9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Prime Minister furnish to the House a return showing the incomes of the following firms and gentlemen - to be indicated by numbers - who will benefit by the proposed remission, of £1,300,000ofland taxation: - The Australian Estates Ltd., Peel River Land and Mineral Company Ltd., Scottish Australian Investment Company, the Northern Pastoral Company, Thomas B. Norton and Company, the Australian Pastoral Company, the Australian Land and Mortgage Company, the New Zealand Mercantile Company, Mr. A. T. Creswick, SirS. Kidman, and Mr. Edmund Jowett?
– I do not know whether the information is available, but, in any case, it would be quite impossible to state, even under numbers, the incomes of’ a selected group of persons, without risking the disclosure of information obtained in confidence for taxation pur- poses. I think the honorable member will agree that that should not, in any circumstances, be done.
– Is the Prime Minister prepared to follow the example of a great parliamentarian, Sir Alexander Peacock, and indicate by numbers- the incomes of 100 of those persons and companies,so that, we may gain some idea of the extent to which these magnificent people will benefit by the proposed remission ?
– I am aware of the return prepared by Sir Alexander Peacock, on which the names of the taxpayers were indicated by numbers only, but I do not propose to follow that example. It would be a very dangerous action to take, for, whilst it may he possible in regard to income taxation to state certain facts in such a way that no possible leakage of confidential in- “ formation could occur, I do not think it can be done in this instance.
– In view of the trend of the debate last night on the Land Tax Assessment Bill, and the statements made regarding persons and companies who are to be relieved of taxation, will the Treasurer make an effort to sup-, ply the House with information regarding those who paid the tax during the first three years of its operation, in order that honorable members may, with the aid of that information, decide whether the proposed remission of the tax is rightor wrong?
– In replying to the debate on the second reading, I shall give all the information at my disposal.
.- I present the report of the Committee of Public Works on the proposed provision of telephoneworkshops at Spencer street, Melbourne, and move -
That the report be printed.
– I have noticed that a considerable volume of evidence has been attached to some of the reports printed recently. A Printing Committee exists for the purpose of deciding what parliamentary papers should be printed, and I think it might be left to that body to decide whether we should incur the expense of printing the minutes of evidence as well as the reports of the Public Works Committee. Often a great deal of money is wasted on the printing of evidence which nobody reads. What the House wants are the findings of the Committee, and so long as the evidence is available in the Library or somewhere else for reference, if required, no advantage will be gained by printing it.
.- As soon as the evidence taken before the Standing Committee is transcribed by the shorthand writer, it is printed for the use of the Committee. The main expense of setting has already been incurred. The only additional expense involved in the printing of a few copies for the use of members will be the cost of the paper used. I do not think that any economy worth while can be effected by deciding not to print the evidence with the report, having regard to the fact that the evidence is already in type.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Two or three weeks ago, when private members’ day was eliminated, the Prime Minister promised that he would, if possible, provide opportunity for a vote to be taken upon certain private members’ business appearing on the notice-paper. I ask him now whether he will allow a vote to be taken upon such private motions as have already been moved and partly discussed, if the movers are agreeable to their being decided without further discussion ?
– If any time should be available the Government will be . only too pleased to place it at the disposal off members who have private business on the notice-paper.
– Recently a Select.
Committee of this House recommended that ‘£200 compensation be paid to exGunner Yates. Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the source’ from which the money is to be obtained ? Will he ask his predecessor, the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) to refund to the Commonwealth this expenditure for which he was responsible, because of the statement he made?
– The money will be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue in the usual way.
– About a month ago I asked the Prime Minister for certain information regarding the control and expenditure of various patriotic funds. I have not yet received the information, and, as there is a good ‘ deal of dissatisfaction owing to the apparent absence of control . over these funds, I ask the Treasurer to endeavour to furnish a reply to my question before the session closes.
– The information for which the honorable member has asked has to be obtained from each of the States. I shall inquire at once whether any of.it has come bo hand, and whether anything can be done to expedite a reply.
– As certain ambulance organizations in the country are not very well supplied with funds, will the Minister for Defence allow the ambulances belonging to the Air Force, which are now lying idle at Spotswood, to be used in the country, for the conveyance of the sick who require medical or hospital treatment?
– The provision of hospital accommodation is theresponsibility of the States, and not . of the Commonwealth. The ambulances belonging to the Air Force will be necessary in time of mobilization.
Re-Introductionof Bookkeeping System
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the heavy expenditure to which the Government of Western Australia is committed by its policy of development of the vast areas of that ‘State, encouragement of immigration, and land settlement, will the Government issue instructions for the re-introduction of thebookkeeping system of Inter-State trade in the Customs Department ofWestern Australia for the next two years, to permit of the collection of data which may help to demonstrate how the present system of high Tariff imposts, so advantageous for the other States, is prejudicial to the interests of the people of Western Australia and’ enable the Government of that State to submit to the Commonwealth a definite claim lor financial reparation?
– The matter will receive consideration.
asked the Minister for. Works and Railways, upon notice -
– A Sydney newspaper ‘has published an article alleging that the house occupied by Mr. Bignold, at Bankstown, is unfit for habitation, and stating that the Council’s Health Inspector some time ago condemned War Service Homes in this area. The drainage is deficient, and the only effective method is the kerbing and guttering of the streets. The Commission has been in negotiation with the local council for some months in an endeavour to have this work carried out, but the council stated’ that unfortunately it had not the necessary funds. The Commission then offered to loan to the council the latter’s contribution to the cost of the work, but the council now requests the loan free of interest. This request is receiving urgent consideration. The local Health Inspector visited the homes in July last, and in his report stated: -
I think that when the kerbing and guttering is’ completed, and the water is drained off this land, which is at present blocked in some cases by the silting of the street gutter, it will con siderably help to better conditions. This is a very important work, and I think that every effort should be made to have the work carried out.
Any delay in this matter is the responsibility of the council, which has stated, whilst recognising the necessity for the work, that lack of funds has prevented it from taking action. The Commission has no knowledge of the houses having been condemned by the Health Inspector.
Mr. A. W. Smith
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’squestions are as follow : -
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Advances to States
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. Reports have been received from the States showing the manner in which the £34,000,000 has been expended for soldier settlement.
The following paper was presented: -
Act - Statement of Income and Expenditure to 30th June, 1923, together with” Auditor-General’s Report.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to the taxation of interest derived from certain loans.
.- I should like to be ‘furnished with information regarding the provisions of this Bill. At the present time a number of Commonwealth loans are exempt from taxation. Does the Treasurer intend to repudiate the Government’s obligation in respect to those loans? The Labour party is totally opposed to repudiation.
. - The Bill has been drawn in accordance with an arrangement which was come to at the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers - that in future the interest on all loans issued either by the States or the Commonwealth shall be subject to . taxation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 20th August (vide page 3072), on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the Bill he now read a second time.
On which Mr. Blakeley had moved -
That the word “now” be omitted, and that the words “this day six months” be added to the motion.
.- I shall preface the remarks that I intend to make on the motion for the second reading of this Bill by a reference to the statement made yesterday by my young friend, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), that honorable members sitting on this side of the House had received instructions or requests from large station-owners to try to put this Bill through Parliament.
– I believe that they have.
– That statementis inaccurate so far as I am concerned. The honorable members on this side to whom I have spoken about the matter also distinctly repudiate the suggestion. No person has approached me personally or by agent, either verbally or by correspondence, to support the passage of this Bill. I should not listen to such a request if it were made. It will be in the interests of the community that any action of mine will be taken. I was a member of the Queensland Parliament in 1906. In reply to a question which I then asked, I was informed that in Queensland at that time 137,000,000 acres of land were untenanted. It was the desire of the Queensland Government to settle as much of that area as it could. The leases of many of the old runs had terminated, and it was decided not to renew them. In order not to lose those stationholders, however, an arrangement was arrived at under which they were given some of the then untenanted land on long leases at comparatively low rentals. The land which they had surrendered at the expiration of their leases was cut up into smaller blocks, and again leased at a higher rental, because of the fact that the Government was incurring an expenditure of £5,000,000 in extending railway facilities near those holdings. The honorable member for Capricornia stated that the action of the present Queensland Government in connexion with those leases did not constitute repudiation. There may be a difference of opinion regarding the meaning of repudiation. The facts are, however, that these lands were leased for a number of years at a certain fixed rental, the understanding being that re-appraisement would take place at periods of not less than ten years, and that in no. one reappraisement would the rental be increased by more than 50 per cent. In 1920 the present Queensland Government passed a Bill giving it the power, not only to increase the rents to any extent - in many instances the increases exceeding 100 per cent. - -but to make those increases operate retrospectively. Its action was termed repudiatory. I think that one could not well call it anything else. Many persons have suffered very seriously as the result, and the position of those station-owners is. now, in numerous cases, very precarious. I therefore think there is ample justification for every honorable member in this House to consider whether it is not wise, in the interests of the whole of the Commonwealth, to pass this Bill. Mr. Fenton. - Does the honorable member suggest that these land-holders are now attempting to obtain from the Commonwealth Government that which they could not obtain from the Premier of Queensland?
– We in Queensland consider that as the State built the railways, and undertook the settlement of these areas, any advantage derivable’ should go to the State, and the taxation from them should be collected by the State Government: I do not, however, approve of alterations being made in the terms of leases after the lease-holders have spent large sums of money in effecting improvements under them. There is now under lease in Queensland 318,000,000 acres, while 86,665,835 acres still remain unoccupied. The fact that so much land remains untenanted disproves the theory that the land is of immense value. The present Queensland Government, a few years ago, acquired stations, thinking to make a big profit out of them. The contrary has been the case, as hundreds of thousands of pounds have been lost by the State in that venture. Out of the thousands of persons who have taken up stations, many of whom have performed useful pioneering work, very few have made fortunes or have even become independent. Those who have made most money are those who have profited by the downfall of the pioneers, many of whom found it impossible to carry on. The banks and other financial institutions who held the property as security sold it to other” persons, so as to obtain payment from the advances overdue. Where there was a surplus on the sale the pioneer, of course, was given it; but in the majority of instances the incoming tenant reaped the whole of the benefit by being able to command the money to fully stock and improve. In addition to this large area which is untenanted in Queensland, the following areas in other States are similarly placed :- Western Australia, 331,212,786 acres; South Australia, 109,591,580 acres; New South Wales, 18,700,000 acres; Northern Territory, 196,963,591 acres. Altogether it is estimated that 765,000,000 acres are untenanted in Australia at the present time. If such a large amount of money as has been suggested can be made out of cattle and sheep, why are there not more enterprising persons with the pluck to take up the untenanted land? The insinuation of honorable members that this land is not suitable for growing cattle or sheep is. a very bad advertisement for the Commonwealth. Such statements are not true. Millions of acres of our untenanted land are quite as good as that how leased. The trouble is that we are not dealing with it in a way that will lead to its development. How much money has been actually collected in taxation from these lands ? In “Western Australia the amount is only £1,800.
– That is because the Government does not do its duty.
– People who know very little about the pastoral lands of Australia can make statements of that description. If they knew the difficulty there waa in an enormous country such as we have, to get proper information as to the taxable value, and to find out whether there was any chance of men making a living on the land, and pay double taxation, they would not make such statements. It is very easy, in the cities, to make statements such as that of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini). If people would travel through this country they would realize the difficulties in the way of equitable tax levying and collection. If station-owners are making huge profits, the Government is reaping the benefit in the way of income taxation. Why should the station-owners be compelled to pay taxes both ways? If, by their energy and ability, they increase the value of the land, they should reap some benefit from it. Taxation is levied on their successors when they leave the land. In recent years, many station owners have found it better to sell out for the price of their stock than to continue on the land. The value of goodwill, if any exists, is claimed by the State Government, which takes all possible steps to make rent as high as it can justify, and leaves no good-will. Small owners are protected up to £5,000, and to that extent they have no need for fear, but the large owners have many difficulties. I believe that a few stock and station firms are in the business purely for speculation, and have assisted in the downfall of the men who first went on the land. The great majority of settlers on pastoral country have not made such great profits as one might think they had from a consideration of the profits of the stock and station companies I have in’ mind. In many parts of Queensland the land-holders would ‘ be very glad to leave, their stations if they could realize only the value of their stock and improvements. But they cannot do so. We should not have passed the Meat. Export Bounties Bill if the stock-raising industry had been as profitable as some honorable members wish us to believe it to be. That measure was passed because we realized that it was impossible for the producers of cattle to carry on without assistance. Of the 900,000,000 acres of land I have mentioned, 700,000,000 acres are devoted to cattle-raising, and it has been clearly pointed out in this House that the people on that land, at present, could not be expected to make a living without a bounty such as we have provided until prices have improved. If we considered it necessary to help them with a bounty, is it not reasonable also to relieve them of land taxation, wherever it can fairly be done, so that the industry may be carried on, and secure income tax from them in the near future ? The cattle producers are suffering severely at present, and while uncertainty exists about their future, financiers who could assist them to remain on the land are not likely to do it where heavy taxation has to be provided for.For some years now grazing has been an unprofitable industry, and thousands of men would be glad- to leave their holdings if they could take out what they had put into them. Some honorable members have told us that large financial institutions get hold of these leases. How do they do it? It is well known that they lend money to those who go out to develop the country, and when the graziers find themselves in difficulties, these companies, for their own protection, take over the leases. But of what use is the land, even to companies, unless it can be profitably occupied? We should do all we can to settle this country with people who have a reasonable expectation of making a living, but we shall be hindering development if we place a tax on a good-will of doubtful value. The State Governments rightly claim that if any good-will exists they should reap the benefit of it through higher rents. Honorable members know that the Queensland Government has 710 miles more of railway than any other State. Those lines have been built, largely, to develop the pastoral country. Since the present Government came into power in Queensland it has lost somewhere about £10,000,000 on its railways, and now it is looking about to see how it can raise revenue to recoup that loss, or pay interest on it.
– If the State Government taxes the extra value, the Commonwealth Government will not tax it.
– There is nothing to prevent the Commonwealth Government from imposing extra taxes if it can get any one to put a higher value on the good-will of properties. The trouble is that frequently people who are sent out to assess these values have very little knowledge of station life, or of the prospects of the people, and they are not able to assess the land at a true value.
– Even the owners do not know the values.
– That is so. Ninetenths of the owners place very little value on what is called the good-will of the lease. I believe that there is no value in the good-will when the State Government can come along every little while and reappraise the land. Not only can it do that, but it can give such re-appraisement a retrospective application. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) pointed out many cases in which stations had changed hands lately at an absolute loss to the sellers. In the circumstances I have described, honorable members should consider carefully what is best to be done to develop our pastoral country. I appeal to them to protect the interests of the Commonwealth, the States, and the settlers, and to do everything in their power to settle effectively’ the cattle country in this continent by at least not imposing taxation in the future. We should not do anything that will deter people from settling this land, and certainly the imposition of heavy land tax is such a deterrent.
.- In view of the debate which has occurred on the second reading of this Bill, honorable members must be surprised that the Government has brought it down in the dying hours of this session, when other urgent business is awaiting our attention. At the very best, the proposition before us in this Bill is of doubtful value. The country is indebted to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) for his speech of yesterday. The information he gave the House could have been obtained only by a great deal of research. It was information such as the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) did not give us, and it has thrown a doubt on the wisdom of agreeing to this Bill. Certainly, the measure should not be rushed through the House before the recess. In my opinion, the purpose of the Bill is to grant remission of taxation to. a privileged class of people. Let honorable members think for a few moments of the nature of nearly all the Bills we have passed in the last few days. Wehave not been legislating in the interests of the general community, but in the interests of certain sections. If the Labour party had been in power, and had introduced legislation of this character, there would have been a clamour in the press and elsewhere about class legislation, and we would have been hounded down.
– The newspapers would have been full of condemnation.
– They would, and we should have been subjected to severe criticism. The’ Bill before us’ will have far-reaching effects if we agree tq it. No one can claim that it deals with a matter of urgency, although we were told that whatever legislation we were asked to pass this week would be urgent. We shall probably be asked to sit for many hours this week to deal with what is termed “ urgent legislation.” Notwithstanding that the collection of the taxation, on leaseholds has been in abeyance since 1917, we are solemnly informed by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) that this is an urgent measure.
– Why was it not cleared up before?
– That is what I should like to know. If it is urgent the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), who was a member of the last Government, could have taken action before this.
– Why has not the honorable member objected before?
– There was no need for the members of this party to move in the matter, as we approved the legislation that is in force. It. is the duty of honorable members to consider if there is any occasion to pass the Bill during this session, particularly when the payment of these taxes has now been held over for several years. ‘ If honorable members consider the proposal in that light, they must readily admit that the plea of urgency is Unfounded. We naturally have to ask why the Government is endeavouring to push this measure through. As the matter has been held over for six years, surely it can wait another six months. There have been five speeches from honorable members opposite, and the only honorable member on that side of the chamber who faced the actual position was the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson), who said that he intended to vote against the Bill. Other honorable members opposite, instead of dealing with the merits of the proposal, endeavoured to put up a plea on behalf of the small man and the pioneers. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), in following the same line- of reasoning, told us that many of the pioneers have been driven off their holdings by the big financial institutions.
– Yes; because they found it unprofitable to carry on.
– Financial institutions and certain wealthy individuals will, benefit by the Bill, and not the pioneers to whom reference has been made. In 1903, when New South Wales and Queensland in particular, experienced the most severe drought this continent has ever known, the holdings of the men on the land were, of little value, and they had to practically give away their sheep and cattle. They were the pioneers who had been struggling on the areas with which we are now dealing, and they had to raise mortgages owing to the severe conditions prevailing. The banking institutions and certain wealthy individuals foreclosed on them, and today, the mortgagees - individuals and institutions which are amassing wealth - will derive the benefit if this measure becomes law.
– Money is not being made out of cattle breeding.
– I am giving the facts. I do not wish to give names, but one individual who has been mentioned during the debate secured hundreds of thousands of acres owing to the inability of certain poor pioneers to carry on during the drought period. The men to whom protection should have been afforded were neglected, and we are now helping the vultures who preyed upon them. We cannot disguise the fact that the big financial institutions mentioned last night by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) are doing well, and are probably making more money than other similar institutions in the Commonwealth. Notwithstanding this, we are now asked to pass a Bill to relieve them of the responsibility of meeting their statutory obligations to the Commonwealth. A sum of £630,000 has been collected from lessees of Crown lands, who thought it their duty to pay, but now, when most of the land is under the control of wealthy corporations, we are asked to remit the tax. Assessments have been sent out every year, but lessees have been notified that there was no necessity to pay at present. This is a most unusual way to deal with one’s debtors. What right had the Government to tell the lessees that they need not comply with the law? The duty of the - Government is to administer the Act, and if it is defective it should be amended. Taxpayers should not be allowed to defy a Commonwealth Statute year after year. Notwithstanding the unusual leniency extended to these individuals and companies, hundreds of poor taxpayers are being penalized. I could cite numerous cases in my own district in which men have been relentlessly pursued by the officials of the Department for the payment of income tax.
– Many of whom are out of employment.
– Yes ; and some have been prosecuted. We should deal fairly with every section of the community. It is idle for the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) and other honorable members who have supported him to refer to what has happened in the past, and to submit a plea for the pioneers. I have the greatest respect for those men who have assisted in developing vast tracts of country, and have had to contend with varying seasons and dog and rabbit pests. We have to consider the principle involved, and decide whether these people should or should not pay the tax. I remind honorable members opposite that under the Act the poor man is not compelled to pay. Section 66 of the Act reads -
In any case where it is shown to the satisfaction of the Commissioner that a taxpayer liable to pay land tax has become bankrupt or insolvent, or has suffered such a loss that the exaction of the full amount of tax will entail serious hardship, or that, by reason of drought or adverse seasons or other adverse conditions, the returns from the land have been seriously impaired, a Board consisting of the Commissioner, the Secretary to the Treasury, and the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, may release such taxpayer wholly or in part from his liability, and the Commissioner may make such entries and alterations in the assessment as are necessary for that purpose.
There is the power to deal ‘ with hard cases to which honorable members opposite have referred, and I would not think of asking a farthing from a man who was not in a position to pay.
– There has been a number of droughts during the last few years.
– Since 1914 droughts have been experienced in some of the States, but it must be admitted that good prices have been received, which have compensated settlers for some of the disabilities experienced.
– Not for cattle.
– In some parts of Australia producers have done better than for many years past. The government of the country cannot be conducted by relieving one section of its liabilities, and placing additional obligations on another section. We have to deal fairly with all. The difference between the rent paid and 4½ per cent, on the capital value of the freehold is regarded as the economic value. For a number of years the lessees paid the tax, and the Government collected £630,000. During that time the lessees were in the happy position of being able to fix their own valuations. It is idle to talk, as the Treasurer does, about the cost of collection. If the economic value is 4½ per cent., will any one say that it is unreasonable to contrast freehold with leasehold land? A man may hold £200,000 in leaseholds - there is an exemption of £5,000 - on which he has to pay the tax. Such a person does not pay on the £200,000, but if taxed on 4½ per cent, of the capital value, which is the economic value, pays £9,000 per year. Another man who has a freehold valued at £200,000, for which he has paid, also contributes to the revenue. Which is in the better position?
– One may be 100 miles from a railway.
– The properties may be adjoining. I ask honorable mem- bers which is in the better position, the man who holds £200,000 worth of leasehold, or one who invests £200,000 in freehold, and who, perhaps, receives 5 per cent, on his capital?
– One holds a better asset than the other.
– With a long lease, such as they all have, the man with £200,000 to pay down for land is in a worse position relatively than the man who leases land.
– And it is the shrewd men who get hold of the leaseholds.
– Yes. Frequent reference has been made to the necessity of securing the services of business men, and it would appear that shrewd business men are always available to take the good things offering.
– It is only the rich men who can carry on in these areas,
– Then there is no occasion to help them if they are financially strong. The Royal Commission on taxation was appointed -
We should surely give very careful attention to the recommendations of such a Commission. Every one knows that a considerable time was occupied in making these investigations, and that five reports were submitted. Paragraph 667 of the fourth report reads -
Individual cases were cited in evidence in which it appeared that tax was being assessed upon Crown leaseholds which, for certain reasons, perhaps of a transitory character, had practically no taxable value. That there is, however, in the aggregate, a large margin between the Crown rents paid and the economic rent, seems sufficiently demonstrable from -
the established policy of the States to encourage the occupation of State lands by charging low rentals;
the extent to which Crown lessees sell or sub-lease their leases, for the most part, presumably, with some advantage to themselves.
It will be seen that lessees can sell or sublet their leases.
– The only practical member of that Commission said that that was very difficult.
– Does the honorable member forRiverina suggest that the views of one man should be recognised and the opinions of the others totally disregarded? I have been a member of Royal Commissions and Committees, and know that they always comprise levelheaded men, possessing a good deal of common sense. That body of men gave a decision in accordance with the evidence. I do not agree that only one of the six Commissioners was capable of adjudicating on this matter. Subparagraph 3 of paragraph 667 of the report reads-
The assessed and outstanding tax upon lessees’ interests in Crown leaseholds throughout Australia. - This amounts to over £1,000,000. This tax is still being assessed in many instances upon the lessees’ own valuations. Even if the departmental valuations were liberally discounted, the figures would disclose a large aggregate taxable interest.
The Commission gave that definite finding. One of the Commissioners, Mr. John Thomson, was for many years a member of this House. He was strongly prejudiced against this, form of land taxation, yet signed a report which favored the collection of the tax. What stronger evidence could be adduced? It is clear that the Government are on a very bad wicket in attempting to remit this taxation.
– Political influence does not qualify a man to value land.
– I am not saying that it does. The evidence was taken from men who were competent to judge, and who knew something of the value of land. The Commissioners made their report on the evidence placed before them. They were men of ability and common sense, able to sift the evidence, just as would be done in a Court of law. Will the honorable member argue that a Judge has expert knowledge of all subjects? A Judge is a man who has the ability to give a proper judgment on the evidence put before him. The same thing applies to the members of this Commission. It is idle to say that these Com missioners did not know the value of land. Paragraph 672. reads -
Anomalies Created. - One of the difficulties in the way of the proposal to except Crown leases from aggregation with other interests is that there are certain cases in which the adoption of such a course would create new anomalies and place neighbouring taxpayers in positions of relative inequity in respect of taxation. For example, immediately adjoining a Crown leasehold, there may be a private leasehold area of country similar in size and carrying capacity to that of the Crown leasehold, and it would obviously be an anomaly if the holder of the private leasehold were compelled to aggregate all his holdings, leasehold, and freehold, while the Crown lessee were allowed to segregate his leases from his other, land holdings for the purpose of determining the rate of tax to be paid.
The Commission there set out a case’ where a land-holder might wish his freehold and leasehold areas to be assessed separately, and to be allowed in each separate assessment an exemption of £5,000. Paragraph 673 reads-
The effect of this anomaly would be heightened in cases such as those stated to us by a witness, of great experience in connexion with Crown lands in New South Wales. This witness stated that, on one side of a river which forms part of the boundary of the Western Division, privatelyowned lands ha ve a rental value up to about 5s. per sheep-area; while, on the opposite side of the river, within the Western Lands Division, the maximum rental chargeable under the Statute is 7d. per sheep-area.
There we have the statement thatthe rental value of certain freeholds is 5s. per sheep-area, while for exactly similar land held under lease the rental chargeable is 7d. per sheep-area. Yet honorable members contend that there is no room for the taxation of that difference.
– That is, admittedly, a small area.
– The paragraph continues -
The Chairman of the Western Lands Board stated that within the Western Division about 1,000,000 acres are of quality similar to the privately-owned land referred to - that is worth approximately 5s. per sheep-area.
Yet the lease-holders are paying 7d. per sheep-area for this land. Will any one contend that men holding such areas under long leases and- paying only 7d. per sheep-area, while similar freehold lands have a rental value of 5s. per sheep-area, should be exempt from this taxation ? If the tax is to be equitable there should not be that discrimination. That is so apparent that I am surprised that honorable members are prepared to accept the Bill
– Those are exceptional cases.
– The Commissioners’ finding was to the effect that these leases should be taxed, and I am relying on their report. Paragraph 676 reads -
We may add in this connexion that, in view of the evidence as’ to the demand for Crown leaseholds . .
According to the Commission there is a demand for Crown leaseholds, although honorable members opposite state that people will not take up these leases.
– They will not.
– I know that they would not, for instance, lease the Nullabor Plains. The paragraph continues - it does not appear that the imposition of the Commonwealth land tax upon lessees’ interests in such leases can be regarded as having had any sensibly adverse effect upon the States’ policy pf settling Crown lands.
The report sets out clearly that leaseholders should pay land tax where the amount taxable does not exceed the economic value, which is definitely fixed at 4^ per cent. According to the Commission’s report there are 1,000,000 acres of Crown leaseholds within the western division of New South Wales. On one side of a river privately-owned land there .has a rental value up to about 5s. per sheep-area, while on the other1 side of the river the maximum rental chargeable is 7d. per sheep-area. It is now proposed to remit the whole of the taxation due on that 1,000,000 acres and to make this remission retrospective to 1917. It would be interesting to . know how much money is owing to the Commonwealth on these 1,000,000 acres alone.
– This action has never been taken by any previous Parliament.
– That is so. If the Labour party had introduced this legislation we should have been decried from one end of Australia to the other. I am surprised that the Government now introduce it. Tho honorable member for Darling correctly stated last night that the Government were putting something over the people for which they could show no justification. It is a question as to how long the country will stand these methods of administration. No one suggests that the Bill will be of any benefit to the small farmers. We shall be told, perhaps, that the measure will affect 200 or 300 lease-holders. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) fixed the number at 200.
– That statement by the honorable member for Yarra was as correct as the rest of his remarks.
– The Treasurer should supply us with the information. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) must admit that I have confined myself to reports and evidence which have been placed at our disposal by outside bodies. It is unfortunate that he supports a Government which refuses to supply any information at all about this measure.
– No doubt the honorable member for Macquarie will explain afterwards how the honorable member for Yarra was incorrect.
– Undoubtedly. We owe a great deal to the honorable member for Yarra for his informative speech, which bore evidence of deep research and painstaking effort.
– It was not only painstaking, but pains-giving.
– I dare say it was. Are we justified in passing this sort of legislation? It is evident that some arrangement has been come to between the Government and certain interests. We should know if the measure will affect only 200 lease-holders. What political significance can the Bill have? The votes of those to be benefited count for little, but their money counts for much. Make no” mistake about that. I can recall a debate in this House about two years ago, when a balance-sheet’ was read showing that the pastoralists of Queensland had donated £13,000 to a political party’s fund. This is a serious matter.
– To what party was the money given?
– It was not the Labour party. H the pastoralists can afford to make such heavy donations, then this measure is not urgent. One is compelled to ‘conclude that the Bill is, probably a return for money that has been advanced.
– The object of the Bill is to keep the men on the land, and not to drive them from it.
– The honorable member knows that these facts were ascertained from a balance-sheet that was submitted to this House. . It shows that there is some influence at work. I have supported measures to assist the man on the land, and I have, at least, been consistent in advocating State enterprises. Honorable members opposite agree to Bills which are introduced one after the other for the especial benefit of a certain section of the community. The beef subsidy will cost this country a great deal of money.
– What the honorable member gives with one hand he takes away with the other.
– I supported the Advances to Settlers Bill, and am always prepared to support measures honestly designed to help the man on the land. We have no time to deal with the real business of Parliament. In the dying hours of Parliament, important measures are put aside to enable this Bill to be considered, simply because somebody has been promised that it will be passed.
– If these taxpayers do not induce this Government to remit this taxation they will never have it remitted.
– That is so. They fear that the present Ministry may not be in office next year. This measure is unfair. No doubt it is part of the pact entered into in connexion with the formation of the Government.
– Nothing of the kind.
– The honorable member knows nothing about it. Only three or four men know anything about it, and those men are now in the Ministry. We cannot justify the remittance of this taxation. One Government supporter, at least, has declared in unmistakable terms that he will not stand for it, and if three or four other honorable members opposite would take the same stand, the Bill would be withdrawn. We must protest against the Government’s action. We are not worth our places in this House, as representatives of the people, if we donot do our utmost toexpose the motives for such legislation. A sum of £1,300,000 is already outstanding in respect of these leaseholds, and in view of the present state of this country’s finances we cannot afford to remit it. The wealthy landholders will receive the benefit to be conferred by this measure. Tha war, while disastrous to the bulk of the people, was a God-send to some of them.
– To very few of them.
– To quite a lot of them, and I shall show, before the debate closes, my authority for such a statement. Other aspects will be placed before this House, so that honorable members shall not vote blindly on the measure. Later, we shall be able to show how much profit is being made by these people who are to be freed from this tax. We have asked the Treasurer for the individual amounts owing to the Government. It is idle to say that this information cannot be obtained, because assessments have been sent out every year. Will any honorable member say that, the assessments having gone out year after year, with an instruction that the tax need not be paid, there is no record in the Department of the amount involved? The Government is attempting to smother up or camouflage the business. The principle involved, however, stands out prominently, and cannot be covered up. The Bill is designed in the interests of only one section of the community. It may not be a large section, notwithstanding that it controls onethird df the continent. Its voting strength may not have dictated the Government’s action. There are reasons, however, for the stand taken by the Government, which has no right to claim that such a Bill is urgent. It is impossible to show the urgency of a matter which has been in abeyance since 1917.
– It is more urgent than the granting of the meat bounty. The same people will benefit by it.
– We hear that statement time after time. The question is whether the people chiefly interested are getting good returns from their holdings.
– They are not.
– We. shall be able to show that they are ; but if they are not, they will not have to paythe tax. That is the answer to that point. It is laid down clearly in the Act that if the lessees are not making money they will not have to pay the tax. The leaseholds cannot be taxed beyond their economic value.
– The great point is whether the product of those leaseholds has any value.
– The great point is that these lessees should. have paid and could have paid the tax, hut did not pay it, Who has paid the sum of £630,000 which the Treasury has received? The small men would never think of contesting the payment of this tax. Only the hig wealthy corporations do that kind of thing, and, unfortunately, they are often able to defy the law, and become a law unto themselves. We talk of “profiteering,” but we cannot wonder that it is rampant when privileged people in the community are permitted to live outside the laws passed by Parliament, with the knowledge that they can bring pressure to bear on their representatives to pass legislation to validate their act. What will be done in regard to the people who have paid the tax? They are probably the poorest section of the lease-holders. Will the Government return the tax they have paid? There is not one word in the Bill about them, and, apparently, they will get no relief. If the tax is not equitable, if it is not practicable to collect it, and if the Government cannot ascertain the leasehold values for taxation purposes, then any legislation on the subject should date back to the inceptionof the tax. It is not fair to take £630,000 from the people who did pay, while allowing others who would not pay to go free.
– Will not all leaseholders have to pay up to a certain date ?
– I do not know. The House has no information on that point, and the Treasurer is very quiet when questions are asked about it. We want to know the facts.
– That is what the Government does not want us to know.
– We want to know whether some lease-holders have refused to pay right from the commencement of the tax. It will probably be found that those who have done so are the wealthy corporations, and not the pioneers. No one has more sympathy for pioneers than I have. I would do everythng to assist them; but the comparatively few people who own half the country cannot be placed in the same category as thepioneers of old. Most of the pioneers of forty years ago went out West, and took up much smaller leases than those to whom honorable members opposite have referred. Most of them would have been covered by the £5,000 exemption. They battled on, to their credit, and when they met adversities the big institutions displaced them and- took up their land. The small estates were aggregated. In one of the big leases we might find a hundred or more holdings of the original pioneers, whose families have been scattered throughout Australia. The big people have reaped the benefit of the work done by those men. The improvements made in the land by the pioneers fell into the hands of the big financial institutions, who have reaped where the pioneers sowed. I shall be surprised if a majority of honorable members desire to push the Bill through the House this session. They will be wise if they make representations to the Government to defer the Bill for - the time being. Although a time limit has been imposed upon legislation there are items on the business-paper which are of far more importance to the community than this Bill. There are two Bills which propose to give relief to certain sections of the community. They should occupy the time of this Parliament for three weeks at least. Over a week should be given to this Bill, and over a week to the Income Tax Collection Bill. Notwithstanding that, these two Bills, and five or six others, are supposed to be passed by the end of the present week. It is impossible, in such circumstances, to do justice to the legislation we pass or to the people we represent. If the Government will not allow the Bill to stand over until next session, the Opposition will oppose it as much as possible, and, having done its duty, will throw upon the Government the responsibility for passing legislation of such a character.
.- It is with some diffidence that I rise to speak, even very shortly, upon a measure of this kind, for I have around me many practical men, some of whom are pioneers in this subject. However, I must state my reasons for the attitude I intend to adopt towards this somewhat remarkable Bill. I desire to express my appreciation of the speech delivered by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). I think he made out a strong case against the Bill. I also appreciate the ability shown by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) in stating his case. Indeed, I think more credit is due to him than to the honorable member for Yarra, inasmuch as the case he had to present was much weaker. A lot of extraneous matter has been introduced into this discussion, and I propose to deal very shortly with the question as it appears to me. In the first place, the opening sentence in the Treasurer’s second-reading speech was the most extraordinary that I have heard since I have been in the House. He said, “ The object of the Bill is to cut, because it cannot unravel, the most serious and ridiculous legislative tangle that this Parliament has ever created.’’ A most extraordinary- statement! It is a confession on his part that he finds in his Department a state of things that he cannot unravel ; that; so far as the imposition and collection of this tax is concerned, the business has got into such a hopeless muddle that it is beyond his power to deal with it. Because he cannot cope with it he says, “ Cut it off and send it adrift, although it will involve the Commonwealth in a loss of £130,000.” There are two principles involved in this Bill. There is the prospective operation, and the retrospective operation, of its provisions. The question of the repeal of the taxation ‘ imposed on’ Crown leaseholds is, I think, open to discussion. It is a subject on which men might reasonably differ. I go to the report of the Commission of which Mr. Warren Kerr was chairman, and I find there a statement with which I cordially agree. It is to the effect that the Commission cannot ascertain any principle on which the taxation of Crown leaseholds can be differentiated from the taxation of any other interest in land. The Bill seems to be based upon a question, not of principle, but of policy.
– It is a question of knowledge and practical experience.
– -I do not know what the honorable “ member means by “knowledge.” Either a question of principle is involved in the Bill or it is not. All I say is that the Commission, after careful investigation and consideration of the whole question, came to the conclusion that it could find no principle on which it could differentiate between a tax on Crown leaseholds and a tax on any other interest in land.._. I agree with the view expressed by the Commission after consideration. I can see no principle involved to justify the discrimination referred to, and no speaker who has yet addressed himself to this Bill has shown that such a principle is involved. I agree, however, that there is a question of policy involved, and I am inclined to think, although with some hesitation, that the Commonwealth should retire from this field of taxation on the ground of policy.
– That is a question of principle.
– It is not. Whether it is or not, my Honorable friend and I are agreed as to the course we ought to pursue in this matter.
– Order! I ask honorable members to allow the honorable member for Fawkner to proceed without interruption.
– So far as the question of policy is concerned, I hold that it is the function of the State to settle and develop .its own lands. It makes up its mind as to the best means of doing that. It says, “ We have certain lands that are not very inviting, and we shall offer certain inducements to men to settle them.” It makes up its mind as to the nature of the inducements to be offered. Men accept the offer of the State and settle on certain lands, because of the inducements offered them. It is, I think, a great pity that the Federal authority should then intervene, and by superimposing a burden upon these men, cut athwart the policy of the State. It seems to me that the action of the Federal authority, in such a case, is in opposition to the policy of the State. It should be remembered that the Commonwealth has it in its power to reap benefit from any prosperity enjoyed by the Crown lease-holders of the State and, in my view, it should not step in but should leave the matter of the taxation of Crown leaseholds entirely to the State authority. Although it is with some hesitation, I am willing to agree to that as a policy. But we are dealing with a very different state of things when we are asked to say that this repeal of taxation should be retrospective in its operation, and that we must go back to 1917, and make this remission to men who have become liable to the Commonwealth for taxation to a very large amount, because -we cannot unravel the tangle. I say, never ! This proposal involves a vicious principle. It is an admission, that because it is found difficult . to collect a tax,which this Parliament has deliberately imposed, therefore those who have become liable to its payment should go free. If that were accepted as a principle, whenever a tax was imposed those who would have to pay it would immediately set to work to make it difficult or impossible to collect it. Then the authority imposing the tax would say, “ We have got ourselves into a hopeless tangle. We cannot collect the tax, and therefore they need not pay it.” I am not prepared to indorse an attitude of that kind. The Treasurer, in his speech, said that the practical difficulties in the way of the assessment and collection of the tax were found to be insuperable. That, was an extraordinary statement to make. It was a general ‘ statement that the practical difficulties of the assessment and collection of the tax imposed under the Act of 1914 are insuperable. Now let us go’ back to 1914. I do not wish to repeat what other honorable members have said, but to put the position as it appears to me. I find that on the imposition of the tax, at least in the initial stages, no difficulties, insuperable or otherwise, either in respect to its assessment or collection, were discovered, because it has been pointed out that in the first two or three years of the operation of the Act, something like £700,000 was paid as taxation by Crown lessees. This is the first fact with which I am confronted. I say that at that time there were no difficulties that were insuperable, because that amount of the tax was actually collected and paid into the coffers of the Commonwealth. I understand that in those initial stages the valuations were made by the Crown lessees themselves. Then the Department stepped in and adopted a method of valuation which the Treasurer says was absurd, and could not be accepted. The adoption of that method of valuation had the effect of raising such a storm of protest that the then Treasurer issued instructions that the tax should not be exacted.
– Pending inquiry.
– Yes, pending inquiry. It would appear from the statement of the Treasurer that what raised the storm of protest was not the imposition of the tax, but the method of valuation for the purpose of assessing the tax, which is a vastly different thing. The mere fact that, for the first two or three years, the tax was paid shows that it was possible to collect it, and when the storm of protest was raised the Government and the Department should have set themselves seriously to tackle the question of how best to exact the tax. If the method of valuation adopted was found to be impracticable or inequitable, it was their bounden duty to see that a method was adopted that would be equitable, and would meet with the. approval of every fair-minded man. An investigation was entered upon by the first Commission, and its report shows that it was in favour of the continuance of the tax on Crown leaseholds. It certainly suggested many amendments of the Act. Honorable members will bear in mind that this was before the tangle is alleged to have arisen. There was a suspension of the imposition of the tax, and for what purpose? It was to allow an investigation to be made. . The investigation was made, and the report of the Commission sent in. One would have expected that the Government would promptly take action to give effect to the suggestions resulting from the investigation? But what happened? Nothing. These men were allowed to go onpiling up their liabilities. Do honorable members think that they would pay the tax if they could get out of it when they were practically informed, “Until you receive further notice from us you need not pay?” They received no further notice, and it is now proposed that they need not pay, and that the tax shall be repealed. Up to the time of the investigation by the first Commission these men were occupying their leaseholds, and there is not before me one tittle of evidence that they were not in a position to pay the tax.
– They resisted it from its first imposition.
– Some of them did. Am I to assume that the honorable member’s suggestion is, that if I ask a man to pay a tax, the fact that he resists its exaction is to be taken as evidence of his non-ability to pay ? If so, that is a new doctrine to which I, for one, cannot subscribe. I repeat my statement, that I have before me not one tittle of evidence that any single leaseholder was unable to pay the tax imposed under the Land Tax Assessment Act of 1914. Up to this point the facts - are that an investigation was made, and suggested amendments were embodied in the report of the Commission, but nothing further was done. Then we had the Taxation Commission, of which Mr. Warren Kerr was the Chairman. From the report of that Commission, I find, as I have said, that on looking into the matter carefully, the Commission . reported that it could see no principle involved to warrant a discrimination between a tax upon leaseholds and upon any other form of property in land, and saw no reason why the tax should not be continued. Here is the position to-day as it appears to me. I am asked, at a time when the country is in great need of revenue, to vote for a Bill which will have the effect of wiping ‘ off £1,300,000 of taxation that is justly due to the Commonwealth.
– It can never be got in.
– I am told that it can never be got in; but I would make a mighty good try to collect it before I surrendered it. The remark of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) that the lease-holders have resisted the payment of the tax is, to my mind, very significant. Of course, they resisted it; but whether they resisted it or not, I would take every legitimate means to have the tax that is owing paid. I, in common with every other honorable member, am comforted by the fact that if there is no taxable value there will be no tax. When I am told -that the lease-holders cannot pay this tax, I refer honorable members to what has happened in Queensland. There were Crown lessees who, between the years 1916 and 1920, owed money to the Commonwealth under the Land Tax Assessment Act, and I am told that it was not collected because the difficulties in the way of its collection were insuperable. Then the Government of Queensland steps in, and says, “ What you find insuperable we shall try to surmount,” and they imposed taxation on these leaseholds retrospective over the years during which the Commonwealth Government was permitting them to go free of its taxation, and the State Government collected their tax.
– Does the honorable member consider that was fair?
– That is not the question. It might have been the most iniquitous thing for the Queensland Government to do, but that does not affect my argument in the slightest. My argument is that it is claimed that the Commonwealth Government could not get any money from these men because they could not pay it, whereas, when the Queensland Government stepped in and said, “ We order you to pay it,” they did pay.
– And the Queensland Government lost on its own stations.
– What has that to do with the argument ? The Queensland Government collected money that ought at that time to have been safely in the pockets of the Commonwealth. Not a single argument has been adduced that, to my mind, carries any weight, why this tax should not be recovered for the years during which it has accrued. I listened very carefully to the speech of the honorable member for Yarra, and just as carefully to that of the Treasurer. I was not satisfied with that. I read those speeches carefully, and I have listened carefully to every word that has fallen from every speaker in this debate, and I have indicated the attitude of mind in which I am left. It will not do to say that I have no practical knowledge of the subject, and do not know the difficulties with which Crown lease-holders have to contend, because I have to make up my mind whether I will vote for or against a principle. It does not require a knowledge of. the difficulties of Crown lessees to enable one to say whether or not the principle involved in this legislation is fair. If the Treasurer had made out a case that appealed to my judgment to show that these men should be relieved of the taxation for which they are now liable, I should have been prepared to accept it. It is because not one tittle of evidence has been put before me to show that there is any necessity for the proposed retrospective operation of the Bill that, while I am prepared to support the policy of the proposed repeal, for the reasons I have stated, I shall fight tooth and nail against the proposal to make the operation of the Bill retrospective.
.. - I suggest that the main reason why the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) cannot unravel the tangled, skein, to which the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has referred, is because he has totally discarded the findings of the two Royal Commissions appointed by the late Government. Some hardship, possibly, has been occasioned because of. the principles upon which the assessments were made; but the Royal Commissions laid down clearly that the tax should be .collected. The Treasurer is experiencing trouble in his efforts to “ put it over “ this Parliament to- relieve the large leaseholders of payment of their just dues to the Commonwealth. The Treasurer should do the fair thing, and make these wealthy land-holders meet their obligations as taxpayers. I should like to know whether the Minister acted independently, or with the approval of the Cabinet, or whether outside pressure was brought to bear upon him, when he definitely refused to tell the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) who would mostly benefit by the Bill. Was the Treasurer silent for the same reason as that which actuated the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) in keeping back from the honorable member for Yarra the papers in connexion with the disposal of. the Commonwealth Woollen Mill until the Minister made his speech in the House? After all, honorable members are entitled to the information now sought, and why can they not have it ? There is not the same provision for secrecy respecting land taxation as there is in regard to income taxation. It seems to me that the Treasurer is unwilling to disclose the names of the people to be chiefly benefited by the Bill because it would destroy the Government’s case. Whatever likelihood there may be of the measure being agreed to, it would not have the ghost of a chance of passing through the House if that information were made available. A few individuals are to be relieved of taxation to the extent of £1,300,000. This Government has done very little more than introduce class legislation. Here we have another instance. Are the various sections who contribute to the funds of the Country party and the ‘Nationalist party to be recouped in this way at the expense.^ of the people generally? I strongly object to such an iniquitous proceeding. Two of the land-holders in terested, we are told, will draw off about £200,000 between them if. this Bill becomes law. They will then be in a position, to pay a nice little cheque into the party funds next year; the payment will be made with public money. Perhaps the most serious feature of this extraordinary attitude on the part of the most extraordinary Government the Commonwealth has ever had is that the measure has been made retrospective for six years. The Government is not satisfied to hand out “plums” to its “pals” and supporters, but it coolly proposes a retrospective provision involving a loss of taxation 1 to the extent of £1.300,000 or more. What will be the position of the honest land-holder, who has fulfilled his obligations to the country, and has paid his tax? The Government is offering a premium to the evasion of taxation.
– Are these men in arrears with respect to years for which other land-holders have paid the tax?
– Undoubtedly. Some of the lessees have evidently been meeting their obligations. If the principle of this tax is wrong, and the Bill should be made retrospective to 1917, I see no reason, why the whole of the taxpayers who have been affected by the principle should not be relieved.Honorable members on this side of the House, however,, contend that the principle is sound, and should be supported. The Treasurer said that the cost of the assessment amounted to’ £50,000 a yea*-, in addition to the cost of collection, &c. ; but the honorable member for Yarra showed clearly that the cost of the assessment was only £5,000. The Treasurer has multiplied that amount by ten ! If the whole of the Treasurer’s calculations are similarly at fault the Bill must indeed be a bad one. I remember the Treasurer attacking the Budget last year, when the present Prime Minister was Treasurer. He then referred repeatedly to manufactured balances.
– “ Faked “ balances.
– He did, first ‘ of all, call them “ faked,” but, at the request of the Chair, he substituted the word “ manufactured.” In the present instance, however, we have manufactured expenses, and the Treasurer has multiplied the sum of £5,000 by ten in order to bolster up what has been shown by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr.
Maxwell) to be a very weak case. Why has the Treasurer discarded the findings df the two Royal Commissions? Are such bodies appointed to no good purpose? The present Government, during its brief existence, has called into being three or four Royal Commissions, and Select Committees, but it acts upon their reports only if they are favorable to the friends of the Government. We have government by Royal Commission. When Ministers are not game to tackle a problem they hand it over to ‘a Royal Commission, and they accept its findings only when the decision suits them. If that is to be the position, I hope that no more Commissions will be appointed. The small farmer and the squatter, together with the commercial and manufacturing interests, were represented on the Commission appointed in 1918 to look into this subject, and, with the exception of the view expressed by the squatter’s representative, the unanimous finding was that the tax should be imposed. Practically the same decision was arrived at by the Commission of 1921. Again the only dissentient was the direct representative of the squatters. It is obvious that the Treasurer holds a brief for the big squatters. The Treasurer is now commending a principle that he formerly condemned. He alters his arguments according to political exigencies.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.80 p.m.
It would appear from the attitude of honorable members opposite that they have not been taken into the confidence of the Ministry in this matter. If they had been cognisant of the purpose of the Bill, we would not have such conflicting statements from them. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) pleaded the poverty of pastoralists as one reason why the Bill should be passed. The Treasurer and certain other honorable members stated that the leases in respect of which taxation is to be remitted have no value. They were, apparently, oblivious of the fact that if the leases had no value they would not be. taxed. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) declared that only wealthy men could afford to take up these leases ; and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) stated that,so far’ as Queensland Was ‘concerned, if a number of lease-holders could realize on their mortgaged holdings, they would get out. It is quite obvious, from the statement made by the honorable member for Wide Bay, that the leases must have some value, otherwise the lease-holders would have been unable to negotiate mortgages. When the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) mentioned the marked increase in wool values since 1917, the period during which the provisions of this Bill will be retrospective, his statement was challenged by the honorable member for Riverina. The following figures show how prices have advanced:
– Is the honorable member quoting averages, or the highest prices for tie individual clip?
– I understand they are the average prices.
– The honorable member had better revise his figures; they are all wrong.
– Even if the comparison is between the highest prices in the periods mentioned, the figures indicate a substantial all-round increase in wool prices during the period mentioned. No honorable member can deny this, and notwithstanding that the returns have been heavier in recent years, the Government now propose to give a few wealthy pastoralists and companies a further plum in the shape of remissions of taxation. The small wool-grower will not benefit by this measure. Another argument advanced by the Treasurer, when the honorable member for Yarra was speaking, was that the cost of litigation would be so heavy that it would not be worth while attempting to collect the taxation outstanding. If this principle were applied to other forms of taxation, and if it were made retrospective, the Commonwealth would be in a serious financial position. The taxpayers could evade their i obligations by refusing to pay, and if the Treasurer’s argument in ‘respect of Crown leaseholds held good, the cost of litigation would he so great that no revenue from taxation would be received at all. If the wageearner or the small land-owner or business man fails . to furnish his return and pay his tax, he is subjected to all the pains and penalties of the law. Some years ago the Government made retrospective legislation with regard to taxation on the winning tickets in Tattersall’s sweeps. In some cases the demands made upon persons who several years previously had won, say, £10 in Tattersalls, represented a severe hardship, because the money had been spent, and the taxpayers were not in a position to find the amount of the tax. Any relief in such cases is usually given grudgingly, but when it is a question of relieving a few wealthy persons who owe over £1,500,000, the Government have no hesitation at all. It is apparent that the previous Government intended to collect this tax, because when I asked the then Treasurer what the Governmentproposed to do, I was informed that they were taking steps to collect the amounts outstanding. That decision has been reversed by this composite Government. It would be interesting to know what arrangement was made by the wealthy pastoralists with their representatives of the Country party in this Chamber to enable this Government to function. The Treasurer’s speech was the pleading of a special advocate for class legislation. The Minister, to some extent, deceived the House - I do not say he did so deliberately - when he quoted certain portions of the evidence given before the Royal Commission on Taxation, instead of reading the finding and recommendations of that body. His remarks certainly created a false impression in the minds of honorable members, and seemed to suggest that he was ashamed of the Bill. Not long ago the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) declared that the mission of the Country party’ was to let the light of day play upon certain phases of administration, and to rectify abuses. The honorable gentleman is now a member of this composite Government, but, so far, we have not had the administrative reforms he promised. The Treasurer is now doing what, in the last Parliament, he condemned in the previous Government.It is impossible, in the absence ; of information that has been persistently asked for, and as persistently refused, to give proper consideration to this Bill. The Treasurer has toldus that the Bill is designed to afford relief to distressed pastoralists. As a fact, it will relieve some of the wealthiest men and companies in Australia of their just dues to the Government. Therefore, it should be. strenuously opposed by the House. In what way does this legislation affect country interests generally? In many areas of New South Wales the income taxation which men on the land had to pay last year was a hardship because of the losses sustained through the ravages of fire followed by drought. But the Government does not propose to relieve them. I do not advocate that it should, but if honorable members in the corner are endeavouring to represent country interests they should insist upon the Government coming to the aid of those people, instead of merely proposing to allow wealthy men to evade their responsibilities to the extent of over £1,000,000. The Bill should receive short shrift from honorable members, and the Government that introduced it should not be allowed to remain on the Treasury bench. It is class legislation of the worst kind, inasmuch as it is designed to benefit people who can well afford to meet their responsibilities to the Commonwealth Treasury.
.- Those honorable members who said that this Bill is not of sufficient importance to be engaging the time of the House at this period of the session, are not seised of the very serious effect which the threat of this taxation is having upon the producing interests. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) asked how the taxation of leaseholds affected detrimentally the interests of the producers. I speak not as one who has acquired a knowledge of the subject from the study of the text-books or the reports of Royal Commissions. I have gained my knowledge of Crown lands, not by travelling in a de luxe car on the EastWest Railway, but by practical experience over a. long period of years, and I say deliberately that this Parliament could not devote its time to a more important subject- than the development of
Crown lands, occupied or unoccupied. The Bill has been described as class legislation. If it is such, it is legislation of a class that will insure the Government a long term of office. Individuals and companies who are the victims of this taxation have been investing their money in directions in which it is essential that money shall be invested if the country is to be developed. New South Wales has had a sad experience of the placing of men on large leasehold estates. Only recently I was speaking to a man who left one of the settled districts of New South Wales to go to Western Australia. Before he went to the western State he had considered the advisability of taking up land in the West Darling district. If he had done so, he would have lost his money, as all other men did who went into the district at that time. There is no doubt that others who traded on the misfortunes of their predecessors have, at times, done well with those outback leases, but every one of the pioneers failed. The placing of taxation upon these leaseholds is adding to their rentals. Income taxation is paid only when an income has been enjoyed, but this land tax has to be paid whether any income has been earned or not. Special inducements in the form of low rentals were given by the States to companies and individuals to encourage them to take their capital into unsafe districts. People will not invest their money in an unsafe proposition unless there is a prospect of getting a big return. We want to encourage, not so much the men who put their money into war loans free of interest, or into other gilt-edged securities, and live safely on the interest, but rather the men who are willing to go into the outback country and develop some of the 700,000,000 acres of unoccupied land, or the 900,000,000 acres of temporarily, occupiedland, and bring it to a state of production. It has been said that this remission of taxation is intended to help a few wealthy landholders. I am afraid that some honorable members have given too much credence to the statements made by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). I have never heard greater misrepresentation in . this House than was contained in the carefully-prepared speech delivered by the honorable member.
– Why does not the Treasurer contradict it?
– He has not had the opportunity to do so. He could not know what statements honorable members opposite would concoct, but he has the right to reply to this debate, and if I know the Treasurer aright, he will deal with all these misstatements.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member in order in accusing other honorable members of having “ concocted “ statements ?
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Bayley). I did not understand the honorable member for Macquarie to mean anything sinister by the word concoct. If he did so, I ask him to substitute another word.
– I am not one of those who cannot speak without emitting poison gas. I meant nothing sinister by my remark. No doubt the honorable member for Yarra made his statements in good faith,, but they will not bear analysis. He said that this taxation of Crown leaseholds would be paid by two hundred people. Probably that statement was quite as correct as were others that he made.
– What is the number?
– Over 2,000.
– How does the honorable member know?
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) did not mention his authority for the statement he made. I follow his example, and other members will attach as much credence to what I say as to anything that was said by the honorable member for Yarra. The honorable member’s statement about the number of taxpayers affected must be increased 1,000 per cent., in order to get anywhere near the facts. Some perfectly futile questions were asked regarding the income of companies and individuals who are leasing large areas from the Crown. If that information were supplied in respect of large wool-broking companies like Goldsbrough Mort, and Dalgety and Company, how could we say how much of the income was derived from leaseholds, and how much from the conduct of other businesses? I am not one of those who think it is a crime for a man to rise from the bottom of the ladder and acquire considerable property, but honorable members opposite think such a man should be treated’ as a criminal. A great injustice is done to the man who has a small area of leasehold and a large area of freehold, and is paying land taxation at the highest rate. It has been said that there is no difference between the taxation of leasehold and freehold lands. There is a very great difference, as anybody would agree who listened dispassionately to the speech of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). The State Governments gave the large lease-holders every inducement to go outback and bring the country into a state of production, and the Commonwealth Government is endeavouring to counteract that policy. The honorable member for Fawkner said that two principles were involved in this Bill; I consider there are three. I make no secret of my intention to support the Bill, but I am not blind to the fact that it involves different principles. One question to be considered is whether this law for the taxation of leaseholds should not be removed from the statute-book. I think the majority of honorable members will vote for that proposal, but some of them may not support the other provisions of the Bill. The next principle involved is whether whilst this Act remained on the statute-book, the Government were right in neglecting to collect the taxation assessed from 1917 onwards. That point will have to be decided in committee. Some of those who believe that the tax should be removed from the statutebook’ hold that whilst it is there the full amount of the impost should be collected. Others say that up to 1917, some £600,000 had been collected from this tax, and that those who did not pay should be compelled to do so in order that all lease-holders may be placed on an equal footing. I am inclined to agree that the Government had no right to accept money prior to 1917 from one section of the taxpayers, and not make the others meet their responsibilities. Everybody should receive the same treatment, and if all amounts due up to 1917 are not to be collected, the taxation already paid by some lease-holders should be refunded. The honorable member for .Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) argued that while the law remains as it is the tax should be collected. I do not agree with the honorable member. But I agree with him that the Act should be repealed, and that the whole of the Crown leaseholds should be freed from taxation. We both say that this Bill should be passed, so far as it affects the future-; but I go further. I say that if it would be unjust to collect these taxes in the future, it was unjust to collect them in the past. .The taxpayers should all be put on the same footing, and we should not collect any of the taxes imposed since 1917 if we place this measure on the statute-book.
– Then every time we alter our policy we shall have to make the change retrospective.
– We must deal with the facts as they are. Twenty-five of the members of this Parliament are not responsible for what was done by the last Parliament. Personally, I decline to accept any responsibility for what the last Parliament did; but I am willing to take full responsibility for what is done while I am. here. I am decidedly of the opinion that if the men in this House formerly had had a thorough knowledge of what was required to develop this country, the tax we are now discussing would never have been imposed. One honorable member, in speaking on this matter, said, “ What will your constituents say to this ?” Whether my term of office as the representative of my electorate is long or short, I hope that I shall never allow my vote to be influenced by what people outside may say. It is my duty to satisfy my conscience. I should not act according to what people outside say. They very often have insufficient -and misleading information, whereas we, in this House, have the facts put carefully and fully before us. It is our responsibility to do what is right. I have given most careful consideration to this matter. I think that the Government have done the right thing in bringing this Bill before us. I also think that the taxes imposed since 1917, which have not been collected, can very well be allowed to remain uncollected, and the responsibility for payment taken off the people concerned. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) quoted certain prices of wool and spoke of how wool prices had increased. We all know that the woolgrowing industry is in a very good position. But the honorable member quoted the highest prices for individual clips sold in Australia. He knew so much- about the subject that when I asked him whether he was quoting particular or average prices, he said that he was quoting average prices. That honorable member has the interests of his wool-growing constituents so much at heart that he does not know the difference between the highest prices for individual clips and the average prices. That does not matter very much on this occasion, however, because a great deal of the land we are concerned about - is devoted to cattleraising. Honorable members opposite have spoken about the amount of western district country that Sir Sidney Kidman controls. “Why has that gentleman obtained control of it? The reason is that he is the only one who can make it pay. I know that there are women who were living out in that country with their husbands who go down on their knees every night and thank God that Sir Sidney Kidman bought them out. Last night, when the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) was speaking, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), by interjection, said that the country pioneered forty years ago by the honorable member for Riverina was some of the best country in New South Wales. The country which the honorable member for Riverina pioneered is 160 miles west of Bourke, and when the honorable member for Darling says that that country is some of the best in New South Wales, he does not know what he is talking about. The Wilcannia district, under the Pastures Protection Board, in 1893, carried 1,500,000 sheep. At present it carries 115,000. Not enough sheep are depastured in that district to-day to pay for keeping in repair the improvements placed on the country by the pioneers. Time after time men have gone out there, and come back with experience, but with no money. Of course, honorable members will realize that some of the land in the western district of New South Wales, north-west of Walgett and Coonamble, is magnificent. About 1,000,000 acres of it may be so classed.
– Was not that the country to which the honorable member for Darling referred ?
– No; he specially referred to the country pioneered by the honorable member for Riverina. Honorable members will know that although 1,000,000” acres is a large tract of country, it is * ve”’ small proportion of the western district of New South Wales, which is between 30 per cent, and 40 per cent, of the whole of that State. The problem of bringing that country back into more productive use is one of , the biggest which we have to face. Instead of having a few stockmen living on it to look after the cattle, we desire to see reestablished the comfortable homes and numbers of employees which were to be found there years ago. I was taunted recently because of my desire to bring population into Australia. That is the only way in which we shall overcome our difficulties. By recognising the true position, and ventilating the facts on the floor of this House, we are likely to be able to solve the problem. Some honorable members have told us about the great prosperity in Queensland. I know that many land-owners there have had a very good time. In the interests of this country I trust that those good times will continue. I also know that the cattle - owners have had a very bad time. Mention has been made of the Queensland Government cattle stations. Those stations more than any others benefited by the good prices obtainable during the war period. The Government stipulated that 12,000 tons of beef had to be taken from privately-owned stations and sold to the people of Queensland for 3d. per lb., while all the produce of its own stations was exported at the full market price. The Queensland Government stations paid no taxation. Notwithstanding these favorable conditions they are to-day in a state of hopeless insolvency. It is only because the State funds are behind them that they can be carried on. I know of individual instances in Queensland in which men have had to. use almost the whole of the cheque they received for fat cattle this year to pay the increased rents imposed upon them by what is known as the Queensland Repudiation Act. I do not wish to discuss this subject further. Possibly too much is being said about it now, but I trust that in the interests of the development of the country, and especially the development of the Northern Territory, with which this Parliament is particularly concerned, we shall once and for all discontinue the taxation of these leaseholds. Such imposts put extra burdens on men who should be relieved from taxation, and given every inducement to spend their money on the western district to> develop it.
– There can be no doubt that the present system of taxing leaseholds fs retarding instead of assisting to settle our empty spaces. When this Bill was foreshadowed I thought that we would get something that would be of assistance to the primary producers. I have investigated the position fairly closely. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) said that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) had hazarded his statement about the number of men who would benefit by the passing of this measure. I assure the honorable member for Macquarie that I have taken particular pains to make sure of my facts. I have gone down to bedrock. I find that only five or six men will benefit by it. At the very outside not more than eight men can reap any advantage. I have obtained official figures, and I assure honorable members that they are accurate. I stand for the primary producer at all times, and I am most desirous to assist him, but I shall show that the small man will be no better off by the passing of this Bill. If we assume that the freehold value of the land which will be effected by it is £30 a square mile, that the rent is fixed at 5s. per square mile, and that the balance of tenure is thirty years, a man would have to hold something like 2,000 square miles before he could be taxed. Honorable members will realize, therefore, that this legislation can affect only a comparatively few people, like Vestey and Kidman, who have millions of capital behind them. Those are the men who have deliberately refused to pay their taxes. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) stated that although they had unlimited capital behind them they had defied the Government. I assure the Government that I have vivid recollections of cooling my heels in a certain chamber in Darwin for refusing to pay a few pounds. in taxation when we were fighting for the fundamental principle of no taxation without representation. When we took our stand the Government had no compunction about sending twenty of us to gaol, yet it makes no suggestion of similar action respecting these large landholders. If it was right to send us to gaol for refusing to pay our taxes, these wealthy men should be treated in exactly the same way. Class legislation of this character is causing discontent among the people which ultimately will react upon the Government. It is not the cities but the primary producers, especially those in the outback country, who make the nation.
– It is both; jm& cannot exist without the other.
– The city is a consequence of primary production, and has been created as a result of the energy and efforts of the pioneers in the vast outback areas. These men should receive some relief from taxation. Rather than pick out a few isolated cases I should go further and exempt from all taxation the primary producers of the back country, more especially those who are endeavouring to develop practically unsettled areas. The efforts of the primary producers are responsible for the high values of city properties, and the cities can well afford to pay for unearned increments that have been created by the energy, sweat, and isolation of our pioneers. To that end I hoped that this Bill would shape itself, but I find it is for the benefit of a few. To give honorable members some idea of the awful conditions of the pioneers, I shall read a letter from one of them. I shall not mention his name, because I know that the public statement of the financial position of a person impairs his credit, and I am unwilling to do this in the case of one who is already sorely pressed.
– Is the honorable member speaking of the Northern Territory ?
– Yes. The letter reads -
I wish to draw your attention .to the following, which I feel sure will receive your earnest consideration. I will not occupy your time by fully detailing the conditions of life, isolation, hardships, &c, under which people such as we are placed have to undergo, for I am sure you are already aware of such. My main reason, for writing to you is to ask if you will bc good enough to entertain the following, and do your utmost to assist in the matter. My late uncle took up the country we now occupy in 1S!)5, and under very adverse conditions and strenuous efforts, formed this station. When my uncle died, about 1910, the residue of his estate went to my mother. In 1911, my elder brother -came from Sydney to here; and in 1913 I followed. In 1920, my younger brother came out - on returning to Australia after being at .the late war for four years. We have been continuously on the place since, excepting my elder brother, who had to remain in Sydney on business just after my mother’s death, in 1919; and I have been absent for six -months, occupied by taking a mob of our sale cattle to Adelaide, in 1917. When my mother died, in 1919, the property carried, approximately, 3,000 head of cattle, and 500 head of horses, and for estate duties the stock were valued as following: - cattle, £3 10s. per head; horses, £5 per head. The country held by us, with improvements, valued at £1,500. This latter, you will know, is most unusual in Northern Territory estates. As a general rule, the stock only are valued, and I consider a fair value to be placed on a breeding herd of Station stock in a country such as this -to be: cattle, £2 per head; horses, £3 -per head. The three years, 1917, 1918, and 1919, “were the only years we got boom prices for our cattle. Sales for the other years have been barely paying expenses, and I consider it most unjust to have valued our herd on the high basis, especially the way the market has depreciated since. Before the boom, market bullocks about this district were valued at about £3 per head, and since the boom they have been more or less unsaleable. We have been endeavouring to sell a number of both horses and cattle, but unsuccessfully. During the time this run was most unjustly quarantined, I had the chance to dispose of £1,000 worth of cattle; but, owing to quarantine regulations, was unable to complete deal. At that time, it was necessary to inoculate cattle against pleuro-pneumonia. The virus used for inoculation was not to be had in the district, nor in Darwin; and, furthermore, our stock were, and always have been clean and healthy. Ticks do not live here. It is necessary for us to sell a draft of cattle each year to meet the necessary expenses incurred for up-keep of station; and since 1920, they have had -to be taken on road in search of a buyer. Last year, my brother started away from here with just on 400 head. Several of the dry stages the had to travel over ranged from 60 to 80 miles. There are Government wells along the route, and many of them are useless for watering anumber of stock; they have not a sufficient supply of water to rely on, and water, as we all know, is about the most essential item on a stock route. However, my brother had to travel to William Creek, below Oodnadatta, some 800 miles from here, and just managed to get £3 10s. per head for 300 head. A few of the cattle perished on the dry stages, whilst some cut up so badly through the hardships they underwent that it was necessary to leave them at different places en route. I regret having to write to you in this tone, and I am sure you will give my request, viz., “To have reduced the matter of taxation ‘based on the high values of stock.” In the winding up of my mother’s estate, -the Northern Territory succession duties and fees amounted to £598 3s. 4d.; the Federal estate duties, I think, slightly under £300; as well as the ordinary State and Federal taxes according to our yearly returns. You will realize, under existing conditions since 1919, this amount of money, together with sufficient to meet other expenses, has not been forthcoming. We have paid all the estate duties except £S9 on the Federal estate duty; and we have received notice that unless this amount is paid forthwith proceedings will be taken. I can assure you we are doing our utmost; but are unable to dispose of stock. We are compelled to sacrifice each year a certain percentage to meet expenses necessary. for up-keep of station, as stated above. These expenses are rental and living expenses, which are cut as fine as possible. Until such time as cattle values reach their normal value, and demand arises for supply - with this object in view - we are putting all our energy into the place, and sincerely hope that before long »the pastoral industry will -brighten up. There are four shareholders in this property. All moneys received have been used up in working and improvement of station and herd, and our only interests are in this property. I trust you will, after considering the above, do your utmost. And thanking you ‘for an early reply,
– It is a very reasonable letter.
– That is so. It shows the true position of these people, and demonstrates clearly that this type of family settlement is worth more to this country than is the creation of big estates. I know from personal experience what properties are controlled by Vestey Brothers. Prior to coming under their control these stations comprised small runs, employing about 200 men. The industry was considered to be fairly flourishing, although boom prices for cattle had not then arrived. To-day what do we find? Under one control there are not forty men working on all the stations. Men of the type shown in the letter are of more benefit to this continent and are entitled to far more consideration than are Vestey Brothers. These family settlers have big hearts, a wide outlook on life, and are at all times optimistic. They are prepared to battle against odds, such as depressed markets and drought conditions, bub their economic position is such that they connot meet their expenses, which, in this case, were enormous. ‘ In the first place the uncle died, and £600 in succession duties and £300 in Federal estate duties were paid. In addition they had to meet the Federal income and State taxes on sales, &c. The property was left to the mother, who died a few years later. The levying of succession duties and so forth was repeated, and now these people are absolutely impoverished. Honorable members should know of these facts. These men are struggling to live under conditions which the people here could not possibly visualize. Their cattle are hawked about the country to different markets. To show honorable members the prices realized I shall detail an account sales. Four steers were sold at £16 7s. .6d. These were ‘the charges: - Commission, guarantee and discount, 13s. Id. ; market, fees at ls. 6d. per head, .6s. ; railage from Oodnadatta., £11 4s. ; untrucking and trans-trucking, ls. ; droving to and from paddock, ls. ; paddocking, two” nights at 9d. per head per night, 6s. ; insurance against condemnation, £ per cent., ls. 7d. ; totalling £12 12s. 8d. This left a credit balance for the four beasts of £3 14s. 10d., yet the cattle are valued for taxation at £5 per head.
– At where did the sale take place?
– According to the account sales, they were sold within the last few months at Adelaide. It is for men of this type that I appeal. It is for them that I thought this Bill would be introduced. It is they who will develop this country, and will make it possible’ for towns and cities to thrive. They are entitled to far more consideration than are the holders of big estates. In the interests of settlement in the outposts of Australia, the Governments of Australia, particularly the Federal Government, should be prepared’ to say to people who will go on the land and de- velop it, “ “We shall exempt you from the payment of all taxation for a certain number of years.” That would provide a powerful stimulus for men to undertake pioneering. By the time the period of exemption had expired, areas now undeveloped would be thriving vigorously. After all, what amount of revenue is derived from this source of taxation? It is a mere bagatelle, but it is sufficient to harass the few people who are endeavouring to settle in the remote parts of the country. The Government of Australia could very well afford to forego these taxes, and allow these people in the “ outback “ to do what it is most desired that they should do. In the case that I have quoted, estate duties amounting tb £2,000 were demanded in a period of nine years, and, because the payments were £89 in arrears, the following document was sent by the Department :-
Your attention is directed to my letter of 26th September, 1922, on the above-named subject; in which you were notified that an amount of £89 4s., representing the balance of Federal estate duties payable by the executors of the above-named estate, was due to this Department. As payment of “this amount has not been effected, and a reasonable time has already elapsed in which to reply to my request of 26th September last, I have to advise that, unless the amount be paid on or before 21st July, 1923,. legal proceedings will be instituted for its recovery.
I mention this case because I felt impelled to make a comparison between the treatment meted out to this class of person and to those who have the money at their command and can afford to pay. It would be wrong and dangerous for this Government to pass a retrospective Taxation Act. When it is considered that by the passing of this Bill the people concerned will be relieved of taxation, not only for the future, but also for a number of years past, while, on the other hand, “ the Department is prosecuting pioneers who are battling against adverse conditions and bad markets, it becomesobvious that there is something rotten about the. administration. It is such facts as these that make one put forward a special plea for the primary producer, for, after all, he is the man who makes possible parliaments, towns, and everything else that is necessary for the development of a country. He, rather than the few who will benefit under the Bill, should receive consideration. I trust that the Treasurer, will think over what I have said, and will bring down, in place pf this Bill, a Bill which will encourage the primary producer to settle in the empty spaces of Australia. This could be done by relieving him of the taxation now loaded upon him. The problem of- development would then be solved, for the people who went on the land would know that, at least, they had a sympathetic Government behind them. They would know that the Government would not wait until their enterprise had financially embarrassed them, and then pounce upon them like a hawk and threaten them with prosecution. I. trust that the Treasurer will give. serious consideration to this aspect of the matter.
.- I was pleased to hear the remarks of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson)-. His speech was evidence of the fact that he knew something of the subject of which he was speaking. He spoke from experience. I do not agree with all that he said. Possibly that is because my experience has not extended far enough. I cannot see why so much antipathy should be shown to the few men who have become successful pastoralists after having passed through the pioneering stage. We’ do not want all our pastoral settlers to be in the Unfortunate position of~the members of the family referred to by the honorable member who, after having suffered the bereavement of father and mother, were pounced _ upon twice by the Probate office, and reduced almost to insolvency. Some amendment should be made to legislation which permits such a thing. ‘ The Federal Parliament should rid itself of the privilege, which it has assumed, of taxing the lands of the various States. This field of taxation should be reserved solely for the States. Probably nine-tenths of the great State of Western Australia, which comprises nearly one-third of the whole continent, is 1 Crown lands, and the only way in which it can be occupied for some time to come is to lease the ‘ land. A very considerable area of it is not yet leased. The opportunity offers to many of those gentlemen who decry the successful leaseholders to take up one of these leases, and then to come back and tell honorable members all about it. I have no lease at present, but I know something of lease-holding. I had a lease of 300,000 acres, and if the honorable member for Tarra (Mr. Scullin) will come1 with me during the recess, I think I can put him in the way of geting that lease by paying 2s. 6d. per 1,000 acres per year, subject to certain stocking conditions. The land is covered with beautiful saltbush and bluebush. It has good top feed all through the year, and excellent grass feed in the spring.
– Why did the honorable member give it up?
– Because the conditions imposed upon it did not leave a reasonable prospect of return. What would honorable members who occupy rented houses say if, after having paid the fixed rent charged by the landlord, they had to pay a tax upon the house? They would say, “ Go tq the landlord for that tax. I pay him the rent, which includes the tax”. In the case of the leaseholds under discussion, the Crown is the landlord. , There are 1,700,000,000 acres of land still belonging to the Crown in Australia. Of that area over 900,000,000 acres have been leased, and over 700,000,000 acres are still available to be leased. Let any of the scolders of those who have been plucky enough to go out into the back country, take up some of that land. The dingoes, rabbits and kangaroos do not pay taxes. The best thing that can be done for Australia is to induce people to occupy the unoccupied 700,000,000 acres. That would be better for the country than to hamper those who have gone on to the 900;0d”0,000 acres. It is quite impossible for a man of small means to take up this land. Do we not want capital expended in this enterprise in Australia? Is there any crime in sinking dams and building hundreds of miles of costly fences? If -men make money in doing these things does not Australia benefit? In my State, a squatter who makes. £12,000 a year from wool pays 9s. lid. in the £1 to the State and Federal Taxation Departments. He is a public benefactor, and he pays for his prosperity. Class legislation has already been applied to the people in outback places. The tax paid by a wage earner, or by a city man with a big salary, is assessed on the lowest possible scale. If a person rents a shop in the city, the landlord pays the tax on the building and land; the tenant pays only the rent. If the tenant makes money the only tax imposed upon him is the Income Tax. The position should not be any different when the Crown is the landlord. The report of the Royal Commission on Taxation appointed by this Parliament has been referred to at considerable length. From the first report of that Commission, I would like to quote an extract which’ has a direct bearing upon the subject under discussion. It confirms the contention of the honorable member for the Northern Territory, that those who are struggling upon the land to produce the wealth upon which all the people of Australia live should have more consideration than they receive. An example is given illustrating the actual experience, over a period of 7 years, of a grazier in a large way. In the first year he ‘made a profit, of £24,015 8s. id. : in the second ‘ year a profit oi £28,804 14s. 8d. ; in the third year a loss of £34,645 19s. ; in the fourth year a loss of £67,255 2s. 8d.; in the fifth year a profit of £4,162 12s. 9d.; in the sixth year a profit of £55,531 4s. 8d. ; and in the. seventh year a profit of £45,835. The total profits during the seven years were £158,349 0s. 2d. The losses were £101,901 ls. 8d., leaving a net profit for the seven years of £56,447 18s, 6d. . This gives an average annual income of £8,064.
– “Was this person the holder of a Crown lease?
– It matters very little for the sake of my argument,, hut I think it may he assumed that this taxpayer was the holder of a leasehold property.
– He would not be taxed for the years during which he suffered losses.
– I am quoting from the” Taxation Commission’s report, and my personal experience confirms the statements that are therein made. As I have said, the average annual. . income of this taxpayer during the seven years was £8,064. The taxation on a similar income earned in the city over a similar period would be £13,299 6s. 7d., but the pastoralist whose case is referred to was called upon to pay out of his total net profit of £56,447 18s. 6d., taxation to the amount of £60,161 4s. 5d.
– Then his actual income was minus x. ,
– It is as the honorable member reminds me. Those who have had no experience talk of the man on the land and of unemployment, and yet they lightly vote for the imposition of burdens upon the man on the land that are impossible to be borne.
– I notice that when tbese people die they leave a lot of money.
– I am aware that honorable members representing the suburbs of Sydney will contend that this kind of thing is just, but I have given figures which show that, over a period of seven years, the Taxation Department demanded more in taxation than was actually received as income. There is another case of a pastoral company which might be quoted, which, over a similar period, was called upon to pay in taxation £30,000 more than it actually made in that time. The report of the Commission shows clearly that these are not isolated cases. If I am asked how such things come about, I say it is because of the graduated rate of income tax,- and the uncertainty of the seasons in Australia. No man . can control the weather, and droughts are very frequent in this country. That is the main cause, but another material cause is the fluctuation in markets, and the costliness of the competition in the world’s markets which our primary products have to meet. It is easy to say that men should go on the land, but apparently they cannot look for sympathetic treatment from this Parliament, when’ the shoe ‘ pinches. We pass legislation without considering the harm that is likely to result from it.
– This is a Jeremiah wail.
– The honorable member need not make a Jeremiah wail in the circumstances in which he is ‘placed. I am reminded that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), when speaking for quite another purpose, unthinkingly referred to the’ man on the land as working twelve” or - thirteen hours a day, from daylightuntil dark. That is what honorable members opposite are supporting. They” are trying to drag people down instead of protecting their interests, and securing the occupation, ‘of this country by white people. Doubtless honorable members opposite have made excellent speeches from their point of view, but they spoke on this subject without knowledge or experience. As representatives of the people we should consider what is the best course to adopt to develop and further the interests of Australia. If we appoint Commissions to make investigations in order to advise us, let us take some notice of what they recommend. A further illustration is given in the report of a pastoralist, who over a period of five years made, in the first year a profit of £5,796, in the second year a loss of £3,800, in the third year a profit of £896, in the fourth year a profit of £6,700, and in the fifth year a loss of £4,790. These figures give a total net income for the five years of £4,802. This man evidently was a New South Wales pastoralist, because he paid the Federal tax and State income tax. On a net income for five years of £4,802 he paid in taxation £3,001 7s. 6d. A city man receiving an income of £960 a year would receive £4,802 in five years, and would pay taxation to the amount of £440 3s. id., as against £3,001 7s. 6d. paid by the pastoralist. Whilst these people are going through periods of great difficulty, additional burdens are imposed upon them by our legislation. They can only be borne- by wealthy men in possession of large estates, as the man in a small way cannot stand them.
– Then let us tax Sir Sidney Kidman. That is what we wish to do.
– If taxation such as this is imposed, even men like Sir Sidney Kidman will not be able to remain in occupation’ of the country. Perhaps a simpler illustration of the unwisdom of imposing burdens of this kind may be drawn from the fact that honorable members on .both sides recently voted for a bounty on the export of meat, whilst we have been given information that, in Queensland, steers can be purchased at 5s. per head. We are in this kind of legislation taking with one hand what we give with the other. Would it not be better to leave1 these people to develop their areas, instead of extracting money, from them in this way and then humiliating them with a bounty on the meat they export ? This is only in keeping with much other legislation that is passed by this Parliament. No man with any sense of fair play can account for discrimination between a man who puts his capital into the development of a secondary industry in one of our cities and one who puts it into the development of rural industries. Yet honorable members opposite hasten to build a Protective wall round the city man, who is sure of making profits. He can regulate his profits if he is not making enough, or if he has to meet heavy taxation he can pass the burden on to the Australian purchaser of his goods. In the case of the man who puts his capital into the pastoral industry, honorable members opposite, so far from giv ing him protection, impose additional burdens upon him. They can criticise this Bill as they please, but I am prepared to vote for it, because I regard it as a means to secure the development of the great waste spaces of Australia. I am satisfied on that point, and I do not need the advice of representatives of city constituencies on matters about which they know very little. I- know the de* privations and hardships suffered by the pioneers in the outback districts. Although there are no such people in my electorate, I am convinced that the people who are there know sufficient of the matter to induce them to stand- by any Government that will do. the right thing by those who are trying to develop this country and keep it white. Let me remind honorable members opposite who are disposed to laugh at what I have said that there are 700,000,000 acres of this country still unoccupied. In Western Australia we have a great area of. unoccupied land. If some honorable members opposite put their .money into taking up that land under lease, and spent their lives . and .their energies there :for thirty years, they might be called bloated squatters, but they .are not game to tackle the. job. They find it very much easier to stay here and boast about what they are ‘doing. If we can get the balance of -our country occupied, the exchequer will receive additional revenue from the primary exportable products that will be -raised from it. In Western Australia, our leases were to expire in 1928, and, as the date approached, the Government began to . realize that no development was taking place. The banks would not lend money on leases which had so short a time to run, and the leaseholders would not extend their improvements. The leases were a dying asset, and must revert to the Crown. The Government felt that they must alter the conditions, and I think I am right in saying that they decided to put the leases into the melting-pot. The leaseholders were content to submit to a new appraise* ment if the term of their leases were extended to 1948. The new leases were taken up, and development went ahead. The State has a right to re-appraisement, and has made it, but it upsets all calculations and is distinctly wrong that a Parliament sitting in Melbourne should levy an additional burden upon the leaseholders, which must retard the progress which the legislation passed by the State Parliament in its wisdom is calculated to promote. There is no excuse for this tax inview of the fact that we will derive income tax from all who obtain reasonable returns from their properties.
Mr.FENTON (Maribyrnong) [3.59]. - I wonder that the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) did not close his very doleful speech by moving that this chamber should be draped in crape. If we had a Parliament full of such Jeremiahs it would be difficult to realize how Australia would fare. The remission of leasehold taxation to the extent of £1,300,000 is a sop to the Country party ‘ section of the Ministerialists, just as the subsidy of £700,000 granted under the Postal Rates Bill was to benefit the supporters of the Flinders-lane section of the composite Ministry. I believe the real farmers, whether they be situated in the island State of Tasmania; in Western Australia, or in any other State, will give honorable members opposite what they really deserve when the proper time arrives. I take exception - to the words used by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) in his Budget speech, which were practically repeated in moving the second reading of this Bill, when he’ said - .
Owing to the insurmountable difficulties involved, Mr. Watt, the then Treasurer, in March, 1918, gave directions that the collection of the tax on Crown leaseholds was to be suspended.
In using those words, the Treasurer did not rightly interpret the opinion of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), who was Treasurer in 1918. The language, which is drastic in character, is a reflection upon, and shows a want of confidence in, the officers in the Land Tax Department. These officials have solved more intricate and difficult problems than the collection of taxation from Crown lessees, and are quite capable of doing all that is necessary if so directed by the Government. Political influence, however, , has been introduced into departmental control, and the Government is now asking that the tax be remitted merely in consequence of protests made by those who should pay it. The Treasurer of ‘the’ day listenedto ‘ their “arguments, and suggested the appointment of a Royal Commission to investigate the claims made in order to ascertain whether or not they were justifiable. The Royal Commission consisted of able men, who obtained evidence, from various sources, but particularly from the individuals who were protesting against the imposition of the tax. What was the result? ‘ A Commission, free from political influence, arrived at an almost, unanimous decision that leaseholds should be liable to taxation under the Federal Land Tax Act. The Treasurer’s reference to this question in his Budget speech continues -
That direction has been followed up to the present time, even though assessments at considerable cost have annually been made. Each year the value of these leases has been diminishing, in accordance with the remaining life of the lease. In view of the great difficulties which have arisen in the administration, and of the necessity of easing the burdens resting on one of our greatest industries, as well as of encouraging settlement in the back country, the Government have decided to submit to . Parliament a Bill to abolish the tax - upon Crown leaseholds. The Government considers that it would be grossly unfair now to call upon leaseholders to pay arrears of tax for the many years which have elapsed since its. suspension, and the intention is to make the repeal operative from 1st July, 1917, so that all such leases owned at 30th June, 1917, and -later will not be taxed.
The Government is extending retrospective privileges to the wealthy leaseholders in Australia, but is not increasing the invalid and old-age pensions to the extent which it should. In view of all the circumstances, why cannot the proposed invalid and old-age pension legislation be made retrospective? Persons rolling in wealth, clothed in purple and fine linen, who fare sumptuously every day in the week, are the individuals to whom the members of the composite Government and their supporters give every assistance. The Government is not only providing that the tax shall be repealed from the. end of the last financial’ year, but relieving the lessees of the liabilities incurred during the last six years. In doing so, it is wilfully throwing away £1,300,000 which could be devoted to other useful purposes. The honorable member for Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) directed attention to the fact that Vestey Brothers are interested in vast areas in the northern portion of Australia. I know that the Crown lessees in the Northern Territory are in a different category from- those who haveobtained their land from the States, be- cause the land in the Northern Territory ia under our control. Vestey Brothers is now an international commercial concern, as it has amalgamated with other companies, and is backed by capital amounting to £20,000,000.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– Vestey Brothers and other commercial concerns which can well afford to pay any taxation imposed have asked the Government to relieve them of some of their burdens. To put it mildly, this Parliament will be taking one of the most retrograde steps it has ever taken if it relieves in this way many wealthy people . in the Commonwealth of their responsibilities. If an ordinary taxpayer is unable to pay his income taxation within the specified time, legal proceedings are immediately instituted, and he is made to pay up to the last farthing. The amount originally due is sometimes trebled, and a heavy fine imposed, but those who are in a position to gay defy the law of the country with impunity. They are not pursued in the same relentless manner. -
– I call; attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– The time at our disposal for dealing with many important measures is precious; but the Government, instead of introducing legislation to benefit the poorer section of the community, is rushing this proposal through in the interests of the few who do not need assistance.
– Payment of this tax has been suspended.
– It was suspended only for a specific purpose, and I presume that if the honorable member for Balaclava, who was then Treasurer, had remained in office, effect would have been given to the recommendations of the Commission.
– The honorable member has no justification for making such a statement.
– I have a very good reason, and I shall later quote what the then Treasurer said concerning the taxation of leaseholds. I have a very good idea of what he would have done had he remained in office.
– It is questionable whether he’ had the rightto suspend this provision in the Act.
– Possibly so. I do not suggest that the then Treasurer was right in what he did, but it was suspended to enable inquiries to be made. The- Crown lessees should have been treated as ordinary taxpayers, who have to contribute the amount due, and then lodge an appeal if dissatisfied with the assessment. If the honorable member for Balaclava had remained in office as Treasurer, I am sure the almost unanimous recommendations of the Royal Commission would have been given effect, and payment of the tax demanded. Other influences, however, have been at work. The big commercial firms have received assistance in the form of reduced postage rates, and the supporters of the Country party are now to be relieved of the payment of taxation amounting to £1,300,000. One naturally wonders what concessions will next be made if Parliament remains in session much longer, because I believe this Ministry is capable of almost anything, so long as it has the support of a docile majority. It will introduce almost any measure regardless of its equity, and, in normal circumstances, such a Government as this would have beeni defeated three weeks after meeting Parliament. Honorable members opposite cannot exonerate themselves. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) declared that he was not going to accept responsibility for what past- Parliaments had done. He is now supporting a Government that is going further in connexion with this matter. Some of the actions of the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes) pale into insignificance when compared with what is being done by this composite Ministry.If honorable members opposite continue to support a Government that passes such legislation as this, we can only hope that the electors will have an early opportunity of dealing with them. If they have, I have no hesitation in prophesying what will happen. A great) deal has been said about the equity of taxing Crown leaseholds. On this subject I quote from the first report of the Royal Commission, consisting of H. A. G. Curry, , H. O. Allan, and G. H. (now Sir George) Knibbs -
Throughout the inquiry your Commissioners have kept in view the fact that the pastoral industry is of . fundamental importance to the economic well-being of Australia,. and in their review of ‘conditions they havenot lost sight of the fact that- the recent advance in its prosperity needs to he allowed for in connexion with their decisions.
This was the fundamental principle upon which they based their report. They realized that the pastoral industry was of vital importance to the prosperity ofAustralia, and they were not misled by the then condition of the industry. The Commissioners, I point out, were removed from the hurly-burly of politics. They were not in the same position as, say, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), supporting this composite Ministry, or like myself, a member of the Opposition and for the most part opposed to the Government policy. It might be suggested, in view of our political views on these subjects, that our opinions are to some extent biased, but the same could not be said of the Royal Commission referred to.
– The honorable member should read the report of the only practical man on the Commission.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the other members of the Commission were incapable of arriving ‘ at sound conclusions ? He might just as well say that, when matters requiring technical knowledge on the part of adjudicators come before the High Court of Australia, persons possessing practical knowledge of an industry should usurp the functions of a High Court Judge and decide the issue. I have no hesitation in saying that although the other members of the Royal Commission may not have been practical men, they were quite capable of hearing and weighing evidence, and coming to a just decision’ in respect of it. Does the honorable member question the ability of - a man like Mr. Allan, or of Sir George Knibbs ?
– I question not their ability, but their knowledge.
– The honorable member is casting a very serious reflection upon two members of the Commission who intellectually, judicially,’ and statistically stand very high in the eyes of the community. It is a very serious matter to disregard the decisions of the Commission, or to pit the opinion of the only member who was likely to be biased - 1 do not want to do an injustice to Mr. Curry - against the opinions of the other two.
– Why does the honorable member suggest that Mr. Curry was likely to be biased in his judgment?
– Because of his interests.
– He was the squatters’ man.
– He was not. He was an officer of the New South Wales Lands Department.
– Very often, as the honorable member knows, State officers stand out strongly for what they regard as State interests. But let me return to the report and quote another paragraph. Referring to the taxation of Crown leaseholds, the Commissioners stated -
Your Commissioners are satisfied that, as regards the equitableness of taxation, the case is on all-fours with that of freehold.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has stated his pronounced opposition to the principle of remission of taxation, but would abolish the tax upon leaseholds. As I have shown, the Commissioners state that, from the point of view of equity, freeholds and leaseholds are on the same basis. The following paragraph indicates, however, that, in the opinion of the Commissioners, the leaseholder is in an advantageous position : -
Evidence was given in Queensland that leaseholds were sometimes preferred to freeholds. The grounds of this preference are several. One is that, in the case of leaseholds, nearly the whole of one’s capital is available for the developing of one’s holding. Further, since the freehold is taxable on the full value, and the Crown leasehold is taxable only on the basis of the difference between the full economic rental and the rent reserved to the Crown, and the Crown pays no tax, the freeholder is at a disadvantage.
The Commissioners give an example, which I think is very fair. I do not know if the honorable member for Fawkner has read it -
Thus, let us assume the existence of two equivalent unimproved areas of equal potentiality, one a freehold and the other a Crown leasehold-the unimproved freehold value of each being £100,000; then, if at the time interest on first class security is 5 per cent., the annual interest is thus £5,000, and the possessor of the freehold may be regarded as paying out that amount annually (in perpetuity) by way of rent. If the holding be leasehold its full economic rent is, say, also £5,000. A leaseholder who pays that amount is free of taxation under existing conditions, because his “ interest in the lease “ is nil after such payment. Moreover, if both had originally £100,000, the freeholder has only what he oan raise on the propertyfor its development, while the first year’s rent being paid, the leaseholder has £05,000 for that purpose, Sua. Taking the tax as at present about £2,774, the freeholder is worse off than the leaseholder by approximately this amount.
In other words, if two persons hold areas of land valued at £100,000, and if the potentialities of each are about equal, the leaseholder, from a taxation point of view, is better off to the extent of over £2,500 per annum, for the simple reason that he has £95,000 available for the development of the lease, whereas a freeholder has the whole of his capital’locked up in the property. I cannot conceive of a more just proposition than that stated by the Commissioners. But honorable members opposite are not satisfied with that. They seem to forget that this question was determined in the High Court not so long ago, when certain leaseholders challenged the right of the Federal Government to tax leaseholds. That matter is referred to by the Commissioners in the following terms: -
Several witnesses laid stress on -this aspect of the Federal land tax on Crown leases. The question of its legality has, however, been considered and dealt with by the High Court. Further discussion on the point appears to be futile, especially (when it is remembered that permission to appeal against the decision that the fax was valid was refused by the Privy Council.
It is obvious that, from a legal standpoint, the position taken up by the Federal Government was absolutely sound. The High Court decision was against the leaseholders, who thereupon took the matter to the Privy Council, and again failed. On this subject the Commissioners stated that it was not necessary to set out in detail the grounds on which the appellants - Goldsbrough, Mort, and Company, and’ the Attorney-General for the State of Queensland- relied. This principle does not affect the poor pioneers. The name of Goldsbrough, Mort, and Company is well known all over Australia, and I have no desire to say anything derogatory of that firm. I mention the name only to illustrate that it is not the poor struggling pastoralists who are affected by this measure. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) has told us of his experiences as a pioneer, and how, after he had effected considerable improvements to his pro perty, he had to forfeit his lease, and somebody else came along. Probably the new lessee took up the land at the same rental, and practically “ collared “ allthe improvements on it. Every one knows that very many people become rich through the misfortunes of their fellows. I shall quote one’ instance. I shall not give his name, but for the purposes of my illustration he may be called Jones. Perhaps honorable members will be able to identify him. In 1902, or thereabouts, when Queensland was in the grip of a severe drought, and pastoralists there were in difficulties, this gentleman inspected a number of properties, and got an idea as to their values. Although he had not sufficient capital himself, he was able to borrow sufficient to take over certain leaseholds. Shortly afterwards the rain came, the grass began to grow, and very soon he was on the high road to fortune. To-day he may be regarded as one of the “money-bags “ of Australia. I am afraid that we have to-day in Queensland, if not in other States, almost a similar state of affairs. The cattle industry has certainly encountered bad times, and for two years in succession Parliament has voted assistance to it to the extent of £142,000 per annum. The smaller men, no doubt, have practically collapsed; either their leaseholds are in the hands of the banks, or they have been bought up by the wealthy pastoralists, or the big companies. But it is not these unfortunate men who are to receive the benefit conferred by the present Bill.
– A good many of them will be assisted.
– Very few. The bulk of those to be benefited are the wealthy men and the large companies. If this taxation is remitted the big men will rub their hands with satisfaction, and say, “ Our friends in Parliament have stood by us splendidly.” The cattle men generally do not expect unfavorable conditions to rule in the industry for all time. The day will come when their properties will be most productive, and the concession now proposed will merely add to the thousands of pounds that already stand to their credit in the banks. If the Bill, is agreed to it will be one of the most disgraceful proceedings ever witnessed in this House. Talk about greasing the fat pig ! I have never known of an instance in which that was more apparent than in the present case. When this tax was under the consideration of the House on 15th December, 1914, you, Mr. Speaker, while you did not agree entirely with ;the proposal of the then Government, made the following observations, inter alia: -
This need not be a party question, lt is one that is susceptible to a difference of opinion, but it has always appeared to me that » mistake was made - and 1 say this with the greatest respect to the legislators of those days -when they embodied section 29 in the principal Act. But with the amendments which this Bill will make, I think not the weight, but certainly the area, of land taxation throughout the Commonwealth will be more equitably spread. I do not wish it to be thought that, because I speak in this way, I support the land tax proposals of the Government generally. I think that their proposals to tax at this stage, and at the rates set forth by them, are burdensome and wrong, but if they are to go on they should go over the proper area, and not merely over the freehold interests hitherto taxed.
It has been suggested to me that it is very questionable whether you, sir, when Treasurer, would have asked those taxpayers to pay up.
– The honorable member should be careful that he does not induce Mr. Speaker to break bounds.
– I should very much like you to do so, Mr. Speaker.
– The invitation is very acceptable; but I am afraid that I cannot accept it.
– I believe that there is a precedent for such a course. The President of the Senate on one occasion stepped down from the chair, and allowed the Deputy-President to take his place while he gave expression to his views upon a particular matter on the floor of the Senate, but I do not say that it was a controversial subject.
– The Standing Orders of the Senate are different from those of this Chamber.
– Quite so. I do not desire, by the quotation I have made, to place you, Mr. Speaker, in an unfair . position ; but you pointed out that if there was to be a Federal land tax, you saw no reason why it should not apply to the’ whole area-. The whole matter was decided on the appeal of the pastoralists from the High Court to the Privy Council, which ruled against them.
– Why should they go to the Privy Council? It is a cheaper method simply to decline to pay.
– Direct action.
– Yes. The appellants in the High Court case were not the struggling pastoralists, but Goldsbrough, Mort. The Bench comprised the late Sir Samuel Griffith, Chief Justice; Mr. Justice Higgins, Mr. Justice Duffy, Mr. Justice Powers, Mr. Justice Rich, and Mr. Justice Isaacs, and the appeal was dismissed on the practically unanimous decision of the Court. Dissatisfied with that decision, the pastoralists went to the Privy Council, and, as the decision went against them, it must be realized that from every stand-point the tax is just and right. If honorable members turn up the report of the Royal Commission, they will see exactly what the then Chief Justice thought of the matter. The late Sir Samuel Griffith was once the head of a Government in Queensland that sought to impose upon the land-holders in that State somewhat similar conditions to those imposed by the Theodore Government in subsequent years. When Mr. Denham was Premier of Queensland, ho attempted to do precisely what Mr. Theodore did a few years later; but the pastoralists’ influence in that State was too strong for him. ‘ Mr. Theodore, however, proved himself to be powerful enough to resist the claims of the pastoralists. The result was that the big financial interests of Queensland attempted to prevent the Theodore Government from carrying on developmental works.
– They were the patriots.
– Yes; but Mr. Theodore defeated them, both on the other side of the world and in Queensland, and, largely for that reason, the Labour party stands firmly established in the northern State to-day.
– The Theodore Government did it by repudiation.
– Then the late Sir Samuel Griffith and Mr. Denham must also have been guilty of repudiation, because they, in effect, took precisely the same attitude. I remind the honorable member that, if the Queensland Government is taxing land up to its full economic value, there is no possibility of the Commonwealth authorities stepping in at all.
– Since the- Queensland Government passed its Act, the taxation paid to the State authorities is taken into consideration in making the assessments for Commonwealth taxation purposes.
– Yes; otherwise the Federal officials would be guilty of inequitable administration. But, so far as I have been able to gather, they have carried on their work from the inception of the Federal land tax in a most equitable manner. I believe that they are always prepared to protect and safeguard the interests of taxpayers. I have met a number of large graziers who have visited Melbourne for the purpose of adjusting their taxation matters with the State and Federal authorities. One of these gentlemen informed me that he had found, at any rate, the Federal officials courteous and obliging, and that he had been able to get satisfaction from them. If a taxpayer is able to show that he has been placed at a disadvantage, the Department is ever ready to do justice to him”. State rights must go by the board; there is no reason why these leaseholders should not be taxed. The Treasurer has mentioned the amount of revenue he expects to lose. Honorable members must bear in mind what will be involved by the remission of the accumulated debt owed by the leaseholders and the repeal of the taxation. Take the position of a man with £20,000 worth of freehold, and £10,000 worth of leasehold property. On the freehold he will pay at the rate of 3d. in the £1, approximately £250. If the leasehold land is added to the freehold he will pay on £30,000, at the rate of 5d. _in the £1, taxation amounting to £625. If the taxation of leaseholds is discontinued the Commonwealth will lose in respect of every taxpayer who has property of the value I have mentioned, £375 per annum. How will the Government make good that loss? Will it pounce down on the working man or the struggling farmer? Will it compel poor unfortunates to give their last penny, after it has remitted this large sum of taxation to the wealthy section of the community? I am fairly certain that if the Bill gets into Committee the provisions relating to the remission of taxation already owing will be struck out. Parliament cannot afford to continue remitting taxation, as it has been doing for the last couple of years. The last Parliament reduced taxa tion by about £2,500,000, of which £2,000,000 was saved to the wealthy people. The alteration in the postal rates means a gift of nearly £700,000 to the commercial community - Flinders-lane and the like. Now the Government is saying to wealthy men like Kidman and Jowett, and the large stock and station firms that have been mentioned, “ We make you a gift of six years of taxation, amounting to £1,300,000, and by repealing this ‘tax on leasehold, we shall give you a substantial annual benefit.” I mistake the temper of the people if they will indorse an inequitable proposition of that kind. I feel certain that when the facts are placed before them they will give short shrift to the composite Government and its supporters. The remission’ of taxation and other favours which have been given to the wealthy taxpayers during the last twelve months amount to between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000, and this at a time when the Commonwealth owes £400,000,000, and the States a little more. The total of Commonwealth, State, and municipal debts is probably about £1,000,000,000, upon which the people have to pay £50,000,000 in interest every year. Yet the Government is prepared to hand back to the wealthy people over £1,000,000, which they owe, and which should be paid into the Treasury to assist in carrying on the administration and development of the country. Honorable members opposite had a lot to say about the cattle industry. I admit that the pastoralists do experience times of depression. Several honorable members in the corner were very emphatic during the last Parliament in stating that the cattle industry is not being conducted on uptodate lines, and that the Australian cattle raisers are not paying the same attention to breeding as is being paid in Argentina and other countries. I am glad to know that the suggestions made in the last Parliament are likely to be carried into effect, and that those engaged in cattle raising will form a strong association to improve the industry in respect of breeding and other features. The Treasurer said, in his Budget speech -
Beef shipments were considerably below the average, and prices were disappointing. The subsidy paid by the Commonwealth Government to cattle raisers, and the reductions in freight and freezing charges resulting from th» action of the Commonwealth Government last years, were most beneficial to the industry. The advantages continue during the present year, and materially compensate the industry for the losses which have occurred owing to low prices. The steps taken by the Government have modified the tendency to abandon cattle raising, the loss of which would be harmful to the Empire, as well as to Australia.
Honorable members were fairly unanimous in granting the assistance of a bounty to the cattle raisers, and assistance to wheat-growers, and those engaged in the fruit industry. Those being our mam primary industries, honorable members on all sides of the House are prepared to stand by them, but if there are abuses in connexion with the assistance which the Commonwealth gives we are justified in drawing attention to them. If there is one thing in which equity should play a most prominent part it is taxation.
– The honorable member tries to tax the pastoralists out of existence, and then they come to the Government for relief.
– The Honorable member is only speaking of hard cases. It is impossible to legislate for the exceptions. When Labour Governments first introduced legislation for the regulation of factories and the early closing of shops we all were touched to the heart’s core by the plea raised on behalf of the poor widow whose livelihood would be threatened. But it is impossible to legislate for hard cases. Even the most beneficent measures will inflict some hardships when put into operation. But we cannot for that reason withhold or repeal such legislation. Whilst we are sorry for those who are hard hit by new laws our resolution must be strengthened by the maxim, “ The greatest good for the greatest number.” The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page)’, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), and the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) have mentioned cases of hardship, but our legislation cannot be adjusted to meet exceptional circumstances. We must do the best we can to see that conditions are ameliorated where possible, and power has been given to the taxation officers to afford relief when justifica- 1 tion for it is proved. When the Fisher Government’s land taxation proposals were before this House in 1910, even so admirable a debater and experi enced a parliamentarian ‘ as the late Alfred Deakin, then Leader of the Opposition, quoted five instances in which he considered hardship would be inflicted by the measure. He mentioned some girls who had been left a certain amount of money, not more than sufficient to < enable them to live, and he argued that if the proposed tax were imposed their income would disappear. When, however, the five cases he mentioned were inquired into it was found that four of them would ‘ not be affected by the proposed legislation. I am as sympathetic as is any other honorable member when a case can be,made out for relief or consideration for any man whether in the city or the country, but there is not the slightest justification for the proposal to remit the taxation that is owing in respect of Crown leaseholds. If the cattle-raisers have had a hard time let us deal with them in a proper way. I am even prepared to support the continuance of the meat bounty in order to prevent the cattle men from going under.
– There is no relief for the little man who has had a hard time.
– When we were first called upon to go to the rescue of the cattle industry by granting a bounty on the export of beef, one of the largest organizations in Queensland, the Australian Workers’ Union, joined with the squatters and the proprietors of the freezing works in asking this Parliament to render assistance. The shipping companies and the freezing works proprietors agreed to reduce their charges, so that with the aid of the Government bounty the export business might - be continued and employment found for a large number of men. This Bill attacks a just principle of taxation. I agree with the two Royal Commissions and the Commissioner of Taxation that the impost upon Crown leaseholds is properly levied. Cases of hardship which are brought under the notice of the Commissioner are given favorable treatment.
– Not before those concerned are practically insolvent.
– The honorable member ought not to talk in that way. When men bring forward a fair’ case, the officials of the Department are always prepared to give them a favorable hearing. There are many more quotations which one could make from the findings of the Commission. If honorable members prove to be obdurate in their intention to pass this legislation, despite the strong, logical arguments which already have been advanced against it, honorable members on this side, when the Bill reaches the Committee stage, will have to furnish further information and kindly advice in order to show them that they are in error. Why was this Commission appointed 1 What was the intention of the Government* when it recently appointed a number of other Commissions? Is it intended to absolutely ignore the recommendations of those Commissions when they are made? If so, it is an absolute waste of public money to appoint them. This Commission was appointed to elicit information from the persons who were affected. For the information of the Treasurer, I shall make one other quotation from the findings of this Commission. On page 39 the report states -
The evidence showed that some taxpayers had at least no serious objection to the taxation of leaseholds if the leaseholds were not aggregated With freeholds.
I have already pointed out that where there ls aggregation, the rate of tax is higher, and the amount of taxation that has to be paid is greater. It was on the evidence given by Mr. J. M. Niall that the Commission made the statement which I have quoted. No one will say that he is a Labour man. I think he is one of the principals in the firm of Goldsbrough, Mort and Company, and that he is a leading grazier who owns very good stock. The report continues -
It shows also that they recognise that the imposition of a tax on the lessees’ interest would not involve hardship if this interest was appropriately ascertained. Mr. L. A. Addison, a property salesman, South Australia, states that he thinks “ pastoralists as a whole recognise that they should pay a tax”; and a manager of a large pastoral company (Mr.
Rymill) “ held the opinion….. that there would be no hardship “ provided the values were equitably fixed.
That is what I am contending should be done. If the values are equitably fixed, Mr. Rymill considers that there would be no objection by pastoralists, and that they would suffer no hardship. The report goes on to say -
Mr. W. J. Young, the general manager of the Australian Pastoral Company, while objecting to taxation both on freeholds and leaseholds, states that he does not consider “ that leaseholds and freeholds are in a totally different category in respect of the principles of progressive taxation”; and Mr. Vickery expresses an opinion to the same effect, viz., that while “ land taxation, both freehold and leasehold, is wrong in principle, if the imposition of the tax is to continue, as seems inevitable, the leaseholder should shoulder a fair proportion of the tax.” It is worthy also of note that Mr. Gr. R. Linton, inspector of stations for the Scottish-Australian Investment Company, considers that “ freeholders are treated worse than leaseholders.”
Those are the opinions of men who are engaged in the pastoral industry and who gave evidence before the Commission. Can honorable members, in the face of those opinions, support the repeal of the measure under which that taxation is imposed? All I can hope is that common sense - nay, better, common justice - will assert itself in the minds and hearts of honorable members, and that they will stand up for the rights, not of a particular section, and that a wealthy section, but of the whole community; and that, as independent members in this House, if they conscientiously disagree with the propositions that are set before them, they will vote against the second reading of this measure, and insure its return to the obscurity from which it never should have emerged. I hope that the Treasurer will not insist upon any extreme “ whipping.” I understand that he is prepared to release half the “ loot.” I am not aware whether the “light has been switched on.” I trust that the opinion of the House will be overwhelmingly in favour of rejecting the measure, which is most inequitable and obnoxious, and is one of the most disgraceful propositions that has ever been made to this House.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
.- I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) say that leaseholders receive better treatment than do the freeholders. By that statement, of course, he meant that, because they happen to be on a better footing in- relation to their capital outlay, they should be more heavily taxed than the (freeholders. I have always held the belief that the Labour party was opposed to the holding of land under a freehold title, and that its land taxation was framed in such a way as to force tb« freeholder to forego that title and to take up leasehold. The natural assumption was that that party favoured leaseholds, because the land thereby remained the property of the Crown and would revert to the’ Crown at the expiration of the lease,, the only return to the Crown being the rental, which was charged on a sliding scale. One of the chief objections raised to this Bill is that it relieves the big man. There is no doubt that it is going’ to relieve the big man. We are well aware that many of the pastoralists to whom reference has been made are not poverty-stricken, but arc quite able to affordto pay even the retrospective tax that is due at the present time. That, however, is not the point. It is the’ investment aspect of the matter which is important. If a big concern has capital invested in an enterprise from which the return is a profitable one, it will continue that investment. If, however, the return is not a ‘ profitable one because of increased expenses or from any other cause, it will naturally retire from that investment. That is why pastoral companies and pastoralists in a big way have withdrawn their investments from avenues that have proved to be not profitable, and, instead of continuing to be direct producers, have become middlemen or agents. I am opposed to all forms of land taxation, whether of freehold or of leasehold. It is not merely the big men who are affected by this proposal. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has stated that only 200 persons are affected. It is quite possible that there are only 200 pastoral companies, but, in addition, there is a large number of small men who are affected.. In the early settlement of Queensland men went into the back country. Subsequently the older men left the back country and bought properties on the Darling Dpwns and in other favored localities. It was not necessary for them to take up a very large area in order to get beyond the taxation exemption of £5,000 ; if they purchased a property comprising 2,000 acres which was valued at £2 10s. an acre, they would do so. Then, every acre of leasehold which they held in the back country became subject to land taxation. Many persons who are running an ordinary grazing farm of 5,000 or 10,000 acres, and at the same time are holding on the
Darling Downs a freehold property, which is being used as a depot, come within the provisions ‘of this Act, and are liable to taxation on every acre of their leasehold, whether it be 5,000 acres or 5,000 square miles.
– Always, of course, subject to the £5,000 exemption.
– The freehold which they possess is, equal in value to the amount of the exemption, and they are, therefore, liable to taxation on the whole of the land which they have under leasehold tenure.
– Only on its leasehold value.
– The leasehold has very little value. Whenever any matter concerning land is brought before this House, it is considered by honorable members, with the exception of one or two, from the southern point of view. Many times I have heard the. term “land monopolist” applied to an individual who holds a certain area of land. I am quite ready to admit that, in Victoria, where very little land is available, a person holding 5,000 or 10,000 acres may, perhaps, be a land monopolist. In Queensland, however, land values have not reached anything like the level of those in the southern States, and the result is that Queenslanders look at such matters in a totally different light. Where southerners talk in acres, we in Queensland talk in square miles. When in the newspapers mention is made of some person holding 500 square miles, the average Victorian, or the man who lives in an equally favored State, multiplies that 500 by 640, and arrives at an acreage which he considers it is not proper for one man to hold. Certainly it would not be possible in the thickly populated areas in the south. The Queensland conditions, however, are totally different. Parts of the State are so sparsely populated that the area must be large to enable a man to make a living. In the course of time the population will increase. Then, as the result of the resumptions which. have been made by the Government, the people will spread out into the country, and gradually these huge station properties will be held in smaller areas. No station owner in Queensland, whether he be a private individual or a company, is unaware of the fact that his time for occupying that property is limited. Every seven years he is compelled to surrender a portion of his holding, and he is bound to accept the resumption of whatever portion the Crown cares to take. It is only natural to suppose that as the State wishes to settle selectors on the stations it resumes, it will pick the eyes out of the country. That may give the selector a good start, but it takes from the station-owner his best land. This Bill should have been brought in long ago. As soon as a Government which disapproved of the taxation of leaseholds came into power, it should have brought in a measure to repeal the Act, but the matter has been hung up for years. Some honorable members on the other side of the Chamber have stated that it has been brought in just now to satisfy the big interests behind the Country party. I tell such honorable members, that ever since I have been in this House, I have been favorable to the repeal of the Act. I know what the operation df the Land Tax Assessment Act means in the back country, and, in consequence, it has been one of the aims of my political life to help to repeal it. The suggestion that huge pastoral interests are behind the Country party is absolutely without foundation. At the last elections in Queensland, I had to undertake a campaign in one of the largest electorates in Australia without the help of one penny from party funds. Yet, honorable members say that the grazing interests are behind us. Neither the pastoral institutions nor any similar body supported me with funds. Nor were any huge funds at the disposal of the Country party. One of the chief objections I have to the taxation of these leaseholds is that it is absolutely impossible to fix the value of the land. It might be possible if one could take notice of the sale of contiguous freehold land, but honorable members know that one never hears of the sale of 5, 10, or 20 acres in the Georgina and Diamantina country. Because such sales never take place it is impossible to use that method to estimate the value of leasehold land. The only true way in which land values can be fixed is to take the value of the returns from the land. Even then, with leasehold land, it is of no use to take the return for one, five, or even ten years. It is necessary to take the returns for at least fifteen years, and capitalize their value. That will give some idea of the value of the land.
– Then it can be done?
– It can be done over a period of fifteen years if one man has held the land for the whole of that time. Honorable members know, however, that these properties are rarely held by one man for such a long period. Sales are effected every few years. Consequently, even, if the records for five or ten years were available, and a sale were then to take place which would place the country under new control, the returns for that period would be of no use. A fresh start would have to be made. I am sure that if we were to ascertain, over sucha period, the actual produce of the back country in Queensland - and I speak only of that country, because that is the country I know - it would be found that the Land Tax Assessment Act would be inapplicable. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) made the statement that some of the land which was assessed at a few pence an acre was worth 5s. an acre. Certainly there is land in the back country which is worth considerably more than the rent paid for it. I know of land that would be worth £50 an acre if it were in the western district of Victoria. I have seen land that would be worth £300 an acre if it were in some of the streets of Melbourne. One has to consider the conditions before one is able properly to value land. One has also to consider the hardships which people have to undergo when they settle the out-back country.
– I am sure the honorable member wishes to be fair. I quoted two instances given in the report of the Royal Commission, in which the land was separated only by a river.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon if I have done him an injustice. I read the report of his speech which appeared in the newspapers. I contend that it is impossible to put a freehold value upon leasehold property. The only value that can be considered is the grazing value.’ The only people who are really competent to say what is the value of land out-back are the officials in the land offices. When they value the out-back land they have in consideration its settlement, and they fix terms which are sufficiently favorable to induce people to leave the settled for the unsettled areas. The conditions should be such that the people who go out-back have a reasonable chance to make more than a mere living. Because the officials had these conditions in mind, low rentals were fixed for our out-back country. It has to be remembered that when land is 200 or 300 miles from a railway, it is impossible for what is called the small man to settle on it. Men with large capital are required, and they must take up large areas to make any success of the business. No doubt, some of the people who have gone out under these conditions have done well. Honorable members must, realize that there is great difficulty in deciding what is an economic rent. I do not think that leaseholds are a .fair field for taxation. A reason, apart altogether from the idea of obtaining revenue, induced the States to place low rentals upon leasehold land. That reason was their desire to secure settlement. Any one who has experience of the back country in Australia knows that the first step in settling it is to put the large grazier upon it. He employs a few stockmen, who become familiar with the capabilities of the country. Later, the period arrives when the State determines to resume parts of such occupied country. If it is good country, the State usually builds a railway to open it up, and it is made available for smaller holdings. Only the pioneering work of the large settlers could make known the value of the land. After the State resumes it from the. large holders, smaller men who take control develop it over a period of years until it is ready for even closer settlement. What are known as the grazing selectors who occupy the country in what 1 shall call the second period of settlement may take up anything from 10,000 to 50,000 acres. It is only when they again have proved the capability of the country that it can be subdivided into smaller areas. Some honorable members opposite have protested against the disparity in* rent charged by the State to the grazing selector and the large station-owner. They have contended that the rent to the large holder should be at the same rate as the rent to the smaller man. My opinion is that the State may be quite justified in charging a rent, say, of I’d. per acre to some large land-holders in certain districts, and 3d. an acre to smaller holders of similar land elsewhere. The big man has to prove the capabilities of the country. That is a point which should never be overlooked. It must also be borne in mind that when the land is cut up into smaller areas, after the second period of development, it always carries considerable improvements. On many large holdings in the first stage of settlement one finds only a ring fence, and a couple of huge paddocks, whereas on the smaller holdings much more money is spent in fencing and in subdivision.
– How does that justify a higher rental?
– When the State resumes the land in the first place it has more improvements upon it than it had originally; and when it resumes it in the second stage -there are still more improvements. A certain good-will may exist in the later stages. I do not think, however, that the selectors should be charged for what is called “ good-will.”
– Do you justify the charging of a larger amount for a small holding than for a large holding?
– I do not; but I point out that the large holders are rendering a service to the State by proving the capabilities of the land. The men who come in on the second stage of development have had a certain amount of pioneering work done for them. When their lease of twenty-one or twenty-eight years expires the country has been still further proved.
– And we say that it should be taxed.
– Honorable members know that as soon as the Queensland Government passed what has been called the Repudiation Act - I do not say it is that - it increased the rent of lands everywhere. Naturally, many objections were made to this, but the action of the Government showed that it considered that an increased value had been given to the land. The Federal Government may now come along and impose a tax, because the rent of the land has increased. The whole trouble is that the people have to carry a double burden. The State Land Office sends its valuers, and they put up the rents, and the Federal Government then repeats the process. I do not think any honorable member wishes to see our outback country lying vacant. It is absolutely essential, however, that the first settlement shall be by the large man ; then comes the selector and later the farmer. That process will have to be followed in settling the Northern Territory. The present condition of the Territory may be compared with the position of Queensland thirty or forty years ago. It is a moral certainty that if the Government “were to open up the land in the Northern Territory on the Barkly Tablelands - which has been compared with land in Queensland^ - at the prices which obtain to-day for Queensland country, no settlement would follow. We should not get one selector nor one large company to take up the country. We shall have to follow the process that all the States have found to be necessary. Large land-holders must be given the opportunity to prove the value of the land. After they have done so the smaller man will be encouraged to go into the country and develop it. It is not only the big man who will benefit by the passing of this measure. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) said that only 200 or 300 persons would get an advantage. I believe that the number will run to 2,000 or 3,000, because it will include many men who have blocks of freehold land which they work in conjunction with their leases, so that, although the measure will afford relief to the big men, it will also relieve many small graziers. The leaseholder has absolutely no interest in the land except for a certain period. For him good-will practically does not exist. In any case, I know of no other business in which good-will is taxed until it is sold. If taxation is to be imposed upon what is called the good-will of leasehold country it should be imposed only at a time when a sale is -effected. It should not be taxed year after year. A man may purchase a leasehold, and pay for good-will under the land tax conditions, and yet, in the time of drought, may lose all that he has paid for. Although that goodwill has disappeared, the lease-holder is not correspondingly relieved of taxation. At the time of the 1902 drought, I was living in the far west part of Queensland, and many “large holdings which were then abandoned still remain unoccupied. The Government of that day pleaded with the settlers to return to their blocks, but that was impossible owing to the loss of stock, and the consequent lack of security upon which to raise money for re-stocking. To encourage men to return to those blocks, the State Government granted an extension of the- leases, and on that security, the banks and the pastoral financial institutions assisted the settlers, and to-day many of them are enjoying prosperity. The advantages that were granted under the 1902 Act have since been taken away by the State Land Act Amendment Act, which came into force about three years ago. These settlers took up the land because of the earnest pleading of the State Government in 1902, but under later legislation, increased rentals and further taxation were imposed.’ I know of one man in Queensland who paid £12,000’ in retrospective rent, and if he had to pay an extra £12,000 in retrospective taxation, which is proposed to be remitted by this Bill, he would be compelled to leave the holding altogether. This man was forced to borrow money from financial institutions to pay the increase of his .rent, and, naturally, )they would refuse to grant a similar amount to meet retrospective taxation. . Any good-will attaching to leasehold lands should belong to the State Governments. Any revenue that is available from increased rentals, owing to a State Government repudiating the promise made to the selectors when they first took up land, should be at the disposal of that State. I submit that the imposition of land taxation will retard the development of the out-back country, and do an injustice to the settlers.
.- I address myself to honorable gentlemen, particularly those on the opposite side of the House, with the becoming modesty .of one who is ambitious of becoming the sole owner of a suburban ranch of limited frontage, and who has never aspired to be embarrassed by the possession, as are so many honorable members opposite, of large tracts of Australian territory - that white man’s burden, of which -the honorable gentlemen complain so bitterly in this House, and of which they are in one way or another the unwilling possessors, or for the unwilling possessors of which they speak so eloquently in this chamber. I am not one of these. I am a detached, somewhat interested, and mildly critical observer. I have listened to many of these gentlemen who possess large tracts, and particularly to the honorable member for Maranoa. He has taken advantage of this Bill, as he was entitled to do, of an opportunity to join in a propaganda which has developed among honorable members of the other side against the whole principle of taxation of unimproved land values.
– Of agricultural and pastoral landa.
– After listening this afternoon to the honorable member for Forrest, I concluded that he was well qualified to be either an undertaker or a ranchman. He became a ranchman, and I am not sure that he Kas not missed his vocation. He spoke in such dolorous tones of the responsibility of holding large estates - the white man’s burden - that one could not help concluding that he yearned for a suburban villa on an allotment of 15 feet by -98 feet, and that he would not be completely happy until he had been laid to rest by one of those of whom he should have been a fellow-craftsman in jan allotment of 6 feet by 3. So muchas was said of the honorable member for Forrest might have been said, in greater or less degree, of all those gentlemen and their friends possessing large estates who are embarrassed because they cannot - it would be unreasonable to ask them to - compute the extent of the acreage over which they preside. This is the principal reason why they are asking this House to remit the debt that has accrued to the Crown from many of these people who hold large areas pf Australian territory. The consideration of this Bill opens up two matters of principle. The first is the principle of taxation of rental value, and the second is the abuse of power tor the scandal incidental to the failure of this and preceding Governments to collect a considerable debt due to the Crown. I shall first deal with the latter subject, because it is important that we should clear away or explain away public abuses before we can hope to create a -proper atmosphere in which to discuss matters of political principle or policy. It is admitted on all sides that there is a debt owing to the Crown, and the individuals who owe it are recognised, and. have been named. There has been, over a long period of years, failure on their part to pay this debt. For that failure the fault is only partly with the debtors - because it is a curious habit of debtors generally when they are invited not to pay, and where it is indicated to them that payment will not be pressed for, to take advantage of the suggestion sokindly tendered to them, and not to pay. In this case, there being a debt to the Crown, the enfranchisement which that invitation gave them “has been accepted with all the avidity that one could expect in the case of a debtowed* by individuals to the Crown. I do not acquit these gentlemen entirely of all blame, and I must not be invited or expected to give them a certificate of character. I shall leave that to their friends who are dependent for their political existence upon their funds. I shall suggest, in order that they may not feel too exalted or too puritanical, that their escutcheon has been a little sullied in that they have so far availed them. selves of these large sums of public money at a time when Australia badly needed cash, and at a time when they were preaching the virtue of economy and suggesting new and ingenious means by which money might be wrung from the poorer classes of this community. For that reason I do not go out of . my way to extol the virtues of these gentlemen. But they are not mainly to blame. The failure to collect this money clearly rests upon the persons whose duty it was to collect it, upon the persons who were the trustees of the people of Australia in the various Governments that have been in power since the default was first made until the present day. Everybody knows that if the members of the Government are parties to the acceptance of a bribe, that is corruption. Everybody knows in like manner that if any members of a Government offer to an individual in the community money in the nature of a consideration for some advantage which that Government or its members is to obtain, that is likewise ‘ malversation and corruption. And if the Government or its members fail to . secure for the whole of the people what is due to them in the form of taxation, that Government likewise, unless it has some just excuse to offer, is guilty, of misconduct and breach of trust in its high (office, which renders it open to the most severe criticism and condemnation. The failure on the part of this Government to collect this tax takes on a . political tint when we find that the gentlemen against whom they should have brought pressure, against whom they should have put into operation all the force of the law, are their political friends and supporters ; and when we find that this matter of relieving these gentlemen of taxation the collection of which has been postponed from time to time, is proposed to be achieved and ratified at the very time when the Country party, in association with the Nationalist party, is in a position to dictate, . to some extent, the . terms upon which the alliance shall continue. I can well imagine if the Bill is passed the Treasurer saying to his friends, if they ever meet again as a separate entity - I refer to that “separate entity,” the pride of the Country party, which the’ Prime Minister boasted was “welded together into one composite ‘. whole “ - ““Well, friends, cobbers, and comrades! You must admit I have carried it off.” On that, I should « suppose, there would be loud applause, and there would certainly be applause at the firesides of those gentlemen, who, being well able to pay, have for so long neglected to disgorge. In the circumstances, one looks for something which will bring this failure of duty on the part of the Government into the category of honest transactions, because one does not hasten to say, even if the Speaker would allow it, that it is, in the personal sense, palpably a dishonest transaction. One looks for some mitigating facts or circumstances, some excuses, if not justification which would bring the Act into the category of honest transactions. Broadly, we see none. We know very well that it is the duty of the debtor to pay the creditor, that it is the right of the creditor to sue the debtor, and especially that it is the duty of the trustee to protect the estate of which he is a trustee by getting in everything which fairly belongs to the trust estate. We know’ especially that it is the duty of the Government to make that effort, and to make, one would say, at least a pretence of doing the right thing. In looking for some justification or excuse, I am referred to a section of the Land Tax Assessment Act, 1910, which has been previously quoted in this House by my honorable leader (Mr. Charlton). I would like honorable members to look for a moment at that section, and I would like to have heard the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), if circumstances had permitted, analyzing its provisions. Section 66 of the Act states - (1.) In any case where it is shown to the satisfaction of the Commissioner that a taxpayer liable to pay land tax has become bankrupt or insolvent, or has ‘suffered such a loss that the exaction of the full amount of tax will entail serious hardship, a Board, consisting of the Commissioner, the Secretary to the Trea- .sury, and the Comptroller-General of Customs, may release such taxpayer wholly or in part from his liability, and the Commissioner may make such entries and alterations in the assessment as are necessary for that purpose. (2.) The Commissioner shall be the Chairman of the Board, and the decision of the majority shall prevail. (3.) The Minister shall cause to be laid before both Houses of Parliament, as soon as may be after the close of the financial year, a full statement of all cases in which, and the grounds on which,’ liability has been so released.
In the first place, I wish to direct attention to the class of person who may be so treated - a “bankrupt” or an “insolvent.” Do those gentlemen whose names have been read in this House class themselves among the bankrupt and the insolvent? I have not seen their names in that connexion, although I ‘have seen them in quite different connexions . suggesting no danger of liquidation. These corporations and individuals, these gentlemen and companies, so borne down by that oppressive weight of “ the white man’s burden,” have not yet had occasion to file their schedules. Thus the persons 01;O whom the Bill applies are clearly not those whose names have been mentioned as proper for relief under the Act. There is a regular procedure for giving relief to persons who are unable to pay their land tax. A Board is appointed. The Board takes evidence. It furnishes a report to the Minister, and the Minister must furnish a report to Parliament if
– Facilis descensus Averno.
– I thank the honorable member for his apt interjection. “ The road to hell is easy.” It seems to me that we have reached the conclusion that there is no justification in law for the action and inaction of the Government in regard to this money, nor is there any justification in fact. The Treasurer came here and, in that phrase, of which the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) made a note, about the tangled skein which none could unravel, and which, therefore, had to be thrown incontinently into the fire, claimed for himself some measure of praise for his courage in handling a difficult situation. He said - I do not pretend to quote his words, but I give the effect of them - “ We have got into such a muddle, we have got this skein so tangled that there is nothing left to do but to make a clean cut, gentlemen.” And this to the people of Australia. - “ I had to collect your money for you. I am in a sense trustee for you, and I ratify these gentlemen in the possession of the money they owe you. And you, gentlemen, as a result of my courage and statesmanship, go one and a third millions short. You will see in this, gentlemen, the statesmanship of the composite’ Ministry at its high-water mark ! “ Why cannot the Government attempt to unravel the skein? If a sum of 20s. was owing to the Crown by one of my poorest constituents in Batman, the Government would rise in its majesty and remind him of “the long arm of the law.” It would -remind him that even the Statute of Limitations doea not run against the Crown. Time is no object. It would remind him of the legend, written across the great law Courts of the land, that “ Justice must be done though the Heavens fall.” All these high principles would apply to his case, if the sum of 20s. was owing by a wharf labourer, but when the sum is a million and a third, and it is owing by the gentlemen who are bearing the “ white man’s burden “ of too much land, the tangled skein is cut, and the squatters keep the money, and my constituents, among others, pay the price. The “ cost of litigation “ has been mentioned.
– That is where the honorable member comes in.
– That is where we, the honorable member for Fawkner and I, come in. The cost of litigation tends to make our mouths water.
– Did the honorable member ever meet any one with that amount of money?
– My honorable friend asks an appropriate question. Sometimes a solicitor is consulted in his professional capacity as to whether it is worth while to sue, as to whether the other side is made of straw, and as to whether, to use an old familiar phrase, to sue would be to throw good money after bad. Suppose some one came to me and said, “I have a case for you,” and in reply to my question of “ What is it ?” he replied, “Well, it seems a good case. It concerns a million and a third.” If I did not drop dead at that stage, I would certainly ask him, “ Have you got any evidence?” He would, perhaps, reply, “I have most incontrovertible evidence in the admission of the defendants, and in the records, which cannot be disputed. It is a matter of land tax. They have admitted the debt. They have paid part of it. That is to say, they have paid on previous assessments on the same lines, and, as we say in the familiar language of the Police Court, ‘ Your Worships, there is no dispute about it.’ “ The “ cost of litigation” - what does the Government know about the cost of litigation? It has never litigated.
– It did once, and was beaten.
– Perhaps if it pointed the gun the bird would come down. Possibly we are in one sense too hard on these bearers of the white man’s burden, because,” when they were asked to make their own assessments, they sent in their returns, and they were assessed according to their ownvaluations. They have been so indignant that their own words were taken as to the value of their land that they have gone on strike, and never paid another penny. If I had been in power, possibly I would not have believed them, and perhaps they would have had to pay more. It is more than likely if one were to analyze the assessments that have been made, that it would be found, as suggested by the honorable member for Yarra, that since the date on .which they ceased to pay, the assessments have been continued on the basis of the valuations sent in by the owners of the leases themselves.
– That is not so. There have been departmental valuations.
– I accept the Treasurer’s assurance that there have been departmental valuations, although I do not see why he should waste time and money in having departmental valuations made if - he was not going to do something with them when he received them. It may or may not be true that the assessments since the tax ceased have been under the mark, but it is true that whether the assessments were under or over the mark the tax has not been paid.
– ” We will not trouble counsel further. Order for the amount claimed, with £500,000 costs.”
– That is quite right. That is as the verdict should be. I think that so far as the outstanding amounts are concerned, we may take it that the Government is now sorry it spoke. I am a prophet without knowledge, but still a prophet, and I think we may assume that in Committee the provision remitting the tax outstanding will be dropped,’ and the retrospective action of the Bill will be* obliterated. We, as members of the Opposition, will have nothing further to say, except that it was a very courageous but reckless try on, and if it had been “put over,” we of the Oppo’sition would have been unworthy of our’ positions as the watchdogs of the country. The second part of the Bill relates to the principle of the taxation of the economic value of Crown leaseholds. Honorable members may have noticed how honorable gentlemen opposite kept away from the aspect of the dishonesty of the Government’s action in this matter, and devoted themselves to a’ perfectly placid consideration of the political question whether it is wise to impose taxation upon leaseholds as distinct from freeholds.
– We say the tax is dishonest.
– If -the honorable member is correct in saying that the tax is dishonest, his objection applies with equal force to the taxation of the unimproved value in connexion with freeholds, because - the principle is precisely the same. It is true that the honorable member has said that valuations are dimcult, and assessments are uncertain, but these are not matters that go to the principle at all. The principle on which the tax is imposed is’ precisely the same in connexion with freeholds as in connexion with leaseholds. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) in his own ‘ speech said that the taxation of leaseholds was an immoral tax.
– Why cannot the honorable member see any difference between the taxation of freeholds and the taxation of leaseholds?
– Not. a single honorable member on the other side has pointed out any difference. When the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) addressed himself to this question, he employed arguments’ which ;were just as applicable to the taxation of freeholds as to the taxation of leaseholds.
– The honorable member did not hear me.
– I heard the honorable member with pain, and’ almost in tears. But the honorable member took advantage of this Bill and of this debate to fire a broadside against the Labour party’s policy in this regard. If honorable members opposite bad been successful in carrying off this attempt in this Chamber, I venture to say that the time would not be far distant when the whole edifice of Labour legislation in regard to land, which is one of the monuments that stand to the eternal credit of the Labour party, would be undermined, pulled down, and destroyed. Their proposal has been nipped in the bud. It is not to be. When it came to a question of assessments, a policy of simplicity itself was followed. ‘The owners sent in their own -valuations. As under the land tax law of’ Victoria and of other States, it is a very simple matter for the owner to record the fact that he has acquired new land or disposed of land in his possession. In connexion with these assessments, the Department has not shown itself to be unduly exacting in regard to details. I have no doubt that the country would be grateful if it had in its coffers the amount, and no more, of this tax payable on the basis of the value of the leaseholds as assessed by the. leaseholders themselves. We have driven it -home a score of times on this side, and evidently it needs repetition, that if there is ‘nothing taxable in connexion with these leaseholds there can be no tax. We have pointed out further that, in order to safeguard these gentlemen against the possibility of error, there is still a little matter of an exemption of £5,000 in value standing between them and destitution. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) has enunciated the novel doctrine that the only time we are entitled to impose a tax on leaseholds is when they are sold in the open market, or, at all events, for the best money price that can be obtained for them. The honorable member said that the price obtained for them would disclose the fact that there is quite a large taxable area which would otherwise be undiscovered and untaxed.
– I said there might be, but that in cost cases there was not.
– The honorable member said that the taxation of leaseholds would be justified only on the sale of the leaseholds.
– And if there were no sale there would be no taxation.
– If there were no sale there would apparently be no value, and, therefore, no taxation. The moral to be drawn from the honorable member’s statement is that, so long as a leaseholder hung on to his lease, it would remain untaxed, and he would be entitled to draw full revenue from it untouched by any taxation. But when he is “put away” by a sale, when it becomes a matter of public notoriety by means of a’ sale, that he has a taxable ‘interest, then, forsooth, because the cat is out of the bag, the economic value of the leasehold should, at last, be taxed. But not before the cat is out of the bag. That is exactly what the statement of the honorable member means.
– And I suppose the sale is made without a valuation.
– Presumably it is, because the honorable member for. Maranoa and other honorable members opposite protest that it is impossible to make a valuation. We have a homely way of doing things in the city. You can apply it in the Victoria Market to cabbages, potatoes, and such things, and the like principle applies in the greater arena. These gentlemen seem .to think that, because they talk in terms of large expansive territory, they are as a class apart from the ordinary toilers in the markets of the world, and that some mysterious principle of economics and taxation has to be applied to gentlemen once they have risen to those ethereal heights enjoyed alone by those who have been privileged to monopolize a large part of the earth’s surface in this country. But I apply to them the principle which, in the Victoria Markets, is applied to the purchase of cabbages and potatoes. I say, as with cabbages and potatoes, so with land leases. You can always get some idea of the price of an article by asking the seller what he ‘ will take for it, and that is one of the tests by which we can ascertain the economicvalue of a leasehold. We say if there is no economic value, there is no taxation, and if there is an economic value in a leasehold, the principle to be applied is the same as that applied i» connexion with a freehold, and we claim the right to collect the tax. When hon- orable members opposite say that it is an immoral tax, they mean that it is immoral because it hurts, and not because it is wrong. But that does not make it immoral. I remind honorable, members, especially country party members, that the taxation of unimproved land values, when first introduced by a Labour Government, was very distasteful to them and to their friends, who were then members of this House. To them, it was an unmoral tax, but they had to swallow the pill, and it has done a great measure of good to this country. It will do more under a Labour Administration when it comes into power again, because the tendency has been, under the administration of those opposed to Labour, rather to defeat the intention of the Land Tax Assessment Act wherever it has been possible to do so. We do not propose to permit that under a Labour Administration. So we say the test is not whether it is pleasant to the taxpayer to have to pay, but whether he ought to pay. As the honorable member for Fawkner rightly said, the. mere fact that the taxpayer has resisted payment, is not by any means conclusive proof that he ought not to be made to pay in spite of his resistance. The mere fact that persons in such a position have been able to resist strongly, and to exercise a pull in resisting strongly, is no reason why the forces of the law should not still be directed against them. They have gone on from year to year abstaining from paying their just dues to the Commonwealth, and succeeding Governments have condoned their action. They remind me of the little girl, who, having gone to bed without saying her prayers on two successive nights, remarked the next day, “ I did not say my prayers last night or the night before, and if nothing happens to me to-day, I shall not say them again.” That is the attitude of the Crown lessees who say, “We did not pay the tax last year or in the preceding years, and if nothing happens to us this year, we shall never pay it again.” Honorable members opposite can hold, and can make the best of their academic views upon the question of land tax generally, but they will never convert the people of Australia to their obsolete idea in connexion with this proposal. I ask them to keep apart altogether from this debate the mere theory of land taxation, and to centre their attention for the moment specially upon the immorality, not of the tax, but of the conduct of the Government and its predecessors, which to the extent of one and one-third millions has despoiled the taxpayers of Australia.
– We are indebted to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) for the light he has thrown upon the action of the Government and their supporters in submitting this proposal to remit taxation due on Crown leases.. Although we have a national debt amounting to hundreds of millions which has been incurred principally in defending Australia, the Government is relieving probably the wealthiest section of the community of a tax which it should immediately be called upon to pay. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), in his second-reading speech, said that an attempt was being made to extricate the Government from a tangle into which it- had got through the passing of the Land Tax Assessment Act, but honorable members on this side know that the measure has been introduced to relieve the wealthy supporters of the Government, who have issued instruction’s to the effect that the tax should not be collected. If debts of any description are- allowed to accumulate it becomes increasingly difficult for the creditors to collect, and that is what is happening in connexion with this proposal. I regret that the Government is in such a position that it dares to introduce a measure of this character, and I cannot understand honorable members opposite, who stumped the country in favour of reduced taxation, agreeing to only a small and wealthy section of the community receiving any benefit, while the great bulk, of the people in Australia are being forced to carry a still heavier burden. For many years posterity will have to shoulder the war debt, incurred largely in protecting the property of wealthy landholders, whom it is now proposed to benefit. If any advantage is derived from the occupation o’f freehold or leasehold land, the owner or lessee secures the profit. It would appear that the debt incurred . in defending Australia has been for the benefit of Kidman, Jowett, and others with whom they are associated, and the amount of taxation on leaseholds which is outstanding to-day could well be spent in meeting our heavy interest bill. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) endeavoured to picture the inconveniences experienced by those far removed from the centres of civilization, and said, in effect, that the remission of taxation would be a means of relieving the pioneers’ burden. We cannot imagine that the shareholders in the financial institutions named by the honorable member for Yarra are the people who are pioneering this country. Have they ever done any pioneering work’s The shareholders of most of the companies mentioned live not in Australia, but in Great Britain. Sir Sidney Kidman and Mr. Edmund Jowett were mentioned as two of the principal benefactors, but it is a great many years since either bf those gentlemen were resident in the back country. The real pioneers are .the boundary riders, who are keeping back the dingoes and living under most deplorable conditions provided by these wealthy pastoral companies, whom we are endeavouring to “ bring up to the collar.” Are we remitting the taxation imposed upon station employees ? No. During the war period we were told that every possible avenue of taxation had to be exploited, and even the wages of the boundary riders were taxed. Although many are still living under scandalous conditions, taxation can be imposed upon them while their wealthy employers are to go practically free. There is no occasion for me to stress the points submitted by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) last night, and to detail the efforts we have always made to secure even reasonable conditions of living for the employees in th’e back country. The decline of population in the country towns can be attributed solely to the fact that those towns are land-locked by large areas under the- , control of wealthy companies which prevent settlement and development. These companies and individuals who hold large tracts of country, force the sons of the workers in those districts to leave for other centres in order to make a living. Honorable members opposite who are supposed to support the farmers’ interests, and assist them to place their sons on the land, are now doing all in their power to prevent closer settlement by assisting large land-holders to retain the great tracts of country they are at present leasing. The aggregation of Crown lands in leaseholds is as pernicious as the aggregation of freehold lands. A Labour Government introduced this legislation to prevent the aggregation of land in freehold or leasehold, but the representatives of the socalled Country party are now endeavouring to repeal it, and are thus preventing the sons of farmers from procuring land. I wish to amplify the statement made by the honorable member for Darling concerning those areas which were once sheep runs, and which have been converted into cattle stations by Sir Sidney Kidman and other men of his type. Sheep runs were converted into cattle stations by Sir Sidney Kidman because of his hatred of the Australian workmen and his objection to the Australian Workers Union advocating the interests of the men. The large land-owners, in order to defeat the objective of the union, and to show their hatred of Australians, said that they would breed cattle instead of sheep, as they would then require a smaller number of men to do the necessary work. These people who hate the Australian workmen - whom they urged to go to the war to fight for them - have converted their properties into cattle stations, and now, because the cattle market has slumped, they wish to be relieved of their taxation. They have undoubtedly been Australia’s greatest enemies in the past; but to-day the Government are assisting them. Honorable members opposite, who claim to have the right to freely express their opinions, have been muzzled by the Government, and dare not express their real opinions on this proposal. The metropolitan newspapers admit that the proposal of the Government is a scandalous one. The provisions of this Bill have not even been discussed in Caucus, and it is now being thrust down the throats of the docile supporters of the Government. Have Lenin or Trotsky ever done anything worse than this Government are doing? Honorable members opposite know that they are doing a wrong thing, but they are placed in such a humiliating position that they are afraid to express their opinions.
Sitting- suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.
– During the period to which I was referring before the adjournment for dinner, cattle were ‘selling fairly well in the local market, and the prospect for oversea’ shipments was favorable. It looked as if cattle would maintain a fair average value, and that these people would be able to get away from what they considered were the unreasonable demands of the Australian Workers Union, but which we thought were very reasonable requirements on the part of men who had to work under such undesirable conditions. Their action, as events proved, was unpatriotic. A few years later. we were plunged into the vortex of war, and Australia’s production of one of the essentials for the allied armies, namely, wool, was seriously restricted. While the purpose which these people had in view might have been to thwart the demands of the workers of Australia, in a wider sense their action really impaired the efficiency of the Empire in its time of need. I speak with a full knowledge of the facts. I travelled that back country, and acted as spokesman for the men in the wool industry. We did not experience any difficulty in coming to a satisfactory agreement with the smaller men. The big pastoralists and the wealthy companies, with their shareholders overseas and their managers in Australia to act as buffers between the Australian Workers Union and the employers, were the hardest to deal with. The industrial conditions under which our members were obliged to work were a scandal. The accommodation in many cases was such that one would not care to put’ a decent dog into it. At one station, the huts for the men were utilized a couple of weeks before shearing started as kennels for the dogs that were kept for hunting the dingoes on the holding. These wealthy leaseholders, as a general rule, were the most difficult to deal with, and now this Government propose to hand them a gift of £1,300,000 by way of the remission of taxation. It is as well that honorable members should realize that the imposition of this tax does not penalize the small men. This fact may be reiterated for the benefit of honorable members in the corner. It. has been pointed out over and over again that in respect of the Commonwealth tax on unimproved land values there is an exemption of £5,000. As a rule, the smaller leaseholds are subdivided, and the accommodation, including shearing sheds, represents at least from £3,000 to £4,000. Consequently, before a leasehold is taxable, it must have a value of. at . least £8,000 or £9,000. The Government collect taxation from every other section of the community, including the girls working in the various emporiums of our cities, and the boundary riders on these big pastoral properties, whose income is £200 a year. That, we contend, is not a living wage. A living wage has been declared to be from £4 to £4 10s. per week, but those of us who have a good deal more than that to live on know what a struggle it must be for people with such a wage to make ends meet. Nevertheless, we tax all persons whose income is over £200 a year, and now the Government propose to make this huge remission to the wealthy pastoralists. A great deal of the Western Division country, referred to last night by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), is the best business proposition in Australia, for the reason that it is not subjected to shire taxation.
– It can be bought at a low price.
– For a distance of 100 miles west of Walgett, these Crown lands are the hardest to secure. Men in that district informed me a couple of months ago that they desired to have thrown open the land in dispute in the western division. They say it is retarding the progress of the town of Walgett. They state that these leaseholds, if thrown open, would, in addition to the rental value, bring in at least 12s. 6d. per acre, and at that figure the land would be a good business proposition.
– The land I referred to is west of Bourke.
– The honorable gentleman would lead us to believe that the whole of western New South Wales is a desert. As a matter of fact, it’ is not. Only a very small portion of the 968,000,000 acres there will be affected by this tax. It is ridiculous to suggest that these Crown leaseholders should be let off, even if what has been said about their position is true, because during the period covered by the retrospective provisions of this Bill the price of wool. was never higher, and there was at least a reasonable market for stock. I do not say that the market was as good as it might have been, but, at all events, the assessments imposed were not such as to render it impossible for the leaseholders to carry on. The report of the Commission showed, also, .that the imposition of, the tax did not in any way affect the demand for Crown leaseholds within the various States. For many years I have participated in ballots to secure land in New South Wales, and I can safely say that for every Crown leasehold that is a business proposition there will be at least 400 or 500 applicants. My honorable friends opposite will say that those areas would not be affected by this tax. That is our argument. . We say that this tax does not affect the small man at all. The average area held in New South Wales is not more than 5,000 or’ 6,000 acres. On this subject the Commissioners stated definitely -
In view of the evidence as to the demand for Crown leaseholds, it does not appear that the imposition of the Commonwealth land tax upon lessees’ interests in such leases can be regarded as having had any sensibly adverse effect upon the States’ policy of settling Crown lands.
I have stated before, and I emphasize the point, that there are from 400 to 500 applicants for any business proposition in connexion with Crown leaseholds in New South Wales or Queensland. A few months ago there were no less than 1,159 applicants for one area in the Armidale district. This shows that there is nothing in the argument that the imposition of the Commonwealth land tax has interfered with the progress of the States. Anti-Labour Governments, Federal and State, are not making any serious attempt to settle their own people upon the land. Nevertheless, they have launched a scheme for Imperial migration. Millions of -pounds are to be spent in bringing people to this country when we cannot find enough land for our own people.
-And yet we have 765,000,000 acres of Crown lands unused.
– Much of it is unexplored. The great heart of Western Australia, that area of desert country north -of the transcontinental line, is not a business proposition. If we had in power Governments courageous enough to burst up the huge estates’ near our rail way lines in all the States, we could settle 100,000,000 people in Australia. We have spent millions of pounds in constructing railways, and still this country is not satisfactorily settled. Many of our railway lines will never be reproductive so long as the land adjacent to them is in the hands of the big squatting interests, whose con- .tribution to their revenue is only a few bales of wool at the end of each shearing season. The Government are bringing to Australia many people who will inevitably fail because of their lack of knowledge of Australian conditions, and now on top of this we have this proposal to remit taxation that was designed to burst up large estates, whether leasehold or freehold. It is unjust that young Australians should have to compete with immigrants for any land that may be made available. I remind honorable members opposite of a statement made, not by a Labour man, but by one of their colleagues, Mr. Kilpatrick, in the New South Wales Parliament. He represents a portion of the electorate which has returned the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen). Referring to the immigration agreement between the Commonwealth, New South Wales, and British Governments he said that if it were put into operation it would be a standing disgrace to the Nationalist Government, because thousands of men who knew more about land than any immigrant sought in vain for land upon which to settle. He con- demned the New South Wales Government for agreeing to bring 6,000 farmers from overseas while there were capable men in New South Wales who could not procure land. “Those might be ‘hard’ words,” he said, “but they were absolutely justified.” How different is the attitude adopted by honorable members in the Corner! Prior to the formation of the composite Government, they pretended to be “battling” for the man on the land; but the Country party has suddenly changed its policy. During the - last twelve or eighteen months it has become associated with the big Pastoralists’ Association that represents the great squatting interests of this country. These are the people who provide the sinews of war for the Country party. Although it was f” ostensibly formed to protect the interests of the struggling farmer, it can employ highlypaid officials to organize in opposition to the Labour party. We wondered at one time why this party could be so lavish with its funds; we now find that a ‘bargain must have been made between the wealthy squatters and these honorable members that, if they were returned to power and became a .third party in the House, they would join hands with the Nationalist party and introduce measures such as the present proposal to remit taxation to that small but wealthy section. What is the reason for this change of front? When the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) sat in the Corner, his slogan was that there must be a general reduction of taxation. He now presides at the Treasury, and has an accumulated surplus of £7,000,000. But does he follow the example of the Treasurer of New Zealand and propose an all-round reduction of taxation? Not at all. He enforces heavy imposts on every section excepting this specially favoured one. New Zealand has reduced its income taxation by 20 per cent., and it has abolished the war-time super tax. There would be nothing at which to cavil if every section of the community were relieved of taxation in the same proportion as is proposed in the case of a few wealthy individuals. According to the Treasurer, this taxation is to be remitted because they have resisted payment of a tax which for three years has been determined according to their own valuations. If that were a sound principle it would be logical to say that a policeman should not arrest an offender who offered resistance, but in the present case it is proposed to make a heavy concession to a small and wealthy class who have had the temerity to resist payment of their just dues. We read in the Conservative press some time ago that the Prime Minister (Mr.’ Bruce) was handling the House with a strong hand. It would be nearer the truth to say .that the Government is strong only in numbers. It is weak in intellect so far as its followers are concerned. I might illustrate this fact by reminding the House of the incident of a few nights ago when the supporters of the Government proceeded to their homes and left the, Labour, party in possession of the House.
– The honorable member had better address himself to the subject-matter of the Bill.
– I am pointing out that this a weak Government, although it claims to be a strong one.
– I remind the honorable member that the question of the strength or the weakness of the Government is not the issue before the House.
– The present Bill is a sign of the weakness of the Government, because it is evidence of a desire to pander to the interests of a few wealthy individuals. Heavy taxes were imposed upon the people during the war period to enable us to send thousands of our men overseas. This same small and wealthy section then had most to lose. It has gained most, by virtue of the burdens heaped upon the people, and it should now be called upon to contribute its full share of taxation.
-Is it not more heavily taxed than any other section ?
– All sections consider themselves heavily taxed; it is a chronic complaint. An extra pound or two in taxation means more to the men on a living wage than a thousand or two means to the wealthy section. If I may be permitted to say it, Mr. Speaker, I think you took a weak stand, as Treasurer, when you allowed the payment of this tax to he postponed. The lease holders should have been forced to meet their obligations each year. They claim to-day that they are not in a position to do it. I have no doubt that, if they were brought to the bar of the House, they would swear to that on a stack of Bibles as high as themselves. The people generally have been heavily taxed during the war years, and since that time, in order to meet the country’s interest bill, although many of those now seeking a remission of taxation squandered their money during the boom period. Honorable members opposite have made a good deal of the assertion that Crown leases have no value. That is a ridiculous argument, since every day Crown leases are being sold on the basis of the value, of the improvements,, together with, , the good-will of the leases. Very substantial sums over and above the value of the improvements are in many cases asked for the good-will.
– In many cases nothing is obtained for it.
– Let the honorable member cite individual cases. There may be some localities where the value of leaseholds is- next to nothing, but that is not a good argument for remitting the whole of the taxation. The amount of taxation in dispute is based on the leaseholders’ own valuations. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) gave us the ‘benefit of his legal knowledge, and stressed the point that if a lease had. no value it paid no taxation. That must be plain to anybody who wishes to see the matter in its true light. This House occupies the position of a jury, and I claim that the dignity of Parliament would be lowered if any honorable member personally interested in the remission of this taxation voted upon the issue. If an honorable member stood to gain personally by a remission of the taxation no exception could be taken to his voting against its remission; but if he voted in favour of its remission his action would be open to grave suspicion. If I were to be personally affected by the decision of the House, I should certainly consider it my duty to refrain from voting. No injustice can be done by the continuance of this tax. A leasehold that has no capital value will not pay any taxation. It is well to turn our attention to another ‘ phase of the matter, namely, the refusal of the Treasurer to give to honorable members the names of the persons who would be affected by the remission of this taxation. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) laid grave charges against the Treasurer, which are not without foundation. He asked to be supplied with information that must be in the possession of the Treasurer, otherwise the honorable gentleman could not have formed an estimate of the amount involved.
– I have said that I have not the details.
– How did the officers of the Department arrive at the amount of taxation to be remitted if they have not the names of the persons who owe the money, and the amounts they owe? Obviously it is impossible to estimate the amount at stake unless the Department knows the approximate amount which each individual taxpayer would be required to pay. If the Treasurer has not that information, and cannot get it, I suggest that he re-organize his Department, as last year he, when sitting in the corner as Leader of the Country party, told the then Treasurer to do. We have the names of some of the leaseholders who are to be benefited by this Bill, and we know that the amount owing by two gentlemen who have been named is in the neighbourhood of £200,000. One of those gentlemen was a member of the Country party in this House, and I believe the other is a supporter of it. In those circumstances the least the Treasurer can do is to supply information to honorable members in order that the names of those two gentlemen may be cleared of any unjust suspicion. If their names cannot be cleared the public should know in whose interests the valuable time of Parliament is . being occupied in the passage of this measure. Last week the Government . rushed through this House at break-neck speed such important measures as the War Services Homes Bill, and the Advances to Settlers Bill in connexion with which the Government found itself in a tangle unprecedented in the history of Australian Parliaments; but yesterday and to-day have been occupied in the debate of this Bill, and probably the discussion will continue through the night. If by sitting to-night, and night and day for the remainder of the week, we can prevent this Bill being passed, we are quite prepared to do so, and I think our physical condition will compare more than favorably with that of honorable gentlemen opposite. If the Treasurer hopes to wear down the physical endurance of honorable members on this side, he and his followers may look forward to a few sleepless nights.
– Do not be too sure of that; the Government may drop the guillotine.
– We had a good demonstration of the working of the guillotine last week, and the machine may become rusty if the Government, do not put it into operation this week. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) spoke of the out-back country, reverting to a wild state because of the advent of dingoes. I emphasize the contention of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) that it is the aggregation of large estates by people like Kidman, Jowett, Goldsbrough, Mort, and Company, the Australian Pastoral Company, the Peel’ River Land Company, and other similar organizations that is responsible for the dingoes coming through like a withering fire, and devastating the holdings of small men adjoin? ing the big leaseholds.
– There are no small men out there.
– There are many comparatively small men. The dingoes have come along the fences on the Queensland border, and are in the scrub country south and east of Mun.gundi, on the Queensland border, and in the northern part of New South Wales. At one time, there were few dingoes in those areas, but, because the small holder has been crowded out by the banks, Goldsbrough, Mort, and Company, and other big commercial and financial institutions, there are no barriers to prevent them entering the good country. We should give, consideration to men who .are honestly trying to pioneer that back country, and make it habitable; but the big leaseholders who have been mentioned are not doing that. ““They are allowing it to drift back to the condition in which it was prior to its first settlement, except that the reversion of the country to a wild state will deter people from selecting it in future. Once the dingoes have been admitted into a district, only men with stout hearts and a lot of capital can keep them in check. The holdings of many wealthy men and corporations were acquired by forced sales, in consequence of drought, at less than their true market value, and consequently they are not very much concerned in the returns they get from them. They are not men who are making their way in the world ; they have made their money, and seldom, if ever, see these properties. It is said that Mr. Jowett visited one of his properties in North Queensland only once in three, years. When there is an absentee landlord who sees his property once in three years, and it is controlled by a manager whose sole concern is to show a good return to his employer, it is understandable that no improvements are carried out, and the dingo is allowed to come in. We have seen what is happening, and we know that every endeavour should be made to prevent the aggregation of large estates. This tax, whilst it did not break up large estates, was a step in” the right direction. The freehold tax was put into operation before the Labour Government went out of power in 1913. An anti-Labour Government held office for twelve months, but, whilst the Liberals condemned the Labour Government for its taxation legislation in the years 1910-13, as honorable members opposite are condemning Labour to-day for opposing the remission of this taxation, no attempt was made to alter the law. The remission of taxation was never proposed while the Nationalists were in power. The tax was held in abeyance, but it was not until the Country party attained office that the remission was proposed. It is indeed suspicious that a party which is supposed to represent country interests should be the first to take up the cudgels in behalf of the squatting interests, and provide them with an excuse to evade paying their just share of the burden of taxation. I hope the Treasurer will not object to a quotation from one of the most Conservative papers in Melbourne, which supports the Government, but condemns the honorable gentleman for introducing this measure. It said -
It is as well to await Mr. Page’s secondreading speech, but on the facts as they appear at present it appears that he is again following the practice of the Hughes Government in extending valuable special concessions to certain wealthy sectional interests.
That adequately sums up the position. This concession to certain wealthy sections of the community cannot be sustained on logical grounds. I remind honorable members of the Country party that they owe their return to this House largely to the docility of the followers of the former Prime Minister (Mr. W. M. Hughes). Just as the Ministerial supporters are doing to-day, the Nationalists in the last Parliament swallowed everything the Government brought forward, and were criticised by the Country party for submitting >so tamely to the then Prime Minister. The reaction against the
Nationalists and their slavish obedience to one man opened the doors of Parliament to some of the members who now sit on the Ministerial side. But they are doing to-day exactly what was condemned in the previous Parliament, and a Conservative ‘ newspaper in Sydney deals with the position trenchantly under the heading “ Federal Sovietism.” The Government does not hurt us when it forces Bills through Parliament. It gains a victory over the Opposition, but the consequences are borne by the general community, who will have to make good this £1,300,000 which the Government is remitting to the wealthy squatters. That newspaper said -
It is an unreasonable thing to stifle debate at any and every stage of a Bill.
That gives the people a much more serious grievance than the Opposition feels through being deprived of time for both consideration and discussion.
It is Sovietism impure and simple, with the Nationalist Caucus as the Soviet. Bills’ are scarcely considered even by that Caucus, but it indorses them behind the public’s back, and that is impudently regarded as warranty for , rushing them through Parliament, and gagging the criticism which is the national right and safeguard.
It is the only safeguard that the taxpayers have against the remission of this taxation to the wealthy members -of the community -
Mr. Bruce might as well play Lenin in York-street, Sydney, where the Nationalists head centre is, as in the Federal parliamentary buildings.
The next paragraph is very applicable to honorable ‘members opposite who have swallowed the Government’s proposal holus-bolus -
For what is the use of sending members to Melbourne when they are compelled to do the business of Parliament behind closed doors, if they belong to the maj’ority, and are refused rational freedom of debate if they are in the minority 1
In Russia, if Lenin wished the business of the country to be held up during his absence from head-quarters, because he doubted the ability of Trotsky -
Trotsky being the Treasurer - to keep shop while he was away, he could do it. But this is Australia, not Russia, and Russian methods are as repugnant to this country as they are constitutionally indecent and dangerous.
This is not a Labour journal. It goes on to say -
In addition to violating an essential principle of representative government by gross misuse of the “gag,” the .Government have further lowered, the already depressed moral tone of’ the Parliament’.
There is nothing which will depress the tone of Parliament and bring it into disrepute more quickly than an acquiescence by honorable members sitting behind the Government in action which leads to their being muzzled, simply because the Government intend to test their loyalty to the breaking point.
– Who has been muzzled ?
– Both sections of the Government, but particularly the Country party section, in connexion with measures that have been forced through this Parliament during the . last few weeks. Honorable members opposite have allowed themselves to be “ gagged “ ; they have, indeed, voted in favour of the application of the “gag” in order to muzzle another section in Parliament. It would not matter so much if they muzzled only themselves - that might be an advantage to the community - but to use their power to muzzle every other section of the community’ is most indecent, and is injurious to the welfare of the taxpayers of Australia. Many persons will have to be taxed unduly in order to make up the loss that will be occasioned by the remission of this taxation. That is the point which I. wish to stress. It is the point which the Labour party will stress from every platform in Australia during the recess. We will tell the electors that the Government intend to tax the rank and file of the people of Australia in order to present £200,000 to Sir Sidney’ Kidman and Mr. Edmund Jowett, and’ something like £1,000,000 to a few other wealthy privileged persons who stand more particularly behind the members of the Country party. It is a very great pity that this Parliament has reached the stage when a Treasurer or a Government can even consider for one moment that there is a reasonable chance of forcing through the Legislature a Bill of this character. The principle underlying the principal Act was fought for at the 1910 elections, when Mr. Andrew Fisher was the Leader of the Labour party. He was returned to power with an overwhelming majority, with a mandate to give’ effect to that principle. It stands to’ the credit of’ that’ Government that in the measures which it placed on the statute-book it legislated in “respect to every plank in its platform. I venture to say that no legislation has been, or will be, as monumental as. that which was passed by the Fisher Government. It has remained a credit to its originators, and has been of great assistance to the people of Australia. It has been left for this composite Government - a Government which, it has been said, comprises two heads without a single thought - to destroy that legislation. I am surprised to notice that the ex-Prime Minister (Mr. iW. M. Hughes) is absent from his place.
He was a member of the Ministry which placed this legislation upon the statutebook, and he should now be present to record his vote against its repeal. Those men who, having left the Labour party, claimed that they were as good Labour men as ever they had been, have recanted in regard to the legislation they helped to pass. Many of us hold very strong views respecting this Bill.- We have voiced our disapproval in no uncertain manner. We intend to vote against the second reading of the Bill. We intend to vote against every clause in it, and, if necessary, every line in every clause and every word in every line, in order to prevent the people ‘ofl. Australia from being “butchered to make a squatter’s holiday.” The men who are affected by this Bill, and their type, have been the greatest curse that Australia has ever had. They have aggregated large estates, and have prevented the development of our country towns. They continue to be one of Australia’s greatest curses. This is the first Government that has taken action to elevate them to a position- from which they can defy the rest of the people’ of Australia and their Parliament. I do not admit that the Government which was responsible for suspending the payment of the tax was without blame. What is the use of passing Acts of Parliament providing* for the collection of taxation if the Government of the day will not take the necessary action to enforce the law. Parliamentary proceedings immediately become a farce, J and the money of the taxpayers is wasted. It remained for this Government, whose supporters are its greatest critics, to take the final step to relieve these persons from their just and fair share, of the burden of taxation.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Australia is suffering from the effects of the theoretical legislation which was passed by. the Labour party. That party subjected leaseholds to unimproved land value taxation. There is not, and never will be, a man who can state what is the unimproved value of the pastoral lands of Australia. Honorable members opposite think that they know the game. They are not of the calibre of the men who went into the out-of the way places, endured hardships,- lived laborious days, and undertook the pioneering work of Australia, only to find themselves taxed on a myth, a willo’thewisp, such as the unimproved value of the hinterland of Australia. These men took up country 200 miles distant from railway communication, in localities in which there were no schools, no social amenities, no facilities of any description. You would not do it; then bow can you expect other men to take up that burden ? You come in here, draw your “ screws,” live in the lap of luxury, and have no desire to help these poor, unfortunate men.
– I do not know whether the honorable member is accusing me of these crimes. Will the honorable member be good enough to address the Chair. I then shall know to whom he is referring.
– I was not directing my remarks at you, Mr. Speaker. I was addressing the Opposition. This is a legacy from previous Governments, which has been handed down for the last five years, and up -to the present no Government has been game enough to tackle it. I do not believe in the principle of imposing a tax on the unimproved value” of land. I shall vote for this Bill. I do not, however, believe in remitting taxation from those who should have paid it while this legislation was on the statute-book. Honorable members opposite decry those who have done their best to deprive Australia of the dingo, the rabbit, and other pests which are detrimental to the country. What is their- land now worth? I would give such land to any man free from taxation for five years if he had the courage to develop it.” In some” of these areas’ there is not a1 rainfall of 8 inches a year. How many men would undertake the development of such country? A man needs to have the heart of a lion to go into such districts. All honour to the pioneers: Let them go free and. untrammelled. That is the only way in which we can hope to develop Australia. If we do not see that it is developed, some other nation will. Nothing is gained by acting contrary to the laws of nature; she will ultimately make her lessons understood. These theoretical laws have been applied to the Britisher, and he will not endure them.
.- I listened with pleasure to the last speaker (Mr. Whitsitt), even though I did not understand him. He made some demur in regard to the land tax. After all, belief in the justice of imposing a land tax is not singular to one party. There are gentlemen who are not in any way associated with the Labour party who understand clearly the principle underlying the imposition of land taxation. This Bill is entitled “ A Bill for an Act to amend section 29 of the Land Tax Assessment Act, 1910- 16.” It consists of four clauses. It proposes to strike out certain words, and to insert certain other words. On its face it seems to be a very innocent Bill, of no importance. When it is analyzed, however, it is found to have been misnamed. The title does not describe the contents of the measure. If it were labelled in accordance* with its contents it would be described as “a Bill to give two persons a hold on a couple of hundred thousand pounds or so of public money.” It is an exemplification of the purifying effects that have resulted from the advent of. the Country party to the Treasury bench ! All that has been said regarding the preceding Government, and what it did in a dashing and daring manner, sinks into insignificance in comparison with the actions of this Government under the inspiring influence of the fusion of the Nationalists with the Country party. I wish to occupy the attention of the House for only a few minutes. As an introduction to my remarks on the measure itself, I point to the fact that the Labour party, when in power, introduced a Land Tax Bill which laid it down as a sound principle that those ,who held a share in the country’s resources should share in the cost of the Government in proportion to the value of the territory which they held. The fundamental principle of that Bill was not applied solely to the landowners ; the lessee, even if he leased from a private corporation, a company, or an individual landlord, also had to contribute to the taxation. In December, 1914, a Bill was passed which came into operation in 1915. Under it, the Government extended the principle. It said, “ If it is a good thing for some lessees to pay for the upkeep of the Government, it is good for all “ ; and the principle was applied to lessees irrespective of’ whether the landlord was a private individual, a municipality, or the State. That principle was in active operation for three years. The Government’ of the day said to these gentlemen, “ Tell us what you think is the value of the lands which you occupy.” Honorable members may be quite sure that they did not overstate the value. On their own assessment of the values ofthe leases which they held, they contributed to the upkeep of the . Government to the extent of £690,000. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) said that that sum was contributed in three years. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) contradicted him, and said that the period was two years.
– Oh, no.
– The honorable member for Yarra thereupon said, “ That makes my case so much the better “.
– The Treasurer afterwards altered the time to three years.
– Based on the period mentioned by the Treasurer, the total amount involved would be about £2,070,000. On the basis of the figures given by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), it would, in a period of six years, amount to £1,3S0,000. The honorable member for Yarra was speedily told that he was incorrect in his estimates, because the information on which to base such- estimates was not available. Then that honorable member gave an explanation of some of his facts. He pointed out that assessments were sent out year after year to these individuals, and that they knew what the assessments were, but, “ under the lap,” were told that they need not pay. What is the justification of the Ministry for giving away this huge amount ,’of money? It says that an area of 760,000,000 acres in Australia, which is not occupied, is absolutely valueless, and no o.ne wishes to occupy it. It also says that 100,000,000,000 acres of land held on licence or lease is so poor that the licencees or. lessees cannot contribute anything towards the upkeep of the country. What a great advertisement for Australia to say that so large a percentage of its territory is so poor that it is not fit for use, and that its holders cannot contribute to the expense of government! This is the manner in which the Government booms this country throughout the world. Yet it wants immigrants to come here. Complaints on this matter were made in 1917, and you, Mr. Speaker, as Treasurer, suspended the collection tax on Crown leaseholds, so that inquiry into the position could be made. That inquiry was made, and the man to whom the investigation was submitted recommended that the tax should be collected. Later, it was submitted to another inquiry by men who represented all the interests in the community. The Labour party and the Nationalist party, the country interests, and also the manufacturing and commercial interests were represented on that Commission, and, with the exception of the representative of the squatting element, it reported unanimously that taxation of these holdings was equitable and sound, and that it was good public policy. For reasons best known to itself the Government has refused to put those recommendations into effect. On the other hand, it comes forward with a proposal that these people should escape the contribution of £1,300,000 to our revenue. Not only is this amount to be remitted, but no further taxation is to be imposed in the future. I shall place before the House a few additional facts on the actual position of these corporation?, which are said to be so poverty stricken that they cannot afford to pay taxation. I shall show that the relief that will be given by this measure will be to large and wealthy landholders. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) stated that about 200 of these individuals- and corporations would benefit by the passing of this Bill. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) contradicted him, and said that the number would be about 2,000. I think the statements of both honorable gentlemen may be made reconciled. The honorable member for Yarra referred to 200 persons and corporations, while the honorable member for Macquarie referred to 2,000 leased holds. It is quite likely that these 2,000 leaseholds may be in the hands of 200 persons and corporations. As has been pointed out, the smaller men engaged in the pastoral, industry are exempt from taxation on properties with an unimproved value not exceeding £5,000. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) told us that only eight persons in the Northern Territory will be relieved of taxation if this Bill becomes law. The honorable member for Yarra gave a number of instances of how the measure would affect individuals and corporations. I have also made a- close investigation into the position of some of the companies. I have taken the trouble to examine their balance-sheets, and also to see what the *Investors’ Digest has to say about them. Among the companies which will be interested in the passage of this measure is Gibbs, Bright and Company Limited which represents large English financial interests, and has behind it several banks and a number of buying and selling agencies. These subsidiary agencies include the Australian Pastoral Company, the Australian Estates Company, the CaledonianAustralian Mortgage Company and a number of other institutions. The Australian Pastoral Company is one of the concerns which is supposed to be ruined, but its balance-sheets for the last four years show that during that period it has declared £262,000 in dividends, increased its reserves by £30,000, and invested £180,000 in Commonwealth and State securities. Therefore the total profits of this company in those four years amounted to £472,000. The total amount invested by the company in war bonds is £366,000. That shows its patriotism ! All that money has come from its pastoral and property profits.
– What rate of interest is that on the capital of the company?
– I have no need to deal with that aspect, because the argument of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr.
Killen) and others like him is that ruin and disaster have overtaken these companies. It is sufficient for my purpose if I show that instead of experiencing ruin and disaster this company has made immense profits. To make only 1 per cent, profit is a very different thing from disaster. The Investors’ Digest remarks -
It should be noted that no credit was taken in the year’s accounts for £22,500 priority certificates, and 50,477 shares in Bawra; Next year will, therefore, benefit by the former sum.
That means that this company has made over £500,000 profits in four years. The Treasurer says that he has not this information. Afterwards he will get up and show that he has it, because he will tell us that what I am saying is wrong. The Investors’ Digest also stated that during the year the company bought the F.F. Stud Company for £135,000, and now holds South Comongin in the Warrego district. The area of this estate is 330,000 acres, and the lease has twentysix years to ‘run. Did the company consider this leasehold to be of any value? Honorable members on the opposite side have been telling us that these leaseholds have no value. The balance-sheet of this company indicates that this lease has a distinct value. The Government” cannot find out the value of these leaseholds, but the companies can.
– That is one df the favoured ones.
– The honorable member has given us one excuse. Doubtless we shall hear many more before this debate is finished. Let us look again at what the Investors’ Digest says about this vast field of ruin, lt states that the assets of this particular company amount to £166 for every £100 of share capital, This poor, ruined company owes the Government in land taxation £120,000, and honorable members are asked to vote for the remission of it. Many a worker may be found to-day in Australia who in the early part of a year earned about £250 at the rate of, say, £5 or £6 a. week. Then unemployment or sickness overtook the family. The taxation officer later will assess his earnings. The fact that the worker may be going through a time of depression, that his money has all gone in sustenance’ for his sick ( wife, and the upkeep of his family, and that he is unemployed goes for nothing. The Department will say, “We cannot sym pathize with you or your unemployment, or sickness, or poverty. We live on cash. The law says you must pay up, and you must pay up.” To this poor, povertystricken pastoral company, however, it says, “ Poor devils, you have been ruined by bad years, and you cannot afford to pay, so we will remit to you £120,000 of taxation.” I think we may apply some remarks made by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) and the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) to the acquisition of the lease of the F. F. Stud Company. Those honorable gentlemen explained the manner in which these big financial institutions operate. They bold us that the’ smaller companies and individuals are squeezed out. The operations of Gibbs, Bright, and Company Limited illustrate Jewish, corporation financial methods. That firm advances money to a poor man, and when bad years come along it squeezes him out. That is probably how the F. F. Stud Company was acquired. A purchaser for such properties is .found in one of the subsidiary pastoral companies, such as the Australasian Pastoral Company. By this process the aggregation of large estates goes on. The poor man is squeezed out, and the profits which are made by these huge corporations ‘are sent abroad. My remarks respecting the Australian Pastoral Company are applicable also to the Australian Estates Company, to which the honorable member . for Yarra referred. The Investors’ Digest states that in the last four years this company has paid £190,000 in dividends, added to its reserve fund £63,000, and invested in war bonds £60,000, making its total profits for that period £313,000. The total value of its assets is £113 for every £100 of stock, but as only 7s. per share has been paid up, the value of the assets of this poverty-stricken company is £330 for every £100 of cash actually subscribed. This subsidiary company of Gibbs, Bright, and Company Limited owes £60,000 in land taxation, and the Government proposes, to remit it. To these two companies alone £180,000 is to be remitted. The total investment in war bonds by the Australian Estates Company is £358,000. I refer honorable members also to the Australian Mercantile Land and Finance Company, also known as Falconer, Austin, and Leonard. In the last five years this company has paid £380,000 in dividends. Its total investments in war bonds from reserves and profits is £390,000. During the years 1918 to 1921 it has invested from profits £196,000, and last year it added to its reserve fund £80,000. This company shows a profit of £656,000 on the five years’ workings. The value of its assets is £540,000 in excess of the amount of subscribed capital. To this “heavilyburdened “ company the Government proposes to remit £57,000 in land taxation, and no taxation is to be imposed on it in the future. The Queensland National Pastoral Company is another enlightening illustration of how serious is the plight of these hard-pushed companies ! Its dividends in the last four years have amounted to £250,000, but it had to pay £90,000 of that sum out of its reserves, so that the amount of dividends actually paid out of profits was £160,000.” The value of its shares has-been maintained. This company owes £17,000 in land taxation, and the Government proposes to make it a free gift of the amount. It will be remembered that the honorable member for Wakefield spoke of the poverty-stricken condition of the pastoralists in South Australia, and this is one case I picked out by chance. The dividends of the South Australian Land and Mortgage Company during the period under review were £31,000. and the amount paid to reserves £10,000. Last May, it returned to the shareholders from capital £125,000, making a total of £166,000. The capital now consists of 139,000 shares of 2s., and the assets are valued at 12s. 4d. per 2s. share fully paid. The assets are £240,500, compared with £39,000 of subscribed capital.
– What company is that?
– The South Australian Land and Mortgage Company. They owe the Crown £7,000, and the Government intend to let them get away with it. The New Zealand Loan Company owe, in respect of’ this tax, £50,000. Sir John Grice has an interest in this company. The Scottish-Australian Company owe £73,000 to the Crown. Their dividends for the last three years were £257,000, and the amount added to reserves was £50,000, making the total reserves £507,000. The assets per £100 share are £350; yet the Government are letting this company get away with their indebtedness.
– What has the Treasurer to say? This is a most sensational statement.
– Honorable members will notice that, although the Government say they have not this information, they will quickly obtain it in order to refute my statements.- No information is forthcoming until they are up against the wall. Mixed up in this business are certain individuals, such as the Austins, Falkiners, Russells, Guthrie (of woollen mill fame), Armytages, Fairbairns, and Learmonths. These gentlemen have incomes from not only these corporations, but also from other sources. Apart from -,these corporations, a few individuals will benefit by this Bill. Lachlan Mackinnon, who is a well-known race-horse owner and is connected with a prominent newspaper, gets away with £5,000. The Baillieus get away with £10,000. A gentleman by the name of Russell, who is the father of the golfing partner of the Prime Minister, being one of the poorer shareholders, receives between £1,000 and £2,000. It is a grand thing to be a friend of this Government. Do not some of us remember the day when William Hughes said, “ These are the patriots who contribute £50 to patriotic funds and rob the people of £50,000”? Among these individuals is Sir Sidney Kidman. And what a marvellously generous man he is. He contributes battle-planes and gives his country mansion to the Education Department. There is a patriot for you!
– He gave us dummy bolts.
– He gets away with between £70,000 and £80,000. Sir Sidney Kidman contributes freely, and how well he can afford it. But many of us, if permitted to dip our hands in the public purses for thousands of pounds, could well afford to contribute £5 or £10 to charity. We remember the “Dick Turpins,” the “Claude Duvals.” the “ Starfighters “ of the bush, the Kelly gang,, the buccaneers, and pirates, brave and bold, who looted from the wealthy and contributed something to the poor - the men with sword and buckler, who won our admiration in our youth because of their dash and daring, and apparent generosity. The methods of the buccaneers of olden days are not the practices of the pirates of modern times, who utilize the machinery of government to plunder the public, and then receive the plaudits of the community because they contribute something to the beggars of the streets. It is this sort of policy to which this Government gives its indorsement, and the cry of charity is raised by the honorable members for Wakefield and Riverina.
– They want justice, not charity.
– They want neither charity nor justice, but a free hand. Who did not listen with sympathy when the honorable member for Wakefield was speaking? How sad and sorrowful was his tale! He does not tell the story of the struggling farmer, nor the struggling workman in the street scrambling through the brambles and briars of poverty. He tells the story of the poor struggling pastoralist, the owner of millions. He weeps, and we who know him weep with him. We know the source of his1 nocturnal emotions and we are in hearty sympathy with him. I do not weep so much for the honorable member for Wakefield as I do for the honorable member for Riverina. Last night I was sitting on the back bench with the honorable member for Ballarat, commiserating with him on his expulsion, and congratulating him on his return. After the honorable member for Yarra had spoken, I noticed a deadly anxiety on the part of the honorable member for Riverina to rise. I noted the trembling of his whole body, the intense concentration,, a reaching out as if he were running the risk of losing money, and I said to my honorable friend McGrath, “ This gentleman has an interest in this Bill, and he is about to speak and deliver himself.” He did, and what was the story he told us ? He narrated his forty years’ experience in the outback country of the Darling district; no water, no rain, no grass, no roads.
– It was an epic; something the honorable member knows nothing about.
– There are many things of which I know- nothing, but on some things knowledge is limited, and that which I lack other gentlemen share. But I was relating the story of the honorable member for Riverina, for the information of those who were riot present. It is a sad and moving story of forty years ago. He went out to the far-back country, with no money, with nothing but his vast intelligence and his physical capacity to help him. There was no water, no rain, no grass. Somehow he managed to put 70,000 sheep on to something that had neither water, rain, nor grass. What happened? God and all nature was against him. The price of wool fell, and what remained was blown away by the wind, then came the rabbit pest, even before the advent of the Labour party, so for that we were not responsible. The rabbits consumed his sheep, and nothing was left ! Could anybody refrain from sympathizing with a man who has such a life history? Knowing the struggles of this sturdy pioneer in our midst, and knowing that nature was cold and brutal, and that fortune had turned her face away from him, it would be cruel if we did ‘not sympathize with him. ‘Look at him to-day, the victim of forty years’ of waterless territory. His sheep died and produced neither wool nor mutton. Look at this personification of misery and destitution? What can we do but take up a contribution to assist him in his poverty? That is his story. But what is his position to-day ? We are told that these leaseholds are of no value; but, apparently, the honorable member still has an interest in -them. He is still a tenant of the Crown. When he is asked the extent of his interest’s he says, “ Not much.’ It may not be much, but it counts for something with him. In this Bill he has a vital and personal interest whether it be £100,000 or £1, and no man can watch his face without realizing that fact. He cannot help examining his documents to ascertain how much he will gain or lose. It does not matter whether it is £50,000 or £5, because to some men £5 is as much as is £50,000 to others. There are no grounds to justify the remission of this taxation. The principle is sound in law, and it is a slander on the fair name of this continent to say that 80,000 square miles of its territory is of poor quality, and that those who hold it cannot make some contribution towards the upkeep of their country. How farcical it is to talk of relieving these companies, and the individuals connected with them, of taxation, when we find that they are scooping out and raking off vast dividends. It is inconceivable that a majority of this House should vote to relieve corporations such as these from their lawful contributions to this Government. For this reason I oppose the Bill. It is essential that every effort should be made to compel these men to meet their obligations, knowing as we do the position of the men in this Chamber who are endeavouring to force the passing of this Bill. This tax was in operation during the War period, and, as somebody has said, it was intended to compel those making immense sums of money to contribute towards the cost of the war. Now we know that these men, who during the war appeared on public platforms, talked patriotism, and paid £50 or £100 to patriotic funds, were at the same time raking in immense sums of money. Their contributions to patriotic funds were infinitesimal compared with the gift which is proposed to be made them under the Bill. The Bill proposes to give a present to these people. There is no justification for it either in law or equity. In due course the public will become conversant with the facts, and will rise up and do what they ought to do to such an Administration.
– Mr. Speaker-
– I desire to raise a point of order. If the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) replies now he will close the debate. I contend that while any honorable member desires to speak, the Treasurer cannot close the debate without submitting a specific motion to do so.
– The general practice is that, so long as any honorable gentleman desires to speak, the Minister in charge of a Bill does not exercise his right to close the debate by replying. When I called upon the honorable the Treasurer he was the only member on his feet. As’ honorable members know, there’ is no standing order- applicable to this matter; it is one merely of practice and courtesy. If the Treasurer desires to forgo his right to speak - and, as I have called upon him, he has that right - it is a matter entirely within has own control.
– The Government has no desire to close the discussion at this stage. I rose to speak because no other honorable member was on his feet.
If other honorable members desire to speak I am willing to postpone my reply until later.
.- I am glad to have an opportunity to speak on this important motion because my electorate comprises all the pastoral areas in the largest State of the Commonwealth. There is no pastoral area in Western Australia outside my electorate. Members on this side of the House do not stand in the way of men who possess wealth and have it invested in business. What we do stand for can be summed up in a very few words - “ equal opportunity to all and special privileges to none.” We recently voted for an export bonus on beef, which will benefit a number of pastoralists all over Australia. That action shows where we stand in relation to pastoralists who, because of the low price of cattle, have been reduced to a parlous financial condition. When men have a good case for assistance, we are prepared to help them, no matter to what party they belong, or what avocation they follow. The assistance proposed to be given in this instance to the large leaseholders, however, is a different matter. Enough has already been said by honorable members on this side, and it has not been refuted, to show why the Act should not be repealed. But I consider it my duty, having regard to my position, to voice my views. The debate shows that if ever there was a necessity for a Labour party in Australia, that necessity exists now. I only regret that it is not possible for all the electors of Australia to listen to this debate. If the Government repeals the Act the Labour party will derive a tremendous party advantage. We shall have honorable members from the - other side in all parts of the Commonwealth trying to explain away their action. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), who introduced the Bill, is proposing something which is diametrically opposed to the principles for which he stood before he got into power. I do not wish to secure a personal or party advantage of any kind. I desire to obtain something which is equitable. It is almost beyond belief - I would not have believed it before I came into this House - that any party elected on a popular franchise would have conceived the idea of abolishing this part of the Land- Tax Assessment Act. There are two reasons for this action, and they can be summed up very briefly. The first is that a promise that the Act would be repealed has been given by the Government to the wealthy landholders of Australia. I defy the Minister to contradict that statement.
– I never heard of it.
– Of course, the honorable member did not, but his face expressed a . lot of satisfaction when the Bill was brought forward. He marshalled whatever facts could be cited in favour of the Bill, and he showed an avidity to discuss it which I have not seen him evince on any other subject. Another factor that is operating with other members of the Nationalist party is that of loyalty to their party. When loyalty to party means disloyalty to the people of Australia, to the young fellows who will be precluded from having an opportunity of developing this country, we should be lacking in our public duty - I include honorable members on the other side who are not tied to vested interests - if we did not vote against the Bill. The promise that has been made to repeal the Act illustrates the undercurrents that exist in the legislation of Australia. It shows that everything the “ soap-boxer “ has said regarding money power in Great Britain and America could be said with equal truth of money power in Australia. These great, unseen forces control Governments in this country. I do not claim any special kudos because I hold the views of the Labour party, but I do say that this party has a tremendous advantage over other parties. Although ib has the press of Australia, as well as the mighty forces which control the press and other avenues for conveying information to the public, against it, it still survives. It has a soul, because it stands for justice. I want to express the opinion, and I think I can justify it, that some of the greatest blots on our legislation have occurred in connexion with land questions. Land scandals have cropped up in different parts of Australia. I believe that, generally speaking, politics in Australia are clean, but the vast, dominating influence of the people who own huge areas of land is quite out of proportion to their number. They hold that dominating influence be cause of their dominating wealth. Let me quote two Australian land scandals that have become notorious. One occurred in Queensland, and the other, with which I am more familiar, in my own State of Western Australia. Sir Robert Philp, when he was Premier of Queensland in 1902, passed legislation dealing with pastoral leases. That was twelve years before those leases fell due, and the legislation extended them for forty-three years. That meant that no young Queenslander living at that time had a possible chance of going on pastoral land in that State. His birthright was sold to the people who have absorbed the lands in Australia. An excuse had to be found for dealing with the land in that way, and they said, “ lt is necessary to make some provision, in case a Labour party comes into power. These lands should be leased in our time before the Labour party occupies the Treasury bench, because that party might re-appraise the rents in accordance with what we pastoralists should pay.” It was true that Sir Robert Philp and many members of his Cabinet had ‘pastoral interests, just as people engaged in pastoral pursuits have been really at the back of the big fight - such fight as there has been - in favour of this Bil.
– Does the . honorable member say that all the pastoral areas of Queensland were locked up in that way ? Was not a proportion of the runs thrown open for selection?
– A proportion of them might have been. I am merely stating the facts, as I know them. The incident goes to show that the big pastoral interests have been exerting influence in all parts of Australia, in States as far apart as Queensland and Western Australia. Provision was made in the Queensland Bill for re-appraisements every five years. Three years later, however, the pastoralists were able to whip up their followers in the State Houses, and pass a Bill to repudiate that provision. The sections relating to re-appraisement were deleted, and a provision was inserted whereby reappraisements would not increase the rents by more than 50 per cent, during the terms of the leases. That meant that the rents could only be raised by 50 per cent, in forty-three years. Even in our time we have seen Queensland develop from practically a tropical jungle to one of the most successful States in Australia. That progress has been evident, more particularly during the last four years, when the Labour party, under Mr. Theodore, gave to the people some portion of their heritage. In Western Australia something similar took place in 1917. Just previous to that time a Government with so-called ideals came into power. It was pointed out that Australia was involved in a war, and that all party lines should disappear. The Nationalists, as they called themselves, who were the old Liberals, and the Country party came together. They were to legislate only for war purposes, and nothing of a contentious party nature was to be dealt with. The Premier of the time was in many ways a fine old character, but he owned several large areas of land, and had amongst his personal friends a number of pastoralists in” a large way. They proposed, just as the Philp Government in Queensland did before them, an extension of the term of leases in Western Australia. The leases at the time would fall due in eleven years, but the Government took it upon itself during the war, whilst the young fellows of the State were fighting for their liberty at the Front, to say that the leases should be extended until 1948. M!any of the young men who went to the Front from the Murchison, in my electorate, returned to their country to find that during their absence these cormorants who prey upon the territory of Australia had locked the pastoral lands of the country against them for ever. When it is a case of big business, and men’s vested interests are affected, their desire is to gain more, and they would as soon part with life as with a single privilege they possess. We have examples in this Chamber of men who. are not satisfied with what they have in money and broad acres, but desire to extend their possessions to the detriment of their fellow citizens.
– Does the honorable member find that that spirit is confined to “ big business “ 1
– Not in the ordinary commercial sense, but whilst the present Government is in power I am satisfied that I shall have many opportunities to deal with other objectionable proposals. The moral code of most honorable mem-, bers Apposite is no doubt as good as that of other persons. They have a knowledge of ethics; but so far as the practical application of ethical principles is concerned, they depend for their support on the big money powers in Australia. This accounts for their views. They are like the man of old who betrayed our Master; they have sold themselves for silver. But to return to the way our pastoral heritage was dealt with in Western Australia. The action taken there in 1917 was unjust and inequitable. The “ win-the-war “ Government there assured the people that they would not allow any man in Western Australia to hold more than 1,000,000 acres. The Attorney-General of the time, when questioned by members of the Labour party, said it was true that no man would be able to hold more than 1,000,000 acres in Western Australia. There are five pastoral divisions in that State, and he said that no man could own 1,000,000 acres in each of these divisions; but when the land measure was reviewed some time afterwards it was found that a man could hold 1,000,000 acres in each of the divisions, or 5,000,000 acres in all. To show honorable members what that means, let me say that if the State of Victoria were divided into 5,000,000-acre blocks there would not be land enough for twelve men having the right to occupy 5,000,000 acres each. That will indicate the way in which the heritage of the people of Western Australia was divided amongst a few. I am satisfied that in some men earth hunger is worse than the greed for gold. Having millions of acres, they long for more, for what purpose I know not, except it be the satisfaction of possession. There are twenty-four men to-day in. Western Australia who hold over 1,000,000 acres of land each. No pastoralist in bad circumstances because of the price of cattle will suffer from the imposition of this tax, because the minimum value must be over £5,000 before any tax can be imposed, and, under the. Act, he is protected. Honorable members opposite in their anxiety to assist the Government have tried to draw a fine distinction between leaseholds and freeholds. They contend that there is equity in the taxation of freeholds, but that, it is not according to the canons of taxation that leaseholds should be taxed. Let me refer honorable members to the report of the Royal Commission on this subject. The Commission consisted of men selected by the Government because of their probity and fairness. What had they to say on the question of a discrimination between the taxation of freeholds and leaseholds? The Commission reported -
As pointed out in section 1, a leaseholder has, other things being equal, certain advantages compared with «, freeholder - considered more fully later - which may be thus defined: - The freeholder’s capital is expended in the purchase of the land, and he must recoup himself to the extent of the interest on his capital outlay before he oan regard the property-as yielding a profit, and he also must find capital for outlay in stock, plant, and improvements.
It is clear that if a man purchases the freehold of his land for £10,000 he expends his capital in that way, whilst if a man with a capital of £10,000 takes up a leasehold he can expend his capital on means to work the property. The Commission went oh to say -
A leaseholder, on the other hand, confines his capital outlay to stock, plant, and improvements, which are common to both modes of tenure, and he must recoup himself for the rental which, in the case of Grown leaseholders, is ordinarily sensibly less than the full market rental. It should also be noted that if it be the full market rental the leaseholder would pay no tax, while the freeholder would pay tax.
– The Commission overlooked the fact that the leaseholder is always in occupation of country in droughtstricken areas and on very inferior land, which puts quite a different aspect on the matter.
– I will show later on how leaseholders located, as the honorable member tells us, in drought areas where, in the words of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), there is no rain, no grass, no sunshine, and neither sun, moon, nor stars, in spite of their disadvantages, manage to pile up a fair amount of this world’s goods. The report continues -
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.
This is from the report of a Commission appointed by predecessors of the present Government to go into the matter and see whether there was any reason why a lease holder should not pay tax when a freeholder was called upon to do so. The report says further -
There seems also to be no reasonable grounds 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. The national response of the two in regard to taxation would appear to be substantially identical.
That is unequivocal language which is incapable of two meanings, and the matter could not be expressed in better words were we to search the dictionary for them. The report continues -
It. cannot therefore be contended, as a general principle, that the one can equitably be excused taxation while the other is compelled to pay it. If the tax can be validated at ia.11, it oan at least be validated in both cases, unless indeed it is held that the Crown is justified in excusing the Crown leaseholder from taxation in order to secure occupation of the land, or for some other sufficient reason, whereas in the case of the freeholder the occupation has, presumably, already been established. This is the essence of the matter.
The Commission went on to refer to the advantage of the leaseholder in respect to taxation, and reported further-
Evidence was given in Queensland that leaseholds were sometimes preferred to freeholds. The grounds of this preference are -several. One is that, in the case of leaseholds, nearly the whole of one’s capital is available for the developing of one’s holding. Further, since the freehold is taxable on the full value, and the Crown leasehold is taxable only on the basis » of the difference between the full economic rental and the rent reserved for the Crown, and the Crown pays no tax, the freeholder is at a disadvantage.
– I direct attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.’]
– I have already shown that, on the basis of equity, there is no reason why leaseholds should be exempt and freeholds taxed. There are honorable members in this Chamber who profess to be Free Traders - I believe they are honest in their convictions- and who, therefore, must believe in the principles laid down by Henry George that all revenue should be obtained from the land. I wonder to what extent the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), who is a strong supporter of Free Trade, subscribes to that principle. If the honorable member for Forrest believes that revenue should be obtained from land taxation, he must support the taxation of leaseholds. The honorable member for
Perth (Mr. Mann) and the honorahle member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) are in a similar position to the honorable member for Forrest, and I should like to know if they intend to be consistent. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) and other honorable members, have said that pastoral leases cannot easily be re-appraised. In 1920, the Western Australian Government introduced an amending Lands Bill, under which the rents from leaseholds were increased, and, before doing so, utilized the services of its State officers to inspect and re-appraise 202,000,000 acres. That work was carried out in two years and three months. As the result of the work performed by these expert officers the land was successfully classified, and the work of re-appraisement in that State could be placed in the hands of State officers.
– How long did it take ?
– Two years and three months.
– And it is not yet completed.
– It was completed years ago. The Premier of Western Australia, who knows as much concerning the land in that State as the honorable member for Perth, said that, on 30th November, 1920, only 120,000,000 acres were still to be classified, and that the completion of the work would require nearly a year.
– Have all the appeals been heard ?
– They are never likely to be. The honorable member for Perth appears to be within the grip of the Government vyce, and will be compelled to support the passage of the Bill. He will have to.be very careful.
– The honorable member should be careful in the statements he is making.
– The Premier of Western Australia said “ that it was important to the pastoral lessees and to the State that the classification should be made by men who knew their job, and that it should be fairly made.” Although the leased areas in Western Australia are, perhaps, more extensive than in any other portion of Australia, one half of the classification and re-appraisement was carried out within twelve months.
– Does not the honorable member think that the State authorities should, if necessary, impose taxation on leases ?
– That is quite a different question. I have never, heard the honorable member for Forrest advocate such a proposal.
– I did not say that the States should do it.
– Are the pastoralists in the deplorable position which the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) endeavoured to make us believe? According to the report of the State Commissioner of Taxation in . Western Australia for 1919-20 - I have not seen a similar Commonwealth publication which would be very interesting - of the builders and contractors in Western Australia there are only 156 who pay income taxation, on an average amount of. £425 per annum. There Wre 322 butchers land bakers who pay income tax on an average of £520 per annum.
– Is not this discussion rather wide of the question before the Chair?
– If I am allowed to proceed, you will see that it is relevant.
– I am somewhat doubtful. The question is whether this Bill shall be read a second time now or this day six months.
– I shall connect my statements with the question before the Chair. There are eighty-one chemists who pay on an average income of £487, and the doctors and dentists, who are supposed to be members of a privileged class, pay on an average income of £949. The farmers, whom the honorable member for Forrest is here to support, number 2,528, and pay taxation on an average income of £571 per annum. The pastoralists, whom the honorable member is now also protecting, numbered, in 1917-18, 459, and pay on an average income of £2,403 per annum.
– Some paid more in income taxation than they received, as I showed from the Commission’s report.
– The honorable member did not make that point clear to me. He knows that there are certain exemptions; but it will be seen from the figures I have quoted that the average income of the pastoralist is much higher than that of others who are generally understood to be following remunerative employment. Ever since the late Graham Berry went through Victoria with his great slogan, “ Unlock the lands,” against the interests of a privileged class, we have been faced with thesame difficulty. An active immigration policy cannot be proceeded with, and settlement extended, if wealthy pastoralists are allowed to hold large areas in their own interests. Any man who has the audacity to support this iniquitous proposal in the interests of a privileged class is retarding settlement and development, and acting in a manner which it will be difficult to justify before his constituents.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Blakeley’s amendment) stand part of the motion - put.
The House divided.
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- It is regrettable that the amendment did not receive the support it deserved. The Bill creates an anomalous position ; it strikes at the very root of a principle that has been recognised as reasonable, and that provides security, in a measure, against the locking up of some of the most valuable lands in Australia. Perhaps there is no phase of business that has been responsible for so many scandals as have land transactions. History shows that the great landed interests have always pleaded for special concessions and advantages at the expense of the rest of the community. When honorable members opposite are asked by their electors to justify their action in granting relief to landed interests to the extent of £1,330,000, while the working classes have to bear the load of heavy taxation, they will find themselves in an awkward situation.
– Judgment day is coming!
– Yes; and one of the most serious public sins for which those honorable members will have to answer is their attitude on this Bill, which amounts to plundering the public Treasury. Ned Kelly was a respectable gentleman compared with honorable members opposite, who are prepared to take’ advantage of their numbers to give special concessions to those who so liberally support them at election time. We have some knowledge of the liberal manner in which the landed interests treat the supporters of the Government. They contribute liberally to the party funds, because they know that they are making a good investment, and that their money will return to them a hundredfold. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) has a personal pecuniary interest in this legislation, and is one of the persons who will be directly affected.- It is significant that honorable members opposite have not put forward a claim for the small land-holders who are required to pay their full quota of taxation. The poor man is to be allowed to struggle under his heavy burden, while the wealthy are to be relieved. The provisions of this measure are iniquitous, and constitute a public scandal. Since the beginning of this session, we have had it brought home to. us how the landed proprietors have endeavoured to secure special privileges. Had it not been for the motion that I placed on the notice-paper affirming the desirability of disallowing, a certain land Ordinance, no doubt the big land-holders would have secured a great scoop at the expense of the general taxpayers. Honorable members on this side of the chamber intend to remain the watch-dogs of the people, and we shall prevent, as far as is humanly possible, the perpetration of such a glaring form of scandal as this Bill involves. Honorable members opposite are actually prepared to make the proposed remission of taxation retrospective to February, 1917. As the honorable member , for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) said, the wealthy individuals who so loudly prated about their patriotism in war-time, and endeavoured to hide behind the flag, were not ready to demonstrate their patriotism in a practical form, but sought special concessions in taxation at the. direct expense of the nation, which was readily granted by a sympathetic Nationalist Government. Two Royal Commissions have taken evidence throughout the Commonwealth, and have come to the’ conclusion that the tax in question is just and equitable. Notwithstanding the recommendations of two Royal Commissions, the Government propose to act in a most outrageous manner by defying the judgment of these special Tribunals, that made a most thorough investigation into every detail of this important principle of levying taxation on Crown leaseholds. I feel satisfied that the people of Australia will rise in indignation against this effort on the part of the Government to commit what I regard as one of the gravest scandals ever perpetrated in the public life of the Commonwealth. The Standing Orders will not allow me to use more forceful language.
– The honorable member does not want to express himself more emphatically than that, surely!
– I should like to do so. Words are inadequate- to express what I feel about such a .glaring injustice as this proposal to remit taxation to wealthy squatters who are well able to meet their obligations. The Bill is an extraordinary one. But, of course, this is an extraordinary Government, and perhaps one need not be surprised at anything they- do. The Government are not so solicitous concerning the welfare of other sections of the community. When, in connexion with the Income Tax Assessment Bill, we asked for an exemption for children under the age of sixteen years, also for an exemption in respect of the amount paid for medical attention, and that some concession should be allowed to the taxpayer who incurred travelling expenses in search of employment, our requests were refused. How different is the attitude of the Government when the interests of the great pastoralists are concerned. They now seek the indorsement of this House for a proposal to remit taxation amounting to £1,300,000 on leaseholds which has been accumulating since the year 1917. Certain honorable members supporting the Government are attempting to mislead the people, but their position in the division lists relating- to this measure will show where their sympathies lie. I hope that the people will pay special attention to the position of certain honorable members who have taken part in this debate. What can be said of an honorable member who protested against the Bill, but absented himself from the House during the division ? One honorable member was present when the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) was stated from the Chair, and he left the chamber in order that his vote should not be recorded against the Government, although during the debate he announced his hostility to the measure. It will be for that honorable member to explain his attitude. I think he will find the task somewhat difficult. The Government attempt to justify the introduction of the Bill on the ground that the cost of collecting the tax would be too great. They declare that the skein is so tangled ‘that the only remedy is to cut the knot and for the Commonwealth to accept the loss. When a Labour Government were in office they did not experience any difficulty in collecting this ‘taxation on leaseholds. The position is that £690,000 has been received mainly, I submit through the efficiency of the Labour Administration. The difficulties to-day are not insuperable. If the Government really desire to collect the tax there should be no difficulty in doing so. When I remember that among those to whom it is proposed to make this gift is Sir Sidney Kidman, who, in another transaction - I refer to the construction of what has been termed the “ coffin “ ships at an excessive price - treated the Commonwealth so shamefully, words fail to express my indignation. The action of the Government cannot be justified. No honorable member supporting the Government has attempted to do so. On the contrary, Che honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) in his speech this afternoon delivered a scathing condemnation, and every word he uttered was fully justified. I am afraid, however, that he will be unable to reconcile his remarks and his vote in the recent division. The rebuke which he administered this afternoon loses some of its force when we remember the way. in which he cast his vote.
– I distinctly said that I was in favour of the repeal of the tax on these leaseholds, but that I was opposed to clause 3, and that I intended to move an amendment in Committee.
– The honorable member for Fawkner roundly condemned the provisions of the Bill.
– No. I said that 1 would vote for the repeal of the tax on leaseholds, but that I would strenuously oppose the retrospective provisions of the Bill.
– That was not the only objection which the honorable member took to the Bill.
– Yes, it was.
– All I can say is that the honorable member misled many honorable members on this side of the House, and I am satisfied that he will find it difficult, in view of his remarks, to explain his vote in the division.
– Leave that to me.
– I shall assist the honorable member. I shall go into his constituency and explain his attitude on this measure. We shall be’ guilty of the gravest form of public misconduct if we sanction this Bill, especially after the exposure by the honorable member for Yarra of the circumstances associated with its introduction, I am more than surprised that the Government is endeavouring to force it upon the House. Honorable members opposite will have to explain a good deal when the electors have been in formed of the base betrayal of the interests of the general community, and in supporting the remission of taxation due by people who are well able to pay it. I hope we shall not have to wait another two and a-half years before the people are afforded an opportunity of. expressing their opinion of the action of the Government. This measure fortifies one in his support of the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) to place the initiative, referendum, and recall upon the statute-book. I am certain that the people would take full advantage of the right of recall to declare themselves opposed to the proposal of the Government to give special concessions to its friends. It may be that the Government feels that it is essential to force this measure through Parliament at the present time because of the possibility that in the next two and a-half years the people will have forgotten the grave injustice that is being done to them. But the people will not be allowed to forget. Throughout Australia we shall remind them of this measure, which is one of the gravest political infamies perpetrated in the history of the Commonwealth. I regret to hear the Government pressing the special claims of certain wealthy individuals when the difficulties and sufferings of many workingclass people, who are already so heavily burdened with taxation, are ignored. The Government is very anxious to have this legislation passed, but it does not display the same anxiety to give legislative effect to the proposal to increase the oldage and invalid pension by 2s. 6d. per week. That increase is not as great as it should be, but whilst refusing to pay more the Government is prepared to make a substantial gift to people who are blessed with a larger share of this world’s goods than perhaps they have ever secured honestly. I hope the people will realize the significance of the fact that the Government place the interests of the great squatters and absentee landlords before those of the more deserving and needy pensioners who have been the pioneers of Australia, and who in the eventide of life are not being paid by the Commonwealth sufficient to maintain them. It would have been more to the credit of the Government if it had collected the taxation that is due by wealthy leaseholders, and, instead of giving consideration to persons in affluent circumstances, had used the money to further increase the old-age pensions. I hope the Government will realize the serious injustice it is doing by pressing this measure upon the House. Honorable members opposite should act in accordance with the dictates of their conscience, and expose the wrong that they know is being committed. I again emphasize my indignation at the way in which the interests of the Commonwealth are being subordinated at this moment to those particular financial friends of a Government. It is to be hoped that in due time we shall be able to make Ministers and their supporters stand at the judgment bar of public opinion. The people, I am sure, will declare their righteous indignation and emphatic disapproval of this Government, will sweep it into political oblivion, and substitute a Government that will faithfully represent the best interests of the Commonwealth.
– No great amount of insight is required in order to understand this Bill, which, however, does give a great insight into the character of the present Government. It throws into bold relief what is, and is likely to be, the policy of the composite Ministry. This extraordinary proposal by an extraordinary Government purposes to remit to a number of people a sum of £1,300,000 which is legally due to the Commonwealth. The Government cannot, and do not, deny that the money is owing under a system of taxation duly levied upon the people by this Parliament. It is true that, during a number of years prior to this Government taking office, the payment of the tax was suspended, but in the early years of its operation the same leaseholders in occupation of the same lands as are now the subject of controversy did pay to the Commonwealth £690,000 in taxation, and we have not heard that any of them became bankrupt. As soon, however, as the. Labour Government went out of office, the leaseholders were able to bring to bear upon the Government’ sufficient influence to have the payment of the tax suspended. Two Royal Commissions reported, after full inquiry, that the tax should be collected, and that its imposition did not prevent the development of the large areas outback. The then Go vernment, whilst suspending the payment of the tax for a time, did not dare to go to the extent of proposing to remit the enormous sum of money that was owing by people, who are not poor, and are not even the pioneers who were so graphically described by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen). Of course, if the old pioneers were poor and in need of money, and could not pay this tax, every honorable member on this side would be prepared to vote for its remission. Indeed, a clause in the Act empowers the Commissioner to remit the tax in special circumstances. If these taxes are to be remitted on the ground that the leaseholders cannot pay, why was not this clause put into operation? We know that, if it had been put in operation, the verdict would have been that the leaseholders could well afford to pay what was due, and the money would have been collected. But the friends of the Government have brought influence to bear, and this Bill is introduced in order to remit a tax that was levied by the authority of this Parliament. That procedure is very wrong. Honorable members opposite have raked their brains to find arguments in defence of the Government’s action, and they have introduced extraneous pleadings for consideration for the pioneers. Most of the pioneers of whom the honorable member for Riverina has spoken have gone. The honorable member knows that they have been bought out and squeezed out by the companies mentioned by the honorable member for Bourke. Gentlemen like Sir Sidney Kidman and Mr. Edmund Jowett have not been doing pioneering work. Some of them have employed men to do a certain amount of pioneering, but they generally have been the persons who made the greatest protests when Arbitration Courts awarded to their employees something like a decent, living wage. They have not endured the hardships of which the honorable member for Riverina spoke. I do not know Mr. Edmund Jowett, but I have never heard of him coming to the city from this country which he ‘ is pioneering, clad in moleskins and a blue dungaree shirt; nor have I heard of Sir Sidney Kidman doing that. The companies mentioned by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) have had some connexion with pioneering in that they have squeezed the pioneers out of the country, by imposing high rates of interest upon them. That has been their chief function. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) said, with a note of triumph in his voice, that the great leaseholders of this country had for years resisted the payment of land taxes. This Government has aided their resistance. Honorable members opposite have on certain occasions condemned, in the most vigorous language, the slightest resistance offered to the law by workers who were on the bread line, and were trying to ‘ get their just dues, but they speak favorably of the passive resistance of the squatters and leaseholders. The Government should have insisted upon the payment of this tax. Had a Labour Government been in power it would have done so. It is notable that no honorable member on the other side has challenged the equity of the land taxation, principle, and it has not been shown that the leaseholders appealed against their assessments. Of course, it has been said that some of the land that has been taxed is worth nothing at all; but it has been pointed out time after time from this side of the House that land that has no taxable value is not taxed. People who have had taxes imposed on them should be compelled to pay them. When the principle of self-assessment operated, £690,000 was paid in taxation. If that principle worked so well, why was there any interference? We have received nothing at all since it was decided to empower the Taxation Department to make the assessments. The honorable member for Bourke has shown the position of some of these companies. I cannot say whether his figures are absolutely correct, but that is not my fault. We have applied to the Treasurer time after time for the names of the companies and individuals affected by this measure, and also the amounts they owe, but the Treasurer has refused to disclose the information.
– Every time I have tried to speak somebody else has got up.
– We have been asking for this information for nearly three weeks.
– And we have been unable to get it.
– Some of these taxpayershave themselves declared how much they are in arrears.
– The Australian Mutual Loan Company is to have £57,000 remitted, the South Australian Loan and Mortgage Company £S,000, and certain individuals £7,000, £5,000, and £2,000 each. These amounts may not seem to be very large, but the aggregate of all the proposed remissions is £1,300,000. If the attitude of the Government to these people was to be extended’ to all who are in need of help, I do not know that I should have much to say. Possibly these com- panies and individuals may not be as wealthy as we imagine them to be. They may even be poor and struggling, as some honorable members tell us they are. If the Government would help all who are poor and needy I would be willing to assist it, but I learned something to-day which indicates clearly to me that the Government does not intend to adopt such an attitude. To-day I had a most appealing letter from a young man who asked me to invoke the mercy of the Government towards him, and to induce it to relieve him of £22 indebtedness to it. The Government refused to do this, and the Crown Law office will be used to force him to pay what he owes. This man enlisted by giving a false age when he was only fifteen years old. He served at the Front for four years. The whole period of his adolescence was spent in the hell of war on the other side of the world. That is where his character was formed, and where he obtained his ideas of morality and ethics. Honorable members know the kind of ideas that would be obtained on the battlefield. When he returned he married. He certainly made a little slip. He was receiving sustenance from the Government while preparing himself to take up a profession. He left the college to go outside to get work, and for a few weeks used for his upkeep the sustenance which should have maintained him while studying. . The amount involved was £22. He is now on the breadline, and the Government intends to force him to pay what he owes. It has no regard for the sickness of his wife nor for the difficulties of his position. Everything hehas must be sold, or the Crown Law authorities will issue legal process against him. No mercy is to be shown to him, although he served his country in its hour of need. But the Government has plenty of pity for these supposedly poor pastoral companies. It will not make legal process against these defaulting taxpayers. I am reminded of the words of Shakespeare -
Through tatter’d clothes small vices do appear ;
Robes and furr’d gowns hide all.
The Government has no ear for the voice of the poor which sounds through their rags and tatters, but it has plenty of av tention for the voices which sound from the furred gowns of the rich. It has no pity for the poor man who serves his country, but it can. exert all its authority to permit men like Jowett, Kidman, Mackinnon, and others to escape taxation. The last penny must be extracted from the one while the others may go free of the payment of thousands of pounds. This is what we get from the composite Government formed by a union of the Nationalist and Country parties. I am reminded of the words of some one else who said that laws are “ chains and cables for the poor but cobwebs for the rich.” Truly, in the eyes of this Government laws are chains and cables for the poor, but cobwebs for the rich. All ideas of morality, ethics, and honour are brushed aside when the interests of the wealthy classes are involved. I ask the Government under what code of honour, or by what principles of ethics can it justify the action it proposes to take in this legislation? We receive no answer. In my opinion the Government has violated every code of honour, and every principle of ethics by introducing this measure. It says, in effect to these people, “Remember that, in this country of Australia, all you have to do is to get gold, and you can hold any Government in the hollow of your hands.” Honorable members opposite know that the people they are now proposing to benefit were loudest in their protestations of patriotism during the war. In the time of their country’s need, however, they refused to pay a just tax, and now their influence is being used to induce the Government to pass this Bill to remit that tax. During the war they were loud in voicing their own patriotism, and the slightest infraction or departure from their own specific rules was held in fearful contempt by them. At that time these people wished to force every single man to fight for the defence of Australia. Now that their vast holdings are secure, they refuse to pay the taxes and dues which are justly owing to the Commonwealth. One honorable member who sits with the Country party had these people in his mind when he said, “Gold is their god, the stock exchange their temple, society their hunting ground, and man their prey, whom they capture, sell, and degrade.” A former Treasurer went so far as to suspend the payment of this tax, but had not the audacity to go so far as is intended by this Government.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare that the Land Tax Assessment Bill is an urgent one.
– On a point of order, I desire your ruling, Mr. Speaker, whether it is competent for the Prime Minister to move, “ That this Bill be declared an urgent one “ while the debate on the second reading is still in progress?
– For the information of the honorable member for Dalley, I may say that the point of order is not good, since I am obliged to put the motion forthwith. I shall, later, deal with the point of order, and show the honorable member that, according to the Standing Orders that regulate this matter, the procedure is quite right.
– On a point of order-
– At this stage, I cannot hear the honorable member on a point of order.
– It is a question of privilege.
– Will the honorable member resume his seat.
– I am entitled-
– The honorable member is not entitled to be heard at this stage.
Question - That the Bill be considered an urgent Bill - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Limitation of Debate.
– I move-
That the Following times be allotted for the consideration of this Bill - (a) for the secondreading stage until 12.30 a.m. to-morrow;(b) for the Committee stage up to, and inclusive of, clause 2, until 1.30 a.m. to-morrow; (c) for the remainder of the Committee stage until 2.15 a.m. to-morrow; and (d) for the consideration of the remaining stages until 2.30 a.m. to-morrow.
The Bill, on the motion for the second reading, has been discussed for about twelve hours. Actually two clear and distinct issues are involved. One is the future policyfor the taxation of Crown leaseholds, and the other is the action to be taken concerning the uncollected tax that has been levied. Those issues are em bodied in two separate clauses of the Bill. Clause 2 deals with the policy for future land taxation, and clause 3 with the action to be taken concerning the uncollected amount.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I remind honorable members that the practice of Parliament is that one honorable member shall speak at a time. During the remainder of the sittings of the House I shall insist on the observance of that practice.
– I think honorable members will agree that ample time has been allowed to enable those two issues to be thoroughly threshed out. The case has been presented from every angle, and it is now for the House to decide upon the two direct issues which I have named.
.- The action of the Prime Minister is just as remarkable as the action of the Treasurer in introducing a Bill like this at this stage of the session. The public will be astounded when they know that, at a time when the sittings of this Parliament are to be limited to meet the convenience of the Prime Minister, an endeavour is made to put measures through which will involve this country in the loss of a very considerable sum of money. The Prime Minister, in referring to the clauses of the Bill just now, showed clearly that, notwithstanding the criticism of the measure which has taken place to-day, he still intends to adhere to the measure. He has given no indication of any intention to improve it.
– Or to drop any of the loot.
– Or, as the honorable member says, to drop any of the loot. If honorable members will look at the business-paper, they will . find on it a number of measures which should have been given precedence of this Bill. The matter which should have been dealt with first is the proposed increase of old-age and invalid pensions. That is to be delayed until the last moment.
– Because the people to be benefited by it are only poor people.
– I was going to say that the only objection which honorable members opposite have to dealing with that measure first is that it proposes a little increase to poor people in the community, which is to be denied them until the latest possible moment. So far as the wealthy people of the community are concerned, and those who have deliberately disobeyed the law-
– And whose disobedience has been connived at by the Government.
– That is so. They are to have legislation rushed through in order to remit to them about £1,300,000 of public money. This is at a time when we are in need of funds, when we hear talk of our great indebtedness, and are establishing sinking funds to repay it. It has been shown clearly that the people who will benefit by this Bill are rich people who can afford to pay the tax.
– Some of them.
– I have told the honorable member before that those who cannot pay will not be asked to pay. Those only are asked to pay this tax who should pay it and will not pay it. It is the duty of the Government to make them pay. During the last four or five years, it has been sending out assessments to these people, and telling them at the same time that they need not pay the tax. It can go on doing the same thing until this House has time to deal with the matter properly. The Prime Minister has moved that the motion for the second reading shall be put a few minutes after 12 o’clock a.m. to-morrow. “We have almost reached that time. It sounded well to hear the right honorable gentleman talking of tomorrow when we are already on its threshold. He proposes, as he did inconnexion with theWar Service Homes Bill, to allot an insufficient time to deal with the principles embodied in this Bill. What have the honorable members for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), Fremantle (Mr. Watson), and Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) to say about this ? It is very fine to hear these, gentlemen talking against this robbery of the country when, at the same time, they stand up for it. It is about time this hypocrisy was exposed in this House. There is too much of it, and some plain speaking is required. It would be better for these honorable members to declare themselves than to permit this sort of thing to be done, and talk as they do with their tongues in their cheeks. It is a shocking state of affairs that public men should come here and, in order to placate those who are in power, should stand behind them and vote for them consistently every time they are asked to do so, notwithstanding the fact that the Government are imposing a grave injustice upon the country. The Government would not attempt what they are doing had not the Whip gone round and learned that honorable, members opposite are prepared to stand for this sort of thing. I urged to-day that the consideration of this Bill should be postponed, and we should get on with business that would be beneficial to the country. No honorable member can contend that such a measure as this is urgent, or that it is necessary that it should be passed in this session at all. If I may. repeat what , I said to-day - the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) and men associated with him who have been taken into the so-called composite Government, having made a bargain that certain things were to be done, those things must be done, and within the time they choose to allow. When this measure is got out of the way another measure that is absolutely unnecessary at this juncture is to be proceeded with, because it is -intended also to serve certain interests in this country. I can refer to at least five measures which the Government are pushing through in the interests of certain sections of the community and not of the community as a whole. This is being done deliberately. It is a good thing for the people that there is a vigilant Opposition here composed of men. who are capable of noting these things, and who will not permit them to be hidden, but will expose them to the fierce light of day.
– The fierce light of night.
– There is no justification for the action which the Government has taken. I am prepared to admit that there are some measures on the business-paper which should be pushed through, and they should be dealt with first. If there is then any time to spare we can debate measures that are not urgent, or that we think are not required. These measures which are not urgent are taken first by the Government in the hope that other measures on the paper will be rushed through in a couple of hours later on. The intentionof the Government is very clear. There are five or six measures which, the Government claim it is necessary to pass, but I ask honorable members opposite whether they think that anything serious will happen “if this Bill is not passed this session.
– Yes; Jowett will have to pay.
– He will not have to pay, because the Government will not collect the tax. It will not enforce the law, and only the country will suffer.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am quite delighted with what has taken place. I have had some opportunity to consider the profession of the burglar, and I am reminded of a notable character Charles Peace, who carried on the profession in a proper manner, but did so under the disguise of a Sunday school teacher. He taught bis lessons, sang his hymns, and then carried on his burglaries. The operations of the Government have reminded me of our friend, Charles Peace.
– Order ! The honorable member will see that to accuse the Government of being like a burglar is not in order.
– They are burglars.
– They are worse than burglars.
– Order !
– I wished only to say that the conduct of the Government reminded me of a dear friend who unfortunately finished his career at the end of a rope with a knot in it. I feel sure that will inevitably be the fate of the Government. Their action has brought up reminiscences. I was in England a few years ago on a visit to His Majesty the King, when His Majesty offered mc certain decorations, which I refused in the interests of Democracy. I was walking down the Strand one day when I came across a remarkable book entitled The Confessions of Cyril Walker.
– Order ! Has this anything to do with the motion?
– Yes ; it is connected with the burglarious exploit of the Government. It is in illustration of the operations that are now taking place. Cyril Walker, in his. Confessions, said, “ I was at one time in the Old Bailey, where I was waiting for my sentence, when a parsonical old gentleman, with a high collar, said to me, ‘ I beg your pardon, what are you here for?’ I had no desire for conversation with anybody on the subject. It was enough for me that sentence was to be passed upon me, so I said, ‘ Nothing,’ and he said ‘ Blime, I am here for the same thing.’ “
– Order ! The honorable member will be good enough to speak to the motion.
– This is regarded as an urgent matter because it is imperative that in the interests of the country it should go through. Was there anything more urgent in the careers of Charles Peace or Cyril Walker ? Is it not urgent in the interests of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), who feels £1,000 slipping out of his hands? He votes that this measure is urgent because upon the action of the Government depends whether he will put something into his pocket or not. Is it not in the interests of the Treasurer, who some time ago stood in the Country party, corner, and told Country members and the members of the Opposition how, by his watchfulness and ability, he was compelling the Government to drop their loot? He was turning the searchlight of his observations on the Government, and with him the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) also stood in the corner, and hour after hour denounced the Government. They went on to public platforms, and told the people that their watchfulness had prevented the Government of the day from carrying on their depredations. But what were the operations of that Government as compared with the operations of the present Government, who give £500,000 to one gang, and £250,000 to another? Now they propose remission of taxation to the extent of £1,300,000 to their friends and supporters.
– The honorable member’s imagination is running away with him.
– The only imagination which the honorable member has is- concentrated in his pocket.
– The honorable member must know that he cannot discuss the merits of the Bill within the time allowed for the debate on this motion.
– I have no desire to discuss the merits of the Bill. It has no merits. The Bill is the greatest crime that has been attempted in the public life of this country. It has now been declared an urgent measure. As a matter of fact, it is not urgent.
– It is a matter of “ boodle.”
– The attitude of the Treasurer is now entirely different from what it was when he was sitting in the Corner condemning the previous Government for things which he approves of to-day. What can be more urgent than at this hour we should oppose this Bill? What are honorable members opposite doing? They are aiders and abettors in this public robbery of Commonwealth funds*
– Will the honorable member please resume his seat? I cannot allow that statement to pass.’ The honorable member knows it is unparliamentary. I ask him to withdraw it.
– I think I said, Mr. Speaker, that honorable members sitting behind the Government were aiders and abettors in this matter of public robbery.
– And I demand that that statement be withdrawn.
– I shall not withdraw it.
– The honorable member had better be advised by his Leader.
-Well, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw it. It will, I hope, appear in Hansard all the same. Members supporting the Government dare not raise their voices in defence of this Bill, notwithstanding that for hour after hour they have heard scathing denunciation of it from this side of the House. Pact after fact has been stated, and records of investors’ journals and balance-sheets have been produced in this assault upon the measure, but still supporters of the Government are dumb. They are mutes, players upon trombones, marionettes. They dare not say a word in condemnation of the’ Government. Never in the history of Australia has a greater robbery of public funds been perpetrated than is now being attempted by this Government.
– The honorable member is repeating what he said a few moments ago. He knows he must withdraw the statement.
– Yes, Mr. Speaker. Having, in a moment of excitement, repeated the statement I again withdraw it. The Prime Minister has told us that we have had’ ample time for the discussion of this Bill. I say, sir, that there is never too much time to denounce wrong-doing. There was never a more suitable moment than the present to expose public abuses. It is our . duty to denounce the Government in regard to this measure. If our arguments are unsound, if our facts are inaccurate, then it is the duty of the Government to expose our inaccuracies and to prove the fallacy of our arguments. Have they done that? No. Why? Simply because they are so many dumb mutes, marionettes afraid to express their opinions upon this measure.
.- In connexion with this measure the Government have been pilloried by honorable members on this side of the Chamber, and also by certain of their supporters. Speech after speech has placed on record one of the most damning indictments ever brought against a Government. The revelations made have been of such a character that one wonders how honorable members, allegedly representatives of the people, can stoically or stupidly stand by and see the people pillaged in this way to the extent of £1,300,000. ‘ The Government proposal is, in fact, pillage of public funds ; all for the benefit of party funds. We hear of meetings of pastoralists, big land-owners, and graziers’ associations, and million clubs, particularly in New South Wales, all of which contribute to the party funds. We hear of the secret handing out of funds for this electorate and that electorate. And now comes the reward. For every shilling that has been contributed to party funds thousands of pounds are to come out of the pockets of the people. It is a great prize. The Treasurer has been pilloried, probably as no other man has been since the inception of the Commonwealth. Every member and every supporter of the Government stands condemned. The Government are afraid to allow this debate to continue any longer. Every honorable member on this side of the House brought new matter to light. There are still many who desire to speak and bring forward new matter to expose further this looting of Commonwealth funds. Only a few months ago the Treasurer, sitting in the corner, as the Leader of the Country party, declared that the searchlight of criticism had compelled the previous Government to drop the loot. The loot to which the Minister referred then, compared with the loot now attempted, may be likened to the looting by a small boy of a stick of lolly from a confectioner’s shop.
– I object to that statement, Mr. Speaker, and ask for its withdrawal.
– To what does the honorable the Minister refer?
– I object to the implication in the honorable member’s remarks.
– The Treasurer having objected to the implication in the statement concerning a boy stealing a stick of lolly, I must ask the honorable member for Darling to withdraw it.
– I withdraw the stick of lolly, Mr. Speaker. I may, however, be permitted to refer to something that took place in Kalgoorlie a few months ago, when a man was convicted of stealing about £4,000 worth of gold from one of the mines. The looting, in that instance, was as nothing compared with the looting in which the Treasurer is now taking a leading part. The Government are afraid to face the facts. Their attitude is the quintessence of futility. What are the newspapers throughout Australia saying? Let honorable members go into the Library and look at the files. Ministers are characterized, in the press, as weak and futile. And they are. Every honorable member on this side of the House .has made concrete charges which honorable members opposite have not attempted to answer. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) said to-night that the attitude of the Government and their supporters towards this measure suited our party. It does. I am certain, with this record in Hansard, that when honorable members opposite go to the country, they will have a good deal to answer for. Therefore it suits us to expose the looting that is taking place. Politically, it will be the “stunt” that will put a number of alleged representatives of the farmers out of political life. It will help the Labour party considerably. From that stand-point, we are content with this proposal to loot the Treasury. But there is a far more serious consideration. This proposal of class legislation which is designed to relieve the richest section of our community of taxation, will not conduce to the respect of the people outside. Any other person who fails to pay his 8s. or 10s. taxation assessment is promptly punished. A’s the Deputy Leader of my party said to-night, if it was whether the wharf labourer shall pay his tax, the machinery of the law is immediately put in operation. If a man is a wealthy squatter with sufficient pull and influence he merely instructs his representatives to do the right thing by him. I protest against the continuance of this sort of thing. It is one of the worst political tricks that has been performed by this Government, and their tricks have been legion.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) stated on Friday last that it was the duty of the Opposition to oppose, and that any delay it could cause in the transaction of business represented so much gain to it. For the last two days the Opposition has been carrying out that policy to the utmost of its capacity. Now, after seventeen hours has been allowed for the discussion of the general principles of the Bill, honorable members opposite work themselves into a pretended fury which they think, will make an impression upon the outside public.
– On a point of order, “pretended fury” challenges the good faith of honorable members on this side. It is a reflection upon every individual member of the Opposition, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I think the word “ pretended “ is in parliamentary use, and is not objectionable.
– In the course of this simulated rage, all sorts of charges of graft, corruption, and robbery are made, but no evidence has been presented that suggests corruption or graft in the slightest degree. Honorable members of the Opposition may chorus their dissent from my statement, but that is not proof or argument.
– Honorable members of the Opposition who are persistently interjecting are taking risks.
– Twenty-three honorable members have spoken upon this Bill.
– Have they not the right to do so?
– They have, but what has happened? The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) put up a forceful argument and adduced evidence to rebut the case I presented, but during the last five or six hours we have listened to a mere reiteration of statements made earlier iri the debate.
– The truth will always bear repetition.
– But nothing is gained by its repetition if fresh evidence is not adduced. Honorable member’s have challenged a rebuttal of their accusations, and every time I have attempted to reply to them in full they have at once asked for further time in order to make fresh charges. To those requests I have acceded, because we wish the people to understand that the Government has nothing to hide, that its action is clear and above board, and that it defies the Opposition to bring forward any charge that will in the least degree reflect on its honour and integrity.
– Does not Jowett owe £100,000?
– I do not know whether or not Mr. Jowett owes £100,000. When the honorable member for Yarra asked me a fortnight ago for the names of the people and companies who owed this taxation, I took immediate steps to ascertain if it were possible to ascertain the information.
– I ask the Treasurer to confine his remarks to the motion.
– I will do so, but I thought it would be fair to take this opportunity of giving the Opposition some of the facts for which they have been calling so loudly, and at the same time get them before the public in such a way that they will be understood.
– The Treasurer must select some more convenient season.
– The position in regard to the Bill was stated very clearly by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) to-day. It involves two issues which are absolutely distinct, and should be considered separately. One is the question whether in future there shall be a continuation of the assessment of Crown lands, and the second is the advisability of collecting the amount which is actually owed by leaseholders.
– I rise to a point of order. I understand that we are discussing the limitation of time. If the Treasurer is to be permitted to discuss the whole Bill, I shall claim the right to do so.
– The motion before the Chair is to limit the time for the further consideration of the Bill, and the Treasurer, like every other honorable member, is bound by the rules of debate. But the rigidity of the motion is so severe that I have allowed a little latitude.
– I was trying to point out that the motion moved by the Prime Minister gives ample time in which to settle the two principles involved in the Bill. They are dealt with in separate clauses, and can most readily be settled in Committee. Already a proposal to indefinitely postpone the Bill has been negatived. There remain to be dealt with the two principles contained in separate clauses of the Bill, and the time allotted in the motion is ample to permit of the fullest discussion of those principles and the ventilation of the views of honorable members.
– The Treasurer stated that because twenty-three members in the House, including some on the Ministerial side, had dared to exercise their right to express the views which they know very well their constituents hold, a time limit should be imposed in respect of the further consideration of this Bill. During the last
Parliament the Treasurer claimed that his- party had acted as the watchmen over the Commonwealth finances, and by switching on the lights had compelled the burglars to drop their loot. The same honorable gentleman now proposes to allow a few privileged people to get away with a very big “ swag “ indeed. I and several other honorable members did not exercise our right to speak on the second reading - a right given to us by our Constitution, but taken away by the Prime Minister. My constituents will ask me what action I took when a measure was before the Parliament to give £1,300,000 to a few privileged people, and I should be able to refer them to the report of my speech in Hansard. The small business man in my electorate, who is allowed very little latitude in regard to the payment of his income tax, may very properly ask me whether I expressed in this House the views which my constituents hold against the giving away of £1,300,000 to rich leaseholders. I shall only be able to answer, “ I was not allowed to raise my voice.” The gentleman who is Prime Minister of Australia to-day entered the House within a few minutes of midnight, after we had been legislating by exhaustion for long hours, and, in effect, said to honorable members on the Opposition side, “ Your mouths are closed. I have a majority of dumb dogs who, if they dared express themselves, would voice views which are in consonance with those expressed by you.” I wonder what my fellow representatives of Tasmania will say to the small landholders and business people who have to pay their income taxation, when they ask what fight they put up against a measure to rob the Federal Treasury of £1,300,000. Every section of the people of Australia which has a right to send a representative here has also a right to have its views expressed in this Chamber, but that right has been taken from them by the Prime Minister, because he wants to go to England and is supported by a majority in limiting the further’ consideration, of this Bill to two and a-half hours. And this is the great National Parliament that is supposed to represent the people of Australia! The proceedings during the last few weeks represent the greatest farce ever staged during the twenty-three years of Federation. It has been enough to make the founders of the Commonwealth turn in their graves. Sir Edmund Barton, Charles Kingston, Alfred Deakin, and Sir George Turner were big men, and knew how to treat their opponents fairly, no matter how much they differed from them upon a political principle. The Opposition has not received a fair deal from the present Government. Honorable members opposite should be ashamed of themselves. They ought to know that the spirits of the big men of the past are hovering over this chamber. Let them think for a moment of the type of man who occupied the Government benches in the earlier years of this Parliament. Those men always fought for their political convictions, but they were prepared to accord some measure of fair play to the Opposition. The Opposition has received no fair play in this Parliament for the last nine or ten weeks, nor is it likely to get any. But the time will soon come - and probably inside of three years - for the people of Australia to say what they think of this Government and its Leader. The sooner it comes the better for Australia. If honorable members behind “the Government dared to express their convictions tonight, they would vote against declaring this an urgent measure. The Treasurer has said that eleven hours is too much time for the discussion of this Bill. Honorable members opposite will find out later whether the country thinks so. If they were not so absolutely trammelled by their Caucus and party ties, they would not dare to support this Bill. They know perfectly well .that they cannot go before their constituents, and give any reasonable excuse for voting for it.
– Is the honorable member for Denison not trammelled by his party ties?
– If I am so trammelled, my party ties are in the interests of ‘the country.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Honorable members opposite seem to be much concerned about the future of supporters of the Government in this House. I assure them that ‘we are perfectly satisfied with our actions, and will be prepared to justify ourselves to the electors.
– Will the honorable member for Wide Bay answer this question: What did he mean when he said that he felt himself slipping on this Bill ?
– I am too sure-footed to slip on this or any other Bill. I assure honorable members opposite that -we do not appreciate their sympathy to-night. If the Opposition were prepared to allow consideration of this Bill to proceed instead of discussing matters which are irrelevant, they would soon know what we propose to do. They seem perfectly satisfied to make accusations before they know whether there is any justification for them. We have heard about twenty speeches to-night from honorable members opposite, and they have been almost exactly the same. We are just as competent to take care of our seats as honorable members opposite are to take care of theirs. We shall not ask them to assist us when we are next before the electors. This Government can be left to do what is necessary and just for the people of Australia. It ‘ does not follow for a moment that every Bill that-is introduced in this House must be passed without amendment. Honorable members opposite should wait to see what we do before they make accusations. They have assumed a very great deal in their remarks.
– We are going to save the country £1,300,000.
– The honorable member for Hunter will see later what will happen. I do not know whether I am entitled to say that honorable members on the Opposition benches have wasted the time of the country by so much discussion, but I shall certainly say that the time so spent could have been put to better use. Whatever force I have putin to my arguments has been only verbal. If we were to have an argument of another kind outside, I might be able to use more force.
Mr.Fenton. - I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Wide Bay has just drawn the attention of the House to his great physical proportions, and issued a threat to honorable members on this side. I hope, sir, that you will protect us from any physical violence.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) did quite wrong to make a threat, but doubtless he judged by the noise that has been going on that he was in the stadium.
– I might have imagined that I was in the stadium, where, as an on-looker, I have been on many occasions; and I will say that usually there is more order and less noise at the stadium than has been the case during this debate. When we have completed our work here as the representatives of the people,we shall be quite prepared to go to our constituents to let them judge between us and the Opposition.
– The time allotted for the consideration of this motion has expired.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 10
In division :
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– As a matter of privilege, under standing order 296, I wish to challenge a vote which has been given on the division. The, standing order reads -
No member shall be entitled to vote in any Division upon a question in which he has a direct pecuniary interest, not held in common with the rest of the subjects of the Crown, and the vote of any member so interested shall be disallowed, but this shall not apply to motions or public Bills which involve questions of public policy.
I, therefore, move-
That the vote of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) be disallowed on the ground that he has a pecuniary interest in the Bill.
– I understand that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) desires to challenge the vote which the honorable member for Riverina is about to give. The vote cannot be challenged until it has been actually given, and then, on a substantive motion the House can decide whether it shall be allowed. I am obliged now to put the motion for the second reading of the Bill.
Question - That the Bill be how read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
That the vote of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) be disallowed on the ground that he has a pecuniary interest in the Bill.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 1 p.m.
Clause 1 -
This Act may be cited as the Land Tax Assessment Act 1923.
The Land Tax Assessment Act 1910- 1916, is in this Act referred to as the principal Act.
The principal Act as amended by this Act, may be cited as the Land Tax Assessment Act ,1910-1923
– The clause provides that -
It appears to me that it is misnamed. The title is entirely wrong, as will be seen if the contents of the Bill are considered. We should give the Bill a proper title, and in order that that may be done, I move -
That all the words after the word “ as,” line ], be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ the £1,300,000 Present to Wealthy Pastoralists Act 1923.”
That is the proper title to give this Bill, because it expresses the intention of the measure. There is at issue under this Bill £1,300,000, which is to be made a present of to wealthy squatters of this country. This is not an Assessment Bill at all, but a Bill to prevent the further assessment of certain people. The Bill goes further, arid proposes that these people shall not be asked to pay the tax for which they are liable upon assessments they have made themselves. It is beyond one’s comprehension to discover how the Government could have proposed such a title as is proposed for this Bill. No Bill should be allowed to pass the Committee stage unless its title indicates its intention. By no stretch of the imagi- nation can. it be contended that this is an Assessment Bill. It is admitted by honorable members on both sides that it is a Bill to prevent assessments which are made to-day. During the last four or five years certain people have made their own assessments, upon which they have become liable to taxation to the extent of XI, 300,000. This is a Bill to enable those people to retain money which belongs to the Commonwealth, and to prevent assessments and the collection of this tax in the future. It is apparent that a mistake has been made in the title selected for the measure.
– But this is a Bill to amend the Land Tax Assessment Act.
– The honorable member is entirely wrong. He is unfortunately unable to read the clause himself, or he would know that it provides that the Act may be cited as “ The Land Tax Assessment Act 1923.”
– The honorable member has read only one sub-clause of the first clause.
– One is sufficient at a time.
– The honorable member is misleading the Committee. ‘ x
– The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) will have a perfect right to put his view afterwards.
– I rise to a, point oi order. I direct attention to the fact that the honorable member for Macquarie has made an interjection to the effect that, by a statement which he made, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) is deliberately misleading the Committee. I submit that that should be withdrawn.
– On the point of order, I wish to say that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), in answering an interjection by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), said that the honorable member was wrong in his statement that this is an amending Bill. He proposed to read the clause, as unfortunately the honorable member for Fawkner was unable to read it for himself, and he read only the first of three subclauses comprising the short title, and I said that in doing so he was misleading the honorable member for Fawkner and I say it again.
– I am sorry if I misled the honorable member, and I shall endeavour to make the matter clear. It is well known that in Committee the short title of a Bill is taken first, and, as there are three sub-clauses of the title to this Bill, they are properly dealt with in their order. If the honorable member for Macquarie’ desired to make an amendment in the clause, and I wished to make a prior amendment, then, in accordance with the practice in Committee, he would be expected to give way to enable my amendment to be first submitted. That it will not be said that I am misleading the honorable member for Fawkner, I shall read the whole of clause 1. It is as follows: -
The title is inappropriate because this is not a Land Tax Assessment Bill at all. On this point, the honorable member for Fawkner to-day enlightened us more than any other honorable member. It would be more appropriate if we called this measure a Bill to provide remittances to, or disbursements for, the wealthy pastoralists of this country.
– Their gratuity bonds.
– Yes, but unlike the men who. went to fight for Australia, they are not deserving of this gratuity. The majority of the recipients are pastoralists who made a good deal of money at the time when our men were fighting for this country. Probably some of them made more money than they ever dreamt of. The amount of money involved might very well be devoted to the relief of some of our returned soldiers, and the national debt might be reduced by at least £1,000,000. The remissions, we have been told, will total £1,300,000. If in the course of a couple of years it is increased to £1,600,000, and if there is a change of Government, we shall collect the outstanding amounts. The taxation which these people owe rightly belongs to the Commonwealth. I contend, therefore, that the title of the measure should be altered. We have no evidence that the people concerned have asked for this Bill. I assume they have, and the Government now propose to hand out a large sum of public money. We are the custodians of the public purse, and we are supposed to see that legislation is given effect to. Generally speaking, whether ‘ legislation be good or bad, it is enforced. This tenderness now being shown by the Government for a certain number of very wealthy pastoralists was not displayed recently to a number of people in my electorate. Unfortunately, through causes over ‘which they had no control, large numbers of men were out of work at a time when they were called upon to pay their income taxation, and I was obliged to go cap-in-hand to the Department to obtain concessions for them. Prior to that, hundreds were prosecuted for the small amounts owing.
.- Honorable members opposite have been complaining very loudly of the necessity for proper consideration being given to the various clauses of the Bill, but when an opportunity is presented to discuss the vital clause we find-
– I rise to order. The Treasurer is not discussing the clause. I submit that in the limited time at our disposal the Minister should confine his remarks to the clause before the Committee, and not lecture honorable members.
– I was about to point out that, despite the fact that the time allowed for the consideration of the Committee stage of the Bill is limited, and that the second clause contains its vital provisions, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) devoted much time to this clause, which deals only with the title. The suggested alteration of the title is ridiculous,but it will indicate to electors exactly the attitude which honorable members of the Opposition have adopted towards the Bill.
– The time allotted for the consideration of clauses 2 and 3 has expired.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That clauses 1 and 2 be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 3 -
This Act shall apply to ‘ assessments for the financial year commencing on the 1st day nf July, 1917, and all subsequent years.
– This clause presents an opportunity for the Government to deal with the possibility of collecting the taxes that are outstanding. I desire to deal briefly with the whole financial position of these assessments.
– Drop the loot.
– On a point of order, I ask whether the Treasurer has an amendment to move, because I desire to move an amendment ?
Honorable members interrupting,
– I cannot hear what is is going on.
– I have an amendment. It is to omit all the words after ‘ ‘ This “ with a view to inserting other words.
– I also desire to move an amendment to clause 3.
– The Treasurer has the floor.
– Climb down, Page !
– On a point of order, I desire to prevent confusion in the Committee. The rule of the Committee is that honorable members shall state their amendments. I have an amendment to move to this clause, and so has the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). Our amendments may be prior to the one the Treasurer desires to move. He is taking this opportunity to make a speech which he should have delivered on the second reading of the Bill.
– On a point of order, Surely the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) is taking his point of order to prevent the Treasurer from addressing the Committee. There is nothing to prevent any honorable member from addressing the Committee if the Chair calls on him. If any honorable member desires to move an amendment, and he indicates what it is, the practice is to allow amendments to be put in their proper order. If it is found that an honorable member has an amendment prior to one that has been moved, the custom is to withdraw the first amendment temporarily. I venture to say that it is quite improper to try to prevent the Treasurer from addressing the Committee.
– On a point of order, I wish to prove that the Prime Minister’s statement is not in accordance with fact. The Prime Minister claims that any honorable member may address the Chair if he is called on, and that he has a right to put his views before the Committee.
– Certainly he has.
– Then, why was not that treatment accorded to me last week? I am not suggesting that the Treasurer should be prevented from moving his amendment. I desire to ascertain whether it is prior to an amendment I wish to move. I endeavoured to get the call, but I could not, because the honorable member for Cowper is a Minister. It is possible that the amendment of the honorable member for Fawkner may come before mine. It had’ been the custom in this Committee prior to last week for an honorable member to withdraw his amendment temporarily when it was found that another honorable member had a prior amendment. Last week the AttorneyGeneral moved an amendment to a Bill, and I had a prior amendment. I asked him to permit me to move mine before his was dealt with. The ruling at that time was that I could only move my amendment by consent of the honorable member who Bad moved the previous amendment. The Attorney-General on that occasion refused to permit me to move my prior amendment. How can the Prime Minister reconcile his statement of to-night with that procedure? There was a time when what he has stated was the correct procedure, but, apparently, those times are gone.
– Let us hear what the amendments are.
– I am showing that the Prime Minister’s statement is .not in accord with facts. He tried to stop me from addressing the House.
– He had a right to speak.
– And so have I, and I intend to exercise it. Nobody in this Committee knows Parliamentary procedure better than the Attorney-General, and when I asked him to withdraw his amendment to permit me to move mine, he refused. It was the first time I had known such a thing to happen in the Committee. We should conduct our business in the proper way. If the Minister intends to act in the future as he acted last week, we shall lose all order in our debates, as we are losing it in dealing with legislation, and before the end of the week we shall probably have trouble. We should carry on the business of the Committee with decorum, and Ministers should set an example. I want the Treasurer to state what his amendment is, and if it is prior to mine, I shall be satisfied.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.There is no point of order before the Chair.
– There are five honorable members on their feet.
– Order ! It will clear the atmosphere if the Minister will state what his amendment is.
– The Government is willing to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell).
– But he has not moved an amendment, and I do” not know what he proposes to move.
– The amendment has been circulated in the Chamber for the last two hours.
– I have not seen it.
– The amendment is as follows: -
Omit all words after “ This “, and insert “ Act shall be deemed to have commenced on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-three, and shall apply to assessments for the financial year commencing on that date and all subsequent years.”
– Drop the loot.
– These are dirty tactics.
– On a point of order; I ask that the Treasurer be given’ his right to be heard in silence. We are now about to witness one of the most degrading and dirty things a man can do.
– Order !
– On a point of order, I have an amendment prior to the one outlined by the Treasurer. I claim the right to precede him. The Treasurer proposes to omit all the words after “This” and to insert “Act shall be deemed to have commenced “ and so on. I wish to put in some words before the word “ deemed “.
– That is an amendment on the amendment.
– On a point of order, the Treasurer announced . a moment ago that he was prepared to accept the amendment of which I had given notice.
-When did the honorable member give notice?
– I handed in the amendment to the Chairman during the evening. This amendment-
– On a point of order-
– I am hearing one point of order.
– You will hear three if necessary.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I shall hear one at a time.
– Mr. Chairman, you already have a point of order before you from the honorable member for Yarra.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Yarra intimated that he wished to move a prior amendment, and owing. to the commotion I was unable to gain its purport.
– While I was submitting a point of order, the honorable member for Fawkner raised another point of order. I was then asking you, Mr. Chairman, to rule_ whether my prior amendment should take precedence.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.When an amendment has been moved, the mover, : if he so pleases, may withdraw temporarily to permit of a prior amendment being submitted.
– I move -
That clause 3 be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof, the words “ This Act shall not operate till the year 2917”.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.That is the equivalent of negativing the clause.
– I submit that it is not a negative.
– I submit, Mr. Chairman, that the amendment I have handed, to you, and of which I have given notice is the first amendment, and I move-
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, the honorable member for Fawkner cannot move an amendment while a point of order -is before the Chair.
– I am not allowing that.
– But you are allowing it.
– I am not rising on a point of order.
– The honorable member rose to a point of order. It is another slippery trick.
– The Treasurer has moved an amendment to insert certain words after the word “ This “. I shall dispose of that amendment.
– The Treasurer has indicated his amendment, and the Prime Minister has stated- that I have the right to submit a prior amendment. The Treasurer is now endeavouring to talk out the time allotted for the Committee stage of the Bill, to shut out my prior amendment.
– Will you, Mr. Chairman, state my amendment?
– On a point of order, the Treasurer has moved an amendment, and the Leader of the Opposition has indicated that he desires its withdrawal to enable him to submit a prior amendment. The honorable member should indicate the nature of that prior amendment. The only form it can take is a direct negative.I submit that the Treasurer is carrying out the ordinary and accepted procedure of this Committee, and cannot withdraw his amendment until he’ knows the nature of the prior amendment.
– I shall do what the right honorable gentleman advised me to do just now, and move an amendment prior to that indicated by the Treasurer.
Ithas always been the custom in Committee to permit honorable members who have prior amendments to move them. The clause reads -
This Act shall apply to assessments for the financial year commencing on the 1st day of July, 1917, and all subsequent years.
The Treasurer proposes to amend it by striking out all the words after “ This “ with a view to inserting others. Would the Chairman indicate the nature of the amendment?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Treasurer’s amendment is to strike out all the words after “This”, in line 1, and insert in lieu thereof the words “ Act shall be deemed to have commenced on 1st day of July, 1923, and shall apply to assessments for the financial year commencing on that date and all subsequent years.”
– My amendment is a prior one. We have agreed that this Bill shall be known as the Land Tax Assessment Act 1923.
– The honorable member is a bad “ stone-waller.”
– Honorable members opposite are putting over a slippery trick.
– On a point of order, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) has stated that honorable member on this side have tried to put over slippery trick. I ask that that statement be withdrawn, as it is objectionable.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.If the remark is objectionable, I am sure the honorable member for Werriwa will withdraw it.
– If it is objectionable I shall withdraw it.
– On a point of order-
– This game is to block my prior amendment. The Treasurer’s amendment has not yet been submitted to the Chairman.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The amendment has not been stated from the Chair.
– There is nothing before the Chair to indicate the nature of any prior amendment.
– The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) is tying himself in a knot.
– I am not. I wish to know from the Chairman whether, having accepted one amendment-
– No amendment has been stated from the Chair.
– An amendment has been moved.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.It is the invariable rule in Committee that when one amendment has been moved an honorable member with a prior amendment has a right to state it, and the mover of the first amendment may withdraw it if he so pleases.
– I move -
That clause 5 be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ This Act shall apply to the tax for the financial year commencing on 1st day of July, 1923, and all subsequent years.”
– That is practically the same wording as proposed by the Treasurer.
– It is a different wording altogether.
– On a point of order-
– The time has expired.
– There is an amendment before the Chair.
– I move the amendment I have just stated.
– On a point of order, an amendment has been moved by the Treasurer.
Opposition Members. - Time, time !
– Drop the loot. Time! Sit down!
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The question is “ that the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted.”
– I rise to a point of order. What are the words?
– The question must be put now.
– That amendment was not moved.
– At the request of the honorable member, I asked the Minister to move it, and it has been moved.
– The amendment has been moved, but it has not been stated.
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That the remainder of the Bill be agreed to, and the Bill be reported with an amendment - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
– I just wish to say, Mr. Speaker, that strange things have happened in your absence. The Government, yielding to the strong opposition from this’ side of the House, has agreed to collect the £1,300,000 which it was endeavouring by this Bill to make a present of to the wealthy pastoralists of Australia. It is very pleasing to us to know that the Opposition on this occasion has justified itself, and the amount of money it has saved to the country is sufficient to pay the salaries of its members for the next forty or fifty years. It is evident that, in consequence of the discussion which took place to-day, in which I am pleased to be able to say two or three honorable members on the other side assisted us, the Government felt that it would have to give way to the Opposition, and before the proposal was made here, made it known, through the Argus newspaper, which represents it, that it was intended to move an amendment in the Bill, so that these people would not be able to get away with the loot to the extent of £1,300,000. It is said, in the Argus, amongst other things,
When the Committee stage is reached, therefore, the Treasurer, Dr.Earle Page, will move an amendment, the effect of which will be. to abolish the tax as from the present year. The amendment, it is admitted, will create a complicated position. The Land Tax Assessment Act of 1914 imposed taxation on Crown leaseholds. Up to the’ present there has been assessed approximately £2,037,000 of tax, upon which, however, only £690,000 has been collected.
So that we were well within the mark in our estimate of the amount that is owing. The statement in the Argus continues -
That amount, according to Dr. Page, is largely mythical, and cannot be collected.
There is a fine statement, which 1 commend to the honorable member for Fawkner. Members have agreed to make the amendment merely to prevent . defeat. They knew that unless they did so they would be defeated, and that the Prime Minister could not go to England as the head of the Government unless something was done to save the situation. The Government tells us, through the press, that the amount of the tax still uncollected is largely mythical and cannot be collected, after admitting that taxation has been levied to an amount stated. What does this mean? I ask the honorable member for Fawkner to watch this matter in the future, because it seems evident that the Government is not going . to collect this money after all, if by hook or by crook it can avoid doing so. It has plainly said that it is driven into its present position by force of circumstances. It discovered that there are three or four honorable members, on its own side who have consciences, and are prepared to protect the interests of the community. Then, and then only, did the Government decide to amend the Bill.
– What will the honorable member have for the next election now?
– I am still against the Rill even as amended, because I am against the repeal of the Land Tax on leaseholds. I say that it is a legitimate tax. The day may not be far distant when honorable members now on this side will have come into office, and they will then do the work which honorable members on the Government side have leftundone. We shall probably have the job of collecting these arrears of taxation, and we shall do it. I may say further, that when we do get into power, this legislation imposing a tax upon leaseholds will be restored. Honorable members need make no mistake about that. I shall showno quarter in this matter. The Bill has been passed in the interests of a certain privileged class in the community. If we get an opportunity, we shall redress this wrong done to the people. In that we shall be quite within our rights.
– The honorable member might ask the Treasurer if he proposes to collect this money.
– The Treasurer would not answer if I put that question to him now.
– Order! The time has arrived for taking the further stages of the Bill.
Question - That the report be adopted - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) put -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided.
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 17th August (vide page 2983), upon motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That this Billbe now read a second time.
– This is another Bill that could have been deferred until next year. Like other legislation which we have passed recently, it affords relief to a section of the community that is in good financial circumstances. The Bill deals chiefly with companies, the valuation of livestock, and shipping freights.’ It contains no proposals to relieve the masses of the people of taxation. Some millions of pounds of taxation were remitted during the last. Parliament; the whole of that burden was taken off the backs of those best able to carry it, leaving those who are struggling along on small salaries to continue to bear the heavy load imposed in consequence of the war. The Treasurer stated that the Bill provided for less expensive administration, would bring the Commonwealth laws into closer uniformity with the State laws, and would permit the States to collect Commonwealth taxation’ with a minimum of expense. The Bill has very little to do with the collection of Commonwealth taxation by the States, because another Bill is on the notice-paper which relates to that very matter. The Government cannot expect to get that measure through without debate, because it will subordinate the Commonwealth to the States.
– Nothing of the sort.
– It will, and that will be my objection to it. The Bill now before us is not for the purposes stated by the Treasurer, and no one knows that better than does the right honorable gentleman. There is so much camouflage of the real intention of these measures that unless one peruses them carefully he may believe that the statements made by Ministers are in accordance with the actual clauses. They are not. This Bill was introduced for no other purpose than to relieve certain sections of taxation.
– It was brought in to make the laws of the States and Commonwealth uniform.
– Will the Treasurer say that this Bill is uniform with those that will be submitted to the State Parliaments ?
– Much more nearly so than are the present Commonwealth and State laws.
– Having regard to the fact that the proposals made by the Commonwealth have not been put into operation, how can this Bill do what the Treasurer says it will do.? Apparently this is an endeavour to convince the people that the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers achieved something. Throughout the Commonwealth it was heralded as a great stroke on the part of the Commonwealth Government. Many important changes were to be made, and thereby large sums of money were to be saved to the people. Everybody knows that the Conference was a miserable failure. The representatives of the Commonwealth and States deliberated for days ; ‘ ‘ the mountain laboured, and brought forth a mouse.”
– The Conference brought forth a uniform return.
– According to the Treasurer’s own statement, the agreement he was endeavouring to make with the States in regard to taxation collection has been consented to by New South Wales only.
– But the uniform return has been agreed to.
– What has this Bill to do with the collection of Commonwealth taxation by the States.
– That will be dealt with in another Bill.
– That is the Bill with which we should be dealing. Why should we sit all night to deal with a measure which the Treasurer admits has nothing to do with the proposal which he emphasized as important? How is this House to get through its programme if Bill after Bill is to be introduced in this fashion ? It may be that the Government intend to achieve their end by the use of the guillotine and other practices to which they have resorted lately. I shall not complain if the Government bludgeon this legislation through in order to close Parliament, because I know the day of reckoning will come later. None of the proposals debated at the Conference is included in this Bill, which has no other object than to lighten the burden of taxation upon the wealthy section of the community.
– Every taxpayer will get some relief in respect of the penal clauses.
– I am glad to find in it some provision to help the poor struggling people who are prosecuted and dragged to the Police Court when they owe the Department 15s. or 20s. of taxation. The Bill proposes a reduction in the fine that may be imposed by the Commissioner. That is the only relief that is given to the poorer taxpayers who are in receipt of an income of £5 or £6 per week. There is no increase of the exemption or of the allowance in respect of children, although those are two most important considerations, so far as the masses of the people are concerned. I am rather surprised that the Treasurer has not taken action to increase the allowance in respect of children, for, when he was sitting in Opposition, he said, on 12th October, 1922-
I should have liked to have seen greater concessions given in respect of children than we have been able to extort from the Government during the last couple of weeks.
That statement was made after the House had dealt with an amending Income Tax Bill, but, although the honorable member criticised the Treasurer in the last Government, when he himself is introducing an amending Bill he makes no provision to increase the child allowance or the exemption. He does, however, provide relief for people who are in’ a much better financial ‘position : than. are the classes for which I am speaking. Of course, that attitude is in keeping with other legislation the Government has been introducing, the whole of which has been in the interests of a certain section of the community. I hope, . never again, to hear the Labour party accused of introducing class legislation. Our legislation has been beneficial to the country, and the fact that it has never been re- pealed, proves that it is not class legis- l ation. From the present Government we get nothing but class legislation. Honorable members opposite seem to think they are elected to do nothing but to . pass measure after measure in the interests of certain people whom they deem to be their supporters. The policy of concessions in return for support is exem plified in this House every day. There is hardly a measure submitted to us that does not provide for a substantial reduction of the taxation levied upon wealthy people, and the only consideration given to the poorer taxpayers, is a miserable reduction in the fine that may be imposed by the Commissioner. Clause 2 relates to the taxation of companies, but there appears to be great difference of opinion, even amongst the companies, as to the merits of the proposal. The Treasurer claims, however, that the tax on the companies will be reduced. This concession is in addition to the relief that the House has just- decided to give in respect of land taxation, and, as many of the companies are big lease-holders, they are doing very well. I understand, that the flat rate to be imposed on companies will be ls. in future, instead of 2s. 5d. as at present.
– Why should we not deal with the Income Tax Bill’ before being asked to discuss the Assessment Bill?
– Of course, we should have the Rates Bill first, but we have to accept the measures as they are given to us, and we must start at 11 o’clock in the morning and sit all night in order to hurry legislation through. But I do not think the Government will gain anything by these tactics; we shall still be sitting next week. Many of the people concerned in the taxation of companies have commented adversely upon clause 2. Critics in Sydney say that it is unsatisfactory, and it appears that, with this Bill as with most of the legislation that is being passed now, the Government will please nobody. We have yet to see how the Bill will work in practice. Clause 4 relates to the valuation of live stock. This matter has been discussed in the House on several -occasions, and the law relating to it was amended some time ago.
– I think a proposed amendment was defeated by those who are to-day the supporters of the Government.
– I think the amendment was carried in this House, but was defeated in another place.
– I cannot say exactly what happened, nor whether this proposal is the same as the amendment then moved. It appears to me that this scheme is something like that in the Bill we have just passed. Instead of the Taxation Department acting as valuators, the taxpayers will value their own live stock. Paragraph b (i) of the clause provides that, in the case of trading stock, the actual cost price or market selling value shall be given, at the option of the taxpayer. I do not know how that will work out. I think difficulties will arise. The general custom is for this Parliament to stipulate the exact method of procedure. It is a new departure in legislation to allow the man who is to be taxed to fix his own values, and it seems to me that it must lead to some dissatisfaction. Paragraph b (ii) of the clause provides that in the case of live stock not being used as beasts of burden or as working beasts, the cost price or market selling price shall be given, and here again the taxpayer is to be given the right to choose the method. Once he chooses, he must abide by his choice. I take it that the market price means the price which is paid for a beast. We shall have some difficulties if we experience years such as we had in 19”03, when cattle were bought at from 5s. and 10s. a head because in certain districts there was no feed for them. If values like that are given for stock, the taxation results will not be satisfactory. Even if the market selling price is taken, fluctuations will occur. Prices vary a good deal sometimes from week to week. It is urged in support of these amendments that they comply with the decision given by the High Court in regard to having uniformity in taxation. I do not know whether this system will give us uniformity. It seems to me that if we allow the taxpayer to adopt which method he likes we shall have less uniformity than ever. That, of course, is a lay and not a legal opinion. One can quite, imagine that stock raisers in Victoria may value their stock differently from the stock raisers in New South Wales or Queensland, and if, in consequence of those differences, an appeal be made to the High Court, it may be found that these provisions are ultra vires. Then this Parliament will be placed in a bad light. A matter like this should be carefully investigated. The Treasurer may be perfectly right. I have no doubt that he nas been advised by the Crown Law authorities. But honorable members know that the Parliament has passed legislation which has been found to be unconstitutional. Quite recently a decision was given against the Government in a case in which ex-Senator Keating was interested. Happenings like that prove how careful we should bo. Another amendment deals with the capitalized value of homes. At present the value is taken on a 5 per cent, basis. I have always opposed the practice of considering the value of homes as incomes. My party has agreed to the principle, but I have not yet seen any reason to lead me to alter my view. A tax on the value of a home is purely and simply a property tax. If a home is valued at £1,000 under the existing provision, an amount of £50 must be put down on the income tax form as income from it. By what method of reasoning can it be regarded as income? How can it possibly be put in the same class as money raised by the mental or manual toil of a taxpayer? Honorable members know that many thousands of working men struggle year in and year out, and practise great thrift to secure their own homes. Their wives also frequently deny themselves many comforts to assist in purchasing the home. Mortgages are incurred which take a long time to discharge. It may be said that the Treasurer is acting generously in reducing the 5 per cent, basis to 4 per cent. ; but it must be remembered that under the existing provisions the taxpayer is permitted to deduct the cost of certain renovations and repairs to his home. Every year I have to spend money on my home. When I return to it after this session, I expect to have to spend about £100 on it. If this provision is passed, I shall not be allowed to deduct ‘that expenditure from my income. Nearly every year the taxpayer has to do something in the way of painting, fencing, or renovating his home, and I wonder whether it would not be better for us to continue the present arrangement.
– It is estimated that this reduction is really in the taxpayers’ interests. That is the general experience of the taxing authorities.
– My experience of the last few years is that I have to employ somebody for a little time before every Christmas to overhaul and renovate my home. I make this personal reference, because I know exactly what I have to expend in renovations and repairs.
– In the general experience, I think it will be found that the proposal in this Bill will be more beneficial to the taxpayer than the existing practice.
– I do not see how that can be so in respect of ordinary wooden cottages. They must be painted and renovated every two or three years.
– There would very soon be no cottage if that were not done.
– That is so. I do not think it is reasonable to charge a man income tax because he has been thrifty enough to purchase his own home. I do not know where this new suggestion originated.
– It is just a copy of the Victorian Act.
– All the Bills that come before us lately seem to be copies of English or Australian State legislation. It does not seem that we can draft anything original.
– It is legislation by reference.
– The Treasurer will perhaps tell us how this alteration will be of any benefit to the ordinary taxpayer. The Bill provides for a reduction in the taxation on shipping companies. They are to be assessed and to pay tax on 7 J per cent., instead of on 10 per cent, of the amount they receive for passages and freights. Even the shipping companies do not seem to be satisfied with this proposal, although I suppose they are anxious to get all the relief they can from taxation. A paragraph dealing with this matter appeared in the Melbourne Argus on 20th August. It read as follows: - “We must be thankful for small mercies,’ said the general manager of one of the most important shipping firms in the Commonwealth. “People are continually crying out for cheaper .freights and cheaper passenger fares, but our expenses have been constantly increasing. Harbor dues, light dues, wages, have become very great burdens, and the proposal to reduce the taxable income of overseas shipping interests from 10 per cent, of the total freights and passage money to 7i per cent, will, though a greater concession would have been welcomed, give a small measure of relief.” .Shipowners hoped that Dr. Earle Page would have adopted the reduction made by the New Zealand Ministry. During the war New Zealand, it is stated, charged up to 15 per cent, on gross freight and passage money. ‘Since then, however, the rate has been reduced to 5 per cent, on regular trading steamers, and to 7i per cent, on tramp steamers. Under ‘the present assessment of 10 per cent, in Australia, the tax is equal to £1 4s. 2d. per cent, of the freight, while the new tax will mean a reduction equal to 7s. 6d. per cent, of the freight.
That shows clearly that the companies are dissatisfied. They, like everybody else, want to escape from taxation. I suppose there is not a man or woman in the world who would not like to be absolutely free from it, but, unfortunately, taxation is a necessity. The necessity for this particular impost arises from the war. Notwithstanding that we have very heavy commitments in consequence of war expenditure, an endeavour is being made to close up certain channels from which we are now receiving revenue. Strong efforts were made by the Commonwealth Government to transfer the levying of direct taxation to the States, although it is realized that, if that were done, revenue would have .to be raised otherwise to meet our ever-increasing obligations. After the war, we believed that the cost of the administration of this country would be reduced, but we find that it is still increasing, and at the same time the avenues from which we draw revenue are being closed. If this state of affairs continues, trouble will shortly ensue. The Commonwealth were prepared to relinquish income taxation altogether, but the States were not agreeable to our terms, and we are now endeavouring to cut away a large amount of the revenue that is derived from this tax. It is quite true that the Government had a windfall last year.
– Within the last ten minutes they have had a windfall of £1,300,000.
– Those windfalls were unexpected, but, because we are in that happy position, we are not justified in handing over to the States our sources of revenue. The money could be used to liquidate the national debt or for other desirable purposes; but the Government, for some reason best known to themselves, have decided to remit taxation, taking good care that certain sections receive the benefit. I could quite understand their action if it were intended to make the tax uniform and to benefit in some degree the poorer people of the community. That should be our first consideration. Since 1914 they have received an insufficient increase in wages to compensate for the high cost of living, yet no provision is made to relieve them. The Treasurer talks about making the tax uniform, and in view of. the fact that he had the utmost difficulty to come to an arrangement with New South Wales, I cannot understand why he did not follow their example and make the exemption at least £250. I certainly favour an exemption of £300, and £60 for. each child. If the Treasurer is actuated, as he states, by a desire to make this legislation uniform, then surely he should have increased the exemption to make it uniform with that of New South Wales. If the arrangement with the various Governments is to bear fruition it will be next year. Possibly a Conference will be held early next year to try to come to an understanding with the States to have one taxing authority, and that to be the States. This will mean an amending Bill, and surely the measure now before us could remain in abeyance until after the Conference, and then the Treasurer would know the exact requirements. There is no reason why this Bill should be brought down at the close of the session, when every honorable member on that side is anxious, at all costs, to adjourn to allow the Prime Minister to leave for England. There is no doubt that the purpose of this legislation is to relieve some of .their friends of taxation. Measure after measure is introduced into this Chamber, every one of which has. the same object in view.
– The honorable member made the same remark concerning the last Bill.
– Yes, and the la3t Bill is the same as this.
– The last Bill was altered by a vote of the whole Housed
– The last Bill was amended in consequence of the Opposition’s stern fight, when honorable members were shown the true position, and the Government crawled down. The honorable member might enlighten us on his views.
– I shall do so eventually
– It will be better late than never. It has been urged that the Conference with the State Ministers was not altogether a failure. Though nothing was done, the Government say that they laid the foundation for future action, which will be during next year. In that case, why should we deal with this Bill now?
– It is necessary, because very substantial progress has been made which now requires statutory enactment.
– Does the Treasurer contend that any agreement with the States has been reached besides that relating to the issue of one taxation return ?
– The Government will save £200,000 a year in the cost of collecting company taxation.
– How will that saving be effected?
– Owing to the simplicity of the return.
– nl submit that the estimate of the saying will be considerably less than stated.
– There will . be incalculable confusion.
– That is so. The Bill should have been framed to suit both State and Federal taxation. I have urged in this House that one Commonwealth return should be issued. More is behind the Bill than the Treasurer admits. It is all very well to say that the tax should be uniform with that of the States, but every State has a different method of taxation, and I should like to know how this uniformity is to be accomplished.
– These amendments have been agreed upon in conference between officers of the States and the Commonwealth.
– No similar legislation has been passed by the States.
– They are making an effort to introduce it.
– So far only one agreement for the collection of the tax in New South Wales has been made. An agreement may have been arrived at with the other States, but we have not that information. There has evidently been no agreement with the other five States.
– They will come into line eventually.
– They may, but time is passing, and an early decision must be made if it is to be effective. In the ordinary course our income tax returns should have been made out in July for collection in August. August is nearly spent, and no returns have been issued. The matter will probably be hung up until after the new year, and the Commonwealth and New South Wales returns will be issued at the same time, thus involving a good deal of additional work. The State will be the collecting authority. We are told that the Commonwealth will be relieved of expenditure, but I submit that the States will bear an extra burden. The Commonwealth interests are being subordinated to those of the States. The Commonwealth should be the superior Parliament. Yet a deliberate attempt is being made by a Government adopting a parochial view of national matters, to curtail the rights of this Parliament.
– No effort is being made in that direction.
– We have clear evidence of that in this Bill. The Commonwealth at the Conference with the State Ministers submitted a proposal to the States which they did not accept. Further proposals were made, but no agreement was reached. Long after the close of the Conference some understanding with one State is arrived at concerning taxation returns. For a business Government, it is a bad state of affairs. I read with amusement a statement by a Minister which appeared in the press the other day concerning the necessity for having business men in Parliament. Why, the head of the Government is a business man, who was sent here to represent business interests. The whole of the administration is in his hands, and what a fine mess he is making of it.
– This Government has done more for this country in seven months than any other did in seven years.
– I do not think this Government has accomplished anything. The Government must make an effort to do something in order to be able to say that it has not been a complete failure. It organized a Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, and. talked of what it was going to do with respect to a number of matters, but achieved nothing in respect of any of them. There was a decision . that there should be no more loans issued free of taxation, and the Government immediately proceeded to float another loan and make it free of taxation. Any one reading the press at the time the Conference was being held would have come to the conclusion that great things were to be accomplished by it. Now, after a lapse of five or six months, we find that it was a “ dud.” If the Imperial Conference is to do no more than was done by the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers it will be more than ever a pity that this House should have been closed to enable the Prime Minister to attend it. The Government has been able up to the present to come . to terms with only one State. We have had the spectacle of the Government of one State dictating to the Commonwealth Government in connexion with certain matters, and the Commonwealth Government having’ to submit.
– To which State Government does the honorable member refer ?
– The New South Wales Government.
– This is the first I have heard of it.
- Sir Arthur Cocks, the New South Wales Treasurer, ran rings round Common wealth Ministers. They submitted certain figures to which the New South Wales Treasurer took exception, and on investigation the figures were found to be wrong.
– That was not so.
– I am telling honorable members what I read in the newspapers.
– All that is in the newspapers is not true.
– I do not say that it is, but the New South Wales Treasurer persisted in the position he took up.
– We gave him the actual figures, and he said he wanted the figures for next year. The only figures we could give him were those that were not yet finalized.
– Sir Arthur Cocks told the press of New South Wales, and reported to his colleagues, that the true position was not as it had been represented by Commonwealth Ministers at the Conference, and that New South
Wales would lose .considerably over £1,000,000 of revenue if the proposals submitted at the Conference were accepted. He gave figures which substantiated his statement.
– He has- not the actual figures yet. When they are received, they will show that he was wrong.
– I was just going to say that the New South Wales Treasurer had to make the best of a bad job, as we have to do in dealing with measures submitted by the Government. Fancy the Commonwealth Government meeting a Conference with a proposal based upon figures for a year that had not expired !
– No; it was the State Ministers who wanted to discuss the matter on that basis.
– This Parliament had amended the Income Tax Act before the close of last year, and Commonwealth Ministers submitted figures for a period before those were operating, notwithstanding the fact that there was a loss of revenue in consequence of the amendments made in the Act.
– Every ohe knew what amendments had been made.
– But they did not know what would be the effect of the amendments, because the financial year had not closed, and most of the revenue from income tax is received in the last month or two of the financial year. The Government were not in a position when the Conference met to deal with the question on the basis of actual figures. The Bill we are being asked to deal with at this time of the morning is not an urgent measure.
– It is a scandalous state of affairs.
– Of course it is. There would be no necessity for the passing of this Bill at this juncture, were it not for certain promises that were made, and certain arrangements arrived at in connexion with the formation of the present Government. Quite a number of people outside who support the Country party are dissatisfied, and members of that party who are now members of the Government wish to be in a position to say, “We went in with the Nationalists, and see what we have obtained for you.”
The Government pushed forward the meat bounty, the proposal for advances for wire . netting, and the proposal to make a present to the pastoralists, with which we have just dealt. It has also submitted a proposal in connexion with the Tariff Board to have a representative of country interests on the Board.
– Yet the honorable member says that the Country party is dead.
– I say that there is no Country party now. It has sunk its identity completely. I prophesy that in probably twelve months’ time the people whom country members opposite represent will be so disgusted that, in order to save their faces, those members will make some pretext to break away from the party with which they have formed a composite Government. Men who are capable of fighting each other at the elections and then come together for the purpose of doing those things which the Government have done are capable of doing anything. I warn the Prime Minister to keep his eye on the members of the Country party. He will need to watch them very closely.
– No wonder he wishes to close this Parliament before he goes abroad.
– That is the reason why he is closing this Parliament. He tells us that he is not going away from this country to leave Parliament sitting, because he is afraid to trust the members who are behind his Government. That is a condition of things never previously known in the history of this Parliament, and very few men ever dreamed that it could exist.
– It is evidence of a low state of political morality
– It is. If honorable members on this side occupied a similar position, and proposed to do the things which the Government has done, they could not expect to continue in office for three months. They would be condemned, and rightly so, by the public press and by every right-thinking person in the Commonwealth.
– The public press is condemning the present Government. Let the honorable gentleman read this morning’s Argus
-So far the Government has been doing things without press criticism. The only criticism they have received has been that which has been given them here. I am glad that two or three honorable members on the opposite side have taken a reasonable view of matters, and especially the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). I wish to give credit where it is due. There are some men on the other aide possessed of sufficient independence to act when they consider it necessary. We would not have been able to save the country. £1,300,000 if the Government had been certain that they would have a majority for what they proposed. It is only because some honorable members opposite informed the Government that they would not stand for such a thing that we were able to prevent the loot from being carried off. I must congratulate the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) upon the very able way in which he has dealt with several matters, in view of the fact that he cannot see to read. I repeat that if it had not been for two or three honorable members on the other side the Land Tax Assessment Bill would never have been amended. Honorable members opposite must admit that behind the scenes, they went to the Government and told them that they were not satisfied with the criticism of the Opposition, that they could see there was something wrong about the Land Tax Assessment Bill, and in consequence of that, we had the spectacle of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) endeavouring to take the credit for the amendment away from the honorable member for Fawkner.
– That is not so.
– I was not aware, as a matter of fact, that the Treasurer had actually moved the amendment; but he told me that he would accept it.
– I understand that the honorable member for Fawkner intended to move the amendment, and did not know that the Treasurer was going to move it.
– I did not understand that the Treasurer would move the amendment himself. He said he would accept the amendment, and I thought that I would have to move it in the ordinary way.
– We need not worry about it further. We ought to be very pleased, indeed, that there was a sufficient number of honorable members in this House to prevent the proposal going through as introduced by the Government. We can throw up our hats about it, because we have been able to do something in the interests of the country. I repeat that there is no necessity for the Bill now under consideration. Honorable members know that the Minister for Defence introduced three Bills, and occupied a couple of days in discussing one of them. The criticism from this side, and again from the honorable member for Fawkner, showed the Government that it was on dangerous ground. Two days of a limited session had been wasted, and we have seen no more of the measure that was discussed, and no more of the other two Bills which reached the second reading stage. Because of these blunders on the part of the Government we have been kept here night after night, and early in the morning.
– We require the tempers of angels to stand it.
– I believe in keeping the Standing Orders and observing due decorum, but the long hours and great physical strain to which we have been subjected might have been avoided. A lot of time has been wasted in the consideration of measures that might well have been delayed until Parliament re-assembles next session. Legislation of this nature occupies so much of the time at our disposal that other important measures will have to be guillotined practically without debate. Over twenty Bills still on the noticepaper will have to stand over. In the circumstances, is it fair that a measure like this should be presented, and honorable members expected to pass it at short notice? Bills of this character should be on honorable members’ files for at least a fortnight in order that they, may become thoroughly acquainted with their provisions. The legislation which we have been called upon to pass during the present session has been imperfectly drafted. We criticise the officials, but at the same time we realize that, as with ourselves, the fault is not entirely theirs. Sufficient time is not allowed for their preparation. But for the vigilance of the Opposition, these imperfectly drafted Bills would have been passed. Very few honorable members supporting the Government take the trouble to read them. Again, it is not their fault. They have not sufficient time to do so. No honorable member is in a position to say precisely what effect this Bill will have on the principal Act.
– The memorandum setting out the effect of the amending Bill on the principal Act is printed and available to honorable members.
– But even with the assistance of the memorandum, it is impossible for honorable members, at short notice, to understand the effect of this amending Bill. At present we have not time available for the perusal of the Bills that are coming forward. Latterly I have made it a practice to spend every Sunday studying these measures, but last Sunday I was too weary to do so. However, this Bill is before us, and we must make the best of the position. If, subsequently, the Act becomes unworkable, we shall have further amending legislation to rectify the anomalies.
– I have been endeavouring, in the limited time available to me, to understand what the Bill means. I deprecate the haste with which the Government are proceeding with their programme of legislation. During the past two months we have crowded into our parliamentary working days as much legislation as, in the ordinary course, would have occupied this Parliament for from eight to twelve months. Measures are being forced through by the sheer physical exhaustion of honorable members. It is impossible for any honorable member to make himself fully acquainted with the technical provisions of a Bill like this. The imperfect second-reading speech delivered by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) furnished us with very little information as to its effect on the Act. The Bill might very well have been held over until the agreements arrived at between the Commonwealth and the State Governments had been ratified by the State Parliaments. In some of the States there is uncertainty whether the agreements will be confirmed. ‘ In the absence of any assurance on this point it was unwise for the Government to proceed with this Bill, and hold over other legislation which should ‘have had prior consideration.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.’]
– The remission in taxation proposed in this Bill will, as in the measure just disposed of, be in the interests of the big business houses and: shipping companies. Unfortunately the man who is struggling with a heavy burden of taxation will be afforded no relief. As one of the newspapers stated in its leading article to-day, the guiding principle in connexion with this measure appears to be that “to him that hath shall be given.” I might add, “ from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” I come into contact with a large number of people who are confronted with the real difficulties of life, and who are struggling under a heavy load of taxation : I refer to the real producers of wealth, namely, the workers of the Commonwealth, whether they be engaged in ‘rural or industrial pursuits. They have to shoulder the whole of these financial obligations, although the taxation is collected through indirect channels, while the parasites and the idlers of society, those who ride upon the backs of the producers, continue to live in comfort and affluence, and are not required to pay their just dues to the Commonwealth exchequer. I protest against the attempt to legislate at this late hour. The length of our sittings in the last few days has broken all records of British Parliaments, and now, in the early hours of the morning, after having spent fifteen hours in the consideration of an important measure, and stubbornly resisting the endeavour of the Government to rake off a rich prize of £1,300,000 for its friends, we are asked to consider another important and inintricate taxation measure. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) is not showing to the people, let . alone the members of the House, the consideration which is due to them, and I quite agree with the newspaper statement that we are paying very dearly to allow the Prime Minister to proceed to the Imperial Conference. We cannot estimate fully what price will ultimately have to be paid by the people, but we know that if the legislation proposed by the Government yesterday had been passed, the country would have been poorer by the amount I have already indicated. Recent events have left no doubt as to where the sympathies of the Government lie. This Bill will reduce the taxation of companies by 2£d. in the £1, which, though it may not be all that the companies expected from their friends and advocates in the present Government, is nevertheless a very considerable measure of assistance. The shipping companies also have been favoured with special assistance, for we find that the taxation upon their income from freights and passenger services is to be levied on 7£ per cent, instead of on 10 per cent. Already the commercial interests have been relieved of taxation to the extent of about £700,000 through the reduction in postal rates, and the measure passed earlier in this sitting will give substantial help to the big pastoralists and squatters. The Government, however, gives no consideration to the man who is trying to make, both ends meet on a meagre income. If the Government desires to encourage the increase of population, it might do so by giving relief to those who are rearing large families.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– Those who have- undertaken the great responsibility’ of family life are not receiving that consideration which is their due; indeed, the Government is more ready to give consideration to bricks and mortar, stocks and bonds, and other vested interests. The Opposition has consistently pleaded for greater assistance for the family man who is doing his part by the nation, and who, therefore, is entitled to further relief from the burdens of taxation. It is a grave anomaly that many workers who are receiving no more than a basic wage are required, to pay income taxation. We desire that taxation shall be distributed equitably, so that it will weigh upon every man according to his capacity to pay. At present, those who can least afford to bear taxation are hard pressed by the various Governments, but those who, by reason of their better financial position, should more properly contribute towards the cost of government are riot required to do ‘ so in adequate measure. Honorable members on this side have also pleaded for an allowance to the taxpayer in respect of medical expenses incurred in behalf of himself or his family, but that humane and logical proposal has not met with the sympathy of the Government. Every consideration is given to shipping companies, rich pastoralists, and those engaged in commercial pursuits, but to the citizens who should count in the national life - those who are rearing large families of young Australians - no consideration is shown. I represent a large population that is subjected to grave economic disabilities, and I ‘ would not be worthy of the trust imposed in me if I did not emphatically protest against the inequitable system of taxation at present proposed by the Government. Last week the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) showed us how one of the shipping companies which this Government proposes to assist is making exorbitant charges on some of the best settlers in South Australia who are doing pioneering developmental work on Eyre’s Peninsula. These people are making great sacrifices, but, our appeal to the Government to give them some measure of relief and protection from the rapacity of the Adelaide Steam-ship Company fell on deaf ears. These people must continue to be the victims of the shipping monopoly; and not only so, but the Shipping Ring, especially firms of foreign register, who, in the working of their services do not observe white men’s conditions, must be given special remissions in taxation. Why should such companies as these have the basis of their taxation reduced from 10 per cent, to 7£ per cent? Instead of granting such concessions we should be removing ‘some of the disabilities which rest on the out-back settlers and the manual workers in the city and country. I am totally opposed to the Government’s methods of taxation. They weigh unfairly upon the people. Those who are least able to pay are compelled to bear the heaviest burden. Although remissions of taxation are being provided for these wealthy interests they are not prepared to lend their money to enable the Treasurer to meet his obligations. He expected that they would readily heed his pleadings, but they are turning a deaf ear to him, and will not accept the giltedged security he is offering. In the light of these facts I do not know why the Government should give them special concessions unless it is that it is specially the advocate and pleader for the plunderers of the people. I regard the whole of the financial proposals of the Government as unsound and illogical. The more quickly this country awakens to its position the better it will be for us all. The community has been grossly deceived. It returned to this Parliament representatives of two parties which were supposed to be hostile to each other. One section which declared itself to be the watch-dog of the people has, since the elections, joined the representatives of big business interests, and instead of compelling them to “ drop the loot “ and drop it quickly, it is content to hush up matters, place heavier burdens upon shoulders which are least able to bear them, and remit taxation to wealthy classes of people who are well able to pay it. “When the Labour party is returned to power - and that will be at no distant date - it will remove the gross anomalies that exist. It will at the earliest opportunity take away the advantages these special favorites have received, and will pass retrospective legislation which will oblige them to pay their just dues.
Mr.Forde. - They will use these words against the honorable member in his district.
– I am not afraid of that. The Government supporters will have considerable difficulty in persuading the electors of Hindmarsh that this Government has done anything to protect the interests of that district.
– The common sense of the electors will be a sufficient protection.
– The honorable member for Capricornia is drawing the honorable member for Hindmarsh away from the question before the House.
– I appreciate the pertinent interjections of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde). I shall confine my remarks strictly to the Bill before us.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh could not be drawn away.
– I could not; but the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) will at the first opportunity we have, be drawn away from the district which he represents. He will not be able to reconcile the attitude he has adopted on the legislation which has been before us recently with the interests of the electors whom he represents.
Because of the fortunate financial’ circumstances in which the honorable member for Boothby finds himself he will be quite prepared to help those who are’ similarly situated.
– He opposed the increase of old-age and invalid pensions, but he was favorable to making the pastoralists a free gift of £1,300,000.
– On a point of order, I ask whether the honorable member for Hindmarsh is speaking to the matter before the chair.
– I shall keep the honorable member within the confines of the debate.
– If the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) were not so impetuous he would see that I intend to apply my remarks to the measure before us. The honorable member for Boothby was opposed to any increase of the oldage and invalid pensions. If he could he would do away altogether with the meagre help, that the pensioners are now receiving. On the other hand he is prepared to give large remissions in taxation to the wealthy classes of this community. The manner in which the Government has introduced its legislation this session shows that it intends to help those who provided it with liberal funds for electioneering purposes. It has to look to the future, and to enable it to get sufficient funds to flood the newspapers with striking headlines and advertise ments and special articles’ by experts designed to deceive the electors, it is willing to give great help to those who will support it with money. It has in mind future appeals to the country. Honorable members opposite recognise that their seats in this House depend upon the assistance they receive from vested interests. The whole desire on the part of the Government in the early session of this new Parliament is to make special gifts to those who augment their fighting funds at the elections. The Government supporters are the representatives of the wealthy section of the community, and it is unfortunate that so many of the people bearing a heavy burden of taxation are deceived by the devices employed by the Nationalist and Country parties at election time. The Bill is an attempt to conserve the wealth of those who should pay a larger share to the revenue of this Government. The preference given to the large land-holders throughout the legislation which has been introduced this session shows clearly that the Government are here to represent the interests of the big financial and commercial institutions. They have no consideration for the man on the land, who has to bear extra taxation to relieve the big landholders of their lawful contributions to the upkeep of this country.
– That is not so.
– I invite the honorable member to read the provisions of the Bill. I am afraid that honorable members on the Ministerial side do not know its effect. They accept the measure without qualification and blindly follow the Government. It is left to the Labour party to direct the attention of the country to the gross anomalies existing in the Government’s financial proposals. Important measures, such as the Bill to increase the old-age and invalid pensions, are delayed in their presentation, and little or no measure of relief is given to those living on the basic wage. The big land corporations, who manipulate their trading accounts and balancesheets to evade taxation, receive special advantages from a sympathetic Government. During the war period, large trading companies in Australia charged exorbitant prices for goods which were retailed to the public. Enormous profits were made, and, to evade the payment of war-time taxation, the profits were utilized to remodel their business premises on an elaborate scale. Company stocks were watered to escape their rightful obligations in the hour of national emergency, and I would be unworthy of my position as a representative of the people in this House if I did not expose the efforts of the Government to place at the disposal of the large land-holders huge sums of money which should have been paid into the revenue of the Commonwealth. Prior to the last elections, the statement appeared in the Melbourne press that the business interests and pastoral agencies had subscribed very substantial amounts to the funds of political parties. I have a copy of the minutes of the executive of a certain organization with which the Country party had direct association, which reveals the fact that that party was required to carry out the bidding of the large land-holders of Queensland, who subscribed large sums for electioneering purposes.
– They would do anything in Queensland.
– Those who constitute the Anti-Labour forces in Queensland certainly would do anything to defeat the cause of Labour. When Labour is returned to office the great body of workers of this country will be relieved of unfair taxation, and those who are well able to afford it will contribute their just dues to the Government. When a Labour Government was in power the general community received some measure of relief. I may mention, for the special edification of the young and inexperienced member for New England (Mr. Thompson), that during the time a Labour Administration was in office it compelled the big landed interests of this country to pay their just dues to the national exchequer, and assisted in the opening up of many areas of valuable land in order that they might return more revenue than they were returning in the hands of those who previously held them.
– They were not settled by the workers.
– The honorable member is wrong. Workers were placed on the land. The small farmer and primary producer is a worker in the real sense of the term. The primary producer who assists in developing the great resources of the Commonwealth is along with the men in our workshops and factories helping to increase its wealth. Unfortunately, to-day financial and commercial parasites are riding on the backs of the people, who are subjected to hardships in their efforts for true development. The Government professes sympathy with the man on the land”, but their sympathy is confined to those who are big landed proprietors, big commercial and shipping agencies, and financial institutions. The Government also pays a special tribute to the financial parasites living in distant lands, and reaping the reward of the hard toil of residents of the Commonwealth who are called upon to bear burdens of taxation which should be borne by the wealthy in our community, and by absentees who are deriving large incomes from Australia. I hope that before this tragedy in national affairs has gone too far the Government “will recognise that there is a breaking point in the tolerance of the people. If ever a Government tried to force the people to take extreme measures, and was responsible for dissatisfaction, disorder, and class hatred, it is the present Commonwealth Government. If any unfortunate circumstances should occur as a result of the unjust legislation this House is now being asked to pass, I hope the responsibility for it will be placed on the right shoulders. I feel that this is an iniquitous measure, and were it not for my training in Christian circles I should not be as tolerant and moderate in my expressions. The Government would be well advised even at this late hour to withdraw this Bill. They should, at least, have the decency to delay it until they know what the State Governments are going to do in the matter of taxation. This measure is altogether premature.
– It is a political miscarriage.
– What is that?
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) will know what that is the next time he appears before the electors. I shall be very pleased to do my share to inform the electors of Wakefield that on every occasion that presented itself the honorable member supported the interests of the big landed proprietors, and commercial and financial institutions, at the expense of the people he represents. I should like to be able to persuade the Government to recognise their responsibility to the great mass of the people to whom we must look for the true development and maintenance of the ‘Commonwealth. There is misery, distress, and poverty on one hand and luxury and affluence on the other, and we find that the Government is prepared to assist those who are in the most favored position, at the expense of. thosewho are less fortunately situated.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Bayley). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Declaration of Urgency.
Mr. GROOM having declared that the Income Tax Assessment Bill is an urgent measure -
Question - That the Income Tax Assessment Bill is an urgent Bill - put.
The House divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the time allotted for the consideration of the Bill be as follows - For the secondreading stage until 7 a.m.; for the Committee stage up to and inclusive of clause 4 until 9 a.m. ; for the remaining Committee stages of the Bill until 6 p.m.; and for the remaining stages of the Bill until 6.15 p.m. this day.
– There is this to be said for the motion. A little more time is allowed honorable members for the consideration of this Bill than was made available in connexion with the measure disposed of a few hours ago. There are over twenty other measures on the business-paper. ‘ The motion just submitted only shows what a Government, with a brutal majority, will do. They have declared to be urgent a Bill which is not urgently required. It could very well have been held over until the right honorable the Prime Minister returns from London.
Evidently this Bill is part of the compact between the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, as leaders of their respective parties. I remind them that what is being done now may be regarded as a precedent in connexion with the conduct of parliamentary business. Some day it may re-act upon honorable members now supporting the Government. The method of doing business is no credit to the Government. It is unfair to the Opposition, and also to the country. Something might be said in justification of their attitude if we were dealing with measures that really were urgent. But’ it is self-evident that the legislation which has come before us, during the last few days, is in the interests of a certain class in the community. I contrast the policy of this Government with that of the Labour Government in Queensland. In that State the Government intend to confer some benefit upon the poorer sections of the community by increasing the exemption of the income tax to £250 a year. The Treasurer has told us that, as the Bill now before honorable members has been introduced to secure uniformity in the Commonwealth and State taxation proposals, we cannot expect an increase in the income tax exemption. The Government have no right to use their majority to bludgeon legislation through the House in this way. The Treasurer said that one reason for the urgency of the measure was the desire of the Government to bring the Commonwealth law into conformity with that of the States, but the only State with which the Commonwealth has come to an agreement is New South “Wales, which, like Queensland, grants an exemption of £250. If the Commonwealth Government is anxious to obtain uniformity, why does it not grant a similar exemption? But the purpose of the Bill is not to achieve uniformity; it is to give concessions to three sections of the community. To that end it has been declared urgent, and must be disposed of in a certain time. The Government has the numbers, and if it cares to use the Standing Orders in a brutal way it may do so. “We, on this side, will remain, and do our duty, and later we shall ask the people to declare whether they approve of the way in which this so-called business Government conducts parliamentary business. The present Prime Minister has given a worse exhibition of leading the House than has ‘ any other man in the history of this Parliament. Evidently the right honorable gentleman mistakes this House for his private business office in Minderslane,, and believes he has only to give his orders, and they must be obeyed. His docile followers are like marionettes; every time the string is pulled the figures move. They take no part in the business of the House, but lie about in rugs ready to vote when called upon to do so. It is a disgraceful exhibition. I say that with emphasis, and I have . every justification for doing so. I have never spoken in that way before, and I regret to be obliged to do so now.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.This Government is reducing parliamentary procedure to a farce. It declared the Land Tax Assessment Bill urgent, and ran away from one of the vital clauses in it. It has now declared urgent another measure to give effect to something entirely new in the history of Australia. The Prime Minister’s pretended courtesy is only a veneer. He has not shown any consideration to members of the Opposition since he has been leading the House. He adopts a high-handed method, but he and his Ministers run away from their Legislative proposals as soon as they encounter opposition amongst members of their own side. In this way they have come to grief on some of the most important measures introduced this session. The reason for urgency in connexion with the Bill now before us is that the Government does not wish it to meet with the same fate as did the last measure. The Prime Minister knows perfectly well that had he been able to rush through the Land Tax Assessment Bill before honorable members had an opportunity to read the clauses it would have been law by now. But because we had the opportunity of reading it, and exposing its purpose, somebody had to “ drop the loot.” This Bill also is designed to give hundreds of thousands of pounds to friends of the Government; there is just as much loot in it as in the last measure with which we dealt. The method of conducting Parliament adopted by the Government is cruelty to human beings. The Prime Minister may force the Bill through the House in five minutes, but the responsibility -for it will be his. The Opposition has already during this sitting saved the community over £1,000,000, but I was put to a considerable amount of trouble which would have been avoided if the Government had been prepared to tell the truth. The Treasurer said that the Government had nothing to hide, but it has everything to hide; otherwise it would have given me the names of leaseholders for which I asked three weeks ago, The Government is deliberately smothering and hiding the facts. Some people believed that the day of scandals passed when we .got rid of the last Government, but that Government was not a patch on the present Ministry. Were I given the opportunity, I could expose the ulterior motives that are behind this Bill. The Bill will result in a gift of a considerable sum to the crowd that provides the money to pay the election expenses of honorable members opposite. The Prime Minister is partial to foreign companies and is a member of a company that dare not register in Australia. This measure is to give special consideration to absentee and foreign companies, and the revenue that is lost will be recouped by taxing people whose a’ssessable incomes are £15 and £20 per annum, and who should not in ordinary circumstances pay any taxation at all. At the same time the Government is making presents of £20,000 and £30,000 to foreign companies which are spending their money abroad. The shareholders of the foreign company of which the. Prime Minister is a director will receive ten times as much benefit as will men living in this country. The Opposition is denied the opportunity to move amendments and Parliamentary debate is being reduced to a farce. The Government may declare this Bill urgent in order that it’ may be disposed of in time to allow honorable members opposite to attend a dinner. It is just about time that the members of the Opposition used every method to gag the Government. We have weapons which we could put in operation against the Government but which we have never employed yet. Members of the Government talk about their methods of economy. The Government was so bankrupt of policy that it went into conference with State Ministers and said to them, “ For God’s sake give us an Australian policy.” It failed to get one. Its first financial proposition was ruthlessly put aside by the Premiers; the second one suffered the same fate, and now the Government submits to the House a half-baked taxation proposal. This is the most stupid taxation Bill that has ever been put before this Parliament: Worse than that, it is inequitable. It is class legislation, inasmuch as it penalizes the ‘poor and rewards the rich. I have never known more injustice done by any taxation measure than will be done by that now before us. However, we should not over-strain ourselves any further. Let the Government pass the Bill in the time allotted, and we shall have a chance later to explain the facts to the people in places where there will be no guillotine to deprive us of our rights of speech. The Treasurer told us that we should have discussed the general principles contained in the Land Tax Assessment Bill. There were no general principles in the measure; it merely gave special consideration to the rich people who stand behind the Government. A feature of this Government is its open audacity. Many “ strong “ things were done by the last Government, but it was never as openly audacious as is the present Ministry. Honorable members opposite seem to think that the people are not looking. I can understand the adoption of that attitude by the Prime Minister, who has been schooled in big 6usiness and high finance, but it is incomprehensible on the part of the men who sit behind him and who were educated in a different school. I do not take the view that because certain things will benefit our party politically we should be content to see them done. Our duty is to try to protect the interests of the people.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Every time the guillotine has been employed financial measures have been before the House. The Government desires now to present more juicy plums to its friends. The guillotine was operated when the Supply Bm was rushed through the House; then it was used to force the Estimates through ; next it was applied to the War Service . Homes legislation, which dealt with matters which reeked with scandals; and then it was operated in connexion with the Land Tax Assessment Bill. Only the vigilance of the Opposition saved this country £1,300,000 in respect of that measure. Now another proposal, which will involve a large amount of money, is before honorable members, and the guillotine is again to be applied. If this Bill could be analyzed it would be shown to aim at an absolute misappropriation of public money. The methods of this Government may be truly described as robbery, and those who are connected with the Government are robbers. The Government is doing nothing else but misappropriate the taxpayers money, and it is refusing the Opposition any opportunity for proper debate on its proposals. The thieving methods of big business in Flinders-lane are being adopted in order that the big companies and landed interests of this country may be helped and the taxpayers robbed.
– I draw attention to the state of the House, and particularly to the state of the Government benches, on which there are only six members.
– Only three members of the Opposition are present.
– We are not here to keep a house. [Quorum formed.] Nothing stronger than the actions of this Government could be expected from the greatest gang of buccaneers in the world. The Government with this Bill is trying to “ put it over “ the country. In the last few hours its actions have been described as thieving and robbery. This Bill amounts to that. The Government is prostituting the Commonwealth Parliament and misappropriating the taxpayers’ money to make gifts to its wealthy friends. Every time more loot is required this composite Government operates the guillotine. I protest strongly against its use in connexion with this Bill. The Government is asking us to sit here until 6 o’clock to-night’ when we have already been here since 11 o’clock yesterday morning. It knows that by these methods it can completely exhaust the Opposition and prevent any analysis of its proposals. It is using the guillotine to cloak something which it does not desire the public to see. Where is the Prime
Minister ? He came into the Chamber for a few minutes a while ago, but has been absent most of the night. He is exhausting his servile supporters, but he has not been in the Chamber for an hour and a half during the whole sitting. I suppose he is resting somewhere while his supporters lie round the benches in an exhausted condition to keep a house for him.
– I think we should have a quorum. I call attention to the state of the House.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Bayley). - Fifteen minutes have not elapsed since the last call for a quorum.
– Does not that standing order apply to the same member calling a quorum?
– Just take a look at your Standing Orders. But I suppose you might just as well stretch them to suit the purposes of the Government.
Mr.ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER. - I request the honorable member for Werriwa to withdraw that statement.
– We have had so many instances of your partiality, Mr. Bayley, that I shall not withdraw the statement.
– I name the honorable member for Werriwa.
– I beg of the honorable member for Werriwa that he will not compel the Chamber to proceed to the extreme measure which will result in his suspension. At this early hour in the morning one’s feelings are very easily disturbed, and allowances may be made. I think the honorable member has never previously been named, and I trust that he will not compel me to move the motion which will be required unless he withdraws. I ask him to reconsider’ his position and respect the Chair.
– I withdraw the reflection on the Chair. I agree with the Treasurer that honorable members are likely to lose their heads at this time of the morning, and in the circumstances in which we are placed. I do not withdraw because of any special pleading from the Treasurer, but in consideration of my leader’s health, and his desire that all the members of the Opposition shall be here.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I protest against the extremely incorrect statements made by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) about the Bill before the House.
– I move -
That the Treasurer be no longer heard.
-I remind the honorable member for Darling that when the guillotine was applied last week I ruled that the motion that an honorable member be no longer hoard had the same effect as the closure, and that, therefore, I could not accept it.
– Then I move-
That the Acting Deputy Speaker’s ruling be dissented from.
– I ask the honorable member to give me his motion in writing.
– On a point of order, Iask you, sir, whether the guillotine is actually applied until this motion has been carried? I think it is not.
– I accept the correction of the honorable the Leader of the Opposition, and thank him for pointing out my error. I will accept the motion of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), that the Treasurer be no longer heard.
Question - That the Treasurer be no longer heard - put.
The House divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the Treasurer be no longer heard.
A motion without notice may be made, that a member who is speaking . “ Be not further heard,” and such question shall be put forthwith and decided without amendment or debate.
There is no mention of any qualification by the Deputy Speaker, and if you rule that the honorable member for Hume is not in order, it will be necessary to move to dissent from your ruling.
That the ruling of the Acting Deputy Speaker be disagreed with.
Mr. Speaker having resumed the chair
– I ask the honorable member for Hume to submit his motion in writing.
– Is the motion seconded.
– I second it.
– Then, in accordance with the Standing Orders, the debate thereon is adjourned until the next day of sitting.
– I rise to a point of order. Can you inform the House, sir, at what time the Treasurer commenced his speech, and how long he may yet continue to speak?
– The Treasurer first spoke, according to the records, at 5.40 a.m. The honorable member has not raised a point of order.
– I have risen to protest against the statements made here by the honorable members for Yarra and Werriwa.
– I rise to a point of order. We are now discussing the time to be allotted under the guillotine motion, and I understand that each speaker is allowed fifteen minutes.
– The Treasurer has been speaking for twenty minutes.
– I was not present when the Treasurer rose to speak. As he began to speak at 5.40 a.m. his time has expired.
– I protest against the proposed restriction on debate.
– Would I be in order in moving that the question be now put?
– In view of the at- tempted application of the closure to the guillotine motion, and as there appears to bo some confusion on the subject, I will refresh the minds of honorable members by reading one section of the guillotine standing order, which is standing order 262a. Sub-section vii. of that standing order reads -
Standing order A (the Closure) adopted by the House on 23rd November, 1905, shall not apply to any proceedings in respect of which time has been allotted in pursuance of this standing order.
– On a point of order, may I direct your attention, sir, to the fact that, in this case, the time has not been allotted. The motion to allot the time has not been carried.
– I submit that the guillotine standing order allots the time. It provides that an hour shall be allotted for the motion under discussion, and a sub-section of the guillotine standing order says that no limitation of that time shall be effected by the closure.
– The Minister for Defence has overlooked the fact that the House is now considering the question of allotting the time. I speak as one who had some part in drafting the guillotine standing order. I think that the Attorney-General and I were the fathers of it. Until the allotment of time is definitely made by the House the closure motion can be applied. .
– I rise to a point of order. You, sir, have a motion before you, which has been duly moved by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green).
– I merely asked a question of Mr. Speaker.
– Will the honorable member for Darling state his point of order ?
– It is, sir, that a motion has been submitted, and must be put unless the honorable member who moved it withdraws it.
– Does the honorable member for Richmond desire that his motion should be put?
– I merely asked whether I would be in order in moving that motion.
– I understand that there is about half a minute of my time left. There is an old saying that “ He who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword,” and the time is not far distant when the Government will be literally put to the sword by the electors of this country who are clamouring in their dissatisfaction with the contemptible methods adopted by the Government. The press of Australia is also voicing its dissatisfaction.
– As the time allowed by the Standing Orders for the consideration of this matter, has now expired, I shall put the question.
Question - ‘That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
– As the voteless representative of the stalwart pioneers who are endeavouring to develop the lonely outposts of Australia, I again rise for the purpose of making an appeal to honorable members to do something on their behalf. It is up to this Parliament ‘to show, some consideration for the yeoman service which these people are rendering, not only to the Northern Territory, but to the Commonwealth. When the Bill reaches the Committee stages I intend to submit an amendment to insert in Part I. of the Act the following : - 5a. (1) This Act shall not apply to any incomes derived from primary production in the Northern Territory by a resident in the Territory prior to the 1st day of July, 1927.
I indicate my proposed amendment now in order that honorable members may have an opportunity of considering what it may mean to the Northern Territory. The idea is not a novel one. A similar provision is in operation in the New Guinea territory which is now being administered by the Commonwealth. In New Guinea there is a total exemption of all incomes derived from personal exertion or primary production, but my amendment will confine the exemption to the primary producers in the Northern Territory. If it is logical to grant exemption in respect to incomes derived from all sources in New Guinea territory, it is equally logical that the Governmentshould do something on similar lines for the people in the Northern Territory. Honorable members will no doubt remember my references in this Chamber the other day to the hardships endured, by the pioneers in the central portions of Australia. These people are out there working under extraordinarily difficult conditions. The facilities for the marketing of their stock are most unsatisfactory. Many of them have their wives and children to help them in this yeoman task which they have set themselves. Educational facilities, as ordinarily understood, are denied to them, so they have to undertake the education of their own children. They are doing a noble work there, proving to the rest of Australia that white men can live and produce in the Northern Territory. It is only fair that they should receive some compensation in the way of a remission of .taxation. In this respect nothing that we can do for them will be too much. It should be the duty of this Parliament to provide every incentive possible for the development of the Northern Territory, because success there will be reflected in other portions of the Commonwealth. I propose to limit the exemption to a period of five years. Parliament will then be in a position to judge its value and decide what may be done for the future.
– I regard this Bill as an honest attempt to bridge, as far as practicable, the difference between the methods of assessments for income taxation in the Commonwealth and the various States, and to bring the Commonwealth into line with the States, so as to make possible the collection of the tax by one authority. The Leader of the. Opposition (Mr. Charlton) suggested that constitutional difficulties might be involved in the optional methods of this measure, but it appears to me that the difficulties of. the past were due chiefly to the existence of different schedules for live stock in the various States. In this Bill we have a clause which permits of optional methods being adopted, but the conditions for all the States are uniform. Therefore, constitutional difficulties need not be feared. The clause which makes it optional whether any natural increase shall be regarded as taxable or exempted altogether until it is disposed of, will give the greatest satisfaction to the men on the land. Another point taken by the Leader of the Opposition was that the interest on the capital value of the house should not be regarded as income. I cannot agree with him. If a person invests £1,000 in a company at 4 per cent., the interest, £40 a year, is properly regarded as income and taxable. Likewise if he invests that sum in a dwelling house the rent upon the investment may fairly be regarded as income or interest on capital, and taxable in the same way. The honorable member also objected that while the amount to be regarded as income on the capital value of the house was reduced to 4 per cent., nothing was to be allowed for repairs. On such a low basis as 4 per cent, one could not reasonably expect the Department to make any further allowance. If only 4 per cent, is charged, even if the cost of repairs in addition is not allowed, the house will be cheaper to the owner-occupier than any house which he could rent. It has also been asserted by the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) that the Bill is premature, and therefore that it should not have been declared urgent. One point that appears to have been lost sight of by those honorable gentlemen is that if in twelve months’ time the Government retire from the field of individual income taxation altogether, much of this Bill will not then be necessary. Therefore, it is more or less temporary. It must apply for this year only, and if it is not passed now, it might as well not be passed at all. The honorable member for Hindmarsh made a number of random statements concerning the Bill, contending that it would confer substantial benefits upon wealthy individuals, and that it entirely disregarded the position of the man with a small income and a large family. That criticism was not at all fair. The honorable member advised those who are sitting on this side to read the Bill carefully. I believe that if he had followed his own advice he would have realized that some of the criticism he levelled at the Bill was unfounded. He stated that the big Australian shipping companies would benefit from this, measure. The proposed reduction in the basis from 10 per cent, to 7i per cent, relates only to shipping companies registered overseas, and in no way affects the Australian companies. Whilst I hold no brief for any of the big companies, I welcome the proposed reduction in the charges on, the shipping companies, because that is one of the only possible means of bringing about a reduction in freight. So long as these companies are heavily taxed, so long will the freights remain high. If more of the charges which are levied on shipping companies are reduced there will be” at least some hope that freights may be re- duced; there can he no hope otherwise. Therefore, I, as a representative of primary production, welcome that clause in the Bill which proposes to reduce the taxation on shipping companies trading from countries overseas to- Australian ports. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) said also that the Bill does nothing to assist the man who is earning a wage and trying to bring up a big family. It was not so long ago that the allowance in respect of each child was increased from £26 to £40. That means that a workman with a family of five would be exempt from taxation in respect of an income of £400, namely, £200 general exemption, and a further £200 for the five children. It cannot be said that a Government which permits £400 of income to be exempt from taxation is un-. duly careless of the workman who is bringing up a family. A further statement made by the honorable member was that an effort was made in this Bill to reduce taxation to the big companies in order to recoup them for the payment of large sums into party funds, and he suggested that the Country party had received some, of that money. I know that the Victorian organization which loyally supported me in my election has never received one halfpenny other than the small annual subscriptions of its own members. It has never received any of the big sums which allegedly were paid by the big vested interests.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat may claim that the Country party has never received any large contributions from wealthy interests to its political funds, but he is now associated with a party which does receive a considerable amount of such support, and no doubt he will benefit therefrom at the next election. A large, number of taxpayers in various avenues of life were expecting considerable relief from income taxation. The Treasurer will at once retort that it is unreasonable to expect any relief from income taxation at this juncture, when negotiations between the’ Federal and State authorities are proceeding with a view to devising some method whereby the Commonwealth authority may step out of a certain area of taxation and leave it entirely to the
States. The Commonwealth also hopes to arrange for one tax collector on behalf of both Federal and State authorities. Unfortunately, whilst the Government may have entered into those negotiations in a very optimistic spirit, its expectations have not been realized, and the Federal representatives at the Conference with State Ministers are largely to blame for the breakdown in the negotiations. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer seemed to submit to the Conference crude and ill-digested proposals, and the Treasurer of New South Wales (Sir Arthur Cocks) almost, immediately took exception to the calculations arrived at by the Federal authorities. Events have proved that his objections were well founded.
– That is not so.
– The many apologies made by Federal Ministers prove thatthey were much astray in some of the estimates they made in regard to the savings that would be effected by the suggested changes.
– That statement is quite incorrect.
– I am bound to say that the honorable gentleman, when he introduces Bills to the House, does not give that information that a deliberative assembly has a right to expect from the Treasurer. Whether it is owing to the rush and hurry in which the Ministry is indulging in order to cram into two and a half months business that should occupy Parliament for six or eight months I know not, but honorable members on this side of the House have good cause for complaint that the information afforded by Ministers during this session has been very scant indeed. I believe that if honorable members opposite were free to express their views they would indorse my complaint. One does not expect a Minister, when explaining a finance Bill, upon the motion for the second reading, to give a detailed description of the clauses, but as a rule a Minister who has a good grip of his subject is able, at the second reading stage, to so outline the main features of the measure that any body with ordinary intelligence is able to understand what is proposed. Then, when clauses are reached in Committee, members are much better qualified to deal with the Bill intelligently.
It has fallen to the lot of the Opposition to pick out and expose defects in the measures introduced by the Government, and some of them have been so emasculated and amended, owing to our criticism, that the Minister was scarcely able to recognise them when they left the Committee. The Treasurer, in his Budget speeches, made this reference to income taxation -
Amost salutary check against extravagance, is provided when the Government spending the money has to justify its actions to the taxpayers whose money is involved.
One can hardly conceive of the Treasurer giving utterance to that ‘statement and then acting as he has done during the last few days. He has had money to burn- £700,000 for the people of Flinderslane, and one section of the composite Ministry has received its share of the loot; and then £1,300,000 for the wealthy squatters, and the Country party section of the Ministry has received its quota. But now we find that other concessions are to be given. I believe that if this Bill were properly scrutinized we should be able to discover in some of its involved clauses another conspiracy to confer a benefit upon the rich men of the community.
– Which are those clauses? I have not been able to find them.
– Probably the Treasurer does not understand his own Bill. He expects to receive £13,000,000 from income taxation during the present year, but I am not sure that his estimate will be realized if he continues to fritter away the income that should be derived from those who should be amongst the largest payers of taxation. I scanned the clauses relating to exemption in the hope of finding some evidence of an attempt by the Treasurer to put into operation the principles he preached when he was sitting on a corner bench. He was then a critic of finance and outlined certain reforms which he thought should be introduced. I naturally expected that when he assumed the responsibility of Treasurer he would endeavour to carry out some of those reforms. Whether the honorable gentleman finds himself in a cramped position through representing only one side in ‘ the ‘ composite Ministry, whether he has not the same amount of freedom that he had as a free lance, or whether the Prime Minister - who has so recently come from Flinders-lane - has laid a repressive hand upon him and told him to surrender some of the ambitions he had entertained as a party Leader out of office, I do not know but we do not find in this Bill any of the reforms which were advocated by the present Treasurer when he was sitting in the cross benches on the Government side of the House in the last Parliament.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– Honorable members on this side of the Chamber are disappointed that the Treasurer has not attempted any reforms. Possibly the Government has not had time to formulate its policy, or it may have realized that reforms could not be dealt with in this brief session. I donot want to speak harshly of Ministers, but it appears to me that the representatives of the States who attended the Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers twisted the Federal Ministers round their little fingers. They seemed to do exactly as they liked, and the proceedings seemed to consist of a continuous retirement of the Federal Ministers because of the aggressive conduct of the State Treasurers. Altogether too much black type was used in printing the report of the proceedings. Some of the headings were -
Double taxation and payments by the Commonwealth to the States.
Commonwealth Government’s memorandum.
First step towards relief of double taxation.
Ninety-nine per cent, of taxpayers relieved.
Saving of £400,000 in administrative charges.
Discontinuation of duplication of returns from 742,244 taxpayers.
How much of that has actually been carried into effect? I ask the Treasurer to give us some information on that point.
– I shall do so when I am dealing with the Income Tax Collection Bill to-morrow.
– So we are to have still another Bill. It will be extraordinary for us to get any information from a’ Minister. I do not desire to be acrimonious, but I must say that I regret that the Ministers who represented this National Parliament at the Conference to which I have referred seemed inclined to give ground all the time to what are called State rights. They appeared to be willing to do anything to help the States as against the Commonwealth. They went to the Conference to get Some kind of a financial programme.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton.) would not give the States anything if he had his way.
– That is not correct. If the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) had looked into history he’ would have seen that Western Australia was dealt with particularly well at the time the Customs revenue was taken over by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Government also agreed to grant the 25s. per capita payment to the States. I am opposed to handing over to the State authorities the work of collecting our taxes. Before 1925 expires this Parliament will have to meet about £72,000,000 of loan money. We have to meet nearly £50,000,000 this year. Conversion of loans will have to take place, and I cannot see how we can continue to pay a large portion of our revenue to the States. Too much has been given to the State authorities. The first Ministers of the Federal Parliament, who were supposed to be strong State rights men, were not prepared twenty-three years ago to give away as much as the Ministers of the present Government were prepared to give at the recent Conference. The Bill before us provides for quite a. number of exemptions from taxation. Dividends and bonuses or profits, or the face value of bonus shares distributed by a company amongst its members or shareholders, are to be. exempt from taxation. Honorable members must know that these exemptions will benefit foreign corporations and big business companies.
– Surely the honorable member does not wish to drive these concerns away from Australia.
– My experience is that they are very much inclined to stick to Australia more closely than ants stick to sugar.
– That shows their good taste..
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) knows that capital is not being frightened from Australia. When the British capitalists tried to frighten people from lending money to the Queensland Labour Government some of the shrewdest New York financiers provided all the money that the Government required. If the Government of this country is to be carried on in the future as it is at present, there may be some trouble about finance, but with decent Government the country is so substantial that all the. money it requires will be available. Under a Labour regime financiers from all parts of the world will be willing to spend millions of pounds in Australia. Gentlemen I have met at the Commercial Travellers Club, who travel through Gippsland and in other States of Australia, have told me that they prefer a Labour Government to be in power. One man in particular told me that business had never been better than when the Labour Government ruled. I protest’ against granting exemptions in taxation to wealthy companies. The struggling farmer and the man who is bringing up a large family should be helped. When the present Prime- Minister was Treasurer I asked him for some consideration for men with big families who were compelled to, pay for medical attention and to spend -money on medicines, hospital fees, and nursing homes. Expenditure in these directions should certainly be deducted from income, and should be free from taxation. The Flinders-lane Treasurer’ did not agree to my proposals. I wonder whether the present Treasurer will do so. I shall move a number of amendments in Committee. I do trust that the Government will grant some relief to the poorer classes of the community, and that it will bring in some of the reforms which the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) advocated last year.
– The time allotted for the second reading of the Bill has now expired.
Question - That, the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section thirteen of the Principal Act is amended -
by inserting after sub-section 1 thereof the following sub-section: - “ 1a. The income tax payable by a company shallbe at such rate as is declared by the Parliament.”; and
by inserting in sub-section 2 thereof, after the words “ taxable income “ (first occurring) the words “of a taxpayer other than a company “.
– It is very difficult to grasp what the first amendment means, as we have not the Income Tax Rates Bill before us. It is evident that Parliament cannot fix the rate from time to time, especially when in recess. The second part of the clause provides for the assessment of taxes for the financial year beginning on the 1st July, 1922, and subsequent years. Evidently it would apply to the year which expired on the 30th
June last.- I should like the Treasurer to explain the effect of the clause as amended.
– Section 13 of the principal Act really dealt with the liability to taxation, and sub-clause 1 defines the way in which income tax shall be levied upon companies. Since the rate may be altered from year to year, this general statement is made : “ The income tax payable by a company shall be at such rate as is declared by the Parliament.” The Income Tax Rates Bill will impose the proposed flat rate of ls. upon companies. The balance of the clause really deals with. the averaging principle. It provides for an average rate on income that is derived by the individual as excluded from a company by the addition of the words set out in sub-clause b - “ of a taxpayer other than a company.” The flat rate for companies will dispense with the averaging principle. That is the only alteration to be made in section 13 of the principal Act.
– What will be the loss owing to the alteration of the tax?
– Taking the figures up to and including 1921 as a basis, the Government believe that a loss of from £100,000 to £200,000 will be made.
.Clause 2, to a large extent, affects the whole object of the Bill. The object of the Bill is to so amend the existing Act as to bring it into conformity with the Acts in some of the States in order that effect may be given to the agreement which has been thrown on the table, but which we have had no opportunity to discuss. A very important question is raised by this clause, and that is the surrender by the Commonwealth of its right to tax incomes. . The object of the clause is to make the Commonwealth company rate uniform with that of the Victorian Act.
– I presume, from the honorable gentleman’s Budget statement, that it is proposed to fix a rate of1s. in the £1, which is the rate under the Victorian Act.
– But the New South Wales rate is 2s. 6d. in the £1. The rates will not be uniform; it is the method of collection that will be uniform.
– The Bill appears to be designed to placate the Victorian Government, which, was putting up a fight against the Commonwealth. In surrendering the right to tax incomes, the Government is surrendering the right to revenue for the Commonwealth. It is notorious that in Victoria, and I believe in all the States, the method of collecting taxation is not as efficient as it is for the Commonwealth. One very rarely hears of any prosecution for non-payment «f State income tax, but people are frequently prosecuted for the non-payment of the Commonwealth tax. I have come across a number of people who freely admit that they never dream of sending in a return in connexion with the State tax, but they have to send in returns for the Commonwealth tax, and efficient Commonwealth officers are engaged in following up those who. fail to send in returns. We had no opportunity to deal with this important matter on the second reading of the Bill. The Government has professed that its object is to avoid duplication, but in this Bill it is doing nothing of the sort. If the Commonwealth authority were the sole collector of taxation duplication would be avoided, because itcould collect taxation on incomes derived in more than one State. This proposal will not avoid duplication, because we must still retain a department and necessay officers for the collection of income tax derived from more than one State. The Government is continuing the necessity for duplication in other forms of taxation also. In the one matter in connexion with which duplication is unnecessary and might be avoided, the Government has proposed no reform; I refer to the matter of valuation. We have Commonwealth, State, and municipal valuations of the same areas of land.
– There is no State land tax in New South Wales.
– There are land taxes in every State.
– In New South Wales land taxation is handed over to the local governing bodies.
– There are valuations for taxation purposes in every State. They are made by State and Federal authorities, and they represent the worst form of duplication in connexion with taxation. The Government pretends to carry out a wonderful reform to bring about economy, but it makes no provision for uniform valuations for the purposes of taxation. There is duplication in connexion even with the collection of the entertainments tax, and it should be a simple matter to secure uniformity in connexion with that tax. It is difficult to know on which of the clauses different questions involved in this Bill should be raised.
– The question of following dividends for taxation purposes had better be raised on clause 4.
– We are now dealing with the rate of tax on companies and the question of uniformity. When we come to clause 4 I shall have something to say on the question of following dividends for taxation purposes. I shall have to call attention also to the extraordinary method of drafting which has been adopted in this Bill. In clause 3 something is taken out, and in clause 4 it is put in.
– The Bill will be of greatassistance to persons who desire to evade taxation.
– Yes; and very little, if any, economy will be effected by it. Under clause 4 most elaborate methods are proposed to follow dividends into the hands of individual shareholders. It will be .found that that clause raises the question of rebates, and any one who knows anything on the subject of income taxation knows that the bulk of the work in the taxation office is in assessing the amount of rebates. Moneys paid in dividends out of undistributed profits may be paid out of undistributed profits for 1916- 17, 1917-18, 1918-19, or 1920-21, and so on, and it will be utterly impossible to say how much should come out of each year, because the rate may have varied in different years. It might be ls. 5d. in the £1 in one year, 2s. 8d. in another year, and ls. in still another year. All these matters will have to be calculated under the rebate system, which might very easily have been abolished. The Government had to its ‘hand a magnificent report on taxation from the Taxation Commission. The Prime Minister eulogized that report on one occasion, when he. told the House that there was no document on record which, was such a guide to him when he was Treasurer on all the main questions of taxation. Yet the Government has ignored the report of the Commission. . It has recommended a complex system for declaring a company tax rate of so much in the £1 and then trying to pursue dividends into the hands of individual shareholders. It is a fundamental principle of taxation that incomes should be taxed in the hands of the individual. The only company tax that should be imposed is a tax on undistributed profits. It is possible to avoid the whole difficulty of rebates and the pursuing of dividends, as has been clearly explained by the Taxation Commission’s report. Under the Federal Income Tax Act there is no provision for a company tax with the exception of a tax of 2s. 5d. in the £1 on the undistributed profits. Under this Bill that is swept aside, and instead* of it we have proposed a tax of ls. in the £1 on the whole of the profits of the company, whilst the portion of the profits distributed will be taxable in the hands of the individual shareholders provided that if their rate of tax is higher than ls. in the £1, the amount paid as a company tax will be rebated. If the individual shareholder does not pay at the rate of ls. in the £1 there will be no rebate. In other cases where the individual shareholder’s rate may be 6d. in the £1 he will be taxed at the rate of ls. in the £1.
– That is not quite correct. In some cases where the rate would be 9d. under the existing Act, it will only be 6d. under this Bill.
– The Bill provides that the dividends of a company will not be taxed in the hands of the individual shareholder if his rate of tax is under ls., yet a person drawing £200 a year from a company, and no other income, will be taxed under the Bill at the company rate of ls. in the £1. This will bring in thousands of people who have never previously had to” pay Federal income tax. In this way the Government expect to make up the loss of revenue which will follow from the concessions made to some big people.
– We expect a loss of revenue under that part of the Bill.
– According to the report of the Royal Commission 200,000 persons whose incomes are so low as to be exempt from Federal income tax will have to pay the tax under this proposal.
– Surely that is not intended.
– It is, because the Government estimate that they will receive practically the same revenue under the Bill as they received before, and if the taxation upon companies is reduced, the revenue lost in that way must be made good from some other source. Under this Bill widows and orphans dependent for their incomes upon shares in companies left them when their breadwinner was removed by death, will have to pay taxation. The Government would have done better if they had followed the recommendations of the Taxation Commission and imposed a company tax on undistributed profits, instead of pursuing dividends into the hands of individual shareholders and continuing the rebate system. The company tax of ls. in the £1 will take the place of the present rate of 2s. 5d. on the undistributed profits, and these profits, the Treasurer tells us, are reckoned at 50 per cent. This money is placed to the credit of a reserve account, but frequently these undistributed profits are disbursed in a later year in the form of bonus shares, upon which no taxation is levied. Thus there is a distinct incentive to those who control big companies to place in reserve as much as possible - they cannot exceed 33 per cent, arid get relief - and in a later year distribute this reserve capital to the shareholders in the manner indicated. By this method taxpayers whose rate would probably be 5s. in the £1, pay a flat rate of ls. in the £1 upon one-third of their dividends, whilst a person who in ordinary circumstances would pay no tax at all is brought under the ls. rate. This is manifestly unfair. It means that minors and widows, whose sole income so often is represented by company dividends on shares bequeathed to them, are all brought in under a general flat rate of ls. in the £1. As that is equal to 5 per cent, of the income, it follows that a person with an income from company shares of £50 per annum will be ‘ called on to pay £2 10s. in income tax.
– The company pays the tax and does not deduct it.
– Did any one ever hear such logic! Who pays this taxation?. The company, of course, and the tax must be deducted from the dividends available to the shareholders.
– The honorable member did not. talk like that yesterday when he was referring to Dalgety’s.
– And on this measure the honorable member for Forrest will not speak with regard to Dalgety’s as he spoke yesterday on the Land Tax Assessment Bill. The only sound principle in income, taxation is that the burden shall be imposed in proportion to the ability of the person to bear it.
– What I wished to convey to the honorable member was that big companies are involved in . this proposal as well as in the other mentioned by the honorable member.
– But the big companies concerned in this Bill will get relief from taxation just as they will be given relief under the other measure. I admit that certain small shareholders in these companies will obtain relief, but the larger shareholders will benefit to a much greater extent. The whole question of company taxation is opened up by this Bill, -and honorable members should give it careful attention. I cannot see how the measure can be amended without completely recasting it. As it stands, the’ Bill is absolutely unfair. However, at the Treasurer’s request, I shall deal with this subject more in detail on clause 4.
– All honorable members on this side of the House are opposed to the principle of the Bill, which has been drafted so clumsily that it is difficult to understand its effects on the principal Act. I have. always opposed the surrender by the Commonwealth of any of the sovereign powers vested in this Parliament by the Constitution. There must be no bartering of our Constitutional rights, although, as in the case of taxation on Crown leaseholds, they may be suspended as the result of a certain arrangement betwen the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States. It is discreditable to the Government to throw this loosely-drafted measure on the table at this ungodly hour of the morning, and then, by means of the guillotine, force it through. Honorable members have no possible chance of analyzing its provisions and understanding what its effect will be upon existing legislation. I agree with the honorable member for Yarra that there is reason to believe that a fair quantity of loot will’ be disbursed as the result of this arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States with regard to company taxation. It is quite evident that some taxpayers will evade this payment. In New South Wales there are as many examples of evasion of taxation as can be quoted in respect to Victoria. The State Act is much looser than the Federal Statute, and the more power we hand over to the States in regard to collecting taxation, the greater will be the risk of evasion. In regard to the Land Tax Assessment Bill; and the measure now before the Committee, the clear course for the Government to follow was to act upon the recommendations of the two Royal Commissions which were appointed to report upon taxation problems. The Royal Commission in 1921 recommended that the Commonwealth should be the sole taxing agency. That is so obviously sensible that it was hardly necessary to appoint a Royal Commission to tell us that. If the Commonwealth were the only collector, it would collect all taxation from everybody, irrespective of State boundaries. I cannot understand why the Treasurer has again deliberately cast aside the findings of the Commission and substituted something entirely different. No doubt he will say that the States are responsible, but if the Government believed in the Commonwealth becoming the one collecting authority, it could easily obtain from the people the necessary indorsement. The Treasurer said that this Bill would, to some extent, do away with duplication. While seven collecting authorities are in the field there cannot be uniformity, because each Parliament will have a different outlook upon taxation problems. Therefore it is idle to talk of. avoiding duplicating, when no effort is made to make the Commonwealth the sole taxing agency. Instead of doing that, the Commonwealth Government is adopting a vicious principle by voluntarily bartering away some of the powers that the Commonwealth possess torday. No doubt the
Government is pandering to the new States advocates. Every clause in the Bill should be re-drafted so that the meaning may be made clear and definite, and so enable honorable members to discuss the measure intelligently.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section fourteen of the principal Act is amended -
by omitting from paragraph (k) of sub-section (1.) thereof the word “and” (last occurring); and
by adding at the end of sub-section (1.) thereof the following paragraph : - “ ; and (m) dividends, bonuses, or profits, or the face value of bonus shares distributed by a company among its members or shareholders, except as provided under section sixteen of this Act.”
Section proposed to be amended -
The following incomes, revenues, and funds shall he exempt from income taas: -
the income of any society or association established formusical purposes, or for the encouragement of music, art, science, or literature, and not earned on for the purposes of profit or gain to the individual members thereof;
.I should like to know whether the salary paid to Mr. Little, Trade Commissioner in the East, will be clear of income tax. Owing to the depreciation of the value of money, and because he was clever enough to beat the Government, he received considerably more salary than we anticipated he would get. He showed how easy it was for a smart man to take advantage of the Government and its officials. Paragraph h, sub-section 1, states - .
The official salaries of foreign Consuls and the Trade Commissioners of any part of the British Dominion’s - are exempt from income tax. It is not clear how far that provision extends. I should also like to know whether the Bill will affect co-operative companies. The last time we were dealing with the principal Act we deliberately excluded from taxation the dividends or bonuses of co-operative companies. Prior to the amendment being made those divi dends paid taxation twice. If the clause will interfere with the amendment then made, the Opposition will have to fight it as far as the limited time available will permit. While the Bill does not specifically mention cooperative societies, it might be held to include them. I believe the honorable members for Indi (Mr. Cook), Echuca (Mr. Hill), and Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) supported my amendment on a previous occasion. The dividends of cooperative societies are not really profits, but rebates. If they are taxed while in the hands of the co-operative societies, and again when they reach the shareholders, they will be taxed twice. The question affects thousands of people in Newcastle, Balmain, and Lithgow districts, as well as members of co-operative societies in many other parts.
– The only alterations to he made in the Act are those set out in the amending Bill, which will not in any way affect the provisions relating to co-operative companies.I went into this matter fully with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) three or four months ago, when we were able to insure that the provisions of the Act should apply to certain cases which he brought under my notice. Co-operative societies are specially dealt with in section 4 of the Act, which says - “ Income “ includes -
The taxation of the salary of the Trade Commissioner in the East will not be affected by the Bill. The Commonwealth is not able to tax salaries paid for work done outside Australia. In regard to dividends, the. Bill simply defines the position as set out in section 16 of tha Act.
– I move -
That before the word “ by “, line 3, the following words be inserted : - “ by amending paragraph (k) of sub-section (1) thereof by inserting after the word “ science “ the word “ sport “.
There are many sporting clubs connected with cricket, golf, tennis, and other pas-‘ times which should be included in this provision. I hope the Treasurer will accept the amendment.
– I call attention to the want of a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– I regret that I am unable to accept the amendment, because it is almost impossible to define the word “ sport “ in such a way as to include only those clubs that the honorable member has in mind. The word would, no doubt, be interpreted to include proprietary racing clubs, and the money paid for admission to matches of the various football leagues would also be exempted from taxation. All subscriptions paid by the individual members of sporting bodies are exempt from income tax. It is only where the outside public find the money for these sports that the payments are. taxed. ‘
– Will the Treasurer give some explanation in regard to paragraph b ?
– It has been inserted on account of the inclusion of a new subclause in section 16, and the matter can’ best be discussed when the next clause is under consideration.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Section 16 of the principal Act is amended - (a)by inserting in the proviso to paragraph (a) thereof, after ‘the word “ account “, the words except where the taxpayer otherwise elects, as provided in paragraph (aa) of this section “ ; (b)by omitting . from paragraph (a) the definition of “ Value “ and inserting in its stead the following definition: - “For the purposes of this paragraph ‘ Value’ means -
in the case of trading stock (not being live’ stock) - the actual cost price or market selling value of each. article of trading stock, or the price at which each article of trading stock canbe replaced, at the option of the taxpayer in respect of each article; and
in the case of live stock (not being live stock used as beasts of burden or as working beasts) - the cost price or market selling price at the option of the taxpayer. The cost price in relation to natural increase of live stock shall ‘be the value per head of the live stock selected by the taxpayer within the limits . prescribed and the value so selected shall be used for the purposes of the assessment of the financial year beginning on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-three, and of all subsequent years; “;
by inserting after paragraph (a) thereof the following paragraph: - ” (aa) Notwithstanding anything contained in paragraph (a) of this section, an owner of live stock may elect to omit from the account required by that paragraph the value of all natural increase of any live stock owned by him, and born during the year in which the income is derived, and. shall not be assessed for income in respect of that natural increase except to the extent to which he has disposed of it. The owner of the live stock shall give notice of his election, in writing, in the . prescribed form signed !by him, and deliver it at the office of the Commissioner on or before the prescribed date. Every notice given by a taxpayer in pursuance of this paragraph shall be irrevocable; “;
by inserting at the end of paragraph (b) the following proviso: - “ Provided where the dividends, bonuses, profits or shares referred’ to in sub-paragraph (i) or (ii) of this paragraph have been distributed out of profits upon which the company has paid or is liable to pay tax under the provisions of any Income Tax Act which comes into operation after the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and twentythree, the amount of those dividends, bonuses, profits or shares shall be excluded from the assessment of the income of the taxpayer unless the rate of tax payable by him on income from property, if the dividends, bonuses, profits or shares are included^ exceeds the rate of tax paid or payable ‘by the company:
Provided further that if the rate of tax exceeds the rate of tax paid or payable by the company, the taxpayer shall be entitled to a rebate inhis assessment of the amount of tax paid by the company on that part of the said dividends, bonuses and profits, and of the face value of the said shares, which is included in his taxable income;”; and
– In this clause the recommendation of the Taxation Commission has been followed in regard to the way in which live stock ‘ should be valued. The recommendation was that they should be assessed at the cost or market value. That is to be done in regard’ to all stock, including the natural increase, but an alternative is provided with respect to the natural increase in that it may be assessed at the cost or market value, or it may be excluded entirely, and not taken into account until it has been sold.
– Is the option exercisable every year?
– The taxpayer must elect which system he will adopt, and then adhere to it.
– Will he not have an opportunity to change his mind?
– It is necessary, in obtaining a proper balance from year to year,’ for a taxpayer to adopt the same system throughout. It has been found that many small land-holders prefer to take the natural increase into account when they sell-; but large owners of stock, who keep proper books of account, prefer to value the natural increase at cost or market rates. The House last year definitely determined to adopt the averaging system instead of carrying forward all losses, and the Government is following the Commission’s recommendation as far as it can. The alternative method of accounting for the natural increase, only when it is sold, is availed of to a large extent in Victoria and New South Wales, and its adoption in this Bill will ‘tend to simplify the assessment and collection of returns for both those States, and to some extent for Queensland, where a similar practice has been in vogue for many years.
Paragraph d deals with the question of the taxation, of dividends, and is consequential upon the proposition to tax the whole of the profits of a company at a flat rate. It is provided that in such cases where the rate payable by the taxpayer is greater than a dividend of one shilling in the pound, the dividend shall be followed and used to ease the rate of the graduated tax. When that has been determined there shall be a rebate to the taxpayer of one shilling he has already paid on the amount. In the case of a small taxpayer the dividend is eliminated altogether instead of - to affect the graduated rate. I think a typical instance of what takes place in the case of a person with an income of £600, whose salary was £400 and the dividends received amounted to £200, would be as follows : - The rate of tax on £600 income from property is 10.0942 pence in the pound. As this does not exceed a shilling, the dividend must be excluded from -the total income in the shareholder’s assessment, and he would be personally assessed for tax on a salary of £400. The tax on £400 would be 6.9075 pence in the pound, or £11 10s. 3d. That is the total amount he would have to pay. The Commonwealth would then have to collect tax on this taxpayer’s total income of £600 as follows:- On the £200 dividend he had received from the company at one shilling in the pound, the amount would be £10, and on the £400 salary of theindividual, £11 10s. 3d., or £21 10s. 3d. Under the former method in force by which shareholders were taxed. on dividends, the taxpayer would pay as follows:- On £400 salary, at 8.0587 pence, or £13 ‘8s. 7d., and on £200 in’ dividends, 10.0942 pence, £8 8s. 3d., making a total of £21 16s. l0d. Even if we excluded the amount paid by the company to the shareholder, it would mean that in such cases the amount charged would be less than that under the present system. The Bank of New South Wales, or any other longestablished company which is paying dividends at the rate of 10 per cent, would, in New South Wales, where the flat rate is charged, pay the income tax themselves, which is ex-dividend. The fact that the Commonwealth rate is one shilling in the pound will make it certain that taxation will not result in smaller dividends being paid to the shareholders. A person who receives dividends amounting to less than £150 will not have to pay taxation, if he has not any other income. Whatever tax there is will be paid by the company, and in other cases in which there is a taxable income due to the aggregation of dividends, salary or other remuneration, the dividend is excluded by the manner in which the rate is fixed, to determine the amount of taxation to be paid. The Department estimates that it will lose a certain amount which it otherwise would collect; but it will, at the same time, be saving an enormous amount of clerical work which would be involved if the dividends had to be followed, either to adjust the rates or to make deductions. At present that is one of the main causes of the huge cost involved in collecting this tax.’ For that reason this proposition is submitted, and will, to a great extent, maintain the present principle of following dividends into the hands of shareholders, by imposing a flat rate on the company. The proposal will enable the minimum amount of injury to be done to taxpayers, and will at the same time permit the adoption of assessments similar to those which are now being made by the States. In New South Wales the company rate is two shillings and sixpence, and it is just a coincidence that the rate in Victoria happens to be one shilling. ‘ The Victorian rate has nothing whatever to do with the Commonwealth rate, which is fixed by this Parliament, and the method suggested is to minimise the work and provide a maximum of equity.
– Will not a considerable amount of work be entailed in dealing with profits made in previous years?
– I shall explain that later. Arrangements are being made whereby arrears will be dealt with by the staff. Mr. Ewing, who has been negotiating with the Commissioner of Taxation in New South Wales, has come to a definite arrangement regarding the number of officers who will be transferred. A number of men whose services would otherwise be dispensed with will be employed in clearing up arrears. We hope to be able to commence with a clean sheet in every State by reason of the fact that we shall be working under a new system and shall have altered returns.
– Are you to collect on the cash . dividends paid out of undistributed profits in previous years?
– That will have to be paid. Those dealt with at the 2s. 5d. rate will have to be considered in the same manner as at present.
.- I am not opposing the amendment. I do not wish . to repeat what I said on clause 2, but if honorable members will refer to the last paragraph of clause 4 they will see the effect of what I emphasized earlier’ in the discussion, and realize that a cumbersome method has been adopted in connexion with the proposed rebate. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) gave a very clear exposition of how the system will affect certain income tax payers who may be drawing £200 a year in dividends and receiving a salary of £400. Under this Bill their position will be a little better than under the existing Act; but the Department will lose a certain amount of revenue. If the Treasurer had submitted other illustrations dealing with people receiving less than £600 a year the Committee would have readily realized the inequity of the proposition. There is no inequity involved where a person receives £600 a year and over, but it is unjust to a man who receives under that amount. I suggest that between now and the next sitting of Parliament the Government should seriously consider this matter. A company whose profits are £100,000 a year is permitted, under the present Act, to pay into reserves, roughly, £33,000, on which it would pay a tax of 2s. 5d. in the £1, amounting to £3,987. Under the new proposal the amount of undistributed profit would be taxed to the extent of ls. in the £1, amounting to £1,650. On the £33,000 of undistributed profits the Department will lose £2,337. Let us assume that £30,000 of the £33,000 is paid to persons whose taxable rate would be 5s. in the £1. It is issued from undistributed profit in the form of bonus shares, and is free of tax. That £30,000 has thus paid taxation at , the rate of only ls. in the £1, whereas, if properly rated, 5s. in the £1 ought to have been paid on it. Honorable members will thus see that it is possible to lose in that way £6,000 from one company. In the aggregate that would mean a big loss of revenue. No company would be so foolish as to issue bonus shares out of current profits when, by holding those profits for a year, it could escape the payment of taxation. The incentive will be for a company to dodge taxation by placing to reserves the full 331/3 per cent. The following year, if it did not require to use the money, it could issue it in the form of bonus shares, which would be as good to the shareholders as Commonwealth War Bonds. It could charge ls. in the £1 on all fixed profits, whether they were distributed to the small or the big shareholders. In the illustration I have given, £30,000 would go to the big shareholders, and £3,000 to, perhaps, fifty small shareholders. In the case of the latter the result would be an income of £60 per annum each. Each of those persons would pay on a £60 income £3 per year in taxation. All the arguments that are advanced regarding companies paying the tax are so much moonshine. The shareholders provide the only source from which the- expenses connected with the operations of a company, including taxation, are derived. If a company decided to pay a dividend, at the same time stating that it would pay, the tax, the shareholder wouldnot thereby be relieved from taxation, which . would be deducted from the profits before distribution. Indirectly, therefore, the shareholder pays the ls. in the £1. As the Treasurer has pointed out, the big man who pays taxation at the rate of 5s. in the £1 is compelled to add his dividends to his other jncoine, and is assessed on the total. He, however, is given a rebate of ls. in the £1, because of the taxation which has already been paid by the company. His rate is thus further reduced in respect to his taxable income. The smaller men, however, who have incomes of £100 and under, are forced to pay the ls. in the £1 when they should pay only1d. or 1½d. It is manifestly a violation of all the principles of just taxation. It is not possible to amend the Bill. Justice can be done only by having the whole scheme recast. It would be a simple matter to tax at the ordinary rate incomes in the hands of the taxpayer, at the same time taxing undistributed profits at whatever rate was decided upon, so long as they remained in reserve. When those pro fits are distributed, whether as bonus shares or cash dividends, they should be added to the assessment of each individual as part of his or her income, a rebate being made to the company. That aspect has been carefully considered by the Royal Commission, and it recommended the Government to adopt that course. The Government is taking no notice of that recommendation. Let us consider another point. All dividends, whether from current or undistributed profit, would be rebated at the rate paid by the company. Assume that a distribution was made of undistributed profits Which had accumulated for three, four, or five years, and that the rebate was 2s. 5d. in the £1 last year, and 2s. 8d. in the £1 two years previously. The small shareholders would not be entitled to any rebate, because their incomes had not been sufficient to make them liable to taxation. They’would still have paid that 2s. 5d. or 2s. 8d., as the case might be. Only the big people would get the rebate.
Clause verbally amended and agreed to.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the House, at the next sitting, again resolve itself into the said Committee.
– When do we resume?
– At 2.30 p.m.
.I move -
That the Committee have leave to sit again at 4 p.m. this day.
The proposal of the Government, that we should meet again at 2.30 p.m., is an outrage not only upon members, but upon the members of the Ilansard staff and other officers of the House. In view of his medical knowledge, the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) should show a sense of toleration and decency. If we are compelled to meet again at 2.30 p.m., I hope that honorable members on this side will continue their present tactics until they have completely exhausted honorable members opposite. It is necessary for honorable members to have a few hours’ rest.
– I cannot accept the amendment, because no time for the next meeting of the House has yet been fixed.
a.m.]. - We have now been sitting continuously for twenty-two hours. I am prepared to sit right on if the Government is ruthlessly determined to pass legislation. The one thing certain is that; with very few exceptions, honorable members are not in a condition to give intelligent attention to the business -of the country.
– Order ! I suggest to the honorable member for Darling that he should discuss that matter when the House is dealing with a motion relating to the hour at which it shall reassemble,
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Dr. Earle Page), read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. BRucE) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 3.30 p.m. this day. .
– I object to such a short adjournment, and suggest that the House should not meet until 11 o’clock to-morrow morning. Many members of this Parliament in the last few years - men who were not so physically strong as the Prime Minister - have become nervous wrecks or have died prematurely. During the twenty-two years of its existence the Federal Parliament has produced more nervous wrecks than has any other Parliament in Australia. The record of the Federal Parliament iri that respect has been largely due to the way in which the physical powers of members have been overtaxed. It is an outrage on parliamentary decency, after the treatment honorable members have received during the last few weeks, and after they have sat for nearly twentyfour’ hours continuously, to ask them to resume their duties at 3.30 p.m. We are asked to do what is almost a physical impossibility.
– I do not expect any courtesy from the Government. We have been treated in this way because one man in 112 wantsto go to England. If the Prime Minister or one of his colleagues would agree with me to decide this question by an appeal to the people of my electorate, ;[i2i]
I would undertake to beat him by 7,000 votes or get out of politics. The Prime Minister dare not face any public meeting in Melbourne or Sydney. The present physical strain upon honorable members cannot be maintained. During similar proceedings in the past, I have seen a Speaker die in this House, and a member expire near the statue in the Queen’s Hall. I have seen a Minister, after a brilliant speech, collapse with a. stroke. Does the Government think that the people of Australia do not object to this injustice? I thank God that there are newspapers in this country that protest against this procedure. I do not know What would happen to Parliament on these occasions but for the criticism of the public press. Will any Minister submit to a test by the electors, or are all of them afraid of the fate of their friend, the Lord Mayor of Perth? Has the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) not a sufficiently clear brain to enable him to carry on the work of the Government while the Prime Minister is absent? Is the Prime Minister afraid of his friend the Treasurer, who sought the Prime Ministership when the negotiations for the formation of the present Government were taking place? Is he not now considered fit to carry on the work of the Government? 1 ask. the Treasurer to think of his early days, and to throw the insult back in the teeth of those who uttered it.
– Is the honorable member’s speech relevant to the question before the House?
– The honorable member for Melbourne is endeavouring to show reasons why the House should not meet at the hour proposed.
– The expressions made use of by persons outside this Parliament are pitiable. I asked a big meeting that I addressed recently what they thought of the procedure in Parliament. ‘ I said, “Would you allow the Prime Minister to go away if you had a vote on the question ?” The audience consisted of municipal voters, and they, said they would not allow him to go. The Prime Minister has had far greater opportunities in life than most men, but he is fighting, as far as I can see, only for the wealthy section of the community. He will probably go his own way, but I would remind him that although we may forgive much, we shall never forget. When our turn comes wealth will be taxed, and not favoured. Some people may then have lived to regret their present actions.
– I wish to protest againat the action of the Ministry. Had the people imagined last December that Flinders-lane, in conjunction with the Country party, would rule Australia, the present Government would not now be in power. I plead particularly on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton)’. These protracted sittings are something like murder to him. He has to do more work than all the Ministers . together, and has to use his brains more than any of them. The Ministers have secretaries to prepare their speeches for them, but he has to study every Bill brought before Parliament. What will the Government gain by its tyranny? It could, in the first place, have met six weeks earlier, and in the . second place, if it is any information for the Government, I can say that Parliament will be sitting next week. In another place there is a fairly strong body of men, and they will give the Government all it wants, and will provide an opportunity for the Treasurer to take charge of this House as acting Prime Minister. Parliament will hare to sit next week, and probably a few weeks afterwards. The Government will gain nothing by insisting on these long sittings except, perhaps, the gratifying knowledge that it has killed one or two of ite opponents.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Shale Oil : Shale Deposits at Newnes.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I have received letters and a telegram regarding oil works at Newnes. I did not get my information in time to bring the matter under the notice of the Government when the Shale Oil Bounty Bil] was before the House. The information states that Mr. John Fell has control of the valuable shale depositsthere, that he is not working them is he should, and is also preventing other people who would like to work them from doingso. That is not in the best interests of this country. I am informed that he is interested in another oil concern which imports oil, and is holding the leases of the shale deposits, notwithstanding the fact that Australia wants to develop the oil industry. The bounty is of no concern to him because of the interests he has elsewhere. I do not know, how far the Commonwealth Government can act in the direction of preventing this sort of thing. I realize that theStates must have a voice in controllingoir mineral deposits. I suggest thatsome inquiries should be made and, if it is found that the gentleman referred to is not endeavouring to extract oil from the shale, steps should be taken in conjunction with the State of New South Wales, to see that use ismade of these valuable deposits.
– I cannot express an opinion off-hand regarding the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). The object of providing a bounty on the production of shade oil was to promote the oil industry in this country. The Government will make the closest inquiry to see whether the intentions of Parliament are being carried out. Any action that is within the power of the Government to take to develop the industry will be taken.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 9.11a.m. (Wednesday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 August 1923, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1923/19230821_reps_9_105/>.