians the finest people on the face of the earth. Why should we be engaged in party fighting when the best brains of the Parliament should be applied to the task of solving the ‘financial problems that confront us? Every day we witness. in this House attempts to blacken the political characters of honorable members. When a man is elected by the people to a seat in Parliament, he should be treated with respect, no matter to what party he may belong. Elective Ministries would do away with these party conflicts. I hope that it will not be long before we shall have a great industrial development and increased prosperity in- Australia. We are a democratic people, enjoying adult suffrage, and we should be an example to the rest of the world. If Russia and other countries, where disorder prevails to-day, were to follow .the example of Australia, the world would be the better for it,
– I shall support the motion, because it will not interfere -with the interests of the small farmer, but will tend possibly to break up landed estates, and will thereby be instrumental in promoting the settlement of quite a number of returned, soldiers on the land. In -imposing additional taxation, the Government should take care that it will apply equitably toall classes. The man on the land should not be singled out to bear a special burden. The ‘ Government, however, have not attempted to tax proportionately those who are holding large stocks of produce and are engaged in various other industries; but I repeat that the small farmer will not have to pay this tax. The man who holds land the unimproved value of which does not exceed £5,000, will not be affected.
– If the tax affects any land in Australia, it must affect the lot.
– A .man who holds, land the unimproved value of which exceeds £5,000 is better able to pay taxation than is the child who is called upon to pay a 33 per cent, tax on a ticket for a picture show.
– The same old argument!
– And a very effective one. Honorable members opposite who complain of this simple system of taxing unimproved land values did not hesitate to vote for a 33 per cent, tax on children’s entertainment tickets. They are opposed to land taxation, however, because they are all interested in land.
– The honorable member has said that the small farmer will not have to pay this tax. Who suffers when the price of land falls to the extent of 10s. per acre all round?
– I challenge the honorable member to prove that, as the result of this class of taxation, the price of land throughout Australia has decreased to the extent of 10s. per acre.
– I could give scores of instances. The converse of the honorable member’s argument is that the more we tax the land, the greater will be the increase in its price.
– In every form of taxation a level must be reached; but the honorable member cannot convince me that the taxation of unimproved land values will decrease the value of land. Even if it did, it would give- the rank and file an opportunity to settle on the land, whereas to:day prices are so- high that they cannot do so. It is evident that large estates will have to be broken up before returned soldiers will have an opportunity to settle on land of any value. To my own knowledge, a number of returned soldiers who have been in search of land have had to pay something like £30 an acre’ for it. Honorable members sitting behind the Government complain when taxation hits them to a certain extent. Whom do they expect to bear- the brunt and burden of the war ? Do they think that the workers should carry the load in every case while they remain in ease and indolence? Those who have been able to indulge in luxuries throughout the war should be called upon, now that the war is over, to bear some of the cost of it. We. find them, however, objecting to accept any proportion of the financial responsibility. “ I should have liked to see the Government attempt to tax other industries in exactly the same ‘way that they are taxing the land. This is not an effective land tax-, but it is, at least, a feeble attempt tb break up large estates, so that the rank and file may have an opportunity to settle on the land. The Government, however, have neglected to tax the cement, iron, and various other industries, the controllers of which have accumulated an enormous amount of wealth as a result of the war ? In pre-war days, cement was being sold at 60s. per ton, whereas to-day, although labour conditions have improved to only a slight extent, it is bringing 90s. per ton. When I asked the Minister for Price Fixing (Mr. Greene) a few days ago whether the Government would consider the advisableness of fixing the price of cement, he told me that it was not advisable to do so, and that the increased cost was due to the payment of increased wages. We find that wages- in the industry have increased to the extent of only about ls. 6d. per day, whereas: the. price of cement during the war period increased to. the extent of 35s. per ton. And so with the iron industry. The fact that .corrugated iron has been bringing as much as £90 per ton shows that enormous profits have been made out of its production. No attempt has been made by the Government, however, to impose upon such industries the same class of taxation that they have imposed upon the land.
– The War-time Profits Tax will catch them. ‘
– It has not touched them. It is a remarkable fact that since the signing of the armistice the price of corrugated iron, according to authentic statements, has dropped from £90 to £60 per ton. Will any one explain the reason? Again, why should the price of white lead have dropped £1 per ton immediately after the signing of the armistice? .The reason must be that these commodities were held by certain firms who have escaped taxation, such as the primary producer is called upon to bear.
If this taxation were aimed directly- at the small primary producer I would oppose it. But it will not affect a man the unimproved value of whose land is less than £5,000. Such a land-owner is- not a poor man.
– He might have a heavy mortgage on his land.
– Having regard to the fact that the brain of the average worker is. in the pawnshop practically from the day of his birth until- he dies, it is not startling that an individual farmer here arid there should also have recourse to the money lender. The present Government should make provision for the man whose land is heavily mortgaged. If they will not do so, they cannot expect others to take action-
– But the honorable member should not support a bad system.
– This is a good systern. My desire is to protect the poorer class from exploitation. Under the present system of land monopoly all and sundry are exploited to the fullest extent. We shall do away with the- evil only by a scientific system of direct taxation. Th« honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) asserted that the farmer bears the cost of all railroad construction, and, in short, the cost of constructing every public work. He also said that 10s. per day was far too high a wage for the worker to receive.
– He did not say that.
– He said it was an excessive ‘wage. Would he be content, under present conditions, to live on 10s. per. day, instead of £600 a year as a parliamentary allowance?
I am glad that the Government have made a start in the direction of taxing unimproved land values. It must be most unpalatable to many honorable members opposite to be practically compelled to submit to what they may term tyranny ;but to me the measure seems to be the correct thing. * The interests of some 400,000 Australian soldiers have to be conserved to the fullest extent, and it is only by land taxation that they can be enabled to settle on the land. Honorable members opposite are persistent in their cry for the protection of the interests of the returned men. but the moment a suggestion is made to that end a certain section of them rise in revolt and declare it to be the most infamous and terrible piece of legislation. We hear about estates being mortgaged, and so forth, but there are not many farmers at the present time who have their properties in the pawnshop.
– Would you tax the man who, in consequence of drought, gets no income at all ?
– If a farmer is in difficulties as the direct result of a drought, the authorities should come to his assistance. We are practically dependent on the farmers for carrying on the work of this country, and it is no good trying to humiliate them too much. But the cry of the pawnshop is fallacious, because, in my electorate, at any rate, there are few farmers who are in the bankruptcy court, or who have their properties mortgaged. In my constituency a great number of people have taken up large properties though possessed of practically no money, and some of them within five years have paid off the whole indebtedness, ranging from £10 to £15 per acre. I hope the motion will be carried .
Question -That the motion be agreed to - put. The Committee divided..
Majority . . . . 29
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Watt and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in the Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Watt, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
Armistice Celebrations : Workers’ Holiday: Wages - Spinal Cases at Military Hospital - Meat Prices - Quarantine Station, North Head, Sydney.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– It is with regret that I have to bring under the notice of the House a case in which a manufacturer of clothing named Johnston, who has his factory in Blackwood -street, North Melbourne, is concerned. “On the great day of rejoicing which followed the armistice, the employees of this man were told to take a holiday and enjoy themselves. I think that, without exception, all the employees in the various shops and factories who* were given a holiday on that day were paid; but the employees of this man had their pay deducted. They sent in a “ round robin V to their employer representing that the money ought not to be deducted under the circumstances, and for this he was cowardly enough to dismiss those whom he took to be the leaders, though how he could have ascertained that fact it is hard to tell. In this factory the work week commences on the Friday, but there is no work done on Saturday. On the Monday those seven employees were dismissed without any notice, though .my own impression is that the law compels at least a week’s notice to be given. However, these people put the case to Mr. Pimentel, who is. secretary to one of the returned soldiers’ organizations.
– A good man.
– He may be, but, at the same time, he is all on the side of the employer, against the employee. This man, Johnston, has received military contracts, but I ask that if he continues to treat his employees in the way I have described, he be given no more work by the Defence Department. I have heard that he is a great flag-waver, but, however that may te, his conduct in this instance was contemptible. If there is a legal remedy I advise the employees concerned to take action, for I believe that very few magistrates would be found tagree with the employer.
I now desire to ask the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) if he wil’ make inquiry as to the treatment of the spinal cases at the Military Hospital, Melbourne? These cases are very painful, and very lingering, and the .men ought to have the” brightest of surroundings ; but I understand that they are to be moved into wards from which there is a poor view, and which are not of -that cheerful character desirable. I hope that the Minister will draw the attention of the Commanding Officer - who is a good man, if the same I met at the hospital - to the circumstances, and see if something cannot be done.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister for Price Fixing (Mr. Greene) the position of the meat market, particularly in Victoria. I do not propose to weary the House with details, but wish to refer to the results of the present export season to date. As honorable members are aware, in the late winter arid early spring there was a very short supply, quite insufficient for the requirements pf this State; and a similar condition of affairs prevailed in almost every other State. Very rapidly the position changed with the tapering season and a plentiful supply has now come to hand; in fact, the market is glutted, and no organization exists in the Commonwealth to secure to the producers anything at all in proportion to the huge overseas contracts let for the requirements of the British Government, in beef, mutton, ‘ or lamb. On behalf of the Australian producers, the Commonwealth Government has made a contract of colossal magnitude with the Imperial Government, under which the latter will take supplies to the full limit at the following prices -
Wethers and maiden owes approved and/or passed, 5Jd. per lb. f.o.b.
Ewes, approved and/or passed, 5d. per lb. f.o.b.
Approved and/or passed, 64d. per lb. f.o.b. Tegs- Approved, 5Jd. per lb. f.o.b..
Passed, 5id. per lb. f.o.b.
Legs, trimmed, 5Jd. per lb. f.o.b.
Hindquarters with not less than four ribs off each side, 5Jd. per lb. f.o.b.
Loins, trimmed-, 5d. per lb. f.o.b.
Forequarters with not less than four ribs on each side, 4id. per lb. f.o.b.
While packers, exporters, and freezers have this huge contract on hand, they are absolutely taking advantage of the present glut in the market to unduly press prices down far below a fair thing. This contract was arranged with the Imperial authorities for the benefit of the Australian producers and in order to stabilize the pastoral industry, but, owing to the operations of these companies, the profits and rewards from the contract are passing from. the legitimate channel, the pro:ducers, to the companies, and there is no satisfactory organization in Australia to protect the producers. The limited time at my disposal to-night will not permit rae to deal fully with the matter, but , I can suggest a course which might be followed. Let me preface my remarks by saying that I am not in favour of price fixing as -applied to the meat industry, but if it is to be pursued by fixing a maximum price, I maintain that we should also fix a minimum price on the animal. Classifiers could be appointed to attend at, the central meat market to classify the stock as it arrives, pen it, and fix on each pen a minimum price. Then there could be a margin between the minimum price and the export price for honest competition. This would protect the producer, whereas to-day he is entirely at the mercy of these companies. They started off by giving the producer a fair deal, but on three occasions since the opening of the export trade, some of them have reduced their prices.
– I do not propose to mention their names, but the companies are the meat packers who .have contracts for frozen stuff which requires insulated shipping space, and for other kinds of meat. The British Government are prepared to take every pound of meat that Australia can produce without any limit to the tonnage. It is a gigantic matter, and of immense value to. Australia, but the producer is not getting a fair deal. At this stage, I pay my respect to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) for making, financial arrangements to permit of” two farmers’ co-operative concerns in Victoria carrying on this business. These two firms are paying the same price to-day that they paid three years or more ago, when they first took Imperial contracts. They have not reduced or varied their prices to the suppliers, but other companies have not played the game in the same way. I ask the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) to summon to his aid- the assistance -of the Australian Meat Board, which is< controlling’ the matter, in order to carefully analyze the conditions applying at the metropolitan market, and also those applying to upcountry purchases. If he will do this, I am sure that just as the Treasurer has relieved country purchasers where cooperative concerns Operate, he will be able to agora- the same relief to the producers in the central market.
.- It is not the rule in, many factories to pay employees for holidays, but on an occasion such as the day to which the honorable member for Melbourne has referred, it has been the practice to pay them. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) will know that many of the clothing factories paid, for the holiday the employees had on Tuesday last. After the South African war, the employees in the factory in which I was working were paid for their holiday. The workers who interviewed the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) and myself,, sent in. a round-robin asking for pay for, their holiday, but the . employer picked out seven who were, in his opinion, ringleaders, and his wife stood at the door of the factory in the morning and told them not to come there for work again. I join with the honorable member for Melbourne in saying that it was not the right spirit for an employer to adopt. He could have refused to pay for the day off,but he had no right to sack his hands for asking for a holiday.
– It is too late to-night to go into the subject raised by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) in detail, but I will be glad te? confer with him tomorrow and ascertain from him the facts so far as he is acquainted with them. I will then .take into consideration whatever steps may- be necessary or advisable in the circumstances.
.- Very few honorable members are aware of the mismanagement of those who are in control of the quarantine station at North Head, Sydney Harbor. Several letters have been written dealing with the. matter. One from -which 1 shall read extracts gives an idea of what is going on. * The letter -proceeds -
Two extraordinary things are allowed by law - (1) that a steamer, the Atua, should be allowed to do a twenty-three days’ trip from Sydney .to Fiji and back to Auckland without carrying a medical man; .and (2) the mismanagement of the quarantine station at Manly. In normally healthy times, no boat should he allowed to sail without a doctor if the trip involves an absence from port of moTe than twenty-four hours; but here was the Atua steaming from an infected port, with a suspicions case on board when at Auckland, and nothing to fall back upon but a medicine chest steward. After the steward fell ill, a seaman became infected; after a seaman a coal trimmer; and after the coal trimmer, a passenger; after the passenger, the chief steward, the purser, and the captain fell ill. In that condition, we steamed into quarantine, and remained on board for nearly twenty-four hours before landing on the .Quarantine grounds.
On the way -up to quarters, we had to pass the fumigating and inhalation bath chambers. One would have reasonably supposed that, before going up to our presumably disinfected rooms, we would have entered the inhalation chamber. .But no,, we were allotted rooms, two in each, irrespective of whether one occupant waa well and the other infected, and those rooms were dirty, unswept, and unscrubbed, and the mosquito .-nets -were covered with- dust with its consequent germs. .All -were free to intermingle and visit each other, the well, the fairly well, and the distinctly ill; and each grade stood in the same line for daily medical examination, even those who were marked for further inspection.
The following paragraph appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph on the 15th instant -
As complaints had been made by some of the passengers regarding their treatment, Dr. Mitchell, the medical officer at the Quarantine Station, said last night, in reply that, generally speaking, the station at North Head was placed at the disposal of the shipping companies whose vessels were quarantined. The shipping companies supplied their own food, cooks, and stewards, and did the general clearing up for their respective passengers - everything, in fact, with the exception of medical attention.
Ou the previous day a letter appeared in the same journal, signed by Niel Nielson, Andrew Cameron, of Dunedin, New Zealand, and Alexander Dove, of Vancouver, Canada, stating that there were no general instructions as to what the passengers had to do, and :no general means of fumigating them; also that there were no instructions as to how they could even ob tain a : bath. On Tuesday next about -400 soldiers who have been to New -Zealand will ‘be brought back to the quarantinesta tion, and .unless something is ‘done ‘by the Government or the shipping ‘owners, to carry out what should be done .by them, if they are humane at all, in orderto allow the quarantined passengers to have some sort of accommodation -or treatment such as human beings are entitled, to, and if no steps are taken to prevent infected persons from mixing with those who have not become infected with Spanish influenza, I see .no possibility of preventing the spread of this unfortunate sickness to the passengers on the vessels which ply to various points in Sydney Harbor.
On the occasion of the last small-pox outbreak I made complaints of a similar kind, but no alterations have been made. At that time steps were to be - taken to improve the quarantine’ station, but the trouble is that a .large amount of influence is brought to bear to prevent the Government doing anything, because some people hold .the opinion that infected persons ought to be quarantined on an island some distance from the port. That proposal seems to me . very inhuman. As a tradesman who has obtained all the required diplomas in sanitation and taken a great interest in the health laws, I believe that if the quarantine station were made perfect the people of Sydney would have little cause’ tor fear. To send sick persons on a sea voyage on .a vessel with infection aboard is not the way to minimize the spread of the disease and prevent the loss of life. I saw no other course open to “me than to bring this matter forward to-night, because I do not know that it could be brought under the notice of the Government in any other effective way. -Next week another 600 persons will be put on the island. We hope that the. disease is diminishing, but another death has been reported, and strong measures ought to be taken to prevent further trouble. All the persons who . have complained cannot, be wrong. One of them came from the other side of the world, and the treatment to which he has called attention will not give Australiana very good advertisement in other countries.
: - I have noted what the honorable member has said about the quarantining of infected passengers who recently arrived in Sydney. The attention of the Government had not been directed before to any dissatisfaction, but I shall see that a report is called for from the Director of Quarantine to-morrow, and I may be able to inform the House of the result at some time during the next sitting.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 November 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181119_reps_7_86/>.