20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.’
– On Thursday night last, the House, by division, carried a motion for the printing, as a paper, of a speech that hadbeen delivered by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). There are two deficiencies which I wish the House to correct. How many copies does the House wish me to print, and what am I to do with them when they have been printed?
– I suggest that the House direct Mr. Speaker to forget about the matter.
-Is the honorable member for Port Adelaide prepared to move a motion to that effect?
– I am prepared to move -
That Mr. Speaker forget about the resolution for the printing oi the paper as it is not necessary in the interests of tie country.
– Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
– Is a motion of’ that kind in order without notice having -been given ?
– Not so far as I am concerned.
– The House carried a motion that a certain paper be printed. The House is superior to the Printing Committee. I suggest that the normal edition of a parliamentary paper should be produced. I have no figures.,.. before me, but I would suggest, having regard to the numerical’ strength of the Parliament, that 500 copies should be printed and made -available to members of. the -Parliament by -the- Clerk of the House.
– To put the. matter in ordera motion’ would be necessary, unless the Prime Minister has expressed the unanimous wish of the House.
– It would be a waste of money to print the paper.
– I am sorry to intervene at this stage to ask for leave to make a short statement on the subject of letters of credit held by David Jones Limited. As honorable members are aware, I shall be leaving within a few minutes to go abroad.
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong- Prime Minister). - by leave - I have become aware that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has propounded a series of interrogatories to me on this matter, and I should like to say a few words about those that seem to be relevant to the problem. I heard about the allegations made in respect of David Jones Limited and myself not when they were delivered in this House, for I was at that time deeply immersed in some departmental discussions in my own quarters in this building. I learned of them about 1 a.m. I came to the House at the first convenient opportunity and told honorable members - although I am sure that no honorable member needed to be told - that there had been no communication by me on this matter, and I was grateful to the House for so obviously accepting that statement. I have been asked why I did not make inquiries before making that statement. The simple answer is that I did not have time to do so before making the statement. An allegation had been made which seemed to me, and to many other people also, to impugn my personal honour. Therefore, I rejected it at the earliest possible opportunity. Since then I have had some inquiries made in the appropriate departments as to those business transactions of which, I need hardly say, I was completely unaware. I am not conducting the business affairs of David Jones Limited or of any other company. I have quite enough to do in carrying out my small part in conducting the business of Australia. But inquiries have been made. In one aspect they are not com plete, because the Department of Trade and Customs is certainly directing an investigation into how correspondence of that department has come to be available to persons outside. I have directed the inquiry to be made, but I have done so very reluctantly, because I do not consider it any part of my business or the business of a government to ascertain or publish the business affairs of people who conduct business in Australia.However, I have found out details of this particular matter.
I have had no opportunity of consulting Sir Charles Lloyd Jones because, althoughI myself will be gone in an hour or two, he is already out of Australia on a journey to the other side of the world. Therefore, he has had small opportunity of being consulted or of making a statement. But I did ask for a report on the transaction and the House will be interested to know that David Jones Limited did secure letters of credit on or about the 1st March. The letter which was written by the company’s bankers to the Department of Trade and Customs was not written ahead of import” licensing. It was, in fact, written on the 19th March and import licensing began on the 8th March. By that time, every business schoolboy in Australia knew that if a company had any irrevocable letter of credit it should communicate that fact to the Department of Trade and Customs, because tl”e Government had laid down, consistently with what the Government of which the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was a member had laid down in 1947, when dollar import licensing began, that irrevocable ietters of credit would be honoured. There is no mystery about that. Every man of business in Australia knew that that had been done in 1947 and that, if import licensing were re-introduced, probably it would be done again; as, in fact, it was done. I remind the House that for a month before the decision was announced, the air, or the newspapers, had buzzed with rumours about the possibility of import licensing. I want to tell the House - and I do so with great reluctance because I am very loath to disclose the business arrangements of citizens in Australia - that David Jones Limited first started its practice of taking out letters of credit in June, 1949, when the honorable member for East Sydney was a member of the Cabinet. I made no allegations that the -company was given any tip-off because I know it was not. David Jones Limited would be very foolish if it had not learned the lesson of 1947. Periodically, from June, 1949, the company obtained letters of credit for very substantial monthly sums of money. In September, 1951 - which, I am bound to confess, was a long time before I or anybody else in this House thought of import restrictions from sterling areas - the company established letters of credit at the rate mentioned by the honorable member for East Sydney- £200,000 a month. It obtained those letters of credit for the six months period which expired on the 1st March, last. When the period was about to expire, the company renewed its letters of credit for a period of twelve months, to the 1st March, 1953. The whole matter is extremely simple. Here is a company which, for three years, has conducted its business transactions on that footing. I do not suppose that it would be suggested that some member of my Cabinet, six months ago, said to David Jones Limited, “ Keep on doing what you are doing “, any more than it would be suggested that a member of the Chifley Government in 1949 had held some illicit communication with a well-known firm of high reputation. Of course not! It would never occur to him or to anybody else to make such a suggestion. But, because, having got six months’ letters of credit, when those arrangements ran out, the company decided that it wanted more, the foul insinuation was made, so that anybody who reads may run, that I have a friend, a gentleman who has been my friend for twenty years - I am happy that I possess some friends - and that because he happens to be a friend of mine, he must have got a “ tip-off “. I should : strong]y advise the honorable member for East Sydney not to measure everybody by his own yardstick.
– I ask for leave to make a statement.
– Is leave granted?
Leave not granted.
– You coward! You craven coward!
-Order! The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has used what I regard as an unparliamentary remark. I ask him not to proceed in that way. Are there any questions without notice?
– The Prime Minister is now running away. He said that my statement was entirely untrue the other day.
– Order ! I have called on questions without notice.
– Will the Treasurer arrange for the tabling of all communications received by the Department of Trade and Customs from importing houses advising of the establishment of irrevocable letters of credit to cover the importation of goods that were already on order at the time the import restrictions were imposed, and also arrange for information to be supplied about when advice of each transaction was received and recorded by the department?
– It is absolutely unusual, as well as being bacl practice indeed, to table official documents of the nature to which the honorable member has referred. The documents, therefore, will not be tabled.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Territories. Will the Government arrange to have photographs taken of the graves of service personnel who paid the supreme sacrifice in Papua and New Guinea during World War II.? If such arrangements are made, will the Government have the photographs filed and tabulated so that they will be available free of charge to any next-of-kin who apply for them?
– A great deal of the work to which the honorable gentleman’s question refers is already in the charge of the Imperial War Graves Commission. I undertake to discuss the honorable gentleman’s suggestion with the commission with a view to seeing whether anything further can be done in that matter.
– “Will the Minister for Immigration state whether it is a fact that approximately 60,000 immigrants have not fulfilled their contracts to work where directed for a period of two years after having been assisted to migrate to Australia, and that their present whereabouts cannot be traced? If that is a fact, will the Minister give instructions that more intense screening of prospective immigrants shall be undertaken in order to ensure that persons of the right type are brought to this country and that they carry out the terms of their employment contracts?
– I do not know where the honorable member obtained the figure which he cited. Certainly no such figure has ever come to my notice. Some time ago, when a review was made of the way in which the employment contract arrangements were working, it was estimated that 2 per cent, of those who had been, assisted to come here were not then carrying out their employment undertakings. It is not always easy to ensure that engagements of that kind are fulfilled because immigrants are posted to employers who although they are asked to notify the department if the terms of the engagement are not carried out sometimes fail to do so and the breach of contract does not come to the notice of the department.
Our screening methods have been examined from time to time by representative bodie.8 outside the departments, including representatives of exservicemen’s organizations, and they are acknowledged to be the best that are operating in any country that is receiving immigrants.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. What is the’ approximate number of applications that have been received for immigrants to be placed in rural industries’, raider the rural labour scheme, for Dutch and. Italian immigrants”? Is it a fact: that m some industries objections are being raised:, especially by small, farmers, tfe the c©st involved’ during the period when the immigrants’ are,- of necessity, Teaming” the wark’ that they will be required to do and becoming accustomed to Australian, conditions? Are any proposals being formulated to overcome that difficulty? Does the present position indicate that this scheme will substantially help to solve the rural labour problem ?
– The scheme has not been in. operation for a great length of time, but present indications are that it will work quite satisfactorily. So far, we have circularized more than 40,000 farmers by leaflet, and approximately 7,000 of those farmers have been Contacted personally. The result has been that about 2,260 vacancies have been notified to us. That figure is being added to at the rate of about 200 vacancies a week. As a result of the notification of those vacancies, we have been able to place about 1,400 European immigrants in jobs in rural industries. Also, by taking advantage of the knowledge that we have, gained, we have been able to place 170 Australians who were seeking rural work. The point raised by the honorable member about a special wage rate being desirable owing to the immigrants’ lack of experience of Australian conditions is an important one. Some consideration has been given to it, .but so far no satisfactory formula has suggested itself to roe. Probably it would be practicable for employers in rural industries to make application to the appropriate tribunals for an award to govern Such cases’. On the results that have been achieved already, I think it can be claimed that in this way a useful addition is being made to our rural labour force.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the long-term commodity contracts that were entered into between the socialist government in this country and a similar government in Great Britain have failed to give to Great Britain sufficient foodstuffs or to enable Australia to pay for imports from that country, or to expand production-
– Order ! The honorable member is making a lot of comment much of which is” debatable’.-
– Can the Minister inform the House whether the Prime Minister, during his impending visit to Great Britain, will have discussions with a view to eliminating governmenttogovernment trading in respect of primary products and to obtaining reasonable prices for Australian products?
– Governmenttogovernment trading, insofar as it exists, is provided for under contracts that were in existence when this Government assumed office or, as in one particular instance, under a contract that was asked for by representatives of the meat industry in Australia, under which they virtually insisted upon at least an annual bulk basis but not in any long-term form. The latter contract which also was made by the Attlee Government, will permit a reversion to a trader-to-trader basis upon the decision of the United Kingdom Government. Of course, such a change could not be insisted upon by an Australian government as the seller of the products. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister will have far-reaching discussions with the United Kingdom Government about the general economic circumstances of each country and the relationship between them. I am confident that if it is considered to be in the mutual interests of both countries, or in the particular interest of either of them, that existing contracts should be varied, that subject will be explored.
– Will the Minister for the Navy give the names of the guests who accompanied the Prime Minister on his recent fishing trip aboard H.M.A.S. Australia? What was the cost of the trip to the Australia taxpayers? Is it true that the reason why the Prime Minister did not catch a fish, not even a red herring, was that he used the same kind of bait as he used to catch the Australian voters at the last two general elections?
– The answer to the first question asked by the honorable member is that no guests accompanied the Prime Minister. To the second question, the trip did not involve any real cost to the Australian taxpayers.
On the contrary, it gave a great deal of pleasure to the Naval Board and to the great majority of Australian voters as well as, in particular, to myself. As the last question the honorable member asked was unnecessarily insulting, I do not propose to answer it.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether, arising out of his investigations into the meat industry in north Australia, any attention has been given to the lack of railway facilities in the cattle-producing areas in Queensland ? Can he say whether loan moneys that were granted to the Queensland Government out of Commonwealth taxation revenue have been used for the electrification of Brisbane’s suburban railways in preference to the work of developing railways in grazing areas? Will the Minister clarify the present position regarding this vital matter ?
– It is quite generally agreed and, in fact, has been so reported by a succession of investigating authorities, that it would be greatly to the advantage of the cattle industry in Queensland and in adjoining areas of the Northern Territory if projections of the Queensland railway system into the Northern Territory were made. Such suggestions include a line from Dajarra south to the Channel country to enable store cattle to be brought from the Northern Territory to the fattening country, and from the Channel fattening country into certain terminals in Queensland which are now quite distant from the Channel country. Those rail facilities are- highly desirable. I understand that the Queensland Government is engaged in certain projects of suburban rail construction, which, no doubt, are financed from funds raised by the Commonwealth from taxes and loans. It is entirely a matter for the judgment of the Queensland Government whether it expends those moneys on the suburban railway system or on the construction of lines . into the cattle country, but this Government has directly asked each of the State governments, including the Queensland Government, to give priority in the expenditure from the resources available to it to projects which will make a contribution to increased food production and assist our export industries.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether it is a fact that, as a result of a record-breaking drought in Queensland and the Northern Territory, a shortage of meat will occur later this year ? Will he inform, the House of the steps that the Government proposes to take to alleviate the shortage? Is it the intention of the Government to extend to cattle producers in Queensland taxation relief similar to that which is enjoyed by cattle producers in the Northern Territory? Is such taxation relief to be given also to employees in the industry, with the object of ensuring that an adequate number of employees will be available to assist in increasing meat production? Will this Government assist the Queensland Government, financially and in other ways, to enable it to construct, not only a railway link with the Northern Territory through Dajarra but also other railways that would be of value to the cattle industry in Queensland?
– -Order ! Questions relating to taxation are matters of policy, and are therefore out of order.
– There will be ^ a shortage of meat, but it will be principally of meat for export. To the best of my knowledge it is not likely to produce an acute scarcity of meat for local consumption. I am afraid that there is nothing that one can do about a seasonal occurrence such as that. The Northern Territory taxation provisions to which the honorable member has referred expire at the end of June, and the Government is giving consideration to the system that will succeed them. The possible willingness of the Government to join with the Queensland Government in constructing a railway from Dajarra into Queensland is a matter of policy on which I am not authorized to make a statement, but I have not the slightest doubt that the Commonwealth will give serious consideration to any specific proposals that the Queensland Government may advance to it on the matter. However, I should find some difficulty in holding out hope that the Commonwealth would itself bear the cost of such a railway when the Queensland Government reserves, all of its railway funds for expenditure on railways in one city.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether it would be of any use for the Queensland Government to construct a railway line to the border of the Northern Territory unless the Australian Government built a continuation of the line to connect with the large areas of drought stricken land in the Northern Territory.
– I am bound to say, from my knowledge of the area, that a railway line to the border of the Northern Territory would be of some value. The principal transport problem arises from the fact that cattle brought to the existing rail-head at Dajarra must travel over very hard walking country from a point some miles inside the Northern Territory. The construction of a railway line to the border by the Queensland Government would be of some use but I am sure that, if the State Government were prepared to undertake the task, it would be equally desirable and proper that the Australian Government should build an extension of the line beyond the border. The whole project might well be considered as one undertaking. I consider that this would be a proper matter for negotiation between the two governments concerned.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council arrange for the compilation and publication, in respect of the Australian Capital Territory, of a table, similar to that recently released by the Commonwealth Statistician, of expenditure by the States on social services under the general headings of education, health, hospitals and charities, and law, order and public safety. Will he have the table compiled with the same limitations and exclusions as relate to the States, so that the people of the Australian Capital Territory, who pay income tax and the social services contribution at the same rate as every one else in the community can be enabled <to compare their return from taxation with that enjoyed in the several States.?
– I shall give consideration to the honorable gentleman’s request and, in so doing, will take into account the amount of work involved in the compilation of such a table. If the Government finds that the table ean be prepared with a minimum of outlay and of time, I shall have it compiled for him.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and NationalService whether the Government will , act immediately to ensure the full and regular payment of wages at award rates by an Italian . contractor who is building cottages, barracks and administrative offices for the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority at Cooma ? I point out, by way of explanation, that the contractor employs approximately 250 Italian immigrants, of whom 170 are carpenters and are members of the Building Workers Industrial Union. ‘The contract requires him . to observe award rates and conditions, hut so far this year he has been severai weeks in arrears with the payment of wages, and has made the excuse that the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority is withholding progress payments due to him. I am assured by the authority that such is not so, and I ask the Minister whether he will make inquiries immediately into the matter so as to ensure that the employees may rely on receiving their wages regularly in future until the contract has been completed.
– As the honorable member is aware, the Government is not involved in this matter as one of the principals, but we have taken an interest in it since the facts came to our notiee. The Snowy Mountains Authority assures me that it has been making its progress payments regularly. Therefore, any excuse that the contractor may offer on that ground is not supported by the facts. The authority has received an assurance from the contractor who, incidentally, I am able to confirm, is required to observe Australian industrial awards, that all arrears will bemet this week. Iunderstand that a further conference will take place between the authority and -the contractor to-morrow with a view to reaching a final settlement.
– Has the Minister for Health been informed that theChief Secretary in Victoria has ordered the winding up of four hospital and medical benefit organizations in that State? As those organizations have been operating for some years and have a large number of financial members, can the Minister throw some light on this precipitous move, and provide some information that might assist members of all such associations throughout the Commonwealth?
– About a year ago the Victorian Parliament passed certain legislation which dealt with hospital and medical benefit associations. Since then, the chairman of the Hospitals and Charities Commission has been endeavouring to amalgamate some of the smaller organizations to enable them to be conducted at the least possible expense, and with the greatest possible return to their contributors. It is in accordance with that arrangement, I understand, that the action to which the honorable member has referred has been taken. Ail of these organizations are still, in fact, actively in existence but are operating under a single management.
– Will the Minister for Health inform me whether persons over the age of 65 years who are in receipt of superannuation payments are entitled to receive free medical treatment and free medicine in the same way as age pensioners? If they are not so entitled, will . the Minister give consideration to the claims of this very worthy section of the community ?
– Arrangements are now being made under which aged people who are not entitled to receive age pensions will be accepted as members of several large. Australian organizations and will then become entitled, upon payment of a small weekly contribution, to hospital and medical benefits. The organizations are the Hospital Benefits Association of Australia and several of the large Australian friendly societies.
– Can the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture, say whether it is a fact that the Commonwealth’s subsidy of 4s.1d. a bushel on all wheat sold in Australia for stock feed has lapsed as the result of action taken by the Queensland Government? If so, will the Minister state how much the Australian Wheat Board will receive for wheat sold for stock feed1 in the various States, and in particular in New South Wales? Can the- honorable gentleman give the House some idea of the general position now?
– I received official advice, about three hours ago from the Queensland Government that it has. issued a proclamation under certain legislation. The effect of that proclamation is that the’ price of wheat sold for stock feed in Queensland will revert from 12s. a bushel, which the Australian Wheat Board is authorized to charge, to 10s. a bushel.. The effect, in accordance with legislation passed by this Parliament, is that a subsidy of 4s.1d. a bushel payable by the Commonwealth in all States in respect of feed wheat sold to the poultry, pig and dairying industries will now cease. That is my understanding of the legislation. I am confident that it is correct, but I have referred the matter to the Attorney-General’s Department for confirmation. The proclamation has caused a seriously anomalous situation. Western Australia was the only State which did not pass similar legislation. The. price of feed wheat there has been 10s. a bushel, as. it now will be in Queensland. Unless the other States issue similar proclamations, the price chargeable for feed wheat in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania will be 12s. a bushel and no Commonwealth subsidy will be payable. This arises from the provision in the . State acts that entitles the Australian Wheat Board to depart from the original 1948 legislation in order to charge 2s. a bushel above what otherwise would have been the price. The board was authorized under that provision to charge 12s. a bushel for feed wheat this year. The entitlement to- charge, that, additional 2s. . a. bushel is subject to< the condition that the: board’ shall pay interstate freight charges on wheat. The board,, for reasons that it considers to be sufficient, has’ declined to pay interstate freight charges and has thereby caused this very difficult situation., I shall now suggest to- the board that it meet promptly to consider the situation, which is most serious from the point of view of the wheat-growers of Australia.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question supplementary to the- question asked by the honorable member for Calare. Does the Minister know whether the Government of New South Wales has indicated that it will require supplies of wheat from other States for the current, season and, if so, on what terms ? Can he also inform the House of the position of other States in relation to wheat shortages?
– The Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales has intimated to me and to the Australian Wheat Board that, in his opinion, New South Wales is short of feed wheat by 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 bushels but that this- shortage really arises from the fact that there are no supplies of mill offals which ordinarily would be available in that State from flour gristed for export. A request has been made that at least 10,000,000 bushels of wheat be moved into New South Wales to be gristed there so as to enable flour to be exported from the State and to make the mill offals available there for stock feed. An associated request has been that either the- Australian Wheat Board - which means the wheat-growers - or the Australian Government shall pay freight charges upon wheat sent to New South Wales. Both the board and the Government have declined to do so.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation to say whether it is a fact that a senior technical officer of Trans-Australia Airlines, who- was recently barred from entering America, has now left the employment of that organization? Did that occurrence result from an investigation of the circumstances of the refusal of entry to America? Was the officer refused entry to America because he was a former secretary of the Brighton branch of the Communist party and also had made a false declaration in his application for a United States vise, that he had never been a member of the Communist party?
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. Does not the honorable member’s question relate to a person outside the House, and is it not therefore out of order?
– It relates to the position of a person who has not been named, and the Minister for Civil Aviation may answer it.
– The question relates to an officer of Trans-Australia Airlines who endeavoured to go to America to attend, in the interests of his organization, an aeronautical conference. He was refused admittance to America after he had travelled as far as Honolulu. The reason for the refusal that was advanced by the United States authorities’ was security. I do not wish to say at this stage anything that might prejudice the individual’s case which, at the moment, is a matter for TransAustralia Airlines or the Australian National Airlines Commission. However, if it is necessary at a later stage to give further information to the House I shall do so.
– Has the Minister for Supply received any information that the uranium deposits discovered at Rum Jungle are situated on private owned property?
– The Government has always known that the uranium deposits that were discovered in the area known as Rum Jungle were on private freehold land.
– The Government will socialize it, I suppose.
– If it is a question of socialization, previous Labour governments
– Order! The subject of socialization is a matter of policy.
– In 1946 the Atomic Energy (Control of Materials) Act was passed during the term of office of the previous Administration-
– Order ! That is not a reply to the question the honorable member for Robertson asked. He asked whether the uranium deposits which had been discovered at Rum Jungle were on private property.
– With respect, Mr. Speaker, I am endeavouring to answer that question. In 1946 the act to which I have referred was passed for the purpose of vesting in the Crown minerals which, but for that act, would have remained the property of the owner of freehold land. Last Sunday, a report was published in a newspaper on this subject which might have conveyed a quite inflated idea-
– Order ! I think that the honorable gentleman is getting right out of order in quoting a newspaper report. The question was not founded on a newspaper report.
– I am not founding a question but answering one.
– It is not in order to refer to a newspaper report at this stage.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is “ Yes “. The property on which the uranium has been discovered is freehold property. The minerals have been vested in the Commonwealth by an act of 1946. In due course, no doubt, if the question of the payment of compensation arises, it will be considered.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question concerning the discontent which has been caused in the mining industry by repeated statements concerning proposed amendments to the arbitration law. I ask the Minister what steps have been taken to remedy the flaw in the Coal
Industry Act which, was revealed by the High Court in its recent judgment. Is it a fact that the Government proposes to introduce legislation to permit appeals to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court from the Coal Industry Tribunal ?
– The matter to which the honorable member has referred was fully considered by the Government recently. A very representative deputation from the coal-mining unions informed me of their views a couple of weeks ago. It is proposed to introduce legislation in the course of this session in order to deal with the situation that has developed.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question which relates to the Government’s decision to relax import restrictions on books to the extent of permitting imports to the value of 1950-51 quotas. Is the Minister aware that because the very heavy increase in the cost of books more than offsets this concession there will still 1 e a severe restriction on the importation of books, particularly those of a technical and serious nature. The Oxford University Press has already exhausted its quota, is almost completely devoid of stock and will be unable, during this year, to import more books, many of which will be required in educational institutions. Is it not a fact that the Government’s policy of restricting hook imports on a value basis places technical works and serious literature on the same basis as utter trash such as comics and certain novels which are imported into this country? Will the Government consider the complete removal of import restrictions from technical and other serious works or appoint a committee of librarians, selected from Commonwealth and State libraries, to establish a system of priorities which will enable books of a worthwhile nature to be imported and so confine the import restrictions to books and periodicals that could well be done Without ?
– I shall bring the matter that the honorable member has raised before the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether it is still the Government’s policy to encourage block enlistments in the Citizen Military Forces.
– Order ! Questions on government policy are out of order.
– Is the right honorable gentleman aware that of all the thousands of public servants who live in Canberra, less than twenty are effective members of the Citizen Military Forces? What are the reasons for this state of affairs and will the Minister investigate this matter in order to ensure that every facility and encouragement to join the services is given to those of a suitable age who desire to undertake this training? Will he do this in order to give a lead to private employers, who are constantly being urged to encourage their employees to join the Citizen Military Forces ?
– The matter raised by the honorable member will be considered in the light of the information that he has furnished.
– In the course of debate in this House last Thursday I charged the Treasurer, and the Government to which he is responsible, with being the primary cause for the rise of interest rates. That statement was disputed by the Minister for Health-
-Order ! The honorable member cannot re-open debates at question time.
– I realize that, Mr. Speaker, but I wanted to establish the position beyond doubt. I now ask whether the Treasurer will make available to the Leader of the Opposition the typed minutes of the proceedings of the Loan Council at its last meeting and for any subsequent meetings.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is “ No “.
– Will the Minister for Social Services inform the House whether the War Service Homes Division has yet acquired the Walsh estate at Albury, for which negotiations were commenced more than four years ago? If not, what is holding up this acquisition? Is it a fact that the War Service Homes Division will not assist exservicemen to purchase or build pre-cut or prefabricated houses? If so, will the Minister review that decision ?
– The acquisition of the Walsh estate has not been finalized because the owners of the property have not yet accepted the price determined by the Deputy Crown Solicitor. The fact that the matter has not been finalized is not holding up the work of the War Service Homes Division. Roads are being built and applicants are being allowed to choose their allotments. As far as I am aware we are pushing ahead with the work. Tenders for building of houses have been invited, but the tender of one big contractor who specializes in prefabricated houses was not satisfactory. It has not been the policy of the War Service Homes Division to assist in the erection of prefabricated houses, but if any one should produce a prefabricated building which we might consider to be good enough for our purposes, no objection on principle would be raised to it.
– Has the Minister for Supply been informed by his officers that the cost of transporting the goods of public servants, and other government goods, has increased by 100 per cent, since the Government disbanded its own transport service which was previously used for these purposes? Has the work been given to private enterprise ? Has the Minister been informed that only very few business concerns ever tender for this work? If he has not been so informed will he investigate the present cost of transport of such goods as compared with the previous cost, and inform the House of the result of his investigations ?
– Obviously I cannot supply the honorable member offhand with the information that he has asked for, but I shall treat his question as being on the notice-paper and will try to let him have a reply as soon as possible.
– Will the Treasurer state who was responsible for the decision to admit 300 tons of dynamite glycerin into Australia at a concession tariff rate, which will necessitate the expenditure of 500,000 dollars? Can the 2’ight honorable gentleman also state the name of the firm to which the concession was made?
– My reply to the question asked by the honorable member is that I do not know.
Mr.GRIFFITHS.- Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that numerous protests are being made by business firms and private subscribers because of the increased telephone rentals in the Newcastle network? Is it a fact that it is now cheaper to use a public telephone than to keep one installed in a residence? Does the Minister consider that the Government is justified in imposing a 45 per cent, increase of rental charges at Newcastle during the last twelve months? Does he appreciate that the people of Newcastle are obliged to pay much more for telephone services than are the residents of Melbourne and Sydney? Is it the policy of the Government to increase charges for telephone services and thus overburden subscribers? If not, before imposing further increases will the Minister consider this matter with a view to reducing the charges in the Newcastle area?
– That part of the question which deals with policy is out of order.
– The charges which apply to telephone subscribers at Newcastle are the same as those which apply to subscribers all over Australia. They are based on the number of users in a particular network. There is no difference anywhere. At the moment there is no prospect of such charges being reduced.
– Is the Minister for the Army able to indicate when the warehouses erected by the Department of the Army on the Boulevard, Port Melbourne, and on land between Barak and Beacon roads, will be demolished? Can he also state whether arrangements will be made to remove the railway line which was constructed to serve such storehouses?
Mr.FRAN CIS. - DuringWorld War II. eight large storehouses, each of 40,000 square feet capacity, were erected for the American forces on Crown land at Port Melbourne. On vacation by the Americans in 1945-46, they came under the control of the Department of the Army. Nos. 1 and8 were sold and removed. Early in 1947, the Government directed that all hired premises be vacated as early as possible. The Army Printing and Stationery Service vacated its bulk stationery depot in Queen-street, Melbourne, and moved to storehouses 3 and 4 at Port Melbourne. Other Commonwealth departments occupied the other four storehouses. In August, 1950, the council was advised that good covered storage was very scarce and that it was regretted that the stores must be occupied at least until such time as building supplies became more readily available, bearing in mind that the call on man-power and materials for housing held high priority.
– Does the Minister propose to read all the matter that I can see there?
– Order ! I draw the attention of the House to the fact that we are supposed to be dealing with questions without notice.
– Storehouses Nos. 2 and 7 are occupied by the Department of Works and Housing. Storehouses Nos. 3 and 4 are occupied by the Department of the Army. Storehouse No. 5 is occupied by the Postmaster-General’s Department, and storehouse No. 6 is occupied by Hutchinson’s Finlay Flour Milling Company. There is no hope of gaining any relief in this direction until an improvement has been effected in respect of housing, building materials and man- power. Many representations have been made to me in connexion with this matter. As soon as possible additional storehouses will be erected at Broadmeadows. As the Minister for the Interior now controls the letting of. storehouses, I am sure that he would be able to answer any further questions that the honorable member may ask on this subject.
Motion (by Mr. Anthony) agreed to-
That leave bc given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act 1940-1950.
Bill presented and read a first time.
. - by leave - I move -
That the hill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the principal act, the Seamen’s War Pen sions and Allowances Act 1940-1950, in order to bring it into line with the position which actually exists to-day as regards war pensions and allowances to seamen who sustained war injury in the course of their employment as Australian mariners, and also to make provision for those seamen, and their dependants, to enjoy certain other benefits at the same level as are provided under the Repatriation Act for ex-members of the forces and their dependants. Briefly, the main proposals are -
The proposed provisions which are contained in existing National Security Regulations relate to medical benefits, sustenance allowances and funeral grants. When this bill becomes law the relative National Security Regulations will be repealed.
The provisions, conferred by Cabinet decisions, which it is proposed in this bill to continue, bring under the act certain Australian seamen, who, because they signed or re-signed articles of agreement abroad, were outside the scope of the existing act. They also provide for grants of furniture to seamen blinded or totally and permanently incapacitated through war injury, and to widows with children, of seamen who died through war injury. Education benefits to children of seamen who died or who were totally and permanently incapacitated or blinded through war injury, are also provided. A further provision, also conferred by Cabinet decision, grants increases in the general pension rates to the same level as are provided for ex-members of the forces under the Repatriation Act. On every occasion that war pensions under the Repatriation Act were increased, the equivalent classes of pensions of mariners and their dependants were increased. The latest pension increases under the Repatriation Act are, for these equivalent classes, embodied in the bill.
The remaining three main proposals bring the provisions, which I have previously outlined, into line with relative provisions under the Repatriation Act. A further proposal is the repeal of two Parts of the act. These parts relate to payments during detention, and compensation for loss of effects due to enemy action. Neither part is now of any value as all possible claims under them have already been determined. The bill con tains nothing which should give rise to any disagreement with the Government’s proposals. Apart from the proposed inclusion of the last three main proposals the bill merely provides for the permanent establishment within the act of all those benefits of a continuing nature which have been granted under National Security Regulations or by Cabinet decisions, and to omit unnecessary provisions. Honorable members opposite will, I feel sure, be pleased to support this measure.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Clarey) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 6th May (vide page 18), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition opposes this bill not because we are not eager to give relief where relief is justifiable but because, from the scant information that has been supplied to us by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in one of the shortest second-reading speeches on record in connexion with a most important measure, we cannot agree to the right honorable gentleman’s conclusions on a number of matters. Statements made by the Treasurer neglected detail and tended to make a false impression. This is a land tax assessment bill. From its very title, people will be led to believe that those who will benefit from the proposed reductions will be a number of country people. In his second-reading speech, the Minister stated -
It is estimated that the increase in the unimproved values of land has brought into the field about 22,000 new taxpayers who previously had never been required to lodge returns.
The truth of the matter is that most of those new taxpayers are the owners of city properties. The Treasurer did not tell us that. The department did not supply that information. When I sought to obtain the latest figures, I found that the last return dealing with this question was the 24th report of the Commissioner of Taxation which was presented to this
Parliament pursuant to the statute of the 10th February, 1944. I know that prices were pegged over the war period and remained pegged from 1939 to 1951. This Government unpegged prices in 1951. It should have been possible, however, for the Treasurer, when he introduced the measure, to supply honorable members with a detailed statement showing the relativity of the impost on city lands and on country lands so that the Parliament would have known just who would benefit largely from the remissions in taxation that are proposed in the bill. The Opposition suspects the Government of not wanting a land tax at all. Honorable members on this side of the House believe that the Government is composed of the spiritual descendants of the tories of other days who opposed the introduction and the passage of the very first Land Tax Assessment Bill.
When Mr. Fisher made his second attempt to introduce legislation of this kind on the 16th August, 1910, he remarked that when he was Prime Minister for the first time in 1909, he had brought down a bill of this nature. Hansard of the 16th August, 1910, records at page 1535 that he said -
The Government who dared to bring it forward were summarily dismissed for their temerity.
And Sir John Forrest interjected -
The then Government were in a minority and that is why they were dismissed.
The tories of that day did not want a bill of this type. Mr. Deakin, who was Leader of the Opposition at that time, moved an amendment on the second reading of the Land Tax Assessment Bill 1910, which, in effect, condemned the whole measure. This was his amendment -
That after the word “That” the following words he inserted : - “ the form of land tax outlined by the Prime Minister, and provided for in this bill, is unjust in its incidence and an abuse of Federal powers”.
When the vote was taken on the 20th September, 1910, after a long debate, all the non-Labour members in the Parliament of that day voted for Mr. Deakin’s amendment and tried to reject the Fisher Government’s bill. Mr. Fisher said in his advocacy of the bill that it was not a revenue-producing bill. The land tax was never intended to be a means of raising revenue. It was introduced for the purpose of breaking up big estates and unlocking the land so that land-hungry sons of Australian farmers would have access to the big squattages. It succeeded in its purpose but not as much as it might have done because there are still many large properties which could well be subdivided and used for soldier settlement.
Honorable members may be interested to know that the first measure that was introduced provided an exemption from the tax for land with an unimproved value up to £5,000 but for a tax of 6d. in the fi on all land of an unimproved value exceeding £5,000. Various antiLabour governments have whittled down the amount of tax which was levied on the land. If the bill was in the same form in which it was introduced by the Fisher Government, there might not be so much difficulty in some States in resuming land for soldier settlement although it is true that the States have the power to tax land concurrently with taxation by the Australian Government. Since 1910, land tax has been the subject of much disputation in the ranks of antiLabour organizations. Even to-day, there is a suggestion that the Government should not do merely what it proposes to do in this bill but that it should go farther and abolish the tax altogether.
– Hear, hear!
– As usual, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) accepts my case when I attack conservatism in this Parliament. Thu measure should be preserved in the form in which the Parliament originally passed it. Those who want this tax reduced or abolished seek to benefit the big city emporiums and the interests which have big areas, not in the country, but in the city. On the figures that I have available, the assessed unimproved value of town lands on the 30th June. 1941, was £158,111,146, against £118,757,849 assessed unimproved value of country lands. So the unimproved value of the city lands of Australia was much greater than that of the country lands. The tax assessed in respect of city lands was £2,917,531. In respect of country lands the tax was only £895,132. So the tax which is paid on city lands is two and a half times that which is paid on country lands. Therefore, the benefit that is to be conferred by this bill will favour city land-holders against country land-holders in the ratio of five to two. If the Government wants to remit taxation on country people to provide an incentive to increase food production, it should confer the benefit in some other way. It should not give a small benefit to country land-owners and a larger one to owners of city properties for the alleged purpose of relieving the burden that rests on the farmers.
I have written to the Town Clerks of Melbourne and Sydney seeking information on land values from them. I am informed that there are 28 municipalities in the metropolitan district of Melbourne, of which the Melbourne City Council is the most important authority. It has a block of land covering one square mile and the unimproved value of that area is estimated at £58,000,000. Advice from the Town Clerk of Sydney is to the effect that the City of Sydney, which covers an area much larger than that covered by the Melbourne City Council, has an unimproved land’ value of £80,000,000. I believe that much of the benefit of £687,000 which the Government proposes to confer on land-holders by this measure will go to the owners of those big city properties and that very little will go to the owners of country land.
Since the Fisher Government was in office, other governments have progressively reduced the taxation burden on land with an unimproved value exceeding £5,000. The Lyons Government boasted in a statement that was issued by the United Australia party about 1933, that it had given remissions in land tax amounting to £800,000. It did that at the very time that it was reducing expenditure on age and invalid pensions, unemployment relief and other social services. The Opposition is opposed to the attitude of non-Labour governments on the question of land taxation. If the Government wants to be generous with money at this time, there are many other fields of taxation in which it may wander, before it talks about giving benefits to the holders of properties that have an unimproved value of more than £5,000. There are difficulties in this matter. One of them is caused by the increasing value of everything, land included, during the last few years. The Government has said that a statutory deduction of £5,000 is not enough. It may not be enough because everything has risen in price. The Government has contended that as land values have increased by 75 per cent, the deduction should be raised from £5,000 to £’8,750. I have not been able to work out the ma thematical relationship between the increase in values and the increase of the deduction. I do not know whether it would operate fairly in’ all cases, nor do I know whether the Government’s assessment is factual. To me there seems to be a fallacy in the story of the Treasurer which I have not yet been able properly to discover. I shall have to consult a professor of mathematics or get the taxation officials to help me before we reach the committee stage of the bill.
On these grounds the Labour party does not feel happy about the measure. We do not want people to suffer unnecessarily, nor do we want them to bear an unjust burden, but that some people in the city areas arc suffering is undoubtedly true. I have received communications from many people who set out to show that when the Government unpegged values their properties were assessed by municipal authorities and by the Commonwealth Taxation Branch at what was regarded as their present worth and, as a result of the amplication of the old rate of tax, some of them have had to pay a sum of money which has left them with very little return on their investment. One man told me that prior to the unpegging of values the income he had received from properties in which he was interested was about £8,000 and that his costs, inr eluding taxation, were approximately £4,000, leaving him a return of approximately £4,000 on his investment, but that with the unpegging of values and the maintenance of the present high tax rate his return slumped in one year from £4,000 to £133. Persons in that position should be given relief. The Government should not treat the Parliament in the cavalier manner in which it; has- been treated, by the Treasurer, pr.ob.ably quite unintentionally,, when he made a very short speech on this measure, regarded Lt almost as a purely machinery bill, and said to the. Parliament,, in effect, “ Let us have: it straight away “. The Opposition would like- to know a little wore about the measure. In the past we-, have been inclined to be, a little suspicious of the Government. We- think that it may- be using this measure, as-, a first step towards the total abolition of the, land tax. Many people honestly want that tax- to be abolished’. “We do not want it to be mainnajnad for the purpose, of getting revenue. Indeed, the total revenue derived from this source amounts to only approximately £7,500,000, a year. The yield has. increased from- £3,500,000 to approximately £7,500,000; only since, the Government unpegged values. We are concerned not about protecting the revenue derived from this source but about the use of this particular instrument, of government, as a means of preventing the aggregation of land into fewer and fewer hands. The first movement in that direction was made in 19.10, but, it seems that on every occasion on whichland is cut, up some centrifugal forceroperates which places it in the possession qf fewer individuals.
– The efficient farmers get it back.
– It is impossible arbitrarily to divide, farmers into efficient and non-efficient categories. A farmer who is regarded as non-efficient may be the victim of a variety of circumstances that are completely beyond his control. In a land that is crying out for food production it is not desirable that the land should be held by too few people. Wide distribution of land ownership will constitute the best safeguard of this country against revolutionary movements of the future. The best we can strive for is to have a lot of small holdings owned by men who are able to earn a living, equal at least to that of workers in the cities. For these reasons the Opposition intends to vote against the bill.
– In dealing with the Land Tax Assessment Bill, I desire at the outset to register my most emphatic opposition to the; land tax- in any form. Unlike. the honorable member for Melbourne. (Mr. Calwell), I believe that, the, land tax should not be modified but, abolished. The party to which the honorable member belongs, was solely responsible, for the introduction of the federal land tax.. It has, consistently supported the imposition of such, a tax since, federation and any attempt to. reduce the. incidence, of the tax upon the land-holders; of this, country has invariably been opposed by its, representatives in ‘this, Parliament. Conversely, one. of the strongest planks in the platform of the Australian Country party is now, as. it always has, been, the abolition of the land tax.
– For the benefit of the big squatters.
– That statement betrays the ignorance of the honorable member. Most land-owners are lease-holders and do not pay land tax. Large, dairy farms and city properties are heavily- penalized by this tax. Those who have invested their money in land for the purpose of adding to the production of the nation are gravely hit- by this, impost. The higher the income which they derive from their holdings the greater the tax burden they have to bear. Primary producers are already heavily hit by sales tax, customs duties imposed on all their imported requirements, and by excise duties levied upon many of the commodities produced in Australia that are required by them. In addition, they have to meet heavy imposts, in the form of road taxes, and stock diseases taxes. Why should they be penalized in that way? Landholders have to pay this iniquitous tax, not because they hold large properties but because honorable members opposite and those who support them have introduced the tax as ameans of ensuring the subdivision of large properties^ As the honorable member for Melbourne is aware, throughout Australia, land administration- is a function of the State parliaments. In Queensland a Labour Government is in office; in Victoria Labour also calls the tune. If land-holders in those; States are suffering injustices the party to which the honorable member belongs exercises the requisite authority to enable those injustices to be remedied.
– Let us deal with them.
– The honorable gentleman’s party did deal with them for some time, but it was thrown out of office. Only 7 per cent, of land in Queensland is alienated, or in process of alienation. All of the large holdings in the western portion of the State are owned by the State. From time to time the State Government resumes land which, subsequently, is sold as freehold; but why should persons be taxed because they have acquired land from the Crown for the purpose of producing food for which not only other countries but also this country is badly in need ?
– Why have any taxation at all?
– That is a foolish question. Taxes must be levied to meet, for instance, the cost of defence preparations, pensions and other items. No doubt, those who do not believe that we should take any steps to defend this country would say that taxation is altogether unnecessary. I emphasize that to tax land is virtually to tax the tools of trade of persona who acquire land on which to make a livelihood.
– Who made the land?
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) has made nothing but stupid statements. The object of his party is to introduce government control of all activities in the community. I repeat that land-holders are now liable to pay land tax to Commonwealth, State, and local government authorities. The imposition of land tax by the Commonwealth or State governments is entirely unjustifiable. Indeed, in principle, the collection of rates by local authorities is obsolete. It would be equally justifiable to tax such tools of trade as office furniture, ink and typewriters, that are used by persons as a means of making a livelihood.
However, I support this measure because it is designed to provide a. degree of relief to persons in respect of whom land tax was increased under legislation that was passed last year and the provisions of which were most ruthless. It is now proposed to raise the statutory’ exemption from £5,000 to £8,750. Persons who have paid land tax in respect of property of a value of £5,000 will receive relief under this measure. Reversion from values that ruled in 1939 to 1952 values as a basis for assessment of land tax brought in thousands of new taxpayers. It also had the effect of doubling the tax in most cases and in some instances increased the amount by as much as 700 per cent. In the intervening years such persons have contributed to the development of rural industries and to the welfare of the community generally by producing their quota of foodstuffs and by helping to maintain payable loads on railway systems. The honorable member for Melbourne claimed that the Government’ should extend to other sections of the community the benefits that he claimed were being made available to landholders under this measure. I deny that this bill can be said to be generous in any respect. It simply seeks to smooth some of the rough edges of taxation legislation that was passed last year. The appropriate authorities already possess the requisite power to ensure that all land that is alienated shall be made fully productive. That is another reason why the imposition of land tax is unjust. In addition, the Commonwealth has no right to tax land that it does not own. That is primarily the right of local government authorities. Land tax, whether it be imposed in respect of land in the cities or in country areas, is unjust. However, as I said earlier, I support this measure because it will alleviate to some small degree the additional burden that was imposed on ‘ land-holders under legislation that was passed last year.
.- The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) has attacked, not the attitude of the Opposition towards land tax, but the action that this Government took last year when it altered the basis of assessment and thereby increased the liabilities of land-holders to pay land tax. The honorable member admitted that the Government had introduced this measure in order to alleviate that liability. The Treasurer (Sir . Arthur Fadden), in his second-reading speech, said -
Whilst the Government does not consider that the statutory deduction should be varied, from time to time, in accordance -with the variations in the level of the unimproved values of land, it considers that, in the special circumstances that exist, there should he some alleviation of the greatly increased liability which the increased values imposed on land tax payers.
Under this measure, the Government is doing exactly what the Treasurer has said it does not desire to do. Last year, it provided for the assessment of land tax on values very much higher than those which had been used for this purpose for many years. Speaking on behalf of the Opposition at that time, I pointed out that the new basis of assessment could not be expected to last for any considerable period because the values to be so utilized were due to boom conditions. Under this measure, the Government is recognizing the error to which I then drew its attention; or, alternatively, it is making these amendments as the result of pressure that has been brought to bear upon it by big landholders. The bill raises the statutory deduction from £5,000 to £8,750. The values of land that are ruling to-day are still inflated. They cannot hold for any considerable period of time. Consequently, we may expect that next year, or a few years hence, this legislation will be further amended in order to revert to normal values as a basis of assessment of land tax. That is why the Opposition opposes this measure.
It has been said that the primary object of land tax was the breaking-up of large estates. However, that was not. the sole purpose of it when it was originally introduced in either this country or any other country where such a tax is imposed. Land tax was originally introduced in 3910. Mr. Andrew Fisher, who was then Prime Minister, replied as follows to an interjector who claimed that the sole purpose of land taxation was to break up large holdings : -
I hope the honorable member is not under that delusion, because I do not desire revenue and I have never uttered a word to Hie contrary.
Unimproved value taxation is a sound principle, and, while the incidence will tend to break up large estates and help to develop the country from an economic point of view without any other embarrassing conditions, it is a proper kind of taxation for the purpose of raising Commonwealth revenue. Honorable members will see that the taxation applies not only to large estates, but to city and town areas, and, therefore, could not be justified alone on the ground of breaking up large estates . . . One of our great hopes is that it will convert the larger areas into smaller areas, and bring about closer settlement. The other is that it will help to raise the necessary revenue to enable the Commonwealth Government to carry on the great services with which they have been entrusted . . .
The second reason for our opposition to this bill is to be found in the original purpose of the land tax. When land values return to normal a far higher exemption limit will apply. Opposition members contend that if the Government can afford to grant remissions of tax at the present time, relief should be given to sections of the community that are more urgently in need of it than are the big land-holders. The land tax does not impose a heavy burden on those persons, and, of course, is not applicable to small farmers. The major incidence of the tax, in fact, is upon the owners of valuable properties in the large cities.
– The land tax adds to the farmers’ costs.
– That is true, but the additional cost is passed on to the consumers. That is one reason why the land tax is not satisfactory. As has already been explained, the principal purpose of the land tax is to break up large estates. Other taxes are more vicious iD their incidence than is land tax, and if honorable members opposite are willing, I shall itemize them. The Opposition believes that any remission of tax that may be granted at the present time should benefit the poorer sections of the community.
– What taxes has the honorable member in mind ?
– I have in mind sales tax, payroll tax and other taxes that bear harshly upon the community. I should like to know whether the Government has taken into account the fact that sooner or later land values will return to normal. Indeed, as a result of this Government’s policy, it will not be long before land sales slump and values hit rock bottom, as was the case during the financial depression of the 1930’s. The land tax, which was introduced in 1910, has been increased, and reduced, at various times. A surcharge of 20 per cent, was imposed in 191S-19, but reductions were made subsequently by nonLabour governments, particularly the Bruce-Page Government. The rates of land tax were doubled in 1940 by the Menzies Government, when Mr. Spender, who is now Australian Ambassador in Washington, was the Treasurer. Later, a surcharge of 20 per cent, was imposed by the Curtin Government. Referring to those two increases, the present Minister foi- Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) said -
The latest increases have been made owing to the pressure of war needs. Even with thu proposed supertax of 20 per cent. Hie rates will be lower than those operating between 1018-19 and 1022-23.
Therefore, honorable members will understand that land tax at the present time is not particularly burdensome. Tax relief should be granted to other sections of the Australian people before the wealthy laud-holders are singled out by the Government for .special attention. I emphasize for the information of members of the Australian Country party that the land tax applies, not to the average farmer but, in the main, to the city business man. The Labour party considers that the Government has not taken first things first in this matter of reducing taxes. Alternatively, the amount to be remitted could be better spent by assisting pensioners and persons du fixed incomes who are being the great brunt of the harsh conditions that arc imposed by inflation.
.- Two Opposition members have treated us to speeches which have been quite honest, and have left us in no doubt about their attitude to the bill, and their policy if they were in office. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition;, pointed out that the Fisher Government did not introduce the land tax for revenue-raising purposes, yet the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) later denied that assertion, and quoted a statement by Mr. Fisher as his authority. I have not read the report of Mr. Fisher’s speech upon the land tax in 1910, but I point out that the statements of the honorable member for Melbourne and the honorable member for Perth are contradictory. The Opposition cannot have it both ways. The honorable member for Melbourne also said that the Labour party did not desire the people to suffer and did not want to hurt them; but the honorable member for Perth said that many people need tax relief more urgently than do the wealthy land-holders. Therefore, I assume that the honorable gentleman would be prepared to support an increase of land tax in return for a reduction of other taxes. The Labour party opposes this bill, which is merely for the purpose of increasing from £5,000 to £8,750 the statutory deduction allowed in the case of a resident land-owner in arriving at the taxable value of his land on which the tax is imposed. It is all very well for the Opposition to draw “ red herrings “ across the trail, but we must apply ourselves,’ in the first instance at least, to the terms of the bill. The only interpretation that one can place upon the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne, and the honorable member for Perth, is that the Opposition favours the imposition of overwhelmingly increased land tax in the current year. The honorable member for Perth would not have spoken as he did had he really understood the effect upon land-holders of the legislation passed last year. It is clear that the advice upon which the Government based that legislation was out of date and I congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the Government upon this prompt action to remedy an obvious injustice suffered by one section of the community. That, injustice became apparent when assessments issued under last year’s legislation were received by land-holders and this prompt action to rectify the position will stand to the eternal credit of the Government.
The purpose of the bill is to increase the exemption. I shall cite one or two cases to show the inequity of the existing land tax legislation, which, judging by the remarks of ‘the honorable member for Melbourne, and the honorable member for Perth, the Labour party would perpetuate. A certain property at “Wollongong was valued in 1939 at £10,100 and, last year, land tax was assessed on that figure. This year, the valuation is £40,400.
– Is that the unimproved value?
– Yes. Last year, the land ta.x payable on the property was £27 0s. 7d. This year, the assessment, including of course the 20 per cent, surcharge, is £511 3s. 6d., or an increase of 1,892 per cent. Apparently the Labour party believes that injustices such as that should remain. Obviously, no government could tolerate such a situation and the Treasurer has been commendably prompt in taking remedial measures. The land tax payable on a certain property in Martin-place, Sydney, last year, was £2,952. Under the existing legislation, the commitment this year is £5,904. or double the previous figure. The gross rent received from the property is £13,500. After all deductions, including land tax, were made last year, the net return was £572. With the additional commitment of £2,952 this year, the owner is faced with a loss of £2,380. Surely, no one with a sense of justice could stand idly by and allow this state of affairs to continue, yet two members of a responsible, party, including its deputy leader, have opposed this legislation. The Opposition’s attitude is incredible. We can only assume that it is. being consistent with its policy of socialization, and believes that no property should be privately owned. That, of course, would be the result if the existing land tax legislation were to remain in force. In plain words, honorable members opposite are opposed to private ownership of property as are their fellow socialists in other parts of the world. I have given two examples of the effect of the existing legislation. There are thousands of people in similar circumstances.
This bill proposes that the exemption shall be raised from £5,000 to £8,750. Whilst T realize that the decision is based upon definite calculations, I believe, as a qualified valuer, and a real-estate man who has had nearly 30 years experience, that £8,750 is not high enough if the Government’s intention is to maintain the status quo, and to obtain in the current financial year the same revenue from the land tax as was contributed last year. There has been an extraordinary trend in valuations, which usually are made triennially. Although valuations had increased considerably by 1949, valuers for taxation purposes did not. observe current market figures. Even as late as 1951. valuations for taxation purposes were still below market values. This year, however, values made a tremendous jump; the average increase throughout Australia over the 1.942 pegged figures has exceeded 100 per cent. The value of some properties has been increased by as much as 250 per cent, or even 300 per cent, over the 1942 figures. I am speaking now of certain areas of New South Wales. I am not aware of the exact figures for the other States. I believe therefore that the Government is acting fairly ‘in amending its land tax legislation, but I hope that when the 1952-53 budget is under consideration the position will be further examined with a view to increasing the exemptions still further. I make no bones about my views, on this subject. I consider that, the land tax should be abolished. It is an unfair tax and it does not benefit anybody. Members of the Opposition have said that it was never intended to bc a revenue-earning tax, and I believe that that is so. The original intention was to levy the tax for the purpose of breaking up large estates, but it did not have that effect. I am amazed that members of the Opposition should want to use n weapon of this kind in order to break up estates because, when they are in power, they do not hesitate to use the much more ruthless method of confiscation by resumption whenever it suits them to do so. Labour governments in the States employ the same method. The Government of New South Wales, for example, resumes land’ in the most ruthless and unjust way. Why, therefore, do honorable members opposite want to use the land tax as a weapon against, property-owners when, in fact, they use other more effective weapons when the opportunity offers? Revenue from this tax, as has been stated, is expected to amount to about £7,500,000 a year.
In my opinion, which honorable members opposite will certainly dispute, governments have been too willing to set up a multiplicity of departments in recent years. Land tax administration provides us with an example of excessive expansion of government activities. In this instance, not merely duplication, but triplication occurs because the States also levy land tax and, in addition, as honorable members know, local governing bodies depend for their revenue entirely upon their right to tax land. The Commonwealth tax will yield only about. £7,500,000. That volume of revenue does not justify the maintenance of a departmental organization involving the appointment and payment of deputy commissioners and valuers in all States. There are whole strings of valuers in each State who work for this Government, the State Government and the local governing bodies. All the - costs of this complex organization are paid by the taxpayers. We now have an opportunity to streamline government administration and reduce costs. The Commonwealth should abandon the field of land tax and the States should do likewise. It should be left exclusively to local governing bodies, which are in desperate difficulties, largely as a result of commitments that have been imposed upon them by their respective State governments. Both from the point of view of justice and of economy in government expenditure this unnecessary activity should be discontinued by the Australian Government and the State governments.
The levying of land tax causes a grave injustice to many property-owners. The rent control formulas that apply in the States, generally speaking, provide for a net return to property-owners of 5 per cent, on capital values as determined in 1939. since when, as I have pointed out. values have increased by as much as 300 per cent. Deductions from the gross returns that are permitted in order to determine the net returns, such as rates, taxes, insurance and maintenance costs, do not include, for some extraordinary reason, Commonwealth land tax. That anomaly, of course, is calamitous in many instances because land tax on many properties in the big cities amounts to enormous sums. The result is that, with rents pegged on the basis of 1939 valuations, many owners are forced to carryon at a net loss. That is one result of having a multiplicity of controls. It is a strange fact that, although land tax is not levied generally by the Government of New South Wales, it is imposed in the western division of the State. I am informed on the best of authority that the cost of collecting that tax is greater than the revenue derived from it. If that be so, it is obvious that the State governments and this Government should overhaul the tax system.
The bil] will raise the exemption limit from £5,000 to £8,750. Members of the Opposition obviously consider that a man who owns £5,000 worth of land is a very rich capitalist. That is not so. A valuation of £5,000 can apply to many moderately sized farms in New South Wales and in other States.
– Rubbish !
– That is true.
– It is untrue.
– There can be no doubt about the truth of my statement. The unimproved capital value of many ordinary properties upon which moderately sized business premises are established in well-settled suburbs is in excess of £5,000, and such property is subject to land tax. Even after the exemption has been raised to £8,750, many hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of additional taxpayers will be brought into the field of land tax as a result of the increased valuations for 1952. I do not know how any honorable member who claims that he is willing to concede justice to all persons can oppose this bill because the continuance of the land tax in its present form will cause severe injustices. Certain citizens are being taxed merely because they are held to be members of a special section of the community. It is class distinction of the worst kind. The Government is to be congratulated for having prepared this measure now instead of waiting until after the presentation of the next budget in order to rectify the anomaly at least partially.
.- This bill, which will amend the Land Tax Assessment Act, has two purposes although only one of them has been stated up to date. The first purpose is to raise the statutory exemption on unimproved land values from £5,000 to £8,750. It has been said that the effect of .this change will be to remove from the field of land tax about 22,000 properties that have been brought into the field as a result of higher valuations. The second and incidental purpose is to grant an additional exemption of £3,750 in respect of every other piece of land that is subject to land tax. In the first place, 22,000 properties of a taxable value under £8,750 and above £5,000 will be freed from the payment of land tax. I understand that about £500,000 of revenue will be lost as a result of the increase of the exemption. In addition, the assessment of every person who pays land tax, including land-holders who are now paying at the rate of 6d. in the £1 or more, will be reduced. Such persons will receive the benefit of a reduction of 3,760 times the maximum rate of land tax prevailing. Therefore, there is some truth in the contention that this is class legislation which will help the big land-owner more than the small land-owner.
To clarify this very doubtful subject of land taxation, let us examine the statistical information that is available. Unfortunately that information is roughly eight or nine years old, but I ask honorable members to bear in mind the reservation that was made by the Commissioner of Taxation in his 30th report, which was ordered to be printed on the 22nd February last. On page 58 of that admirable report, the Commissioner of Taxation stated -
Statistics have not been extracted from returns and published in the Annual Report since the 1941-42 assessment year. Those extracted in that year appeared in the Twentyfourth .Annual Report. The extraction and publication were discontinued while values were pegged for Land Tax purposes because any statistics extracted would have been very much the same from year to year.
However, with the reintroduction of market values for Land Tax purposes in the 1951-52 assessment year, it is anticipated that statistics extracted in that year should be compiled in time for inclusion in the Twenty-second or Twenty-third Annual Report.
The Commissioner of Taxation contends that, for all practical purposes, the figures that appeared in the twenty-fourth report are relevant at least until this year. I accept that statement as being substantially accurate, and I propose to make an analysis of the figures that were published in the twenty-fourth report of the Commissioner of Taxation. On page 26 of the document, the Commissioner said -
The distinction is really in respect of urban as distinct from rural lands, as township blocks situated in country districts have been regarded as town lands.
The first thing that we must bear in mind in analysing this situation is that there is a distinction between what are called town lands and country lands. It is interesting to note that in the year 1941-42 land tax assessments were issued in 24,371 separate cases, which covered town lands of an unimproved value of £158,000,000 and country lands, or rural lands, of an unimproved value of £118,000,000. The total unimproved value of all lands involved was £276,000,000, and the total land tax payable was assessed at £3,812,000. It is clear that the largest source of revenue from land tax is not urban lands or rural lands, which are used for rural production, but town lands, upon which, for the most part, dwellings or business properties have been erected.
In 1941-42, 24,371 separate assessments were issued. It is interesting to note that of those assessments, 18,862 were issued in respect of resident individuals as such, 3,059 in respect of companies, and 2,450 in respect of absentee landlords. The total field of taxation represented by the 18,862 individuals was roughly £170,000,000. Although there were .only 3,059 companies- subject to land tax, the total field of taxation that they represented was £104,000,000. The total amount of revenue collected from individuals was £1,163,000, and from companies £2,623,000. Those facts should be borne in mind when we are considering the suggestion that, by these adjustments, the Government is proposing to give to those companies, many of which are now paying tax at the maximum rate, a far greater concession than will be given to smaller land-holders. The Treasurer would have been justified to some extent if he had exempted the small estates, as he has done, and made a graduated or tapering statutory exemption applicable to the larger estates.
A further analysis needs to be made of the occupations of individual taxpayers and company taxpayers. The absentee land-owners are not relevant to my argument in this connexion, because they paid only £25,000 in land tax. In 1941-42 18,S62 resident taxpayers were subject to land tax. Of those, 3,552 were farmers, 6,033 were described as pastoralists, and 8,34S were propertyowners. The 3,552 farmers had town lands of an unimproved value of £895,000 and country lands of an unimproved value of £24,523,000. The 6,032 pastoralists had town lands of which the unimproved value was £2,744,000. and country lands of an unimproved value of roughly £63,000,000. The 8,348 property-owners had town lands of an unimproved value of £60,000,000 and country lands of an unimproved value of £10,000,000. From the 3,552 farmers, 50,594 land tax was collected; from the 6,033 pastoralists, £434,769; and from the 8,348 property-owners, £601,995. More than a half of the total sum collected from resident individuals was extracted from property-owners as such, although the original object of the land tax was to “ bust up “ big estates.
Let us examine the second category of taxpayers, which is composed of companies. Of the 3,059 companies, 567 were farmers, with land of an unimproved value of £975,000. They paid £12,641 in land tax. There were 462 pastoralist companies, with land of an unimproved value of £15,000,000. They paid £315,000 in land tax. Propertyowners numbered 973, had unimproved land to the value of £24,757,487, and paid a total of £489,254 in land tax. Other categories include companies such as retail stores, insurance companies and banking and financial institutions. Manufacturers numbered 456 with unimproved land to the value of £11,243,511 and paid land tax of £224,228. Insurance companies numbered 54, had unimproved land to the value of £5,69S,474 and paid £214,242 in land tax. Banks and other financial institutions numbered 24, had unimproved land to the value of £8,451,462 and paid land tax of £353,774. Wholesale merchants numbered 294, had unimproved land to the value of £7,S08,77o, and paid £163,846 in land tax. Retail stores numbered 240, had unimproved land to the value of £12.295,068 and paid £367,094 in land tax. Members of all other groups totalled 500, had unimproved land to the value of £17,92S,000 and paid £482,000 in land tax. Therefore the 3,059 companies which I previously mentioned had unimproved land to the value of 1104,000,000 and paid £2,623,000 in land tUX. The second examination that requires to be made is into the question of who pays the land tax. The third and most important matter is how much tax is paid by the different land value groups. Again, that information is provided in Schedule No. 7, on pages 28 and 29 of the Commissioner’s twenty-fourth report. An. analysis is there given of the 21,921 local taxpayers as distinct from absentee taxpayers. There were 16,818 taxpayers who had land with an unimproved value of £10,000 and under. They made up roughly 80 per cent, of the total number of land taxpayers. The total of town land owned by those people had a value of £44,319,1SS whilst they also owned country land to a value of £67,436,697. The total of tax paid by that group was £226,415. The next group of taxpayers consists of individuals with unimproved land valued at between £10,000 and £60,000. They numbered 4,521, had unimproved land to the value of £90,000,000 and paid £903,000 in land tax. There were 484 taxpayers in the next group of land holders, the members of which owned land with an unimproved capital value of between £60,000 and £200,000. Together they owned unimproved land to the value of £38,000,000 and paid £1,125,000 in land tax. Taxpayers who owned land to the value of more than £200,000 numbered 9S, owned unimproved land to the value of £35,000,000 and paid £1,531,000 in land tax. A final analysis shows that 98 taxpayers, who represented less than one-half of 1 per cent, of the total number of taxpayers, paid 40.4 per cent, of the total amount of land tax collected. That fact needs to be borne in mind when the legislation designed to give a 20 per cent, tax exemption to certain people is being framed.
– Were those 98 taxpayers companies or individuals?
– Some were companies and some were individuals; unfortunately the distinction was not made in the report. The 484 taxpayers who had land with an unimproved value of between £60,000, and £200,000 numbered 2.2 per cent, of the total number of taxpayers and paid 29.7 per cent, of the total amount of tax collected. Therefore, about 2-J per cent, of land taxpayers paid 70 per cent, of the amount of the revenue that was derived from laud tax. It is necessary for the House to have that kind of information before it so that it may evaluate properly the likely effect not only of this legislation but of later legislation that will seek to remove the super tax on land-holders.
A great deal has been said about the effects of land taxation and whether or not it has achieved the purpose for which it was originally imposed. The figures that I have given indicate that there is still a lot to be done in relation to the breaking up of big estates. The. fact that 98 separate taxpayers owned unimproved land to the value of £35,000,000 and 484 separate taxpayers owned unimproved land to the value of £38,000,000 speaks for itself. These holdings’ are. still big by any standards and perhaps this Parliament needs to consider from time to time whether, in fact, the legislation that was introduced in 1910 for a certain purpose is achieving that purpose in 1952, or whether the tax is now simply taken for granted. In many instances the tax becomes capitalized to a certain degree in the hands of existing owners, because anybody who wishes to buy land knows that land tax has an impact upon its value and makes due allowance accordingly. A further effect which requires: to be borne in mind is that the amount that large taxpayers pay in land tax is allowable as a deduction for income tax purposes. With the existing company tax rate a.t 9s. or 10s. in the £1, a company would have had to pay approximately half as much in the form of tax on its profits as it paid in land tax. The same consideration applies to individual landowners. In the circumstances the amount that they have to pay in land tax is not great having regard to the fact that they are entitled to show it as an allowable deduction when they compute their incomes for income tax purposes. That fact also needs to be taken into account when we seek to assess the effect of land taxation. Of course it is not easy to give an answer on an occasion such as this. I suggested on a previous occasion in the House, that a means should exist, perhaps outside the Parliament, whereby honorable members may more properly evaluate the subjectmatters about which they are asked to legislate, because otherwise, there is grave danger that a measure that, we introduce as a social tax may, in the long run, become nothing more than a device for raising revenue. It is also impossible to be certain that the incidence of tax falls in the way in which it was intended to fall. It seems fairly certain that a great deal needs to be done, about breaking up big estates. Apparently, even the present rate of land tax has not done a great deal to break up such estates. There is a considerable amount of hypocrisy in the suggestion that poor people are bearing the burden of this tax. If there is a burden it is not being borne by poor people. It is largely being borne by wealthy people, and I suggest that in the present circumstances they are quite able to continue, to bear that burden. If the Government wishes to provide tax relief, such relief could be given with far greater equity to other sections of the community. The operative section of the Land Tax Assessment Act is the definition in section 3 of unimproved value, because it is upon - that definition that this type of taxation is based. It seems that there are two ways in which to determine the unimproved value of land. The subject has been dealt with in a book entitled Australian Land Taxation by J. ‘ M. Garland and in a recent article by Mr. Ronald Collier in the January issue of the Australian Conveyancer and Solicitors’ Journal. Mr. Garland stated, in effect, that the unimproved value may be determined in two ways, one of which he called the abstractive method and the other the subtractive method. How those methods operate is clearly related in the article by Mr. Collier, part of which reads as follows : -
In the first place the valuer does his best to visualise the property, be it urban or rural, denuded of improvements and in its unimproved condition, and with the assistance of such data as to sales of unimproved land, which he may have in front of him, and, using his skill, he assesses unimproved value. Secondly, and as an alternative method of approach, the valuer assesses the unimproved value which in most instances is a great deal easier to do than to determine unimproved value, since more sales of improved lands will have occurred to guide him.
This is what Mr. Garland referred to as the subtractive method. Mr. Collier continued -
From improved value, the value of the improvements is deducted and the residum constitutes unimproved value - the italics are intentional for quite often, as will be subsequently shown, this method of valuation produces a figure which in no way resembles unimproved value. Therefore, in this article hereafter, this residual value will be called “ theoretical unimproved value “.
Those comments indicate that the whole concept of unimproved value is a very dubious one. Perhaps the following words of Mr. Garland sum up the situation : -
The correct view seems to be foreshadowed .in the subtractive method. Unimproved value is rather an amorphous concept made up of many heterogeneous elements, which cannot be defined in their sum, but can best be comprehended together residually. The concept on this view must be defined, not in terms of itself, but exclusively, or residually, by reference to a supplementary concept of clear form and content. Unimproved value then becomes a repository of miscellaneous residua which are collectively labelled but are not essentially analogous.
That appears to be the rather queer position in which we are placed in 1952. It appears difficult to ascertain what the gentleman means. I think that his whole thesis is that unimproved value as defined in the act is not a very certain concept on which to base a policy relating to this very important matter of land tax.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has made an interesting speech in which he cited a large number of figures, the accuracy of which I do not dispute. But I do not agree with the deductions that he has made from his figures. I am somewhat astonished by the attitude of the Opposition in regard to the bill. I presume that, without exception, honorable members of the Opposition are opposed to the private ownership of land. For that reason, they are prepared to break up estates and, naturally, they will have their sport. But it seems to me that they have failed to appreciate the real reason why this bill has been introduced. In 1951 the Government introduced a bill which, perhaps, could have been wider in scope. It resulted in a number of anomalies and injustices which it is the purpose of this bill to remove. Honorable members know of cases in which taxes have been increased by 1,000 per cent. However drastic the action that honorable members opposite may be prepared to recommend in regard to what they may call the more wealthy section of the community, I can hardly believe that they will be prepared to recommend the imposition of taxation at that vicious and extravagant rate.
Opposition members might contend, on the principle that an old tax is a good tax, that this land tax is not as bad as some people might believe it to be. To my mind, the imposition of this tax is particularly wrong and completely inequitable, and I consider that the House should consider its abolition. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) contended that the land tax was a good tax because it had certain effects. They referred to what might be called its social utility and mentioned that it was a means of obtaining revenue. I think that it has been alleged by some Opposition members that this tax is a measure of taxable capacity. In other words, they have said that if a person has a large amount of land he must be in a position to pay a large amount of tax. But the existing legislation fails to take two factors into account. It does not recognize that there may be a mortgage on the property and it fails to take into account the amount of income that the property provides.
It has been contended that this is a good tax because the increase in the value of property has been due to the growth of the community. That is a debatable contention, but, even if it is correct, why should land be the only property subject to taxation? A great many other forms of property may be said to increase in value, due to the growth of the community. Stocks, shares, public houses, and other businesses may benefit from the growth of the community without being subject to tax. If land is to be taxed because it owes its increased value to the growth of the community, surely the same principle should be applied to increments in the value of all forms of property. The reason for the imposition of land taxes is principally historical, and at present obsolete. Many years ago the only property that had any real value was land. Therefore, the custom grew up of taxing the land. The land tax is still with us although the original reasons for its imposition have disappeared. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has already discussed the purpose of this tax, which is to break up large estates and to prevent the aggregation of estates. I suggest that there is a much better method cf achieving that object than by the land tax. Large estates can best be broken up by resumption by the relevant State government. That is a far more logical method and will produce far better results because it is a selective process.
– Brit it is much more costly.
– Not necessarily. Honorable members can well understand that there must be many large estates which would have no particular value if broken up into small farms. Yet because of the system of land tax such large estates are broken up, their original value to the country is lost and their subsequent value in small holdings is practically nothing. If the system of land resumption were followed, only the large estates most suitable for closer settlement would be subdivided and settled. Reference has been made to the effect of the land tax on the breaking up of properties and the preparation of tax paid by rural and urban properties. I think that the following figures will be of value to the
House. In the year 1914-15 the unimproved value of rural land assessed for tax was £137,000,000. The unimproved value of urban land so assessed was £75,000,000. In 1941-42, which is the last year for which such assessment has been made, the relevant figures were £119,000,000 in respect of rural land and £158,000,000 for . urban land. Between 1914 and 1942 the taxes levied on urban land increased from £865,000 to £2,000,000 and on country land they decreased from £1,394,000 to £895,000. ‘
The honorable member for Melbourne and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) put forward the suggestion that the land tax had not yet finished the work for which it was imposed, and that it should continue until all the big estates were broken up. There are certain statistics which show fairly conclusively that the land tax has more or less achieved its objective. I shall give the House those particular figures in order to illustrate my argument. Let ns consider the year 1914-15 as a base year for the computation of tax, and let the tax imposed on urban and rural land for that year be represented by 100 in each case. By 1930 the figure for urban land was 119 while the figure for country land had fallen to 67. In 1941-42, which is the last year for which these figures are available, the urban figure had risen to 134 and the country figure had fallen to 62. Those figures show two things. The first is that this social utility tax had achieved its purpose because the tax on country properties, after reaching a certain level, remained fixed. The fixed level of that tax indicates that all the land economically worth splitting up bad been so subdivided and that no further land suitable for subdivision remains. The second point is that this revenueproducing tax is inequitable because it takes no account of ability to pay and has no connexion with income. I suggest that those reasons should impress themselves on the minds of honorable members and should make them realize that the land tax could well be abolished. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) will probably raise his hands in horror at such a suggestion, because this tax brings in revenue; but I believe that there are better ways of producing revenue than by this impracticable tax which has had so many bad effects on the country.
– “Would the honorable member rather tax food.
– No, I would sooner tax the honorable member who interjected. Anybody in this House who knows anything about the land, and some day I hope to give the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) a few details about the land which will make him a bit wiser than he is now, knows very well that there are three levels of taxation on the land - the federal, the State and. the municipal. Anybody who has to bear those taxes realizes that not only do they not take into account what is being produced on the land, but they also do not take into account whether the farm is being run at a profit or at a loss. Those taxes are a heavy burden on farmers. During these days we need, above all things, to increase our primary production. Therefore, I suggest that wc should give serious thought to the abolition of the land tax.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) for his excellent speech. His analysis of taxation is one that should be carefully studied by all honorable members. I was also impressed by the opening remarks of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), who stated that he could not quite agree with the figures given by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and said that the Government’s amending land tax legislation of 1951 should have been given more consideration before it was introduced. I agree with the honorable member that this Government often introduces measures without giving them the consideration that they should be given. The main reason why this legislation was passed was to assist the farmer and to reduce the taxation of the primary producer in order to induce him to produce more.. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) says, “Hear, hear !” I do not know that this legislation will improve the position of the primary producer unless he happens to be the owner of a large property. Much has been said about the need to produce more wheat and more butter, but the wheatfarmers and the dairy-farmers do not usually own land which has a large unimproved value. The wheat-farmer who owns a farm of an unimproved value of £10,000 has a good property.
In his second-reading speech, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) referred to the amounts which primary producers will save as a result of this legislation. If I were a farmer and paid income tax on £4,000 a year, I would bake the right honorable gentleman’s statement to mean that the reduction of land tax would mean a gift to me. However, when the figures are examined it will be seen that the money that is paid in land tax is deductible, from income tax. If a primary producer has an income of £4,000 or £4,500 he pays 144 pence in the £1 by way of income tax, plus 10 per cent., making a total of a little more than 13s. in the £1- By exempting him from liability to pay land tax he will save less than 7s. in the £1 on the amount that he would normally pay by way of land tax. I have no doubt that many farmers will be surprised when they find that that will be the position.
Apparently the Government feels that, it must do something to win back the support of the farmers. Many small farmers will believe that they are to be materially assisted because of the introduction of this bill. However, the Government does not tell them that twothirds of what it proposes to give them with one hand will be taken from them with the other.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) referred to company tax of between 9s. and 10s. in the £1. Let us, for the purposes of illustration, consider the case of a man with a large income from primary production, such as £5,000 a year. He. is obliged to pay 160 pence in the £1, plus 10 per cent., or a total of 176 pence in the £1, by way of income tax. A company, on the other hand, is obliged to pay only 120 pence or 130 pence in the £1, so that the greatest benefit of this legislation will go to companies rather than to individual primary producers. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) did not explain what a primary producer will pay in laud tax when this bill becomes law. The legislation will not affect property valuations at all.
As the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) has stated, the Government would be justified in retaining the exemption at £5,000. This bill proposes to increase the figure to £8,750. Does that mean that every now and again the Government intends to introduce legislation such as this in order to alter land values ? The figure, of £5,000 was selected, not on the unimproved land values of 1939 but on those of 1910. The increased exemption cannot be justified on the basis of the 1939 figures. The Government is not working to a well thought out plan at all but is merely endeavouring to meet a present emergency.
I was interested to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Bennelong concerning city land-owners. I do not know what the position is in Sydney, but in Adelaide many lessees not only pay rent, but they also pay rates and taxes. When the rates are increased it is the lessee and not the owner who pays them. There is an old saying that hard cases do not make good legislation. I remind the Government that if it tries to pick out an individual hard case and legislate on that basis it will do something that is not sound. Legislation must be based on a general position.
I say to the. honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), who stated that the Australian Labour party does not believe in private ownership, that he is making a mistake. We do not believe in aggregation of huge estates, but we do believe in the right of an individual to own a reasonable amount of property. The party has held that view for many years. It is also of the opinion that federal land tax was imposed primarily for the purpose, of breaking up large estates and to recover income due to the Australian Government by big estates, particularly large estates in the cities. The honorable member for Bennelong stated that land tax is not payable in New South Wales. In South Australia it is, but the amount paid by the ordinary individual land-owner is small. On the other hand, the land tax paid on large properties in South Aus tralia represents a notable contribution to the revenue of the State. I suggest that the State governments have not taken advantage of their opportunity to obtain revenue by means of land tax. If honorable members go into the country away from the cities they will discover that, generally speaking, not much is paid by the owners of large areas in land tax or in local government taxes. The Labour party has always claimed that the local and State authorities gain most from land tax on the large estates and the big city properties. I suggest to the Government that it should leave the minimum taxable value at £5,000. If the Government wants to help the land-owners, it should start with that amount and graduate the tax. Taxation should be applied always so that it will not hit too hard the man who can least afford it. The Labour party believes that taxation should be levied equitably in accordance with ability to pay. The Government should have adopted that principle in thi; case instead of proposing to alter the amount of exemption from £5,000 to £8,750. The benefit that the primary producers will receive from the land tax revision will be small when offset against the extra income tax that they will have to pay. The ordinary primary producer is not paying much over £20 to £40 a year in federal land tax. Honorable members representing country electorates complain that ‘ farmers’ sons are drifting to the cities. That is true, but it is not always because they are attracted by city life. Many who genuinely want to stay on the land cannot get an area which will return them a reasonable income. A man who has land of an unimproved value exceeding £5,000 and who is genuinely producing from it, will pay income tax if he does not pay land tax. If he is not using the land as he should and the tax hits him heavily, he will probably leave the land and will be replaced by some one who will work it properly. The Opposition cannot support the bill because the proposed alteration is not sound and will not benefit primary producers to the extent that the Government claims.
.- I support the bill because it corrects an anomaly and is in keeping with the honest intentions of the Government. The Opposition is confused as to whether it should support the bill or not. Honorable members opposite appear to intend to vote against the bill, but most of their arguments indicate that they are heartily in accord with it. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) said that the bill was introduced solely to encourage primary producers. That is not correct. The honorable member obviously did not hear the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) when he introduced the bill, because the Treasurer stated plainly that the bill was introduced to correct an anomaly which arose from the increased values of land. The original Land Tax Assessment Act 1910 operated for many years. In the early years of the last war when land values were pegged, the government of the day decided that triennial re-assessments would be discontinued. As a result, the taxation that was levied in those years was maintained at an even level. Now the time has arrived to return to triennial revaluations. When revaluations were made after the war, values were found to have increased so greatly that the imposition of the land tax involved considerable and unreasonable anomalies. Realizing that and being an honest government, the Government set out to correct that position. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) quoted statistics prepared by the Commissioner of Taxation, and -dated back to 1944. The Commissioner would not have knowledge then of the increased values. As a result he would not anticipate the rise in values which actually occurred. When the Government noticed those rises, its leaders stated that they were prepared to introduce legislation to increase exemptions and to do certain other things which are set out in another bill. That was the honest way to attack the question. As a result, this bill is before the House and by it the figure at which the tax commences will be altered from £5,000 to £8,750. Opposition speakers have made rather contradictory remarks about this bill. One honorable member opposite said that the land tax was passed on by the person upon whom it was levied. Later, he admitted that primary producers were unable to pass on any of their charges. As everybody knows, primary producers sell their commodities for the best price they are able to obtain for them and consequently they are unable to pass on a tax of this kind.
– I said that the tax was passed on by the owners of big city properties.
– If the owners of big city properties are able to pass on the tax the Opposition’s objection to the bill on the ground that it will benefit those in the big income brackets cannot be sustained. It is obvious that the Opposition is carrying out its usual function of opposing everything and that it has no good ground for its Hostility to the measure. Most contradictory and remarkable statements have been made by Opposition members concerning the taxpayers to whom this bill will afford relief. If it will afford relief to anybody it will lessen the burden on those who own property the. unimproved value of which is between £5,000 and £8,750, who, by no stretch of the imagination, could be described as big property-owners. I pay a tribute to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) for his diligence in compiling the. figures which he has presented to the House. Unfortunately, however, while they appear to substantiate his case, they do not go far enough. It is a pity that he did not dissect the figures relating to the owners of large properties to show how many tr.e individuals and how many are companies. If he could have assured the House that his figures covered only individual owners he would have greatly strengthened his argument. It is completely wrong to assume that the shareholders of companies are mainly big financial wizards. Stock exchange reports show clearly they are mostly small investors. Opposition members may refuse to give relief to taxpayers with large, incomes, but surely they do not oppose the granting of relief to companies the shareholders of which are in the main small investors.
It has been suggested that the Land Tax Act was originally introduced for the purpose of breaking up large estates. One would think that Opposition members would support the abolition of the tax because, during this debate, several of them have admitted that the legislation has failed to achieve that purpose. There is no need for legislation of this kind in’ NewSouth “Wales because land resumptions in that State are made on the basis, not of present values, but on 1942 values. The New South Wales authorities go further and say to the landholder, “ If you will be a good boy and agree to our resumption, we shall permit you to increase the 1942 value of your land by 15 per cent.; if you do not agree, we shall resume your property on the basis of its 1942 value”. To make the torture a little more exquisite, they say, “ We are doing this only because we are taking your land for the settlement of ex-servicemen ‘’. Although the original purpose of the federal land tax may have been to break up large estates, it has been continued as a means of producing revenue.
I support the bill for two reasons; first, because it will give relief to a section of the people which is entitled to that relief, and, secondly, because it honours the promise made by the Government when it ascertained that, because of an omission from rather than a provision in a regulation, an injustice was being done. This Government has always set out to do the right thing. Where ever it has found injustice it has set out to provide a remedy. It is not ashamed to have to change its policy to meet changing circumstances.
I join with other honorable members in questioning the need for the continuance of this tax. Indeed, I agree wholeheartedly with those who have suggested that it should be abolished. Nothing is more difficult to assess than is the unimproved value of land. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) quoted a book definition of unimproved value. Let us consider the difficulties that would be involved in assessing the unimproved value of two adjoining areas of land, one of which had originally been heavily timbered, and the other located in open grass country. The improved value of both areas would be the same, whereas in fact it would have cost a great deal more to bring the timbered area into produc tion than it would have cost to bring the grassed area into the same condition. It is difficult to assess the unimproved capital value of any property. That is why I doubt the wisdom of imposing land tax on the basis of unimproved values. Yet, if we tax the improved value of the land we may strike still greater difficulties. The time may well have arrived when we should reconsider the wisdom of continuing the land tax. We must face the fact, however, that the tax collected from this source forms part of the Treasurer’s revenue and that this is not a suitable time for us to do more than amend the legislation to correct an anomaly that has been revealed in the working of the legislation. In introducing this measure the Government has acted according to tradition in the interests of the people as a whole and it should not be criticized for so doing. Honorable members opposite would like to support the measure. I pay them the tribute of saying that they are opposing it simply on the ground that the purpose of an opposition is to oppose. I am sure that if they were in office at present they would introduce a similar measure in order to do justice to that section of the community which the bill affects.
The measure is short. It proposes to raise the statutory exemption from £5,000 to £8,750 ‘and to rectify an anomaly by treating joint owners and individual owners on the same basis. I cannot see any real objection to the measure. Although, as I said earlier, I am opposed to land tax in principle, the bill itself should be supported by all honorable members.
.- The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) devoted most of his time to criticism of the Opposition. He conveniently failed to offer any reason why the bill should be passed. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in his second-reading speech, was guilty of a similar omission. He did not present any convincing reason for the introduction of the bill. The honorable member for Lawson said that it was introduced for two reasons. The first of them was to give relief to a section of land tax payers who were most entitled to relief; and the second was to honour a promise that the Government had made to remove some injustice the nature of which he did not indicate. Neither did he indicate the degree of relief that will he granted to the section of taxpayers that he mentioned. In this respect, I direct attention to the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) in which he cited official figures that revealed that at present only 2$ per cent, of land tax payers pay 70 per cent, of the tax and that that section consisted of only 582 individual taxpayers. Is it suggested that that small proportion is the neediest section of those who pay land tax? Under another measure that the Treasurer has introduced, super tax which yields approximately £1,000,000 annually is to be abolished and the same small group will receive 70 per cent, of that additional relief. Those facts completely refute the claim made by the honorable member for Lawson that this bill is designed to afford relief to the section of land tax payers who are most entitled to it. It is an axiom that taxes should be levied in proportion to ability to pay. Under this measure the greatest degree of relief will be afforded to those who control the largest1 and most valuable properties and who, therefore, should be obliged to carry the greater share of the burden. The great majority of individuals who are liable to land tax at present are owners of properties of which the unimproved value is from £5,000 to £10,000, but they will receive the. least measure of relief under this bill. It is principally for that reason that the Opposition opposes it.
Secondly, the honorable member for Lawson said that the Government had introduced the bill in order to honour a promise that it would remove a certain injustice. I take it that the Government parties made certain promises to the big land-holders. No publicity was given to that fact during the last two general election campaigns because the Government realized that any proposal to reduce taxes for the benefit of those in the higher ranges of income at the expense of those in the lower ranges would not be popular with voters. The honorable member forgot to tell the
House who, exactly, made the promise or anything about the nature of the injustice that he mentioned. Therefore, he made no worthwhile contribution to the debate. He claimed that anomalies occurred in respect of the fixation of the unimproved values of land.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The Treasurer, when he introduced this bill last week, gave a very brief explanation of the reason why he was presenting it to the House. One of the matters which he did not explain was why a tax measure was introduced towards the close of the financial year, because we are accustomed to consider tax measures in September or October each year, after the budget has been presented to the Parliament. The Opposition is not unreasonable when it asks the Treasurer- to state why a small section of taxpayers are to receive special consideration from the Government at this time of the year, in view of the fact that he has not informed the House whether tax relief will be given to other sections of the community. I direct attention to a statement made by the Treasurer last week to the effect that the people cannot expect a reduction of income tax in the next financial year, and that there is a possibility of an increase of taxation. I contend that if the country is in such a parlous financial condition that the Government considers it necessary to retain the present high rates of income tax, sales tax, and other impositions, a very good reason must be advanced to show why tax relief of approximately £1,000,000 is to be granted to a very small section of taxpayers. Neither the Treasurer nor any Government supporter has given a reasonable explanation of that matter.
A tax remission of £1,000,000 may not appear to be large until we examine the incidence of the land tax and the number of persons who are liable to pay it. We have been told by Government supporters that because the unimproved value of land has increased, landowners must receive special consideration from the Government. I point out that the inflationary conditions, which are largely due to the inflationary policies of this Government, affect not only landowners but also every other section of the community. In 1947, when rates of income tax were high, the basic wageearner with a wife and one child was not called upon to pay that impost. To-day, the basic wage is approximately £10 15s. a week, and its purchasing power is not any greater than that of the substantially lower basic wage in 1947, yet the basic wage-earner is required to pay income tax of approximately £50.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are outside the scope of the bill.
– I am merely using those facts for purposes of comparison. The basic wage-earner is now required to pay income tax of approximately £50 a year, yet land-owners are to receive a gift of about £1,000,000 from the Government. Therefore, I believe that the Mouse is entitled to an explanation from the Treasurer of the reason for such a hand-out. Approximately 20,000 persons pay land tax at the present time, but 2½ per cent, of that number pay 70 per cent, of the total collections from that impost. Those figures explain why this bill has been introduced. Approximately 580 persons or companies will reeeive £700,000 of that gift of £1,000,000. When such a refund is to be made to a few individuals or companies, we can come to only one conclusion, which is that the Government is endeavouring to repay to its supsupporters some of the money that had been advanced to return it to office, and, f urthermore, to retain it in office.
The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) told a bard luck story to the effect that the land tax was “unjust, and that the owners of small areas, could not afford to pay the present rate of tax, because of the inflated values of land at the present time. I hear a cockatoo opposite laugh-
– Order! I ask the honorable member to withdraw that word.
– If the word is unparliamentary, I withdraw it.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must withdraw the remark unconditionally.
– I do so. The honorable member for Lawson has told the House a hard luck story about the unfortunate owners of small areas who cannot afford to pay the present rates of land tax and who will reeeive substantial relief under, this bill.His statement reminds me of the cry on behalf of the widows and orphans which we hear from time to time from members of the Liberal party. Approximately 20,000 persons who have been paying land tax will share in the remission of £300,000. That relief is at the rate of approximately £15 a head. The figures which have been prepared by the taxation authorities show that a mere handful of wealthy persons will get the lion’s share of the hand-out. Tax relief of that kind is most unfair and unjust. The financial position of Australia and of individual taxpayers does not justify the introduction of a bill which provides for a hand-out of that nature. I mention, in passing, that age and invalid pensioners and widows are now endeavouring to exist on a pension which would have been sufficient three or four years ago-
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are not relevant to the bill.
– I am aware that pensioners are not mentioned in the bill, but. I claim that I am entitled, when I am discussing the merits and demerits of this legislation, to make a comparison of the rates of income tax and sales tax, and land tax.
– Order ! I have already ruled that the honorable gentleman will not be in order in doing so.
– Is it not reasonable to say that if the Government is prepared to reduce taxes by £1,000,000, that relief can be given, to much better advantage, to the needy section of the community rather than to a few wealthy land-owners?
– Order ! The House is not discussing an appropriation bill. The honorable gentleman must confine his remarks to land tax assessment.
– I know that the House is not considering an appropriation bill. I have, pointed out that £700,000 of the £1,000,000 will be shared by a comparatively few wealthy landowners, and I am endeavouring to prove that tax relief of that kind is unjust. Last week, the Treasurer stated that the Government urgently needed every penny because it could not borrow money either in Australia or outside this country; because the surplus would not be so high as was originally estimated ; and because there was a distinct possibility of an increase of income tax and other taxes in the next financial year.
– The Treasurer did not say anything of the kind.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) would not know, anyway.
-Order! I again ask the honorable gentleman to confine his remarks to land tax assessment.
– I want to keep to the matter now before the House. I want to give reasons why this legislation should not be passed, but rather should be withdrawn by the Government. If the Government has a spare £1,000,000 to hand to the people, I know of quite a number of individuals who are much more deserving than are the big land-owners. That is the line of argument that I am endeavouring to pursue, but the VicePresident of the Executive Council tells me that the Treasurer did not say this or did not say something else. Apparently the Vice-President of the Executive Council was either out of the chamber when the Treasurer spoke or was unable to understand what the Treasurer said.
-Order! The honorable member will please address me and confine his remarks to the bill.
– I am telling the story to you, Mr. Speaker, but, with interjections coming from various directions, I am finding it difficult to state my case. The Government should withdraw the bill and should give further consideration to the manner in which this £1,000,000, which apparently it does not need, should be expended. I submit that, in support of my claim that the Government should withdraw the bill, I am entitled to suggest to the Government how it should spend this £1,000,000.
– Not at this stage. ,
– Then at what stage may I make such a suggestion?
– When there is a measure before the House for the appropriation of revenue.
– This bill deals with the spending of revenue.
– It does not.
– -Well, it deals with the Government’s decision not to raise certain revenue. Because the Government has decided not to raise certain revenue I am endeavouring to show better ways and means of deciding not to raise £1,000,000. This land tax measure should never have been introduced. Its purpose is to make gifts totalling £1,000,000 a year to people who do not need them. This is not the usual time of the year for the consideration of taxing measures. The bill has been specially introduced at this juncture, and I am seeking the reason for the Government’s action. I am endeavouring to ensure that the £1,000,000 shall be expended in a proper manner, or that it shall not be raised from another source. Unfortunately I am not permitted to make the comparison that I should like to make. The only conclusion I can reach is that the Government has decided that, regardless of justice, it must pay out to those members of the community who paid in to secure the defeat of the Labour party at the 1949 and 1951 elections.
.- I support this bill enthusiastically because its purpose is to reduce taxes. No people on this earth are more taxed than are the Australian people and no means of raising revenue is more favoured by tax-gatherers than a tax on land. In South Australia, for example, land is taxed first by local governing authorities by the imposition of ordinary rates. Then it is taxed by the same authorities by the imposition of sewerage rates. Then the State government taxes the same land for revenue purposes. Finally, on top of all those taxes is superimposed the federal land tax. This bill has the merit of reducing the federal tax on land, and I regard it as the first step towards the abolition of all taxes on land except those imposed ‘ by local governing bodies. We are confronted by series of anomalies. Local governing authorities are unable to obtain sufficient revenue to carry on their ordinary work. I believe that every local governing authority in Australia has found it necessary to ask its State government for a grant to enable it to carry on its ordinary activities. The States, which also impose taxes on land, are, in turn, unable to carry on their ordinary functions without Commonwealth grants. Surely land, which is more localized than any other subject of taxation, should be reserved to local governing authorities for taxing purposes. That would necessitate, of course, the eventual total abolition of Commonwealth and State land taxes. The position in Australia to-day is that the Australian Government proposes to collect approximately £5,000,000 a year from the land tax. That will represent about one-half of 1 per cent, of the total Commonwealth revenue. Therefore, by no flight of the imagination can it be said that the Commonwealth’s budgetary position depends upon its land tax collections. We have probably the most wasteful duplication of land tax collection to be found anywhere in the world. Local governing authorities employ assessors to value land. In addition, water and sewerage bodies employ land valuers. The State governments, too, employ assessors to value land for land tax purposes, and, finally, the Commonwealth has its own valuers for land tax purposes. The extraordinary thing is that valuations by those four authorities of the same piece of land are usually at variance. Last week the Opposition criticised the Government for its failure to reduce taxes.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot refer to the debate that took place last week.
– I do not propose to do that. I merely draw attention to the fact that the Opposition which to-day is opposing the Government’s proposal to reduce the land tax, attempted to censure the Administration last week for its failure to reduce taxes. Where does the Opposition stand? On the one hand it wants taxes reduced, and on the other it objects to legislation which provides for a reduction f taxes. Honorable members opposite have said that this bill will benefit the big man. Nothing could be further from the truth. Land tax is a deduction for income tax purposes, and therefore anything that the big man may gain from a reduction of land tax he will lose as a result of an increase of his income tax assessment. Obviously, a man who pays income-tax at the rate of 15s. in £1 will lose anything that he may gain from land tax concessions. Rut that does not apply to the small man, who does not pay income tax at a high rate. Therefore, a reduction of land tax will be of substantial benefit to the small man.
Honorable members opposite have also said that the bill will benefit the man in the city. I remind them that some of the largest land tax payers are organizations which essentially represent the small man. The friendly societies provide an example. A friendly society must have a building in a city in order that it may carry out its activities effectively. Therefore, friendly societies are subject to high land tax assessments. -But the implementation of this bill will substantially reduce their land tax liability and, as they do not pay income tax, the saving will not be lost to them. The friendly societies will be amongst the greatest beneficiaries from this legislation. Let us consider the position of sporting clubs whose objective is, not to make profits, but to develop healthy Australians. Australia is noted for the fine physique of its men and .women, which is mainly developed by means of outdoor exercise. Some sporting clubs have been obliged recently to impose levies of as much as £12 a member because of their increased land tax liabilities caused by higher land valuations. Such organizations will benefit directly from this measure.
I shall deal now with the inflationary aspect of land tax. Nothing more inflationary than this tax could be imagined. The tax does not relate in any way to profits. The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) repeated the axiom that taxation should be levied according to the ability of the individual to pay. Land tax has no relation to ability to pay. It is a flat inflationary charge that is imposed upon individuals and organizations whether they make profits or sustain losses. The inflationary situation which developed about eight years ago and which has become steadily worse has caused the unimproved value of land to increase considerably with the result that the tax on land has risen commensurately. Property owners have no more land than they had in 1939 and their production from that land has not increased, but the inescapable burden of land tax has increased tremendously. Therefore, I suggest that the proposed reduction of land tax will have a deflationary effect or, at any rate, will cancel in part the inflationary effect of rising land values. It is a well-known fact that the valuations adopted by the Deputy Commissioners of Taxation establish the values of land for selling purposes. That is why to-day, as a result of inflated valuations, the young man who wants to start farming finds that he must pay twice as much for unimproved land as he would have had to pay in 1939. The value of the land has been doubled in the books of the Commonwealth and State taxing authorities.
The effect of land tax on primary producers also should be considered. We are appealing to Australians to increase food production. The problem of food production is of a major character because it is well-known that, unless we increase our output, we shall not be able to provide enough food even for ourselves by 1958. No wonder men are reluctant to go on the land when they learn that, as they improve their properties, Commonwealth and State valuators are likely to come along and double, treble or even quadruple their unimproved values. Primary production is not sufficiently attractive. Men will go on the land only if farming attracts them. Last year we witnessed amongst primary producers a great diversion from wheat-growing to the raising of sheep. Why did that change take place? The answer is that sheep were highly profitable, and therefore more attractive than wheat farming. I venture to say that, if we make primary production highly profitable, men will be induced to leave the cities and go on the land to produce the food that Australia so urgently needs.
I welcome this bill because it represents a step in the right direction. I hope that it will be only the first measure in a progressive programme of tax reduction and that one of the first taxing rights that the Government will hand back to the States exclusively will be the right to levy the tax on land, which is essentially of a local character and is readily adaptable to the needs of State governments and local governing bodies. The attack of the Labour party upon this measure can be described only as utter humbug. For months we have listened to gibes by honorable gentlemen opposite about the failure of the Govern ment to reduce taxes. This measure is designed to reduce taxes, but members of the Opposition are opposing it. When the Labour party makes up its mind about what it really wants and abandons its policy of blowing hot and cold, and of saying one week that taxation should be reduced and the next week that taxation should not be reduced, the people may know where it stands
– What about margins for skill?
– At the present time margins for the skill of the primary producers are urgently needed, because they would induce people to go on the land. This measure is a step in the right direction. It is intended to carry out the policy of the Government parties of reducing taxation. It will reduce a tax that is fundamentally one that comes within the realm of local governing bodies. The measure is fair to the men on the land, particularly to those in a small way of business. Honorable gentlemen opposite have said that it will help, not the small, but the wealthy primary producers. The position is entirely the reverse of that. The wealthy primary producers will still be required to pay high income tax. The small farmers will derive a real benefit from the measure because at the present time they have to pay land tax, whether or not they have an income. There was a time when a man. who had land of an unimproved value of £5,000 was considered to be in a big way of business, but I venture to say that to-day no farmer can’ carry on economically unless he has land of that value. I support this bill wholeheartedly. I hope that it is the forerunner of further measures to reduce taxes and that it forecasts the total abolition of Commonwealth land tax.
..- .The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), one of the brightest members of the Government, was reported by the Melbourne Age of the 30th April as having said that, the key to the solution of the agricultural problem was the land. I agree with that most profound declaration. What matters is who manipulates the key. The manipulator’ of the key is the owner of the land. The productivity of this country is determined by the people who- own land and by the- use to which they put it. Through the years, vast tracts of land in this country have not been used to their fullest productive capa-city, irrespective of whether the prices of primary products were high or low or whether taxes were high or low. The reason was that too large areas of land were in too few hands1.
In 1910, the Labour party sought to deal with that problem by introducing its graduated land tax. In a period of three years, as a result of the operation of that tax, more additional land went under the plough than had done so during the previous 30 years. Thousands of new settlers went upon the land. Between 1910 and 192.4, £117,000,000 worth of land was taken out of the field of taxation as a result of the subdivision of large estates. In 1910, the members of the anti-Labour .forces declared, as the members of those forces declare to-day, that there should be no tax upon land and that they intended to destroy the land tax. Then they came back into power in the Commonwealth Parliament, but, although they were invited by the then Opposition to introduce the legislation about which they had talked when they were in opposition and which would have relieved all the people from .land tax, they did not dare to do so. However, they went as far as they could. They allowed the Kidmans and others to evade land tax. In 1927, the Bruce-Page Government reduced land tax by 10 per cent., and in 1932 the Lyons Government reduced it by another 10 per cent. To-day, honorable gentlemen oppo- site suggest that land tax should be further reduced and that the exemption should be increased.
It’ is said that the object of this measure is to increase primary production. Will relief from land tax put one more farmer upon the land in this country? Will the reduction of land tax, at a time when oranges are being sold for ls. 6d. each, which is more than a dozen oranges were sold for a few years ago, cause the owners of citrus groves in Australia to subdividetheir land, or to dispose of any of it to other- people who want to go upon the land? Will a reduction of land tax at a time when oranges are being sold for ls. 6d. each, induce a person to produce more oranges if he does not want now to produce as many as he possibly can upon his farm? Will the wheat-farmer, who to-day receives 16s. a bushel for his wheat and who received only 4s. a bushel for it a few years ago, produce more wheat because of this reduction of taxation ? Will the pig-farmer, who now receives £20 for a pig, compared with £4 4s. a few years ago, produce more pigs because of this reduction of taxation? Will the grazier., who a few years ago sold his bullocks upon the market for £10 each and now sells them at prices from £40 to £50, produce more bullocks as a result of this deduction of tax ? Will the apple-grower, who is getting 5d. or 6d. for an apple, compared with 3d. or 6d. per lb. in days gone by, produce more apples as a result of the operation of this measure? Will the poultry-farmer, who is now paid 6d. for an egg and who previously sold his eggs for 6d. or ls. a dozen, produce more eggs as a result of this reduction of tax;? This reduction of tax will -not put more people upon the land. It may be alleged that it will cause some farmers to produce more of the goods that are necessary for the people of this country than they have produced previously. Because it would be palpably absurd to suggest that the measure will have that effect, the Labour party is right in saying that at the present time the Government, should not reduce taxes imposed upon this section of the community. There are -more crying needs, as the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) has pointed out. After all, every question must be viewed in relation -to -every other question, -and every need must be considered in relation to other needs. When a government proposes to grant tax exemptions to one section of the community its action must be considered in relation to its responsibilities to every section of the community. Any action by the Government which grants a tax exemption to one section of the people which is better situated than other sections is unjustified and unjustifiable, while the Government continues to fail to carry out its responsibilities to the masses of the people. Among the sections of the people who require sympathy from the Government are the age pensioners, who wish to be able to buy some of the dear oranges that are on sale in the. shops nowadays.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman may not traverse the subject of oranges.
– I must bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I do not know whether you heard fully my contention that any action by the Government which relieves one section of the community of its obligations must be viewed alongside the responsibilities of the Government to every section of the community. Any attempted justification of the remission of a tax must be sought in that light. In the development of that argument I was seeking to point out that the Government is not carrying out its responsibilities to the vast majority of the people. It is, in fact, merely proposing a reduction of tax on land-owners, many of whom are wealthy. However, Mr. Speaker, as you have ruled that I am not permitted to continue in that strain, I shall proceed to point out that some Government supporters have stated that they would remove land tax altogether if they had the power to do so. They would remove the penny in the fi tax that is payable by those who have unimproved farms worth £5,000 in value. An unimproved farm worth £5,000 is worth in reality £10,000 with improvements, and a person who owns such a farm pays no tax. Farms which have an unimproved value of more than £5,000 are taxed at the rate of Id. in the £1 in the lower brackets, and the rate rises to 8d. or 9d. for large areas that are owned by wealthy squatters who keep their land out of production. Honorable members opposite claim that they are sympathetic to the small farmer and do not wish him to have to pay Id. in the £1 tax. From that premise, they go on to contend that land tax should be abolished on all forms of land in this country. The effect of that would be that people who are paying 8d. or 9d. in the £1 on their vast holdings of land would not have to pay any tax. Yet those great land-holders keep their land out of production. They are a greater impediment to primary production than are famines, droughts, bushfires or any other natural calamities that have ever affected our primary industries. Those are the people whom honorable members opposite seek to support, under the guise of helping the small man.
Too long in Australia’s history have land-owners been a class apart. Too long have they held huge areas of land, some of which they obtained as gifts from their ancestors, who, in turn, obtained them as gifts from governments. Too long have they kept these huge aggregations of land out of production by refusing to subdivide it and sell it at a reasonable price that would enable small farmers to make a reasonable living on it for themselves and their families. What this country needs is not merely more production by the people who are already on the land. In reality the great majority of small farmers are producing as much as they possibly can produce. Certain other land-holders, however, because of their great wealth, produce only as much as they feel disposed to produce. What we need is more farmers on the land.
Mr. McDonald interjecting,
– I did not hear the honorable gentleman’s interjection, but I do not intend to be diverted from making my contribution to the solution of a problem that is, perhaps, the greatest that faces this country to-day. I refer to the solution of the problem of feeding our population, which has increased by about 2,000,000 in the last few years. The vast proportion of that increase of population has not gone on the land, and cannot go on the land, but it must be fed. Therefore, despite the fact that the production of existing farms has increased during recent years, , we suffer from a scarcity of food as a result of the greater demand. Would members of th Australian Country party allege that primary producers, particularly the small farmers, are not putting forward their best efforts in production ? Of course not ! The small farmers are doing the best they can, but there are not enough of them. The aim of the Labour party is to put as great a number of small farmers on the land as possible in the shortest space of time. There is nothing that I deplore more than the accusation, which often comes from. Government supporters, that I and my colleagues are merely destructive, so I shall offer the Government some constructive criticism. I shall suggest to it a means whereby it could accomplish the aim of the bill without tampering with land taxes. It can achieve that aim by ensuring that there is a more intensive cultivation of land and that irrigation projects are advanced to the limit of their capacity. In carrying out such a plan the Government should not do as governments in the past have done, and aid only the few at the expense of the many. We had irrigation schemes in Victoria as a result of which an amount of £27,000,000 was written off certain accounts and transferred to Consolidated Revenue.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman is getting a bit wide of the scope of land tax assessment and is dealing with certain State matters.
– It was my desire to try to help the Government in the solution of a problem that is evidently perturbing it. As I am not permitted to put forward constructive propositions, I inform the Government that the negative propositions that it has put forward are not satisfactory. Taxation relief will not secure the results that are expected of it by the Government. In 1927 the land monopolists of this country received a taxation reduction of 10 per cent, which was given to them with the alleged object of increasing production and of helping small farmer. But it did not bring any more small farmers into the industry. It only assisted those who were already on the land. The tax relief that will be experienced under this bill by the owner of a farm the improved value of which is from £10,000 to £12,000 will be so microscopic that it will have no effect on his living conditions. But as the aggregation of land held by individual settlers becomes greater the advantages under this bill will become greater so that, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has stated, it will provide an incentive for those people to retain rather than to subdivide their land. They will leave vast areas unused throughout the Commonwealth rather than subdivide them in order that small farmers might obtain a living from them. The old spirit of squattocracy is not dead. That spirit resulted in the small settlers losing their holdings. The holders of big estates will do everything within their power to frustrate the settlement of this country by small land-owners.
– The great pioneers 1
– Who are they? Are the great pioneers the people who in return for services rendered to the Government received vast areas of land upon which they would not permit immigrants to settle and obtain a living until those immigrants had influenced the parliaments of this country to force through legislation which made possible the initiation of that period of progress which has resulted in our present stage of development? Australia owes much to the small farmer who pioneered the outback. It owes nothing to those big squatters who, in many cases, were absentee farmers who lived on the produce of vast areas which they kept from being utilized to their fullest productive capacity.
The Government has proposed to grant further exemptions from land lax. But the vast majority of its supporters contend that the land tax should be abolished altogether.
Government Supporters. - Hear, hear!
– Honorable members opposite say, “ Hear, hear ! “ Then why is it that you permit your Government merely to increase the exemption rate which a vast majority of you believe should be abolished?
– It is a step in the right direction.
– But you do- not only want them to take a step in the right directibn. When you have to-
– Order ! Will the honorable member please address me?
– Yes,. Mr. Speaker. Will, you convey to honorable members opposite that, when the Government is taking steps in the right direction, its supporters should ensure that it takes the necessary number of steps to carry it sufficiently far in that direction? The attitude of the Government is- absurd. There is no moral justification for removing taxation from land-owners at a period when the average primary producer is a recipient of greater rewards from his industry than ever before. With wool at 200 pence per lb., with cattle at £50 a head and with other products of the land: - vegetable, animal and mineral - selling for higher prices than they have ever reached before, primary producers are receiving: the largest profits in- the history- of Australia. While that is occurring, other sections of the community ore not so well off. The Government’s proposals favour only a section of the community and are probably the result of pressure that has been brought to bear on the Cabinet by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) through his leader, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). I know that sections of the Australian Country party believe, not only that primary producers should be relieved of land tax, but also that they should be relieved of all other taxes. They consider that primary producers should be granted all kinds of subsidies and be given advantages over other sections of the community. I am not opposed to primary producers. I strongly favour the development of adequate primary industries by increasing the farming population. But because the Government’s proposals will not only fail to increase the size of the farming community but will even reduce it; because they will not enable the thousands of immigrants who have come from overseas to secure farms ; and because they will not enable Australians to secure farms at reasonable prices, I oppose the measure. All Opposition members would support any proposition that was definitely in the interests of the small primary producer. They will support any proposal that will secure more intensive cultivation of the lands of this country, that will dot with happy homesteads theVictorian countryside and that will use to the best advantage the vast area of land lying, between Geelong and the South. Australian, border. Some of the most fertile land in. Victoria is to be found in that stretch of country, but it is- owned and exploited by a few people, while land-hungry masses walk the city streets or work at urban, occupations.
.- The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in his second-reading speech on this bill said -
Under the provisions of the Land Tax Assessment Act a statutory deduction of £5,000 is allowed in the case of a resident land-owner in arriving at the taxable value of his land on which the tax is imposed. This amount has remained unchanged since the act of 1910. In the measure now before the House it is proposed to increase the statutory deduction from £5,000 to £8,750.
That statement clearly indicates the main purpose of the measure. I heartily support the bill. To-day, honorable members have heard a succession of Opposition speakers opposing it, but I shall support every reasonable measure that comes before this House with the object of reducing taxation. I believe that this Government will reduce taxation still further as soon as it succeeds in controlling inflation. It is interesting to note the identity of the honorable members opposite who have spoken against this measure. We should remember that it is a bill which deals largely with rural lands. The honorable members opposite who have spoken to-day against the bil) have spoken as with authority, experience and knowledge of rural pursuits. Let us consider the electorates they represent. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who spoke against the measure, represents a Melbourne metropolitan electorate. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) also spoke against it. He represents the metropolitan area of Perth. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) spoke against it. H’e, too, represents a highly industrialized electorate. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) and the honorable membeT for Wills (Mr. Bryson) also represent highly industrialized electorates, but they have also spoken upon this measure, which deals largely with rural lands. We just heard an address by the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters), who represents an even more highly industrialized electorate. All these city gentlemen have been speaking as with authority on the very important subject of the use of our rural lands. To set the seal upon the authority of their speeches we only need a speech from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), who lives in the City of Canberra. Yet all these honorable members from the cities have spoken about what is mainly a country matter. Of . course I know that the bill also deals with city land, but in speaking to the measure each of the honorable members that I have mentioned dealt chiefly with the parts of the measure that concern country holdings.
The honorable member for Melbourne said that the Labour party does not worry about the amount of revenue raised in the way envisaged by the bill, but is concerned only with the efficacy of the measure in causing the land to be cut up into smaller holdings. The line of argument adopted by the honorable member for Melbourne was closely followed by his colleagues. Perhaps I may now analyse the probable results of indiscriminate cutting up of large holdings. Prime Ministers past and present, the Treasurer, honorable members of this House and people throughout the country have realized for many years that the main contribution to our national income comes from wool. Australia is proud of its valuable fine merino wool. Now what would happen if, as the honorable members opposite have advocated, the owners of large holdings were taxed out of existence? In that event, properties would be subdivided into smaller holdings and it is likely that immediately the small holder would try to improve his carrying capacity by top dressing. But the result of top dressing is that body is put into the wool and its greatest value as fine wool is lost. I do not suppose that honorable members opposite even know that our best merino wool is grown on our light carrying country: There is very light merino country in the Campbell- town district of Tasmania, where the holdings are fairly large, and where much of our best wool and stud sheep are produced. If country such as that were cut up and top dressed we should lose the very basis of our valuable fine wool industry. Fifty per cent. of everything that has been built in Australia has been built out of the proceeds of the sale of our merino wool. I do not blame honorable members opposite who have spoken against this measure because they do not know very much about these things, but I do say that they are completely on the wrong track.
– We know where the stud stock comes from ; it does not come from the poor country.
– Stud stock is, with some exceptions, raised on large holdings. The honorable member for Port Adelaide has merely supported my case by his interjection. He has given a further reason why it is useless for city men to try to talk about the subject that is before the House at present. The fat cattle industry of Australia is very important. We need shorthorns and herefords for fattening, but small handholders and men who know something about these things realize that it is very difficult to-day to buy store cattle for fattening. The reason for that is that some of our large holdings have been subdivided. If this bill does not give some relief to landholders more men will be forced off the land and in a few years’ time it will be much more difficult for small landholders to get herefords and shorthorns as yearlings or two-year-olds to fatten for the Australian and overseas markets.
– But food production is our most important problem.
– That is the very subject that I am talking about. Our sheep and cattle provide both food and clothing. Holdings, both large and small, can be used for the national good. If the Opposition should have its way, and many graziers were to be put off the land through heavy land taxation, we should not be able to preserve our fine merino wool industry or the cattle breeding facilities for which Australia is famous.
I heartily support the bill. It is the first measure introduced to reduce taxation since the Government began to check the inflationary trend. Yet at our very first move to reduce taxation the Labour party, which has been very vociferous about our failure to reduce taxation, immediately objects strenuously to any reduction. I believe that the Government is taking a step in the right direction. Let us follow the lead of the Government and vote for this measure and not hang back as apparently the Opposition wants us to do.
An honorable member opposite has stated that this bill confers an advantage on certain people and is therefore sectional in its operation, I consider that all sections of the community will benefit from its provisions. Another honorable member suggested that, if land in the city areas were taxed heavily, the land-owners would pass the increased taxes on to others. It seems to me that such increased taxation would be passed on to the primary producers who could not pass it to any one.
I was not altogether surprised to hear the honorable member for Burke and the honorable member for Wills speaking of the high incomes being earned from the sale of wool and other primary products. Yet it is only about twelve months ago that honorable members opposite were complaining because the Government was holding 20 per cent, of the gross amount received from the sale of wool during the previous twelve months. When this Government attempts to give certain people a concession, honorable members opposite change their views considerably. They are capable of putting on a quick-change act.
I support the bill. I believe that every man who knows Australia well will also support it. City people cannot be expected to have the same knowledge of a matter such as this as have men who were born and bred on the land. The Australian Labour party must never be given the chance to increase taxes to such a degree that farmers will be forced off the land. It has long been my opinion that well-kept, highly productive, farms and stations, are the greatest assets we could have. If, by means of heavy taxes, property-owners are forced into the position where they neglect their property, it will be a sorry day for the country. If they are given concessions they will make their land more and more productive and be encouraged to repair their fences, erect suitable wool-sheds and build good homes. With the latest method of taxation deductions, property-owners will be able to use some of the 20 per cent, deduction, which is now available to them, in order to erect buildings for their employees.
This bill does not need a great deal of discussion. The House has listened to several speeches which have lasted half an hour and which have not been concerned with the real facts. I am of the opinion that we must have large holdings in order to produce beef cattle. We must preserve our merino sheep, which can only be done on large holdings. Once the large holdings are cut up indiscriminately the wool will gain body and the fine wool market will be lost. If land-owners are taxed to such a degree that they are forced to give up their properties, such taxation is certainly not in the best interests of Australia. Let us give the man on the land every encouragement. Let us assist him to make his property as highly productive as possible. In that direction lies the path to true stability and true nationhood.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) apparently wishes the House to believe that unless a person is actually engaged in primary production he is not qualified to speak on this bill. If that proposition were true, I suggest that very few members of the Australian Country party would be entitled to speak on this subject. The honorable member for Mallee was an auctioneer before he entered the Parliament and was engaged, not in producing cattle, but in selling them. I have had some queer experiences with auctioneers. At one time my family and I were primary producers in the district of Gawler. We found that when we went to the sales the auctioneers were the greatest sharks-
– The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is an accountant and is not engaged in primary production. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar) is a storekeeper and consequently knows very little about this subject.
– Order! I think that the honorable gentleman is getting a little wide of the bill.
– I am making some passing remarks, which I conclude with the observation that the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), another member of the Australian Country party, is a medical practitioner.
The subject under discussion should be restated in order that it may be made clear, because it is obvious that some members of the Government parties do not know what the proposition is. It is that land of an unimproved value of amounts up to £8,750 shall be exempt from land tax. Apparently what honorable members opposite do not understand clearly is that we are speaking of unimproved land values. We are not dealing with the value of land, plus its improvements. The important point to remember is that a property which has on it £15,000 worth of improvements may have an unimproved value of £4,000, or even less. The Opposition contends that all unimproved value of land over £5,000 should be taxable in order that those who hold land should pay for that right.
The Treasurer attempted to justify the bill on the ground that there has been a 75 per cent, increase of unimproved land values since 1939-40. The right honorable gentleman said that the Government considers that in the special circumstances that exist there should be some revision of the greatly increased liability which the increased values impose on land taxpayers. However, the Government makes no -provision whatever, and apparently does not intend to make any, for removal of the statutory exemption for income tax purposes on the incomes of wageearners whose nominal wages have been increased greatly by rises in the cost of living since this Government assumed office. The Government says that it is proper that certain land-owners should be exempt from land tax, despite the fact that their land has increased in value. Those land-owners are only too ready to put out their hands to collect the increased values when anybody wishes to purchase land from them, although it is through no efforts of theirs that their land has increase in unimproved value.
The bill now before the House will not assist small land-owners at all. It will assist only those with over £5,000 worth of unimproved land value. A great number of such properties are estates in the metropolitan areas of the big capital cities of the Commonwealth. Therefore, those who will benefit most from this legislation are shipping companies and private banks, which own valuable blocks of land in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and other cities, and the breweries, which own large numbers of hotels and will be able to obtain a big “ rake-off “ by way of exemption from taxation.
We have been told that the object of this bill is to stimulate primary production. I consider that it will not do so. It will merely aid the land monopolists to keep land out of use without incurring a penalty for doing so. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was perfectly right when he said that the main benefit of this legislation will be derived by city property-owners. If homes are taxed there will be fewer homes. If a prohibitive tax is put on motor cars, fewer motor cars will be available; but if land values are taxed there will not be less land. No one can take the land from us. Indeed, more land will be available if a tax is placed on unimproved values because that tax will force the. land monopolists, who hold large and valuable tracts idle, to use it or allow somebody else to do so. Idle land will be forced into use and made available to settlers. Such land is badly needed if Australia is to meet the pressing demands for primary products. If a person has a mining lease, he can be made to forfeit it unless the lease is worked, but a person can hold land out of use in perpetuity and is not penalised for so doing. Large areas of land are held out of use by land-holders who will not use it themselves and will not let anybody else use it unless they are prepared topay an exorbitant price for somethingthat the holder did not create.
No landlord can truthfully say “that he created the land that he is out to sell. The land can yield no wealth without labour, and labour cannot yield any wealth without land. Those are inescapable facts. Labour ; cannot exist without the land, but the land can do without labour because it does not have to eat. Labour has to eat three meals a day and has to be clothed and housed, but the man who controls land can keep it out of use indefinitely. Not only does land monopoly rob labour of its just reward; more important still, it keeps available, land out of use altogether. I know of plenty of places in Australiathat could be developed to produce goods which are needed badly if only there were means of smashing the land monopolists’ grip on this country. It has been estimated that at least 5,000,000 more settlers could be settled in North Queensland if they had access to the land that is there. In Williamstown, South Australia, large areas of valuable land within 30 miles of Adelaide and with an assured rainfall are still undeveloped because the land is owned and held by monopolists who purchased it years ago. They will not use it themselves and will not let anybody else use it. So far nobody has had the. courage to make them release it to people who would put it to use. To whom the ownership of land is given, to him is given the virtual ownership of the men who must live upon it. Large landholders certainly cannot claim any divine ownership of their land. Nobody can claim ownership of anything unless he can prove that he created it himself or purchased it from the person who created it,and I challenge honorable members on the Government side who follow me in this debate to tell mewhere they can produce a fee-simple in land that has been purchased from the person who created the land. The fact is that every freehold title in land to-day began about 150 years ago, when some person was able himself or through the medium of his agents to purchase land from the government. Where did the government get it?
Mr.BernardCorser. - Practically no land is privately held in Queensland.
Mr.CLYDE CAMERON.- I am talking about fee-simple titles, which were originally obtained from some colonial government who parcelled it out to any purchaser who cared to bit for it. What moral right had any government to sell land as private property unless it could show that it created the land? State governments which parcelled out land and sold it under freehold title got it by murdering blackfellows. They filched the land from the aborigines and sold the proceeds of the robbery to somebody else so that they could continue the robbery in another form.
I refer honorable members to the case of the Thorngate estate. In 1836, a family named Thorngate decided to invest in the land sales in South Australia that year. They did not even come to Australia themselves. They sent an agent to South Australia and he purchased, in accordance with the rules of the day, four 80-acre country sections for £1 an acre on condition that the buyers had the right to choose one city block for £1 an acre for each of the 80-acre country sections. One country block was in Prospect, which is now a part of the metropolitan area of Adelaide, and one of the four acres that they obtained in the city proper was the section of Rundlestreet, which is now occupied by the big emporium of John Martin and Company Limited. That company is still the tenant of the Thorngate estate in England, which has held the land as an absentee landlord ever since. John Martin and Company then has paid £1,250,000 in rent to the Thorngate family and their descendants, who have never clapped eyes on the block in their lives. But John Martin and Company Limited has not paid the money from its own pocket. It is the workers who buy goods from its store who have paid that money. What is ruining Australia and will continue to ruin it is the fact that our valuable land is held,controlled, and kept out of production by big land monopolists who refuse to let anybody else use it unless they pay exorbitant prices or rents. Probably honorable members on the Government side will argue that they and the land monopolists whom they represent have a sacred right to the land because they got here first. They will say that those who came here first have a perfect right to claim divine ownership. What about the people who get to Heaven first? Have they a lien on Heaven? Can they say, “ Because we got here first, we will make everybody who comes after pay an exorbitant rent to stay with us ? “ That is what they are doing now with the land which was created by the Creator for all God’s children. All men are born equal in the eyes of the Creator. They have an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Since man is a land animal breathing air and requiring light, and cannot possibly live without land, he cannot enjoy those rights unless he also has a share of the land. The Creator made the land for all men and not for a. privileged few. No honorable member on the Government side of the House will, I hope, contend that the Creator selected some individuals and conferred upon them special rights which he did not intend that others should enjoy. If honorable members opposite are to justify private ownership of land they must be able to assert that they and the people whom they represent were specially selected by the Creator to own and control the land which other people were specially selected to be denied. The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) supported the principle of private ownership of land, but he cannot claim, as the honorable member for Mallee contends is necessary, that he is a primary producer.
– I was.
– The honorable member may have been, but he is not producing very much now. He is a real estate agent who has become sleek and fat by selling land to people at much above its value. That is why he has a personal interest in this matter. We contend that it is not possible or desirable to divide up the land of the world into separate parcels and then say to each person, “ You may have this parcel of land “, because for one reason, within the space of a moment the birth of another child would necessitate a repartition of the land.
The Labour party regards dispossesion or confiscation of land as neither necessary nor desirable. We are completely in accord with the proposal that exclusive possession of land is absolutely essential to production and good government. Unless he had exclusive possession of his land a person would not undertake the production of even a patch of cabbages because he would have no guarantee that he would have the right to pick the cabbages and to dispose of them as he wished. Those who hold exclusive possession of God’s land should pay just dues to those who. are denied it. That is a reasonable proposition which cannot be gainsaid and it is by no means a revolutionary one. It may not be generally known that in the National Capital itself the whole of the land is held in accordance with the principle, and no one here has complained about its unfairness.
– Karl Marx did so.
– He did nothing of the kind. When you read Karl Marx last year you should have remembered–
– Order ! The honorable member must address the Chair.
– The honorable member for Bennelong appears to have read so much of the writings of Marx, Lenin and others that he gets them mixed up. Karl Marx by no means believed in the proposition that I have submitted. If we are to do justice we must take for the community that which justly belongs to it, namely, the unearned increment of the land, and leave sacredly to the individual the product of his labour, which rightfully belongs to him. Until that is done, social justice will never be achieved. Because of the existence of laws that permit landholders to take, for private purposes, the rent of land which is communal property, it has become necessary for the Government to impose the burden of taxation on the products of labour. Government supporters contend that they favour the abolition of the land tax. If that tax is lifted from the shoulders of the big land monopolists it must be placed on the shoulders of others. This Government will continue its present policy of taxing the food that the poor man has to buy for his children and of leaving the big monopolists, who own much more land than they need or can use, to go scot-free.
The history of mankind shows that where the land of a country has fallen into the hands of a relatively small section of the community there has first been a decline and, finally, a complete failure of that country’s social structure. The decline and fall of the Roman Empire resulted from land monopoly. As everybody knows, at the beginning of the Roman Empire the Romans were able to conquer the provinces of Italy one by one and to overrun Greece and other countries because each Roman owned his little plot of land and was prepared to fight for it. Finally the great bulk of the land of the Roman Empire was held by a few very wealthy and influential people who were able completely to control the rest of the people. Unless appropriate action is taken in this country there will come a day when the decay that preceded the fall of the Roman Empire will be manifest here. The land will pass into the hands of a relatively small section of the community, production will gradually fall and finally come almost to a standstill, the country will be wracked with revolution and we shall rue the day when we allowed the present system to continue unchallenged.
The factors that led to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire also led to the spread of communism in China. No one will deny that the promise of land reform to the peasants of China was the Communists’ greatest weapon against the Chiang Kai-shek Government; nor will any one deny that the urge for land reforms in Italy made one-third of the people of the greatest Christian country in the world turn towards the Communist party in the elections of 1948. These facts cannot be gainsaid. In those countries possession of the land has been permitted to pass into the hands of a relatively small section of the community. The Irish famine was caused not by the scarcity of food in Ireland but by the fact that the Irish peasants were compelled to send shiploads of food to absent landlords in Britain when they themselves were starving.
– Order ! The honorable member is getting very wide of the bill.
– What I have said, Mr. Speaker, is germane to the bill because we are dealing with the system of land monopoly. I am endeavouring to show that rather than abolish the land tax we should increase it in order to prevent absentee landlords from ruining the country which we are proud to call our own. I do not subscribe to the Malthusian theory that population must of necessity outstrip the means of subsistence. The Creator of man was not niggardly in making provision for his sustenance. Whenever this appears to be the case it is because governments have failed to recognize the rights of man. We must do more than pay mere lip service to those rights. We must embrace the great principles that were enunciated in the Declaration of Independence, an instrument about which, I am afraid, the common people of the United States of America know very little. I propose to state the great principles that are set out in that famous document.
– Order ! We are dealing not with the Declaration of Independence, but with the Land Tax Assessment Bill. I have exercised a great deal of patience in listening to the honorable member’s version of what took place in Rome, Italy, China and Ireland. He should now discuss the bill.
– With due respect to you, Mr. Speaker, I submit that when the House is dealing with the land question, it is permissible for me to refer to what has happened in other countries which have failed to deal with that problem in a sensible way.
-Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill before the Chair. I have already allowed him a lot of latitude.
-I should require a lot of latitude to deal adequately with the land question because to any national parliament it should be all-important, as all wealth comes from the land and those who own and control it determine the destiny of every one who depends on it for a livelihood.
.- The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) told a long story about the conditions of land tenure in other countries. I do not propose to follow him along that path. I am a 100 per cent, primary producer; I have no other activities except those of a member of this Parliament. Honorable members opposite who have participated in this debate have spoken with their tongues in their cheeks when they have objected to the passage of this measure. They obviously have not listened to the arguments that supporters to the Government have advanced. The honorable member for Hindmarsh claimed that the greatest advantage, as a result of the passage of this measure, would accrue to the big city land-holder. That argument was refuted by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) when he pointed out that as Commonwealth land tax is an allowable deduction in respect of income tax, owners of city properties such as breweries and banks would become liable to pay income tax at a. higher rate in proportion to their reduced liability for land tax. Supporters of the Government have emphasized the necessity to grant relief from land tax to owners of small and medium-sized farms; but members of the Opposition appear to imagine that properties of an unimproved value of £5,000 must be very large. That is not so. Supporters of the Government have also pointed out that whilst land tax, when it was originally introduced in 1910, may have been effective to some degree in breaking up large estates, it is not very likely that really worthwhile results were achieved by its imposition by the Commonwealth which had only the remotest connexion with land-holders. As the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) has pointed out, the States have always possessed adequate power to legislate for the purpose of breaking up large estates and could achieve more effective results than could the Commonwealth because they have closer knowledge of the effect of resumptions. The Commonwealth, generally speaking, could only take a shot in the dark in that respect. There would not be much sense in taxing a big property simply because it was big.
Members of the Labour party indulge in muddled thinking when they advocate the breaking up of big estates as a means of increasing production. There is no evidence that such a process will necessarily achieve that objective. It is easy to say. that some big estates are not being worked to their full capacity; but it is equally correct to say that many small farms are not being worked to capacity. If that theory were accepted, the Government might be obliged to remove persons from farms which it was believed were not being worked to capacity. The argument must eventually be reduced to that basis. We require to place more farmers on the land but not on land that is already being farmed. The Labour party always mixes its conception of social justice with its ideas of methods of producing food ; but the two things are entirely separate. It is nonsense to say that the breaking up of large estates will necessarily increase the number of efficient farmers. In Gippsland, for instance, large holdings which, when held by one person, produced the last pound of beef, or butter, that could be derived from the land, were subsequently subdivided and are now being inefficiently worked by four, or five, persons, but they ai-e not producing anything like the volume or value of production that was previously obtained from them. In this respect I recommend members of the Opposition to read Hard Freedom, which was written by a . Mr. Blakeley, who was a brother of a former Labour Minister. In that book, the author records what happened as a result of subdivision of land in the far west of New South Wales.
The honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) persists in the belief that the propagation of the class warfare that he advocates would help to increase primary production. He put forward the extraordinary suggestion - I do not think that his colleagues would agree with him - that, in order that foodstuffs might be produced at the lowest possible prices, the ultimate aim of the Labour party is to have unlimited numbers of small farmers working under conditions under which they would barely be able to subsist. Incidentally, he suggested that orchardists were now receiving ls. 6d. each for oranges. They do not receive anything like that price after allowance is made for expenses incurred in the marketing of their product. I am told that apples are now being sold at 5d. each, but I do not receive anything like that price for those that I produce. Even if I did so, that price would not be payable on the basis of my production. The honorable member suggested that the price of eggs should be not more than ls. 6d. a dozen. If the Labour party wishes to increase the number of small farmers and to grind them down to produce foodstuffs at the lowest possible prices, on .the principle that nothing else matters to the man on the land, honorable members opposite should advocate that policy straight out. -Supporters of the Government do not agree with that view. The present high prices of foodstuffs are due mainly to increasing costs of production which are forced upon producers in the most irritating way. .1 refer principally to the multiplication of taxes, including, for instance, payroll tax and land tax, and the obligation .that is imposed upon producers to furnish to various authorities an unending list of forms.
Under this measure the greatest degree of relief will be afforded to the small farmer, who will be relieved of liability to pay land tax. Supporters of the Government have not suggested for one moment that all tax on land should be abolished. That tax is the main source of revenue that is available to many local government authorities. However, we suggest that the Commonwealth would do well to vacate this field. We support the move to take less money from this source, and to leave the land to the people who most thoroughly understand it and can use the money now paid as tax to the greatest advantage. I believe that the subjects of land tax and increased production should not be mixed, and that if this tax is to be used for the reduction of large estates, that matter should be administered by persons who are in much closer contact with it than are officials at Canberra. I support the bill, and hope that Opposition members will not persist with the nonsense that they have uttered to the effect that the Government intends to give a hand-out to wealthy land-owners. We do not suggest that the tax should be abolished, but we advocate that it be administered by those persons who can do .so to the best advantage. We propose that the farmer on a small and even a medium scale, such as the dairy-farmers whom I represent in Gippsland, should be relieved of the irritating business of having to .fill in an unnecessarily large number of tax forms.
.- The Opposition’s objection to this bill is that it will favour the big land-holder and overlook the small land-holder In the early days of Australian settlement, many venturous souls with considerable sums of money and plenty of cheap labour supplied by ticketofleave men, squatted on the land. For many years, they had no title to the land, but subsequently various government? decided that, in order that they should have some title to it, they should be granted licences costing a few shillings a year. Had matters remained on that basis, Australia would not be the country that it is to-day. However., governments from time to time, decided that the land could be put to better use than it was, and we contend to-day that it can -still be put to better use than it has been.
The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) made a most remarkable statement about merino wool. He suggested that if large holdings were subdivided, the merino wool would deteriorate. In my opinion, that statement is not correct. When a large station i3 subdivided, it only means that additional fences are erected on it. The quality of the wool does not deteriorate, because the sheep continue to eat the same grass and are subject to the same climatic conditions as they were before the subdivision. I do not believe that the honorable member for Mallee can support his statement with evidence, but he spoke with an air of authority which implied that he knew every merino sheep in Australia individually. He mentioned a number of small, isolated places about which he has some knowledge, and suggested that because those holdings have been subdivided, more body will be put into the wool, which, consequently, will lose the fineness for which merino wool is famous.
We are fortunate in Queensland in so far as the State owns 80 per cent. of the land. Some persons have held large areas on lease for a period of 30 years, and at the expiration of that time, each of those holdings is eligible for sub-division.
Mr.Brimblecombe. - Is it?
– I hope that the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) will not misunderstand me; all those large holdings are eligible for subdivision. If other people require land, the Government may subdivide those large areas. Sometimes a number of leases expire about the same time, and arrangements for the subdivision of all of them cannot be made, but the general idea is that every selector shall have an area of suitable size that will enable him to make a reasonable living from sheep. One selector may he allotted 1,000 acres, and another selector may be granted 5,000 acres. That system of subdivision has operated for many years in Queensland with the result that hundreds, probably thousands, of selectors have taken up land and are making a comfortable living from it. They produce fine merino wool in spite of the fact that their holdings are small compared with the size of the stations before thesubdivisions.
Mr.Brimblecombe. - Those selectors do not pay land tax.
– This bill provides for a remission of land tax. That is the kernel of the problem. This legislation will help, not thesmall land-holder, but the big land-holder. I mention, in passing, that astation which has an establishment for special breeding is notsubdivided. The ownerof a large area who breeds stud rams or bulls is permitted to retain his holding intact. Consequently, the large stations breed stud rams and bulls to supply the smaller land-holders with the stock that they require. Thousands of young Australians are eager to settleonthe land in all States.
Even in the smaller States, some big areas are held simply for grazing sheep.
The most important argument that used to be advanced against subdivision was that large properties supplied the stock required by theowners of small holdings. Alexandra Downs Station in Queensland has an area of hundreds of square miles, and Brunette Downs an area of 4,000,000 acres. Those two properties were granted to the Bovril, Vestey, Swift, and Armour organizations, all of which are the big meat-packing enterprises of the world, on the understanding that they would improve the land. They have held those two properties for many years, yet they now declare that the development of the beef industry will be retarded by ten years. Those interests have not done a proper job. During the last war, bores were sunk in those areas, and sub-artesian water was reached at a depth of 300 feet. Those wealthy interests are now appealing to the Commonwealth to put down bores. They also state that if they can obtain boring plant of a special type from America they can do a tremendous amount of work. I point out that they have associations in America, because their organizations are world-wide. They could have obtained that boring plant long ago. That situation prompted the question that was asked this afternoon about the construction of railways in Queenslandfor the transport ofbeef cattle. Those interests have askedthe Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to take action with a view to providing trucks ad lib. for the carriage of these cattle from areas in which they are liable to die of starvation. Those interests have not made the improvements that they promised long ago. They have also asked the Prime Minister to make arrangements for boring operations which they have failedto carry out. I mention those matters to show that the existence of big areas does not necessarily mean that the owners are doing a satisfactory job in developing the country. Some large land-holding companies have almost unlimited financial resources. If they were developing their properties, no one would begrudge themtheir leases. Some of them holdareas bigger than the State of Victoria, butthey do nothing whatever to improve the land. At present there is ample grass, mostly Mitchell grass and Flinders grass, in northern Queensland, but where the grass is there is no water. Had bores been sunk both grass and water would be available. Experts estimate that the recent drought has set the beef industry of Queensland, and in fact of Australia, back by ten years. As one Minister said to-day, in the not distant future beef produced in this country will be sufficient only for our own requirements and exports will cease. The blame for that may be laid largely upon companies which hold huge leases of undeveloped cattle raising land such as Alexandra Downs and Brunette Downs. If the Prime Minister agrees to the proposal that the Commonwealth should import boring equipment from the United States of America, he will be placing upon the Australian taxpayers a burden that rightly belongs upon the shoulders of the leaseholders themselves. Some of the organizations that have leases in Australia control the meat trade of the world and have untold millions of pounds at their disposal. Years ago when meat from the Argentine was becoming dear, the Vestey organization expended £1,000,000 on the erection of meat works at Darwin. Then the price of Argentine beef fell, and not one beast was killed at the new works.
The argument advanced by some honorable members opposite that the maintenance of big stations is necessary to build up the beef industry in this country is unsound. Any one who regards the matter from a common-sense point of view will agree that that is so. I realize, of course, that in some parts of the Commonwealth, particularly in sheep country, substantial holdings are necessary. In the north-west of Queensland, for instance, the carrying capacity of the land is only about one sheep to every five acres. Consequently, a large lease is necessary to enable the holder to make a reasonable living, but there are other areas of entirely undeveloped land which could be cut up into numerous economic holdings suitable for dairying. On some properties no attempt has been made to remove the stumps of timber felled when the areas were first settled 40 or 50 years ago. During the recent drought, some farms were unable to carry even one beast while others which had been properly developed, had five or six inches of grass and clover and were able to keep their fine herds intact. Unfortunately, some farmers are content to make money by exploiting the land during favorable seasons, and to take their chance of surviving a drought. I do not object to people owning land. The more land-owners we have the better, but there is an obligation on every owner to ensure that his property should be properly developed. Holders of large areas of undeveloped country should be compelled to carry out improvements. This legislation will be of no benefit to small land-owners. It will benefit only the big man and will encourage the retention of large leases. It will contribute nothing to the increased production of food that is so much required not only for Australia, but also for Great Britain and the rest of the world.
– in reply - The Opposition has failed to advance any argument worthy of a reply. In fact, the views of honorable members opposite on this legislation differ considerably. This bill does not open up the question of the merits or demerits of the land tax. Its purpose is to adjust an anomaly that has arisen as the result of the decision to assess land tax on current land values instead of on the 1939 values which were pegged in 1942. Obviously, no responsible person in this chamber or anywhere else in the Commonwealth can overlook the fact that land values to-day are considerably different from what they were in 1939. Land is valued for land tax purposes every three years. That practice will continue. I remind honorable members opposite that the land tax was imposed first in this country by a Labour government in 1910. The exemption fixed at that time was £5,000, and that figure has remained unaltered to the present day. It is now to be raised to £8,750 to bring it into conformity with increased land values. The new figure has not been taken out of the air. It is not the result of guesswork. It conforms with the general increase of land values, which has been calculated at 75 per cent. Having determined the proportion by which values had risen, the Government decided that the exemption of £5,000, which was clearly outmoded, should likewise be increased by 75 per cent.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and other honorable members opposite have declared that large land-owners will benefit most from the consequent reductions of land tax assessments and that small propertyowners will enjoy very little relief. But that is not so, as I shall demonstrate. Let us consider as an example a property with an unimproved value of £105,000. Under the present law, its value for land tax purposes is £100,000 and the tax assessable is £3,000. When this bill becomes law the taxable value will be £96,250, upon which the tax assessed will be £2,359. The tax reduction will be £641, or 21 per cent. The Opposition has assumed that, because the exemption is a constant figure, the small land-owner will not benefit in the same proportion as will the large land-owner. That would be so only if the rate of tax were not subject to a gradual increase. The graduation ensures that undue advantage shall not be gained by large landowners. This will be demonstrated by the other figures that I shall cite to illustrate the effect of the bill. The second example that I submit is that of a property valued at £35,000. Under the existing law, its taxable value is £30,000, and the tax assessable is £390. When this bill becomes law, the taxable value will be £26,250 and the tax assessable will be’ £262. That will be a reduction of £128, or 33 per cent. The third example is that of a property with an unimproved value of £10,000. Under the existing law, its taxable value is £5,000 and the tax assessable is £26. Under the new provisions, the taxable value will be £1,250 and the tax assessable will be £5. That represents a reduction of £21, or 80 per cent. Those facts reply effectively to the arguments of honorable members opposite and prove the fallacy of their contentions. Nothing more need be said. The bill will provide financial relief for land-owners who have become subject to higher tax assessments because the values of their properties have increased in accordance with a trend that has developed, not only in Australia, but also throughout the rest of the world. No Treasurer enjoys the task of inflicting taxes upon the people and, in fact, I should be delighted if I could abolish all taxes. Nevertheless, the Government must make arrangements to meet its commitments. Unless it obtains sufficient revenue from taxes it must use bank credit, and this Government is not prepared to do that.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
. -The Opposition will state its case upon this bill briefly. We object to an increase of the amount of exemption, because land values have risen in recent times owing to a fortuitous circumstance. Russia, America and a number of European nations have been stock-piling against the possibility of war. Values of land in this country have risen because of an increase in the price of wool. The Government proposes to make a permanent alteration of the exemption figure from £5,000 to £8,750. It does not propose that the figure shall be reduced when land values fall, consequent upon a fall in the price of wool, for which the Government is fondly hoping. The Government wants wool to fall in price as quickly as possible to extricate it from its difficulties, but it does not want the exemption granted to big land-owners to drop. It intends to leave the figure at £8,750. The purpose of the bill is to protect big land-owners in the city and country alike. The object of the Labour party in introducing land tax was to break up the big estates. The Government is proposing now to make it more difficult to break up big estates.
The other point that I want to make is that the country people will get little value from this bill. The city land-owner will derive two and a half times as much advantage from this bill as the country land-owner. The people who will benefit from the bill will be the owners of the banking institutions in the city, the big city emporiums and the breweries in New South Wales, which own 80 per cent. of the hotels in that State. Those people, not the primary producers of the nation, will derive all the benefit from this legislation. Having made those points, the Opposition is prepared, possibly after one or two supporting remarks from other honorable members on this side of the chamber, to allow the measure to past without a further division.
– I support the criticisms that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has made of the bill. The measure will not assist small land-owners. In the main, it will be of benefit only to big land-owners and, worse still, to the big land-holders in the cities of Australia. The people who will gain most benefit from the bill are those who own banks, big insurance companies, breweries, big hotels, cinemas, and valuable areas of land in the cities. It is quite wrong for the Government to say that the measure will have the effect of encouraging a greater production of primary products. It will have the very opposite effect, as subsequent events will show.
– That is not true.
– The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme), who has just winked at the Chair, does not know the first thing about land problems, and he does not know anything about other problems. This measure will not help the people who should be helped. The small land-owners will derive no benefit from the legislation. By small land-owners, I mean those who have holdings the unimproved value of which is less than £5,000. They are already working to their utmost capacity and are producing as much as it is possible to produce from their holdings. They are the backbone of the country. If they did not produce to the utmost of the capacity of their land, they would become bankrupt. What about the land-holders in Australia who own thousands of acres of land that is still in its virgin state, whowill not allow ex-servicemen and other people who wish to go on the land, to develop the country unless they pay exorbitant prices that would render it impossible for them to make a living out of it?
– The honorable member is more ignorant than we thought.
– The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) is the last person to express any opinion about ignorance–
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Adermann).Order! Honorable members must cease to indulge in this kind of cross-talk.
– If any person is a pastmaster of ignorance it is the honorable member for Petrie; I cannot understand how the electors of Petrie came to elect him to this Parliament.
– Order! The honorable member will obey the Chair and desist from making such remarks.
– The people who will benefit most from this measure are those who own unimproved land to the value of £500,000, or the similar large amounts that were mentioned by the Treasurer. The benefit that will accrue to those people will not make more land available for other people who want to enter primary production. On the contrary, the result of the measure will be to tie up more land than is already tied up, and more land is now tied up than should be the case. Honorable members opposite who claim to have some regard for the interests of ex-servicemen ought to be ashamed of themselves for supporting a proposal that will prevent their comrades-in-arms from getting on to the land. A great proportion of the land in Australia is under the control of a small group of monopolists who do not want to use it themselves, but will not allow anybody else to use it. I know what these land monopolists and land sharks do. When they discover that the government of the day intends to develop a particular area they buy up, for speculative purposes, all the land of that area, because they know that once the community has expended large sums of money in the development of the area the unimproved value of the land will increase considerably. They, instead of the community which has paid for the benefits that have made the increased values possible, reap the profit from those increased values. In the City of Adelaide, where land is worth up to £2,000 or £3,000 a foot, the unimproved value of the land has been created by the community of Adelaide itself. I shall illustrate that contention by the hypothesis that if it were possible by a miracle to move the city 200 miles to the north of its present position, the unimproved value of the land on which Adelaide now stands, including “ Beehive Corner “, would be only its value as agricultural land.
– That is a clever hypothesis.
– I thank the honorable member for Mallee for the compliment. In any event, I remind the committee again that the honorable member for Mallee would not know anything about land, because he is an auctioneer, and auctioneering is about the only knowledge he has of primary production. The fact remains, and cannot be denied, that the unimproved value of land is a value that has been created by the fact that a community has settled in a particular area or has expended a certain amount of money on improvements in the area. When the Anzac Highway was to be built in Adelaide the whole of the land through which the highway was to pass was quickly bought up by land sharks, not because they wanted to build on it themselves, but because they knew that, as a result of the community’s expenditure on the construction of a first-class highway and footpaths, the value of the land in the area would be multiplied by perhaps as much as ten times. Consequently, the community was forced to pay high prices for land to people who had contributed nothing towards the improvement of its value. Had a tax on unimproved land values been placed on those lands the land sharks would have found it unprofitable to keep the land out of use. When the municipality of West Torrens, in Adelaide, where I live, adopted unimproved land values for rating purposes two years ago, the Adelaide Development Company, which owned hundreds of vacant land sites that had never been used and were never likely to be used, was forced to sell them. Now that municipality is developing in a way that was never thought possible.
– That is because the honorable member left it.
– I did not leave the area, which, I repeat, has developed in a way that was never before thought possible.
– They say you are going to leave there.
– “ They say ! “ Whoever says that has as much intelligence as the honorable member for Mallee has, because I am still there and am going to stay there. Therefore, I oppose this bill with everything that I possess. I consider that before many years have passed the Government will learn to its sorrow that this bill has had the effect of giving to great land monopolists a firmer grip on land that they are not able to use themselves. As a consequence people who are now landhungry will find it utterly impossible to get on to the land, and we shall either Starve or have to import food from more progressive countries.
. For some time honorable members opposite have been regaling us with an eloquent defence of wool-growers. The abolition of the averaging system of taxation on primary producers whose income exceeds £4,000 was apparently opposed by the Opposition, yet now, when the Government is attempting to relieve the tax burden not only on men with incomes of £4,000, a year and more, but on all grades of income from the pastoral industry, we meet obstruction from them. The attitude of honorable members opposite ought to demonstrate to. the man on the land the bona fides of the Opposition in respect of their claims to be champions of the real interests of primary producers. The Government proposes in this bill to increase the limit of income to be exempt from payment of land tax from £5,000 to £8,750. I remind the House that at present it takes about £14,000 or £15,000 to settle an exserviceman on a grazing property. If this bill is not passed all these people would be caught for tax under the present exemption system.
– That is not true! It is rubbish!
– Every exserviceman who has been settled on the land since the end of the war would be caught in the land tax net under the present exemption scale.
– That is not true.
– I rise, to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I apologize to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) for interrupting him, but I put it to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that while the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) was making his speech he consistently defied you and you allowed him to continue. Now, when the PostmasterGeneral is addressing the committee, the honorable member for Hindmarsh persists in futile and childish interruptions. I put it to you that it is about time that this honorable member, who has not been here for long and who displays the utmost rudeness, should be put in his place.
– No point of order is involved. The Chair will watch the behaviour of honorable members. As a matter of fact, there have been too many interjections from both sides of the chamber. I ask honorable members to cease making them.
– I have almost completed what I rose to say. Primary producers would do well to realize that when it comes to some relief for them in respect of taxation we find that, instead of receiving co-operation and support from the Labour party, it places every possible obstacle in our way. There is no consistency between what the Opposition say that they will do and what they assist the Government to do when it presents a bill to the House.
I have been interested to hear the observations of the honorable member for Hindmarsh concerning what he and, presumably, his party would do in respect of accrued values. From what we learn of the Labour party’s programme, as enunciated by the honorable member, a person who takes the risk of buying a block of land and losing on the proposition may endeavour to develop the area, but any benefits which might flow from his enterprise are to be filched from him by a Labour government. That is an interesting development in the policy of the Labour party-. Nobody is to be permitted to make a profit on dealings in land, but they must accept the losses if they occur. Now we. know where the Labour party stands in these matters.
.- The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) has contended that the purpose of this measure is to relieve the primary producers of the burden of taxation. When I stated this afternoon that the Minister had stated that as the object of the legislation the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) said that I had not listened to the Minister’s speech. He said that the object of the bill was to correct an anomaly. I think that the Minister stated to-night that under existing legislation a man who owns land worth £10,000 must pay a tax of £28 a year. The Government has now proposed that such a man should be relieved of the necessity of paying a small part of that tax. But, as a result of his having obtained that relief he will become liable for the payment of a greater amount of income tax. It appears to me that the Government is endeavouring to deceive people into believing that the primary producer will receive a valuable concession under this bill.
The Minister stated that the. small farmer would receive a reduction greater than the 21 per cent, that would be enjoyed by the big producer. But after the small farmer has paid the. increased income tax which will result from his reduced land tax liability, he will be lucky if he benefits to the extent of £15 a year. The measure will not result in a very great increase in production. The Opposition does not wish to prevent any benefit from being given to the primary producer. We object to this bill because the principle of exempting from land tax only those properties that are valued at less than £5,000 has been established for the last 40 years. The Government has had the opportunity to discontinue this tax at any time since it has been in power, but has not bad the courage to eliminate it, although many of its supporters have urged it to do so. Now Government supporters have stated that this bill will give relief to the primary producer and induce him to undertake greater produc tion. But the man who owns land valued at £10,000 will not receive a very great reduction in his taxation liability.
Honorable members opposite have often told us that we are not prepared to stick to old Labour principles. It is an old Labour principle that the owner of land worth over £5,000 should pay a small tax and the. Opposition proposes to continue to observe that principle. The PostmasterGeneral gave the impression that the owners of land the unimproved capital value of which was more than £5,000 have been mulct of a big amount in land tax, but the fact of the matter is that the owner of land valued at £5,010 has only had to pay lOd. in tax. The small producer will receive very little benefit from this legislation and the Labour party is quite justified in opposing it. This bill will only benefit landholders such as Elder Smith and Company Limited, Dalgety and Company Limited, and the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited, which have big blocks of land in the city. Smaller producers will receive reductions of pence in comparison with the pounds that these people will receive. Opposition members have conformed to the established principles of the Labour party in advocating that the existing exemption provisions should be made and they have been quite consistent in the arguments that they have advanced.
– Honorable members of the Opposition have, in effect, merely apologized for their policy, which is the nationalization of land. They do not desire the Government to give the small farmer a reduction in land tax. What they want has been emphasized by that Marxian advocate and friend of Stalin, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron).
– I object to that statement, which is quite untrue, and demand a withdrawal.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh has objected to the statement of the honorable member for Wide Bay, and I ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
-For that reason, I shall do so.
– Does the honorable member withdraw the statement ?
– Yes, I withdraw it. But to show how ridiculous he is–
– Order ! That remark is out of order.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh has said that the bill will assist the big landowner. As has been stated by one honorable member opposite, 80 per cent. of the land in Queensland is owned by the Government. Consequently, the State of Queensland is the biggest land-owner in Australia. Those people in Queensland who have pioneered and settled their country and made it easier for people such as the honorable member for Hindmarsh to follow are not paying land tax because they are the holders of leases from the Queensland Government. It is ridiculous for the honorable member to allege that the Government is trying to protect big land-owners. The poor wretches who have gone out to develop the far north-west of Queensland are trying to find a way out of the difficulties that have been brought to them by the drought. The honorable member has not been in a drought. He is prepared to condemn these people in an endeavour to take away from them the title to their land.
Mr.Clyde Cameron interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw and apologize to the Chair.
– I withdraw any statement and ask that the honorable member forWide Bay withdraw and apologize for the statement that he made a bout me.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh will withdraw the remark that has been objected to.
– If the honorable member for Wide Bay will withdraw the lies–
– Order! The honorable member will obey the Chair.
– I withdraw, and I ask the honorable member for Wide Bay to withdraw also.
– Order !
– I rise to a point of order. You, Mr. Chairman, have asked the honorable member for Hindmarsh to withdraw, and to apologize for a remark that he made concerning the honorable member for Wide Bay. The honorable member for Wide Bay referred to the honorable member for Hindmarsh as a friend of Stalin. That, to me and to every other honorable member on this side of the House, is just as objectionable as anything that the honorable member for Hindmarsh said. If you ask one honorable member to withdraw and apologize you should also ask the other.
– Order ! I asked the honorable member for Wide Bay to withdraw the remark objected to because that was the request of the honorable member for Hindmarsh. I asked the honorable member for Hindmarsh to withdraw and because he disobeyed the Chair I insisted on an apology. There is the difference.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh in his speech, if you could call it that, referred to comrades–
– Order ! The honorable member moist resume his discussion of the measurebefore the committee.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh took objection to certain city land-holders. He referred to shipping companies and other business concerns which to-day have become the victims of his friends. The organizations that he attacked carry out very valuable work in the fields of trade and commerce and the honorable member should remember that they must hold some land in order to carry on their activities. He said that the increase of the statutory exemption foreshadowed by the bill will not help the small landholder. I ask him how it could help any one else? The statutory exemption is now £5,000, and this bill proposes that it should be increased to £8,750. Under those circumstances the measure must be of assistance to small land-holders.
– The owners of large areas of land will have the benefit of a reduction ofthe higher rate of land tax.
– That remark is just as stupid as the statements of the honorable member for Hindmarsh. Honorable members opposite believe in the nationalization and the socialization of land. Because this bill will not further their purpose theyhave spoken against it. Their arguments indicate that their policy is to nationalize the land by making it harder for people, even small holders, to keep their land. It is just as iniquitous to levy a heavy land tax on city property as it is to levy it on rural land. The land is the means by which the owner improves the economic state of the country. The land is the owner’s tool of trade. He has paid for it. and he uses it to produce wealth, whether the land is held by a big manufacturing concern or a small farmer. The use of land develops Australia and increases our trade and commerce. To-day the Government and other responsible bodies are advocating the increase of production. A measure such as this which encourages land-ownership will certainly increase production. The bill is being opposed by the Labour party for no valid reason. In Russia every foot of land is owned by the government, and the Labour party is opposing this measure just because it desires to nationalize the land, as has been done in Russia, in order that the Government may hold all the land and destroy the freedom of the people.
.- Mr. Chairman–
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Motion (by Sir Arthurfadden) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.As one who was put in the unfortunate position of being decapitated in mid-air by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), when he moved for the closure in committee, I crave your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, whilst I get in my few observations.
-Order! The honorable gentleman will please resume his seat. The contingent notice of motion states -
Contingent on any Report being received from a Committee or on any Report being adopted - Mr. Eric .1. Harrison : To move, That »o much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the remaining stages being passed without delay.
Leave is therefore necessary. Is leave granted for the third reading?
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) said “ Yes but there were several “ Noes “.
– Perhaps you should put the question again.
– I can put it only once. Leave is not granted. The third reading must therefore be made an order of the day for to-morrow.
That the third reading he made an order of the day for the next sitting.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker–
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question he now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Postmaster-General’s Department - Forty - first Annual Report, 1 for year 1950-51.
Air Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 34.
Air Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 30.
Bankruptcy Act - Twenty-third Annual Report by the Attorney-General, for the year ended 31st July, 1951.
Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1952, No. 26.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, Nos. 29, 31.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act.
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Order - Inventions and designs.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, Nos. 27, 28.
High Commissioner Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 21.
Life Insurance Act - Sixth Annual Report of the Insurance Commissioner, for 1951.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 25.
Northern Territory (Administration) Act -
Ordinances - 1951 - No. 5 - Lottery and Gaming.
No. 1 - State Children.
No. 2- Oaths.
No. 3. - Prisons.
No. 4 - Jurors and Witnesses Payment.
No. 5 - Nurses and Midwives Registration.
No. 6 - Mining.
No. 7 - Interpretation.
No. 8 - Pharmacy.
No. 9 - Local Courts.
No. 10- Health.
No. 11 - Marine.
No. 1 2 - Al ice Springs Administration.
No. 13 - Darwin Administration.
No. 14 - Traffic.
No. 15 - Jury.
No. 16 - Lottery and Gaming.
Regulations - 1951 - No. 9 (Darwin Ad ministration Ordinance).
Pharmaceutical Benefits Act - Regulations -
Statutory Rules 1952, No. 22.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Defence Production - H. F. A. Hergt, C. E. Newbery, D. J. Nichols.
Interior - M. E. Redman, J. W. Sleep.
Repatriation - F. Catarinich.
Works and Housing - J. L. Chittleborough.
Re-establishment and Employment Act -
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, Nos. 32, 33.
Trading with the Enemy Act - Regulations -
Statutory Rules 1952, No. 24.
House adjourned at 11.9 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– I have seen press reports that a number of persons era route to Communist China left Australia in the same commercial aircraft as Australian soldiers on the way to Korea. The honorable member’s inquiry as to why passports were issued to these persons is, I believe, fully answered by my reply to the honorable member for the Riverina (Mr. Roberton) on the 6th May. I do not think it necessary to repeat that reply since it was so recently given. As to the question of prohibiting the return of these people to Australia, the information given to me is that power does not exist, nor could it be conferred upon the Commonwealth Government, to prevent the return to Australia of persons who show that they left Australia only for a temporary sojourn abroad. The High Court has held that such persons are not immigrants and are not subject to the
Immigration Act or the immigration power in the Constitution. They must be permitted to return to Australia.
k asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The following statement showing exports from Australia answers the first two questions. Figures for January, 1952, are not yet available, so the information covers the last six months of 1951.
3 and 4. There is now no Commonwealth control over the marketing of barley. Boards operating under State legislation market the crop in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland’. The Australian Barley Board which markets the Victorian and South Australian crops is constituted under the joint legislation of South Australia and Victoria. In New South Wales and Tasmania barley is sold on the open market. As the boards concerned operate under State legislation, the Commonwealth has no knowledge of the arrangements made with agents for sales.
z asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister for Civil
Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for
Social Services, upon notice -
How many applications were made for age and invalid pensions respectively in each State during the period January-March in each of the years 1940 to 1952?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The information required by the honorable member for Wilmot is set out in the following table. The number of applications for age and invalid pensions is shown in respect of a period of twelve weeks in the March quarter of each year from 1946 to 1952. The reason for this is that my department collates its statistics in four-weekly periods: -
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will he indicate what progress is being made in meeting the demand for telephone services, particularly in rural areas?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
During the year ended last month, the number of applications for telephone services had been reduced from 108,500 to 86,500. Applications outstanding totalled 70,000 in metropolitan areas and 10,500 in country areas. During the year under review, eleven new automatic exchanges were opened, of which eight were in New South Wales, two in Victoria and one in Tasmania. The department’s policy of providing automatic exchanges at rural centres has been pursued vigorously. When the present Government took office in 1949, only 175 rural automatic exchanges were operating. To-day, there are 390 and a further 600 have been ordered. In the past year, 109 new exchanges have been installed, providing more than 6,000 additional automatic lines in country areas. The duplex private telephone service, which permits of two subscribers being connected by one line to the exchange in areas where spare line plant is not available, has been extended and subscribers now served by this facility now total 20,700. Daring the past twelve months, 11,200 new services were provided in thin way. Altogether, the number of telephones added to the system in the post year was 96,600, of which 00,353 were in metropolitan areas and 35,787 in rural areas. All told, 1)287,250 telephones are connected with the post office system, of which 811,250 are in metropolitan areas and 476,000 in country districts.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 May 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520513_reps_20_217/>.