9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers,
– (By leave.) - I move -
That this House expresses its sincere regret at the death of Senator Thomas Jerome Kingston Bakhap, and places upon record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and extends its profound sympathy to his widow and family in their sad bereavement.
I am sure that all honorable gentlemen have learned with the deepestregret that Senator Bakhap died two days ago. His departure from among us is another reminder that while carrying on our activities here we are everin the presence of and surrounded by death. On many occasions during the last few years we have had to record our sorrow atthe passing of one of our members, or of one of the members of another Chamber. On this, as on all othersuch occasions, we are oppressed with a deep sense of loss. Senator Bakhap had an honorable record of service to his country, which extended over many years. Prior to entering the Federal Parliament, he served with distinction to himself and benefit to Tasmania in the Parliamentof that State. For over ten years he was a member of the Federal Parliament, and during that time those of us who were associated with him had an opportunity to appreciate the value of his work, his sterling merit, and his constant application to the duties that lay to his hand. For some yearshe was a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, and in that capacity did good work for the Commonwealth. In the last Parliament he was Chairman of Committees in the Senate, and during his occupancy of the chair he won from all his fellow members great respect for his capacity, his fair-mindedness, and his impartiality. His sense of public duty was also shown when he accepted recently a commission, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, to go to China to inquire into our trade position there. No man had greater qualificationsfor the task then intrusted to him. He had ever been a student of international affairs, and particularly of all Eastern questions, and I do not think there has been at any time a member of this Parliament who had a greater knowledge of China and all her problems than he had, while he also possessed the unique qualification of being able to speak the Chinese language. He carried out the duty that was intrusted to him in the East with distinction to himself and great benefit to the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, while he was in China he was stricken with a severe illness, and his return to Australia was delayed for some time. His health then appeared to be restored, but the restoration was but transitory, and some months ago he was again prostrated.
Now, after a long illness, he has been claimed by the hand of death. We express our great regret at his departure from among us, and our deep appreciation of the services he rendered to the Commonwealth. We mourn him here both as one who devoted his life to his country, and as a personal friend. We extend our sympathy to his wife and children, who are to-day mourning his loss. One knows that the expression of sympathy on these occasions can do very little to alleviate the pain that is being suffered by loved ones who are left behind, but I think that we are a little apt to exaggerate the view that there is nothing that we can do. While sympathy cannot restore the one who has gone, I think it always brings some consolation to those who are bereaved to know that their loved one was held in estimation and high regard by those who were associated with him and knew his real worth. This Parliament to-day feels a keen sense of sorrow, and desires, very sincerely, to pay its tribute to the memory of the man who has gone, and to express its great sympathy with those he has left behind.
.- I associate myself with the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce). Senator Bakhap was esteemed by all the members of both Houses of this Parliament for the sterling qualities he possessed. He was not a member of this House, but I had the privilege of sitting with him for three years on the Committee of Public Accounts. During that time I was able to form an opinion of his ability. He was a very able and conscientious man, who was always endeavouring to do something of benefit to his country. By his passing, Tasmania has lost an able representative, and the Commonwealth a man of wide vision. He did not confine himself to the affairs of his own State, but looked beyond, in a desire to understand the deeds of the whole Commonwealth. He was keenly interested in all matters of national importance. I join with the Prime Minister in expressing deep regret at his loss, and in offering sympathy with his wife and children. His death is a very heavy loss for them. As the Prime Minister has rightly said, anything we can say now can count for little, but possibly the knowledge that Senator Bakhap had the esteem of all members of this Parliament may be of some consola tion to thebereaved wife and family. We, on this side of the House, deeply regret his passing. I had no idea that the end was so near. On a recent occasion when I was dealing with a certain matter, which I do not wish to intrude here now, I made some remarks which would have been withheld had I known that Senator Bakhap was so seriously ill. I have always regarded the deceased senator as a personal friend, and I sincerely trust that it will be of some comfort to his wife and family to know that their loved one was honoured by all in this House who enjoyed his acquaintance.
– In accordance with the tradition of Parliament, will honorable members express their concurrence with this resolution by rising in their places.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their place’s.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker be requested to transmit to Mrs. Bakhap the foregoing resolution, together with a copy of theaddresses delivered thereon.
– As a mark of our respect and appreciation of the late Senator Bakhap, I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that you leave the chair until 8 o’clock this evening.
– I shall now leave the chair. The bells will ring shortly before 8 o’clock.
Sitting suspended from 3.12 to8 p.m
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to state just what business he wishes to do this week prior to the rising of the House.
– I cannot tell the honorable gentleman exactly what measures will be passed during the present week. Thatwill depend to some extent upon what happens in the House during the next few days. The Bills we intend to proceed with immediately, and which will be taken up during the next two or three days are - the Land Tax Assessment Bill, the Income Tax Assessment Bill, a Bill to validate certain agreements, notice for the introduction of which appears on the businesspaper to-day, and the Wheat Pool Advances Bill. The Old-age and Invalid
Pensions Bill has yet to be introduced. There is also the Tariff Board Bill. These are the principal measures we have to deal with. A great number of Bills on the paper are very short, and their contents are not of a contentious nature. I am hopeful that we shall be able to deal with a number of them, such as the Post and Telegraph Bill, which “is introduced merely to give power to the PostmasterGeneral to carry land lines on posts less than 12 feet in height, which is not permitted under the existing Act. I think this statement will enable the honorable gentleman to know what matters’ .are likely to be dealt with.
– Is it the intention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to introduce a Bill to deal with the amendment of soldiers’ pensions asked for to make provision for widows and orphans of deceased soldiers ?
– I think the honorable member is referring to three specific requests which have been made to the Government. It does not require an amendment of the existing Act to meet those requests, as effect can be given to them by regulation.
Retirement of Officers
– I wish to ask the Treasurer a question without notice, and will read a short telegram upon- which it is founded. I have received the following telegram from Mr. Grattan, secretary to the officers of the Taxation Branch in Brisbane : -
Taxation officers here view with alarm absence of Retirement Bill from notice-paper. Can you glean a.ny information whether .provision is to bc made this session for .payment of compensation to taxation officers compulsorily retired before or after transfer to State services ?
I ask the Treasurer whether it is expected that any of the officers of- the Taxation Department will be retrenched during the present financial year, and, if so, whether any action will be taken in the direction indicated in the telegram I have read ?
– A Bill dealing with the matter will be brought down within a day or two.
Proposed Appointment of High Court Judge
– I asked a question on Friday which was deemed to be improper by the Speaker and a majority in this House, and I wish how to ask, Why did the Prime Minister ask a Judge or Judges of the High Court to do an improper act when he asked them to preside over the inquiry into the sugar purchases t
– If the question requires an answer, I must tell the honorable member that I did not ask any Judge to do an improper act.
– In connexion with the appointment of Boards, particularly the Shipping Board, and also in connexion with the appointment of Royal. Commissions such as the Commission promised to inquire into national insurance, maternity allowance and other matters, and the Commission into which, I understand, it is intended to convert the Select Committee on the Navigation Act, will the Prime Minister let the House know how many are to be appointed, in order that honorable members on this side may have an opportunity of selecting their representatives on the different bodies to be constituted.
– With regard to the Shipping Board I have for some days now been actively engaged in trying to constitute its personnel. I hope to succeed in my task shortly, and to be able to announce the names. With regard to the Royal Commissions contemplated, it is hoped that before the House rises we shall be in a position to constitute the Royal Commission to deal with the question of national insurance. The honorable member’s request, that his party should receive consideration in the making of appointments to these Commissions is a very proper and natural one. I can assure him that attention will be given to it, and the Commissions will be constituted of members chosen from both sides of the House. I do not think we can accept the view that members should be nominated by the party opposite, but I can assure the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that I will consult with him, and every consideration will be given to his wishes.
Returned Soldiers: Temporary Employment
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the large number of returned soldiers employed temporarily in the Public Service, will he inform the House if steps have been taken to place them on a permanent basis?
– Returned soldiers who have passed the entrance examination have first claim to appointment. They are being absorbed into the permanent staff as rapidly as vacancies occur.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of his promise to give the House an opportunity of allowing members to discuss the question of the purchase of the Rowan collection of paintings, will he give this opportunity before the House rises?
– As I have already indicated, it is the intention of the Government to give honorable members an opportunity to discuss this question when the business of the House permits.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he will supply the following information: -
How many tons of fruit - pears, apricots, and peaches (clings and freestones) - were bought by the Pools dur ing 1921-22 and 1922-23 in Victoria and New South Wales?
How many dozen per ton did each variety process in each Pool? 3.What was the average per ton by each factory operating for Pools on each variety processed? 4.What was the average freight paid per ton of fruit bought between the orchards and factories, includingrail, cartage, and return empties?
How many tons of Victorian fruits were treated in New South Wales in 1921-22 and 1922-23 seasons?
What quantity of each variety of fruit (a) was exported for 1921-22 Pools; (b) was exported for 1922-23 Pools; (c) remained unsold in each of the last two Pools?
What was the estimated loss on exported fruit (a) in the 1921-22 Pools, (b) in the 1922-23 Pools?
What was the total estimated loss on these two Pools, showing each separately?
– The information is being prepared.
Compensation on Retirement.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
For what reason was the gazetted cancellation of “dumping” duty on cotton gloves (which was gazetted on or about 26thJune, 1923) declared to take effect retrospectively from 24th May, 1923?
-For the reason that the 24th May was the date of my approval of the recommendation of the Tariff Board.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention to pay compensation to officers of the Taxation Department who have resigned, or may voluntarily resign, and take up duties elsewhere, as the outcome of the proposed retrenchment scheme?
– The matter is receiving consideration.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– Such railway was not one of those recommended by the Uniform Gauge Commission as part of the programme of unifying the gauges of the railways of Australia, and its construction would appear to be a matter for the consideration of the New South Wales and Victorian Governments.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being prepared.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether returned soldiers are now able to draw pay forfeited for fines whilst on active service ?
asked the Minister for Trade and Custime, upon notice -
– The information is being prepared.
Live Stock Carried
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
There are no stock returns available for the year 1923.
In respect of the stations mentioned in the question, the only stock returns available for the year 1922 are: -
” TREND OF THE AGES.”
Application foe Registration.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The application for registration of The Trend of the Ages is receiving consideration in the usual course, and advice is being obtained in connexion therewith.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he be prepared himself or arrange for one of his Ministers to debatebefore a public meeting in Sydney or Melbourne with a member of the Opposition the following two questions : -
Whether the Prime Minister should go to England and close up Parliament during his absence;
Whether 110 Federal members of Parliament elected by the citizens are not fit to deal with matters highly important to Australia during his absence?
– The proposal of the honorable member does not commend itself to me.
Case of Mr. Lemaire
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow-: -
Mr. Sheaf’s Salary
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 Salary - £2,333 6s. 8d. per annum, or $20,000 (say, £2,333 6s. 8d.) per annum, but 33,000 rupees (say, £2,200) per annum while working in India. Maintenance Allowance - In Malaya and Java, 30 Straits dollars per diem (say, £3 10s.) ; in Hongkong or South China, 25 Hongkong dollars (say, £2, 14s. 4d.) per diem; India, Burmah, and Ceylon, 60 rupees per diem (say, £4) ; Shanghai and Northern China, 30 Mexican dollars (say, £2 14s. 4d) per diem; Australia, £2 2s. per diem; at sea, 5 Straits dollars (say,11s. 8d.) per diem. Entertainment Allowance - Not to exceced £200 per annum.
Mr. Sheaf has been instrumental in obtaining business for Australian merchants and manufacturers. He has reported particulars of trade to very many Australian manufacturers and merchants, and in several instances I believe business has resulted.
It will be obvious to honorable members that when information reaches manufacturers, the Department is not always informed whether business has resulted. I have, however, several letters from Australian firms expressing appreciation of the work carried out by Mr. Sheaf, andthe assistance he has rendered to Australian manufacturers.
Mr. Sheaf has, to my knowledge, distributed much valuable information regarding goods of the kind which the East is constantly requiring.
He has assisted materially representatives of Australian business houses who hare visited the East, providing them with introductions, and going personally with them to help them to obtain business. On the other hand, he has been inducing merchants in his territory to visit Australia, and to procure their requirements from this country, and I believe these visits will have that result.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information so far as available is being prepared.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Has he had any case brought under his notice lately of any employer exploiting the Repatriation. Department by employing mechanical engineering students, although ostensibly as apprentices to learn the trade of mechanical engineering, only in fact to obtain cheap labour by putting them to work on a stock job at which they cannot possibly obtain a reasonably comprehensive knowledge of the trade?
– No such case has been brought to my notice. The Repatriation Commission has made inquiries, but these have failed to elicit particulars of such a case.
– On 13th August the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) asked for certain information regarding an application for land in New Guinea by Mr. Carl Frost. I promised to make inquiries into the matter, and am now advised that a telegram has been received from the authorities in Rabaul to the effect that Mr. Frost was advised by them on the 14th March to submit the necessary application on the prescribed form, and lodge the necessary fees. Up to the present this has not been done. When the application and fees have been received by the authorities, the Land Board will consider the matter, and make a recommendation to the Administrator.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for ari Act to provide for the validation of certain agreements and documents made and executed by of on behalf of the Commonwealth.
Bill presented by Mr. -Groom, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from 16th August (vide page 2936), on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The Treasurer, in moving the second reading of this most extraordinary Bill, made a very special plea for the big pastoralists of Australia. As such, it was a very capable speech, the best I have heard (he honorable gentleman deliver; but as a statement by a Treasurer charged with the protection of the finances of the Commonwealth, it was a dismal failure. However, I congratulate him upon the ability with which he presented the skeleton of a defence of a measure for which there is no real defence. In order that honorable members may be able to view the measure in correct perspective, I shall recapitulate some of the statements I made and some of the facts I presented when speaking on the motion for leave to introduce the Bill, not one of which the Treasurer has attempted to controvert. Nine years ago this Parliament made Crown leaseholders subject to the land tax. During the first three years of the operation of the tax upon leaseholds, a sum of £690,000 was collected on the owners’ own valuations.
– It was shortly after the Labour Government went out of office that’ the collection of the tax ceased.
– That is so. During the last six years not one penny has been collected in respect of Crown leaseholds.
The collection of the tax upon these properties was suspended in 1918 in order to allow of an inquiry being made. That inquiry was conducted by a Royal Commission, which by a two to one majority recommended that the tax be continued, and certain amendments be made to the Act. In the same year .the _ then Government stated in its Budget that it would propose certain amendments in the method of taxing Crown leaseholds. The inference to be drawn from that statement was that the tax would be continued. The Taxation Commissioner, in his report in 1919-20,. indicated that the Government intended to collect the tax, but nothing was done, and the arrears continued to pile up. In 1921 another Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into taxation generally. It made a special investigation into Crown leaseholds, and by a six to one majority reported in favour of their taxation. Still the Government silently ignored the recommendations of the two Commissions.
– Which it had appointed.
– Yes. It is evident that somebody possessed very strong inhibitory power over the Government. The only action it has taken in the last six , years has been the introduction of this Bill to abolish the tax and to forgive all arrears back to 1917. The facts I mentioned last week stand, and I do not propose to repeat them, but I shall examine the excuses offered by the Treasurer. He said that the purpose of the Bill was to cut a tangled skein which the Government could not unravel, and that although the tax had been in force for nine years it had been impossible to collect it during the past six years. It is no wonder that the present Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), in a speech at Maryborough, described the Treasurer as “ a paralyzing leader.” The honorable gentleman is justifying that description of himself by his declaration that he is unable to collect a tax which for three, years was collected easily. He said that the practical difficulties in the way of collection were insuperable. I remind the House that the two Royal Commissions that investigated every detail of this tax found no insuperable difficulties; it was left for the Treasurer to discover them. The Taxation Commissioner did not report that there were any insuperable difficulties, and I challenge the Government to produce an official statement from the Department that it cannot collect the tax. The insuperable difficulties are political.
– The Government are looking after the fat squatters.
– That is so. The first Commission that was appointed to specially investigate the taxation of Crown leaseholds consisted of Mr. H. O. Allan, leasehold expert, Department of Lands, Victoria; Mr. H. A. G. Curry, who occupied a similar position in the Lands Department of New South Wales; and Mr. G. H.Knibbs, Chairman. This is an extract from that Commission’s report -
As, however, both leaseholder and freeholder are engaged in precisely the same industry, viz., that of supplying the public requirements in the shape of cattle, sheep, wool, &c., there seems to be no sufficient reason why one should pay a land tax and the other should escape such tax. There seems, also, to be no reasonable ground for marked discrimination in the favour of one who holds a lease from the Crown as against one who holds a lease from a freeholder.
And the Commissioner’s final recommendation was that the tax should be continued. The Treasurer, in dealing with this question last week, criticised the valuations and methods of his own Department very severely; he acted, not as the Minister in charge of a Department, but as a partisan who was opposed to the whole principle of land taxation generally, because every argument he put forward in opposition to this tax can be, and has been, applied with the same amount of force, which is not much, against all land taxation. He quoted some isolated cases in which it would appear that the valuations were excessive, and upon them he based a general attack upon the Department which he is administering. I have never previously seen such an incident in this Parliament. The Department which the Treasurer attacked expressed its views, and if honorable members will read the report of the Taxation Commissioner for the year 1919-20, they will find this reference to Crown leaseholds -
The principles of valuation and the application by the Department were subject to searching inquiry by the Commission, The Commission in its report upheld the Department……
The question of collecting the outstanding tax is now under consideration.
I turn now to the criticism offered by the Treasurer of the Royal Commission that reported upon taxation generally. The Prime Minister eulogized the Commission, and rightly so, because its report is. one of the finest that honorable members can read, but the Treasurer spoke of it in most disparaging terms.
– That is not so.
– The honorable gentleman said that the Commission dealt with the taxation of Crown leaseholds in a very cursory way; that is not correct. He said that it gave very qualified assent to the principle, and he spoke jeeringly of the reasons which the Commission advanced in support of its recommendations. So far from dealing with the matter in a cursory way, the Commission occupied a very long time in dealing with the matter, and took evidence in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia. It actually gave more time to this matter than this House is permitted to give to important items of. the Government programme. The Treasurer said that the Commission gave the principle of the tax upon Crown leaseholds a qualified support: This is what the Commission said, in addition to the paragraph I quoted last week-
The arguments adduced before the Commission on the taxation of Crown leaseholdshave been, to a large extent, repeated with emphasis during the present inquiry. We are unable to discover any principle upon which such interests shouldbe relieved of land taxation.
That is a clear and definite statement. At the conclusion of its report the Commission summarized the evidence, mentioning the arguments for and against, and that summary disclosed that, in certain cases, there was no leasehold value to be taxed. Everybody will admit that.
– In which case no tax would be collected.
– Exactly. The Treasurer seized upon certain portions of that summary, and quoted them in order to make it appear that the Commission reported against the taxation of Crown leaseholds. I remind honorable members that a Judge, in summing up, mentions the evidence for both sides, but it is his judgment that counts. The Treasurer, instead of quoting the findings of the Commission, read only such extracts from the summary of evidence as suited his case. The judgment of the Commission was -
There is, however, in the aggregate, a large margin between the Crown rents paid and the economic rent.
That difference is the leasehold value. While the Commissioner said that there were certain cases in which there was no leasehold value, its conclusion was that “ there is a large margin between the Crown rents paid and the economic rent.” That is the finding of the Commission, and1 not a summar j* of the evidence. Who are these gentlemen who were spoken of jeeringly by the Treasurer, and who are accused of having taken “ only a cursory view “ of the” subject? I shall give their names again. There was one representative from the Trades Hall Council of Melbourne. I eau understand his opinion being put aside by Government supporters as not carrying any weight. Mr. Duffy, nevertheless, is one of the most capable accountants in the city of Melbourne, and is a man of very shrewd judgment, with a firm grasp of the principles of taxation. Still, let lis put him aside. I invite the attention of honorable members, however, to the following names: - There was Mr. Kerr, ex-president of the Associated Chamber of Commerce of the city of Melbourne. He is an O.B.E., which ought to carry some weight with honorable members on the other side. There was Mr. Missingham, who, I believe, comes from the Treasurer’s district, and is a member of his own party in New South Wales. He is a good man too, and was not regarded as being of no consequence until he associated himself in a way that the Treasurer did not like with the Taxation Commission’s report. He is a very successful farmer, and, among other things, is noted for prize bulls? Then there was Mr. Geo. Thomson, ex-member of the House of Representatives, who in 1910 voted against the imposition of the laud tax. He recognised, nevertheless, that Crown leaseholds should be taxed, because, as he expressed it, if other interests in land were to be taxed, so should leasehold interests. Then there was Mr. Farleigh, M.L.C., of Sydney, expresident of the Chamber of Manufactures; and Mr. Mills, an ex-member of the Inter-State Commission, and a very capable officer. Mr. Jolly, a very capable man, and a representative of the pastoralists, was the only dissentient among the seven members of the Commission. The opinions and judgment of these men cannot be pushed aside by a sneer or a jeer, or by merely saying that they took a cursory view of the subject. “ The Treasurer went on to say that there were great difficulties in applying the tax to vast areas. He stated that there were 968,000,000 acres of land held under Crown leaseholds. That area comprises half the total area of Australia. I am unable to find those figures in the reports, but I accept the Treasurer’s statement. Would honorable members like to guess how many taxpayers, including individuals and companies, there are for all those acres.
– Did that figure refer to occupied or unoccupied Crown leaseholds ?
– Occupied. The area unoccupied is ‘741,000,000 acres.
– The Treasurer said the other night that” the fact that over 700,000,000 acres were not occupied was proof that there was not a great ‘demand for this land. Where are those millions of acres? Some of them are in the Nullarbour Plain country, and some in big mountain country. The argument regarding unoccupied land is ridiculous. The fact stands out that 968,000,000 acres . are occupied, and, taking companies and individuals together, fewer than 200 assessments are involved. The Treasurer said that it would take weeks to prepare a return relating to those 200 assessments. As a matter of fact, it would not be possible for him to state the amount of tax outstanding if the list were not in his Department.
– Are they separate assessments ?
– The figures relate to the total number of assessments of ‘Crown leaseholds. The Treasurer said that it would be impossible to determine the value of, this land. That is exactly what was said when freeholds were taxed.
– Officers of the Department assure me that the numbers quoted by the honorable member have never been taken out.
– Then the Department ought to speed up a little.
– The figures quoted by the honorable member are not correct.
– The Treasurer challenges my statement by saying that the figures have never been taken out by the Department. I challengehim to supply the list asked for. I would invite him to read the last report of the Land Tax Commissioner, who publishes the total number of taxpayers. If he will then take the number of taxpayers assessed the year before Crown leaseholds were included, and the number since, and allow for the changes that have taken place because of the breaking up of large estates, and the consequent increase in the number of taxpayers, he will find that my estimate is not far wrong. I have followed the principles of taxation ever since taxation was placed upon land, and I have read everyreport I could obtain that has been issued upon the subject. The Treasurer said that the leasehold value cannot be determined. The Department can calculate the carrying capacity of. leasehold land just as it can that of freehold land. It can then adjust other factors in relation to the distance of the land from markets and railways, and reach a conclusion in the same way as for freehold land. In. 1910 the question was asked, “ How can you ascertain the unimproved value of this land?” It was, however, ascertained. The Treasurer sneered at the departmental method of valuation. He quoted the result of some sales, and compared the price paid with the Department’s valuation. Sales are often a very good guide to valuation, and they are also sometimes a very poor guide. All the circumstances must be taken into consideration. Those circumstances are: Were they forced sales, were they made during a period of drought, and were the valuations of stocks and improvements over-stated, as they often are? Those are questions worthy of consideration, and they were taken into consideration by the Commissions which inquired into this question. ThoseCommissions gave a considerable number of examples of valuation by the Department and the owners. Some of them were examples of over-valuation, but the majority were examples of under-valuation Those variations happen in all systems of valuation, whether of freeholds or of Crown leaseholds. The Treasurer also told us that leaseholds were sold at so much per head of stock, on a “ walk-in, walkout “ basis, and that there was no leasehold estate in them. That is not correct. While they may be sold at so much per head of stock, that price includes the value of the leasehold. The fact that they are sold on that system does not prove that there is no leasehold value. That aspect of the question was also examined very thoroughly by the Commission, which took a large amount of evidence upon it. Even if all the Commissioners were wrong in their conclusions, even if the Land Tax Commissioner is wrong in his statements, even if every one who spoke in favour of this principle in 1914, or has spoken in its favour since, except the Treasurer, is wrong, I would still invite honorable members to judge this question on the Treasurer’s own statements. He told us that for the first three years the Department collected the tax on the owners’ valuations, and that in 1917, when the valuations were made by the Department, trouble arose, and the tax had not been collected since. That statement means, if it means anything, that the only taxation which has been received from Crown leaseholds was that for the years 1914-15, 1915-16, and 1916-17, and that during those three years £690,000 was received from assessments based on the owners’ valuations. That is an average of £230,000 a year.
– If the report which the honorable gentleman is reading says “three years,” that is a misprint. It should be “ two years “.
– Which makes my case all the stronger. If the tax was collected for two years, the amount would be £345,000 a year.
– The tax was collected in two years, but the amount covered a period of three years.
– That makes the average £230,000 a year, as I have stated. As a matter of fact, the majority of the assessments sent out since have been on the owners’ valuations.
– That would be over £1,000 for each assessment.
– I shall come to that in due course.I advise the honorable member not to anticipate my remarks. If he does so he may regret it. Had the Department collected the tax for the sis years from 1917 to 1923 on the same basis as for the three previous years,- it would have collected £1,380,000. Yet the amount outstanding, according to the Departmental valuations, is £1,330,000, or less than the average amount actually collected under the owners’ valuations. I submit those figures as proof that in the aggregate the valuations made by the Department were not excessive, and were not as high as those made by the owners. There will, of course, be individual anomalies under any system of valuation. There are individual anomalies in connexion with the collection of income tax and the taxation of freeholds, but we are not asked to abolish the collection of the whole of the tax because of those few anomalies. It is usual to remove the anomaly, rather than abolish the tax. In 1910, when I was sitting behind the Fisher Government, which brought in the first Land Tax Bill, the Leader of the Opposition of that day presented a long and sad story of the plight of the big land-owners. He said that all they had to show for their work were debit balances, but I noticed that they were able to take trips to the Old Country on those debit balances, and to buy more stations with them. The arguments of the then Leader of the Opposition were disregarded, and the tax was placed upon leaseholds and freeholds. We are hearing the same story to-day. There is not an argument in favour of the taxation of freeholds that cannot be advanced also in favour of the taxation of Crown leaseholds. The tax is imposed upon the leasehold interest in the land held by an individual or a company. The economic rent of the land based upon the unimproved value is taken, just as the tax is based on the unimproved value of freehold. The economic rent is fixed at 4$ per cent, of the unimproved value, and from that is deducted the actual rent paid. If the lessee is paying the full economic rent, he can not be required to pay any tax.
– -What is the unim- proved value of the Australian bush 200 miles from a railway?
– If that land were freehold, its unimproved value could bc ascertained. It can be ascertained in the same way if it is leasehold. If it has no leasehold value, or no unimproved value, it pays no tax. There is in the Act ample provision for redressing any wrong done by over-valuation, and to meet every individual case of hardship. There is no justification for the Government proposing to abolish the tax because of certain cases of hardship. The Treasurer endeavoured to emphasize the hardship of certain cases, and said that at the time the tax was_ suspended the cattle industry was flourishing, but, he added, “How can Ave collect the tax now ? “ When this tax was first imposed, namely, towards the end of 1S14, this country had just come through one of the most severe droughts that Australia had ever experienced. “ If,” said the Treasurer, “ we suspended collecting this tax when the cattle industry was flourishing, how are we going to collect it now ? “ But the tax was suspended, not because of the parlous position of the pastoral industry, but for the purpose of inquiry. If the Treasurer could prove that its collection was suspended because of the poverty of the leaseholders, there would be some strength in his argument. But, as I have said, it was suspended for the purpose of ari inquiry, which approved of the action of the Department in collecting the tax. If the persons affected by this measure . were mendicants, if they were in financial difficulties, I would have every sympathy for them, and I would refer the Treasurer to a section of the Act which contains provisions for relief in such circumstances. This House, then, would support the Treasurer in any action to relieve poverty-stricken leaseholders. But are they mendicants? I have asked questions on this subject no less than three times in this House in order that honorable members could vote on this measure with their eyes open. I asked for the list of names of. persons or companies affected. This , information could have been given in a couple of days if there had been, a desire to furnish it. It was not supplied, for the very good reason that the persons concerned are the richest in our community.
– Very well, I shall give honorable members some information on that point. I remind honorable members that there is an exemption- of £5,000. No leaseholder with a leasehold interest below that valuation is called upon to pay one penny in taxation. Surely this is convincing proof that any person who is called upon to pay taxation under this Act is not among the poor? I have gone to considerable trouble to obtain information which the Treasurer refused to give to this House. I got into -touch with four of the States, and obtained figures with regard to interests held in pastoral leaseholds in those States. I find that the outstanding taxation in respect of less than 100 assessments amounts to about £1,000,000. And, in order that honorable members may judge if the persons or companies concerned are povertystricken, I shall mention a few. The list includes the Austraiian Estates Limited, the Peel River Land and Mineral Company Limited, the Scottish Australian Investment Company Limited, the Northern Pastoral Company Limited, Thomas Norton and Company, A. T. Creswick, Mr. Edmund Jowett, Sir Sidney Kidman, the cattle and wool kings.
– Is that a list of oldage pensioners?
– No. It is a list of Crown leaseholders who are to be given a remission of taxation under this measure. As honorable members will observe, it includes one Sidney Kidman, who had something to do with the “ coffin “ ships a few years ago, and failed to pay an amount which he owed the Government in respect of an award in connexion with those vessels. Included in the list are also the Australian Pastoral Company Limited, the Australian Land and Mortgage Company Limited, the Australian Estates and Mortgage Company, and the New Zealand Land and Mercantile Company. About half-a-dozen of these individuals or companies owe this Government approximately £500,000 in taxation. Will it be pretended that these people are going about in rags? I think not. Will any honorable gentleman who contradicted me just now say that I am telling an untruth when I declare that these people are amongst the richest in the community?
– There are very few of them.
– The honorable member is quite right. These gentlemen or companies are very few in number, but they owe the bulk of the outstanding taxation. Now that the honorable member has challenged me, I shall give the House further information. According to my estimate two of the gentlemen mentioned, Mr. Jowett and Sir Sidney Kidman, owe this Government about £200,000. I challenge the Treasurer to check my figures. They may be’ a little out; but not much. I have followed this matter up since 1910 - we had then in power a Government that would give information. I have studied the position carefully since 1914, and I have come to the conclusion that Mr. Jowett and Sir Sidney Kidman between them owe the Government very nearly £200,000 in taxation. It is a scandal that at a time like this the Government should endeavour to rush through a measure to give relief to these people. They are not poverty stricken. The only poverty about the business is that of argument displayed by the Treasurer in support of the Bill. One of his pleas is that the cost of litigation would be so great that we should not endeavour to collect the tax. The Government do not display this solicitude towards anybody else who refuses to pay taxation. If an amount involved was a 3d. tramway fare or the value of 1 lb. of butter, the “ majesty of the law “ must be vindicated, and the culprit compelled to pay. But when it is a question of big men and big amounts, we have this plea about the cost of litigation. The evergreen Attorney-General (Mr. Groom), made the same excuse whenever we have urged the Government to demand the money due by Sir Sidney Kidman in respect of the “ coffin “ ships to which I have referred. The Treasurer, as the head of the Department, made another extraordinary statement. He said that if the recommendation of the first Royal Commission had been adopted the values of the leaseholds would disappear. I challenged his statement across the table at the time, and he replied that his departmental officers estimated that instead of getting £200,000 a year on the new basis of valuation they would get only £100,000 a year. Even if the Government got only £100,000 a year, that would be very acceptable. But the Treasurer did not leave it at that. He said, further, that it would cost£50,000 to collect this amount. It is absurd to suggest that it would cost £50,000 to collect this amount of taxation from a few hundred taxpayers.
– That would include the litigation costs.
– Now we are hearing again about this “ cost of litigation.” On this score we do not abolish the collection of income tax or the tax on freeholdsand private and perpetual leaseholds. It is only thought of as an excuse when the tax concerns a handful of people - the big pastoralists - who are the backbone of the Country party. But let me examine the Treasurer’s statement, and see if it would cost £50,000 to collect this tax.
– There is the cost of valuing.
– That represents the principal item of cost. Once the values are fixed, a few clerks can make up the assessments, and send them out.Fortunately, I have some official figures from the Treasurer’s Department on this phase of the subject. I find that the total cost of valuations, including Crown leaseholds, and other leaseholds and freeholds, is only £20,000 a year.
– The departmental estimate is that further valuations will cost at least £40,000.
– I dispute that. I go further, and find that the average cost of valuations in the Land Tax Department, before Crown leaseholds were included, was £15,000 a year, and that since Crown leaseholds have been included the amount is £20,000 a year. Thus the increase chargeable to Crown leaseholds is only £5,000 a year.
– The unimproved value of the leasehold is a myth.
– Nevertheless the Government collected £690,000 from the owners on their own valuations.
– That valuation was based on assumption.
– I venture to say that the owners, as a rule, do not place any valuations on myths. It is more likely that their valuation was a long way below the real value of the leaseholds. This valuation is no myth at all. When a leaseholder is paying less than the eco nomic rent there is, to that extent, just as much interest in it as in freehold. But I do not want to get away from my point. The Treasurer stated just now that the departmental estimate is that it would cost £40,000 a year for further valuations. He knows that the cost of making these valuations is not a recurring item of expenditure. Once an inspection is made it stands for many years. Any change that takes place is recorded in the departmental books, and the valuations are adjusted accordingly. It is probable, therefore, that the cost of these Crown leasehold valuations would not be more than £5,000 for the next twenty years. I dispute absolutely the Treasurer’s statement that it would cost £50,000 a year to collect this tax. One would imagine from what the Treasurer has said, that the Department had done nothing with regard to these Crown leaseholds. They have, but their attitude has been somewhat Gilbertian. The assessments have been made out every year, and sent to the taxpayers, with a footnote to the effect that the payment may be held in abeyance pending the decision of the Commissioner. That has been going on for the last five years.
– They have been invited not to pay the tax.
– The notification did not relieve the leaseholders of their liability to pay.
– No ; but this Bill does. The persons or companies concerned have been receiving their assessments for six years, and now the Government, by the passage of this Bill, intend to send them along a receipt for the amount owing. The Treasurer also said that the tax was due to misunderstanding by Parliament. What awonderful discovery! Surely we have a second Daniel among us. Parliament, he declares, knew nothing about this matter at all. The Treasurer said there is no unearned increment in leaseholds, but that statement carries its own refutation.
Dr.Earle Page. - The State gets that by re-appraisement.
– Then you do not get any tax from it, and we do not ask for it. Leasehold interest is based on unimproved value, and has unearned increment just as freehold land values have.
The whole procedure of the Government is illegal, because the Government are refusing to carry out an Act of Parliament, and are now endeavouring to rush a Bill through to legalize their action.
– What was the unimproved value beforehand?
Mr.- SCULLIN. - It is ascertained exactly by the method which the honorable member knows is applied to freehold land. The honorable member should become acquainted with the first principles of land taxation. He cannot expect me to deal with elementary matters at this juncture.
– I have forgotten more about this question than the honorable gentleman ever knew”.
– I believe the honorable member has forgotten all about it. The Treasurer said that the Commonwealth Government did not collect taxation on the good-will of hotels, and therefore should not single out Crown leases. We say that the Government will be guilty of an immoral act if it wilfully singles out one section of the community in this way to make a munificent gift to it. The Treasurer said that because the Queensland Government had increased its rents, the tax for the whole of Australia was gone. ‘ I was interested in reading the debates in 1914, when exactly the same story was told. It was then said that there was nothing to tax because the Queensland Government had recovered the economic rent, and although the rates have since increased by 200 per cent., land is still being taken up. The assessments, it must be remembered, have been based on altered rents. The Treasurer also said that this taxation was contrary to the State policy, which was low rentals and long leases. It is true, that long leases are granted, and it is also true that many scandals are associated with them. We have the States rights party raising its head once more, but we stand for the people’s rights, and shall urge that an Act of Parliament on the statute-book is enforced until it has. been repealed. Legislation should be enforced against the rich as well as the poor. The Treasurer said that if the tax was justinfied in 1914 the imposition of the Commonwealth Income Tax Act in 1915 dispensed with the necessity for it. If such is the case all. land tax should be abolished.
This paltry excuse for Ministerial abuse is quite unjustifiable, and in view of the facts I have cited, I move -
That all the words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the Bill be withdrawn and instructions issued to collect taxation due on Crown leaseholds.”
Surely all the authorities, including the two Royal Commissions and others I have quoted, are not wrong. The sum of £690,000 was collected in three years on the owners’ own valuation, and we should therefore on the owners’ valuation collect £1,300,000 for the remaining six years. The principle of taxing leasehold interest in land is sound and equitable. A debt is due- to this country, and the debtors are in a position to pay. The money should be collected by the Government, which has been particularly recreant to its trust. I am therefore asking honorable members to support the amendment I have moved to compel it to do its duty. No relief is to be given to the smaller taxpayers. No assistance is to be given to the wheat producers in the form of a guarantee; but in this instance wealthy pastoralists are to be relieved of their responsibilities. The Bill to grant increased invalid and old-age pensions, although it provides for only a miserable increase of 2s. 6d. per week has not yet been introduced, but the well-to-do in our midst are to benefit. There has been a good deal of cheeseparing in the matter of soldiers’ pensions, and an army of clerks is to be dismissed from the Taxation Department for the sake of economy. Whilst the Government is doing this it is throwing handfuls of money back to the pastoralists, who are its supporters. The Prime Minister has enabled those in Flinders-lane to make their coup, and the Treasurer is now doing his share for the supporters of the Country party. That is the way legislation is -being framed by the so-called Composite Ministry. , The Treasurer stated that the sword of Damocles was hanging over the heads of the lessees; the same sword is now hanging over the heads of Ministers and their supporters, and it will assuredly fall at the proper time. At no distant date we shall make it our business to tell the people what the Government is doing, and will prove conclusively that it is legislating in the interests of the privileged and wealthy. Honorable members opposite will find that they have a very hard row to hoe, particularly when they speak of class - legislation and class distinction. This . is -a striking example of legislation framed in the interests of a few, and at a time when money is needed in order to reduce our national debt. Although the tax was collected for three years, when a Labour Government was in power, the “ win-the-war party,” which was borrowing hundreds of millions of pounds, decided that this Act should not be operative. This was done in the interests of Jowett, Kidman, and others, and by the men who were obtaining Big prices for their wool, sheep, and cattle when meat ‘ was being sold at famine prices. They were the patriots and we were the disloyalists. It was the supporters of the Government who influenced the Government to suspend the operations of this Act for their benefit, whilst others were being most cruelly taxed. I shall oppose the Bill at this and every subsequent stage, and trust that the amendment I have moved will have the support of the majority of honorable members.
.- This question is intimately bound up with the policy of developing Australia’s vast resources, and even affects our White Australia policy very materially. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) informed us when he spoke on Friday that 91 per cent, of the whole of Australia consisted of unalienated Crown lands, and that an area of 968,000,000 acres was held under lease. I am sure honorable members on both sides will recognise that it is of the utmost importance to Australia that that vast area should be developed and populated as soon as possible if we wish to retain Australia for the white race. The greater portion of the area in question is almost wholly undeveloped, and as honorable members are aware, the ‘ first development must be done by the pioneers who blaze the track for the ‘settlers who follow them. If this Government is going to place additional burdens on the pioneers, it will be doing its part to retard necessary development. I object to the imposition of this, tax, which is impolitic, unjust, wrong in principle, and, I also believe, unconstitutional. The Treasurer was quite right when he said that it was a tax on good-will, which was not levied on any other section of the community. A good deal of country comprised in the 968,000,000 acres which have been mentioned is situated in the north-western portion of New South Wales, and, as I have had a great deal of experience in that particular part of that State, I propose to inform honorable members of some of the difficulties experienced by settlers since I went there with a number of others forty years ago to develop it. The country which I occupied was situated 260 miles from the nearest railway. It was quite unimproved, and had not been surveyed. We had to get licensed surveyors to run the boundaries, and had to cart water for them for many miles to enable them to do the work. We had to live in tents under the roughest possible conditions. The drinking water we had was such that people in the cities would not consider it fit to wash in. We had to eat bread made from weevily flour that had been months cn the road coming up. It was really unfit for food, but we had to eat it for months at a time. However, we set to work, and got the boundaries surveyed. We got our fences up at great expense. It cost from £12 to £14 per ton for carriage of material from the nearest railway. We had to cart all the material necessary for the improvements which had to be done to make the country fit for stock. The cost of improving the country was considerably more than double what we anticipated it would be. We spent all our own money, and had to begin to borrow at a high rate of interest to complete the necessary improvements. However, we completed the work, and I had 70,000 sheep on that country in seven years. We had to cart water from our neighbours’ stations to make our first improvements. We had to sink wells to a depth of 300 feet to get water, and. we had to cart water from those wells to construct tanks and dams. There was not sufficient rain for over two years to run water into the tanks and dams. Eventually we got those tanks filled, and stocked the country at considerable expense because of the high price of sheep at the time. When we had done all this, and were fairly going, the New South Wales Parliament passed a new Land Act, raising our rents from 400 to 500 per cent. That was the first knock-back, we received. About the same time the rabbits swarmed in from the south and devastated the country. A drought came on, and we lost more than half of our sheep. The price of wool dropped about 50 per cent. We could only get 6d. per lb. for our wool in Sydney, and it cost from 1½d. to 2d. per lb. to get it there. Any stock we had to dispose of was of very little value, because we were so far from a market, and we had to take very low prices. Although we went to that country with the highest of hopes, and after rain there was a splendid growth of grass, so that the country looked as if it could not be overstocked, the circumstances to which I have referred, in combination, absolutely spoiled any chance we had of making good on that country. The end of itwas that we had to abandon it to the mortgagee. I am correct in saying that not one of the old pioneers, and I knew a good many of them, is there to-day, and I do not know of one who made any money out of it.
– The pioneers are dead.
– No, they are not all dead. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) said the other day that if this tax is remitted only wealthy companies like Dalgety and Company and Goldsborough, Mortand Company will benefit. The honorable member must have overlooked the fact that the two companies to which he referred, unloaded nearly all their properties in the district I have mentioned, many years ago. Those properties are now held by other people. I do not know the Northern Territory or Western Australia, but I know a good deal of western Queensland, and I believe that the country I have described is a fair sample of the great bulk of the 968,000,000 acres in Australia which has to be developed, and the development of which will be prevented if this tax is imposed. When the tax was first imposed, Government valuators were sent out to value the properties. They were in many instances quite incompetent. They were not practical men, and in many cases they did not make fair valuations. The Treasurer, in his. speech on this Bill referred to a number of instances which very clearly showed that to be the case. I propose to give one more instance, although I have not the actual figures showing the assessments.
– Does the honorable member think that the leaseholders’ valuations were wrong?
– I do not say so. They all held, at the time, that this was a most unjust tax, but they were compelled to value their properties. I agree with them in believing that, from every point of view, this tax is immoral and wrong in principle. I have particulars here of two stations - Wanaaring and Tinapagee. They are situated 70 miles from Bourke, which is their nearest railway station. They comprise 1,118,868 acres. I know these properties well, and lived alongside of them for seven years. Soon after I first knew them they carried over 200,000 sheep. They carry now 3,000 cattle, and 120 horses. The owner has been trying to sell these properties for £36,000. This means, if the value of the cattle and horses is deducted, a little under 7d. per acre. Something like £100,000 has been spent in improvements on these properties. Some of the improvements have deteriorated to some extent, but I am well within the mark in saying that they are worth at least £50,000. They could not be replaced for that sum. The fact that the owner could not get £36,000 for the two stations with all improvements, and with 3,000 cattle and 120 horses, does not indicate that these leaseholders are making fortunes out of their properties.
– Who owns those properties now?
– Sir Sidney Kidman.
– I will tell the House something about the way in which Sir Sidney Kidman has treated these properties.
– I will tell the honorable member something about Sir Sidney Kidman if he will wait a little. He owns nearly all the country I have been speaking of, including the two stations to which I have just referred, and three or four others adjacent to them, and further out. Some people blame Sir Sidney Kidman for buying that country, but I do not blame him at all. I believe that if he had not bought it, a very great deal of it would be out of occupation to-day. Before Sir Sidney Kidman bought these stations, they were in a very bad con- dition, because of drought, and the ravages of rabbits and dingoes that came in from Queensland. With this leasehold tax held, as the Treasurer said, like the sword of Damocles over their heads, it is no wonder that the lessees began to be afraid that they would lose everything they had, and they sold out to Sir Sidney Kidman for very little indeed. It is quite correct to say, if the value of the improvements is taken into account, that they got nothing for the land. In my time, there were hundreds of thousands of sheep running over that country. The stations employed from ten to fifty or sixty men, as against two or three now employed on each; the townships were thriving, because of the business done with the stations, and numbers of carriers were doing well bringing out goods from the railway, and taking back wool. To-day that is all over, and the country has very nearly gone back to its original state. But even as it is, it is better than if it were altogether unoccupied. This immense area of country - 968,000,000 acres of leased Crown lands in Australia - must be improved if it is to be developed, and populated, and its improvement will be no easier than it was when I was in that western country. The pioneers must go through the same- trials, and most of them will lose their money. Pioneering does not pay. I can say that from experience. I do not know one pioneer who hasmade anything at the game. Nearly all of them have lost their money. The honorable member for Yarra stated as one of his objections to the repeal of this tax that there is a large margin between the economic rent and the rent paid. I think that margin is purely imaginary. There may be such a margin in a few cases, but in a great many more cases the margin is the other way, and more rent is being charged for these properties than they are worth. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) said that surely the Government ought to be able to raise some money from this immense area of country, and that it would be absurd for it to give up its right to tax leaseholds. He asked whether we were not to get any taxation at all from over 960,000,000 acres of land? The honorable member must have overlooked the fact that, if the leaseholders make any money at all, they will have to pay income tax, which is the only fair tax. I have only to say that if the Commonwealth Parliament wishes to do what is just, it will withdraw from this field of taxation, a field in which it has no right at all. The State Governments, the owners of the land, tax all these leases up to what they consider their full value. In many cases the valuations they put upon them are greater than their full value. The Commonwealth Government has no moral right in this field of taxation. I trust that the House will agree to the Bill.
– Since the amendment was submitted by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), I have inspected the records, and I find that on 13th August the honorable member moved, upon the motion for leave to introduce this Bill, the following amendment: -
That all the words after the word” That “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “the motion be withdrawn, and immediate action taken to collect the land tax due on Crown leaseholds.”
That amendment and the one which the honorable member has moved to-night are substantially the same in phraseology. Standing order 125 says -
No question or amendment shall be proposed which is the same in substance as any question, which, during the same session, has been resolved in the affirmative or negative.
The amendment submitted by the honorable member on 13th August was dealt with by a vote of the House. Therefore, the emphatic words of the standing order render it impossible for me to receive the amendment he has moved this evening.
– On a point of order. There is a vast differencebetween the two amendments. On the 13th August I moved that the motion be withdrawn, and immediate action be taken to collect the amount of taxation due. To-night I have moved that the Bill be withdrawn, and that the Government issue instructions for the collection of the tax. The first amendment dealt with a motion for leave; the second relates to a Bill. The first proposed that immediate action be taken to collect the tax; the present one directs the Government to issue instructions for the collection of the tax.
– The distinctions mentioned by the honorable member are perfectly accurate. If the standing order merely debarred amendments that were the same in form I would not rule against the honorable member, but it says that the question may not be the same . “ in substance.” For all practical purposes, the two amendments are substantially the same. 1 regret, therefore, that I cannot accept the amendment that the honorable member has moved upon the motion for the second reading.
.- I move -
That the word “ now “ he omitted, and the following words be added to the motion: - “ this day six months.”
I think the Government would be well advised if it adopted the suggestion contained in the amendment.
– The period is not long enough.
– Nearly twelve months will have elapsed before the Government is ready to meet Parliament again, and then it will not have the impudence to bring down such a measure as that which is now before us. From every platform throughout Australia members of the Labour party are constantly telling the people that there is only one party that can represent them. Other parties pretend to represent the people, but represent only classes, and one can quite understand whence come the hundreds of thousands of pounds to do the campaign work of my honorable friends opposite. The Queensland squatters prior to the last Federal and State elections, had a political fund of over £50,000 - one shilling for every bale of wool that passed through the stores. The amount they contributed was equalled by the subscriptions of other big business interests in Queensland and other States. I have no desire to be personal, but in this Chamber are the acknowledged representatives of “ big business.” The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) entered the house as a representative of the small struggling farmer, whereas he is the representative of the big squatting interests. He is a wealthy squatter, and he is speaking on behalf of his friends of the same class.
– He is speaking in behalf of Sir Sidney Kidman, and the shareholders in Goldsborough Mort, and Dulgety and Company, and those other octopuses which in the past have stretched their tentacles over the lands of the old pioneers of whom the honorable member speaks. I was brought up on the land, and I know something about the operations of the big squatting interests in this country. I know something of the privations which the man upon the land has to endure, and I know a good deal about the last days of the pioneers who fell into the hands of such benevolent people as Goldsborough Mort, Dalgety and Company, Sidney Kidman, and other such companies and persons as the honorable member for Riverina and the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) are pleading for. Those big squatting interests killed the pioneers, or drove them off their land with their charges of 8, 9, 10 and even 20 per cent.
– That is not so.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that what I am stating is the truth.
– I know that those companies lost a lot of money.
– I grant that they lost some money, but they have made a lot, and any one who looks at the dividend list cannot seriously say that they have made a net loss. I can understand the specious pleading of my honorable friend. It is only in’ such a House as this, and in such a country as Australia, that a man could, without harming himself, make such a plea as the honorable member has made. He is a large landholder. I wonder how far this Bill applies to him personally.
– In a very slight degree.
– If it applies to the honorable member in the slightest degree, he has no right to speak and vote on a matter in which he is personally interested, and for the purpose of having taxation lifted off his own shoulders. If there is a class of people which is well able to pay taxation, it is the class to which the honorable member belongs. The big graziers of the Commonwealth have been entirely hostile to the CommonwealthLand Tax Act, and when the merging of the Country party into the Nationalist party was being negotiated, the Graziers’ Associations of New South Wales and other States were bringing the whole of their pressure to bear upon those members of the Country party who were reluctant to be swallowed by the Nationalists.
– That is not true.
– The pressure exercised by the graziers was so great that the Treasurer, and his colleagues of the erstwhile Country party have been swallowed, and are now merged in the Nationalist party. That was done at the behest of the big institutions that represent the squatters of Australia.
– The honorable member should not let that worry him too much.
– I like to deliver a few home truths to honorable members who with their tongues in their cheeks claim to represent the farmers, when as a matter of fact, they are only representing the big boodlers. The prizes indeed are great, and each section in its turn will be catered for by the Government. Every section that has put money into the party funds shall have its interests well looked after. The prizes are many and big. To Flinders-lane, which is represented by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) . the Commonwealth ‘Woollen Mills have been sacrificed. That juicy morsel has been sold to a syndicate at half its real value - one of the most scandalous transactions ever perpetrated at the expense of the Australian public. . “While the syndicate obtained that rich prize, the whole of the rag merchants, of Australia were relieved of the worry of competition by a mill owned by the Commonwealth. That section of the community is very well looked after, thank you! For every penny it put into the party funds, it has been repaid one thousand, nay, one million, fold. Wire netting was provided by the Government for the lucky electorates. I suppose it is for Kidman, who refuses to buy wire netting. It was only because of the alertness of honorable members on both sides of’ this House that the Government was prevented from putting over another - can I use the word “suspicious”?
– Well; I shall allude to it as an extraordinary deal, and everybody will know what I meant Certain wealthy persons in the community are interested in a syndicate or company known as Amalgamated Wireless Limited, which is- one of the Marconi group, and the very accommodating Nationalist party handed out a concession, unequalled throughout the world, inasmuch as it gives the syndi- c’ate practically a monopoly of wireless business in Australia. From to-day, until such time as a Government with enough courage to upset the agreement comes into office, Amalgamated Wireless will take toll of the people of Australia. Big prizes for big business ! Then there are the” oil concessions. The Anglo-Persian Oil Company have been given a concession to supply all the oil required in Australia. They subscribe less than half the capital of the company, and the people of Australia subscribe more than half. Because it is a big prize for a big business, the people of Australia have three directors on the Board, and the AngloPersian Oil Company have four. Many dismal tales have been told in this House, but I think the most dismal was told by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen).
– Was it not true?
– The attorney’ for the wealthy squatter spoke of the privations and hardships of those people, of the bad water, and the rotten conditions under which they lived in the early days. After hearing his speech, one would think that the north-west of New South Wales was an arid desert, occupied by dingoes, and producing, possibly, a few rabbits in good seasons. As a matter of fact, it is one of the most prolific wealth-producing parts of New South Wales, and millions upon millions of pounds come from that “ arid waste,” where so much privation is said to exist.
– That is not the part of which I was speaking.
– The honorable gentleman was speaking of the north-west of New . South Wales. Midkin Station is there, and it carries over 100,000 sheep.
-. - That is not in the northwest part of the Western division.
– When one comes further south, through Brewarrina to Burrima, one finds land all of which is splendid. It produces high-class wool, beef; and mutton, but mutton principally. Further’ west, one comes to the Kidman country. Half my electorate is controlled by Kidman. On the Tinapagee, Wanaaring, and other stations, where fifteen or twenty years ago there were hundreds of thousands of sheep, there are now very few.
– There are no sheep there to-day, but only a few cattle.
– There has descended on the western portion of New South Wales a blight. It is called the “ Kidman blight,” and everything that Kidman has touched has withered like a delicate plant held before a fire. In 1915 I was at Bourke. IKnow that part of the country well. Ihave shorn sheep in it. I have carried my swag through it. I knew it when it carried its millions of sheep. I have seen it when it carried only dingoes and a few cattle. I have seen it prosperous, with its bores, tanks, and dams well looked after, and with properlyequipped huts and shearing sheds. I have also seen it after Kidman had finished with it. In 1915 waggon-load after waggon-load of second-hand iron came to Bourke. It was trucked to Sydney. It was sent by Sidney Kidman, and hadbeen removed from the huts and shearing sheds, and it included part of the township of Wanaaring. I venture to say that if the price of £50,000 already mentioned had been paid for that country by Sidney Kidman, he did not lose much by the transaction, for second-hand galvanized iron at that time was worth from £50 to £60 per ton in Sydney. There are many Sidney Kidmans in this country. I place Edmund Jowett in no different position from Kidman. When the information was last obtainable, Mr. Edmund Jowett held fifty-two stations, and now the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, with the concurrence of the Government, and the support of members of the Nationalist party, has the audacity to stand up in this House and seek to relieve that man of his proper and just share of taxation.
– Because he and the Treasurer are members of the same party.
– Mr. Jowett is one of the pioneers. Mr. Jowett and Sir Sidney Kidman are the men who have suffered privation, and have fought bush- fires, droughts, and floods, and have lived on bad water !
– And black bread.
– I don’t think!
– Does the honorable member not think that Sir Sidney Kidman has undergone hardships ?
– I am certain that the pioneering work done by Sidney Kidman is very little. My honorable friend can tell me nothing about Sidney Kidman. I have followed his career ever since I had the capacity to understand. I have known him for twenty-five years, and I have not known anything to his credit in connexion with the opening up of land. He has taken wire out of fences and iron off the sheds. He has not attempted to deal with the dingo pest ? Who is acting as a barrier to the dingoes coming across the Queensland border ? Is it Kidman, through hundreds of miles of whose country the dingoes come to get to New South Wales? If any one should merit the detestation, the enmity, and the indignation of the men on the land, it is he. I am speaking now of the pastoralists, who are vainly endeavouring to stem the tide of Kidman’s dingoes. It is they who, almost every six mouths, go to Sydney and ask the Government to assist them to fight the pest. They are putting up the fight of their lives, but while any man or company in this community is allowed to have land in such a condition as Kidman’s is in, weshall continue to have dingoinfested country. If the honorable member for Riverina is content to allow that kind of thing, the dingo will eventually come down to his part of the State.
– I am not content; I want to see the country again occupied by sheep, and conditions made so favorable that it will pay leaseholders to produce sheep.
– In all this country, water is scarce, because the bores have corroded, and nothing has been done to keep them in working order. The tanks have filled with sand, the fences have gone, and there is absolute waste and utter ruin. Kidman would have to pay very little tax on that; but, farther south, he holds leaseholds, and, in many instances, owns stations, which are worth something. That country should be taxed, and it is that country which the Government is endeavouring to relieve of taxation.
– The Government does not propose to relieve freeholds of taxation.
– That is so. I believe the freehold land tax inaugurated by the Australian Labour party is a just tax. We stand by that principle, and we shall fight against any attempt to tamper with it.
– This Bill does not attempt to tamper with it.
– It seeks to abolish the taxation of Crown leaseholds. I would say that the Bill is “ too hot to put over.” I would ask my honorable friends opposite, who may not be fully acquainted with the details of the Bill, to pause and explore every possible avenue of information before they vote for it. If la nd is not worth anything, no tax is levied upon it. It is useless for the honorable member for the Riverina, or any other honorable member, to claim that the land in question is no good. If it were, it could not be taxed. Land must have a wealth-producing value before it can be taxed. Before the taxing point is reached, there is a £5,000 exemption to be passed. Let us take the case of “A,” whose leasehold is valued for taxation purposes at under £5,000. It could he safely assumed that his stock and improvements would be worth another £5,000. That would be quite a moderate estimate. That man, for taxation purposes, would be worth, say, £10,000. The small men are not hit by the land tax. The Labour party was wise in making it impossible for the small grazier or farmer to be affected in any. way by the graduated land tax.
– There are many struggling men on the land.
– If we accepted all the statements of the honorable member for Riverina, we should believe that the Kidrnans and Jowetts were struggling men. We know quite well that they are not. The graduated land tax is absolutely equitable, and the man who cannot affordto pay it does not pay it. If the wealth is not produced by the land he is not asked to pay. As has been said by the honorable member for Yarra. (Mr. Scull in), two men in Australia will receivea benefit amounting to something like £200,000 by the passing of this Bill. They will have that amount of tax remitted to them. Those two men are Kidman and Jowett. Should that taxation be remitted to those men ? The answer to that question is, I think, quite clear and plain. It should not. Mr. Jowett who was formerly a member of this House, owned fifty-two stations, and was running something like 2,000,000 sheep, 10,000 cattle, and about 5,000 horses. Most of the land he holds isCrown leasehold. Then we have the Australian and New Zealand Land Company, the English, and Scottish Investment Company, Goldsbrough, Mort, and Company, Dalgety and Company, and many other small institutions, which are struggling in vain to produce a dividend for their unfortunate shareholders. A large number of the shareholders of these companies are not even residents of Australia. The greater portion of the capital of all of them is held outside Australia. The Treasurer, when he introduced this Bill, spoke of helping the man on the land. I expect that many other honorable members will also talk of helping the man on the land. The unfortunate, struggling grazier ! Such remarks are, after all, like the ink which is squirted out by an octopus when it finds itself in danger. The object of them is tohide from sight something of a questionable character. The Treasurer has refused to give certain information to this House.
– I have not got it.
– It is not the first time that the Treasurer has declined to supply information to honorable members. Recently, I made inquiry as to how much the people were being robbed of in connexion with the payment of death duties by tendering Commonwealth stock and bonds. The Minister admitted that in the course of about fiveyears £3,700,000 worth of stock and bonds had been accepted by the Treasury in payment of death duties, but said he could not state its market value at the dates of acceptance. On the face of it, his answer was absurd The Treasurer should not have accepted that statement as an official answer from his Department. On this occasion we have another instance of the Treasurer’s inability to furnish honorable members with information asked for. I do not suggest that he is endeavouring to hide anything, but as a responsible Minister he should see to it that his Department supplies the information asked for by honorable members. To-night, when the honorable member for Yarra (Mr.
Scullin) was speaking, he reiterated that it was not possible to get the information asked for.
– It is not possible for many reasons.
– I do not know when the question was first asked by the honorable member for Yarra, but I believe it was about a fortnight ago. At all events, the Treasurer should not come down to the House with incomplete information, because honorable members depend upon this data to guide them to a decision on this question. We want to know who are to escape taxation. We want the names of the persons- the wealthy squatters and pastoral companies - who are to be relieved of this taxation, and the Treasurer will be lacking in his duty if he does not immediately instruct his departmental heads to procure it. I absolutely refuse to take his plea that it will take three weeks to get it, and I speak with a certain amount of business knowledge. The tax was imposed and collected for three years, and now we are told that it would take three weeks to find out what transfers have taken place since the leaseholders paid this tax. I refuse to accept the Treasurer’s explanation. We demand these particulars. If the Treasurer does not supply them, he must accept any inference that may be placed upon his attitude. I sincerely hope that my amendment will be carried. . I should like to persuade the Treasurer to withdraw the Bill, because I believe that it is iniquitous ; that it is on a par with other boodling schemes placed before this House during the last four years; that itis class legislation designed only for the purpose of removing taxation from the shoulders of those well able to bear it.
– I shall not occupy the House long. I congratulate the Treasurer upon the able manner in which he stated the position from his point of view. As a special pleader, he stated his case very ably. His arguments were very lucid, but vulnerable points were apparent in his presentation of the case, and as some honorable members have already pierced a number of the weak points in the Treasurer’s armour, I do not propose to do so as the time at our disposal is too limited too. I have always advocated a land tax on unimprovedvalues without the £5,000 exemption. I have always held that if the principle is right it should be applied from A to Z. The blot upon the existing Act is the application of an exemption. However, I do not want to go into that phase of the subject now. Reduced to its last analysis, the Treasurer’s arguments amount to this : The bulk of the leaseholds really have no taxable value at all, and, therefore, it is not worth while trying to collect the tax. But, as had already been pointed out, if the land has no value, there will be no taxation demands upon it, and, therefore, there is no necessity for the Bill. That there is a taxable value is proved by some holders having already paid tax, and by the assessment of arrears due in the other cases affected. I cannot support the Bill, because it is contrary to what I regard as a vital economic principle which I have always advocated. If there is to be any remission in taxation, I would prefer to see relief given to an immense number of people in receipt of small incomes who are heavily taxed through the Customs in respect of clothing which cannot be manufactured in this country. This Bill might very well have been omitted from the list of Government measures to be dealt with at the present time.
– The speech just delivered by the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) was very refreshing. It is gratifying to know that he, at least, is not going to support a measure which he realizes is transparently unjust. This measure reminds me that, when the land tax was first imposed, the newspapers were inundated with pathetic letters over the signature of a “ poor widow,” or “ mother of ten,” appealing against the proposal which did not touch any property under £5,000 unimproved value. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) to-night varied the appeal by speakingof the “ poor pioneer “ who wants relief from taxation. I remind the honorable member that the “ poor pioneer “ is not called upon to pay this tax at all. The persons most interested are they who have pushed the “poor pioneer” further back - those pastoralists or companies that have accumulated and are holding large areas of valuable leasehold country. The “ poor pioneers “ to whom the honorable member for Riverina refers had to accept 6d. a lb. for their wool; but when the Government ceased to collect taxation from those who pushed the pioneers out, wool was as high as 2s. and 2s. 6d. per lb.
– The honorable member for Wakefield knows very well that the circumstances are very different from those in which the real pioneers faced life out-back. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) pointed out that the Commonwealth land tax exemption is £5,000 unimproved value; and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has pointed out that this exemption may be about doubled before the real value of the leasehold is made subject to taxation; so the “ poor pioneers “ are not concerned. None of the constituents of the honorable member for Riverina will benefit by this Bill; but many of them were much interested in another proposal that was before the House a few days ago. When we proposed to guarantee another ls. per bushel for the wheat-growers the specious argument was submitted that any such advance would have to * come out of consolidated revenue. According to these gentlemen, it would have been a crime to confer a benefit on such a large section of the community; but to-day when it is a question of withholding from consolidated revenue an amount which” should be contributed by 200 wealthy people, it is quite another matter. It will be a very difficult thing for the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) and his supporters to explain to the wheat-growers in his electorate the difference between the two propositions, particularly if he informs them, that £1,380,000 is owing. I fully expected the honorable member for Riverina to give the House some information. He informed us that the valuers did not know their job, but he must have overlooked the fact that for three years the lessees made their own valuations, and that in each of those three years the tax amounted to over £230,000. Taking the leaseholders’ own valuation the Consoli- dated Revenue has been robbed of £1,380,000 over a period of six years. A Royal Commission consisting of seven members decided on a six-sevenths majority that it was a just proposal to impose taxation on leaseholds. A sum of more than £1,380,000 is owing to revenue, because simple interest for six years at 5 per cent, would mean another £230,000, making the total about £1,500,000.
– There were two Royal Commissions.
– Yes, both of which recommended that the tax should be collected. The Government is appointing Royal Commissions and Boards to carry out the work which should be done by its officers, and if it is going to pay as little regard to the recommendations of the Commissions as has been paid in these instances, the expenditure is unjustified, and the whole procedure farcical. I do not wish to drag in the personal element, but one cannot help noticing that Sir Sidney Kidman, who is also involved in a £76,000 ship construction deal with the Government, is a very large Crown lessee.
– I expected that, Mr. Speaker. I know that case is sub judice.
– And irrelevant.
– If you would permit me to proceed I could show its relevance. It is remarkable that this gentleman who is involved to the extent of £76,000 in connexion with a certain shipping contract entered into by a previous Government is being allowed time in which to pay, and that the whole business is being delayed to such an extent that if it goes on much longer the Statute of Limitations will apply.
– I ask the honorable member not to pursue that line of argument.
– One cannot help realizing -that this gentleman, who is involved to the extent I ‘have mentioned, will probably have more than the amount due by him in connexion with the wooden ships affair handed back in the form of a remitted tax. If the Treasurer were now sitting on the Corner bench occupied by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), in company with the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson), and the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart), we would hear him suggesting that the “ light should be switched on and the loot dropped “. This is an instance in which the Government of which he is a member is wilfully defying the recommendation of a Royal Commission.
– In this instance they are telling them to take it.
– Yes ; they are now saying, “ Turn down the lights, and instead of dropping the loot we will get away in the dark.” What a change has come over these gentlemen of the late Country party. I ask the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), and the honorable member for Riverina, in all seriousness, if they can justify their actions before their constituents, who will have to contribute largely towards the £1,500,000. I support the amendment which has been moved.
.- I have never heard such extravagant statements concerning land taxation, and the character of the country on which it is proposed to remit taxation, as have been made to-night. Crown leases are of less value than other leases. The old Crown or pastoral leases of thirty years ago have now been largely appropriated for agricultural purposes, or subdivided into small grazing runs, and what is left to-day is represented by the 968,000,000 acres which are occupied, and 700,000,000 acres which are unoccupied. The land is totally different from that which is being utilized for agricultural purposes, and comprises large areas which can only be held and controlled by men possessing considerable capital who are in a position to carry on during varying seasons, and with an irregular rainfall ranging from 6 to9 inches. In the middle eighties, it was said that the squatters should be bailed up because their cattle were eating the grass belonging to the people, and thatthe land was leased at a ridiculously low rental. It was said that they were having a mighty good time, because they were paying only 5s. to 10s. per square mile. But their leases were rapidly running out. To-day those areas are occupied by agriculturists, but the dif ference between that land and the area now held under pastoral leases is as disferent as one could possibly conceive. When the “ eighty “ leases were falling due in South Australia, the then Commissioner of Crown Lands, the late Sir Jenkin Coles, who was one of the keenest and most practical men who ever occupied a seat in the South Australian Parliament, was determined to put their value to the test, and for the first time in our history he submitted pastoral leases to auction. The result was that a large area of good land was leased at a high price per square mile. Some went up to £3 and £4, and exceedingly good properties to more than £4 per square mile. What was the result? The men who took them did not hold them for much more than a year. They never paid a second year’s rent. The land was being deserted, and the Parliament of the day passed legislation creating a Pastoral Board, composed of practical men representing the pastoral industry and officers of the Lands Department, and after careful valuation the Board reduced the rentals of these properties by one-half, and in some cases by more than one-half, and even then the Government could not get them leased. The rentals of many had to be reduced to one-fourth and one-fifth of what they had been run up to at auction before the Government could get the properties occupied again. That was the history of land that was infinitely better than any comprised in what are known as Crown leases to-day. These Crown leases are in outside country. Nine hundred and sixty-eight million acres are occupied, and 700,000,000 are unoccupied. There is no great rush for this land. I want to say that the 968,000,000 acres that are occupied are responsible for more shattered fortunes than successes. Possibly half the area is responsible for the shattered fortunes of magnificent men who have worked on their stations night and day, and spent their last shilling on improvingthem. They have pulled through droughts and other difficulties, and yet have had to surrender. Some exceedingly reckless references have been made to financial institutions. This outside country could not be held at the present time, and could not have been held in the past had it not been for the financial institutions referred to. When they have held these leases it has not been of their own will, but because they have fallen into their hands as representing immensely heavy debts, and they have got rid of them at the first possible opportunity. When these leases were written down to their proper value, and that meant a small value, because it was recognised that the rent was a secondary consideration and occupation and use were the primary considerations, what was the result? The rabbit and the dingo came in, and the State Government had to step in, because the devastation these pests caused was threatening to wreck the whole country. It was only by the lessees cooperating with other lessees and with the Government, by the creation of immense vermin districts, and the erection of thousands of miles of verminproof netting fences 7 feet high, at a cost of from £60 to £90 per mile, that the country was kept in occupation. A big proportion of it was’ being absolutely deserted, and had it not been for this enormous expenditure, which in South Australia ran into more than £2,000,000, the land would not have remained in occupation. The money was advanced by the State to the lease-holders for twenty-one years with repayments on a sliding scale. That is the history of this pastoral country, and I assert that when country is kept in occupation by such enormous advances by the State Governments, if there is any land tax that can be fairly collected at all, “it should belong to the State Government, whose wise administration and exceeding generosity have been responsible for keeping the land in use. In the Federal Convention I listened to a very long debate on this question of imposing land tax. The feeling of the Convention was strongly in favour of the taxation of land being reserved to the State Parliaments. But there was a compromise arrived at. It was considered that there might be times of unforeseen crises, such as war, when it was possible that even a land tax would have to be resorted te by the Federal authorities, and so the imposition of such a tax was left within the power of the Commonwealth Parliament, but to be used only at a time of absolute crisis. If there is room for the imposition of a land tax, it should be imposed by the States. The proof that there is no room for it is that the States have not yet sought to impose such a tax. Honorable members opposite have used arguments, if they be called arguments, in support of this tax, but I ask them in all sincerity whether they do not consider that it is in the interests of Labour in this country to make the occupation of these wide outside areas as practicable as possible. It is the improvements that make the value of these estates. Water must be conserved, and sub-divisional fencing carried out, and it is these improvements that are responsible more than anything else for the carrying capacity of the land. It is only where men have sufficient wealth to undertake these improvements that there is any labour found on these stations for the working man. If on these great pastoral estates of 500, or 1,000, or 2,000 square miles we have men who will strive to get as much as they can from them with as few improvements as possible, no labour to speak of will be. employed on them. But where men are prepared to spend from £10,000 to £30,000, and more, on improvements, labouring men can expect to find work, and shearers can expect there will be sheep to shear. I never heard such irrelevant arguments as those which have been advanced by honorable members opposite on this subject. I wonder what the shearers and other workmen on the stations of Australia will think when they read the statements of honorable members opposite on this question of pastoral occupation. I do not know it for a fact, but I have a very shrewd suspicion that the Government wish to surrender the taxation of these areas because they cannot get anything out of them. They cannot get sufficient revenue from their taxation to pay the cost of collecting the tax. Honorable members opposite have said that the cost of collection can be seen from the books of the Taxation Department, but that is not so. We have to take into consideration the expenses of valuators, the cost of assessing, and of collecting the tax.. Two gentlemen have been referred to as owing certain sums to the Government. If they , do, I want to know what they have to say for themselves. I have a shrewd suspicion again that those gentlemen have put in a plea against the assessment. The assessment is pending, and I should not be surprised if the Govern. ment were not too anxious to go into
Court and test it, because they feel that they would be throwing good money after bad.
– That is a great argument.
– It is a mighty good argument, if true, and I am pretty sure that it can be shown to be true. I ask honorable members on both sides to remember that we occupy a country with a variable climate. It has magnificent seasons sometimes for two, three, or even four years running, when big money can be made. But at times the heavens withhold their moisture, the grass and water fail, and the sheep die. If there is anything left, the rabbits get it, and then, as I have seen over and over again, even the rabbits have at last to go. Honorable members talk of this country as if it were a land of Goshen, and were within the limits of the agricultural area. It is nothing of the kind. The Government will do well to get rid of this tax, because there is nothing in it for them, and they have no right to it. It is the State Governments that have a right to such a tax if it can be imposed.
.- I suppose that despite our opposition the Bill will be carried, probably in accordance with some definite promise made by the Government to those interests that financed them in their election campaign. Honorable members on this side of the House are always prepared to assist the struggling land-holder who is striving against great odds to make a living.I supported the proposal for the payment of a bounty to help the men engaged in the cattle industry in Queensland and other States, who have been faring very badly during the last few years. That bounty will benefit the struggling graziers, but I think the Government is grossly unjust in relieving land-holders like Sidney Kidman, Edmund Jowett, the Australian Estates Company, and Dalgety and Company, of such a large sum in taxation. The Bill now before the House is not calculated to give any help to the poorer land-holder. The Act which this Bill proposes to repeal provides for the taxation of the leasehold interest in Crown lands, such interest being the difference between the economical rent and the rent paid to the Crown, capitalized at 4½ per cent. But, as an exemption of £5,000 is allowed, the great majority of lease-holders are altogether exempt from the tax. This Bill, therefore, affects only a few hundred people, who we have been told to-night owe the Commonwealth £1,300,000, which, had it been paid into the Treasury, could have been advantageously employed in lifting the burden off the shoulders of struggling people in country and city. For the first three years of the operation of this tax, the Commonwealth was able to collect £690,000 on the owners’ own valuations, but as soon as the Labour party went out of office the tax on Crown leaseholds was suspended at the behest of those people who pour money into the fighting funds of the Tory parties opposite, no doubt in expectation of favours to come. All sorts of subterfuges have been resorted to in order to evade the collection of this taxation, in the hope that some day a Bill would be agreed to by Parliament which would relieve the rich pastoral companies, many of them absentees, of their accumulated debt to the Commonwealth. If a sum of money is owed by a poor person, or if a small farmer is backward in the payment of his taxation, he is pursued with the utmost rigour of the law; but, because the people who owe the Commonwealth this amount of £1,300,000 are members of the Melbourne Club and similar institutions, and can pull the strings of influence and get the financial institutions to fight their battles, they are to be relieved of this burden. Those who are pioneering under great disabilities, however, must contribute to the Treasurer the full pound of flesh. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) told the House that Sidney Kidman and Edmund Jowett between them will be relieved of a total of £200,000 which they owe to the Commonwealth. It is a just debt, and should be paid. Are those the men for whom honorable members on the cross benches, the alleged Country party representatives, were elected to fight? When they were appealing to the people for votes, they dissociated themselves from the great pastoral interests and the wealthy institutions. By that propaganda they were able to defeat a number of Nationalist candidates. Two Royal Commission’s, which were appointed by Tory Governments, have given unbiased verdicts in favour of the taxation of
Crown leaseholds. The first Commission, by a majority of two to one, recommended a continuance of the tax, and the 1921 Royal Commission upon taxation decided by a six to one majority that the tax was fair and equitable, and should be collected. Only political considerations prevented the Government from collecting this debt.
– The men with smaller holdings have not been relieved of their obligations.
– No; but Jowett, Kidman, the Australian Pastoral Company, and the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Company have got away with over £1,000,000, and no action is being taken to compel them to pay. The Treasurer, in moving the second reading of the Bill, referred to the “Repudiation Act” in Queensland. No such Act is to he found on the statute-book of that State. It is true that the Queensland Labour Government removed the 50 per cent, restriction in connexion with the re-appraisement of leaseholds. That restriction was imposed in 1905 by a Government that was sympathetic towards the squatters of Queensland. The 1902 Act repealed the limitation of rentals under the Act of 1886, and granted an extension of the leases. The pastoralists experienced bad seasons in 1902-3 ; and in 1905 a Liberal Government amended the law to provide that the Independent Land Court should not have power to increase the rents of the big lease-holders by more than 50 per cent, on the decennial re-appraisement. There was no such protection for the small man. The’ result was that many small grazing selectors had to pay three and four times as much in rental as was paid by the wealthy squatters. Throughout Australia, the squatters have always wielded a very powerful influence in the Legislature. The restricted franchise in the early days enabled them to get their representatives into Parliament, where they dictated their own terms. The early land Acts of the various States are proof of the tremendous influence which the wealthy squatters exercised in their own interests to the detriment of the rest of the community. They regarded the small selector as their enemy, because they did not desire the land to be cut up for closer settlement. . The Aus tralian Estates and Mortgage Company owned seven stations in Queensland, three of which were protected by the Land Act passed in 1910 by a Tory Government, and were paying only a third of the rental that the small grazing selectors were paying for the same class of ‘ land. The Australian Pastoral Company owned 21 stations in Queensland, of which 20 were protected by class legislation. The New Zealand and Australian Land Company owned 28 stations, of which 25 were protected; and Dalgety and Company, 5 stations, all of which were protected. The aggregate area owned by these absentee companies was 19,850 square miles, or an average of 320 square miles per holding.
– The shares of those companies are on the market, and there are thousands of small, and probably poor, shareholders in them.
– The big absentee companies are not fools. They sell locally 10,000 or 15,000 shares out of 200,000 to Australians, who, however, have absolutely no say in the management or control. The policy is dictated by the directors in London. ‘ These companies were given special privileges by the early land Acts, and the measure passed through Parliament in 1920 by the Labour Government sought to apply the one law to the grazing selector and the big squatter alike. Formerly, the Land Court was precluded from raising the rental of the big squatter by more than 50 per cent.; but the grazing selector had to depend upon the justice of the Land Court, and pay whatever rental might be fixed. The Oakwood Station in Queensland is owned by an absentee company. A quarter of its area was resumed and selected, and for it the grazing farmers paid in rental £319 12s. Id.; whilst for the remaining three-fourths, the New Zealand Loan Company paid only £466. For one-fourth of the Mount Cornish Estate, grazing selectors paid in rental £992; while the wealthy lease-holders paid for the remaining three-quarters only £1,072. For one-:fourth of Marathon Station, the grazing farmers paid £1,054 in rental; and for the balance the big lease-holders paid £1,500. ,
– The honorable member is speaking of two different classes of land.
– That is not so; because the Land Act provided that the land to be resumed should represent the fair average quality of the whole of the pro,perty. In many instances, the squatters who have influence in the Department have managed to retain the good portion of the estate, and get the inferior land thrown open for closer settlement. I have heard numerous complaints to that effect in Queensland, and reports of similar occurrences in other States have reached me. If the big lease-holders of the Marathon Estate had paid on the same basis as the small grazing leaseholders, they would have contributed £3,162 in rental instead of £1,054. For the three properties I have mentioned, all of which are owned by absentee companies, the rental paid was £2,366 3s. 5d. ; whereas if the rental had been charged on the same basis as that on which the small grazing farmers were assessed, it would have amounted to £7,098 10s. 3d. The Royal Commission on the Taxation of Leasehold Estates in Crown Lands, which reported in 1919, mentioned the following examples:
It will be observed that in the case of “ D “ the tax paid to the Commonwealth is almost as much as the rent paid to the State. In example “ E “ the tax is over twice as much as the rent, which shows that the rent charged by the State was not the true economic rent of the land. It showed that the States were not getting the true economic value, but there was in power a Government which was prepared to allow this beautiful land to be locked up for the benefit of absentee companies at a nominal rental, while thousands of people were clamouring .for it for closer settlement. The’ cases show quite clearly that there was a very wide difference between the rental charged by the State and the true ‘ rental value of the land. Because the Labour party in Queensland had the courage to introduce a Lands Act Amendment Bill in 1920, to make it possible for an independent tribunal to deal with all these cases on their merits, it was told that it stood for repudiation. It was told that it was proposing to repudiate a contract that had been entered into. But no one could point to the contract. By a sufficient stretch of the imagination it could be contended that every amendment of an Act that is introduced to alter a principle in a previous Act is a repudiation. In 1910 the then Liberal Government m Queensland proposed to remove the 50 per cent, restriction that existed in the Queensland land law, and it’ was only when the measure had been introduced into the House, and pressure had been brought to bear by the great pastoral companies, that the clause providing for the removal of that 50 per cent, restriction was deleted. Here is what the then Premier, the Hon. D. F. Denham, as reported on page 1211 of the Queensland Hansard for 1910, then said -
I apprehend that the question of repudiation may come up, and I wish to say there is nothing in the nature of repudiation in this Bill. Here I may refer to .the remarks made by Sir Samuel Griffith, who was Premier in 1884, when the question of repudiation was raised bv the Leader of the Opposition in regard to the .position which the pastoral lessees held under the 1869 Act.
Sir Samuel Griffith was afterwards Chief Justice of the Commonwealth. Here is what he said in dealing with the alteration of the conditions in leases -
If it was a repudiation of a right, the conduct of the Government was wrong; but they believed implicitly that there was no right of the kind, and that, instead of the repudiation of the right of an individual, it was a deliberate assertion of the right of the country, as against the unfounded claim lately put forward by every pastoral lessee in the country, that he was entitled to make freehold of, on a,n average, one-sixth of his estate. Believing that, ‘he maintained that they were bound to take the course they were doing.
I quote the opinion of Mr. Denham because the Treasurer referred to the “ Repudiation Act “ passed by the Queensland Government, and said it enabled the Government to filch greater rentals from the land-holders who, under an agreement, were guaranteed that the increase would not be made. That Act, however, only gives the Land Court the same power oyer the leases held by the big pastoral companies and absentee companies as it has in dealing with leases held by grazing selectors. Surely the people of Australia do not approve of having one law for the poor and another for the rich. The Primary Producers Review, which is the official organ of the Queensland Farmers Union, and the United Cane-growers Association, did not think that the Lands Act Amendment Act was a repudiatory measure. It said that the fight put up in the interests of the wealthy squatters of Australia was not indorsed by the struggling farmers in the country. That journal, in its issue of 10th January, 1921, said -
In 1902, thepastoralists were quite willing to let the limitation go by the board if they got longer leases. An ultra-benevolent Government, in1905, restored the limitation; so that the pastoralists not only secured an extension of the lease,but got a special privilege as well. … It is no use talking about repudiation, however. If there is one policy more than another against which Australians are opposed it is that of special privilege, and there Was a distinctspecial privilege in this instance. It ought never to have been in the Act. But nearly every amending Bill alters some privilege that some one has enjoyed. It is done on the principle that public rights come first, and that is just what happened in this case.
The Land Court of Queensland to-day is free and untrammelled. It can hear evidence: on both sides, and fix what it considers a fair and equitable rent. The wealthy land-owners and squatters, who previously were able to get their land tor one-third of the rental paid by grazing selectors, now have to go to the Court and state their case like any one else, and depend on the judgment of the Court. All the trouble occasioned in Queensland by the infamous delegation that was sent to London to oppose Mr. Theodore’s mission for loan money, was brought about by the absentee companies, which had their representatives in London, and used their influence with the money lenders to prevent Mr. Theodore raising a loan. It was stipulated that before the money would be made available, Mr. Theodore must repeal the , Land Act Amendment Act of 1920, modify his State insurance legislation, and repeal the proposal for the people of the metropolis of Brisbane to purchase the tramways of that City from an American Company. All these things were to be done at the dictate of the representatives of the great pastoral companies and financial magnates in London. Mr. Theodore was asked to barter away the self-governing rights of the State, and hand them over to a body of wealthy men in London. These same men are using their pernicious influence to-day with the Commonwealth Parliament. They financed certain branches of the Country party throughout Australia, and that party to-day fight not in the interests of the struggling farmer, but of the wealthy land-holders. Mr. Edkins, who receives a salary of £8,000 per annum, is one of the chief officers in the Graziers Association of Queensland. He has been using all the influence hehas with Federal members.
– I think that is a great exaggeration. I have never heard of the gentleman.
Mr.FORDE. - It is not an exaggeration. If the honorable member were in touchwith happenings in Queensland, as I am, he would know a lot of that gentleman. He has been pulling strings, spending money, and using influence among pastoralists in an endeavour to drive the Labour Government out of office, and he did that because it had the courage to give effect to the mandate of the people. The report of the annual meeting of the Queensland Graziers Association, held in 1921, stated -
The report of the officer in charge of the association’s political work (Mr. J, P. Peter- son) was presented to the Council, and gave very full information regarding the operations of the Primary Producers’ Union during the past twelve months.
The officer in charge of the graziers’ political work gave a report upon the operations of the Primary Producers’ Union, which they control unknown to many of the small farmer members.
The Primary Producers Union certainly has a few small farmers among its. members, but it includes the wealthy men, who supply the fighting funds for elections. That is why I am firmly of opinion that honorable members opposite, both Country party and Nationalist, have had their policy dictated to them by their masters outside. They have been told that they must pass this Bill to relieve the wealthy pastoral companies of Australia of £1,300,000 taxation. Among those who will be relieved are the Australian Estates and Mortgage Company,
New Zealand Loan, Dalgety and Company, and men like Jowett and Kidman. Can it besaid that they are poor men? We should be recreant to our trust if we supported this measure. If any relief is to be given it should be to the small farmers, the pioneer selectors, and the sugargrowers. The sugar-growers of Queensland only ask for a small measure of relief in the shape of an embargo on the importations of black-grown sugar for a period of five years. Honorable members on this side of the House have no objection to that form of relief, but they strongly protest against any proposal to relieve great absentee pastoral companies from taxation to the extent of close on £1,500,000. This measure shows honorable gentlemen opposite in their true colours. Representatives of the Country party pretend that they were sent into this House to watch over the interests of the small producers, but we find that they are well in “ the bag,” and have joined with the great interests of Flinders-lane and the Melbourne Club to carry on the government of this country in the interests of the privileged and the wealthy classes.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Corser) adjourned.
Message, recommending appropriation, reported.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 o’clock a.m. to-morrow.
“Hansard” Proofsof Members’ Speeches.
. -I should like to suggest, Mr. Speaker, with regard to the thirty-five proof slips of speeches to which honorable members are entitled, that if the date on which theywere delivered were attached to each proof it would be a convenient record.
– Ishall confer with the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, and see if the suggestion made by the honorable member can be adopted. I think it would be an improvement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 August 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230820_reps_9_105/>.